Welcome to 44thPOTUS. On this blog I am looking to piece together a few coherent strands from this extraordinary race, and point you towards some of the reasons why we are at this moment in history.

I will look back on the election season and look forward to the priorities of the 44th President of the United States. I will analyse the issues, the money, the media, the distractions, and mostly the strategies of both campaigns.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Could it be you?

"This is who they are: they are the people who won this election. They were the heart and soul and backbone of Barack Obama's victory." - Joe Klein, Time magazine

More people voted for Barack Obama than any other person in the history of the United States - over 62 million, breaking Bush's record in 2004. The under-reported story of this election (though picked up by Time's Joe Klein)is the ground force Obama had - 700 ofiices around the country, exploiting the work Howard Dean began on the internet in '04, and in Dean's 50-State strategy.

These are the people that won the election, and they now want to continue that dialogue. This is Obama's unique position; he can and will pivot his mandate on the animated, active electorate of millions who see this as more than an opportunity to vote, but, finally, a way to come together, to organize, knowing the man in the White House is there because of them, and is one of them.

Perhaps the media are not picking up on this in the way they should is because they feel their power edging away. This is street-level stuff, neighbours talking, strangers getting to know each other - this election was decided becuase people used the online tools of MyBO to get offline, to stage events in unprecedented numbers, to make sure the vote was cast, but that the vote, the victory a week ago, was the first step.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

6am update

Barack Obama is President-Elect!

I was very out on the margin of victory - it is 338-155 as I write, and it may well grow in Obama's favour.

Whatever your political leanings, most people would regard this as historic ( we have a drinking game in downtown Hackney tonight, downing a shot of whisky every time someone says "historic"!)

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Prediction: 274 Obama -264 McCain

Taking a very conservative approach to guessing the unknowable, and regardless of the pundits and the national polls, I think tonight will be very close.

274-264 Obama.

Obama will keep hold of Kerry's map. He will take Virginia, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado (all Bush in 2004). He'll hang on to Pennslvania, but I think that state will be very, very close.

McCain will take Florida, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina , Missouri and the outside bets of Georgia, North Dakota, South Dakota and his own state Arizona.

A few reasons for this:

1. like usual, Al Giordana [http://narcosphere.narconews.com/thefield/field-projects-obama-307-electoral-votes-mccain-231] says it best, big change happens in small doses. remember Obama's closing warning - power does not concede easily. There are enough people in the US who will stand in the rain all day to make sure Obama does not get into the White House.

2. I am going by the latest poll averages from http://www.realclearpolitics.com It shows Obama up by =4 or more in Pennslvania, Virginia, Nevada and Colorado.

I am being very conservative here. Al Giordano has it at 307-231 Obama, Real Clear Politiocs, Karl Rove and Michael Tomasky over at The Guardian [http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/uselections2008] has it at 338-200 Obama. They know how to predict these things, not me - but I sense we are in for a shock tonight - Obama will scrape through, but there's a reason why the Republicans have won all but 3 of the last 10 presidential elections: they come out to vote. Obama is riding a wave of enthusiasm, but his coalition is untested against the republican GOTV machine.

It'll be a long night, but in the end Barack Obama will be President-elect.

Friday, 31 October 2008

"America, our moment is now"

The Obama campaign has a new web video to fire up the base and get the folks to the polls [http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=2J42Mz8-0eg&eurl=http://www.jedreport.com/]

And this 30 minute campaign show, which ran on on 7 channels, national channels nad special interest channels, like a Latino channel. 30 million people saw it. [http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=GtREqAmLsoA&feature=channel] After 27 minutes, the show went live, to join Obama and Biden in a stadium-filled ralley in Florida. [http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=GZPIdyONWyw&feature=related] He told the entire country to go to his website and find out how to help get out the vote. This 30 minute ad is designed to shift the undecideds (and low info voters) into his camp.

Add another 3 million watching Obama on the Daily Show Wednesday evening, and a storm of media coverage over the midnight rally Obama held with Bill Clinton. A good day, then, for the Obamas campaign. And I expect it doesn't end here.

Some events that could be round the corner, to seal the deal?

A return to Springfield, Illinois late monday night, for a rally at the place he began it, in February last year? [http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=gdJ7Ad15WCA] He went back there in August, after choosing Biden, so maybe he'll visit a series of swing states - Pennslvania, Virginia, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio - there are many to choose from.

I sense that the media-busting surprises are not over. Maybe Obama'll convince Powell to go on the stump, maybe he'll bring Bill and Hillary, Biden his wife Jill, and Michelle Obama and their two kids all together. I don't know, but I am sure there will be something.

And they will have to keep the momentum going. The Page reports [http://thepage.time.com/2008/10/31/davis-were-pretty-jazzed-up/] that McCain's "Mike DuHaime says the campaign has made 5.3 million phone calls and doorknocks in the past week, including 1.3 million Thursday alone. Compares with 1.9 million for the same week in 2004.
These big-scale efforts have never been seen before."

That is a lot of people, so this is by no means over.

It all comes down to getting the folks to the polls, and those folks knowing that with their vote they can bring their man to power.

Get Out The Vote





then we are there - Tuesday.

The weekend will be a fury of activity unlike anything seen before - hundreds of thousands of supporters and volunteers for both campaigns.

To counter the idea of Obama having it in the bag, his campaign has released this video [http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=8Xnk9aqih8o] to get people fired up for the long hours ahead.

It all comes down to getting out the vote, and Obama's grassroots structure is new, has not been up against the republican machine, and they will either win the election or lose it. The Obama campaign is doing an incredible job, but they know nothing can be taken for granted.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

"Whack job"

The McCain campain is falling to pieces, and although this desrves and will get more attention, here is a little quote to set up some scrutiny of how so much went wrong so quickly for McCain:

"In convo with Playbook, [http://www.politico.com/playbook/] a top McCain adviser one-ups the priceless “diva” description, calling her “a whack job.”

How he did it: Part Two

Joe's 13 days too late

Big news: Joe the Plumber is going to stump for McCain! [http://thepage.time.com/2008/10/28/joe-the-plumber-to-stump-for-mccain/]

If McCain or his campaign knew anything about politics, this would have been arranged before the final debate 13 days ago, announced during the debate and begun the morning after the debate. Instead of half-heartedly going for it, if this was to be McCain's line of attack, he should have thrown everything at it.

Forget for a moment that it is a logically unsound attack, as Joe is not even a registered plumber (therefore taking jobs from guys who bother to train and register) and Joe would in fact get a tax CUT by Obama! But if you forget about that, and put yourselves in McCain's position, you can either sign Joe up and make him the everyman American, and make yourself the saviour of the Average Joe, or you don't mention it at all.

McCain did the worst possible thing by embracing Joe in his speeches, but not putting his campaign behind getting Joe on the bus straight away.

To borrow from Joe Biden, who always passes on advice from his parents, my father used to say - still does - 'Do a job right or don't do it at all.'

There may be an outside possibility that Joe the Plumber will turn around the masses and save McCain's floundering campaign, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Capturing the difference

Of the millions of words written about Obama these last 21 months, most fall way short in capturing in words the reason why he is where he is. Most writing and commentary on this election is very bad, some is pretty good, but only a very few pieces shed light on the man, his connectivity to the American rumble, and his ability to outpace and out-think almost everybody else.

It is no surprise that some of the most significant words uttered during this period have come from the candidate himself. Who else, if not Obama, could address historical and contemporary US race relations in all its complexities and contradictions? In that speech Obama laid to rest the idiotic notion that his speeches were somehow all style and no substance. He called for a new consensus on race relations, beyond the past divisiveness of group versus group, and toward an honest and unflinching analysis of the issue from all angles. Pushing the debate forward in this way resonates with the body politic, but also it is caught up in the narratives of the don’t knows, the Low-Information Voters (LIVs) - those millions that that don’t read newspapers or watch the news, that don’t see the link between their own lives and government, these folks that only now, with one week to go, are working out what to do, and may well not vote at all. Those folk are affected by Obama’s position on race relations, even if they don’t know it yet, because it is in the air, a breathing constituent of the shaping of the country.

The core of Obama as a person and as a candidate is his ability to empathise. Looking back at the disruptive childhood he had, it is easy to see how another arc could have developed; in Dreams from my Father he writes about slipping into drug-taking as a young man, and consciously deciding to turn his life around. This was a, perhaps inevitable, youthful rebelliousness against a work ethic imposed upon him at a very early age by his mother, Anne Dunham. Obama credits his mother for that ability to see things from the other person’s point of view. A logical continuation of that is a quick-learning instinct to listen rather than speak, to learn rather that presume, to look out with curiosity rather than bunker yourself in with a closed circle of advisers.

These three pieces, linked and pasted below, are essential reading for everyone that wants to understand the man who may well become, very soon, the most powerful person on the planet. They are the best examples so far of describing Obama’s rare ability to think things through from all angles - to paraphrashe Raban's central point, and curiously adopted by Obama in the Klein interview.
They are also placed in order of perceptive awareness of that rare coming together, in my opinion, that Obama possesses. Morrison is word perfect, Raban, towards the end of his piece, mimics every dumb journo and imposes a 'if he does this, then this will happen' narrative on his piece, and Joe Klein is no dumby, but his perception of Obama's policies are not clearly enough viewed through the prism of this election being won or lost on a candidates' ability to appeal to independents (and those LIVs that pick news up by reading the American equivalent of Metro and London Lite) and not just core Democrats. Klein does however come through with describing Obama's strengths well.
Diary, Johnathan Raban, London Review of Books, March 2008
Why Barack Obama is Winning, by Joe Klein


Toni Morrison Endorses Barack Obama

“you exhibit... a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom”

Dear Senator Obama,
This letter represents a first for me--a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate. I feel driven to let you know why I am writing it. One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril. I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.

May I describe to you my thoughts?

I have admired Senator Clinton for years. Her knowledge always seemed to me exhaustive; her negotiation of politics expert. However I am more compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a candidate. I cared little for her gender as a source of my admiration, and the little I did care was based on the fact that no liberal woman has ever ruled in America. Only conservative or "new-centrist" ones are allowed into that realm. Nor do I care very much for your race[s]. I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me "proud."

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?
Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.
There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us.

Toni Morrison

Johnathan Raban, London Review of Books, March 5th 2008

“The campaign trail is the last place where one expects to see an original intellect at work in real time”

Jonathan Raban

I want a hero:
an uncommon want
When every year and month sends forth a new one,
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one.
Byron, Don Juan

For the last few weeks, I’ve left the blue-sheathed national edition of the New York Times out in the yard, where it’s tossed over the gate at 3 a.m. each morning, and gone straight to the paper’s website, because news printed nine or ten hours ago is too old to keep up with the fast-moving course of the Democratic nomination battle. As an Obama supporter, I tremble for him as one trembles for the changing fortunes of the hero of an intensely gripping picaresque novel. What does the latest poll say? Has his campaign, usually sure-footed, stumbled into some damaging foolishness? Has another skeleton been uncovered in his closet? Has his vanity got the better of him again, as when he delivered his smirking line, ‘You’re likeable enough, Hillary’? Are the cloyed gazettes finally tiring of him?
As recently as 29 February, those of us who were finding the suspense already unendurable were looking to 4 March to provide a swift dénouement. Then stuff happened – news of Professor Goolsbee’s clandestine visit to the Canadian Consulate, the ‘red phone’ TV ad, the start of the Antoin Rezko trial – and the Texas and Ohio primary results made clear that this book has at least a hundred pages yet to go.
This may not seem a very grown-up way of following an election, but it’s been forced on us by the apparent shortage of serious policy differences between the two remaining candidates. The questions of whether or not the future president should meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and whether people who fail to pony up for subsidised health insurance should have their wages docked at source, don’t inspire much impassioned conversation at the water-cooler. So we’re down to arguing over the character and style of Clinton and Obama, rather than – tut-tut! – ‘talking about the issues’. But in this case, character and style are issues because they supply the best available clues as to how each candidate might set about forming an administration and handle the business of government.

In Seattle, where I live, one of the most solid liberal-Democrat constituencies in the country, people have been so united in their loathing of the Bush administration and all its works that until now they had pretty much forgotten how to disagree. They have relearned fast. Friendships are strained, dinner parties wrecked, marital beds vacated for the spare room over the Obama v. Clinton question. Our lefty congressman, Jim McDermott, currently in his tenth term (last time around, he beat his Republican opponent by 79 per cent to 16), has wisely chosen not to endorse either candidate; and when he showed up at the local caucus on 9 February, it was to escort his wife there, not to participate himself.

Some women I know take the rise of Obama as a personal affront. They’ve seen him too often before – the cocky younger man, promoted over the head of the better qualified female. They circulate (‘I hope you’ll share this with every decent woman you know’) op-ed pieces by Gloria Steinem (‘Why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one?’), and Erica Jong (‘If I have to watch another great American woman thrown in the dustbin of history to please the patriarchy, I’ll move to Canada’), along with a grand tirade by Robin Morgan, a reprise of her 1970 essay ‘Goodbye to All That’:
How dare anyone unilaterally decide when to turn the page on history, papering over real inequities and suffering constituencies in the promise of a feel-good campaign? How dare anyone claim to unify while dividing, or think that to rouse US youth from torpor it’s useful to triage the single largest demographic in this country’s history: the boomer generation – the majority of which is female?

