April 20, 2009: President Obama at the Summit of the Americas

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY: 

The President speaks at the Summit of the Americas

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • President Barack Obama: First 100 Days PhotosCharlotte Observer
  • Poll shows 71% trust Obama to fix the economy: The Gallup survey also finds that 51% of respondents say they have confidence in Democratic congressional leaders when it comes to the economy. Thirty-eight percent felt that way about Republican leaders. That puts Obama ahead of some of the country’s leading economic experts: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke had a 49% rating in the poll and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner drew 47%…. – LAT, 4-14-09
  • Poll: Gov. Charlie Crist remains popular in state: Sixty-six percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats and independents approve of the way he is handling his job, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. Crist is considering passing up a second term for the U.S. Senate seat held by Mel Martinez, who is stepping down… – Miami Herald, 4-15-09
  • Murphy on track to win special election: With all of the unchallenged absentee and overseas military ballots counted, Democrat Scott Murphy leads Republican Jim Tedisco by 273 votes and looks in extremely strong position to prevail in the New York special election. Murphy has 79,839 votes, while Tedisco has 79,566 votes. – Politico, 4-17-09
  • Murphy’s lead grows to 178 votes in House race: Democrat Scott Murphy widened his lead over Republican James Tedisco to 178 votes on Thursday in the too-close-to- call race for New York’s 20th Congressional District seat. The state Board of Elections reported that the latest unofficial tally showed Murphy with 79,452 votes to Tedisco’s 79,274. The lead has fluctuated almost daily since the special election was held on March 31, though Murphy has been ahead almost every day. On Wednesday, Murphy led by 86 votes. AP, 4-16-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • White House: Obama to address credit card abuses: The White House says it will back congressional efforts to clamp down on credit card abuses. The House and Senate are considering legislation aimed at limiting credit card companies’ ability to raise interest rates on existing balances and require greater disclosure…. – AP, 4-19-09
  • Iran president urges full defense for US reporter: President Barack Obama said Sunday he was “gravely concerned” about Saberi’s safety and well-being and was confident she wasn’t involved in espionage. The U.S. has called the charges baseless and said Iran would gain U.S. goodwill if it “responded in a positive way” to the case. “She is an Iranian-American who was interested in the country which her family came from. And it is appropriate for her to be treated as such and to be released,” Obama said. Saberi’s case has been an irritant in U.S.-Iran relations at a time when Obama is offering to start a dialogue between the longtime adversaries. A few days before her sentence was announced, Ahmadinejad gave the clearest signal yet that Iran, too, was ready for a new relationship with the U.S. – AP, 4-19-09
  • Obama: Cuba has steps it can take right now: President Barack Obama says Cuba should release political prisoners, afford greater freedoms and reduce fees on money sent from the United States to Cuba…. – AP, 4-19-09
  • Obama defends greeting Hugo Chavez The president says Americans want him to interact with foreign leaders and that the U.S. has nothing to fear from Venezuela: Rebuffing criticism of the warm greetings he exchanged with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, President Obama said today that the United States, with its overwhelming military superiority and need to improve its global image, can afford to extend such diplomatic “courtesy.” Obama, in a news conference capping a three-day meeting of leaders from the Western Hemisphere, also said the U.S. must engage other countries through humanitarian gestures, not simply military intervention…. – LAT, 4-19-09
  • Chavez Vows To Restore Ambassador In U.S. At Summit, Venezuela Leader Sees “New Era” Of Relations; Ambassador Was Pulled In Sept.: Hugo Chavez said Saturday that he is restoring Venezuela’s ambassador in Washington, voicing hopes for a “new era” in U.S. relations after barely getting to know U.S. President Barack Obama at a regional summit. Venezuela’s socialist leader told reporters at the Summit of the Americas that he will propose Roy Chaderton, the South American nation’s current ambassador to The Organization of American States, as the new diplomat in Washington…. – CBS News, 4-18-09
  • Obama extends hands to Chavez, Ortega at summit: President Barack Obama offered a spirit of cooperation to America’s hemispheric neighbors at a summit Saturday, listening to complaints about past U.S. meddling and even reaching out to Venezuela’s leftist leader. While he worked to ease friction between the U.S. and their countries, Obama cautioned leaders at the Summit of the Americas to resist a temptation to blame all their problems on their behemoth neighbor to the north…. – AP, 4-18-09
  • What recession? Funds flow for Senate races: The recession shadowing the United States and draining Americans’ savings has hardly dented efforts by Senate candidates to raise cash for the 2010 elections, and Democrats appear ahead early in the game…. – Reuters, 4-18-09
  • Wanted: Computer hackers … to help government: Federal authorities aren’t looking to prosecute them, but to pay them to secure the nation’s networks. General Dynamics Information Technology put out an ad last month on behalf of the Homeland Security Department seeking someone who could “think like the bad guy.” Applicants, it said, must understand hackers’ tools and tactics and be able to analyze Internet traffic and identify vulnerabilities in the federal systems. – AP, 4-18-09
  • US to boycott United Nations racism meeting: The Obama administration will boycott “with regret” a U.N. conference on racism next week over objectionable language in the meeting’s final document that could single out Israel for criticism and restrict free speech, the State Department said Saturday. The decision follows weeks of furious internal debate and will likely please Israel and Jewish groups that lobbied against U.S. participation. But the move upset human rights advocates and some in the African-American community who had hoped that President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, would send an official delegation…. – AP, 4-18-09
  • Palin stands against abortion during Ind. speech: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, speaking at anti-abortion group’s dinner, criticized President Barack Obama for supporting abortion rights and challenged the idea that unplanned pregnancies are a nuisance that can be solved by abortion…. – AP, 4-17-09
  • Obama pledges help to slow US arms flow: Confronting a Mexican drug war that is “sowing chaos in our communities,” President Barack Obama signaled Thursday he will not seek renewal of a U.S. assault weapons ban but instead will step up enforcement of laws banning the transfer of such guns across the border…. – AP, 4-17-09
  • Obama Calls for Thaw in U.S. Relations With Cuba: President Obama, seeking to thaw long-frozen relations with Cuba, told a gathering of Western Hemisphere leaders on Friday that “the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba,” and that he was willing to have his administration engage the Castro government on a wide array of issues….. “I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled in overcoming decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day,” Mr. Obama said, adding that he was “prepared to have my administration engage with the Cuban government on a wide range of issues — from human rights, free speech, and democratic reform to drugs, migration, and economic issues.” “Let me be clear,” Mr. Obama said. “I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking. But I do believe we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction.” – NYT, 4-17-09
  • Obama ‘seeks a new beginning’ with Cuba, talks: Trading their warmest words in a half-century, the United States and Cuba built momentum toward renewed ties on Friday, with President Barack Obama declaring he “seeks a new beginning” — including direct talks — with the island’s communist regime. As leaders of the Americas gathered for a summit in this Caribbean nation, the head of the Organization of American States even said he’ll ask his group to invite Cuba back after 47 years. In remarks kicking off the weekend gathering of nations — of which Cuba was the only country in the region not represented — Obama repeated the kind of remarks toward the Castro regime that marked his campaign for the presidency. “The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba,” he said at the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony. “I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled to overcome decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day.”… – AP, 4-17-09
  • CIA objections slowed torture memos release: Four former CIA directors opposed releasing classified Bush-era interrogation memos, officials say, describing objections that went all the way to the White House and slowed release of the records…. – AP, 4-17-09
  • Obama won’t charge CIA officers for rough tactics: In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, CIA operatives were allowed to shackle, strip and waterboard terror suspects. Now, President Barack Obama has assured these operatives that they will not be prosecuted for their rough interrogation tactics…. – AP, 4-17-09
  • White House says Biden to speak at 3 graduations: Vice President Joe Biden will speak at graduations at Syracuse University, Wake Forest University and at the United States Air Force Academy…. – AP, 4-17-09
  • Pirate hostage captain praises SEAL ‘superheroes’: The unassuming ship captain who escaped the clutches of Somali pirates made a triumphant return home Friday, insisting he’s no hero, just an ordinary seaman. Richard Phillips said the U.S. Navy, which pulled off the daring high-seas rescue that ended his five-day captivity, deserves the credit. “They’re the superheroes,” a relaxed, hale-looking Phillips said upon his arrival at Burlington International Airport. “They’re the titans. They’re impossible men doing an impossible job, and they did the impossible with me. … They’re at the point of the sword every day, doing an impossible job every day.”… – AP, 4-17-09
  • US to fund research with some embryonic stem cells: When President Barack Obama eased limits on taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research, the big question became how far scientists could go. Friday, the government answered: They must use cells culled from fertility clinic embryos that otherwise would be thrown away. Draft guidelines released by the National Institutes of Health reflect rules with broad congressional support, excluding more controversial sources such as cells derived from embryos created just for experiments…. – AP, 4-17-09
