By John Parisella - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
He’ll need more than vision and good intentions to succeed, writes John Parisella
When President Obama was elected in 2008, many believed American liberalism was about to make a comeback. The economy was in shambles, more than 40 million Americans had no healthcare coverage and the United States was involved in two unpopular wars. Barack Obama spoke of hope and change, as well as an activist government.
Throughout his first term, many on the American left were terribly disappointed that Obama failed to push the liberal agenda. Obamacare did not contain the public option; the stimulus purchase did not include public works programs; the Obama administration was increasing its involvement in Afghanistan.
By the November 6, 2012 election date, the American left made the only rational choice and voted to keep Obama in office instead of staying away from the polls. Many, realizing the systematic obstructionism of the Republicans, preferred to keep Obama in place rather than roll back many of the progressive policies created since the FDR years.
In his second Inaugural Address, President Obama laid out the most progressive agenda since FDR. Even John F. Kennedy did not go as far. The speech was philosophical in tone, militant in terms of priorities and delivered in a manner that many early Obama supporters would have wished. “We the people”, and the words ‘citizen’, ‘democracy’ and ‘equality’ figured prominently. It was clear Obama was talking legacy, but he was elaborating on an agenda for a changing America, and an America whose thirst for more change will not end with his term in office.
Gun control, immigration reform, deficit and debt issues will dominate the first half of his second term. Foreign policy will also continue its shift to a greater emphasis on soft power, diplomacy and multilateral engagement. A close reading of this speech, and you can understand even better the coalition that gave Obama such a sweeping victory. He has chosen to seize the moment.
The U.S. is the longest-living democracy, and the most difficult one to govern. Even when one party controls the White House and Congress, the President is subject to an array of checks and balances. But Obama will need more than vision and good intentions to succeed. He will need skill.
In the first half of his first term, Obama had trouble finding his footing in the complex world of Washington. In the latter half of his first term, he seemed more assured and more willing to use the bully pulpit. Since his re-election, Obama has shown a more pro-active and combative style. This can serve him well, as second-term presidents soon face lame-duck status.
Is this progressive agenda laid out so eloquently just a mirage? The GOP, going through its post-election pains, will not react favourably to such a blatant progressive agenda. However, the President seems to have grown in his job and appears more determined as we saw in the Hagel nomination as Secretary of Defense and the December fiscal cliff debate. At the end of the day, his agenda may well depend more on his political skills than his ideas.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 7:13 PM - 0 Comments
1. Surprisingly strong emphasis on climate change
I spoke recently with a Canadian politician who remarked that the words “climate change” had not come up in the presidential campaign. I noted that Hurricane Sandy, which hit at the very end of the campaign, has since changed the context and the public conversation in the U.S.. Today, Obama devoted a surprising amount of attention to the issue:
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries—we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure—our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”
What will that broad statement add up to in the context of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives? Regulations out of the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at reducing emissions from power generating plants, especially coal-burning plants, are the most likely outcome. And the fiscal cliff negotiations preserved some tax breaks for renewable energy. Obama has also nominated a new Secretary of State, John Kerry, who has been an advocate for climate change policy and is expected to take a more aggressive role in international climate talks. What all this means for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline remains to be seen. In his first press conference after the campaign, Obama said he’d be doing more on climate change, but added, “If the message is we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that.”
By Patricia Treble - Monday, January 21, 2013 at 6:40 PM - 0 Comments
Being really, really close to the platform at the Capitol as President Barack Obama was sworn in was certainly a moving event. It’s also quite familiar to someone who follows the royal family closely. As I tweeted, “It’s really the U.S. version of the Diamond Jubilee service: pomp, military precision, stirring music, good sermon and it’s over in an hour.”
Going head-of-state to head-of-state, how do the big ceremonies compare?
