That’s your suggestion? Now give me the opposite.

I am troubled by Ron Suskind’s description of the Obama White House during the economic crisis of 2009:

He paints a not-so-pretty picture of the White House discussion.  We were confronting an economic disaster, and getting elected president does not make one expert in everything Americans care about.  Every president has to rely on the advice of experts.

How can presidents be sure to get the best advice for the country, instead of the best advice for the advisers and their friends?  That was an important question in this case — when advice was coming from the same people who brought us to the brink of disaster (Geitner, Summers, Greenspan, and their followers).

Presidents can’t foretell the future, but here is how they can get the best advice for the American people:

1.  After a policy suggestion is made, the president must simply require the person to give strong arguments for other ideas.

2.  If these other arguments are not as robust or forceful, the president knows either (1) the person is not wise enough to consider multiple possibilities and contingencies, or (2) the person is only able to make self-interested arguments.

3.  Either way, the president knows to disregard the advice.

The same idea applies to Suskind’s book.  He says his White House stories are true.  If he explains how they might be partial truths, read the book.  If he can’t, don’t bother.



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