Saturday, November 8, 2008
She particularly lashed out at the anonymous Republican campaign sources cited in a Fox News report who said she did not know Africa was a continent, not a country, and could not name the three countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement — Canada, the United States and Mexico.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called her critics cowards and jerks Friday for deriding her anonymously and insisted she never asked for the expensive wardrobe purchased for her use on the presidential campaign.
"I never asked for anything more than a Diet Dr. Pepper once in a while," Palin said as she returned to the governor's office from her two-month odyssey as the GOP vice presidential nominee. She said the Republican National Committee paid for the tens of thousands of dollars in designer clothes and accessories.
"Those are the RNC's clothes. They're not my clothes. I never forced anybody to buy anything," she said.
"I consider it cowardly" that they did not allow their names to be used, she said.
Palin said those allegations aren't true. She recalled discussing Africa and NAFTA with aides who prepared her for the vice presidential debate with Democrat Joe Biden.
"If there are allegations based on questions or comments that I made in debate prep about NAFTA, and about the continent vs. the country when we talk about Africa there, then those were taken out of context," she said. "That's cruel, It's mean-spirited. It's immature. It's unprofessional and those guys are jerks if they came away with it, taking things out of context and then tried to spread something on national news. It's not fair, and it's not right."
Palin also said she would not call on Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to resign, although last month, before his re-election bid, she said he should "step aside" and "play a very statesmanlike role in this now." Stevens, 84, was found guilty on seven counts of trying to hide more than $250,000 in free home renovations and other gifts that he received from a wealthy oil contractor.
Three days after the election, Stevens, the longest serving Republican in Senate history, is about 3,500 votes ahead of Democratic challenger Mark Begich with thousands of absentee ballots to be counted in the next two weeks.
Said Palin on Friday: "The Alaska voters have spoken and me not being a dictator, won't be telling anyone what to do."
When asked if she would call on him to resign, Palin said: "Not after the will of the people has been made manifest via that vote."
Meanwhile, RNC lawyers are discussing with Palin whether what's left of the clothing and accessories purchased for her on the campaign trail will go to charity, back to stores or be paid for by Palin, a McCain-Palin campaign official said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the campaign hadn't authorized comment.
The sorting should be completed in the next four or five days, the campaign official said, declining to say whether the RNC was sending anyone to Alaska to help take inventory.
The RNC spent at least $150,000 on designer clothing, accessories and beauty services for Palin after she became John McCain's running mate in September. The spending included $75,062 at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis; $49,425 at Saks Fifth Avenue; $9,447 at Macy's; and $789 at the luxury retailer Barneys New York. Some of the purchases were for Palin family members, such as $4,902 spent at upscale men's clothier Atelier and $92 at Pacifier, a Minneapolis baby boutique.
The McCain-Palin campaign said about a third of the clothing was returned immediately because it was the wrong size, or for other reasons. However, other purchases were apparently made after that, the campaign official said.
Obama Gets Telegram, No Spot in SpeechPresident Dmitry Medvedev appeared in no hurry Wednesday to congratulate Barack Obama on his victory in the U.S. presidential election, sending the senator a telegram after eschewing an opportunity to acknowledge the win in his state-of-the-nation address.
"I hope for a constructive dialogue with you, based on trust and consideration of each other's interests," Medvedev said in a plainly worded note sent to Obama and posted on the Kremlin's web site late Wednesday afternoon.
Despite several references to the new U.S. administration, Medvedev refrained from mentioning Obama in his speech at 12 p.m. — long after it was clear that the Illinois Democrat had won.
The apparent hesitance came despite the fact that Medvedev has said he would prefer that Obama, 47, become the next U.S. president instead of his rival, Arizona's Republican Senator John McCain, 72.
"It would be easier to work with people with a modern outlook, rather than those whose eyes are turned back to the past," Medvedev said in February, before he was elected president himself.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday refrained altogether from commenting on Obama's victory.
Other top Russian officials and politicians were cautious in their predictions of how an Obama administration would affect U.S.-Russian relations, with many predicting changes to U.S. foreign policy but no consensus on their direction or depth.
Still, officials in the Cabinet's economic bloc welcomed Obama's win, saying his presidency would be better for the global economy than that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
"The U.S. elections will have a positive effect on the global economy because of the new expectations," Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told reporters Wednesday. "Now, these expectations are tied to absolutely new principles in politics, which will be directed toward stabilizing the global financial system."
Obama's team of economists will reconsider and refresh the bailout measures being implemented by the Bush administration, he said.
Both Medvedev and Putin have repeatedly blamed the United States for the financial crisis, which has knocked about two-thirds of the value from the country's stock markets since this summer.
Independent economists have argued that Russian stocks suffered worse than those in other emerging markets because the effects of the global crisis were combined with Putin's heavy-handedness in the economy and major capital flight after the August war with Georgia.
First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov tied Obama's victory to a global increase in stock prices Wednesday. "The first reaction of the stock market says that there is hope," he said.
Russian stocks also jumped in early trading, with the MICEX Index rising more than 13 percent before falling back to close up 1.1 percent (Story, Page 7.)
Medvedev's top economic adviser, Arkady Dvorkovich, said that under Obama, the United States would engage in a closer dialogue with Europe, Asia and Russia to find a way out of the financial crisis.
"This dialogue will begin in the near future in Washington. We will look for solutions together," Dvorkovich said, Interfax reported.
Medvedev will travel to Washington on Nov. 15 to attend a summit on the financial crisis. It was not clear Wednesday whether he would meet with Obama during the visit. Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee, said a meeting was possible.
Obama, he said, must "find courage" to abandon the United States' unilateral approach in its foreign policy and embrace the idea of collective action.
Kosachyov warned, however, that any change would come slowly because the new president will be influenced by advisers whose vision of Russia differs little from that of the current White House.
The Bush administration has managed to worsen ties with Russia more than with any other major country, and Obama's election "instills hope that a dramatic page in the relations of the two countries will be turned," Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said.
