Brad's Books and Organizations

Books

Books

Organizations

Organizations

Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

« swipe left for tags/categories

swipe right to go back »

A Few Requests for President-elect Obama

Comments (24)

I’ve been an unabashed Obama supporter for a while.  I’m glad he’s going to be our next president and am optimistic about his leadership.  I’ve been enjoying listening to some of the punditry ricocheting around about his coming administration now that I don’t have to listen (or – in my case – try to ignore) the endless analysis about the campaign.  A few requests on my part have come to mind as I start to synthesize what I’m hearing.  Of course, I’m not so arrogant to believe that President-elect Obama – or for that matter – anyone in the administration – will care about my specific requests, but since this is my blog afterall I thought I’d toss my thoughts out into the wild.

1. Appoint Some High Profile Republicans to Your Cabinet.  I believe we need to eliminate the extreme partisan divide that exists in the US today.  The best way to start to do that is from the top – if President Obama makes it clear that he has no interest in perpetuating the "partisan politics as usual" dynamic, we actually have a chance to start to change it.  The biggest, loudest way to send this message would be to get the absolute smartest and most capable people in the cabinet, regardless of their party affiliation.

2. Veto The First Pork Laden Bill.  I continue to be baffled by the dynamics around Pork in Congress.  I want my politicians to become vegetarians and reject Pork.  TARP is such a disgusting example of this – as far as I can tell, the only major difference between the TARP bill that failed the House and the one that came back from the Senate and passed was the addition of a bunch of Pork.  Disgusting.  When the first bill hits Obama’s desk that has one key issue in it that is covered with Pork, he should Veto it.  He should then get on TV and explain the bill in clear English to the American population.  He should describe the single issue in the bill, and then list the Pork – state by state, Congressman by Congressman.  He should then insist that Congress revisit the bill, take all the Pork out, and send it back to him for approval. 

3. Continue Being Confident But Not Certain: Amy and I had a great brunch in Chicago over the weekend with a bunch of folks from Wellesley.  The guest of honor was Madeleine Albright (Wellesley ’59) who was the US Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001.  Secretary Albright was amazing and it was so humbling to get to spend some time with her.  When asked what advice she’d give Obama, she said two things.  First – "listen".  Second – "be confident, but not certain."  She described Bush as a president who has been too "certain" – he’s "certain that he is correct on all issues and then never listens."  In contrast, she wants a president who is "confident" yet willing to listen, learn, and adjust his point of view based on the data presented.  That resonated with me – being confident but willing to listen is a key tenant of a great leader in my book.

Now – go download Zynga’s Live Poker on your iPhone and play a hand or two.  If you made it through this blog post, you deserve a break.

  • http://www.investingwithoptions.com/ Steve Place

    Another request: keep Bob Gates on, at least until major operations have ceased in Iraq

    Oh yeah, and kill of GM. It's time.

    • http://www.investingwithoptions.com/ Steve Place

      *off. Sorry.

  • http://blog.manish.vachharajani.com Manish Vachharajani

    What is baffling about the pork dynamics in congress? It is the currency of congress — if you want my support, you'll have to give me something I want. What I want is probably unrelated to the bill at hand and so on goes a piece of pork.

    In fact, I think the more difficult proposition is to eliminate pork. If I give up my pork (not that I benefit from any direct government handouts) but you don't then I am hurt and get no benefit. It is only if we eliminate most or all pork that we benefit — there is no incremental path to eliminating pork that I see.

    Perhaps your suggestion for Obama would be a good start to changing things by shaming congress into behaving better. Call me cynical, but I don't think shame over spending is a big motivator on Capitol Hill.

    • http://blog.manish.vachharajani.com Manish Vachharajani

      Apologies for doubting being baffled about pork, I too am now baffled by pork dynamics. Consider this quote from the Politics of Pork by Scott Frisch:

      “During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt summoned the congressional leadership for a top secret meeting on the need for an atomic bomb. All the members voted to put aside petty concerns. Then Senator Kenneth McKellar, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, spoke up: 'Mr. President, I agree that the future of civilization may depend on the success of this project. Where in Tennessee are we going to build it?' So Oak Ridge National Laboratory was created. … – Rep. George Brown, D-CA (1993)”

      Wow.

  • http://blog.mercury-rac.com Jed Christiansen

    Bob Sutton of Stanford had written about your point #3, and came up with a description that really resonated with me.

