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Those who’ve feared that President Obama will be a soft touch for tyrants and terrorists can take comfort in his Inaugural Address, in which he declared:
We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus–and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West–know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
Here is George W. Bush, four years ago today:
From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation’s security, and the calling of our time.
So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.
This is not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary. Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way.
To be sure, there are differences of emphasis. But Obama’s “new era of peace” is not all that different from Bush’s “ultimate goal of ending tyranny in this world.” Both presidents proclaimed the universality of America’s ideals: Just as Bush said that “every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value,” so Obama asserts that “we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve”–as they have in America, a nation that once enslaved blacks and has now inaugurated a black president.
There were differences of substance, too. Obama included the requisite sops to hair-shirt liberalism: “roll back the specter of a warming planet . . . nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.” He also said, in what was surely meant as a rebuke to his predecessor, “We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” But our guess is that George W. Bush, too, rejects that choice as false, and that Obama will find many Bush national-security policies are consistent with our ideals after all.
This is not to suggest that there will be no changes in foreign policy under President Obama. The rap against Bush has been that he is too eager to use military force, and Obama opposed the use of force to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. But in his Inaugural Address today, the president said, “We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan.” Without the Bush-led intervention in these nations, this is a promise President Obama would be in no position to make.
President Bush’s opponents on the Angry Left often succumbed to a blind hatred for the man and ended up mocking America’s ideals because they loathed the man who was speaking up for them. The Angry Right is susceptible to the same error now. An inauguration is a good opportunity to remember that those ideals belong to all of us, and that they endure regardless of party and personnel.
Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States Tuesday, and called on Americans to join him in confronting what he described as an economic crisis caused by greed but also “our collective failure to make hard choices.”
“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real,” Mr. Obama said in his inaugural address minutes after he took the oath of office on the same bible used by Abraham Lincoln at his first inaugural in 1861. “They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.”
Mr. Obama, the first African American to serve as president, spoke to a sea of cheering people, hundreds of thousands of Americans packed on the National Mall from the Capitol to beyond the Washington monument. The multitude was filled with black Americans and Mr. Obama’s triumph was a special and emotional moment for them.
With his wife, Michelle, holding the Bible, Mr. Obama, the 47-year-old son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Africa, was sworn in just after noon, a little later than planned, and spoke immediately thereafter..
In his speech, Mr. Obama promised to take “bold and swift” action to restore the economy by creating jobs through public works projects, improving education, promoting alternative energy and relying on new technology.
“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America,” Mr. Obama said in a prepared copy of his remarks.
The new president also noted the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the “far-reaching network of violence and hatred” that seeks to harm the country. He used strong language in pledging to confront terrorism, nuclear proliferation and other threats from abroad, saying to the nation’s enemies, “you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
But he also signaled a clean break from some of the Bush administration’s policies on national security. “As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,” he said, adding that the United States is “ready to lead once more.”
He acknowledged that some are skeptical of his ability to fulfill the hope that many have in his ability to move the nation in a new direction.
“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply,” said Mr. Obama, who ran for stressing a commitment to reduce partisanship. “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.”
Hundreds of thousands of people packed the National Mall from the West Front of the Capitol to beyond the Washington monument, buttoned up against the freezing chill but projecting a palpable sense of hope as Mr. Obama becomes the first African American to hold the nation’s highest elected office. It was the largest inaugural crowd in decades, perhaps the largest ever; the throng and the anticipation began building even before the sun rose.
After his speech, following a carefully designed script that played out all morning, Mr. Obama was to head inside the Capitol and sign nomination papers for the Cabinet members he chose in the weeks following his Nov. 4 victory. The Senate is to confirm some of those new Cabinet secretaries this afternoon, but Republicans planned to delay the confirmation of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state for at least one day.
WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands thronged to the Capitol this morning preparing to witness the midday inauguration of Barack Obama of Illinois as the 44th president of the United States and the first African American to hold the nation’s highest elected office.
Even before the sun rose, people streamed from all directions to the West Front of the Capitol, making their way on foot and by mass transit since traffic was barred from a wide area around the grounds and the National Mall for security and to prevent gridlock due to the multitude expected to attend.
Given the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s election, black Americans appeared to be much more prevalent in the gathering crowd than at inaugurals of the recent past.
Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, were scheduled to meet the outgoing president, George W. Bush, and his wife, Laura, at the White House for a coffee at 10 a.m. before driving to the Capitol for a carefully choreographed ceremony that will climax with a peaceful transfer of executive authority to Mr. Obama shortly before noon. His inaugural address will follow.
But first, the Obamas went to church, followed by coffee with President Bush and his wife, Laura.
They left Blair House at 8:47 a.m. for the short drive in their new presidential Cadillac limousine to St. John’s Episcopal Church, just a few blocks away, for a prayer service. Mr. Obama wore a dark suit and red tie. Michelle Obama wore a sparkling golden dress and matching coat.
As the Obamas sat in the center of a front row pew, next to Vice President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, the keynote speaker, Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, read a Biblical passage from Daniel 3:19. He then offered some lessons clearly aimed both to brace and hearten the president-elect: “In time of crisis, good men must stand up”; “You cannot change what you will not confront,” and “You cannot enjoy the light without enduring the heat.”
Shortly before 10 a.m., the Obamas arrived at the White House, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Biden. The Obamas were met at the door by the Bushes. The two men shook hands and with their wives posed for a picture before going inside for a traditional coffee and a final few moments for the Bushes in the home they have occupied the past eight years.
Aides said Mr. Obama was expected to emphasize personal responsibility in his speech.
“He is going to be counting on the American people to come together,” Colin Powell, the former military leader and secretary of state, said in an appearance on MSNBC on Tuesday morning. “We all have to do something to help the country move forward under the leadership of this new president.”
As a black American who grew up in a segregated nation, Mr. Powell said the inauguration was looming as a powerful and emotional moment for African Americans. “You almost start tearing up,” he said.
The crowd that stretched down the mall was festive and enthusiastic. They were bundled against the cold, with the temperature just above 20 degrees at 9 a.m., and the forecast calling for it to remain in the low 30s.
Mr. Obama’s assumption of the presidency caps a remarkable rise for a man first elected to national office in 2004, winning a Senate seat in a year when he also delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
To win the presidency, he defeated Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who will become his secretary of state, in a pitched presidential primary battle and then beat Senator John McCain of Arizona in a general election conducted against the backdrop of a national economic collapse.
Though Mr. Obama did not emphasize his African American heritage as a candidate, the symbolism was evident and was reinforced by the fact that the swearing in was taking place the day following the national holiday to mark the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King. He will take office less than a month before the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, another Illinoisan who took the office at a time of national turmoil and a man whom Mr. Obama clearly looks to as an inspiration for his own presidency.
“Today is about validation of the dream Dr. King enunciated 45 years ago on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial,” Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House and the highest ranking black lawmaker in Congress, said on Tuesday morning.
Responding to warnings that the huge crowd could cause long waits and security screen checkpoints, people packed Washington’s subway trains by 5:30 a.m., filling all the parking lots at the outer stations; the subways had carried more than 400,000 riders by 8 a.m. An accident halted service on one of the main lines around 10 a.m.
Shortly after 7 a.m., as the sun rose above the Capitol dome, there was a glittering burst of flash-bulbs as the teeming crowd collectively snapped thousands of photos of the dramatic moment. Around the Capitol, ticket gates opened for the long lines that were already waiting. Before long the Mall was packed with people for as far as the eye could see; by 9 a.m the eastern half of the Mall, closer to the Capitol, was completely full. Large crowds continued to stream in on foot from many blocks away, heading to the area near the Washington Monument. On the East Front, where the swearing in of the president used to occur, Marine One was parked in the plaza, ready to be re-designated for the flight taking President Bush and Mrs. Bush to the airport.
Inside the Capitol, staffers were scurrying about putting the final touches on the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall. The corridor leading to the House chamber had been transformed into staging grounds for the caterers, with huge serving tins of beets and green vegetables. Outside the House chamber, were dozens of cases of Korbel Champagne.
The tables were set with large centerpieces of red roses. And a lectern, fashioned from a brass statue of a bald eagle, was positioned behind the dais. Decorators were making final adjustments to the lighting of “View of Yosemite Valley” an 1885 painting by Thomas Hill that was positioned directly behind the President Obama’s seat at the center of the dais.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Promising to protect the United States while adhering to its core human values, President-elect Barack Obama formally unveiled his intelligence team Friday, praising their integrity, management skills and willingness to tell him the truth. “We must adhere to our values as diligently as we protect our safety with no exceptions,” Obama said.
Obama picked retired Adm. Dennis Blair as the national intelligence director and Leon Panetta to head the CIA.
He called them “public servants with unquestioned integrity, broad experience, and strong managers with the core pragmatism that we need in dangerous times.”
Obama said he has given the men the clear charge to restore the United States’ record on human rights.
“I was clear throughout this campaign and was clear throughout this transition that under my administration the United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions. We will uphold our highest ideals,” he said.
Obama said that the country learned “tough lessons” under the Bush administration, and he will demand intelligence assessments “grounded solely in the facts, and not seek information to suit any ideological agenda.”
Blair, a former head of the U.S. Pacific Command, pledged to uphold the standards that Obama articulated “and that the American people have a right to expect.”
Blair won high marks for countering terrorism in southeast Asia after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He worked closely with foreign partners in crafting offensives that crippled the Jemaah Islamiyah terror faction in Indonesia and the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines.
Obama Announces CIA and national intelligence directors (Full Press Conference)
Panetta, a former congressman, White House chief of staff and budget director with no direct intelligence experience, will have the president’s “complete trust and substantial clout,” Obama said.
“He has handled intelligence daily at the very highest levels, and time and again he has demonstrated sound judgment, grace under fire, and complete integrity,” he said.
Panetta said he would work to assuage a Congress bruised from eight years of abrasive relations with the Bush administration and promised “to form the kind of partnership we need if we’re to win the war on terror.”
Obama praised the intelligence professionals working at 16 U.S. agencies even as he criticized the current administration for directing them in carrying out harsh interrogation and secret rendition policies.
“They have served in the shadows, saved American lives, advanced our interests, and earned the respect of a grateful nation,” Obama said.
Obama is also tapping John Brennan to head homeland security and counterterrorism on the National Security Council. Michael Leiter will remain on as the director of the national Counterterrorism Center. And outgoing National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell will serve on Obama’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Obama has also asked the CIA’s current deputy, Steve Kappes, to remain at the agency.
Current CIA director Michael Hayden said in a message to employees Friday that he has been asked to remain at the agency until Panetta is confirmed by the Senate.
He said he and Kappes met with and are “deeply impressed with his candor and clear commitment to the welfare of the men and women of CIA.”
McConnell said in a statement Friday he was pleased with the selection of Blair.
Blair and Panetta are both garnering substantial support on Capitol Hill, although concerns exist about each. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told The Associated Press on Thursday that he plans to question Blair about the role he played 10 years ago in U.S. efforts to rein in the Indonesian military as it brutally cracked down on civilians in East Timor. Staff aides to other members said they would be listening closely to the answers.
Paramilitary groups sponsored by the Indonesian military with U.S. financial and political patronage slaughtered more than 200,000 East Timorese over two decades. In 1999, as civilians were being massacred, Congress and the Clinton administration cut off all military ties.
Blair, then U.S. Pacific Command chief, pushed for renewing relations with the Indonesian army, reasoning that drawing it closer would give the U.S. more leverage. Obama spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said Blair was acting in accordance with U.S. policy.
“Admiral Blair condemned the conduct of Indonesian troops in East Timor, and he conveyed that if they behaved responsibly, the U.S. was prepared to resume normal relations. If they did not, they risked further negative consequences,” she said.
The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network, a human rights group, called Blair a poor choice for intelligence director this week.
Ed McWilliams, who was political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta at the time and is now with the human rights group, told the AP “the matter raises the larger question of our cooperation with militaries and intelligence agencies which abuse human rights, are unaccountable before their own justice systems and not subordinate to civilian control.”
But McWilliams credited Blair for trying to lead a human rights delegation to Indonesia’s province of West Papua where terrible abuses were occurring. He and his delegation were blocked by security forces.
Panetta faced resistance from the Hill earlier this week because of his lack of intelligence experience, but his prospects for an easy confirmation improved this week as key senators, including incoming Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, pledged their support after discussions with Obama, Panetta and Vice President-elect Joe Biden.
You’ve seen him assaulted with a shoe, but care to see President Bush “hung?” That’s a scenario Mr. Bush decided was worthy of a joke this morning in Washington.
“I suspected there would be a good-size crowd once the word got out about my hanging,” the president said at the unveiling of his portrait at the National Portrait Gallery. The portrait by Robert Anderson – a classmate of Mr. Bush at Yale – will be hung in the exhibition “America’s Presidents,” and is available for viewing starting tomorrow.
CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller writes: “Since the gallery now has portraits dating back to George Washington, he noted the symmetry – from George W. to George W.”
Mr. Bush also noted that the artist said he had a lot of trouble with the president’s mouth. “And I told him that makes two of us,” Mr. Bush said.
One more crack: President Bush said the artist had to use alot more gray paint that in a previous portrait of a slightly younger Mr. Bush for the Yale Club.
First Lady Laura Bush’s portrait, by Aleksander Titovets, a Russian painter who now lives in El Paso, Texas. The portrait of Mrs. Bush won’t hang near her husband’s – it will be on display on the first floor in the north hall of the gallery.
Despite being allotted less desirable portrait real-estate, Mrs. Bush was all smiles and joviality, too. According to the official transcript of the unveiling, she said:
- Sasha [Titovets, the Russian painter] said that he postponed telling his mother when his work was chosen for this portrait. He thought the news might be “too big” for her. (Laughter.) And history shows us that these assignments can sometime turn out poorly. Years ago, Peter Hurd was commissioned to paint Lyndon B. Johnson’s portrait for the official White House collection. President Johnson took one look at the final portrait and declared it the “ugliest thing he’d ever seen.” (Laughter.) Across Washington, the joke spread at Hurd’s expense that artists should be seen, but not Hurd, at the White House. Peter Hurd’s portrait of President Johnson now hangs here in the National Portrait Gallery.
The first family wasn’t (quite) all jokes. As Mr. Bush reflected on being custodian of the presidency these last eight years, Knoller reports, tears welled in his eyes.
Raw Video: Iraqi Journalist Throws Shoe at Bush
By David Horowitz
The continuing efforts of a fringe group of conservatives to deny Obama his victory and to lay the basis for the claim that he is not a legitimate president is embarrassing and destructive. The fact that these efforts are being led by Alan Keyes, a demagogue who lost a Senate election to the then-unknown Obama by 42 points, should be a warning in itself.
This tempest over whether Obama, the child of an American citizen, was born on American soil is tantamount to the Democrats’ seditious claim that Bush “stole” the election in Florida and hence was not the legitimate president. This delusion helped to create the Democrats’ Bush derangement syndrome and encouraged Democratic leaders to lie about the origins of the Iraq war, and regard it as illegitimate as Bush himself. It became “Bush’s War” rather than an American War — with destructive consequences for our troops and our cause.
The birth-certificate zealots are essentially arguing that 64 million voters should be disenfranchised because of a contested technicality as to whether Obama was born on U.S. soil. (McCain narrowly escaped the problem by being born in the Panama Canal zone, which is no longer American.)
What difference does it make to the future of this country whether Obama was born on U.S. soil? Advocates of this destructive campaign will argue that the constitutional principle regarding the qualifications for president trumps all others. But how viable will our Constitution be if five Supreme Court justices should decide to void 64 million ballots?
Conservatives are supposed to respect the organic nature of human societies. Ours has been riven by profound disagreements that have been deepening over many years. We are divided not only about political facts and social values, but also about what the Constitution itself means. The crusaders on this issue choose to ignore these problems and are proposing to deny the will of 64 million voters by appealing to five Supreme Court Justices (since no one is delusional enough to think that the four liberal justices are going to take the presidency away from Obama). What kind of conservatism is this?
It is not conservatism; it is sore loserism and quite radical in its intent. Respect for election results is one of the most durable bulwarks of our unity as a nation. Conservatives need to accept the fact that we lost the election, and get over it; and get on with the important business of reviving our country’s economy and defending its citizens, and — by the way — its Constitution.
As President Bush prepares to move into his new Dallas home at the end of his term, neighborhood residents worry about having him close by.
One woman shared her fears as she walked past Bush’s house carrying her King Charles cocker spaniel on Friday.
“I am afraid with all the negative press the president has been getting, the whole neighborhood is going to be a target,” said the woman, who refused to give her name.
Traffic has already begun to clog the narrow streets around the home, causing neighbors to call the police — who expect the hullabaloo to continue.
“When the Bushes are here full time, I imagine we’ll be here full time,” said Officer Michael Bratcher of the Dallas Police Department, who was directing traffic.
But the exclusive Dallas community the Bush family will soon join has a troubled history of its own.
Until 2000, the neighborhood association’s covenant said only white people were allowed to live there, though an exception was made for servants.
Enacted in 1956, part of the original document reads: “Said property shall be used and occupied by white persons except those shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of different race or nationality in the employ of a tenant.”
The entire covenant can be seen here.
When asked about his new home in an interview with The Dallas Morning News, Bush “played coy.”
“Mr. President — you excited about your house in Dallas?” Todd Gillman asked.
“Todd, why do you care?” Bush responded. “You live in Washington, D.C.”
The neighborhood is home to many famous people, including former presidential candidate Ross Perot and Mark Cuban, the billionaire businessman and Dallas Mavericks owner.
