On This Day in History…. February 12, 1809 the 16th President Abraham Lincoln is born

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

INTRODUCTION

On this day in history… February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln the 16th President of the United States was born in a one-room cabin on his family’s Sinking Spring Farm in Kentucky. This made him the first president to born out of the thirteen original colonies.

abraham-lincoln-625 On the bicentennial anniversary of his birth, historians and the public alike revere Lincoln as one of the country’s greatest presidents, but Lincoln entered the Presidency in 1861 during the country’s most divisive times and on the brink of civil war. Prior to winning the presidential election for the new Republican Party in 1860, Lincoln had worked as a lawyer, a state legislator in Illinois, and served one term as a Congressman in the United States House of Representatives, he ran for the Senate twice, but lost both times.

Lincoln presided over the country’s greatest challenge, the Civil War against the Southern Confederates states, and steered a victory that preserved the Union. In 1863, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, abolishing slavery, one of the main contention points between the North and South, thereby ending an institution that kept a large portion of America’s population in bondage. Lincoln was known as a master debater for his soaring oratory, and his Gettysburg address is one of the most quoted speeches in history.

Lincoln became the first President assassinated in office, when John Wilkes Booth Lincoln shot him on April 11, 1865 in Ford’s theater just two days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederacy at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The President became a martyr for his country, but was unable to see through his plans for reconstruction after the war.

Two hundred years later, Lincoln’s vision for rights and freedom for African Americans, a process which begun with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution ending slavery, has come to fruition with the election of another president from Illinois, Barack Obama. Obama, the nation’s first black president, has compared himself to Lincoln throughout his presidential campaign from his announcement to seek the presidency in front of the Illinois State Legislature in Springfield to his inauguration ceremony where he was the first president since Lincoln to be sworn in with the Lincoln Bible.

On the eve of Lincoln’s bicentennial, President Obama praised Lincoln stating, “For despite all that divided us – North and South, black and white – he had an unyielding belief that we were, at heart, one nation, and one people. And because of Abraham Lincoln, and all who’ve carried on his work in the generations since, that is what we remain today.”

BICENTENNIAL NEWS

  • 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Abraham Lincoln: Lincoln was the first president born beyond the original 13 states…. – US News & World Report, 2-10-09
  • From kids to Obama, nation marks Lincoln’s 200th: Folksy, melancholy Abraham Lincoln would have been dumbfounded by the fuss over his birthday Thursday. Bells tolled, wreaths were laid, speeches intoned and banjos picked to mark the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in a Kentucky log cabin. At the Lincoln presidential museum in Springfield, hundreds of excited schoolchildren joined in reciting the 16th president’s Gettysburg Address — an attempt to break the record for the biggest worldwide crowd reading it aloud together. – AP, 2-12-09
  • Happy 200th, President Lincoln: Bells tolled, wreaths were laid, speeches intoned and banjos picked across the nation Thursday in honor of the Great Emancipator. Abraham Lincoln was hailed on his 200th birthday with celebrations from his home states of Kentucky and Illinois to the nation’s capital. President Obama and congressional leaders praised Lincoln as the embodiment of American ideals of freedom, equality and unity. – USA Today, 2-12-09
  • Reflections On Lincoln’s 200th Birthday: As the nation marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, the hallowed image of the sixteenth president seems to be everywhere. It is estimated that more than 14,000 books have been written about Lincoln. In this Lincoln bicentennial year, there are books about books about Lincoln. Record high prices are being paid for authentic Lincoln memorabilia. President Obama, a big fan of Honest Abe, has described Lincoln’s life as “a fundamental element of the American character.” – CBS News, 2-12-09
  • 200 years later, a more complex view of Lincoln: Born 200 years ago Thursday in a log cabin on the Kentucky frontier, Abraham Lincoln today sits deified in a marble temple on the National Mall in Washington. Americans are still trying to figure out how he came such a long way, and what kind of man made the trip. Having saved the Union, freed the slaves and redefined freedom, Lincoln was struck down in his hour of triumph. He is the most compelling figure in U.S. history, the subject of about 16,000 books in English, more than anyone except Jesus and Shakespeare. – USA Today, 2-11-09
  • A Curious-Looking Hero Still Mesmerizes the Nation Even Tiniest Lincoln Relics Command Reverence: As Washington prepares to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth Thursday, Abraham Lincoln is venerated as a national saint — part man, part myth…. – WaPo, 2-11-09
  • Ford’s Theatre packs in the stars for reopening: Presidential present and past intersected again Wednesday night when President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama joined stars in honoring one of his inspirations: Abraham Lincoln. The Ford’s Theatre Society held a star-studded reopening to celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth and award film greats George Lucas and Sidney Poitier with Lincoln Medals. The invitation-only ceremony was held at Ford’s Theatre, where Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. – USA Today, 2-11-09
  • Laying claim to Lincoln: States go all out for celebration of 16th president’s bicentennial – Indianapolis Star, 2-8-09

HISTORIANS’ QUOTES

  • Historian James M. McPherson about Lincoln mystique: Three things, I think. … He leads the Union to victory but then is martyred at the very moment of victory.
    The second thing is the Emancipation Proclamation, the abolition of slavery, one of the great events I suppose in American history from several perspectives.
    And the third I think is just the unlikely, log-cabin-to-White House, rags-to-riches, obscurity-to-fame-to-tragedy trajectory of his life.
    There’s nobody else quite like that I think in our history who appeals on several levels of fascination, curiosity, horror. …
    Also, Lincoln did not keep a diary. A lot of his letters, especially his personal letters to his wife, and hers to him, were destroyed. So there are some mysteries about Lincoln.
    Lincoln has become a touchstone for a succession of contemporary viewpoints. The gay community wanted to find a gay Lincoln, so they managed to do that, with or without evidence. The radical civil rights movement sometimes invoked Lincoln, as Martin Luther King did in his “I Have a Dream” speech. … But then Lerone Bennett damns Lincoln as a white supremacist who held back the cause of black freedom and equality.
    So everybody has to find Lincoln as either a supporter or as a whipping boy. It’s a remarkable phenomenon. I don’t think it’s true of any other American. You don’t find that happening very much, let’s say, with George Washington. But you do find it with Lincoln. – Dallas News, 2-11-09
  • Ronald C. White Jr. “10 Questions for Abraham Lincoln scholar”: His life. He starts with less than one year of formal education in a backwoods frontier town in Kentucky. And yet somehow he rises from that to become president of the United States. Lincoln’s story is even more compelling to people in Europe. He’s the American story — anybody can rise to whatever level they want….
    I want to evoke the unpretentiousness of Lincoln. There were no street numbers on houses in his day. “A. Lincoln” is what he had on the front of his house in Springfield (Illinois, when he served as state legislator)….
    I want to portray him in all his humanity. He’s not some marble god sitting in a memorial. His humor and satire could bite and hurt. He was a shrewd politician. He gets no high marks as a husband, with all that Mary went through with their two young sons dying (at the ages of 2 and 10). This is not a saintly biography, but a story of the development of Lincoln….
    He had the ability to combine high and low culture. He could speak to the common person. I argue that he wasn’t some spontaneous genius, but he worked very, very hard at it. I often say to my students, “There is no such thing as good writing. There is good rewriting.” That’s what Lincoln did. And there’s a beauty in his language. He wrote “out loud” — he would whisper a word out loud as he wrote it. For his First Inaugural Address, the last paragraph was suggested by [then Secretary of State] William Seward, whose suggested wording began, “I close.” Lincoln extended it to, “I am loathe to close.” You can hear the music of it….
    He loved poetry. That’s one of the keys as to why he was a good speaker. John F. Kennedy also loved poetry. Our best speakers have an ear for poetry. Lincoln loved to read Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Shakespeare. He said he read with two senses: his eyes and his ears. He loved to read poetry aloud, to hear the sound of it. One of his secretaries said, “The president read Shakespeare until my ears almost burned off.”…
    He would write notes on little slips of paper and stow them in his top hat or in the bottoms of the drawers of his desk. He was thinking things through. He always began with a problem: The problem of slavery. The problem of secession. The problem of the Dred Scott decision. He would work his way into looking at the problem through his writing. I call his notes his “intellectual diary.” Sometimes his notes would become the basis of a future speech….
    The most important lesson Lincoln could teach Obama is that he will need to school himself. Lincoln taught himself to be president on the job. Painfully aware of his own shortcomings — in administrative abilities and military understanding, to name but two — his success wasn’t simply in the nature of his political genius… but in the hard work he expended day after wearing day in the White House. – UCLA Today, 2-12-09
  • Harold Holzer “Honest Abe Made History in New York”: “It can truly be said that Lincoln was made in New York. His political career took flight only when he triumphed at Cooper Union and his speech was reprinted in five New York daily newspapers and republished in a best-selling pamphlet and when he posed for Brady — a pose that launched a thousand engravings and lithographs and virtually did the campaigning for him during the presidential race when Lincoln himself, true to tradition, stayed home and said nothing.” – MSNBC, 2-11-09
  • Harold Holzer “A Curious-Looking Hero Still Mesmerizes the Nation Even Tiniest Lincoln Relics Command Reverence”: “He’s approachable and unreachable at the same time…. He compels us to learn more, but there’s always something we’re not going to get. – WaPo, 2-11-09
  • Henry Louis Gates, editor of “Lincoln on Race and Slavery” “Abe Lincoln: Born in a log cabin, 200 years ago”: “Lincoln’s accomplishments and a century and a half of mythologizing have had Lincoln’s image so capacious that you can find anything there.” – AP, 2-8-09
  • Gary Scott Smith “The legacy of Abraham Lincoln”: On Feb. 12 we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. The relatively short history of our nation makes this a particularly momentous milestone. Of all of our leaders after the founders, only Franklin Roosevelt approaches Lincoln’s renown and stature. In poll after poll, historians and political scientists rate Lincoln as one of our greatest presidents, often the greatest.
    Many have portrayed Lincoln as a paragon of piety, a champion of freedom, a demigod, and the national redeemer. Despite his unorthodox views, many laud Lincoln as the nation’s most exemplary Christian chief executive. No American, Theodore Roosevelt insisted, more fully applied what the churches taught than Lincoln. The 16th president “stands at the spiritual center of American history,” historian Sidney Mead argued.
    Most scholars and other Americans, though, portray Lincoln much more positively. As we see it, during the most trying time in American history, Lincoln testified to God’s sovereignty, held together a coalition of free and border slave states, kept his fragmented party from falling apart, defeated the rebel states militarily, liberated four million slaves, and preserved the Union. Henry P. Tappan, the president of the University of Michigan, wrote Lincoln in 1862 that he hoped the history of the country would someday read: “Then the United States redeemed and regenerated commenced a new career of prosperity and glory; and Abraham Lincoln was hailed by his countrymen and by mankind as the second father of his country, and the hero of Liberty.” Tappan’s wish has largely been granted. – Early County News, 2-11-09
  • William Bartelt “Indiana working to bolster its Lincoln legacy”: Her death in 1818 left Lincoln with an early sense of human mortality, said William Bartelt, author of “There I Grew Up: Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth.” Thomas Lincoln, a farmer, remarried about a year later. Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln bonded with Lincoln and his older sister and encouraged young Abe’s voracious appetite for reading and learning, said Bartelt, an adjunct history professor at the University of Southern Indiana. “We can’t underestimate the importance of Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, who came in and showed him a great deal of love and I think really built up his self-confidence,” he said. “She destroys all of the stepmother myths. She said he was the best boy she ever saw.” – AP, 2-11-09
  • Eric Foner “Revoking Civil Liberties: Lincoln’s Constitutional Dilemma His suspension of habeas corpus is part of what some consider the “dark side” of his presidency”: In the months before he was assassinated, Lincoln found, to his surprise, that he was unable to convince Missouri’s Republican leaders—who had grown accustomed to their newfound powers—to put an end to martial law in the state. The lesson he learned, historians say, may have been a simple one: “It is much easier,” says Eric Foner, a professor of history at Columbia University, “to put these restrictions in place than it is to stop them.” – US News & World Report, 2-10-09
  • Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond “Virginia Embracing Lincoln”: “If you look at what children are taught, you see only praise for Abraham Lincoln. I would think white Virginians think Abraham Lincoln was the greatest president.” – Richmond Times Dispatch, VA
  • Gerald Prokopowicz “Lincoln dinner speaker welcomes questions”: “It’s always good to travel around to see what people are doing to remember Lincoln’s birthday,” he said. Prokopowicz was a commercial and real estate attorney before entering graduate school to pursue history, his “passion.” “I always loved history and law proved less interesting,” he said. He became interested in Lincoln while in graduate school at Harvard. He was a research assistant under David Herbert Donald, who wrote the 1995 New York Times bestseller “Lincoln.” “Up to that time I’d seen him as a mythic figure, a plastic saint,” Prokopowicz said. “I was already interested in the Civil War period and Lincoln was always in the back of my mind but working with Professor Donald helped me get a closer look at this figure.” “When I began to study him I found him fascinating, not because he was flawed but because he was real.”… “In North Carolina, some people respect Lincoln but he’s not a universally admired figure as in the Midwest, where every town has businesses or schools or streets named after him,” he said. “I’m curious to visit your part of country again and see how Lincoln is viewed across the country. He is really a universal figure in a lot of ways.” – Redlands Daily Facts, CA, 2-11-09

BARACK OBAMA AND LINCOLN

Abraham Lincoln

  • Obama praises Lincoln’s legacy at Ford’s Theatre: Calling the theater “hallowed space” where Lincoln’s legacy thrives, Obama praised him for restoring a sense of unity to the country, according to the prepared remarks he was to deliver to the crowd. “For despite all that divided us — North and South, black and white — he had an unyielding belief that we were, at heart, one nation, and one people,” Obama said. “And because of Abraham Lincoln, and all who’ve carried on his work in the generations since, that is what we remain today.” – AP, 2-11-09
  • “Obama and Lincoln: parallels between the centuries:” President Barack Obama is not the 21st-century Abraham Lincoln, although if you followed his campaign, you could be forgiven some confusion. From the time two years ago when Obama declared his presidential candidacy in Springfield, Ill., to his pre-Inaugural celebration before the Lincoln Memorial, Obama has linked himself to that earlier tall, skinny fellow from Illinois who was born 200 years ago today…. But drawing too many parallels between them is premature in the fourth week of Obama’s presidency. That might seem obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing, said Jason Jividen, assistant professor of political science at the University of Saint Francis. That people fall for the Obama-as-Lincoln story says something about the adept politics of Obama’s campaign and the desire of reporters for a story that resonates so powerfully with American history. “There’s nothing remarkable about politicians appealing to Lincoln,” Jividen said Wednesday. Teddy Roosevelt’s supporters compared him to Lincoln, as did Woodrow Wilson’s and Franklin Roosevelt’s. “So much of this comparison has been initiated by Obama and his speechwriters,” Jividen said. – News Sentinel, IN, 2-11-09
  • Caroline E. Janney “Historian: Obama will affect how we remember Lincoln on the 200th anniversary”: “Lincoln, who was born 200 years ago on Feb. 12, is known as a great speechwriter, thinker and consensus builder,” says Caroline E. Janney, an assistant professor of history who studies Civil War memorials and remembrance. “While people are watching how Obama is following Lincoln, many may not realize that today’s president is shaping the way we remember the 16th president. Memory is always crafted by its contemporary context.”
    “Obama has consciously constructed his connections to Lincoln from announcing his campaign in Springfield to using Lincoln’s Bible during the inauguration. Obama and his staff are hoping to use the nation’s collective memory to set the tone for this administration. The way Lincoln’s image is used will affect how we remember Lincoln. In the celebration of his 200th birthday, it will be interesting to see what celebrations focus on and what images from 2009 will carry forward.”
    “Two prominent ways Lincoln is remembered are as the great emancipator and as a rugged frontiersman who was a self-made man. But these perceptions are contested. Some historians argue that slaves emancipated themselves and Lincoln was not the key force in their freedom. Others try to dispel the image of him as frontiersman who educated himself because he was part of a middle-class family and he married a woman from a slave-holding family.”
    “People are going to remember different things during different points of history. Even if this year was not the 200th anniversary, national healing is still important because our nation has been so polarized in recent years. Of course, this is nothing like the 1860s, but it’s always helpful to look at the past to see what we can learn from it.” – Lafayette Online, 2-11-09
  • Michael Burlingame “Obama encourages connections to Lincoln”: Lincoln historian Michael Burlingame will follow Obama with his own remarks at the ALA banquet. “I hope he discusses what he admires most about Lincoln’s leadership, his inspiration from Lincoln’s anti-slavery position and as a war leader,” Burlingame said. “Lincoln was a war president and Obama is, of course, a war president.” – Galesburg, 2-11-09
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “Historian: Lincoln ahead of his time”: “First of all, he would kill anybody in debates. He was so good at debates. He could stand on par with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert [and] Jay Leno without missing a beat, and people would feel a sense of his person as a result of that….
    I think the fact that [President Obama] has embraced Lincoln is only a good thing. It means he’s got a mentor. Whenever a president looks back on history, it means they don’t have to start all over again. I think the main thing that [Lincoln] would do would be to assure Obama that he had been through difficult times before and that somehow this country has the strength to get through these difficult moments. He would probably tell him that he has to keep a continuing conversation with the American people. That’s what Lincoln did so well during his presidency.” – Chicago Sun-Times, 2-11-08
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin talks about Lincoln and his team of rivals: “What an extraordinary experience it was to have spent so much time with this man who created the most unusual team in presidential history, made up of his chief rivals, each one of whom was better educated, more experienced, more celebrated than he, each one of whom thought he should be president instead of Abraham Lincoln. And yet in the end he was able to bring this group together into a team that won the war, saved the union and ended slavery forever….
    Certainly the situation he is facing is as difficult as anyone has faced since the Great Depression. Probably not as difficult as Lincoln faced with the country falling apart right beneath him, with the possibility that Washington, had it been attacked by the Confederates, the whole government structure would have been undone.
    Lincoln later said that if he’d known the pressures he was going to be under from the inauguration to Fort Sumter, those six weeks, he would not have felt he could have lived through them. I’m sure that Obama is feeling that enormous sense of pressure right now.” – Herald Tribune, 2-10-09
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “Historian: Obama should take pointers from Abe Lincoln”: “Hillary Clinton was his biggest rival. I think she’ll be a very good secretary of State.” “Obama will have to decide what he’ll have to do” about the welter of sticky problems he faces, said the Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar and author…
    “He refused to give in to despair,” said Goodwin, adding that Lincoln found consolation in the idea that he might be able to leave the world a better place…. – Bradenton Herald, 2-10-09

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February 11, 2009: The Senate and Congress agree on an Economic Stimulus Bill

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Members of the House and the Senate working on the final version of the stimulus on Wednesday. The fragile consensus, and the president’s agenda, face many tests in coming months.

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • President Obama’s first prime time press conference attracted 49.5 million viewers on Monday night.

    The Headlines…

  • Congress, White House agree on $790B stimulus bill: Moving with lightning speed, the Democratic-controlled Congress and White House agreed Wednesday on a compromise $790 billion economic stimulus bill designed to create millions of jobs in a nation reeling from recession. President Barack Obama could sign the measure within days. – AP, 2-11-09
  • Obama’s Battle on Stimulus Shows Threats to His Agenda: It is a quick, sweet victory for the new president, and potentially a historic one. The question now is whether the $789 billion economic stimulus plan agreed to by Congressional leaders on Wednesday is the opening act for a more ambitious domestic agenda from President Obama or a harbinger of reduced expectations. – NYT, 2-11-09
  • Stimulus fight gives Obama lessons early: When the first big priority of his presidency was at risk of unraveling last week, Barack Obama went back to the fundamentals that enabled him to win a historic victory in the presidential election…. – USA Today, 2-11-09
  • Louisiana governor to give high-profile GOP response to Obama: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is set to deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s upcoming joint address to Congress, a high-profile slot the party often gives to one of its rising stars. “Gov. Jindal embodies what I have long said: The Republican Party must not be simply the party of ‘opposition,’ but the party of better solutions,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a Wednesday statement. – CNN, 2-11-09
  • McCain announces another run – proves you can campaign forever: No, he hasn’t announced plans for the presidential race in 2012. McCain loves campaigning so much, he’s running earlier. 2010. He wants a fifth term in the US Senate. – Christian Sciene Monitor, 2-11-09
  • Despite Post-Partisan Pledges, Obama Enters ‘Campaign Mode’ to Sell Stimulus: In going over the heads of lawmakers to sell his economic recovery plan to the public, political scholars say the president showed a fierce practical streak. Despite a pledge to bridge the partisan divide in Washington, President Obama left the capital this week to deploy a battle-tested strategy of bypassing Congress and taking his policy proposals to the people. The result was a political scene that more resembled the hard-knuckle presidential campaign than the diplomatic transition period. – Fox news, 2-11-09
  • The Big Winners In Stimulus Compromise: The Upper-Middle Class: Amid all the cutting, however, one group emerged unscathed: the upper-middle class, the not-quite-super-rich, but certainly not on the ropes. Most of these folks, in terms of income and employment, are what could be called the un-needy, a group clearly distinct from those Obama identified as the core target of the legislation. The “compromise” legislation includes $70 billion, or just under 10 percent of the whole package, to be used expressly to take care of these affluent people. –
  • Instead of stimulus, do nothing – seriously: Stimulus is unconstitutional. And history shows that the economy can recover strongly on its own, if politicians stay out of the way. – Christian Science Monitor, 2-9-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

ALT TEXT

Biden is set to push the stimulus bill in Pennsylvania (Getty Images)

Political Quotes

  • Obama praises news of stimulus deal “Statement on Recovery and Reinvestment Act Agreement”: “I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans in Congress who came together around a hard-fought compromise that will save or create more than 3.5 million jobs and get our economy back on track. Just today, the CEO of Caterpillar said that if this American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is passed, his company would be able to rehire some of the employees they’ve been forced to lay off. It’s also a plan ] that will provide immediate tax relief to families and businesses, while investing in priorities like health care, education, energy, and infrastructure that will grow our economy once more. I’m grateful to the House Democrats for starting this process, and for members in the House and Senate for moving it along with the urgency that this moment demands.” – CNN, 2-11-09
  • Biden heads back to Pennsylvania to push stimulus: I doubt whether anything this massive, this consequential, this significant, has passed this quickly in any other administration. We’re talking about 100 days, we haven’t even hit 25 days yet.” – CNN, 2-11-09
  • John McCain in an e-mail announcing his intentions for re-election: Being the Republican nominee for President was one of the great honors of my life and an experience I will never forget. Some have wondered, after my hard fought presidential campaign, if I plan to run for re-election to the United States Senate.
    I want you to know that I do intend to seek re-election. The magnitude of the financial crisis that many American families are facing makes it clear to me that I want to continue to serve our country in the Senate.
    The economic challenges currently confronting our nation are immense and unfortunately, the Democrats in Congress propose addressing these challenges through increased spending that wastes billions of taxpayers dollars and saddles our children and grandchildren with a staggering debt. Their proposals will not stimulate economic growth or create jobs. While the leader of the Democratic Party, President Obama, has pledged to change business as usual in Washington and spoken of bipartisanship, I have been saddened to watch as Congressional Democrats try to use their majority to advocate more of the same failed policies and wasteful spending of the past. With so much at stake, now is not the time to step away from my work in the Senate.
    As always, I anticipate a tough re-election challenge. But with your help, we will counter those efforts and put forth an aggressive campaign by registering new voters, reaching out to Democrats, Independents and Republicans, and again earning the support of Hispanic and Native American voters in Arizona.
    I am honored to serve the people of Arizona as their United States Senator. I would be most appreciative of your support of my re-election efforts.

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Bipartisanship is not always good”: This week, some politicians and pundits will boast of the bipartisan coalition that — under the leadership of Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) — cut the economic recovery legislation by more than $100 billion and moved the bill through the chamber. The legislation might be the first concrete evidence that an influential bipartisan coalition has emerged.
    It is not clear the bill we have will work. Many prominent economists, including Paul Krugman, have argued that the House version of the bill is not big enough to stabilize economic conditions. Instead of relying on this bipartisan coalition, President Barack Obama could have rallied his campaign troops and mounted pressure on wavering senators to support a bolder bill.
  • If the Senate coalition went too far with its cuts, the damage could be twofold. The bill might not stop the economic meltdown Americans are facing. In six months, we could find ourselves with even worse conditions and more government debt. At the same time, Americans would have little tolerance for new proposals for federal intervention. After all, future opponents would say, the financial bailout and the economic recovery bills did not work. The administration and congressional Democrats could find themselves in a political straitjacket just as America is desperate for help. – Politico, 2-11-09
  • Timothy Roberts “Obama’s Challenge: What Would Lincoln Do?”: Their crises were different, but the responses of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama bear striking parallels, historians say.
    “Both Lincoln and Obama advocated big government and actively believed it could do good,” said Timothy Roberts, professor of American history at Western Illinois University in Moline, Ill. “The size and complexity of the situation facing Obama would have baffled Lincoln, but he would have embraced Obama’s attempt to balance tax cuts — intended to encourage individual initiative and entrepreneurship — and government spending,” Roberts said…. “Critics of Obama, like critics of Lincoln, claim these policies smack of European style socialism,” Roberts said…. “Lincoln was elected by the smallest percentage support of any U.S. president. And at the beginning he was criticized and lampooned unmercifully by foreigners who assumed he was a buffoon,” Roberts said. – Fox News, 2-11-09
  • Alan Kraut “Obama’s Challenge: What Would Lincoln Do?”: Their crises were different, but the responses of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama bear striking parallels, historians say.
    “The Whig Party — which later became the Republican Party — was very much interested in the government having input into the economy,” said Alan Kraut, professor of American history at American University in Washington, D.C. “Lincoln expanded the government’s role enormously during his presidency,” Kraut said…. “While Lincoln was willing to take a lot of this bold action himself, Obama is trying very hard to work in a spirit of [bipartisanship] and to work cooperatively with the Congress,” said Kraut. – Fox News, 2-11-09
  • Richard Brookhiser “Obama’s Challenge: What Would Lincoln Do?”: Their crises were different, but the responses of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama bear striking parallels, historians say.
    “Lincoln came into his crises very well-prepared. He had spent six years contending with Stephen Douglas about the expansion of slavery into the territories — which was the major issue at the time. Obama hadn’t been challenged in the same way prior to his election,” said American historian Richard Brookhiser. Fox News, 2-11-09

President Obama at a Virgina construction site with Gov. Tim Kaine

February 10, 2009: Reactions to Obama First Press Conference and the Economic Stimulus Plan

Also: February 9, 2009: President Obama’s First Press Conference

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The First Lady read to children at Mary's Center in Washington, D.C.

White House photo 2/10/09 by Joyce N. Boghosian

FLOTUS at Mary’s Center

That was Mrs. Obama’s message to a group of young people at a non-profit community organization in Washington, D.C. — where she spoke about her own humble beginnings.

Watch the video

President Obama at a town hall in Ft. Myers, FL

White House photo 2/10/09 by Pete Souza

POTUS in Ft. Myers, FL

On Tuesday, February 10, 2009, President Obama held a town hall in Ft. Myers, FL — one of the towns hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

See the slideshow

Mrs. Obama visits the Department of the Interior

White House photo 2/9/09 by Joyce N. Boghosian

FLOTUS at Interior

In a visit the Department of the Interior, Mrs. Obama spoke about how important it is to protect our natural resources and move towards a clean, sustainable energy future.

Read the First Lady's remarks

President Obama addresses town hall in Elkhart, Indiana

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Gallop Poll: Feb. 6-7 Gallup poll released yesterday that shows 67 percent of the public approves of the way the president is handling the stimulus debate and only 31 percent approve of Republican efforts on the legislation, 48 percent approve of how Democrats are handling it. — Bloomberg, 2-10-09
  • FACTBOX: How Obama plan ranks against New Deal, other programs – Reuters, 2-10-09
  • Treasury Department Fact Sheet on the Rescue Plan Overhaul [PDF] – Download PDF

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • House and Senate close in on compromise: Top lawmakers and White House officials ended more than nine hours of closed-door negotiations on the economic stimulus bill shortly before midnight Tuesday indicating a final deal on the roughly $800 billion bill is possible as early as Wednesday. – CNN, 2-11-09
  • $3 trillion! — Senate, Fed, Treasury attack crisis: On a single day filled with staggering sums, the Obama administration, Federal Reserve and Senate attacked the deepening economic crisis Tuesday with actions that could throw as much as $3 trillion more in government and private funds into the fight against frozen credit markets and rising joblessness.
    “It’s gone deep. It’s gotten worse,” President Barack Obama said of the recession at a campaign-style appearance in Fort Myers, Fla., where unemployment has reached double digits. “The situation we face could not be more serious.” – AP, 2-11-09
  • Bailout Plan: $2.5 Trillion and a Strong U.S. Hand: The White House plan to rescue the nation’s financial system, announced on Tuesday by Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, is far bigger than anyone predicted and envisions a far greater government role in markets and banks than at any time since the 1930s. – NYT, 2-11-09
  • GOP group gets tough against Republicans who support stimulus: An influential conservative political action committee is pledging to support primary challengers to any Republican senator who supports President Obama’s stimulus package — the latest public show of dissatisfaction from the right over the massive measure before Congress. – CNN, 2-10-09
  • Deal on stimulus bills mired in details: The Senate approves its version of the economic stimulus package, but reconciling it with the smaller House bill will be no easy task. Obama stumps for his plan in Florida. – LAT, 2-10-09
  • Geithner’s bear of a day: The Obama administration’s revamped program to fix the nation’s ailing financial markets was met with harsh criticism Tuesday, as the stock market tumbled and lawmakers complained that it lacked details and missed essential targets. – AP, 2-10-09
  • For Geithner’s Debut, a Lukewarm Reception: For Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner as much as for the troubled government program to bail out the financial system, Tuesday amounted to a do-over. – NYT, 2-10-09
  • Angered by stimulus plan vote, Republican vows to oust Specter: U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s vote for the Senate stimulus bill is stimulating long-festering Republican opposition to his re-election. Mr. Specter, whose term expires next year, was one of three GOP senators who voted for the Senate version of the economic recovery measure. The vote prompted Glen Meakem, the CEO of the former Internet firm FreeMarkets, to declare his determination to play a still unspecified role in ousting the veteran Republican in the 2010 GOP primary. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2-10-09
  • Stimulus, Partisanship Mean Obama Faces a Harsh New Reality Although the bill passed the Senate, only three Republicans signed on: It took only two weeks from Inauguration Day for harsh reality to overtake Barack Obama. But he is now facing a burgeoning list of challenges that have plagued his predecessors for at least a generation, starting with the intense partisanship of Washington and the difficulty of finding compromise on critical issues—coupled with a unique economic crisis that seems to worsen by the day. A massive economic stimulus package passed the Senate Tuesday after winning House approval earlier, but major compromises will be needed to reconcile the two versions of the plan, which Obama says is vital to economic recovery. “The realization hits pretty quickly. He is beginning to confront the enormity of the challenges of governing,” says Rutgers political scientist Ross Baker. – US News & World Report, 2-10-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The First Lady read to children at Mary's Center in Washington, D.C.

White House photo 2/10/09 by Joyce N. Boghosian

FLOTUS at Mary’s Center

That was Mrs. Obama’s message to a group of young people at a non-profit community organization in Washington, D.C. — where she spoke about her own humble beginnings.

Watch the video

President Obama at a town hall in Ft. Myers, FL

Political Quotes

  • Treasury Secretary Geithner speaking about the new Financial Stability Plan: “Our plan will help restart the flow of credit, clean up and strengthen our banks, and provide critical aid for homeowners and for small businesses. As we do each of these things, we will impose new, higher standards for transparency and accountability.” – WH Blog, 2-10-09
  • Liveblog: Ft. Myers, FL townhallWH Blog, 2-10-09
  • Obama: ‘There Is No Easy Out’ for Wall Street: In Exclusive Interview, President Warns of ‘a Perfect Storm of Financial Problems’ – ABC News, 2-10-09
  • Obama: No ‘Easy Out’ for Wall Street Transcript Excerpts: Terry Moran Interviews President Obama:
    Well, you know, Wall Street, I think, is hoping for an easy out on this thing and there is no easy out. Essentially, what you’ve got are a set a banks that have not been as transparent as we need to be in terms of what their books look like.
    And we’re going to have to hold out the Band-Aid a little bit and go ahead and just be clear about some of the losses that have been made because until we do that, we’re not going to be able to attract private capital into the marketplace…..

    Well, because ultimately, what happens is going to depend on how the markets respond over the long term, not today or the next day but a month from now or two months from now. How effective we are in actually cleaning out some of these bad assets out of these banks.
    If we’re doing a good job and we’ve got a template that creates transparency and accountability, clarity and consistency in terms of how we’re applying this program, then what we’ll end up seeing is private capital coming back into the marketplace.
    If we do a poor job, then private capital will continue to stay out and frankly, at, at a certain point, the government can’t replace all that private capital, so you know, our job is to get this right, get the model right….

    Well, you know, I’m constantly trying to thread the needle between sounding alarmist but also letting the American people know the circumstances that we’re in. And the fact of the matter is that we are in not just an ordinary recession, we are in a perfect storm of financial problems and now, a decline in worldwide demand that is resulting in huge numbers of jobs being shed, the lowest consumer confidence we’ve seen, credit locked up.
    And so this was a big difficult situation. Now, I think we’ve got to keep perspective. We’re not going through the Great Depression. I know there have been some analogies there but when FDR took over, unemployment at that time was 30 percent, as opposed to 7.5 or 7.6.
    And so, you know, I think it’s important to recognize we’ve still got enormous assets, we’ve got the same workforce that we did that’s as productive as it’s ever been, we’ve still got some of the best universities in the country and, you know, a wonderful infrastructure and some great companies.
    You know, I spoke with the CEO of International yesterday, who’s investing billions of dollars in opening up new plants in the face of this recession. And so some of what we need is just a restoration of confidence and people’s belief that in fact, we can harness all these resources to continue to be the most dynamic economy on earth.
    But we’re not going to get there by pretending that we don’t have some very big problems and I think the American people understand that.

    Let me, first of all, point out, I — I think there are a number of different arguments that have been leveled at, at this recovery package. There are a set of folks who just don’t believe in government intervening in the marketplace, period. I mean, they’re still fighting FDR and the New Deal and you have — these are the same folks who think we should be privatizing Social Security and you know, we — there’s no room for government to help people get health care and on and on and on.
    So there’s a big ideological battle that they want to fight. Frankly, I think that fight’s already been won, the American people certainly think so. That’s not the argument that makes much sense to them. There are then people who I think are making a sincere argument that if you look at the stimulus package, that maybe some things are more stimulative and some things are not….

    I think that they made a decision that they want to continue the same fights that we’ve been having over the last decade. The American people, on the other hand, realize that we want something different; hence, the results of the election.
    And, you know, I think if you look at how people are doing right now and how the Republicans have responded to a great deal of overtures by me, I think it’s pretty clear that the American people would like to see a different way of doing business. But old habits break hard and, and you know, I, I understand that and so we’re going to keep on reaching out and eventually, I have confidence that it’s going to pay off.

