Day 6, Friday November 7, 2008: Filibusters and lame-ducks
Sadly, our last day is upon us. We begin our day with a good American tradition: a breakfast meeting, with a media representative. What shocked Brian Wilson of Fox News the most was that Obama won the state of Virginia, the ‘cradle of the Confederacy’. Winning this state definitely put Obama over the top. Some of the highlights on the Republican campaign include the hubbub when Sarah Palin was chosen as Running Mate. Some conservatives really enjoyed and adored her. Securing the conservative wing’s vote (the base) was the main reason for choosing her. But then the economy melted. Had McCain chosen Mitt Romney, very knowledgeable about economic affairs, Wilson believes the outcome may have been very different. Obama ran a flawless campaign, professionally run and well funded. In the state of Virginia alone, he had 43 campaign headquarters whereas McCain only had 17. When it comes to putting the Obama administration together Wilson believes the economic team will be chosen first but which way will he go? There is going to be a press conference later today and Obama is traveling to Washington Monday to meet with President Bush. Wilson describes Obama’s choice as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as a ‘tough customer’; a hard fighting, elbow swinging politician” and is afraid he may have a partisan agenda. Obama has a difficult task ahead as a liberal politician who has been chosen by a right of center country. Also, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has been waiting a long time now to get certain things done. He will have to mitigate between them and the more centralist part of the party. But he thinks the transition will be a smooth one. Even those we did not vote for Obama accept him as President; they will at least give him a chance. Wilson advises us to watch out for when one of the Supreme Court Justices needs replacing. A few have been wanting to leave for some time now and he expects one or two to retire soon. There will probably be a 100-day honeymoon period, but when the time comes to choose a new Supreme Court Judge, “all gloves are off”. To deal with the economic crisis, there will be a lame-duck session of Congress (with the ‘old’ Congressmen, many of whom have lost their seat), to pass an economic package. When asked whether Fox is unhappy with the outcome, Wilson merely states that he wants the country to do well. He does understand where the question comes from but points out the difference between news and opinion shows on Fox News. The two should not be confused. And, as a journalist he finds it all a fascinating story. He expects Sarah Palin will be back though. She will go back to Alaska for a while, rest and then come back and start talking to people, as she did after McCain’s concession speech. She stayed behind and talked to people for about 90 minutes. America is still a divided country; however, McCain still got 46% of the votes. But the Republicans will need to find another Reagan and “get back on message”.
Herman Wijffels, Executive Director of the World Bank feels it was the topic ‘Change’ that won Obama the elections. There is a lot if dissatisfaction with regard to the current social system in the US with an educational system that does not function properly and an economy and financial sector in disarray. The financial sector especially has been too greedy. Forty percent of all profits made came out of the financial sector while the financial sector only constitutes 10% of the total economy. Wijffels attributes Obama’s victory to another development, the emergence of a group he calls ‘cultural creators’. This group has emerged in American society in the past 20 years. They have a different outlook on life and are strongly tied to the notion of sustainability. They are aware of the fact that what you do as an individual has consequences for the entire world. They make up about 25% of the electorate but are not yet organized in any way and can be found in all layers of society. They prefer ‘dialogue’ (listening to others) to ‘discussion’ (taking opposing views and trying to outsmart the other). According to Wijffels, everything on our planet, with 6.5 billion inhabitants, has become so interdependent but with a change in attitude and aided by the technology that is already available to us, we can all live in harmony. When it comes to the World Bank, he feels that it will need to look for a new role. It was once founded to help Japan and Europe recover with American money. Once that was accomplished it tried to use the same premise for developing countries. He feels a new consciousness is developing where ‘we’ look more closely to the circumstances in the developing country itself and develop a model with the people there rather than impose one; ‘top-down’ rather than ‘bottom-up’ development aid. We need to look beyond the 21st century and beyond sustainability; we are dealing with the survival of the species. Wijffels predicts the ‘cultural creators’ will become the dominant culture. A new Bretton-Woods treaty will deal with these issues and will be drafted from a more global perspective. Wijffels himself has been appointed to a committee that will start thinking about these issues. When it comes to the financial sector, he feels they need to reposition themselves as just a service providing and subservient sector. Two things should not be left to the market: food and money!
We then reach the very last item on the agenda of the Election Week program, lunch with Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation, which he founded about 10 years ago. It is one of the larger think-tanks in DC with a nonpartisan agenda and a diversified portfolio. Hillary Clinton based her healthcare proposal on their model. He also writes a daily blog: www.TheWashingtonNote.com, one of the top 10 political blogs in DC. He already mentioned the likelihood of Rahm Emanuel’s appointment as Chief of Staff two weeks ago. He warns us that following the ‘dot.com bubble’ and the ‘housing bubble’ we are now in an ‘Obama bubble’ which will be punctured at one point. So many hopes are focused on him right now. As he continues to sculpt his team, some people are going to start to get disappointed. Appointing Emanuel has already caused some tension in the ranks. He is a man tenaciously committed to results and not loved by the left. Some are already accusing Obama of crafting Clinton III, rather than Obama I especially if he appoints Lawrence Summers as Secretary of the Treasury (who also served under Clinton). Foreign policy and national security are going to be a problem for Obama. How do you think differently in a global justice community that does not tend to give you their game-plan? Clemons gives a very sober assessment of his expectations for Obama but hopes he is wrong. He expects Obama will focus on infrastructure but that is going to be very expensive. He predicts the three D’s are going to be most important in Obama’s foreign policy: diplomacy, defense and development.
With that to ponder about, the delegation starts heading out to the airport, already planning their return to DC four years from now…
(To read previous entries, please go to the News page)