Sunday, December 28, 2008

Plans for Obama inaugural ball discussed in Wichita

WICHITA, Kansas--If you can't make it to Washington D.C. for Barak Obama's historical inauguration, don't worry there will be plenty of excitement in Kansas, where the president elect has family ties.

On Saturday, the Obama Kansas Change Committee continued discussing plans for what it is calling the Obama Kansas Historical Inaugural Ball.

The all day event will feature lunch, a church service, a parade and of course live television coverage of Obama's swearing in in Washington.

Donations of $150 are required, you must RSVP by January sixth.

Call (316) 729-7109 for more information.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Barack Obama: Yes, He Could

Quite A Year, As Illinois Senator Claims Presidency

President-elect Barack Obama Accepting The Mantle
(AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)

The Rise Of Barack Obama

In one of the most talked about Presidential campaigns in U.S. history, Barack Obama took the nation and the world by storm. Joel Brown reports on his meteoric rise to the White House.

In the first week of 2008, Barack Obama rocked the political world with a win in the Iowa caucuses. But the question remained: Could this black man with a rich personal history and sparse elective resume make it all the way to the presidency?

Yes, he could.

Obama took us along on a wild ride, smashing political and racial barriers as he was elected the nation's 44th president in an electoral landslide. His message of hope and change - and the viral YouTube mantra of "Yes, we can" - resonated with millions of voters after eight years of George W. Bush.

All election years are for the history books, but this one seemed especially historic: The racial angle. The high stakes. The fascinating personalities. The huge amount of money raised. The intense, sometimes over-the-top interest in this campaign.

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America," Obama told his supporters gathered in Chicago's Grant Park on election night, and multitudes more in a restive nation.

It was quite a year.

Iowa is 95 percent white and 2.5 percent black, hardly hospitable numbers for a black candidate.

Yet, on Jan. 3, Obama glided to a win in the leadoff Iowa caucuses, a victory that signaled the strength of his campaign organization and the candidate's appeal beyond racial lines. It was Obama's oratory - delivered by memory - at the state's Jefferson-Jackson dinner months earlier that got Democrats thinking about the Illinois senator as their nominee.

"I never expected to be here. I always knew this journey was improbable. I've never been on a journey that wasn't," Obama told the Iowa audience.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

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Obama's Staff Cleared in Blagojevich Affair

Internal report conducted by the future White House legal counsel has cleared the staff of US president-elect Barak Obama of any wrongdoing in the Blagojevich affair.

Rod Blagojevich is the governor of Illinois, the state that Mr Obama represented in the US Senate before being elected president. The governor is suspected of attempting to sell to the highest bidder the Senate seat left vacant by Mr Obama.

The internal report has determined that none of Mr Obama's staff were involved in the attempted sale. In particular, the role of Mr Obama's future chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel came under particular scrutiny. The report determined that, while Mr Emanuel had discussed the vacant seat with Mr Blagojevich, and suggested a possible candidate, he had offered the governor no reward for choosing that candidate.



Monday, November 24, 2008

Obama unveils team for stimulus, jobs

As expected, president-elect names Geithner as his treasury secretary

CHICAGO - President-elect Barack Obama on Monday unveiled his economic team amid expectations that he would urge the next Congress to quickly pass a massive stimulus plan that would dwarf even his campaign proposals to salvage the country's financial wreckage.

"I've sought leaders who could offer both sound judgment and fresh thinking, both a depth of experience and a wealth of bold new ideas — and most of all, who share my fundamental belief that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers," Obama said at the start of a Chicago press conference. "That in this country, we rise and fall as one nation, as one people."

As expected, the president-elect named Timothy Geithner, the New York Federal Reserve president, as his treasury secretary. Wall Street stocks jumped on Friday when word of Geithner's appointment began to leak.

Geithner, 47, will team with Lawrence Summers, a treasury secretary under former President Bill Clinton and former Harvard University president, who will take over the National Economic Council.

Obama also named three others on his economic team:

Christina Romer as director of the Council of Economic Advisers. Romer is a U.C. Berkeley professor of economics, and co-director of the Program in Monetary Economics at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Melody Barnes as director of the Domestic Policy Council. Co-director of the Agency Review Working Group for the Obama transition team, she also served as the senior domestic policy advisor to Obama during the campaign. Barnes previously worked at the Center for American Progress and as chief counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy.
Heather Higginbottom as deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council. She was Obama's policy director during the campaign and earlier served as Sen. John Kerry's legislative director.

Democratic officials also said Obama plans to name New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as commerce secretary, adding a prominent Hispanic and one-time Democratic presidential rival to his Cabinet. Richardson served as U.N. ambassador in the Clinton administration and later as energy secretary.

Obama was speaking against a backdrop of increasing calls for him to assert himself well before he takes office Jan. 20 in the midst of the most severe U.S. financial crisis in eight decades.

In the latest bailout, the U.S. government announced late Sunday it had agreed to shoulder hundreds of billions of dollars in possible losses at the banking giant Citigroup, and to put a fresh $20 billion into the stricken company.

Obama's team will confront an economic crisis that continues to deepen in spite of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal emergency spending in recent weeks.

"The stakes are high," said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. "This is a really dangerous moment ... for the economy. It’s almost as if no one’s in control. Now people are looking to (Obama) to find out at least what’s going to happen in the next few months, if not the next few weeks."

Except for one short news conference, Obama has kept a low public profile since his November 4 victory over Republican John McCain, remaining in Chicago to pick his Cabinet but not formally announcing any of his choices.

Other members of Obama’s team are likely to include:

Peter Orszag, a former Clinton administration economic aide, as the White House budget director. Orszag has been director of the Congressional Budget Office since January 2007.

Jason Furman, Obama’s top economic policy coordinator during the presidential campaign, is likely to get a senior role, probably as the No. 2 official at the National Economic Council.

Tax cut/stimulus package

Top aides said Sunday that Obama wants Congress to use its large Democratic majority when it convenes Jan. 6 to prepare tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners as part of the massive government intervention designed to pull the country out of its frightening economic nosedive.

Some economists have endorsed spending up to $600 billion to revive the economy. Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Clinton-era Labor Secretary Robert Reich, a member of Obama's economic advisory board, both suggested $500 billion to $700 billion.

Before winning the presidency Nov. 4, Obama had said he looked to create a $175 billion stimulus package. While the new plan will be significantly larger, it was expected to incorporate his campaign ideas for tax cuts and new jobs in energy technologies to lessen dependence on foreign oil and to reduce carbon emissions.

"I don't know what the number is going to be, but it's going to be a big number," Goolsbee said on Sunday. "It has to be. The point is to, kind of, get people back on track and startle the thing into submission."

Over the weekend, Obama directed his team to erect a plan to create 2.5 million new jobs by the end of 2010, and aides said his broader economic program was designed to quickly offer tax relief to lower- and middle-income earners.

No tax hike on wealthiest for now

Significantly the plan would not offer an immediate tax increase on wealthy taxpayers. During the campaign, Obama said he would raise taxes on people making more than $250,000.

"There won’t be any tax increases in the January package," said one Obama aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the Obama package have not been fleshed out.

Obama could delay any tax increase to 2011, when current Bush administration tax cuts expire.

House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio urged Obama to make that explicit. "Why wouldn’t we have the president-elect say, 'I am not going to raise taxes on any American in my first two years in office?'"

'Want to hit the ground running'

Obama senior adviser David Axelrod earlier unambiguously voiced Obama's overall expectations.

"Our hope is that the new Congress begins work on this as soon as they take office in early January, because we don't have time to waste here, " he said on Sunday. "We want to hit the ground running on January 20th."

Congress will have two weeks to hold hearings and write legislation between its return to Washington in early January and Obama's inauguration.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, acknowledged a readiness for quick action.

