History Buzz, Apr 26-May 10, 2010: Stephen Ambrose, Diane Ravitch & Niall Ferguson in the News

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY BUZZ:

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

IN FOCUS:

  • Stephen Ambrose’s Work Faces New Scrutiny: The late historian Stephen E. Ambrose rose to fame on the strength of an authorized biography that he claimed included details from “hundreds of hours” of interviews with former President Dwight David Eisenhower. But Richard Rayner, a writer for The New Yorker, reports today that during his research Ambrose apparently had only limited access to Eisenhower, and that archived datebooks and other records conflict with some of the times Ambrose claimed he had sat down with the former five-star general…. AOL News, 4-26-10
  • Thomas Fleming “Channelling George Washington” Series – HNN
  • Orlando Figes Contraversay: Who gives a Figes for Orlando? – Sydney Morning Herald, 5-18-10

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Naomi Oreskes finds that out of 928 articles on climate change, 0 challenge consensus: …A study by Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies at the University of California-San Diego, found 928 peer-reviewed articles on climate change; none opposed the unanimous conclusion that human-released greenhouse gases are affecting our climate…. – Kansas City Star, 5-9-10
  • The Twitter Archive at the Library of Congress: When the Library of Congress announced this month that it had recently acquired Twitter’s entire archive of public tweets, the snarkosphere quickly broke out the popular refrain “Nobody cares that you just watched ‘Lost.’” Television tweets are always the shorthand by which naysayers express how idiotic they find Twitter, the microblogging site on which millions of users share their thoughts and activities in 140 characters or fewer.
    The purview of historians has always been the tangible: letters, journals, official documents.
    But on the other hand, says Michael Beschloss, historian and author of “Presidential Courage,” “What historian today wouldn’t give his right arm to have the adult Madison’s contemporaneous Twitters about the secret debates inside the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia?” – WaPo, 5-7-10
  • Europe pressed on slavery reparations by historians: Historians and anti-racism campaigners are to urge the countries that oversaw and profited from the Atlantic slave trade to recognise it as a crime against humanity, opening the way for reparations… – AFP, 5-4-10
  • Va. seeks balance in marking Civil War’s 150th anniversary, tapping Kennedy-era historian: …At last, President John F. Kennedy called on a 31-year-old historian to take over as the centennial’s executive director, refocusing it on sober education. Virginia has turned to the same man — James I. Robertson Jr., a history professor at Virginia Tech and a Civil War expert — to help the state avoid the same kinds of problems as it prepares to mark next year’s 150th anniversary of the start of the war…. – WaPo, 5-3-10
  • Cultural Memory and the Resources of the Past, 400-1000 research project gets funding: A new research collaboration involving historians from Cambridge is to examine how early medieval societies used the past to form ideas about identity which continue to affect our own present. The project will cover six centuries of western European history, from 400 to 1000 AD, and will investigate how earlier cultural traditions, coupled with other sources, such as the Bible, influenced the formation of state identities following the deposition of the last Roman emperor in the West in the fifth century…. – Medieval News, 4-28-10
  • Historians say state should toss proposal: Historians complained of so many problems with the State Board of Education’s proposed social studies curriculum standards that they urged Texas lawmakers Wednesday to ask the board to start over…. – Houston Chronicle, 4-28-10

OP-EDs:

  • Jonathan Jones: Is academic snobbery to blame in the Orlando Figes affair?: I have a horrible feeling that behind this disaster lies a rebirth of insular academic snobbery, the resentment of a popular historian. I find myself thinking of the episode of Peep Show in which an academic urges Mark Corrigan to write an attack on Simon Schama – “and his interesting, accessible books”…. – Guardian (UK), 4-29-10

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

  • New Obama book by Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter airs private flares of temper: President Obama may cultivate an image as the unflappable Mr. Cool, but he can get hot under the collar too, according to a new book.
    In “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” by Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter, the author recounts a series of private blow-ups – including a particularly fiery one involving the nation’s top military brass…. – NY Daily News, 5-8-10
  • HISTORY Book review of “Goodbye Wives and Daughters,” by Susan Kushner Resnick: The coal-mining tragedy depicted in “Goodbye Wifes and Daughters” occurred nearly 70 years ago but is still an eerily familiar storyline in 2010. While mine safety and regulation have vastly improved, recent headlines out of West Virginia make journalist Susan Kushner Resnick’s excavation of the 1943 explosion that killed 75 men in Bearcreek, Mont., seem not so distant from present-day disasters. WaPo, 5-7-10
  • Book reviews: ‘History in Blue’ by Allan T. Duffin, ‘A Few Good Women’ by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee: HISTORY IN BLUE 160 Years of Women Police, Sheriffs, Detectives, and State Troopers, A FEW GOOD WOMEN America’s Military Women from World War I to the War in Iraq and Afghanistan
    In “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” (1845), Margaret Fuller set out the original feminist proclamation about women’s access to work: “We would have every arbitrary barrier thrown down. We would have every path laid open to woman as freely as to man.”
    Both “History in Blue,” by Allan T. Duffin, and “A Few Good Women,” by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel- Greenlee, document women’s work history and provide fascinating individual stories…. – WaPo, 5-7-10
  • Diane Ravitch: The Education of Diane Ravitch THE DEATH AND LIFE OF THE GREAT AMERICAN SCHOOL SYSTEM How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education Ravitch’s offer to guide us through this mess comes with a catch: she has changed her mind. Once an advocate of choice and testing, in “The Death and Life of the Great American School System” she throws cold water on both. Along the way she casts a skeptical eye on the results claimed by such often-praised school reformers as New York’s Anthony Alvarado and San Diego’s Alan Bersin, reviews a sheaf of academic studies of school effectiveness and delivers the most damning criticism I have ever read of the role philanthropic institutions sometimes play in our society. “Never before,” she writes of the Gates Foundation, was there an entity “that gave grants to almost every major think tank and advocacy group in the field of education, leaving no one willing to criticize its vast power and unchecked influence.”… – NYT, 5-6-10
  • Woodward book on Obama coming in September: A Bob Woodward book on the Obama administration is coming out in September…. AP, 5-5-10
  • Ruth Marcus reviews Laura Bush’s memoir, ‘Spoken From the Heart’: Laura has always seemed the more interesting Bush. Certainly, the more mysterious. With George W., what you see is what you get. He is not a complicated man. But Laura leaves you wondering about the layers beneath that serene exterior. What is she thinking? What private rebellions are simmering, what resentments submerged? What forged the bond, seemingly as strong as it was unlikely, between the librarian who named her cat Dewey, after the decimal system, and the jock-turned-oilman who was soon to turn, inevitably, to the family business of politics? Laura Bush’s autobiography, “Spoken From the Heart,” begins promisingly enough for anyone hoping to penetrate that surface…. – WaPo, 5-2-10
  • HISTORY Book review of “The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, the Rush to Empire, 1898″ by Evan Thomas: More than a century before a recent president, who had never seen combat, led the United States into war with Iraq, a pair of politicians similarly unscarred by war created the playbook that has been used ever since. The prototype conflict was the Spanish-American War of 1898, studied by every school child as America’s thunderous entry onto the world stage and its first foray into colonial rule. So much has been written about this seminal moment that journalist and author Evan Thomas faced a daunting task in undertaking “The War Lovers.” After all, what could be said that hasn’t already been covered in the some 400 or so books? Plenty, it turns out…. – WaPo, 5-2-10
  • Jim Baggott: If You Build It . . .: THE FIRST WAR OF PHYSICS The Secret History of the Atom Bomb, 1939-1949 Jim Baggott, a popular British science writer, sets out in “The First War of Physics” to tell the story of the early stages of the nuclear arms race…. – NYT, 5-9-10
  • LAUREL THATCHER ULRICH on Marla R. Miller: Star-Spangled Story: BETSY ROSS AND THE MAKING OF AMERICA Marla R. Miller, who teaches American history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, believes that Claypoole “planted the seeds of her own mythology in the 1820s and ’30s as she regaled her children and grandchildren with tales from her youth, her work, and of life in Revolutionary Philadelphia.” In an engaging biography, Miller shows that even though the flag story is riddled with improbabilities, the life of the woman who came to be known as Betsy Ross is worth recovering. Piecing together shards of evidence from “newspaper advertisements, household receipts, meeting minutes, treasurer’s reports, shop accounts and ledgers, probate records, tools and artifacts . . . and oral traditions,” Miller connects her heroine with most of the major events in Philadelphia’s early history, from the building of the city in the years when Elizabeth’s great-­grandfather was establishing himself as a master carpenter to the yellow fever epidemic that in 1793 killed her parents.
    Through skillful use of small details, Miller sustains her repeated assertion that the future Betsy Ross was often “only a handshake away” from the men who made the Revolution…. – NYT, 5-9-10

FEATURES:

  • From Tory to Turkey: Maverick historian Norman Stone storms back with partisan epic of Cold War world: It isn’t every day that one interviews a figure described on an official British Council website as “notorious”. That badge, which this fearsome foe of drippy-liberal state culture will wear with pride, comes inadvertently via Robert Harris. In his novel Archangel, Harris created the “dissolute historian” (© the British Council and our taxes) Fluke Kelso: an “engaging, wilful, impassioned and irreverent” maverick on the trail of Stalin’s secret papers…. – Independent (UK), 5-14-10

QUOTES:

  • Yuan Tengfei: Celebrity Chinese historian severely criticizes Mao on state TV: “If you want to see Mao, you can go to his mausoleum at the Tiananmen Square. But don’t forget it’s a Chinese version of the Yasukuni Shrine, which glorifies Mao, under whose hands many people were massacred,” the report quoted Yuan Tengfei, a history teacher at Beijing’s Jinghua School, as saying in a 110-minute special TV lecture at the state television, CCTV. “The only thing Mao did right since he founded the new China in 1949 was his death,” Yuan was quoted as saying…. – Tibetan Review, 5-11-10
  • British political historian explains the role of class in UK elections: Steven Fielding, a professor of political history and the director of the Center for British Politics at the University of Nottingham. Mr. Fielding said that viewers who see politicians performing on television start to regard them, in a sense, as protagonists in fictional dramas. “It’s not that they confuse them with TV characters, but that they see them in the same framework,” he said. “The leaders’ debates exaggerate that by encouraging voters to focus on the minutiae rather than on the policy.”… – NYT, 4-30-10

INTERVIEWS:

  • “In the eyes of the majority, Stalin is a winner,” says Russian historian Nikolai Svanidze: Historian Nikolai Svanidze spoke to SPIEGEL about the reasons for Stalin’s popularity in Russia. He argues that the archives need to be opened in order to reveal the dictator’s crimes and explains why President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have very different approaches to Russian history….. – Spiegel Online, 5-6-10
  • Harvey Klehr sits down with FrontPageMag: Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Harvey Klehr, Andrew Mellon Professor of Politics and History at Emory University. He is the author of the new book, The Communist Experience in America: A Political and Social History…. – Jaime Glazov at FrontPageMag, 5-6-10
  • Q&A with Niall Ferguson: Niall Ferguson’s resumé could put you to sleep. He’s a senior fellow here, a professor of this or that there. But despite hanging out with the elbow-patch crowd, this Scottish intellectual and author smoothly blends history, finance and politics all into one understandable package. At times he is humorous, at others frightful. His relationship with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-Dutch intellectual who has a death threat looming over her head after she was critical of Islam, also lends him an air of controversy. Mr. Ferguson, whose latest bestseller is The Ascent of Money: The Financial History of the World, was in Calgary this past week as the headliner at the Teatro salon speaker series. He touched on everything from why he thinks the International Monetary Fund will soon be bailing out Britain, to why the United States must now tread carefully around the globe or risk the wrath of China. And he shared his thoughts on money and power and who he thinks will win the U.K. election…. – Financial Post, 5-1-10

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

  • Z Street lobbying group awards Daniel Pipes prize for peace plan: Z STREET awarded Daniel Pipes, the Director of the Middle East Forum and pre-eminent Middle East scholar, its first annual Z STREET Peace Plan Prize for his article, “My Peace Plan: an Israeli Victory.” Z STREET is a staunchly pro-Israel organization… – Press Release, 5-10-10
  • Canadian Military Historian Knighted By the Netherlands: As Canada and its Second World War allies prepare to celebrate the 65th Anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8, the Netherlands is honouring a Canadian military historian with a knighthood. Dr. Dean Oliver, director of research and exhibitions at the Canadian War Museum, has received the Dutch honour, Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau…. – Epoch Times, 5-5-10
  • Caferro and Gerstel awarded Guggenheim Fellowships: William Caferro, a professor of history at Vanderbilt University, and Sharon E.J. Gerstel, Professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology at UCLA, have been named 2010 Fellows by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation…. – Medieval News, 4-28-10
  • Ernest Freeberg named winner of the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award: Ernest Freeberg will receive the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, presented by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) of the American Library Association (ALA). Freeberg was selected for his book,”Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent” (Harvard University Press, 2008)… – Press Release, 4-6-10

SPOTTED:

  • Turkish Scholar Taner Akcam Advocates Change in Policy of Genocide Denial: Dr. Taner Akcam, one of the first Turkish scholars to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, delivered two important lectures in Southern California last week. Based on historical research, he analyzed the underpinnings of Turkey’s denial of the Armenian Genocide and proposed solutions for its official acknowledgment…. – Panorama.am (5-11-10)
  • K.C. Johnson, Steve Gillon to appear in Bank of America ad on “History”NYT (5-5-10)

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • September 17-18, 2010 at Notre Dame University: Conference aims to bring medieval, early modern and Latin American historians together: An interdisciplinary conference to be held at the University of Notre Dame this fall is making a final call for papers to explore the issue surrounding similarities between late-medieval Iberia and its colonies in the New World. “From Iberian Kingdoms to Atlantic Empires: Spain, Portugal, and the New World, 1250-1700″ is being hosted by the university’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies and will take place on September 17-18, 2010. Medieval News, 4-29-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.
  • Oxford University Press to publish OAH’s Journal of American History and Magazine of History: Oxford University Press (OUP) is honored to have been selected by the Organization of American Historians to be the publisher of the Journal of American History and the Magazine of History…. – OUP Press Release, 5-6-10
  • Pizarro: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian to speak at YWCA event: The YWCA of Silicon Valley will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin at its 20th annual fundraising luncheon this fall. Goodwin’s 2005 book on the Lincoln presidency, “Team of Rivals,” is often cited as a favorite of President Barack Obama’s. And I’d expect she’ll have interesting perspectives on current history, given that the Nov. 16 luncheon comes just two weeks after this year’s midterm elections…. – SJ Mercury News, 5-2-10

