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
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