"We expect to have during the first couple of weeks of January a package for the president's consideration when he takes office."

Axelrod also warned executives of the U.S. auto industry to draw up plans to retool and restructure their industry if they want the billions of dollars they are seeking from Congress. Otherwise, Axelrod said, "there is very little taxpayers can do to help them."

Fighting terrorism

Obama also delved into one of the most pressing foreign policy issues facing his presidency, calling Afghan President Hamid Karzai by telephone and telling him that fighting terrorism there and in the region would be a top priority, Karzai's office said on Sunday.

The Saturday conversation between Obama and Karzai was the first reported contact between the two since the Nov. 4 election. The United States has some 32,000 American troops in Afghanistan, a number that will be increased by thousands next year.

Fighting terrorism and the insurgency "in Afghanistan, the region and the world is a top priority," Karzai's office quoted Obama as saying during the conversation.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Great expectations: Obama will have to deliver

Over and over, Barack Obama told voters if they stuck with him "we will change this country and change the world." They did, and now their expectations for him to deliver are firmly planted on his shoulders. Many supporters greeted his victory with euphoria.

Impatient for a new American era and overcome by a black man's historic ascension to the White House, they took his achievement for their own — weeping, dancing in the streets, blaring happy horns into Wednesday morning.

But campaign rhetoric soon collides with the gritty duties of governing, and hard realities stand in Obama's way.

The youthful president-elect appears to know this. His victory speech emphasized humility far more than his fabled confidence, with remarks heavily leavened by references to the difficulties before the nation.

He declared "change has come to America" and closed with his "yes we can" campaign slogan, but not before speaking of the certainty of setbacks. "The road ahead will be long," Obama warned. "We may not get there in one year or even one term."

Atop Obama's challenge list is the global and domestic turmoil that he inherits. None of it is his own making, but it will shape his presidency before he lifts one finger.

The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Two wars in unstable, hostile lands. Other foreign hot spots such as Pakistan and Congo, nuclear standoffs with North Korea and Iran. A warming planet.

Then there are high health care and energy costs, sunken home values, wiped-out retirement and investment accounts. A federal deficit that is exploding as the nation throws money at its economic problems, sure to crimp Obama's ability to spend his way to solutions.

He also faces challenging political realities.

Obama has a largely liberal voting record and owes a debt to the left wing of the Democratic Party, which mobilized millions on his behalf. These folks embraced his promises to end the Iraq war, move toward universal health care coverage and address harsh terrorist interrogation practices.

But Obama also appealed to the broader electorate as a pragmatist who pledged virtually party-blind government. He will have to decide whether it is better to disappoint the more liberal troops out of the gate or wait until later.

"A lot of people are not going to be happy in the first two years," said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi.

Matt Bennett of the center-left group Third Way said that Obama is for centrist ideas such as middle-class tax cuts and seems likely to wait on contentious goals such as overhauling the U.S. health care system.

"We do believe him when he says he's a moderate," Bennett said. "We think that's how he's going to govern."

Once the changeover happens, those who believed his "change we can believe in" slogan will want things to move quickly.

How might he go about it?

Even after nearly two years in the spotlight, little is understood about the 47-year-old first-term senator's approach to leadership. His resume: community organizer, eight years as state legislator, and less than four as U.S. senator.

As a lawmaker, he has displayed a knack for working with Republicans on a handful of favorite issues. But he has devoted most of his time in the Senate to running for president. Unlike the past seven presidents, he was never a governor or vice president. And unlike John F. Kennedy, the last senator to move directly to the presidency, Obama has not commanded troops in wartime.

Personally, he's a bit of an enigma, too.

He did lead his campaign, a huge, nearly billion-dollar operation. Throughout, he showed himself to have a detached, cerebral decision-making style that can sometimes seems out of sync with his natural charisma.

He also showed himself to be a highly disciplined, CEO-style manager. The leak-proof, tightly managed and orderly Obama operation mimics the Bush White House, and flows from "No Drama Obama" himself — a man so focused that he didn't give himself a day off from working out, even the morning after winning the presidency.

In keeping with his measured demeanor, Obama did nothing flashy his first day as president-elect, keeping to breakfast with his family and a thank-you visit to campaign workers.

All that said, he's got plenty of things in his favor.

First and foremost, he was elected exactly the way he wanted to be — in an electoral landslide. He took not only traditionally Democratic states, but once-solid Republican territory too. That allows him to claim, credibly, a broad mandate for his ideas.

So the Democrats who run Capitol Hill, for all their savvy in the ways of Washington and potential disagreements with their president, might think twice about clashing too aggressively with him. On a more practical level, they will not want to risk missing out during the midterm election cycle two years from now on Obama's eye-popping fundraising skills.

Further, the much-vaunted technological side of Obama's campaign means he could appeal directly to voters around recalcitrant lawmakers, using e-mail, text messages, Facebook and other tools.

Said Trippi, "I would not like to be a member of Congress standing in the way of passing his energy bill."

Still, Obama's honeymoon with the public — both anxious and hopeful — could be fragile.

One of the many revelers who spontaneously flocked to the White House after Obama's win, chanting, screaming and waving signs like, "Why Wait? Evict Bush Now," summed it up.

"I came down here to make a prayer ... that we'll be able to change the nation and the world," said Hollis Gentry.

Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann and Charles Babington contributed to this story.

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Obama Is Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls

By Damon Winter/The New York Times

Senator Barack Obama with his wife, Michelle, and Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. with his wife, Jill, in Chicago on Tuesday night.

Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive.

"Now comes the tough part, of course. But the symbolism of this magnificent choice by the American people cannot but illuminate the world."

The election of Mr. Obama amounted to a national catharsis — a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president and his economic and foreign policies, and an embrace of Mr. Obama’s call for a change in the direction and the tone of the country.

But it was just as much a strikingly symbolic moment in the evolution of the nation’s fraught racial history, a breakthrough that would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago.

Mr. Obama, 47, a first-term senator from Illinois, defeated Senator John McCain of Arizona, 72, a former prisoner of war who was making his second bid for the presidency.

To the very end, Mr. McCain’s campaign was eclipsed by an opponent who was nothing short of a phenomenon, drawing huge crowds epitomized by the tens of thousands of people who turned out to hear Mr. Obama’s victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago.

Mr. McCain also fought the headwinds of a relentlessly hostile political environment, weighted down with the baggage left to him by President Bush and an economic collapse that took place in the middle of the general election campaign.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” said Mr. Obama, standing before a huge wooden lectern with a row of American flags at his back, casting his eyes to a crowd that stretched far into the Chicago night.

“It’s been a long time coming,” the president-elect added, “but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

The focus shifted quickly on Wednesday to the daunting challenges facing the president-elect, with his supporters offering sober reflections of what lies ahead.

“We’re in deep trouble,” said Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and leader in the civil rights movement, on the Today show on NBC.

“We’ve got to get our economy out of the ditch, end the war in Iraq and bring our young men and women home, provide health care for all our citizens,” Mr. Lewis said. “And he’s going to call on us, I believe, to sacrifice. We all must give up something.”

Mr. McCain delivered his concession speech under clear skies on the lush lawn of the Arizona Biltmore, in Phoenix, where he and his wife had held their wedding reception. The crowd reacted with scattered boos as he offered his congratulations to Mr. Obama and saluted the historical significance of the moment.

“This is a historic election, and I recognize the significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight,” Mr. McCain said, adding, “We both realize that we have come a long way from the injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation.”

Not only did Mr. Obama capture the presidency, but he led his party to sharp gains in Congress. This puts Democrats in control of the House, the Senate and the White House for the first time since 1995, when Bill Clinton was in office.

