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Those who’ve feared that President Obama will be a soft touch for tyrants and terrorists can take comfort in his Inaugural Address, in which he declared:
We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus–and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West–know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
Here is George W. Bush, four years ago today:
From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.
To be sure, there are differences of emphasis. But Obama’s “new era of peace” is not all that different from Bush’s “ultimate goal of ending tyranny in this world.” Both presidents proclaimed the universality of America’s ideals: Just as Bush said that “every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value,” so Obama asserts that “we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve”–as they have in America, a nation that once enslaved blacks and has now inaugurated a black president.
There were differences of substance, too. Obama included the requisite sops to hair-shirt liberalism: “roll back the specter of a warming planet . . . nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.” He also said, in what was surely meant as a rebuke to his predecessor, “We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” But our guess is that George W. Bush, too, rejects that choice as false, and that Obama will find many Bush national-security policies are consistent with our ideals after all.
This is not to suggest that there will be no changes in foreign policy under President Obama. The rap against Bush has been that he is too eager to use military force, and Obama opposed the use of force to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. But in his Inaugural Address today, the president said, “We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan.” Without the Bush-led intervention in these nations, this is a promise President Obama would be in no position to make.
President Bush’s opponents on the Angry Left often succumbed to a blind hatred for the man and ended up mocking America’s ideals because they loathed the man who was speaking up for them. The Angry Right is susceptible to the same error now. An inauguration is a good opportunity to remember that those ideals belong to all of us, and that they endure regardless of party and personnel.
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.
WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands thronged to the Capitol this morning preparing to witness the midday inauguration of Barack Obama of Illinois as the 44th president of the United States and the first African American to hold the nation’s highest elected office.
Even before the sun rose, people streamed from all directions to the West Front of the Capitol, making their way on foot and by mass transit since traffic was barred from a wide area around the grounds and the National Mall for security and to prevent gridlock due to the multitude expected to attend.
Given the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s election, black Americans appeared to be much more prevalent in the gathering crowd than at inaugurals of the recent past.
Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, were scheduled to meet the outgoing president, George W. Bush, and his wife, Laura, at the White House for a coffee at 10 a.m. before driving to the Capitol for a carefully choreographed ceremony that will climax with a peaceful transfer of executive authority to Mr. Obama shortly before noon. His inaugural address will follow.
But first, the Obamas went to church, followed by coffee with President Bush and his wife, Laura.
They left Blair House at 8:47 a.m. for the short drive in their new presidential Cadillac limousine to St. John’s Episcopal Church, just a few blocks away, for a prayer service. Mr. Obama wore a dark suit and red tie. Michelle Obama wore a sparkling golden dress and matching coat.
As the Obamas sat in the center of a front row pew, next to Vice President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, the keynote speaker, Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, read a Biblical passage from Daniel 3:19. He then offered some lessons clearly aimed both to brace and hearten the president-elect: “In time of crisis, good men must stand up”; “You cannot change what you will not confront,” and “You cannot enjoy the light without enduring the heat.”
Shortly before 10 a.m., the Obamas arrived at the White House, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Biden. The Obamas were met at the door by the Bushes. The two men shook hands and with their wives posed for a picture before going inside for a traditional coffee and a final few moments for the Bushes in the home they have occupied the past eight years.
Aides said Mr. Obama was expected to emphasize personal responsibility in his speech.
“He is going to be counting on the American people to come together,” Colin Powell, the former military leader and secretary of state, said in an appearance on MSNBC on Tuesday morning. “We all have to do something to help the country move forward under the leadership of this new president.”
As a black American who grew up in a segregated nation, Mr. Powell said the inauguration was looming as a powerful and emotional moment for African Americans. “You almost start tearing up,” he said.
The crowd that stretched down the mall was festive and enthusiastic. They were bundled against the cold, with the temperature just above 20 degrees at 9 a.m., and the forecast calling for it to remain in the low 30s.
Mr. Obama’s assumption of the presidency caps a remarkable rise for a man first elected to national office in 2004, winning a Senate seat in a year when he also delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
To win the presidency, he defeated Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who will become his secretary of state, in a pitched presidential primary battle and then beat Senator John McCain of Arizona in a general election conducted against the backdrop of a national economic collapse.
Though Mr. Obama did not emphasize his African American heritage as a candidate, the symbolism was evident and was reinforced by the fact that the swearing in was taking place the day following the national holiday to mark the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King. He will take office less than a month before the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, another Illinoisan who took the office at a time of national turmoil and a man whom Mr. Obama clearly looks to as an inspiration for his own presidency.
“Today is about validation of the dream Dr. King enunciated 45 years ago on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial,” Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House and the highest ranking black lawmaker in Congress, said on Tuesday morning.
Responding to warnings that the huge crowd could cause long waits and security screen checkpoints, people packed Washington’s subway trains by 5:30 a.m., filling all the parking lots at the outer stations; the subways had carried more than 400,000 riders by 8 a.m. An accident halted service on one of the main lines around 10 a.m.
Shortly after 7 a.m., as the sun rose above the Capitol dome, there was a glittering burst of flash-bulbs as the teeming crowd collectively snapped thousands of photos of the dramatic moment. Around the Capitol, ticket gates opened for the long lines that were already waiting. Before long the Mall was packed with people for as far as the eye could see; by 9 a.m the eastern half of the Mall, closer to the Capitol, was completely full. Large crowds continued to stream in on foot from many blocks away, heading to the area near the Washington Monument. On the East Front, where the swearing in of the president used to occur, Marine One was parked in the plaza, ready to be re-designated for the flight taking President Bush and Mrs. Bush to the airport.
Inside the Capitol, staffers were scurrying about putting the final touches on the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall. The corridor leading to the House chamber had been transformed into staging grounds for the caterers, with huge serving tins of beets and green vegetables. Outside the House chamber, were dozens of cases of Korbel Champagne.
The tables were set with large centerpieces of red roses. And a lectern, fashioned from a brass statue of a bald eagle, was positioned behind the dais. Decorators were making final adjustments to the lighting of “View of Yosemite Valley” an 1885 painting by Thomas Hill that was positioned directly behind the President Obama’s seat at the center of the dais.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Promising to protect the United States while adhering to its core human values, President-elect Barack Obama formally unveiled his intelligence team Friday, praising their integrity, management skills and willingness to tell him the truth. “We must adhere to our values as diligently as we protect our safety with no exceptions,” Obama said.
Obama picked retired Adm. Dennis Blair as the national intelligence director and Leon Panetta to head the CIA.
He called them “public servants with unquestioned integrity, broad experience, and strong managers with the core pragmatism that we need in dangerous times.”
Obama said he has given the men the clear charge to restore the United States’ record on human rights.
“I was clear throughout this campaign and was clear throughout this transition that under my administration the United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions. We will uphold our highest ideals,” he said.
Obama said that the country learned “tough lessons” under the Bush administration, and he will demand intelligence assessments “grounded solely in the facts, and not seek information to suit any ideological agenda.”
Blair, a former head of the U.S. Pacific Command, pledged to uphold the standards that Obama articulated “and that the American people have a right to expect.”
Blair won high marks for countering terrorism in southeast Asia after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He worked closely with foreign partners in crafting offensives that crippled the Jemaah Islamiyah terror faction in Indonesia and the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines.
Obama Announces CIA and national intelligence directors (Full Press Conference)
Panetta, a former congressman, White House chief of staff and budget director with no direct intelligence experience, will have the president’s “complete trust and substantial clout,” Obama said.
“He has handled intelligence daily at the very highest levels, and time and again he has demonstrated sound judgment, grace under fire, and complete integrity,” he said.
Panetta said he would work to assuage a Congress bruised from eight years of abrasive relations with the Bush administration and promised “to form the kind of partnership we need if we’re to win the war on terror.”
Obama praised the intelligence professionals working at 16 U.S. agencies even as he criticized the current administration for directing them in carrying out harsh interrogation and secret rendition policies.
“They have served in the shadows, saved American lives, advanced our interests, and earned the respect of a grateful nation,” Obama said.
Obama is also tapping John Brennan to head homeland security and counterterrorism on the National Security Council. Michael Leiter will remain on as the director of the national Counterterrorism Center. And outgoing National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell will serve on Obama’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Obama has also asked the CIA’s current deputy, Steve Kappes, to remain at the agency.
Current CIA director Michael Hayden said in a message to employees Friday that he has been asked to remain at the agency until Panetta is confirmed by the Senate.
He said he and Kappes met with and are “deeply impressed with his candor and clear commitment to the welfare of the men and women of CIA.”
McConnell said in a statement Friday he was pleased with the selection of Blair.
Blair and Panetta are both garnering substantial support on Capitol Hill, although concerns exist about each. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told The Associated Press on Thursday that he plans to question Blair about the role he played 10 years ago in U.S. efforts to rein in the Indonesian military as it brutally cracked down on civilians in East Timor. Staff aides to other members said they would be listening closely to the answers.
Paramilitary groups sponsored by the Indonesian military with U.S. financial and political patronage slaughtered more than 200,000 East Timorese over two decades. In 1999, as civilians were being massacred, Congress and the Clinton administration cut off all military ties.
Blair, then U.S. Pacific Command chief, pushed for renewing relations with the Indonesian army, reasoning that drawing it closer would give the U.S. more leverage. Obama spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said Blair was acting in accordance with U.S. policy.
“Admiral Blair condemned the conduct of Indonesian troops in East Timor, and he conveyed that if they behaved responsibly, the U.S. was prepared to resume normal relations. If they did not, they risked further negative consequences,” she said.
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, a human rights group, called Blair a poor choice for intelligence director this week.
Ed McWilliams, who was political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta at the time and is now with the human rights group, told the AP “the matter raises the larger question of our cooperation with militaries and intelligence agencies which abuse human rights, are unaccountable before their own justice systems and not subordinate to civilian control.”
But McWilliams credited Blair for trying to lead a human rights delegation to Indonesia’s province of West Papua where terrible abuses were occurring. He and his delegation were blocked by security forces.
Panetta faced resistance from the Hill earlier this week because of his lack of intelligence experience, but his prospects for an easy confirmation improved this week as key senators, including incoming Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, pledged their support after discussions with Obama, Panetta and Vice President-elect Joe Biden.
You’ve seen him assaulted with a shoe, but care to see President Bush “hung?” That’s a scenario Mr. Bush decided was worthy of a joke this morning in Washington.
“I suspected there would be a good-size crowd once the word got out about my hanging,” the president said at the unveiling of his portrait at the National Portrait Gallery. The portrait by Robert Anderson – a classmate of Mr. Bush at Yale – will be hung in the exhibition “America’s Presidents,” and is available for viewing starting tomorrow.
CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller writes: “Since the gallery now has portraits dating back to George Washington, he noted the symmetry – from George W. to George W.”
Mr. Bush also noted that the artist said he had a lot of trouble with the president’s mouth. “And I told him that makes two of us,” Mr. Bush said.
One more crack: President Bush said the artist had to use alot more gray paint that in a previous portrait of a slightly younger Mr. Bush for the Yale Club.
First Lady Laura Bush’s portrait, by Aleksander Titovets, a Russian painter who now lives in El Paso, Texas. The portrait of Mrs. Bush won’t hang near her husband’s – it will be on display on the first floor in the north hall of the gallery.
Despite being allotted less desirable portrait real-estate, Mrs. Bush was all smiles and joviality, too. According to the official transcript of the unveiling, she said:
- Sasha [Titovets, the Russian painter] said that he postponed telling his mother when his work was chosen for this portrait. He thought the news might be “too big” for her. (Laughter.) And history shows us that these assignments can sometime turn out poorly. Years ago, Peter Hurd was commissioned to paint Lyndon B. Johnson’s portrait for the official White House collection. President Johnson took one look at the final portrait and declared it the “ugliest thing he’d ever seen.” (Laughter.) Across Washington, the joke spread at Hurd’s expense that artists should be seen, but not Hurd, at the White House. Peter Hurd’s portrait of President Johnson now hangs here in the National Portrait Gallery.
The first family wasn’t (quite) all jokes. As Mr. Bush reflected on being custodian of the presidency these last eight years, Knoller reports, tears welled in his eyes.
Raw Video: Iraqi Journalist Throws Shoe at Bush
By David Horowitz
The continuing efforts of a fringe group of conservatives to deny Obama his victory and to lay the basis for the claim that he is not a legitimate president is embarrassing and destructive. The fact that these efforts are being led by Alan Keyes, a demagogue who lost a Senate election to the then-unknown Obama by 42 points, should be a warning in itself.
This tempest over whether Obama, the child of an American citizen, was born on American soil is tantamount to the Democrats’ seditious claim that Bush “stole” the election in Florida and hence was not the legitimate president. This delusion helped to create the Democrats’ Bush derangement syndrome and encouraged Democratic leaders to lie about the origins of the Iraq war, and regard it as illegitimate as Bush himself. It became “Bush’s War” rather than an American War — with destructive consequences for our troops and our cause.
The birth-certificate zealots are essentially arguing that 64 million voters should be disenfranchised because of a contested technicality as to whether Obama was born on U.S. soil. (McCain narrowly escaped the problem by being born in the Panama Canal zone, which is no longer American.)
What difference does it make to the future of this country whether Obama was born on U.S. soil? Advocates of this destructive campaign will argue that the constitutional principle regarding the qualifications for president trumps all others. But how viable will our Constitution be if five Supreme Court justices should decide to void 64 million ballots?
Conservatives are supposed to respect the organic nature of human societies. Ours has been riven by profound disagreements that have been deepening over many years. We are divided not only about political facts and social values, but also about what the Constitution itself means. The crusaders on this issue choose to ignore these problems and are proposing to deny the will of 64 million voters by appealing to five Supreme Court Justices (since no one is delusional enough to think that the four liberal justices are going to take the presidency away from Obama). What kind of conservatism is this?
It is not conservatism; it is sore loserism and quite radical in its intent. Respect for election results is one of the most durable bulwarks of our unity as a nation. Conservatives need to accept the fact that we lost the election, and get over it; and get on with the important business of reviving our country’s economy and defending its citizens, and — by the way — its Constitution.
As President Bush prepares to move into his new Dallas home at the end of his term, neighborhood residents worry about having him close by.
One woman shared her fears as she walked past Bush’s house carrying her King Charles cocker spaniel on Friday.
“I am afraid with all the negative press the president has been getting, the whole neighborhood is going to be a target,” said the woman, who refused to give her name.
Traffic has already begun to clog the narrow streets around the home, causing neighbors to call the police — who expect the hullabaloo to continue.
“When the Bushes are here full time, I imagine we’ll be here full time,” said Officer Michael Bratcher of the Dallas Police Department, who was directing traffic.
But the exclusive Dallas community the Bush family will soon join has a troubled history of its own.
Until 2000, the neighborhood association’s covenant said only white people were allowed to live there, though an exception was made for servants.
Enacted in 1956, part of the original document reads: “Said property shall be used and occupied by white persons except those shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of different race or nationality in the employ of a tenant.”
The entire covenant can be seen here.
When asked about his new home in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, Bush “played coy.”
“Mr. President — you excited about your house in Dallas?” Todd Gillman asked.
“Todd, why do you care?” Bush responded. “You live in Washington, D.C.”
The neighborhood is home to many famous people, including former presidential candidate Ross Perot and Mark Cuban, the billionaire businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner.
President Bush’s new house abuts the 14-acre lair of real-estate investor Gene Phillips, who just had a trout-filled lake installed on his property.
Obama MTP Interview: Obama Big Three automakers ‘strategic mistakes’
(CNN) — President-elect Barack Obama formally announced Sunday that retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki is his pick to be secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki Sunday promised to work for veterans “each and every day.”
“There is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next secretary of Veterans Affairs — General Eric Shinseki,” Obama said at a press conference. “No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need.”
Obama said the nation must focus on helping troops who have served their country especially during bad economic times.
“We don’t just need to better serve veterans of today’s wars. We also need to build a 21st century VA that will better serve all who have answered our nation’s call,” Obama said. “That means cutting red tape and easing transition into civilian life. And it means eliminating shortfalls, fully funding VA health care, and providing the benefits our veterans have earned.
Shinseki, who spoke after Obama, made a vow to his fellow veterans. If confirmed, he said, he will “work each and every day” to ensure the nation is serving them “as well as you have served us.”
The official announcement took place in Chicago on Sunday, the anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
“When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served — higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate — it breaks my heart,” Obama said earlier in the day on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“And I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who’s going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home.”
“He has agreed that he is willing to be part of this administration because both he and I share a reverence for those who serve,” Obama said in the interview recorded Saturday and broadcast Sunday.
Host Tom Brokaw said Shinseki had lost his job in the Bush administration “because he said that we would need more troops in Iraq than the secretary of defense, Don Rumsfeld, thought that we would need at that time.”
“He was right,” Obama replied.
Veterans groups appeared to support the selection.
“I am excited. I don’t know him personally but this is a huge move,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
For years, Shinseki, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, has been cited as an example by Pentagon critics who say the former Army chief’s sage advice was ignored in 2003, resulting in too few U.S. troops being sent to Iraq after the invasion.
Shinseki testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003 that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers would be required” to pacify the country. The comment infuriated some Bush administration officials, and he retired just a few months later.
Shinseki has never spoken publicly about his testimony, which has often been cited by critics as evidence that Rumsfeld ignored the advice of one of his key generals.
But as Army chief of staff, Shinseki was not in the chain of command, and played no direct role in drawing up the war plans.
Pentagon sources say that, in fact, Shinseki never advocated higher troop levels for Iraq, in part because it was not his job to do so. And sources say that just before the invasion, when asked by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers if he agreed with the war plans, Shinseki voiced no objections.
Still, Rieckhoff said, “Shinseki is a guy who had a career putting patriotism above politics. He is a wounded veteran so he understands the plight of veterans.”
He said Shinseki would have to make key connections with the veterans community, adding, “This is a big name and it shows that he (Obama) is not going to treat the Veterans Affairs secretary as a low priority.”
John Rowan, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, called the reported pick an “interesting choice.”
“I am satisfied with it,” Rowan told CNN on Saturday, adding that the choice seems to be in the Obama transition team’s pattern of “bringing in strong personalities into all the positions who aren’t going to ‘yes’ him to death.”
“When Shinseki had his disagreements with the administration, he wasn’t afraid to speak up,” Rowan said.
Veterans for Common Sense also weighed in, issuing a statement “strongly” supporting Shinseki.
“In February 2003, General Shinseki honestly and correctly assessed our nation’s military needs before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003,” the statement said. “This same level of candor and honesty will serve President-elect Obama well so he can quickly and accurately identify VA’s many challenges and then implement responsible solutions that take into consideration our veterans’ needs and concerns.”
Barack Obama made news on “Meet the Press” this morning, but the NBC program made some news as well in the final moments.
Tom Brokaw, the interim moderator, confirmed what had already leaked out in recent days: the new host of the 60-year-old program will be David Gregory.
The network’s senior White House correspondent, now host of MSNBC’s “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” had been considered the front-runner for the post, which became vacant when longtime moderator Tim Russert died in June. But NBC executives were still negotiating the final terms of the deal this past week.
