March 22, 2009: President Obama’s Worse Week, Selling the Budget on Leno & 60 Minutes

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Obama with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show.”

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Obama and the polls: is opinion shifting?: In the new National Public Radio poll conducted by the Democratic polling company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and its Republican counterpart, Public Opinion Strategies, 42 percent of the 800 likely voters surveyed March 10 to 14 said that if the next congressional election were held today they would vote for the Republican candidate; an identical percentage of respondents said they would vote for the Democratic one. For several years, Democrats held a substantial lead on this question… – The Atlantic, 3-21-09
  • Are Independents Hedging Their Bets? If Republicans really have pulled even among independents, it’s an ominous sign for Democrats: National Public Radio poll conducted by the Democratic polling company Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and its Republican counterpart, Public Opinion Strategies, 42 percent of the 800 likely voters surveyed March 10 to 14 said that if the next congressional election were held today they would vote for the Republican candidate; Democrats still outnumbered Republicans in terms of party identification in this poll by 6 points, 45 percent to 39 percent. Democrats also favored their own party’s congressional candidates 83 percent to 7 percent. But voters who call themselves independents gave GOP candidates the edge by 14 points, 38 percent to 24 percent. And self-identified Republicans supported their own party’s candidates 85 percent to 3 percent. – Charlie Cook, National Journal, 3-21-09
  • Letter to the Editor: Obama’s presidency is disastrous: In two short months, Barry Soetoro, a.k.a. Barack Obama, and this Congress are proving to be beyond inept, extremely arrogant, tyrannical, unqualified and unprepared — and, in so doing, have made Jimmy Carter appear as though he was in total control and knew exactly what he was doing. You wanted change? You got it. By the way, how’s it working for you?…. – Augusta Chronicle, 3-21-09

THE HEADLINES….

The core principles of the President's budget.

The Headlines…

  • Geithner Urges Stronger Financial Regulations: Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said on Monday that the economic crisis showed that the American financial system had failed a major test and was in need of an overhaul. Speaking at a conference in Washington, Mr. Geithner said that the Obama administration planned to work with Congress to develop a modernized government regulatory structure for financial institutions…. – NYT, AP, 3-23-09
  • $50 Million in A.I.G. Bonuses to Be Repaid: The New York State attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, said on Monday that he had persuaded nine of the top 10 bonus recipients at the American International Group to give the money back, as the Senate retreated on plans to tax such bonuses….. – NYT, 2-23-09
  • Half of $165 Million in AIG Bonuses May Be Returned: Nine of the top 10 recipients of bonuses at American International Group Inc. agreed to give back the money and half of the total $165 million paid may be retrieved, said New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo…. – Bloomberg, 3-23-09
  • Gregg continues budget-blasting of Obama: When Senator Judd Gregg stunningly withdrew as President Obama’s choice for commerce secretary, the New Hampshire Republican blamed “irresolvable conflicts” on policy. He wasn’t kidding. Since giving Obama the heave-ho last month, Gregg has been one of the Democratic president’s harshest critics. In recent days, he has been blasting Obama’s proposed $3.6 trillion budget, saying it would bankrupt the country. Gregg, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, got some more ammunition Friday, when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected that Obama’s plan would generate unsustainable deficits averaging almost $1 trillion a year for the next decade…. –
  • ‘Bobby Jindal not in race for 2012 presidential polls’: Supriya Jindal, wife of Indian-American Republican leader Bobby Jindal, has denied that her husband is in the race for 2012 US presidential elections, saying that he is concentrating on his re-election as the Governor of Louisiana in 2011.
    “It’s very flattering, it’s very nice,” Supriya said in an interview to Meghan McCain and posted on ‘The Daily Beast’ when asked about news reports that her husband would be leading the Republican Party in the 2012 presidential elections. “But I think the party as a whole and the country as a whole needs to focus on solutions right now and not focus on who the next candidate’s going to be. All of that needs to go by the wayside. We have dire problems going on in the country and we need to focus on that right now,” she said. – Indian Express, 3-23-09
  • Obama implies rejection of House bonus tax plan: President Barack Obama wagered significant political capital Sunday, signaling opposition to a highly popular congressional drive to slap a punitive 90 percent tax on bonuses to big earners at financial institutions already deeply in hock to taxpayers…. – AP, 3-22-09
  • Sen. Gregg says Obama budget will bankrupt US: The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee says the Obama administration is on the right course to save the nation’s financial system. But Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire also says President Barack Obama’s massive budget proposal will bankrupt the country…. – AP, 3-22-09
  • HHS names health technology coordinator: A former Harvard Medical School professor who has advised Sen. Edward Kennedy and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis will lead health information technology efforts for the Obama administration. Dr. David Blumenthal was also a senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. – – AP, 3-20-09
  • NY election seen as referendum on stimulus: With polls tight, a Republican state legislator and Democratic venture capitalist battle daily over the economic stimulus package in congressional race that’s seen as a referendum on President Barack Obama’s policies and a test of GOP strength. – AP, 3-22-09
  • Can this David slay Republicans’ Goliath? A Canadian, knowledgeable about how conservatives in Canada rebranded themselves, seeks a renaissance of the GOP. To succeed, he’ll likely have to defeat party titan Rush Limbaugh in the arena of media opinion: The future of the Republican Party, if it has one, is Canadian. David Frum is emerging as the reasoned alternative to the blinkered prejudices that inform much of the debate within the GOP. His close knowledge of the struggle to reinvent and reunite Canadian conservatism, and his own personal evolution, have led him to call for a renaissance of the Republican Party within the United States, one that combines fiscal probity with social moderation, targeted primarily at young, university- educated voters. – Globe & Mail, 3-22-09
  • Lots of ham on the menu at annual Gridiron Dinner: President Barack Obama didn’t have time to join a roast of prominent officials by the journalists who cover them, cracks Vice President Joe Biden, because Obama is getting ready for Easter. “He thinks it’s about him,” Biden says. No, that’s not the reason, counters California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “He’s just not that into you.” – AP, 3-22-09
  • The Dissing of Laura Bush: If the ABC interview was a one-off thing, it would be easy to overlook. But these days the reporting seems to reflect an assumption that if the Obamas haven’t done something, nobody else has, either. Certainly the Washington Post did not challenge the First Lady’s social secretary when she said, “one idea Michelle had was to have an event for military families — here they are sacrificing so much for the country and many of them probably have never been invited to the White House.” This uncritical reportage does Laura Bush an injustice. In hundreds of ways — picnics on the South Lawn, fund-raising d families of the fallen, the work she did for military kids under her Helping America’s Youth initiative -for scholarships for the children of sailors on the USS Texas, unheralded visits with the wounded an- Mrs. Bush showed our troops and their loved ones how close they were to her heart. – Wall Street Journal, 3-20-09
  • Senate Republicans brake rush to tax AIG bonuses: Senate Republicans are drawing out a flap that has made the Obama administration squirm, applying the brakes to Democratic attempts to quickly tax away most of the bonuses at troubled insurance giant AIG and other bailed-out companies. – AP, 3-21-09
  • PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama rhetoric, reality clash: Barack Obama’s optimistic campaign rhetoric has crashed headlong into the stark reality of governing…. For now at least, Obama’s deviations have served only to invite occasional cries of hypocrisy from some Republicans and infrequent grumbles of disappointment from some Democrats. He has popularity on his side, and it seems people mostly are chalking up his moves to much-needed flexibility at a difficult time. But the shifts could take a toll over time if they become a persistent pattern and the public grows weary. His overall job-performance marks could suffer and jeopardize his likely re-election campaign in 2012. People could perceive him as a say-one-thing-do-another politician and the Democratic-controlled Congress could see him as a weak chief executive. Obama’s moves and maneuvering for political cover run the gamut…. – AP, 3-21-09
  • Not bowled over by Obama’s Special Olympics joke: When she met Barack Obama two years ago, Caitlin Cox proudly wore the two bronze medals she had won at the Special Olympics. The then-Illinois senator grinned as she showed him pictures of her signature bubble-gum-pink bowling ball and posed for photographs with her…. Thompson tried to console her daughter, telling her sometimes people do disappointing things. But as a mother and special education teacher, Thompson said, internally she was crushed by the president’s insensitivity. She knows how destructive such stereotypes can be, and it infuriated her that an organization dedicated to empowering millions of people with developmental disabilities would be reduced to a late-night punch line…. – Los Angeles Times, 3-21-09
  • Administration wants to buy up banks’ toxic assets: Struggling to contain the worst financial crisis in seven decades, the Obama administration wants to buy billions of dollars of toxic assets from banks to ease borrowing for consumers and businesses. – AP, 3-21-09
  • Obama’s Day: Back in Washington: Back at the White House after a California trip, President Barack Obama continues cultivating support for his economic recovery program…. – AP, 3-20-09
  • Obama’s Special Olympics joke creates a stir around the nation: It seemed like a harmless remark. In an appearance Thursday night on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” President Barack Obama made a joke about his lackluster bowling skills by saying: “It was like Special Olympics or something.” But the comment caused an immediate stir in Washington and around the nation. – McClatchy Newspapers, 3-20-09
  • Just a Couple of Average Joes Having a Fireside Chat: President Obama didn’t look burdened by his office on “The Tonight Show” on Thursday; he seemed detached. As he described the problems of the American International Group and the credit crisis to Jay Leno, Mr. Obama behaved less like a beleaguered president than like the head of a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia reporting back to the main office: concerned and engaged, but intent on maintaining his professional distance and neutrality…. – NYT, 3-21-09
  • White House says Obama shares US outrage over AIG: The White House says President Barack Obama shares the “outrage and frustration” of Americans over the millions of dollars in bonuses that taxpayer-funded AIG handed out to its executives. AP, 3-20-09
  • Obama urges states to use recovery money carefully: With states eager to spend, President Barack Obama announced guidelines Friday aimed at preventing waste and fraud and limiting the influence lobbyists will have in carrying out the $787 billion economic stimulus program. “This plan cannot and will not be an excuse for waste and abuse,” Obama declared. To make his point, the guidelines specify that stimulus funds can’t be used on projects like aquariums, zoos, golf courses, swimming pools, casinos or other gambling establishments.”… – AP, 3-20-09
  • Senator urges healthcare overhaul this year: Congress must enact a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system by the end of this year or risk waiting at least another four years to get the job done, a senior Republican senator said on Thursday. – Reuters, 3-20-09
  • Senate Republicans brake rush to tax AIG bonuses: Senate Republicans are drawing out a flap that has made the Obama administration squirm, applying the brakes to Democratic attempts to quickly tax away most of the bonuses at troubled insurance giant AIG and other bailed-out companies. – AP, 3-20-09
  • Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House: Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of the South Lawn on Friday to plant a vegetable garden, the first at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be no beets — the president does not like them — but arugula will make the cut. – NYT, 3-20-09
  • Obama calls on Americans to support budget: In a new Web video, President Barack Obama is asking Americans to help him pass his $3.6 trillion budget. “I’m asking you to head outside this Saturday to knock on some doors, talk to some neighbors, and let them know how important this budget is to our future,” he said in the video. – AP, 3-20-09
  • Many in Government Knew Weeks Ago About A.I.G. Bonuses: A Treasury spokesman, Isaac Baker, said in a statement on Thursday night, “Although Congressman Crowley raised the issue of the bonuses two weeks ago, Secretary Geithner was not aware of the timing or full extent of the contractual retention payments or the other bonus programs until his staff brought them to his attention on March 10.” NYT, 3-19-09
  • Crown Publishing Group will pay the former president $7 million to write his most important life lessons: George W. Bush’s book deal, news of which broke yesterday, is valued at about $7 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. The sum is less than half what Bill Clinton was paid for his memoir, My Life, and less than the $8 million Hillary Clinton received. – The Daily Beast, 3-19-09
  • Obama visit juices up SoCal electric vehicle plant: Whether President Barack Obama’s California visit rallied sufficient support for his economic stimulus package remains to be seen, but his arrival Thursday definitely juiced the spirits of those who have toiled for years here building, testing and maintaining the kind of electric-powered cars Obama says are the nation’s future. – AP, 3-19-09
  • White House to break ground on ‘kitchen garden’: The White House is getting a new garden. First lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to break ground Friday on a new garden near the fountain on the South Lawn that will supply the White House kitchen. She will be joined by students from Bancroft Elementary School in the District of Columbia. The children will stay involved with the project, including planting the fruits, vegetables and herbs in the coming weeks and harvesting the crops later in the year. Mrs. Obama spent time earlier this week at an exhibit on rooftop gardening. “We’re going to get a big one in our back yard, the South Lawn,” she promised the volunteers. – AP, 3-19-09
  • Obama targets foreclosures in Calif.: President Barack Obama on Thursday announced that California will receive $145 million to help communities hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis. The president, speaking to about 1,000 people at a town hall-style event in downtown, said the Department of Housing and Urban Development funds will be used to purchase and rehabilitate vacant, foreclosed homes and resell them with affordable mortgages. – AP, 3-19-09
  • UPDATE 1-First Family’s dog coming soon, Obama tells TV host: U.S. President Barack Obama was alternately somber and light-hearted in an unusual appearance on America’s top-rated late-night variety show on Thursday, moving deftly from the economic crisis to the April arrival of a “First Dog” in the White House. In an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” the first by a sitting president, Obama talked seriously about his economic plans and voiced strong support for embattled Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner…. – Reuters, 3-19-09
  • Obama Signs Book Deal For Post-Presidency Book: President Barack Obama, the best-selling author who received royalties of $2.5 million last year, has signed a deal for a youth-oriented version of his published memoir and a nonfiction book after he leaves office. Huffington Post (Blog) (3-19-09)
  • Facts about George W. Bush’s new book: Facts about George W. Bush’s new book: Quick start: He began writing the memoir of his years as president just two days after leaving the White House. Notes, assistance: Although he didn’t keep a diary, he said, he jotted down an occasional note. And so far, he said, he’s written “maybe” 30,000 words, working with research assistants and a former White House speechwriter, Chris Michel. Another Bush book: Former first lady Laura Bush previously signed a book deal with Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Both are scheduled for 2010, but a Bush spokesman said hers would come out first…. – Dallas Morning News, 3-19-09
  • Bush begins writing ‘Decision Points’–his memoir: Former President George W. Bush has already written about 30,000 words of a memoir tentatively called “Decision Points” that will cover everything from how he found faith to how he quit drinking to how he chose Karl Rove and Dick Cheney for their jobs…. – Politico, 3-18-09
  • Obama tells Leno he was stunned by AIG bonuses: President Barack Obama has told Jay Leno he was stunned when he learned of the bonuses that bailed-out insurance giant AIG was paying its employees. AP, 3-19-09
  • Obama to Leno: Geithner doing ‘outstanding’ job: President Barack Obama says his embattled treasury chief, Timothy Geithner, is doing an “outstanding job.” In a taped appearance on “The Tonight Show”, he told host Jay Leno that Geithner is a smart guy who’s been handed an incredibly full plate. But he’s handling it all with grace and good humor. – AP, 3-19-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Green Jobs

Political Quotes

  • Obama wants comprehensive strategy in Afghanistan: “What we can’t do is think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to be able to solve our problems,” the president said on CBS’ “60 Minutes.” “So what we’re looking for is a comprehensive strategy. And there’s got to be an exit strategy. There’s got to be a sense that this is not perpetual drift.” “It’s easier terrain,” the president said of Iraq, where the war is winding down after six hard-fought years. “You’ve got a much better educated population, infrastructure to build off of. You don’t have some of the same destabilizing border issues that you have between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” “You are often confronted with bad choices that flow from less than optimal decisions made a year ago, two years ago, five years ago, when you weren’t here,” Obama said. “A lot of times, when things land at my desk, it’s a choice between bad and worse.” “The facts don’t bear him out,” Obama said. “Let’s assume we didn’t change these practices. Are we going to just keep on going until … the entire Muslim world and Arab world despises us? Do we think that’s really going to make us safer? I don’t know a lot of thoughtful thinkers, liberal or conservative, who think that that was the right approach.” “When I make a decision to send 17,000 young Americans to Afghanistan, you can understand that intellectually, but understanding what that means for those families, for those young people when you end up sitting at your desk, signing a condolence letter to one of the family members of a fallen hero, you’re reminded each and every day at every moment that the decisions you make count.” AP, 3-22-09
  • Obama 60 Minutes interview: Wall Street was ‘out of balance’: “Because of bad bets made on Wall Street, there have been enormous losses. I want them (the people on Wall Street) to do well, but what I also know is that the financial sector was out of balance.”… USA Today, 3-22-09
  • Why Obama Is Still Smiling: But Obama was so calm — even jolly — in his “60 Minutes” interview broadcast last night that anchor Steve Kroft asked him about it straight out: “You’re sitting here. And you are laughing. You are laughing about some of these problems. Are people gonna look at this and say, ‘I mean, he’s sitting there just making jokes about money.’ How do you deal with, I mean, explain the…mood and your laughter?…Are you punch drunk?”
    Obama replied with another laugh: “No, no. There’s gotta be a little gallows humor to get you through the day. You know, sometimes my team — talks about the fact that if — if you had said to us a year ago that — the least of my problems would be Iraq, which is still a pretty serious problem — I don’t think anybody would have believed it. But — but we’ve got a lot on our plate. And — a lot of difficult decisions that we’re going to have to make.”…

    “The one thing that — I’ve tried to emphasize, though, throughout this week, and will continue to try to emphasize during the course of the next several months as we dig ourselves out of this — the economic hole that we’re in — is we can’t govern out of anger. We’ve got to try to make good decisions based on the facts, in order to put people back to work, to get credit flowing again. And I’m not going to be distracted by — what’s happening day to day. I’ve gotta stay focused on making sure that — we’re getting this economy moving again.” – WaPo, 3-23-09

  • Obama Responds to Criticism From Cheney: President Obama has hit back at Dick Cheney, the former vice president, calling Bush administration policy on detainees at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, “unsustainable.” “How many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney?” Mr. Obama said on Friday in an interview that will air Sunday on the CBS program “60 Minutes.” – NYT, 3-22-09
  • RAW DATA: President Obama’s Weekly Address: In his weekly address, President Obama announced that in the coming week, he will highlight the core principles of his budget, including reform of the energy, education and health care sectors. – Fox News, 3-21-09
  • A Budget Equal to the Task Before Us: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address, Saturday, March 21, 2009, Washington, DC: “These investments are not a wish list of priorities that I picked out of thin air – they are a central part of a comprehensive strategy to grow this economy by attacking the very problems that have dragged it down for too long: the high cost of health care and our dependence on oil; our education deficit and our fiscal deficit.” – WH Blog, 3-21-09 Transcript
  • Sarah Palin shocked at Obama’s Special Olympics joke: “I was shocked to learn of the comment made by President Obama about Special Olympics. This was a degrading remark about our world’s most precious and unique people, coming from the most powerful position in the world. These athletes overcome more challenges, discrimination and adversity than most of us ever will. By the way, these athletes can outperform many of us and we should be proud of them. I hope President Obama’s comments do not reflect how he truly feels about the special-needs community.” – Christian Science Monitor, 3-20-09
  • Mrs. Obama Speaks Out About Her Household: The interview, which started out on the subject of the new White House vegetable garden, ended up ranging over a variety of household topics, which Mrs. Obama addressed with substantial fun-poking at her husband, her mother and herself. – NYT, 3-20-09
  • Michelle Obama “Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House”: “My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office, “is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.” Virtually the entire Obama family, including the president, will pull weeds, “whether they like it or not,” Mrs. Obama said with a laugh. “Now Grandma, my mom, I don’t know.” Her mother, she said, will probably sit back and say: “Isn’t that lovely. You missed a spot.” “There’s nothing really cooler,” Mrs. Obama said, “than coming to the White House and harvesting some of the vegetables and being in the kitchen with Cris and Sam and Bill, and cutting and cooking and actually experiencing the joys of your work.” “A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,” she said. “And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things. I wanted to be able to bring what I learned to a broader base of people. And what better way to do it than to plant a vegetable garden in the South Lawn of the White House? You can begin in your own cupboard,” she said, “by eliminating processed food, trying to cook a meal a little more often, trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables.” – NYT, 3-20-09
  • Biden: Help on the way for middle-class families: The focus of the town-hall-style forum in a bus garage in central Minnesota was the middle class, and Biden told the crowd of more than 400 that the Obama administration is making sure the $787 billion economic stimulus package helps middle-class families get through the downturn and prosper when the economy eventually turns around.
    “We’ll measure our success in these four or eight years based on one thing: whether or not we’ve been able to raise the standard of living for middle-class people,” Biden said. “We’ve got to get this nation growing again.” – AP, 3-19-09
  • First lady discusses career goals with students: First lady Michelle Obama promoted the value of a college education and hard work Thursday, telling high school students that the people who doubted her when she was younger only encouraged her to aim higher. “That never stopped me. That always made me push harder,” she said….
    “Our job is simple: just be open, be honest, be real, be clear and have fun,” Mrs. Obama told the group, which gathered in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House for the event, part of the first lady’s celebration of March as Women’s History Month….
    “I wanted an A … I wanted to be smart, I wanted to be the person who had the right answer,” said Mrs. Obama, a lawyer and former hospital executive in Chicago. “I ran into people in my life who told me, ‘You can’t do it, you’re not as smart as that person.’ And that never stopped me. That always made me push harder, because I was like, ‘I’m going to prove you wrong.'”…
    “College is being able to get up and discipline yourself and get help when you need it and to work hard and not give up,” Mrs. Obama said. “Those are like basic concepts that carry you through life.”
    AP, 3-19-09
  • Heeeere’s Barack….: Asked by Mr. Leno if it was fair to judge him based on just 59 days in office, President Obama said Washington “is a bit like ‘American idol’ except everybody’s Simon Cowell. Everybody’s got an opinion.” But, he said, the American people are in a place where “they understand that it took us a while to get into this mess, and it will take us a while to get out of it.” “I think they are going to give us some time,” he added. “The question is who in their right mind when the company is going bust decides we’re going to be paying a whole bunch of bonuses to people,” Mr. Obama said. “That I think speaks to a broader culture that existed on Wall Street, where I think people just had this general attitude of entitlement where we must be the best and the brightest, we deserve $10 million or $50 million or $100 million payouts. “And the immediate bonuses that went to A.I.G. are a problem, but the larger problem is we’ve got to get back to an attitude where people know enough is enough and people have a sense of responsibility, and they understand that their actions going have an effect on everybody,” he said. “And if we can get back to those values that built America, then I think we’re going to be okay.” – NYT, 3-19-09
  • George W. Bush in Speech in Calgary & about his Memoirs: “I want people to understand the environment in which I was making decisions. I want people to get a sense of how decisions were made and I want people to understand the options that were placed before me,” he told the AP.
    During his speech in Calgary, Bush told Canadian business leaders he equated the world’s economic mess to booze. Quoth Bush: “Wall Street was drunk and we got the hangover. It seems like your [Canadian] banking system was more sober than ours.” Quipped Frank McKenna, the former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., who was sitting next to Bush: “We like to drink.” Countered Bush: “Not the whole bottle.” Bush notes….
    Bush may have refrained from criticizing his successor, but he did tell the Canadian crowd: “It’s the risk takers, not the government — that is going to pull us out of this recession . . . My message to policymakers is don’t substitute government for the marketplace.” – Chicago Sun-Times, 3-19-09
  • Bush Talks About Life Outside the White House: ‘The Only Thing We Don’t Have Are the Newspapers,’ Says Former First Lady – ABC News, 2-26-09
  • Laura Bush: Life in Dallas Has Been a ‘Slow Adjustment’ Former First Lady on Life After the White House: Commercial airline travel, trips to the hardware store for nightlights and walks around the neighborhood are all part of everyday life these days for former President George W. Bush and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush. The former first lady discusses what keeps her and the former president busy. In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Mrs. Bush said she and her husband were settling into a normal, post-presidency life at their new home in the Preston Hollow section of Dallas after spending a month at their ranch in Crawford while the house was finished. – ABc News, 2-26-09
  • Mrs. Bush: Former first family adapts to new life: Former first lady Laura Bush says she didn’t watch President Barack Obama’s speech to Congress because “I just totally forgot about it.”… – AP, 2-27-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Watch the Video

The Middle Class Task Force holds its second meeting

Professors’ Comments

  • “In Obama’s Election, a Textbook Case of History in the Making for Students This Fall”: For many, the excitement of the 2008 presidential election was about witnessing a moment that people would one day read about in history books. Well, the first draft of history has a release date: this fall. On Page 1,126 of the newest edition of “United States History,” a Pearson textbook for high schoolers that is due in classrooms this fall, a picture of Barack Obama at his election night rally in Chicago appears next to the red-lettered headline “An Historic Moment.” “History — there’s no end to it,” said Randy Roberts, a history professor at Purdue University and an author of the Pearson book. “It’s a work in progress.” – NYT, 3-21-09
  • Larry Sabato “Era of ‘presidential innocence gone’ for Obama”: Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, argued that this event was “the beginning of the end of the age of innocence” for the Obama administration. “Yes, the AIG scandal has been on President Obama’s watch, and clearly, his treasury secretary is involved,” Sabato said. “There is no way to blame that on the Bush administration.” He added that it was “remarkable how quickly former presidents fade in the public memory.” – AFP, 3-22-09
  • Divided we stand The problem with bipartisanship: IF THERE IS a new mantra in American politics, it is “bipartisanship.” Barack Obama won the presidency emphasizing national unity; his rival, Senator John McCain, made bipartisan credentials a centerpiece of his own campaign. Prominent politicians from President Bill Clinton to high-ranking House Republican John Boehner speak of bipartisanship as an independent, innate good….
    History suggests that would be a disaster. There is little evidence that solutions to big problems are to be found through bipartisanship, and plenty to suggest that they are not. The ideal of bipartisanship is what historians call an invented tradition, a new thing that cloaks itself in venerability as a way of obscuring its lack of accomplishment. When it comes to crisis – and there are now a few – the record of bipartisanship is particularly weak.
    In fact, it is partisanship that enjoys a more distinguished place in American history. America’s existence as a nation, its civil liberties, its principle of equality before the law, and some of the most popular and successful government programs all began as highly partisan causes. Accomplishments of deeply partisan origin are so core to national life that it is often forgotten that they initially once divided the people, sometimes violently….
    In his first two months in office, President Obama has enacted a string of clear partisan policies, quickly reversing the previous administration’s policies on torture and interrogation, foreign aid for agencies that provide birth control, and embryonic stem-cell research. He has done so with a collegiality that Americans have not had recent cause to associate with either partisanship or the presidency, even calling his predecessor before announcing troop withdrawals….
    As much as politicians like to invoke Lincoln as a uniter, it is also worth remembering that his election began the most dramatic partisan shift of any period in American history. By his own admission, Lincoln did not seek this change, and did not consider himself a radical. But when radically partisan ideas presented themselves as the best – or the only – solutions for the crises facing the nation, Lincoln’s “sense of unity” did not stop him from taking a side. – Boston Globe, 3-22-09
  • Analysis: Obama rhetoric, reality clash: “Candidates make promises and presidents break promises, and that’s a very predictable pattern,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University historian. Like those before him, “Obama’s shifting to the political realities,” said Zelizer. That’s not a bad thing, he said. “We want presidents to adjust to the realities of governing, to the realities of the environment.” – AP, 3-21-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama turns to online army to push his budget plan”: “Americans are not as interested in policy as they are in personalities and elections,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton historian and author of several books on Congress. “They’re trying to rekindle the enthusiasm from the campaign, but it’s harder to get people involved in budget issues.”… Some Obama voters are independents and Republicans, and “Obama’s efforts will lose their freshness if this is seen as just a political tool of a party,” Zelizer said. Obama largely played the “inside” game on his stimulus bill, negotiating with three Senate Republicans to get it passed. Now, on the budget, he will use such traditional tactics but also an “outside” game of building pressure from the netroots on key members… “How will a senator like Arlen Specter or Evan Bayh react to that? It’s a big question,” Zelizer said, referring to two moderate senators whose votes may be needed to pass the budget. – Mercury News, 3-19-09

March 24, 2009: President Obama’s Second Press Conference Focusing on the Economy & Budget

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama spoke in the East Room of the White House Tuesday.

