At The Party, And The Morning After

I’ve been experiencing some problems with my blog but I think my tech guru, Shama Davis, has worked them out. So now I can belatedly post some video I shot from Michigan Ave after the big Grant Park rally. This is the sight and sound of the Republican death shroud lifting:

An hour after the announcement of Obama’s victory, I received a flood of texts and phone calls from friends across the country — from DC to New York to Anchorage, Alaska — telling me people had filled the streets of their cities to celebrate. It was a dreamlike moment for me. After covering the campaign since early 2007, and the right since the middle of Bush’s first term, I could not have imagined witnessing such a cathartic national celebration of the death of Republicanism. 

The passage of Prop 8 dampened my sense of elation. It is clear that the Christian right is not going away any time soon, and that the movement has staked out the battle over gay rights as the final phase of the culture war. Considering that black Democrats were arguably the swing vote in Prop 8′s passage, Barack Obama must do more to cultivate his most loyal base of support against insidious Christian right ploys. 

Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff did not surprise me. For all his post-partisan posturing, Obama is at his core a political animal who knows he won’t survive his first two years without playing hardball. The congressional Republicans are more extreme than ever, and consequently more marginalized. By using social issues and tax policy to hammer Obama, and by ginning up pseudo-scandals as they did under Clinton, the congressional GOP hopes to peel off a dozen or more seats in 2010. As a veteran of Clinton’s battles with Gingrich, Rahm understands this is no time for bipartisanship. I have my issues with him on policy — his support for the Shuler anti-immigrant bill, ramming NAFTA through Congress, his extreme Likudnik tendencies (see these shocking comments by his father, a former Irgun member) — but his political instincts seem good. On the other hand, he could alienate everybody and foster a dysfunctional environment in the White House. Time will tell.

Obama’s likely Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, is another issue. Read what I think about him below the fold.

Lawrence Summers is on a very short list of possible nominees for Secretary of Treasury. His selection has been complicated, however, by his destructive performance as president of Harvard University, a rocky term he finally sabotaged by revealing his opinion that women lack the mental aptitude to succeed in science.

But there is a lesser known episode in Summers’ past that further highlights his reckless tendencies, and foreshadows a politically nettlesome nomination process.

On December 12, 1991, while serving as chief economist for the World Bank, Summers authored a private memo arguing that the bank should actively encourage the dumping of toxic waste in developing countries, particularly “under populated countries in Africa,” which Summers described as “UNDER-polluted.” Summers added that public outrage over the heightened rates of prostate cancer caused by his proposed dumping would be mitigated by the fact that poor people in developing countries rarely live long enough to develop prostate cancer.

Read the full Summers memo here.

When the Summers memo leaked to the public in February 1992, Brazil’s Secretary of the Environment, Jose Lutzenburger, responded with an indignant missive. “Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane,” Lutzenburger told Summers. “Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional ‘economists’ concerning the nature of the world we live in… If the World Bank keeps you as vice president it will lose all credibility.”

If Obama nominates Summers, he will send a dispiriting message to governments of developing countries — especially in Africa — just as they have begun to look at the United States as a beacon of hope.

Back in the U.S., Summers’ nomination would prompt a reexamination by the media of the countless controversies he has fomented. Even an episode as tangential as Summers’ romantic fling with right-wing hatemonger Laura Ingraham could become a source of political embarrassment for the White House. Summers should be left to write his memoirs, not memos.

One thought on “At The Party, And The Morning After

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