Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

[I]t is a bit mystifying that there have been as many complaints from the left about Obama's appointments as there have been. Surely they understood, as I have come to understand, that he is an establishment-accommodating, consensus-oriented politician, so how can anyone be all that surprised or upset? That is how he won, and that is how he has ascended so quickly in politics. . . . There are two distinct questions here. It seems to me that there should be fewer bewildered cries of betrayal, because there should have been no illusions about Obama, but there should be far more criticism of Obama's selections and decisions when progressives find them dissatisfying for well-founded reasons. In other words, there ought to be even more criticism of the probable Brennan selection, but much less gasping in surprise and asking, “How could Obama do that?”

There will be difficulties -- maybe a lot of difficulties -- along the way, and it's very easy to imagine a scenario in which the withdrawal from Iraq ends up dominating the foreign-affairs side of the ledger in Obama's first term, and not necessarily in a good way. And by putting the job in the hands of Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton -- a Republican appointee and a primary-season rival who attacked him from the right on foreign policy -- Obama has effectively given realists and liberal hawks partial ownership of whatever happens in Iraq between now and 2011.

It was apt in a small way that the first endorser of Hillary Rodham Clinton for secretary of state should have been Henry Kissinger.

We watch in wonder as a beleaguered government frantically throws billions into rescuing institutions that broke all the rules of our lifetime and wonder, when this is mercifully over, how will we get back to a sane balance of risk and reward to help our children and grandchildren pay for all this madness?

My working model of the distinction between the Clinton and Obama campaigns during the primary was that the Clinton campaign was somewhat more boldly progressive on domestic issues, notably health care, and quite a bit more conservative on foreign policy. At the end of the day, this seemed to cut in Obama's favor, as the executive has fairly little autonomy on issues like health reform (Congress decides it), but quite a bit on foreign affairs.

Since winning the election, however, Obama's choices have demonstrated rather the opposite.

It's out of flavor with the post-racial times, but I'm going to say it: I'm struck by the number of black people who are going to be working in the White House. I know these aren't cabinet-level jobs (excepting Holder) and maybe Valerie Jarrett will do an awful job. But I was taken aback watching a black woman lay out the agenda for the next president on "Meet The Press" a few weeks back. Maybe Holder is a complete bum, but look, I come out of the era of Rodney King, and from time to time will still play "Fuck The Police." Forgive me for having an emotional reaction to the top-cop in this country being a black man. I have been very hard on people who expect the mere sight of Obama as president to alter some things in the black community. Have I been too hard? I need to think more about how this makes me feel. On an emotional level, I'm sorry, it's fucking stunning.

The key to Barack Obama's success may lie with his least enthusiastic supporters.

The political community is abuzz these days about the imminent launch of Barack Obama 2.0, a cutting-edge plan for effective governance in the Internet era. The heady expectation is that the new president will usher in a brave new world of communication, using the power of the web to conduct an unprecedented two-way conversation with citizens, all in the interests of providing the change they seek.

. . . Millions of cynical Americans have long felt deprived of a voice in their government – and here comes this guy who vows to open the doors. As a senator, Obama's sponsored a bill (it’s now a law) that he calls "Google for government," because it allows anyone to type a few key words and find out where their tax dollars are going. Obama has even talked about allowing C-Span to film his health-care deliberations (although I'll believe that one when I see it). Clearly, his instinct is to lower the barriers between president and populace.

But as for this idea of engaging in a two-way online conversation, with feedback from citizen participants . . . well, we shall see about that one. Speaking from first-hand experience, I can stipulate that the online world is particularly unruly, a virtual Wild West where the perpetually aggrieved shoot first and think later, if at all.

. . . The point is, Obama may well discover that the power of the web can’t be harnessed from Washington, not even by a majority president riding a wave of good will.


Photograph by Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press

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