JBuzz: Hanukkah Special, Party at the Obama White House

JBuzz

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By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

Menorah Lighting

Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

HANUKKAH 2010

IN FOCUS

  • The first night of Chanukah at the National Menorah Washington, DCLubavitch.com
  • The Festival of Lights: Hanukkah Stories From Across the Nation – PBS Newshour, 12-3-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House hosts Hanukkah party: President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted a party Thursday marking the second day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Obama offered condolences to those who have died in a forest fire in northern Israel before recounting the story of the Maccabees fighting in the Temple in Jersualem watching a day’s worth of oil burn for eight.
    “That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair,” Obama said. “As the Talmud teaches us, so long as a person has life, he should not abandon faith.”
    Among those attending was Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, who replied, “we’re still talking,” when asked about the status of tax-cut legislation. When asked what night of Hanukkah a deal would be reached, Lew replied: “Aren’t we lucky to have a whole week?”
    The party featured a menorah from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, which was found caked in dirt and mold after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Obama said. Its candles were lit by Susan Retik, whose husband died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and her family…. – Politico, 12-3-10
  • President Obama’s Hanukkah Celebration: The President and First Lady hosted a little gathering Thursday night in the East Room to celebrate Hanukkah. Included on the list of 500 guests, one-third of the Supreme Court justices- Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan. Several Jewish members of Congress and other elected officials and members of the military were there too. The menorah for the event was loaned to the White House by New Orleans’s Congregation Beth Israel. It was one of very few items to survive Hurricane Katrina. It was found by cleanup crews in horrible condition but was restored and re-lit for the first time three years ago…. – CNN, 12-3-10
  • Menorah retrieved from Hurricane Katrina muck in Lakeview is part of White House Hanukkah celebration: Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of Jewish survival, and on Thursday, President Barack Obama and some 500 notables, mostly Jewish, celebrated the second of the holiday’s eight nights by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview after Hurricane Katrina.
    Describing the Hanukkah candles as tiny reminders of “the importance of faith and perseverance,” the president told the festive assemblage in the East Room that “the menorah we’re using tonight, and the family who is going to help us light it, both stand as powerful symbols of that faith.” “This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans,” Obama said. “Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.”… – The candles were lit by Susan Retik and her family…. – Times-Picayune, 12-2-10
  • White House Hanukkah ceremony features menorah salvaged from Lakeview: President Barack Obama and dozens of guests tonight will celebrate the second night of Hanukkah by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview. But for a few bits of ornamental silver that once decorated its ruined Torahs, the blackened menorah was the only sacred object in ritual use the congregation was able to save, said Rabbi Uri Topolosky, who will attend the ceremony with his wife, Dahlia.
    At Beth Israel, the restored menorah has become precious — the sign of their own ordeal and recovery, Topolosky said. The congregation also saved a display menorah, now at the Presbytere, Topolosky said. But the 53-year-old restored menorah at the White House — technically, it is a nine-branched “hanukiah” — is the one the congregation uses to commemorate ancient Jews’ recovery and reconsecration of their temple in Jerusalem…. – NOLA, 12-2-10
  • Gov. Schwarzenegger Joins Chanukah Celebration at Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and local leaders of the Jewish community today joined Chabad of Sacramento to celebrate Chanukah at the 17th Annual Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony.
    “The message of Chanukah is ‘light’ and is about optimism and hope, even in the face of darkness and crisis. That is especially meaningful to me because I am a big believer in the spirit of optimism and hope,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “We all know there is darkness in the world, especially in these challenging times, but one tiny candle can light a room, and one act of kindness can change a life. It is so important that we reach out and help each other through these tough times.”
    This year, guests at the Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony participated in a “reverse toy drive.” The Governor joined West Coast Chabad Director Rabbi Shlomo Cunin in passing the gifts out for the toy drive during today’s ceremony. Chabad has asked guests of the ceremony to present these gifts to children in need…. – Lubavitch, 12-3-10

QUOTES

  • President Obama Hosts A Hanukkah Celebration at the White House: Remarks by the President at a Hanukkah Reception:
    Now, tonight, we gather to celebrate a story as simple as it is timeless. It’s a story of ancient Israel, suffering under the yoke of empire, where Jews were forbidden to practice their religion openly, and the Holy Temple — including the holy of holies — had been desecrated.
    It was then that a small band of believers, led by Judah Maccabee, rose up to take back their city and free their people. And when the Maccabees entered the temple, the oil that should have lasted for a single night ended up burning for eight.
    That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair. And in the 2,000 years since, in every corner of the world, the tiny candles of Hanukkah have reminded us of the importance of faith and perseverance. They have illuminated a path for us when the way forward was shrouded in darkness.
    And as we prepare to light another candle on the menorah, let us remember the sacrifices that others have made so that we may all be free. Let us pray for the members of our military who guard that freedom every day, and who may be spending this holiday far away from home.
    Let us also think of those for whom these candles represent not just a triumph of the past, but also hope for the future — the men, women and children of all faiths who still suffer under tyranny and oppression.
    That’s why families everywhere are taught to place the menorah in public view, so the entire world can see its light. Because, as the Talmud teaches us, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”
    This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans. Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.
    And that feeling is shared by Susan Retik. It’s a feeling they know all too well. After her husband, David, was killed on September 11th, Susan could have easily lost herself in feelings of hopelessness and grief. But instead, she turned her personal loss into a humanitarian mission — co-founding “Beyond the 11th,” a group that reaches out to Afghan widows facing their own struggles.
    So on this second night of Hanukkah, let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy. Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible.” -
    WH, 12-2-10WH, 12-2-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: This Hanukka let’s celebrate Liberalism and Zionism: Let’s face it. Although Hanukka’s basic plot has not changed for 2,000 years, the Hanukka we know and love is a twentieth-century invention. Hanukka’s themes of heroism and power, both physical and spiritual, were Zionist ideas; traditionally, the Rabbis thanked God for the eight-day oil miracle. When the Zionist revolution reevaluated Judaism a century ago, the Maccabees’ story proved that Jewish history was not just about anti-Semites oppressing us and rabbis teaching us but our own warriors defending us. The Maccabees were hometown heroes, rooted in Israel’s ancient soil, willing to fight, if necessary, for their homeland, their beliefs, their freedom. At the same time, our festival of lights became our popular response to the seasonal malady of Christmas envy. Boasting eight nights, meaning eight gift-giving opportunities, Hanukka helped Jews trump their Christian neighbors.
    Considering that pedigree, this Hanukka we should celebrate the happy marriage of liberalism and Zionism. We can fight the trendy claim that liberalism and Zionism are increasingly incompatible without doing violence to the Maccabean story. Emphasizing a liberal-Zionist rift, in a world fighting the dark clouds of Islamic totalitarianism, ignores the shared enlightenment past of both Zionism and liberalism, as well as the light liberal Zionism can generate today….
    There is yet another added bonus that can result from rededicating our commitment to both liberalism and Zionism this Hanukka. Both modern liberalism and modern Zionism struggle with the tension between materialism and altruism, the selfishness of the “I” and the self-sacrifice of the “us,” the desire to take and the need to give. As Hanukka, like its seasonal partner Christmas, has degenerated into what the historian Daniel Boorstin called “festivals of consumption,” the question “what did you get” has eclipsed the more important holiday questions “what does this mean?” and “did you grow?”
    Traditionally, during Hanukka Jewish communities rededicated themselves to Jewish education. In that spirit, parents gave children “gelt” or coins to sweeten the experience of Torah study. In the early 1900s, many Jews used Hanukka as an opportunity to donate the modern equivalent of the “shekel,” the Biblical coin representing the power of responsibility, the importance of being counted, to the Zionist cause. This Hanukka let’s remember the best of both the liberal and Zionist traditions. This Hanukka, let’s look for opportunities to give not just get. This Hanukka, by doing that, we can redeem not just these two noble movements, but ourselves. – Jerusalem Post, 12-3-10
  • HOWARD JACOBSON: Hanukkah, Rekindled: TONIGHT, Hanukkah begins. The word — Hanukkah — is lovely, but what’s the festival itself for? What does it do? But Hanukkah?
    Everyone knows the bare bones of the story. At Hanukkah we celebrate the Maccabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, who defeated the might of the Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C., recapturing the desecrated Temple and reconsecrating it with oil that ought to have run out in a day but lasted eight. Indeed, Hanukkah means “consecration,” and when we light those candles we are remembering the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
    But how many Jews truly feel this narrative as their own? I’m not asking for contemporary relevance. History is history: whatever happens to a people is important to them. But Hanukkah — at least the way it’s told — struggles to find a path to Jewish hearts.
    Those Hasmoneans, for example …. The Maccabees are fair enough: they sound Jewish. Scottish Jewish but still Jewish. There was a sports and social club called the Maccabi round the corner from where I was brought up in North Manchester, and as a boy I imagined the Maccabees as stocky, short-legged, hairy men like the all-conquering Maccabi table tennis team. But “Hasmoneans” rang and rings no bells.
    Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Hanukkah doesn’t draw on events described in the Hebrew Bible. The Book of Maccabees, from which the story comes, is in the Apocrypha, the non-canonical, more esoteric books of sacred scripture. There’s a reason it never made it out of there: I won’t say it’s spurious, but it doesn’t quite feel authentic…. – NYT, 12-1-10
  • Latke vs. Hamantaschen: An Age-Old Debate: It’s a debate that’s spanned the centuries – at least about half of one – and brought professors, writers and philosophers to the table to argue their cases on one of the most essential questions in modern scholarly discourse. Which one is better: the latke or the hamantaschen?
    The famed latke-hamantash debate first launched at the University of Chicago in 1946, and since then it’s been argued at such esteemed academic institutions as Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins. First conceived as a way to shore up a sense of Jewish community, nowadays the debate is as a way for scholars to blow off some steam, poke fun at academia and support their favorite potato- or flour-based foodstuff…. – Patch.com, 12-3-10
  • Hanukkah in public spaces: Although many people have come to identify public menorahs with Hanukkah itself, a recently published book argues that the holiday’s celebration today has been largely defined by just one slice of the Jewish population.
    “Whatever people associate with Hanukkah in the public space is Chabad,” says Maya Balakirsky Katz, associate professor of art history at Touro College in New York and author of The Visual Culture of Chabad. “In the last few decades, Chabad has provided the public image of Hanukkah in America, possibly in the world.” According to Katz, many Jews balk at Chabad’s conspicuous display of religion in the diaspora and consider it “embarrassing, if not also dangerous.” “They pushed religion into the public space and presented it as the Jewish image,” Katz says. “Before Jews even had a chance to react, it became the Jewish holiday image. I think the only people really invested in challenging Chabad’s right to light are other Jews.”
    “Chabad emissaries take comparisons between their giant menorahs and Christmas trees in stride,” Katz says. “Comparisons between their menorahs and the Israeli national symbol make them more nervous.” Katz’s book devotes an entire chapter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s decision to promote menorahs with diagonal branches in sharp contrast to the arced, half-moon branches of the menorah on the Israeli national emblem. The Rebbe claimed his inspiration was an argument by the medieval theologian and physician Maimonides that the original Temple menorah had diagonal branches.
    “For Houston Jews and Jews everywhere, I think the Rebbe initiated a rebirth to diasporist culture; you can proudly be a diaspora Jew and have a whole other material culture that’s not only connected to Israel,” Katz says. “That is definitely going to be part of his legacy. He gave birth to a very proud religious diaspora material culture.”
    Whereas Katz’s book addresses Chabad’s appropriation of Hanukkah as a means to forge an American-Jewish religious material culture, Zaklikofsky focuses on the mitzvah, commandment, of lighting the menorah as a testimony to what he considers a historically documented miracle…. – Houston Chronicle, 12-2-10
  • Southern Jews Put Their Spin On Soul Food: The eight-day Jewish holiday of Hannukah began earlier this week and with it comes culinary traditions of the season. A new book describes how Jews in the American south have blended traditional Jewish fare enjoyed around the holidays with southern cuisine. Host Michel Martin speaks with Marci Cohen Ferris, author of “Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South”…. – NPR, 12-3-10 Download MP3
  • Dianne Ashton: American Hanukkah Traditions Focus on Children: Newswise — Hanukkah isn’t a hugely important holiday on the Jewish calendar, but modern day celebrations of the Festival of Lights do work to get today’s children–and adults–excited about Judaism, according to Dianne Ashton, a professor of religion studies at Rowan University. Author of a book on Hanukkah in America to be released next year by New York University Press, Ashton says two Cincinnati rabbis led a movement to “Americanize” Judaism in the 1860s. That movement included promoting the idea of a fun holiday festival for Jewish children.
    “One of the rabbis said Jewish children shall have a grand and glorious Hanukkah, a festival as nice as any Christmas, with songs, dramatics, candle lighting, ice cream and candy,” says Ashton, whose book examines Hanukkah from 1860-2000. “This really shifted Hanukkah from primarily an observance of Jewish adults to a festival seen as particularly important for Jewish children, a way to keep them interested in Judaism.”… – Newswise, 11-30-10
  • Rethinking the “Jewish Christmas”: Hanuka is back! Perhaps some wonder when it ever was gone. According to Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and professor of history at George Washington University, “Well into the 1880s, Chanukah fared poorly in America, a victim of neglect.” She quotes the despairing voices of 19th century American rabbis, in an article for Reform Judaism magazine (Winter 2008): “‘The customary candles disappear more and more from Jewish homes,’ lamented Rabbi Gustav Gottheil in 1884. ‘Kindle the Chanukah lights anew, modern Israelite!’ declared Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler just a few years later. ‘Make the festival more than ever before radiant with the brightness and beauty of love and charity.’” Instead of kindling Hanuka candles, Americans “were adorning their homes with greenery and parlor illuminations and eagerly exchanging gifts in the spirit of Christmas. The purchase of Christmas gifts, commented the Jewish Daily Forward in 1904, ‘is one of the first things that proves one is no longer a greenhorn,’” the Jewish studies professor writes….
    The historian continues her survey of the festival’s rise, noting that in the 1950s, “American Jews no longer had to dread the ‘cruel month’ of December. Chanukah’s accoutrements had grown to include paper decorations, greeting cards, napkins, wrapping paper, ribbons, and phonograph records. And in the years following World War II, the outside world increasingly freighted Chanukah with the same cultural and social significance as Christmas, yoking the two together in demonstration of America’s ‘cultural oneness.’ Public school educators in particular convened a ‘holiday assembly’ on a ‘compromise date’ in December in which a Christmas tree and a ‘Menorah candle’ as well as the singing of Chanukah hymns and Christmas carols figured prominently.”… – American Jewish World, 11-26-10