  • Obama to Push to Ratify Treaty on Gun Trafficking: President Obama, vowing to confront drug cartels that are “sowing chaos in our communities,” called Thursday for the Senate to ratify a long-stalled treaty aimed at curbing illegal arms trafficking. But Mr. Obama also suggested that he would not press lawmakers to revive an expired ban on assault weapons. On the first day of a four-day swing through Latin America, Mr. Obama arrived here on Thursday afternoon for a visit that was intended to demonstrate what he called “a new era” in United States-Mexican relations and to show support for his Mexican counterpart, President Felipe Calderón. Stemming the rising tide of drug violence was the centerpiece of their agenda…. – NYT, 4-16-09
  • Obama outlines vision for high-speed rail network: President Barack Obama on Thursday outlined plans for a high-speed rail network he said would change the way Americans travel, drawing comparisons to the 1950s creation of the interstate highway system. Obama was careful to point out that his plan was only a down payment on an ambitious plan that, if realized, could connect Chicago and St. Louis, Orlando and Miami, Portland and Seattle and dozens of other metropolitan areas around the country with high-speed trains…. – AP, 4-16-09
  • Democrats: Texas gov should disavow secession talk: In a state that once was its own nation, a Republican governor who talked about secession without completely dismissing the idea has Democratic lawmakers in an uproar. Gov. Rick Perry, in comments following an anti-tax “tea party” Wednesday, never did advocate Texas breaking away from the United States but suggested that Texans might at some point get so fed up they would want to leave the union. That was enough to feed opinions for and against secession on Web sites, cable TV and talk radio across the nation….. – AP, 4-16-09
  • Obama to seek ratification of arms treaty: Confronting a security threat on the America’s doorstep, President Barack Obama arrived Thursday in Mexico for a swift diplomatic mission to show solidarity on drugs and guns with a troubled neighbor — and to prove the U.S. is serious about the battle against trafficking…. – AP, 4-16-09
  • Obama says Cuba should make next move on relations: President Barack Obama wants Havana to make the next move to improve U.S.-Cuba relations, saying Thursday that he needs to see signs of changes on the island before he makes any more overtures. Obama already has lifted restrictions on visits and money sent to Cuba by Americans with families there — steps he called “extraordinarily significant” for those families, and a show of good faith by the U.S. government that it wants to recast the relationship. But he reiterated that the U.S. won’t unilaterally end its trade embargo against Cuba, even though the policy is widely seen as a failure that has complicated U.S. relations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean…. – AP, 4-16-09
  • Vice president announces $4B in smart energy grid grants: Vice President Joe Biden used a visit to a mid-Missouri transformer factory Thursday to highlight how the federal economic stimulus package is propelling a new wind-energy project and spinning off jobs. Speaking from the factory floor of ABB Inc., Biden announced that the Department of Energy will award about $4 billion in grants under the stimulus package to improve the nation’s electric grid…. – AP, 4-16-09
  • For Gov. Palin, a Rough Return to the Day Job: Before Tina Fey and “Drill, baby, drill,” there was mud season here in the Alaskan capital. This soggy, socked-in spring has been no exception, but it sure has been different in other ways. For Gov. Sarah Palin, Republican meteor, getting back to governing has not been easy…. And then there is the pervasive sense among many lawmakers, Republican and Democrat, that a new political reality has overtaken this remote government seat. “The source of the greatest tension this year between the Legislature and the executive has been certainly the appearance that the executive is prioritizing her national image, her national brand, over the day-to-day operations of state government and the interests of the State of Alaska,” said Mike Hawker, the Republican co-chairman of the House Finance Committee…. – NYT, 4-16-09
  • McCain Criticized For Palin Snub: Mr. McCain is coming under fire for his conspicuous memory lapse when listing the names of Republican governors who could be the next in line to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012. Mrs. Palin did not make the cut. “We have, I’m happy to say, a lot of voices out there,” Mr. McCain told host Jay Leno before listing Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Utah Gov. Jim Huntsman, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. “There are a lot of governors out there who are young and dynamic.” Recognizing his error, the Arizona senator added, “I’ve left out somebody’s name, and I’m going to hear about it.” That somebody was Mrs. Palin. By failing to mention Mrs. Palin’s name, some conservatives say Mr. McCain is fracturing a Republican Party that must start uniting now if it is going to topple Mr. Obama in 2012. – The Bulletin, 4-15-09
