Friday, November 07, 2008


Obama has named his economic transition team, with a good mix of members: Clinton stalwarts but also people from business, federal, state and city government. I like seeing Robert Reich on that list. Reich left the Clinton cabinet (Sec. of Labor) due in part to the policies he couldn't support--he was more liberal than the rest of Clinton's economic team as it evolved. That Obama wants his voice in this group is very good, though I doubt Reich will go back to the cabinet (His book on his Clinton admin experiences was called Locked in the Cabinet, after all.)

The only name in this group mentioned in the media as a top contender for Treasury is Lawrence Summers. Ambinder thinks Treasury will come out of this group, and Richard Wolfe on MSNBC talked of Summers as if his appointment is a cinch. But I'm not sure. This could be a panel of advisors--a group of elders. While cabinet posts, especially Treasury, are part policy, part diplomatic jobs (dealing with outside entities), they are also administrative. A younger appointee, like Geithner, appeals to me. If an older guy like Summers does get the job now, I look for a younger #2 there like Geithner, who will be in line to inherit the job in a couple of years. (Possibly the same situation at Defense, if Gates is kept on.)

Rahm Emanuel is officially Obama's chief of staff. Ambinder writes this about what it signals: What does Rahm's selection say about Obama? Obama won't be afraid to step on toes. He's going to be very aggressive in pursuing his agenda. He won't shrink from confronting Congress. And he will expect extreme competence from his staff, from the chief on down.

No surprise if, as suggested, David Axlerod and press secretary Robert Gibb go with Obama to the White House.

I'm warming to the idea of Bill Richardson as Secretary of State. Makes sense in a number of ways, but again the key may be his relationship with Obama, and nobody knows that really, except Obama. It's news to me, for example, that Obama and Emanuel have been so close, but it makes perfect sense that he'd want that for chief of staff. Plus Emanuel's experience in the White House, Congress, business, electoral politics.

Well, that's the gossip and my take on it. It's barely 48 hours after the election was settled, and I'm still sleep deprived and a little numb. But when I switched on the TV today I did get a rush when I first heard the words, "President-elect Obama."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Cabinet Connection

At this point it's hard to tell which names are serious, which are trial balloons, which are floated to assuage egos and repay debts, and which are fantasies of supporters of the person named, or other unnamed but not actually in the know persons.

But there are names out there for cabinet members, and the ones I'm most interested in are the ones I was hoping to see on Obama's list. Especially Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who would make a terrific appointment to Environmental Protection Agency, but also to head the Dept. of Energy. Caroline Kennedy is also rumored for UN rep or ambassador to the UK (where her grandfather, Joseph P. Kennedy served.) I like the symbolism--Kennedys: The Next Generation. But they both would be really good in those roles. RFK, Jr. would be tenacious. In any case I do hope for a heavy hitter for Energy--somebody with credentials and credibility on the climate crisis as well as green energy.

Of the names being bandied about my instincts say that some are more likely than others (Vilsack at Agriculture, Napolitano as A.G., Geithner at Treasury, Bill Richardson and Chuck Hagel somewhere) but I expect surprises. Somebody from business, and from academia. We don't have to deplete Democrats in Congress or the states. And by the way, cabinet secretaries aren't the only important posts. There are White House advisors, too, which is kind of where I expect Hagel might land. How about several science advisors--like James Hansen of NASA, the most prominent name on Climate Crisis science?

What's got me foxed is the Rahm Emanuel business. Not that he'd be offered the Chief of Staff job, but that it's public, along with the "fact" that he hasn't accepted yet. This is very un-Obamalike, and actually doesn't bode too well for Emanuel. He's sprung a leak even before he's taken the job? Not so good.

Apart from what Michelle's dress was all about at Grant Park (a compromise between Sasha's black and Malia's red?), that's got me mystified.

But what I'm thinking of is this: to this day I can recite for you the entire JFK cabinet, including Postmaster General, which I learned when I was 15. This is a really exciting time to be 15, and to watch a new generation government being formed. At that time, I unrealistically identified with the Kennedy administration--I imagined I was part of it. They cooperated a bit, too--I sent them letters, and got replies like, "The Secretary has carefully considered your letter," and "Your thoughtful letter to the President has been forwarded to the State Department..." I wonder if today's 15 year olds will get that part of the experience.

Now, even though I get emails signed "Barack," I am well aware how distant I am from what's going on in Washington. That's something I will be thinking about further.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I didn't get much sleep last night and today is packed with day jobness. But I've got a couple of cautionary thoughts about what we've just experienced.