President Bush’s new house abuts the 14-acre lair of real-estate investor Gene Phillips, who just had a trout-filled lake installed on his property.
Obama MTP Interview: Obama Big Three automakers ‘strategic mistakes’
(CNN) — President-elect Barack Obama formally announced Sunday that retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki is his pick to be secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki Sunday promised to work for veterans “each and every day.”
“There is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next secretary of Veterans Affairs — General Eric Shinseki,” Obama said at a press conference. “No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need.”
Obama said the nation must focus on helping troops who have served their country especially during bad economic times.
“We don’t just need to better serve veterans of today’s wars. We also need to build a 21st century VA that will better serve all who have answered our nation’s call,” Obama said. “That means cutting red tape and easing transition into civilian life. And it means eliminating shortfalls, fully funding VA health care, and providing the benefits our veterans have earned.
Shinseki, who spoke after Obama, made a vow to his fellow veterans. If confirmed, he said, he will “work each and every day” to ensure the nation is serving them “as well as you have served us.”
The official announcement took place in Chicago on Sunday, the anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
“When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served — higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate — it breaks my heart,” Obama said earlier in the day on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“And I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who’s going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home.”
“He has agreed that he is willing to be part of this administration because both he and I share a reverence for those who serve,” Obama said in the interview recorded Saturday and broadcast Sunday.
Host Tom Brokaw said Shinseki had lost his job in the Bush administration “because he said that we would need more troops in Iraq than the secretary of defense, Don Rumsfeld, thought that we would need at that time.”
“He was right,” Obama replied.
Veterans groups appeared to support the selection.
“I am excited. I don’t know him personally but this is a huge move,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
For years, Shinseki, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, has been cited as an example by Pentagon critics who say the former Army chief’s sage advice was ignored in 2003, resulting in too few U.S. troops being sent to Iraq after the invasion.
Shinseki testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003 that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers would be required” to pacify the country. The comment infuriated some Bush administration officials, and he retired just a few months later.
Shinseki has never spoken publicly about his testimony, which has often been cited by critics as evidence that Rumsfeld ignored the advice of one of his key generals.
But as Army chief of staff, Shinseki was not in the chain of command, and played no direct role in drawing up the war plans.
Pentagon sources say that, in fact, Shinseki never advocated higher troop levels for Iraq, in part because it was not his job to do so. And sources say that just before the invasion, when asked by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers if he agreed with the war plans, Shinseki voiced no objections.
Still, Rieckhoff said, “Shinseki is a guy who had a career putting patriotism above politics. He is a wounded veteran so he understands the plight of veterans.”
He said Shinseki would have to make key connections with the veterans community, adding, “This is a big name and it shows that he (Obama) is not going to treat the Veterans Affairs secretary as a low priority.”
John Rowan, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, called the reported pick an “interesting choice.”
“I am satisfied with it,” Rowan told CNN on Saturday, adding that the choice seems to be in the Obama transition team’s pattern of “bringing in strong personalities into all the positions who aren’t going to ‘yes’ him to death.”
“When Shinseki had his disagreements with the administration, he wasn’t afraid to speak up,” Rowan said.
Veterans for Common Sense also weighed in, issuing a statement “strongly” supporting Shinseki.
“In February 2003, General Shinseki honestly and correctly assessed our nation’s military needs before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003,” the statement said. “This same level of candor and honesty will serve President-elect Obama well so he can quickly and accurately identify VA’s many challenges and then implement responsible solutions that take into consideration our veterans’ needs and concerns.”
Barack Obama made news on “Meet the Press” this morning, but the NBC program made some news as well in the final moments.
Tom Brokaw, the interim moderator, confirmed what had already leaked out in recent days: the new host of the 60-year-old program will be David Gregory.
The network’s senior White House correspondent, now host of MSNBC’s “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” had been considered the front-runner for the post, which became vacant when longtime moderator Tim Russert died in June. But NBC executives were still negotiating the final terms of the deal this past week.
Gregory will take the helm of the top-rated Sunday talk show, but his rivals at ABC’s “This Week,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” CNN’s “Late Edition” and “Fox News Sunday” all see an opportunity to move up now that Brokaw, the veteran NBC anchor, is relinquishing the reins.
Other leading contenders had been Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director, and Gwen Ifill, host of PBS’s “Washington Week.” The final decision was made by Jeff Zucker, chief executive of NBC Universal, and NBC News President Steve Capus.
Gregory, 38, frequently clashed with President Bush’s spokesmen during his days as a White House reporter. But he also has a witty side, which he often displayed while filling in as a co-host on the “Today” show. MSNBC tapped the 6-foot-5 correspondent as moderator during the presidential debates and on Election Night.
Russert, a former Democratic operative, dominated the Sunday morning competition after taking over the program in 1991 and making his mark with aggressive interviews. Brokaw, the former “Nightly News” anchor, agreed to fill in after Russert’s death but made clear he wanted to leave after the election.
What remains to be seen is whether Gregory sticks with the Russert format or tries to change the show to suit his personal style.
Since joining NBC, Gregory has covered the O.J. Simpson trials, the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the Clinton impeachment and the death of Pope John Paul II.
Even Without That Task, Huge Agency Poses Challenges
Under the best of circumstances, overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services is an enormous undertaking. With 65,000 employees and a budget of $707.7 billion, it accounts for nearly one-quarter of all federal spending, second only to the Defense Department.
But in the Obama administration the job is taking on a second, perhaps more daunting, responsibility: shepherding health-care reform legislation through Congress.
Unlike his predecessors, Thomas A. Daschle, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for HHS secretary, will be given an expanded role, leading administration efforts to overhaul the U.S. health system.
“This really creates a new type of secretary,” said Charles N. “Chip” Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals. In the past, “HHS was more or less a service organization to the White House,” while White House advisers drove policy initiatives.
In broad terms, Obama campaigned on the idea of reducing medical costs, improving quality and eventually achieving universal insurance coverage. He promised to cover every child and to reduce the average family’s medical bill by $2,500 a year. He advocated a greater emphasis on prevention and expanding participation in the government-subsidized Medicare and Medicaid programs.
“There are two aspects to the challenge of pushing for health reform,” said Dan Mendelson, a budget and health adviser in the Clinton administration. “One is to get the right concepts together with what Congress wants to do, and the other is managing the disparate concepts and generous egos.”
A serious restructuring of the health system will require extensive data and analytic capabilities to dissect the proposed changes and the impact they might have, said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a private, nonpartisan research foundation. “Right now, there’s nothing other than the Office of the Actuary to do back-of-the-envelope estimates,” she said.
With the expectation that Daschle, a former Senate majority leader, will focus heavily on crafting and pushing legislation, there will be an even greater need for a strong No. 2. HHS is a collection of 11 agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“He’ll need to have deputies who are well-versed in the agency as a whole and who can manage the ongoing operation of HHS while he leads the health reform discussions,” said Len Nichols, director of health policy at the New America Foundation. One of those will likely be Jeanne Lambrew, a veteran of the Clinton administration and a co-author of Daschle’s book “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.”
Lambrew, in a chapter of a book published by the liberal Center for American Progress outlining a proposed agenda for the incoming president, agreed that fixing the health system is a top priority. However, she noted, “these urgent problems overshadow persistent, neglected and potentially deadly infrastructure gaps in the system.”
According to her assessment, the nation’s ability to respond to natural or man-made crises is weak, as evidenced by the poor response to Hurricane Katrina. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes have been given short shrift, and little has been done to prepare for the long-term health needs of an aging population.
The Commonwealth Fund, after interviewing two dozen health leaders, issued its own set of recommendations. It urged the next administration to make a “real focus on what it takes to improve health outcomes,” as opposed to secondary issues related to insurance markets, Davis said. That means tackling childhood obesity, racial disparities and preventable illnesses.
Thousands of people watched President Bush’s final Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the White House. The holiday tradition dates back to the 1920s. AP
President George Bush and First Lady Laura Bush have purchased a home in an affluent home north of Dallas. The couple will move their after the president’s second term ends in January. AP
After President-elect Barack Obama announced the selection of Hispanic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson into his cabinet, many Latinos are calling for more diversity.
Picking the people was the easy part.
President-elect Obama and his new national security team will now turn to a world full of vexing, linked problems on every continent, and tricky, early choices. From the speed of withdrawal from Iraq to the speed of investment in Afghanistan, from Kashmir to Moscow, Obama will make some of his most important choices early. Here are some of the toughest.
The war in Iraq, and the promise of a radically different approach to it, helped make Obama president. But he will arrive in the White House with his predecessor having already negotiated a Status of Forces Agreement providing for a timeline for withdrawal from the country, the core of Obama’s campaign promise.
The agreement “points us in the right direction,” Obama told reporters in Chicago Monday.
The most rapid pace contemplated is Obama’s campaign plan to have all American combat troops out of Iraq 16 months after he was sworn-in — that is, by May of 2010. The U.S. agreement with the Iraqi government ensures American troops will be out by the end of 2011.
“The question is how much, if at all, do you deviate from the agreement that’s been negotiated and passed in Iraq,” said Anne Marie Slaughter, the dean of Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. “Does that agreement supersede what President Obama said when he was candidate Obama?”
Slaughter pointed to Obama’s decision to retain the defense secretary who played a key role in negotiating the agreement as a sign that he’s likely to conform his own policy to its timeline.
But he’ll face pressure from both sides. Iraq remains a violent and unpredictable place, with suicide bombers killing at least 31 Iraqis in two attacks Monday.
And the Status of Forces Agreement likely means that as Obama takes office, American commanders will be adjusting to a new paradigm in which they shift more of the burden to Iraqi units, allowing them to take the lead and, at times, to fail in battles with insurgents. He’s likely to face intense internal debates over how involved the United State should be on a day-to-day basis, and pressure from the Iraqi government to help in some places, and step back in others.
But Obama said repeatedly during the campaign that his 16-month timeline was realistic, and many of his supporters seen no reason to dally. What’s more, the troops and materiel are needed elsewhere.
In Chicago Monday, Obama told reporters that the Status of Forces Agreement indicates that the United States is “now on a glide path to reduce our forces in Iraq.”
“The challenge for him is going to be determining the slope of that glide path,” said Shawn Brimley, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security.”
General James Jones, the president-elect’s National Security Advisor, drew attention recently for stating emphatically that international forces were “not winning in Afghanistan.”
Indeed, there’s a wide consensus that the situation in the country that launched the 9/11 terror attacks is a mess: The Taliban is resurgent on the ground, corruption is rampant, and opium is the national industry. Meanwhile, the multinational force patrolling the country opposing them is adrift.
“There been no unifying strategy,” said Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation. “NATO operates its own way, every country operates its own way, the State Department and the Defense Department don’t agree.”
Part of the answer seems to be more Western troops. Obama’s advisors hope a new, pro-American mood will encourage European and other allies to send reinforcements to Afghanistan. And Obama has backed sending two or three more American brigades to the country, though the rate of that increase will be dictated by how fast Americans can leave Iraq.
Obama will also be briefed on a new Afghanistan strategy prepared by the military, the contours of which Gates outlined in a speech in Canada last week.
“All of us agree that one of our most important, and maybe the most important, objective for us in 2009 in Afghanistan is a successful election,” Gates said.
That likely means an urgent new focus on Afghanistan, to make it – at least – secure enough to hold an election at the end of next year.
But skeptics warn that Afghanistan has bled dry other occupiers, and that the U.S. should be realistic about its goals.
“Success is not going to be the creation of a secular, prosperous, and democratic Afghanistan,” said Coll, who said a new U.S. policy will likely include a massive investment in training the country’s army and police.
“That’s the ticket home – that’s the ticket to his reelection in 2012 and getting American troops out of direct action by then,” Coll said.
The potentially catastrophic aftermath of the terrorist siege in Mumbai last week could instantly jump to the top of Obama’s list of crises to deal with – depending on how India and Pakistan respond in the 50 days before he takes the oath of office.
It falls to the Bush administration – which sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region Monday – to try to keep the two South Asian rivals from moving back to the brink of war. U.S. officials so far seem to be succeeding in persuading Pakistan to fully cooperate in tracking down those responsible for the attacks – and in restraining India from responding with provocative military gestures.
But both countries will be looking for Obama to signal how he will manage what will still be, at best, a perilously tense situation. And Obama’s options, as always in South Asia, are fraught with danger. Will he push a new and fragile Pakistani government – as he suggested in the campaign – to crack down further on terrorist groups? Will he back off the Bush administration’s increasingly aggressive use of military strikes against al-Qaeda and Taliban elements on Pakistani soil?
Even more important, given preliminary indications that the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba may be implicated in the Mumbai attacks, could Washington get more involved in pushing for a negotiated settlement to the long-held grievances of India and Pakistan over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir?
“In order to start to get Pakistanis to focus on the insurgent groups, you need to have them start to feel less paranoid about India, and the way to do that is to start dealing with the Kashmir issue,” said Caroline Wadhams, a national security analyst at the Center for American Progress.
“His team has talked about the need to start working on the Kashmir issue. There’s a big debate over whether the U.S. can even play a positive role in that. They will have to decide how hard they have to push that issue.”
Look for Vice President-elect Biden to play a key role on this one – he has significant and important contacts in both countries. And if Obama needs any reminding about the potential peril posed by a Kashmir-fueled conflict between the two nuclear-armed rivals, his nominee to be secretary of State should be able to attest. Hillary Clinton’s husband once called Kashmir, “the most dangerous place on earth.”
An easier decision for Obama is one that he widely talked about during the campaign and confirmed during his recent interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” – his intention to close the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
“I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that,” Obama said.
There is a wide bipartisan consensus that the Gitmo should be closed. And politics would be pushing Obama to make the move even if the merits of the decision were not completely compelling. Many of his initial foreign policy and national security appointments – Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and the retention of Bob Gates at the Pentagon chief among them – have caused grumbling within Obama’s base of support on the Democratic left.
But closing Gitmo could very well open a Pandora’s Box that could overwhelm both the political and diplomatic benefits that the action would doubtless bring for the new administration.
As in – where do the roughly 250 prisoners being held at Guantanamo go?
Some could be repatriated – but that likely will mean intensive diplomacy by the young administration at a time when it is tending to a number of other foreign policy brushfires. And if some countries do accept detainees – China is one example – what kind of treatment awaits them when they return?
Furthermore, if some are kept in the U.S., as they most certainly will be, can they successfully be prosecuted, given the extreme and extraordinary circumstances surrounding their incarceration at Guantanamo?
The possibility that a future terrorist act could result from a current Guantanamo detainee being freed is truly the stuff of nightmares for the new Obama national security team.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev put his country firmly on Obama’s agenda by attacking the president-elect the day after his election.
He and Vladimir Putin have also made a specific demand: That Obama scrap plans to set up a missile defense system based in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Obama has been a skeptic of missile defense, raising doubts primarily about whether the technology is ready. He’s also signaled that he would like to work more closely with Russia on a range of other issues, beginning with nuclear proliferation. However, he and his advisors are skeptical of Russia’s autocratic leaders.
Hawks want Obama to signal that he’s taking a tough line, and that he won’t be intimidated by Russia. Moscow would like him to put missile defense on a back burner before they arrive at the negotiating table.
Some arms control advocates see a middle ground: Obama can continue to question the system’s technical capacity, making space to negotiate.
“A decision on new deployments of strategic missile interceptors can be deferred until the system is proven effective through realistic tests and has the full support of U.S. allies,” Daryl Kimball, the president of the Arms Control Association, wrote in the Washington Times last month.
liberal/progressive/terrorist! This is the first Thanksgiving in eight years where you represent the political majority. Because you know who voted with you? Oh, just fifty-three percent of the United States of America. HELL YEAH! Who’s a member of the fringe lunatic this holiday season? Not you!
But what happens if your right-wing relatives still want to debate the outcome of the election? Defang your conservative loved ones with these ten helpful facts!:
|President-elect Obama won by 8 million votes.
President Bush is probably drinking again.
Many media conservatives are furious with President Bush.
Experts say that Al Qaeda’s recent video shows that the terrorists are afraid of President-elect Obama.
President-elect Obama is cocky enough to think he can pull this “economic miracle” shit off.
The “socialist” takeover of America’s banks happened on Bush’s watch.
The “Democratic” Senate has been working with a one vote majority, and that vote is Joe Lieberman. If they get to the “Magic 60,” that sixtieth vote is still Joe Lieberman.
The majority of rich Americans voted to have their wealth spread.
President Obama will probably only get to replace liberal judges on the Supreme Court.
Cheer up, the GOP still owns the “racist belt!”:
HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush was in a Houston hospital Tuesday after complaining of a “little bit of pain.”
Family spokesman Jim McGrath said Mrs. Bush went to Methodist Hospital as a precaution. She had been experiencing some pain this week but McGrath did not know what it was.
Mr. McGrath said all of the results for tests she had undergone had been negative. Mrs. Bush may be released later Tuesday or could be held overnight to watch her condition.
Mr. McGrath said former President George H.W. Bush was with her. Mrs. Bush is 83.
The former Barbara Pierce, daughter of the publisher of McCall’s magazine, married George H.W. Bush in January 1945 when he returned a hero from World War II.
She was the girl who, swept off her feet by a handsome Navy aviator, dropped out of college to marry him, “the first man I ever kissed,” and thence was destined for a lifetime role as Supermom.
They had had their first child, George, while still at Yale in 1946. A daughter, Robin, died in 1953 of leukemia a few weeks before her 4th birthday. The other Bush children are sons Jeb, Neil and Marvin, and daughter Dorothy.
