Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Starting Over

What, the recession isn’t over yet? What gives, Obama has been president-elect for a week now. He hasn’t yet solved our financial crisis? And hey, Iraq is still a mess, Afghanistan is on the edge of collapsing and returning to Taliban rule, and the Congolese continue their killing spree. There’s no Middle East Peace as of this writing. What has the man been doing?
Think the expectations are a bit high? I guess that’s what eight years of the Doofus Reign will do.
But first things first. The man needs to get his cabinet named, and then his subcabinet, perhaps even more important than the top jobs. I still remember the transition from Carter to Reagan, when I was sitting in the Department of Health Education & Welfare, awaiting the incoming team. And what proud moments they were. Until Bush, Reagan had in my limited view, the worst cabinet I had ever seen. But the bottomless barrel theory was alive and well, when Shrub took office. Reagan’s legacy is safe, as long as the world has George Bush to kick around.
This transition team appointments process is vital and a bit scary. I mean how does one avoid appointing people like Sarah Palin? It isn’t easy. One continuing problem is this notion, promulgated by Reagan, that “Government isn’t the solution, Government is the problem.” So, with that mentality, you appoint people to run these vast government agencies, who are essentially at odds with the mission of those agencies. So, you put people opposed to family planning in charge of the Federal family planning program. Or you place antagonists at the helm of agencies such as Justice, or the Food and Drug Administration, or the Environmental Protection Agency. Now, when you do that, you create dysfunctional agencies., much as happened at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, under Bush’s “heckuva job Brownie.” I guess, if you are a Ronald Reagan, or a George Bush, creating dysfunctional government agencies may seem a good thing—it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if you’re an ordinary American citizen, you might have come to rely on these regulatory agencies to protect you from the worst excesses of predatory capitalism. Who wouldn’t want protection from Chinese capitalists, for example? How much melamine would you like in your breakfast cereal, please?
So, Obama’s first very large job, apart from refloating the US banking and auto industries (the latter so they can keep producing Hummers for Joe Six-Pack), is finding a few thousand, highly competent people, who are not actually opposed to the mission of the agencies they will be asked to run. He will have lots of help, not just from employment agencies. He has all those lobby groups, whose job it is now to staff the agencies with people their industries approve of. He has all those now unemployed people who worked on his campaign.
And last of all, he has a virtual army of people who will now be unemployed for the first time in eight years—cartoon columnists, and comedians, whose industry has suddenly collapsed because Obama is not funny—he’s, gasp, thoughtful, and double gasp, smart.
Heaven forfend.
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