Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The cerebral approach

Today's Washington Post offers up the following "analysis" piece:
President George W. Bush once boasted, "I'm not a textbook player, I'm a gut player." The new tenant of the Oval Office takes a strikingly different approach. President Obama is almost defiantly deliberative, methodical and measured, even when critics accuse him of dithering. When describing his executive style, he goes into Spock mode, saying, "You've got to make decisions based on information and not emotions."

Obama's handling of the Afghanistan conundrum has been a spectacle of deliberation unlike anything seen in the White House in recent memory. The strategic review began in September. Again and again, the war council convened in the Situation Room. The president mulled an array of unappealing options. Next week, finally, he will tell the American public the outcome of all this strategizing.

"He's establishing his decision-making process as being almost diametrically the opposite of the previous administration," says Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel who served as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's chief of staff. Wilkerson, who teaches national security decision-making at George Washington University, says the Bush-Cheney style was "cowboy-like, typical Texas, typical Wyoming, and extremely secretive."

Stephen Wayne, who teaches about the presidency at Georgetown, said: "He's not an instinctive decision-maker as Bush was. He doesn't go with his gut, he thinks with his head, which I think is desirable." Referring to the Afghanistan decision, Wayne said, "I don't think he is an indecisive person, I just think this is a tough one."
I have no problem with President Obama taking his time to get things right on Afghanistan. After all, the surge strategy in Iraq wasn't cooked up overnight. As Tom Bevan says, however, where has this methodical approach been on just about every other issue the administration has faced?
Question: why is it that on every issue save one, the Obama administration has had its foot on the gas, pressing ahead with all manner of speed and urgency?

Eight hundred billion worth of tax payer money had to be rammed through Congress to avoid an economic apocalypse, we were told. No delay could be tolerated in revamping one sixth of the American economy with health care reform. It needed to be done by August, the President initially said, before letting his self imposed deadline slip to the end of the year.

But on Afghanistan, the administration has said just the opposite: things must be taken slow; the problem must be studied from every angle; and all possible deliberations must be made before coming to any conclusion.

Why hasn't the same logic applied to the administration's approach to health care, for example?
The world wonders.

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