Friday, November 07, 2008

Obama the day after

There's a big name VC I follow who's based out of New York who's a pretty big Obama fan. He made the point (as countless have) that expectations are so high for Obama that he'll never be able to meet them (how this will affect his popularity is an interesting, albeit seperate discussion), He said that, despite this, he thinks there are six things we will get from Obama:

1) A world class management team. I remember the first debate I ever watched Obama participate in. He was asked whether he was a "strong operatating executive." He replied that he was not "the COO", that he was more like "the CEO". And then he went on to talk about surrounding yourself with the best people you can find and then letting them do their job. He did that with his campaign which was a masterful thing to watch, he did that with his VP pick (in stark contrast to the Palin fiasco), and I expect he'll build a killer cabinet and a killer administration (look for some picks from across the aisle).

I kind of agree with this, and it's one of the reasons I warmed up to Obama. I would disagree with the point that his VP pick was a great example of this "mastery", and the early word on his cabinet picks has not been particularly inspiring. Kerry as Secretary of State? I guess I'm just not a big fan of long-serving senators in general, but even then. And as you can imagine I wait with breathless anticipation his, long-rumored, pick from "across the aisle" and I don't think Colin Powell counts... My guess is that it's going to be non-existant or underwhelming.

2) Honesty. He said this last night and I am sure he will live up to it: "But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree."

This is where we start to diverge. Call me cynical, but I don't think any politician can be considered honest by any objective standard. And even if we use a more relative standard I really don't think Obama should be at the top of the heap. If we consider nothing other than filling supporters heads with visions of a utopian future that anybody paying attention know will never come to pass, he's got to score pretty low on that count. I'm not criticizing him for that, it worked, and that's what politicians do, but it's not honest.

3) A steady hand. I have never seen a cooler customer in a position of such responsibility. Obama has an incredibly calm demeanor. He will be a steady hand, he will make well vetted decisions, and I expect more of them will be right than wrong.

Another area where there's some convergence between us. He does seem reasonably calm and collected, it was one of his secret weapons during the campaign. Being calm doesn't necessary lead to right decisions, but I'm willing to wait and see.

4) Diplomacy. Thank god we've slayed the ridiculous notion that you can't talk to bad people who do bad things. I expect that Obama will spend a lot of time meeting and working with our friends overseas and at least talking to our enemies. I expect to see a lot of diplomatic progress under his leadership.

Another divergence. I do think we need more diplomacy and a better diplomat as president. One of my big regrets in the period from 9/11 to Iraq was how we seemed unable to preserve all the goodwill we had accumulated. That being said I think there are certain countries and leaders that are willing to talk as much as we want, all while continuing to do exactly what we're hoping they won't. I'm very interested to see what happens with Iran. Certainly it's possible that Obama will be able to get the support of Russia and China and we'll be able to hit them with some really painful sanctions which will weaken the fundamentalists enough to bring the reformist to power, but I would bet against that scenerio. More likely Iran will continue to play the security members against one another while continuing to enrich Uranium, secure in the knowledge that there's no way we would invade yet another country, particularly with Obama in command. Now this is not to say that invading Iran wouldn't end up being a horrible idea, but if they think we might just do it anyway as bad as a US invasion of Iran is for us, it's even worse for Iran... In any case I don't claim to have the answer for Iran, the point is more that a president needs more than one tool in his foreign policy kit.

5) Fairness. The republicans call it "redistributing wealth" and I can totally understand why people go nuts over Obama's tax policy. But we are going to get fairness in tax policy where the people who make most of the money like my family will pay the highest taxes. My bet is we'll go back to where we were under Clinton and that's fine with me and should be fine with everyone, but it won't be.

The idea of "Fairness" imposed at a federal level is a profoundly scary thought (Harrison Bergeron anyone?). And this is another area where I think the value is incompatible with being a politician in the first place. As far as the specific example of taxes. Last I checked the people who make the most money already pay the highest taxes. Whatever. Considering the budget deficit I'm not going to whine about raising taxes, but what about cutting spending? I know, neither party is going to come up with a budget that's lower than the one from the year before (even adjusting for inflation) That's why I'm a libertarian.

6) Leadership. Our country is in a mess, much of it self inflicted. More than anything else, we need a charismatic leader who can inspire us to face the facts, make the sacrifices, take the losses, pull up our boots, and get on with it. I believe Barack Obama can and will do that.

I'm not getting a real "make sacrifices" vibe from Obama. Now admittedly I haven't listened to every speech or read every one of his policy papers, but I don't think that's what his supporters are taking away from his candidacy either.

My point would be that even pretty clear-eyed people who admit up front that Obama can't do everything he said, still buy into an awful lot of the hype.

So in the near term I'll be watching his appointments (and waiting with barely concealed excitement for his move "across the aisle") -- My prediction here: His appointments are more partisan and less "best person" than people expected and he makes some token RINO appointment.

Come February of next year I'll be REALLY interested in his first budget, and the projected deficit -- My prediction here: Significant military cuts. Significant tax increases. But despite that a budget that's higher than the last Bush budget adjusted for inflation with a deficit approaching a trillion dollars.

And in the longer term I'm interested in seeing how he handles Iran -- My prediction here: Iran will have a nuclear weapon before the end of his first term.

Anyway I've put off work long enough. So I'll end here.

His Majesty's Loyal Opposition


Blogger aozora said...

"One of my big regrets in the period from 9/11 to Iraq was how we seemed unable to preserve all the goodwill we had accumulated."
I wonder how much was true good will and not just politics of convenience. The world has already forgotten all the dirt we trudged up on our "friends" who turned on us with the Iraq war. Not that the U.S. is free of the same amount of dirt of course ...

I mostly hope Obama doesn't just follow the Clinton model hoping for a repeat. I don't think it will work anyway.

Taxes, "Card Check", and the general stance toward the military are major areas of concern.

3:47 AM  
Blogger aozora said...

By the way, two references for "next time":

"This is Barack Obama's time right now, and this is an historic moment in our nation and this can be a shining moment for America and our history, and look what we're talking about. Again, we're talking about my shoes and belts and skirts. It's ridiculous."
--Sara Palin
The reader response to "The Treatment of Bush Has Been a Disgrace" has been overwhelming. Here's a selection from the thousands of comments submitted by Opinion Journal readers:

4:45 AM  
Blogger Ross said...

Excellent link, and a very good point, I may have to make it the subject of my next blog...

9:41 AM  

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