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All eyes were on Michelle last night (see the slideshow), but Jill Biden may well have won ‘best-dressed.’ The vice-president’s wife was radiant in a red gown by Lebanese designer Reem Acra.
From Reem Acra’s website:
- Influenced by her mother’s impeccable style and love of fashion, Reem was always fascinated by design. As a little girl, she accompanied her mother to fabric stores to learn about the finest fabrics, textures and design details such as hand-embroidery that would later become signature elements of her iconic style. As Reem grew up, her passion for design continued to evolve and she began designing dresses for herself, which were brought to life by her personal couturier.
After graduating high school, Reem studied business at the American University of Beirut, where she was discovered at a party by a fashion editor who was captivated by Reem’s dress – an ornate gown of silk organza and museum quality embroidery that was made from her mother’s dining room tablecloth. The woman instantly offered to host a fashion show of Reem’s designs which took place ten days following the chance encounter, and weeks later Reem was off to study in New York at the Fashion Institute of Technology and later its Paris counterpart at Esmond.
Following her studies, Reem traveled the world, drawing inspiration from the diverse countries she visited. After working as an interior designer for a few years, Reem continued to develop her craft in Hong Kong and New York where she returned to her fashion roots. In less than 10 years her atelier gained international recognition, sparked by a high society friend wearing Reem’s first bridal design, a simple yet embellished creation, to her society wedding. Soon after, Reem launched her first collection, Reem Acra Bridal, which elevated classic bridal designs through the use of the finest silks and intricate beading and embroidery.
Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States Tuesday, and called on Americans to join him in confronting what he described as an economic crisis caused by greed but also “our collective failure to make hard choices.”
“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real,” Mr. Obama said in his inaugural address minutes after he took the oath of office on the same bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inaugural in 1861. “They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.”
Mr. Obama, the first African American to serve as president, spoke to a sea of cheering people, hundreds of thousands of Americans packed on the National Mall from the Capitol to beyond the Washington monument. The multitude was filled with black Americans and Mr. Obama’s triumph was a special and emotional moment for them.
With his wife, Michelle, holding the Bible, Mr. Obama, the 47-year-old son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Africa, was sworn in just after noon, a little later than planned, and spoke immediately thereafter..
In his speech, Mr. Obama promised to take “bold and swift” action to restore the economy by creating jobs through public works projects, improving education, promoting alternative energy and relying on new technology.
“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America,” Mr. Obama said in a prepared copy of his remarks.
The new president also noted the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the “far-reaching network of violence and hatred” that seeks to harm the country. He used strong language in pledging to confront terrorism, nuclear proliferation and other threats from abroad, saying to the nation’s enemies, “you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
But he also signaled a clean break from some of the Bush administration’s policies on national security. “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,” he said, adding that the United States is “ready to lead once more.”
He acknowledged that some are skeptical of his ability to fulfill the hope that many have in his ability to move the nation in a new direction.
“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply,” said Mr. Obama, who ran for stressing a commitment to reduce partisanship. “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.”
Hundreds of thousands of people packed the National Mall from the West Front of the Capitol to beyond the Washington monument, buttoned up against the freezing chill but projecting a palpable sense of hope as Mr. Obama becomes the first African American to hold the nation’s highest elected office. It was the largest inaugural crowd in decades, perhaps the largest ever; the throng and the anticipation began building even before the sun rose.
After his speech, following a carefully designed script that played out all morning, Mr. Obama was to head inside the Capitol and sign nomination papers for the Cabinet members he chose in the weeks following his Nov. 4 victory. The Senate is to confirm some of those new Cabinet secretaries this afternoon, but Republicans planned to delay the confirmation of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state for at least one day.
CHICAGO – President-elect Barack Obama said Monday a review by his own lawyer shows he had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement, and transition aides “did nothing inappropriate.”
Obama said he is prepared to make the review public, but decided to hold off because prosecutors asked for a delay and “I don’t want to interfere with an ongoing investigation.”
Controversy has swirled around the president-elect and his incoming White House chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, following Blagojevich’s arrest last week on charges he schemed to trade Obama’s Senate seat for personal gain.
Obama, fielding questions at a news conference, sidestepped when asked whether Emanuel had spoken with aides to the governor.
Emanuel was one of several aides who watched the news conference from the wings.
The president-elect pledged the results of the investigation by his incoming White House counsel, Gregory Craig, would be released “in due course.”
He said the probe was complete and thorough, but did not say which of his aides Craig interviewed, whether any of them was under oath at the time, or any other details.
Project Would Be the Largest Since the Interstate System
On the heels of more grim unemployment news, President-elect Barack Obama yesterday offered the first glimpse of what would be the largest public works program since President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the federal interstate system in the 1950s.
Obama said the massive government spending program he proposes to lift the country out of economic recession will include a renewed effort to make public buildings energy-efficient, rebuild the nation’s highways, renovate aging schools and install computers in classrooms, extend high-speed Internet to underserved areas and modernize hospitals by giving them access to electronic medical records.
“We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least 2 1/2 million jobs so that the nearly 2 million Americans who’ve lost them know that they have a future,” Obama said in his weekly address, broadcast on the radio and the Internet.
Obama offered few details and no cost estimate for the investment in public infrastructure. But it is intended to be part of a broader effort to stimulate economic activity that will also include tax cuts for middle-class Americans and direct aid to state governments to forestall layoffs as programs shrink.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called for spending between $400 billion and $500 billion on the overall package. Some Senate Democrats and other economists have suggested spending even more — potentially $1 trillion — in the hope of jolting the economy into shape more quickly.
PHILADELPHIA – Vice President Cheney always seemed to relish working in the shadows. After all, he’s the one who popularized the term “undisclosed location.” But that doesn’t seem to suit his successor.
Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. appeared glad to be out in public on Tuesday when he joined President-elect Barack Obama in meeting with the nation’s governors here. In the month since the election, he has been the mostly silent sidekick, joining Mr. Obama in private meetings and standing behind him wordlessly during news conferences.
But this week, Mr. Biden looks to be unleashed, at least a little bit. He was given a speaking role both at the unveiling of the national security team in Chicago on Monday and then again during the meeting with the National Governors’ Association here on Tuesday. By word count, he even had somewhat more to say to the governors than Mr. Obama did.
And then there was that little moment that may or may not have been revealing. At one point during his remarks, Mr. Biden noted the presence of his former opponent, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, and greeted her warmly.
This Thanksgiving, progressives have a lot to be thankful for. Here’s our list:
We’re thankful for the thousands of protesters who took to the streets across America to push for marriage equality.
We’re thankful for Tina Fey.
We’re thankful to be liberal hacks.
We’re thankful that our troops will be able to get the education they so richly deserve.
We’re thankful that reality still has a liberal bias.
We’re thankful that there are only 54 days left until the end of the George W. Bush presidency.
We’re thankful for the progressive mandate to govern.
Since Barack Obama’s election, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun groups have been warning that the new president will take away their second amendment rights. This multi-million dollar campaign is already having effects. Not only is the NRA trying to profit off this fear-mongering by increasing its membership, many gun sellers are holding “Obama Sales.”
On Friday, ThinkProgress visited The Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, VA, where 1,000 vendors took over a building the size of two football fields. The NRA’s fear-mongering was all over the event. An ad in the Washington Post read, “GET YOUR GUNS WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!!” While we waited in a long line in the cold, visitors willing to begin or renew their NRA membership were able to get in free and skip the line.
