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In September, 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Democratic nominee for President, was asked by a reporter for his view of the job that he was seeking. “The Presidency is not merely an administrative office,” Roosevelt said. “That’s the least of it. It is more than an engineering job, efficient or inefficient. It is preëminently a place of moral leadership. All our great Presidents were leaders of thought at times when certain historic ideas in the life of the nation had to be clarified.” He went down the list of what we would now call transformative Presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson. (He also included Grover Cleveland, who hasn’t aged as well.) Then Roosevelt asked, “Isn’t that what the office is, a superb opportunity for reapplying—applying in new conditions—the simple rules of human conduct we always go back to? I stress the modern application, because we are always moving on; the technical and economic environment changes, and never so quickly as now. Without leadership alert and sensitive to change, we are bogged up or lose our way, as we have lost it in the past decade.”
When the reporter pressed Roosevelt to offer a vision of his own historical opportunity, he gave two answers. First, he said, America needed “someone whose interests are not special but general, someone who can understand and treat the country as a whole. For as much as anything it needs to be reaffirmed at this juncture that the United States is one organic entity, that no interest, no class, no section, is either separate or supreme above the interests of all.” But Roosevelt didn’t limit himself to the benign self-portrait of a unifying President. “Moral leadership” had a philosophical component: he was, he said, “a liberal.” The election of 1932 arrived at one of those recurring moments when “the general problems of civilization change in such a way that new difficulties of adjustment are presented to government.” As opposed to a conservative or a radical, Roosevelt concluded, a liberal “recognizes the need of new machinery” but also “works to control the processes of change, to the end that the break with the old pattern may not be too violent.”
That November, Roosevelt defeated President Herbert Hoover in a landslide. His election ended an age of conservative Republican rule, created a Democratic coalition that endured for the next four decades, and fundamentally changed the American idea of the relationship between citizen and state. On March 4, 1933, Roosevelt was inaugurated under a bleak sky, at the darkest hour of the Great Depression, with banks across the country failing, hundreds of thousands of homes and farms foreclosed, and a quarter of Americans out of work.
In defining his idea of the Presidency, Roosevelt had left himself considerable room for maneuvering. His campaign slogan of a “new deal” promised change, but to different observers this meant wildly different things, from a planned economy to a balanced budget. “Roosevelt arrived in Washington with no firm commitments, apart from his promise to ‘try something,’ ” the Times editorialist Adam Cohen writes in his forthcoming book, “Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America.” “At a time when Americans were drawn to ideologies of all sorts, he was not wedded to any overarching theory.”
Barack Obama’s decisive defeat of John McCain is the most important victory of a Democratic candidate since 1932. It brings to a close another conservative era, one that rose amid the ashes of the New Deal coalition in the late sixties, consolidated its power with the election of Ronald Reagan, in 1980, and immolated itself during the Presidency of George W. Bush. Obama will enter the White House at a moment of economic crisis worse than anything the nation has seen since the Great Depression; the old assumptions of free-market fundamentalism have, like a charlatan’s incantations, failed to work, and the need for some “new machinery” is painfully obvious. But what philosophy of government will characterize it?
The answer was given three days before the election by a soldier and memoirist of the Reagan revolution, Peggy Noonan, who wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Something new is happening in America. It is the imminent arrival of a new liberal moment.” The Journal’s editorial page anticipated with dread “one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history. Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven’t since 1965, or 1933. In other words, the election would mark the restoration of the activist government that fell out of public favor in the 1970s.” The Journal’s nightmare scenario of America under President Obama and a Democratic Congress included health care for all, a green revolution, expanded voting rights, due process for terror suspects, more powerful unions, financial regulation, and a shift of the tax burden upward. (If the editorial had had more space, full employment and the conquest of disease might have made the list.)
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Looks like Barack Obama is looking to use the opportunity to pick George Bush’s mind, somehow George Bush looks a little vulnerable!
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, received a warm welcome at the White House shortly before 2 p.m. Eastern time by the current occupant, President George W. Bush, a man with whom he expressed a sea of differences during the just-ended election campaign. When the president and Mrs. Bush greeted the Obamas at the driveway on the South Lawn, the women hugged and their husbands shook hands, with Mr. Obama using the two-handed greeting common among senators, with his left hand on Mr. Bush’s right arm during the handshake. The two men were dressed almost identically in dark blue suits, white shirts and blue ties. Ms. Bush wore a brown suit, and Ms. Obama a burnt-orange dress.
A few minutes after the couples entered the White House together, Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama reemerged and strolled along the colonnade past the Rose Garden to the outer entrance to the Oval Office. Mr. Obama walked just at Mr. Bush’s shoulder and appeared to be speaking animatedly, gesturing with both hands. Each of the men waved several times to reporters and others off camera.
