You are currently browsing the daily archive for November 5, 2008.

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Like Ohio, Florida, New Mexico and Virginia did Tuesday night, John McCain’s sole holdout on “The View” has flipped sides. Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s now for Barack Obama.

The conservative co-host, who supported McCain through many a heated coffee-table debate during the 2008 election, revealed today that she fully backs the president-elect.

“View” creator Barbara Walters turned to Hasselbeck in the first few minutes of the show and said, “All eyes are gonna be on you. How do you feel?”

The 31-year-old mother of two launched into a story about how her daughter Grace had asked her who lost the election after watching Obama’s victory speech:

“I said, ‘You know what Grace, no one lost today.’ … Today is a victory for this country, the first black president, the first black first lady — family, to have the amount of voters. … Fourteen million more voters in this election than the last, present themselves and vote for their country. Today is victory. I haven’t felt this good through the entire election process.”

Joy Behar, Hasselbeck’s frequent foil, then took the opportunity to gloat — “are you saying I was right all along?” — before offering the blonde a handshake. Hasselbeck responded with a fist bump.

“The power that he has,” she said. “I will get in a long line of supporters because I wasn’t the first, but I will jump in that line and support our president because as an American, that is what I believe we should do.”

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President-elect Barack Obama, left, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden celebrate after Obama's acceptance speech at the election night rally in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008.

President-elect Barack Obama, left, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden celebrate after Obama's acceptance speech at the election night rally in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008.

CHICAGO – Barack Obama will begin receiving highly classified briefings from top intelligence officials Thursday, as the rush of his campaign gives way to intensive preparations to take over as commander in chief and build a Democratic administration.

The briefings typically last 45 minutes to an hour, but Obama’s initial one is expected to be longer. A U.S. intelligence official speaking on condition of anonymity said Joe Biden, the vice president-elect, also will begin receiving briefings this week.

The president’s daily brief that Obama will receive is mostly written by the Central Intelligence Agency and will include the most critical overnight intelligence for the president. They sometimes dig deeply into a specific topic to give the president an in-depth understanding.

Obama began his first full day as president-elect with the simple pleasure of having breakfast with his daughters, the type of everyday activity with his family that he often said during the nearly two-year campaign was his greatest sacrifice.

Later in the morning, Obama left the house alone, clad in workout clothes, a ball cap and sunglasses and carrying a newspaper on his lap. He ducked into a friend’s apartment building where he usually uses the gym while in Chicago. About a dozen onlookers expecting his arrival had gathered with cameras and cell phones to get a glimpse of him.

He planned to go straight to his campaign headquarters after the work out to thank his staff.

Obama planed to stay home at least through the weekend, spending more time with his family turning to the business of the transition in earnest. Campaign advisers have already presented him with names to review for key positions, but they said he wasn’t focused on filling the jobs before winning the election.

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A top priority, the advisers said, would be picking a White House chief of staff to help manage the selections to come. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel appeared headed for the job, said Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity before the announcement, expected as early as Wednesday.

National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell will launch the intelligence briefings. CIA Intelligence Director Mike Morell will be Obama’s prime contact with the intelligence community throughout the transition, according to a message CIA Director Mike Hayden sent to agency employees that was obtained by The Associated Press. Obama’s two principal daily briefers also will be from the CIA.

Obama will have access to vastly more intelligence, including ongoing covert operations, than he was privy to as a senator, said Hayden’s message.

“Through expanded access, greater than what he had in his briefings as a candidate or as a Senator, he will see the full range of capabilities we deploy for the United States,” Hayden wrote.

CIA officials were meeting Wednesday to discuss the transition.

“The goal today is to review what has been done and to ensure that every part of the agency is well-placed to contribute in the weeks ahead,” he wrote.

Hayden also encouraged employees to ignore the chatter in political circles in Washington about who will take over the agency under the new administration.

“I certainly have,” he said. “Those privileged to lead this organization understand that they serve at the pleasure of the president.”

In a congratulatory call to Obama Tuesday night, President Bush pledged to make a smooth transition and extended an invitation to the Obama family to visit their new home at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Obama had personal decisions to be make, too, like when to move his family to Washington and where his 10- and 7-year-old daughters will go to school. Obama also was expected to take time to mourn his grandmother, who died Sunday before she could see the grandson she helped raise achieve his dream. Obama could be considering a return to his native Hawaii for the small private ceremony that she requested be held later.

And then there was the matter of choosing the family pet. “Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House,” he told his daughters in his victory speech.

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Obama has a few important things on his plate among others organizing his family’s massive shift in location and lifestyle – he is now the president-elect. In any case with a dog and a couple of young children – this will likely be some White House occupantswe will all remember. We can be fairly certain they will be there for eight years – a dog can have a good life in that time.

CHICAGO – After eight years of Republican rule, Barack Obama turned Wednesday to the task of building a Democratic administration to lead the country out of war and into the financial recovery that he promised.

Obama planned to spend the rest of the week at home in Chicago, turning in earnest to reviewing the hiring decisions he’ll have to make in the next two-and-a-half months. Campaign advisers have already presented him with names to review for key positions, but they said he wasn’t focused on filling the jobs before winning the election.

A top priority, the advisers said, would be picking a White House chief of staff to help manage the selections to come. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel appeared headed for the job, said Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity before the announcement, expected as early as Wednesday.

Obama also faces intensive national security briefings that will prepare him to take over as commander in chief.

“We know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,” Obama said in his victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park. “There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created, new schools to build and threats to meet and, for us to lead, alliances to repair.”

