May 31, 2009: Obama’s Economic Stimulus at 100 Days – Bush & Clinton Debate


The President announces the plan for GM

White House Photo, 6/1/09, Samantha Appleton

A New GM

The President balances the interests of stakeholders, the American taxpayer, and the economy at large in announcing his plan for GM and the American auto industry.

Watch the Video

The Weekly Address

In Focus: Stats

  • George W. Bush: ‘What Do You Do?’: Since leaving office, former President Bush’s approval rating has climbed 6 points in one recent poll, something many in the media have attributed to his low profile since leaving office. Of course, former Vice President Cheney’s approval rating is up too, and he’s been very vocal. It’s more likely that Bush and Cheney’s approval ratings are up because they really couldn’t go down, and since they’re not in power, the negative media coverage that comes with a failed presidency has abated…. – Politics Daily, 5-30-09


The Headlines…

  • Battle for Senate Seat Goes to Minnesota’s Top Court: After half a year of arguments and more than 19,000 pages of legal briefs, the battle over recounting election results for Minnesota’s vacant United States Senate seat reaches the state’s Supreme Court on Monday. And that may not be the last stop…. – NYT, 6-1-09
  • Obama’s efforts to engage Cuba facing big test: A diplomatic tug-of-war over Cuba’s outcast status in the Organization of American States takes center stage at the group’s meeting this week in Honduras, testing U.S. efforts to engage the communist nation. Numerous Latin American countries are pushing to reverse the 1962 expulsion of Cuba from the 34-country group, although the Cuban government insists it has no interest in returning…. – AP, 5-31-09
  • U.S. Weighs Tactics on Israeli Settlement: As President Obama prepares to head to the Middle East this week, administration officials are debating how to toughen their stance against any expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The measures under discussion — all largely symbolic — include stepping back from America’s near-uniform support for Israel in the United Nations if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel does not agree to a settlement freeze, administration officials said…. – NYT, 5-31-09
  • Senators to meet Obama’s nominee: Senators this week will begin to take the measure of Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. The confirmation hearing for the court’s first Hispanic nominee is not expected until July. But on Tuesday, escorted by home state Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), she will meet key players, including Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)…. – AJC, 5-31-09
  • Senators Preview Stances on Sotomayor: Senators hit the talk shows Sunday in an informal opening act to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, battling over whether she would bring a nuanced judgment seasoned by a complex life or would let her personal views trump the law. The formal hearings won’t begin for several weeks, and Republicans on Sunday suggested they wouldn’t seek to block her confirmation. But senators from both parties, and especially those from the Judiciary Committee, are already seeking to shape the debate and Ms. Sotomayor’s image…. – WSJ, 5-31-09
  • Iowa presidential campaigning returns: It’s been six months since voters handed Barack Obama the White House, and in the minds of a lot of Iowa activists that means only one thing: It’s time to start the campaign again. 2012 already? Yes, 2 1/2 years before Iowans gather for their first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses, early presidential campaigning has begun…. – AP, 5-31-09
  • Baucus, Kennedy to work together on health care: The two Senate Democrats leading the drive to overhaul health care say they will work together to come up with legislation. Sens. Max Baucus and Edward Kennedy said in a joint statement Saturday they intend to cooperate so their committees pass similar bills that can be combined into a single piece of legislation before the Senate leaves for its August recess…. – AP, 5-30-09
  • First couple’s NY date: a campaign promise kept: President Barack Obama made good on a campaign promise to his most important supporter Saturday night — his wife, Michelle. The president and first lady jetted to a date in New York late Saturday afternoon, aides and media in tow. “I am taking my wife to New York City because I promised her during the campaign that I would take her to a Broadway show after it was all finished,” the president said in a statement an aide read to the press…. – AP, 5-30-09
  • Politics Can Wait: The President Has a Date: The Obamas escaped Washington on Saturday in search of a quintessential New York evening — dinner and a Broadway show. They found it at Blue Hill, a low-key Greenwich Village restaurant, and at the Belasco Theater near Times Square for a performance of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” the Tony-nominated August Wilson play…. – NYT, 5-30-09
  • RNC slams Obama for romantic date with Michelle in New York: “As President Obama prepares to wing into Manhattan’s theater district on Air Force One to take in a Broadway show, GM is preparing to file bankruptcy and families across America continue to struggle to pay their bills,” RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in an email this afternoon. That’s not all from Gitcho. She then added a snitty, “Have a great Saturday evening — even if you’re not jetting off somewhere at taxpayer expense.”… – CS Monitor, 5-30-09
