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History > 2008 > USA > Politics (IX)




Tab (Thomas Boldt)


The Calgary Sun

Alberta, Canada



L to R:

Barack Obama, Martin Luther King.















For many,

a sense that a new era is here


5 November 2008
USA Today
By Rick Hampson


The day was a long time coming, and when Wednesday finally dawned, a lot of bleary-eyed, partied-out Americans had to pinch themselves: They had an African-American president-elect.
It was no dream, but many felt as if they were living one.

"This was Dr. King's dream — to have someone in the black community to represent us, and bring the races together," said Taylor Rogers, 82, a retired Memphis sanitation worker who in 1968 heard Martin Luther King Jr. speak the night before he was killed.

It was a day when the ghosts of the civil rights struggle, of Little Rock and Birmingham and Greensboro, seemed abroad in the land as Barack Obama's election took hold. Memories proud (King's March on Washington, Mississippi's Freedom Summer) and shameful (Detroit's riots, Selma's "Bloody Sunday") surged back.

Everywhere on the morning after, people voiced astonishment at the election's outcome, even though it had seemed likely for weeks. "Never in my lifetime" was an exclamation from coast to coast.

Suddenly, much of a nation facing two wars, a sinking economy, a warming planet, a troubled health care system and significant energy needs was again optimistic and upbeat.

Erika Johnson, 36, who took photos with three friends holding Obama signs in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue, said Obama would reshape America's international image, which she said has made the USA "a laughingstock." "I have hope now for our country," she said.

In Harlem, Kris Martinez, a 21-year-old who voted for the first time, called Obama's election "the proudest moment of my life, and it had nothing to do with me, except I voted. … It's a new day for the world, not just for America."

Still, as the meaning of what poet Walt Whitman once called "America's choosing day" began to sink in, euphoria gave way to reflection and, sometimes, trepidation.

In Detroit, Terry Hudson, 30, an aspiring rapper who calls himself Re-Up, said Obama would be held to a higher standard than previous presidents because of his race. He worried that white America would give Obama little room for error: "I see it coming. They'll want him to change everything overnight and they'll hold it against him if he doesn't."

Scholars said it was the first time any nation with a white majority had elected a non-white head of state. "The old saw that anyone in America can become president looks a lot truer today," said Bruce Schulman, a Boston University historian.

"This is the only place in the world this could happen," said film director Spike Lee, long a critic of racial bias in this country.

For a day, pride in progress trumped even partisanship. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked about Obama, her eyes glistened. She called the election of Obama — who during the campaign had excoriated Rice's policies — "an extraordinary step forward."

When he spoke about Obama, Colin Powell's voice cracked. Rice's predecessor and the nation's first black secretary of State, Powell served under President Bush, but last month endorsed Obama over Republican Sen. John McCain. "He has run a campaign that is inclusive," Powell said of Obama. "It's very emotional."

In Kansas, the daughter of a man whose lawsuit against a school board led to the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing "separate but equal" schools and other public accommodations said she wished her father had lived to see the day.

"This was what the civil rights movement was about — that a candidate would be given a fair shot, judged on his ability, not his color," said Carolyn Brown Henderson, 58. "Barack did not allow race to define his candidacy."

In Jackson, Miss., Charles Evers, brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, said he "shed tears thinking about how far we had come; thinking about our brother who gave his life for this." Medgar Evers was shot to death in 1963 because of his civil rights work.

"Like most black Americans, we're just shocked beyond words that we have a black man to lead our country," Charles Evers said. "Forty-five years ago we couldn't even vote in Mississippi, and now we have a black president."

'Dawn of a new day'

In Birmingham, Ala., Carolyn McKinstry recalled four girlfriends killed 45 years ago in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, an atrocity that spurred civil rights legislation.

She was 14 and had walked upstairs to the sanctuary when the bomb exploded in the bathroom downstairs.

"It's the dawn of a new day," she said. "Some people think I'm bitter because I lost my friends. But all of us must be willing to let the past be the past."

Some civil rights veterans were giddy with delight.

"Who went to bed last night?" asked Franklin McCain, who in 1960 was one of four black college students who staged the first sit-in demonstration at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. "I'm on a natural high this morning. I don't know how long I'll be here, but I'll cherish it forever."

In Little Rock, Minnijean Brown Trickey, one of nine black students who integrated Central High School there in 1957, said Obama's election helped her understand that experience in a new way.

"This is a consciousness shift — things are never gonna go back. They're never gonna be the same again. I realize it was the same back in '57. Sometimes it takes you 51 years to understand."

A day of high emotions

Emotions ran deep at landmarks of the USA's racial history:

•Washington, D.C.: Rufus Horton was at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 for the March on Washington and heard King deliver his indelible "I Have a Dream" speech. Forty-five years later, at age 64, Horton stood there again Wednesday, absorbing the election results.

Horton, a retiree who lives in Landover, Md., called old friends with whom he was involved in the civil rights movement.

Wednesday morning, he drove to the memorial: "I went up the stairs and meditated for a while, re-read Lincoln speeches. I reflected on all I've seen from 1963 to 2008."

On the other side of the National Mall, about 20 people stood in front of scores of front pages of national and international newspapers displayed at the entrance of the Newseum, a journalism museum.

Kendrick Faison, a 28-year-old black man, snapped photos of the papers to post on his Facebook and My Space pages. "This is a very deep moment. It reflects what my grandmother and my great-grandmother didn't have the opportunity to see."

•Selma, Ala.: Robert Lawrence, 73, a retired pipefitter, wore an "I Voted" sticker on his hat. "What has happened really hasn't hit me yet," he said. "But I think we will be in better shape as a country. (Obama) winning shows we've come a long ways since what happened on that bridge."

That bridge was the Edmund Pettus. There, on a Sunday in March 1965, about 600 civil rights marchers were attacked by state troopers and county sheriff's deputies, who tear gassed and pummeled them with clubs. Scenes of the day, broadcast around the world, helped inspire Congress' passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Debra Reeves-Howard, 47, of Selma, a job developer for the Selma Career Center, went to the bridge Wednesday and considered both the past and future.

"In 1968 Robert Kennedy said that in 40 years we could have a black president," she said. "I've been ready for a black president since then. I had to believe that we would get there some day. I think Obama is a different caliber of person, you can see it in his face. You can see the kind of change he wants to bring to the country."

•Detroit: The West Side corner where the nation's worst race riot began in 1967 has nothing to mark the 43 people who were killed. There's only a vacant lot, several abandoned store fronts, and a small park where a man slept on a bench Wednesday. Many of the area's brick homes had an Obama sign on the lawn.

Miiko Baldwin, 26, a single mother of two and criminal justice student, basked in Obama's victory. She also sported an "I voted" sticker on her jacket — "to let people know I helped contribute to getting my man in office."

For all the celebration, however, African Americans in Detroit brought a hefty dose of realism to Obama's chances of making the great changes he promised on the campaign trail.

In a city where one-third of the population lives at or below the poverty level, Detroiters such as Lynda Reynolds, 43, and Joe Wooten, 33, said their city's problems, along with the nation's current economic crisis, took a long time to develop and will take a long time to overcome.

"It's not like we wake up in the morning and suddenly things are better," said Reynolds, a social worker.

•Chicago: The old brick rectory where Obama worked as a community organizer in the 1980s is vacant, but memories of his time there echoed Wednesday in the Roseland section. The drugstore was sold out of newspapers by 7:30 a.m.

"The whole neighborhood is ecstatic," said Mary Young, 52, a preschool teacher. "I feel like he's my brother."

Young said she wept when Obama won, but on Wednesday she focused on what the president-elect might do.

"I'm hoping and praying that we'll have more jobs open," she said. "I'm hoping and praying that mothers will be able to send their children to college. I'm hoping and praying the gangs will even get off the streets."

•Atlanta: At the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said he was hardly able to believe that more than 40 years after he was left beaten and bloody on the Pettus bridge, he had voted for a victorious Obama.

"It is a night of thanksgiving," Lewis said.

For all its spiritual uplift, Obama's victory did not change some sobering facts.

Fewer than 4% of America's elected officials are black, and the vast majority of them represent districts that are predominantly non-white. One-quarter of blacks are poor, compared with about 8% of whites.

Obama's win reflected profound demographic changes in the USA.

Minorities now account for about one-third of the population; in a few decades the United States is expected to become "majority-minority," because no racial group — including non-Hispanic whites — will be more than 50% of the population.

Given its problems, "the nation is walking on eggshells right now," said Kenneth Martin, 40, a white airline pilot from Denver visiting the Lincoln Memorial.

Even so, Obama's election has provided a reason for optimism.

David Brown, 20, a pre-med student at the University of South Florida in Tampa, said Obama responded to the financial crisis "pretty calmly and coolly, and I'm pretty sure that's how he'll be as president. He's not going to try to do everything himself. He'll get good people on his team."

Tijuane McLittle, 31, a Detroit hair salon owner, agreed. "I hope that this evokes a new spirit in urban America," McLittle said. "I hope it brings out the Obama in everyone. Now that we have a black president, that's fine and dandy. But black people need to step up to the plate or else Barack Obama being president is in vain."

Changing corporate culture

In Denver, Herman Malone, 61, took the day off from running RMES Communication, a telecommunications firm that provides phone, Internet and other services to the Denver airport. Malone, former chairman of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, predicted major changes in corporate America because of Obama's victory.

"The most powerful position in the country is headed by an African-American," he said. "These CEOs are not stupid. They're going to say, 'I've got to get some African Americans on my board, some women, some minorities.' This is a major shift."

There were worries, however. The Rev. Joe Ellwanger, 75, said he asked God to "protect our president-to-be — recognizing there are kooks out there."

Ellwanger knows. In 1963 he was one of the few white, pro-civil rights pastors in Birmingham when the Sixteenth Street church was bombed. He spoke at the funeral of one of the slain girls.

On Wednesday, he was in LaCrosse, Wis., working as a community organizer.

Ellwanger said the energy and organization that characterized the candidate's campaign must carry over to the new president's administration: "Grass-roots organizing must be the wind in Obama's sail now. Without it, he won't have the political support he needs.'

Contributing: Emily Bazar in Denver; Marisol Bello in Detroit; Larry Copeland in Tampa; Peter Eisler in Raleigh, N.C.; Charisse Jones in New York; Chris Joyner of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.; Maite Jullian in Washington; Judy Keen in Chicago; Marty Roney of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser in Selma, Ala.; the Associated Press

For many, a sense that a new era is here,






Historic, but Calm Election Night

for TV Networks


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:33 p.m. ET
The New York Times


NEW YORK (AP) -- After successive harrowing Election Nights in 2000 and 2004, there were no muffed calls by TV networks, no screwy exit polls, no real twists and turns -- only the sense of history as Barack Obama became the first black man elected president.

The march of results coming in Tuesday night matched the growing size of crowds gathering in Chicago's Grant Park and elsewhere to celebrate the victory.

''It's the end of apathy,'' said NBC's Tom Brokaw. ''People want to get involved in their political system.''

When the polls closed in the West at 11 p.m. EST, The Associated Press sent a FLASH -- ''Obama wins presidency'' -- and the networks called the election, too, as their cameras panned cheering crowds, much like those at a World Series victory.

It was a party atmosphere in New York's Times Square and Rockefeller Center, where ABC and NBC set up giant outdoor screens at the sites of their studios. Throughout the evening, people gathered to watch results.

''I have never seen anything like this,'' NBC's Norah O'Donnell said while walking through the crowd.

People posted videos of their votes online, while the leading news site Yahoo! News had to add servers after the site suffered slowdowns because of the volume of users.

Ominous signs for Republican John McCain appeared moments after 5 p.m. EST when exit poll information was broadcast.

Network news presidents were hauled before Congress eight years ago for their wrong Election Night calls. They were also burned severely in 2004 when the first wave of exit poll data pointed toward a John Kerry victory over President Bush. Going through exit poll data Tuesday, they shied away from horse-race figures in favor of issues. By a huge margin, voters said the struggling economy was the top issue.

''I've never seen an issue so predominant in this way,'' said ABC anchor Charles Gibson.

Another early finding: a majority of voters believed GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin wasn't qualified to be president.

Before 7 p.m., CNN's panel of experts was heaping praise on Democrat Obama. ''This is a really good candidate, a natural as we say in sports,'' said Republican analyst Bill Bennett.

A key moment was the declaration that Obama had won Pennsylvania.

''I have to say right now that the McCain campaign strategy for victory has crashed,'' MSNBC's Chris Matthews said at 8:02 p.m. ABC and NBC were the quickest to call Pennsylvania.

Brit Hume was discussing the electoral map with analyst Karl Rove when Hume was given word that Fox News Channel was calling the key battleground of Ohio for Obama. ''McCain's situation right now is looking pretty dire,'' Hume said at 9:17 p.m., an assessment other networks followed when they made their own calls for Ohio.

Without winning Ohio, CBS News' Bob Schieffer said he couldn't see McCain winning.

''The cake is baked, in your view?'' anchor Katie Couric asked him.

''Yes,'' Schieffer replied.

On NBC, Brokaw and Andrea Mitchell tried to fill a void left by the late Tim Russert. Chuck Todd paid tribute with an electronic version of Russert's famous white board, inscribing ''Bush, Bush, Bush'' as the reason for McCain's defeat.

Russert's son, Luke, was stationed in Indiana reporting on Obama's ground campaign.

Fox's Hume, who's stepping back as a daily news anchor after Election Night, was a loose and occasionally goofy presence, at one point wheeling his chair across the studio. ''This is so cool,'' he said as Bill Hemmer used an interactive wall. ''If I did that, I would set that thing on fire.''

CNN had the most talked-about visual effect of the night, a hologram that made correspondent Jessica Yellin appear in the New York studio when she was in Chicago.

It also had the day's most embarrassing interview: killing time in the morning, CNN sent Richard Roth into Times Square to interview ''The Naked Cowboy'' on his political preference.

The underwear-clad character was a McCain man.

(This version CORRECTS that Yahoo! News suffered slowdowns, but didn't go down.)

    Historic, but Calm Election Night for TV Networks, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/arts/AP-Election-TV-Coverage.html






After a Decisive Victory,

Obama Chooses Transition Team

as Challenges Loom


November 6, 2008
The New York Times


With his history-making election behind him, Barack Obama was moving ahead with his transition on Wednesday as he prepared to confront the daunting challenges that he will have to face as president in just 76 days, amid two wars and the gravest economic crisis to afflict the country since the Great Depression.

Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and a close friend of Mr. Obama, has been offered the post of his White House chief of staff and is expected to accept, according to Democrats familiar with the process.

And the three co-leaders of Mr. Obama’s transition team are to be announced Wednesday — John D. Podesta, the former Clinton chief of staff; Valerie Jarrett, a longtime Obama adviser; and Pete Rouse, Mr. Obama’s Senate chief of staff. Mr. Obama got in a morning workout, but was expected mostly to be behind closed doors, meeting with members of his staff. He was to remain in Chicago until the end of the week at least. Campaign workers at his Chicago headquarters were told to take the morning off and not to show up until noon. Many, of course, are scrambling to sort out their own futures, hoping for roles in the new administration.

Dan Pfeiffer, who was the Obama campaign’s communications director, is to become the communications director for the transition, with Stephanie Cutter, a senior Obama adviser and former aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, serving as spokeswoman for the transition, according to Democrats close to the process.

President Bush offered his congratulations to Mr. Obama in public remarks on Wednesday morning and pledged to cooperate fully with Mr. Obama’s transition, promising to keep the President-elect informed of important decisions.

“No matter how they cast their ballots, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday,” President Bush said. “They showed a watching world the vitality of american democracy and the strides that have been made toward a more perfect union.”

“The long campaign has now ended,” he added. “We move forward as a nation.”

Some aspects of the election remained not quite fully resolved on Wednesday. Mr. Obama was leading the popular vote over Senator John McCain, 52.3 percent to 46.4 percent, with most of the precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press. With just North Carolina and Missouri still too close to call, Mr. Obama had 349 electoral votes to Mr. McCain’s 162. Indiana, which was running very close into the early hours Wednesday morning, was narrowly won by Mr. Obama.

Even with hundreds of thousands of absentee and provisional ballots still uncounted, the popular vote total stood at an estimated 133.3 million as of Wednesday morning, eclipsing the roughly 123 million voters who turned out in 2004, said Michael McDonald, a voting expert at George Mason University. Mr. McDonald said there maybe nearly a half million outstanding ballots in Georgia alone, and thousands more in other states — including the one with the largest turnout, California — that are still being counted.

Based on early figures, about 62.5 percent of all eligible voters cast ballots, just shy of the 62.6 percent figure that was recorded in the 1964 election. But that figure will climb and almost certainly set a new record as the remaining votes are counted, Mr. McDonald said.

“I expect that when all is said and done, we’re going to be a little higher,” he said.

The White House has already set up a transition office for Mr. Obama’s team in downtown Washington. And F.B.I. officials have been conducting background checks on a list of people provided by the Obama campaign, as well as Senator John McCain’s staff, so they could be granted interim security clearances on Wednesday, administration officials have said.

In contrast, Republican leaders began on Wednesday what will probably be a long period of introspection as Democrats hope to shape a long-term realignment of the electoral map. Not only did Mr. Obama capture the presidency, but he led his party to sharp gains in Congress. This puts Democrats in control of the House, the Senate and the White House for the first time since 1995, when Bill Clinton was in office.

“Certainly, we have to examine this,” Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, said on CNN on Wednesday. “We have to listen to what the people are saying if we’re going to be a forceful voice.”

In the meantime, Mr. Obama’s supporters continued to revel on Wednesday in the moment, reflecting on its symbolism amid the nation’s fraught racial history.

Colin Powell, the former secretary of state in the Bush administration who endorsed Mr. Obama, became emotional on Wednesday in an interview with CNN from Hong Kong, confessing that he and his family wept when the networks declared Mr. Obama the victor.

“I have to share in the pride that Americans have now for the fact America did this,” said Mr. Powell, one of the country’s most prominent black leaders.

Mr. Powell added that he believed this was a time for “deep introspection on the part of the Republican Party.”

“They have to take a very realistic look at themselves — we do — I am a Republican, and see where we went wrong, where we aren’t attaching ourselves to the hopes, dreams and ambitions of the American people,” he said.

The current secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, told reporters: “As an African-American, I’m especially proud because this is a country that has been through a long journey in terms of overcoming wrongs and making race not the factor in our lives. That work is not done, but yesterday was obviously an extraordinary step forward.”

But even as they celebrated, Mr. Obama’s supporters offered sober reflections of what lay ahead.

“We’re in deep trouble,” Representative John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and leader in the civil rights movement, on NBC’s “Today” show.

“We’ve got to get our economy out of the ditch, end the war in Iraq and bring our young men and women home, provide health care for all our citizens,” Mr. Lewis said. “And he’s going to call on us, I believe, to sacrifice. We all must give up something.”

The election of Mr. Obama amounted to a national catharsis — a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president and his economic and foreign policies, and an embrace of Mr. Obama’s call for a change in the direction and the tone of the country.

But it was also an exorcism of sorts of some of the most divisive episodes of the country’s history with regard to African Americans. It was a moment unthinkable even just two years ago.

Mr. Obama, 47, a first-term senator from Illinois, defeated Mr. McCain of Arizona, 72, a former prisoner of war who was making his second bid for the presidency.

To the very end, Mr. McCain’s campaign was eclipsed by an opponent who was nothing short of a phenomenon, drawing huge crowds epitomized by the tens of thousands of people who turned out to hear Mr. Obama’s victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago.

Mr. McCain also fought the headwinds of a relentlessly hostile political environment, weighted down with the baggage left to him by President Bush and an economic collapse that took place in the middle of the general election campaign.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” said Mr. Obama, standing before a huge wooden lectern with a row of American flags at his back, casting his eyes to a crowd that stretched far into the Chicago night.

“It’s been a long time coming,” the president-elect added, “but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

Peter Baker contributed reporting from New York and Jeff Zeleny from Chicago.

    After a Decisive Victory, Obama Chooses Transition Team as Challenges Loom, NYT, 6.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/06/us/politics/06elect.html?hp






Stocks Fall as Investors Refocus


November 6, 2008
The New York Times


The presidential election behind, investors once again faced the reality of an economic slowdown on Wednesday. Markets declined as investors moved to take profits on gains over the last week.

“I think anytime you do see a rally like we’ve been having, there will always be a little bit of pullback when people wake up and see things like today’s headline number on non-manufacturing activity, which was the lowest of all time,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan Chase. “If there’s data out, there’s going to be bad news out. That will tend to keep market enthusiasm a little bit contained.”

The nation’s service sector contracted in October, falling at the fastest pace since a survey of industry executives started keeping records.

The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index, which covers almost 90 percent of the economy, dropped to 44.4, its lowest figure since 1997, the group reported Wednesday.

At 2 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 3.5 percent, or about 343 points, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index declined 3.6 percent.

The main employment report for October will be released Friday, but its bad news was presaged Wednesday by an ADP Employer Services report that showed that companies in the United States cut an estimated 157,000 jobs in October, the most in almost six years. Layoffs spread from automakers, financial and housing-related companies to retailers and other services as the economic downturn deepened.

For investors, there was one silver lining to Wednesday’s market downturn, because it seemed to indicate that Wall Street was once again reacting in predictable ways to negative news. For weeks, traders have been in crisis mode, obsessing about credit market details like Ted spreads, credit default swaps, as well as the election. On the top of the wish list for investors is a return to stability.

“The market is starting to focus on normal things, like company fundamentals, earnings, macroeconomic data, employment, even market technicals like trend lines,” said Steve Sachs, director of trading at Rydex Investments. “After four or five weeks where none of that mattered, this is the first week we are thinking about that. Markets are moving in a more orderly way.”

Several earnings reports also offered disappointing assessments. GMAC, the finance company partly owned by General Motors, said that it lost $2.52 billion in the third quarter and that its mortgage unit, ResCap, was struggling to survive. Time Warner reported a higher-than-expected profit for the third quarter, but lowered its outlook.

And two bond insurers, MBIA and Ambac Financial, posted wider losses. MBIA lost $806.5 million after setting aside $961 million for guarantees on bonds. Its shares were down almost 16 percent. Ambac had a $2.43 billion loss and put aside $3.1 billion. Its shares dropped 24 percent.

European share prices tumbled, after a rally in Asia, as investors studied the implications of Barack Obama’s election as America’s 44th president.

“Obama’s victory was no surprise,” said Philippe Gijsels, senior equity strategist at Fortis Global Markets in Brussels. “The market will move on quickly from here.”

Historically, Democratic presidents have been better for stocks than Republicans, he said, especially in their first 12 months in office, so the rally that has lifted shares recently could continue through the end of December and possibly into next year.

Nonetheless, it appears that stocks are in “a very big bear-market rally,” Mr. Gijsels said, and “we’re facing one of the worst global economic slowdowns we’ve ever seen. That’s not political.”

In early afternoon trading, the Dow Jones Euro Stoxx 50 index, a barometer of euro zone blue chips, fell less than 1 percent, while the FTSE 100 index in London was down 1.6 percent. The CAC 40 in Paris lost 1.8 percent, and the DAX in Frankfurt fell 0.96 percent.

The weak opening to European trading followed a rally in Asia.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 stock average rose 4.5 percent, while in Hong Kong the Hang Seng index closed 3.2 percent higher. In Seoul, the Kospi index rose 2.4 percent and the Straits Times index in Singapore rose 3.3 percent.

In Sydney, the S.& P./ASX 200 index rose 2.9 percent, a day after the central bank made an unexpectedly deep rate cut to bolster economic growth. Asian stocks followed Wall Street’s lead Tuesday, when the S.& P. 500-stock index climbed 4.1 percent to close above 1,000 for the first time since Oct. 13.

Wall Street has historically had a bounce in the fourth quarter after a presidential election as investors breathe a sigh of relief that the long election cycle has ended.

“We don’t know if it’s the end of the bear market yet, but it looks as though the bear has taken a nap,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at Standard & Poor’s equity research. “So investors are thinking, let’s enjoy a bit of a relief, both from the market’s lows and from the endless pre-election rhetoric.”

The dollar rose against major European currencies. The euro fell to $1.2887 from $1.2981 late Tuesday in New York, while the British pound fell to $1.5910 from $1.5954. The dollar rose to 1.1650 Swiss francs from 1.1625 francs. But the United States currency fell to 99.07 yen from 99.71.

Investors continue to watch for more signs of a thaw in the credit markets. One measure, the so-called Ted spread, the gap between yields on safe three-month government securities and the rate that banks charge each other for loans of the same duration, has been ticking lower for weeks. On Wednesday, the gap stood at 2.23 percentage points — unchanged from Tuesday, but down sharply from the peak of 4.6 percentage points on Oct. 10. Analysts say a gap of 0.5 to 1.0 would suggest normalcy had returned to the market.

David Jolly and Bettina Wassener contributed reporting.

    Stocks Fall as Investors Refocus, NYT, 6.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/06/business/worldbusiness/06markets.html?hp






Virtual World Celebrates Obama's Win


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:20 p.m. ET
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- From YouTube to Flickr, from Facebook to Twitter, images and sentiments from celebrations across the nation flooded into the Internet's media-sharing sites, just moments after Barack Obama clinched the presidential election.

Some were simple photos of TV screens claiming the Democrat's win. Others were unfiltered images of jubilant celebrations captured immediately after polls closed Tuesday on the West Coast, when Obama was declared the president-elect.

And while crowds gathered at public rallies and millions of others simply glued themselves to television news coverage, many spent election night online -- and they had plenty of company. Students at Navarro College posted a video of themselves reacting -- screaming, jumping up and down, more screaming -- to Obama's win. Another YouTuber uploaded his toast to Obama: He gulped a 2-liter bottle of soda.

Others used the moment to joke. One wig-clad man posted a YouTube video reminiscent of Chris Crocker's infamous Britney Spears rant, instead shouting ''Leave McCain alone!'' in front of a sheet. Some shared impromptu songs about the election's outcome. One man at a piano sang: ''You all wanted change/And that's what you're gonna get/But the change that you will see/You will most likely regret.''

Elsewhere, dozens of Obama supporters clapped, danced and cheered inside the behemoth virtual world Second Life immediately after the Democratic nominee seized the electoral votes. Many avatars were left out of the virtual celebration in Obama's unofficial Second Life headquarters because the digital enclave had reached maximum capacity Tuesday.

''The long nightmare is OVER!'' an avatar named Jordanna Beaumont exclaimed.

The Straight Talk Cafe, a Second Life space supporting John McCain, was nearly a ghost town after McCain conceded the race. Volunteers for both campaigns had unofficially stumped for months inside the virtual world for the presidential and vice presidential candidates -- collecting donations, registering voters, building monuments and handing out virtual hats and T-shirts.

Throughout the election, the nonpartisan site TwitterVoteReport.com aggregated micro-blog Twitter.com posts -- called tweets -- to monitor polling places and estimate voting wait times across the country. Into the evening, many people tweeted 140-characters-or-less dispatches from rallies, election parties and their living rooms using their cell phones and the Web.

''There were news people from all over the world at the Biltmore tonight,'' posted luv2shoppe in Phoenix, where McCain's camp was watching the returns. ''It was quite an experience, even if the results were disappointing.''

''Four blocks from Grant Park in Chicago,'' posted jordanlevy. ''It's crazy down here.''

Even Obama himself, whose campaign embraced the power of online networking going back to his primary race against Hillary Clinton, nodded to his tech-savvy supporters in the very moments before he took the stage in Chicago for his acceptance speech: Supporters who had signed up on his campaign Web site received an e-mail thanking them.

Those who were logged on at that moment got this message: ''I'm about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first. We just made history. And I don't want you to forget how we did it. You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change.''

Bloggers who had been posting about the election results in real time kept their comments brief after Obama's win. Liberal blogger Sara K. Smith at Wonkette.com, who kept a snarky eye on the proceedings, instructed readers to ''raise a glass to your Republican friends because it was not so long ago that you (liberals) were precisely in their position, and remember how much it sucked.''

Conservative bloggers also kept their reactions concise and polite. Carol Platt Liebau at Townhall.com posted: ''We are Americans first, and therefore I wish the Obamas health and happiness. It's even possible to wish them success -- so long as it is in keeping with the best traditions of American liberty, virtue and prosperity.''