He said the solutions wouldn’t be quick or easy — perhaps not even achievable with one term. “I promise you — we as a people will get there,” Obama said.

Obama planned to keep a low profile on his first full day as president-elect, aides said. Obama had told reporters over the weekend that he’d hold a press conference Wednesday, but the campaign staff later walked that back and said it would be more likely to come by the end of the week.

There were more personal decisions to be made, too, like when to move his family to Washington and where his 10- and 7-year-old daughters will go to school. Obama also was expected to take time to mourn his grandmother, who died Sunday before she could see the grandson she helped raise achieve his dream. Obama could be considering a return to his native Hawaii for the small private ceremony that she requested be held later.

In a congratulatory call to Obama, President Bush pledged to make a smooth transition and extended an invitation to the Obama family to visit the White House soon.

And then there was the matter of the family pet. “Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House,” he told his daughters in his victory speech.

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This was an historic, transformational election. The American people have voted overwhelmingly for change. Americans of all different backgrounds from all over this nation have sent a clear message: it is time to create a new American Dream.

Election Videos: ER stars along to help get out the vote

Find out more at the SEIU on healthcare

In conversations and e-mail exchanges with SPIEGEL ONLINE, European leaders and thinkers express their wishes for US President-elect Barack Obama. Yes, they want the US to join the Kyoto successor. And, yes, they want to see Guantanamo close. But many also know that theirs is a view from Mars.

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Part 1: What Europe Wants from Obama
Part 2: ‘We Need the US as a Strong Partner’

Part 3: ‘On Iran, Precious Time Has Been Lost’
Part 4: ‘We Need a Washington Less Ideological in Dealing with Russia and China’
Part 5: ‘The Time Has Come to Kick-Start Talks with Tehran’
Part 6: ‘Some Disappointment Is Inevitable’

Part 7: ‘By Voting for Obama, Americans Are not Voting to Become an EU Country’
Part 8: ‘Please Don’t Bomb Iran’
Part 9: ‘A Measure of Moral Leadership Would Be to Join the ICC’

Part 10: ‘Obama — Something that Is Still Impossible to Achieve in many European Countries’

Exerp below

Part 1: What Europe Wants from Obama

Margot Wallström of Sweden is the vice-president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive.

    On Tuesday the American people cast their votes electing a new President of the United States. I believe we are entering into a new era of trans-Atlantic relations.
    In these times of extreme financial instability, it is more important than ever to strengthen trans-Atlantic relations and work together to solve global problems. Europe and the US share the same goals and values. We both want a peaceful, prosperous and stable world, where democracy is the norm, the rule of law prevails and human rights are respected.
    Even more importantly, the biggest concerns facing us today are of a global nature. The financial crisis, climate change, security, the fight against poverty, hunger and disease in the developing world are all challenges that neither Europe nor the US can take on single-handed.

Slavenka Drakulic, a native of Croatia, is the best-selling author of “Cafe Europa.”

 

    A View from Mars: I am afraid that we Europeans tend to attribute too much personal power to the president of the United States. We might as well be Martians for all that we demand of the new president. We would like him (especially if it is our favorite Barack Obama) to: stop the war in Iraq, divert funding from the military industrial complex and use it to improve the lives of the poor, introduce national health insurance, sit down with Putin and discuss how best to bring peace to the world, persuade China and India to restrict dangerous gas emissions, get rid of the Taliban in Afghanistan, make a deal with Iran, sign the Kyoto Protocol, catch Osama bin Laden and, finally, bring peace to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Of course, all of this should be accomplished in close collaboration with European governments — and all in the first year, possibly in the first days of his presidency.

Part 2: ‘We Need the US as a Strong Partner’

Robert Badinter, 80, is a French senator and member of the foreign affairs and defense committees who, as justice minister under President Mitterrand, achieved the abolition of the death penalty.

My expectation of the new president is that he:

    1. Withdraw US forces from Iraq;2. Close the prison at Guantanamo and give all inmates the rights to which they are entitled under US law;

    3. Through his emphatic support he must achieve a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians;

    4. Take an energetic approach to the fight against climate change and ratify the Kyoto Protocol;

    5. Support the International Criminal Court;

    6. Appoint independent and progressive judges to the US Supreme Court.

Part 3: ‘On Iran, Precious Time Has Been Lost’

Hans Blix was head of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981 to 1997 following a stint as foreign minister of Sweden. In the three years leading up to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, he was in charge of searching for weapons of mass destruction in the country.

