Noam Scheiber of The New Republic writes:
Despite Obama’s reputation for grandiose rhetoric and utopian hope-mongering, the Obamanauts aren’t radicals–far from it. They’re pragmatists–people who, when an existing paradigm clashes with reality, opt to tweak that paradigm rather than replace it wholesale. As Thaler puts it, “Physics with friction is not as beautiful. But you need it to get rockets off the ground.” It might as well be the motto for Obama’s entire policy shop.
Sociologically, the Obamanauts have a lot in common with the last gang of Democratic outsiders to make a credible run at the White House. Like Bill Clinton in 1992, Obama’s campaign boasts a cadre of credentialed achievers. Intellectually, however, the Obamanauts couldn’t be more different. Clinton delighted in surrounding himself with big-think public intellectuals–like economics commentator Robert Reich and political philosopher Bill Galston. You’d be hard-pressed to find a political philosopher in Obama’s inner wonk-dom. His is dominated by a group of first-rate economists, beginning with Goolsbee, one of the profession’s most respected tax experts. A Harvard economist named Jeff Liebman has been influential in helping Obama think through budget and retirement issues; another, David Cutler, helped shape his views on health care. Goolsbee, in particular, is an almost unprecedented figure in Democratic politics: an academic economist with a top campaign position and the candidate’s ear.
One major reason for these differences is the candidate himself. Cutler told me Obama is adamant about consulting bona fide experts. “The staff kept saying, ‘What he wants to know is that he’s really talking to experts in the field. When you go see him, you know, make it clear that you’re an expert.'” When it comes to economics, it’s very difficult to achieve expertise without an academic background. It’s a field that prizes rigorous results, supported by reams of painstakingly sifted data. (Though Reich was labor secretary, he was trained as a lawyer, not an economist.) Cutler, for example, has made his name with a series of detailed econometric studies suggesting that, contrary to the conventional wisdom on the left, Americans actually have quite a bit to show for the trillions they spend on health care….
…The Obamanauts are decidedly non-ideological. They occasionally reach out to progressive think tanks like the Economic Policy Institute, but they also come from a world– academic economics–whose inhabitants generally lean right. (And economists at the University of Chicago lean righter than most.) As a result, they tend to be just as comfortable with ideological diversity as the candidate they advise.
The full article can be found here.
If I had to give the most important quality I look for in a president elect it would be humility. There is nothing more destructive, IMHO, than intellectual arrogance in a president.
Ludwig Von Mises said it best with this:
Scarcely anyone interests himself in social problems without being led to do so by the desire to see reforms enacted. In almost all cases, before anyone begins to study the science, he has already decided on definite reforms that he wants to put through. Only a few have the strength to accept the knowledge that these reforms are impracticable and to draw all the inferences from it. Most men endure the sacrifice of the intellect more easily than the sacrifice of their daydreams. They cannot bear that their utopias should run aground on the unalterable necessities of human existence. What they yearn for is another reality different from the one given in this world…They wish to be free of a universe of whose order they do not approve. (emphasis added)
Hillary Clinton and John McCain strike me as intellectually arrogant. Many people – even people who are ideological allies – testify to Hillary Clinton’s arrogance and lack of economic understanding (see here, here and here).
Similarly, John McCain seems ideological and not given to contrary opinion. When you factor in his own admission that he “knows alot less about economics” (see here and here) with his age, it paints a picture of a man on a mission to follow an aggressive agenda…no matter what the costs.
Obama, on the other hand, strikes me as humble and willing to follow what works. I must admit, as a self described rightie, Obama is making it very difficult for me to vote against him.