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Decision Making: Barack Obama Vs. George W. Bush

This is why we believe Barack Obama’s Presidency will be successful.

Ignore the specific issue for a moment and read how Obama arrived at the decision to release the controversial torture/enhanced interrogation memos:

Seated in Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s West Wing office with about a dozen of his political, legal and security appointees, Obama requested a mini-debate in which one official was chosen to argue for releasing the memos and another was assigned to argue against doing so. When it ended, Obama dictated on the spot a draft of his announcement that the documents would be released, while most of the officials watched, according to an official who was present. The disclosure happened the next day.

Now compare that with the George W. Bush model:

WASHINGTON – Accounts from insiders in the Bush White House describe a tightly controlled, top-down organization that pushes a predetermined agenda, shuns dissenting views and discourages open debate.

Tell-all books from former Bush counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, as well as accounts from other administration insiders, shed light on President Bush’s decision-making style. Critics say the flip side of the legendary discipline at the Bush White House is a near-complete disregard for alternative opinions that sometimes leads to trouble.

In Clarke’s view, Bush’s reliance on a small circle of aides blinded the president to threats from al-Qaida terrorists and the negative consequences of invading Iraq. O’Neill said the tightly held decision-making process foreclosed any meaningful discussion about the impact of the bigger federal deficits that resulted from Bush’s tax cuts.

Their complaints about the lack of robust internal debate echo the conclusions of some presidential scholars who study White House decision-making.

“George Bush tends to make decisions on the basis of hunch and intuition, and then pulls together groups that confirm his decisions,” said Paul C. Light, the director of the Center for Public Service at the Brookings Institution, a center-left research center. “The only people who are invited to be on the team are people who agree with him.”

Bush’s fatal flaw (one of them anyway) was that he surrounded himself with “yes men.” Clearly, Obama is not following suit. This can only be a good thing for the country.

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