Issue #69

Last Update October 31, 2010

Commentary November, 2008   The election is finally over. Barack Obama has won, and Democratic majorities have increased in the House and the Senate. The big questions for the immediate future are:

-Is Obama determined to unite the country, as he claimed in his campaign? His cabinet choices will give us a major clue as to whether unification is a real priority for him. At least one of the following positions must go to a centrist Republican for his unity claim to be credible: Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, or Secretary of the Treasury. Appointing a Republican to one of the lesser cabinet positions will not carry the same message.

-Will the American public give Obama time to begin to work on the problems of the nation? An email sent to his supporters after he clinched the victory gives us a clue as to how Obama will buy himself the time he needs: he will not be passive; he will, using electronic media and anything else that will work, keep the public informed as to what he will do and when he will do it. Communicating directly with ordinary Americans, saying "We can start on this issue now, but it will take time, and here's what we will do We will get to that other issue in six months. Hold on and let me do my job." will bolster the patience of his supporters and allow him the room to make his moves.

-Will the radical Right give Obama the time to work on the problems of the nation, or will they begin the attacks before he even takes office, as they did with Bill Clinton. Richard Mellon Scaife, who financed many of the Clinton attacks, is somewhat chastened by the result: Clinton survived, though crippled, and we got W, who promptly trashed everything that Scaife professed to believe in. Maybe this history will give them pause, and Obama will have a small honeymoon.

Commentators with a Republican world view blame McCain's conduct of his campaign (and the choice of Sarah Palin) for his loss, and cite the disaster of the economy as a contributing factor (bad luck, somehow unrelated to McCain). Like those who believe that invading Iraq was right, it was the execution that was flawed, they detach the effect from the cause. McCain was an enabler of the policies that led to the economic debacle. It was his bad luck that the foreseeable effects of the policies he supported came so close to the election, but these effects were unavoidable. Similarly, the Iraq invasion was wrong, both morally and from the standpoint of the supposed benefits it would bring. As Colin Powell wisely told Bush Senior when it was proposed that the US Army go to Baghdad in the first Gulf War, "You break it, you own it."

The election has already had beneficial effects. It has raised American prestige enormously abroad, prestige we desperately need to begin to resolve the immense problems of terrorism, war, the international economy, energy and global warming. Obama will build on that. We wish him luck.

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