Not Just Promises

I get it. If I’m promised a pony and a rainbow by a politician when he or she is running for office, I shouldn’t expect much more than some horseshit and downpours after the election.

I’m an adult. I don’t expect magic solutions.

I do expect progress where delivering the goods is not about magic solutions or free lunches. Here are two areas where the current Administration is tilting towards failure for me.

1. Transparency on the economy in general and on bailouts in specific. Geithner is so far little different in his approach to this basic commitment than Hank Paulson. I do not buy that secrecy about the flow of resources into the financial system is a necessary precondition of the success of Administration policy. So far, in fact, every single disclosure about the joint Paulson-Geithner plan is showing that secrecy actually retards the effectiveness of government action. Either you understand that sunlight is cleansing as a basic matter of principle or you don’t. So far the Obama Administration is giving every sign that they don’t understand, and see transparency just as a buzz word.

2. Cutting back executive power to previous structural limits and boundaries. I’m so far deeply disappointed with the Administration’s approach to detention and other national security matters. What it increasingly looks like is that their strategy is to selectively engage in limited policy reforms while retaining the underlying infrastructure of Cheney’s claims about executive authority during a time of endless national emergency, e.g., to act like “enlightened unlimited executives” rather than to abjure the basic concept of limitless authority. Now if you’re one of those right-wing blatherers who had no problem with this concept when it was the Bush-Cheney Administration, kindly go stuff yourself, because you weren’t paying attention when we were pointing out the long-term structural danger this sort of claim posed. On the other hand, if you were worried about this sort of claim under the last Administration, every day that the Obama Administration fails to decisively dismantle it is more and more alarming.

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4 Responses to Not Just Promises

  1. back40 says:

    Aye, but this was all expected, no?

  2. Ralph says:

    On your second point, Tim, you may have missed the fact that Obama has ordered a complete review of all of GWB’s “signing statements” over the last eight years. As you know, GWB used signing statements far more often than any previous President. Reviewing all those signing statements a very big job for an administration that’s still hiring on personnel and it *could* mean a significant adjustment of executive authority in deference to legislative authority.

  3. Timothy Burke says:

    Let’s hope. But I’m really disappointed that the Administration has maintained any form of the argument that the President can detain indefinitely. I grant that there is still a difficult problem about what to do with prisoners taken during combat operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, given that they are not soldiers of another nation. That will take some creative thinking about the interstate system of the 21st Century. But Obama’s administration is so far hedging its bets on executive authority in a way that I do not like at all: this is something where decisive, immediate and unmistakeable action is required within his first six months in office.

  4. My optimistic reading on this: Obama believes in evidence-driven decision-making, not knee-jerk principles. So they are in the process of trying to “audit the books” as much as possible to be sure that any changes in course don’t blow up in their faces or require a quick about-face in the face of new information.

    Or so I hope.

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