October 2009: President Obama, Health Care Bill Passes Senate, Troop Surge in Afghanistan?

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Hillary Clinton beats Obama in new Gallup poll: Barack Obama may have beaten Hillary Rodham Clinton in the presidential primaries last year, but she’s ahead of him in a new popularity poll. The Gallup survey conducted Oct. 1-4, and released Thursday, shows Clinton’s favorable ratings at 62 percent and Obama’s at 56 percent.
    Gallup said the juxtaposition is due more to Obama’s declining popularity than any rise in Clinton’s favorable numbers, which have changed little since January. Then, 78 percent saw Obama favorably, compared with 65 percent for Clinton. Gallup noted Obama’s decline has come after nearly nine months in office in which he’s confronted such issues as the auto industry bailout and the economic crisis. As Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton “has helped advance Obama’s foreign policy around the world, but in a far less prominent role than the president’s,” Gallup said. “Now operating in a much less bright spotlight than Obama does,” the former first lady and U.S. senator from New York has been able to retain her “strong” favorable rating…. – Newsday, 10-15-09
  • Off the Charts The Divided States of Health Care: The Census Bureau sought to find that out, for the first time, in a survey taken last year and released in September. Over all, it found that 9.9 percent of children lack any health insurance, half the rate for adults under 65.
    Those who lack health insurance now are far more likely to live in states that usually vote Republican — the states whose senators and representatives are least likely to support a law to extend coverage…. – NYT, 10-10-09

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama Lifts Ban on Visitors With H.I.V.: President Obama said on Friday that the United States would do away with a government ban prohibiting foreign nationals who are H.I.V. positive from entering the country, lifting a 22-year-old “decision rooted in fear rather than fact” that he said had added to a stigma of the disease.
    “If we want to be the global leader in combating H.I.V./AIDS, we need to act like it,” Mr. Obama said, speaking in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House…. “We talk about reducing the stigma of this disease, yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat,” Mr. Obama said. “We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic, yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people with H.I.V. from entering our own country…. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It’s a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives.” – NYT, 10-30-09
  • Stimulus saved, created 650,000 jobs, gov’t claims: Nearly 650,000 jobs have been saved or created under President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan, the government said Friday, and the White House declared the nation on track to meet the president’s goal of 3.5 million by the end of next year.
    New job numbers from businesses, contractors, state and local governments, nonprofit groups and universities were released, showing 640,329 positions credited to the stimulus, according to the independent federal board monitoring the program’s progress…. – AP, 10-30-09
  • Path clearing for House to pass health bill: They may not like it, but many House liberals look ready to accept a compromise health care bill, putting Democratic leaders well on the way to delivering on President Barack Obama’s call for overhaul. After claiming for months they couldn’t vote for a bill without the strongest possible government-run insurance option, liberals are putting aside their disappointment over the weaker version in the legislation for a historic chance to remake America’s medical system.
    “The current language is far weaker than what I would have preferred, and I think that is also true of the Progressive Caucus,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Friday. “But because I did not come up here to participate in gridlock and acrimony, I have told leadership that I am willing to compromise.” – AP, 10-30-09
  • Obama inks defense bill with hate crimes provision: Trumpeting a victory against careless spending, President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a defense bill that kills some costly weapons projects and expands war efforts. In a major civil rights change, the law also makes it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation.
    The $680 billion bill authorizes spending but doesn’t provide any actual dollars. Rather, it sets guidance that is typically followed by congressional committees that decide appropriations. Obama hailed it as a step toward ending needless military spending that he called “an affront to the American people and to our troops.”
    “When Secretary Gates and I first proposed going after some of these wasteful projects, there were a lot of people who didn’t think it was possible, who were certain we were going to lose, who were certain that we were going to get steamrolled,” Obama said. “Today, we have proven them wrong.” – AP, 10-29-09
  • Obama seeks new powers to dismantle nonbank firms: A year after Lehman Brothers collapsed, helping to trigger the worst financial crisis in seven decades, the Obama administration is pressing Congress for the power to dismantle other nonbank firms considered so large and influential that they could bring down the entire economy. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was asking a House panel on Thursday to pass legislation that would enable federal regulators to identify and monitor big financial firms and step in to wind them down before they collapse… – AP, 10-29-09
  • Pelosi hopes new health plan is poised to pass: After months of contentious negotiating, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepared to unveil a retooled health care overhaul plan intended to bridge differences among Democrats and open a history-making floor debate on extending health insurance to nearly all Americans.
    Pelosi, D-Calif., wants to have the legislation on the floor next week, with a final vote before Veterans Day, Nov. 11, that would give President Barack Obama a bill to sign by year’s end, numerous Democratic officials said. She planned a formal announcement of the bill Thursday in front of the Capitol.
    The bill would require nearly everyone by 2013 to sign up through their employer, a government program or a new kind of purchasing pool called an exchange. Tax credits would be available for most of those buying coverage through the exchange. They would have the option of picking a new government plan or private insurance…. – AP, 10-29-09
  • Senate Leader Blasts Holdup on Obama’s Nominees: Senator Harry Reid denounces the slow pace of reaching a consensus on some critical Obama nominees…. – NYT, 10-29-09
  • Obama Signs Hate Crimes Bill: The expansion protects people who are victims of crime because of their sexual orientation… – NYT, 10-28-09
  • Tracking the White House Energy Forum: The White House energy and climate team held a forum Wednesday morning on rebuilding the economy around non-polluting energy technologies…. – NYT, 10-28-09
  • Next Up, a Classical White House Night: The Obamas continue their series of musical events, with award-winning artists holding a workshop for students in the afternoon and performing in the evening…. – NYT, 10-28-09
  • House Democrats prepare to unveil health bill: House Democrats reached agreement Wednesday on key elements of a health care bill that would vastly alter America’s medical landscape, requiring virtually universal sign-ups and establishing a new government-run insurance option for millions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi planned a formal announcement Thursday morning in front of the Capitol. Lawmakers said the legislation could be up for a vote on the House floor next week. The rollout will cap months of arduous negotiations to bridge differences between liberal and moderate Democrats and blend health care overhaul bills passed by three separate committees over the summer. The developments in the House came as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., tried to round up support among moderate Democrats for his bill, which includes a modified government insurance option that states could opt out of…. – AP, 10-28-09
  • Long-term care insurance program gains in House: House health care legislation expected within days is likely to include a new long-term care insurance program to help seniors and disabled people stay out of nursing homes, senior Democrats say. The voluntary program would begin to close a gap in the social safety net overlooked in the broader health care debate, but it must overcome objections from insurance companies that sell long-term care coverage and from fiscal conservatives. “I’m pretty confident that it will be in there,” Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., a leading sponsor, said of the provision…. – AP, 10-27-09
  • Gov’t may say recession over but not job losses: It’s about to become official: The recession is over — but not the pain. The government will release figures this week expected to show that the economy has awakened from its deepest slump since the 1930s and is in the early stages of a recovery. But the following week, the government will issue another set of figures expected to show unemployment continuing to rise toward and possibly above a clearly recessionary 10 percent. How can both be possible? The government releases third-quarter Gross Domestic Product figures on Thursday. Many forecasters say they will show GDP growing at an annual rate of about 3 percent, validating a widely held belief among economists that the recession ended in June or July. But try telling that to the more than 15 million still unemployed, the small businesses and individuals who can’t get loans and the people whose homes are worth less than their mortgages…. – AP, 10-27-09
  • Obama says he will not rush Afghanistan decision: President Barack Obama mourned 14 Americans killed Monday in helicopter crashes in Afghanistan and told a military audience he will not be hurried as he evaluates whether to alter U.S. strategy in the war. “I will never rush the solemn decision of sending you into harm’s way. I won’t risk your lives unless it is absolutely necessary,” Obama said during a visit to Naval Air Station Jacksonville…. – AP, 10-26-09
  • AP sources: Health bill may cut employer mandate: Businesses would not be required to provide health insurance under legislation being readied for Senate debate, but large firms would owe significant penalties if any worker needed government subsidies to buy coverage on their own, according to Democratic officials familiar with talks on the bill… – AP, 10-25-09
  • Obama declares swine flu a national emergency: President Barack Obama declared the swine flu outbreak a national emergency, giving his health chief the power to let hospitals move emergency rooms offsite to speed treatment and protect noninfected patients…. – AP, 10-24-09
  • Obama Plans Speech to Jewish Group: With his unpopular insistence that Israelis freeze settlements in the West Bank, the president will address a Jewish organization in Boston for the first time in his presidency…. – NYT, 10-23-09
  • Senate bill may have public insurance plan: The Senate has long been seen as opposed to the federal government selling health insurance in competition with private industry, but now senior Senate Democrats and White House officials are strongly considering including such a measure in health care overhaul legislation, officials say…. – AP, 10-23-09
  • Negotiators mull public option in health care bill: Senior Senate Democrats at work with White House officials on health care legislation are strongly considering a requirement for the federal government to sell insurance in direct competition with private industry, officials said Thursday, with individual states permitted to drop out of the system. – AP, 10-23-09
  • White House rejects Cheney’s Afghanistan criticismAP, 10-23-09
  • The Early Word: The Public Option Rises: The Senate majority leader considers including the public insurance option into health care legislation. NYT, 10-23-09
  • Key senators may rebuff Obama on health care: The Democrats’ control of a hefty majority in the Senate — plus the House — would suggest that President Barack Obama is within reach of overhauling the nation’s health care system this fall. Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., is interviewed by the Associated Press in his Capitol Hill office in Washington. Obama and other top Democrats sharply criticized his appointment to the Senate in December by an ethically tainted governor, Illinois’ Rod Blagojevich, and they forced Burris to abandon hopes of winning electionin 2010 by making it clear they would not back him. Burris, 72, has virtually nothing to lose by defying his party’s leaders and voting as he pleases on overhauling the nation’s health care system this fall… – AP, 10-22-09
  • US signals Afghan coalition government is possible: The United States built pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday, signaling that a troop increase could hinge on a successful runoff election and that the Obama administration would be receptive to a power-sharing deal between Karzai and his chief rival… – AP, 10-22-09
  • Afghan president’s rival accepts Nov. 7 runoff: Afghanistan’s election commission Tuesday ordered a Nov. 7 runoff in the disputed presidential poll after a fraud investigation dropped incumbent Hamid Karzai’s votes below 50 percent of the total. Karzai accepted the finding and agreed to a second round vote. President Hamid Karzai’s chief political rival agreed Wednesday to take part in the Nov. 7 runoff election, cementing the stage for a high-stakes showdown in the face of Taliban threats and approaching winter snows. AP, 10-21-09
  • Obama cites higher hope for Afghanistan democracy - AP, 10-21-09
  • Senate OKs transfer of Gitmo prisoners for trialsAP, 10-21-09
  • Plans to Slash Pay of Bailout Executives: The administration is said to have plans that would cut by 95 percent over last year the cash compensation of top executives heading companies receiving the largest bailouts…. – NYT, 10-21-09
  • AP sources: House Dems trim health bill to $871B: House Democrats are aiming to scale back the cost of their health care bill to well below President Barack Obama’s preferred price tag by giving the government a strong hand in selling insurance in competition with the private market… – AP, 10-21-09
  • Reuters Summit-McCain says Republicans need positive agenda: Republican Senator John McCain said on Wednesday his party needed a positive agenda to better attract those Americans who are disenchanted with Democratic policies.
    McCain said he sensed “a lot of anger and a lot of frustration” among Americans over taxpayer-backed bailouts of banks and auto companies while they cope with a persistently high U.S. jobless rate of 9.8 percent and see bank executives get “obscene” bonuses.
    “There’s something going on out there. And I’d love to sit here and tell you that we Republicans are attracting all of those unhappy people, but we’re not. They’re out there kind of in the middle and they haven’t found a home. And in fact they haven’t even channeled their anger yet,” he said…. – Reuters, 10-21-09
  • Kerry Becomes All-Around Adviser To Obama: He’s not president, a Cabinet member or ambassador, but Senator John Kerry has ascended to the unofficial role of President Barack Obama’s global adviser on key issues that could reshape the nation’s image around the world. Mediating Afghanistan’s presidential election vaulted Kerry from the already prominent chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee into the most exclusive circle around a new president who is juggling but has not resolved a variety of domestic and foreign policy matters. Beyond policy, Kerry knows how Washington works. “Obviously, Sen. Kerry is somebody who has a broad range of experience and an in-depth knowledge of issues, ranging form energy and climate change to health care to foreign policy,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. “I think it’s that experience and insight that (Obama) certainly greatly values.”…. – AP, 10-21-09
  • Obama to meet with Iraqi leader, honor vetsAP, 10-20-09
  • Gates: War strategy shouldn’t depend on result of Afghan election: Afghan election commission orders runoff: Afghanistan’s election commission has ordered a runoff election for Nov. 7 after a fraud investigation dropped President Hamid Karzai’s votes below 50 percent of the total. – AP, 10-20-09
  • U.S. to end war on medical marijuana in legal states: A new Obama administration policy loosening guidelines on federal prosecution of medical marijuana on Monday signaled to users that they had less to fear from federal agents but still left their suppliers to contend with a tangled mesh of state laws and regulations…. – AP, 10-20-09
  • Adviser: Obama awaiting finished health care billAP, 10-19-09
  • Obama looking at all options for creating jobsAP, 10-19-09
  • School Day for Obama: President Obama popped in on third and fourth-graders at a Silver Spring, Md. elementary school Monday, to tout the benefits of reading for youngsters, just as they were having lunch. The First Reader stopped by the cafeteria at Viers Mill School, where Mr. Obama admitted to having read Harry Potter books (with his daughter, Malia), but not the Goosebumps series of children’s horror books that are apparently a favorite of many of the kids at the school… – NYT, 10-19-09
  • White House pushes to shape health bill: Proponents of revamping the nation’s health care system will hold phone-bank events in 50 states today. Here in the nation’s capital, a coalition of more than 100 liberal interest groups will convene its weekly meeting, with health care atop the agenda. Congressional leaders will seek to meld five health care bills into two for House and Senate votes. Beyond the topic, all the public and private meetings will have one other thing in common: White House involvement. President Obama will speak from New York City by video hookup to hundreds of small gatherings sponsored by Organizing for America, a spinoff of his 2008 campaign. Top White House aides will attend the regular strategy session of the Common Purpose Project, a coalition headed by former Obama campaign officials to advance his agenda. And when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gather committee leaders to write the legislation, Obama’s chief of staff and other aides are at the table…. – USA Today, 10-19-09
  • Kerry: too soon to send more troops to Afghanistan - AP, 10-18-09
  • Artist admits using key AP photo for ‘HOPE’ poster - AP, 10-18-09
  • Obama administration shifting policy on SudanAP, 10-17-09
  • Bipartisan Spirit, at Least for a Moment, in Bush Country: President Obama ventured deep into Bush territory, joining the first President George Bush to promote volunteerism, a favorite theme of both men…. NYT, 10-17-09
  • Obama honors Bush’s service; At an event in Texas, the president also calls for cooperation between Republicans and Democrats. In a glowing tribute to a Republican predecessor, President Obama on Friday praised President George H.W. Bush as an example of someone who eschewed “a life of comfort and privilege” and instead devoted himself to public service — inside government and out. LAT, 10-17-09
  • Obama praises Senate committee’s health care vote – AP, 10-17-09
  • Job Program Found to Miss Many States That Need It Most: Businesses with federal stimulus contracts have created few jobs in states with the worst unemployment rates, according to data released Thursday by the federal government. The new jobs reported Thursday come from a small slice of a sliver of the $787 billion stimulus program: the roughly $16 billion worth of stimulus contracts that were awarded directly by federal agencies, of which about $2.2 billion has been spent so far. But the preliminary data represented the first time that the federal government has reported actual job figures, and not just job estimates, and they provided the most complete snapshot yet of how one component of the sprawling program — direct federal contracts — was shaping up…. – NYT, 10-16-09
  • In Saying No, G.O.P. Sees More Pros Than Cons: The numbers are striking: Of the 217 Republicans in the House and the Senate, only one, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, has publicly supported a health care overhaul along the lines President Obama seeks.
    The Republicans’ opposition is a remarkable display of the unity emerging against the broader Obama agenda as a dangerous expansion of government. That stance is popular with, even demanded by, the party’s narrowed conservative base.
    But it also exposes Republicans to criticism that they have become political obstructionists with no policy agenda of their own. And that could keep them from extending their appeal to the centrist voters who are essential to rebuilding the party’s strength nationally….. – NYT, 10-16-09
  • Obama and elder Bush team up on call to service - 10-16-09
  • Baucus: All Senate Dems will support health billAP, 10-16-09
  • Obama defends himself against New Orleans critics - AP, 10-16-09
  • President Obama makes first trip to New OrleansAP, 10-15-09
  • Obama calls for $250 payments to seniors - AP, 10-15-09
  • Health care legislation back behind closed doors: Health care talks slip back behind closed doors Wednesday as Senate leaders start trying to merge two very different bills into a new version that can get the 60 votes needed to guarantee its passage… – AP, 10-14-09
  • House panel to begin push on financial overhaul – AP, 10-14-09
  • Health bill clears hurdle with support from Snowe: Historic legislation to expand U.S. health care and control costs won its first Republican supporter Tuesday and cleared a key Senate hurdle, a double-barreled triumph that propelled President Barack Obama’s signature issue toward votes this fall in both houses of Congress. Senate Finance Committee member Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, smiles as she looks towards the Democratic side of the dais on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009, after she spoke at the committee’s hearing on health care reform. Snowe says she will vote for a Democratic health care bill, breaking with her party on President Barack Obama’s top legislative priority. AP, 10-14-09
  • AP IMPACT: Obama’s travels carry a touch of blue – AP, 10-13-09
  • Vote set for health overhaul in Senate committee: President Barack Obama’s plan to remake the nation’s health care system is about to take its biggest step yet toward becoming reality. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont. enters an elevator on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. announced that the Finance Committee will vote next week on the health care bill. AP, 10-13-09
  • Dems scramble after warning from health insurers: Insurance companies aren’t playing nice any more. Their dire message that health care legislation will drive up premiums for people who already have coverage comes as a warning shot at a crucial point in the debate, and threatens President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority… – AP, 10-12-09
  • McCain says Palin remains strong force in the GOP: Sen. John McCain says Sarah Palin remains a formidable force in the Republican Party despite widespread criticisms of his 2008 running mate. McCain says he still has great affection for the former Alaska governor…. – AP, 10-11-09
  • Gay rights advocates march on DC, divided on Obama: AP, 10-11-09
  • As Pressure Grows, Obama Addresses Gay Rights Group; He Promises to End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ President Obama, struggling to keep promises he made during last year’s campaign, renewed his pledge to end the military’s ban on openly gay service members as he appeared at a fundraising dinner for the nation’s largest gay advocacy group on Saturday night. “I will end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ ” Obama said at the Human Rights Campaign dinner. Recounting the ongoing effort to bring full civil rights to gays and lesbians, the president said: “I’m here with a simple message: I’m here with you in that fight. Obama did not offer specifics on how he would advance the cause of allowing gays to serve openly in the military, or of same-sex marriage, two areas where his inaction as president have disappointed many gay supporters. – WaPo, 10-11-09
  • Gays question Obama ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ pledge: President Barack Obama restated his campaign pledge to allow homosexual men and women to serve openly in the military, but left many in his audience of gay activists wondering when he would make good on the promise. AP, 10-11-09
  • DNC pulls health care ad after Dole objects: The Democratic National Committee is canceling a television ad touting GOP support for health care reform after protests from one of the Republicans mentioned, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. The ad quotes a series of Republicans — including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson — saying the health care system needs to be reformed. Dole is quoted saying: “I want this to pass. … We’ve got to do something.” The ad then accuses current GOP congressional leaders as “siding with the insurance companies” to fight health care reform…. – AP, 10-11-09
  • If health care passes, subsidies will come later: Sixty years is how long Democrats say they’ve been pushing for legislation that provides health care access for all Americans. They’ll have to wait another three if President Barack Obama gets a bill to sign this year. Under the Democratic bills, federal tax credits to help make health insurance affordable for millions of low- and middle-income households won’t start flowing until 2013 — after the next presidential election. But Medicare cuts and a sizable chunk of the tax increases to pay for the overhaul kick in immediately…. – AP, 10-10-09
  • AP source: Obama focusing on al-Qaida, not Taliban: President Barack Obama is prepared to accept some Taliban involvement in Afghanistan’s political future and will determine how many more U.S. troops to send to the war based only on keeping al-Qaida at bay, a senior administration official said Thursday…. – AP, 10-9-09
  • Axelrod: Afghanistan plan deeper than troop surge: A senior White House adviser said Friday that President Barack Obama’s talks on Afghanistan with top national security advisers earlier in the day ran much deeper than the question of sending more troops into the war.
    Presidential adviser David Axelrod, in a speech at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said “a lot of different factors” are being considered in the internal discussions, including allegations of fraud in Afghanistan’s recent presidential election and America’s strained relationship with Pakistan.
    “Fundamentally, what we need to think through is what is the best way to achieve our goals, which is to disrupt and dismantle al-Qaida, so they can’t stage operations against the U.S. and our allies,” Axelrod said…. – AP, 10-9-09
  • Obama, advisers weigh Afghanistan shift, Pakistan – AP, 10-8-09
  • Health bill would cost $829B, cover 94 percent: Health care legislation drafted by a key Senate committee would expand coverage to 94 percent of all eligible Americans at a 10-year cost of $829 billion, congressional budget experts said Wednesday, a preliminary estimate trumpeted by the White House and likely to power the measure past a major hurdle within days…. – AP, 10-8-09
  • AP Poll: Health care overhaul has a pulse: The fever has broken. The patient is out of intensive care. But if you’re President Barack Obama, you can’t stop pacing the waiting room. Health care overhaul is still in guarded condition… – AP, 10-7-09
  • Clinton, Gates say US goals steady in Afghanistan: AP, 10-6-09
  • Obama pitches health care plan in front of doctors: AP, 10-6-09
  • WH says Obama won’t pull US out of Afghanistan: President Barack Obama won’t walk away from the flagging war in Afghanistan, the White House declared Monday as Obama faced tough decisions — and intense administration debate — over choices that could help define his presidency in his first year as commander in chief…. – AP, 10-5-09
  • Congress readies Iran sanctions if diplomacy fails: Congress is ready to act swiftly to impose tough new sanctions on Iran if international talks on Tehran’s nuclear program show signs of faltering. Already, some lawmakers are demanding that the United States strike immediately with new penalties rather than wait for an uncertain multinational consensus…. – AP, 10-3-09
  • Dems ease impact of health bill, big advance nears: Capping months of struggle, Democrats pushed health care legislation atop President Barack Obama’s agenda to the brink of a major Senate advance early Friday after last-minute changes to ease the impact on working-class families. The most far-reaching overhaul in decades aims to protect millions who have unreliable insurance coverage or none at all…. – AP, 10-2-09
  • Obama: Iran must follow through on nuke promises: President Barack Obama on Thursday called landmark nuclear talks with Iran a constructive beginning, then challenged Tehran to match words with deeds by giving international inspectors “unfettered access” to a previously secret uranium enrichment plant within two weeks…. AP, 10-1-09

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Obama Stumps for Deeds in Va.: The president makes a rare campaign appearance for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, in a very close race under very close scrutiny because Virginia went Democratic in the presidential campaign last year. NYT, 10-27-09
  • NY House race seen as test for GOP, Obama – AP, 10-18-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

resident Obama appeared with former President George H.W. Bush, center, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at an event promoting community service at Texas A&M University on Friday.

Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama appeared with former President George H.W. Bush, center, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at an event promoting community service at Texas A&M University on Friday.

  • Weekly Address: “President Obama Says Recovery Act Creating Jobs and Strengthening Economy”: Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address Saturday, October 31, 2009: Each week, I’ve spoken with you about the challenges we face as a nation and the path we must take to meet them. And the truth is, over the past ten months, I’ve often had to report distressing news during what has been a difficult time for our country. But today, I am pleased to offer some better news that – while not cause for celebration – is certainly reason to believe that we are moving in the right direction…
    Finally, the Recovery Act is saving and creating jobs all across the country. Just this week, we reached an important milestone. Based on reports coming in from across America – as shovels break ground, as needed public servants are rehired, and as factories whir to life – it is clear that the Recovery Act has now created and saved more than one million jobs. That’s more than a million people who might otherwise be out of work today – folks who can wake up each day knowing that they’ll be able to provide for themselves and their families…. – WH, 10-31-09
  • Obama honors fallen Americans at Dover: Standing in the pre-dawn darkness, President Barack Obama saw the real cost of the war in Afghanistan: The Americans who return in flag-covered cases while much of the nation sleeps in peace. In a surprise midnight dash to this Delaware base where U.S. forces killed overseas come home, Obama honored the return of 18 fallen Americans Thursday. All were killed in Afghanistan this week, a brutal stretch that turned October into the most deadly month for U.S. troops since the war began.
    “It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day, not only our troops but their families as well,” Obama said later Thursday, hours after his return to the White House. “The burden that both our troops and their families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts, and it is something that I think about each and every day.”… – AP, 10-29-09
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Says Small Business Must be at the Forefront of the Recovery: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address October 24, 2009 Washington, DC: Small businesses have always been the engine of our economy – creating 65 percent of all new jobs over the past decade and a half – and they must be at the forefront of our recovery. That’s why the Recovery Act was designed to help small businesses expand and create jobs. It’s provided $5 billion worth of tax relief, as well as temporarily reducing or eliminating fees on SBA loans and guaranteeing some of these loans up to 90 percent, which has supported nearly $13 billion in new lending to more than 33,000 businesses.
    In addition, our health reform plan will allow small businesses to buy insurance for their employees through an insurance exchange, which may offer better coverage at lower costs – and we’ll provide tax credits for those that choose to do so.
    And this past week, I called on Congress to increase the maximum size of various SBA loans, so that more small business owners can set up shop and grow their operations. I also announced that we’ll be taking additional steps through our Financial Stability plan to make more credit available to the small local and community banks that so many small businesses depend on – the banks who know their borrowers, who gave them their first loan and watched them grow…. – WH, 10-24-09
  • Cheney Slams Obama on Afghanistan Policy: The former vice president accused President Obama of “dithering” on strategies for the war in Afghanistan….
    “In the fall of 2008, fully aware of the need to meet new challenges being posed by the Taliban, we dug into every aspect of Afghanistan policy, assembling a team that repeatedly went into the country, reviewing options and recommendations, and briefing President-elect Obama’s team. They asked us not to announce our findings publicly, and we agreed, giving them the benefit of our work and the benefit of the doubt.”
    But on Sunday, Mr. Emanuel told CNN that “when you go though all the analysis, it’s clear that basically we had a war for eight years that was going on, that’s adrift, that we’re beginning at scratch, and just from the starting point, after eight years.” – NYT, 10-23-09
  • President Recognizes Vietnam Vets as Heroes: “We have an obligation to all who served in the jungles of Vietnam. Our Vietnam vets answered their country’s call and served with honor. But one of the saddest episodes in American history was the fact that these vets were often shunned and neglected, even demonized, when they came home. That was a national disgrace. And on days such as this, we resolve to never let it happen again.” NYT, 10-20-09
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Calls Hails Progress on Health Insurance Reform Despite Defenders of the Status Quo: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address October 17, 2009: Now, as the debate draws to a close, we can point to a broad and growing coalition of doctors and nurses, workers and businesses, hospitals and even drug companies – folks who represent different parties and perspectives, including leading Democrats and many leading Republicans – who recognize the urgency of action. Just this week, the Senate Finance Committee approved a reform proposal that has both Democratic and Republican support. For the first time ever, all five committees in Congress responsible for health reform have passed a version of legislation. As I speak to you today, we are closer to reforming the health care system than we have ever been in history…. – WH, 10-16-09
  • The Saturday Word: Health Care Battles: “They’re filling the airwaves with deceptive and dishonest ads. They’re flooding Capitol Hill with lobbyists and campaign contributions. And they’re funding studies designed to mislead the American people,” Mr. Obama said adding firepower to Congressional Democrats’ already hostile responses. “It’s smoke and mirrors. It’s bogus. And it’s all too familiar. Every time we get close to passing reform, the insurance companies produce these phony studies as a prescription and say, “Take one of these, and call us in a decade.” NYT, 10-17-09
  • The Saturday Word: Health Care Battles: “There are three big myths hurtling around Washington these days: no jobs equals an economic recovery, government-run health care will make it more affordable, and deficits don’t matter,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas said in his party’s weekly address. “Liberal policies that will keep people out of work longer will only make the deficit worse. Americans know that deficits matter to our dollar, to our economy, to our future,” Mr. Brady said. – NYT, 10-17-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE’S VOTE TO APPROVE HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM Rose Garden: Today we reached a critical milestone in our effort to reform our health care system. After many months of thoughtful deliberation, the fifth and final committee responsible for health care reform has passed a proposal that has both Democratic and Republican support. This effort was made possible by the tireless efforts of Chairman Max Baucus and the other members of the Senate Finance Committee. It’s a product of vigorous debate and difficult negotiations.
    After the consideration of hundreds of amendments, it includes ideas from both Democrats and Republicans, which is why it enjoys the support of people from both parties. And I want to particularly thank Senator Olympia Snowe for both the political courage and the seriousness of purpose that she’s demonstrated throughout this process….. – WH, 10-13-09
  • Weekly Address: New Momentum for Health Reform:
    WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Praises Emerging Consensus on Health Insurance Reform East Room:
    The historic movement to bring real, meaningful health insurance reform to the American people gathered momentum this week as we approach the final days of this debate. Having worked on this issue for the better part of a year, the Senate Finance Committee is finishing deliberations on their version of a health insurance reform bill that will soon be merged with other reform bills produced by other Congressional committees….
    In fact, what’s remarkable is not that we’ve had a spirited debate about health insurance reform, but the unprecedented consensus that has come together behind it. This consensus encompasses everyone from doctors and nurses to hospitals and drug manufacturers…. – WH, 10-11-09 Transcript
  • Obama: One more push for health care cooperation: President Barack Obama sees both “unprecedented consensus” from outside Congress on his drive to remake the nation’s health care system and obstructionism by some on Capitol Hill. “The historic movement to bring real, meaningful health insurance reform to the American people gathered momentum this week as we approach the final days of this debate,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet video address.
    The consensus “includes everyone from doctors and nurses to hospitals and drug manufacturers” — even Republican governors and former GOP lawmakers, Obama said.
    “These distinguished leaders understand that health insurance reform isn’t a Democratic issue or a Republican issue, but an American issue that demands a solution,” Obama said. AP, 10-10-09
  • Weekly Address: Health Reform Urgent for the Economy: WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Explains How Health Insurance Reform Will Strengthen America’s Small Businesses: When I took office eight months ago, our nation was in the midst of an economic crisis unlike any we’d seen in generations. While I was confident that our economy would recover, we know that employment is often the last thing to come back after a recession. Our task is to do everything we possibly can to accelerate that process.
    And we’ve certainly made progress on this front since the period last winter when we were losing an average of 700,000 jobs each month. But yesterday’s report on September job losses was a sobering reminder that progress comes in fits and starts, and that we will need to grind out this recovery step by step…. – 10-3-09 Transcript
  • McCain admits problems with Palin: John McCain admitted the obvious Sunday: His staff clashed with the staff of VP running mate Sarah Palin during their 2008 presidential campaign. Much of the tension involved McCain top aide Steve Schmidt — who recently said it would be “catastrophic” if Palin were the GOP’s 2012 presidential candidate. But McCain certainly wasn’t going to criticize Palin herself; she remains very popular with the ultra-conservative part of the Republican Party. Said McCain: “She still is a formidable force in the Republican Party….”And I have great affection for her.” – Kansas City Star, 10-11-09
  • DNC pulls health care ad after Dole objects: Dole told ABC News on Sunday that he objected to the ad’s criticism of the current Republican leadership. “I just didn’t think it was fair, when I’ve tried to be helpful in encouraging a bipartisan solution, for the DNC to run an ad that I interpreted and I know others did as a backhanded comment about Republicans,” Dole said…. – AP, 10-11-09

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Editorial: The Baucus Bill: The Senate Finance Committee may finally be ready to vote on its version of a health care reform bill. For months, its chairman, Max Baucus, and other members have struggled to produce legislation that could win significant Republican support. Fat chance. Only one Republican on the committee seems open to voting for the bill, and the entire Republican Congressional leadership seems determined — for ideological and partisan reasons — to torpedo the entire reform effort…. – NYT, 10-11-09
  • KARL ROVE: The GOP Is Winning the Health-Care Debate: Passing health-care reform could be harmful to the health of congressional Democrats. Just look at how President Barack Obama’s standing has fallen as he has pushed for reform. According to Fox News surveys, the number of independents who oppose health-care reform hit 57% at the end of September, up from 33% in July. Independents are generally a quarter of the vote in off-year congressional elections. Among college graduates, opposition to health-care reform is now 50%, while only 33% support it, according to Gallup’s Sept. 24 poll. College graduates are slightly more than a quarter of the off-year electorate…. – WSJ, 10-10-09
  • Richard Kohn: How Obama Compares To Other Wartime President : As President Obama weighs his military options in Afghanistan, how does his relationship to the military and his leadership style compare to other wartime presidents? Richard Kohn, a military historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says President Obama’s frequency of contacts with Gen. Stanley McChrystal are typical. – NPR (All Things Considered) (10-5-09)
  • Robert Dallek tells Obama “war kills off great reform movements”: At a White House dinner with a group of historians at the beginning of the summer, Robert Dallek, a shrewd student of both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, offered a chilling comment to President Obama. “In my judgment,” he recalls saying, “war kills off great reform movements.” The American record is pretty clear: World War I brought the Progressive Era to a close. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was waging World War II, he was candid in saying that “Dr. New Deal” had given way to “Dr. Win the War.” Korea ended Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, and Vietnam brought Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society to an abrupt halt…. – The Washington Post (10-5-09)
  • Julian Zelizer: Commentary: Obama’s mistakes are a warning sign: During the past few months, two events have revealed a side of President Obama that we knew little about. First came his remark in July when he said at a press conference that the police who arrested Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates had acted “stupidly.”
    The unrehearsed remark triggered controversy right at a time when Democrats needed to focus public attention on health care.
    And last week, at a climactic moment for the health care debate in the Senate, Obama suddenly went to make a personal pitch for holding the 2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago, Illinois.
    When the International Olympic Committee said no to the president’s hometown in the first round of voting, and then gave the event to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Obama suffered an embarrassing defeat. The late-night comedians and his political foes were predictably chomping at the bit.
    These events contrast sharply with the other Barack Obama that most of us have come to know since 2007, a study in cool and deliberative decision-making. During the Democratic primaries, nothing seemed to shake Obama….
    In the end, two issues will shape this presidency much more than the Olympics: the outcome of the health care debate and the decision over whether to send troops to Afghanistan.
    Nonetheless, the incident should serve as a warning to the president and his staff. This is the kind of action they should not repeat. While Obama has thus far avoided making mistakes on the big issues of the day, this kind of slip-up would be devastating in a different context. And over time, too many of them, on issues large and small, will undermine the positive impression most Americans still have of his leadership abilities. – CNN, 10-5-09
  • Obama Researcher Reveals How She Found President’s Irish Roots: Chief Family Historian for Ancestry.com Megan Smolenyak got the assignment of a lifetime when it was discovered in 2007 that future President of the U.S. Barack Obama had Irish roots. Smolenyak’s job? To find out where in Ireland Obama’s family came from. Ancestry.com had established that Obama was part Irish, and that his third great-grandfather on his mother’s side, Fulmoth Kearney, is his most recent connection to the Emerald Isle…. – ABC News (10-3-09)
  • Obama and McChrystal Don’t Talk? Good, Says Army Historian: President Obama is about to convene his war cabinet, to discuss the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. It’ll be only the second time Obama has spoken directly with Gen. Stanley McChrystal since he became the top commander for coalition forces there – a fact that’s earning Obama a lot of grief in national security circles. But a leading Army War College historian says the critics are off-base… – Wired (9-30-09)

The Obama family portrait, released by the White House.

Annie Leibovitz, via the White House The Obama family portrait, released by the White House.

    Republican National Convention Day 1: September 1, 2008

    PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH: REPUBLICAN CONVENTION COVERAGE

    Laura Bush, Cindy McCain call for Gustav donations (CNN)

    Laura Bush, Cindy McCain call for Gustav donations (CNN)

    Day 1 Schedule

      MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2008
      Country First: Service

      John McCain 2008 and 2008 Republican National Convention Announce Changes to Convention Program and Hurricane Response Efforts

      Monday’s Convention Program Will Only Include Required Proceedings, McCain Campaign Takes Steps to Aid Affected Delegations

      “Love of country, my friends, is another way of saying love of your fellow countryman.”
      –Sen. John McCain

      John McCain’s commitment to his fellow Americans, a commitment forged in service to his country, is one of the defining hallmarks of his life. Monday’s events will highlight John McCain’s record of service and sacrifice and reflect his commitment to serving a cause greater than one’s own selfinterest.

      Speakers: First Lady Laura Bush and Cindy McCain
      - GOP Convention 2008

    Highlights:

    • September 1, 2008: GOP convention appeals for hurricane aid; Palins say unmarried daughter is pregnant … Palin says daughter, 17, is pregnant; announcement aims to rebut rumors about governor’s son … Obama curtails campaign to watch Gustav, asks for Red Cross donations … McCain says campaign raised $47 million in August … Smashing windows and throwing bottles, some protesters turn violent in march to GOP convention … Biden skips Pittsburgh parade to monitor Gustav, still plans to visit hometown of Scranton. – AP, 9-1-08

    Stats & In the News…

    • GOP convention opening with appeal for Gustav aid – AP, 9-1-08
    • Republican Convention by the Numbers – PBS Newshour, 9-1-08
    • McCain raises $47 million in August – AP, 9-1-08
    • Palin’s Teen Daughter Is Pregnant; New G.O.P. Tumult – NYT, 9-1-08
    • 5 arrested in protests at GOP convention site – AP, 9-1-08

    Historians’ Comments

    • Henry Robertson on “McCain’s VP choice surprises La. GOP leaders”: And associate history professor Henry Robertson at Louisiana College in Pineville says the history doesn’t end there, with both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates snubbing political tradition by choosing their running mates from states with few electoral votes. Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, hails from a state with three electoral votes, the same as Palin’s Alaska. “On both counts, I think, it was kind of a surprise that they didn’t pick people to geographically balance or to have the kind of electoral count you would expect,” said Robertson, who also is the faculty adviser to the College Republicans, a student group at LC. Robertson did praise Palin’s selection, though, calling her “an excellent choice, a fresh new face” who will make the Republican ticket a strong contender. But as Republicans expressed glee with their completed ticket, they also expressed concern as Hurricane Gustav threatened to wreak havoc just as their convention kicks off. Robertson suggested that the party should consider delaying the convention should Gustav become a large national event. “I don’t think you want to have a convention when you have a major emergency in the United States,” Robertson said. “I do think it would be wise if they waited, or delayed certainly, the convention because the focus needs to be on what is going on, on the Gulf Coast.” – The Town Talk, LA, 8-30-08

    The Speeches….

    • First Lady Laura Bush encouraging contributions for hurricane relief
      “Our first priority is to assure the safety and well-being of those living in the Gulf Coast region. When such events occur, we are reminded that, first, we are all Americans, and that our shared American ideals will always transcend political parties and partisanship. We hope that the people on the Gulf Coast know that the American people are here to do what we can to assist them.”

      Though she focused on private aid, Bush noted that her husband “has been speaking with the officials in the region to make sure they have what they need from the federal government.”

      She noted that the governors of the affected states — Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — “happen to be Republicans,” but had canceled their planned attendance at the convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

      “We know that it’s far more important for them to remain in their home states to provide the leadership and the management of this crisis…. Let’s work together to provide those affected with the means to restore and rebuild their communities.”

    • First Lady Laura Bush listened as Cindy McCain spoke at the 2008 Republican National Convention on Monday in St. Paul. (NYT)

      First Lady Laura Bush listened as Cindy McCain spoke at the 2008 Republican National Convention on Monday in St. Paul. (NYT)

    • Cindy McCain encouraging contributions for hurricane relief
      Cindy McCain, said her husband, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, John McCain, “has been saying for the last several days this is the time we take off our Republican hats and put on our American hats.” She urged Americans to go to www.causegreater.com, a Web site paid for by John McCain 2008, to donate. “That will allow all of us to aid those who have been affected by Hurricane Gustav.”

    On the Campaign Trail….

    • Obama Cuts Short Rally and Calls for Moment of Silence
      “Today’s not a day for political speeches. I hope you’ll forgive me. I hope you don’t mind. Today is the day for all of us to come together as Americans and send our thoughts and prayers to our brothers and sisters who are worrying at this very hour…. I know that John McCain wants what’s best for the people that have been evacuated. I know George Bush wants what’s best and so do I. So I want all of us to come together. “I will be monitoring it all day,” Mr. Obama said, urging people to give to the Red Cross or contribute in whatever way they could. “We are prayerful this will not be the same situation we saw three years ago.”
    • Obama says Palin’s family off limits

      Sen. Barack Obama campaigns in Monroe, Michigan, on Monday. (AP)

      Sen. Barack Obama campaigns in Monroe, Michigan, on Monday. (AP)

      “Let me be as clear as possible,” Obama said. “I think people’s families are off-limits, and people’s children are especially off-limits. This shouldn’t be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin’s performance as governor or her potential performance as a vice president.” Mr. Obama said the pregnancy “has no relevance to Governor Palin’s performance as a governor or her potential performance as a vice president… My mother had me when she was 18. How a family deals with issues and teen-age children — that shouldn’t be the topic of our politics, and I hope that anybody who is supporting me understands that’s off-limits. So, I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories.”

      “I am offended by that statement. There is no evidence at all that any of this involved us. We don’t go after people’s families; we don’t get them involved in the politics. It’s not appropriate, and it’s not relevant,” he added. “Our people were not involved in any way in this, and they will not be. And if I ever thought that there was somebody in my campaign that was involved in something like that, they’d be fired.”

    • McCain spokesman Steve Schmidt about news of Bristol Palin’s Pregnancy
      “Senator McCain’s view is this is a private family matter. As parents, (the Palins) love their daughter unconditionally and are going to support their daughter. Life happens.”
    • Sarah and Todd Palin said in a brief statement about their Daughter’s Pregnancy
      “Our beautiful daughter Bristol came to us with news that as parents we knew would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned. We’re proud of Bristol’s decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents. Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family. We ask the media, respect our daughter and Levi’s privacy as has always been the tradition of children of candidates.”

    June 30-September 11, 1862: Confederate Eugenia Phillips is sentenced to Ship Island by “the Beast” General Butler

    Eugenia Levy Phillips in her later years

    Eugenia Levy Phillips in her later years

    On this day in history… June 30, 1862 to September 11, 1862 Eugenia Levy Phillips, an ardent Confederate was arrested and sentenced to time on Ship Island, Mississippi because she laughed during a Union soldier’s funeral procession in New Orleans.

    During the Civil War, women in the South contributed on many levels to the cause through volunteer work, as war supply collectors, sewing circles, and nursing, but the far more committed chose to rebel against the Union officials. Many Southern women took advantage of the new politicizing position the war granted women by demonstrating their loyalty to the South through fiercer methods, often through illegal means including, smuggling, espionage, and belligerency. Phoebe Pember summed up Southern women’s devotion best when she wrote, “women of the South had been openly and violently rebellious from the moment they thought their states’ rights touched. They incited the men to struggle in support of their views, and whether right or wrong, sustained them nobly to the end. They were the first to rebel – and the last to succumb.” (Rosen, 44)

    The South’s small Jewish population adamantly sided with their Southern neighbors and so did their women. The majority of these Jewish women were not recent immigrants, but American born and shared the lifestyle and values of their Christian counterparts. As Hasia Diner and Beryl Lieff Benderly write “Rosana [Osterman], the Levy sisters, and the Natchez M[a]yer daughters were not, of course, recent immigrants but rather the American-born descendants of earlier migrant generations. But they, like Jews throughout the country, both newly arrived and long established, saw themselves as wholehearted Americans and fashioned their lives and identities in response to an American reality quite unlike anything Jews had ever experienced elsewhere.” (Diner and Benderly, 106) These women were Jewish southern belles and lived their lives accordingly.

    These Southern Jewish women were integrated in Southern society, and were attached to lifestyle they had become accustomed to, and as the war demonstrated Southerners and the Confederacy were more tolerant of Jews than the Union army that ravaged the South, Southern Jewish recognized this and devotedly aligned themselves with their beloved South at all costs. As the doyen of American Jewish history Jacob Rader Marcus writes, “The Southern Jewesses were fanatically, almost hysterically, passionate in their sympathies for their new regime. Were they trying to prove that they were more ardent than their neighbors? Why?” (Marcus, 31)

    The Levys were a prominent Southern Jewish family and once the Civil War broke-out; they were loyal to the Confederate cause. Two of the sisters, Eugenia Levy Phillips and her younger sister Phoebe Yates Levy Pember would be remembered in history as ardent Confederates, expressing their devotion at opposite extremes. Phoebe Pember took up nursing the wounded confederates; one of the more common and respectable ways Southern women showed their devotion. She was one of the South’s most remembered female hospital matrons and nurse in the largest military hospital in Confederacy during the Civil War. Pember was the chief matron at Hospital Number Two at Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia, from 1862 to 1865. Pember’s older sister Eugenia however, was such an ardent Confederate that her devotion to the cause showed no boundaries, and she is remembered for supposedly being a Confederate spy and for rebelling against the one of the Union’s fiercest generals, Benjamin Butler, who was as known for his hatred of Confederacy as much as his anti-Semitic attitudes.

    Eugenia Levy Phillips was born in Charleston in 1819, and was the daughter of Jacob Clavius Levy, a merchant, and Fanny Yates Levy, an actress. She married U.S. Congressman Philip Phillips of Mobile, Alabama when she was 16, and went on to have nine children. Phillips was a leading figure in Alabama politics from the 1830s to the 1850s when he was elected to the United States Congress in 1852. After one term in Congress, he established a law practice in Washington, D.C. where the Phillips remained in Washington throughout the Southern states secession from the Union. Eugenia and her husband differed greatly in their political beliefs; Phillips was a Unionist, while Eugenia was probably one of the fiercest secessionists in the District of Columbia. Eugenia also socialized with other secessionists and women suspected of spying on the Union for the Confederacy, particularly Rose O’Neal Greenhow, well-known Confederate spy. Eugenia Phillips writing in journal claimed, “American women knew nothing of war, believed less in the cruelties and fearful vindictiveness of the Federal governm[en]t. Thus the Southern women gave free expression to the feelings which habit had made but second nature, and spoke of their hatred and determination to sustain their rights by encouraging in their husbands, sons, and fathers every resistance to tyranny exhibited by the Republicans.” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

    Eugenia’s associations and excessive antagonism toward the Union made her a target for government surveillance. On August 24, 1861, Federal officers came into Eugenia and Phillip Phillips home arresting the both of them. Phillip remained under house arrest for a week, but Eugenia and two of their daughters, Fanny and Caroline as well as Eugenia’s sister Martha Levy where taken to Rose Greenhow’s house to be imprisoned. The Union arrested Greenhow the previous day for relaying to Confederate General McDowell plans for the first Manassas Campaign. There all five women remained imprisoned in two rooms in Greenhow’s attic with hardly any amenities. Eugenia Phillips described it in her journal, “The stove (broken) served us for table and washstand, while a punch bowl grew into a washbasin. Two filthy straw mattresses kept us warm, and Yankee soldiers were placed at our bedroom door to prevent our escape.” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

    Despite the fact that Union officers had no evidence to charge her and her family they for a crime, they still kept them imprisoned occasionally allowing Phillip Phillips who had since been released to visit and bring food baskets, albeit under strict Union supervision. Eugenia believed her loyalty to her country should not be considered a crime to imprison her for, writing in her memoir she claimed; “Again I ask what is my crime? If an ardent attachment to the land of my birth and expression of deepest sympathy with relatives and friends in the South constitute treason -than I am indeed a traitor. If hostility towards black Republicanism, its sentiment and policy-it is a crime-and I am self-condemned…!”  Rosen, 288

    Southern women were outraged at the North’s treatment of women with no reason, especially the imprisonment of Eugenia’s two daughters. Phillips had to use his influence with Edward Stanton, Senator Reverdy Johnson from Maryland, and Supreme Court Justice James M. Wayne who was the former mayor of Savannah to secure his family’s release. However, the Union exiled the Phillips family from the nation’s capital and forced them to relocate to the Southern states. The whole family was also required to take an oath as a condition of their parole to “not to take illegal actions against the Union”

    It would not very long for Eugenia to again to make a breech of that agreement, after leaving Washington, to they first traveled to Norfolk, Virginia and then on to Richmond through Savannah and eventually settled in New Orleans in the closing weeks of 1861. Although conditions were unfavorable for Phillip to create a law practice, the family settled there because the Phillips believed they were safe from the Union army invasion in the Deep South, and therefore Eugenia would be safe from suspicion. By April however, the Union army was closing in on the Mississippi River, and News Orleans surrendered on April 29, 1862.

    By May 1, 1862, Major General Benjamin F. Butler of Massachusetts took over command of the city. Butler tried to control the city with an iron fist, known as “beast” Butler’s barbaric behavior proceeded him and the historian Bertram Wallace Korn describes Butler as a “conniving careerist and political opportunist of major proportions, who was given the title of “Beast” by the Confederacy for his severity during the early military occupation of New Orleans.” (Korn, 164) While historian Robert Rosen writes, “‘Beast’ Butler was the worst, the Union Army had to offer. He was nicknamed spoons for thiefery of spoons and silverware imputed to him and his soldiers.” (Rosen, 290)

    In addition to this reputation as a beast, Butler was also a known anti-Semite, who throughout the war openly expressed his hatred for Jews, and he let out most this aggression on Southern Jewry. Korn transcribes Butler’s sentiments towards Jews, “They were a tightly-knit and highly-organized nation who set themselves apart and defended themselves against others even when one of their group was wrong. They were all ‘traders, merchants, and bankers.’ He said that the only Jews he ever knew had ‘been principally engaged in the occupations [i.e. smuggling] which caused the capture which has occasioned this correspondence.’ They were supporting the Confederacy with whole heart – ‘two of them certainly are in the Confederate Cabinet.’” (Korn, 164)

    When General Butler occupied New Orleans in May 1862, the Southern population treated the Yankees with such contempt that they refused to comply with Federal orders. Southerners formed mobs to attack Union soldiers; they refused to serve Yankees in their businesses; priests refused to pray for the President of the United States, and one man was even sentenced to be hung for burning the Union flag. Despite the harsh punishments the Yankee soldiers issued to New Orleans’ men, the women of New Orleans believed these rules did not apply to them, that they were exempt from all harsh treatments because of their gender. Many of New Orleans’ women ran amuck being extremely belligerent to Union officials.

    The majority of the women who acted in this manner were upper class. As historian Drew Gilpin Faust writes, Butler “recognized that the perpetrators were generally young, often ‘pretty and interesting,’ and frequently socially prominent, the kind of individuals who would attract both attention and sympathy if harsh measures turned them into martyrs. (Faust, 209) At the same time, however, Butler knew he had to control their actions, for as Butler recalled in his memoir, “a city could hardly be said to be under good government where such things were permitted.” (Butler, 417) On May 15 in retaliation to the women’s disrespectful behavior Butler issued his infamous General Order No. 28, known as the “Women order.” Butler designed the order to force the women of New Orleans to practice restraint and avoid having hostile outbursts towards Yankee soldiers, or they would face dire consequences:

    General Order No. 28. As the officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans . . . it is ordered that hereafter when any female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation. (Butler, 421, 418; Faust, 210).

    The order put Eugenia Phillips in danger of yet again being imprisoned because of her fierce loyalty to the Confederacy, and her utter disregard and respect for the Union. Phillips was vulnerable to Butler’s wrath, because she was Jewish and a member of the city’s Confederate aristocracy, both of which Butler despised. In attempt to avoid Butler’s anger Eugenia and the Phillips family remained for the most part at home. However, Eugenia still managed to fall into Butler’s fury. The Phillips’ house was situated next to the city hall, and the day of Union Officer Lieutenant DeKay’s funeral procession passed by the street, Butler caught Eugenia blurting out in laughter and cheering on the terrace of her home. As Benjamin Butler biographer Hans L. Trefousse writes “High spirited and intensely loyal to the Confederacy, she had been in trouble before when she was apprehended for espionage in Washington. This time, not espionage but merriment was to prove her undoing.” (Trefousse, 118)

    Although Eugenia denied she laughed because or at of the funeral procession. There have been two accounts explaining why she was laughing. First Eugenia’s daughter Caroline claims it was because Eugenia heard of a Confederate victory and was in a celebratory mood, while other accounts including Eugenia’s own excuse, claim she was laughing at the antics of her younger children at a children’s party. At first when Butler called her to the Customs House, as Rosen writes, “Eugenia, active in raising money for the widow of a man executed by Butler for having hauled down the flag from the federal mint, believed she was being prosecuted for her pro-Southern beliefs.” (Rosen, 291) At the Customs House Butler screamed at Eugenia, “You are seen laughing and mocking at the remains of a Federal officer. I do not call you a common woman of the town, but an uncommonly vulgar one, and I sentence you to Ship Island for the War.” Eugenia reply further angered Butler as she wrote “Again my insolence aroused this son of liberty, particularly as in reply to his accusation I had said: ‘I was in good spirits the day of the funeral.’” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

    Eugenia’s response and her refusal to plead and beg Butler led to her harsh punishment rather than her original crime. As she explained in her journal, “I noted that he took a mighty long time to write my sentence, and I suspected that he hoped by delay I would throw myself on his mercy, or beg his pardon, or promise never to do so again. Nothing of this kind ever crossed my brain, and, full of holy indignation and determination to meet with silent contempt this outrageous insult, I quietly folded my arms and looked on him while he wrote. Not a word of appeal or explanation broke the ominous silence. My accuser had made the charge and sentenced me without judge or jury.” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

    Butler wrote in Special Order No. 150 delineating Eugenia Phillips’ sentence, “…having been once imprisoned for her traitorous proclivities and acts at Washington, and released by the clemency of the Government, and having been found training her children to spit on officers of the United States, for which act of one of those children both her husband and herself apologized and were again forgiven, [she] is now found on the balcony of her house during the passage of the funeral procession of Lieut. DeKay, laughing and mocking at his remains, and upon being inquired of by the Commanding General if this fact were so, contemptuously replies, “I was in good spirits that day.” Korn, 164; Special Order No. 150

    Trefousse believes Eugenia’s punishment was a result of Butler’s anti-Semitism “It is possible that Butler’s severity toward the lady had something to do with the fact that she was Jewish while he was anti-Semitic.” However, Eugenia’s reactions were not only pro-Confederate but she also personally resented Butler, and his disregard and disrespect for Southern white womanhood. Thomas Cooper DeLeon a friend of the Phillips family described Eugenia’s resentment in his memoir, Belles, Beaux, and Brains of the 60′s: “But in truth it was Mrs. Phillips’s contempt of the general and her cool sarcasm that caused her imprisonment. Haled before him, she laughed equally at the charge and at his authority to war on women.”  Rosen, 88

    Butler ordered Eugenia to remain on Ship Island situated off the Mississippi coast and a known yellow fever quarantine station; the island was a mosquito filled placed. In the summer, the heat could be fatal while hygiene and proper food was hard to come by. Eugenia described what her sentence and life imprisoned would be like; “I listened in respectful attention to my banishment to Ship Island, to be fed on soldiers’ rations, to be denied communication with everyone, to be allowed one servant to cook my rations, and a few other humane emanations.” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862) Butler allowed Eugenia to have one servant to accompany and attend to her during her imprisonment, and she took her loyal servant Phebe with her. She was also not allowed to communicate with anyone but Butler and her maid, any letters she wrote her family were reviewed by Union guards, and only after she was freed did her family truly learn about her living conditions on the island.

