Sunday, January 27, 2008

Senator Barack Obama--When Poetry Becomes Prose

Throughout the campaign Senator Obama has been falsely charged of lacking a record of substantive action. Check out this post by Jonathan Cohn on TNR Blogs on 1/21/08:

From 1997 to 2004, as a member of the Illinois Senate, Obama advocated several proposals to make medical care more accessible--culminating, three years ago, in a bill designed to force the creation of a universal coverage system for Illinois. And, while none of these efforts come even close in scale to what he's promised to try in Washington, they do provide a window into the governing style he would pursue there.

Time after time, Obama brought adversaries into the process early, heard out their concerns, then fashioned compromises many of them ultimately supported. In other words, he used the very strategy he's been describing on the campaign trail--the one giving people like me such angst. And yet, if you talk to liberals in Springfield, the ones who've spent decades fighting for universal health care, you don't hear a lot of disappointment with him. As far as they are concerned, Obama's signature inclusiveness was always a means to an end--a way to push the limits of reform rather than accept them. And, they say, it worked.

In 2002, when Democrats won back control of the Senate, Obama became chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee. And it was from that perch that he adopted his other noteworthy health care cause, a measure called the Health Care Justice Act. The brainchild of grassroots activists tired of fighting losing battles to create a single-payer system for Illinois, the act, as originally proposed, would have created a task force, empowered it to develop a universal coverage plan, and then forced the legislature to vote on that plan. Predictably, it aroused the ire of insurers and other business interests, who, by all accounts, lobbied to derail the effort. "They--the insurers--pushed [Obama] really hard," says Jim Duffett, executive director of the Campaign for Better Health Care, the group championing the plan. "They also tried to use other people to push him really hard."

Publicly, Obama used hearings to rally voter support for universal coverage. Inside the statehouse, he pursued a two-track strategy. He made common cause with doctors and hospitals, two groups that had become more sympathetic to universal coverage because of the financial burdens charity care placed on them. This gave cover to moderates who wanted to support the bill, while increasing pressure on the insurers to fall in line. At the same time, Obama carried on discussions with the insurance and business lobbyists directly, eventually granting them two key concessions: He altered the makeup of the task force to make it more industryfriendly and dropped the provision requiring a vote from the next year's General Assembly. "We had significant concerns and looked to Senator Obama, who is an extremely bright and accessible individual," Phil Lackman, who represents the Professional Independent Insurance Agents of Illinois, told me. "My experience is that he is willing to listen to anybody willing to talk to him."

It's those kinds of statements that lead to stories, like one that The Boston Globe published in the fall, noting that "Obama's own experience in lawmaking involved dealings with the kinds of lobbyists and special interests he now demonizes on the campaign trail." But, whatever the contrast with Obama's campaign rhetoric, reformers in Springfield say the concessions worked out just fine. As it turned out, binding a future Assembly to vote on a measure was probably unconstitutional anyway. And the presence of insurance representatives on the task force may have actually bestowed it with additional legitimacy. Although those members would end up filing a dissent to the task force's final report--which was issued after Obama had moved on to the U.S. Senate--press attention focused on the majority recommendation. And that recommendation was just what many advocates hoped (and opponents feared) it would be: a comprehensive plan for universal coverage, financed and overseen by the state government. "He didn't back down," says Duffett. "There was no mandate [on the next Assembly to vote], but that was a constitutional issue. ... We got everything else we wanted."

Duffett's quote is important because he is among the state's most prominent and committed advocates on behalf of universal health care. (For the wonks out there, he's the Illinois equivalent of Ron Pollack.) If Obama were in the pocket of health care lobbyists, he'd be the first guy to complain. But Duffett has only good things to say about Obama. Very good things, as a matter of fact.

Caroline Kennedy endorses Barack Obama for President

Caroline Kennedy endorses Barack Obama for President in the New York Times...

A President Like My Father

OVER the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.

My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.

Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Caroline Kennedy's endorsement of Senator Obama

Hearing of Caroline's endorsement touched my heart in a special way. My generation had its inspirational leaders, John, Bobby and Martin, tragically taken away from us and lost our way. Senator Obama has once again given me hope of realizing our dream of a unified America capable of meeting any challenge and reclaiming it's place as a beacon of hope for the world.

Our dreams unlock the door

To a place we once called home

Where full of life’s sweet promise

Our spirits freely roamed

Back to a time when we still believed

In all of life’s possibilities

Our dreams can lead us

To a future all our own


google search

Custom Search

Search 2.0