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Saturday, November 15, 2008


Apologies for those that got that one link I sent out accidentally yesterday. I was trying to save a draft and accidentally published. Still figuring out the new system!

Also if any of you getting emails for each of my posts would rather just check the blog and not receive the emails just let me know.

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finally, does anyone have a better name for this blog? It sure is a mouthful. Then again, I can't even name my cat.

Howard Dean: vindicated
Very nearly discarded by his contemporaries as a spectacularly flawed presidential candidate and a bumbling chairman, Dean may well be remembered instead as the flinty figure who bridged the distance between one generation of Democrats and the next, the man who first gave voice to liberal fury and tapped transformative technologies at the dawn of the century — and then channeled all of it into rebuilding the party’s grass-roots apparatus. Just as Ronald Reagan and the conservatives learned from Barry Goldwater, just as Franklin Roosevelt and the New Dealers took inspiration from reformers like Robert La Follette, so, too, did Obama and the new progressives in America evolve from Howard Dean.

Skeptics will argue, of course, that Dean’s stewardship of the party had little to do with the Democratic rout. After all, conservative states like Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina were in play principally because Republicans had so badly mismanaged the government and because of an economic collapse that was, to be a little crass, remarkably fortunate. And in Obama, the party fielded a nominee this time who was, for all his lack of experience, vastly more compelling than his most recent predecessors on the ticket.

And yet, it was Dean, back when Obama was still serving in the Illinois State Senate, who first introduced his party to the idea that, in the Internet age, a campaign could be built from the ground up, that door-to-door organizing could matter more than TV ads. And it was Dean who argued forcefully, as chairman, that Democrats in this new era could compete in the reddest of states and build a truly national party at a time when others in the party were belittling rural voters and agitating for a complete withdrawal from the South. Now the Republicans are the ones who find themselves reduced to regional influence, their shrinking Congressional delegations confined mostly to the South and West. (Remarkably, not a single New England Republican now remains in the House.) Dean didn’t create the conditions that made that reversal possible, but he always said that if you wanted to be in a position to take advantage of favorable circumstances, then you had to at least have basic party infrastructures in place. “Chance favors the prepared mind,” Dean told me, not for the first time. “You show up, you keep working and hopefully you catch a break.”

Feel free to try to flame away and set me straight, but personally I find this highly annoying. Basically women's groups are complaining that Obama isn't hiring enough women. They're also pissed about Larry Summers being floated for Treasury Secretary because of some sexist comments he made when he was president of Harvard. His remarks were truly obnoxious but I really can't see what that has to do with kind of Treasury Secretary he would be. Now apparently the guy is also a raging asshole in general who is incapable of considering ideas that differ from his own, so perhaps it's a good thing he's being nixed (if the reports are true). But I really wish we could get past these petty identity politics. I just don't think the most senior positions within our gov't are an appropriate arena for affirmative action. These are the people who are either going to save this country or who are going to fail to save this country. "Who can do the job best?" is really the only thing that matters.
But what do you all think? Am I being a sexist pig?

racism: not dead (more here)

WH staff taking shape

No blackberry for Barack

The WaPo has an "inauguration watch" page

Yglesias explains why it is fair and right that conservatives dominate the Sunday talk show guest lists

Krugman explains the Great Depression to George Will (vid)

Secrets of talk radio

are we a center-right country?:

Here's the stark reality: It is now harder for the Republican presidential candidate to get to 50.1 percent than for the Democrat. My Hoover Institution colleague David Brady and Douglas Rivers of the research firm YouGovPolimetrix have been analyzing data from online interviews with 12,000 people in both 2004 and 2008. It shows an overall shift to the Democrats of six percentage points. As they write in the forthcoming edition of Policy Review, "The decline of Republican strength occurs by having strong Republicans become weak Republicans, weak Republicans becoming independents, and independents leaning more Democratic or even becoming Democrats." This is a portrait of an electorate moving from center-right to center-left.

We have only just begun to explore this new political landscape. The United States was indeed a center-right country for several decades, since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, with his ability to peel off "boll weevil" Democrats to create a congressional majority. Clinton really did have to come to terms with governing a center-right nation. I was the editor of the

Washington Times's editorial page back then, and my most prized possession from the period is a personal thank-you note from then-Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen for our vigorous editorial support of the Clinton administration's campaign to ratify NAFTA. Don't count on many Obama administration initiatives that conservatives can sign onto based on good old-fashioned conservative principle. On trade, for example, the question is whether today's Democrats will succumb to the siren song of protectionism. It's not just American conservatives who are worried; British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a pointed warning to Obama last week.

Today's Democrats may well overreach in much the same way that Republicans did after they won their congressional majority in 1994, when they took the "center" out of center-right. If so, Democratic hubris will create opportunities for the GOP to get a hearing.

And so far, center-left government is largely an abstraction for the country. People like the sound of it, especially against the backdrop of a financial crisis and recession. In these center-left times, voters are receptive -- or rather, it is their receptiveness that makes these times center-left. But whether they will like the new Obama tilt in practice remains to be seen.

So Republicans should not despair. They will have plenty of time to work up a critique of Obama's policies as they unfold. But Republicans should not count on Democratic failure -- and they certainly should not regard it as inevitable because of a conservatism they impute to an electorate that has, shall we say, moved on.


The theory is almost too perfect to be true. Barack Obama, the son of politically progressive parents, was born Aug. 4, 1961—almost nine months to the day after John F. Kennedy was elected to the White House. Is it possible Obama was conceived on that historic night?

And if so, could history repeat itself? In the hours and days since Obama's victory, many of his exhilarated supporters have been, shall we say, in the mood for love. And though it's too soon to know for sure, experts aren't ruling out the possibility of an Obama baby boom—the kind of blip in the national birth rate that often follows a seismic event, whether it's scary (a terrorist attack) or celebratory (the end of World War II). "The mood of the country and the optimism about leadership is always somewhat related to birth rates," says Dr. Manny Alvarez, chief of reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. "I'm gearing up for a healthy increase."

Ron Suskind is just a great writer:

ACROSS THE COUNTRY, a wave was gathering force.

But it was diffuse, difficult to measure and seemed to be coming from many directions, many sources at once.

On the afternoon of Monday, Nov. 3, events were hard to fathom even for those closest to Barack Obama. And few are closer than Valerie Jarrett, his confidante. There are two circles at work here, each of a traditional cast — the loyal loved ones and the professionals. Jarrett has for more than a decade been the putative head of the former, a protective innermost circle around the man.

Jarrett was exhausted, after weeks on the campaign trail, but hyperalert, watching the wider terrain, observing all comers, while always keeping an eye on Obama. She, together with Michelle Obama’s brother, the Oregon State basketball coach Craig Robinson, a few old friends from Harvard Law School and assorted others, are, in a way, protectors of Obama’s essence. There are so many ways to be corrupted in a public life that their wariness is an emblem of their affection. Their bond to him and to one another is that they love the man for exactly who he is, no matter what, and that frees them to be honest — a gift for someone in the spotlight.

Many of the loyal loved ones would be flying to Chicago over the next few hours for Election Day. Barack would be arriving very late that night. But for now, the office of the real-estate firm that Jarrett runs was silent. She could hold all calls. She’s the boss, cool, precise, a confident woman in her early 50s, educated at the finest schools, who, in her professional life, has scaled many mountains. Seventeen years ago, she offered a job to a young graduate of Harvard Law School named Michelle Robinson. Soon enough, Jarrett had met the young man that Michelle was engaged to.

From her perch, Jarrett has seen it all from the start. A confident young bride and groom. Their bright smiles. So much promise, both of them. And now crowds reaching to touch him, and her.

But what Jarrett can see, in a way few others can, is how easily it might have turned out different. To sharpen her clarity about all that has been accomplished, she summons the darkest moment of doubt. It was in Iowa, just a year ago. Obama was way behind Hillary Clinton. The heavyweights were called in, 200 members of Obama’s national finance committee. The money people. Many had given mightily. And now, it seemed, nothing was working. Obama said that before they all gathered to pass judgment, he wanted them — all 200 — to meet his grass-roots field team in Iowa.

They did, then gathered in a room at an Iowa arts center. The room was tense.

Obama explained that day that they were running a different kind of campaign, a real grass-roots campaign, one that grew from the bottom up, from the dirt, and that it takes time for those roots to take hold. And the heavy hitters nodded; yes, they understood that idea, but it wasn’t working. The polls were the proof. They showed Clinton with a double-digit lead.

And Jarrett can remember how Obama looked at them, hard-eyed, everything on the line. “ ‘Did you think I was kidding when I said this was the unlikely journey?’ ” Jarrett recalls him saying. “‘You thought this would be simple? No, change is never simple. Change is hard.

“ ‘Listen, I know you’re nervous,’ he went on. ‘But if you’re nervous, I’ll hold your hand. We’re going to get through this together. And if we win Iowa, we’ll win this country.’ ”

Jarrett said: “He turned their emotion around. He made sense of it. He told them why we were there and what was within our grasp. And people became jubilant. You never heard cheering like that. That was the turn, where it happened.”

Of course, the roots took hold in Iowa and spread state to state. And now, the day before Election Day, Team Obama was running though fields of tall grass, city to city, in the final day of a kind of electoral mystery tour.

