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Obama Makes ‘Commitments’ and Calls for Non-Partisan Solutions

By Tom Watson on September 25, 2008No Comment

Speaking via occasionally glitchy satellite feed to the audience of world leaders, philanthropists, and tycoons at the Clinton Global Initiative, Democratic nominee Barack Obama called for a bi-partisan solution to the looming financial market crisis and – in a clever CGI-style nod to the high-powered host and husband of his former rival – made several commitments to solve global problems with American resources if he’s elected president.

On the market crisis, Senator Obama’s position was remarkably close to that of Senator John McCain, his Republican opponent whose in-person speech preceded his by less than an hour:

First, we need to set up an independent board, selected by Democrats
and Republicans, to provide oversight and accountability for how and
where this money is spent at every step of the way.

Second, if American taxpayers finance this solution, they should be
treated like investors. That means Wall Street and Washington should
give every penny of taxpayers’ money back once this economy recovers.

Third, we cannot and will not simply bailout Wall Street without
helping the millions of innocent homeowners who are struggling to stay
in their homes. They deserve a plan too.

Finally – and this is important – the American people should not be
spending one dime to reward the same Wall Street CEOs whose greed and
irresponsibility got us into this mess.

Like McCain, Obama said he was heading to Washington at President Bush’s invitation to work on the bailout deal. Of course, their joint appearance at CGI contained plenty of political theater – for one, Senator McCain brought along his vice-presidential nominee, Governor Sarah Palin. For another, President Clinton hewed to a deliberately non-partisan line in his introductions, leading into both speeches with personal anecdotes and some degree of praise over policy.

However, he was clearly more fulsome in his introduction of Senator Obama, who he supports in the presidential race. He recounted meeting with the candidate at his Harlem office on September 11th and Obama’s refusal to do any street campaigning that day. And he praised the quality of his talk with Obama on policy.

"Eighty percent of the conversation had nothing to do with politics and
everything to do with the responsibilities of the next president for
the welfare of the American people and the future of the world," said President Clinton.

Senator Obama constructed the wider policy portion of his remarks in the language of CGI: "Since CGI is about deeds, not just words, let me tell you about four
specific commitments that I will make on four issues that CGI has
focused on – climate change, poverty, education, and health – if I have
the opportunity to serve as President of the United States," he said.

Like Senator McCain, he owed to eradicate malaria and he talked about the security and economic benefits of investment in alternative energy. And those four commitment areas – backed by his promise to pursue them as President, the closest he got to campaigning – also mirrored the themes at CGI:

"Climate change. Poverty. Extremism. Disease. These problems offend our
common humanity. They also threaten our common security. You know this.
The question is what we do about it."

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