Tag Archives: President Barack Obama

President-Elect Obama Promises 2.5 Million Jobs

Barack Obama has outlined his plan to create 2.5m jobs in his first two years in office with an ambitious spending programme on roads, schools and and renewable energy.

In his weekly internet address the United States president-elect warned that the US was “facing an economic crisis of historic proportions”.

But he suggested he was keen to launch a major two-year spending programme, to “jumpstart job-creation in America and lay the foundation for a strong and growing economy”. He pledged the programme would create 2.5 million jobs by January 2011.

That goal has led to speculation that Obama will try to launch a spending package larger than the $175bn (£118bn) plan he outlined in his election campaign.

(Source)

Very interesting. I wonder what sort of effect new Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will have in calming the markets which were a) responsible for this mess and b) are continuing to go wild. The second question of course is whether the initial signs of greater calm are actually what’s really desirable here:

Geithner was also closely involved in the design and execution of the Bush administration’s $700bn banking bailout, which has proven less than popular with Congress and could become an issue during his confirmation hearing.

Apparently it was a toss-up between Geithner and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Summers now rumoured to be the behind-the-scenes brains of the new Treasury team. But Naomi Klein is alarmed by the prospect of the latter (and by implication the former?):

Larry Summers, who held the post under Clinton, is the man “the Street would like most”. Let’s be clear why. “The Street” would cheer a Summers appointment for the same reason the rest of us should fear it: because traders will assume that this champion of deregulation will offer a transition from Henry Paulson so smooth that we will barely know it happened.

One thing we know for certain is that the market will react violently to anyone likely to impose serious regulation, invest in people, and cut off the free money. In short, the markets can be relied on to vote in precisely the opposite way that Americans have just voted. (A recent poll found 60% strongly favour “stricter regulations on financial institutions”, while just 21% support aid to financial companies.)

There is no way to reconcile the public’s vote for change with the market’s foot-stomping for more of the same. Any moves to change course will be met with market shocks.

Reading between the lines, unless another factor is added to this mix, I’m not sure then what change Obama will truly then be able to enact, other than the most superficial. Good news that he’s promising a move towards energy independence (as per the Phoenix Initiative report), good too that he’s promising massive investment in long-neglected infrastructure. Bill Clinton was right when he labelled the American economy as post-industrial, identifying a huge, untapped market in alternative energy and energy conservation technologies (which if invested in would achieve multiple Phoenix Initiative objectives). But I don’t see any of these policies, and particularly not the Geithner appointment, tackling the structural, regulatory, managerial and behavioural problems in the markets which caused this mess in the first place. Neoliberalism is broken – putting it back together again will only get us back in the same mess, and probably sooner rather than later.

President-Elect Obama Discusses Climate Change

“My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change,” Obama said in a video message to governors and others attending a Los Angeles summit on the issue.

In the roughly four-minute message, Obama reiterated his support for a cap-and-trade system approach to cutting green house gases. He would establish annual targets to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them another 80 percent by 2050. Obama also promoted anew his proposal to invest $15 billion each year to support private sector efforts toward clean energy.

(source)

Is anyone else quite as excited as I am to hear him talking this way? I know it’s a little strange, considering it’s not novel thinking or behaviour – it’s a resumption of the way things should have been all along – but it feels like this great weight has been lifted. After 8 years of denial by the Bush White House and right-wing in general, Obama’s out and out saying there’s no room for debate or discussion about whether we need to do something to combate climate change, it’s now down to what’s to be done, how much, by whom and when.

“My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security, and create millions of new jobs in the process.”

This further comment in his address to the opening session of the Global Climate Summit was quite telling, pairing climate change and national security, echoing the Phoenix Initiative’s approach to foreign policy. There seems little doubt now that his approach as president to issues such as climate change, oil dependence, nuclear proliferation and counterterrorism will be rooted in this post-Cold War and post-War on Terror perspective. That’s sure change I can believe in.

President-Elect Obama’s First Weekly Address

It’ll be interesting seeing him not just continue the weekly radio address as President, but also what the reaction will be to them being videoed and released to YouTube.

Until 20th January 2009 the Office of the President-Elect’s YouTube channel is here.

