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Let’s see the vice-sausage being made

Barack Obama has promised to tear down the stone wall and dense bushes with which the current administration has barricaded the White House. Good. Democracy without transparency is at best assumed.

And, Obama has promised to take advantage of our new connective technology — the Internets and all its associated tubeware — to enable a level of citizen participation undreamed of since our population outgrew the local town hall.

So, how about if the campaign starts now by opening up the vice presidential selection process?

Instead of having potential VPs enter through the back door of some undisclosed location, how about if we get to see some of the discussions? Certainly some conversations need to be held in private, but the traditional black box method leads to the impression that it’s all back backroom deals and ulterior motives.

And how about letting us have our say? An online poll would give the false impression that this is up for popular vote. But the VP selection committee should at the least set up a discussion board where we can engage with one another and with the committee.

Why wait? Let the sun shine in now.

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14 Responses to “Let’s see the vice-sausage being made”

  1. David, I’m with you 100% (not “1000%,” as McGovern said about his soon-to-be-dismissed VP choice), but I have a question: How do you think Obama could manage this in a way less awkward than Mondale did in ’84? He handled his veep-selection process with some openness, and the reaction — if my feeble memory serves — was dismissive. Aside from a discussion board, what’s needed?

  2. Hmmm, I disagree. This is a personnel thing, and I think folks who want the job should be free to “apply” without having to “give notice” to their current employers/constituents (which is effectively what they’d be doing if the process were open in the way you describe).

    (You might argue that there’s no privacy anymore anyway, in matters like these at least if not quite yet in Brin’s sense… and I might agree with that. But in this generation at least, I think there’s still something to respect in the attempt. A generation from now, when we have candidates who’ve lived since adolescence with Facebook et al, matters may be different.)

    As for discussion: isn’t that call kinda last-century of you? I mean, one thing we *don’t* have a shortage is fora for discussion… and tools to let folks who want to track such discussions do so. There are only two things you don’t get that way: certain knowledge of the names under consideration and back-and-forth with the committee… and for now, as I said, I think that’s a feature rather than a bug.

    I think there’s a useful distinction to be made between the choice of a person and the crafting of a policy, a law, a regulation or a spec. When you’re crafting a policy (or whatever), there are lots of pieces to be put in place, none of which has feelings or responsibilities to innocent parties. That’s not the case when choosing a person for a job. If that difference doesn’t by itself justify a difference in the processes used in the two cases, it at least suggests that such a difference might be justifiable.

  3. Ed, I agree that it would be uncomfortable. I don’t mind that in this case. (And I did carefully leave room for some closed door meetings.)

    As for the last centuryness: I actually did consider saying that we should just set up the fora ourselves. And, as you say, we already have plenty. But I think it important that committee participate. Citizens jawing amongst themselves is important, but when it comes to governance, it’s important that the governors jump in, too.

  4. […] Joho the Blog » Let’s see the vice-sausage being made […]

  5. […] intense scrutiny that my favorite blogs give McCain. One great example of that comes today from David Weinberger: Obama has declared that he will remove the walls of secrecy around the executive branch, and will […]

  6. […] Joho the Blog » Let’s see the vice-sausage being made We’ve had open campaigns, how about open VP selection? (tags: 2008 election veep obama) […]

  7. Good point. I think it would be to our credit if we made our best suggestions. It would be to Obama’s credit if he would engage, e.g., X would pull the Hispanic vote, but Y would be a stronger ally in pushing [legislation], and Z, well, uh, I owe Z a favor because [s]he delivered [state] in the primary. In our dreams. But, gotta admit it ain’t a bad dream.

  8. […] Obama’s inconsistencies on transparency a few months ago.) NBC’s Chuck Todd shoots down David Weinberger’s hopes for an open vetting process, and suggests maybe it’s not so […]

  9. David, I think you’re pushing the pendulum too far here in your suggestion. Even though democratic processes benefit from transparency, an individual choosing the closest members of her/his team is not democratic. Americans get to (more or less) make their choice of ticket.

    It’s the same for cabinet posts – this is creation of a team, not an exercise in so-called democracy, which, given all the conflicting interests and race, gender, class, etc. prejudices that remain rife throughout many Western societies, is not all that democratic anyway.

  10. Mark, I certainly am erring on the side of pendulum-pushing. But a veep isn’t just a team member, and isn’t just an employee being hired. A veep is also a public official, one who might have to become president one day. So, while much of the vetting would be kept private, having some public discussion and involvement still seems to me like a good way to push the pendulum.

  11. Ah yes, the open Obama. You might consider how he won his initial race in Chicago: by suing to get all 4 other candidates off the ballot so he could run unopposed.

    I suspect that center left types are going to be the most disappointed and angry people around when it finally dawns on them that Obama is just a typical politician.

  12. The vetting process needs to be private — it’s the process of finding all the nasty private problems that could explode in the campaign’s face. Necessarily private.

    I also think the process of saying these are the 5 people we’re considering, and then publicly dissing 4 of them, isn’t … politic.

    James Robertson, I have no problem with that. It’s just part and parcel of politics. I hope he has no problem knocking Nader or the GP off the ballot too.

  13. You have no problem with that? Ok, here’s what I call it: raw, unadulterated cowardice. He didn’t think he could win an open race, so he sued to close it.

  14. […] a subsequent post, David called for transparent debate about Barack Obama’s choice of vice-presidential running m…, noting […]

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