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Some inauguration viewers were fascinated by the historical tidbit that President Barack Obama took the oath of office on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible.
Others were more interested in the J. Crew sage green leather gloves that Michelle Obama wore to hold the Bible for her husband — not to mention the pale pink and royal blue wool coats the Obamas’ daughters wore, also from J. Crew.
Indeed, a lot of viewers apparently decided that they must own the gloves and coats themselves. In an interview with my colleague Liz Robbins at The Caucus blog, Jenna Lyons of J. Crew said, “It’s an incredible validation to have the First Family like what you’re doing.”
Maybe too much of a validation.
By Tuesday afternoon, the Web page on J. Crew’s site that features women’s gloves had crashed. By Wednesday morning, the whole women’s section of the site had crashed. Later in the day, the entire site was down, with a note that said, “Stay tuned…Sorry, we’re experiencing some technical difficulties right now (even the best sites aren’t perfect). Check back with us in a little while.”
J. Crew’s Web site joins the many media sites that could not keep up with the surge of inauguration Web traffic. Many of the sites that promised to stream live video of the inauguration struggled or failed to provide a steady stream because of the influx of traffic.
Early Tuesday, J. Crew, which designed the children’s coats and velvet ribbon belts especially for the Obama girls, posted a note — “Congratulations to the first family” — on its home page.
Later, the company added another note — “Yes, they wore Crewcuts” — with a link to shop the brand’s Crewcuts children’s collection.
The outfits were designed exclusively for the Obamas and are not available from J. Crew, though “highlights” from the inaugural outfits may appear in the fall 2009 collection, the company said. Still, all that promotion apparently swamped the site.
“It’s just the sheer number of users coming on,” said Matthew Poepsel, vice president of performance strategy at Gomez, a firm that tracks Web site performance. “It can swamp an application’s infrastructure and lead to poor user experience at exactly the wrong time.”
If a Web company expects a surge in traffic, it can prepare by building up capacity, Mr. Poepsel said. If the traffic is unexpected, though, it can be hard to fix the problem after the fact. More and more often, “with the pace of the Web and how information gets out, no one can predict when this will happen,” he said.
Of all the brands the Obamas wore, J. Crew’s site showed the most impact. But other brands also got some benefit.
Michelle Obama’s day and evening dresses were the talk of the town, and on Tuesday, the names of the designers of those dresses, Isabel Toledo and Jason Wu, were the 70th- and 11th-most-searched terms on Google, according to Google Trends. On Wednesday, though, Isabel Toledo fell off the list and Jason Wu had sunk to 55, while J. Crew came in at 33. (Mr. Wu’s Web site and the site of Ikram, the Chicago boutique where Mrs. Obama shops, appear to be having no troubles.)
Perhaps fans of the Obamas’ style are seeking a more affordable way to imitate the new first family. “Michelle Obama has proved that high fashion can be affordable,” J. Crew said in a statement.
Update | 12:45 a.m.
The Obamas have been zooming through their 10 official balls and are now running more than an hour ahead of schedule.
The whole ball tour was supposed to end at 2:55 a.m., but they’re wrapping it up before 12:45. And who can blame them? By the fifth and sixth of these things, the first couple were clearly operating on fumes.
All night they’ve been leaning back and forth in lieu of dancing, and stepping on Mrs. Obama’s dress; he’s been saying he wants to dance with “the one that brung me,” and he tells the crowds that his wife is doing everything he does except backwards and in heels. The difference is that for the last few balls, they have actually looked exhausted.
Still, the point of going to all these balls is to thank the campaign workers and donors — and keep them energized for future fights.
By now, Mr. Obama has boiled down his thank-you speech to less than a minute. At their last ball, for Eastern states, held at Union Station, he lapsed into a bit of campaign-speak.
“Today was your day,” he said. “Today was a day that represented all your efforts, all your faith, all your confidence in what’s possible in America. They said it couldn’t be done. And you did it.”
He called on his supporters to apply the same energy to governing and to rebuilding communities that they did to the campaign. “Yes we can,” the crowd cheered.
He also ended with some indirect criticism of the Bush era. “There is something in the spirit of the American people that insists on recreating this country when we get a little bit off course,” he said. “That’s what powered this election, it’s what’s given our team the kind of energy that has allowed us to overcome extraordinary obstacles and given me so much confidence that our better days are ahead.”
His final reminder was this: to understand “that this is not the end, this is the beginning.”
He then asked his wife for “one last dance” and cued the band — for the same song, “At Last,” that they’ve been dancing to all night.
So that’s a wrap. And they headed home. At last.
At the Youth Ball | 10:47 p.m. Eastern Mr. and Mrs. Obama took the stage at the Youth Ball at the Washington Hilton around 10:35 p.m., where Mr. Obama gave extra hosannas to those who helped get win election.
