Reimagining Government

Rick Richman
The section of the White House website entitled "Delivering on Change" has been changed, according to ProPublica, the non-profit newsroom that enables people to monitor changes at the site.  A comparison of the before-and-after versions provides a small word-picture of an administration revising some of its more audacious claims.

"Delivering on Change" used to read as follows:

The President arrived facing an unprecedented array of challenges, and has met them with a bold, comprehensive plan. He passed the most ambitious recovery package in history to address the economic crisis.  He kept faith with the American people through a government that is open, transparent, and accountable. And he restored America's alliances abroad, as well as our American values here at home.  [Emphasis added].

The underlined words have been changed, to reflect a somewhat different level of achievement and a somewhat different goal.  Someone at the White House must have thought the claim that Obama has actually accomplished these things might reflect more hope than change, and could better be expressed as follows:

The President arrived facing an unprecedented array of challenges, and is meeting them with a bold, comprehensive plan. He passed the most ambitious recovery package in history to address the economic crisis.  He is reimagining government to be more open, transparent, and accountable. And he is restoring America's alliances abroad, as well as our American values here at home.  [Emphasis added].

In other words, he hasn't "met" the challenges - he's in the process of "meeting" them.  He hasn't actually created an open and transparent government - he's "reimagining" one.  His goal is not to create an open and transparent government - just one that is "more" open and transparent (compared to the dark one he inherited from Bush the Terrible). 

Ditto with the restoration of America's alliances abroad - it turns out the restoration hasn't quite happened yet (alliances with Poland, Georgia, Honduras, Columbia and Israel actually seem worse off, and the other "alliances" have not yet produced more troops for Afghanistan, nor many promises to take people from Gitmo).  So someone decided "restored" could be better expressed as "is restoring."  In other words, Obama's still working on it.

Claiming accomplishments is a hazardous enterprise, because the claims can be checked.  But if you're only claiming to be in the process of doing it - not to have actually done it yet -- you're simply promising an on-going effort. 

And certainly "reimagining" government is a lot easier than actually changing it.  Al Gore claimed to have "re-invented" government, which had the benefit of sounding good, but also the downside of eventually requiring an explanation of what he actually did.  "Reimagining" is much better:  it's something you can do every day, and no one can ever say you didn't.  For example, at this very moment I am reimagining the oceans receding.  Words matter.

Rick Richman edits Jewish Current Issues.
The section of the White House website entitled "Delivering on Change" has been changed, according to ProPublica, the non-profit newsroom that enables people to monitor changes at the site.  A comparison of the before-and-after versions provides a small word-picture of an administration revising some of its more audacious claims.

"Delivering on Change" used to read as follows:

The President arrived facing an unprecedented array of challenges, and has met them with a bold, comprehensive plan. He passed the most ambitious recovery package in history to address the economic crisis.  He kept faith with the American people through a government that is open, transparent, and accountable. And he restored America's alliances abroad, as well as our American values here at home.  [Emphasis added].

The underlined words have been changed, to reflect a somewhat different level of achievement and a somewhat different goal.  Someone at the White House must have thought the claim that Obama has actually accomplished these things might reflect more hope than change, and could better be expressed as follows:

The President arrived facing an unprecedented array of challenges, and is meeting them with a bold, comprehensive plan. He passed the most ambitious recovery package in history to address the economic crisis.  He is reimagining government to be more open, transparent, and accountable. And he is restoring America's alliances abroad, as well as our American values here at home.  [Emphasis added].

In other words, he hasn't "met" the challenges - he's in the process of "meeting" them.  He hasn't actually created an open and transparent government - he's "reimagining" one.  His goal is not to create an open and transparent government - just one that is "more" open and transparent (compared to the dark one he inherited from Bush the Terrible). 

Ditto with the restoration of America's alliances abroad - it turns out the restoration hasn't quite happened yet (alliances with Poland, Georgia, Honduras, Columbia and Israel actually seem worse off, and the other "alliances" have not yet produced more troops for Afghanistan, nor many promises to take people from Gitmo).  So someone decided "restored" could be better expressed as "is restoring."  In other words, Obama's still working on it.

Claiming accomplishments is a hazardous enterprise, because the claims can be checked.  But if you're only claiming to be in the process of doing it - not to have actually done it yet -- you're simply promising an on-going effort. 

And certainly "reimagining" government is a lot easier than actually changing it.  Al Gore claimed to have "re-invented" government, which had the benefit of sounding good, but also the downside of eventually requiring an explanation of what he actually did.  "Reimagining" is much better:  it's something you can do every day, and no one can ever say you didn't.  For example, at this very moment I am reimagining the oceans receding.  Words matter.

Rick Richman edits Jewish Current Issues.