USA 2008 - wybory prezydenckie w Ameryce. Demokraci i Republikanie. Kandydaci: Barack Obama i John McCain. Informacje, analizy, newsy. Kampania, prawybory, wybory w Ameryce.
poniedziałek, 02 lutego 2009

I traveled to DC to witness the inauguration. It was the most incredible event I had ever experienced, rivaling only watching the news on the evening of November 4th, 2008. For those who aren't familiar with the National Mall, it's a large strip of land, 2 miles long, devoted to the Capitol and national monuments. At one end sits the Capitol building, upon the steps of which Barack Obama was sworn into the presidency. There is a large arc-shaped pool that sits in front of the Capitol, a memorial to former president Ulysses S. Grant. Beyond the pool there is a series of large square grassy areas, separated by streets. Farther back is the grand Washington Monument. The WWII Memorial and Reflecting Pool lie between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

I walked all over the city on Monday before the inauguration. Already the city was beginning to swell with people, and I have never seen more people wearing Obama buttons than I did while I was there. Lines to buildings for the House of Representatives and Senate flowed from every entrance, wrapping around the buildings and down the streets. Most people lucky enough to get a ticket had to pick it up at their Congressperson's office, and so the lines at times were hours long. There must have been hundreds of vendors selling everything Obama: buttons, shirts, hats, mugs, blankets, hand puppets. Restaurants had two hour waits. Police officers had to direct heavy backed up traffic so that the crowds of people weren't threatened by the scores of charter buses pouring into the city.

This entire expanse, all 2 miles long, was filled with people on Tuesday morning. I was staying at a friend's house in DC, six stops away on the Metro (subway) from the city center. I entered the Metro at 4:30am, and within three stops on the way to the city, the subway cars completely filled up. DC was smart enough to run the Metro system from 4:00am to 7:00pm Tuesday on a rush-hour schedule. Even at 5:00am, the city center station was completely packed with people. I had an actual ticket to the swearing-ceremony, so as soon as I left the subway I ran to the entrance gate for my type of ticket. There were hundreds of people there already. It was still completely dark outside, and the wind chill dropped the temperature below -11 degrees Celsius.

The inauguration of Barack Obama
The crowd in the National Mall listens to State of the Union Address

We waited for over three hours to get into the secure perimeter. We were scanned, our bags were searched, and then we ran to get the best spots we could. This particular crowd had silver tickets, which were the farthest and most abundant of all the tickets given out. We were allowed to stand just behind the Grant Memorial Pool. We waited another two hours in the bitter cold, facing the front of the Capitol as it filled up with the lucky people who got seated tickets. As for those without tickets, they filled in the rest of the mall behind the silver section. There was no line for security screening, but they also could barely see the capitol building. Wisely, to keep the crowds happy, massive TV screens, or "jumbotrons", had been set up all along the length of the mall. It provided a constant high-quality video feed of the events happening right on the Capitol steps, as well as the different past and current members of Congress, the White House cabinet & staff who were walking around inside the building on their way out to the steps. As then-current President Bush made his entrance, the entire crowd booed loudly. They also booed when then-current Vice President Cheney appeared, as well as Senator Joe Lieberman. Loud cheers erupted everywhere as such Democratic leaders as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein appeared. Colin Powell got a huge cheer as well. Of course, the biggest cheers were reserved for Michelle, Malia, Sasha and Barack Obama. The crowd around me was happy. People cracked jokes; they shared stories about their involvement in the campaign. Complete strangers could strike up conversations with anyone around them. Everyone was there to witness history, and we all felt a bit of ownership in making this event come to pass.

The San Francisco Boys & Girls choruses started singing sometime after 10am. During lulls in the program, the crowd would start up spontaneous chants of "Obama". The highlight of the program was of course the oaths of office for Joe Biden and Barack Obama, separated by beautiful music from some of the best musicians in the world.

If you watched President Obama take the oath, and you saw both him and Chief Justice Roberts stumble, let me make something clear. If you haven't heard already, it was Chief Justice Roberts who twice incorrectly said the oath, and President Obama caught the mistakes and waited for Roberts to correct himself. It's a pity that the ceremony wasn't absolutely flawless, but the beauty and the historic occasion filled the moment so breathtakingly that there was no room for disappointment.

