Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Obama but not business as usual

The theatre of yesterday has passed. The speech was more prose than poetry. That was right. This is an administration that means business. President Obama's announcements on the standards he expects from his government, just, and the Executive Orders that he has signed set a tone of responsibility and integrity for this White House.

George Mitchell has just been announced as, I assume, a Special Envoy to the Middle East. Following his experience as Special Envoy to Northern Ireland where he served as an effective mediator during critical phases of the Northern Ireland peace process, this is a heavy weight appointment. It demonstrates that this Obama administration will not be focused on purely domestic issues. Start as you mean to go on.

For President Obama, the process matters as much as the substance. What you do is related to how it is done. His senior White House staff have committed to a pay freeze. He has passed strict regulations about the way that the White House will deal with lobbyists and has effectively barred former staffers from lobbying the administration on issues for which they were responsible. Freedom of information will be upheld in spirit rather than just in law and that will apply to the President himself. It will also apply to information previously concealed by former Presidents. George W Bush beware.

The style of this administration will be open and transparent. Obama wants to make the White House the people's house. American government should be of the people, by the people, for the people.

This all feels exceedingly different already. A sure-footed start indeed.

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