ON TV:

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

BOOKS COMING SOON:

  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
  • David S. Heidler: Henry Clay: The Essential American, (Hardcover), May 4, 2010
  • Nathaniel Philbrick: The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, May 4, 2010
  • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010
  • T. H. Breen: American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People, (Hardcover), May 11, 2010
  • Alexandra Popoff: Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography, (Hardcover) May 11, 2010
  • John D. Lukacs: Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War, (Hardcover), May 11, 2010
  • S. C. Gwynne: Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, (Hardcover) May 25, 2010
  • Steven E. Woodworth: The Chickamauga Campaign (1st Edition), (Hardcover), May 28, 2010
  • Larry Schweikart: 7 Events that Made America America: And Proved that the Founding Fathers Were Right All Along, (Hardcover) June 1, 2010
  • Spencer Wells: Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, (Hardcover), June 8, 2010
  • John Mosier: Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin – The Eastern Front, 1941-1945, (Hardcover), June 15, 2010
  • Evan D. G. Fraser: Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, (Hardcover), June 15, 2010
  • Ruth Harris: Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century (REV), (Hardcover), June 22, 2010
  • James Mauro: Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War, (Hardcover), June 22, 2010.
  • William Marvel: The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of Lincoln’s War, (Hardcover), June 22, 2010
  • Suzann Ledbetter: Shady Ladies: Nineteen Surprising and Rebellious American Women, (Hardcover), June 28, 2010.
  • Julie Flavell: When London Was Capital of America, (Hardcover), June 29, 2010
  • Donald P. Ryan: Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist, (Hardcover), June 29, 2010
  • Jane Brox: Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, (Hardcover), July 8, 2010.
  • Rudy Tomedi: General Matthew Ridgway, (Hardcover), July 30, 2010.
  • Richard Toye: Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made, (Hardcover), August 3, 2010.
  • Alexander Hamilton: The Federalist Papers, (Hardcover), August 16, 2010

DEPARTED:

  • Eminent historian of Irish ascendancy ascendancy dies at 79: Mark Bence-Jones, the genealogical researcher who has died at the age of 79, was the most eminent historian of the social mores of the Irish ascendancy in its decline over the last 100 years…. – Irish Times, 5-8-10
  • Angus Maddison, Economic Historian, Dies at 83: Some people try to forecast the future. Angus Maddison devoted his life to forecasting the past. Professor Maddison, a British-born economic historian with a compulsion for quantification, spent many of his 83 years calculating the size of economies over the last three millenniums. In one study he estimated the size of the world economy in A.D. 1 as about one five-hundredth of what it was in 2008…. – NYT, 4-30-10

History Buzz April 26, 2010: Orlando Figes & Stephen Ambrose Embroiled in Controversy

HISTORY BUZZ:

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

    This Week’s Political Highlights

  • Bush memoir: 43′s ‘most critical and historic decisions’: It’s official: George W. Bush’s entry into the ranks of presidential memoirs will be released Nov. 9.
    Decision Points “will be centered on the 14 most critical and historic decisions in the life and public service of the 43rd president of the United States,” says the release from Crown Publishers.
    Among those topics: The disputed 2000 election, 9/11, the Iraq war, the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, Afghanistan and Iran. Bush also discusses his decision to quit drinking, his faith and his celebrated and politically active family…. – USA Today, 4-27-10
  • The Unthinkable: A Democratic Challenge To Obama: OK, OK. Of course it’s not going to happen. No Democrat in his or her right mind would contemplate challenging President Obama in 2012. In fact, when the Democratic National Committee issued a press release this month announcing the date for the party’s national convention, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine emphasized — twice — that the Democrats fully intend to renominate President Obama and Vice President Biden. But despite the obvious long odds, anything is possible in American politics. There are historical examples of tough intraparty challenges to incumbent presidents… – NPR, 4-22-10

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

    On This Day in History….

    This Week in History….

  • First Earth Day in U.S. had feel of ’60s, says historian: It was part protest, part celebration, and an estimated 20 million Americans took part. On the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, millions of people across the U.S. went to large public rallies, listened to political speeches, took part in teach-ins, went to concerts and educational fairs, and helped to clean up their communities. Air and water pollution, nuclear testing and loss of wilderness were major concerns…. – CBC News (4-22-10)

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Martin Barillas: Wikipedia Struggles with Holocaust Disinformation; Ravensfire Deletes Jewish Content: Wikipedia posters continued to struggle with the campaign to delete information about IBM’s involvement in the Holocaust as contributors posted and reposted conflicting theories of what should and should not be allowed to appear in the Internet encyclopedia…. – Cutting Edge News (4-26-10)
  • Orlando Figes: Phoney reviewer Figes has history of litigious quarrels: …The professor of Russian history at Birkbeck, University of London, who has previously been engaged in at least two legal disputes with other historians, has been accused and cleared of plagiarism, and received hate mail while an academic at Cambridge. One colleague who did not want to be named described the most recent episode as “the tip of the iceberg”…. – Independent (UK) (4-25-10)
  • Oliver Kamm: Figes’ Furies – Times Online (UK) (4-25-10)
  • Orlando Figes admits: ‘It was me’: For a week now, an extraordinary row has had Britain’s academe in turmoil with threats of libel writs and the bloodying of distinguished reputations.
    But now, in an astonishing twist to the saga, I can reveal that the offending reviews on Amazon were not, after all, written by Figes’s wife, Stephanie, herself a Cambridge University law lecturer…. The Daily Mail (UK) (4-23-10)
  • Poison pen reviews were mine, confesses historian Orlando FigesGuardian (UK) (4-23-10)
  • Another Blow to the Reputation of Stephen Ambrose: In 2002, Ambrose was accused of lifting passages for The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s over Germany from the work of the historian Thomas Childers. Citing faulty citations, Ambrose apologized, and his publisher promised to put the sentences in question in quotes in future editions. But shortly after, other accusations arose: about passages in books like his Crazy Horse and Custer, Citizen Soldiers, and a volume of his three-volume biography Nixon. Ambrose responded that the relevant material was cited in his footnotes…. – Chronicle of Higher Education (4-23-10)
  • Richard Rayner: Stephen Ambrose exaggerated his relationship with EisenhowerThe New Yorker (4-26-10)
  • Harlem Center’s Director to Retire in Early 2011: Howard Dodson, whose wide-ranging acquisitions and major exhibitions have raised the profile of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and burnished its reputation as the premier institution of its kind, plans to retire as its director in 2011. Howard Dodson turned a research library known mostly to scholars into an institution open to anyone interested in black culture…. – NYT, 4-19-10
  • Historians Call on Texas State Board of Education to Delay Vote: Historians from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso have written an Open Letter to the Texas State Board of Education. The letter identifies specific problems with the proposed changes to the state’s social studies standards and recommends that the board delay adoption of the standards in order to solicit additional feedback from “qualified, credentialed content experts from the state’s colleges and universities” and the general public…. – Keith Erekson (4-14-10)

OP-EDs:

  • HENRY LOUIS GATES Jr.: Ending the Slavery Blame-Game: THANKS to an unlikely confluence of history and genetics — the fact that he is African-American and president — Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to reshape the debate over one of the most contentious issues of America’s racial legacy: reparations, the idea that the descendants of American slaves should receive compensation for their ancestors’ unpaid labor and bondage…. – NYT, 4-22-10
  • Jon Wiener: Stephen Ambrose, Another Historian in Trouble: In his first and biggest Ike book, “The Supreme Commander,” published in 1970, Ambrose listed nine interviews with the former president. But according to Richard Rayner of The New Yorker, that’s not true. The deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas, Tim Rives, told Rayer that Ike saw Ambrose only three times, for a total of less than five hours, and that the two men were never alone together. The Nation (4-20-10)

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

  • Laura Bush Opens Up About Fatal Crash: Spoken From the Heart Laura Bush has finally opened up publicly about the mysterious car accident she had when she was 17, a crash that claimed the life of a high school friend on a dark country road in Midland, Tex. In her new book, “Spoken From the Heart,” Ms. Bush describes in vivid detail the circumstances surrounding the crash, which has haunted her for most of her adult life and which became the subject of questions and speculation when it was revealed during her husband’s first presidential run. A copy of the book, scheduled for release in early May, was obtained by The New York Times at a bookstore… – NYT, 4-28-10
  • Graham Robb: A Pointillist Tour, Revolution to Riots: PARISIANS An Adventure History of Paris “Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris” arrives with an odd subtitle (adventure history?) that makes it sound as if it were written on a skateboard and sponsored by Mountain Dew. Here’s what this book really is: a pointillist and defiantly nonlinear history of Paris from the dawn of the French Revolution through the 2005 riots in Clichy-sous- Bois, told from a variety of unlikely perspectives and focusing on lesser-known but reverberating moments in the city’s history…. – NYT, 4-28-10 Excerpt
  • Assessing Jewish Identity of Author Killed by Nazis: Némirovsky’s personal story contains plenty of drama, including the desperate, heart-rending attempts by her husband, Michel Epstein, to save her. He too died at Auschwitz. But along with the belated publication came charges from a handful of critics that Némirovsky, killed because she was a Jew, was herself an anti-Semite who courted extreme right-wing friends and wrote ugly caricatured portraits of Jews. Next month a new biography, “The Life of Irène Némirovsky: Author of Suite Française,” and a collection of her short stories are being published for the first time in English in the United States, giving Americans another opportunity to assess Némirovsky’s life and work…. NYT, 4-26-10
  • Book review of “Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978″ by Kai Bird: “Crossing Mandelbaum Gate” is a fascinating book about a crucial period in the Middle East, but as a memoir it fails on the promise of its subtitle. Bird turns a beacon on the exhilarating places in which he grew up. If only he had shone the same beacon on himself…. – WaPo, 4-25-10
  • Rove and Romney on the Republican Party After Bush: Karl Rove, COURAGE AND CONSEQUENCE My Life as a Conservative in the Fight, Mitt Romney, NO APOLOGY The Case for American GreatnessNYT, 4-22-10
  • Alan Brinkley “A Magazine Master Builder”: THE PUBLISHER Henry Luce and His American Century …Luce’s success story would be sheer romance if it could surmount one basic problem: Luce himself. On the evidence of “The Publisher,” Alan Brinkley’s graceful and judicious biography, Luce began as an arrogant, awkward boy and did not grow any more beguiling as his fortunes rose. He made up in pretension what he lacked in personal charm, and he was “able to attract the respect but not usually the genuine affection of those around him.” … – NYT, 4-19-10
  • Jonathan Yardley reviews ‘The Publisher,’ by Alan Brinkley: THE PUBLISHER Henry Luce and His American Century …Luce was a complicated, difficult man, by no stretch of the imagination a nice guy. Brinkley is very good on his tangled relationships with women — especially his equally famous and equally difficult second wife, Clare Boothe Luce — as well as with the men who worked with, which is to say under, him. My only qualm about this otherwise superb book is that it does not convey much sense of what life was like in his empire… – WaPo, 4-18-10
  • DAVID S. REYNOLDS on Leo Damrosch “Tocqueville: The Life”: TOCQUEVILLE’S DISCOVERY OF AMERICA In “Tocqueville’s Discovery of America,” Leo Damrosch, the Ernest Bernbaum professor of literature at Harvard, reveals the man behind the sage. Damrosch shows us that “Democracy in America” was the outcome of a nine-month tour of the United States that Tocqueville, a temperamental, randy 25-year-old French apprentice magistrate of aristocratic background, took in 1831-32 with his friend Gustave de Beaumont…. – NYT, 4-18-10
  • Book review: Aaron Leitko reviews “The Poker Bride,” by Christopher Corbett: THE POKER BRIDE The First Chinese in the Wild West In his exhaustively researched “The Poker Bride,” Christopher Corbett tells how Bemis — a Chinese woman who probably arrived in the United States as a concubine — wound up living on a remote patch of Idaho wilderness for more than 50 years with a Connecticut-born gambler who had won her in a poker game. By the time she finally descended from the mountains in 1923, she had become a relic of a different era, a kind of modern Rip Van Winkle…. – WaPo, 4-18-10
  • Roger Ekrich makes history more interesting in telling true story of “Kidnapped”: According to my research, every 11-year-old has read Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. What I didn’t know when I was 11—and, in fact, didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago—is that Kidnapped was based on a true story…. That true story is told in a new book, Birthright: The True Story That Inspired Kidnapped, by Roger Ekirch, a history professor at Virginia Tech. Mr. Ekirch spoke about the book yesterday at the Library of Congress…. – Chronicle of Higher Education (4-16-10)
  • Schlesinger Interviews With Jacqueline Kennedy to Be Published: Nearly seven hours of unreleased interviews with Jacqueline Kennedy, recorded just months after the death of President John F. Kennedy and intended for deposit in a future presidential library, will be released as a book, the publisher Hyperion said on Tuesday…. – NYT (4-13-10)
  • GARRY WILLS on David Remnick: “Behind Obama’s Cool”: THE BRIDGE The Life and Rise of Barack Obama David Remnick, in this exhaustively researched life of Obama before he became president, quotes many interviews in which Obama made the same or similar points. Accused of not being black enough, he could show that he has more direct ties to Africa than most ­African-Americans have. Suspected of not being American enough, he appealed to his mother’s Midwest origins and accent. Touring conservative little towns in southern Illinois, he could speak the language of the Kansan grandparents who raised him. He is a bit of a chameleon or shape-shifter, but he does not come across as insincere — that is the importance of his famous “cool.” He does not have the hot eagerness of the con man. Though his own background is out of the ordinary, he has the skill to submerge it in other people’s narratives, even those that seem distant from his own…. – NYT, 4-11-10 Excerpt

FEATURES:

  • TCNJ profs say they’ve solved Civil War mystery: A literary mystery that has lingered since the Civil War has apparently been solved by a pair of professors from The College of New Jersey. Their findings ended up as a new book, “A Secession Crisis Enigma,” by Daniel Crofts, a professor of history who turned to David Holmes, professor of statistics, while looking for an answer to a longstanding question. They wanted to determine who was the author of “The Diary of a Public Man,” which was published anonymously in four installments in the 1879 “North American Review.”… NJ.com (4-24-10)
  • It’s war: Anzac Day dissenters create bitter split between historians: A furore has erupted over Australia’s Anzac Day legacy, with the authors of a new book which questions the day’s origins accused by a rival historian of failing to acknowledge the preeminent scholar in the field. Crikey (AU) (4-19-10)
  • Smithsonian exhibit brings the Apollo Theater to D.C: About 100 items are on view at the National Museum of American History, representing big names from entertainment today and from decades past.
    Michael Jackson’s fedora, Ella Fitzgerald’s yellow dress and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet are together in a Smithsonian exhibit celebrating the famed Apollo Theater that helped these stars to shine. The not-yet-built National Museum of African American History and Culture is bringing New York’s Harlem to the nation’s capital with the first-ever exhibit focused on the Apollo, where many musical careers were launched. It opens Friday at the National Museum of American History. About 100 items are on view, representing big names from entertainment today and from decades past…. – USA Today, 4-25-10

QUOTES:

  • Roots of Islamic fundamentalism lie in Nazi propaganda for Arab world, Jeffrey Herf claims: “Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World” “The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would have been over long ago were it not for the uncompromising, religiously inspired hatred of the Jews that was articulated and given assistance by Nazi propagandists and continued after the war by Islamists of various sorts,” said Jeffrey Herf, a history professor at the University of Maryland. – Telegraph (UK) (4-21-10)
  • JAMES ROSEN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: An accomplished author himself, President Obama appears irresistible to his fellow literati.
    JAY WINKIK, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: And he captivates the imagination. And I think it’s safe to say that the White House Press Corps has been galvanized by him. And perhaps one could also add to that. There’s a touch of bias where he may reflect the sentiments of many in the White House Press Corps…. – Fox News, 4-10
  • Historians weigh in on the Tea Party in the NYT: “The story they’re telling is that somehow the authentic, real America is being polluted,” said Rick Perlstein, the author of books about the Goldwater and Nixon years…. – NYT (4-16-10)
  • Gary Cross: For some 20-somethings, growing up is hard to do, says Penn State historian: Gary Cross is a professor of history at Penn State University whose most recent book, “Men to Boys: The Making of Modern Immaturity,” addresses just that.
    “This trend has been building up over the last 50 years to where today it really is hard to see [role] models, to recognize these models of maturity,” he said. “Men have, in effect, slowly and not always steadily rebelled against the role of being providers and being sacrificers.”
    Now, “Men who are in their mid-20s are more independent for a longer period than before because of the rise in the age of marriage. In 1970, when I was 24, men married at 22. Now they’re married at 28; that’s a big difference,” Dr. Cross said. “Part of it is the way boys have always been indulged more than girls in the typical family,” Dr. Cross said. “One thing that has struck me is, early in the 20th century, how indulgent they were of openly naughty boys. Not so much with the girls.”… – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (4-14-10)

INTERVIEWS:

  • A Primer on China from Jeffrey Wasserstrom: In China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know, just published by Oxford University Press, Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom provides answers to a wide range of commonly asked questions about the world’s most populous country. The excerpt below describes two of the topics the book addresses: nationalism and the web…. – Forbes (4-21-10)
  • Award-wining historian Natalie Zemon Davis talks to American Prospect: Natalie Zemon Davis will be awarded the 2010 Holberg International Memorial Prize on June 9 for the way in which her work “shows how particular events can be narrated and analyzed so as to reveal deeper historical tendencies and underlying patterns of thought and action.” Davis describes her work as anthropological in nature. Rather than tell the political story of a time and place, concentrating on an elite narrative, Davis’ work is often from the point of view of those less likely to keep records of their lives. TAP spoke with Davis, an 81-year-old professor emerita of history at Princeton University and current adjunct professor of history at the University of Toronto, about her innovative approach to history…. – The American Prospect (4-9-10)

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

  • American Academy of Arts and Sciences Announces 2010 Class of Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members: Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York
    Robert P. Brenner, University of California, Los Angeles
    Paul H. Freedman, Yale University
    Jan E. Goldstein, University of Chicago
    Greg Grandin, New York University
    Carla Hesse, University of California, Berkeley
    Daniel Walker Howe, University of California, Los Angeles
    Donald W. Meinig, Syracuse University
    Heinrich von Staden, Institute for Advanced Study – AAAS Press Release (4-19-10)
  • University of Glasgow creates first Chair of Gaelic in Scotland: Professor Roibeard Ó Maolalaigh has been named as the first ever established Chair of Gaelic in Scotland by the University of Glasgow. The Chair has been created to recognise the University as a centre of excellence for the study of Celtic and Gaelic…. – Medieval News (4-16-10)
  • Historians on the 2010 List of Guggenheim Fellows: Andrew Apter, Joshua Brown, Antoinette Burton, William Caferro, Hasia R. Diner, Caroline Elkins, Walter Johnson, Pieter M. Judson, Jeffrey C. Kinkley, Thomas Kühne, Ms. Maggie Nelson, Susan Schulten, John Fabian Witt – Tenured Radical (4-15-10)
  • Pulitzer Prize in History awarded to Liaquat Ahamed: HISTORY: “Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World” by Liaquat Ahamed – A Harvard graduate [who] was born in Kenya, Ahamed dreamed of being a writer while he worked as an investment manager. “Lords of Finance” is a compelling account of how the actions of four bankers triggered the Depression and ultimately turned the United States into the world’s financial leader, the Pulitzer board said…. – AP (4-12-10)
  • Ernest Freeberg named winner of the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award: Ernest Freeberg will receive the 2010 Eli M. Oboler Memorial Award, presented by the Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT) of the American Library Association (ALA). Freeberg was selected for his book,“Democracy’s Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent” (Harvard University Press, 2008). Press Release (4-6-10)

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • History Doctoral Programs Site Updated at AHA Website: The AHA’s History Doctoral Programs web site has now been updated to include current information on students, faculty, and departments as a whole. In addition to department-level fixes, the site has also been updated to include links to a wealth of additional information about universities in the United States… Robert Townsend at AHA Blog (4-6-10)AHA

ON TV:

  • 12-hour ‘America’ series gives ‘an aerial view of history’: History Channel has enjoyed bountiful ratings of late focusing on contemporary topics. But it returns to more traditional roots with its biggest project yet, America The Story of Us. Through dramatic re-creations and computer-generated imagery, the six-night, 12-hour series (premiering Sunday, 9 ET/PT, and continuing through May 30) covers 400 years of U.S. settlement and growth. But an American history series — the first comprehensive TV effort since Alistair Cooke’s America for PBS in 1972 — had been contemplated for about 18 months. The Story of Us crystallized during Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration.
    “Watching that was an historic moment. But so was the economic crisis, the wars the nation was fighting,” says History Channel general manager Nancy Dubuc. “Ideas came up about where are we going in America and how we got there, and how to hit all the touch-points in a way that entertains and inspires.” Obama filmed a 90-second spot to launch the series, which is narrated by actor Liev Schreiber. Observations by historians, politicians, actors and cultural observers are interspersed, including former secretary of State Colin Powell, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Oscar winner Meryl Streep and Harvard University historian Henry Louis Gates Jr…. – USA Today, 4-22-10
  • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
  • PBS American Experience: Mondays at 9pm
  • History Channel: Weekly Schedule

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

BOOKS COMING SOON:

  • Hampton Sides: Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Max Hastings: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Bradley Gottfried: The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 – July 13, 1863, (Hardcover) April 19, 2010
  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
  • David S. Heidler: Henry Clay: The Essential American, (Hardcover), May 4, 2010
  • Nathaniel Philbrick: The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, May 4, 2010
  • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010
  • T. H. Breen: American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People, (Hardcover), May 11, 2010
  • Alexandra Popoff: Sophia Tolstoy: A Biography, (Hardcover) May 11, 2010
  • John D. Lukacs: Escape From Davao: The Forgotten Story of the Most Daring Prison Break of the Pacific War, (Hardcover), May 11, 2010
  • S. C. Gwynne: Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, (Hardcover) May 25, 2010
  • Steven E. Woodworth: The Chickamauga Campaign (1st Edition), (Hardcover), May 28, 2010
  • Larry Schweikart: 7 Events that Made America America: And Proved that the Founding Fathers Were Right All Along, (Hardcover) June 1, 2010

DEPARTED:

June 8, 2009: President Obama at 65th D-Day Anniversary, Health Care & Stimulus Plans

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President listens to the Vice President
(President Barack Obama listens as Vice President Joe Biden (left) presents the report on the Roadmap to
Recovery as he meets with his Cabinet in the State Dining Room of the White House, Monday, June 8, 2009.
Looking on at right are Attorney General Eric Holder and Housing and Urban Development
Secretary Shaun Donovan.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • RCP Poll, June 7, 2009: President Obama Job Approval: RCP Average: +25.2% Details Approve 59.7% Disapprove 34.5%
    Congressional Job Approval: RCP Average: -18.3% Details Approve 35.7% Disapprove 54.0%
    Direction of Country RCP Average: -3.7% Details Right Direction 45.0% Wrong Track 48.7%
  • Poll Finds Lukewarm Support for Bloomberg: Despite generally broad approval for the job Michael R. Bloomberg has done as mayor, a majority of New Yorkers say that he does not deserve another term in office and that they would like to give someone else a chance, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Cornell University and NY1 News…. – NYT, 6-8-09
  • Pelosi’s Poll Numbers Sink Below Cheney’s as GOP Hounds Her on CIA Remarks: Republicans are trying to keep the spotlight on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for accusing the CIA of lying to Congress, saying her poll numbers show she’s out of step with voters and suggesting she step out of intelligence briefings since she doesn’t trust the source….
    A new Gallup poll out Friday of 1,015 national adults conducted May 29-31, 37 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Cheney and 34 percent have a favorable view of Pelosi. The margin of error is 3 percent. Pelosi’s current image rates 50 percent unfavorable, an increase from six months ago, while Cheney’s unfavorability has dropped from 63 percent six months ago to 54 percent now…. – Fox News, 6-5-09
  • Barack Obama’s Second Term Polls For the 2012 Election: Currently, Obama polls in the mid-60s approval rating. And when paired up with any of the prospective 2012 presidential hopefuls, Obama leads by about 15%. – Fox Austin, 6-5-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Obama repackages stimulus plans with old promises: President Barack Obama assured the nation his recovery plan was on track Monday, scrambling to calm Americans unnerved by unemployment rates still persistently rising nearly four months after he signed the biggest economic stimulus in history. Obama admitted his own dissatisfaction with the progress but said his administration would ramp up stimulus spending in the coming months. The White House acknowledged it has spent only $44 billion, or 5 percent, of the $787 billion stimulus, but that total has always been expected to rise sharply this summer. “Now we’re in a position to really accelerate,” Obama said. He also repeated an earlier promise to create or save 600,000 jobs by the end of the summer. Neither the acceleration nor the jobs goal are new. Both represent a White House repackaging of promises and projects to blunt criticism that the effects haven’t been worth the historic price tag. And the job estimate is so murky, it can never be verified…. – AP, 6-8-09
  • U.S. Envoy Begins New Middle East Peace Push: U.S. President Barack Obama’s special Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, began a new push to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian peace talks on Tuesday by opening a series of talks with leaders in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is at odds with Obama over the president’s demand to halt Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and has not endorsed the creation of a Palestinian state, a cornerstone of U.S. Middle East policy…. – Reuters, 6-9-09
  • Sources: House Democrats consider taxing benefits: Despite a less-than-rousing reaction from the Obama administration, House Democrats are considering a new tax on employer-provided health benefits to help pay for expanding coverage to the uninsured…. – AP, 6-8-09
  • Gingrich urges GOP inclusion at fundraiser & Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin appears at GOP fundraiser: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday urged some 2,000 Republican party loyalists to stand up for GOP principles but to be inclusive as the party tries to retake the majority.
    “I am happy that Dick Cheney is a Republican,” Gingrich said at the annual Senate-House fundraising dinner. “I am also happy that Colin Powell is a Republican.” “A majority Republican party will have lots of debates within the party,” Gingrich, the former Georgia congressman, said. “That is the nature of majority parties.”… – AP, 6-8-09
  • Palin opts to appear at GOP fundraiser: Ben Evans, AP Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin appeared at a major Republican congressional fundraiser Monday night, ending a will-she-or-won’t-she mystery that overshadowed the event and frustrated the GOP…. – AP, 6-8-09
  • Obama Push for Public Health Care Plan Stirs Controversy: President Obama insists that any new health care plan will be paid for and will not add to the deficit. But Republicans are suspicious, in part because Obama has been working only with Democrats, even meeting with them exclusively just before he left on his overseas trip. “If we go to a government plan, the government will be setting prices. They’ll be telling people what they can do. They’ll be injecting themselves between your doctor and yourself,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, calling a public plan “tremendously costly.”… – Fox News, 6-8-09
  • Gingrich sees no harm in Palin’s use of his words: Newt Gingrich takes no issue with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for using his words in a speech she gave last week. In fact, he’d be happy if more Republicans espoused his ideas, a spokesman for the former House speaker said Monday. Blogger Geoffrey Dunn, who is writing a book about Palin, accused the former Republican vice presidential candidate of lifting phrases and ideas at length from an article co-written by Gingrich in 2005. Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler said the accusation was comical. “If she used Newt’s ideas in a speech and gave him credit for them, there certainly is zero issue,” Tyler said…. – AP, 6-8-09
  • GOP, 2 Dems flip power balance in NY senate: Republicans and two dissident Democrats took control of New York’s Senate on Monday after the two New York City renegades voted with the GOP to throw the fledgling Democratic majority out of power. The decision by senators Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens to join the coalition gave Republicans a 32-30 voting edge on hastily introduced measures that changed the leadership structure. Neither Espada nor Monserrate changed party affiliation. Democrats held the Senate for barely five months after being out of power for four decades…. – AP, 6-8-09
  • Tight Race in Virginia as 3 Democrats Vie for Governor: When Virginia voters go to the polls Tuesday in the Democratic primary for governor, they will choose among three candidates who have distinguished themselves more by personality than politics during the fight to continue their party’s recent winning streak in this historically conservative state.
    The candidates are Terry McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee; State Senator R. Creigh Deeds; and Brian J. Moran, a former member of the House of Delegates. The winner will oppose the Republican candidate, Robert F. McDonnell, in November. Mr. McDonnell, a former state legislator, was Virginia’s attorney general until he resigned in February to seek the governorship…. – NYT, 6-8-09
  • Clinton says NKorea reconsidered for terror list: The U.S. is considering adding North Korea back to a list of state sponsors of terrorism, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview broadcast Sunday after President Barack Obama pledged “a very hard look” at tougher measures because of the North’s nuclear stance. The communist country has conducted recent nuclear and missile tests, and there are concerns about the North’s shipping nuclear material to other nations…. – AP, 6-7-09
  • Bipartisan Health Bill Is Possible, Leaders Say: Plenty of people here think Senators Max Baucus and Charles E. Grassley are wasting time seeking a bipartisan health care bill to insure every American. And skeptics boast a 70-year winning streak. The two men’s roles as the Senate Finance Committee chairman (Mr. Baucus, Democrat of Montana) and the ranking Republican (Mr. Grassley, of Iowa) lack the clout of a generation ago. Each stands to attract more abuse than acclaim from his party’s rank and file…. – NYT, 6-7-09
  • Ailing Senator Ted Kennedy Key to Health Bill: Sen. Edward Kennedy, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee and a senator for more than 45 years, has championed health-care issues his whole career. But he has been fighting brain cancer and working on the legislation long distance from his Massachusetts home….
    Meanwhile, Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, is crafting a bill of his own that could set legislation on a different path. If the liberal Mr. Kennedy takes a lesser role, that could make it easier for the more-conservative Mr. Baucus to push the health-care legislation in a centrist direction. Mr. Kennedy, for example, is a major proponent of including a publicly run health-insurance option as part of a plan to give all Americans coverage, while Mr. Baucus is weighing other proposals that wouldn’t include such an option right away…. – Fox News, 6-7-09
  • The Obamas play tourists (with the odd detour for lunch at the Elysée Palace): A typical American family of four completed a typical tourist weekend in Paris yesterday. There were visits to the Eiffel Tower, to Notre Dame cathedral, to the Pompidou Centre and, er, Sunday lunch with President Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni. Actually, the father of the American tourist family, Barack Obama, missed the lunch at the Elysée Palace. He had to fly home to Washington on business.
    To those who tried to read a snub into his early departure, President Obama said: “I would love nothing more than to have a leisurely week in Paris, stroll down the Seine, take my wife out to a nice meal, have a picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens. Those days are over, for the moment.” … – Independent UK, 6-7-09
  • Obama’s marriage was on brink of collapse, says book: Barack and Michelle Obama’s fairytale love story of an adoring couple propelled on to the international stage has caught the imagination of millions…. – Telegraph UK, 6-6-09
  • Official: Michelle Obama’s Top Aide Resigned to Escape Bureaucracy: Jackie Norris, who worked on the president’s campaign in Iowa, didn’t enjoy the management and scheduling duties and the large social aspect of the job, a senior official told Politico….
    Obama’s longtime friend and adviser from Chicago, Susan Sher, is replacing Norris as Obama’s top aide. Sher joined the administration as an associate counsel to the president. Sher and Michelle Obama worked together at the University of Chicago Medical Center. – Fox News, 6-6-09
  • Obama team plans more active role on health care: The White House, backing away from President Barack Obama’s “it’s-all-on-the-table” approach initially advocated, prepared to get louder and more involved in the details of a health care overhaul that officials once were content to leave to Congress, administration officials said Saturday. The White House’s attention increases as Congress turns to a priority that officials watched in recent weeks drift off what has otherwise been a precise pathway. Even with an Obama-imposed August deadline, many administration aides weren’t sure just how much they would be able to accomplish before Congress left for the summer, and Obama has turned to his grassroots supporters to pressure Congress to find a solution…. – AP, 6-6-09
  • Experts Say Candor in Diplomacy, as Obama Vows, Isn’t Always the Best Tactic: President Obama laid down a marker in Cairo last week for candor in American diplomacy. The United States, he declared, will “say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs” — a line that drew applause from his Arab audience. But candor and diplomacy are not synonymous, and if Mr. Obama were to apply the same approach to thorny problems like Iran and North Korea, it might not produce the intended desirable results, according to foreign affairs experts. Some say he risks forsaking the advantages of “constructive ambiguity,” the diplomatic practice of fudging differences, credited to Henry A. Kissinger…. – NYT, 6-6-09
  • Man sought for threatening president arrested: Authorities have arrested a man who allegedly told bank tellers while cleaning out his savings account in Utah that he was on a mission to kill President Barack Obama. The Secret Service said Daniel James Murray, 36, was arrested Friday outside a casino in Laughlin, Nev., a gambling town 100 miles from Las Vegas on the Nevada-Arizona line…. – AP, 6-6-09
  • Sweeping Health Plan Is Drafted by Kennedy: All Americans would have access to “essential health care benefits,” with no annual or lifetime limits, employers would have to contribute to the cost of coverage and the government would create a new public insurance program under sweeping legislation drafted by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and circulated Friday…. – 6-5-09
  • Obamas’ trip to Paris raises some eyebrows: So much for the Obama common touch. After whisking his wife to Manhattan for dinner and a Broadway show last weekend, President Obama is treating his family to a Paris vacation – paid for, in part, by taxpayers. The White House confirmed yesterday that first lady Michelle Obama, their two daughters, and his mother-in-law will fly today to the City of Lights to join the president, who has scheduled meetings with French officials and will appear at a ceremony tomorrow in Normandy marking the 65th anniversary of D-Day…. – Boston Globe, 6-5-09
  • Obama: Buchenwald ‘rebuke’ to Holocaust denial: President Barack Obama absorbed the stark horrors memorialized at the Buchenwald concentration camp Friday and said the lesson for the modern world is vigilance against evil, against subjugation of the weak and against the “cruelty in ourselves.” Obama honored the 56,000 who died at the Nazi camp and the thousands who survived. He invoked, too, his great-uncle, who helped liberate a Buchenwald satellite prison in 1945 and came back a haunted man…. -  AP, 6-5-09
  • Obama Pins Mideast Hope on Limiting Settlements: Iran seems to be hurtling toward nuclear weapons capacity, Hezbollah could win Sunday’s election in Lebanon and Hamas is smuggling long-range rockets into Gaza again. So why is President Obama focusing such attention on the building of homes by Israeli Jews in the West Bank? That, in essence, is the question being angrily posed by the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and underscores one of the biggest shifts in American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in three decades. While every administration has objected to Israeli settlement building in occupied lands, the Obama administration has selected it as the opening issue that could begin to untie the Gordian knot of the conflict…. – NYT, 6-5-09
  • Among Israel’s U.S. Backers, Anxiety and Some Support Greet Obama’s Words – NYT, 6-5-09
  • Employment Report Fuels GOP Attack on Obama Policies: Republicans launched a political offensive against President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy after weeks of reticence, emboldened by Friday’s report of a surging unemployment rate. Political strategists have been pushing GOP lawmakers to attack Mr. Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan and to challenge how the Democratic Congress has handled everything from taxes to unions to energy policy. At the same time, Republicans have worried such attacks would backfire in the event of a recovery. With Friday’s report that the unemployment rate had jumped to 9.4%, the highest monthly reading since September 1983, Republicans put aside those qualms….
    Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.), the senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, declared the stimulus plan a failure. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio) proclaimed, “Washington is hanging middle-class Americans out to dry.”
    “This is President Obama’s economy now,” said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R., Va.). – WSJ, 6-5-09
  • Obama’s Voodoo Health Economics Cutting our medical care is bad science: On Monday President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers released a report called “The Economic Case for Health Care Reform.” The report argues that Americans must curb their consumption of medical care in order to avoid soaring federal deficits, unsustainable burdens on family budgets, and damage to the economy. All of these claims are untrue…. – WSJ, 6-5-09
  • Sotomayor Faulted Over Missing Memo: Critics of Judge Sonia Sotomayor seized Friday on her failure to include a 1981 memo opposing the death penalty in her response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questionnaire. But after 11 days of intense scrutiny, Judge Sotomayor’s chances of confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court appeared on track, thanks to the Democrats’ strong majority in the Senate and the lack so far of any revelation that would alienate a significant number of the lawmakers…. – WSJ, 6-5-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Obama speaks at Normandy
(President Barack Obama speaks during the ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the Allied D-Day landings in Normandy at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville sur Mer in Western France, Saturday, June 6, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Political Quotes

  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND THE VICE PRESIDENT BEFORE MEETING WITH CABINET TO DISCUSS ROADMAP TO RECOVERY State Dining Room:
    VICE PRESIDENT Biden: A couple weeks ago, I asked the Cabinet members to give me a list of new projects that they were absolutely certain of they could get up and running in the second hundred days that would build momentum and accelerate the job growth in the next hundred days. And they each came back with new projects. The 10 most significant of those projects, Mr. President, we’ve put in this book that we’re going to give you — it’s called “Roadmap to Recovery”….
    PRESIDENT Obama: Now I know that there are some who, despite all evidence to the contrary, still don’t believe in the necessity and promise of this Recovery Act, and I would suggest to them that they talk to the companies who, because of this plan, scrapped the idea of laying off employees and in fact decided to hire employees. Tell that to the Americans who receive that unexpected call saying, come back to work. Tell it to the Americans poised to benefit from critical investments that this plan makes in our long-term growth and prosperity.
    In the end, that’s the only measure of progress, is whether or not the American people are seeing some progress in their own lives. And so although we’ve seen some stabilizing in the financial markets and credit spreads have gone down, we’re seeing a reduction in the fear that gripped the market just a few months ago, stock market is up a little bit — all that stuff is not our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is making sure that the average family out there — mom working, dad working — that they are able to pay their bills, feel some job security, make their mortgage payments; the small business owner there is starting to see customers coming back in, they can make payroll, they can even think about hiring a little bit more and expanding. That’s the measure, how ordinary families are helping to rebuild America once more…. – White House, 6-8-09
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Outlines Goals for Health Care Reform: In his weekly address, President Barack Obama described his goals for fixing our broken health care system. With skyrocketing costs threatening fiscal collapse, real reform that provides quality, affordable health care for every American is a necessity that cannot wait. To do this, reform must be built on lowering costs, improving quality, and protecting consumer choice so people who are happy with their coverage can keep it…. – White House, 6-6-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT D-DAY 65TH ANNIVERSARY CEREMONY Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial Normandy, France: Lyndon Johnson once said that there are certain moments when “…history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom.”
    D-Day was such a moment. One newspaper noted that “we have come to the hour for which we were born.” Had the Allies failed here, Hitler’s occupation of this continent might have continued indefinitely. Instead, victory here secured a foothold in France. It opened a path to Berlin. It made possible the achievements that followed the liberation of Europe: the Marshall Plan, the NATO alliance, the shared prosperity and security that flowed from each.
    It was unknowable then, but so much of the progress that would define the 20th century, on both sides of the Atlantic, came down to the battle for a slice of beach only six miles long and two miles wide.
    More particularly, it came down to the men who landed here — those who now rest in this place for eternity, and those who are with us here today. Perhaps more than any other reason, you, the veterans of that landing, are why we still remember what happened on D-Day. You’re why we keep coming back.
    For you remind us that in the end, human destiny is not determined by forces beyond our control. You remind us that our future is not shaped by mere chance or circumstance. Our history has always been the sum total of the choices made and the actions taken by each individual man and woman. It has always been up to us.
    You could have done what Hitler believed you would do when you arrived here. In the face of a merciless assault from these cliffs, you could have idled the boats offshore. Amid a barrage of tracer bullets that lit the night sky, you could have stayed in those planes. You could have hid in the hedgerows or waited behind the seawall. You could have done only what was necessary to ensure your own survival.
    But that’s not what you did. That’s not the story you told on D-Day. Your story was written by men like Zane Schlemmer of the 82nd Airborne, who parachuted into a dark marsh, far from his objective and his men. Lost and alone, he still managed to fight his way through the gunfire and help liberate the town in which he landed — a town where a street now bears his name.
    It’s a story written by men like Anthony Ruggiero, an Army Ranger who saw half the men on his landing craft drown when it was hit by shellfire just a thousand yards off this beach. He spent three hours in freezing water, and was one of only 90 Rangers to survive out of the 225 who were sent to scale the cliffs.
    And it’s a story written by so many who are no longer with us, like Carlton Barrett. Private Barrett was only supposed to serve as a guide for the 1st Infantry Division, but he instead became one of its heroes. After wading ashore in neck-deep water, he returned to the water again and again and again to save his wounded and drowning comrades. And under the heaviest possible enemy fire, he carried them to safety. He carried them in his own arms…. – White House, 6-6-09
  • Laura Bush glad Obama picked woman for high court: “I think she sounds like a very interesting and good nominee,” Bush said of Sonia Sotomayor, the federal appeals judge Obama picked. Mrs. Bush said in an interview broadcast Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “as a woman, I’m proud that there might be another woman on the court. I wish her well.” She was interviewed in Dallas, where the Bushes moved after their White House tenure. On another subject, Mrs. Bush said her husband will have no comment on any Obama decisions. He feels that as a former president, “he owes President Obama his silence on issues and there’s no reason to second-guess any decisions he makes,” Mrs. Bush said. – AP, 6-8-09
  • Clinton Urges ‘Clemency’ for US Journalists in North Korea: At a press conference with Indonesian Foreign Minister Noer Hassan Wirajuda, Secretary Clinton said the United States is focused on obtaining clemency for the two journalists – a matter she said that should be seen as separate from the nuclear issue.
    “We are pursuing every possible approach that we can consider in order to persuade the North Koreans to release them and send these young women home,” said Hillary Clinton. “We view these as entirely separate matters. We think the imprisonment trial and sentencing of Laura and Euna should be viewed as a humanitarian matter. We hope that the North Koreans will grant clemency and deport them. There are other concerns that we and the international community have with North Korea, but those are separate and apart from what’s happening to the two women.”… – VOA, 6-8-09
  • Senator says Obama ‘got nerve’ to push lawmakers: Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley says that President Barack Obama “got nerve” to go sightseeing in Paris while telling lawmakers it’s time to deliver on a health care overhaul. Grassley, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, is key to any bipartisan health care deal. Using Twitter the Iowa Republican issued two angry “tweets” Sunday morning as the president wrapped up an overseas tour.
    Grassley’s first tweet: “Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us ‘time to deliver’ on health care. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND.”
    A short time later: “Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said ‘time to delivr on healthcare’ When you are a ‘hammer’ u think evrything is NAIL I’m no NAIL.”… – AP, 6-7-09
  • Specter ‘pleased and proud’ to be a Pa. Democrat: Sen. Arlen Specter told Pennsylvania’s Democratic leaders Saturday he’s “pleased and proud” to be back in the party he left shortly after launching his political career more than four decades ago. “I’m no longer a Republican in name only. I’m again a Democrat,” the fifth term senator said in an introductory speech to the Democratic State Committee at a downtown hotel. “It is really my independence that has made me strong, made me better able to represent Pennsylvania, to deliver for Pennsylvania and strong enough to come back to the party,” he said…. – AP, 6-6-09
  • In Des Moines visit, Pelosi says GOP frustrated: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday said Republicans are stepping up their attacks on her because they’re frustrated by congressional Democrats’ accomplishments. “I feel this principally comes from those who do not agree with the new direction we’re going to take the country, the change the American people asked for, to try to distract the public and the focus that you have to have,” said Pelosi. “It is an arena that I have chosen to be in and I understand what that is, but it will not take us off our course of action.” “Our success in all we’re doing in education, in energy and we will have a health care plan on the floor of the House before the end of July,” said Pelosi. “I suspect in Congress, what’s going on is they are trying to distract attention.” “He said the Republicans are trying to use me as a lightning rod,” Pelosi said, predicting that tactic would ultimately fail…. – Chicago Tribune, 6-6-09
  • Obama: Buchenwald ‘rebuke’ to Holocaust denial: “To this day, there are those who insist the Holocaust never happened,” Obama said. “This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts, a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.”
    “He returned from his service in a state of shock,” Obama said, “saying little and isolating himself for months on end from family and friends.” Payne bore “painful memories that would not leave his head.”
    The president said Buchenwald “teaches us that we must be ever-vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time, that we must reject the false comfort that others’ suffering is not our problem, and commit ourselves to resisting those who would subjugate others to serve their own interests.”
    He added: “It’s also important for us, I think, to remember that the perpetrators of such evil were human, as well, and that we have to guard against cruelty in ourselves.”… – AP, 6-5-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President an European leaders arrive
(President Barack Obama (L-R), Britain’s Prince Charles, Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper and France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy arrive at the Colleville-sur-Mer
cemetery to attend a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy June 6, 2009. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Historians’ Comments

  • John Rosenthal “OBAMA FLUNKS HISTORY, AGAIN”: “Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald,” Obama said in Cairo, “which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today.” Buchenwald was indeed part of the network of concentration camps established by Nazi Germany, both in Germany proper and the occupied territories. And it is indeed true that some Jews were interred at Buchenwald and that many of those that were died there. According to the estimate of the Buchwald Memorial, from 1937 when the camp was established until its liberation in 1945, altogether some 11,000 Jews died at Buchenwald. 11,000. That’s roughly the number of Jews that were killed at Auschwitz in a single week. In total, not 11,000, but over one million Jews are estimated to have been killed at Auschwitz…. – New Majority, 6-5-09
  • SHELBY STEELE “Sotomayor and the Politics of Race Americans thought they were electing a president who would transcend grievance”: President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court points to a dilemma that will likely plague his presidency: How does a “post-racialist” president play identity politics? What is most notable about the Sotomayor nomination is its almost perfect predictability. Somehow we all simply know — like it or not — that Hispanics are now overdue for the gravitas of high office. And our new post-racialist president is especially attuned to this chance to have a “first” under his belt, not to mention the chance to further secure the Hispanic vote. And yet it was precisely the American longing for post-racialism — relief from this sort of racial calculating — that lifted Mr. Obama into office.
    The Sotomayor nomination commits the cardinal sin of identity politics: It seeks to elevate people more for the political currency of their gender and ethnicity than for their individual merit. (Here, too, is the ugly faithlessness in minority merit that always underlies such maneuverings.) Mr. Obama is promising one thing and practicing another, using his interracial background to suggest an America delivered from racial corruption even as he practices a crude form of racial patronage. From America’s first black president, and a man promising the “new,” we get a Supreme Court nomination that is both unoriginal and hackneyed…. – WSJ, 6-8-09
  • E.J. Dionne Jr.: Harry and Louise need health care reform: ….Health care reform could bail out these interests by adding the currently uninsured – fast approaching 50 million people – to their customer base, and by preventing more individuals and employers from dropping insurance altogether.
    Remember Harry and Louise, the imaginary couple who appeared in the television ads that helped beat President Bill Clinton’s health plan 15 years ago? That middle-class duo, which is to say a great many people just like them, has switched sides in the debate. The insurance companies and the drug companies that paid for the ads know that Louise’s employer has probably restricted her health coverage or dropped her altogether. And who knows if Harry still has a job?… – SF Chronicle, 6-7-09
  • Stephen Hess “Health, climate change vie for boost in US Congress”: “It’s not impossible to do both, but that would be more than a Congress has ever given a president, maybe since the first First 100 Days,” said Brookings Institution senior fellow Stephen Hess, referring to the start of Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” presidency in 1933…. – Reuters, 6-7-09
  • Professor Juan Cole and Cairo-Based Analyst Issandr El Amrani on Obama’s Historic Address – Democracy Now, 6-4-09
  • KC Johnson one of the first to actually read Sotomayor’s Princeton thesis. His grade …. ?: … The thesis is quite good. I’m not sure it’s a summa cum laude thesis… but summa grades essentially depend on the competition and the standards at the time. As for the thesis as a whole, from a historian’s perspective: It’s solidly researched and fairly well written — uses lots of data, more or less presents an argument, and has a pedagogical approach (political/economic history, focus on a key political leader in Muñoz Marin) that is very much mainstream. This is basically a pedagogically sound thesis that (with one exception) allows the facts to speak for themselves…. – KC Johnson quoted by Stuart Taylor at the National Journal website (6-2-09)

March 22, 2009: President Obama’s Worse Week, Selling the Budget on Leno & 60 Minutes

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Obama with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show.”

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Obama and the polls: is opinion shifting?: In the new National Public Radio poll conducted by the Democratic polling company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and its Republican counterpart, Public Opinion Strategies, 42 percent of the 800 likely voters surveyed March 10 to 14 said that if the next congressional election were held today they would vote for the Republican candidate; an identical percentage of respondents said they would vote for the Democratic one. For several years, Democrats held a substantial lead on this question… – The Atlantic, 3-21-09
  • Are Independents Hedging Their Bets? If Republicans really have pulled even among independents, it’s an ominous sign for Democrats: National Public Radio poll conducted by the Democratic polling company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and its Republican counterpart, Public Opinion Strategies, 42 percent of the 800 likely voters surveyed March 10 to 14 said that if the next congressional election were held today they would vote for the Republican candidate; Democrats still outnumbered Republicans in terms of party identification in this poll by 6 points, 45 percent to 39 percent. Democrats also favored their own party’s congressional candidates 83 percent to 7 percent. But voters who call themselves independents gave GOP candidates the edge by 14 points, 38 percent to 24 percent. And self-identified Republicans supported their own party’s candidates 85 percent to 3 percent. – Charlie Cook, National Journal, 3-21-09
  • Letter to the Editor: Obama’s presidency is disastrous: In two short months, Barry Soetoro, a.k.a. Barack Obama, and this Congress are proving to be beyond inept, extremely arrogant, tyrannical, unqualified and unprepared — and, in so doing, have made Jimmy Carter appear as though he was in total control and knew exactly what he was doing. You wanted change? You got it. By the way, how’s it working for you?…. – Augusta Chronicle, 3-21-09

THE HEADLINES….

The core principles of the President's budget.

The Headlines…

  • Geithner Urges Stronger Financial Regulations: Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said on Monday that the economic crisis showed that the American financial system had failed a major test and was in need of an overhaul. Speaking at a conference in Washington, Mr. Geithner said that the Obama administration planned to work with Congress to develop a modernized government regulatory structure for financial institutions…. – NYT, AP, 3-23-09
  • $50 Million in A.I.G. Bonuses to Be Repaid: The New York State attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, said on Monday that he had persuaded nine of the top 10 bonus recipients at the American International Group to give the money back, as the Senate retreated on plans to tax such bonuses….. – NYT, 2-23-09
  • Half of $165 Million in AIG Bonuses May Be Returned: Nine of the top 10 recipients of bonuses at American International Group Inc. agreed to give back the money and half of the total $165 million paid may be retrieved, said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo…. – Bloomberg, 3-23-09
  • Gregg continues budget-blasting of Obama: When Senator Judd Gregg stunningly withdrew as President Obama’s choice for commerce secretary, the New Hampshire Republican blamed “irresolvable conflicts” on policy. He wasn’t kidding. Since giving Obama the heave-ho last month, Gregg has been one of the Democratic president’s harshest critics. In recent days, he has been blasting Obama’s proposed $3.6 trillion budget, saying it would bankrupt the country. Gregg, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, got some more ammunition Friday, when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that Obama’s plan would generate unsustainable deficits averaging almost $1 trillion a year for the next decade…. -
  • ‘Bobby Jindal not in race for 2012 presidential polls’: Supriya Jindal, wife of Indian-American Republican leader Bobby Jindal, has denied that her husband is in the race for 2012 US presidential elections, saying that he is concentrating on his re-election as the Governor of Louisiana in 2011.
    “It’s very flattering, it’s very nice,” Supriya said in an interview to Meghan McCain and posted on ‘The Daily Beast’ when asked about news reports that her husband would be leading the Republican Party in the 2012 presidential elections. “But I think the party as a whole and the country as a whole needs to focus on solutions right now and not focus on who the next candidate’s going to be. All of that needs to go by the wayside. We have dire problems going on in the country and we need to focus on that right now,” she said. – Indian Express, 3-23-09
  • Obama implies rejection of House bonus tax plan: President Barack Obama wagered significant political capital Sunday, signaling opposition to a highly popular congressional drive to slap a punitive 90 percent tax on bonuses to big earners at financial institutions already deeply in hock to taxpayers…. – AP, 3-22-09
  • Sen. Gregg says Obama budget will bankrupt US: The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee says the Obama administration is on the right course to save the nation’s financial system. But Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire also says President Barack Obama’s massive budget proposal will bankrupt the country…. – AP, 3-22-09
  • HHS names health technology coordinator: A former Harvard Medical School professor who has advised Sen. Edward Kennedy and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis will lead health information technology efforts for the Obama administration. Dr. David Blumenthal was also a senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. – - AP, 3-20-09
  • NY election seen as referendum on stimulus: With polls tight, a Republican state legislator and Democratic venture capitalist battle daily over the economic stimulus package in congressional race that’s seen as a referendum on President Barack Obama’s policies and a test of GOP strength. – AP, 3-22-09
  • Can this David slay Republicans’ Goliath? A Canadian, knowledgeable about how conservatives in Canada rebranded themselves, seeks a renaissance of the GOP. To succeed, he’ll likely have to defeat party titan Rush Limbaugh in the arena of media opinion: The future of the Republican Party, if it has one, is Canadian. David Frum is emerging as the reasoned alternative to the blinkered prejudices that inform much of the debate within the GOP. His close knowledge of the struggle to reinvent and reunite Canadian conservatism, and his own personal evolution, have led him to call for a renaissance of the Republican Party within the United States, one that combines fiscal probity with social moderation, targeted primarily at young, university- educated voters. – Globe & Mail, 3-22-09
  • Lots of ham on the menu at annual Gridiron Dinner: President Barack Obama didn’t have time to join a roast of prominent officials by the journalists who cover them, cracks Vice President Joe Biden, because Obama is getting ready for Easter. “He thinks it’s about him,” Biden says. No, that’s not the reason, counters California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “He’s just not that into you.” – AP, 3-22-09
  • The Dissing of Laura Bush: If the ABC interview was a one-off thing, it would be easy to overlook. But these days the reporting seems to reflect an assumption that if the Obamas haven’t done something, nobody else has, either. Certainly the Washington Post did not challenge the First Lady’s social secretary when she said, “one idea Michelle had was to have an event for military families — here they are sacrificing so much for the country and many of them probably have never been invited to the White House.” This uncritical reportage does Laura Bush an injustice. In hundreds of ways — picnics on the South Lawn, fund-raising d families of the fallen, the work she did for military kids under her Helping America’s Youth initiative -for scholarships for the children of sailors on the USS Texas, unheralded visits with the wounded an- Mrs. Bush showed our troops and their loved ones how close they were to her heart. – Wall Street Journal, 3-20-09
  • Senate Republicans brake rush to tax AIG bonuses: Senate Republicans are drawing out a flap that has made the Obama administration squirm, applying the brakes to Democratic attempts to quickly tax away most of the bonuses at troubled insurance giant AIG and other bailed-out companies. – AP, 3-21-09
  • PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama rhetoric, reality clash: Barack Obama’s optimistic campaign rhetoric has crashed headlong into the stark reality of governing…. For now at least, Obama’s deviations have served only to invite occasional cries of hypocrisy from some Republicans and infrequent grumbles of disappointment from some Democrats. He has popularity on his side, and it seems people mostly are chalking up his moves to much-needed flexibility at a difficult time. But the shifts could take a toll over time if they become a persistent pattern and the public grows weary. His overall job-performance marks could suffer and jeopardize his likely re-election campaign in 2012. People could perceive him as a say-one-thing-do-another politician and the Democratic-controlled Congress could see him as a weak chief executive. Obama’s moves and maneuvering for political cover run the gamut…. – AP, 3-21-09
  • Not bowled over by Obama’s Special Olympics joke: When she met Barack Obama two years ago, Caitlin Cox proudly wore the two bronze medals she had won at the Special Olympics. The then-Illinois senator grinned as she showed him pictures of her signature bubble-gum-pink bowling ball and posed for photographs with her…. Thompson tried to console her daughter, telling her sometimes people do disappointing things. But as a mother and special education teacher, Thompson said, internally she was crushed by the president’s insensitivity. She knows how destructive such stereotypes can be, and it infuriated her that an organization dedicated to empowering millions of people with developmental disabilities would be reduced to a late-night punch line…. – Los Angeles Times, 3-21-09
  • Administration wants to buy up banks’ toxic assets: Struggling to contain the worst financial crisis in seven decades, the Obama administration wants to buy billions of dollars of toxic assets from banks to ease borrowing for consumers and businesses. – AP, 3-21-09
  • Obama’s Day: Back in Washington: Back at the White House after a California trip, President Barack Obama continues cultivating support for his economic recovery program…. – AP, 3-20-09
  • Obama’s Special Olympics joke creates a stir around the nation: It seemed like a harmless remark. In an appearance Thursday night on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” President Barack Obama made a joke about his lackluster bowling skills by saying: “It was like Special Olympics or something.” But the comment caused an immediate stir in Washington and around the nation. – McClatchy Newspapers, 3-20-09
  • Just a Couple of Average Joes Having a Fireside Chat: President Obama didn’t look burdened by his office on “The Tonight Show” on Thursday; he seemed detached. As he described the problems of the American International Group and the credit crisis to Jay Leno, Mr. Obama behaved less like a beleaguered president than like the head of a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia reporting back to the main office: concerned and engaged, but intent on maintaining his professional distance and neutrality…. – NYT, 3-21-09
  • White House says Obama shares US outrage over AIG: The White House says President Barack Obama shares the “outrage and frustration” of Americans over the millions of dollars in bonuses that taxpayer-funded AIG handed out to its executives. AP, 3-20-09
  • Obama urges states to use recovery money carefully: With states eager to spend, President Barack Obama announced guidelines Friday aimed at preventing waste and fraud and limiting the influence lobbyists will have in carrying out the $787 billion economic stimulus program. “This plan cannot and will not be an excuse for waste and abuse,” Obama declared. To make his point, the guidelines specify that stimulus funds can’t be used on projects like aquariums, zoos, golf courses, swimming pools, casinos or other gambling establishments.”… – AP, 3-20-09
  • Senator urges healthcare overhaul this year: Congress must enact a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system by the end of this year or risk waiting at least another four years to get the job done, a senior Republican senator said on Thursday. – Reuters, 3-20-09
  • Senate Republicans brake rush to tax AIG bonuses: Senate Republicans are drawing out a flap that has made the Obama administration squirm, applying the brakes to Democratic attempts to quickly tax away most of the bonuses at troubled insurance giant AIG and other bailed-out companies. – AP, 3-20-09
  • Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House: Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of the South Lawn on Friday to plant a vegetable garden, the first at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets — the president does not like them — but arugula will make the cut. – NYT, 3-20-09
  • Obama calls on Americans to support budget: In a new Web video, President Barack Obama is asking Americans to help him pass his $3.6 trillion budget. “I’m asking you to head outside this Saturday to knock on some doors, talk to some neighbors, and let them know how important this budget is to our future,” he said in the video. – AP, 3-20-09
  • Many in Government Knew Weeks Ago About A.I.G. Bonuses: A Treasury spokesman, Isaac Baker, said in a statement on Thursday night, “Although Congressman Crowley raised the issue of the bonuses two weeks ago, Secretary Geithner was not aware of the timing or full extent of the contractual retention payments or the other bonus programs until his staff brought them to his attention on March 10.” NYT, 3-19-09
  • Crown Publishing Group will pay the former president $7 million to write his most important life lessons: George W. Bush’s book deal, news of which broke yesterday, is valued at about $7 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. The sum is less than half what Bill Clinton was paid for his memoir, My Life, and less than the $8 million Hillary Clinton received. – The Daily Beast, 3-19-09
  • Obama visit juices up SoCal electric vehicle plant: Whether President Barack Obama’s California visit rallied sufficient support for his economic stimulus package remains to be seen, but his arrival Thursday definitely juiced the spirits of those who have toiled for years here building, testing and maintaining the kind of electric-powered cars Obama says are the nation’s future. – AP, 3-19-09
  • White House to break ground on ‘kitchen garden’: The White House is getting a new garden. First lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to break ground Friday on a new garden near the fountain on the South Lawn that will supply the White House kitchen. She will be joined by students from Bancroft Elementary School in the District of Columbia. The children will stay involved with the project, including planting the fruits, vegetables and herbs in the coming weeks and harvesting the crops later in the year. Mrs. Obama spent time earlier this week at an exhibit on rooftop gardening. “We’re going to get a big one in our back yard, the South Lawn,” she promised the volunteers. – AP, 3-19-09
  • Obama targets foreclosures in Calif.: President Barack Obama on Thursday announced that California will receive $145 million to help communities hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis. The president, speaking to about 1,000 people at a town hall-style event in downtown, said the Department of Housing and Urban Development funds will be used to purchase and rehabilitate vacant, foreclosed homes and resell them with affordable mortgages. – AP, 3-19-09
  • UPDATE 1-First Family’s dog coming soon, Obama tells TV host: U.S. President Barack Obama was alternately somber and light-hearted in an unusual appearance on America’s top-rated late-night variety show on Thursday, moving deftly from the economic crisis to the April arrival of a “First Dog” in the White House. In an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” the first by a sitting president, Obama talked seriously about his economic plans and voiced strong support for embattled Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner…. – Reuters, 3-19-09
  • Obama Signs Book Deal For Post-Presidency Book: President Barack Obama, the best-selling author who received royalties of $2.5 million last year, has signed a deal for a youth-oriented version of his published memoir and a nonfiction book after he leaves office. Huffington Post (Blog) (3-19-09)
  • Facts about George W. Bush’s new book: Facts about George W. Bush’s new book: Quick start: He began writing the memoir of his years as president just two days after leaving the White House. Notes, assistance: Although he didn’t keep a diary, he said, he jotted down an occasional note. And so far, he said, he’s written “maybe” 30,000 words, working with research assistants and a former White House speechwriter, Chris Michel. Another Bush book: Former first lady Laura Bush previously signed a book deal with Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Both are scheduled for 2010, but a Bush spokesman said hers would come out first…. – Dallas Morning News, 3-19-09
  • Bush begins writing ‘Decision Points’–his memoir: Former President George W. Bush has already written about 30,000 words of a memoir tentatively called “Decision Points” that will cover everything from how he found faith to how he quit drinking to how he chose Karl Rove and Dick Cheney for their jobs…. – Politico, 3-18-09
  • Obama tells Leno he was stunned by AIG bonuses: President Barack Obama has told Jay Leno he was stunned when he learned of the bonuses that bailed-out insurance giant AIG was paying its employees. AP, 3-19-09
  • Obama to Leno: Geithner doing ‘outstanding’ job: President Barack Obama says his embattled treasury chief, Timothy Geithner, is doing an “outstanding job.” In a taped appearance on “The Tonight Show”, he told host Jay Leno that Geithner is a smart guy who’s been handed an incredibly full plate. But he’s handling it all with grace and good humor. – AP, 3-19-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Green Jobs

Political Quotes

  • Obama wants comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan: “What we can’t do is think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to be able to solve our problems,” the president said on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” “So what we’re looking for is a comprehensive strategy. And there’s got to be an exit strategy. There’s got to be a sense that this is not perpetual drift.” “It’s easier terrain,” the president said of Iraq, where the war is winding down after six hard-fought years. “You’ve got a much better educated population, infrastructure to build off of. You don’t have some of the same destabilizing border issues that you have between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” “You are often confronted with bad choices that flow from less than optimal decisions made a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, when you weren’t here,” Obama said. “A lot of times, when things land at my desk, it’s a choice between bad and worse.” “The facts don’t bear him out,” Obama said. “Let’s assume we didn’t change these practices. Are we going to just keep on going until … the entire Muslim world and Arab world despises us? Do we think that’s really going to make us safer? I don’t know a lot of thoughtful thinkers, liberal or conservative, who think that that was the right approach.” “When I make a decision to send 17,000 young Americans to Afghanistan, you can understand that intellectually, but understanding what that means for those families, for those young people when you end up sitting at your desk, signing a condolence letter to one of the family members of a fallen hero, you’re reminded each and every day at every moment that the decisions you make count.” AP, 3-22-09
  • Obama 60 Minutes interview: Wall Street was ‘out of balance’: “Because of bad bets made on Wall Street, there have been enormous losses. I want them (the people on Wall Street) to do well, but what I also know is that the financial sector was out of balance.”… USA Today, 3-22-09
  • Why Obama Is Still Smiling: But Obama was so calm — even jolly — in his “60 Minutes” interview broadcast last night that anchor Steve Kroft asked him about it straight out: “You’re sitting here. And you are laughing. You are laughing about some of these problems. Are people gonna look at this and say, ‘I mean, he’s sitting there just making jokes about money.’ How do you deal with, I mean, explain the…mood and your laughter?…Are you punch drunk?”
    Obama replied with another laugh: “No, no. There’s gotta be a little gallows humor to get you through the day. You know, sometimes my team — talks about the fact that if — if you had said to us a year ago that — the least of my problems would be Iraq, which is still a pretty serious problem — I don’t think anybody would have believed it. But — but we’ve got a lot on our plate. And — a lot of difficult decisions that we’re going to have to make.”…

    “The one thing that — I’ve tried to emphasize, though, throughout this week, and will continue to try to emphasize during the course of the next several months as we dig ourselves out of this — the economic hole that we’re in — is we can’t govern out of anger. We’ve got to try to make good decisions based on the facts, in order to put people back to work, to get credit flowing again. And I’m not going to be distracted by — what’s happening day to day. I’ve gotta stay focused on making sure that — we’re getting this economy moving again.” – WaPo, 3-23-09

  • Obama Responds to Criticism From Cheney: President Obama has hit back at Dick Cheney, the former vice president, calling Bush administration policy on detainees at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, “unsustainable.” “How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney?” Mr. Obama said on Friday in an interview that will air Sunday on the CBS program “60 Minutes.” – NYT, 3-22-09
  • RAW DATA: President Obama’s Weekly Address: In his weekly address, President Obama announced that in the coming week, he will highlight the core principles of his budget, including reform of the energy, education and health care sectors. – Fox News, 3-21-09
  • A Budget Equal to the Task Before Us: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address, Saturday, March 21, 2009, Washington, DC: “These investments are not a wish list of priorities that I picked out of thin air – they are a central part of a comprehensive strategy to grow this economy by attacking the very problems that have dragged it down for too long: the high cost of health care and our dependence on oil; our education deficit and our fiscal deficit.” – WH Blog, 3-21-09 Transcript
  • Sarah Palin shocked at Obama’s Special Olympics joke: “I was shocked to learn of the comment made by President Obama about Special Olympics. This was a degrading remark about our world’s most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world. These athletes overcome more challenges, discrimination and adversity than most of us ever will. By the way, these athletes can outperform many of us and we should be proud of them. I hope President Obama’s comments do not reflect how he truly feels about the special-needs community.” – Christian Science Monitor, 3-20-09
  • Mrs. Obama Speaks Out About Her Household: The interview, which started out on the subject of the new White House vegetable garden, ended up ranging over a variety of household topics, which Mrs. Obama addressed with substantial fun-poking at her husband, her mother and herself. – NYT, 3-20-09
  • Michelle Obama “Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House”: “My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.” Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, will probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.” “There’s nothing really cooler,” Mrs. Obama said, “than coming to the White House and harvesting some of the vegetables and being in the kitchen with Cris and Sam and Bill, and cutting and cooking and actually experiencing the joys of your work.” “A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,” she said. “And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things. I wanted to be able to bring what I learned to a broader base of people. And what better way to do it than to plant a vegetable garden in the South Lawn of the White House? You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.” – NYT, 3-20-09
  • Biden: Help on the way for middle-class families: The focus of the town-hall-style forum in a bus garage in central Minnesota was the middle class, and Biden told the crowd of more than 400 that the Obama administration is making sure the $787 billion economic stimulus package helps middle-class families get through the downturn and prosper when the economy eventually turns around.
    “We’ll measure our success in these four or eight years based on one thing: whether or not we’ve been able to raise the standard of living for middle-class people,” Biden said. “We’ve got to get this nation growing again.” – AP, 3-19-09
  • First lady discusses career goals with students: First lady Michelle Obama promoted the value of a college education and hard work Thursday, telling high school students that the people who doubted her when she was younger only encouraged her to aim higher. “That never stopped me. That always made me push harder,” she said….
    “Our job is simple: just be open, be honest, be real, be clear and have fun,” Mrs. Obama told the group, which gathered in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House for the event, part of the first lady’s celebration of March as Women’s History Month….
    “I wanted an A … I wanted to be smart, I wanted to be the person who had the right answer,” said Mrs. Obama, a lawyer and former hospital executive in Chicago. “I ran into people in my life who told me, ‘You can’t do it, you’re not as smart as that person.’ And that never stopped me. That always made me push harder, because I was like, ‘I’m going to prove you wrong.’”…
    “College is being able to get up and discipline yourself and get help when you need it and to work hard and not give up,” Mrs. Obama said. “Those are like basic concepts that carry you through life.”
    AP, 3-19-09
  • Heeeere’s Barack….: Asked by Mr. Leno if it was fair to judge him based on just 59 days in office, President Obama said Washington “is a bit like ‘American idol’ except everybody’s Simon Cowell. Everybody’s got an opinion.” But, he said, the American people are in a place where “they understand that it took us a while to get into this mess, and it will take us a while to get out of it.” “I think they are going to give us some time,” he added. “The question is who in their right mind when the company is going bust decides we’re going to be paying a whole bunch of bonuses to people,” Mr. Obama said. “That I think speaks to a broader culture that existed on Wall Street, where I think people just had this general attitude of entitlement where we must be the best and the brightest, we deserve $10 million or $50 million or $100 million payouts. “And the immediate bonuses that went to A.I.G. are a problem, but the larger problem is we’ve got to get back to an attitude where people know enough is enough and people have a sense of responsibility, and they understand that their actions going have an effect on everybody,” he said. “And if we can get back to those values that built America, then I think we’re going to be okay.” – NYT, 3-19-09
  • George W. Bush in Speech in Calgary & about his Memoirs: “I want people to understand the environment in which I was making decisions. I want people to get a sense of how decisions were made and I want people to understand the options that were placed before me,” he told the AP.
    During his speech in Calgary, Bush told Canadian business leaders he equated the world’s economic mess to booze. Quoth Bush: “Wall Street was drunk and we got the hangover. It seems like your [Canadian] banking system was more sober than ours.” Quipped Frank McKenna, the former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., who was sitting next to Bush: “We like to drink.” Countered Bush: “Not the whole bottle.” Bush notes….
    Bush may have refrained from criticizing his successor, but he did tell the Canadian crowd: “It’s the risk takers, not the government — that is going to pull us out of this recession . . . My message to policymakers is don’t substitute government for the marketplace.” – Chicago Sun-Times, 3-19-09
  • Bush Talks About Life Outside the White House: ‘The Only Thing We Don’t Have Are the Newspapers,’ Says Former First Lady – ABC News, 2-26-09
  • Laura Bush: Life in Dallas Has Been a ‘Slow Adjustment’ Former First Lady on Life After the White House: Commercial airline travel, trips to the hardware store for nightlights and walks around the neighborhood are all part of everyday life these days for former President George W. Bush and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush. The former first lady discusses what keeps her and the former president busy. In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Mrs. Bush said she and her husband were settling into a normal, post-presidency life at their new home in the Preston Hollow section of Dallas after spending a month at their ranch in Crawford while the house was finished. – ABc News, 2-26-09
  • Mrs. Bush: Former first family adapts to new life: Former first lady Laura Bush says she didn’t watch President Barack Obama’s speech to Congress because “I just totally forgot about it.”… – AP, 2-27-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Watch the Video

The Middle Class Task Force holds its second meeting

Professors’ Comments

  • “In Obama’s Election, a Textbook Case of History in the Making for Students This Fall”: For many, the excitement of the 2008 presidential election was about witnessing a moment that people would one day read about in history books. Well, the first draft of history has a release date: this fall. On Page 1,126 of the newest edition of “United States History,” a Pearson textbook for high schoolers that is due in classrooms this fall, a picture of Barack Obama at his election night rally in Chicago appears next to the red-lettered headline “An Historic Moment.” “History — there’s no end to it,” said Randy Roberts, a history professor at Purdue University and an author of the Pearson book. “It’s a work in progress.” – NYT, 3-21-09
  • Larry Sabato “Era of ‘presidential innocence gone’ for Obama”: Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, argued that this event was “the beginning of the end of the age of innocence” for the Obama administration. “Yes, the AIG scandal has been on President Obama’s watch, and clearly, his treasury secretary is involved,” Sabato said. “There is no way to blame that on the Bush administration.” He added that it was “remarkable how quickly former presidents fade in the public memory.” – AFP, 3-22-09
  • Divided we stand The problem with bipartisanship: IF THERE IS a new mantra in American politics, it is “bipartisanship.” Barack Obama won the presidency emphasizing national unity; his rival, Senator John McCain, made bipartisan credentials a centerpiece of his own campaign. Prominent politicians from President Bill Clinton to high-ranking House Republican John Boehner speak of bipartisanship as an independent, innate good….
    History suggests that would be a disaster. There is little evidence that solutions to big problems are to be found through bipartisanship, and plenty to suggest that they are not. The ideal of bipartisanship is what historians call an invented tradition, a new thing that cloaks itself in venerability as a way of obscuring its lack of accomplishment. When it comes to crisis – and there are now a few – the record of bipartisanship is particularly weak.
    In fact, it is partisanship that enjoys a more distinguished place in American history. America’s existence as a nation, its civil liberties, its principle of equality before the law, and some of the most popular and successful government programs all began as highly partisan causes. Accomplishments of deeply partisan origin are so core to national life that it is often forgotten that they initially once divided the people, sometimes violently….
    In his first two months in office, President Obama has enacted a string of clear partisan policies, quickly reversing the previous administration’s policies on torture and interrogation, foreign aid for agencies that provide birth control, and embryonic stem-cell research. He has done so with a collegiality that Americans have not had recent cause to associate with either partisanship or the presidency, even calling his predecessor before announcing troop withdrawals….
    As much as politicians like to invoke Lincoln as a uniter, it is also worth remembering that his election began the most dramatic partisan shift of any period in American history. By his own admission, Lincoln did not seek this change, and did not consider himself a radical. But when radically partisan ideas presented themselves as the best – or the only – solutions for the crises facing the nation, Lincoln’s “sense of unity” did not stop him from taking a side. – Boston Globe, 3-22-09
  • Analysis: Obama rhetoric, reality clash: “Candidates make promises and presidents break promises, and that’s a very predictable pattern,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University historian. Like those before him, “Obama’s shifting to the political realities,” said Zelizer. That’s not a bad thing, he said. “We want presidents to adjust to the realities of governing, to the realities of the environment.” – AP, 3-21-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama turns to online army to push his budget plan”: “Americans are not as interested in policy as they are in personalities and elections,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton historian and author of several books on Congress. “They’re trying to rekindle the enthusiasm from the campaign, but it’s harder to get people involved in budget issues.”… Some Obama voters are independents and Republicans, and “Obama’s efforts will lose their freshness if this is seen as just a political tool of a party,” Zelizer said. Obama largely played the “inside” game on his stimulus bill, negotiating with three Senate Republicans to get it passed. Now, on the budget, he will use such traditional tactics but also an “outside” game of building pressure from the netroots on key members… “How will a senator like Arlen Specter or Evan Bayh react to that? It’s a big question,” Zelizer said, referring to two moderate senators whose votes may be needed to pass the budget. – Mercury News, 3-19-09

January 20, 2009: The Barack Obama Inauguration

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY: THE INAUGURATION

The Inauguration of President Barack Obama

IN FOCUS: INAUGURATION DAY STATS

OathDoug Mills/The New York Times

In Focus: Stats

  • Americans flooded D.C. for historic presidential inauguration: They came from across America, a buoyant and determined crowd of well over 1 million people, confronting numbing cold and logistical disarray to witness a profound moment in history. – NJ.com, 1-20-09
  • Crowds of 1 million or more test US capital: More than 1 million people crammed onto the National Mall and along the inauguration parade route Tuesday to celebrate the swearing-in of the nation’s first black president in what was one of the largest-ever gatherings in the nation’s capital. The Associated Press based its estimate on crowd photographs and comparisons with past events. – IHT, 1-20-09
  • INAUGURATION JOLTS INTERNET: President Obama’s inauguration sparked significant traffic jams – not only on Washington’s streets but in cyberspace as well, according to Web performance monitors. They reported slowdowns at the Web sites run by the White House and the U.S. Senate as well as at several online news outlets. – MSNBC, 1-20-09
  • Barack Obama inauguration: his worst speech: QUITE a day, but not much of speech unfortunately. Obama got where he is by speechifying, but this effort would not have won him many votes. It was his worst on a grand stage, though still better than most politicians could muster. The delivery, as ever, was first class, but the message was wasn’t clear enough and the language not insufficiently inspiring. – Telegraph UK, 1-20-09

THE HEADLINES….

WalkingPresident Obama and the First Lady walking on Pennsylvania Avenue during his inaugural parade. (Jae Hong/Associated Press)

The Headlines…

    President Barack Obama: New White House website

  • Obama Is Sworn In as the 44th President: Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday before a massive crowd reveling in a moment of historical significance, and called on Americans to confront together an economic crisis that he said was caused by “our collective failure to make hard choices.” – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Having a Ball: The Obamas have been zooming through their 10 official balls and are now running more than an hour ahead of schedule. The whole ball tour was supposed to end at 2:55 a.m., but they’re wrapping it up before 12:45. And who can blame them? By the fifth and sixth of these things, the First Couple was clearly operating on fumes. – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Obamas dance to ‘At Last’ at Neighborhood Ball: “At Last” may have been just what President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were thinking Tuesday night as they glided through their first inaugural dance to the Etta James classic. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Obama takes power, urges unity vs. ‘raging storms’: Before a jubilant crowd of more than a million, Barack Hussein Obama claimed his place in history as America’s first black president, summoning a dispirited nation to unite in hope against the “gathering clouds and raging storms” of war and economic woe. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Sen. Kennedy OK after seizure at Obama’s luncheon: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, ill with a brain tumor, was hospitalized Tuesday but quickly reported feeling well after suffering a seizure at a post-inauguration luncheon for President Barack Obama. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Relationship gets official for Roberts and Obama: Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Barack Obama as president Tuesday in the first of what could be many important interactions for the two men of differing politics who rose quickly to power. The encounter was briefly awkward after Obama stepped on Roberts’ opening lines from the 35-word constitutionally prescribed oath of office. The chief justice then wandered into a verbal detour of his own. AP, 1-20-09
  • Thousands welcome the Bushes back to Texas: A large crowd in Waco greets former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, on Tuesday. George W. Bush basked in the warmth of an enthusiastic Texas crowd on Tuesday as thousands came from all across the state to welcome him home after eight years in the White House. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Gone to Texas: Bush returns to state he loves: Leaving the White House for the last time on Tuesday, President George W. Bush blew a kiss out the window of his presidential limousine, a gesture that capped an eight-year administration marked by two wars, recession and the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Bush exits White House, goes home to Texas: After eight years in office, Bush flew home to Texas, where he was welcomed at a rally in Midland, before ending the day at his Crawford ranch. – Reuters, 1-20-09
  • Staff emotional as President George W. Bush passes reins to Barack Obama: President Bush took a final solo stroll on the South Lawn and later blew a departing kiss to the White House on Tuesday to end two terms marked by crisis at home and abroad. – NY Daily News, 1-20-09
  • Obama Renovates WhiteHouse.gov: Before Barack Obama even finished taking the oath of office, the White House site switched over to the Obama administration’s version. Macon Phillips, who identified himself as the director of new media for the White House, wrote a post describing the features of the new site. NYT, 1-20-09
  • A Day of New Beginnings for Michelle Obama and Her Daughters: On Inauguration Day, President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, became the first black family to move into the White House. – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Inaugural prayers aim for a more diverse America: Evangelical pastor Rick Warren, whose participation drew criticism from liberals and gay rights groups, directly invoked Jesus as expected in his invocation, but did so personally. “I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life,” he prayed. He also quoted from the most important prayer in Judaism, the Sh’ma, when he said, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One,” and he called God “the compassionate and merciful one,” a phrase from Muslim devotion. “His was as inclusive a prayer as an evangelical can give,” said Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Obama inauguration: George Bush – the man who was no longer president: 43rd president leaves note in the Resolute desk for successor — Bushes head to Midland, Texas after ceremony – Guardian, UK, 1-20-09
  • In Bipartisan Appeal, Obama Praises McCain and Powell: In a major bipartisan appeal on the eve of his inauguration, Barack Obama held dinners Monday evening for Republicans Colin Powell and John McCain, praising both to the skies and perhaps making a down payment on future political success. – NYT, Caucus Blog, 1-19-09

IN FOCUS: OBAMA’S INAUGURAL ADDRESS

Inaugural speech“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America,” President Obama said. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address

    Transcript
    MP3 Download

  • My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.
    I thank President Bush for his service to our nation…… as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
    Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.
    The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
    So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
    That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age….
    Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.
    On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
    On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.
    We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
    In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.
    It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.
    Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom….
    This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.
    Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
    For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
    All this we can do. All this we will do….
    The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, hether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.
    Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end….
    And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.
    We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We’ll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan….
    And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, “Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
    For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.
    And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace….
    As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
    We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.
    And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
    For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies….
    Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old.
    These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.
    What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.
    This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
    This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
    This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
    So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.
    In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river.
    The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.
    At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
    “Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.”
    America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
    Thank you. God bless you.
    And God bless the United States of America.

