Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yale magazine: A Green Agenda for Obama's First 100 Days

Environmentalists offer the president-elect their advice on the priorities he should set for his administration.


Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

I believe the most important initiative that President Obama should undertake would be to announce an ambitious plan for reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases on par with what the European Union has put forward — namely the 20-20-20 plan. This would require the U.S. to cut its emissions by 20 percent over 1990 levels, as well as generate 20 percent of its electricity through renewable energy sources, by 2020. Everything else would flow out of this set of goals, because business and industry would take immediate action in developing new technologies and refining existing ones to make them economically viable before 2020.

One major area in which the new President could bring about a major structural change would be to strengthen passenger railway transport in the U.S. by providing low interest loans to build high-speed lines that would lure passengers away from air travel. Simultaneously, the new administration must mandate stringent mileage standards to produce energy-efficient cars. States and local governments should be provided with financial support to carry out energy-efficiency retrofits in existing buildings and ensure much higher targets of energy efficiency in new construction.

The U.S. should also donate liberally to the adaptation fund that hopefully will be part of the new agreement on climate change to be negotiated by the end of 2009 in Copenhagen. Several poor countries that bear no responsibility for the increase in greenhouse gases will need major resources to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and as a matter of international justice, the U.S. must play a large role in these adaptation efforts.

I would tell the new President that all these measures would not only meet the challenge of climate change and establish the willingness of the U.S. to be part of the solution, but would also ensure energy security for the U.S. in the future and create much-needed new employment.

Rove: Organizing the White House Is Obama's First Test

Organizing the White House Is Obama's First Test, by Karl Rove
All presidents come to realize how much structure matters


As he organizes his presidency, Barack Obama continues to receive glowing reviews. Three out of four Americans approve of how he's handling his transition.

But organizing and operating the White House will be a much bigger challenge than he can possibly yet understand.

Consider national security. Mr. Obama's team has the advantage of inheriting procedures and structures that stretch back to President Harry Truman's 1947 reforms, which created the National Security Council. But there's historically been tension over the roles of the national security adviser and secretary of state. How that tension is resolved depends largely on the able National Security Adviser-designate, James Jones.

Mr. Jones has been Marine Corps commandant and NATO supreme allied commander, posts whose occupants are treated as demigods. How easily will he fit into a staff role? Will Mr. Jones see his responsibility as ensuring the president receives a broad range of options, or will he put a higher priority on advocating his own substantive views? Could Mr. Jones's personal relationship with so many top brass undermine Secretary Robert Gates's control of the Pentagon during what could be Mr. Gates's last year at Defense?


To this complicated mix Mr. Obama has added a White House energy and climate-change czar, former Clinton-era EPA Administrator Carol Browner. Which raises these questions: Will the EPA and its legions of experts still lead policy development, or will the new climate czar? Will the CEQ lose authority to Ms. Browner? There are many strong people in Mr. Obama's environmental arena. Who's in charge, and how will those relationships shake out?

Mr. Obama's new Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Tom Daschle, has never run anything but will have responsibility for one of the government's most complicated departments. And while Mr. Daschle may have lost his last campaign, he's lost none of his skill at internecine warfare. The wily Washington insider also grabbed the title of director of the White House Office of Health Reform. The creation of this new Daschle-led office clearly downgrades both the DPC and the National Economic Council, which have traditionally split White House action on health issues. [...]

Finally, the Obama team continues discussing how to use its campaign email list. According to press reports, the aim is to "place pressure on key legislators." But that raises problems beyond irritating representatives and senators who will resent the White House for making their lives more difficult. Ethics and election law expert Tom Josefiak of Holtzman Vogel PLLC says the Obama White House should reread the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel's opinions about The Anti-Lobbying Act. One in 1988 warned: "We caution against grassroots appeals, even by the President, that involve substantial expenditures of appropriated funds." This suggests putting the email list on White House servers is a problem.

And who will direct and pay the organizers that the transition team may hire to lead these White House lobbying efforts? Former FEC Chairman Michael Toner, now of Bryan Cave LLP, says running a new grass-roots advocacy group out of the White House could create serious election-law difficulties. The FEC has imposed large civil penalties on some advocacy groups for failing to register as political committees and abide by hard-dollar contribution limits. Also, any White House advocacy group runs the risk of being treated as a Democratic National Committee affiliate, triggering shared contribution limits, reporting requirements, and a prohibition on soft-money contributions. Given Mr. Obama's professed support of campaign finance reform, he could ill afford any of these problems.

Mr. Obama is assembling a strong and intelligent team of people with muscular views and large personalities. Will the individual parts cohere into a well-functioning whole? Things that sound good often work less well in reality. Having served in the White House for nearly seven years and carefully studied how the modern presidency functions, it strikes me that some of Mr. Obama's steps may make smooth operations harder. [...]

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

About Karl Rove

Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. At the White House he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Intergovernmental Affairs and was Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, coordinating the White House policy making process.

Before Karl became known as "The Architect" of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, nonpartisan causes, and nonprofit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.

Karl writes a weekly op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, is a Newsweek columnist and is now writing a book to be published by Simon & Schuster. Email the author at or visit him on the web at

Bush 43 vs. Clinton on Lower-Court Appointees

Bush 43 vs. Clinton on Lower-Court Appointees, by Ed Whelan, December 09, 2008. Excerpts:

I’ve already noted that President Bush’s total of [61] confirmed federal appellate appointees (which includes three of President Clinton’s nominees whom Bush renominated and appointed) is lower than Clinton’s total of 65. It’s also striking that there are roughly as many (and slightly more) Clinton federal appellate appointees in active service today, more than 15 years after his initial appointments and more than 8 years after his last ones, than there are Bush 43 appointees: [58] for Clinton, [57] for Bush. (Again, I’m counting in Bush’s total all three of Clinton’s nominees whom Bush renominated and appointed.) So much for the supposed predominance of Bush 43 appointees. [12/10 and 12/11 updates: I’ve tweaked the second sentence and corrected the numbers.]

The total federal district court numbers are even worse: 261 Bush appointees versus 305 Clinton appointees. Again, there are more Clinton-appointed federal district judges (258) than Bush district judges (253) still in active service.

All my data is drawn from the Federal Judicial Center’s database [...].

ABC News' Rick Klein: Obama Wants Fight with Gay Activists to Prove He's Moderate

ABC News' Rick Klein published this comment in his blog:

President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration has ignited a firestorm of criticism from the gay-rights community, where Warren is considered something of a sworn enemy.

Yet Obama’s response to a question about his selection of Warren seems to confirm one perception: that this is a fight that the president-elect isn’t necessarily sorry to be having.


The fight is an offshoot of a continuing struggle Obama has had with his left flank. His relationship with liberals in the Democratic Party has long stopped just this side of adulation, and some prominent gay-rights leaders have been skeptical about how aggressively he’s committed to their agenda.

Still, from an incoming administration that seems very much committed to governing from the center, could it be that this is a fight that is welcomed?

Remarks from Senator John McCain, Nov 4, 2008

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 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 prideful 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 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 in 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 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 tonight to feel some disappointment, but tomorrow we must move beyond it and work together to get our country moving again. We fought as hard as we could.

And though we fell 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 am especially grateful to my wife, Cindy, my children, 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, of course, very thankful to Governor Sarah Palin, 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 with 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 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.

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, 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, 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.


Time Magazine On Obama: 'His Genome Is Global, His Mind Is Innovative, His World Is Networked'

Time's Person of the Year 2008: excerpts of article by David Von Drehle.

Stop and look back at those last few words, because they are a telltale sign of Obama's pragmatism. A persistent question during the campaign -- it became the heart of John McCain's message in the closing weeks -- was whether Obama was some kind of radical, a terrorist-befriending socialist masquerading as Steady Freddy. As he builds his Administration, though, he is emerging as a leader who just wants to "get some things done."


Unveiling these and other picks at a series of daily press conferences, Obama assured the public that he wanted to move fast, so fast that trainloads of money might be ready for him to dispatch across the country with a stroke of his pen on Inauguration Day. The idea of another wave of spending horrifies America's surviving conservatives, but most economists support it -- some with enthusiasm, some with resignation. Obama realized that the stimulus package could be a vehicle for launching his broad domestic agenda. His ambitious campaign promises — to reform health care, cut taxes for low- and moderate-income earners and steer the U.S. toward a new energy economy — had seemed doomed by the yawning budget deficit (some $200 billion a month, according to the latest projections). But call these projects "stimulus," and suddenly a ship headed for the reef of economic disaster might sail through Congress flying the flag of economic recovery.

With even Republican economists talking about hundreds of billions in new spending, the sky's the limit. A dream of health-care reformers -- electronic medical records -- is now economic stimulus because Obama will pour money into hospitals for computers and clerical workers. His tax cut is stimulus because it puts spending money in the pockets of working Americans. His pledge to repair the nation's infrastructure is a stimulus plan for construction workers, while his energy strategy is stimulus for the people who will modernize government buildings, update public schools and improve the electrical grid.


Podesta had long been planning the return of a Democrat to the White House, and his think tank, the Center for American Progress, was already preparing detailed briefings on conditions in the various departments of government. As the financial system went into free fall in September, Podesta's team pressed the FBI to work overtime on security screenings of potential Obama nominees. Now, as he boarded a 6 a.m. flight to Chicago, Podesta carried a list of more than 100 candidates who had passed their background investigations and were ready for confirmation on Day One.


Obama had been pondering whether he should step to center stage or wait in the wings as the turbulent last months of the Bush Administration played out. His aides were all over the map. Some advised him to go quietly about his business in Chicago and insist that America has just one President at a time. For Obama to succeed, they argued, the country needed to see his Inauguration as a clean break, a new sunrise. Others floated the idea of immediately starting the First Hundred Days, perhaps asking George W. Bush to appoint Obama's choices to key offices so that they could get to work by late November.


They told Hart they were drawn to Obama's self-assured and calming personality. They felt he was "honest," a "straight shooter" -- in other words, a person who does what he says he will do. Their confidence in Obama wasn't starry-eyed; they hadn't been swept away by his stadium speeches. They saw a man who can get some things done, at a time when so many of their leaders, from Pennsylvania Avenue to Wall Street, cannot. He made moderates feel hopeful, and even among many core Republicans who did not ultimately vote for him, Obama inspired admiration. Viewing these comments through the results of his national surveys, Hart discerned a surge of good feeling that he had not seen in a generation: "a sense of real hope," he says, "and the kind of broad bipartisan support that has not been in evidence since the 1980 Reagan election."


A few days after this interview, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich reminded the country that some aspects of politics will never change. Government is a human enterprise, after all, and Obama, like everyone else, is bound by its limits and subject to human frailty. Nevertheless, if he has shown anything this year, Obama has made it clear that he knows how to write new playbooks and do things in new ways. Which is a compelling quality right now. His arrival on the scene feels like a step into the next century -- his genome is global, his mind is innovative, his world is networked, and his spirit is democratic.

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