Sunday, November 30, 2008

Now they tell us

Remember how Obama's rejection of public financing, allowing him to raise far more money privately, was defended on the grounds that he raised hundreds of millions from many more small donors than anyone, ever -- those contributing under $200 -- a transformation of campaign financing?

Turns out that it wasn't true. While there is no taking back the zillions of stories crediting Obama with a history-making reliance on raising money from the little people, we should at least note the truth and acknowledge that Obama has killed public financing of campaigns for all time.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times:

In fact, Obama's base of small donors was almost exactly the same percent as George W. Bush's in 2004 -- Obama had 26% and the great Republican satan 25%...[emphasis added]

But the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute just issued a detailed study of Obama's donor base and its giving. And that's what the Institute found, to its own surprise.

"The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama's finances," said CFI's executive director Michael Malbin, admitting that his organization also was fooled. "The reality of Obama's fundraising was impressive, but the reality does not match the myth."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Barack Obama, the centrist?

Photo by Reuters/Jim Young

As President-elect Obama continues to assemble teams of top officials dominated by moderate Democrats, experienced non-political professionals, and some Republicans, the punditocracy is alive with theories as to what his motives are: he was a moderate all along and ran opportunistically to the left of his primary rivals; his campaign stands were generally centrist, but many on the left heard what they wanted to hear; it's all a head fake, with middle-of-the-road big shots providing window dressing for what will turn out to be a "progressive" Administration at the second-tier levels; or Obama is using the pervasive sense of crisis to push through "radical" change.

Of course, it should not be necessary to understand Obama's motives; only his actions and their results. We should assess what he does at face value. While he's not even taken office yet, he appears to be set on a course to build consensus behind centrist policies in both domestic and international affairs.

Still, it's irresistable to analyze the politics behind the policies. I think Obama grasps that the ideological polarization, partisan bitterness, and emphasis on "energizing the base" in recent Presidential elections has obscured the fact that national elections are won in the center. While many Democrats hailed the 2008 results as a harbinger of some sort of major political realignment that would give their party national dominance for a generation, Obama is smart enough to know that his 53-47% victory was not particularly large by historic standards. Given his roughly 9 million-vote margin, a switch of as few as 4.5 million votes out of nearly 130 million cast would have given the victory to John McCain (a distinct possibility if not for the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy).

All politicians and especially Presidents want to be releected. More than that, they want to succeed, be popular, make their mark in history, and to the extent they can, boost their parties. Because of the dangerous multiple crises he faces as he takes over, more than most, Obama must be acutely sensitive to avoiding the pitfalls that come with assuming too much about his victory and the often brief shelf-life of public support.

He's probably mindful of the two most recent examples of a President making the mistake of interpreting a relatively close election as a "mandate." George W. Bush prevailed in 2004 by a mere 3 million votes. Rather than taking into account the opposition of 59 million Americans, without skipping a beat, Bush doubled down on his losing Iraq strategy and made his plan to partially privatize Social Security an early centerpiece of his second term. The result was the beginning of a downward spiral of his public support.

In 1992, Bill Clinton prevailed by 5 million votes, no landslide and all the shakier due to the fact that he won only a 43% plurality. Yet, Clinton jumped into his first term emphasizing a number of issues that were then polarizing, helped provoke the Republican onslaught in the 1994 mid-term elections, and very nearly set himself up for defeat in 1996.

Far from having achieved an historic shift to the Democratic Party, Obama could find himself a year from now with plunging approval ratings and a turn back to the GOP in the 2010 Congressional elections. He needs to find consensus on the big issues, create policies and programs around that consensus, and build enduring political support for himself and his party through recognition of concrete achievements.

Successful Presidents (e.g., FDR, Eisenhower, Reagan) have done just that. They've taken care early in their administrations to solidify the support of those who voted for them without special enthusiasm and to win over the potential swing voters who backed their opponents. Obama has set out to accomplish that, too.

Rather than shun Hillary Clinton and those who supported her, he's firming up the support of more moderate Democrats by bringing her into his Administration. Perhaps even more significantly, by naming a first-class, professional economic team and (presumably) a consensus group of experienced national security experts without regard to party, including Secretary Gates and General Jones, he is reaching out to the more moderate McCain supporters and everyone who entertained doubts about Obama's experience or political bent.

Obama knows that he must show substantial progress on the economy and avoid any significant national security embarassments by the end of 2009 or risk an electoral slap in 2010 and a potential for defeat in 2012. If he does, he'll have approval ratings in various polls of up to 60% or higher. Or to look at it another way, he'll enjoy the support of both the Democratic base and the vital center. Then the GOP would really have something to worry about for the long haul.

Friday, November 28, 2008

U.S. intelligence: "most likely Lashkar-e-Taiba"

The carnage in Mumbai is still growing with the number of confirmed dead now more than 150, a toll likely to grow further.

According to one report, U.S. intelligence officials believe there is "mounting evidence that a Pakistani militant group based in Kashmir, most likely Lashkar-e-Taiba, was responsible for the deadly attacks in Mumbai." Suspicion has also fallen on Jaish-e-Muhammad, another Kashmiri separatist outfit that was responsible for the 2002 attack on India's Parliament which nearly started a war.

India's Prime Minister and other officials have already pointed a menacing finger at Pakistan. Pakistan has vigorously condemned that attacks and dispatched a high-ranking intelligence officer to India to help. Even Lashkar-e-Taiba has denied any involvement.

These attacks may provoke a furious outcry in India, and even a hint of Pakistani involvement would, at a minimum, put an end to the recent thawing of relations between the two countries.

From an American standpoint, few worse things could happen. We need more cooperation from the recently elected Pakistani government in cracking down on pro-Taliban and al Qaeda elements in the tribal areas of Pakistan along the Afgan border. To the extent that Pakistan feels a greater threat from India, Islamabad's focus will be on defending its eastern borders, not policing its western borders.

What is more, a new India-Pakistan military crisis could further weaken Pakistan's government and exacerbate the internal tumoil in that nuclear-armed country.

All of which should serve as a reminder to Americans that the threat posed by radical jihadists will not be easily overcome, whoever is President.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Too many people around the table

New York Times photo: Paul Volcker (left) and Austan Goolsbee with Barack Obama

OK, I get it. Barack Obama likes Paul Volcker and wants to be sure he has his sage advice around the table. He also likes Austan Goolsbee, a young guy who worked hard on economic policy issues in the Obama campaign (and who Obama called a "promising economist" at today's announcement) and wants to have him at the table too (and reward him with a job).

But gee whiz, isn't the table getting a little crowded? The estimable, gray-haired Volcker, a Democrat and an economist, served as Fed Chairman during the Carter and Reagan Presidencies and has done just about everything else a man can do. At 81, Volcker would surely be thrilled to keep giving Obama his advice whenever asked, just as he did throughout the campaign. So why is Obama creating a new thing called the Economic Recovery Advisory Board for Volcker to chair and where Goolsbee will be chief of staff?

The New York Times says this is "a new panel to be comprised of leading figures from a variety of business sectors" that "is supposed to advise Mr. Obama on how to jump-start the economy and stabilize the financial markets."

Isn't that what Larry Summers is supposed to do as head of the National Economic Council in the White House (which is charged with coordinating economic advice and policy)?

And isn't that what Christina Romer is supposed to do as Chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisors (a statutory agency which has two other members appointed by the President and is supposed to give the President the best economic advice around)?

And isn't it part of what Tim Geithner and the entire Treasury Department is supposed to do?

I'm all for great minds around the table, and it's clear that the markets appreciate Obama's relying on so many sound, experienced hands. But Obama may find it less than desirable when the participants start to disagree and bang on the table.

Biggest Loser?

The biggest loser in the Obama transition sweepstakes so far seems to be Vice President-elect Joe Biden. As Hillary Clinton, Bob Gates, Jim Jones and others take up the key foreign affairs and national security posts, there isn't any room there for Biden. Nor is there any room for leadership by the Veep on economic affairs with heavy-weights Geithner, Summers, Romer and Volcker all on that team. Health care reform, another big Obama priority, is going to early Obama confidant and former Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle.

According to The New York Times, Obama does not plan to give Joe his own portfolio -- in the way Bill Clinton announced during his transition that Vice President Al Gore would take charge of environmental policy and science and technology development, much less Dick Cheney's role as deputy president. Joe will be a "trusted counselor" (in David Axelrod's words) on all issues. That's nice, but with the major portfolios all in the hands of sharp-elbowed others, Joe shouldn't hold his breath.

A bloody reminder

Aftermath of terrorist attack at Mumbai train station

The closely coordinated multiple attacks on eight or more targets in Mumbai, including two hotels and a cafe favored by tourists, a railway station, and a hospital is a bloody reminder that the fight against Islamic terrorists is far from over, in spite of numerous successes since 9/11. So far, some 80 people are dead and hundreds injured.

Reportedly, an unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the most likely suspect is Lashkar- e- Toiba, the Kasmiri separatist group responsible for the July 11, 2006 bomb blasts on Mumbai trains that killed 188. The terrorists are reported to have specifically targeted American and British citizens. It may well turn out that al Qaeda had a hand in it too.

Perhaps not coincidentally, a key LET operative, Mohammed Raheel Sheikh, wanted in the July 2006 attacks, was arrested in Britain just yesterday.

LET has close links to al Qaeda and has operated for years in the tribal areas along the Afganistan-Pakistan border. Many believe that LET has received support and encouragement from the Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, which has often backed Kashmiri extremists.

These attacks may seriously damage India-Pakistan relations at a time when a weak Pakistani government is under internal assault by extremists and when the U.S. needs more, not less, Pakistani help in the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Let's pray for the victims of these latest vicious, cowardly attacks -- and hope that President-elect Obama means what he says about carrying on the fight aggressively in that region.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Feel better?

New York Times photo: Barack Obama on Monday with his economic advisers, from left, Timothy F. Geithner, Christina D. Romer, Lawrence H. Summers and Melody Barnes. Also on the stage is Joseph R. Biden Jr.

I do, well, a little bit anyway.

President-elect Obama has no magic powers to right the financial system or stop the recession, but he got off to a good start Monday by naming a top economic team that is smart, experienced, professional, and pretty much non-ideological.

Treasury Secretary-designate Tim Geithner is a career public official, a former Deputy Treasury Secretary, and currently President of the New York Fed, where he's been a key player in the urgent efforts to keep the financial system from falling apart. His designation ensures a smooth transition to the new Administration. And Obama will get good advice from Larry Summers and Christina Romer.

On Tuesday, Obama followed up with the expected nomination of Peter R. Orszag, another steady, experienced hand, to be his budget director.

Equally important, in the two announcement news conferences, Obama made a number of things about his intentions clear:

-- He and President Bush and their teams are communicating and coordinating on the emergency financial measures.

-- He wants a really big stimulus package and expects Congress to come up with one he can sign by the time he takes office.

-- He's for a bailout of Detroit's Big Three, with strings attached.

-- He will not seek to phase out the Bush tax cuts before they expire in 2011 (although he was uncharacteristically inarticulate in trying to fudge this turnabout).

-- He still plans to seek his promised "tax cut for the middle class."

-- He's tasked Orszag to plow through the next federal budget "line by line" to eliminate "programs that aren't working" and otherwise save money to offset some of the balooning federal deficit.

A week ago, uncertainty about the nation's leadership during a transitional power vacuum was adding new fear on top of what was already a panic. Obama was beginning to draw criticism for not making these announcements sooner and for appearing to prefer the sidelines, as Bush and Paulsen struggled with the evolving bailouts. He's clearly not on the sidelines, now.

It's especially encouraging that Obama is putting in place an essentially professional senior economic team, one that is being called "centrist" but might better be called "transpartisan." There is an obvious parallel between this group and his yet-to-be-formally-announced national security team, which likely will include his main Democratic rival and a heavy-weight lineup of experienced professionals.

I think Obama understands better than most Democrats that his victory, though decisive, should not be interpreted as some sort of sweeping "mandate." In today's budget news conference, he made a point of saying that his 53% of the vote meant that John McCain got 46 or 47% of the vote, and that he had to be responsive to everyone. He knows that a switch of a few percentage points would have given the Presidency to McCain, and that this might well have happened if the financial crisis had struck a couple of months later.

