Saturday, November 8, 2008

The new era of Barack Obama (2 of 2 - final)

We need to figure out what can be done to make sure that Iran is an ally of ours in 20 years. We need to be working with Russia and China and Europe, and not be at constant odds with them. We need to end the embargo against Cuba, the only place in the world where the Cold War not only didn't cease but got colder in recent years. There will be no stability in the Middle East without a grand bargain that simultaneously works to solve many interlocking dramas in the region -- with the Israeli-Palestinian standoff perhaps the most important.

This is all doable if Obama and his team are brilliant, embrace the future and make sure that "Obama I" doesn't start off as a George W. Bush III or Bill Clinton III.

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America
Women can relish the victory and justifiably share much of the credit. Sen. Obama won women by 13 points -- where John Kerry barely had any gender gap advantage at all. Women were energized in this presidential race unlike ever before, beginning with the historic candidacy of Sen. Hillary Clinton and, eventually, through their growing awareness of the abysmal record of Sen. John McCain on basic women's issues. From equal pay to reproductive rights to healthcare coverage, women increasingly saw John McCain as fundamentally out of touch with their basic needs. And the Hail Mary nomination of Sarah Palin only exacerbated the sense that he just didn't get it.

Larry Blumenfeld, music journalist
Morning in America it may not be, nor am I in some shining city on a hill. It's just another day at the crest of the hill that is Park Slope, Brooklyn. But buried in my local coffee shop's calm are remnants of a joy-filled night that has bled into early moments of hopeful anticipation, which is remarkably different from instinctive anxiety.

On Tuesday night, Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra -- the band that bassist Haden first assembled in 1968 and has reconvened during each Republican administration -- had just ended Carla Bley's "Blue Anthem" during a late set at Manhattan's Blue Note when Allen Broadbent (subbing for Bley) jumped up from the piano bench.

"Obama has won!"

Someone had whispered the news in Broadbent's ear, along with the Democratic electoral-vote total at 11:20 p.m. (It was 297 and counting.)

"Are you sure?" Haden asked, clutching his bass.

Broadbent nodded.

"Man!" Haden sighed with force. He stood silent a few moments. "I guess it's time to play 'Amazing Grace.'"

And they did.

I wonder what all this will mean for my infant son, Sam, whom I'd promised would have to endure a cynical, ill-meaning government for only the first few months of life. Or what it will mean for my friends in New Orleans, who might dare to think that public servants who long ago turned away might just look back with concern and compassion and the political will to act. Or even in Cuba, where, for most of the Bush presidency, the musicians I know have been banned from the stages and concert halls in my or any other American city.

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California Irvine School of Law
Never in my adult life has there been more hope surrounding the election of a president. And never in American history has there been a president as knowledgeable in the law, and especially constitutional law, as Barack Obama. The most obvious place where this will matter is in his judicial appointments. There likely will be somewhere between one and three vacancies on the Supreme Court over the next four years. Justice John Paul Stevens is 88 years old and it does not seem likely that he will still be on the court at age 93 in 2013. There are rumors that Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter might step down.

Obama's replacing one or more of these individuals likely will not change the ideological composition of the court in the short term; he is likely to choose individuals who have similar views. But Obama's picks for the lower courts, especially the U.S. Court of Appeals, could be transformative. Most federal courts of appeals have a majority of judges appointed by Republican presidents, but in many places that will change over the next four years. In light of a Senate with at least 56 Democrats, Obama should be able to pick judges without confirmation fights.

Obama's knowledge of constitutional law will matter in other areas. He has the chance to overturn Bush administration policies that compromised basic human rights. One of Obama's first actions should be to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay and either transfer its inmates to federal prisons or release them. Guantánamo is an international embarrassment and has become a symbol of America's violations of international law.

Obama also needs to immediately rescind Bush administration policies authorizing torture, permitting renditions that violate international law, and authorizing extrajudicial spying on Americans. From the moment of his inauguration, Obama must declare that the United States will comply with international law and follow its own Constitution.

In fact, Obama must take the difficult step of initiating the process for war crimes prosecutions of men such as Dick Cheney, David Addington and John Yoo. In her brilliant book "The Dark Side," investigative journalist Jane Mayer provides compelling proof that these, and likely other individuals, violated basic norms of international law. Moving forward requires taking the difficult step of holding these individuals accountable.

Steve Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation
Barack Obama is the first new media "Facebook" president. He built on the pioneering work that Joe Trippi deployed for the Howard Dean campaign and used social networking architecture to motivate, inspire, fundraise and mobilize millions of people who are new to the voting scene. I saw many crying while standing in line to vote -- silent tears of hope in the morning that became rivers of happy tears when he took the stage and said he would be a president for all Americans.

Obama needs to move beyond the campaign now, and as a nation, we need to put aside the "wow" of all of this and get to dealing with the fact that no president in modern times has inherited such eroded and dangerous national security and economic conditions.

Obama has reportedly selected a shrewd chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel -- not exactly a poster child for constructive bipartisanship. But Emanuel, like Nixon going to China, can reach out to Republicans (and former Republicans) like Chuck Hagel, Lincoln Chafee, Richard Lugar, Rita Hauser, Brent Scowcroft and others, and meld their expertise on national security statecraft with the global justice agenda reflected in the work and thinking of people like Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Anne-Marie Slaughter, James Galbraith, James Steinberg, Gayle Smith and Anthony Lake. We need to face head-on some of the great 21st century challenges barreling toward us. But we need to be able to generate actual results -- not platitudes -- for citizens at home and abroad.

That requires a smart globalization --- not manic neoliberalism. We need Obama to help generate a new global social contract between the United States and other responsible global stakeholders, and we need a new social contract at home.

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