    The global financial system has been rocked by the recent crisis and Mr. Obama will have to bring about early discussions about a broader agenda and broader participation in the institutions for international financial cooperation like the IMF and the G-8. During a global recession he will have to resist protectionist pressures from important groups who supported him.
    Obama should be able to use the strong public opinion in the US to make the country help frame drastic global policies against dangerous climate change and environmental destruction. Technological innovation should be promoted, like fuel cells for cars. Energy must be generated more efficiently and used less wastefully. Obama should stimulate the use of effective renewable sources and overcome any hesitation against a rapid expansion of nuclear power.
    In international affairs, Obama will have to steer away from the arrogant unilateralism of the Bush years and explain to the public that the interdependence of states and peoples is fast accelerating. In this modern world a constructive use of multilateral institutions like the UN is a necessity. They are indispensable mechanisms where reconciliation of interests can take place and joint action can be organized.
    Obama was ridiculed by his opponents for saying that he was ready to talk with adversaries. He was right and his administration should act on this principle. To talk is not to concede. The Bush administration has had a tendency to talk to others rather than with others. The worst example has been the demand that Iran must suspend its program for the enrichment of uranium before the US will sit down for direct discussions.
    When it comes to US withdrawal from Iraq, Obama should take the stance that no US troops should stay longer than the host government wishes. The Bush administration, while intending to withdraw the bulk of US forces, has clearly wanted to retain some US troops in less visible bases. The aim seems to be more to protect US interests in Iraqi oil and to have springboards for possible actions against Iran than to protect Iraq.
    For Obama, Iraq was the “dumb” war and Afganistan — where 9/11 was planned — was the place where all resources should have been projected. He wants a surge in Afganistan but there is a risk that the opportunity for success has already been lost and that American and other foreign troops are now seen more as foreign than as liberators. To abandon the country to renewed medieval style rule is not a possible American policy, but reconciliation with and involvement by parts of the Taliban might be a possibility. Iran and Russia could provide important help if the US can relax relations with these countries.
    On Iran, precious time has been lost during which the country has moved closer to a capability to make bomb grade material. Rather than humiliating Iran by declaring — as if to a child — that “Iran should behave itself,” the US should seek to identify and remove the incentives Iran may have to enrich uranium. To forego enrichment, Iran needs iron-clad assurances of supply of uranium fuel for its nuclear power program. Although Iran is no longer threatened by neighboring Iraq, it still feels threatened by the US. Washington should be ready to offer Iran security guarantees and diplomatic relations if the country abandons the option to make bomb grade material.
    Obama has rightly endorsed the call by a large number of foreign policy experts led by George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn and William Perry for the US to take the initiative in nuclear disarmament. In 2007 the world spent $1.3 trillion (€1 trillion) on military expenses — about half of this expense came from the US budget. Taming the military-industrial complex is difficult in any country but starting a new era of international disarmament could help Mr. Obama to move huge sums from arms to health care, social welfare and education.
    Early US ratification of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty would send a dramatic signal that an era of global disarmament has begun. Preventing non-proliferation will be less difficult in a world in which those states possessing nuclear weapon states renounce the license they have given themselves up till now.

Gert Weisskirchen, is the foreign policy spokesman for the Social Democrats in Germany’s federal parliament.

    It is now vitally important that Barack Obama, as president, meets with, listens to and works closely together with his allies. And there is a mountain of things that need his attention.
    For example, it is important that, from the beginning, Obama addresses the problems in the Middle East. I would hope that he will not wait until the very end of his presidency to move forward as both Clinton and Bush did before him. The time to act is now.
    The second priority is the relationship between the West and Russia. We have new presidents now in the US and in Russia. I believe there is a chance that Obama and Dmitry Medvedev could find a basis for understanding. Moscow is looking for rapprochement; it saw that it lost the media war in Georgia. On a more substantive level, there is a problem called Saakashvili. I am convinced that Washington cannot continue to support such an unreliable politician in Tbilisi.
    In Iran, it looks like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could very well lose the next election. We have to make it clear to the electorate in Iran that they too could author a defining moment much as the US electorate has. We need to be careful not to be pushy; there is a risk of creating a kind of false solidarity in Iran against the West. We can’t be confrontational. It is important we are clear about which lines cannot be crossed, but we have to show flexibility when it comes to the diplomatic instruments we use. We have to try and create a sense of optimism in Iran.

 

Part 4: ‘We Need a Washington Less Ideological in Dealing with Russia and China’

Thierry de Montbrial is director of the French Institute of International Relations and the author of “Twenty Years that Turned the World Upside Down — From Berlin to Beijing.”
    First, I would like to see a more congenial president, one who takes a friendlier approach to the rest of the world. Of course, we need a leader who, in light of the financial crisis, proves to be effective on economic issues and does not fall prey to the temptation of protectionism. Politically speaking, he must be a man who thinks beyond narrow American interests. More concretely: damage control must continue in Iraq, and there must be a coordinated approach with Pakistan and dialogue with Iran — without it, there can be no solution in the Middle East or in Afghanistan. Finally, the new man in Washington must show himself to be less ideological when dealing with Russia and China, particularly regarding issues such as the expansion of NATO and the missile shield. Planetary problems cannot be resolved through confrontation.

Part 5: ‘The Time Has Come to Kick-Start Talks with Tehran’

Pawel Swieboda is Founder and Director of demosEUROPA, a Polish think tank.
    The key task facing the new US President will be to share power and influence with other key players around the world in a manner which preserves American leadership. The decline of the US’s position in the world is a fact of life. However, statistics never tell the whole story. Washington continues to pull the strings on a range of issues from science and innovation to nuclear non-proliferation. The American civilization remains singularly attractive to other nations and peoples around the world.
    If the new president manages to build an inclusive international order in which key players feel comfortable, he will find it easier to exercise leadership. An early test of his strategy will come with the triple challenge of climate change, trade and new financial regulations. If he is to win on all three issues, he will have to both invite others to share in the benefits and to assume resonsibilities himself. On limiting greenhouse gas emissions, he will need to convince China of the merits of a low carbon economy. On trade, he will need to put an end to the schism between the developed and developing world which led to the failure of the Doha round. Finally, regarding new financial regulations, he will need to invite others to the table at the US- and EU-dominated IMF or its successor and ensure that it becomes a first responder against global turbulence.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, a former Danish prime minister, is president of the Party of European Socialists in the European Parliament.

    Obama promises to renew American diplomacy, and to talk to foes as well as friends. This would make an enormous difference.

