Obama’s Teleprompter
March 25, 2009

In the last few weeks, Republican partisans have all started to talk about Obama’s teleprompter.

AP Photo credit Jae C. Hong

AP Photo credit Jae C. Hong

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Town Hall
February 9, 2009

I’m watching Barack Obama’s town hall meeting right now live on CNN.com. There’s lots to say about it, so I’m going to attempt an experiment and try to liveblog it. We’ll see how it goes! Feel free to jump in with comments right now if you’re reading!

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Corruption, Part III
February 4, 2009

But it turns out that Obama’s words, well, mattered. They made it harder to ignore scandal, as the Bush administration had done. The endlessly long vetting forms forcing deep tax and income transparency, which in turn uncovered embarrassments that would never have emerged under past regimes. This has made for a more troubled transition, but will probably also result in a cleaner administration. For all the embarrassments, this, in a concrete sense, is what change looks like. It’s not an administration that decides to be clean so much as one that has little choice in the matter.

Ezra Klein, at the end of by far the best comment I’ve seen on the Daschle thing. I just want to add that this is a much more eloquent version of why I have been concerned about Obama’s tolerance for corruption (and happy about his apparent lack of tolerance now). Bush tolerated unbelievably worse corruption in his administration than what we’ve seen from Daschle and Geithner, but there was no particular narrative about it outside the lefty blogs (although it’s endlessly hilarious that in 2001 Bush vowed to run the government like a corporation given all the stories now about corporate governance). Corruption in the Obama administration runs directly against his narrative of change, and so tolerating it would devastate him. It also supports the explicit anti-government conservative movement narrative where government is bloated and ineffective and should just stay out of the way.

Petty Corruption
February 1, 2009

Here and here are two more data points to add to the pattern I mentioned a few weeks ago of Obama putting up with petty corruption by people on his administration. I don’t like this pattern and I hope it goes away.

Incidentally, I just want to echo the point resonating across the lefty blogs this week. If the Republicans are all going to vote against the stimulus package, and if the Democrats are therefore going to get all the credit if it succeeds and all the blame if it fails, and if the stakes are really as high as everyone says they are, then shouldn’t Democrats try to pass the best possible package policy-wise (i.e. lots of infrastructure and long-term spending), and not one laden with tax cuts and pork and all the other petty corruption ordinarily used to grease the passage of an important bill?

White House Blog
January 20, 2009

byebush

With respect to my complaint about the George Bush White House Blog, check out the new whitehouse.gov. Looks like Team Obama has already got a better blog in place.

EDIT: Obama’s inauguration speech, annotated.

Big Day.
January 19, 2009

Rosa Parks sat so that Dr. King could walk. Dr. King walked so that Barack Obama could run. And Barack Obama ran so that all children could fly.

here are some pictures

Your Seat at the Table
December 27, 2008

I spent some time looking through the Your Seat At the Table feature at the Obama transition team’s website. YSAT is a document dump where the transition team releases copies of every letter or policy proposal sent to them by third parties during the transition. There are currently over 4000 documents here, from an open letter from the Mayor of Charleston to recommendations from the Coalition for Space Exploration to a letter from the American Bar Association.

My first impression when I saw this document dump was that it amounted to a nice symbolic gesture towards transparency, but nothing more. It’s good that the transition team realizes that special interests need to face more public scrutiny, since the government is ultimately supposed to be accountable to the public and not to the special interests. So this is a good symbolic break from the practices of the Bush Administration. But of course, nobody from the public is actually going to read through thousands boring policy papers, so there won’t be any actual oversight here, it’s just a nice idea.

Then I looked at the comment section, and felt some of that elusive “hope” that’s going around nowadays. It turns out that people are reading these papers, and commenting on them. I think the average document has about ten comments, ranging up to near 100 for contentious issues like health care. And the comments are generally pretty worthwhile.

Civic engagement! It’s wonderful to see! This is just some random backwater on the Obama team’s website, but it gives me hope for our country. My only suggestion would be to require the organizations that submit the documents to respond to the commenters. I recall seeing a few instances of this happening, but there’s no reason why everyone who submits a policy paper to the transition team shouldn’t have to discuss it with the people who elected the team as well.