We spoke with an NRA coordinator at the event who confirmed that the organization had seen a dramatic increase in membership after Obama’s election and noted that the turnout at this gun show was much higher than at one two months ago. When we asked whether Obama would revoke gun owners’ rights, she strayed from the official line and admitted that with important issues like the economy, he may not go after it right away. Some of the materials that were being handed out at the NRA booth:
Traces of these myths infiltrated some of the vendors’ tables as well:
One vendor with Liberty Firearms was wearing a button with Obama’s name crossed out and warned a couple, “Get ready for the Obamanation.” He told us that he was actually having trouble restocking and ordering new wares because suppliers were canceling orders and getting ready to dramatically increase prices to take advantage of the hype, as they did in 1994. The man selling the “NObama” shirts said that his business was also way up. “People are afraid,” he said.
Despite the NRA’s best efforts, many individual gun owners recognize the campaign as nothing but hype. ThinkProgress spoke with Gary Foster of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, who said that while he could not speak for his organization, his personal opinion was that many media stories about a rush on guns are overblown:
As FactCheck.org has explained, much of the NRA’s information is completely inaccurate: “Obama has spoken in favor of government registration of handguns, for example, but has not called for registration of all ‘firearms’ including hunting rifles and shotguns. [Many of NRA] TV spots and fliers also make claims that are directly contrary to what Obama actually says about guns.” Obama has also reassured voters that he has no intention or desire to take away their guns.
WILMINGTON, Del. – Edward “Ted” Kaufman, a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden, was named Monday by Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner to fill the Senate seat Biden is leaving for the vice presidency. Kaufman, co-chair of Biden’s transition team and an Obama-Biden transition project advisory board member, plans to serve until the 2010 election, when a new senator is elected. He said he is comfortable stepping down after two years in office.
“I don’t think Delaware’s appointed senator should spend the next two years running for office,” Kaufman said. “I will do this job to the fullest of my ability, and spend my days focused on one thing and one thing only: serving Delaware.”
Speculation on Biden’s successor had centered in recent weeks on his son, Attorney General Beau Biden. But last week the younger Biden announced that he planned to fulfill his National Guard duties and wouldn’t accept an appointment to his father’s U.S. Senate seat.
Biden is a prosecutor for the 261st Signal Brigade, which left for Iraq last week. The unit is due back in September 2009, in time for Biden to run for his father’s Senate seat.
Kaufman, 69, said Monday night that he was “not a placeholder for anyone. At the end of the two years, anyone who wants to run can run.”
The elder Biden said in a statement, “It is no secret that I believe my son, Attorney General Beau Biden, would make a great United States Senator just as I believe he has been a great attorney general. But Beau has made it clear from the moment he entered public life that any office he sought he would earn on his own.”
Just before announcing Kaufman as the appointee, Minner acknowledged speculation about the younger Biden being picked for the post and said she would have strongly considered him.
“The fact that Beau Biden is committed to fulfilling his obligation and not seeking appointment to this office tells us everything we need to know about his character,” she said. “Should Beau choose to run for this office in 2010, he will — as will whoever runs — have to earn on his own the trust of the people of Delaware.”
Minner said she thought Kaufman was the best qualified candidate and she also looked for an appointee whose political views were close to the Biden’s.
Kaufman said he couldn’t think of anything he and Biden disagreed on and he was impressed by that even back in 1972 when Biden was first running for office.
“I was struck by how many things he believed that I also believed,” he said.
However, Kaufman’s experience in Washington will differ from Biden’s in one respect. He does plan to spend time in Delaware, but he and his wife will get a home in Washington, unlike Biden, who rode Amtrak between Washington and Wilmington.
Biden will be sworn in on Jan. 6, but in mid-January he will step down and Kaufman will be sworn in, Kaufman said.
Kaufman held a senior position in all of Biden’s federal campaigns. He served on Biden’s Senate staff from 1973 to 1994, including 19 years as chief of staff.
He is a senior lecturing fellow at Duke University and has served by presidential appointment since 1995 as a charter member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He also heads a political and management consulting firm based in Wilmington, Del., and previously worked for the DuPont Co.
Iran is forging ahead with its nuclear programme, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog reported on Wednesday, deepening the dilemma facing US president-elect Barack Obama over his campaign promise to engage with Tehran.
The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency reveals that Iran is rapidly increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium, which could be rendered into weapons-grade material should Tehran decide to develop a nuclear device.
The agency says that, as of this month, Tehran had amassed 630kg of low enriched uranium hexafluoride, up from 480kg in late August. Analysts say Iran is enriching uranium at such a pace that, by early next year, it could reach break-out capacity – one step away from producing enough fissile material for a crude nuclear bomb.
“They are moving forward, they are not making diplomatic overtures, they are accumulating low enriched uranium,” said Cliff Kupchan, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy in Washington. “These guys are committed to their nuclear programme: if we didn’t know that, they just told us again.”
The IAEA report also says there has been a breakdown of communication between the agency and Iran over alleged research on an atomic weapon. “The Iranians are making good progress on enrichment but there is absolute stone-walling on past military activities,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International institute for Strategic Studies. “It’s very disappointing.”
Reaed it all
In Chicago today, at Obama Transition HQ, President-elect Obama surprised the Vice President-elect, who will turn 66 tomorrow.
After their weekly lunch, Mr. Obama presented Mr. Biden cupcakes, Obama aides say.
Here is a picture from the Obama Transition Team:
Obama lit the candles on the 12 cupcakes and brought them over to Biden.
“You’re 12 years old!” Obama joked, referring to the dozen cupcakes.
“Maybe in dog years!” Biden laughed.
Mr. Obama led the staff in singing him “Happy Birthday,” and then gifted his loquacious running mate with a Chicago White Sox Hat, a Chicago Bears Hat and a bucket of Garrett’s popcorn as gifts.
Chris Matthews, whose negative feelings for Hillary Clinton were made very clear during the primary season Matthews (and who was ultimately forced to apologize for what many perceived as sexist comments he made about her), was overheard trashing the idea of Clinton as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. The MSNBC host “didn’t take a good look around on the Acela train from Philadelphia to Washington Saturday before he started bad-mouthing the New York senator,” Page Six reports Tuesday:
An avowed Clinton lover who was sitting next to Matthews reports: “He was in business class wearing a red baseball hat that said Penn on the back, and the fat [bleep] fell asleep on the train and snored with his mouth open.”
During the ride to DC, Matthews awoke from his nap. A fellow passenger asked him, “What’s the news tomorrow?” – to which Matthews loudly started talking about President-elect Barack Obama possibly picking Hillary as his secretary of state.
- “I don’t understand it,” Matthews bellowed. “Why would he pick her? I thought we were done with the Clintons. She’ll just use it to build her power base. It’s Machiavellian. And then we’ll have Bill Clinton, too. I thought Obama didn’t want drama. He’s already got [chief of staff Rahm] Emanuel and [transition team leader John] Podesta. He’ll have even more drama with her.
- “She’s just a soap opera. If he doesn’t pick her, everyone will say she’s been dissed again, we’ll have to live through that again.”
As Page Six points out, Matthews is singing a different tune publicly. On his show Friday, he praised Hillary Clinton’s support for Obama in the general election, calling her “illustrious” and “admirable.”
2/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes
3/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes
4/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes
Early indications that men might dominate the hierarchy of Obama administration have women’s groups worried, even as a growing chorus of advisers reportedly pushes Hillary Rodham Clinton for secretary of state.
“There’s definitely been a reaction to the few groups that have been named so far,” said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. “I agree with those who are concerned that it would have been nice to see more women.”