The day shimmered with history as voters began lining up before dawn, hours before polls opened, to take part in the culmination of a campaign that over the course of two years commanded an extraordinary amount of attention from the American public.

As the returns became known, and Mr. Obama passed milestone after milestone —Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa and New Mexico — people rolled spontaneously into the streets to celebrate what many described, with perhaps overstated if understandable exhilaration, a new era in a country where just 143 years ago, Mr. Obama, as a black man, could have been owned as a slave.

For Republicans, especially the conservatives who have dominated the party for nearly three decades, the night represented a bitter setback and left them contemplating where they now stand in American politics.

Republican leaders began on Wednesday what will likely be a lengthy re-examination of their brand, as Democrats hope to shape a long-term realignment of the electoral map.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

If Obama Loses, Who Gets Blamed?

His loss would be disastrous for the media and political establishment.

By John Dickerson

If Barack Obama wins the election, it will be historic. And if he loses, it will be pretty historic, too: It would mark the biggest collective error in the history of the media and political establishment.

An Obama loss would mean the majority of pundits, reporters and analysts were wrong. Pollsters would have to find a new line of work, since Obama has been ahead in all 159 polls taken in the last six weeks. The massive crowds that have regularly turned out to see Obama would turn out to have meant nothing. This collective failure of elites would provide such a blast of schadenfreude that Republicans like Rush Limbaugh would be struck speechless (another historic first).

This situation lends a feeling of unreality to the proceedings as we begin to measure the time until Election Day in hours. It is the elephant on the campaign plane. No one is letting on. Journalists aren't supposed to. Plus, we've been wrong so often, and politics can be so unpredictable, it would be dumb to say that Obama is going to win big.

John McCain is still running hard, and Obama isn't doing any premature celebrating. Members of his staff are on a hair-trigger for any stories that might suggest he or they are displaying overconfidence. Aides said Obama was reacting to the apparent good news with trademark equilibrium though they did say he was happy to be at the end of his journey. "He's exhilarated," said David Axelrod. "He smells the finish line."

Despite Obama's even keel, there are a few small signs that suggest Obama is feeling good. He's flashing that magazine-cover smile, the one that takes over his face, a little more often. On the stump, where he's given nearly the exact same speech for a week, he's started to show some of the looseness of his earlier campaign. "Don't be hoodwinked," he said of McCain's claims, a standard line, to which he added a less regular filigree: "Don't be bamboozled, don't fall for the okey-doke."

In Columbus, Obama even gave a shout-out to McCain. Talking about the need to improve the political discourse, he said that also included the need for more humor. "John McCain was funny yesterday on Saturday Night Live," he said. "I didn't see it last night but I saw it on YouTube. That's what our politics should be about, the ability to laugh at ourselves."

Obama has had the most fun with Dick Cheney, who recently said he was "delighted" to endorse John McCain. "You've never seen Dick Cheney delighted, but he is," Obama told a crowd here, chucking to himself. "It's kinda hard to picture, but it's true." He went on to congratulate McCain. "He had to work hard for it!" The rain started pouring in the middle of his Cheney routine, but Obama didn't miss a beat. "Did you notice that it all started when I started talking about Dick Cheney? We've been through a nation of storms but sunshine is on the way."

In Cleveland, Bruce Springsteen opened for Obama. When he was finished, the Obama family joined him, and Springsteen brought up his wife Patty Scialfa and their three kids. Suddenly it was like we were all in the vestibule of a holiday party as The One and The Boss implored their children to step forward and shake the hands.

Share this article on DiggBuzz up!Share this article on BuzzWhen the rally in Cleveland concluded, Obama was drenched but lingered for a moment in front of the crowd, estimated at 80,000, and did a few tiny little dance steps to "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours," the Stevie Wonder song that plays after each rally the minute he stops speaking.

It's hard to guess at a candidate's inner feelings. It is particularly hard with Obama, whose emotions are as carefully constrained as a Bonsai tree and who keeps the press at a chilly distance. It could be that Obama is just happy to be with his family. Since Saturday, Obama's wife Michelle and children, Malia and Sasha, have been with him. The girls are clearly delighted to be in his company. At most stops, Michelle introduces her husband and implores the audience to help her husband finish the quest he started in their name 21 months ago. "I would love to give credit to my husband," she said, "but this race is not about him but all of us, all of you. He's taken us 85 percent of the way. The rest is on us."

Obama told the crowd in Cleveland that the family time is shaping his mood. "The last few days I've been feeling good," he said. "You start thinking that maybe we might win an election November 4."

Great: Now another American institution could be in peril: If Obama loses, we may have reason to doubt the power of family, too.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

3 Tips to Choose the Best Credit Repair Service

By Link Robertson

Many credit repair services make it sound as if all you have to do is pay them and your credit report will be fixed. However this is not true, below is a criteria you should use when choosing a service.

Do Not Pay Large Fees

Many services will charge large upfront fees. Instead look for more standard rates such as $179 for a start up fee and then a monthly fee of $100 or less. Some services will charge per action, I do not suggest this as your fees can add up quickly to more than $100 / month.

Also you should avoid a company that says you must make a large upfront payment, these companies are typically not effective services and are looking to make a quick buck at your expense.

Look For Refunds Not Guarantees

Credit repair can not be guaranteed, esspecially upfront. This is similar to a defense attorney guaranteeing that you will be found innocent of a criminal charge - IT CAN NOT BE DONE

I strongly suggest you avoid any service that make a guarantee, instead look for a refund policy or warranty. Many good services will offer a refund if their service is ineffective or you are not satisfied.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Leading in polls, Obama plays it safe

Refers to McCain as 'my opponent,' let's allies respond to sharp attacks

Alex Brandon / AP

Sen. Barack Obama at a rally at the Genoa Park and Amphitheater in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Leading in polls with 25 days to the election, Democrat Barack Obama is playing it safe, offering careful proposals to address the economic crisis while letting allies respond to John McCain's sharpest charges.

The Democratic presidential nominee, famous for his unscripted oratory, now reads his speeches from TelePrompTers, reducing the chance of gaffes. He has not held a news conference in two weeks, although he has done several one-on-one interviews with national and local reporters.

He now refers to Republican John McCain as "my opponent" more often than by name. And he offers carefully limited, comparatively non-controversial remedies for the nation's financial crisis.

Publicly, Obama's aides say he keeps a calm demeanor and measured tone because he doesn't want to fuel the anguish and panic caused by the economic meltdown. Privately, they acknowledge there is no desire to shake up a campaign dynamic that is inching him closer to the White House.

"I don't like to yell," Obama told more than 10,000 people in Columbus on Friday, his fifth large rally in hotly contested Ohio in two days. He was referring to a sound-system glitch, but it could have been a metaphor for his home-stretch strategy.

"He's responding just right, and the polls are reflecting it," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who campaigned with Obama this week and helped lead the counterattacks against McCain. When GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin spoke in Ohio on Thursday, Brown said, she spent too much time on issues such as Obama's ties to Vietnam War-era radical William Ayers, now a college professor in Chicago.

"People are saying, 'What about our jobs, what about the banking situation?'" Brown said.

On Friday as McCain rolled out a new TV ad with his sharpest language yet about Ayers, the sharpest Democratic response came from Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, who told an audience in Springfield, Mo., that McCain is trying to "take the lowest road to the highest office in America."

Careful balance

Obama is seeking a careful balance these days. He criticizes details of McCain's chief economic proposals, and he briefly and broadly disputes Republican attacks on his character, not getting into details. That seems to satisfy Democratic stalwarts who feel recent nominees were too slow to respond to character attacks.

Obama devotes more time to explaining his own long-standing proposals for tax cuts and energy investments. On Friday, he added a temporary program of tax breaks, low-interest government and government-backed private loans for small businesses having trouble borrowing to meet payrolls, maintain inventories or expand.

