Wednesday, November 26, 2008

You Can't Have It Both Ways

Let’s be honest, (maybe a radical change for some of us), you can’t have it both ways. This is a reference to the ongoing conversation about the new Obama political appointments.

Here’s the dichotomy: Although this may turn out to be a somewhat bipartisan Administration, the reality is that the new President wants to appoint a significant number of talented and experienced Democrats. In order to do this he has to look at people who know how to operate in government. The cry of “Too many former Clinton people,” when combined with the call for “Experienced people”, is somewhat schizophrenic. Of course there are going to be people who worked for Clinton ,and a number of the Clinton people also worked for Carter. They could have worked for Kennedy but if they did, they are probably dead. So it would be hard to get them confirmed.

This is not a time for novices running Departments or Agencies. In order to get anything done the people in charge will have to understand how the system works and what to do in order to move things ahead. While the Civil Servants ordinarily want to maintain the status quo, that is not the case at this point in history. They know that in order for things to change for the better, they will have to help rather than hinder the new people in charge. And let’s not make any mistakes about this, Civil Servants know how to stop progress but in the end, they are public servants, many of who could have opted for much higher paying positions in the private sector but they chose to serve their country. The last eight years have not been easy for them They have been witness to catastrophic mistakes (like the disasters at FEMA) but were powerless to do anything about them -- short of resignation. And even Colin Powell, who might have made an important statement with his resignation when they lied to him, chose to remain the good soldier. After all, a job is a job and having health care is no joke.

Back to the new appointments. Rahm Emanuel worked at the White House as a Special Assistant to President Clinton. He knows what works. In a previous blob I talked about how I thought it was a brilliant appointment because, even though I was never crazy about his interpersonal skills, it does send a message to the Hill that they won’t be able to screw around with this President. That is very important. If the Congress thinks they can get away with anything they will try to do it—if they know they can’t they will do what they can to march in line. As witnessed by the standing ovation Senator Stevens received, there is no slime too sticky for the Senate to applaud. And regardless of the chatter, the Republicans will try to make trouble. They want to blame the Democrats for all the crises and they don’t care how they do it. Am I being unfair? Well it’s a game of wait and see. But, when I see television ads talking about the greatness of Sarah Palin, I have to wonder what these people are thinking. Just a note. My good friends who are Republicans, and yes I have many—that’s how you stay alive in Washington, are at a loss to explain any of this – and are hopeful that the party will be rebuilt in a way that makes sense – but again, it’s a wait and see.

Actually, I would like someone to explain to me why anyone would underwrite a series of ads that look to Sarah Palin as the future of the party. All you have to do is look at the her remarks and the kind of press in which she chooses to participate to realize that she has little or no judgment. You can say that she will learn about being media savvy over the next few years and that’s true. However, I’m not talking about being good on camera—which she is. I’m talking about thinking about what you do. In case you haven’t seen the latest Youtube video about pardoning the turkey, allow me to share with you.

Ok, I digress and I didn’t mean to get off the track. It’s natural for the media to complain about the new transition and specifically appointments. This one is good, that one is bad, this will help, that one won’t. If they didn’t do this they would have nothing to say and the airways would be devoid of talking head crap. Perish that idea. The bottom line is that you have to look for experienced people who will be loyal. In order to do that you have to look at people from your own Party who have served. It’s not easy to find people (good people) willing to give up lucrative careers to go back into government. (In Washington the question is framed “Are you going back in?” Like it’s a jail term). And when you do identify those people you need to remember that, if they agree, they are serving the public and deserve to be lauded rather than derided. You simply can’t have it both ways. We're just sayin'... Iris

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