President Obama

Wednesday 5 November 2008

I am very pleased that Obama has been elected president. It’s been a very long election, and of course there have been fights and probably hard feelings. I hope Obama can truly unite people. Of all of the practices of the last eight years that I want Obama to reverse, the most important one is to lead so that 100% of the people feel like he is their leader, rather than just the 52% who voted for him.

I don’t know if that is possible, since it will require effort from everyone, including the people. Reining in an overwhelmingly Democrat congress may be difficult, but it is crucial. Of all the reasons Obama won, the most important may be that people were punishing the Republicans for their excesses when they controlled all of government. If the Democrats are smart, they will learn from that. If they do not, we may just see another whipsaw election next time around.

Many have said that Obama will have a very hard time leading, given the economic crisis, and the war to deal with one way or another, and that is very true. I hope that he can do more than just run the ball a few yards down the field, I hope that he can genuinely lead.

Comments

[gravatar]
Nate 6:53 AM on 5 Nov 2008

Hear hear! That's what I keep saying - I have hope. And I think that already makes Obama a pretty good president.

[gravatar]
DavidM 7:27 AM on 5 Nov 2008

I still don't understand why people expect Obama to be a uniter when he has never, repeat NEVER, reached across party lines. McCain however is probably as middle of the road partisan-wise as any Democrat.

As far as excesses, Obama's plans do not include any real spending cuts-quite the opposite in fact. He wants to allow the tax cuts to expire, which have brought MORE revenue to the Feds. Not to mention he wants capital gains taxes raised, which will drive out investment and therefore tax revenues.

I will agree the Republicans are not the fiscal conservatives any longer, but I feel your faith in BHO to be misplaced.

[gravatar]
Robert 8:00 AM on 5 Nov 2008

Time will tell. I did not vote for him but he is my President. I hope the Democrats won't screw this up but maybe that is a high hope.

[gravatar]
masklinn 10:11 AM on 5 Nov 2008

I still don't understand why people expect Obama to be a uniter when he has never, repeat NEVER, reached across party lines.

This is a clear and definite lie. Obama's record clearly shows him working with republicans time and time again both in Illinois and during his 4 years as a US senator.


He wants to allow the tax cuts to expire, which have brought MORE revenue to the Feds.

What? Tax cuts that have brought revenue?

[gravatar]
DavidM 10:21 AM on 5 Nov 2008

Please cite some examples of Obama joining with Republicans.
Specific legislation please.

Which parts of Obamas platform is anything other than a straight Democrat platform?

Yes, increasing tax revenues does NOT always bring more money. This was brought up in the debates. The same way that increasing prices 100% does not double revenues in a business. Taxes change peoples behaviors. Capital gains tax increases drives investments elsewhere.

Its a sad day in America when this basic fact needs to be pointed out.

http://www.discovery.org/a/2407

"From 1998 to 2002, the maximum capital-gains tax rate was approximately half the rate of the late 1970s, yet capital-gains tax revenues averaged 11 times higher ($88.6 billion per year), though the economy (nominally) was only 4 times larger."

[gravatar]
Sylvain 10:57 AM on 5 Nov 2008

Very pleased but a bit worried about the sky-high expectations of him worldwide. And the Congressional majority is definitely a concern as Washington will pull him to govern at the center of his own party. We just went through 8 years of that. If his character is any indication, he has a chance, and the ability to talk to the people over Congress, which his predecessor completely lacked. Amazing times.

[gravatar]
Robert Kieffer 12:10 PM on 5 Nov 2008

@DavidM: This election wasn't about specific policies or a candidate's ability to reach across the aisle. As Ned has observed, a lot of it was simply a reluctance to continue with the status quo. No, this election was about symbolism and that cliche-of-cliches, "hope".

People don't "expect" Obama to be a uniter - they hope he will be. Just like they hope he will take advantage of the regard in which he is held by the rest of the world to establish a new chapter in our approach to foreign policy. As the first african-american president, they hope he will usher in a new era of race relations. They hope he will bring about real progress toward solving environmental issues, and the economic crisis.

It is too early to tell where this will lead. Obama is still an unknown, with a blank slate upon which his presidential legacy has yet to be written. He is light on experience and heavy on optimism. But these are balanced by a willingness to delegate to people with more wisdom and experience, and a healthy dose of humility. In his rhetorhic at least, Obama acknowledges that issues we face are bigger than just the Democratic party. That it will take a concerted effort by everyone to turn things around.