It's not just that Obama is preparing to govern from the center. He is trying to ensure the long-term support of more moderate Democrats, most of whom voted for Hillary Clinton, by bringing Mrs. Clinton into the tent (and not incidentally, by preventing any retribution against Joe Lieberman). He's also trying to build or firm up support among moderate Republicans and independents, some of whom voted for McCain or supported Obama only tepidly, by reaching out to McCain and others in the GOP. And it looks as if he's embracing a couple of McCain's key campaign points -- federal budget discipline and no tax increases going into a recession. I'll be posting more on this political aspect of Obama's moves in the near future.

Of course, Obama's appointments and his stated intentions will not stave off what may be a severe recession. We've enjoyed nearly uninterrupted growth, fueled by burgeoning credit, for 25 years, with only a couple of relatively minor and brief downturns. We now may be in for a tough, prolonged economic shakeout before growth resumes.

For the moment, though, we can feel a little better.

UPDATE -- But the economic news isn't good.

UPDATE II -- Larry Kudlow views Geithner, Summers and Romer as "pro-growth," market-oriented, anti-tax and pro-free trade. Hmmm....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Obama sends in the Marines

President-Elect Obama's top foreign policy and national security team appears to be developing quickly as a group that is certainly "centrist" but, even more to the point, non-political, professional and pragmatic.

As attention has focused mostly on the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, the Washington Post reports that the rest of the team, as it is shaping up is likely to include:

-- Robert M. Gates remaining as Secretary of Defense, at least for a while;

-- Recently retired Marine General James L. Jones (left) as National Security Adviser; and

-- John Brennan, a career CIA officer who advised the Obama campaign on intelligence issues, as Director of National Intelligence or Director of the CIA (Obama is considering several others for this post).

Of special note, WaPo reports that in discussions with General Jones, "Obama is considering expanding the scope of the job to give the adviser the kind of authority once wielded by powerful figures such as Henry A. Kissinger."


What leaps out about this group is that with the exception of former and potentially future political rival Hillary Clinton, these are lifelong national security professionals. While Gates is being counted these days as a Republican and has served in high positions under two Republican Presidents, the fact is that he was a career intelligence analyst who rose to the leadership of the CIA and was unaffiliated politically for most of his life.

Similarly, General Jones, as is customary in the military, had no known political affinity while rising through the ranks to become Commandant of the Marine Corps and Supreme NATO Commander. He was neutral in this year's Presidential contest, advised Obama, but is also close to John McCain.

Like Gates, Brennan is a career CIA analyst who held high positions at the Agency and served as the first director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Nominally a Republican, Brennan advised Obama during the campaign and reputedly became Obama's go-to guy on intelligence issues.

All three men may appeal to Obama, because they are smart, experienced pros at what they do, tempermentally thoughtful and low-key, and not likely to pursue agendas other than the President's. As WaPo notes, "Gates is widely known for being a nonpartisan, congenial manager, while Jones is considered by many who know him to be a self-effacing general who 'wears power very gracefully...' "

The Jones appointment may be the most interesting. You don't ask a four-star general to run the NSC operation at the White House unless you plan to rely on him a great deal, give him wide scope and authority, but also expect him to play well with the rest of the team. And writing in The New Yorker, Steve Coll points to another important reason why Obama wants Jones at his side:

"As a nonpartisan center-right career military man only recently graduated from service, he offers bountiful political cover to the Obama White House. In a stroke, too, Jones answers the question of how a President-elect with no military experience and weak connections to the Pentagon can immediately assert authority in wartime over a Republican-leaning senior officer corps conditioned by the Bush Presidency, which often ceded strategic prerogatives to field commanders..."

With two wars to finish while also grappling with an economic crisis, Obama will need to run a tight ship.

UPDATE - 11/25/08 - Numerous reports are out that it's a done deal for Gates to remain as Secretary of Defense for at least a year. It's also being reported that Admiral Dennis Blair (Ret.), another experienced professional who was CinC of the U.S. Pacific Command, is slated to become Director of National Intelligence. That still leaves John Brennan as a possible Director of the CIA.

UPDATE II - 11/25/08 - John Brennan has taken himself out of consideration for any intelligence post, presumably because of vociferous objections from some liberals related to his supposed connection to the Agency's secret rendition and detention activities during the campaign against al Qaeda.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Obama steps up, signals ambitious but responsible economic plans

Apparently responding to deteriorating markets amidst growing gloom and a vacuum of leadership during the interregnum, on Friday, President-elect Obama leaked his choice of New York Fed President Timothy F. Geithner to be Secretary of the Treasury. On Saturday, he devoted his radio speech to signal that come January, he'll roll out "a vast stimulus plan" -- "a far more ambitious plan of spending and tax cuts than anything he outlined on the campaign trail."

On Monday, he's expected to announce Geithner's appointment formally along with the rest of his economic policy team. The team is said to include former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers in a senior White House position (with the possibility that he would succeed Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke at the end of Bernanke's term). It also will include Peter R. Orszag as Budget Director.

All three men are experienced economic hands, veterans of high office in the Clinton years, and close to Clinton financial guru Robert Rubin. Geithner is especially well positioned to begin work right now on shaping the urgent Treasury policies that will affect the nation for a long time to come. In his role at the New York Fed, he's already one of the three key officials (along with Treasury Secretary Paulsen and Bernanke) charting emergency federal actions.

Obama has made clear that he will go big after Inauguration with huge stimulus initiatives aimed at averting a further meltdown and driving long-term growth. At the same time, he's eliminated any doubt that, at least in the critical economic sphere, he intends to govern responsibly -- from the center -- with the help of smart, pragmatic people.

Good for him.

November 22nd, 1963

It's been 45 years, but all of us old enough to remember that day's terrible events in Dealy Plaza in Dallas can testify that there are a lot of things worse than even a really bad economic crisis.

Well, that's good!

The [U.K.] Times Online reports on te latest success of U.S. Predator missile strikes inside Pakistani territory:

"The suspected British mastermind behind the 2006 al Qaeda plot to blow up 10 trans-Atlantic passenger jets with liquid explosives has been killed in a US missile strike, according to reports in Pakistan."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obama and Democrats need to step up

Fear and uncertainty abound on Wall Street and Main Street, as the stock markets plunged to new lows again today.