President Obama then delivered his inaugural speech, which is basically a State of the Union Address that happens to fall on an election year. It soared in parts, and sobered in others. Every country in the world understands that the global economy is at a low point. There's so much work to do, and Obama's speech explained his dedication to stemming and reversing the factors that brought us here. It made me proud. As an American citizen, it has been hard these past eight years to reconcile natural patriotism with the images from Abu Ghraib and the stories from Gitmo. Now we're a country of laws again, and principles, and real leadership, and I can't tell you how excited I am. We're back!

The inauguration of Barack Obama
People sliding on the Grant's Pool

Back to the inauguration: As his speech wrapped up, people were starting to discover that the huge pool in front of the Capitol was frozen solid. Once he finished and the following poet was done, giant exit maps went up on the jumbotrons and the crowd started to move in bulk toward the sides of the mall. An increasing number of people started slipping and sliding on the ice of the pool, as a way to pass time while hundreds of thousands rushed toward the subway. I stood for a while, watching the Capitol and the impromptu skaters underneath, and struck up conversation with a man standing near me. He had gotten his silver ticket by rushing into a Senate building that very morning and going into every senator's office until he found one with an unclaimed ticket. That's industrious. I bid him farewell and went to seek the subway. After 10 hours in the bitter cold, standing with no food, water, or bathroom, I was ready for a couch and hot chocolate. It was an incredible day.

Morgan O'Neill


sobota, 01 listopada 2008

EWA DRYJANSKA: What do you make of this campaign when you compare it to the previous ones?

DAVID IVERSON*: I think it’s a unique campaign. Every four years we say: this is the most important election. But I think it is a different campaign. First of all because of who’s running: we had the first African American running for president, the first Republican female candidate for vice president. And I think it is different because the stakes are high. There’s a lot that will depend on this next president. The problems facing the world are enormous. So we are at unique time where we only have an opportunity to tackle certain problems as climate change and global warming. And if we don’t tackle them now we may never be able to such. I think it is a quite different election and may be a historic one if Barack Obama is elected.

David Iverson
David Iverson

How would you assess the candidates’ appereance in the debates?

I think they came across differently. Obama came across as being much more calm and steady. McCain came across as being somewhat more angry and unhappy. And America doesn’t like unhappy and angry candidates so I think that was a problem for him even though personally I think that John McCain made quite a good job in the third debate. If I have been asked by an opinion poll who do I think won the debate? I would have said John McCain. But that’s not how it came across to most people.

What to your mind can give a candidate a large support of the public during the debate?

I think two things. First is not to make any big mistakes, to be careful in what you say. Secondly to come across as someone who understands what the real everyday concerns of American voters are. Do not talk on too high level. Talk in a way that connects with other people. Make sure you stay focused on those issues that people care about and that you are strongest on. So you’ll see in debates somebody will ask a question and a successful candidate will try to reframe that question to be able to focus on those things that they know people care about and they are regarded on.

Jeremiah A. Wright
pastor Jeremiah A. Wright

Do you think that racial prejudice and also connections with the pastor Jeremiah Wright can prevent Barack Obama from wining this election?

I don’t think that it will be a deciding factor. It’s actually not an unfair question to raise about his association with Jeremiah Wright because he has been a controversial figure and Barack Obama was a member of that church for twenty years. I think it’s a legitimate question. What I was really struck with is that people don’t really wanna hear about that. People really wanna know: Are you going to make my life better? Are you going to help us so I can keep my job and keep my home and take care of my children? All the other it might have been important in 2004 in 2000 or in the past but not now.

Sarah Palin and John McCain
Sarah Palin and John McCain

Do you think that making Sarah Palin a candidate for McCain’s vice president was a good decision?

I understand why McCain chose the governor of Alaska. Having Obama – young Afro American with great oratorical ability as his rival he could not choose an ordinary candidate. That’s why he chose young, unknown Republican woman who was to gain women’s support and bring freshness to his campaign. At first it gave good results. Palin gave a very good speech during the Republican National Convention. But in the long term it didn’t help. It’s very interesting what Sarah Palin will do if John McCain loses. Does she have a future as a national politician? Could she run for a president?


