Making Change

There is a new sheriff in town and his name is Barack Obama.  I think he made that clear yesterday when he told the Republican Congressional leaders (after listening to their laundry list of what was wrong with his Recovery Act proposal), “I won.”

So far President Obama seems to listen to lots of points of view and then make a decision.  I saw an interview with General Powell recently in which he described Obama’s leadership style:  Lots of internal discussion and disagreement.  Then Obama makes a decision and the drama is over.  At least this is what happened during the Transition and the campaign.  There is no reason not to think this will continue.  So “no drama Obama” seems to apply only to what we see in public and there are lots of dissenting voices before decisions are made.  There is nothing like former President Bush’s  (I love writing that!) way of decision making.  In one of his exit interview, Bush was asked if he called people like General Powell before he made a decision after 9/11 and he basically said, “no.  I knew what they thought.”  I can’t imagine this happening with President Obama.  A change.

People can quibble about whether he’s going far enough to end torture and certainly whether his immediate waiver of this lobbying executive order for a former Raytheon lobbyist was a good thing, but I say, so far so good.

I am on the side of those who would like to see prosecutions of those who ordered torture.  But I think (I hope) I see the tactic.  Don’t come out and say you are going to prosecute before Congressional investigations are completed and before there are reports about what Justice, Defense, the NSA and CIA find in internal memos.  Collect the evidence first.

David Sirota wrote

Cut through the meaningless platitudes describing our new president as a post-partisan, post-racial pragmatist, and you find an inspiring leader who organized us around optimism. Then consider that leader’s behavior since the election, and you run into that nagging speck of doubt. His less-than-inspiring Cabinet appointments, his support of Bush’s Wall Street bailout, his embrace of nonsensical corporate tax cuts – these moves raise questions about whether Obama is willing to differentiate between his two campaign themes: hope and change.

While both those things have lately been in short supply, the distance between them on policy is the gulf separating ambition and realization. Hope is a bill peppered with “may” – the word that merely asks banks or polluters to regulate themselves. Change is a statute teeming with “shall” – a term forcing its targets to comply. Hope is telegenic glamour, winning smiles, and poignant one-liners. Change is all the grinding work and uncomfortable confrontations that come with challenging power and enacting transformative laws.

The reason so many cried this week is because we can finally glimpse that change in the distance. And yet, those pangs of concern linger. They don’t undermine the euphoria or diminish Obama’s promise. But they do recognize that we worry about hope’s mirage – and pray there are no illusions this time.


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