QUOTES

Wave, President Bush

Quotes

  • President Obama Inaugural Balls Comments: Today was your day. Today was a day that represented all your efforts, all your faith, all your confidence in what’s possible in America. They said it couldn’t be done. And you did it….
    There is something in the spirit of the American people that insists on recreating this country when we get a little bit off course. That’s what powered this election, it’s what’s given our team the kind of energy that has allowed us to overcome extraordinary obstacles and given me so much confidence that our better days are ahead…. That this is not the end, this is the beginning….
    When you look at the history of this campaign, what started out as an improbable journey, where nobody gave us a chance, was carried forward by, was inspired by, was driven by, was energized by young people all across America….
    I can’t tell you how many people have come up to Michelle and myself and said, ‘You know, I was kind of skeptical, but then my daughter, she wouldn’t budge, she just told me I needed to vote for Obama.’ Or, ‘Suddenly I saw my son, he was out volunteering and knocking on doors and traveling and getting involved like never before.’ And so new generations inspired previous generations, and that’s how change happens in America. And as this is broadcast all around the world. We know that young people everywhere are in the process of imagining something different than what has come before. Where there is war, they imagine peace. Where there is hunger, they imagine people being able to feed themselves. Where there is disease, they imagine a public health system that works for everybody. Where there is bigotry, they imagine togetherness. The future will be in your hands if you are able to sustain the kind of energy and focus that you showed on this campaign. I promise you that America will get stronger and more united, more prosperous, more secure — you are going to make it happen, and Michelle and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts….
    Every day that I’m in the White House, I’ll try to serve you as well as you serve America. We will write the next great chapter in America’s story. – NYT, 1-20-09
  • George W. Bush Homecoming Speech in Midland, TX: “I always felt it was important to tackle the tough issues today and not try to them on to future presidents, and future generations. I never took an opinion poll to tell me what to think. And I’m coming home with my head held high and a sense of accomplishment.
    There were some good days and there were some tough days but every day was an honor to be your president. I gave it my all. Listen. Sometimes what I did wasn’t popular, but that’s okay, I always did what I thought was right….
    Popularity is as fleeting as the Texas wind; character and conscious are as sturdy as our oaks.
    History will be the judge of my decisions, but when I walked out of the Oval Office this morning, I left with the same values that I took to Washington eight years ago. And when I get home tonight and look in the mirror, I’m not going to regret what I see — except maybe some gray hair….
    My dad is America’s only sky-diving former president and that’s a title he’s going to keep.”
    In the morning, he said, he would make his wife coffee, “skim” the newspaper, call some friends, read a book, feed the dogs, go fishing, take a walk and by that time it will be 8 in the morning. “That’s what happens when you’re a type A personality. I told Laura I was excited about her cooking again — kinda. She told me she was excited about me mowing the lawn and taking out the trash –- it’s my new domestic agenda.
    I’m the first former president to be able to share the post-presidency with both my parents.
    I want people to be able to understand what it was like in the Oval Office when I had to make some of the tough decisions that I was called upon to make. History tends to take a little time for people to remember what happened and to have an objective accounting of what took place and I’d like to be a part of making a real history of this administration come to life.” NYT, 1-20-09
Bushes and ObamasIn an inaugural tradition, the Bushes welcomed the Obamas to the White House for tea. Michelle Obama’s outfit was designed by Isabel Toledo. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)
  • Bush Says Decisions in Office Kept America Safe From Attack: President Bush says in his farewell address that he is “filled with gratitude,” and that the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama represents a “moment of hope and pride” for the country.
    Fellow citizens, for eight years, it has been my honor to serve as your president. The first decade of this new century has been a period of consequence, a time set apart.
    Tonight, with a thankful heart, I have asked for a final opportunity to share some thoughts on the journey we have traveled together and the future of our nation….
    Tonight, I am filled with gratitude to Vice President Cheney and members of the administration; to Laura, who brought joy to this house and love to my life; to our wonderful daughters, Barbara and Jenna; to my parents, whose examples have provided strength for a lifetime.
    And above all, I thank the American people for the trust you have given me. I thank you for the prayers that have lifted my spirits. And I thank you for the countless acts of courage, generosity and grace that I have witnessed these past eight years.
    This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house, September 11, 2001. That morning, terrorists took nearly 3,000 lives in the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor….
    As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation. And I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe.
    Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists’ movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots….
    There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil. This is a tribute to those who toil night and day to keep us safe — law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, homeland security and diplomatic personnel, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
    Our nation is blessed to have citizens who volunteer to defend us in this time of danger. I have cherished meeting these selfless patriots and their families. And America owes you a debt of gratitude. And to all our men and women in uniform listening tonight: There has been no higher honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief….
    Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I’ve always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.
    The decades ahead will bring more hard choices for our country, and there are some guiding principles that should shape our course.
    While our nation is safer than it was seven years ago, the gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack. Our enemies are patient, and determined to strike again. America did nothing to seek or deserve this conflict. But we have been given solemn responsibilities, and we must meet them. We must resist complacency. We must keep our resolve. And we must never let down our guard.
    ….In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad. If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led.
    As we address these challenges — and others we cannot foresee tonight — America must maintain our moral clarity. I’ve often spoken to you about good and evil, and this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two of them there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense — and to advance the cause of peace.
    President Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” As I leave the house he occupied two centuries ago, I share that optimism. America is a young country, full of vitality, constantly growing and renewing itself. And even in the toughest times, we lift our eyes to the broad horizon ahead.
    I have confidence in the promise of America because I know the character of our people. This is a nation that inspires immigrants to risk everything for the dream of freedom. This is a nation where citizens show calm in times of danger, and compassion in the face of suffering. We see examples of America’s character all around us….
    In citizens like these, we see the best of our country – resilient and hopeful, caring and strong. These virtues give me an unshakable faith in America. We have faced danger and trial, and there’s more ahead. But with the courage of our people and confidence in our ideals, this great nation will never tire, never falter, and never fail.
    It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your President. There have been good days and tough days. But every day I have been inspired by the greatness of our country, and uplifted by the goodness of our people. I have been blessed to represent this nation we love. And I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other – citizen of the United States of America.
    And so, my fellow Americans, for the final time: Good night. May God bless this house and our next President. And may God bless you and our wonderful country. Thank you. – Fox News, 1-15-09
  • Cheney Mocks Biden, Defends Rumsfeld in ‘FOX News Sunday’ Interview: In one of his last interviews before leaving Washington, D.C., Vice President Cheney, a 40-year veteran of Washington politics, tried to straighten out a few misconceptions about his tenure and the way the executive and legislative branches are supposed to work.
    He also said that all the powers and responsibilities of the executive branch are laid out in Article I of the Constitution. Well, they’re not. Article I of the Constitution is the one on the legislative branch. Joe’s been chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate for 36 years, teaches constitutional law back in Delaware, and can’t keep straight which article of the Constitution provides for the legislature and which provides for the executive. So I think I’d write that off as campaign rhetoric. I don’t take it seriously.
    If he wants to diminish the office of the vice president, that’s obviously his cal. President-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president and apparently, from the way they’re talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I have had during my time….
    The president of the United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States. He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen.
    He doesn’t have to check with anybody. He doesn’t have to call the Congress. He doesn’t have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in.
    I did disagree with the decision. The president doesn’t always take my advice.
    We’ve been here for eight years now, eventually you wear out your welcome in this business but I’m very comfortable with where we are and what we’ve achieved substantively. And frankly I would not want to be one of those guys who spends all his times reading the polls. I think people like that shouldn’t serve in these jobs. – Fox News, 1-21-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

(Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Obama speech draws on past inaugurations”: “I think the message he wanted to convey was to give a sober, serious, laundry-list, speech. The point was the campaign is over and it’s time to work,” Princeton University presidential historian Julian Zelizer said.
    “He spoke about trying to find which government programs worked and which didn’t, to overcome old divisions,” he said, noting Obama’s use of a biblical line from Corinthians to urge the nation “to set aside childish things”.
    “If this turns into an FDR-like Hundred Days, I think the overall tenor of the address will be what we discuss rather than one line or another,” Zelizer added. – The Age, Australia, 1-20-09
  • Timothy Garton Ash “Obama Promises the World a Renewed America “: “We have entered a period of historical transition in which the United States will become first among equals, rather than simply top dog, hyperpower and unquestioned hegemon,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European studies at Oxford. “But for Europeans, it may be a case of being careful what you wish for, because the Obama administration is likely to say, ‘Good, then put your money where your mouth is, and in the first place, put more troops in Afghanistan.’” – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Julian Zelizer “A fitting speech for a time of a crisis”: And for Princeton professor Julian Zelizer, one line particularly stood out: “One of the most important lines was ‘What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them.’ If any of our recent presidents had said this, the line would quickly be forgotten, more false promises by the new kid in town,” Zelizer says. “But this time it seems different. Never has there been a leader whose presidency in itself is a sign that the possibility of change is real in American politics.” – First Post, UK, 1-20-09
  • Historians Offer Post-Speech Analysis: Video Online – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • ELLEN FITZPATRICK, University of New Hampshire “Obama Claims Presidency, Cites Challenges Ahead”: The suddenness of it I think is striking in one sense, and yet one could argue that it took our entire history to get us to the place that we are today, that is, we crossed the threshold of American history today. This was truly a historic moment in electing and inaugurating our first African-American president. And I think the day was very rich in history. And the people on the mall came because they were conscious of that and moved by it. You could feel it and see it in the crowd.
    I think it’s actually — I dissent a little bit, I think, from the sentiment that’s shaping up and to say that I think it was an extraordinarily powerful speech. And the pageantry and that element that Richard just mentioned was surely there, but embedded in it was a critique that we have strayed far from our founding. He asked us to choose our better history, and it was an unvarnished view of American history that he offered. There was that phrase, “We have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, but we’ve triumphed over these tragedies and the hatred of our past.” And so, in that sense, he was seizing the historic occasion of his inauguration and using it as a way to call Americans back to their origins. And there was a critique here of where we’ve been. He said, “We don’t have to choose between our safety and our ideals.” That, to me, was a reference to the abrogation, or so he would argue, I would say, from those ideals through the war on terror. So it was a very powerful cry to remake America by drawing on our fundamental historical values.
    Well, I think in some ways that it was somber in the way these speeches tend to be. I think that, in a sense, as an African-American, he writes in his biography about remaking himself, by going back to the well of the past, that he’s called America back to the well of its own past. And I think in evoking segregation, the civil war and the tragedies of America’s racial history, in a sense, as an African-American, he is singularly well-placed to be mindful that history is full of tragedy. He’ll be the least surprised, I suspect, of any president about the tragedies that may unfold under his watch. – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • PENIEL JOSEPH, Brandeis University “Obama Claims Presidency, Cites Challenges Ahead”: Well, in terms of historically, there’s very few days that actually transform the aesthetics of our democracy. The memory that this day invokes the most is probably the march on Washington, August 28, 1963. Forty-five years and five months ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., came to the Lincoln Memorial with really an expansive vision of American democracy. In that speech, King talked about the previous 100 years, especially the civil war, slavery. In this speech, the president-elect really — or the president really elegantly evoked race. He didn’t make race the central point of his speech, but he acknowledged the notion of slavery, the notion of Jim Crow segregation, and the notion that his father actually couldn’t have been seated at a restaurant 45 years ago.
    Well, three speeches come to mind. One, FDR’s first inauguration in 1933, where he really had an expansive critique of capitalism sort of run amok. In 1941, FDR has a speech where he talks about democracy and uses the word democracy about two dozen times in his inaugural address and basically makes the argument that democracy will not die because the spirit and faith of American people won’t let it die. And the final one is John F. Kennedy, Kennedy’s speech about a new generation of Americans and a new generation taking the leadership. Obama’s speech really evokes all of that, but the twist is really the iconography. I think one of the reasons why some of the commentators are saying that the speech was only good and not great is because the pageantry, like Richard talked about and Ellen talked about, is really overwhelming all of us. But when you really read the speech — and I’m not sure this crowd got the substantive nature of this speech — the speech substantively matches the overwhelming symbolism of the day.
    Well, I agree. I concur. I think that this speech really links the notion of race in a democracy in an expansive way. Historically, race has been a paradoxical part of American democracy. In this speech, we crossed the Rubicon, so to speak, as a nation, not turning the page on racism, but turning the page on really a tragic racial past. And it makes an argument that race actually is a strength of the democracy, rather than a weakness. – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • RICHARD BROOKHISER, National Review “Obama Claims Presidency, Cites Challenges Ahead”: Well, no, you can’t, but I was struck today by the kind of pageant of confirmation that this whole day was. And there have been some of those in the American past, where people sort of collectively get together and say, “Yes, we like this. This is good.” Washington’s First Inaugural was like that. The government was new. The Constitution was new. The great war hero was coming back to lead it. You know, he went from Mount Vernon to New York. It was like a six-day triumphal progress. And then the numbers were much smaller, but in terms of percentage of population, it was maybe equal or even greater to the turnout we had today. But it was just like a collective embracing of the moment and saying, “We’re happy to be here.” And I got a feeling of that watching this day as it unfolded.
    Well, it was, but, you know, history always gives people surprises. Now, eight years ago, George W. Bush was coming in, and he did not imagine he was going to be fighting two wars. I mean, no one would have. And there was a foreign policy component of this speech. He did mention that. He made the points that you touched on. He also addressed our enemies and said, “We will defeat you.” But, you know, the enemies will have the freedom of action, also. And they will try and pick and choose their battles. And now all those phone calls are coming to our new president, many of which we will never hear about, but, you know, the killers are out there. They’re still after us. Now there’s a new commander- in-chief who will have to deal with them.
    Well, you know, we have a sense of where he would like to go, and now the work begins. And it was a very, I think, kind of an ambitious, if open-ended sort of a vision, but, you know, now there’s — now the follow-up will come. – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • Gil Troy “Religious Figures, Kennedy, Oprah Nab Hot Inauguration Seats Obama Families Seen Alongside Politicians, Celebs at the Hotly Anticipated Event “: “The simple fact that they give a ticket to one person and not others … becomes tremendously important,” said Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University in Montreal, and a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. “You are setting up a historic tableau. … Each one of them [the guests] is carrying a different part of the narrative, not just your personal narrative but being weaved into the political narrative of United States history.”…
    “It needs to be used carefully and effectively so that you can turn all this symbolic hour into real political opportunity and power,” Troy said. “The inauguration has to be an opportunity of looking forward to starting the presidency.” – ABC News, 1-20-09
  • Nikki Brown “A Day of New Beginnings for Michelle Obama and Her Daughters”: “A part of what this family is going to do is to show that families of color are not so different,” said Nikki Brown, an assistant professor of history at the University of New Orleans. “That’s what I see, when I see them on TV: a working father, a working mother, a grandmother that cares for the babies, children that are doing well in school,” Ms. Brown said. “That’s a narrative that the country is still trying to create a language for, normal families of color.” – NYT, 1-20-09
Barack and Michelle Obama danced to Beyoncé Knowles singing “At Last.” (Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times)

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Commander in Chief Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum in Washington, Tuesday. AP/Charles DharapakDancing queen: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Commander in Chief Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum in Washington, Tuesday. AP/Charles Dharapak

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