January 27, 2010: President Obama Gives First State of the Union Address

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President gives the State of the Union Address

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Live Blogging the President’s AddressNYT, 1-27-10
  • FACT CHECK: Obama and the ‘hatchet’ job: President Barack Obama, who once considered government spending freezes a hatchet job, told Americans on Wednesday it’s now part of his solution to the exploding deficit. He didn’t explain what had changed. His State of the Union speech skipped over a variety of complex realities in laying out a “common-sense” call to action…. – AP, 1-27-10
  • Americans Want Obama to Spend More Time on the Economy, Poll Finds: On the eve of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, voters think the president should be spending more time on the economy. According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 51% of Americans believe Mr. Obama has paid “too little attention” to the economy. Forty-four percent think he has paid “too much attention” to his proposed overhaul of health care. A plurality continues to think that Mr. Obama’s health-care plan is a bad idea…. – WSJ, 1-26-10
  • Obama: Most polarizing president in history?: The Gallup Poll people delivered an interesting report today: President Obama was the most polarizing first-year president in history. The average difference in Obama’s approval ratings between Democrats and Republicans turned out to be 65 percent — the highest first-year gap of any president so measured…. – USA Today, 1-25-10
  • Date for State of Union, January 27, 2010: President Obama will deliver his first State of the Union address on Jan. 27. The White House announced Monday that the president would speak to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday at 9 p.m. – NYT, 1-18-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama as he gave his State of the Union address.Doug Mills/The New York Times “Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history’s call,” President Obama said.

  • Embattled Obama declares in speech, ‘I don’t quit’: Declaring “I don’t quit,” President Barack Obama fought to recharge his embattled presidency with a State of the Union vow to get jobless millions back to work and stand on the side of Americans angry at Wall Street greed and Washington bickering. Defiant despite stinging setbacks, he said he would fight on for ambitious overhauls of health care, energy and education…. – AP, 1-27-10
  • Republicans say nation can’t afford Dem policies: The nation cannot afford the spending Democrats have enacted or the tax increases they propose, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Wednesday in the Republican response to the State of the Union address… – AP, 1-27-10
  • Obama Calls Jobs ‘Number One Focus’ President Obama delivered his State of the Union speech on Wednesday night: President Obama said Wednesday night that leaders in Washington face a “deficit of trust,” as he used his first State of the Union address to try to restore public confidence in his administration and to convince the American people that he is intensely focused on the issues that concern them most: jobs and the economy. In a nationally televised speech before a joint session of Congress, Mr. Obama appealed for an end to the “tired old battles” that have divided the country and stalled his legislative agenda. With his top priority, a health care overhaul, on hold in the wake of the recent Republican Senate victory in Massachusetts, he had a pointed warning for both Democrats and Republicans…. – NYT, 1-27-10
  • Obama Vows to Press Ahead With Agenda After ‘Difficult’ First Year: Acknowledging that his presidency has not yet lived up to his campaign vision, President Obama on Wednesday vowed to press ahead with his ambitious agenda in 2010 on everything ranging from health care reform to jobs creation to immigration reform…. – Fox News, 1-27-10
  • Republicans say Obama has done little to revive economy: In the GOP response to the president’s State of the Union address, newly elected Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell specifically criticized Obama’s stimulus plan for failing to curb unemployment…. – LAT, 1-27-10
  • NEWS ANALYSIS Obama strives to revive the spirit of 2009: His State of the Union address strikes a populist note, focusing on the familiar themes of change and bipartisanship. But he offers few concrete suggestions for achieving conciliation…. – LAT, 1-27-10
  • Obama’s State of the Union address: President acknowledges voters’ concerns: President Obama hit what will be one of the political themes that his administration has pushed to explain voters’ concerns: frustration and anger. Nowhere did that anger bubble up more than in Massachusetts, where the GOP captured what was once a solid Democratic seat and shifted the political process. The White House has argued that Obama rode that same wave of anger that goes back to the Bush years. But the biggest burr is how Wall Street has prospered with taxpayer help…. – LAT, 1-27-10
  • Bruised Obama’s new rallying cry: jobs, not healthcare: President uses first state of the union speech to make job creation overwhelming priority for coming year…. – Guardian UK, 1-28-10
  • Obama on healthcare: Encouragement, but no priority:President Barack Obama encouraged the U.S. Congress on Wednesday not to walk away from his stalled healthcare drive, but made it clear it would no longer be the focus of his legislative agenda. After six months of heated political battle on the issue he made his top domestic priority in 2009, healthcare was not mentioned in his State of the Union address until the halfway point and followed a long list of priorities led by job creation, financial regulatory reform and education. With Democrats clamoring for Obama to focus on job creation and the economy, Obama said lawmakers should let “temperatures cool” and then take a fresh look at his healthcare plan…. – Reuters, 1-28-10
