Obama, under fire, rightfully so, for his cabinet and advisor picks, defended his picks on Wednesday on the grounds that the vision for change comes from him and that he needs experienced people to staff his cabinet. The vision for change, he said, “comes from me.”
This is an interesting claim by a man who throughout the campaign stated that this was all about the people and not about himself. It is, however, consistent with the cult of personality that he has cultivated about himself. “I am above and more powerful than the people I am surrounding myself with. I, not they, will call the shots. I, not they, am the decider.”
The flaw in this apologia by Obama is this: a central component of the expression and actions of a leader who represents “change” is precisely his choices for the team that he assembles around himself, as these are the people who will filter, frame and edit the information that they bring to him, and shape the parameters of choices that they offer him. They will advocate what they think he should do and beyond that, of course, take principle responsibility for leading the implementation of “change” in policy.
If you wanted to fix a police department that had become famous for brutality and corruption, a new police commissioner wouldn’t start by handpicking as his or her leadership team a bunch of corrupt cops known for their brutality. If you’re serious about implementing your vision of change, you don’t, in your first and extremely important act, begin by selecting for your closest advisers and those who will lead these changes a group of people drenched from head to toe in the bankrupt policies of prior administrations.
An upright, incorruptible police commissioner cannot realistically expect to accomplish his or her rectification campaign by relying upon a bunch of cops who have already demonstrated their penchant for corruption and brutality. You do not bring about change by relying on people who represent and have distinguished themselves as fighters for the old order.
Yet this is exactly what Obama is doing.
He knows very well – after all, he’s an extremely smart guy – that his defense of his picks of his people – who emphatically do not represent change – is disingenuous and designed to deceive people.
Know people by the company they keep.
Cal Poly Pomona Sociology Professor. Co-editor/author (with Peter Phillips) of “Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney.” National Steering Committee Member of the World Can’t Wait.