“When you look at the history of this campaign, what started out as an improbable journey, where nobody gave us a chance, was carried forward by, was inspired by, was driven by, was energized by young people all across America,” Mr. Obama said.
The audience gave him huge applause and started chanting, “Yes we can!”
He went on to give them a campaign-style pep talk, which we’ve transcribed for you below. But he also commented on his dance moves, which have been creating some buzz all night, mostly because watching him dance was a surprise. Rather like seeing him bowl last year during the Pennsylvania primary, you expected it to be a little more polished, a little smoother.
Mr. Obama, it turns out, specializes in the slow sway of guys who aren’t super-comfortable on the dance floor. And he will occasionally throw in a twirl.
But what his style may have lacked in panache, it certainly made up in passion. He and his wife cuddle and coo and smooch and are very comfortable — they even look happy — in each other’s arms.
So all of this chatter about dancing prompted him to say after a turn on the floor at the Youth Ball, “That’s what’s called ‘Old School.’ ” Everyone laughed.
Anyway, back to his speech to the young folks.
Mr. Obama told them: “I can’t tell you how many people have come up to Michelle and myself and said, ‘You know, I was kind of skeptical, but then my daughter, she wouldn’t budge, she just told me I needed to vote for Obama.’ Or, ‘Suddenly I saw my son, he was out volunteering and knocking on doors and traveling and getting involved like never before.’ And so new generations inspired previous generations, and that’s how change happens in America.”
He said this applied not just to campaigns but to service, like teaching or joining the Peace Corps.
“And as this is broadcast all around the world,” he added, “we know that young people everywhere are in the process of imagining something different than what has come before. Where there is war, they imagine peace. Where there is hunger, they imagine people being able to feed themselves. Where there is disease, they imagine a public health system that works for everybody. Where there is bigotry, they imagine togetherness. The future will be in your hands if you are able to sustain the kind of energy and focus that you showed on this campaign. I promise you that America will get stronger and more united, more prosperous, more secure — you are going to make it happen, and Michelle and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
And then this: “Hit it, band.”
Then it was on to Joe Biden’s “Home States” ball, for Pennsylvania and Delaware. And he was only halfway through his night of dancing.
Speaking to the Troops | 9:55 p.m. Mr. Obama speaks solemnly to service members at the Commander-in-Chief ball. “Every day that I’m in the White House, I’ll try to serve you as well as you serve America,” he says. And he promises that, together with the troops, “we will write the next great chapter in America’s story.” Then he talks by satellite video link with some soldiers from Illinois who are serving in Afghanistan.
There’s some friendly banter with the soldiers about their baseball preferences. Only one of the five tells the White-Sox-fan-in-chief that she is a Sox fan, too; the rest say they root for the Cubs.
More on the Ball Gown | 9:22 p.m. A few more details about the gown are filtering in. It’s made of ivory silk chiffon, embellished with organza and Swarovski crystal rhinestones and silver thread embroidery. It was custom designed and made exclusively for Mrs. Obama, said Gina Pepe, Mr. Wu’s spokeswoman.
Home States | 9:11 p.m. The First Couple’s next ball — the Home States ball (Hawaii and Illinois) — is just down the hallway from the Neighborhood ball at the Washington Convention Center. “Aloha,” Mr. Obama says to the crowd. “You’re not new friends, you’re old friends, and for that we’re grateful to you,” he says. His presidency is not just about him making the country better, he says, but “about all of you.” He asks the crowd to remember his motto, “Yes, we can.” They’re having a bit of trouble dancing because they keep stepping on her dress. But that doesn’t stop the president from giving his wife a twirl. Now the two have wrapped their arms around each other and are sloooow dancing. And after about two minutes, they’re off to the next event — the Commander in Chief ball at the National Building Museum.
Now Where’d They Go? | 9:01 p.m. Well, this set-up with exclusive deals for certain TV networks to broadcast means this is not the most accessible inauguration ever, as the inaugural planners keep saying. It’s frustrating for anyone who wants to follow the new president’s path tonight, although those who paid big bucks to attend the balls are probably quite happy.
We’re left to contemplate the mystery of Mrs. Obama’s dress. The designer, Jason Wu, is a young New York designer whom Mrs. Obama has worn before.
He’s 26 and from Taiwan and told The Wall Street Journal recently that he had never imagined that Mrs. Obama might wear one of his designs at the inaugural balls.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered | 8:44 p.m. We didn’t get to see much of the first dance, but we are watching Jamie Foxx tell the crowd at the Neighborhood ball: “You can tell that was a black president by the way he was moving.”
Mr. and Mrs. Obama are now group dancing to Stevie Wonder singing, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” (And lots of other are joining them.)
At Last … | 8:37 p.m. It’s the first dance. And thwack! CNN cuts away as Beyonce is singing “At Last.”