  • Obama Invites Republicans to Share Burden of Fixing U.S.: Republicans have been taking plenty of shots at President Barack Obama. In his State of the Union address Wednesday night, one of the president’s main goals was to maneuver Republicans into taking some responsibility as well. In essence, the president’s message to the opposition party was this: You have taken back enough power to block me, but in turn you will have to share the blame if nothing happens in Washington this year. That represents a pretty obvious effort to turn the president’s big liability of the hour—his loss of a controlling super-majority in the Senate—into an asset. The main weapon at Mr. Obama’s disposal is voter anger, which is directed at Congress as well as the White House, Republicans as well as Democrats, and which he hopes can be used as a cudgel against the opposition party as much as the party in power….. – WSJ, 1-27-10
  • Democratic anger goes public in prime time: The Democrat-vs.-Democrat anger roiling the ranks of Congress is being wrapped in smiles and standing ovations Wednesday as President Barack Obama outlines the nation’s top priorities in his first State of the Union speech. But for most of the Democrats cramming the House chamber, there is no issue more pressing than getting re-elected in November. And it’s not clear that pursuing Obama’s priorities will help them achieve theirs…. – WaPo, 1-27-10
  • Alito’s State of the Union moment: Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. responded to President Obama’s criticism Wednesday night of a Supreme Court decision last week by appearing to mouth the words “not true.” Obama took issue with a ruling that overturned two of the court’s precedents and upended decades of restrictions on corporations being able to use their profits to finance campaigns for and against candidates. It proved to be a striking State of the Union moment: With six justices seated in their black robes directly in front of him in the House chamber, Obama said: “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.”… – WaPo, 1-27-10
  • GOP elated at yearly meet; Dems? Um, not so much: It’s that time of year. The state Democratic and Republican parties held their annual “Where do we go from here?” meetings in Phoenix on Saturday. And my, how quickly times change. A year ago, Democrats were ebullient after grabbing control of the White House and both houses of Congress. Anti-Republican backlash was at its peak. It didn’t take long for the bloom to come off that rose…. – Arizona Daily Star, 1-27-10
  • Congress Slows Down on Health Care Congressional leaders slow down health overhaul push, searching for answers on how to proceed: Congressional leaders are taking health care legislation off the fast track as rank-and-file Democrats, wary of unhappy midterm election voters, look to President Barack Obama for guidance in his State of the Union address. House and Senate leaders said Tuesday they need time to determine the best way forward on health care in the wake of last week’s special election loss in Massachusetts, which cost Democrats their filibuster-proof Senate majority. Obama is not expected to offer a specific prescription in Wednesday night’s speech, but Democrats want to hear him renew his commitment to the health care overhaul he’s spent the past year promoting as his top domestic priority…. – AP, 1-27-10
  • In State of the Union, Obama will try to revive message: President Barack Obama will try to pivot past rocky times for the nation and himself tonight in his first State of the Union address, offering a skeptical public repackaged plans to energize the economy, stem a tide of red ink and strengthen anti-terrorism defenses. He’ll also be trying to revive his own “yes we can” image…. – AP, 1-27-10
  • Obama’s State of the Union address will focus on economy: The president is expected to call for a change in Washington’s partisan climate as he tries to reassure Americans that he can lead the way to jobs and better times. But change may be hard to come by…. – LAT, 1-27-10
  • White House Memo In Speech, Obama to Admit Missteps in First Year: For all the questions circulating in Democratic quarters as President Obama tries to weather the worst storm of his administration, perhaps none is as succinct as this: Are the missteps at the White House rooted in message or substance?… When Mr. Obama presents his first State of the Union address on Wednesday evening, aides said he would accept responsibility, though not necessarily blame, for failing to deliver swiftly on some of the changes he promised a year ago. But he will not, aides said, accede to criticism that his priorities are out of step with the nation’s. NY”T, 1-26-10
  • Obama to Offer Aid for Families in State of the Union Address: President Obama will propose in his State of the Union address a package of modest initiatives intended to help middle-class families, including tax credits for child care, caps on some student loan payments and a requirement that companies let workers save automatically for retirement, senior administration officials said Sunday. By focusing on what one White House official calls “the sandwich generation” — struggling families squeezed between sending their children to college and caring for elderly parents — Mr. Obama hopes to use his speech on Wednesday to demonstrate that he understands the economic pain of ordinary Americans. The proposals also include expanded tax credits for retirement savings and money for programs to help families care for elderly relatives…. – NYT, 1-25-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Obama as he gave his State of the Union address.Doug Mills/The New York Times “We all hated the bank bailout,” Mr. Obama said to applause.
  • Text: Obama’s State of the Union Address: The prepared text of President Obama’s State of the Union address, delivered Jan. 27, 2010, as released by the White House…. – NYT, 1-27-10
  • Obama’s State of the Union Address, Excerpts: America prevailed, because we chose to move forward as one nation and one people….
    One year later, the worst of the storm has passed, but the devastation remains….
    I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight. Despite our hardships, our union is strong. We do not give up. We do not quit….
    Our most urgent task upon taking office was to shore up the same banks that helped cause this crisis. It was not easy to do. And if there’s one thing that has unified Democrats and Republicans, it’s that we all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal….
    From the day I took office, I have been told that addressing our larger challenges is too ambitious – that such efforts would be too contentious, that our political system is too gridlocked, and that we should just put things on hold for awhile. For those who make these claims, I have one simple question: How long should we wait?….
    I know there have been questions about whether we can afford such changes in a tough economy; and I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change. But even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future – because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation….
    Now let’s clear a few things up: I didn’t choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on health care because it was good politics….
    I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people. And I know that with all the lobbying and horse-trading, this process left most Americans wondering what’s in it for them….
    Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people….
    Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it’s time to try something new. Let’s try common sense – a novel concept….
    But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent – a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants should not be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual Senators. Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, is just part of the game. But it is precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it is sowing further division among our citizens and further distrust in our government….
    To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve some problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that sixty votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership….
    We can argue all we want about who’s to blame for this, but I am not interested in re-litigating the past. So let’s put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough. Let’s reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values….
    This year I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are….
    I campaigned on the promise of change – change we can believe in, the slogan went. And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change – or at least, that I can deliver it.
    But remember this – I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone. Democracy in a nation of three hundred million people can be noisy and messy and complicated. And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy. That’s just how it is….
    We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don’t quit. I don’t quit. Let’s seize this moment – to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and to strengthen our union once more. – NYT, 1-27-10
  • Obama adds some humor to State of the Union speech: Referring to his struggles in getting a health care bill passed, Obama said dryly: “By now, it should be fairly obvious that I didn’t take on health care because it was good politics.” The lawmakers liked that one.
    When Obama introduced first lady Michelle Obama, she sat respectfully in the gallery while others applauded. The president poked a little fun, saying: “She gets embarrassed.”
    And when Obama announced he wanted to hold monthly meetings that included Republican leaders, he looked at them and said: “I know you can’t wait.” – AP, 1-27-10
  • Text The Republican Response to the State of the Union: The prepared remarks that Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia is expected to say after President Obama delivers his State of the Union address, as released by the governor’s office… – NYT, 1-27-10
  • McDonnell hammers White House on spending, health care: Last year, we were told that massive new federal spending would create more jobs ‘immediately’ and hold unemployment below 8 percent….
    In the past year, over three million Americans have lost their jobs, yet the Democratic Congress continues deficit spending, adding to the bureaucracy, and increasing the national debt on our children and grandchildren….
    And our solutions aren’t thousand-page bills that no one has fully read, after being crafted behind closed doors with special interests….
    But this administration’s policies are delaying offshore production, hindering nuclear energy expansion, and seeking to impose job-killing cap and trade energy taxes,” we agree that victory there is a national security imperative….
    But we have serious concerns over recent steps the administration has taken regarding suspected terrorists. Americans were shocked on Christmas Day to learn of the attempted bombing of a flight to Detroit. This foreign terror suspect was given the same legal rights as a U.S. citizen, and immediately stopped providing critical intelligence….
    Government should have this clear goal: Where opportunity is absent, we must create it. Where opportunity is limited, we must expand it. Where opportunity is unequal, we must make it open to everyone. Our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to create this nation. Now, we should pledge as Democrats, Republicans and Independents–Americans all—to work together to leave this nation a better place than we found it. – Richmond Times Dispatch, 1-27-10
  • Reaction to the State of the Union addressCNN, 1-27-10
  • Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts): “I was pleased to hear President Obama acknowledge that our economy must be a national priority and I applaud him for taking some important first steps. But putting America back to work requires bold action. Bold action means broad-based tax cuts for families and businesses to create jobs and not merely targeted tax relief. Bold action also means major reform and restructuring to actually cut spending and not just freeze it. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the political aisle on far-reaching new initiatives that will put our economy back on track and get our fiscal house in order.” – CNN, 1-27-10
  • Sen. John McCain (R – Arizona): “In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy. “This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.” – CNN, 1-27-10
  • John McCain on the State of the Union: During his first year in office, President Obama and Congressional Democrats have amassed a $12.4 trillion deficit that is growing each day. While the President advocates increased federal spending, I have actively advocated tax cuts, reduced spending and earmark reform to get our economy back on track. The non-discretionary spending freeze announced by the President is a start, but what he also needs to do is promise to veto bills laden with pork barrel spending and begin creating jobs for the thousands of out-of-work Americans… – johnmccain.com, 1-27-10
  • Joe Wilson Responds to Obama, This Time on Facebook: “What the president proposed tonight would not truly create jobs. He is persisting on the wrong path of excessive spending.” Mr. Wilson did commend the president for advocating aid for Haiti and supporting American troops. But he called cap-and-trade legislation “a national energy tax” that “would kill jobs.” And he said the federal government should “be limited to doing what we cannot do for ourselves.” Discussing the Democratic health care reform proposal, Mr. Wilson said: “It almost sounded like everything for everyone for free. That’s not correct and it’s not truly in the interest of the American people.” – NYT, 1-27-10
  • Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee: “Somewhere along the line, the White House lost its way. Instead of focusing on solutions to help America’s families wade through the wreckage of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, Washington has wasted valuable time wrestling with partisan politics in an effort to rush through drastic reforms that do not directly address our most immediate needs. The president’s address has lent us all hope – hope that the administration is finally heeding our concerns. It’s about time.”
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y.: “We have to wait for the House of Lords to do their contemplating. We’re also not getting much guidance from the mother ship about what the White House really wants and what they’re prepared to push for.”
  • Readers respond to Obama’s State of the Union Question of who’s to blame for the political fighting gets mixed reactions: Msnbc.com readers had mixed reactions Wednesday to President Obama’s first State of the Union address, blaming everyone from Congress to the president for a ‘deficit of trust’ about how Washington works…. – MSNBC, 1-27-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

Members of Mr. Obama's cabinet, lawmakers from both the House and Senate, and Supreme Court justices were among the audience.Doug Mills/The New York Times Supreme Court justices, members of Mr. Obama’s cabinet and lawmakers from both the House and Senate are in attendance.
  • Peniel Joseph: The Annotated State of the Union: President Obama has gone on the offensive for his first major State of the Union speech. Not only does he insist that his embattled health care bill is part of an overall effort to jumpstart the economy, he has listed the tangible impact of last year’s controversial stimulus package….
    Obama continues to outline his commitment to bipartisanship here. Very similar to Ronald Reagan in 1982 who derided critics who said he could not get along with a Democratic Congress. It’s also a warning to both parties that the American people want them to pass important and meaningful legislation that is forged out of compromise. It remains to be seen if this will be enough, especially in an election year, to convince members of Congress that it’s in their own interest to pass legislation rather than simply stand in the way as obstructionists. Unlike Reagan, who had the support of a unified Republican Party and managed to peel off conservative Democrats, Obama has a fractured Democratic Party and a remarkably unified Republican opposition. – PBS Newshour, 1-27-10
  • Diane Ravitch: The Annotated State of the Union: President Obama is surely right that “we need to invest in the skills and education of our people.” Unfortunately the national competition that the Obama administration has launched — known as the “Race to the Top” does not match the rhetoric. What the administration is actually doing is embracing the Republican agenda of choice and accountability, thus continuing to promote the same failed approaches as the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act. There was a time, about a decade ago, when the Democratic agenda was equity and professionalization, as contrasted with the GOP agenda of choice and accountability. Sadly, the Obama agenda is no different from that of George W. Bush’s education agenda….