Barack Obama has understandably made clear that the U.S. has only one President at a time and he's not it until January 20th. But he and the Congressional Democrats may find the country and themselves in a much worse bind if they wait until January to assert leadership. Deep market and economic uncertainty is being compounded by the power vacuum in Washington. Bush has no power left beyond what he can exercise through a veto. And any successful Congressional majority must be, for now anyway, a bipartisan one. This reality was starkly illustrated today when Congress failed to decide what, if anything, to do about the Detroit Big Three (not incidentally, the markets were up on news of a possible bailout deal and plunged when none materialized).

Obama and his team can't make policy yet -- but they can take some steps that would provide some much-needed clarity and perhaps a little badly needed reassurance. Announcing the major players in his economic team would be a good start. Outlining some key plans that he has in mind for January couldn't hurt either, in particular by putting some numbers on the kind of stimulus package he'll recommend upon taking office.

At the same time, it should not be beyond Pelosi and Reid's capabilities to fashion some sort of stop-gap stimulus, with enough GOP votes to swing it, that could be rolled out before Christmas. Such a package would almost certainly be a modest one and would need Obama's blessing as a "down-payment" on a bigger move to come in January.

Time is not on our side. Obama and the Democrats must do something to fill the power vacuum and get things moving.

The Wall Street Journal makes a similar point today:

"One problem is that this is an especially bad time to have a Presidential transition. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has more or less announced that he's done making major policy calls, save for an emergency. He understandably -- if a little too loudly amid a panic -- wants to leave the field to the new Administration. Yet President-elect Barack Obama has seemed in no hurry to assemble an economic team, or perhaps he simply hasn't been able to settle on one. With nerves as taut as they are, picking an HHS Secretary before a Treasury chief is a rookie mistake."

UPDATE -- 11/21/08 -- It was reported this aftenoon that Obama will name New York Fed President Timothy F. Geithner to be Secretary of the Treasury and stocks promptly soared. And that's without a formal announcement of the appointment! Geithner is especially well positioned to begin influencing Treasury actions before the Inauguration Day. A good first step by the Obama team.

Depends on the meaning of the word "do"

The New York Times reported today that "Bill Clinton has agreed to all of the conditions sought by President-elect Barack Obama's transition team to eliminate potential conflicts of interest if Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes secretary of state..."

According to the Times, Mr. Clinton said, “I’ll do whatever they want [emphasis added].”

As I posted earlier, I think President Clinton is highly motivated to do whatever it takes to get his wife the job. Still, some cynics might start wondering about the meaning of the word, "do."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Better get some fiscal stimulus in place fast

"In another sign that the struggling economy continues to slow, consumer prices tumbled by a record amount in October, carried lower by skidding energy and transportation prices, raising the specter of deflation."
-- New York Times, 11/19/08

Yet, we still see altogether too many pols on TV worrying about about the deficit, the debt and balancing the budget. Didn't any of these guys take Econ 101?

With the Fed having nearly exhausted its monetary arsenal, the only way to jack up the economy before it crashes further is fiscal stimulus through federal deficit spending.

For 25 years, we've enjoyed a long period of expansion and low inflation with only occasional, not-so-bad recessions, relying almost entirely on the Fed to turn the heat up or down, as needed, through its control over the money supply. A whole generation of pols and regular folks have grown to maturity with the expectation that the Fed can take care of things and deficits are always to be avoided. You really knew this was true when, in the the 1990s, the Democrats adopted the formerly Republican habit of praising balanced budgets and going ga-ga over the surplus that was supposed to materialize.

Many of our today's Washington pols can't get their heads around the notion that spending for the sake of spending without finding the money to pay for it can at times be a good, even a necessary, thing. And many of them, Republicans and Democrats, may be afraid to embrace this idea publicly lest they lose the next election.

They'd better get over it fast. We may be running out of time.

Will Obama have Hillary's back?

As most reports point to the HRC nomination moving ahead, Thomas Friedman, writing in today's New York Times, raises an interesting question: will President Obama have Hillary's back? That is, will Secretary Clinton be -- and be perceived to be -- closely in synch with the President so that foreign officials with whom she treats will consider her word to be as good as the President's? Friedman points out that the most successful Secretaries of State in recent decades, such as Henry Kissinger and James Baker, enjoyed the kind of close relationship with their Presidents that lent them clear authority.

I noted in earlier posts that a major problem with Mrs. Clinton at State would be her ability, as a leading politician with a national political base and a global reputation to march to her own tune and create internal conflict for Obama. I take Freidman's point seriously, too. Other nations' leaders won't lomg put faith in what the Secretary says, if they are not convinced she speaks for the White House.

But Friedman presses the matter too far. A Secretary of State cannot be a cipher or a mere puppet regurgitating her master's words. Men like Kissinger and Baker (and one might add George Marshall, Dean Acheson and John Foster Dulles) were known to influence their Presidents. Their views carried great weight with the White House and their Cabinet colleagues. Foreign officials might have thought, if we can persuade Acheson/Kissinger/et al., he'll carry the day with his principal. And they would have been orrect, because these Secretaries had major influence in shaping US policies.

Which brings us back to whether Mrs. Clinton, the politician who plainly would wish to wield that kind of policy influence, will manage things so as to advance President Obama's agenda and avoid conflict. It's not a question to which there is an obvious answer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another view of election 2008

An interesting and instructive election 2008 map of results by county from Real Clear Politics.
It's easy to see how many of the blue and red counties would turn shades of purple (like this blog's iconic map at the right of the page), if the map were to distinguish between big, mid-sized and close wins. Not many counties were won by 20-point margins, and even then, one should keep in mind that 40% of the voters supported the county loser, not an inconsequential proportion.

"Joementum" is back

Despite a lot of angry ankle-chewing by the folks in the "netroots," the Senate Democratic caucus voted today to embrace Joe Lieberman as one of their own, letting him keep his principal committee chairmanship and a subcommittee chairmanship to boot. The vote (by secret ballot) was "overwhelming," according to Majority Leader Harry Reid (reportedly 42-13). Many of Senate's big gun Democrats spoke up for Joe, while (according to one report) only Vermont's Leahy and Sanders spoke against Joe.

No doubt, Reid and others were influenced to lay off Lieberman by President-elect Obama's clear message that he wanted unity, not vengeance. It would have been hard for Obama to meet one day with John McCain to stir up some aisle-crossing cooperation from Republicans, and the next, blithely ignore his party's visiting retribution on McCain's close chum.

