Obama at Yearly Kos: "I'm Skinny, But I'm Tough"

Jill Filipovic: Obama says, "We aren't just going to win an election, but we're going to transform a country in the process."
This post, written by Jill Filipovic, originally appeared on Feministe

The lovely Calvin scored me an extra ticket to the Obama break-out session. I saw Clinton before the forum, and she was pretty good -- she talked about education policy quite a bit, which was great, and she reiterated her opposition to Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I should have live-blogged it, but I was distracted by meeting the fabulous Ms. Lauren for the first time, so I didn't. Although I will also say that Peter Daou got much-deserved applause.

Obama just took the podium -- the audience gave him a standing rendition of Happy Birthday. Aww.

He says that bloggers represent a new way of doing politics, where it's not just one way. He says it's not just going to be enough to change parties -- we need to change how politics and business is done in Washington. Obama talks a little bit about the kinds of changes he wants to make, and then opens it up to questions.

Question: At the Citadel debate two weeks ago, Gov. Richardson and Sen. Biden said they would vote to scrap No Child Left Behind. Obama's committee will take it up on the Senate re-authorization committee this year. What will he do about No Child Left Behind?

Obama says that he will not vote to re-authorize it unless there are some significant changes. All of us believe in accountability in theory, but we need to take a good look at how we assess progress. No one is taking into account where students are taking off. Teachers are teaching to the test. We need to measure the trajectory of progress, not just draw a line. Unless we have talked with educators about how we are measuring student achievement, he doesn't want to continue to see a yearly progress report that punishes schools that need more help from the federal government, not less.

Question: Are you going to vote to expand NAFTA to include Panama and Colombia and other nations?

Obama says he doesn't want to completely pre-judge the situation, but his general principles are that he thinks the biggest challenge we face domestically in passing on an economy that is good for our children and our grandchildren is figuring out what we do about globalization. The burdens and benefits of globalization are not being spread evenly throughout the economy and across the world. If growth is only in Manhattan and the Silicon Valley but not in the Heartland, that's a problem. Trade is an important component of that. We need to look at it through the lens of the American worker, not just corporations. Trade agreements must have strong and enforceable labor and environmental regulations. He mentions child labor laws specifically. He is not comfortable with a bill that doesn't have those strong regulations. We need to look at more than what's good for Wall Street and corporate progress.
Jill Filipovic is a New York-based freelance writer and a law student at NYU. More of her writing is available online at her blog, Feministe.
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