When this careful rhetoric threatened to bore crowds seeking rhetorical fireworks and when the economic problems turned into a crisis, he added more upbeat lines to his stump speech.

"Now is not the time for fear," Obama said at every Ohio stop this week. "Now is the time for resolve and steady leadership."

Unless asked, he does not mention McCain's and Palin's fiercest line of attack: that he has associated with Ayers, a former 1960s radical who helped found the violent Weather Underground. When questioned on a radio talk show this week, Obama said that when he began working with Ayers on two nonprofit organization boards in Chicago a quarter century later he thought that the college professor, who lives in his neighborhood, had been rehabilitated.

Increasingly, high-profile supporters take the sharper jabs at McCain before Obama comes on stage. On a sunny street with a few thousand people in Chillicothe, Ohio, on Friday, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland played the part.

"The McCain-Palin campaign and some of their followers unfortunately want you to be afraid of Barack Obama," he said, adding that "others" have spread untruths about the nominee.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The money mess Obama or McCain will inherit

The next president's domestic policy cake has already been baked.

The next president’s foreign policy and defense script has long since been written.

To simplify only slightly, it consists of winding down Iraq, declawing Iran and Hugo Chavez, and keeping Russia calm.

And now, after a scary and tumultuous fortnight of economic woes and corporate bailouts, his domestic narrative has also been outlined. And global credit markets, the Bush administration and Congress are holding the pen.

For the president-elect, this will consist largely of navigating the vast and bewildering new economic world order created by Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke.

Unprecedented presidential inheritance

Of course, new administrations always deal with the consequences of the previous one, but this kind of thing has never happened.

Who is Henry Paulson?

Sept. 22: Fearing he wouldn't have much influence, Henry Paulson had to be talked into becoming Treasury Secretary two years ago. Now he's putting his stamp on the entire global economy. NBC's Pete Williams reports.

Imagine if Herbert Hoover had constructed the New Deal just before turning it over to Franklin Roosevelt. Or if James Buchanan had declared war on the South before Abe Lincoln took the oath.

No wonder Barack Obama has said that, if he wins, he’ll keep Paulson in power at least through the transition. Obama will need the treasury secretary to explain this new system he’s supposed to run.

Indeed, Paulson has been on the phone almost every day with both Obama and John McCain.

It’s more than a courtesy. In a sense, a new administration already is in office. These days, George W. Bush rarely emerges from the West Wing.

The new economic machine
And what is the new machine that Obama or McCain will inherit?

Think of it as the world’s largest government-run “sovereign wealth fund.”

Economic decision-making in America is now fully in the hands of bureaucrats. And they don’t have the independent power Americans once had.

While no one can go it alone in a globalized world, we have lost the power acquired — and ultimately abused — after World War II to set the terms of trade.

Until recently, we could afford to make fun of Brussels. Now we are Brussels, with its hive of bureaucrats. Ours is located in Washington.

New York — the city of Alexander Hamilton, J.P. Morgan and the Rockefellers — has now ceased to be the capitol of capital.

What it means for the president-elect

Our greed, folly and ineptitude are to blame. So is a willful refusal to acknowledge that there is no free lunch and that what goes up must come down. We have officially ruined what it took us a hundred years to build: the credibility of Wall Street and dollar-centric commerce.

This is the reality that Obama or McCain will have to deal with.

That means higher taxes, lower spending and a scaling back of grand plans. It means a new realism and a long slog into the future.

The main task of the next president is already set. He’s got to make the act of digging out sound exciting. We’ve done it before. All it takes is leadership.

Another Lincoln or FDR will do.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Nielsen: Almost 40 million watch Obama speech

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) -- Almost 40 million people watched Sen. Barack Obama's acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday night, according to Nielsen Media Research. That figure, which includes both broadcast and cable networks, is nearly twice the four-day average of the 2004 Democratic National Convention. And with 7.6 million black viewers, the event was the fifth most-watched nonsports program among African-Americans in 11 years, Nielsen added.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Obama Casts McCain as Rich, Out of Touch

RICHMOND, Va. – Democrat Barack Obama Thursday depicted John McCain as rich, out of touch and less a foreign-policy expert than he claims — part of the increasingly negative tone of the presidential hopeful's message as he tries to fight the perception that his campaign has stalled.

Two national polls released Wednesday showed McCain has drawn almost even with Obama in the last few weeks, thanks to an aggressive new tone and a series of negative campaign commercials painting Obama as a tax raiser who is ill-prepared to lead in a dangerous world. That, in turn, has prompted Obama to step up his rhetoric against McCain.

Both an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and a CBS News/New York Times survey found the race close — Obama with 45 percent to 42 percent for McCain.

At a town-hall meeting here, Obama was introduced by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, widely believed to be on Obama's short list of possible vice presidential contenders. The two met privately for about 15 minutes before the campaign appearance. Kaine later batted away questions about his prospects.

"I'm going to let the campaign speak for the campaign," he said.

Speaking to supporters, Obama chided McCain for an interview he gave to the Politico Web site where he said he didn't know how many homes he owns. McCain's wife, Cindy, is an heiress to a large beer distributorship whose wealth is estimated to be at least $100 million.

"If you're like me, and you've got one house, or you are like the millions of people who are struggling right now to keep up with their mortgage so they don't lose their home, you might have a different perspective," Obama said.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Obama proposes $7K credit for fuel-efficient cars

Automotive News

LANSING, Mich. (Reuters) -- Barack Obama proposed tapping the strategic oil reserve on Monday to help lower gas prices, reversing an earlier stance, and called rival John McCain a tool of big oil companies as rising energy costs took center stage in the U.S. presidential campaign.

In a speech assessing the country's energy future, Obama called for a $7,000 tax credit to help consumers buy fuel-efficient cars, set a goal of 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on U.S. roads by 2015 and proposed a requirement that 10 percent of U.S. energy comes from renewable sources by the end of his first term.

Obama, celebrating his 47th birthday, also unveiled a package of steps designed to end U.S. reliance on oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years, including tax credits for buyers of fuel-efficient hybrid cars.

In a speech in Michigan, a battleground in November's White House election and home to the struggling U.S. auto industry, he proposed releasing 70 million barrels of light oil, easier to refine into gasoline, from the emergency U.S. stockpile.

The Democratic senator from Illinois said the light oil could be replaced later with heavier crude in a swap designed to bring quick relief from high gasoline prices.

"We have to make a serious, nationwide commitment to developing new sources of energy and we have to do it right away," Obama said.

McCain fired back in Pennsylvania, criticizing Obama's opposition to nuclear power and offshore drilling and calling on Congress and Obama to return to Washington from their summer break to try to solve the country's energy challenges.

"Anybody who says that we can achieve energy independence without using and increasing these existing energy resources either doesn't have the experience to meet the challenges we face or isn't giving the American people straight talk," McCain said in Lafayette Hill, a suburb of Philadelphia.

The Obama campaign responded with a challenge.

"If Senator McCain is willing to pass a compromise that provides immediate relief to consumers in the form of a $1,000 energy rebate and makes a serious investment in renewable energy, Senator Obama would be happy to join him in calling on Congress to return," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

"But if he continues to reject any compromise that takes away tax breaks for the same oil companies that have given millions to his campaign ... we'd rather not waste the American people's tax dollars,"

Two daily tracking polls show McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, has in the past week wiped out Obama's narrow national lead in the campaign for the Nov. 4 election.

The faltering U.S. economy, including rising gas prices, rank as the top issue for American voters in most polls.


Obama's new television advertisement said McCain was "in the pocket" of oil companies. The ad pictured McCain standing with President George W. Bush. "After one president in the pocket of Big Oil -- we can't afford another," it says.

