Friday, October 17, 2008

Big Ears

There is a very interesting article in the WaPo on Obama's approach as a new Senator in 2005 and 2006, which explains a lot about him and the way he might govern as President. Here's a little taste:

Listening, staff members said, also became Obama's primary strength as a decision maker. When an issue confounded him, he assembled what he called a "brainstorm group" to mull it over. He sometimes retreated to his office for hours at a time to call experts.

Obama encouraged two of his policy advisers, Michael Froman and Karen Kornbluh, to arrange casual meetings with Washington-area thinkers. They would assemble a conversation group -- six economic experts, say, or eight communications specialists -- and arrange a dinner. Obama opened the meetings by introducing himself, then spent most of the meal listening.

His Senate staff meetings followed a similar formula. On the eve of an important vote, Obama would clear his schedule and assemble key advisers in his office. Surrounded by Rouse and half a dozen policy experts, Obama stretched out on the couch in his office, sometimes resting his head on a pillow and closing his eyes. He asked everybody in the room to take turns sharing their advice, insisting on the participation of even his most quiet, junior staffers.

"He liked it when staffers disagreed among themselves about a particular issue," said Lu, Obama's legislative director. "He wanted us to argue it out in front of him, and he probed each side's arguments and asked hypotheticals, almost like a judge. He wanted to hear from everybody in the room."

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