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

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President visits the troops in Iraq

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

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

THE HEADLINES….

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

The Headlines…

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

The President visits the troops in Iraq

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

Troops in Iraq

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

Watch the Video
View the Slideshow

President Obama speaks at a Student Roundtable in Turkey

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

Turkish Parliament

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

Read the Remarks

The President films the Weekly Address

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

Weekly Address: The Challenges of Our Time

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

Watch the Video

President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy

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

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President visits the troops in Iraq

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

Troops in Iraq

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

Watch the Video
View the Slideshow

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

Political Quotes

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

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

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

The President visits the troops in Iraq

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

Troops in Iraq

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

Watch the Video
View the Slideshow

President Obama speaks at a Student Roundtable in Turkey

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

Turkish Parliament

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

Read the Remarks

The President films the Weekly Address

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

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

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

Historians’ Comments

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

The First Lady at the Notre Dame Cathedral

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

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