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • President Barack Obama “Obama Defends Economic Recovery in News Conference”: “We will recover from this recession. But it will take time, it will take patience, and it will take an understanding that when we all work together; when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interests to the wider set of obligations we have to each other — that’s when we succeed.” – Newshour, PBS, 3-24-09
  • FACT CHECK: Obama Having It Both Ways on Economy?: President Barack Obama’s plea for patience in the economic turmoil Tuesday fits with the view of most economists that a turnaround will take some time. It doesn’t fit quite so neatly with his bullish budget. The president’s spending plans and deficit projections rest on the assumption that the economy will post solid growth next year after a mild, further decline this year. Many economists think that’s too rosy. Obama was more cautious than that in his prime-time news conference — possibly to the point of having it both ways…. – AP, 3-24-09
  • Obama Says Nation Judging Him on Work, Not Race: President Barack Obama says Americans are judging him by the job he’s doing, not the color of his skin. – AP, 3-24-09
  • CBS News Poll: Public Wants Government to Recover Bonus Funds: Only 13 percent agreed that A.I.G. had to pay their executives those bonuses, while 83 percent said they thought the company could have found a way not to pay them.
    And 71 percent disagreed that banks and other financial institutions need to pay large bonuses to hire and keep employees with essential skills.
    Half said they were angry about the bonuses that A.I.G. executives received, and 38 percent said that, while they were not angry, the bonuses “bothered” them. Only 12 percent said they were not bothered. – NYT, 3-24-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Obama Tries to Rally Nation to His Agenda: President Obama tried to rally the nation behind his ambitious agenda Tuesday night, hoping to channel outrage at Wall Street excess into support for changes in tax, health care and energy policy that face skepticism even within his own party in Congress…. – NYT, 3-24-09
  • Live Blog: Obama’s News Conference: The second prime-time press conference for Mr. Obama is in the books. Thirteen questions, but not one about Iraq or Afghanistan. That would have been impossible to imagine during his presidential campaign. So what’s the headline? “Hang on Americans, We’ll Get Through This.”…. – NYT, 3-24-09
  • Obama Defends Economic Recovery in News Conference: With the Obama administration set to take on one of its toughest battles yet over their proposed $3.6 trillion budget, the president took to the airwaves Tuesday night, defending his team’s efforts to combat the financial crisis and pledging better days to come…. – Newshour, PBS, 3-24-09
  • Obama’s uses news conference to stress patience and persistence as he tackles problems: President Obama this evening held his second prime-time Q&A since taking office two months ago…. – USA Today, 3-24-09
  • Obama expects strong support for regulatory powers: President Barack Obama says he expects strong support from Americans and Congress for his push for unprecedented regulatory authority over financial institutions…. – AP, 3-24-09
  • Obama sees support for financial wind-down powers: “We should have obtained it much earlier so that any institution that poses a systemic risk that can bring down the financial system, we can handle and we can do it in an orderly fashion, that quarantines it from other institutions. We don’t have that power right now, that’s what (Treasury) Secretary (Timothy) Geithner is talking about and I think there’s going to be strong support from the American people and Congress to provide that authority.” – Reuters, 3-24-09
  • Obama defends budget as essential to recovery: President Obama said Tuesday “there are no quick fixes” to pull the economy out of recession, but he insisted the country will recover…. –
  • Bill Schneider: Obama gives tough answer to CNN: President Obama gave a pretty tough answer to CNN’s Ed Henry when asked why he waited days to express outrage on the AIG bonuses. “It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak,” he said. It seemed to imply the question was impertinent. CNN, 3-24-09
  • Gloria Borger: Lack of foreign policy questions astonishing: It’s astonishing President Obama was not asked more about foreign policy. The president himself had to raise the issue of his Iran tape. There was some talk on Mexico and a tad on the Middle East, but NO Iraq and Afghanistan??? How can that be? And when was the last time a president had a press conference without mentioning those, or without being asked about those?…. – CNN, 3-24-09
  • Obama to focus on economy in news conference: President Barack Obama looked to steer the nation’s economic attention to the bigger picture Tuesday night and away from recent days’ micro-focus on outrage over executive bonuses, declaring signs of progress as his administration attacks the crisis “on all fronts.” “It’s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners, to restart lending and to grow our economy over the long term,” Obama said in remarks released in advance of his prime-time news conference. – AP, 3-24-09
  • House Republicans miss Obama’s news conference: As President Obama prepared to hold his second prime time news conference, more than 1,200 Republicans gathered 12 blocks away to break bread at a multi- million dollar fundraiser and discuss the road back to power in the nation’s capital. – CNN, 3-24-09
  • Bleak Deficit Numbers Projected Under Obama’s Budget Plan: The Congressional Budget Office released figures Friday forecasting that President Barack Obama’s budget will produce $9.3 trillion worth of red ink over 2010-2019 and that the deficit for this fiscal year will rise to a record $1.8 trillion. – Newshour, PBS, 3-24-09
  • For Populism, a Return to Economic Roots: In selecting villains, politicians reflect the anxieties of their era. Today’s populist uproar reaches far beyond the American International Group — and may mark a turning point…. – NYT, 3-24-09
  • Geithner Seeks Broader Powers Over Financial Firms: The crisis surrounding the American International Group was a near-tragedy that underlines the need for broad new government authority to regulate or even take control of financial institutions other than banks, the government’s top fiscal officials told lawmakers on Tuesday…. – NYT, 3-24-09
  • Geithner seeks new powers over financial companies: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sought broad new powers Tuesday to regulate tottering nonbank financial companies like insurance giant AIG, and President Barack Obama said he hopes “it doesn’t take too long to convince Congress” to grant them. – AP, 3-24-09
  • Democrats in Congress Are Ready to Pare Budget: Alarmed by rising deficit predictions, Congressional Democrats prepared Tuesday to pare spending in President Obama’s budget and limit some middle-class tax cuts even as Republicans stepped up their criticism of the plan as irresponsible…. – NYT, 3-24-09
  • Senate Democrats to scrap Obama’s $400 tax credit: A top Democrat in the Senate announced a budget blueprint Tuesday that would scrap Barack Obama’s signature tax cut after 2010 and blends sleight of hand with modest cuts to domestic programs to cut the deficit to sustainable levels. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., promises to reduce the deficit from a projected $1.7 trillion this year to a still-high $508 billion in 2014. But to do so, he assumes Congress will let Obama’s “Making Work Pay” tax credit delivering $400 tax cuts to most workers and $800 to couples will expire at the end of next year. Those tax cuts were included in Obama’s stimulus package. – AP, 3-24-09
  • Next Foreign Crisis Could Be Next Door: Mexico’s economy is being dragged down by the recession to the north. American addicts have turned Mexico into a drug superhighway, and its police and soldiers are under assault from American guns. Nafta promised 15 years ago that Mexican trucks would be allowed on American roads, but the Obama administration says they are too unsafe for that… – NYT, 3-24-09
  • Senate approves former Wash. governor for Commerce: The Senate confirmed former Washington Gov. Gary Locke as commerce secretary Tuesday, handing President Barack Obama an easy victory after his first two nominees for the post withdrew. Locke, 59, was the nation’s first Chinese-American governor, serving two terms from 1997 to 2005. He has promised to focus on job creation and to closely oversee the 2010 census. – AP, 3-24-09
  • Cheney helping or hurting GOP?: Former Vice President Dick Cheney has come back into the spotlight with his criticisms of President Obama’s plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. But some Republicans wish he weren’t being so vocal…. – USA Today, 3-24-09
  • Bishop to skip Notre Dame commencement over Obama: The Roman Catholic bishop whose diocese includes the University of Notre Dame says he will boycott President Barack Obama’s commencement speech at the Catholic school because Obama’s policies on stem cell research and abortion run counter to church teaching. – AP, 3-24-09
  • NY Gov. orders 8,900 layoffs: Gov. David Paterson on Tuesday ordered layoffs that could total about 4 percent of state workers after unions refused concessions amid a staggering economic downturn that was projected to push the state’s deficit to $16 billion in the next year. AP, 3-24-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Political Quotes

  • Transcript: President Obama’s News Conference: Following is the transcript, as it becomes available, of President Obama’s prime-time press conference on March 24, as transcribed by Federal News Service. – NYT, 3-24-09
  • La. Gov. Jindal urges GOP to stand up to Obama: “We are now in the position of being the loyal opposition,” Jindal said at a Republican congressional fundraising dinner that only by coincidence fell on the same night as Obama’s news conference. “The right question to ask is not if we want the president to fail or succeed, but whether we want America to succeed.” Saying “the time for talking about the past is over,” Jindal said Republicans have begun to find their voice after back-to-back elections losses — motivated by what he called historic Democratic spending excess…. “They’re not allowed to show my speech at Gitmo anymore,” he said. “They’ve banned that.” – AP, 3-24-09
  • President Obama’s News Conference Excerpts:
    Now, it’s important to remember that this crisis didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t result from any one action or decision. It took many years and many failures to lead us here. And it will take many months and many different solutions to lead us out. There are no quick fixes, and there are no silver bullets. That’s why we’ve put in place a comprehensive strategy designed to attack this crisis on all fronts. It’s a strategy to create jobs, to help responsible homeowners, to restart lending, and to grow our economy over the long term. And we’re beginning to see signs of progress….
    You know, there was a lot of outrage and finger-pointing last week, and much of it is is understandable. I’m as angry as anybody about those bonuses that went to some of the very same individuals who brought our financial system to its knees, partly because it’s yet another symptom of the culture that led us to this point. Bankers and executives on Wall Street need to realize that enriching themselves on the taxpayer’s dime is inexcusable, that the days of outsize rewards and reckless speculation that puts us all at risk have to be over. At the same time, the rest of us can’t afford to demonize every investor or entrepreneur who seeks to make a profit. That drive is what has always fueled our prosperity, and it is what will ultimately get these banks lending and our economy moving once more….
    We’ll recover from this recession, but it will take time; it will take patience; and it will take an understanding that when we all work together, when each of us looks beyond our own short-term interest to the wider set of obligations we have towards each other, that’s when we succeed. That’s when we prosper. And that’s what is needed right now. So let’s look towards the future with a renewed sense of common purpose, a renewed determination, and, most importantly, renewed confidence that a better day will come….

    With respect to the American people, I think folks are sacrificing left and right. They — you’ve got a lot of parents who are cutting back on everything to make sure that their kids can still go to college. You’ve got workers who are deciding to cut an entire day and entire day’s worth of pay so that their fellow co-workers aren’t laid off. I think that across the board people are making adjustments, large and small, to accommodate the fact that we’re in very difficult times right now….

    Now, we never expected, when we printed out our budget, that they would simply Xerox it and vote on it. We assume that it has to go through the legislative process. I have not yet seen the final product coming out of the Senate or the House, and we’re in constant conversations with them. I am confident that the budget we put forward will have those principles in place….

    We are providing hundreds of additional personnel that can help control the border, deal with customs issues. We are coordinating very effectively with the Mexican government and President Calderon, who has taken on a(n) extraordinarily difficult task dealing with these drug cartels that have gotten completely out of hand…. One last point that I want to make about this. As I said, President Calderon has been very courageous in taking on these drug cartels….

    First of all, I suspect that some of those Republican critics have a short memory, because as I recall, I’m inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit, annual deficit, from them. That would be point number one….

    QUESTION: So on AIG, why did you wait — why did you wait days to come out and express that outrage? … It seems like the action is coming out of New York in the attorney general’s office. It took you days to come public with Secretary Geithner and say, look, we’re outraged. Why did it take so long? PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it took us a couple of days because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak. (Laughter.) All right?…

    I think it is a realistic way for us to raise some revenue from people who benefitted enormously over the last several years. It’s not going to cripple them. They’ll still be well-to-do. And, you know, ultimately if we’re going to tackle the serious problems that we’ve got, then in some cases those who are more fortunate are going to have to pay a little bit more….
    I mean, if you look at the evidence — there’s very little evidence that this has a significant impact on charitable giving. I’ll tell you what has a significant impact on charitable giving is a financial crisis and an economy that’s contracting. And so the most important thing that I can do for charitable giving is to fix the economy, to get banks lending again, to get businesses opening their doors again, to get people back to work again. Then I think charities will do just fine….

    Well, the first thing I’d say is that I’m heartbroken that any child in America is homeless. And the most important thing that I can do on their behalf is to make sure their parents have a job. And that’s why the recovery package said, as a first priority, how are we going to save or create 3.5 million jobs? How can we prevent layoffs for teachers and police officers? How can we make sure that we are investing in the infrastructure for the future that can put people back to work right away? How do we make sure that when people do lose their jobs, that their unemployment insurance is extended, that they can keep their health care?…. Now, in the meantime, we’ve got to work very closely with the states to monitor and to help people who are still falling through the cracks….