Morgan’s piece ends with the resounding but opaque antithesis: ‘Me, I’m voting for Hillary not because she’s a woman – but because I am.’ Her furious italicisations fairly represent the tone of the quarrels at which I’ve been present: quarrels in which the word ‘bullshit!’ is freely deployed on both sides, by people whose use of the expletive is as surprising as if they’d suddenly broken into fluent Portuguese.
Two days before the Washington State caucuses, I picked up my 15-year-old from her high school, where she’s a freshman. She was full of what had happened at morning assembly. A senior (‘and he’s kind of popular’) had stood up to announce that Hillary Clinton would be speaking that evening on the Seattle waterfront, and ‘the whole school’ had erupted in catcalls, boos and hisses.

‘The whole school? Didn’t the girls stand up for her?’
‘It was everybody. I think the girls were loudest. Nobody’s ever hissed or booed at Community Meeting before. It was totally weird. Then another senior got up to say that Obama’s going to be at Key Arena tomorrow morning, and everyone was clapping and cheering. It was like the building was coming down.’

Next day, her French class had to be cancelled because half the school was playing truant at the Obama rally.

Age, gender, race and class have featured so prominently in the quarrel that they’ve sometimes seemed to define it as merely demographic warfare, and led the pundits to forecast the primary results by doing the simple arithmetic of counting up whites, blacks, browns, union members, college graduates, under-30s and over-65s. But again and again the pundits have got it wrong, suggesting that the real divisions between the Obamaites and the Clintonites are to be found elsewhere.

In a recent issue of the New Republic, Leon Wieseltier, an Obama sceptic, complained that his positions on foreign policy and national security had ‘a certain homeopathic quality’, more calculated to appeal to his ‘legions of the blissful’ than to meet the needs of an ‘era of conflict, not an era of conciliation’. ‘I understand,’ he wrote, ‘that no one, except perhaps Lincoln, ever ran for the presidency on a tragic sense of life; but if it is possible to be too old in spirit, it is possible also to be too young.’

I think Wieseltier raises the right point, but gets it the wrong way round. For a tragic sense of life is exactly what has marked Obama’s candidacy from the beginning. His powerful memoir, Dreams from My Father, written in his early thirties, is shot through with that sense: its gravely intelligent, death-haunted tone, beautifully controlled throughout the book, is that of an old voice, not a young one – and the voice of the book is of a piece with the plangent, melancholy baritone to be heard on the campaign trail.

Those who hear only empty optimism in Obama aren’t listening. His routine stump speech is built on the premise that America has become estranged from its own essential character; a country unhinged from its constitution, feared and disliked across the globe, engaged in a dumb and unjust war, its tax system skewed to help the rich get richer and the poor grow poorer, its economy in ‘shambles’, its politics ‘broken’. ‘Lonely’ is a favourite word, as he conjures a people grown lonely in themselves and lonely as a nation in the larger society of the world. (Obama himself is clearly on intimate terms with loneliness: Dreams from My Father is the story of a born outsider negotiating a succession of social and cultural frontiers; it takes the form of a lifelong quest for family and community, and ends, like a Victorian novel, with a wedding.)

The light in Obama’s rhetoric – the chants of ‘Yes, we can’ or his woo-woo line, lifted from Maria Shriver’s endorsement speech, ‘We are the ones we have been waiting for’ – is in direct proportion to the darkness, and he paints a blacker picture of America than any Democratic presidential candidate in living memory has dared to do. He courts his listeners, not as legions of the blissful, but as legions of the alienated, adrift in a country no longer recognisable as their own, and challenges them to emulate slaves in their struggle for emancipation, impoverished European immigrants seeking a new life on a far continent, and soldiers of the ‘greatest generation’ who volunteered to fight Fascism and Nazism. The extravagance of these similes is jarring – especially when they’re spoken by a writer as subtle and careful as Obama is on the printed page – but they serve to make the double point that America is in a desperate predicament and that only a great wave of communitarian action can salvage it.

By contrast, Clinton wields the domestic metaphor of the broom: ‘It did take a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush, and I think it might take a second one to clean up after the second Bush.’ It’s a deliberately pedestrian image, and it has defined her campaign. Stuff needs to be fixed around the house, but the damage is superficial, not structural. She has a phenomenal memory for detail, and, given half a chance, reels off long inventories of the chores that will have to be undertaken – the dripping faucet, the broken sash, the blocked toilet, the missing tiles on the roof, that awful carpet on the stairs. Clinton tends to bore journalists with these recitations, but her audiences seem to like them: after the visionary but catastrophic plans of the neoconservatives, the prospect of a return to common-sense practical housekeeping has undeniable charm. Swiping at Obama, she says: ‘I’m a doer, not a talker’ (a phrase with an interesting provenance – it goes back to the First Murderer in Richard III, by way of Bob Dole in his failed bid for the presidency in 1996). But it’s a line that unwittingly draws attention to the intellectual as well as the rhetorical limits of her candidacy.

‘We can get back on the path we were on,’ she promises, meaning the path from which we strayed in November 2000, as if the 1990s were a time of purpose, clarity and unswerving Democratic progress, as well as a period of largely coincidental economic prosperity. Memory’s a strange thing, and Hillary Clinton’s own most notable contributions to those years – the absurd mess of ‘Travelgate’ (widely held to be a factor in Vincent Foster’s suicide), her imperious management of her healthcare plan, whose ignominious defeat contributed to the Republican landslide in the mid-term elections of 1994, her invocation of a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ at the time of the Lewinsky allegations – say a lot about her intense personal involvement in projects, good and bad, but hardly speak well for her judgment or diplomatic talents. On the campaign trail now, she presents herself as ‘a fighter’, battle-hardened and combat-ready, prepared to take on the Republicans ‘from Day One’, thereby reminding everyone that, from January 1995 until January 2001, a state of war existed between the Clinton administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, and that, of the many memorable battles in which Hillary Clinton herself was directly engaged, it’s hard to name one she didn’t lose.

Politicians who receive mass adulation are a suspect breed, and it’s natural to feel pangs of disquiet at an Obama rally in full cry: the roaring thousands, the fainting women, the candidate pacing slowly back and forth, microphone in hand, speaking lines that have become as familiar as advertising jingles but are seized on by the audience with ecstatic shouts of ‘I love you, Obama!’, to which the candidate replies, with offhand cool – ‘I love you back.’ Lately, I’ve been listening to ancient audio recordings of Huey Long exciting crowds as big as these with his pitch of ‘Every Man a King,’ also to Father Coughlin, the anti-semitic ‘radio priest’ from Michigan, just to remind myself of the authentic sound of American demagoguery. But to see a true analogy for an Obama rally, one need only attend almost any large black church on a Sunday morning, and listen to the preacher, his sermon kept aloft by the continuous vocal participation of the congregants.