The Dress | 8:37 p.m. Here it is! The dress is white, with one large sash over her right shoulder. Jason Wu is the designer. “How good lookin’ is my wife?” the new president asks the crowd at the Neighborhood ball, their first of the evening.
Party Time | 8:19 p.m. One of the biggest secrets of Inauguration Day is about to be revealed. Barack and Michelle Obama are on their way to their first ball, and the world will finally see what Mrs. Obama has chosen to wear. She apparently had a few options because she didn’t make up her mind until the final hours.
The new First Couple has left the White House, so the unveiling of the dress is just moments away!
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.
It’s official: Marian Robinson, the 71-year-old mother-in-law of President-elect Barack Obama, will be moving into the White House, transition officials said on Friday.
In fact, Mrs. Robinson is already in town, helping to smooth the family’s personal transition as Mr. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters prepare for new lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“She is here to help them get up and running,’’ said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama. “She will determine in the coming months whether or not she wants to stay in D.C. permanently.”
In some ways, Mrs. Robinson’s decision to move – at least temporarily — is no real surprise. During the presidential campaign, Mrs. Robinson was a family mainstay, caring for the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, while their parents were on the road.
She took them to school, to piano lesson and dance lessons, cooked their meals, ran their baths and got them to bed on time. She was a critical part of the family’s effort to keep the girls’ lives as normal as possible in the midst of extraordinary times.
But Mrs. Robinson is also deeply rooted in Chicago. She still lives in the house where Michelle Obama grew up. And she has often expressed ambivalence about the notion of moving to Washington.
“I’ve never lived outside of Chicago, so I don’t know,’’ said Mrs. Robinson, hesitating a bit as she considered last year whether she was willing to move into the White House. “In the end, in the end, I’ll do whatever. I might fuss a little, but I’ll be there.”
Who says these are bleak times? On one matter at least, designers are positively euphoric. That is the Obama presidency, a two-part point of light. While much of the glee centers around the President-elect and his policies, Michelle Obama radiates a powerful style all her own. So step aside, Angelina. You too, Madonna, not to mention the bevy of pop tarts, gossip girls, “High School Musical” grads and even potential Oscar divas, now all
suddenly second-tier. The American fashion industry hasn’t had a catch this big since, well, since another icon of Democratic chic took up residency on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1961.
For the big guns at least, dressing Michelle may prove even more of a challenge, since her chic is more lowercase democratic than was Jackie’s. Throughout the campaign, the first lady-to-be has avoided all major names save Narciso Rodriguez, while showing a proclivity for locals (Chicago’s Maria Pinto), young types (Thakoon; Jason Wu) and cost-conscious labels (Donna Ricco; J. Crew).
Nevertheless, just about everyone yearns to dress Michelle, who could raise the profile of American fashion around the world. Yet with the exception of Maria Cornejo, her current favorites, as well as a few majors, declined WWD’s request for sketches. Some are loath to presume to offer unsolicited advice, while others, it seems, are definitely in the Inaugural sweepstakes and prefer, or have been asked, to keep their participation low-pro.
But plenty more happily offered their visions for Michelle and her charming first daughters, for the big day and evening events of Jan. 20.
We’ve never had a First Lady quite like Michelle Obama. How she’ll change the world’s image of African-American women—and the way we see ourselves.
NEWSWEEK: Allison Samuels
At a recent Sunday brunch after church, my “sista friends” and I sat on the patio of a Los Angeles restaurant gabbing about the election of Barack Obama. Sure, we were caught up in the history of the moment. Most of us never thought we’d see an African-American president. But as a group of six black women in our 30s and 40s, we were equally excited by who is coming along with Obama to the White House—his wife, Michelle, and their two young daughters. We all praised—OK, maybe even envied—Michelle’s double Ivy League pedigree, her style, her cool but friendly demeanor. And yet we’re all aware of how much we have riding on her. At 44, Michelle Obama will be the youngest First Lady since Jacqueline Kennedy. And many are expecting her to usher in a similarly glamorous era in Washington. (“Bamelot,” as some are already calling it.) But Michelle’s influence could go far beyond the superficial. When her husband raises his hand to take the oath of office, Michelle will become the world’s most visible African-American woman. The new First Lady will have the chance to knock down ugly stereotypes about black women and educate the world about American black culture more generally. But perhaps more important—even apart from what her husband can do—Michelle has the power to change the way African-Americans see ourselves, our lives and our possibilities.
Barack Obama’s presidential victory permeates this month’s list of best-selling political books, with both of his own works returning to the top and several by others landing among the 15 most popular.
President-elect Obama’s “Audacity Of Hope,” a former mainstay since the inception of the Caucus’s Poli-Book list, returns at No. 1, and his earlier memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” lands at No. 2.
