The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Many of my friends and relatives voted for Barack Obama and are now ecstatic that he has been elected. It’s nice to see.

Knowing that I had grave reservations about candidate Obama, many of them have addressed the issue with me. At this point the conversation is predictable.

Always with a probing smile (and some degree of good natured smugness) the friend or relative asks, “So what do you think about Obama's win?”

“He ran a brilliant campaign and the people have spoken. He’s the President!” I say. “I wish him well. The country needs solid leadership.”

At this point, the friend or relative cants their head slightly. “So you’re no longer worried about him?”

I pause for a moment. “No, I didn’t say that. He’s the same guy he was two weeks ago. I just think that he deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

At this point, the friend or relative usually goes into a brief critique of John McCain and/or a full blown rant on Sarah Palin, as if to convince me of the righteousness of Obama’s election.

“I smile. “All of that is moot, isn’t it? Barack Obama is President and now we’ll just have to see who he picks as his advisors and cabinet and what he does over the next four years.”

Probing still, the friend or relative looks for signs of derangement. “So you’re worried about what he’s going to do.”

“Well, let’s just say that I’m watching closely to try to understand who he really is,” I say calmly.

The friend or relative frowns. “So … you’re worried he’s too far left. That’s crazy, he’s just too smart and pragmatic for that. He’ll surprise you.”

“Nothing would make me happier.”

Over the next two months, we’ll begin to get an inkling of who the real Barack Obama is and how he’ll govern. Richard Fernandez (Wretchard) of the Belmont Club uses a wonderful metaphor to describe the process:
Imagine you are presented with an urn which is said contain an equal number of red and yellow marbles. You can’t look inside but you can reach in and draw marbes. So you pick out a red, a red, a red, a red and a red. Despite your efforts to shake the contents round, you keep pulling out reds with only the very occasional yellow. Now what’s the probability the urn was correctly labeled as containing an equal number of red and yellow?

Students of stats can calculate the answer if they knew the numbers of reds and yellows drawn at apparent random. But the exercise is not unlike watching Obama announce his cabinet. Obama is a labeled moderate. A transformative person. Right. Now we watch him announce his cabinet. Appoint his key officials. Each appointment is like a marble from an urn conveying information about the true value of Obama’s political soul, not the labeled value. It’s early days yet. But keep track of the marbles. Even if you can’t convince anyone else what the sample means, at least you will know, from empirical evidence, what the probable truth is.

So far, Barack Obama has selected only one or two “marbles” from the population of people who will become his close advisors and cabinet. But as more marbles are selected over the coming months, we’ll begin to have a clearer view of whether the new President's "moderate/pragmatist" label is accurate or not.

So far, we don’t have enough information to begin to analyze the results. But that’ll change soon. The President-Elect’s long time supporters and the MSM will label him a “moderate”, a pragmatist, and a bipartisan/transformative politician regardless of the picks that are made. But a clear-eyed analysis of each “marble” may lead objective observers to another conclusion. Let the counting begin.