Maybe Not Hillary?

There’s no doubt she’d know what she was talking about, and I’m not sure I agree with Michael Tomasky’s pre-requisite of a close relationship with the president. Although the logic of keeping your friends close and enemies closer might seem apt for Hillary, who was Obama’s only truly effective nemesis in the election process, I’m not sure I buy the rumours either that she and Bill are already preparing the groundwork to attack Obama within the next two years; it’s just too fanciful. I suspect he’s going to have political capital which will last for a considerable time, and doesn’t need to placate her. She may be owed a great deal from the campaigning which by many accounts affected the outcomes in the Appalachian states, but to give her State as a reward?

For me the nagging question is would she actually be a good Secretary of State? I’m not convinced she would be, unless of course you buy the argument that Obama intends to be far more hawkish in his foreign policy than many on the left would wish. His wish may be to exit Iraq quickly, but has declared a desire to redeploy to Afghanistan – the usual neoconservative nonsense, or for other reasons? Remember it was Hillary who advocated nuking Iran, with Obama declaring a desire to talk to and perhaps use America’s enemies strategically. We have moves, backed up by chief hypocrite Tony Blair, for Obama to repair the damage caused to America’s relationship with the EU, and despite an initially aggressive Russian response to his election, a soft line on the so-called ‘missile defence shield’ which so soured the US’ relationship with Putin’s Russia. Hillary may support these positions, she may not, but what I can’t get past is her near-unquestioning support of the Bush administration in voting for the war in Iraq. She was either hoodwinked (in which case her judgment is as dreadful as McCain’s) or actually agreed with it; I don’t want a Secretary of State in the Obama administration who did.

The other problem isn’t so much the Clinton psychodrama, which would no doubt continue to play out in and around the White House just at a time when Obama and the country need it the least, but the question of probity. Bill’s pre- and post-presidential business dealings have a shady reputation at best, and at a time when the Obama transition team is priding itself on being the most ethical in history, bringing the Clintons back into the fold would undermine the new team’s reputation before it even began. Obama’s ‘change’ surely must involve a departure from connections such as this, although this is an issue with Bill rather than Hillary.

Nancy Cohen identifies where Obama’s foreign policy thinking is coming from, and argues that Hillary’s appointment could indeed be revolutionary if it were to enact Obama’s belief that foreign policy itself needed to be rethought for the 21st century, to deliver change on the international issues which he’s already called for bipartisan engagement with. One of his top foreign policy advisers – Susan Rice, wrote the preface to a report in 2007 by the Phoenix Initiative, a group of foreign policy Democrats who got together in 2005 to come up with a strategy to wrest control of the foreign policy narrative from the GOP once and for all. Nicholas Lemann quotes Rice that the report:

“breaks away from such traditional concepts as containment, engagement, and enlargement and rejects standard dichotomies of realist power politics versus liberal idealism.” It “offers bold and genuinely new thinking about America’s role.” The report lists five top “strategic priorities” for the United States. The first three are issues that governments, or even international organizations, can’t handle on their own: counterterrorism, nuclear proliferation, and, taken together, climate change and oil dependence. The other two are regional: the Middle East and East Asia. The report barely mentions great-power diplomacy, the traditional core concept of statecraft. It is not just post-Cold War but post-war on terror and, arguably, post-American hegemony.

Cohen believes:

Obama will not choose Hillary to make party peace, nor to bring warmed-over Clintonism into the inner sanctums of the new administration. He will not choose her because she is a woman. If Hillary is the one, she will have been chosen because she has shown visionary leadership on two of the critical international (and moral) questions of our age: climate change and the human rights of women.

Anyone who followed the campaign and the policy debates realizes that Clinton was stellar on climate change and energy independence. (Barring the one foolish gas-tax holiday delusion.) Obama and Clinton share views on the subject, and if anything, Clinton has rightly shown more skepticism than Obama on nuclear power and “clean coal.”

Less well known is the fact that Hillary Clinton was one of the pioneers of the principle that women’s rights are human rights and that women’s status in the world is one of the critical international issues.

If it’s to be Hillary, which Hillary is it going to be? Hawk Hillary? Or feminist Hillary, putting a new, 21st century international relations strategy into action for her former nemesis which just might deliver ‘change’? Lehmann believes not just that Obama’s own thinking mirrors the Phoenix Initiative’s, but that he’s been road testing the ideas for some time. If Hillary can see where hers and Obama’s thinking overlap, watch her snap the job up. Considering she’s good friends with foreign policy supremo, Vice-President-Elect Joe Biden, maybe she really is the right choice, despite the dangers.

Hillary for State Department?

An interesting move if the rumour becomes confirmed.

Two Obama advisers have told NBC News that Hillary Clinton is under consideration to be secretary of state. Would she be interested? Those who know Clinton say possibly. But her office says that any decisions about the transition are up to the president-elect and his team.

Great Machiavellian politics – keep your friends close, but your enemies closer – but would she be the right choice? By having her on the top table, if Obama’s first administration fails she’s then largely neutralised as a challenger in 2012, but do I not recall her foreign policy pronouncements on the primaries trail as pretty hawkish, if not occasionally neoconservative (and she did vote for the war)? Would this show Obama displaying bipartisanship in foreign policy, or admitting he’s more hawkish than many would wish (and as hawkish as everyone else has already commented on)? An interesting perspective on the president-elect’s possible thinking came:

in a January interview he gave to Katie Couric, anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News.” As part of her “Primary Questions” series, she asked him what books besides the Bible he would considers essential if he were elected president.

“Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book ‘Team of Rivals,’” Obama replied. “It was a biography of Lincoln. And she talks about Lincoln’s capacity to bring opponents of his and people who have run against him in his cabinet. And he was confident enough to be willing to have these dissenting voices and confident enough to listen to the American people and push them outside of their comfort zone. And I think that part of what I want to do as president is push Americans a little bit outside of their comfort zone. It’s a remarkable study in leadership.”

One of the comments from the first article seems like another salient point – with Obama and Biden already about to depart, doesn’t moving stars like Clinton, maybe Kerry, maybe Lugar (GOP I know but it’s the same point) out of the Senate sort of cause problems there ? Still though the election has proven he needs female appointments aplenty in his team, although I was anticipating Kathleen Sebelius to be the most senior.

I like the idea of him actually using his political capital, unlike former president Clinton and particularly people like Tony Blair, both of whom pandered to the right rather than acting in a genuinely bipartisan manner. It would be a wise move too to push the electorate fractionally past its comfort zone, it’s having just voted to repudiate an administration which was wedded to the most cynical politics and ‘business as usual’, which on pretty much all policy fronts has been shown to have comprehensively failed the country.

Obama Rattles The Vatican

OMG you know something’s going right when the Vatican starts to brief against President-Elect Obama.

Aides to Mr Obama indicated this week that he will reverse Mr Bush’s stand on stem cell research. The US Senate voted in July to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, but the President vetoed the legislation the following day.

Mr Obama has supported stem cell research to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. His views are supported by Joe Biden, the Vice-President-elect, who is a Roman Catholic.

Concerned at Obama’s stance on this issue, the Vatican replied:

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, who acts as the Vatican health minister, said that stem cells taken from human embryos and involving the destruction of the embryos “serve no purpose”.

Asked whether the Vatican was concerned about reports that Mr Obama might reverse the Bush Administration’s ban, the cardinal said that embryonic stem cell research had not resulted in any significant health cure so far and was “good for nothing”.

Good for nothing eh? Well the ‘science’ or ‘rational’ community, which once again is in charge after 8 years, completely disagrees with you oh ‘health minister’ (snigger). It’ll also be excellent for the economy, considering just how much research was forced to go overseas following the Bush administration’s ban. I echo Jon Stewart’s comment on last week’s Daily Show the day after the election – things are starting once again to look and feel the way I instinctively feel they should.

About bloody time too.

Hillary: Obama Has Failed to Deliver Change!

Obama’s only been president-elect for five days, but Hillary’s on the attack already!

“My fellow Americans, I admire Barack Obama, but in his first 20 minutes as president-elect, he has failed time and time again to deliver the change he promised,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said at a small rally in Harlem.

…continues…