May 25, 2009: President Obama, Dick Cheney & Guantanamo


The President gives the Weekly Address paying tribute to America’s veterans

White House Photo, 5/22/09, Samantha Appleton

Weekly Address 5/23/09 Memorial Day

The President pays tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – and their families.

Watch the Video

The President on American security and values


In Focus: Stats

  • Your Government & New Media – WH Blog, 5-21-09
  • Poll gives Va. dark horse Deeds a boost Democratic bid is wide open: State Senator R. Creigh Deeds was the only one of three candidates vying for the party’s nomination to show a jump in the latest poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling. The survey shows support for Mr. Deeds at 20 percent – up 6 percent from a similar poll taken two weeks ago. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe continues to lead the race with 29 percent support – one point down from the previous poll. Former Delegate Brian J. Moran remained at 20 percent support, with undecided voters making up 31 percent…. – Washington Times, 5-22-09
  • Poll shows Obama getting little support in Oklahoma: President Barack Obama’s approval rating in Oklahoma is only 38 percent, according to a new poll that shows that even a third of the state’s Democrats aren’t happy with the new president. The poll, released Thursday by Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina firm, reflects little change in the state’s sentiment toward Obama since the election in November. Nationally, Obama had his worst showing in Oklahoma, getting just 34 percent of the vote and losing all 77 counties to Republican Sen. John McCain…. – Tulsa World, 5-21-09
  • Roll Call: House rejects probe of Pelosi’s claims: The 252-172 roll call Thursday by which the House rejected a measure to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that the CIA misled her on the use of torture. A “yes” vote is a vote against an investigation. Voting yes were 250 Democrats and 2 Republicans. Voting no were 0 Democrats and 172 Republicans…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • House panel advances global warming bill: Legislation imposing the first nationwide limits on the pollution blamed for global warming advanced in the House late Thursday, clearing a key committee despite strong Republican opposition. The Energy and Commerce Committee approved the sweeping climate bill 33-25 after repeatedly turning back GOP attempts to kill or weaken the measure during four days of debate…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • The Death of the Republican Party May Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Some in the media believe the Republican Party is washed up and dying. Leslie Savan wrote in The Nation earlier this month: “What sort of psychological bent would lead people to want to be part of a dead-end political party like the GOP has become?”
    But, a new Gallup poll from May 7 – 10 shows it’s not quite that bad for the GOP. Thirty-two percent of participants in the survey identified themselves as Republicans, 32 percent as Democrats, and 34 percent Independents. And if you include Independent “leaners,” Republicans and Democrats are also tied at 45 percent between May 7 – 10. Fox News, 5-20-09
  • Poll: Nearly half of Nevadans would oust Sen. Reid: Along with the 45 percent who said they’d oust the four-term Democrat, 17 percent of the 625 voters contacted statewide for the Las Vegas Review-Journal poll said they would consider another candidate. Thirty-five percent of the poll respondents said they would re-elect him…. – Mercury News, 5-19-08
  • Poll: Americans want moderate judge as next justice: In the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, however, majorities said it is “not important at all” that Obama nominate a woman, an African American, or a Hispanic. A plurality, 32 percent, said it’s not important for the nominee to have experience in elected office.
    But 67 percent of respondents said it’s important that the nominee has experience as a judge.
    In terms of political ideology, 37 percent said they believed Obama should nominate a moderate, while 27 percent said someone who was very or somewhat liberal, and 35 percent said a nominee who was very or somewhat conservative. Also, 68 percent said they do not want to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established the right to abortions in the first three months of pregnancy…. – Boston Globe, 5-18-09
  • Did Nancy Pelosi lie? New poll shows Americans are divided: 43 percent of those polled believe that it;s “at least somewhat likely” the CIA misled Pelosi while 41 percent believe it’s not likely. The partisan gap is what’s telling. Sixty-two percent of Democrats are willing to accept what she said while an identical 62 percent of Republicans don;t buy it.
    Those not affiliated with a party are more likely not to support Pelosi’s statement by a 48 percent to 38 percent margin…. – CS Monitor, 5-18-09


President Obama signs credit card reform legislation
(President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of lawmakers applaud after the President signed the  Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act in the Rose Garden of the White House  Friday, May 22, 2009.  Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The Headlines…

  • Memorial Day roll call honors 148,000 veterans: The names are whisked away by the hot, gusting wind as soon as they are spoken, forgotten in the stream of the next name and the next name and the next name…. The story of America could be told through these names, tales of bravery and hesitation, of dreams achieved or deferred and of battles won and lost. Taken alone, they are just words, identities stripped of place and time, stripped of rank and deeds and meaning. But they are not taken alone. They are taken together — 148,000 names, representing the entire veteran population of Riverside National Cemetery, a roll call of the dead read aloud over 10 days by more than 300 volunteers…. – AP, 5-23-09
  • Dick Cheney: Washington trembles at the return of ‘Darth Vader’: Dick Cheney was a formidable backroom operator during his eight years as vice-president in the Bush administration. Having abandoned his short-lived retirement in Wyoming, he is now leading the Republican charge against Obama from the front…. – Guardian UK, 5-24-09
  • Obama Signs Credit-Card Overhaul Legislation Into Law: President Barack Obama put his signature on legislation Friday clamping down on credit-card companies’ ability to boost interest rates and slap higher fees on consumers, a measure long-sought by the White House but reviled by the banking sector.
    “We’re not going to give people a free pass, and we expect consumers to live within their means and pay what they owe, but we also expect financial institutions to act with the same sense of responsibility that the American people aspire to in their own lives,” Obama said at a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden…. – WSJ, 5-22-09
  • Cheney Seeks Book Deal on Bush Years and More: With his sustained blitz of television appearances and speeches, former Vice President Dick Cheney has established himself as perhaps the leading Republican voice against President Obama. Not a bad time, then, to be in the market for a multimillion-dollar book contract. Mr. Cheney is actively shopping a memoir about his life in politics and service in four presidential administrations, a work that would add to what is already an unusually dense collection of post-Bush-presidency memoirs that will offer a collective rebuttal to the many harshly critical works released while the writers were in office and beyond…. – NYT, 5-22-09
  • GOP effort to discredit Pelosi sees modest success: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has avoided serious damage from the relentless Republican effort to discredit her, though there’s some evidence that the GOP is making small inroads. Republicans have been battering the California Democrat over her assertion that the CIA misled her in 2002 about whether terrorism suspects had been tortured…. – Miami Herald, 5-22-09
  • President’s Detention Plan Tests American Legal Tradition: President Obama’s proposal for a new legal system in which terrorism suspects could be held in “prolonged detention” inside the United States without trial would be a departure from the way this country sees itself, as a place where people in the grip of the government either face criminal charges or walk free…. – NYT, 5-22-09
  • House Climate Change Bill Clears Key Hurdle: The nation’s first federal climate change cleared a key hurdle last night by making it out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a 33-25 vote. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill because of its two authors, now heads to the full House and could see a vote as early as late June, according to reports. But the massive bill faces more revisions as it makes its way through additional committees and also faces opposition in the Senate…. – Reuters, 5-22-09
  • House panels will make haste on climate bill, Hoyer says: Expect another fast-paced month of committee action on a sweeping global warming and energy bill ahead of possible floor debate in late June or early July, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said today.
    “I think the speaker and I will both be urging the committee chairs to consider these quickly,” the Maryland Democrat said in an interview, referring to eight panels with jurisdiction on a bill approved last night by the Energy and Commerce Committee. “Frankly, they’ve been considering them for some time now. It’s not like it’s a great surprise.” For most committees, the work will be swift, Hoyer said. “Their level of concern,” he said, “is not high.”… – NYT, 5-22-09
  • Naval graduates include Sen. McCain’s son, Jack: Far from the madding crowds of last year’s campaign trail, Barack Obama quietly greeted the newly graduated midshipman and son of the man he defeated for the presidency. The moment had to be a bit cathartic for both John Sidney “Jack” McCain IV and Obama, whose fitness to be commander in chief was questioned just months ago by young Jack’s father, Sen. John McCain…. – AP, 5-22-09
  • To cover both wars, Senate passes $91.3B bill: The Senate is backing President Barack Obama’s efforts to ramp up the war in Afghanistan, granting his request for $91.3 billion for military and diplomatic operations there and in Iraq. The spending bill, approved on an 86-3 vote Thursday night, goes to congressional negotiators to work out a compromise with a similar measure the House passed. Lawmakers expected to present a bill for Obama’s signature next month…. – AP, 5-22-09
  • Bush’s Gitmo Vindication Obama still hasn’t said where the worst terrorists will go: President Obama delivered a major speech yesterday on how he intends to prosecute the war on terror (or whatever it’s now called), and in particular his desire to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. As rhetoric, his remarks were at pains to declare a bold new moral direction. On substance, however, the speech and other events this week look more like a vindication of the past seven years. The President’s speech came after both houses of Congress had denied his funding requests to shut down Guantanamo and relocate some of the most dangerous prisoners to the U.S. The 90-6 vote in the Senate was especially notable because all but a half-dozen Democrats opposed their own President, on that high-minded principle known as not-in- my-backyard…. – WSJ, 5-22-09
  • Obama backs Gitmo plan, Cheney defends Bush policy: President Barack Obama fought Thursday to retake command of the emotional debate over closing Guantanamo, denouncing “fear-mongering” by political opponents and insisting that maximum-security prisons in the U.S. can safely house dangerous terror suspects transferred from Cuba. In a unique bit of Washington theater, former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered his own address just one minute later, defending the Bush administration’s creation of the prison camp as vigorously as Obama denounced it….. – AP, 5-21-09
  • Obama: 50 Gitmo detainees cleared for transfer: Forty-eight terror suspects currently held at Guantanamo Bay are waiting to be released to other nations, the Obama administration said Thursday. The detainees are among 50 detainees whose cases President Barack Obama said Thursday have already been reviewed. The detainees would be the first to be released to other nations under the Obama administration’s effort to empty the Cuba-based prison without bringing all its inmates to the United States…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • Palin picks memoir collaborator: Sarah Palin has picked a collaborator for her memoir. A spokeswoman for SarahPAC, the Alaska governor’s political action committee, says that Palin has selected Lynn Vincent, an author and features editor for World magazine, a conservative Christian publication. Palin’s book, currently untitled, is scheduled for release next year by HarperCollins…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • Obama vs. Cheney: Just the facts: President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney laid out a variety of arguments Thursday in staking out two widely divergent views of national security in the age of terror…. – Politico, 5-21-09
  • SPIN METER: Obama vs. Cheney: Two tough speeches conveying two radically different views of America’s fight against terrorism and the nation’s values unfolded Thursday in separate halls, minutes apart…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • GOP’s best hope: Obama overreaches or underachieves: If history’s any guide, the Republican Party’s best hope for winning back power is a public backlash against Barack Obama. That’s how Republicans came back from the edge of a political abyss in 1966, as voters started to turn against Lyndon Johnson two years after his landslide election. That’s what helped unify them in the late 1970s, when a wholesale rejection of Jimmy Carter set the stage for Ronald Reagan’s sweeping victory of 1980. It worked again in 1994, when the public turned thumbs down on the first two years of Bill Clinton’s presidency and turned the Congress over to Republicans for the first time in four decades. Whether the American people will turn against Obama is an open question. Even if they do, it could take years, well beyond the 2010 midterm elections or Obama’s likely run for re-election in 2012…. – Miami Herald, 5-21-09
  • 14 hours later, House Democrats hold the line on climate bill: House Democrats defeated a series of Republican “benchmark” amendments aimed at halting a future U.S. global warming law during a 14-hour, politically charged Energy and Commerce Committee markup yesterday. The GOP amendments took on a familiar theme by proposing the law’s sunset should the measure lead to significant job losses, higher gas prices and electricity rates, or a lack of corresponding action from China and India…. – NYT, 5-20-09
  • Obama Speech to Address Gitmo Worries: President Barack Obama will attempt to explain in a speech Thursday a series of decisions on the handling of detainees that has given ammunition to political opponents and raised concerns among Democrats that the issue could prove damaging to the young administration…. – WSJ, 5-20-09
  • GOP drops effort to rename Democrats ‘Socialist’: Republicans on Wednesday abandoned an effort to label their opponents the “Democrat Socialist Party,” ending a fight within the GOP ranks that reflected the divide between those who want a more centrist message and those seeking a more aggressive, conservative voice…. – AP, 5-20-09
  • Senate OKs bill to rein in credit card industry: The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to rein in credit card rate increases and excessive fees, hoping to give voters some breathing room amid a recession that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans jobless or facing foreclosure. “This is a victory for every American consumer who has ever suffered at the hands of a credit card company,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Banking Committee. The bill passed the Senate 90-5…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • Senators reject closing Gitmo prison without plan: President Barack Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison suffered a blow Tuesday when his allies in the Senate said they would refuse to finance the move until the administration delivers a satisfactory plan for what to do with the detainees there…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • Obama’s new rules will transform US auto fleet: Some soccer moms will have to give up hulking SUVs. Carpenters will still haul materials around in pickup trucks, but they will cost more. Nearly everybody else will drive smaller cars, and more of them will run on electricity. The higher mileage and emissions standards set by the Obama administration on Tuesday, which begin to take effect in 2012 and are to be achieved by 2016, will transform the American car and truck fleet. The new rules would bring new cars and trucks sold in the United States to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon, about 10 mpg more than today’s standards. Passenger cars will be required to get 39 mpg, light trucks 30 mpg…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • Sen. Reid botches 3 subjects at news conference: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid became the latest Democrat to stray into rhetorical trouble Tuesday, botching statements on three subjects in one news conference — including the fragile health of the chamber’s most senior members…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • FEC dismisses complaint over Palin clothing: The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint over the $150,000-plus designer wardrobe the Republican Party bought to outfit vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the good-government group that filed the complaint, argued that candidates aren’t supposed to use donor money for personal expenses such as clothes. The FEC ruled Tuesday that the ban doesn’t apply to party money, however…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • U.S. pressing Israel for gestures to PA before June 4: The United States expects Israel to make concrete concessions to the Palestinians before U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Cairo on June 4, an American official said during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week. Israel’s cabinet is due to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip this Sunday, and one concession the U.S. would like to see is for Israel to decide at this meeting to ease its restrictions on imports and exports of goods to Gaza. It also wants Israel to ease restrictions on movement in the West Bank…. – Haaretz, 5-19-09
  • Obama prods Netanyahu, Iran in Mideast foray: President Barack Obama on Monday opened his deepest foray into the Middle East quagmire, telling Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu he must stop Jewish settlements and should grasp a “historic opportunity” to make peace with the Palestinians. Obama also had pointed words for Iran on a second major Mideast dispute, warning the Iranians they had until year’s end to get serious about talks with the world community on curbing their nuclear ambitions. “We’re not going to have talks forever,” the president said. Obama and Netanyahu spoke highly of their hopes for progress in the Mideast after a lengthy private meeting in the Israeli’s first visit to the White House since Obama became president and Netanyahu began his second stint as prime minister. Yet the new president was firm in insisting the Israelis move toward peace with the Palestinians, and Netanyahu stuck to his stance that Israel cannot negotiate with people who deny its right to exist…. – “We should have a fairly good sense by the end of the year as to whether they are moving in the right direction and whether the parties involved are making progress and that there’s a good-faith effort to resolve differences,” the president said. “We have seen progress stalled on this front, and I suggested to the prime minister that he has a historic opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue during his tenure,” Obama said. “That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they have previously agreed to.” “There is a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements; that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward,” Obama said, referring to past negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. AP, 5-18-09
  • Obama Tells Netanyahu He Has an Iran Timetable: President Obama said Monday that he expected to know by the end of the year whether Iran was making “a good-faith effort to resolve differences” in talks aimed at ending its nuclear program, signaling to Israel as well as Iran that his willingness to engage in diplomacy over the issue has its limits…. – NYT, 5-18-09
  • Vatican: Obama seeks “common ground” on abortion: The Vatican said Monday that President Barack Obama was clearly looking for some common ground with his speech at the University of Notre Dame about abortion. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said Obama’s speech at the leading Catholic university on Sunday confirmed what he had said at a recent news conference — that signing the so-called Freedom of Choice Act in the U.S. Congress wasn’t his highest legislative priority. The bill would protect a woman’s right to have a child or end a pregnancy. Obama’s stance on the issue is that he supports abortion rights but says the procedure should be rare…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Obama to link auto emissions and mileage standards: President Barack Obama, seeking to end a stand-off between states and the auto industry, plans to issue new national emission limits and mileage requirements for cars and trucks. Obama plans to announce on Tuesday that he will couple pollution reduction from vehicle tailpipes with increased efficiency on the road. It would be the first time that limits on greenhouse gases were linked with federal standards for passenger cars and light trucks…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Bill Clinton to be named special UN envoy to Haiti: Former President Bill Clinton will be named special U.N. envoy to this impoverished Caribbean nation that has been mired in political and social turmoil for decades, his spokesman said Monday. An official announcement is expected from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday, Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna told The Associated Press…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Dodd to face Democratic challenger in 2010: Embattled Sen. Christopher Dodd is getting a Democratic challenger. Connecticut businessman and former Air Force officer Merrick Alpert plans to launch a 2010 primary campaign against Dodd, who faces his toughest re-election in five terms. The official announcement is expected Tuesday…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Pelosi got warning from administration on CIA memo: The Central Intelligence Agency gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., advance warning before CIA chief Leon Panetta sent a memo to employees at the spy agency that countered Pelosi’s claim that the agency lied to Congress about waterboarding. A CIA official, but not Panetta, made the call to Pelosi “His office gave a heads-up,” a Democratic aide said Monday…. – Washington Examiner, 5-18-09
  • Biden speaks at Wake Forest – does not disclose nuclear launch codes: Good news for Vice President Biden’s office! The Veep successfully delivered the commencement address at Wake Forest University without disclosing top secret information. The problem is, he may have done that a few weeks ago. Newsweek is reporting that Biden may have revealed where former Vice President Cheney’s undisclosed location was. After the 9/11 attacks, Cheney’s whereabouts were frequently unknown. And that was on purpose. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer coined the phrase “undisclosed location” and it stuck. And no one, save a few with the highest of clearances, knew where it was located…. – CS Monitor, 5-18-09


The President gives the Weekly Address paying tribute to America’s veterans

Political Quotes

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Calls on All Americans to Honor the Service of the Troops and Their Families: On this Memorial Day weekend, President Obama calls on the American people to join him in paying tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – and their families…. – White House, 5-23-09Weekly Address: Sacrifice
  • Obama sees court pick as smart with common touch: On the verge of choosing his first Supreme Court nominee, President Barack Obama has already provided a profile of the person he is likely to pick: an intellectual heavyweight with a “common touch,” someone whose brand of justice means seeing life from the perspective of the powerless. Obama is expected to announce his nominee this week, as early as Tuesday…
    “You have to have not only the intellect to be able to effectively apply the law to cases before you,” Obama said in an interview carried Saturday on C-SPAN television. “But you have to be able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes and get a sense of how the law might work or not work in practical day-to-day living.”… – AP, 5-23-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING OF THE CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTABILITY, RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLOSURE ACT: …And that’s why, because of this new law, statements will be required to tell credit card holders how long it will take to pay off a balance and what it will cost in interest if they only make the minimum monthly payments. We also put a stop to retroactive rate hikes that appear on a bill suddenly with no rhyme or reason…. – White House, 5-22-09A New Era for Credit Cards
  • Obama Is Embraced at Annapolis: “As long as I am your commander in chief,” Mr. Obama said, “I will only send you into harm;s way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy and the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done.”…..
    “These Americans have embraced the virtues that we need most right now: self-discipline over self-interest; work over comfort; and character over celebrity,” the president said. “After an era when so many institutions and individuals have acted with such greed and recklessness, it’s no wonder that our military remains the most trusted institution in our nation.” – NYT, 5-22-09
  • Obama vows not to send people to war without cause: “I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy, the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done,” the president told more than 1,000 graduates during a sun-splashed ceremony at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium….
    “In short, we will maintain America’s military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has ever seen,” Obama said, as more than 30,000 watched from the stands….
    “The extraordinary precision and professionalism displayed that day was made possible, in no small measure, by the training, the discipline and the leadership skills that so many of those officers learned at the United States Naval Academy,” Obama said in his first public comments on the matter…. – AP, 5-22-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING OF THE WEAPONS SYSTEMS ACQUISITION REFORM ACT: The bill I’m signing today, known as the Weapons System Acquisition Reforms Act, represents an important next step in this procurement reform process. It reforms a system where taxpayers are charged too much for weapons systems that too often arrive late — a system that suffers from spending on unproven technologies, outdated weapons, and a general lack of oversight…. – White House, 5-22-09Reform for Our Troops
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON NATIONAL SECURITY: In the midst of all these challenges, however, my single most important responsibility as President is to keep the American people safe. It’s the first thing that I think about when I wake up in the morning. It’s the last thing that I think about when I go to sleep at night.
    And this responsibility is only magnified in an era when an extremist ideology threatens our people, and technology gives a handful of terrorists the potential to do us great harm. We are less than eight years removed from the deadliest attack on American soil in our history. We know that al Qaeda is actively planning to attack us again. We know that this threat will be with us for a long time, and that we must use all elements of our power to defeat it…. – White House, 5-21-09Security & Values
  • SPIN METER: Obama vs. Cheney: Obama: “I released the memos because the existence of that approach to interrogation was already widely known. The Bush administration had acknowledged its existence. And I had already banned those methods. The argument that, somehow, by releasing those memos, we are providing terrorists with information about how they will be interrogated makes no sense. We will not be interrogating terrorists using that approach. That approach is now prohibited.”….
    “The decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable — a framework that failed to rely on our legal traditions and time-tested institutions, that failed to use our values as a compass.”….
    “I can stand here today as president of the United States and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture and that we will vigorously protect our people while forging a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law. Make no mistake. If we fail to turn the page on the approach that was taken over the past several years, then I will not be able to say that as president. And if we cannot stand for our core values, then we are not keeping faith with the documents that are enshrined in this hall (the National Archives).”…
    “Now let me be clear: We are indeed at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates. … Al-Qaida terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture, like other prisoners of war, must be prevented from attacking us again.”…
    “Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. And I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that too often our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us — Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists and citizens — fell silent.” – AP, 5-21-09
  • Remarks by Richard B. Cheney: On May 21, 2009, former vice president Richard B. Cheney, now a member of AEI’s Board of Trustees, spoke at AEI on the serious and ongoing threat terrorism poses to the United States. He was introduced by AEI president Arthur C. Brooks…. – AEI, 5-21-09
  • SPIN METER: Obama vs. Cheney: Cheney: “Releasing the interrogation memos was flatly contrary to the national security interests of the United States. The harm done only begins with top-secret information now in the hands of terrorists who have just received a lengthy insert for their training manual.”….
    “We did not invent that authority. It’s drawn from Article Two of the Constitution, and it was given specificity by Congress after 9/11 in a joint resolution authorizing all necessary and appropriate force to protect the American people.”…
    “When just a single clue that goes unlearned or one lead that goes unpursued can bring on catastrophe, it’s no time for splitting differences. There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people hang in the balance.”…
    “Apparently using the term ‘war’ where terrorists are concerned is starting to feel a bit dated. So henceforth we’re advised by the administration to think of the fight against terrorists as ‘overseas contingency operations.’ … And when you hear that there are no more enemy combatants, as there were back in the days of that scary war on terror, at first that sounds like progress. The only problem is that the phrase is gone, but the same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers are still there. And finding some less judgmental or more pleasant-sounding name for terrorists doesn’t change what they are or what they would do if we let them loose.”…
    “To the very end of our administration, we kept al-Qaida terrorists busy with other problems. We focused on getting their secrets, instead of sharing ours with them. And on our watch, they never hit this country again. … It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed.” – AP, 5-21-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE SIGNING OF THE HELPING FAMILIES SAVE THEIR HOMES ACT AND THE FRAUD ENFORCEMENT AND RECOVERY ACT: Well, standing up for the American people is exactly what we’re doing here today with two bills that I’m about to sign — The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, and The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act. These landmark pieces of legislation will protect hardworking Americans, crack down on those who seek to take advantage of them, and ensure that the problems that led us to this crisis never happen again. – White House, 5-20-09
  • A Culture Change on Climate Change: “For what everyone here believes, even as views differ on many important issues, is that the status quo is no longer acceptable.” – WH Blog, 5-19-09
  • Obama brings foes together for auto deal: “In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible,” Obama said Tuesday in announcing the deal, the usually pokerfaced president reveling in his own achievement. “It represents not only a change in policy in Washington but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington.”… – AP, 5-19-09
  • Steele: GOP must confront Obama’s celebrity appeal: “He’s young. He’s cool. He’s hip … he’s got all the qualities America likes in a celebrity, so of course he’s going to be popular,” Steele told state party chairmen Tuesday. But “this is not American Idol. This is serious … and we are going to take them on.” “The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over,” he said. “We have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future.” – AP, 5-19-09


The President with former Secretaries of State
(President Barack Obama meets with, from left: former Defense Secretary William Perry;  former Georgia Sen.  Sam Nunn; former Secretary of State George P. Shultz; and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger  in the Oval Office Tuesday, May 19, 2009.  Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Why Guantanamo has become Obama’s problem”: As Princeton scholar Julian E. Zelizer points out, when it comes to national security, Obama seems to lose the confidence he so evidently has on other major issues…. – Xinhua, 5-22-09
  • Barack Obama gives the national security speech Democrats were waiting for: President Barack Obama delivered the national security speech Thursday that Democrats have been waiting for. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Democrats have stumbled in offering a response to the Republican approach to the war on terrorism. When former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks on national security — as he did again Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute — most Democrats continue to shudder. Republicans have argued that they are the party that will be tough on terrorists and that their policies offer the only way to keep Americans safe…. – Politico, 5-21-09
  • Lou Zickar: Commentary: Republicans must move to center: In his column last week, Ed Rollins said of the Republican Party, “We may be down for awhile, but what we won’t become is a ‘Democratic Party lite’! We are a party that wants smaller government and lower taxes. Obama and the Democrats do not. We are a party that wants to encourage small business.”….
    The success of these efforts provides the GOP with a road map on how to rebuild their party today. In this, Rollins is right — Republicans should not abandon their core philosophy of a strong defense, low taxes and smaller federal government. But they do need to figure out how to make this philosophy relevant to the lives of more Americans. And for this, they would be wise to do what the Democrats did in 1992 and 2006.
    They need to turn toward the center. Among other things, this means coming to grips with the role of government in our lives. For nearly 30 years, the party’s position in this regard has been clear and absolute — government should be smaller. But Katrina and Iraq and Walter Reed brought to light a simple truth — government needs to be more efficient, too.
    Unfortunately, smart government is not in the Republican Party’s rhetorical toolbox. It also runs counter to everything many on the far right represent. Yet it’s going to be one of the defining issues of the next few years as taxpayers begin to demand greater accountability and transparency in how their federal tax dollars are being spent.
    Simply arguing that we need to establish pro-growth tax policies and leave it at that is not enough anymore. Republicans also need to acknowledge government has a role to play, and it is the responsibility of all elected lawmakers to get it right. Taking this kind of step would not only move the GOP closer to the political center, but would also be another step in the party’s journey back from political oblivion. CNN, 5-22-09
  • Julian Zelizer: Commentary: Democrats play defense on security: President Obama has been struggling to get things right on national security. The president has not displayed the same kind of poise and confidence as he has with domestic issues.
    In contrast to the economic stimulus and health care reform, there have been a number of missteps, reversals and intra-party tensions over national security since Obama took office.
    Obama, who in February 2008 said the trials of Guantanamo detainees were “too important to be held in a flawed military commission system,” now says that he will continue to use that system, though in slightly modified fashion. When Obama announced that he would not release photographs of mistreated detainees, many of his supporters could not help but be disappointed….
    We have a growing military engagement in Afghanistan, the possibility of greater involvement in Pakistan, and the announcement that Obama plans to leave between 30,000 and 50,000 troops in Iraq after the “withdrawal” next year. To be sure, Obama has sent Clinton to embark on a more ambitious diplomatic agenda, but we have only seen the outlines of what they hope to achieve. The administration must start explaining what the primary objectives of its foreign policy will be.
    The more thought that goes into what we are doing before a crisis hits, the better prepared we are to deal with a crisis should it occur.
    But Democrats have a political incentive to be proactive as well. Democrats have shown in the previous two elections that Republicans don’t have an electoral monopoly on national security debates. But unless they provide a bold and coherent vision of their alternative, Democrats will continue to play defense. – CNN, 5-20-09
  • John Steele Gordon: Why Government Can’t Run a Business: The Obama administration is bent on becoming a major player in — if not taking over entirely — America’s health-care, automobile and banking industries. Before that happens, it might be a good idea to look at the government’s track record in running economic enterprises. It is terrible.
    In 1913, for instance, thinking it was being overcharged by the steel companies for armor plate for warships, the federal government decided to build its own plant. It estimated that a plant with a 10,000-ton annual capacity could produce armor plate for only 70% of what the steel companies charged….. – WSJ (5-20-09)

(President Barack Obama pets the family dog, Bo, during a brief break from meetings on the South Lawn of the White House May 12, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

History Buzz May 25, 2009: Simon Schama & “The American Future A History”




  • Caroline E. Janney: Historian remembers Memorial Day holiday’s beginnings: “Credit really goes to thousands of Southern white women who were honoring Confederate soldiers a year after the Civil War ended,” says Caroline E. Janney, an assistant professor of history. “The women led these celebrations because if Confederate men would have organized memorials in 1866, just after the war ended, their actions would have been considered treason.” “Instead, women planned each event, and the men were figuratively hiding behind the skirts of these women. What many people didn’t realize is that these women, who are often portrayed as politically indifferent, were keeping politics in mind while planning these events.” –, 5-21-09



  • Antony Beevor: Historian has been accused of trying to get publicity for his new book, D-Day: The Battle for Normandy Allies bombing on D-Day ‘close to war crime’, claims historian The Allied bombing of the French city of Caen on D-Day was “close to a war crime”, according to leading historian Antony Beevor – Telegraph UK, 5-24-09
  • Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: Creates History Commission – WSJ, 5-21-09
  • Professor Marco Maiorino, a Vatican historian of papal diplomacy: Vatican discloses Henry VIII’s annulment appeal “The schism came later,” he said. “They were loyal to the sovereign, but at this point the spiritual supremacy of Rome was not in question.” – Times UK Online, 5-22-09
  • Oklahoma History Center to close two days of week – Source: (5-21-09)
  • National Security Archive Testifies to House Oversight Committee About Challenges Facing National Archives: At a hearing today focusing on the National Archives and Records Administration and the selection of a new Archivist, National Security Archive General Counsel Meredith Fuchs said: “[The new Archivist] should have a vision for an Archives 2.0.”… – Source: Press Release (5-21-09)
  • James Lowen, James McPherson: Scholars Ask Obama Not to Send a Wreath to Confederate Memorial – Source: Press Release by James Loewen (5-19-09)
  • Frederick Clarkson: Will Obama Honor the Confederacy This Year?: Presidents since Woodrow Wilson have annually sent a commemorative wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Up until the presidency of George H.W. Bush, the wreath was sent on or near the birthday of Confederate president, Jefferson Davis. Since then, the wreath has been sent on Memorial Day. One might think that this is a practice birthed in a generosity of spirit and healing of the war that had so deeply divided the nation. Unfortunately the truth is that the monument commemorates not the dead so much as the cause of the confederacy, and stands to this day as a rallying point for white supremacy. This is why scholars Edward Sebestaco-editor of “Neo-Confederacy: A Critical Introduction,” University of Texas Press, and James Loewen, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, University of Vermont, joined by some 65 others (including me) sent a letter to president Obama asking him to end the practice…. – Daily Kos, 5-22-09


  • Daniel Pipes: A History of Muslim Terrorism against Jews in the United States: The arrest yesterday of four would-be jihadis before they could attack two synagogues in New York City brings to mind a long list of terrorist assaults in the United States by Muslims on Jews. These began in 1977 and have continued regularly since, as suggested by the following list of major incidents (ignoring lesser ones that did damage only to property, such a series of attacks on Chicago-area synagogues)… – Source: Daniel Pipes website (5-21-09)
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Democrats play defense on security – Source: CNN (5-20-09)
  • John Steele Gordon: Why Government Can’t Run a Business – Source: WSJ (5-20-09)


  • Simon Schama: Mirror on America THE AMERICAN FUTURE A HistoryNYT, 5-22-09
  • Simon Schama: THE AMERICAN FUTURE A History, First Chapter – NYT, 5-22-09
  • Simon Schama: Looking to America’s past to find a path for the future THE AMERICAN FUTURE A HistoryBoston Globe, 5-24-09
  • Simon Schama: Schama Looks At History For ‘American Future’ THE AMERICAN FUTURE A HistoryNPR, 5-20-09
  • Benny Morris: No Common Ground ONE STATE, TWO STATES Resolving the Israel/Palestine ConflictNYT, 5-24-09
  • Benny Morris: ONE STATE, TWO STATES Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict, First Chapter – NYT, 5-24-09
  • T.J. Stiles: The Man Who Owned America THE FIRST TYCOON The Epic Life of Cornelius VanderbiltWaPo, 5-24-09
  • T.J. Stiles: THE FIRST TYCOON The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Excerpt – WaPo, 5-24-09
  • Edith B. Gelles: Abigail & John Portrait of a Marriage: Gelles’ “Abigail & John” does something different, bringing the two strands together in a dual biography that shows how their lives connected, diverged and reconnected over time…. – San Francisco Chronicle, 5-24-09
  • Dr. Richard Hull: Historian Publishes latest book on Jews in African history Jews and Judaism in African HistoryStraus News, 5-22-09
  • Paramour of Kennedy Is Writing a Book – Mimi Beardsley Alford, a retired New York church administrator who had an affair with John F. Kennedy while she was an intern in the White House, is breaking a silence of more than 40 years to tell her story in a memoir to be published by Random House. NYT, 5-22-09
  • Eugene D. Genovese: In a new book, Genovese describes a devoted and intellectually stimulating partnership with his late wife, also a historian of note Miss Betsey: A Memoir of MarriageSource: Chronicle of Higher Ed (5-22-09)
  • Ronald C. White Jr.: BOOKS: A. Lincoln Valdosta Daily Times, 5-18-09
  • Elliott West: ‘As big as the land’ UA professor writes book on Nez Perce war of 1877 The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce StoryNorthwest Arkansas Times, 5-10-09


  • John Allswang “California voters exercise their power — and that’s the problem Residents relish their role in the lawmaking process, but they share the blame for the state’s severe dysfunction”: Together, voters’ piecemeal decisions since the 1970s have effectively “emasculated the Legislature,” said John Allswang, a retired Cal State L.A. history professor. “They’re looking for cheap answers — throw the guys out of power and put somebody else in, or just blame the politicians and pretend you don’t have to raise taxes when you need money,” he said. “This is what the public wants, and they deceive themselves constantly. They’re not realistic.”… – LAT, 5-22-09


  • Rodney Davis: In Civil War, Woman Fought Like A Man For Freedom – NPR, 5-23-09
  • Mary Witkowski: In the Region, Connecticut A Crumbling Piece of History: Historians are concerned about the fate of structures on Main Street in Bridgeport that are said to be the only remnants of an antebellum community of free blacks and runaway slaves. – NYT, 5-24-09
  • Max Boot, Paul Collier, Simon Schama: Civil Wars: The Fights That Do Not Want to End – NYT, 5-24-09
  • Annette Gordon-Reed for the US Supreme Court?: Is New York Law School’s Annette Gordon-Reed, the Pulitzer Prize-winning law professor/historian, on President Obama’s Supreme Court “short list”?… Probably not. But they appear on the short lists of more than a dozen constitutional law and Supreme Court scholars asked by The National Law Journal to step into Obama’s shoes to pick a nominee to succeed retiring Justice David Souter…. Source: National Law Journal (5-18-09)


  • Robert Hinton: The Story Of The Plantation That Moved Away, Midway Plantation – NPR, 5-23-09
  • Interview: Simon Schama celebrates John Donne: The historian Simon Schama talks about why the death of arts programming is a national disaster…. – Telegraph UK, 5-22-09
  • Romila Thapar: Kluge Prizewinner Discusses Perceptions of India’s Past – Source: Pillarisetti Sudhir at the AHA Blog (5-19-09)
  • James M. Banner Jr. and John R. Gillis: New book asks historians how they became historians Becoming Historians Editor responded to questions about the book – Source: Inside Higher Ed (5-18-09)
  • James Cuno: Treaty on antiquities hinders access for museums, says past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors – Source: Science News (3-28-09)


  • Historian Jack Greene Honored by National Humanities Center: Jack P. Greene, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor Emeritus in the Humanities in the Department of History at Johns Hopkins, has been selected as one of 33 fellows at the National Humanities Center for the 2009-2010 academic year. – The JHU Gazette, 5-18-09


  • The Mormon History Association’s annual conference: MHA opening session: A religious backdrop to the Civil War – Mormon Times, 5-22-09
  • Ken Burns tells Boston College grads to revisit history: “History is not a fixed thing, a collection of precise dates, facts, and events that add up to a quantifiable, certain, confidently known truth,” Burns said. “It is an inscrutable and mysterious and malleable thing. Each generation rediscovers and reexamines that part of its past that gives its present – and, most important, its future – new meaning and new possibilities.”… – Source: Boston Globe (5-19-09)


  • June 11-14, 2009: The ninth annual “Reacting to the Past” Institute at Barnard College (New York), Annual summer history institute at Barnard College – Source: Press Release (4-21-09)
  • August 1, 2009: An Evening with Ken Burns: Kens Burns has been making documentary films for more than 30 years. Since the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of Burns’ films, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.” This evening will afford Chautauqua an opportunity to hear one of the most influential documentary makers of all time. Chautauqua Institutition. For more info 716-357-6200. – Jamestown Post-Journal, 5-21-09


  • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
  • PBS American Experience: Mondays at 9pm
  • History Channel: Weekly Schedule
  • History Channel: “MonsterQuest” Marathon – Sunday, May 24, 2009 at 8-11pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “MonsterQuest” Marathon – Monday, May 25, 2009 at 2-8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Decoding The Past: Mayan Doomsday Prophecy” – Monday, May 25, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Link” – Monday, May 25, 2009 at 9pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Life After People” Marathon – Tuesday, May 19, 2009 at 2-7pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Angels & Demons Decoded” – Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 8pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Life After People: Bound and Buried” – Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 10pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “MonsterQuest” Marathon – Wednesday, May 27, 2009 at 2-7pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Beyond The Da Vinci Code” – Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 2pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Angels & Demons Decoded” – Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 4pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Behind The Da Vinci Code” – Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 6pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Battles BC” Marathon – Friday, May 22, 2009 at 2-7pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “The Link ” – Friday, May 29, 2009 at 9pm ET/PT
  • History Channel: “Ice Road Truckers” Marathon – Saturday, May 23, 2009 at 12-11pm ET/PT



  • Geoffrey Blainey, Sea of Dangers: Captain Cook and His Rivals in the South Pacific, May 25, 2009
  • Richard Ben-Veniste: Emperor’s New Clothes: Exposing the Truth from Watergate To 9/11, May 26, 2009
  • Robert Jacobs: Apollo: Through the Eyes of the Astronauts, June 1, 2009
  • Vincent J. Cannato: American Passage: The History of Ellis Island, June 9, 2009
  • Larry Tye: Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend, June 9, 2009
  • Matthew Aid: The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency, June 9, 2009
  • Douglas Brinkley, Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, 1858-1919, June 30, 2009
  • Caroline Moorehead: Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era, June 30, 2009
  • William A. DeGregorio: The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, Seventh Edition, August 15, 2009
  • Douglas Hunter: Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage That Redrew the Map of the New World, September 1, 2009


  • David Herbert Donald: Famed Lincoln Scholar David Herbert Donald Dies: “He was not only one of the best historians of our era but he was also one of the classiest and most generous scholars I have ever met,” said Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals, a best-selling Lincoln biography. – NPR, 5-19-09
  • David Herbert Donald: Writer on Lincoln, Dies at 88 – NYT, 5-19-09
  • David Herbert Donald in Memoriam, 1920-2009 – HNN
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