The McCain camp said the ad failed to mention McCain opposed a 2005 energy bill that provided billions in tax breaks for energy producers, including oil companies. Obama voted for the bill, which was backed by the Republican president.

The McCain campaign also blasted Obama's proposal on the strategic oil reserve, noting he said just weeks ago that it should be used only for genuine emergencies.

"Tapping the strategic oil reserve is not a substitute for a real plan to increase supply through additional drilling and nuclear power," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said.

"The last release of oil from the strategic reserve came in response to Hurricane Katrina, but the only crisis that has developed since Barack Obama last rejected this idea two months ago is a slide in his poll numbers," he said.

Obama's reversal on tapping the emergency oil stockpile is his second shift on energy issues in recent days.

On Friday he dropped his blanket opposition to offshore oil drilling and signaled he would be open to limited drilling as part of a compromise energy package in Congress aimed at reining in prices.

But Obama said in Michigan that oil companies should first focus on drilling on 68 million acres to which they have access but have not touched.

McCain has called for opening new areas of U.S. coastline to offshore oil drilling, which polls show is supported by a majority of Americans, and nuclear power. McCain plans a visit to a nuclear power plant on Tuesday.

In Michigan, Obama also pushed his proposal for a windfall tax on the soaring profits of big oil firms, which will pay for a $1,000 tax rebate for low- and middle-income families.

Original article published in Automotive News. CLICK HERE to view.


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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Obama Addresses Over 200,000 In Berlin Speech

Sen. Barack Obama's speech in Berlin is generating extensive, and generally positive, media coverage, which casts the Illinois senator's foreign trip as a largely successful attempt to present him to the American people as a potential commander in chief.

As the Wall Street Journal puts it, Obama sought "to burnish his image as a global statesman," which "a spokesman for Sen. McCain called...'a premature victory lap.'" Obama "confidently walked onto a stage at the foot of Berlin's Victory Column to intermittent chants of 'Obama, Obama, Obama!' Some in the crowd compared the address to the rock concerts and sports events that sometimes draw hundreds of thousands of people to the Tiergarten." The Chicago Tribune says the setting "evoked historic addresses by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan," and "offered an opportunity" for Obama "to demonstrate his capacity to represent American ideals to the international public," and USA Today says Obama "is betting he can win votes at home by proving he can win hearts abroad."

All three networks led with the story last night. NBC Nightly News reported, "As one local journalist here put it, if the election were held today, Barack Obama could sail to victory by a margin of seventy percent or more as president of Germany, perhaps even all of Europe. The only problem is Senator Obama is running for President of the United States." The CBS Evening News reported, "They've been calling this the 'Obama Show' in Berlin. His appeal here, part exotic politician, part rock star. And a rock festival-sized crowd of more than 200,000 gathered to see him." Obama "told them a lot of what they wanted to hear, that Europe and the US had drifted apart and that he would pull them back together."

Original Source: US News & World Report

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Poll: Obama isn't closing racial divide

Blacks, whites hold vastly different views of the state of race relations

Scott Olson / Getty Images
Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) speaks to attendees at the 99th annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Monday.

Americans are sharply divided by race heading into the first election in which an African-American will be a major-party presidential nominee, with blacks and whites holding vastly different views of Senator Barack Obama , the state of race relations and how black Americans are treated by society, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The results of the poll, conducted against the backdrop of a campaign in which race has been a constant if not always overt issue, suggested that Mr. Obama’s candidacy, while generating high levels of enthusiasm among black voters, is not seen by them as evidence of significant improvement in race relations.

After years of growing political polarization, much of the divide in American politics is partisan. But Americans’ perceptions of the fall presidential election between Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, and Senator John McCain , Republican of Arizona, also underlined the racial discord that the poll found. More than 80 percent of black voters said they had a favorable opinion of Mr. Obama; about 30 percent of white voters said they had a favorable opinion of him.

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Nearly 60 percent of black respondents said race relations were generally bad, compared with 34 percent of whites. Four in 10 blacks say that there has been no progress in recent years in eliminating racial discrimination; fewer than 2 in 10 whites say the same thing. And about one-quarter of white respondents said they thought that too much had been made of racial barriers facing black people, while one-half of black respondents said not enough had been made of racial impediments faced by blacks.

The survey suggests that even as the nation crosses a racial threshold when it comes to politics — Mr. Obama, a Democrat, is the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas — many of the racial patterns in society remain unchanged in recent years.

Indeed, the poll showed markedly little change in the racial components of people’s daily lives since 2000, when The Times examined race relations in an extensive series of articles called “How Race Is Lived in America.”

As it was eight years ago, few Americans have regular contact with people of other races, and few say their own workplaces or their own neighborhoods are integrated. In this latest poll, over 40 percent of blacks said they believed they had been stopped by the police because of their race, the same figure as eight years ago; 7 percent of whites said the same thing.

Nearly 70 percent of blacks said they had encountered a specific instance of discrimination based on their race, compared with 62 percent in 2000; 26 percent of whites said they had been the victim of racial discrimination. (Over 50 percent of Hispanics said they had been the victim of racial discrimination.)

And when asked whether blacks or whites had a better chance of getting ahead in today’s society, 64 percent of black respondents said that whites did. That figure was slightly higher even than the 57 percent of blacks who said so in a 2000 poll by The Times. And the number of blacks who described racial conditions as generally bad in this survey was almost identical to poll responses in 2000 and 1990.

“Basically it’s the same old problem, the desire for power,” Macie Mitchell, a Pennsylvania Democrat from Erie County, who is black, said in a follow-up interview after participating in the poll. “People get so obsessed with power and don’t want to share it. There are people who are not used to blacks being on top.”

White perceptions, by contrast, improved markedly from 1990 to 2000, but have remained steady since. This month’s poll found that 55 percent of whites said race relations were good, almost double the figure for blacks.

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted July 7-14 with 1,796 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. In an effort to measure views of different races, the survey included larger-than-usual minority samples — 297 blacks and 246 Hispanics — with a margin of sampling error of six percentage points for each subgroup.

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Black and white Americans agree that America is ready to elect a black president, but disagree on almost every other question about race in the poll.

Black voters were far more likely than whites to say that Mr. Obama cares about the needs and problems of people like them, and more likely to describe him as patriotic. Whites were more likely than blacks to say that Mr. Obama says what he thinks people want to hear, rather than what he truly believes. And about half of black voters said race relations would improve in an Obama administration, compared with 29 percent of whites.

About 40 percent of blacks said that Mr. McCain, if elected president, would favor whites over blacks should he win the election.

There was even racial dissension over Mr. Obama’s wife, Michelle : She was viewed favorably by 58 percent of black voters, compared with 24 percent of white voters.

Among black voters, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, Mr. Obama draws support from 89percent, compared with 2 percent for Mr. McCain. Among whites, Mr. Obama has 37 percent of the vote, compared with 46 percent for Mr. McCain.

After a Democratic primary season in which Mr. Obama had difficulty competing for Hispanic votes against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton , Mr. Obama leads Mr. McCain among Hispanic voters in the likely general election matchup by 62 to 23 percent. Mr. Obama is viewed favorably by more than half of Hispanic Americans, compared with Mr. McCain, whose favorability rating is just under one-quarter. By significant margins, these voters believe that Mr. Obama will do a better job of dealing with immigration ; Mr. McCain has been trying to distance himself from Republicans who have advocated a tough policy on permitting illegal immigrants to stay in the country.

Over all, Mr. Obama leads Mr. McCain among all registered voters by 45 percent to 39 percent.

White voters, much more so than black voters, are divided in their political loyalties. Mr. Obama draws significant support among white Democrats. Yet still, among just Democrats, blacks were more apt than whites in the poll to express positive views of Mr. Obama across a range of questions. For example, black Democrats were 24 points more likely than white Democrats to have a favorable opinion of Mr. Obama.

“I don’t like some of his policies, like on energy,” said Bob Beidelman, 69, a white Democrat from York, Pa., about Mr. Obama. “Also I don’t like statements his wife made. She seems like a spoiled brat to me.”

He added: “I’m one of those white people who clings to guns and the Bible, and those things that Barack said kind of turned me off,” he said. “This isn’t a black and white thing. If a conservative African-American like former Congressman J. C. Watts was running, I’d have bumper stickers plastered all over my car supporting him.”

The survey found extensive excitement among African-Americans about the prospect of Mr. Obama’s candidacy, a factor that could prove important in pushing voter turnout. The poll found that 72 percent of black voters said they expected Mr. Obama to win.

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The high levels of enthusiasm for Mr. Obama among black Americans suggested that there was less of a divide among them about his candidacy than suggested by occasional tension among black leaders. Last week, Mr. Obama was criticized by the Rev. Jesse Jackson as “talking down to black people” by going before black audiences and urging parents to take more responsibility for their children.

“He’s got all these enthusiastic young people working for him,” said James Wilson, 75, a property manager from Philadelphia who is black. “I’m a person who would never give money and they called on the phone and got me to give.”

The poll found that Mr. McCain is yoked to the legacy of President Bush — majorities believe that Mr. McCain, as president, would continue Mr. Bush’s policies in Iraq and on the economy. Mr. Bush’s approval rating on the economy is as low as it has been in his presidency, 20 percent; and even while there has been an increase in the number of Americans who think the war is going well, there has been no change in the significantly large number of people who think it was a mistake to have invaded.

Kevin Sack, Dalia Sussman and Marina Stefan contributed reporting.

This article, Poll finds Obama isn't closing divide on race, first appeared in The New York Times.


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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama exhibits calm in the swirl of history

Protean figure inspires devotion in supporters, consternation in critics

Jim Mone / AP

He gives the appearance of a strikingly laid-back victor, this presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks at a primary night rally in St. Paul, Minn., on Tuesday.

On the day before the night he made history, Barack Obama shot hoops at the Back Bay Club in Chicago, and called the odd superdelegate or two. Then he and his wife, Michelle, kissed their daughters goodnight and, with a half dozen of their best friends, rode to Midway Airport to catch a flight to St. Paul to claim his prize. He sat on the plane, legs crossed, chuckling, chatting, giving little hint of what roiled within.

Mr. Obama has written of his “spooky good fortune” in politics, and vaulting ambition and self-possession define his rise.

He turned down a prestigious federal appellate court clerkship while at Harvard to work as a community organizer. He wrote an autobiography at the age of 33, and another 11 years later. He brushed aside a liberal mentor who stood in his way in Illinois. After just two years in the United States Senate, he announced that he would run for the presidency and then upended a Democratic Party powerhouse.

On the cusp of becoming the first African-American to capture a major party nomination, Mr. Obama remains a protean political figure, inspiring devotion in supporters who see him as a transformative leader even as he remains inscrutable to critics.

‘Rorschach test’ for voters

He has the gift of making people see themselves in him and offers an enigmatic smile when asked about his multiracial appeal.

“I am like a Rorschach test,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “Even if people find me disappointing ultimately, they might gain something.”

He is a liberal who favors regulating Wall Street and stanching housing foreclosures, negotiating with foreign enemies and disengaging from the war in Iraq. He speaks eloquently about America’s divisions of race and class, and says the old rhetoric of racial grievance has exhausted itself.

But his insistence that he can bridge the nation’s ideological chasms without resort to partisan warfare leaves some with the nagging sense that he makes it sound too easy, and that his full measure as a politician has yet to be taken.

He has stumbled and fumbled more than once. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton confounded him, pushing him back on his heels, his irritation too apparent. He falls in love with his words and perhaps his celebrity, acknowledging after Texas that he had become too dependent on arena politics and too aloof in smaller settings.

He is a deliberative fellow in a manic game. When his now-retired pastor, the Rev Jeremiah Wright, offered incendiary views on race and politics, Mr. Obama was slow to recognize how quickly Mr. Wright’s words inflamed voters’ doubts about him.

Michelle Obama, who is also a Harvard-trained lawyer and whose fires often burn hotter than those of her husband, pointedly advises Mr. Obama to forswear the cerebral and embrace the visceral. As Republicans attack him as unknown and untested, Mr. Obama could recall her advice in the months to come.

He was raised literally and metaphorically offshore, in Indonesia by his white mother and in Hawaii by his white grandparents. He is very much an American but tends to view the incongruities of politics with the distancing eye of an outsider.

A life examined

One of the curiosities about Mr. Obama is his professed lack of interest in the writers who pore over that life, trying to deconstruct his fractured family and geography. He claims not to read profiles that pile high in his plane.

“It just encourages the narcissism that is already a congenital defect for a politician,” he says. “I find these essays more revealing about the author than about me.”

The same might be said of Mr. Obama’s autobiography, which is less a straightforward chronicle than a carefully framed coming-of-age narrative. He describes himself as a young man adrift, although few friends recall thinking him so lost.

He carries a reputation as a Natural, and insists on calm. He did not interview each prospective campaign aide, but he laid down a rule: No drama kings or queens welcome. He confides in only a handful of advisers, particularly David Axelrod, the campaign guru with the appreciation for Chicago-style politics, and rarely displays public agitation about the measuring stick of his profession, electoral wins and losses. Told in February that he had won the caucuses in Maine, an overwhelmingly white state that he had expected to lose, he nodded, mumbled “That’s great,” and turned back to a phone call.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Sit Back, Relax, Get Ready to Rumble

He's taken everything in stride, it seems. How Obama and his team will battle the GOP onslaught.

By Richard Wolffe and Evan Thomas | NEWSWEEK

How do you know if Barack Obama is unhappy with what you're saying— or not saying? At meetings of his closest advisers, he likes to lean back, put his feet on the table and close his eyes. If he doesn't like how the conversation is going, he will lean forward, put his feet on the floor and "adjust his socks, kind of start tugging at them," says Michael Strautmanis, a counselor to the campaign. Obama wants people to talk, but he doesn't want to intimidate them. "If you haven't said anything, he'll call on you," says Strautmanis. "He's never said it, but he usually thinks if somebody is very quiet it's because they disagree with what everybody is saying … so Barack will call on you and say, 'You've been awfully quiet'." There are no screamers on Team Obama; one senior Obama aide says he's heard him yell only twice in four years. Obama was explicit from the beginning: there was to be "no drama," he told his aides. "I don't want elbowing or finger-pointing. We're going to rise or fall together." Obama wanted steady, calm, focused leadership; he wanted to keep out the grandstanders and make sure the quiet dissenters spoke up. A good formula for running a campaign—or a presidency.

It worked against Hillary Clinton, whose own campaign has been rent by squabbling aides and turf battles. While Clinton veered between playing Queen Elizabeth I and Norma Rae, Obama and his team chugged along with a superior 50-state campaign strategy, racking up the delegates. If the candidate seemed weary and peevish or a little slow to respond at times, he never lost his cool. But the real test is yet to come. The Republican Party has been successfully scaring voters since 1968, when Richard Nixon built a Silent Majority out of lower- and middle-class folks frightened or disturbed by hippies and student radicals and blacks rioting in the inner cities. The 2008 race may turn on which party will win the lower- and middle-class whites in industrial and border states—the Democrats' base from the New Deal to the 1960s, but "Reagan Democrats" in most presidential elections since then. It is a sure bet that the GOP will try to paint Obama as "the other"—as a haughty black intellectual who has Muslim roots (Obama is a Christian) and hangs around with America-haters.

Obama says he's ready for the onslaught. "Yes, we know what's coming," he told a cheering crowd as he won the North Carolina primary last week. "We've seen it already … the attempts to play on our fears and exploit our differences to turn us against each other for pure political gain—to slice and dice this country into Red States and Blue States; blue-collar and white-collar; white, black, brown." Hillary Clinton was not above playing on those fears. Refusing to concede defeat last week, she cited an Associated Press poll "that found how Senator Obama's support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans, is weakening again." As Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote: "Here's what she's really saying to party leaders: There's no way that white people are going to vote for the black guy. Come November, you'll be sorry." A top Clinton adviser, speaking anonymously so he could be more frank, says the Clinton campaign has actually been holding back, for fear of alienating other Democrats. The Republicans "won't suffer from such scruples," this adviser says. Sen. John McCain himself has explicitly disavowed playing the race card or taking the low road generally. But he may not be able to resist casting doubt on Obama's patriotism. And the real question is whether he can—or really wants to—rein in the merchants of slime and sellers of hate who populate the Internet and fund the "independent expenditure" groups who exercise their freedom in ways that give a bad name to free speech.

For Obama, the challenge will be to respond quickly and surely—but without overreacting or inviting an endless cycle of recriminations. Team Obama has been a model of tight, highly efficient organization, certainly in contrast to most presidential campaigns. The few tensions that have emerged have been between those who want to stick to the high ground and those who want to fight a little dirtier. (Such debates could intensify in a hard-hitting general campaign.) The campaign has at times been a little slow to fight back. Some of this deliberation is a measure of the candidate's personality. Obama disdains cable-TV talk-show shoutfests as trivial sideshows, and he tends to discount the seriousness of campaign gaffes and flaps. As a result, he was slow to denounce the most recent round of tirades by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. By failing to alert Obama to the gravity of the Wright fiasco, "I don't think we served him well," admits his chief strategist, David Axelrod.

But Team Obama has been consistently able to outstrategize the opposition, and it does have a plan for the coming mud war. In conversations with NEWSWEEK, Obama's aides have signaled their intention to put McCain on the spot. They note that McCain himself has been the victim of a smear. In the South Carolina primary in 2000, GOP operatives spread the rumor that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child. Recently, when a reporter asked McCain, "Does it bother you at all that you might actually benefit from latent prejudice in the country?" he answered: "That would bother me a lot. That would bother me a great deal." And last week his wife, Cindy, told NBC News, "My husband is absolutely opposed to any negative campaigning at all." So if McCain's camp does try to exploit Obama's ties to the fiery Reverend Wright, the Obama-ites can question his sincerity—is he really the "Straight Talk" candidate? And if McCain can't stop others from the sort of innuendo and code that Republicans have learned to frighten voters, Obama can cast doubt on McCain's credentials as a commander in chief. ("In other words," says liberal political pundit Mark Shields, "they can say that McCain is either a hypocrite or impotent.")

Some early skirmishes reveal the strategy. In North Carolina, the state Republican Party aired a TV ad suggesting that Obama might be "too extreme" because of his ties to the Reverend Wright. McCain told the North Carolina GOP to take down the ad, but he said that he couldn't force the state party to act, and the ad stayed on the air. "I assume that if John McCain thinks it's an inappropriate ad, that he can get them to pull it down since he's their nominee and standard-bearer," Obama declared. A campaign spokesman said, "The fact that Senator McCain can't get his own party to take down this misleading personal-attack ad raises serious questions about his promise that he will run a civil, respectful campaign."

At the time of the Pennsylvania primary, the McCain campaign sent out a letter suggesting that Obama was the candidate of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group ("Barack Obama's foreign policy plans have even won him praise from Hamas leaders," read the letter). McCain, by contrast, portrayed himself as "Hamas's worst nightmare." (In fact, Obama and McCain have the same position on Hamas —no talks, no recognition, no outreach.) Last week Obama told CNN: "This is offensive. And I think it's disappointing because John McCain always says, 'Well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics' … For him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination."

Longtime McCain strategist Mark Salter quickly charged that Obama was guilty of "ageism," i.e., that the Democrat was trying to slyly slip in the issue of the Republican candidate's age with his crack about McCain's "losing his bearings." It's easy to see how the presidential campaign could swiftly descend into tit-for-tat name-calling. Obama's advisers insist that the race will be about the big issues because there are stark contrasts between the candidates on Iraq and the economy. But if McCain thinks he can't win on those issues—if the war remains unpopular and the Bush downturn goes on—he will be sorely tempted to run down his opponent. The McCain campaign is now poring over Obama's record, looking for weaknesses that can be exposed without race-baiting or hitting below the belt. They want to brand Obama as a "superduper liberal who is out of the mainstream," says one McCain adviser who did not wish to be identified discussing internal campaign strategy.

A campaign insider who declined to be identified for the same reason says McCain aides are studying a private, 52-page dossier, compiled for the aborted 2004 campaign of Illinois Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan (slated to be Obama's opponent until disclosure of some embarrassing records related to his divorce forced him to drop out). The dossier, a copy of which was obtained by a campaign insider who declined to be identified for the same reason says McCain aides are studying a private, 52-page dossier, compiled for the aborted 2004 campaign of Illinois Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan (slated to be Obama's opponent until disclosure of some embarrassing records related to his divorce forced him to drop out). The dossier, a copy of which was obtained by NEWSWEEK, brands Obama as "in favor of coddling sex abusers" and "shamefully soft on crime and drugs." It hits, for instance, Obama's vote in 2001 against a GOP-sponsored measure to toughen penalties against "gangbangers," pushed after a particularly brutal gang killing in Chicago. Charlie Black, McCain's top strategist, tells NEWSWEEK he had not personally reviewed the Ryan dossier, but saw no problem with using Obama's votes on justice issues in the Illinois Legislature. "What's wrong with that?" he says. (An Obama spokesman says the criticism in the dossier was "long ago debunked," and that the candidate "is supported today by law-enforcement officials across Illinois and the nation. NEWSWEEK, brands Obama as "in favor of coddling sex abusers" and "shamefully soft on crime and drugs." It hits, for instance, Obama's vote in 2001 against a GOP-sponsored measure to toughen penalties against "gangbangers," pushed after a particularly brutal gang killing in Chicago. Charlie Black, McCain's top strategist, tells NEWSWEEK he had not personally reviewed the Ryan dossier, but saw no problem with using Obama's votes on justice issues in the Illinois Legislature. "What's wrong with that?" he says. (An Obama spokesman says the criticism in the dossier was "long ago debunked," and that the candidate "is supported today by law-enforcement officials across Illinois and the nation.")

McCain's top aides include some veterans of past Republican attack campaigns, like campaign strategist Steve Schmidt, who was in charge of rapid response for Bush-Cheney '04, and Black, whose experience goes all the way back to the campaigns of right-wing Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina. John Weaver, McCain's former chief strategist who resigned from the campaign last summer but keeps ties to McCain, suggests that McCain could try to block low-road smears. "He could say, 'If any major donors or political operators do that, then you will be persona non grata in my administration'," says Weaver. But McCain himself has said that he will not "referee" between various independent groups who always want to have their say in presidential campaigns. (The model is the notorious Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who unfairly but effectively questioned John Kerry's war record in 2004.) Black tells NEWSWEEK McCain was powerless to stop the "527s," named after the provision of the tax code that covers political expenditures by nonprofits, from running attack ads on their own. "Look, there's nothing we can do about the 527s," says Black.

Another McCain adviser, who asked for anonymity discussing internal campaign strategy, bluntly warned: "It's going to be Swift Boat times five on both sides … The candidates will both do their best publicly to mute it. But in a close race, I don't see how to shut that down." Indeed, two of the most experienced attack artists are already gearing up. Floyd Brown, who produced the infamous "Willie Horton" commercial that used race and fear of crime to drive voters away from Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988, produced an ad before the North Carolina primary accusing Obama of being soft on crime. He tells NEWSWEEK that Obama is "extremely vulnerable" to questioning about his ties to Chicago fixer Tony Rezko, who has been indicted for political corruption. (Obama is not linked to any wrongdoing.) Another target is former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers, whose association with Obama will remind voters of bomb-throwing student radicals of the 1960s. "There's plenty of stuff out there," says Brown. "I'm kinda like in a candy store in this election."

Then there's David Bossie, already deep into a mudslinging campaign against Obama through a political organization called Citizens United. Bossie is planning a widespread DVD release of a documentary that will portray Obama as a "limousine, out-of-control leftist liberal … more liberal than [Vermont Sen.] Bernie Sanders, who is a socialist," Bossie tells NEWSWEEK. McCain has little leverage over Bossie, who has run ads attacking McCain as too liberal in the past.

It's possible that aiming low will backfire. In the recent special election for a solidly Republican House seat in Louisiana, the national GOP ran an ad tying the Democratic candidate, Don Cazayoux, to Obama and his allegedly "radical agenda." The Democrat won—taking away the seat from the Republicans for the first time in 33 years. The result was "a sharp wake-up call for Republicans," declared former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that if the Republicans try to run an anti-Obama … anti-Reverend Wright campaign, they are simply going to fail," Gingrich wrote. "This model has already been tested with disastrous results."

Maybe so, but desperate times can call for desperate measures. With his huge Internet network of donors, Obama can raise much more money than McCain. The Republicans will need those independent expenditures to try to keep up, no matter how distasteful the attack ads they buy.

The last Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, dithered and failed to quickly strike back when he was attacked by the Swift Boat veterans. The Obama team says it will not make the same mistake. "You fight back aggressively and play jujitsu," says David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager. Obama has a much more disciplined, focused team than Kerry, whose organization was prone to infighting and lacked strong leadership.

Obama has been fortunate in his senior advisers. Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, combines big-picture idealism and Chicago School politics of hard knocks. Plouffe is sure and steady. Having managed the successful campaign to get the mercurial Bob Torricelli elected in New Jersey to the Senate in 1996, Plouffe impressed Democratic political gurus. In 1997, Steve Elmendorf, chief of staff to former House Democratic leader Richard Gephardt, hired Plouffe as his deputy. "There are a lot of people in politics who are good strategists and there are a lot of people who are good managers," says Elmendorf. "There are not a lot of people who can do both, and David can do both." The genius of Axelrod and Plouffe was to combine astonishing (even to them) fund-raising potential on the Internet with grass-roots organizing. While Clinton was aiming for a knockout by sweeping Super Tuesday, Axelrod and Plouffe were methodically organizing a state-by-state, district-by-district strategy—including states that most political experts ignored. For example, Idaho: Obama won by 60 points and netted more delegates than Clinton took out of either Ohio or Pennsylvania.

Obama "doesn't micromanage," Axelrod tells NEWSWEEK. But, he adds, "there's never a doubt who the alpha dog is." The day after his big defeat in Ohio and his popular-vote loss in Texas, Obama traveled to the large corporate offices in Chicago that serve as his campaign headquarters. The mood was grim; they had, after all, blown their third chance to end the primary season early—after the shock of New Hampshire and the muddled results of Super Tuesday. Obama toured the office, visiting every desk to thank his mostly young staffers for their efforts and urging them to keep their chins up. Then he walked into a conference room for a far tougher two-hour conversation with his senior staff. "We rise or fall together," he started out. "I'm not pointing fingers at any single person because we all share responsibility." He talked through his own mistakes as a candidate and went around the table asking people for their input in the postmortem. Speaking calmly but intensely, he then took control to explain how he saw it. He worked his way through a detailed, handwritten list of what went right and wrong—including how they misspent time and money, how they relied too much on impersonal rallies and how the schedule was flawed.

At the end of the meeting, Obama stood up and began to walk out of the room, before wheeling around to say one more thing to his somber staff: "I'm not yelling at you and I'm not screaming. Although for $20 million for two primaries and the results we got, I could," he said, laughing. "But I'm not."

Obama's almost preternatural equanimity has helped keep his campaign on an even keel. Although he can seem slightly humorless on TV, as he is fencing with an inquiring anchorperson or debating an opponent, he has a light touch in the office, and he can laugh off adversity. Obama has shown signs of exhaustion, and he has appeared increasingly gaunt. Mocked for not finishing his waffles, he has made a joke about his newfound willingness to drink beer in blue-collar bars and sop up the gravy at working-class diners. After he lost the Pennsylvania primary to a beer-swilling, whisky-downing Hillary, Obama mordantly announced to his staff, "OK, now I'll eat anything."

Some candidates are feared and respected by their staffs, but they are very rarely liked after a few grueling months on the campaign trail. Obama seems to have retained the affection of his. As the crucial North Carolina and Indiana primaries approached, Axelrod pulled a series of all-nighters to try to close the deal. After the campaign plane landed at one brief stop in Charlotte, N.C., Obama asked how Axelrod was doing. "I'm really tired," Axelrod said. Obama put his hand on his shoulder and said, "Why don't you stay here and have a nap?" Axelrod reluctantly agreed: "You know, I think I will." To those around, it spoke to the unconventional and close partnership between the candidate and his consigliere.

On the night before Indiana and North Carolina, Axelrod appeared unusually grim and gloomy. The final night of internal polling showed Obama 12 points down in Indiana against Clinton—a disastrous collapse after two or three days of closing the gap. The campaign's pollsters cautioned that the last night's sample seemed weird and they should rely instead on the three-day rolling average of 2 points. But Axelrod feared the worst, that Wright had sunk the campaign in Indiana and possibly in North Carolina, too.

The next day, after visiting some polling stations, Obama arrived back at his hotel and stopped by the coffee shop, where he urged some curious bystanders to vote for him. When a NEWSWEEK reporter asked him about Axelrod's gloomy prognosis, Obama shrugged and said: "It is what it is. We've had a month, two months of bad stuff. It's been hard to change the storyline." He smiled and walked out to get ready for his now traditional Election Day game of basketball. If he was at all worried, as his senior staff was, he hid his concerns successfully from the outside world.

There is no ready training for commander in chief, and no real way to predict how a man or woman will perform once in the Oval Office. Campaigns can deceive voters, or at least mask shortcomings. After watching his father's triumph in 1988 and failure in 1992, George W. Bush had a good feel for the mechanics of campaigning: the importance of money, message and geography. His 2000 campaign was well managed by a tight group of loyal aides, with little infighting. It was only after he became president that voters began to grasp Bush's failings as an executive—his disdain for expert opinion, his stubborn approach to policy or rivals, his fatal lack of follow-through.

Obama, at least, seems to be more curious than the current president. Ruchi Bhowmik, a legislative counsel in Obama's Senate office, is one of the staffers whom Obama has called upon because she was too quiet in a gathering. "When he's at a meeting, he's very inclusive and a very good listener," she tells NEWSWEEK. "He's not looking to dictate what everyone is discussing, and he wants to hear what everyone is thinking. He doesn't discount things." On Capitol Hill, Senator Obama has been a foe of "knee jerk" thinking, says Bhowmik. "Obama's response is, 'Well, we've always done it that way—why?' "

Presidential campaigns may be in some ways little more than glorified stress tests, not true measures of the potential for presidential greatness. Still, they do offer significant peeks into personal character. Obama "does not get rattled," says Bhowmik. "I've never seen it." He has "grace under fire." In the coming campaign, he will need it.

Link to original post from Newsweek.


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