‘A-men!’ they shout; ‘That’s right!’; ‘Yes, sir!’; ‘Oh, my sweet lord!’; ‘Unh-hunh!’; ‘Yeah!’; ‘It’s all right!’; ‘Hallelujah!’ The antiphonal responses allow the preacher to pause for breath and thought, and, from my one experience in the pulpit of such a church, during a mayoral election in Memphis in 1979, when the Rev. Judge Otis Higgs invited me to speak on his behalf, I know first-hand how readily magniloquent phrases leap to the tongue when you’re urged on by several hundred people hallelujahing your every other sentence. Five minutes or so in that pulpit kept me high for days.

Yet Obama, brought up by his white mother as a secular humanist, was a stranger to black religion until he went to Chicago in 1984, to take up a job as a trainee community organiser. His boss prepped him at his interview in New York: ‘If poor and working-class people want to build real power, they have to have some sort of institutional base. With the unions in the shape they’re in, the churches are the only game in town.’ In Chicago, a black pastor extolled the church as ‘an example of segregation’s hidden blessings’:
. . . the way it forced the lawyer and the doctor to live and worship right next to the maid and the labourer. Like a great pumping heart, the church had circulated goods, information, values, and ideas back and forth and back again, between rich and poor, learned and unlearned, sinner and saved.

Always by necessity a chameleon, Obama picked up in Chicago the style and rhythms of the black charismatic preacher, just as he’d picked up vernacular Indonesian when he was a child in Jakarta. He can now instantly turn a basketball stadium, a high school gym or a university auditorium into the pumping heart of a black church, with uninitiated whites taking their cue from him (‘Yes, we can,’ he murmurs into the mike, to signal that a hallelujah would not be out of order) and from the blacks in the audience who’ve been doing this on Sundays all their lives. For the suburban white kids, it’s a novel transportation into an exuberant community of souls. No wonder the French class was a wash-out.
But his rallies, galling as they must be to the Clinton campaign, convey a misleading impression of his political skills. Better to eavesdrop on him, via unedited video on the internet, at dinner with four constituents in a DC restaurant or answering questions from the editorial board of a local newspaper. What strikes one first is his gravity and intentness as a listener and observer: a negative capability so unusual in a politician that, when one watches these clips, it’s hard to remember that he’s running for office and not chairing a seminar in a department of public policy. When his turn comes to speak, he is at first hesitant, a man of many ums and ers, but as he articulates his answer you realise that he has wholly assimilated the question, inspected it from a distance and seen around its corners, as well as having taken on board both the character and the motive of his questioner. The campaign trail is the last place where one expects to see an original intellect at work in real time, pausing to think, rephrase, acknowledge an implicit contradiction, in such even tones and with such warmth and sombre humour.

He’s an old hand at this. Early in Dreams from My Father, the boy, aged seven or eight, is playing a boisterous game with his Indonesian stepfather in the backyard of their Jakarta house, when Obama suddenly takes leave of his own skin and jumps inside the mind of his mother, watching from behind the window. For the next five pages, we see their situation through her eyes, with all her building dissatisfaction and anxiety at her bold new life as an expatriate. It’s the first of many such narrative leaps, as Obama experiments with the novelistic privilege of inhabiting other people’s points of view and endowing them with an eloquence that they almost certainly could not have summoned for themselves. Giving voice to other people, which he does with grace in his writing, with a sensitive ear for their speech and thought patterns, was also his job as a community organiser in Chicago, and it’s hard to think of anyone for whom the ideas of literary and political power seem so naturally entwined.

In Dreams from My Father, there’s an often repeated moment when Obama learns something important about the world, the adults around him, or his school and college contemporaries, but has to hug it to himself. Describing his first, dawning recognition of the subordinate roles handed out to blacks on television and in print, he explains why he couldn’t communicate the discovery to his mother: ‘I kept these observations to myself, deciding that either my mother didn’t see them or she was trying to protect me and that I shouldn’t expose her efforts as having failed.’ It’s the story of many writers – the solitary child who learns to keep such knowledge secret, and finds in that concealment hidden power.

Even when Obama’s at his most public, firing up an audience at a rally, one notices about him a detachment, a distinct aloofness, as if part of him remains a sceptical and laconic watcher in the wings, keeping his own counsel, as he appears to have been doing since infancy. In more intimate and less artificial circumstances, his capacity for empathy and his innate reserve work in consort. He’s hungry for the details of other people’s lives. He conducts each meeting with his trademark ambassadorial good manners, sussing out his companions and playing his own hand cautiously close to his chest (when he was a state senator in Illinois, he was a leading member of a cross-party poker school). In the heat of a fierce election, he could be mistaken for a writer doing research for a book.

Hillary Clinton, armed with a relentlessly detailed, bullet-pointed position paper for every human eventuality, is a classic technocrat and rationalist; Obama is that exotic political animal, a left-of-centre empiricist. The great strength of his writing is his determination to incorporate into the narrative what he calls ‘unwelcome details’, and you can see the same principle at work in the small print of his policy proposals. Abroad, he accepts the world as it is and, on that basis, is ready to parlay with Presidents Ahmadinejad, Assad and Castro, while Clinton requires the world to conform to her preconditions before she’ll talk directly to such dangerous types. At home, Obama refuses to compel every American to sign up to his healthcare plan (as Clinton would), on the grounds that penalising those who lack the wherewithal to do so will only compound their problems. Where Clinton promises to abolish the Bush education programme known as No Child Left Behind, he wants ‘to make some adjustments’ to it (like moving the standardised tests from late in the school year to the beginning, so that they are neutral measures of attainment, and don’t dictate the syllabus like an impending guillotine).

Clinton’s world is one of absolutes, with no exceptions to the rules; Obama’s is far messier and less amenable to the blunt machinery of government. During the last televised debate in Cleveland, Ohio, he won a big round of applause when he said, ‘A fundamental difference between us is how change comes about,’ meaning that for her it comes about by legislation from the top down, for him by inspiring and organising a shift in popular consciousness from the bottom up.

Traditionally, such empiricism has been associated with the political right, and such rationalism with the left. Michael Oakeshott liked to blame Rationalists (always spelled with a capital R) and their ‘politics of the book’ for every benighted socialist scheme from the Beveridge Report and the 1944 Education Act to the revival of Gaelic as the official language of Ireland; and his description of the Rationalist as someone who ‘reduces the tangle and variety of experience to a set of principles which he will then attack or defend only upon rational grounds’ rather nicely fits Clinton, with her dogmatic certainties and simplifications. Although their specific promises are so similar as to be often indistinguishable, Clinton always stresses the transformative power of government, while Obama’s speeches are littered with reminders that government has strict limits, as when, every time No Child Left Behind comes up, he segues into a riff on the importance of parenting. That’s why so many Republicans and independents have turned out to vote for him in the Democratic primaries: for a liberal, he speaks in a language that conservatives, to their surprise, instinctively recognise as their own: a language that comes partly straight from the living-room and the street and partly from the twin traditions of empiricism and realism. Clinton has lately tried to take Obama down by snapping out the line, ‘Get real!’; it generally falls flat because to most people’s ears he sounds more real than she does by an easy mile. He’s transparently at home in the ‘irksome diversity’ of American life, while she appears to be on temporary day-release from a DC think tank.

Henry James famously said that to be an American is a complex fate. Few living Americans have as fully embodied that complexity in their own lives as Obama has done, and none has written about it with such intelligent regard for its difficulties and rewards. His differences with Clinton aren’t ones of merely rhetorical positioning and presentation; they’re rooted in the temper of his mind. My hope is that, on the road to Pennsylvania and his next big showdown with Clinton on 22 April, he’ll articulate that temper more plainly than he’s done so far. He does it with small audiences. He does it brilliantly in his memoir. But many voters still know him by hearsay as a feel-good evangelist of hope and change – a false impression that Clinton does everything she can to foster and which may yet end his candidacy. Obama has been relying on speechwriters of late: this is one he has to write himself.


Why Barack Obama Is Winning, by Joe Klein, Oct. 22nd 2008

“He seemed to be thinking in my presence, rather than just reciting talking points”

General David Petraeus deployed overwhelming force when he briefed Barack Obama and two other Senators in Baghdad last July. He knew Obama favored a 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, and he wanted to make the strongest possible case against it. And so, after he had presented an array of maps and charts and PowerPoint slides describing the current situation on the ground in great detail, Petraeus closed with a vigorous plea for "maximum flexibility" going forward.

Obama had a choice at that moment. He could thank Petraeus for the briefing and promise to take his views "under advisement." Or he could tell Petraeus what he really thought, a potentially contentious course of action — especially with a general not used to being confronted. Obama chose to speak his mind. "You know, if I were in your shoes, I would be making the exact same argument," he began. "Your job is to succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. But my job as a potential Commander in Chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security." Obama talked about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the financial costs of the occupation of Iraq, the stress it was putting on the military.

A "spirited" conversation ensued, one person who was in the room told me. "It wasn't a perfunctory recitation of talking points. They were arguing their respective positions, in a respectful way." The other two Senators — Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed — told Petraeus they agreed with Obama.

According to both Obama and Petraeus, the meeting — which lasted twice as long as the usual congressional briefing — ended agreeably. Petraeus said he understood that Obama's perspective was, necessarily, going to be more strategic. Obama said that the timetable obviously would have to be flexible. But the Senator from Illinois had laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge. Unlike George W. Bush, who had given Petraeus complete authority over the war — an unprecedented abdication of presidential responsibility (and unlike John McCain, whose hero worship of Petraeus bordered on the unseemly) — Obama would insist on a rigorous chain of command.
Barack Obama has prospered in this presidential campaign because of the steadiness of his temperament and the judicious quality of his decision-making. They are his best-known qualities. The most important decision he has made — the selection of a running mate — was done carefully, with an exhaustive attention to detail and contemplation of all the possible angles. Two months later, as John McCain's peremptory selection of Governor Sarah Palin has come to seem a liability, it could be argued that Obama's quiet selection of Joe Biden defined the public's choice in the general-election campaign.

But not every decision can be made so carefully. There are a thousand instinctive, instantaneous decisions that a presidential candidate has to make in the course of a campaign — like whether to speak his mind to a General Petraeus — and this has been a more difficult journey for Obama, since he's far more comfortable when he's able to think things through. "He has learned to trust his gut," an Obama adviser told me. "He wasn't so confident in his instincts last year. It's been the biggest change I've seen in him."

I asked Obama about gut decisions, in an interview on his plane 17 days before the election. It was late on a Saturday night, and he looked pretty tired, riddled with gray hair and not nearly as young as when I'd first met him four years earlier. He had drawn 175,000 people to two events in Missouri that day, larger crowds than I'd ever seen at a campaign event, and he would be endorsed by Colin Powell the next morning. He seemed as relaxed as ever, though, unfazed by the hoopla or the imminence of the election. Our conversation was informal but intense. He seemed to be thinking in my presence, rather than just reciting talking points, and it took him some time to think through my question about gut decisions. He said the first really big one was how to react when incendiary videos of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's black-nationalist sermons surfaced last spring. "The decision to make it big as opposed to make it small," Obama said of the landmark speech on race relations he delivered in Philadelphia. "My gut was telling me that this was a teachable moment and that if I tried to do the usual political damage control instead of talking to the American people like ... they were adults and could understand the complexities of race, I would be not only doing damage to the campaign but missing an important opportunity for leadership."

The speech was followed by a more traditional form of damage control when Wright showed up in Washington still spewing racial nonsense: Obama cut him loose. And while Obama has followed a fairly traditional political path in this campaign, his strongest — and most telling — moments have been those when he followed his natural no-drama instincts. This has been confusing to many of my colleagues and to me, at times, as well: his utter caution in the debates, his decision not to zing McCain or even to challenge him very much, led me to assume — all three times — that he hadn't done nearly as well as the public ultimately decided he had. McCain was correct when he argued that Obama's aversion to drama led him to snuggle a bit too close to the Democratic Party's orthodoxy. But one of the more remarkable spectacles of the 2008 election — unprecedented in my time as a journalist — was the unanimity among Democrats on matters of policy once the personality clash between Obama and Hillary Clinton was set aside. There was no squabbling between old and new Dems, progressives and moderates, over race or war or peace. This was a year for no-drama Democrats, which made Obama as comfortable a fit for them as McCain was awkward for the Republican base.

And at the crucial moment of the campaign — the astonishing onset of the financial crisis — it was Obama's gut steadiness that won the public's trust, and quite possibly the election. On the afternoon when McCain suspended his campaign, threatened to scuttle the Sept. 26 debate and hopped a plane back to Washington to try to resolve the crisis, Obama was in Florida doing debate prep with his top advisers. When he was told about McCain's maneuvers, Obama's first reaction — according to an aide — was, "You gotta be kidding. I'm going to debate. A President has to be able to do more than one thing at a time." But there was a storm brewing among Obama's supporters in Congress and the Beltway establishment. "My BlackBerry was exploding," said an Obama aide. "They were saying we had to suspend. McCain was going to look more like a statesman, above the fray."

"I didn't believe it," Obama told me. "I have to tell you, one of the benefits of running this 22-month gauntlet is that ... you start realizing that what seems important or clever or in need of some dramatic moment a lot of times just needs reflection and care. And I think that was an example of where my style at least worked." Obama realized that he and McCain could be little more than creative bystanders — and one prominent Republican told me that McCain was "the least creative person in the room at the President's White House meeting. He simply had no ideas. He didn't even have any good questions." Obama had questions for the Treasury Secretary and the Fed chairman, but he was under no illusions: he didn't have the power to influence the final outcome, so it was best to stay calm and not oversell his role. It was an easy call, his natural bias. But, Obama acknowledged, "There are going to be some times where ... I won't have the luxury of thinking through all the angles."