    I think there are going to be other areas where we can potentially work together and I’m still hopeful that some Republicans take their cues from Republican governors and Republican mayors like Charlie Christ down here in Florida who recognize that not doing anything is simply not an option…. – ABC News, 2-10-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Martha Kumar “Obama Press Conference”: According to Towson University presidential historian Martha Kumar, Obama held a prime time press conference earlier than any president in history, beating Richard Nixon by almost a month. Now, he needs to hold 31 more to pass Ronald Reagan for total number of East Room get togethers with the White House press corps. – Real Clear Politics, 2-9-09
  • Douglas Brinkley “Obama Adopts Elkhart as Everytown in Pitch for Stimulus Plan”: That’s what he should have done in the first place, rather than getting bogged down in negotiations with Congress, Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University in Houston, said. “Obama needs to show that he’s a leader of a movement, that a change isn’t just having a black man in the White House, that we really are in an era of clean government and progressive reform,” Brinkley said. – Bloomberg, 2-10-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama Adopts Elkhart as Everytown in Pitch for Stimulus Plan”: Obama’s news conference, broadcast live on major broadcast and cable news channels, was “highly forceful and successful and should help the president with the American people and the Congress,” said Allan Lichtman, a political history professor at American University in Washington. “He did not shrink from the magnitude of the crisis, but like FDR expressed confidence that the problem could be solved with decisive action.” – Bloomberg, 2-10-09
  • Charles Calomiris “What’s Missing in Geithner’s Bank Plan The Obama Administration’s Financial Stability Plan isn’t a clean break with the past, because it doesn’t spell out clearly who will lose “: Charles Calomiris, a Columbia University economic historian who has studied banking crises, says the key mistake of the Obama Administration is trying to come up with a plan that emphasizes political palatability over economic reality. To buy support, Calomiris says, the plan emphasizes “very careful investments over a period of time with a lot of upside potential for taxpayers, and with all sorts of limits on what bankers can do.” The problem with that approach, Calomiris says, is that it doesn’t do enough to make the banks truly healthy, and just prolongs the crisis. He favors taking strong action to improve banks’ health dramatically and quickly by guaranteeing them a floor price on their real estate assets, even though such action would be criticized as a giveaway. Says Calomiris: “What makes sense economically doesn’t make sense politically, so I’m not very optimistic.” – Business Week, 2-10-09
  • Charles Geisst “Vague rescue plan disappoints Dow plunges 380 points as Geithner rolls out stimulus package; investors say lack of detail sparked mass sell-off”: Charles Geisst, a financial historian and professor of finance at Manhattan College, said he doesn’t believe the public-private partnership will work, and suggested Mr. Obama’s team may be stalling with yesterday’s announcement. “It’s too vague, it’s not firm enough, and it’s just more of the same,” said Prof. Geisst, author of a forthcoming book called Collateral Damage. “I think they’re trying to buy time … I think what they’re trying to do is tread water until they can figure it out.” – Globe and Mail, 2-10-09
  • Richard Skinner: “Political Partisanship Deeply Rooted, Says Professor”: “If Obama thinks it will be easy to overcome these divisions, he’ll end up being disappointed,” notes Bowdoin Visiting Professor of History Richard Skinner. “Partisanship is an underlying part of our political system now and a lot of Republicans just don’t like the direction he’s taking the country.”
    “We need to move beyond outdated notions of presidents above party politics,” he writes, “and instead understand presidents who are passionately engaged in them and seek to use their parties as tools of governance.” – Bowdoin News, 2-10-09

February 9, 2009: President Obama’s First Press Conference

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

President Obama, at his White House news conference on Monday night, where he discussed the Democratic stimulus plan and opposition to it by Republicans.

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • FACT CHECK: Obama has it both ways on pork: Obama’s sales pitch on the enormous package he wants Congress to make law has sizzle as well as steak. He’s projecting job creation numbers that may be impossible to verify and glossing over some ethical problems that bedeviled his team. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Obama’s Ratings: The Gallup Organization released a poll Monday showing Obama’s approval rating holding steady at 67 percent, with Congress much less popular. Republicans in Congress drew only 31 percent approval, and Democrats had 48 percent. The poll also showed that 80 percent think it’s either important or critically important that a stimulus plan be approved. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Senate Vote 61-36 in Favor: The Senate on Monday voted 61-36 to end debate on an $838 billion economic stimulus bill, one more vote than needed to avoid a potential filibuster on the measure when it goes to a final vote as early as Tuesday. – PBS Newshour, 2-9-09

THE HEADLINES….

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Though conceding that “the plan is not perfect,” President Obama asserted that “a failure to act will only deepen this crisis.” More Photos >