While Ms. Bush showed Ms. Obama the White House, their husbands met for just over an hour in the Oval Office, discussing the transfer of power from Mr. Bush’s conservative Republican administration to a presumably much more liberal Democratic leadership.
Mr. Obama saw the Oval Office in person for the first time, just 10 weeks before he will make history by returning as its first black occupant. A physical reminder of the coming change was provided by construction equipment gathered in Lafayette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the north side of the White House. The equipment is soon to be put to work building glass-fronted, heated viewing stands where the Obama team will view the inaugural parade on Jan. 20.
As the capital swirled with talk of an expanded bailout package for the troubled American International Group, of unemployment figures that continue to swell, of deep trouble in the auto industry and the urgent financial summit to be convened later this week by Mr. Bush, some of the more pressing issues awaiting discussion by the two leaders on Monday afternoon seemed clear. Similarly, two wars — on which the president and president-elect differ considerably — will demand careful and delicate coordination. As the Obamas were arriving at the White House, several hundred protesters on Pennsylvania Avenue chanted “No More Wars” as they waved signs condemning President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Mr. Obama, who does not plan to attend the financial summit, has said he expected a “substantive conversation” with Mr. Bush on Monday. Such first meetings are governed by no rules but are deeply immersed in tradition. Neither man was expected to issue any extended statement after the meeting, which is taking place unusually early in the transition period.
Josh Bolten, the president’s chief of staff, said on Monday morning that the president and president-elect will be alone in the Oval Office when they meet, without aides present.
“I’m sure each of them will have a list of issues to go down,” Mr. Bolten said during a televised interview with reporters from The Associated Press and The Washington Post. “But I think that’s something very personal to both of them. I know the president will want to convey to President-elect Obama his sense of how to deal with some of the most important issues of the day. But exactly how he does that, I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody will know.”
Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama have had relatively little personal contact before now, and by some accounts, when they have met, there has been some awkwardness.
Mr. Bush told a friend during the 2008 Democratic primary race that he thought Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York was “more experienced and more ready to be president.” But the same friend, speaking anonymously to disclose his private conversation with the president, called Mr. Bush “a realist” who was ready to move on in the nation’s interest; Mr. Bush’s postelection comments have so far been gracious and have emphasized a cooperative approach.
For his part, Mr. Obama and his aides have missed no opportunity to remind Americans that they have only one president at a time.
Even so, Mr. Obama and his team are moving expeditiously to plan the transition and a post-Inauguration agenda that aides said would probably include the quick reversal of some Bush policies, such as his restrictions on stem-cell research and on oil and gas drilling.
One thing is certain: The body language between the Obamas and the Bushes will be widely scrutinized and assessed, to see whether they appear to be comfortable working together or, as was the case with some past transition meetings, are straining just to appear polite.
Mr. Obama flew to Washington Monday morning from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago aboard a chartered American Airlines Boeing Super-80 jetliner. A spokeswoman for Ms. Obama said she flew to Washington separately.
Having had a chance to size up their new accommodations, and those who have occupied them for eight years, the Obamas are scheduled to return immediately afterward to Chicago, where the work of transition will continue.
A spokeswoman for the transition team, Stephanie Cutter, told Reuters today in Chicago that Mr. Obama would announce no Cabinet nominees this week.
Barack Obama has arrived at the White House. The President-elect and wife Michelle Obama was met by President Bush and wife Laura Bush.
Michelle wore a red dress ~ perhaps one of her favorite or perhaps lucky colors. Tiger Woods usually wears red on the last day of golf games.
President Bush and Barack Obama walk separately along the colonnade towards to Oval Room for their discussion.
A few days before the election, a Democratic strategist privately worried that a Vice-President Joe Biden was destined for a White House career of dissatisfaction and idle-hands mischief.
“You can’t just have a guy like him at loose ends, he’d go crazy,” said a Democratic consultant who knows the affable, bright and mercilessly quotable soon-to-be ex-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “They need to keep him busy. Nobody over there wants him getting into the Secretary of State’s [business].”
Harnessing Biden’s considerable talents and containing his flaws will be an ongoing challenge for Obama. But Democratic insiders say the appointment of tough-guy Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff—and the administration’s need to forge a governing coalition that includes some Republicans—has brought Biden’s upcoming role more clearly into focus: He’ll play the good cop.
The Democrats’ apparent failure to win the 60 Senate seats necessary to halt a GOP filibuster has created the need for inter-party ambassadors like Biden who are practiced at the art of aisle crossing. In his 36-year Senate career, Biden was never considered a bomb-throwing ideologue, and he still has plenty of chits to cash in with Republicans on the Hill.
