Thursday, November 6, 2008

What Obama Can Learn From the Palmers

There's no doubt that the election of President Obama has brought one of the most hopeful times to the United States (and the world) in recent memory. Not only is it a historic election (I hate "an historic," the "h" is not silent!) because Obama will be the first non-fictional African-American president, but there's a real sense that he can unify the country and solve our problems for reasons that have nothing to do with race. There's no question though that he faces a near insurmountable to-do list right away: the economic crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats in Iran and Pakistan, terrorism, the need for energy independence, health care reform, and so on.

But the little we have heard about President Obama's first steps as president-elect all seem like they are in the right direction. His short lists for key Cabinet positions all show a willingness to rely on experienced advisors and often across party lines. His first announced pick, Representative Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff, has been criticized by some Republicans for showing less of the nonpartisan approach. As the fourth highest ranking Democrat in the House and a reputation for toughness in getting the job done, he's most definitely planted on the Democratic side. But that's exactly why he's a perfect pick. See, while Obama may be the first black president in reality, he has two predecessors in the land of 24. And their presidencies offer some very useful advice for how Obama should lead.

1. Hire a Chief of Staff you can trust
David Palmer thought he did with Mike Novick, a man who had stood with Palmer all the way back to the primaries. But when the war hawk Vice President tried to oust Palmer from power by inaccurately interpreting the 25th amendment, Novick jumped abord, betraying his boss. While Palmer refused the resignations of his Cabinet after the crisis passed, he demanded one from Novick. Because there's no use for a Chief of Staff who doesn't have your back. David went with his brother Wayne as a successor, but Obama should do just fine with fellow Chicagoan Emanuel.

2. Do not select a war hawk Dixiecrat as your running mate
Thankfully, this is a lesson Obama has already followed, as Joe Biden seems unlikely to invoke the 25th amendment the first time he and Obama disagree. Somehow David's brother Wayne failed to learn from his brother's mistake. Once again, a Palmer chose a running mate who barely resembled a Democrat, let alone one who shared his president's vision. While VP Daniels at least waited until Wayne was in a coma before taking power, his Cheney-like appearance and creepy affair with his assistant made him an unfortunate choice in VP.

3. Do not be perceived as soft on terror
David Palmer went down in history as one of the greatest fictional presidents for avoiding a war on false pretenses against "those three Middle Eastern countries." But everything Wayne did painted him as too young, inexperienced, and unready to lead. Watching season 6, Wayne Palmer seemed to be right-wing creator Joel Surnow's warning to America about an Obama presidency. But because this is a matter of perception, not policy, President Obama will be unlikely to suffer that fate. Wayne Palmer's biggest problem was that he came off as so unpresidential in his address to the nation. In that way, Obama better mirrors David.

No comments: