More Senate News

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 8:54 PM EST

MORE SENATE NEWS....The Portland Oregonian reports that Jeff Merkley has won the Senate race there. That's +6 for the Democrats.

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Rahm Emanuel

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 8:00 PM EST

RAHM EMANUEL....The New York Times reports that Barack Obama has asked Rep. Rahm Emanuel to be his chief of staff. Ezra Klein is ambivalent about this:

If you thought the Obama administration would be all about bringing people together and would simply make sad faces when stubborn congressmen refused to come to the table, this is a clear sign otherwise. If good feelings don't suffice, bareknuckle politics will happily be employed.

But part of Emanuel's job will be to advise on what is politically possible. And he has always portrayed himself as a hard-headed realist on such matters, with a late-term Clintonite's allergy to ambition. In his book The Plan, Emanuel warns Democrats away from attempting universal health insurance or comprehensive reform, and suggests they content themselves with expanding S-CHIP (he also gives a plug to his brother, Ezekiel Emanuel's, health care plan, but says his "plan is well beyond Washington's current reach."). That's not change we can believe in.

Noted without comment since I don't really know anything about this. I just thought it was worth passing along.

UPDATE: Conservative Yuval Levin has a different take:

The White House chief of staff is not a chief strategist or a chief advocate. He is a manager of people and of process. Above all else, he sets the tone internally, and shapes the president's decision process and the feel of the upper tiers of the administration.....[Obama] will need a chief of staff with a sense of the gravity of the choices the president faces, and one capable of moving the staff to decision, keeping big egos satisfied and calm, and resisting the pressure to be purely reactive to momentary distractions. None of this spells Rahm Emanuel. There is definitely a place for a Rahm Emanuel type of brilliant ruthless shark in a White House staff, but not in the Chief's office.

This jibes with my understanding of the CoS position too. But what do I know?


| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 7:24 PM EST

2012....I'd like to be the first pundit to go on record predicting the result of the 2012 election. I project that Barack Obama will crush his Republican opponent and win the popular vote by 10 percentage points. You heard it here first.

Help Me, Virtual Will.I.Am, You're My Only Hope

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 4:45 PM EST

While there was much to enjoy during television election coverage last night, from even Juan Williams on Fox News and Stephen Colbert getting weepy to Chris Matthews desperately trying to hold back from calling the thing at 8pm EST, there was nothing more ridiculous than CNN's new "holographic" technology. At a seemingly nail-biting moment, with results starting to trickle in, Wolf Blitzer stopped everything to announce something "never before seen on television": a live shot of a reporter "beamed in" to the studio from a tent in Grant Park. Of course, Wolf couldn't really see her, so it wasn't really a hologram (that's why I'm using so many quotes), it was more like an highly-coordinated multi-camera green-screen, similar to the 1st and Ten system for football games. But that didn't stop them from talking about it for what seemed like 17 hours. Wolf and Anderson seemed most excited about using the hologram system to isolate reporters from the noisy crowds, apparently not understanding that they were still using the same old microphones and it was the tent that was keeping the crowds at bay.

So, CNN, you've spent untold billions of dollars on this technology, what are you going to do with it next? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Virtual Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas, who wandered into the tent and got himself Tron-i-fied. "We're at an eve of a brand new day," he declared, flickeringly, but then immediately turned to more important matters: "All this technology, I'm being beamed to you, like in Star Wars and stuff?" Watch what Vulture called a "momentous" appearance after the jump.

Palin in 2012? Maybe Not So Much

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 4:26 PM EST

When we visited a Palin rally in Virginia in October, we were greeted with Palin-mania. In a statement that seemed to represent the feelings of many, one woman said, "I respect John McCain, but I loooove Sarah Palin."

That enthusiasm appears to be confined to pockets of the Republican base, because it sure as heck wasn't found among the electorate at large yesterday. From MSNBC:

NBC-WSJ GOP pollster Neil Newhouse did a post-election survey last night, and here's what he found: Just 12% of those surveyed believed Palin should be the GOP's new leader; instead 29% of voters said Romney, followed by 20% who say Huckabee. Among GOPers, it was Romney 33%, Huckabee 20% and Palin 18%.

Is Rahm Emanuel--Reportedly Obama's New Chief of Staff--an Agent of Change?

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 3:24 PM EST

The Obama administration is already under way. And a new theme begins for the Obama tale: is he bringing real change to Washington?

The day after Barack Obama's historic and decisive victory, various media outlets are reporting that the president-elect has picked Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) to be his White House chief of staff. Emanuel is one of the more colorful characters in Washington: a sharp-tongued, quick-witted partisan. He was one of the original Clinton warriors--those political operatives who guided Bill Clinton to the White House and then went to work at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He put in five years on the front lines of the Clinton wars--longer than most of his comrades--and then left to make millions of dollars in the private sector. He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2002 and soon became the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Leading the DCCC, Emanuel was a prolific fundraiser and engineered the 2006 election wins that allowed the Democrats to regain control of the House.

A Washington player he is. Mother Jones profiled him and examined his tough-guy ways in 1993, a few months into his stint at the Clinton White House. When Emanuel left the Clinton White House in October 1998--during the Monica Madness--The Washington Post summed up his years there:

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Reflections on California's Proposition 8

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 3:19 PM EST

The United States took away rights yesterday.

It's a stunning thing to acknowledge. On the same day we culminated a civil rights struggle that spans our nation's entire history by electing the first African-American president of the United States, California voters revoked the right of some citizens in their state to marry the people they love, and nullified the bonds of some who already had.

