Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category

Obama Throws a Snowball

Friday, December 12th, 2008

From December 2007 before the Iowa caucuses made Barack Obama the front runner for the Democratic nomination.

(I found the photo here, but I’m not sure of it’s real provenance. Similar pictures were in the Boston Herald last December though.)

The Scowcroft Conspiracy

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Not quite a conspiracy – but Joshua Micah Marshall just reported on the final piece of the puzzle I seem to have been missing  that helps explain:

  • the endorsement of Obama by Colin Powell;
  • the constant chatter about keeping Bob Gates on as Defense Secretary since at least September; and
  • the tacit support of Obama by Chuck Hagel – from his criticisms of McCain during the election to his accompanying Obama on his European tour during the campaign.

The final piece being – Brent Scowcroft (h/t Andrew Sullivan), the former National Security Advisor under Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush and a former Lieutenant General in the Air Force, and a guy so personally close to George H. W. Bush that he co-wrote Bush’s memoirs with him.

Hagel, Powell, and Gates all have been close allies of Scowcroft, especially in fighting against neo-conservatives in the George W. Bush administration. And he has apparently been working behind-the-scenes with Obama and his foreign policy team since the summer at latest.

Indeed, the roots of this defection of foreign policy realist Republicans to the Obama camp can probably be seen in this April 2008 article in the New York Times in which Lawrence Eagleburger, of the realist camp himself, describes a battle going on for McCain’s “soul” between the realist and neoconservative Republican foreign policy camps. By the summer, it became pretty clear which side had won that battle – as McCain embraced one neoconservative position after another and surrogates claimed he wanted to “kill the United Nations.”

By the summer, Scowcroft had begun to unofficially advise the Obama campaign; there was talk of Bob Gates staying on at Defense; Senator Hagel began to criticize McCain while praising Obama; and Powell decided to endorse Obama publicly.

The Surge that Took Down the Red Cross

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Evan Thomas of Newsweek has written up an excellent series of seven articles from the research of a team of reporters given behind-the-scenes access to the McCain and Obama campaigns on the condition that they not publish anything until after the election. At the end of the fourth article, he explains an incident that demonstrates the sheer organizing power of the Obama operation:

At the end of August, as Hurricane Gustav threatened the coast of Texas, the Obama campaign called the Red Cross to say it would be routing donations to it via the Red Cross home page. Get your servers readyour guys can be pretty nuts, Team Obama said. Sure, sure, whatever, the Red Cross responded. Weve been through 9/11, Katrina, we can handle it.

The surge of Obama dollars crashed the Red Cross Web site in less than 15 minutes.

Obama & Trade

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

I’ve heard from a few people that there is a growing concern that Obama is anti-free-trade.

This concern has a basis in Obama’s record – mainly from his rhetoric in Ohio during the primary fight with Hillary Clinton and to some extent the fact that he is a Democrat and needed the support of the labor unions. But to a large degree the exaggerated fears of many businessmen comes from comments made by the Republicans during the campaign – as John McCain’s campaign was first (ridiculously) calling Obama “the most protectionist candidate that the Democratic Party has ever fielded” before his campaign went on to call Obama a supporter of comprehensive sex education for kindergartner, a Marxist, a socialist, and a friend to terrorists.

This has led to a series of conflicting impressions of Obama and his position on trade – from statements during the Ohio campaign that “we can’t keep passing unfair trade deals like NAFTA that put special interests over workers’ interests” to his later point – when asked about his rhetoric about NAFTA during the Ohio campaign that, “Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified.” Indeed – despite the appeal of populist protectionist rhetoric (some 60% of Americans think free trade and NAFTA have been bad for people like them), Obama chose to attack protectionism in the general campaign: ”[n]ot only is it impossible to turn back the tide of globalization, but efforts to do so can make us worse off.” At least in part, Obama’s friendlier stance towards free trade has to be understood as a tactical move on his part as he was certain to be to the left of McCain on this issue. McCain has never even made an issue out of any labor or environmental protections relating to the issue and would have had serious problems with economic conservatives if he moved to the left on this issue as they never trusted him to begin with.

Even aside from the change in rhetoric, there is considerable evidence that has led numerous reasonable observers to believe Obama is, in fact, in favor of trade even as he is concerned with some of free trade’s side effects on American workers and the economy. Obama, for one, described himself as a “pro-growth, free-market guy.” Even the arch-conservative Weekly Standard was forced to concede in the midst of the general election campaign that Obama’s two main economic advisors Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee, while liberals, were “centrist, pro-free traders.” George F. Will, my favorite columnist and a paleo-conservative – described Goolsbee as the best sort of liberal economist his conservative leanings could imagine:

Goolsbee no doubt has lots of dubious ideas – he is, after all, a Democrat – about how government can creatively fiddle with the market’s allocation of wealth and opportunity. But he seems to be the sort of person – amiable, empirical and reasonable – you would want at the elbow of a Democratic president, if such there must be.

Naomi Klein attacked these two herself as ideologically impure in a piece in The Nation magazine – and while I find Klein to be provactive, I think a pro-free trader could hardly have a better endorsement than an attack by Klein.

Obama’s official position on trade has remained consistent – even as his focus has changed over the course of the campaign. What has struck me about all of Obama’s positions is the extent to which they begin with an appreciation of conservative ideas – as his health care plan works within the market rather than by goverment fiat; as his stance on affirmative action reflects traditional concerns about whether we are trying to ensure the equality of oppurtunity or equality of the ends. His views on trade seem similar – as he embraces free markets and free trade – but wants to mitigate the negative side effects.