* David Iverson has been an executive producer and anchor of national, regional and local specials for public broadcasting for 30 years. Iverson is based in San Francisco, where he also hosts programs for KQED public radio and television. In 2000, he served as the Presidential Debate Commission's coordinating producer for the Vice Presidential Debate between Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman.


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niedziela, 12 października 2008

MACIEJ JOZEFOWICZ: Do you consider healthcare to be also an important issue?

PROFESSOR MARK ROZELL: Absolutely. I think what many people find surprising about the American system is that there is a great deal of discontent with current healthcare coverage and the fact there are many Americans who are not covered by healthcare policy and yet this issue does not seem to drive elections as strongly as many feel that it should. I’m not exactly sure the reason why but some candidates in the past have proposed ideas for national healthcare system and those ideas simply have not been acceptable to the American population. So, despite some well acknowledged flaws in the current healthcare system and the lack of coverage of some Americans it still continues the same way.

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Professor Mark Rozell
Professor Mark Rozell

What are the other important issues besides those already mentioned?

If you look in the opinion polls the most significant issue for Americans is the domestic economy. The second most important, not surprisingly, is the war in Iraq and the third one is energy and the cost of living. After those come education, healthcare and the variety of mostly domestic  issues as well as domestic terrorism. Again, the polls point out that Americans tend to think first and foremost about domestic issues in deciding which candidate they would vote for. Right now, of course, as the country is at war, external factors are exceptionally important. The US’s role in Iraq and how we feel about it’s future is of course a very big issue.

Who has now the bigger chances to use Iraq at his own benefit?

More Americans think that McCain is qualified on foreign policy, national security issues and performing the role of commander-in-chief than those who believe Obama would be qualified to perform those roles. For example, if the polls suggested that foreign policy and national security issues were predominant in this campaign, John McCain would be winning. But the fact the Americans are focusing more on domestic issues, which is, frankly, typical of all American elections, gives Obama the advantage that he currently has.

So, if the economy were not in such a bad shape, McCain would have bigger chances to win?

That’s right. If the economy were doing well, if there were not such a discontent with Bush and the Republicans, McCain would be seen as a successor to the successful administration and the party’s successful policies, but that’s not the case. He’s running against strong opposition against the Republican Party and in the campaign he’s trying to show himself as being different from most of the Republicans. He’s running more like an independent candidate with the label of being Republican than a typical Republican.

So despite of all the criticism of the war in Iraq and the Bush administration in general the outcome of the elections will be dependent largely on economy, the politicians cannot really do much with?

That’s a perfectly fair point. Again, there is a disconnect between people’s perceptions about the economy, that is the belief, for example, that our leaders have a great deal of control over the state of economy, and on the other hand the reality, that is the markets drive the economy, not decisions of government. Government has a marginal impact on economy but it has an impact on psychology of workers. If people have faith in their leaders, they might think more positively about investing in the economy because they think the country is in good and secure hands. I’m not saying the government is a neutral or irrelevant factor of the economy but it has really only a small impact on it.

Then it’s the economy that will decide?

More than anything else. Unless there is a big international crisis, one has to always keep in mind that possibility. And if there were such major destabilizing event the polls right now say the Americans really believe that John McCain is better able to protect our country in times like that. So the situation could still change in favor of the Republicans.  


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sobota, 11 października 2008

MACIEJ JOZEFOWICZ: What is according to you the influence of the latest events in Georgia on the campaign? Will the foreign policy be more important issue comparing with the situation before the crisis?

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PROFESSOR MARK ROZELL: I think the crisis in Georgia certainly highlights the important role the president plays in the foreign policy and the fact it happened during the campaign season probably makes many Americans think a little bit more carefully about the president’s role in the world. However, I should also mention that for the most part Americans – and I think this is similar to the people in another countries as well – look to domestic issues much more prominently than they do to the foreign policy ones. Plus, the studies have shown it’s the domestic economy more that anything else that drives people’s perceptions about political parties and the candidates running in the elections. Although Georgia highlighted the importance of foreign policy and the president’s role as the global policy leader, in the end I think most Americans still will make up their minds based on domestic issues.