An overwhelming focus continues on the 44th president-elect in pictorials and essays: “The American Journey Of Barack Obama” by the editors of Life magazine is No. 4; “The Rise Of Barack Obama” by Pete Souza is No. 8; “Obama” by Deborah Willis and Kevin Merida is No. 15. And “Michelle” by Liza Mundy falls at No. 13, as the first book on First Lady Michelle Obama to grace the list.
Also new this month is “American Lion” by Jon Meacham at No. 6. The controversial seventh president, founder of the Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson, made a radical stir in the political hierarchy, with lasting effects to date, by shifting from government concerns to giving more power to ordinary citizens.
The full list follows:
Poli-Book Best Seller List
Based on sales for weeks ending Oct. 25 through Nov. 15, 2008
1. The Audacity Of Hope, by Barack Obama. (Crown, $25.) The president-elect asks Americans to move beyond political divi sions.
2. Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama. (Crown, $25.95.) The president-elect on life as the son of a black African father and a white American mother.
3. Hot, Flat, And Crowded, by Thomas L. Friedman. (Far rar, Straus & Giroux, $27.95.) How a green revolution can renew America, by The New York Times columnist.
4. The American Journey Of Barack Obama, by the editors of Life magazine. (Little, Brown, $24.99.) Photographs and essays, starting with Obama’s birth in Hawaii.
5. Fleeced, by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann. (Harper, $26.95.) Americans are fleeced by government, business, labor unions and lobbyists.
6. American Lion, by Jon Meacham. (Random House, $30.) An drew Jackson, the seventh president, in the White House, by the editor of Newsweek.
7. Tried By War, by James M. McPherson. (Penguin Press, $35.) Abraham Lincoln as commander in chief, from the author of “Battle Cry of Freedom.”
8. The Rise Of Barack Obama, by Pete Souza. (Triumph, $27.95.) Photographs of Obama’s career, from his first day in the United States Senate to the Pennsylvania primary last April.
9. Ted, White, And Blue, by Ted Nugent. (Regnery, $27.95.) A manifesto by the rock star, gun advocate and host of an Outdoor Channel hunting show celebrates “what so many Americans em brace as abundant truth, common sense and inescapable logic.”
10. Kill Bin Laden, by Dalton Fury. (St. Martin’s, $25.95.) The siege of Tora Bora by the elite counterterrorism unit Delta Force, by the senior ranking military officer at the battle.
11. The Limits Of Power, by Andrew Bacevich. (Holt, $24.) A retired Army colonel argues that American citizens are ultimately responsible for the country’s military and economic woes. (†)
12. Goodnight Bush, by Erich Origen and Gan Golan. (Little, Brown, $14.99.) A requiem for the Bush administration, based on the children’s book “Goodnight Moon.”
13. Michelle, by Liza Mundy. (Simon & Schuster, $25.) The Washington Post writer paints an intimate portrait Of Michelle Obama’s life.
14. The War Within, by Bob Woodward. (Simon & Schuster, $32.) White House debates over the Iraq war, 2006-8.
15. Obama, by Deborah Willis and Kevin Merida. (Amistad, $26.95.) Photographs capturing Obama’s 18-month campaign to the presidency.
CHICAGO — On a dark afternoon last week, the road to Jerusalem and Beijing momentarily veered through the office of a real estate company here.
Valerie Jarrett, the company’s chief executive, had signed her resignation letter an hour earlier, and now she was taking phone calls from potential top diplomatic appointees.
“You don’t need to thank me,” she said soothingly to a booming male voice on her cellphone. “I just wanted you to have a chance to make your case.”
If someone were to rank the long list of people who helped Barack and Michelle Obama get where they are today, Ms. Jarrett would be close to the top. Nearly two decades ago, Ms. Jarrett swept the young lawyers under her wing, introduced them to a wealthier and better-connected Chicago than their own, and eventually secured contacts and money essential to Mr. Obama’s long-shot Senate victory.
In the crush of his presidential campaign, Ms. Jarrett could have fallen by the wayside, as old mentors often do. But the opposite happened: Using her intimacy with the Obamas, two BlackBerrys and a cellphone, Ms. Jarrett, a real estate executive and civic leader with no national campaign experience, became an internal mediator and external diplomat who secured the trust of black leaders, forged peace with Clintonites and helped talk Mr. Obama through major decisions.
She “automatically understands your values and your vision,” Michelle Obama said in a telephone interview Friday, and is “somebody never afraid to tell you the truth.” Mrs. Obama added: “She knows the buttons, the soft spots, the history, the context.”
In January, Ms. Jarrett will go to the White House as a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, where she will be “one of the four or five people in the room with him when decisions get made,” as Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist close to Mr. Obama, put it. Ms. Jarrett, who is a co-chairwoman of Mr. Obama’s transition effort, will also serve as the White House contact for local and state officials across the nation and the point person for Mr. Obama’s effort to build a channel between his White House and ordinary Americans.
