20-1 odds with a 10 year time span? We need some details but I may be up for that Robin.

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I think we should be more focused on the right type of opposition to Obama. The greater danger right now is a populist, intellectually impoverished, irrational opposition -in contrast to your more rational approach.

I think we should look at what the purple representative districts are, and try to get smart, rational, competent people to win their republican primaries.

The best check against Obama is a republican majority in the house of representatives that criticizes and checks Obama in such a way that we enjoy positive externalities from it.

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Isn't it rather irrelevant since the metric of success will be how the media portray it, which given the dereliction of duty by the media in the last year or so, pretty much puts it in the bag by 'public' standards. However, my bar is simple, follow through on the tax cuts he promised and fix the economy, the two central themes he ran on. I'd also like to see troops home sooner rather than later for no other reason that I don't want to see them in harms way with a CiC that couldn't give a rat's ass about them.As for being a good speaker, I think the commenter needs to see him when he doesn't have a teleprompter.Obama's strategy always seems to be to distance himself from decisions, which is partly why there is such focus on his appointments. He likes to leave some room there so he has someone to blame.

Given that he has adopted the same policies as Bush on torture, Gitmo will be around for a while yet, and he is appointing Ratheon lobbyists, for 3 days, I see the same old same old.

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jimrandomh wrote:

> Bush appointed a lot of incompetent people, leading to Katrina (head of FEMA), the Iraq invasion (head of the CIA), and economic collapse (Secretary of the Treasury).

George Tenet at the CIA was a Clinton appointee (1997) whom Bush kept on.

Are you saying that Paulson was incompetent and that his incompetence was a primary cause of our current economic problems? Or are you claiming that about Snow before him?

And isn't it a bit early to call the current recession an "economic collapse," especially with actual economies actually collapsing to compare it to? And non-collapsed European economies from five years ago that we're still not as bad as (as measured by, e.g., unemployment)?

Making precise statements that conform to actual facts is helpful in overcoming bias.

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Better than Bush? Well, when is the starting point? If it's the inauguration, the order to close Guantanamo certainly does it. Maybe the FOIA thing, or even just having an articulate speech. That's a pretty low bar.

To be a good president, have the finances in order comparable to the difference between Bush the former and the end of Clinton's presidency. Not necessarily a budget surplus due to how much worse Bush the lesser was.

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If he doesn't start any new wars or torture anyone, then he wins (compared to Bush).

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Historically, Presidents are considered to be "Great Men" if: they preside over great fortune for the country, regardless of whether they were responsible for it; or, they preside over great misfortune, taking steps that are extremely popular regardless of their actual effects.

Obama will be considered a Great Man as long as he doesn't screw up his public image too badly. It's a question of perception, not actual accomplishment.

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Surely, as an admirer of Taleb's work, you admit the existence of "fake" intellectuals, aka quacks.

Isn't Taleb the biggest quack out there? His next book will overturn all of organized knowledge.

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I doubt the probability of Obama doing worse than Bush; is it possible? Sure, in that "anything is" one-over-epsilon way.

Is what you've listed enough, for any president to be great? No. And if he were to follow the path you've outlined, he would be a terrible president.

Greatness requires, you know, actually doing something great: taking risks and making successful choices. It has nothing to do with being lucky or your skin color. I suspect if Obama were to somehow screw it up, it would set back the progress made by his appointment and reassert racism in the public office, if not in society. Which would truly be worthy of judging it a "terrible" presidency.

How might that happen?

Well, if we recognize Bush's failures had nothing to do with being unlucky or any such similar nonsense, and they had to do with making terrible policy decisions in the face of terrible situations, and we extrapolate and recognize Obama is walking into situations more terrible than those faced by his predecessor (in this case caused by his predecessor, but that's neither here nor there), any terrible policy decision he makes is going to have results just that much worse because of the situation it is being made in (compounding errors).

On the other hand, you can't rise as high as you might if you have to start in a ditch.

Which means:He needs to be cut slack if things don't turn out roses.He can't be cut slack because we can't afford things getting worse.Though socially/politically safe, just riding it out isn't the mark of greatness.

