Ok, quick - name the Obama Cabinet. Ready - set - go. Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. Tim Geithner, Treasury, um... uh.... right.
Sure, you may have gotten one or two more.
But - back when the election ended and the Obama administration got off to that fast start on the transition, I wasn't the only person thinking "The Best and the Brightest" was about to shape up to be the dream team that would bring new thinking and new energy to Washington.
Certainly the President has had setbacks in putting the Cabinet in place. He's had some high profile disappointments with Tom Daschle, Health and Human Services, and Richardson and Killefer. And it may be the problems we're facing are tough enough that even those with a passion to serve are having second thoughts about walking away from the private sector into lower paying and potentially reputation risking Federal gigs.
But that's not what has me worried, even scared.
It's this slightly unnerving feeling that maybe Obama is personally galvanizing, but just isn't great at putting together a team (insert whatever sports analogy you think fits here - he's a distance runner, but not the captain of a football team).
Now, credit where credit is due. Barack has done a terrific job in less than 100 days of setting a new tone, traveling the world, wooing world leaders, and creating a sense of what you could almost call optimism given the bleak economic out look.
Let's look deeper into this.
I'm talking about the photo op that was organized early in the transition of the Obama economic brain trust. Lots of folks thought the gang looked old, and white, and - well - old.
There was talk of a Car Czar. But so far, no Czar.
There is the new FCC Chair - Jules Genachowski. He's yet to be confirmed, and while he was the Chairman of Technology, Media and Telecommunications Policy for the Campaign, so far it isn't clear that he'll have that wide ranging a role in the administration. Is he going to lead the digital initiatives at the White House? So far, it doesn't seem so. And that would be a shame.
There was the technology Czar Vivek Kundra. But he quickly got a cloud over his head as his number 2 from the DC tech scene has been indicted for bribery.
So we're faced with a charismatic, hard working, media savvy President and a somewhat bland, beltway, Wall Street cabinet. Maybe we should have expected this, but I find my self a bit disappointed.
Starting with the economy. I watched Larry Summers on a fixed position CSPAN camera tell old Wall Street jokes and talk about cycles and the overall need to use the tools at their disposal to fix what is broken. His "we've all seen this before" comments were bland and world weary. I couldn't help but ask - have we?, Are the economic challenges we're facing in this new 'flat' world of fast moving, internet enabled, connected economies really going to be solved by using the same thinking that we've used to deal with previous economic downturns. Yikes.
What about the Stimulus? When Obama talked about the economy, I kept waiting for "Shovel ready" projects to be replaced by "Laptop ready" or "Laboratory ready" initiatives. Why are we investing in roads and bridges and automotive when its pretty clear that the industrial age is being quickly overtaken by the information age. Don't we want to win in science, technology, and information sciences? There's little talk about that in DC these days, and no cabinet level leadership to pull together these initiatives. In fact, the Wall Street targeted bailouts and stimulus seem more like Reagan trickle down economics than homeowner focused middle class investments. Summers of course doesn't agree, neither does Geitner, but again - where do they come from.
For all the yelling and screaming about Obama's focus on social programs, I can't name one. Where is the new Peace Corps style service program? Where is the new initiatives to recruit and support teachers? Who in the Cabinet supports entrepreneurism, small business, innovation and invention?
Back in February, I was at a gathering of the Best and the Brightest in science, technology, venture, and the arts. It's called TED, originally a gathering for Technology, Entertainment, and Design that has expanded in the past 5 years to be a braintrust of sorts. I expected to hear people being recruited to work on new initiatives in science, the arts, communications - fueled by a new Administration hungry for new ideas. Strangely, I didn't once in the four days hear about anyone who was being recruited to help re-invigorate Washington - let alone being called on to serve.
The Best and the Brightest. Always liked the way that sounded. Elitist, and yet open at the same time. Good ideas and smart people win. I want to believe that's what Obama's going for, but so far it doesn't seem that way.