Friday, January 23, 2009

Obama leads out in early days

By Carol Gee

We have seen a great deal of purposeful activity by the Obama administration since the start of business on Tuesday. What can we take from what we see and hear, both explicitly and implicitly? How is our new President doing, so far?

Calm -- One of the best newspapers in the business, The Financial Times, described President Barack Obama's "calm authority of a born leader." Speaking about his Inauguration day speech:

He was politically encompassing, reaching out to sceptics and opponents. He touched admiringly on US history and traditions, but without vainglory and not without reminding his listeners of its errors. Addressing his nation’s enemies, he was measured but stern. He did not disguise the difficulties that face the country; he addressed them with quiet confidence.

There is no bombast or chauvinism or phony sentiment in Mr Obama’s oratory. He inspires, yet his appeal is always to the intellect; still he holds an audience of this size spellbound. It was the performance of a born leader.

Decisive -- In a move designed to reinforce a commitment to governmental openness and transparency, it was reported in ProPublica that, "Obama Reverses Bush Executive Privilege Claim Over Documents" (1/21/09). To quote:

. . . President Obama issued an order rolling back the former administration's restrictive FOIA policies. And now, we learn President Obama has signed another order reversing President George W. Bush's controversial order that gave ex-presidents and their heirs broad authority to stop release of White House records. . .

Team-style governance -- The second day emphasis on the diplomatic side of the house is an effort to return balance to U.S. foreign policy. By enlisting a number of well-know, competent and high profile people to help with foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East, it brings up the possibility of confusion about who is heading that enhanced emphasis. Typically, Politico asked Thursday, "who is in charge of foreign policy?" Author Ben Smith concluded, at least in the Middle East, "all of them," meaning Obama, Clinton, Biden, Mitchell and Holbrook. Each of these people understands who the leader is, and how much trust President Obama has in all. Every one of them has the capacity to know what the policy positions are and sit at the table with the authority to handle negotiations, to communicate policy and to bring back the views of the foreign leaders.

After a good Transition, what then -- Will the same things that worked well before the President was sworn in be effective during actual governance? The Democratic Strategist (1/16/09) spoke to some of these same questions recently:

Note: this is a special guest post from Will Marshall, president of the Progressive Policy Institute. . . .

We’ll find out soon enough whether President-elect Obama is as adept at governing as he is at campaigning. But this much is already certain: Barack Obama has presided over a spectacular presidential transition – maybe the best in modern times.

In picking a crew of political heavyweights to run his administration, Obama has radiated both self-confidence and seriousness about governing. And in recent weeks, he has crystallized the key dilemmas facing the country with greater candor and specificity than ever before.

But, wait a minute -- How do we know it will be successful? Given the financial crisis, two wars, energy issues, global warming, etc., etc., what are the realistic chances? The following piece is recommended reading on this: Yahoo! News & "Seven reasons for healthy skepticism"# (1/21/09). To quote:

Here are seven reasons to be skeptical of Obama’s chances — and the Washington establishment he now leads: 1) The genius fallacy. . . 2) The herd instinct . . . 3) We are broke . . . 4) Words, words, words . . . 5) He rarely challenges the home team . . . 6) Everyone is winging it . . . 7) The watchdogs are dozing.

Perhaps not everyone will dutifully fall in line -- Another Politico list includes "Ten Dems Obama should look out for." To summarize (the full story is a good read): Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich), Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), VP Joe Biden, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif), Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Fla), Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont), Rep Barbara Lee (D-Calif), Senator Jim Webb (D-Va), and Michelle Obama.

Press relations not all roses -- (1/22/09) reveals more information about what President Obama's relating style with the press could be. Headlined, "Obama flashes irritation in press room," The vignette describes the inevitable tension between Press, wanting individual access to the president and the President wanting to make information public as he chooses.

Trivia -- It has only been a few days since power changed hands. On balance the leadership looks good. It feels nice to the adults back in charge. In conclusion here are a few miscellaneous fun facts, just to keep things light.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo"* and Jon#.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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