Barack Obama, international man of mystery
But here are 51 things we now know about him, courtesy of London's Telegraph newspaper:
- He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics
- He was known as "O'Bomber" at high school for his skill at basketball
- His name means "one who is blessed" in Swahili
- His favourite meal is wife Michelle's shrimp linguini
- He won a Grammy in 2006 for the audio version of his memoir, Dreams From My Father
- He is left-handed – the sixth post-war president to be left-handed
- He has read every Harry Potter book
- He owns a set of red boxing gloves autographed by Muhammad Ali
- He worked in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop as a teenager and now can't stand ice cream
- His favourite snacks are chocolate-peanut protein bars
- He ate dog meat, snake meat, and roasted grasshopper while living in Indonesia
- He can speak Spanish
- While on the campaign trail he refused to watch CNN and had sports channels on instead.
- His favourite drink is black forest berry iced tea
- He promised Michelle he would quit smoking before running for president – he didn't
- He kept a pet ape called Tata while in Indonesia
- He can bench press an impressive 200lbs
- He was known as Barry until university when he asked to be addressed by his full name
- His favourite book is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
- He visited Wokingham, Berks, in 1996 for the stag party of his half-sister's fiancé, but left when a stripper arrived
- His desk in his Senate office once belonged to Robert Kennedy
- He and Michelle made $4.2 million (£2.7 million) last year, with much coming from sales of his books
- His favourite films are Casablanca and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- He carries a tiny Madonna and child statue and a bracelet belonging to a soldier in Iraq for good luck
- He applied to appear in a black pin-up calendar while at Harvard but was rejected by the all-female committee.
- His favourite music includes Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Bach and The Fugees
- He took Michelle to see the Spike Lee film Do The Right Thing on their first date
- He enjoys playing Scrabble and poker
- He doesn't drink coffee and rarely drinks alcohol
- He would have liked to have been an architect if he were not a politician
- As a teenager he took drugs including marijuana and cocaine
- His daughters' ambitions are to go to Yale before becoming an actress (Malia, 10) and to sing and dance (Sasha, 7)
- He hates the youth trend for trousers which sag beneath the backside
- He repaid his student loan only four years ago after signing his book deal
- His house in Chicago has four fire places
- Daughter Malia's godmother is Jesse Jackson's daughter Santita
- He says his worst habit is constantly checking his BlackBerry
- He uses an Apple Mac laptop
- He drives a Ford Escape Hybrid, having ditched his gas-guzzling Chrysler 300
- He wears $1,500 (£952) Hart Schaffner Marx suits
- He owns four identical pairs of black size 11 shoes
- He has his hair cut once a week by his Chicago barber, Zariff, who charges $21 (£13)
- His favourite fictional television programmes are Mash and The Wire
- He was given the code name "Renegade" by his Secret Service handlers
- He was nicknamed "Bar" by his late grandmother
- He plans to install a basketball court in the White House grounds
- His favourite artist is Pablo Picasso
- His speciality as a cook is chilli
- He has said many of his friends in Indonesia were "street urchins"
- He keeps on his desk a carving of a wooden hand holding an egg, a Kenyan symbol of the fragility of life
- His late father was a senior economist for the Kenyan government
Just in case you were wondering (which you probably weren't).
Come on in my kitchen
From a story on the ABC News web site:
Yum. I'm smelling a Sarah Palin cookbook in here somewhere.
Maybe it can compete with this.
Hank Paulson's Day Off
Ben Stein on Hank Paulson:
"The Laffer Curve. Anyone know what this says? It says that at this point on the revenue curve, you will get exactly the same amount of revenue as at this point. This is very controversial. Does anyone know what Vice President Bush called this in 1980? Anyone?
"Paulson? … Paulson? … Paulson?"
Restraint or overreach? You decide …
The leadership of the Democratic Congress has wasted no time outlining its legislative agenda.
Unfortunately, the MSM can't quite get its story straight: Crow about liberals' newfound clout on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue? Or pretend the Dems will actually behave with restraint and that their new majorities in both houses will actually lead to "more bipartisanship"?
Two headlines in today's papers — the first from the Associated Press, the second from the New York Times — illustrate the conundrum: "Democrats in Congress Wary of Overreaching" and "Democrats Vow to Pursue an Aggressive Agenda."
Here's the start of the AP story by Andrew Taylor:
Obama will inherit a Congress with Democratic House and Senate majorities comparable to those enjoyed by President Clinton when the party last controlled both Congress and the White House in 1992. While Democrats are eager to churn out the new president's legislative programs, they're also anxious to avoid the electoral wipeout that swept them from power in the 1994 congressional elections.
That's one reason top leaders like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promise not to lurch to the left and give in to pent-up demands from party liberals.
"The country must be governed from the middle," Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Wednesday. "You have to bring people together to reach consensus on solutions that are sustainable and acceptable to the American people."
Here's the same Pelosi news conference as covered by David Herszenhorn and Carl Hulse:
By reaching deep into traditionally Republican turf, the Democrats in Tuesday’s elections expanded their majorities in both the House and the Senate. They picked up at least five Senate seats, in Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia. And they picked up at least 19 House seats, with new Democrats coming from Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia.
The full extent of the new Democratic majorities remained unknown, with tight Senate races still undecided in Alaska, Minnesota and Oregon and a runoff scheduled on Dec. 2 in Georgia. At least six House races remained too close to call.
Still, the promise of strong control of Congress also left Democratic leaders grappling with challenges of balancing a wider spectrum of views within their own party while confronting a diminished House Republican conference now decidedly more conservative.
The exuberance of Tuesday night’s victories was also tempered by unease over the public’s high expectations for a party in control of both Congress and the White House amid economic turmoil, two wars overseas and a yawning budget gap.
On the day after the election, leadership battles were breaking out across Capitol Hill as lawmakers contemplated the prospects of new power and opportunity. The quick start to the skirmishing signaled that some of the more bitter fights in the next Congress could be internal battles among Democrats ….
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who spoke with Mr. Obama by phone on Wednesday morning, said that they had made plans to discuss coordinated efforts for the transition and the new Congress, but that a more ambitious agenda would unfold next year.
“Our priorities have tracked the Obama campaign priorities for a very long time,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference where she cited the economy, health care, energy and the Iraq war as topping the agenda.
She said Democrats were talking with the Bush White House about a potential $61 billion economic stimulus that could be approved in a lame-duck session.
But Ms. Pelosi said Democrats could open the 111th Congress in January with efforts to adopt measures blocked by President Bush, including ones to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and embryonic stem cell research. She said Democrats had no choice but to chart a centrist course. “The country must be governed from the middle,” she said. But Democrats on both sides of the Capitol were just beginning to digest the new faces in their expanded caucuses.
As the Wall Street Journal emphasizes on this morning's editorial page, "While many voters may think they've voted for 'change' in Mr. Obama, they also handed power to the oldest forces in the Old Democratic Party."
Will a 46-year-old President with less than a full term in Congress be able to restrain the powerful ambitions of our permanent government on Capitol Hill?
Can Superboy stop the speeding Congressional locomotive before it smashes into the oncoming Deficit Express? Or will he just hop in the cab and shovel more (clean) coal?
Tune in in January as the exciting saga begins.
Holy cow, what hit the Dow?
Wall Street seems to be having second thoughts about President-elect Obama:
The market was widely expected to give back some gains after a runup that lifted the Standard & Poor's 500 index more than 18 percent and that gave the Dow its best weekly advance in 34 years; moreover, many analysts had warned that Wall Street faced more turbulence after two months of devastating losses.
But investors lost their recent confidence about the economy and began dumping stocks again.
"The market has really gotten ahead of itself, and falsely priced in that this recession wasn't going to be as prolonged as thought," said Ryan Larson, head of equity trading at Voyageur Asset Management, a subsidiary of RBC Dain Rauscher. "Regardless of who won the White House, these problems are not going away."
"We're in a really bad recession, period," he said. "People are locking in profits and realizing we're not out of the woods."
Beyond broad economic concerns, worries about the financial sector intensified after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. began to notify about 3,200 employees globally that they have been lost their jobs as part of a broader plan to slash 10 percent of the investment bank's work force, a person familiar with the situation said. The cuts were first reported last month. Goldman fell 8 percent, while other financial names also fell; Citigroup Inc. dropped 14 percent.
Commodities stocks also fell after steelmaker ArcelorMittal said it would slash production because of weakening demand. Its stock plunged 21.5 percent.
Although the market expected Obama to win the election, as the session wore on investors were clearly worrying about the weakness of the economy and pondered what the Obama administration might do. Analysts said the market is already anxious about who Obama selects as the next Treasury Secretary, as well as who he picks for other Cabinet positions.