Less formally, she intends to help Mr. Obama preserve his essential self as he becomes president, even as she becomes the type of person who chats with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, mingles with Warren Buffett and is now sometimes greeted by strangers.
Washingtonians who assess the new White House crew sometimes cast Ms. Jarrett in parochial terms: she is the hometown buddy, they say, or the one who will hear out the concerns of black leaders. They note that presidential friends do not always fare well in the capital, that confidants from Arkansas and Texas have stumbled in the corridors of the West Wing.
Asked what was her biggest worry about the job, which is a major leap from anything she has undertaken before, Ms. Jarrett said she sometimes feared she did not know enough. “I will try to do my homework,” she said.
Ms. Jarrett, 52, has often been underestimated: perhaps because she is often the only black woman at the boardroom tables where she sits, or perhaps because she can seem girlish, with a pixie haircut, singsong voice and suits that earned her a recent profile in Vogue.
A protégée of Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, Ms. Jarrett served as his planning commissioner, ran a real estate company, the Habitat Company — whose management of public housing projects has come under scrutiny with Ms. Jarrett’s rise — and sits on too many boards to count. She is an expert in urban affairs, particularly housing and transportation, in an administration expected to lavish more money and attention on cities than its predecessors.
And she has something no other adviser in the Obama White House ever will: ties to the president-elect and future first lady that go deeper than a political alliance. Ms. Jarrett is only a few years older than the Obamas, but her relationship with them can seem almost maternal. “I can count on someone like Valerie to take my hand and say, You need to think about these three things,” Mrs. Obama said. “Like a mom, a big sister, I trust her implicitly.”
During big speeches, Ms. Jarrett watched Mr. Obama with a gaze of such intensity that he and their other friends laugh about it. “Barack always jokes, You can’t look Valerie in the eye, she’s going to make you cry,” said Martin Nesbitt, the treasurer of the campaign.
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.
First lady Laura Bush said today that Michelle Obama did not ask for advice when she visited the White House earlier this week with her two daughters.
Instead they discussed closets.
“We talked about is what any women would talk about as one is moving out of a home and somebody is moving in,” the First Lady told “Nightline.”
The White House she noted, has great closets.
Traveling to Panama for her last solo foreign trip as First Lady, Mrs. Bush gave her only television interview to “Nightline.” In a candid and wide-ranging interview to air Monday night she talked about a range of issues, including her meeting with Michelle Obama and her daughters Malia and Shasha.
In fact, one of Mrs. Bush’s twin daughters, Barbara, accompanied Mrs. Bush on the trip and also agreed to a rare interview.
“It was great,” said Barbara Bush of the Obama girls visit. “They’re really sweet and they’re excited, but they also have the same concerns that we had when we were 18 when our dad became President.
“I mean, it’s a huge adjustment, and they’re not used to Secret Service, and they’re not — and they’re switching schools, and they have to make new friends. I mean, we felt… people feel like that regardless of how old they are. So it was really fun to get to meet them and to get to see them being excited about their move, and to get to talk to them about the same things that we had to deal with, regardless of age.”
Barbara said she and her sister Jenna showed the Obama girls the bedrooms they occupied as first daughters.
She and Mrs. Bush both said they imagined the Obama girls would select the same rooms that the Bush girls chose for themselves. They were the “obvious” children’s rooms, said Mrs. Bush.
Asked what her advice to the Obama girls would be, Ms. Bush said, “I think my advice to them is just when they move, just make really good friends and surround themselves with people that will protect them because they love them, regardless.”
“We were lucky” she contined. “We had great friends in Texas, and we were talking with them, and Malia has really good friends that are in fifth grade with her and at home, so they’re going to come visit her. I mean, they’ll be fine. They’re really cute, smart girls. “
Mrs. Bush reflected on her own children’s lives.
“We really wanted Barbara and Jenna to be able to have a totally normal life, to not take advantage of the so-called podium that they might have, because we wanted them to get to be high school, college-age kids, which they were when we moved there,” she said.
“So it’s, you know, it’s really a balance as you work through the whole idea of how your family can accommodate the publicity and the klieg lights that are on the President of the United States.”
Mrs. Bush said if she was asked for advice she would urge anyone occupying the White House with children to ” err on the side of privacy for children. I think it lets children grow up and make childish mistakes, which, of course, they will out of the limelight. And I think that’s really the best.”
Watch Cynthia McFadden’s interview with First Lady Laura Bush Monday on “Nightline” at 11:35 p.m. ET.
Source: ABC NEWS
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.”
Michelle O. made the power statement of her political career yesterday, and she did it without uttering a word. The red dress that she wore on her first visit to the White House said it all, and it said a lot.
#1: It announced: I’m ready to be Page One, top-of-the-news-hour, insta-blog news. I’m dressed to pop off any web screen or any sheet of news spread.
