Tuesday, December 02, 2008

As The Wailing And Gnashing of Teeth Begins

I know a lot of people who took seriously the McCain/Palin socialist most liberal Senator...etc. seriously and were pleased. That's not what Obama ever showed or promoted, in fact he went out of his way to dissuade people. There was a sentiment that "oh, that's just election politics." Barack Obama showed no sign of being anywhere right of center, maybe a bit left of it, but essentially a pragmatist floating around in near center ground - you know, where the vast majority of the country won't go into active revolt. George W Bush has revolted me as a President, but let's face it, despite silly talk of fascism what he did was bump up against the authoritarian right, the folks well into that area would scare George whiter. Voters revolted. There is a price for veering very far off that center mark, and yes, the mark has drifted right.

Obama announced his National Security picks today, no big surprises, deliberately so - I believe. The left has taken a look and feels ambushed and betrayed. The careers and backgrounds of the nominees are parsed and found wanting. Insiders. Corporatists. Neo-libs. DLCers. The label that is missing is employees, experienced employees. If the left hasn't noticed, this country has run into a wall at a very high speed and there's carnage now and promise of more and worse. This is not the time to hire people who don't know where the gear is kept.

I've been an employer and may be again - if I weather this mess - and there is one thing I know, people that are smart and capable and inexperienced in what you're working on can become valuable once they're there for awhile, but until then they're a problem. I hired an HVAC guy, I don't do that, but he knew construction and tools in a general way so I paid him pretty well. It took two months before he was worth it, he became a lead man in fact, but for two months he was a constant source of irritation. He didn't know the processes and techniques. The SoS is going to have to know who is who in DC, and what titles actually mean in foreign places and where the power lies. A PhD from Harvard and tenured Chair at a University and good progressive credentials don't trump that. A known name in progressive circles doesn't mean good press and pictures for a leader, a Hillary Clinton guarantees that. A Hillary Clinton is a famous name that indicates importance and the President's voice is clearly heard. In ways it strikes back into the Courts of nobility. If the Crown Prince was talking to you, you knew you were being taken seriously and that the words you heard carried weight and meaning.

There is nothing in Obama's back story that indicates that he does not see people as tools. It makes no difference what a hammer thinks about a nail, it will drive it if directed by a competent hand, but it still has to be the right hammer - sledges and tacks don't work. The tool concept sounds cold, it isn't. Nothing in it requires the dehumanizing of the person/tool and a good administrator takes care not to. But these are your tools, these are your reach and levers and wrenches. If a tool won't do the job you get another one, in this case it's fire and hire. We're not talking about your kid brother and squabble over a chair, this is the President of the United States, elected by a 6% margin and a huge electoral margin. There is no appeal from the President's employment decisions, there's no Cabinet Union - if you're done that's it. If you prove to be the wrong hammer for that nail, you don't get tossed back into the tool box, you get ashcanned.

In regard to my little story about the HVAC man, when I hired him I had some folks trained up and I wasn't under the gun to produce. There have been times I couldn't have hired him, too many things happening at the same time. This administration is walking into a buzz saw and all the current national pleasure with this election will evaporate quickly when things aren't getting done. Rahm Emmanuel is getting hit for being a DLCer (I'm no fan of that bunch) and while it's true he's plugged in there, he's plugged in all over the place. He is also a hard edged smart politician, he knows where the levers are and what to give on to get an end. The President doesn't need an ideologue for CoS, he needs a wicked sharp knife that can slash, stab, or do fine surgery - at his direction. "I need this, you know what to do and how to do it - make it so."

Maybe eight years of the incomparable incompetence of Bushdom has led people to think that people just run wild around the Executive Branch, I could hand you a few names that would make you think a lot differently. LBJ was so feared that people wouldn't bring him bad news, that's an undesirable situation, but indicative of the power of that office - and it pays to remember that some of those people had previously wielded power on a very real basis. Barrack Obama may speak pretty and he may talk about bipartisanship, but if you think there is something in his story that indicates he is anything other than driven, results oriented, and successful, I'm real unsure what you've been looking at. I think it's pretty clear Barrack knows what he wants and how to get there and if you decide to be an obstacle you can be run over. Real plainly put, it is a stupid mistake to think that the ideological bent of a Cabinet member is going to run Barrack Obama. Of the people who've appropriated Harry Truman's "The Buck Stops Here," I take him most seriously.

The votes are in, he's elected, and now he has about three years to show what he can do. There aren't many levers available to push him around with. If he chooses a left bent or a center bent, that's how it's going to be if it is working for him. The public will stay with him if he shows that what he can do works and he gives them some respect. Everybody else can go hang. The man is a pragmatist, he won't go left unless that's what will work and he'll veer right if that's what shows it will work.

I'm real sure that the only Health Care option that will actually make business competitive and protect the public is Universal Single Payer but there are economic realities that have to be considered in trying to institute such a thing. You are not creating a smooth transition by yanking the huge capital sums insurance companies put into investments and putting hundreds of thousands out of work. I'm not real sure how to get us out of that hole we're in, but dynamite isn't a solution. Obama won't lob sticks of dynamite around, he's a careful individual and that may result in short term disillusionment, but there are a lot worse things.

If you purport to have a left agenda then you'd best reconcile yourself to a generational struggle. The Republicans have had a generation to mainstream their propaganda and that is a lot of undoing. If it were just that, it would be a fairly simple matter, but they've screwed the works sufficiently that it needs to be dismantled with surgical precision and that takes time. Each time you remove or replace a part there is a period of adjustment for the system. By virtue of being a system, everything is interconnected and a change to one element reverberates throughout the system, so you tinker carefully and generally with one thing at at time and measure the results before tinkering further. You can hate the time involved, but you will get bad results with any other approach.

I'm going to let the man get sworn in and start actually working the levers before I start cussing about it. Anything else is just a street theatre of wailing and gnashing of teeth for nickles rather than play for dollars.

1 comment:

jsg said...

Bu-but ... Obama's black. Of course he must be a super duper uber-liberal!!

Yeah, I don't know where people got the idea Obama is as far left as Bush is far right. I don't know why anyone would think the antidote to years of far-right radical Kool-aid drinkers is a complete replacement by far-left radical Kool-aid drinkers.

Actually I can think of a couple of reasons:
1. Gross stupidity. and/or
2. A severe case of Chronic Whiner Syndrome.

I'm sure you've heard by now that Frank and Dodd (yeah, Chris Dodd, the guy who claims to be familiar with the Constitution) are blubbing because Obama isn't doing more. More, what more? Did they change the rules when I wasn't looking? No, some people are just being idiots and we'll be inundated with more idiots right after the inauguration: "Waaah! Obama's been in office for three whole hours and the country isn't perfect yet!"

Meanwhile, I'm still fricking ecstatic because McPalin lost.