Ben Buchwalter

December 23, 2008, 7:21 pm
Filed under: Race, Random

I don’t have much to say about this post by Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic, except that I LOLed out loud when I saw it.

Please, in case you were considering it, don’t get me a doll for the Holidays. Unless, of course, its this one:

And don’t get me the white version:

From Sarah: “Put that on your blog and smoke it”


Obama Will Set VP’s Role, Biden is not Cheney
December 22, 2008, 4:58 pm
Filed under: General Politics | Tags: , ,

Josh Marshall of TPM wrote today that the Joe Biden model of the Vice Presidency could be closer to the Dick Cheney model than we might hope. It’s an interesting argument based largely on the fact that Joe Biden is old enough that he would likely not run for President in 2016 (he would be 74) and therefore does not have to weigh the politics of extensive VP involvement, just as Cheney did not. 

Vice President Cheney’s clout within the Bush administration is heavily tied to the fact that the he early — and quite credibly because of his medical history — disavowed any plans to seek the presidency in his own right. We’re in the midst of a four decade trend toward more and more powerful and influential vice-presidents (in the sense of clout not constitutional prerogative). But the big brake on the veep’s role in decision-making has always been the fact that everyone else who wants to be president someday has a strong interest in keeping his power in check.

But I think that Biden will only have as much power as President-elect Obama allows. The Obama machine has been incredibly well oiled since it began more than two years ago and I don’t think this will change after Obama is inaugurated. From what I can tell, Cheney was so involved in the Bush presidency because Bush wanted and needed that. He simply did not have the knowledge and political ability to do it by himself.

But despite his inexperience, Obama is a competent leader and skilled politician. I don’t see Biden making a play for extensive powers without Obama squashing it. But if Obama wants an involved VP, then it will happen.

There are a few areas in which Obama could use the Vice President’s help. First, there is foreign policy, Biden’s strong suit. As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, the choice of Biden as VP was a clear sign that Obama would look to his running mate for support on issues of national security and international diplomacy. But some early Obama cabinet picks shows that he would also look elsewhere for help. This was especially apparent in his choice for Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, another high profile foreign relations authority.

It’s still early to predict what Biden’s role will be in the White House. But I predict that Obama will set the tone for that role and Biden, whether he wants to or not, will have to obey.



NYTimes on VPs

Earth Day
December 20, 2008, 6:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Always a (Jewish) Bridesmaid…
December 19, 2008, 5:42 pm
Filed under: General Politics

Matt Yglesias:

It seems Barack Obama is giving us a cabinet with no Jewish members. Plenty of Jews in non-cabinet top spots (Axelrod, Summers, Orszag) so I guess we’ll have to just run things from behind the scenes. I think that was also the case at the beginning of the Dubya administration, though now we have Chertoff. One related issue is whether the country will ever again see a non-Jewish Fed Chair.

UPDATE: And of course you can add Rahm to the list of influential, but not in the cabinet, Jews. Basically, it’s a chock full ‘o Jews White House staff and a non-Jewish cabinet.

Elections in Ghana Promise Change and Inspire Hope
December 18, 2008, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs | Tags: , , , , , ,

Before Ghana’s December 7 election, there was much discussion about the importance of a peaceful electoral process for the West African coastal country and the entire African continent. 

The first round of the election went off without a hitch. In fact, 70% of eligible voters turned out to cast a vote for one of the six Presidential contenders. But when all the votes were tallied, Nana Akufo-Addo of the National Progress Party (NPP) received 49.3% of the vote, and John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) took 47.8% of the vote. Since more than 50% is required to win the Presidency, these candidates will face off in the December 28 runoff election.

One reaction to the close election stands out. Bridget, a 39 year-old General Manager from Accra said,

I am feeling relaxed because over the weekend there were no incidents, there was nothing to make me worry and there were also a lot of checks and balances in place to ensure everything went well.

The threat of violence was a legitimate concern in Ghana, even as Africa’s first Independent Democracy. In the past year, the world was shocked by electoral violence in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. Ghana’s peaceful election ensures that it will remain a political leader for the continent that many Americans still view as a catastrophe zone.

For the past eight years, John Kufuor, the leader of the NPP, ruled as Ghana’s first democratically elected President since 1979. In that year, Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings seized power from the corrupt government and peacefully handed power to Dr. Hilla Limann. But in 1981, Rawlings rose again to overthrow Limann and consolidate his power as Ghana’s Head of State. In 1993, Rawlings changed his title to President and was re-elected twice in semi-democratic elections.

Kufuor beat Rawlings in the 2000 election and has served two terms, the maximum allowed by Ghana’s Constitution. Kufuor has vowed to peacefully hand over the Presidency to Akufo-Addo or Mills, whoever wins the runoff. This indicates Ghana’s incredible transformation and status as a Democratic power in Africa.

After Ghana’s Independence in 1957, decolonization spread quickly throughout the continent. Between 1957 and 1965, almost thirty African countries declared independence from a colonial power. If the December 28 runoff is as successful as the first round, then Ghana could inspire another wave of reform through legitimate and peaceful elections.

Is Warren Worth It?
December 18, 2008, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, General Politics | Tags: , ,

I wrote a few weeks ago about the media’s overblown response to Obama’s centrist cabinet appointments. The media seemed to think that liberals were furious at Obama, when they were maybe peeved or disappointed. Many liberals understand Obama’s need to appoint people with experience who appeal to a wide cross section of the population in order to maximize his political capital. 

But Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration on January 20 is a symbolic blow to women, gays and the pro-choice and pro-gay liberals who support them.

It’s clear Warren was chosen in an attempt to bring Christians (and even conservatives) into Obama-mania. And despite the unfortunate message that the choice sends to liberals, I think it is politically shrewd. But the central question is, will Barack Obama gain enough with Christians and conservatives to compensate for the support he will lose from the left?

Powerful liberal organizations like the Human Rights Campaign are decrying this decision as “genuine blow to LGBT Americans.” Andrew Sullivan wrote:

Warren is a man who believes my marriage removes his freedom of speech and cannot say that authorizing torture is a moral failing. Shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now.

Despite the political benefits to Warren giving the invocation, I agree that it is a bad choice that sets the stage for some serious disappointments from Obama on abortion and gay rights. But I’m hoping that that disappointment is only symbolic and restricted to inauguration.

Because when it comes down to it, the Warren choice means nothing. After all, Obama is not the sole decider of who gives the invocation. And it would be much more serious if he had appointed him Secretary of State or Attorney General or as the next Justice to the Supreme Court. But that’s ridiculous and its clearly not going to happen. I trust that Obama’s pandering to Christian conservatives will not spill over into any policy decisions.

In a later Andrew Sullivan post:

I think the choice of Warren is almost certainly designed, in fact, as a unifying move – and it is a signal that Obama has every intention of reaching out to Christianists who have some liberal leanings on poverty, the environment, and heterosexual HIV and AIDS. (Check out the last time Rick Warren reached out to gay people with HIV or AIDS.) I understand where Obama’s coming from, and I don’t think this is an inherently bad idea. Building such a liberal Christianist coalition is something I saw coming, and sadly see no way to avoid.

Before we will see what the choice of Warren means for the big picture of Obama’s Presidency, Obama will lose some credibility from his base. Long term, I hope that he’ll surround himself with more liberals and make some serious progressive policy choices. But when it comes down to it, we knew all along that we were electing a moderate.


Time Person of the Year
December 17, 2008, 5:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized