President-Elect Arrives in DC and the Bubbling Craziness in Town

I work in downtown DC, about four blocks from the White House.   With President-elect Obama coming into town to meet with President Bush, I decided to go down and be a part of the arrival. As I started my trek down to the White House and it occurred to me that I didn’t know where Obama would arrive.  He could arrive on the South Lawn, typically where the Helicopter lands for the President, as well as an entrance for a motorcade.  The other potential was for him to arrive on the North side on Pennsylvania Avenue, where most of the motorcades come in when they arrive at the White House.

I figured, since he wasn’t going to arrive by ‘copter, I’d try the north side.  Obama’s meeting with Bush was set for 2:20, and figured if I got there by 1:45 I’d have plenty of time to watch him arrive.  When I got to the North Gate, there was a crowd starting to form.  Part of me knew right away this was probably the wrong side since they typically back people off the fence when a motorcade arrives.   But, since there were so many people there and a lot of security, I figured they were just letting folks get a little closer.

It’s amazing, six days out from the election and the electricity is still going strong.  Everyone was abuzz about the arrival of President-elect Obama.  There were dozens of news reporters milling about and talking to the crowd.  Right inside the gate, along the driveway, CNN and all the other crews had their cameras and journalists setup.  This was for a short meeting!  I stood next to a British woman who was talking to some folks from Maine.  The British woman was staying in Virginia with some relatives and excused herself for the chance to catch a glimpse of the President.  The guys from Maine made a detour to be in DC to happen upon this scene.  The Brit was talking about how the UK was awake early in the morning watching the returns.  Everyone seemed to be as excited over there, as they were here.  She claims the media was 100% behind Obama.  If there was any McCain support, it was non-existent.  At the White House ,there were a lot of other folks there – business people, families, and a lot of tourists.  No one knew what to expect, but they all hoped they could be a part of history.

Right around 2:00pm the Secret Service arrived on the roof of the White House, as they do when things are happening.  No sign of the President-elect.  A couple of minutes later the roar of sirens could be heard in the distance.  Quickly they subsided.  In DC, it’s typical to here the sirens come and go and sound far away, so I didn’t pay attention to them.  Shortly thereafter, a man who was talking to his wife on the phone and she said that the Obama had arrived on the South Lawn (rats!).  I checked my trusty PDA and, sure enough, CNN was reporting that Obama had arrived.

I quickly took off and walked to the other side of the White House.  The Secret Service didn’t let you get close enough to even see the Rose Garden, as you typically can see from the south side.  Bystanders and reporters confirmed that a motorcade had passed, but no one was sure if Obama was in the motorcade.  The Secret Service did a great job of confusing reporters and bystanders a like.

With that, slightly disappointed, I headed back to the office.

If anyone is wondering what DC is like right now – it’s getting slightly crazy.  There are peddlers selling newspapers from the day after the election from the standard price ($1.50) all the way up to $50 (not joking, I had one guy ask me to pay that much).  A lot of the street corners have stands selling Obama hats, t-shirts, posters, towels, sweat shirts, jackets, stickers, and anything else you can imagine.  I presume it’s only going to pick-up as the Inauguration gets closer.  I cannot imagine for one second that McCain’s arrival would have created the same buzz and gathering of people.  Nor would it have resulted in the sales of merchandise, as Obama’s election has resulted.

Inauguration tickets (keep in mind they are free) are selling upwards of $40K according to Rachael Maddow.  There is definitely a little more energy in the city right now – you can really feel it.  This truly is an extraordinary time. 

Here are some low quality pictures from my PDA phone, while waiting for Obama

 

Media on top of the hotel across from the White House

Media on top of the hotel across from the White House

Secret Service on the Roof of the White House waiting for Obama's arrival

Secret Service on the Roof of the White House waiting for Obama

 

Media inside the North Gate

Media inside the North Gate

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Obama’s First Press Conference Post Election

Obama’s first Press Conference was very interesting.  First, he seemed a little tight and off his game. As a man who has campaigned for the last 22 months and was quick with the answers, his responses to day were a little ‘tight’ and ‘off key’ at times.  Part of this can be attributed to a whole new line of questions and appropriate responses.  His mind and game has been so melded into campaign mode, he ability to quickly and off the cuff respond to questions was a little pressed.   I have no doubt once he gets his feet under him he’s going to be eloquent, on the mark, and honest with his answers. I thought he did have a little trouble breaking the shackles of campaigning and assuming the President’s role.  He probably said ‘middle-class’ way too much and tried to hard to be politically correct in his answers, particularly about tax increases for the wealthy.

