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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.

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

The Obama Cabinet – Part One

How’s this for a dream team?

 

  • Secretary of State: Bill Richardson or John Kerry
  • Secretary of the Treasury: Michael Bloomberg (two birds, meet one stone)
  • Secretary of Defense: Colin Powell
  • Attorney General: Hillary Clinton
  • Homeland Security: John McCain (yes, that one)
  • Secretary of Education: Michelle Rhee
  • National Security Advisor: Wesley Clark
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services: Howard Dean

 

Other thoughts…

 

  • Logical consolidation: bring the EPA and Agriculture under Department of Interior. All these things are related to proper land use. Bring back Christine Todd Whitman to lead this new consolidated Department.

That’s it. Still thinking about the Obama administration and what it means.

Filed under: 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, , , , , , , , , ,

Truth Vs. Truthiness

A recent post in the NYTimes Freakonomics blog demonstrates the difference between the truth and the “truthy“.

Looking at the tax plans presented by the two major party candidates, the Washington Post takes a crack at it. It’s clear that there is a semblance of balance. There is, as we can see, a small note about where the population actually is. Either way, the eyes believe one thing, while the language says something else.

Here is a better visualization from the chartjunk blog, which shows where tax cuts really are. Read the commentary from karmanaut (Viveka Weiley) and you can see how it makes more sense. While Wiley says that her(?) map is truthier, it is indeed more truthful regarding the population.

The third chart shows some real interesting stuff – tax burden. It seems clear to me that Obama’s team used this to determine cuts. Looking at the third chart, what I don’t understand is why McCain’s plan isn’t ALSO flipped, or at least flat. Reducing tax burden on the bottom bracket is essentially harmless. He could sell his tax cuts much more effectively if it showed that he was more fiscally-prudent. He proves here to be finding no way to bring money into the Federal budget.

Kudos to New York Times for pointing these things out.

Now, this is where I fight die-hard Republicans all the time. They say the rich will stimulate the economy, and the benefits will trickle down. I disagree, based on data from a non-partisan source. I think the bank failures are pointing to the fact that I’m right. Trickle-down has not benefited tax brackets below the top couple.

I invite dissent.

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

David Brooks on Sarah Palin

From Monday’s New York Times, David Brooks (emphasis added):

Experienced leaders can certainly blunder if their minds have rigidified (see: Rumsfeld, Donald), but the records of leaders without long experience and prudence is not good. As George Will pointed out, the founders used the word “experience” 91 times in the Federalist Papers. Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared.

Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.

Both of the italicized points are important. Note that she indeed took on “a corrupt establishment” to institute a MORE corrupt establishment, with worse governance. Note also that Brooks is laying the groundwork for his inevitable endorsement of McCain – McCain’s experience matters more than Obama’s vision, and Biden and Palin don’t matter as much. You heard it here first.

Either way in the same article, I think Brooks is wrong here:

The feminists declare that she’s not a real woman because she doesn’t hew to their rigid categories. People who’ve never been in a Wal-Mart think she is parochial because she has never summered in Tuscany.

As a feminist, I think she’s not good for women, not that she’s not a real woman. Gov. Palin is bad for women because she doesn’t show the best of humanity, but the worst – the aforementioned excessive decisiveness, not to mention a sense of entitlement, not to mention the way she condescends to anyone who is critical of her opinions, not to mention the bad policies and lack of compassion. Note also that I’ve been to Wal-mart, but never to Tuscanny. Shame on you, Mr. Brooks, for playing this game. Moreover…

Look at the condescension and snobbery oozing from elite quarters, her backers say. Look at the endless string of vicious, one-sided attacks in the news media. This is what elites produce. This is why regular people need to take control.

The condescension is indeed “oozing”, but from the Republicans, towards those who ask people to sacrifice to make their country stronger. The attacks are anything but one-sided. See my previous post on the matter. The media has let the McCain camp call Palin independent when she is not, and let her make ad homenim attacks on Obama.

Luckily, Mr. Brooks backs off from this attack, if only because of his personal view of the last eight years:

I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn’t just lived through the last eight years. For if the Bush administration was anything, it was the anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice.

