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Legacy items. That’s the term we used to describe these golden moments. Sometimes we even knew what it meant. Taking out bin Laden was a legacy item. So was rescuing the auto industry, bringing troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, or repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But just as often, we imagined our legacy with the starry eyes of a hobo describing the Big Rock Candy Mountain. We dreamed of a distant utopia, a sunny political paradise, where the credit flows like a waterfall and approvals stay sky-high. We weren’t there yet. With twenty months to go until POTUS left office, our place in history was far from certain. But inside the building, something had undoubtedly changed. President Obama’s jaunty, let’s-go-for-it attitude was infectious. We no longer felt like turtles in our shells. Our growing confidence was matched by growing competence as well. That’s not to disparage the early days: as White Houses go, Obama’s functioned fairly smoothly from the start. Still, the longer POTUS ran the institution, the more we learned from our mistakes. After the disaster, we began “red-teaming” a growing number of big decisions, assigning designated cynics to guard against undiluted hope. Confronted with its lack of diversity, Obamaworld gradually became a place where rooms full of white guys were the exception and not the rule. Baby steps, I know. But these baby steps made us a unicorn among bureaucracies—we improved over time. Somewhat to my astonishment, so did I. At the risk of sounding boastful, I had now gone two full years without angering a sovereign nation. Even better, the White House finally felt like home. There was no one moment when the transformation happened. I didn’t burst forth from a cocoon. It was more like learning a language. You study, you practice, you embarrass yourself. And then one day someone cuts you off in traffic and you call them a motherfucker in perfect Portuguese. Whoa, you think. I guess I’m learning.
David Litt (Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House Years)
One of the top assistants to the chairman of the FCC is a former Google employee and another ran a public lobbying firm funded in part by Google. • The director of United States Digital Service, responsible for fixing and maintaining, is a former Google employee. • The director of the US Patent and Trademark Office is the former head of patents at Google.
Jonathan Taplin (Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy)