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Does Your Paradigm Need Changing?

Valerie Jarrett, longtime confidante of Barack Obama and co-chair of his transition team, shares this:

It’s a mistake, she said, to talk about Obama in terms of the left or right. He plans to change the political paradigm. What does that mean? Jarrett said Obama is a realist, not just an idealist, as many of his critics claim. He won’t be a tool of liberals, or an easy target for conservatives. He’ll try to get done that which he thinks is “doable” and can “change the lives of the American people,” Jarrett said. Proof of this can be found in his approach to the daunting economic problems. Before holding his first post-election news conference last week to let the nation know he is focusing on this crisis as he prepares to assume the presidency in January, Obama pulled together a politically eclectic group of economic advisers that included the chief executive of Google, Michigan’s governor, Los Angeles’ mayor, two former Treasury secretaries and an ex-chairman of the Federal Reserve. Jarrett said Obama went into that meeting and others he had during his campaign with an open mind — and a willingness to listen to what people had to say before making a decision. She admits there occasionally were “great discussions with differences of opinion.” But there was no public backbiting or sniping leaks to the press — which Jarrett credits to Obama’s leadership.

Huh? If you have not the foggiest idea what she means or how this works in practice, you are not alone. Changing paradigms is always interesting, and debates among people with vast disagreements makes for a lively classroom discussion, but how is this all going to work?

Let’s get real. At some point it will be necessary to choose one side or the other or split the difference. That will result in decisions which define the new President, whether he likes the characterization or not, as liberal, conservative or moderate. I am not sure what the fettish is about avoiding spelling out his general framework and perspective. I know the temptation is great to have everyone like him and have everyone quite certain his version of Barack Obama is the real one. But pretty soon he’ll have to come right out and decide: bailout or not, tax hike or not, free trade or not, etc. Let’s hope that the gauze of vagueness disintegrates and we wind up with a decisive, firm and clear President. Otherwise we’re all in for a rocky four years.


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