Women’s rights advocates acknowledge it’s still early in the transition process, but they say early staff picks and the lists of rumored Cabinet nominees send the wrong signal.
“It’s appropriate that Obama’s vetting Clinton, but she’s one women,” said Amy Siskind, co-founder of The New Agenda, a nonpartisan women’s rights group founded by former Clinton supporters. “We want to see parity in the representation of women in the Cabinet.”
Some women’s rights advocates believe the new administration is conducting a broad search across a diverse pool of candidates.
The Obama transition team asked NOW to send suggestions of qualified female candidates, according to Gandy.
“The transition team is going to take the time to look at and vet the people they don’t know,” she said. “Because frankly, the people who are already well-known in Washington tend to be men and tend to be white.”
The early teams released by the Obama administration have tended to be male-dominated. On Wednesday, four women and eight men were named to Obama’s transition advisory board. His agency review team is headed by seven women and thirteen men. And last week, Obama met with his key economic advisers — four women and 13 men.
So far, Obama has named four members of his top White House staff. Three are men – chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, press secretary Robert Gibbs and chief congressional liaison Phil Schiliro. And one is a woman – senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Additionally, Vice President-elect Joe Biden has named Ron Klain as his chief of staff.
The senior staff assisting with the transition is more evenly divided, with Jarrett, a mentor and close friend one of the three top aides overseeing it.
While Obama has not made any Cabinet appointments, the names that are circulating have worried some in the women’s rights community.
“I have been struck by how few women have been mentioned for high-level positions,” said former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, who worked on the Clinton transition. “It’s still very early, so I don’t want to reach conclusions yet. But the rumors are a flashing yellow light.”
Read it all…
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON
Do you see the election results as a repudiation of your politics?
Our new president-elect won one and a half points more than George W. Bush won in 2004, and he did so, in great respect, by adopting the methods of the Bush campaign and conducting a vast army of persuasion to identify and get out the vote.
I never said permanent. Durable.
Do you think John McCain attacked too much or not enough?
Dissecting the campaign that way is not helpful.
Have you met Barack Obama?
Yes, I know him. He was a member of the Senate while I was at the White House and we shared a mutual friend, Ken Mehlman, his law-school classmate. When Obama came to the White House, we would talk about our mutual friend.
Did you have lunch together? Talk in the hall?
We sat in the meeting room and chatted before the meeting. He had a habit of showing up early, which is a good courtesy.
Are you going to send him a little note congratulating him?
I already have. I sent it to his office. I sent him a handwritten note with funny stamps on the outside.
What kind of funny stamps?
Do you have any advice for him? You already criticized Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s new chief of staff, as a sharply partisan choice.
I raised a question as to whether this would be the best use of Rahm Emanuel’s talents. If you’re trying to work through a big legislative priority, it is sort of hard if you have a guy who has a reputation as a tough, hard, take-no-prisoners, head-in-your-face, scream-and-shout, send-them-a-dead-fish partisan.
What about you? You were always seen as very partisan.
I wasn’t the chief of staff. And you’d be surprised by the Democrats I actually met, got to know and worked with.
Do you like Joe Biden?
I think he has an odd combination of longevity and long-windedness that passes for wisdom in Washington.
Do you regret anything that happened in the White House during your tenure?
You’ve been booed off stages recently.
No, I haven’t. I’ve been booed on stages. I’m a little bit tougher than to walk off a stage because someone says something ugly.
Do you think the era of negative politics is over?
Do you see yourself as being associated with it in any way?
Look, in 1800 the sainted Thomas Jefferson arranged to hire a notorious slanderer named James Callender, who worked as a writer at a Republican newspaper in Richmond, Va. Read some of what he wrote about John Adams. This was a personal slander.
What did he say?
He said he lacked the spine of a man and the character of a woman. Negative politics have always been around.
Do you think you’re negative?
You’ve never repudiated President Bush.
No. And I never will. He did the right things.
What about Iraq and the economy?
The world is a better place with Saddam Hussein gone.
Do you have any advice for him at this point?
With all due respect, I don’t need you to transmit what I want to say to my friend of 35 years.
Remember, attack politics are out. It’s a new age of civilized discourse.
You’re the one who hurt my feelings by saying you didn’t trust me.
Did I say that?
Yes, you did. I’ve got it on tape. I’m going to transcribe this and send it to you.
Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney welcomed Vice President-Elect Joseph Biden and his wife Jill Biden to the Naval Observatory for a private meeting and tour of the Vice President’s Residence in Washington.
The position will put Klain, a seasoned political hand, at the heart of West Wing activity.
Biden, who has kept a low profile since Election Day, will head to the vice president’s official residence at the Naval Observatory at 5:15 p.m. Thursday for a private meeting with Vice President Cheney. Biden and his wife, Jill, will also receive a tour of the residence from Cheney and his wife, Lynne.
The appointment enhances the continuity between the two Democratic administrations. Veterans of the Clinton-Gore White House have been given top jobs in the Obama-Biden transition.
Biden decided some time ago to offer Klain the job, but Klain’s friends weren’t sure he would take it. But he accepted the offer Wednesday afternoon, the officials said.
Klain was part of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign policy and debate preparation staff, was Gore’s chief of staff during the 1996 reelection; and led debate preparation for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid.
Klain, a key member of the Clinton-Gore legal team during the recount fight of 2000, was played by Kevin Spacey in the HBO movie “Recount.”
After the recount, Klain became a partner in the Washington office of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP.
National Journal wrote in 1997 that Klain “may have the best resume in town.”
From Klain’s official biography: “Prior to his appointment to the White House, Klain was the staff director for the Senate Democratic Leadership Committees, the chief of staff for Attorney General Janet Reno, associate counsel to President Clinton, and chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary. …
“Klain graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown University, and he obtained his juris doctor magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, winner of the Sears Prize, and a research assistant to Professor Laurence Tribe. For the 1987-1989 Supreme Court terms, Klain served as law clerk to Justice Byron R. White.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama could reverse some of President Bush’s most controversial executive orders, including restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, shortly after taking office in January.
Two other executive orders from Bush — one dealing with a so-called “gag” order on international aid organizations regarding abortion, the other with oil and gas drilling on federal lands — also are receiving increased scrutiny.
Obama’s transition team is reviewing hundreds of Bush’s executive orders, according to John Podesta, Obama’s transition co-chair.
New presidents often use executive orders to put their stamp on Washington quickly. Unlike laws, which require months to complete and the consent of Congress, presidents can use their executive authority to order federal agencies to implement current policies.
“Much of what a president does, he really has to do with the Congress — for example, budgeting, legislation on policy — but executive actions are ones where the president can act alone,” said Martha Kumar of the White House Transition Project, a nonpartisan group established to help new presidential administrations.
American elections are a powerful drug: they bring delusions of omnipotence. All that talk of “change” and “hope” brings demands for swift action: “Do it now,” “first six months,” “hundred days.” The economic crisis may indeed demand speed, but in foreign policy the reality is that, on the afternoon of Jan. 20, President Obama will face the same challenges that President Bush did that morning. And none presents much opportunity for bold new initiatives.
That’s fortunate. Incoming presidents making big decisions in a hurry is a surefire recipe for error. Think JFK and the Bay of Pigs. More recently, George W. Bush’s reflexive ditching of the Clinton administration’s strategy on North Korea was a misstep it has taken years to retrieve.