First, the amount of money binged on this election was obscene. I was part of it this time--for me it was overwhelmingly important to help elect Obama. That his campaign raised so much money from so many small donors is a wonder. But all together, the money it takes to do anything in elections--run as a candidate, back a ballot initiative--is pretty awful. And I don't know how sustainable either. There was enough margin in the system--enough loose change in enough pockets--to do it this time. But this time next year? I doubt it.

Look at all the attention paid to raising money. One of Obama's lesser known advisors, Cass Sunstein, is co-author of a book called Nudge, about "choice architecture," which is a fancy name for a particular kind of marketing, which is by definition a confidence game. The Obama campaign was very good at nudging donations from me. And look at all the money spent here in CA on Prop 8--I think it's like 80 million. It looks like the homophobes won, but however it turns out, you can bet the question is going to be on the ballot next time, and even more money will be spent on it. These are millions that could be going for things that have much more direct effects, with multipliers in terms of the good they do. You can educate kids with that. Fill potholes. Prevent some folks from dying in pain because of inadequate health insurance.

Anyway, it's over for me. If my contributions this year suggest to any pols that I can be nudged again, forget it.

Second, this election night proved once again that when it comes to real time information, the blogosphere is totally dependent on the established information media. I see the chortling on Kos etc. about newspapers losing circulation and in danger of going under. But Kos and the Huffington Post etc. have yet to develop more that supplementary sources of information and modes of gathering and delivering it. They depend on the reporting of media organizations: newspaper and television. And that's true beyond such obvious situations as election night. The blogosphere has done a lot in breaking particular stories, and pushing others until the established media pays attention. But without newspapers in particular, the blogosphere would be little more than unverifiable gossip.

The reason is simple: the blogs don't make enough money to support reporters and a news gathering organization. Very few people can make a living directly from the Internet. Those hoary old newspapers still have union jobs. Does Kos? Meanwhile, the people who write for Huffington are just about all sustained by their newspaper, magazine and TV gigs, and the related income streams of books and paid speeches. Even the big players in the blogosphere depend on books, magazine columns and paid speaking engagements.

Plus there are editors. That's a very mixed blessing, and the blogs do have ways of checking people on their information. But that doesn't always work. There were so many diaries on Kos this election season that purported to be first person reports that could just as easily have been fiction.

The Internet was supposed to be a faster source of election news than TV, radio and newspapers. But those sites that aren't part of established media organizations did little but report what the TV said. And usually, long after they said it. The blogosphere has unique potential and fulfills unique functions, but it has a long way to go to be more than amateur in the gathering and disseminating of timely information.

A sign among the 200,000 or so in and around Grant Park in Chicago, celebrating the victory of President-Elect Barack Obama.
A New Day

It's a new day for America and the world, but it benefits from the past. My two best friends from high school, fellow members of Jr. Teen Dems for Kennedy when we were 14, were doing GOTV on election day, as was I. Margaret remembered Martin Luther King talking about the future he envisioned but might not get to see. I saw Jesse Jackson weeping in the crowd at Grant Park, and I remembered his ground-breaking candidacy especially in 1992 when he was the last Democrat standing except for Bill Clinton in the primaries, and when in the darkest days of Reagan and Bush his message and his slogan was, "Keep hope alive."

Everyone who marched for Civil Rights in the early 60s, or against the war in the late 60s, has to feel they had a part in this, even if that generation--my generation--is reviled as a failure.

Now the Obama administration can not only call on the talents of those who have served in the past, but they can profit from past mistakes. My fellow conspirator in the 1970 antiwar movement at Knox College, John Podesta, is a leader of the transition, and as White House Secretary in Bill Clinton's first term (after leaving the White House, he returned to become Chief of Staff in the second term) he was well positioned to see all the problems in the Clinton transition.

All of this will serve the Obama administration well. But for all the talk about well-known Washington figures, I expect that eventually--if not immediately--we are going to be seeing a new generation in Washington. And that's as it should be. This was a generational election. And for once, America may have gotten a head start on its future. Because the electorate that voted for Obama is much more like America's future than are those who did not.

It's going to be a midwestern administration--perfectly positioned between the West, which is the vanguard of America's future, and the East/Middle Atlantic/South which dominated America's past, but they are transforming as well.

Obama's speech was remarkable for being so consistent with what he has said before, just as his closing argument was very close to his opening argument in the campaign. America might not quite yet know what it's got, but that's only because it's hard to take it in all at once. Obama has been saying it all along.

The numbers aren't all in as I write this, but surely this was a unique election, and a transformative one. We can't yet begin to see what it means. Except one thing: now the future has a chance. It will take a lot of work, but that possibility is something else I was afraid I wouldn't see in my lifetime.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Super Barack!

Day of Joy

Okay, now I'm worried. Karl Rove is predicting a 338 to 200 electoral vote victory for Obama. Karl Rove? What's he up to? Sowing overconfidence? A November 4 surprise?

Okay, I'm actually kidding. Rove did say that, but I am not worried, I am preparing for a joyful day and a tears- of- joy night. One of the minor joys of it already is anticipating never needing to say "Karl Rove" again.

I'm not going to run the numbers again. I'm not going to predict margins or states. I doubt that I'll even blog much today, at least not in the way that the sites people will actually be reading will be blogging (and twittering, and whatever the hell else they do.) But who knows?

My plan is: I'll vote. Then I have a couple of options about some modest GOTV. Then here in CA it will soon be time to start checking out returns-- I believe Indiana comes in at 3 pm here, and a bunch of states close their polls at 4.

So I'll be watching: Indiana, and how soon does it comes in? Virginia--very important. Florida. (Which is supposed to be very close.) If these states come in quickly for Obama, it's going to be big. If North Carolina and Georgia do as well, it's going to be very big. If not, then the Obama victory will take longer. I'm going to enjoy the show.

I'm not really worried about Pennsylvania. McCain perceived weakness for Obama based on the primary, but the state Democratic party plus the city of Philadelphia and city of Pittsburgh were all backing Hillary. Now they are all backing Obama. So with confidence in PA--especially after the Monday Night Steelers win in Washington--comes confidence in the final outcome. Ohio will be the icing.

It's not going to be easy for President Obama. As someone said on Charlie Rose Monday night, the question is whether our government can still do big things--because we really need some big things. But with a mandate, and with the way Obama wins--with wide appeal, and on the basis of coming together, on the basis of a grassroots-based victory--he could be in as good a position as is even imaginable.

A conservative columnist quoted Winston Churchill as observing that FDR had a second class intelligence but a first class temperament. Obama, this columnist wrote, has a first class intelligence and a first class temperament. He understands the deep issues. He understands the specific issues. The whole. The parts.

Some pundits insist that he's great with large crowds but not so much one-on-one. They are idiots. You can see Obama literally touching people--he's a guy who relates with his hands. He's head and heart. I won't go all Jungian on you, but he's the most complete person I've ever seen on the public stage. Plus he knows who he is. That's what those first two books are about.

I don't think we're prepared for what we're going to see Tuesday night. Not the results, but the response. Not just across America, but around the world. A lot of people have been holding their breaths. Waiting to exhale. Waiting to sing and shout. We've got another chance. We might save the world yet.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sad News

Just caught a little of Obama's speech at UNC Charlotte, talking about his grandmother who passed away this morning. How incredibly sad that she didn't live another day, to know that her grandson was elected President of the United States.

But Barack spoke of her as one of America's quiet heroes, and his campaign on behalf of people like her. I don't know if it was misting there, but he brushed away what could have been tears as he spoke.

I'm making calls for Barack to Philadelphia today (leaving a lot of messages so far, but at least I can give them their polling place) but took a break and heard Jack Cafferty say, "Tomorrow is going to be awesome." It's the perfect word: AWESOME.

I see Tweety is still trying to make a race of it, but with the CNN reporters I detect a different mood, an anticipation of the history we're making. I'm digging it.

This chart of the most recent polls showing Obama ahead is from FiveThirtyEight: the polls in yellow (or mustard, depending on your screen and color consciousness) are polls that include cell phone numbers. The ones in gray don't. How accurate these different sets turn out to be will be one of the more interesting polling questions resulting from this election.
One Day to Change: It's Getting Better All the Time

Some of those with a vested interest in the race tightening see the race tightening. But consider this:

Tracking polls Sunday showed Obama's lead growing.

While giving its last tracking poll of the campaign, Gallup said:

The trend data clearly show Obama ending the campaign with an upward movement in support, with eight to 11 percentage point leads among likely voters in Gallup's last four reports of data extending back to Oct. 28. Obama's final leads among both registered voters and likely voters are the largest of the campaign.

