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.

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Great Men?

Bill Clinton, George HW Bush, James Garfield, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Barack Obama/John McCain and The Liberal Crab.  What do these men have in common?  They are all left handed!  That’s right, three out of our last four (including Tuesday’s election) will have been leftys.  Some claim Reagan (he converted) and Herbert Hoover were also leftys.

Why do I bring it up? Well, first it’s a light hearted turn from every day political discussions, it’s an odd fact, and (as stated before) I am left handed!  Want another interesting nugget?  This year’s two candidates do not top the race for most lefty’s in a General Election.  Nope, that distinction goes to 1992 when Perot, Bush, and Clinton were all lefty’s.  Us leftys have it tough.  We live in a world made for rightys and who do not realize how much is geared for the right hand.  There is pride in being a lefty and little nuggets us lefty’s live for.

Just a fun fact to take some of the penultimate election night stress off.  Enjoy.

The Final Nail in Coffin for the Campaign of Senator John McCain?

Per John McCain, from Meet the Press on Sunday morning: “Do we share a common philosophy of the Republican Party? Of course,”  – and with that, perhaps McCain added the final nail to the coffin of the McCain/Palin ticket.

In context, what McCain was trying to do was say that both him and George Bush are Republicans and share an ideology.  However, the last thing McCain needs to say is that he shares anything similar to George W. Bush.  To me, this is a gaffe and on par with that of Biden claiming Obama will be ‘tested’ on the international stage in six months.  Obama’s biggest issue has been foreign policy experience.  For McCain, it’s being tied to the failed policies of President Bush.  Obama already is using the line in his stump speeches and I would expect, as was Biden’s gaffe, a commercial will be produced shortly with McCain’s gaffe.

But the reality is that there is some substance to Obama using McCain’s words against him.  The ‘philosophy’ that McCain and Bush share is one of a conservative.  What does that mean?  It means they believe in less regulation, it means providing tax cuts – particularly to the wealthy in support of supply-side economics, it means less social programs, it means less tolerance for social issues such as abortion and gay marriage.  Beyond that, it goes to associations.  Conservatives, in the guise of Republicans, are supported by big business and Wall Street.  This is their philosophy and this is what has failed the nation economically.

What McCain may have inadvertently done is make a distincition between he and Bush, but also build the argument that they are actually similar.  McCain can argue his methods for achieving Conservative goals are different (i.e. his policies).  However, at the end of the day, the goals (philosophy) are the same.  Bush has had failed with policy – such as the Iraq War or his economic plan.  But Bush has also failed in the Conservative ideology – deregulation and tax cuts.  And that, my friends, is why four years of McCain is four more years of Bush’s ideology.

Obama rightly should be calling out this similarity.  The power of today’s comments and those of McCain’s past – “there are studies that show I (John McCain) voted with the president 90% of the time, more than my colleagues” is a damning one two punch.  These previous comments, boasting about his support for President Bush also builds the argument he supports, not only the ideology, but the policies of the President.

Let’s roll a couple of videos:

also (see 5:45 in for the ‘philsophy’ comment):

Interesting Article – Part 1

That other Comeback Kid – McCain stays in the fight

By E.J. Dionne Jr.,  

NEW YORK 

Whenever McCain is up, he has this uncanny ability to bring himself down. He turns in his best performances when he’s in danger of losing it all. 

Wednesday’s debate in New York did not so much decide the election as prevent it from being decided in Obama’s favor. It was that important, and McCain knew it. By finally managing, on the third try, to be forceful without being obnoxious, McCain set himself up for one more comeback in a campaign where coming back has been his central preoccupation. Maybe McCain just wants to out-comeback the Comeback Kid. 

Obama confirmed that he plans to win on sweeping themes, not specifics…. But Obama also promises to encourage ”Republicans and Democrats to forget all the arguing and finger-pointing and come together.” 

Calling for an end to finger-pointing and pointing fingers at the same time is a neat trick if you can make it work….Obama has pulled off this balancing act with great skill. The central question of the campaign is: Can he hold his balance for two more weeks? 

McCain did everything he could to shake Obama off the high wire, and Obama got very wobbly at moments. With McCain pressing Gore hard for an explanation of his positions…

 

Interesting article?  From – 2000.  For those getting a little nervous or wanting to see how things looked in previous elections, this was an article from Boston’s Daily Globe on 10/19/2000.  I hope Mr. Dionne, doesn’t mind the comparison. The Words in italics have been changed.  Mostly – Bush to Obama and McCain to Gore. It’s not a transcript that works verbatium – Obama, for instance, has put some details to his plan.  At the time, Bush was up 45.9 to 41.2 according to the Real Clear Politics average.

Take aways?  Real Clear Politics is pegging the election at 49.5 to 42.6 (a 6.8 lead vs. a 4.7 lead) and 20 days out (in 2000) vs 18 days today.  The election did tighten very much in 2000 – obviously.  With Gore picking up slightly more of the popular vote.  The biggest difference was that the Electoral College in 2000 was 212 (Bush) vs 202 (Gore) aggregated across pollsters.  This year it is 286 (Obama) vs 158 (McCain).  A much more significant deficit for McCain than for Gore.  The moral of the story is the election did tighten and this year’s election will too.  As Obama has pointed out yesterday – we can’t get complacent and Democrat’s are famous for snatching defeat out of victory.  If polls close, as they seem to be doing, we need to remain positive, focus on getting out the message, and realize we will win this election if we stay vigilent.

Is Bush still Relevant? Where is Our Leadership Coming from?


Every election cycle where an incumbent is not running for re-election, a lame duck syndrome begins to overtake the outgoing administration.    The country’s legislative/policy mechanism slows way down until the election is over and only gains little traction before the new Congress and President take office.   Some president’s have been more effective than others in casting aside the lame duck title.  James R. Hedtke writes,

Despite being lame duck presidents, Eisenhower, Reagan and Clinton all saw their support scores in Congress rise in their final year in office. Reagan and Clinton had higher approval ratings in their second term than in their first, and each got a lot accomplished. Even with impeachment, Clinton’s support scores in Congress rose in his last two years in office. A Republican Senate approved more treaties in Clinton’s last two years as president than a Democratic Senate did in his first two years.” 

But, those mentioned as being effective had the top three approval ratings leaving office since 1956: Clinton – 65%, Reagan – 63%, and Eisenhower – 59%.  Despite losing some of their bully pulpit, the fact that they have remained popular allowed them to continue to push their policies forward.

So that comes to the current Lame Duck President – George W. Bush.  Currently, his approval rating according to Gallup stands at 25%.  Assuming his approval rating remains steady, it will be significantly lower than the second lowest – Jimmy Carter (34%).  With his status and and low approval rating, how effective is G.W.?  Not very.  This economic crisis clearly demonstrates how little pull he has on Capitol Hill or speaking to the American people.  Countless media reports discuss his futility in being able to rally House members to support the economic rescue package, even among Republicans.  His nearly daily ‘Rose Garden Comments’ through the passage of the bill did very little to alleviate fears of the American public or persuade Congressional members.  He simply hasn’t been relevant.  If there is anytime a president should be effective, regardless of overall popularity, is during a crisis.  This country has always rallied behind their leaders in times of hardship.  Bush had that ability on 9/11, even though he lost the popular vote less than year earlier and had only a 51% approval rating on September 10th, 2001.  But this isn’t confide domestically.  China today was talking beyond the President, directly to McCain anda Obama expectations and policy that should be followed with their election.

During the current economic crisis, the country has been looking directly to the candidates for assurances and solutions.  Congress is acting in harmony, not with the President, but with the wishes of Obamaand McCain.  In some ways, this makes sense.  One of these two men will be responsible for the long-term effects of what Congress and the Executive Branch is currently wrestling.  But President Bush’s lame duck status is uniquely different.  With such low approval ratings and lack of respect internationally, George W. Bush has been nearly fully relegated to a roll that is similar to that of the title of President in many other countries – ceremonial.   He’ll hold dinners for dignitaries, talk to the American people, and continue (unfortunately) to be the face of the nation to the World.  But in any kind of relevant capacity, he might as well lace up the cowboy boots, head to Crawford, and clear some debris from the ranch.  If there was a crisis in the next 26 days prior to the election, it will be the two candidates who will need to coordinate with Bush to ensure their is an effective response to the crisis.

It makes ‘acting presidential’ more important during the final days of the campaign for two candidates.  The country is in desperate need of leadership and the ability to transcend political rhetoric and provide real leadership.  This leadership should not be confused withdeveloping new policy.  I concur with the philosophy of Lawrence Lessig:

Candidates for the presidency are not governing, and shouldn’t be encouraged to govern. They should be telling us how they would govern, and I certainly hope that neither would govern with the kind of hyper-aware-poll-driven sensitivity that must drive a political campaign. We need a kind of political hearsay rule here: Your values, your approach, your basic philosophy — all that is admissible. But you’re plan for the latest crisis, crafted by a campaign staff working 24/7 over the last week — inadmissible.

The benefit is two-fold.  First, as much as the negative attacks get media attention and hypothesize as to what type of administration a candidate would bring, actual leadership would demonstrate that their governing philosophy – a huge opportunity to the candidate(s) that takes advantage.  The independent voter, who really values their vote and is trying to make an informed decision, gets to clearly see the differences in the candidates. Secondly, a candidate who takes this ‘high road’ will be somewhat insulated from the attacks by the other party. People begin to perceive the candidate as presidential and the/a leader.

I intentionally left out a discussion of McCain and Obama because the blog focuses on Bush.  But, I believe, it’s clear that Obama’sability to take this ‘high road’ is helping him cement his lead.  It’s not that he is going to add much more at this point, he’s probably close to his ceiling in voter support.  But, the strength of that lead is currently getting stronger.  People who are supporting him, want to see him as president and believe he can be effective in that role.  If he can stay above the fray and provide true leadership, his supporters will get the ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling they need in order to, without reservation, support him.   If McCain continues down this pathof negativity, he is only helping obama look presidential.  McCain may not win by going back and focusing on the issues and showing real leadership, but he certainly can stem some of the firming of support and make the electorate re-evaluate both candidates.  This negativity will not be a game-changer.