The foreign-policy and national-security inbox shows that, even on pressing issues, Obama has the luxury of time. A quick overview:
Iraq. Obama has pledged to withdraw U.S. troops. But that’s already getting under way. At issue still: the pace of the drawdown, a date for final disengagement and the number of U.S. troops who should then remain as last-ditch guarantors of a democratic government in Baghdad. No Iraqi politician is going to be able to engage seriously on those topics until after their own elections next fall.
A few days before the election, a Democratic strategist privately worried that a Vice-President Joe Biden was destined for a White House career of dissatisfaction and idle-hands mischief.
“You can’t just have a guy like him at loose ends, he’d go crazy,” said a Democratic consultant who knows the affable, bright and mercilessly quotable soon-to-be ex-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “They need to keep him busy. Nobody over there wants him getting into the Secretary of State’s [business].”
Harnessing Biden’s considerable talents and containing his flaws will be an ongoing challenge for Obama. But Democratic insiders say the appointment of tough-guy Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff—and the administration’s need to forge a governing coalition that includes some Republicans—has brought Biden’s upcoming role more clearly into focus: He’ll play the good cop.
The Democrats’ apparent failure to win the 60 Senate seats necessary to halt a GOP filibuster has created the need for inter-party ambassadors like Biden who are practiced at the art of aisle crossing. In his 36-year Senate career, Biden was never considered a bomb-throwing ideologue, and he still has plenty of chits to cash in with Republicans on the Hill.
“He’s probably got more friends among Senate Republicans than John McCain does, and that’s a huge plus for Barack Obama, who is committed to breaking the partisan roadblock of recent years,” said Biden spokesman David Wade shortly before Election Day.
And while Emanuel’s bad-cop reputation may be overstated, all those F-bombs and threats to pulverize GOP incumbents during his tenure of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee boss create an opening for Biden, who maxes out on the Mr. Nice Guy scale.
“I really have genuine relationships with Republican leaders in the House and the Senate. I mean, I—I hope this is not self serving, but I’ve gained the respect,” Biden told an Ohio campaign rally in late October. “I’ve been able to literally work with the Republican leaders, of the committees as well as, as well as the Senate,” he added. “And Barack knows that, Barack has served there and sees that… I’m confident that I’ll be spending a fair amount of time [in Congress].”
In an interview with the New Yorker last month, Biden selected a lofty, if somewhat dubious role model: Lyndon Johnson, who plunged into a deep depression when John F. Kennedy assigned him the role as emissary to a Senate he had bullied, cajoled and utterly dominated as majority leader in the 1950s.
Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Democrat who’s fond of Biden, painted a different picture: “I can see Joe in his room [just off the Senate chamber], smiling, slapping people on the back, making his points, working the members.”
Indeed, Biden told the New Yorker that his style would be more honey than sting: “I have never ever, ever screwed another senator,” he said.
On top of that, Biden could not be more different than the outgoing vice president, who never visited the weekly Democratic caucus lunches in the Senate and had virtually no relationships with the other side of the aisle. It’s unlikely that Biden will ever be caught telling another senator to “Go [expletive] yourself” as Dick Cheney famously said to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy. Unless he’s kidding.
Biden’s best Republican friends in the Senate are centrists, including retiring Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and the top Republican on the Foreign Relations committee, Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, with whom he’s forged a close working partnership.
Biden is equally popular with some GOP staffers, drawing top-level Republican aides into free-ranging discussion on nettlesome policy problems, even setting up secure computer forums where aides can swap ideas without partisan recrimination, according to a person who participated in one of the chat groups.
The veep in waiting is not a favorite with Republicans hard-liners, though, who still hold grudges over his tough questioning of former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The conservative bloc in the Senate remains unified, and could still engineer a filibuster of Obama priorities.
“Joe’s really well liked—and he can be a real stand-up guy—but it’s going to be tough for him,” said an aide to a top Senate Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We’re not in the mood to make deals. People like him, sure, but people are going to change their votes on defense or health care or taxes just because Joe Biden’s a great guy?”
Biden may find it even tougher with Democratic senators—thrilled to have one of their own in the White House again—who may want to simply bypass the vice president and forge a relationship directly with Obama.
“He will carve out a role for himself, the problem is that he’s going to have a lot of competition—and it’s competition that won’t be willing to step aside for him,” says Jennifer Duffy, who covers the Senate for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.
Obama hasn’t served a full term in the Senate but he’s got plenty of friends in the Democratic caucus: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, up-and-coming Missouri freshman Claire McCaskill and an ailing but still powerful Ted Kennedy. Obama also has a unique relationship with one of the most conservative senators, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, with whom he shares a passion for government reform.
Then there’s former Majority Leader Tom Daschle—a well-connected kitchen-cabinet Obama adviser who is likely to play some kind of role in the administration.
But Biden’s biggest competition may come from the president-elect himself.
“Obama already has his own relationships in the Senate so, in a sense, he doesn’t need an emissary,” Duffy adds. “He’s his own go-to guy.”
Obama has gone to great lengths to establish personal relationships with legislators, creating direct lines of communication that will be handy even if he runs into problems with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“Barack’s been seriously keeping touch with the [fiscally conservative Democratic] Blue Dogs and all the other foot soldiers—he’s intent on not making the same mistakes we did,” said a former aide to Bill Clinton, who worked his congressional transition team in the early 1990s. “We thought all we had to do was to keep in touch with the leaders and we left the members and committee chairs alone. That was a huge mistake and it killed us on the health care… Barack’s not making that mistake.”
WASHINGTON — For nearly two years on the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama rarely missed a chance to take a swipe at President Bush. The name George W. Bush invariably followed the phrase “failed policies” in Mr. Obama’s speeches. “When George Bush steps down,” Mr. Obama once declared, “the world is going to breathe a sigh of relief.”
Ronald and Nancy Reagan, right, and President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in 1980.
On Monday, Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, may find himself conveniently forgetting those words — or at least delicately stepping around the fact that he had said them. As the president-elect, he will be welcomed at the White House as an honored guest of its current occupant, Mr. Bush, for a meeting that could be as awkward as it is historic.
In a time-honored tradition of American democracy, Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, will receive a tour of their new home from Mr. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush. Then the men will split off to begin the formal transfer of power, all the more urgent this year because of the financial crisis. Mr. Obama has said he expects a “substantive conversation between myself and the president.”
But there will also be a subtext to the session: the personal chemistry between two leaders whose worldviews are miles apart. The ritual visit is occurring uncommonly early this year, less than a week after Mr. Obama handily defeated Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was the Republican nominee and Mr. Bush’s preferred candidate. Emotions may still be raw.
“I’m not going to anticipate problems,” Mr. Obama said Friday at his first news conference as president-elect. “I’m going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship.”
Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama have had little chance to forge the kind of personal relationship that might prompt a smooth handoff. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Mr. Obama wrote less than admiringly of his first face-to-face encounter with the president, at a White House breakfast for new senators after the 2004 election, where Mr. Bush outlined his second-term agenda.
“The president’s eyes became fixed; his voice took on the agitated, rapid tone of someone neither accustomed to nor welcoming interruption; his easy affability was replaced by an almost messianic certainty,” Mr. Obama wrote. “As I watched my mostly Republican Senate colleagues hang on his every word, I was reminded of the dangerous isolation that power can bring.”
Mr. Bush, meanwhile, was privately critical of Mr. Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary race, telling friends that he thought Mr. Obama’s chief rival for the party’s nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, was “more experienced and more ready to be president,” said one friend of Mr. Bush’s who had such a conversation. But Mr. Obama ran a good campaign — Mr. Bush is someone who appreciates that — and the election last week might have eased his doubts.
“President Bush is a realist,” said this friend, who spoke anonymously to disclose his private conversation with the president. “He has a way of coming to grips with things and moving on. The people have spoken.”
