DAY ONE: OBAMA, SUNSTEIN, and the POTENTIAL POWER of EXPANSIVE THINKING

I once had the great pleasure of interviewing Pulitzer Prize winning author Samantha Power (A Problem from Hell). She recently married legal superstar and prolific writer Cass Sunstein, whom I knew very little about. But feeling like a friend of Samantha’s—which I’m not, of course—I looked him up and found something he said, whether I agreed with him in general or not, wonderfully thought-provoking and useful.

As I’ve been less than thrilled by some of President Obama’s choices for certain key cabinet positions—while trying to remember that in the world of realpolitiks, pragmatism must play a massive, necessary role—I found this comment from Sunstein enlightening (both for myself and how I perceive Obama’s choices). Admittedly, who really gives a crap what I think of his choices (no one), but being human, I can’t help thinking—and I thought a few people who read this might find it useful.

Anyway, Sunstein writes about Obama—with whom he was a colleague at university:

I’ll tell you what I like about Obama, which is connected with the book. He really doesn’t like to surround himself only with like-minded others. He really is someone who has never lived and wouldn’t live in an echo chamber. His great skepticism about the red state, blue state divide is just the thought that no particular party has a monopoly on wisdom.

He has an amazing line in the “Audacity of Hope” where he says, roughly, there are feminists in the United States who mourn their own abortions, and there are conservative women who have paid for their friends’ daughters’ abortions. And the reason I think this is so great is that it breaks down a sense that Americans come in two types.

I think that’s true, important, and a good reality-check. From my point of view, I don’t even consider the terms liberal and conservative to have significant meaning anymore, and will gladly take degree-of-kindness as a much more revealing and important marker of one’s nature. I’m sure ol’ Sunstein could well tell me why that’s idiotic, but how could George Bush policy (massive spending, huge State, wars of aggression etc) ever, ever, ever be considered conservative? The full article is here.

I also heard that Obama had a pretty busy and effective first day, doing things to increase ethics and transparency.

During his first full day in office Obama also issued orders on government ethics and transparency, including curbs on lobbying, an ethics code for federal employees and a pay freeze for senior White House staff.

Good on him. He just outdid George Bush’s efforts over eight years in the same area. May it continue.

Love to you,

Pete

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