In any event, Reid and company made the right choice. There are too many serious issues to take on in the next year or so without an instant reversion to bickering (that will come later, I'm sure). And it also shows that Reid can count to 60!

Hillary's the issue, not Bill

Over the past several days, most of the media have become obsessed with the notion that the only thing that stands in the way of Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of State -- and by implication at least, the only thing that should stand in the way -- is adequately "vetting" Bill Clinton's globetrotting business and philanthropic activities.

There is no question that if his wife is to be SoS, Bill Clinton will have to stop taking money from an assortment of foreign potentates and business interests and very likely cut back sharply on giving speeches abroad. International politics is a sensitive affair. Foreign governments understandably study our words and policies closely (just as we do theirs), and bad things can happen if they get confused about U.S. policies because of what the SoS's husband, a former President after all, says.

That said, I don't see why Bill Clinton would not agree to virtually any limitation on his future activities (although perhaps not as transparent disclosure of past activities as some would like), in order to see his wife become the nation's foreign minister and regain a shot at the Presidency. The Clinton's are now very wealthy; Bill can make millions in many ways; and it's clear that he wants to see Hillary in the White House.

The focus on Bill creates something of a phony issue -- and a distraction from a more serious one -- namely, that it may not be a great idea to have one of the nation's leading politicians, Hillary Clinton, at State. As I posted a few days ago, it's a recipe for conflict. That's why for most of the past century, Presidents have not looked to political leaders for Secretaries of State. The last time one did -- when Truman appointed Jimmy Byrnes in 1945 -- Truman soon came to regret it.

Here is a relevant summary of past Secretaries of State and their political ambitions.

Good grief!

WaPo's Howard Kurtz notes the media hype surrounding the coming of the Obama Presidency. Obama is going to have a tough time achieving any success in the face of great challenges, while winning some degree of confidence from the 46% of the American electorate who did not vote for him and keeping the support of another 5%-7% who might well have not voted for him were it not for the financial collapse. It's going to be impossible for him to live up to the hype.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Myths shattered

The Washington Post's very pro-Obama Chris Cillizza debunks five myths about the election. This one goes to the heart of what kind of government is in store:

3. Now that they control the White House and Congress, Democrats will usher in a new progressive era.
Not likely. At first glance, the numbers do look encouraging for proponents of a new New Deal era in government: Obama claimed at least 364 electoral votes and more than 52.5 percent of the overall popular vote, while Democrats now control at least 57 seats in the Senate and 255 in the House
But look more closely, and you see a heavy influx of moderate to conservative members in the incoming freshman Democratic class, particularly in the House. Of the 24 Republican-held districts that Democrats won in 2008, Kerry carried just three in 2004. Democratic victories on Nov. 4 included Alabama's 2nd district (where Kerry took 33 percent of the vote) and Idaho's at-large seat (where Kerry won just 30 percent). In fact, according to tabulations by National Journal's Richard E. Cohen, 81 House Democrats in the 111th Congress will represent districts that Bush carried in 2004.
The fact that roughly a third of the Democratic House majority sits in seats with Republican underpinnings (at least at the presidential level) is almost certain to keep a liberal dream agenda from moving through Congress. The first rule of politics is survival, and if these new arrivals to Washington want to stick around, they are likely to build centrist voting records between now and 2010.
Amen to that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Motown aid needs some Big Mo

Nancy Pelosi has put together a bailout bill for Detroit's Big Three, but a bailout by the lame duck Congress seems unlikely, as Republicans and conservatives assail the very idea as an offense to free market capitalism and "creative destruction," and many non-Republicans wonder whether the "rescues" will end before we're all broke. Something is going to have to happen to build new momentum behind any sizable aid package, if one is going to fly.

One of the better things about being a centrist is that you get to look at a problem like this as a practical matter without worrying that your ideological comrades will denounce you for an insufficiently zealous commitment to markets or a callous disregard for Michigan and Main Street, USA.

Sure, it is appalling that GM, Ford and Chrysler are looking for help from taxpayers after having screwed up so much, so often, for so long. Yes, it's troublesome that an auto bailout could lead other companies and industries to put their hands out, too. And no one can guarantee that federal money will bring a genuine renewal at The Not-So-Big Three.

Nonetheless, it is something that must be done. In the face of a potentially severe and prolonged recession, it would be foolhardy in the extreme to avert one's eyes, cross one's fingers, and hope that a bankruptcy at GM would not be all that bad. As Jonathan Cohn writes in The New Republic, taking into account the spillover effects on suppliers, dealers, communities, etc., a shutdown at GM alone could result in a loss of as many as two million jobs, a devastating blow to an already damanged economy.

Of course, a bailout will have to have some very tight strings attached -- perhaps on a scale we've never seen in this country before. The bailout process should be approached as if it were a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring, with a special federal official (chosen for his/her detachment and skill), much like a bankruptcy judge, given wide latitude to force the companies and their employees' unions to downsize, reshape cost structures, and focus on a return to profitable operations.

This is no time for partisan wrangling, preening for political credit or arguing about economic theories. While a bailout carries some risks, the failure to act may prove as catastrophic as anything that might have happened if the feds had not intervened in the financial markets.

Who remembers Jimmy Byrnes?

That was the first name I thought of when I first heard that Obama was considering Hillary for SoS. South Carolinian James F. Byrnes was the last Secretary of State whose prior claim to fame was primarily as a politician (other than Ed Muskie, who was an elder statesman when he took over State for the last eight months of the Carter administration after Cy Vance resigned in a huff). That was 1945-47! Since then, State has been the province of professional diplomats, academics, powerful White House aides, internationally well-connected lawyers, and a several seasoned generals.

Byrnes was a New Deal big shot who was widely thought (and thought himself) to be FDR's choice to replace Henry Wallace in the VP slot on the 1944 ticket, until FDR surprised everyone by picking Truman instead. In the interest of unity after Roosevelt's death, Truman made Byrnes Secretary of State -- a move he came to regret. Like Hillary, Byrne believed he was the one who should have been President and marched off to his own drummer, obliging Truman eventually to fire him.

