washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Pin the Appointment on the Republican

In the midst of Blagogate, it seems a smidge unseemly to be encouraging deal-making in political appointments. But Democrats are clearly not getting a filibuster-proof majority through the ’08 elections, so perhaps it’s time to turn our attention to other measures to get to 60 Senators. Toward that end, Jonathan Singer’s MyDD post “Make Olympia Snowe Cabinet-Level SBA Chief,” and the comments following his post explore ensuing ramifications, should Snowe accept a cabinet post, and Maine’s Democratic Governor John Baldacci appoint Snowe’s Democratic replacement.
Singer riffs on a post in Politico‘s The Crypt, noting Snowe’s advocacy of making the Small Business Administration a cabinet-level post, as it was during the Clinton Administration. The idea is to do so, and make her the Secretary. It’s unclear whether she would be interested, but it’s certainly worth a try
It seems like a fairly plausible scenario. Snowe has been a Senator since 1994. She always shows up atop the list of liberal Republicans. She is hugely popular in her state and influential in the Senate as a swing vote on progressive legislative reforms. She is consistently rated one of the better U.S. Senators.
There has been talk over the years of Snowe switching parties, but it just hasn’t happened. Perhaps it has been an unappealing prospect, with the Democrats’ tendency to form circular firing squads during many of her 14 years in the Senate. True, she will have additional leverage in the new Senate. Now, however, she has to look at her career ahead in light of a strong possibility that she may never be in a Republican majority again, which means no committee chairmanships. She can continue as a swing voter, deciding the fate of bills here and there, but with dimmer prospects for sponsoring and enacting major legislation, especially given her party’s knee-jerk obstruction of meaningful reforms. You couldn’t blame her for thinking it’s time for a change. Possible solutions might include switching parties or accepting an appointment in the Obama Administration.
Other “liberal” Senate Republicans in states with Democratic governors, like Collins (ME) and Voinovich (OH) could also be approached. Specter (PA) is occasionally mentioned as a switch-or-cabinet worthy Rino. If they can’t be enticed by the remaining cabinet-level positions, perhaps committee chairmanships as Democrats, where possible, would have some appeal. If we could get one or two Republicans to cross over, it could make a great difference for the better in enacting a progressive agenda, although even if they don’t switch and just vote with Dems, it will help a great deal. No doubt Sens. Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer have thought about it, and perhaps under-the-radar overtures have been made.
Most of the high-level Party-switching in recent decades has been in the wrong direction, from the Democratic point of view. (Wikipedia has a fascinating chronology on the topic). But the pendulum has swung to the left now, and it is time for Democrats to take more vigorous advantage, recruiting Republicans who are tiring of their party’s shrinking tent. Granted, the list of acceptable Republicans for Obama’s cabinet-level posts is a short one, as is the list of remaining positions that have appeal for political horse-trading. They include the Departments of Labor, Interior, Education and Transportation, CIA Director, Director of National Intelligence. Call it a long shot, but maybe it would be good if a Senate Republican who fills the bill is approached before all the positions are gone.

Challenging the ‘Bush Kept Us Safe’ Meme

It’s reflection time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. When the inhabitants of the white house and their minions are not milking their fading authority to smash and grab as much as they can, they are busy spinning history to describe their positive accomplishments. All they have is the fact that we have not had a major terrorist incident “on U.S. soil” since 9-11. For this, they figure, Americans should be expansively grateful to the lamest duck.
And a very weak hand it is. It’s sort of a perverse variation on “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” Other than 9-11, we have been pretty safe during the Bush years, huh?
Challenging the “Bush made us safe” meme is not merely a matter of partisan squabbling. The meme is intended as cover for an astoundingly broad range of failed policies, arguably the worst of any presidency. If the GOP revisionists have their way, it would become the common wisdom that justifies a mind-boggling array of bad decisions, encompassing letting the neo-cons define our mid-east policy, trashing our cred abroad, drowning the federal budget in red ink, the disastrous deregulating of the financial sector, etc. etc. ad nauseum.
The meme collapses quickly when we ask how safe we are when the head perp is still not apprehended, and that fact alone has encouraged wanna-be terrorist groups. America has never had so many enemies willing to do us harm, thanks to the Bush Administration. And the “on U.S. soil” qualification evades the troublesome facts that thousands of Americans have been killed in Iraq and American civilians have rarely been in more danger abroad.
Digby has a good response to Peggy Noonan’s parroting of the GOP meme “At least Bush Kept us Safe.”

