Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

Obama must be more ambitious if he wins a second term tomorrow

05/11/2012, 04:30:36 PM

by Jonathan Todd

“Obama is forty-seven years old”, noted Russell Baker prior to the 2008 presidential election. “McCain is seventy-two, old enough to be Obama’s father … In classical mythology the son must kill the father to allow for the earth’s renewal.”

Has Obama’s vanquishing of McCain really brought the renewal that it might have done?

Yes, he arrived in office in the midst of the biggest economic calamity since the Great Depression. But, unlike FDR, he has not reformed Wall Street, often seeming keener to pacify than challenge financial interests.

Yes, Obama became president with America’s moral capital debased. But Guantanamo bay remains open. And his escalating use of drone attacks threatens to recruit violent anti-Americans as effectively as Guantanamo bay. His failure to meaningfully support those who oppose the Assad regime in Syria also seems to be increasingly driving them towards extremism.

Yes, China’s rise is about decisions taken over the past 30 years in Beijing, not anything done in DC or on Wall Street. But the tone and content of Obama’s attacks on Romney has hardly encouraged America to look outward to the great opportunities that are opening up as a consequence of Chinese communists doing capitalism better than American capitalists. Nor has any substantive reform of global institutions been secured to make them more democratic, inclusive and credible in a world where economic and political power shifts ever more south and east.

Yes, the American political system is designed to necessitate compromise and Obama was confronted by a Republican party determined to not compromise. But it took him an age to accept this. And he still struggles to adapt to it. He thinks, for example, that his re-election will sufficiently wipe the slate clean that the fiscal cliff will be averted via a deal somewhere close to the Simpson-Bowles plan. It is unclear, though, why Republicans who have not voted for any tax increases since 1990 will suddenly do so.

Obama misapplied the exhortation of Rahm Emmanuel: Never let a serious crisis go to waste. There are at least two crises that Obama has failed to fully exploit.


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On the frontline for Obama: fear and campaigning in Las Vegas

02/11/2012, 07:00:26 AM

by Fran O’Leary

The first thing that struck me when I walked into the Obama office on East Charleston Boulevard was the friendliness, warmth and inclusiveness, amid the frenetic campaign activity.  It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what generates this buzz, but it’s there in each smile and each wave as grassroots activists congratulate each other on the numbers of doors they’ve knocked on.

It’s there as people trade campaign stories from the streets and volunteers share pizza.  It’s there as activists and their kids sign their names, and write positive messages of support, on the paper that covers the entrance wall.

In stark contrast to Vegas’ lavish casinos, where every element of the experience – from scented air conditioning to security – is tightly controlled, there is a real sense that this place belongs to the grassroots. Everyone here has an important role to play.

The people in this neighbourhood – Clark county state senate district 8 – face a serious threat if Obama loses the election.  This battle is theirs and the stakes are high.  Unemployment stands at around 12% in Clark county as a whole, which is Democrat leaning overall, and the median income in Las Vegas is around $39k.


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Why the Tories are rooting for Obama

29/10/2012, 10:28:36 AM

by Mark Stockwell

Each year, as autumn descends, nature-lovers’ thoughts turn to the russet and auburn vistas of New England. Every four years, an altogether different breed joins them in gazing longingly across the Atlantic as the leaves crispen and fall at home. But the only colours they care about are primary colours – red and blue.

With the end of the party conferences and the return to a dank, dreary Westminster, Britain’s political classes huddle round to bask in the reflected glow of a US presidential election.

The states of New England, for the most part solid blue Democrat territory, are but a passing concern. These peculiar beasts garner what warmth they can from the battleground states of the mid-West and the sunshine state of Florida.

With the axis of US politics tilted so far to the right, there are quite a few UK Conservatives who back the Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular. It is, on the other hand, vanishingly unlikely you will come across anyone on the British left cheering for a Republican.

There are all sorts of good policy reasons why both left and right in the UK should welcome the Obama victory which seems the likely outcome of next Tuesday’s poll. But if Labour is looking to Obama to win vicarious battles on deficit reduction, the size of government, or the role of the state in the provision of public services, they are missing an important point.

As a guide to its own electoral prospects, Labour should be cautious about celebrating Obama’s re-election.


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US campaign diary: the real story with Romney’s video is his reaction – the Republicans have shifted to a base strategy

18/09/2012, 03:07:16 PM

by Nikhil Dyundi

Wow. Just wow. No Democrat could have dared hope that Mitt Romney would have crashed his campaign so spectacularly.

It was already exhibiting disturbing warning signs.

Insiders had broken ranks and started briefing journalists on what was going wrong, pushing out blame in a vain attempt to escape the eventual wreckage with their consulting careers intact.

The polls were tilting against Romney and down ballot Republicans and the media consensus on the superiority of Obama’s campaign was hardening.

But still, there was time. Not much, but there was some space left to change the dynamic in the race. Then the video surfaced and it turns out the wall was a lot closer than anyone imagined.

The reaction in the US media has been unanimous – this is likely a campaign ending moment for Romney.

Sure, he will keep touring the country, the debates will still happen and hundreds of millions of dollars of Romney ads will be dumped on voters.

But in terms of this being a competitive race, the contest is over.

