Faced with an increasingly severe economic crisis, President-elect Obama made clear Saturday that his immediate economic-stimulus platform -- the first leg in his green energy-economy stool -- will be even larger and more ambitious than previously pledged. This morning Austan Goolsbee, one of his top economic advisors, repeated that Obama would be spending far more than the $175 billion he had previously promised.
This, I think, answers a key question (would Obama listen to the voices saying that he should move more cautiously because of the economy?) with a decisive "no." Because clean energy is a centerpiece of the stimulus package, it also means that Obama is ignoring those who argue that energy reform should wait until there is an economic recovery. Clearly, he is relying on clean energy to help drive the recovery, whatever contrarian voices like The Economist might say.
Last week, in Washington, I had several meetings with officials from the Obama transition -- some old friends, some new. I was struck by the singular clarity they all seemed to have about what they were doing and about what their priorities and limits were -- and by how often those priorities and limits were attributed to directly to Obama. "The President-elect has made clear...." was probably the single most common response to a tough question. This is a huge contrast to the free-form, ad hoc, and often simply confusing atmosphere that characterized the Carter and Clinton transitions (and, based on descriptions I've read, of Franklin's Roosevelt's launch of the New Deal, for that matter).
The Obama team seems to be bringing to governing the singular discipline that characterized their campaign -- and now it's becoming clearer that the insistence on clarity and focus comes directly from the top. It's about the only reassuring thing you can find on the landscape right now -- so I'm glad it's there.