    On June 30, 1862 Eugenia commenced her imprisonment, first living in a former railroad boxcar and then in an abandoned post office building. Butler allowed Mr. Phillips to send Eugenia some food mostly beans and spoiled beef, and she would not have survived with Phebe’s assistance. The harsh conditions took a heavy toll on Eugenia Phillips; the rotten conditions including the deprivation of food nearly destroyed her health, and Eugenia suffered from brain fever, which was considered nervous exhaustion. Her continued pride and loyalty to the Confederacy was the main reason Butler did not released Eugenia earlier. As she writes in her journal, “The “great” Gen. Butler sent once a week to inquire after my health. He, no doubt, hoped I would at last cringe and beg. Thank God, who gave me strength and patience to keep me from this black stain.” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

    September 11, 1862, after nearly three months on Ship Island, Butler finally released Eugenia. When she arrived home when her husband opened the door for her , and believed as Eugenia later wrote, Phillip “thought it was my ghost,” he was not certain she was still alive by that point. (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862) Publicly while she was imprisoned her whereabouts were vague, as Eugenia explains, “Butler gave out the idea that I had been “released after a few days’ confinement,” so that everyone, including my family in Georgia, believed that I was safe.” (Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862)

    Throughout her time there, Eugenia was able to send out a few letters to her family, which described the “gruesome” and inhuman conditions she was forced to live in; these letters according to George Rable “made her imprisonment a cause célèbre.” Eugenia’s imprisonment caused uproar from Southerners, those who knew Eugenia and those who did not. The press throughout the country carried the story. Most people believed the sentence was too harsh for the crime. Korn explains, “The war which Butler waged upon this Jewess and other Southern women made him the Confederacy’s “Public Enemy Number One,” with a price upon his head.” (Korn, 164) The citizens of New Orleans visited the Phillips’ family home as a sign of support.

    The Jewish community and other Southern women abhorred the treatment that Eugenia was receiving at the hands of Butler. Mary Chesnut, a Christian friend of Eugenia Phillips wrote in A Diary from Dixie, “Mrs. Phillips, another beautiful and clever Jewess, has been put in prison again by “Beast” Butler for laughing as a Yankee funeral procession went by.” (Chesnut, 266) There was even talk of Southerners planning to rescue Eugenia. According to Trefousse “It was a sentence as harsh as it was sensational. Southerners talked of rescuing the lady, but they lacked the necessary ships and found it impossible to carry out their chivalrous plan. Butler pardoned her in September, two and a half months after her arrest, but this action did not dispel the popular belief that he was a cruel tyrant.” Trefousse, 118

    Butler regretted that Eugenia’s imprisonment had the opposite affect than he wanted to project. He wanted to make Eugenia’s treasonous behavior towards the Union an example of what happened to women who display such behavior just because they are women and believed they were beyond punishment. Instead, as Rable writes Butler turned “an irksome rebel into a martyr,” which was the main reason he chose to release her from Ship Island. Eugenia Phillips according to Rable “had shown considerable public relations acumen, and her prison journal reveals an ironic sense of humor, especially in her wry proposal to use a steam device to pump moisture into the rock-hard bread. Though not exactly besting Butler, she had played the wily Massachusetts politician to a draw.” (Clinton, 142) Despite the cruel punishment that awaited her, Eugenia remained loyal to the Confederacy. As William Garett noted “her proud Southern spirit never quailed and she remained firm to the last in the opinions she had expressed.” (Rosen, 293)

    Eugenia Levy Phillips’ devotion to the Confederacy appeared “unquestionable,” as Lauren Winner describes, Eugenia’s actions were beyond what was required of any Southern women supporting the war. Although Eugenia was Jewish and a practicing Jew, she saw herself especially during the war as primarily a Southerner who would support her country at all costs, which she did. As a white Southern women fully integrated in Southern society, and acquainted with the Christian elite of Confederate society including Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ wife, she did not believe the imprisonments she endured was too much, because it was all done for her country. Eugenia Phillips as Winner explains, “was so unswerving in her devotion to the Confederate cause that the Union suspected her of being a spy.” (Clinton, 195) Eugenia Phillips and her sister Phoebe Pember have been the Southern Jewish women most remembered by historians, and their devotion has been elevated beyond their religion, which was the hope of most of the Southern Jewish women that volunteered in support of the cause.

    Sources and Further Reading

    Benjamin F. Butler, Autobiography and Personal Reminiscences of Major-General Benjamin F. Butler, (Thayer, 1892).

    Mary Boykin Miller Chestnut, Ben Williams Ames, ed., A Diary from Dixie, (Harvard University Press, 1980).

    Catherine Clinton, Nina Silber, eds., Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War, (Oxford University Press, 1992).

    Drew Gilpin Faust, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, (University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

    Bertram Wallace Korn, American Jewry and the Civil War, (Jewish Publication Society, 1951).

    Jacob R. Marcus, The American Jewish Woman: A Documentary History, (Ktav Pub. House; American Jewish Archives, 1981).

    Eugenia Phillips, Journal of Mrs. Eugenia Levy Phillips, 1861-1862.

    Samuel Proctor, et al., eds., Jews of the South: Selected Essays from the Southern Jewish Historical Society, (Mercer University Press, 1984).

    Robert Rosen, The Jewish Confederates, (University of South Carolina Press, 2000.)

    Special Order No. 150, Headquarters Department of the Gulf, June 30, 1862.

    Hans L. Trefousse, Ben Butler: The South Called Him Beast!, (Twayne Publishers, 1957).

    Tulane: Caught in the Middle of a Disaster

    HISTORY ARTICLES

    HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

    HNN, 9-02-05

    Tulane: Caught in the Middle of a Disaster

    By Bonnie Goodman

    Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an Assistant Editor at HNN.

    This past week hurricane Katrina ripped through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with New Orleans suffering some of the worst devastation as water levels rose throughout the city, leading to an unprecedented peace-time order to evacuate the entire area.. Students at Tulane University were set to start classes this week. At first the university was hopeful that it would be possible to resume classes on September 1. Soon that date was pushed back to September 7, but with 80 percent of the city flooded the university is uncertain now when the school will reopen. However, with the entire city being evacuated hope seems gone for this semester, if not longer.

    Presently the university has relocated, and is now making its administrative headquarters in Houston, Texas. The university’s regular web server is down but Tulane University president Scott Cowan has been managing an emergency page on the Tulane site updating the university community and the public on the school’s status.

    Starting last Saturday Tulane officials ordered students to evacuate the university. Tulane arranged for twelve buses to take students to nearby Jackson State University in Mississippi, where it was believed they would be safe. Students had just arrived for the academic year and were reluctant to leave; only 700 of the university’s 13,000 students chose to evacuate. Most stayed on campus never believing the magnitude of the disaster about to befall the city. The situation was no better at Jackson State where the Associated Press reported on August 31 that the university “suffered power outages, darkening the wood-floored gymnasium where the Tulane students were staying. On Tuesday, the gym’s bathrooms went out of service.” Students relocated again on Wednesday to Atlanta’s Georgia Tech University and Dallas’s Southern Methodist University; universities in the two closest cities not affected by Katrina.

    University President Cowan reported on September 1, 2005 that there were faculty and staff who remained on campus, living in unsatisfactory conditions. The entire uptown campus was evacuated with only a “core team of public safety and facilities personnel” remaining. Cowan reported that “All of the students who were evacuated to Jackson State University in Mississippi have returned to their homes or are in the process of returning to their homes.”

    Campus buildings themselves survived the storm nearly intact, accordimng to the president:”The campus did sustain some damage, though it generally fared very well during the storm. There are many downed trees, some buildings sustained water damage, and some roofing tiles were damaged. The necessary repairs are manageable. The dorms are intact and students’ belongings are safe.”

    HNN has been paying special attention to the situation for students and faculty of Tulane’s history department. HNN has set up the Katrina Blog for Tulane History Students & Faculty to help students and professors to communicate. Lists of missing professors and students have been posted along with offers from volunteers ready to offer assistance and housing.

    History Department chairman Jim Boyden, safe in Baton Rouge, notified HNN about the history department’s current status. Boyden sadly confessed that he has ” no two-way communication with Tulane administrators,” but added, “I’m very confident that we’ll have answers to basic questions and be able to begin reconstituting the department soon.”

    With Tulane’s undergraduate and graduate students having no place to attend classes and with faculty having nowhere to teach; universities across the country are offering to take in Tulane students and faculty for the fall semester, and perhaps the rest of the academic year if need be. Many of these universities will be waiving tuition for the fall semester, while others are offering in-state tuition rates. Early offers were from Atlanta’s Georgia Tech and Dallas’s Southern Methodist University. Approximately 275 Tulane students chose to go to Atlanta, and another 140 went to Dallas including the football team, coaches and training staff. According to the AP “Georgia Tech and Southern Methodist were providing rooms, food, telephones, computer access and free airport shuttle services to the Tulane students and staff.”

    Both Cornell University in New York and Texas A&M University have notified HNN via the blog of their offers to admit Tulane students. Cornell University President Hunter R. Rawlings announced that the university will take in some of Tulane’s undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and will possibly allow Tulane faculty to teach as visiting professors. Cornell has set up a site with more information. Texas A&M will let in students from Tulane and surrounding universities in New Orleans including Dillard, Southern, Xavier, and Loyola Universities and the University of New Orleans. Additional universities extending offers include: Yale University in Connecticut; Loyola University in Chicago, Syracuse University in New York; Rice University in Texas; Boston University in Massachusetts; and McGill University in Montreal, Canada among others.

    In his most recent post on the Tulane site University President Cowan expressed his gratitude for exterior support for the university writing “When possible, I’ve been trying to scan the student web blogs and am deeply touched beyond words by your support and passion. Your loyalty to Tulane University is touching and vital to our recovery plan.”

    Related Links

    HNN Katrina Blog for Tulane History Students & Faculty
    Hot Topics: Katrina
    Tulane University Emergency Information
    Cornell Special Katrina Admission Information

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