December 8, 2008

The song is over
It's all behind me

Vincent van Gogh, Lane of Poplars at Sunset, 1884

* How Obama Might Govern. excerpt:

"Franklin D. Roosevelt loved to have his aides argue in front of him, the better to see all sides before picking one himself.

"Richard Nixon tried the same approach, didn't like it, and stopped it. Bill Clinton, too, wanted to hear a lot of voices, but sometimes 'drowned' in the cacophony, in the words of one analyst.

"Now Barack Obama is poised to try it himself. He's named a strong-willed team to top Cabinet and White House staff positions, some of whom disagree with him on key issues. Obama said he wants to avoid "groupthink" and signaled that he wants to hear a range of opinions before deciding on the best course."
"In the month since he was elected, Obama has rolled out a team that includes such political and policy heavyweights as Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., to be secretary of state, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to be chairman of the National Economic Council, current Defense Secretary Robert Gates to retain his post, former Marine Corps Gen. James Jones to be his National Security Adviser, and veteran Sen. Joe Biden to be his vice president.

"All are richly experienced in the ways of Washington power, all are forceful advocates for their own positions, and most have disagreed with Obama.

"Clinton, for example, criticized Obama's commitment to meet without precondition any foreign leader, including unsavory dictators. Gates disagreed with Obama's campaign call for a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months. Both disputes involve central policy decisions for the new administration.

"That's just fine with Obama. He wants them to disagree — with each other, and with him."
"'The biggest mistakes in modern history have come through a very narrow, highly controlled decision process, where they (presidents) see only what the chief of staff and a small group of aides wants them to see,' said Paul Light, a professor of political science at New York University and an expert on presidential transitions.

"'That happened with Bush in Iraq, probably with Clinton and health-care reform, maybe with George H.W. Bush going into Somalia. . . . It varies. George W. Bush really did not seek a great deal of dissent. Bill Clinton liked dissent but sometimes drowned in it.'

"While Obama has no executive experience beyond managing his successful campaign, the model of watching ideas debated and argued in front of him isn't new. It resembles the way he had students argue points when he taught constitutional law.
"Key to success will include the role the incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, plays in making sure that various views get to the president, ensuring that they aren't clouded by turf battles, then making sure the president's final choices are carried out.

"The chief of staff is critical to this style of governing, analysts said.

"One who controls the flow of dissenting opinions in order to marshal power for himself — think of John Sununu in the first Bush White House or Donald Regan in the second Reagan term — can shut out important voices the president should hear.

"Yet a chief cannot let the president keep debating something over and over and over too much — think of Thomas 'Mack' McLarty, who was unable to manage Bill Clinton and his late-night strategy sessions early in his first term.

"'The White House doesn't give a president as much time as he will need to collect every scintilla of information, weigh it and decide,' Light said. "He's going to need some help winnowing the opinion."

If Obama's advisers bring a range of different views on top issues, they don't necessarily bring a wide range of ideology. They're generally seen as pragmatic and centrist.

"They range from center-left to further left. He hasn't brought in robust free-market acolytes or strong defense hawks. To the extent they are hawks, they're very moderate," Franc said.

"'But no alarm bells have gone off in conservative circles indicating he's picking a bunch of left-wing lunatics. These people are respected on both sides of the aisle. It looks like he's heading toward a centrist position on both foreign policy and the economic front.'"

* A man's roller coaster ride with coffee.

* Parodies of the Sgt. Pepper album cover.

* "I look to the future because that's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life." -- George Burns


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excepting one note, pure and easy
Playing so free like a breath rippling by.

9:40 AM  

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