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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Obama's family in Kenya celebrates his victory (vid from Al Jazeera)

Bruce Bartlett, longtime Republican, on "Obamacans:"

The largest group of Obamacons hail from the libertarian wing of the movement. And it's not just Andrew Sullivan. Milton and Rose Friedman's son, David, is signed up with the cause on the grounds that he sees Obama as the better vessel for his father's cause. Friedman is convinced of Obama's sympathy for school vouchers--a tendency that the Democratic primaries temporarily suppressed. Scott Flanders, the CEO of Freedom Communications--the company that owns The Orange County Register--told a company meeting that he believes Obama will accomplish the paramount libertarian goals of withdrawing from Iraq and scaling back the Patriot Act.

Libertarians (and other varieties of Obamacons, for that matter) frequently find themselves attracted to Obama on stylistic grounds. That is, they believe that he has surrounded himself with pragmatists, some of whom (significantly) come from the University of Chicago. As the blogger Megan McArdle has written, "His goal is not more government so that we can all be caught up in some giant, expressive exercise of collectively enforcing our collective will on all the other people standing around us in the collective; his goal is improving transparency and minimizing government intrusion while rectifying specific outcomes."

In nearly every quarter of the movement, you can find conservatives irate over the Iraq war--a war they believe transgresses core principles. And it's this frustration with the war--and McCain's pronouncements about victory at any cost--that has led many conservatives into Obama's arms. Francis Fukuyama, the neoconservative theorist, recently told an Australian journalist that he would reluctantly vote for Obama to hold the Republican Party accountable "for a big policy failure" in Iraq. And he seems to view Obama as the best means for preserving American power, since Obama "symbolizes the ability of the United States to renew itself in a very unexpected way."

You can find similar sentiments coursing through the Boston University professor Andrew Bacevich's seminal Obamacon manifesto in The American Conservative. He believes that the war in Iraq has undermined the possibilities for conservative reform at home. The prospects for a conservative revival, therefore, depend on withdrawing from Iraq. Thus the necessity of Obama. "For conservatives, Obama represents a sliver of hope. McCain represents none at all. The choice turns out to be an easy one," Bacevich concludes.

How substantial is the Obamacon phenomenon? Well, it has even penetrated National Review, the intellectual anchor of the conservative movement. There's Jeffrey Hart, who has been a senior editor at the magazine since 1968 and even wrote a history of the magazine, The Making of the American Conservative Mind; and Wick Allison, who once served as the magazine's publisher.

Neither man has renounced his conservatism. Both have come away impressed by Obama's rhetorical acumen. This is a particular compliment coming from Hart, who wrote speeches for both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. They both like that Obama couches his speeches in a language of uplift and unity. When describing his support for Obama, Allison pointed me in the direction of a column that his wife (who has never supported a Democrat) wrote in The Dallas Morning News: "He speaks with candor and elegance against the kind of politics that have become so dispiriting and for the kind of America I would like to see. As a man, I find Mr. Obama to be prudent, thoughtful, and courageous. His life story embodies the conservative values that go to the core of my beliefs."

But, if you're looking for the least likely pool of Obamacons, it would be the supply-siders. And you can even find some of those. Take Larry Hunter, who helped put together the economics passages in the Contract with America and served as chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He concedes that Obama is saying the wrong things on taxes but dismisses it as electioneering. Of far greater importance, in Hunter's view, is that Obama has the potential to "scramble the political deck, break up old alliances, and bring odd bedfellows together in a new coalition." And, what's more important, he views the Republican Party as a "dead, rotting carcass with a few decrepit old leaders stumbling around like zombies in a horror version of Weekend at Bernie's, handcuffed to a corpse." Unless the Republican Party is thoroughly purged of its current leadership, Hunter fears that it "will pollute the political environment to toxic levels and create an epidemic that could damage the country for generations to come."

Obama campaign launches "Joshua Generation Project" to reach out to evangelical voters:

Yes, the Obama campaign understands that the issue of abortion is a problem for some voters of faith. They respect that and understand if some just simply can't come on board because of that. However, they look at this project as a way of broadening the values discussion. Poverty, Darfur, Climate Change and yes, even the war are issues younger Evangelicals may be able to see eye to eye on with the Obama campaign.

Whatever you think of the "Joshua Generation Project," you have to give the campaign their due because they are making concerted efforts to NOT ignore faith voters. In my reporting, I can tell you this is not a contrived effort.

The folks behind this believe in not only the mission of winning over faith voters to Obama but the larger mission of not ignoring faith voters when it comes to politics. (Christian Broadcasting Network)

McCain is also courting evangelicals, emphasizing his pro-life voting record, but with tepid results so far

The Chicago Tribune has a glowing profile of Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe:
Marking one of the biggest upsets in U.S. political history, Obama himself saluted his behind-the-scenes general at the start of his victory speech last week in St. Paul.

"Thank you to our campaign manager David Plouffe, who never gets any credit, but who has built the best political organization in the country," he said.

As Obama's campaign transitions to the general election, Plouffe (pronounced Pluff) will lead the way.
Lean and about 5 feet 10 inches tall, Plouffe can seem almost shy compared to more gregarious campaign personalities. But he can swear like a sailor, and his near-broadcast-quality voice exudes confidence on the many conference calls he holds with reporters and donors.

"He's not a weirdo, and a lot of the people who you meet at the senior level of presidential campaigns are eccentric or difficult or egomaniacs," said friend and Democratic strategist Steve Elmendorf. "If you look at the high command of the Obama campaign, normalcy seems to weave through them."

Plouffe, 41, is a business partner with Chicago-based media strategist David Axelrod and worked with him on Obama's winning 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. But Plouffe, unlike Axelrod, rarely appears in front of television cameras.

"He's the most disciplined and focused person I have ever met in politics," said Elmendorf, who previously supported Clinton. "It is very easy to get distracted by the press and donors and activists. David just has a great filter and he doesn't let any of the noise bother him. In a presidential campaign, that's a rare talent."
If Obama wins this election Plouffe and Axelrod will be the new Carville and Stephanopoulos's.

Another look at the electoral map

A Clinton supporter ponders the legacy of her campaign:

Clinton's campaign is not yet cold (and, I suspect, will probably maintain a reptilian pulse in the months between now and Denver), but the urge to eulogize its place in women's history is powerful. Already there is the beating of breasts and rending of garments from the true-believer Hillary feminists, a wailing wall of second-wave sorrow and swooning celebration of the doors opened to their daughters and granddaughters. (Just think, little Sally Ann, some day you too can live out your life's ambition and be painted an emasculating succubus by a press corps that clings almost erotically to the fantasy of your eventual defeat! Yea!) Now that she no longer poses a threat, there are tributes streaming in from feminist pundits who backed Obama and are now comfortable enough to gingerly pat Clinton on the back and extend some tepid "You go girl" plaudits from a distance safe enough to protect them from her Old White Lady cooties. Then there are those critics sticking to their guns, reminding us that Clinton's loss is no one's fault but her own, that she may have been a lady, but she was no feminist heroine. Maybe if she hadn't voted for the war; maybe if she hadn't been married to Bill; maybe if she hadn't played the gender card; maybe if she'd been more of a feminist icon. Then, maybe, these people could have gotten excited about her as a presidential candidate.

But while we may all wish that our groundbreaking leaders came in prettier packages, and that high butterfat cheese was good for us, the reality is that we get what we get. And we got Hillary Clinton. In no small part, we probably got her thanks to the very reasons so many can't abide her: her ambition, her ruthlessness, her gift for triangulation, her marriage, her centrism, her hawkishness. It's an exceedingly uncommon alchemy; in more than two centuries of American history, no woman has been able to break into the presidential boys club, and I can't think of many women of sterling liberal character who would have succeeded where she failed to satisfy all feminists. Wake me when Barbara Ehrenreich can win Ohio, you know?

Like it or not, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the first female battering ram to rattle the Oval Office door, and while sorrowful Hillary-heads may lyrically and lovingly catalog her many achievements, her bravery and grace, I'd prefer to think of her as she actually has been: a pain in the ass to support, an often inept and ungainly campaigner. She was ill-behaved, she made mistakes, and waged an often dirty and tone-deaf campaign, performing precious few electoral pirouettes. But she also pulverized any quaint notions of what presidential races are supposed to look like and how girls might compete in them.

Language fails us when we say that Clinton "ran for president." Hillary Clinton didn't just run for president. She hustled and jumped and slogged and cried and ate and drank and didn't sleep and put up with her nutty underminer of a husband for president. She lit herself, and everything around her, on fire for president.

Clinton behaved with the kind of naked drive and aggression and mercilessness we revere in, for example, football greats, wrestling stars and military heroes. Her political ambition and ruthlessness are qualities native to anyone putting themselves up for the job of running the country. That includes Barack Obama, who is an inspiring leader I fervently hope will be our next president, but who is not, despite what some of his supporters seem to believe, built entirely of altruism and hope and, I don't know, puppies. One of the great things about our history of ambivalence and resentment toward Clinton was the almost sweet relief we could take in knowing from the start that her raw will to power was going to grate on and enrage us.

And, yes, it's terrific that generations of little girls will grow up knowing that women can run for president. But count me as gratified that those who do so will also know they are not responsible for bearing the highest expectations for their gender's morality and politesse, because one hell of a difficult dame has been there before them and knocked everybody around pretty hard.

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