    Wisdom is “strong opinions, weakly held.”

    It seems to say the very same thing; be confident in your opinions, but be willing to change easily based on evidence.

    More on his blog here:
    http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/07/st

    Definitely disagree on Republicans in the Cabinet (and would be very surprised if it didn't happen). I'm cynical about vetoing pork; unfortunately it seems that politicians (and fundamentally their constituents) will always require at least a little bit of pork to get anything decent done.

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    (via email) There was ONE major difference between the bill that failed n the house and the one that the Senate and later the house passed. At the last minute someone (I’ve never seen an account tracking it down to who) added the provision that they have been using for the capital injection stuff. At the time about 99% of prominent economists were saying that the “buying toxic assets” plan was a bad one and that capital investments in banks would be a more fair and overall better plan. Somehow it got in there and so far the treasury has pretty much ignored their initial proposal and just done the better plan.

    Totally agree with the suggestion that Obama should veto the first pork laden bill and your main point (and the others too). But it turns out that in addition to all that disgusting stuff, there was one mysterious and critical addition slipped in by the Senate.

  • http://almaer.com/ Dion Almaer

    Another one. Don't stop twittering and using the social network now you are in. Get back on it, and proof that you are going to be more transparent as promised. Use your DIRECT channel to people to bypass the press to share WHY you veto a bill.

  • http://www.hockeydino.com hockeydino

    1. It would be better to apppoint quality republicans, rather than high profile ones, the same applies for the left side of the house..

    2. This will never happen…not with a Democratic congress, who lives and breathes by pork. There's always HOPE.

    3. Albright was a joke. I certainly hope he apppoints members not of her caliber.

  • Dave

    Indeed, why not appoint the best people, even if they are *neither* republicans nor democrats? I know it's hard for people to grasp in these days of politics-is-another-form-of-college-football, but a fair number of the best and the brightest prefer not to choose a team in this environment.

  • http://www.jasonmendelson.com Jason Mendelson

    Amen. From your lips to his thought process.

  • MJ

    I am a big R and supporter of McCain and I'll tell you, I'd rather have an Obama cabinet made up of a unified team that works rather than one that has a few token republicans thrown in as symbol of bipartisanship. Bush made a massive mistake appointing moderate Republicans (Powell, Whitman to name a few) when he had no apparent intention of including them in the inner circle or forcing others to include them. While you could convince me that Obama would give R's access, whether or not the others would work well with them is a long shot.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      I completely agree that the team has to be unified. I’d love to see Obama break down the wall the prevents R’s and D’s from working closely together. Price of admission for this is respect for different opinions and a top down leadership imperative that the goal is to be successful as a team. I recognize that it’s really difficult, especially given the current tone in government, but it’s one I hope can be fixed (or at least improved).

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      I completely agree that the team has to be unified. I’d love to see Obama break down the wall the prevents R’s and D’s from working closely together. Price of admission for this is respect for different opinions and a top down leadership imperative that the goal is to be successful as a team. I recognize that it’s really difficult, especially given the current tone in government, but it’s one I hope can be fixed (or at least improved).

  • Walter

    Quotes from my mentor ” always be smart, seldom be certain”, “don't believe your own bullshit”, “strive for cognitive diversity, then pay attention”.

  • mark

    Obama should announce right now that starting January 21, there will be a briefing every morning where the previous days bills passed are presented to the media with each earmark or piece or Pork identified as you describe above.

    If that does not stop them from trying then the veto stamp comes out next. Any bill that has to actually be vetoed will be nighlihted at every briefing for the next week.

    Further, a weekly (or monthly) Earmark scorecard will be created showing every Senator and Congressman and the number and amount of earmarks that week, year to date and perhaps lifetime to date.

    I am 100% convinced that if we stopped even half of the wasteful and pork barrel spending that goes on, we could actually balance the budget easily on a go forward basis. Dealing with the problems of Social Security, Medicare, etc. will take something else entirely but that is for another post.

  • http://Twitter.com/NextInstinct Ed

    Not going to expound. Don't really want to augment the flavor you've left.

    But I like that one of you're well articulated points,
    the first, explains my saying:

    “A bird that flies with only one wing, can ONLY arrive at his own tail”

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  • http://www.movingfrommetowe.com/ KareAnderson

    Re Albright, after working on the (paid) campaign staff for 8 months
    I must politely disagree.

    He does listen (to many people on most every issue),
    may not always agree (may not have agreed with her)
    - but tells you so and why…
    and that style of communication
    was reflected all the way down
    to my tiny role in the campaign.

    Who knows? Per your suggestion, I bet he'll have several Reps in high places and (better yet) he’ll continue to involve smart people who have not been active in politics before
    …and he may grow into a Team of Rivals approach

  • http://www.loupaglia.com/correlate Lou Paglia

    three good tips for any president, every president should follow them

  • http://www.lifeonashirt.com Jana Eggers

    I like the simplicity of 3 areas for focus. Great job narrowing down to these three key areas.

    Thanks for the Madeline Albright quote. It will be one I use regularly.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    I completely agree that the team has to be unified. I’d love to see Obama break down the wall the prevents R’s and D’s from working closely together. Price of admission for this is respect for different opinions and a top down leadership imperative that the goal is to be successful as a team. I recognize that it’s really difficult, especially given the current tone in government, but it’s one I hope can be fixed (or at least improved).

  • Parkite

    How about taxing carried interest as ordinary income (which it is) instead of at preferential cap gains rates? Lord knows, the Treasury needs all the help it can get.

  • Dion Almaer

    Another one. Don't stop twittering and using the social network now you are in. Get back on it, and proof that you are going to be more transparent as promised. Use your DIRECT channel to people to bypass the press to share WHY you veto a bill.

  • Manish Vachharajani

    What is baffling about the pork dynamics in congress? It is the currency of congress — if you want my support, you'll have to give me something I want. What I want is probably unrelated to the bill at hand and so on goes a piece of pork.

    In fact, I think the more difficult proposition is to eliminate pork. If I give up my pork (not that I benefit from any direct government handouts) but you don't then I am hurt and get no benefit. It is only if we eliminate most or all pork that we benefit — there is no incremental path to eliminating pork that I see.

    Perhaps your suggestion for Obama would be a good start to changing things by shaming congress into behaving better. Call me cynical, but I don't think shame over spending is a big motivator on Capitol Hill.

  • hockeydino

    1. It would be better to apppoint quality republicans, rather than high profile ones, the same applies for the left side of the house..

    2. This will never happen…not with a Democratic congress, who lives and breathes by pork. There's always HOPE.

    3. Albright was a joke. I certainly hope he apppoints members not of her caliber.

  • Steve Place

    Another request: keep Bob Gates on, at least until major operations have ceased in Iraq

    Oh yeah, and kill of GM. It's time.

  • Manish Vachharajani

    Apologies for doubting being baffled about pork, I too am now baffled by pork dynamics. Consider this quote from the Politics of Pork by Scott Frisch:

    "During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt summoned the congressional leadership for a top secret meeting on the need for an atomic bomb. All the members voted to put aside petty concerns. Then Senator Kenneth McKellar, Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, spoke up: 'Mr. President, I agree that the future of civilization may depend on the success of this project. Where in Tennessee are we going to build it?' So Oak Ridge National Laboratory was created. … – Rep. George Brown, D-CA (1993)"

    Wow.

  • Jed Christiansen

    Bob Sutton of Stanford had written about your point #3, and came up with a description that really resonated with me.

    Wisdom is "strong opinions, weakly held."

    It seems to say the very same thing; be confident in your opinions, but be willing to change easily based on evidence.

    More on his blog here:
    http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2006/07/st

    Definitely disagree on Republicans in the Cabinet (and would be very surprised if it didn't happen). I'm cynical about vetoing pork; unfortunately it seems that politicians (and fundamentally their constituents) will always require at least a little bit of pork to get anything decent done.

  • Steve Place

    *off. Sorry.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    (via email) There was ONE major difference between the bill that failed n the house and the one that the Senate and later the house passed. At the last minute someone (I’ve never seen an account tracking it down to who) added the provision that they have been using for the capital injection stuff. At the time about 99% of prominent economists were saying that the “buying toxic assets” plan was a bad one and that capital investments in banks would be a more fair and overall better plan. Somehow it got in there and so far the treasury has pretty much ignored their initial proposal and just done the better plan.

    Totally agree with the suggestion that Obama should veto the first pork laden bill and your main point (and the others too). But it turns out that in addition to all that disgusting stuff, there was one mysterious and critical addition slipped in by the Senate.

  • Dave

    Indeed, why not appoint the best people, even if they are *neither* republicans nor democrats? I know it's hard for people to grasp in these days of politics-is-another-form-of-college-football, but a fair number of the best and the brightest prefer not to choose a team in this environment.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jason4307 jason4307

    Amen. From your lips to his thought process.

  • Walter

    Quotes from my mentor " always be smart, seldom be certain", "don't believe your own bullshit", "strive for cognitive diversity, then pay attention".

  • mark

    Obama should announce right now that starting January 21, there will be a briefing every morning where the previous days bills passed are presented to the media with each earmark or piece or Pork identified as you describe above.

    If that does not stop them from trying then the veto stamp comes out next. Any bill that has to actually be vetoed will be nighlihted at every briefing for the next week.

    Further, a weekly (or monthly) Earmark scorecard will be created showing every Senator and Congressman and the number and amount of earmarks that week, year to date and perhaps lifetime to date.

    I am 100% convinced that if we stopped even half of the wasteful and pork barrel spending that goes on, we could actually balance the budget easily on a go forward basis. Dealing with the problems of Social Security, Medicare, etc. will take something else entirely but that is for another post.

  • Jana Eggers

    I like the simplicity of 3 areas for focus. Great job narrowing down to these three key areas.

    Thanks for the Madeline Albright quote. It will be one I use regularly.

  • Ed

    Not going to expound. Don't really want to augment the flavor you've left.

    But I like that one of you're well articulated points,
    the first, explains my saying:

    "A bird that flies with only one wing, can ONLY arrive at his own tail"

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kareanderson kareanderson

    Re Albright, after working on the (paid) campaign staff for 8 months
    I must politely disagree.

    He does listen (to many people on most every issue),
    may not always agree (may not have agreed with her)
    - but tells you so and why…
    and that style of communication
    was reflected all the way down
    to my tiny role in the campaign.

    Who knows? Per your suggestion, I bet he'll have several Reps in high places and (better yet) he’ll continue to involve smart people who have not been active in politics before
    …and he may grow into a Team of Rivals approach

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/lou_paglia lou_paglia

    three good tips for any president, every president should follow them

  • Parkite

    How about taxing carried interest as ordinary income (which it is) instead of at preferential cap gains rates? Lord knows, the Treasury needs all the help it can get.

  • MJ

    I am a big R and supporter of McCain and I'll tell you, I'd rather have an Obama cabinet made up of a unified team that works rather than one that has a few token republicans thrown in as symbol of bipartisanship. Bush made a massive mistake appointing moderate Republicans (Powell, Whitman to name a few) when he had no apparent intention of including them in the inner circle or forcing others to include them. While you could convince me that Obama would give R's access, whether or not the others would work well with them is a long shot.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      I completely agree that the team has to be unified. I’d love to see Obama break down the wall the prevents R’s and D’s from working closely together. Price of admission for this is respect for different opinions and a top down leadership imperative that the goal is to be successful as a team. I recognize that it’s really difficult, especially given the current tone in government, but it’s one I hope can be fixed (or at least improved).

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      I completely agree that the team has to be unified. I’d love to see Obama break down the wall the prevents R’s and D’s from working closely together. Price of admission for this is respect for different opinions and a top down leadership imperative that the goal is to be successful as a team. I recognize that it’s really difficult, especially given the current tone in government, but it’s one I hope can be fixed (or at least improved).

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      I completely agree that the team has to be unified. I’d love to see Obama break down the wall the prevents R’s and D’s from working closely together. Price of admission for this is respect for different opinions and a top down leadership imperative that the goal is to be successful as a team. I recognize that it’s really difficult, especially given the current tone in government, but it’s one I hope can be fixed (or at least improved).

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

      I completely agree that the team has to be unified. I’d love to see Obama break down the wall the prevents R’s and D’s from working closely together. Price of admission for this is respect for different opinions and a top down leadership imperative that the goal is to be successful as a team. I recognize that it’s really difficult, especially given the current tone in government, but it’s one I hope can be fixed (or at least improved).

  • http://www.replica-china.net replcia handbags

    I love this article , Very good collection of information,thanks.
    So, some tip about this issue are welcome and really sorry if my question is very simple.

  • http://www.replica-china.net replcia handbags

    I love this article , Very good collection of information,thanks.
    So, some tip about this issue are welcome and really sorry if my question is very simple.

Build something great with me