April 8, 2009: President Obama’s Europe, Turkey & Iraq Trips

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President visits the troops in Iraq

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Democrat wins Illinois congressional seat: Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, 50, trounced GOP nominee Rosanna Pulido and Green Party candidate Matt Reichel for the 5th Congressional District seat that Emanuel first won in 2002. With 59 percent of precincts reporting, Quigley had 15,977, or 74 percent of the vote. Pulido had 4,184 or 19 percent and Reichel had 7 percent…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Absentees push Franken’s Senate lead to 312: Democrat Al Franken’s lead in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race widened Tuesday to 312 votes after previously rejected absentee ballots were added to the counting. Franken did better than Republican Norm Coleman by a nearly 2-to-1 margin as the ballots were opened and counted as part of a lawsuit brought by Coleman over the statewide recount. A three-judge panel ruled earlier that 351 ballots had been improperly rejected during the election and should be restored…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Is Obama the Divider-In-Chief?: A Pew Research poll indicates 88 percent of Democrats approve of the president’s job performance, while just 27 percent of Republicans say the same thing. That’s a 61-point difference.
    The gap for President George W. Bush at a similar juncture was 51 points. It was 45 for Bill Clinton — 38 for the first President Bush — and 46 for Ronald Reagan. Fox News, 4-6-09
  • Obama’s scorecard: Some setbacks but a good summit: At his summit debut, President Barack Obama failed to persuade foreign counterparts to commit to fresh and lavish spending to boost economic revival. And the success he did achieve in finding common ground was as much the result of modified goals as swaying other countries to bend to U.S. priorities…. – AP, 4-2-09

THE HEADLINES….

Charles Dharapak/Associated Press President Obama was greeted by Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, as he arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday.

The Headlines…

  • Obama in Europe: ‘The waters didn’t part': …How much he succeeded is open to debate, however, and it could take a long time to gauge how successfully he managed to reshape American policy, and with it the course of world affairs. “This will be tested in time,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in Istanbul, his second of his trip. “Moving the ship of state is a slow process. States are like big tankers; they’re not like speedboats. You can’t just whip them around and go in a new direction. Instead you’ve got to slowly move it and then eventually you end up in a very different place.” – Miami Herald, 4-7-09
  • Defense budget plan tough sell on Capitol Hill: Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ proposed budget, which axes some multibillion-dollar weapons projects, is encountering strong resistance from lawmakers whose districts stand to lose thousands of jobs during a recession. Members of Congress and military analysts said Tuesday that the potential loss of jobs is by far the biggest hurdle the administration’s plan must overcome as it looks to build support on Capitol Hill, and they expect some concessions…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Obama misses dinner in Iraq: One thing missing from President Barack Obama’s whirlwind visit to the capital of Iraq? Dinner at the president’s residence. Before he disappeared behind closed doors to meet with President Jalal Talabani, Obama said the meal was one thing he missed. The two shared dinner at Talabani’s house when he visited Baghdad as senator. Tuesday’s unannounced visit to Baghdad was Obama’s first to the Iraq war zone as president…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Obama Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq: President Obama made a surprise detour to Iraq on Tuesday, stopping to visit American troops and commanders before returning to Washington from his first overseas trip as president…. – NYT, 4-7-09
  • ‘House’ actor Kal Penn joins White House team: The White House has hired actor Kal Penn as a liaison between President Barack Obama’s administration and Asian constituents. White House spokesman Shin Inouye said Tuesday that the actor who had a recurring role on Fox’s TV show “House” and has starred in several movies would join the staff as an associate director in the Office of Public Liaison…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Bios of prosecutors facing criminal investigation: NICHOLAS MARSH, JOSEPH BOTTINI, WILLIAM WELCH, EDWARD SULLIVAN, EDWARD SULLIVAN…. – AP, 4-7-09
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press Former President George W. Bush threw out ceremonial first pitch before the game between the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers.
  • Photos: Bringing the Heat on Opening Day: Two political heavy hitters took part in baseball’s opening day festivities. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. took to the field before the Baltimore Orioles opening day game against the New York Yankees….
    Meanwhile, former President George W. Bush received a standing ovation at the Ballpark in Arlington, where he threw out the first pitch before the game between the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers…. – NYT, 4-6-09 ABC, 3-30-09
  • Obama Team’s Finances Released: Recently released financial records paint a contrasting picture of the Obama administration: a cabinet composed largely of politicians and government employees who have been on the public payroll for years, and a White House staffed with numerous aides who received substantial compensation over the past year from firms that could have a big stake in administration policies…. – WSJ, 4-6-09
  • Dismayed Lawyers Lay Out Reasons for Collapse of the Stevens Conviction: Even before Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. moved last week to throw out the conviction, the trial record was filled with instances of serious prosecutorial mistakes that dismayed the large corps of Washington lawyers who followed the case, including former prosecutors and defense lawyers…. – NYT, 4-6-09
  • Virginia Race Takes Tone, Tactics of National Politics: Independent election advocacy groups known as “527s” have been common in national and federal races for years as a way around fundraising limits. Because Virginia has no such limits anyway, 527s scarcely bothered. But are they on the verge of playing a larger role in this fall’s high-stakes gubernatorial races?… – ABC 7 News, 4-6-09
  • Quigley favored to replace Emanuel in Congress: Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley isn’t taking anything for granted even though he’s the favorite in Tuesday’s special congressional race to replace Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff…. – AP, 4-6-09
  • President Bush’s Emergency AIDS Plan Saved 1.2 Million in Africa: The largest U.S. foreign aid program fighting the AIDS epidemic has cut the disease’s death toll by 1.2 million from 2004 to 2007 in a dozen hard-hit African countries, researchers said…. – Bloomberg, 4-6-09
  • Obama brings hope for warmer relations to Turkey: President Barack Obama is reaching out to Turkey to help him wind down the Iraq war and bring stability to the Middle East. He is also counting on the only Muslim member of NATO to remain a steadfast ally in the Afghanistan conflict…. – AP, 4-6-09
  • President Obama in Turkey: President Obama, directly addressing a majority Muslim country for the first time in his presidency, said Monday that the United States “would never be at war with Islam.”…. NYT, 4-6-09 Transcript
  • For Obama, politics may be hard to avoid in auto bailout: Given Obama’s ties to the United Auto Workers and his reliance on Ohio, Michigan and Indiana to win the election, he has ‘to be very careful’ about alienating a key political ally in the Rust Belt… – LAT, 4-6-09
  • Analysis: Obama visit to Turkey no afterthought: President Barack Obama’s stop in Turkey is hardly an afterthought, a “while I’m in the neighborhood” visit. For starters, he wants to mend relations strained when the United States went to war in Iraq six years ago. Ankara’s Islamic-rooted government denied Washington’s request to use Turkish territory to invade Iraq from the north. But Turkey also is in line for thanks for trying to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Turkey is the only predominantly Muslim country in NATO, an alliance stalwart and America’s best friend in the Islamic world. Obama, completing a European trip, arrives Sunday and undoubtedly will reprise his message from a town hall meeting Friday in France. “We must be honest with ourselves. In recent years, we’ve allowed our alliance to drift,” he said at that appearance…. – AP, 4-5-09
  • GOP May Be Stuck on Cohesion: On the House floor Thursday, Republicans registered their unanimous opposition to President Obama’s budget proposal…. WaPo, 4-5-09
  • House fight is a boon for lawyers: Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco remain tied in the contest to represent the 20th Congressional District, but one clear winner has emerged: the legal profession. Both candidates have hired top election lawyers to represent them in what could be a lengthy post-ballot battle to for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s seat in the House. Less than 24 hours after polls closed Tuesday, both sides began asking supporters for money to pay the coming legal bills…. – Albany Times Union, 4-5-09
  • Ted Stevens: Rested, and ready to be Alaska governor?: With his criminal conviction about to be vacated, thanks to a Democratic attorney general, Alaska’s former Senator- for-life Ted Stevens should be tanned, rested and relieved. But is he ready? A fellow Republican, Alaska’s Congressman-for-life Don Young, came up with a capital idea for 85-year-old Uncle Ted. “Personally I’d like to see him run for governor, and that’s my personal feeling,” said Young, who himself has been under investigation by two federal grand juries. Young and Stevens served in Congress together for 36 years. – Seattle PI, 4-5-09
  • Obama: US cannot shoulder Afghan burden alone: On the eve of the NATO summit, President Barack Obama didn’t get what he wanted most from U.S. allies: significant new commitments of combat troops for Afghanistan. Faced with stiff public opposition to war, reluctant European leaders on Friday offered only limited aid for civilians and some troops to help train Afghan police and soldiers. Afghanistan was the theme to which a frustrated Obama returned over and over throughout the day. “This is a joint problem, and it requires a joint effort,” he said. – AP, 4-3-09
  • Analysis: Plenty of cheers but mixed bag for Obama: Stop after stop, crowds are thronging, leaders gushing, headlines blaring. Even a roomful of foreign reporters applauded after President Barack Obama’s London news conference. They love him over here. But are they giving him anything else to take home? It’s a mixed bag: some success, several failures and much still to be determined. The president hit the halfway point Saturday on a European trip that, by the end, will have him charming and listening (not lecturing) his way through five countries, three international summits, one-on-one meetings with at least 17 leaders, a Buckingham Palace audience, at least seven news conferences, three speeches, two question-and-answer sessions with regular-folk foreigners and three official dinners…. – AP, 4-4-09