    I think that the last 64 days has been dominated by me trying to figure out how we’re going to fix the economy, and that’s — affects black, brown and white. And you know, obviously, at the Inauguration I think that there was justifiable pride on the part of the country that we had taken a step to move us beyond some of the searing legacies of racial discrimination in this country, but that lasted about a day. And you know, right now the American people are judging me exactly the way I should be judged, and that is, are we taking the steps to improve liquidity in the financial markets, create jobs, get businesses to reopen, keep America safe?…
    What we do know is this; that the status quo is unsustainable. That it is critical for us to advance a two-state solution where Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in their own states with peace and security. And by assigning George Mitchell the task of working as special envoy, what we’ve signaled is that we’re going to be serious from day one in trying to move the parties in a direction that acknowledges that reality. How effective these negotiations may be, I think we’re going to have to wait and see….
    And what that tells me is that if you stick to it, if you are persistent, then — then these problems can be dealt with. That whole philosophy of persistence, by the way, is one that I’m going to be emphasizing again and again in the months and years to come, as long as I am in this office. I’m a big believer in persistence. I think that when it comes to domestic affairs, if we keep on working at it, if we acknowledge that we make mistakes sometimes and that we don’t always have the right answer, and we’re inheriting very knotty problems, that we can pass health care, we can find better solutions to our energy challenges, we can teach our children more effectively, we can deal with a very real budget crisis that is not fully dealt with in my — in my budget at this point, but makes progress….
    And I’m sure there’ll be more criticism and we’ll have to make more adjustments, but we’re moving in the right direction…. We haven’t immediately eliminated the influence of lobbyists in Washington. We have not immediately eliminated wasteful pork projects. And we’re not immediately going to get Middle East peace. We’ve been in office now a little over 60 days. What I am confident about is that we’re moving in the right direction, and that the decisions we’re making are based on, how are we going to get this economy moving? How are we going to put Americans back to work? How are we going to make sure that our people are safe? And how are we going to create not just prosperity here but work with other countries for global peace and prosperity? – Transcript

  • Jindal urges GOP to put ’08 in rear view mirror: “Let’s agree on this tonight, the time for talking about the past is now over,” Jindal told 1,200 people attending a House GOP fundraiser here in Washington. “It has been healthy for Republicans to look in the mirror. It has been healthy for us to realize and admit the mistakes of the past. We have done that quite a bit. I personally have done that quite a bit since the election last fall. It’s now been close to five months since the last election. He added, “It’s time to declare our time of introspection and navel gazing officially over. It’s time to get on with the business of charting America’s future. So as of now, be it hereby resolved, that we will focus on America’s future, and on standing up for fiscal sanity… before it is too late. “Thanks primarily to the Republicans in the House of Representatives, the Republican Party has once again decided to be the conservative party in this country,” Jindal said. – CNN, 3-24-09
  • Meghan McCain: ‘I support the president’: Larry King: [President Obama] is taking some criticism for smiling and laughing [during his “60 Minutes” interview.] Are you one of those critics?
    Meghan McCain: You know, I actually am not. I think anyone that would possibly think that the president is not taking the economy seriously — I just think it’s ridiculous. …
    King: [Is President Obama getting overexposed]?
    McCain: I think he is on the verge of it. I do think you have to be careful. But it is a different generation. [My] generation … we like our celebrities. And I think that he realizes that because he is very much a Generation Y president. However, he is on the risk of alienating his older followers.
    King: Does Obama seem like the same guy who ran against your dad? How do you view him?
    McCain: He’s our president and when the election was over and when President Obama won, all negative feelings were gone. I support the president. – CNN, 3-24-09
  • Aaron Shock: Republican stalked by gossip site like he’s a Hollywood starlet: “I didn’t know what was going on,” Schock said of his first encounter with TMZ. “I was on my way to the floor for a vote, I’m talking to a constituent literally on my cell phone and there’s some guy with a handycam in street clothes walking next to me. And, so, I didn’t know what to expect.”…. “I was actually surprised by how many text messages, e-mails, phone calls I got from stay-at-home mom’s that were watching the [TMZ] show,” Schock said on State of the Union on Sunday. “People that log onto their Web site I guess regularly and check out the news on TMZ. … People who watch TMZ or different mediums don’t expect to see their congressman on such a show. They’re used to seeing the Britney Spears or the movie star.” “Some of these alternative forms [of media] are important because it gets nontraditional voters engaged,” he said. “If they’re learning about me on TMZ or some of these other blogs and YouTube videos, then they’re recognizing my face and my name so that when I’m out on CNN or the other networks talking about issues, they’re going to maybe stop . . . and listen to what I have to say.”
    The young Republican was recently voted the hottest freshman in the current Congress by readers of the Huffington Post, a liberal Web site, and he has already received a fair amount of personal attention from President Obama — though it was not enough to convince Shock to support Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package. – CNN, 3-24-09
  • Why Obama Is Still Smiling: But Obama was so calm — even jolly — in his “60 Minutes” interview broadcast last night that anchor Steve Kroft asked him about it straight out: “You’re sitting here. And you are laughing. You are laughing about some of these problems. Are people gonna look at this and say, ‘I mean, he’s sitting there just making jokes about money.’ How do you deal with, I mean, explain the…mood and your laughter?…Are you punch drunk?”
    Obama replied with another laugh: “No, no. There’s gotta be a little gallows humor to get you through the day. You know, sometimes my team — talks about the fact that if — if you had said to us a year ago that — the least of my problems would be Iraq, which is still a pretty serious problem — I don’t think anybody would have believed it. But — but we’ve got a lot on our plate. And — a lot of difficult decisions that we’re going to have to make.”…

    “The one thing that — I’ve tried to emphasize, though, throughout this week, and will continue to try to emphasize during the course of the next several months as we dig ourselves out of this — the economic hole that we’re in — is we can’t govern out of anger. We’ve got to try to make good decisions based on the facts, in order to put people back to work, to get credit flowing again. And I’m not going to be distracted by — what’s happening day to day. I’ve gotta stay focused on making sure that — we’re getting this economy moving again.” – WaPo, 3-23-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “AIG bonuses follow an American tradition”: In the explosion of outrage over the AIG executive bonus scandal, each party has hurled charges at the other. Both parties are blaming each other for rejecting measures that would have limited executive bonuses. A few Republicans have called for the resignation of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner — with efforts to paint him as the Michael Brown of this administration — and President Obama is promising that this week he will outline more stringent requirements for the financial world.
    These partisan accusations miss a bigger factor behind last’s week’s revelations — America’s middle-way in dealing with business-government relations. In many ways, the bonus scandal was utterly predictable and would likely have happened regardless of which party was in power. And if history is a guide, the populist outrage over the bonuses may not fundamentally change the federal government’s relationship to private business….
    As a result, like many of their predecessors, the White House and Congress allowed management the flexibility to make decisions, such as the bonuses, which have already come back to haunt them. During the next round of negotiations, the administration and Congress might rethink their earlier approach, indeed the approach we have taken to economic intervention since the progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
    The federal government might place tighter regulations on the institutions receiving assistance (as it has with other recipients of government assistance, such as the poor) so that public support for the much needed interventions in this crisis doesn’t suffer more political blows. – CNN, 3-23-09
  • Joyce Appleby “Obama needs some FDR magic” In 1934, Franklin Roosevelt defied history and boosted his agenda by increasing Democrats’ strength in Congress. Can the current president do the same in 2010?: President Obama’s $3.55-trillion budget tackles the nation’s highest priorities while promising to cut deficits in the long run. Breathtakingly bold and refreshingly honest, the budget speaks louder than words about Obama’s confident leadership. But, alas, it only makes more acute the dilemma he faces….
    Does Roosevelt furnish a template for Obama? The two men share a lot. As president, both face the awesome task of reviving the economy. Obama’s personal popularity outstrips support for his party, as did FDR’s. Of necessity, Obama’s hope for matching Roosevelt’s successful record of reform and recovery is going to rest on his pulling off an electoral victory in 2010 like FDR’s 76 years ago. – LAT, 3-23-09

March 19, 2009: AIG’s Bonus Scandal and St. Patty’s Day at the O’Bama White House

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times The waters of the fountains at the White House ran green to mark St. Patrick’s Day.

The President Picks His Winners for the NCAA Tournament

White House Photo, 3/17/09, Pete Souza

President’s Picks Bracket

The President picks his winners for the
NCAA Tournament.

President Obama, with the Budget Committee Chairmen

Official White House Photo, 3/17/09, by Chuck Kennedy

Budget Spratt Conrad

The President outlines the new priorities in his budget, and calls for his critics to come to the table with good ideas, not political tactics.

Read the President's Remarks

President Obama pledges help for small business, condemns AIG bonuses

White House Photo, 3/16/09, Chuck Kennedy

AIG

President Obama pledges to help small businesses, fight AIG bonuses.

Watch the video

IN FOCUS: STATS

Monica Almeida/The New York Times President Barack Obama during a town hall meeting at the Orange County Fairground in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Wednesday.

In Focus: Stats

  • Obama’s Approval Equal To or Better Than Bush’s, Clinton’s: President Barack Obama’s job approval rating, at 61% in the latest three-day average of Gallup Poll Daily tracking, is slightly above where George W. Bush’s and in particular Bill Clinton’s were at this point in mid-March of the first years of their administrations.
    Bush’s disapproval rating in mid-March 2001 was about the same as Obama’s is now (28%), while Clinton’s disapproval rating was significantly higher. Gallop.com, 3-16-09

THE HEADLINES….

The President Picks His Winners for the NCAA Tournament

White House Photo, 3/17/09, Pete Souza

President’s Picks Bracket

The President picks his winners for the
NCAA Tournament.

President Obama, with the Budget Committee Chairmen

Official White House Photo, 3/17/09, by Chuck Kennedy

Budget Spratt Conrad

The President outlines the new priorities in his budget, and calls for his critics to come to the table with good ideas, not political tactics.

Read the President's Remarks

President Obama pledges help for small business, condemns AIG bonuses

The Headlines…

  • President to pioneer chat on late-night TV: President Obama hasn’t been practicing one-liners, but he is going Thursday night where no sitting president has gone before: to a late-night comedy show. Obama plans to be a guest on NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay Leno at 11:35 p.m. ET. His press secretary says not to look for a comedy routine. “I anticipate that a large amount of the discussion will center around the president’s economic plans, and the president’s economic ideas,” spokesman Robert Gibbs says. “And I think the president believes it’s a unique audience with which to explain those challenges and the decisions that he’s made.” – USA Today, 3-18-09
  • Obama schedules second prime time news conference: President Obama will hold his second prime time news conference next Tuesday evening at 8 pm ET, the White House announced Wednesday. The president is expected to use the forum to promote his ambitious budget plan, which has come under fire from Republicans and conservative Democrats for its hefty price tag…. – CNN, 3-18-09
  • Dodd: Administration pushed for language protecting bonuses: Senate Banking committee Chairman Christopher Dodd told CNN Wednesday that he was responsible for language added to the federal stimulus bill to make sure that already-existing contracts for bonuses at companies receiving federal bailout money were honored. CNN, 3-18-09
  • Bush to deliver first U.S. post-presidency speech in May: Former President George W. Bush will make his first domestic post-presidency speech on May 28 in Benton Harbor, Michigan, his spokesman, Rob Saliterman, said Wednesday. Bush will be speaking to members of the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan. The event will be closed to the media. Separately, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also will address the economic club on April 30. – CNN, 3-18-09
  • Obama nixes idea of billing vets’ insurance: President Barack Obama has decided to drop any consideration of billing veterans’ private insurance companies for the treatment of combat-related injuries, the White House said Wednesday. – AP, 3-18-09
  • Chaos in the White House – Obama’s teleprompter blows up: Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen liked President Obama’s speech so much yesterday that he repeated it — for 20 seconds. At that time he realized that Obama’s speech was still on the teleprompter…. – Christian Science Monitor, 3-17-09
  • Health care overhaul may cost about $1.5 trillion: Guaranteeing health insurance for all Americans may cost about $1.5 trillion over the next decade, health experts say. That’s more than double the $634 billion ‘down payment’ President Barack Obama set aside for health reform in his budget, raising the prospect of sticker shock at a time of record federal spending. Administration officials have pointedly avoided providing a ballpark estimate, saying it depends on details to be worked out with Congress. – AP, 3-17-09
  • The McCain ‘Twitterview’: has Twitter jumped the shark?: That “Twitterview” was a little weird. Watching questions from George Stephanopoulos (@GStephanopoulos) and answers from Sen. John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) bounce back and forth felt like watching a tennis match on delay. But it took Twitter somewhere it hadn’t been before, and brought users an instant interview with a major newsmaker in a format that only it could manage….. – Christian Science Monitor, 3-17-09
  • Battle brews over Bush library: Former President George W. Bush is preparing for one final struggle against the odds: raising $300 million for a presidential library, museum and policy institute at a time when dollars are tight and skepticism about his presidency runs high. – Politico, 3-16-09
  • Palin to headline GOP dinner in Washington: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will deliver the keynote address at a dinner sponsored by the House and Senate Republican campaign committees…. – AP, 3-16-09
  • 8 Dems oppose quick debate on global warming bill: Eight Senate Democrats are opposing speedy action on President Barack Obama’s bill to combat global warming, complicating prospects for the legislation and creating problems for their party’s leaders…. – AP, 3-16-09
  • US says it shot down Iranian drone last month: U.S. jets shot down an Iranian unmanned surveillance aircraft last month over Iraqi territory about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Monday. A U.S. statement said the Ababil 3 was tracked for about 70 minutes before U.S. jets shot it down “well-inside Iraqi airspace” and that the aircraft’s presence over Iraq “was not an accident.”… – AP, 3-16-09
  • Obama tries to loosen credit for small businesses: President Barack Obama freed billions of dollars to help the nation’s small businesses on Monday, hoping to get credit flowing again to Main Street, not just Wall Street. He heaped praise on the little guys of American industry, often overshadowed in the blitz of government bailouts. The centerpiece of Obama’s latest plan will allow the government to spend up to $15 billion to buy the small-business loans that are now choking community banks and lenders. That, in turn, could allow those banks to start lending money again to small companies to invest, pay bills and stay afloat…. – AP, 3-16-09
  • Obama berates AIG and vows to try to block bonuses: Joining a wave of public anger, President Barack Obama blistered insurance giant AIG for “recklessness and greed” Monday and pledged to try to block it from handing its executives $165 million in bonuses after taking billions in federal bailout money. “How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?” Obama asked. “This isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s about our fundamental values.” – AP, 3-16-09
  • Obama will try to block executive bonuses at AIG: President Barack Obama declared Monday that insurance giant American International Group is in financial straits because of “recklessness and greed” and said he intends to stop it from paying out millions in executive bonuses. AP, 3-16-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President Picks His Winners for the NCAA Tournament

White House Photo, 3/17/09, Pete Souza

President’s Picks Bracket

The President picks his winners for the
NCAA Tournament.