For years, Barbara Bush has been a sunny presence in American life, the sort of person who would make herself and others comfortable at your kitchen table. But she also was tough.
In the course of being George H.W. Bush’s wife, she had to pack up and move the household 28 times before residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington.
Mrs. Bush disclosed she was suffering from an overactive thyroid ailment known as Graves’ disease when she lived at the White House. The disease causes teary eyes and double vision in Mrs. Bush, according to her doctors.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama’s security team came into sharper focus, with officials confirming that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would retain his job and that retired Marine Gen. James Jones would likely join the incoming administration as national security adviser.
The picks, which are expected to be formally announced in Chicago Monday, signal Mr. Obama’s desire for experience and continuity with the nation embroiled in two wars.
The probable appointments — along with Sen. Hillary Clinton’s likely ascension to the secretary of state position — also mean that Mr. Obama is entrusting his foreign policy to centrist figures who have at times advocated policies that were more hawkish than his own.
Lawmakers from both parties had been urging Mr. Obama to retain Mr. Gates for weeks, arguing that it would improve the new administration’s ability to oversee the war effort. It would also put a Republican in the cabinet of a president who promised to bridge partisan divides.
Mr. Obama appears to have made a similar calculus in asking Gen. Jones to be his national security adviser. The former North Atlantic Treaty Organization supreme commander and Marine Corps commandant hasn’t decided whether to take the job, but people close to him said the general appears likely to accept.
The job would make Gen. Jones, a nonpartisan figure, the chief policy coordinator between the State Department, the Pentagon and other national-security agencies.
Gen. Jones would become the first former military general to serve as the top White House national-security adviser to a president since retired Gen. Colin Powell worked alongside President Ronald Reagan 20 years ago. He is close to Sen. Clinton, and has close ties to many lawmakers on Capitol Hill, where he worked for years as a Marine liaison.
Gen. Jones also has deep knowledge of two of the biggest challenges Mr. Obama will face in his first term: the need to redesign America’s energy infrastructure and the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama’s decision to retain Mr. Gates, while expected, is the clearest indication to date of the incoming administration’s thinking about Iraq and Afghanistan. The defense secretary has opposed a firm timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, so his appointment could mean that Mr. Obama was further moving away from his campaign promise to remove most combat troops from Iraq by mid-2010.
CHICAGO (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama announced his top budget officials on Tuesday and promised significant spending cuts to partially offset a costly stimulus package that aims to revive the U.S. economy.
As the top two officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Peter Orszag and Rob Nabors will closely examine federal spending to cut out wasteful programs, Obama said.
“If we are going to make the investments we need, we also have to be willing to shed the spending that we don’t need,” Obama said at his second press conference in as many days.
One obvious example: Crop subsidies to farmers who make more than $2.5 million per year, Obama said.
Though he does not take office until January 20, Obama’s team of economic advisers are already working out the details of a two-year package to save or create 2.5 million jobs that could cost several hundred million dollars.
Obama himself meanwhile has dropped his former low-profile approach and spoken directly to the American people with two news conferences this week. A third Obama press appearance is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. EST Wednesday.
Bush administration officials continue to extend massive life support efforts to the ailing U.S. financial system.
The Federal Reserve on Tuesday announced a $600 billion program to buy mortgage-related debt and securities, and a $200 billion program to increase the availability of consumer debt, such as credit cards and auto loans.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson urged patience and said any effort will take time to work.
Orszag now heads the Congressional Budget Office and Nabors currently serves as staff director of the House Appropriations Committee. Both previously held White House positions under President Bill Clinton.
Their announcement follows on Monday’s unveiling of New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner as Obama’s Treasury secretary and Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary under Clinton, as director of his National Economic Council.
Obama’s aides are in contact with Bush administration officials, who said they would work closely with Geithner and other incoming officials on any new rescue plans.
The scope of the economic crisis has widened since Obama’s November 4 victory over Republican John McCain, with auto companies warning that they are short on cash, unemployment numbers rising and the government bailing out yet another gigantic financial institution, Citigroup Inc.
New figures released on Tuesday showed that the U.S. economy shrank more severely during the third quarter than previously estimated as consumers cut spending at the steepest rate in 28 years. Corporate profits and business investment fell as well.
Obama has kept a low profile until this week’s news conferences, which are intended to show the priority he places on addressing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
He said on Monday he has not yet decided whether to roll back President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts for the wealthy, which would provide the government with much-needed revenue, or simply allow them to expire at the end of 2010 as scheduled, a move that would avoid what would likely be a bruising fight in Congress.
WASHINGTON — Despite attracting millions of new contributors to his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama received about the same percentage of his total political funds from small donors as President Bush did in 2004, according to a study released today by the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.
The analysis undercuts Obama’s claim that his supporters “changed the way campaigns are funded” by reducing the influence of special-interest givers.
“The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama’s finances,” said Michael Malbin, the institute’s executive director. “The reality of Obama’s fundraising was impressive, but the reality does not match the myth.”
About $156 million, or a quarter of Obama’s record-shattering campaign account, came from donors of $200 or less, according to the institute’s analysis of federal election reports through Oct. 15. That compares with $205 million, or about a third, from those who gave between $2,300 and $4,600, the maximum allowed by law.
Forty-eight percent of Obama’s total take came from donors of $1,000 or more, compared with 56% for John Kerry and 60% for both Bush and John McCain, the analysis found.
The small-donor percentage is lower than figures previously reported in news stories because the institute’s analysis accounted for people who gave several small donations over the course of the election that added up to a larger sum, Malbin said.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail that the campaign had more than 3.95 million donors, and “91% of our contributions were in amounts of $100 or less. … There’s no doubt that small-dollar contributors played a critical and unprecedented role” in Obama’s victory.
The study said Obama brought in a total $638 million, the most ever raised in a political campaign, compared with $206 million by McCain, who accepted $84.1 million in taxpayer financing for the general election. Obama reported 580,000 donors who gave more than $200.
Donors giving $200 or less need not be disclosed, but by the Obama campaign’s count, there were nearly 3 million of them.
McCain reported 170,000 donors of $200 or more.
Obama opted out of public financing, raising private money through November and significantly outspending McCain in battleground states.
When Obama announced in June that he would forgo public financing, he told supporters in a video message that “instead of forcing us to rely on millions from Washington lobbyists and special-interest PACs, you’ve fueled this campaign with donations of $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford. … You’ve already changed the way campaigns are funded, because you know that’s the only way we can truly change how Washington works.”
Meredith McGehee, a campaign-finance reform advocate at the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, said Obama cannot claim “this election somehow created an alternative system for public finance. … The data doesn’t show that.”
Obama did not accept contributions from political action committees or registered federal lobbyists, but many of his top fundraisers have keen economic interests in federal policies.
Source: USA Today
On the Chris Matthews Show today, Matthews argued that one of the major differences between President Bush and President-elect Barack Obama is the fact that Obama is intellectually curious. As an example of Bush’s lack of intellectual curiosity, Matthews played a 2004 clip of Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward saying on 60 Minutes that Bush “is not an intellectual” or what “would be called a deep thinker.”
Asked by Matthews to explain why Bush “shows little intellectual curiosity,” Woodward said it was essentially because Bush “doesn’t like homework”:
WOODWARD: I think he’s impatient. I think, my summation: He doesn’t like homework. And homework means reading or getting briefed or having a debate. And part of the presidency, part of governing, particularly in this area, is homework, homework, homework.
Woodward, who has written four books on the Bush White House, has reported multiple instances in which Bush has put his distaste for homework on display. In 2004, Woodward told PBS’s Frontline about how Bush describes himself as “a gut player” who doesn’t “play by the book“:
QUESTION: What does that tell us about this president, how his mind works and how he functions as an executive? …
WOODWARD: Bush looks at problems. And he told me, he said: “I’m a gut player. I play by instincts. I don’t play by the book.” And of course the book is Policy 101 about how you make these kinds of decisions, and all of this [is] coming from the gut.
In his most recent book, Woodward reported that Bush actually bragged about not attending meetings where key decisions about the surge were made, telling Woodward, “I’m not in these meetings, you’ll be happy to hear, because I got other things to do.” Woodward has said that in his eyes, Bush has “often displayed impatience and a lack of interest in open debate.”
MATTHEWS: Bob, he obviously relies a lot on instinct and is proud of that fact. Is that why he shows little intellectual curiosity about other people’s thinking?
WOODWARD: I think he’s impatient. I think, my summation: He doesn’t like homework. And homework means reading or getting briefed or having a debate. And part of the presidency, part of governing, particularly in this area, is homework, homework, homework.
MATTHEWS: And Obama?
WOODWARD: Obama is the opposite. He mainlines homework. He does, you know, where is extra credit.
Source: Think Progress
Loyal allies to dominate inner sanctum but Clinton vets will abound
WASHINGTON – Two main quarries are supplying the building blocks for President-elect Barack Obama’s new administration.
Longtime, deeply loyal associates will dominate the White House inner sanctum. And veterans of Bill Clinton’s presidency will hold vital jobs throughout the government, although a bit farther from the Oval Office.
The structure suggests Obama is confident enough to hand top posts to former rivals whose loyalty is not guaranteed, a strategy many presidents have avoided. But most of those on Obama’s team who will have his ear everyday will be old friends and experienced advisers who are seen as having no ambitions beyond his success.
Obama raised eyebrows this month when he tapped some of Clinton’s closest allies for important jobs.
John Podesta, Clinton’s former White House chief of staff, is heading the transition effort. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a former top Clinton adviser, is Obama’s chief of staff. Former Clinton appointees Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano appear in line for Cabinet posts.
Even more startling to many, Obama has signaled plans to name former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.
Some Obama supporters have praised him for reaching out to his toughest primary opponent. But others question why they worked so hard to defeat Clinton only to see her, and many close to her, grab prizes in the new administration. They note that Obama repeatedly campaigned against “the politics of the past” and Washington “dramas,” thinly veiled jabs at the Clinton presidency as well as President George W. Bush’s tenure.
Stephen Hess, a George Washington University authority on presidential transitions, said Obama is playing it smart.
“It’s easy to make a leap that this is going to be a repeat of the Clinton administration and there’s no way that’s going to happen,” said Hess, who first worked for the Eisenhower administration.
Value of ‘old-timers’
Obama needs a core of Democrats with federal government experience, Hess said, and veterans of Bill Clinton’s administration are virtually the only source.
“The old-timers are exceedingly valuable to him now,” he said, but Obama “also has his own group of advisers, and he will merge the two groups.”
That merger began taking shape last week. Obama’s three “senior advisers,” who will have desks near the Oval Office, are some of his closest and longest-serving allies:
President Bush, who not so long ago argued that it was defeatist to insist upon a timetable for a withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq, now tentatively has negotiated — drum roll, please — a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The status of forces agreement reached recently between the Bush administration and the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calls for pulling American forces out of Iraqi cities by the end of next June and the departure of all U.S. military units by the end of 2011.
Moreover, the President agreed to other Iraqi demands he once dismissed: no permanent U.S. bases in Iraq; a ban on use of Iraqi territory to attack neighbors, including Iran and Syria; and more Iraqi control over U.S. military operations and movements.
Of course, nothing in Iraq is simple or certain. The Iraqi parliament must approve the deal in a vote scheduled for this week. Any plan would be carried out on the U.S. end not by Mr. Bush but by Barack Obama, who has favored a faster pullout. Shiite cleric and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr demands the immediate ouster of the American “invader,” and some Sunni and Kurdish leaders fear being left at the mercy of Mr. al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government.
Still, in the byzantine world of Iraqi politics, such wrangling may have less to do with how to deal now with the Americans than with how various factions are positioning themselves for a post-American future.
That is a consideration that Mr. Obama should be weighing as well.
It is going to be tempting for the incoming president — particularly considering the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the war’s cost of more than $10 billion per month — to speed up the American withdrawal.
And perhaps that will be possible. We hope so. At the same time, if Mr. al-Maliki is able to win approval of the pact, American involvement is going to be needed to prod the Iraqis toward political consensus and real sharing of oil revenues, accelerate training of Iraqi security forces and encourage responsible Middle Eastern countries to foster stability in Iraq.
Leaving Iraq as quickly as feasible is desirable. Doing everything possible to prevent a need ever to return is imperative.
WASHINGTON — The thaw in the resentful relationship between the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party and her younger male rival began at the party’s convention this summer, when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gave such a passionate speech supporting Senator Barack Obama that his top aides leapt out of their chairs backstage to give her a standing ovation as she swept past.
Mr. Obama, who was in the first steps of what would become a strategic courtship, called afterward to thank her. By then, close aides to Mrs. Clinton said, she had come to respect the campaign Mr. Obama had run against her. At the least, she knew he understood like no one else the brutal strains of their epic primary battle.
By this past Thursday, when Mr. Obama reassured Mrs. Clinton that as secretary of state she would have direct access to him and could select her own staff, the wooing was complete.
“She feels like she’s been treated very well in the way she’s been asked,” said a close associate of Mrs. Clinton, who like others interviewed asked for anonymity because the nomination will not be formally announced until after Thanksgiving.
Few are predicting that this new relationship born of mutual respect and self-interest will grow into a tight bond between the new president and the woman who will be the public face of his foreign policy, though some say it is not impossible. They argue that a close friendship between the two powerful officials is useful but not essential, and is not a predictor of the success of the nation’s chief diplomat.
While James A. Baker III was extraordinarily close to the first President George Bush and is widely considered one of the most successful recent secretaries of state, Dean Acheson was not a friend of Harry S. Truman and Henry A. Kissinger did not particularly like Richard M. Nixon.
“Two of the nation’s greatest secretaries of state in the modern period, Dean Acheson and Henry Kissinger, were not personally close but were intellectually bonded to their presidents,” said Walter Isaacson, the author of a biography of Mr. Kissinger and the co-author, with Evan Thomas, of “The Wise Men,” a book about America’s postwar foreign policy establishment. “I think that Obama and Clinton could form a perfect partnership based on respect for each other’s view of the world.”
Colin L. Powell, who was President Bush’s first-term celebrity secretary of state, would appear to be a cautionary tale for Mrs. Clinton since his relationship with the president was strained, and he left office an unhappy man. But Mr. Bush’s second-term secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is generally not viewed as having the success her unusually tight bond with the president might have engendered.
In the Obama-Clinton relationship, advisers say, the relatively smooth nature of their talks about the secretary of state job indicate that both, for now, have a working chemistry. The advisers say that Mr. Obama was clearly interested in bringing a rival under his wing, and that he also recognized that Mrs. Clinton had far more discipline and focus than her husband.
At the same time, Mr. Obama’s advisers said, he had the self-confidence to name a global brand as his emissary to the world. He recognizes, they said, that after Jan. 20, he will have to build the kind of relationship that ensures that foreign leaders know that when Mrs. Clinton speaks, she is speaking directly for him.
“It helps to have a relationship that Bush had with Baker, that’s no doubt true,” said Martin Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, who was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton in the primary battles. “But if they are seen as working together effectively, I think that can be easily overcome. I don’t think he would have decided to appoint her if he didn’t want her to be effective.”
One close adviser to Mr. Obama said the president-elect also saw that Mrs. Clinton’s political skills would serve her well in the job, as happened with Mr. Baker and Mr. Kissinger. “They understood that statecraft is politics by another name,” the adviser said.
Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton first spoke after their primary fight on a flight in June to Unity, N.H., their first stage-managed appearance after he won the nomination. As they settled into their seats on his plane, the conversation, according to people on both sides, was far less awkward than they had feared. Over the passing weeks, the relationship gradually improved.
“They got past this long before their supporters and the party activists did,” said one Democrat who is close to both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.
After Mrs. Clinton’s speech in support of Mr. Obama at the Democratic convention, she crisscrossed the country tirelessly to campaign for him — so much so that he told aides he was impressed by the sheer number of events she was doing on his behalf.
Mrs. Clinton, it should be said, was herself diligent in advertising how hard she was working for the man who defeated her. When announcing her appearances, her press office included tallies of how many events she had held for Mr. Obama, and in how many states. At some rallies, organizers would distribute “Hillary Sent Me” buttons, as if Mrs. Clinton was being magnanimous by “sending” her followers to vote for Mr. Obama.
But Mr. Obama began calling Mrs. Clinton after some of the events — he dialed directly from his cellphone to hers one day in Michigan and another day in Florida — to check in and thank her for helping. By then, their intense primary fights over policy, which both sides now insist was more about heat than substance, had long receded.
“The reality at the end of the day was, whether it was Iran or health care or some of these other issues, we were always fighting big battles over small differences,” said a senior aide to Mr. Obama, adding that “in a campaign, conflict is what you go to.”
Substantively, the two were at odds over the Iraq war — Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize it and Mr. Obama said he would have opposed it had he been in the Senate then — and to a lesser extent over negotiations with Iran. But although Mrs. Clinton criticized Mr. Obama for being willing to sit down and talk to dictators, he has said he would have a lower-level envoy do preparatory work for a meeting with Iran’s leaders first. Mrs. Clinton has said she favors robust diplomacy with Iran and lower-level contacts as well.
In the weeks just before the election, the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton further mellowed, even as she found herself in a startling role reversal with her younger rival. As a celebrity senator and powerhouse on Capitol Hill, she had helped Mr. Obama in his Senate race and offered advice when he first came to Washington; now she was the workhorse for a political phenomenon.
Since the election, Mrs. Clinton has talked to Mr. Obama only a handful of times, even as two close advisers to Mr. Obama who held top positions in the Clinton administration — Rahm Emanuel and John D. Podesta — have served as key negotiators between her and the president-elect on the secretary of state position.
But Mrs. Clinton has talked several times to Michelle Obama about raising a family in the White House and private schools in Washington. On Friday, Mrs. Obama said the two Obama girls, Malia and Sasha, would attend the Sidwell Friends School, just as Chelsea Clinton did.
Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Chicago, and Mark Leibovich from Washington.
I was agnostic on the matter of Hillary Clinton’s possible appointment as secretary of state–until last night.
If Barack Obama, the president-elect, wanted to pull a Team of Rivals play, that had seemed fine to me. And placing Clinton in Foggy Bottom would remove her from the dicey business of passing health care reform. Would it unite the party? Well, judging from the election results, the party is pretty darn united already. Despite the griping of a few Hillaryites at the Democratic convention, her voters certainly swung behind Obama in the general election (see Pennsylvania), after HRC and WJC campaigned for BHO in the fall. Unless an explicit deal was made between Obama and Hillary Clinton, it did not seem that Obama, after bypassing her for veep, had to appoint her anything for the party’s sake. Still, if Obama and his savvy band of advisers thought that handing her one of the best jobs in the Cabinet would generate political benefits they could use to advance their agenda, I, as a non-fan of Hillary Clinton, was willing to say, okay–for what that was worth.
But then this happened: the presidential transition of no-drama Obama became infected by the never-ending soap opera of the Clintons. And it really is time to turn that program off. There are plenty of policy and political reasons for a progressive not to fancy Hillary. She served on the Wal-Mart board when the mega-firm was fighting unions; she screwed up health care reform for almost a generation; she voted wrong on the Iraq war and then refused to acknowledge she had erred. But, worst of all, as the cliché goes, with the Clintons, it always does seem to be about the Clintons.
So we’ve had a week of will-she-or-won’t-she and what-about-him. Couldn’t this have been handled with a little more grace? Maybe not, since it involves the Clintons.
I don’t know how the Obama camp approached the issue. But before Obama met last week with Hillary to talk about this, his team should have done a pre-vetting of Bill. And then Obama, at this meeting, ought to have said something like this to her:
If you might be interested in the State position, there are a few issues that would come up concerning Bill. Let me run through a few. Would he be willing to release the names of his foundation’s donors, as well as those who contribute to his presidential library? Would he be willing to forego contributions and speaking fees from foreign governments, foreign heads of states, and major foreign companies that would have an interest in US foreign policy decisions? Would he be willing to discuss with my national security adviser his foreign travel plans and his foundation’s projects before they are announced and undertaken–and would he be willing to defer to us if we believe they are not appropriate or helpful at the time? I know that these are big things to ask. But given his global activity and standing, there’s not much choice. And if it’s a deal-breaker, I certainly would understand. But before you and I go down this road, we should make sure there are no major obstacles. Can you talk to him and get back to me in a day or two? And, to be helpful, Rahm has come up with a list….
Hillary’s answer would have to have been either (a) of course, or (b) thank you for considering me, but I don’t believe this would be a good fit. Two days would pass, and then the drama–or at least this part of it–could be over.
Today the news is that Bill will do what he can. AP is reporting:
Former President Bill Clinton has offered several concessions to help Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his wife, become secretary of state, people familiar with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition vetting process said Wednesday.
Clinton has agreed to release the names of several major donors to his charitable foundation and will submit future foundation activities and paid speeches to a strict ethics review, said Democrats knowledgeable about the discussions.
They also said that Clinton would step away from day-to-day responsibility for his foundation while his wife serves and would alert the State Department to his speaking schedule and any new sources of income.
Does that take care of it? Note the use of the word “several.” It’s hard not to see some sticking points arising about what is disclosed and when. The negotiations between the Obama camp and the Clinton team are supposedly proceeding smoothly. But why should there be negotiations? And could it end up with news reports saying Bill Clinton is willing to reveal X, but the Obama side wants him to release X plus Y? That is, more drama. According to AP, “One Clinton adviser noted that former President George H.W. Bush has given paid speeches and participated in international business ventures since his son, George W. Bush, has been president–without stirring public complaints or controversy about a possible conflict of interest.” This does raise the suspicion that the Clintonites might not agree to all the necessary limitations. And don’t they–or at least, this aide–understand there’s something of a difference between their case and that of the Bushes (though it was probably not appropriate for Daddy Bush to engage in that activity).
Bottom-line: if HRC came fuss-free, then maybe there’d be no reason to kick up a fuss about her appointment. Yet that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.
But there’s another issue to consider, one that has been overshadowed by the drama: if she runs the State Department in a fashion similar to how she managed her campaign, then the country will be in trouble. Her spinners went beyond the boundaries of fair and reasonable spinning. Her team was a snake pit of competitive aides. She did not master the art of refereeing internal disputes. She signed off on strategic blunders. Hers was not a steady hand.
Perhaps that’s the better argument against her. Being secretary of state isn’t just about giving speeches and touring the world as a celebrity, it’s about managing (and now reviving) the creaky and beleaguered foreign policy apparatus of the United States. And Clinton’s résumé is not strong on that front.
Source: Mother Jones
Consultant Roger Stone, the notorious political hitman who helped George W. Bush prevail in the 2000 Florida recount, tells The Daily Beast that he wishes he hadn’t.
Roger Stone is one of the last guys on Earth one would expect to feel guilty over an episode of rough and tumble politicking. As a self-admitted hit man for the GOP, Stone has had a hand in everything from Nixon’s dirty tricks to Eliot Spitzer’s resignation to spreading discredited rumors of a Michelle Obama “whitey” tape during the 2008 Democratic primaries. You might call Stone the Forrest Gump of scandal, popping up to play a bit part in the most notorious negative campaigns in recent history.
The capstone of Stone’s career, at least in terms of results, was the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the 2000 election recount. This was when a Stone-led squad of pro-Bush protestors stormed the Miami-Dade County election board, stopping the recount and advancing then-Governor George W. Bush one step closer to the White House. Though he is quick to rebut GOP operatives who seek to minimize his role in the recount, Stone lately has been having second thoughts about what happened in Florida.
When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade.’
“There have been many times I’ve regretted it,” Stone told me over pizza at Grand Central Station. “When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade. Maybe there hadn’t have been, in my view, an unjustified war if Bush hadn’t become president.’ It’s very disturbing to me.”
Iran is forging ahead with its nuclear programme, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog reported on Wednesday, deepening the dilemma facing US president-elect Barack Obama over his campaign promise to engage with Tehran.
The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency reveals that Iran is rapidly increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium, which could be rendered into weapons-grade material should Tehran decide to develop a nuclear device.
The agency says that, as of this month, Tehran had amassed 630kg of low enriched uranium hexafluoride, up from 480kg in late August. Analysts say Iran is enriching uranium at such a pace that, by early next year, it could reach break-out capacity – one step away from producing enough fissile material for a crude nuclear bomb.
“They are moving forward, they are not making diplomatic overtures, they are accumulating low enriched uranium,” said Cliff Kupchan, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy in Washington. “These guys are committed to their nuclear programme: if we didn’t know that, they just told us again.”
The IAEA report also says there has been a breakdown of communication between the agency and Iran over alleged research on an atomic weapon. “The Iranians are making good progress on enrichment but there is absolute stone-walling on past military activities,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International institute for Strategic Studies. “It’s very disappointing.”
Reaed it all
By Walid Phares
As observers were awaiting the release of the “official” al Qaeda position regarding the election of Barack Obama as the new President of the United States, seasoned experts on the Jihadist movement had little doubts as to the substance of the main message. As I have outlined in my appearances on Arabic television channels since November 4, Bin Laden or his second in command was expected to declare that their “Jihad” will continue despite the election of an African American President and despite Obama’s intention to withdraw from Iraq. Ayman Zawahiri did just that on Wednesday in his latest message to his supporters and his enemies: even if the war ends in Iraq, the global war will continue everywhere. […]
The al Qaeda’s number two had to address the election of a Black President of the United States because of the two massive changes this choice has brought to the Jihadist agenda: On the one hand, Obama is very popular in the eyes of international public opinion; on the other hand the President elect is planning on withdrawing from Iraq and pushing forward in Afghanistan. All this changes al Qaeda’s game. Zawahiri’s tape had to address these “challenges” as pressure was mounting among Jihadists to deal with this election. Hence, the main points presented by the audio message are as follows:
1. The election of Obama is a defeat to the United States in Iraq and a victory to the Jihadists
In his tape Zawahiri congratulates the Muslim world [..original message..]
In al Qaeda’s lexicon it is crucial to demonstrate to their supporters that it is “their” actions (terror in Iraq) which convinced, if not intimidated, American voters into voting against McCain and electing Obama. Zawahiri wants al Qaeda to be credited for the behavior of America’s voting majority in the same way it took credit for the change in electoral direction that took place in Madrid after the March 11, 2004 attacks.
2. A warning to Obama: Don’t send additional troops to Afghanistan
Zawahiri then sends a warning to President elect Obama: [..original message..]
If victory has been achieved by the Jihadists against the United States in Iraq by forcing the new Administration to pull out of that country, in Zawahiri’s mind, another defeat awaits America in Afghanistan according to al Qaeda’s latest message. The logic of endless Jihad seems to be that wherever American forces would be sent, the Jihadists will meet them for a fight until the US redeploys its contingents from around the world, back to “its borders” as previous al Qaeda messages have underlined.
4. The same US aggression remains
Concerned about the sympathy emerging from around the world and within the Muslim community regarding the new President, Zawahiri reminds his Islamist followers that “crimes have been committed and the mentality that produced them is still around.” He doesn’t want to see a shift in pubic opinion towards a “nicer” America. He says: [..original message..]
Clearly, Zawahiri is trying to draw red lines for the acceptance of Obama by the Arab and Muslim world. This audiotape is probably the prelude to a campaign by the Jihaidists to minimize Obama’s emergence and classify him as just “another US President, with a different face.”
5. You’re not real (Meaning not a real Christian)
Then Zawahiri begins the Jihadi deconstruction of Obama’s image. He declares:
“You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz, or Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him). You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America. And so you promised to back Israel, and you threatened to strike the tribal regions in Pakistan, and to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, in order for the crimes of the American Crusade in it to continue. And last Monday, your aircraft killed 40 Afghan Muslims at a wedding party in Kandahar. As for Malik al-Shabazz (may Allah have mercy on him), he was born to a black pastor killed by white bigots, but Allah favored him with guidance to Islam, and so he prided himself on his fraternity with the Muslims, and he condemned the crimes of the Crusader West against the weak and oppressed, and he declared his support for peoples resisting American occupation, and he spoke about the worldwide revolution against the Western power structure. That’s why it wasn’t strange that Malik al-Shabazz (may Allah have mercy on him) was killed, while you have climbed the rungs of the presidency to take over the leadership of the greatest criminal force in the history of mankind and the leadership of the most violent Crusade ever against the Muslims. And in you and in Colin Powell, Rice and your likes, the words of Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him) concerning “House Negroes” are confirmed.”
Zawahiri’s words are strong and are aimed at putting pressure on all those in the region who rushed to announce that Obama will radically change the “regime” in the United States. The number two of al Qaeda is painting the President elect as an opportunistic politician who used all three faiths to access power. One can see that Zawahiri is trying to achieve two goals: maintaining his own flock fully indoctrinated against Washington regardless of the change in the White House; and pressuring the radical clerics in the Wahabi and Muslim Brotherhood circles – who are welcoming Obama’s victory – into retreat from such “apostasy.”
Confounding the conventional wisdom that he is a lame duck president with no agenda as his days in office dwindle, President George W. Bush is redoubling his efforts to mutilate the country before his term expires, aides confirmed today.
“President Bush has spent the first seven years and ten months of his presidency doing everything in his power to leave the United States in smoldering ruins,” said White House spokesperson Dana Perino. “He certainly is not going to let the final days of his tenure go to waste.”
While Ms. Perino said that President Bush is proud to have led the U.S. into a “pointless and totally avoidable catastrophe in Iraq” and “the most terrifying financial cataclysm since the Great Depression,” he is “in no way prepared to rest on his laurels.”
Mr. Bush is “delighted,” Ms. Perino said, that the stock market has lost one trillion dollars of its value in the last three days, but “that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the damage he hopes to wreak in his remaining time in office.”
Among the targets for destruction that the President is currently eyeing, Ms. Perino indicated that the demise of the Big Three automakers was at the top of his list.
“If the President could preside over the disappearance of the Big Three and the millions of jobs they represent, that would be the ultimate feather in his cap,” she said.
For his part, Mr. Bush took few questions from reporters today, saying that he had to return to the Oval Office to order random airstrikes over Belgium.
In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.
Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama’s appearance on CBS’ “Sixty Minutes” on Sunday witnessed the president-elect’s unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.
But Mr. Obama’s decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.
According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it “alienating” to have a President who speaks English as if it were his first language.
“Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement,” says Mr. Logsdon. “If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist.”
The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, “Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate – we get it, stop showing off.”
The President-elect’s stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
“Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can’t really do there, I think needing to do that isn’t tapping into what Americans are needing also,” she said.
BERLIN, Nov. 19 — Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command used a racially demeaning term to refer to President-elect Barack Obama in a videotape released Wednesday, and said Obama’s election represented “the American people’s admission of defeat in Iraq.”
In the 11-minute video, posted on the Internet, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, repeatedly and unfavorably compared the first black U.S. president-elect to Malcolm X, the black Muslim leader and activist who was assassinated 43 years ago.
“You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz, or Malcolm X,” Zawahiri said, according to English subtitles of his Arabic remarks provided by al-Qaeda’s propaganda arm. “You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America.”
Zawahiri said Obama, Colin Powell and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “confirmed” Malcolm X’s definition of a “house negro,” a term the militant black leader often used to describe black leaders who were subservient to white interests.
The biting comments were the first time al-Qaeda’s leadership has reacted publicly to Obama’s election since he defeated Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) two weeks ago. Some analysts said the delayed response reflected uncertainty within al-Qaeda’s ranks over how to respond, given that Obama is widely seen in the Muslim world as the mirror opposite of the group’s longtime archenemy, President Bush.
“Zawahiri and others in al-Qaeda recognize that Obama has a certain appeal, not just to Americans but to people in the developing world,” said Evan F. Kohlmann, a terrorism analyst and senior investigator for the Nine/Eleven Finding Answers Foundation. “They feel a need to dampen this sense and enthusiasm and excitement for Obama.”
Zawahiri, 57, an Egyptian physician, is the second-ranking leader of al-Qaeda, behind only Osama bin Laden. According to U.S. intelligence officials, he is believed to be hiding somewhere in Pakistan. He has distributed dozens of video and audio recordings in recent years, eluding capture despite a $25 million reward offer posted by the U.S. government.
In Wednesday’s video recording, Zawahiri welcomed the pending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq but warned Obama not to send additional forces to Afghanistan, as the president-elect has pledged to do.
“If you still want to be stubborn about America’s failure in Afghanistan, then remember the fate of Bush and Pervez Musharraf, and the fate of the Soviets and British before them,” Zawahiri said, referring to the former president of Pakistan, who resigned under pressure this year. “And be aware that the dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands to them.”
The video consisted of an audio recording of Zawahiri’s remarks in Arabic, with English subtitles scrolling underneath a still photo of the bespectacled doctor, dressed in white in front of a bookcase.
On the tape, Zawahiri is flanked by two separate photographs of Obama and Malcolm X. In his picture, Obama is wearing a skullcap and surrounded by Jewish leaders as he visits the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. Malcolm X is shown on his knees, praying in a mosque.
2/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes
3/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes
4/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON
Do you see the election results as a repudiation of your politics?
Our new president-elect won one and a half points more than George W. Bush won in 2004, and he did so, in great respect, by adopting the methods of the Bush campaign and conducting a vast army of persuasion to identify and get out the vote.
I never said permanent. Durable.
Do you think John McCain attacked too much or not enough?
Dissecting the campaign that way is not helpful.
Have you met Barack Obama?
Yes, I know him. He was a member of the Senate while I was at the White House and we shared a mutual friend, Ken Mehlman, his law-school classmate. When Obama came to the White House, we would talk about our mutual friend.
Did you have lunch together? Talk in the hall?
We sat in the meeting room and chatted before the meeting. He had a habit of showing up early, which is a good courtesy.
Are you going to send him a little note congratulating him?
I already have. I sent it to his office. I sent him a handwritten note with funny stamps on the outside.
What kind of funny stamps?
Do you have any advice for him? You already criticized Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s new chief of staff, as a sharply partisan choice.
I raised a question as to whether this would be the best use of Rahm Emanuel’s talents. If you’re trying to work through a big legislative priority, it is sort of hard if you have a guy who has a reputation as a tough, hard, take-no-prisoners, head-in-your-face, scream-and-shout, send-them-a-dead-fish partisan.
What about you? You were always seen as very partisan.
I wasn’t the chief of staff. And you’d be surprised by the Democrats I actually met, got to know and worked with.
Do you like Joe Biden?
I think he has an odd combination of longevity and long-windedness that passes for wisdom in Washington.
Do you regret anything that happened in the White House during your tenure?
You’ve been booed off stages recently.
No, I haven’t. I’ve been booed on stages. I’m a little bit tougher than to walk off a stage because someone says something ugly.
Do you think the era of negative politics is over?
Do you see yourself as being associated with it in any way?
Look, in 1800 the sainted Thomas Jefferson arranged to hire a notorious slanderer named James Callender, who worked as a writer at a Republican newspaper in Richmond, Va. Read some of what he wrote about John Adams. This was a personal slander.
What did he say?
He said he lacked the spine of a man and the character of a woman. Negative politics have always been around.
Do you think you’re negative?
You’ve never repudiated President Bush.
No. And I never will. He did the right things.
What about Iraq and the economy?
The world is a better place with Saddam Hussein gone.
Do you have any advice for him at this point?
With all due respect, I don’t need you to transmit what I want to say to my friend of 35 years.
Remember, attack politics are out. It’s a new age of civilized discourse.
You’re the one who hurt my feelings by saying you didn’t trust me.
Did I say that?
Yes, you did. I’ve got it on tape. I’m going to transcribe this and send it to you.
In the wake of McCain’s defeat, Sean Hannity appears to be going through his own personal five stages of death: Anger, Denial, Anger, Denial, and Denial. [23/6] We’ll be checking in on him from time to time to see how he’s holding up.
The stage he’s in today: Anger. Well, actually, more like “pissy.” Well, “pissy and completely divorced from reality.” Here are a couple highlights from last night’s chat with Mike Huckabee, after the jump…
An “Obama recession?” No, Sean, you can’t do that. You can’t just put the name of someone you hate in front of a problem and use that as proof that they’re to blame. If we could we’d stop telling people we have herpes and start telling people we have “McCain herpes.” How do we know McCain caused our herpes? His name’s right in front of the word herpes ain’t it? The defense rests.
This is a common step in the grieving process. In the griever’s mind, the cause of his grief becomes elevated to an all-powerful being, responsible for all of his pain and heartbreak. Hannity’s friend, the GOP, is dead, and he blames Barack Obama. So in Sean’s mind, if there is something wrong in the world, Obama must be to blame. Whether it be the recession or the fact that he looks like an effeminate Fred Flintstone. It’s all Obama’s fault.
He should get through this step in about eight years.
As for the “New York Obama Times” comment, that’s just baby Sean throwing a quick tantrum. But we gotta admit, it is kind of catchy.
Update: Yesterday Sean Hannity was raking over his favorite subject – that of Bill Ayers – as a follow up to the Ayers/GMA interview. During the show Hannity was visibly shaken and could hardly get the words out of his mouth – it was clearly too much for him – to think after all his ranting and raving – Obama still won. On top of having to consider the possibility that he was sidelined – ignored – marginalized – not taken that seriously. It must be bad ~ in his head right now ~ so for Hannity – don’t do it buddy – here’s a how you can cope ~ take a few slow deep breaths ~ and chant Ohm-Baaa-maa at least 5 times a day ~ this will help you to calm down and adjust to the new reality!
By Jonathan Mann
(CNN) — Who is the president of the United States? The real president?
Right now, the US may have two of them — neither entirely up to the job.
In constitutional terms, George W. Bush occupies the Oval Office until his term ends on January 20 with the inauguration of his successor.
But a new CNN/Opinion Research Poll finds that Bush is the least popular president since pollsters first began measuring approval ratings half-a-century ago.
His Republican party has, of course, just been defeated in presidential and congressional elections and many Republicans blame him personally. Democrats blame him for a whole lot more. So even though the calendar gives him two more months, he has virtually no mandate left.
Barack Obama isn’t president. His supporters in the United States and around the world can barely contain their excitement about what’s ahead, but for now he has only the nebulous position as the next guy in line, the “president-elect.”
In constitutional terms, the president-elect doesn’t have any legal authority, but that hasn’t stopped him. Obama is exercising all the authority he can.
He’s come forward quickly to talk about his plans. He’s pushing Bush to support a bailout for the US auto industry before Bush leaves office. Obama’s made it clear that he expects measures for the economy from the Congress too.
“While we must recognize that we only have one president at a time and that President Bush is the leader of our government, I want to ensure that we hit the ground running on January 20 because we don’t have a moment to lose,” Obama said.
There are 11 weeks between the election and the inauguration, the in-between time known as the Transition. But Obama is compressing the calendar.
It could be that the crisis in the US economy demands strong leadership right now and the American people expect him to offer it. It could also be that Obama doesn’t want to wait.
“He is immediately muscling his way into power,” complains former Bush speechwriter David Frum. “Barack Obama said at his first press conference that the US has only one president at a time. He didn’t say who that president was.”
Maybe there isn’t just one president – more like two half-presidents, one wounded and one waiting, and both trying to make the most of the two months ahead.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States won’t see a change in American relations with the Taliban, a senior Taliban leader in Pakistan says.
“For us, the change of America’s president — we don’t have any good faith in him,” said Muslim Khan, a grizzled Taliban spokesman who is one of the most wanted men in Pakistan, in a rare interview with CNN. “If he does anything good, it will be for himself.”
With an assault rifle on his lap, Khan answered 10 written questions, sharing his view on a range of topics from slavery to Obama’s middle name — Hussein.
He spoke in the remote Swat Valley of northwestern Pakistan, the site of frequent and fierce clashes between Pakistani troops and Taliban and al Qaeda militants.
There was no opportunity for follow-up questions.
Khan said Obama’s election may change conditions for black Americans.
“The black one knows how much the black people are discriminated against in America and Europe and other countries,” he said. “For America’s black people, it could be that there will be a change. That era is coming.”
He said he doubted Obama’s victory would lead to changes in relations between the United States and the Taliban.
Watch the Taliban spokesman on Barack Obama »
U.S. forces dislodged the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
America and its allies have battled the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan ever since, with fighting spreading across the border into Pakistan.
“American should take its army out of the country,” Khan said. “They are considered terrorists.”
Obama has minced no words in describing how he would administer U.S. policy toward the Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
When he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in August, Obama pledged to “finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
And the president-elect included a blunt warning in remarks on the evening of his election victory: “To those who would tear the world down,” he said, “we will defeat you.”
Khan noted that Obama’s middle name was fairly common in the Muslim world, referring to him at times as “Hussein Barack Obama.”
“If he behaves in the way of a real Hussein, then he has become our brother,” he said. “If Barack Obama pursues the same policies as Bush and behaves like Bush … then he cannot be Hussein. He can only be Obama.”
With just weeks to go before taking office, the economy is hurting and oil and gasoline prices are dropping, all presenting challenges for President-elect Obama’s green energy proposals. Stacey Delo reports. (Part 1 in a series.) (Nov. 12)
For more political videos, check out www.wsj.com/video.
Stiff Republican Resistance Could Force Democrats to Wait for Obama and Their Party’s Enlarged Majority to Take Office
WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are scaling back plans for an economic-stimulus package as partisan deadlock clouds chances for passage of either that measure or a proposed bailout of Detroit’s auto makers until the party’s enlarged majority convenes in January.
Democratic leaders want to move legislation that would give a jobs-producing jolt to the economy. They also support proposals to toss a $25 billion financial lifeline to Detroit. But it isn’t clear either of those steps can pass before January, when President-elect Barack Obama and a new, more heavily Democratic Congress take office.
The biggest problem is in the Senate, where Democrats have only a 51-49 edge until year’s end. The Bush administration is balking at the Democratic agenda, and Republicans in the House and Senate are growing more vocal about their concerns, especially concerning the auto package.
“The financial situation facing the Big Three [auto makers] is not a national problem, but their problem,” said Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.
In the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, assailed the proposed aid to Detroit as “neither fair to taxpayers nor sound fiscal policy.”
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said Thursday that he knew of no Republicans who would support the $25 billion proposal by Democrats, and said he is disinclined to move a bill without bipartisan support.
“I’d want to be careful about bringing up a proposition that might fail,” given that a rescue plan would be more likely to pass under an Obama administration, the Connecticut Democrat told reporters on Capitol Hill. “There’s some political considerations that need to be made over the next few days.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada still plans to move forward next week. “Senator Reid still believes it is important to address this crisis plaguing our auto industry,” said Reid spokesman Jim Manley, adding that bipartisan cooperation will be needed. “We cannot do it without the support of Senate Republicans, who I hope will join us to pass a bill that saves the jobs and protects the livelihoods of millions of hard-working Americans.”
Mr. Dodd, meanwhile, wants to add foreclosure relief to an economic-stimulus package. He expressed frustration Thursday with efforts to help distressed homeowners by the private sector and the Bush administration, which was supposed to make foreclosure relief a top priority in the $700 billion rescue packaged enacted earlier this fall to stabilize financial markets.
“We want to see more progress,” Mr. Dodd said, adding he is prepared to legislate — “now, if possible” — to address the problem.
November 12, 2008: The Day in 100 Seconds
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Just as Sen. Ted Stevens appeared set to return to Congress, felony conviction and all, his re-election bid has faltered. If he loses, it also closes a possible door into the Senate anytime soon for Gov. Sarah Palin.
As counting of early and absentee ballots continued in Stevens’ race against Democrat Mark Begich, the contest for Alaska’s only House seat was settled Wednesday, with the re-election of Republican incumbent Don Young for his 19th term.
In the Stevens race, Begich jumped to an 814-vote lead, after trailing by 3,200 when the day began. The tally late Wednesday was 132,196 to 131,382, with an estimated 30,000 ballots remaining to be counted, some on Friday and some next week.
“After watching the votes today, I remain cautiously optimistic,” Begich, a two-term Anchorage mayor, said in a news release. “We ran an aggressive campaign, especially when it came to early voting and absentee.”
Stevens’ campaign did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Last month, a federal jury in Washington convicted Stevens of lying on Senate disclosure forms to conceal more than $250,000 in gifts and home renovations from an oil field services company.
That might have spelled quick political doom for a lesser figure, but Stevens is revered here for his decades of public service — and especially for scoring the state enormous sums of federal money.
Begich would be the first Democrat to win a Senate race in Alaska since the mid-1970s, and a victory would put his party one step closer to a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the Senate. Democrats are also trying to unseat Republicans in unresolved contests in Georgia and Minnesota.
Fellow senators have called on Stevens to resign if he wins, and he could face expulsion if he declines to step down. In either case a special election would be held to determine his replacement. Palin, fresh from her failed run at the vice presidency, said Wednesday she’d be interested in serving in the Senate.
“My life is in God’s hands,” Palin said. “If he’s got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state’s best interest, the nation’s best interest, I’m going to go through those doors.”
In the House race, The Associated Press declared Young the winner with 50 percent of the vote compared with Democrat Ethan Berkowitz’s 45 percent.
Berkowitz campaign spokesman David Shurtleff said the Democrat was not ready to concede, although he acknowledged dim prospects.
Election officials Wednesday counted 57,000 of the estimated 90,000 outstanding ballots, which include absentee, early, questioned and provisional ballots.
Should the Senate results remain close a recount is possible. In Alaska, the losing candidate or a collection of 10 voters has three days to petition for a recount unless the vote was a tie, in which case it would be automatic.
If the difference between the candidates is within 0.5 percent of the total votes cast, the state pays for the recount, to be started within three days of the recount petition. The state Elections Division has 10 days to complete the recount.
If Stevens holds onto his seat, he might remain in the Senate for some time. As a practical matter, Stevens can’t be expelled by the full Senate until after an Ethics Committee investigation and a majority vote of that panel. That won’t happen until next year at the earliest.
Stevens also plans to appeal his conviction after he’s sentenced, in February at the earliest. The appeal could take months or years.
President George W. Bush could also pardon him.
Ron Paul strikes again!
WASHINGTON — When a Congressional committee subpoenaed Harry S. Truman in 1953, nearly a year after he left office, he made a startling claim: Even though he was no longer president, the Constitution still empowered him to block subpoenas.
“If the doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of the presidency is to have any validity at all, it must be equally applicable to a president after his term of office has expired,” Truman wrote to the committee.
Congress backed down, establishing a precedent suggesting that former presidents wield lingering powers to keep matters from their administration secret. Now, as Congressional Democrats prepare to move forward with investigations of the Bush administration, they wonder whether that claim may be invoked again.
“The Bush administration overstepped in its exertion of executive privilege, and may very well try to continue to shield information from the American people after it leaves office,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, who sits on two committees, Judiciary and Intelligence, that are examining aspects of Mr. Bush’s policies.
Topics of open investigations include the harsh interrogation of detainees, the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, secret legal memorandums from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the role of the former White House aides Karl Rove and Harriet E. Miers in the firing of federal prosecutors.
Mr. Bush has used his executive powers to block Congressional requests for executive branch documents and testimony from former aides. But investigators hope that the Obama administration will open the filing cabinets and withdraw assertions of executive privilege that Bush officials have invoked to keep from testifying.
“I intend to ensure that our outstanding subpoenas and document requests relating to the U.S. attorneys matter are enforced,” said Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “I am hopeful that progress can be made with the coming of the new administration.”
Also, two advocacy groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First, have prepared detailed reports for the new administration calling for criminal investigations into accusations of abuse of detainees.
It is not clear, though, how a President Barack Obama will handle such requests. Legal specialists said the pressure to investigate the Bush years would raise tough political and legal questions.
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WASHINGTON — Turning to campaign promises in which he pledged sweeping ethics restrictions, President-elect Barack Obama will bar lobbyists from helping to pay the costs of his transition to power or working for it in any area in which they have represented clients in the last year, his transition team said Tuesday.
Mr. Obama’s aides indicated that they expected the rules to apply to his inauguration as well as the transition, but said they had yet to make a final decision on how the inauguration would be paid for.
John D. Podesta, a co-chairman of the Obama transition, called the restraints “the strictest, the most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history.”
“If someone has lobbied during the past 12 months, they’re prohibited from working in the fields of policy on which they lobbied and will have to cease all lobbying activities during their work on the transition,” Mr. Podesta said, speaking to reporters in the first official briefing by the transition team.
But the new rules do seem to leave some wiggle room. Aides to Mr. Obama, who declared during the campaign that lobbyists would not “find a job in my White House,” said the guidelines allowed for lobbyists to work on the transition in areas where they have not done any lobbying.
Further, the rules apply to lobbyists who must register with the federal government; many people who work for lobbying firms or in other areas of the influence business in Washington do not have to register, because they do not personally lobby federal officials on specific issues.
Mr. Podesta said he expected the transition to employ some 450 people and have a budget of about $12 million. Of that amount, $5.2 million will be paid by the government, with the remaining $6.8 million coming from private sources, he said. Contributions will be limited to $5,000, he said, and the transition will not accept money from political action committees.
During a presidential campaign in which he raised $650 million, Mr. Obama changed the rules of fund-raising, declining public financing and creating his own multimillion-member chain of donors. At least some of those contributors will be solicited for the transition.
As a candidate, Mr. Obama laid out more detailed and onerous ethics rules than any previous prospective president, pledging to bar appointees for two years from working on matters involving their former employers, to prohibit departing officials from lobbying his administration for its duration and to require all political appointees to disclose publicly every meeting with registered lobbyists.
The rules have led to some grumbling that at a time of immense challenges, an Obama administration could be excluding a pool of substantial talent by stopping people from working for the White House in the areas they know best.
“I’ve heard the complaint,” Mr. Podesta said, “which is we’re leaving all this expertise on the side, because we’re leaving all the people who know everything out in the cold. And so be it. This is a commitment that the American public expects, and it’s one that we intend to enforce during the transition.”
It remains unclear how the rules will affect the inauguration. President Bush raised more than $40 million for his second inauguration, mostly from companies and executives.
While aides to Mr. Obama say they are keenly aware that a lavish celebration might not be well received given the faltering economy, they indicate that the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s inauguration and the expectations of high turnout all but guarantee that the occasion, on Jan. 20, will be a huge one.
Yet in one early sign that the celebrations are likely to be somewhat scaled back, Mr. Obama canceled fireworks on election night in Grant Park in Chicago, telling his advisers that the times were too serious for that type of festivity.
“It’s going to be a balancing act,” one Obama aide said, “and I’m not sure how it’s going to be done.”
Nov. 11, 2008 | Amid the fervid speculation over the identity of the next secretary of state or even the next assistant secretary of labor for administration and management, there is a truth that is galling to gossip-mongers — Barack Obama and his closest advisors know how to keep secrets. With nearly 10 percent of the transition period between administrations already gone, we know more about the factors that will dictate the selection of the White House puppy than we do about the reasoning behind the choice of a would-be Treasury secretary.
As Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of Obama’s transition team, put it with deliberate blandness on “Meet the Press” Sunday: “I think one of the real strengths of Sen. Obama’s campaign and now President-elect Obama’s transition is that he really does like to think this through thoroughly and not telecast what he’s going to do until he’s ready to make a decision.”
No one wants to read articles titled “Entire Obama Administration Shrouded in Mist and Mystery.” So to accentuate the positive, we do have a pretty reliable handle as to who will be in the room with Obama (and presumably Joe Biden) when the major personnel decisions are made. There will be Jarrett, an African-American Chicago real estate entrepreneur who has been close friends to the president-elect and the incoming first lady for two decades; Pete Rouse, the press-shy former chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who performed the same role for a newly elected Illinois senator named Obama; the Chicago-born John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s former White House chief of staff, who stealthily organized the Obama transition during the fall campaign from his Washington perch at the Center for American Progress; David Axelrod, the Chicago-based political strategist, who was the inspiration behind both Obama’s up-from-nowhere 2004 Senate victory and his 2008 run for the Rose Garden; and incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a sharp-elbowed veteran of the Clinton White House who was elected to Congress in 2002 (from Chicago, natch) with the help of Axelrod (double natch).
With all these Chicagoans (aside from Rouse) creating the Obama administration, it is time to drop the Second City urban inferiority complex. If there is an ideological orientation to this team, it seems to be Democratic centrism rather than full-throated liberalism. Bill Galston, a former top domestic advisor to Clinton now at the Brookings Institution, notes that Obama “has a great respect for expertise. His instinct is that in any field, gather the leading experts and go after them.” As Galston puts it, “This is not amateur hour — this is not crony time.” Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University and an expert on governmental organization, said admiringly, “Obama is extremely well-prepared. There is a lot of talk coming out of the Bush administration about a seamless transition. But in many instances, the Obama people know as much about what is happening in the Cabinet agencies as the Bush people do.”
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A U.S. newspaper says President-elect Barack Obama is considering a more regional approach to the war in Afghanistan that could include talks with Iran.
The Washington Post Tuesday cites unnamed national security advisers to Mr. Obama, who also say he intends to deploy thousands more U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The newspaper also reports Mr. Obama plans to intensify the search for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who is widely blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
The Post quotes one of Mr. Obama’s advisers as saying bin Laden is America’s enemy and should be its principal target.
Mr. Obama has pledged to end the war in Iraq, and defeat al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Post quotes a senior U.S. military official explaining mainly-Shi’ite Iran’s interest in cooperating as saying Iran does not want “Sunni extremists in charge of Afghanistan any more than” the U.S. does.
Source: VOA News
Mr Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said yesterday that the plight of automakers was one of a number of issues discussed in a two-hour meeting with Mr Bush to discuss the transfer of power at a time of war and financial crisis. Other issues included housing, mortgage foreclosures, and, more generally, “the need to get the economy back on track”.
The parlous state of the American car industry was highlighted last Friday when General Motors – the biggest US car manufacturer – reported a $2.5 billion net loss for the third quarter, bringing its total losses to nearly $57 billion since the beginning of 2005.
Ford Motor Company’s $129 million quarterly loss, meanwhile, brought to nearly $24.5 billion the deficit it has run up since plunging into the red in 2006. The privately-held Chrysler LLC is also thought to be fast running out of cash – one reason, analysts believe, why its parent, Cerberus Capital Management, was so eager to sell Chrysler to General Motors.
The New York Times, citing unnamed people familiar with the discussion, said that Mr Obama went into his post-election meeting with Mr Bush primed to urge him to support emergency aid for the car industry.
The Bush Administration is reluctant to give carmakers access to the bailout fund, even though the Democrats say it could legally do so.
Linking the issue with the Colombia free trade deal could delay any move until after Mr Obama’s inauguration on January 20. US union leaders oppose the agreement because of numerous murders of trade unionists in Colombia at the hands of right-wing paramilitary squads closely linked to the Colombian armed forces.
The Vatican has fired a warning shot over the bows of Barack Obama in response to the President-elect’s intention to lift the US ban on embryonic stem cell research.
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, who acts as the Vatican health minister, said that stem cells taken from human embryos and involving the destruction of the embryos “serve no purpose”.
Asked whether the Vatican was concerned about reports that Mr Obama might reverse the Bush Administration’s ban, the cardinal said that embryonic stem cell research had not resulted in any significant health cure so far and was “good for nothing”.
Research on adult stem cells and umbliical cords had been shown to have “positive value”, by contrast, although even that was not “a panacea for everything.”
He said the Vatican would seek clarification of the new administration’s position on stem cells, and he himself was not “fully aware” what it was.
Aides to Mr Obama indicated this week that he will reverse Mr Bush’s stand on stem cell research. The US Senate voted in July to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, but the President vetoed the legislation the following day.
Mr Obama has supported stem cell research to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. His views are supported by Joe Biden, the Vice-President-elect, who is a Roman Catholic.
John Podesta, who is handling the President-elect’s preparations to take over in the White House on January 20, said Mr Obama wanted “all the Bush executive orders reviewed”.
He added: “I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country.”
Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen, a leading American Vatican watcher, said the Vatican would have “deep differences” with the Obama administration over abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
These, however, must not be allowed to impede US-Vatican co-operation in promoting “religious freedom and human dignity worldwide” or on issues such as immigration, economic justice, peace, and environmental protection, he said.
Carinal Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, made the remarks at a press conference on childhood disease and illness and infant mortality.
He called for an intensive effort to improve “both medical and pastoral” aid to children, saying that four million babies in the world died each year in their first 26 days of life.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama could reverse some of President Bush’s most controversial executive orders, including restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, shortly after taking office in January.
Two other executive orders from Bush — one dealing with a so-called “gag” order on international aid organizations regarding abortion, the other with oil and gas drilling on federal lands — also are receiving increased scrutiny.
Obama’s transition team is reviewing hundreds of Bush’s executive orders, according to John Podesta, Obama’s transition co-chair.
New presidents often use executive orders to put their stamp on Washington quickly. Unlike laws, which require months to complete and the consent of Congress, presidents can use their executive authority to order federal agencies to implement current policies.
“Much of what a president does, he really has to do with the Congress — for example, budgeting, legislation on policy — but executive actions are ones where the president can act alone,” said Martha Kumar of the White House Transition Project, a nonpartisan group established to help new presidential administrations.
The change we need! It just doesn’t make sense to continue to give the auto-industry money to make gas-guzzlers. We should still be able to have big cars – but a big car run on electric or hybrid electric is a lot cheaper to run. Electric cars cost 2cents/mile to run and are more powerful and faster than cars run on gas. If the tax payers’ money should be given for anything – it should be for the cars of the future. If the auto-industry was reluctant to move on these new technologies – because of some regard for the oil industry – well the oil industry is doing fine and the auto industry is hanging on for dear life.
President-elect Barack Obama wants a high-profile point person to oversee reforms in the ailing auto industry, according to members of Obama’s transition team.
Specifics about the proposal remain unclear. But the transition team says Obama suggested to President Bush on Monday that aid to the auto industry could be coupled with the appointment of “someone in charge of the auto issue who would have the authority” to push for reforms. The details came from a more extended readout of the White House meeting provided Tuesday.
The person would assist in efforts to create an “economically viable auto industry,” a transition aide said – a move that could alleviate concerns about protecting taxpayer interests if more money is directed to assist automakers.
The financially reeling American auto industry has emerged as a top issue facing Obama and Bush as they work through the two-month transition period, and for Congress as it plans to convene next week for a lame duck session.
Automakers have asked for up to $25 billion in emergency loans in order to keep the industry from collapsing amid slumping sales. General Motors, the biggest U.S. automaker, reported a $4.2 billion operating loss last quarter and has warned that it may run out of cash by the end of June. Ford Motor Co. reported a nearly $3 billion for the quarter.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Tuesday that Bush was open to considering proposals to accelerate loans from $25 billion funds that have already been appropriated through a recent law aimed at helping automakers retool their business.
“We’re open to ideas from Congress to accelerate funds they’ve already appropriated in the auto loan program – as long as funding will continue to go to viable firms and with strong taxpayer protections,” Fratto said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter Saturday to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asking that the administration consider tapping another source of funds: the $700 billion bailout to include car companies.
Obama used his meeting Monday with Bush to call for auto assistance, “including accelerating the $25 billion Congress already passed, exploring other authorities that exist under current law,” the transition team said.
Obama also pressed for passage of a second economic stimulus package, while Bush “raised the need” to pass the Columbian free trade agreement, the transition team said.
Obama’s newly appointed chief of staff Rahm Emanuel suggested Sunday that the president elect wasn’t interested in a deal to remove White House opposition to a stimulus package in exchange for congressional approval of the trade agreement, which has been opposed by unions and some Democrats.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Tuesday that Bush did not link support for a stimulus package or auto industry aid to passage of the trade agreement.
“In no way did the president suggest that there was a quid pro quo,” said Perino. But Bush did, she said, “talk about the merits of free trade.”
On the day that President-elect Barack Obama visited the White House, a new national poll illustrates the daunting challenges he faces when it becomes his home next year.
Only 16 percent of those questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say things are going well in the country today. That’s an all-time low. Eighty-three percent say things are going badly, which is an all-time high.
“The challenge Obama faces has never been greater. No president has ever come to office during a time when the public’s mood has been this low. In the 34 years that this question has been asked, the number who say things are going well has never fallen below 20 percent,” said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director.
The 83 percent saying things are going badly is “more than in 1992, when the first President Bush was ousted because of ‘the economy, stupid.’ That’s more than in 1980, when President Carter got fired after the malaise crisis. That’s more than in 1975, after Watergate and the Nixon pardon,” said Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst.
So far, Obama seems to be meeting the public’s high expectations. Two-thirds of all Americans have a positive view of what he has done since he was elected president, and three-quarters think he will do a good job as president.
The all-time low on the public’s mood may have something to do with the poll’s finding that President Bush is the most unpopular president since approval ratings were first sought more than six decades ago. Seventy-six percent of those questioned in the poll disapprove of how he is handling his job.
That’s an all-time high in CNN polling and in Gallup polling dating back to World War II.
“No other president’s disapproval rating has gone higher than 70 percent. Bush has managed to do that three times so far this year,” Holland said. “That means that Bush is now more unpopular than Richard Nixon was when he resigned from office during Watergate with a 66 percent disapproval rating.”
Before Bush, the record holder for presidential disapproval was Harry Truman, with a 67 percent disapproval rating in January of 1952, his last full year in office.
This failing economy and troubled auto industry is the perfect storm for Obama and the Democrats, if the auto industry was strong — how could you get it to change direction? The writing was on the wall some eight years ago that the oil age was coming to an end – that to continue to pursue it would lead us into difficulty. And it was one of the hallmarks of Al Gore’s presidential campaign. Now we have seen the results of continuing down the same path. But with this disaster or more stripping of the sector – there is opportunity; the free market idea is to allow the auto industry to fail, or it can be bailed out under conservative socialism, or we can forget about the old titles and give the auto-industry the money it needs but with the strings attached – that it retools for the future car. Why can’t we have a hybrid/electric or an electric SUZ? And this merchandise can be exported – the market should be thrilled.
Bush is arguing – he’ll give Obama this – if in return Obama cedes with the Republican position on trade with Columbia. And it is a weak argument – because what Obama is saying – we will be happy to trade with you – but you are going to have to pull your act together when it comes to workers rights. This carrot and stick approach may do more to change conditions in Columbia – than all the diplomacy in the world. Doubtful if this is a chip that can be traded because it has a long term goal.
WASHINGTON — The struggling auto industry was thrust into the middle of a political standoff between the White House and Democrats on Monday as President-elect Barack Obama urged President Bush in a meeting at the White House to support immediate emergency aid.
Mr. Bush indicated at the meeting that he might support some aid and a broader economic stimulus package if Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats dropped their opposition to a free-trade agreement with Colombia, a measure for which Mr. Bush has long fought, people familiar with the discussion said.
The Bush administration, which has presided over a major intervention in the financial industry, has balked at allowing the automakers to tap into the $700 billion bailout fund, despite warnings last week that General Motors might not survive the year.
Mr. Obama and Congressional Democratic leaders say the bailout law authorizes the administration to extend assistance.
Mr. Obama went into his post-election meeting with Mr. Bush on Monday primed to urge him to support emergency aid to the auto industry, advisers to Mr. Obama said. But Democrats also indicate that neither Mr. Obama nor Congressional leaders are inclined to concede the Colombia pact to Mr. Bush, and may decide to wait until Mr. Obama assumes power on Jan. 20. […]
As the auto industry reels, rarely has an issue so quickly illustrated the differences from one White House occupant to the next. How Mr. Obama responds to the industry’s dire straits will indicate how much government intervention in the private sector he is willing to tolerate. It will also offer hints of how he will approach his job under pressure, testing the limits of his conciliation toward the opposition party and his willingness to stand up to the interest groups in his own. [….]
Obama has called on the Bush administration to accelerate $25 billion in federal loans provided by a recent law specifically to help automakers retool. Late in his campaign, Mr. Obama proposed doubling that to $50 billion. But industry supporters say the automakers, squeezed both by the unavailability of credit and depressed sales, need unrestricted cash now, simply to meet payroll and other expenses.
On Friday, Mr. Obama said he would instruct his economic team, once he chooses it, to devise a long-range plan for helping the auto industry recover in a way that is part of an energy and environmental policy to reduce reliance on foreign oil and address climate change.
Democrats close to both Mr. Obama’s transition team and to Congressional leaders seemed willing to call Mr. Bush’s bluff, calculating that he would not want to gamble that G.M. — an iconic, century-old American corporation with business tentacles in every state — would fail on his watch and add to the negative notes of his legacy. Also, economists as conservative as Martin Feldstein, an adviser to a long line of Republican presidents and candidates, have called more broadly for stimulus spending of up to $300 billion.
The major automakers — G.M., Ford and Chrysler — are each using up their cash at unsustainable rates. The Center for Automotive Research, which is based in Michigan and supported by the industry, released on Election Day an economic analysis of the impact of one or all of them failing. If the Big Three were to collapse, it said, that would cost at least three million jobs, counting autoworkers, suppliers and other businesses dependent on the companies, down to the hot-dog vendors and bartenders next door to their plants.
Organized labor is not the only interest group with influence in the Democratic Party that is weighing in as Mr. Obama plans his transition. Environmentalists are adamant that any aid be conditioned on the auto industry’s dropping of its opposition to higher fuel-efficiency standards and investing more in new technology. That puts them at odds with unions, who oppose any strings, leaving it to Mr. Obama to mediate.
Both as a candidate and now as president-elect, Mr. Obama has been in contact with former Vice President Al Gore, who last year won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change. In a column published in Sunday’s New York Times, Mr. Gore wrote that “we should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new start-up companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available.”
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American elections are a powerful drug: they bring delusions of omnipotence. All that talk of “change” and “hope” brings demands for swift action: “Do it now,” “first six months,” “hundred days.” The economic crisis may indeed demand speed, but in foreign policy the reality is that, on the afternoon of Jan. 20, President Obama will face the same challenges that President Bush did that morning. And none presents much opportunity for bold new initiatives.
That’s fortunate. Incoming presidents making big decisions in a hurry is a surefire recipe for error. Think JFK and the Bay of Pigs. More recently, George W. Bush’s reflexive ditching of the Clinton administration’s strategy on North Korea was a misstep it has taken years to retrieve.
The foreign-policy and national-security inbox shows that, even on pressing issues, Obama has the luxury of time. A quick overview:
Iraq. Obama has pledged to withdraw U.S. troops. But that’s already getting under way. At issue still: the pace of the drawdown, a date for final disengagement and the number of U.S. troops who should then remain as last-ditch guarantors of a democratic government in Baghdad. No Iraqi politician is going to be able to engage seriously on those topics until after their own elections next fall.
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.)
Continue reading here..
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.”
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.”
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.
President-elect holds a briefing laying out his transition plan and plans to resolve the financial crisis.
Obama to act swiftly on economy
Nadar is saying Obama’s foreign policy will be like that of George Bush – but how could Obama go about restoring America’s image in the world – and indeed taking allies concerns into account – if he were to follow Bush’s lead. We could assume that there may be something an Obama administration may not be able to change or undo in the near future – but his idea is to change direction. And to put America on a technological rather than a military path. Bush didn’t consider technology and scientific research that important – there was article on CNet – when Bush came to Silicon Valley – to talk about alternative energy – the reporter said that the most exiting thing Bush say was that while he was in the area – he looked forward to going mountain biking (or similar) over the weekend, but what many in this room of people wanted to hear is how Bush would enlist them in developing these new forms of energy and the money for it and a plan.
Contrast this to Barack Obama – who says – look what they are doing in China – they just sent a man into space – and we need to be ready to compete. It’s an aggressive plan for technology, for the education that forms the backbone of this new development.
And besides who’s going to pay for it – the Bush agenda has practically bankrupted the nation.
Nadar should stand down – for the moment.
Everyone knows that Obama would be dealt a stiff hand ~ if he were to become President.
Obama tells people what he thinks and in the direction he thinks we should go in. Look at the convention – when Obama accepted his party’s nomination – I think what many of detractors saw were the Greek columns – I barely noticed – because it was what he said that was important – he said it was not over – the Republican attack machine is going to come after him to try to win this election. Which is one of the reasons I built this blog, that and the appearance of Sarah Palin – who has either reached or is safely on her way back to Alaska:-}. When Obama became President-elect he said that there is a lot of work to do and it is going to take time. Obama’s a guy with some good ideas – and not only America but much of the world is with him – and once he becomes President – it would be difficult to understand why he wouldn’t work to get these things done. If you scroll down and listen to the speech that Obama made when he announced his candidacy for President – it sounds very similar to the speeches he used to end his campaign with — but more in his very first speech – he tells you what he is going to do once he is elected – after telling you the route by which he was going to get elected – and he got elected. The inaugurated is in January – and I am sure – a good day that will be. Most of all we trust him.
President-elect Barack Obama has begun an effort to tamp down what his aides fear are unusually high expectations among his supporters, and will remind Americans regularly throughout the transition that the nation’s challenges are substantial and will take time to address.
Visitors offered wishes to Barack Obama at a wall built Wednesday near the Lincoln Memorial.
Mr. Obama’s advisers said they were startled, if gratified, by the jubilation that greeted the news of Mr. Obama’s victory in much of the United States and abroad. But while the energy of his supporters could be a tremendous political asset as Mr. Obama works to enact his agenda after taking office in January, his aides said they were looking to temper hopes that he would be able to solve the nation’s problems or fully reverse Bush administration policies quickly and easily, especially given the prospect of a deep and long-lasting recession.
“We have talked about this,” said Robert Gibbs, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “It’s important that everybody understands that this is not going to happen overnight. There has to be a realistic expectation of what can happen and how quickly.”
Joel Benenson, Mr. Obama’s campaign pollster, said he thought that the public appreciated the problems that the president-elect was facing and would judge him against that backdrop.
“I don’t think they view him as a miracle worker who in two months is going to solve an economic crisis,” Mr. Benenson said. “It is a matter of being straightforward with people about what we are going to achieve and how fast it’s going to take.”
Mr. Obama will hit that theme at a news conference he is expected to hold over the coming days, and in most of his public appearances from here on out, aides said. They said they would discourage the traditional yardstick for measuring the accomplishments of a new president — the first 100 days. Mr. Obama told an interviewer toward the end of his campaign that it was more appropriate to talk about the first 1,000 days.
Mr. Obama’s advisers said that the tone of his victory speech on Tuesday night — sober and devoid of the arm-pumping that would typically be in an address of that sort — reflected his awareness of these circumstances. Mr. Obama warned that the promises that led Americans to embrace his candidacy — be they as specific as expanding health care or as broad as changing the tone of Washington — might take as long a term to carry out.
The caution reflected the inevitable perils of taking control of the White House at such a difficult time, particularly after a campaign that stirred so much hope among voters. The economic crisis will certainly complicate Mr. Obama’s more ambitious domestic efforts like broadening health care coverage and cutting taxes for most Americans. His call for a change in the tone in Washington would require a sharp shift in history. Even with substantial Democratic majorities in the Senate and the House, passing major legislation could still be time-consuming for Mr. Obama and require compromises.
Mr. Gibbs said one of the main challenges for Mr. Obama was tamping down expectations a bit without making anyone think he was moving away from the promises of his campaign.
“The flip side of this — and I want to make sure this is also clear — we also believe that it is paramount to begin doing everything we said we would do in the campaign,” Mr. Gibbs said. “We know expectations are high. But disappointment if we didn’t try to do the things that we said we were going to do would be far, far greater than anything else. People went to the polls and elected Barack Obama because they believed the fact not only that he could do what he said, but that he would try to do what he said.”
The challenge facing Mr. Obama today is similar to one that faced Bill Clinton in 1992, the last time a president arrived in Washington with anything approaching the level of excitement Mr. Obama’s election set off around the country.
As Election Day approached in 1992, it was apparent from the crowds that Mr. Clinton drew, in their size and their faces, that his supporters expected big things after a campaign in which Mr. Clinton had promised a dramatic revamping in health care coverage and programs for the poor. At the time, a senior adviser who was traveling with him, Paul Begala, warned Mr. Clinton to add some caveats to his speeches, to avoid voter letdown should it take time to accomplish things as president.
“I remember talking about this to him in the closing days of the campaign,” Mr. Begala said. “And he started saying, ‘We didn’t get into this overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight.’ ”
“So I remember him talking about it and doing it — and it didn’t have any effect on the citizens,” Mr. Begala said. That was one reason, he said, that Democrats lost control of Congress two years later.
A nearly 500-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wednesday was a reminder that Mr. Obama’s election did not bring the financial crisis to a close, and that the economic downturn could limit his ability to pursue his full agenda right off the bat by demanding an immediate focus on trying to pull the nation out of recession. And, even if Americans are ready to bear with Mr. Obama as he pursues policy proposals, they may not as readily accept the sort of compromise that legislative accomplishment often requires.
With the Democrats falling short of a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate on Tuesday, his agenda will probably require some modicum of horse trading for Republican support. Further complicating the picture, Mr. Obama’s winning coalition includes new voters who will be watching him closely but may not have patience for the deliberative give and take that accomplishment in Washington often demands.
“He’s got to lower some expectations, indicate the limits he’s confronting,” said Leon Panetta, a former chief of staff to Mr. Clinton. “He’s got a story to tell about how he’s confronting the worst crisis that any president has faced in modern history, and I think he can make clear that he’s going to try to deal with these problems one at a time.”
John McCain’s chaotic operation may well rank among recent history’s least successful efforts.
The GOP presidential campaign of 2008 will certainly be one that historians discuss for years to come. But not in the way that some Republicans had hoped for when they selected an experienced maverick, loved by the media, to face off against an inexperienced African-American who had trouble vanquishing his opponent in the primaries.
To be fair, the odds were stacked against any Republican. The economy has suffered while the incumbent president was phenomenally unpopular. Democrats were well organized and well financed. They found, in Barack Obama, an exceedingly charismatic and dynamic candidate.
But nothing is inevitable in American politics. A strong campaign, combined with the issue of race and fears about Obama’s inexperience, could have produced a different outcome.
History is filled with examples of campaigns marked by bad decisions and poor performances that undermined their chances of victory. In 1964, Republican Barry Goldwater made statements that allowed President Lyndon Johnson to depict him as a candidate too far out of the American mainstream. Eight years later, Richard Nixon returned the favor to Democratic Sen. George McGovern, who had put together a campaign that appealed to the New Left and other activists inspired by 1960s activism but failed to bring in traditional Democratic constituencies such as organized labor. In 1988, Democrat Michael Dukakis was the proverbial deer in the headlights when Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush and his team redefined the technocratic Massachusetts Democrat into an extreme card-carrying ACLU liberal who let out murderers on weekend furloughs. Bush then stumbled in 1992 with his tin ear about the economic recession. In 1996, Republican Robert Dole ran a lethargic campaign that emphasized nostalgia and suspicion while President Bill Clinton ran around the country boasting about peace and prosperity. During the last election, Sen. John Kerry didn’t adequately defend himself against “Swift-Boat” attacks.
But Team McCain ran a campaign that ranks on the bottom of this list. This was an aimless and chaotic operation made worse by poor choices at key moments. Their first mistake was picking Gov. Sarah Palin. Though in the first week following her selection, Palin energized the conservative base of the GOP, she became a serious drag on the ticket. This turned into one of the worst picks since McGovern selected Thomas Eagleton, a Missouri senator who withdrew after revealing that he had gone through electroshock therapy and suffered from “nervous exhaustion.” By picking Palin, McCain simultaneously eliminated his own best argument against Senator Obama—the limited experience of his opponent—while compounding his own most negative image, that of someone who was erratic and out of control. The pick also fueled the feeling that grew throughout September and October that the Republican candidate was willing to take any step necessary to win the campaign. The Palin pick made every decision that followed seem purely political.
The second mistake was going dark. McCain missed the biggest lesson of the Reagan Revolution: conservatives usually do best when they appeal to America’s optimism and develop a positive campaign around a vision for the country. President George W. Bush understood this in 2000, stressing compassionate conservatism, and in 2004 he couched his candidacy in an optimistic argument about how the Bush Doctrine could strengthen America against terrorism and restore the kind of security that seemed lost after 9/11.
McCain and Palin rejected this approach, instead putting together a campaign that was almost entirely negative and focused on attacking their opponents. They sounded much more like Goldwater in 1964 than Reagan in 1980, opening themselves up to Obama’s charge that they were willing to divide the nation for the purpose of winning the election. They called Obama a socialist, an extremist and even linked him to a terrorist. The campaign got so out of control that a man at one Palin rally yelled “Kill him!”. McCain had to restore order at a town meeting when one woman explained how scared she was of having an “Arab” in office. Still, the McCain campaign continued to run advertisements connecting Obama to 1960s radical Bill Ayers.
The third mistake was the “no-state” strategy. In contrast to Obama’s “50-state” strategy whereby Democrats hoped to win support in red states, the Republican ticket moved from one state to the next without any clear rationale. Just as the Republicans lacked a broader vision, they also lacked a clear electoral strategy. From the start, they were playing catch-up and allowing Democrats to drive their decisions. The goal seemed to be courting support only when polls were narrowing rather than deciding in which states to focus their efforts. While Democrats systematically laid out their organizational and financial efforts, Republicans scrambled from one place to the other.
The fourth mistake was the way McCain handled the crisis on Wall Street. McCain’s decision to temporarily stop the campaign and possibly call off the debate at the start of the Wall Street crisis in September looked terrible. McCain often looked a lot like President Bush in 1992: uncertain about what to do about the economy and at many moments not seeming to care. In contrast, Obama’s decisions and performance seemed presidential.
McCain’s final mistake was to leave his most politically powerful argument until it was too late. While there were many problems with Joe the Plumber, the argument could have been used much more effectively against Senator Obama: that the Democratic ticket was too left of center, especially on the issue of taxes. Toward the end of the campaign, McCain picked up some steam in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. But the argument came much too late and at a point when many Americans had become so cynical, and turned off, by the Republican campaign that McCain could not restore his strength.
Now, the McCain-Palin campaign will be added to the list of devastated losers. The odds against the Republican ticket were formidable as any political scientist will tell you. But McCain could have put up a more effective fight. Perhaps the best outcome for Republicans would be if they took the campaign to heart, learned from their mistakes, and figured out for the next time around how to put together a campaign that looks more like 1980 than 1964. At the same time the next GOP candidate needs to look toward the future, realizing that at least when it comes to the economy, the conservative era has finally come to an end.
Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. He is the co-editor of “Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s” and is completing a book on the history of national-secu rity politics since World War II, to be published by Basic Books.
President-elect Barack Obama began moving Wednesday to build his administration and make good on his ambitious promises to point the United States in a different direction, as his commanding victory reordered the American political landscape and transfixed much of the nation and the world.
A day after becoming the first African-American to capture the presidency, Mr. Obama announced a transition team and prepared to name an ally as his White House chief of staff in his first steps toward assuming power. President Bush vowed to work closely with Mr. Obama to ensure a smooth transition in the first handover since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the fourth-ranking House Democrat and a close friend of Mr. Obama’s from Chicago, has been offered the job of chief of staff, and although he was said to be concerned about the effects on his family and giving up his influential role on Capitol Hill, many Democrats said they expected him to accept it. Mr. Obama named John D. Podesta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff, to lead his transition team along with Valerie Jarrett, a longtime adviser, and Pete Rouse, his Senate chief of staff.
In turning to Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Podesta, Mr. Obama sought out two of the hardest-hitting veterans of President Bill Clinton’s administration, known for their deep Washington experience, savvy and no-holds-barred approach to politics. Neither is considered a practitioner of the “new politics” that Mr. Obama promised on the campaign trail to bring Republicans and Democrats together, suggesting that the cool and conciliatory new president is determined to demonstrate toughness from the beginning.
Mr. Obama stayed largely out of sight on Wednesday as Democrats counted their gains and Republicans stewed over what went wrong. The scope of his success underscored the nation’s discontent with Mr. Bush’s presidency. Mr. Obama captured an estimated 52 percent of the popular vote and 349 electoral votes to John McCain’s 46 percent and 162 electoral votes, with Missouri and North Carolina still too close to call.
Mr. Obama also ushered in a wave of Democrats who strengthened his party’s hold over Congress, picking up at least five seats in the Senate and 19 in the House. Republican senators in Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon were still clinging to razor-thin leads, including Ted Stevens of Alaska, fresh from his conviction on seven felony counts of failing to disclose $250,000 in gifts and services he received.
But the crowds had barely drifted out of Grant Park in Chicago after an exuberant late-night celebration of Mr. Obama’s triumph before the rising sun brought fresh signs of the daunting burdens to come.
In Russia, President Dmitri A. Medvedev warned that he would deploy missiles if Mr. Obama built Mr. Bush’s planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe. In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai pleaded with Mr. Obama to halt air strikes that have been killing civilians. And in the United States, stock markets plunged again amid more dark economic news.
Still, the phenomenon of a black president of the world’s most powerful nation captured public imagination in many quarters of the globe. Supporters in many cities in the United States chanted in the street and large crowds gathered at the headquarters of newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post seeking sold-out copies of historic front pages.
The Congressional committee that puts together the inauguration ceremonies announced that the theme would be “A New Birth of Freedom,” to mark the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, symbolically linking one president from Illinois who freed the slaves to another who broke the ultimate racial barrier in politics.
Even the departing Bush team recognized the power of the moment. “It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House,” Mr. Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden. “I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited for so long.”
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise appearance at her department’s daily briefing to congratulate Mr. Obama.
“As an African-American, I am especially proud because this is a country that’s been through a long journey in terms of overcoming wounds and making race not the factor in our lives,” Ms. Rice said. “That work is not done, but yesterday was obviously an extraordinary step forward.”
The election proved so invigorating to the American public that turnout climbed to its highest rate in 44 years. Although experts differed in their projections as provisional and absentee ballots are counted, Michael McDonald, a voting expert at George Mason University, estimated that 133.3 million people had voted, eclipsing the 123 million who participated four years ago. That amounted to 62.6 percent of all eligible voters, just shy of the 62.8 percent in 1964.
With the election now behind them, the Bush and Obama teams began the delicate 77-day transition until inauguration. The General Services Administration turned over 120,000 square feet of office space in downtown Washington to the Obama transition team and select Obama advisers were due to be given interim security clearances.
Mr. Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will receive briefings Thursday from Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and thereafter each morning by a pair of Central Intelligence Agency officials. Mr. Obama was given brief updates during the campaign, but aides said the sessions now would resemble the presidential daily briefing presented to Mr. Bush each morning.
Beyond choosing staff members, Mr. Obama must decide how active he intends to be in asserting leadership during the transition. Mr. Obama has conferred with Congressional leaders about passing a $100 billion economic stimulus package in a lame-duck session the week of Nov. 17 to pay for public works projects, aid to cities and states, and unemployment, food stamp and heating benefits.
But Congressional aides said that if Mr. Obama could not win agreement from Mr. Bush and Senate Republicans, they might scale the package back to about $60 billion, then come back in January with a broader plan.
Mr. Obama talked regularly with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. about the financial crisis during the campaign, but it remained unclear how closely he wants to coordinate action during the transition. The situation is so dire, it may demand immediate action from a newly elected president, but Obama advisers are wary of taking ownership over decisions made by Mr. Bush.
On his first morning as president-elect, Mr. Obama did something he rarely did the last 22 months: he woke up at home in Chicago and had breakfast with his wife, Michelle, and his two young daughters, Malia and Sasha. He spent the day out of view, making thank you calls and meeting with transition advisers, a decision aides said was intended to draw a line between the campaign and the coming task of governing. They said he canceled fireworks at the Tuesday night celebration to underscore the seriousness of the moment.
As he began to assemble his White House, Mr. Obama sought to persuade Mr. Emanuel to be his right hand. Mr. Emanuel, a top aide in the Clinton White House, did not accept immediately, with close associates saying he was torn between helping the new administration and staying in the House, where he aspires to become speaker. His wife and three children, who live in Chicago, are reluctant to move to Washington, friends said.
Mr. Emanuel would bring extensive legislative experience and instincts for how to run a White House, but his brash partisan past could undercut Mr. Obama’s promise to bridge the divide in Washington. His unquestioned loyalty to Mr. Obama is a powerful asset to the president-elect.
While waiting to settle the matter with Mr. Emanuel, Mr. Obama went ahead and announced his transition team, to be led by Mr. Podesta, Ms. Jarrett and Mr. Rouse. They will be helped by a 12-member board, including Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, former Commerce Secretary William Daley, former Energy Secretary Federico F. Peña and former Environmental Protection Agency director Carol Browner.
Washington was abuzz with speculation over who would join the new administration, some of it informed, much of it guesswork. Democrats close to the Obama team said they believed the likeliest choices for Treasury secretary would be Lawrence H. Summers, who held the post in the Clinton administration, and Timothy F. Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
In the national security arena, much depends on whether Mr. Obama decides to ask Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to stay to demonstrate bipartisanship. If Mr. Obama decides against it, or Mr. Gates turns him down, Democrats see former Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre and former Navy Secretary Richard J. Danzig as two candidates for the Pentagon.
Without Mr. Gates, Mr. Obama might want to tap a Republican for the State Department, perhaps including Senators Richard G. Lugar of Indiana or Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, advisers said. If Mr. Gates stays, some Democrats said, Senator John F. Kerry, the Democratic nominee who gave Mr. Obama the platform at the 2004 convention that vaulted him to national fame, is a leading choice to be secretary of state.
For national security adviser, Mr. Obama might pick between James B. Steinberg, a former deputy national security adviser, and Gregory B. Craig, a former State Department official. Mr. Danzig and Dennis Ross, a longtime Middle East envoy, are also mentioned. Susan E. Rice, a former assistant secretary of state and early Obama adviser, is often described as a possible deputy national security adviser or ambassador to the United Nations.
Democrats said they had heard that Howard Dean, the Democratic National Committee chairman, who is a doctor, might be a candidate for secretary of health and human services; Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina may be considered for secretary of housing and urban development; and Penny S. Pritzker, a Chicago business tycoon and Mr. Obama’s national finance chairwoman, could be tapped for commerce secretary.
While Mr. Bush invited his successor-to-be to visit him at the White House, Mr. Obama’s advisers said that he had no immediate plans to travel to Washington and that he planned to chart out his new administration largely from Chicago. He does not plan to attend the global economic summit in Washington called by Mr. Bush for Nov. 15. But advisers did not rule out the possibility that he would meet with some visiting leaders, perhaps over dinner or at a reception.
“The one thing he is not going to do is let anyone think he’s undermining the president,” said Mr. Craig, who has advised Mr. Obama on foreign policy. “There’s only one president, and he’ll take pains to make sure nothing he does is taken as undermining President Bush.”
It is interesting how Rove is not drawn into Bill O’Reilly’s dog fight with the Democrat leadership. And more he directs the Republicans to have a look at what their party stands for – and how best to convey that message. Which I am pretty sure, he is also clear on – that this is how they were beaten in this election.
According to Carl Cameron of Fox News – insiders at the Mccain camp stated that Palin wasn’t aware that Africa was a continent, as she believed Africa was a country. Itappears Palin did not know anything about the NAFTA trade agreement – that she would not prepare for interviews like the now famous Katie Couric –
If Palin thought that Africa was a country – then it would make sense that one could get foreign policy experience – by merely being close to – or as she put it being able to see Russia from her state –
There were some who said that – it wasn’t that Palin simply made mistakes during he interviews – that what was worst is that she didn’t understand the question.
