Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category

The Audacity to Win

I’m about halfway through David Plouffe’s new book The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory, and I’m so jump-up-and-down excited about it that I have to share.

The book has me reliving my own experience volunteering with the Obama campaign. I am enjoying comparing my experiences with the campaign’s strategy and the perspective of volunteers in other states.

I’m about as far into the book as the Texas-Ohio primary date, and having the voice of David Plouffe in the year and a half up to that point is already remarkable. (The Obama campaign started its revolutionary grassroots efforts early in 2007, so there’s quite a bit of story up to this point.) What is actually most striking to me is how much of the book’s details are already familiar, because the Obama campaign staff made a habit of frequent contact to its volunteers with no sugar-coating. Both the overall strategy and the moment-by-moment tactics of the Obama campaign were shared with volunteers around the nation, and big news from the campaign was told to volunteers first.

Ordinary people getting up off their couches and getting organized were the driving force of the Obama campaign. In fact, so many Obama voters and volunteers were completely new to the process. The typical story of primaries beyond the first handful was that the campaign staff would land in the next state(s) to find an already-running, self-organized group of volunteers who got together on As far as I know, this is totally new and unique in American politics, partly due to the available technology and partly due to the unorthodox campaign strategy of giving volunteers a great deal of flexibility and autonomy. Fired up, ready to go!

I believe that we should remember, especially these days with the teabaggers having a field day in the media, that Obama was the outside candidate, the no-more-politics-as-usual candidate, the non-establishment candidate; Hillary Clinton was the Democratic Party establishment candidate. Obama’s core strategy required bringing new voters into the primary process, and he was very successful at that. Obama wanted to change the tone, and he did. Change we can believe in.

Now, with a health care bill finally on the Senate floor for debate, we are only a couple of months away from enacting a major Obama campaign promise — a pillar of his domestic policy — roughly a year into his first term. Yes we can!

Obama has the audacity to hope and to win, and also to do what the voters sent him there to do.

The President of Peace?

A lot of people (even Glenn Greenwald) are scratching their heads this morning about the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to President Obama. I can’t say I blame them.

That’s the thing about peace — it’s harder than war to call attention to. “World at peace” doesn’t make a good 5:00 news story in today’s media climate. A lot of the work President Obama has been doing with world leaders to change the political climate doesn’t show up on TV.

On the other hand, some of his work toward peace has been quite noticeable, like addressing the Arab world on TV or talking to Iran in language other than shouting or taking very real steps to reduce the world’s nuclear stockpile.

What’s interesting to me about the awarding of the Peace Prize to President Obama is that it’s not just a recognition of a change in tone, but a message that says “the world wants peace, and we’re watching.” Giving the award early in Obama’s Presidency is a way of reminding the President about the ramifications of the critical decisions he is now in the process of making, especially re: Afghanistan.

If you interpret the Peace Prize strictly as a recognition of accomplishments, then I agree that it’s premature to award it to the President. If, however, you allow the interpretation that the award is a recognition of not only accomplishments but potential accomplishments given at a critical decision-making time to promote peace, then I think the award makes sense.

The Nobel Peace Prize is a not-so-subtle reminder from the rest of the world to President Obama to do the right thing.

Obama at Notre Dame: Time Out for Method

President Obama gave an amazing speech to the Notre Dame class of 2009 on Sunday.

Part 1: (shown above)
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:

(or read an AP transcript of Obama’s Notre Dame speech)

The Pro Life crowd was set to make a spectacle out of Obama’s appearance at Notre Dame, as though inviting someone to speak implies agreement on every issue. Throughout last week, one could smell the happiness of right-wing pundits in the air as they rubbed their hands together and said something like, “Aha! Now we’ve got you! We’ll show what a horrible pro choice monster you are and watch you squirm under the spotlight!”

But, as is usually the case when Obama’s critics attack his position on a divisive issue, the President was able to elevate the discussion:

Because when we … open up our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe — that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.

That’s when we begin to say, “Maybe we won’t agree on abortion, but we can still agree that this heart-wrenching decision for any woman is not made casually, it has both moral and spiritual dimensions.”

So let us work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, let’s reduce unintended pregnancies. Let’s make adoption more available. Let’s provide care and support for women who do carry their children to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science, but also in clear ethics, as well as respect for the equality of women.” Those are things we can do.

And the crowd went wild.

President Obama understands that real, meaningful debate cannot happen if two sides merely state their views and call the other side names. We cannot make caricatures of each other, he said. “Open hearts. Open minds. Fair-minded words,” he said. President Obama is reminding us of the method of debate and discovery that will get us somewhere useful. Citing the Eisenhower civil rights commission, he reminded us that — even when we disagree passionately — we can find common ground on which to build.

By contrast, the method of choice for far-right pundits involves shouting at us while the planet burns because we can’t make any progress on the big problems before us (the economy, energy, health care, climate change, you name it). All that matters is that they’ve got THE TRUTH, and by golly they will hammer you with THE TRUTH until you also get THE TRUTH. When was the last time that you heard a Limbaugh or a Hannity or an O’Reilly change their mind when presented with new evidence? Or try to understand the reasoning and beliefs of the other side? Or see a way to make progress that satisfies all sides of an issue?

Thank goodness we have a President who can march directly into the debate of an issue as divisive as abortion and show us a better method for having the discussion.

100 Days!

Since FDR started the concept, a President’s first 100 days have been an important early measure of success. History will be kind to Obama’s first 100 days — not since FDR has so much 100-days progress been made.

In recent history, Democrats often have done things that obviously should have been done already — like when congressional Dems finally raised the minimum wage in early 2007. President Obama has his fair share of why-haven’t-we-done-this-yets: the equal pay act, closing gitmo, and easing travel restrictions to Cuba come to mind. He has also started on the great challenges of our time: fixing our broken economy, creating a health care system that works, and moving us toward renewable energy and sustainability.

Also, President Obama has renewed the promise of American diplomacy in the world, where the US is an ally in solving global problems rather than a unilateral bully. His presence at the G20 summit, European tour, Mideast tour, and the Summit of the Americas marks an end to cowboy diplomacy and a return to pragmatism and partnership.

We can also see the seriousness that the Obama administration gives to transparency. They don’t have a perfect record so far (way better than the last guys, though!), but they have made great strides nonetheless. The first ever online Presidential town hall meeting happened in the first 100 days. The white house and other federal websites have been overhauled to be more accessible and interactive. The president’s weekly youtube addresses continue. And, he has appeared in public (TV, town halls) as much or more than any president in recent memory.

The jury is still out on some important issues, but, along with most Americans (the most since Reagan, and he had the “I just got shot” popularity boost), I remain pleased with our President’s 100 days of progress.

Don’t forget: big party tonight at Murphy’s Pub at 35th and Slide starting at 7:00pm to celebrate the successes of President Obama’s first 100 days!

More 100 days goodness:

White House Photostream on Flickr

White House First 100 Days Blog

State-Specific Recovery Benefits Launches

I’m seriously geeking out over the newly-launched website, both for historical-political reasons and for web design reasons. It’s a beautiful website with video, interactive charts, drag-able timeline, blog, contact form, and all sorts of goodies. It’s like someone turned on the light after being in the dark for eight years.

I mean, look at this gorgeousness:

I feel the same way I do when a movie I’ve been wanting to see finally arrives in theaters, or when a band I like is going to play a show in town.

If reform can be a pop culture phenomenon, then it’s this.

American Exceptionalism

What a provocative term.

I couldn’t help but notice it touted at that other political blog hosted at

It’s also a term with a long history — as usual, Wikipedia is a good place to start. We’ve come a long way from de Tocqueville.

In its current meaning, American Exceptionalism is the cornerstone of neoconservative foreign policy, which basically goes like this: “We are the only superpower in the world. We have God on our side. We can do whatever we want.”

I’ve also heard American Exceptionalism referred to as the unipolar worldview (as opposed to the multipolar worldview), which is a term that makes more sense to me because it suggests the history of where we got this crazy notion that we can go it alone in the world. The Cold War worldview was that of two superpowers facing off across the Atlantic and in smaller, hotter proxy conflicts around the world. When the other superpower collapsed, what else could the world be except a unipolar world where the USA is the sole surviving superpower?

So neat, so simple, so wrongheaded.

Firstly, with so many nations in the nuclear club with us, I don’t think our military strength is a guarantee that we will come out on top in a conflict with another first-world nation. And even if we are dominant militarily, how long before someone catches up, and do we have the moral authority to act unilaterally in the meantime?

Secondly, it makes us arrogant, which makes us foolish. I am convinced that the neoconservative think tanks that brought us such wisdom as “we can wrap up Iraq within a year,” and, “we will be greeted as liberators,” were operating from the comfortable overconfidence of American Exceptionalism, or the unipolar model.

Thirdly, it makes us blind to innovation elsewhere in the world. The Bush years will be remembered for falling behind the world in every kind of good statistic, in policy based on science, and in providing a high quality of life. We are all too eager to export some aspects of our culture and commerce, but we need to remember that it is our melting pot of cultures and ideas from around the world that makes America great.

I hope that the Obama administration helps us become a nation that is a partner in the world, not a bully in the world. Signs are already positive: Obama’s first interview as President is with a middle east TV network, and his special envoy George Mitchell is on his way to the middle east as well. Peace in that region will be difficult, but at least the Obama Administration is off to an energetic and meaningful start.

Inauguration Size and Cost

There’s a little white lie going through the right-wing media outlets, especially FOX, Drudge, and Newsmax. I want to do my part to make sure it doesn’t stick.

Barak Obama’s inauguration is NOT 3-4 times more expensive than GWB’s second inauguration — they actually cost about the same.

What happened is that the widely touted $160 million cost for the Obama inauguration includes the cost of security, while the $42 million cost for GWB’s second inauguration does not:

In other words, it’s the unsubstantiated Obama cost of $160 million (inauguration + security) compared with the Bush cost of 42 million (inauguration, excluding security). Those are two completely different calculations being compared side-by-side, by Fox & Friends, among others, to support the phony claim that Obama’s inauguration is $100 million more expensive than Bush’s.


However, buried in a recent New York Times article published one week before the controversy erupted over the cost of Obama’s inauguration, the newspaper reported that in 2005, “the federal government and the District of Columbia spent a combined $115.5 million, most of it for security, the swearing-in ceremony, cleanup and for a holiday for federal workers” [emphasis added].

You read that correctly. The federal government spent $115 million dollars for the 2005 inauguration. Keep in mind, that $115 million price tag was separate from the money Bush backers bundled to put on the inauguration festivities. For that, they raised $42 million. So the bottom line for Bush’s 2005 inauguration, including the cost of security? That’s right, $157 million.

So, the next time that someone points to Obama’s inauguration as a sign of “liberal excess” or other such malarkey, you can tell them what for.

On the home front, we packed the place at the Civic Center Ballroom last night for the Inaugural Ball put on by the Lubbock Juneteenth Committee. Over 600 attended, and we had a great time.

Local coverage of the Lubbock Inaugural Ball:

Words of Hope and Inspiration: Service

I still have a warm fuzzy feeling from watching Obama’s Inauguration speech this morning. Thank goodness we now have a leader who can move the people to their better natures — that’s what it will take to get through difficult times ahead and heal the wounds from the last eight years. President Obama has already started this appeal with his call to a “day of service” on MLK day.

Here’s an example that expands the idea of service from his speech:

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

It is the spirit of service that hauled us out of the Great Depression, and it will be our greatest strength now as well.

Is there a part of Obama’s speech that resonated particularly well with you? Tell us about it.

(You can read the full text of Obama’s Inauguration speech here. And be sure to check out the A-J’s inauguration blog, which features a tag cloud of Obama’s speech.)

What Are Your Inauguration Day Plans?

Inauguration Day is finally here! Eight nightmare years of Bush are ending and we have a chance to turn our country in a positive direction.

It’s time to cut loose!

So, how will you celebrate? There’s a great email going around about ringing a bell on Inauguration Day. I think I will do that while I am at the Lubbock Juneteenth Committee’s Inaugural Ball tonight:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Civic Center Ballroom
7:00 PM - 11:00 PM
Cash Bar - beginning at 6:00 PM
Attire - Formal/After Five
Tickets Available at Democratic Headquarters:
2809 74th Street from 1:00-5:00 PM, M-F
$25/person - $40/couple

edit: Democratic HQ may be closed today for renovations. Tickets are also available at Caviels Pharmacy, Kings Cash and First Class Tuxedos. (Thanks, apopheniac!)

Other than that I will try to catch the actual swearing-in ceremony on TV or online.

What about you?

Meet Obama’s People

The New York Times Magazine has a great photo gallery of 52 of Obama’s People, including most of his White House staff along with prominent political allies in the House and Senate. The whole thing is worth a look and gives a very “West Wing” feeling.

Here are some of my favorites among the lesser-known staffers…


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