February 24, 2009: President Barack Obama’s Address to the Joint Session of Congress

If you are looking for commentary on President Obama’s State of the Union Address see: January 27, 2010: President Obama Gives First State of the Union Address

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The U.S. Capitol building

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Borger: Have we seen too much Obama?: President Obama has made his priorities very clear: health care, energy and education. The speech is more like a standard State of the Union address — with an added element of extreme urgency, given the fiscal crisis. If it somehow seems that we have heard this before from Obama, it’s because we have. Which raises the question: have we been seeing him too much? – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Poll: Positive Reception For Obama Address: Seventy-nine percent of speech watchers approve of President Obama’s plans for dealing with the economic crisis. Before the speech, 62 percent approved. – CBS News, 2-24-09
  • Obama’s poll numbers after first month? Eh. He’s average: Washington Post/ABC News poll: President Barack Obama scores a 68 percent approval rating. At this stage in his presidency, that number is about average.
    Partisan breakdown: How is Obama doing in this age of post-partisanship? Some 90 percent of Democrats approve of Obama’s first month, compared to 37 percent of Republicans.
    Uniter, not a divider: A full 73 percent of Americans believe Obama is trying to work with Republicans. Only 34 percent believe the GOP is working with Obama.
    Gallup Poll: Job approval numbers are similar to the Wash Post/ABC poll. But they note Obama’s disapproval rating has doubled from from 12 percent to 24 percent. – CS Monitor, 2-24-09
  • Obama tops Jesus in new poll. Reagan 4th, God 11th: America’s Top Heroes. Rounding out the top ten is Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger, and Mother Teresa. Other notables include God (11), Hillary Clinton (12), Gandhi (15), and Sarah Palin (21). – CS Monitor, 2-22-09
  • Times/CBS News Poll: Michelle Obama’s Appeal: Overall, 49 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the first lady, just 5 percent view her unfavorably and 44 percent don’t yet have an opinion. – NYT, 2-24-09

THE HEADLINES….

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress.

The Headlines…

  • A message of help and hope: President Obama reassured a nervous nation Tuesday night that his administration will continue to respond aggressively to the economic crisis and still pursue broad reforms in areas such as health care, energy and education. In his first address to Congress, the new president balanced candor about the deep recession with optimism for a long-term agenda that would be ambitious even in good times. It was an impressive performance and a powerful reminder that America’s challenges stretch beyond the daily stock market swings and grim reports of job losses, home foreclosures and bankruptcies. – St. Petersberg Times, 2-24-09
  • Obama says US will survive ‘day of reckoning’: Standing before a nation on an economic precipice, President Barack Obama told worried Americans Tuesday night the U.S. has reached a dire “day of reckoning” that will require boldness and long-term vision to create lasting revival and prosperity. – AP, 2-25-09
  • Analysis: Obama address renews audacity to hope: President Barack Obama gave America the audacity to hope again. After describing the U.S. economy in nearly apocalyptic terms for weeks, pushing his $787 billion stimulus plan through Congress, the president used his address to Congress on Tuesday night to tap the deep well of American optimism — the never-say-die spirit that every president tries to capture in words. And great presidents embody.
    “We will rebuild. We will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before,” Obama said, echoing Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. “The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach,” Obama said. “What is required now is for this country is to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.” – AP, 2-24-09
  • Obama Assures Nation: ‘We Will Rebuild’: President Obama urged the nation on Tuesday to see the economic crisis as reason to raise its ambitions, calling for expensive new efforts to address energy, health care and education programs even as he warned that more money might be needed to bail out banks. – NYT, 2-24-09
  • Obama: High School Education Not Enough: President Obama calls on all Americans to commit to at least one year of higher education or career training.
    “So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training,” Obama said. “This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.” – Fox News, 2-24-09
  • Live Blog: Obama’s Address to CongressNYT, 2-24-09
  • Obama insight: Being realistic on economy maintains credibility: The new president was keeping with a longstanding tradition on days when the commander in chief delivers an address to a joint session of Congress: Around the table Tuesday sat television anchors and the Sunday morning interview program hosts and two senior aides. The location was the dining room in the White House residence… – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Confident Obama does just one practice session: President Obama apparently buys into that old slogan about never letting ’em see you sweat. Despite the pressure of his first speech to a joint session of Congress at a time of national crisis, two senior aides tell me the President quietly had only one full dress rehearsal with a teleprompter at about 6pm ET in the White House’s historic map room. – CNN, 2-24-09
  • First Lady’s Guests Reflect Themes of the Speech: Seated in Michelle Obama’s box on Tuesday night were living symbols of the ideas in President Obama’s first speech to a joint session of Congress, including a bank executive, Leonard Abess, who shared a vast fortune with his employees, and an eighth-grade student from South Carolina, Ty’Sheoma Bethea, who in a letter had urged Congress not to neglect education financing. NYT, 2-24-09
  • White House reveals first lady’s guests: The White House has announced the names of the more than two dozen guests who will join first lady Michelle Obama at the president’s address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. The list includes a range of political supporters, good Samaritans, members of the military, students, and citizens adversely affected by the nations flailing economy… – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Lunch offers insight into Obama’s thinking: When the waiter reached for the plate, President Obama shook his head and smiled as he asked for a few more minutes. He had been talking to his guests, and had barely taken a bite of his lunch. The new president was keeping with a longstanding tradition on days when the commander in chief delivers an address to a joint session of Congress: Around the table Tuesday sat television anchors and the Sunday morning interview program hosts and two senior aides. The location was the dining room in the White House residence…. – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Obama address: Hearing from the opposing party: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will give the Republican response to Pres. Obama’s speech Tuesday night. The first official “response” to the State of the Union by the opposing party was delivered by Republicans Sen. Everett Dirksen and Rep. Gerald Ford in 1966. Each television network offered a half-hour slot for response time, although the slots were not “roadblocked” (i.e. did not air at the same time on all networks), and did not air immediately after the President’s address – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Obama address: Obama to make history with speech: President Obama will become the first African American in history to address a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. Although a number of prominent black officials from around the globe, including Nelson Mandela in 1990 and 1994 and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2006, have addressed Congress in the past, no African American has ever been tapped to address both houses of Congress from the chamber of the House of Representatives, as Obama will do Tuesday. – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Decision Near on 2010 Withdrawal From Iraq: NYT, 2-24-09
  • Officials: Most troops out of Iraq in 18 months: President Barack Obama plans to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by August of next year, administration officials said Tuesday, ending the war that helped define his upstart presidential campaign — although a little more slowly than he promised…. – AP, 2-24-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama addressed Congress Tuesday night.

Political Quotes

  • Transcript President Obama’s Address to Congress: Following is a transcript of President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, as recorded by CQ Transcriptions…. NYT, 2-24-09
    Download Mp3
  • Text President Obama’s Address to Congress: Following is the prepared text of President Obama’s address to the joint session of Congress tonight, as provided by the White House…. NYT, 2-24-09
  • Transcript: The Republican Response by Gov. Bobby Jindal: Following is a transcript of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s remarks on behalf of the Republican Party on Tuesday night, responding to President Obama’s address, as recorded by CQ Transcriptions….NYT, 2-24-09
    Download Mp3
  • Obama: ‘We are not quitters’: The White House has released the full text of President Obama’s address to Congress this evening – CNN, 2-24-09
Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama told Congress, “Now is the time to act boldly.”