Part 6: ‘Some Disappointment Is Inevitable’

Wolfgang Ischinger is a former German Ambassador to the United States and is chairman of the Munich Security Conference.
    The most positive consequence of the election — and the most necessary one — is the opportunity for not just the United States, but for the entire West to regain the moral high ground in international affairs. Moral leadership is what we have most dramatically lost during the Bush years, and we must dramatically regain it.
    I do worry that many Germans and other Europeans have developed unrealistically high expectations for an Obama administration. In some of the panels I’ve been participating in recently, you get the sense that everyone expects a trans-Atlantic paradise will emerge with blue skies and constant sunshine. Some disappointment is inevitable.

Part 7: ‘By Voting for Obama, Americans Are not Voting to Become an EU Country’

Volker Perthes is the head of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.
    This election will bring change, regardless of the winner. Both candidates expressed their wish to cooperate with Europeans more than their predecessor has done and to abandon the “us vs. them” mentality that has characterized much of the Bush years.
    You do have the sense, more so in the media than in policy circles, that many here expect that Obama will rule as a “European president.” That may turn out to be wrong in several respects. By voting for Obama, Americans are not voting to become an EU country.

 

    Obama understands the changing world, and we can expect that he will increasingly rely on partners in Asia — not just partners in Europe. As expected, I think he will be more multilateral in his approach, but that doesn’t mean he’ll play below the weight of his country.

 

    The biggest challenge will be to align agendas on both sides of the Atlantic. This has been difficult in the past not only because European and American interests partly diverge, but also because of differing styles and traditions of behavior. Europeans, for instance, will never be as prepared to use military force as Americans are.
    There are other challenges, too: Americans and Europeans have to come to agreement about concrete goals in Afghanistan. Is it democracy? Or simply stability? Are we aiming for economic transformation, particularly in the Pashtun tribal areas? Each side will have to determine what it is willing to contribute.
    As far as Russia is concerned, it will be easier for Obama than it would have been for McCain to improve relations. Obama, after all, has not proposed kicking Russia out of the G-8 or forming a league of democracies aligned against it.
    As far as Israel-Palestine is concerned, the opposite might be true. Obama might face more domestic pressure on the issue than McCain would have, because many Americans still suspect Obama of being a krypto-Muslim or at least of being pro-Arab.

Ulrike Guérot heads the Berlin office of European Council on Foreign Relations.

    Barack Obama is a paradigm change for the US. He will need to change the way the US acts in the world. The US has lost its political and — now — it’s financial supremacy, and the country will need to adapt. And, perhaps of even more concern, the country has lost a great deal of sympathy and reputation as a result of the Bush administration — especially among younger generations abroad. Barack Obama conveys the policy of a “fresh start.”
    On foreign policy, this is likely to show in areas such as climate protection, where Europe is keen to see an engaged US; or with respect to Iraq, where a trans-Atlantic exit strategy is needed. Europe also expects a new tone and a new style from the US. But one should not expect a trans-Atlantic honeymoon. Obama will need Europe’s help and troops in Afghanistan — and Europe will be reluctant to deliver. The US and Europe also increasingly differ on how to deal and what to do with Russia — but they avoid talking about it openly. The US seems to have more ‘Cold War’ reflexes when it comes to Russia, where Europe wants and needs the strategic partnership.
    The US could regain its leadership if it shows readiness to engage fully in international law making, including human right policies at the UN. The world needs a US that engages clearly into multilateralism and that stops believing that it can better act alone only because it feels so strong.
    The biggest potential is that the US will again fall into a pattern of playing divide and conquer with Europe instead of promoting a strong and truly united Europe.

Part 9: ‘A Measure of Moral Leadership Would Be to Join the ICC’

Diego Hidalgo is co-founder of the Spanish newspaper El Pais and a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

    I would first expect the new US president to convey to the world the strong message that the days of arrogant unilateralism are over. The next US president will face a megacrisis in the US and the world, with several interrelated threats which cannot be resolved at the nation-state level but call for concerted action and for a new and much stronger international governance architecture. The megacrisis that started in the financial sector threatens to depress the world economy, affects the whole world, and offers an opportunity for breakthrough in world governance. The first priority for the US president should be to initiate a “world constitutional period” during which he would develop coordinated responses to the four perhaps most urgent problems: resolve the financial and economic crisis, undertake the measures needed to face climate change, end extreme poverty and hunger throughout the world and end the main wars and conflicts.

Jeremy Hobbs is executive director of Oxfam International.

    The major crises facing the world, failure of global governance, collapsing financial markets, the threat of catastrophic climate change, continuing poverty and hunger, and worsening global security, cannot be addressed without positive and urgent leadership from the United States. Whoever is the new president must use his political capital to drive this international agenda, no matter how tough the domestic issues are.
    If ever there was a time to demonstrate how narrow national self interest should not be at the expense of the global good and developing countries, it is now, in the midst of the current global financial crisis.

Part 10: ‘Obama — Something that Is Still Impossible to Achieve in many European Countries’

Dr. Jean-Yves Haine is a senior researcher for trans-Atlantic and global security at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in Sweden.

    Electing Obama will in itself boost the US image abroad. Europe is looking with admiration and envy at Obama, a symbol of something that is still impossible to achieve in many European countries. After the election, symbolic but important gestures could be made: Guantanamo closure (easier said than done), the torture and rendition legacy, some amendment of the Patriot Act (but not much). Mostly, the tone and language will be crucial: to end the rhetoric of the war on terror, the us-versus-them mantra. … This will be necessary if the US wants to resume its role of honest broker in the Middle East (but the burden of past decisions will be particularly heavy).

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Barack Obama has done it. On Tuesday, Americans elected their first black president — and a genuine intellectual. It is the crowning of one of the most rapid political rises ever, but the real work is only now set to begin.

Democrat Barack Obama beat Republican contender John McCain by a clear margin in Tuesday’s presidential election and made history by becoming the country’s first African-American president.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” Obama told hundreds of thousands of elated supporters in Chicago.

Despite his historic triumph, the ecstatic cheering of the crowd and the scale of the challenges facing him, Obama looked as calm and collected as ever as he addressed his supporters.

Just one night earlier, the comedy show Saturday Night Live took one last opportunity to lampoon the candidates. And the candidates’ doubles make it clear just how different the outcome could have been for Barack Obama.

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The parody is a reminder of how Obama could have featured in America’s consciousness in this crazy, never-ending campaign. The Americans aren’t just sending the first African American president to the White House. They have also elected a pensive intellectual, regardless of all the Internet euphoria and “Yes We Can” chants. “One of the striking ironies is that a man who draws tens of thousands of people to his rallies, whose charisma is likened to that of John F. Kennedy, can be sort of a bore,” wrote the Los Angeles Times.

Where Are the Sweat Stains?

He’s a candidate who likes to read the philosophy of Reinhold Niebuhr. And one who doesn’t get sweat stains on his ironed white shirt, even in the sweltering heat of Nevada or Indiana. He has studied the Socratic Method applied at US law schools — the principle of eliciting truth through the astute interplay of questions and answers. His wonderfully composed speeches rarely betray a sense of humor. He’s evidently a devoted family man and a proud father.

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Such characteristics herald a new era in the White House. The Democratic icons John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton were strong intellectuals as well, but they had rough edges and they were almost pathological womanizers. Model Republican Ronald Reagan turned his anti-intellectualism into a virtue, as of course did George W. Bush. His father George Bush senior also liked to mask his Yale education and foreign policy expertise with cowboy boots.

Will Obama’s erudition help him in the White House? Or will he be easy prey for the hands-on Democratic Congressmen and women who are up for election every two years and must pay close attention to the will of the people? Will the new president’s intellectual leanings jar with the desire for action among the Internet generation that voted him into office? Will it be an obstacle to taking quickfire decisions as commander-in-chief?

Obama’s curious ability to remain untouched by all the razzmatazz around him is likely to prove a source of strength. His political career has been one of the most astonishing of all times. At the Democratic National Convention eight years ago he wasn’t even invited to the important parties. He readily admits that whoever gave him the name Barack Hussein Obama cannot have expected him to become a presidential candidate.

THE WORLD WELCOMES OBAMA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

    “My heartfelt congratulations on your historic victory in the presidential elections.””At the beginning of your administration, the world faces momentous challenges. I am convinced that, with closer and more trusting cooperation between the US and Europe, we can resolutely confront the novel challenges and dangers facing us…. You can be sure that my government is fully aware of how important the trans-Atlantic partnership is for our futures.”

    “It is my pleasure to invite you to visit Germany in the near future.”

German President Horst Köhler

    “In the name of my fellow citizens, I would like to offer you my heartfelt congratulations on your election to the president of the United States.”
    “We increasingly recognize how important it is for countries to work together. The international community has a responsibility to work together for peace, freedom and prosperity, in the battle against poverty and to protect our planet… My country is prepared to face these challenges together with the United States of America.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

    “With the world in turmoil and doubt, the American people, faithful to the values that have always defined America’s identity, have expressed with force their faith in progress and the future. At a time when we must face huge challenges together, your election has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond.”

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

    “We need to change the current crisis into a new opportunity. We need a new deal for a new world. I sincerely hope that with the leadership of President Obama, the United States of America will join forces with Europe to drive this new deal — for the benefit of our societies, for the benefit of the world.”

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende

    “The necessity for cooperation between Europe and the United States is bigger than ever. Only by close trans-Atlantic cooperation can we face the world’s challenges.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

    “It has been an important election. I think the most important thing that follows from it is that America and Europe will have to work together to deal with the international problems we face, not just the financial crisis, but also stopping protectionism, making sure we work for stability and particularly peace in the Middle East.”

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai

    “I applaud the American people for their great decision and I hope that this new administration in the United States of America, and the fact of the massive show of concern for hhuman beings and lack of interest in race and color while electing the president, will go a long way in bringing the same values to the rest of the world sooner or later.”

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki

    “We the Kenyan people are immensely proud of your Kenyan roots. Your victory is not only an inspiration to millions of people all over the world, but it has special resonance with us here in Kenya.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

    “Israel expects the close strategic cooperation with the new administration, president and Congress will continue along with the continued strengthening of the special and unshakeable special relationship between the two countries.”

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

    “Your extraordinary journey to the White House will inspire people not only in your country but also around the world.”

Chinese President Hu Jintao

    “The Chinese Government and I myself have always attached great importance to China-US relations. In the new historic era, I look forward to working together with you to continuously strengthen dialogue and exchanges between our two countries.”

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso

    “The Japan-US alliance is key to Japanese diplomacy and it is the foundation for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. With President-elect Obama, I will strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance further and work towards resolving global issues such as the world economy, terror and the environment.”

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

    “Senator Obama’s message of hope is not just for America’s future, it is also a message of hope for the world as well. A world which is now in many respects fearful for its future.”

But now the disastrous legacy of the Bush era has transformed this man with the strange name and the dark skin into someone the whole world is pinning its hopes on. Well over 200,000 people came to listen to him speak in Berlin in July; he really is the biggest “celebrity” in the world, as McCain jibed during the campaign. But even attacks like that provoked nothing but bemusement in Obama. It made television host Chris Matthews wonder openly whether Obama was capable of ever getting worked up about anything.

Obama’s sanguine nature could have been interpreted as a lack of passion in the election campasign, but the financial crisis turned that into a virtue. He suddenly appeared calm and presidential, while McCain seemed unpredictable and jumpy.

Fate on His Side

It was yet another example of the luck that has accompanied Obama throughout his political career. When he ran for the US Senate as a newcomer four years ago, his designated Republican opponent had to give up due to a dirty divorce dispute.

Only three years later he was up against Hillary Clinton, the best-known political brand in the country, for the Democratic nomination. But she underestimated Obama for too long, was too late in slipping into the role of a fighter, and wasn’t exactly helped by her husband whose latently racist comments about Obama drove African Americans into his arms.

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01020134344200When it came to the general campaign, fate provided him with a rival who didn’t play the race card. And one who, no matter how hard he tried, was unable to sell an image as an independent-minded outsider. McCain went out of his way to distance himself from Bush, but then tried to win over his supporters by naming Sarah Palin as his running mate. The Republican candidate never found a congruous strategy.

Obama, for his part, proved to be lucky and strategically astute. His campaign movement was the most perfect political start-up of all time — he collected almost a half a billion dollars in campaign donations and mobilized millions of supporters, many of them making a foray into politics for the very first time. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek wrote that Obama forever changed campaigning in the US. His message of “change” remained consistent from day one.

Period of Belt-Tightening

Rational as he is, Obama, of course, quietly bid adieu to the promise of real change in Washington — a radical shake-up of politics as we know it — as the campaign progressed. In the final months of the race, the newness has worn off his campaign as the candidate opted for pragmatism. He secured consultation from Washington insiders and his final television spots felt conventional as they praised American ideals in Kansas or the value of hard work. Even in the debate over how to respond to the financial crisis, he benefited more from his reticence than for making courageous policy proposals. Just like other politicians in the heat of a campaign, he was wary of telling Americans that a period of belt-tightening was on its way.

That, though, is exactly what he will now have to do. And he won’t have much of a grace period to get used to his new job. The criticism that he has spent his career looking for the next challenge is not entirely wrong. Now, though, there is nowhere else to go.

During the campaign, Obama left little doubt that he thinks he’s ready. And he exudes an aura of calm. A friend of Obama’s recalled to the Chicago Magazine last summer how crowds of supporters were already following Obama around Boston just before his famous 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention. The friend, Martin Nesbitt, recalled saying “this is pretty unbelievable, man you’re like a rock star.” Obama replied, “it might be a little worse tomorrow…. It’s a pretty good speech.”

Now, the Democrat is set to be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009 as the 44th president of the United States, right in the middle of one of the worst crises America has ever faced. “We’ve got to hit the ground running,” Obama said last week.

The US — and the world — have a lot riding on him doing exactly that.

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Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just issued the following statement congratulating Barack Obama on his resounding victory over John McCain:

“I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to Barack Obama on winning the Presidency of the United States. I would also like to pay tribute to Senator McCain who fought a good campaign and has shown the characteristic dignity that has marked a lifetime of service to his country.

“The relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is vital to our prosperity and security. Barack Obama ran an inspirational campaign, energising politics with his progressive values and his vision for the future. I know Barack Obama and we share many values. We both have determination to show that government can act to help people fairly through these….

11:00 pm So farewell then, Grosvenor Square US Embassy. Here we are, standing in line late at night in the November drizzle outside of Eero Sarienen’s unloved Modernist expression of US imperial self-assurance (what would a new Embassy in Battersea commissioned under an Obama administration look like? An environmentally-sound yurt?) when we could be tucked up on the sofa watching the election returns with Jeremy and a milky drink. But no, we’ve been unable to resist the lure of mingling with the movers-and-shakers.

Barack Obama supporters at the US Embassy in London

Barack Obama supporters at the US Embassy in London

The streets are even more barricaded than usual. There are several lines to go through the airport-style metal detectors, two for people without handbags, the others for handbag carriers. “There’s the Shadow Education Secretary”, a well-dressed young person, who must be a Parliamentary junior aide or researcher, exclaims (bite back the excitement!). As we finally gain admittance to the building, we hear the unmistakable tones of Janet Street-Porter.

The front of the Embassy has a huge projection of stars enlivening it. A Dixieland band plays partygoers in, and a co-ed squad of teenage cheerleaders performs intermittently on the front portico.

It’s a far cry from 2004, when, under the austere former Ambassador William Farish, there were no decorations, no bands, and really not much effort to appear welcoming. Similarly, in 2004 the Embassy was filled with Marines in camouflage battle dress standing stock still on the edge of the room, like military-themed living statues. Tonight if there’s a military presence, it’s invisible.

The first floor lobby is absolutely rammed. And at certain bottlenecks, it’s worse than the tube at rush hour. Silent screens above our heads project the latest from America’s CBS, MSNBC, and Fox networks, as well as the BBC. But the polls haven’t closed so all everyone’s doing now is vamping till ready.

It’s slim pickings on the celeb front. Josh Hartnett is the only sighting so far, unless you want to count Jonathan Dimbleby. There are several former significant political figures – Charles Clarke, David Davis, Alistair Campbell – but current Westminster stars are thin on the ground, unless you want to count Lembit Opik.

Bars serving California wines, bourbon, and Jack Daniels (though most people want water) are staffed with friendly volunteers and waiters circulate with foie gras puffs and lamb on bread squares. Sober, business-like dress is the order of the day, enlivened here and there with an Uncle Sam hat or Statue of Liberty crown. One glamourous party, however, didn’t get the memo. Four women in killer heels, tight dresses, lavish furs, and eye-blinding jewelry waft through the crowd, in which they are as exotic as Berbers.

