Advice or Affirmation

I think Ezra is exactly right here, and it sums up better than I have my main problem with some of the criticisms of Obama’s cabinet picks coming from places like Open Left. It’s not that they don’t have the right to criticize Obama (obviously they do), or even that they shouldn’t criticize him for the good of Democrats or something like like that. In a nutshell, my problem with it is that Obama hasn’t done anything you couldn’t have predicted 2-3 months ago, especially in regards to his appointments. That Chris Bowers is tossing out criticism daily now really makes me question his motivations, and whether or not he was paying attention to what Obama was saying during the campaign. And in this raging debate about “policy vs. personnel” it seems that one crucial point is going unsaid. The agenda is what it is. It’s not like Obama is suddenly against universal healthcare because he has a Republican at the Pentagon, or even that he’s suddenly opposed to withdrawl from Iraq. Instead, one of the key reasons that Gates remains at Defense is because he agrees with Obama’s withdrawl plans. So say what you want about Obama’s appointments, but none of them, not a single one, are out of line with the policy proposals at stated positions Obama has made abundantly public for ther better part of 2 years now. If you don’t like that, you should have said so 6 months ago, and voted for Nader or something. But it seems really perverse to spend months trying to get Obama elected, and turn around and criticize him for doing the things he said he was going to do.

On another point, I really want to riff off of this:

Extrapolating Obama’s beliefs from his appointment is, for now, working off the best available evidence anyone has. This is all the more true given that the evidence includes not just cabinet appointments, but White House staff and chosen advisers. You don’t make Larry Summers your adviser because Wall Street trusts him. You make him your adviser because you, like many others, believe him a brilliant economic mind. Refusing to extrapolate here is synonymous with shutting out the evidence.

Leaving aside cabinet officials here, generally when I’m looking for advice, I don’t seek out advisers based on what I know their opinions to be, I seek them out based on a belief that they’re really smart people, and I think they’re in a unique position to know more than most, and as such I want their counsel to help me out. If I’m looking for advice based on whether or not someone agrees with my assumptions and biases, then I’m not looking for advice, I’m looking for affirmation. This is what we’ve been complainging about Bush doing for 8 years now. I suppose it’s possible that the Bush administration has been so traumatic as to cloud the way we think about these things altogether, but it seems that we ought to be trying to reverse that now, not entrench it.