Pomp: The Marines are impressive, the venue in Washington is spectacular, but when it comes to making a spectacle (in a good way), no one does it better than the British. The entire four-day weekend was organized to an inch of its life, and pulled off superbly. The Household Calvary riding down the Mall in London is a sight nearly impossible to beat. Winner: The Queen
Timing: Both the main swearing in ceremony in Washington and the service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral took just over an hour each. Never drag out blockbusters, a maxim that Steven Spielberg would do well to remember. Winner: Tie
By Patricia Treble - Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 5:00 PM - 0 Comments
Why doesn’t the Canadian Prime Minister warrant the hooplah being lavished on Barack Obama…
Why doesn’t the Canadian Prime Minister warrant the hooplah being lavished on Barack Obama when he’s sworn into office? Surely becoming PM is worth a Mountie escorted carriage ride through Ottawa so he can wave to Canadians lining the procession route. At the very least he should get high school marching bands from all 10 provinces and three territories.
Oh right. Stephen Harper heads the government, not the nation. That’s the job of Queen Elizabeth II and her representative in Canada, Governor General David Johnston. Harper gets the power, but not the pomp–that modestly comes when a new GG is picked and then on a grand scale for the coronation of a new monarch, something that hasn’t happened in 60 years. Drat. Indeed, this is what the Governor General’s website says about the swearing in:
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 4:00 PM - 921 Comments
What will change for Americans now that their President has more melanin in his skin?
It could have been mistaken for a religious pilgrimage. The spirit of the crowds that gathered was not loudly partisan. There was giddiness to be sure, but the overriding feeling was solemn. The sense of History Being Made was on every corner, from the Sunday-best hats and cashmere coats in the crowd to the inescapable commemorative Obamabilia being hawked everywhere. A desire among the crowds who braved the cold to be merely present, to bear witness, to breathe the same air, to be part of this national ceremony that promised a renewal, a national resurrection of sorts. In an America beaten down by recession and wars, they had come to see with their own eyes the making of the First Black President.
As many as two million people were present for President Barack Obama’s inauguration. Two days before, some 400,000 had come together for a concert at the Doric temple columns of the Lincoln Memorial. It was here that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed in 1963 that he had a dream, and now the son of a white mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya was in the process of fulfilling it. Obama’s face was everywhere—on the massive banners draping the neoclassical columns of the white monumental buildings in the city, on buttons, T-shirts, a sea of magazine covers, his smile emblazoned on everything from tote bags to earrings.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 12:26 PM - 1 Comment
My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
ALSO AT MACLEANS.CA: Give Obama’s performance a grade
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans. Continue…
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 10:20 AM - 5 Comments
Before heading off to the Embassy, ITQ had the bright idea of conducting an impromptu survey on where the party leaders are planning to watch – or not watch, as the case may be – today’s festivities.
Wait … not watch? Today? Hard as it may be to believe, that may be the case for Stephen Harper.
According to PMO director of communication Kory Teneycke, his boss is in Toronto today, where he will be attending “private meetings related to the budget,” but assures ITQ that that the PM will still get to see history being made — eventually. “I am sure that he will see the coverage tonight when he returns to Ottawa.” Meanwhile, NDP leader Jack Layton joins caucus and staff members for a speech-watching party at the NDP’s Queen Street office.
UPDATE: According to an OLO spokesperson, Michael Ignatieff – or someone in his office, anyway – somehow managed to arrange his schedule so he would be on a plane to Toronto smack in the middle of the Inaugurathon. Maybe he and the PM can get together later and watch a few hours of Tifo’d CNN.
We haven’t heard back from the Liberals or the Bloc Quebecois, but as soon we get an answer, we’ll post an update.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 10:16 AM - 0 Comments
I have finally made it to the media security line on the hill after 1.5 hrs of walking through the biggest crowds I have ever seen. The mood is buoyant and happy and the body heat of the masses seems to be taking the edge off the cold — or at least blocking the wind. We’re like penguins here — penguins huddling and waddling along in Obama hats.
I made it to the media seats after two metal detectors and a walk through the basement of a goverment building. The view is amazing from here. Looking behind me I can see the view Obama will have. It’s breathtaking. The National Mall is absolutely full and crowds fill the streets. Obama’s podium is surrounded by what looks like bullet proof glass. The United States Marine Band is playing and the program officially begins in 45 minutes. There are helicopters circling overhead. VIPs are taking their seats. NYC mayor Mike Bloomberg walked by our row a few minutes ago.
