Political Highlights May 19, 2011: President Obama’s Speech on the Middle East Advocates Israel Returning to Pre-1967 Borders — Israel Reacts

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

IN FOCUS

  • Obama Backs Mideast Plan Based on 1967 Borders: Declaring that “the dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” President Obama said that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must embody two sovereign states based on pre-1967 borders.

THE HEADLINES….

  • As Obama Endorses ’67 Borders, Netanyahu Objects: President Obama’s endorsement on Thursday of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute based on the 1967 borders — the first time an American president has explicitly endorsed those borders as the baseline for negotiations over a Palestinian state — prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to push back and the Palestinian leadership to call an urgent meeting.
    Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement just before boarding a plane to Washington that while he appreciated Mr. Obama’s commitment to peace, he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of American commitments made to Israel in 2004 which were overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress.”
    Those commitments came in a letter from President George W. Bush that stated, among other things, that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” which was another way of describing the 1967 boundaries…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama Endorses 1967 Borders for Israel: Seeking to harness the seismic political change still unfolding in the Arab world, President Obama for the first time on Thursday publicly called for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would create a non-militarized Palestinian state on the basis of Israel’s borders before 1967.
    “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent that ever,” he said.
    Although Mr. Obama said that “the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians remain to be negotiated, including the searing questions of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, he spoke with striking frustration that efforts to support an agreement had so far failed. “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said.
    The outline for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement came in what the president called “a moment of opportunity” following six months of political upheaval that has at times left the administration scrambling to keep up. The speech was an attempt to articulate a cohesive American policy to an Arab Spring that took a dark turn as the euphoria of popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt gave way to violent crackdowns in Bahrain and Syria, a civil war in Libya and political stalemate in Yemen…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama Speech Backlash on Call to Reinstate 1967 Mideast Borders: President Obama’s call this afternoon for Israel and Palestine to redraw boundaries based on 1967 lines has already generated backlash.
    “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” the president said in a wide-ranging, Mideast speech at the State Department.
    “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
    The suggestion landed with a thud in Israel, where some skeptics worry that such a border makes the country less secure. The country will object to any “indefensible” borders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
    “The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel’s existence,” said Netanyahu, who is expected to arrive here in Washington Friday.
    Netanyahu’s office tweeted its clear disapproval of the president’s reference to the 1967 borders.
    “Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress,” the office wrote on Twitter. “Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.”… – ABC News, 5-19-11
  • Obama pledges new aid to Mideast nations embracing democracy: Under pressure from key allies to act more decisively on several volatile issues in the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama on Thursday promised new U.S. aid to nations that embrace democracy while he also condemned attacks on demonstrators, notably in Syria.
    Saying that the future of the United States is bound to the region in a number of ways, Obama said he was focused on “how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.”
    In what was billed as a major speech meant to define U.S. interests in the region amid the wave of change known as the Arab Spring, Obama was unveiling a series of economic initiatives to encourage democracy there, including aid for Tunisia and a total of $2 billion in debt relief and loan guarantees for Egypt’s fledgling government.
    Speaking at the State Department before an audience of U.S. diplomats, administration officials and foreign envoys, Obama made his first broad attempt to place the region’s wave of popular uprisings, which have swept away autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt and threatened several others, in the context of American interests and values. Aides said he felt it was importrant to address the armed rebellion in Libya, the uprising in Syria and the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
    The speech was aimed in part at reassuring allies alarmed by what they perceive as drift in Obama’s policy in the rapidly changing region, after weeks when Osama bin Laden’s killing and a domestic debate over the national debt took center stage…. – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Obama Lays Out U.S. Policy on Arab World Amid Uprisings: With a backdrop of continuing anti-government protests in the Arab world and criticism from some corners over a perceived uneven U.S. response, President Obama said in a major policy speech Thursday that the U.S. would use its influence and economic power to support the region’s transitions to democracy.
    “Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States,” he said.
    The president said that for decades, the United States has pursued a set of interests, including countering terrorism, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, securing the flow of commerce and security in the region, and standing up for Israel’s security along with pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.
    And while the U.S. would continue to do these things, “we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind,” he said.
    President Obama also acknowledged that “we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force — no matter how well-intended it may be.”… – PBS Newshour, 5-19-11
  • Barack Obama throws full US support behind Middle East uprisings: • President unveils shift in US policy towards Arab countries
    • ‘Status quo not sustainable,’ he warns region’s autocracies
    • Sets out two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    • Tells Syria’s Assad to lead transition or ‘get out of way’
    Barack Obama has sought to realign US policy on the Middle East, promising to shift from the long-held American backing for autocratic regimes to support for pro-democracy movements – and pledging to set out the shape of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
    “The status quo is not sustainable,” Obama said in a major speech at the state department in Washington on Thursday, the first on the Middle East since he spoke in Cairo in 2009.
    In a speech dubbed Cairo 2, he threw US weight behind the protesters, saying: “We face a historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator … After decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.”
    He was addressing criticism that America has moved too slowly in response to the pro-democracy movements sweeping the region.
    As well as support for the newly emerging democracies in Egypt and Tunisia, he criticised long-term US allies such as Bahrain, where America has a large naval base, for its suppression of democracy movements…. – Guardian UK, 5-19-11
  • President Obama has message for Mideast regimes: We’ll give you aid, if you promote reform: President Obama proposed billions in economic aid Thursday to reward Mideast regimes that reform, delivering a much-hyped speech on U.S. policy toward a region rocked by upheaval.
    “Square by square, town by town, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights,” Obama told an audience at the U.S. State Department. “And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics, security, by history, by faith.”
    Obama embraced the sea change triggered in Tunisia and vowed to support the growing freedom movement across the Arab world.
    “We have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals,” Obama said.
    “The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they’re built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.”… – NY Daily News, 5-19-11
  • Obama Addresses ‘Extraordinary Change’ in Middle East, North Africa: ‘In Libya, we had a mandate to take action,’ says President Obama. ‘Syrian government must stop unjustified arrests of protesters.’
    U.S. President Barack Obama has welcomed the “extraordinary change” taking place in the Middle East and North Africa, but said too many countries have met the calls for change with violence.
    Mr. Obama, speaking Thursday at the State Department, said the most extreme example is Libya, where he said Moammar Gadhafi launched a war against his own people. He said thousands of people would have been killed in Libya if the United States and its partners did not act.
    He said Syria has also chosen the “path of murder and mass arrests.” Mr. Obama called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to either lead a transition to democracy or “get out the way.” He called on the Syrian government to stop shooting protestors, allow peaceful protests and stop unjust arrests.
    Mr. Obama noted that in the last six months two leaders have been replaced in the Middle East and North Africa, and he said “more may follow” as people rise up to demand their basic rights.
    He said it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region and support a transition to democracy. He said that effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia…. – VOA, 5-19-11
  • The speech that signals a Washington-Jerusalem collision: Analysis: The tone of Netanyahu’s response to the Obama speech made clear that he disliked it more than he liked it.
    US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seemed on a collision course following Obama’s speech Thursday night where the president called for a return to the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed-upon land swaps.
    Netanyahu’s position, which he highlighted in an unexpectedly negative response to the president’s speech, is that the 1967 lines are indefensible.
    Although Obama made an effort to give some points to Israel and some to the Palestinians, in the final analysis he essentially adopted the Palestinian position that the 1967 lines – and not defensible borders – should be the baseline of any agreement.
    Obama also adopted the Palestinian position that was a point of sharp contention during the proximity, or indirect, talks last year: that the negotiations should start with borders and security. Israel’s position was that all the core issues, including Jerusalem and the refugee issue, should be discussed simultaneously so that the Palestinians, and not only Israel, will have to make concessions.
    Obama also seemed to rule out a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, as Netanyahu has demanded, saying the Palestinian state should border on Egypt, Israel and Jordan – meaning that the Palestinians, and not Israel, would control the border to the east.
    The elements of the speech that were pleasant to Netanyahu’s ears were the US president’s call for a return to negotiations; his unequivocal dismissal of the Palestinian effort to isolate Israel at the UN in September by bringing a resolution calling for recognition of a Palestinian state; his questioning of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation; and his strong words of commitment to Israel’s security.
    But the tone of Netanyahu’s response to the overall speech made clear that he disliked it more than he liked it – and all this before his five-day trip to Washington began. – JPost, 5-19-11
  • Netanyahu: ‘67 borders ‘indefensible': Benjamin Netanyahu responded to President Obama’s call for negotiations based on the 1967 borders by saying those borders are “indefensible” for Israel.
    Instead, the Israeli prime minister urged Obama to reaffirm commitments made by President George W. Bush regarding Israel’s borders.
    “Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.”
    In his Thursday policy address at the State Department, Obama had said that the borders of a “sovereign, nonmilitarized” Palestinian state “should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
    Netanyahu’s office said in response that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.”
    “Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. “Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel.”
    The statement also reiterated the prime minister’s insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people” and that Israel retain a military presence along the Jordan River.
    Obama contradicted one element of that in his speech when he said he envisions a permanent Palestinian state with a border with Jordan.
    Netanyahu’s statement also said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “seeks a Palestinian state in order to continue the conflict with Israel,” citing his unity agreement with Hamas and recent statements by the Palestinian leader. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Israeli leader reacting to Obama speech: West Bank pullout would leave Israel indefensible: In his speech, Obama endorsed the Palestinian position on the borders of their future state, saying it should be based on Israel’s lines before the 1967 Mideast war. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the fighting, and the Palestinians claim those areas for their state.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned to convene a meeting with senior officials as soon as possible to decide on the next steps, said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
    Abbas is determined “to give President Obama’s effort and that of the international community the chance they deserve,” Erekat said.
    The U.S., the international community and even past Israeli governments have endorsed a settlement based on the 1967 lines, but Obama was far more explicit than in the past. His position appeared to put him at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not accepted the concept.
    Reacting to Obama’s speech, Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a full withdrawal from the West Bank, saying the 1967 lines were “indefensible” and would leave major Jewish settlements outside Israel. Netanyahu rejects any pullout from east Jerusalem…. – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel must act boldly: In major policy speech, President Obama says ‘Israel must act boldly to advance lasting peace,’ stresses status quo ‘unsustainable.’ Border between Israel, Palestinians to be based on 1967 lines, he says
    Israel must act boldly in order to advance a peace agreement with the Palestinians, President Barack Obama said in his highly anticipated Mideast policy speech Thursday, presenting his vision for future negotiations.
    “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” he said.
    “There are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward (on peace,)” Obama said. “I disagree… the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.”
    Obama blamed both Israel and the Palestinians for failing to meet expectations in their pursuit of peace thus far.
    “Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks,” he said.
    Turning his attention to the Jewish State, the president stressed that America’s friendship with Israel “is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.”
    Obama noted that America’s committed to Israel’s security is “unshakable,” but added that “precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”… – YNet News, 5-19-11
  • Obama: 1967 borders with swaps should serve as basis for negotiations: President Obama said the future state of Palestine should be based on the pre-1967 border with mutually agreed land swaps with Israel.
    In his address Thursday afternoon on U.S. policy in the Middle East, Obama told an audience at the State Department that the borders of a “sovereign, nonmilitarized” Palestinian state “should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
    Negotiations should focus first on territory and security, and then the difficult issues of the status of Jerusalem and what to do about the rights of Palestinian refugees can be breached, Obama said.
    “Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and secuertiy does not mean it will be easy to come back to the table,” Obama said, noting the new unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, a group foreswarn to Israel’s destruction.
    “How can one negotiate with a party that shows itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Obama said. “Palestinians have to provide a credible answer to that question.”
    The U.S. president did not announce a specific initiative to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.
    The speech, which focused mostly on the Arab democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world, marked the first time Obama formally declared that the pre-Six Day War borders should form the basis of negotiations. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel-Palestine Borders Should Be on 1967 Lines: In his speech on Thursday morning regarding Middle East policy, American President Barack Obama declared that a two-state solution is imperative to the security of the middle east, and that the borders must be based on the 1967 borders of the state of Israel with agreed upon territorial exchange. This, the president claims will provide “security” for both sides.
    “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
    As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.”
    The President also stated that nothing can go forward without full Palestinian recognition of the state of Israel on the side of the Palestinians, as well as full cooperation and change of policy from Hamas. Hamas recently signed a formal accord with its opposing party Fatah, and while no leader has yet been named to head this new party, it is clear that this new marriage of Palestinian leaders is not in Israel’s best interest as Hamas has declared repeatedly that all Jews should be killed and Israel does not actually exist.
    Recently, a Hamas official stated that while Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, it will not agree to recognize Israel formally as the “future generations” must be given the opportunity to “liberate the lands.”
    Briefly addressing the upcoming declaration of a unilateral Palestinian state by the United Nations in September, President Obama reiterated American support of Israel multiple times. “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection… Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.” – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel, Palestine borders must be based on 1967 lines: Obama says status quo in Mideast and North Africa is not sustainable, stresses U.S. opposes use of violence, oppression against people of the region.
    President Barack Obama said Thursday that the U.S. endorses the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.
    “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. “
    U.S. President Barack Obama urged Palestinians and Israelis to renew peace talks on Thursday, and stressed that the Palestinians’ efforts to delegitimize Israel will fail.
    “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state,” Obama said. “Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”
    “As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”… – Haaretz, 5-19-11
  • Obama: America’s future bound to Middle East: President Barack Obama says the future of the U.S. is bound to the Middle East and North Africa by the forces of economics, security, history and fate.
    Obama opened a major speech on U.S. policy in the region by trying to tell Americans why it matters to them even though the countries “may be a great distance from our shores.”
    He made the comments at the State Department Thursday in speech meant as his first comprehensive response to revolts sweeping the Arab world. It was aimed at audiences in the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa, where the State Department was providing simultaneous translation in Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew.
    In his remarks, Mr. Obama addressed the Israel-Palestine conflict, and, in a move that will likely infuriate Israel, endorsed the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war. Israel says the borders of Palestinian state have to be determined through negotiations.
    Mr. Obama sided with the Palestinians’ opening position a day ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is vehemently opposed to referring to the 1967 borders.
    Until Thursday, the U.S. position had been that the Palestinian goal of a state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, should be reconciled with Israel’s desire for a secure Jewish state through negotiations…. – CBS News, 5-19-11
  • ZOA to AIPAC: Withdraw Obama invite: The Zionist Organization of America urged AIPAC to rescind its invitation to President Obama after he called for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the basis of 1967 lines, saying Obama is the most hostile U.S. president ever to Israel.
    “We urge AIPAC to rescind the invitation for President Obama to speak and we urge friends of Israel and enemies of Islamist terrorism to contact your Members of Congress to fight against Obama’s anti-Israel policy,” said the ZOA’s statement Thursday. ZOA President Morton Klein added, “President Obama is the most hostile president to Israel ever.”
    Obama is set to address the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday.
    The ZOA statement on Thursday “strongly condemned President Obama’s Mideast speech given today promoting and supporting the establishment of a Hamas/Fatah/Iran terrorist state on the Auschwitz 1967 indefensible armistice lines.”
    Obama called for negotiations to be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.Obama is the first president to explicitly call for such a basis for negotiations, although predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have alluded to it.
    Other Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, praised Obama’s speech for rejecting any unilateral attempt to declare Palestinian statehood and for criticizing Fatah for its pact with Hamas.
    Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. Netanyahu is also set to speak to AIPAC. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • What Arabs want to hear (or not hear) from Obama speech: In contrast with Obama’s major speech two years ago in Cairo, today’s address on the Middle East has generated little interest in Egypt. But Libyans and Syrians have higher hopes…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East Speech Has Many American Audiences: Thursday’s speech by President Obama on the upheaval in the Middle East is aimed at a global audience. But it will also play out in a domestic — and political — context as Mr. Obama seeks a second term in the White House.
    Since taking office, Mr. Obama has sought to strike a balance between reaching out to the Muslim world while also combating terrorism and pushing for progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The as-yet unfulfilled promise of that approach, which he described in a speech in Cairo in 2009, helped win him the Nobel Peace Prize early in his presidency.
    But the effort to construct a cohesive narrative for American voters about his administration’s efforts in the region has proved more difficult. The peace process has been largely halted. The move away from Bush-era terrorism policies has gone more slowly than expected. And the uprisings in the Arab world have forced case-by-case decisions that sometimes appear contradictory…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East speech — how far will he go?: We know many of the topics President Obama will discuss in this morning’s Middle East speech. The question is: How far will he go?
    For example, we suspect Obama will talk about the sanctions his government slapped yesterday on Syrian President Bashar Assad. But will he call on Assad to step aside in light of his government’s attacks on pro-democracy protesters?
    Obama is also expected to call for revived peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, despite recent clashes between the two. But how much pressure will he put on either side, especially with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming to town for a presidential meeting on Friday?
    We know that Obama will announce plans for new economic aid to Tunisia and Egypt, countries that actually threw off authoritarian governments earlier this year; but how much money does that involve?… – USA Today, 5-19-11
  • Obama Speech to Test Extent of U.S. Influence: When President Barack Obama outlines his vision of U.S. policy in the Middle East today, his challenge will be to get people in the region to care.
    The excitement generated by Obama’s call two years ago for a “new beginning” in U.S.-Arab relations evaporated as people waited for changes that haven’t come, said Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations and others who study the region.
    As protests have swept the Arab world, toppling some leaders and challenging others, U.S. influence has been diminished by a response seen as cautious and inconsistent, Danin and other analysts said. And the U.S. has suffered some very public diplomatic setbacks in dealing with Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and the Israelis and Palestinians.
    “It’s not clear what the United States says right now matters to the people of the Middle East,” Danin said. “The people of the Arab world are more interested in seeing what the United States does, not what it has to say.”… – Bloomberg, 5-19-11
  • Focus Is on Obama as Tensions Soar Across Mideast: Few game-changing proposals are emerging to defuse tensions in the Middle East as a busy week of diplomacy unfolds with President Obama’s address to the region and his meeting with Israel’s prime minister.
    Against the backdrop of Middle East uprisings that have intensified animus toward Israel and growing momentum for global recognition of a Palestinian state, American and Israeli officials are struggling to balance national security interests against the need to adapt to a transformative movement in the Arab world.
    The White House unveiled a $2 billion multiyear economic aid package for Egypt, which officials say would largely shift existing funds. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel prepared to arrive in Washington with a package that he hoped would shift the burden of restarting the peace process to the Palestinians.
    Mr. Obama, who is set to address Americans — and, more significantly, Muslims around the world — from the State Department on Thursday morning, may yet have something surprising up his sleeve. One administration official said that there remained debate about whether Mr. Obama would formally endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state, a move that would send an oratorical signal that the United States expected Israel to make concessions…. – NYT, 5-18-11

QUOTES

  • Moment of Opportunity: President Obama on the Middle East & North Africa: In a major speech at the State Department, President Obama laid out his vision for a new chapter in American diplomacy as calls for reform and democracy spread across the Middle East and North Africa. He made clear that the United States will support people who call for democracy and reform and leaders who implement them, will oppose violence in cracking down on protests and efforts to limit the rights of minorities, and continue to work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
    Fact Sheet: Economic Support for the Middle East and North Africa Fact Sheet: “A Moment of Opportunity” in the Middle East and North AfricaWH, 5-19-11
  • TEXT: Obama’s Mideast Speech: Following is a text of President Obama’s prepared speech on the Middle East, delivered on Thursday in Washington, as released by the White House:
    I want to thank Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark – one million frequent flyer miles. I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.
    The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith.
    Today, I would like to talk about this change – the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already, we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader – Osama bin Laden.
    Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build.
    Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Clinton introduces Obama address, says US vital in Mideast: Opening US President Barak Obama’s Middle East speech on Thursday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that the “president’s clear vision, and pure principles” show the “indispensable role [the US] must play in the Middle East.”
    Clinton said “America’s leadership is more essential than ever,” and that the “US must lead in a new and innovative way.” She thanked the State Department, where Obama was speaking, for doing work “engaging with citizens in the streets and through social networks as [Middle East citizens] move from protests to politics.”… – JPost, 5-19-11
  • Netanyahu’s Office Tweets Disapproving Response to President Obama’s Speech: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office twitter account — run by Dr. Eitan Eliram, new media director of the prime minister’s office –- sent out a rapid succession of tweets stating clear disapproval with the president’s reference to the 1967 borders:
    “Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state… cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state,” the tweets state. “That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress. Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines. Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel. Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace. Equally, the Palestinians, and not just the United States, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and any peace agreement with them must end all claims against Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.”… – ABC News, 5-19-11
  • Mitt Romney: Obama threw Israel ‘under the bus’ in speech: President Obama “has thrown Israel under the bus,” potential rival Mitt Romney said in a statement responding to the president’s speech on Middle East policy Thursday
    The former Massachusetts governor criticizes Obama for endorsing a call for Israel to withdraw to borders that were in place before the 1967 war in the interests of achieving peace.
    “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said. “He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”… – LAT, 5-19-11
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R), another candidate seeking to challenge Obama, later reacted more broadly to the policy Obama outlined for the region: “No speech can make up for the lost time and opportunity President Obama has squandered,” he said. “The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies.”
  • President Obama’s Suicide Speech for Israel: McCotter’s Statement re President Obama’s Middle East Speech: In response to President Obama’s address on the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. Representative Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI) has issued the following statement:
    In his latest lecture to the Middle East, an ideologically purblind President Obama has again failed to acknowledge the facts on the ground, much to the detriment of American and Israeli strategic interests.
    …Such strategic celerity, though, is lacking in the Obama Administration. For, as is becoming abundantly clear, its missteps and missed opportunities stem from the President’s inconstant commitment to the strategic partnership that founds America’s Middle Eastern policies for our national security and regional peace: the American-Israeli alliance.
    Israel is a market-based, liberal democracy that protects the lives and property of its people, including its minorities.
    Israel is America’s key strategic ally in the region. Israel enhances our defense capabilities; provides us a secure foothold in the strategically important and turbulent Middle East; and has supported our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by sharing its military technology and its intelligence on hostile forces.
    Israel is under a constant and increasing threat from terrorist forces, such as Hamas and Hezbollah; instability on its borders; and the hatred of hostile nations, notably Iran and Syria, that seek our ally’s demise.
    Already, due to the Obama administration’s bungling, radical political forces in Egypt are promising to press for the abrogation of the Camp David accords with Israel, both as a matter of law and a matter of fact.
    Inexcusably, the President’s opining and overtures have caused America’s and Israel’s shared strategic interests to decline in the Arab world – as has, not ironically, America’s popularity.
    Now must end the Obama Administration’s pressure upon our ally to make dangerous strategic concessions, which the President has done since entering office. Indeed, from day one the President has misunderstood and mangled the peace process, demanding concessions on Israeli settlements that the Palestinians had never made a precondition in negotiations. In return, all the President has reaped is the Palestinian National Authority pulling out of negotiations and endeavoring to have the United Nations foist a Palestinian state upon Israel without any direct negotiations. Moreover, the President’s “policies” have done nothing to stem the Palestinian national authority allying with the terrorists of Hamas, who are pledged to Israel’s destruction.
    Today’s speech repeats the injurious canards of forcing unilateral concessions on Israel; and claiming Hamas is becoming “moderate”. This is naïve at best, and, in reality, a foolish and dangerous misreading of a terrorist group that is America’s and Israel’s enemy. Instead, The President should have made clear that, if the Palestinian Authority chooses Hamas, it has turned its back on peace and forfeited American support, aid and assistance.
    Bluntly, a continued destabilization of Israel’s security is a strategic sellout of the highest order, and a breaking of our solemn promise to our ally.
    Mideast peace will not result from arbitrarily and unilaterally imposed solutions that will, in consequence, only further destabilize the region. Peace will come when the Palestinians and the Arab nations accept Israel as a Jewish state, abandon their dreams of eradicating it; stop demonizing Israel; cease teaching their children to hate it; and, conversely, tolerate and protect the minorities in their midst. When this happens, the Israelis will have a true partner in peace, one with whom they can mutually work for liberty, prosperity and security in that long troubled land.
    Thus, to do otherwise in our strategic partnership with Israel, however unwittingly, would reveal President Obama’s failure to acknowledge President Kennedy’s sage advice: “The surest path to war is the path of weakness and disunity.”
    No, in the interests of peace and American and Israeli security, the President must acknowledge the truths underpinning our alliance; recognize those facts on the ground endangering our alliance; and, so doing, commence strengthening the foundations of the American-Israeli alliance; and the very hopes for Middle East peace. – The Hill, 5-19-11
  • Republican Jewish Committee: JC Executive Director Matt Brooks: RJC Concerned about Obama’s Call for Israel to Return to 1967 borders: Today the President called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based “on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Those borders, actually the 1949 armistice lines, are physically indefensible, as numerous military experts have plainly stated. Asking Israel to return to those borders is unacceptable and places Israel in a vulnerable and dangerous position.
    President Bush, in his 2004 letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon memorializing the position of the United States, made it clear that, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
    President Bush spoke often about Israel’s need for secure and defensible borders and recognized Israel’s legitimate claim to certain high-population Jewish areas, such as the immediate suburbs of Jerusalem, which are beyond the 1949 armistice line. In contrast, President Obama has consistently condemned even the building of housing in municipal Jerusalem itself. It is, in fact, President Obama’s insistence on a settlement freeze as a pre-condition to negotiations, more than anything else, that doomed his administration’s peace-making efforts. That stand emboldened Palestinian extremists, damaged the PA’s ability to negotiate, and forced Israelis to question the sincerity of the administration’s friendship.
    With that immediate history in mind, we are concerned that when President Obama speaks of “the 1967 borders,” he means borders for Israel that are much less secure and defensible and that put Israel at risk. – RJCHQ, 5-19-11
  • B’nai B’rith International commends and critiques: B’nai B’rith International commends President Obama for clearly reiterating U.S. support for Israel. The president noted the relationship between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared history and values and he strongly asserted that the commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable, while he affirmed that Israel is a Jewish state.
    It was also encouraging that the president spoke against unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, a measure the Palestinians are planning to bring before the United Nations in September….
    B’nai B’rith is concerned that the president is prejudging the outcome of the peace process by publicly calling for pre-1967 borders as a basis for a Palestinian state, with land swaps. Discussion about this difficult issue should be reserved for direct negotiations between the parties.
    Though he noted the issue of Palestinian refugees, B’nai B’rith is disappointed that the president failed to mention the one million Jewish refugees created at the same time. The issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is often overlooked. JTA, 5-19-11
  • Reactions to Obama’s Middle East speechLAT, 5-19-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, on Fox News: “This is a radical shift in US policy toward Israel. Frankly, the 1967 lines are not defensible. …… Israel today is 45 miles wide. You put us back to the ’67 lines, we are eight miles wide.”
  • Politico Arena: Did Obama lay out cohesive Middle East policy?Politico, 5-19-11
  • Was Obama’s speech too tough on Israel? Republican criticism mounts: Congressional appropriators voiced doubts about some aspects of Obama’s speech. But the most pointed criticism was from the GOP. ‘Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,’ Mitt Romney said…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • Tevi Troy: Three Reasons That Obama’s Speech Will Worry the Jewish Community: Laura Meckler had a piece in this morning’s Wall Street Journal about Jewish donors’ warning Obama not to push Israel too hard in his Middle East speech today. If she’s right about Jewish discomfort with Obama’s Middle East policies — and I think she is — Jewish donors and voters alike will not be comforted by Obama’s speech.
    There were three main problems with the address. The first is the way in which Obama explained the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It is notable that when Obama said, “Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks,” he put the Israeli action first. A plausible interpretation of this is that, in Obama’s view, Palestinians walked away as a result of Israel’s settlement activity, and the Palestinian walkaway is therefore justified.
    Second is that Obama did not demand an end to Palestinian misbehavior so much as predict, in a removed way, that such behavior will not serve them well:
    For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
    Compare this with Bush’s starker and more direct words on the subject in his June 24, 2002, speech:
    And the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure.
    When it comes to Israel, however, Obama returns to demand, rather than predictive, mode, saying that “Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
    Third, Obama placed few limits on his support for a two-state solution. He also minimized Israel’s security concerns and limited Israel’s negotiating leverage by calling for a state with 1967 borders, instead of letting the parties themselves hash out the parameters. Again, compare this with the words of Bush, who rightly made American support for a Palestinian state contingent on concrete Palestinian actions:
    If Palestinians embrace democracy, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror, they can count on American support for the creation of a provisional state of Palestine.
    All of this is not accidental. Presidential speeches are written and rewritten so that they convey specific messages.
    For these reasons, Obama has ample reason to worry about a poor reception when he speaks to a very pro-Israel audience at AIPAC this Sunday. In addition, Obama’s campaign goal of raising $1 billion becomes much harder if he loses major Jewish fundraisers. While Bush’s 2004 improvement in the polls among American Jews was relatively small — from 19 percent support in 2000 to 24 percent in 2004 — Bush also poached a number of significant fundraisers from the Democratic side because of his pro-Israel stance.
    Finally, Obama has reason to fear a poorer showing in the overall Jewish vote in 2012. More important, though, it’s not just Jewish voters Obama needs to worry about. Polls have consistently shown that Americans in general are supportive of Israel. Jews are only 2 percent of the population, but the percentage of Israel backers who will be going to the polls in 2012 will be much higher. – NRO, 5-19-11
  • Snap analysis: Obama’s Mideast speech had political message too: It may not have been a campaign speech, but President Barack Obama’s foreign policy address on Thursday sent a series of political messages that could resonate in his 2012 race to retain the White House.
    Standing in front of a row of American flags at the State Department, Obama directed his comments on U.S. policy to populations throughout the Middle East and North Africa, offering economic and political support for democratic reform.
    But the president had another target audience: voters at home.
    By spelling out U.S. positions on the war in Libya, violence in Syria, and roadblocks in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Obama addressed specific interest groups and crucial independent voters who use foreign policy as a criteria at the ballot box.
    Here is a look at the political implications of Obama’s speech:
    1) Prodding the peace process forward….
    2) Showing leadership on Libya — and Syria?…
    3) Using the optics…
    4) Making the Arab Spring relevant to America…. – Reuters, 5-19-11
  • In Obama’s Middle East Speech, a little something for everyone to hate: President Barack Obama may have impressed much of the Arab world with his 2009 Cairo speech. But today’s effort won’t be remembered nearly as fondly…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • President Obama Rewards Hamas: President Obama delivered an unprecedented rebuke of the Israeli people by an American president today. In words that were designed to reach more Muslim citizens than United States citizens, Obama called Israel’s legitimate West Bank settlements an “occupation”; and by calling for a return to the 1967 borders, he is calling for a divided Jerusalem. He continued to press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and, subsequently, with the “unity government” the PA has formed with the terrorist group, Hamas.
    It’s extremely troubling that President Obama would side with the Palestinian Authority in an effort to jump-start peace talks in the Middle East. President Obama is not the negotiator-in-chief for the Middle East and to make sweeping demands and characterizations not only hurts the peace process but also damages U.S.-Israeli relations.
    For decades, Israel has been our most important ally in the region. Sadly, with the President’s remarks, and decision to side with the Palestinian Authority, it appears he no longer believes that is the case. By endorsing the “unity government” he has rewarded Hamas – a terrorist organization that calls for the elimination of the Jews…. – Liberty Alerts, American Center for Law and Justice, 5-19-11
  • Obama speech greeted with skepticism, apathy in Mideast: President Obama’s vow that the United States will “stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights” in the Middle East was received with a mix of apathy and skepticism by people in the region who watched the speech Thursday night.
    Some said they saw little news or any discernible shift in policy from an administration that has struggled to formulate a coherent response to the wave of popular uprisings roiling the region this spring.
    “My hope was for an unqualified apology” for Obama’s perceived support of dictators, said Hossam Bahgat, a Cairo human rights activist who was among a handful of people who got up from his table to watch the speech at a popular downtown cafe. “And I thought only Obama could do that.”
    Baghat said he was expecting stronger words from a president who delivered a speech at Cairo University two years ago that left many in the Middle East feeling that the United States was backing away from its commitment to support democratic reform in the region.
    “The overwhelming sense was one of deja vu,” Bahgat said. “I kept waiting for Cairo II, but all I heard was Cairo I.”… – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Digesting Obama’s speech—some goes down easy, some hard: Within hours of President Obama’s Middle East policy speech, Israeli leaders and Jewish groups on the left and right were picking through his remarks on Israel, alternately praising, fretting and criticizing.
    The big news was that Obama called for negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines, with land swaps.
    “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” he said.
    That prompted a round of fretting in Israel and among some American Jewish groups: Why did he say 1967 instead of 1949, when Israel’s armistice lines were established? Why did Obama bring up borders at all? Is there a difference between “lines” and “borders?”
    Obama also said negotiations should start by focusing on territory and security; the status of Jerusalem and the question of Palestinian refugees would come later. That prompted another round of fretting about those two issues.
    But there was also relief. Israel and Jewish groups were pleased Obama said he’s not happy about Fatah’s pact with Hamas. He talked about Israel as a Jewish state, and rejected “delegitimization.” He talked about a demilitarized Palestine.
    What was missing in all the Thursday afternoon quarterbacking was the bigger picture: Obama talked about Israeli-Palestinian peace as part of his larger speech on U.S. policy in the region because he believes consideration of the Middle East is impossible without advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.
    “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever,” Obama said. “That’s certainly true for the two parties involved.”
    Obama believes U.S. interests in the region will be advanced through democratization and development, but that it won’t happen unless the Israelis and the Palestinians get it together.
    The rebuke to Israelis and Palestinians for failing to reach accord was implicit but unmistakable at a time when the Palestinians and Israelis appear determined to go divergent ways. Israel’s government would prefer incremental advances to an interim solution, while the Palestinians appear to be seeking unilateral statehood by September.
    The rebuke is all the sharper on the eve of a visit to Washington by Benjamin Netanyahu; the Israeli prime minister had hoped the meeting would help restore the focus to the threat of Iran.
    Netanyahu’s statement in response to Obama’s speech knocked back the president’s key demands, point by point.
    “The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state,” Netanyahu said, a direct reference to Obama’s call for a “viable Palestine, a secure Israel.”
    The Israeli leader went on to make it clear that the speech did not go far enough in extending reassurances that the Obama administration would protect Israel’s interests during negotiations.
    Netanyahu wanted Obama to go as far as President George W. Bush did in 2004.
    “Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress,” the statement said.
    In his letter that year, Bush called it “unrealistic” to expect Israel to return major population centers, although he, like Obama, said the final-status negotiations should include mutually agreed land swaps. Netanyahu apparently wants to hear the same moral support for retaining some settlements that his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, extracted from Bush.
    Also of concern for Netanyahu was how Obama left out Bush’s rejection of a Palestinian “right of return.” All Obama would say was that the issues of refugees and Jerusalem were “wrenching and emotional” and should be left for later.
    Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League national director, praised the speech as a “strong outline of principles” but said Obama didn’t get what the stakes of the refugee issue are for Israel.
    “Jerusalem is emotional, yes,” he said. “Refugees is not emotional — it’s strategic.” – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Jonathan S. Tobin: Obama on Thin Ice With Jewish Voters: The White House has gotten the message that even many stalwart Jewish Democratic donors are not happy with his attitude toward Israel. Should he decide to make Israel pay for a “reset” with the Arab world, the backlash will not be inconsiderable.
    As the Journal rightly notes, most Jews are not one-issue voters. Most are liberals as well as partisan Democrats who care more about other issues, which means Obama is likely to retain a majority of Jewish votes in 2012 no matter what he does to Israel. But his advisors understand that another blow-up with Israel will hurt vital fundraising efforts. It could also cost him some Jewish votes. Even an increase in the Jewish vote going to the GOP from McCain’s paltry 22 percent to a number in the mid-30s could be important in pivotal states like Pennsylvania and Florida.
    Obama can, as he will in his speech to AIPAC on Sunday, point to the fact that the strategic alliance with Israel has not been weakened on his watch with respect to aid aimed at improving Israel’s defenses. Despite his hostility to Israel’s government and his foolish persistence in believing that more Israeli concessions will convince intransigent Palestinians to make peace, he has avoided a complete meltdown with Jerusalem though that is largely because Netanyahu has refused to take the bait and snipe back. But, if, as the Journal reports, over 40 percent of Jews would consider voting for someone other than Obama next year, the president must weigh the dubious diplomatic benefits of pressuring Israel against the certainty that such a policy will come with a not inconsiderable political price tag. – Commentary, 5-19-11
  • Obama and the Jews, 2012: You know the 2012 presidential race has started when… you start seeing stories about whether President Obama has to worry about losing Jewish votes and Jewish money.
    Check out this headline from The Wall Street Journal: “Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel.”
    The story is short on any examples of one-time major Obama supporters who have or are considering pulling their support.
    That said, it quotes at least one major Obama backers who have warned that campaign that it may have a problem:
    One top Democratic fund-raiser, Miami developer Michael Adler, said he urged Obama campaign manager Jim Messina to be “extremely proactive” in countering the perception in the Jewish community that Mr. Obama is too critical of Israel. He said his conversations with Mr. Messina were aimed at addressing the problems up front. “This was going around finding out what our weaknesses are so we can run the best campaign,” said Mr. Adler, who hosted a fund-raiser at his home for Mr. Obama earlier this year. …The WSJ also reports that top Friend of Obama Penny Pritzker has been tapped to look into the issue — though it’s unclear if this is a well-run campaign doing its homework or reflects a “Houston we have a problem” mode:
    The Obama campaign has asked Penny Pritzker, Mr. Obama’s 2008 national finance chairwoman, to talk with Jewish leaders about their concerns, Ms. Pritzker said. So far, she said, she’s met with about a half dozen people. She said the campaign is in the process of assembling a larger team for similar outreach.

    Ken Solomon, an Obama fund-raiser and CEO of the Tennis Channel, told WSJ that “any problems were minimal and that most Jewish voters were concerned about many issues, not just Israel.”
    Meanwhile, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is quoted as saying Obama could face a problem with unhappy Jewish donors sitting on their hands and their wallets:
    “It’s that people hold back, people don’t have the enthusiasm and are not rushing forward at fund-raisers to be supportive,” he said. “Much more what you’ll see is holding back now.” – JTA, 5-19-11

  • DANNY DANON: Making the Land of Israel Whole: OVER the past few months, analysts in Israel and abroad have warned that Israel will face what Defense Minister Ehud Barak has termed a “diplomatic tsunami.” In September, the Palestinian Authority plans to bring the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundary to the United Nations General Assembly for a vote. The Palestinians’ request will almost certainly be approved.
    While most voices in the Israeli and international news media are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to grant major concessions to the Palestinians to forestall such a move, he should in fact do the opposite: he should annex the Jewish communities of the West Bank, or as Israelis prefer to refer to our historic heartland, Judea and Samaria.
    In 1995, as part of the Oslo accords, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” If the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, decide to disregard this section of the accords by seeking United Nations recognition of statehood, it would mean that Israel, too, is no longer bound by its contents and is freed to take unilateral action.
    The first immediate implication would be that all of the diplomatic and security assistance that Israel provides to the Palestinians would be halted, and the transfer of tax revenues — upward of $1 billion per year — would end permanently. This alone could threaten the very existence of the Palestinian Authority.
    Second, a United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood would give Israel an opportunity to rectify the mistake we made in 1967 by failing to annex all of the West Bank (as we did the eastern half of Jerusalem). We could then extend full Israeli jurisdiction to the Jewish communities and uninhabited lands of the West Bank. This would put an end to a legal limbo that has existed for 44 years.
    In addition to its obvious ideological and symbolic significance, legalizing our hold on the West Bank would also increase the security of all Israelis by depriving terrorists of a base and creating a buffer against threats from the east. Moreover, we would be well within our rights to assert, as we did in Gaza after our disengagement in 2005, that we are no longer responsible for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who would continue to live in their own — unannexed — towns.
    These Palestinians would not have the option to become Israeli citizens, therefore averting the threat to the Jewish and democratic status of Israel by a growing Palestinian population.
    While naysayers will no doubt warn us of the dire consequences and international condemnation that are sure to follow such a move by Israel, this would not be the first time that Israel has made such controversial decisions…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • LAURA MECKLER: Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel: Jewish donors and fund-raisers are warning the Obama re-election campaign that the president is at risk of losing financial support because of concerns about his handling of Israel.
    The complaints began early in President Barack Obama’s term, centered on a perception that Mr. Obama has been too tough on Israel.
    Some Jewish donors say Mr. Obama has pushed Israeli leaders too hard to halt construction of housing settlements in disputed territory, a longstanding element of U.S. policy. Some also worry that Mr. Obama is putting more pressure on the Israelis than the Palestinians to enter peace negotiations, and say they are disappointed Mr. Obama has not visited Israel yet.
    One top Democratic fund-raiser, Miami developer Michael Adler, said he urged Obama campaign manager Jim Messina to be “extremely proactive” in countering the perception in the Jewish community that Mr. Obama is too critical of Israel.
    He said his conversations with Mr. Messina were aimed at addressing the problems up front. “This was going around finding out what our weaknesses are so we can run the best campaign,” said Mr. Adler, who hosted a fund-raiser at his home for Mr. Obama earlier this year…. – WSJ, 5-19-11
  • Deciphering Obama’s mideast speech: President Obama’s speech on the Middle East this morning is an attempt to put the Arab Spring into context– and also, in effect, to hit the “reset button” on U.S. policy in the region. Administration officials say they have tried to tackle each uprising in a deliberate fashion, with a

June 15, 2009: President Obama, Healthcare Reform and the Middle East

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President speaks on kids tobacco legislation

(President Barack Obama addresses the media about the passage of the kids tobacco legislation in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 12, 2009.  Official White House Photographer Lawrence Jackson.)