Gregory will take the helm of the top-rated Sunday talk show, but his rivals at ABC’s “This Week,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” CNN’s “Late Edition” and “Fox News Sunday” all see an opportunity to move up now that Brokaw, the veteran NBC anchor, is relinquishing the reins.
Other leading contenders had been Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director, and Gwen Ifill, host of PBS’s “Washington Week.” The final decision was made by Jeff Zucker, chief executive of NBC Universal, and NBC News President Steve Capus.
Gregory, 38, frequently clashed with President Bush’s spokesmen during his days as a White House reporter. But he also has a witty side, which he often displayed while filling in as a co-host on the “Today” show. MSNBC tapped the 6-foot-5 correspondent as moderator during the presidential debates and on Election Night.
Russert, a former Democratic operative, dominated the Sunday morning competition after taking over the program in 1991 and making his mark with aggressive interviews. Brokaw, the former “Nightly News” anchor, agreed to fill in after Russert’s death but made clear he wanted to leave after the election.
What remains to be seen is whether Gregory sticks with the Russert format or tries to change the show to suit his personal style.
Since joining NBC, Gregory has covered the O.J. Simpson trials, the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the Clinton impeachment and the death of Pope John Paul II.
Even Without That Task, Huge Agency Poses Challenges
Under the best of circumstances, overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services is an enormous undertaking. With 65,000 employees and a budget of $707.7 billion, it accounts for nearly one-quarter of all federal spending, second only to the Defense Department.
But in the Obama administration the job is taking on a second, perhaps more daunting, responsibility: shepherding health-care reform legislation through Congress.
Unlike his predecessors, Thomas A. Daschle, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for HHS secretary, will be given an expanded role, leading administration efforts to overhaul the U.S. health system.
“This really creates a new type of secretary,” said Charles N. “Chip” Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals. In the past, “HHS was more or less a service organization to the White House,” while White House advisers drove policy initiatives.
In broad terms, Obama campaigned on the idea of reducing medical costs, improving quality and eventually achieving universal insurance coverage. He promised to cover every child and to reduce the average family’s medical bill by $2,500 a year. He advocated a greater emphasis on prevention and expanding participation in the government-subsidized Medicare and Medicaid programs.
“There are two aspects to the challenge of pushing for health reform,” said Dan Mendelson, a budget and health adviser in the Clinton administration. “One is to get the right concepts together with what Congress wants to do, and the other is managing the disparate concepts and generous egos.”
A serious restructuring of the health system will require extensive data and analytic capabilities to dissect the proposed changes and the impact they might have, said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a private, nonpartisan research foundation. “Right now, there’s nothing other than the Office of the Actuary to do back-of-the-envelope estimates,” she said.
With the expectation that Daschle, a former Senate majority leader, will focus heavily on crafting and pushing legislation, there will be an even greater need for a strong No. 2. HHS is a collection of 11 agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“He’ll need to have deputies who are well-versed in the agency as a whole and who can manage the ongoing operation of HHS while he leads the health reform discussions,” said Len Nichols, director of health policy at the New America Foundation. One of those will likely be Jeanne Lambrew, a veteran of the Clinton administration and a co-author of Daschle’s book “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.”
Lambrew, in a chapter of a book published by the liberal Center for American Progress outlining a proposed agenda for the incoming president, agreed that fixing the health system is a top priority. However, she noted, “these urgent problems overshadow persistent, neglected and potentially deadly infrastructure gaps in the system.”
According to her assessment, the nation’s ability to respond to natural or man-made crises is weak, as evidenced by the poor response to Hurricane Katrina. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes have been given short shrift, and little has been done to prepare for the long-term health needs of an aging population.
The Commonwealth Fund, after interviewing two dozen health leaders, issued its own set of recommendations. It urged the next administration to make a “real focus on what it takes to improve health outcomes,” as opposed to secondary issues related to insurance markets, Davis said. That means tackling childhood obesity, racial disparities and preventable illnesses.
Thousands of people watched President Bush’s final Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the White House. The holiday tradition dates back to the 1920s. AP
President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush have purchased a home in an affluent home north of Dallas. The couple will move their after the president’s second term ends in January. AP
After President-elect Barack Obama announced the selection of Hispanic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson into his cabinet, many Latinos are calling for more diversity.
Picking the people was the easy part.
President-elect Obama and his new national security team will now turn to a world full of vexing, linked problems on every continent, and tricky, early choices. From the speed of withdrawal from Iraq to the speed of investment in Afghanistan, from Kashmir to Moscow, Obama will make some of his most important choices early. Here are some of the toughest.
The war in Iraq, and the promise of a radically different approach to it, helped make Obama president. But he will arrive in the White House with his predecessor having already negotiated a Status of Forces Agreement providing for a timeline for withdrawal from the country, the core of Obama’s campaign promise.
The agreement “points us in the right direction,” Obama told reporters in Chicago Monday.
The most rapid pace contemplated is Obama’s campaign plan to have all American combat troops out of Iraq 16 months after he was sworn-in — that is, by May of 2010. The U.S. agreement with the Iraqi government ensures American troops will be out by the end of 2011.
“The question is how much, if at all, do you deviate from the agreement that’s been negotiated and passed in Iraq,” said Anne Marie Slaughter, the dean of Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. “Does that agreement supersede what President Obama said when he was candidate Obama?”
Slaughter pointed to Obama’s decision to retain the defense secretary who played a key role in negotiating the agreement as a sign that he’s likely to conform his own policy to its timeline.
But he’ll face pressure from both sides. Iraq remains a violent and unpredictable place, with suicide bombers killing at least 31 Iraqis in two attacks Monday.
And the Status of Forces Agreement likely means that as Obama takes office, American commanders will be adjusting to a new paradigm in which they shift more of the burden to Iraqi units, allowing them to take the lead and, at times, to fail in battles with insurgents. He’s likely to face intense internal debates over how involved the United State should be on a day-to-day basis, and pressure from the Iraqi government to help in some places, and step back in others.
But Obama said repeatedly during the campaign that his 16-month timeline was realistic, and many of his supporters seen no reason to dally. What’s more, the troops and materiel are needed elsewhere.
In Chicago Monday, Obama told reporters that the Status of Forces Agreement indicates that the United States is “now on a glide path to reduce our forces in Iraq.”
“The challenge for him is going to be determining the slope of that glide path,” said Shawn Brimley, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security.”
General James Jones, the president-elect’s National Security Advisor, drew attention recently for stating emphatically that international forces were “not winning in Afghanistan.”
Indeed, there’s a wide consensus that the situation in the country that launched the 9/11 terror attacks is a mess: The Taliban is resurgent on the ground, corruption is rampant, and opium is the national industry. Meanwhile, the multinational force patrolling the country opposing them is adrift.
“There been no unifying strategy,” said Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation. “NATO operates its own way, every country operates its own way, the State Department and the Defense Department don’t agree.”
Part of the answer seems to be more Western troops. Obama’s advisors hope a new, pro-American mood will encourage European and other allies to send reinforcements to Afghanistan. And Obama has backed sending two or three more American brigades to the country, though the rate of that increase will be dictated by how fast Americans can leave Iraq.
Obama will also be briefed on a new Afghanistan strategy prepared by the military, the contours of which Gates outlined in a speech in Canada last week.
“All of us agree that one of our most important, and maybe the most important, objective for us in 2009 in Afghanistan is a successful election,” Gates said.
That likely means an urgent new focus on Afghanistan, to make it – at least – secure enough to hold an election at the end of next year.
But skeptics warn that Afghanistan has bled dry other occupiers, and that the U.S. should be realistic about its goals.
“Success is not going to be the creation of a secular, prosperous, and democratic Afghanistan,” said Coll, who said a new U.S. policy will likely include a massive investment in training the country’s army and police.
“That’s the ticket home – that’s the ticket to his reelection in 2012 and getting American troops out of direct action by then,” Coll said.
The potentially catastrophic aftermath of the terrorist siege in Mumbai last week could instantly jump to the top of Obama’s list of crises to deal with – depending on how India and Pakistan respond in the 50 days before he takes the oath of office.
It falls to the Bush administration – which sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region Monday – to try to keep the two South Asian rivals from moving back to the brink of war. U.S. officials so far seem to be succeeding in persuading Pakistan to fully cooperate in tracking down those responsible for the attacks – and in restraining India from responding with provocative military gestures.
But both countries will be looking for Obama to signal how he will manage what will still be, at best, a perilously tense situation. And Obama’s options, as always in South Asia, are fraught with danger. Will he push a new and fragile Pakistani government – as he suggested in the campaign – to crack down further on terrorist groups? Will he back off the Bush administration’s increasingly aggressive use of military strikes against al-Qaeda and Taliban elements on Pakistani soil?
Even more important, given preliminary indications that the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba may be implicated in the Mumbai attacks, could Washington get more involved in pushing for a negotiated settlement to the long-held grievances of India and Pakistan over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir?
“In order to start to get Pakistanis to focus on the insurgent groups, you need to have them start to feel less paranoid about India, and the way to do that is to start dealing with the Kashmir issue,” said Caroline Wadhams, a national security analyst at the Center for American Progress.
“His team has talked about the need to start working on the Kashmir issue. There’s a big debate over whether the U.S. can even play a positive role in that. They will have to decide how hard they have to push that issue.”
Look for Vice President-elect Biden to play a key role on this one – he has significant and important contacts in both countries. And if Obama needs any reminding about the potential peril posed by a Kashmir-fueled conflict between the two nuclear-armed rivals, his nominee to be secretary of State should be able to attest. Hillary Clinton’s husband once called Kashmir, “the most dangerous place on earth.”
An easier decision for Obama is one that he widely talked about during the campaign and confirmed during his recent interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” – his intention to close the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
“I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that,” Obama said.
