Monday, October 27, 2008

READ: Taking a Peak

In an interview with Fareed Zakaria, former Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin makes me feel good about the kind of leader that Obama would be:

ZAKARIA: People talk about a crisis and how it's going to test the next president. Well, you've been watching, in a sense, a crisis that is testing Barack Obama already, the financial crisis. You've been in on a number of meetings where he has formulated and decided what his position is going to be, what he would do if he were president -- all that kind of thing.  Describe what Obama is like in those meetings.

RUBIN: I think he's remarkable, Fareed. I first met him about four years ago through a fellow who had worked with me at Treasury -- my chief of staff at Treasury -- who had been on the Harvard Law Review with him.

And then after Hillary dropped out, I got very involved with Barack. And they're a small group of us -- Larry Summers, Laura Tyson, Paul Volcker, in some measure Warren Buffett, and a few others a little bit more intermittently -- who have been very involved with him. And I would say that we probably talk with him once a week perhaps, either on the phone most of the time, or occasionally in person.

And each time he does the same thing. He says, "I want to put all politics aside. I want to put the campaign aside, and I want to really focus on what's happening."

And it is a remarkable thing for somebody to do in the middle of a campaign. He has tremendous seriousness of purpose. He is very bright, as we all know.

He thinks, he makes decisions very much like President Clinton did. He wants to get all the factors on the table, and then he weighs and balances them, and tries to judge what the probabilities and the tradeoffs are.

And he's very much the leader of these discussions. He is the leader of his own economic team. I think he's really and truly terrific, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: How would he -- but he seems very different temperamentally from Clinton.

RUBIN: He's different temperamentally, but he's very similar in the way that he approaches decisions. He recognizes the inherent complexity of issues, and he's very much focused on trying to get in front of him all the considerations, including the views of those who disagree with him. And then he's very much a weigher and a balancer.

You know, temperamentally, it's interesting. They are somewhat different, but they both have a sense of humor. Obama has a very good, sort of ironic sense of humor. And they're both very similar to work for, in the sense that they're engaged, they're interacting.

And I don't think that Senator Obama cares whether you're a 35- year-old who's sitting at the table, or you're double that age and much more experienced. What he cares about is the substance that you bring to the discussion. And that's exactly the way President Clinton was.
To address a potential source of skepticism about this testimonial, later in the interview Rubin says: "I'm not going back to Washington."

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