Archive for the 'Obama-Biden' Category



07
Dec
08

Cardboard

For the record, there are three issues I see with grope-gate:

a) the misogynistic implications of a woman being felt up and force fed alcohol into her pulled back head by two men (yes, this is sexual harrassment);

b) the “frat boy” culture alleged by the party atmosphere, presence of booze, and casual style of two white men raucously ganging up on a woman, even if it is a cardboard cutout, and then publishing it on a social networking site as evidence of their supposed hilarity; and

c) the complete lack of judgment evidenced by an important member of the Obama team, a young man who has been covered in The NY Times and elsewhere as largely responsible for Obama’s words and eloquence.  Favreau is the speechwriter for a candidate who won in large part because of his ability to draw enormous crowds to hear his electrifying, inspiring speeches.  He’s a player on the no-drama Obama team, a team that invested tremendously in crafting an image and a brand in their candidate.  And this is how a key image-maker behaves?

If Samantha Power is banished for calling Clinton a “monster,” then shouldn’t Favreau be kicked off the bus too?  Given the willfully public nature of his actions; their offensiveness (even if you believe it’s just “boys being boys,” this does mean you realize it’s behavior that requires rationalization, which suggests there’s something going on that needs to be acknowledged, dismissed, possibly forgiven, scolded, etc.); and Favreau’s immaturity and crudity versus Obama’s poised, professional and unruffled demeanor, I can’t believe Obama wouldn’t want to sanction this clown for his embarrassing and uncalled for behavior.

Didn’t Obama run on and beat Clinton and McCain in part because of his better judgment and cool and collected nature?  Yet, he’s got dudez like this working for him?  I listened to Tracy Morgan on TBS’s Laffapalooza for about five minutes the other night, as he painfully tried to layer one black stereotype after another ghetto behavior trope on to the Obamas and their future White House life.  Epic FAIL, as teh bloggerz say.  I don’t see how Favreau’s behavior is any less inappropriate for our President-Elect.  Although Larry Summers and Rick Warren (and Donny McClurkin) suggest otherwise, I do hold out hope that Obama is not “palling around with” men who fail to see women (and gays/lesbians) as their equals and as fully human, versus just cardboard cutouts, punching bags, helpmates, child-rearers, she-devils, and sandwich makers.

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06
Dec
08

Weekend Skirmishes

If you’re not headed out to your local Swedish Christmas Fair today, perhaps you’ll want to catch up instead on the latest action from the Obama team.  Oh teh menz and their vaunted intellect, team-building skillz and decision-making prowess!  Sen. Clinton, Melody Barnes, Susan Rice, Janet Napolitano, etc. should have tons o’ fun working with teh dudez.  Tis an inclusive bunch, that Obama gang.

Treasury Chief designate Timothy Geithner wants to toss FDIC head Sheila Bair out on the street alongside her constituent homeownersTake that, Main Street! What’s that now about progressive leadership?  Wait, I mean, team of rivals??

Head speechwriter Jon Favreau has the hots for Sen. Clintonright?  Wait, this isn’t a show of respect for our SoS designate and former Democratic candidate for President?  You mean, this is bizness as usual?  Silly me!  I guess I was right not to fill out that job application.  I don’t have anything nearly as lascivious as this.  Maybe I’ll go grope some hot Swedish buns this afternoon to try and keep up.

30
Nov
08

Silencing the competition

As much as I thought she’d be a phenomenal, powerhouse Senator, I buy the arguments that Sen. Clinton’s lack of seniority would limit her legislative effectiveness more than I’d like.  I am thrilled she’s accepting the SoS position, mainly because I think it signals that her known commitment to gender equity, human rights and human development is a central part of Obama’s diplomatic vision.  Her selection satisfyingly validates her untraditional foreign policy experience; who knew drinking tea with other women could turn out to be such critical diplomatic training?  /snark

That said, I am more than a little wary of centralizing Democratic power in the Executive Branch.  The Senate has now lost Biden and Clinton.  VP-Elect Biden has no particular agenda other than to advise Obama.  The Clinton Global Initiative can no longer convene world leaders around social change initiatives. Et cetera.

I’ve read that Obama is a leader who selects skilled deputies and then gives them the freedom to do good work.  Some of his transition choices demonstrate this possibility.  At the same time, who remains to provide a healthy check on and challenging support system for his agenda?  Yes, yes, I know we have Waxman in a good spot, and in theory Pelosi and Reid will grow a backbone and drive some liberal legislation.   But this reminds me of Obama’s efforts to sideline 527s during the general election, and direct all fundraising to his campaign.

