What Will An Obama White House Look Like?

It’s a little ironic, really.  While Bush’s first term was marked by the bullying of hardcore ideologues, and set a course for this country that was ultimately dangerous and depraved, I have noticed that in the waning days and months of the Bush administration the telltale signs of at least some redeeming qualities.  Maybe it’s just perception, or maybe the epulsion of at least some of the more offending ideologues has had a subtle affect, but while I am still eager to see this man leave office, I find myself no longer absorbed with hatred for the man like I once was.

For the rest of the country, however, this isn’t the case.  Polls show that he will be leaving office with approval ratings lower than Richard Nixon’s; a sad repudiation indeed.  By contrast, his successor will be entering office with his approval numbers pushing close to 70%, indicating that America is eager for the fresh start, and her people are at least willing to give the young President Elect a chance to show what he can do.

But though people are generally hopeful at the prospects of the incoming administration, few, I think understand what the next four years in DC will look like.  One of the most common questions I get now from friends and family is a simple one: what will an Obama White House look like?

The particulars of course no person outside the inner circle can predict.  Though I’ve heard rumors of John Kerry being tapped to serve as Secretary of State, I’ll believe it when I see it.  Same goes for every other rumor that gets churned out by the rumor mill.

No, the cast of characters remains a mystery to us all, but after watching Obama for nearly two years, watching how he has conducted his campaign, getting a nearly continuous glimpse into how he operates as a manager and a leader, I can say with relative certainty that the upcoming Obama administration will portray three traits.

No Drama-“No Drama Obama,” became something of an unofficial slogan for the Obama campaign in the closing months of the campaign.  The even less official icon of the campaign was the lolcat style picture with a stern faced Obama looking directly at the viewer with the caption, “Chill The Fuck Out, I Got This!”

All of this born from a very simple trait of the Obama campaign as a whole; zero tolerance for political distractions.  While past associations may have been used as a weapon against him during the primary, and Obama committed the kinds of verbal missteps any human is prone to committing from time to time, one of the things most remarkable about this campaign has been its unusual level of discipline, particularly at a time in politics where even the slightest detail can explode to catastrophic proportions thanks to twenty-four hour cable news networks and an internet populated by dedicated and tireless bloggers.

This intolerance for political drama was no accident; it was instead the product of a candidate and his closest advisors who demanded the utmost professionalism from everyone that worked for them.  As we look at the next four years, I think we can expect this to only continue as Obama all too well understands how even the slightest error can greatly hamper his ability to govern.

Deliberation-This is another thing that we have seen time and time again.  Indeed, one of the stories that intrigued me the most during this past election season was the comparison between Obama’s gambling habits and McCain’s.

John McCain liked to gamble big on the craps table, while Obama preferred small pot poker.  As anyone who has played a few hands of Texas Hold ’em can tell you, poker isn’t as much a game of luck as it is a game of skill; of weighing the probabilities and judging your opponents.  That Obama is a rather successful poker player gives us a glimpse into the way he approaches challenges and makes decisions.

Obama does not leap without first looking.  He is not a fan of the high risk gamble, and he does not make snap decisions.  Instead he prefers to see any one problem from multiple angles, calculates the risks involves, and after all of the analysis has been performed, he then makes the decision that he believes has the highest benefit to risk ratio.

There are a few drawbacks to this.  Not always does the President of the United States have the luxury of time, and there will be moments where Obama will have to rush decisions faster than he is used to or wishes to.  Also, sometimes he will make decisions with a long term benefit that does provide immediate returns.  This is great for the long run, but the opinion of the American public is fickle, and its patience is fleeting.  Should President Elect Obama opt to execute something with no near term benefits but promising long term high returns, it is feasible that he will lose on a political level as an impatient electorate grows tired of waiting.

But on the whole, I think there is more to benefit from one who is cautious than from one who prefers the high stakes gamble.  Further, Obama seems much more amenable to reality based decision making, which means that he will try to base his decisions off of actual evidence as opposed to the doctrine of one ideology or another.

Execution-With the direction plotted, you can rest assured that whatever action is planned it will be executed with precision.  This has been a trademark of the Obama campaign, whether it be a highly disciplined debate performance, a pitch perfect convention, or a speech before over 200,000 Germans.

Throughout the course of the election, the Obama team has committed very few technical errors, again a reflection on the way Obama runs his people.  Once he is in the White House, I don’t think it is likely that all of a sudden President Obama is going to grow tolerant of people not executing their jobs at the highest level of performance.

When we look at these three things in general, it paints a picture of a machine that operates with clockwork like precision.  As a result, this may all appear like one big fluff piece, that I’m gushing which is made even more understandable considering I have been an Obama advocate from the beginning.  But I assure you that I am not looking through rose colored goggles.

What none of these traits account for is the possibility that President Obama will make bad decisions, or get behind bad policy.  He may go through painstaking precautions to ensure he doesn’t chase bad policy, but that doesn’t mean he won’t.  It just means that once he is set down a wrong course, he will pursue it with exemplary execution.

4 Responses to “What Will An Obama White House Look Like?”

  1. Angellight says:

    Why don’t we just wait and see?

  2. Mcguyver says:


    Like the real smooth “seance” joke.


    Like the cool decision to vote “present” more often than any other politician.

    That makes a lot of sense.

    I got you.

  3. Dustin says:

    Do you even understand the process or reason behind the Illinois practice of voting “present” McGuyver? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not what Rush makes it out to be but rather something quite different.

  4. Mark says:

    To a large extent, I agree that Obama is going to turn out to be an extremely pragmatic and deliberate leader, a massive change from the worst excesses of the Bush years in that regard. Frankly, his actions in his first week as President-elect have largely restored a fair chunk of the faith I lost in him after the FISA vote. That his first specifically leaked policy change involves trials to the prisoners in Guantanomo (even if the proposal is imperfect) suggests a solid departure from the politics of fear that have gripped the nation the last few years. Similarly, his tamping down of expectations (i.e., that the measuring stick should be 1000 days not 100 days) confirms the even-ness of his temperament that was so appealing to many disaffected Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians.

    Anyways, I kind of understand what you’re saying about the lessening of Bush-hatred. There was a distinct change in the Bush Administration’s actions after the 2006 Congressional blowout. There has been much written about that – how after that time period, the Vice President’s office (and the Rumsfeld contingent) lost a lot of its influence, which pervaded the first six years. I don’t know if Bush (who I think was more in over his head than full of power-thirsty intent) himself finally took a stand against that contingent, if it was a concession to the political reality of the Dems’ victory, or if it was just a function of the Condi Rice contingent managing something of a semi-coup. But something definitely happened that partly turned things around; the choices of Sec. Gates (who apparently is not even a registered Republican) and Gen. Petraeus – both of whom were selected solely because of their competence – were outstanding. That’s not to say the Bushies have been terribly praiseworthy the last two years – the Cheney/Rumsfeld faction didn’t disappear entirely, even if Rumsfeld himself was gone. But it is to say that the last two years have been a vast improvement over the previous six.


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