Friday, November 28, 2008
If Obama had announced his national security team and his economic team while he was running for office, then I'd have voted for him, but he'd have lost. What a curious state of affairs.
I do not recall ever seeing a president-elect tack to the center so quickly and decisively during a transition. It is indeed very reassuring while the economic situation is so uncertain.
Of course, we have not really heard from the Congress. When the new Democratic majority gets to work in January, the question will be whether it starts pushing on legislation that forces Barack Obama to choose between his old friends on the left and his new ones in the center. Looked at that way, would Barack Obama prefer that Norm Coleman and Saxby Chambliss keep their seats, or that the Democrats win and take away the filibuster excuse? I suspect that deep down, off-the-record, and entirely on the hush and hush, President Barack Obama would rather that the Democrats have 58 or 59 seats in the Senate than 60. And, in any case, he does not need Senator Al Franken on every talk show in the country during the next few years.
Initial appointments don't equal policy. Recall that John Ashcroft was Bush's first Attorney General, and much howling and whining about a coming Christian theocracy was heard.
It has been my fear that Congress would be the boogey man of this administration, not Obama. They're the ones who have talked about policies like cutting the military budget by 25% (after mandating that the Army and Marines increase their size, no less) and nationalizing industries and preventing domestic energy development.
Depending on Democratic party discipline, the future of the country will probably depend more on Obama's willingness (or lack) to use that big nice Veto stamp that I'm sure presidents keep in their top drawer. Or perhaps their willingness to pass his pet projects (like that much maligned 'civilian national security force,' or Emanuel's national civil defense conscription project) in return for his acceptance of theirs.
The proof is in the pudding. Revisit these thoughts in 6 months.
DF - Come on, do you truly believe Obama would veto anything passed by Congress over the next two years? First of all, it would never come to that, because his Chief of Staff would be sending out dead fish wrapped in newspaper to every important Democrat Congressman that was voting for a bill Obama opposed, and second, Congress is his bitch for the time being. I think that Reid and Pelosi understand that and won't do anything Obama doesn't like until they feel a momentum shift in his popularity -- perhaps late next year, perhaps a bit after that. The lay of the land right now (in terms of POTUS vs. a Congress of the same party) is not Carter in the Spring of 1977, although it may end up that way. Part of that is how weak-ass Pelosi and Reid are relative to Tip O'Neill and a younger Robert Byrd in 1977.
To TH's point, there are certainly McCain voters whose votes would have been in play had they had a crystal ball and seen a month into the future and what the President-elect would do in terms of appointments. These are voters who were probably independents who had doubts about then-Sen. Obama's overall experience, apparent naiveté in foreign policy and the whiff of radical politics that surrounded him. I disagree with Wixted that Obama would have lost if voters such as him knew then what they know now, although Wixted is perhaps making a little joke there. Obama would have lost close to zero votes on the left. In fact, if Obama actually is a centrist (and that obviously remains to be seen over the next year or so), he has a better chance to govern smoothly with a clear majority of citizens behind him than McCain (who actually is a centrist) could have possibly hoped for. He can do so with relatively little complaining from the MSM or either (now marginalized) political wing, simply because of the historic nature of his candidacy and the extent to which the MSM lobbied for him, because he will always have the left in his pocket (where else they gonna go?) and because he is a Democrat. President Obama may well have multiple opportunities for Nixon to China moments (both international and domestic, I mean) that may please the right and piss off the left. He simply has greater flexibility and deeper reserves of political capital than McCain could ever have had, considering the oppositional nature of both Congress and the MSM to his hypothetical administration.
Now, it's possible that Obama is putting on a centrist face and will appoint sub-Cabinet officials (Deputies, etc.) who attended the William Ayers School of Politics and International Relations, and further nominate judges to the Federal bench who are considered left-wing even at Harvard Law School, his alma mater. He could then try to run a stealth progressive movement from the executive branch.
I am willing to give the President-elect the benefit of the doubt right now. What I require of him is that he keep the country safe and that no successful terrorist attacks occur on U.S. soil (as W has been successful in that sense for the past 7 years); that he have a forward-leaning foreign policy that aggressively deals with AQ and their ilk (see Mumbai); that he has some plan to deal with the eventuality if Iran going nuclear, other than letting Iran and Israel exchange tactical strikes; that he not raise taxes at least until the economic circumstances improve, and hopefully not even after that; and that he persuades Congress to reduce waste and fraud in government spending.