There is a wide bipartisan consensus that the Gitmo should be closed. And politics would be pushing Obama to make the move even if the merits of the decision were not completely compelling. Many of his initial foreign policy and national security appointments – Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and the retention of Bob Gates at the Pentagon chief among them – have caused grumbling within Obama’s base of support on the Democratic left.
But closing Gitmo could very well open a Pandora’s Box that could overwhelm both the political and diplomatic benefits that the action would doubtless bring for the new administration.
As in – where do the roughly 250 prisoners being held at Guantanamo go?
Some could be repatriated – but that likely will mean intensive diplomacy by the young administration at a time when it is tending to a number of other foreign policy brushfires. And if some countries do accept detainees – China is one example – what kind of treatment awaits them when they return?
Furthermore, if some are kept in the U.S., as they most certainly will be, can they successfully be prosecuted, given the extreme and extraordinary circumstances surrounding their incarceration at Guantanamo?
The possibility that a future terrorist act could result from a current Guantanamo detainee being freed is truly the stuff of nightmares for the new Obama national security team.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev put his country firmly on Obama’s agenda by attacking the president-elect the day after his election.
He and Vladimir Putin have also made a specific demand: That Obama scrap plans to set up a missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Obama has been a skeptic of missile defense, raising doubts primarily about whether the technology is ready. He’s also signaled that he would like to work more closely with Russia on a range of other issues, beginning with nuclear proliferation. However, he and his advisors are skeptical of Russia’s autocratic leaders.
Hawks want Obama to signal that he’s taking a tough line, and that he won’t be intimidated by Russia. Moscow would like him to put missile defense on a back burner before they arrive at the negotiating table.
Some arms control advocates see a middle ground: Obama can continue to question the system’s technical capacity, making space to negotiate.
“A decision on new deployments of strategic missile interceptors can be deferred until the system is proven effective through realistic tests and has the full support of U.S. allies,” Daryl Kimball, the president of the Arms Control Association, wrote in the Washington Times last month.
liberal/progressive/terrorist! This is the first Thanksgiving in eight years where you represent the political majority. Because you know who voted with you? Oh, just fifty-three percent of the United States of America. HELL YEAH! Who’s a member of the fringe lunatic this holiday season? Not you!
But what happens if your right-wing relatives still want to debate the outcome of the election? Defang your conservative loved ones with these ten helpful facts!:
|President-elect Obama won by 8 million votes.
President Bush is probably drinking again.
Many media conservatives are furious with President Bush.
Experts say that Al Qaeda’s recent video shows that the terrorists are afraid of President-elect Obama.
President-elect Obama is cocky enough to think he can pull this “economic miracle” shit off.
The “socialist” takeover of America’s banks happened on Bush’s watch.
The “Democratic” Senate has been working with a one vote majority, and that vote is Joe Lieberman. If they get to the “Magic 60,” that sixtieth vote is still Joe Lieberman.
The majority of rich Americans voted to have their wealth spread.
President Obama will probably only get to replace liberal judges on the Supreme Court.
Cheer up, the GOP still owns the “racist belt!”:
HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush was in a Houston hospital Tuesday after complaining of a “little bit of pain.”
Family spokesman Jim McGrath said Mrs. Bush went to Methodist Hospital as a precaution. She had been experiencing some pain this week but McGrath did not know what it was.
Mr. McGrath said all of the results for tests she had undergone had been negative. Mrs. Bush may be released later Tuesday or could be held overnight to watch her condition.
Mr. McGrath said former President George H.W. Bush was with her. Mrs. Bush is 83.
The former Barbara Pierce, daughter of the publisher of McCall’s magazine, married George H.W. Bush in January 1945 when he returned a hero from World War II.
She was the girl who, swept off her feet by a handsome Navy aviator, dropped out of college to marry him, “the first man I ever kissed,” and thence was destined for a lifetime role as Supermom.
They had had their first child, George, while still at Yale in 1946. A daughter, Robin, died in 1953 of leukemia a few weeks before her 4th birthday. The other Bush children are sons Jeb, Neil and Marvin, and daughter Dorothy.
For years, Barbara Bush has been a sunny presence in American life, the sort of person who would make herself and others comfortable at your kitchen table. But she also was tough.
In the course of being George H.W. Bush’s wife, she had to pack up and move the household 28 times before residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.
Mrs. Bush disclosed she was suffering from an overactive thyroid ailment known as Graves’ disease when she lived at the White House. The disease causes teary eyes and double vision in Mrs. Bush, according to her doctors.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama’s security team came into sharper focus, with officials confirming that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would retain his job and that retired Marine Gen. James Jones would likely join the incoming administration as national security adviser.
The picks, which are expected to be formally announced in Chicago Monday, signal Mr. Obama’s desire for experience and continuity with the nation embroiled in two wars.
The probable appointments — along with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s likely ascension to the secretary of state position — also mean that Mr. Obama is entrusting his foreign policy to centrist figures who have at times advocated policies that were more hawkish than his own.
Lawmakers from both parties had been urging Mr. Obama to retain Mr. Gates for weeks, arguing that it would improve the new administration’s ability to oversee the war effort. It would also put a Republican in the cabinet of a president who promised to bridge partisan divides.
Mr. Obama appears to have made a similar calculus in asking Gen. Jones to be his national security adviser. The former North Atlantic Treaty Organization supreme commander and Marine Corps commandant hasn’t decided whether to take the job, but people close to him said the general appears likely to accept.
The job would make Gen. Jones, a nonpartisan figure, the chief policy coordinator between the State Department, the Pentagon and other national-security agencies.
Gen. Jones would become the first former military general to serve as the top White House national-security adviser to a president since retired Gen. Colin Powell worked alongside President Ronald Reagan 20 years ago. He is close to Sen. Clinton, and has close ties to many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where he worked for years as a Marine liaison.
Gen. Jones also has deep knowledge of two of the biggest challenges Mr. Obama will face in his first term: the need to redesign America’s energy infrastructure and the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama’s decision to retain Mr. Gates, while expected, is the clearest indication to date of the incoming administration’s thinking about Iraq and Afghanistan. The defense secretary has opposed a firm timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, so his appointment could mean that Mr. Obama was further moving away from his campaign promise to remove most combat troops from Iraq by mid-2010.
CHICAGO (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama announced his top budget officials on Tuesday and promised significant spending cuts to partially offset a costly stimulus package that aims to revive the U.S. economy.
As the top two officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag and Rob Nabors will closely examine federal spending to cut out wasteful programs, Obama said.
“If we are going to make the investments we need, we also have to be willing to shed the spending that we don’t need,” Obama said at his second press conference in as many days.
One obvious example: Crop subsidies to farmers who make more than $2.5 million per year, Obama said.
Though he does not take office until January 20, Obama’s team of economic advisers are already working out the details of a two-year package to save or create 2.5 million jobs that could cost several hundred million dollars.
Obama himself meanwhile has dropped his former low-profile approach and spoken directly to the American people with two news conferences this week. A third Obama press appearance is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. EST Wednesday.
Bush administration officials continue to extend massive life support efforts to the ailing U.S. financial system.
The Federal Reserve on Tuesday announced a $600 billion program to buy mortgage-related debt and securities, and a $200 billion program to increase the availability of consumer debt, such as credit cards and auto loans.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urged patience and said any effort will take time to work.
Orszag now heads the Congressional Budget Office and Nabors currently serves as staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. Both previously held White House positions under President Bill Clinton.
Their announcement follows on Monday’s unveiling of New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner as Obama’s Treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary under Clinton, as director of his National Economic Council.
Obama’s aides are in contact with Bush administration officials, who said they would work closely with Geithner and other incoming officials on any new rescue plans.
The scope of the economic crisis has widened since Obama’s November 4 victory over Republican John McCain, with auto companies warning that they are short on cash, unemployment numbers rising and the government bailing out yet another gigantic financial institution, Citigroup Inc.
New figures released on Tuesday showed that the U.S. economy shrank more severely during the third quarter than previously estimated as consumers cut spending at the steepest rate in 28 years. Corporate profits and business investment fell as well.
Obama has kept a low profile until this week’s news conferences, which are intended to show the priority he places on addressing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
He said on Monday he has not yet decided whether to roll back President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts for the wealthy, which would provide the government with much-needed revenue, or simply allow them to expire at the end of 2010 as scheduled, a move that would avoid what would likely be a bruising fight in Congress.
WASHINGTON — Despite attracting millions of new contributors to his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama received about the same percentage of his total political funds from small donors as President Bush did in 2004, according to a study released today by the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.
The analysis undercuts Obama’s claim that his supporters “changed the way campaigns are funded” by reducing the influence of special-interest givers.
“The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama’s finances,” said Michael Malbin, the institute’s executive director. “The reality of Obama’s fundraising was impressive, but the reality does not match the myth.”
About $156 million, or a quarter of Obama’s record-shattering campaign account, came from donors of $200 or less, according to the institute’s analysis of federal election reports through Oct. 15. That compares with $205 million, or about a third, from those who gave between $2,300 and $4,600, the maximum allowed by law.
Forty-eight percent of Obama’s total take came from donors of $1,000 or more, compared with 56% for John Kerry and 60% for both Bush and John McCain, the analysis found.
The small-donor percentage is lower than figures previously reported in news stories because the institute’s analysis accounted for people who gave several small donations over the course of the election that added up to a larger sum, Malbin said.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail that the campaign had more than 3.95 million donors, and “91% of our contributions were in amounts of $100 or less. … There’s no doubt that small-dollar contributors played a critical and unprecedented role” in Obama’s victory.
