Hitting the Ground Running

Duke faculty experts in law, economics, political science and race weigh in on the Obama presidency.

As Washington, D.C. prepares for one of the biggest inaugural celebrations in history on Jan. 20, many observers are keeping a close eye on how President-elect Barack Obama and his new administration will tackle tough issues ranging from the economic crisis to the war in Iraq.

Here, a range of Duke faculty experts many of whom have been sought out by the news media for their insight examines some of the issues facing the incoming president.

On the economy:

Connel Fullenkamp, associate professor of economics.

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Fullenkamp critiqued the federal bailout plan in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opinion piece, saying, "a well-conceived bailout that works the first time will save money, even if it takes longer to implement and requires a big upfront payment. This is the sort of investment the Treasury should be making."

Fullenkamp contends that to restore confidence in the banks, the government should focus on purchasing distressed assets from them as soon as possible.

Andrew Foster, associate clinical professor of law.

Foster, who teaches in the law school's community enterprise clinic, argues that government should take immediate steps to rescue American homeowners and communities across the country devastated by high foreclosure rates.

"First, it must create mechanisms through which problem loans can be modified so that homeowners can stay in their homes," he wrote in the (Raleigh) News & Observer. " -- the government will need to purchase whole loan pools not just the ‘slices' of loans typically incorporated into mortgage-backed securities so it can modify the terms of predatory mortgage loans and stave off another wave of defaults and foreclosures."

Jon A. Anda, executive-in-residence at the Fuqua School of Business and visiting fellow at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

Maximizing the benefit to the economy, while minimizing costs to consumers, is the goal of a "green stimulus," Anda wrote in the National Journal's energy and environment blog.

According to Anda, "renewable electricity -- along with efficiency, biofuels, nuclear, clean coal, and other technologies -- should compete in the marketplace. Renewables is not an objective in and of itself."

On racial equality:

Paula D. McClain, political science professor and co-director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences.

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While some observers think Obama's presidency may herald the end of racism, in a recent issue of DukeResearch McClain says, "We should not delude ourselves into thinking that issues of race and racial politics have suddenly disappeared. There were numerous racial and racist pamphlets and fliers targeting Obama during this election and numerous attempts at vote suppression."

Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African and African American Studies and popular culture.

In a column for News One, a website targeting African American and urban viewers, Neal addressed questions about the role and continued relevance of advocacy organizations such as the NAACP, the National Urban League and the Congressional Black Caucus. He said there is a continuing need for these organizations, even if they must adjust to changing times.

If the black political establishment is to remain relevant, "it is this new coalition of progressives that they will need to provide leadership for, taking advantage of the political will that Obama's campaign has generated," Neal wrote.

Orin Starn, cultural anthropology professor.

In an editorial published in the News & Observer, Starn compared Tiger Woods with Barack Obama, saying both crossed color lines in white-dominated "sports."

"[Obama's] election encourages a fuzzy, self-congratulatory feeling that we've exorcised the demons of slavery and Jim Crow at last. It can be easy to forget the outsized hardships facing so many black and Latino kids growing up in tough neighborhoods and just how often poverty, marginalization and brown skin still travel together in America today."

On national security and Iraq:

David H. Schanzer, public policy professor and director of the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

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In an op-ed column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other papers, Schanzer outlined how Obama should handle Guantanamo detainees. "Where sufficient evidence exists that a detainee has committed a war crime, court martial proceedings should begin immediately," Schanzer wrote. "The best way to get out of this legal hole is to transfer these detainees to their home countries, if we can be assured they will be maintained in custody and treated humanely."

Kerry L. Haynie, political science professor.

Given the nation's high expectations and limited resources, President Obama's honeymoon will be short, Haynie told reporters shortly after the election.

To address the high expectations, Haynie said Obama should choose only problems for which he has a reasonable chance of delivering solutions. For example, Haynie told the (Durham) Herald-Sun that ending the war in Iraq would be a major coup for Obama.