Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Conflict in the Cabinet?

President-elect Barack Obama made an interesting remark about his cabinent choices:

"(I want) strong personalities and strong opinions” to foster robust discussion. “One of the dangers in the White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in groupthink and everybody agrees with everything and there’s no discussion and there are no dissenting views,” he said. “So I’m going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House.” But he added: “As Harry Truman said, the buck will stop with me.” [Baker, Peter, “Appointments Begin a New Phase for Obama,” New York Times, Dec. 1, 2008.]

Now some will say that conflict won't work. The President doesn't need advisors who are likely to go off and follow their own policies instead of the President's.

But, I see this as a potential triumph of true democratic thinking -- where policies and decisions arise out of a vigorous discussion of ideas. Where this discussion is not colored or filtered by predetermined political ideology.

This is the strength of democracy: the chance to air a full range of opinions, and then making decisions based on the best ideas and suggestions. This is far superior to a cabinet of loyal “yes-men” and “yes-women” who stay with the party line.

I see this as moving from the “Maoist” approach of the Bush Administration – where the party line came first and everything else followed from that. (Examples: the triumph of political policy over science and the invasion of Iraq: as early as the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, the Administration was looking for an excuse to invade.)

Will it work? Well, we’ll see in 2009.

1 comment:

  1. This philosophy is a breath of fresh air, I can't wait to see the changes this man makes in the coming years. Imagine using thoughtful and reasoned debate as a vehicle for decision-making...brilliant!