Obama's win will also help soften ties between NATO and Russia, strained by the conflict with Georgia and U.S. plans to build a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe, said Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's envoy to NATO, Interfax reported.
He said Obama's arrival would also lessen pressure imposed by Washington on its European NATO partners to limit cooperation with Russia.
Alexander Khramchikhin, a defense analyst with the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, said that with Democrats in control of the presidency and Congress, the United States was likely to cut defense spending and would probably lose interest in the planned anti-missile system.
Still, Khramchikhin called for patience to see whom Obama picks for key appointments before jumping to any conclusions. The senator has said he would also invite Republicans to work in his White House.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, of the Politika think tank, and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov agreed that Obama has not yet fully developed his attitude toward Russia, although they pointed to staunch Russia critics in his retinue.
"Obama is an open book, a story to be written," Nikonov said. Obama and Medvedev are from the same generation and start their day by logging online, not looking at briefings prepared by their aides, he said.
But Obama's top foreign policy advisers present a mixed picture, he said. Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski has not been a fan of Russia, Nikonov said, while country adviser Michael McFaul "is evolving." He is also advised by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Zyuganov called Obama "young and interesting," but agreed with Nikonov that among the senator's advisers were several "Russophobes."
Obama placed heavy emphasis on foreign policy issues during his campaign, and frequently declared that a withdrawal from Iraq would be "first priority" of his presidency. However, the economic crisis reshuffled his priorities, some advisers acknowledged. The crisis will siphon away his attention and may slow some foreign policy efforts, they said.
Still, the enthusiastic international reaction to his election could help Obama in early initiatives to strengthen ties with international alliances, a frequent campaign theme, and to change U.S. policies that have been condemned abroad, such as Guantanamo and policies on interrogating detainees.
President-elect Barack Obama is expected to distance himself quickly from the unpopular foreign policy of President Bush, seeking to mend relations with foreign leaders and considering advice to shutter the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison and inaugurate a new climate change effort.
However, on more intractable problems, such as Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, Obama is expected to move gingerly as he reshapes the U.S. approach while preserving his options and accounting for the concerns of allies in the Middle East, advisers said.
"He needs to say 'I'm listening to our allies and to our military leaders, and we're developing a plan,'" said an adviser. "He doesn't need to lock himself into a rigid schedule that would allow the enemy to game this out in advance and would make it harder for us to withdraw."
Obama's team expects his early moves will be "appreciated overseas, and create a more favorable environment for the new administration right at the start," another adviser said, also on condition of anonymity.
Taking such steps would provide a needed dramatic break from the past, said the second adviser. The world has so soured on the Bush administration that foreign leaders now are suspicious of U.S. proposals, "even when they're good ones," the adviser added.Obama has declared that Guantanamo should be closed and that detainees should be handled through the U.S. military justice system. He also has pledged to organize an international coalition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
These are among issues have been a source of ongoing friction between the Bush administration and many U.S. allies, but are more under the control of White House decision-making than are the far more entrenched problems in countries where the U.S. military is involved.
On Iraq, Obama has called for the withdrawal of combat troops within 16 months, but also has reserved some flexibility in his position.
On Iran, Obama said during the campaign that he intended to conduct high-level talks with officials of the regime. Now however, some advisers are emphasizing the careful preparations needed before any such meeting.
On Afghanistan, Obama has argued that the United States must give greater emphasis to combating extremism, by adding troops among other measures.
One strategist calls Emanuel an "inspired choice" for Obama.
"He needs someone in the White House who can say 'no' to people and Rahm can do that," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist and former chief of staff to then House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt.
Another former Clinton aide agreed. Barack Obama's win was only hours old on Wednesday when he began construction of his administration, by day's end putting in place a transition team of friends and Washington veterans and courting Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel to serve as chief of staff.
Emanuel wrestled with the choice, meaning a return to the White House for the alumnus of the Clinton administration but also a departure from Congress where he has risen quickly to the top ranks.
As the Obama team transitioned hastily out of campaign mode, it became clear immediately what an intense glare will follow every move between now and January's inauguration.
While Obama's campaign was a virtually leak-proof enterprise, Wednesday's developments came in a steady trickle — some before they were, according to the principals, strictly true.
"No," Emanuel said in a terse afternoon e-mail when asked if he had accepted the White House job. Discussions were continuing, according to Democratic officials, and strategists speculated that Emanuel wouldn't be letting the rumor linger if he weren't seriously considering the offer.
It would be embarrassing for the president-elect to be so publicly turned down on his first major appointment, they said.
For the day following a decisive election, Obama kept a remarkably low profile. Other presidents-elect have used the hours after their victories to herald the dawn of a new day and to do a victory lap for the television cameras. Obama – known for nothing if not a consistent drive to capture significant moments in words – put his head down and went to work.
The senator may be hoping for some measure of privacy as he contemplates his Cabinet, setting this week's talks in Chicago rather than hastening back to Washington. The current plan is not to return to the Capitol immediately, but rather to conduct interviews and talk with trusted aides without traveling too far from his wife and daughters.
One item on the agenda is planning for the inauguration 75 days away, preparations for which began with the announcement of the theme, "A New Birth of Freedom," a line from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
More pressing at the moment is Obama's need to get his White House chief of staff in place and then move to economic and national security teams before filling other Cabinet-level positions.
The people who will lead the transition team are political veterans with strong ties to Chicago. Valerie Jarrett, a prominent local businesswoman who came out of Mayor Richard Daley's administration, is part of the three-member team. She'll be joined by John Podesta, a Chicago native who served as President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, and Pete Rouse, a longtime chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle who also has run offices on Capitol Hill for both Obama and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.
Another key member of that team could be Emanuel, who has had several conversations with Obama, his fellow Illinois Democrat, about the transition process.
The two men have spoken specifically about the White House job for more than a week, according to one Obama insider. Obama is impressed with Emanuel's strategic thinking and his ability to drive results from staff, the source said.