The President visits the troops in Iraq

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Pete Souza

Troops in Iraq

The President drops in on the troops in Iraq
on his way back from Europe.

Watch the Video
View the Slideshow

President Obama speaks at a Student Roundtable in Turkey

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Chuck Kennedy

Turkish Parliament

The President holds a roundtable with a hundred students in Istanbul, discussing everything from climate change to the relationship between America
and the Muslim world.

Read the Remarks

The President films the Weekly Address

White House Photo, 4/3/09, Pete Souza

Weekly Address: The Challenges of Our Time

The President discusses the breadth and depth of the global challenges we face, as well as our potential to address them through renewed international alliances.

Watch the Video

President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy

  • Analysis: Congress backs some Obama goals, not all: President Barack Obama emerged from this year’s congressional budget debate with a half-victory: a green light to pursue an overhaul of health care, accompanied by a rebuke over how to pay for it. Obama’s plan to tackle global warming fared worse. Nine Democratic senators broke with him on a symbolic but politically resonant vote to cut inheritance taxes.
    In short, Obama’s Democratic allies embraced providing health care to the uninsured, boosting education and promoting clean energy. But the second part of the equation — finding billions of dollars to finance his agenda without further exploding the deficit — suffered repeated setbacks in the Senate. -
    “It’s a realistic blueprint for restoring the promise of the American dream — getting people back to work, ending our energy crisis, improving education for millions of students, and at long last achieving the goal of quality, affordable health care for all Americans,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
    A survey taken March 25 by the Gallup Poll showed that 39 percent of respondents had positive views of Obama’s budget plan and 27 percent had negative views. That was slightly worse than a poll taken just after the budget’s release in February. – AP, 4-4-09
  • Obama Finds That Washington’s Habits of Secrecy Die Hard: At 12:01 p.m. on Jan. 20 — the precise moment Barack Obama became president of the United States — a new White House Web site sprang to electronic life with a pledge to “provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government.” The next day, Mr. Obama issued a memorandum on transparency, promising to make it one of “the touchstones of this presidency.” But on issue after issue — a raucous internal debate over whether to release memorandums detailing harsh interrogation techniques used during the Bush years, for example, or publicizing financial information about high-level administration appointees — Mr. Obama has discovered that fulfilling his pledge is easier said than done…. – NYT, 4-4-09
  • State Department says North Korea launches rocket: President Barack Obama said North Korea should refrain from further provocative actions after that nation’s government made good on their promise to launch a long-range rocket…. – AP, 4-4-09
  • Did President Obama dodge a friendly kiss from French First Lady Carla Bruni?: Forget NATO, world peace or the global recession – it was The Kiss, or the lack of one, that was the talk of Europe Friday. The international kiss-ident unfolded as President Obama and his wife, Michelle, met French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his supermodel wife, Carla Bruni, in Strasbourg, France, as part of this weekend’s NATO summit…. – NY Daily News, 4-4-09
  • Obama tapes message pushing Chicago as 2016 Olympics host: They’re trying to show Chicago is an international city ready for a global event and when they make their case to Olympic evaluators Saturday, members of the Chicago 2016 team will trot out worldwide rock star and hometown guy, President Barack Obama. The White House confirmed the president taped what Chicago 2016 officials describe as a “welcome message” for the 13-member International Olympic Committee’s Evaluation Commission, charged with grading the city’s readiness for the 2016 summer games…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 4-3-09
  • Europe’s Giddiness Eases a Bit for President O-BA-MA: Barack Obama is back in Europe. Only this time, he’s president. On the Continent, the giddiness on display last summer, when 200,000 turned out to hear candidate Obama give a speech in Berlin, has subsided as the weight of the economic crisis unfolds. Candidate Obama was a blank slate on which Europeans drew what they wished. President Obama brought with him wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a global recession. “It’s different, totally different,” said Elisabeth Vogel, a teacher at the Lycée Camille See in Alsace, who took a bevy of students to attend a town hall meeting here. “Now he’s president of the United States. That changes everything.” Since his arrival Tuesday, Mr. Obama and his entourage have cut through Europe like a comet, creating excitement but less gravitational pull — and some irritation…. – WSJ, 4-2-09
  • Obama touts policy changes, seeks Afghanistan help: Courting Europe with an American-style campaign, President Barack Obama on Friday talked up his plans — popular here — to eliminate nuclear weapons, close the Guantanamo Bay prison and tackle global warming. In return, he’s hoping for European popular support in the anti-terror fight in Afghanistan. “It’s not just a matter of more resources, it’s a matter of more effectively using the resources we have,” Obama said. – AP, 4-3-09
  • On the World Stage, Obama Issues an Overture: In his debut on the international stage, President Obama presented himself as the leader of an America that can no longer go it alone, and as abiding by the protocol of a global new deal….
    “If there’s just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy, that’s an easier negotiation,” Mr. Obama said during his hourlong meeting with the international news media, during which he called on reporters from India and China to ask him questions. “But that’s not the world we live in, and it shouldn’t be the world that we live in.” – NYT, 4-2-09
  • Obama, Brown predict G20 deal to fight recession: Doggedly optimistic in the face of doubts, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown predicted Thursday’s emergency G-20 economic summit would produce a significant global deal to tackle the deepening worldwide recession…. – AP, 4-1-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President visits the troops in Iraq

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Pete Souza

Troops in Iraq

The President drops in on the troops in Iraq
on his way back from Europe.

Watch the Video
View the Slideshow

President Obama at a student roundtable in Turkey
(President Barack Obama addresses his remarks at a town hall meeting Tuesday, April 7, 2009,
at the Tophane Cultural Center in Istanbul. White House Photo/Chuck Kennedy)

Political Quotes

  • Obama in Baghdad, tells troops Iraq must take over: Iraqis “need to take responsibility for their own country,” Obama told hundreds of cheering soldiers gathered in an ornate, marble palace near Saddam Hussein’s former seat of power. “You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement,” he told some 600 troops, saluting their efforts during six years of American fighting and losses. “We love you,” someone yelled from the crowd of photo-snapping men and women in uniform. “I love you back,” responded the president, repeating a sequence that played out at hundreds of campaign stops on his successful run for the White House last year…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Biden says Cheney ‘dead wrong’ on security policy: “I don’t think he is out of line, but he is dead wrong. … The last administration left us in a weaker posture than we’ve been any time since World War II: less regarded in the world, stretched more thinly than we ever have been in the past, two wars under way, virtually no respect in entire parts of the world,” Biden said. “And so we’ve been about the business of repairing and strengthening those. I guarantee you we are safer today, our interests are more secure today than they were any time during the eight years” of the Bush administration. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Gov. Sarah Palin Isn’t Happy About Today’s ‘Tyra Show': “Bristol did not even know Levi was going on the show,” says the statement, issued to People magazine. “We’re disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship. Bristol’s focus will remain on raising Tripp, completing her education, and advocating abstinence. It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well being of the child. Bristol realizes now that she made a mistake in her relationship and is the one taking responsibility for their actions.” – NYT, 4-6-09
  • Obama Ends Trip Pledging ‘New Chapter’ of Global Engagement: “I’m personally committed to a new chapter of American engagement,” the president told a town-hall meeting with students yesterday in Istanbul. In a surprise stop in Iraq before heading back to the U.S., Obama spoke of being committed to an Iraq that is “sovereign, stable and self-reliant.” – Bloomberg, 4-7-09
  • The Student Roundtable in Turkey: I enjoyed visiting your parliament. I’ve had productive discussions with your President and your Prime Minister. But I also always like to take some time to talk to people directly, especially young people. So in the next few minutes I want to focus on three areas in which I think we can make some progress: advancing dialogue between our two countries, but also advancing dialogue between the United States and the Muslim world; extending opportunity in education and in social welfare; and then also reaching out to young people as our best hope for peaceful, prosperous futures in both Turkey and in the United States. – WH Blog, 4-6-09
  • Obama tells Turkish students change will take time: President Barack Obama heralded a “new chapter of American engagement” with the world on Tuesday and vowed to forge new relationships in the Middle East and elsewhere. “States are like big tankers, they’re not like speedboats. You can’t just whip them around and go in another direction,” Obama said in a question-and-answer session with Turkish college students. “You turn them slowly, and eventually you end up in a very different place,” he said, responding to a student who asked about differences between him and his predecessor. Obama ended his first overseas trip as president with an appeal to the world to put aside stereotypes and misconceptions: the view by many Muslims that Israel is to blame for all problems, similar views in reverse by “some of my Jewish friends,” the view in parts of the world that Americans are crass and selfish. “The world will be what you make of it,” Obama told the students. “You can choose to make new bridges instead of new walls.” – AP, 4-6-09
  • Crossroads in Turkey: I know there have been difficulties these last few years. I know that the trust that binds the United States and Turkey has been strained, and I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced. So let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam. (Applause.) In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people.
    I also want to be clear that America’s relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to terrorism. We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. We will listen carefully, we will bridge misunderstandings, and we will seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree. We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country — I know, because I am one of them. (Applause.)… – WH Blog, 4-6-09
  • Obama to Muslim world: No US war with Islam: “We seek broader engagement based upon mutual interest and mutual respect,” Obama said in a speech to Turkey’s Parliament. “Our partnership with the Muslim world is critical, not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people,” he said. He portrayed terrorist groups such as al-Qaida as extremists far removed from the vast majority of Muslims…. “Turkey’s greatness lies in your ability to be at the center of things. This is not where East and West divide — this is where they come together,” Obama said. – AP, 4-6-09
  • Obama’s Agenda Demands a Star Player: At this peak moment of college basketball fervor, President Obama likens Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to an underappreciated teammate who “gets that extra rebound, takes the charge, makes that extra pass.” – NYT, 4-6-09
  • NKorea rocket fizzles, US says; Obama urges action: “North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles,” Obama said in Prague. “It creates instability in their region, around the world. This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon in the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons.” – AP, 4-5-09
  • Obama outlines sweeping goal of nuclear-free world: “This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime,” he told a cheering crowd of more than 20,000 in the historic square outside the Prague Castle gates. We “must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, ‘Yes, we can.'” – AP, 4-5-09
President Obama and Secretary Clinton

(President Barack Obama confers with U.S.Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during the NATO
summit in Strasbourg, France, Saturday, April 4, 2009. White House Photo/Pete Souza)

  • Afghanistan and NATO: We start from a simple premise: For years, our efforts in Afghanistan have lacked the resources needed to achieve our goals. And that’s why the United States has recommitted itself to a clear and focused goal — to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.
    This effort cannot be America’s alone. All of NATO understands that al Qaeda is a threat to all of us, and that this collective security effort must achieve its goals. And as a signal of that commitment, I am pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support for our new strategy. Keep in mind it was only just a week ago that we announced this new approach. But already with Secretary Clinton’s work at The Hague and with the success at today’s summit we’ve started to match real resources to achieve our goals…. – WH Blog, 4-4-09
  • Europe praises Obama, pledges few Afghan troops: European leaders enthusiastically praised President Barack Obama’s new Afghan strategy at a NATO summit Saturday but held their ground on a central disagreement and offered only military trainers and extra security forces for upcoming elections.
    “I am pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support for our new strategy,” Obama said. “We’ll need more resources and a sustained effort to achieve our ultimate goals.” – AP, 4-4-09
  • Obama Calls for Global Coordination, Praises G-20 Agreement: President Obama used his weekly address to continue to send the message he has sought to convey throughout his trip to Europe — that no one country can go it alone. Threats to U.S. security and the economy “can no longer be kept at bay by oceans or by borders drawn on maps,” President Obama said in his address, taped aboard Air Force One during his presidential trip… – NYT, 4-4-09

The President visits the troops in Iraq

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Pete Souza

Troops in Iraq

The President drops in on the troops in Iraq
on his way back from Europe.

Watch the Video
View the Slideshow

President Obama speaks at a Student Roundtable in Turkey

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Chuck Kennedy

Turkish Parliament

The President holds a roundtable with a hundred students in Istanbul, discussing everything from climate change to the relationship between America
and the Muslim world.

Read the Remarks

The President films the Weekly Address

  • Weekly Address: The Challenges of Our Time: “The only way forward is through shared and persistent efforts to combat fear and want wherever they exist.” – WH Blog, 4-4-09 Transcript
  • State Department says North Korea launches rocket: “I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council,” the president said as the council approved an emergency session Sunday to deal with North Korea’s rocket launch. North Korea will not find acceptance in the international community “unless it abandons its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,” Obama said. – AP, 4-4-09
  • Reset with Russia: As I’ve said in the past, I think that over the last several years the relationship between our two countries has been allowed to drift. And what I believe we’ve begun today is a very constructive dialogue that will allow us to work on issues of mutual interest, like the reduction of nuclear weapons and the strengthening of our nonproliferation treaties; our mutual interest in dealing with terrorism and extremism that threatens both countries; our mutual interest in economic stability and restoring growth around the world; our mutual interest in promoting peace and stability in areas like the Middle East.
    So I am very encouraged by the leadership of the President. I’m very grateful that he has taken the time to visit. I am especially excited about the fact that the President extended an invitation for me to visit Moscow to build on some of the areas that we discussed on today. And I have agreed to visit Moscow in July, which we both agreed was a better time than January to visit. – WH Blog, 4-1-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Todd Heisler/The New York Times President Obama in Prague on Sunday.

Historians’ Comments

  • Bruce Buchanan “Obama Ends Trip Pledging ‘New Chapter’ of Global Engagement”: The trip has been “especially important for a new president,” said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas in Austin. “He now has working relations that he can use via the telephone to push for additional action in matters such as stimulus.” – Bloomberg, 4-7-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama Ends Trip Pledging ‘New Chapter’ of Global Engagement”: “Did he accomplish everything he might have hoped for? No,” said Allan Lichtman, a political history professor at American University in Washington. “Did he accomplish everything that could reasonably be expected and more? Yes, and in that sense it was a very successful trip.” Obama’s initial foreign-policy venture compares favorably with those of his predecessors, Lichtman said. While John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, were the “toast of Paris” on their 1961 European trip, the new president’s meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was a “disaster,” he said. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt skipped an economic conference in London held soon after his 1933 inauguration. – Bloomberg, 4-7-09
  • Lou Cannon “Now, Obama ‘Owns’ General Motors Obama’s economic legacy may hinge on whether he becomes known as the President who saved the U.S. car industry or the one who destroyed it “: It’s too early to say how important Obama’s ultimatum to the U.S. auto industry will prove. “This could be an important moment,” says Lou Cannon, a preeminent Reagan scholar and the author of five books on the former President. But even if it is, the decision could turn out to have starkly different meanings. Obama could be “seen two years from now as the President who saved the American automobile industry, or…as the President who destroyed it,” Cannon said by phone from his California home. “Think of the two characterizations.”
    Because of that uncertainty, Cannon thinks there may be a more apt analogy. It is then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s remonstration to President George W. Bush before his final decision to go to war in Iraq: “If you break it, you own it.” “The President of the U.S. owns GM. He put himself in a position in which the success or failure of GM will be blamed on him,” Cannon said. – Business Week, 4-1-09
  • Richard Reeves “Now, Obama ‘Owns’ General Motors Obama’s economic legacy may hinge on whether he becomes known as the President who saved the U.S. car industry or the one who destroyed it”: There’s another key difference between Obama last week and Reagan and Thatcher in the ’80s: The conservative icons acted in the face of blatant opposition, and in the process changed the political equation by showing that government was not going to side with labor, says Richard Reeves, the author of biographies of both JFK and Reagan.
    Obama, by contrast, is in a much more fluid situation. The true message of his move remains to be seen. Reeves compares Obama’s strategy with that of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s. The economic downturns in the 1930s and now were bafflingly complex. FDR “had not mastered the declining economics of the country,” he said. As for Obama, Reeves said, “I can’t believe that, with the amount of time that’s passed and the people involved, that they have dug so deep into these problems. There’s no way that they know what they’re doing. You couldn’t know so many things in such a confusing time.”
    In both cases, the Presidents were “throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks,” Reeves said. “I think Obama is saying, ‘Someone has to be in charge,’ and I think he’s right. If he was just sitting back, he’d be toast. This country wants a sense that someone is in charge.” – Business Week, 4-1-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer “Now, Obama ‘Owns’ General Motors Obama’s economic legacy may hinge on whether he becomes known as the President who saved the U.S. car industry or the one who destroyed it”: “On the most obvious level, if you issue threats or you intimidate business, and in the end business just does what it wants, you lose some of your political capital,” says Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs. “It will suggest the business community is not so frightened of Obama at a time he needs to be able to lean on them.”
    That happened to FDR, too. One of his signature early initiatives, the National Recovery Act, sought to impose voluntary production levels to bring the country out of the Depression. It flopped, even before the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, Zelizer says. “Sometimes a President can’t use the power of persuasion to get business to act even in a time of major economic crisis,” he said. – Business Week, 4-1-09
  • Julian Zelizer: A surprising model for Obama’s presidency: While pundits have compared President Obama to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, less attention has been paid to another, perhaps more apt parallel — Lyndon Baines Johnson. Sometimes the similarities are striking. Both aimed high, seeking major legislation to reshape America — Johnson with civil rights and Medicare, Obama with health care and energy legislation. Both Johnson and Obama understood that Congress was a credit-claiming institution whose members did not like to have proposals rammed down their throats. Johnson’s style of political leadership was famous. A creature of the Senate, Johnson loved to lean on legislators and intimidate them into supporting his agenda….
    The comparisons between Johnson and Obama likewise offer reminders about what could go wrong for the current president. After all, Johnson was a politician who looked like a transformative president in 1965 but within three years found himself to be a defeated man who withdrew from the Democratic primaries. Johnson’s fears of the right, moreover, pushed him and America deeper into the deadly war in Vietnam. The social movements that LBJ used to his benefit in 1964 and 1965 turned against him as the administration plunged deeper into Vietnam, a lesson worth thinking about for the current administration. Johnson’s policy of respect for committee chairmen prompted him to make compromises over social policy — such as cuts in social spending in 1968 — that weakened his support among the very Democrats he needed to win re-election. Johnson was never fully aware of how his greatest political skills could also become the source of his downfall. Obama’s challenge is to harness the best parts of this comparison — such as how Johnson handled Congress to produce dramatic legislative results — without repeating the destructive characteristics that shattered Johnson’s White House. – CNN, 4-6-09
  • Christiane Amanpour: What Obama’s trip achieved: Such has been the success of President Obama’s first overseas visit that some observers are even suggesting North Korea’s weekend rocket launch was not the dreaded “3 a.m. moment,” but a golden opportunity for the U.S. president. Coming just hours before Obama’s big speech on combating nuclear proliferation, it added urgency to his proposals…. – CNN, 4-6-09

The First Lady at the Notre Dame Cathedral

[Download High Resolution]

(First Lady Michelle Obama and Hayrunnisa Gul, right, the wife of Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, listen to a french interpretor during a tour at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg, Fance, Saturday, April 4, 2009. White House Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

July 28, 2008: Obama’s Foreign Policy Tour, McCain on the Surge

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH: HNN, July 28, 2008

The week that was….

  • July 27, 2008: Barack Obama is rejecting Republican criticism over his trip to the Middle East and Europe. Obama commented “John McCain has visited every one of these countries post-primary that I have,” he said. “So it doesn’t strike me that we have done anything different than the McCain campaign has done, which is to recognize that part of the job of the next president, commander in chief is to forge effective relationships with our allies.” He also claimed the Republican suggested he needed the trip to show he was serious and credible in the area of foreign policy.
    According to analysts the foreign leaders Obama met with on his trip treated the Democratoc nominees as if he was already the President of the United States. The only exception was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who did issue a statement about his speech in Berlin, praising his message but also embarassing him stating that “she did not think the historic Brandenburg Gate was a suitable venue for a political event by a traveling American.”
  • July 26, 2008: Obama is scoffing at McCain’s criticism over his scrapping plans to visit wounded soldiers at a German military hispital. Obama was scheduled to visit the soldier, but cited Pentagon security concerns as the reason behind his cancellation. The Pentagon has denied issuing any concerns. McCain has been very critical that Obama cancelled his trip to visit the soldiers, and started to run a TV ad which chides that Obama “time to go to the gym” but not to visit the troops and did not go because it “Seems the Pentagon wouldn’t allow him to bring cameras,” and concludes “John McCain is always there for our troops.” The ad is airing in Colorado, Pennsylvania and the Washington D.C. area.
  • July 25, 2008: An aide to Obama claimed that the Democratic candidate scrapped his planned visit to wounded soldier in Germany because the Pentagon said it would put the soldiers in the middle of campaign contraversay. In response McCain’s campaign spokesman Brian Rogers stated “Barack Obama is wrong. It is never ‘inappropriate’ to visit our men and women in the military.”On Friday, McCain met for 45 minutes with the Dalai Lama and the Republican candidate urge China to release Tibetan prisoners. “I urge the Chinese government to release Tibetan political prisoners, account for Tibetans who have, quote, ‘disappeared’ since protests in March, and engage in meaningful dialogue on genuine autonomy for Tibet,” McCain said. The Dalai Lama however, said he would not endorse McCain.On Friday, Obama continued his European tour meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy where they spoke at a press conference, and Sarkozy came close to endorsing Obama by calling him “my dear Barack Obama.” During the conference Obama and Sarkozy sent “a clear message to Iran to end its illicit nuclear program.”McCain spoke to Hispanic military veterans, and criticized Obama’s opposition to the “surge” stating “We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right” and “Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened.”
  • July 24, 2008: Obama commenced his day in Thursday completing the Middle East portion of his foreign policy tour. He made a short 15 minute pre-dawn visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, where he bowed in prayer and put a note in the crevice of the wall. One heckler among the morning prayers screamed out “Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale!”Obama started his European tour visiting Germany, France and England by meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obama then spoke to a crowd of 200,000 people at the Victory Column in Berlin Germany where he asked Americans and Europeans to work together and “defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it.”
    At the same time McCain was visiting the American heartland and a German restaurent in Ohio. At Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant in Columbus’ German Village neighborhood, the Republican candidate ate bratwurst with local businessmen, telling reporters. “I’d love to give a speech in Germany. But I’d much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for president.”
    McCain held a town-hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio on cancer with Lance Armstrong.

    Republican Chuck Hagel who accompanied Obama on his Middle East troop criticized McCain saying “Quit talking about, ‘Did the surge work or not work,’ or, ‘Did you vote for this or support this,'” and “Get out of that. We’re done with that. How are we going to project forward?”

  • July 23, 2008: McCain faced Democratic Party criticism about comments he made in a Tuesday CBS interview about when the surge in the Iraq War commenced. He claimed “Because of the surge, we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening.” Explaining his comments McCain stated “A surge is really a counterinsurgency made up of a number of components. … I’m not sure people understand that ‘surge’ is part of a counterinsurgency.”
    Obama will spend $5 million on ads to air on NBC during the Olympics.
    Obama spent his only day in Israel touring and laying a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, took a helicopter tour of the country and visited Sderot, a town battered by bombs from Gaza. Obama met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his visit, and promised “I’m here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States and my abiding commitment to Israel’s security and my hope that I can serve as an effective partner, whether as a U.S. senator or as president.”
    Obama also “rode past an Israeli checkpoint into Ramallah on the West Bank” and he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas assured him that he supports a Palestinian state living along with Israel.
    During a town hall meeting McCain credited President Bush’s lifting the ban on offshore drilling for the “$10-a-barrel drop in the price of oil.”
  • July 22, 2008: Upon arriving in Jordan, the first stop in his Middle East tour, Obama gave a press conference where he would not claim the troop surge help curb violence in Iraq. Speaking of Gen. David Petraeus’ opposition to his proposed timetable Obama stated: “I think he wants maximum flexibility to be able to — to do what he believes needs to be done inside of Iraq. But keep in mind, for example, one of Gen. Petraeus’ responsibilities is not to think about how could we be using some of that $10 billion a month to shore up a U.S. economy that is really hurting right now. If I’m president of the United States, that is part of my responsibility.” In response a McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds stated “By admitting that his plan for withdrawal places him at odds with Gen. David Petraeus, Barack Obama has made clear that his goal remains unconditional withdrawal rather than securing the victory our troops have earned.”
    Obama also met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
  • July 21, 2008: Visiting Iraq, Obama and Sens. Chuck Hagel, (R) Nebraska, and Jack Reed, (D) Rhode Island issued a joint statemnt that Iraqi want a timetable for troop removal. “Prime Minister Maliki told us that while the Iraqi people deeply appreciate the sacrifices of American soldiers, they do not want an open-ended presence of U.S. combat forces. The prime minister said that now is an appropriate time to start to plan for the reorganization of our troops in Iraq — including their numbers and missions. He stated his hope that U.S. combat forces could be out of Iraq in 2010.”
    McCain visited with the first President Bush and ridiculed Obama’s military credentials, stating “When you win wars, troops come home. He’s been completely wrong on the issue. … I have been steadfast in my position.” McCain also blamed the Democratic candidate for higher prices because he opposes offshore drilling and made the energy position central to a new campaign ad.
    The New York Times defended its decision not publish McCain op-ed which responded to Obama’s July 14 one in the NYT about the Iraq War. They said they usually require the author’s revisions and McCain did not agreed to it. However McCain camp released NYT Op-ed editor David Shipley e-mail where he wrote “that McCain’s article would “have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory — with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the senator’s Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan.”

The Stats

  • CNN’s “poll of polls” this past week reported Obama leading John McCain 44 percent to 41 percent.
  • July 25, 2008: According to surbey by nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center Hispanics support Sen. Barack Obama for president over Republican Sen. John McCain, 66 percent to 23 percent, with 11 percent undecided. – The Desert Sun, CA, 7-25-08
  • July 24, 2008: A Gallup Poll Daily tracking claim that Obama and McCain are running 45 percent for Obama to 43 percent for McCain.

Historians’ Comments

  • Harold Cox, professor emeritus of history at Wilkes College on “Small-town Pennsylvanians still unsure of Obama and McCain”
    “It’s old, it’s white, it’s conservative and it’s Democratic,” said Harold Cox, professor emeritus of history at Wilkes College. People here grew up Democratic, and Democratic nominees carried Luzerne and Lehigh Counties in every election since 1992. – McClatchy Washington Bureau, DC, 7-27-08
  • Gil Troy, a McGill University history professor and presidential scholar on “A Kennedyesque future may await Obama”:
    “The Kennedys’ moving into the White House in 1961 was a cultural bombshell. You had this beautiful, glamourous young couple with small adorable children plus the Kennedy mythology behind it. For Irish Catholics, it meant, ‘we made it.’… There will be, as there always is, a downturn after the initial honeymoon, and it will be a test of the African-American community as to whether they can deal with him being treated like anybody else.” – London Free Press, CA, 7-27-08
  • Gil Troy on “Barack Obama’s mad rush toward the middle”:
    But Gil Troy, for one, perceives that Obama is returning to his centrist origins, as well as heeding the rules of post-primary positioning. “When you read Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, or when you hear his 2004 speech to the Democratic convention,” Troy says, “that’s a much more centrist vision than what we saw in the primaries….” – Montreal Gazette, 7-23-08
  • Randall Miller, a professor of history at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia discussing town hall meetings in swing voting areas in “McCain stresses energy policy, slams Obama”:
    “He gets lots of local ink out of them, in places where he needs to do well,” said Randall Miller, a professor of history at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. – McClatchy Washington Bureau, DC, 7-23-08
  • Robert Dallek on “Bush Failures May Force McCain, Obama to Make Like FDR in 2009″:
    “What a burden the next president is going to confront,” says Robert Dallek, a presidential historian and biographer of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. “It’ll be like Franklin Roosevelt coming in, in 1933.” – Bloomberg, 7-20-08
  • Stephen Hess on “Bush Failures May Force McCain, Obama to Make Like FDR in 2009″:
    The next president is “going to wake up very quickly to the fact that the economy so overwhelms everything else,” says Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington. – Bloomberg, 7-20-08
  • Douglas Brinkley on “Barack Obama lands in Afghanistan on first leg of world tour”
    “If Obama says he represents a new politics, he’s certainly smashing an old paradigm by going,” the presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, of Rice University in Texas, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “And for 10 days, he’ll own the media. It’s gigantic for him.” – Guardian, UK, 7-19-08
  • Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University on “Fierce pressure on Obama in Europe-Mideast tour”:
    “This is one of those things that is high risk, but he has no choice,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, noting polls that show voter disquiet over Obama’s inexperience. “If he pulls this kind of trip off, it is a huge payoff because this is his only real weakness at this point.” – AFP, 7-17-08
  • David R. Colburn is a professor of history at the University of Florida “McCain as Truman, Obama as RFK”:
    …McCain reminds me a lot of Harry Truman. I know: Truman was a Democrat. But like Truman, McCain does not hesitate to speak his mind. He has also been accused of being impatient and having a temper, much like Truman. Some partisans take issue with McCain’s unwillingness to conform to the party line, but, as with Truman, he seems to understand that the issues facing the nation are so complex that only a bipartisan approach will ensure successful solutions. … Obama lacks the experience of McCain, but he is one of the brightest minds that has appeared on the national political scene since World War II. I am not easily taken in by a candidate’s speaking ability or rhetoric, but Obama has made me a convert. He reminds me a good deal of Robert F. Kennedy, in that Obama has a magnetic quality when speaking to audiences and an incredible skill at pulling diverse audiences together…. – Orlando Sentinel, 7-17-08
  • Charles J. Holden and Zach Messitte: Choosing a No. 2:
    ….As Senators Obama and McCain ponder a running mate, they would do well to weigh carefully the tactical and the practical benefits of their top choices for the No. 2 spot.
    Voters, for their part, should demand that the presidential nominees think beyond November and reward the candidate who selects a running mate who adds both political and policy benefits to the ticket. – Baltimore Sun, 7-14-08

On the Campaign Trail….

  • John McCain interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, July 27, 2008 ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “There’s also been a flap about Senator Obama’s decision in Germany not to visit the troops at Landstuhl. He now says that, based on what he was hearing from the Pentagon, there was no way that wouldn’t be seen as a political trip, which is why he decided not to go. Do you accept that explanation?” John McCain: “Well, I know this, those troops would have loved to have seen him. And I know of no Pentagon regulation that would have prevented him from going there without the media and the press and all of the associated people. Nothing that I know of would have kept him from visiting those wounded troops. And they are gravely wounded, many of them.”…”In Landstuhl, Germany, when I went through, I visited the hospital. But the important thing is that, if I had been told by the Pentagon that I couldn’t visit those troops, and I was there and wanted to be there, I guarantee you, there would have been a seismic event. And so, I believe he had the opportunity to go without the media. And I’ll let the facts speak for themselves.”…”There was nothing to prevent him from going, if he went without the press and the media and his campaign people. But we’ll see what happens.””I think people make a judgment by what we do and what we don’t do. He certainly found time to do other things.”
  • Remarks by John McCain to the Americans with Disabilities Conference, July 26, 2008 … One of the most fundamental principles of all is that the presence of a disability should not mean the absence of choice. When the government does its duty by extending aid to Americans with disabilities, it should not do so in a heavy-handed way that restricts personal freedom. I will work to enact legislation that would build on the principles of the Money Follows the Person Initiative, while also keeping my commitment to a responsible budget. The offer of assistance in living with a disability should not come with the condition of perpetual confinement to an institutional setting. The great goal here should be to increase choices, to expand freedom, to open doors, and to allow citizens with disabilities to live where they want and to go where they wish.Everyone who seeks the presidency brings to the office his or her own experiences. And one of the finest experiences in my life has been to witness the power of human courage to overcome adversity. I have seen it in war, in prison camps, and in military hospitals. I have seen the capacity of men and women to overcome the hardships, challenges, and bad breaks that life can bring our way. How we face such obstacles can define our lives. And how we support one another at those times can define the character of our country. You at the AADP have seen these same qualities of courage, determination, and grace — you have seen them in each other. And when you enlist your fellow citizens in the cause of equality and fairness for Americans with disabilities, you call upon the best that is in our country.
  • Remarks By John McCain At The American GI Forum, July 25, 2008 ….Senator Obama made a different choice. He not only opposed the new strategy, but actually tried to prevent us from implementing it. He didn’t just advocate defeat, he tried to legislate it. When his efforts failed, he continued to predict the failure of our troops. As our soldiers and Marines prepared to move into Baghdad neighborhoods and Anbari villages, Senator Obama predicted that their efforts would make the sectarian violence in Iraq worse, not better….Three weeks after Senator Obama voted to deny funding for our troops in the field, General Ray Odierno launched the first major combat operations of the surge. Senator Obama declared defeat one month later: “My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now.” His assessment was popular at the time. But it couldn’t have been more wrong….Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened. Our military, strained by years of sacrifice, would have suffered a demoralizing defeat. Our enemies around the globe would have been emboldened. Terrorists would have seen our defeat as evidence America lacked the resolve to defeat them. As Iraq descended into chaos, other countries in the Middle East would have come to the aid of their favored factions, and the entire region might have erupted in war. Every American diplomat, American military commander, and American leader would have been forced to speak and act from a position of weakness.Senator Obama told the American people what he thought you wanted to hear. I told you the truth. From the early days of this war, I feared the administration was pursuing a mistaken strategy, and I said so. I went to Iraq many times, and heard all the phony explanations about how we were winning. I knew we were failing, and I told that to an administration that did not want to hear it. I pushed for the strategy that is now succeeding before most people even admitted that there was a problem.Fortunately, Senator Obama failed, not our military. We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right. Violence in Iraq fell to such low levels for such a long time that Senator Obama, detecting the success he never believed possible, falsely claimed that he had always predicted it. There have been almost no sectarian killings in Baghdad for more than 13 weeks. American casualties are at the lowest levels recorded in this war. The Iraqi Army is stronger and fighting harder. The Iraqi Government has met most of the benchmarks for political progress we demanded of them, and the nation’s largest Sunni party recently rejoined the government. In Iraq, we are no longer on the doorstep of defeat, but on the road to victory.
  • Obama’s Speech in Berlin ….Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other….Now the world will watch and remember what we do here – what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?

    Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words “never again” in Darfur?

    Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

    People of Berlin – people of the world – this is our moment. This is our time.

    I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

    But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived – at great cost and great sacrifice – to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

    These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people – everywhere – became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation – our generation – must make our mark on the world.

    People of Berlin – and people of the world – the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.

July 21, 2008: Focus on Race & Iraq

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH:HNN, July 21, 2008

The week that was….

  • July 20, 2008: Barack Obama is visiting Afganistan; he had breakfast with US troops there, and then met with President Hamid Karzai where he pledged continual aid to the country. This is the second day of Obama’s international tour which is meant to boost his foreign policy credentials.
  • July 19, 2008: Obama landed in Kabul, Afganistan, the first stop on his tour of war zones, which will also include a visit to Iraq. Officially Obama is visiting the regions as part of Congressional delegation, but it also a campaign tour and a response to Republican criticism, which claimed Obama has not visited the area in 900 days.
    The contraversay surrounding Texas Sen. Phil Gramm’s comments has ended; Gramm, who was McCain’s campaign co-chairman resigned from his position. Last week Gramm was criticized for calling “the United States had become a “nation of whiners” whose constant complaints about the U.S. economy show they are in a “mental recession.””
  • July 18, 2008: McCain launched a new TV ad that claimed that Obama changed his positions on Iraq to be elected President. The ad which is the most critical of Obama’s positions on Iraq comes just as he is embarking on a trip to Afganistan and Iraq. The 30-second ad starts by saying: “Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hasn’t been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops. Positions that helped him win his nomination. Now Obama is changing to help himself become president.”
    A new AP-Yahoo News poll claims that Obama supporters are much excited than McCain’s; 38 percent to 9 percent.
    McCain pledged to help revive the auto industry that has been hit hard by the country’s economic woes.
    Obama will meet with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 24, 2008.
  • July 17, 2008: Obama’s upcoming trip to Europe and the Middle East marks his his first “high profile” trip abroad Obama will visit Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and England, and possibly Iraq and Afghanistan in attempt to curb criticism that he does not have enough foreign policy credentials. Obama will give speeches in historic settings usually reserved to past presidents and will meet with foreign leaders.
    Christian Evangelicals according to a new AP-Yahoo News poll are less excited than they were for George W.Bush in 2004. Bush garned 78 percent of Evangelical support, while McCain only has 68 percent.
    In a new interview with Glamour magazine, Obama claimed that what angers him the most is when his wife Michelle is criticized. He called the attcks “infuriating,” adding “If they have a difference with me on policy, they should debate me. Not her.”
  • July 16, 2008: John McCain announces at the NAACP national convention that he supports vouchers for private schools
  • July 15, 2008: Obama announced that he does not believe that the war in Iraq is the best route for protecting the country, and and one of his top priorities would be ending the war “responsibly.”
  • July 14, 2008: In a New York Time Op-ed, Barack Obama outlined that he would consider sending 7,000 more troops/ two more brigades to Afghanistan to curb the resurgent Al-Quaida, while at the same time he would end the war in Iraq. The New Yorker debuts a contraversial caricature cover with Obama dressed as a Muslim, and his wife, Michelle dressed as an armed terrorist.

The Stats

  • July 17, 2008: According to a AP-Yahoo News poll, 30 percent view Michelle Obama favorably as opposed to 35 percent unfavorably. Although Cindy McCain garned a lower favorability rating, her unfavorable rating was also lower than Michelle Obama’s.
  • July 16, 2008: According to Evans and Novak the Electoral College results will be Obama 273, McCain 265 – Human Events
  • July 16, 2008: Obama still faces a racial gap according to a new New York Times/CBS News poll. 83 percent of black respondents had a favorable view of Obama, while only 31 percent of whites view Obama favorably.

Historians Comment

  • Tom Segev, Israel: Let’s Make a Deal:
    The senator may be surprised to discover how Americanized Israelis have become in recent decades: the American Dream is now a central element of their identity. Most Israelis feel deeply dependent on America and will not risk major policy differences with the United States. That means Obama may find them open to a new, more rational approach to the Middle East’s conflicts.
    Obama has declared his support for Israel, and most Israelis believe him: they assume that no one can get elected president of the United States today unless he or she is willing to put Israel’s security near the top of Washington’s list of priorities. For many years, however, U.S. politicians have confused “support for Israel” with support for the Israeli government. There’s a difference, and Obama may be surprised to discover that Israelis are actually much more reasonable than the hawkish parties who keep their coalition government in office—or than the inflexible pro-Israel lobby in Washington…. – Newsweek, 7-28-08
  • Timothy Garton Ash: U.K.: Help Unite Our States:
    First the good news: we are all Obamamaniacs now. In a recent Guardian/ICM poll, 53 percent of British respondents said Barack Obama would make the best U.S. president, compared with just 11 percent for John McCain. That means Obama is now the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidate for president. Then there’s the bad news: even in Britain, America’s linguistic motherland and staunchest ally, nearly eight years of George W. Bush have done huge damage to the United States’ reputation and authority. This distrust has reinforced a deeper historical trend. The old transatlantic West of the cold-war period is no longer cemented together by such an obvious common enemy as the Red Army in the heart of Europe. So enthusiasm for Obama personally is equaled by skepticism about his country. That means there’s a lot of ground for him to make up….
    If Obama truly wants a stronger Europe to forge a renewed strategic partnership with the United States in a world of rising giants like China and India, he will need to start getting that message across to the man who will likely be Britain’s next prime minister. If such a message comes from Obama, he might even listen. Only a charismatic American could persuade conservative Brits to become more European. – Newsweek, 7-28-08
  • Haider al-Mousawi, a history professor in the city of the holy city of Najaf on “What Iraqis Think of Barack”:
    “What is interesting is that a man who is not white is trying to be president. This is interesting because it is so unique,” says Haider al-Mousawi, a history professor in the city of the holy city of Najaf. “His second name, Hussein, is Arabic but that will make no difference because his father refused his religion and his name to get what he wanted. This is the height of pragmatism and is standard in the United States. The person’s interests are above all other things.” He continues: “Anyway, whether Obama or [Sen. John] McCain wins, the president is just the figure who works on strategies run by the institutions that run America. The president is like a middleman.” – Newsweek, 7-20-08
  • Mary Frances Berry, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania: McCain Challenges Obama’s Military Wisdom – NPR, 7-16-08
  • Julian Zelizer on “Romney’s stock rising as possible McCain VP”:
    “They are two very different kinds of people. There is clearly a lot of tension between the two. But that never stops anyone from joining into an alliance if they can win. And given the odds Republicans face and given the challenges that McCain faces in winning, if Romney brings him that one asset that changes his odds, I think McCain would be more than willing to enter into that alliance.” – Reuters, 7-15-08
  • Gil Troy on “The first lady tightrope walk Unlike earlier presidential spouses, Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain must emphasise both career and family to avoid criticism”:
    “Unfortunately for first ladies, the game is often more about un-favourability than favourability,” Gil Troy, a historian at McGill University and the author of Leading from the Centre: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents, told me. “They rarely deliver votes, but they have much more of a track record of alienating voters or losing voters. So the first lady’s mission is to follow the political version of the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.” – The Guardian, 7-15-08

On the Campaign Trail….

  • Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, John McCain’s campaign co-chairman upon to the Washington Times commenting about his resignation:
    “It is clear to me that Democrats want to attack me rather than debate Senator McCain on important economic issues facing the country,” Gramm said. “That kind of distraction hurts not only Senator McCain’s ability to present concrete programs to deal with the country’s problems, it hurts the country. To end this distraction and get on with the real debate, I hereby step down as co-chair of the McCain campaign and join the growing number of rank- and-file McCain supporters.” -
  • John McCain, July 18, 2008:
    “I believe that we can modify Iranian behavior. We need to exhaust every possible option before we can ever consider a military option. Americans have made great sacrifices and it has grieved us all.”
  • John McCain, Remarks to the 99th Annual NAACP Convention, July 16, 2008: “Democrats in Congress, including my opponent, oppose the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. In remarks to the American Federation of Teachers last weekend, Senator Obama dismissed public support for private school vouchers for low-income Americans as, “tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.” All of that went over well with the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?Over the years, Americans have heard a lot of “tired rhetoric” about education. We’ve heard it in the endless excuses of people who seem more concerned about their own position than about our children. We’ve heard it from politicians who accept the status quo rather than stand up for real change in our public schools. Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent, and diplomas that open doors of opportunity. When a public system fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children. Some parents may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private school. Many will choose a charter school. No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity….Under my reforms, moreover, parents will exercise freedom of choice in obtaining extra help for children who are falling behind. As it is, federal aid to parents for tutoring for their children has to go through another bureaucracy. They can’t purchase the tutoring directly, without having to deal with the same education establishment that failed their children in the first place. These needless restrictions will be removed, under my reforms. If a student needs extra help, parents will be able to sign them up to get it, with direct public support….

    As much as any other group in America, the NAACP has been at the center of that great and honorable cause. I’m here today as an admirer and a fellow American, an association that means more to me than any other. I am a candidate for president who seeks your vote and hopes to earn it. But whether or not I win your support, I need your goodwill and counsel. And should I succeed, I’ll need it all the more. I have always believed in this country, in a good America, a great America. But I have always known we can build a better America, where no place or person is left without hope or opportunity by the sins of injustice or indifference. It would be among the great privileges of my life to work with you in that cause.

  • Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: 99th Annual Convention of the NAACP, July 14, 2008: And if I have the privilege of serving as your next President, I will stand up for you the same way that earlier generations of Americans stood up for me – by fighting to ensure that every single one of us has the chance to make it if we try. That means removing the barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding that still exist in America. It means fighting to eliminate discrimination from every corner of our country. It means changing hearts, and changing minds, and making sure that every American is treated equally under the law….That’s how we’ll truly honor those who came before us. Because I know that Thurgood Marshall did not argue Brown versus Board of Education so that some of us could stop doing our jobs as parents. And I know that nine little children did not walk through a schoolhouse door in Little Rock so that we could stand by and let our children drop out of school and turn to gangs for the support they are not getting elsewhere. That’s not the freedom they fought so hard to achieve. That’s not the America they gave so much to build. That’s not the dream they had for our children.That’s why if we’re serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives, our own families, and our own communities. That starts with providing the guidance our children need, turning off the TV, and putting away the video games; attending those parent-teacher conferences, helping our children with their homework, and setting a good example. It starts with teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they are worth; and teaching our sons to treat women with respect, and to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; that what makes them men is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one. It starts by being good neighbors and good citizens who are willing to volunteer in our communities – and to help our synagogues and churches and community centers feed the hungry and care for the elderly. We all have to do our part to lift up this country.That’s where change begins. And that, after all, is the true genius of America – not that America is, but that America will be; not that we are perfect, but that we can make ourselves more perfect; that brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand, people who love this country can change it. And that’s our most enduring responsibility – the responsibility to future generations. We have to change this country for them. We have to leave them a planet that’s cleaner, a nation that’s safer, and a world that’s more equal and more just.

    So I’m grateful to you for all you’ve done for this campaign, but we’ve got work to do and we cannot rest. And I know that if you put your shoulders to the wheel of history and take up the cause of perfecting our union just as earlier generations of Americans did before you; if you take up the fight for opportunity and equality and prosperity for all; if you march with me and fight with me, and get your friends registered to vote, and if you stand with me this fall – then not only will we help close the responsibility deficit in this country, and not only will we help achieve social justice and economic justice for all, but I will come back here next year on the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, and I will stand before you as the President of the United States of America.

  • Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Summit on Confronting New Threats, July 16, 2008:
    We cannot wait any longer to protect the American people. I’ve made this a priority in the Senate, where I’ve worked with Indiana’s own Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law accelerating our pursuit of loose nuclear materials. And I’ll lead a global effort to secure all loose nuclear materials around the world during my first term as President….

    To protect our national security, I’ll bring together government, industry, and academia to determine the best ways to guard the infrastructure that supports our power. Fortunately, right here at Purdue we have one of the country’s leading cyber programs. We need to prevent terrorists or spies from hacking into our national security networks. We need to build the capacity to identify, isolate, and respond to any cyber-attack. And we need to develop new standards for the cyber security that protects our most important infrastructure – from electrical grids to sewage systems; from air traffic control to our markets….

    That is the task that lies before us. We must never let down our guard, nor suffer another failure of imagination. It’s time for sustained and aggressive action – to take the offense against new dangers abroad, while shoring up our defenses at home. As President, I will call on the excellence and expertise of men and women like the people here today. And I will speak clearly and candidly with the American people about what can be done – what must be done – to protect our country and our communities.

  • Barack Obama in the New York Times Op-ed “My Plan for Iraq,” July 14, 2008
    The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

    The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown.

    …But this is not a strategy for success — it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

    …Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq…

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