“He’s probably got more friends among Senate Republicans than John McCain does, and that’s a huge plus for Barack Obama, who is committed to breaking the partisan roadblock of recent years,” said Biden spokesman David Wade shortly before Election Day.
And while Emanuel’s bad-cop reputation may be overstated, all those F-bombs and threats to pulverize GOP incumbents during his tenure of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee boss create an opening for Biden, who maxes out on the Mr. Nice Guy scale.
“I really have genuine relationships with Republican leaders in the House and the Senate. I mean, I—I hope this is not self serving, but I’ve gained the respect,” Biden told an Ohio campaign rally in late October. “I’ve been able to literally work with the Republican leaders, of the committees as well as, as well as the Senate,” he added. “And Barack knows that, Barack has served there and sees that… I’m confident that I’ll be spending a fair amount of time [in Congress].”
In an interview with the New Yorker last month, Biden selected a lofty, if somewhat dubious role model: Lyndon Johnson, who plunged into a deep depression when John F. Kennedy assigned him the role as emissary to a Senate he had bullied, cajoled and utterly dominated as majority leader in the 1950s.
Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Democrat who’s fond of Biden, painted a different picture: “I can see Joe in his room [just off the Senate chamber], smiling, slapping people on the back, making his points, working the members.”
Indeed, Biden told the New Yorker that his style would be more honey than sting: “I have never ever, ever screwed another senator,” he said.
On top of that, Biden could not be more different than the outgoing vice president, who never visited the weekly Democratic caucus lunches in the Senate and had virtually no relationships with the other side of the aisle. It’s unlikely that Biden will ever be caught telling another senator to “Go [expletive] yourself” as Dick Cheney famously said to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy. Unless he’s kidding.
Biden’s best Republican friends in the Senate are centrists, including retiring Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and the top Republican on the Foreign Relations committee, Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, with whom he’s forged a close working partnership.
Biden is equally popular with some GOP staffers, drawing top-level Republican aides into free-ranging discussion on nettlesome policy problems, even setting up secure computer forums where aides can swap ideas without partisan recrimination, according to a person who participated in one of the chat groups.
The veep in waiting is not a favorite with Republicans hard-liners, though, who still hold grudges over his tough questioning of former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The conservative bloc in the Senate remains unified, and could still engineer a filibuster of Obama priorities.
“Joe’s really well liked—and he can be a real stand-up guy—but it’s going to be tough for him,” said an aide to a top Senate Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We’re not in the mood to make deals. People like him, sure, but people are going to change their votes on defense or health care or taxes just because Joe Biden’s a great guy?”
Biden may find it even tougher with Democratic senators—thrilled to have one of their own in the White House again—who may want to simply bypass the vice president and forge a relationship directly with Obama.
“He will carve out a role for himself, the problem is that he’s going to have a lot of competition—and it’s competition that won’t be willing to step aside for him,” says Jennifer Duffy, who covers the Senate for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.
Obama hasn’t served a full term in the Senate but he’s got plenty of friends in the Democratic caucus: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, up-and-coming Missouri freshman Claire McCaskill and an ailing but still powerful Ted Kennedy. Obama also has a unique relationship with one of the most conservative senators, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, with whom he shares a passion for government reform.
Then there’s former Majority Leader Tom Daschle—a well-connected kitchen-cabinet Obama adviser who is likely to play some kind of role in the administration.
But Biden’s biggest competition may come from the president-elect himself.
“Obama already has his own relationships in the Senate so, in a sense, he doesn’t need an emissary,” Duffy adds. “He’s his own go-to guy.”
Obama has gone to great lengths to establish personal relationships with legislators, creating direct lines of communication that will be handy even if he runs into problems with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“Barack’s been seriously keeping touch with the [fiscally conservative Democratic] Blue Dogs and all the other foot soldiers—he’s intent on not making the same mistakes we did,” said a former aide to Bill Clinton, who worked his congressional transition team in the early 1990s. “We thought all we had to do was to keep in touch with the leaders and we left the members and committee chairs alone. That was a huge mistake and it killed us on the health care… Barack’s not making that mistake.”
Greta Van Susteren interview with Sarah Palin ~ from Alaska coming up on Greta Wire tonight 10pm ET on Fox News.
According to Greta – Sarah Palin says that she never shot a moose!
There was a New York Times article examining Sarah Palin’s time as governor of Alaska – and what actually was true in anything she claimed – for ex. the plane on eBay, the bridge to nowhere – then the writer sarcastically commented that – next we will be hearing that Sarah Palin never shot a moose – well we have heard it today – straight from the moose’s mouth at Fox news. Apparently she only shot caribou — and wolves from airplanes??
More she blames the reason McCain lost on Bush, Awe!!
WASHINGTON — President-elect Obama’s advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but could require creation of a controversial new system of justice.