He did say a few things in the presser that were either reassuring or provided insight into how he’ll tackle priorities early in his administration. He first made it abundantly clear that President Bush is in charge and  that the Nation speaks with one voice.  I believe he also made it clear that he’d stay in touch with the President (and vice-versa) as required.  Obama is going to push hard for a stimulus package to be developed and he’ll work with President Bush to get it passed.  However, there won’t be much compromise – as President-Elect Obama said he’ll pass one after his Inauguration. 

On foreign policy, his answers were on slightly less stable ground.  With regard to the congratulations he received from Iran and potential ramp-up of discussions with the Middle Eastern nation, he was non-committal.  Realizing now that he talks from somewhat of a bully-pulpit, his words were measured.  His security team would need to meet and discuss how to respond to Iran on the congratulations letter, as well as whether it was appropriate to begin discussions after 20 January.  He did make it clear that the U.S. will not tolerate a nuclear Iran.  Candy Crowly, a veteran CNN journalist, asked him if anything in his daily CIA security briefings caused him any concern beyond what he already knew. It’s appropriate to not want to discsuss the topic, but Obama’s response was a little roundabout and not reassuring.

It’s obvious that this President is intent on building a relationship with the press and trying to be candid, as much as he can, when anwering the questions.  It’s only two days in, but he was reassuring that his campaign message will resonate through his administration. He continues to recognize the mind boggling challenges of the office and is very reassuring in stating he’s taking the time to make the right Cabinet appointments.  Regardless of whether he was ‘smooth’ or not, he certainly has a better grasp on issues than our current president and appears to already be engaging at a level that President Bush never considered.  Finally, I thought there was a key moment when he said he’d rely on his economic team to craft the best policy to get this nation moving forward again.  This is a man that realizes he is an executive and to utilize ‘good’ people to develop the policy that will help him lead this country in the direction he believes is right.

Obama/Biden Keep the Campaign Mojo Working

In an example of the ‘change’ coming, President-Elect Obama’s newest innovation is the Official Transition Website.

Two days post-election and Obama and his team have already put up a website.  As usual, Obama is following the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared”.  No doubt the planning for this website began well before the General Election two days ago.  But, as much as it says about his preparation, it says a lot about how this administration will be different from President Bush’s.

The first thing you start to notice as a difference between Obama and Bush is the transparency of the incoming administration.  He is encouraging information sharing and input from the people who he is representing.  This is a far cry from the clandestine operations, in all facets, of the Bush Administration.

It also is an example that he will continue to use the power of the Internet to transform the Oval Office into an online virtual Oval Office.  In no small part, his success while building his grassroots effort and ongoing campaigning was due to his reliance on technology, particularly the internet.  The possibilities of how the Administration can go beyond a web page will be explored by the Obama team.  MSNBC (I believe) had a discussion about the supporter database that Obama has at his disposal.  Don’t discount the fact that this President will reach out individually (email, text message), beyond print, radio, and television, to personally touch citizens and help him push forward on his agenda, as well as explaining his positions.

This website also provides insight as to how he views the American people.  Whereas President Bush had no particular allegiance to his constituency, Obama is proving that his administration understands the honor and responsibility that the American people have put in front of him.  Using terms on his website such as “Your Administration” and a request for input entitled “It’s Your America, Share Your Ideas”  – shows that commitment.  Additionally, he knows that being a citizen is a responsibility to each of us too.  From his website:

The Obama Administration will call on Americans to serve in order to meet the nation’s challenges. President-Elect Obama will expand national service programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and will create a new Classroom Corps to help teachers in underserved schools, as well as a new Health Corps, Clean Energy Corps, and Veterans Corps. Obama will call on citizens of all ages to serve America, by developing a plan to require 50 hours of community service in middle school and high school and 100 hours of community service in college every year. Obama will encourage retiring Americans to serve by improving programs available for individuals over age 55, while at the same time promoting youth programs such as Youth Build and Head Start.

 

Sound like John Kennedy?

This is a man who ‘gets it’.  While the idea of the first African-American President is powerful and gives hope that this country has moved forward or his Kennedy/Reagan-esque speeches can rally the American people, it is this demonstration of understanding and humble attitude that truly will be the lasting image Obama will leave on this country.  This man is special and he has come at a special time. 

