Saturday, August 30, 2008

Barack Obama’s Acceptance Speech

Thank you so much.


Thank you very much.


Thank you, everybody.

To -- to Chairman Dean and my great friend Dick Durbin, and to all my fellow citizens of this great nation, with profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States.


Let me -- let me express -- let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest, a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours, Hillary Rodham Clinton.


To President Clinton, to President Bill Clinton, who made last night the case for change as only he can make it...


... to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service...


... and to the next vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you.


I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

To the love of my life, our next first lady, Michelle Obama...


... and to Malia and Sasha, I love you so much, and I am so proud of you.


Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story, of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren't well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to.

It is that promise that's always set this country apart, that through hard work and sacrifice each of us can pursue our individual dreams, but still come together as one American family, to ensure that the next generation can pursue their dreams, as well. That's why I stand here tonight. Because for 232 years, at each moment when that promise was in jeopardy, ordinary men and women -- students and soldiers, farmers and teachers, nurses and janitors -- found the courage to keep it alive.

We meet at one of those defining moments, a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can't afford to drive, credit cards, bills you can't afford to pay, and tuition that's beyond your reach.

These challenges are not all of government's making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.


America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country than this.


This country is more decent than one where a woman in Ohio, on the brink of retirement, finds herself one illness away from disaster after a lifetime of hard work.

We're a better country than one where a man in Indiana has to pack up the equipment that he's worked on for 20 years and watch as it's shipped off to China, and then chokes up as he explains how he felt like a failure when he went home to tell his family the news.

We are more compassionate than a government that lets veterans sleep on our streets and families slide into poverty...


... that sits...


... that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.


Tonight, tonight, I say to the people of America, to Democrats and Republicans and independents across this great land: Enough. This moment...


This moment, this moment, this election is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive.

Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third.


And we are here -- we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look just like the last eight.


On November 4th, on November 4th, we must stand up and say: Eight is enough.


Now, now, let me -- let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and our respect.


And next week, we'll also hear about those occasions when he's broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record's clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time.

Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but, really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?


I don't know about you, but I am not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.


The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives -- on health care, and education, and the economy -- Senator McCain has been anything but independent.

He said that our economy has made great progress under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

And when one of his chief advisers, the man who wrote his economic plan, was talking about the anxieties that Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a mental recession and that we've become, and I quote, "a nation of whiners."

(AUDIENCE BOOS) A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made.

Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third, or fourth, or fifth tour of duty.

These are not whiners. They work hard, and they give back, and they keep going without complaint. These are the Americans I know.


Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans; I just think he doesn't know.


Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under $5 million a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies, but not one penny of tax relief to more than 100 million Americans?

How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?


It's not because John McCain doesn't care; it's because John McCain doesn't get it.


For over two decades -- for over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy: Give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.

In Washington, they call this the "Ownership Society," but what it really means is that you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck, you're on your own. No health care? The market will fix it. You're on your own. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don't have boots. You are on your own.


Well, it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America. And that's why I'm running for president of the United States.


You see, you see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country.

We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage, whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma.

We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was president...


... when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of go down $2,000, like it has under George Bush. (APPLAUSE)

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off and look after a sick kid without losing her job, an economy that honors the dignity of work.

The fundamentals we use to measure economic strength are whether we are living up to that fundamental promise that has made this country great, a promise that is the only reason I am standing here tonight.

Because, in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbor, marched in Patton's army, and was rewarded by a grateful nation with the chance to go to college on the G.I. Bill.

In the face of that young student, who sleeps just three hours before working the night shift, I think about my mom, who raised my sister and me on her own while she worked and earned her degree, who once turned to food stamps, but was still able to send us to the best schools in the country with the help of student loans and scholarships.


When I -- when I listen to another worker tell me that his factory has shut down, I remember all those men and women on the South Side of Chicago who I stood by and fought for two decades ago after the local steel plant closed.

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties of starting her own business or making her way in the world, I think about my grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management, despite years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman.

She's the one who taught me about hard work. She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she can no longer travel, I know that she's watching tonight and that tonight is her night, as well.


Now, I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine.


These are my heroes; theirs are the stories that shaped my life. And it is on behalf of them that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as president of the United States.


What -- what is that American promise? It's a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have obligations to treat each other with dignity and respect.

It's a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, to look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

Ours -- ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves: protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools, and new roads, and science, and technology.

Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.

That's the promise of America, the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation, the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper.

That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now.


So -- so let me -- let me spell out exactly what that change would mean if I am president.


Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.


You know, unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.


I'll eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.