Professor Mark Rozell
Professor Mark Rozell

Mainly the economy?

More than anything else. Usually, if the economy is doing poorly Americans punish the party that is in the White House at that time. Whether fair or not,  Americans tend to perceive the party that controls the White House has responsibility for the current state of the economy. Saying that, it should be a really good year for the Democratic Party. But surprisingly to many people, the presidential race still looks pretty close, even though all the indicators about the domestic economy suggest it should be an easy year for the Democrats to win.

So do you think that people are more likely to believe Obama on the economic issues?

I think so. Because the economy is doing so poorly, people, according to polls, largely blame the Bush administration policies and the policies of the Republican Party. Therefore more people are going to give consideration to the Democratic Party’s alternative policies. Barack Obama is articulating the theme of change and for many people that means getting the United States out of its current economic mess.

Has he already suggested some specific solutions?

That’s the problem. Candidates can talk in campaigns about what they would like to do or make any promises about what they would like to achieve in the economy but in reality the American system is a market-driven economy and it’s the decisions of millions of consumers every day that drive the marketplace, not the decisions of the government . I think there is a huge disconnect there – Americans expect that their government has some degree of control over the economy and the government policies are responsible for setting the directions of economy, whereas in reality it’s simply not true. Market forces, decisions of private individuals in the marketplace drive the economy more than anything else.

So even Obama cannot save the economy?

Obama cannot save the economy. I think people have to be very cautious about their expectations. As I’ve been saying on and on in this campaign, many people are projecting very high expectations on Barack Obama, should he be elected, about what he can achieve on the world stage or in the domestic economy. Mean while in reality it’s going to be very difficult to be the president in 2009. There are some very difficult issues on the world stage the next president will have to deal with, and the American domestic economy is not doing well. One man, despite the power of the presidency, cannot turn those things around in the short term.

That means it will be difficult for him to maintain his support?

That’s exactly right. A lot of presidential scholars say the president should try to capitalize something we call “the honeymoon period”. The analogy to the marital one is the first months of the presidency are the time when everybody is really happy with each other and haven’t had time to forge disagreements. That’s an opportunity for the president to try to project power and get things done because the Congress and the public opinion are going to give more leeway. But over time the presidents make decisions which inevitably alienate some segments of American population. Then they start losing support over time. That will happen with the next president whether it’s McCain or Obama.


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środa, 17 września 2008

Comparison with George W. Bush is also a touchy issue. After all, despite all differences, it’s still the same party. And lobbyists from the GOP-related big business, like oil companies, are likely to maintain some contact with the current Republican candidate. This is the basis of reasoning done by the Campaign to Defend America, another grassroots organization of dissatisfied citizens. Their ad equals McCain with Bush suggesting the former is in favor of subsidizing oil industry which was endorsed by the latter in the Energy Policy Act in 2005. In reality, McCain, unlike Barack Obama, voted against the bill, asserting privileges created for the big business as unacceptable. Still, the unavoidable comparisons with the current president, although repelled by McCain with all his might, probably remain an important matter in this campaign.

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The republican challenger also fell under the attack of eco-activists. In February, executive director of the Sierra Club sent a letter to the supporters of the organization in which he condemned McCain as an enemy of environment and an ally of big polluters. As a proof, list of 15 most important environmental votes in the Senate in 2007 was presented. McCain did not participate in any of them. But what the Sierra activist forgets to mention is a fact that McCain was busy in his campaign for nomination (environmental ranking of Obama and Clinton also dropped sharply) and his previous voting record is one of the most eco-friendly among the Republicans.

So, the smears against McCain do not have the same energy and are not totally discreditating as the ones directed against Obama. The factor of experience may be in play here – the Republican candidate with his long congressional record has many things that can be criticized, while the Democratic challenger is a freshman in politics. While the factual assertion of Obama's political views is impossible, because of his short time spent at national policymaking level and lack of specific solutions in his agenda, the only feasible way of attacking him is to go personal. McCain has the advantage he cannot be harmed in a brutal way, but some cunningly assorted collection of his quotes, taken a little out of context could be sufficient to nail him down.

Maciej Józefowicz

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