Shaping the Future

Watching the President speak about health care reform this evening, I’m reminded why I voted for him. His words were clear and his tone was assertive. He took those who spread misinformation about the bill to task and actually used the word “lie”. He spoke in no uncertain terms that he was willing to listen to ideas from both the right and the left, and yet while he was doing this, Republicans in the room treated the occasion like so many town hall meetings that have degenerated into shouting matches these past few weeks.

I don’t agree with everything Obama has done so far in office. I’d like the transparency he promised in the campaign and an end to Bush era provisions such as warrant-less wiretaps. I’d also like to see more of what he showed tonight. A willingness to stand up and fight for his beliefs and to challenge those who would stand in the way of progress simply to score political points.

His presidency is still young but when he takes the time to assert himself, it demonstrates why we believed in him despite his relative inexperience. Tonight, the right was made to look like the obstructionists they are. The GOP agree reform is needed, but they are unwilling to compromise on the key points that will make the health care proposal effective at lowering costs and providing care for those who lack it. Near the end of his speech, the President said: “We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.” I firmly believe this administration can do great things, Barack just needs to get out in front a bit more. We’re buying, it’s just that up until now, he’s hasn’t really been selling. That changed tonight. It’s about time.

Following Through

I can’t honestly remember the last time I was rooting for my President to succeed so vehemently. So far, Barack Obama has done a pretty good job of keeping his campaign promises. His first official budget, which he delivered to Congress this week, continues that resolve. The sheer fact that unlike Bush, he didn’t attempt to hide the cost of war in Iraq and Afghanistan by leaving it out of the budget signals the true nature of change he represents.

In this latest weekly video address Obama foreshadows the huge lobbying effort that is gearing up to fight the changes his administration will bring. At the 3:40 mark he lays it out bare: they are getting ready for a fight. His answer to those deep-pocketed special interests is even better – “So am I”. You are not alone Mr. President, we’ve got your back. This is going to be good.

O-Day +1

So after yesterday’s celebration, today Barack Obama got down to business. Not wanting to waste any time, Obama took off his coat, sat down in the Oval Office and started doing good things immediately. In case you missed it, here’s some of the awesome stuff President Obama got accomplished on day one:

• In order to set a good example for the country during this time of economic crisis, Obama froze the pay for many members of his administration making over $100,000 a year. Unlike the previous administration, evidently the buck stops here.

• Obama introduced sweeping new ethics reform for how lobbyists can function in his administration. The new rules Obama laid out seem pretty obvious now, but for some reason were never put into practice by previous administrations.

• Put the wheels in motion to get Gitmo closed within a year. Given how poorly the military tribunals there have been received by world governments, human rights groups and Americans at large, restoring captive’s rights toward a fair trial is critical to regaining the moral high ground.

• He pissed off Rush Limbaugh by issuing a Presidential memo restoring transparency to any and all White House records. Obama made it a point of distinction that his administration would function under the notion of more openness, not less. Secrecy, while important, should only be invoked in matters of national security or high sensitivity. Rush said on his radio show today that he’s worried the new openness will make it easier for people to dig up Bush misdeeds. You don’t say Rush, really?

• Obama re-took the oath of office late today after the botched job by Justice Roberts during the inauguration. Although he most likely didn’t have to, he none-the-less did and thereby corked any possible dispute that might have arisen from the incorrect oath he took yesterday. Obama’s willingness to correct a small error like this speaks volumes about how different he is from George W. Bush.

Five positive steps in one day. Not bad Mr. President, not bad. If you keep this up, you just may live up to all the hype. Color me impressed.

GOP Jerkwads

You’d think that after the pasting they received in November, the GOP would be busy figuring out why they are so out of touch with the American people. Of course, you’d be wrong. Apparently Republicans are interested in alienating even more of the country as they insist on playing to the hard base.

Witness the arrogant and bigoted tone of one RNC Chair candidate, Chip Saltsman. Saltsman sent out copies of a song entitled “Barack the Magic Negro” as part of his Christmas greeting. The song, originally publicized by Rush Limbaugh earlier this year, came under fire from the media and anyone with a brain for its racist overtones. Somehow Saltsman saw fit to make the tune part of his holiday message. All this with less than 30 day to go until the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. To top it off, in the 20+ hours since this story first broke, only one high-ranking Republican has condemned Saltsman’s actions. Just one.