The Headlines…

  • Analysis: Obama makes serious case for stimulus: No drama with Obama. No joking with Obama. In his first prime-time news conference, Americans saw a determined, deadly serious President Barack Obama make his case for a historically huge economic recovery plan — pledging to push it through Congress in record time, even if he and fellow Democrats must steamroll Republicans to do it. No more blind bipartisanship with Obama, either…. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Analysis: Obama learning to deal with Washington’s partisan ways: In his first three weeks in the bully pulpit, President Barack Obama has offered a post-partisan vision while resorting to old-school pressure tactics. So far he has managed to draw three Republican votes – learning, as presidents inevitably do, that Washington will not bend easily to his will. – Dallas Morning News, 2-9-09
  • Obama: ‘Only Government’ Can Break Cycle of Job Loss, Economic Downturn: President Obama, in his first prime-time press conference, warns that a failure to pass his economic recovery plan could “turn a crisis into a catastrophe.” – Fox News, 29-09
  • Obama presses case for stimulus: President Obama took his case for more than $800 billion in economic stimulus directly to the American people Monday, accusing Republicans of playing politics with a plan that’s “exactly what this country needs.” – USA Today, 2-9-09
  • It Seemed Familiar, and Yet So Different: President Obama insisted that he was nothing like his predecessor. “What I won’t do is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place,” he said Monday night, “because those theories have been tested, and they have failed.” Yet Mr. Obama’s first prime-time presidential news conference had an eerie similarity to the first one held by George W. Bush, in 2001. – NYT, 2-10-09
  • Taking on Critics, Obama Puts Aside Talk of Unity: President Obama has made a show of reaching across the aisle since taking office, inviting three Republicans into his cabinet and wining and dining other opposition leaders. But by Monday, he sounded like a candidate back on the trail, railing against the status quo and dismissing critics as apostles of a failed philosophy. – NYT, 2-10-09
  • Live Blogging the Obama News ConferenceNYT, 2-9-09
  • Obama to Congress: Pass stimulus, don’t play games: President Barack Obama, urgently pressuring lawmakers to approve a massive economic recovery bill, turned his first news conference Monday night into a determined defense of his emergency plan and an offensive against Republicans who try to “play the usual political games.” – AP, 2-9-09
  • Obama Says Failing to Act Could Lead to a ‘Catastrophe’: President Obama took his case for his $800 billion economic recovery package to the American people on Monday, as the Senate cleared the way for passage of the bill and the White House prepared for its next major hurdle: selling Congress and the public on a fresh plan to bail out the nation’s banks. – NYT, 2-9-09
  • Stimulus bill draws Kennedy back to Senate: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy returned to the Senate in the midst of his battle with brain cancer Monday to vote for President Barack Obama’s massive economic stimulus package. “We are obviously very concerned” about the recession, Kennedy said as he donned a coat and stepped into an elevator to leave following a key test vote. He was expected to return Tuesday for the vote to approve or reject the measure. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Stimulus bill narrowly survives Senate test vote: An $838 billion economic stimulus bill backed by the White House survived a key test vote in the Senate on Monday despite strong Republican opposition, and Democratic leaders vowed to deliver legislation for President Barack Obama’s signature within a few days. – AP, 2-9-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Obama in the East Room of the White House. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Political Quotes

  • Press Conference Transcript: Obama takes questions on economy: CNN, 2-9-09 Download Mp3: …As we speak, similar scenes are playing out in cities and towns across America. Last Monday, more than 1,000 men and women stood in line for 35 firefighter jobs in Miami [Florida]. Last month, our economy lost 598,000 jobs, which is nearly the equivalent of losing every single job in the state of Maine.
    And if there’s anyone out there who still doesn’t believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside-down because they don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from.
    And that is why the single most important part of this economic recovery and reinvestment plan is the fact that it will save or create up to 4 million jobs, because that’s what America needs most right now.
    It is absolutely true that we can’t depend on government alone to create jobs or economic growth. That is and must be the role of the private sector. But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life.
    It is only government that can break the vicious cycle, where lost jobs lead to people spending less money, which leads to even more layoffs. And breaking that cycle is exactly what the plan that’s moving through Congress is designed to do.
    When passed, this plan will ensure that Americans who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own can receive greater unemployment benefits and continue their health care coverage…..
    But as we’ve learned very clearly and conclusively over the last eight years, tax cuts alone can’t solve all of our economic problems, especially tax cuts that are targeted to the wealthiest few Americans. We have tried that strategy time and time again, and it’s only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now.
    And that’s why we have come together around a plan that combines hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the middle class with direct investment in areas like health care, energy, education, and infrastructure, investments that will save jobs, create new jobs and new businesses, and help our economy grow again, now and in the future….
    Now, after many weeks of debate and discussion, the plan that ultimately emerges from Congress must be big enough and bold enough to meet the size of the economic challenges that we face right now.
    It’s a plan that is already supported by businesses representing almost every industry in America, by both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. It contains input, ideas and compromises from both Democrats and Republicans.
    It also contains an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability so that every American will be able to go online and see where and how we’re spending every dime. What it does not contain, however, is a single pet project, not a single earmark, and it has been stripped of the projects members of both parties found most objectionable.
    Now, despite all of this, the plan’s not perfect. No plan is. I can’t tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hoped, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis, as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans.
    Now, my administration inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion, but because we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression, doing little or nothing at all will result in even greater deficits, even greater job loss, even greater loss of income, and even greater loss of confidence.
    Those are deficits that could turn a crisis into a catastrophe, and I refuse to let that happen. As long as I hold this office, I will do whatever it takes to put this economy back on track and put this country back to work.
    I want to thank the members of Congress who’ve worked so hard to move this plan forward, but I also want to urge all members of Congress to act without delay in the coming week to resolve their differences and pass this plan.
    We find ourselves in a rare moment where the citizens of our country and all countries are watching and waiting for us to lead. It’s a responsibility that this generation did not ask for, but one that we must accept for the future of our children and our grandchildren.
    The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose. That’s the test facing the United States of America in this winter of our hardship, and it is our duty as leaders and citizens to stay true to that purpose in the weeks and months ahead.
    After a day of speaking with and listening to the fundamentally decent men and women who call this nation home, I have full faith and confidence that we can do it, but we’re going to have to work together. That’s what I intend to promote in the weeks and days ahead.
  • President Obama, Indiana Town Hall on Economic Recovery, 2/9/09, REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT TOWN HALL, Concord Community High School, Elkhart, Indiana, February 9, 2009:
    I don’t know if you guys have been noticing, but we’ve had a little debate in Washington — (laughter) — over the last week or two about the economy. You know, we tend to take the measure of the economic crisis we face in numbers and statistics. But when we say that we’ve lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began, nearly 600,000 in the past month alone; when we say that this area has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in the United States of America, with an unemployment rate of over 15 percent, when it was 4.7 percent just last year; when we talk about layoffs at companies like Monaco Coach, and Keystone RV, and Pilgrim International — companies that have sustained this community for years — we’re not just talking numbers, we’re talking about Ed. We’re talking about people in the audience here today. People not just in Elkhart, but all across this country. We’re talking about people who have lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place.
    We’re talking about parents who’ve lost their health care and lie away at night, praying their kids don’t get sick. We’re talking about families who’ve lost the home that was the corner — their foundation for their American Dream. Young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can’t afford it. That’s what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis…. – WH Blog, 2-9-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

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

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

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

IN FOCUS: STATS

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….

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

POLITICAL QUOTES

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
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING OF CHILDREN’S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM LEGISLATION:
    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

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

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