Day: November 14, 2008

Team of Rivals: Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Effect on Obama

President-Elect Obama last year read the pathbreaking work on Abraham Lincoln published by noted scholar Doris Kearns Goodwin, which described how Lincoln selected all of his political rivals in the campaign of 1860 for his cabinet advisers, and how they often argued and debated, but also how they helped strengthen his leadership during the most difficult times in our history, the Civil War years.  Obama also called and spoke to Goodwin and made clear how he was impressed by what Lincoln had done and how he hoped to follow his lead, were he to be elected President of the United States.

Now, it seems as if Obama is about to fulfill his promise.  There are strong indications that Obama is ready to appoint his chief rival, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, to head the State Department, and therefore become the top cabinet offiicial, just as Lincoln picked his chief rival, Senator William Seward of New York, to the same position.  Anyone who has studied American History knows Seward turned out to be one of the best Secretaries of State in our history. 

Additionally, it seems likely that Obama will have Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, as an important advisor and possible cabinet officer, and already has Joe Biden as his Vice President.  The thought of Clinton, Richardson, and Biden as key figures in foreign policy is very exciting and will certainly present a great image to the nations of the world.  Obama is demonstrating he has a secure personality and wants vigorous discussion and debate among his top cabinet members and advisers, and that he wishes to be challenged by people more experienced than himself.  The fact that he does NOT want "Yes Men"  is extremely significant and gives hope that our country will have a brilliant administration ready to deal with crises, both domestic and foreign, that require the "Best and the Brightest"!

Sixty Democratic Seats in the Senate Still Possible!

Ten days after the 2008 election, it is still a possibility that the Democrats could gain three contested Senate seats and reach the magic number of 60, theoretically a filibuster proof total, with of course the assumption that Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut will be accommodated and that all Democrats will always be loyal to the party at crucial times, which is certainly not guaranteed.

The Minnesota Senate race, with a lead of 206 for Republican Norm Coleman over Democrat Al Franken is about to go into manual recount and there is likely a good chance that Franken might be able to pull it out.  The Alaska Senate race now shows Democrat Mark Begich, Mayor of Anchorage, ahead by about 800 votes with many more votes not yet counted, over Republican Senator Ted Stevens, who if re-elected is likely be expelled from the Senate due to his felony conviction on seven counts shortly before Election Day.  The Georgia Senate race with Republican Saxby Chambliss over Democrat Jim Martin is moving toward a runoff due to the failure of either to get a majority of the vote, required by Georgia law, and that will be the most difficult for the Democrats to win, but memories of Chambliss’s abuse of Senator Max Cleland, a triple amputee, during the 2002 Senate matchup, makes one wish that somehow, Martin is able to emerge victorious. 

Even without some or all three of those Senate seats, it is likely that many times we will see moderate Republicans such as the two Maine senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter and Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, a good friend of President-Elect Obama on foreign policy matters, willing to join the Democratic majority on many issues, so as to avoid a filibuster. 

With the Democrats having a substantial margin in the Senate and some Republicans willing to cross the aisle at times, and this could include Senator John McCain at times as well, the Obama administration should be able to accomplish many of their goals. 

The 2012 Presidential Campaign Has Begun!

It is hard to believe, but the 2012 Presidential campaign has begun, just a week after the Presidential election of 2008!

The GOP Governor’s Conference held in Miami this past few days has been the focus of several Republican governors who fancy themselves as possible saviors of the Republican party after the disastrous defeat  of John McCain and Sarah Palin by President-Elect Barack Obama on November 4. 

The Republicans are in sad shape after having lost the suburban vote, the Hispanic vote, the young vote, and the new voter categories in last week’s election.  A massive struggle is beginning for the soul of the party between social conservatives and moderates who see the need to compete for the above voter categories who do not wish to see the control and influence of the Religious Right which turned many groups of voters off and led many to abandon the GOP, when in the past many had found the Republicans appealing.

Governor Charlie Crist of Florida, Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota seem to understand the need for the Republican party to adapt their appeal based on the poor performance of McCain and Palin.  On the other hand, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Governor Sarah Palin seem to be willing to continue the fight based on the conservative principles that have led to this rapid, sudden decline of the Republican appeal to many groups of voters.  Sarah Palin tried to rehabilitate herself through numerous interviews with the major media that she avoided during the Presidential campaign, and seemed to be trying to erase the bad "first impression"  that she made during the campaign, which led to a majority of Americans in polls late in the campaign declaring that she was ill-qualified to be President or Vice President of the United States.  It will be interesting to witness whether Sarah Palin will be able to become a major factor in the 2012 race, but my suspicion is that it is more likely that Crist, Jindal or Pawlenty will have a better chance to accomplish what I consider is the major need of the GOP to become competitive again–that is, promote MODERATION rather than conservatism and move the Republicans back to the center of the political stage.