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Crist maintains early lead in Senate race poll: Gov. Charlie Crist, riding a wave of public support even greater than President Obama’s popularity in Florida, posted a big lead in a U.S. Senate campaign poll released Wednesday. The new poll showed Crist leading 54 percent to 23 percent…. – News Press, 6-10-09
  • Poll: Third of Republicans view party unfavorably How Republicans view their party: USA TODAY/Gallup poll of 1,015 adults taken May 29-31. Margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points for the full sample and 6 percentage points for the sub sample. There’s no such dyspepsia among Democrats. Just 4% have an unfavorable view of their party…. – USA Today, 6-9-09
  • Media bias can help GOP: That could be the head-thumping postscript of the 2010 midterm elections. With the media fawning over President Obama and failing to appropriately cover several key Democrat problems, scandals and missteps, a false sense of security for the Democrats is growing. The media, snugly tucked into the Democrats’ back pocket, paint a deceivingly rosy picture of the job Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are doing. The shopworn “conventional wisdom” that the GOP has marginalized itself into near-oblivion is being pedaled daily by cocksure reporters and (other) Democratic operatives. But the emerging true storyline is increasingly becoming diametrically opposed to this myopic view. Last rites for the GOP may be premature. A recent Gallup poll shows Americans overwhelmingly disagree with Obama on closing Guantanamo. Rasmussen reports Republicans and Democrats tied on the generic congressional ballot. Americans have a more favorable opinion of former Vice President Cheney than Pelosi and trust Republicans over Democrats on economic issues. And Reid is down nationally, and in serious trouble in his home state of Nevada…. – The Hill, 6-11-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Obama Open to Reining in Medical Suits: The American Medical Association has long battled Democrats who oppose protecting doctors from malpractice lawsuits. But during a private meeting at the White House last month, association officials said, they found one Democrat willing to entertain the idea: President Obama…. – NYT, 6-15-09
  • Analysis: Netanyahu is steering a course that pleases neither side: Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister of Israel barely three months ago and already finds himself in an unexpectedly difficult position, torn between mounting US pressure for a Middle East peace deal and the loyalties of his rightwing coalition allies, many of whom oppose a Palestinian state. His key policy speech last night was an effort to navigate the difficult course between the two.
    Netanyahu’s message was mixed. On the one hand, he finally mentioned the prospect of a Palestinian state, although he said that could come only under strict conditions. On the other hand, he refused to meet US demands for a halt to settlement activity and insisted Palestinians must accept Israel as a Jewish state if a deal was to be achieved… – Guardian UK, 6-15-09
  • Obama Will Make His Case for Health-Care Reform Before AMA in Chicago: Opposition Mounts for President Before He Delivers His Health-Care Reform Plan in Chicago Monday…- ABC News, 6-14-09
  • Co-op compromise gives White House a health option: With Republicans fighting the idea of a government-run health insurance plan, Obama administration officials said Sunday that they are open to a compromise: a cooperative program that would expand coverage with taxpayer money but without direct governmental control. Congress begins work this week on putting President Barack Obama’s goal of universal health coverage into law. But some lawmakers are expected to introduce specific plans that run counter to Obama’s political promises. The concessions could be the smoothest way to deliver the bipartisan health care legislation the administration seeks by its self-imposed August deadline, officials said…. – AP, 6-14-09
  • Congress Passes Measure on Tobacco Regulation: The House moved quickly Friday to pass the Senate’s tobacco bill and send it to the White House, where President Obama promised to sign it…. – NYT, 6-12-09
  • Many in Congress Hold Stakes in Health Industry: As President Obama and Congress intensify the push to overhaul health care in the coming week, the political and economic force of that industry is well represented in the financial holdings of many lawmakers and others with a say on the legislation, according to new disclosure forms…. – NYT, 6-14-09
  • Obama on healthcare reform: Mr. Flexible: His idea of a public insurance plan to compete with private ones is meeting resistance. Will the alternative of health insurance ‘cooperatives’ suffice?… – CS Monitor, 6-13-09
  • Sotomayor anecdotes, manner impress senators: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has bonded with female senators about her childhood love of Nancy Drew mysteries and shared war stories with the Senate’s former prosecutors about her days in the gritty Manhattan district attorney’s office. Slogging through dozens of personal, one-on-one meetings with senators that amount to a high-stakes job interview, she has impressed her questioners with an engaging personality and life story — even those lawmakers with big reservations about her views on the law…. – AP, 6-13-09
  • Could Palin flap be Letterman’s Hugh Grant?: Sarah Palin would no doubt be horrified by the idea, but there’s a chance she could become the same boon to David Letterman’s career that Hugh Grant was to Jay Leno’s…. Letterman did not court last week’s battle with Palin, who called him “perverted” for making a joke about her daughter getting “knocked up” by New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, and he said in retrospect the remark was in poor taste. Palin rebuffed his invitations to appear on the show, but that might not matter. The story had the effect of turning the attention to Letterman at a critical time, during the second week of his new competition with Leno’s replacement, Conan O’Brien…. – AP, 6-13-09
  • US rejects victory claim by Iran’s Ahmadinejad: The U.S. on Saturday refused to accept hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim of a landslide re-election victory in Iran and said it was looking into allegations of election fraud. Any hopes by the Obama administration of gaining a result similar to Lebanon’s recent election, won by a Western-backed moderate coalition, appeared to be in jeopardy. “We are monitoring the situation as it unfolds in Iran, but we, like the rest of the world, are waiting and watching to see what the Iranian people decide,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at a news conference with Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon…. – AP, 6-13-09
  • Administration speeds overseas detainee relocation &l; Obama won’t rule out freeing Gitmo detainees in US: Despite fierce opposition in Congress, the White House insisted Friday it has not ruled out releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States. But with narrowing options, the administration has begun shipping newly cleared inmates abroad to regain momentum in its effort to close the Cuba-based prison camp… – AP, 6-13-09
  • Congress won’t try to keep Guantanamo detainees out of U.S. for now: Congressional negotiators have agreed to drop amendments to a supplemental appropriations bill that would have banned the release of photos depicting alleged detainee abuse and would have restricted bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States. The agreement on those issues should speed passage of the bill, which provides $79.9 billion for the Pentagon to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another $10.4 billion would go to the State Department and other “international affairs and stabilization” efforts in Pakistan. The agreement came after President Barack Obama wrote a five-paragraph letter promising to fight to prevent disclosure of the photos. The letter noted that an appeals court on Thursday agreed to stay a lower court ruling ordering the photos release so that the Obama administration could appeal to the Supreme Court…. – McClatchy Newspapers, 6-12-09
  • Historic anti-smoking bill aims at stopping teens:No more “light” cigarettes or candy-flavored smokes. Bigger, scarier warning labels. Fewer ads featuring sexy young smokers. Historic anti-smoking legislation sped to final congressional passage on Friday — after a bitter fight lasting nearly a half-century — and lawmakers and the White House quickly declared it would save the lives of thousands of smokers of all ages. Even more important, they said, the measure could keep countless young people from starting in the first place. President Barack Obama, admittedly still struggling with his own nicotine habit, saluted passage of the bill, which he will soon sign. He said, “For over a decade, leaders of both parties have fought to prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children and provide the public with the information they need to understand what a dangerous habit this is.”… – AP, 6-12-09
  • Tax on health benefits may be delayed until 2013: Legislation to be outlined next week in the Senate Finance Committee will likely include a new tax on workers with the costliest employer-provided health coverage, officials said Friday, but with implementation delayed until 2013 to minimize any political fallout. Officials familiar with internal deliberations said the leading option under consideration by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the committee chairman, would mean higher taxes for workers whose family coverage costs $15,000 a year or more in premiums paid by employer and employee combined…. – AP, 6-12-09
  • House vote could send FDA tobacco bill to Obama: Smoking foes see a turning point in their long battle against the tobacco industry as Congress prepares to send President Barack Obama a bill giving the government broad authority to determine how cigarettes will be made, marketed and sold.
    The House was scheduled to vote Friday on legislation, passed just a day before by the Senate, that for the first time would put the Food and Drug Administration in charge of regulating cigarettes and other tobacco products…. – AP, 6-11-09
  • Senate approves FDA regulation of tobacco: The bill, passed in a 79-17 vote, would give the agency control over ingredients in tobacco products and restrict ads…. – LAT, 6-11-09
  • Obama on healthcare bill: Flexibility on details, not results: President Obama urged lawmakers yesterday to work through partisan differences that are threatening healthcare legislation just as it starts moving through Congress. After the White House meeting, key Democrats and Republicans said a compromise may be emerging on one of the biggest disputes – whether to create a government-sponsored health plan to compete with private insurers. The compromise would create nonprofit health cooperatives owned by groups of patients, similar to how electric or other cooperatives operate, and without the government involvement that troubles Republicans and business groups about the public plan…. – Boston Globe, 6-11-09
  • McAuliffe defeat is another blow to Clinton legacy: Terry McAuliffe’s crushing defeat in Virginia’s gubernatorial primary is the latest blow to former President Bill Clinton’s political legacy, still reeling from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s loss to Barack Obama in last year’s Democratic presidential contest. McAuliffe, a longtime fundraiser and close friend of both Clintons, brought money and attention to an off-year election that otherwise would have commanded little notice outside Virginia. Bill Clinton appeared at five rallies across the state for McAuliffe, lent his voice to radio commercials and recorded telephone endorsements to help get out the vote. Clinton also attended a fundraiser at McAuliffe’s northern Virginia home…. – AP, 6-11-09
  • Possible compromise emerges in health care debate: A potential compromise emerged Wednesday on one of the most vexing issues of the health care overhaul debate — whether to create a new government-sponsored health plan to compete with private insurers. The compromise offered by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., would create health care cooperatives owned by groups of residents and small businesses, similar to how electric or other cooperatives operate…. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, said Wednesday the idea could be key to a bipartisan health bill. Baucus raised it in a meeting with President Barack Obama, saying later that Obama showed interest. Baucus’ Republican counterpart, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, also said the concept had potential. “It’s a way to bridge the gap,” Baucus told reporters…. – AP, 6-11-09
  • Top Republican rips Democrats for Sotomayor ‘rush': Republicans accused Democrats Wednesday of moving too hastily on Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, warning that the decision could imperil her confirmation as they pressed the judge for more documents from her past. The top Senate Republican blasted Democrats’ decision to schedule mid-July hearings for Sotomayor’s confirmation, while another senior GOP senator floated the possibility of a filibuster by angry Republicans against President Barack Obama’s first high court nominee. “They want the shortest timeline in recent memory for someone with the longest judicial record in recent memory,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader. “This violates basic standards of fairness and it prevents senators from carrying out one of their most solemn duties.”… – AP, 6-10-09
  • Some Israelis Insulted By Obama Picture: Israeli TV newscasters Tuesday night interpreted a photo taken Monday in the Oval Office of President Obama talking on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an “insult” to Israel. They saw the incident as somewhat akin to an incident last year, when the Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at President Bush in Baghdad…. Some Israeli newscasters are crying foul over a photo of President Barack Obama, snapped in the Oval Office on Monday as he spoke on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The journalists on Tuesday called the image insulting, since in many parts of the region, it is considered an insult to show someone the sole of your shoe…. – CBS News, 6-10-09
  • Administration seeks ways to tame corporate pay: Talking tough but stepping gently, the Obama administration rejected direct intervention in corporate pay decisions Wednesday even as officials argued that excessive compensation in the private sector contributed to the nation’s financial crisis…. – AP, 6-10-09
  • Latino-Black Rivalry Helped Fuel G.O.P.’s Takeover of State Senate: When two Democratic state senators, Pedro Espada Jr. and Hiram Monserrate, joined Republicans on the Senate floor Monday to kick off their surprise takeover of the chamber, almost every other Democratic senator in the room walked out in anger, shock or disgust…. – NYT, 6-10-09
  • Kennedy’s health care plan gets frosty reception from GOP: Congressional Democrats’ bid to overhaul the nation’s health care system got off to a rocky start Tuesday when Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., introduced his long-awaited plan — only to face furious criticism from even moderate Republicans. Kennedy, whose fight to reshape the health care system spans more than 40 years, would require all Americans to get medical insurance, establish complex new insurance exchanges to facilitate near-universal coverage, and dramatically step up government oversight of the insurance industry…. But reaction to the 615-page bill — written with little GOP involvement — was an ominous preview of the potential for a return to the kind of partisan conflict that sank previous efforts to reshape the troubled medical system…. – LAT, 6-9-09
  • Economic Scene Sea of Red Ink: How It Spread From a Puddle: There are two basic truths about the enormous deficits that the federal government will run in the coming years. The first is that President Obama’s agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying. The second is that Mr. Obama does not have a realistic plan for eliminating the deficit, despite what his advisers have suggested…. – NYT, 6-9-09
  • First Guant namo detainee arrives in U.S.: The Obama administration pressed ahead Tuesday with its plans to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, flying a detainee to New York to face federal trial despite bipartisan opposition in Congress to bringing such prisoners to the United States for trial, resettlement or continued detention. The transfer of Ahmed Ghailani to face capital charges in the 1998 East Africa bombings marked the first time a detainee who is not a U.S. citizen has been brought from the military prison in Cuba to the United States. Ghailani, appearing briefly in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday, pleaded not guilty to multiple charges in connection with the blasts at the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Those attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans…. – WaPo, 6-9-09
  • Minority lawmakers want bill to close health gaps: Black, Latino and Asian lawmakers warned Democratic leaders that any health care overhaul that ignores health gaps between whites and minorities will face stiff opposition. The lawmakers said they would be hard-pressed to support a bill without a new program providing access to health care for all Americans…. – AP, 6-9-09
  • Deeds wins Democratic primary for Va. governor: State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds won Virginia’s three-way Democratic primary for governor Tuesday with shocking ease, defeating a former Clinton White House insider and a former legislative colleague. The victory sets up a Deeds rematch with Republican Bob McDonnell, who beat him in the 2005 attorney general election by 323 votes out of nearly 2 million cast. “I’m a Presbyterian. I believe things happen for a reason,” a jubilant Deeds, surprised at the ease of his victory, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. Deeds had about half the vote with nearly all precincts reporting. His opponents, Terry R. McAuliffe and Brian J. Moran, each had around a quarter of the vote. “The rematch isn’t so important to me,” Deeds said of the race against McDonnell, a conservative with strong ties to Pat Robertson. He was unopposed for the GOP nomination…. – AP, 6-9-09
  • Hearings on Sotomayor Are Set to Begin on July 13: After consulting closely with the White House, Senate Democrats announced Tuesday that hearings on Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court would begin on July 13, infuriating Republicans who said that they had been blind-sided and that the timetable would recklessly short-circuit the review process…. – NYT, 6-9-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President gives the Weekly Address