"The celebration is over. Today we saw a bit of reality," said Al Goldman, chief market strategist at Wachovia Securities in St. Louis. "President-elect Obama is coming into a situation with limited experience, having to handle an economy in serious trouble, a couple of wars and terrorism. It's an extremely tough job."
You'd think all those smart guys on Wall Street would have figured that out before November 4.
At least, in Moscow.
From The Times (London):
Speaking within hours of Barack Obama's election as the new US President, Mr Medvedev announced that Russia would base Iskander missiles in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad next to the border with Poland.
He did not say whether the short-range missiles would carry nuclear warheads. Mr Medvedev also cancelled earlier plans to withdraw three intercontinental ballistic missile regiments from western Russia.
"An Iskander missile system will be deployed in the Kaliningrad region to neutralise if necessary the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe," Mr Medvedev said in his first state-of-the-nation address.
He added that Russia was also ready to deploy its navy and to install electronic jamming devices to interfere with the US shield, which involves the deployment of a radar station in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland.
His announcement prompted a burst of applause from government ministers and parliamentary deputies assembled in the Kremlin. The President failed to congratulate Mr Obama or even to mention him by name during his 85-minute state of the nation address televised live across Russia.
Instead, in a criticism directed at the US, Mr Medvedev declared: "Mechanisms must be created to block mistaken, egoistical and sometimes simply dangerous decisions of certain members of the international community."
He accused the West of seeking to encircle Russia and blamed the US for encouraging Georgia's "barbaric aggression" in the war over South Ossetia in August. He issued a warning that Russia would "not back down in the Caucasus"….
In his only reference to the US election, he said that he hoped the new administration would work to repair its relationship with Moscow. He said: "I stress that we have no problem with the American people, no inborn anti-Americanism. And we hope that our partners, the US administration, will make a choice in favour of full-fledged relations with Russia."
Congratulations, President-elect Obama
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
No more Mr. Nice Guy
Whether or not John McCain pulls off an upset today, it's obvious that the GOP is in for some rough sledding over the next few years. Fred Barnes has an excellent op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal that explains why our center-right nation is headed for a sharp left turn.
But what may be less evident, even after eight years of eroding Republican political capital, is that the strategy of bipartisanship — championed not only by John McCain but also by George W. Bush — is a failed strategy. Why? Because, simply put, every time a Republican reaches his hand across the aisle, some nasty little Democrat bites it.
The GOP's myopia began after 9/11, when, in the warm glow of seeming national unity, Democrats supported the early phases of the President's Global War on Terror and were rewarded with an unexpected gift: Big Government Republicanism. The No Child Left Behind Act, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Medicare Part D plan gave a huge boost to Federal spending, vitiating a decades-old record of Republican fiscal restraint. Throw in the cost of financing a necessary but expensive war, and the red-state party of limited government suddenly morphed into the K Street Party of Earmarks and Red Ink.
President Bush compounded this bipartisan folly by allowing two key Clinton-era holdovers — George Tenet at the CIA and Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve — to linger well past their freshness dates. For this largesse, he was rewarded with faulty intelligence going into Iraq ("WMDs are a slam dunk, Mr. President") and the low-interest-rate policies at the Fed that helped bring on the current financial crisis. Tenet and Greenspan made the mistakes, but Democrats saw to it that the George Bush and his fellow Republicans took the political fall. Had the chimerical WMDs in Iraq been ignored and the financial WMDs on Wall Street been recognized, No. 43 might be leaving office with near-Reaganesque popularity ratings.
Still, if Bush embraced bipartisanship only after 9/11, John McCain made it the hallmark of his two decades in the Senate. McCain's criticism of the Iraq war made him the Toast of the Beltway, every Democrat's favorite — that is, right up to the moment he won his party's Presidential nomination.
Then, abruptly, the Dom Pérignon stopped flowing.
The drubbing McCain has taken in the media for failing to accede to the inevitable coronation of Barack Obama (especially the effrontery of choosing an "unvetted" running mate like Sarah Palin) should be an object lesson for Republicans who fondly imagine that acting in good faith toward the liberal establishment will yield anything but scorn and derision. In the immortal words of Otter in Animal House, "You f***ed up. You trusted us."
But if you're going to be vilified as a fear-monger, a race-baiter and a Bush-wannabe anyway, why bother pitching woo to editorial boards, network talk-show hosts and other A-listers on the Georgetown cocktail circuit? Why not hang out instead with the pajamas media, with talk radio listeners or with sportsmen, NASCAR fans, veterans groups, entrepreneurs, chain-restaurant diners and Wal-Mart shoppers? The conversation's bound to be livelier (and definitely more intelligent).
Let's stop fooling ourselves: We're not welcome at the National Press Club. And bipartisanship's a sucker's game. The Democrats kneel behind our knees, and the MSM gives us a push. Yet we get back up and fall for it, over and over.
It's time Republicans stopped being such easy marks. Time we played our own game, by our own rules.
And this time around, no more Mr. Nice Guy.
Barack Obama, champion orator
As a speechwriter, I give a lot of thought to oratory. And to give credit where it's due, Barack Obama has done a lot to hype the stock of speechwriters everywhere.
Who couldn't love lines like these?
It's a time where you can go to any town hall or street corner or coffee shop and hear people express the same anxiety about the future; hear them convey the same uncertainty about the direction we're headed as a country. Whether it's the war or Katrina or their health care or their jobs, you hear people say that we've finally arrived at a moment where something must change.
These are Americans who still believe in an America where anything's possible — they just don't think their leaders do. These are Americans who still dream big dreams — they just sense their leaders have forgotten how.
Wow. Makes me feel tingly all over. Or how about this, in much the same vein:
Our country has lived through a time of torment. It is now a time for healing. We want to have faith again. We want to be proud again. We just want the truth again.
It is time for the people to run the government, and not the other way around.
Only when we allow our actions to be guided, not by the conflicting loyalties that divide us but by the common interests that unite us — only then will we find the solutions we seek and the answers we need.
The first quotation, by the way, is from Obama's "Take Back America" speech (June 14, 2006). The second is from Jimmy Carter's inaugural address. The last is from the inaugural address James C. Humes and I wrote for Governor Dick Thornburgh in January 1979.
There's the problem, I think. You could shuffle the deck completely, and no one in the audience would be the wiser.
Not to minimize my craft — which has provided me with a comfortable living for many years — but every weapon in the speechwriter's arsenal can be purchased for $14.93 (plus shipping) on Amazon. Arranging them in the right order costs a little more, but it's chump change compared to the price of even a modest federal bailout.
As Mario Cuomo famously put it, you campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose. Poetry can get you laid or get you elected (or, in the case of Bill Clinton and John Edwards, sometimes both), but it won't help you with the hard business of facing down foreign enemies, re-igniting a stalled economy or bringing some small sense of adult responsibility to a profligate Congress.
The problem I see with Barack Obama is that, having campaigned more years than he's ever governed, he's mainly poetry, self-righteousness and very little prose. Worse still, what prose there's been seems to have been written on Bill Ayers' kitchen table.
H. L. Mencken, wrote in The American Mercury, December, 1924:
The theory that the ancient Greeks and Romans were men of the vast and ineffable superiority runs aground on the fact that they were great admirers of oratory. No other art was so assiduously practiced among them. Today we venerate the architects and dramatists of Greece far more than we venerate its orators, but the Greeks themselves put the orators first, and in consequence much better records of them are preserved today. But oratory, as a matter of fact, is the lowest of the arts. Where is it most respected? Among savages, in and out of civilization. The yokels of the open spaces flock by the thousand to hear in imbeciles yawp and heave; the city proletariat goes to political meetings and glues its ear to the radio every night. But what genuinely civilized man would turn out to hear even the champion orator of the country?
What civilized man, indeed?
This morning, as I read this, I blew a mouthful of Keemun tea across my keyboard. (So, you've been warned.)
It's so well done, I feel compelled to post it in its entirety:
I like big cars, big cigars and naturally big racks. I believe the money I make belongs to me and my family, not some mid-level governmental functionary with a bad comb-over who wants to give it away to crack addicts squirting out babies. I don't care about appearing compassionate. I think having with guns doesn't make you a killer.
I believe its called the Boy Scouts for a reason.
I think I'm better than the homeless. I smell better, look better and act better, anyway. I am not the real Slim Shady, so I think that I’m gonna stay seated right here in this damn comfy chair. I don't think being a minority makes you noble or victimized. I don't care if you call me a racist, a homophobe or a misogynist. I am not tolerant of others because they are different. I know that no matter how big Jennifer Lopez’s ass gets, I’ll still want to see it.
I don't celebrate Kwanzaa.
I believe that if you are selling me a Big Mac, you do it in English. I don't use the excuse "it's for the children/environment" as a shield for unpopular opinions or actions. I want to know when MTV became such crap. I think getting a hummer is sex, and every man is entitled to at least one extremely sloppy one per month. I know what the definition of is is. I think Oprah's eyes are way too far apart. I didn't take the initiative in inventing the Internet. I thought the Taco Bell dog was funny. I want them to bring back safe and sane all fireworks.
I believe no one ever died because of something Ozzy Osbourne, Ice-T or Marilyn Manson sang. I think that being a student doesn’t give you any more enlightenment than working at Blockbuster. I’ve never mourned a dead goldfish. I don’t want to eat or drink anything with the words light, lite or fat-free on the package. I believe everyone has a right to pray to their God or gods, while I pray that the test results come back negative. My heroes are Abraham Lincoln, Orson Wells, Ronald Reagan and whoever canceled Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. I think creative violence makes movies more interesting and terrorists more dead.
I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor.
I know wrestling is fake, but I still think The Rock could kick my butt. I know global warming is junk science. I’ve never owned or was a slave, I didn't wander forty years in the desert after getting chased out of Egypt, I haven’t burned any witches or been persecuted by the Turks and neither have you, so shut-the-fuck-up already. South Park still makes me laugh. I think you can respect and admire women while mentally undressing them. I believe a self-righteous liberal with a cause is more dangerous than a PlayStation and Grand Theft Auto. I want to know which church is it exactly where the Rev. Jessie Jackson preaches. I think explosions are cool. I don't care where Ellen puts her tongue. I think the cops have every right to shoot your sorry ass if you’re running from them. I thought Spinal Tap was great, but Rob Reiner can still kiss my ass.
I worry about dying before I get even.
I’ve discovered that DVD is better than Laserdisc, and Blu-ray and HD DVD aren't worth the cost. I like the convenience of buying oranges while I'm waiting at a stop-light, and I'm pretty sure the Latina midget selling them to me is glad she no longer lives in a refrigerator packing carton outside Ensenada. I figured out Bruce Willis was dead midway through The Sixth Sense but enjoyed it anyway. I think turkey bacon sucks. I want somebody to explain to me exactly why it's wrong to point out that when I watch a freeway chase, I know the losers the police eventually pull out of the car are gonna be a gang-banging hommies or vatos. I believe that it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes a parent. I think tattoos and piercings are fine if you want them, but please don’t pretend they are a political statement, or make you different or special, because all your friends have them too.
I like hard women, hard liquor and an easy bowel movement first thing in the morning. I believe you don’t have to speak with a lisp to pick out a couch for your living room. I'll admit that the only movie that ever made me cry was Old Yeller. I didn't realize Dr. Seuss was a genius until I had a kid. I will not conform or compromise just to keep from hurting somebody's feelings. Sometimes I throw my soft drink can in the trash, even when the recycle bin is just a few more steps. Making love is fine, but sometimes I wanna get laid. I'm neither angry nor disenfranchised, no matter how desperately the mainstream media would like the world to believe otherwise.
I don't think just because you were not born in this country, you qualify for any special loan programs, gov't sponsored bank loans, etc., so you can you can open a hotel, c-store, trinket shop, or any damn thing else.
I did not go to some foreign country and risk my life in vain and defend our constitution so that you can tell me it's a living document ever changing and is open to interpretation.
I believe a self-righteous liberal with a cause is more dangerous than a Hell's Angel with an attitude.
I own a gun, you can own a gun, and any red blooded American should be allowed to own a gun, but if you use it in a crime then you will serve the time. A rubber band and a paper clip is a dangerous weapon in the hands of someone with malicious intent.
I think Bill Gates has every right to keep every penny he made and continue to make more. If it pisses you off, invent the next operating system that's better and put your name on the building. Ask your buddy that invented the Internet to help you.
I don't believe in hate crime legislation. Even suggesting it pisses me off. You're telling me that someone who is a minority, gay, disabled, another nationality, or otherwise different from the mainstream of this country has more value as a human being that I do as a white male. Hell, if someone kills anyone, I'd say that it's a hate crime.
We don't need more laws! Let's enforce the ones we already have.
I believe that it doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes a parent with the balls to stand up to the kid and spank his butt and say "NO".
I will not be frowned upon or be looked down upon or be made to keep silent because I have these beliefs and opinions.
I thought this country allowed me that right I will not conform or compromise just to keep from hurting somebody's feelings.
Yes, I'm a bad Republican. And I vote... even if it rains.
Guess that makes me a bad Republican too.