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Commentary: Team of Rivals

Doris Kearns Goodwin is zeitgeist right now. The very notion of a “team of rivals” is hot stuff.

But what is best to enable policy? And is Obama actively looking for a team of rivals, or not? AND, most importantly, in the contemporary media era, where many of these supposed rivals are themselves limelight-seekers, how can a President Obama manage the situation?

First: Enabling the Best Policy

Good mangers want the best people in the right positions that enable a smooth flow of work and information. In fact, with all the talk of Bush running the country like a CEO, I wonder if Obama is going to out-CEO him. It looks like it. The best CEOs lay out a vision, get the best possible people to enable the vision, and  With McCain over here, Clinton there, and rumors of Hagel and Lugar flying around, there appears to be no qualified person considered off-limits. By eliminating the “ideology litmus test”, Obama is opening the door for more people.

Chances are, no “heckuva job, Brownie”s this time around.

Second: An ACTUAL Team of Rivals?

Maybe. In his 60 Minutes interview, he implied that he is, he read the book, and sees division as a major problem in this country. I don’t know if this is possible. There is a careful line between creative dissonance and just dissonance, between constructive chaos and simply chaos. Without clear lines of control, and the power to assert authority, and Obama White House could look inept.

The Rahm Emanuel appointment as Chief of Staff is something of a relief, in this matter. Emanuel is an enforcer, by most accounts, and can help manage big egos…

Third: Managing Egos

President-elect Obama’s ego is well-managed by his poise, cool thoughtfulness, warm family narrative, and obvious intellectual abilities. In other words, so far, he wears the robes of power, and they do not wear him (see Bush, George W). This is important: including McCain, Clinton, and various “rivals” (who themselves have and had clear presidential aspriations) in the administration means finding ways to check their personal self-aggrandizement against the success of policy-making and peace-making.

McCain seems the most willing to play the role of constructive thorn, local expert, and general statesman. Clinton has two things that work against her, politically and polciy-wise: 1) Bill Clinton cares a LOT about his legacy; and 2) Hillary Clinton wants to be President someday. Playing second-chair to Obama may be difficult for her/them. Not because of personal character flaws, per se, but because the Clintons know how to use the media to serve their agenda (which is sometimes a personal one, and sometimes a public one). The key here, then, is to make sure the Clinton agenda is brought in line with the Obama agenda. Or, more accurately, that the Clinton agenda is not in conflict with the Obama agenda.

In typical times, this would not be easy. The 2008 Financial Tornado provides an opportunity for a future President Obama to ask EVERYONE to subordinate personal agendas for the greater good. When he was saying this to the DNC in 2004, it sounded, to steal his phrase, “like happy talk.” During his nomination acceptance speech in 2008, it sounded like the talk of someone earnestly trying to recall, and recapture, a time when great people strode the earth with positive purpose. But as 2009 approaches, it’s looking more and more like “the only option.”

This is good, not only for him, but for all of us. We ALL must subordinate our personal good for the greater good. There is an inherent Kennedy-esque equality that Obama has called for. Selfishness and greed wounded us, and this helps “We, the people” to be willing to sign up for his cause of service. Being a a “media whore” looks worse today than it did a year ago, because the limelight now asks for seriousness, and for results. Sarah Palin’s name being increasingly used as a punchline is evidence of this fact.

In the end, the Team of Rivals works as long as there is a cause to fight for together. And that is President Obama’s greatest challenge – to keep us called to causes of greater good, and make us believe the cause is worth fighting for. The moment things get too easy, too black-and-white, and we get too complacent, that is the moment when the team of rivals is no longer helpful.

Filed under: Culture, Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,

(Media) Blackout, Open Letter to John McCain

The new McCain has yet to emerge from his hole and tell us if it will continue to be winter or if summer is around the corner. So far, they feel as though a media blackout is the best way to go. The new McCain has been the opposite of the 2000 self.

Oh well. John McCain was once the guy who could reach through the chatter, across the aisle, and say the things that needed saying. He used to believe in country before party. He used to believe in doing the right thing, even if it was unpopular. John McCain was even considered by John Kerry for running mate, remember.

Open Letter to Senator McCain

Senator McCain, if you actually read this, I have only this to say: it’s too bad that you mortgaged your values for a campaign. You used to be the one to cut the crap, now you run with it. You used to be a Barry Goldwater Republican, and now you are a Dick Cheney Republican. I’m going to ignore the fact that you are running against Obama, and ask you this – what happened? You were an aisle-crosser. You called a spade a spade when you criticized Bush for pandering at Bob Jones University. Then you supported George Wallace Jr, a frequenter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a well-known white-supremacist/segregationist organization.

Senator McCain, I used to like you. I honestly believed that you could remake American politics. You were the honorable Republican in the room, yelling at the liars on both sides of the aisle. You were a critic, the check, the balance, that made the Republican party pause. You were Barry Goldwater’s intellectual heir. A true conservative who believed in state’s rights and libertarian values.

But no more. Your choice of Governor Palin is illustrative of this – she is a shoot-first thinker, with none of the qualities that made you a maverick. You were a maverick because you stood up for beliefs regardless of who agreed with you, and yet you worked with those who didn’t. She is a maverick because she refuses to cooperate with anyone who disagrees with her.  You were a maverick because you believed in radical transparency and government accountability. She is a maverick because she is shockingly opaque in her decision-making process, and tries to find ways to skirt accountability. You, on the other hand, were above such pettiness. That is why Democrats and Republicans alike used to think of you as a statesman.

No longer.

Your lies are shocking and obvious in the public, and your campaign reflects a Bush/Palin approach – opaque, divisive, and obfuscatory – and not the McCain we believed in. When it comes to the issues, I’m not surprised at some of your stances. But then you supported invading Iraq, despite the lack of intelligence. And you now no longer believe torture is torture? You, of all people?

And now you think the judicial system rules by fiat? Those justices you now admire believe the Constitution doesn’t apply to all people, and the government can do whatever they want to those people. That’s fiat. And the ones you don’t like are saying government should be small, and should protect people from those with power. That’s protecting individual liberty. Saying you “oppose judicial activism” is code for saying you only support people who agree with you. I recommend you read the Barnette case. And Marbury vs. Madison. You clearly don’t understand the role of courts, and how they always scale back government power. You’re talking now like the anti-Goldwater, a watered-down version of Bush. You’ve become the person you didn’t like.

If you are willing to forego your beliefs for victory, then you clearly deceived me, and America. “Straight talk” indeed. It doesn’t really matter to me now which one of you is the “real” John McCain, because you clearly showed your willingness to put party unity, and electoral victory, above the needs and wants of the United States of America. Senator McCain, I said in 1996 that you would have been a more compelling candidate than Bob Dole, I said in 1998 that I hope you are the 2000 Republican candidate because then it is not a choice between two evils, and I said in 2000 that I hope you hold Bush accountable.

Senator McCain, you failed me. If you win in November, it will be in spite of people like me, who used to think you were better than the bunch.

Best regards,

Vijtable

Filed under: Philosophy, Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Who Said That?

http://gripedujour.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/pop-quiz/

I need not add to the above post. Well played, Gripe.

Also, regarding the mortgage crisis, Nader proves prescient:

http://www.votenader.org/media/2008/09/16/meltdown/

More commentary later… :)

Filed under: Culture, Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

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