  • The President’s first address to a joint session of Congress, Excerpts:
    Read the President’s full remarks

    While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
    The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more….
    We have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.
    Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.
    Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight….
    The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.
    In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.
    My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.
    Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.
    But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity…..
    Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.
    In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas. ….
    I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground. ….
    But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.
    I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ”I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn’t feel right getting the money myself.”
    I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. “The tragedy was terrible,” said one of the men who helped them rebuild. “But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity.”
    And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters….
    I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.
    And if we do – if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, “something worthy to be remembered.” – WH Blog, 2-24-09
  • Obama: Economy is a ‘reckoning’ for past poor decisions in his first speech to a joint session of Congress: “A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day…. Now is the time to act boldly and wisely — to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.” – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal this evening delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s address to Congress: “Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our Republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African-American president stepped forward to address the state of our union. With his speech tonight, the president completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall … to Gettysburg … to the lunch counter … and now, finally, the Oval Office….
    Republicans are ready to work with the new president. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don’t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the president’s strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.
    Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.
    Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts….
    To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you — the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything.
    Democrats passed the largest government spending bill in history — with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending….
    Republicans want “your trust.” Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope — but sometimes it seems we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington place their hope in the federal government.
    We place our hope in you — the American people. In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the national Democrats’ view that says — the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, and empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.
    In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear — because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust — and rightly so.
    Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say: Our party is determined to regain your trust. We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share… the principles you elected us to fight for … the principles that built this into the greatest, most prosperous country on earth.” – USA Today, 2-24-09
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who gave the Republican Party’s official response “GOP leaders say Obama’s plan is irresponsible”: “The way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. It’s irresponsible….
    You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Our party is determined to regain your trust….” – AP, 2-24-09
  • House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia “GOP leaders say Obama’s plan is irresponsible”: “Washington shouldn’t be spending money that we don’t have,” House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia said in his response to Obama’s speech. He said Republicans will work with Obama, but they will not betray core principles. – AP, 2-24-09
  • Jindal to criticize stimulus, say GOP ‘lost trust’: “Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt…
    Republicans are ready to work with the new president to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don’t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital….
    In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear – because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust – and rightly so…..
    As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country – and they instilled in me an immigrant’s wonder at the greatness of America. As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: ‘Bobby, Americans can do anything.’ I still believe that to this day….
    Republicans are ready to work with the new President to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don’t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the President’s strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward….
    The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens….
    To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you – the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything…. Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It’s irresponsible. And it’s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children….
    In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear – because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust – and rightly so….
    A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said ‘we may not be able to reverse.’ Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover – or that America’s best days are behind her.”… – CNN, 2-24-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama greeted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Analysis: Clinton’s mockery of Obama proves true”: “Clinton’s earlier critique of change has quickly become very valid,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “The Washington of George Bush is the same Washington of Barack Obama. The promise of bipartisanship and hope in Washington is difficult to actually achieve.” – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Robert V. Remini “Presidents’ First Speeches to Congress Focus on Parts of the State of the Union”: The major difference between a State of the Union address and a first-year report is the scope of the speech, said House historian Robert V. Remini. A State of the Union is expected to cover both domestic and foreign matters. Remini said Obama could, for example, skip a discussion about Afghanistan on Tuesday night. “In a State of the Union he would be obliged to do it,” he said. – CQ Politics, 2-24-09

February 19, 2009: Obama Signs the Economic Stimulus Bill into Law and his Canada Visit

President Obama

White House photo 2/18/09 by Pete Souza

Housing plan

On Feb. 18, 2009, President Obama announced his plan to help homeowners and stabilize the housing market. Learn more about how the plan might affect you.

Learn more

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Rasmussen’s daily polling: Job approval of Barack Obama continues to be high: most recently 60 percent approve and 39 percent disapprove.
    His disapproval numbers have risen, from 29 percent on January 22 and 23, up to a range of 37 percent-39 percent starting February 7. – US News & World Report, 2-19-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

President Obama arrives in Canada

  • Obama Makes Overtures to Canada’s Leader: President Obama charted a delicate course with Canada on Thursday, using the first foreign trip of his presidency to ease tensions over trade policy, climate change and the war in Afghanistan — all the while basking in his celebrity status in a nation where his approval ratings are so high that a local bakery named a pastry after him. – NYT, 2-19-09
  • APNewsBreak: Black pastors to ask Burris to resign: A group of black ministers who previously supported U.S. Sen. Roland Burris now plan to ask for his resignation, one of the ministers told The Associated Press on Thursday. Many of the city’s influential black pastors supported Burris because of his scandal-free reputation — even though he was appointed by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich after the governor was arrested. – AP, 2-19-09
  • Cheered in Canada, Obama treads lightly: President Barack Obama courted warmer relations with America’s snowy northern neighbor Thursday, declining to ask war-weary Canada to do more in Afghanistan, promising he won’t allow a protectionist creep into U.S. trade policy and talking reassuringly around thorny energy issues. – AP, 2-19-09
  • Obama’s Bipartisanship Is One Sappy Dream: Margaret Carlson: In his long and sometimes snarky campaign, John McCain took to ridiculing Barack Obama and his supporters for imputing messianic qualities to the upstart candidate, mockingly referring to the Democrat as “The One.” New evidence suggests McCain was on to something. In less than a month, Obama has breathed life back into a Republican Party the whole world took for dead…. – Bloomberg, 2-19-09
  • U.S. tells N. Korea to end insults, return to talks: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday told North Korea to stop being provocative and return to talks on ending efforts to build a nuclear arsenal. – AP, 2-19-09
  • Calif. lawmakers send Schwarzenegger budget bills: The California Legislature on Thursday approved a plan to close a $42 billion budget deficit after an epic impasse that involved several all-night sessions, sending Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a package of bills that raises taxes and cuts spending. It was not immediately clear when Schwarzenegger would sign the bills. – AP, 2-19-09
  • Clinton looks to boost US image in Asia: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton moved Wednesday to boost U.S. ties with the world’s most populous Muslim nation and its neighbors, pledging a new American willingness to work with and listen to Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia. – AP, 2-18-09
  • Stimulus Tour Takes Obama to New Blue States: A trend is emerging in President Obama’s out-of-the-gate travel itinerary: Top billing has been given to states that turned from red to blue in the fall. So far this year, Mr. Obama has visited Ohio, Indiana, Florida, Virginia and Colorado, states that usually voted Republican in presidential elections but that went Democratic in November. – NYT, 2-18-09
  • US commander: Troops ‘stalemated’ in Afghanistan: The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan offered a grim view Wednesday of military efforts in southern Afghanistan, warning that 17,000 new troops will take on emboldened Taliban insurgents who have “stalemated” U.S. and allied forces. – AP, 2-18-09
  • Obama throws $75 billion lifeline to homeowners: President Barack Obama threw a $75 billion lifeline to millions of Americans on the brink of foreclosure Wednesday, declaring an urgent need for drastic action — not only to save their homes but to keep the housing crisis “from wreaking even greater havoc” on the broader national economy. – AP, 2-17-09
  • Obama signs stimulus bill, readies homeowner plan: Racing to reverse the country’s economic spiral, President Barack Obama signed the mammoth stimulus package into law Tuesday and readied a new $50 billion foreclosure rescue for legions of Americans who are in danger of losing their homes. – AP, 2-17-09
  • Signing Stimulus, Obama Doesn’t Rule Out More: President Obama has not ruled out a second stimulus package, his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said on Tuesday, just before Mr. Obama signed his $787 billion recovery package into law with a statement that it would “set our economy on a firmer foundation.” – NYT, 2-17-09
  • GOP governors consider turning down stimulus money: A handful of Republican governors are considering turning down some money from the federal stimulus package, a move opponents say puts conservative ideology ahead of the needs of constituents struggling with record foreclosures and soaring unemployment. –
  • How the heck could the census be controversial?: Still more analysts were certain it was a result of the 2010 census and who would have ultimate management responsiblities for it’s conduct. Normally the census is under the auspices of the Commerce Department, but the Obama Administration had signaled the upcoming census would be getting some added attention and oversight from the White House. Mr. Gregg denied the census was any big deal, though it didn’t discourage some from insisting the census was the raison d’etre for Gregg’s withdrawal. Examiner, 2-17-09

