Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Camelot Coming; Have Patience Progressives

- guest post by Denis Campbell, editor of

We’ve celebrated for 2½ weeks and what better way to remember Jack Kennedy on this solemn day than to watch President-elect Obama’s deliberate, studious and principled leadership in action. The hard work began precisely at 11:00 pm on 04 November, healing our land and cleaning up our reputation in the world, after George Bush.

These two months are important get ready days and the legacy of lobbyists and thieves looting the Treasury as they leave town with their tails between their legs will not die easily.

Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech 45 years after Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1963 another leader who inspired and embodied hope for the future was taken from us. From a warehouse storing textbooks and a Texas city known for football, big hair and large living, a much-too-storied place in history was earned as Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed John F. Kennedy, the nation’s 35th President from the 6th floor window of the Texas School Book Depository.

Camelot ended abruptly and we began a steady descent into the depths of a costly guerrilla war that took 57,000 of our sons and daughters in Vietnam, Civil Rights violence and a period of deep division in our land. As we thought we were rising out of it with Richard Nixon to China and détente with Russia a possibility, Watergate reared its ugly head, he resigned and we entered 30+ years of deep partisan bickering, stagnation, special prosecutors and a military industrial complex built on fear and lies that seems only now on the brink of real change.

While it’s easy to be Pollyanna in the early days, let me share some views of why the leaks matter not a whit and why we need to pay attention to the deliberate actions of the last 2½ weeks.

Barack Obama has been preparing for this moment for months and the hard work shows in his grasp of the situation and where he wants to head.

As his Cabinet lens comes into our focus, one can look behind the choices in a clearer way to understand what President Obama is really thinking. Make no mistake, he will be firmly in charge and anyone thinking this is business as usual will be sadly mistaken.

1. He knows what he doesn’t know and surrounds himself with people more knowledgeable than himself. I was reading a pair of excerpts from Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Outliers (he wrote The Tipping Point and Blink) and in it he talks of the perseverance of all top performers. They required 10,000 of practice in their craft to reach the highest levels. Obama does not have 10,000 hours of executive experience, refuses to fake it and has put together a team with a mixture of old and new. His deliberate appointment of people who know how to get things done in Washington has been criticised by some for “hiring ex-Clinton re-treads.”

2. Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff and the campaign brain trust as key advisors. The ones he came to the dance with and kept him honest for two years will be there helping him. Emanuel, Biden and Daschle will be key player moving the President’s agenda on Capitol Hill. Progressives say this is business as usual. This is what is needed to have a hope of moving some of the more difficult left-leaning programs through. Just as donning Bush masks and screaming gets you on telly, wait until you have something to compain about before jumping on him, the far right is already blaming the current woes on him and he does not take office for 59 days!

3. Timothy Geith at Treasury is an example of youth (47) and a new hand with new ideas. If he places Larry Summers as head of the Federal Reserve and other older hands, he get principled brilliant leaders who will find a way out of the crisis. Bill Richardson at Commerce is also brilliant. Here is a man who knows how to sell and that is the prime role of a Commerce Secretary. With Geith and Co. fixing the bottom line, Richardson will focus on the top line.

4. Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services is a masterstroke. Here is a player who for years was Senate Majority Leader. He is an authority on healthcare knows how to get changed passed in the Congress.

5. Hillary Clinton at State is not the same thing as when Bush put Powell there to block him. All is forgiven here. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Well what happens in the primaries where you fight your ideological equal so you have to pick on other stuff, stays in the primaries. Obama has loyalists who hate the Hillaristas and vice versa. Get over yourselves people. If they can, you can. What was this about, your person winning or fixing the nation? You also get 2 for 1 there as Bill is still revered and what trip with the both of them would not boost the US reputation abroad.

6. The Lieberman situation as cover for his real game changer: John Dingell’s ouster. Obama is a poker player and a basketball player. He saw the whole court on this one and Lieberman was Michael Jordan with everyone swarming him defensively until scrawny Henry Waxman stood alone under the basket for the big pass. Everyone was focused for weeks on punishing Joe for supporting McCain. He let the game play out and the real heavy lifting was removing obstructionist John Dingell from his powerful Energy Chairmanship. Obama forgave Joe but made sure the word went out that Energy and the environment matter. More importantly, he said business as usual in Detroit was not going to be tolerated. The Big Three will be bailed out but their new partner will be the US taxpayer who demands smart manufacturing and energy efficient cars. As the stock rises again, the money goes back into the Treasury to pay the bailout and make money on the “investment.”

7. Lincoln’s Team of Rivals is an overplayed theme. The media is ga-ga over Hillary, Joe Biden and Bill Richardson (all former Presidential rivals) on the team. They coyly say keep your friends close and your enemies even closer. Obama is smarter than that. He knows what he doesn’t know and wants a blockbuster team to hash out solutions with and take definitive action. He is willing to make mistakes along the way, admit it was a mistake and change course.

8. Keeping Republican Gates in Defense through the Iraq War wind down and bringing in Retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, a former NATO Supreme Allied Commander will send a strong bipartisan message.

So instead of predicting, for which you get no extra points, just watch the operation and marvel at it.


Old Bogus said...

#6 seems way to devious to be grounded in reality. #7 is a joke; O'Bama's team is certainly not a "Team of Rivals" and Lincoln's experience with this grand idea was a failure. And #8 seems totally implausible.

Anonymous said...

FYI, it's "brainS" trust.
Nobody gets it right.