Which is why the Petraeus moment is so interesting. Obama's gut reaction was to go against his normal palliative impulse and to challenge the general instead. "I felt it was necessary to make that point ... precisely because I respect Petraeus and [Ambassador Ryan] Crocker," Obama said, after he reluctantly acknowledged that my reporting of the meeting was correct. "Precisely because they've been doing a good job ... And I want them to understand that I'm taking their arguments seriously." Obama endorses Petraeus' new post, as the commanding general at Central Command, with responsibility for overseeing both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. "He's somebody who cares about facts and cares about the reality on the ground. I don't think he comes at this with an ideological predisposition. That's one of the reasons why I think he's been successful in moving the ball forward in Iraq. And I hope that he's applying that same perspective to what's happening in Afghanistan."

Actually, Obama and Petraeus seem to be thinking along similar lines with regard to Afghanistan. I mentioned that Petraeus had recently given a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation in which he raised the possibility of negotiating with the Taliban. "You know, I think this is one useful lesson that is applicable from Iraq," Obama said without hesitation. "The Sunni awakening changed the dynamic in Iraq fundamentally," he said, referring to the Petraeus-led effort to turn the Sunni tribes away from the more radical elements of the insurgency. "Whether there are those same opportunities in Afghanistan I think should be explored," he said. In fact, senior U.S. military officials have told me that there is a possibility of splitting Pashtun tribes away from the Taliban in the south of Afghanistan. "But we have to do it through the Karzai government," a senior officer told me, referring to the fact that the Army had acted independently of the Maliki government in creating the Anbar Awakening. "That is one lesson we've learned from Iraq."

Almost exactly two years ago, I had my first formal interview with Barack Obama — and he appeared on this magazine's cover for the first time. It wasn't an easy interview. His book The Audacity of Hope had just been published, but his policy proposals didn't seem very audacious. He actually grew a bit testy when I pushed him on the need for universal health insurance and a more aggressive global-warming policy — neither of which he supported. He has stayed with his less-than-universal health-care plan, and I still find it less than convincing. And his cap-and-trade program to control carbon emissions has taken a backseat to the economic crisis — although Obama insisted that he still favored such a plan, so long as consumers are cushioned with rebates when energy prices rise.

But Obama seems a more certain policymaker now, if not exactly a wonk in the Clintonian sense. He has a clearer handle on the big picture, on how various policy components fit together, and a strong sense of what his top priority would be. He wants to launch an "Apollo project" to build a new alternative-energy economy. His rationale for doing so includes some hard truths about the current economic mess: "The engine of economic growth for the past 20 years is not going to be there for the next 20. That was consumer spending. Basically, we turbocharged this economy based on cheap credit." But the days of easy credit are over, Obama said, "because there is too much deleveraging taking place, too much debt." A new economic turbocharger is going to have to be found, and "there is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy ... That's going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office."

That sort of clarity is new. At the beginning of the year, Donna Brazile said of Obama, "We know he can walk on water — now where are the loaves and fishes?" The inability to describe his priorities, the inability to speak directly to voters in ways they could easily comprehend, plagued Obama through much of the primary season. His tendency to use big rhetoric in front of big crowds led to McCain's one good spell, after Obama presumptuously spoke to a huge throng in Berlin after his successful Middle East trip. Only a President should make a major address like that overseas. Obama seemed to learn quickly from that mistake; his language during the general-election campaign has been simple, direct and pragmatic. His best moments in the debates came when he explained what he wanted to do as President. His very best moment came in the town-hall debate when he explained how the government bailout would affect average people who were hurting: if companies couldn't get credit from the banks, they couldn't make their payrolls and would have to start laying people off. McCain, by contrast, demonstrated why it's so hard for Senators to succeed as presidential candidates: he talked about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the sins of Obama, and never brought the argument home.
But even with his new populist skills, Obama hasn't been as plain as he could be. If an Apollo project to create a new alternative-energy economy is his highest priority, as he told me, why hasn't he given a major speech about it during the fall campaign? Why hasn't he begun to mobilize the nation for this next big mission? In part, I suppose, because campaigns are about firefighting — and this campaign in particular has been about "the fierce urgency of now," to use one of Obama's favorite phrases by Martin Luther King Jr., because of the fears raised by the financial crisis and because of the desperate, ferocious attacks launched by his opponent.

If he wins, however, there will be a different challenge. He will have to return, full force, to the inspiration business. The public will have to be mobilized to face the fearsome new economic realities. He will also have to deliver bad news, to transform crises into "teachable moments." He will have to effect a major change in our political life: to get the public and the media to think about long-term solutions rather than short-term balms. Obama has given some strong indications that he will be able to do this, having remained levelheaded through a season of political insanity. His has been a remarkable campaign, as smoothly run as any I've seen in nine presidential cycles. Even more remarkable, Obama has made race — that perennial, gaping American wound — an afterthought. He has done this by introducing a quality to American politics that we haven't seen in quite some time: maturity. He is undoubtedly as ego-driven as everyone else seeking the highest office — perhaps more so, given his race, his name and his lack of experience. But he has not been childishly egomaniacal, in contrast to our recent baby-boomer Presidents — or petulant, in contrast to his opponent. He does not seem needy. He seems a grown-up, in a nation that badly needs some adult supervision.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Joe Klein interviews Obama

" He seemed willing to think in my presence." - Joe Klein

Here is a link [http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/2008/obama_klein_multimedia/] to a very good 3 minute insight into a new interview by Joe Klein, who famously, under the name Anonymous, wrote Primary Colours, the 'fictional' account of Bill Clinton's campaign in 1992.
The link above also contains some very good photos.

It show that Obama again is bucking the trend - he's not terrified of speaking out of place in an interview, of resorting to stock answers - he actually thinks things through, when he's tired, even late at night, close to an election, knowing that any slip up will be repeated for days across the world. Most politicians, let alone people a few days away from becoming the most powerful being on the planet, would stick to the script and make the interview very unnewsworthy. Obama opened up about his disagreements with General Petraus on Iraq, and Klein is smart enough to see the benefits not only of how Obama handled Petraus, but also how he handled the interview.
Klein sums up by saying Obama is going to bring to the presidency a quality "we haven't see in recent Presidents. And that quality is maturity."

The Closer

"Don't believe for a second this election is over. Don't think for a minute that power concedes." - Barack Obama

Here is the closer, the new stump speech just delivered by Obama.

Here Obama focuses on the fondation stones of his campaign: McCain being just like Bush, a new politics in which everyone comes together, hope for a better tomorrow, and his victory being dependent on the enthusiasm of his supporters to fight for him. It's a very good speech, intent on hightligting the differences and pushing his supporters forward to work: "We have to work like our future depends on it in this last week, because it does."

It will no doubt be repeated in some TV magic way for the 30 minute advert on US networks wednesday night.


Remarks of Senator Barack Obama—as prepared for delivery

“One Week”Closing Argument Speech

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Canton, Ohio

One week.

After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George Bush, and twenty-one months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are one week away from change in America.

In one week, you can turn the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street.

In one week, you can choose policies that invest in our middle-class, create new jobs, and grow this economy from the bottom-up so that everyone has a chance to succeed; from the CEO to the secretary and the janitor; from the factory owner to the men and women who work on its floor.

In one week, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election; that tries to pit region against region, city against town, Republican against Democrat; that asks us to fear at a time when we need hope.

In one week, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need.
We began this journey in the depths of winter nearly two years ago, on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. Back then, we didn't have much money or many endorsements. We weren't given much of a chance by the polls or the pundits, and we knew how steep our climb would be.

But I also knew this. I knew that the size of our challenges had outgrown the smallness of our politics. I believed that Democrats and Republicans and Americans of every political stripe were hungry for new ideas, new leadership, and a new kind of politics – one that favors common sense over ideology; one that focuses on those values and ideals we hold in common as Americans.

Most of all, I believed in your ability to make change happen. I knew that the American people were a decent, generous people who are willing to work hard and sacrifice for future generations. And I was convinced that when we come together, our voices are more powerful than the most entrenched lobbyists, or the most vicious political attacks, or the full force of a status quo in Washington that wants to keep things just the way they are.

Twenty-one months later, my faith in the American people has been vindicated. That's how we've come so far and so close – because of you. That's how we'll change this country – with your help. And that's why we can't afford to slow down, sit back, or let up for one day, one minute, or one second in this last week. Not now. Not when so much is at stake.

We are in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. 760,000 workers have lost their jobs this year. Businesses and families can't get credit. Home values are falling. Pensions are disappearing. Wages are lower than they've been in a decade, at a time when the cost of health care and college have never been higher. It's getting harder and harder to make the mortgage, or fill up your gas tank, or even keep the electricity on at the end of the month.

At a moment like this, the last thing we can afford is four more years of the tired, old theory that says we should give more to billionaires and big corporations and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. The last thing we can afford is four more years where no one in Washington is watching anyone on Wall Street because politicians and lobbyists killed common-sense regulations. Those are the theories that got us into this mess. They haven't worked, and it's time for change. That's why I'm running for President of the United States.

Now, Senator McCain has served this country honorably. And he can point to a few moments over the past eight years where he has broken from George Bush – on torture, for example. He deserves credit for that. But when it comes to the economy – when it comes to the central issue of this election – the plain truth is that John McCain has stood with this President every step of the way. Voting for the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that he once opposed. Voting for the Bush budgets that spent us into debt. Calling for less regulation twenty-one times just this year.

Those are the facts.

And now, after twenty-one months and three debates, Senator McCain still has not been able to tell the American people a single major thing he'd do differently from George Bush when it comes to the economy. Senator McCain says that we can't spend the next four years waiting for our luck to change, but you understand that the biggest gamble we can take is embracing the same old Bush-McCain policies that have failed us for the last eight years.

It's not change when John McCain wants to give a $700,000 tax cut to the average Fortune 500 CEO. It's not change when he wants to give $200 billion to the biggest corporations or $4 billion to the oil companies or $300 billion to the same Wall Street banks that got us into this mess. It's not change when he comes up with a tax plan that doesn't give a penny of relief to more than 100 million middle-class Americans. That's not change.

Look – we've tried it John McCain's way. We've tried it George Bush's way. Deep down, Senator McCain knows that, which is why his campaign said that “if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.” That's why he's spending these last weeks calling me every name in the book. Because that's how you play the game in Washington. If you can't beat your opponent's ideas, you distort those ideas and maybe make some up. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run away from. You make a big election about small things.

Ohio, we are here to say “Not this time. Not this year. Not when so much is at stake.” Senator McCain might be worried about losing an election, but I'm worried about Americans who are losing their homes, and their jobs, and their life savings. I can take one more week of John McCain's attacks, but this country can't take four more years of the same old politics and the same failed policies. It's time for something new.

The question in this election is not “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” We know the answer to that. The real question is, “Will this country be better off four years from now?”
I know these are difficult times for America. But I also know that we have faced difficult times before. The American story has never been about things coming easy – it's been about rising to the moment when the moment was hard. It's about seeing the highest mountaintop from the deepest of valleys. It's about rejecting fear and division for unity of purpose. That's how we've overcome war and depression. That's how we've won great struggles for civil rights and women's rights and worker's rights. And that's how we'll emerge from this crisis stronger and more prosperous than we were before – as one nation; as one people.

Remember, we still have the most talented, most productive workers of any country on Earth. We're still home to innovation and technology, colleges and universities that are the envy of the world. Some of the biggest ideas in history have come from our small businesses and our research facilities. So there's no reason we can't make this century another American century.

We just need a new direction. We need a new politics.

Now, I don't believe that government can or should try to solve all our problems. I know you don't either. But I do believe that government should do that which we cannot do for ourselves – protect us from harm and provide a decent education for our children; invest in new roads and new science and technology. It should reward drive and innovation and growth in the free market, but it should also make sure businesses live up to their responsibility to create American jobs, and look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road. It should ensure a shot at success not only for those with money and power and influence, but for every single American who's willing to work. That's how we create not just more millionaires, but more middle-class families. That's how we make sure businesses have customers that can afford their products and services. That's how we've always grown the American economy – from the bottom-up. John McCain calls this socialism. I call it opportunity, and there is nothing more American than that.

Understand, if we want get through this crisis, we need to get beyond the old ideological debates and divides between left and right. We don't need bigger government or smaller government. We need a better government – a more competent government – a government that upholds the values we hold in common as Americans.

We don't have to choose between allowing our financial system to collapse and spending billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out Wall Street banks. As President, I will ensure that the financial rescue plan helps stop foreclosures and protects your money instead of enriching CEOs. And I will put in place the common-sense regulations I've been calling for throughout this campaign so that Wall Street can never cause a crisis like this again. That's the change we need.

The choice in this election isn't between tax cuts and no tax cuts. It's about whether you believe we should only reward wealth, or whether we should also reward the work and workers who create it. I will give a tax break to 95% of Americans who work every day and get taxes taken out of their paychecks every week. I'll eliminate income taxes for seniors making under $50,000 and give homeowners and working parents more of a break. And I'll help pay for this by asking the folks who are making more than $250,000 a year to go back to the tax rate they were paying in the 1990s. No matter what Senator McCain may claim, here are the facts – if you make under $250,000, you will not see your taxes increase by a single dime – not your income taxes, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes. Nothing. Because the last thing we should do in this economy is raise taxes on the middle-class.

When it comes to jobs, the choice in this election is not between putting up a wall around America or allowing every job to disappear overseas. The truth is, we won't be able to bring back every job that we've lost, but that doesn't mean we should follow John McCain's plan to keep giving tax breaks to corporations that send American jobs overseas. I will end those breaks as President, and I will give American businesses a $3,000 tax credit for every job they create right here in the United States of America. I'll eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-up companies that are the engine of job creation in this country. We'll create two million new jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads, and bridges, and schools, and by laying broadband lines to reach every corner of the country. And I will invest $15 billion a year in renewable sources of energy to create five million new energy jobs over the next decade – jobs that pay well and can't be outsourced; jobs building solar panels and wind turbines and a new electricity grid; jobs building the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow, not in Japan or South Korea but here in the United States of America; jobs that will help us eliminate the oil we import from the Middle East in ten years and help save the planet in the bargain. That's how America can lead again.

When it comes to health care, we don't have to choose between a government-run health care system and the unaffordable one we have now. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change under my plan is that we will lower premiums. If you don't have health insurance, you'll be able to get the same kind of health insurance that Members of Congress get for themselves. We'll invest in preventative care and new technology to finally lower the cost of health care for families, businesses, and the entire economy. And as someone who watched his own mother spend the final months of her life arguing with insurance companies because they claimed her cancer was a pre-existing condition and didn't want to pay for treatment, I will stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care most.
When it comes to giving every child a world-class education so they can compete in this global economy for the jobs of the 21st century, the choice is not between more money and more reform – because our schools need both. As President, I will invest in early childhood education, recruit an army of new teachers, pay them more, and give them more support. But I will also demand higher standards and more accountability from our teachers and our schools. And I will make a deal with every American who has the drive and the will but not the money to go to college: if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford your tuition. You invest in America, America will invest in you, and together, we will move this country forward.

And when it comes to keeping this country safe, we don't have to choose between retreating from the world and fighting a war without end in Iraq. It's time to stop spending $10 billion a month in Iraq while the Iraqi government sits on a huge surplus. As President, I will end this war by asking the Iraqi government to step up, and finally finish the fight against bin Laden and the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm's way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century, and I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.

I won't stand here and pretend that any of this will be easy – especially now. The cost of this economic crisis, and the cost of the war in Iraq, means that Washington will have to tighten its belt and put off spending on things we can afford to do without. On this, there is no other choice. As President, I will go through the federal budget, line-by-line, ending programs that we don't need and making the ones we do need work better and cost less.

But as I've said from the day we began this journey all those months ago, the change we need isn't just about new programs and policies. It's about a new politics – a politics that calls on our better angels instead of encouraging our worst instincts; one that reminds us of the obligations we have to ourselves and one another.

Part of the reason this economic crisis occurred is because we have been living through an era of profound irresponsibility. On Wall Street, easy money and an ethic of “what's good for me is good enough” blinded greedy executives to the danger in the decisions they were making. On Main Street, lenders tricked people into buying homes they couldn't afford. Some folks knew they couldn't afford those houses and bought them anyway. In Washington, politicians spent money they didn't have and allowed lobbyists to set the agenda. They scored political points instead of solving our problems, and even after the greatest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor, all we were asked to do by our President was to go out and shop.

That is why what we have lost in these last eight years cannot be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits alone. What has also been lost is the idea that in this American story, each of us has a role to play. Each of us has a responsibility to work hard and look after ourselves and our families, and each of us has a responsibility to our fellow citizens. That's what's been lost these last eight years – our sense of common purpose; of higher purpose. And that's what we need to restore right now.

Yes, government must lead the way on energy independence, but each of us must do our part to make our homes and our businesses more efficient. Yes, we must provide more ladders to success for young men who fall into lives of crime and despair. But all of us must do our part as parents to turn off the television and read to our children and take responsibility for providing the love and guidance they need. Yes, we can argue and debate our positions passionately, but at this defining moment, all of us must summon the strength and grace to bridge our differences and unite in common effort – black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American; Democrat and Republican, young and old, rich and poor, gay and straight, disabled or not.

In this election, we cannot afford the same political games and tactics that are being used to pit us against one another and make us afraid of one another. The stakes are too high to divide us by class and region and background; by who we are or what we believe.

Because despite what our opponents may claim, there are no real or fake parts of this country. There is no city or town that is more pro-America than anywhere else – we are one nation, all of us proud, all of us patriots. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America – they have served the United States of America.

It won't be easy, Ohio. It won't be quick. But you and I know that it is time to come together and change this country. Some of you may be cynical and fed up with politics. A lot of you may be disappointed and even angry with your leaders. You have every right to be. But despite all of this, I ask of you what has been asked of Americans throughout our history.

I ask you to believe – not just in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.

I know this change is possible. Because I have seen it over the last twenty-one months. Because in this campaign, I have had the privilege to witness what is best in America.

I've seen it in lines of voters that stretched around schools and churches; in the young people who cast their ballot for the first time, and those not so young folks who got involved again after a very long time. I've seen it in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see their friends lose their jobs; in the neighbors who take a stranger in when the floodwaters rise; in the soldiers who re-enlist after losing a limb. I've seen it in the faces of the men and women I've met at countless rallies and town halls across the country, men and women who speak of their struggles but also of their hopes and dreams.

I still remember the email that a woman named Robyn sent me after I met her in Ft. Lauderdale. Sometime after our event, her son nearly went into cardiac arrest, and was diagnosed with a heart condition that could only be treated with a procedure that cost tens of thousands of dollars. Her insurance company refused to pay, and their family just didn't have that kind of money.

In her email, Robyn wrote, “I ask only this of you – on the days where you feel so tired you can't think of uttering another word to the people, think of us. When those who oppose you have you down, reach deep and fight back harder.”

Ohio, that's what hope is – that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better is waiting around the bend; that insists there are better days ahead. If we're willing to work for it. If we're willing to shed our fears and our doubts. If we're willing to reach deep down inside ourselves when we're tired and come back fighting harder.

Hope! That's what kept some of our parents and grandparents going when times were tough. What led them to say, “Maybe I can't go to college, but if I save a little bit each week my child can; maybe I can't have my own business but if I work really hard my child can open one of her own.” It's what led immigrants from distant lands to come to these shores against great odds and carve a new life for their families in America; what led those who couldn't vote to march and organize and stand for freedom; that led them to cry out, “It may look dark tonight, but if I hold on to hope, tomorrow will be brighter.”

That's what this election is about. That is the choice we face right now.

Don't believe for a second this election is over. Don't think for a minute that power concedes. We have to work like our future depends on it in this last week, because it does.

In one week, we can choose an economy that rewards work and creates new jobs and fuels prosperity from the bottom-up.

In one week, we can choose to invest in health care for our families, and education for our kids, and renewable energy for our future.

In one week, we can choose hope over fear, unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo.

In one week, we can come together as one nation, and one people, and once more choose our better history.

That's what's at stake. That's what we're fighting for. And if in this last week, you will knock on some doors for me, and make some calls for me, and talk to your neighbors, and convince your friends; if you will stand with me, and fight with me, and give me your vote, then I promise you this – we will not just win Ohio, we will not just win this election, but together, we will change this country and we will change the world. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.