So far, only Dick Morris has seen the parallel between Hillary and Jimmy Byrnes. His take is pretty entertaining.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Secretary of State Clinton?

NBC reports that the Obama team is considering the appointment of erstwhile rival Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, traditionally the premier cabinet post, although Treasury and Defense may be as or more important next year because of the economic mess and two wars.
Still, State is not chopped liver!

Don't get me wrong, Hillary is great. I voted for her in the New York primary. But try to remember the last time that State was held by a prominent politician, much less one who sought the Presidency and ran against the guy who won. It doesn't happen, Presidents are not keen on worrying whether his senior foreign policy maker is really on the same team and not working to polish her own image, the better to run for President again. Cabinet secretaries should be outstanding. They also should be people the President can replace without a fierce political backlash from the Cabinet member's political supporters.

Let's face it; Hillary would not be able to help herself. If Obama wants to be able to sleep nights, he'd be well advised to look elsewhere.

UPDATE 11/14/08 -- NBC's Andrea Mitchell and others say the Clinton appointment is a real possibility. On MSNBC, the prospect is more or less being celebrated as Obama's take on Lincoln's "team of rivals" cabinet, memorialized in Doris Kearns Goodwin's book of that name. It certainly would be a team of rivals.

In Lincoln's day, that made sense: first, because the Cabinet was a meaningful entity, the place for decision-making in a nation not yet comfortable with outsized Presidential power; and second, because the nation was literally breaking up and only the new Republican Party was unreservedly committed to preserving the union. Holding together the many political strands of the new party was crucial if Lincoln was to have any chance at all.

Today, there is no such thing as Cabinet government. Everyone expects the President to run things, and while the crises we face are challenging, the nation is not on the verge of being destroyed. That means President Obama will be calling the shots, and Cabinet secretaries will often meet with frustration as they labor to support him and fend off encroachments from other grandees. A politician who is a national figure and barely lost the nomination that Obama won will be tempted constantly to push her own agenda. Hillary's great, and the politics of appointing his principal rival (a woman at that) will make Obama look good for a while. Down the road, though, it augurs ill for an effective administration.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama learns an early lesson about diplomacy

During the campaign, Obama took a lot of flak for his stated willingness to meet promptly after taking office with some of America's toughest adversaries. While he later backed away from that stance, he may not have quite understood why it was a such a bad idea. Now, he's probably learning, as some conservatives have already knocked him over the misunderstanding that arose from his brief conversation with Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who called to congratulate him.

In the call, Kaczynski raised the issue that is uppermost in his mind these days -- the deal to base an American missile defense system in Poland. Shortly before the call, Russian President Medvedev had issued what can only be regarded as a threat designed to test Obama by saying that Russia would target the U.S. missile defenses if they were deployed. Whatever Obama actually said to Kaczynski, the latter told the press that the President-elect had affirmed the deal, and Obama felt obliged to contradict him publicly.

The lesson for Obama is this: whatever the President says or doesn't say to another head of state or government or a high-ranking foreign emissary in any conversation, however casually, is a big deal. His words can be taken to commit the United States to a particular policy or to herald a policy change. He can be misunderstood, even when he believes he is being utterly clear. He can appear to others to be acting weakly or defensively -- the potential problem Republicans have dwelt on for a year. Or he can seem to be overly aggressive, rough or arrogant, even when he believes his words and manner are accomodating. And political, cultural and language differences can magnify the difficulties.

One of America's greatest diplomats, Dean Acheson, observed in his memoir, Present at the Creation, that nothing gave him greater anxiety than the prospect of the President meeting face to face with foreign leaders, whether friendly or not, despite his enormous respect and affection for Harry Truman. Whatever understandings ministers like Acheson might reach could always be modified or even repudiated by the President, but the President spoke for the nation, and his word was final. Misunderstandings at lower levels could always be worked out, but at the "summit," the nation would be stuck with the consequences. That's why successful diplomacy depends so often on the meticulous construction and refinement of language through a process that works its way up to a final approval by the President and his counterparts.

Poland is an important ally of the U.S., particularly with respect to the future of NATO and the West's relationship with Russia. Two months before his inauguration, as a result of some sort of misstep and despite his obvious caution, Obama has managed to embarass or perhaps anger Poland's president. I'm sure he has learned this lesson.

Democrats' agenda: fairness and unfairness

As Democrats in the House and Senate plan what to do when reinforcements arrive in January with a new Democratic President, they are mainly focused on the economy. But at least two non-economic items appear to be high on their wish list -- "card check" for unions and a return to the "fairness doctrine" in TV and radio broadcasting.

Fairness: Conservatives fret a lot about card check, charging that without the currently required secret ballot to authorize a union bargaining agent in a workplace, employees won't be able to resist union bullies or peer pressure. It would unfair and undemocratic to strip Americans of their precious right to vote in secret, they argue.

The trouble is that the current set-up makes it close to impossible to organize a union in the workplaces that most need one -- and damn hard anywhere else. After a union has spent a huge amount of time and effort to sign up enough workers to trigger an NLRB-supervised election, everything usually grinds to a halt, as employers bombard the union with charges of "unfair labor practices," each of which has to be disposed of through a complex process. Of course, the union can and usually does levy unfair labor practice charges, too, in a tit for tat effort to gain an edge.

If and when the NLRB election is finally set so those secret ballots can be cast, the employer typically runs a hard-sell campaign. This often means offering incentives -- positive changes designed to undermine the union's support. It has often also meant some pretty heavy-handed stuff designed to intimidate employees.

This process can take so long that the entire workforce turns over, as employees leave and new people are hired, so that the union has to keep seeking support from new arrivals. In the kind of dreadful workplace in dire need of a union -- like one of those meat processing factories that employ mostly Latino workers -- the turnover of mostly unskilled people can be constant.

Card check is not going to reverse the ongoing decline in union membership, but it will make it possible to introduce some fairness into places badly in need of some.

Unfairness: For reasons that escape me, many otherwise sensible Democrats are determined to reinstitute the so-called "fairness doctrine" in broadcasting, the principal result of which would be to force radio stations to drop opinionated talk shows, which are overwhelmingly conservative.

I guess Rush Limbaugh drives them to distraction. In any case, every effort to launch successful liberal talks shows (like Air America) have bombed. So the answer seems to be to knock the right off the radio.

This is a really stupid idea. It's easy for the right to characterize this as an attack on free speech -- because it is.

The fairness doctrine (which required a broadcaster to offer a balance of views, if any opinions were aired) made some sense when the ownership of a franchise to use the publicly owned airwaves conferred near-monopoly control over the single most powerful way to reach millions. That ended with the advent of universal cable TV access. More recently, we've seen the birth of satellite radio as a commercially viable communications alternative. Perhaps most significantly, the Internet now offers an entirely new competing vehicle, one that many think played a decisive role in this year's national election.

With a wide array of alternatives, there is no longer any communications monopoly to control with the tight content restrictions of the old fairness doctrine. If the Democrats move to restore the doctrine, conservative talk hosts will raise holy cain about a heavy-handed attempt to shut them up. Most Americans likely will agree that if it's not suppression of free speech, it's certainly unfair.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Without Gitmo, we'll need...another Gitmo!

(Hat tip: Donklephant)

It looks as if the Obama team is seeking a way to take a bow for closing Gitmo while shifting the problem of how to detain guys we can't let go and can' try in a federal court (without spilling countless intelligence sources and methods)to some new, yet-to-be-fashioned forum:

AP, November 10: WASHINGTON – President-elect Obama's advisers are crafting plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and prosecute terrorism suspects in the U.S., a plan that the Bush administration said Monday was easier said than done. Under the plan being crafted inside Obama's camp, some detainees would be released and others would be charged in U.S. courts, where they would receive constitutional rights and open trials. But, underscoring the difficult decisions Obama must make to fulfill his pledge of shutting down Guantanamo, the plan could require the creation of a new legal system to handle the classified information inherent in some of the most sensitive cases.

These guys were not captured by cops who gathered evidence to convict them. They were captured by the smart use of intelligence assets with the goal of shutting them down to protect the US from more attacks.

In 2001-02, there was no chance that we could have succeeded in doing this by sending the FBI out to Khandahar with warrants. Anyone who suggested that due process came before the nation’s safety then would have been derided -- rightly -- as a fool. Now we have the luxury to worry about due process — but only up to a point that will always fall short of that found in a federal court. No sane U.S. government is going to release Khalid Sheik Mohamed for lack of admissable evidence. Obama, et al. are going to find that if we did not have a Gitmo, we’d need to create one.

And that’s exactly what they appear to be doing.

Things looking up for Joe Lieberman?

The Huffington Post reports that "President-elect Barack Obama has informed party officials that he wants Joe Lieberman to continue caucusing with the Democrats in the 111th Congress."

Good for Obama, if it's true. He'll need every vote he can find to succeed with many items on his agenda -- and if he (and Harry Reid and company) can't "reach across" to Joe, a moderate, defense-minded Democrat, there will be little hope of any cross-partisan cooperation.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Historic turnout? Not!

It looks more and more like Barack Obama has been elected President by roughly the same electorate we had that last couple of times around. First, we learned a few days ago that turnout among young, new voters (18-29) was only a hair larger than in 2004. Now this, as reported by Politico:

"Despite widespread predictions of record turnout in this year’s presidential election, roughly the same portion of eligible voters cast ballots in 2008 as in 2004.Between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent of the 208.3 million eligible voters cast ballots this year, compared with 60.6 percent of those eligible in 2004, according to a voting analysis by American University political scientist Curtis Gans, an authority on voter turnout."

The upshot is that about 6.5 million more people were registered to vote this year, but the percentage who turned out stayed the same. It gets even better (or worse), as Gans suggests that the much-ballyhooed GOTV efforts "did not seem to make that big of a difference."

For example: "In Ohio, which has had aggressive GOTV campaigns in the past two presidential cycles, the number of voters appeared to decline from 5,722,443 in 2004 to 5,595,966 in 2008, according to the final but unofficial tally by the Ohio secretary of state."

As for all those people waiting in line for hours to vote three weeks ahead of election day, "Interestingly, Gans found that state efforts to make voting more convenient — for instance, through programs for early or mail-in voting — did not significantly boost turnout. Of the 14 states with the largest turnout increases, only six had so-called convenience voting initiatives, while in the 13 states with the greatest decline in voting, 12 had some form of convenience voting."

Of course, Obama did win the votes of 18 to 29 year olds by two to one, and a small increase in African-American voters was amplified by his 95%-plus plurality from that group. S till, the electoral landscape is a lot harder to change than some of the looser reporting about it would lead you to think.

Obama took the tax issue away from the GOP

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Pollster Scott Rasmussen drills down into his numbers to find that Obama took a page from Ronald Reagan's anti-tax pitch to win voters:

"Down the campaign homestretch, Mr. Obama's tax-cutting promise became his clearest policy position. Eventually he stole the tax issue from the Republicans. Heading into the election, 31% of voters thought that a President Obama would cut their taxes. Only 11% expected a tax cut from a McCain administration."

If so, McCain's effort via his focus on "Joe the Plumber" to paint Obama as a tax-raiser didn't work at least in part because the message that sank in was Obama's saying in every speech that he would cut taxes for 95% of all Americans. An amazing reversal on an issue on which Republicans have typically enjoyed an advantage.

Now, Obama has to deliver.

Obama Day?

Wow, this didn't take long. Seems some folks want a national holiday to celebrate Obama. Just as Obama opponents need to give the guy a break to see what he actually does in office, the cult worshippers need to get a life.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Purple America

Courtesy of Mark Newman at the University of Michigan, map shows how so much of America is neither blue nor red but many shades of purple.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"Rahmbo" -- a good choice

Seems that some Republicans are dissing Obama's choice of Rep. Rahm Emanuel as a sign that the new team will be hyperpartisan, putting a quick end to all that new politics talk.

Maybe so, but Rahmbo's tough, take no shit approach to politics and government -- combined with his wide knowledge of both, demonstrated skill, and strong ties to Congress -- also means that Obama understands that getting anything done from the left, right or center will be no mean feat.

Harry Truman made a keen observation about how our system of endowing one person with vast executive authority and surrounding him (or her) with huge self-sustaining bureaucracies really works when he said the President could tell subordinates to do this and that and a few days or weeks later learn they hadn't done either or even done the opposite.

Jimmy Carter never got this and the nation paid a high price for the bumbling around that happened on his watch. Much the same can be said about George W. Bush.

I'm hoping that Obama will choose to govern mostly as a centrist. Doing so will be all the harder with a large left-leaning Democratic claque in Congress. Some one will have to wield the whip. Who better than the former ballet dancer from Chicago.

Scrappy Joe Biden wrong about testing Obama

Joe Biden's biggest campaign goof (and that's saying something) was his telling a donor crowd that there would be a "generated international criris" to test Obama within six months of taking office. Not so, it turns out. The Russians are not giving him six months. They're testing him already, as Medvedev throws down a gauntlet in East Europe.

While it's certainly arguable whether the U.S. should push back hard against the Russians over Georgia, the U.S. and NATO must be firm in making it clear to Moscow that what Poland, The Czech Republic or any of the other liberated nations of East Europe choose to do about their defense is any longer Russia's business. Mark my words, as Biden might say, act irresolute in the face of this blunt challenge and Russia will take it as a cue to reassert control where it pleases.

We didn't spend 50 years and a gazillion dollars to face down the Soviets in Europe just to have the Russians come back without the red flags. Obama and team should speak up about this, even before they have formal power.

What about Joe?

Not the VP-Elect - the other one, Joe Lieberman. Over at Slate, John Dickerson suggests a few symbolic ways Obama can quickly demonstrate his new brand of politics, one of which is to "embrace John McCain." I'm all for that, but it would surely be seen as nothing but a symbolic gesture. Here's a better idea: embrace Joe Lieberman.

It's been reported that Harry Reid and Joe are meeting to "discuss Lieberman's fate" with numerous Democrats determined to strip Joe of his committee chairmanship. Of course, that would surely mean that Joe would caucus with the GOP.

It now seems likely that Democrats will hold 57 Senate seats, counting Joe, and 56 without him. (Either way, come 2012, if he wants to run again at the age of 72, Joe will probably win reelection.) So why would Reid and company want to guarantee that Joe will vote against them more often by forcing him across the aisle?

There will be many issues -- a sweeping new health care program comes to mind, along with tax cuts/increases, among many others -- on which getting a majority or, when needed, a filibuster-proof super-majority for President Obama's highest priorities won't be all that easy, even with a six vote partisan edge. This should be a no-brainer and would be were it not for the Democrats' left wing, which wants to punish Joe.

Of course, Reid might well make the smart choice by himself. But Obama could earn himself a bit of credit for bringing "new politics" to Washington by letting it be known that he'd look kindly on keeping Joe on the same side of the aisle, the better to reach across it.

[UPDATE -- As of November 13, the Democrats definitely have 57, counting Joe and look good to win in either Alaska or Minnesota or both, with the run-off in Georgia more likely to be a Republican keep. And Obama let it be known that he'd just as soon have Joe in the Democratic caucus. The guy can count.]

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

7 million votes

The latest national popular vote totals reported by CNN show Obama with 62,956,789, or 52% and Mccain with 55,764,193, or 46%.

A solid win but not the blowout that many expected and likely would have happened if the GOP had nominated anyone running this year other than John McCain. For a little perspective, George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis 53.4% to 45.6%, a slightly bigger margin. The true landslides of the past half century or so have been these:

1936 -- FDR 61% -- Landon 37%

1956 -- Ike 57% -- Stevenson 42%

1964 -- LBJ 61% -- Goldwater 39%

1972 -- Nixon 61%-- McGovern 38%

1984 -- Reagan 59%-- Mondale 41%

Notwithstanding the claims already being made on the left, Obama has not achieved much in the way of a big mandate, although he'll be under enormous pressure from the swollen, eager Democratic majorities on the Hill to act that way.

Meanwhile, some on the right have already started to make the argument that McCain lost by 7 million votes largely because he did not turn out as much of the GOP "base" as Bush did four years ago. This is nonsense, of course. Obama moved eight or nine "battleground" states from one column to the other, with narrow margins in several bigger states that were decisive. No doubt he was helped in some of these states by a larger African-American turnout and a big margin among new younger voters (although the youth turnout nationally was only a hair larger than it was in 2004). But in every case, Obama took swing voters that George W. Bush was able to hold in 2004 -- mainly because of the deluge of bad economic news that began in mid-September. Up to that point, McCain was doing nicely.

Obama wins historic election by capturing center

As this blog is launched, Barack Obama has just won the Presidency, a remarkable achievement for him and an history-making moment for America. He has been judged by tens of millions of Americans of every race and background on "the content of his character," in Dr. King's words, and found to be worthy of leading the nation at a time of crisis at home and multiple challenges abroad.

In his Grant Park speech, Obama struck the right note by saying he planned to be the President of all the people and by reaching out to those who did not give him their votes.

We all hope he will succeed in unifying the nation, but sadly, there are many reasons to wonder whether this will happen, given the fierce partisan brawling in Washington over many years and the increasingly ideological tone of media reportage and commentary of both the right and the left. As if to set the stage for the next round in this ongoing brawl, states where the two candidates were separated by a few percent -- or less -- are deemed "red" or "blue."

What this election has demonstrated once again, however, is that Americans continue to defy all efforts to stamp them with one or the other color. They prefer to blend the two, now tilting a bit toward the red end of the spectrum, now tilting back a bit toward the blue.

Obama's victory margin at this writing is about 51-47, not much different from George W. Bush's in 2004. A switch of 1% or so of the votes in a handful of the "purple" swing states would have made John McCain our next President. Obama campaigned mainly as a moderate, someone who would transcend the "old politics," "reach across the aisle," and attack such problems as the cost of energy, the financial collapse and the emerging recession pragmatically. It worked; he won the center; and he'll be moving into the White House in January.

We are largely a centrist nation, albeit we have a very vocal and well organized left and right. The center is not a place filled with drama or excitement, but it's the place where most Americans find the most comfort. George W. Bush's greatest failure was his unwillingness to recognize this fundamental fact about our politics and govern accordingly. We should hope that President Obama understands and remembers that his victory was not one of left over right or "blue" over "red" but a bet by this mostly "purple" nation that we can trust him to lead us for the next four years.

The pressures on him to do otherwise from the left of his own party will be enormous. If he makes the same mistake as President Bush, we're in for another four or eight years of incessant partisan combat. Let's hope he's wiser.