President Obama

White House photo 2/18/09 by Pete Souza

Housing plan

On Feb. 18, 2009, President Obama announced his plan to help homeowners and stabilize the housing market. Learn more about how the plan might affect you.

Learn more

President Obama signs the economic recovery bill into law

White House photo 2/17/09 by Pete Souza

A Strong Start

In Denver, CO, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law — a major milestone on the long road back to a sustainable economic future.

Read the President's remarks

President Obama and Sen. Kent Conrad in the Oval Office

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

  • Hillary Clinton to reporters at a news conference with South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan: “North Korea is not going to get a different relationship with the United States while insulting and refusing dialogue with (South Korea). We are calling on the government of North Korea to refrain from being provocative and unhelpful in a war of words that it has been engaged in because that is not very fruitful. She said that was “in stark contrast to the tyranny and poverty across the border to the North” and commended the “people of South Korea and your leaders for your calm, resolve and determination in the face of provocative and unhelpful statements and actions by the North.”…. “The North should refrain from violating this resolution and also from any and all provocative actions that could harm the six-party talks and aggravate the tensions in the region.” – AP, 2-20-09
  • Bill Clinton “Honoring an old friend given the Lindy Boggs Award, which highlights the year’s Southern woman in politics”: “I want to bring you greetings from my favorite woman in politics who, as you all know, is secretary of state [and] is now in Japan doing the world’s work for America over there. I had a little bite of that apple last year, trying to convince people that women should be in higher executive positions. I learned something very interesting one more time about the process of social change and how the wheels of history grind slow or, as Martin Luther King said, the arc of history bends slowly, but it bends toward justice. Psychologically, we’re sometimes not even aware of how we feel about letting women make decisions that used to be made by men until we actually have to come up against it. I’ll tell you a very interesting thing in the state where Hillary ran best—next to Arkansas: West Virginia. She won the [state primary] election by 40 points, but in the exit polls, people were asked about Hillary and President Obama. ‘Does it bother you to have an African-American president?’ ‘Do you have any reservations about having a female president?’ Fifteen percent of West Virginians admitted that they had some qualms about having an African-American president; 21 percent said they had some qualms about having a female president. That’s in a state where she won by 40 points.” – US News & World Report, 2-19-09
  • Eric Holder U.S. a ‘nation of cowards’ on race, 1st black attorney general says Holder’s speech signals more active Justice Department on civil rights issues: “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder said in a Black History Month speech to hundreds of Justice Department employees. “It is an issue we have never been at ease with, and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable,” Holder said. “And yet, if we are to make progress in this area, we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.” – Chicago Tribune, 2-19-09

President Obama signs the economic recovery bill into law

  • Barack Obama: Remarks by the President at Signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: “What I am signing is a balanced plan with a mix of tax cuts and investments. It is a plan that’s been put together without earmarks or the usual pork barrel spending. And it is a plan that will be implemented with an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability…. And we expect you, the American people, to hold us accountable for the results. That is why we have created Recovery.gov – so every American can go online and see how their money is being spent…. Our American story is not — and has never been — about things coming easy. It’s about rising to the moment when the moment is hard, converting crisis into opportunity, and seeing to it that we emerge from whatever trials we face stronger than we were before.” – WH Blog, 2-17-09
  • Joe Biden: Remarks by the Vice President at Signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Last year — last year our economy lost 3 million jobs; 600,000 more just this last month. There are an awful lot of mothers and father who had to walk up those stairs to the bedroom of their children and tell them that, “I’m out of work, honey. We may not be able to stay here. You may not be able to stay in this school. It’s a tough, tough conversation. And many — too many times it’s already occurred in this country. We’re here today — we’re here today to start to turn that around…. Starting today, our administration will be working day and night to provide more aid for the unemployed, create immediate jobs, building our roads and our bridges, make long-term investments in a smarter energy grid, and so much more. And as we turn the economy around, we’ve got to make sure of one more thing. Last time an economic recovery occurred after a deep recession, the middle class got left behind — the middle class got left behind. And that’s why the President has set up a White House Council on the Task Force on the Middle Class, which he’s asking me to chair. – WH Blog, 2-17-09

President Obama

HISTORIANS’ AND ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ and Analysts Comments

  • Gil Troy “It’s Time to Mobilize Obama’s Army for a Values Revolution”: The story of Barack Obama’s brilliant grassroots organizing as a candidate is now campaigning legend. But since Election Day, the “what do we do now” question has vexed Obama’s Army. Two million activists and an email list of thirteen million “slacktivists” constitute a potent political force. If Obama only uses these idealists as an amen corner, he will miss a chance to deliver the change he promised and millions seek. President Obama should mobilize his army of supporters to launch a mass movement fostering collective and individual responsibility….
    “Organizing for America” must be slicker and more profound, better identified as a force calling on Americans to serve their community while transforming all the good will Obama has generated – even after his rough week – into a transformational conversation about how we live our lives and do politics. The times demand more than the brass bands and blue eagles of the 1930s or the house meetings and mass emailings we have seen so far. If President Obama can get millions investing their time, energy and money into fulfilling his vision, with the same enthusiasm they invested into his campaign, his presidency will be monumental, with the occasional hiring lapses and concessions to Congressional pork upstaged by the renewed citizenship covenant he has so far romanticized but not yet designed. – HNN, 2-19-09
  • Julian Zelizer: “Obama places big bets in first month”: “The level of government intervention that we are seeing or at least is proposed is pretty significant and it is taking place in multiple parts of the economy,” said Princeton University historian Julian Zelizer. “The problem is if it doesn’t work, if the economy is worse (and not) better, this could be a big liability. That is the gamble.”… “It took (president George W.) Bush a little while to look like a president, until 9/11. He did not have that gravity until that famous speech with the firefighters,” said Zelizer. – AFP, 2-19-09
  • Gil Troy “The First 100 Days: George Washington Set the Standard for All Future Presidents”: Adds historian Gil Troy in Leading From the Center: “Washington was a muscular moderate, far shrewder than many acknowledged. Emotionally disciplined, philosophically faithful to an enlightened, democratic ’empire’ of reason, Washington passionately advocated political moderation. Acknowledging his own shortcomings as a human being, he tolerated and welcomed others’ views. He realized that others might reasonably reach different conclusions about important issues. Washington’s idea of democratic politics was to seek common ground and blaze a centrist trail.” – U.S. News & World Report, 2-19-09
  • Donald A. Ritchie “Senate not likely to oust Sen. Roland Burris anytime soon”: “It’s a collegial body that doesn’t like to police its members,” said Donald A. Ritchie, the Senate’s associate historian. “It prefers to leave that to the voters and to the courts.” – LAT, 2-19-09
  • Gil Troy “Canada’s best Presidents Relations with the U.S. still depend on how our leaders get along”: The interaction between Pierre Trudeau and Ronald Reagan makes an intriguing case study. At first glance, they seemed bound to clash. “There’s a great picture,” says Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University and author of Leading from the Center: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents, “of Trudeau in an ascot, looking very European, and Reagan in a brown suit, looking sort of midwestern.” Yet he points out that Reagan writes favourably in his memoirs about his first meeting with Trudeau, recalling how they agreed on the need for a closer North American alliance, planting the seeds of the free trade deal Reagan eventually signed with Brian Mulroney.
    When there’s a clash between American and international interests, or course, presidents tend, like politicians everywhere, to play to the home crowd. In Obama’s case, that might eventually spell disappointment for his legions of admirers abroad, including Canadians. “At a certain point it is more important for him to be popular in Peoria than in Ottawa, let alone than in Europe,” says Troy. Macleans, 2-18-09
  • Douglas Brinkley “The President’s Tone”: “You see Obama sputtering a lot in January and February 2009,” historian Douglas Brinkley told ABC for Good Morning America today. “It”s his rhetoric that keeps saving him.” “It’s a kind of new federalism going on,” Brinkley says, “a new belief in government. But I do think it needs to be packaged a little bit better so it’s not just an argument of ‘what company should we bail out?'” – ABC News, 2-17-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama’s Economic Stimulus Bill Most Ambitious Since Roosevelt”: “No one’s going to have 100 days like Franklin Roosevelt again, with 15 major pieces of legislation,” said Allan Lichtman, a political history professor at American University in Washington. “But leaving aside that impossible comparison, Obama’s accomplishments stack up very well.” – – Bloomberg, 2-17-09
  • John Thompson “Obama’s Trip to Canada Could Yield Lessons in Banking, Health, Duke Professor Says”: “Canada’s banking system is doing really, really well,” said John Thompson, a professor of history and in Duke’s Center for Canadian Studies. “Canada hasn’t had a single bank failure, and the World Economic Forum ranks their banking system as the healthiest in the world. America’s is number 40. Canadians save at much higher rates than people in the U.S., and because they’re not allowed to deduct mortgage payments, they aren’t seeing overheated real estate markets,” said Thompson, author of “Canada and the United States: Ambivalent Allies. Canadians spend nine percent of their GDP on health care — compared to the U.S.’s 16 percent — and still get better results overall,” he said. “And because the system is national, you don’t have this problem of businesses losing their competitiveness due to huge health insurance costs. In foreign policy, Canada has been pretty wise, too. They’ve fought alongside the U.S. in every major modern war — except Iraq and Vietnam. That looks like pretty good judgment in hindsight. Of course, there’s not really a trend of U.S. presidents taking advice from Canadians. There’s a pretty good chance this visit will be no more than a photo op for a rock-star president before his adoring Canadian fans.” – AScribe (press release), 2-17-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Too much space: Romney selling Utah home”: Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, says it’s hard to believe that Romney, as wealthy as he is, needed to downgrade. “If it’s not financial, it’s not inconceivable the memories of the McCain issue may be on his mind,” Zelizer says. He may be downsizing, “so when he runs next time he doesn’t have four to five homes for his opponent or President Obama to talk about.” – Salt Lake Tribune, 2-16-09
  • James K. Glassman “Stimulus: A History of Folly”: Before he was sworn in as President, Barack Obama began to lay out his plans for reviving an American economy that, it would later be discovered, had declined 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, its worst performance in 26 years…. He anointed the stimulus proposal with a convenient and vivid metaphor. “We’re going to have to jump start this economy with my economic recovery plan,” he said on January 3. According to the image, one can jolt a dormant economy into action just as one can hook up polarized cables to a car battery, clamp a defibrillator to the chest, or breathe into the ear of a reluctant lover. Suddenly, the object of our attention will be back in action, aroused. Alas, the questions raised by a proposed stimulus—whether to apply it, what sort it should be, how much it should cost, and when it should begin and end—are far trickier to answer than problems involving dead batteries…. – Commentary, 3-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Stakes are huge for Obama and nation”: Last week, Obama told an audience in Florida that if his economic recovery plan does not work, “then you’ll have a new president.” Regardless of whether Obama meant that he would not run again or that he would be defeated, he referred to how much is at stake with the federal programs that were debated over the past two weeks. But Obama severely understated what is really at stake. Far more than his presidency is at risk. The $787 billion economic recovery legislation, combined with financial bailout likely to cost more than a trillion dollars, has opened up a huge debate in American politics over the role of the federal government in an economic crisis….
    The stimulus package and financial bailout will become the symbol to show why government intervention does not work in times of economic crisis. This, according to liberal economists, is the danger posed by the compromises that were made by the administration — both in asking for less than most economists think is necessary and then settling for an even lower figure in the negotiations. The effects of new policies on politics can be enormous. When Americans enjoyed economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s, liberals were able to point to the New Deal and subsequent federal programs as powerful evidence that government intervention can benefit the nation. When Americans enjoyed renewed economic growth during the middle of the 1980s and much of the 1990s, conservatives looked back toward Reagan’s 1981 tax cut as proof that lowering the tax burden had boosted the economy. Regardless of Obama’s future, it is likely that Americans will be talking about this economic recovery and financial bailout programs years from now as they reach conclusions about whether the government can lift this country out of an economic crisis. – CNN, 2-16-09

HNN’s 100th Top Young Historian Profile!

HNN’s Top Young Historians’ Feature (which I edit) reaches the 100th profile this week!!!