Getting here was one thing. It will be interesting to see how we manage to get OUT.
I took some time last night to go back and listen to Obama’s speech to the 2004 Democratic Convention — the speech that launched his national political career. Chunks of that speech — and it’s core message of Obama’s personal life story as the incarnation of the American dream remained the same through his campaign speeches. But it was striking to see how much his delivery had improved, how fluent he has become in telling the tale, at improvising. Today’s speech is the most anticipated of the year. He had ditched a lot of the lofty rhetoric in his convention speech to talk bread and butter economic issues. There is an expectation here for some soaring, uplifting words at a time of crisis. This is a moment when oratory can help rally the spirit of the nation. The pressure is immense and it will be interesting to see what he delivers. No doubt he will talk about Lincoln. But will he make mention of himself as the first African American president — the reason so many people are here today? He tends to avoid that in favour of talking about unity. I’ll have a lot more on Obama and race in the forthcoming issue of Maclean’s.
Will the president be booed or applauded when he makes his entrance? His father was just applauded.
Michelle Obama has arrived clad in a bright yellow dress. The only explanation I can think of is she’s trying to be be bipartisan and not wear blue or red.
Dick Cheney arrived in a wheelchair, having hurt his back.
George W. Bush just arrived. I heard a smattering of applause and some booing from the crowd—all drowned out by the band playing.
Aretha Franklin has the crowd riled up, but I am looking at cellist Yo Yo Ma and thinking his bare fingers must be freezing.
Justice John Paul Stevens swore in Joe Biden. It’s likely that Obama will be naming Stevens’s successor. He is a liberal justice and getting on in years but managed to avoid retiring until a Democrat was back in the White House.
As I fight my way through the crowds, I get an urgent email from the fashion cognoscenti informing me that yellow is THE colour for spring. See, we can all learn from Michelle O.
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 9:30 AM - 25 Comments
Hey, if we can’t be in DC with Colleague Luiza, this seems like the next best place to watch history unfold.
I’m here! Here, in this case, is a rapidly filling hall at the US Embassy, a quiet corner of which I am currently haunting, because for some reason, this doesn’t seem like the kind of event at which one can merrily tap on one’s BlackBerry in the middle of the action, even if one is liveblogging history.
I have to admit that so far, I don’t recognize many of the guests – not the usual Hill crowd. Oh, other than Rob Anders, who I just this instant spotted at the buffet. There are other reporters here, of course — apparently, we all had the same idea vis a vis the next best place to be — and a few other familiar faces, like NDP MP Paul Dewar, who must be doing a drop-by before heading back to Queen Street for the caucus-watching party, huh?
Anyway, I’ll post an update as soon as I have the lay of the land, as it were. And yes, in case anyone wondered, the mood is downright jubilant – not a long face in the crowd.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, January 19, 2009 at 10:07 AM - 0 Comments
Inauguration Week is underway. The city was transformed yesterday into a big party. The “We are One” concert at the Lincoln Memorial — which actually stretched from the memorial to the Washington Monument, and spilled out all over blocks of downtown that were shut to traffic — had a relaxed, happy feeling to it. Out in the crowd, which the Washington Post this morning estimated at 400,000, the vibe was half kumbaya and half disbelief. I was out interviewing people for a story I am working on and people kept telling me they still couldn’t quite believe that it was actually happening.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, January 13, 2009 at 9:35 PM - 2 Comments
The new president’s inauguration will be of historic proportions
Even the drinking promises to be historic. Bars and restaurants in normally buttoned-down Washington have won special dispensation to stay open round-the-clock from Jan. 17 through Jan. 20, when president-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States. For those four days this heavily Democratic city will serve alcohol until 4 a.m. to celebrate his swearing-in—and perhaps to toast the departure of his predecessor, a Republican teetotaller who was in bed every night by nine.
Every four years the American capital unfurls a traditional day of pageantry to mark the democratic transition of power to the next administration. Recession or not, this inauguration feels more like a coronation. Officials are expecting record crowds: estimates range from one to four million revellers converging on the National Mall for the historic swearing-in of the first black president in this majority African-American city—the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations, in this bicentennial year of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Intentionally following in the tracks of the Great Emancipator, Obama plans to arrive in town via an old-fashioned whistle-stop train tour that begins in the revolutionary capital of Philadelphia, picks up his vice-president, Joe Biden, en route in Delaware, and stops in Baltimore before arriving in the capital. (The grand entrance is being orchestrated despite the fact that the Obama family has already holed up this month in a hotel near the White House so his daughters could begin classes at their new private school.)
By Paul Wells - Monday, January 12, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 58 Comments
Why solve Canada’s woes, writes Paul Wells, when there’s politics to play?
And now for your monthly forecast. On Jan. 20, on a bright, sun-dappled Washington mall, millions of Americans will watch Barack Obama take the presidential oath of office. Backed by solid majorities in both houses of Congress, advised by a formidable cabinet that includes a Nobel prizewinner, and supported, for now, by millions of Americans who didn’t even vote for him but who admire his spirit and see no reason to wish him ill, the young new president will embark on a serious program of reform to his country’s economic policy, its social programs, its war craft and its relationship with its allies abroad.
Six days later in Ottawa, your members of Parliament will reconvene for yet another high-stakes championship round of Hey, Pull My Finger.
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 9:00 AM - 5 Comments
The world is suddenly obsessed with Michelle Obama’s every sartorial decision. And she, being no fool, knows it.
Michelle Obama is a woman of stunningly impressive accomplishments—degrees from Princeton and Harvard, a successful law career, two beautiful daughters. Plus there’s a husband about to become the world’s most powerful man who calls her “my rock.” Yet her most significant influence is as a fashion icon—in other words, a mannequin. In the space of one year, Mrs. Obama has catapulted onto every best-dressed list: in July, Vanity Fair dubbed her “commander in sheath,” a reference to her fondness for form-fitting dresses that show off her toned triceps. Fashion blogs, most prominently the obsessive mrs-o.org, monitor her every sartorial decision. Mere hours after the Obamas sat down with Barbara Walters in November, the world knew the future first lady had been wearing a US$3,510 ivory raw silk sheath with hand-embroidered ebony rosettes from the spring 2009 collection of the young American designer Jason Wu. Who she’ll wear to the inauguration is a topic of fevered discussion. Salon.com stoked the public ardour last month with “First lady got back,” an over-the-top piece celebrating Mrs. Obama’s booty. “There’s a definite hysteria,” says Mandi Norwood, who hopes to capitalize on the mania with her forthcoming book, Michelle Obama Style Guide, a primer on the wide belts, bold brooches, vivid colours, florals, flats and fake gumball pearls that are the future first lady’s fashion signatures.
Michelle Obama, no fool she, has figured out the powerful role clothing plays in telegraphing a political message. The fact she shows interest in fashion at all, beyond the safe society designers favoured by Washington matrons, reinforces Barack Obama’s cred as a Beltway outsider attuned to the public mood. True to the Obama message, Mrs. O’s style is more aspirational than material, and she’s Exhibit A: a black woman from Chicago’s South Side who’s not a size 2 fashion model dictating American style.
By John Parisella - Friday, December 5, 2008 at 11:08 AM - 19 Comments
Both Canada and the United States have completed general elections this fall, but this…
Both Canada and the United States have completed general elections this fall, but this is where the similarities end. The Harper government is currently embroiled in a political crisis which could culminate in a new election as early as this winter should the opposition vote against the proposed budget scheduled for January 27. The coalition may appear poised to become the next governement, but don’t bet on it. Should they show a willingness to compromise and adopt a policy of cohabitation with one or more of the opposition parties, the Harper Conservatives may yet survive. The decision by Governor General Michaelle Jean to prorogue the House should allow for cooler heads to prevail. Tories should extend the hand of cooperation and compromise and the Liberals should carefully reassess their current course which is perilous at best. All in all, with an economic crisis in the making, our political leaders have not taken charge—and Canadians are worried and disappointed.