Measuring the Obama Transition
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
For the last couple of weeks, I've been unsuccessfully attempting to critically evaluate the activities of the upcoming Obama administration. I say "unsuccessfully", because every time a new or potential Cabinet member is announced, my first instinct is one of hesitation...I want to wait and see what they do. But as a highly judgmental person, I find this position to be an extremely awkward one. I don't know how to measure people, only actions. And these people's actions are complicated. As Glenn Greenwald says about Obama's choices for his economic team:
I don't have the knowledge or expertise necessary to resolve these conflicting pictures or to form a meaningful opinion about these selections (even Baker, in the midst of his sharp criticisms, allows that the choices Obama made might be the best alternatives, as flawed as Baker believes them to be, and Nouriel Roubini praises the choices as "excellent"). But it is nonetheless noteworthy -- in general -- how much accountability-free praise, and how little critical scrutiny, is heaped on establishment figures as they ascend to power.I'm totally on board with the point that Greenwald is making, but since I, myself, don't know how to dissect these people, it's hard for me to be critical of others displaying the same reticence. Also, this entire transition situation leaves me feeling cold. Bush is still in the WH, so I'm tempted to hold him responsible for the lack of transparency into the whole "rescue/bailout" process. But then again, I go back to presidential candidate Obama's conditions for supporting the bailout/rescue package in the first place, and I don't exactly know how many of them are being met:
Trillions of dollars flying around. Deals being cut in the dark, with virtually no oversight, scrutiny or even public awareness until after the fact. All sorts of overlapping relationships and influence-peddling at the heart of these transactions. And people like Rubin, Geithner, and Summers have all long been a part of that system, and in many cases, important components of the key precipitating events. That is some rather substantial ground for concern.
It's certainly possible that they will do a superb job in managing the crisis. I'm definitely not suggesting otherwise, and I assign substantial credibility to the assessments of trustworthy experts like Roubini and Baker. But between too much trust and reverence on the one hand, and too much skepticism on the other, the last eight years should have taught -- but don't seem to have -- that the former is far more dangerous than the latter.
Adding some specificity to proposals he has already made, Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, called for a payback plan for taxpayers if the bailout succeeds; a bipartisan board to oversee the bailout; limits on any federal money going to compensate Wall Street executives; and aid to homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgages.I could go on like this for a while, but really, there's not much point. Because at the end of the day, I'm afraid my only reaction right now is: Not enough information. Which is weird, because this upcoming administration has been pretty informative, relatively speaking. So, maybe my real reaction should be: Not the right information. I want measures.
Nothing New byslag at 10:43 AM