Tag Archives: Obama


Politico says that a panel of conservative judges may deny Obama the expanded executive powers established by the Bush Administration.

Progressives have been appalled that Obama is defending the Bush policies (even in word, if not in deed). These are the same executive powers that Obama decried as a Senator, and campaigned against in the general election.

One of two things is happening:

Obama is no dummy. He’s a constitutional scholar, and has deep respect for the institution of the Presidency. He realizes that the Presidency expands its power once in several generations; that normally the courts and Congress are continually chipping away at the Executive, not enlarging it. It’s his duty to the office to hold his ground, not just for himself but for future Presidents and the presidency itself. The last thing America needs is an impotent figurehead as Executive, with the Congress and Courts constantly sparring for power with no tiebreaker. So even if he never intends to use those powers, it’s his obligation to defend his right to.

Or the second thing, which I consider less likely, but more brilliant:

He’s aware that there are indeed biased, activist judges in the Judiciary, and that they are more likely to limit the executive powers of a [young, black] Democratic president than they were of Bush.

So this is a deke.

He’s inviting the Judiciary to do his job for him. Rather than ceding the ground that Bush took, he’s making the courts take it away from him, which establishes the precedent that the ground can never be retaken by future Presidents. And he’s letting the conservative circular firing squad put their firm endorsement on it.

He’ll make conservatives implement his policies to the point where they’ll claim it as their victory. And they might not even notice.

Again, I think the odds are long that he’s that Machiavellian. But if he is, and it succeeds, it will be the most masterful Presidential move in decades.


How We’re Winning

An update to my post from a week and a half ago. It’s going well.

  • Keep issues alive.  As much as McCain tried to spin it into an umbrage-and-character play in the last two weeks, the bailout and the economy are going to dominate the agenda through Election Day.  I have never seen an opinion poll produce a zero per cent result in anything, ever, but that’s the percentage of Americans who think the economy is improving.  
  • Play the ground game. I think this is Obama’s secret weapon. The Republicans have been energized by Palin, but as she fades, that may fade too.  Obama is just continuing to strengthen an already dominant organization.
  • Run against the Republican.  I’m not seeing them do this.  It’s still personal about McCain and linking him with Bush, and now Palin with Cheney.  
  • Let McCain flail.  Oh, my, this is working.  He is coming off increasingly poorly on the trail and the stump.  Without Palin he looks lost.  Missteps are making him furious in private and off-balance in public.  He’s pegging the gaffe-o-meter they built for Biden, and nothing he’s throwing at Obama seems to be sticking.  But brace yourselves; it will only continue to get uglier.
  • Let Palin self-destruct.  Also working very well.  As Palin’s unknowns decline, her negatives mount, too,and McCain’s support declines linearly.  Again, this is mostly rope-a-dope for Obama; what damage she’s not bringing on herself with gaffes her campaign is bringing by fencing her off from the press.
  • Court the press.  This is the first triumph, and will make for a very good September for Obama.  McCain’s campaign expected the press to regurgitate their half-truths and outright lies, and when they didn’t, they went apeshit.  Obama has been saturating the press with access and contact.  Biden’s given forty-five pressers to Palin’s, well, zero—and they notice stuff like that.  And McCain’s campaign is still trying to insulate the base from the long, slow, painful press vetting of Palin by telling them to disregard everything they hear in the “biased mainstream media.”  Joe Klein has had it.  So have Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin.  McCain has lost his base, and now only has hers.
  • Side with the elites.  This is working.  Maureen Dowd couldn’t bring herself to say it in her own voice, so she borrowed Aaron Sorkin’s:  “Where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence.”  And to show that the carousel has turned a half circle in the village, George Willactively makes the case that in this financial turmoil, McCain’s behavior demonstrate that he is “not suited to the presidency.” The actual Serious People are coming around to the notion that they can at least negotiate with Obama, though they disagree with him; with McCain, they may not even get to negotiate.

The polls are back where they were several weeks before the convention, but now pointing in Obama’s direction.  The coming weeks bring us the Stevens trial, whatever report the Alaska Legislature Council will bring, no doubt further bad news on the financial markets and the economy, and the everpresent likelihood of more tests of the administration’s competence, whether it be disaster response, terrorism, setbacks in battle, or another sex scandal.  Of course, McCain can run brutal, personal, vicious ads; Obama could suck in the debates or make a gaffe or two; or Nancy Pelosi could screw up the bailout package very, very badly.  There’s a reason we have elections and don’t just let the pollsters pick a President.


I’m a big fan of Bill Clinton.  I remember listening to his 1992 Democratic Convention acceptance speech and being thrilled that after twelve years of Reagan/Bush, we had a candidate to believe in.  Smart as a whip, a superb orator, politically astute, and a tireless campaigner, we had a winner who could wash the bad taste of Dukakis and Mondale from our mouths.  

And the Clinton years brought us three things.  Unparalleled peace and prosperity, check.  A withering, bitter, vicious GOP backlash that culminated in impeachment; right.  But don’t forget the third thing: the management of the White House as a perpetual campaign.   While Bush has taken this to absurd lengths, you have to remember that it was a Clintonian invention.  

Nevertheless, I admire the man and respected his administration.  I could never figure out the source or depth of conservative hatred for him.  I figured it was either sour grapes or the most cynical political putsch ever, especially considering it was architected by Gingrich.  Travel agents? Bimbo-groping? I came of age politicaly in the Watergate years.  To Chuck Colson, this is kindergarten.  The inanity of the right-wing attacks, and the crazed hatred of Clinton among the likes of Richard Mellon Scalife and Rush Limbaugh, made it pretty easy for me to disregard the mutterings that the Clintons weren’t nice people and only looked out for themselves.

After the debacles of 2000 and 2004 and the utter pain of the past seven years, I was just overjoyed to have the Democratic primary season come down quickly to two great candidates, either of whom I’d be honored to vote for.  I considered Obama a little too green, untested, and somewhat fringe; much more compelling than, say, Bill Richardson or John Edwards, of course, but still not the candidate for me.  I backed Clinton from the start.  For the same reasons I admired her husband: a consummate politician, she showed she could win, and lead, and govern.  (I was particularly impressed at how she buckled down and did her job as Junior Senator for New York: she got out into the hustings, listened to people, wrote legislation, got on committees, and did a Senator’s job.)  She’s also smart as a whip.  While not the orator Bill is, she can make a compelling, sensible case for a public policy.  And she had the whole machine behind her.

Like many people, I wrote off a lot of the criticism of her as either a) latent Hillary-bashing from ’91-’00 or b) thinly veiled sexism.  (Even the hateful bile from Maureen Dowd and Peggy Noonan is basically sexist, in the how-dare-she-be-like-us-instead-of-like-we-preach vein).  An opinionated, forceful man is considered a strong leader; an opinionated forceful woman, well, as Barbara Bush said of Geraldine Ferraro, “there’s a word for it and it rhymes with rich.”  I had to stop reading a couple of blogs I frequented, especially Andrew Sullivan, because of the unhinged Hillary-hatred seeping from them.

I maxed out on Hillary for the CA primary.  We went to private fundraisers and meet-and-greets.  I got the bumper stickers, the lapel buttons, and pulled the lever for her in the California primary.

Then Obama started gaining momentum, and over time, I realized what people were saying.

Her tireless campaigning and her political astuteness, such assets in battling the GOP noise machine, are just tasteless, damaging, and atavistic when directed at a fellow Democrat.  I credit her on doing everything possible to win and never giving up; it’s a good trait for a President to have.  But to do so at the expense of core principles and the larger goal is just destructive.  I’m glad she gave Obama a good fight.  I’d still be happy to see her in the Oval Office.  But I’m extremely disappointed at the manner she chose to fight Obama, and the graceless way she’s pursuing the ongoing train wreck of her obvious defeat.

So, Sen. Clinton: sorry.  I stuck with you, I backed you, and I still have some admiration for you.  But I’m out of your camp.  Sen. Obama has taken your best shots and proved he can parry them well.  (You’ve certainly gotten more and cheaper shots in than McCain will.)  He’s no longer green.  He’s no longer untested.  And you’ve demonstrated that in terms of intelligence, policy, and ability, you’re equals.  Thanks for giving us our next President.