Which means:I don't envy his position.

(Also: Kan haz less liburtearion, plz? Kthnx.)

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I'd suspect that if we are still in this recession, in any way at all, in 4 years then he will probably have been a miserable failure (unless something other than government policy sponsored by Obama is the cause). --sw

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We are all Keynesians now

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The less the President does, the happier I'll be.

Larry, was it ever cool to be smart? Was it actually uncool to be so recently?

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it's very easy to know which economists are quacks. Go and actually read The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money by John Maynard Keynes. Pay special attention to chapter 24. A first year formal logic student could rive trucks through the holes.Keynesian economics were selected based on political expediency. Certain groups were looking for some scientism to justify their social engineering schemes. They found Keynes.

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I agree that Obama will have trouble changing broad policy in more than maybe one or two areas. But there is a whole lot to be done in the details. When we partially pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, will it be poorly managed and a threat to stability, or will troops only be removed from nonessential areas and the remainder used effectively to keep order? Will the minor financial rules be ones that hurt businesses or discourage competition, or will they mostly accomplish their goals even if those goals are modest? Will the bailouts and stimuli be idiotic pork measures, or done according to economic models that predict where and how they can do the most good? Will Homeland Security continue their policy of investing resources to harass clearly innocent people on airplanes, or will there be studies of costs versus benefits of different approaches?

Most large-scale policies depend at least partially on the details for their successes and failures. If we'd been better prepared going into Iraq, it certainly wouldn't have worked perfectly, but the ensuing chaos and violence would have been much less. That's the sort of thing I expect Obama to change. Continue the policies he's politically forced to continue, but do them in a smarter way. What will be the benchmarks of success? Probably non-flashy, inglamorous things like numbers of terrorist attacks/month in Iraq, number of teen pregnancies or high school dropouts back home, health care spending per person, et cetera. I could fairly be accused of trying to weasel out of setting a bar because I'm not actually looking at those numbers and setting values that I want, but that's more of a time committment thing.

Oh, and what's your support for the statement that governments are just bad at managing Katrina-type disasters? If I remember right, one of the reasons Katrina was such a scandal was that FEMA was considered an exemplary government agency until Bush gutted it and installed his cronies.

That's my expectation for Obama right there: that he'll be the sort of president who won't gut agencies and appoint cronies, but will put competent people in charge and try and keep things running smoothly. That's probably worth more than most large-scale policy changes right there.

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If Obama can reverse the decline of US intellectualism and his successor is another intellectual, I'll call that success. Otherwise he's just a flash in the pan.

This is a provocative remark. I have often argued that American culture has a nearly optimal attitude toward intellectualism - skeptical where appropriate, and respectful where appropriate.

Surely, as an admirer of Taleb's work, you admit the existence of "fake" intellectuals, aka quacks. These are people with advanced degrees and long resumes who spend their time thinking about and debating superficially deep topics, but who at the end of the day don't really know anything. As Taleb notes in this awesome Edge.org essay, before 1900 doctors killed more people than they saved. It seems clear now that many of the people who run Wall St. are quacks. Communism was such a seductive form of quackery that even rationalist paragons like J. Robert Oppenheimer were taken in by it. From the constant bickering in the field of economics, we can probably conclude that half of economists are quacks (though we can't be certain which half). In politics we observe that anti-intellectuals like Reagan can achieve great results while men universally acknowledged as brilliant such as Rumsfeld and McNamara lead us to disaster.

I think that American culture has internalized the fact that intellectualism by itself does not guarantee good results, especially in fields like politics and economics, and that's why we tend to be skeptical of "public intellectuals". In contrast the culture seems to accord a reasonable amount of respect to real intellectuals, to the extent that they can be identified. So I'm not at all convinced that restoring the status of intellectualism, in the abstract, is a good thing. We'll probably just end up spending more time on frivolous education and wasting more money on quacks. What we need is a more thorough understanding of the conditions under which intellectualism can succeed.

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I'm assuming the U.S. will largely end active military actions in Iraq in 2010 due to Iraqi pressure independant of who is president. I'll mostly blame Bush for the remaining war there unless it lasts longer than that.

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