These are perilous times in the United States and around the world.
How is that for the understatement of the day, of of the week? Perhaps we understate the nature of the world wide economic crisis# in order to deal with it. In my former field of mental health care, we refer to this behavior as "minimization." So be it.
These are also perilous times in a way for President-elect Obama. The United States desperately needs leadership and our current president (OCP) has already checked out. Barack Obama correctly says -- and must live out the idea -- that there can only be one President at a time. In doing so things are getting worse.
The stock market fell to its lowest point in 11 years yesterday. Congress has left town until December. From Yahoo! News (11/19/08) we hear the latest from Terrorist #2: "Al-Qaeda No. 2 insults Obama in new audio message." To quote:
Al-Zawahri also called Obama — along with secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice — "house negroes."
And to make things worse, OCP and his administration are busily building a tall wall# of deregulation, lawless orders, veto threats and looting of the treasury for the very rich on Wall Street. If we did not know better, we could assume that the outgoing administration would rather see the country fail than help Democrats. Surely that could not be the case. To put the best face on OCP's behavior is to say that it is because there are ideological# and policy differences between the two political parties.
So what can our next president (ONP) do to lead during the next two months of transition? No matter who coming into his administration is announced, there is going to be criticism or cautious praise. For example, Glenn Greenwald does not like one of the President-elect's national security advisers. On 11/16/08, he headlined, "John Brennan and Bush's interrogation/detention policies." On the other hand, Glenn Greenwald on Eric Holder was fairly positive, as was Politico.
Can he do anything different than the plan he is already executing, or can he do more? And how can the rest of us help? Let us examine some possibilities:
- Stop the leaks out of the Transition? I do not subscribe, for example, to the idea that the emergence of all the details surrounding Hillary Clinton's potential as Secretary of State is a terrible thing. It is a bit messy. But it is in a way, transparency that could be exercised on purpose.
- Announce appointments more rapidly? It is probably not prudent, if the time required is going to cut into thorough vetting of the pending appointees. This transition team is already ahead ot the norms of former presidential transitions.
- Exercise more formal leadership and decision making? In my opinion, it has been entirely wise and proper for Obama to resist substantive public discussion with other world leaders, and to send surrogates to policy making events staged by OCP. Obama is living out the rule of law, unlike his predecessor,"one President at a time."
- Live up to the model of CHANGE as advertised during the campaign? People who oversimplify what has happened appointment-wise, fail to take another Obama value into consideration, EXCELLENCE. Change to me means ABB, anyone but George W. Bush. It should not be extended to mean anybody but those who served in the Clinton administration.
- Listen more closely to the Liberal Left, allegedly his "base?" There were never enough Liberals to former Senator Obama. Other constituencies helped carry him to victory. He won, based, among other things, of course, on his promises to unite the country, to change the way Washington works, and to govern in a bipartisan manner. Liberals will do just fine, swallowing a number of Centrist policies.
- How can the rest of us help? We can take the President-elect at his word that he wants feedback from those who may disagree with him. Eight years of governance via synchophant advisers, secrecy, isolation from public opinion, provided ONP with the self-confidence to ask us, "What do you think?" And when we run out of negative feedback, we could even throw in a kudo or two for what is well done.
Yes, this time of transition is perilous. Change itself is psychologically stressful . . . even positive change#. But, if we think back to November 1, 2008, things could be a lot worse. We could be in discussion about President-elect John McCain and Vice-President-elect Sarah Palin, of late, Alsaka's official turkey-pardoner.
Update on yesterday's post, "Military stays dominant in the field -- or not?" I got a timely e-mail from The Washington Independent on Susan Rice. It is by Spencer Ackerman and titled, "A Window Into Obama's Foreign Policy." The piece examines the manner in which President-elect Obama's chief foreign policy transition adviser, Susan Rice, might influence U.S. foreign relations during the upcoming years, if she joins the administration. I was happy to discover that my post turned out to be fairly prescient regarding some of the specifics. For example:
. . . the woman who was just named to head the foreign-policy transition team for an Obama administration — and herself a likely candidate for deputy national security adviser or other top position — is a rigorous thinker and thorough pragmatist, impatient with ideology and incompetence.
. . . A protege of Madeleine K. Albright, . . . Rice joined the Clinton administration in 1993 as an staffer on the National Security Council . . . On the NSC, Rice earned a reputation for pragmatism, which she carried over to the State Dept. as assistant secretary for African affairs, a post she held from 1997 to 2001.
. . . Rice challenged the idea that Obama’s more controversial foreign-policy proposals — setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, negotiating with foreign adversaries, bolstering the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan and renewing the hunt for Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan — were, as his critics maintained, imprudent. “I don’t see it as radical at all,” she told me in February. “I see it as rational, wise and long overdue.”
. . . [Slaughter’s assessment of Rice echoed Wirth’s]. “She has a very holistic vision of national security,” Slaughter said, “one that includes the problems of weak and failing states and the overall imperative of standing for increased prosperity and justice for all people around the world.
Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of links to leads are "betmo*" and Jon#.View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.
(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)
My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.