For Mr. Bush, the meeting has a distinct upside: the chance to take the edge off his unpopularity. Democrats are already praising him as gracious for his post-election speech in the Rose Garden, where he said it would be a “stirring sight” to see the Obama family move into the White House. The meeting on Monday will give Mr. Bush an opportunity to produce lasting images of that graciousness.
“The important thing he gets out of it,” the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said, “is a public perception of him as somebody who is leaving in classy fashion, by opening his house and his information and his government. He wants to leave on a note that says he did everything possible to help this next president run the country.”
But such meetings can be fraught with political and personal danger. On Inauguration Day in 2001, President Bill Clinton invited Mr. Bush for coffee before the ceremony but kept his ever-punctual successor waiting for 10 minutes, recalled Mr. Bush’s first press secretary, Ari Fleischer. Even more uncomfortable was the presence of Vice President Al Gore, who lost the presidential election to Mr. Bush after a bitterly contested Florida recount.
“Clinton was his normal gregarious self, but Vice President Gore was not a happy camper,” Mr. Fleischer said. “I think it was a very sour moment for him, and you could kind of feel it in the room.”
In 1980, after President Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan, the two met at the White House. Mr. Carter came away feeling that Mr. Reagan had not been paying attention.
“President Carter was kind of taken aback by the meeting with Reagan,” said Jody Powell, Mr. Carter’s former press secretary. “There was a point where he sort of wandered off and asked questions that seemed to be only tangentially related to what they were talking about.”
And though the Carter White House had offered to share information about efforts to end the Iranian hostage crisis, Mr. Powell said, “My impression was that they wanted us to handle it without them being involved enough to have to take responsibility for whatever happened.”
So, too, may it be with Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama over the economy. Mr. Bush has invited world leaders to Washington on Friday and Saturday for an international conference on the economy. Mr. Obama and his team have declined to attend. Mr. Obama supports a new economic stimulus package; the Bush White House is cool to that idea.
The White House says Mr. Obama has been there seven times during Mr. Bush’s tenure, most recently in September for a much-publicized meeting on the $700 billion financial rescue package. That session blew up when House Republicans, backed by Mr. McCain, balked at the plan. Curiously enough, Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush were on the same side.
Perhaps Mr. Obama will remind Mr. Bush of that when he sees him on Monday. Or perhaps he will remind Mr. Bush of another encounter, at a White House reception in January 2005 when, according to Mr. Obama’s book, the affable president offered a dollop of hand sanitizer — “Not wanting to seem unhygienic,” Mr. Obama wrote, “I took a squirt” — and then pulled him aside for some unsolicited political advice.
“You’ve got a bright future, very bright,” Mr. Bush began, by Mr. Obama’s account. The president went on to warn the new senator that his celebrity status could hurt him: “Everybody’ll be waiting for you to slip, know what I mean? So watch yourself.”
His focused effort to target a group that had heavily favored Republicans paid off, an exit poll shows.
As he vaulted into national acclaim with his 2004 Democratic convention speech, Barack Obama directly took on the assumption that his party should cede religious voters to the Republicans.
“We worship an awesome God in the blue states,” he said, pointedly adopting words from a song familiar to churchgoers, particularly younger ones.
The four-year effort by Obama, who is Christian, to narrow the gap between Democratic and Republican support among religious voters paid off last week when he won the race for the White House.
Exit polls showed the dramatic effect: Obama won 43% of voters who said they attend church weekly, eight percentage points higher than 2004 Democratic nominee John F. Kerry. Among occasional worshipers, Obama won 57%, 11 percentage points higher than Kerry, according to the National Election Pool exit survey.
When looking at how members of different faiths voted, the movement among Catholics is striking. They sided 52% to 47% with President Bush in 2004. But this year, they went 54% to 45% for Obama. That means Obama had more support among Catholics than did Kerry, himself a Catholic, by seven percentage points.
“Obama did better than Kerry among pretty much every religious group,” said Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life who analyzed the poll results.
Even among voters who describe themselves as born-again Christians or evangelicals, a group that tends to vote Republican, Obama improved on Kerry’s standing — although he came in a distant second to GOP nominee John McCain. Kerry had won 21% of evangelical voters; Obama won 26%.
The shift by religious voters may have resulted partly from changes in the electorate — voter participation by blacks and Latinos grew, and both groups tend to be regular churchgoers. Yet there is no doubt that secular voters were more supportive of Obama than religious ones, according to the exit poll.
The Obama campaign, however, made sure to court religious voters and took advantage of his connections to influential Christian leaders.
Nearly two years ago, when voters knew little about him, the Illinois senator stood alongside nationally known author and Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest for a televised AIDS conference. Earlier, Obama had asked Warren to review a chapter of his book “The Audacity of Hope.”
Obama again gained the attention of Christian voters in July when he pledged to expand a controversial White House program to give federal grants to churches and small community groups. The proposal, which would build on efforts by the Bush administration to direct government money to church groups, was announced in Zanesville, Ohio, a hotly contested state that Obama won on election day.
And at the Democratic National Convention in August, which held its first-ever interfaith prayer gathering, the party platform endorsed by Obama — while not backing away from its support for abortion rights — emphatically reached out to women with children who rely on programs meant to ease their struggle.
Obama’s ease in talking about his religion also helped him win over religious voters. During a presidential forum held in August at Saddleback Church, where he and McCain were interviewed separately by church leader Warren, Obama spoke about “walking humbly with our God” and quoted from the Gospel of Matthew. His acceptance speech Tuesday night echoed in parts the church-inspired speeches of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“He uses the faith language very well,” said Clyde Wilcox, a Georgetown University professor of government who has studied the subject. And that, he said, inspired trust.
“How do you know whether to trust him or not?” Wilcox said. “If you are a deeply religious person, you want to see that he has a grounding. That authenticity is really important. It reassures people.”
Religion, for a time, became a thorn for Obama during the presidential race. He was harshly criticized for his association with the now-retired Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose incendiary sermons about white America caused an uproar and led Obama to part ways with his longtime pastor, and endured a viral e-mail campaign falsely asserting that he is Muslim.
But “there was a broad recognition that he was a sincerely religious man,” Wilcox said of Obama. “And I think that did come through.”
The Obama campaign reached out to evangelicals and other religious communities, aware of the opportunity to peel away some voters.
Douglas W. Kmiec, a Pepperdine law professor, caused a stir last spring when he publicly endorsed Obama. One month later, at a Catholic Mass to which he was invited, Kmiec was denounced from the pulpit and denied communion because of his endorsement.
Kmiec said that although Obama’s support for abortion rights contradicts official Catholic doctrine, his broader approach aligns well with the church’s beliefs on issues such as the economy, healthcare and the environment.
“I was attracted out of my Republican-ness to Sen. Obama’s side largely because I could hear, in the way he was articulating economic issues and social issues, the social gospel of the Catholic Church,” Kmiec said.
From September through election day, Kmiec traveled to key states including Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, meeting with groups of people at churches on Obama’s behalf. The election’s focus on the economy was “providential,” Kmiec said. Without the usual single-issue debate about abortion rights among Christian voters, the Obama campaign had the opportunity to make its case on other fronts.
“It moderated, it seemed to me, the amount of time that was devoted to these divisive conversations,” he said.
The election results returned Catholics to their historical Democratic moorings, which many had fled for the GOP during the Reagan years.
“That is opening a door that had been closed for a while,” Kmiec said. But whether it stays open may be determined by whether Obama’s actions match what he promised — and also by what larger political environment defines the 2012 presidential race.
