Friday, November 21, 2008

The Start Nearly Justifies the Hype

David Brooks is impressed by the first appointments of the Obama administration.

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.

Already the culture of the Obama administration is coming into focus. Its members are twice as smart as the poor reporters who have to cover them, three times if you include the columnists. They typically served in the Clinton administration and then, like Cincinnatus, retreated to the comforts of private life — that is, if Cincinnatus had worked at Goldman Sachs, Williams & Connolly or the Brookings Institution. So many of them send their kids to Georgetown Day School, the posh leftish private school in D.C. that they’ll be able to hold White House staff meetings in the carpool line.

And yet as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition.

Now would be the point where the clever blogger would insert a snarky comment along the lines of “compared to the current administration, President-elect Obama could have picked the last ten people that fell for a Nigerian e-mail scam and he’d be ahead of the game,” but in reality, the people who populated the Bush White House and cabinet weren’t necessarily a crop of certifiable idiots. They were just ideologues, driven by their political motives of establishing a power base for their party rather than governing the country.

That may be the Democrats’ biggest problem; they seem to put political concerns in a different perspective than the Republicans, and it may just be that the Obama administration really does want to get things done regardless of who gets the credit. Oh, sure, there will be partisanship at every level, but the level of intensity and passion won’t be to the level of someone like Karl Rove and Dick Cheney blithely outting a CIA agent just to get back at her husband for telling the truth in a newspaper op-ed. And the righties will be keeping an eagle eye on the Obama administration for any sign of political hackery. Who better? Poachers make the best gamekeepers.

Believe me, I’m trying not to join in the vast, heaving O-phoria now sweeping the coastal haut-bourgeoisie. But the personnel decisions have been superb. The events of the past two weeks should be reassuring to anybody who feared that Obama would veer to the left or would suffer self-inflicted wounds because of his inexperience. He’s off to a start that nearly justifies the hype.

And the first time Mr. Obama makes a misstep, Mr. Brooks will be there in full concern-troll mode, telling us that the good start gave way to the hype.