There’s nothing demure about a stylish red dress. Michelle was stating boldly that she acknowledged her position as The Top First Lady of The World bar none. Hear me Carla Bruni-Sarkozy–you’ve been surpassed as a First Lady force in the news, and yes, even as a force in fashion.
#2: The red was a not-so-subtle reminder that yes, she is a patriot. Whether she has an American flag tattooed to her forehead or not, there will be no further questioning of Michelle’s feelings about her country. Yes, dressed in her favorite Chicago designer Maria Pinto, she is RED, white, and blue, so American through and through.
#3: She is powerful, but she is not threatening. There’s no coincidence that Michelle chose a dress, not a suit. Ever since she began getting criticized, like many smart working women, because she seemed “too strong,” Michelle has made The Dress her uniform. There’s something about a woman in a suit that American men and women still find intimidating. A suit strikes them as too cold, too impersonal, and too ambitious.
All these perceptions are ridiculously unfair. They are unfair to all working women including Michelle. But the reality is that she realized that it wasn’t worth fighting the battle of the working woman’s perception while her husband needed to win the battle for president. It wasn’t worth the distraction.
When she gave up suits for dresses, especially those shifts, her handlers also went on a campaign to reinforce her image as a mom versus an executive. It worked. Expect a lot more dresses–in fact, expect Seventh Avenue to be knocking off this fabulous red number in milliseconds.
#4: She will be Barack’s Best Friend and Life Partner, not his political partner. Her dress was too feminine, even too subtly sexy, to say that she’ll be sitting in cabinet meetings-she wants you to know that that won’t be her M.O. The red dress says she’s stepping into the First Lady role, even if she does revolutionize it. I predict she will be the most powerfully activist First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt with her chosen causes, but with the inspirit-ability of another stylish mother of young children: Jackie Kennedy.
#5 The red dress says she’s totally modern. Modern enough to choose a dress with enough curve to flatter her pear shape. Modern enough to have the confidence to stand out in red. Modern enough to understand that one dress can speak to the American people, and make many, many crucial points.
Barack and Michelle Obama had their first dinner out since the election. The pool report:
Barack and Michelle Obama left dinner at Spiaggia at 11pm Saturday night after a roughly three hour dinner.
Dressed in a dark suit and white shirt, Obama waved to an ecstatic crowd gathered across the street as he and Michelle rushed through the cold wind.
Michelle, wearing an elegant black knee-length jacket and tall black boots, held her coat closed as she walked to the waiting SUV.
The crowd continued to rejoice, hugging one another and cheering as the motorcade pulled off.
It was the couple’s first dinner out together since his election victory, and they selected the same restaurant where they spent their anniversary and Michelle’s birthday this year.
Spiaggia is located at 980 N. Michigan Ave.
The motorcade headed through light traffic on Lakeshore Drive to the Obama’s home, where it arrived at 11:18pm.
The soon-to-be first lady has forged a unique look, mixing designer labels and mall classics. And there are signs she might get America shopping again.
If the black-and-red dress Michelle Obama wore for her husband’s victory speech Tuesday is any indication, she is poised to be her own kind of style icon in the White House. The straight-from-the-spring-runway dress, which she paired with a black cardigan, was a major statement, the patriotic red bursting out of black like a firecracker out of the night sky. You either loved it or hated it, but you couldn’t ignore it.
Obama, 44, proved that unlike many other first ladies, she does not intend to fade into the background. The high-end, intricately embroidered dress that launched a thousand blog posts is by American designer Narciso Rodriguez, who first gained notice for his clothes for the late Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, most notably, her wedding dress.
Similar runway styles cost $3,500 or more, but Obama’s wardrobe is not merely a collection of big names and bigger price tags.
Obama combines youth and beauty with an innate sense of what to wear. She has worn clothes by several American designers on the campaign trail, but she’s mixed them with cheap-chic finds, suggesting she will have a more down-to-earth fashion identity than any recent first lady.
Not only is Obama’s high-low style modern, it’s right for right now. She reflects the American-led democratization of fashion that has revolutionized the way the world dresses by making designer names available in Target and JC Penney. It’s a more sensible approach to spending that’s in tune with the economic times.
“She will be able to have access to designer dresses, but she could also be a role model if she can talk to Middle America about clothes that are not expensive but look great,” says presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who has written books about Abraham Lincoln, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, among others.
At the high end, the teal sheath ($795) she wore with a starburst brooch at the Democratic National Convention was designed by Maria Pinto, a Chicago-based designer who sells to Saks Fifth Avenue, among other stores. Pinto told the Chicago Tribune that retail orders for her pieces have increased 45% within the last 12 months and attributes some of that rise to the first-lady-in-waiting. Obama’s rose-print convention dress ($1,250) was by Thakoon Panichgul, a young New York designer who sells to Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom and has a line landing in Target on Christmas Day.