The power of the presidency is awesome and the potential for corruption is great.  His limited time in Washington may affect his ability to stay focused.  But if he continues to engage the American people and surrounds himself with a mix of experienced Washington insiders (Rahm Emanuel) and outsiders (David Axelrod), he can stay true to his message.  I believe this is a President that, to his core, believes and cares about the American people and the opportunities this country presents.  This is a man who was a community organizer and went to get a law degree. Not to make himself rich, but to improve his ability to affect change.  This is a man who talks with such passion about the hope and future of this country, he cannot not be disingenuous.

Is Africa a Country?

I am not going to go down this road too much, there are tons of articles coming out about Sarah Palin and John McCain, but this one was a doozy that I just had to pass on.  I promise, I’ll stay positive after this.  But for those who want one more Sarah Palin data point, keep this in mind for 2012.  Let’s roll the video:

One Last Time For fun – My 13 September Prediction

This is the article I wrote on September 13th. I am highlighting (red and in bold) the accurate portions of the text. Keep in mind this when Palin was still climbing in popularity, McCain was ahead in the polls and the debates were two weeks away.  I keep bring this articule up because I am proud at how accurate it was.  The ‘one critical gaffe’ was supposed to be more symbolic than anything else – and in a way it was demonstrating her gaffes.  I was really only off on how the debates turned out.  Oh, at the end, discussing the economic situation. We didn’t have .1% growth, we had contraction – I guess I was optimistic.

November 5, 2008 – Washington, D.C.:

Barack Obama awoke this morning as President-Elect, after an evening that was less dramatic than one would have predicted two months ago.  With the returns in from California, Obama was declared the winner by all networks at midnight.  He swept through the Country with wins in states that have gone to the GOP the last two elections, including Ohio, Colorado, and Nevada.

The Turning Point

President-elect Obama’s win was less than assured after McCain had introduced Governor Palin as his running mate and a strong GOP convention in St. Paul back in September.  Governor Palin had taken a candidacy that was uninspired and wallowing well behind Obama and energized it.  The excitement, charisma and energy she brought to the campaign gave Senator McCain a much needed boost.  Coming out of the convention, Democrats were scrambling and pointing fingers at Obama, party faithful were heard muttering, ‘not again’, as the polls started to show McCain take a lead.

During most of September, McCain’s ‘maverick’ choice seemed to have hit the Hail Mary the candidate was hoping.  The Country and the media couldn’t get enough of her and she seemed to give McCain the boost he needed and a turning point that seemed to difficult for Obama to return.

As her star was rising, as was McCain’s fortunes, Obama didn’t take a knee-jerk reaction to events.  Similar to his approach during the primaries, he assessed and then re-engaged.  ”We had watched the mistakes of Kerry and Gore and were determined to take the time prior to responding to her presence and Senator McCain’s attacks.” Obama said early this morning.  The response?  Stay strong to the message, let the McCain/Palin ticket shoot themselves, and respond vigorously to ‘propaganda’ – but do not get in the mud with them.

As unpredictable as Sarah Palin’s rise was during the Convention and shortly thereafter, her fall was as much unexpected by pundits and media.  Looking back, she strengthened the base and did get evangelicals to the polls.  That, it now seems, was what provided the boost to the polling in September.  As the independents began to formalize their selection, Obama’s message began to resonate.

Except for one critical gaff when she stated that North Korea did not have the technology to enrich plutonium, she remained relatively steady and did hurt the campaign as many Democrats were hoping.  She did, however, continue to overshadow McCain and a,t times, it appeared she was running for President.

Obama’s tactic to stay on message worked.  ”We knew it was about the economy, stupid.  Too many Americans suffered too long and while they may have been tempted by Palin, when they looked into her record they realized she brought nothing more to the table than what John McCain had been preaching.” said Obama.  And in fact, that will be a big criticism of the McCain campaign – too long and too strong on attacks.  ”They forgot that while those tactics have worked in the past for Bush, he at least had policies to put in front of the American people.  McCain never gave the American people a plan and you can’t do that coming off of eight years of the same party and make the claim you are the agent of change.  Eventually people figured out it didn’t add up.” according to Paul Begala, Democratic Strategist.

It appears now that the best thing that could have happened to Obama, was Sarah Palin.  Not in as much as it forced the Democrats to not take the election for granted, but it blinded the media and particularly the McCain campaign.  Like a drug, it worked well early on to give the campaign a boost, but the more she was relied on to fixes the campaign’s problems; the more it hid the real issues facing the ticket.