The video reinforces too many of the negatives about Romney and the Republicans at a critical juncture in the election. Even with unlimited funds, there are too few voters that can be persuaded in the little time remaining to switch from undecided to Romney.

The campaign strategy Romney sets out in the video – appealing exclusively to the undecided 10% who voted for Obama last time  but now aren’t sure – seems to be no longer viable.

That’s what the media think, along with the vast majority of political consultants. Some Republican talking heads have kept the faith on air and a few might even believe it.

You would expect the majority of this latter group to be closely involved with the campaign. One of the golden rules of politics is that you’ve got to believe there’s a shot at victory. No matter how narrow the path, its existence is what keeps politicians and campaigners going.

But here’s the kicker: judging by their reaction to the video, the Romney campaign is in full agreement that their strategy is a bust.

We know this because when Mitt Romney got up in front of the media at his scrambled press conference in California he didn’t do what Mitt Romney normally does. He didn’t obfuscate in too excruciating a manner, parse more than normal or even use the magic words, “I misspoke”.

Instead , he basically stood by his remarks.

The press conference has been written up as yet another gaffe in a catastrophic twenty-four hours. But this is unfair. The word gaffe implies an unintended mistake. Everything Romney said at his presser he meant.

It was the surest sign that they have fundamentally junked their old strategy with just weeks to go before the election.

In standing by the video, Romney is writing off the undecided centrist swing-voters who will likely be repelled by his words. And he certainly won’t be reaching out to convert any confirmed Obama voters.

No, the sole audience for the Romney campaign is now the Republican base.


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Sunday Review

31/07/2011, 01:30:31 PM

Revivial: the struggle for survival inside the Obama White House by Richard Wolffe – reviewed by Anthony Painter

The American constitution is a wonderful construct for a nation of reasonable men and women. The problem is that the political representatives who currently populate the nation’s capital are not, in the main, reasonable people. There is an exception to this- the president. But how can you lead as a reasonable man in a political system stacked with checks and balances which allow unreasonable people to obstruct reasonable endeavour?

The answer as Present Obama has discovered since new intake entered Congress in 2011- with Republican control of the House of Representatives- is with enormous difficulty. It is like attempting to lead while restrained in manacles. And despite extreme restraint it is the president who will be called to account for the political madness that is now engulfing Washington as the battle over raising the debt ceiling reaches its insane climax.

Birmingham born Richard Wolffe’s Revival: the struggle for survival inside the Obama White House is the second book about this presidency from the de facto official biographer of the Obama White House. Renegade: the making of a president was the first in a series in which there will surely be more to follow. At the centre of the latest book is a discussion about the revivalist (idealist) instincts of the president versus the survivalist (pragmatic) instincts. I’m not sure that it is much of a spoiler to say that Obama ends up as both. Survival is necessary but not sufficient in the making a great president.

Familiar personalities drift into the story during the early months of 2010 which is the period on which the book concentrates. Those who remain from the campaign such as David Axelrod or return such as David Plouffe tend to embody the president’s revivalist trait while the survivalists tend to be Washington insiders such as Rahm Emmanuel. The president’s first chief of staff gets a bit of a rough ride. One of his colleagues says of Emmanuel: “It’s all tactics and no strategy. That’s something the president feels very strongly he’s missing. How do I get from here to where I want to go?” We are never quite told where that destination is. (more…)

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The American way? No We Can’t, says Dan Hodges

05/08/2010, 01:30:25 PM

Last week I bumped into an old comrade from the Greater Manchester congestion charge campaign. Like Vietnam veterans we speak sparingly of those days, pausing but rarely to wrestle our demons and remember the fallen.

Asked what he was up to now that he was back on civvy street, he replied that he was working as “deputy field manager” for one of the leadership teams.

“What the hell’s a field manager”, I asked?

“Well it’s like an organiser”.

“So why isn’t it called an organiser”?

“Well, it’s what the Americans call an organiser”.

“Have we got loads of Americans over here stitching up the electoral college, then”?

“No. It’s what Obama used”.

Ah. “What Obama used”. The political equivalent of ‘It’s What Diana Would Have Wanted’.


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Jon Bounds on the half-appearance of the internet election

19/05/2010, 08:05:32 AM

Will the General Election in May 2010 go down as the first ‘internet election’? No. The unusual — if not entirely unexpected — result has seen to that, but it was an election in which people using the social web changed forever the way campaigning works in the UK.

Talk before was of which party could “do what Obama did”; that is, use the internet to harness support, and to fundraise. Well, no one really did — and politics in Britain was unlikely to suddenly start to work like that: we’re too conflicted, too cynical and have too many choices. We sometimes have to make decisions about how to place our cross where the local and national aims seem flatly contradictory — it was never going to be a simple case of joining one Facebook Group over another. The web can handle nuance, even if our electoral system can’t.

There was significant grassroots activity though, and perhaps the best way to see the difference between us and US is to look at the difference between (‘Organising for America’) and (‘Airbrushed for Change’). One is a social network ‘lite’, directed at organising and nudging (very much in line with the theories of Richard Thaler) support, the other a crowdsourced Private Eye, with all the mix of clever satire and fart jokes that that might entail. (more…)

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