Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wake-up Call

One of the qualities I enjoy in Obama is his combination of humor and intellect, his ability to use his competitive basketball instincts in a way that reflects humor, yet still a disciplined judgment and choice.

He is a competitive man. He has learned to restrain it--to control it and to decide wisely through it better than most that I have seen. Yet he is intelligent enough to be able to throw in the element of humor--even as he makes sure that he is making the wisest choice.

Witness his selection of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. The calculus is this--she can do the job. You wanted to show that you could take the call at 3 A.M.? Well, now you can--a wry choice that places her in the position to live up to her own words, for him. Yet he also has evaluated that given such a challenge, she has the personality and skills that cause her to rise to the task--as she did when doubted in the Senate. He will have this power over her--I have given you the power to do what you said you could do--all the more reason not to err, and also one upon whom mistakes can be reflected. She is levered into a position where all forces are directed towards ensuring that she does the best job that she can--to show that, as she said, she could; to demonstrate that her best interests are the nation's, for the benefit of his Administration, and for the nation.

Smart, funny, yet done with a disciplined evaluation of its impacts.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Competence and Ideology

Many Progressives seem to be up in arms that Obama is not making the appointments that they hoped for.

Be careful what you wish for. When left ideologues scream because they did not get the ideology that they hoped for or expected, they mirror the ideologues on the other side of the spectrum who act from an impulsive rage, a desire for vengeance, and an impassioned but poorly considered desire.

Obama is unique as a modern President. He is not an ideologue. He is seeking effective and practical solutions to the nation's problems and will choose the methods that are most likely to work--rather than acting from a felt obligation to a particular ideological movement. Yet, although he is bringing in the best of knowledge and technology, he is not a technocrat. His grounding as a community organizer, and a fundamentally unifying philosophy, with an undergirdng of actual understanding of human need and how human change occurs is the human firmament from which the choices and strategies derive.

This direction is non-ideological and an exceptionally broad foundation for change. let's hope that the choices are right, that he is well served, and not diverted by the noise around him.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cohen: Gore for State

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post suggests Gore for Secretary of State:

Can you imagine a bolder statement about a new direction when it comes to global warming and the general care of our abused planet? Gore has won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in this area (and an Oscar, to boot), and his appointment would signal a dramatic shift from the indifference of the Bush era with its cold shoulder to the Kyoto treaty. In one stroke, the United States would emerge as the leader of nations in the effort to save the planet from ourselves -- and could prepare for the consequences of a changed world.

The new president's urgent priority has to be the economy. He has no other choice. But given that Obama has no foreign policy background, he needs a secretary of state who can really run the nation's foreign affairs while the attention of the White House is largely directed elsewhere. Others are capable of handling the job, including, of course, Sen. John Kerry, who is being mentioned. But Gore has as much experience and something else as well -- he was right on the Persian Gulf War (voted yes) and right on the Iraq war (like Obama, he opposed it from the start).

Inspired choice. I don't know if he'd take it--but the position has enough range and potnetial influence that he just might.

Monday, November 10, 2008

And Scene.

Minutes after I wrote the post below, this:

"With the arrival of the President elect here, is there in some way for the President, for the staff, for senior aides, is everything becoming a little more real, even in a way the election wasn't, today?"

Perino: "Sure, I think that that is fair to say..."

Perino Brieifing on Obama Visit

You can feel the mixture of excitement, sadness, pressure and anxiety in Dana Perino as she announces the arrival of the Obamas to the White House today. This no doubt reflects many gathering pressures as their work comes to an end.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Head of State Live Analysis: Obama's First News Conference

Pre-conference: Borger reports that "word is" Obama plans FDR-style works program. If so, will be interesting to see how such a program flies under 24-hour news cycle scrutiny.

Eight flags behind a podium. The podium has a sign reading "The Office of the President-Elect" in the now familiar Obama blue and white Obama design and small caps font.

The Dow is up 254.16 as we wait.

The economic advisers gather behind the podium. Rahm Emanuel holds his chin, nods.

They firm their lines, most with hands clasped in front of them, chatting lightly in their places.

Obama walks in with Biden.

The U.S. has only one Government and One President at a time. I've spoken with Bush

Immediately after I become President, I will take this economic crisis head on.

Met this morning with my Economic Advisory Board standing behind him, along with Biden. Will work with Emanuel.

First, need rescue plan for middle class. Jobs and relief.

He is nervous, slightly constrained, body turned inward. Not meeting eyes or looking forward. Looks strained and slightly nervous. May be feeling weight, recognition of what is upon him. This will ease out as he becomes accustomed to power.

His grasp of words betrays an anxiety, a detachment from the words themselves not seen during the campaign.

You can see how the Right will begin to beat him when they do--as too detached, not showing the aggressive-passion-strength and simplicity that symbolizes leadership to them.

He is getting through this one so far.

Now opens for questions.

Looking up more, still obviously quite nervous.

Reporter: Are you still confident that you can do something during the lame duck session before you take office?

Obama: I want to see a stimulus package. If not during this session, when I take office.

Jake Tapper on Ahmadinejad letter. What will you do about it?

Obama: Iran's development of a nuclear weapon is unacceptable. We must mount an international effort to keep that from happening. Support of terror must cease. I will examine letter. It has only been 3 days since election. Should not respond in knee-jerk fashion. We only have one President at a time.

Chip Reid: When you disagree with Bush decisions, will you defer, challenge, confront? I am touring White House. Will be substantive discussions.

Obama is now finding his sea legs, becoming calmer, more authoritative, finding voice he had during campaign. Brain is attaching to mouth, nerves settling, and the thinking Obama is coming to life on this question. Quick. 10 minutes into first news conference. Nice.

Obama: With 2 wars and a financial crisis, is it important to move quickly on filling key posts? I want to move with all deliberate haste, but emphasize deliberate. Proud of choice of VP and COS because thought it through. Important to get it right.

Reporter: To what extent will you use influence to fill Senate seat? This is Governor's decision, not mine. Criteria would be same as if I were voter.

Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun Times) rising with arm in sling:

Obama: What happened to your arm, Lynn?

A relaxed, Kennedyesque moment. Stretching, stepping into himself.

Sweet: Hurt arm going to speech.

Obama: I think that was the only incident in Grant Park that night.

Sweet has not been entirely friendly, just the slightest note of strength by Obama answering the slightest implication. Using his ability to modulate tone well.

Sweet: People want to know, what books are you reading, what kind of puppy will you get, what schools will the children attend?

A surprisingly friendly, "soft" and personal question from Sweet. Making amends?

Obama: Spoke with all living Presidents, don't want to get into Nancy Reagan seance thing. (The Rightwing blogs will be quoting that line, looking for something to scream about). Dog--this is a major issue We have 2 criteria that have to be reconciled--Malia is allergic, so has to be hypoallergenic. We would prefer to get a shelter dog, but a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me. Schools. Michelle will scout out.

Just the slightest mixture of mock seriousness, humor, and actual seriousness . This ability to shift into a slight tone of recognition of the humor in the decision contrast, yet also recognizing its essential humanity, is Obama's version of the Kennedyesque touch that he can bring to the White House. A self assured recognition of the importance of world situations, while also reocgnizing the importance of humanity's daily life. This is similar to the ability to move from serious consideration to ease and humor that symbolizes undefensive confidence--this was also displayed early Kennedy news conferences, if you've seen them.

A willingness to take on the full strength and importance of decisions--while also, without giving up responsibility or the strength and deliberation that must be fully devoted to it--as seen in the striking, surprising and positive self-deprecation of "mutts like me"--the ability to do this is an indicator of genuine confidence, rather than hubris.

Crowley (pressing Obama): You are privy now to intelligence. First, what do you think of state of US intelligence, does it need beefing up, interaction; Second, has anything you've heard given you pause about anything you said on campaign trail?

Obama: Candy, as you know, if were, couldn't tell you. Intelligence process can always improve, has gotten better.

Zeleny (Times): Intend to seek income tax increases for upper class Americans, expect to pay higher taxes in '09?

Obama: My plan provided for tax cut; 95% of working Americans would receive them; tax credits. Priority is grow economy, provide jobs. Goal of my plan is to provide tax relief to families that are struggling but also boost economy from bottom up.

In one news conference, as stepped into questions, moved from a early nervous detachment, to his own voice, the voice we have seen throughout the campaign--with questions, not with a speech--that is what brought him to thought and life.

We have a taste of what a President Obama will be like--much as he was during campaign. Thoughtful, calm, deliberate, a touch of strength, ease, humor, ability to be personal. To the absurd critiques that Obama could "only deliver speeches", we have a calm, strong, definitive answer.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Emanuel May Be Formally Announced As Chief of Staff As Early As This Afternoon

Rahm Emanuel, former Clinton Staffer, may be named as Obama's Chief Of Staff as early as this afternoon.

Emanuel, known as an extremely aggressive, tough political figure signals the prgamatic tone of the Obama White House--a desire to ensure that errors such as those made at the beginning of the Clinton Presidency with regard to appointments, and the Carter Presidency with regard to lack of deep knowledge of and connections with DCs inner workings will not occur.

In short, a recognition that tough, informed, and well-connected pragmatism will be necessary to reach the high aims of the Administration.

The tone will be: Pragmatism, knowledge, and toughness to reach the goals of hope.


You can note the subtle change in Petreaus's as he adjusts the the prospect of the Obama Administration. Finding his new tone. Very intelligent to keep just enough intellectual and expressive distance from Bush to now make this adjustment easier.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Welcome to the many thousands of world visitors recently from London, Paris, Geneva, Copenhagen, Berlin, Kuala Lumpur, Oslo, Nottingham, Abu Dhabi, Bocas Del Toro, Beijing(!), Beirut, Dubai, Toronto, Warsaw, Taipei, Karachi, Sydney, Athens, Stockholm, Turks and Caicos, Zurich, Santiago, Auckland, Nanterre, Quito, Hong Kong, Montpellier, Jakarta, Cambridge (U.K.), and too many other cities and nations to mention, and across the United States (including Wasilla).

The Work of Better Angels

Last night, from my home, I could hear the horns.

Our better angels have won out over our fears.

Now, the work--for each one of us, as well as for the Obama Administration begins.

I woke this morning with a surprising relief and with a full heart unlike any I had experienced.

Awake with the knowledge that intelligence now occupies the White House--rather than a fear of and defensive hostility towards intellect. That one who can both confidently wield and appreciate the breadth, sharpness and diversity of intellect--it's strengths, options, and kindnesses, its new inclusivities and potentially new solutions--now will rest in our nations leadership.

Awake with the awareness that an ability and desire to be open to the diverse perspectives around him will now characterize the Presidency--rather than one so completely and so early formed around narrow perspectives that he was not even aware of this narrow range.

Regarding the nation as safer--in the hands of one who will exercise judgment, based on careful and full consideration, rather than gut feeling; informed by knowledge that is unafraid to listen to and is able to weigh the expertise of others, rather than fearing information from anyone but a self-confirming circle; and not driven by the hostile and often overwhelming self-interest that characterized the previous Administration.

Relieved that we are now led by one who is primarily oriented towards the future and consensus, and towards the national good, rather than being directed primarily by an underlying hostility and division that shot through any efforts to fully consider the national good.

This is a time when you can recognize your opportunity for individual change and new decisions.

The weight of a dark time--produced by the knowledge that we were led by those who defended against intellect, regarding it with suspicion; who acted upon their own agenda, often against the will of the public, with a determined and past-driven ideology that was at times implemented by misleading the public they were elected to serve, that was more interested in self and justification rather than unification--has lifted.

Today is a day for relief, for joy at possibility, and for recognition that we should not allow ourselves to get lost in the weeds of trivia and small vengeances in weeks and months ahead.

With a clear vision, and a commitment to what is best in us, which many of us feel today--it is time to go to work.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Do People Change Their Minds On The Last Day? No.

On this day before an historical election, many of you may be worried about whether the negative ads of recent days will have any affect upon voters who have already made up their minds.

The answer to this is no.

There are five primary psychological reasons for this--all of which point in the same direction.

Habit: The reason people do the same behaviors in life, rather than acting in a new way each new moment, is habit. The reason that habit is so powerful is that what is known is always more predictable than what is unknown. Given a choice between the predictable and the known, people will do what they repeatedly have described to themselves over time. . Therefore, if the majority of citizens have said to themselves for many weeks 'I am voting for Obama because he is the best candidate' or other reasons, they will continue to vote in that direction, even when faced with so-called "new" mudslinging. The reason for this is that they would prefer to decide on the basis of what they have already learned rather than on ambiguous and new information.

Consistency: There is a very powerful directionality towards self-consistency. People do not want to contradict their own strongly held opinions and beliefs, as this causes cognitive dissonance. Given the amount of attention people have paid to the election at this point, they have had thousands of occassions on which they have strengthened that opinion and belief. To change at this time would create massive cognitive conflict, and as a consequence, few will do it.

Security: By now, people have connected their decision to their own lives--to future desires and outcomes. These links have already been established. In the eyes of the McCain handlers, further attacks might seemingly change the minds of some voters, Rather, they will make voters see the desperate nature of the campaign, causing them to hew to a more stable and secure option, i.e., the choice they have already decided upon. They will feel more secure by staying with their choice.

The Consensus Effect: As each person sees the other not responding to the various forms of mud throwing, due to the factors listed above, they realize they are correct in their own similar experiences--they are assured that they are acting in the right fashion. As a result, they are further reinforced in not changing their position.

Understanding of Timing: The electorate is aware that this is the conclusion, and can set the "new" information in its proper perspective, realizing that it would have been raised long before if it had actually been true, and recognizing that these are the acts of a campaign that can only raise such canards.

To this, I add a sixth--on rational analysis, he's the best candidate.

Now--get out and vote.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Palin Is Pranked By Canadian Duo

Sarah Palin is pranked by a false "Nicholas Sarkozy."


Pay No Attention To The Mudslingers Behind The Firewall

If you look at the "Comments" sections of articles in many major newspapers today, it looks as if the dark specters of every conspiracy theory have burst forth, like dying souls from the rapidly firming ground, in a last eruption of flailing desperation.

At each moment, wild minds are frantically shooting mud at a wall to see if anything can stick. This is what we call "conservative political thinking" at the end of a campaign circa 2008.

These so-called principled leaders, so willing to call--shocked, shocked!-- for notions of civil behavior when they are questioned, are now engaged in a rapid-fire, panic-and-rage fueled mudfest, that only matches in hysteria the willingness to propel any notion, no matter how far-fetched or borderline delusional, into the torrent of mire that they hope, in their primary tactic of democratic process, might clouds the eyes.

Pay no attention to projectile sludge casters behind the firewall.

Let's end this vicious distortion of and distraction from our nation's needs.

Let's put this kind of politics to rest--with their final adolescent caterwailing a reminder of what has preceded us.

And let's get to work on building and rebuilding tomorrow.