During his campaign, Obama described Guantanamo as a “sad chapter in American history” and has said generally that the U.S. legal system is equipped to handle the detainees. But he has offered few details on what he planned to do once the facility is closed.
Under plans being put together in Obama’s camp, some detainees would be released and many others would be prosecuted in U.S. criminal courts.
A third group of detainees _ the ones whose cases are most entangled in highly classified information _ might have to go before a new court designed especially to handle sensitive national security cases, according to advisers and Democrats involved in the talks. Advisers participating directly in the planning spoke on condition of anonymity because the plans aren’t final.
The move would be a sharp deviation from the Bush administration, which established military tribunals to prosecute detainees at the Navy base in Cuba and strongly opposes bringing prisoners to the United States. Obama’s Republican challenger, John McCain, had also pledged to close Guantanamo. But McCain opposed criminal trials, saying the Bush administration’s tribunals should continue on U.S. soil.
The plan being developed by Obama’s team has been championed by legal scholars from both political parties. But it is almost certain to face opposition from Republicans who oppose bringing terrorism suspects to the U.S. and from Democrats who oppose creating a new court system with fewer rights for detainees.
Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor and Obama legal adviser, said discussions about plans for Guantanamo had been “theoretical” before the election but would quickly become very focused because closing the prison is a top priority. Bringing the detainees to the United States will be controversial, he said, but could be accomplished.
“I think the answer is going to be, they can be as securely guarded on U.S. soil as anywhere else,” Tribe said. “We can’t put people in a dungeon forever without processing whether they deserve to be there.”
The tougher challenge will be allaying fears by Democrats who believe the Bush administration’s military commissions were a farce and dislike the idea of giving detainees anything less than the full constitutional rights normally enjoyed by everyone on U.S. soil.
“There would be concern about establishing a completely new system,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Judiciary Committee and former federal prosecutor who is aware of the discussions in the Obama camp. “And in the sense that establishing a regimen of detention that includes American citizens and foreign nationals that takes place on U.S. soil and departs from the criminal justice system _ trying to establish that would be very difficult.”
Obama has said the civilian and military court-martial systems provide “a framework for dealing with the terrorists,” and Tribe said the administration would look to those venues before creating a new legal system. But discussions of what a new system would look like have already started.
“It would have to be some sort of hybrid that involves military commissions that actually administer justice rather than just serve as kangaroo courts,” Tribe said. “It will have to both be and appear to be fundamentally fair in light of the circumstances. I think people are going to give an Obama administration the benefit of the doubt in that regard.”
Though a hybrid court may be unpopular, other advisers and Democrats involved in the Guantanamo Bay discussions say Obama has few other options.
Prosecuting all detainees in federal courts raises a host of problems. Evidence gathered through military interrogation or from intelligence sources might be thrown out. Defendants would have the right to confront witnesses, meaning undercover CIA officers or terrorist turncoats might have to take the stand, jeopardizing their cover and revealing classified intelligence tactics.
In theory, Obama could try to transplant the Bush administration’s military commission system from Guantanamo Bay to a U.S. prison. But Tribe said, and other advisers agreed, that was “a nonstarter.” With lax evidence rules and intense secrecy, the military commissions have been criticized by human rights groups, defense attorneys and even some military prosecutors who quit the process in protest.
“I don’t think we need to completely reinvent the wheel, but we need a better tribunal process that is more transparent,” Schiff said.
That means something different would need to be done if detainees couldn’t be released or prosecuted in traditional courts. Exactly what that something would look like remains unclear.
According to three advisers participating in the process, Obama is expected to propose a new court system, appointing a committee to decide how such a court would operate. Some detainees likely would be returned to the countries where they were first captured for further detention or rehabilitation. The rest could probably be prosecuted in U.S. criminal courts, one adviser said. All spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing talks, which have been private.
Whatever form it takes, Tribe said he expects Obama to move quickly.
“In reality and symbolically, the idea that we have people in legal black holes is an extremely serious black mark,” Tribe said. “It has to be dealt with.”
WASHINGTON — For nearly two years on the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama rarely missed a chance to take a swipe at President Bush. The name George W. Bush invariably followed the phrase “failed policies” in Mr. Obama’s speeches. “When George Bush steps down,” Mr. Obama once declared, “the world is going to breathe a sigh of relief.”
Ronald and Nancy Reagan, right, and President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in 1980.
On Monday, Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, may find himself conveniently forgetting those words — or at least delicately stepping around the fact that he had said them. As the president-elect, he will be welcomed at the White House as an honored guest of its current occupant, Mr. Bush, for a meeting that could be as awkward as it is historic.
In a time-honored tradition of American democracy, Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, will receive a tour of their new home from Mr. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush. Then the men will split off to begin the formal transfer of power, all the more urgent this year because of the financial crisis. Mr. Obama has said he expects a “substantive conversation between myself and the president.”
But there will also be a subtext to the session: the personal chemistry between two leaders whose worldviews are miles apart. The ritual visit is occurring uncommonly early this year, less than a week after Mr. Obama handily defeated Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was the Republican nominee and Mr. Bush’s preferred candidate. Emotions may still be raw.
“I’m not going to anticipate problems,” Mr. Obama said Friday at his first news conference as president-elect. “I’m going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship.”
Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama have had little chance to forge the kind of personal relationship that might prompt a smooth handoff. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Mr. Obama wrote less than admiringly of his first face-to-face encounter with the president, at a White House breakfast for new senators after the 2004 election, where Mr. Bush outlined his second-term agenda.
“The president’s eyes became fixed; his voice took on the agitated, rapid tone of someone neither accustomed to nor welcoming interruption; his easy affability was replaced by an almost messianic certainty,” Mr. Obama wrote. “As I watched my mostly Republican Senate colleagues hang on his every word, I was reminded of the dangerous isolation that power can bring.”
Mr. Bush, meanwhile, was privately critical of Mr. Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary race, telling friends that he thought Mr. Obama’s chief rival for the party’s nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, was “more experienced and more ready to be president,” said one friend of Mr. Bush’s who had such a conversation. But Mr. Obama ran a good campaign — Mr. Bush is someone who appreciates that — and the election last week might have eased his doubts.
“President Bush is a realist,” said this friend, who spoke anonymously to disclose his private conversation with the president. “He has a way of coming to grips with things and moving on. The people have spoken.”
For Mr. Bush, the meeting has a distinct upside: the chance to take the edge off his unpopularity. Democrats are already praising him as gracious for his post-election speech in the Rose Garden, where he said it would be a “stirring sight” to see the Obama family move into the White House. The meeting on Monday will give Mr. Bush an opportunity to produce lasting images of that graciousness.
“The important thing he gets out of it,” the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said, “is a public perception of him as somebody who is leaving in classy fashion, by opening his house and his information and his government. He wants to leave on a note that says he did everything possible to help this next president run the country.”
But such meetings can be fraught with political and personal danger. On Inauguration Day in 2001, President Bill Clinton invited Mr. Bush for coffee before the ceremony but kept his ever-punctual successor waiting for 10 minutes, recalled Mr. Bush’s first press secretary, Ari Fleischer. Even more uncomfortable was the presence of Vice President Al Gore, who lost the presidential election to Mr. Bush after a bitterly contested Florida recount.
“Clinton was his normal gregarious self, but Vice President Gore was not a happy camper,” Mr. Fleischer said. “I think it was a very sour moment for him, and you could kind of feel it in the room.”
In 1980, after President Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan, the two met at the White House. Mr. Carter came away feeling that Mr. Reagan had not been paying attention.
“President Carter was kind of taken aback by the meeting with Reagan,” said Jody Powell, Mr. Carter’s former press secretary. “There was a point where he sort of wandered off and asked questions that seemed to be only tangentially related to what they were talking about.”
And though the Carter White House had offered to share information about efforts to end the Iranian hostage crisis, Mr. Powell said, “My impression was that they wanted us to handle it without them being involved enough to have to take responsibility for whatever happened.”
So, too, may it be with Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama over the economy. Mr. Bush has invited world leaders to Washington on Friday and Saturday for an international conference on the economy. Mr. Obama and his team have declined to attend. Mr. Obama supports a new economic stimulus package; the Bush White House is cool to that idea.
The White House says Mr. Obama has been there seven times during Mr. Bush’s tenure, most recently in September for a much-publicized meeting on the $700 billion financial rescue package. That session blew up when House Republicans, backed by Mr. McCain, balked at the plan. Curiously enough, Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush were on the same side.
Perhaps Mr. Obama will remind Mr. Bush of that when he sees him on Monday. Or perhaps he will remind Mr. Bush of another encounter, at a White House reception in January 2005 when, according to Mr. Obama’s book, the affable president offered a dollop of hand sanitizer — “Not wanting to seem unhygienic,” Mr. Obama wrote, “I took a squirt” — and then pulled him aside for some unsolicited political advice.
“You’ve got a bright future, very bright,” Mr. Bush began, by Mr. Obama’s account. The president went on to warn the new senator that his celebrity status could hurt him: “Everybody’ll be waiting for you to slip, know what I mean? So watch yourself.”
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.
NEW YORK — All ears were listening to US President-elect Barack Obama’s victory speech this week but fashion-watchers were looking closely at his wife Michelle’s dress — and the verdict was not so good.