“At some level, if he’s a good president, that will affect evangelicals and non-evangelicals, Catholics,” said Wilcox of Georgetown University. It is too soon, he said, to know whether Obama’s improvements among religious voters indicate a new alignment for Democrats, or were simply a verdict on the 2008 candidates.
“I would want to see this over time,” Wilcox said.
RIGHT WING: “The game has begun,” Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience of 15 million to 20 million last week.
Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity dive shamelessly in, talking about the ‘Obama recession’ and other partisan lines.
You have to give Rush Limbaugh a perverse kind of credit. At least when he is demonizing Barack Obama, fabricating Obama policies, blaming Obama for single-handedly causing the recession and the stock market crash, he doesn’t pretend to be fair.
Opening his first post-election rant against the president-elect, Limbaugh launched in with a certain relish. “The game,” he told his radio listeners, “has begun.”
Sean Hannity, on the other hand, insisted on feigning a post-election detente, telling his Fox News television audience last week, “I want Barack Obama to succeed.”
Didn’t he think anyone would notice that, just a moment later, he was back parroting the failed campaign argument that Obama is a “mystery”?
“I fear [this] is the guy that has these radical associations 20 years ago,” Hannity added, an odd way of demonstrating support for the new commander in chief.
A healthy skepticism is not only the media’s right but its obligation. Indeed, commentators at many mainstream outlets — including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal — have already argued that Obama’s best bet to succeed will be if he hews to a centrist path.
But many on the losing end of last week’s election want to hold on to their anger. And there are those in the media — led by the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity — only too ready to feed that animus, along with their own ratings.
“The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen,” Limbaugh told his radio audience of 15 million to 20 million on Thursday. “Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression.”
Apparently the tanking of the real estate market, record losses in the auto industry, and massive failures in the banking and investment industry have very little to do with our problems. The economic system is collapsing, Rush wants us to know, because it anticipates the tax increases Obama has pledged on capital gains and for the highest income earners.
But maybe that shouldn’t be so surprising, because radio’s Biggest Big Man also assures us that the Democrat welcomes “economic chaos” because it gives him “greater opportunity for expanded government.” In a time when the nation calls out for cool leadership and rational discussion, Limbaugh stirs the caldron, a tendency he proved in a particularly grotesque way last week when he accused Obama’s party of plotting a government takeover of 401(k) retirement plans.
“They’re going to take your 401(k), put it in the Social Security trust fund, whatever the hell that is,” Limbaugh woofed. “Trust fund, my rear end.”
A slight problem with Limbaugh’s report: Obama and the Democrats have proposed no such thing.
The proposal, in fact, emanated from a single economist, one of many experts testifying to a congressional committee.
The president-elect has thus far shown as much interest in taking over your 401(k) as he has in moving the capital to Nairobi. (If you look hard, you might find that one somewhere out there in the blogosphere, too.)
To broadcast such a report — so drained of context as to constitute a lie — would be a shameless act at any time. But Limbaugh needlessly stirred the fears of the millions he holds in his thrall — making the 401(k) thievery sound like nearly a done deal. Shameless.
Hannity and Limbaugh filleted Obama’s selection as chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, in a way that exposed their partisan gamesmanship.
Mainstream newspapers have filed plenty of unflinching accounts of Emanuel’s tough, occasionally ruthless tactics as a Democratic congressional leader and onetime operative in the Clinton White House. That assessment of bare-knuckle partisanship Hannity seized on. But it wouldn’t do to report another aspect of Emanuel’s record — his Clintonesque bent for the political center.
So the Fox-man simply created a new persona for Emanuel as, you guessed it, “one of the hardest left-wing radicals on the left.”
Ever open-minded, Hannity concluded, “I think they’re going to overreach, and I think we’re going to see the person that I think Barack Obama is. I think he is hard, hard left.”
Then, I kid you not, Hannity ended with this pledge: “We’ll see. We’ll give him an opportunity.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham apparently didn’t get the memo requiring Obama’s opponents to sink immediately and mindlessly into rank partisanship.
The South Carolina senator, one of Sen. John McCain’s closest allies in his bid for the presidency, praised Obama’s selection of Emanuel as “a wise choice.” He added that the new chief of staff could be a tough partisan, but was also “honest, direct and candid” and willing to “work to find common ground where it exists.”
Perhaps Hannity, Limbaugh and the rest of those intent on poisoning the soil before bipartisanship can take root might recall words of wisdom from Brit Hume, a veteran newsman who is close to leaving the Fox anchor desk for semi-retirement.
The problem with the accusations of Obama being “dangerous” and “radical,” Hume said on election night, “was that it just didn’t fit with the man you saw before your eyes.”
That whole anti-American, friend-to-the-terrorists thing about President-elect Barack Obama? Never mind.
Just a few weeks ago, at the height of the campaign, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota told Chris Matthews of MSNBC that, when it came to Mr. Obama, “I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views.”
But there she was on Wednesday, after narrowly escaping defeat because of those comments, saying she was “extremely grateful that we have an African-American who has won this year.” Ms. Bachmann, a Republican, called Mr. Obama’s victory, which included her state, “a tremendous signal we sent.”
And it was not too long ago that Senator John McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, accused Mr. Obama of “palling around with terrorists.”
But she took an entirely different tone on Thursday, when she chastised reporters for asking her questions about her war with some staff members in the McCain campaign at such a heady time. “Barack Obama has been elected president,” Ms. Palin said. “Let us, let us — let him — be able to kind of savor this moment, one, and not let the pettiness of maybe internal workings of the campaign erode any of the recognition of this historic moment that we’re in. And God bless Barack Obama and his beautiful family.”
There is a great tradition of paint-peeling political hyperbole during presidential campaign years. And there is an equally great tradition of backing off from it all afterward, though with varying degrees of deftness.
But given the intensity of some of the charges that have been made in the past few months, and the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s election, the exercise this year has been particularly whiplash-inducing, with its extreme before-and-after contrasts.
The shift in tone follows the magnanimous concession speech from Mr. McCain, of Arizona, who referred to Mr. Obama’s victory Tuesday night as “a historic election” and hailed the “special pride” it held for African-Americans. That led the vice president-elect, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., to get into the act. During the campaign, Mr. Biden said he no longer recognized Mr. McCain, an old friend. Now, he says, “We’re still friends.” President Bush, in turn, also hailed Mr. Obama’s victory, saying his arrival at the White House would be “a stirring sight.”
Whether it all heralds a new era of cooperation in Washington remains to be seen, and it may be downright doubtful. But for now, at least, it would seem to be part of an apparent rush to join what has emerged as a real moment in American history.
The presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said she was hard-pressed to find a similar moment when the tone had changed so drastically, and so quickly, among so many people of such prominence.
“I don’t think that’s happened very often,” Ms. Goodwin said. “The best answer I can give you is they don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, and they recognize how the country saw this election, and how people feel that they’re living in a time of great historic moment.”
Others in the professional political class were not so sure. Some wondered whether simple pragmatism was the explanation.
“My experience is, it’s less an epiphany and more a political reality,” said Chris Lehane, a former Democratic strategist who worked on the presidential campaign of Al Gore. “I’m thinking they will continue in this direction so long as the polls indicate it’s a smart place to be.”
There are notable exceptions: Rush Limbaugh has given no quarter. And while his fellow conservative radio hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have noted the significance of his victory — on Wednesday, Ms. Ingraham said “Obama did make history” and “It’s not the time to vilify him” — they seem to be in line with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. Relishing his new role in the opposition camp, Mr. O’Reilly said, “The guy is still a mystery, so our oversight will be intense.”