In terms of management and interpersonal style, Emanuel is strikingly different from Obama. He is dramatic and partisan, with an affinity for the kind of hardball politics from which Obama shies away. That may be part of the attraction, some say.
"A chief of staff has to have steel in his spine and Rahm has that in ample measure," said William Galston, a former Clinton domestic policy aide who worked with Emanuel in the Clinton White House.
WASHINGTON — All presidents are tested. Few walk into the Oval Office when the nation is in the throes of multiple crises.
Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President-elect Obama is facing a banking emergency.
Like Abraham Lincoln, Obama is trying to patch up national divisions. To ready himself for the job, Obama said Friday he is reading some writings by Lincoln, "who's always an extraordinary inspiration."
And like Richard Nixon, George W. Bush and others, Obama will be commander in chief over U.S. troops in combat.
"With two wars and an economic crisis, this is one step away from what Lincoln or FDR faced," said Terry Sullivan, associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "The question is 'Which direction is the nation going to go?'"
While the challenges Obama faces are daunting, they also give him the opportunity to shape history in a big way.
"My 88-year-old mother asks me regularly, 'Why would anybody want to be president now?' said Sullivan, who manages the Presidential Transition Project at Rice University. "My answer is 'Every one of them wants to be FDR.' This is their chance. What makes fame in the American presidency is a great challenge and succeeding." Or, Sullivan added, facing a great challenge and failing.
In fewer than 11 weeks, Obama will inherit not just the economic crisis and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the ongoing threat of a terrorist attack, a resurgent Russia and nuclear proliferation in hot spots across the globe.
"We are in an almost unprecedented situation, at least in modern times," White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten said in a C-SPAN interview Friday.
Knowing his opening moves will be widely scrutinized, Obama tried to roll back expectations on election night.
"Our climb will be steep," he said. "We may not get there in one year or even in one term."
Yet he remained upbeat as did Roosevelt, who took the reins of a nation in the depths of the Depression. FDR used his optimism to lift up the downtrodden and refresh the American spirit. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," he said at his inauguration in 1933.
When Roosevelt died in 1945, by then a wartime president making secret plans for an atomic bomb, Harry Truman told reporters, "I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me."
In an earlier conflict, when the country was on the brink of civil war, Lincoln took a hands-off approach during a four-month lag between his election and inauguration, staying mum so as not to inflame tensions in the North or the South. After Lincoln was elected, but before he took office, South Carolina announced its decision to secede from the Union. Six more states then seceded and together formed the Confederate States of America.
During the transition, Lincoln maintained what became known as an attitude of "masterly inactivity," said Harold Holzer, who recently wrote the book "Lincoln President-Elect." Lincoln didn't want to do anything that would upset the South, lose him the support of abolitionists in the North or the northern Democrats whom he needed on his side if there was going to be a fight to save the union.
"He thought the best way to deal with it was to be silent," Holzer said.
Like Lincoln, Obama used his first speech as president-elect to try to mend fences -- and he did it by quoting Lincoln's conciliatory first inaugural address, which was given at a time of such national turmoil that Lincoln traveled to Washington in secret for safety.
"Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity," Obama said of Lincoln, another lanky lawmaker from Illinois.
"As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends," Obama said. "Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."
To reach out to his critics, Lincoln even allowed a reporter from an opposition newspaper, a journalist named Henry Villard, to virtually move into his office in Springfield, Mo., to chronicle the transition.
"That's the equivalent of Obama picking up the phone and asking Sean Hannity to move in," Holzer said of the conservative television personality.
Roosevelt, who picked members of the opposing party for Cabinet spots, was as noncommittal as Lincoln as he was about to be sworn into office amid a banking crisis. When Herbert Hoover asked him to sign on to a bank holiday -- a temporary closure of banks -- three days before inauguration, Roosevelt famously looked up and said, "The drapes look very pretty. I'm sure Eleanor will want to keep these just as they are."
That made Hoover furious. Soon after taking the oath of office, Roosevelt declared the banking holiday on his own.
In his first fireside chat in March 1933, FDR said: "We had a bad banking situation. Some of our bankers had shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people's funds. They had used the money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans. ... It was the government's job to straighten out this situation and do it as quickly as possible, and the job is being performed."
"He wanted to do it himself. A clean slate is what Lincoln wanted. It's what Roosevelt wanted," Holzer said. "The lessons of history are there. The most successful transformative presidencies were patient between the election and the inauguration."
Maybe history is repeating itself in that regard. When President Bush announced before the election that he was hosting a global economic summit in Washington on Nov. 15, the Obama camp said the presidential hopeful wouldn't be there. "He understands there is only one president," an Obama adviser said.
It's early in the transition to draw many conclusions, but Obama's style as a candidate and a legislator was to proceed in a measured, disciplined fashion.
"Obama is an empty vessel into which the American people can be expected to pour their inexhaustible supply of hope -- in just the same way that they did in 1932," said Bruce Kuklick, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
For some, jubilation was tempered by recognition of the enormity of the tasks Obama faces.
Obama was elected Tuesday, exactly 13 years after Rabin was assassinated. One message in the crowd read: "Obama, make peace now!"
Hoffa, a strong Obama supporter, ended his words by riling the crowd into chanting Obama's campaign slogan: "Yes We Can."TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered Saturday night at the square where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, to remember the man and his legacy 13 years after his killing.
The square in front of Tel Aviv city hall was the site of a peace rally on Nov. 4, 1995. As it ended, Rabin was gunned down by an ultra-nationalist Jewish opponent of his policy of trading land to the Palestinians for peace.
"Yitzhak. You are missed, the country misses you, you are missed by every one of us, but your way has not been lost," said President Shimon Peres, Rabin's partner in peacemaking, who was by his side the night he was assassinated. "Peace is closer than we think, and we should make every effort in his memory to complete it."
