November 14, 2008
pundit comments on incoming Obama administration
Newsweek columnist and political analyst for MSNBC Eleanor Clift came to Kansas City on Nov. 10 to expound on “What Comes Next?” concerning the election of Barack Obama for president. The former White House correspondent for Newsweek takes a liberal position on many issues particularly as a regular panelist on the syndicated public affairs television program The McLaughlin Group. Clift authored Founding Sisters and the Nineteenth Amendment (2003) and co-authored with her late husband Tom Brazalitis, Madam President: Shattering the Last Glass Ceiling.(2000) among other books.
After an introduction before a large crowd — an Obama mixture of young, old, black and white — at the Plaza Library, Kansas City Library’s Executive Director R. Crosby Kemper III, sitting next to Clift on stage, seemed to be auditioning for the guest chair on the right wing side on The McLaughlin Group when he quipped that Obama must have “walked across the waters of Lake Michigan” election night on his way to Grant Park to address the nation. The remark had the audience groaning.
Quickly noting Kemper’s conservative leanings, Clift then dismissed any attempts to hang a “cult of personality” on Obama and considered such efforts “a way to demean him.”
Kemper followed up by asking Clift if she was nervous about Obama’s inexperience? “His skills are there,” answered Clift, later adding that the debates were one long job interview (for Obama).”
“Can he do it?” Kemper asked Clift in reference to the new president’s appeal as a change agent and uniter.
Two things will restrain Obama, said Clift. First, it’s his choice of chief of staff in his administration, Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel. “He’s a centralist with built-in brakes, that and there’s no money.” Those two restraints, speculated Clift, leave “Democrats worrying he (Obama) will aim too low.”
Later Clift predicted that “Liberals will have the most trouble with him (Obama).” Such forecasting may be grounded in the fact that Emanuel was a top adviser to President Bill Clinton. Also, his background in banking and high finance had The New York Times speculating whether Emanuel was “too allied with Wall Street.”
Of the goals an Obama administration has, said Clift, in rebuilding infrastructure, energy, green jobs, climate change — all are under the weight of a bad economy. “Healthcare will wait awhile,” she added, “except for children’s healthcare,” an expansion both political parties support. But Clift expects some sort of infrastructure program early on from an Obama administration, calling the issue “close to Obama’s heart.”
When Kemper asked if “Labor unions expect to get a return on their money (donated to the Obama campaign),” Clift replied, “As an individual, I support anything that strengthens labor unions.” That comment bought applause from the audience.
Kemper asked if there are dangers in establishing a timetable for a withdrawal from Iraq, particularly the possibility the country would erupt in a civil war.
“The danger of a civil war is there whether we leave tomorrow or five years from now. There likely will be a civil war regardless,” answered Clift, getting loud applause for her answer. “Military leaders have accepted the fact that we have done all we can.”
Kemper reacted by saying Clift’s description of military opinion on Iraq was “not accurate,” citing the opinions of Gen. David Petraeus, former commander of American forces in Iraq and now head of the US Central Command.
“The Iraq War is not sustainable for the US militarily or for the US budget,” countered Clift.
Other observations from Clift included the opinion that the under-30 generation is “blind to race and gender neutral,” with Obama running for president at the right moment in history. “People have a stake in this presidency,” she said.
That would seem a point both Clift and Kemper could agree on.
Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at publisher_editeKC@kcactive.com.
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