Michelle Obama, wife of US president-elect Barack Obama, and Jill Biden, wife of US vice-president-elect Joe Biden, walk on stage during their election night victory rally. — AFP Despite comparisons during the campaign to stylish 1960s first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Michelle Obama was derided in opinion polls for her choice of a black and neon-red dress from Narciso Rodriguez’s spring 2009 ready-to-wear collection.
In an online poll by USA Today, 65% of more than 10,000 readers believed the Harvard-educated corporate lawyer and future first lady “had an off day” and 35% said “She looks fantastic as always.” An online poll by People magazine mirrored those results, while a Los Angeles Times online poll found 45% hated the dress and 34% loved it.
“The normally impeccable Michelle O made a questionable choice for her husband’s historic election night victory,” wrote Lesley Scott, editor of fashion and lifestyle blog www.fashiontribes.com. “It’s less than flattering.”
“However, every fashionista worth her salt takes risks,” Ms. Scott said, “which means the occasional misstep.”
Not everyone disliked Ms. Obama’s choice, which was shown on the catwalk only two months ago and is not yet available in stores. New York magazine hailed Ms. Obama for being able to hold her own against France’s first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, a former supermodel.
“We have a feeling she’ll continue to mix affordable pieces with designer pieces as First Lady, but this wardrobe choice proves this woman knows fashion and we have an exciting four years of political fashion ahead of us,” the magazine said. “What will she choose for the inaugural ball? The suspense is so exciting! And you know what else is great about this? We don’t have to envy France for Carla Bruni anymore!”“That dress was unpretentious,” Julie Gilhart, fashion director of New York’s top-price Barneys clothing store, told the Times. “It said, ’Be who you are — don’t let someone else tell you how to be.’”
The Italian daily La Stampa dubbed the dress “the look of victory” and said the black symbolized mourning for Obama’s grandmother, who died on the eve of the election, while the red was for passion.
A contributor to the Web site of the German newsweekly Focus also suggested there was hidden meaning in the colors, perhaps red for the political left and black for the first African-American to win the US presidency.
“It is more about the symbolic effect of the color combination red/black. Because the daughters were also in red or black. Very unusual and surely no accident,” the reader said.Others were dismissive, describing the subject as superficial besides the historic importance of Barack Obama’s election win.
“The USA must be doing pretty well if it is worrying about the First Lady’s dress!” one typical Focus posting said.
Interest in Obama’s fashion has soared since she won particular praise for the purple sheath dress and black belt she wore in June when her husband clinched the nomination as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate.
While Republican candidate John McCain’s wife Cindy and his vice-presidential running mate Sarah Palin drew criticism for their high-end wardrobes, Ms. Obama won fans for affordable style. Ms. Obama wore a $150 dress on The View talk show, which became an instant hit. For The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, she donned an outfit from chain store J.Crew.
She has even inspired a Web site — http://www.mrs-o.org — dedicated to taking “a regular look at what and who she’s wearing” and encouraging enthusiasm for “the budding style icon, Mrs O.”
Ms. Obama already has a fashion track record, appearing in Vogue and being named twice on Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list.
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.
His focused effort to target a group that had heavily favored Republicans paid off, an exit poll shows.
As he vaulted into national acclaim with his 2004 Democratic convention speech, Barack Obama directly took on the assumption that his party should cede religious voters to the Republicans.
“We worship an awesome God in the blue states,” he said, pointedly adopting words from a song familiar to churchgoers, particularly younger ones.
The four-year effort by Obama, who is Christian, to narrow the gap between Democratic and Republican support among religious voters paid off last week when he won the race for the White House.
Exit polls showed the dramatic effect: Obama won 43% of voters who said they attend church weekly, eight percentage points higher than 2004 Democratic nominee John F. Kerry. Among occasional worshipers, Obama won 57%, 11 percentage points higher than Kerry, according to the National Election Pool exit survey.
When looking at how members of different faiths voted, the movement among Catholics is striking. They sided 52% to 47% with President Bush in 2004. But this year, they went 54% to 45% for Obama. That means Obama had more support among Catholics than did Kerry, himself a Catholic, by seven percentage points.
“Obama did better than Kerry among pretty much every religious group,” said Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life who analyzed the poll results.
Even among voters who describe themselves as born-again Christians or evangelicals, a group that tends to vote Republican, Obama improved on Kerry’s standing — although he came in a distant second to GOP nominee John McCain. Kerry had won 21% of evangelical voters; Obama won 26%.
The shift by religious voters may have resulted partly from changes in the electorate — voter participation by blacks and Latinos grew, and both groups tend to be regular churchgoers. Yet there is no doubt that secular voters were more supportive of Obama than religious ones, according to the exit poll.
The Obama campaign, however, made sure to court religious voters and took advantage of his connections to influential Christian leaders.
