Sunday, November 2, 2008

Question I Wish Someone Had Asked

As this election season winds down, with only twenty four hours left (for only the most inane and ridiculous moments for decisionmaking left), I look back on this election process (which I think has been better than most, up until September--as the polls confirm, I think), and there's one question which I wish somebody is asked:

What is your decisionmaking process on __________ ?

We sit in these campaigns, trying to suss out the "judgment" of the candidates, mostly through sifting through their record. Did they make good judgments during the campaign? Did they make good judgments as public officials before? Are they a good judge of friends?

But you know what? We could have also asked them about their judgment. How do you judge?

The question was asked about Judicial nominations. How do you select a judge? But let's say, economic policy. How do you select economic policy? How do you decide about taxes? How do you decide about cuts? How do you you choose priorities? What compass do you set sail by?

There are many different ways of thinking about these issues. In terms of taxation, unfortunately, both candidates seem to have gone with "What do people want?" Which is lower taxes on most people, to be picked up by the rich.

I think the distinction which has appeared between Barack Obama and John McCain is that John McCain still appears to be flying by the "gut"-decisionmaking championed by President Bush and Stephen Colbert. He chose Palin after meeting her once. He decided to suspend his campaign, and then quickly returned to the campaign trail when it didn't play out. He tacks to the right. He tacks back to the center. He tacks back to the right.

Barack Obama appears to do more reflection. He appears to weigh both sides of the issues. If you ask him about any issue, chances are he'll talk about both sides before he'll talk about his own decision. His inclusionary way of making decisions has gotten him into trouble: after all, in order to make a decision about Israel/Palestine, he might have to listen to someone like Khalidi (a Palestinian intellectual with reservations about Israel! Horror!). He might have to listen to someone like Reverend Wright to understand the black community he comes from. He might have to work with someone like William Ayers if both of them are committed to the cause of education.

McCain-Palin (mostly Palin, to be fair, but McCain hasn't come out against it) has endorsed the strategy of using ideology to lead. After all, no matter what happens, McCain remains "fundamentally a deregulator." Even when he's calling for more oversight. People who let ideology lead them will apply their ideology in inappropriate situations. Deregulation, after all, is good...if you have too much regulation. I don't think, however, that after Ronald Reagan and Phil Gramm that we have too much regulation in the financial market. Especially when McCain's theory of blame for the financial crisis also comes from deregulation (deregulating Fannie and Freddie).

At any rate, I wish more questions had been asked about decisions that they're going to make, not decisions they've already made. Let's remember that for (oh God...) the next election.

I'm glad we only do this Presidential thing once in four years.

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