"Come on, do you truly believe Obama would veto anything passed by Congress over the next two years?"
Not really. That's sort of the entire premise of my concern.
"Congress is his bitch for the time being."
Yes, the 'honeymoon period,' reputed to last about three months.
However, I believe that in the greater scheme of things Obama is a little boy lost in the woods. He's new to national politics. He's never been in an executive position where he had to face down an (ostensibly friendly) opposition. He's never demonstrated so much as an ounce of political courage. And I just don't think that he will start now.
A whole package of 'progressive' legislation will be delivered to his desk, one after another, starting with the union bill and moving down the line to 'economic stimulus,' energy policy, environmental protections, and national security, and maybe gun control, probably in roughly that order. And I think that one after another will be signed into law either because he agree with it, he's pressured into it, or a swap is made.
At best, I think he'll delay some of them as being timed poorly, given the recession, and shut down a couple of the weirder ones. But they'll keep coming back.
But anyway, my original point was that who he selects for his initial cabinet positions is not necessarily and indicator of where the government will go in the longer run.
Dudes and Dudettes,
With all due respect, if you want to understand Obama you have to understand his background. Obama is a Chicago Machine politician from the south side who was an Illinois state senator in Springfield until 2004. His main advisors have been Bill Daley, David Axelrod, and hishonor da mayor. You don't need to read tea leaves to understand politics on the south side of Chicago and the State of Illinois. For some detail on this guy's background check out John Kass' columns in the Trib. It is amazing to me the way that the national media has given Obama a pass on his Chicago connections. This guy is no FDR and he comes from a different kind of Hyde Park.
So, if you operate from those premises, then you would understand that Obama was never a liberal. He was backpedaling on that stuff already in his election night speech. "I know we will get there (allusions to MLK's promised land), but it may take a second term (how cynical is that?)". He is a centrist who is mostly going to run the country by the polls, look good at the top while making sure that mud doesn't stick to his shoes, and take care of the democratic big money donors while building his warchest for 2012. A lot of the war in Iraq stuff was calculated to keep him in the press, but he knew once he got in that he would have no choice but to continue the war(while blaming the mess on the Republicans). If you had problems with Bill Clinton's insincerety, you will have your hand's full with this guy.
Finally, there won't be a lot of vetos. The new program of borrow and spend (no longer tax and spend), the several trillion dollars in bailout money and the ongoing war in Iraq will ensure that there is plenty of pork to go around for all of the usual suspects. Barack will get along fine with Congress unless they get into a fight on how to divide up the spoils, which I doubt. Why do you think Bill Dailey was screaming "Gain, Gain, Gain" at the post election press conference and Rahm Emanuel is making the civil construction project his highest priority?
If you are a Republican who can vote for the Daley machine while holding their nose, or a Democrat who thinks there is nothing wrong in Chicago, you will be just fine with the new Pres.
The rest of us will remain sceptical.
Did you hear the good news? Obama is making it better for us already! Most people don't realize how much money there is out there. During economic times like this, there is more money to be had than ever. Because of the bailouts and economy, lenders are bending over backwards to bail you out too. Believe it or not, there is people getting tons of cheap money nowdays to start businesses, buy homes, pay off debt, and more. Bailout is for YOU
"It is amazing to me the way that the national media has given Obama a pass on his Chicago connections."
Not amazing, considering that they were essentially the publicity arm of his campaign. But thoroughly disgraceful, yes.
Viking, once again you have hit the nail on the head regarding BO. Even more than with Ayers and Wright McCain missed the boat here - the best way to undercut his "hope and change" baloney would have been by exposing his past as a Chitown political insider. Of course any attack strategy had an uphill battle the way the MSM was covering for BO.
I'm a Republican who voted for McCain, albeit with reservations over lots of his policies. I think he's mostly a Democrat, and that bothered me greatly. I voted for McCain because I thought Obama was a great big unexamined cipher, someone whose beliefs are entirely inknown.
Notwithstanding my vote, and my assessment of Obama, I couldn't be happier over the Jones apppointment. He's the quintessential marine, and a great man. My source is a close acquaintance of the new NSA nominee, a fellow Republican, who says Jones is non-political, tremendously smart, well educated and wordly, and a man who "gives it to you straight, without a chaser". He supposedly speaks Farsi too, a skill that will probably come in handy.