Sunday, May 25, 2008

Barack Obama's A Team

When Obama wrote Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance it burst forth as an authentic life journey without attempts to shield his pen from immortalizing the rough stuff. That particular book was also written without artifice or the ambition of national politics. I remember seeing the book on the shelf of a now defunct Los Angeles Crown Book store. I inspected the jacket and the contents as a voracious nonfiction reader - I seek footnotes - thought what an interesting book and how do you say that name properly. With rapt attention I had read Nathan McCall's book, Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America and wanted another book from a black man, so much the better he was bi-racial, showing a journey to share with my nephew CJ. What a difference a decade makes.

Barack Obama spent his intervening time on family, friends and thinking about the best ways to make a difference. Now he stands before America and her territories asking for our votes to become the 44th president of United States of America. No way did Barack become the presumptive nominee without a cadre of close friends, adoring family and political operatives that understood his unique gifts and glaring flaws. It is that Obama political dream team about whom much shall be written in the coming years. They/We beat the biggest Democratic machine in 40 years with little more than one man's inspiration derived from the knuckleball school of hard knocks, hallowed classrooms of the Ivy League and hard to come by street cred on the Southside of Chicago.

The team surrounding Obama is clear. No Drama. There are homemade T-shirts that sell stating End the Drama - Vote Obama. All fights amongst the campaigns senior aides remain contained within the family walls. Seems everybody is a consigliere. However, the de facto Obama rules mean treat political competitors with class, but they are not at all above causing opponents some drama moments. Obama's Dream Team is a mix of operatives from Chicago, southern states, the beltway's cynical circles, African Americans, the wealthy and/or educated elite and cheap green eye shade types more comfortable with a spreadsheet than supporters. One most excellent supporter, foreign policy adviser, Pulitzer Prize winner and stellar Harvard prof Samantha Power resigned her unpaid campaign position after calling Hillary a monster on the record.

Valerie Jarrett in Philadelphia, in March 2008, at one of the most momentous speeches on race as she, fellow Obama supporter Marty Nesbitt and Michelle cried as Obama gave an oration worthy of angels.The detail oriented, tough as nails Valerie Jarrett hired Michelle first and met Barack later prior to the couple being married in Chicago. Michelle is giving a multitude of deep thought to what she could do as a potential First Lady for women and children.

Jarrett's role as an honest broker in the campaign stems from her deep friendship with the candidate and his wife. Barack Obama met Jarrett in 1991 when she was Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's deputy chief of staff and was interviewing Obama's then-fiancee for a job in City Hall. The three have been close ever since. A lawyer, Jarrett got her start in city government as a deputy corporation counsel for finance and development.

After serving at Daley's side, Jarrett was a commissioner in the city's Planning and Development Department and went on to chair the Chicago Transit Board, which oversees the city's public transportation system.

She is also a member of the University of Chicago's board of trustees and chairs its Medical Center Board. She is vice chair of Chicago 2016, the committee spearheading the city's bid for the Summer Olympics. Jarrett oversaw the Chicago Stock Exchange until stepping down last year to become CEO of Habitat Co., a real estate development and management firm. Some have mentioned her as an eventual mayoral candidate.

David Axelrod a veteran of the seminal Harold Washington for mayor campaign, is a veteran wordsmith, former reporter and savvy political operator. He's got great eyes with incredibly long eyelashes, but he's not exactly a killer presence on the TV. He's appreciated more for his political messaging craftsmanship and strategic leadership away from the klieg lights that favors fast talkers and empty rhetoric. Axelrod had one presidential campaign under his belt with John Edwards in 2004. With several high profile aides in Camp Obama, his nickname at HQ is "Ax". That could have all manners of meaning and permutations.

Obama's political strategist, David Axelrod, was in New York at a fund raiser Tuesday night, a rare evening away from the pressures of the campaign trail. Axelrod and his wife, Susan, are supporters of Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, and they were honored at a dinner raising money to fight the disease that robbed their daughter of
a chance at a normal life.

Long before he was married, Axelrod was a young journalist who wrote a political column for the Hyde Park Herald on Chicago's South Side. I inherited the column when he moved on to the Chicago Tribune. He's been advising candidates since 1984 when he went to work for the campaign that put Paul Simon, an Illinois Democrat, into the United States Senate.

Another David, Plouffe, is the money man and treats donations as if they were his own precious. Cheap is a descriptor he is proud of as a fear of running out of money dooms many a worthy candidate. Plouffe was adamant that would not be the reason an Obama campaign would flounder. He kept his word. Most of Barack's supporters recognize his name at the bottom of many emails from the campaign. What most don't know is David is barely forty and shies away from any spotlights even after having been a part of the Beltway political circuses in past years.
As Obama's campaign manager, Plouffe is widely credited with running one of the most impressive presidential nominating operations in recent memory. He is known for his discipline and for his ability to maintain a steady course through a campaign's inevitable ups and downs. "He is the most focused, talented operative I've ever worked with," says Democratic lobbyist and Clinton supporter Steve Elmendorf. "He never gets distracted by any of the chatter or Beltway stuff," adds Elmendorf, who, as then-House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt's chief of staff, hired Plouffe to be his deputy in 1997.
An interesting hard hitting national security specialist and foreign policy scholar on the O - A Team is Susan Rice. Yep, in an Obama administration there would be another Dr. Rice who is a black female with strong ties to Stanford. She too, is barely over 40, African American, dedicated and focused on global challenges likely to consume an Obama Administration's international agenda.

Rice has been a critic of the war in Iraq and she said in September 2007 that the troop surge is not achieving “its intended and stated objective of giving the Iraqi political factions the space that is necessary to resolve their political differences.”

Rice also categorizes global poverty as a factor in U.S. national security. In 2006, Rice warned in The National Interest that poverty “dramatically increases the risk of civil conflict” and “prevents poor countries from devoting sufficient resources to detect and contain deadly disease.” Rice has repeatedly said the Bush administration should devote up to 0.7 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, a target set as part of the UN’s Millenium Development Project, to overseas development assistance by 2015.

There are many others on the Obama team making significant and meaningful contributions to getting this incredibly talented man elected. His next truly momentous addition to his team will be the announcement of his selection of VP that will be ready on day one to assume the presidency. Very glad it won't be his former competitor who jumped the shark this week.That jumped into my head when Hillary Rodham Clinton evoked RFK's assassination in June as a durable reason for continuing her political charade. Today means more than tomorrow as Barack Obama shifts his thoughts to winning against a man that survived torture as a POW and embraced the policies of the worst president in American History.

My father has a saying that shall stay with me for the remainder of my life: Live for Today, for Tomorrow is not Promised. As time permits, more profiles in the coming months as they are an interesting group meshing together to take a campaign that began with one man's thoughts on Hope & Change to electing him president of the United States. Barack's team is ensuring his legacy permeates his policy for Today as America is on the cusp of entering a new era in the hands of a man of the Joshua generation. He chooses to enter unafraid and so shall I. Barack is living for today and as his mentor said in 1980, Hope Lives, the Cause Shall Endure and the Dream Shall Never Die.

Obama's former aide from the primaries, who my bet will return, Dr. Samantha Power offers up a compelling
biography of a dedicated global citizen who wanted to get something done in the most adverse of circumstance. The story of his life is contained in her stellar biography, Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World.

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