Mojo - November 2008

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.

Landslide? The Popular Vote Total, in Historical Context

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 12:36 PM EST

Was it a landslide? Judge for yourself. Here are 60 years worth of popular vote totals, from most lopsided to least.

+23.2%, Nixon defeats McGovern, 1972
+22.6%, Johnson defeats Goldwater, 1964
+18.2%, Reagan defeats Mondale, 1984
+15.4%, Eisenhower defeats Stevenson, 1956
+10.9%, Eisenhower defeats Stevenson, 1952
+9.7%, Reagan defeats Carter, 1980
+8.5%, Clinton defeats Dole, 1996 (less than 50% to the winner)
+7.8%, Bush I defeats Dukakis, 1988
[+6%, Obama defeats McCain, 2008]
+5.3%, Clinton defeats Bush I, 1992 (less than 50% to the winner)
+4.5%, Truman defeats Dewey, 1948 (less than 50% to the winner)
+2.4%, Bush II defeats Kerry, 2004
+2.1%, Carter defeats Ford, 1976
+0.7%, Nixon defeats Humphrey, 1968 (less than 50% to the winner)
-0.5%, Bush II defeats Gore, 2000 (less than 50% to the "winner")
+0.1%, Kennedy defeats Nixon, 1960 (less than 50% to the winner)

Anti-Gay Measures Victorious Nationwide

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 12:00 PM EST

While California's Prop 8 may be the most crushing blow to gay rights if it holds, it's certainly not the movement's only setback. An initiative that will bar gay couples from adopting passed in Arkansas, a gay marriage ban passed in Florida (bigtime, 62%-38%), and a "marriage amendment" passed in Arizona.

While "change has come to America" in some huge ways, equality was not a hands-down winner yesterday.

Reactions from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 11:55 AM EST

white_house_election_night.jpgWe've mentioned what happened half way around the world from the White House. So what happened at, uh, the White House itself? I'm happy to tell you — pandemonium. I wandered by the Obama family's next place of residence yesterday around 1 am and walked right into a joyous mob shouting, crying, and carrying Obama signs. The favorite chant of the night? "Nah nah nah nah, hey hey hey, gooooodbye."

Reactions from Kenya

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 11:33 AM EST

The New York Times, reporting from Kenya, where the government has declared Thursday a national holiday.

This town, in the epicenter of Kenya's Obamaland — the same area where Barack Obama's father was from and where some of his cousins, half-brothers and a very gregarious 80-something step-grandmother still live — exploded into cheers when the news broke that Mr. Obama had won the presidency.
Thousands of people sang, danced, blew whistles, honked horns, hugged, kissed and thumped on drums — all down the same streets where not so long ago huge flames of protest had raged.
"Who needs a passport?" people yelled. "We're going to America!"

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Primary Sources: Obama's Acceptance Speech, Full Text

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 11:29 AM EST

Read every remarkable word of President-Elect Barack Obama's acceptance speech (as prepared for delivery) below. Then read David Corn's sharp analysis of history in the making here:

The Dems' Moderately Disappointing Congressional Results

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 11:20 AM EST

Congressional Democrats had high hopes going into yesterday's election. Everyone knows they were shooting for a filibuster-proof majority of 60 votes in the Senate, but they we were also looking to add anywhere from 15 to 30 seats to their House majority.

In that lower body, Democrats lost four incumbents (Tim Mahoney in FL-16, Nancy Boyda in KS-02, Don Cazayoux in LA-06, and Nick Lampson in TX-22). They picked up 21 seats, according to Swing State Project. Ten races are still outstanding. So we're looking at a net gain for the Dems of 16 to 26, with the likely number around 20.

They almost certainly won't get to 60 in the Senate. They started the night with 51. If they had scored pickups in the closely contested races in New Mexico, Colorado, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Oregon, Kentucky, and Alaska, they would have had 62.

Wins: New Mexico (Senator-elect Udall), Colorado (also Senator-elect Udall), North Carolina (Hagan), Virginia (Warner), and New Hampshire (Shaheen). That boosts them to 56.

Losses: Mississippi (Wicker) and Kentucky (McConnell).

Unclear: Georgia, Minnesota, Oregon, and Alaska.

Georgia will go to the Republicans if the current leader, incumbent Saxby Chambliss, gets over 50 percent. If he doesn't, the race will go to a runoff. Chambliss currently has 49.9 percent.

Here's the AP on Minnesota: "With the unofficial vote tally complete, Coleman led Franken by 571 votes out of nearly 2.9 million cast. Coleman had 1,210,942 votes, or 42.03 percent, to Franken's 1,210,371 votes, or 42.01 percent." A recount is expected.

Here's the Register-Guard on Oregon: "[Republican] Smith led [Democrat] Merkley by 4,478 votes, 474,398 to 469,920, based on partial returns released by the state Elections Division at 5:53 a.m. Wednesday." Full results are not yet in. The delay in counting may be due to Oregon's unique vote-by-mail system. Note that Obama is winning Oregon by double digits and that Merkley had a last-minute polling lead of about five. If Smith retains his seat, it will be a real head-scratcher.

And Alaska continues to befuddle. Stevens is the Senate's longest serving Republican and he brings home the pork. But after his felony conviction a week ago, people on both sides of the aisle assumed his political career was over. His opponent, Mark Begich went up 4 or 5 in the polls. Many in the Republican Party, including John McCain, called on Stevens to resign. And yet, Stevens has a small lead as vote counting continues. The AP: "Stevens' lead was fewer than 4,000 votes with more than 40,000 absentee ballots to be counted within 10 days."

If the Dems lose all four of these outstanding races (a real possibility), they will be stuck on 56. If they win all four (a very slim possibility), they will get 60. A reasonable guess? They get one or two, and head into the next term with 57 or 58 senators.

Prop 8 Still Not Official, Franken Race Headed for a Recount

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 11:18 AM EST

California's same-sex marriage ban is ahead 52%-48% with 95% of precincts reporting, though the state has yet to call the race. Given the stakes, that's wise. Count each and every vote before setting a new precedent for the nation. If Prop 8 does end up passing it will be the first time that California's constitution is amended to take away rights. A dubious distinction.

And it looks like Norm Coleman nosed out Al Franken in Minnesota's Senate race, with all votes in Coleman ended up with 42% to Franken's 41.97%. The 571 margin of votes for Coleman sets into motion an automatic recount that could drag on until December.

Already Missing Sarah Palin?

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 10:56 AM EST

Via Politico's Mike Allen, Newsweek has got your post-election Palin withdrawal fix:

NEWSWEEK has also learned that Palin's shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family — clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent 'tens of thousands' more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide … said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.
McCain himself rarely spoke to Palin during the campaign, and aides kept him in the dark about the details of her spending on clothes because they were sure he would be offended. Palin asked to speak along with McCain at his Arizona concession speech Tuesday night, but campaign strategist Steve Schmidt vetoed the request.

And looks like we can expect much more of this sort of finger-pointing.

A recent report by the New Yorker said that Bill Kristol played a key background role in promoting Palin for the GOP VP slot.