  • Bush, Clinton appear on stage together in Canada: Former President George W. Bush called former President Bill Clinton “his brother” and the two rarely disagreed in their first-ever appearance together on stage. The Republican and Democratic ex-presidents defended each other at a Toronto forum on Friday, disappointing some in the crowd of 6,000 who expected a more heated debate. Bush said that he never liked it when previous administration officials criticized his government but said Clinton was respectful and never did…. – AP, 5-29-09
  • Bush-Clinton Policy Talk Strikes a Congenial Tone: Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton appeared together Friday for the first time as Frank McKenna, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, moderated a talk on global affairs in Toronto. The two were paid $150,000 each…. – NYT, 5-29-09
  • Sotomayor’s Focus on Race Issues May Be Hurdle: The selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court has opened a new battle in the fight over affirmative action and other race-conscious remedies for patterns of inequality, with each side invoking the election of the first black president in support of its cause…. – NYT, 5-29-09
  • A Burger Run Or A Photo Op?: For the second time this month, Mr. Obama went out for a lunch of burgers and fries. He fired up the motorcade and drove a couple of miles into southeast D.C. to a Five Guys restaurant near Nationals’ Stadium. This time, he didn’t take Vice President Biden along. Instead, he was accompanied by NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who was at the White House today taping elements for his two-part hour-long prime time specials on a day-in-the- life the president. Spokesman Robert Gibbs pooh-poohed a reporte’s suggestion that today’s burger outing was staged principally for the benefit of NBC’s cameras. “I can assure you it was done simply for the benefit of the appetite of the Commander-in-Chief,” he said…. – CBS News, 5-29-09
  • Romney: Va., NJ races will give GOP its voice back: The nation’s Republican Party has a chance to reclaim its voice in governors’ elections this fall in Virginia and New Jersey, former Republican presidential prospect Mitt Romney said Friday…. – AP, 5-29-09
  • McCain to back Meg Whitman in 2010 race: Arizona Sen. John McCain wants Meg Whitman to be California’s next governor. The former eBay chief executive has not formally declared her candidacy, but a spokesman said Wednesday that she will pick up the 2008 Republican presidential nominee’s endorsement at an event in Orange County on Friday…. – AP, 5-28-09
  • Obama to create cyber czar in awareness effort: The Obama administration is creating a “cyber czar” within the White House to coordinate the nation’s computer security. Critics already say the post will not have enough authority to haul the government into the digital age…. – AP, 5-28-09
  • Sotomayor’s Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament – NYT, 5-28-09
  • Obama drops into California for political money: President Barack Obama looked not for votes in California on Wednesday but for millions of dollars to aid Democratic campaigns in other states…. – AP, 5-27-09
  • Obama names US ambassadors to Japan, India, Sri Lanka: Obama named longtime technology-focused lawyer John Roos as US ambassador to Japan, and named Democratic former congressman Timothy Roemer to be his envoy in India, the White House said. Obama also named Patricia Butenis, a career diplomat who has previously been posted in Baghdad, Pakistan and New Delhi, as ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives…. – AFP, 5-27-09
  • Obama promotes clean energy, stimulus in Nevada: President Barack Obama on Wednesday hailed solar energy as a cost saver for a major Air Force base, one stop on a Western trip devoted to raising political money and promoting his economic policies. Obama’s aides had mocked reporters for making a fuss over his first 100 days in office, but the president was eager to assess the first 100 days of his $787 billion economic stimulus package. It has “saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs,” he said, including “jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; making homes and buildings more energy-efficient.”… – AP, 5-27-09
  • Gates to press for Far East unity on NKorea threat: The U.S. on Wednesday accused North Korea of “provocative and belligerent” behavior as Defense Secretary Robert Gates took on the delicate task of reassuring Asian allies of U.S. support without further provoking the communist government…. – AP, 5-27-09
  • No filibuster, but Sotomayor battle still loom: Republicans see little chance of blocking Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, a key GOP senator conceded Wednesday. But senators and advocacy groups are still girding for this summer’s battle — partly with an eye toward raising money and perhaps preparing for Barack Obama’s next nominee…. – AP, 5-27-09
  • Historic nomination: Hispanic Sotomayor as justice: Reaching for history, President Barack Obama on Tuesday chose federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court, championing her as a compassionate, seasoned jurist whose against-the-odds life journey affirms the American dream. Republicans who will decide whether to make a fight of her confirmation said they want thorough hearings…. – AP, 5-26-09
  • Obama Chooses Sotomayor for Supreme Court Nominee – NYT, 5-26-09
  • Army chief says US ready to be in Iraq 10 years: The Pentagon is prepared to leave fighting forces in Iraq for as long as a decade despite an agreement between the United States and Iraq that would bring all American troops home by 2012, the top U.S. Army officer said Tuesday.
    Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, said the world remains dangerous and unpredictable, and the Pentagon must plan for extended U.S. combat and stability operations in two wars. “Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction,” Casey said. “They fundamentally will change how the Army works.”…. – AP, 5-26-09
  • Obama Revamps National Security Posts: President Barack Obama is merging the domestic and foreign sides of the White House national-security team, effectively eliminating a division created after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The White House will use the reorganization to make broader changes as well. Among them is the creation of positions at the National Security Council focused on cybersecurity, energy, the environment and the threat of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction, officials said Tuesday…. – WSJ, 5-26-09
  • Obama raises money for Democrats out West: Hours after exercising a cherished presidential right Tuesday — naming a Supreme Court nominee — Barack Obama engaged in one of the office’s grubbier traditions: raising money for an embattled lawmaker. The president launched a two-day, three-stop Western trip that will devote more time to fundraising than to public policy…. – AP, 5-26-09
  • President lays wreath at Tomb of Unknowns: President Barack Obama avoided a racial controversy on his first Memorial Day in office by sending wreaths to separate memorials for Confederate soldiers and for blacks who fought against them during the Civil War. Last week, a group of about 60 professors petitioned the White House, asking the first black U.S. president to break tradition and not memorialize military members from the Confederacy, the group of Southern states that supported slavery. “The Arlington Confederate Monument is a denial of the wrong committed against African-Americans by slave owners, Confederates and neo-Confederates, through the monument’s denial of slavery as the cause of secession and its holding up of Confederates as heroes,” the petitioners said. “This implies that the humanity of Africans and African-Americans is of no significance.” The White House ignored the request…. – AP, 5-25-09
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton surprises Yale graduates: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a surprise return to her alma mater on Monday, picking up an honorary degree from Yale University 36 years after earning her law degree from the Ivy League school. AP, 5-26-09
  • Republicans invoke Ronald Reagan to fight Harry Reid: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s critics are already in full-blown campaign mode 17 months before the 2010 election. A conservative political action committee known as Our Country Deserves Better PAC launched an attack Monday that quotes Ronald Reagan criticizing the Nevada Democrat back in 1986. The ad, which will run on Nevada radio and TV stations, says Reid is “emblematic of all that’s wrong in Washington.” Politico, 5-26-09
  • G.O.P. Eyes Tough Task: Winning Reid’s Seat: Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has emerged as a tempting target for Republicans as he prepares for re-election next year: unpopular at home, identified with partisan battles in Washington and shadowed by the memory of the election defeat suffered by the last Democrat who held his job, Tom Daschle of South Dakota…. – NYT, 5-25-09
  • Dick Cheney’s Second Act The president plays defense on security: By goading a sitting president into responding to his arguments on his terms, Dick Cheney won the contest with Barack Obama last week before either said a word. And his re-emergence onto the public square seems to be driving everybody nuts…. – WSJ, 5-26-09
  • Obama picks Bolden for NASA: It looks like manned spaceflight may yet have a future at NASA, with the selection this weekend of former astronaut Charlie Bolden to head the troubled agency. Bolden would be the agency’s first black Administrator…. – ZDNet, 5-24-09
  • GOP senator threatens filibuster over court pick: The Senate’s No. 2 Republican on Sunday refused to rule out a filibuster if President Barack Obama seeks a Supreme Court justice who decides cases based on “emotions or feelings or preconceived ideas.” Sen. Jon Kyl made clear he would use the procedural delay if Obama follows through on his pledge to nominate someone who takes into account human suffering and employs empathy from the bench. The Arizona Republican acknowledged that his party likely does not have enough votes to sustain a filibuster, but he said nonetheless he would try to delay or derail the nomination if Obama ventures outside what Kyl called the mainstream. “We will distinguish between a liberal judge on one side and one who doesn’t decide cases on the merits but, rather, on the basis of his or her preconceived ideas,” Kyl said…. – AP, 5-24-09
  • Key Democrat warns against ‘activist’ Obama court nominee: A leading Democratic senator warned Sunday his party could support a potentially polarizing obstruction of President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court if he names an “activist” to the bench. “I don’t care whether they’re liberal or conservative,” Nelson told Fox News Sunday in an interview. “I just want to make sure they’re not activist. I don’t want an activist on the bench.” “I think that’s the test — will they be an activist or not?” Nelson said. “And I would hope that there wouldn’t be any circumstances that would be so extreme with any of the president’s nominees that the other side would feel the need to filibuster or that I might feel the need to filibuster in a case of extraordinary circumstances.”… AFP, 5-24-09
  • Biden is a Key Adviser and Confidant in Obama’s White House: Biden is settling into his job as second in command and is making the role his own…. – US News & World Report, 5-20-09


