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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

November 10, 2008


Now that John McCain lost his bid to become President of the United States, the question has to be asked: Will we ever get Osama bin-Laden? After all, McCain did said "I know how to get him," referring to the al-Qaeda leader. Will McCain, even though he lost, share his wisdom with President Obama?

Just a thought.

-Noah Greenberg

A Way to 60

Getting to 60 is easier than it might appear. This past election might end with the Democrats being just short of the required 60 seats in the US Senate to become a filibuster-proof party, but there is a way that they could get there.

And they could do it and claim they're doing so in the spirit of bi-partisanship. All they have to do is appoint sitting Republican US Senators who serve from states with Democrats sitting in their respective state houses.

And there are many of them. although some of those Senators I wouldn't allow on the White House tour , let alone in the Obama Cabinet. Here are some of the Republican Senators who fit the bill:

Governor Janet Napolitano's Arizona has two US Senators from the Grand Old Party in a pair of John's: McCain and Kyl. Although Napolitano is on the short list of possible Attorney General candidates, look for neither of the John's to be in President Obama's Cabinet. One, however (McCain himself), can make a statement as to his promise of bipartisanship and his ability to reach across the aisle assuming a 60-seat majority isn't reached by the Democrats. McCain can use his leadership ability to unclog the Senate where clogging is unwarranted.

Others who don't stand a chance to be in the Obama Cabinet even though they serve states with Democratic Governors are Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts of Kansas along with Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning of Kentucky. These four, along with a few more ultra-conservatives who drank all of the Bush Kool-Aid don't deserve to serve in the US Senate, let alone help to shape the course of our nation's future.

There are, however, some who can be tolerated in the Cabinet. For example, Chuck Grassley of Iowa might be considered as Secretary of the Interior. Grassley voted against the first Gulf war and is considered a moderate on tax cuts.

Along with Grassley are the two women Senators from Maine. Just re-elected Susan Collins would probably say "Thanks, but no thanks," to an offer from a new Democrat in the White House but Olympia Snowe could be asked to join the White House in some capacity. Both are moderates in the truest sense of the term with ratings of about fifty percent each by the US Conservative Union.

Kit Bond of Missouri might be considered for EPA Chief, although the selection of a Republican for that spot could get those on the ecological left up in arms; and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire is a moderate who has disagreed with President Bush several times.

But the one which intrigues me the most is in Pennsylvania. Could President Obama appoint Arlen Specter to the Justice Department? And could he actually pull it off?

Appointing Specter, the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Attorney General show a real attempt at bipartisanship by President Obama. All Presidents appoint members of the opposing party to their Cabinet, but usually in minor positions. (George W. Bush appointed Norman Mineta as Secretary of Transportation, a minor Cabinet position.)

Specter's appointment would open up a spot in the blue-er state of Pennsylvania and allow Governor Ed Rendell to appoint a Democrat to the position. Once in that position, it would give that new senator the opportunity to run as an incumbent, thus giving him (or her) a huge advantage.

In addition, Specter is one of the oldest members in the US Senate and has recently had to battle cancer. Now, I'm not saying Obama should appoint Specter because he thinks his time on this planet is going to be up soon, but the fact is that Specter would retire from the post after about a year or so.

For both Specter, who is serving as a long-time member of a minority party in the senate, it would be a no-brainer: Do something good with the remainder of your career or do nothing other than obstruct for the foreseeable future.

Certainly there will be those who don't want a Republican in such an important spot in the Obama White House. And, more than likely, Specter isn't even on the short list of possible Attorney General choices. I'm just thinking out loud.

But what if... ?

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008, Journal Register Newspapers, Inc.

For many in America and around the globe, election night spawned emotions that will not soon be forgotten. But politics doesn’t offer much time to bask in glory, even when it’s a moment as monumental as the election of the first African-American president of the United States.

For President-elect Barack Obama, it was barely 18 hours after his dramatic win was secured that he was being pressured by world financial markets to announce the names of his financial team and Secretary of the Treasury to help calm investors always made nervous by transitions of power, and traditionally more so by Democrats than Republicans.

During his powerful acceptance speech, the buoyant and highly confident demeanor Obama usually projects was replaced with a sober and measured one–that of a man upon whom the mantle of power had been laid. Obama clearly saw the responsibilities ahead for what they are--awesome, if not utterly daunting.

The seriousness with which he spoke to America and the world showed prescience. While Americans and others were still celebrating Obama’s election, the world financial crisis remained unchanged. The Dow Jones plummeted nearly 500 points the day after the election and continued to plummet to similar depths for days to come while Asian and European markets lost between five and nine percent. Headlines in financial news worldwide read the same: “Markets Plunge on Post-Election Nerves.”

The election had presented yet another seamless transition of power, but the financial crisis was not appeased by the change.

As Obama himself noted during the last days of his campaign, the country is gripped in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Thus the excitement of his win was greatly tempered by the news that followed in the next few days: October retail sales sank to a 40-year low while unemployment claims hit a 25-year high.

The escalating economic crisis might be the most pressing issue that Obama will face initially, but there are many other promises that his supporters will expect to see him address come January 20.

Key among these will be ending the war in Iraq and reforming health care.

In recent weeks Obama has backed away from his promise to withdraw troops from Iraq on the 16-month schedule he initially proposed, referencing “facts on the ground” as projected by Gen. Ray Odierno, who in September replaced Gen. David Petraeus as head of the multinational force in Iraq.

“Removal of our troops [from Iraq] will be responsible and phased,” Obama has declared in a statement on his website.

There will be no responsible and phased withdrawal from Afghanistan, however, because Obama has stated unequivocally that he will be moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Nor has he decried the incursions across the border into Pakistan or said he would discontinue them.

