President Obama has in the past been criticized for his failure at giving thoughtful and meaningful presents. To admit, the giving of 25 DVDs to Gordon Brown which likely would not work on a British DVD player was not exactly tactful. Gordon Brown’s present of a Pen Holder made from the wood of the sister ship of the HMS Resolute ( which makes up the oval office desk) was incredible and Obama’s clearly lackluster. At the April G-20 summit, Obama gave the Queen an Ipod with his speeches and videos of her visit to the United States. A bit more tactful to be sure, but lacking in that the Queen already had an Ipod. This gift was also widely panned in British media. But, not one to make the same mistake thrice, Obama has really stepped up his game for his meeting today with the Pope. Giving the pope the burial stole of the First American to be announced a saint is a pretty classy gift! You have got to hand it to the administration for finding something reverent and uniquely American to give to the world religious leader.
I think this represents a general pattern about the Obama Administration which distinguishes it from the previous administration. George W. Bush woul repeat the same mistakes time and again and never seemed willing to admit to any of his mistakes. In contrast, Obama seems prepared to learn from what tactics work well and to try new leadership techniques. Because he saw that the stimulus package was muddled down by congressional folley and found that health care might be similarly mishandled without some involvement, Obama took a more involved stance in speaking out on the need for a public option. Even in areas where I disagree with him, such as his decision not to release torture photos but to release the torture memos, Obama has presented himself as both pragmatic and willing to pursue what works and abandon what seems to be failing. It seems to me that this is actually quite similar to the tactics of FDR during the depression. FDR offered something to all political voices. He negotiated with buisness to craft the NRA, reached out to the left in establishing social security and the origins of the social safety net and general governed in a pragmatic and resolute fashion. When he found himself in error, he quickly shifted to a more successful tact. Of course, those concerned with ensuring that we have a national health care plan or that we acheive progress on countless other issues have an obligation to continue to express their voices and to try to be heard by the administration, but we should not at all be surprised when Obama acts pragmatically and is able to learn from his flaws and mistakes