State of the Union

When I was watching last night's State of the Union address, the thing that struck me most about it was that it was extremely light on discussion of the process of getting things done. I thought about that from a couple of perspectives. First, quite frankly, was the lack of discussion of how government is getting things done meant that I had to write a shorter speech wrap-up than I expected (particularly since the student loan program he touted is implemented--it's old news). Second, the speech felt like confirmation of a sentiment I had watching Obama's candidacy two years years ago, put very well here by my friend and ace Johns Hopkins political science professor Steve Teles in a meditation written during the campaign:

a well-trained candidate for president should have some sophistication and experience with organizational behavior, with knowing what one can and cannot expect complex organizations like the federal government to actually do, and how they can be induced to change. Obama's life has been spent on local organizing, in the law, and in legislatures, but not in complex bureaucracies (public or private), and his academic training is in law, not business or public policy. Having taught at a very good law school, I know that they do a number of things very well, but getting students to think about the behavior of bureaucracies is not one of them. Obama has been great at leading a lightly-entrenched, highly networked campaign structure. But my fear is that Obama will expect more from the sprawling, highly entrenched federal government than it can deliver, at least without the savvy at administrative leadership that comes from having been around a wide range of bureaucracies over a long period of time.