HNN’s Top Young Historian: This Week … Jason M. Opal
Bonnie Goodman

Here’s a full listing of all 100 profiles as published from the last three years:

Complete List of “Top Young Historians”

February 15, 2009: The Congress and Senate Pass the Economic Stimulus Bill, Obama Signs it into Law on Tuesday

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

President Obama Delivers Your Weekly Address

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • The Senate cast the final vote, 60-38, hours after the House of Representatives passed an identical bill, 246-183.
  • House Roll Call: House passes economic stimulus: The 246-183 roll call Friday by which the House passed a $787 billion economic stimulus bill.
    Voting yes were 246 Democrats and no Republicans.
    Voting no were seven Democrats and 176 Republicans. – AP, 2-13-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • NYT Op-Classic: Presidents’ Day Edition: Over the years, presidents past, present and future have written for Op-Ed. In honor of the holiday, here are selections from the dozens of their essays that have appeared on the page. – NYT, 2-15-09
  • To Fix Detroit, Obama Is Said to Drop Plan for ‘Car Czar’: President Obama has dropped the idea of appointing a single, powerful “car czar” to oversee the revamping of General Motors and Chrysler and will instead keep the politically delicate task in the hands of his most senior economic advisers, a top administration official said Sunday night. – NYT, 2-15-09
  • White House Says Stimulus Won’t Be a Quick Fix: As President Obama prepares to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill, administration officials sought to temper expectations, warning that the economy has not yet reached bottom and that increased economic activity as a result of the legislation would “take time to show up in the statistics.” – NYT, 2-15-09
  • Illinois GOP leader calls on Sen. Burris to resign: Just as Illinois was moving past the agony and embarrassment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s ousting, the fellow Democrat whom Blagojevich appointed to the U.S. Senate was hearing calls for his own resignation Sunday amid allegations he lied to legislators. – AP, 2-15-09
  • McCain cites bad bipartisan start with Obama: Sen. John McCain says President Barack Obama failed to include Republicans in writing the big economic stimulus bill. – AP, 2-15-09
  • Obama’s big victory comes at a cost: President Barack Obama’s crucial victory in getting a $787 billion economic stimulus plan through Congress was achieved quickly, but his hopes of gaining a bipartisan consensus died an early death. The bitter Washington debate over the stimulus plan, which the majority Democrats muscled through both chambers despite nearly unified Republican opposition, has political consequences that boil down to one question: Will it work? – Reuters, 2-15-09
  • For Obama, governing isn’t campaigning For the most part, your can chalk up his shaky debut to the difference between campaigning and governing: Barack Obama made running for president look easy. As a candidate, he was famously steady and cool, and his campaign team was a marvel of internal harmony. “No drama Obama,” they called him. Fixing a broken economy is turning out to require some drama. To win his stimulus plan, Obama had to turn white-hot and warn that the alternative was “catastrophe.” Backstage at the White House, there has been confusion and even discord, evidence that Team Obama might be populated by mortals after all. – LAT, 2-15-09
  • Stimulus bill, foreclosure aid tops Obama agenda: Keeping the economy front and center, President Barack Obama heads west this week to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill and tackle the home mortgage foreclosure crisis. The direct appeals for public support follow scant GOP backing in Congress for his agenda and increasing partisan bickering. – AP, 2-15-09
  • Obama to sign $787 billion stimulus bill Tuesday: Savoring his first big victory in Congress, President Barack Obama on Saturday celebrated the newly passed $787 billion economic stimulus bill as a “major milestone on our road to recovery.” – AP, 2-14-09
  • Democrats muscle huge stimulus through Congress: In a major victory for President Barack Obama, Democrats muscled a huge, $787 billion stimulus bill through Congress late Friday night in hopes of combating the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous. – AP, 2-14-09
  • A Smaller, Faster Stimulus Plan, but Still With a Lot of Money: On its way to becoming law, two crucial things happened to President Obama’s economic recovery plan: It got smaller and faster. Smaller in that it was cut to $787 billion from more than $800 billion in early versions in the House and Senate. And faster in that the Congressional Budget Office now projects that 74 percent of the money will be spent by Sept. 30, 2010, compared with 64 percent in the original House bill. – NYT, 2-14-09
  • U.S. Congress sends stimulus bill to Obama: Congress hands President Obama a major legislative victory, approving a $787 billion stimulus bill that aims to rush emergency spending and tax cuts to a nation in the grip of a severe recession. – Reuters, 2-14-09
  • Obama back in Chicago for Valentine’s Day weekend President Barack Obama flies back to Chicago for a Chicago weekend retreat: President Barack Obama returned to Chicago Friday, making his first trip home since his inauguration and ending a turbulent week in which he dealt with partisan bickering over his massive economic stimulus package. – Chicago Tribune, 2-13-09
  • White House provides plane to senator for key stimulus vote: The White House has provided the use of a government airplane to a key Democratic senator Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in order to ensure the availability of what may prove to be the deciding 60th vote in favor of the $787 billion economic stimulus package. – CNN, 2-13-09
  • DeFazio joins Republicans in saying ‘no’ on stimulus Economy – The bill is too full of tax cuts, says the Democrat, one of a handful to break ranks: With the nation’s economy hanging in the balance, Oregon’s delegation broke along party lines, with one major exception, Friday as Congress approved a $787 billion spending and tax plan. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., voted against the package, saying it had too many tax cuts and not enough direct spending. – Oregan Live, 2-14-09
  • Specter, a Fulcrum of the Stimulus Bill, Pulls Off a Coup for Health Money: Even lobbyists are stunned by the coup Mr. Specter pulled off this week. In return for providing one of only three Republican votes in the Senate for the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, he was able to secure a 34 percent increase in the health agency’s budget — to $39 billion from $29 billion. – NYT, 2-13-09
  • Obama to unveil foreclosure plan, big lenders wait: U.S. President Barack Obama will unveil a plan to stem home foreclosures on Wednesday, a spokesman said, and major U.S. lenders said they had stopped foreclosing until details of the program have been firmed up. – Reusters, 2-13-09
  • Clinton urges NKorea against ‘provocative’ actions: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, making her first major policy speech, urged North Korea Friday not to take any “provocative” actions that could undermine peace efforts. Amid press reports that North Korea might be preparing a long-range missile test, Clinton pledged to hold the communist regime to its commitments to give up its nuclear programs in return for international aid and political concessions. – AP, 2-13-09
  • Gregg’s Withdrawal Stirs Speculation Over Obama’s Census Plan: New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg cited differences with the Obama administration over the economic stimulus bill and the census for ending his bid as commerce secretary, raising questions about which factor played a bigger role in his decision. – Fox News, 2-13-09
  • Did President Obama Get Crossed Up by Head of Company He Visited?: President Obama said during an appearance at the Caterpillar tractor factory in East Peoria, Illinois, that the company CEO had promised in the Peoria Journal Star: “If Congress passes our (stimulus) plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off.”
    But after the president left, Caterpillar chief Jim Owens said there actually would be more layoffs coming — in addition to the 22,000 already expected: “We’ll probably have more layoffs before we start hiring again. We don’t want false expectations. If we sign a stimulus bill, that doesn’t mean we’ll start hiring right away.”
    Owens back-tracked today, saying the passage of stimulus packages could — over time — lead to the recall of some employees laid off during this downturn. – Fox News, 2-13-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

download .mp4 | also available here| audio

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATION, February 14, 2009: This week, I spent some time with Americans across the country who are hurting because of our economic crisis. People closing the businesses they scrimped and saved to start. Families losing the homes that were their stake in the American Dream. Folks who have given up trying to get ahead, and given in to the stark reality of just trying to get by.
    They’ve been looking to those they sent to Washington for some hope at a time when they need it most.
    This morning, I’m pleased to say that after a lively debate full of healthy difference of opinion, we have delivered real and tangible progress for the American people.
    Congress has passed my economic recovery plan – an ambitious plan at a time we badly need it. It will save or create more than 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, ignite spending by business and consumers alike, and lay a new foundation for our lasting economic growth and prosperity.
    This is a major milestone on our road to recovery, and I want to thank the Members of Congress who came together in common purpose to make it happen. Because they did, I will sign this legislation into law shortly, and we’ll begin making the immediate investments necessary to put people back to work doing the work America needs done….
    Now, some fear we won’t be able to effectively implement a plan of this size and scope, and I understand their skepticism. Washington hasn’t set a very good example in recent years. And with so much on the line, it’s time to begin doing things differently.
    That’s why our goal must be to spend these precious dollars with unprecedented accountability, responsibility, and transparency. I’ve tasked my cabinet and staff to set up the kind of management, oversight, and disclosure that will help ensure that, and I will challenge state and local governments to do the same….

