February 8, 2009: Obama Heading into his Third Week as President, Economic Stimulus Bill Debate & Daschle Drops his HHS Bid


President Barack Obama addresses the House Democrats Conference in Williamsburg,Va. (Photo: Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)


In Focus: Stats

  • Rate media coverage of Pres. Obama?: A new Gallup poll shows 38% of those surveyed don’t think the press has been tough enough in its coverage of the new president. 11% say “too tough”, while almost half — 48% — say “about right.” – CNN, 2-9-09
  • Senate confirms Holder as first black AG: The vote was 75-21, with all the opposition coming from Republicans. – AP, 2-2-09


The Headlines…

  • Obama faces tough week; stimulus, bailout on tap: President Barack Obama plunges into a difficult test of his leadership this week, struggling to get a divided Congress to agree on his economic recovery package while pitching a new plan to ease loans to consumers and businesses. – AP, 2-8-09
  • First Lady Michelle Obama’s rollout; first FLOTUS visit to Interior Dept. since Eleanor Roosevelt: -First Lady Michelle Obama is stepping up her “rollout tour,” on Monday visiting the Interior Department, probably the first First Lady to stop by the agency since Eleanor Roosevelt. – Chicago Sun-Times, 2-9-09
  • Biden in First Policy Address about Iran: US will talk, but is ready to act: Vice President Joe Biden warned Saturday that the U.S. stands ready to take pre-emptive action against Iran if it does not abandon nuclear ambitions and its support for terrorism.
    “We will draw upon all the elements of our power — military and diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement, economic and cultural — to stop crises from occurring before they are in front of us.”…
    AP, 2-7-09
  • Obama and Senate Republicans bicker over stimulus: President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans bickered Saturday over his historically huge economic recovery plan after states and schools lost tens of billions of dollars in a late-night bargain to save it. – AP, 2-7-09
  • Senators debate stimulus in rare Saturday session: Republicans and Democrats offered starkly different assessments of President Barack Obama’s newly renegotiated economic recovery plan Saturday, as the Senate held a rare weekend debate in advance of a key vote on Monday. – AP, 2-7-09
  • Labor unions press for vote on Solis: Labor unions accused Republicans of seizing on questions about unpaid taxes to stall the confirmation of Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis because they dislike her policies. – AP, 2-6-09
  • Obama considering at least 2 Iraq withdrawal plans: The White House is considering at least two troop withdrawal options as it weighs a new Iraq strategy — one that would preserve President Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to get all combat brigades out within 16 months and a second that would stretch it to 23 months, two officials said Friday. – AP, 2-6-09
  • Obama asks Democrats to quickly pass stimulus plan: Pushing Congress to pass his economic plan by next week, President Barack Obama implored House Democrats on Thursday to reject delaying tactics and political gamesmanship that often stymies legislation and keep a promise to voters who booted Republicans from power. – AP, 2-6-09
  • Obama admin. seeks treaty to cut US, Russia nukes: The Obama administration, reversing the Bush administration’s limited interest in nuclear disarmament, is gearing up for early negotiations with Russia on a new treaty that would sharply reduce stockpiles of nuclear warheads. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has notified Congress and her staff that she intends to get started quickly on talks with the Russians, who have voiced interest in recent weeks in settling on a new treaty calling for cutbacks in arsenals on both sides. – AP, 2-6-09
  • Senators Reach Accord on Stimulus Plan as Jobs Vanish: Senate Democrats reached an agreement with Republican moderates on Friday to pare a huge economic recovery measure, clearing the way for approval of a package that President Obama said was urgently needed in light of mounting job losses. – NYT, 2-6-09
  • Officials say tentative stimulus deal reached: Amid stunning new job losses and yet another bank failure, key senators and the White House reached tentative agreement Friday night on an economic stimulus measure at the heart of President Barack Obama’s recovery plan. Two officials said the emerging agreement was for a bill with a $780 billion price tag, but there was no immediate confirmation. The tentative agreement capped a tense day of back room negotiations in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, joined by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, sought to attract the support of enough Republicans to give the measure the needed 60-vote majority. – AP, 2-6-09
  • With Stimulus, Partisanship Proves a Worthy Foe: With the Senate on track to pass its version of the economic stimulus legislation, President Obama is widely expected to win final Congressional approval of the plan soon, and thus make good on an assortment of his campaign promises. But in the process, he is confronting the impediments to his most ambitious pledge: to end the capital’s partisan warfare. – NYT, 2-6-09
  • Obama lifts restrictions on kids’ health coverage: The Obama administration on Thursday lifted a Bush-era directive to states that restricted some middle-class families from getting government health insurance.
    “The way I see it, providing coverage to 11 million children through CHIP is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American,” Obama said Wednesday at a White House bill-signing ceremony. – AP, 2-5-09
  • Obama Rallies Democrats on Stimulus Package: President Obama urged House Democrats tonight to set aside their differences with the Senate and Republicans in order to push forward quickly with the stimulus package. At times, he sounded irritated with critics who contended the bill was too big or its purpose wrong-headed. – NYT, 2-5-09
  • Obama seeks action as parties try to pare stimulus: Senate moderates worked to cut tens of bililons of dollars from economic stimulus legislation Thursday in hopes of clearing the way for passage as the government spit out grim new jobless figures and President Barack Obama warned of more bad news ahead. – AP, 2-5-09
  • Obama caps executive pay tied to bailout money: President Barack Obama on Wednesday imposed a $500,000 cap on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving taxpayer bailout money and promised new steps to end a system of “executives being rewarded for failure.” – 2-4-09
  • Senate OKs $15,000 tax break for homebuyers: The Senate voted Wednesday night to give a tax break of up to $15,000 to homebuyers in hopes of revitalizing the housing industry, a victory for Republicans eager to leave their mark on a mammoth economic stimulus bill at the heart of President Barack Obama’s recovery plan. – AP, 2-4-09
  • Senate votes to give a tax break to new car buyers: The Senate voted Tuesday to give a tax break to new car buyers, setting aside bipartisan concerns over the size of an economic stimulus bill with a price tag approaching $900 billion. The vote was 71-26 to allow many car buyers to claim an income tax deduction for the cost of automobile sales taxes and interest payments on car loans. – AP, 2-3-09
  • Obama wants to move ahead after Daschle withdraws: Tom Daschle withdrew Tuesday as President Barack Obama’s nominee to be health and human services secretary, dealing potential blows to both speedy health care reform and Obama’s hopes for a smooth start in the White House. “Now we must move forward,” Obama said in a written statement accepting “with sadness and regret” Daschle’s request to be removed from consideration. A day earlier, Obama had said he “absolutely” stood by Daschle in the face of problems over back taxes and potential conflicts of interest. – AP, 2-3-09
  • Daschle apologizes, fights to salvage nomination: Fighting to salvage his Cabinet nomination, Tom Daschle pleaded his case Monday evening in a closed meeting with former Senate colleagues after publicly apologizing for failing to pay more than $120,000 in taxes. President Barack Obama said he was “absolutely” sticking with his nominee for health secretary, and a key senator added an important endorsement. – AP, 2-2-09
  • Gregg seeks GOP successor to join Obama’s Cabinet: President Barack Obama moved closer to nominating his secretary of commerce on Monday as his top choice, GOP Sen. Judd Gregg, revealed an apparent deal that would keep his seat out of Democratic hands. “I have made it clear to the Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle and to the governor that I would not leave the Senate if I felt my departure would cause a change in the makeup of the Senate,” Gregg said in a statement. – AP, 2-2-09
  • GOP circulates plan to cut the cost of mortgages: Senate Republicans circulated a sweeping plan to drive down the cost of mortgages by expanding the federal government’s role in the industry, officials said Monday night as debate opened on an economic stimulus bill at the top of President Barack Obama’s agenda. – AP, 2-2-09
  • Sources: Sen. Judd Gregg accepts commerce secretary post: Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire has accepted President Barack Obama’s offer to be commerce secretary, two administration officials said Monday. – CNN, 2-2-09
  • Holder Is Confirmed as Attorney General: The Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday evening to confirm Eric H. Holder Jr. to be the new attorney general of the United States. The vote was 75 to 21, with all the votes against the nomination coming from Republicans. NYT, 2-2-09
  • Clinton Sets First High-Level Talks and Travel as Secretary of State: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to meet with her British and German counterparts on Tuesday in her first meetings with senior foreign officials in her new post. Plans are also being made for her first overseas trip as Secretary – to Japan, South Korea and China. – VOA, 2-2-09
  • Ironies pile up as Clinton sworn in to new U.S. post: The ironies and memories piled up fast on Monday when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with husband Bill Clinton at her side, was publicly sworn-in to her new post by Vice President Joe Biden. – Reuters, 2-2-09
  • GOP wants mortgage relief, tax cuts in stimulus: Senate Republicans pressed for mortgage relief as well as larger tax cuts Monday as debate opened on the emergency economic stimulus measure atop President Barack Obama’s agenda. Democrats came under pressure to reduce spending in the bill. AP, 2-2-09
  • Obama says Iraq’s peaceful elections aid pullout: President Barack Obama said Sunday that the peaceful elections in Iraq are “good news” for U.S. troops and their families, and he agreed with the suggestion that a substantial number of those troops could be home within a year. – AP, 2-2-09
  • GOP governors press Congress to pass stimulus bill: Most Republican governors have broken with their GOP colleagues in Congress and are pushing for passage of President Barack Obama’s economic aid plan that would send billions to states for education, public works and health care. – AP, 2-1-09
  • Obama readies road map for new bailout spending: President Barack Obama on Saturday promised to lower mortgage costs, offer job-creating loans for small businesses, get credit flowing and rein in free-spending executives as he readies a new road map for spending billions from the second installment of the financial rescue plan. – AP, 1-31-09


President Obama talked with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Representative Steny Hoyer at the House Democratic Issues Conference on Thursday. (Photo: Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Political Quotes

  • Obama asks Democrats to quickly pass stimulus plan: “They didn’t vote for the status quo; they sent us here to bring change. We owe it to them to deliver. This is not a game. This is not a contest for who’s in power and who’s up and who’s down….
    We are not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that for the last eight years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin….
    I found this deficit when I showed up. I found this national debt doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me when I stepped into the Oval Office….
    This package is not going to be absolutely perfect. All of us are going to have to make some sacrifices. And we have to accommodate the interests of a range of people. Understand, the scale and the scope of this plan is right.” – AP, 2-6-09
  • Vice President Biden: “Quite simply, we cannot wait.”: “Quite simply, we cannot wait. We cannot wait another two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. We cannot wait. Our economic recovery package is now before the Senate. It will put us back on track to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs.” – WH Blog, 2-5-09
  • Remarks of President Barack Obama National Prayer Breakfast: …”In this way, the particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times. This is not only our call as people of faith, but our duty as citizens of America, and it will be the purpose of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that I’m announcing later today.”… – WH Blog, 2-5-09
    Now, this is not who we are. We’re not a nation that leaves struggling families to fend for themselves, especially when they’ve done everything right. No child in America should be receiving his or her primary care in the emergency room in the middle of the night. No child should be falling behind at school because he can’t hear the teacher or see the blackboard. I refuse to accept that millions of our children fail to reach their full potential because we fail to meet their basic needs. In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to tradeoffs or negotiations, and health care for our children is one of those obligations.
    That is why we have passed this legislation. These legislators have passed this legislation on a bipartisan basis to continue coverage for 7 million children, cover an additional 4 million children in need, and finally lift the ban on states providing insurance to legal immigrant children if they choose to do so.
    Since it was created more than 10 years ago, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been a lifeline for millions of children whose parents work full time and don’t qualify for Medicaid, but through no fault of their own don’t have — and can’t afford — private insurance. For millions of children who fall into that gap, CHIP has provided care when they’re sick and preventive services to help them stay well. This legislation will allow us to continue and build on these successes. – WH Blog, 2-4-09
  • Obama takes blame in Daschle, Killefer controversy on NBC’s “Nightly News with Brian Williams.”: “I screwed up…. It’s important for this administration to send a message that there aren’t two sets of rules — you know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”
    “I’m frustrated with myself, with our team. … I’m here on television saying I screwed up.” – AP, 2-4-09
  • Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire: Cabinet deal is set for Gregg N.H. senator to get nod today; Likely successor is a Republican: “It is important that President Obama be able to select the advisers he feels are necessary to help him address the challenges facing our nation,” Lynch said in a statement. “If President Obama does nominate Senator Gregg to serve as commerce secretary, I will name a replacement who will put the people of New Hampshire first and represent New Hampshire effectively in the US Senate.” – Boston Globe, 2-3-09
  • Clinton Sets First High-Level Talks and Travel as Secretary of State: “That sense of enthusiasm as you walk in and through this building – it is contagious,” said Vice President Biden. “And that’s a statement about your ability to inspire, Madame Secretary, as well as to lead.”
    “We have in the leadership of President Obama someone who wants us to reach out to the world, to do so without illusions – understanding the difficulties we face will not be wished away, but meeting them forthrightly and smartly, and that we want to seize the opportunities that exist as well,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. – VOA, 2-2-09
  • Ironies pile up as Clinton sworn in to new U.S. post: “Never did I think, Madame secretary, that I would swear you in as secretary of state. Never did I think I’d be sworn in as vice president,” he said to laughter at a State Department ceremony attended by several hundred of Clinton’s friends and colleagues as well as four former secretaries of state. – Reuters, 2-2-09
  • Ironies pile up as Clinton sworn in to new U.S. post: “For me this has been an amazing personal journey. As Joe laughingly referenced, neither one of us thought we would be standing here together doing what we are now doing. Life has that funny way of unfolding and politics is even stranger.”…
    Clinton singled out Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “who after all presided over my confirmation hearing.” “I look forward to working with all of you — particularly the appropriators,” she said, alluding to the powerful members of Congress who dole out money for the State Department and other government agencies. – Reuters, 2-2-09
  • Obama says Iraq’s peaceful elections aid pullout in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer before the Super Bowl: “I think that you have a sense now that the Iraqis just had a very significant election with no significant violence that we are in a position to start putting more responsibility on the Iraqis and that’s good news not only for the troops on the ground but for the families who are carrying an enormous burden.”
    Lauer asked Obama if he could assure the troops “that a substantial number of them will be home” a year from now. Obama said: “Yes.”
    “We’re going to roll out in a very formal fashion what our intentions are in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.” – AP, 2-2-09
  • Obama pokes fun at Emanuel at Alfalfa Club dinner: “Now this hasn’t been reported yet, but it was actually Rahm’s idea to do the swearing-in ceremony again. Of course, for Rahm, every day is a swearing-in ceremony.”…
    “Every week the guy takes a little time away to give back to the community. Just last week he was at a local school, teaching profanity to poor children.”…
    If Lee “were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old,” Obama joked. “And very confused.”
    The president patted himself on the back for the “toughest diplomacy of my life” — being able to keep his Blackberry. “I finally agreed to limit the number of people who could e-mail me. It’s a very exclusive list. How exclusive?” “Everyone look at the person sitting on your left,” Obama said. “Now look at the person sitting on your right. None of you have my e-mail address.” – AP, 1-31-09
  • Al Gore: The former U.S. vice president to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at its first hearing in the new Congress “Gore urges passing stimulus deal to aid climate”: “For years our efforts to address the growing climate crisis have been undermined by the idea that we must choose between our planet and our way of life. In fact, the solutions to the climate crisis are the very same solutions that will address our economic and national security crises as well. – Reuters, 1-29-09


Historians’ Comments

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “Presidential rivals can make excellent Cabinet members”: Goodwin noted that political rivals for the presidency, once they have been defeated through the election process, often remain among the strongest and most able people on the national stage.
    It is a truism apparently not lost on Obama, since he appointed his fiercest opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, to his Cabinet. “Hillary Clinton was his biggest rival,” said Goodwin. “I think she’ll be a very good secretary of state.”
    Goodwin also noted that Obama has appointed Republicans to his Cabinet, mentioning that while advice from those who may categorically disagree with you is important, a confident president then has no trouble making his own decisions. “Obama will have to decide what he’ll have to do,” about the welter of sticky problems he faces,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar and author said. – Bradenton Herald, 29-09
  • Robert Dallek “Bush aides quick to criticize the Obama administration”: The tenor of the comments is remarkable so soon after the start of a new administration. Presidential historian Robert Dallek said the wave of criticism “speaks to their defensiveness,” noting that Bush spent much of his last two months in office defending his rocky White House tenure. “This was an administration that left so much under a cloud,” Dallek said. “They’re just continuing a pattern of aggression in defending their failed record, which is what the current judgment is among most Americans.” – Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2-8-09
  • David Greenberg “Will “war on terror” survive without Bush?”: “It may be only symbolic but it signals that Obama is serious about avoiding the kind of Bush-style foreign policy that proved so divisive,” said historian David Greenberg, an expert on presidential communication at Rutgers University in New Jersey. – Reuters, 2-6-09
  • Doug Wead “Obama’s Tardiness Sets Him Apart From Bush Unlike his predecessor, President Obama has struggled to arrive on time to events and news conferences”: “To me, being tardy, it’s got to be one of two things,” said presidential historian Doug Wead, who advised both Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush. “Bad organization that can be corrected, or it’s arrogance. It sounds to me like this is arrogance.”…
    Wead warned that habitual tardiness can be misinterpreted, citing the Cingular dropped-call ads that show how communication breakdown can lead to awkward moments in a New York minute. And he said being late could cost Obama politically. “When Obama’s popularity slips, some people on Capitol Hill will not wait for him, and that will result in diminished political power,” he said. – Fox News, 2-6-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama’s Tardiness Sets Him Apart From Bush Unlike his predecessor, President Obama has struggled to arrive on time to events and news conferences”: Allan Lichtman, a political history professor at American University, had a different explanation for Clinton’s tardiness. “President Clinton was always late because he wasn’t very disciplined in general,” he said. “This was a man who marched to the beat of his own drummer, who liked to talk, liked intellectual discussions, had his finger in every pie.” There are two kinds of presidents, Lichtman said: “Foxes and hedgehogs.” “Foxes know a little about everything. They have their fingers in every pie. … Hedgehogs only know a few things and know it well and leave the details to others. Clinton was a classic fox. Bush was a classic hedgehog.” And Obama? He appears to be a fox, too, Lichtman said. – Fox News, 2-6-09
  • Joseph McCartin “Executive Pay: Obama’s PATCO moment”: Of course, the diminution in union power had multiple causes, including globalization and a decline in U.S. manufacturing. But the attack on PATCO “had great impact,” says Joseph McCartin, a Georgetown University historian who has written extensively on the PATCO strike. “Reagan made strike-breaking more patriotic and striking less patriotic.” – MSNBC, 2-6-09
  • Donald A. Ritchie “Cabinet deal is set for Gregg N.H. senator to get nod today; Likely successor is a Republican”: Donald A. Ritchie, associate historian for the US Senate Historical Office, said governors have rarely reached across the political aisle to fill a Senate vacancy and usually only when state law has required it. Arizona is one of those states; if John McCain had won the presidential race, Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat would have had to appoint a Republican. Ritchie said the last time a governor freely chose a member of the other party to replace an outgoing senator was in 1960, when Governor Mark Hatfield of Oregon, a Republican, chose a Democratic judge to replace a Democratic senator who died. – Boston Globe, 2-3-09
  • Julian Zelizer “With Daschle’s withdrawal, can Obama repair image as ‘change’ agent?”: “Obama has work to do to restore his image as an agent of change,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. – LAT, 2-3-09
  • Stephen Tanner “Afghanistan: Can Obama succeed in the ‘land of the unruly?'”: “Controlling the Afghan people is a losing proposition,” says Stephen Tanner, author of “Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban.” “No one has ever been able to control the country.” Afghan President Hamid Karzai is struggling to control the country now, Tanner says. The landlocked nation, which is roughly the size of Texas, has no strong national police, he says; its citizens are averse to taxes and a strong central government. Afghans seem to unite only when a foreign army occupies their country, Tanner says. “The people are so disunited within that they can’t resist an invader at the border,” Tanner says. “But once you’re in, you’re surrounded by them.” The resurgence of the Taliban will complicate Obama’s plans as well, Tanner says. – CNN, 2-2-09



February 7, 2009: Obama’s Weekly Presidential Address

REMARKS OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA WEEKLY ADDRESS,  The White House, Saturday, February 7, 2009

In the weekly address for Saturday, February 7, 2009, President Barack Obama commends the progress the Senate has made on moving the recovery plan forward, and urged its completion.

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