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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Barack Obama on "60 Minutes": Notes and commentary 


A few notes from Barack Obama's appearance on "60 Minutes". Quotations are approximate, since I was too lazy to get them verbatim.

  • He struck an extremely measured and moderate tone; so far, he's not letting the inner lefty sneak out. Much.


  • Obama explained why the current circumstances are nothing like the Great Depression -- true -- but might turn out to be the worst that we have been through since then. Perhaps true.


  • There is a consensus among economists of the left and right -- he asserts -- that we have to stimulate the economy now and "should not worry about the deficit" next year or "perhaps the year after." He is obviously creating space to back away from his pie crust promise to reduce the federal deficit. Frankly, anybody would do that in his position.


  • On financial deregulation, "it was not just one party. There is plenty of blame to spread around. Hopefully we have all learned our lesson." Regular readers know that I do not agree that deregulation is the main cause of the current crisis, but the bipartisan tone is nice.


  • He reaffirmed his intention to close Gitmo. It will be very interesting to see what he does with the residual prisoner population there.


  • On the pace of withdrawal from Iraq, he says that he is going to call in the generals and get their advice. That's a good idea under any circumstances, and it leaves him room to change his mind.


  • Obama refuses to agree that capturing bin Laden is the "top priority," but views it as an integral part of stomping out al Qaeda. Agreed, as far as it goes.


  • There will be at least one Republican in the cabinet. He pointedly would not say whether there would be more than one.


  • Other than briefing papers, Obama has been "spending a lot of time reading Lincoln. There is a wisdom, and a humility there..."


  • Also reading about FDR. "There's a new book out, about FDR's first hundred days..." Presumably it is this one. Jonathan Alter will be pleased.


  • Obama does not take the bait on whether he will propose a "new New Deal." While he agrees with the basic principle that government has a role to play in kick-starting the economy when it is stopped, he declares himself firmly on the side of the practical and against the ideological -- the idea "might come from FDR or Ronald Reagan" -- in pursuing his solutions.


  • Michelle is genuine and her moving in her kind words for Laura Bush and the cooperation from her staff. The girls, it seems, are going to have some fun there ("sleepovers"). It will be fun to be friends with the Obama kids.


  • One thing I like about Michelle is that she pops Barack's balloon a little bit, at least when he runs a victory lap to being Mr. Modern on the home front. He claims that doing the dishes "can be soothing," and she says "when have you been soothed by doing the dishes?" It is important for people in power to have spouses that straighten them out.


  • On family matters: "I don't tell my mother-in-law what to do. I'm not stupid, man." Heh.


  • Interviewer: "So you have a new dog and your mother-in-law moving in." O: "Steve, I'm not going to compare my mother-in-law to a dog. Let's start talking about your mother-in-law." Obama's sense of humor will take him a long way.


  • Obama throws his "weight around a little bit," calls for an eight team playoff to resolve the national championship in college football. That is going to irritate a few thousand professors and college presidents, one of his key constituencies, but it is going to help him with 100 million college football fans, so it is a good trade.

  • The Obamas were dignified, modest, amusing, sometimes funny, apparently genuine and almost entirely non-partisan in tone. This will not persist, but it is what the country wants right now. Hell, it is what I want right now.

    24 Comments:

    By Blogger vnjagvet, at Sun Nov 16, 08:47:00 PM:

    Me too. I hope first impressions bear out.  

    By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Nov 16, 08:56:00 PM:

    Scripted dog and pony shows are what the country wants right now?

    ...

    It's sad that you're probably right.  

    By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Nov 16, 09:07:00 PM:

    At the moment, anyway, I could use a break from partisan conflict. Let's see what happens during the transition, and take it up hammer and tongs on January 20. Until then, I like the way George and Laura Bush and the Obamas seem to be working so well together.  

    By Blogger smitty1e, at Sun Nov 16, 09:07:00 PM:

    Didn't vote for him, but he's got my support, insofar as he's Constitutional.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 16, 09:12:00 PM:

    College Football playoff and abolish the penny.

    Winning strategy for ANY election.

    I'm sure the copper and zinc lobby will protest, but screw them.  

    By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Nov 16, 09:27:00 PM:

    There is virtually no copper in a cent, so the "copper lobby" won't give a damn.

    And the opposition to abolishing the cent comes from state governments, which need it to collect sales taxes on small purchases.  

    By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Sun Nov 16, 09:45:00 PM:

    Cops have a saying about suspects: "ignore what they're saying, watch their hands".  

    By Blogger Andy Johnson, at Sun Nov 16, 10:01:00 PM:

    I am tired of politics. I know nothing about Barack Obama. I do not know much about his past or his history. I see a smooth, practiced politician. However, I cannot tell what he -will- or -will not- do on any subject. I suspect that he is more like W.J. Clinton than Lincoln or Roosevelt; in that he will do whatever is expedient and poll-tested to be popular. The Establishment has surrounded him and built a wall of spin... BUT he has been elected. I hope he does well-we-the nation needs him to be successful. If he fails, we all fail...

    I am skeptical of his Playmates on the Hill. He will have to show them he is is his own President soon. The war between Congress and the President is not partisan and was built into the design.

    In the meantime, we have a Narco-War in Mexico that has killed more police and military in the last 12 months than we have lost in Iraq over five years. We have Russia, China, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba playing games that do not bode well for the Monroe Doctrine or the United States. All of these problems fail to make the Daily News on any regular basis.

    The Economy needs help, but I fear that his promise to "do anything" does not include lowering taxes and shrinking the size of government... Raising taxes will hurt all of us.

    I cannot finance new equipment, my present loans are underwater and my equipment is wearing out. The last offer we got was at 48% interest. The govt. dance has paralyzed the economy as nobody knows where the elephant will step next. Will they help or will they hurt-? Nobody knows, but we sit frozen in fear. I have employees to pay, work to do, old equipment and no daylight in sight... Partisan politics-? I want somebody to send all the fools home and have them do no more damage.

    I suspect we will see the Non-Stop-Campaign of the 1990's... But will it work-? I sure do hope so...

    Sign me-Wishing and praying not hoping for a change.  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Nov 16, 10:01:00 PM:

    Obama is NOT my President. Not only does he hate Whites (as he wrote in his book and choice of spiritual mentor/pastor confirms) ...

    But he's still on board for his "civilian security force" as well funded and as well armed as the Military. No doubt to fill up his pal Ayer's death camps for real.

    He is NOT my President -- he has none of my support.

    His coming Gun Ban, La Raza Amnesty, and releasing terrorists from Gitmo, have me opposed to him in every measure. He's horrible, a racist, lunatic leftist crank who hates America, it's traditions, and embraces the worst of Hate Whitey (tm) Black Nationalism.  

    By Anonymous QuakerCat, at Sun Nov 16, 10:17:00 PM:

    Personally I really enjoyed the interview. For the past 12 months I have been doing my best not to like this guy and to make sure everyone I knew could see the same as me. Tonight, I sat back and enjoyed the discussion on about ten fronts, but the first and most important one was his humility.

    As I have posted before, he is my new Commander in Chief and I will support him and wish him well. Like every President before him, I am in the great minority who wants our Presidents to do well and to be good people. I secretly root for them to connect to people, so they "get it." Needless to say, these past eight years my rooting, turns to prayers at times as Mr. Bush struggled with the English Language. Tonight it was good to see that I won't have to work hard to like this new guy too.

    I think as a country, it would do us all good to remember that we all want what is best for America - it may tone down the rhetoric to a more productive level?  

    By Blogger TigerHawk, at Sun Nov 16, 10:28:00 PM:

    Agreed, QC.

    Anon 10:01 - I hope you are wrong.  

    By Blogger Sassenach, at Sun Nov 16, 11:07:00 PM:

    "Popped his bubble?"

    I thought her comments and snickers displayed a bit of disrespect for her spouse. Why the need to cut him down in front of the camera? There are plenty of others who will do that.

    I don't buy the super mom gambit, either.  

    By Blogger JPMcT, at Mon Nov 17, 07:33:00 AM:

    Obama is under strict directions NOT to "over-reach".

    None of the mass of ex-Clinton handlers that have gathered around the throne want WonderBoy to repeat the "Gays in the Military" fiasco that sent the Clinton honeymoon into the dumper.

    We are the frogs in the cold water....and it will heat up VERRRRYYY slowwwwlly.

    Nothing of Leftist substance will be done until he has "earned our trust".  

    By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Nov 17, 07:47:00 AM:

    Heh, I like the frogs metaphor.

    I thought her comments and snickers displayed a bit of disrespect for her spouse.

    I think it showed what we all expect, which is that they are each other's best friend (or at least Michelle is Barack's best friend). It is good if you can get that in your marriage.  

    By Blogger Sassenach, at Mon Nov 17, 08:03:00 AM:

    I think it showed what we all expect, which is that they are each other's best friend (or at least Michelle is Barack's best friend). It is good if you can get that in your marriage.

    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on the interpetation. My husband and I are best friends, and have been married nearly 22 years. We try very hard to avoid those humorous but cutting little remarks, particularly in public.

    If it works for them, that's fine for them, but I hardly think it was a dignified conversation. Guess I'm betraying my age.....  

    By Anonymous meta-4, at Mon Nov 17, 10:21:00 AM:

    Ummmmmm......Apparently everybody on this thread thinks Obama will run his government.....I don't.

    He has an army of militant socialist and even stalinist thugs who will tell him what They're Going to do. He is a prop. Example: Did anyone see ex- house leader on CNBC this AM? I rest my case.  

    By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Mon Nov 17, 10:44:00 AM:

    We have Russia, China, Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba playing games that do not bode well for the Monroe Doctrine or the United States.

    Indeed. In fact, I think Obama's "test" will come from Venezuela. Hugo already stuck his toe in the water a while ago effectively annexing Bird Island (Isla de Aves) from Dominica by building a (small) military base on stilts there. The west's response was zero.

    Bird island is 300+ miles from Venezuela, and only about 70 from Dominica.

    My feeling is once he gets a solid sense of Obama's weakness, he goes for Curacao. The small Dutch military contingent on Curacao would be overwhelmed by a serious Venezuelan attack in a matter of minutes and the place has been a thorn for the dutch for some years now.  

    By Blogger Viking, at Mon Nov 17, 12:08:00 PM:

    I'm a little curious, which part of Lincoln is he reading?

    The part where Lincoln was an extremely sharp corporate lawyer for the Illinois Central, ruthlessly prosecuting right of ways "in the public interest" at the expense of small landholders with scant regard for the takings clause?

    The part where the Supreme Court had go after Lincoln when he suspended habeus corpus during the Civil War to hold terrorist Hoosiers and Copperheads (southern sympathizers) without a trial? (Precedental decisions for any undertaking on Gitmo detainees, and required reading in most Con Law classes.)

    The part where Lincoln said that if he could save the Union without freeing a single slave he would do so ?

    The part where Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation applying to slaves in rebellion states ONLY ? (Leaving slaves in the "North" not emancipated, and somewhat dissapointed.)

    The Lincoln who engaged in significant wartime profiteering with his Kentuckly Todd in-laws in the "cotton-for-food" program ? (The 19th century ideological predecessor of the oil-for-food program, which was in operation with preferential contracts under Lincoln's control until Grant and Stanton shut him down in the last year of the war.)

    I find the comments about Lincoln disingenuous to say the least. Lincoln was a lot more complex than most people realize, and far from pure in his motivations. Lincoln's "humility" was actually a, largely post-humous, invention of 19th century spin doctors who used his death to push through harsh reconstruction measures.

    Or maybe Barack, the serious intellectual and constitutional law scholar, just made a knowing and telling comment about how he views his new administration?

    After all wasn't it Lincoln who said, "You can fool all of the people some of time..."?  

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Nov 17, 02:04:00 PM:

    Most of these comments are so depressing. Much like the lefties with Bush, it's now time for the fringe right to blatantly root for the failure of a President. You are all about 5 cans of crazy.  

    By Anonymous el gordo, at Mon Nov 17, 03:01:00 PM:

    I am not rooting for failure. I love America. But we already knew the president-elect can look good and sound good mouthing generalities at such venues. What was true three weeks ago is still true today: Obama has given me evidence in word and deed that he has contempt for the constitution, the country, its history and its people. I am waiting for evidence to the contrary. It´s early. I am waiting.  

    By Blogger JPMcT, at Mon Nov 17, 06:41:00 PM:

    Looks like Viking is doing the necessary anti-Republican research to make a Lincoln movie with Oliver Stone.

    In reality, Lincoln's political gamble with the two Emancipation Proclamations was huge. It allowed slaves to defect to oncoming Union armies and lead to massive recruitment of African freemen into the Union Army. It changed public opinion about slavery and probably helped the union win the war.

    In short...it was brilliant.

    Recall that the Civil war was about economics...not slavery.

    Oh, by the way...Lincoln was not a "corporate attorney". He practiced general and circuit law his entire career, including criminal law and debt collection. He had an impeccable reputation.

    If you want to get away from the kook sites and back into a little history, try the University of Virginia Free Press publication of Lincoln's papers and documents...4 volumes and a bit over 2000 pages....all there for the viewing.  

    By Blogger Viking, at Mon Nov 17, 11:04:00 PM:

    jpmct,

    Might I suggest that you peruse the following reported Illinois Supreme Court cases argued by Lincoln:

    Illinois Central Railroad Company v. the County of McLean and George Parke, Sheriff and Collector 17 Ill. 291 (1856)

    State v. Illinois Central Railroad 26 Ill. 64 (1861)

    Lincoln was a lobbyist for the Illinois Central in the 1850's and represented the railroad in more than 250 cases. Most of the papaers relating to Lincoln's legal practice have only recently been published. With all due respect to UVA, I'd suggest that you check out the Illinois Historical Preservation Society which has produced a 3 DVD collection of the full documentation of all of Lincoln's court cases (University of Illinois Press, 2000). See eg. www.papersofabrahamlincoln.org for more information (which does not seem to be a "kook" site to me).

    FFYI, I proudly identify as a conservative with strong libertarian progressive elements. My family has been Republican dating back to Lincoln, I have a humber of ancestors who were GAR veterans or are buried in Federal Cemetaries from the conflict. I have no "beef" with Lincoln, who was an extremely complex man. I do have a beef with certain liberal hagriographers who over the years have co-opted Lincoln's mage as a liberal and benevolent president who was at all times dedicated to a civil rights agenda, which he was not. Any comparison with the President-elect and accusations of shoddy scholarship on his part are purely intentional.

    I believe that informed understanding gives us all the more reason to admire Lincoln, for to know some of his less liberal tendencies is to better understand this remarkable man.

    So I am not a Republican basher and also not a Lincoln basher.

    On the other hand, you wouldn't want to get me started on the Bush family and their employment at Brown Brothers Harriman financing the sales of weapons to Nazi Germany in the 1930's...  

    By Blogger Noumenon, at Tue Nov 18, 05:28:00 AM:

    You were so mad at him when he said that thing about making selfishness a virtue. Nothing else has fazed you. So far my explanation of this is that it's similar to the way Democrats felt when Bush said "Some want to wave the white flag of surrender." Suddenly it's like "Hey, he's trying to criticize me, personally!" for some reason, when to the other side it's like "All he said was that some people make selfishness a virtue, not you!"

    Anyway, my father is more like Anonymous 10:01 and I wish more people, like you, could get a little relief before the shelling begins again. Nice to read this post.  

    By Anonymous Fair and Middling, at Tue Nov 18, 10:52:00 AM:

    I'm with Noumenon. (Well, except for the bit about my dad.)

    Was nice to read your post.  

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