Obama's Biggest Decision

01/15/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Even before Inauguration Day Barack Obama has made perhaps the most crucial decision of his presidency. This fundamental choice reflects not a position on a single issue but in establishing a process -- that of surrounding himself with some of the best minds in this nation, evaluating their counsel and making informed decisions based on facts.

For eight years we have been subjected to decisions powered by ideology. We now have an opportunity to return to judgments based on reality -- both domestically and globally. Science in the United States has been particularly damaged and needs the urgent restoration of its due respect. On the most critical issues facing humankind the scientific evidence has been clear but ignored or suppressed. In the crucial areas of climate change, medical research and energy production scientific voices have been shunted aside to satisfy one constituency or another or for a grand ideology.

Ignoring facts does not make them change. It merely reinforces the damage done by refusing to act with due regard for reality.

Foreign policy can use a large helping of rationality and informed decision-making as well. The simple step of listening to people of experience will prevent needless suffering, sacrifice of life and expenditure of capital that could be used to rebuild America. Where were the voices that understood the countries of the Middle East? Surely many people familiar with the region knew the likely reaction to our armed forces on the ground, no matter how bravely our troops performed the mission assigned to them. Why was that advice ignored? We cannot ask 5,000 more American families to suffer the loss of loved ones for questionable reasons.

An allegiance to ideology also contributed to the economic meltdown by the adherence to a doctrine of virtually blind deregulation and free-market capitalism. Competing views were met with derision.

The time has also come for a respect for competence instead of fearing or denigrating intelligence and knowledge. This nation is blessed with some of the greatest minds ever to exist. It just makes sense to listen to their counsel. It is the president's decision on the actions to be taken, but a first critical step remains seeking thoughtful advice from our best minds and acting with a regard for facts.