  • ‘Regular Joe’ plays a key White House role As vice president, Biden is yin to Obama’s yang. But he’s definitely no Cheney: Joe Biden leans into the microphone and tells the assembled Washington elites just how important he has become to his new boss, Barack Obama. “To give you an idea of how close we are,” the vice president says at the annual Gridiron dinner of journalists and politicos, “he told me that next year – maybe, just maybe – he’s going to give me his BlackBerry e-mail address.” Ba-da-boom. By many accounts, Vice President Biden is, in fact, a key player in the Obama White House, with a finger in most of the central issues of the day. Whether it’s going to Munich, Germany, to deliver the administration’s first major foreign-policy address or traveling around the country as head of the Middle Class Task Force and chief enforcer of stimulus spending or attending most of President Obama’s daily briefings, Mr. Biden appears to enjoy the confidence of the boss – and plenty of face time…. – CS Monitor, 4-15-09
  • Thousands rally with ‘tea parties’ on tax day: Whipped up by conservative commentators and bloggers, tens of thousands of protesters staged “tea parties” around the country Wednesday to tap into the collective angst stirred up by a bad economy, government spending and bailouts. The rallies were directed at President Barack Obama’s new administration on a symbolic day: the deadline to file income taxes. Protesters even threw what appeared to be a box of tea bags toward the White House, causing a brief lockdown at the compound…. – AP, 4-15-09
  • Tax Day Is Met With Tea Parties: Some people wore their tea bags hanging from umbrellas or eyeglasses. Others simply tossed them on the White House lawn. Wednesday’s deadline for filing income tax returns offered some Americans a timely excuse to vent their frustrations as demonstrators attended more than 750 Tax Day tea parties in cities like Boston, Washington, East Hampton, N.Y., and Yakima, Wash. The events were meant to protest government spending, particularly the Obama administration’s $787 billion stimulus package and its $3.5 trillion budget…. – NYT, 4-15-09
  • Obamas report $2.7 million in income for 2008: President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, millionaires from his best-selling books, made $2.7 million last year and paid just under one-third of their adjusted income in federal taxes. While the income, mostly his, was far more than the U.S. median household income of about $50,000, it was quite a decrease from the $4.2 million the Obamas made in 2007…. –
  • Senator’s Ballot in Upstate Race Disputed: James N. Tedisco, the Republican candidate in the deadlocked race for Congress in New York’s 20th District, has been challenging absentee ballots right and left, his Democratic rival complains. But mostly left. On Tuesday, his lawyers challenged the ballot of one person they could be fairly certain had voted for Scott Murphy, Mr. Tedisco’s Democratic opponent: Kirsten E. Gillibrand, whose appointment to the Senate created the job opening. With Mr. Tedisco trailing Mr. Murphy by just 47 votes as of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, every vote still up for grabs takes on heightened significance. But the move plays into Mr. Murphy’s accusations that Mr. Tedisco is systematically trying to disenfranchise Democratic voters. Mr. Murphy’s lawyers say Republicans have objected to hundreds of ballots mailed in from New York City or Florida, signed by voters with Jewish- or Hispanic-sounding surnames, or sent by students at Skidmore College…. – NYT, 4-15-09
  • Ruling Hampers Republican’s Chances in New York: A court ruling Wednesday on special election absentee ballot challenges dealt another setback to Republican Tedisco is counting on absentees to eke out a victory over Democrat Scott Murphy in New York’s 20th Congressional District. A justice in the Dutchess County branch of the Supreme Court ruled that some of the reasons the Tedisco camp has been using for for challenging absentee ballots are invalid…. – CQ Politics, 4-15-09
  • Obama tempers optimism with reality on economy: Aiming to assert control over the nation’s economic debate, President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned Americans eager for good news that “by no means are we out of the woods” and argued his broad domestic agenda is the path to recovery. In a speech at Georgetown University, Obama aimed to juggle his recent glass-half-full takes on the economy with a determination to not be stamped as naive in the face lingering problems. He summarized actions his administration has taken to steady the limping economy and coupled that with a fresh overview of his domestic goals…. – AP, 4-14-09
  • Republicans criticize report on right-wing groups: Republicans on Wednesday said a Homeland Security Department intelligence assessment unfairly characterizes military veterans as right-wing extremists. House Republican leader John Boehner described the report as offensive and called on the agency to apologize to veterans…. “To characterize men and women returning home after defending our country as potential terrorists is offensive and unacceptable,” said Boehner, R-Ohio. – AP, 4-15-09
  • Here’s Bo! Obamas show pooch with ‘star quality’: First pooch Bo got star treatment and his first backyard romp at the White House on Tuesday — and even presidential clearance to visit the Oval Office. But he better not get any inflated ideas about doggy sleeping arrangements. “Not in my bed,” declared Barack Obama. The nation got its long-awaited first look at Bo in action as the Obamas showed off the family’s new dog on the South Lawn. First lady Michelle Obama did most of the walking while the 6-month-old Portuguese water dog scampered about. Then daughter Malia took a turn, and Bo took off running…. – AP, 4-14-09 Bo’s First Day: WH Blog, 4-14-09
  • PROMISES, PROMISES: Is Obama dog a rescue or not?: Is Bo a rescued dog or not? Did President Obama keep or break a campaign promise in picking the purebred as the family’s new pet? The twists and turns of the Portuguese water dog’s route to the White House make for the kind of intrigue that political junkies and the highly opinionated dog world delight in…. – AP, 4-13-09 A page from Bo’s baby book: Baltimore Sun, 4-14-09
  • Ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich pleads not guilty: Ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich pleaded not guilty to racketeering and fraud charges Tuesday, defiantly embarking on a long journey to clear his name but facing serious money problems and without a team of lawyers in place. “I’m glad this process has finally begun,” the impeached former governor told the media throng that spilled into the street in front of the courthouse after he and his brother, Robert, were arraigned on corruption charges. “It’s the end of the beginning in one respect but it’s the beginning of another aspect” of the case, Blagojevich said. “That is the beginning of me being able to prove and clear my name and be vindicated of what are inaccurate allegations.”… – AP, 4-14-09
  • Report warns of rise of right-wing extremists: In a report made public today, the Department of Homeland Security warns that the recession and the election of President Obama are “fueling resurgence” of right-wing extremist groups that are seeking new recruits, especially returning veterans…. – USA Today, 4-14-09
  • Is the GOP Waving Bye-Bye to Sarah Palin?: Worse than Dan Quayle before her, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s bright star has fast faded in the eyes of Washington Republican officials and analysts, calling into question her efforts to become a national party figure ready to run for the White House. “She’s just not ready for prime time,” said a party strategist who has worked for former President Bush. “I mean, she’s starting to look like she’s having trouble being governor of Alaska.” At issue is her weak debut, hampered by the mishandling of her by Sen. John McCain’s campaign, and subsequent family issues such as the most recent tiff with Levi Johnston, the father of her first grandchild and ex-fiancé of her daughter Bristol…. – US News & World Report, 4-14-09
  • Coleman’s Senate appeal coming, but odds are long: Dealt a stinging loss in his election trial, Republican Norm Coleman must overcome some daunting challenges to find his way back to the U.S. Senate. He’ll have to convince the Minnesota Supreme Court that three veteran trial judges botched his lawsuit challenging Democrat Al Franken’s lead — now at 312 votes — and hope justices order more rejected absentee ballots to be counted. Then, Coleman needs those ballots to break disproportionately for him to vault him past Franken…. – AP, 4-14-09
  • Obamas host first White House egg roll: President Barack Obama welcomed thousands of children and families to the White House Easter Egg Roll Monday, calling it “one of the greatest White House traditions.” Obama and his wife, Michelle, appeared with on a balcony overlooking the South Lawn where thousands of children and families took a break from participating in the festivities to listen and cheer enthusiastically for the first family. The president’s daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama, were also there, along with his mother-in-law Marian Robinson. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, stood on the driveway beneath the balcony…. – Mrs. Obama reminded the participants of the event’s theme, “Let’s go play.” “Our goal today is just to have fun,” she said. “We want to focus on activity, healthy eating. We’ve got yoga, we’ve got dancing, we’ve got storytelling, we’ve got Easter Egg decorating; oh we’ve got basketball, a little soccer as well.” “We want everybody to think about moving their bodies,” she added. – AP, 4-13-09
  • Inside the Obamas’ Easter Egg Roll: The President and First Family welcome kids to the South Lawn of the White House for a day of play – People, 4-13-09
  • Dog-loving CEOs have a few tips for the Obamas and Bo: “They say, if you want a friend in Washington,” President Obama told Jay Leno, “get a dog.” The Obamas at last got theirs — a 6-month-old, black-and-white Portuguese water dog named Bo, expected to be officially introduced today — fulfilling the long-anticipated campaign promise to daughters Sasha and Malia…. – USA Today, 4-13-09
  • Murphy retains 20-vote lead over Tedisco: Democrat Scott Murphy leads by 20 votes over Republican James Tedisco in the 20th Congressional District race, according to the latest unofficial election results. As of Monday, Murphy had 77,944 votes and Tedisco had 77,924 votes in a race that has been a see-saw…. – Poughkeepsie Journal, 4-14-09
  • Minn. court declares Franken leading vote-getter: A Minnesota court confirmed Monday that Democrat Al Franken won the most votes in his 2008 Senate race against Republican Norm Coleman, who immediately announced plans to appeal the decision. Coleman has 10 days to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Once the petition is filed, it could further delay the seating of Minnesota’s second senator for weeks. “It’s time that Minnesota like every other state have two” senators, a jovial Franken said outside his Minneapolis townhouse with his wife Franni at his side. “I would call on Senator Coleman to allow me to get to work for the people of Minnesota as soon as possible.”… – AP, 4-13-09
  • Bush’s high road highlights contrasts with Cheney: When the most recent former president convenes 20 former aides for a brainstorming session today about the George W. Bush Policy Institute, one big figure will be missing, according to news reports. Former vice president Dick Cheney, the alleged Svengali of the eight-year Bush administration, will be absent, tending to his own affairs – which have recently included blistering attacks on the Obama administration for abandoning the interrogations of terrorism suspects that many people considered torture. Bush, by contrast, has taken the high road, refusing opportunities to criticize the new president even in the face of repeated jabs by members of the Obama administration, and Obama’s own frequent declarations about the sorry state of affairs he “inherited” from Bush. – Boston Globe, 4-13-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President's Weekly Address: Efficiency and Innovation

Political Quotes

  • To Learn from History, Not Be Trapped by It: All of us must now renew the common stake that we have in one another. I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past, and that trust has to be earned over time. While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. (Applause.) There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values. So I’m here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration…. – WH Blog, 4-18-09
  • Obama: Like families, govt to make hard choices: Families are making tough decisions about their money and so too will their government, President Barack Obama said Saturday, promising that spending cuts are coming — and soon. “If we’re going to rebuild our economy on a solid foundation, we need to change the way we do business in Washington. We need to restore the American people’s confidence in their government — that it is on their side, spending their money wisely, to meet their families’ needs,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address, released while he attended the Summit of the Americans in Trinidad. “In the coming weeks, I will be announcing the elimination of dozens of government programs shown to be wasteful or ineffective,” he said. “In this effort, there will be no sacred cows and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it’s time their government did the same.” “That is why I have assembled a team of management, technology and budget experts to guide us in this work,” he said, “leaders who will help us revamp government operations from top to bottom and ensure that the federal government is truly working for the American people.” AP, 4-18-09 Transcript: WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Discusses Efforts to Reform Spending, Government Waste; Names Chief Performance Officer and Chief Technology Office
  • Sarah Palin’s Indiana speech: “You can see Russia from Alaska”: “Alaska is the only state in the nation with a negative tax rate,” she said. “No income tax, no state sales tax, no state property tax and I want to keep it that way because I believe our families and small business can spend the money they earn better than government she can.” “There just for a fleeting moment I thought, I knew, nobody knows me here. Nobody would ever know. I thought, wow, it is easy. It could be easy to think maybe of trying to change the circumstances. No one would know. No one would ever know.” But it was time, she said, to “walk the walk” in regards to her long-standing pro-life convictions. “I had just enough faith to know that trying to change the circumstances wasn’t any answer,” she said. “The moment he was born, I knew that moment my prayers had been answered,” Palin said. “Trig is a miracle. He is the best thing that ever happened to me and I want other women to have that opportunity.”…  She criticized the economic stimulus package as giving her heartburn proclaiming that “this isn’t free money, folks.” “Yes, you can see Russia from Alaska,” she said to much laughter. – CS Monitor, 4-18-09
  • McCain picked Palin from 26 possible VPs in ‘high risk, high reward’ move: Ronald Reagan’s former counsel A.B. Culvahouse was in charge of the candidate partner vetting process and helped the Arizona senator pare down the list. But McCain, Culvahouse revealed Friday, was intrigued by Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old Alaska governor and mother of five. That was understandable, the former presidential aide said. Even the most cynical of his 30 Washington, D.C., attorney vetters were impressed by her presence. “She fills up a room,” Culvahouse told a Washington meeting of the Republican National Lawyers Assn. (See video below.) Even difficult questions, he said, she knocked “out of the park” during the vice president interview process… – LAT, 4-18-09
  • McCain Strategist Warns GOP Risks Becoming ‘Religious Party’ Steve Schmidt urges Republicans to begin voicing more support for civil unions and gay rights: “If you put public policy issues to a religious test, you risk becoming a religious party,” he said. “And in a free country a political party cannot be viable in the long-term if it is seen as a sectarian party.” “If the party is seen as anti-gay, then that is injurious to its candidates” in Democrat-leaning and competitive states, he said. “I believe Republicans should re-examine the extent that we are being defined by positions on issues that I don’t believe are among our core values,” he said, while still calling social conservatives an “indispensable part of the conservative coalition.” “The rapid growth of the Hispanic-American population for instance could soon cost Republicans the entire southwest if we don’t recover our previous share of the vote,” he said. – Fox, 4-17-09
  • US, Cuba advance dizzying thaw in relations: “The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba,” he said at the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony, according to his remarks released in advance by the White House. “I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled in overcoming decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day.” “Let me be clear: I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking,” the president said. “But I do believe that we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction.” – AP, 4-17-09
  • Towards the Summit: As we approach the Summit of the Americas, our hemisphere is faced with a clear choice. We can overcome our shared challenges with a sense of common purpose, or we can stay mired in the old debates of the past. For the sake of all our people, we must choose the future. Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas. My Administration is committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain a broader partnership between the United States and the hemisphere on behalf of our common prosperity and our common security…. – WH Blog, 4-16-09
  • Day 85: Obama Talks Economy, Unveils Bo: On his eight-fifth day in office, President Obama took his argument for ambitious agenda to Georgetown University, where he lauded economic “glimmers of hope” while also warning that “by no means are we out of the woods.” “I absolutely agree that our long-term deficit is a major problem that we have to fix,” he said. “But the fact is that this recovery plan represents only a tiny fraction of that long-term deficit…the key to dealing with our deficit and debt is to get a handle on out-of-control health care costs – not to stand idly by as the economy goes into free fall.” – CBS News, 4-14-09
  • Obama urges patience, lower expectations on economy: President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the economy, Tuesday, April 14, 2009, at Georgetown University in Washington. He said that, “One of my most frequent questions in the letters that I get from constituents is, ‘Where’s my bailout?’ And I understand the sentiment. “But the truth is that a dollar of capital in a bank can actually result in $8 or $10 of loans to families and businesses.” Rebutting critics who want him to nationalize failing banks rather than bail them out, he said that could undermine confidence and end up costing taxpayers even more. Obama spoke of Washington’s typical “impatience,” of the 24-hour news cycle and desire for “instant gratification” and said the economy can’t be fixed within those confines. “I know how difficult it is for members of Congress in both parties to grapple with some of the big decisions we face right now,” he said. “It’s more than most Congresses and most presidents have to deal with in a lifetime. But we have been called to govern in extraordinary times.” Obama told of the Sermon on the Mount, and the house built on sand versus rock. “We cannot rebuild this economy on the same pile of sand; we must build our house upon a rock,” he said. He acknowledged “a criticism out there that my administration has somehow been spending with reckless abandon, pushing a liberal social agenda while mortgaging our children’s future.” The president countered: “If we don’t invest now in renewable energy or a skilled work force or a more affordable health care system, this economy simply won’t grow at the pace it needs to in two or five or ten years” and that “it won’t be long before we are right back where we are today.”… – Miami Herald, 4-14-09
  • First Lady Visits Department of Homeland Security: It was Mrs. Obama’s ninth visit to a cabinet level agency and she thanked employees for working hard to keep the nation safe. “One of the president’s greatest concerns and priorities is the safety and security of the American people,” Mrs. Obama said. “He couldn’t do it without you.” “You are standing watch every day over our borders and our skies, our ports and our transportation system,” she said…. – NYT, 4-14-09
  • John McCain-Sarah Palin rift grows wider, as Sen. leaves former running mate off list of GOP stars: On Monday’s “Tonight Show,” Jay Leno asked the Arizona Senator to name the new guiding lights of the Republican party, and McCain was quick to rattle off a list of “young, dynamic” governors around the country. Palin wasn’t one of them. McCain singled out Lousisana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Florida Gov. Charlie Christ, Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney, McCain’s chief rival for the Republican presidential nod in 2008. In case anyone missed his conspicuous omission of Palin, McCain then added, “And I’ve left out somebody’s name, and I’m gonna hear about it.” – NY Daily News, 4-14-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President Presents His Vision for High Speed Rail

Historians’ Comments

  • Robert Dallek: Despite Major Plans, Obama Taking Softer Stands: “If Obama is too timid, if the White House is too cautious,” said Robert Dallek, a presidential historian, “it is going to make him look too opportunistic. He made all these promises during the campaign, he talked so boldly, he stirred all our hopes, and now he is not following through.” On complex issues like health care, Mr. Dallek said, there is advantage in angling for the final say. “It’s kind of a technique to keep power in your hands,” he said. “Let these guys in the House, let the folks in the Senate battle with one another, battle it out. They are going to have to come to the president and have him adjudicate.” – NYT, 4-19-09
