Wednesday, November 5, 2008


With Barack Obama's victory in the Presidential election of 2008, we the people of the United States can rejoice at having once again fulfilled our potential to become "a more perfect union," this time in a HUGE way, with the election of a black man to the Presidency of the United States. And yet this milestone, which has inspired joy in so many, has also, somewhat understandably, aroused apprehension among those who voted against Obama.

To be happy that an African American won the election is not an indictment of or accusation against those who did not vote for him. Nor is it a statement that his supporters voted *for* him because of his race.

After 372 years of subjugation of people of color in America and 232 years where only Caucasians have held the office of the US Presidency, to not recognize the quantum leap forward that Obama's election represents is to dismiss a key moment when we as a society realized the true potential and promise of our founding principles.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal....

What is significant, indeed crucial, is that Obama himself did not run on race. He spoke of race only when absolutely pushed to the wall, when the Hillary campaign started blasting him on his association with Reverend Wright -- a strategy which sought to arouse and exploit fears among white people that Obama conformed to the stereotype of "the Angry Black Man."

That was the situation that prompted Obama to write and deliver his speech on race:

When the McCain campaign, particularly through Palin, started rousing fears with their accusations that Obama was "palling around with terrorists," and Representative John Lewis, a hero of the Civil Rights Movement, -- a man who had personally witnessed the church burnings, the fire hoses, the murders of Goodman, Scherner and Cheney, as well as the murders of Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King -- called the McCain administration out on these tactics, the Obama campaign distanced themselves from Lewis' statements, expressly rebuking the association Lewis had made between John McCain and George Wallace.

The Obama campaign statement pulled the emphasis of the discussion away from race and back towards a more neutral critique of "angry divisive rhetoric" and then, even more notably, they moved the message back into the "positive" column, by stating the need for unity "a time of crisis when we desperately need to come together."

I think it was this constant, steady, consistent and *color-blind* emphasis on unity and the positive that won over the Independents to Obama's side and ultimately led to his victory in this election, not to mention the intense affection of all those who gravitated to his cause.

I think the more people saw and really got to know Obama, the more they liked him and saw that, even though he was relatively inexperienced in terms of years spent in public service at the national level or in an executive capacity, he had the brilliant mind, judgment and temperament to be an outstanding chief executive. He was the most qualified candidate for the job.

And then there was that breakthrough....

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What It Means to Elect a Constitutional Scholar as President of the United States of America

For me, having come from New York University School of Law, my orientation towards the title of "constitutional scholar" is the same as that held by the members of that community.

At the law school, the term "constitutional scholar" was no more remarkable than "electrical engineer." It held a certain prestigiousness, not unlike that of "neuro-surgeon" or "nuclear physicist," because it is one of the most highly-esteemed areas of study and practice.

That said, I am sad to think that the term, "constitutional scholar" would be regarded as somehow romantic. If the study and mastery of constitutional law has come to be regarded in the American consciousness as some kind of quixotic ideal, then it is a testament to how low we have sunk as a republic and how little regard we have come to have for our civil rights and our constitutional principles and aspirations.

We can find the evidence for this intensely regrettable decline in the passage of The Patriot Act, the eavesdropping on American citizens without warrant or probable cause, the avowed American disregard for the Geneva Convention in international warfare as codified by the US Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales, the active practice of torture and physically coercive interrogation techniques, imprisonment in offshore locations without a hearing, the attempt to suspend rights of habeas corpus....

The urgency with which Americans have handed over their civil liberties, hand-over-fist, in the purported interest of security, out of fear, has established a poignant occasion for the restatement of the words of our founding father, Benjamin Franklin:

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

I hope that with the election of a constitutional scholar to the United States presidency, that we will see over the next decade the redemption of regard for our constitutional rights and that the title of "constitutional scholar" will be redeemed from trivialization as a merely quixotic ideal. My sincere hope is that the vocation of "constitutional scholar" will at least attain the status of a routine and unremarkable specialization, if not total restoration of the high esteem it once held.

Why I Am Not "A Globalist"

I would not describe myself as a globalist. I don't think "whether globalism is a good idea" is the right question.

Globalization is inevitable, given the prevalence and ubiquity of modes of communication and travel -- the telephone, the Internet, satellite technology, television, radio, airline travel, etc. These are the means of export, import and exchange of ideas, culture and trade...into a constant intermingling.

The right question is HOW do we effect this intermingling? So some resistance to unfettered "globalization" is in order to ensure that the values (economic, moral and ethical) inherent in the ideas, culture and products in the intermingling are fairly and ethically regulated and distributed.

To have one value dominate all others via globalization could be a bad thing. For example, if globalization favors inexpensive labor...resulting in the concentration of manufacturing or sourcing of materials only in countries that abuse or mistreat laborers...then globalization is bad, and I am against it.

The all-or-nothing orientation towards globalization doesn't really work very well. Because the channels of transmission and transportation are irreversibly open (or at least because their restraint is so prohibitively expensive and difficult), trade in and the exchange of ideas and products will continue and expand. The genie is out of the bottle, and there is no stuffing it back in.

There needs to be regulation of global markets in trade to preserve fairness, to protect workers in terms of wages, hours and safety, and to preserve and protect the environment.

In terms of political globalization, there are certain universal principles that should be given global expression -- the universal rights of human beings to self-determination, to government of, by and for the people, the right to elect one's own leaders, the rights to free and unfettered expression, the right to bodily integrity and reproductive freedom, and so forth. At the same time, there is also a need to for certain checks and balances that will allow these principles to manifest in ways that preserve and are respectful of variations in culture and ethnicity.

We need to make sure that globalism does not become the means of economic, cultural or moral imperialism due to the advantage held by stronger and more potentially dominant participants.

What an Epiphany: The Prospect of Putting a Constitutional Scholar Into the Oval Office

I love that Barack Obama is a Constitutional Scholar. He approaches all the issues as a scholar would...with an open and curious mind, eager to hear, appreciate and truly understand the philosophies and arguments with which he does not agree. As the brilliant legal scholar that he MUST be to have graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Law School, he has to be able to anticipate and argue ALL sides of an issue. This will give him the ability to take in all perspectives on any of the issues he will face as President and to synthesize them into a decision, a solution.

I am so excited for the election today. I am eager for Obama to be elected. I'm not counting my chickens, but if he wins, I think he will be a great president...great for the country and great for the standing of our country in the world.

My deepest hope on the International front is that he will end the habit of the US to prop up dictators and for us to return to our roots as a force for the promotion of true democracy in the world. Now that the cold war is over, there is no need for us to prop up dictators, just to have a force that opposes the Soviets or China.

It has long been a counterproductive strategy that has come back to bite us all too often -- from our propping up of the Shah of Iran leading to the Iran Hostage Crisis to our propping up of Sadaam Hussein so long as he was fighting Iran...and we all know what THAT led to.

Once again we will start to make substantive progress in environmental matters, trade pacts that require the elevation of conditions for workers worldwide...and that will reduce the unfair advantage that work forces in countries like China and Mexico have over American workers.... I feel like our country will FINALLY start moving forward again.

Why I Support Barack Obama

As the Democratic primary process got under way, I started out genuinely torn between Hillary and Obama. I loved the Clinton presidency. I had heard Hillary speak several times before she ran for the presidency, and I always loved what she had to say.

But I was angry that she voted for the authorization of power to Bush to go into Iraq. I was also apprehensive that the vicious partisanship and polarization that had been directed towards both Bill and Hillary Clinton during the first Clinton presidency would recur. I wanted something different from the array of Clintons and Bushes who had held the Oval Office for the past 20 years. Something inside me felt that we needed someone new.

The more I've learned about Obama, the more I've grown to like him and to love him. Many are worried that he is too liberal, but the more you examine him and delve into his past, the more you will see that he is actually a closet centrist. He started out at the anti-establishment margins -- in the black neighborhoods of Chicago, where he had to join a somewhat radical congregation to establish his street cred as a black leader. Hence Reverend Wright.

BUT -- as he has risen from community organizer to state senator, from the tough streets of Chicago to the hallowed precincts of the Senate in Washington D.C., he has gravitated to the center. What I have learned about his childhood and schooling through law school tells me that this movement towards the center is more in line with who Obama truly is.

Obama is a biracial man who was raised in a white family. To have peace within himself, he had to have found a way to reconcile and harmonize both sides of his heritage and identity. I can absolutely see the parallel in his mission and drive to reconcile and harmonize the competing and all too often conflicting sides of our American heritage and identity. He is a unifier by nature, all the way down to his DNA.