The Obama Way: Hit the Ground Promising

One of President Obama's first actions on his first full day in office was to announce a pay freeze for White House staff .  He did that by a Presidential Memorandum, his first ever, on January 21 .  However, that memorandum did not establish any particular levels; it merely directed his Chief of Staff to report back in 30 days.

"I intend to freeze the salaries of senior members of the White House staff, to the extent permitted by law.  I direct you to report back to me within 30 days with recommendations for actions to implement this freeze.")

According to Josh Gerstein at Politico, those 30 days came and went and, indeed, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel dutifully reported - orally.

"Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel delivered the report orally in time to comply with a 30-day deadline Obama set on his first full day in office, according to the [un-named] spokesman. However, Obama's early announcement left some questions unresolved...  A spokesman said he had no further details on what specifics Emanuel recommended."

So we have it on the authority of an unnamed spokesman that, really, Rahm Emanuel said something to Barack Obama about that pay freeze, just like he was supposed to.  But we have no details on those "recommendations for actions to implement" the freeze.

We have an intention on January 21 and an oral report on February 21.  If there is a freeze, none of us knows what the levels are.  For all we know, they are "frozen" at the maximum amount allowed under law, meaning no real freeze at all.  This falls into the category of things we know we don't know.

The original intent to freeze salaries was announced to the press, dutifully reported by the press, put in writing and made available on the White House's web site.  The actual "report" was an oral one, given in private, with no known details, and we know this only from an unnamed spokesman.  And still no pay freeze.

This is worth noting only in respect to the insight it gives us into how business is conducted in the Obama White House.  Announce something good-sounding, follow it up with nothing real, and no one's the wiser.