You can bemoan all the ways in which he might _not _succeed, but that accomplishes nothing. Of far more importance the ways in which he might actually live up to the ridiculously high expectations all this naive hope has created. If he manages to make tangible progress on even one of the big-picture issues he faces, he'll be infinitely better than our current president ever had any hope of being.

[gravatar]
DavidM 12:33 PM on 5 Nov 2008

"You can bemoan all the ways in which he might _not _succeed, but that accomplishes nothing. "

Actually all I did was point out what he has done in the past. Since he is an unknown (comparative to McCain) that is all we can do. Your reaction to it is precisely my issue with Obama - he isn't the candidate a lot of people think he is.

Simplifying the tax code, private accounts for social security, school vouchers - all of these things encourage MORE personal liberty and freedom. They have good traction in the electorate but run counter to Obama's stated intentions.

All of his plans in these areas are more government control and therefore less for citizens. All voters can do is cast a vote every 4 years and hope for the best.

While Bush has made some definite errors, he has been dumped on largely by people who just hate *him* and not his policies. All of that said I hope Obama receives far better treatment from his detractors than Bush has.

[gravatar]
Robert Kieffer 2:45 PM on 5 Nov 2008

@DavidM:
"Actually all I did was point out what he has done in the past"

You were not pointing out what Obama has done in the past. You were handwaving about how he has supposedly never reached across the aisle (an argument that this blog post counters, btw) and implying that his tax/budget plan is excessive, without giving any details, and in spite of the fact that Obama's statements on taxes and the economy, like all the candidates, have been necessarily vague during the campaign but seem basically sound.

Sorry, but as I read it your post was little more than a lament for McCain which, as I said, accomplishes nothing at this point.

"he isn't the candidate a lot of people think he is"

We can argue this til the cows come home, but the reality is that this election wasn't about finding a candidate with a long, established record that we could count on. Obama was elected because he represents our best hope for a radical about-face for this country. The key word being, "hope". He may not be everything we hope for, but until he takes office and has a chance to prove himself and his ideas (or not) we won't know for sure.

"I hope Obama receives far better treatment from his detractors than Bush has"

Not me. If Obama proves as stupid, arrogant, and inept as his predecessor he deserves just as much scorn and disgrace. More so, actually.

[gravatar]
Bob Erb 4:34 PM on 5 Nov 2008

"Obama will have a very hard time leading, given the economic crisis, and the war to deal with."

Seems tough times make it easier to lead. Even W looked a little leaderly after 9/11.

[gravatar]
jackie goldberg 5:13 PM on 5 Nov 2008

in re.

> to lead so that 100% of the people feel like he is their leader, rather than just the 52% who voted for him.

and

> If Obama proves as stupid, arrogant, and inept as his predecessor he deserves just as much scorn and disgrace. More so, actually.


i offer: let's can the rancor and move forward together. mccain said just that, so eloquently, last night.

to that end, this article from today's journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122584386627599251.html

nice points, ned. thanks.

[gravatar]
Robert Kieffer 7:53 PM on 5 Nov 2008

@Jackie: I appreciate the your sentiment for a more tempered discussion. My comment was not helpful in this context and for that I apologize. But WTF is up with that WSJ link? The gist of the article is that criticism of Bush is "a shameful display of arrogance and weakness". That is hardly "canning the rancor and moving forward". So either I'm overreacting or you're being ridiculously passive aggressive.

Anyhow, canning the rancor, right... *breath* ... :P

Obviously we are going to struggle for quite some time with the passions and emotions that this election and administration have left in their wake. If we want to move forward we need to let bygones be and to "agree to disagree". But that is far easier to say than to do. I would love to hear what people think that means in concrete terms, both for us as individuals and for Obama and the rest of our leaders.

The simplistic interpretation is that we should avoid discussion of Bush and his legacy altogether. But given how inextricably intertwined the actions of yesterday are with the events of today, that hardly seems practical. Thus, how do we talk about these things without ending up at eachothers throats?

