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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 12:21 PM
Original message
Obama in Senate: Star Power, Minor Role
(So he was bored in the Senate and decided to be President. And in contrast to Gore, Kerry, Hillary and McCain, has no track record for us to study - q.e.)

The New York Times

March 9, 2008

Obama in Senate: Star Power, Minor Role


Obama went to the Senate intent on learning the ways of the institution, telling reporters he would be looking for the washroom and trying to figure out how the phones work. But frustrated by his lack of influence and what he called the glacial pace, he soon opted to exploit his star power. He was running for president even as he was still getting lost in the Capitols corridors... Mr. Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, was 99th in seniority and in the minority party his first two years. In committee hearings, he had to wait his turn until every other senator had asked questions. He once telephoned reporters himself to draw attention to his amendments. And some senior colleagues were cool to the newcomer, whom they considered nave...He met with nearly one-third of the Senate, from both sides of the aisle, including his future rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, to learn about the institution and solicit advice on how to succeed. That shaped a strategy: work hard, tend to your constituents, and, above all, get along with others. He spent many weekends traveling across Illinois for town-hall-style meetings. Mr. Obamas advisers referred to it as the Hillary model, patterned after Mrs. Clintons approach when she joined the Senate in 2001... Knowing he needed insider help, Mr. Obama cajoled Mr. Daschles former chief of staff, Pete Rouse, to lead his office. Mr. Rouse advised Mr. Obama about managing relationships on the Hill and helped engineer hefty assignments, including a Foreign Relations Committee seat. He sought out senior colleagues, traveling to Russia with Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, an advocate of nuclear disarmament. (Later, they passed legislation to reduce stockpiles of conventional weapons.) Mr. Obama also sought tutorials from Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, considered the Democrats master legislator.


But he remained ambivalent about the city and its institutions. Unlike many senators with young children, he did not move his family to the capital. He rarely spent more than three nights in Washington aides would reserve tickets on several flights to make sure he got home to Chicago after the final Senate vote of the week. Mr. Obama found the Hill a difficult place to fit in, and it was not always clear that he wanted to. He was 43 when he arrived, younger than most of his colleagues whose average age was 60 and even many senior staff members. Unlike senators who come up through the House, he did not have an existing network of friends, and while some members of Congress bunk with others, he lived by himself in one of the nondescript new boxes along Massachusetts Avenue. On the nights he was in town, he typically went alone to a Chinatown athletic club not the Senate gym or attended events on the Hill.


In the Senate, meanwhile, he was discovering the realities of being a senator that not every bill is perfect (or perfectly unacceptable) and that most votes required balancing the good and bad. Mr. Obama wanted to vote to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. for the Supreme Court, for example he thought the president deserved latitude when it came to appointments but Mr. Rouse advised against it, pointing out that Mr. Obama would be reminded of the vote every time the court made a conservative ruling that he found objectionable. Mr. Obama took few bold stands and diverted little from the liberal orthodoxy he had embraced in the Illinois Senate. His voting record in his first year in Washington, according to the annual rankings by National Journal, was more liberal than 82.5 percent of the Senate (compared with, for example, Mrs. Clintons 79.8 percent that year). He worked with Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma and one of the most conservative in the chamber, to establish a public database to examine government spending after Hurricane Katrina.

But for the most part, he stuck to party lines; there were few examples of the kind of bipartisan work he advocates in his current campaign. He disappointed some Democrats by not taking a more prominent role opposing the war he voted against a troop withdrawal proposal by Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin in June 2006, arguing that a firm date for withdrawal would hamstring diplomats and military commanders in the field. His most important accomplishment was his push for ethics reform. Party leaders named him their point person in 2006, and when the Democrats assumed the majority in Congress in January 2007, Mr. Obama and Mr. Feingold, a longtime Democratic proponent of ethics reform, proposed curtailing meals and gifts from lobbyists, restricting the use of corporate planes and requiring lobbyists who bundle donations to disclose individual donors.


Early on in his tenure in Washington, Mr. Obama began meeting every few months over late-night pizza with a handful of classmates from Harvard Law School and a couple of senior advisers to discuss his future. Being a 2008 presidential candidate, participants said, never came up. The only race mentioned was for Illinois governor in 2010 the year Mr. Obamas Senate term ended but the group decided to put off considering the idea until at least his fourth year in the Senate. Mr. Obama chose Hurricane Katrina in September 2005 to step into a more prominent role, speaking to his partys caucus about the importance of using the disaster to focus the partys efforts toward ending poverty... During the midterm elections that year, Mr. Obama was his partys most sought-after campaigner he helped raise nearly $1 million online in a matter of days that spring for Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the institutions senior member. His appearances on the trail helped lay the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign. He earned the good will of some Democrats who have now endorsed him. And most campaign events required tickets, so his staff members collected names and addresses of potential supporters. Finally, Mr. Obama did what he had done when he first arrived in the Senate, quietly consulting those who knew the institution well Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Daschle for advice on whether to run. They told him that these chances come along rarely. His celebrity was undeniable. And yes, he was green, but that also meant he did not have the burden of a long record. For somebody to come in with none of that history is a real advantage, Mr. Daschle said. I told him that he has a window to do this. He should never count on that window staying open.

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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-15-08 01:12 PM
Response to Original message
1. And here I am trying to convince myself to vote for Obama because of the Supreme Court
when he was ready to vote for Roberts.
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Drachasor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 12:58 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. Did you read the bolded sentence?
There's nothing to be concerned about if he is President.
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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 11:17 AM
Response to Reply #3
5. Nothing new, you mean. Trust that his behind the scene advisers
will tell him what to do - the way Bush's have.

In both cases, the powers that be in each party have selected the pretty face to charm the masses (or to want them to have beer with him) and to carry on their grand plans.

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Drachasor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 11:44 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. No, meaning that he believes the President deservers some lattitude with nominations
Just because he didn't like a guy and voted for approval doesn't mean Obama would ever consider nominating someone similar.
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LTR Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 11:48 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Russ Feingold believes the same thing
And has said so in the past. The President should have leeway with his picks, thought the more extreme choices don't get a free ride.

In the world of politics, seems fair to me.
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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 12:57 AM
Response to Original message
2. self-kick (nt)
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Riktor Donating Member (476 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-16-08 02:40 AM
Response to Original message
4. Something to consider:
Woodrow Wilson had only served two years as governor of New Jersey before being elected President. He then laid the groundwork for future international diplomacy (the 14 Points), and signed off on women's suffrage.

Calvin Coolidge had 27 years of political experience before taking the Presidency, and wound up being one of the worst this country has ever endured.

This isn't an argument for Obama, but it is something to consider.
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