Israel officially marks the 13th anniversary of Rabin's slaying on Monday, according to the Hebrew calendar. But the rally in Tel Aviv has become an annual pilgrimage for ordinary Israelis to show respect for the beloved leader.
Participants filled Rabin Square and spilled over into the surrounding streets, some carrying signs and banners calling for peace and tolerance, others waving flags and lighting candles.
Police would not give an exact number, but organizers said more than 100,000 attended the gathering.
The rally opened with film footage of Rabin addressing the 1995 rally, thanking participants for coming out to support the theme: "No to violence, yes to peace."
Facing the large crowd from the same balcony where Rabin spoke 13 years ago, Israeli singers sang songs of peace linked to the assassination.
Rabin's government negotiated the first interim peace accord with the Palestinians, and he won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. His successor as leader of the Labor party, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, promised to continue in his path.
"We have no other country and we have no other way. There is no alternative to peace," he said.
The assassin, Yigal Amir, an Orthodox Jew, was sentenced to life in prison, but his perceived cushy imprisonment — he has been allowed to marry, have conjugal visits and attend his son's circumcision ceremony — has outraged Israelis.
The killer's saga loomed large this year as well. A week ago, Amir gave his first interviews since the 1995 killing, in which he said he shot Rabin because Ariel Sharon and other hawkish ex-generals warned Rabin's land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians would bring disaster.
Only excerpts of the interviews were aired and the two TV stations that conducted them later decided not to broadcast the full interviews after the excerpts set off an uproar for giving exposure to Amir.
In the months before Rabin was assassinated, hard-liners branded the Israeli leader a traitor for proposing to hand over land to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. Some extremist rabbis called for his death, and leaders of the hawkish opposition Likud Party addressed a tumultuous Jerusalem demonstration featuring posters of Rabin in a Nazi SS uniform.
Critics charged that this climate of incitement emboldened Amir to shoot Rabin. Just this week, the head of Israel's Shin Bet security service warned that extremist Jewish settlers might carry out another political assassination. Extremist Israeli groups periodically press for Amir's release, and the anniversary of the assassination has become a date of deep divisions between right and left, religious and secular.
Peres called over the stage for unity and to heal the divisions in Israeli society.
"This is not a warning, it is a request from a Jew, who is not so young anymore, who has seen and experienced difficult moments but also beautiful hours," he said. "It is a request of a man who knows we can recover."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Rabin's daughter, Dalia, also addressed the crowd.
Teamsters Union President James P. Hoffa, on his first visit to Israel, said he brought greetings from U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, whom he called "a true friend and partner of Israel."Hoffa told Dalia Rabin that he too knew the pain of losing a father. He said he learned to love Israel from his father Jimmy Hoffa, the union's most famous leader, who was last seen July 30, 1975, the day he was to meet a New Jersey Teamsters boss and a Detroit Mafia captain at a suburban Detroit restaurant.
Hamas is ready to open talks with U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who must deal with the Palestinian militant group if he wants to address the wider conflict in the Middle East, the group's leader said in an interview broadcast Saturday.
Khaled Mashaal said that Hamas is ready for dialogue with Obama and his new administration "on the basis that the American administration respects our rights and our options."
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since seizing power by force in June 2007 from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement.
The administration of President George W. Bush has boycotted the Islamic militants, as has most of the international community. Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel.
"The American administration, if they want to deal with the region, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict, they have no other option than deal with Hamas because we are a real force on the ground, effective," Mashaal told Sky News from Damascus, Syria.
The exiled militant leader said that the election of a U.S. president with African roots was "a big change — political and psychological" and congratulated him on his victory.
Denis McDonough, senior foreign policy adviser to Obama, said Hamas had to change its policies before it could engage in any talks.
"President-elect Obama said throughout the campaign that he will only talk with Hamas if it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel's right to exist and agrees to abide by past agreements," McDonough said.
Obama visited Israel and the West Bank in July, meeting Israeli leaders and Abbas and traveling to an Israeli town that had been hit by Hamas rockets from Gaza.
President-elect Obama spoke to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday as the future American leader had another round of phone calls with leaders in other nations.
A Kremlin statement said Obama and Medvedev "expressed the determination to create constructive and positive interaction for the good of global stability and development" and agreed that their countries had a common responsibility to address "serious problems of a global nature."
To that end, according to the Kremlin statement, Medvedev and Obama believe an "early bilateral meeting" should be arranged.
Obama's office did not issue a statement describing the call.
A Bush administration plan for setting up a missile shield close to Russia's borders has been a sore point with the Kremlin and has served as another dent in its battered relationship with the U.S.
On Wednesday, the day after Obama's election, Medvedev threatened to move short-range missiles to Russia's borders with NATO allies even as the U.S. offered new proposals on nuclear arms reductions as well as missile defense. Allowing Russian observers at planned missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic were among them, U.S. officials said.
During the presidential campaign, Obama expressed skepticism about the system, saying that it would require much more vigorous testing to ensure it would work and justify the billions of dollars it would cost.
Obama foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said Saturday that Obama had "a good conversation" with Polish President Lech Kaczynski about the American-Polish alliance but that Obama had made no commitment on the missile shield plan.
"His position is as it was throughout the campaign, that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable," McDonough said.
That was in contrast to a statement issued by the Polish president. Kaczynski said Obama "emphasized the importance of the strategic partnership of Poland and the United States and expressed hope in the continuation of political and military cooperation between our countries. He also said that the missile defense project would continue."
President Bush wanted construction of a European missile shield -- installations would be in Poland and the Czech Republic -- to begin before he left office in January with a completion date of 2012. Experts in the Defense Department believe more interceptor testing is required, according to reports over the summer. Additional tests could delay the program for years.
In Madrid, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told reporters Saturday that he had spoken by telephone with Obama and that they discussed their desire to meet each other and work together, though no concrete plans were made.
"We had a very, very cordial conversation," Zapatero said.
McDonough said, "President-elect Obama said throughout the campaign that he will only talk with Hamas if it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel's right to exist, and agrees to abide by past agreements."
The Bush administration has boycotted Hamas, as has most of the international community, because Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel.
The keys to Barack Obama's decisive victory — and clues for how he will conduct himself as the 44th president — emerged amid his unexpected defeat in the New Hampshire Democratic primary.
Obama was in Nashua, N.H., on Jan. 8, awaiting returns that he thought would put him on a clear path to his party's nomination. The Illinois senator already had won the Iowa caucuses, and pre-election polls showed him with a 10-point lead over rival Hillary Rodham Clinton.
If he won, the New York senator would be weakened. Instead, political adviser David Axelrod had to tell Obama: "We're going to fall a few points short."
On his 21-month roller-coaster ride to the White House, Obama repeatedly turned setbacks into triumphs and crises into learning opportunities. Disappointment was never his enemy. "Everytime we've been knocked down, he's been the one who picked us up," Axelrod said. "That's a great quality to have in a president."
VOTER SURVEY: Who did groups vote for in '08?
Obama's religion and patriotism were questioned repeatedly, and the explosive issues of race and gender simmered just below the surface. He "never took the bait," American University political scientist James Thurber said.
Along the way, Obama transformed the use of the Internet as a fundraising tool, helping him tap more than 3 million donors and bring in $640 million as of Oct. 15. The money advantage over Republican nominee John McCain, who was limited by the $84.1 million he accepted in taxpayer funds, allowed Obama to mount effective ground operations in "red" states such as Montana and Indiana and flood the airwaves with his message.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said "machinery doesn't mean anything if it isn't backed up by a great candidate."
In the end, what most set Obama apart from McCain and his Democratic competitors was his discipline. Some ways Obama displayed that and other keys to victory:
McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate surprised the Obama camp.
The governor with only 20 months in office was criticized in an Obama campaign statement as unqualified. Obama himself had been elected to the Senate from Illinois in 2004.
Obama, however, remembered how his own criticisms of Clinton during the primaries sometimes backfired, and he took a much more positive tone about Palin.
Patrick Oxford, a business partner and political adviser to former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, sees Obama's refusal to overreact as a crucial decision. By avoiding an argument about Palin's gender and qualifications, Oxford said, Obama was able to focus voters on the fall presidential debates and the sagging economy.
"Before Palin, he was riding high and, candidly, acting like it," Oxford said. "Palin 'unhorsed' him for 10 days and seemed to get him to focus on what he really needed to do — settle down, listen, act presidential, be positive. And to his credit, he did so with incredible discipline."
Taking the chance
When Obama began mulling a bid for the presidency two years ago, there were plenty of reasons for him to say no. Now 47, he was young and known as a gifted orator, for his 2004 keynote to the Democratic convention. Most of all, he was not white in a country where race relations are still fractious and minorities have not risen to many high elected offices.
"My life was really good," Obama told USA TODAY last week.
Obama, however, was a hot commodity. The Democratic candidates he helped elect to Congress in 2006 were struck by what Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., called "the intensity and electricity" of the crowds Obama drew to their rallies. Obama and his advisers sensed it, too, and first met the day after the 2006 elections to discuss mounting a presidential campaign.
Obama sought the advice of Democratic elders such as Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts — a move that would pay off later when Kennedy endorsed him in January.That move provided the first big break among the party establishment lined up behind former first lady Clinton.
Still, no African-American candidate had ever won a major party's presidential nomination. Unlike politicians who "thought white voters would reject them," Obama took a chance, said former Massachusetts senator and Republican Ed Brooke, the first African American elected to the Senate in 1968. "You can't win unless you run."
Keeping the faith
The primaries dragged on longer than many Democrats expected, exposing Obama's vulnerabilities with white working-class voters and Hispanics who preferred Clinton. (He won both groups Tuesday over McCain.) After tough losses to Clinton in the Ohio and Texas primaries in March, Obama met with his campaign advisers for more than two hours to discuss what had gone wrong and how to fix it.
Axelrod recalls how Obama never raised his voice, not even about spending $20 million on the losing effort. Also key, Axelrod said, was that Obama offered encouragement to his staff. "He went from desk to desk and talked to everyone," he said.
Obama's durability paid off, said Thurber of American University, and reinforced one of the Democrat's campaign messages. "At many points in the campaign, he was a steady hand at the tiller," he said.
Bending to reality
After months in which he had avoided the issue of race, Obama decided he wanted to talk about it after incendiary sermons by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, dominated cable news.
Obama penned the impassioned address he delivered March 18 in Philadelphia, trying to explain Wright's anger to all races. The speech drew raves, but Wright made a blistering appearance at the National Press Club in Washington in which, among other things, he blamed the government for the spread of AIDS among blacks. Obama eventually denounced Wright.
MIAMI -- Barack Obama's victory in battleground Florida means more to state Democrats than just avenging the 2000 presidential recount: It's proof they can win the big races.
After a decade in which Republicans carried two presidential elections, three governor's races and built strong majorities in the state Capitol and in Florida's congressional delegation, Obama's victory here is a sign that the Florida's politics are becoming more balanced.
"It's a fresh new world for Democrats," said Matthew Corrigan, a University of North Florida political science professor, citing Obama's ability to compete in traditionally conservative areas.
The 2008 election means more hope for Democrats as they look to the next election and possible 2010 matchups against Gov. Charlie Crist and Sen. Mel Martinez. As the Obama campaign packs up in Florida, it will leave behind an organization that the party and the right candidates can take advantage of from Key West to Pensacola.
"Those are relationships that aren't going to disappear because the campaign comes to an end," said Steve Schale, Obama's Florida director.
Democrats showed that they can match the ground game that Republicans have dominated, using an army of volunteers to knock on doors and drive an early-vote effort that made a huge difference in the election. Even before polls opened Tuesday, about 360,000 more Democratic ballots were cast than Republican. Obama won the state by about 200,000 votes.