McCain started realizing there was a problem late in September and started to develop a message.  During the debates, particularly the Town Hall, McCain began to articulate his message.  He won that debate after both him and Obama muddled through a draw in the first debate.  In the vice-presidential debate, Palin was able to hold her own with Senator Biden which was considered a win for her.  However, it had very little real impact in the polls.  Pundits believed this was a result of Obama and McCain taking control again during the debates and the voters recognizing they needed to watch the top of the ticket.

A Time for Change

President-elect Obama has a tough road ahead.  The latest unemployment numbers are highest they have been since 1980 and the economy has grown at an anemic .1% over the last quarter.  The time for change has come and the new President needs to get off to a quick start.  Already there is talk about cabinet positions – including Hillary Clinton as Secretary of Health and Human Services and discussions about bringing Collin Powell back to the State Department.

Wow

I am absolutely excited about the outcome of this election.  As a Democrat, I never ever let myself believe it would actually occur and what it would mean.  At 9:30 last night, I knew he had won – there simply wasn’t sufficient votes available to put McCain over the top.  It was nice to have the Champagne ready at 10:58pm, because you knew with the announcement of Californiat at 11:00, the race was over.

In the end, I was a bit surprised at how quickly this election ended, but it wasn’t unexpected.  There was even talk, prior to the election, that he could have had it called earlier if he had picked up North Carolina.  The Liberal Crab’s Poll of “Poll of Polls” was relatively accurate.  It predicted a 52% to 45% victory.  The actual election appears will finish at 52% to 46%.  The model predicted a 347 Electoral Vote margin for Obama, right now he’s at 349.  Although is total may got higher (and it looks like probably by 26).  However, my ‘gut’ projections were mixed.  I projected a 52% to 45% popular vote.  But my Electoral College projection was off.  I guess, next time, I will trust the polls.

The moment Obama was announced as the 44th President, the World changed for me.  It truly did.  I felt the shackles that bound us to poor policy and poor reputation had been cast aside.  I felt hope that I didn’t realize had been dormant for eight years.  I saw hope for my children that I didn’t realize I was neglecting.  This is an exaggeration or insincere grandeur.  I actually felt these things.  This morning, my hope had increased so much further.

The work ahead for Obama is tough and he needs to start Today.  I firmly believe that he has a unique opportunity that hasn’t existed since President Kennedy.  He is a sitting U.S. Senator.  He can go back to Congress, introduce legislation, rally the Senate, and make policy decisions.  He could conceivably co-author a stimulus bill (just for kicks – Obama-McCain Stimulus Bill) and then sign it on 20 January or really pressure the Bush administration to sign it.  This is an opportunity for the President-Elect to make a big impact.  He also needs to put his full cabinet together as soon as possible.  With the significant majorities for the Democrats in the House and Senate, he will have no trouble getting them confirmed and so, even prior to their nomination, they can start laying out agendas without risk that they will not be confirmed.  Finally, I believe it is important that he starts building relationships within Congress and beyond to the international community.

Random Return Thoughts

11:00 President Barack Hussein Obama

10:06 – Zzzzzzzz.  We are now in the Top of the 9th of a baseball game where the home team is ahead 12-0.  What’s left?

9:20 – Fox News is reporting NM to Obama!

9:18 – The idea of an African American President is starting to dawn on me and it is slightly emotional to see our country do this.  A year ago I would never have even thought it possible.

9:10 – Carville/Begala calling Florida for Obama, CNN is not.

9:06 – No Bradley Effect! Definitely proven not to be an issue.  Bill Bennett, a Republican, agrees with that.  WOW.  This is a big BIG deal.

9:00 – Night is going exactly has planned so far. BTW, don’t get to high or too low when it comes to EV count.  Obama will not get California’s vote until the end of the night.  Really, until he is above 250, the race hasn’t started.

8:26 – Great news with the pick up of Dole’s seat to Kay Hagan.  CBS makes the call

8:16 – Yeah.  Kerry wins his seat!

8:12 NH, another McCain hope called by ABC for Obama.  ABC now has called PA.  It’s falling into place as Obama needed.

8:08 Intrade way down now.  MSNBC calling PA for Obama.  Becareful!  They may recind.  CNN won’t call – neither will anyone else.  Things are looking a little better.

7:45 My intial gut is telling me, based on the exit polls and early returns – this is closer than we may have thought.  However, Indiana is showing well for Obama!