Can someone explain to me how it is that Peggy Noonan can claim that Bush kept us safe? Didn’t we have the worst terrorist attack in US history while he was president? Didn’t his team brush off warnings ahead of time and didn’t the president himself tell tell the CIA briefer on August 6th, 2001 that he had “covered his ass” by telling him that Bin laden was planning to attack inside the United States? Why should he get credit for “keeping us safe.” (I won’t even go into Katrina or the financial meltdown as measures of how well he did at other measures of security.)
Noonan and her friends are searching madly for some kind of bright spot in Bush’s otherwise epically failed administration. This is the best they can come up with. But while the government certainly did tighten security after 9/11 — as any president would have done, by the way — his foreign policy and military exacerbated the threat many times over.

And, as Blue Texan asks at Firedoglake,

But anyway, why does Bush get a total freaking pass on the first worst attack in US history that killed 3,000 people on his watch, especially since the 9/11 Commission concluded that 6 of the 10 major missed opportunities to prevent 9/11 occurred under Mr. Kept Us Safe’s watch?…We’re just supposed to give him a mulligan on that?

David Neiwert, also reacting to Noonan’s screed, has a post at Crooks and Liars on the topic of pre-9-11 negligence on the part of the Bush Administration. Says Neiwert:

What was never excusable was that Bush and Co. were asleep at the wheel on 9/11 regarding their duty to “keep us safe” — and no amount of historical revisionism by wistful dolphin ladies will erase that fact…In other words, Bush botched the job of keeping us safe, both during his tenure and for the foreseeable future.

Safe indeed. As Mark Mazetti wrote about the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate in his New York Times article (flagged by Neiwert) “Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat,”

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe…. An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology…The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

The Obama and subsequent administrations will be dealing with the fallout from Bush’s Iraq war for many years to come. Digby also writes about how U.S. torture policies helped to multiply the number of terrorists willing to do harm to the U.S. and our soldiers.
Noonan says Dems are afraid that two words will be added to the “President Bush Kept Us Safe” meme: “unlike Obama.” The GOP would have us blame Bush’s predecessor, President Clinton for setting the stage that lead to 9-11 (there was one foreign terrorist attack ‘on U.S. soil’ during the Clinton administration, also on the World Trade Center — see correction in comments). But should a terrorist attack happen during the Obama Administration, they will attribute none of the blame to the Bush gang. “It’s your fault when it happened on our watch, and it will be your fault when it happens on your watch.” But they can’t make a convincing argument that President Clinton encouraged terrorism, “unlike Bush.”
There is a tendency to let bygones be bygones when government changes hands, and to try and say something nice about the old regime. But I would urge Dems everywhere to not let the “Bush kept us safe” meme pass unchallenged, even in a casual conversation. Unchallenged bullshit has a way of snowballing, which is how we got stuck in the Iraq quagmire, as well as the economic meltdown — at a cost of trillions of taxpayer dollars.

Welcoming the ‘New Center’

On Tuesday Ed Kilgore made a case that the “center-right nation” meme is “ridiculous.” In a good companion piece posted the same day in his Blog for Our Future post (via Alternet), “Clues Obama Won’t Govern Center-Right“, Robert Creamer called it “complete baloney”. Creamer adds:

Should progressives beware? Has Barack Obama suckered them into supporting a President who will really govern from the “center-right”? The short answer is no….Right wing pundits can comfort themselves with the fantasy that America is a “center-right” nation but it just ain’t so. In fact, all of the polls show that the November election represented a complete repudiation of right wing Bush-Cheney top-down economics and their Neo-Con foreign policy. Over 80% of voters indicated they wanted fundamental change. The polling shows massive majorities in favor of policies that would guarantee health care for all. It shows overwhelming support for policies that give tax relief to middle income Americans and increase taxes on the wealthy. Polls show complete rejection of neocon notions about “preemptive” war and unilateralism. And Americans strongly favor bold government action to stimulate the economy – not the failed laissez-faire economics that have lead to the current economic meltdown.