Nearly two years ago, when voters knew little about him, the Illinois senator stood alongside nationally known author and Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest for a televised AIDS conference. Earlier, Obama had asked Warren to review a chapter of his book “The Audacity of Hope.”
Obama again gained the attention of Christian voters in July when he pledged to expand a controversial White House program to give federal grants to churches and small community groups. The proposal, which would build on efforts by the Bush administration to direct government money to church groups, was announced in Zanesville, Ohio, a hotly contested state that Obama won on election day.
And at the Democratic National Convention in August, which held its first-ever interfaith prayer gathering, the party platform endorsed by Obama — while not backing away from its support for abortion rights — emphatically reached out to women with children who rely on programs meant to ease their struggle.
Obama’s ease in talking about his religion also helped him win over religious voters. During a presidential forum held in August at Saddleback Church, where he and McCain were interviewed separately by church leader Warren, Obama spoke about “walking humbly with our God” and quoted from the Gospel of Matthew. His acceptance speech Tuesday night echoed in parts the church-inspired speeches of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
“He uses the faith language very well,” said Clyde Wilcox, a Georgetown University professor of government who has studied the subject. And that, he said, inspired trust.
“How do you know whether to trust him or not?” Wilcox said. “If you are a deeply religious person, you want to see that he has a grounding. That authenticity is really important. It reassures people.”
Religion, for a time, became a thorn for Obama during the presidential race. He was harshly criticized for his association with the now-retired Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose incendiary sermons about white America caused an uproar and led Obama to part ways with his longtime pastor, and endured a viral e-mail campaign falsely asserting that he is Muslim.
But “there was a broad recognition that he was a sincerely religious man,” Wilcox said of Obama. “And I think that did come through.”
The Obama campaign reached out to evangelicals and other religious communities, aware of the opportunity to peel away some voters.
Douglas W. Kmiec, a Pepperdine law professor, caused a stir last spring when he publicly endorsed Obama. One month later, at a Catholic Mass to which he was invited, Kmiec was denounced from the pulpit and denied communion because of his endorsement.
Kmiec said that although Obama’s support for abortion rights contradicts official Catholic doctrine, his broader approach aligns well with the church’s beliefs on issues such as the economy, healthcare and the environment.
“I was attracted out of my Republican-ness to Sen. Obama’s side largely because I could hear, in the way he was articulating economic issues and social issues, the social gospel of the Catholic Church,” Kmiec said.
From September through election day, Kmiec traveled to key states including Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, meeting with groups of people at churches on Obama’s behalf. The election’s focus on the economy was “providential,” Kmiec said. Without the usual single-issue debate about abortion rights among Christian voters, the Obama campaign had the opportunity to make its case on other fronts.
“It moderated, it seemed to me, the amount of time that was devoted to these divisive conversations,” he said.
The election results returned Catholics to their historical Democratic moorings, which many had fled for the GOP during the Reagan years.
“That is opening a door that had been closed for a while,” Kmiec said. But whether it stays open may be determined by whether Obama’s actions match what he promised — and also by what larger political environment defines the 2012 presidential race.
“At some level, if he’s a good president, that will affect evangelicals and non-evangelicals, Catholics,” said Wilcox of Georgetown University. It is too soon, he said, to know whether Obama’s improvements among religious voters indicate a new alignment for Democrats, or were simply a verdict on the 2008 candidates.
“I would want to see this over time,” Wilcox said.
RIGHT WING: “The game has begun,” Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience of 15 million to 20 million last week.
Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity dive shamelessly in, talking about the ‘Obama recession’ and other partisan lines.
You have to give Rush Limbaugh a perverse kind of credit. At least when he is demonizing Barack Obama, fabricating Obama policies, blaming Obama for single-handedly causing the recession and the stock market crash, he doesn’t pretend to be fair.
Opening his first post-election rant against the president-elect, Limbaugh launched in with a certain relish. “The game,” he told his radio listeners, “has begun.”
Sean Hannity, on the other hand, insisted on feigning a post-election detente, telling his Fox News television audience last week, “I want Barack Obama to succeed.”
Didn’t he think anyone would notice that, just a moment later, he was back parroting the failed campaign argument that Obama is a “mystery”?
“I fear [this] is the guy that has these radical associations 20 years ago,” Hannity added, an odd way of demonstrating support for the new commander in chief.
A healthy skepticism is not only the media’s right but its obligation. Indeed, commentators at many mainstream outlets — including the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal — have already argued that Obama’s best bet to succeed will be if he hews to a centrist path.
But many on the losing end of last week’s election want to hold on to their anger. And there are those in the media — led by the likes of Limbaugh and Hannity — only too ready to feed that animus, along with their own ratings.