Not everyone was as cordial. At some point Tuesday night on John McCain's Wikipedia page, a racial slur was joined with an expletive and splashed across the screen in giant red letters. The word was quickly removed from the page and no longer appeared Wednesday morning.

And while Sarah Palin may not have won the vice presidential spot, she was popular as a doll. Out of the four one-of-kind Cabbage Patch Dolls crafted to look like the presidential and vice presidential candidates, her doll nabbed a $19,000 bid when the online auction closed Tuesday. The lil' Obama, McCain and Biden impersonators only earned offers of $8,400, $6,000 and $3,500, respectively.

    Virtual World Celebrates Obama's Win, R, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/arts/AP-Election-Online-Communities.html






California Voters

Approve Gay-Marriage Ban


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:04 p.m. ET
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Voters put a stop to same-sex marriage in California, dealing a crushing defeat to gay-rights activists in a state they hoped would be a vanguard, and putting in doubt as many as 18,000 same-sex marriages conducted since a court ruling made them legal this year.

The gay-rights movement had a rough election elsewhere as well Tuesday. Ban-gay-marriage amendments were approved in Arizona and Florida, and Arkansas voters approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents. Supporters made clear that gays and lesbians were their main target.

But California, the nation's most populous state, had been the big prize. Spending for and against Proposition 8 reached $74 million, the most expensive social-issues campaign in U.S. history and the most expensive campaign this year outside the race for the White House. Activists on both sides of the issue saw the measure as critical to building momentum for their causes.

''People believe in the institution of marriage,'' Frank Schubert, co-manager of the Yes on 8 campaign said after declaring victory early Wednesday. ''It's one institution that crosses ethnic divides, that crosses partisan divides. ... People have stood up because they care about marriage and they care a great deal.''

With almost all precincts reporting, election returns showed the measure winning with 52 percent. Some provisional and absentee ballots remained to be tallied, but based on trends and the locations of the votes still outstanding, the margin of support in favor of the initiative was secure.

Californians overwhelmingly passed a same-sex marriage ban in 2000, but gay-rights supporters had hoped public opinion on the issue had shifted enough for this year's measure to be rejected.

''We pick ourselves up and trudge on,'' said Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. ''There has been enormous movement in favor of full equality in eight short years. That is the direction this is heading, and if it's not today or it's not tomorrow, it will be soon.''

The constitutional amendment limits marriage to heterosexual couples, nullifying the California Supreme Court decision that had made same-sex marriages legal in the state since June.

Similar bans had prevailed in 27 states before Tuesday's elections, but none were in California's situation -- with about 18,000 gay couples already married. The state attorney general, Jerry Brown, has said those marriages will remain valid, although legal challenges are possible.

Elsewhere, voters in Colorado and South Dakota rejected measures that could have led to sweeping bans of abortion, and Washington became only the second state -- after Oregon -- to offer terminally ill people the option of physician-assisted suicide.

A first-of-its-kind measure in Colorado, which was defeated soundly, would have defined life as beginning at conception. Its opponents said the proposal could lead to the outlawing of some types of birth control as well as abortion.

The South Dakota measure would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest and serious health threat to the mother. A tougher version, without the rape and incest exceptions, lost in 2006. Anti-abortion activists thought the modifications would win approval, but the margin of defeat was similar, about 55 percent to 45 percent of the vote.

''The lesson here is that Americans, in states across the country, clearly support women's ability to access abortion care without government interference,'' said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation.

In Washington, voters gave solid approval to an initiative modeled after Oregon's ''Death with Dignity'' law, which allows a terminally ill person to be prescribed lethal medication they can administer to themselves. Since Oregon's law took effect in 1997, more than 340 people -- mostly ailing with cancer -- have used it to end their lives.

The marijuana reform movement won two prized victories, with Massachusetts voters decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug and Michigan joining 12 other states in allowing use of pot for medical purposes.

Henceforth, people caught in Massachusetts with an ounce or less of pot will no longer face criminal penalties. Instead, they'll forfeit the marijuana and pay a $100 civil fine.

The Michigan measure will allow severely ill patients to register with the state and legally buy, grow and use small amounts of marijuana to relieve pain, nausea, appetite loss and other symptoms.

Nebraska voters, meanwhile, approved a ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action, similar to measures previously approved in California, Michigan and Washington. Returns in Colorado on a similar measure were too close to call.

Ward Connerly, the California activist-businessman who has led the crusade against affirmative action, said Obama's victory proved his point. ''We have overcome the scourge of race,'' Connerly said.

Energy measures met a mixed fate. In Missouri, voters approved a measure requiring the state's three investor-owned electric utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. But California voters defeated an even more ambitious measure that would have required the state's utilities to generate half their electricity from windmills, solar systems, geothermal reserves and other renewable sources by 2025.

Two animal-welfare measures passed -- a ban on dog racing in Massachusetts, and a proposition in California that outlaws cramped cages for egg-laying chickens.

Amid deep economic uncertainty, proposals to cut state income taxes were defeated decisively in North Dakota and Massachusetts.

In San Francisco, an eye-catching local measure -- to bar arrests for prostitution -- was soundly rejected. Police and political leaders said it would hamper the fight against sex trafficking. And in San Diego, voters decided to make permanent a ban on alcohol consumption on city beaches.


Associated Press writer Paul Elias in San Francisco contributed to this report.

    California Voters Approve Gay-Marriage Ban, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Ballot-Measures.html






McCain Wins Georgia;

Senate Race Heads to Runoff


November 5, 2008
Filed at 1:50 p.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- John McCain has won Georgia's 15 electoral votes, keeping the state in the GOP column for the fourth consecutive presidential election.

Because of an unexpected low turnout in the Atlanta area, The Associated Press waited past Election Day to call the winner until the number of outstanding votes could be verified.

In the Georgia Senate race, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss has failed to reach the majority vote requirement needed under state law to avoid a runoff. The freshman senator will face Democrat Jim Martin in the Dec. 2 contest to fill the last seat in the new Senate.

    McCain Wins Georgia; Senate Race Heads to Runoff, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Election-Georgia.html






Obama Turns

to Task of Building Administration


November 5, 2008
Filed at 7:42 a.m. ET
The New York Times


CHICAGO (AP) -- After eight years of Republican rule, Barack Obama turned Wednesday to the task of building a Democratic administration to lead the country out of war and into the financial recovery that he promised.

Obama planned to spend the rest of the week at home in Chicago, turning in earnest to reviewing the hiring decisions he'll have to make in the next two-and-a-half months. Campaign advisers have already presented him with names to review for key positions, but they said he wasn't focused on filling the jobs before winning the election.

A top priority, the advisers said, would be picking a White House chief of staff to help manage the selections to come. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel appeared headed for the job, said Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity before the announcement, expected as early as Wednesday.

Obama also faces intensive national security briefings that will prepare him to take over as commander in chief.

''We know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,'' Obama said in his victory speech in Chicago's Grant Park. ''There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created, new schools to build and threats to meet and, for us to lead, alliances to repair.''

He said the solutions wouldn't be quick or easy -- perhaps not even achievable with one term. ''I promise you -- we as a people will get there,'' Obama said.

Obama planned to keep a low profile on his first full day as president-elect, aides said. Obama had told reporters over the weekend that he'd hold a press conference Wednesday, but the campaign staff later walked that back and said it would be more likely to come by the end of the week.

There were more personal decisions to be made, too, like when to move his family to Washington and where his 10- and 7-year-old daughters will go to school. Obama also was expected to take time to mourn his grandmother, who died Sunday before she could see the grandson she helped raise achieve his dream. Obama could be considering a return to his native Hawaii for the small private ceremony that she requested be held later.

In a congratulatory call to Obama, President Bush pledged to make a smooth transition and extended an invitation to the Obama family to visit the White House soon.

And then there was the matter of the family pet. ''Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House,'' he told his daughters in his victory speech.


On the Net:

Obama campaign: http://www.barackobama.com 

    Obama Turns to Task of Building Administration, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Obama.html






Op-Ed Columnist

Finishing Our Work


November 5, 2008
The New York Times


And so it came to pass that on Nov. 4, 2008, shortly after 11 p.m. Eastern time, the American Civil War ended, as a black man — Barack Hussein Obama — won enough electoral votes to become president of the United States.

A civil war that, in many ways, began at Bull Run, Virginia, on July 21, 1861, ended 147 years later via a ballot box in the very same state. For nothing more symbolically illustrated the final chapter of America’s Civil War than the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia — the state that once exalted slavery and whose secession from the Union in 1861 gave the Confederacy both strategic weight and its commanding general — voted Democratic, thus assuring that Barack Obama would become the 44th president of the United States.

This moment was necessary, for despite a century of civil rights legislation, judicial interventions and social activism — despite Brown v. Board of Education, Martin Luther King’s I-have-a-dream crusade and the 1964 Civil Rights Act — the Civil War could never truly be said to have ended until America’s white majority actually elected an African-American as president.

That is what happened Tuesday night and that is why we awake this morning to a different country. The struggle for equal rights is far from over, but we start afresh now from a whole new baseline. Let every child and every citizen and every new immigrant know that from this day forward everything really is possible in America.

How did Obama pull it off? To be sure, it probably took a once-in-a-century economic crisis to get enough white people to vote for a black man. And to be sure, Obama’s better organization, calm manner, mellifluous speaking style and unthreatening message of “change” all served him well.

But there also may have been something of a “Buffett effect” that countered the supposed “Bradley effect” — white voters telling pollsters they’d vote for Obama but then voting for the white guy. The Buffett effect was just the opposite. It was white conservatives telling the guys in the men’s grill at the country club that they were voting for John McCain, but then quietly going into the booth and voting for Obama, even though they knew it would mean higher taxes.

Why? Some did it because they sensed how inspired and hopeful their kids were about an Obama presidency, and they not only didn’t want to dash those hopes, they secretly wanted to share them. Others intuitively embraced Warren Buffett’s view that if you are rich and successful today, it is first and foremost because you were lucky enough to be born in America at this time — and never forget that. So, we need to get back to fixing our country — we need a president who can unify us for nation-building at home.

And somewhere they also knew that after the abysmal performance of the Bush team, there had to be consequences for the Republican Party. Electing McCain now would have, in some way, meant rewarding incompetence. It would have made a mockery of accountability in government and unleashed a wave of cynicism in America that would have been deeply corrosive.

Obama will always be our first black president. But can he be one of our few great presidents? He is going to have his chance because our greatest presidents are those who assumed the office at some of our darkest hours and at the bottom of some of our deepest holes.

“Taking office at a time of crisis doesn’t guarantee greatness, but it can be an occasion for it,” argued the Harvard University political philosopher Michael Sandel. “That was certainly the case with Lincoln, F.D.R. and Truman.” Part of F.D.R.’s greatness, though, “was that he gradually wove a new governing political philosophy — the New Deal — out of the rubble and political disarray of the economic depression he inherited.” Obama will need to do the same, but these things take time.

“F.D.R. did not run on the New Deal in 1932,” said Sandel. “He ran on balancing the budget. Like Obama, he did not take office with a clearly articulated governing philosophy. He arrived with a confident, activist spirit and experimented. Not until 1936 did we have a presidential campaign about the New Deal. What Obama’s equivalent will be, even he doesn’t know. It will emerge as he grapples with the economy, energy and America’s role in the world. These challenges are so great that he will only succeed if he is able to articulate a new politics of the common good.”

Bush & Co. did not believe that government could be an instrument of the common good. They neutered their cabinet secretaries and appointed hacks to big jobs. For them, pursuit of the common good was all about pursuit of individual self-interest. Voters rebelled against that. But there was also a rebellion against a traditional Democratic version of the common good — that it is simply the sum of all interest groups clamoring for their share.

“In this election, the American public rejected these narrow notions of the common good,” argued Sandel. “Most people now accept that unfettered markets don’t serve the public good. Markets generate abundance, but they can also breed excessive insecurity and risk. Even before the financial meltdown, we’ve seen a massive shift of risk from corporations to the individual. Obama will have to reinvent government as an instrument of the common good — to regulate markets, to protect citizens against the risks of unemployment and ill health, to invest in energy independence.”

But a new politics of the common good can’t be only about government and markets. “It must also be about a new patriotism — about what it means to be a citizen,” said Sandel. “This is the deepest chord Obama’s campaign evoked. The biggest applause line in his stump speech was the one that said every American will have a chance to go to college provided he or she performs a period of national service — in the military, in the Peace Corps or in the community. Obama’s campaign tapped a dormant civic idealism, a hunger among Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves, a yearning to be citizens again.”

None of this will be easy. But my gut tells me that of all the changes that will be ushered in by an Obama presidency, breaking with our racial past may turn out to be the least of them. There is just so much work to be done. The Civil War is over. Let reconstruction begin.

Maureen Dowd will appear on Thursday.

    Finishing Our Work, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/opinion/05friedman.html






Obama Victory

Sparks Cheers Around the Globe


November 5, 2008
Filed at 7:42 a.m. ET
The New York Times


TOKYO (AP) -- Across the globe, people in city squares and living rooms, ballrooms and villages cheered the election of Barack Obama as U.S. president, raising hopes that America's first black commander in chief would herald a less confrontational America.

People crowded before TVs or listened to blaring radios for the latest updates. In Sydney, Australians filled a hotel ballroom. In Rio, Brazilians partied on the beach. In the town of Obama, in Japan, dancers cheered in delight when their namesake's victory was declared.

Many who live in countries where the idea of a minority being elected leader is unthinkable expressed amazement and satisfaction that the United States could overcome centuries of racial strife and elect an African-American -- and one with Hussein as a middle name -- as president.

''What an inspiration. He is the first truly global U.S. president the world has ever had,'' said Pracha Kanjananont, a 29-year-old Thai sitting at a Starbuck's in Bangkok. ''He had an Asian childhood, African parentage and has a Middle Eastern name. He is a truly global president.''

In an interconnected world where people in its farthest reaches could monitor the presidential race blow-by-blow, many observers echoed Obama's own campaign mantra as they struggled to put into words their sense that his election marked an important turning point.

''I really think this is going to change the world,'' gushed Akihiko Mukohama, 34, the lead singer of a band that traveled to Obama, Japan, to perform at a promotional event for the president-elect. He wore an ''I Love Obama'' T-shirt.

The magnitude and emotion of the world reaction illustrated the international character of the U.S. presidency. Many look to Washington as the place where the global issues of war and peace, prosperity or crisis, are decided.

''This is an enormous outcome for all of us,'' said John Wood, the former New Zealand ambassador to the U.S. ''We have to hope and pray that President Obama can move forward in ways which are constructive and beneficial to all of us.''

Hopes were also high among those critical of President Bush's policies that an Obama victory would bring in a more inclusive, internationally cooperative U.S. approach. Many cited the Iraq war as the type of blunder Obama was unlikely to repeat.

At a party in Rio de Janeiro where Brazilians and Americans watched results come in, 33-year-old music producer Zanna said an Obama win would show that ''Americans have learned something from the bad experiences of the Bush administration and that they choose well -- that they choose Obama.''

Indeed, even as they raised expectations, many U.S.-watchers were quick to point out that Obama would have to confront enormous problems once in office: wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tenacious difficulties in the Middle East and North Korea, a world economy in turmoil.

Europe, where Obama is overwhelmingly popular, is one region that looked eagerly to an Obama administration for a revival in warm relations after the Bush government's chilly rift with the continent over the Iraq war.

''At a time when we have to confront immense challenges together, your election raises great hopes in France, in Europe and in the rest of the world,'' French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a congratulations letter to Obama.

Some South Koreans said they hoped Obama -- who has said he favors direct engagement with North Korea -- would press North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on human rights issues and the alleged kidnappings of hundreds of South Koreans.

Skepticism, however, was high in the Muslim world. The Bush administration alienated those in the Middle East by mistreating prisoners at its detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison -- human rights violations also condemned worldwide.

Some Iraqis, who have suffered through five years of a war ignited by the United States and its allies, said they would believe positive change when they saw it.

''Obama's victory will do nothing for the Iraqi issue nor for the Palestinian issue,'' said Muneer Jamal, a Baghdad resident. ''I think all the promises Obama made during the campaign will remain mere promises.''

In Pakistan, a country vital to the U.S.-led war on the al-Qaida terrorist network and neighbor to Afghanistan, many hoped Obama would bring some respite from rising militant violence that many blame on Bush.

Still, Mohammed Arshad, a 28-year-old schoolteacher in the capital, Islamabad, doubted Obama's ability to change U.S. foreign policy dramatically.

''It is true that Bush gave America a very bad name. He has become a symbol of hate. But I don't think the change of face will suddenly make any big difference,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Obama also faced skepticism on the other side of the Mideast divide, in Israel.

Shoshana Bair, 27, an Orthodox Jewish woman who runs a medical not-for-profit group in Jerusalem, expressed the fear that Obama's allegiance would lie with the Palestinians.

''There's no doubt great apprehension. On the face of things it's frightening,'' said Bair, who defined Obama as a Muslim, but when corrected, said, ''but his name is Hussein.''

Her main fears, she said, were that Israel would be pushed into ''land concessions without receiving anything in return, and the division of Jerusalem,'' the holy city that both Jews and Palestinains claim as their capital.

Many expressed hopes that Obama would restore the American economic leadership they said was needed for the world to reverse a punishing financial meltdown. Some in Asia, a region heavily dependent on exports to the U.S. market, worried the Democrat would try to protect American producers at their expense.

''The one thing that I don't approve of Obama is that he is an economic protectionist. He's in favor of protected economies, instead of free markets,'' said university student Yu Fangjing, 20, in Hong Kong. ''It's not good for the world.''

Still, many around the world found Obama's international roots -- his father was Kenyan, and he lived four years in Indonesia as a child -- compelling and attractive.

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki declared a public holiday on Thursday in honor of Obama's election victory, and people across Africa stayed up all night or woke before dawn Wednesday to watch the U.S. election results roll in.

''He's in!'' said Rachel Ndimu, 23, a business student who joined hundreds of others at the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Nairobi. ''I think this is awesome, and the whole world is backing him.''

In Jakarta, hundreds of students at his former elementary school gathered around a television set to watch as results came in, erupting in cheers when he was declared winner and then pouring into the courtyard where they hugged each other and danced in the rain.

''We're so proud!'' Alsya Nadin, a spunky 10-year-old in pink-framed glasses, said as her classmates chanted ''Obama! Obama!''


AP correspondents worldwide contributed to this report.

    Obama Victory Sparks Cheers Around the Globe, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-US-Elections-World-View.html






Obama Makes History;

Turns to Sobering Challenges


November 5, 2008
Filed at 7:01 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- His name etched in history as America's first black president, Barack Obama turned from the jubilation of victory to the sober challenge of leading a nation worried about economic crisis, two unfinished wars and global uncertainty.

''The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep,'' Obama cautioned.

Young and charismatic but with little experience on the national level, Obama smashed through racial barriers and easily defeated Republican John McCain to become the first African-American destined to sit in the Oval Office, America's 44th president. He was the first Democrat to receive more than 50 percent of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

''It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America,'' Obama told a victory rally of 125,000 people jammed into Chicago's Grant Park.

Obama scored an Electoral College landslide that redrew America's political map. He won states that reliably voted Republican in presidential elections, like Indiana and Virginia, which hadn't supported the Democratic candidate in 44 years. Ohio and Florida, key to Bush's twin victories, also went for Obama, as did Pennsylvania, which McCain had deemed crucial for his election hopes.

With just 76 days until the inauguration, Obama is expected to move quickly to begin assembling a White House staff and selecting Cabinet nominees.

Campaign officials said Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel was the front-runner to be Obama's chief of staff. The advisers spoke on a condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

Obama's victory was sweetened by Democratic gains in both houses of Congress. In the Senate, Democrats ousted Republicans Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and John Sununu of New Hampshire and captured seats held by retiring GOP senators in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado. Democrats scored big gains in the House, as well.

When Obama and running mate Joe Biden take their oath of office on Jan. 20, Democrats will control both the White House and Congress for the first time since 1994.

''It is not a mandate for a party or ideology but a mandate for change,'' said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said: ''Tonight the American people have called for a new direction. They have called for change in America.''

After the longest and costliest campaign in U.S. history, Obama was propelled to victory by voters dismayed by eight years of George W. Bush's presidency and deeply anxious about rising unemployment and home foreclosures and a battered stock market that has erased trillions of dollars of savings for Americans.

Six in 10 voters picked the economy as the most important issue facing the nation in an Associated Press exit poll. None of the other top issues -- energy, Iraq, terrorism and health care -- was selected by more than one in 10. Obama has promised to cut taxes for most Americans, get the United States out of Iraq and expand health care, including mandatory coverage for children.

Obama acknowledged that repairing the economy and dealing with problems at home and overseas will not happen quickly. ''We may not get there in one year or even in one term,'' he said. ''But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.''

McCain conceded defeat shortly after 11 p.m. EST, telling supporters outside the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, ''The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.''

''This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and the special pride that must be theirs tonight,'' McCain said. ''These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.''

Obama faces a staggering list of problems, and he mentioned some of them in his victory speech. ''Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.'' He spoke of parents who worry about paying their mortgages and medical bills.

''There will be setbacks and false starts,'' Obama said. ''There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.''

The son of a Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, the 47-year-old Obama has had a startlingly rapid rise, from lawyer and community organizer to state legislator and U.S. senator, now just four years into his first term. He is the first senator elected to the White House since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Bush called Obama with congratulations at 11:12 p.m. EST. ''I promise to make this a smooth transition,'' the president said. ''You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life. Congratulations and go enjoy yourself.'' He invited Obama and his family to visit the White House soon.

Bush planned to make a statement about the election at mid-morning Wednesday in the Rose Garden.

With most U.S. precincts tallied, the popular vote was 51.9 percent for Obama and 46.8 percent for McCain. But the count in the Electoral College was lopsided in Obama's favor over McCain -- 349 to 147 as of early Wednesday, with four states still to be decided. Those were North Carolina, Georgia and Missouri.

Obama won California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

McCain had Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. He also won at least 3 of Nebraska's five electoral votes, with the other two in doubt.

Almost six in 10 women supported Obama nationwide, while men leaned his way by a narrow margin, according to interviews with voters. Just over half of whites supported McCain, giving him a slim advantage in a group that Bush carried overwhelmingly in 2004.

The results of the AP survey were based on a preliminary partial sample of nearly 10,000 voters in Election Day polls and in telephone interviews over the past week for early voters.

In terms of turnout, America voted in record numbers. Preliminary projections, based on 83 percent of the country's precincts tallied, indicate that more than 131 million Americans will have voted this year, easily outdistancing 2004's 122.3 million, which had been the highest grand total of voters before. That puts the 2008 turnout rate of eligible voters around 64 percent, experts said.

    Obama Makes History; Turns to Sobering Challenges, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Election-Rdp.html






Obama to Inherit

Feeble Economy Awash in Red Ink


November 5, 2008
Filed at 6:32 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- To the victor goes the mess.

Barack Obama's presidential election victory comes with an albatross of a prize -- an economy beset by a stubborn housing slump and the worst financial crisis in 70 years.

Consumers and businesses are sharply reducing their spending and the government is awash in red ink.

''He will inherit an economy that is in recession and ... is likely to get worse before it gets better,'' said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Services.

The current administration on Wednesday will detail its plans to borrow a record $550 billion in the final three months of the year as a down payment for the various financial rescue packages put into effect in response to the global crisis.

A Treasury Department official on Monday projected the government would need to borrow an additional $368 billion in the first quarter of 2009. Treasury is expected to bring back its three-year notes to help cover the increased borrowing needs.

Still, investors seemed to draw hope Tuesday from the selection of a new presidential administration, while shrugging off the latest in a series of grim economic reports. The Dow Jones industrial average surged more than 300 points. The Dow and the other major stock indexes all finished with gains of more than 3 percent.

Asian stocks rallied Wednesday on the back of Wall Street's gains and renewed investor confidence. Asian investors were hopeful Obama would tackle the U.S. financial crisis with renewed vigor, although some voiced concerns that a Democratic president and Congress might turn more protectionist. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average climbed 4.5 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 3.2 percent.

Futures trading fell after initially rising. Dow futures fell 126, or 1.3 percent, to 9,461, while S&P futures declined 1.5 percent to 988.4.

Analysts said investors appeared to be looking forward to the end of political uncertainty and hoping the new U.S. president will move to boost the economy, which got another bit of dismal news Tuesday.

The Commerce Department reported Tuesday factory orders dropped 2.5 percent in September from August, more than three times as much as analysts had expected. Excluding autos and aircraft, orders fell 3.7 percent, the steepest drop since 1992, when the department began tracking sector-specific changes.

The weakness was led by a heavy drop in nondurable goods orders, which fell 5.5 percent. That included a 17 percent drop in the value of petroleum and coal products, reflecting the decline in oil and gas prices in September.

Analysts said the report wasn't as bad as it looked, because much of the decline was driven by the drop in the value of oil and gas orders.

But orders for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, considered a good indication of business investment plans, fell 1.5 percent. That follows a 2.3 percent drop in August and indicated companies are cutting back on their investments.

''Corporate America is buying into the recession story, and they are paring their investment spending accordingly,'' said Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics.

The factory orders report came a day before the release of the Institute of Supply Management's gauge of activity in the U.S. services sector for October. That index will be released Wednesday and is expected to fall, though not as steeply as its sister manufacturing index did Monday, when it dropped to its lowest level since the country's last deep recession, the 1981-82 downturn.

Automakers also reported terrible October sales figures on Monday, with sales down 45 percent at General Motors Corp., 30 percent at Ford Motor Co., 25 percent at Honda Motor Co. and 23 percent at Toyota Motor Corp.

The government reported last week that the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, shrank at an annual rate of 0.3 percent in the July-September quarter. Two straight quarters of lower GDP generally mean a recession, and many economists expect the fourth quarter to be worse than the third.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Budget estimates all the government economic and rescue initiatives, starting with the $168 billion in stimulus checks issued earlier this year, total an eye-popping $2.6 trillion.

Besides the borrowing numbers, Treasury on Monday released estimates by major Wall Street bond firms projecting that total borrowing for this budget year, which began Oct. 1, will total $1.4 trillion, nearly double the previous record.

Major Wall Street firms projected the deficit will hit $988 billion for the current budget year, more than twice the record. In July, the administration projected a deficit for this year of $482 billion, but that was before the financial crisis erupted in September.

Supporters of the government rescue packages argue that the ultimate cost to taxpayers should end up being a lot smaller, partly because the Federal Reserve is extending loans to banks that should be paid back.

    Obama to Inherit Feeble Economy Awash in Red Ink, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/business/AP-Financial-Meltdown.html






Historic election stirs homeless to vote


Tue Nov 4, 2008
9:18pm EST
By Steve Gorman


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Frederick Williams, a Marine Corps veteran scraping by on unemployment benefits, describes his living situation as "not homeless but close to it" and says he never cared enough to vote -- until Tuesday.

At age 43, Williams shuffled into a Los Angeles homeless shelter carrying his worldly belongings in a small travel case and a knotted plastic bag and proudly cast the first ballot of his life with guidance from poll workers.

Williams said he voted for Barack Obama, whose message of hope and bid to become the first black president of the United States stirred him like no other politician.

"This is history in the making. I wanted to be part of that," said Williams, who lives in a transient hotel a few blocks from the polling station at the Los Angeles Mission.

"For once in my lifetime ... someone really cares about the small people out there."

Williams was one of hundreds of people -- many first-time voters lacking permanent dwellings -- who cast ballots this year on Skid Row, a 50-block downtown area believed to harbor the highest concentration of homeless in the United States.

Those voters represent a fraction of the estimated 12,000 people who live and sleep on the streets of that area. Many are mentally ill or suffer from substance abuse.

But Orlando Ward, spokesman for the nearby Midnight Mission, said the numbers turning out on Tuesday were unprecedented. Some used the shelter's address to register, though a street corner can be listed as a place of residence.

"It's a very exciting to see people who are often forgotten and disenfranchised engaging in one of the most basic rights that we have as American citizens," Ward said. "In terms of interest and enthusiasm, it's at an all-time high."

By late morning, more than 300 voters, many of them homeless, had filed through the polling station at Midnight Mission, at least 10 times more than showed up all day during the last presidential election, he said.

Over 200 voters had cast ballots by noon at the Los Angeles Mission, said volunteer polling inspector Pamela Whitehead.

