Lessons Learned Obama term one: Part one
The biggest success of the anti-Obama “progressives” over the last four years has been to displace any actual Democratic critique of the Obama administration. What passes for “left” or “progressive” critique ranges from dyspeptic Libertarianism to bitter whining of old white men (and some old black men) who don’t find Team Obama respectful enough. The classic example was Revolutionary Comrade Cornel West complaining that the President treated him as if he (the President) was a Cub Scout Leader and Revolutionary Comrade West was a mere cub scout. However, there a need for the Obama administration to hear from actual supporters who wish them well and see problems. Here’s a start:
- Team Obama has spent too much time paddling in the Ivy League talent pool and has made a terrible error in not bringing in the huge talent pool of OFA volunteers and of supporters who have administrative and technical experience. The classic example was the poor woman who was sent out to manage the MMS to regulate oil drilling prior to the BP Macondo spill. She was a Harvard Lawyer with ZERO administrative experience sent out into a hostile and incompetent agency with no support, no engineering staff, no experienced bureaucratic advisers, and not a fucking chance of success. There are really smart people who can help who are not on the tracks that are noticed at the JFK School - if the OFA can find them, the WH should be able to do it. Do not make the same mistake made in 2009 of leaving your OFA supporters and supporters within state and federal governments out in the cold because your hiring network is more comfortable picking through the same inadequate talent pool.
- There should be a White House HR Team made up of people with experience and knowledge of the government bureaucracy that will reach out and get talented people into civil service and political positions. This stuff is not easy. First, navigating the civil service bureaucracy is difficult: it is slow and not very competent and filled with people who are indifferent to and/or hostile to the Administration goals. If you do not have people in place with serious clout and backup who know how to push appointments through the system, you will leave your policy appointees stranded in a desert. Second the FBI is not staffed to prioritize clearing important Administrative nominees for second and third and fourth level jobs, but their priorities need to be reset. Huge failure: Don Berwicks delayed and ridiculously short term in office. He should have been recess appointed day one and then given authority to manage as a special appointee. The Bush administration was very successful in putting their people into office. They knew that whatever strategy memos come out of the higher levels of government, the lower levels actually execute and they are not neutral. The administration will never produce a decent immigration policy on the ground when the ICE is run by the right wing idiots Bush put into place. The administration will never either succeed in wall street or reform housing policy while middle level and upper bureaucratic management in OCC and SEC and FHA is dominated by wrong people. And for God’s sake, Interior and DOT and the like need PR officers, lowly PR officers, who will make sure that the Administration gets credit for each and every fixed bridge and filled pothole. Finally, if you do not have people in the IRS seriously enforcing tax rules on the super rich, especially on their abuse of foundations to fund the their own political efforts, you are crippling the Democratic Party for generations.
- Stop talking to the professional left. It was a tragedy that Axelrod was doing outreach with shitheads from FiredogLake blogs and similar when real immigration advocates, for example, couldn’t get an audience. Get out of DC and New York when you want to talk to people.
- The Administration cannot rely on the Press to communicate success.
- US AGs. Come on. And Siegelman should be free and Laura Canary should be in jail.
- Please please please find one obstructionist Republican Congressman and make an example of him. My nominee: Dick Shelby. Move the space program out of Alabama to Gary Indiana and let every political official in Alabama know you did it because their prick Senator could not stop sabotaging every Administrative appointment and legislative effort.
- Same thing for corporate management. When the GOP took the House back in 2010, Dave Camp was openly announcing revenge against companies that had defected from the Chamber of Commerce GOP campaign. The Administration has to protect those companies and punish companies that want to be part of the GOP (like Chevron). And make sure that Boeing managers understand that you know they are paying Shelby despite his efforts to fuck them over.
Part two will be about lessons learned about what we failed to do on the outside.