Political Quotes

  • Specter: Not guaranteed free ride in Dem primary: Sen. Arlen Specter said Sunday he did not seek and was not given any assurance that he would not face a primary challenge when he made the decision to leave the Republican party to rejoin the Democratic party. “I didn’t ask that the field be cleared. There was no discussion of that,” Specter said on “Fox News Sunday” when asked about a possible Democratic primary challenge by Rep. Joe Sestak. “Everybody ought to run if he or she wants to run,” Specter said. “And I’m ready to take on all comers.”… – AP, 5-31-09
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Calls for Thorough and Timely Confirmation for Judge Sonia Sotomayor: This week, I nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Court of Appeals to replace Justice David Souter, who is retiring after nearly two decades on the Supreme Court. After reviewing many terrific candidates, I am certain that she is the right choice. In fact, there has not been a nominee in several generations who has brought the depth of judicial experience to this job that she offers…. – White House, 5-30-09
  • Obama On Cybersecurity: We’re Not That Prepared: President Obama on Friday said the U.S. government is “not as prepared” as it should be to respond to disruptions caused by computer or Internet attacks and announced that a new cybersecurity coordinator position would be created inside the White House staff.
    “We will ensure that these networks are secure, trustworthy and resilient,” Mr. Obama said. “We will deter, prevent, detect, and defend against attacks and recover quickly from any disruptions or damage.”… – CBS News, 5-29-09
  • Gates issues warning to North Korea: In a speech in Singapore, the Defense chief says the U.S. will hold Pyongyang ‘fully accountable’ if it sells or transfers nuclear material abroad…. “The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States and our allies,” Gates told officials gathered at an Asian defense summit here. “And we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action.”… – LAT, 5-29-09
  • Bush defends interrogation program in Michigan speech: Former President George W. Bush on Thursday repeated Dick Cheney’s assertion that the administration’s enhanced interrogation program, which included controversial techniques such as waterboarding, was legal and garnered valuable information that prevented terrorist attacks. The former president was speaking to the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan. In a change in format, he agreed to answer questions directly from the audience instead of responding to pre-submitted questions provided to a moderator. Bush told a southwestern Michigan audience of nearly 2,500 — the largest he has addressed in the United States since leaving the White House in January — that, after the September 11 attacks, “I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you.”
    “The first thing you do is ask what’s legal?” Bush said. “What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision, within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, ‘I’ve done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.’ I can tell you that the information we got saved lives.”
    “Nothing I am saying is meant to criticize my successor,” Bush said. “There are plenty of people who have weighed in. Trust me, having seen it first-hand. I didn’t like it when a former president criticized me, so therefore I am not going to criticize my successor. I wish him all the best.” He repeated his disclaimer about not passing judgment on Obama later when asked about North Korea’s nuclear test. Before answering, the 43rd president said he is “in no way trying to shape my successor’s decisions or criticize them.”
    “I know there are news people here, and they love conflict,” he said. Bush then went on to say that diplomacy is impossible without leverage. “A lot of times people want to give out the carrots,” he said. “My attitude is, you give out the carrots when the behavior changes.”
    He strongly defended his Troubled Asset Relief Program in response to the economic crisis at the end of his presidency, calling it crucial to preventing capital markets from freezing up, which he said would have led to another Great Depression. However, he said he remains “a free-market guy.” Asked what he thinks about conservative pundits who say the Obama administration’s fiscal policies are opening the door to socialism, Bush said: “I think the verdict is out. I think people are waiting to see what all this means.”
    “Well, I hope it is this: The man showed up with a set of principles, and he was unwilling to compromise his soul for the sake of popularity,” he said. He also revealed the topic of the first chapter in his forthcoming book, which he said will be about “the stories of my administration, as I saw them.” That first chapter, he said, will answer the question: “Why did I run for president?” – CNN, 5-29-09