California's Proposition 8 amends the California state constitution to eliminate the right to marry awarded to homosexuals by the California courts in May 2008. Further, it states that only marriages between a man and a woman are recognized by the state, likely shredding the marriages that have occurred since the court decision. Prop 8 passed Tuesday by a vote of 52-48, part of a wave of successful anti-gay legislation nationwide.

If you look at the front page of any newspaper today, you'll find heart-warming plaudits for the country about racial healing and America's progress since the civil rights movement. Count me out. Barack Obama won because the Bush Administration hung a 30-pound anchor around the neck of every Republican in the country, because the economy cratered just before the election and his opponent showed no capacity to understand the problem, and because he ran the best campaign in recent memory. You cannot divorce his victory from those facts. Yes, his ascendance to the White House is a wonderful thing for everyone in this country — black, white, or otherwise — who have struggled for rights, and it a wonderful thing for children of all colors, who now know without a doubt that there are no limits on their potential. But Obama's victory is muddied by too many other factors, some small but some quite large, to be taken as a clear sign that we have made substantial progress on the question of tolerance.

The Great Persuader

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 2:37 PM EST

THE GREAT PERSUADER....Will Barack Obama be a great president? He's got a big election victory behind him, solid congressional majorities in both houses, an electoral coalition eager to support him, and a country seemingly ready for serious change. But what kind of change? Technically, his platform is as progressive as we've seen from a Democrat in a generation. But did he really sell it to the voters? Did he even make the effort? The public face of his economic policy, after all, was almost entirely based on tax cuts, a distinctly conservative notion. His energy plan was largely based on the promise of "green jobs." He mostly avoided talking about social issues. He got people's votes, but did they really know what they were voting for?

I'm not sure. A couple of months ago I wrote a piece for Mother Jones about this, and after Obama's speech at Invesco Field I almost changed it a bit before publication. But in the end I didn't, and I think that turned out to be right. Because it's still not clear to me that Obama even tried to sell the public on specifically progressive change:

Majorities may come and go, but FDR built a liberal legacy that outlasted him because, by the time he left office, the public believed in the New Deal and everything that went with it.

Now fast-forward 70 years and ask yourself, What is it going to take to pass serious climate change legislation? A liberal majority in Congress? Check. Interest groups willing to rally? Check. But to paraphrase an old military saying, the opposition gets a vote too. And the opposition's message to a public already tired of high gasoline prices is going to be simple: Liberals want to raise energy prices. Your energy prices.

And make no mistake. Barack Obama's cap-and-trade plan to reduce carbon emissions may be technically one of the best we've ever seen, but it will raise energy prices. That's the whole point. So once the public understands that there's more to Obama's plan than green-collar jobs and serried ranks of windmills on the Great Plains, they're going to have second thoughts. And those congressional majorities, who face election in another couple of years, are going to have second thoughts too.

The right way to address this won't be found in any of Obama's white papers. There's a story there, if you dig deep enough, but it's long and complicated and relies on things like increased efficiency, consumer rebates, and R&D funding that pays off in another decade or so. In the short term someone is going to have to tell the public that, yes, there's some sacrifice required here, but it's worth it. Someone needs to come up with a garden-hose analogy to convince a financially stressed public that doing something for the common good is worth a small price.

That someone, of course, is Barack Obama, but it's not clear yet if he gets this. His speeches soar, but they rarely seem designed to move the nation in a specific direction. Is he pushing the public to support cap and trade even though it might cost them a few dollars? Or merely to vote for "change"? It's sometimes hard to tell.

I'm not arguing for hair shirt politics. Presidential candidates win office by promising to solve all the problems of the world, not by hectoring the electorate. And as I mentioned in the article, FDR ran a notably mushy campaign in 1932 and look how he turned out.

But even if that was a good excuse for holding back during the campaign season, now's the time to start using the bully pulpit. Obama has a notable streak of temperamental caution that serves him well, but it could also betray him. Maybe he could have turned the tide against Proposition 8 in California if he'd been willing to take a risk on its behalf. Maybe he can overcome conservative opposition to a progressive energy plan if he's willing to take some risks selling it to the public. But if he doesn't, all the congressional majorities in the world won't help him in the long run. I sure hope he understands this.

Whither Joe?

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 1:20 PM EST

WHITHER JOE?....So what happens to Joe Lieberman now? If Dems had gotten to 59 or 60 seats in the Senate, it would be really tough to kick him out of the caucus. But at 56 or 57, Lieberman is a lot less important. Sure, every vote counts, but needing four or five GOP votes to break a filibuster instead of three or four — well, that's just not such a big deal.

On the other hand, politics makes for strange bedfellows, and political leaders swallow hard and make compromises for the greater good all the time.

On the third hand, dumping Lieberman, especially if Obama were behind it, would be a very dramatic way of encouraging party loyalty from the rest of the Democratic caucus in the future, wouldn't it?

So....I dunno. What do you all think happens to Holy Joe? Stay in the caucus on condition of good behavior? Stay in the caucus but lose his committee chair. Get kicked out completely? Something else?

How We Voted

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 1:02 PM EST

HOW WE VOTED....We're going to be seeing a ton of electoral slicing and dicing over the next few day, but Andrew Gelman leads off today which a chart showing the tremendous difference in the youth vote this year compared to 2000 and 2004. In the previous two elections George Bush got nearly half of the 20-something vote. This year, John McCain barely broke 30% of the youth vote.

Gelman also notes that the election came out about the way political scientists expected. "Obama won by about 5% of the vote, consistent with the latest polls and consistent with his forecast vote based on forecasts based on the economy." He calls that "close," but I'm not sure that's right. It's true that historically it's no blowout, but presidential elections have trended pretty close in recent years, and by the standards of the last decade this is a pretty solid win — especially given the big Democratic majorities now in place in Congress. Given the state of the country, it's hard to see how it could have been much bigger.