I find myself in an interesting position as a Clinton primary supporter; I have tremendous respect for Obama, am thrilled with his win, and like him and feel more comfortable with his leadership in large part because his most irritating fauxgressive supporters have steam coming out of their ears at some of his choices – and are perhaps crying softly into their pillows at night over the betrayal.  The stakes could not be higher for the Obama Administration, and I’m cautiously optimistic that in four years we will be living in a better world due to his team’s leadership.

But…

If he fails, he’s bringing a lot of good names – and their own well-established networks and infrastructures – down with him.  And in the event of a 1994-esque GOP renaissance (though I don’t see how that’s possible in 2 years), I wonder who’s dispersed through the system to beat back such an uprising.

18
Nov
08

Boys Club

If Sen. Clinton leaves the Senate to become Secretary of State, she leaves behind 16 fellow women Senators (among 82 men) and joins 25 women foreign ministers around the world (5 of whom also came to the post this year).  Assuming the 180 or so country governments worldwide all have this position, Clinton leaves one boys club for another.

Forgive me for not being totally jazzed about this development…yet.

Like many former Clinton supporters, I was enjoying Clinton’s late- and post-primary aggressiveness on reproductive rights and economic justice.  I fancied her hanging out in the Senate alongside Sen. Murray and other allies, fighting the good fight for women, children, families, the uninsured and those at risk for losing their homes and jobs.  Count me in as one of many indulging in the idea that she’d be the next “liberal lion” of the Senate.

Turns out, Uncle Teddy isn’t quite ready to give up the title just yet, and she lacks the seniority (star power just doesn’t cut it, unless you’re Obama) to really rise to the occasion anyway.  Bummer.

As I ponder the idea of Clinton in the SoS role, I picture her, of course, in pantsuits or culturally-appropriate clothing, but that’s about it for the displays of womanhood.  The rest of the image is Clinton negotiating with men, or shaking the hands of men, or posing for photo ops with men, to eventually take back proposals hashed out with men to our President Obama.  Surrounded by men.  Men men men men men men men men.  (Try singing it.)

Believe me, I realize Clinton and her sixteen women colleagues weren’t a monolith or a voting bloc, nor do I expect them to be strictly due to their gender.  Duh.  I also know that the US is no role model in terms of gender parity in politics, and that our SoS will conduct business in countries with far more impressive women’s representation than ours.  It’s just…I was just getting used to Clinton in her new role as the prominent-elected-leader-with-nothing-to-lose-by-being-an-outspoken-powerhouse-for-women’s-rights-and-economic-security Senator from NY.  Or some such vision.  (YMMV.)  I liked it.

But, in our new post-partisan domestic reality, it strikes me that Clinton needs a stronger foil than she’d find in Obama – what could be the equivalent of her partisan rancor towards Bush now?  It’s hard for me to see a similar soapbox for Clinton in an Obama Administration, given how so many of her prominent senior male colleagues rallied around Obama (yes, Kennedy and Kerry, I’m talking to you).  There’s no real space in the Obama-Biden 111th Congress for her to step out of line, if you will; I have no idea what the rules are for Dem attack dogs in the face of a small but hostile GOP minority, Rahmbo notwithstanding.

Despite her and Obama’s mutual calls for renewed diplomacy and engagement with the world, I have a hard time visualizing her not negotiating arms treaties (or withdrawals) or various strategies of aggression or other militiarized concerns.  (Yes, foreign policy is not my area.)  It will take time for me to wrap my head around her new job and its major issue areas and the new cohort of dudes she’ll be running in.  But I do have faith that given her well-regarded work as a First Lady, her selection as SoS indicates women’s, children’s, and human development will be priorities in an Obama Administration.  Which is a potential change in scope and focus that really excites me.

And as an added bonus for Sen. Clinton and President-Elect Obama, should she become SoS, she’s got that helpful wife spouse to support our diplomatic efforts via her his pet projects that showcase the plight of special populations around the world.  Every elected leader should be so lucky!

14
Nov
08

Disclosure

There’s been a  lot happening on and off the tubes in the last couple days: if you haven’t sent some love Melissa McEwan’s way, please do so.  If you are cranky from Thanksgiving and holiday plans, I can sympathize.  If you are bridled by Obama’s alleged sudden appreciation for Sen. Clinton’s foreign policy experience built on “tea” parties, join the club.

I’ve been pretty reflective this week, imagining what it’d be like to have a role in the Obama Administration and whether it’d be a good fit.  A colleague of mine is on the transition team, and the Administration’s job application sits in my inbox.  But, I’m cowed and more than a little aghast at the information required.  The disclosure of closet skeletons (and outraged blog screeds) is one thing; more importantly, I can’t get past the language about whether or not my information would “be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the president-elect.”  (I realize this is s.o.p. for vetting potential Administration staff, but this election is really my first as a fully engaged adult.  It’s all enthralling, unsettling news to me.)

Without question, there are recorded and secret moments in my past that are totally mortifying.  So I think I can confidently assure President-Elect Obama that yes, I could be “a possible source of embarrassment.”  Who wouldn’t be?  The larger issue is what the transition team considers “embarrassing,” or a “conflict of interest,” or disqualifiers.  Our President-Elect tried coke, no prob after Bush, and worshipped with a preacher steeped in black liberation theology, which turned out to be not easily understood by and a major but not insurmountable problem for the bulk of the (white) American public.   Our Vice President-Elect has a plagarism scandal behind him, as well as the dubious position of being the guy who referred to his new African-American boss as “clean” and “articulate.”  No biggie?  Not now, it seems, but it certainly was at the time.

When I think about willingly filling out the job application, I wonder: a) who’s going to be reading this?  (Is it too much to want to know which lucky sap gets to read the tawdry yet mundane details of my life?) and b) short of criminal behavior, what is really considered too scandalous for the incoming Administration?  It’s likely not my Clinton support (right?), but I can see President-Elect Post-Partisan bristling at my blog references to the Bush Administration’s post-Katrina HUD as “public enemy #1.”  I don’t exactly mince words, nor play nice.  Diplomacy is a learned behavior for this Virgo. (I should probably also stop referencing the zodiac.)

And really, isn’t this one of the fault lines within the Democratic Party, the progressive-liberal blogosphere and in party versus movement politics in general, writ large as we argue with one another over how or whether to support Obama?  Does doing so require me to compromise my principles?  What are my principles?  What are my political beliefs versus my pragmatic politics?  Is incrementalism ok?  How can or should a progressive agenda be enacted?  Do I care about a particular political issue above all others?  Do I adhere to a general political philosophy that outweighs any particular issue or policy area?  Am I partisan?  What do I make of a politics of conciliation?  Questions like these are at the heart of political activism, movement building, and Party identification and support.

The job app in my inbox and the fallout over at Shakesville both leave me thinking deeply about my political values and where I see myself in the “inside-outside” game of governance and political advocacy.  I’m disinclined to apply, not wanting to find myself apologizing for my outraged passion over the GOP and Bush’s failure to do right by the Gulf Coast.  There’s also that pesky dissertation demanding my attention.  Can we talk in 2012?

13
Nov
08

Mayors’ “to-do list” for the Obama Administration

MSNBC surveyed 1,000 mayors by e-mail from around the U.S. on “their top two suggestions for the president-elect’s “to do” list.”  205 responded from every U.S. state but Delaware and New Hampshire, and including Puerto Rico.  What’s interesting for urbanist junkies like me is the majority of replies come from smaller cities not normally front and center in discussions on cities.  There’s no input from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or even Boston, but instead requests from Binghamton (NY), Manhattan Beach (CA), Evansville (IL), and Cambridge (MA).

MSNBC created this cool interactive map of responses, the majority of which come from cities east of the Mississippi.  It should come as no surprise then, that the economy and aging infrastructure dominated the Mayoral agenda.  Other priorities include immigration reform, healthcare reform, transit development, and economic development.

Check it out.  After the jump I highlight Mayoral priorities from cities I know whether through proximity, residency, work or travel.
Continue reading ‘Mayors’ “to-do list” for the Obama Administration’

12
Nov
08

Funding choices

One Obama-Biden campaign promise is to make government run more efficiently – by connecting disjointed programs, increasing transparency, and fully funding programs so they might actually deliver results.  This promise is nothing new, but I’m hoping the Obama’s team’s technological savvy and the Democratic legislative majority behind him translates into some real improvements.  That said, what’s the point in fully funding or linking questionable and bad programs and policies, such as No Child Left Behind or welfare-to-work initiatives?

I say this because the Bush Dept. of Education is pushing a much needed streamlined higher ed financial aid process that to me has one fundamental flaw: its calculation of aid based on the average cost of a two-year college.  They estimate that this would cover for the neediest students 100% of the cost of a community college, 60% of a four-year public college, and one-third of the cost of a four-year private institution.

Led by the Gates Foundation, and suggested in this financial aid change, there appears not only a growing emphasis on improving access to community colleges, but an increasing push to help students graduate from community colleges.  But how does this help us reduce our record socioeconomic inequality, when the differential returns of a bachelor’s degree (or higher) versus a high school diploma has been the single largest cause of rising economic inequality since 1980? (see pp.7-9)

I am not sure what the wage returns are for an associate’s degree.  What I do know is that among the U.S. adult population, 70% have a high school diploma, 19% have a bachelor’s degree, 17% have some college education, 10% have a master’s or higher, and only 8.5% have an associate’s degree.  Well, you wonder, perhaps an associate’s degree is uncommon because students are transferring to four-year colleges from community colleges.  Maybe, but I’m not optimistic.

Continue reading ‘Funding choices’




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