Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

As of today, Barack Obama has officially unveiled more than half of his cabinet-elect (along with a few leaked members), but a few glaring omissions remain – particularly at the Department of Education. This is a story that we here at BTG will follow eagerly over the coming days and weeks, beginning with this list of 3 prominent candidates:

Joel Klein

Current Job – Chancellor of New York City Department of Education

Prospects: Klein has been a controversial figure during his tenure in New York, angering parents, community groups, and teachers at various times. At the same time, he is an old Washington hand and attorney (who led the anti-trust battle against Microsoft). Klein has won wide support from the philanthropic and corporate communities, as evidenced by the amount of private money used to support pilot initiatives in New York, though a New York Magazine feature details his complicated relationship with teachers’ unions. Smart money says that Klein elects to stay in New York, where his boss is seeking a 3rd term. At the same time, Klein’s reputation as a results-oriented pragmatist might appeal to Obama’s desire to address inequities in education.

Linda Darling-Hammond

Current Job – Professor at Stanford University School of Education

Prospects: Obama recently tapped Professor Darling-Hammond to serve as the chair of his education policy working group. Her expertise is in the area of merit pay, and she has been a consistent and principled opponent of NCLB. In a 2007 piece for The Nation she called for a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would broaden the criteria for school evaluation, and introduce a new Marshall Plan for teaching to improve recruitment, training, and retention. Darling-Hammond is especially interested in rectifying our educational debt (rather than achievement gap) by making federal funding to states contingent on the demonstration of progress towards equal access to educational resources and opportunities. Darling-Hammond has made waves by criticizing Teach For America, saying “If one takes the lowest possible standard and accepts that as a goal, then Teach for America is great.” At this point in the game, I think it’s fair to say Darling-Hammond would represent the premiere academic choice for Obama. Her qualifications as a researcher is unparalleled, and her emphasis on teacher development might appeal to Obama, who has gone so far as to suggest his support for merit pay.

Arne Duncan

Current Job: CEO, Chicago Public Schools

Prospects: What’s not to like? Duncan is from Chicago (Obama’s Hyde Park, even), runs the Chicago Public Schools, and had a career in professional basketball. He has championed small neighborhood schools, early childhood education, and “clean slating” failing schools by dismissing staff. Will it matter that Richard Daley wants Duncan to stay in Chicago? Duncan has introduced merit pay in Chicago, a sign of his willingness to challenge certain liberal orthodoxies. Over at the daily tracking poll at EdExcellence’s Flypaper, Duncan remains the odds-on favorite for the appointment. Duncan was the only prominent educator to sign the manifestos advanced by both the Bigger, Bolder Approach to Education camp and the Education Equality Project. A Duncan choice would demonstrate the kind of broad, pluralistic vision that Obama might want in his cabinet.

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Same as the Old Boss

As we wind down toward a holiday weekend, here are some links that I’ve found interesting in the past few days.

  • In the “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” category, we have a few stories of prominent people looking at new roles. Bill Clinton? The next senator from New York? I’d say it’s unlikely, but possible. As pointed out, an interesting change of gender roles, where the husband gets appointed to fill out the wife’s term. Next, Chris Matthews may be looking at Arlen Specter’s seat (note that I skipped any of the obvious “Hardball” jokes there). Again, unlikely but possible. Finally, where does Dick Holbrooke fit? Special Envoy to the Middle East sounds good to me. (thanks to Flan for the Clinton link
  • Three(!) items on John Maynard Keynes too. First, Krugman letting us know that one of Keynes’s early essays is now available–this one before he had developed his general theory. Worth a read. Second, here is Keynes’s Open Letter to Roosevelt, as published in the NY Times in 1933. Again, this is before his General Theory (which he published in 1936), but it’s clear that he’s already developing many of the ideas–notably how expansion of government spending is so important to helping the national economy. Finally, an economist interpreting a letter to Roosevelt in 1938. Very interesting. Remember, this is now after his General Theory was published, and after some of the new deal spending had started to have an effect. 1938 was actually when Roosevelt listened to those who were calling for “restraint,” and the economy actually slowed its recovery.
  • A bonus historical article by John Kenneth Galbraith. When a recession hits, don’t panic. Good advice, methinks.
  • A few different people try to answer the question: “How much does creating a job cost?” First, Greg Mankiw calculates that $700 billion for 2.5 million jobs makes it $280,000/job. He says that sounds unreasonable. Over at Economist’s View, there’s a much deeper analysis of how much it actually costs to create a job. It’s pretty interesting to see the numbers actually get run and how government spending can actually affect things.
  • Three angry posts on the Citigroup bailout. Nobody really seems to like it. Krugman calls it an outrage. Economist’s View has quite the lineup of economists talking about how bad the whole thing is. Also, Economist’s View wrote a more general idea on designing a bank bailout that might work. Finally, Brad DeLong wonders in great deal about the whole structure of Citi.
  • If the Fed is confusing Krugman, how do the rest of us have a chance?
  • Brad DeLong is angry. Economics is really complicated, and if journalists who write about it don’t know what they’re talking about, it’s not helping the general public understand.
  • We’ll end today with a few foreign policy links. The middle east and Afghanistan get more of the press, but there are other places where the US has interests. Next, an argument that we need to get away from the left-right spectrum when talking about foreign policy.

Last but not least, from GraphJam (via Andrew Sullivan)

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On Losing Campaigns

Like in 2004, Newsweek has recently published their giant story on the presidential campaign. It’s very long, but definitely worth a read.

After reading both the 2004 campaign review and the 2008 campaign review, one thing struck me about the three losing campaigns that they talked about (McCain, Clinton, and Kerry).  In all three campaigns, the candidate was portrayed as being indecisive and reluctant to make personnel decisions, while in the winning campaigns, the candidate really wasn’t even asked to make personnel decisions–they had a strong campaign manager (Axelrod, Rove) who simply handled all of that for him.  In all the stories, the losing candidate’s problems with making personnel decisions led to infighting and strategy that was all over the map.

We have three things that I’m interested in: a candidate’s skill at making personnel decisions, campaign infighting, and being a winning campaign.  What is the relationship among those three, and should any of these things be something that we select for in choosing future candidates? (aside from winning, obviously–we want any selected candidate to win)

There is clearly a strong correlation between an infighting campaign and a losing campaign, and causation is probably impossible to pick up in that case.  Most likely, there is a downward spiral where some infighting leads to a few early losses, which leads to more infighting, and so on.

That leaves us with personnel management.  In the winning campaigns, the candidate wasn’t even really involved with personnel decisions–they had a campaign manager who took basically took care of it, but there wasn’t much for micromanaging.  On the losing campaigns however, the common theme was that the candidates were involved in the day-to-day personnel decisions.  In addition, the candidates were always either waffling on their personnel decisions or simply not making personnel moves.

I wonder–which came first.  Does a candidate’s direct involvement in day-to-day personnel decisions cause turmoil and therefore losing, or does the losing and turmoil necessitate direct involvement, which the candidate then isn’t able to handle?  Clearly the indecision in personnel matters once the problems start happening is not a skill that we want in a high leadership position, but I wouldn’t have thought that it was a killer fault until this article.

My last question then is: Should we be selecting for these skills, and how do we do that?  Or is the more important thing that we find campaign managers who are better at handling these matters and delegating authority?

Something to think about as you’re waiting for the Franken-Coleman recount to end.

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