The most important person in an Obama administration
by stan81747, Wed Jun 04, 2008 at 12:29:52 AM EDT
The most important person in the Obama administration will not be the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor, or the Attorney General. I'm confident that with several experienced advisors and key supporters already on board with him, he will be advised to choose a competent Cabinet.
No, the most important person in the Obama administration will not be a Cabinet secretary or formal officeholder requiring Senate confirmation. It will be his chief of staff.
We know from reports and stories and even from Obama's own mouth that he's not good at paperwork, is possibly lazy, and is not good at details. He's a "big picture" guy. He has almost no managerial experience. So it will be up to the chief of staff to make the White House staff work. It will be up to the staff to make sure Obama is where he should be when he should be there and is doing what he should be doing. The staff would be responsible for "staff work" - giving Obama the information he needs when he needs it, fully staffed and researched, with options and recommendations along with the pros and cons of each option, in relatively short summaries. A former Amoco senior executive and a friend of mine told me once, "Bring me something I can sign. Summarize the alternatives, give me your recommendations and do it in a one- or two-page `Executive Summary.' Attach all the detail and analysis. I'll read that part if I feel I need to." That's how an Obama White House would have to operate.
Obama's personal responsibility would be to set the tone and establish the "command climate," in Wes Clark's words. He must create an environment with clear boundaries - the things not necessarily TO do and how to do them, but the things unacceptable to do and off-limits WAYS of doing things. After all, all this "new politics" stuff is a huge part of how he got nominated. He must carry through with that message.
This is very reminiscent of the Reagan presidency, and that may not be accidental since Obama found Reagan somewhat of a hero. Reagan was a hands-off President, unlike the likes of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, wonks to the marrow of their bones. But Reagan was pretty effective in communicating priorities and articulating the mission and vision. (I view the mission as what an organization does for whom, while the vision describes how the organization behaves in carrying out the mission.)
I am not hopeless about the success of an Obama administration. I am nervous about it. I HOPE that he can surround himself with the best people available and can effect the CHANGES needed in the country. If he is immersed in excellence, maintains his message, and then gets the hell out of the way, it could work.