One of them was Andrew Wilson, 49, who lives on disability in a Skid Row hotel and was, too, moved by a sense of history.

"This is my first time voting," he said. "I want to be a part of the first African American being president."

Ward said he was struck by how caught up in politics many Skid Row residents appeared to be this year.

"There's a whole lot of T-shirts and hats with candidates' names on them worn by folks who don't have a lot of changes in clothes," he said.

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Philip Barbara)

    Historic election stirs homeless to vote, R, 4.11.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE4A41HR20081105






Voter Turnout Best in Generations,

Maybe a Century


November 5, 2008
Filed at 6:30 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- America voted in record numbers, standing in lines that snaked around blocks and in some places in pouring rain. Voters who queued up Tuesday and the millions who balloted early propelled 2008 to what one expert said was the highest turnout in a century.

It looks like 136.6 million Americans will have voted for president this election, based on 88 percent of the country's precincts tallied and projections for absentee ballots, said Michael McDonald of George Mason University. Using his methods, that would give 2008 a 64.1 percent turnout rate.

''That would be the highest turnout rate that we've seen since 1908,'' which was 65.7 percent, McDonald said early Wednesday. It also would beat the old post World War II high of 63.8 percent in the famed 1960 John F. Kennedy-Richard Nixon squeaker. The 1908 race elected William Howard Taft over William Jennings Bryan.

The total voting in 2008 easily outdistanced 2004's 122.3 million, which had been the highest grand total of voters before.

But another expert disagrees with McDonald's calculations and only puts 2008 as the best in 40 years. Different experts calculate turnout rates in different ways based on whom they consider eligible voters.

Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate at American University and dean of turnout experts, said his early numbers show 2008 to be about equal to or better than 1964, but not higher than 1960. He said it looks like total votes, once absentees are tallied (which could take a day or so), will be ''somewhere between 134 and 135 million.''

What's most interesting about early results is not just how many people voted but the shifting demographic of American voters, said Stephen Ansolabehere, a political science professor at Harvard and MIT.

Using exit polling data, Ansolabehere determined that whites made up 74 percent of the 2008 electorate. That's down considerably from 81 percent in 2000 because of increase in black and Hispanic voting, he said.

''That's a big shift in terms of demographic composition of the electorate,'' Ansolabehere said early Wednesday.

Breakdown by party voting also shows that Republican turnout rates are down quite a bit, while Democratic turnout rates are up, Gans said.

Republican states, such as Wyoming and South Dakota, saw turnout drop. ''I think they were discouraged,'' Gans said.

Experts pointed to a weak economy and a lively campaign that promised a history-making result for the high turnout.

North Carolina set a record for its highest turnout rate of eligible voters, because of close presidential, Senate and gubernatorial races, Gans said. Other states where turnout increased were Indiana, Delaware, Virginia and Alabama. The District of Columbia also set a record, he said.

Ansolabehere said young voters didn't show up in the advertised wave, but others disagreed.

''Young voters have dispelled the notion of an apathetic generation and proved the pundits, reporters and political parties wrong by voting in record numbers today,'' said Heather Smith, the executive director of Rock the Vote. ''The Millennial generation is making their mark on politics and shaping our future.''

Wayne State University nursing student Audrey Glenn, 19, spent four hours waiting to cast her vote in Michigan, in part because Southfield election officials couldn't find her name on their lists.

''But it was all worth it,'' she said.

Ann Canales, a 47-year-old single mother, emerged from her Texas polling place with a wide grin, accompanied by her 16-year-old son.

''I've just been waiting for this day,'' said Canales, who voted for Barack Obama.

Norma Storms, a 78-year-old resident of Raytown, Mo., said her driveway was filled with cars left by voters who couldn't get into nearby parking lots.

''I have never seen anything like this in all my born days,'' she said. ''I am just astounded.''

In some places the wait lasted hours, and lines stretched for half a mile.

''Well, I think I feel somehow strong and energized to stand here even without food and water,'' said Alexandria, Va., resident Ahmed Bowling, facing a very long line. ''What matters is to cast my vote.''

    Voter Turnout Best in Generations, Maybe a Century, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Voter-Turnout.html






State Ballots Feature

Hot-Button Social Issues


November 5, 2008
Filed at 5:13 a.m. ET
The New York Times


Voters in Colorado and South Dakota rejected ballot measures Tuesday that could have led to sweeping bans of abortion, and Washington became only the second state -- after Oregon -- to offer terminally ill people the option of physician-assisted suicide.

In California, exit polls and partial returns suggested a close race on a high-profile measure that would ban gay marriage -- the first time such a vote has taken place in state where such unions are legal. Three other states seemed headed toward enacting measures that would curtail the rights of same-sex couples.

For the abortion rights movement, it was a day of relief and celebration.

A first-of-its-kind measure in Colorado, which was defeated soundly, would have defined life as beginning at conception. Its opponents said the proposal could lead to the outlawing of some types of birth control as well as abortion.

The South Dakota measure would have banned abortions except in cases of rape, incest and serious health threat to the mother. A tougher version, without the rape and incest exceptions, lost in 2006. Anti-abortion activists thought the modifications would win approval, but the margin of defeat was similar, about 55 percent to 45 percent of the vote.

''The lesson here is that Americans, in states across the country, clearly support women's ability to access abortion care without government interference,'' said Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation.

In Washington, voters gave solid approval to an initiative modeled after Oregon's ''Death with Dignity'' law, which allows a terminally ill person to be prescribed lethal medication they can administer to themselves. Since Oregon's law took effect in 1997, more than 340 people -- mostly ailing with cancer -- have used it to end their lives.

Elsewhere, the marijuana reform movement won two prized victories, with Massachusetts voters decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug and Michigan joining 12 other states in allowing use of pot for medical purposes.

Henceforth, people caught in Massachusetts with an ounce or less of pot will no longer face criminal penalties. Instead, they'll forfeit the marijuana and pay a $100 civil fine.

The Michigan measure will allow severely ill patients to register with the state and legally buy, grow and use small amounts of marijuana to relieve pain, nausea, appetite loss and other symptoms.

Of the 153 measures at stake nationwide, the most momentous was the proposed constitutional amendment in California that would limit marriage to heterosexual couples.

Similar measures had prevailed in 27 states before Tuesday's elections, but none were in California's situation -- with thousands of gay couples already married following a state Supreme Court ruling in May.

The opposing sides together raised about $70 million, much of it from out of state, to wage their campaigns. The outcome, either way, will have a huge impact on prospects for spreading same-sex marriage to the 47 states that do not allow it.

Though Democrat Barack Obama won the presidential race in California on his way to wrapping up the White House, the vote on same-sex marriage leaned toward instituting the ban in early returns. A crucial question was how churchgoing black and Hispanic voters -- presumably a pro-Obama constituency -- would vote on the ballot measure.

According to exit polls, blacks were far more likely than whites or Hispanics to support the ban. Age also was a key factor -- the exit polls showed voters under 30 opposing the ban by a 2-to-1 ratio, while most voters 60 and older supported the ban.

Obama opposed the California amendment and endorses the concept of broader rights for same-sex couples. A ban-gay-marriage amendment was approved in Arizona; a similar measure appeared headed for passage in Florida.

Gay rights forces also suffered a loss in Arkansas, where voters approved a measure banning unmarried couples from serving as adoptive or foster parents. Supporters made clear that gays and lesbians were their main target.

Nebraska voters, meanwhile, approved a ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action, similar to measures previously approved in California, Michigan and Washington. Returns in Colorado on a similar measure were too close to call.

Ward Connerly, the California activist-businessman who has led the crusade against affirmative action, said Obama's victory proved his point. ''We have overcome the scourge of race,'' Connerly said.

Energy measures met a mixed fate. In Missouri, voters approved a measure requiring the state's three investor-owned electric utilities to get 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. But California voters defeated an even more ambitious measure that would have required the state's utilities to generate half their electricity from windmills, solar systems, geothermal reserves and other renewable sources by 2025.

Two animal-welfare measures passed -- a ban on dog racing in Massachusetts, and a proposition in California that outlaws cramped cages for egg-laying chickens.

Amid deep economic uncertainty, proposals to cut state income taxes were defeated decisively in North Dakota and Massachusetts.

In San Francisco, an eye-catching local measure -- to decriminalize prostitution -- was soundly rejected. Police and political leaders said it would hamper the fight against sex trafficking.

    State Ballots Feature Hot-Button Social Issues, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Ballot-Measures.html






Palin Loses;

Alaska Weighs Sen. Stevens' Future


November 5, 2008
Filed at 5:10 a.m. ET
The New York Times


ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- After a sometimes thrilling, sometimes bumpy run in the national spotlight, Alaska saw its governor defeated for vice president Tuesday. Still uncertain was the future of the state's senior senator, his standing as a political giant hammered by corruption convictions.

''Forever, I'm going to be Sarah from Alaska,'' Gov. Sarah Palin said as she voted in her hometown of Wasilla before flying to Phoenix, where Tuesday night she watched her running mate, Republican Sen. John McCain, concede defeat to Barack Obama in the presidential race.

McCain praised Palin as ''one of the best campaigners I have ever seen, and an impressive new voice in our party for reform and the principles that have always been our greatest strength.''

In the Senate race, voters were deciding whether to overlook Ted Stevens' convictions and re-elect the Republican who has represented Alaska in Washington, D.C., for 40 years.

He was challenged by Democrat Mark Begich, the popular mayor of Anchorage whose congressman father, Nick, died tragically in a plane crash in 1972 while campaigning for re-election.

Stevens led with 48 percent of the vote compared with 47 percent for Begich, with 96 percent of precincts reporting. With more than 40,000 absentee ballots to be counted within 10 days of the election, Stevens went home late Tuesday to get some sleep, his political future uncertain.

Begich sought to appeal to voters from both parties who are sick of the partisan politics in the nation's capital these days.

''They recognize that times have changed, Senator Stevens has changed,'' Begich said Monday. ''This is a moment in time we will shift Alaska and move it forward.''

Stevens, 84, the longest serving Republican in the history of the Senate, normally skates to easy wins in this solidly Republican state. His historic run was jeopardized when he was convicted last month of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of gifts and services to renovate his Girdwood home, and not disclosing them.

Found guilty of seven felonies, Stevens has refused pleas from his own party leaders to step down.

Instead, he vowed to fight the conviction. Supporters gave him a rousing welcome when he returned to Alaska to campaign, remembering the many years in which he funneled federal money to the state.

The 46-year-old Begich refused to call for Stevens' resignation, saying that was a decision Stevens would have to make.

Voters made their own decisions, two-thirds saying in exit polls that they were weighing Stevens' legal troubles.

''Stevens did something wrong and got burned for it,'' said Jennifer Crutcher, 20, of Eagle River, as she voting Tuesday for the first time, casting her ballot for Begich.

A friend, Patricia Eychaner, 19, voted for Stevens. Even though she ''felt like kicking him'' when he was found guilty of corruption, she said he's done much good for Alaska. ''Everyone deserves a second chance,'' she said.

Palin, largely unknown nationally when McCain tapped her as his running mate, quickly became a star -- and a lightning rod.

The Alaska governor excited the GOP base, especially evangelical voters, but critics dismissed her political resume as brief and light on substance. Her glamor and her persona as a ''hockey mom'' lit up the blogosphere and became fodder for satirical impressions by Tina Fey on ''Saturday Night Live,'' where she gamely appeared in the midst of the campaign.

In Wasilla, McCain's concession was broadcast on large screen TVs inside the city's sports center at what was supposed to be a victory rally. Onscreen, viewers saw Palin fight tears as McCain praised her.

''I think America made a big mistake,'' said Phil Straka, a professional photographer.

But Beryl Kring looked ahead.

''It's just the beginning for Sarah. She'll be on the ticket in 2012,'' Kring said.

In the race for Alaska's lone House seat, Republican Don Young sought his 19th term.

Young led with 52 percent of the vote compared with 44 percent for Democrat Ethan Berkowitz, with 96 percent of precincts reporting.

    Palin Loses; Alaska Weighs Sen. Stevens' Future, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Election-Alaska.html







The Next President


November 5, 2008
The New York Times


This is one of those moments in history when it is worth pausing to reflect on the basic facts:

An American with the name Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a white woman and a black man he barely knew, raised by his grandparents far outside the stream of American power and wealth, has been elected the 44th president of the United States.

Showing extraordinary focus and quiet certainty, Mr. Obama swept away one political presumption after another to defeat first Hillary Clinton, who wanted to be president so badly that she lost her bearings, and then John McCain, who forsook his principles for a campaign built on anger and fear.

His triumph was decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country: the utter failure of government to protect its citizens. He offered a government that does not try to solve every problem but will do those things beyond the power of individual citizens: to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world.

Mr. Obama spoke candidly of the failure of Republican economic policies that promised to lift all Americans but left so many millions far behind. He committed himself to ending a bloody and pointless war. He promised to restore Americans’ civil liberties and their tattered reputation around the world.

With a message of hope and competence, he drew in legions of voters who had been disengaged and voiceless. The scenes Tuesday night of young men and women, black and white, weeping and cheering in Chicago and New York and in Atlanta’s storied Ebenezer Baptist Church were powerful and deeply moving.

Mr. Obama inherits a terrible legacy. The nation is embroiled in two wars — one of necessity in Afghanistan and one of folly in Iraq. Mr. Obama’s challenge will be to manage an orderly withdrawal from Iraq without igniting new conflicts so the Pentagon can focus its resources on the real front in the war on terror, Afghanistan.

The campaign began with the war as its central focus. By Election Day, Americans were deeply anguished about their futures and the government’s failure to prevent an economic collapse fed by greed and an orgy of deregulation. Mr. Obama will have to move quickly to impose control, coherence, transparency and fairness on the Bush administration’s jumbled bailout plan.

His administration will also have to identify all of the ways that Americans’ basic rights and fundamental values have been violated and rein that dark work back in. Climate change is a global threat, and after years of denial and inaction, this country must take the lead on addressing it. The nation must develop new, cleaner energy technologies, to reduce greenhouse gases and its dependence on foreign oil.

Mr. Obama also will have to rally sensible people to come up with immigration reform consistent with the values of a nation built by immigrants and refugees.

There are many other urgent problems that must be addressed. Tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance, including some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens — children of the working poor. Other Americans can barely pay for their insurance or are in danger of losing it along with their jobs. They must be protected.

Mr. Obama will now need the support of all Americans. Mr. McCain made an elegant concession speech Tuesday night in which he called on his followers not just to honor the vote, but to stand behind Mr. Obama. After a nasty, dispiriting campaign, he seemed on that stage to be the senator we long respected for his service to this country and his willingness to compromise.

That is a start. The nation’s many challenges are beyond the reach of any one man, or any one political party.

The Next President, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/opinion/05wed1.html







Next Up After Obama Win, Governing


November 5, 2008
Filed at 4:44 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Now the hard part. Barack Obama essentially came out of nowhere, beat the Democratic establishment, conquered doubts about his experience and overcame questions about his race to be elected the first black president after a grueling campaign that lasted nearly two years.

As president-elect, he faces three immediate challenges: confronting the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, determining the next steps in two lingering wars, and leading his Democrats, including liberals expecting that the change he promises will come instantly.

It won't.

On the heels of a campaign in which cash wasn't a concern, Obama must tackle all of those tasks with no room in the budget as the nation heads for a painful, perhaps long-lasting, recession.

Even as he celebrated his victory before a sea of supporters in Chicago, Obama acknowledged ''the enormity of the task that lies ahead,'' and offered a sobering assessment.

''We know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,'' Obama said. ''There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.''

He warned: ''The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term.''

No new president has faced so much since Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- and even he didn't have two wars on his plate.

Roosevelt had four months to come up with programs to address the Great Depression before he took office on March 4, 1933.

Obama gets just 2 1/2 to put together his government; inauguration is Jan. 20.

He will chart the country's course against this dreary backdrop: Unemployment is at 6.1 percent and predicted to rise as high as 7.5 percent next year; pessimistic consumers have curtailed borrowing and spending; home foreclosures are rampant; Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security face huge financial problems; and, 152,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq more than five years after the initial invasion, while 32,000 are in Afghanistan in the sixth year of the war against terrorism.

With Democrats expanding their majorities in both the House and Senate, Obama will have to figure out how to lead a country that's more conservative than liberal while trying to satisfy the left wing of his party. He will face demands for a quick pullout from Iraq. He's promised withdrawal, but carefully.

Perhaps addressing his party faithful, Obama said: ''There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face.''

From the outset, how Obama acts to deal with these conditions will set the tone for his presidency.

Voters got an early glimpse of his style last month when Wall Street collapsed, stocks fluctuated and the government intervened. He struck a cautious stance and deferred to lawmakers dealing directly with the problems. He was deliberative and careful in his response -- perhaps just the approach voters were seeking after eight years of what critics call President Bush's cowboy approach.

Yet, Obama may be blamed for recession woes despite the fact that he inherited the mess from Bush. The troubles are on Obama's watch now even if there's little he can do about them. The president in power always suffers when the economy tanks. Just ask the first President Bush in 1992.

Indeed, coming in with a big victory doesn't guarantee success.

Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson won with 61 percent of the vote in 1964. He won his Great Society programs in his first two years but his administration essentially collapsed in the final two with the escalation of the Vietnam War.

In choosing Obama as the 44th president, the nation took a historic leap beyond its legacy of slavery and toward healing racial tensions just four decades after the tumultuous Civil Rights movement.

Politically, Obama's election amounted to a wholesale rejection of the status quo after eight years of Bush and Republican rule.

Voters were willing to take a chance on a relative newcomer to the national stage. Obama is a 47-year-old black man from Chicago with a liberal voting record who is in just his first Senate term and has offered few specifics on how he would govern.

Culturally, Obama's victory was so much more for a nation on the verge of becoming a true melting pot; government estimates say white people will no longer make up a majority of Americans by 2042.

The son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, Obama's call for change created a movement at a time of great upheaval in the country. And, that proved to be a large enough force to overcome lingering prejudices.

To be sure, the economy proved a powerful motivator.

More than half of voters named it their top issue. And, nearly all voters said the economy was in bad shape and said they were worried about the economy's direction. Obama had the advantage among these voters.

Race didn't appear to be much of a hurdle.

Obama won nearly half of the white vote while nearly all blacks and two in three Hispanics supported him.

And, although Obama played down his skin color, it played a part in his general election strategy. Minorities, as well as youth, were identified early on as a key demographic to register and court. That appeared to work. Blacks, Hispanics and voters under age 30 turned out in droves.

All -- whites, blacks, women, Hispanics, young people, Democrats, Republicans and independents -- will have high expectations for Obama's presidency.


EDITOR'S NOTE -- Liz Sidoti covers the presidential campaign for The Associated Press and has covered national politics since 2003.

    Analysis: Next Up After Obama Win, Governing, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Election-Analysis.html







Vision to Collide With Reality


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:54 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Over a two-year campaign, Barack Obama laid out a vision for the nation's future in soaring speeches that enthralled his audiences. With his victory in the presidential election on Tuesday, those goals will collide with daunting realities.

President Obama will inherit a budget deficit that many analysts say could hit a trillion dollars for the first time in history, severely crimping any promises for tax cuts or spending on new programs. He faces a diving economy that has traumatized Americans trying to buy a home, pay for college or plan for retirement. And he'll confront the complexities of trying to extricate U.S. forces from Iraq, and a resurgent conflict in Afghanistan. A look at Obama's campaign promises and the challenges that stand in their way:


The promise: Retain President Bush's tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year and provide more relief to the squeezed middle class by creating new tax breaks for lower-income families; protect middle-class taxpayers from the Alternative Minimum Tax; exempt seniors making less than $50,000 a year from paying income taxes, expand the tax credit for college and provide incentives to encourage savings, and help pay for child care and mortgage expenses.

For the shorter term, Obama supported the $700 billion financial bailout plan passed in October and backs a second stimulus plan that would provide up to about $150 billion on top of the $168 billion package of tax rebates passed earlier in the year. It could provide tax rebates or credits, extend jobless benefits and spending on infrastructure projects like roads and bridges, as well as sending food aid to the poor and money to states to pay their Medicaid bills. Separately, Obama also proposed a $1,000 emergency energy rebate to families and penalty-free withdrawals of up to $10,000 from 401(k)s and IRA's. He also proposes a $3,000-per-employee tax credit to companies for each new job they create.

The problem: Obama's spending plans and middle-class tax relief will confront exploding budget deficits -- $438 billion this year, and growing as the down economy reduces tax revenues and increases spending on bailouts and anti-recessionary programs. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates Obama's proposals would reduce projected tax revenue by $2.95 trillion over the next decade, compared to what would happen if Bush's tax cuts were to expire as scheduled at the end of 2010.


The promise: A crash program to begin to wean the country off of its dependence on oil. The goal is to reduce U.S. petroleum demand by an amount equal to the 3.5 million barrels a day now imported from unfriendly Venezuela and the volatile Persian Gulf. Obama also would invest $15 billion a year over the next 10 years to spur commercial development of alternative energy -- wind, biomass and solar -- and more energy-efficient buildings and automobiles. And he wants a short-term rebate of $1,000 per couple to help with rising energy costs.

The problem: Here, too, the economic crisis throws new spending into doubt -- including Obama's alternative energy plans. The $150 billion program also is tied to Congess tackling global warming by putting a price on greenhouse gases, a prospect that faces many obstacles. The call for an energy rebate also may lose its urgency as gasoline prices have dropped by more than a third and heating oil by almost half from their peaks last summer.


The promise: Increase the number of people with health insurance by having the government subsidize the cost of coverage for low- and middle-income families. To help pay for that expense, increase taxes for those families earning more than $250,000. Obama also would require employers not offering health coverage to pay a percentage of their payroll toward a national health plan. Small businesses would be exempt. He would also mandate that children have health insurance, and he would expand who can participate in Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Obama's plan would let people choose a public, Medicare-like plan or browse a shopping center of sorts for private insurance plans. The National Health Insurance Exchange would create rules and standards for participating private plans, and insurers would have to issue every applicant a policy regardless of pre-existing health conditions.

The problem: While the plan would help millions of people obtain health insurance, health analysts say it falls short of universal coverage. The Tax Policy Center says the Obama plan would reduce the number of uninsured by 18 million in the first full year of operation, from the current figure of 45 million. That still would leave millions of uninsured adults. Meanwhile, the penalty on employers that don't offer health insurance could increase the cost of operating a business. Also, the plan will cost an estimated $1.6 trillion over 10 years, according to the Tax Policy Center.


The promise: Obama says he would engage both allies and adversaries to repair the U.S. image abroad and regain leverage and leadership that he says Bush squandered with the Iraq war. He says he will marshal international pressure against Iran, boost U.S. efforts against extremists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and get a faster and firmer start on Middle East peacemaking. He vowed to ''renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.''


The promise: Obama says he would engage both allies and adversaries to repair the U.S. image abroad and regain leverage and leadership that he says Bush squandered with the Iraq war. He says he will marshal international pressure against Iran, boost U.S. efforts against extremists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and get a faster and firmer start on Middle East peacemaking. He vowed to ''renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.''

The problem: The Bush administration has already reversed many of its policies that other nations saw as isolationist or bullying -- for example, by joining international diplomatic efforts with ''axis of evil'' nations Iran and North Korea. But even those haven't produced great results and neither has yet to achieve its desired goal. Obama has suggested he would continue such efforts, but there is no guarantee they will yield greater success. The Bush administration has also in recent weeks engaged in unilateral strikes against extremists inside both Pakistan and Syria, prompting furious responses from those countries. Obama says he, too, will go after terrorists this way but any president wanting to step up such activities will face strong resistance from local authorities and probably pay the price for violating other nations' sovereignty by seeing cooperation cut back.


The promise: Pull all U.S. combat forces out of Iraq within 16 months, send more combat troops to Afghanistan and provide better care for wounded troops and veterans.

The problem: A troop pullout by mid-2010 is feasible, although some argue that it risks shifting full responsibility to Iraq's security forces before they are ready. The Bush administration, which originally opposed setting any pullout date, has targeted departure by the end of 2011, although the Iraqis have yet to agree.

Until U.S. forces are pulled from Iraq, there are none to bolster the force in Afghanistan. Balancing needs in those two countries will be an immediate challenge for Obama. There is broad consensus on the need for more troops to combat an emboldened insurgency in Afghanistan and to train government troops there, but the trick is to accomplish that without giving up gains against the insurgency in Iraq and without robbing combat-weary soldiers and Marines of the rest periods they need.

Caring for veterans and the wounded entails enormous costs, and the scope of the health care requirements for returning troops is not yet fully known.


The promise: An $18 billion plan that would encourage, but not mandate, universal pre-kindergarten; teacher pay raises tied to, although not based solely on, test scores; an overhaul of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law to better measure student progress, make room for subjects like music and art and be less punitive toward failing schools, and a tax credit to pay up to $4,000 of college costs for students who perform 100 hours of community service a year. Obama would pay for part of his plan by ending corporate tax deductions for CEO pay. He has backed away from his proposal to save money by delaying NASA's moon and Mars missions.

The problem: With the budget stretched thin, a huge infusion of cash for early childhood education or college costs seems unlikely. Federal spending on education has already been rising for more than a decade. Congress and the White House will be in no hurry to tackle No Child Left Behind, which was due for a rewrite in 2007; the economy, the war and health care are stickier and more pressing concerns.


Associated Press writers Tom Raum, Kevin Freking, Robert Burns, H. Josef Hebert, Matthew Lee and Libby Quaid contributed to this story.

    PROMISES, PROMISES: Vision to Collide With Reality, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Promises-Promises-Obama.html






Plenty of Pressing Matters

Await Next President


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:31 a.m. ET
The New York Times


Congratulations, President-elect Barack Obama. Take a moment to relax and savor your victory -- but not too long. There already are plenty of pressing matters piling up in your in-box:

ECONOMY: This is problem No. 1. The nation is in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s. Unemployment now stands at 6.1 percent, and economists predict it could go as high as 7.5 percent in 2009. Consumers are pessimistic about the future and cutting back on borrowing and spending, the lifeblood of America's economy. A painful recession is looming and in many parts of the country it already has landed with a sickening thud.

The good news? Congress has come up with $700 billion to bail out the sinking financial system by buying toxic mortgages. The bad news? Everybody wants some of the money and the program is rapidly changing to dole out money in unexpected directions. Shifting gears, the government decided to buy stakes in banks. Automakers and the insurance industry are clamoring for help. Others are, too. Many Democrats want Congress to pass another economic stimulus bill. Americans already have lost trillions of dollars in investments, savings and college accounts. What's your move?

ENERGY: You've promised to move quickly to deal with the country's energy problems and reduce U.S. dependence on Persian Gulf oil. But oil prices have plummeted and the political will to act may be waning as well. Getting agreement from Congress, where Democrats and Republicans have long-standing differences on the best approach, won't be easy.

There are sharp divisions over offshore oil drilling and precious little federal money available to help develop alternative energy sources such as wind and solar. Increasing use of nuclear power would require finding a way to deal with nuclear waste, a politically volatile issue. You've said the government needs to act quickly to address climate change; the hard part will be working out the details with Congress for a plan to cap carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions.

FOREIGN POLICY: Iraq and Afghanistan may get most of the attention, but there are a host of other pressing foreign policy issues. At the top of your agenda is Iran's nuclear program. While Iran denies trying to build a bomb, most experts say that's the goal and your pressing task is to choose an option to stop Iran. Diplomacy with economic and political concessions remains the preferred approach. But there is the issue of whether to threaten Iran, either implicitly or explicitly.

U.S. policy on Pakistan needs retooling. Generous aid and warm embraces have not eliminated Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders thought to be hiding in frontier regions. U.S. decisions are pending on whether to expand U.S. attacks in those areas and whether to support the government as it moves ahead on reconciliation with some militants.

Russia, once on a promising path to democracy, has retreated somewhat. Apart from domestic crackdowns on the press and other hardline tactics, Russia has taken steps to revive its influence in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics and is in a tense standoff with Georgia on the future of two breakaway provinces. The question is whether a way can be found to restrain Russia while retaining its vital support on Iran's and North Korea's nuclear programs.

Pyongyang has reached a tentative agreement to get rid of its nuclear weapons and capabilities in return for economic and political concessions from Asia and the West. However, it continues to zigzag on tough terms for outside inspections. A careful eye must be kept on whether North Korea backtracks on its commitments, obtained with promises of economic assistance.

In the Middle East, a pause is in order while Israel sorts out formation of a new government. But even before that is accomplished, decisions are needed on how much to intervene in the Arab-Israeli dispute, including whether to appoint a special U.S. mediator, and whether to outline a U.S. framework for a settlement with the Palestinians.

GLOBAL FINANCES: World leaders will meet Nov. 15 in Washington to address the global financial crisis -- the first in a series of summits to address what could be a long and deep economic downturn. The first meeting will focus on the underlying causes of the crisis and the principles that should guide any reforms. President Bush will play host for the meeting, but the White House is promising to seek input from the president-elect.

GUANTANAMO BAY: There are about 250 detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. The current defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff both want to see the detention center shut down, and it was a rare area of agreement on the presidential campaign trail, too. The hard part will be making it happen. Where to send the prisoners? How to try them? And how to shut down the Gitmo center itself?

HEALTH CARE: 45 million Americans don't have health insurance, and expectations that coverage can be broadly expanded were stoked by both sides in the presidential campaign. Now comes the time to act. But history has shown that interest groups and patients become more wary of overhauling the system once they learn the details and potential trade-offs of a specific proposal. And the financial crisis made significant changes even more unlikely because any proposal will be costly.

HOME FORECLOSURES: Each day from July through September, more than 2,700 Americans lost their homes in foreclosure. That number, up from 1,200 a day a year ago, is a sign that the mortgage industry and government programs have done little to help troubled homeowners. The mortgage market's troubles have proved to be far more serious and intractable than most in government or the private sector had predicted a year ago. All eyes are on Washington to see if the government can craft a fix.

INTERROGATION: The war on terrorism continues, and that means more prisoners and more interrogations. The military has its own set of rules restricting how interrogations can be carried out. But what rules should govern CIA interrogations? Will waterboarding be on the list? The technique -- which critics liken to torture -- remains an option for the agency, according to its chief, but has not been exercised since 2003.

IMMIGRATION: Now that the voting's over, pressure to revisit immigration reform will build quickly from Latino supporters, immigration groups and some business interests. Larger Democratic majorities could help to move a bill through Congress, but those majorities will be built, in part, with Democrats from conservative districts who are wary of going too far. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said Democrats may have to give up some of their priorities in immigration reform to get an agreement, such as giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

KATRINA FAMILIES: By March 1, you will need to find homes for as many as 11,600 families who were displaced after the 2005 hurricanes. Temporary housing for these families expires at the end of February.

MEDICARE/MEDICAID: Both of these government programs face huge financial problems. The expense of delivering promised benefits under Medicare, the giant health care program for older Americans, is expected to rise much more quickly than tax revenue. And Medicaid's growing strain on federal and state budgets is unlikely to abate over the coming decade as the cost of providing health care to the poor is expected to increase by 7.9 percent annually.

SOCIAL SECURITY: The venerable retirement security needs a fix. Currently, 34 million retirees and their dependents receive monthly benefit checks, as do 6 million survivors of deceased workers and 9 million disabled workers and their dependents. Government experts project the Social Security trust funds will begin paying out more than they collect in payroll taxes in 2017, and be exhausted in 2041.

TERRORISM: The threat of terrorism is an ongoing reality in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. Government planners worry about a window of vulnerability in the first days and months of a new presidency. Adversaries may try to take advantage of the shift in administrations, and the president-elect must be prepared for an early test. There are countless details that come with facing the threat of terrorism. For one, the government must find a way for America's police officers and fire fighters to talk to each other during disasters. It's been more than seven years since the 9-11 attacks, and this problem has not been resolved.

TRANSITION: You have 77 days to put together a government. This is the first wartime presidential transition in 40 years, and the first in the age of terrorism anxieties that became a reality after the 9-11 attacks. By one count, there are 7,840 presidential appointee jobs to be filled, including 1,177 requiring Senate confirmation. Some recommended deadlines: Try to choose your Cabinet members by Christmas, and have them briefed and ready for confirmation hearings by about Jan. 10. Try to have 100 appointees in place by April 1 and 400 by August. Those are worthy, but ambitious goals: No president has been able to complete confirmation for more than about 25 Cabinet and sub-Cabinet appointees by April 1, or more than about 240 by its eighth month.

WAR: The United States is fighting two wars at once. There are 152,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and 32,000 in Afghanistan, where violence has escalated and American casualties are running higher than in Iraq. An immediate challenge: the U.N. resolution that governs the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq expires at the end of the year. The U.S. military has advised Iraqi authorities that it will have to shut down security and service operations in Iraq if the year ends without a security agreement or a renewed U.N. mandate for American forces. Then come the larger questions of when and how to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq, and how many more troops to send to Afghanistan.


Associated Press writers Pamela Hess, Terence Hunt, Joseph Hebert, Eileen Sullivan, Suzanne Gamboa, Kevin Freking, Alan Zibel, Lara Jakes Jordan, Barry Schweid and Nancy Benac contributed to this report.

    Plenty of Pressing Matters Await Next President, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Crowded-In-Box.html






Troops hope Obama

brings them home responsibly


Wed Nov 5, 2008
3:08am EST
By Tim Cocks


BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Watching election results that showed Barack Obama would be their new commander-in-chief, U.S. soldiers in Iraq said they hoped he would fulfill his promise to bring them home quickly and responsibly.

Breakfast was already being served in Baghdad on Wednesday morning when Tuesday's polls closed back home, and at Forward Operating Base Prosperity all eyes in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne were on the dining hall's giant TVs.

Someone whooped when NBC called the election, but mostly the troops sat in rapt silence, eyeing their new president while eating their eggs.

"What soldier's going to say they don't want to go home? I have a wife and four kids. I want to go home. But one thing we all want is to make sure the friends we lost over here weren't for nothing," said Captain Ryan Morrison, from Colorado Springs.

"We have to pull out responsibly. I have the feeling he wants to do it responsibly," he said.

Obama has pledged to pull U.S. combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office, a promise that seemed bold when he first made it last year but now coincides roughly with the timetable favored by Iraq's government.

"I'm excited. He's going to be president and he's going to pull us from over here," said Sergeant First Class Norman Brown.

"If McCain had won we'd be over here for years, and I mean years and years. I reckon even people here don't want us here."

With levels of violence falling -- last month saw the fewest violent deaths among both Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops since the war began -- Iraqis increasingly express their hope that the force of more than 150,000 U.S. troops can leave soon.

"I as an Iraqi am asking Obama to keep his promises about the withdrawal of the U.S. security forces from our land," said Baqi Naqid, a Baghdad journalist. "We don't need an occupation."


The Iraqi government is negotiating a security pact with the outgoing administration of President George W. Bush that would require U.S. troops to exit by the end of 2011. But some Iraqis still fear violence may return if U.S. troops leave too rapidly.

"They came on a mission. They should complete it. There should be 100 percent security before they leave," said Baghdad housewife Um Saba, 58. She said she preferred the Republicans for supporting an increase of troops last year that she credited with helping to curb violence.

Among U.S. troops, political loyalties were divided and debate spirited during the long campaign. African American soldiers described Obama's victory as inspirational.

"It gives me hope that anybody can accomplish anything no matter what your race, color or creed," said Los Angeles native Staff Sergeant Andre Frazier, adding he hoped it would improve the U.S. image abroad.

"We're going to get back to where we were as a nation before the turmoil kicked in, in terms of other nations not seeing us as we are," he said.

There was also a great deal of support for Obama's defeated rival John McCain, whose own war record makes him popular in a military that socially tilts toward the right.

"I supported McCain because he's closer to the constitutional values I believe in and because he clearly supports the military," said another soldier from Colorado who asked not to be named when giving his political preference in uniform. "But in the end it doesn't matter. We'll serve whoever is the commander in chief."

(Additional reporting by Aseel Kami; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Jon Boyle)

    Troops hope Obama brings them home responsibly, R, 5.11.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE4A441P20081105






Where Obama Stands on the Issues


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:27 a.m. ET
The New York Times

A sampling of President-elect Barack Obama's campaign promises and positions:



Favors abortion rights.


Would add about 7,000 troops to the U.S. force of 32,000, bringing the reinforcements from Iraq. Has threatened unilateral attack on high-value terrorist targets in Pakistan as they become exposed, ''if Pakistan cannot or will not act'' against them.


Ease restrictions on family-related travel and on money Cuban-Americans want to send to their families in Cuba. Open to meeting new Cuban leader Raul Castro without preconditions. Ease trade embargo if Havana ''begins opening Cuba to meaningful democratic change.''


Supports death penalty for crimes for which the ''community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage.'' As Illinois lawmaker, wrote bill mandating videotaping of interrogations and confessions in capital cases and sought other changes in system that had produced wrongful convictions.


An $18 billion plan that would encourage, but not mandate, universal pre-kindergarten. Teacher pay raises tied to, although not based solely on, test scores. An overhaul of No Child Left Behind law to better measure student progress, make more room for subjects such as music and art and be less punitive toward failing schools. A tax credit to pay up to $4,000 of college costs for students who perform 100 hours of community service a year. Obama would pay for part of his plan by ending corporate tax deductions for CEO pay. Has backed away from his proposal to save money by delaying NASA's moon and Mars missions.


Ten-year, $150 billion fund for biofuels, wind, solar, plug-in hybrids, clean-coal technology and other ''climate-friendly'' measures. Mandatory reductions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, using a market-based, cap-and-trade system that would increase energy costs. Increase federal fuel economy requirements from 35 mpg to 40 mpg. Now would consider limited expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling. Opposes drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Proposes windfall-profits tax on largest oil companies to pay for energy rebate of up to $1,000. Expand federal requirements for ethanol from 36 million gallons to 60 million gallons a year with increase coming from non-corn sources, and require utilities to produce 25 percent of power from renewable energy such as wind, solar and biomass by 2025. $7,000 tax credit for the purchase of advance-technology vehicles; put 1 million plug-in hybrid cars on road by 2015.


Two-year plan offering $3,000 tax credit to businesses for each new job created and enabling people to withdraw up to 15 percent of their retirement money, to a maximum of $10,000, without penalty, except for the usual taxes. Would temporarily extend an expiring tax break that lets small businesses immediately write off investments of up to $250,000, and sweeten small-business loans at a cost of about $5 billion. Estimated cost of proposals: $60 billion. Now favors mandatory 90-day freeze on some foreclosures. Lobbied fellow lawmakers to support $700 billion rescue plan. Extend unemployment benefits, offer tax credit covering 10 percent of annual mortgage-interest payments for ''struggling homeowners.''


Opposes constitutional amendment to ban it. Supports civil unions, says states should decide about marriage. Switched positions in 2004 and now supports repeal of Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages and gives states the right to refuse to recognize such marriages.


Voted to leave gun-makers and dealers open to suit. Also, as Illinois state lawmaker, supported ban on all forms of semiautomatic weapons and tighter state restrictions generally on firearms.


Mandatory coverage for children, no mandate for adults. Aim for universal coverage by requiring larger employers to share costs of insuring workers and by offering coverage similar to that in plan for federal employees. Proposes spending $50 billion on information technology over five years to reduce health care costs over time. Tax Policy Center estimates overall plan's cost at $1.6 trillion over 10 years.


Voted for 2006 bill offering legal status to illegal immigrants subject to conditions, including English proficiency and payment of back taxes and fines. Voted for border fence.


Initially said he would meet President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, now says he's not sure ''Ahmadinejad is the right person to meet with right now.'' But says direct diplomacy with Iranian leaders would give U.S. more credibility to press for tougher international sanctions. Says he would intensify diplomatic pressure on Tehran before Israel feels the need to take unilateral military action against Iranian nuclear facilities.


Spoke against war at start, opposed troop increase. Voted against one major military spending bill in May 2007; otherwise voted in favor of money to support the war. Says his plan would complete withdrawal of combat troops in 16 months. Initially had said a timetable for completing withdrawal would be irresponsible without knowing what facts he'd face in office.


Would raise payroll tax on wealthiest by applying it to portion of income over $250,000. Now, payroll tax is applied to income up to $102,000. Rules out raising the retirement age for benefits.


Supports relaxing federal restrictions on financing of embryonic stem cell research.


Raise income taxes on families making over $250,000 and individuals making over $200,000. Raise corporate taxes. $80 billion in tax breaks mainly for poor workers and elderly, including tripling Earned Income Tax Credit for minimum-wage workers and higher credit for larger families. Eliminate tax-filing requirement for older workers making under $50,000. A mortgage-interest credit could be used by lower-income homeowners who do not take the mortgage-interest deduction because they do not itemize their taxes. Nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates tax break of $1,118 for the middle 20 percent of taxpayers -- those making $37,600 to $66,400.


Seek to reopen North American Free Trade Agreement to strengthen enforcement of labor and environmental standards. In 2004 Senate campaign, called for ''enforcing existing trade agreements,'' not amending them.

    Where Obama Stands on the Issues, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Where-He-Stands.html






Obama victory signals

shift in race relations


Tue Nov 4, 2008
11:24pm EST
The New York Times
By Matthew Bigg - Analysis


ATLANTA (Reuters) - For Americans burdened by a sense of history, something once unthinkable has happened. The United States has elected a black president.

What has changed in terms of race to enable Democratic candidate Barack Obama's defeat of Republican John McCain and what might change as a result?

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said his satisfaction at Obama's success was conditioned by a sense of history. Jackson witnessed the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 and twice ran for president in the 1980s.

"His (Obama) winning means America's getting better. We are more mature. We are less anxious around each other," he said in an interview.

Jackson put the election in the context of the movement to end racial segregation in the South in the 1950s and 1960s and win voting rights for blacks in the teeth of violent opposition.

"I know so many people white, black and Jewish who marched and were martyred. I wish that those who paid the supreme sacrifice could see the results of their labors," he said.

One surprise apparent in the earliest primaries in which parties chose their nominees was the support Obama attracted among whites voters.

At the same time, black voters were integral to Obama's success, swinging a number of states in his favor. And Obama went out of his way to embrace black voters and their concerns, most notably in a high-profile speech on race in March.

Those factors deal a blow to black skepticism about their role in politics and a lingering sense of disenfranchisement.

"The first thing Obama's presidency means for black people is, at least momentarily, a sense of full citizenship," said Melissa Harris-Lacewell, a political science professor at Princeton University.

Just as the election could change the way blacks perceive politics and their place in U.S. society, it could also alter the way they are perceived, particularly if Obama's administration gains a reputation for competence.


Conservative leader Newt Gingrich said Obama's rise reflected changes that have already taken place. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her predecessor Colin Powell proved that blacks could deal at the highest levels in government, he said.

"It begins to be accepted that young men and women of color who can certainly dream the biggest dreams .... America has moved beyond any narrowly defined sense of racism," said the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in an interview.

Stubborn facts, however, point toward persistent inequality that Obama may struggle to tackle given the downturn facing the U.S. economy.

Black Americans make up around 13 percent of the population but earn less money and are less healthy than the general population. They are also more likely to be unemployed, less likely to own property and more likely to be convicted and jailed for crimes.

A debate rages over whether those disparities are due to prejudice, social disadvantages such as less well-funded schools in inner cities where many black Americans live, or whether African Americans should work harder to deal with their own issues.

Obama's frequent injunctions to parents to switch off the television set, get children to do homework and take better care of their children could tip the balance in the debate.

And if his administration expands health care it could significantly redress one big disparity, said Harris-Lacewell.

But one concern for people seeking to redress inequality is that Obama's victory could diminish their leverage when it comes to addressing those issues.

"People will say: 'We have elected a black president. We are done with race,'" said William Jelani Cobb, author of books about contemporary black culture.


Exit polls showed that large numbers of young voters turned out to vote for Obama as president.

That support is partly a product of school integration, which began in the 1960s, though recent studies show that the process of integration is being reversed.

It is also the result of the increasing visibility of African Americans in popular culture from music to movies. Jackson argued that the presence of blacks in sports had helped transform racial attitudes.

Music mogul Russell Simmons said hip hop and hip-hop culture and fashion had also profoundly impacted youth culture, despite the controversy associated with it.

"Hip hop and hip-hop culture had so much to do with this shift in race relations. ... The doors were knocked down by hip hop. It had more to do with a shift in race relations than all the civil rights leaders," he said.

Another fact that played little role in voting choices could yet prove important -- for the next four years the country's first family will be black.

Americans will watch Obama's daughters, who are 10 and 7, grow up in the White House.

That could give young people of color a renewed sense of the opportunities open to them.

(Editing by Jackie Frank)

    Obama victory signals shift in race relations, R, 4.11.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUKTRE4A42I720081105






Obama takes aim at the Greenspan era


Wed Nov 5, 2008
12:25am EST
By Emily Kaiser - Analysis


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama can rewrite the Greenspan-era rules of finance, backed by a solid Democratic majority in Congress and an American public furious about the credit crisis.

Exit polls showed the economy was the dominant factor in Obama's decisive victory over Republican Sen. John McCain on Tuesday, giving the new president a clear mandate to pursue the more populist approach to capitalism that he promoted throughout his campaign.

"At a moment like this, we can't afford four more years of spending increases, poorly designed tax cuts, or the complete lack of regulatory oversight that even former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan now believes was a mistake," Obama wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial this week.

For Wall Street -- and other finance capitals that followed New York's lead -- that probably means a flurry of laws aimed at protecting homeowners and borrowers while tightening restrictions on banks and the investments they sell.

Obama has also proposed an economic stimulus plan that would include money for infrastructure, and he favors reforming the bankruptcy code to help homeowners and make it easier to restructure troubled mortgages.

Greenspan, a firm believer in free markets, was nicknamed "the maestro" after his tenure at the U.S. central bank coincided with a lengthy period of strong economic growth.

But he has since become a symbol of deregulation and critics have blamed him for allowing financial firms to outgrow government oversight. As losses piled up around the world in late October, Greenspan acknowledged that he was "partially" wrong to resist regulation of some securities.

"Those of us who have looked to self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity -- myself especially -- are in a state of shocked disbelief," Greenspan told members of Congress.


Obama will not have the luxury of time. There is little doubt that the U.S. economy is slipping into a recession, perhaps the deepest since the 1970s, and the global economy is in grave danger of its first downturn in seven years.

World leaders are not waiting for the January inauguration to plan the broadest reform of the global financial system since the aftermath of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Obama is not expected to attend a November 15 meeting of the Group of 20 rich and emerging nations to discuss the financial crisis.

Investors are certain that tougher rules are coming.

"Those in the broad financial services industry should understand that Senator Obama has sent a very clear signal that he intends to pursue an activist agenda as president," said William Donovan, a partner at the Venable law firm in Washington and former general counsel of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions.

"Overhaul of the government's financial services regulatory structure, consolidation of charter types, tougher liquidity and capital requirements, bankruptcy and credit card reform are all on the table," he said.


Obama faces the unenviable task of tackling a recession with a budget deficit swelled by the Iraq war and the $700 billion financial rescue plan. Global investors will be scrutinizing his every move.

"It's not a good time for anyone to be elected president, given the problems there," said Rob Henderson, head of market economics at National Australia bank. "He'll be under pressure from day one to reinvigorate the economy, while also dealing with this enormous budget deficit."

While there is little budgetary room, that probably will not stop Obama from pushing for another dose of government spending to prop up the economy.

Democrats in Congress have been calling for another stimulus package that may include tens of billions of dollars for domestic construction projects to repair aging roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Obama has been supportive of infrastructure spending as a way to create jobs -- something that will no doubt take on greater urgency on Friday when the government releases its October employment figures. The report is expected to show 200,000 jobs lost in October, which would make it the weakest month of the year.

(Editing by Patricia Zengerle)

    Obama takes aim at the Greenspan era, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE4A438320081105






The Challenge

For Obama, No Time for Laurels;

Now the Hard Part


November 5, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — No president since before Barack Obama was born has ascended to the Oval Office confronted by the accumulation of seismic challenges awaiting him. Historians grasping for parallels point to Abraham Lincoln taking office as the nation was collapsing into Civil War, or Franklin D. Roosevelt arriving in Washington in the throes of the Great Depression.

The task facing Mr. Obama does not rise to those levels, but that these are the comparisons most often cited sobers even Democrats rejoicing at their return to power. On the shoulders of a 47-year-old first-term senator, with the power of inspiration yet no real executive experience, now falls the responsibility of prosecuting two wars, protecting the nation from terrorist threat and stitching back together a shredded economy.

Given the depth of these issues, Mr. Obama has little choice but to “put your arm around chaos,” in the words of Leon E. Panetta, the former White House chief of staff who has been advising his transition team.

“You better damn well do the tough stuff up front, because if you think you can delay the tough decisions and tiptoe past the graveyard, you’re in for a lot of trouble,” Mr. Panetta said. “Make the decisions that involve pain and sacrifice up front.”

What kind of decision maker and leader Mr. Obama will be remains unclear even to many of his supporters. Will he be willing to use his political capital and act boldly, or will he move cautiously and risk being paralyzed by competing demands from within his own party? His performance under the harsh lights of the campaign trail suggests a figure with remarkable coolness and confidence under enormous pressure, yet also one who rarely veers off the methodical path he lays out.

“It leads you to wonder whether passivity is the way he approaches most things,” said John R. Bolton, President Bush’s former ambassador to the United Nations. “It does indicate a style of governance that is extremely laid back. For all the talk about Bush and cowboy diplomacy, a passive America is not really what they want either.”

Mr. Obama’s advisers said he would not be passive and would move quickly to demonstrate leadership without waiting for the transfer of authority on Jan. 20. He intends to start by naming three co-leaders of his transition team on Wednesday, including John D. Podesta, the former Clinton chief of staff; Valerie Jarrett, a longtime Obama adviser; and Pete Rouse, Mr. Obama’s Senate chief of staff.

Mr. Obama may also have a news conference and announce top White House appointees by the end of the week, advisers said. Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, a former Clinton aide and close friend of Mr. Obama, may become White House chief of staff, well-connected Democrats said. Mr. Obama’s advisers say they anticipate the nomination of secretaries of state and treasury by Thanksgiving.

While Roosevelt refused to get involved in prescribing economic medicine between his election in 1932 and his inauguration, advisers said Mr. Obama had concluded that he could not follow that example and remain silent until he was sworn in. At the same time, they said, Mr. Obama understands he should not overstep his bounds and wants his inauguration to mark a clean break from the past.

“Those who say wait and let the process unfold for two months before the inauguration are sorely mistaken,” said Jack Quinn, a former top official in the Clinton administration. “We are in such turmoil that his clearly and firmly putting his hand on the tiller is absolutely critical. He needs to do this. He needs to be in the middle of this.”

Mr. Obama has been conferring with Congressional leaders about a possible package of $100 billion for public works, unemployment benefits, winter heating assistance, food stamps and aid to cities and states that could be passed during a lame-duck session the week of Nov. 17. He has also been talking regularly with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. about the economic environment and hopes to work closely with him during this interim period as Mr. Paulson makes decisions about how to invest the $700 billion given him by Congress to shore up the financial system.

But there are limits to Mr. Obama’s capacity to act in the short term. The politics of assembling a stimulus package in this netherworld between administrations could be difficult to overcome as he tries to balance pent-up demand from now-victorious Democrats eager to use their power of the purse with the reality that Mr. Bush still holds the veto pen for 77 more days. In the end, Democrats said, Mr. Obama and Congressional leaders would pare their spending plans if they could not get Mr. Bush and Senate Republicans to agree, then come back in January when they have unfettered control.

“If he gets out there too much and gets too enmeshed in policy disputes before he’s inaugurated, when he doesn’t have control of the federal bureaucracy, that could really backfire on him,” said Elaine C. Kamarck, who was Vice President Al Gore’s domestic policy adviser in the 1990s. “It’s a really delicate balance he has to strike.”

Whatever collaboration there may be in the short term, Mr. Obama represents the end of the Bush era in the long term. Yet he will find himself dealing with the Bush legacy for years to come. He promised on the campaign trail to close the detention facility at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but analysts in both parties expect that to be more difficult than he imagines. He will inherit a deficit that could approach $1 trillion next year, which could curtail his ambitions, like expanding health care coverage.

As a result, the shift from campaign trail rhetoric to halls-of-governance reality could prove turbulent. And Mr. Obama’s soaring speeches have created such a well of anticipation that there is a deep danger of letdown. He talked during the campaign of a “new politics” bringing Republicans and Democrats together. But if he really works with Republicans to find common ground on issues like Iraq, terrorism and climate change, he risks alienating his liberal base.

“You tend to campaign in black and white. You tend to govern in gray,” said Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who has worked for four presidents, most recently Mr. Bush.

Even as Mr. Obama focuses initially on the economy, he faces a perilous moment abroad. Terrorists have exploited transitional moments in the West to launch attacks in Britain, Spain and even the United States, where Al Qaeda first tried to blow up the World Trade Center just weeks after Bill Clinton took office in 1993. “The range of problems and intensity of the risks has grown enormously in recent years,” said James B. Steinberg, who was Mr. Clinton’s deputy national security adviser.

And the beginning, as a new administration takes shape, is when the ranks of government are at their thinnest

The concern over potential vulnerability has grown all the more acute for this first handover of power since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Obama transition team has made more extensive pre-election preparations than any other previous president-elect. Thanks to a new law signed by Mr. Bush, some of Mr. Obama’s transition advisers should have interim security clearances starting on Wednesday.

All the preparation in the world, however, can fall apart in an unexpected crisis.

“There’s always some surprise that you can’t plan for,” said Nancy E. Soderberg, a top national security aide under Mr. Clinton. She recalled the first President George Bush’s decision to send troops into Somalia just before handing over the Oval Office to Mr. Clinton. This time, Ms. Soderberg said, “my guess is it will be something in Pakistan.”

Mr. Obama starts with powerful advantages at home and abroad. His election will be welcomed by many around the world disaffected with the Bush administration. And Mr. Obama will have a Congress even more decisively controlled by Democrats after the sweep on Tuesday night. “He’s not going to be held up by difficult confirmation fights,” said Craig Fuller, who was a top aide to President Ronald Reagan and President George Bush.

But the task awaiting Mr. Obama arguably transcends this economic program or that foreign crisis. He takes over a nation weary of the past and wary of the future, gloomy about its place in the world, cynical about its government and desperate for some sense of deliverance. Nearly nine of every 10 Americans think the country is on the wrong track, the deepest expression of national pessimism in the polling history.

“Obama this year recognizes the country needs to be healed,” said the presidential historian Michael Beschloss. “It’s been a very rough 10 years, beginning with a very controversial impeachment, the recount, 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Katrina and now the financial crisis.

“If you think of the shock to the system these things have had over a 10-year period, I think Obama recognizes he needs to really settle our nerves.”

    For Obama, No Time for Laurels; Now the Hard Part, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/us/politics/05ahead.html






Obama Supporters

Weep With Joy in Chicago


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:21 a.m. ET
The New York Times


CHICAGO (AP) -- Cheering, screaming and weeping with joy, an estimated 50,000 Barack Obama supporters welcomed his election Tuesday night in a delirious victory celebration in the senator's hometown.

Many had crammed into Grant Park to be a part of something that would be remembered for generations.

''I want her to be able to tell her children when history was made, she was there,'' said Alnita Tillman, 50, who kept her 16-year-old daughter, Raven, out of school so they could be at the park by 8 a.m., more than 10 hours before the gates opened.

The crowd went wild with joy as the news that Obama would be the nation's first black president flashed across jumbo TV screens in the park where Obama was to speak later that night. Many held both hands high up in the air, waved American flags, jumped up and down and cheered.

As Obama left his Hyde Park home in a motorcade, heading for the restivities, residents rushed out of their homes and lined the streets to wave, clap and cheer.

The downtown Chicago park -- where police fought anti-war protesters during the turbulent 1968 Democratic convention -- was transformed on an unseasonably balmy night by white tents and a stage lined with American flags and hung with red, white and blue bunting.

Lighted windows in the skyscrapers lining the park added to the festive atmosphere, spelling out ''USA'' and ''Vote 2008.''

The crowd erupted in cheers each time an Obama victory was announced in another state.

The rally felt like a cross between an outdoor rock concert and a big family outing. Many people wore Obama T-shirts and buttons and ate pizza. By 9 p.m. several babies slept on their mothers' chests. Other children snoozed in strollers.