Gallups final presidential estimate: Obama 55% McCain 44%

The latest Washington Post/ABC poll: Obama 54% McCain 43%

The USA Today/Gallup poll: Obama 53% McCain 42%

CBS poll: Obama 54% McCain 41% (the change from Saturday basically the dwindling number of undecideds)

The final Pew poll predicts on election day: Obama 52% McCain 46%

A late addition, the NBC/WSJ poll Obama 51% McCain 43%, which Nate Silver sez is the freshest of the polls--done Sunday--and which I've noticed is usually the most conservative of the major non-tracking polls.

Please note: Obama has a majority in every one of them. And have you ever seen such numbers as 54%? 55%?

As for those polls showing battleground states tightening, consider the PPP poll of Pennsylvania, which shows Obama's lead "shrinking" to an eight point lead, 53%-45%. Two things: last I took math, 53% is a majority. And the poll notes: "Obama's lead in the Keystone State has decreased from the consensus several weeks ago that he had a double digit advantage but he nevertheless is in great shape to take the state with an eight point lead and almost nobody undecided."

So if you're a Democrat you're thinking, what's the catch? What can go wrong? Marc Armbinder provides a handy list of the Known Unknowns that could produce results different from the polls, in addition to the polls just being fucked up. Even Democrats ought to be happy with 18 things to worry about.

Well, not quite 18 since that list also includes a few things GOPers need to worry about. But he's leaves out one: By all accounts, Obama is leading by a mile in early voting, but did most of his voters vote, or are there more to swell the totals on Tuesday?

The anti-Obama ad blitz from the Hate Talk Express now includes national play of Jeremiah Wright, apparently sponsored by a 527. It reportedly started Sunday (including Sunday Night Football) and will continue through Tuesday. Not sure if this is the same one as in PA, tagged with the PA republican party.

GOTV, Go Go Go.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

More Numbers

Number of people expected to attend McCain Election Night event in Arizona: 3,000

Number of people expected to attend Obama Election Night event in Chicago:
1 million
New Polls

CBS: Obama by 13.

USA Today: Obama by 11. Way ahead in economy and health care issues, even with McCain on national security. Generic Democrat downballot up by 15, largest margin since 1964.

Barack "congratulates" McCain on receiving Dick Cheney's endorsement.

Two Days to Change: GOTV

The beauty of the Obama candidacy is in the consistency of his message and the congruence of Obama with that message of a new politics. But it also leads to political ironies.

It's there in yesterday's list of younger members of prominent Republican and Democratic families supporting him. Even in the observation at Dreaming Up Daily that children are powerfully attracted to his image and his voice. Politically, in terms of this historical moment, it is summed up in a statement by yet another Reaganite, Jeffrey Hart, quoted by his political opposite, Hendrik Hertzberg at the New Yorker.

Hart lists all the ways that Republicans have lately gone astray from what used to be conservativism. Hertzberg observes: Hart is a Burkean. His disenchantment with the anti-intellectual, Christianist, and imperial-triumphalist strains of the conservative movement has been growing for some time. The Republicans under Bush have left behind fiscal responsibility and the Constitution. By plunging into Iraq, they have ignored history. By playing fundamentalist politics, they deny the life-saving possibilities of stem cell research. This and more leads Hart to his conclusion:

This analysis could be extended, but it seems clear to me that Obama is the conservative in the 2008 election. The astonishing thing is that Obama is also the liberal in the 2008 election.

There are two more days before election day. McCain and his increasingly desperate campaign are flailing aboard the Hate Talk Express. But the Obama and Democratic Party Get Out the Vote efforts are shifting into high gear. Anecdotal as well as journalistic reports continue that their efforts are large, widespread and enthusiastic, while those on McCain's behalf so far are small and spiritless.

On Saturday, Obama moved up a little more in the tracking polls. Gallup has Obama up by 10, Washington Post/ABC 53%-44%, and the Marist national poll by 7. The Washington Post political reporters conclude: "Barack Obama and the Democrats hold a commanding position two days before Tuesday's election, with the senator from Illinois leading in states whose electoral votes total nearly 300 and with his party counting on significantly expanded majorities in the House and Senate. "

Nate Silver suggests this has become a five state election, but realistically, McCain's only chance is to take Pennsylvania, and that's only the beginning of what he has to do. It's the difference between an election that is basically over between eight and nine PM Eastern, or one that goes on to 11 or midnight. And as I've said before, it could be essentially over shortly after 7, if Obama has won Indiana, Virginia and especially Florida (though I expect the networks will be very cautious about calling Florida early.) Of course this is all science fiction at this point--if the turnout is as huge as expected and polls stay open later, etc.

So it's all about GOTV now and for the hours remaining until polls close on Tuesday. It's important everywhere, but especially in Pennsylvania.