I will -- listen now -- I will cut taxes -- cut taxes -- for 95 percent of all working families, because, in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class.


And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as president: In 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.


We will do this. Washington -- Washington has been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years. And, by the way, John McCain has been there for 26 of them.


And in that time, he has said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil than we had on the day that Senator McCain took office.

Now is the time to end this addiction and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution, not even close.


As president, as president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America.


I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars.

And I'll invest $150 billion over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy -- wind power, and solar power , and the next generation of biofuels -- an investment that will lead to new industries and 5 million new jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced.


America, now is not the time for small plans. Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy.

You know, Michelle and I are only here tonight because we were given a chance at an education. And I will not settle for an America where some kids don't have that chance.


I'll invest in early childhood education. I'll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries, and give them more support. And in exchange, I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability.

And we will keep our promise to every young American: If you commit to serving your community or our country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.


Now -- now is the time to finally keep the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American.


If you have health care -- if you have health care, my plan will lower your premiums. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.


And -- and as someone who watched my mother argue with insurance companies while she lay in bed dying of cancer, I will make certain those companies stop discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most.


Now is the time to help families with paid sick days and better family leave, because nobody in America should have to choose between keeping their job and caring for a sick child or an ailing parent.

Now is the time to change our bankruptcy laws, so that your pensions are protected ahead of CEO bonuses, and the time to protect Social Security for future generations.

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day's work, because I want my daughters to have the exact same opportunities as your sons.


Now, many of these plans will cost money, which is why I've laid out how I'll pay for every dime: by closing corporate loopholes and tax havens that don't help America grow.

But I will also go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less, because we cannot meet 21st-century challenges with a 20th-century bureaucracy.


And, Democrats, Democrats, we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our intellectual and moral strength.

Yes, government must lead on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient.


Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But we must also admit that programs alone can't replace parents, that government can't turn off the television and make a child do her homework, that fathers must take more responsibility to provide love and guidance to their children.

Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility, that's the essence of America's promise. And just as we keep our promise to the next generation here at home, so must we keep America's promise abroad.

If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament and judgment to serve as the next commander-in-chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have.


For -- for while -- while Senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats that we face.

When John McCain said we could just muddle through in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights.

You know, John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the gates of Hell, but he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives.


And today, today, as my call for a timeframe to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration, even after we learned that Iraq has $79 billion in surplus while we are wallowing in deficit, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

That's not the judgment we need; that won't keep America safe. We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past.


You don't defeat -- you don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances.

If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice, but that is not the change that America needs.


We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe.

The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, have built, and we are here to restore that legacy.


As commander-in-chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.


I will end this war in Iraq responsibly and finish the fight against Al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts, but I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.

I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation, poverty and genocide, climate change and disease.

And I will restore our moral standing so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.


These -- these are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes, because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and each other's patriotism.


The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain.

The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together, and bled together, and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America; they have served the United States of America.


So I've got news for you, John McCain: We all put our country first.


America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices. And Democrats, as well as Republicans, will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past, for part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose, and that's what we have to restore.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.


The -- the reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.


I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.


You know, passions may fly on immigration, but I don't know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers.

But this, too, is part of America's promise, the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer, and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values.

And that's to be expected, because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters.


If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

And you know what? It's worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.

I get it. I realize that I am not the likeliest candidate for this office. I don't fit the typical pedigree, and I haven't spent my career in the halls of Washington.

But I stand before you tonight because all across America something is stirring. What the naysayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me; it's about you.


It's about you.


For 18 long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said, "Enough," to the politics of the past. You understand that, in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same, old politics with the same, old players and expect a different result.

You have shown what history teaches us, that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.


Change happens -- change happens because the American people demand it, because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.

I believe that, as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming, because I've seen it, because I've lived it.

Because I've seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work.

I've seen it in Washington, where we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans, and keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

And I've seen it in this campaign, in the young people who voted for the first time and the young at heart, those who got involved again after a very long time; in the Republicans who never thought they'd pick up a Democratic ballot, but did.


I've seen it -- I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut their hours back a day, even though they can't afford it, than see their friends lose their jobs; in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb; in the good neighbors who take a stranger in when a hurricane strikes and the floodwaters rise.

You know, this country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit, that American promise, that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night and a promise that you make to yours, a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west, a promise that led workers to picket lines and women to reach for the ballot.

(APPLAUSE) And it is that promise that, 45 years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.


The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustrations of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead -- people of every creed and color, from every walk of life -- is that, in America, our destiny is inextricably linked, that together our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back...


... not with so much work to be done; not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for; not with an economy to fix, and cities to rebuild, and farms to save; not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend.

America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone.

At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise, that American promise, and in the words of scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

How Bush Destroyed the Republican Party

How Bush Destroyed the Republican Party

A president driven by ideology. A Congress rife with corruption. A political party hellbent on a "permanent majority." A leading scholar examines the radicals who hijacked the GOP — and wrecked the longest conservative ascendancy in American history


The failure of the administration of George W. Bush — and the accompanying crisis of the Republican Party — has caused a political meltdown of historic proportions. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Bush enjoyed the greatest popularity ever recorded for a modern American president. Republicans on Capitol Hill, under the iron rule of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, fattened their coffers through a fearsome operation overseen by corporate lobbyists and GOP henchmen that functioned more like an empire than an old-fashioned political machine. "Republican hegemony," the prominent conservative commentator Fred Barnes rejoiced in 2004, "is now expected to last for years, maybe decades."

Now, only four years later, Bush is leaving office with the longest sustained period of public disapproval ever recorded. No president, at least in modern times — and certainly no two-term president — has risen so high only to fall so low. Indeed, Bush's standings in the polls describe one of the most spectacular flameouts in the history of the American presidency — second only, perhaps, to that of Richard Nixon, the only president ever forced to resign from office. And in Congress, the indictment and downfall of DeLay and a host of associated scandals involving, among others, the Republican superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, have badly damaged the party's image. The supremacy of the GOP, once envisioned by party operatives as a "permanent majority," may be gone for a very long time to come.

At first glance, the collapse of the Republican Party seems rapid and unexpected. When viewed within the larger context of American history, however, the party's breakdown looks familiar, even predictable. As in earlier party crackups — 1854, 1932, 1968 — the demise has involved not a single, sudden explosion but a gradual unraveling followed by a sharp and rapid deterioration amid major national calamities. If Bush and the Republican majority in Congress accelerated the demise of Ronald Reagan's political era with their assault on traditional American values and institutions — including the rule of law itself — it is a decline that began two decades ago.

A few examples serve to place recent events in historical perspective. In 1848, the Whig Party, which had emerged more than a decade earlier to oppose the Democrats of Andrew Jackson, captured the presidency for the second time in its history and consolidated what looked like a formidable, nationwide political base. Yet differences over slavery and territorial expansion had always hampered party unity, and in 1854, amid the sectional warfare caused by the Kansas-Nebraska bill, the Whigs ceased to be a national force, replaced by the anti-slavery Republican Party as the nation lurched toward the Civil War.

Three generations later, in 1928, the Republicans, although the dominant party, were battered by scandals and old battles between conservative party regulars and self-styled progressives. GOP power brokers wisely chose as their presidential nominee Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, whose engineering projects and disaster-relief efforts had earned admiration across party lines. Hoover crushed his Democratic opponent, Al Smith, in what looked like the culmination of the party's growth since the Civil War. Four years later, though, following the stock-market crash of October 1929 and the onset of the Great Depression, the Republicans went to pieces — and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, after burying Hoover in a landslide, inaugurated the New Deal.

In 1964, the Texas liberal Democrat Lyndon Johnson wiped out the right-wing hero Barry Goldwater and ushered in a true working majority of Democratic reformers in Congress. Political commentators hailed a second birth of New Deal liberalism, and some experts even wondered if the Republicans would soon go the way of the Whigs. Yet the Democrats had long been battling among themselves over civil rights issues, and Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 triggered the defection of the once solidly Democratic South. A mere four years after Johnson's outsize triumph, Democratic infighting over his escalation of the war in Vietnam, as well as over racial turmoil in the nation's cities, paved the way for Richard Nixon's election. The breakdown of the Democrats, coupled with Nixon's downfall in 1974 in the Watergate scandal, blew the ideological center out of American politics and cleared the way for the conservative age of Ronald Reagan — the age only now beginning to come to an end.

The decay of Reagan Republicanism dates to 1988, Reagan's final year in office. With no clear-cut successor from the right on the horizon, the party chose Reagan's dutiful vice president, George H.W. Bush. A scion of the old GOP establishment, the son of a U.S. senator from Connecticut who was a Wall Street banker and golfing partner of President Dwight Eisenhower, Bush had shifted both rightward and southwesterly over the years. Although he was never able to forge a convincing political identity as a Connecticut Yankee in Texas, as president he dealt with the enormous federal deficits left over from Reagan's "supply-side" stewardship. In 1990, he finally broke his "no new taxes" vow — thereby earning the enduring contempt of the Republican right. The quirky but effective third-party candidacy of Ross Perot in 1992 was a sure sign that Bush had lost touch with the GOP's anti-government base, and his inability to cope with a recession tolled his end.

Bill Clinton's victory over both Bush and Perot seemed to spell a revival of center-left liberalism in a new form. But during his first two years in office, Clinton's missteps and defeats, coupled with the self-destructive fracturing of the Democratic Congress, handed the Republicans an opportunity to regroup. Their recapture of the House for the first time in 40 years — by forging their "Contract With America" during the midterm elections in 1994 — seemed to portend that Clinton, like his predecessor, would be a one-term president. Yet the brash ideological leadership of the new House speaker, Newt Gingrich, foreshadowed the GOP's turn to the far right and further hastened the unraveling of the conservative ascendancy. Clinton outfoxed Gingrich in battles over the federal budget and held the line against GOP demands to slash Medicare and cut taxes, and most of the public blamed Congress for the partisan bickering in Washington. In 1996, only two years after Democrats had been repudiated at the polls, Clinton won re-election with an increased plurality, marking the first time a Democrat had won two presidential terms since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.

The outcome incited congressional Republicans to a fury, and conservative leaders even more doctrinaire than Gingrich — including House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay — took advantage of the anger to hijack the party. In 1998, after a network of right-wing operatives discovered Clinton's sexual trysts with the young White House intern Monica Lewinsky, the congressional right-wingers forced Clinton's impeachment. But public backlash over the impeachment drive contributed to Gingrich's downfall as speaker and Clinton's acquittal in the Senate. With Clinton's popularity soaring and his troubles behind him amid peace and prosperity, it looked as if 2000 would bring a solid Democratic victory.

But nothing went right for the Democrats. Their nominee, Vice President Al Gore, believed that the Lewinsky scandal had made Clinton a liability and distanced himself from the very administration he had served so ably. Rather than building on the legacy of the previous eight years, Gore embraced the bogus idea of "Clinton fatigue," signaled by his naming Joe Lieberman, the sanctimonious Clinton critic, as his running mate. The left wing of the party backed the protest candidacy of Ralph Nader, and the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, ran as a "compassionate conservative" who would uphold the kinder, gentler mode of his father as a kind of Clinton-lite. The press, following its dismal performance as mouthpiece for impeachment prosecutor Ken Starr, gave credence to a string of pseudoscandals about Gore, tarnishing his integrity and casting him as a privileged, self-regarding dissembler. Nader's nihilistic campaign to destroy Gore won him enough votes to throw New Hampshire to Bush, and the election ultimately turned on the razor-thin margin in Florida. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court, including four Reagan-era appointees (and the man Ronald Reagan had named chief justice, William Rehnquist), finally intervened, stopping the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, and made Bush president.

Clinton's precarious center-left alliance did not hold. With Bush's court-engineered victory, the conservative ascendancy entered a new and even more radical phase. But that phase would prove to be its last.

George w. Bush was easilyunderestimated by the press and his Democratic opponent. When he entered the White House, he looked like the luckiest political leader on the face of the earth. A man whose early efforts in business and politics had failed, Bush had persevered thanks to well-connected family and friends who repeatedly saved him from his failures and gave him his chance to make a fortune when he sold his financial interest in the Texas Rangers baseball team. In 1994, Bush won his first of two terms as governor of Texas — a high-profile job with, as stipulated in the state's constitution, undemanding day-to-day authority. Having learned the nastier arts of politics while helping out in his father's national campaigns and apprenticing with the ferocious Republican operative Lee Atwater, Bush formed an alliance with one of the greatest political tacticians in the country — Karl Rove, another Atwater disciple. After Sen. Robert Dole lost his presidential bid in 1996 — and with Rove pulling strings in the background — Bush emerged as a top candidate for the 2000 nomination.

Bush's family connections, once again, proved invaluable. For nearly half a century, from 1952 to 1996 — except for 1964, the year of Barry Goldwater — the Republican Party's national ticket included a Nixon, a Bush or a Dole. Through thick and thin, the party's top leadership had retained a coherence that was familial as well as political. And when Ronald Reagan transformed the party in 1980, he wisely did not uproot its establishment, as the Goldwaterites had tried to do in 1964, but rather absorbed it into his grand new coalition by naming George H.W. Bush as his running mate. Twenty years later, another Bush was waiting in the wings.

Although born in Connecticut and schooled at Yale and Harvard Business, the younger Bush had successfully assimilated himself to Texas business and political culture as his father had never managed. The black sheep of the family, Bush also, at the age of 40, took Jesus Christ as his personal savior. That conversion, he said, freed him from a well-documented addiction to drink. It also brought him into much closer connection with the right-wing evangelical base that Reagan had brought into the Republican Party and with which Bush senior never forged a convincing bond.

The younger Bush perfectly embodied a new melding of the Republican right and the GOP establishment, a process essential to the success of the conservative ascendancy since 1980. The only other serious challenger for the nomination was neither a son of the party establishment nor a Reaganite ideologue: Sen. John McCain. A hero of the Vietnam War (a conflict from which Bush had escaped by serving in the Texas Air National Guard), McCain married a wealthy second wife and made his political home in Arizona, where being a conservative and a maverick fit the Goldwater tradition. His independent stands on campaign-finance reform, regulation of the tobacco industry and health care irked the party's leadership but gained him favor inside the news media.

Read the entire story in the issue of Rolling Stone, on stands August 22, 2008.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I Misspoke

frrom Dr. Alan J. Lipman's Head of State

It was a treacherous night landing. Ice had formed on both of our wings, and as I looked out the port window, I could see it breaking into shards, flying off into the night sky with each near barrel roll of our C-50, highlighted by the flares shooting past on either side of the cabin, turning them into falling prisms of wildly careening light.

As the cabin lurched back and forth and the sounds of rocket fire percussed the urgent, faltering rhythm of our right engine, I unfastened my seat belt, and, finding my center of gravity, rose from my seat, moving past aides who were frozen, stock still in their chairs, arms locked like girders against their arm rests in terror, and walked up the center aisle to the pilot's cabin.

"How long to Kosovo"? I shouted over the screaming whine of the altimeter's alarm, marking our steep descent. The pilot turned, looked at me in shocked recognition--" did you make it up here? No one has ever walked up here in these conditions before! How..."

"Never mind that!" I barked, with what I hoped was a not too stern forcefulness, yet laced with sufficient steel and empathy to create an impression of firm imperturbability. "Check the master FMC! Is it working or has it failed?"

The pilot, paused, as if in amazement at my readiness, and then himself awakening to crisis, looked to the Control Display Unit . "It's down! It's down!" he shouted. Beads of sweat began to form on his brow.

I knew what I had to do. "Get out of there!" I commanded, and pulled him from the seat, from where he crumbled to a fetal position on the floor behind me. Stepping over him, I took the chair behind the console.

"Check the Central Maintenance Computers and activate the NAV RAD for alternate radio tuning capability!" I shouted to the co-pilot. He, too, had broken down in tears, his head buried in his hands. I looked to his ID on the console. Another newbie.

Well, this was another one where I would have to go it alone.

Quickly, I tore the scarf from my neck and fashioned it into a crude lasso that could be used for EFIS/EICIS control. Catching the lever with my right hand, I activated the cabin loudspeaker with my left. I knew that the passengers had likely been gulled by the earlier soft patter of the pilot. "Brace yourself! Get ready! These aren't just words!" Then I pulled the lever back hard, sending us rocketing towards the runway.

"You'll never make it!" A voice behind me--I knew that voice, and turned. Richardson! How did he trundle up to the cabin? "Out of here, Judas! And take that quivering beard with you!"

I could feel bolts straining against Pennsylvania steel as I pushed the '50 down, down, down to the ground below us. Suddenly, an explosion punctuated the sky--Hand held rocket fire at 3' o'clock!

I quickly performed the evasive maneuvers that I had learned for so long, and so well. My face became angry, then sad, then gentle, then intensely serious, then was finally rocked by a powerful squealing, an unnatural burst of laughter. That did it! The rocket exploded harmlessly behind us.

Now. Now it was time to take the stick and bring this shaking, careening flight, parts straining against themselves until nearly ready to burst, down to the ground. I put my arms to the twin arms of the FO-AP, set the APC, and with all of the strength remaining in me, began to push the levers down. Straining, I pushed harder. And harder. I could see the runway rising before us in the glare shield. I would have to find the remaining strength to bring it down.

Finally, as if a burst of superhuman might had been somehow delegated to me, I pushed the levers into locked position. I could hear Penn in the cabin shouting "We're landing...We're going down!" as I felt the rough shock of the landing gear snapping into place.

Sparks flew as we hit the runway, bullets ricocheting off of the cabin, one wheel touching pavement. I looked straight through the windshield--the militia, arms at the ready stood at the runway's end. The last obstacle.

I turned the craft hard, sending it hurtling sideways across the pavement. It swept the militia away in a single screaming motion that combined with the screaming that arose from the cabin, as we continued to move towards the small, makeshift terminal, where the dignitaries, negotiators, and heads of state awaited for my arrival.

I did not close my eyes. I did not let go of the wheel. I watched--as we ground to a halt just before the doors of the terminal.

I looked fore, at the dignitaries protecting themselves from the sniper fire that raged around them. I looked aft, at the passengers, shaken but safe.

We had arrived. All was good.

Just a moment...

Due to the discovery of a video of the above described occasion, I would like to make few small corrections. The flight was in fact actually a regularly scheduled chartered flight that was actually flown by the pilot and co-pilot--although the pilot did have a cold, and during the flight, I did at several times give serious attention to our flight conditions (notes indicate that I found it "a bit bumpy"). I would also note that the dinner, Salmon with Creamed Potatoes, was undercooked, and was served with a Riesling that was unusually dry. It is also true that we were met not by a militia, but by a girl's youth soccer team. However, it was necessary for me to dodge a soccer ball as team members demonstrated their often aggressive skills. No other shots were fired.

In short: I misspoke.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Waking up

This political season is turning out to be more illuminating than ever before. I woke up this morning to the comments of Bill Clinton. "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here." This was in response to a question from ABC News' David Wright about it taking "two Clinton's to beat" Obama. Jackson had not been mentioned. I saw the blogs about the Clinton's running a race-baiting campaign to paint Obama as "the black candidate." What’s surprising is how blatant they’ve gotten.

I had been hearing the comments of talking heads all last weeks saying that the Clinton’s were trying to make Obama “the black candidate” and I saw it as ridiculous. I didn’t believe them. The “fairy tale” comment I thought was disrespectful. I thought it had more to do with the fact that Obama is a visionary rather than his race. And Hillary’s comments about Martian Luther King seemed to discount MLK’s influence over the nation during the time the civil rights act came up for a vote. Let’s face it if it weren’t for all those marches and demonstrations and boycotts no legislative act would have changed America. Not to mention it would have never been proposed in the first place. I saw many off their statements as being out of context. I thought people were reading far too much into what they were saying. Now I’m starting to see that maybe I wasn’t seeing what they were trying to do. The Clintons are clearly trying to paint Obama as “the black candidate”. Not that Obama is ashamed of being black. Hell, a few months ago he was trying to prove that he was black at all. People were calling him biracial or half-black. So why are the Clinton’s helping him out?

They’re not. What’s sad is that they think this will marginalize him. They figure that if he’s the running as the black guy no one is going to listen to what he has to say, that no one will take him seriously as a contender for the White House. They want it to seem like here’s only winning in South Carolina because he’s black. Sure that had something to do with it, but it’s more than that. Obama has a vision for America that supercedes race, class, and political parties. He is a visionary that at times can be ridiculed as a “fairy tale” as Bill Clinton did. But now I see that they want to put him in a box. They want to say that he’s only winning because he’s new and black and different. What I know is that the Clinton’s are not stupid, what I fear is that they are right. Are we so narrow minded? Do we as Americans marginalize someone simply because he’s black?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Turning Obama Into Kerry

by Christopher Beam on

Hillary Clinton proposed a $70 economic stimulus package today that would help families facing foreclosures, subsidize home heating, and create jobs in the energy sector.

No shocker there. Economic issues are taking center stage as the Nevada caucus and Michigan and South Carolina primaries loom. Nevada has been hit with a huge number of home foreclosures. Michigan is suffering an economic crisis, with a third of Detroiters living below the poverty line. South Carolina’s unemployment rate, like Michigan’s, exceeds the national average.

But here’s the way Politico described her strategy:

The plan is part of the senator’s appeal to voters who need a president, as opposed to the more upscale Democrats where Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has won substantial support.

Seeing as John Kerry just endorsed Obama, it’s worth asking: Is Clinton trying to make Obama look like Kerry? Not the progressive war hero Kerry of Democratic lore, but the effete, “French-looking”, Heinz fortune-funneling Kerry painted by his Republican opponents.

Obama isn’t a Massachusetts liberal and he didn’t marry into money. But he has begun to attract the same “upscale” accusations that plagued Kerry. On the trail, John Edwards pointedly declares he isn’t running for “academic” reasons, implying that some people are. In Hillary’s new youth outreach video, one questioner says all her “law school friends” are voting for Obama. In the New Hampshire primary, Obama did better among Democratic voters who make over $50,000; Hillary did better with the under $50,000 set. He’s the “wine track” candidate, Hillary is the “beer track” candidate.

A union-powered victory in Nevada could do a lot to counter this perception. Obama might also consider coming out equally strongly on the housing and jobs fronts in the coming weeks. But if that doesn’t work, the curse of Kerry could haunt him as the crucial Feb. 5 vote approaches.

Friday, January 04, 2008

How Barack Obama swept to victory in Iowa

Jan. 4, 2008 | DES MOINES, Iowa -- The battle for Precinct 67 was decided in the parking lot. Just the crush of cars filling every parking lot around Central Campus, a high-school academy just west of the city center, signaled that this would be a big night for Barack Obama. As Jeffrey Hunter, the owner of the Hotel Fort Des Moines (yes, he is my temporary landlord), who was caucusing for Obama, said amid the bedlam in the school cafeteria, "I've never seen turnout like this." Democratic turnout here in Iowa Gov. Chet Culver's home precinct wound up more than doubling 2004 levels.

Like shepherds, organizers for each candidate gathered their supporters at cafeteria tables in different sections of the room -- and, even as Democrats were still signing in, the outcome seemed visually obvious. Like islands in a sea, lonely tables for the supporters of Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd (plus a small knot of Dennis Kucinich backers in the rear of the room) were a visual sign that these candidates would not make the 15 percent threshold to win one of nine delegates awarded here. (With a record 471 caucus-goers in Precinct 67, a candidate needed 71 supporters to be viable.)

Paul Pettinger, a software engineer who had still not made up his mind (he was leaning Edwards) as the initial count neared, pointed to the dozens of Democrats lined up against the side wall as the initial parliamentary maneuvers began. "Most of the people who don't know what they're doing are for Obama -- they're the new voters," he said knowingly. Of course, Pettinger himself last attended a caucus in the 1980s.

Even before the official count began, the Edwards group knew they were in trouble, since they calculated they needed nine more supporters to avoid being shut out in Precinct 67. Mari Culver -- the wife of the governor and John Edwards' leading Iowa supporter -- said determinedly, "We've got to start horse-trading. We've got to go to the Richardson people."

The supporters of the New Mexico governor did not even stay together long as a group, but started wandering the room looking for new political homes. When the first-round numbers were announced, with the governor doing the arithmetic for the caucus chairman, the results were: Obama 245, Hillary Clinton 106, Edwards 75 (they had gotten their delegate), Richardson 26, Biden 18, Dodd 12, Kucinich 5 and uncommitted 4 (including Gov. Culver himself, who had always intended to remain neutral).

Then with the patriotic intensity of a Frank Capra movie in modern dress came the bidding war for the allegiance of 65 Democrats whose candidates were not viable. Anne Fredrickson, the Clinton coordinator in Precinct 67, stood on a chair and shouted to the unaligned voters milling around, "If you want change, then there's no bigger change than putting a woman in the White House." (The feminist ploy failed -- Clinton picked up only three additional supporters). A Dodd backer pleaded with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a major Obama backer and Precinct 67 resident, to throw some extra supporters his way so that Dodd might maneuver to take a delegate away from Clinton. "If you were closer, maybe we could do something," Miller said.

Ultimately, most of the Dodd people went for Obama. It was not entirely a high-minded conversion experience. As a young woman who was part of the obedient migration to Obama put it, "All the Dodd people went in exchange for something that I don't really understand."

The final round of maneuvering led to a count of Obama 276, Clinton 109 and Edwards 80. Under caucus arithmetic (which is too intricate for mere mortals), Obama received five delegates, Clinton two and Edwards two. Mari Culver's maneuvering had taken her chosen candidate from no delegates to a tie with Clinton in the numbers reported to the state party. As most of the Democrats headed home with the presidential vote over at 8:00, precinct chairman Kim Jones had one final word for the group, "If you think this is total, absolute chaos -- welcome to Iowa."

-- Walter Shapiro

Gordon Fisher, the former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, was a perpetual motion machine in Des Moines' Precinct 47 Thursday night, slapping Obama stickers on caucus-goers until he ran out, then slapping on some more. As the lecture hall inside Drake University began to fill up, neighbors greeted neighbors, sharing sandwiches and bottled water across candidate lines, with no tension: It was clearly a big Obama night.

Precinct 47 more than doubled its turnout over 2004, when 160 Democrats caucused. This time around 350 showed up, and 144 went for Obama on the first round. Fisher explained his candidate's appeal in a short, passionate speech, trying to sway supporters of candidates who didn't get 15 percent -- which meant everybody except Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. "I used to be the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party and I like to think I know something about electability," he said, and he pointed to the Obama signs proclaiming "Unity" that lined the walls. "It takes more than Democrats to win an election. Time and time again, Obama has shown an ability to win independents and Republicans."

Kent Sovern echoed Fisher. The communications director of Iowa's Democratic Veterans' Caucus, he supported Hillary Clinton until just a few weeks ago. "As I traveled the state doing veterans work I was hard-pressed to find anyone who was her second choice, and I concluded Barack's more electable. Hillary will hit a ceiling [of support], as unfortunate as that may be."

Precinct 47, mostly northwest of Drake University, features a mix of middle-class professionals, immigrants and African-Americans. Each candidate's supporters were overwhelmingly white, but Obama's were clearly more diverse and young. Weslyn Caldwell, 25, said it was her first caucus -- her father lobbied from Missouri to make sure she participated, and the Obama campaign called her twice a night until she finally committed to caucus for him. The African-American mother of a kindergartener, who works at Principal Financial Group (site of a Mitt Romney event today), says she considered supporting Hillary Clinton, but finally went for Obama. "She thinks she has all the answers; he seems more open to the change we need."

Clinton supporters were downcast, but seemed to expect their candidate's relatively poor showing. (She went from second to third, behind Edwards, when "non-viable" candidates' supporters re-caucused.) "I'm a little disappointed, but I had a hunch," said Craig Martin, a registered independent who became a Democrat to support Clinton. "Obama's campaign has just done a heck of a job; I hardly heard from Hillary."

The other candidates' supporters took the results in stride. Whatever bitterness may exist between the Democrats' campaigns at a national level didn't seem to poison Precinct 47. "The great thing is that they're all great," said Diane Wormson, a Biden supporter. There was little evidence of a rumored Bill Richardson-Obama deal in the Drake lecture hall; the Richardson folks I talked to scattered to Edwards and Obama. Some Biden supporters tried to stick together and lobby Richardson backers to join them as a formally non-committed independent bloc, but that fizzled. Biden supporter Jamie Wormson switched to Edwards, relatively happily. "Obama/Edwards would be a nice message to come out of Iowa tonight," the small-business owner said as he grabbed his coat and headed out into the cold.

Final tally, Obama 176, Edwards 88 and Clinton 80.

-- Joan Walsh

A huge crowd gathered at Precinct 15, just north of downtown Des Moines, overflowing almost to the sidewalk of the Grace Lutheran Church as caucus-goers tried to check in before the deadline. The caucus started 45 minutes late due to the turnout. About 110 people caucused here four years ago, and John Edwards won four of the precinct's six delegates.

This year, so many people crowded into the church that it took the caucus chairwoman a few minutes just to figure out how to count them. (At least a third were caucusing for the first time, based on an informal survey as the meeting started.) The total came to 186 -- an increase of nearly 70 percent. Candidates needed support from 28 people to reach the 15 percent needed to win a delegate, or survive to a second round of counting.

The meeting started late enough, and the packed room was hot enough, that chairwoman Tammy Keiter moved almost immediately to the first count. But not before a quick reminder of what this whole process is supposed to lead to in November. "Tonight is a special night for all of us, to be here, being the first in the nation and also to finally end the Bush era," she said. The whole room erupted in cheers.

As the first count rolled along, however, unity mostly went out the windows (open, despite an outside temperature near freezing, to keep the room reasonably comfortable). The process looked more like some elementary school recess activity gone awry than an exercise in democracy. Bill Richardson's group pried Hillary Clinton sign, and started screaming, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!" She had to be pulled away by her friends. Obama's group, in turn, started chanting, "Hope! Hope! Hope! Hope!" as Betty Andrews exhorted them on. "You want hope, step this way! If you believe in change, step this way!"

The director of Iowa's African-American Festival (scheduled for Des Moines in 23 days), Andrews supported Clinton until early December -- and she had a convert's zeal for her new cause. "It's Obama's time," she said. She was an independent until Thursday night, and she was caucusing with a party for the first time. She may switch her registration back by November. "I think it's important to support the person, not the party," she said.

Throughout the count, the negotiating was mostly limited to Biden's surrender to Richardson. Edwards supporters didn't bother trying to talk any Clinton voters their way, and Kucinich's three supporters proudly stuck by him to the end, refusing to switch to Obama unless a second count came up.

By the end of the night, what was a solid Edwards precinct in 2004 had nearly sent half its delegates to Obama. But caucus math made the outcome a de facto tie between the two candidates. Though Obama had support from 72 people, and Edwards only 49, they each wound up with two delegates. Clinton, stuck on 40 people, was left with one delegate. And Richardson slid into viability without any room to spare, winding up with 28 people and one delegate -- thanks entirely to support from people who had come in the door supporting Biden. The two had been dueling for a fourth-place finish statewide when the evening's voting started.