If the GOP has any hope of regaining the respect it lost over the past eight years, they must begin by pulling their heads out of their collective asses. It’s bad enough making a joke by calling someone a “magic negro”, but when that person is the next President of the United States and you actually defend said remarks, you deserve huge helpings of ridicule and scorn.

Sadly, this is yet more evidence that the right has no interest in doing what’s best for the country. Until this dipstick stunt, the prime example of the GOP’s pandering attitude was McCain pulling Palin out of obscurity as his running mate. Saltsman’s actions flow from the natural progression of this costly strategy and I for one hope they keep it up. Their foolish bravado is laying the foundation for a long-term Democratic majority the right hasn’t seen in decades. Saltsman says his song was “just a joke”, but the really funny part is the joke’s on him.

UPDATE: Peter Yarrow, one of the artists behind “Puff the Magic Dragon”, speaks out on the whole affair and hits the nail right on the head. He writes “Obama is not a candidate. He is the President-Elect, and this song insults the office of the Presidency, the people who voted for him, as well as those who did not — and taking a children’s song and twisting it in such vulgar, mean-spirited way, is a slur to our entire country and our common agreement to move beyond racism.”

UPDATE II: Simon Rosenberg, head of the Democratic organization NDN, is quoted in a recent Huffington Post piece as saying the GOP just don’t get it. “The core play in the GOP playbook for 44 years has been the magic negro playbook, whether it is Willie Horton, or welfare queens and tax and spend, or the way they have dealt with immigration… they don’t have a play in their playbook that doesn’t start with the exploitation of racial divisions. They are going to have to reject 44 years of GOP politics in order to have any chance in the 21st century America.”

Take My Hand

Last night I watched our new President-Elect, Barack Obama, give his acceptance speech to a crowd of over 150,000 people gathered in Grant Park and millions more around the globe. I’ve been a strong Obama supporter from day one, but I really didn’t think I’d actually break down and cry. As Barack spoke to all of us, my mind raced and my heart slowed. I could feel the fear and anxiety that have been my constant companion for the last 20 months melt away.

Earlier in the evening I and a few friends exchanged tweets regarding just how nervous we were for Obama. When the news came that media outlets were calling the election in favor of Barack, I rejoiced but part of me didn’t believe it. The specter of loss sat next to me right up until John McCain gave his concession speech and quelled the boos of his supporters. In that moment McCain reclaimed much of what he had lost. I saw the man I had respected and admired break through the fear, uncertainty and doubt he and Palin had helped to sow. When McCain left the stage to return to his former life as an elder statesman from Arizona, it was then that I felt a wave of peace wash over me.

Like so many other Americans, I’ve been worried about Barack. Worried that harm would come to him. Worried that America wouldn’t step up and make the right choice. Worried that we would again choose the politics of fear instead of hope. All that worry had washed away as Obama took the stage in Chicago. Despite speaking from behind walls of 2 inch thick bulletproof glass, all I could see was the man. All I could hear were his words. He appealed to the “better angels of our nature” and reminded us that we have a steep climb in the days and years ahead.

Through all this I sat and listened. At the very end, after the on-stage goodbyes had finished, you could see Michelle hanging way back waiting for Barack. She was proud, but also calm. I saw myself in her and knew that her fear and anxiety had dissolved just as mine had. In this moment, she was all of us, waiting for him to take our hand. Barack walked to her and just then Michelle touched his face, gave him a kiss and they walked hand in hand into a new and hopeful future together.

That’s when I started crying.

Day of Days

After 22 months, today is the day Americans elect a new President and no matter what happens, the results will be historic. We’ll either have the first woman Vice President or we’ll have the first African American President. Obviously I’m rooting for the latter, and although I voted early there is a part of me that would have liked to go to the polls today in my deep, royal blue shirt and voted for Barack.

All that is past me now and thankfully the campaign commercials (on both sides) are at an end. A quick check of Quicken reveals that I gave a total of $150 to Obama’s campaign split among 5 seperate donations. I’ve never given that much to a political candidate before, ever. I’ve written over 40 blog posts that either are directly about, or mention Barack Obama since July of 2007. I think it’s fair to say I’m invested in an Obama victory. And although I was rooting for Kerry in 2004, this time it’s different.

Back then I was really voting against George W. Bush. When I voted this past week, I was voting for Obama. I was voting for change, hope and a new direction for this country. I voted to gain back the respect of the world which this country has lost these last eight years. I voted to support the rule of law and against cronyism. I wasn’t voting for abortion, I voted for a woman’s right to choose. I voted for renewable energy and wrangling in the ballooning cost of healthcare. I voted for Obama to support net neutrality and to make sure the Supreme Court doesn’t slip further to the right than it already has. I voted against torturing prisoners (even the ones the CIA holds), taking our eye off the ball in Iraq and most of all, I voted for man whom I believe will actually find and kill Bin Laden.

When all the polls close and the votes are counted, I believe that America will have made the right choice. People are craving to make a difference this time around. The lines will be long and problems will surface but in the end, there can be only one. Today will be remembered as the day when we all looked fear and division in the eye and instead chose hope. I can’t wait.

I Voted for Barack Obama Today

I took off from work today to head to the early voting location near the Iconfactory. I arrived at the Leonard Recreation Center on Ballinger Rd. around 4pm. I went inside to find a line of about 100 people stretching from the voting room to the gymnasium, and so I took my place at the end of the line. As I settled in, I started the chronometer on my iPhone to see just how long it would take to get to the front. Although the line was long, it did seem to move right along. People were in good spirits and I saw many young and African American voters come into the gym and head to the back of the line.

While in the gym, I was able to check my tweets and email and generally stay busy playing games and surfing the web. As I got near the front of the line more and more people started to come in, presumably trying to beat the rush before 5pm. When I reached the voting room, the nice volunteers took my name, printed my voting confirmation sheet and then asked me to wait for a free machine. To my surprise, the gentleman who showed me to my station recognized me and said “I know you, you’re the “icon man!” I’m not sure if he recognized me from past years voting in Greensboro or from the Fox 8 piece that aired a few months back. Either way it was a pleasant surprise and he and I chatted for a bit before I actually set about the business of voting. He explained to me that the rec center had been processing about 900-1100 voters per day for the last week and a half.

He gave me my instructions and warned me about voting separately for the presidential candidates if I chose to do a straight ticket and then we parted ways. I was very proud to press the button that was labeled Barack Obama / Joe Biden for President and Vice President of the United States. I double, then tripled checked it was correct and then set about voting on the rest of the ballot. I skipped many of the local judges since I wasn’t familiar with them.

When I confirmed my choices and stepped out the exit, I looked at my iPhone’s chronometer and it read 38 minutes. Time had really flown by there in line and the poll workers knew their job very well so all in all I had no problems. I was pleased to see so many of my fellow North Carolinians voting early. But most of all, I was happy that for the first time in recent memory, I actually had a candidate that I was proud to cast my vote for as President. Many people in line were smiling while they waited, I could tell the mood was upbeat and positive. I think many of them were voting for Obama too.

It’s Sarah Palin’s World. John McCain is Just Living In It.

The cracks started to show several weeks ago when Palin disagreed with the McCain’s idea to pull out of Michigan. The cracks grew into fractures when it was reported that the campaign spent some $150,000 of GOP donor money on clothes and makeup treatments for Palin and her family so they could “look good” during the run up to the election. Accusations flew, and some within the McCain camp started leaking nasty things about Sarah to the press. “She’s gone rogue” said one advisor. Then this week came the infamous “whack job” comment. Now from ABC news comes the icing on the chilly cake that is the Palin/McCain campaign. Sarah’s ready for 2012!

“Gov. Sarah Palin suggested that if the Republican ticket is defeated on Tuesday she expects to be a player in the next election four years from now, saying “I’m not doing this for naught.”

In an interview with ABC News’ Elizabeth Vargas, the Republican vice-presidential nominee was asked about 2012, whether she was discouraged by the daily attacks on the campaign trail, and would instead pack it in and return to her home state of Alaska.

“I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we’ve taken, that would bring this whole & I’m not doing this for naught,” Palin said.”

It seems that someone has a taste for their new found, conservative popularity. It would be a shame for all that stumping to go to waste if and when McCain loses. So Sarah seems to be hedging her bets for the next go around four years from now. The fact that she’s talking about 2012 six days before the 2008 election is nothing less than stunning. If I was John McCain, I’d be positively livid, but all things being equal it serves him right. This is what McCain gets when he listens to the likes of mr-thinks-he-knows-everything-but-really-knows-nothing Bill Kristol. Palin is turning out to be the single best thing Kristol’s ever done for the left in his long and illustrious career of being completely and utterly wrong. You betcha!

Colin Powell’s October Surprise

I’ve written before about the elder statesman, Colin Powell, who served as National Security Adviser and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Today, Colin Powell officially announced his support for Barack Obama for President with a little more than 2 weeks to go until the election. Good for him.

His statement, which was released on NBC’s Meet the Press, goes to the very heart of the matter about why the GOP will lose on November 4th, and not just for the Presidency, but across both houses of Congress. Powell forcefully criticized his own party for what he called its “narrow focus” on irrelevant personal attacks instead of the major challenges to the American people. Powell went on to say McCain’s choices in the last few weeks — especially his selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his vice presidential running mate — had raised questions in his mind about McCain’s judgment:

“I don’t believe [Palin] is ready to be president of the United States. By contrast, Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware is ready to be president on day one.”

Powell also expressed disappointment with the GOP’s apparent determination to question Obama’s religion and heritage, speaking directly to members of the right who seem to think Obama is a Muslim or an “Arab”. Although Powell once again reiterated that Barack is neither, he addressed the larger question which was brought up in the comment thread of one of my earlier posts – “The really right answer is what if he is?” Powell said, praising the contributions of millions of Muslim citizens to American society. “I look at these kind of approaches to the campaign, and they trouble me,” Powell said. “Over the last seven weeks, the approach of the Republican Party has become narrower and narrower.”

That’s exactly right Mr. Powell. What if he was? In this incredible country of ours, your race, religion, sexual orientation or heritage shouldn’t be the litmus test for job fitness. This nation needs to move beyond the fear and mistrust of the “not like us” promoters. Colin Powell thinks Barack Obama is the man that will help us do just that. I happen to agree with him 100%.

Let’s Play Palin VP Bingo!

With the eagerly anticipated Vice Presidential debate between Alaska Govenor Sarah Palin and Senator Joe Biden, I thought now would be a good time for Sarah Palin Bingo. Although Sarah came on like gangbusters, lately her star has been falling. From the get-go she has lied about her record on the “bridge to nowhere”, Alaska’s energy contribution to the United States, her position on climate change and a whole host of other subjects. And although she’s conducted only a handful of interviews, her answers have made conservatives increasingly cringe.

Given all this and the fact that a growing number of right-wing strategists have said she should resign from McCain’s campaign, I thought it would be fun to keep track of the items sure to pop up during the debate on October 2nd. You can download and print out the PDF version of Palin VP Bingo so you can play along at home, or just check the Palin Bingo Page following the debate to see how we did.

NOTE: If for some strange reason the VP debate gets cancelled, it’s an instant Bingo. Now go download and have fun!

UPDATE: Well the debate is now one for the history books (thank goodness). I’m sorry to say we didn’t manage to call a Bingo! but it was fun none-the-less. If every space on the board had been filled with “maverick” then we all would have easily won. Sarah seemed to mention it ALOT in the last half of the event, especially in the closing minutes. And while she held her ground and didn’t provide the train wreck that I think so many on the left were hoping for, I think it’s pretty clear she doesn’t have the stuff to be one heart beat away from the Presidency. She didn’t answer questions, kept falling back on talking points, repeatedly mispronounced names and relied too heavily on “folksy” sayings.

Biden for his part seemed off-stride for the first half, but picked up steam in the end. He didn’t put his foot in his mouth as I expected he would (which was great) and gave more solid answers to a number of questions than Palin did. In the end, I don’t think this debate changed much, and after the right’s relief that Sarah didn’t screw up wears off, I think people will realize how little she actually said.