I feel like one of the laziest tricks in argument is the post hoc misrepresentation of one’s expectations. People often lie, particularly to themselves, when hindsight takes over.
So as a form of insurance, I’m going to write down some ways that President Obama could fail to meet my expectations. Then, a couple of years from now, I’ll be able to look back and see for myself whether the Obama Presidency is what I thought it would be.
Back in June, I linked to an article about good and bad process. It was one of those things that in a small way changed how I think about most everything. The basic argument is that process is under your control, outcome is not. Even the best process in the world can be outdone by bad luck or unforeseen events. The key to evaluating performance is to measure the effectiveness of a process, aside from the results that are ultimately achieved.
For example, had the Obama campaign failed, I still would have argued that their process was good, even if the outcome had not been the one I’d hoped for. In this case, the outcome vindicated the process, but the process was good regardless.
It’s in that spirit that I make this list:
- President Obama could decline to put an end to the regime of torture, extraordinary rendition, and imprisonment without charges that has defined the Bush administration for me. The President has almost complete discretion on these issues, and I expect a complete reversal of the Bush administration’s position on them.
- President Obama could extend the “imperial Presidency.” The Bush administration argued at every turn that the President is not accountable to Congress or to anyone else. Any new President will be tempted to maintain the power that he inherits. President Obama should give some of it back.
- He could govern narrowly. I expect President Obama to promote legislation that will be tough for Republicans to vote against. I don’t expect him to put through a lot of legislation that passes on party line votes.
- He could opt out of the standards he has set for himself with regard to transparency. If there’s one thing that worried me about the Obama campaign, it’s that it was not particularly open. I think that the secrecy of the campaign was a powerful tool, but I hope that the habit doesn’t follow Obama to the White House. He has talked about running a transparent White House. I sincerely hope he follows through. If he practices radical transparency, it will prevent him from making many of the other mistakes that could disappoint me. I’d hate for the Obama Presidency to be one where inexplicable decisions are made, and no explanations are ever offered.
That’s my stake in the ground. I’ll be able to look at it in the years to come and see if Obama lived up to my hopes as they were when he was elected.
I could make an alternate list of what I hope Obama will accomplish, but that would just be silly. He has his priorities and I have mine. I just hope he reacts intelligently to the problems he volunteered to take on, and that he makes progress in keeping the promises he made during his campaign.