And the problem with this attitude is that, especially in his first term, it made Bush inept at governance. It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

Which is why I believe Obama is better, even than McCain – he takes on complex issues complexly, thoughtfully. He is of average people and has proved to be among the best of us, with high ideals for people around him and his country.

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

Palin: What Bush doctrine?

Note: If you don’t know what the Bush doctrine is, you’ve been living in the tundra trying to build a bridge to nowhere. Alaska jokes aside, foreign policy matters for the Executive Branch, and being aware of the most important American foreign policy shift in the last 60 years is a little important. From the ABC interview, enough reason not to vote for McCain:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush — well, what do you — what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.

PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that’s the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.

Ermmm… This is downright scary. There was a time when Americans respected leaders we could look up to. Now we want them to be average peers. I thought we celebrated the exceptional.

Sarah Palin had ample time to prepare for the interview, which itself was fully managed by the campaign, and lives in, as she says, a state where you can see Russia.

Matt Gonzalez (Green Party) is a more serious VP candidate than Palin. Hilary Clinton would have been, too. If the rule was that McCain needed to get a woman to steal some of the Hilary vote, McCain should have selected Christie Todd Whitman. Then, the question would be whether liberals (and New Jersey) would go to McCain. He would be seen as a maverick by picking a true moderate. And Obama couldn’t simply set up camp in the middle ground and let the Hilary supporters come to him. Instead McCain antagonized half the country, and made the “maverick” moniker a joke.

Oh… The Bush doctrine is the idea of pre-emptive strikes against potential threats. It overturns over 100 years of no war except to defend allies or to respond to attacks. It was used to start the Iraq War.

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

Release – Vijtable a Candidate for 2020 (or 2024)

Assuming things won’t change very much in the next 12 years, I’ve decided to start thinking about my run for president. Critics say that mainstream candidates don’t actually write what is on their websites. Since I’m so small-time, nobody can accuse me of that.

I’ll eventually come out with my platform, but here is the “About Vijtable” part of my future campaign website.

Thoughts on Government in 50 Words: The role of government is to protect the weak from the strong, and promote common good. Don’t tread on me. Taxation requires representation. All actions should be carefully considered, and hotly (though respectfully) debated. Dissent defines democracy. Government must endeavor always to choose what is right over what is easy.

Basics: Born and raised in the US, and living currently in New York. I am eligible to be elected before 2020. I’m being intentionally vague for the sake of temporary privacy.

Intellectual Background: I am intellectually curious. I love to debate, even if I’m bad at it. I like being proven wrong with facts. I am a student of science, religion, political science, and a little sociology and psychology. I studied religion and political science in college.

Religious Views: Don’t ask, don’t tell. I am agnostic with Buddhist leaning. I take other people’s beliefs seriously, even if I don’t know whether they are true or not.

Qualifications: Spent time in education, television, marketing, website design. For two years, I was a middle-school math teacher in an under-resourced community in California. I have spent the years since working at a non-profit dedicated to increased worldwide cooperation . (Again, apologies for the intentional vagueness.)

Politics: I call my self a “social libertarian” and an “economic moderate”, probably closest to this, but not exactly. I believe that the Constitution guarantees a maximum of freedom on social and economic issues EXCEPT in those cases where it puts safety, security, or the health/welfare of the USA/it’s people at risk. To me, social issues trump economic issues, though they are closely tied. As major parties go, these positions currently align most closely with the Democrats. I have not yet chosen my party affiliation – in recent history, Republicans are better at winning, but worse at being honorable and honest while Democrats see nuance, but don’t connect as much with voters.

Voting Record: Generally, with Democrats. McCain in 2000 would have been a particularly difficult decision. Ultimately, I voted for Nader in 2000, since the state in which I voted was safely Democratic, and went easily to Gore. I voted for Kerry in 2004. Unfortunately, McCain is much worse now than then. My 2008 vote will be Barack Obama. He would be a better president.

Political Heroes: John Adams (Alien & Sedition Acts notwithstanding), Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Stephen Biko, Nelson Mandela (early-life militancy notwithstanding), Martin Luther King, and more peacemakers and chance-takers. I would add Thomas Jefferson, but he was so hypocritical, and employed nasty political tactics like FUD, that I cannot.

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

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