And echoing one of the points James Vega had some fun with in his Sunday TDS post “A New Slogan for a New Day,” Creamer continues:

…How many more bailouts does someone need before he stops believing that the unfettered “free market” will always lead the “private sector” (meaning those who control giant corporations and Wall Street Bankers) to act in the public interest. How many times can corporate CEO’s emerge from their private jets with tin cups in Washington before people begin to question the “center-right’s” claim that the private sector is inherently more efficient that the public sector. Let’s face it, it’s getting pretty tough to justify why Wall Street’s “masters of the universe” deserve to be paid hundreds of millions of dollars while middle class incomes tank; or why a CEO should make more money before lunch on the first day of the year than his minimum wage worker makes all year long.

Creamer explains that Obama’s cabinet picks

…do not in any way diminish the fact that America is demanding — and Obama intends to enact — a sweeping progressive program the likes of which we have not seen since the New Deal…Barack Obama will not govern from the “center right”, but he will govern from the “center”. That’s not because he is “moving to the center”. It’s because the center of American politics has changed. It has moved where the American people are. It once again resides in the traditional progressive center that has defined America’s promise since Thomas Jefferson penned its founding document over 200 years ago.

Fair enough. It’s well and good for Dems to root for their preferred cabinet choices and rail against the ones we don’t like as they come up. That’s part of the fun of being Democrats. Before uncritically embracing the “personnel is policy” argument being bandied about, however, Dems might be wiser to wait for the policies to appear before we start wholesale trashing of our team.

Some Lessons from the GA Run-Off

Absent exit polling data, any broad-brush lessons of the Georgia run-off are a little dicey. But here are a few conclusions which merit some discussion:
1. Money helps. Yes, maybe Chambliss would have won, even if he and his supporters didn’t grossly outspend Martin. But, clearly you can’t have too much money.
2. GA Dems have not figured out how to maximize African American turnout without Black candidates.
As Perry Bacon, Jr. noted in his WaPo post-mortem on the Georgia run-off,

Fewer than a quarter of people who cast ballots early in the runoff were black, compared with more than a third in the November vote. Black voters overwhelmingly favored Obama and Martin.

Nate Silver echos and amplifies the point in his fivethirtyeight.com post on the run-off:

Unfortunately, nobody conducted an exit poll of this race, which makes the postmortem a little bit more difficult to conduct. From early voting statistics, it appears that African-American turnout was substantially lower, which no doubt was a significant factor in Martin’s defeat, as roughly 55 percent of his vote on November 4 came from black voters. If black turnout was closer to the 25 percent of the electorate that it was in 2004 rather than the 28 percent of the electorate that it was on November 4, that would cost Martin a net of about 4 points, implying a loss of about 7 points. If it was closer to the 22 percent of the electorate that turned out to vote early, that would have cost Martin a net of 8-9 points, implying a loss of 11-12 points

3. Conservatives can push the limits of negative campaigning in GA and get away with it.
This one did get ugly with some shameless sliming of Martin as ‘soft on child molesters’ and other unsubstantiated ‘soft on crime’ allegations. Not quite as outrageous as Liddy Dole’s “Godless’ slam of Kay Hagan, her opponent in NC, but getting pretty close.
4. Saxby Chambliss is a shrewd campaigner.
You have to give it to Chambliss. He used all of his advantages to the max. Brought in the heavy hitters of his party and, despite being morally challenged, he displayed an impressive command of facts and arguments in his debates with Martin. Even trotted out warm and fuzzy ads in the closing days to create the impression that he was jiust a nice grandfatherly guy, after all.
Chambliss at least matched Martin’s out of state support, thanks no doubt to the RSCC and other conservative groups. Atlanta Journal-Constitution ‘Political Insider’ Jim Galloway reports that, in his victory statement, Chambliss revealed that “volunteers” from 43 states came to Georgia to work on his campaign.
5. GA has not arrived as a purple state yet. (For a good county map of the GA Senate run-off vote, click here, and then click on GA) With Repubicans holding the governorship, both houses of the state legislature, two US Senators and McCain taking the EV’s, GA has a ways to go before Dems are competitive in state-wide races
On that topic, the last word in this post-mortem collage goes to Dr. Alan Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science at Emory University and one of Georgia’s most astute political observers. As Abramowitz said in an email (See also here) to TDS:

Before the Obama campaign moved into Georgia this was not a race that Democrats were hopeful about winning. Not only is Georgia a difficult state for Democrats but the party was unable to recruit a top-tier candidate to run against Saxby Chambliss. Jim Martin was recruited by the state party at the last minute to prevent DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, a highly controversial figure who had bragged about voting twice for George Bush, from winning the nomination by default. By registering and turning out huge numbers of African-American voters, the Obama campaign turned the senate race from a yawner into a nail-biter. In the runoff election, though, without the pull of Obama at the top of the ticket, there was a dramatic fall-off in turnout especially among African-American voters.

But Abramowitz, who came closer than any pundit to predicting the electoral vote totals before the November presidential election, also makes the case that the future for GA Dems is not as bleak as some say:

Despite the disappointing results on Tuesday, however, the long-term demographic trends in the state favor Democrats. The nonwhite share of the electorate should continue to increase for the forseeable future and metro Atlanta continues to grow rapidly. In the presidential election, Barack Obama won 57 percent of the vote in the 10-county Atlanta metro area, a huge improvement over John Kerry’s 48 percent in 2004. Moreover, the state’s feuding Republicans are likely to have a contentioius gubernatorial primary in two years. If Georgia Democrats can unite behind a strong candidate for governor and mobilize the state’s growing Democratic base, the party should have a good chance of retaking the statehouse in 2010. And don’t be surprised to see Georgia in the blue column in the 2012 presidential election.

Georgia Senate Run-Off Tests Voters’ Tolerance for Sleaze

Tomorrow’s Senate run-off election in Georgia is getting national attention because of the implications for the Democrats’ quest for a filibuster-proof Senate majority. All bets are off, since polls for run-off elections are notoriously unreliable. There is a temptation to say that this one is all about African American turnout — if the percentage of eligible Black voters casting ballots exceeds the percentage of eligible white voters who do so, then Martin has a chance.
It’s as plausible a supposition as any. As a Georgia resident, however, I have to add that this election also provides an instructive lesson about negative campaigning. I don’t believe I’m being overly partisan in observing that the quantity of nasty, even vicious television ads being aired on Chambliss’s behalf has probably set a record for state-wide campaigns, perhaps nation-wide. One after the other, making outrageous charges, one even suggesting that Martin is soft on child molesters. Martin’s attack ads are quite tame in comparison.
Tomorrow’s vote in Georgia will also be an instructive test of how much character assassination fair-minded Republican voters can stomach. If decency prevails, many of them will vote for Martin or stay home. And, If Martin wins, I suspect some of the credit should go to Chambliss’s ad-makers, who have set a new standard for sleazy attack ads. If Chambliss wins, on the other hand, it will be a disturbing affirmation of the power of relentless, mean-spirited attack ads.

How Should Obama Confront Terror?

Between the economic meltdown and the uplifting election, Americans have had something of a respite for a few months from dispiriting headlines concerning wars and terrorism. But now the horrific atrocities in Mumbai bring a sobering reminder that the Obama administration will face a continuing, if not growing, threat of global terror, much of it directed against Americans.
As a presidential candidate, Senator Obama had to talk tough about confronting terrorists with military force. He wasn’t just overcompensating because of his opponent’s impressive military record. The cold, hard reality is that we do need enhanced military and intelligence capabilities to deal with the threat of terrorism. But our policy must be a lot smarter, with more precision in targeting military action when it’s really necessary and much stronger on-the-ground intelligence. It will require a major reformulation of our strategic goals at DOD, State, and intelligence agencies.
But the greatest challenge facing the Obama administration in confronting the threat of global terror is creating a more effective strategy for winning the struggle for hearts and minds.

An Ad for Jim Martin

Media critic Leslie Savan’s post “GOP Plays a Mean Saxby” at The Nation spotlights a half-dozen of the recent political ads of the Martin-Chambliss race in Georgia. Chamblis’s central theme this time around is taxes, along with predictable name-calling about Martin being a liberal. Savan believes Chambliss’s ads are tame compared to his ’02 race against Cleland:

What Chambliss wants to do is bring out his base without provoking anyone on the other side. While both camps may spend as much or more on TV advertising in this four-week period before the run-off than they did in the months-long general election, the odds that Chambliss would walk on the wild side with another cut-throat ad are long.

