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Category Archives: election

Dave G’s NY-23 post mortem nails the broad political lesson:

What this shows is that neither running as Democrats-lite nor as talk-radio-style anarcho-conservatives will win the future for the GOP. What will yield a Republican comeback in 2010 and beyond is the McDonnell/Christie model, where Republican candidates ideologically appropriate for their states and districts run as pragmatic conservatives who are solutions-oriented and who are running to apply their conservatism to public problems. This is the type of Republicanism that can win, and it did win in purple Virginia and blue New Jersey. It did so by contrasting a GOP that was optimistic and problem-solving yet distinctly conservative with a corrupt, interest-group-friendly, tax-and-spend leftist establishment. This is the model that Republicans should emulate, not the Rockefeller-esque model of Dede nor the Palin/Beck model of Hoffman.

The above is completely on point and totally tracks with my attitude about the purpose of being a conservative in the first instance (superior problem solving to address the needs of our respective communities and country). It also tracks almost perfectly with what is required of the GOP to win blacks and latinos to its banner and the conservative cause, namely, ideologically and operationally superior solution sets and optimistic problem solving conservatism applied to the public problems of black and latino political constituencies.

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I watched Neda Soltani die. I saw the blood streaming first from her mouth, then her nose, her life spilling out of her like a crimson stream in her father’s arms. I saw Neda die on a street in a city in a country I’ve never been to and likely never will. I never met Neda, or her family, never heard her voice. I don’t know anything about the way she lived her life, if she was a nice person, if she was married or had children or siblings. I don’t know if she was smart or had a sense of humor. I never met her, so I don’t know what color her eyes were, or what her favorite food was or if she ever blew milk out of her nose because somebody told her something funny when she wasn’t expecting it.

I’ll never know if she ever stubbed her toe on something hard and cursed, or if she was a quirky type that liked to watch Bollywood movies. I’ll never know what she thought the greatest moment of her life was, or the lowest point. I’ll never know anything about what her hopes and dreams were, what she thought about the future of her country, our country, or the world.

It was unlikely that I would have ever met Neda and learned one or two or even all these things. Now its 100% certain that I will never learn these things. Her light has been snuffed out of the universe because she dared to stand on a street with her father thinking about freedom and democracy. Killed by her own countryman, by her own government. A government which sanctions and empowers men to ride around with guns and murder its own citizens on the street in cold blood with impunity. As an American, Neda’s murder is a damning and irrevocable indictment of the Iranian regime. It does not deserve to continue.

Neda means “voice” in Farsi. The world will never hear Neda’s physical voice again, but the voice of her spirit is calling to the men and women of her country and indeed to men and women everywhere yearning to breathe free.

By George Friedman ~ Honorary Political Season Contributor

In 1979, when we were still young and starry-eyed, a revolution took place in Iran. When I asked experts what would happen, they divided into two camps.

The first group of Iran experts argued that the Shah of Iran would certainly survive, that the unrest was simply a cyclical event readily manageable by his security, and that the Iranian people were united behind the Iranian monarch’s modernization program. These experts developed this view by talking to the same Iranian officials and businessmen they had been talking to for years — Iranians who had grown wealthy and powerful under the shah and who spoke English, since Iran experts frequently didn’t speak Farsi all that well.

The second group of Iran experts regarded the shah as a repressive brute, and saw the revolution as aimed at liberalizing the country. Their sources were the professionals and academics who supported the uprising — Iranians who knew what former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini believed, but didn’t think he had much popular support. They thought the revolution would result in an increase in human rights and liberty. The experts in this group spoke even less Farsi than the those in the first group.

Misreading Sentiment in Iran

Limited to information on Iran from English-speaking opponents of the regime, both groups of Iran experts got a very misleading vision of where the revolution was heading — because the Iranian revolution was not brought about by the people who spoke English. It was made by merchants in city bazaars, by rural peasants, by the clergy — people Americans didn’t speak to because they couldn’t. This demographic was unsure of the virtues of modernization and not at all clear on the virtues of liberalism. From the time they were born, its members knew the virtue of Islam, and that the Iranian state must be an Islamic state.

Americans and Europeans have been misreading Iran for 30 years. Even after the shah fell, the myth has survived that a mass movement of people exists demanding liberalization — a movement that if encouraged by the West eventually would form a majority and rule the country. We call this outlook “iPod liberalism,” the idea that anyone who listens to rock ‘n’ roll on an iPod, writes blogs and knows what it means to Twitter must be an enthusiastic supporter of Western liberalism. Even more significantly, this outlook fails to recognize that iPod owners represent a small minority in Iran — a country that is poor, pious and content on the whole with the revolution forged 30 years ago.

There are undoubtedly people who want to liberalize the Iranian regime. They are to be found among the professional classes in Tehran, as well as among students. Many speak English, making them accessible to the touring journalists, diplomats and intelligence people who pass through. They are the ones who can speak to Westerners, and they are the ones willing to speak to Westerners. And these people give Westerners a wildly distorted view of Iran. They can create the impression that a fantastic liberalization is at hand — but not when you realize that iPod-owning Anglophones are not exactly the majority in Iran.

Last Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected with about two-thirds of the vote. Supporters of his opponent, both inside and outside Iran, were stunned. A poll revealed that former Iranian Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi was beating Ahmadinejad. It is, of course, interesting to meditate on how you could conduct a poll in a country where phones are not universal, and making a call once you have found a phone can be a trial. A poll therefore would probably reach people who had phones and lived in Tehran and other urban areas. Among those, Mousavi probably did win. But outside Tehran, and beyond persons easy to poll, the numbers turned out quite different.

Some still charge that Ahmadinejad cheated. That is certainly a possibility, but it is difficult to see how he could have stolen the election by such a large margin. Doing so would have required the involvement of an incredible number of people, and would have risked creating numbers that quite plainly did not jibe with sentiment in each precinct. Widespread fraud would mean that Ahmadinejad manufactured numbers in Tehran without any regard for the vote. But he has many powerful enemies who would quickly have spotted this and would have called him on it. Mousavi still insists he was robbed, and we must remain open to the possibility that he was, although it is hard to see the mechanics of this.

Ahmadinejad’s Popularity

It also misses a crucial point: Ahmadinejad enjoys widespread popularity. He doesn’t speak to the issues that matter to the urban professionals, namely, the economy and liberalization. But Ahmadinejad speaks to three fundamental issues that accord with the rest of the country.

First, Ahmadinejad speaks of piety. Among vast swathes of Iranian society, the willingness to speak unaffectedly about religion is crucial. Though it may be difficult for Americans and Europeans to believe, there are people in the world to whom economic progress is not of the essence; people who want to maintain their communities as they are and live the way their grandparents lived. These are people who see modernization — whether from the shah or Mousavi — as unattractive. They forgive Ahmadinejad his economic failures.

Second, Ahmadinejad speaks of corruption. There is a sense in the countryside that the ayatollahs — who enjoy enormous wealth and power, and often have lifestyles that reflect this — have corrupted the Islamic Revolution. Ahmadinejad is disliked by many of the religious elite precisely because he has systematically raised the corruption issue, which resonates in the countryside.

Third, Ahmadinejad is a spokesman for Iranian national security, a tremendously popular stance. It must always be remembered that Iran fought a war with Iraq in the 1980s that lasted eight years, cost untold lives and suffering, and effectively ended in its defeat. Iranians, particularly the poor, experienced this war on an intimate level. They fought in the war, and lost husbands and sons in it. As in other countries, memories of a lost war don’t necessarily delegitimize the regime. Rather, they can generate hopes for a resurgent Iran, thus validating the sacrifices made in that war — something Ahmadinejad taps into. By arguing that Iran should not back down but become a major power, he speaks to the veterans and their families, who want something positive to emerge from all their sacrifices in the war.

Perhaps the greatest factor in Ahmadinejad’s favor is that Mousavi spoke for the better districts of Tehran — something akin to running a U.S. presidential election as a spokesman for Georgetown and the Lower East Side. Such a base will get you hammered, and Mousavi got hammered. Fraud or not, Ahmadinejad won and he won significantly. That he won is not the mystery; the mystery is why others thought he wouldn’t win.

For a time on Friday, it seemed that Mousavi might be able to call for an uprising in Tehran. But the moment passed when Ahmadinejad’s security forces on motorcycles intervened. And that leaves the West with its worst-case scenario: a democratically elected anti-liberal.

Western democracies assume that publics will elect liberals who will protect their rights. In reality, it’s a more complicated world. Hitler is the classic example of someone who came to power constitutionally, and then preceded to gut the constitution. Similarly, Ahmadinejad’s victory is a triumph of both democracy and repression.

The Road Ahead: More of the Same

The question now is what will happen next. Internally, we can expect Ahmadinejad to consolidate his position under the cover of anti-corruption. He wants to clean up the ayatollahs, many of whom are his enemies. He will need the support of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This election has made Ahmadinejad a powerful president, perhaps the most powerful in Iran since the revolution. Ahmadinejad does not want to challenge Khamenei, and we suspect that Khamenei will not want to challenge Ahmadinejad. A forced marriage is emerging, one which may place many other religious leaders in a difficult position.

Certainly, hopes that a new political leadership would cut back on Iran’s nuclear program have been dashed. The champion of that program has won, in part because he championed the program. We still see Iran as far from developing a deliverable nuclear weapon, but certainly the Obama administration’s hopes that Ahmadinejad would either be replaced — or at least weakened and forced to be more conciliatory — have been crushed. Interestingly, Ahmadinejad sent congratulations to U.S. President Barack Obama on his inauguration. We would expect Obama to reciprocate under his opening policy, which U.S. Vice President Joe Biden appears to have affirmed, assuming he was speaking for Obama. Once the vote fraud issue settles, we will have a better idea of whether Obama’s policies will continue. (We expect they will.)

What we have now are two presidents in a politically secure position, something that normally forms a basis for negotiations. The problem is that it is not clear what the Iranians are prepared to negotiate on, nor is it clear what the Americans are prepared to give the Iranians to induce them to negotiate. Iran wants greater influence in Iraq and its role as a regional leader acknowledged, something the United States doesn’t want to give them. The United States wants an end to the Iranian nuclear program, which Iran doesn’t want to give.

On the surface, this would seem to open the door for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. Former U.S. President George W. Bush did not — and Obama does not — have any appetite for such an attack. Both presidents blocked the Israelis from attacking, assuming the Israelis ever actually wanted to attack.

For the moment, the election appears to have frozen the status quo in place. Neither the United States nor Iran seem prepared to move significantly, and there are no third parties that want to get involved in the issue beyond the occasional European diplomatic mission or Russian threat to sell something to Iran. In the end, this shows what we have long known: This game is locked in place, and goes on.

Michael Steele for a moment looked like maybe he was getting his sea legs under him finally. The recent RNC conference where his position regarding a resolution renaming the democratic party won the day and a speech that was well received seemed to indicate maybe he was getting out of first gear.

Turns out, not so much. Recently I spent some rhetorical energy debating with fellow conservatives about the prospects of attracting blacks to the republican party. My basic premise? That the republican party has not been successful with blacks in the past 40 years not because we are irredeemably liberal, but because the GOP has not made the decision that blacks are a political constituency which it considers necessary or essential to its aspirations for government. The GOP for years has made the calculation that it could win without the black vote (and it has). As a consequence, they have repeatedly used funky messaging and wedge tactics which pit the base against blacks. When you don’t need their vote to win, you need not worry about your messaging being insensitive or provocative.

Steele came into office as chair vowing to improve the GOP’s relationship with minorities, blacks among them. He’s made the point on numerous occasions that the GOP has done a poor job of “outreach” to the black community. I would argue that the terminology “outreach” is indicative of the fundamental problem, but thats a side note.

Steele reanimates a zombie here, a line of attack from the campaign, namely that Obama is an unknown, a political cipher who has carefully hidden his true unpatriotic, America hating face from the public with the active collusion of the press. All of this due to liberal white guilt over America’s checkered racial history. The chance to savage him with the Rev.Wright association was a missed opportunity according to Steele. I think I must have heard or seen Wright’s “goddamn America” screed a billion times during the campaign. I’m quite sure that the Bill Ayers palling around with terrorists connection got a lot of attention to. What the GOP refuses to come to grips with is that these guilt by association tactics simply did not work. Most voters saw them as smear tactics with no real foundation and chose to disregard them in making a decision at the ballot box. Rehashing that now is as stupid as the left democrats howling for truth commissions on torture. Let it lay and look to the future.

I had hopes that Steele, a man who has repeatedly taken the GOP to task publicly about its almost non existent relationship with blacks, would address the funky messaging that has been part and parcel of the GOP’s poor performance with this group. With this performance, Steele demonstrates that he is no more visionary or strategic than the party he leads as he plays the race card. To be fair, Bennet’s audience is a GOP base audience and Steele’s remarks are pitched at that base, but if he doesn’t know by now that his words will be widely reported no matter the audience, he’d be stupid and I don’t believe that’s true. So he is intentionally taking this line of attack.

Steele’s approach lacks smarts in a variety of ways. In terms of the GOP’s relationship with blacks, this is more of that funky messaging problem. The essential argument being made here is that Obama is an affirmative action President. That he’s not qualified for the job and got it because his racial identity was more important than other factors. This is going to tar Steele in the mind of many blacks and fairly so. I’m no supporter of affirmative action. In practice it has become a toxic issue whose political liabilities for blacks far outweigh its benefits in jobs or education, besides the fact that many argue we are far from being its biggest beneficiaries. GOP messaging pounces on its worst excesses to energize messaging to the base that says unqaulified blacks are taking jobs away from better qualified whites, where the underlying message seems to be that being white means you are defacto more qualified than a black applicant, or said differently, that if a black person person wins the competition for a job over a white person, any white person, it could only be because they were given unfair advantage. This is toxic.

Steele is using an argument with this kind of racial undertone to fuel his attack on Obama here and using his own black membership card as cover for it. Blacks will certainly not reward him for this behavior and it will increase the frequency with which Steele is called an Uncle Tom. Especially since Obama leaves plenty of room to attack him on his policies. For blacks, including me, when you go after Obama, now a sitting President, with warmed over guilt by association tactics that failed during the campaign, instead of cogent critiques of his policies and your own better ideas, you merely look small and irrelevant.