The Council on Foreign Relations, a group with a considerable interest in free trade, vouched for Obama’s support:

Sen. Obama (D-IL) generally supports free trade policies, though he has expressed concern about free trade agreements that do not include labor and environmental protections.

Tim Hanson and Nate Weisshaar of the Motley Fool probably best described the most reasonable concerns about Obama’s record on trade in their piece asking “Will Obama End Global Trade?” (the answer was, “Nope.”):

While Obama’s campaign literature will tell you that his goals are fairer trade, more assistance for displaced American workers, and greater global environmental protections, there is some global worry that an Obama administration might impose and sustain protectionist policies in order to reward labor union support for his campaign and get our economy back on its feet.

As private sector labor unions have been decimated in the global economy, and as Obama and the liberal consensus views them as part of the solution rather than a major problem, it’s hard to see exactly what steps Obama can take to rejuvenate unions.

In the end, the best way to understand and predict Obama’s trade policies is as part of his view of economics in general. Obama’s economic positions are consistent with a broad Democratic consensus that has emerged in the past decade – bringing together the two warring sides of the Clintonian era, short-handed as Robert Rubin versus Robert Reich for Clinton’s Labor and Treasury Secretaries. The Rubin school believed in expanding free trade, reducing deficits, encouraging overall growth without regard to it’s distribution, and deregulation. The Reich school believed in protecting labor unions, mitigating the effects of globalization through an expanded safety net and job-retraining programs, environmentalism, and was concerned with inequality. Over the past decade, many figures on both sides of this ideological divide have found worth in the ideas of their one-time competitors – as David Leonhardt’s New York Times Magazine piece called “Obamanomics” explained.

This Democratic consensus views free trade as a positive force in the world – but one that has numerous side effects that are negative. The role of government in this picture is to try to mitigate the negative effects of free trade – especially those temporary effects of the transition to a more globalized economy. Most of Obama’s domestic agenda is designed to accomplish these purposes – from the investment in a green energy industry to investment in infrastructure to health care reform to financial reforms. His nuanced position on trade reflects this same desire – to mitigate the destabilizing effects of globalization while acknowledging it’s benefits.

Lincoln’s Memory

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Jeff Darcy of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:

A follow-up to this from this early Lincoln-Memorial-themed political cartoon.

Quotes Summarizing the Past 8 Years

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

America will always do the right thing, but only after exhausting all other options.

Commonly attributed to Winston Churchill.

Andrew Sullivan cites another relevant and similar quote by Alexis de Tocqueville as his quote of the week:

The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.

Appalachia

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Yglesias gets there before me – pointing out the similarities between this map from the New York Times showing the areas of the country that voted more for McCain than for Bush between 2004 and 2008 and some other maps:

Here’s a map of those areas where Hillary Clinton overperformed during the primary (as of May 2008). She later overperformed in two of the remaining blank states here – West Virgina and Kentucky.

And here’s a map of Appalachia:

Notice – this isn’t a map of Republican areas. It’s a map of those areas where Hillary Clinton did exceptionally well, and a map of where Republican voting in 2008 exceeded that of 2004.

This issue seems a lot less urgent now than it did even last week.

But it’s worth remembering.

What’s Next?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

On West Wing, a show much in the news recently for it’s many parallels to the real world (such as this and this) – President Bartlett made a habit of always looking forward – so that even after big events, such as his election or decision to run again after announcing that he had a relapsing remitting form of multiple sclerosis, his first question, almost a statement, was “What’s next?”

Last night, watching the returns come in, I knew Obama had it won as soon as CNN called Ohio. He only needed one state to flip – and that one was enough. Watching the news anchors dance around this fact for an hour was excruciating. But then, CNN called it as the West Coast closed – and my first thought was, “What’s next?”

FDR’s and Obama’s Prayer

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

George Packer of the New Yorker has seen a certain heaviness about Obama recently. He explains it by citing this story:

On the night of his landslide victory over Hoover, in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, Roosevelt had an intimate conversation with his son James:

“You know, Jimmy,” Franklin said, “all my life I have been afraid of only one thing—fire. Tonight I think I’m afraid of something else.”

“Afraid of what, Pa?”

“I’m just afraid that I may not have the strength to do this job.” He paused reflectively. “After you leave me tonight, Jimmy, I am going to pray. I am going to pray that God will help me, that he will give me the strength and the guidance to do this job and to do it right. I hope that you will pray for me, too, Jimmy.”

But for now, a moment of triumph – a step, finally in the right direction.

A Skinny Kid With a Funny Name

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Today it’s worth remembering how Obama’s career was launched – and to realize how remarkably consistent his message has been since at least 2004.

It is almost as if every speech he has given since then has been an exploration of the themes laid out here – getting past partisan blinders and wedge issues to the core challenges of our time; restoring the place of American values in the War on Terrorism; unity; hope; that better place around the bend; biblical references to liberal values; patriotism. It’s also worth noting how often Obama cites and quotes both the Bible and the Constitution – both in this speech and in his later speeches – and how he constantly invokes “the American story.”

After this long campaign, it seems “that skinny kid with a funny name” was right to believe that America had a place for him, too.