President Obama, with the Budget Committee Chairmen

Political Quotes

  • Biden: Officials must ‘get it right’ on stimulus: Vice President Joe Biden issued a stern warning to local officials Wednesday, urging them to “get it right” when it comes to spending money from the administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package.
    “The work you are doing is being watched very closely, not just by me, but by everybody…. I’ll show up in your city, and tell you it was a stupid idea… The Recovery Act will help ensure older Americans are not forced to choose between paying bills and buying food…. We will recover. The economy will grow.” – AP, 3-18-09
  • Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh: ‘Moderate Dems Working Group’ organized in Senate: A group of 15 Senate Democrats have organized their own working group, the office of Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh announced Wednesday.
    “Our group seeks to work collaboratively with the Obama administration and Senate leadership to make sure legislation is crafted in a practical way that will solve people’s problems,” Bayh said in a statement. “It’s going to take all of us working together in the Senate to get the 60 votes necessary to deliver the change the American people deserve.” – CNN, 3-18-09
  • Florida Rep. Connie Mack “GOP Rep calls on Geithner to ‘resign or be fired'”: “Well before Timothy Geithner became Secretary of the Treasury, he was working hand-in-hand with AIG and other financial institutions to provide them hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money as one of the key architects of the financial sector bailout,” Florida Rep. Connie Mack said in a statement released Wednesday. “I was outspoken against the bailouts then, and I’m even more outraged now.”
    “I’ve had serious concerns about Secretary Geithner from the moment he was nominated. In the months since, he has shown us time and again why he was the wrong choice for this critical post. This week’s news on the AIG bonus scandal is but the latest fiasco under his watch and he has lost the confidence of the American people.” “Quite simply, the Timothy Geithner experience has been a disaster.” – CNN, 3-18-09
  • GOP Rep calls on Geithner to ‘resign or be fired’: Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also called on Geithner to step down.
    “As one of the chief architects of the AIG bailout, Secretary Geithner was in a position to do what any lender of the last resort would do – negotiate concessions from AIG,” he said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
    “Secretary Geithner either didn’t know about the bonuses, and was grossly negligent, or he did know and failed to bring this to the President’s attention. Either way, the end result has been a significant waste of taxpayer dollars and he should take immediate responsibility and resign.” CNN, 3-18-09
  • Boehner says GOP budget alternative being drafted: “Mr. President, with all due respect: your budget spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much, and that’s going to do further harm to our economy at a time when it desperately needs our help,” Boehner says in a video message posted on YouTube Wednesday. “We believe there’s a better way – better solutions to restore some fiscal sanity here in Washington while encouraging more job creation and more investment.”Our alternative, which is being drafted as we speak by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and others, will reflect core principles that should guide us as our nation works to emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.” – CNN, 3-18-09
  • McCain: ‘Too Early’ to Tell If Obama Has Put Nation at Risk of Terror Attack: GStephanopoulos@SenJohnMcCain AIG: Would a President McCain break bonus contracts? Obama teams says that would cause more harm than good
    SenJohnMcCain@GStephanopoulos i would have never bailed out AIG, the real scandal is billions to foreign banks.
    GStephanopoulos@SenJohnMcCain ok, but today: should bonus contracts be broken? Dodd wants a targeted tax on bonuses OK with that?
    SenJohnMcCain@GStephanopoulos i haven’t seen it but i would explore every option. i repeat, we wouldn’t have this problem if we hadn’t bailed them out….. – ABC News, 3-17-09
  • Obama Defends Budget Proposal: “If there are members of Congress who object to specific policies and proposals in this budget, then I ask them to be ready and willing to propose constructive, alternative solutions,” Mr. Obama said. “‘Just say no’ is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs. It is not an acceptable response to whatever economic policy is proposed by the other party.” – NYT, 3-17-09
  • Bush refuses to criticize Obama in Canada: “I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence. I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office….
    I’m going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there’s an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened. I want people to understand what it was like to sit in the Oval Office and have them come in and say we have captured Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, the alleged killer of a guy named Danny Pearl because he was simply Jewish, and we think we have information on further attacks on the United States….
    I actually paid for a house last fall. I think I’m the only American to have bought a house in the fall of 2008. AP, 3-17-09
  • Bush, Cheney strike different post-White House tones: “I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena,” the former president told the audience, according to the Associated Press. “It’s the risk-takers, not the government, that is going to pull us out of this recession,” the former president said, according to the Calgary Herald. “My message to policy-makrs is don’t substitute government for the marketplace. Don’t become protectionist. I’m a free-trader to the core.” But overall, the president’s demeanor in front of a friendly crowd was described as jovial. “This is my maiden voyage,” he said in his debut address on the speaking circuit. “I can’t think of a better place to give it than Calgary, Canada.” – CNN, 3-17-09
  • The President, the Taoiseach, and the Shamrocks: Now, before I turn it over to the Taoiseach, it turns out that we have something in common. He hails from County Offaly. And it was brought to my attention on the campaign that my great-great-great grandfather on my mother’s side came to America from a small village in County Offaly, as well. We are still speculating on whether we are related. (Laughter.)
    I do share, though, a deep appreciation for the remarkable ties between our nations. I am grateful to him for his leadership of Ireland. The bond between our countries could not be stronger. As somebody who comes from Chicago, I know a little bit about Ireland, and the warmth, the good humor, and the fierce passion and intelligence of the Irish people is something that has informed our own culture, as well. And so that’s why this day and this celebration is so important. – WH Blog, 3-17-09
  • STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE BUDGET But the one thing I will say is this: With the magnitude of the challenges we face right now, what we need in Washington are not more political tactics — we need more good ideas. We don’t need more point-scoring — we need more problem-solving. So if there are members of Congress who object to specific policies and proposals in this budget, then I ask them to be ready and willing to propose constructive, alternative solutions. If certain aspects of this budget people don’t think work, provide us some ideas in terms of what you do. “Just say no” is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs. It is not an acceptable response to whatever economic policy is proposed by the other party.
    The American people sent us here to get things done. And in this moment of enormous challenge, they are watching and waiting for us to lead. Let’s show them that we’re equal to this task before us. Let’s pass a budget that puts this nation on the road to lasting prosperity. I know Kent Conrad is committed to doing that; John Spratt is committed to doing that; I’m committed to doing that. We’re going to need everybody working together to get this thing done. – WH Blog, 3-17-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS, COMMUNITY LENDERS AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS – Help for small business, condemnation for AIG bonuses: I’ve asked Secretary Geithner to use that leverage and pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole. (Applause.) I want everybody to be clear that Secretary Geithner has been on the case. He’s working to resolve this matter with the new CEO, Edward Liddy — who, by the way, everybody needs to understand came on board after the contracts that led to these bonuses were agreed to last year.
    But I think Mr. Liddy and certainly everybody involved needs to understand this is not just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s about our fundamental values. All across the country, there are people who are working hard and meeting their responsibilities every day, without the benefit of government bailouts or multi-million dollar bonuses. You’ve got a bunch of small business people here who are struggling just to keep their credit line open — that they are foregoing pay, as one of our entrepreneurs talked about, they are in some cases mortgaging their homes, and doing a whole host of things just in order to keep things afloat. All they ask is that everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, play by the same rules. And that is an ethic that we have to demand.
    And what this situation also underscores is the need for overall financial regulatory reform, so we don’t find ourselves in this position again, and for some form of resolution mechanism in dealing with troubled financial institutions, so that we’ve got greater authority to protect American taxpayers and our financial system in cases such as this….
    Well, I want to say to John and to every American running a small business or hoping to run a small business one day: You deserve a chance. America needs you to have that chance. – WH Blog, 3-16-09
  • Obama will try to block executive bonuses at AIG: “It’s hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay. How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat.”
    Noting that AIG has “received substantial sums” of federal aid from the federal government, Obama said he has asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner “to use that leverage and pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole.”…
    “All across the country, there are people who work hard and meet their responsibilities every day, without the benefit of government bailouts or multimillion-dollar bonuses. And all they ask is that everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, play by the same rules. This isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s about our fundamental values.” – AP, 3-16-09
  • Fed chief Bernanke: recession could end in ’09: “We’ve seen some progress in the financial markets, absolutely, But until we get that stabilized and working normally, we’re not going to see recovery. But we do have a plan. We’re working on it. And, I do think that we will get it stabilized, and we’ll see the recession coming to an end probably this year.”…
    AP, 3-16-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President Picks His Winners for the NCAA Tournament

Historians’ Comments

  • Victor Davis Hanson “First, do no harm”: When it comes to our complex economy, President Barack Obama would do well to heed the physician’s ancient commandment to first “do no harm.”
    Instead, Obama’s administration has been prescribing all sorts of multibillion-dollar borrowing remedies without any consistent diagnosis of what is exactly wrong with the weak economy or even how bad things actually are.
    Since becoming president, Obama has offered numerous bleak economic prognoses. He has told Americans: “The situation we face could not be more serious. We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression.” He has also warned, “Recovery will likely be measured in years, not weeks or months” and “If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years.”
    But suddenly last week, physician Obama flipped and issued an entirely new prognosis: “I don’t think things are ever as good as they say, or ever as bad as they say.” He added. “(Things) are not as bad as we think they are now.”…
    Or did Obama’s change in rhetoric reflect a sort of premeditated strategy: talk down the economy to scare everyone into supporting more government spending and borrowing; then, once the stimulus bill has passed, talk up the economy to reassure us that it will work?….
    It is clear from the last two months that no one in this herky-jerky administration quite knows what is going on in the economy, which has its own self-correcting mechanisms that were already in play without vast new federal spending and borrowing.
    So before we give more toxic-debt medicine to the recovering patient, let us take a timeout from the borrowing, let nature do its work – and at least do no more harm to generations not yet born. – San Francisco Chronicle, 3-18-09
  • Julian Zelizer “White House, Congress Complicit in AIG Bonus Scandal”: Julian E. Zelizer, congressional expert at Princeton University, said the failure of policymakers to limit executive pay for bailed out banks was no accident. “Neither Congress nor the president wanted to look as if they were ‘taking over’ financial institutions,” Zelizer wrote in an email, “nor did they want to anger business.” The result, he added, was “predictable:” a bailout strategy with plenty of leeway for the companies receiving the money. – Washington Independent, 3-18-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama Caught In The Eye Of AIG Storm”: Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University, agreed Obama had no easy way out. “He can come out and say it is bad and reprimand executives–it is another thing to formulate some kind of policy response.” “There is some kind of communication problem here,” said Zelizer. “In the campaign, the president was very good at responding to crises,” he said, refering to Obama’s elegant speech on race after a furore erupted over his fiery former pastor Jeremiah Wright. “But now he is running a government. It is not just him any more–some of Obama’s (top aides) don’t seem as skilled in the political arena as they are in the economic arena.” – mysinchew.com, 3-18-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: GOP’s “small government” talk is hollow”: As the budget debate heats up, Republicans are warning of socialism in the White House and claiming that Democrats are rushing back to their dangerous tonic of big government. …
    After the past eight years in American politics, it is impossible to reconcile current promises by conservatives for small government with the historical record of President Bush’s administration. Most experts on the left and right can find one issue upon which to agree: The federal government expanded significantly after 2001 when George W. Bush was in the White House….
    Fifty years of American history have shown that even the party that traditionally advocates small government on the campaign trail opts for big government when it gets into power. The rhetoric of small government has helped Republicans attract some support in the past, but it is hard to take such rhetoric seriously given the historical record — and it is a now a question whether this rhetoric is even appealing since many Americans want government to help them cope with the current crisis. – CNN, 3-18-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Economy tops everyone’s agenda as Congress returns”: “The economy is on everyone’s mind, and they have to show they’re thinking about what to do at this point. That’s got to be issue No. 1,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University history professor. “But just as important is getting the groundwork ready to work with the new president. They’re desperately trying to avoid another Jimmy Carter situation.” – News & Observer, 3-17-09

March 15, 2009: Obama’s First Fifty Days in Office & Ratings Slide

The White House Council on Women and Girls

White House Photo 3/11/09 by Chuck Kennedy

Council on Women

President Obama signs an Executive Order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls.Learn More

The President speaks on education.

White House Photo 3/10/09 by Pete Souza

Education

The President lays out his five pillars of investment and reform for education.Watch the President's remarks

The White House Council on Women and Girls

White House Photo 3/11/09 by Chuck Kennedy

Council on Women

President Obama signs an Executive Order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls.Learn More

The President speaks on education.

White House Photo 3/10/09 by Pete Souza

Education

The President lays out his five pillars of investment and reform for education.Watch the President's remarks

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Weekly Address: Food Safety

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • FACTBOX: Main developments of Obama’s first 50 days: President Barack Obama marked his 50th day in office on Tuesday with a speech about overhauling the U.S. education system…. – Reuters, 3-11-09
  • Rasmussen Reports: 56%-43% approval, with a third strongly disapproving of the president’s performance. – WSJ, 3-13-09
  • DOUGLAS E. SCHOEN and SCOTT RASMUSSEN: “Obama’s Poll Numbers Are Falling to Earth”: It is simply wrong for commentators to continue to focus on President Barack Obama’s high levels of popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of public confidence in the work of his administration. Indeed, a detailed look at recent survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced. – WSJ, 3-13-09

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama Lifts Restrictions on Stem Cell Research

The White House Council on Women and Girls

White House Photo 3/11/09 by Chuck Kennedy

Council on Women

President Obama signs an Executive Order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls.Learn More

