Barack Obama’s major impact on the change in power and the US Presidency is not that he is extremely well briefed and knowledgeable about a wide range of issues. Nor is that he can speak eloquently and with purpose on the topics and problems he is confronted with. No the outstanding qualities that are coming through is that a)he is frank truth saying, b)he is neither ducking issues nor sugar-coating them and c)he is not allowing double speak, fabrication, or omission to rule the roost. Lets examine these notions one by one.
Time after time in addresses to Congress, reporters and the public President Obama discusses issues frankly that otherwise would get sugar coated, kicked down the road, or just omitted. And he is not above saying the problems are tough, a solution will not be easy or practical solution is still not discernible. In effect he is both managing expectations but also acknowledging a range of problems that simply would not get discussed by at least 3 or 4 of his predecessors. The frankness is appreciated.
The second point follows from the first – issues are not being ducked or buried. However, they are being ranked and prioritized by addressing what action will be taken and by whom. And is is important to note that the Obama agenda is publicly available in fine detail at change.gov. And the President is constantly returning to and reiterating his plans and priorities enunciated there. This is a major departure.
The cardinal sin of the Bush administration is that if Bush got info or briefings with facts that he did not want to hear – Bush delayed, ignored and/or got the bureaucrats or his intermediate staff to change them so they fit more closely his views or predispositions. So far reports on President Obama’s style is that he is a)getting all players to speak, b)appears to be allowing facts and data to speak for themselves and c)encourages contrarian views. Given that the Bush administration had basic science or economic facts “rewritten” to meet the administrations purposes and agenda, this one change alone is worth it’s weight in gold. In fact, I suspect that President Obama, because of this frankness and open style will enjoy double or triple the traditional first 100 days honeymoon period with the electorate.