August 18, 2008: The Lull Before the Conventions

The week that was….

  • August 16, 2008: After returning from a over week long vacation in Hawaii, Democratic candidate Barack Obama met with his rival Republican candidate John McCain in a “two-hour forum on faith, the Compassion Forum hosted by the minister Rick Warren at the Saddleback Church in Orange County, California.”
    Obama raised more than $51 million in July,
  • August 15, 2008: McCain raised $27 million in July, his largest one month total.
  • August 14, 2008: In attempt to unite the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton’s name will ceremonially be placed on the nomination ballot during the delegate roll call, as an acknowledgment of her historical run, and to please Clinton supporters, and “honor and celebrate these voices and votes.”
    The International Association of Fire Fighters endorsed Obama during their national convention in Las Vegas.
  • August 13, 2008: Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner will deliver the keynote speech at Democratic convention.
  • August 12, 2008: Obama took time out of his Hawaii vacation for a fundraiser for home state supporters that earned $1.3 million for his campaign.
    Two books written against Barack Obama were released “The Obama Nation” and “The Case Against Barack Obama.”
  • August 11, 2008: Both McCain and Obama called for Europe to rally against Russia during the country’s assault on Georgia.
    Obama released a commerical in response to McCain’s own ad that potrayed Obama as a celebrity akin to Paris Hilton and Britney, this was Obama’s second response to the McCain ad.
    A new Atlantic magazine report claims Mark Penn, a top Hillary Clinton adviser, wanted Clinton to paint Obama as un-American and having questionable “roots to basic American values and culture.”
    The Obama campaign sent out an e-mail to supporters allowing them to sign up to receive an e-mail or text-message as soon as the Democratic candidate announces his choice for a Vice-Presidential running mate.

    The Stats

  • August 8, 2008: A RealClearPolitics poll has Obama with 46.9% support compared to McCain’s 43.3%. Guardian, UK, 8-9-08

    Historians’ Comments

  • Carina Rey: Africa: Obama And US Foreign Policy –, Washington, 8-15-08
  • Gil Troy: Clinton’s Revenge — or Obama’s Triumph? – HNN, 8-15-08
  • Hank Roth quoting Sean Wilentz: Obama’s Historical Inaccuracies “Hope, in other words, is necessary to bring about change – but it is never enough. Change also requires effective leadership inside government. – Agoravox, France, 8-11-08
  • Kenneth E. Collier on “Experience no sure sign of success as president”: “It gives us a pretty mixed verdict,” said Kenneth E. Collier, a historian and professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. “Adams had a wonderful résumé, but his temperament was just not well-suited,” said Collier. “What people are looking for is judgment. And we hope that is going to be served by experience, but often it is not. Adams is a great example of somebody who just could not overcome his pettiness.” San Diego UNION-TRIBUNE, 8-17-08
  • Stephen Hess on “Experience no sure sign of success as president”: For Stephen Hess, who has spent 50 years working for presidents and analyzing events for the Brookings Institution, there are the more important traits than experience. He recalled Oliver Wendell Holmes’ description of Franklin D. Roosevelt as “a second-rate intellect with a first-rate temperament.” “That ability to know what is important, who to pick, who to listen to, what you put first in your priorities. All of that really doesn’t come from the sort of experience you get from being in the United States Senate long term,” Hess said. San Diego UNION-TRIBUNE, 8-17-08
  • Paul F. Boller on “How to Erase That Smea…”: Still, for all the new technology, the essential text of smears today is about the same as it has always been, said Paul F. Boller Jr., a former history professor at Texas Christian University and author of “Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush.” “Religion and sex, and whether the other guy is a real ‘man,'” Mr. Boller said. “It boils down to that.” The difference now: “If Winfield Scott’s people went out and attacked Franklin Pierce as a coward,” he said, referring to the election of 1852, which Pierce won, “well in those days it took a while for that idea to get around.” – NYT, 8-16-08
  • Allan Lichtman on “McCain and Obama face questions from megachurch pastor”: American University history professor Allan Lichtman says this is more of an opportunity for Democrat Obama, since Republicans have long ago sown up the Christian conservative vote. Lichtman says Obama has a chance to make inroads into a constituency that Democrats have not been able to touch for decades. He says McCain’s appearance will also be important, since the Republican candidate not only wants Christian conservatives to vote for him – but also to campaign for him. – WIS, SC, 8-15-08
  • Leslie Harris on “RPT-When it comes to race, US politicians talk in code”: “Blacks feel like they have more responsibility for exposing and discussing racism. Whites generally feel that they don’t want to be involved,” said Leslie Harris, a history professor at Emory University in Atlanta. – Reuters, 8-14-08
  • Julian Zelizer: Giving Clinton a roll call at the convention might mollify some of those most likely to be a problem, said Julian Zelizer, a history and public affairs professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. “The anger about their fight will exist regardless of what he does, so giving her this role and this moment might help diminish any sense that he just wants to write her out of the history of this contest,” Zelizer said. – Bloomberg, 8-14-08
  • David Roediger on “For scholars of race, an Obama dilemma”: David Roediger, a race historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, evinced a particle more enthusiasm for Obama’s candidacy. “I feel this sometimes has something to do with something I care about and, as things go in U.S. politics, it’s not the worst thing to happen,” said Roediger, who is white. But, as he notes in the conclusion of his book “How Race Survived U.S. History: From Settlement and Slavery to the Obama Phenomenon,” due out this fall, “Obama does not represent the triumph of an advancing anti-racist movement but rather the necessity, at the highly refracted level of electoral politics, of abandoning old agendas, largely by not mentioning them.” – Seattle Times, 8-13-08
  • Angela Dillard on “For scholars of race, an Obama dilemma”: Angela Dillard, professor of Afro-American and African studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, concurred. “It’s an odd paradox that this will shrink even further any kind of public space to talk about race,” she said. “That shouldn’t be possible, but it is.” – Seattle Times, 8-13-08
  • Paul Street on “For scholars of race, an Obama dilemma”: “Everybody is so enticed and intrigued all at once just by the mere fact that he’s black, as if that’s enough,” said Paul Street, a Chicago labor historian now living in Iowa City, whose book “Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics” will be published this month. Yet Street, who is white, says that because Obama is black, he “can’t be particularly aggressive on race, or anything else.” – Seattle Times, 8-13-08
  • Julian E. Zelizer on “Ike’s Granddaughter Calls Obama ‘Future of America'”: “It is this very weird moment where Republicans are very divided,” said Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “It’s accurate to say that you don’t have a dominant set of ideas or a figure the party can really rally behind. What you simply see are factions who aren’t forming to create a coherent vision.” – The Washington Independent, 8-11-08
  • Bruce Shulman on “Ike’s Granddaughter Calls Obama ‘Future of America'”: Bruce Shulman, a professor of history at Boston University and author of “The ’70S: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society and Politics,” explained the situation. He sees the factions’ dissatisfaction, but cannot see a full realignment in the offing. “Since the Reagan Revolution,” Shulman said, “you’ve seen this amazing united front by different factions that are much more at odds ideologically than the factions within the Democratic Party. They’ve all managed to put their feelings about one another aside to defeat a common enemy. I don’t think the fracturing you’re seeing now will result in large numbers of Republicans voting for Obama. But I do think you’ll see people willing to sit on their hands instead of work towards that common goal as they have in the past.” – The Washington Independent, 8-11-08
  • Alan Brinkley on “From the Chaos: Opportunity? Bush Policies May Pave Way for Democratic Reforms”: “Whoever is elected is going to inherit a terrible mess, both domestically and internationally,” said Alan Brinkley, an American history professor and the provost at Columbia University. “But when things get really bad, there’s often an opportunity for change … I don’t rule out the possibility of some major reforms.” – The Washington Independent, 8-7-08
  • Nelson Lichtenstein on “From the Chaos: Opportunity? Bush Policies May Pave Way for Democratic Reforms”: “As a result of the polarization that Bush created, the Democrats are much more unified,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, a history professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of “American Capitalism.” ” There will be a big legislative push [next year].” “An Obama administration is going to have a lot of support across the board for a fairly radical shift [on Iraq],” he said. But on issues like health-care and labor reform — where there’s less public immediacy and the lines were drawn long before Bush came on the scene — Democrats will be less successful. The civil-rights movement, Lichtenstein said, was not just stirred by the fervent speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., there was the palpable urgency of riots in the streets. “Today, we don’t have that,” he said. “The blogosphere is not the equivalent.” – The Washington Independent, 8-7-08
  • John Morton Blum on “From the Chaos: Opportunity? Bush Policies May Pave Way for Democratic Reforms”: John Morton Blum, history professor emeritus at Yale University and a Roosevelt scholar, said that these factors, combined with the entrenchment of partisan politics, will prevent any major reforms in the near future. “Everything has been done wrong for eight years,” Blum said. “Rectification will take four to six years, at a minimum. Accomplishment of something novel may prove not only politically but economically impossible. “[The pendulum] will swing back the other way, just not dramatically.” For one prominent historian, the idea of coming in after Bush is hardly a welcome one. “The next president’s going to have a hell of a time,” said Blum of Yale. “I don’t know why anyone would even want the job.” – The Washington Independent, 8-7-08

    On the Campaign Trail….

  • Barack Obama in a statement released by his campaign, 8-14-08:
    “Honoring Senator Clinton’s historic campaign in this way will help us celebrate this defining moment in our history and bring the party together.”
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton in a joint statement with Obama announcing the roll call at the convention: :
    “With every voice heard and the party strongly united, we will elect Senator Obama president of the United States and put our nation on the path to peace and prosperity once again.”
  • Remarks by John McCain to the 87th Annual Convention of the Disabled American Veterans:
    Though victory in Iraq is finally in sight, a great deal still depends on the decisions and good judgment of the next president. The hard-won gains of our troops hang in the balance. The lasting advantage of a peaceful and democratic ally in the heart of the Middle East could still be squandered by hasty withdrawal and arbitrary timelines. And this is one of many problems in the shifting positions of my opponent, Senator Obama.With just three months to go before the election, a lot of folks are still trying to square Senator Obama’s varying positions on the surge in Iraq. First, he opposed the surge. Then he confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge. Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure. This was back when supporting America’s efforts in Iraq entailed serious political risk. It was a clarifying moment. It was a moment when political self-interest and the national interest parted ways. For my part, with so much in the balance, it was an easy call. As I said at the time, I would rather lose an election than lose a war….

    Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines and to brave Iraqi fighters the surge has succeeded. And yet Senator Obama still can’t quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment. Instead, he commits the greater error of insisting that even in hindsight, he would oppose the surge. Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory. Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president. What’s missing is the judgment to be commander in chief.

    In short, both candidates in this election pledge to end this war and bring our troops home. The great difference is that I intend to win it first.

    It will also fall to the next commander in chief to make good on the obligation our government accepts every time any man or woman enters the proud ranks of the United States military, and again when they receive their DD 214. Those we depend on as troops should know, when they become veterans, that they can depend on us. …

    As president, I will do all that is in my power to ensure that those who serve today, and those who have served in the past, have access to the highest quality health, mental health and rehabilitative care in the world. And I will not accept a situation in which veterans are denied access to care on account of travel distances, backlogs of appointments, and years of pending disability evaluation and claims. We should no longer tolerate requiring veterans to make an appointment to stand in one line for a ticket to stand in another. And it’s even worse if the line winds eventually to substandard care for America’s veterans.

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