The Headlines…

  • Bracing for a Bailout Backlash: The Obama administration is increasingly concerned about a populist backlash against banks and Wall Street, worried that anger at financial institutions could also end up being directed at Congress and the White House and could complicate President Obama’s agenda. – NYT, 3-15-09
  • President Obama’s call for longer school days raises questions: “That calendar may once have made sense,” Obama said last week. “But today, it puts us at a competitive disadvantage.” – Wichita Eagle, 3-15-09
  • Obama says US economy sound, reassures investors: President Barack Obama on Saturday downplayed divisions between the U.S. and Europe over how to tackle the world’s financial crisis and said China should have “absolute confidence” that its sizable investments in the United States are safe…. – AP, 3-14-09
  • G-20 pledge sustained action on financial crisis: Finance officials from rich and developing countries pledged Saturday to do “whatever is necessary” to fix the global economy, including supervision of freewheeling hedge funds and restoring bank lending by dealing with the shaky securities burdening their finances…. – AP, 3-14-09
  • Obama admin. to end use of term ‘enemy combatant’: The Obama administration said Friday that it is abandoning one of President George W. Bush’s key phrases in the war on terrorism: enemy combatant. But that won’t change much for the detainees at the U.S. naval base in Cuba — Obama still asserts the military’s authority to hold them. Human rights attorneys said they were disappointed that Obama didn’t take a new stance…. – AP, 3-14-09
  • Investigator uses phony documents to get passports: Using phony documents and the identities of a dead man and a 5-year-old boy, a government investigator obtained U.S. passports in a test of post-9/11 security. Despite efforts to boost passport security since the 2001 terror attacks, the investigator fooled passport and postal service employees four out of four times, according to a new report made public Friday. The report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, details the ruses…. – AP, 3-14-09
  • The First Lady’s First Trip: Michelle Obama took her first trip as first lady on Thursday, visiting the military base at Fort Bragg where she offered thanks and support to military families. – NYT, 3-12-09
  • Obama to tap Hamburg to run FDA: sources: President Barack Obama is set to nominate former New York City health chief Margaret Hamburg as commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, people with knowledge of the matter said on Thursday. – Reuters, 3-12-09
  • Feds spending millions on Kennedy legacy in Mass.: More than one out of every five dollars of the $126 million Massachusetts is receiving in earmarks from a $410 billion federal spending package is going to help preserve the legacy of the Kennedys. The bill includes $5.8 million for the planning and design of a building to house a new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate. The funding may also help support an endowment for the institute…. – AP, 3-11-09
  • Obama defends pet projects and signs spending bill: President Barack Obama, sounding weary of criticism over federal earmarks, defended Congress’ pet projects Wednesday as he signed an “imperfect” $410 billion measure with thousands of examples. But he said the spending does need tighter restraint and listed guidelines to do it. Obama, accused of hypocrisy by Republicans for embracing billions of dollars of earmarks in the legislation, said they can be useful and noted that he has promised to curb, not eliminate them…. – AP, 3-11-09
  • Officials: Iran does not have key nuclear material: Iran does not yet have any highly enriched uranium, the fuel needed to make a nuclear warhead, two top U.S. intelligence officials told Congress Tuesday, disputing a claim by an Israeli official…. – AP, 3-10-09
  • 9/11 suspects: ‘We are terrorists to the bone’: Puerto Rico – The self-professed mastermind and four other men charged in the Sept. 11 attacks declared they are “terrorists to the bone” in a statement that mocked the U.S. failure to prevent the killings and predicted America will fall like “the towers on the blessed 9/11 day.”… – AP, 3-10-09
  • Congress approves massive $410B spending bill: Congress on Tuesday cleared for President Barack Obama’s signature a $410 billion measure to fund the government, a measure denounced by most Republicans as an example of reckless spending. The Senate approved the measure by voice after it cleared a key procedural hurdle by a 62-35 vote. Sixty votes were required to shut down debate. – AP, 3-10-09
  • Recession on track to be longest in postwar period: Factory jobs disappeared. Inflation soared. Unemployment climbed to alarming levels. The hungry lined up at soup kitchens. It wasn’t the Great Depression. It was the 1981-82 recession, widely considered America’s worst since the depression…. – AP, 3-8-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President speaks on education.

Political Quotes

  • Cheney Says Obama Has Increased Risks: “He is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack,” Mr. Cheney said of Mr. Obama in an interview on the CNN program “State of the Union.”….
    “I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11.” “I think that’s a great success story. It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles.”
    “Up until 9/11, it was treated as a law enforcement problem. You go find the bad guy, put him on trial, put him in jail. Once you go into a wartime situation and it’s a strategic threat, then you use all of your assets to go after the enemy. You go after the state sponsors of terror, places where they’ve got sanctuary. You use your intelligence resources, your military resources, your financial resources — everything you can — in order to shut down that terrorist threat against you. When you go back to the law enforcement mode, which I sense is what they’re doing, closing Guantánamo and so forth, that they are very much giving up that center of attention and focus that’s required, and that concept of military threat that is essential if you’re going to successfully defend the nation against further attacks.”
    “We’ve accomplished nearly everything we set out to do,” he said about Iraq. “Now, I don’t hear much talk about that, but the fact is, the violence level is down 90 percent. The number of casualties and Iraqis and Americans is significantly diminished. There’s been elections, a constitution. They’re about to have another presidential election here in the near future. We have succeeded in creating in the heart of the Middle East a democratically governed Iraq, and that is a big deal,” Mr. Cheney said. “And it is, in fact, what we set out to do.” – NYT, 3-15-09
  • Cheney going high-tech and driving a car: Dick Cheney’s going high-tech with a BlackBerry and a wireless device for reading books. And he’s driving a car these days. AP, 3-15-09
  • Remarks of President Barack Obama, Weekly Address, Saturday, March 14, 2009, Washington, DC, “Weekly Address: Reversing a Troubling Trend in Food Safety”: In this week’s address, President Barack Obama makes key announcements regarding the safety of our nation’s food.
    “We are a nation built on the strength of individual initiative. But there are certain things that we can’t do on our own. There are certain things that only a government can do. And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat, and the medicines we take, are safe and don’t cause us harm.” – WH Blog, 3-14-09Transcript
  • President Obama: “A wonderful meeting of the minds”: Is that directed at me? Well, look, I think Brazil has shown extraordinary leadership when it comes to biofuels. And I’ve been a great admirer of the steps that have been taken by President Lula’s government in pursuing biofuels and developing them. And this is an investment that Brazil has made for a very long time.
    My policies coming into this administration have been to redouble efforts here in the United States to pursue a similar path of clean energy development. And I think we have a lot to learn from Brazil.
    As I mentioned to President Lula, I think we have the potential to exchange ideas, technology to build on the biodiesel cooperation structure that we’ve already established. I know that the issue of Brazilian ethanol coming into the United States has been a source of tension between the two countries. It’s not going to change overnight, but I do think that as we continue to build exchanges of ideas, commerce, trade around the issue of biodiesel, that over time this source of tension can get resolved. – WH Blog, 3-14-09
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi “The Buzz About a Second Stimulus Package”: I really would like to focus on the first one. I know that people have made suggestions that we should be ready to do something, but I really would like to see this stimulus package play out.
    I think it’s important that the American people and the Congress of the United States have confidence in the recovery package that we have passed. We believe that it has the right components to take the country in a new direction in terms of job creation, tax cuts for the middle class, investments in the short term for job creation and longer term stabilization. So I’ve always been trying to be fiscally responsible about doing — getting the most for — I won’t say a small amount of money because we’re talking hundreds of billions of dollars.
    As we go down that path as people make judgments, I would hope that we get the results that we need from this package. But that doesn’t mean that people won’t talk about it, as one of our economists suggested the other day. But not from my initiation. – NYT, 3-12-09
  • President Obama declares turning point on earmark reform: Now, yesterday Congress sent me the final part of last year’s budget; a piece of legislation that rolls nine bills required to keep the government running into one, a piece of legislation that addresses the immediate concerns of the American people by making needed investments in line with our urgent national priorities.
    That’s what nearly 99 percent of this legislation does — the nearly 99 percent that you probably haven’t heard much about.
    In my discussions with Congress, we have talked about the need for further reforms to ensure that the budget process inspires trust and confidence instead of cynicism. So I believe as we move forward, we can come together around principles that prevent the abuse of earmarks.
    These principles begin with a simple concept: Earmarks must have a legitimate and worthy public purpose. Earmarks that members do seek must be aired on those members’ websites in advance, so the public and the press can examine them and judge their merits for themselves. Each earmark must be open to scrutiny at public hearings, where members will have to justify their expense to the taxpayer….
    And finally, if my administration evaluates an earmark and determines that it has no legitimate public purpose, then we will seek to eliminate it, and we’ll work with Congress to do so. – WH Blog, 3-11-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING OF EXECUTIVE ORDER CREATING THE WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL ON WOMEN AND GIRLS “Opportunities their mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers never dreamed of”: I sign this order not just as a President, but as a son, a grandson, a husband, and a father, because growing up, I saw my mother put herself through school and follow her passion for helping others. But I also saw how she struggled to raise me and my sister on her own, worrying about how she’d pay the bills and educate herself and provide for us.
    I saw my grandmother work her way up to become one of the first women bank vice presidents in the state of Hawaii, but I also saw how she hit a glass ceiling — how men no more qualified than she was kept moving up the corporate ladder ahead of her.
    I’ve seen Michelle, the rock of the Obama family — (laughter) — juggling work and parenting with more skill and grace than anybody that I know. But I also saw how it tore at her at times, how sometimes when she was with the girls she was worrying about work, and when she was at work she was worrying about the girls. It’s a feeling that I share every day…..
    So now it’s up to us to carry that work forward, to ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements — and that they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers and great grandmothers never dreamed of. That’s the purpose of this Council. Those are the priorities of my presidency. And I look forward to working with all of you to fulfill them in the months and years to come.
    All right, so I’m going to go sign this thing. Thank you very much. – WH Blog, 3-11-09Transcript
  • U.S. “in a deep mess” but we will fix it: Geithner: “This president is going to do what is necessary to get us through this. … We’re a terrifically strong country with abundant resources, and we will get through this.”…. You’re going to see (President Obama) lead an ambitious agenda to try to get the world moving with us so that the global economy is firing on all cylinders. Getting the world to move with us (is) necessary and critical.”… “Our markets are still the most liquid markets in the world. And frankly, there is a lot of confidence still in our capacity to manage this and get through it. Everything we do in moving aggressively to fix this crisis is guided by that basic obligation, of not just to American investors but around the world, to do what is necessary to get this economy back on track…. There are a lot of people who want us to come in and pay an inflated price for these assets, and have the government absorb a bunch of those losses directly to socialize that risk. We want to pursue a market mechanism that leaves the taxpayer with less risk and better overall benefit in trying to fix this system.” – Reuters, 3-10-09
  • President Obama “Taking on Education”: Every so often, throughout our history, a generation of Americans bears the responsibility of seeing this country through difficult times and protecting the dream of its founding for posterity. This is a responsibility that has fallen to our generation. Meeting it will require steering our nation’s economy through a crisis unlike any we have seen in our time. In the short-term, that means jumpstarting job creation, re-starting lending, and restoring confidence in our markets and our financial system. But it also means taking steps that not only advance our recovery, but lay the foundation for lasting, shared prosperity.
    I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time. They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.
    Of course, no matter how innovative our schools or how effective our teachers, America cannot succeed unless our students take responsibility for their own education. That means showing up for school on time, paying attention in class, seeking out extra tutoring if it’s needed, and staying out of trouble. And to any student who’s watching, I say this: don’t even think about dropping out of school. As I said a couple of weeks ago, dropping out is quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country, and it is not an option – not anymore. Not when our high school dropout rate has tripled in the past thirty years. Not when high school dropouts earn about half as much as college graduates. And not when Latino students are dropping out faster than just about anyone else. It is time for all of us, no matter what our backgrounds, to come together and solve this epidemic. – WH Blog, 3-10-09
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman now sings Obama’s praises: “He’s shown real leadership,” Lieberman told The Associated Press in an interview. “Bottom line: I think Barack Obama, president of the United States, is off to a very good start.” – AP, 3-9-09
  • Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery Signing of Stem Cell Executive Order and Scientific Integrity Presidential Memorandum, Washington, DC, March 9, 2009 – “A debt of gratitude to so many tireless advocates”: Today, with the Executive Order I am about to sign, we will bring the change that so many scientists and researchers; doctors and innovators; patients and loved ones have hoped for, and fought for, these past eight years: we will lift the ban on federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research. We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield….
    That is why today, I am also signing a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making. To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives….
    That is why today, I am also signing a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making. To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives. – WH Blog, 3-9-09Transcript

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The White House Council on Women and Girls

Historians’ Comments

  • Michael Kazin “Bracing for a Bailout Backlash”: “The change now is you have a free-floating economic anxiety that has expressed itself in a kind of lashing out at those being bailed out and people who are bailing out,” Michael Kazin, a professor at Georgetown University who has written extensively on populism. “There’s not really a sense of what the solution is.” “I do think there’s a potential for a ‘damn everybody in power’ kind of sentiment,” Mr. Kazin said. – NYT, 3-15-09
  • Robert Dallek “How Not to End Another President’s War (L.B.J. Edition)”: Now that President Obama has inherited not one war but two, does he face a similar hurdle? With the country’s economy in such poor shape and his eagerness to enact bold health insurance, education and environmental reforms, he will need to recall that wars are the enemy of far reaching change. World War I stopped Progressivism; in the 1940’s “Dr. Win the War replaced Dr. New Deal,” as Franklin D. Roosevelt said; the Korean War sidetracked Harry Truman’s Fair Deal; and Vietnam frustrated Johnson’s hopes of additional Great Society measures.
    Mr. Obama’s commitment to maintain perhaps 50,000 troops in Iraq after the drawdown of combat forces over the next 19 months, combined with his decision to send an additional 17,000 troops (for starters) to Afghanistan, could be the beginning of an unwanted debate about commitments abroad. If the country begins to see mounting costs in lives and money from the administration’s war policies, it risks distractions from the more urgent designs the president described in his campaign and recent messages to the Congress and the country.
    History is never a precise guide for current political actions. But the consistent negative impact of earlier foreign conflicts on grand projects at home is a cautionary tale that should command President Obama’s close attention. Guns and butter rarely mix. – NYT, 3-12-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Omnibus bill’s hidden item: a Democratic rift On Tuesday, Congress passed the spending bill to keep the government running – 160 days late, and not without some unusual friction between House and Senate leaders”: The moment marked a sharp break with tradition. “It’s hard to think of a comparable moment like this,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “The tension between the two chambers is becoming very strong, especially the Pelosi-Reid rivalry.” – Christian Science Monitor, 3-11-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Is it Obama’s economy yet?”: President Obama currently has the polls on his side. In numerous surveys, Americans have said they are pleased with Obama’s performance thus far and confident the president can fix the economy, acknowledging this will take some time.
    The political question for the White House is how long those poll numbers will last. At some point, the “Bush Economy” is going to become the “Obama Economy.”
    When that happens, Obama will be in serious political trouble unless the economy has turned around. Republicans will be able to argue that the administration’s plans are not working and this perception will greatly diminish public support for the White House….
    The clock is ticking for Obama. There will likely be a tipping point when the approval ratings start to slide and a majority of Americans start to associate the recession with this White House.
    Arguments about how the crisis started earlier will sound more like a defeated leader, trying to explain his failures, than a reasoned leader trying to explain the situation we face. That’s how politics works.
    It will be politically essential that Obama’s early policies, particularly the economic stimulus bill and financial bailout, stop the downward slide of the economy and create some kind of stability. Otherwise, the president will find himself in rough waters. – CNN, 3-9-09

March 8, 2009: Obama Focuses on the Economy, Budget Debate Dominates, but Afghanistan Looms

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

President Obama at the Graduation of the Columbus Police Division’s 114th Class

President Obama at the Graduation of the Columbus Police Division’s 114th Class

White House photo 3/6/09 by Pete Souza

Jobs in Ohio

Today the President went to Ohio for the Graduation of the Columbus Police Division’s 114th Class. The bad economic numbers are more than statistics there, but the recovery act did bring some good news.

Learn More

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Poll: Obama’s rating at all-time high NBC/WSJ poll shows gap between popularity of president and his policies: 68 percent have a favorable opinion of the president, including 47 percent whose opinion is “very positive” — both all-time highs for Obama in the poll.
    67 percent say they feel more hopeful about his leadership and 60 percent approve of his job in the White House.
    Yet the percentage of Americans who are confident that Obama has the right goals and policies for the country — 54 percent — is slightly smaller, suggesting that the president is more popular than his policies are. An example: 57 percent tend to support the stimulus, compared with 34 percent who tend to oppose it. – MSNBC, 3-7-09
  • FOX News Poll: Obama Believes in Bigger Government: Despite the president’s claim that he doesn’t believe in bigger government, a new poll shows there is widespread belief among Americans that he does.
    President Obama’s job approval rating stands at 63 percent, with 26 percent saying they disapprove.
    92 percent of Democrats say they approve — more than three times as many as the 30 percent of Republicans who give Obama the thumbs up. Among independents, 61 percent approve.
    Just over half of Americans — 52 percent — think so far Obama is meeting expectations and 14 percent say he is actually exceeding expectations. – Fox News, 3-5-09
  • FACT CHECK: Obama ‘tax hikes’ a matter of words: President Barack Obama says he would lower taxes on 95 percent of Americans now and raise them on the rich in 2011. Republicans say he will increase taxes for all and in the midst of a recession to boot. So who’s right? Yes, all Americans would pay more under the president’s policies. His own aides concede that. But no, Obama would not raise taxes in the midst of a recession, as long as his economic assumptions bear out. – AP, 3-7-09

President Barack Obama and White House Domestic Advisor Melody Barnes listen as firefighter Travis Ulerick of Dublin, Ind., addresses the White House Forum on Health Reform, Thursday, March 5, 2009, in the East Room at the White House.

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of the Taliban: President Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq. – NYT, 3-8-09
  • Analysis: Obama’s ambitious plans raise questions: President Barack Obama offered his domestic-policy proposals as a “break from a troubled past.” But the economic outlook now is more troubled than it was even in January, despite Obama’s bold rhetoric and commitment of more trillions of dollars. – AP, 3-7-09
  • When economy bottoms out, how will we know?: When will this wretched economy bottom out? The recession is already in its 15th month, making it longer than all but two downturns since World War II. For now, everything seems to be getting worse: The Dow is in free fall, jobs are vanishing every day, and one in eight American homeowners is in foreclosure or behind on payments. But the economy always recovers. It runs in cycles, and economists are watching an array of statistics, some of them buried deep beneath the headlines, to spot the turning point. The Associated Press examined three markets — housing, jobs and stocks — and asked experts where things stand and how to know when they’ve hit bottom. None of them expects it to come anytime soon. – AP, 3-7-09
  • Obama Turkey visit to focus on Iraq, Afghanistan: For one of his first foreign visits, President Barack Obama will call on NATO ally Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country viewed as critical to aiding the U.S. pullout from Iraq, turning around the Afghanistan war and blocking Iran’s nuclear ambitions. – AP, 3-7-09
  • Obama on stimulus: ‘I know we did the right thing’: While aknowledging an “astounding” number of job losses in February, President Barack Obama told critics of his $787 billion economic recovery plan Friday that it is saving jobs and said, “I know we did the right thing.” He suggested that critics talk to 25 police recruits in Ohio’s capital city who owe their jobs to stimulus spending and “talk to the teachers who are still able to teach our children because we passed this plan.” – AP, 3-6-09
  • Source: Obama to reverse limits on stem cell work: Reversing an eight-year-old limit on potentially life-saving science, President Barack Obama plans to lift restrictions Monday on taxpayer-funded research using embryonic stem cells. The long-promised move will allow a rush of research aimed at one day better treating, if not curing, ailments from diabetes to paralysis — research that crosses partisan lines, backed by such notables as Nancy Reagan and the late Christopher Reeve. But it stirs intense controversy over whether government crosses a moral line with such research. – AP, 3-6-09
  • Government-run plan could trip up health overhaul: Giving Americans the option of buying medical coverage through the government — an idea put forth by President Barack Obama — is a potential deal breaker for some Republicans and insurance companies whose support would ease the way for a health care overhaul. The proposal, which Obama advocated in his presidential campaign, would for the first time offer government-sponsored coverage to middle class families, as an alternative to private health plans. By some estimates, it could reduce premiums by 20 percent or more — making it much more affordable to cover the estimated 48 million people who don’t have health coverage…. – AP, 3-6-09
  • Fight Brewing Within GOP Over Soul, Future of Party: This week’s dustup between GOP chief Michael Steele and influential radio host Rush Limbaugh underscored the struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. – Fox News, 3-6-09
  • Dean under consideration for surgeon general: report: Former Vermont governor Howard Dean was under consideration by the Obama administration for U.S. surgeon general, CNN reported on Friday, but a source said he was not interested in the post. – Reuters, 3-6-09
  • Congressman Labels Obama ‘Abortion President’ Ahead of Stem Cell Reversal: Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., accused Obama of launching two attacks on pro-life measures. – Fox News, 3-6-09
  • Democrats blast Limbaugh for comment on Kennedy: A Democratic official rebuked conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh on Friday for suggesting a health care proposal will be named in memory of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer. On his radio show, Limbaugh said President Barack Obama’s proposed health care revisions will be championed by “the liberal lion Teddy Kennedy.” – AP, 3-6-09
  • Top Dems adjust to life in Obama’s shadow Pelosi and Reid balance executive priorities with legislative powers: As the party’s highest-ranking elected officials, they used their congressional majorities to thwart key elements of Bush’s agenda. Now with Obama the Democrats’ unquestioned leader, Reid and Pelosi play less visible and more intermediary parts…. – MSNBC, 3-6-09
  • CIA destroyed 12 harsh interrogation tapes: The CIA destroyed a dozen videotapes of harsh interrogations of terror suspects, according to documents filed Friday in a lawsuit over the government’s treatment of detainees. The 12 tapes were part of a larger collection of 92 videotapes of terror suspects that the CIA destroyed. The extent of the tape destruction was disclosed through a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the government. – AP, 3-6-09
  • Gupta withdraws from surgeon general search: CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta won’t be the next surgeon general, the Obama administration confirmed Thursday. Gupta, 39, a neurosurgeon with star appeal, was seen as President Barack Obama’s first pick for the job. He would have brought instant recognition to the office of surgeon general, a post that has lacked visibility since the days of C. Everett Koop during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. – AP, 3-5-09
  • Obama: Every voice must be heard on health reform: President Barack Obama pumped health care allies and skeptics alike for ways to overhaul the nation’s costly and frustrating system Thursday and heard only applause and agreement when he told them there’s “a clear consensus that the need for health care reform is here and now.” – AP, 3-5-09
  • Congress passes stopgap bill to avoid shutdown: With a $410 billion catchall spending bill stalled in the Senate and a midnight deadline looming, Congress rushed through stopgap legislation Friday to keep the government running for another five days. The House passed the bill by a 328-50 vote; the Senate acted by unanimous voice vote. President Barack Obama will sign the measure later Friday. The stopgap measure was needed because on Thursday night, Senate Republicans unexpectedly put the brakes on the sweeping measure. The so-called omnibus bill would award domestic agencies with big spending increases and it also contains about 8,000 pet projects sought by lawmakers. – AP, 3-5-09
  • Treasury secretary’s choice for deputy withdraws: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is two steps further away from filling the ranks of his senior staff. As markets quake and Treasury confronts the worst economic crisis in decades, Geithner has seen two people he had hoped to name to key posts withdraw from consideration. – AP, 3-5-09
  • Senate preparing huge spending bill for Obama: Senate leaders hoped Thursday to clear for President Barack Obama a huge spending bill that awards big increases to domestic programs and is stuffed with pet projects sought by lawmakers in both parties. The $410 billion spending bill, spanning 1,122 pages, has an extraordinary reach, wrapping nine spending bills together to fund the annual operating budgets of every Cabinet department except for Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. – AP, 3-5-09
  • White House Health Care Summit: The wrap up session: President Obama entered the room with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who said said he looked forward to being a “foot soldier” in the push for health care reform and “this time we will not fail.” – NYT, 3-5-09
  • Clinton accuses Iran of seeking to intimidate: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton swiped hard at Iran on Wednesday, accusing its hardline leaders of fomenting divisions in the Arab world, promoting terrorism, posing threats to Israel and Europe, and seeking to “intimidate as far as they think their voice can reach.” – AP, 3-4-09
  • Key Democrats oppose Obama’s tax deduction plan: President Barack Obama’s proposal to limit itemized tax deductions for high earners is running into opposition from key Democrats in Congress who worry that charities and the housing market would be hurt. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus questioned Wednesday whether the proposal was viable, a day after his House counterpart also expressed reservations. – AP, 3-4-09
  • Obama takes aim at costly defense contracts: President Barack Obama said on Wednesday the U.S. government was paying too much for things it did not need and ordered a crackdown on spending “plagued by massive cost overruns and outright fraud.” – AP, 3-4-09
  • Senate votes to preserve earmarks in spending bill: The Senate has approved 13 pet spending projects sought by a lobbying firm accused of funneling illegal campaign contributions to lawmakers. Senators voted 52-43 to preserve the so-called earmarks in a 1,000-page- plus catchall spending bill even though they were sought by the PMA Group, a lobbying firm that closed up shop after being raided by the FBI last year. They included money for high-tech firms and colleges in Pennsylvania. – AP, 3-4-09
  • Obama’s plan to hike taxes meets fierce opposition: President Barack Obama’s call to raise taxes on high earners and greenhouse gas polluters met fierce opposition Tuesday from congressional Republicans and also a few Democrats. “I would never want to adversely affect anything that is charitable or good,” Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said of Obama’s call to limit high-income taxpayers’ itemized deductions for charitable donations and mortgage interest. – AP, 3-3-09
  • Trade nominee is 4th Obama pick to owe back taxes: Another Obama administration nominee has tax troubles. This time, it’s Ron Kirk, the president’s choice to be U.S. trade representative. Kirk owes an estimated $10,000 in back taxes from earlier in the decade and has agreed to pay them, the Senate Finance Committee said Monday. AP, 3-3-09
  • Obama pushes centers as one focus of health reform: President Barack Obama has been vague about details of his healthcare reform efforts, but he provided a hint on Monday of one direction he could take — community health centers. – Reuters, 3-3-09
  • Economic gloom shrouds Obama talks with Brown: A pall of economic gloom Tuesday hung over President Barack Obama’s talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who came armed with a plan for huge reforms of the reeling global finance system. – AFP, 3-3-09
  • Clinton vows to work for creation of Palestinian state: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed her “aggressive” Middle East diplomacy on Tuesday, saying she was sending two envoys to Syria and vowing to work towards a Palestinian state. – AFP, 3-3-09
  • US: ‘Inescapable’ movement to Palestinian state: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised Tuesday to work with the incoming Israeli government, but delivered a clear message that could put her at odds with the country’s next leader: Movement toward the establishment of a Palestinian state is “inescapable.” – AP, 3-2-09
  • Obama lifts veil on Bush-era terror methods: President Barack Obama’s administration lifted the veil further Monday on past “war on terror” tactics, releasing Bush-era legal memos and revealing the CIA destroyed 92 controversial interrogation videos. Hours after Attorney General Eric Holder ruled out the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique — because it amounted to torture — his Justice Department released nine internal documents from the previous administration, which had given legal grounding to the controversial policies….. – AP, 3-2-09
  • Extraordinary Measures A new memo shows just how far the Bush administration considered going in fighting the war on terror: In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Justice Department secretly gave the green light for the U.S. military to attack apartment buildings and office complexes inside the United States, deploy high-tech surveillance against U.S. citizens and potentially suspend First Amendment freedom-of-the-press rights in order to combat the terror threat, according to a memo released Monday. Many of the actions discussed in the Oct. 23, 2001, memo to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s chief lawyer, William Haynes, were never actually taken. – Newsweek, 3-2-09
  • Web-Savvy Obama Team Hits Unexpected Bumps Washington Post: Issues Of Technology, Security And Privacy Slow The Administration’s Effort To Foster Instant Communication: The team that ran the most technologically advanced presidential campaign in modern history is finding it difficult to adapt that model to government. WhiteHouse.gov, envisioned as the primary vehicle for President Obama to communicate with the online masses, has been overwhelmed by challenges that staffers did not foresee and technological problems they have yet to solve. – CBS News, 3-2-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama spoke at a White House conference on health care.

