Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm Excited About 20-Jan-2009

I'm looking forward to next Tuesday.

It goes without saying that it'll be a historic day. I'll be at work. I wonder if we'll be able to see the speech live? I'm guessing that this will be a speech that will be quoted often in the future.

I think it's terrific that we have our first African-American president. But it's even better that he won for the right reasons: because he's smart, capable, inspiring, and will surround himself with good people.

Eight years ago we had a president-elect who was not thought to be so smart. The conventional thinking was that he would defer to others in his administration. He surrounded himself with people from an earlier era who would act as his "adult supervision." His supporters pointed to his faith, and he pledged to restore the "dignity" of the presidency. Some people considered that a high priority after the Clinton impeachment. Meetings would be run on time.

In hindsight, I don't think it worked out very well.

Today we have:

  • an economy in shambles;

  • a national debt over $10T and growing;

  • Osama bin Laden and Dr. al-Zawahiri still free;

  • two intractable wars;

  • more unrest in the Middle East;

  • a greater dependence than ever on oil that may be "past peak";

  • a ruined reserve currency;

  • a debt that increased by 50% over the last eight years;

  • 1 in 7 adults illiterate;

Mr. Obama will have his hands full.

So why am I excited?

I think this government is going to be rational, not faith-based. I hope it does a better job of understanding the world as it is without relying too heavily on pre-packaged ideology and dogma.

The appointment of Stephen Chu to head the Department of Energy is a great sign that science will be taken seriously. For as long as I can remember, the Energy department has meant nothing more than "big oil", a perennial candidate for budget cuts, and the whipping boy for every president who wanted "smaller government." I hope that Dr. Chu can change this, because we desperately need a change.

"Waterboarding is torture" - thank you, Eric Holder. This has been known by all civilized people since the Spanish Inquisition. It was considered a war crime when practiced during World War II. From what I've read about interrogation techniques, this kind of thing doesn't work because the prisoner will do or say anything to make it stop. I'm glad that John Yoo's legal opinions will no longer inform our policy.

Perhaps the Justice Department will be a less political place. Hiring and firing will be more of a meritocracy and less blatantly about ideology.

Let's hope Timothy Geithner will have fewer Wall Street buddies to dispense TARP funds to. I'd say that Henry Paulson's pleas for $700B haven't helped us.

I'm glad to see Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the administration leave Washington. Enough!

I am worried that things might have gone too far for anyone to reverse now. I'll be concerned if Obama tries to tell us that we can go on as we have. A painful change is inevitable here. I hope he tells us the truth: that the free lunch is over, that it's not sustainable for the rest of the world to finance our excess, that we have to produce and save and defer consumption in order to accumulate wealth, that living beyond our means on a credit card has to end, that money loaned to you from the bank cannot be accounted for the same way as income.

I'm optimistic about an end to magical thinking.

I'm confident that this smart young man will be able to make a difference.

I hope that he's kept safe.

Good-bye, Mr. Bush. Welcome, President Obama.

No comments: