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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

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For several years, I’ve been writing about Bushenfreude, the phenomenon of angry yuppies—who’ve hugely benefited from President Bush’s tax cuts—funding angry, populist Democratic campaigns. I’ve theorized that people who work in financial services and related fields have become so outraged and alienated by the incompetence, crass social conservatism, and repeated insults to the nation’s intelligence, of the Bush-era Republican Party, that they’re voting with their hearts and heads instead of their wallets.

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Last week’s election was perhaps Bushenfreude’s grandest day. As the campaign entered its final weeks, Barack Obama, who pledged to unite the country, singled out one group of people for ridicule: those making more than $250,000. At his rallies, he would ask for a show of hands of those making less than one-quarter of $1 million per year. Then he’d look around, laugh, and note that those in the virtuous majority would get their taxes cut, while the rich among them would be hit with a tax increase. And yet the exit polls show, the rich—and yes, if you make $250,000 or more you’re rich—went for Obama by bigger margins than did the merely well-off. If the exit polls are to be believed, those making $200,000 or more (6 percent of the electorate) voted for Obama 52-46, while McCain won the merely well-off ($100,000 to $150,000 by a 51-48 margin and $150,000 to $200,000 by a 50-48 margin).

Right-wingers tend to dismiss such numbers as the voting behavior of trust funders or gazillionaires—people who have so much money that they just don’t care about taxes. That may explain a portion of Bushenfreude. But there just aren’t that many trust funders out there. Rather, it’s clear that the nation’s mass affluent—Steve the lawyer, Colby the financial services executive, Ari the highly paid media big shot—are trending Democratic, especially on the coasts. Indeed, Bushenfreude is not necessarily a nationwide phenomenon. As Andrew Gelman notes in the book “Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State,” the rich in poor states are likely to stick with the Republicans.

But in the ground zero of Bushenfreude, Fairfield County, Conn., it was practically an epidemic last week. Bushenfreude’s most prominent victim was Rep. Chris Shays, the last Republican congressman east of the Hudson River. For the past several cycles, Shays, who played a moderate in his home district but was mainly an enabler of the Bush-DeLay Republicans in Washington, fended off well-financed challengers with relative ease. Last week, he fell victim to Jim Himes. Himes, as this New York Times profile shows, is the ultimate self-made, pissed-off yuppie: a member of Harvard’s crew team, a Rhodes Scholar, a former Goldman Sachs banker, and a resident of Greenwich.

Shays claims he was done in by a Democratic tsunami in Fairfield County and the state. And Connecticut’s county results show Obama ran up a huge 59-41 margin in the county, which includes Bridgeport and Norwalk—densely populated cities with large poor, minority, and working-class populations. But an examination of the presidential votes in several of Fairfield County’s wealthier districts (here are Connecticut’s votes by town) shows the yuppies came out in the thousands to vote for a candidate who pledged to raise their taxes. In the fall of 2003, I first detected Bushenfreude in Westport (No. 5 on Money’s list of 25 wealthiest American towns). The telltale symptom: Howard Dean signs stacked in the back of a brand-new BMW. The signs of an outbreak were legion this year. On our route to school, my kids would count the number of yard signs for Obama and McCain (the results: 6-to-1). On the Saturday morning before the election, I stopped by the Westport Republican headquarters to pick up some McCain-Palin buttons, only to find it locked. On Election Day, Westport voters went for Obama by a 65-35 margin. (That’s bigger than the 60-40 margin Kerry won here in 2004.) Bushenfreude spread from Westport to neighboring towns. In Wilton, just to the north, which Bush carried comfortably in 2004, Obama won 54 percent of the vote.

Perhaps most surprising was the result from Greenwich, Conn. The Versailles of the tri-state metro area, the most golden of the region’s gilded suburbs, the childhood home of George H.W. Bush, went for Obama by a 54-46 margin—the first time Greenwich went Democratic since 1964. Who knew the back-country estates and shoreline mansions were populated with so many traitors to their class? (In the 2004 cage match of New England-born, Yalie aristocrats, George W. Bush beat Kerry 53-47 in Greenwich.) Some towns in Fairfield County were clearly inoculated from Bushenfreude. In New Canaan and Darien, which ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in Money’s list of 25 wealthiest towns, McCain-Palin won by decent majorities. (In both towns, however, the Republican margins were down significantly from 2004.) What’s the difference between these towns and their neighbors? Well, New Canaan and Darien are wealthier than their sister towns in Fairfield County. (In both, the median income is well more than $200,000.) So perhaps the concern about taxes is more acute there. Another possible explanation is that these towns differ demographically from places like Greenwich and Westport, in that they are less Jewish, and Jews voted heavily for Obama.

While there has been job loss and economic anxiety throughout Fairfield County, I don’t think that economic problems alone explain the big Democratic gains in the region. In Greenwich, economic stress for many people means flying commercial or selling the ski house (while maintaining the summer house on Nantucket). There’s something deeper going on when a town that is home to corporate CEOs, professional athletes, hedge-fund managers, and private-equity barons—the people who gained the most, financially, under the Bush years and who would seem to have the most to lose financially under an Obama administration—flips into the Democratic column. Somewhere in the back country, in a 14,000-square-foot writer’s garret, an erstwhile hedge-fund manager is dictating a book proposal to his assistant, a former senior editor at Fortune who just took a buyout, that explains why many of the wealthy choose to vote for a Democrat, in plain violation of their economic self-interest. Working title: What’s the Matter With Greenwich?

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