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Working With Obama

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James Brett
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Everyone by now has seen the video clip of Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball program browbeating a tired Texas State Senator about Barack Obama's experience level and his legislative accomplishments. The hapless State Senator tried to recover by indicating that Obama's clear voice and understanding that the system is broken and that Washington is precisely the opposite of what people generally hope it will be is what made the difference for him and other Texans. Matthews persisted, made a complete and utter ass of himself, and yet scored points for the Hillary Clinton campaign. But did he? Hillary is a self-proclaimed and generally recognized policy wonk. This means that she understands the intricacies of complex programs and, unfortunately, it also means that she is dismissive of people who do not, or appear to not be so attentive to detail. Hillary's strength here is actually a weakness because Presidents who believe they should know every detail and who will press people beyond endurance to keep the details straight fail. Jimmy Carter, who was a Naval Officer in nuclear submarines where everyone needs to know their own job and several others, and where the officers need to know all the jobs under their immediate responsibility and then some, failed as a President because he could not let go of details and, more to the point, he did not respect those who did not immerse themselves in wonkery. So it is that Hillary literally and from her wonkish little heart dismisses Obama as a viable and realistic candidate. Someone should talk to her about this, because John Kennedy was no better prepared for the Presidency than Obama currently is. Harry Truman got the job like a lightning bolt and did reasonably well, thank you. Herbert Hoover, on the other hand was a details oriented engineer and like all engineers was trained to break situations down into their component problems, so he did, but his ideological blinders made the obvious invisible to him and his details-mindedness left him paralyzed. FDR, on the other hand, a patrician whose work in state government and as Assistant Secretary of the Navy would hardly be thought as preparation for dealing with the Great Depression, rampant fascism and imperialism and communism, and then the most massive war yet endured by humanity, did quite well. He did so because he understood human needs and hopes. Obama, will be the nominee of the Democratic Party and the next President, unless Hillary damages him so badly that the corporate media take off on one of their well-known feeding frenzies and devour him, like they destroyed Kerry and Gore before him. Hillary has the power to destroy, but she should understand the real nature of the Presidency is not what she thinks it is, but what we think it is. Obama will govern like FDR did with a handicap. His real handicap is that people will be double judging him, once as a man, then as a black man. But the real test of Obama is what he will do. He has the vision and analytic perception to see what is wrong. His most difficult job will be to station good and honest and intelligent men and women throughout government so that he can transmit his vision through to the lowest and darkest levels of public life, to encourage those who will expend something of themselves to make the necessary changes and to dismiss or discipline those who will not. The honest media, including the blogosphere, should be inquiring of Obama and his team who the brain trust really is and what do they believe in. The details people below Obama are very important and now is the time Obama should be standing some of them up and saying, here is Sally Smith, she is on my team and she knows everything about whateveritis. Here is Joe Jones, he is the best person on health insurance I and many other have ever met. He is on my team. Obama should weigh carefully the Vice Presidential choice and if it works out that Wes Clark is the call, then John Edwards has to become Attorney General. If John gets the nod, then Wes must become Secretary of Defense. You get the drift; the point is the team and the leader, not the simply the ego of the leader. At this point in the campaign with Hillary ranting from her heart that Barack is no wonk, Barack must say that we don't want a wonk. We want an intelligent person with vision and the ability to stir people to expend something of themselves for the repair and betterment of our nation! JB
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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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