Some lawmakers also do not appear inclined to give up the fight. Representative John A. Boehner, the House minority leader, has already criticized Mr. Obama’s choice of Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, as his chief of staff.
But other people who opposed Mr. Obama, like Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, have good reason to try to make up with the winning ticket. As an ardent backer of Mr. McCain, Mr. Lieberman angered the Democrats, who in 2000 nominated him as their vice-presidential candidate. After losing a Democratic primary challenge in 2006 and then winning as an independent, he still continued to caucus with the Democrats.
Attending an event with Mr. McCain in York, Pa., in August, Mr. Lieberman said the race was “between one candidate, John McCain, who has always put the country first, worked across party lines to get things done, and one candidate who has not.”
As a speaker at the Republican National Convention, Mr. Lieberman went further than Democrats expected by criticizing Mr. Obama for “voting to cut off funding for our troops on the ground.” (Mr. Obama voted for bills that included plans for withdrawal from Iraq and against others that did not.)
This week Mr. Lieberman, who has been asked by the Democratic Senate leadership to consider giving up his position as the chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, released a statement congratulating Mr. Obama for “his historic and impressive victory.” It continued, “The American people are a people of extraordinary fairness.”
Marshall Wittmann, a spokesman for Mr. Lieberman, said that as far as the senator was concerned, “It’s over, and it’s genuinely time to find unity and move forward behind the new president.”
And what about that whole bit about Mr. Obama not always putting his country first? “He believes that President-elect Obama — and, then, Senator Obama — is a genuine patriot and loves his country,” Mr. Wittmann said. “The only point he was making in his campaign was about partisanship.”
Mr. Obama is apparently ready to bury the hatchet with his new fans. “President-elect Obama has made it clear that he wants to put partisanship behind and work together to solve the many challenges confronting the country,” said Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for the Obama transition team. “We’re pleased that others do as well.”
The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who will help decide Mr. Lieberman’s committee assignment, sounded less ready to forgive, at least when it came Mr. Lieberman’s support for Mr. McCain. “Joe Lieberman has done something that I think was improper, wrong, and I’d like — if we weren’t on television, I’d use a stronger word of describing what he did,” he said on CNN Friday.
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama’s big victory could provide Democrats with a road map for an even bigger electoral majority in the future _ something that seemed implausible just four years ago.
Obama won in the suburbs of key states, expanded Democratic majorities in big cities and made inroads into rural areas that had been off-limits to Democrats in recent presidential elections. He also proved that a black presidential candidate could make Democratic gains in some of the whitest counties in the nation _ even though in much of the Deep South, his race still appeared to turn voters away.
Nationwide, Republican John McCain won a majority of the white vote in Tuesday’s election. But Obama, who will become the nation’s first black president, actually fared better than Democratic nominee John Kerry did among white voters in 2004 _ and he did it in some unlikely places, according to an Associated Press analysis of election results.
“Every president wants to build or maintain a coalition for success, to establish a permanent imprint politically,” said David Rohde, a political scientist at Duke University. “If the Democrats can avoid screwing up, this can be a politically transformative event.”
As expected, Obama did well among low-income voters. But he also won over the wealthiest Americans, despite promising a tax increase for those making more than $250,000 a year. Obama won 52 percent of the vote among those with family incomes of more than $200,000 a year, according to exit polls. That’s a 17-point improvement over fellow Democrat Kerry.
Obama also won a majority of the Catholic vote, something Kerry didn’t do, even though Kerry would have become just the second Catholic president.
And Obama rocked the youth vote, which has Democrats hoping they can hold onto the voters of the future. Obama won 66 percent of the vote from 18 to 29 year olds, a 12-point improvement over Kerry.
Four years ago, the Democrats were looking at a shrinking electoral map as they suffered through hard-fought losses in Ohio and Florida. Suburban soccer moms seemed to be trending Republican, while much of rural America was solidly red.
It turns out those suburbanites weren’t so wedded to the Republicans, after all.
Obama did well in key suburban counties in Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Indiana, winning all four states carried by President Bush in 2004. He also made inroads in heavily Republican rural counties, even if he didn’t win a majority of the vote in those areas.
In Florida, Obama made significant gains among voters living along the Interstate 4 corridor, a swing area from Orlando to Tampa. He won Osceola County, home to Kissimmee, and Orange County, home to Orlando. Up the Atlantic Coast, Obama also improved on Kerry’s numbers in Duval County, home to Jacksonville.
In Ohio, Obama won Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, a county that Kerry lost in 2004. He also made significant gains in suburban counties in northwestern Ohio as well as those near Columbus in the center of the state.
In Indiana, Obama won a larger percentage of the vote than Kerry in every county, helping him to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1964.
Virginia exemplified Obama’s Southern strategy. Obama built a lead in the fast-growing suburbs of Northern Virginia, territory that is more friendly toward Democrats, while limiting his losses in the southern part of the state, which is more Republican.
Much was made of Obama’s lack of support among white working class voters in his epic Democratic primary battle with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. And in the general election, Obama did lose among whites without college degrees.
But in many of the nation’s most rural, white counties outside the Deep South, Obama did surprisingly well. He didn’t always win a majority in those areas, but more often than not, he did better than Kerry did four years ago.
About 1,360 U.S. counties have populations that are more than 90 percent white. Obama won only 249 of those counties, but he received more of the vote than Kerry in nearly eight out of 10 of them, according to the AP analysis.
Obama won in overwhelmingly white counties throughout New England and in parts of the Midwest. He won some of the whitest counties in Iowa, North Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Wisconsin and his home state of Illinois. He didn’t win many of the whitest counties in Kansas or Idaho, but he fared better than Kerry in most of them.
The South and Appalachia were the exceptions.
In Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana, Obama fared worse than Kerry in all 49 counties where whites make up 90 percent or more of the population.
There were similar, but less severe, patterns in the Appalachian states of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Obama did much better in faster-growing Southern states along the East Coast, such as North Carolina _ where he bested Kerry in two-thirds of the predominantly white counties, and in Virginia, where he out polled Kerry in 22 of the state’s 31 predominantly white counties.
Democrats hope the high-growth areas in the South will help them increase their toehold in a region that has largely been shut off to Democrats in the past two presidential elections.
“The people who have moved there are better educated and they make more money. It’s just a different demographic mix,” said Don Fowler, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee from South Carolina. “That’s the South of 2008.”
It’s been widely reported that Gov. Palin fought hard to give her own concession speech after the election had been decided on Tuesday night. However, McCain adviser Steve Schmidt wisely made sure Palin was not allowed to speak to the nation. But now we’ve found out Caribou Barbie had gone as far as to write up what she planned to say on that historic evening. Here is her much-anticipated concession speech…
A dedication to all those who helped make Obama’s election possible.
Last night, American voters proved themselves to be very different than what most of the world had assumed. Since 2000, the world was certain that the majority of Americans were of such low intelligence that we needed constant care. Last night, we sent out a message loud and clear: “Despite our decisions as an electorate for the past eight years, we, as a people, are actually not severely retarded. Sorry for the misunderstanding and, um, those wars.”
Based on McCain’s campaign, no one bought into this assumption of our mental deficiency more than the GOP. Strategists for the McCain campaign clearly decided that any voting population that could elect George Bush twice obviously has some severe developmental disabilities and should be catered to as such. Yesterday, we proved them wrong.
Here are just a few intelligence tests that we passed with flying colors yesterday:
In electing Barack Obama, we proved that…
We can tell women apart – The GOP saw that many Democrats were big supporters of Hillary Clinton, who is a female. So someone decided, “They want a woman. Let’s give them one of those.” Someone else most likely asked, “Which woman should we get?” to which Steve Schmidt replied, “Who cares? They’ll never know the difference.”
We knew the difference.
We are aware that racism isn’t the answer to everything – If the McCain campaign had one, overriding message, it could be summarized as, “The only way to solve all the problems facing this country is to vote against a black person.” While the message appealed to many Americans, far more of us responded with, “Normally, I’d agree with you. But this time, racism just might not be the way to go.” We took the gamble and won.
We can tell catchy three-word chants apart – A lot of stuff got chanted this election, because chants are fun and everyone should join in on one if they get the chance. But yesterday we proved that while all men are created equal, that’s not the case with catchy three-word chants. Thus did 63 million Americans go into voting booths yesterday and declare that “Yes We Can” is a way better chant than “Drill Baby Drill.”
We know that old people don’t wanna change a goddamn thing – Americans have been around old people long enough to know that they don’t like to change stuff. So when an old person started telling us about all the stuff he plans to change, we knew he was lying, and we responded the way we did when our grandfather went into that home. We ignored him.
We know not to do everything our plumber tells us to do – Actually, that’s an overstatement. 63 million Americans know not to do everything our plumber tells us to do. For 55.8 million of us, however, when a plumber says jump we say how high. Still a good, not-that-retarded margin.
We know that when something might cause a global apocalypse, we should find another way – This, ultimately, was the true demonstration of our nation’s level of intelligence. Each of us went into the booth thinking, “I can either vote for Obama, or the entire world will be reduced to ash and cinders before next Easter.” Again, 55.8 million of us opted for the annihilation of Earth. But the other 63 million? That’s right. Not retarded.
You’re welcome, planet. Now take us to McDonalds.
Obama meets with economic advisers [Photo-op]
President-elect holds a briefing laying out his transition plan and plans to resolve the financial crisis.
Obama to act swiftly on economy
A British reporter covering the 2008 Presidential election for the Birmingham Mail was caught on tape in a drunk rant, admitting plagiarism and acknowledging that he was writing his story while “pissed” drunk.
Adam Smith, also known as Steve Zacharanda, came to Miami last week to cover the election because, as he put it, “I aint going to go to Ohio, am I? I go to Miami, because that’s where the party is.”
Smith said, “I wanted to be here because I’m here for history. The trouble is, the readers of the Birmingham Mail are going to get my version of history. And I’m just a little bit pissed.”
He then said, “Thank God for the BBC, because I’m cutting and pasting, baby!”
Smith ended his rant with a “fuck you” resignation from the Birmingham Mail, saying, “My name is Adam Smith, also known as Steve Zacharanda, who has just resigned from the Birmingham Mail, the Birmingham Post and the Birmingham Sunday Mercury, to set up my own magazine…Fuckk you, I’m doing what I want.”
The Times reports that Smith’s employment status is now very much up in the air:
Steve Dyson, editor of the Birmingham Mail, said: “This is an internal matter, so we cannot discuss it.”
Asked about the company’s attitude towards plagarism, he added: “Whilst we cannot discuss internal matters, plagarism will not be tolerated in any form by BTM Media Limited – although we do not believe that any has been taking place.”
In a further comment left the next morning by Mr Smith on the YouTube page, he appeared to have sobered up significantly.
“Right, the thing is, right I’ve just woke up. And seen this video, which I don’t really remember. I’ve been told to phone the Birmingham Mail because I am in trouble.
“I was off duty, I am on official holiday working at the South Beach Miami Barack Obama campaign where I had just done a 18-hour shift trying to make the world a better place. Please check every BBC News outlet and see if I have cut and pasted anything. I have not, it was a joke and should be taken in the spirit it was said.”
Presser will kick off in Chicago at 2:30 pm ET. Read more details here.
Aides say he plans to stay home through the weekend with a blackout on news announcements so he and his staff can get some rest.
Nadar is saying Obama’s foreign policy will be like that of George Bush – but how could Obama go about restoring America’s image in the world – and indeed taking allies concerns into account – if he were to follow Bush’s lead. We could assume that there may be something an Obama administration may not be able to change or undo in the near future – but his idea is to change direction. And to put America on a technological rather than a military path. Bush didn’t consider technology and scientific research that important – there was article on CNet – when Bush came to Silicon Valley – to talk about alternative energy – the reporter said that the most exiting thing Bush say was that while he was in the area – he looked forward to going mountain biking (or similar) over the weekend, but what many in this room of people wanted to hear is how Bush would enlist them in developing these new forms of energy and the money for it and a plan.
Contrast this to Barack Obama – who says – look what they are doing in China – they just sent a man into space – and we need to be ready to compete. It’s an aggressive plan for technology, for the education that forms the backbone of this new development.
And besides who’s going to pay for it – the Bush agenda has practically bankrupted the nation.
Nadar should stand down – for the moment.
(CHICAGO) — President-elect Obama accepted congratulations from nine presidents and prime ministers Thursday, returning calls from world leaders who reached out after his presidential victory.
Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said the president-elect spoke to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Sarkozy’s office says they spoke for 30 minutes and characterized the discussion as “extremely warm” as the president congratulated Obama on a “brilliant” election victory. The statement said they discussed international issues, particularly the financial crisis, and agreed to meet in the “quite near future.”
Harper’s office said in a statement that they spoke about an international financial summit in Washington on Nov. 15 and its importance for addressing the global financial crisis. Obama had no plans to attend the meeting.
The prime minister’s office says the two leaders emphasized that there could be no closer friends and allies than the United States and Canada and vowed to maintain and further build upon the relationship. Harper’s office called it a warm exchange and said they agreed to talk again soon.
Calderon’s office said Obama pledged continued U.S. support for Mexico’s fight against organized crime and drug trafficking. A statement from the Mexican president’s office says Obama told Calderon he was “conscious of the difficulty of the battle” and offered “decisive” U.S. support.
Congress approved $400 million in anti-drug aid for Mexico last June, but has yet to release the money.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday congratulated Obama on his election win in a letter, — the first time an Iranian leader has offered such wishes to a U.S. president-elect since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Iranian leader also said he hopes Obama will “use the opportunity to serve the (American) people and leave a good name for history” during his term in office.
In his conversation with Lee, Obama said the U.S.-South Korea alliance is a “cornerstone” of Asia’s peace and stability, and promised improved relations between the countries, Seoul’s presidential office said.
The United States helped defend South Korea during the Korean war and is its No. 1 ally. About 28,500 American troops are still stationed there to deter threats from communist North Korea.
Brown’s Downing Street office says he and Obama spoke about several issues, including reform of the global financial system. Britain’s Press Association newswire said the two had a “very friendly and positive” 10-minute conversation, covering topics including the world economy, the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Middle East peace process.
Australia’s prime minister Kevin Rudd told reporters in Sydney that he spoke by telephone with Obama Friday to congratulate him on his historic win and discuss the various challenges the lie ahead for the world, chief among them the global financial crisis. The two also talked about the issues of national security and climate change during the 10- to 15-minute conversation, Rudd said.
“It was a good conversation, it was a friendly conversation,” Rudd said. “The challenges we face are great….But I believe we have a strong partner in the U.S.”
Following up on his historical campaign, Barack Obama has debuted a new website, Change.gov. He also set out a five point plan to change America and an interactive way for Americans to share their ideas on the website.
Here’s Obama’s Agenda