The study said Obama brought in a total $638 million, the most ever raised in a political campaign, compared with $206 million by McCain, who accepted $84.1 million in taxpayer financing for the general election. Obama reported 580,000 donors who gave more than $200.
Donors giving $200 or less need not be disclosed, but by the Obama campaign’s count, there were nearly 3 million of them.
McCain reported 170,000 donors of $200 or more.
Obama opted out of public financing, raising private money through November and significantly outspending McCain in battleground states.
When Obama announced in June that he would forgo public financing, he told supporters in a video message that “instead of forcing us to rely on millions from Washington lobbyists and special-interest PACs, you’ve fueled this campaign with donations of $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford. … You’ve already changed the way campaigns are funded, because you know that’s the only way we can truly change how Washington works.”
Meredith McGehee, a campaign-finance reform advocate at the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, said Obama cannot claim “this election somehow created an alternative system for public finance. … The data doesn’t show that.”
Obama did not accept contributions from political action committees or registered federal lobbyists, but many of his top fundraisers have keen economic interests in federal policies.
Source: USA Today
On the Chris Matthews Show today, Matthews argued that one of the major differences between President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama is the fact that Obama is intellectually curious. As an example of Bush’s lack of intellectual curiosity, Matthews played a 2004 clip of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward saying on 60 Minutes that Bush “is not an intellectual” or what “would be called a deep thinker.”
Asked by Matthews to explain why Bush “shows little intellectual curiosity,” Woodward said it was essentially because Bush “doesn’t like homework”:
WOODWARD: I think he’s impatient. I think, my summation: He doesn’t like homework. And homework means reading or getting briefed or having a debate. And part of the presidency, part of governing, particularly in this area, is homework, homework, homework.
Woodward, who has written four books on the Bush White House, has reported multiple instances in which Bush has put his distaste for homework on display. In 2004, Woodward told PBS’s Frontline about how Bush describes himself as “a gut player” who doesn’t “play by the book“:
QUESTION: What does that tell us about this president, how his mind works and how he functions as an executive? …
WOODWARD: Bush looks at problems. And he told me, he said: “I’m a gut player. I play by instincts. I don’t play by the book.” And of course the book is Policy 101 about how you make these kinds of decisions, and all of this [is] coming from the gut.
In his most recent book, Woodward reported that Bush actually bragged about not attending meetings where key decisions about the surge were made, telling Woodward, “I’m not in these meetings, you’ll be happy to hear, because I got other things to do.” Woodward has said that in his eyes, Bush has “often displayed impatience and a lack of interest in open debate.”
MATTHEWS: Bob, he obviously relies a lot on instinct and is proud of that fact. Is that why he shows little intellectual curiosity about other people’s thinking?
WOODWARD: I think he’s impatient. I think, my summation: He doesn’t like homework. And homework means reading or getting briefed or having a debate. And part of the presidency, part of governing, particularly in this area, is homework, homework, homework.
MATTHEWS: And Obama?
WOODWARD: Obama is the opposite. He mainlines homework. He does, you know, where is extra credit.
Source: Think Progress
Loyal allies to dominate inner sanctum but Clinton vets will abound
WASHINGTON – Two main quarries are supplying the building blocks for President-elect Barack Obama’s new administration.
Longtime, deeply loyal associates will dominate the White House inner sanctum. And veterans of Bill Clinton’s presidency will hold vital jobs throughout the government, although a bit farther from the Oval Office.
The structure suggests Obama is confident enough to hand top posts to former rivals whose loyalty is not guaranteed, a strategy many presidents have avoided. But most of those on Obama’s team who will have his ear everyday will be old friends and experienced advisers who are seen as having no ambitions beyond his success.
Obama raised eyebrows this month when he tapped some of Clinton’s closest allies for important jobs.
John Podesta, Clinton’s former White House chief of staff, is heading the transition effort. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a former top Clinton adviser, is Obama’s chief of staff. Former Clinton appointees Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano appear in line for Cabinet posts.
Even more startling to many, Obama has signaled plans to name former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.
Some Obama supporters have praised him for reaching out to his toughest primary opponent. But others question why they worked so hard to defeat Clinton only to see her, and many close to her, grab prizes in the new administration. They note that Obama repeatedly campaigned against “the politics of the past” and Washington “dramas,” thinly veiled jabs at the Clinton presidency as well as President George W. Bush’s tenure.
Stephen Hess, a George Washington University authority on presidential transitions, said Obama is playing it smart.
“It’s easy to make a leap that this is going to be a repeat of the Clinton administration and there’s no way that’s going to happen,” said Hess, who first worked for the Eisenhower administration.
Value of ‘old-timers’
Obama needs a core of Democrats with federal government experience, Hess said, and veterans of Bill Clinton’s administration are virtually the only source.
“The old-timers are exceedingly valuable to him now,” he said, but Obama “also has his own group of advisers, and he will merge the two groups.”
That merger began taking shape last week. Obama’s three “senior advisers,” who will have desks near the Oval Office, are some of his closest and longest-serving allies:
President Bush, who not so long ago argued that it was defeatist to insist upon a timetable for a withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq, now tentatively has negotiated — drum roll, please — a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The status of forces agreement reached recently between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calls for pulling American forces out of Iraqi cities by the end of next June and the departure of all U.S. military units by the end of 2011.
Moreover, the President agreed to other Iraqi demands he once dismissed: no permanent U.S. bases in Iraq; a ban on use of Iraqi territory to attack neighbors, including Iran and Syria; and more Iraqi control over U.S. military operations and movements.
Of course, nothing in Iraq is simple or certain. The Iraqi parliament must approve the deal in a vote scheduled for this week. Any plan would be carried out on the U.S. end not by Mr. Bush but by Barack Obama, who has favored a faster pullout. Shiite cleric and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr demands the immediate ouster of the American “invader,” and some Sunni and Kurdish leaders fear being left at the mercy of Mr. al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government.
Still, in the byzantine world of Iraqi politics, such wrangling may have less to do with how to deal now with the Americans than with how various factions are positioning themselves for a post-American future.
That is a consideration that Mr. Obama should be weighing as well.
It is going to be tempting for the incoming president — particularly considering the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the war’s cost of more than $10 billion per month — to speed up the American withdrawal.
And perhaps that will be possible. We hope so. At the same time, if Mr. al-Maliki is able to win approval of the pact, American involvement is going to be needed to prod the Iraqis toward political consensus and real sharing of oil revenues, accelerate training of Iraqi security forces and encourage responsible Middle Eastern countries to foster stability in Iraq.
Leaving Iraq as quickly as feasible is desirable. Doing everything possible to prevent a need ever to return is imperative.
WASHINGTON — The thaw in the resentful relationship between the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party and her younger male rival began at the party’s convention this summer, when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gave such a passionate speech supporting Senator Barack Obama that his top aides leapt out of their chairs backstage to give her a standing ovation as she swept past.
Mr. Obama, who was in the first steps of what would become a strategic courtship, called afterward to thank her. By then, close aides to Mrs. Clinton said, she had come to respect the campaign Mr. Obama had run against her. At the least, she knew he understood like no one else the brutal strains of their epic primary battle.
By this past Thursday, when Mr. Obama reassured Mrs. Clinton that as secretary of state she would have direct access to him and could select her own staff, the wooing was complete.
“She feels like she’s been treated very well in the way she’s been asked,” said a close associate of Mrs. Clinton, who like others interviewed asked for anonymity because the nomination will not be formally announced until after Thanksgiving.
Few are predicting that this new relationship born of mutual respect and self-interest will grow into a tight bond between the new president and the woman who will be the public face of his foreign policy, though some say it is not impossible. They argue that a close friendship between the two powerful officials is useful but not essential, and is not a predictor of the success of the nation’s chief diplomat.
While James A. Baker III was extraordinarily close to the first President George Bush and is widely considered one of the most successful recent secretaries of state, Dean Acheson was not a friend of Harry S. Truman and Henry A. Kissinger did not particularly like Richard M. Nixon.
“Two of the nation’s greatest secretaries of state in the modern period, Dean Acheson and Henry Kissinger, were not personally close but were intellectually bonded to their presidents,” said Walter Isaacson, the author of a biography of Mr. Kissinger and the co-author, with Evan Thomas, of “The Wise Men,” a book about America’s postwar foreign policy establishment. “I think that Obama and Clinton could form a perfect partnership based on respect for each other’s view of the world.”
Colin L. Powell, who was President Bush’s first-term celebrity secretary of state, would appear to be a cautionary tale for Mrs. Clinton since his relationship with the president was strained, and he left office an unhappy man. But Mr. Bush’s second-term secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is generally not viewed as having the success her unusually tight bond with the president might have engendered.
In the Obama-Clinton relationship, advisers say, the relatively smooth nature of their talks about the secretary of state job indicate that both, for now, have a working chemistry. The advisers say that Mr. Obama was clearly interested in bringing a rival under his wing, and that he also recognized that Mrs. Clinton had far more discipline and focus than her husband.
At the same time, Mr. Obama’s advisers said, he had the self-confidence to name a global brand as his emissary to the world. He recognizes, they said, that after Jan. 20, he will have to build the kind of relationship that ensures that foreign leaders know that when Mrs. Clinton speaks, she is speaking directly for him.
“It helps to have a relationship that Bush had with Baker, that’s no doubt true,” said Martin Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, who was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton in the primary battles. “But if they are seen as working together effectively, I think that can be easily overcome. I don’t think he would have decided to appoint her if he didn’t want her to be effective.”
One close adviser to Mr. Obama said the president-elect also saw that Mrs. Clinton’s political skills would serve her well in the job, as happened with Mr. Baker and Mr. Kissinger. “They understood that statecraft is politics by another name,” the adviser said.
Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton first spoke after their primary fight on a flight in June to Unity, N.H., their first stage-managed appearance after he won the nomination. As they settled into their seats on his plane, the conversation, according to people on both sides, was far less awkward than they had feared. Over the passing weeks, the relationship gradually improved.
“They got past this long before their supporters and the party activists did,” said one Democrat who is close to both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.
After Mrs. Clinton’s speech in support of Mr. Obama at the Democratic convention, she crisscrossed the country tirelessly to campaign for him — so much so that he told aides he was impressed by the sheer number of events she was doing on his behalf.
Mrs. Clinton, it should be said, was herself diligent in advertising how hard she was working for the man who defeated her. When announcing her appearances, her press office included tallies of how many events she had held for Mr. Obama, and in how many states. At some rallies, organizers would distribute “Hillary Sent Me” buttons, as if Mrs. Clinton was being magnanimous by “sending” her followers to vote for Mr. Obama.
But Mr. Obama began calling Mrs. Clinton after some of the events — he dialed directly from his cellphone to hers one day in Michigan and another day in Florida — to check in and thank her for helping. By then, their intense primary fights over policy, which both sides now insist was more about heat than substance, had long receded.
“The reality at the end of the day was, whether it was Iran or health care or some of these other issues, we were always fighting big battles over small differences,” said a senior aide to Mr. Obama, adding that “in a campaign, conflict is what you go to.”
Substantively, the two were at odds over the Iraq war — Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize it and Mr. Obama said he would have opposed it had he been in the Senate then — and to a lesser extent over negotiations with Iran. But although Mrs. Clinton criticized Mr. Obama for being willing to sit down and talk to dictators, he has said he would have a lower-level envoy do preparatory work for a meeting with Iran’s leaders first. Mrs. Clinton has said she favors robust diplomacy with Iran and lower-level contacts as well.
In the weeks just before the election, the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton further mellowed, even as she found herself in a startling role reversal with her younger rival. As a celebrity senator and powerhouse on Capitol Hill, she had helped Mr. Obama in his Senate race and offered advice when he first came to Washington; now she was the workhorse for a political phenomenon.
Since the election, Mrs. Clinton has talked to Mr. Obama only a handful of times, even as two close advisers to Mr. Obama who held top positions in the Clinton administration — Rahm Emanuel and John D. Podesta — have served as key negotiators between her and the president-elect on the secretary of state position.
But Mrs. Clinton has talked several times to Michelle Obama about raising a family in the White House and private schools in Washington. On Friday, Mrs. Obama said the two Obama girls, Malia and Sasha, would attend the Sidwell Friends School, just as Chelsea Clinton did.
Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Chicago, and Mark Leibovich from Washington.
I was agnostic on the matter of Hillary Clinton’s possible appointment as secretary of state–until last night.
If Barack Obama, the president-elect, wanted to pull a Team of Rivals play, that had seemed fine to me. And placing Clinton in Foggy Bottom would remove her from the dicey business of passing health care reform. Would it unite the party? Well, judging from the election results, the party is pretty darn united already. Despite the griping of a few Hillaryites at the Democratic convention, her voters certainly swung behind Obama in the general election (see Pennsylvania), after HRC and WJC campaigned for BHO in the fall. Unless an explicit deal was made between Obama and Hillary Clinton, it did not seem that Obama, after bypassing her for veep, had to appoint her anything for the party’s sake. Still, if Obama and his savvy band of advisers thought that handing her one of the best jobs in the Cabinet would generate political benefits they could use to advance their agenda, I, as a non-fan of Hillary Clinton, was willing to say, okay–for what that was worth.
But then this happened: the presidential transition of no-drama Obama became infected by the never-ending soap opera of the Clintons. And it really is time to turn that program off. There are plenty of policy and political reasons for a progressive not to fancy Hillary. She served on the Wal-Mart board when the mega-firm was fighting unions; she screwed up health care reform for almost a generation; she voted wrong on the Iraq war and then refused to acknowledge she had erred. But, worst of all, as the cliché goes, with the Clintons, it always does seem to be about the Clintons.
So we’ve had a week of will-she-or-won’t-she and what-about-him. Couldn’t this have been handled with a little more grace? Maybe not, since it involves the Clintons.
I don’t know how the Obama camp approached the issue. But before Obama met last week with Hillary to talk about this, his team should have done a pre-vetting of Bill. And then Obama, at this meeting, ought to have said something like this to her:
If you might be interested in the State position, there are a few issues that would come up concerning Bill. Let me run through a few. Would he be willing to release the names of his foundation’s donors, as well as those who contribute to his presidential library? Would he be willing to forego contributions and speaking fees from foreign governments, foreign heads of states, and major foreign companies that would have an interest in US foreign policy decisions? Would he be willing to discuss with my national security adviser his foreign travel plans and his foundation’s projects before they are announced and undertaken–and would he be willing to defer to us if we believe they are not appropriate or helpful at the time? I know that these are big things to ask. But given his global activity and standing, there’s not much choice. And if it’s a deal-breaker, I certainly would understand. But before you and I go down this road, we should make sure there are no major obstacles. Can you talk to him and get back to me in a day or two? And, to be helpful, Rahm has come up with a list….
Hillary’s answer would have to have been either (a) of course, or (b) thank you for considering me, but I don’t believe this would be a good fit. Two days would pass, and then the drama–or at least this part of it–could be over.
Today the news is that Bill will do what he can. AP is reporting:
Former President Bill Clinton has offered several concessions to help Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his wife, become secretary of state, people familiar with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition vetting process said Wednesday.
Clinton has agreed to release the names of several major donors to his charitable foundation and will submit future foundation activities and paid speeches to a strict ethics review, said Democrats knowledgeable about the discussions.
They also said that Clinton would step away from day-to-day responsibility for his foundation while his wife serves and would alert the State Department to his speaking schedule and any new sources of income.
Does that take care of it? Note the use of the word “several.” It’s hard not to see some sticking points arising about what is disclosed and when. The negotiations between the Obama camp and the Clinton team are supposedly proceeding smoothly. But why should there be negotiations? And could it end up with news reports saying Bill Clinton is willing to reveal X, but the Obama side wants him to release X plus Y? That is, more drama. According to AP, “One Clinton adviser noted that former President George H.W. Bush has given paid speeches and participated in international business ventures since his son, George W. Bush, has been president–without stirring public complaints or controversy about a possible conflict of interest.” This does raise the suspicion that the Clintonites might not agree to all the necessary limitations. And don’t they–or at least, this aide–understand there’s something of a difference between their case and that of the Bushes (though it was probably not appropriate for Daddy Bush to engage in that activity).
Bottom-line: if HRC came fuss-free, then maybe there’d be no reason to kick up a fuss about her appointment. Yet that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.
But there’s another issue to consider, one that has been overshadowed by the drama: if she runs the State Department in a fashion similar to how she managed her campaign, then the country will be in trouble. Her spinners went beyond the boundaries of fair and reasonable spinning. Her team was a snake pit of competitive aides. She did not master the art of refereeing internal disputes. She signed off on strategic blunders. Hers was not a steady hand.
Perhaps that’s the better argument against her. Being secretary of state isn’t just about giving speeches and touring the world as a celebrity, it’s about managing (and now reviving) the creaky and beleaguered foreign policy apparatus of the United States. And Clinton’s résumé is not strong on that front.
Source: Mother Jones
Consultant Roger Stone, the notorious political hitman who helped George W. Bush prevail in the 2000 Florida recount, tells The Daily Beast that he wishes he hadn’t.
Roger Stone is one of the last guys on Earth one would expect to feel guilty over an episode of rough and tumble politicking. As a self-admitted hit man for the GOP, Stone has had a hand in everything from Nixon’s dirty tricks to Eliot Spitzer’s resignation to spreading discredited rumors of a Michelle Obama “whitey” tape during the 2008 Democratic primaries. You might call Stone the Forrest Gump of scandal, popping up to play a bit part in the most notorious negative campaigns in recent history.
The capstone of Stone’s career, at least in terms of results, was the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the 2000 election recount. This was when a Stone-led squad of pro-Bush protestors stormed the Miami-Dade County election board, stopping the recount and advancing then-Governor George W. Bush one step closer to the White House. Though he is quick to rebut GOP operatives who seek to minimize his role in the recount, Stone lately has been having second thoughts about what happened in Florida.
When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade.’
“There have been many times I’ve regretted it,” Stone told me over pizza at Grand Central Station. “When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade. Maybe there hadn’t have been, in my view, an unjustified war if Bush hadn’t become president.’ It’s very disturbing to me.”
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
By Walid Phares
As observers were awaiting the release of the “official” al Qaeda position regarding the election of Barack Obama as the new President of the United States, seasoned experts on the Jihadist movement had little doubts as to the substance of the main message. As I have outlined in my appearances on Arabic television channels since November 4, Bin Laden or his second in command was expected to declare that their “Jihad” will continue despite the election of an African American President and despite Obama’s intention to withdraw from Iraq. Ayman Zawahiri did just that on Wednesday in his latest message to his supporters and his enemies: even if the war ends in Iraq, the global war will continue everywhere. [...]
The al Qaeda’s number two had to address the election of a Black President of the United States because of the two massive changes this choice has brought to the Jihadist agenda: On the one hand, Obama is very popular in the eyes of international public opinion; on the other hand the President elect is planning on withdrawing from Iraq and pushing forward in Afghanistan. All this changes al Qaeda’s game. Zawahiri’s tape had to address these “challenges” as pressure was mounting among Jihadists to deal with this election. Hence, the main points presented by the audio message are as follows:
1. The election of Obama is a defeat to the United States in Iraq and a victory to the Jihadists
In his tape Zawahiri congratulates the Muslim world [..original message..]