Purely out of self-interest, I’m hoping for Obama victories in Indiana, Virginia, and North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. These polls will be closed by 1:30, and if he takes three out of five, it’s over and I can go home at a reasonable hour.

Downstairs in the basement there’s a large rather grim room with acoutic-tiles on the ceiling. Here a country and western band and later Glen Tillbrook, late of Squeeze, entertain the crowd. The air is thick with the smell of grease from the Burger King stand.

There’s also a theatre with a large screen showing CNN’s election night coverage. Every seat is filled as are the aisles. This is an audience fascinated by arcane in-depth breakdowns of key counties in Virginia.

The energy is strangely subdued. But the Democrats have been here before. In 2004, buoyed by the exit polls, the atmosphere in the early hours of the Embassy’s election night party was exuberant. No one could believe Bush would get in twice. But then, as we moved towards 2 am and it became clear that despite Iraq, despite Abu Ghraib, despite My Pet Goat, despite everything, the American electorate were going to come back for seconds, the festive spirit slowly deflated, like the air leaving a balloon. So no one’s getting too excited just yet. It’s as if everyone is collectively holding their breath.

The crowd seems evenly divided between the parties, although expatriate Americans tend to be disproportionately Democrats (expatriate Republicans are atypical of the breed because they have passports and are not afraid to eat furrin food.) They may have come from small-town “real” (in Palin-speak) America originally, but now have the kind of jobs that have relocated them to Britain, so presumably at some point they moved to the big (Democratic) city. Or else they left the real America as fast as they could of their own volition and just kept going.

12:30 am Indiana is too close to call. This is usually a rock-ribbed Republican state. A harbinger of things to come?

1:00 am Now things are starting to get interesting. Obama has won New Hampshire. McCain has won Georgia. Virginia is too close to call. And the Brits are all leaving so it’s now possible to get seats in the theatre. You have to feel for outgoing Ambassador Robert Tuttle. A genial Reagan Republican although appointed by W, he has to listen as all these freeloaders who’ve been scoffing down his food and drink cheer whenever a state is called for Obama and groan when it goes for his party.

1:30 am Tension you could cut with a knife. McCain is on 34 electoral votes, Obama on 74. North Carolina too close to call. These are all states that Bush won in 2004 and that Obama has a chance in.

1:45 am Look, there’s the Embassy party on the BBC screen as the heads of Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad are interviewed

2:00 am The loudest cheering of the night as Obama takes Pennsylvania. Obama supporters start to let out their breath and feel happy. Florida still too close to call.

3:00 am Ohio is called for Obama. Blinking, those of us wearing Obama buttons finally start to believe we’ve won, as predicted. Our long national nightmare is over. The junta has been deposed. Time to head for the coat check.

Source: Telegraph

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Karl Rove’s predicted electoral map was correct with a few exceptions – North Carolina and Indiana narrowly went to Obama – but then there is a toss up +/-3% allowance that should cover this.

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Amy Chozick reports from Barack Obama’s motorcade.

John McCain called Barack Obama to congratulate him at 10 p.m. CST, according to a senior Obama aide.

“Senator Obama thanked Senator McCain for his graciousness and said he had waged a tough race. Senator Obama told Senator McCain he was consistently someone who has showed class and honor during this campaign as he has during his entire life in public service,” Obama aide Robert Gibbs said of the call.

Obama told his former rival that he was eager to sit down and talk about how the two of them can work together – Obama said to move this country forward “I need your help, you’re a leader on so many important issues,” Gibbs recounted.

Obama is currently at the Hyatt Regency hotel with his family and close friends. His motorcade, including this reporter, will travel to Grant Park momentarily.

President Bush also called Obama shortly after 10 p.m. CST this evening to congratulate him on his victory. Obama watched McCain’s speech from his hotel, according to aides.

Source: WSJ

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Barack Obama has now added Iowa’s seven electoral votes to his total, as he builds on his commanding lead over John McCain.

Obama now has 202 electoral votes out of the 270 he needs for the nomination.

He earlier won in Pennsylvania and in Ohio — both states that were key to John McCain’s hopes. No Republican has ever been elected president without capturing Ohio.

McCain adds five electoral votes with his victory in Utah. That gives him 75 in all.

Democrats are adding to their Senate majority. Among the Democrats re-elected to Senate seats are Tom Harkin in Iowa and Max Baucus in Montana.

Republican Thad Cochran won re-election in Mississippi.

Connecticut Republican Rep. Chris Shays, a perennial target for Democrats, lost his bid for an 11th term in one of the more significant losses tonight for congressional Republicans.

With Shays gone, the Republican Party no longer represents any congressional districts in the six states–Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hamp

Jim Himes, Obama

Jim Himes, Obama

shire and Maine—that make up New England.

Shays was perhaps best known for his work with presidential candidate John McCain to pass sweeping 2002 campaign finance reform laws.

Shays was ousted by Democrat Jim Himes, a former Goldman Sachs executive. Barack Obama at the top of the ticket may have helped Himes as the Illinois senator easily dispatched McCain in Connecticut.

The Connecticut Republican had been realistic about his re-election prospects this year. Even Shays’ brother, Peter, expressed doubts for a victory. Peter Shays told the Associated Press that his brother refused to run a negative campaign “and he got hurt a little bit with that.”

Source: WSJ

Well the Godless attack didn’t work – and the rest is history
Elizabeth Dole finished he concession speech a few moments ago.