And what of health care? While his is a far more moderate health care reform plan than the one proposed by his former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Obama’s health care platform does call for some sweeping changes. One such change has a root in the personal–Obama wants pre-existing conditions covered. When Obama’s mother was dying of breast cancer, he said she was concerned about her medical bills more than her care.

But how will Obama begin to rapidly institute these changes which not just his supporters, but the whole world will be expecting?

What Obama needs to help fix the horrendous mess created and left by the Bush Administration is a plan akin to that initially proposed by Bill Clinton in 1992 or that of America’s most innovative president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1932.

Clinton entered the White House after 12 years of Reagan-Bush Administrations that had devastated the economy, carried on covert and overt military incursions in Central America, been involved in illegal arms trade and created what was then–until the current administration managed to outstrip it--the largest deficit in American history.

The White House President-elect Obama inherits looks a lot like the one Bill Clinton inherited–only much worse.

In a move some may find surprising given his repeated criticisms of Washington insiders, Obama has already chosen key figures from the Clinton Administration to help him run his administration.

Obama chose John Podesta, former Chief of Staff for Clinton, for the key position of leading his transition team. Rahm Emmanuel, the highly effective but also highly controversial former senior advisor to Clinton, will be Obama’s Chief of Staff.

Podesta is known for his fierce determination and loyalty–he never wavered in his support of the Clintons–and consistent progressive politics.

Emmanuel is known for his hardball and deeply partisan tactics. As Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, he is credited with orchestrating the funding for campaigns that resulted in the increased number of seats Democrats attained in the Congress in 2006. It was also his fund-raising expertise that Bill Clinton credits as helping him win the 1992 election. The choice of Emmanuel is significant, and not just because of the ties to the Clinton Administration. Emmanuel is the third most powerful Democrat in the Congress and was expected to challenge Nancy Pelosi for the position of Speaker of the House until being tapped by Obama.

Emmanuel’s hiring signals a tactical shift for Obama.

A solid staff is not the only thing Obama needs to move forward. He needs strong congressional support.

Democrats gained 18 seats in the House and five in the Senate (two other races remain undecided and may require recounts). But the Democrats in Congress are far from cohesive as the last two years since they regained control have shown. Speaker Pelosi is roundly considered an alternately divisive and ineffectual leader. Many House members have complained that she should be replaced in January. Obama will need strong and cohesive Democratic leadership in Congress to back any changes he wants to make, as Republicans will return wounded and, if they retain their usual pattern, retaliatory and diffident.

Since the Senate is not filibuster-proof (it may be time to end the filibuster altogether), this could stymie Obama in ways it rarely did Bush.

Yet how much actually rests in the hands of the president? The rogue leadership of George Bush, that among other odious and reprehensible acts defied the Geneva Convention on torture and created a whole new limbo realm for alleged terrorists called “enemy combatants” that has kept people locked up in Guantanamo for seven years without legal recourse, has led many Americans to believe that the executive branch has more power than it actually has, legally or constitutionally. Vice president Dick Cheney even attempted to claim dual–and extra-constitutional–power in the executive and legislative branches of government.

Obama must have strong congressional support, particularly in the Speaker of the House, because the president does not have the power to legislate, regardless of what Bush and Cheney believe. According to the Constitution, a document Obama appears to respect unlike Bush and Cheney, all bills originate in the House. If Obama wants to propose legislation, it still must be formally presented through the House, then go to the Senate. Only then does the President get to sign or veto the proposed legislation.

Throughout the Bush Administration–including during the past two years–the Congress has pretty much agreed to every proposal Bush has made while Bush, conversely, has vetoed key bills presented by the Democrats.

Obama promised a bipartisan Administration and quoted Lincoln in his acceptance speech with regard to rationale for this: “We are not enemies, but friends–though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

There are precious few bonds of affection or even collegiality between the two sides of the aisle in Congress and it seems unlikely that will change. Clinton entered the White House with a strong Democratic majority and was repeatedly restricted by divisions between the liberal and conservative wings of his own party.

Obama has myriad obstacles to navigate as he plans his transition into the White House and the job before him is mammoth. There have only been two Democratic presidents in the past 40 years and only one was successful.

Nationally there is a concomitant eagerness to get rid of all vestiges of Bush and an impatience to change the legacy he has left, but what of Washington? Bush may be the single most declarative reason Obama won so resoundingly.

But while 2008 wasn’t the stolen or contested elections of 2000 and 2004, and the margins were significant in both popular and electoral college votes, 57 million Americans voted for John McCain and another two million voted for third party candidates, as opposed to the 64 million who voted for Obama.

Obama got 52 percent of the overall vote, but that leaves 48 percent who voted against him–among them the 181 Republicans in the House and 40 in the Senate, none of whom have pledged bipartisanship.

It may not be possible to employ the same strategies for his new administration as Obama’s team employed to win the election, but striving for that same level of discipline and focus would certainly serve the transition and early days of the administration well.

What is sure, however, is that America is in dire straits after eight years of Bush, Cheney and their cronies. The task ahead of Obama and his Administration could not be more daunting. The days leading up to the January inauguration will be rife with global pressures and vital decision-making. And it’s not just America but the world looking to Obama for answers.

In response to this thing we do, Kevin Connell writes:

Well now that I'm not in tears every day....

I just want to thank you for your blog which has been my mainstay during this whole election. WE DID IT and I think it is sites like yours that made all the
difference. You're a hero- keep up the good work

Your fan and pal,

Kevin Connell

Thanks for reading all of us. It's always nice to see and hear that we might have just made a difference. -NG

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-Noah Greenberg