The Unknown Unknowns Become Known

worms

Those eloquent campaign speeches of hope and change that evoked such great outpourings of emotion from Obama’s followers will gradually evolve into admonitions of patience and encouragement as he finds the reality of working within the bounds of the previously unknown unknowns. This is simply a fact of life that his followers will have to deal with when a vote is tied to the heart instead of the mind. 

 

Donald Rumsfeld had a saying that what bothered him most about issues weren’t their “unknowns”. Not knowing something is an easy hurdle to navigate through research and discovery. What is most troubling are those things that he had no idea he needed to know: the unknown unknowns. I suspect Barack Obama is finding out about these global unknown unknowns right about now. 

President elect Obama is now privy to sensitive issues on all fronts as he receives highly classified briefings every day, previously reserved for President Bush. He will not spend his first weeks in the White House uninitiated into what really makes the world tick. Since he woke up on November 5th, a whole new world has been unfolded to him in terms of information dealing with economics, foreign policy, national security, military operations, etc. 

This education will make much of the the election campaign rhetoric moot. He and John McCain were correct when they averred that we are in a big mess. The problem is that neither really knew  the complexity of the tangled web that labors tirelessly to keep us there.  With that said most of us who have weathered a few presidential elections know that campaigns are fiction, filled with bluster and bromides that seem to disappear when the reality of the job kicks in.

Those eloquent campaign speeches of hope and change that evoked such great outpourings of emotion from Obama’s followers will gradually evolve into admonitions of patience and encouragement as he finds the reality of working within the bounds of the previously unknown unknowns. This is simply a fact of life that his followers will have to deal with when a vote is tied to the heart instead of the mind. 

In the business world when a new CEO is hired to turn around a failing company, he is preceded by a reputation of having such a skill. President elect Obama has been hired to turn around a multi trillion dollar country but unfortunately doesn’t have the resume that vested employees might like to see for this daunting task. Then again, I’m not sure John McCain’s resume was any better in this area. Both came from the same institution that perennially holds the lowest rating for customer confidence: Congress.

Mr. Obama will get a honeymoon with the media and the population at large. He’ll need it. For many reasons it’s safe to say that it will be far longer than Mr. McCain would have received. President Obama will quickly find out that relations with deceitful rogues, financial meltdowns, military struggles, national security, and health care reform are not cured with eloquence, hope, and the stroke of a pen but with long, dirty, tedious, and unrelenting negotiation with elements that don’t share the same vision. The campaign and those great speeches were the easy part of presidential politics. 

Mr. Obama’s daily briefings have opened a can of worms called new knowledge. Any day now we can expect to hear the refrain from his surrogates; “the situation is far worse than we were led to believe” This is nothing new however as it happens with every new administration as the bandages are taken off their eyes and they get a look at what lies ahead. 

I wish Presidnt Obama the best and sincerely hope he is as good as he has led us to believe. It will be the supreme test as to whether or not a citizen with virtually no executive level experience can perform effectively as the CEO of a ‘country’ in need of a turnaround. His employees, or rather his ‘employers‘ will be watching his every step.

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