In the crowd was Lisa Boon, 42, of Chicago, who said she burst into tears earlier in the day pondering what an Obama victory would mean.

Boon said her father was the cousin of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black Chicagoan who was abducted and killed in Mississippi in 1955, purportedly for whistling at a white woman.

''I was thinking of all the things done to Emmett and injustices to black people,'' she said. ''This is amazing, simply amazing.''

Stephanie Smith, 27, and her husband flew in from Nashville, Tenn., and staked out a spot on the sidewalk with folding chairs and a box of doughnuts early in the morning.

Even without tickets, Smith said it would be worth it to be standing in the park to hear the words, ''Our next President of the United States is Barack Obama.''

    Obama Supporters Weep With Joy in Chicago, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Obama-Rally-Chicago.html






Barack Obama’s Victory Speech


November 5, 2008
12:06 am


Below are Barack Obama’s remarks as prepared for delivery tonight in Chicago:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

    Barack Obama’s Victory Speech, WSJ, 5.11.2008, http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2008/11/05/barack-obamas-victory-speech/







'A Funny Name,' a Compelling Story


November 5, 2008
Filed at 4:27 a.m. ET
The New York Times


''My presence on this stage is pretty unlikely,'' Barack Obama began.

''I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story ... and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.''

It was the speech that launched him. Obama was an Illinois assembly member seeking his first term in the U.S. Senate, given a shot at the national stage when John Kerry asked him to deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.

He had those in the crowd on their feet, cheering wildly, even as many of them -- even as many of us -- wondered: Who is this guy?

A ''skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too,'' he told us then.

He talked about hope and brighter days and standing at a crossroads in our nation's history -- themes that would become the bedrock of his own unprecedented run for the White House. And he touched on the many chapters of his life, as familiar to us now as his rallying cry for change.

There was the black father, also named Barack, who grew up herding goats in Kenya. He traveled on scholarship to attend the University of Hawaii and there, in a Russian language class, met 18-year-old Stanley Ann Dunham, the white daughter of Kansas-bred parents, christened after the father who worked on oil rigs and farms and served in World War II.

Barack (''blessed'' in Arabic) was born on Aug. 4, 1961. But his parents' marriage didn't last, and his father would be absent for all but a month of the boy's life. His mother, a free-spirited anthropologist passionate about helping women, raised him. Of her, Obama once wrote: ''What is best in me I owe to her.''

We would learn of the international upbringing, four years spent living in Indonesia after his mother remarried and brought her son to a Third World country, at once exotic and enlightening. Young Barack had a pet monkey, but he also saw poverty and disease, and his eyes were opened to a new world view.

That world view didn't ease Obama's own struggle with his biracial identity. He was among the few black students at his Honolulu high school, where he was known as ''Barry'' and met with others for a weekly ''ethnic corner'' discussion. He lived then with his maternal grandparents, including Madelyn Dunham, the grandmother he called ''Toot.''

In a remarkable dissertation on race earlier this year, a speech intended to rebuke the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's remarks regarding the nation's racial divide, Obama referred to his ''white grandmother'' as the woman who helped raise him, sacrificed for him and loved him, but who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her on the street and ''who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.''

Dunham died Sunday at age 86. His father died in a car crash in 1982, his mother of ovarian cancer in 1995. His half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, lives in Honolulu and teaches history.

The compelling life story that helped propel Obama from community organizer to celebrity politician emerged initially in 1990, after he was elected the first black president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. He was 28, a second-year student with a political science degree from Columbia University who had spent several years working the streets of Chicago mobilizing South Side residents to fight for themselves after steel mill closings left them struggling.

His election made headlines, even landing him his first book deal and, in a 1990 interview with The Associated Press, he professed a desire to stay ''engaged in what I think are the core issues of the society.'' He mentioned poverty and race, saying, ''I really hope to be part of a transformation of this country.''

After Harvard, Obama rejected high-powered job offers, joining a small civil rights firm back in Chicago. He ran a voter registration drive and lectured on constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.

He also married Michelle Robinson, a fellow Harvard Law School grad who served as his adviser during a summer internship at a Chicago law firm. The couple have two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

The jump into politics came in 1996, when Obama won an Illinois Senate seat representing Hyde Park, the South Side neighborhood that encompasses the prestigious university as well as pockets of deep inner-city poverty.

Obama helped change laws governing the death penalty, ethics and racial profiling, and he won tax credits for the working poor. But he failed in his campaign for universal health care. He failed, too, in a 2000 bid for a U.S. House seat.

Then came 2004 and the opportunity to run for U.S. Senate -- and to introduce himself to his fellow Americans.

He won the election, becoming only the third black U.S. senator since Reconstruction. But it was ''The Speech'' that made him a rock star. Talk of a presidential run began even before his first day in Washington. At first, he demurred.

But on a blustery February day last year, Obama returned to Illinois to the steps of the Old Capitol to announce his candidacy for presidency.

These past 21 months, he has drawn colossal crowds, spurring comparisons to the Kennedys (both John and Bobby). He took on race. He overcame rumors about whether he was a Muslim when, in fact, he is a Christian, as well as accusations of consorting with a 1960s anti-war radical.

He toppled the anointed Democratic front-runner, a historic candidate in her own right whose political acclaim and eight years spent as first lady weren't enough to win her party's nomination. He deflected repeated condemnation of his lack of experience.

And he crossed party lines, earning the backing of former Republican governors and senators and retired Gen. Colin Powell, President Bush's first secretary of state who, echoing the young Obama of Harvard days, called the Democrat a ''transformational figure'' who displays ''a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems.''

''I think that he has a definitive way of doing business,'' Powell concluded, ''that would serve us well.''

''Yes, we can!'' all those legions of supporters chanted throughout the campaign.

And somehow, he did.

On Jan. 20, 47-year-old Barack Obama will take to another stage, the west front of the U.S. Capitol, to recite the oath of the nation's highest office.

The rock star will be known the world over as Mr. President.

And the skinny kid will take his place in history, proving that unlikely as it may have all been -- it was, indeed, possible.

    Obama: 'A Funny Name,' a Compelling Story, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Obama-Profile.html






A Worried America

Chooses Its Course for Change


November 5, 2008
Filed at 4:31 a.m. ET
The New York Times


In a season of profound political and cultural fissures, the American people stood together at the ballot box Tuesday with a resounding chorus that drowned out their deep differences: Something, they said, has got to give.

And it did -- in the form of Barack Obama, the candidate who, from the very beginning, built his platform upon a call for fundamental change.

Republican and Democrat, young and old, black and white, voters divided on issues and candidates emerged from casting ballots and said over and over that change is imperative. The pivotal question -- and the political litmus test -- was exactly how that change should happen.

For about a third of voters charting the United States' course in the post-Bush era, change itself -- and the candidates' ability to effect it -- guided their choice the most, national exit polls for The Associated Press and TV networks showed. Among younger voters, Obama was the overwhelming choice.

''I just think our country has never been this bad,'' Allison Presser, 26, said after voting for the Democratic senator in Plano, Texas, a Dallas suburb.

The economy towered above all other issues as a decision-maker for voters, and many said passionately that it must improve. Six of every 10 declared it the most pressing issue in the race -- an unsurprising conclusion, given that nine in 10 said the economy is in bad shape. Fears about health-care costs and terrorism followed in short order.

Change always is a big narrative thread when an incumbent president isn't running. But the fundamental and growing unpopularity of George W. Bush pushed the hunger for something new into a bipartisan cry that engulfed even the most dedicated Republicans -- and nudged John McCain into making it a central campaign theme relatively late in the game.

Another tick for the change column came in this little number, tucked away in the exit poll results: After a race that at times became obsessed with the tension between fundamental change and job experience, just one in five voters cited experience as their top criterion for choosing a new president. McCain had hammered Obama on his inexperience for months, a line of attack that never faded but was undermined by his choice of newcomer Sarah Palin as his running mate.

''Experience is clearly overrated,'' said Natalie Davis, a political scientist at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. ''We are seeing a sea change in what voters are really looking for.''

Younger voters, typically more Democratic and less resistant to change, stood squarely behind Obama in his march to a landslide. Of those voting for the first time, the majority of them under 30, two-thirds favored the Illinois senator, according to exit polls.

Consider Curt Babura, a 31-year-old cook in Cleveland who had never voted before. On Tuesday, he did, making his way to the polls on a silver 10-speed bike to back Obama. ''I'm really kind of fed up with what's been going on in the country today,'' Babura said. ''I wanted to make a difference this time. I think a lot of younger people are starting to realize the errors of our ways.''

Thomas Brogan, a political scientist analyzing exit polls at Albright College in Reading, Pa., said the impact of first-time voters cannot be underestimated.

''If you go back in history to the big changes in American politics, primarily it has come not from people changing their partisan affiliation from Republican to Democrat or Democrat to Republican, but that there has been a new surge of voters coming in,'' he said.

Whatever the reason, the polls were flooded Tuesday. Dawn to dusk, before work and after, in lines snaking around corners in all parts of the republic, Americans fretting about the direction of their nation startled even jaded poll workers as they streamed into voting booths Tuesday. Contentedness was a rare commodity.

''Something isn't working right out there,'' said Mike Tanner, 48, who owns a beef jerky business in Dunbarton, N.H.

Since primary season and even before, many Americans in both parties have insisted -- and been told by the candidates and the media -- that Tuesday's election was the most important of their generation, their century, their lifetime.

That message appeared to play out at polling places, where, after waiting for months, a fractious nation united in unusual electoral fervor to wait some more -- in excess of three hours in some areas.

In Hampton Township, outside Pittsburgh in the pivotal state of Pennsylvania, a line of three dozen extended out the door of the community center moments after voting began at 7 a.m. Similar scenes unfolded in places from Brooklyn, N.Y., to Dover, Del., to Pontiac, Mich. And at universities in Florida, some voters saw the long lines and gave up.

''I've never seen anything like this,'' said Patti Negri, overseeing elections at a polling place in Hollywood, Calif., where people were lined up when she arrived at 6 a.m.

The obsession with change -- a new course, new direction, new attitude -- rang clear in comments from two diametrically opposed voters at the same polling place in downtown Milwaukee.

From Obama voter Jordan Yost, 28, laid off a year ago: ''It's time for a change, and McCain wasn't going to provide that.''

From McCain supporter Brian Dandoy, 34, a real-estate agent: ''I don't think this `change, change, change' that Obama keeps preaching, it's not going to happen the way he is saying.''

The focus on change comes after a campaign that brought a useful national chestnut back into play: the American vision of the future, which as a concept was a driving political force throughout much of the country's history. But it faded along with optimism during the Vietnam War and has largely stayed that way except for a brief ''Morning in America'' interlude during the Reagan years.

''I really haven't felt this energy in an election since John Kennedy,'' said lawyer and lifelong Democrat Alejandro Soto, 64, of San Antonio.

The supremacy of change as a political theme ended up playing particularly well in rust-belt swing states with older economies like Ohio and Pennsylvania, which went Obama's way after being hit particularly hard by the economic downturn. ''Obama tapped into the need for change before people really realized they had it,'' Brogan said.

What else was important to Americans voting for president on Tuesday? Race, of course; virtually all blacks interviewed after leaving the polls said they had voted for Obama as the nation's first black chief executive. Presidential appointments to the Supreme Court were important for six in 10 voters, the exit polls showed. And affordable health care, an increasingly intense focus as the baby boomers age, worried two-thirds of voters, which drew 60 percent of them to Barack Obama.

Two words were conspicuously absent from voters' mouths: George and Bush. The deeply unpopular leader dubbed by Jon Stewart ''Still-President Bush'' has laid low for weeks after being all but disowned by McCain, his own party's candidate.

''I think the president is getting blamed for an awful lot of things that really aren't his fault,'' said Ron Kjellsen, 72, a McCain voter in Watertown, S.D. He added: ''Not that he's the most competent president we've ever had.''

For months, pundits have argued about the nature of this presidential race: Is it about issues or personalities, about values or party politics? To look at the dozens of voters who offered their opinions on Tuesday, one sad subject kept re-emerging: Something's just not right.

''With the stock market in the tank, with all the things happening, we need a new leader,'' said Katie Schmelzer, 32, of Oxford, Iowa.

Or listen to Joann Scherk, voting in Waterbury, Vt., and, seemingly, looking to find a hero. ''It's gotten to the point where you don't really vote for someone as much as you vote against someone else,'' she said. ''I wish it wasn't that way.''

And who did Scherk vote for -- or, at least, against? Asked, she just wouldn't say.


EDITOR'S NOTE -- Ted Anthony covers politics and culture for The Associated Press. Comments about Measure of a Nation can be sent to measure(at)ap.org.

    A Worried America Chooses Its Course for Change, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Measure-of-a-Nation-The-Vote.html







President-Elect Barack Obama


November 5, 2008
The New York Times


To the Editor:

The election of Barack Obama as president marks the end of a long nightmare — eight years of an administration that waged wars in Muslim countries, shredded environmental regulations, defied Congress and the courts, and challenged the Constitution.

But Mr. Obama is inheriting the additional nightmare of a recession that is heading rapidly toward a depression.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during an even graver emergency but was able to establish programs like Social Security, the National Labor Relations Act and the Farm Security Administration that stemmed the economic meltdown and provided help to millions of Americans.

Roosevelt was able to do all this because a large Congressional majority stood behind him.

Mr. Obama has the judgment and intelligence to rescue our country again, but only if the Republican minority in Congress refrains from its past practice of obstructing the programs of Democratic presidents.

If ever there was a time for them to take seriously Senator John McCain’s campaign slogan of “country first,” it is now. Rachelle Marshall
Stanford, Calif., Nov.
4, 2008

To the Editor:

That day has dawned, the day dreamed of by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., when a man is judged by the content of his character rather than by the color of his skin.

And America stands tall before all the world. (Rev.) Connell J. Maguire
Riviera Beach, Fla., Nov.
4, 2008

To the Editor:

Today is Election Day in America, and I am extremely excited.

Barack Obama has been declared the victor, and for me, an American and African-American, this is phenomenal.

It means that America has finally legitimized its African-American citizens — perhaps now we will no longer be perceived as “second class” citizens and can, at last, work to heal our nation after the travesty of slavery, discrimination and prejudice.

It also demonstrates that Americans are hopeful activists, as our forebears were, and that control of the country has finally returned to its citizens.

I am overcome with pride, inspiration and a profound love for all of those who fought throughout the civil rights era. Their struggle has not been in vain. A shining, radiant new day beckons.

Alan Champion
New York, Nov.
4, 2008

To the Editor:

I voted for John McCain and am disappointed that he did not prevail.

But Barack Obama is to be our new president. While I disagree with several of his campaign positions, it is appropriate to wipe the slate and judge the man by his words and deeds as president.

Four years ago, the losing party engaged in a downward spiral of anger and recrimination.

Similar counterproductive behavior, this time from Republicans like me, will inhibit our ability to deal with the significant and complex challenges that our country faces today.

We must allow Mr. Obama the opportunity he has rightfully earned to lead us — to lead all of us.

Michael B. Row
Sparta N.J., Nov. 4, 2008

To the Editor:

During the campaign, Gov. Sarah Palin pooh-poohed Barack Obama’s community organizing efforts, saying, “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.” Little did she know.

Now, with Mr. Obama’s success, the whole world knows the power of a skilled community organizer, and how community organizing can be used to bring together people of all classes, races and creeds.

Given the deep hole that the Bush administration’s ideology has put the United States in, having a skilled community organizer as president gives me great hope that we can all pull together to rebuild the country — the infrastructure, health care and education in particular — and begin a robust, open and honest debate. Let’s begin with energy independence.

Garth Bishop
Los Angeles, Nov. 4, 2008

To the Editor:

Along with the announcement that Barack Obama will be our next president will come the inevitable post-mortems about why John McCain lost.

In my humble opinion, Mr. McCain blew it because he did not heed the words of his patron Ronald Reagan: “Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears.”

Dorian de Wind
Austin, Tex., Nov. 4, 2008

To the Editor:

We as Americans have suffered much during this decade. Now is the time for us to turn this around. Not as Republicans or Democrats or independents. Not as Barack Obama’s army or John McCain’s army. It is time for all of us to raise our voices and become America’s army — a corps created by every one of us, regardless of class or income, race or gender.

Regardless of which party wins the White House or Congress, now is our time to take responsibility for every one of the serious concerns we as Americans have expressed over the past years.

Each one of us has a choice. Now is the time for hope and action. As America teeters, it is up to us, its people, to use our united weight to pull it back from the edge.

Elizabeth Fitch Weiss
Sterling, Mass., Nov.
4, 2008

To the Editor:

I was second in line at 5 a.m. to wait for the 6 a.m. poll opening at the school in my northern Virginia neighborhood.

There was an electricity, an excitement, in the line that I don’t recall from my 35 years of voting.

I was proud to step up to the machine and cast my vote for the man who might lead our nation for the next four years.

This is what it means to be an American.

Tracy Leverton
Vienna, Va., Nov. 4, 2008

To the Editor:

Thirty-nine years ago, I was a captain in the United States infantry sitting in the Mekong Delta. I served my country in a war that I thought was wrong. I was basically a kid who saw some of his beliefs and ideals compromised.

I voted today.

For the first time in many years, I felt that my one vote was for someone and for some beliefs and ideals that were apparently never extinguished by the Vietnam experience and the years that followed.

As I now watch millions of other voters endure huge lines also to cast their treasured right to select a candidate of choice, I recognized that my country served me and us.

It emphasized that no matter how different our opinions, we care about doing what we believe to be the right thing in a place where we have that inalienable right. We all vote as Americans.

Whoever gains this privilege to become the next president of our country, I truly hope that he allows our diversity to be a strength and not a tool to gain his agenda.

Rich Plaza
Gillette, N.J., Nov. 4, 2008

To the Editor:

Re “Beyond Election Day” (column, Nov. 4):

Bob Herbert talks about how Americans have a choice today, a choice that represents not just change but also the opportunity to let this country aspire to “true greatness.”

I turned 30 just a few days ago, so when I voted for Barack Obama on Election Day, I could no longer consider myself a young voter. But on this historic day, I was not a voter defined by my age, gender or race. Rather, I was an inspired voter.

I was a voter who felt the urgency to elect a leader who could restore hope and the promise that the future will be better than the past, a leader who not only believes in the American Dream but who also has a personal story that reflects his own American Dream.

It’s that same sense of hope and promise that brought my parents to the United States years ago. And so they vote and I vote — for change and for better tomorrows for all of those who are lucky enough to call this country home. Yes, we can!

Anita Sharma
Washington, Nov. 4, 2008

To the Editor:

Re “A Date With Scarcity,” by David Brooks (column, Nov. 4):

Young liberals meet “stone-cold scarcity” for the first time. If only they didn’t have to learn at our expense.

Perhaps we’d all be better off if Barack Obama had faced some of these challenges in minor roles with less at stake. He could then have grown into the role with some understanding of what it takes to manage scarce resources.

Andrea Economos
Scarsdale, N.Y., Nov.4, 2008

    President-Elect Barack Obama, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/opinion/l05elect.html






Hispanics, Young Voters,

Women Help Obama Win


November 5, 2008
Filed at 5:03 a.m. ET
The New York Times


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Barack Obama drew on support from Hispanics, young voters and women to score victories in New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado -- three Western states that voted for President Bush in 2004.

Obama also contributed to an Election Day sweep in New Mexico that put the state's entire congressional delegation in Democratic hands for the first time in 40 years.

According to exit polling conducted for The Associated Press, Obama performed better among New Mexico Hispanics than John Kerry did four years ago when he narrowly lost the state to President Bush.

''We don't need another Bush in there,'' said John Marquez, 44, an Albuquerque Democrat who supported Obama. ''We need to get the Republicans out. They're driving us under. We've got to put the country back in order.''

About seven in 10 Hispanics in New Mexico favored Obama, despite John McCain's aggressive targeting of them with advertising in Spanish and appeals that focused on his record in the military.

Geography also was key. Obama picked up a majority of voters in the Albuquerque area, the state's population center, and claimed more than 2-1 support in the traditionally Democratic northern half of the state.

The economy dominated the concerns of New Mexicans. Slightly more than half of all New Mexico voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the nation. Of those, nearly three-fifths favored Obama.

Obama engineered a similar victory in Nevada, where he won overwhelming support from minority voters.

Roughly three-quarters of Hispanics and more than nine in 10 blacks in Nevada voted for Obama, and the groups combined represented about one quarter of the total vote, exit polls said.

More than half of Nevada women backed Obama, while men supported McCain and Obama about evenly, the poll said.

In Colorado, where a third of registered voters are listed as independent, Obama led among unaffiliated voters. He also did well among women, moderates, Hispanics and people seeking change, according to an Associated Press poll of voters over the past week.

In New Mexico, new voters -- nearly three-quarters of them under 30 -- flocked to Obama. They backed him almost 3-1 over McCain. About one in eight voters said this was the first year they had cast a ballot. A majority of new voters were Hispanic.

Obama also took the middle political ground. He led McCain by 15 percentage points among independents; they accounted for more than a quarter of voters. Nearly three-fifths of moderates backed Obama.

In the New Mexico congressional delegation, all three incumbents -- Republicans Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce and Democrat Tom Udall -- gave up their seats to run for the Senate post being vacated by retiring Republican Pete Domenici.

On Tuesday, that turned into a windfall for Democrats. Udall beat Pearce, who had defeated Wilson in the June GOP primary.

And Pearce and Wilson's open seats in the House went to Democrats: Martin Heinrich, a former Albuquerque city councilman, defeated GOP candidate Darren White, a county sheriff. And oilman Harry Teague, another Democrat, beat GOP businessman Ed Tinsley.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state and dominate in statewide offices and the Legislature. But it's different in federal races, where moderate-to-conservative Democrats -- especially those in rural areas -- often tilt to Republican candidates.

In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the state by just 366 votes. In 2004, New Mexico went for Bush by fewer than 6,000 votes, making it one of only two states that shifted from blue to red that year.


Associated Press writers Catherine Tsai in Denver and Oskar Garcia in Las Vegas contributed to this report.

    Hispanics, Young Voters, Women Help Obama Win, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Election-West.html






Obama Sweeps to Historic Victory

Nation Elects Its First African-American President
Amid Record Turnout;
Turmoil in Economy Dominates Voters' Concerns


NOVEMBER 6, 2008
The Wall Street Journal


WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barack Obama was elected the nation's first African-American president, defeating Sen. John McCain decisively Tuesday as citizens surged to the polls in a presidential race that climaxed amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

"Change has come," Sen. Obama told a huge throng of cheering supporters in Chicago at a midnight rally.

In his first speech as victor, Sen. Obama catalogued the challenges ahead. "The greatest of a lifetime," he said, "two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century." (See the full text of Obama's speech.)

He added, "There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face.''

The culmination of the epic two-year campaign marks a historic moment in a nation that since its founding has struggled with racial divisions. It also ushers in a period of dominance for Democrats in Washington for the first time since the early years of President Bill Clinton's first term. With Tuesday's elections, Sen. Obama's party will control both houses of Congress as well as the White House, setting the scene for Democrats to push an ambitious agenda from health care to financial regulation to ending the war in Iraq.

In becoming the U.S.'s 44th president, Illinois Sen. Obama, 47 years old, defeated Arizona Sen. McCain, 72, a veteran lawmaker and Vietnam War hero. Despite a reputation for bucking his own party, Sen. McCain could not overcome a Democratic tide, which spurred voters to take a risk on a candidate with less than four years of national political experience. Sen. Obama is the first northern Democrat elected president since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Sen. McCain conceded the election to Sen. Obama, congratulating him and pledging to help bringing unity to the country. Speaking from outside the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Sen. McCain told his supporters: "It's natural tonight to feel some disappointment. Though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours." (Read more on McCain's concession.)

Sen. McCain's defeat in Florida followed losses in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and New Hampshire, swing states he was hoping to secure for the Republican column.

According to a preliminary tally, Sen. Obama led the race with 349 electoral votes versus 160 for Sen. McCain; 270 were needed to win.

Also elected: Joe Biden of Delaware as vice president, the veteran senator who has promised to help Sen. Obama steer his agenda through Congress.

Sen. Obama's victory was built on record fund raising and a vast national campaign network. It remade the electoral map that had held fast for eight years. He overwhelmed reliable Democratic strongholds in the Northeast and West Coast. He won big in the industrial Midwest and contested fiercely in areas of traditional Republican strength. He won Virginia, the first time a Democratic candidate had taken the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. And he finally wrested Florida and Ohio from the GOP, two states that had bedeviled his party in the last two elections.

Watershed Moment

The president-elect will enter office with a long policy wish list that includes ending the war in Iraq, implementing a near-universal health-insurance plan and finding alternatives to Middle Eastern oil. All this will have to be carried out amid record budget deficits, a looming crisis in Social Security and Medicare spending as the baby-boom generation retires and fears that the nation is on the edge of a deep recession.

Democrats have touted the prospect of a big sweep not just as a partisan conquest but as an ideological turning point, one that could reverse the last great shift in 1980, when Ronald Reagan ushered in a period dominated by tax-cutting conservatism and muscular foreign policy.

It's a startling turnaround from just four years ago, when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House, and benefited from a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. The party's intellectual leaders spoke of a permanent Republican majority in Washington.

What remains unclear, however, is whether Tuesday's results represent a vote for liberalism or against the failures of the Bush administration, including the early war years in Iraq, the calamity of Hurricane Katrina and the current economic slump.

The transition to an Obama administration could begin almost immediately. A shadow Treasury team could be in place by the end of the week, aides say. In many ways, the transition has already started. John Podesta, a former White House chief of staff under President Clinton, has been leading quiet conversations about key positions, especially those relating to the economy.

National exit poll results found Sen. Obama increasing his vote percentages across the board, with particular success coming from the youth and black votes, as many in his campaign had predicted. Although a preliminary figure, his 52% of the popular vote marks the first time since Mr. Johnson that a Democrat had clearly won more than half the nation's vote.

Sen. Obama took 96% of black voters, who increased their share of the electorate to 13% from 11%. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts won 88% of the black vote in 2004. Sen. Obama won two-thirds of Hispanics and more than two-thirds of voters aged 18 to 29.

One important swing was the Roman Catholic vote, which went 47% to Sen. Kerry in 2004, compared with 53% for Sen. Obama.

Sen. Obama won among independents but divided the suburban vote. And among voters in families earning over $200,000 a year, Sen. Obama improved over Sen. Kerry by 17 points.

Helping Sen. Obama: Democrats made up a larger share of the electorate this year than they did four years ago, when equal numbers of voters identified as Democrats and as Republicans. This time, 40% said they were Democrats and just 32% said they were Republicans.

Sen. Obama's campaign organization reached corners of the country largely untouched by previous Democratic candidates, from Boise, Idaho, to Biloxi, Miss. It didn't work out everywhere -- he lost North Dakota and Georgia. But he put long-standing Republican territory into play, a tactic that put Sen. McCain on the defensive.

Democrats also bolstered their majorities on Capitol Hill. The party secured a number of Senate victories, bringing it teasingly close to a filibuster-proof margin. Party leaders will likely be able to make up the one or two additional votes with moderate Republicans. The party picked up at least 10 House seats, a number expected to grow significantly.

Working Together

In Arizona, Sen. McCain offered congratulations to his opponent and spoke of the historic moment and the importance of the day to African-Americans. A century ago, he recalled, there was outrage in many quarters when President Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to visit the White House.

"America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time," Sen. McCain said during a gracious concession speech. "There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States."

The Arizona senator also pledged to put the bitterness of the campaign aside and to work with the new president through the difficult times facing the nation.

Sen. McCain phoned Sen. Obama to concede the race and both men pledged to work together. President George W. Bush also phoned the victor and promised a smooth transition. "You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life. Congratulations and go enjoy yourself," the president told his successor.

Sen. Obama declared victory in Chicago's Grant Park in front of an audience of 125,000 people, saying, "If there is anyone out there who still doubts America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders are alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

The 2008 election, the longest and most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history, was a watershed in many ways. It featured the first woman -- New York Sen. Hillary Clinton -- to seriously contend for a party nomination. Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska became the first woman to appear on the Republican ticket. And Sen. Obama broke ground as the first black party nominee for president.

"Obama is documentation of America's moral progress, the moral evolution we have gone through in the past 40 years," said Shelby Steele, a black writer and a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, who voted for Sen. McCain. "Whites don't get credit for it. But having grown up myself in segregation -- America has changed enormously."