Democrats also registered far more voters for this year's election, and they now outnumber Republicans by about 600,000 voters.
Schale's hope is that Florida Democrats can now do what Republicans did in the 1990s. He pointed out how Jeb Bush lost his first governor's race in 1994, but put together a strong organization and kept building on it after the election.
The party structure Bush put together helped Republicans take control of the Legislature. And when Bush ran again in 1998, he crushed Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay and started a string of big victories.
Republicans kept building on their majority in Tallahassee and in Florida's congressional delegation. Bush's brother, President Bush, won Florida by 537 votes in 2000, then won re-election by 381,000 four years later. Jeb Bush easily won re-election and Crist won comfortably in 2006 in what was a bad year for Republicans nationally.
In 2004, Republican Sen. Mel Martinez took away the seat Democrat Bob Graham held for three terms and Democrats had more losses in the Legislature. That's when they hit their low point.
In 2006, Democrats began showing signs of a comeback. They won back some legislative seats, took two Republican U.S. House seats and Alex Sink was elected chief financial officer, marking the first time since 1998 that a Democrat won a Cabinet seat.
But Tuesday night was even bigger.
"In the biggest of all prizes, Democrats have now broken the streak," said Corrigan, who also said Crist "has got to be concerned about the future of Republicans in Florida."
Democrats also defeated two Republican congressmen, Reps. Tom Feeney and Ric Keller, though Democratic Rep. Tim Mahoney lost largely on the news of ethical and legal investigations surrounding extramarital affairs.
Tuesday will help Florida Democrats shed their reputation as losers.
"This shows that you can win Florida and the right candidate can be competitive," said David Beattie, a Democratic strategist based in Fernandina Beach. "It makes it easier to attract good candidates, it makes it easier to raise money and the support you need."
Obama's win doesn't mean that the Republican Party is no longer strong. The state GOP was able to keep the balance of power in the state Legislature despite the Obama wave, and it defended four other congressmen on the Democratic hit list. It still has a solid organization.
"I really don't know if it is the Democratic Party that got better or if it was a phenomenally well-funded and well-organized Obama campaign," Jeb Bush said Wednesday in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "In either case, Republicans can't rest on past laurels."
Florida Democratic Party Chairman Karen Thurman said she isn't going to rest at all. She said she is going to immediately start recruiting candidates for 2010 and improving on the party structure.
"Everybody else is shutting their computers off, turning their phones off and going on vacation," Thurman said. "We at the party have to keep going, and building and building, and using what information we've gained from this election."
Still, Obama will not be on the ticket, and Democrats can't just assume they can win simply on the organization he built.
"They've got to have somebody at the top of the ticket that can capture that excitement again and that's very hard to do," said David Johnson, a Tallahassee-based Republican strategist and former executive director of the state party. "You can't beat Charlie Crist based on Barack Obama's star power, you're going to have to have a candidate that stands on his own."
Both Democratic President Jimmy Carter - who arrived in Washington with a mandate and control of both houses of Congress - and Bill Clinton were "chewed up and spit out" by partisan bickering in Washington over some of their signature issues, Whalen said.
For the first time in a very long time, Barack Obama is not crisscrossing a battleground state, giving a stump speech or frantically jetting from one stop to the next. As he takes a breather in his hometown, the Democratic president-elect already has begun work on his next daunting campaign: the coming administration.
Obama, at last out of the glare of TV cameras and away from campaign crowds, will meet with advisers in Chicago for the next few days and could speak to the press later this week to outline some of his first decisions and priorities, sources said.
On critical issues like health care, jobs, taxes and the war in Iraq, "we are at a moment where we don't have a Democratic problem or a Republican problem - we have an American problem," he said.
Obama's team, observers say, already is working behind the scenes to begin the process of hiring thousands to work in its new administration.
Obama offered Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., the post of chief of staff, a move seen as a decisive effort to put at his side a well-connected, hard-nosed Washington veteran who can help him navigate the choppy seas ahead. He also is expected to move quickly to name a Treasury secretary. His Cabinet could include Republicans as well as Democrats.
Pressure from the left
Obama will then have to deal with the pent-up pressure from the Democratic left to manage issues like the war in Iraq, stem cell research and health care reform.
But political observers say hints of what's to come might be found in the Illinois senator's brilliantly run 22-month marathon for the White House. Obama surrounded himself with the best and brightest, then showed a focus and steely resolve not to bend to pressure when things got tough.
He marshaled new forces - the young, the Internet and amazing fundraising capabilities - to build his strength, and didn't panic when waters got rough.
Those qualities hint at how he'll run the ship of state, observers say.
"What we've learned about Sen. Obama is he has an unnatural capacity to focus and be disciplined," said Simon Rosenberg, who heads NDN, the moderate Democratic advocacy group. "He will have extraordinary demands on him the first year. He will set priorities, make a plan and stick to it. That's what he did in the campaign."
But not every party interest group or faction - especially those on the far left - will get what it wants. And that means "there will be groups in this town that will be disappointed with him," Rosenberg said.
"He governs from the center. He has to," said Barbara O'Connor, professor of political communication at Cal State Sacramento. "He governs by being inclusive and bringing in all the best minds to solve the problems," and that means including Republicans in those forces. "It's an opportunity to be post-partisan, to get a coalition of the willing to solve all the problems, and there is every indication that he will do that," she said.
Adam Mendelsohn, a GOP consultant who worked with Sen. John McCain's team, said his own party will face challenges as well.
"It's important for the Republican Party to have an open mind," he said. "And I think it's important for Barack Obama to be willing to buck the extremists in his own party.
"This country desperately needs leadership, and that leadership needs to come from more than the president-elect," said Mendelsohn. "It has to come from every member of Congress. The country is scared, the country is nervous, and if Washington just goes back to fighting and finger-pointing, then the entire nation will be collectively disappointed."
Even as celebrations continued in Washington to mark Obama's decisive win over McCain, Bill Whalen, a research fellow with the Hoover Institution, warned that the reality checks will begin soon.
"Now comes the part of governing," said Whalen, a GOP strategist and speechwriter who has advised former Gov. Pete Wilson and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "This will be interesting. The man has never governed."
Former GOP House Minority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas predicted just hours after the election that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would begin "running circles" around the new president.
But Pelosi quickly issued her response: "The country must be governed in the middle."
I think he knows the answer. Plus, I heard that story about Palin, and as much as I enjoy it, I don't believe it for a minute. That's just your usual post-campaign backstabbing.
By the time I got back to the office from President-elect Obama's first press conference on Friday, there were already three messages on my voicemail. The log indicated all the calls came from the same number, my home phone.
I wasn't surprised. I didn't even bother to listen to the messages before returning the call. My wife answered. I cut her off and demanded: Are you putting him up to this?
"Putting who up to what?" she said, feigning innocence, as if I didn't know that she would have been the one to dial the phone for him. There was barking in the background.
That's okay, I said. Put him on the line. I'll deal with this. A moment later, a familiar voice was growling into the phone: "So why didn't you ask him? You promised to ask him."
Look, Gilbert. I didn't make any promises. I said I'd ask him if I had the appropriate opportunity, and as it turned out, I didn't think the occasion was appropriate.
Ready to serve his country
"Well, that other columnist from your paper, the one with balls, she asked him a question about the dog, didn't she? Wouldn't that have been the perfect time to shout out a followup? There was your opening."
That's not how it works. He had a list of reporters from whom he was going to take questions. Shouting wasn't going to do any good, and anyhow, I don't shout at press conferences."
"Why not? You shout at me."
That's different. What was I supposed to ask him anyway?
"It's simple. You say: 'Mr. President, my dog Gilbert wants to know if Malia and Sasha would be interested in adopting him to take with you to the White House?'"
Just like that.
"Well, you might want to sell it a little, tell him something about me: how I'm very cute and loving, how I'm already housebroken and how at my age there's little chance I'd live out two full terms so that he wouldn't have to worry about what to do with me when he's out of office and there's nobody to take care of me."
But you're not dependably housebroken. That would be misleading.
"He's a politician. He'd understand. Plus, that White House is a big place. By the time he figured out which rug I'd designated for accidents, it'd be too late to change his mind. By then, the whole country would be in love with me."
So that's what this is about? You feel the need for a larger stage? You want more attention?
"No, I want the opportunity to serve my country. Duh? Of course, I want the attention. But you don't need to tell him that. Just tell him I'm looking for change. A change of scenery. He'd understand."
Better than a goldendoodle
You know I'd be happy to be rid of you, but you heard for yourself that one of the girls has allergies, and that they're thinking they need a hypo-allergenic dog. With the way you shed, that's not going to work.
"Hey, you've got allergies, and your kids have allergies, and I don't bother any of you, do I?"
That's not entirely clear.
"Somebody said they might be looking for one of those hybrid designer dogs, a goldendoodle, a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle. You can tell him how I'm a goldencocker, which is better."
You're a spaniel mutt, parentage unknown.
"I heard him say he'd prefer a mutt."
Okay, if you don't knock it off, I'm going to take you to that weird mass dog wedding over the weekend in Oak Park and marry you off to a horny chihuahua.
"Oh, no. Anything but that. Not the dog wedding. Isn't it enough that you had me neutered? Now you want to rob me of my dignity, too. Please, I'll drop the White House thing. Forget I ever mentioned it."
That's more like it.
Pit bull? Maybe not
"Yeah, I agree. Even a dumb pit bull would know better than that."
Now, I don't want to sound unkind or bitchy here - I'm a serious political commentator, you know. Michelle is a beautiful and intelligent woman, a black Jackie O who should wear anything she likes, and the wilder the better. I much prefer her way of dressing to the plastic-fantastic style of Cindy McCain. But Michelle's lurid sartorial intervention in Grant Park on Tuesday night simply cried out for semiological deconstruction, if not psychoanalysis.
Maybe it's just me, but I couldn't help thinking about splattered blood. A butcher's apron. Black widows. Was she hooking into the white man's subliminal fears about black power? Rivers of blood? Or, more darkly, was she alluding at the great unmentionable in this campaign, the constant threat of assassination? A black woman covered with splattered red. Was she unconsciously expressing the fear for her family of being in the firing line? Let's not go there.
Or perhaps she'd just stepped in from the abattoir after murdering a few puppies to make a coat. Which segues neatly to the other great issue of the hour: puppygate. What is the First Pooch going to be called, the one Barack promised to his daughters Malia and Sasha as compensation for losing their father to the campaign trail? Lipstick, obviously, if it's a pit bull - everyone got that. Pit bulls are apparently rather good house pets, which not many people know.
But then the American Kennel Club stepped in boringly with a survey of its 40,000 members which suggested a rather different breed: a hypoallergenic labradoodle. No, I'm not making this up. It's a cross between a labrador and a poodle, and bred not to cause allergies - because the Obama children are a little sensitive. Also on the hypoallergenic hit-list was a schnoodle and a cockapoo. These are, respectively, a schnauzer crossed with a poodle, and a cocker spaniel crossed with a poodle. I never knew that poodles got around so much - must be all that shaving.
Apparently, Malia has her heart set on a goldendoodle, which is a poodle crossed with a golden retriever. Why can't they just have a dog? We hold these truths to be self evident, that all canines are created equal. As the president pointed out, he is himself a mutt.
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.
"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.
"Obama must take the difficult step of initiating the process for war crimes prosecutions of men such as Dick Cheney"
Nov. 6, 2008 | Sherman Alexie, novelist and poet
1. Yes, it's historic and incredible that a black man is president of the United States. But, dang it, it's just as important that a black woman is the first lady. Think about it. Jackie O! Lady Bird Johnson! And Michelle Obama in her Gap dresses! Please don't discount the cultural power of the first lady. I am very excited to see how Michelle Obama also revolutionizes the White House.