    And in the weeks ahead, I will submit a proposal for the federal budget that will begin to restore the discipline these challenging times demand. Our debt has doubled over the past eight years, and we’ve inherited a trillion- dollar deficit – which we must add to in the short term in order to jumpstart our sick economy. But our long- term economic growth demands that we tame our burgeoning federal deficit; that we invest in the things we need, and dispense with the things we don’t. This is a challenging agenda, but one we can and will achieve.
    This morning, I’m reminded of words President Kennedy spoke in another time of uncertainty. “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.”
    America, we will prove equal to this task. It will take time, and it will take effort, but working together, we will turn this crisis into opportunity and emerge from our painful present into a brighter future. After a week spent with the fundamentally decent men and women of this nation, I have never been more certain of that. – WH Blog, 2-14-09

  • Clinton urges NKorea against ‘provocative’ actions: “We will need to work together to address the most acute challenge to stability in northeast Asia: North Korea’s nuclear program…. I will assure our allies in Japan that we have not forgotten the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and I will meet with some of those families in Tokyo next week…. Climate change is not just an environmental nor an energy issue, but also has implications for our health, our economies and our security…. We believe we have an opportunity to move these discussions forward. But it is incumbent on North Korea to avoid any provocative action and unhelpful rhetoric toward South Korea…. If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula’s long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people. – AP, 2-13-09
  • McCain says Obama needs to work on bipartisanship: “I think that the majority of people understand that this was generational theft. I hope they’ve learned a lesson. I hope that they will reverse course, and sit down, negotiate from the beginning, so you’re in on the takeoff, so you can be in on the landing.” – Reuters, 2-13-09
  • Gregg says he couldn’t support Obama 100 percent: Republican Sen. Judd Gregg said Friday that he pulled out of the job of commerce secretary after realizing that “I’m just going to be a little too conservative” for President Barack Obama’s administration.
    If you’re going to be on a football team, “you’ve got to pull out and block on every play, you can’t do it on every other play,” the senator said.
    “I didn’t feel comfortable going forward because of my individuality, for lack of a better term,” Gregg said during an appearance Friday morning on CNBC. – AP, 2-13-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “The recovery plan: A national jolt to economy”: “The stakes are so high now, this is such a big bill, average Americans are following it,” says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. “It’s become a bill that is an argument about what government can or can’t do. “If there is no effect and in six months we are talking about the same economy or a worse economy, I think it would be a devastating blow to the president, Democrats, and to liberal claims about what government can do.”….
    “There are seeds in this bill for long-term change,” says Zelizer. “There are things that can develop out of the research that can change our lives.” – AP, 2-14-09
  • Kenneth C. Davis “The recovery plan: A national jolt to economy”: “We’re not reinventing government,” said historian Kenneth C. Davis, author of the best-selling “Don’t Know Much About” series. “We’re modifying things that exist.”
    “It was a transformation of society in a way that hadn’t been done since the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery,” Davis said. AP, 2-14-09
  • Larry Sabato “Despite Obama’s successes, some promises go unmet”: “Clearly, the White House has not been firing on all cylinders but it’s only been three weeks,” said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. “A new engine needs a test period.” – Reuters, 2-14-09
  • Gil Troy “Is Obamania Stopping Us From Questioning Obama’s Competence?”: Wow, the descent from “Yes We Can” to “I screwed up” has been rapid – and unnerving. It hurts me to write this post. Like the millions who were in Washington on Inauguration Day, and the billions who watched around the world, I want Barack Obama to succeed, America needs Obama to succeed. But as American patriots – and as historians – we cannot be so blinded by our hopes and his charms that we overlook the truth. Obama’s Keystone Kops Cabinet farce would be funny if it were not so tragic. His utter failure to put together an effective team without getting so much egg on his face plays to one of my greatest fears about Obama. As an academic who has never been an administrator (beyond one year as department chair), I wondered how he, with only minimally more administrative experience, could take on one of the most complicated executive jobs in history. So far, the results are depressing….
    Careful analyses of the 2008 presidential campaign will discover a systematic bias in favor of Obama. His story was fresher, more compelling, and thus less scrutinized than Hillary Clinton’s, John McCain’s, or the other also-rans. Even some journalists have admitted in retrospect that many reporters liked Obama, loved the idea of Obama, and frequently gave him a free pass.
    Still, there may also be a more benign explanation. The financial meltdown has sobered Americans – and reporters. Barack Obama’s call for a new, more constructive politics have resonated. This really is not the time for the kind of partisan, “gotcha” bickering that has marred our politics for so long.
    All this makes Obama’s repeated missteps so disturbing. The stakes are too high for amateur hour. Obama needs to explain why his personnel process has been so spectacularly incompetent, what he is going to do to fix it, and what he has learned from this experience. There is a lot of goodwill and desperation out there, both of which Obama has been able to tap effectively. But rather than just talking beautifully, he must start governing competently. – HNN, 2-13-09
  • Tevi Troy “What Was Judd Gregg Thinking?”: The real question about Judd Gregg is not why he pulled out, but why President Obama picked him in the first place, and why Gregg accepted the offer.
    Cabinet members from the non-governing party serving in the Cabinet often cause problems for themselves, as well as for the presidents they serve. In this case, it was unclear why Obama needed a third Republican in his Cabinet, in addition to Gates at Defense and LaHood at Transportation.
    And of these three Departments, Commerce probably is the most directly involved in the key issues on which the Democrats and Republicans diverge — especially the economy, immigration, and trade.
    In a short time, it became clear that there were going to be significant policy differences between Gregg and the administration: on the stimulus package, on who would run the Census, and to what extent Gregg would have a role in economic policy-making. Down the road, Gregg’s position as a staunch free trader would likely have caused even more problems, with both the administration and the Democratic Congress.
    Gregg is also a partisan Republican — he served as the debate foil for President Bush in the 2004 re-election campaign. Once he insisted on a Republican replacement in the Senate, he took away the administration’s main reason for having him. When the administration made noises about taking away the Census, Gregg must have seen that he would have been far more of a figurehead than a policy shaper. – Fox Forum, 2-13-09

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

At the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., in 1991, Mr. Reagan was joined by President Bush and former Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter.