While Americans eagerly vote for the next president, here’s a sobering reminder: As of Tuesday, George W. Bush still has 77 days left in the White House — and he’s not wasting a minute.
President Bush’s aides have been scrambling to change rules and regulations on the environment, civil liberties and abortion rights, among others — few for the good. Most presidents put on a last-minute policy stamp, but in Mr. Bush’s case it is more like a wrecking ball. We fear it could take months, or years, for the next president to identify and then undo all of the damage.
Here is a look — by no means comprehensive — at some of Mr. Bush’s recent parting gifts and those we fear are yet to come.
CIVIL LIBERTIES We don’t know all of the ways that the administration has violated Americans’ rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Last month, Attorney General Michael Mukasey rushed out new guidelines for the F.B.I. that permit agents to use chillingly intrusive techniques to collect information on Americans even where there is no evidence of wrongdoing.
Agents will be allowed to use informants to infiltrate lawful groups, engage in prolonged physical surveillance and lie about their identity while questioning a subject’s neighbors, relatives, co-workers and friends. The changes also give the F.B.I. — which has a long history of spying on civil rights groups and others — expanded latitude to use these techniques on people identified by racial, ethnic and religious background.
The administration showed further disdain for Americans’ privacy rights and for Congress’s power by making clear that it will ignore a provision in the legislation that established the Department of Homeland Security. The law requires the department’s privacy officer to account annually for any activity that could affect Americans’ privacy — and clearly stipulates that the report cannot be edited by any other officials at the department or the White House.
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has now released a memo asserting that the law “does not prohibit” officials from homeland security or the White House from reviewing the report. The memo then argues that since the law allows the officials to review the report, it would be unconstitutional to stop them from changing it. George Orwell couldn’t have done better.
THE ENVIRONMENT The administration has been especially busy weakening regulations that promote clean air and clean water and protect endangered species.
Mr. Bush, or more to the point, Vice President Dick Cheney, came to office determined to dismantle Bill Clinton’s environmental legacy, undo decades of environmental law and keep their friends in industry happy. They have had less success than we feared, but only because of the determined opposition of environmental groups, courageous members of Congress and protests from citizens. But the White House keeps trying.
Mr. Bush’s secretary of the interior, Dirk Kempthorne, has recently carved out significant exceptions to regulations requiring expert scientific review of any federal project that might harm endangered or threatened species (one consequence will be to relieve the agency of the need to assess the impact of global warming on at-risk species). The department also is rushing to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list — again. The wolves were re-listed after a federal judge ruled the government had not lived up to its own recovery plan.
In coming weeks, we expect the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a final rule that would weaken a program created by the Clean Air Act, which requires utilities to install modern pollution controls when they upgrade their plants to produce more power. The agency is also expected to issue a final rule that would make it easier for coal-fired power plants to locate near national parks in defiance of longstanding Congressional mandates to protect air quality in areas of special natural or recreational value.
Interior also is awaiting E.P.A.’s concurrence on a proposal that would make it easier for mining companies to dump toxic mine wastes in valleys and streams.
And while no rules changes are at issue, the interior department also has been rushing to open up millions of acres of pristine federal land to oil and gas exploration. We fear that, in coming weeks, Mr. Kempthorne will open up even more acreage to the commercial development of oil shale, a hugely expensive and environmentally risky process that even the oil companies seem in no hurry to begin. He should not.
Soon after the election, Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, is expected to issue new regulations aimed at further limiting women’s access to abortion, contraceptives and information about their reproductive health care options.
Existing law allows doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in an abortion. These changes would extend the so-called right to refuse to a wide range of health care workers and activities including abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and provision of birth control pills or emergency contraception, even for rape victims.
The administration has taken other disturbing steps in recent weeks. In late September, the I.R.S. restored tax breaks for banks that take big losses on bad loans inherited through acquisitions. Now we learn that JPMorgan Chase and others are planning to use their bailout funds for mergers and acquisitions, transactions that will be greatly enhanced by the new tax subsidy.
One last-minute change Mr. Bush won’t be making: He apparently has decided not to shut down the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — the most shameful symbol of his administration’s disdain for the rule of law.
Mr. Bush has said it should be closed, and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and his secretary of defense, Robert Gates, pushed for it. Proposals were prepared, including a plan for sending the real bad guys to other countries for trial. But Mr. Cheney objected, and the president has refused even to review the memos. He will hand this mess off to his successor.
We suppose there is some good news in all of this. While Mr. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, 2009, he has only until Nov. 20 to issue “economically significant” rule changes and until Dec. 20 to issue other changes. Anything after that is merely a draft and can be easily withdrawn by the next president.
Unfortunately, the White House is well aware of those deadlines.
Hoping to beat the rush, voters flocked to the polls early this morning only to find parking lots already packed, turnout high and long lines already snaking around the block as scattered voting problems were reported in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
In Virginia, reported problems were widespread, according to reports gathered by the Election Protection Coalition, a cooperative effort by more than dozen voting rights groups.
Voters said they encountered broken touch-screen machines and paper jams in the scanners that are supposed to read the ballots at polling places in Richmond, Alexandria, Newport News, Chesapeake, and Vienna. Polling places in Virginia Beach were not opened at 6 a.m. when they were supposed to be.
“They harangue us to vote and then they don’t have the capacity to handle us when we show up,” said a man standing with a cane in a two-hour line in Fairfax, Va.
Virginia election officials said three polling places opened late because of what she called “human error.” In some cases, voters came in from the rain and failed to properly dry their hands before touching their ballots, fouling the optical scanning machines.
In Pittsburgh, Pa., some lines were stretching several hundred voters long by 7 a.m. In Philadelphia, lines were equally long and at one polling place on in the east side of the city several voting machines were not working because there was no extension cord available to help them reach the electrical outlet.
Despite the scattered problems, most people held on, steadfast in their passion to vote, undeterred by rain, sore feet or the long waits.
Voting experts predicted a record turnout of 130 million voters, which would be the highest percentage turnout in a century. It could shatter the previous record of 123.5 million who cast ballots four years ago. If 64 percent of registered voters make their way to the polls, as some predict, it would be the highest percentage since 1908.
Florida Secretary of State Kurt A. Browning said the 1992 record of 83 percent turnout could be surpassed in his state. Pennsylvania officials believe as many as 80 percent of the state 8.75 million votes will show up at the polls, a record.
Lines and other problems began well before Election Day.
By Monday night, Election Protection Coalition received calls about more than 700 early voters in West Creek Community Center in Kansas City, who waited more than eight hours to cast their ballots. Lines for early voters in Atlanta left people waiting for nearly ten hours.
There were also reports of underhanded tactics. Several callers from Indiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland reported receiving automated phone calls with incorrect polling locations. Dozens of people in Colorado and New Jersey reported not receiving confirmation of their voter registrations or absentee ballots.
Yesterday alone, the hotline received more than 30,000 calls. Most were from voters in high population and swing states, including over 2,000 calls from Florida. The most common calls by far up until Election Day have been in regard to registration problems, followed by absentee ballot issues and polling place problems, which include extremely long lines.
Note: Video the Vote is a network of citizen journalists, independent filmmakers, and media professionals documenting voter problems at the polls. We will be posting links from them throughout the day.
One thing you could say about Karl Rove is that he is willing to face the truth ~ in this case pointing out the likely outcome of this election race.
On his website, Republican strategist Karl Rove writes:
- The final Rove & Co. electoral map of the 2008 election cycle points to a 338-200 Barack Obama electoral vote victory over John McCain tomorrow, the largest electoral margin since 1996.All remaining toss-up states have been allocated to the candidate leading in them, with Florida (27 EV) going to Obama, and Indiana (11 EV), Missouri (11 EV), North Carolina (15 EV), and North Dakota (3 EV) going to McCain.
The two candidates are in a dead heat in Missouri and North Carolina, but they go to McCain because the most recent polls conducted over this past weekend show him narrowly ahead. Florida, too, could end up in McCain’s column since he’s benefited from recent movement in the state
Darth Cheney appeared our of the darkness of his undisclosed location – to endorse the new Sith Lord McCain who he hoped would be his loyal successor and work to expand the Dark Empire he worked hard to create.
Looking out onto the Kingdom Sith McCain and Darth Cheney – the two agreed that his Empire should continue – under the directive of the war without end doctrine – in order to bring all the known world and its important resources under their control ~ nothing they thought could stop them now.
There were no limitations on their desire for power and control by – war baby war – success was at hand. But their plan was missing one thing they had to unite the world, around their dark vision and they needed one person – an Obama Skywalker.
Meantime dark ideas had already infiltrated the Senate – and the plan to take it over and to undermine democracy – in the name of restoring order and maintaining security was complete.
The very powers of the Senate – through deception – were used to steal democracy. And no one could stop it.
And a new power – the power of the dark side – was soon unleashed.
The world looked very different as there would be no peace for 100 years.
All was well in the outer-lands – but little known to Obama Skywalker – he was about to enter the battle and restore order to the force. His first encounter with the Dark Lord McCain was at hand – after his home was destroyed – he began his Jedi training.
Trust your feelings Barack, said his sage trainer – in the ways of the force.
As the Emperor’s forces drew closer and destruction seemed complete Obama Skywalker went into training with one of the greatest sages of all.
“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
Obama learned that the restoration of the good side of the force lay with him.
Later in the cave – Obama Skywalker was tested.
“Will he finish what he begins?”
“I won’t fail you. I’m not afraid.”
“Oh, you will be. You will be.“
Sith McCain was so confident in his vision – he tried to get in Barack the Jedi to join with him on the dark side.
Lord McCain said something like ‘ I am your father ‘
Naturally Obama Skywalker said that this was impossible and that he would never join him – that he would never move to the dark side. And the fight for Skywalker’s surrender began.
Realizing that the force was strong with Obama Skywalker and he would be a threat to the Empire – if he would not come over to the dark side – Darth Cheney – sought to teach – this insignificant one – a lesson.
In the end with his last shred of humanity, seeing that his own son would be destroyed, he took on Darth Cheney and saved Obama Skywalker, saying something like ‘ tell the voters you were right ‘ ‘ you were right.’
Once order was restored – there was music and celebrations throughout all the lands – as the battle for the good and the betterment of mankind and over the dark side’s war without end for control of power and resourses – had been won.
WASHINGTON – In the final weekend of a long race for the White House, Barack Obama promised to heal America’s political divisions while rival John McCain fought to hold on to Republican-leaning states and pledged to score an upset.
For Obama, buoyed by record campaign donations and encouraging poll numbers, it was a time for soaring rhetoric and forays into Republican territory. “We have a righteous wind at our back,” the Democrat said Saturday.
McCain saw the weekend as a final opportunity to persuade voters to prove the polls and pundits wrong and sweep him into office.
“We’re a few points down but we’re coming back,” he told supporters in Virginia.
Obama campaigned Saturday in Nevada, Colorado and Missouri, all states that voted for President Bush four years ago, while McCain struggled to keep Virginia from voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1964.
McCain also made a quick sidetrip to New York City and an appearance on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” where he joked about his campaign and his latest plan to win over voters.
“I thought I might try a strategy called the reverse maverick. That’s where I’d do whatever anybody tells me,” McCain said. If that failed, he quipped, “I’d go to the double maverick. I’d just go totally berserk and freak everybody out.”
Both men appealed to supporters to turn out on Election Day, saying the stakes could scarcely be higher.
“If you give me your vote on Tuesday, we won’t just win this election — together, we will change this country and change the world,” Obama said in a nationwide Democratic radio address.
Vice President Dick Cheney endorsed McCain, saying Americans “cannot afford the high tax liberalism of Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”
Obama, campaigning in Colorado, pounced on the remark, saying McCain had earned the endorsement through supporting the Bush administration’s failed social and economic policies.
“Bush and Cheney have dug a deep hole,” Obama said. “Now they’re trying to hand the shovel to McCain.”
An Associated Press-Yahoo News national poll of likely voters showed Obama ahead, 51 to 43, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. McCain’s campaign says its internal polling shows the gap closing.
No, this is not some Halloween stunt. That guy you see over there being held accountable is actually the vice president of the United States.
The U.S. District Court in D.C. ruled today that Vice President Dick Cheney will have to let his deputy chief of staff, Claire O’Donnell, give testimony in a lawsuit over his records.
Cheney, with his well-known passion for secrecy, had argued that a vice president need only preserve records central to his job as the official who presides over the U.S. Senate or records relating to specific tasks assigned by the president. That would narrow the pile considerably.
A group of historians and others at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have filed a lawsuit, concerned about their eventual access to the vice president’s records. In a second round victory, the court today denied Cheney’s move to block discovery in the case.
Anne Weismann, CREW’s chief counsel, hailed the decision.
- Today’s decision, allowing CREW discovery in our case against the office of the vice president, moves us one step closer to ensuring that important historical documents will not be lost to future generations. CREW looks forward to deposing Cheney’s Deputy Chief of Staff Claire O’Donnell to get to the bottom of what exactly the administration has been doing with documents that belong not to the vice president, but to the American people.
The vice president’s office declined to comment, noting that the case was still in court. Where Cheney may well file an appeal
The big worry is that the Republicans will attempt to steal this election. By cheating to get in George Bush – we get a lower quality candidate – or more in this election – it’s the best person to lead the country in these economic times. McCain’s view is backward looking, at best he would have made a better president back in 2000, but George W/Rove dirty tricks sealed his fate. In this election he has a person as his VP, who has been deemed unqualified to hold higher office, by the majority voting public. To steal the election – would send the wrong message to the world and put America on a course, which it may not recover from for some time. John McCain has surrounded himself with lobbyists, all lobbyist can’t be bad, but it seems that his focus will be on the interests of these lobbyist over the interests of the average American. These include oil lobbyist, of which he plans to give EXXON Mobil a tax credit – although they made record profits – over giving the poorest workers, and the middle class a tax break. The polls have indicated that people have selected Obama as the best person to steer the county on a new path, while giving high priority to the the interests of the average person who wishes to do well in America. The Republicans propped on the belief that their belief in God/ gives them priority over all others, even those believing in the same God, that this gives them the right to cheat, steal, lie, smear, deceive and manipulate to win an election, by any means, disenfranchising those honest voters, and making a mockery out of the democratic system. Republicans, don’t need to steal this election, what they need, is to steal away and rethink what it means to be Republican – not the racist, hateful, bigoted bag of tricks they have been promoting, not the war mongering blinded by addiction to oil and obtaining the next fix by military means strategy, but a meaningful this is who we are, this is how we want to present ourselves and here’s what we hope to achieve or how we think we might do it better. Alternatively maybe they should select who among them would like to go to prison – for their larger supremacist goal.
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Barack Obama’s campaign said Democratic voters were piling up imposing early voting totals in battleground states, warning that John McCain must win big on election day on Tuesday to catch up.
“The die is being cast as we speak,” Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe said in a conference call with reporters, saying the Democrat was running strong in swing states Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and others.
“So Senator McCain, on election day is going to have to not just carry the day but carry it convincingly,” Plouffe said.
Plouffe also said that the campaign would expand its advertising in the frenetic final days of the campaign into Republican McCain’s home state of Arizona, following polls which suggest the race had tightened there.
The campaign would also take out advertising spots over the final weekend in normally Republican states like Georgia, after being encouraged by early voting figures and North Dakota, he said.
Plouffe said that in the crucial swing-state of Florida, Democrats had built a 200,000 strong gap over McCain after early and absentee voting — reversing the trend from 2004 when President George W. Bush beat John Kerry in the state.
“In 2008, as of last night, we had just about a 200,000 vote edge over the Republicans, which is, obviously, a big change from 2004,” Plouffe said.
Republicans went into election day that year with an edge of around 40,000 votes.
In the western swing state of Nevada, 43 percent of Democrats who voted early were either new voters or sporadic voters — a prized demographic as campaigns seek an edge in close fought states, Plouffe said.
In North Carolina, Plouffe said, 19 percent of Democrats who voted early had never voted in a general election before, bolstering Obama’s hopes of bringing large numbers of new voters into the process.
“We very much like what we’re seeing in early vote. And obviously, in states like Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina.”
The McCain campaign scheduled its own conference call later on Friday to address the state of the race, four days before election day.
“The pundits have written us off much as they have done before, but we are closing my friends, and we are going to win Ohio,” McCain said in the crucial midwestern battleground state on Friday.
“We’re a few points down … but we’re coming back strong.”
Source: Raw Story
From CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand
And the Republican nominee continues to lose ground in reliably-red areas, as North Dakota moves from “lean McCain” to “toss-up” – meaning three electoral votes that had been counted for McCain are now considered up for grabs.
But there’s some good news for McCain down south: Louisiana has moved from “lean McCain” to “safe McCain.” And the movement on the map is far from done.
Barack Obama now leads McCain by 131 electoral votes, up from his 128-vote lead yesterday. CNN now estimates that if the presidential election were held today, Obama would win 291 electoral votes and John McCain 160. There are 87 electoral votes up for grabs. Again, 270 electoral votes are needed to win the White House.
The CNN Electoral Map is based on analysis from the CNN Political Unit and takes into account a number of factors, including polling, state voting trends, ad spending patterns, candidate visits, and guidance from the campaigns, parties, and political strategists. The list will be updated regularly as the campaign develops over time.
Source: CNN Politics
Wolfe Blitzer interview Barrack Obama Part 2
Wolfe Blitzer interview Barrack Obama Part 3