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Democratic Rep. Tom Udall won the New Mexico seat that had been held by Republican Pete Domenici, further bolstering Democratic fortunes in the Senate, wire services reported.

Udall defeated Republican Rep. Steve Pearce in the race to fill the seat left by a retiring Domenici, who served for 36 years in the Senate. According to a recent analysis of the race from the Cook Political Report, “as Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s chances of carrying the state in the presidential contest improved, Pearce’s already long odds of holding the seat for his party diminished and are now nonexistent.”

Source: WSJ

Festivities are underway at the Arizona Biltmore hotel, the same spot where John McCain celebrated his Super Tuesday victories that led to his party’s nomination.

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Supporters watch early returns as they attend an election night rally for John McCain in Phoenix on Tuesday. (AP)

As of 9 p.m. EST, the Arizona senator remained at his condominium in Phoenix. The sprawling hotel was flooded with thousands of well-dressed supporters from all over the country.

With Obama’s electoral vote count widening, McCain’s supporters remained faithful. “We’re confident the `Mac is Back,’ as they say,” supporter Don Baker told the Associated Press.

It’s not hard to find where the speech will be delivered. Massive flood lights from the lawn beam up into the sky. The campaign’s signature star and “Country First” logo adorn everything in sight.

The location has particular significant for McCain–it is where he celebrated his marriage to wife, Cindy, 28 years ago.

But even the people who are here won’t necessarily get to see the speech in person. The majority of the audience will be in a huge ballroom, watching McCain’s remarks on a massive television screen. In the interim, a band is playing and the drinks are flowing.

McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, arrived in Arizona later than scheduled. Her staff and traveling press arrived around 8 p.m. EST, looking worn from the long flight to and from Alaska. Palin has returned to her home state to cast her ballot before joining McCain in Arizona.

Source: WSJ

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dole_d_20081104210014 Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole casts her vote in Salisbury, N.C., Tuesday.

Reports indicate that Democrats appear close to ousting two incumbent Republican senators, as the party continues in its efforts to build a dominant majority in the Senate.

Around 8:15 p.m. Reuters and Dow Jones both reported that Democrat Jeanne Shaheen has defeated Republican Sen. John Sununu, who has been a long-time target of Senate Democrats. Meanwhile, Fox News Channel projected that Democrat Kay Hagan would defeat incumbent Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole in the race for a key North Carolina seat in the Senate. The Associated Press followed up by calling the race for Hagan at around 8:45 p.m., noting that Hagan knocked Sen. Dole — one of the biggest names in the Republican Party — out of the U.S. Senate after just one term in office.

The win for Hagan — a Democratic state senator — comes amid a Democratic push to make inroads in the South as part of a plan to build a filibuster-proof, 60-seat supermajority in the Senate. In its closing days, the contest between the two had become increasingly rancorous, with Sen. Dole’s campaign airing a television ad accusing state Sen. Hagan of having ties to an atheist lobbying group. State Sen. Hagan, who describes herself as a devout Presbyterian and is a Sunday school teacher, filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court on Thursday demanding the ad’s removal from the air. A Hagan spokeswoman called the ad “unconscionable,” the Journal reported.

Source: WSJ

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NBC political director had this to say about South Carolina in his pre-election roundup:

    South Carolina: What is going on in South Carolina? We have polling indicating that the presidential race might be fairly competitive. The surge in African-Americans could make South Carolina one of the surprises of Election Night. My guess is that McCain holds on but don’t be surprised if we can’t call the state at poll close.

He was right about that last part, but it didn’t take too long: The network has called the state for the Republican presidential candidate

Source: ::::

Sen. Barack Obama picked up two key states that Sen. John McCain was hoping to switch from blue to red.

The Democrat is projected to win Pennsylvania (21 electoral votes) and New Hampshire (4 electoral votes).

New Hampshire was the state that resuscitated McCain’s chances last year, and helped propel him to the Republican nomination. He also won the state’s primary in 2000 against President Bush.

The current electoral vote tally:

Obama: 103
McCain: 34

Source: WSJ

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Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, the only blue states that John McCain was targeting in the final week of the campaign have gone for Barack Obama, according to the exit poll consortium tasked with calling races for the television networks and major newspapers.

The Keystone State has long been coveted by Republicans who liked to point out in the runup to today’s vote that their party had closed the gap at the presidential level in each of the last four presidential elections.

The Obama campaign has remained resolutely confident about its Pennsylvania prospects, insisting that the massive surge in Democratic voter registration — the result of a high-profile presidential primary in the state — had made it nearly impossible for McCain to win.

Should Pennsylvania and New Hampshire fall into Obama’s column, they would join Democratic strongholds Connecticut, Delaware, D.C., Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, which have already gone for the Illinois senator. (Oklahoma and Tennessee have been called for McCain.)

As the county by county results trickle in, watch to see how big a margin Obama takes out of the city of Philadelphia as well as the four suburban counties that ring the City of Brotherly Love.

New Hampshire had long expressed a warmth for McCain, launching his presidential bid during the 2000 primary season and saving it in the 2008 campaign. But, New Hampshire was the epicenter of anti-war (and anti-Bush Administration) sentiment in 2006 and in the closing weeks of this campaign even the most ardent McCain supporters had acknowledged the state would not go there way.

With Pennsylvania and New Hampshire now seemingly off the map, McCain must run a tricky gauntlet — winning a handful of states that Bush carried in 2004 but are closely contested this time around.

Make no mistake: McCain now has almost zero margin for error.

Source: Washington Post