More broadly for the electorate at large, its boneheaded to resurrect this zombie attack line from the campaign (where it stopped Obama in his tracks, right?). It smacks of fighting a war that is now over. Obama won the election. Carping about how the media did not vet him properly will sound to most people like sour grapes. The base will eat it up, but this is the same base that was entirely unable to delivery victory to the GOP. The base is not enough to win, a fact Steele knows, but seems unable to craft a strategy for addressing. Steele demonstrates here that he is as cluess as the rest of the party on how to get the GOP out of this particular trick bag. Red meat appeals to the base like this may keep them energized, but drives away other constituencies that the GOP needs to do better with to win.

I lost some respect for Steele when he criticized Limbaugh and then walked it back. Not so much because he walked it back, but because his walkback was akin to groveling (he actually said he did not know what he was saying. This is a thoroughly grown black man with a law degree from Georgetown). I lose a little more respect for him here as he takes a rhetorical attack line that again sends the signal that the GOP continues to conclude that blacks as a political constituency are neither essential or necessary to its aspirations for governance.

Hat Tip Submitted to a Candid World. An Electoral College Elector makes reply to the Obama deniers, demanding that he refuse to certify Obama’s victory:

December 6, 2008

I have been asked by some concerned citizens as part of my Constitutional responsibility as a member of the College of Electors to review the evidence and make a determination regarding the natural born citizenship of Barack Hussein Obama II, or to join in a lawsuit against him in this matter. They have also forwarded a great deal of information to me which I have now reviewed.

After reading this information it is my opinion that none of it is conclusive in its own right. Most of it is speculation, rumor, or opinion rendered by “experts” or others whose qualifications and
motives are suspect. However, given the volume of information put forth, the question of Mr. Obama’s natural born citizenship was worth my understanding.

Since the United States Supreme Court has not rendered an opinion regarding the validity of the “natural born” status of a U.S. citizen or otherwise defined this term, I am therefore at liberty to make my own determination as a Presidential Elector. In my opinion a person is a natural born citizen if he or she is granted citizenship either at birth or at the age of majority by the United States government. And has never been required by the United States government to become
“naturalized” or take the oath of citizenship. This seems to me to be a straightforward and logical understanding of the term. If you are presumed to be a U.S. citizen at your birth, and no government entity says otherwise, then in fact you are.

If someone emigrates from another country to the United States, and wishes to become a citizen, that person must enter a legal process culminating in taking the oath of citizenship and being “naturalized.” This is why for example the current Governor of California cannot
claim “natural born” status and become the President of the United States. He was born an Austrian. He emigrated here. He sought citizenship. And he was “naturalized” in a ceremony conducted by United States officials.

And there is also in the United States the use of Common Law as a part of our judicial system. Most of the time the law is codified by us, but in fact there are traditions and understandings which have not always been codified. My point here is that for example if you have a right of way from your property across another person’s property to a road, that person after a specified period of time (dependent upon a particular state’s statutes) cannot suddenly decide that you cannot cross his property anymore to get to the road. It is presumed after a certain period of time that this right of way is a right that you retain since he did not protest your crossing his property for years.

These are the two bases upon which I have rendered my decision. Even if some or all of the scenarios to which these concerned citizens have pointed regarding Mr. Obama’s citizenship are true, two facts remain. The United States government has never required Mr. Obama to take the oath of citizenship, or even to render a decision at the age of majority between having U.S. citizenship and Kenyan citizenship, or U.S. citizenship and Indonesian citizenship. And he has lived here and been reared and educated as a U.S. citizen. It would seem to me that 47 years is a sufficient amount of time to have lived here as a U.S. citizen, with no government entity challenging it, for us and for Mr. Obama to presume that he is a natural born U.S. citizen.

Whether through clerical error, or bureaucratic malfeasance, or simply because it is actually true as was stated on October 31, 2008 by the Director of the Health Department for the State of Hawaii, that he was in fact born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. Barack Hussein Obama II has been presumed by the United States government itself to be a natural born citizen of the United States for 47 years.

It issued him a Social Security number and a passport, obviously accepting his Hawaiian birth certificate without requiring a team of forensic scientists to examine it. He has lived in the United States as a U.S. citizen for his entire adult life. He has been not only a de facto U.S. citizen, he has been a de jure U.S. citizen. A citizenship conferred upon him by the United States government at his birth, and never questioned by any court, or executive branch official for 47 years. The United States government itself accepted his natural born citizenship when it issued him a passport without requiring him to take the oath of citizenship in a ceremony like all other immigrants to this country.

Therefore, as the Presidential Elector for the 6th Congressional District of North Carolina it is my Constitutional determination that Barack Hussein Obama II is a natural born citizen of the United States, and is qualified to become the 44th President of the United States of America. I will cast my Electoral College vote accordingly on December 15, 2008.

Sincerely,

Wayne Abraham

It is quite possible that the United States of America is about to outdo itself in the realm of explosive politics and racial issues. The gentleman pictured at left, Leo Donofrio, a former attorney turned poker player, has become the catalyst for what could be a full blown constitutional crisis that will divide this country for decades to come. The Supreme Court has taken up for consideration in conference Donofrio v. Wells, a suit brought in state court against the Secretary of the State of New Jersey, challenging Barack Obama’s eligibility to be President of the United States on the basis that he is not a “natural born” citizen of the United States. It is worth noting that the same lawsuit also alleges that McCain is not a “natural born” citizen, for a somewhat different reason, and therefore also ineligible to stand for election to the Presidency.

For the sake of clarity:

  • The lawsuit does NOT allege that Obama is not a United States Citizen.
  • The lawsuit does NOT allege that Obama was not born in the U.S. in Hawaii in 1961.

On both of these scores, the plaintiff agrees that Obama is a US citizen and agrees that Obama was born on US soil in Hawaii. Rather, the lawsuit alleges that Obama does not fit the meaning of the term “natural born” citizen as that term is used by the U.S. Constitution in Article 2, Section I which states,

“No person except a natural born citizen of the United States, at the time of adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President.”

As far as the issues surrounding Obama’s birth certificate are concerned, Denofrio states Obama has not been presented with a legal request from a party with proper standing to command him in any way, and therefore has no legal responsibility to produce one.

However, Denofrio says he believes if “Obama is presented with a legal request from a government authority sanctioned to make such request, that Senator Obama will respond accordingly and put the issue behind him forever.

“That being said, petitioner regretfully submits that since candidate Obama was born to a Kenyan father, he also is not eligible to the office of president since he is not a ‘natural born citizen’ by the Constitution.”

Broken down to plain everyday language, the lawsuit argues that the term “natural born” citizen essentially means not merely someone who is a citizen, or even someone who was born in the United States, but a citizen born to two citizen parents in the United States.

If SCOTUS concludes that the above is the operative definition, then Obama is not eligible to be President because he was born of parents who were not both citizens of the United States. According to Factcheck. Org:

When Barack Obama Jr. was born on Aug. 4,1961, in Honolulu, Kenya was a British colony, still part of the United Kingdom’s dwindling empire. As a Kenyan native, Barack Obama Sr. was a British subject whose citizenship status was governed by The British Nationality Act of 1948. That same act governed the status of Obama Sr.’s children:

British Nationality Act of 1948 (Part II, Section 5): Subject to the provisions of this section, a person born after the commencement of this Act shall be a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies by descent if his father is a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies at the time of the birth.

In other words, at the time of his birth, Barack Obama Jr. was both a U.S. citizen (by virtue of being born in Hawaii) and a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (or the UKC) by virtue of being born to a father who was a citizen of the UKC.

The Donofrio lawsuit alleges therefore that Obama’s dual citizenship status at birth means he does not fit the meaning of the term “natural born” citizen and is therefore disqualified from eligibility for election to the office of the President.

Positively diabolical isn’t it? Under this interpretation, Obama could have been born on the mall in Washington D.C. in front of Jesus and ten million witnesses and he would not be eligible to be President, by virtue of his dual citizenship at birth. The typical everyman/everywoman on the street has always figured that if you are born on US soil, you are a natural born citizen and can be President. Turns out, not so much. The average person on the street that voted for Obama, and I’ll bet some that didn’t are gonna say, thats a technicality. You’re going to blow up the entire election on a technicality.

As if that was not explosive enough, Clarence Thomas may very well have played what will become an absolutely infamous role in this drama. Cobb, given that the issue at stake is the presidency itself, actually manages to understate this today:

Apparently Clarence Thomas is about to draw the ire of millions, and some massive fudge is going to happen or else all hell will break loose in America. He apparently has made the move that will force the Supreme Court to consider one of the several lawsuits over the birth of Barack Obama.

What has he done? Donofrio’s first application was denied by Justice David Souter on Nov. 6. The rules of the court, however, allow for a renewed submission to a justice of the petitioner’s choice. Who answered the call? Justice Thomas referred the case to the full Court on November 19, and then the full Court distributed it for conference tomorrow, December 5, 2008, after an initial consideration on the Thomas referral. The full Supreme Court will meet in conference on the suit to determine whether or not they will take up the case or decline to hear it.

Our prediction: if SCOTUS decides to take up this case, they will ultimately agree with the plaintiff’s interpretation and construe the Constitution to state that Obama is not a “natural born citizen” within the meaning of Article 2, Section 1, rendering him ineligible for election to the office of the President. At that point, several species of Hell are going to break loose.

I am almost incapable of imagining the scope of the civil and political fallout from such an action by SCOTUS to render null and void the will of 52 million voters who cast their vote for Barack Obama. This case is nuclear and has just gone to DEFCON 2.

What happens if SCOTUS decides against Obama, as best I can tell at the moment, will be determined in part by the timing of any such decision. Bear in mind that despite the manner in which Obama is addressed, technically he is NOT YET the President Elect. He does not officially become the President Elect until December 15th, when the Electoral College meets to certify the electors of each state.

There are two potential scenarios to consider:

  1. Barack Obama is ruled to be ineligible for President before the Electoral College votes on December 15
  2. Barack Obama is ruled to be ineligible for President after December 15 but before the inauguration

Candidates for POTUS are chosen by the two major political parties, Democrats and Republicans, which are private organizations.

The Right Side of Life saved me some research:

Democrat

Per the Call for the 2008 Democratic National Convention (As Adopted by the Democratic National Committe, February 2, 2007), VIII. PROCEDURAL RULES OF THE 2008 DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION, Paragraph G:

Filling a Vacancy on the National Ticket: In the event of death, resignation or disability of a nominee of the Party for President or Vice President after the adjournment of the National Convention, the National Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee shall confer with the Democratic leadership of the United States Congress and the Democratic Governors Association and shall report to the Democratic National Committee, which is authorized to fill the vacancy or vacancies.

Republican

Per The National Republican Committee Rules, RULE NO. 9, Filling Vacancies in Nominations:

(a) The Republican National Committee is hereby authorized and empowered to fill any and all vacancies which may occur by reason of death, declination, or otherwise of the Republican candidate for President of the United States or the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States, as nominated by the national convention, or the Republican National Committee may reconvene the national convention for the purpose of filling any such vacancies.

(b) In voting under this rule, the Republican National Committee members representing any state shall be entitled to cast the same number of votes as said state was entitled to cast at the national convention.

(c) In the event that the members of the Republican National Committee from any state shall not be in agreement in the casting of votes hereunder, the votes of such state shall be divided equally, including fractional votes, among the members of the Republican National Committee present or voting by proxy.

(d) No candidate shall be chosen to fill any such vacancy except upon receiving a majority of the votes entitled to be cast in the election.

If Barack Obama is ruled to be ineligible for President before the Electoral College votes on December 15?

The above party rules would apply and the Electoral College would vote based on what their respective party decides as well as the Electoral College Process. Essentially the party would decide who the candidate would be. Presumably, they would elevate Joe Biden and he would select a running mate, though it would be such an unprecedented moment in history that anything might happen.

If Barack Obama is ruled to be ineligible for President after December 15 but before the inauguration?

It seems to me that the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution would then control the situation. The Twentieth Amendment provides,

“if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or in the manner in which one who is to act shall be elected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.”

In this scenario, Joe Biden becomes the President, as he is not handicapped by this issue of his status as a “natural born” citizen at birth.

Circling back to the several species of Hell that will ensue, it would not be out of the question that there might be civil unrest. Clarence Thomas will become the most reviled black man alive. People will spit on his likeness. If they were going to take Obama down, we’ll say, Thomas didn’t have to be the one to hand overThe One. He will be the 2nd coming of Judas, the successor to Brutus for the rest of his life. Leo Donifrio will find himself branded among the most hateful of men, for all that he sounds like a reasonable enough guy. I imagine that there will be a massive collective gasp of horror and shock planetwide when this historical electoral result is rendered meaningless. The planet is going to recoil from America if SCOTUS renders Obama ineligible. Financial markets around the world will plummet as the US plunges into unprecedented political turmoil and uncertainty. Black Americans will fall into a pit of unrelenting and bitter despair, with our niggling suspicion confirmed that America would find some way to prevent a black man from ascending to the Presidency. We’ll also believe that despite the fact the Donifrio’s suit seeks to invalidate McCain as well, if McCain had won the election, this suit would not even have been given consideration. The Court’s standing and legitimacy will be severely diminished in the eyes of a vast amount of the electorate. Millions of youth and latinos and people everywhere who got involved for the first time, inspired by a campaign for the first time, will become cynical and distrustful and will check out of the political process in disgust.

Prepare yourself for political Apocalypse. Today we are at DEFCON 2. If and when SCOTUS should decide to take up this case, we will go to DEFCON 1. Should SCOTUS conclude that Obama is rendered ineligible as a candidate to stand for election to the Presidency, this country will rip itself apart.