One thing the WSJ piece made clear for me is that a shared understanding of events is essential for a an enlightened discourse. Mr. Shapiro, the article author, lives in a world where Bush has made good-faith attempts to bridge the political divide. But that is radically different from how I see things. Offensively so. Until we can agree on what Bush's actions are, we're not going to agree on how to critique them.

[gravatar]
Giacomo 3:04 AM on 6 Nov 2008

Can I offer a point of view from outside the country?

Obama is the best thing to have happened to the world since the Internet Years of the 90s. His election completely changed how the world sees your country, and all for the better. It will be easier for you to go abroad and be loved and exalted for how you are really leading the Free World again, after a few years of temporary madness, and even better than you did in the '40s. When your President will ask other countries to go an extra mile for him, they will do so in a way that they'd never do for GWB; think about things like replacing US troops in Iraq, or helping in Afghanistan, or pushing democracy efforts in Iran. They would have never done that for McCain, maybe not even for (Bill) Clinton.

You should be happy. We Europeans are very happy :)

[gravatar]
David Boudreau 8:16 AM on 6 Nov 2008

I have some mixed emotions about it, though I was a strong McCain supporter but Obama could turn out to be a great president. Time will tell. Lots of great contenders all around over the past two years.

I also witnessed the elections outside the country and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso's reaction to the press, which I thought was kind of rude, he said something like "Well it doesn't matter who won the election, the important thing is to maintain the US-Japan relationship". Anyway, it's good to check the news and not see any reports of chaos and cars being tipped over and burned in the streets of Chicago like when the Bulls won that 3-peat.

PBS Frontline has their Choice 2008 documentary available online and it indicated Obama was kind of groomed for the race, and avoided any real conflict so maybe that's why there was criticism about him voting "present" all those times?

[gravatar]
Down In The South 8:21 AM on 6 Nov 2008

@everybody

I am more in line with DavidM's beliefs. I want more freedom, both fiscal and in the ability to educate my children. But, Obama does run counter to that.

The government is spending way too much of *our* money. I'm very libertarian in my beliefs of what the function of government is. Part of that function is not charity.

“A wise and frugal government … shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”
-Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801

The breadth of government is too wide. It pokes it's nose into too much of our business -- from spying on our phone calls illegally, to keeping a registry of my gun safe. I just want the government out. But unfortunately, neither party seems to satisfy that need.

I want the government to keep me safe and provide laws to allow me to enforce legal contracts. I don't need the legislature passing laws dictating how hot my hot water heater may get! (This was an actual law passed down here in MS).

The less government is in *OUR* business, the more freedom we have. And FREEDOM is what makes this country great, not hope or change or whatever.

[gravatar]
jackie goldberg 11:30 AM on 6 Nov 2008

> If we want to move forward we need to let bygones be and to "agree to disagree". But that is far easier to say than to do. I would love to hear what people think that means in concrete terms, both for us as individuals and for Obama and the rest of our leaders.

i think it means we debate policy -- the specifics, the hows -- without getting into character attacks. we have to commit to the debate, without getting nasty. it will be a significant challenge for each side to hear out and be open to the other to reach consensus, and generate new ideas for real change. but we must; the hard-boiled partisan politics of the past -- on either side -- are not adequate for the challenges we now face at home and abroad.

i offer:

"We can succeed only by concert. It is not 'can any of us imagine better?' but, 'can we all do better?' The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." –Abraham Lincoln

[gravatar]
Giacomo 6:47 AM on 7 Nov 2008

@DavidM: "private accounts for social security" had so much "good traction" that it's considered to be the beginning of the end of GWB's popularity among his own voters. Doesn't that make you think that your positions might be completely detached from the mainstream? Do you really think that, in years of global markets tanking in spectacular way, people really want to release more of their "safety" money to Wall Street?

[gravatar]
Down In The South 8:30 AM on 7 Nov 2008

@Giacomo

They already do release their money -- it's called 401k. Who do you trust with your money - enterprise or government? If you're thinking government, then stop and ask yourself why you can't have *ALL* of your social security when you reach retirement age. (Hint - they're not saving it for you -- they *SPEND IT*).

GW started to lose traction with his base, when he started doling out entitlements like there was no tomorrow.

Giacomo, what you may not realize is that the `privatized` social security accounts were going to be small scale. I think they were talking very small scale -- along 3%. Not only that, the privatization was going to be *OPTIONAL*. You could have opted in or out. This would have been YOUR CHOICE.