The candidates spent about $1.6 billion on the election, double the 2004 presidential race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. When all is tallied, Sen. Obama is expected to have raised around $700 million, a sum made possible when he opted to forgo public financing, the first candidate to do so since the system was implemented in the wake of the Watergate scandal. That decision, and the resulting bonanza, is likely to change how future campaigns are funded.

Indications from early voting and lengthy lines at the polls point to the biggest voter turnout in the period since women got the vote in 1920. In total, voter registration numbers were up 7.3% compared with the last presidential election, for a total of 153 million eligible voters.

The race also featured the most extensive use yet of the Internet. Online social networks spread the campaign to corners of the country that had never before experienced such intense electioneering.

"I wanted to be part of this historic day in our country and watch people in this community exercise their God-given right," said Earl Simms, a 65-year-old former city safety manager standing at the head of the line at his Jacksonville, Fla., precinct.

By tradition, the first ballots were cast just after midnight in tiny Dixville Notch, N.H. Sen. Obama got 15 votes and Sen. McCain six.

Many African-Americans were celebrating how far a black man had come.

"It's a feeling we feel all the way inside -- Lord, we're finally overcoming," said Willie Smiley, 65, a retired government worker from Detroit.

Benjamin T. Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, the nation's oldest civil-rights group, said his 92-year-old grandmother, whose grandfather was a slave, is "giddy" at the prospect of seeing young black girls holding pajama parties at the White House.

"At this moment, it feels as if anything is possible, and that is the way it needs to be in this country," he said in an interview Tuesday.

Sen. Obama launched his candidacy on the statehouse steps of Springfield, Ill., nearly two years ago. He was a freshman senator, largely unknown, noted mostly for a keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention and a best-selling book. The son of a white woman from Kansas and a Kenyan immigrant who once herded goats, the relative newcomer came with a foreign-sounding name and associations that would prove to be liabilities.

His spiritual adviser, the Rev, Jeremiah Wright, had issued incendiary sermons from the pulpit of Sen. Obama's church. A convicted felon, Tony Rezko, helped him purchase a Chicago home. And Republicans tried to tie Sen. Obama to an associate and neighbor, William Ayers, a member of a domestic terrorist organization in the 1960s.

With that baggage, he took on one of the most powerful names in Democratic politics, Sen. Hillary Clinton, defeating her after an epic primary fight. Sen. Obama's campaign beat the formidable Clinton machine by going where she was not, racking up victories in states such as Idaho, Kansas and Wyoming.

In the general election campaign, Sen. Obama held the lead for most of the summer. Following back-to-back conventions, Sen. McCain briefly pulled ahead after he energized his party by choosing Gov. Palin as his running mate. When the financial crisis hit, causing stocks to plummet and the government to embark on a series of unprecedented interventions in markets, voters were reminded of their economic concerns and Sen. Obama pulled ahead again. He never lost the lead.

"I've been in denial for too long," said Jennifer Cresent, a Macomb County, Mich., Republican who voted for President Bush four years ago and Sen. Obama Tuesday. "I thought we were really fine and people complained too much. Then every other house on my street became vacant. And so many people are out of work. Now I really worry about crime."

During the primaries, Sen. McCain's campaign was large and expensive and nearly collapsed. He began again with a bare-bones operation, running as a promoter of the war in Iraq at a time when it was deeply unpopular. He pushed for and then backed the early 2007 surge in troops that turned out to be an important factor in the country's turnaround.

After winning the nomination, Sen. McCain still had work to do with the conservative base of his party. Many in the base were angered by his push to change the nation's immigration laws and campaign-finance rules, his support for embryonic stem cell research and his opposition to the Bush tax cuts.

He struggled to find a message that would resonate, running at various times as the experienced insider, a maverick who would shake up Washington, a bipartisan conciliator, a tax-cutting conservative and a tough-minded "Country First" war hero.

The choice of Gov. Palin thrilled conservatives but turned off other voters, especially independents. Early exit polls Tuesday found that six in 10 voters said she is not qualified to be president. Those voters overwhelmingly favored Sen. Obama.

Sen. McCain's campaign received a jolt in October when taxes became a hot issue, but it was never enough to overcome Sen. Obama's optimistic, though vague slogan of hope, which appealed to an electorate angry over war, the economy and President Bush, who has one of the lowest approval ratings on record.

According to early exit poll data, 62% of voters said the economy was their top concern. All other issues, including terrorism and the war in Iraq, were far behind. In 2004, terrorism and the economy were tied at about 20%.

Sen. Obama's promises will be a challenge to keep in the face of a likely recession, two wars and record budget deficits.

He has promised to end the war in Iraq and reduce troop levels quickly. He has also vowed to redouble efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, beef up the U.S. military presence there and to reinvigorate efforts against al Qaeda, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He promised to create a new government-organized health care marketplace and cut taxes for every family earning less than $200,000 and raise them for families over $250,000.

He has vowed to wean the country of Middle Eastern oil over 10 years, dedicating $150 billion to alternative and renewable energy research and development, likening the challenge to that of putting a man on the moon. He has said he will cap greenhouse-gas emissions and force polluters to begin paying for emission permits in order to tackle global warming.

He has also promised billions of federal dollars for education, teacher training and recruitment. College applicants would be given tax incentives to offset tuition in exchange for national service.

In the short run, Sen. Obama has promised to prime the flagging economy with billions of dollars for infrastructure, unemployment insurance and Medicaid. Banks would have to temporarily halt home foreclosures in exchange for government assistance.

The incoming president will have some advantages, including the apparent enthusiastic backing of voters. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Monday found that 81% of Obama supporters said their vote was for him, not against Sen. McCain. Exit polls found 56% of voters were either optimistic or excited about what Sen. Obama would do as president.

And two-thirds of voters in the Journal poll said they understand Sen. Obama's message and know what he will do as president, just shy of the 72% who said that about President Bush when he stood for re-election in 2004.

With strong majorities in Congress, President-elect Obama is likely to start fast, with a large economic-stimulus package, legislation to fund embryonic stem-cell research and an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, a government insurance program, which will be financed with a rise in the tobacco tax.

After that, Democrats are divided over how to proceed. Old-guard liberals want to move as fast as possible while they have solid majorities and an electoral mandate. Conservative Democrats want more attention paid to a federal budget deficit that could approach $1 trillion this fiscal year.

Democratic leaders in Congress, mindful of Bill Clinton's health-care debacle of 1993 and the Republican resurgence that swept them from power the next year, counsel a cautious approach that builds bipartisan and voter support before moving on the president-elect's big-ticket items.

The president-elect will not have much time to decide. By early February, he will have to produce a budget that lays out his spending and tax priorities at least over the next five years and hints at what he will do to confront the looming costs of Social Security and Medicare.

    Obama Sweeps to Historic Victory, NYT, 6.11.2008, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122581133077197035.html






Obama Wins Election


November 5, 2008
The New York Times


Barack Hussein Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, sweeping away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive.

The election of Mr. Obama amounted to a national catharsis — a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president and his economic and foreign policies, and an embrace of Mr. Obama’s call for a change in the direction and the tone of the country.

But it was just as much a strikingly symbolic moment in the evolution of the nation’s fraught racial history, a breakthrough that would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago.

Mr. Obama, 47, a first-term senator from Illinois, defeated Senator John McCain of Arizona, 72, a former prisoner of war who was making his second bid for the presidency.

To the very end, Mr. McCain’s campaign was eclipsed by an opponent who was nothing short of a phenomenon, drawing huge crowds epitomized by the tens of thousands of people who turned out to hear Mr. Obama’s victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago.

Mr. McCain also fought the headwinds of a relentlessly hostile political environment, weighted down with the baggage left to him by President Bush and an economic collapse that took place in the middle of the general election campaign.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer,” said Mr. Obama, standing before a huge wooden lectern with a row of American flags at his back, casting his eyes to a crowd that stretched far into the Chicago night.

“It’s been a long time coming,” the president-elect added, “but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment, change has come to America.”

Mr. McCain delivered his concession speech under clear skies on the lush lawn of the Arizona Biltmore, in Phoenix, where he and his wife had held their wedding reception. The crowd reacted with scattered boos as he offered his congratulations to Mr. Obama and saluted the historical significance of the moment.

“This is a historic election, and I recognize the significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight,” Mr. McCain said, adding, “We both realize that we have come a long way from the injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation.”

Not only did Mr. Obama capture the presidency, but he led his party to sharp gains in Congress. This puts Democrats in control of the House, the Senate and the White House for the first time since 1995, when Bill Clinton was in office.

The day shimmered with history as voters began lining up before dawn, hours before polls opened, to take part in the culmination of a campaign that over the course of two years commanded an extraordinary amount of attention from the American public.

As the returns became known, and Mr. Obama passed milestone after milestone —Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa and New Mexico — people rolled spontaneously into the streets to celebrate what many described, with perhaps overstated if understandable exhilaration, a new era in a country where just 143 years ago, Mr. Obama, as a black man, could have been owned as a slave.

For Republicans, especially the conservatives who have dominated the party for nearly three decades, the night represented a bitter setback and left them contemplating where they now stand in American politics.

Mr. Obama and his expanded Democratic majority on Capitol Hill now face the task of governing the country through a difficult period: the likelihood of a deep and prolonged recession, and two wars. He took note of those circumstances in a speech that was notable for its sobriety and its absence of the triumphalism that he might understandably have displayed on a night when he won an Electoral College landslide.

“The road ahead will be long, our climb will be steep,” said Mr. Obama, his audience hushed and attentive, with some, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, wiping tears from their eyes. “We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.” The roster of defeated Republicans included some notable party moderates, like Senator John E. Sununu of New Hampshire and Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, and signaled that the Republican conference convening early next year in Washington will be not only smaller but more conservative.

Mr. Obama will come into office after an election in which he laid out a number of clear promises: to cut taxes for most Americans, to get the United States out of Iraq in a fast and orderly fashion, and to expand health care.

In a recognition of the difficult transition he faces, given the economic crisis, Mr. Obama is expected to begin filling White House jobs as early as this week.

Mr. Obama defeated Mr. McCain in Ohio, a central battleground in American politics, despite a huge effort that brought Mr. McCain and his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, back there repeatedly. Mr. Obama had lost the state decisively to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York in the Democratic primary.

Mr. McCain failed to take from Mr. Obama the two Democratic states that were at the top of his target list: New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Mr. Obama also held on to Minnesota, the state that played host to the convention that nominated Mr. McCain; Wisconsin; and Michigan, a state Mr. McCain once had in his sights.

The apparent breadth of Mr. Obama’s sweep left Republicans sobered, and his showing in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania stood out because officials in both parties had said that his struggles there in the primary campaign reflected the resistance of blue-collar voters to supporting a black candidate.

“I always thought there was a potential prejudice factor in the state,” Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat of Pennsylvania who was an early Obama supporter, told reporters in Chicago. “I hope this means we washed that away.”

Mr. McCain called Mr. Obama at 10 p.m., Central time, to offer his congratulations. In the call, Mr. Obama said he was eager to sit down and talk; in his concession speech, Mr. McCain said he was ready to help Mr. Obama work through difficult times.

“I need your help,” Mr. Obama told his rival, according to an Obama adviser, Robert Gibbs. “You’re a leader on so many important issues.”

Mr. Bush called Mr. Obama shortly after 10 p.m. to congratulate him on his victory.

“I promise to make this a smooth transition,” the president said to Mr. Obama, according to a transcript provided by the White House .“You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life. Congratulations, and go enjoy yourself.”

For most Americans, the news of Mr. Obama’s election came at 11 p.m., Eastern time, when the networks, waiting for the close of polls in California, declared him the victor. A roar sounded from the 125,000 people gathered in Hutchison Field in Grant Park at the moment that they learned Mr. Obama had been projected the winner.

The scene in Phoenix was decidedly more sour. At several points, Mr. McCain, unsmiling, had to motion his crowd to quiet down — he held out both hands, palms down — when they responded to his words of tribute to Mr. Obama with boos.

Mr. Obama, who watched Mr. McCain’s speech from his hotel room in Chicago, offered a hand to voters who had not supported him in this election, when he took the stage 15 minutes later. “To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn,” he said, “I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president, too.”

Initial signs were that Mr. Obama benefited from a huge turnout of voters, but particularly among blacks. That group made up 13 percent of the electorate, according to surveys of people leaving the polls, compared with 11 percent in 2006.

In North Carolina, Republicans said that the huge surge of African-Americans was one of the big factors that led to Senator Elizabeth Dole, a Republican, losing her re-election bid.

Mr. Obama also did strikingly well among Hispanic voters; Mr. McCain did worse among those voters than Mr. Bush did in 2004. That suggests the damage the Republican Party has suffered among those voters over four years in which Republicans have been at the forefront on the effort to crack down on illegal immigrants.

The election ended what by any definition was one of the most remarkable contests in American political history, drawing what was by every appearance unparalleled public interest.

Throughout the day, people lined up at the polls for hours — some showing up before dawn — to cast their votes. Aides to both campaigns said that anecdotal evidence suggested record-high voter turnout.

Reflecting the intensity of the two candidates, Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama took a page from what Mr. Bush did in 2004 and continued to campaign after the polls opened.

Mr. McCain left his home in Arizona after voting early Tuesday to fly to Colorado and New Mexico, two states where Mr. Bush won four years ago but where Mr. Obama waged a spirited battle.

These were symbolically appropriate final campaign stops for Mr. McCain, reflecting the imperative he felt of trying to defend Republican states against a challenge from Mr. Obama.

“Get out there and vote,” Mr. McCain said in Grand Junction, Colo. “I need your help. Volunteer, knock on doors, get your neighbors to the polls, drag them there if you need to.”

By contrast, Mr. Obama flew from his home in Chicago to Indiana, a state that in many ways came to epitomize the audacity of his effort this year. Indiana has not voted for a Democrat since President Lyndon B. Johnson’s landslide victory in 1964, and Mr. Obama made an intense bid for support there. He later returned home to Chicago play basketball, his election-day ritual.

Elisabeth Bumiller contributed reporting from Phoenix, Marjorie Connelly from New York and Jeff Zeleny from Chicago.

    Obama Wins Election, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/us/politics/05elect.html?hp






Obama elected nation's 44th president


5 November 2008
USA Today
By Randy Lilleston and Douglas Stanglin


Democrat Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday, becoming the first African American to win the post and completing a stunningly rapid rise from state senator to the White House.

A win in California put Obama over the top, giving him 55 electoral votes — enough to surpass the 270 needed to defeat Republican John McCain and claim the presidency. The Illinois senator won key state after key state Tuesday, with victories in the battlegrounds of Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania being harbingers of the outcome.

By early Wednesday, the AP projected Obama had 349 electoral votes. McCain had 144.

The popular vote was significantly closer than the electoral vote. With 83% of precincts reporting, Obama led McCain nationally, 51.7% to 47.1%.

"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of the founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer," Obama told thousands of cheering supporters at an enormous rally in Chicago's Grant Park.

"I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you."

He was gracious to McCain, saying his opponent "fought long and hard in this campaign. He has fought even harder and longer for the country that he loves."

Obama, 47, called for a renewal of the American spirit and spoke directly to McCain supporters.

"I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices," Obama said. "I need your help and I will be your president, too."

Only four years ago on election night, Obama was a newly minted U.S. senator-elect after serving for eight years in the Illinois legislature. Now he holds the title of president-elect.

"My friends, we have come to the end of a long journey," McCain told his supporters in Phoenix. He congratulated Obama for the victory, saying he admired Obama's ability to unite diverse groups.

"Senator Obama and I have had — and argued — our differences, and he has prevailed," McCain said. He pledged to help Obama "lead us through the many challenges we face."

"I wish godspeed to the man who was my former opponent, and will be my president," McCain said.

Obama won California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington state and the District of Columbia. McCain claimed Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

A handful of states remained in play early Wednesday. Obama had a narrow lead in North Carolina; McCain was ahead in Georgia, Missouri and Montana.

Turnout was high in many parts of the nation. Lines of voters formed at polling places as early as 4 a.m. in some states, and the AP reported that turnout in Ohio — one of the key states in this election — might approach 80% of registered voters

Early surveys of voters, conducted by a consortium of news organizations, indicated 60% listed the economy as their most important issue, with no other issue — including the war on Iraq and terrorism — getting more than 10%.

More than 80% of voters said they were very worried the current economic crisis will harm their family's finances over the next year, but 47% also said they felt the economy will improve in the next year. Two-thirds said they were worried about obtaining health care.

Only 28% of those polled said they approved of President Bush's job performance — an issue Obama hammered on throughout the campaign as he tried to tie McCain to Bush.

Many votes had been cast for days. Though the overall number of early votes was unknown, there were more than 29 million ballots cast in 30 states, suggesting an advantage for Obama.

Obama's victory triggered celebrations in the U.S. and around the world.

In Washington, residents poured into the streets. Hundreds of people gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, dancing and cheering. At historically black Howard University, students hugged and chanted "Yes, we did."

"We're so happy. We want to be part of history. You cannot let it just pass," said Eskinder Zeluel, an Ethiopia native who joined the celebration outside of the White House. "You can tell your kids you can be anything you want to be in this country."

In New York's Harlem, thousands of people poured into the streets. Near the historic Apollo Theater, men played conga drums and revelers blew noisemakers.

."I never thought tonight was possible," said Robert Lewis Jackson, 43. "Not in my lifetime."

Australians filled a hotel ballroom in Sydney. Brazilians partied in Rio de Janeiro. In the town of Obama in Japan, dancers cheered in delight when their namesake's victory was declared.

Obama's win"shows that America truly is a diverse, multicultural society where the color of your skin really does not matter," said Jason Ge, an international relations student at Peking University in China.

In Germany, where more than 200,000 people flocked to see Obama this summer as he burnished his foreign policy credentials during a trip to the Middle East and Europe, the election dominated television ticker crawls, newspaper headlines and websites.

House, Senate races

The presidency was far from the only office at stake Tuesday. In House and Senate elections, Democrats extended their hold on Congress.

Democrats ousted Republican Sens. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and John Sununu of New Hampshire. They also captured seats held by retiring GOP senators in Virginia and New Mexico.

With 25 of 35 Senate races called, Democrats were guaranteed at least a 54-46 majority, including two holdover independents who vote with Democrats. But they were hoping for even greater gains.

North Carolina state Sen. Kay Hagan, little known politically before her run, defeated Dole — a former Cabinet member in two Republican administrations and 2000 presidential hopeful. Dole had tried to tie Hagan, a former Presbyterian Sunday school teacher, to atheists in an ad that appeared to backfire.

In New Hampshire, former Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen defeated Sununu in a rematch of their 2002 contest.

The Democratic goal was to reach a 60-seat, filibuster-proof Senate majority. Leaders in both parties said that was a long shot, but Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., head of the party's senatorial campaign committee, acknowledged that "Democrats are poised to pick up some seats."

His Democratic counterpart, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted "a whole lot of seats" for Democrats, but he said reaching a 60-vote majority was unlikely.

In the House, Democrats unseated incumbents in Florida and Connecticut and jumped to early leads over Republicans in more than a dozen other contests as they pressed to increase their majority.

Republicans encountered early trouble in Florida, where Rep. Tom Feeney — under fire for ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff — was the first to fall at the hands of former state Rep. Suzanne Kosmas. Rep. Ric Keller of Florida lost to his Democratic challenger, attorney Alan Grayson.

And Republicans surrendered their last House seat in New England when Democrat Jim Himes, a Greenwich businessman, defeated 22-year veteran Rep. Chris Shays in a wealthy southwestern Connecticut district that heavily favored Obama.

If the Democrats increase their majorities, it would be the first time in more than 75 years that the party received larger congressional margins in back-to-back elections.


With 10 of 11 gubernatorial race results reported, incumbents were the victors.

Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia re-elected sitting governors. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, won a seat in the Missouri's open race that was previously held by a Republican. Jack Markell won Delaware's open race, keeping the position in the hands of Democrats. In North Carolina, Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue won an open race against Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory.

In Washington state, Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire and GOP challenger Dino Rossi, a former state senator, restaged their 2004 contest that Gregoire won by 133 votes after two recounts and a lawsuit.

Ballot measures

Voters in California, Florida and Arizona appeared to be favoring constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, although the races were close. All three amendments were leading just an hour after the last poll closed in California.

In Florida, the constitutional amendment needed 60% approval to pass. With 86.3% of precincts reporting, the amendment was winning 62.1% to 37.9%.

In Arizona with 73.7% of precincts reporting, it was leading 56.2% to 43.8%. In California, where both sides raised some $73 million in a markedly divisive campaign, the constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage was leading 54.4% to 45.6% with 8.3% of precincts reporting.

In Arkansas, voters approved a ban on unmarried couples adopting or being foster parents.

Massachusetts voters approved decriminalizing possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana. Under the new law, taking effect in 30 days, those caught must give up the marijuana and pay a $100 fine but won't face criminal penalties. Eleven other states have similar laws.

Michigan became the 13th state to allow residents — with a doctor's approval — to use marijuana to treat pain caused by cancer and other diseases.

Gambling, which gives states revenue without directly increasing taxes, was on the ballot in eight states. Maryland voters approved a measure that legalizes slot machines, dedicating half the revenue from up to 15,000 machines to public schools. Ohioans approved a state lottery to fund college scholarships.

Ohio voters, however, also rejected a measure approving a new casino. And in Massachusetts, citizens approved a ban on commercial dog racing.

Despite a weak economy, voters didn't necessarily embrace lower taxes. In Massachusetts, they rejected a measure to repeal the personal income tax, which supplies 40% of the state's budget. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick warned it would force deep cuts in services statewide.

In South Dakota, voters considered a ban on abortion, except in cases of rape, incest of when the woman's health was at risk.

California voters considered whether to require parental notification for a minor to get an abortion, and a first-of-its-kind abortion measure in Colorado would define human life as starting "from the moment of fertilization." Proponents, including the Colorado Right to Life, and opponents, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, agreed it would criminalize abortion and halt embryonic stem-cell research.

In Michigan, a ballot asked voters whether they would amend the state's constitution to repeal its existing ban on research involving embryos.

Voters considered varying measures that affect immigrants, including one that Arizona rejected that would have revoked the business licenses of employers who knowingly hired illegal immigrants. Missouri voted to make English the state's official language. In Oregon, voters considered whether to limit the teaching of bilingual education to two years or less.

Contributing: Peter Eisler, in Raleigh, N.C.; Larry Copeland in Tampa; Marisol Bello in Detroit; Dennis Cauchon in Columbus, Ohio; Janet Kornblum in San Francisco; Mike Carney in Washington; Wendy Koch in McLean, Va.; the Associated Press

    Obama elected nation's 44th president, UT, 5.11.2008, http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/president.htm






Obama wins,

says "change has come to America"


Wed Nov 5, 2008
2:28am EST
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrat Barack Obama captured the White House on Tuesday after an extraordinary two-year election campaign, defeating Republican John McCain to make history as the first black U.S. president.

Obama will be sworn in as the 44th U.S. president on January 20, 2009 and will face a crush of immediate challenges, from tackling an economic crisis to ending the war in Iraq and trying to overhaul the U.S. health care system.

McCain's hopes for a surprise victory evaporated with losses in a string of key battleground states led by the big prizes of Ohio and Florida, the states that sent Democrats to defeat in the last two elections.

The win by Obama, son of a black father from Kenya and white mother from Kansas, marked a milestone in U.S. history. It came 45 years after the height of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King.

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, at this defining moment, change has come to America," Obama, 47, told 125,000 ecstatic supporters gathered in Chicago's Grant Park to celebrate.

"The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there," he said.

Obama won at least 338 Electoral College votes, far more than the 270 needed. With results in from more than two-thirds of U.S. precincts, he led McCain by 51 percent to 48 percent in the popular vote.

Obama promised to ease the country's sharp political divisions and work for those voters who did not support him.

A first-term Illinois senator, Obama led sweeping Democratic victories that expanded the party's majorities in both chambers of Congress and marked an emphatic rejection of President George W. Bush's eight years of leadership.

McCain, a 72-year-old Arizona senator and former Vietnam War prisoner, called Obama to congratulate him and praised his rival's inspirational and precedent-shattering campaign.

"We have come to the end of a long journey," McCain told supporters. "I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him but offering our next president our goodwill."

News of Obama's win set off celebrations by supporters around the country, from New York and Chicago to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King's home church.

"This is a great night. This is an unbelievable night," said U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who was brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, during a voting rights march in the 1960s.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader, joined the celebrations in Chicago, tears streaming down his cheeks.


Obama has promised to restore U.S. leadership in the world by working closely with foreign allies, to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in the first 16 months of his term and to bolster U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

But his immediate task will be tackling the U.S. financial crisis, the worst since the Great Depression. Obama has proposed another stimulus package that could cost about $175 billion and include funding for infrastructure and another round of rebate checks.

Obama took command of the race in the last month as the financial crisis deepened and as his steady performance in three debates with McCain appeared to ease lingering doubts among voters.

His judgment on handling the economic crisis appeared to help tip the race in his favor. Exit polls showed six of every 10 voters listed the economy as the top issue.

In addition to Ohio and Florida, Obama won Virginia, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado -- all states won by Bush in 2004. McCain's loss in Pennsylvania eliminated his best hope of capturing a Democratic-leaning state.

The vote capped an epic campaign marked by a rapid rise from obscurity for Obama and a bitter Democratic primary battle with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, as well as McCain's comeback from the political scrap heap to win the Republican nomination.

In the general election battle, Obama accused McCain of representing a third term for Bush's policies and being out of touch on the economy. McCain's campaign attacked Obama as a tax-raising liberal and accused him of being a "pal" with terrorists.

In a difficult political environment for Republicans, McCain struggled to separate himself from Bush. Exit polls showed three out of every four voters thought the United States was on the wrong track.

In the fight for Congress, Democrats were making big gains but appeared to be falling short of picking up the nine Senate seats to reach a 60-seat majority that would give them the muscle to defeat Republican procedural hurdles.

Democrats gained at least five Senate seats and knocked off two-high profile Republican incumbents -- North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, a former presidential candidate and wife of 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, and New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu.

Democrats also gained about 25 more House of Representatives seats to give them a commanding majority in that chamber.

(Editing by Kieran Murray)

    Obama wins, says "change has come to America", R, 5.11.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE4A36V020081105






Obama's Electoral Win Resounding


November 5, 2008
Filed at 4:13 a.m. ET
The New York Times


Add another electoral landslide to the record books.

There's no set definition for what constitutes a landslide, but Barack Obama's resounding electoral victory seems to fit the bill.

Kathleen Thompson Hill and Gerald N. Hill, in their book, ''The Facts on File Dictionary of American Politics,'' say a landslide can be defined as ''exceeding expectations and being somewhat overwhelming.''

With a handful of states yet to be decided, the electoral vote count was 338 for Obama and 141 for Republican John McCain.

President Bush, by contrast, won with just 271 electoral votes in 2000 and 286 in 2004. It takes 270 votes to win the presidency.

A look at past elections that might qualify as landslides:

--Franklin Delano Roosevelt over Alf Landon in 1936, 523 to 8.

--Theodore Roosevelt over Alton Parker in 1904, 336-140.

--Woodrow Wilson over Roosevelt and William Taft in 1912, 435-96.

--Warren Harding over James Cox in 1920, 404-127.

--Herbert Hoover over Alfred Smith in 1928, 444-87.

--Franklin Roosevelt in all four of his elections, with electoral votes of 472, 523, 449 and 432.

--Lyndon Johnson, who carried the tongue-in-cheek nickname ''Landslide Lyndon'' for his razor-thin 87-vote victory in a Texas Senate race, over Barry Goldwater in 1964, 486-52.

--Richard Nixon over George McGovern in 1972, 520-17.

--Ronald Reagan over Walter Mondale in 1984, 525-13.

    Obama's Electoral Win Resounding, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Obama-Landslide.html






Obama Sweeps to Victory

as First Black President


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:23 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Barack Obama swept to victory as the nation's first black president Tuesday night in an electoral college landslide that overcame racial barriers as old as America itself. ''Change has come,'' he told a jubilant hometown Chicago crowd estimated at nearly a quarter-million people.

The son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, the Democratic senator from Illinois sealed his historic triumph by defeating Republican Sen. John McCain in a string of wins in hard-fought battleground states -- Ohio, Florida, Iowa and more. He captured Virginia and Indiana, too, the first candidate of his party in 44 years to win either.

Obama's election capped a meteoric rise -- from mere state senator to president-elect in four years.

Spontaneous celebrations erupted from Atlanta to New York and Philadelphia as word of Obama's victory spread. A big crowd filled Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

In his first speech as victor, to an enormous throng at Grant Park in Chicago, Obama catalogued the challenges ahead. ''The greatest of a lifetime,'' he said, ''two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.''

He added, ''There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face.''

McCain called his former rival to concede defeat -- and the end of his own 10-year quest for the White House. ''The American people have spoken, and spoken clearly,'' McCain told disappointed supporters in Arizona.

President Bush added his congratulations from the White House, where his tenure runs out on Jan. 20. ''May God bless whoever wins tonight,'' he had told dinner guests earlier.

Obama, in his speech, invoked the words of Lincoln, recalled Martin Luther King Jr., and seemed to echo John F. Kennedy.

''So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder,'' he said.

He and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, will take their oaths of office as president and vice president on Jan. 20, 2009. McCain remains in the Senate.

Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, returns to Alaska as governor after a tumultuous debut on the national stage.

He will move into the Oval Office as leader of a country that is almost certainly in recession, and fighting two long wars, one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan.

The popular vote was close -- 51.7 percent to 47 percent with 84 percent of all U.S. precincts tallied -- but not the count in the Electoral College, where it mattered most.

There, Obama's audacious decision to contest McCain in states that hadn't gone Democratic in years paid rich dividends.

Shortly after 2 a.m. the East, The Associated Press count showed Obama with 349 electoral votes, well over the 270 needed for victory. McCain had 144 after winning states that comprised the normal Republican base, including Texas and most of the South.

Interviews with voters suggested that almost six in 10 women were backing Obama nationwide, while men leaned his way by a narrow margin. Just over half of whites supported McCain, giving him a slim advantage in a group that Bush carried overwhelmingly in 2004.

The results of the AP survey were based on a preliminary partial sample of nearly 10,000 voters in Election Day polls and in telephone interviews over the past week for early voters. Obama has said his first order of presidential business will be to tackle the economy. He has also pledged to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months.

In Washington, the Democratic leaders of Congress celebrated.

''It is not a mandate for a party or ideology but a mandate for change,'' said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Said Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California: ''Tonight the American people have called for a new direction. They have called for change in America.''

Democrats also acclaimed Senate successes by former Gov. Mark Warner in Virginia, Rep. Tom Udall in New Mexico and Rep. Mark Udall in Colorado. All won seats left open by Republican retirements.

In New Hampshire, former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen defeated Republican Sen. John Sununu in a rematch of their 2002 race, and Sen. Elizabeth Dole fell to Democrat Kay Hagan in North Carolina.

Biden won a new term in Delaware, a seat he will resign before he is sworn in as vice president.

The Senate's Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, survived a scare in Kentucky, and in Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss hoped to avoid a December runoff.

The Democrats piled up gains in the House, as well.

They defeated seven Republican incumbents, including 22-year veteran Chris Shays in Connecticut, and picked up nine more seats where GOP lawmakers had retired.

At least three Democrats lost their seats, including Florida Rep. Tim Mahoney, turned out of office after admitting to two extramarital affairs while serving his first term in Florida. In Louisiana, Democratic Rep. Don Cazayoux lost the seat he had won in a special election six months ago.

The resurgent Democrats also elected a governor in one of the nation's traditional bellwether states when Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon won his race.

An estimated 187 million voters were registered, and in an indication of interest in the battle for the White House, 40 million or so had already voted as Election Day dawned.

Obama sought election as one of the youngest presidents, and one of the least experienced in national political affairs.

That wasn't what set the Illinois senator apart, though -- neither from his rivals nor from the other men who had served as president since the nation's founding more than two centuries ago. A black man, he confronted a previously unbreakable barrier as he campaigned on twin themes of change and hope in uncertain times.

McCain, a prisoner of war during Vietnam, a generation older than his rival at 72, was making his second try for the White House, following his defeat in the battle for the GOP nomination in 2000.

A conservative, he stressed his maverick's streak. And although a Republican, he did what he could to separate himself from an unpopular president.

For the most part, the two presidential candidates and their running mates, Biden and Republican Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, spent weeks campaigning in states that went for Bush four years ago.

McCain and Obama each won contested nominations -- the Democrat outdistancing former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton -- and promptly set out to claim the mantle of change.

Obama won California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

McCain had Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

He also won at least four of Nebraska's five electoral votes, with the other one in doubt.

    Obama Sweeps to Victory as First Black President, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Election-Rdp.html






McCain Promises to Help Obama


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:13 a.m. ET
The New York Times


PHOENIX (Reuters) - Republican John McCain congratulated Democrat Barack Obama for winning the U.S. presidency on Tuesday, saying "the American people have spoken" and promising to help his former rival address the country's many challenges.

McCain addressed his supporters in an emotional speech at a Phoenix hotel after telephoning Obama to concede the election. Obama later said McCain's call had been "extraordinarily gracious."

"We have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly," McCain said.

"Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it."

The 72-year-old Arizona senator urged all Americans -- including his supporters -- to rally behind Obama, saying he planned to help the new president-elect tackle the myriad issues the country faced.

"It's natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again," McCain told his supporters, shushing them occasionally with "please, please" when they booed his mentions of Obama.

McCain and Obama clashed over the Iraq war, taxes, trade, and energy policy during a heated, five-month general election, but the Arizona senator pledged his support as the next president navigates a major financial crisis and two wars abroad.

"Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed," McCain said, adding many of those differences remained. "These are difficult times for our country, and I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face."

McCain was joined by his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whom he praised as a vital new voice in their party.

"We can all look forward with great interest to her future service to Alaska, the Republican Party and our country."

After a campaign that grew negative at times, most recently with Republican attacks on Obama's ties to a 1960s radical, McCain emphasized common ground between the two men.

"Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans and please believe me when I say no association has meant more to me than that."

McCain expressed sympathy the recent death of Obama's grandmother, saying he was sorry she had not lived to see her grandson's victory.

He also acknowledged the historic nature of Obama's win.

"This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight," he said.

McCain thanked his campaign staff and his family for their support in his nearly two-year White House quest.

"Campaigns are often harder on a candidate's family than on the candidate, and that's been true in this campaign," he said. "All I can offer in compensation is my love and gratitude and the promise of more peaceful years ahead."

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, editing by Jackie Frank)

    McCain Promises to Help Obama, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/washington/politics-us-usa-election-mccain-concession.html






Why John McCain lost the White House


Wed Nov 5, 2008
10:59am EST
By Jeff Mason - Analysis


PHOENIX (Reuters) - Republican John McCain lost Tuesday's presidential election because he could not overcome a hostile economic environment, distance himself from an unpopular president or convince voters he could lead them out of the crisis.

As the blame game began, analysts also said McCain's choice of inexperienced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate raised doubts about his judgment. It ultimately may have alienated more voters than it attracted.

McCain's attempts to portray Barack Obama as a tax-raising socialist with friends who were terrorists drove away moderate voters, who handed the Democrat a decisive victory on Tuesday.

An extremely unpopular Republican president coupled with a sputtering economy made for a tough political climate for McCain. Even if he had run a perfect campaign, it may not have been enough this year.

After eight years of Republican White House rule, the party had turned off racial minorities, young voters and more educated voters. The final blow was the large-scale defection of working class whites devastated by the economic crisis.

But the Arizona senator's response fell flat. He did not distance himself early or forcefully enough from President George W. Bush, party strategists said, and his lack of a coherent economic message loomed large as the issue trumped the Iraq war in voters' minds.

In a gracious concession speech late on Tuesday, the former Vietnam prisoner of war reflected on his campaign and took responsibility for its failures.

"I don't know what more we could have done to try to win this election," he told supporters at a somber post-election rally in Arizona. "We fought as hard as we could. And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours."

Republican strategist John Feehery said McCain's association with Bush was a key stumbling block that could have been addressed more decisively.

"He did not break from Bush early on and he should have," Feehery said. "He hired a lot of Bush advisers and they were just as loyal to Bush as they were to McCain."

McCain added a line to his campaign speech in mid-October saying "I'm not George Bush" but it was too late.

The financial crisis that erupted in September was a turning point, reversing McCain's temporary lead in the polls. He never recovered.

"The economic meltdown restructured the entire race and made it difficult for McCain to compete for those undecided independent voters," said Republican strategist Scott Reed.

McCain's decision to suspend his campaign and return to Washington to broker a Wall Street bailout deal turned out to be a "strategic and tactical mistake," he said.

McCain asked for the first presidential debate to be postponed, but Obama calmly responded that the candidates could focus on more than one thing at a time -- forcing McCain to climb down. When the debate took place, Obama won.


McCain wounded himself with other economic gaffes. He said the fundamentals of the U.S. economy were strong and then tried to paint the mistake as a defense of the American worker.

He championed himself as someone who largely opposed regulation in the financial industry but reversed course when banks started failing and the Wall Street crisis spread.

The financial crisis also put McCain's "maverick" image into a harsher light. Voters viewed Obama's response to the crisis as cool and McCain's as unsteady.

Aides said the economic and political conditions in the country severely hampered their candidate's electoral chances.

"It is highly doubtful that anyone will ever have to run in a worse political climate than the one John McCain had to run in this year," McCain's top strategist Steve Schmidt told reporters a few hours before polls closed.

Feehery faulted McCain for abiding by campaign finance laws and not making more of Obama's association with his controversial former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright

What about Palin? McCain's last-minute choice of the Alaska governor ignited conservative voters but alienated independents, who viewed her as unprepared.

High-profile Republicans such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell rejected McCain partially because of Palin.

"McCain spent the entire summer drawing a contrast with Obama over experience and the Palin decision threw that out the window," said Reed. ""(But) you can't blame Palin for the loss. She energized the party and the base ..."

McCain senior adviser Nicolle Wallace said the Arizona senator got a rough deal from the media compared to Obama, who already enjoyed a massive financial advantage. The Democrat vastly outspent McCain in all the key swing states.

"No objective analysis suggests that the Obama team and the McCain team have received an equal amount or a fair amount of positive and negative scrutiny or coverage," she said.

(Editing by Alan Elsner)

    Why John McCain lost the White House, R, 5.11.2008, http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSTRE4A47Z020081105






McCain Concession

Casts Pall Over Wasilla Rally


November 5, 2008
Filed at 4:42 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASILLA, Alaska (AP) -- It wasn't the party they hoped for when several hundred people gathered for an Election Night rally in Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's hometown.

A pall was cast over the crowd when running mate John McCain, with the Alaska governor by his side, conceded the race to Democrat Barack Obama. The concession was broadcast on large-screen TVs inside the city's sports center.

''I think America made a big mistake,'' said Phil Straka, a photographer from Wasilla who was selling buttons with the words ''McCain-Palin'' superimposed over Alaska scenes. ''If there was another month before the election, I think they would have won.''

Residents of the Anchorage suburb were ready to cheer Palin from Wasilla to the White House. Their former mayor provided a much-needed boost to McCain's popularity in Alaska, where he finished fourth in the Republican caucuses.

Arin Denison cast her first presidential vote for the McCain-Palin ticket.

''I thought they would win,'' the 18-year-old Wasilla resident said. ''I'm very upset about it.''

At the Mug-Shot Saloon, where moose stew made from Palin's own recipe was served, a military couple was divided on Obama's victory.

Jeremy Jonas, 22, who served in Iraq with the Army, said the Democrat's pledge to withdraw most U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months resonated with him.

''His wanting to get out of Iraq is a big thing with me,'' he said.

But that pledge upset his girlfriend, 23-year-old Danielle Teachnor, who has joined the Army Reserves for an eight-year stint.

''If Obama pulls the troops out, everyone who has been there will have died in vain,'' she said. ''I supported McCain because he was a POW and he knows everything that is going on overseas.''

Back at the sports complex, several people expressed hope for whatever future role Palin may play in politics.

''It's just the beginning for Sarah. She'll be on the ticket in 2012,'' predicted Beryl Kring of Anchorage.

Straka, the photographer with the McCain-Palin buttons, was willing to give them away after McCain's concession speech. He said he'd make more buttons if she runs again.

One booth at the rally featured ''Palin 2012'' T-shirts for sale.

    McCain Concession Casts Pall Over Wasilla Rally, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Palin-Hometown-Reax.html






John McCain’s Concession Speech


November 5, 2008
12:15 am


Below is John McCain’s concession speech as delivered tonight in Phoenix:

Thank you. Thank you, my friends. Thank you for coming here on this beautiful Arizona evening.

My friends, we have — we have come to the end of a long journey. The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.

A little while ago, I had the honor of calling Senator Barack Obama to congratulate him.



To congratulate him on being elected the next president of the country that we both love.

In a contest as long and difficult as this campaign has been, his success alone commands my respect for his ability and perseverance. But that he managed to do so by inspiring the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed that they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president is something I deeply admire and commend him for achieving.

This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight.

I’ve always believed that America offers opportunities to all who have the industry and will to seize it. Senator Obama believes that, too.

But we both recognize that, though we have come a long way from the old injustices that once stained our nation’s reputation and denied some Americans the full blessings of American citizenship, the memory of them still had the power to wound.

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt’s invitation of Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters.

America today is a world away from the cruel and frightful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States.

Let there be no reason now…


Let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth.


Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer him my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day. Though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.

Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences, and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain.

These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

I urge all Americans…


I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.


It is natural. It’s natural, tonight, to feel some disappointment. But tomorrow, we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again.

We fought — we fought as hard as we could. And though we feel short, the failure is mine, not yours.

I am so deeply grateful to all of you for the great honor of your support and for all you have done for me. I wish the outcome had been different, my friends.

The road was a difficult one from the outset, but your support and friendship never wavered. I cannot adequately express how deeply indebted I am to you.

I’m especially grateful to my wife, Cindy, my children, my dear mother…. my dear mother and all my family, and to the many old and dear friends who have stood by my side through the many ups and downs of this long campaign.

I have always been a fortunate man, and never more so for the love and encouragement you have given me.

You know, campaigns are often harder on a candidate’s family than on the candidate, and that’s been true in this campaign.

All I can offer in compensation is my love and gratitude and the promise of more peaceful years ahead.

I am also — I am also, of course, very thankful to Governor Sarah Palin , one of the best campaigners I’ve ever seen… one of the best campaigners I have ever seen, and an impressive new voice in our party for reform and the principles that have always been our greatest strength, her husband Todd and their five beautiful children for their tireless dedication to our cause, and the courage and grace they showed in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign.

We can all look forward with great interest to her future service to Alaska, the Republican Party and our country.


To all my campaign comrades, from Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter, to every last volunteer who fought so hard and valiantly, month after month, in what at times seemed to be the most challenged campaign in modern times, thank you so much. A lost election will never mean more to me than the privilege of your faith and friendship.

I don’t know — I don’t know what more we could have done to try to win this election. I’ll leave that to others to determine. Every candidate makes mistakes, and I’m sure I made my share of them. But I won’t spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been.

This campaign was and will remain the great honor of my life, and my heart is filled with nothing but gratitude for the experience and to the American people for giving me a fair hearing before deciding that Senator Obama and my old friend Senator Joe Biden should have the honor of leading us for the next four years.

(BOOING) Please. Please.

I would not — I would not be an American worthy of the name should I regret a fate that has allowed me the extraordinary privilege of serving this country for a half a century.

Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant. That is blessing enough for anyone, and I thank the people of Arizona for it.

Tonight — tonight, more than any night, I hold in my heart nothing but love for this country and for all its citizens, whether they supported me or Senator Obama — whether they supported me or Senator Obama.

I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.

Americans never quit. We never surrender.

We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you all very much.

    John McCain’s Concession Speech, WSJ, 5.11.2008, http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2008/11/05/john-mccains-concession-speech/






Virtual World Keeps Tabs

on Presidential Election


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:13 a.m. ET
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- While crowds gathered at public rallies and millions of others glued themselves to cable news, many spent election night online -- and they had plenty of company this time around.

Across the Internet, users were discussing, celebrating and bemoaning Barack Obama's unfolding election victory inside virtual worlds, on social networking sites and liveblogs and in online games. Others used techno-savvy Web sites to share their individual voting experiences throughout the day.

A motley crew of election voyeurs gathered to watch voting results pour in from across the country on a giant map inside Second Life, the online virtual world developed by San Francisco-based Linden Lab where pixelated avatars fly around and interact with each other. For months, volunteers have been unofficially campaigning inside the behemoth virtual world.

Before the election was called as polls closed on the West Coast, all they could do Tuesday was occupy one another with chatter as they stood around and waited.

Several avatars gathered election night on Capitol Hill Island, a virtual enclave that slightly resembles the real Capitol Hill, to chat about the results and keep watch on a giant results map in front of them. A woman with black wings stood across from someone wearing a suit of armor and a jetpack. In front of them was a lanky guy resembling Barack Obama in a Superman costume.

''Do we have the word on Ohio yet?'' asked an avatar named Princess Ivory.

The giant map was being updated by the avatar Kiwini Oe. The man controlling Oe in real life is Steve Nelson, the chief strategy officer for Clear Ink, a digital marketing firm based in Berkeley, Calif. Oe, who created the giant map in Second Life, was updating it with information from network news coverage.

He said he wasn't afraid to miscall a state in the virtual world.

''I can always uncall it,'' said Oe.

One indication that online was a popular place to be throughout the election: Some users reported problems accessing popular Web sites like Yahoo, which covered its home page with live election coverage, including an interactive Political Dashboard. In the last election, Yahoo News had 80 million page views on Election Day and 142 million the day after, according to Nielsen Online.

At the nonpartisan TwitterVoteReport.com, specially tagged Twitter.com micro-blogs about voting were being aggregated and pinpointed on an ever-changing online map. The 140-characters-or-less posts, called tweets, were also being used to estimate voting wait times Tuesday. However, as the results began pouring in, many tweets instead turned to celebrating Obama winning states.

''East Coast landslide for Obama!'' posted Ellen Kanner in Hanover, N.H. ''Woohoo.''

Several bloggers posted about the results in real time. Sara K. Smith at Wonkette.com kept a snarky eye on the proceedings and attracted over a hundred commenters, but at one point contended folks probably weren't following along because they were already celebrating Obama's win while she was still ''sitting at home drinking'' and filling her belly ''with stale popcorn and waiting, waiting to go out.''

The mood was worse for conservative bloggers as Democrats gained a stronger footing in the Senate. After Elizabeth Dole lost her seat in North Carolina, blogger Michelle Malkin posted: ''I can tell you this much: The Senate Republicans need a wake-up call. We need fresh, conservative leadership.'' At one point, RightWingNews.com liveblogger John Hawkins seemingly lost all hope.

''Oooof. Minnesota and Ohio for Obama,'' Hawkins posted at 9. ''Game over.''

The popular social networking site Facebook invited users Tuesday to click an 'I Voted' button on their profiles. Over 4 million Facebook users and counting said they had voted. On MySpace, the mud was flying in the comments section of the site's official Election Day profile. Several MySpace users simply posted who they had voted for in the election. Others had harsher words.

''I'll keep my God, my freedom, my guns and my money,'' wrote one MySpacer. ''You can keep the change.''

''Vote Obama no mo drama,'' posted another. ''Go Obama. Go Obama. Go Obama.''

Not all the online pursuits were as serious.

In Electronic Arts' species-creation simulator ''Spore,'' the game's developer created downloadable spaceships in the candidates' likeness. The John McCain and Sarah Palin ships were classified as an ''endangered species,'' while the Obama and Joe Biden vessels were deemed a ''flourishing species'' based on player votes Tuesday on the Sporepedia, the game's database of user creations.

Meanwhile, in the PlayStation 3 platformer game ''LittleBigPlanet,'' several gamers had uploaded election-themed user-generated levels, including one titled ''CNN Election Center'' that featured dangerous obstacles amid photos of CNN news anchors. At the end of the level, players could cast a faux vote for either Obama or McCain, which both culminated in a splash of confetti and points. Over at eBay.com, the auction on four one-of-kind Cabbage Patch Dolls crafted to look like the presidential and vice presidential candidates ended Tuesday. The Palin doll nabbed the most cash with a $19,000 bid while the Biden doll only brought in $3,500. The lil' Obama and McCain impersonators earned offers of $8,400 and $6,000, respectively.


On the Net:








    Virtual World Keeps Tabs on Presidential Election, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/arts/AP-Election-Online-Communities.html






Democrats Widen Their Senate Edge


November 5, 2008
The New York Times


Democrats expanded their slim control of the Senate to a solid majority on Tuesday when they picked up at least five seats, ousting Republican incumbents in New Hampshire and North Carolina and capturing seats in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico left vacant by Republican retirements.

The Democrats appeared to fall short of the 60-vote majority that would enable them to push bills to a vote by overcoming filibusters.

But even without the 60-vote threshold, they were within reach of a working coalition on major policy issues, given the defeat of the Republican incumbents John E. Sununu of New Hampshire and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, and the election of former Gov. Mark Warner in Virginia and of the congressmen-cousins Mark Udall in Colorado and Tom Udall in New Mexico.

With races still undecided in Minnesota, Oregon and Alaska, the Democrats were holding out hope of winning as many as 59 seats, and relishing the prospect of getting at least 57, the number they held in 1993-94 under President Bill Clinton.

Even as the Democrats’ celebration began early, one of their most highly prized targets proved out of reach: the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, beat back a serious challenge by Bruce Lunsford, a wealthy businessman.

“Winston Churchill once said that the most exhilarating feeling in life is to be shot at — and missed,” Mr. McConnell said in a victory speech in Louisville. “After the last few months, I think what he really meant to say is that there’s nothing more exhausting.”

At the headquarters of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in Washington, however, the mood was less exhausted than glum. A handful of young aides milled around watching election returns on Fox News until Senator John Ensign of Nevada, the committee’s chairman, emerged to make a brief statement.

“Obviously we expected this sort of night,” Mr. Ensign said. “The political winds, I’ve said for some time, were blowing in our face.”

“We caught a very, very tough cycle,” he added, “tougher than even Watergate was.”

Democrats, by contrast, were jubilant.

“The days of obstruction are over,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “And in a bipartisan way, we in the Senate and our colleagues in the House will work together to turn America in the right direction after eight long years.”

Since winning control of the Senate in 2006, the Democrats have had little breathing room, holding a majority of just 51 to 49, thanks only to two independents, Senators Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who have caucused with them. And Mr. Lieberman has consistently voted against the Democrats on bills related to the Iraq war and national security, giving Republicans and President Bush an edge on those issues.

Mr. Lieberman, a close ally of Senator John McCain, now faces uncertain standing within the Democratic Party; some colleagues have talked about stripping him of his post as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Even so, it is clear that the party will have more muscle to pursue its agenda in the coming Congress.

From the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the Rocky Mountains in the West to the glaciers of Alaska, Democratic candidates rode a wave of dissatisfaction with Republicans and the Bush administration. It began with frustration over the war in Iraq and broadened into fury and dismay over economic turmoil at home, with home prices falling, unemployment on the rise and consumer confidence shattered.

In New Hampshire, the Democrat, former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, defeated Mr. Sununu in a bitter rematch of their 2002 contest by repeatedly tying him to President Bush, on the war, national security, economic policies and energy. She becomes the first female senator in the state’s history and the first Democrat elected to the Senate from New Hampshire in more than 28 years.

Mrs. Shaheen, 61, capitalized on a huge transformation of the electorate in recent years that has shifted the state solidly into the Democratic column. Mr. Sununu, who at 44 is the youngest senator, had hoped to ride Mr. McCain’s coattails but found himself battling alone as support for Mr. McCain dissipated and Senator Barack Obama opened up a wide lead in most voter polls.

In North Carolina, Kay Hagan, a little known state senator, dealt a stunning defeat to Mrs. Dole, a former cabinet secretary and Republican candidate for president who has one of the most famous names in modern Republican politics.

Ms. Hagan portrayed Mrs. Dole as a Washington insider and suggested that she had fallen out of step with the people of her state. Mrs. Dole, in turn, was unable to counter the rising enthusiasm for Mr. Obama among the state’s Democrats.

In Virginia, Mr. Warner, a popular former governor, had been heavily favored all year. He easily defeated another former governor, James S. Gilmore III, to succeed Senator John W. Warner (no relation), who is retiring after five terms as one of the Republican Party’s most respected voices on military affairs.

The Democrats came into the 2008 contests benefiting from a clear numerical advantage, with just 12 seats to defend, compared with 23 for the Republicans. And while five of those Republican seats were left vacant by retirees, every one of the dozen Democratic incumbents up for re-election opted to run for another term.

In many states defended by Republicans, the Democrats sought to seize on that advantage by putting forward high-profile candidates with substantial name recognition and formidable fund-raising capabilities.

In Minnesota, for instance, the comedian and former talk-radio host Al Franken was in a close race Tuesday night against the Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman.

And in Alaska, Mayor Mark Begich of Anchorage was favored in recent polls to unseat Senator Ted Stevens, who was convicted in federal court on felony charges of failing to disclose gifts from political supporters.

In one bright spot for Republicans, Senator Susan Collins of Maine easily beat back a challenge by Representative Tom Allen, a Democrat whose campaign fizzled even as Mr. Obama won the state by a sizable margin.

In another, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia appeared to be pulling ahead in his race against Jim Martin, a former state legislator, though it was unclear if Mr. Chambliss would have more than 50 percent of the vote, which he needed to avoid a runoff.

In South Dakota, Senator Tim Johnson, a Democratic incumbent who nearly died of a brain hemorrhage two years ago, easily won re-election.

While Democrats had hoped for an extensive sweep that would leave them with a 60-vote majority in the Senate, giving them the power to cut off filibusters, Congressional leaders and other experts had cautioned that even if they reached that threshold, there was no guarantee they would be able to hold their caucus together on every issue. Liberal Democrats like Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin often disagree sharply with more conservative Democrats like Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

On the other hand, falling two or three votes short of 60 votes would not prevent the majority leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, from reaching out to moderate Republicans like Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine in an effort to bridge the gap.

Bernie Becker contributed reporting from Washington.

    Democrats Widen Their Senate Edge, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/us/politics/05senate.html






Democrats Expand

Control of Senate by Five Seats


November 5, 2008
Filed at 4:29 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats fattened their majority control of the Senate on Tuesday, ousting Republican Sens. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and John Sununu of New Hampshire and capturing seats held by retiring GOP senators in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado.

Piggybacking on the excitement level raised by presidential victor Barack Obama and his voter-registration and get-out-the-vote drives, Democrats increased their effective majority to at least 56 seats in the 100-member Senate.

They did not turn over a single seat to Republicans. All Democratic incumbents on the ballot prevailed.

But Republicans stopped a complete rout, holding the Kentucky seat of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and a Mississippi seat once held by Trent Lott -- two top Democratic targets.

North Carolina state Sen. Kay Hagan, little known politically before her run, defeated Dole -- a former Cabinet member in two Republican administrations and 2000 presidential hopeful. Dole had tried to tie Hagan, a former Presbyterian Sunday school teacher, to atheists in an ad that appeared to backfire.

In New Hampshire, former Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen defeated Sununu in a rematch of their 2002 contest.

In pair of western races, Reps. Tom and Mark Udall took over Senate seats held by retiring Republicans. Tom Udall, the son of former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, defeated Republican Rep. Steve Pearce to succeed Pete Domenici in New Mexico. Tom's cousin Mark, the son of the late Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona, won the Colorado seat held by Republican Wayne Allard, who did not seek re-election.

Former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner breezed to victory in Virginia to take a Senate seat held for five terms by retiring GOP Sen. John Warner, beating another former governor, Republican Jim Gilmore. The two Warners are not related.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden won another six-year term representing Delaware in the Senate. It became moot when Obama won the presidential election.

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, the only serious GOP target, won her re-election over Republican state treasurer John Kennedy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., attributed the Democratic gains to Obama's coattails.

''It's been a really good night,'' Reid said in an interview with The Associated Press. ''Obama ran a terrific campaign, he inspired millions of people.''

McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, had been a target of national Democrats after leading successful filibusters against much of their legislative agenda the past two years. He won re-election against two-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bruce Lunsford in a contentious race.

''Winston Churchill once said that the most exhilarating feeling in life is to be shot at -- and missed,'' McConnell said late Tuesday. ''After the last few months, I think what he really meant to say is that there's nothing more exhausting.''

In a tight Mississippi contest, Republican Roger Wicker, defeated former Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove to serve another four years of the term originally won in 2006 by Lott. Wicker was appointed to the post temporarily after Lott stepped down.

With Warner's victory in Virginia, Democrats now control both Senate seats and the governor's mansion. Virginia usually votes Republican in presidential elections, but Obama also won there Tuesday.

Democrats had counted on a slumping economy, an unpopular war and voter fatigue after eight years of President Bush to bolster a razor-thin 51-49 effective majority they've had the past two years after adding six seats in 2006.

They set a sky's-the-limit goal of controlling 60 Senate seats when the new Congress convenes in January -- the magic number needed to prevent Republicans from blocking bills and judicial nominees. It was always a long shot.

But having a majority in the high 50s will enable Democrats to exercise far more control than they have now, since some Republicans probably would join them in efforts to break Senate logjams on many bills and judicial appointments.

Included in the Democrats' majority are two holdover independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who have voted with them for the most part over the past two years. However, Lieberman, the Democrat's vice presidential nominee in 2000, spent most of 2008 campaigning for McCain.

It was unclear even to Senate leaders Tuesday night whether Lieberman would continue to caucus with the Democrats or keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security committee. Reid said in the interview that he'll discuss the matter with the Connecticut senator later this week.

Democrats will lose two incumbents: Obama and Biden. Democratic governors in Illinois and Delaware are sure to appoint Democrats to replace them.

Democrats had fewer seats to defend than Republicans. Of the 35 races on Tuesday's ballot, 23 were held by Republicans, 12 by Democrats.

Another possible pickup for Democrats: Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. Stevens, at 84, the longest serving Republican in Senate history, sought re-election despite calls from GOP leaders to resign after he was convicted last week of seven counts of lying on Senate financial disclosure forms.

He was locked in a tight contest with Democrat Mark Begich, the mayor of Anchorage. Another closely contested race was in Minnesota, where Republican incumbent Norm Coleman was challenged by Democrat Al Franken, the former ''Saturday Night Live'' writer and actor. A significant third-party candidate, Independent Dean Barkley, was complicating the race.

Republican Sen. Gordon Smith in Oregon was also on the list of Democratic targets.

Republicans held the Nebraska seat of retiring Sen. Chuck Hagel, with former Gov. Mike Johanns defeating Democrat Scott Kleeb, a college history instructor. Johanns resigned as Bush's agriculture secretary to make the race.

Republicans also held the Idaho seat of Sen. Larry Craig, who decided not to run for re-election after he was caught last year in a men's room sting. Idaho Lt. Gov. Jim Risch won the seat.

Republican incumbent senators who cruised to re-election included Lindsay Graham in South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Sessions in Alabama, James Inhofe in Oklahoma, Lamar Alexander in Tennessee, Pat Roberts in Kansas, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, John Cornyn of Texas and Michael Enzi in Wyoming. Sen. John Barrasso, appointed after Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas died, was elected to fill the remaining four years of Thomas' term.

Democratic senators easily winning re-election included Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Dick Durbin of Illinois, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Carl Levin of Michigan, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Max Baucus of Montana, Tom Harkin of Iowa and Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

    Democrats Expand Control of Senate by Five Seats, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-Senate-Rdp.html






Democrats Expand

House Majority With Broad Gains


November 5, 2008
Filed at 2:26 a.m. ET
The New York Times


WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats expanded their control of the House and were headed for historic gains in their majority Tuesday by solidifying their dominance in the Northeast and making inroads in the South and West.

Ousting 22-year veteran Rep. Chris Shays in Connecticut gave Democrats every House seat from New England. Their victory in an open seat on New York's Staten Island gave them control of all of New York City's delegation in Washington for the first time in 35 years.

Democrats also rode the coattails of a decisive victory by Barack Obama in New Mexico to win one House seat they haven't controlled in four decades and another the GOP had held for 28 years. Both were left up-for-grabs by GOP retirements.

''The American people have called for a new direction. They have called for change in America,'' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Exit polls showed voters troubled by the battered economy and deeply dissatisfied with President Bush.

Democrats unseated eight Republican incumbents and captured nine open GOP seats, capitalizing on the unusually high 29 Republican departures. Republicans were only able to knock off four Democratic incumbents.

With two dozen races undecided, Democrats had won 246 and were leading for another 10. Republicans had won 162 and were also leading in 15. If those trends held, Democrats could have a net gain of 20 seats. And Republicans were on track for their smallest numbers since 1994, the year a Republican Revolution retook the House for the first time in 40 years.

The Democratic edge in the current Congress is 235-199 with one vacancy in a formerly Democratic seat. Two Louisiana seats, one Democratic and one Republican, won't be decided until December because hurricanes postponed their primaries until Tuesday.

It was the first time in more than 75 years that Democrats were on track for big House gains in back-to-back elections. They picked up 30 seats in 2006.

''This will be a wave upon a wave,'' Pelosi said.

Republicans were licking their wounds and cheered themselves mostly by the prospect that Democrats -- now holding the White House and bigger House and Senate margins -- might overreach and position the GOP for gains in 2010.

''We sort of got through this, we think, a little bit better than some people might have expected,'' said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the head of the Republican House campaign committee. ''Our worst days are behind us.''

Still, in the first hint of what promises to be a GOP shakeup, Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, the No. 3 Republican, told colleagues in a letter released near midnight that he was ''reluctantly'' stepping down from his post.

In the northeast, GOP Reps. John R. ''Randy'' Kuhl of New York and Phil English of Pennsylvania were defeated. Democrat Eric Massa unseated Kuhl in New York's southern tier, and Kathy Dahlkemper, a 50-year-old mother of five, toppled English in a swing district of rural communities and old industrial steel towns in Pennsylvania's northwest corner.

In Connecticut, Democrat Jim Himes, a Greenwich businessman, defeated Shays despite the Republican's highly publicized late criticism of McCain's presidential campaign.

In upstate New York, former congressional staffer Dan Maffei won election to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Jim Walsh, becoming first Democrat in nearly 30 years to represent the district around Syracuse. Downstate, Democratic city councilman Mike McMahon won the race on Staten Island to succeed GOP Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., who was forced to resign amid drunk driving charges and revelations that he fathered a child from an extramarital affair.

New Jersey Democratic state Sen. John Adler won election to succeed retiring Rep. Jim Saxton, R-N.J., in the state's Pine Barrens region.

In the South, too, Democrats made inroads. Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright won election to succeed a retiring Republican in Alabama, despite his GOP's opponents attempts to tie him to Obama. High school civics teacher Larry Kissell won in North Carolina, defeating Republican Rep. Robin Hayes.

Democrat Gerald Connolly, a former chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, was elected to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Thomas M. Davis III in a northern Virginia district that's trending more Democratic because of an influx of new voters. And in a far more conservative district further south, Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr.,R-Va., was in a too-cloe-to-call race for survival against Democrat Tom Perriello.

In Florida, GOP Rep. Tom Feeney -- under fire for ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- was the first incumbent to fall, losing to former state Rep. Suzanne Kosmas. To the east, Rep. Ric Keller, R-Fla., lost to Democratic attorney Alan Grayson, in an increasingly Hispanic district in Orlando.

Democrats also made inroads in the West, where Democratic businesswoman Betsy Markey in Colorado unseated conservative GOP Rep. Marilyn Musgrave. In addition to the two New Mexico seats, Democrats captured one in Arizona, left open by retiring GOP Rep. Rick Renzi, who's awaiting trial on corruption charges.

In suburban Detroit, Democrat Gary Peters, a former state lottery commissioner and senator, ousted Republican Rep. Joe Knollenberg. The speaker of the Illinois Senate, Democrat Debbie Halvorson, won a seat formerly held by retiring GOP Rep. Jerry Weller in the swing exurbs and rural areas south of Chicago.

The news wasn't all good for Democrats, who lost three first-termers in the South, and Kansas Rep. Nancy Boyda, whose Topeka-based seat went to Lynn Jenkins, the GOP state treasurer.

Republican attorney Tom Rooney defeated Rep. Tim Mahoney of Florida, who had admitted to two extramarital affairs just weeks before Election Day. Republican Bill Cassidy dealt a bruising defeat to Rep. Don Cazayoux, D-La., elected in a special election six months ago. And in Texas, Republican Pete Olson, a former chief of staff to Sen. John Cornyn, beat Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson.

But other freshman Democrats once considered vulnerable cruised to easy re-election.

First-term Democratic Reps. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, Indiana's Joe Donnelly and Brad Ellsworth, and New Hampshire's Rep. Carol Shea-Porter won easy re-election. They were part of a crop of freshman Democrats in conservative-leaning districts who began compiling campaign war chests and moderate voting records almost from the moment they were elected two years ago, leaving only a few of them endangered on Tuesday.

Former five-term Republican Rep. Anne Northup was unable to mount a comeback in Louisville, Ky., against Yarmuth despite GOP presidential nominee John McCain's decisive victory in the state.

Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa., who chairs a subcommittee with the most influence on the Pentagon's spending, who had a scare after calling his district south of Pittsburgh ''racist,'' won easy re-election.

Democratic candidates raised $436 million, compared with Republicans' $328 million, according to federal data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poured $76 million into competitive races and the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $24 million.

In Louisiana, indicted Democratic Rep. William Jefferson was cruising to victory in a Democratic primary.

    Democrats Expand House Majority With Broad Gains, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/washington/AP-House-Rdp.html






Democrats Are Poised

to Control Albany


November 5, 2008
The New York Times


Propelled by a surge of new voters, Democrats won a majority in the New York State Senate on Tuesday, putting the party in control of both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office for the first time since the New Deal.

Democrats turned out in historic numbers from Buffalo to Long Island, overcoming a vaunted Republican political machine to oust two senators whose combined years in office spanned more than half a century.

According to unofficial results, Democrats captured 32 out of the 62 seats in the Senate. The shift marks the end of an era for New York Republicans, whose control of the Senate had come to depend on a bloc of senators, some in their 70s and 80s, who had put off retirement to help preserve the party’s majority.

On Long Island, Senator Caesar Trunzo, 82, who has held office since Richard Nixon was president, lost by 17 percentage points to a Democrat, Brian X. Foley, the son of a candidate whom Mr. Trunzo beat in the early 1980s.

In a poignant appearance in a small hotel ballroom in Holtsville, N.Y., Mr. Trunzo received a standing ovation from his fellow Republicans, many of whom have never known a time when he did not dominate the local political scene.

“I’m very proud of my record, I’m very proud of all that I have done,” Mr. Trunzo said. “The people have spoken.”

One of Mr. Trunzo’s colleagues, Senator Serphin R. Maltese of Queens, 75, conceded defeat to Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., 44, a Democratic city councilman, in one of the most expensive and contentious state legislative races this year.

But the elation felt by party leaders Tuesday night was tempered by lingering questions about the allegiance of four Democratic senators from New York City who have so far refused to rule out crossing party lines to support Senator Dean G. Skelos, a Nassau County Republican, as Senate majority leader.

The four Democrats — Pedro Espada Jr. and Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx, Carl Kruger of Brooklyn and Hiram Monserrate of Queens — have said they might not back Mr. Smith.

In a statement issued late Tuesday night, Mr. Skelos stopped short of admitting defeat, suggesting that he and his fellow Republicans would make an aggressive play to the wavering Democrats.

“While our numbers will be fewer, our voice will grow louder, and we will continue our fight to maintain balance and ensure an accountable government that represents all of the people throughout every region of the state,” Mr. Skelos said.

But Senator Malcolm A. Smith, the Senate Democratic leader, declared victory nonetheless and pledged he and his colleagues will get to work immediately.

“After 40 years in the wilderness, we are now in charge of the New York State Senate,” Mr. Smith said at a party in Midtown Manhattan.

Losing the Senate deprives Republicans of their last outpost of power in New York and marks a profound shift in political power away from rural areas and Long Island and toward New York City, Buffalo and other cities where Democrats dominate. If Mr. Smith is elected majority leader, then all of Albany’s “three men in a room”— the governor and the Senate and Assembly leaders — would hail from New York City.

Another long-serving Republican previously thought to be safe, Senator Frank Padavan of Queens, remained locked in a surprisingly tight race with his Democratic challenger and could face a recount or court challenge.

Republicans held on to an open seat in the Buffalo suburbs, where hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by the two parties, unions and independent groups. But elsewhere upstate, two Democrats considered vulnerable, Senator Darrel J. Aubertine and William T. Stachowski, won by small but comfortable margins.

All around the country, Democrats turned out in record numbers to vote for Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate. That appears to have bolstered Democrats in relatively obscure State Senate races, where Democratic workers had spent weeks calling voters to remind them to vote all the way down the ballot.

The Democrats last won a majority in the Senate in 1964, but held it for only a single fractious year. Many Senate Republicans have only known life in the majority, and some may choose to retire rather than serve in the minority. Political donations of special interest groups will swing heavily to the new majority caucus, and unless Republicans retake the chamber in 2010, Democrats would control the redrawing of district lines.

"If the Democrats control redistricting, the Republicans are in the wilderness for decades," said Gerald Benjamin, a professor of political science at the State University of New York at New Paltz.

But the Democratic victory on Tuesday will complicate the coming budget negotiations. Gov. David A. Paterson has called a special session of the Legislature for Nov. 18 to help close an estimated $1.5 billion budget shortfall for the current fiscal year and get an early start on next year’s budget.

Even before Tuesday, Republicans had suggested that they were digging in for a fight over state aid to schools and other budget items, refusing Mr. Paterson’s request for a list of proposed cuts to spending. But as a lame-duck majority, they would have little incentive to agree to painful cuts now, when they could easily pass the buck to Democrats after the Senate is reorganized early next year.

With the Democrats winning control of the Senate, some of them acknowledged Tuesday night that their party will bear sole responsibility for the heavy burden of taming and running New York’s traditionally dysfunctional state government.

“There will be no excuses,” said Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a Democrat who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester County. “We’re going be expected to take all those ideas we’ve talked about and make them happen. People are expecting us to change paradigms.”

Jeremy W. Peters contributed reporting.

    Democrats Are Poised to Control Albany, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/nyregion/05york.html?hp






The Moment

A Time to Reap

for Foot Soldiers of Civil Rights


November 5, 2008
The New York Times


ALBANY, Ga. — Rutha Mae Harris backed her silver Town Car out of the driveway early Tuesday morning, pointed it toward her polling place on Mercer Avenue and started to sing.

“I’m going to vote like the spirit say vote,” Miss Harris chanted softly.

I’m going to vote like the spirit say vote,

I’m going to vote like the spirit say vote,

And if the spirit say vote I’m going to vote,

Oh Lord, I’m going to vote when the spirit say vote.

As a 21-year-old student (on right in photo), she had bellowed that same freedom song at mass meetings at Mount Zion Baptist Church back in 1961, the year Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, a universe away. She sang it again while marching on Albany’s City Hall, where she and other black students demanded the right to vote, and in the cramped and filthy cells of the city jail, which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described as the worst he ever inhabited.

For those like Miss Harris who withstood jailings and beatings and threats to their livelihoods, all because they wanted to vote, the short drive to the polls on Tuesday culminated a lifelong journey from a time that is at once unrecognizable and eerily familiar here in southwest Georgia. As they exited the voting booths, some in wheelchairs, others with canes, these foot soldiers of the civil rights movement could not suppress either their jubilation or their astonishment at having voted for an African-American for president of the United States.

“They didn’t give us our mule and our acre, but things are better,” Miss Harris, 67, said with a gratified smile. “It’s time to reap some of the harvest.”

When Miss Harris arrived at the city gymnasium where she votes, her 80-year-old friend Mamie L. Nelson greeted her with a hug. “We marched, we sang and now it’s happening,” Ms. Nelson said. “It’s really a feeling I cannot describe.”

Many, like the Rev. Horace C. Boyd, who was then and is now pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, viewed the moment through the prism of biblical prophecy. If Dr. King was the movement’s Moses, doomed to die without crossing the Jordan, it would fall to Mr. Obama to be its Joshua, they said.

“King made the statement that he viewed the Promised Land, won’t get there, but somebody will get there, and that day has dawned,” said Mr. Boyd, 81, who pushed his wife in a wheelchair to the polls late Tuesday morning. “I’m glad that it has.”

It was a day most never imagined that they would live to see. From their vantage point amid the cotton fields and pecan groves of Dougherty County, where the movement for voting rights faced some of its most determined resistance, the country simply did not seem ready.

Yes, the world had changed in 47 years. At City Hall, the offices once occupied by the segregationist mayor, Asa D. Kelley Jr., and the police chief, Laurie Pritchett, are now filled by Mayor Willie Adams and Chief James Younger, both of whom are black. But much in this black-majority city of 75,000 also seems the same: neighborhoods remain starkly delineated by race, blacks are still five times more likely than whites to live in poverty and the public schools have so resegregated that 9 of every 10 students are black.

Miss Harris, a retired special education teacher who was jailed three times in 1961 and 1962, was so convinced that Mr. Obama could not win white support that she backed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the primaries. “I just didn’t feel it was time for a black man, to be honest,” she said. “But the Lord has revealed to me that it is time for a change.”

Late Tuesday night, when the networks declared Mr. Obama the winner, Miss Harris could not hold back the tears, the emotions of a lifetime released in a flood. She shared a lengthy embrace with friends gathered at the Obama headquarters, and then led the exultant crowd in song.

“Glory, glory, hallelujah,” she sang. After a prayer, she joined the crowd in chanting, “Yes, we did!”

Among the things Miss Harris appreciates about Mr. Obama is that even though he was in diapers while she was in jail, he seems to respect what came before. “He’s of a different time and place, but he knows whose shoulders he’s standing on,” she said.

When the movement came to Albany in 1961, fewer than 100 of Dougherty County’s 20,000 black residents were registered to vote, said the Rev. Charles M. Sherrod, one of the first field workers sent here by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Literacy tests made a mockery of due process — Mr. Boyd remembers being asked by a registrar how many bubbles were in a bar of soap — and bosses made it clear to black workers that registration might be incompatible with continued employment.

Lucius Holloway Sr., 76, said he lost his job as a post office custodian after he began registering voters in neighboring Terrell County. He said he was shunned by other blacks who hated him for the trouble he incited.

Now Mr. Holloway is a member of the county commission, and when he voted for Mr. Obama last week he said his pride was overwhelming. “Thank you, Jesus, I lived to see the fruit of my labor,” he said.

The Albany movement spread with frenzied abandon after the arrival of Mr. Sherrod and other voting-rights organizers, and Dr. King devoted nearly a year to the effort. The protests became known for the exuberant songs that Miss Harris and others adapted from Negro spirituals. (She would go on to become one of the Freedom Singers, a group that traveled the country as heralds for the civil rights movement.) In the jails, the music helped while away time and soothe the soul, just as they had in the fields a century before.

But the movement met its match in Albany’s recalcitrant white leaders, who filled the jails with demonstrators while avoiding the kind of violence that drew media outrage and federal intervention in other civil rights battlegrounds. The energy gradually drained from the protests, and Dr. King moved on to Birmingham, counting Albany as a tactical failure.

Mr. Sherrod, 71, who settled in Albany and continues to lead a civil rights group here, argues that the movement succeeded; it simply took time. He said he felt the weight of that history when he voted last Thursday morning, after receiving radiation treatment for his prostate cancer. He thought of the hundreds of mass meetings, of the songs of hope and the sermons of deliverance. “This is what we prayed for, this is what we worked for,” he said. “We have a legitimate chance to be a democracy.”

Over and again, the civil rights veterans drew direct lines between their work and the colorblindness of Mr. Obama’s candidacy. But they emphasized that they did not vote for him simply because of his race.

“I think he would make just as good a president as any one of those whites ever made, that’s what I think about it,” said 103-year-old Daisy Newsome, who knocked on doors to register voters “until my hand was sore,” and was jailed in 1961 during a march that started at Mount Zion Baptist. “It ain’t because he’s black, because I’ve voted for the whites.” She added, “I know he can’t be no worse than what there’s done been.”

Mount Zion has now been preserved as a landmark, attached to a new $4 million civil rights museum that was financed through a voter-approved sales tax increase. Across the street, Shiloh Baptist, founded in 1888, still holds services in the sanctuary where Dr. King preached at mass meetings.

Among those leading Sunday’s worship was the associate pastor, Henry L. Mathis, 53, a former city commissioner whose grandmother was a movement stalwart. He could not let the moment pass without looking back.

“We are standing on Jordan’s stony banks, and we’re casting a wishful eye to Canaan’s fair and happy land,” Mr. Mathis preached. “We sang through the years that we shall overcome, but our Father, our God, we pray now that you show that we have overcome.”

    A Time to Reap for Foot Soldiers of Civil Rights, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/us/politics/05civil.html?hp






The Promise

For Many Abroad, an Ideal Renewed


November 5, 2008
The New York Times


GAZA — From far away, this is how it looks: There is a country out there where tens of millions of white Christians, voting freely, select as their leader a black man of modest origin, the son of a Muslim. There is a place on Earth — call it America — where such a thing happens.

Even where the United States is held in special contempt, like here in this benighted Palestinian coastal strip, the “glorious epic of Barack Obama,” as the leftist French editor Jean Daniel calls it, makes America — the idea as much as the actual place — stand again, perhaps only fleetingly, for limitless possibility.

“It allows us all to dream a little,” said Oswaldo Calvo, 58, a Venezuelan political activist in Caracas, in a comment echoed to correspondents of The New York Times on four continents in the days leading up to the election.

Tristram Hunt, a British historian, put it this way: Mr. Obama “brings the narrative that everyone wants to return to — that America is the land of extraordinary opportunity and possibility, where miracles happen.”

But wonder is almost overwhelmed by relief. Mr. Obama’s election offers most non-Americans a sense that the imperial power capable of doing such good and such harm — a country that, they complain, preached justice but tortured its captives, launched a disastrous war in Iraq, turned its back on the environment and greedily dragged the world into economic chaos — saw the errors of its ways over the past eight years and shifted course.

They say the country that weakened democratic forces abroad through a tireless but often ineffective campaign for democracy — dismissing results it found unsavory, cutting deals with dictators it needed as allies in its other battles — was now shining a transformative beacon with its own democratic exercise.

It would be hard to overstate how fervently vast stretches of the globe wanted the election to turn out as it did to repudiate the Bush administration and its policies. Poll after poll in country after country showed only a few — Israel, Georgia, the Philippines — favoring a victory for Senator John McCain.

“Since Bush came to power it’s all bam, bam, bam on the Arabs,” asserted Fathi Abdel Hamid, 40, as he sat in a Cairo coffee house.

The world’s view of an Obama presidency presents a paradox. His election embodies what many consider unique about the United States — yet America’s sense of its own specialness, of its destiny and mission, has driven it astray, they say. They want Mr. Obama, the beneficiary and exemplar of American exceptionalism, to act like everyone else, only better, to shift American policy and somehow to project both humility and leadership.

And there are others who fear that Mr. Obama will be soft in a hard-edged world where what is required is a clear line in the sand to fanatics, aggressors and bullies. Israelis worry that he will talk to Iran rather than stop it from developing nuclear weapons; Georgians worry that he will not grasp how to handle Russia.

An Obama presidency, they say, risks appeasement. It will “reassure Europeans of their defects,” lamented Giuliano Ferrara, editor of the Italian right-wing daily Il Foglio.

Such contradictory demands and expectations may reflect, in part, the unusual makeup of a man of mixed race and origin whose life and upbringing have touched several continents.

“People feel he is a part of them because he has this multiracial, multiethnic and multinational dimension,” said Philippe Sands, a British international lawyer and author who travels frequently, adding that people find some thread of their own hopes and ideals in Mr. Obama. “He represents, for people in so many different communities and cultures, a personal connection. There is an immigrant component and a minority component.”

Francis Nyamnjoh, a Cameroonian novelist and social scientist, said he saw Mr. Obama less as a black man than “as a successful negotiator of identity margins.”

His ability to inhabit so many categories mirrors the African experience. Mr. Nyamnjoh said that for America to choose as its citizen in chief such a skillful straddler of global identities could not help but transform the nation’s image, making it once again the screen upon which the hopes and ambitions of the world are projected.

Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at the People’s University of China, said Mr. Obama’s background, particularly his upbringing in Indonesia, made him suited to understanding the problems facing the world’s poorer nations.

He and others say they hope the next American president will see their place more firmly within the community of nations, engaging in what Jairam Ramesh, junior commerce minister in the Indian government, called “genuine multilateralism and not in muscular unilateralism.”

Assuming Mr. Obama does play by international rules more fully, as he has promised, can his government live up to all the expectations?

“We have so many hopes and wishes that he will never be able to fulfill them,” said Susanne Grieshaber, 40, an art adviser in Berlin who was one of 200,000 Germans to attend a speech by Mr. Obama there in July. She cited action to protect the environment, reducing the use of force and helping the less fortunate. In essence, she wants Mr. Obama to make his country more like hers. But she is sober. “I’m preparing myself for the fact that peace and happiness are not going to suddenly break out,” she said.

Many in less developed countries — especially in the Arab world — agree that Mr. Obama will not carry out their wishes regarding American policy toward Israel and much else, and so they shrug off the results as ultimately making little difference.

“We will be optimistic for two months but that’s it,” predicted Huda Naim, 38, a member of the Hamas parliament here who said her 15-year-old son had watched Mr. Obama’s rise with rapt attention.

But some remain darkly suspicious of the election itself. They doubted that Mr. Obama could be nominated or elected. Now they doubt that he will govern. The skeptics say they believe that American policy is deeply institutionalized and that if Mr. Obama tries to shift it, “they” — the media, the corporate robber barons, the hidden powers — will box him in or even kill him.

“I am afraid for him,” said Alberto Müller Rojas, a retired Venezuelan Army general and the vice president of President Hugo Chávez’s Unified Socialist Party. “The pressures he will face from certain sectors of society, especially from white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, will be enormous.”

Part of that fear stems from genuine if distant affection.

“He has charisma, he’s good-looking, he’s very smart, he’s young and he knows how to make people like him, to the point that when he went to bow down to the Israelis, people here still made excuses for him,” said Nawara Negm, an Egyptian writer and blogger.

There is another paradox about the world’s view of the election of Mr. Obama: many who are quick to condemn the United States for its racist past and now congratulate it for a milestone fail to acknowledge the same problem in their own societies, and so do not see how this election could offer them any lessons about themselves.

In Russia, for example, where Soviet leaders used to respond to any American criticism of human rights violation with “But you hang Negroes,” analysts note that the election of Mr. Obama removes a stain. But they speak of it without reference to their own treatment of ethnic minorities.

“Definitely, this will improve America’s image in Russia,” said Sergey M. Rogov, director of the Institute for U.S.A. and Canada Studies in Moscow. “There was this perception before of widespread racism in America, deeply rooted racism.”

In Nigeria, a vast, populous and diverse collection of states, Reuben Abati, an influential columnist, has written, “Nigerians love good things in other lands, even if they are not making any effort to reproduce the same at home,” adding, “If Obama had been a Nigerian, his race, color and age would have been an intractable problem.”

So foreigners are watching closely, hoping that despite what they consider the hypocrisies and inconsistencies, the nation they once imagined would stand as a model for the future will, with greater sensitivity and less force, help solve the world’s problems.

There is a risk, however, to all the extraordinary international attention paid to this most international of American politicians: Mr. Obama’s focus will almost certainly be on the reeling domestic economy, housing and health care. Will he be able even to lift his head and gaze abroad to all those with such high expectations?

Reporting was contributed by Rachel Donadio from Rome; Steven Erlanger from Paris; Nazila Fathi from Tehran; Isabel Kershner from Jerusalem; Nicholas Kulish from Berlin; Clifford J. Levy from Moscow; Sarah Lyall from Reykjavik, Iceland; Lydia Polgreen from Dakar, Senegal; Simon Romero from Caracas, Venezuela; Somini Sengupta from New Delhi; Michael Slackman from Cairo; Sabrina Tavernise from Istanbul and Kiev, Ukraine; Edward Wong from Beijing; and Robert F. Worth from Sana, Yemen.

For Many Abroad, an Ideal Renewed, NYT, 5.11.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/us/politics/05global.html