Update: I spoke this morning with Tony Mauro, Supreme Court correspondent for Legal Times, a legal news website that covers SCOTUS. Tony very graciously gave me a few minutes of his time and indicated that he was aware of the Donofrio v. Wells case being scheduled for conference and told me a bit about the procedure. Generally, the conference is held in the morning and if the court decides to take up a case, they will announce that in the afternoon. If they decline to hear a case, the announcement of that is typically not made until the following Monday. Assuming this custom holds, if there is no announcement that the case is being taken up this afternoon, it is therefore likely that the Court decided to decline the case and that decision will be made public on Monday.

By George Friedman ~ Honorary Political Season Contributor

Three weeks after the U.S. presidential election, we are getting the first signs of how President-elect Barack Obama will govern. That now goes well beyond the question of what is conventionally considered U.S. foreign policy — and thus beyond Stratfor’s domain. At this moment in history, however, in the face of the global financial crisis, U.S. domestic policy is intimately bound to foreign policy. How the United States deals with its own internal financial and economic problems will directly affect the rest of the world.

One thing the financial crisis has demonstrated is that the world is very much America-centric, in fact and not just in theory. When the United States runs into trouble, so does the rest of the globe. It follows then that the U.S. response to the problem affects the rest of the world as well. Therefore, Obama’s plans are in many ways more important to countries around the world than whatever their own governments might be planning.

Over the past two weeks, Obama has begun to reveal his appointments. It will be Hillary Clinton at State and Timothy Geithner at Treasury. According to persistent rumors, current Defense Secretary Robert Gates might be asked to stay on. The national security adviser has not been announced, but rumors have the post going to former Clinton administration appointees or to former military people. Interestingly and revealingly, it was made very public that Obama has met with Brent Scowcroft to discuss foreign policy. Scowcroft was national security adviser under President George H.W. Bush, and while a critic of the younger Bush’s policies in Iraq from the beginning, he is very much part of the foreign policy establishment and on the non-neoconservative right. That Obama met with Scowcroft, and that this was deliberately publicized, is a signal — and Obama understands political signals — that he will be conducting foreign policy from the center.

Consider Clinton and Geithner. Clinton voted to authorize the Iraq war — a major bone of contention between Obama and her during the primaries. She is also a committed free trade advocate, as was her husband, and strongly supports continuity in U.S. policy toward Israel and Iran. Geithner comes from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he participated in crafting the strategies currently being implemented by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Everything Obama is doing with his appointments is signaling continuity in U.S. policy.

This does not surprise us. As we have written previously, when Obama’s precise statements and position papers were examined with care, the distance between his policies and John McCain’s actually was minimal. McCain tacked with the Bush administration’s position on Iraq — which had shifted, by the summer of this year, to withdrawal at the earliest possible moment but without a public guarantee of the date. Obama’s position was a complete withdrawal by the summer of 2010, with the proviso that unexpected changes in the situation on the ground could make that date flexible.

Obama supporters believed that Obama’s position on Iraq was profoundly at odds with the Bush administration’s. We could never clearly locate the difference. The brilliance of Obama’s presidential campaign was that he convinced his hard-core supporters that he intended to make a radical shift in policies across the board, without ever specifying what policies he was planning to shift, and never locking out the possibility of a flexible interpretation of his commitments. His supporters heard what they wanted to hear while a careful reading of the language, written and spoken, gave Obama extensive room for maneuver. Obama’s campaign was a master class on mobilizing support in an election without locking oneself into specific policies.

As soon as the election results were in, Obama understood that he was in a difficult political situation. Institutionally, the Democrats had won substantial victories, both in Congress and the presidency. Personally, Obama had won two very narrow victories. He had won the Democratic nomination by a very thin margin, and then won the general election by a fairly thin margin in the popular vote, despite a wide victory in the electoral college.

Many people have pointed out that Obama won more decisively than any president since George H.W. Bush in 1988. That is certainly true. Bill Clinton always had more people voting against him than for him, because of the presence of Ross Perot on the ballot in 1992 and 1996. George W. Bush actually lost the popular vote by a tiny margin in 2000; he won it in 2004 with nearly 51 percent of the vote but had more than 49 percent of the electorate voting against him. Obama did a little better than that, with about 53 percent of voters supporting him and 47 percent opposing, but he did not change the basic architecture of American politics. He still had won the presidency with a deeply divided electorate, with almost as many people opposed to him as for him.

Presidents are not as powerful as they are often imagined to be. Apart from institutional constraints, presidents must constantly deal with public opinion. Congress is watching the polls, as all of the representatives and a third of the senators will be running for re-election in two years. No matter how many Democrats are in Congress, their first loyalty is to their own careers, and collapsing public opinion polls for a Democratic president can destroy them. Knowing this, they have a strong incentive to oppose an unpopular president — even one from their own party — or they might be replaced with others who will oppose him. If Obama wants to be powerful, he must keep Congress on his side, and that means he must keep his numbers up. He is undoubtedly getting the honeymoon bounce now. He needs to hold that.

Obama appears to understand this problem clearly. It would take a very small shift in public opinion polls after the election to put him on the defensive, and any substantial mistakes could sink his approval rating into the low 40s. George W. Bush’s basic political mistake in 2004 was not understanding how thin his margin was. He took his election as vindication of his Iraq policy, without understanding how rapidly his mandate could transform itself in a profound reversal of public opinion. Having very little margin in his public opinion polls, Bush doubled down on his Iraq policy. When that failed to pay off, he ended up with a failed presidency.

Bush was not expecting that to happen, and Obama does not expect it for himself. Obama, however, has drawn the obvious conclusion that what he expects and what might happen are two different things. Therefore, unlike Bush, he appears to be trying to expand his approval ratings as his first priority, in order to give himself room for maneuver later. Everything we see in his first two weeks of shaping his presidency seems to be designed two do two things: increase his standing in the Democratic Party, and try to bring some of those who voted against him into his coalition.

In looking at Obama’s supporters, we can divide them into two blocs. The first and largest comprises those who were won over by his persona; they supported Obama because of who he was, rather than because of any particular policy position or because of his ideology in anything more than a general sense. There was then a smaller group of supporters who backed Obama for ideological reasons, built around specific policies they believed he advocated. Obama seems to think, reasonably in our view, that the first group will remain faithful for an extended period of time so long as he maintains the aura he cultivated during his campaign, regardless of his early policy moves. The second group, as is usually the case with the ideological/policy faction in a party, will stay with Obama because they have nowhere else to go — or if they turn away, they will not be able to form a faction that threatens his position.

What Obama needs to do politically, then, is protect and strengthen the right wing of his coalition: independents and republicans who voted for him because they had come to oppose Bush and, by extension, McCain. Second, he needs to persuade at least 5 percent of the electorate who voted for McCain that their fears of an Obama presidency were misplaced. Obama needs to build a positive rating at least into the mid-to-high 50s to give him a firm base for governing, and leave himself room to make the mistakes that all presidents make in due course.

With the example of Bush’s failure before him, as well as Bill Clinton’s disastrous experience in the 1994 mid-term election, Obama is under significant constraints in shaping his presidency. His selection of Hillary Clinton is meant to nail down the rightward wing of his supporters in general, and Clinton supporters in particular. His appointment of Geithner at the Treasury and the rumored re-appointment of Gates as secretary of defense are designed to reassure the leftward wing of McCain supporters that he is not going off on a radical tear. Obama’s gamble is that (to select some arbitrary numbers), for every alienated ideological liberal, he will win over two lukewarm McCain supporters.

To those who celebrate Obama as a conciliator, these appointments will resonate. For those supporters who saw him as a fellow ideologue, he can point to position papers far more moderate and nuanced than what those supporters believed they were hearing (and were meant to hear). One of the political uses of rhetoric is to persuade followers that you believe what they do without locking yourself down.

His appointments match the evolving realities. On the financial bailout, Obama has not at all challenged the general strategy of Paulson and Bernanke, and therefore of the Bush administration. Obama’s position on Iraq has fairly well merged with the pending Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq. On Afghanistan, Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus has suggested negotiations with the Taliban — while, in moves that would not have been made unless they were in accord with Bush administration policies, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has offered to talk with Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and the Saudis reportedly have offered him asylum. Tensions with Iran have declined, and the Israelis have even said they would not object to negotiations with Tehran. What were radical positions in the opening days of Obama’s campaign have become consensus positions. That means he is not entering the White House in a combat posture, facing a disciplined opposition waiting to bring him down. Rather, his most important positions have become, if not noncontroversial, then certainly not as controversial as they once were.

Instead, the most important issue facing Obama is one on which he really had no position during his campaign: how to deal with the economic crisis. His solution, which has begun to emerge over the last two weeks, is a massive stimulus package as an addition — not an alternative — to the financial bailout the Bush administration crafted. This new stimulus package is not intended to deal with the financial crisis but with the recession, and it is a classic Democratic strategy designed to generate economic activity through federal programs. What is not clear is where this leaves Obama’s tax policy. We suspect, some recent suggestions by his aides not withstanding, that he will have a tax cut for middle- and lower-income individuals while increasing tax rates on higher income brackets in order to try to limit deficits.

What is fascinating to see is how the policies Obama advocated during the campaign have become relatively unimportant, while the issues he will have to deal with as president really were not discussed in the campaign until September, and then without any clear insight as to his intentions. One point we have made repeatedly is that a presidential candidate’s positions during a campaign matter relatively little, because there is only a minimal connection between the issues a president thinks he will face in office and the ones that he actually has to deal with. George W. Bush thought he would be dealing primarily with domestic politics, but his presidency turned out to be all about the U.S.-jihadist war, something he never anticipated. Obama began his campaign by strongly opposing the Iraq war — something that has now be come far less important than the financial crisis, which he didn’t anticipate dealing with at all.

So, regardless of what Obama might have thought his presidency would look like, it is being shaped not by his wishes, but by his response to external factors. He must increase his political base — and he will do that by reassuring skeptical Democrats that he can work with Hillary Clinton, and by showing soft McCain supporters that he is not as radical as they thought. Each of Obama’s appointments is designed to increase his base of political support, because he has little choice if he wants to accomplish anything else.

As for policies, they come and go. As George W. Bush demonstrated, an inflexible president is a failed president. He can call it principle, but if his principles result in failure, he will be judged by his failure and not by his principles. Obama has clearly learned this lesson. He understands that a president can’t pursue his principles if he has lost the ability to govern. To keep that ability, he must build his coalition. Then he must deal with the unexpected. And later, if he is lucky, he can return to his principles, if there is time for it, and if those principles have any relevance to what is going on around him. History makes presidents. Presidents rarely make history.

I actually buy the premise that Palin was among the best picks available to McCain given what he felt he needed to accomplish, namely consolidating the republican base behind him. Were I Palin, I think I would say to anyone, “hey, I did my job”. She revved the base, raised lots of money and helped him close the chasmatic excitement gap.

But anybody who is being honest will admit that while Palin had appeal and telegenic, crowd pleasing charisma in spades, she lacked gravitas in equal amounts and the McCain campaign’s poor handling of her only compounded the problem. By the time she had some level of sea legs about her, they had already allowed a media narrative to become established that she would not begin to shake until the end days of the campaign, by then far too late.

Further, what her bona fide political skill set is yet I think to really be proven out. Certainly Alaskans deemed her right for the times there and clearly she was a breath of fresh air over the old boys network that has been running Alaska since statehood. She balanced a budget during prosperous times when oil was trading above $100+ a barrel. Now her skills will really be put to the test as she has to manage the state on oil revenue way below her budget projections. How her term plays out in Alaska will clue us in on whether she is ready to run the nation.

For all the talk of her energy chops, we never heard word one of that on the campaign trail beyond the sloganizing. We never got one policy speech on energy to my knowledge. Considering that the McCain camp was billing her as an energy expert, I find it hard to believe they never bothered to deploy her for heavyweight duty on that topic unless the fact was that she could not credibly speak on it.

The McCain campaign clearly blew it in correctly deploying her charisma and base drawing powers against The One, but I think its also the case that she didn’t demonstrate that she was very much deeper than the charisma either.

Exit comment: Its been said, fairly, that Palin was no more inexperienced or unready than Obama for the rigors of a national campaign or the responsibility of national service in the White House. Its a good comeback, but here’s the thing; we had two years to watch Obama rise to power on a strategy and with a team he crafted and I have to tell you that I don’t believe Sarah Palin is capable of doing what Obama has done. She has the potential to be the white, female Obama doppelganger on the right, but I don’t think she has it in her. The cool thing about that supposition? We get to test it. She’s got four years to build. By 2010, if she is going to be a player, we’ll know.

By George Friedman

Barack Obama has been elected president of the United States by a large majority in the Electoral College. The Democrats have dramatically increased their control of Congress, increasing the number of seats they hold in the House of Representatives and moving close to the point where — with a few Republican defections — they can have veto-proof control of the Senate. Given the age of some Supreme Court justices, Obama might well have the opportunity to appoint at least one and possibly two new justices. He will begin as one of the most powerful presidents in a long while.

Truly extraordinary were the celebrations held around the world upon Obama’s victory. They affirm the global expectations Obama has raised — and reveal that the United States must be more important to Europeans than the latter like to admit. (We can’t imagine late-night vigils in the United States over a French election.)

Obama is an extraordinary rhetorician, and as Aristotle pointed out, rhetoric is one of the foundations of political power. Rhetoric has raised him to the presidency, along with the tremendous unpopularity of his predecessor and a financial crisis that took a tied campaign and gave Obama a lead he carefully nurtured to victory. So, as with all politicians, his victory was a matter of rhetoric and, according to Machiavelli, luck. Obama had both, but now the question is whether he has Machiavelli’s virtue in full by possessing the ability to exercise power. This last element is what governing is about, and it is what will determine if his presidency succeeds.

Embedded in his tremendous victory is a single weakness: Obama won the popular vote by a fairly narrow margin, about 52 percent of the vote. That means that almost as many people voted against him as voted for him.

Obama’s Agenda vs. Expanding His Base

U.S. President George W. Bush demonstrated that the inability to understand the uses and limits of power can crush a presidency very quickly. The enormous enthusiasm of Obama’s followers could conceal how he — like Bush — is governing a deeply, and nearly evenly, divided country. Obama’s first test will be simple: Can he maintain the devotion of his followers while increasing his political base? Or will he believe, as Bush and Cheney did, that he can govern without concern for the other half of the country because he controls the presidency and Congress, as Bush and Cheney did in 2001? Presidents are elected by electoral votes, but they govern through public support.

Obama and his supporters will say there is no danger of a repeat of Bush — who believed he could carry out his agenda and build his political base at the same time, but couldn’t. Building a political base requires modifying one’s agenda. But when you start modifying your agenda, when you become pragmatic, you start to lose your supporters. If Obama had won with 60 percent of the popular vote, this would not be as pressing a question. But he barely won by more than Bush in 2004. Now, we will find out if Obama is as skillful a president as he was a candidate.

Obama will soon face the problem of beginning to disappoint people all over the world, a problem built into his job. The first disappointments will be minor. There are thousands of people hoping for appointments, some to Cabinet positions, others to the White House, others to federal agencies. Many will get something, but few will get as much as they hoped for. Some will feel betrayed and become bitter. During the transition process, the disappointed office seeker — an institution in American politics — will start leaking on background to whatever reporters are available. This will strike a small, discordant note; creating no serious problems, but serving as a harbinger of things to come.

Later, Obama will be sworn in. He will give a memorable, perhaps historic speech at his inauguration. There will be great expectations about him in the country and around the world. He will enjoy the traditional presidential honeymoon, during which all but his bitterest enemies will give him the benefit of the doubt. The press initially will adore him, but will begin writing stories about all the positions he hasn’t filled, the mistakes he made in the vetting process and so on. And then, sometime in March or April, things will get interesting.

Iran and a U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq

Obama has promised to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, where he does not intend to leave any residual force. If he follows that course, he will open the door for the Iranians. Iran’s primary national security interest is containing or dominating Iraq, with which Iran fought a long war. If the United States remains in Iraq, the Iranians will be forced to accept a neutral government in Iraq. A U.S. withdrawal will pave the way for the Iranians to use Iraqi proxies to create, at a minimum, an Iraqi government more heavily influenced by Iran.

Apart from upsetting Sunni and Kurdish allies of the United States in Iraq, the Iranian ascendancy in Iraq will disturb some major American allies — particularly the Saudis, who fear Iranian power. The United States can’t afford a scenario under which Iranian power is projected into the Saudi oil fields. While that might be an unlikely scenario, it carries catastrophic consequences. The Jordanians and possibly the Turks, also American allies, will pressure Obama not simply to withdraw. And, of course, the Israelis will want the United States to remain in place to block Iranian expansion. Resisting a coalition of Saudis and Israelis will not be easy.

This will be the point where Obama’s pledge to talk to the Iranians will become crucial. If he simply withdraws from Iraq without a solid understanding with Iran, the entire American coalition in the region will come apart. Obama has pledged to build coalitions, something that will be difficult in the Middle East if he withdraws from Iraq without ironclad Iranian guarantees. He therefore will talk to the Iranians. But what can Obama offer the Iranians that would induce them to forego their primary national security interest? It is difficult to imagine a U.S.-Iranian deal that is both mutually beneficial and enforceable.

Obama will then be forced to make a decision. He can withdraw from Iraq and suffer the geopolitical consequences while coming under fire from the substantial political right in the United States that he needs at least in part to bring into his coalition. Or, he can retain some force in Iraq, thereby disappointing his supporters. If he is clumsy, he could wind up under attack from the right for negotiating with the Iranians and from his own supporters for not withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq. His skills in foreign policy and domestic politics will be tested on this core question, and he undoubtedly will disappoint many.

The Afghan Dilemma

Obama will need to address Afghanistan next. He has said that this is the real war, and that he will ask U.S. allies to join him in the effort. This means he will go to the Europeans and NATO, as he has said he will do. The Europeans are delighted with Obama’s victory because they feel Obama will consult them and stop making demands of them. But demands are precisely what he will bring the Europeans. In particular, he will want the Europeans to provide more forces for Afghanistan.

Many European countries will be inclined to provide some support, if for no other reason than to show that they are prepared to work with Obama. But European public opinion is not about to support a major deployment in Afghanistan, and the Europeans don’t have the force to deploy there anyway. In fact, as the global financial crisis begins to have a more dire impact in Europe than in the United States, many European countries are actively reducing their deployments in Afghanistan to save money. Expanding operations is the last thing on European minds.

Obama’s Afghan solution of building a coalition centered on the Europeans will thus meet a divided Europe with little inclination to send troops and with few troops to send in any event. That will force him into a confrontation with the Europeans in spring 2009, and then into a decision. The United States and its allies collectively lack the force to stabilize Afghanistan and defeat the Taliban. They certainly lack the force to make a significant move into Pakistan — something Obama has floated on several occasions that might be a good idea if force were in fact available.

He will have to make a hard decision on Afghanistan. Obama can continue the war as it is currently being fought, without hope of anything but a long holding action, but this risks defining his presidency around a hopeless war. He can choose to withdraw, in effect reinstating the Taliban, going back on his commitment and drawing heavy fire from the right. Or he can do what we have suggested is the inevitable outcome, namely, negotiate — and reach a political accord — with the Taliban. Unlike Bush, however, withdrawal or negotiation with the Taliban will increase the pressure on Obama from the right. And if this is coupled with a decision to delay withdrawal from Iraq, Obama’s own supporters will become restive. His 52 percent Election Day support could deteriorate with remarkable speed.

The Russian Question

At the same time, Obama will face the Russian question. The morning after Obama’s election, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev announced that Russia was deploying missiles in its European exclave of Kaliningrad in response to the U.S. deployment of ballistic missile defense systems in Poland. Obama opposed the Russians on their August intervention in Georgia, but he has never enunciated a clear Russia policy. We expect Ukraine will have shifted its political alignment toward Russia, and Moscow will be rapidly moving to create a sphere of influence before Obama can bring his attention — and U.S. power — to bear.

Obama will again turn to the Europeans to create a coalition to resist the Russians. But the Europeans will again be divided. The Germans can’t afford to alienate the Russians because of German energy dependence on Russia and because Germany does not want to fight another Cold War. The British and French may be more inclined to address the question, but certainly not to the point of resurrecting NATO as a major military force. The Russians will be prepared to talk, and will want to talk a great deal, all the while pursuing their own national interest of increasing their power in what they call their “near abroad.”

Obama will have many options on domestic policy given his majorities in Congress. But his Achilles’ heel, as it was for Bush and for many presidents, will be foreign policy. He has made what appear to be three guarantees. First, he will withdraw from Iraq. Second, he will focus on Afghanistan. Third, he will oppose Russian expansionism. To deliver on the first promise, he must deal with the Iranians. To deliver on the second, he must deal with the Taliban. To deliver on the third, he must deal with the Europeans.

Global Finance and the European Problem

The Europeans will pose another critical problem, as they want a second Bretton Woods agreement. Some European states appear to desire a set of international regulations for the financial system. There are three problems with this.

First, unless Obama wants to change course dramatically, the U.S. and European positions differ over the degree to which governments will regulate interbank transactions. The Europeans want much more intrusion than the Americans. They are far less averse to direct government controls than the Americans have been. Obama has the power to shift American policy, but doing that will make it harder to expand his base.

Second, the creation of an international regulatory body that has authority over American banks would create a system where U.S. financial management was subordinated to European financial management.

And third, the Europeans themselves have no common understanding of things. Obama could thus quickly be drawn into complex EU policy issues that could tie his hands in the United States. These could quickly turn into painful negotiations, in which Obama’s allure to the Europeans will evaporate.

One of the foundations of Obama’s foreign policy — and one of the reasons the Europeans have celebrated his election — was the perception that Obama is prepared to work closely with the Europeans. He is in fact prepared to do so, but his problem will be the same one Bush had: The Europeans are in no position to give the things that Obama will need from them — namely, troops, a revived NATO to confront the Russians and a global financial system that doesn’t subordinate American financial authority to an international bureaucracy.

The Hard Road Ahead

Like any politician, Obama will face the challenge of having made a set of promises that are not mutually supportive. Much of his challenge boils down to problems that he needs to solve and that he wants European help on, but the Europeans are not prepared to provide the type and amount of help he needs. This, plus the fact that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq requires an agreement with Iran — something hard to imagine without a continued U.S. presence in Iraq — gives Obama a difficult road to move on.

As with all American presidents (who face midterm elections with astonishing speed), Obama’s foreign policy moves will be framed by his political support. Institutionally, he will be powerful. In terms of popular support, he begins knowing that almost half the country voted against him, and that he must increase his base. He must exploit the honeymoon period, when his support will expand, to bring another 5 percent or 10 percent of the public into his coalition. These people voted against him; now he needs to convince them to support him. But these are precisely the people who would regard talks with the Taliban or Iran with deep distrust. And if negotiations with the Iranians cause him to keep forces in Iraq, he will alienate his base without necessarily winning over his opponents.

And there is always the unknown. There could be a terrorist attack, the Russians could start pressuring the Baltic states, the Mexican situation could deteriorate. The unknown by definition cannot be anticipated. And many foreign leaders know it takes an administration months to settle in, something some will try to take advantage of. On top of that, there is now nearly a three-month window in which the old president is not yet out and the new president not yet in.

Obama must deal with extraordinarily difficult foreign policy issues in the context of an alliance failing not because of rough behavior among friends but because the allies’ interests have diverged. He must deal with this in the context of foreign policy positions difficult to sustain and reconcile, all against the backdrop of almost half an electorate that voted against him versus supporters who have enormous hopes vested in him. Obama knows all of this, of course, as he indicated in his victory speech.

We will now find out if Obama understands the exercise of political power as well as he understands the pursuit of that power. You really can’t know that until after the fact. There is no reason to think he can’t finesse these problems. Doing so will take cunning, trickery and the ability to make his supporters forget the promises he made while keeping their support. It will also require the ability to make some of his opponents embrace him despite the path he will have to take. In other words, he will have to be cunning and ruthless without appearing to be cunning and ruthless. That’s what successful presidents do.

In the meantime, he should enjoy the transition. It’s frequently the best part of a presidency.

I cast my vote for Barack Obama at 8:10 am this morning, here in Indiana. I arrived at my local polling place at 6:30 am, my three children in tow. After waiting in line, I showed my ID and stepped up to the voting booth where the electronic voting machine waited for me to make what I hope will be a history making choice for change.

I let my oldest son, Noah, press the button for Obama, to participate in this moment. I snapped a picture of my vote, to record it for posterity, whatever the outcome.

After 2+ years, this campaign is coming to its fateful conclusion. The nation, indeed the world, will wait with great anticipation for the decision of the American people as we confront war abroad and economic crisis at home.

George Bush’s presidency was challenged early by the most catastrophic attack on the US homeland since Pearl Harbor, arguably more so as the WTC was a civilian target, not a military one. While the methodology of this administration taken as a whole to address the threat of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network can be questioned on tactical, strategic and even moral grounds, one core measure of its effectiveness is clear: the US homeland has not been struck again since 911. Further, it is clear at this point that the capability of Al-Qaeda to carry out a strategic strike on the US homeland has been destroyed. George Bush has kept America safe since 911, and he has largly eliminated the danger of another high level attack on US soil. He leaves office having faithfully discharged his responsibility to protect the citizens of the United States.

The protection of the United States has come at a cost. Expansion of government surveillance power, diminished moral authority among other nations, a damaged economy, a trillion dollar deficit, continued energy dependence, Washington gridlock and the loss of over 5,000 of America’s finest men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, with over 30,000 wounded. Add to that the numbers of dead and wounded civilians in those countries and the lives forever altered, and the cost in blood and treasure to America alone is staggering.

History will be the continuing judge as to whether the price we have paid and continue to pay for the decisions made by this administration were justified. My judgement is that this republican administration has protected the United States from attack from without, but has sacrificed our strength within to do so. The republican party, in its current form, is not worthy of another term of control of the White House. Conservative values and the policy initiatives that spring from them are superior on many subject areas in comparison to liberal approaches. Republicans have failed to communicate or implement effectively these ideas. We have been corrupted and seduced by power for its own sake and failed to do the people’s business as we should. It is proper that there is accountability for that. I did not much care for Gore and with Kerry I did not think there was value to switching horses in the middle of a war. But eight years later, we are militarily overstretched, geopolitically vulnerable, economically fragile and wracked by cultural and ideological division within the body politic.

I voted for Bush twice. I am a reluctant republican and a moderate conservative, but John McCain did not earn my vote. I believe him to be an honorable man. His service in Vietnam and subsequently in our armed forces is laudable. Above all, I have a lot of regard for his consistent championing of the issue of fiscal responsibility and for reforms in areas such as campaign finance. Even if you did not agree with his approach, you can respect the reformist impulse that motivated him.

But reformer or not, he is a republican and part of his party. The case he needed to make for me was that he would be a different republican, less bound by the strictures of idealogy, more flexible and inclusive. Perhaps he is, but that was not the message of his campaign. The negative campaigning, the selection of Palin to pander to the party’s evangelical & cultural base, disregarding her lack of readiness to be president if callled upon. Palin is a competent politician, and I’m sure that the judgement of Alaskans was correct in electing her, but she was called up for the majors too soon and mishandled. He did not render himself as distinct or different in type from Bush in the pursuit of his economic or foreign policy. He was more than willing to embrace a campaign vocabularly of division, pushing a narrative of who is American and who is not and using the racial undertones present in the electorate to fuel criticism of his opponent. In the battle of policy ideas, he was perhaps ill suited to make the sale on the crucial issues of the economy beyond the ideological mantra of lowering taxes and when he did, it was to tack clumsily to the left with big government ideas that were clearly reactionary. In the end, for me, his campaign fell short of the biography that inspired it.

So today, Obama is my choice. I believe he will win. He is a risk. We cannot truly know if the potential for greatness in him will be realized at a time of great trial for our nation. Should the electorate vote to make him President, it would reflect a decision to reach a little further, dream a little bigger and take a bet on our own future. Despite the doom and gloom espoused by his detractors, the fact is that America will survive Obama as it has survived presidents good and bad before. So today, as we perhaps usher in a historic selection of the first black American to the Presidency, let his prayer at the Wailing Wall be our prayer as well.

“Lord — Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will.”