At sundown that Monday, David Axelrod was prowling the lobby of a hotel in Charlotte, N.C., checking his watch. Axelrod is the founding leader of the other circle, the professionals. A former Chicago Tribune reporter turned political consultant, he worked for various candidates — including the former Illinois senator Paul Simon — before he ran Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate race.

Axelrod was not sure what to do with himself. David Plouffe, the campaign manager, had his armies moving in precise formations across the country. The polls were strong. Everything seemed to be working. Axelrod said he was not sure what to worry about — a problem in and of itself.

And now there was time to kill. The day, starting with an event in Jacksonville, Fla., was now half-over. At a rally nearby at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, security precautions — 20,000 people going through metal detectors — had caused delays.

“I don’t have much time to reflect on what’s happening — to ask the ‘why’ questions — and Barack doesn’t, either,” Axelrod said. But then, pacing the carpet, he thought back on what he called the original why question, what got all this started, back in December 2006. Barack, Michelle and eight others were in Axelrod’s office in downtown Chicago. If Barack was going to run, he had to decide quickly, a point the group made by laying out primary schedules and game plans for fund-raising and building an organization. Insights were offered from around the room.

It was Michelle, Axelrod remembers, who stopped the show. “You need to ask yourself, Why do you want to do this?” she said directly. “What are hoping to uniquely accomplish, Barack?”

Obama sat quietly for a moment, and everyone waited. “This I know: When I raise my hand and take that oath of office, I think the world will look at us differently,” he said. “And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently.”

Obama understood, through his own search for identity, how America’s seminal struggle over race was part of a wider story, of a search for dignity and hope that defined the lives of countless people throughout the world. A battered America, he felt, was ready, even anxious, to prove the truth of its sacred oaths — liberty, justice and equality. To show the world. If, through his own ambitions, he could offer his country a chance to step forward, it might rise to the occasion.

And it did, with astonishing speed. You could see it so clearly that night, the last night of a historic 21-month campaign, that last rally, in Manassas, Va. By 10 p.m., there were 90,000 people gathered in the Prince William County Fairgrounds. They’d been gathering since midafternoon. And it was America. Make no mistake. This was border territory, where the edge of Washington’s Northern Virginia suburbs meets the true Old Dominion. Starbucks gives way to gun shops, whole grains to grits and whatever liquid can get you drunk fast. Latinos find common ground with poor whites and African-Americans living where the houses are cheap, even if the jobs are few. And that night, the sky was dark and starless, there was a cool, misty bite in air, and the people came from every direction and walked miles from the nearest parking spot.

They had to see him, and the crowds pressed thick along the fences. A special-education teacher and her sister (who said: “I never felt this way. I just feel like he can save us”) stood beside an American-born Rothschild, a big contributor, who met Obama at a fund-raiser and said she has “never been the same.” Down the row, a Virginia farmer, thick-necked, callused and brush-scrubbed after a hard day with hogs, said, “It’s a long way from the War of Northern Aggression, which my great-greats fought in, to here.” Not so far. The Manassas battlefield, where in 1861 troops clashed in the First Battle of Bull Run, at the start of the Civil War, was about seven miles away.

And, 147 years later, at 10:28 p.m., a black man stepped onto the stage and the crowd lost its collective mind. An exhausted Obama stood at the lectern, looking over a vast undulating sea of screaming humanity, all races, waving American flags.

“What a scene, what a crowd,” he said, shaking his head. “Wow.” And the crowd seemed to swell with recognition. That’s the way social movements work, the call and response. The giver receives. The receiver gives. They are one thing. And Obama seemed to rise, in his final speech, through the hoarseness and fatigue, telling them all how, month to month, “you have inspired me, when I’m down you lifted me up,” and he talked through standard, elegant riffs, how he wanted to change America, and then trotted out an old story, one he used to tell back in the primaries but almost never had since. It’s a riot, a spellbinder about an eccentric old lady in South Carolina, a real character in her small town, who stole his thunder at a small rally — just a few dozen people on a miserable, forbidding day — by chanting “Fired up!” and then “Ready to go!” And everyone in that little nowhere town followed suit, some kind of local ritual, and after licking his wounds — “I wasn’t picking up any endorsements that day” — he just started chanting it. “And I started to feel better,” he remembered. And this part of the speech had the cadence of that of a preacher, but one who could edit The Harvard Law Review too, and the crowd was right with him, as he led them in “Fired up” and “Ready to go” . . . because it “shows you what one voice can do,” he testified, “and if a voice can change a room, it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it can change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world.” And then it was over. He waved and just stood there, calm, as the din washed over him. After a long moment, his whole body seeming to exhale, he grabbed the water bottle from the lectern and downed it. Game over.

And now I'm off to frolf!

1 comment:

Rana said...

Thanks for the Dean entry. DEANIAC FOR LIFE! YAAAAAH!