Building a High-Trust World: Obama and the Democratic Platform


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I just received the near final draft of the Democratic Party platform (pdf here) — and I have to say that it gave me goosebumps, the good kind. I have been giving Senator Obama a tough time on a few issues lately — but he and his team have gained major mileage and traction with me with such an enlightened roster of policy convictions.
I don’t agree with all of it, and I’ll nitpick here and there another time as everyone will — but the broad parameters of this document are uplifting, feel real, and from a distance as well as up close, the prescriptions drafted here are clearly about rebuilding a “high-trust world” at home and abroad in contrast to the “high-fear world” that Bush and Cheney have wrought and which John McCain (regrettably) seems fixated on perpetuating.

Karen Kornbluh — my former colleague at the New America Foundation is author of two of the best articles I have read in recent years, “The Mommy Tax” and “Disconnect” (about America’s broadband policy) — has been serving as Senator Obama’s policy director in the Senate. Kornbluh recently became “Principal Platform Author” at the Democratic National Committee and worked closely with Arizona Governor and Platform Committee member Janet Napolitano who according to sources is the Democratic Party’s real policy deal-maker. I have had several calls about Kornbluh and Napolitano tonight and how they put together a high-flex, no nonsense, no-ego-of-their own product that few others could have produced.
I have read through much of the platform — but not all. Some of the key zingers are a focus on technology and taking back the government and getting more democracy per se via technology. There is a focus on service, on faith-based efforts — a focus on citizen stakeholding.
And what I love most about the platform is that it started with a focus on what we need to do in America as Americans — and not necessarily on the wars and conflicts in which war are embroiled abroad. The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars do demand our attention – as do many other international challenges — but the defining challenges are here and should be addressed. The platform starts with these, and that is refreshing.
I look forward to discussing this more in future days — but I link the platform draft here for your own perusal.
— Steve Clemons


20 comments on “Building a High-Trust World: Obama and the Democratic Platform

  1. Kathleen says:

    PES… right on…


  2. pm317 says:

    “High-trust world” my foot! The highly idealistic Nehru trusted the Chinese (and the Pakistanis) and then what happened? Indo-China war of 1962. It does not have to be the high-fear world either. But why do people come up with these ultra-simplistic notions and phrases? You think the next guy is not going to put his country first? You may not, being the high-class world citizen that you are.


  3. PES says:

    With all due respect, Steve, I strongly disagree with your assessment. I’m sure that Karen and her ideas are superb, but very few parts capture the type of citizen-stakeholder, democratic governance you write about — and, these points are more like rhetorical flourishes near the beginning and end than actionable ideas or processes. The rest is filed with old, tired approaches and ideas — there is something for everyone. If anything, those reading this should ask for and encourage different mindsets and approaches — where “bottom up”, citizen-focused innovative approaches to generating solutions to gain traction versus the tired, top down, “something for everyone” policy approach that permeates most of this document.


  4. Tahoe Editor says:

    This document may give the few wonks & party insiders who read it “goose bumps,” but out on the stump when the voters are listening, Obama makes no qualms about pumping up the fear factor:
    “Nearly every threat we face has grown.” — Barack Obama


  5. Diane says:

    WW: the suggestion that Kosovo/Serbia and Palestine/Israel are analogous is lame. Recognizing Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was problematic because Kosovo was internationally recognized as a province of Serbia, and recognizing its secession was a denial of Serbia’s internationally-recognized territorial integrity.
    The difference with Palestine is that no country in the world recognizes the West Bank and Gaza as part of Israel. They are not parts of Israel seeking to secede, but occupied territories resisting Israel attempts to illegally annex them.
    The more accurate comparison with with Kosovo/Serbia is not Palestine/Israel, but S.Ossetia/Georgia, because the international community recognizes Georgian borders that encompass South Ossetia (and Abkhazia). I’m not commenting here on how and why Stalin and Khrushchev drew the boundaries that assigned non-Georgian populations to the Georgian SSR, just pointing out that they did, and that from the viewpoint of international diplomacy S.Ossetia and Abkhazia are provinces of a now-independent Republic of Georgia that are seeking to secede. Which makes them a parallel for Kosovo/Serbia in a way that Palestine/Israel is not.


  6. Mr.Murder says:

    Open, like his debates(or lack thereof).
    Ethical, like Axelrod?


  7. Carroll says:

    Posted by PissedOffAmerican Aug 11, 11:02PM
    For the US it’s just a matter of picking your poison on the ME…Obama’s hypocrisy or McCain’s faster blow up.
    Obama can’t settle anything in the ME without settling the Palestine Israeli deal in a way the Palestines and the Arabs states will accept….so he will have a choice of doing it that way or the whole game will continue.
    So eventually if he doesn’t do it fairly his only other choice will be sending forces to seperate them or allowing Israel to genocide the Palestines. In which case his “Culture of Trust in the world” he intends to foster will be DOA and a joke on the world instead.
    Anyway I have lost interest in this election, cynic that I am.
    I noticed nothing in the platform that indicated he would do anything about the crimes of this adm. and the people surrounding it.
    I did notice a touch of hubris in sections dealing with foreign policy….a different kind of hubris but still hubris. I wonder if Obama, like Bush once thought, thinks the force of his personality can change certain realities.