But Obama is a real fashion enthusiast, someone who enjoys the thrill of the hunt for that perfect $30 black-and-white-checked Gap sundress like the one she wore on the Fourth of July.
With retail sales sliding and a difficult holiday season ahead, there is already evidence that Obama could get America shopping again. There’s even a fashion fansite dedicated to Obama at www.mrs-o.org.
“No matter what she does, it’s going to be good for retail because people are focused on her and what she’s wearing,” says David Wolfe, creative director for the Doneger Group, a trend forecasting firm. “And she isn’t so perfect she’s frightening.”
After Obama wore a $148 Donna Ricco sundress on “The View,” White House/Black Market sold 2,500 of the dresses, according to a company spokesperson. She name-checked J. Crew on ” The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” pointing out that she had bought her $148 Pembridge dot pencil skirt and $89.99 color-block cardigan online. Both styles sold out on the J. Crew site the next day.
“She’s taken the idea of what a first lady should be and turned it on its head,” says J. Crew creative director Jenna Lyons. “Before Michelle Obama, everyone had the idea that you had to be suited up and running with the crowd to be taken seriously. It’s fabulous to see her on the cover of a magazine in a hot pink dress. She’s not afraid to step out in something unusual.”
Unlike France’s first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a former fashion model who has made headlines for her fashion sense over the last year and often appears in Dior, Obama is not devoted to one label. She has the confidence of a career woman, someone who’s accomplished on her own without her husband by her side. And as a member of the post-feminist generation, she has the luxury of not having to worry that her interest in clothes will make people take her less seriously.
Goodwin can quickly give a style run-down for various first ladies: “You think about Eleanor Roosevelt who went out sometimes with her hairnet on, and still became the most important first lady in the history of the country,” she says. “Mamie Eisenhower had some sort of pearls, but it’s hard to think of her or Bess Truman as style icons.
” Hillary Clinton told me when Jackie Kennedy was giving her fashion advice, she said not to let designers define you. Let them give you recommendations, and find your own style. Then Hillary deadpanned, ‘But I don’t have my own style.’ “
That’s not an issue for Obama. The pitches are already pouring in from fashion companies about how to get the “Michelle Obama look” — the brooches, the pearls, the form-fitting shift dresses. Add a hair flip to Obama’s retro femininity, and it’s no wonder she’s been compared to Jacqueline Kennedy.
But Kennedy’s style was rooted in haute couture. She was a reflection of a time when America still had to prove it could be a cultural center on par with Europe, with all the fine music, art, food and fashion that goes with that. So she impressed the world by speaking French and wearing versions of Givenchy dresses that she worked with American designer Oleg Cassini to replicate.
The famously size-2 Nancy Reagan was roundly criticized for spending too much money on high-end clothes by Los Angeles designer James Galanos and others. Her intricately beaded dresses reflected the opulence of the 1980s but were not anything the rest of us could relate to.
While the world has been transfixed by celebrity culture for the last decade thanks to the tyranny of the stylist, Obama may help shift the focus to real-world wardrobes. She could be influential when it comes to inspiring women to develop a personal style and to think about the kind of messages clothing choices can convey. Obama knows what works for her. Dresses are a signature. The look is fresh, and they flatter her figure. And during the campaign, they set her apart from the St. John pantsuit-wearing Washington pack.
She also thinks about appropriateness, something that is missing in the sartorial dialogue of so many Americans. An inexpensive sundress is more appropriate to wear to a parade than a stuffy pantsuit, or an expensive frock you might spill food on.
“That’s what you are really looking for in a first lady,” Goodwin says. “The question is whether something is suitable, classy and fits the occasion.”
Speaking of occasions, the armchair quarterbacking about Obama’s inaugural dress has already started. Could it be Zac Posen, or will she go home to Pinto? Laura Bush stuck to old-guard designer Oscar de la Renta for her gown in 2005. Regardless, something tells me Washington is about to become a very stylish place.
It’s always nice to see Michelle Obama.
William Ayers works as a professor – and likely there are a lot of students and faculty members who associate with him. The Woods Foundation which Obama and Ayers both worked on was started by a Republican. We are truly sorry for what the Murtagh went through as a result of the Ayers attack on their family home – some 40 years ago – but these accusations being made against Obama and now his wife are based on thin ice.
The McCain campaign is now broadening their attack on Obama’s past association with William Ayers to include Michelle Obama — even though McCain has repeatedly said spouses should be off limits during the campaign.
McCain is ditching yet another formerly-claimed principle
The attack? Bernardine Dohrn, Ayers’ wife and fellow former Weatherman, went to work in 1984 for the major Chicago-based national law firm of Sidley & Austin, and three years later, Michelle joined the mega-firm as well.
That’s the entire attack. We wish we were joking. But we aren’t.
In launching this latest, McCain is ditching yet another formerly-claimed principle as he faces the growing likelihood of defeat. In a statement back in June, the McCain campaign said: “Senator McCain agrees with Senator Obama that spouses should not be an issue in this campaign, and he has stated that position frequently.”