February 12, 2009: Sen. Judd Gregg Withdraws his Nomination for Commerce Secretary & the Final Push for the Economic Stimulus Bill

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Judd GreggDoug Mills/The New York Times Senator Judd Gregg with President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll out this week shows an American public looking very favorably on the new president, with an approval rating of 76%. That includes a whopping 97% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans. However, only 54% support the Senate bill. – CNN, 2-12-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Obama makes 11th hour push for stimulus package: Taking no chances, President Barack Obama is exerting last-minute pressure on Congress to approve his stimulus plan by highlighting stories of people affected by the economic downturn. – CNN, 2-12-09
  • Even After the Deal, Tinkering Goes On: Congressional leaders moved swiftly on Thursday to schedule votes in the House and Senate on the $789 billion economic stimulus plan, while lawmakers spent much of the day hammering out the final details of the legislation. – NYT, 2-12-09
  • Global Economy Top Threat to U.S., Spy Chief Says: The new director of national intelligence told Congress on Thursday that global economic turmoil and the instability it could ignite had outpaced terrorism as the most urgent threat facing the United States. – NYT, 2-12-09
  • Gregg withdraws as commerce secretary nominee: Saying “I made a mistake,” Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire abruptly withdrew as commerce secretary nominee on Thursday and left the fledgling White House suddenly coping with Barack Obama’s third Cabinet withdrawal. – AP, 2-12-09
  • Obama honors Lincoln’s vision of strong union: Summoning the pride of a nation, President Barack Obama paid fond tribute Thursday to Abraham Lincoln by challenging people to embrace his vision of a collective union and reject a “knee-jerk disdain for government.” – AP, 2-12-09
  • George W. Bush to give talk in Calgary: A Calgary audience might be the first group to hear George W. Bush’s take on the state of the world since he stepped down as U.S. president earlier this year. – CTV, 2-12-09
  • Gregg Withdrawal Embarrasses White House: His decision to withdraw as Obama’s nominee for commerce secretary was especially surprising since the courtship between the president and Gregg went on for several weeks. They had even spoken together several times about their ideological differences on economic policy…. – ABC News, 2-12-09
  • Analysis: Obscure post gives Obama big headache: Quick, who headed the Commerce Department under President George W. Bush? No disrespect to Carlos M. Gutierrez, but commerce secretary is not one of Washington’s more glamorous jobs. It’s overshadowed by first-tier Cabinet posts at Justice, State, Defense and Treasury. Scores of senators, House members, Supreme Court justices and White House aides would draw more attention at a Georgetown cocktail party or DuPont Circle restaurant. – AP, 2-12-09
  • US Senate to vote Friday on $789 bln stimulus plan: The U.S. Senate will vote on Friday on the $789 billion economic stimulus package that President Barack Obama wants quickly to boost the struggling economy, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. – Reuters, 2-12-09
  • Reid Looking for GOP Votes: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling other Republican centrists trying to persuade more of them to vote for the measure. He’s looking for additional votes out of an abundance of caution, an aide explained, after learning that ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, who returned to Capitol Hill for votes earlier this week, has now gone back to Florida to continue his recovery from brain cancer and won’t be here for a final vote on the stimulus bill in the coming days. – CNN, 2-12-09
  • Obama eyes home loan subsidies in rescue plan: The Obama administration is hammering out a program to subsidize mortgages in a new front to fight the credit crisis, sources familiar with the plan told Reuters on Thursday, boosting financial markets. – Reuters, 2-12-09
  • Senate Democrats optimistic about 2010, targeting nine states: Nearly two years before Election Day 2010, the Senate Democrat charged with expanding the party’s already-strong majority sounded a bullish tone Thursday, suggesting the national mood and political environment make it nearly impossible for the GOP to pick up seats. – CNN, 2-12-09
  • GOP Targets Stimulus Supporters In New Ad: The National Republican Congressional Committee today began running radio ads targeting 30 House Democrats who supported the stimulus package – or, as the NRCC puts it, “a trillion-dollar spending bill chock full of wasteful Washington spending.” – Listen, Mp3 CBS News, 2-12-09
  • Smacking Specter, When His Vote Matters: At a news briefing, Senator Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Mr. Specter’s seat was one of the Democrats’ targets for the 2010 midterm elections. Mr. Menendez cited the increased enrollment of Democrats in the state and his poll ratings in contending that Mr. Specter would face a very tough re-election tide. – NYT, 2-12-09
  • Jack Cafferty: “How stimulating is $13 a week?”: While the federal government is passing an $800 billion stimulus bill — which works out to about $2,700 for every man woman and child in the country — the average worker can look forward to seeing about an extra $13 a week in his/her paycheck after taxes. This is on top of the $700 billion financial bailout package that was passed last fall and given to Wall Street. – CNN, 2-12-09
  • Food stamps, tax breaks for poor in stimulus bill: More than 37 million Americans live in poverty, and the vast majority of them are in line for extra help under the giant stimulus package coming out of Congress. Millions more could be kept from slipping into poverty by the economic lifeline. People who get food stamps — 30 million and growing — will get more. People drawing unemployment checks — 4.8 million and growing — would get an extra $25, and keep those checks coming longer. People who get Supplemental Security Income — 7 million poor Americans who are elderly, blind or disabled — would get one-time extra payments of $250. – AP, 2-12-09
  • Analysis: Obama faces double dilemmas in Mideast: Israel’s shift to the right could throw a monkey wrench into President Barack Obama’s conciliatory overtures to Iran and his budding drive to promote Arab-Israeli peacemaking. – AP, 2-12-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

  • “Gregg Withdraws as Commerce Secretary Nominee”: “He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President’s agenda. Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama’s key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways.” – NYT, 2-12-09
  • Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire in statement Thursday withdrawing from consideration to be President Obama’s Commerce Secretary: I want to thank the President for nominating me to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. This was a great honor, and I had felt that I could bring some views and ideas that would assist him in governing during this difficult time. I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle.However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.Obviously the President requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives.I greatly admire President Obama and know our country will benefit from his leadership, but at this time I must withdraw my name from consideration for this position.

    As we move forward, I expect there will be many issues and initiatives where I can and will work to assure the success of the President’s proposals. This will certainly be a goal of mine.

    Kathy and I also want to specifically thank Governor Lynch and Bonnie Newman for their friendship and assistance during this period. In addition we wish to thank all the people, especially in New Hampshire, who have been so kind and generous in their supportive comments.

    As a further matter of clarification, nothing about the vetting process played any role in this decision. I will continue to represent the people of New Hampshire in the United States Senate. – CNN, 2-12-09

  • Barack Obama “Obama Takes His Lobbying for Stimulus to Illinois Caterpillar plant”: I also want to thank Jim Owens, who I’ve gotten to know and is one of the top CEOs that we have in the country. You know, Jim is obviously confronted with some tough choices, like every CEO is right now, but what I’m absolutely confident in is he’s thinking about the company’s long-term growth and he cares about his workers; he cares about the long term and not just the short term. And I appreciate him agreeing to serve as one of our economic advisers during this process, and I think this company is going to be in good hands with him at the helm. So thank you very much, Jim, for being a part of this event today.It’s been reconciled and now it’s going back to those two chambers so it can get on my desk. It is time for Congress to act, and I hope they act in a bipartisan fashion. But no matter how they act, when they do, when they finally pass our plan, I believe it will be a major step forward on our path to economic recovery.And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Yesterday, Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off. And that’s a story I’m confident will be repeated at companies across the country — companies that are currently struggling to borrow money selling their products, struggling to make payroll, but could find themselves in a different position when we start implementing the plan. Rather than downsizing, they may be able to start growing again. Rather than cutting jobs, they may be able to create them again.That’s the goal at the heart of this plan: to create jobs. NYT, 2-12-09
  • Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan “Is stimulus plan “theft”?”: Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan points out this is more money than has “ever been contemplated in the history of our country.” He’s proposing that the government come up with a system to show how every penny is spent, adding the real scandal is not knowing how the money is being managed. Said Dorgan, “Letting the banks be run like casinos on their own account, is that theft? You’re damn right it is.” – CNN, 2-12-09
  • Republican Senator John McCain “Is stimulus plan “theft”?”: Republican Senator John McCain is calling the bailout “generational theft.” He says we’re robbing future generations by laying such astronomical debt on their shoulders. – CNN, 2-12-09

President and Mrs. Obama at the re-opening of Ford's Theatre

  • President Obama Speaks at Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration: It is an honor to be here – a place where Lincoln served, was inaugurated, and where the nation he saved bid him a last farewell. As we mark the bicentennial of our 16th President’s birth, I cannot claim to know as much about his life and works as many of those who are also speaking today, but I can say that I feel a special gratitude to this singular figure who in so many ways made by own story possible – and who in so many ways made America’s story possible.It is fitting that we are holding this celebration here at the Capitol. For the life of this building is bound ever so closely to the times of this immortal President. Built by artisans and craftsmen, immigrants and slaves – it was here, in the rotunda, that union soldiers received help from a makeshift hospital; it was downstairs, in the basement, that they were baked bread to give them strength; and it was in the Senate and House chambers, where they slept at night, and spent some of their days.What those soldiers saw when they looked on this building was a very different sight than the one we see today. For it remained unfinished until the end of the war. The laborers who built the dome came to work wondering whether each day would be their last; whether the metal they were using for its frame would be requisitioned for the war and melted down into bullets. But each day went by without any orders to halt construction, and so they kept on working and kept on building.When President Lincoln was finally told of all the metal being used here, his response was short and clear: that is as it should be. The American people needed to be reminded, he believed, that even in a time of war, the work would go on; that even when the nation itself was in doubt, its future was being secured; and that on that distant day, when the guns fell silent, a national capitol would stand, with a statue of freedom at its peak, as a symbol of unity in a land still mending its divisions.

    It is this sense of unity, this ability to plan for a shared future even at a moment our nation was torn apart, that I reflect on today. And while there are any number of moments that reveal that particular side of this extraordinary man – that particular aspect of his leadership – there is one I’d like to share with you today.

    In the war’s final weeks, aboard Grant’s flagship, The River Queen, President Lincoln was asked what was to be done with the rebel armies once General Lee surrendered. With victory at hand, Lincoln could have sought revenge. He could have forced the South to pay a steep price for their rebellion. But despite all the bloodshed and all the misery that each side had exacted upon the other, no Confederate soldier was to be punished, Lincoln ordered. They were to be treated, as he put it, “liberally all round.” All Lincoln wanted was for Confederate troops to go back home and return to work on their farms and in their shops. He was even willing, he said, to “let them have their horses to plow with and…their guns to shoot crows with.”

    That was the only way, Lincoln knew, to repair the rifts that had torn this country apart. It was the only way to begin the healing that our nation so desperately needed. For what Lincoln never forgot, not even in the midst of civil war, was that despite all that divided us – north and south, black and white – we were, at heart, one nation and one people, sharing a bond as Americans that could not break. And so even as we meet here today, at a moment when we are far less divided than in Lincoln’s day, but when we are once again debating the critical issues of our time – and debating them fiercely – let us remember that we are doing so as servants to the same flag, as representatives of the same people, and as stakeholders in a common future. That is the most fitting tribute we can pay – and the most lasting monument we can build – to that most remarkable of men, Abraham Lincoln. Thank you. – WaPo, 2-12-09

  • CEO Contradicts Obama on Rehiring Employees Caterpillar Head Says More Layoffs Likely, Even With Stimulus Funding: “Yesterday, Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off,” Obama said today in Peoria.But when asked today if the stimulus could do that, Owens said, “I think, realistically, no. The honest reality is we’re probably going to have more layoffs before we start hiring again.” ABC News, 2-12-09
  • Barack Obama “Obama Campaign to Lend Partisanship Draws Few Republican Allies”: “They were designed to try to build up some trust over time. As I continue to make these overtures, over time, hopefully that will be reciprocated.” – Bloomberg, 2-12-09
  • Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist “Obama Campaign to Lend Partisanship Draws Few Republican Allies”: “It’s getting harder every day and we know that it’s important that we pass a stimulus package. We need to do it in a bipartisan way.” – Bloomberg, 2-12-09
  • Barney Frank “New bank bailout grants will be protected” on CBS’s “The Early Show”: We didn’t give them the second half ($350 billion) with no strings attached. The Treasury Department has agreed to impose very strict rules, and I think it would be a very big mistake to assume that the Obama administration is going to be as lax as the Bush administration…. The error is to assume that because the Bush administration resisted compensation restrictions … that the Obama administration is going to do the same. In fact, the Obama administration is behaving very differently. The fact is, these funds are being conditioned by the Obama administration. If they get the money, they are legally bound to follow certain rules.” – AP, 2-12-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Obama’s stimulus gamble” video: Should the economic recovery plan work, the goal of saving or creating 4 million jobs will have been met and President Obama can take full credit. – Reuter, 2-12-09
  • Burton Folsom Jr. “That Buy American Provision””: “Slap a tariff on China and save American jobs,” the protectionists say. This tempting line of reasoning is flawed for two reasons. First, if Americans pay more for, say, American-made shoes or shirts, then they have less to spend for other things they might need — they are simply subsidizing inefficient local producers. And those American manufacturers, who are protected from foreign competitors, have little incentive to innovate and cut prices…. Free trade benefits buyers and sellers. Tariffs benefit certain sellers at the expense of all buyers. – NYT, 2-12-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Republican governors at odds on U.S. stimulus cash”: “When Republicans say they’re against big government, it’ll be easy to point to all these states where Republican governors embraced the funding.” – Reusters, 2-12-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama walks line between politics, economy”: “It’s clear there are divisions in the administration about where the financial bailout should be targeted as well as how much authority the government should gain over financial institutions….The best bet is that Geithner was vague on the detail because the administration has not settled what that detail should be.” – Reuters, 2-12-09

Mark Wilson/Getty Images)President Barack Obama with, from left, Rep. Jesse Jackson, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at a ceremony to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln on Thursday at the Capitol building in Washington. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
%d bloggers like this: