John Dickerson takes your questions about how Obama can really change politics.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
Nov. 7 2008 6:40 PM

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John Dickerson takes your questions about how Obama can really change politics.

(Continued from Page 1)

John Dickerson: I think people (including conservatives) find some reason for encouragement because 221 years after the founding document of our country allowed slavery to continue in a country founded on the concept of liberty, an African American was elected.

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Washington: How long before financial conditions compel Obama to abandon the middle-class tax cut?

John Dickerson: I'm not sure. there are enough economists who argue that financial conditions call for some injection of cash to give him plenty of cover to go forward. Will the blue dog fiscal conservative Democrats in the House vote for it without offsetting spending cuts? That's the question we don't know the answer to yet.

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Hot Springs, Va.: Recognizing the myriad issues on the agenda, I would like to hear the president-elect say to the nation that "this is what we are focusing on first," whether it be the economy, health care, energy, iraq, etc. But pick one, out loud, in press conference. Most importantly, say to all aloud the ideas being thought about, what might work and why, what won't work and why—keep voters in the loop of thought, words and decision of what's next move. Be open, and if having difficulty and not getting much movement, say so and why. That is accountability to the people who elected Sen. Obama to be our president. We've missed it for so long.

John Dickerson: Good point. I think Obama will do that with the economy. In fact, he'll start that in his press conference today.

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Seattle: I think St. Simons Island's point was, why should Obama take the advice of Republicans/conservatives who supported Bush running roughshod over Democrats? I mean, Obama won running as a liberal Democrat, so why shouldn't he govern like one?

John Dickerson: It's not either/or. Also he should probably govern where the people are, and as Nancy Pelosi said just yesterday they're going to have to govern from the middle.

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Santa Barbara, Calif.: Half the things you state in "six things Obama should do" have nothing to do with doing the best job as president. This wouldn't even begin to surface with a Republican president—for example look at Bush. Don't get ridiculous!

John Dickerson: There are many things Obama must do as president that weren't mentioned. The piece was about those things that he could do that would meet his pledge to govern differently and do so in the time period before he starts making actual legislation. Obama faces a different standard than Bush because he campaigned for 21 months on the idea of changing the tone and style of politics.

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I'd love to see: Obama reinforce the "we're all in this together" theme by having his great ground team organize community service events in all 50 states, either on Inauguration Day or—perhaps even better—the day before, which happens to be the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. I don't know if he would be allowed to use money from his campaign/inauguration fund, but I'm sure he could find a way to sponsor them, even if the money had to come from elsewhere.

John Dickerson: I'd love this too. It's a great idea.

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Rhode Island: I have a suggestion for the first 100 days, which happens to dovetail nicely with Michelle Obama's advocacy for military families: NPR (and probably other outlets) have reported on the shameful state of absentee balloting for servicemembers on duty overseas. It is an outrage that the ballots are not reaching them in time, or that the wrong ballots arrive with no time to fix the problem and no guarantee that they ever even will be counted. I personally think the nation's voting infrastructure needs to be overhauled, but we definitely should start with some kind of "Servicemember Voting Bill of Rights" to address these problems. Who would oppose it?

John Dickerson: Sounds reasonable. The idea that Michelle Obama is going to advocate for military families is really really smart.

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Washington: Is Lindsey Graham's statement about Rahm Emanuel a signal from McCain that he's willing to work with an Obama administration on legislation, or is it just Graham congratulating his friend?

washingtonpost.com: Obama's choice of Emanuel shows switch in tone(AP, Nov. 7)

John Dickerson: Both, I think. There are going to be Republicans who want to take the party in a new direction and seeming reasonable and open to the new president is the first step.

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Pittsburgh: Has Sarah Palin set back the prospects for all female presidential candidates for some time to come with her apparent greed and employment of "feminine wiles" instead of reliance on substance and knowledge of issues? Is her political career toast (I hope)?

John Dickerson: I don't really know but I don't think so. She was a disaster but we've come far enough to know that women can fail as spectacularly as men can and it has nothing to do with gender.

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Anonymous: Is Gov. Arnold an economic girlie man now?

John Dickerson: Arnold will work very hard to become friendly with the new president. He likes popular winners and that's what Obama is right now.

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Blech: "Obama faces a different standard than Bush because he campaigned for 21 months on the idea of changing the tone and style of politics." You're joking right? Bush campaigned as a small-government, anti-nation building, compassionate conservative. That lasted about four seconds into his first term, without much comment from anyone.

John Dickerson: The standard I was talking about was the one raised in the question-- the "change the tone of politics standard." I was not suggesting that Bush faced no standard.

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Washington: In a chat earlier this week an obviously bitter Tucker Carlson said: "The same people who always are going on about how important heterodoxy and dissent are, are the same people who are always trying to impose the most stifling sort of politically correct conformity on the rest of us. They have no interest in divergent opinions, and never have."

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