Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Prelude to the Inauguration - BRM/YHK

From: Brian Menard
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 7:03:37 AM


Been thinking about you much as we get closer to Inauguration Day. Johanna, who lives just outside DC, will have no floor space in her apartment as every inch will be filled with out-of-towners joining the throng on the Mall for the big event. I'm very jealous - just 'cuz I didn't vote for him doesn't mean I can't appreciate the incredibly historic moment this is in our nation's history. You know, of the two inaugurations I've attended, one was GOP (1973) and one was Dem (1993).

So far I am about as pleased as I could HOPE to be with the way Obama has set things up. There are things I really don't like, people he's bringing in that worry me greatly or that just make me nervous regarding what I expect they will do, etc. But that's part of reaching across the aisle, and so far I believe he IS following through on his rhetoric to do so. He's pre-governing quite differently than his campaign policy pronouncements implied, probably as much to your chagrin as to my relief. Not that I'm pleased with the policy overall; were it up to me, I'd move things much further my direction; but, I'm pleased that he's making the early movements to bring folks together in a way that both you and I can be equally displeased with the ultimate output! That's what deliberative democracy is all about, right?

Cheers in the new year!

From: Young H. Kim
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 3:48 PM

Well, I know one thing; our blog is awfully lonely these days. ;-) I know I sound like a broken record, but let's get more of our thoughts there.

I may have given many people here and elsewhere the impression that I am some sort of a fan or a diehard supporter of Obama, but I realized over the course of our emailing/blogging that I'm more of an ideologue/pragmatist but probably an extremist when seen from conservative views. However, I would never partake in anything even remotely resembling a "cult of personality," let alone over a politician. When I saw/read the contents of the Time Person of the Year issue, it made me cringe. For one thing, I don't get the hubbub over Rick Warren being chosen for the invocation. Not that I totally agree with the man, but is this where the liberals must draw the line? And always over the gay rights issue? Are we to dismiss people who have strongly held religious beliefs whether they are right or wrong depending on the argument?

It is obvious that many are/will be disappointed with the Obama transition's and future admin's decisions and policies. The pre-election PBS Frontline program illustrated and foreshadowed this by telling the fallout from Obama becoming the Harvard Law Review president. He ended up removing the doubts of the conservative wing and disappointing the liberals. So I have no illusions of Obama being the savior of the liberal agenda. I believe he has and will always follow the prudent and compromising path, not to mention that the current economic and national security concerns will dictate his limited options and no-drama decisions. As you said, in the end, he will disappoint and displease both parties, and I have been ready for a while to accept that as the reality. Obama will set his mark as a politician and a statesman in this fashion, much like Lincoln and FDR, as I can only hope. One thing I do still wonder about him is where will he draw the line and take a stand (e.g. economic stimulus, universal healthcare and the Iraq war) or will his "achievements" be a string of lukewarm compromises and could-have-beens?

My best to you as always,

From: Brian Menard
Sent: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 1:29:01 PM

Agreed on the issue of "the line". He could be a statesman like Lincoln or FDR, or he could merely be a policy production factory like LBJ. As always, time will tell.

Let's hope for the good, and keep doing our part to come together. I think it was Mike Huckabee who said recently that it is good Obama won decisively, so he can clearly be the president for all of us. I think that is one deficit from which Bush could never break free. His Texas record was very much crossing party lines and working in bipartisan fashion, but because there was so much bad blood over 2000 (and even 2004), folks were not inclined to move that way in DC. As I've maintained previously, Obama has a great opportunity that allows him to be a statesman instead of just another politician. There is much he can do to screw that up, and little he can do to keep that opportunity alive. So far, I've got to give him credit for sticking to the harder, higher, better path.

Onward...e pluribus unum, meus amicus.

From: Young H. Kim
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 1:41 PM

And you know I have to respond as to the following:

1) LBJ the "policy production factory"? I suppose you refer to the War on Poverty/Great Society (and the Vietnam War to a certain extent), as many conservatives pinpoint that as the great downward spiral into a welfare society. Would you include the Civil Rights Act as a product of that factory as well? That seriously demeans the accomplishment, which was a landmark legislation in US history, wouldn't you say?

2) Dubya had many, many chances to "cross party lines", especially after 9/11 when the political support was overwhelmingly behind him and our nation. But what were his bipartisan iniatives to reach out to Dems? I don't agree that he wasn't given a chance (let alone how he ascended to the presidency); he squandered it, mainly with the ill-conceived Iraq War. I'm sure there will be many a Dubya apologist in the next few years (e.g. no terrorist attacks since 9/11, etc.), but really there's not much there in terms of what he accomplished over two terms, and certainly not in a bipartisan mode. The country is worse off by his administration in all aspects.

I must say that there are plenty of GOPers and conservatives who definitely are breathing a collective sigh of relief that they are not running show and not (necessarily) directly responsible for cleaning up and fixing all of the current problems.

"What is past is prologue"...let's look to the future but not forget how we got here.

From: Brian Menard
Sent: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 6:16:14 PM

No intent to demean any of the legislation itself (I'll spare the debate over the failure of the Great Society, and will remind you that the civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s was passed only with the help of congressional Republicans over the opposition of many leaders among congressional Democrats who had stopped it up in committee for years), nor to take away from LBJ's acumen as an accomplished legislator. Remember that he was the Senate Majority Leader before he went to the executive branch. My intent was to distinguish LBJ's legislative style (figure out what we can pass and get it passed) from statemanlike leadership. Much of LBJ's agenda he inherited from the Kennedy administration, rather than initiating it himself. LBJ, bigoted Texan that he was, never would have pushed for the Civil Rights Act - or the Voting Rights Act, which you left off your list - from his own moral volition. What he cared about more than the details of policy was legislative accomplishment, whatever the details needed to make things work out. Speaking as a political scientist, not as a partisan, prioritizing legislative accomplishment is often antithetical to statemanship, and vice versa.

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