  • Julian Zelizer: Obama’s raised expectations overseas like Woodrow Wilson. Uh oh: One of the most dramatic moments during the 2008 campaign occurred when then-candidate Barack Obama traveled to Germany and spoke before an estimated crowd of 200,000 adoring Europeans. The enthusiasm for Barack Obama and what he promised was overwhelming, and was palpable to anyone who was watching. On the night of the election, there were numerous stories of people waiting for the returns all over the world, from Europe to Africa, celebrating the promise of a new chapter in America’s relationship with the world. The reception during the president’s most recent trip overseas was equally positive….. If Obama, who is naturally now focused on the economy, does not follow through on his campaign promises, it would be a profound disappointment for many in the world who saw this election as a democratic decision to seek out a new relationship with the world and to support, through diplomacy and economic assistance, the progressive forces in volatile areas of the globe who are seeking stability and peace as opposed to terrorism and war…. – Huffington Post, 4-17-09
  • Robert Cruickshank: “How California Benefits from Obama High Speed Rail Plan”: …He nailed it. This quote has it all – energy independence, job creation and long-term economic growth, and relieving congested airports and freeways. That case is made strongly and powerfully in the HSR strategic plan document. It is one of the best arguments for HSR that I’ve ever seen. This administration is serious about HSR. The plan includes a good overview of the history of rail funding in America, explaining that we have spent over $1 trillion on roads and airports in the last 50 years but have starved rail – even though, as the report makes clear, high speed rail is one of the best methods to move people over distances from 100 to 600 miles….. – California Progress Report, 4-17-09
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “First Dog” Bo Meets His New Family at the White House: Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says despite being first pet, it’s easy for people to relate to the Obama’s situation. “I think there is something that so many American people so many people around the world love dogs as pets that they can really imagine what it’s like to have a puppy running around the White House.” – First Coast News, 4-14-09
  • Julian Zelizer: “Commentary: Four tough questions for Democrats”: This week, Jews will conclude the eight-day celebration of Passover, a holiday that has often found its way into the political realm. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. frequently invoked the story of the liberation of the Jewish people from the Egyptians in his struggle against white oppression. President Obama made headlines last week when he hosted a Passover Seder in the White House…. Democrats must keep getting together, asking their own version of the four questions and insisting on internal debates. Although the discussions can become uncomfortable (as most Jews will recall from their Seders), this is a formula for making the strongest party possible. – CNN, 4-13-09
  • Carl Sferrazza Anthony: White House garden will cut the first family’s food bill: “The president has always had to pay for his own food,” says Carl Sferrazza Anthony, historian of the National First Ladies’ Library. President Bush had to buy the pretzel on which he choked while watching football at home in 2002. President Clinton was billed (bonus bad pun) for Big Macs he ordered in…. That wasn’t always the case. Up until the administration of William Howard Taft, US chief executives footed their own entertainment bill, says Anthony of the First Ladies’ Library. That financially ruined some, including Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. – CS Monitor, 4-16-09
  • H.W. Brands “Texas historian: Can Obama enlist public?”: H.W. Brands, the UT historian who last year published a one-volume biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt, said that to understand how FDR won over the public, he listened to FDR’s first fireside chat. And he did it in a way that many Americans did, to save on fuel costs, on that cold Sunday night in March 1933: in bed. “It was very much like a favorite uncle or maybe your father telling you a bedtime story,” Brands told a Texas Lyceum audience today, in remarks comparing Barack Obama and FDR. “There is this comforting voice … telling you … that everything’s going to be OK.”… But with that first FDR radio talk, he said, “Overnight, Roosevelt had established a level of trust with the American people.” Brands clearly doesn’t think Obama’s quite gotten to the same place — yet. “I can guarantee you Barack Obama’s [first] 100 days will not match Franklin Roosevelt’s 100 days in either the ambition or the extent of the legislation,” Brands said “The example of Franklin Roosevelt does have lessons for Barack Obama but they’re probably more political lessons than economic lessons,” he said. “The first lesson: Connect to your audience. With Barack Obama, it means he’s going to have to find his equivalent of radio, his way of getting the message out, of reassuring Americans, of getting them on his side. Because as Roosevelt said in that first fireside chat, and I’ll sort of change the wording a little bit: Barack Obama, with the support of the American people, can accomplish just about anything. Without the support of the American people, he’ll accomplish next to nothing.” – Dallas Morning News, 4-3-09
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