The attack on Michelle came on a McCain conference call with reporters this afternoon featuring John Murtagh, who has been hitting Obama over the Weather Underground’s attack on his family’s home back in 1970. Murtagh noted that Dohrn and Michelle Obama had both worked at the firm starting in the late 1980s.
The firm’s Chicago office currently employs more than 500 lawyers.
Murtagh didn’t even bother alleging that the two even knew each other, instead suggesting that they might have. If so, he said, the Obamas have known the two longer than suspected.
“If it is true” that the two women knew each other, Murtagh said, “the relationship is almost a decade older than Senator Obama has acknowledged. And that can very easily be resolved by Senator Obama, by Mrs. Obama, by Mr. Ayers and by Ms. Dohrn.”
“And incidentally, I would emphasize that we’ve all been focusing on Senator Obama,” said Murtagh. “I think we need to speak to his wife.”
Keep in mind that this wasn’t any surrogate speaking off the cuff. He was on a call organized by the McCain campaign, and he was apparently reading from a prepared statement, which would of course have been vetted by McCain aides. And so another once-cherished McCain principle gets junked in the service of self-parody.
Original radio broadcast
Imagine if the Obamas had hooked up with a violently anti-American group in league with the government of Iran.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, at a rally in Vienna, Ohio, on Sept. 16, 2008.
Oct. 7, 2008 | “My government is my worst enemy. I’m going to fight them with any means at hand.”
This was former revolutionary terrorist Bill Ayers back in his old Weather Underground days, right? Imagine what Sarah Palin is going to do with this incendiary quote as she tears into Barack Obama this week.
Only one problem. The quote is from Joe Vogler, the raging anti-American who founded the Alaska Independence Party. Inconveniently for Palin, that’s the very same secessionist party that her husband, Todd, belonged to for seven years and that she sent a shout-out to as Alaska governor earlier this year.
(“Keep up the good work,” Palin told AIP members. “And God bless you.”)
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AIP chairwoman Lynette Clark told me recently that Sarah Palin is her kind of gal. “She’s Alaskan to the bone … she sounds just like Joe Vogler.”
So who are these America-haters that the Palins are pallin’ around with?
Before his strange murder in 1993, party founder Vogler preached armed insurrection against the United States of America. Vogler, who always carried a Magnum with him, was fond of saying, “When the [federal] bureaucrats come after me, I suggest they wear red coats. They make better targets. In the federal government are the biggest liars in the United States, and I hate them with a passion. They think they own [Alaska]. There comes a time when people will choose to die with honor rather than live with dishonor. That time may be coming here. Our goal is ultimate independence by peaceful means under a minimal government fully responsive to the people. I hope we don’t have to take human life, but if they go on tramping on our property rights, look out, we’re ready to die.”
This quote is from “Coming Into the Country,” by John McPhee, who traipsed around Alaska’s remote gold mining country with Vogler for his 1991 book. The violent-tempered secessionist vowed to McPhee that if any federal official tried to stop him from polluting Alaska’s rivers with his earth-moving equipment, he would “run over him with a Cat and turn mosquitoes loose on him while he dies.”
Vogler wasn’t just a blowhard either. He put his secessionist ideas into action, working to build AIP membership to 20,000 — an impressive figure by Alaska standards — and to elect party member Walter Hickel as governor in 1990.
Vogler’s greatest moment of glory was to be his 1993 appearance before the United Nations to denounce United States “tyranny” before the entire world and to demand Alaska’s freedom. The Alaska secessionist had persuaded the government of Iran to sponsor his anti-American harangue.
That’s right … Iran. The Islamic dictatorship. The taker of American hostages. The rogue nation that McCain and Palin have excoriated Obama for suggesting we diplomatically engage. That Iran.
AIP leaders allege that Vogler, who was murdered that year by a fellow secessionist, was taken out by powerful forces in the U.S. before he could reach his U.N. platform. “The United States government would have been deeply embarrassed,” by Vogler’s U.N. speech, darkly suggests Clark. “And we can’t have that, can we?”
The Republican ticket is working hard this week to make Barack Obama’s tenuous connection to graying, ’60s revolutionary Bill Ayers a major campaign issue. But the Palins’ connection to anti-American extremism is much more central to their political biographies.
Imagine the uproar if Michelle Obama was revealed to have joined a black nationalist party whose founder preached armed secession from the United States and who enlisted the government of Iran in his cause? The Obama campaign would probably not have survived such an explosive revelation. Particularly if Barack Obama himself was videotaped giving the anti-American secessionists his wholehearted support just months ago.
Where’s the outrage, Sarah Palin has been asking this week, in her attacks on Obama’s fuzzy ties to Ayers? The question is more appropriate when applied to her own disturbing associations.