Meritocracy and the Obama Presidency

Via Mark Thoma comes Melvyn Krauss and SadlyNo. Let’s have Melvyn (a conservative) set up to the microphone first as he takes the high road:

Meritocracy is at the core of American conservative beliefs. So let’s face it: George W. Bush has been the worst US president in memory. His administration has been inept, corrupt, and without accomplishment. After this performance, why give the Republicans another turn at the helm? Let’s give the other party a chance, even if its policies are not exactly what conservatives may like. In America, we call it “throwing the bums out.” When meritocracy is downgraded, as it has been during the Bush years, bad things happen. Worst of all, racism has flourished, because productivity and social utility have become less effective in protecting targets of discrimination.

While SadlyNo is in a take no prisoners mood, he does bring us this news:

Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar, leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee … Earlier Obama had told the audience at a suburban high school rally in Dallas, Texas, that he intended to follow the example of his hero, President Abraham Lincoln, and appoint a cabinet of the talents, irrespective of party labels.

The next President will need a cabinet of talents. The problem many of us Democrats have had with the leadership of the GOP is that they ignore the “grown-ups” (as Brad DeLong often makes this point). Hagel and Lugar are among the GOP’s grown-ups. Reaching across the aisle for talent to move this nation forward is going to be a critical element if the next President hopes to undo the tremendous damage the current Administration has done.

Mark Thoma ends his post with a question:

Is it time for me to rethink my partisan tendencies and lack of trust, or is Obama making a big mistake?

This one is easy for me. Obama is doing the right thing.

Update: Robert Waldman see genius in what Obama is proposing to do:

Brad at Sadly No is Sadly naive. he doesn’t understand that Obama plans to destroy the Republican party by appointing Republican Senators to the Cabinet … Bill Clinton didn’t get it and he is a genius. Senators are very powerful. Cabinet (some)ecretaries have power somewhere between that of the average secretary (lots if their boss is dumb) and that of the average cabinet (made of wood noticed only if it catches on fire). Clinton’s worst mistake was making Senator Lloyd Bentson (D-Tex) a mere secretary and giving his very precious seat to Kay Baily Forehead.

Of course, Kay Baily Forehead would have been a terrible choice for Treasury Secretary. Bentson – on the other hand – did a very good job while he was in the office. Robert continues:

The name of the game is “get to 60” and any means are fair. Obama plans to play to win. OK OK he should appoint Olimpia to be UN embassatrix and Collins (if, heaven forfend, she is re-elected) embassatrix to the moon, but he can’t be too obvious.

Given how screwed up our foreign policy is, there may be a shortage of those willing to be ambassadors to places on this planet – especially in the Middle East.