  8. Carroll says:

    O.K. I read the whole thing……blah,blah,blah to get to the good spots……or the ones I am most interested in.
    Obama is saying “eliminating” nuclear weapons “worldwide” will be a cornerstone of his policy.
    And that in the meanwhile “all” the 40 countries that have nuclear weapons will have to work with the US or appointed enities to secure their nuclear material and sites.
    Further he says that the US will do this by convening a 2009 World Summit with the permanent Security Council Members of the UN to do this on a ” global basis”.
    If he eventually suceeds at this it would make all future warfare conventional. Not so easy to do and with less options when you start losing. LOL…a think twice incentive.
    Aside from that the only other things I see that aren’t your standard boiler plate dem platform is the section on “Open and Ethical” government and “Reclaiming Our Constitution”. And the more definite statement in this about drug makers and insurers re drug prices. And a bit about taking money out of elections…that I am all for.
    I can’ t wait to see how he imposes “Ethical” Government on congress and the lobbies though. Maybe he plans on sending the extra 27,000 Marines in to clean them out. He might want to make that his first priority so he can put through the rest of his platform.


  9. S Brennan says:

    Well, his words always sounded nicer than his actions, but who knows what’s going to happen when Barak assumes the throne. His work as a senator has certainly been disappointing, but on a positive note, this will be Obama’s first job where his isn’t looking for a promotion before doing a day of work on the job.


  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Of course Wigwag likes Obama admitting that we will continue to be partners with Israel in genocide, the violation of numerous UN resolutions, and a myriad of human rights abuses.
    Whats more, Wigwag is thrilled that our tax dollars are going to continue to pay for Israel’s crimes.
    Obama’s “plight of the Palestinians” statement musta just been a hallucination, or a dream.
    Bingo, the Israelis bought another American pimp. Are they only rewarding Obama with the Presidency, or do his rewards amount to much more? And what exactly did Obama sell them? What policies in the ME has he promised them?


  11. Linda says:

    It wasn’t quite so amusing here in GA to hear the news bulletins and wonder if there was a terrorist attack—but then we joked that maybe it was Floridians attacking for water. Wars ususally are about control of natural resources (water, oil) and start on borders.


  12. ... says:

    isreal/palestine affairs are another area where obama is a complete letdown… i guess that is the price for being a paid shill and a sell out… i still think mccain is worse… wow, the political choices in the usa are pathetic!


  13. Linda says:

    I don’t have time to read it and might get goosebumps from different parts than others. I care most about SCOTUS and appointment of other federal judges–so it had to be a Democrat for me.
    I always thought Obama was the best candidate, but I’ve been disappointed by every Democrat I voted for who won. So I trust but verify after two years. I’m glad it is a good platform, but not only great speeches but also great platforms are only promises. He needs to be elected first and then act to keep those promises.


  14. WigWag says:

    Steve, we will agree to disagree. I think it was a very good document, especially the section that I posted. By the way, I wish Warren Olney had given you more time today. He spent too much time on the political stuff and not enough time on the policy ramifications of the war between Russia and Georgia.
    And I suppose you have already heard the joke about the war. When they told Bush Russia had invaded Georgia, he asked how they got through Florida.
    Thanks for the Simes post. I look forward to your explication of why the Palestinians are entitled to a State of their own while the Kosovars aren’t


  15. me says:

    Obama needs to wear a seatbelt.


  16. PeterG says:

    The platform may be good, but who is advising Obama on foreign policy. Obama said today “there is no possible justification for the attack (Russia’s action against Georgia).
    My understanding is that Georgia invaded Ossetia and killed about 2,000 Ossetian civilians, mostly Russian citizens, and forced the flight of about 35,000 others from the Ossetian city of Tskhinvali. Only after that, did the Russian forces mobilize and drive the Georgian forces out of Ossetia, albeit very forcefully.
    So Obama may be getting bad advice from someone…


  17. Steve Clemons says:

    WigWag – yeah, it wasn’t a perfect document, but the sections you liked and noted could have been far worse. I’ll write more about them another time — but the key thing is for Team Obama to resist efforts to continue to paint the Middle East mess — and the Israel/Palestine standoff — as a zero sum game. I haven’t read it completely, but Obama should have mentioned his opposition to Israeli settlement expansion if he didn’t.


  18. WigWag says:

    Yes, I liked the platform also. I was especially pleased to read pages 34-35. When I read this, I got goosebumps too:
    “Our starting point must always be our special relationship with Israel, grounded in shared
    interests and shared values, and a clear, strong, fundamental commitment to the security
    of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy… That
    commitment, which requires us to ensure that Israel retains a qualitative edge for its
    national security and its right to self-defense, is all the more important as we contend with growing threats in the region–a strengthened Iran, a chaotic Iraq, the resurgence of
    al Qaeda, the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah… We support the implementation of
    the memorandum of understanding that pledges $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the
    next decade to enhance and ensure its security.
    The United States and its Quartet partners should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces
    terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements…
    The creation of a Palestinian state through final status negotiations, together with an international compensation mechanism, should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel…
    Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem
    is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to
    people of all faiths.”
    Another section sure to give Washington Note readers goosebumps is the section on Iran on page 28.
    “The world must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That starts with tougher
    sanctions and aggressive, principled and direct high-level diplomacy, without preconditions. We will pursue this strengthened diplomacy alongside our European allies, and with no illusions about the Iranian regime. We will present Iran with a clear choice: if you abandon your nuclear weapons program, support for terror, and threats to
    Israel you will receive meaningful incentives; so long as you refuse, the United States and the international community will further ratchet up the pressure, with stronger unilateral sanctions; stronger multilateral sanctions inside and outside the U.N. Security Council, and sustained action to isolate the Iranian regime.”


  19. lurker says:

    I agree with … that Obama was a better candidate before than today but also see what Steve is getting at after a quick look at the Platform. This is 55 pages of some good stuff, not everything but alot is right on target.
    Kudos to Steve for a slew of incredible pieces of commentary at TWN and for getting this platform out to us plebes.


  20. ... says:

    cave in on FISA and his latest comments on the georgia/russia are a let down.. he is still the better candidate, but the gap is lessening..


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