2. How many Republicans watched the footage of the Obama and McCain gatherings Tuesday night and noticed the incredible differences? The Obama crowds were racially, culturally, sartorially, rhythmically and age diverse. The McCain crowds were, well, they were very blond. How will Republicans address this imbalance? Maybe thousands of young Republicans will become high school and elementary school teachers in poor and inner-city neighborhoods, while Republican political leaders will demand and help create massive funding for poor and inner-city schools. Of course, I'm kidding. Republicans will do no such thing. But they should adopt a revolutionary educational platform.
3. Jesse Jackson wept Tuesday night. And they were tears of joy and grief. That man was standing beside MLK Jr. when he was assassinated. Jesse Jackson has earned those tears.
Enjoy this story?
* Buzz up!
4. Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen have performed for and with Obama. So aren't you absolutely excited about who will perform at the inauguration parties? Here's hoping Beyoncé, Tim McGraw, Kanye West, Death Cab for Cutie, the Dixie Chicks and the Harlem Boys Choir perform "People Get Ready."
5. I hereby order that "mandate" immediately be stricken from all the dictionaries and vocabularies of every Democrat in the country. That dirty word has no place in a democracy. That said, feel free to use the phrase, "Wow, we kicked some ass."
6. Thank God for Tina Fey and the power of political art.
Greil Marcus, author and journalist
I walked out of Northrop Auditorium Tuesday night after Bob Dylan's concert on the campus of his erstwhile alma mater, the University of Minnesota. The second number of the night was "The Times They Are A-Changin'," a song I never liked. On Tuesday night it moved slowly, crawling like a snake, all 44 years since it first appeared loaded into it, as if its real subject was what it means to wait. The last song was "Blowin' in the Wind." (I remember very clearly the first time I heard it on the radio. "Kinda erstatz," said Barry Franklin, my best friend and radio cruising partner; we were still in high school.) "I was born in 1941, the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. I've been living in darkness ever since," Dylan said to introduce the song, or as a goodbye, or, as he hadn't spoken before, as a hello. "But it looks like things are going to change now." At the end of the stage he stepped out from behind his electric organ and did a jig.
I feel as if I'm living in a new world and an old country, where all of its best words, down the centuries, are flesh. Or, as Barry Franklin put it last night, "I feel like I've died and gone to America."
Joan Blades, co-founder MoveOn.org
This election is about much more than who won and who lost. It's about our culture changing, becoming more inclusive and embracing our diverse citizenry. It's about courage and dreams winning out over fear. It's about coming together to reject the politics of the past and instead deciding to build the kind of nation we want for ourselves and our children.
What happened Tuesday can be the start of a profound change in our country, the goals we set, the ways we operate, and how we measure success. My most profound hope is that we become a more family-friendly nation that is compassionate, just and fair to all its people.
I am co-founder of MomsRising, and in that role I will work tirelessly to continue mobilizing moms and everyone who has a mom, all over the country, so we take advantage of this opportunity to advance paid sick days and family leave, flexible work, after-school programs, healthcare for all kids, and realistic and fair wages.
We did something remarkable Tuesday, but our work isn't done. The challenges we're facing are great, and the obstacles to progress won't disappear overnight. We all have to remain active and engaged if we are to realize the promise of yesterday's election.
Dan Savage, author and sex advice columnist
Tuesday night I was overjoyed.
But Wednesday morning, reading the papers and listening to the news on the radio, my boyfriend and I -- we're boyfriends in the USA, husbands in Canada -- sat at our kitchen table and had the exact same discussion we had the morning after the 2004 election: When the hell are we moving to Canada?
The anti-gay politicking that goes on in this country is a bit like a dog whistle: Straight people can't hear it, but it drives gay people absolutely around the bend. The importance of Obama's victory can't be overstated; I'm as moved as anyone else. But the passage of anti-gay marriage amendments in Arizona, Florida and, most heartbreakingly of all, California (and with overwhelming support from African-American voters), along with the passage of an anti-gay adoption amendment in Arkansas, left us both feeling shell-shocked, betrayed and angry.
Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University
New York exults. Don't say, "Well, what did you expect?" When strangers embrace and high-five on upper Broadway ("Yes we did!"), when church bells ring in Harlem at 2 in the morning, when 125th Street clogs up, as do Brooklyn streets, and celebrants dance on the roofs of taxis, when confetti rains down on the northwest Bronx, this is astonishing -- a popular festival that's unprecedented, maybe since VJ day in 1945. We've entered a new world.
It's not, God knows, a world that will stay exultant or one that'll be easily or quickly "fixed." In fact, it won't be fixed. We have a president-elect who, true to his Niebuhrian roots, knows that it can't be fixed -- knows the difference between improving and fixing. But it can be galvanized, and, yes, in some measure redeemed. In what measure? That depends on Obama's adroitness (the campaign promises much); on his ability to keep his tremendous base of the professional classes, minorities and women mobilized and deployed against the forces that will continue to block his initiatives (Yes we did it once! and will have to do it again!); on the wisdom of Democrats; on whether some Republicans can be peeled away from their kamikaze party; and, as always, on the unpredictable.
Let the 21st century begin. Finally.
Robert Dallek, author, presidential historian
Obama's victory represents a landmark moment in American history. His election was the result of national alienation from the George W. Bush presidency; indeed, the election may be considered a referendum on Bush's failed policies on Katrina, Iraq, the environment and the economy. Obama's understanding that the country wanted change and wished for an inspirational voice that promised a turn toward more constructive action was also a principal part of his success. I believe that historians will look back on 2008 as the end of the Reagan conservative era and the start of a new period of progressive federal activism.
If Obama succeeds in putting across economic and social reforms that change the national landscape, I think he will gain a place in the pantheon of exceptional presidents. Like Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ and Reagan, Obama has the chance to be remembered as an innovative leader who advanced the national well-being in difficult times.