  • Bush: White House pressure made marriage stronger: “I can promise you that her life dream when she was growing up was not to be first lady of the United States,” he told a Michigan audience in one of his first major domestic speeches since leaving the White House. “Frankly, I am not so sure that if we hadn’t married, she’d have voted for me,” he joked of his wife, who was raised in a Democratic family. “There’s a lot of pressure in the White House, as I’m sure you can imagine. Pressure sometimes can make a marriage stronger or weaker. In my case because of her patience and her enthusiasm, it made our marriage a really good marriage,” Bush said. “It’s much harder to be the son of the president than to be the president. And it’s much harder to be the father of the president than to be the president,” he said in a reference to his dad, former President George H.W. Bush. “And I used to have to admonish him not pay attention to what they were writing on the editorial pages about his son. I had gone through the same agony myself. And so I am confident that the end of the presidency is a great relief because of our strong love.” “I was pleased to have someone serve as my vice president who was not running for president, because someone who is running for president, at times, will try to distance themselves,” Bush said. “If things got tough, [he] could be one of the first persons off the ship, and that would be really unpleasant in the White House.” “I was frustrated because the stakes were so high in some of the decisions that I had to make. I wasn’t surprised that people would forget the feeling of how they felt after September 11. I was grateful that people were moving beyond September 11. As a president, you don’t want your nation to be so worried about an attack that people don’t go about their lives. … The psychology of the nation concerned me. Which then made it harder to get people to listen to you, to some of the decisions I made.” “The truth of the matter is, I never watched the nightly news, because it was predictable, I thought. Nor did I ever pay attention to the editorial pages, good editorials or bad,” he said. “I knew what was in the news. When you’re president, you can get so obsessed with this stuff that I felt it would cloud your vision.” “The truth of the matter is, there is so much attention paid to you, I thought it was important even in the toughest moments to be upbeat and not to be so worried about myself that I couldn’t convey a sense of confidence.” “People ask, what is it like? Well, I have never stopped at a traffic light for eight years,” he said. “The neighborhood we live in is nice. You know, Laura bought this house sight unseen. At least she saw. I didn’t. It was like a faith-based initiative.” – CNN, 5-29-09
  • Obama sure Sotomayor would restate 2001 comment: President Barack Obama on Friday personally sought to deflect criticism of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who finds herself under intensifying scrutiny for saying in 2001 that a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better decision than a white male judge. “I’m sure she would have restated it,” Obama flatly told NBC News, without indicating how he knew that.
    “I think that when she’s appearing before the Senate committee, in her confirmation process, I think all this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is,” Obama said in the broadcast interview, clearly aware of how ethnicity and gender issues are taking hold in the debate…. – AP, 5-29-09
  • Obama presses Israel, Palestinians on West Bank: Gingerly trying to advance Mideast peace, President Barack Obama on Thursday challenged Israel to stop settlement construction in the West Bank on the same day the Israelis rejected that demand. Obama pushed Palestinians for progress, too, deepening his personal involvement. “I am confident that we can move this process forward,” Obama said after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House. The president said that means both sides must “meet the obligations that they’ve already committed to” — an element of the peace effort that has proved elusive for years…. – AP, 5-28-09
  • Obama says health care changes must come this year: President Barack Obama warned Thursday that if Congress doesn’t deliver health care legislation by the end of the year, the opportunity will be lost, a plea to political supporters to pressure lawmakers to act. “If we don’t get it done this year, we’re not going to get it done,” Obama told supporters by phone as he flew home on Air Force One from a West Coast fundraising trip.
    Obama’s political organization, Organizing for America, invited campaign volunteers to a midday conference call to describe a nationwide June 6 kickoff for its health care campaign. “The election in November — that did not bring about change, it just gave us an opportunity for change,” Obama said. “So now, we are really going to have to remobilize, we have all had a chance to catch our breath after election and we have gotten a lot of things done during our first four months.” “But health care, that’s a big push.”
    “I think the status quo is unacceptable and that we’ve got to get it done this year,” Obama repeated, ginning up his supporters for a door-to-door and phone-to-phone canvass similar to his presidential campaign…. – AP, 5-28-09
  • Gates: No reason to build up US troops in Korea: While worrisome, North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests have not reached a crisis level that would warrant additional U.S. troops in the region, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. “I don’t think that anybody in the (Obama) administration thinks there is a crisis,” Gates told reporters aboard his military jet early Friday morning, still Thursday night in Washington. “What we do have, though, are two new developments that are very provocative, that are aggressive, accompanied by very aggressive rhetoric,” he said. “And I think it brings home the reality of the challenge that North Korea poses to the region and to the international community.”… – AP, 5-28-09
  • Obama talks politics, basketball at Beverly Hills fundraiser: Demonstrators outside the Beverly Hilton urge the president to stand up for gay rights. Obama says he intends to keep his campaign promises…. – LAT, 5-28-09
  • President Obama: “You ain’t seen nothing yet”, should he be so confident?: Perhaps feeling proud of his accomplishments during his first four months in office, President Obama told a star-studded Hollywood crowd, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”…. “It won’t be easy. There will be setbacks. It will take time.” He added that he’s made some mistakes and guarantees he’ll make more. – CNN’s Jack Cafferty, 5-29-09
  • Obama drops into California for political money: President Barack Obama painted an upbeat vision of the economy Wednesday as he addressed Californians who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to aid Democratic campaigns in other states. “It’s safe to say we have stepped back from the brink, that there is some calm that didn’t exist before,” Obama told donors and celebrities at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. He said the stimulus bill that Congress passed three months ago is starting to improve the economy. He acknowledged that his young administration has had “some fits and starts.” “I’ve made some mistakes, and I guarantee you I will make some more,” he said…. – AP, 5-28-09
  • Sestak says he plans to take on Specter: Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) confirmed that he’s planning on challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), in an interview this afternoon with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “We have to ask the question will [Specter] be with the right policies that our president has put out there… There’s too much doubt in my mind not to have the intent right now to get in this race, pending just a little time with my family to make sure we’re all together.”… – Politico, 5-27-09
  • U.S. wants no more Jewish settlement growth, Clinton says: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says Israel must stop expanding Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory. The Obama administration stance is a key difference with Israel….. “Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interest of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease,” Mrs Clinton said…. – LAT, 5-27-09
  • Biden Teases Obama Over Teleprompter Dependence, After Mishap: The vice president razzed his boss Wednesday while speaking at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony in Colorado. Biden made the crack about Obama’s crutch after a strong gust of wind blew over one of the vice president’s Teleprompters. Biden was talking about Colorado’s thin air at the time and when he heard the crash, he added, “and the strong winds.” Then he said: “What am I gonna tell the president when I tell him his Teleprompter is broken? What will he do then?”… – Fox News, 5-27-09
  • No filibuster, but Sotomayor battle still loom: Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he didn’t foresee a filibuster, essentially the only way Republicans could try to stop Sotomayor since Democrats control the Senate. Still, he made it clear that Republicans were ready to raise pointed questions about whether Sotomayor, the first Hispanic nominee to the high court, would let her personal life color her legal opinions — and whether that’s appropriate for a Supreme Court justice.
    “We have an absolute constitutional duty to make sure that any nominee, no matter what their background and what kind of life story they have, that we examine that so the American people can know that the person we give a lifetime appointment to … will be faithful to the law and not allow their personal views to influence decision-making,” Sessions said in an interview on NBC’s “Today.” – AP, 5-27-09
  • ‘They Answered a Call,’ Obama Says of Veterans: “They felt some tug; they answered a call; they said, ‘I’ll go,'” Mr. Obama said after the wreath-laying ceremony in a 12-minute address paying tribute to veterans and fallen soldiers. “That is why they are the best of America, and that is what separates them from those of us who have not served in uniform: their extraordinary willingness to risk their lives for people they never met.” The president asked all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. on Monday for a moment of “national unity” to honor the war dead. “I ask you to ring a bell, or offer a prayer, say a silent ‘thank you,'” Mr. Obama said, “and commit to give something back to this nation, something lasting, in their memory.”… – NYT, 5-25-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON MEMORIAL DAY: Here lie Presidents and privates; Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God. A few moments ago, I laid a wreath at their tomb to pay tribute to all who have given their lives for this country. As a nation, we have gathered here to repeat this ritual in moments of peace, when we pay our respects to the fallen and give thanks for their sacrifice. And we’ve gathered here in moments of war, when the somber notes of Taps echo through the trees, and fresh grief lingers in the air. Today is one of those moments, where we pay tribute to those who forged our history, but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost. And even as we gather here this morning, all across America, people are pausing to remember, to mourn, and to pray…. – White House, 5-25-09
  • Answering Critics, Powell Says G.O.P. Needs Change: “Rush will not get his wish, and Mr. Cheney was misinformed,” Mr. Powell said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” “I’m still a Republican.”….
    “For the previous 20 years I voted solidly for Republican candidates,” Powell said. “I served Ronald Reagan for two years. I spoke at the 1996 convention and I spoke at the 2000 convention.” He added that he had voted for several Democratic presidents: John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and “even” Jimmy Carter. Mr. Powell called it “unfortunate” that Mr. Limbaugh said he supported Mr. Obama because he, too, was black…. “I’d like to point out that in the course of my 50 years of voting for presidents, I have voted for the person I thought was best qualified at that time to lead the nation,” he said. “Last year, I thought it was President-now Barack Obama.”….
    Noting the party’s substantial losses in last fall’s elections, he said: “You can only do two things with a base. You can sit on it and watch the world go by, or you can build on it. In almost every demographic indicator, the Republican Party is losing. North, South, East, West. Men, women, whites, blacks, Hispanics. Are we simply moving further to the right, and by so doing opening up the right-of-center and the center to be taken over by independents and to be taken over by Democrats?” – NYT, 5-24-09
  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Gingrich continued his criticism of Mr. Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo. “I think the president made a very big mistake,” said Mr. Gingrich, who, like Mr. Cheney, has made repeated media appearances in recent weeks. “It was a campaign promise. It is not a national security plan. I think, frankly, they should keep Guantánamo open. Whatever things that are wrong with Guantánamo they would fix by moving them to somewhere else, fix them at Guantánamo.” When pressed to say when he thought the base could be closed, Mr. Gingrich said, “When the terrorists disappear.” – NYT, 5-24-09
  • Ridge offers strong words on how GOP can rebound: “Rush articulates his point of views in ways that offend very many,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s a matter of language and a matter of how you use words. And it does get the base all fired up, and he’s got strong following. But, personally, if he would listen to me — and I doubt if he would — the notion is, express yourselves, but let’s respect others’ opinions. And let’s not be divisive.”…
    He said Republicans should respect the opinions of others and explain in “a rational, thoughtful, responsible and reasonable way” why Republican ideas should be more acceptable to the average American. Ridge has ruled out running against Republican-turned Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter next year, but sidestepped a question on whether he might make a run for the White House in 2012. He said he plans to work within the party so the GOP wins the presidency in 2012 “and we’ll just leave it at that.” “I’m a strong, strong Republican but … I’ve never, ever, ever voted straight Republican ticket in my life and I never will,” he said…. – AP, 5-24-09


Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Sotomayor puts GOP at crossroads”: It seems as if Republican opponents of President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court are now coalescing around the issue of affirmative action as their main point of attack. Their focus is her ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano as well as her remark about the benefits that a Latina judge could bring to a court.
    Just months after Americans made a historic decision to elect an African-American as president, this approach is a high-stakes strategy that poses huge risks for the GOP regardless of the outcome of this nomination.
    Some Republicans, such as former Speaker Newt Gingrich, have called on their colleagues to aggressively oppose Sotomayor in response to arguments about affirmative action and liberalism that have been central to the base of the party. Other Republicans, including several in Congress, have suggested that this strategy would further marginalize the Republican Party among Hispanics, women and moderates.
    By focusing an assault on affirmative action, Republicans would add African Americans and other minorities to that list, playing to the accusations of their opponents that the GOP is a white man’s party. The debate about Sotomayor’s nomination is in many ways a strategic debate about the future of the Republican Party…. – CNN, 6-1-09
  • David C. McCullough “Nation needs review of anti-terror tactics”: “A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia,” says historian David C. McCullough, author of the best-selling book “1776” about the early years of the American revolution. “History is not the story of heroes entirely,” McCullough observes. “It is often the story of cruelty and injustice and shortsightedness. There are monsters, there is evil, there is betrayal … the best, the worst, the height of noble attainment and the depths of depravity.”… – Detroit Free Press, 5-31-09
  • Obama’s Battle With the Liberal Wing of the Democratic Party: Four decades ago, the liberal, antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped to force President Lyndon B. Johnson from office. Specifically, Johnson decided not to run for re-election in 1968 in large part because of rising primary challenges and increasingly vitriolic demonstrations against him. One chant that was heard often at anti-Vietnam War rallies was “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” The level of anger now is nowhere close to that level, but there are warning signs that President Obama is starting to generate serious opposition on the fiery left. There is increasing unease about his sending 21,000 more troops into Afghanistan, which some compare to the early escalations in Vietnam…. – Us News & World Report, 5-31-09
  • Lawrence Baum “The Waves Minority Judges Always Make”: It is not clear, though, that any of those stories caused Justice O’Connor to change her vote. “Justice O’Connor was not nearly as sympathetic to racial civil rights claims as she was to gender claims,” said Lawrence Baum, a political science professor at Ohio State. – NYT, 5-31-09
  • David J. Garrow “The Waves Minority Judges Always Make”: Justice Clarence Thomas, the second African-American justice, is by some measures the most conservative justice since 1937, while Justice Marshall was the most liberal. “Thomas is living proof and a daily reminder that not everyone from a particular background has a particular point of view,” said David J. Garrow, a historian at Cambridge University, in England. – NYT, 5-31-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Obama and the life of the party”: With his appointment of Sonia Sotomayor and a fiery speech in Nevada, President Obama bought himself a little breathing space with congressional Democrats after taking a big political hit from them last week.
    The debate over closing the Guantanamo prison intensified when congressional Democrats refused to provide the administration with the funds needed to conduct the transfer.
    Democrats were frustrated that Obama, who had announced the closure as one of the first pieces of business for his administration, had failed to provide his own party’s leaders with the details of the plan.
    When conservatives warned that detainees would be sent to American prisons from where they could potentially spread terrorism in the heartland, congressional Democrats were vulnerable, left without enough information to mount a defense.
    Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, didn’t find the vote particularly difficult. He told reporters that the reason was clear: The White House had failed to forward “a coherent plan for closing this prison.”
    To make matters worse, this came one week after Speaker Nancy Pelosi came under fire as a result of CIA Director Leon Panetta’s announcement that she had been briefed on the agency’s interrogation techniques, including the use of waterboarding.
    This kind of conflict between the executive and legislative branches when they are under the control of the same party is not new in contemporary American history. One party’s control of government is not a guarantee of harmony. These conflicts have stemmed from basic policy differences but also because of political missteps…. – CNN, 5-28-09
  • Peniel Joseph “In Dueling Speeches, a National Security Debate Obama Says Bush Set Aside Principles in Terrorism Fight”: “I think it is unprecedented in the modern era,” said Peniel Joseph, a historian at Brandeis University. “We’ve seen outgoing administrations that did not get along with the new administration, but we have never seen the vice president of an outgoing administration lambasting the new administration like this.” – WaPo, 5-22-09

President Barack Obama participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
(President Barack Obama participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 25, 2009. White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson)

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