Political Quotes

  • Sen. Richard Shelby “Some banks should be allowed to fail, say two top Republicans”: “Close them down, get them out of business. If they’re dead, they ought to be buried,” Sen. Richard Shelby, the Ranking Republican on the banking committee, told ABC’s This Week. “We bury the small banks — we’ve got to bury some big ones, and send a strong message to the market.” He did not mention any banks by name, although he responded to a question about Citigroup by noting that “Citi’s always been a problem child.” – CNN, 3-8-09
  • Sen. John McCain “Some banks should be allowed to fail, say two top Republicans”: Former GOP presidential candidate John McCain told Fox News Sunday that he did not think President Obama “made the hard decision, and that is to let these banks fail.” He did not call for nationalization of troubled financial institutions, which many Republicans oppose, but said their assets should be sold. “Unfortunately, the shareholders and others will take a beating,” he said. – CNN, 3-8-09
  • Eric Cantor: White House spending stance has ‘no credibility’: The Virginia Republican said on State of the Union Sunday that the White House’s contention that the legislative process was too far along to change course was completely inaccurate. “Let’s call it how it is. First of all, if you make a promise, people expect that you live up to it. And that’s why this administration’s refusal to go in and change this bill is, I think, is a false position.
    “There is no way anyone could take what Mr. Orszag has said with any credibility. Of course they’re negotiating on this bill in the Senate right now. To say that we would have drawn it differently, but leave $430 billion plus on the table like this? No way. People are expecting this administration to live up to the promises made.”
    “There is no question that we’ve got to change this entire process, it is a system gone bad,” he said.
    “Listen, the future of the Republican Party is tied to the future of this country. People right now are desperate for leadership, are desperate for us in this party as well as the other to begin talking about ideas that deal with the relevant challenges that they’re facing every single day,” he said.
    “And it is not about individuals, it’s not about Rush, it’s not about Rahm Emanuel, it’s not about any particular individual… if we do not begin to start acting more like adults in this town and produce so that people can get back to work, all of us are very concerned with where this country will end up.” – CNN, 3-8-09
  • Remarks of President Barack Obama, Weekly Address, Saturday, March 7, 2009, Washington, DC – WH Blog, 3-7-09, Mp3
  • Obama: Time of crisis can be ‘great opportunity’: “We will get through this,” Obama said in his weekly radio and video address, taped Friday after another week of downbeat news. “We’ve experienced great trials before, And with every test, each generation has found the capacity to not only endure, but to prosper — to discover great opportunity in the midst of great crisis. That is what we can and must do today. And I am absolutely confident that is what we will do.”….
    “What I don’t think people should do is suddenly stuff money in their mattresses and pull back completely from spending,” Obama told the newspaper in an interview posted on its Web site Saturday. “I don’t think that people should be fearful about our future. I don’t think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions because the overwhelming majority of them actually have managed things reasonably well.”….
    “From the day I took office, I knew that solving this crisis would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight,” Obama said in the weekly address. “And we will continue to face difficult days in the months ahead. But I also believe that we will get through this — that if we act swiftly and boldly and responsibly, the United States of America will emerge stronger and more prosperous than it was before.” – AP, 3-7-09
  • Obama: US should reach out to Taliban moderates: “But you’ve seen conditions deteriorate over the last couple of years. The Taliban is bolder than it was. I think … in the southern regions of the country, you’re seeing them attack in ways that we have not seen previously.”… “The national government still has not gained the confidence of the Afghan people. And so it’s going to be critical for us to not only, get through these national elections to stabilize the security situation, but we’ve got to recast our policy so that our military, diplomatic and development goals are all aligned to ensure that al-Qaida and extremists that would do us harm don’t have the kinds of safe havens that allow them to operate.”… “If you talk to Gen. Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us.”…. “There could be situations — and I emphasize ‘could be’ because we haven’t made a determination yet — where, let’s say that we have a well-known al-Qaida operative that doesn’t surface very often, appears in a third country with whom we don’t have an extradition relationship or would not be willing to prosecute, but we think is a very dangerous person.” – AP, 3-7-09
  • Sen. McCain: ‘Generational Theft’ Being Committed With Big Government Spending: Well, it is impossible for anyone to predict the market, but I think two things. One, America will come out of this. We will. There is no doubt about it. There have been worse times, not many, and this is a terrible time, but we will come out of it, but I think the market might be reacting because they have not confidence yet that the Obama administration is taking the necessary steps to cure the housing market and to bring about an economic recovery. They do not have confidence that the government is taking sufficient steps early enough that they are sort of playing catch-up.
    I think two things. One is that these steps have not been taken early enough. They always seem to be reacting to circumstances rather than anticipating. The second thing is that we are laying a debt on future generations of Americans, which is unconscionable. We are committing generational theft when we just keep spending hundreds of billions and even trillions of dollars at a time.
    We will continue to fight. There are 9,000 earmarks in it. Incredibly, the president and his chief of staff and director of his budget of OMD have both said this is last year’s business. It is this year’s business. It is this is this year’s spending, this year’s debt and this year’s pork barrel projects which breeds corruption, and we have former members of Congress convicted, in prison, and it is all because to a large degree — because of this earmark, pork barrel spending, which is – just, I cannot describe to you have a terrible it is, and the American people are tightening their belts and having to make tough decisions. Meanwhile, it is business as usual here in the Congress. $2 million for astronomy awareness in Hawaii.
    I think a lot of them are, but there are appropriators, Republicans, a number of them, who are on the Appropriations Committee, who consistently vote against our efforts to curtail this outrageous spending, and again I want to point out the reason we did not have a bill last year is that the Democrats would not pass these bills last year. They wanted to wait until this year so they could get a better deal, and this bill is eight percent more spending than we did last year in the toughest of times, and there are 9,000 pork barrel projects on it. It is as bad as anything as I have seen around here, given the economy of the country….
    Well, the president said he wants to work on reform. It is long overdue. We need to work on reform, and he will face some of the greatest resistance from his own party, who have said, majority leader and Congressman Steny Hoyer’s said, “We are not going to change. It is our prerogative.”….
    Forty percent Republican earmarks. Republicans let’s spending get completely out of control. We paid a very heavy penalty for it in the last election because we did not stick to our principles.
    I think you are going to see a real revolt out there on the part of the voters. We are seeing an increase in the independent voter registration. Americans are very fed up. Look at new low approval ratings for Congress. We either act or they are going to elect people who will act responsibly.

    If we keep this up, two things, I think, are going to happen. At some point the Chinese may stop buying our debt. The second thing that’s going to happen, if we keep printing money, trillions of dollars worth that we don’t have, then it is going to cause hyperinflation. And that inflation is the greatest enemy of the middle-income Americans, because they are on a fixed income. And it has happened in the past. It would not be the first time that governments got into such deep debt that they printed more money, and the currency was debased. I worry a great deal about it when we are laying these multi- trillion dollar debts on future generations of Americans. – Fox News, 3-5-09

  • Karl Rove: Obama, not Bush, is to blame for the financial crisis: “It makes them look small and churlish. And hastens the moment in which people say, you know what, it is your problem. And frankly, it is their problem in many respects…. he president and every Democrat worth his or her salt were out today saying the old guy’s numbers, the old guy’s job losses, the old guy’s recession. When will it be their recession?” – Dallas Morning News, 3-6-09
  • Barack Obama “Rebuilding America, town by town”: This city of Columbus needs the courage and the commitment of this graduating class to keep it safe, to make sure that people have the protection that they need. This economy needs your employment to keep it running. Just this morning we learned that we lost another 651,000 jobs throughout the country in the month of February alone, which brings the total number of jobs lost in this recession to an astounding 4.4 million.
    Four point four million jobs. I don’t need to tell the people of this state what statistics like this mean, because so many of you have been watching jobs disappear long before this recession hit….
    In Savannah, Georgia, the police department would use this funding to hire more crime and intelligence analysts and put more cops on the beat protecting our schools. In Long Beach, California, it will be able to help fund 17,000 hours of overtime for law enforcement officials who are needed in high-crime areas. West Haven, Connecticut will be able to restore crime prevention programs that were cut, even though they improved the quality of life in the city’s most troubled neighborhoods. And the state of Iowa will be able to rehire drug enforcement….
    So for those who still doubt the wisdom of our recovery plan, I ask them to talk to the teachers who are still able to teach our children because we passed this plan. I ask them to talk to the nurses who are still able to care for our sick, and the firefighters and first responders who will still be able to keep our communities safe. I ask them to come to Ohio and meet the 25 men and women who will soon be protecting the streets of Columbus because we passed this plan. (Applause.) I look at these young men and women, I look into their eyes and I see their badges today and I know we did the right thing. – WH Blog, 3-7-09
  • Obama orders overhaul of ‘broken’ US contracting: “Far too often, the spending is plagued by massive cost overruns, outright fraud, and the absence of oversight and accountability…. It starts with reforming our broken system of government contracting. There is a fundamental public trust that we must uphold. The American people’s money must be spent to advance their priorities, not to line the pockets of contractors or to maintain projects that don’t work.” – AP, 3-4-09
  • Britain PM Gordon Brown: US must lead on economy, climate change: “We should seize this moment because never before have I seen a world willing to come together so much, never before has that been more needed.”… Brown pushed lawmakers to embrace his “global New Deal” plan for overhauling the rules of international finance and share the wealth of a world economy he promised would double over the next 20 years. President Barack Obama’s historic election has given “the whole world renewed hope in itself,” he said, adding that “now more than ever the rest of the world wants to work with you” including “your friend Europe.”… “Should we succumb to a race to the bottom and to a protectionism that history tells us that in the end protects no one? No.”… “I believe you, the nation that had the vision to put a man on the moon, are also the nation with a vision to protect and preserve our planet Earth.”… “Our shared message to Iran, it is simple: We are ready for you to rejoin the international community, but first you must cease your threats and suspend your nuclear programs.”… AFP, 3-4-09
  • REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AND BRITISH PRIME MINISTER GORDON BROWN AFTER MEETING: “Where are the Brits? They’re over there,” President Obama said, playfully, during a press Q&A following a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
    “In fact, they’re everywhere,” Prime Minister Brown replied. And in that spirit of Anglo-American equity, the President and Prime Minister took questions from reporters from both sides of the pond.
    “I think that there are a set of shared values and shared assumptions between us,” President Obama said said during a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. “That we believe in the free market, we believe in a government that is not overbearing and allows entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive, but we also share a common belief that there have to be sufficient regulatory structures in place so that the market doesn’t spin out of control.” – WH Blog, 3-3-09
  • President Obama to PBS’ “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” in an interview “Analysis: Obama embracing crisis as opportunity”: “I think that we are at an extraordinary moment that is full of peril but full of possibility, and I think that’s the time you want to be president,” Obama told PBS’ “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” in an interview Friday. “I think there’s a sense that right now we are having to make some very big decisions that will help determine the direction of this country, and in ways large and small the direction of the world for the next generation. “And I won’t lie to you. I wish that they weren’t all having to be made at once. It would nice to be able to stage them on one another,” Obama added. – AP, 3-2-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

President Obama at the Graduation of the Columbus Police Division’s 114th Class

White House photo 3/6/09 by Pete Souza

Jobs in Ohio

Today the President went to Ohio for the Graduation of the Columbus Police Division’s 114th Class. The bad economic numbers are more than statistics there, but the recovery act did bring some good news.

Learn More

President Barack Obama and White House Domestic Advisor Melody Barnes listen as firefighter Travis Ulerick of Dublin, Ind., addresses the White House Forum on Health Reform, Thursday, March 5, 2009, in the East Room at the White House.

White House photo 3/5/09 by Pete Souza

White House Forum on Health Reform

The forum was a major step in the monumental, transparent, imperative process to reform America’s health care system.

HealthReform.gov
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Contracting Reform

Historians’ Comments

  • Bruce Buchanan “Obama taking big political risk with budget”: “What you’ve got is a context that makes a very ambitious budget strategy possible in a way that wouldn’t be possible in times we would call normal,” said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas. “This is a rare moment.” – San Francisco Chronicle, 3-8-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama taking big political risk with budget”: As it is, taking on health care, global warming and a major increase in spending on education and social programs all at once is “a huge political risk,” said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University. “In 2004, we forget, Bush looked as strong as any president,” Zelizer said, until he took on just one issue, Social Security, and failed. – San Francisco Chronicle, 3-8-09
  • Bruce Schulman “Obama taking big political risk with budget”: By reaching so high, Obama’s fortunes rest on the economy. “If the economy recovers and there’s prosperity in 2011, he’ll beat any Republican,” said Boston University historian Bruce Schulman. “If not, many, many Republicans could beat him.” – San Francisco Chronicle, 3-8-09
  • David Frum “Why Rush is Wrong”: The party of Buckley and Reagan is now bereft and dominated by the politics of Limbaugh. A conservative’s lament. – Newsweek, 3-7-09
  • Robert Dallek “Will Obama Be a President Defined by War?”: It’s the unfinished agendas of domestic reformers that have lately been on the minds of presidential historians like Robert Dallek. Dallek has in recent months become a Cassandra about Obama’s plans for reform, prophesying the potential undoing of Obama’s domestic agenda by affairs abroad. He tends to reference the foreboding historical adage, “war kills reform.”… “If Obama gets drawn too deeply into Afghanistan it can be very destructive to his reform agenda,” Dallek said. – Real Clear Politics, 3-2-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Will Obama Be a President Defined by War?”: “American history teaches us that the world has a way of unexpectedly catching a president’s attention and priority,” said Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University. “Not only do presidents have limited power to control the economy but limited power to predict the economy,” Lichtman said. – Real Clear Politics, 3-2-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Will Obama use ‘Facebook politics’?”: The battle over the federal budget is about to begin. President Obama has laid out an ambitious agenda…. As the president pushes for Congress to enact his budget, he is unlikely to receive much Republican support. The vote over the first economic stimulus bill revealed that partisanship is alive and well in Washington. In addition, the budget proposal will open the president up to the familiar Republican attack of being a tax-and- spend liberal. Obama should not underestimate how effective such criticism can be. He can just ask Bill Clinton, who saw Republicans take over Congress in 1994 following the defeat of his health care proposal….
    Using what might be called “Facebook politics,” the netroots could raise money to campaign against opponents of Obama’s budget proposals. They might also encourage volunteers to explain and promote Obama’s policies to their neighbors. They could also provide a forum to counteract Republican attacks, and remind senators of the kind of voter turnout they might encounter in the midterm elections if they decide to stand in the way of Obama’s program. Of course, Republicans could counter with their own Web-based politics, but so far they have lagged behind the Democrats. When Obama proposed the economic stimulus legislation in January, he didn’t really use Facebook politics and instead relied on an inside-the-beltway approach. He let legislators hammer out the details without heavy-handed presidential intervention….
    If Obama can show that Facebook politics is as organizationally strong as the party politics of yesteryear, then he would on to something big. Not only would the president be able to tap into a powerful political army that could pressure legislators into supporting his agenda, but he very well could introduce a new paradigm for governance, one that would remain a model for future presidents. On the other hand, when he calls on the netroots to support him against those pesky senators, he might learn that many of his virtual supporters have already clicked onto another page. – CNN, 3-2-09
  • Leo Ribuffo “Analysis: Obama embracing crisis as opportunity”: “Whenever there’s a crisis in American life, whoever is in charge has used it for a backlogged agenda,” said Leo Ribuffo, a history professor at George Washington University. “This is what leaders are supposed to do: take advantage of the situation to do what they think is good for the country.” – AP, 3-2-09
  • Robert Dallek “The First 100 Days: Lyndon Johnson Fulfilled Kennedy’s Legacy Johnson wanted to assure the country that he would carryout the policies of his predecessor”: “By contrast with Mr. Obama, Johnson had no mandate to govern except for being vice president. No one expected a Southern politician to suddenly replace the youngest man ever elected to the White House. . . . Johnson understood that his greatest initial challenge was to provide reassurance—to convince not just Americans but people around the world, who looked to the United States for leadership in the cold war, that he could measure up to the standard JFK had set as an effective president at home and abroad.” – US News & World Report, 3-5-09
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