However, your government thought they knew better than you and did not provide you with that *FREEDOM*. Don't you believe that you're competent enough to make your own decisions, or even better are you competent enough to save for your own retirement? According to big brother, you're not.

I don't understand why people are not infuriated by the government's progressive encroachment on our liberties. It's been piecemeal, so no one has hardly noticed and generations have come to "accept" this as the way things should be. It's not, and I don't know if we'll see change anytime soon because the general population chooses heart over mind.

[gravatar]
Giacomo 9:20 AM on 7 Nov 2008

If you start talking about trust, then the answer is obvious: you should trust the only entity which you can hold accountable the most. And that's not a private company you don't control, or the open market; if your 401K is doing well in the current situation, you are in a very lucky minority.
That doesn't mean the government is always right (especially when it starts unprovoked wars, but I digress).

To be honest with you, no, I don't think I'm competent enough to plan my retirement; I'm way too young, even though I'm debt-free and in a better financial position than many (huge personal debts, fuelled by consumerism and rising education costs, are now commonplace for under-40s in the UK exactly like in the US). I'm actually pissed off that various UK governments keep pushing people out of the system, and I was basically forced by my company to join an additional private pension scheme that I don't really want.

I can only say that in Continental Europe, state-provided pension schemes work fairly well (which doesn't mean it's all perfect: some people retire too early, some people live too much, some get more money than they should etc), but even in cash-strapped countries like Italy or Greece, State-run pension funds are in the black (there are scaremongering campaigns going on about this state of things being "unsustainable" in the long run, -- sounds familiar? -- but these analysis are usually flawed in one way or another).

The "nanny state" is not as bad as some (interested) parties want to paint it... unless you seriously believe in social darwinism.

[gravatar]
Down In The South 9:39 AM on 7 Nov 2008

@giacomo

When dealing with your 401k, you're allowed to control what "funds" you put your investment into. Even better, is that you can view the track record for your fund before you invest in it. Sure, the economy is slumping, but there has never been a point in US history where it has not recovered.

So, the bottom line is -- you have choice in where you put your money. Here in the US, I can put my money where I want. If I choose not to invest in my 401k, I can opt out. However, my employer matches up to 4% of my salary, so I can basically double my investment.

Your state-provided pension must be *WAY* better than our federal system (Social Security). Our social security program *IS* unsustainable. The government does not treat it as a *savings* plan. That is, they do not put the money away for you and give it to you when you retire. Instead, they take that money and use it to partially cover deficit spending (http://www.isil.org/resources/lit/time-to-end-ss.html).

Ultimately for me, I want freedom from government. Remember, the power to tax is the power to destroy. Maybe this whole freedom idea is an American ethnocentric idea.

[gravatar]
Ossian 12:12 PM on 7 Nov 2008

Definitely happy that the election is over...now, let's get back to putting our Humpty Dumpty economy back together.

[gravatar]
Scott Morse 8:14 PM on 23 Mar 2012

Three and a half years later, it's sad to read Giacomo's comment of November 2008. Few people would say it's easier "to go abroad and be loved and exalted for how you are really leading the Free World again." Or that "when your President will ask other countries to go an extra mile for him, they will do so."

Thanks, Ned, for the observations in this post.

[gravatar]
Giacomo 8:42 PM on 23 Mar 2012

Eh. There were opportunities, in the first year, when it could have happened. It actually did happen, in many ways; the relationship between the US and European countries is back to pre-GWB levels, more or less, and it's something.

Unfortunately, the window for a real overhaul of US foreign policy came and went. Like on most other topics, the Obama administration pursued moderate policies rather than ambitious ones, and didn't dare undoing the GWB legacy. As Ned said, they mostly kicked the ball a few yards down the field.

But hey, it could have been worse; a McCain-Palin administration (with Cheney Secretary of State?) would have already tried to nuke Iran, or something as insane as that.

Add a comment:

Ignore this:
Leave this empty:
Name is required. Either email or web are required. Email won't be displayed and I won't spam you. Your web site won't be indexed by search engines.
Don't put anything here:
Leave this empty:
URLs auto-link and some tags are allowed: <a><b><i><p><br><pre>.