In al Qaeda’s lexicon it is crucial to demonstrate to their supporters that it is “their” actions (terror in Iraq) which convinced, if not intimidated, American voters into voting against McCain and electing Obama. Zawahiri wants al Qaeda to be credited for the behavior of America’s voting majority in the same way it took credit for the change in electoral direction that took place in Madrid after the March 11, 2004 attacks.
2. A warning to Obama: Don’t send additional troops to Afghanistan
Zawahiri then sends a warning to President elect Obama: [..original message..]
If victory has been achieved by the Jihadists against the United States in Iraq by forcing the new Administration to pull out of that country, in Zawahiri’s mind, another defeat awaits America in Afghanistan according to al Qaeda’s latest message. The logic of endless Jihad seems to be that wherever American forces would be sent, the Jihadists will meet them for a fight until the US redeploys its contingents from around the world, back to “its borders” as previous al Qaeda messages have underlined.
4. The same US aggression remains
Concerned about the sympathy emerging from around the world and within the Muslim community regarding the new President, Zawahiri reminds his Islamist followers that “crimes have been committed and the mentality that produced them is still around.” He doesn’t want to see a shift in pubic opinion towards a “nicer” America. He says: [..original message..]
Clearly, Zawahiri is trying to draw red lines for the acceptance of Obama by the Arab and Muslim world. This audiotape is probably the prelude to a campaign by the Jihaidists to minimize Obama’s emergence and classify him as just “another US President, with a different face.”
5. You’re not real (Meaning not a real Christian)
Then Zawahiri begins the Jihadi deconstruction of Obama’s image. He declares:
“You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz, or Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him). You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America. And so you promised to back Israel, and you threatened to strike the tribal regions in Pakistan, and to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, in order for the crimes of the American Crusade in it to continue. And last Monday, your aircraft killed 40 Afghan Muslims at a wedding party in Kandahar. As for Malik al-Shabazz (may Allah have mercy on him), he was born to a black pastor killed by white bigots, but Allah favored him with guidance to Islam, and so he prided himself on his fraternity with the Muslims, and he condemned the crimes of the Crusader West against the weak and oppressed, and he declared his support for peoples resisting American occupation, and he spoke about the worldwide revolution against the Western power structure. That’s why it wasn’t strange that Malik al-Shabazz (may Allah have mercy on him) was killed, while you have climbed the rungs of the presidency to take over the leadership of the greatest criminal force in the history of mankind and the leadership of the most violent Crusade ever against the Muslims. And in you and in Colin Powell, Rice and your likes, the words of Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him) concerning “House Negroes” are confirmed.”
Zawahiri’s words are strong and are aimed at putting pressure on all those in the region who rushed to announce that Obama will radically change the “regime” in the United States. The number two of al Qaeda is painting the President elect as an opportunistic politician who used all three faiths to access power. One can see that Zawahiri is trying to achieve two goals: maintaining his own flock fully indoctrinated against Washington regardless of the change in the White House; and pressuring the radical clerics in the Wahabi and Muslim Brotherhood circles – who are welcoming Obama’s victory – into retreat from such “apostasy.”
Confounding the conventional wisdom that he is a lame duck president with no agenda as his days in office dwindle, President George W. Bush is redoubling his efforts to mutilate the country before his term expires, aides confirmed today.
“President Bush has spent the first seven years and ten months of his presidency doing everything in his power to leave the United States in smoldering ruins,” said White House spokesperson Dana Perino. “He certainly is not going to let the final days of his tenure go to waste.”
While Ms. Perino said that President Bush is proud to have led the U.S. into a “pointless and totally avoidable catastrophe in Iraq” and “the most terrifying financial cataclysm since the Great Depression,” he is “in no way prepared to rest on his laurels.”
Mr. Bush is “delighted,” Ms. Perino said, that the stock market has lost one trillion dollars of its value in the last three days, but “that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the damage he hopes to wreak in his remaining time in office.”
Among the targets for destruction that the President is currently eyeing, Ms. Perino indicated that the demise of the Big Three automakers was at the top of his list.
“If the President could preside over the disappearance of the Big Three and the millions of jobs they represent, that would be the ultimate feather in his cap,” she said.
For his part, Mr. Bush took few questions from reporters today, saying that he had to return to the Oval Office to order random airstrikes over Belgium.
In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.
Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama’s appearance on CBS’ “Sixty Minutes” on Sunday witnessed the president-elect’s unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.
But Mr. Obama’s decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.
According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it “alienating” to have a President who speaks English as if it were his first language.
“Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement,” says Mr. Logsdon. “If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist.”
The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, “Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate – we get it, stop showing off.”
The President-elect’s stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
“Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can’t really do there, I think needing to do that isn’t tapping into what Americans are needing also,” she said.
BERLIN, Nov. 19 — Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command used a racially demeaning term to refer to President-elect Barack Obama in a videotape released Wednesday, and said Obama’s election represented “the American people’s admission of defeat in Iraq.”
In the 11-minute video, posted on the Internet, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, repeatedly and unfavorably compared the first black U.S. president-elect to Malcolm X, the black Muslim leader and activist who was assassinated 43 years ago.
“You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz, or Malcolm X,” Zawahiri said, according to English subtitles of his Arabic remarks provided by al-Qaeda’s propaganda arm. “You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America.”
Zawahiri said Obama, Colin Powell and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “confirmed” Malcolm X’s definition of a “house negro,” a term the militant black leader often used to describe black leaders who were subservient to white interests.
The biting comments were the first time al-Qaeda’s leadership has reacted publicly to Obama’s election since he defeated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) two weeks ago. Some analysts said the delayed response reflected uncertainty within al-Qaeda’s ranks over how to respond, given that Obama is widely seen in the Muslim world as the mirror opposite of the group’s longtime archenemy, President Bush.
“Zawahiri and others in al-Qaeda recognize that Obama has a certain appeal, not just to Americans but to people in the developing world,” said Evan F. Kohlmann, a terrorism analyst and senior investigator for the Nine/Eleven Finding Answers Foundation. “They feel a need to dampen this sense and enthusiasm and excitement for Obama.”
Zawahiri, 57, an Egyptian physician, is the second-ranking leader of al-Qaeda, behind only Osama bin Laden. According to U.S. intelligence officials, he is believed to be hiding somewhere in Pakistan. He has distributed dozens of video and audio recordings in recent years, eluding capture despite a $25 million reward offer posted by the U.S. government.
In Wednesday’s video recording, Zawahiri welcomed the pending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq but warned Obama not to send additional forces to Afghanistan, as the president-elect has pledged to do.
“If you still want to be stubborn about America’s failure in Afghanistan, then remember the fate of Bush and Pervez Musharraf, and the fate of the Soviets and British before them,” Zawahiri said, referring to the former president of Pakistan, who resigned under pressure this year. “And be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands to them.”
The video consisted of an audio recording of Zawahiri’s remarks in Arabic, with English subtitles scrolling underneath a still photo of the bespectacled doctor, dressed in white in front of a bookcase.
On the tape, Zawahiri is flanked by two separate photographs of Obama and Malcolm X. In his picture, Obama is wearing a skullcap and surrounded by Jewish leaders as he visits the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. Malcolm X is shown on his knees, praying in a mosque.
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
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.
In the wake of McCain’s defeat, Sean Hannity appears to be going through his own personal five stages of death: Anger, Denial, Anger, Denial, and Denial. [23/6] We’ll be checking in on him from time to time to see how he’s holding up.
The stage he’s in today: Anger. Well, actually, more like “pissy.” Well, “pissy and completely divorced from reality.” Here are a couple highlights from last night’s chat with Mike Huckabee, after the jump…
An “Obama recession?” No, Sean, you can’t do that. You can’t just put the name of someone you hate in front of a problem and use that as proof that they’re to blame. If we could we’d stop telling people we have herpes and start telling people we have “McCain herpes.” How do we know McCain caused our herpes? His name’s right in front of the word herpes ain’t it? The defense rests.
This is a common step in the grieving process. In the griever’s mind, the cause of his grief becomes elevated to an all-powerful being, responsible for all of his pain and heartbreak. Hannity’s friend, the GOP, is dead, and he blames Barack Obama. So in Sean’s mind, if there is something wrong in the world, Obama must be to blame. Whether it be the recession or the fact that he looks like an effeminate Fred Flintstone. It’s all Obama’s fault.
He should get through this step in about eight years.
As for the “New York Obama Times” comment, that’s just baby Sean throwing a quick tantrum. But we gotta admit, it is kind of catchy.
Update: Yesterday Sean Hannity was raking over his favorite subject – that of Bill Ayers – as a follow up to the Ayers/GMA interview. During the show Hannity was visibly shaken and could hardly get the words out of his mouth – it was clearly too much for him – to think after all his ranting and raving – Obama still won. On top of having to consider the possibility that he was sidelined – ignored – marginalized – not taken that seriously. It must be bad ~ in his head right now ~ so for Hannity – don’t do it buddy – here’s a how you can cope ~ take a few slow deep breaths ~ and chant Ohm-Baaa-maa at least 5 times a day ~ this will help you to calm down and adjust to the new reality!
By Jonathan Mann
(CNN) — Who is the president of the United States? The real president?
Right now, the US may have two of them — neither entirely up to the job.
In constitutional terms, George W. Bush occupies the Oval Office until his term ends on January 20 with the inauguration of his successor.
But a new CNN/Opinion Research Poll finds that Bush is the least popular president since pollsters first began measuring approval ratings half-a-century ago.
His Republican party has, of course, just been defeated in presidential and congressional elections and many Republicans blame him personally. Democrats blame him for a whole lot more. So even though the calendar gives him two more months, he has virtually no mandate left.
Barack Obama isn’t president. His supporters in the United States and around the world can barely contain their excitement about what’s ahead, but for now he has only the nebulous position as the next guy in line, the “president-elect.”
In constitutional terms, the president-elect doesn’t have any legal authority, but that hasn’t stopped him. Obama is exercising all the authority he can.
He’s come forward quickly to talk about his plans. He’s pushing Bush to support a bailout for the US auto industry before Bush leaves office. Obama’s made it clear that he expects measures for the economy from the Congress too.
“While we must recognize that we only have one president at a time and that President Bush is the leader of our government, I want to ensure that we hit the ground running on January 20 because we don’t have a moment to lose,” Obama said.
There are 11 weeks between the election and the inauguration, the in-between time known as the Transition. But Obama is compressing the calendar.
It could be that the crisis in the US economy demands strong leadership right now and the American people expect him to offer it. It could also be that Obama doesn’t want to wait.
“He is immediately muscling his way into power,” complains former Bush speechwriter David Frum. “Barack Obama said at his first press conference that the US has only one president at a time. He didn’t say who that president was.”
Maybe there isn’t just one president – more like two half-presidents, one wounded and one waiting, and both trying to make the most of the two months ahead.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States won’t see a change in American relations with the Taliban, a senior Taliban leader in Pakistan says.
“For us, the change of America’s president — we don’t have any good faith in him,” said Muslim Khan, a grizzled Taliban spokesman who is one of the most wanted men in Pakistan, in a rare interview with CNN. “If he does anything good, it will be for himself.”
With an assault rifle on his lap, Khan answered 10 written questions, sharing his view on a range of topics from slavery to Obama’s middle name — Hussein.
He spoke in the remote Swat Valley of northwestern Pakistan, the site of frequent and fierce clashes between Pakistani troops and Taliban and al Qaeda militants.
There was no opportunity for follow-up questions.
Khan said Obama’s election may change conditions for black Americans.
“The black one knows how much the black people are discriminated against in America and Europe and other countries,” he said. “For America’s black people, it could be that there will be a change. That era is coming.”
He said he doubted Obama’s victory would lead to changes in relations between the United States and the Taliban.
Watch the Taliban spokesman on Barack Obama »
U.S. forces dislodged the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
America and its allies have battled the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan ever since, with fighting spreading across the border into Pakistan.
“American should take its army out of the country,” Khan said. “They are considered terrorists.”
Obama has minced no words in describing how he would administer U.S. policy toward the Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
When he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in August, Obama pledged to “finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
And the president-elect included a blunt warning in remarks on the evening of his election victory: “To those who would tear the world down,” he said, “we will defeat you.”
Khan noted that Obama’s middle name was fairly common in the Muslim world, referring to him at times as “Hussein Barack Obama.”
“If he behaves in the way of a real Hussein, then he has become our brother,” he said. “If Barack Obama pursues the same policies as Bush and behaves like Bush … then he cannot be Hussein. He can only be Obama.”
With just weeks to go before taking office, the economy is hurting and oil and gasoline prices are dropping, all presenting challenges for President-elect Obama’s green energy proposals. Stacey Delo reports. (Part 1 in a series.) (Nov. 12)
For more political videos, check out www.wsj.com/video.
Stiff Republican Resistance Could Force Democrats to Wait for Obama and Their Party’s Enlarged Majority to Take Office
WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are scaling back plans for an economic-stimulus package as partisan deadlock clouds chances for passage of either that measure or a proposed bailout of Detroit’s auto makers until the party’s enlarged majority convenes in January.
Democratic leaders want to move legislation that would give a jobs-producing jolt to the economy. They also support proposals to toss a $25 billion financial lifeline to Detroit. But it isn’t clear either of those steps can pass before January, when President-elect Barack Obama and a new, more heavily Democratic Congress take office.
The biggest problem is in the Senate, where Democrats have only a 51-49 edge until year’s end. The Bush administration is balking at the Democratic agenda, and Republicans in the House and Senate are growing more vocal about their concerns, especially concerning the auto package.
“The financial situation facing the Big Three [auto makers] is not a national problem, but their problem,” said Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.
In the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, assailed the proposed aid to Detroit as “neither fair to taxpayers nor sound fiscal policy.”
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said Thursday that he knew of no Republicans who would support the $25 billion proposal by Democrats, and said he is disinclined to move a bill without bipartisan support.
“I’d want to be careful about bringing up a proposition that might fail,” given that a rescue plan would be more likely to pass under an Obama administration, the Connecticut Democrat told reporters on Capitol Hill. “There’s some political considerations that need to be made over the next few days.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada still plans to move forward next week. “Senator Reid still believes it is important to address this crisis plaguing our auto industry,” said Reid spokesman Jim Manley, adding that bipartisan cooperation will be needed. “We cannot do it without the support of Senate Republicans, who I hope will join us to pass a bill that saves the jobs and protects the livelihoods of millions of hard-working Americans.”
Mr. Dodd, meanwhile, wants to add foreclosure relief to an economic-stimulus package. He expressed frustration Thursday with efforts to help distressed homeowners by the private sector and the Bush administration, which was supposed to make foreclosure relief a top priority in the $700 billion rescue packaged enacted earlier this fall to stabilize financial markets.
“We want to see more progress,” Mr. Dodd said, adding he is prepared to legislate — “now, if possible” — to address the problem.
November 12, 2008: The Day in 100 Seconds
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Just as Sen. Ted Stevens appeared set to return to Congress, felony conviction and all, his re-election bid has faltered. If he loses, it also closes a possible door into the Senate anytime soon for Gov. Sarah Palin.
As counting of early and absentee ballots continued in Stevens’ race against Democrat Mark Begich, the contest for Alaska’s only House seat was settled Wednesday, with the re-election of Republican incumbent Don Young for his 19th term.
In the Stevens race, Begich jumped to an 814-vote lead, after trailing by 3,200 when the day began. The tally late Wednesday was 132,196 to 131,382, with an estimated 30,000 ballots remaining to be counted, some on Friday and some next week.
“After watching the votes today, I remain cautiously optimistic,” Begich, a two-term Anchorage mayor, said in a news release. “We ran an aggressive campaign, especially when it came to early voting and absentee.”
Stevens’ campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Last month, a federal jury in Washington convicted Stevens of lying on Senate disclosure forms to conceal more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations from an oil field services company.
That might have spelled quick political doom for a lesser figure, but Stevens is revered here for his decades of public service — and especially for scoring the state enormous sums of federal money.
Begich would be the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Alaska since the mid-1970s, and a victory would put his party one step closer to a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate. Democrats are also trying to unseat Republicans in unresolved contests in Georgia and Minnesota.
Fellow senators have called on Stevens to resign if he wins, and he could face expulsion if he declines to step down. In either case a special election would be held to determine his replacement. Palin, fresh from her failed run at the vice presidency, said Wednesday she’d be interested in serving in the Senate.
“My life is in God’s hands,” Palin said. “If he’s got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state’s best interest, the nation’s best interest, I’m going to go through those doors.”
In the House race, The Associated Press declared Young the winner with 50 percent of the vote compared with Democrat Ethan Berkowitz’s 45 percent.
Berkowitz campaign spokesman David Shurtleff said the Democrat was not ready to concede, although he acknowledged dim prospects.
Election officials Wednesday counted 57,000 of the estimated 90,000 outstanding ballots, which include absentee, early, questioned and provisional ballots.
Should the Senate results remain close a recount is possible. In Alaska, the losing candidate or a collection of 10 voters has three days to petition for a recount unless the vote was a tie, in which case it would be automatic.
If the difference between the candidates is within 0.5 percent of the total votes cast, the state pays for the recount, to be started within three days of the recount petition. The state Elections Division has 10 days to complete the recount.
If Stevens holds onto his seat, he might remain in the Senate for some time. As a practical matter, Stevens can’t be expelled by the full Senate until after an Ethics Committee investigation and a majority vote of that panel. That won’t happen until next year at the earliest.
Stevens also plans to appeal his conviction after he’s sentenced, in February at the earliest. The appeal could take months or years.
President George W. Bush could also pardon him.
Ron Paul strikes again!
WASHINGTON — When a Congressional committee subpoenaed Harry S. Truman in 1953, nearly a year after he left office, he made a startling claim: Even though he was no longer president, the Constitution still empowered him to block subpoenas.
“If the doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of the presidency is to have any validity at all, it must be equally applicable to a president after his term of office has expired,” Truman wrote to the committee.
Congress backed down, establishing a precedent suggesting that former presidents wield lingering powers to keep matters from their administration secret. Now, as Congressional Democrats prepare to move forward with investigations of the Bush administration, they wonder whether that claim may be invoked again.
“The Bush administration overstepped in its exertion of executive privilege, and may very well try to continue to shield information from the American people after it leaves office,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, who sits on two committees, Judiciary and Intelligence, that are examining aspects of Mr. Bush’s policies.
Topics of open investigations include the harsh interrogation of detainees, the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, secret legal memorandums from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the role of the former White House aides Karl Rove and Harriet E. Miers in the firing of federal prosecutors.
Mr. Bush has used his executive powers to block Congressional requests for executive branch documents and testimony from former aides. But investigators hope that the Obama administration will open the filing cabinets and withdraw assertions of executive privilege that Bush officials have invoked to keep from testifying.
“I intend to ensure that our outstanding subpoenas and document requests relating to the U.S. attorneys matter are enforced,” said Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “I am hopeful that progress can be made with the coming of the new administration.”
Also, two advocacy groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First, have prepared detailed reports for the new administration calling for criminal investigations into accusations of abuse of detainees.
It is not clear, though, how a President Barack Obama will handle such requests. Legal specialists said the pressure to investigate the Bush years would raise tough political and legal questions.
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