“The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen,” Limbaugh told his radio audience of 15 million to 20 million on Thursday. “Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression.”
Apparently the tanking of the real estate market, record losses in the auto industry, and massive failures in the banking and investment industry have very little to do with our problems. The economic system is collapsing, Rush wants us to know, because it anticipates the tax increases Obama has pledged on capital gains and for the highest income earners.
But maybe that shouldn’t be so surprising, because radio’s Biggest Big Man also assures us that the Democrat welcomes “economic chaos” because it gives him “greater opportunity for expanded government.” In a time when the nation calls out for cool leadership and rational discussion, Limbaugh stirs the caldron, a tendency he proved in a particularly grotesque way last week when he accused Obama’s party of plotting a government takeover of 401(k) retirement plans.
“They’re going to take your 401(k), put it in the Social Security trust fund, whatever the hell that is,” Limbaugh woofed. “Trust fund, my rear end.”
A slight problem with Limbaugh’s report: Obama and the Democrats have proposed no such thing.
The proposal, in fact, emanated from a single economist, one of many experts testifying to a congressional committee.
The president-elect has thus far shown as much interest in taking over your 401(k) as he has in moving the capital to Nairobi. (If you look hard, you might find that one somewhere out there in the blogosphere, too.)
To broadcast such a report — so drained of context as to constitute a lie — would be a shameless act at any time. But Limbaugh needlessly stirred the fears of the millions he holds in his thrall — making the 401(k) thievery sound like nearly a done deal. Shameless.
Hannity and Limbaugh filleted Obama’s selection as chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, in a way that exposed their partisan gamesmanship.
Mainstream newspapers have filed plenty of unflinching accounts of Emanuel’s tough, occasionally ruthless tactics as a Democratic congressional leader and onetime operative in the Clinton White House. That assessment of bare-knuckle partisanship Hannity seized on. But it wouldn’t do to report another aspect of Emanuel’s record — his Clintonesque bent for the political center.
So the Fox-man simply created a new persona for Emanuel as, you guessed it, “one of the hardest left-wing radicals on the left.”
Ever open-minded, Hannity concluded, “I think they’re going to overreach, and I think we’re going to see the person that I think Barack Obama is. I think he is hard, hard left.”
Then, I kid you not, Hannity ended with this pledge: “We’ll see. We’ll give him an opportunity.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham apparently didn’t get the memo requiring Obama’s opponents to sink immediately and mindlessly into rank partisanship.
The South Carolina senator, one of Sen. John McCain’s closest allies in his bid for the presidency, praised Obama’s selection of Emanuel as “a wise choice.” He added that the new chief of staff could be a tough partisan, but was also “honest, direct and candid” and willing to “work to find common ground where it exists.”
Perhaps Hannity, Limbaugh and the rest of those intent on poisoning the soil before bipartisanship can take root might recall words of wisdom from Brit Hume, a veteran newsman who is close to leaving the Fox anchor desk for semi-retirement.
The problem with the accusations of Obama being “dangerous” and “radical,” Hume said on election night, “was that it just didn’t fit with the man you saw before your eyes.”
President-Elect Barack Obama held his first press conference yesterday, one that focused mainly on the current economic crisis. One detail that flew under the radar, however, was which networks and newpapers got to ask questions, or, rather, which one didn’t get to ask a question. As Media Bistro notes, one network who was not called upon sticks out: Fox News.
It will be interesting to see how the conservative network adjusts to a political reality in which the Democratic Party holds the White House and substantial majorities in both houses of Congress. Michael Wolff, a Vanity Fair columnist who is writing an authorized biography on Rupert Murdoch’s career and family, claims that even Murdoch is embarrassed by Fox News:
Now, with about six weeks to go before publication, Mr. Murdoch has raised objections with Mr. Wolff and his publisher about portions of the book, titled “The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch,” that suggest that Mr. Murdoch is at times embarrassed by Fox News, which he owns, and its chief executive, Roger Ailes, and that he often shares “the general liberal apoplexy,” as Mr. Wolff writes in the book, toward Fox News and its perceived conservative slant…
…The objections raised on behalf of Mr. Murdoch came after an article on Mr. Murdoch and the book was published in Vanity Fair in the October issue in which Mr. Wolff wrote that Mr. Murdoch was making friends with liberals and that he had soured on Fox News and Mr. Ailes. (A 10,000-word excerpt from the book will be published in the December issue, due out early next month.)
“For a long time, he was in love with the Fox chief, Roger Ailes, because he was even more Murdoch than Murdoch,” Mr. Wolff wrote in the October Vanity Fair piece. “And yet now the embarrassment can’t be missed — he mumbles even more than usual when called on to justify it; he barely pretends to hide the way he feels about Bill O’Reilly.”