Political Quotes

  • Biden says ‘everyone guessed wrong’ on jobs number: ice President Joe Biden said Sunday that “everyone guessed wrong” on the impact of the economic stimulus, but he defended the administration’s spending designed to combat rising joblessness. “The bottom line is that jobs are being created that would not have been there before,” Biden said….
    “No one realized how bad the economy was. The projections, in fact, turned out to be worse. But we took the mainstream model as to what we thought — and everyone else thought — the unemployment rate would be,” Biden said….
    “At the time our forecast seemed reasonable. Now, looking back, it was clearly too optimistic,” he told reporters last Monday….
    “Can I claim credit that all of that’s due to the recovery package? No. But it clearly has had an impact,” Biden said. “Everyone guessed wrong at the time the estimate was made about what the state of the economy was at the moment this was passed,” Biden said. Biden appeared Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” from his hometown of Wilmington, Del. – AP, 6-14-09
  • Health care status quo unacceptable: US official: The United States’ unwieldy health care system is “unsustainable,” US health secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned Sunday as she ramped up calls to back President Barack’s Obama health reform plans. “Everybody recognizes the status quo is the enemy. It’s unacceptable, unsustainable,” said Sebelius, who leads the Department of Health and Human Services. “We can’t continue down this path,” she told ABC television….
    “Doctors understand the current system doesn’t work. They’re spending way too much time on paperwork and overhead, and not enough time with patients. Hospitals can’t sustain it,” she said….
    “It’s crushing businesses, it’s crushing families. Our workers are less competitive. We can’t sustain the system that we have right now, so the status quo is not an acceptable alternative,” Sebelius told ABC. – AFP, 6-14-09
  • CIA head says Cheney almost wishing US be attacked: CIA Director Leon Panetta says former Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s approach to terrorism almost suggests “he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point.” Panetta told The New Yorker for an article in its June 22 issue that Cheney “smells some blood in the water” on the issue of national security….
    Panetta said of Cheney’s remarks: “It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”… – AP, 6-14-09
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Outlines More than $300 Billion in new Medicare and Medicaid Savings: When it comes to the cost of health care, this much is clear: the status quo is unsustainable for families, businesses, and government. America spends nearly 50 percent more per person on health care than any other country. Health care premiums have doubled over the last decade, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs have skyrocketed, and many with preexisting conditions are denied coverage. More and more, Americans are being priced out of the care they need.
    These costs are also hurting business, as some big businesses are at a competitive disadvantage with their foreign counterparts, and some small businesses are forced to cut benefits, drop coverage, or even lay off workers. Meanwhile, Medicare and Medicaid pose one of the greatest threats to our federal deficit, and could leave our children with a mountain of debt that they cannot pay.
    We cannot continue down this path. I do not accept a future where Americans forego health care because they can’t pay for it, and more and more families go without coverage at all. And I don’t accept a future where American business is hurt and our government goes broke. We have a responsibility to act, and to act now. That is why I’m working with Congress to pass reform that lowers costs, improves quality and coverage, and protects consumer health care choices…. – White House, 6-13-09
  • Hospitals oppose Obama’s Medicare, Medicaid cuts: President Barack Obama said Saturday he wants to help pay for his health care overhaul by slowing Medicare and Medicaid spending, but hospitals, medical technicians and others are resisting. The high-stakes struggle over medical care is heating up as Obama declares the status quo unacceptable. The president suggests trimming federal payments to hospitals by about $200 billion over the next 10 years, saying greater efficiencies and broader insurance coverage will justify the change. Hospitals, especially those with many poor patients, say the proposed cuts are unfair and will harm the sick and elderly. Congress ultimately will shape the new laws. Obama is urging lawmakers to be bold and to resist powerful lobbies trying to maintain their clout and profits. “Americans are being priced out of the care they need,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address…. – AP, 6-13-09
  • GOP says Democrats’ climate bill is another tax: Republicans on Saturday slammed a Democratic bill before the House that seeks to address climate change, arguing that it amounts to an energy tax on consumers. In the GOP’s weekly radio and Internet address, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence said Congress should instead open the way for more domestic oil and natural gas production and ease regulatory barriers for building new nuclear power plants. “During these difficult times, the American people don’t want a national energy tax out of Washington, D.C.,” said Pence, the third-ranking House Republican.
    “The Republican energy plan calls for more domestic exploration for oil and natural gas, renewed commitment to clean emission-free nuclear energy, investments in renewable and alternative energy technologies and incentives to spur greater conservation among individuals and businesses,” he said…. – AP, 6-13-09
  • STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE PASSAGE OF THE KIDS TOBACCO LEGISLATION Rose Garden: THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I just wanted to give a quick statement about the kids tobacco legislation that passed the Senate yesterday.
    This bill has obviously been a long time coming. We’ve known for years, even decades, about the harmful, addictive, and often deadly effects of tobacco products. Each year Americans pay nearly $100 billion in added health care costs due to smoking. Each day about a thousand young people under the age of 18 become regular smokers.
    For over a decade, leaders of both parties have fought to prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children, and provide the public with the information they need to understand what a dangerous habit this is. And after a decade of opposition, all of us are finally about to achieve the victory with this bill, a bill that truly defines change in Washington.
    I’m proud that the House and the Senate have acted swiftly and in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion to pass this legislation that will protect our kids and improve our public health. Along with legislation to protect credit card owners from unfair rate hikes, homeowners from mortgage fraud and abuse, and taxpayers from wasteful defense spending, this kids tobacco bill would be the fourth piece of bipartisan legislation that I’ve signed into law over the last month that protects the American consumer, and changes the way Washington works and who Washington works for.
    So I look forward to signing it. I want to thank all the people in the House and the Senate for working so hard to pass this bill in a bipartisan way. And I want to give a special shout-out to my legislative director, Phil Schiliro. He and his team have just done an outstanding job. They’ve been working on this for a long time, even before they joined the administration. I’m really proud of them…. – White House, 6-12-09
  • An Answer on Iranian Elections: THE PRESIDENT: We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran. And obviously, after the speech that I made in Cairo, we tried to send a clear message that we think there is the possibility of change. And ultimately, the election is for the Iranians to decide, but just as has been true in Lebanon, what can be true in Iran as well is that you’re seeing people looking at new possibilities. And whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact that there’s been a robust debate hopefully will help advance our ability to engage them in new ways…. – White House, 6-12-09
  • Troops in Iraq hailed by Bush on ‘Colbert Report': Former President George W. Bush had a hearty message for troops serving in Iraq – and delivered it on a silly TV comedy show. Appearing in a pretaped spot during Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” on Thursday, Bush hailed the military.
    “Your achievements in Iraq have earned you a special place in American history. You are men and women of great courage and endurance – and that’s gonna come in handy,” Bush noted, winding up to zing Stephen Colbert, the blustery “Colbert Report” host: “I’ve sat through Stephen’s stuff before.” Bush said former first lady Laura Bush joined him in the shout-out. – AP, 6-12-09
  • No. 2 House Republican compares Obama to Putin: The No. 2 Republican in the House on Thursday compared President Barack Obama’s plans for the auto industry to the policies of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, saying the White House has stripped credit holders of rights and given them to Democratic allies.
    “They said, ‘Set aside the rule of law, let’s strip secured creditors, bondholders, of their rights. Take them away outside of the bankruptcy process and give them to the political cronies and the auto workers’ unions,” Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s almost like looking at Putin’s Russia,” added Cantor, the GOP’s House whip. “You want to reward your political friends at the expense of the certainty of law?”… – AP, 6-11-09
  • Obama confronts critics on health care overhaul: President Barack Obama challenged Republican critics Thursday to offer alternative plans for overhauling U.S. health care, declaring he’s “happy to steal people’s ideas” but that doing nothing about out-of-reach costs and uninsured Americans is not an option.
    “What else do we say to all those families who spend more on health care than on housing or on food?” Obama said at a town hall-style meeting, surrounded by supportive citizens in the nation’s heartland. “What do we tell those businesses that are choosing between closing their doors and letting their workers go?”….
    “I know there are some who believe that reform is too expensive, but I can assure you that doing nothing will cost us far more in the coming years,” Obama said. “Our deficits will be higher. Our premiums will go up. Our wages will be lower, our jobs will be fewer and our businesses will suffer.”… – AP, 6-11-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN TOWN HALL MEETING ON HEALTH CARE Southwest High School Green Bay, Wisconsin: For the government, the growing cost of Medicare and Medicaid is the biggest threat to our federal deficit, bigger than Social Security, bigger than all the investments that we’ve made so far. So if you’re worried about spending and you’re worried about deficits, you need to be worried about the cost of health care.
    We have the most expensive health care system in the world, bar none. We spend almost 50 percent more per person on health care than the next most expensive nation — 50 percent more. But here’s the thing, Green Bay: We’re not any healthier for it; we don’t necessarily have better outcomes. Even within our own country, there are a lot of the places where we spend less on health care, but actually have higher quality than places where we spend more. And it turns out Green Bay is a good example. Right here in Green Bay, you get more quality out of fewer health care dollars than many other communities across this country. (Applause.) That’s something to be proud of. I want to repeat that: You spend less; you have higher quality here in Green Bay than in many parts of the country. But across the country, spending on health care keeps on going up and up and up — day after day, year after year.
    I know that there are millions of Americans who are happy, who are content with their health care coverage — they like their plan, they value their relationship with their doctor. And no matter how we reform health care, I intend to keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you’ll be able to keep your doctor; if you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan…. – White House, 6-11-09
  • President Obama “On the Holocaust Museum Shooting”: I am shocked and saddened by today’s shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms. No American institution is more important to this effort than the Holocaust Museum, and no act of violence will diminish our determination to honor those who were lost by building a more peaceful and tolerant world. Today, we have lost a courageous security guard who stood watch at this place of solemn remembrance. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this painful time…. – White House, 6-10-09
  • Huckabee warns against ‘mushy middle': Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is warning Republicans against moving to the “mushy middle,” arguing that only clearly articulated and conservative policies can bring the party back into power. In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Huckabee mocked suggestions that Republicans moderate their stands and move to the left. He says that sounds like advice from Democrats that would ensure “we’d never win another election, ever.”… – AP, 6-10-09
  • Jon Voight: Obama “Bringing Us To Chaos And Socialism” (VIDEO): Fresh off making headlines for calling President Obama a “false prophet” at a GOP fundraiser, actor Jon Voight appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show Tuesday night to continue pressing his case against Obama. After a quick name-checking of Julius Caesar–as in Obama thinks he is a “soft-spoken Julius Caesar”–Voight got down to business, making the case that Obama is “a fellow who’s bringing us to chaos and socialism.”… – Huffington Post, 6-9-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON “PAY AS YOU GO” East Room: THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you all for joining us here in the White House. Before I begin, I want to comment briefly on the announcement by the Treasury Department with regard to the financial stability plan.
    As you know, through this plan and its predecessor, taxpayer dollars were used to stabilize the financial system at a time of extraordinary stress. And these funds were also meant to be an investment — and they were meant to be temporary. And that’s why this morning’s announcement is important.
    Several financial institutions are set to pay back $68 billion to taxpayers. And while we know that we will not escape the worst financial crisis in decades without some losses to taxpayers, it’s worth noting that in the first round of repayments from these companies the government has actually turned a profit.
    This is not a sign that our troubles are over — far from it. The financial crisis this administration inherited is still creating painful challenges for businesses and families alike. And I think everybody sees it in their own individual districts. But it is a positive sign. We’re seeing an initial return on a few of these investments. We’re restoring funds to the Treasury where they’ll be available to safeguard against continuing risks to financial stability. And as this money is returned, we’ll see our national debt lessened by $68 billion — billions of dollars that this generation will not have to borrow and future generations will not have to repay.
    I’ve said repeatedly that I have no interest in managing the banking system — or, for that matter, running auto companies or other private institutions. So today’s announcement is welcome news to me. But I also want to say the return of these funds does not provide forgiveness for past excesses or permission for future misdeeds. It’s critical that as our country emerges from this period of crisis, that we learn its lessons; that those who seek reward do not take reckless risk; that short-term gains are not pursued without regard for long-term consequences…. – White House, 6-9-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President in Green Bay

Historians’ Comments

  • Victor Davis Hanson “Obama’s history is off”: In his speech last week in Cairo, President Obama proclaimed he was a “student of history.” But despite Mr. Obama’s image as an Ivy League-educated intellectual, he lacks historical competency in both facts and interpretation.
    This first became apparent during the presidential campaign. Mr. Obama proclaimed then that during World War II, his great-uncle had helped liberate Auschwitz and that his grandfather knew fellow American troops who had entered Auschwitz and Treblinka.
    Both are impossible. The Americans didn’t free either Nazi death camp. (Regarding Mr. Obama’s great-uncle’s war experience, the Obama team later said he had meant the camp at Buchenwald.)
    Much of what Mr. Obama said to thousands of Germans during his Victory Column speech in Berlin last summer also was ahistorical. He began, “I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city.” He apparently forgot that for the previous eight years, the official faces of American foreign policy in Germany had been Secretaries of State Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice – both black….
    This list of distortions could be expanded easily. Mr. Obama, in elegant fashion, may casually invoke the means of politically correct history for the higher ends of contemporary reconciliation. But it is a bad habit. Eloquence and good intentions exempt no one from the truth of the past – Mr. Obama included. – The Washington Times, 6-14-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer Commentary: Palin, Gingrich, Romney and 2012: The first hundred days is barely over and the Republican primaries for 2012 have begun.
    Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has announced he won’t seek a third term, immediately stirring speculation that he is preparing to run for president.
    Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been delivering speeches on many key issues, ranging from national security to tax cuts, keeping himself in the public eye.
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a “reverse racist.” This is one of many statements that he has been making in recent months to define his agenda and position himself as a leading candidate in the Republican Party. He then backtracked from his original statement which had not played well in the press or politically.
    Since the day that the McCain-Palin campaign closed shop, Gov. Sarah Palin has never stopped running. She has appeared regularly at Republican fundraisers, conventions and speaking events as well as in the media.
    President Obama must govern in a political environment where Republicans are already in full campaign mode. There are many reasons behind the polarization that defines Washington, but the endless campaign is one of the most important….
    Is it possible to break this cycle? In general, the opportunities for reform are limited barring a radical change to our election process that would make our system look more like Europe — where elections are usually shorter, cheaper and publicly funded.
    One potential reform has to come from the media. If the major news outlets devote more attention to policymaking and less to the statements of potential candidates, there will simply be fewer opportunities for people like Romney (or any comparable Democrat when a Republican is in the White House) to run this early. Nobody will be listening. The endless campaign thrives on receiving media attention.
    The second change has to come from government. The White House and Congress must tackle campaign finance reform and attempt to restore some of the system that had been put into place as a result of the Watergate scandal. Only with public finance, enforced contribution limits and possibly expenditure limits would the nation be able to dampen the fundraising pressures on candidates.
    Until these and other steps are taken, presidents will have to govern constantly in a campaign season — as will the opposition party. And the policymaking process — as well as public confidence that government officials have their eye on the public rather than on the ballot box — will suffer as a result. – CNN, 6-9-09
  • Stephen Hess & Julian Zelizer: Analysis: Obama woes no match for other presidents: “This fellow was dealt an incredibly difficult hand, both foreign and domestic,” said Stephen P. Hess, senior follow at the Brookings Institution. “But maybe if you compare him to Lincoln or to FDR, it is not such a mountain to climb.” History shows that other presidents have taken on bigger challenges, according to Hess and other presidential scholars. “On the scale of being confronted with truly major problems on taking office, I think I would have to put it in the top 10 percent,” Hess said. “Lincoln took over on the verge of a civil war that was going to divide the country. Americans were slaughtering Americans. Roosevelt faced the worst depression the United States ever had.”
    Roosevelt did not have a big foreign policy problem early on, said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University…. – AP, 6-9-09
  • Matthew Dallek “The Reassessment of Reagan”: Ronald Reagan is getting a critical re-evaluation — from both left and right — even as regrouping Republicans double down on his legacy in opposing big government…. – NYT, 6-9-09
  • JULIAN E. ZELIZER “Recalling Ronald Reagan at Normandy”: President Ronald Reagan traveled to Normandy in June 1984 to deliver one of his most famous addresses. In a carefully choreographed moment at Pointe du Hoc, adviser Michael Deaver had the president stand in front of a dramatic backdrop where one Army battalion, being commemorated, had launched its attack. “These are the champions who helped free a continent,” Reagan said of the veterans in front of him. “These are the heroes who helped end a war.”….
    In the three years that followed the Normandy speech, Reagan used diplomacy, courted moderate elements among America’s adversaries and made bold moves overseas with the hope of achieving peace without bloodshed. In this respect, Obama’s visit to Normandy, his speech in Cairo and his broader national security agenda are closely connected. As the administration and Congress seek breakthroughs in foreign affairs, they, too, will need to rely on the pen and not just on the sword. – Politico, 6-5-09
  • First President in US History to Have Voted to Filibuster a Supreme Court Nominee Now Hopes for Clean Process: President Obama’s expressed hope today in his weekly address “that we can avoid the political posturing and ideological brinksmanship that has bogged down this (Supreme Court nomination) process, and Congress, in the past” runs against another historical first for the 44th president: his unique role in history as the first US President to have ever voted to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee.
    So while there is little indication Republicans intend to filibuster President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the GOP will likely invoke the President’s unique history whenever he calls their tactics into question…. – Jake Tapper ABC News, 5-30-09

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

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH: HNN, July 28, 2008

The week that was….

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

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

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

The Stats

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

Historians’ Comments

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

On the Campaign Trail….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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