As Savan notes, Chambliss is counting on a weak turnout. One obvious way for Martin to win is with a surprisingly large African American turnout in GA, although there are reports that early African American voting for the Senate run-off is lagging. African American turnout should get a boost from a reported influx of union volunteers. President-elect Obama has cut a radio ad for Martin, as Ed Kilgore noted yesterday. And yes, it would be good for Obama to come to GA for Martin in the closing days of the race. Obama’s rep as a ‘stand-up guy’ is one of his strongest political assets, and he is the leader of his party now, so I’m hoping he shows.
Another way to cut into Chambliss’s lead might be through creating more buzz among vets and supporters of the military about Chambliss’s numerous votes against vets’ interests. Martin has run a few ads on this theme, but he needs something more dramatic to generate some heat. I thought this powerful feature of the Democratic National Convention removed a lot of doubts viewers may have had about Obama’s national security creds. Why not get a few of the retired generals and admirals to do an ad for Jim Martin? Chambliss’s weak record on veterans benefits provides a lot of material for scripts, and I’ll bet a few of them wouldn’t mind coming out against Chambliss in return for his shameful ads questioning Cleland’s patriotism in ’02. Running such an ad in heavy rotation near GA’s military installations, as well as state-wide, just might sway enough voters who are slightly leaning toward Chambliss to vote for Martin. If this race is as close as recent polls indicate, such an ad just might make a difference.

Obama’s Tough Choice: Clinton or Richardson for State

Of all the tough choices President-elect Obama will face between now and the inauguration, none are likely to have more far-reaching political consequences than his pick for Secretary of State. The two front-runners, Senator Clinton and Governor Richardson also happen to be the most prominent female and Hispanic leaders, respectively, in the Democratic Party, and it looks like both may want the post. Jonathan Weisman reports on Obama’s dilemma in the Wall Street Journal

Sen. Clinton, of New York, could be a crowd pleaser in that role, and she has staunch advocates in Rahm Emanuel, the new chief of staff, and transition director John Podesta, according to Democrats familiar with the transition process…But Mr. Obama risks alienating Latino supporters if he passes over New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, currently the favorite of a lobbying campaign by Hispanic activists, for the State Department job.

It’s hard to imagine either Richardson or Clinton being satisfied with any post south of State as a consolation prize. Richardson’s bio practically screams “future Secretary of State,” and, as a 2-time Clinton administration appointee, he went out on a long limb endorsing Obama. But picking Richardson would almost certainly crank up ire among Clinton’s supporters as a double-diss, since she wasn’t picked for veep. While Richardson’s formidable diplomatic experience may give him an edge, Clinton is clearly one of the most capable leaders in the Democratic Party, and her experience as an actively-involved First Lady for 8 years who traveled the world on diplomatic missions merits consideration.
In picking Richardson, it’s possible Obama could offset criticism from feminists by making sure the “more than 300 cabinet secretaries, deputies and assistant secretaries and more than 2,500 political appointees” cited in Weisman’s article includes a record number of women. Conversely, making sure Latinos get a record number of those appointments might offset negative buzz in the Latino community if he picks Clinton for State. Either way there will be much grumbling in the short run.
WaPo‘s Chris Cillizza weighs the pros and cons of chosing Clinton:

Making Clinton the Secretary of State would ensure buy-in from the former first couple…While the chances of Clinton free-lancing are far less if she is a member of the Obama cabinet, there is absolutely no way of ensuring that her own views on matters of foreign policy would be subsumed in favor of those of the administration…it would be impossible to put the toothpaste back into the tube.

Cillizza may be overstating the likelihood of Clinton being a rogue Secretary of State, and Obama and Clinton do share many foreign policy positions in common. However, Cillizza doesn’t weigh the negative impact that passing over Richardson would have with many Latinos.
Of course, Obama could dodge the dilemma by selecting Senator Kerry for State. In that event, he could tick off both many Hispanics and Clinton supporters. Anyway you slice and dice, it is a very tough choice. The upside is that the country would be well-served with any of these three.

Peach State Showdown Draws McCain

Bit of a donnybrook shaping up in the Peach State today, as John McCain rolls in to campaign for Saxby Chambliss and against Jim Martin in the Senate run-off. Much of the fun will be in seeing how McCain, who will be appearing at a rally at 4:30 with most of the top GA Republicans, renounces his 2002 blast of Chambliss’s shameful attack against Sen. Max Cleland:

“I’d never seen anything like Saxby’s political ad. Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield — it’s worse than disgraceful. It’s reprehensible.”

But that was the straight-talking McCain of yesteryear, before he made his faustian bargain with the knee-jerk reactionaries for his ’08 run. The DSCC has a 50-second web-only ad to welcome McCain and remind internet-active voters of McCain’s earlier views on Chambliss, and a DSCC 5-day TV ad buy is expected to begin in GA today. But, as Atlanta Journal Constitution “political insider” columnist Jim Galloway reminds his readers, McCain owes Chambliss for his endorsement of McCain’s run for President, when polls showed GA Republicans preferred Huckabee.
It’s basically a three point-race that will be determined by turnout in the December 2nd run-off. CNN has an interesting map of the counties that went for Martin and Chambliss, indicating that Martin’s hopes are pegged to GOTV in four GA metro areas, Atlanta, Savannah, Columbus and Augusta. CNN‘s exit poll demographic breakdown of the voters for Martin and Chambliss shows Martin has a huge advantage among Black voters, a 12 point edge with women (and an 11-point shortfall with men), a 10-point edge with younger voters and breaks even with Chambliss among seniors. Chambliss lead among GA’s white voters “with no college” is 70-26 percent.
Issue-wise, it looks like Martin’s biggest weakness is among those who identify the economy as the “most important issue,” who give him only a 2-point lead over Chambliss. He needs to hit harder on Chambliss’s support of Bush economic policies, not just rat-a-tat-tat about taxes. No surprise that the fat cats are digging deep for Chambliss, as the Wall St. Journal reports today. Chambliss has been Bush’s bellhop on economic issues, as well as an errand boy for big oil. Martin needs such punchy memes to generate more heat.
There’s also a stronger case to be made about Chambliss’s awful record on veterans’ issues and low ratings from several vets’ groups. So far, Martin’s ads have been pretty tame on this topic. Instead of the “failed our veterans” rhetoric, the ads of Martin and the DSCC should call it a “betrayal,” for some much-needed water-cooler buzz.
Chambliss’s secret weapon in the run-off may be Republican Secretary of State Karen Handel, who AJC columnist Cynthia Tucker has called “the Katherine Harris of this campaign” and a “partisan martinet.” who “did every thing she could to try to keep as many new voters as possible from casting a ballot.” More on Handel’s games here and GA’s disturbingly large “undervote” here.
Dems should pull out all the stops and mobilize a monster turnout in the four aforementioned GA cities. It would also be good if Sam Nunn and the Carters would make some appearances and/or do an ad for Martin to help take a little bite out of Chambliss’s edge with white voters. Martin could also use some more dough, to match Saxby’s ad avalanche on GA TV. This one is winnable, and you can help right here.

GOP Fear-Mongers Twist Obama Proposal

It happens every time I pop off about “the new south.” Within days, a southern politician will say something so astoundingly lame that the ‘Tobacco Road’ image of the south will be re-confirmed in the minds of millions. The latest comes from Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA10), or “R-Crazy” as Jay Bookman’s blog on Broun in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution puts it.
Here’s what Senator Obama said in a speech he delivered in Colorado on July 2nd:

We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.

The problem is that Senator Obama didn’t flesh out the proposal in the speech, and the paranoid wingnuts got the audio clip and are now circulating it far and wide as indicative of the President-Elect’s “Marxist” agenda, highlighting the scary phrase “civilian national security force.” As Broun said, according to the Associated Press

…That’s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did…When he’s proposing to have a national security force that’s answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he’s showing me signs of being Marxist.

So what did Obama really mean? According to the AP report:

…Spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama was referring in the speech to a proposal for a civilian reserve corps that could handle postwar reconstruction efforts such as rebuilding infrastructure — an idea endorsed by the Bush administration.

I’m satisfied. But I did get a call from a highly-intelligent friend who was genuinely concerned about what the statement meant. The Obama-team should explain the proposal a little better, perhaps in an article or written statement. I doubt it will just go away without corrective action. The wingnut buzz is threatening to go viral, even with less extreme conservatives. This is the kind of thing that James Vega warned about in his November 5 TDS post.
Oh well, at least the southeast isn’t the only region to elect scare-mongering knuckleheads to congress, as suggested by another Republican, Michelle Bachman’s win in MN-6.