    This is not reform. This is a managerial and organizational scheme in which children are treated as numbers and schooling is reduced to data points. The only thing that matters is test scores in reading and math. Other subjects–the non-tested subjects–are ignored. America will not have a great education system if we systematically ignore science, the arts, history, literature, and foreign languages. – PBS Newshour, 1-27-10
  • Robert Kagan: The Annotated State of the Union: On the subject of foreign policy, the speech is very disappointing. Obviously, the president wanted the focus to be domestic, so the foreign policy and defense section is the dullest boilerplate. No new initiatives. No change in rhetoric. Indeed, practically no rhetoric at all. It is almost as if the president was turning the nation inward and stepping away from international involvement. There is no mention of Europe (except as a place where trains run fast), which Europeans will notice. No mention of Japan. And only one use of the word “allies,” in the context of Afghanistan. The perception that the Obama administration is pulling away from our allies, which is becoming widespread, will be strengthened by this speech. As to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the speech is about withdrawal, not commitment. As for Iran, there is no mention of the Iranian opposition, the illegitimate Iranian elections, and only the briefest of references to human rights in Iran. Perhaps the world will understand that Obama felt he had to focus on the domestic issues. But it will be hard to avoid the perception that Obama, having little to show for his foreign policy efforts in the first year, has decided to downplay foreign policy. This is worrying. – PBS Newshour, 1-27-10
  • Michael Beschloss: The Annotated State of the Union: Obama eloquently tried to do tonight what JFK did in his speech to Congress after the Bay of Pigs failure in 1961 and what Bill Clinton did in 1995 after losing both Houses of Congress: reframe the way Americans see his presidency after suffering some setbacks. This speech will no doubt help, but he is the first to know that his fate will rest a lot more on the outcome of his efforts to bring American jobs and what happens in two American wars and the struggle against terrorism. – PBS Newshour, 1-27-10
  • Recapping the President’s Speech: The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney, Jeff Zeleny, Helene Cooper and David Sanger offer their views on President Obama’s State of the Union…. NYT, 1-27-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: When liberals revolt: “It could leave him without any strong base of support and fuel the perception that he is an ineffective leader, something else independent voters don’t tend to appreciate,” he wrote. “If the president backs too far away from the issues that animated his supporters in 2008, he could find himself facing even stronger challenges from liberals and depressing the base of support that he will very much need going into 2012.” – CNN, 1-26-10
  • Julian Zelizer: State of the Union speech unlikely to ease worries, analysts say: “While not quite as dramatic as Bill Clinton’s announcement in his 1996 State of the Union address that the ‘era of big government is over,’ Obama is signaling that he wants to appeal to centrist voters concerned about government spending,” said Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian and CNN.com columnist. CNN.com, 1-26-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: State of the Union speech unlikely to ease worries, analysts say: Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said Obama needs to “sell jobs, jobs and more jobs” in his speech. “It’s essential that, like Clinton, he lets the American people know he feels their pain,” Brinkley said. “And he needs to use fierce Reaganesque language about smashing al Qaeda. Due to the Christmas bomber debacle, Obama must explain in detail new innovative ways his administration is protecting U.S. citizens from terrorist attacks.”…. – CNN.com, 1-26-10
  • David Frum: State of the Union speech unlikely to ease worries, analysts say: “The president will respond as he always does to emergencies: with a speech. In this case, it’s his State of the Union address,” said David Frum, a CNN contributor and former speechwriter to President George W. Bush. “The Obama team always assumes the best remedy for any Obama difficulty is more Obama.” Frum said Obama’s new populist tone, which he said emerged after the Democrats’ surprising loss in the Massachusetts special Senate election, might work short-term if he uses it in Wednesday’s speech, but it won’t work over the long haul. “If so, it would be a big mistake. It may win the president an immediate bounce in the polls by exciting downcast liberals and progressives,” Frum said in a CNN.com commentary. “But that bounce will prove limited and short- lived, and it will come at the expense of more trouble not very far down the road.” – CNN.com, 1-26-10 ‘Obama the populist’ doesn’t ring true, CNN, 1-25-10
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “Political Stakes are High with State of the Union Address”: “He’s got to make the American people feel that Main Street and job creation is at the center of his priority. When you see a poll that 60 percent say they feel he spent more time thinking about the big banks than the problems of the middle class, he has to shift that perception,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said. WBAY, 1-27-10

Pres. Obama’s First State of the Union Address

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R-VA) Responds to State of the Union

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January 25, 2010: Obama, Democrats Respond to Republican Scott Brown’s Senate win in Massachusetts

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THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President announces new Wall Street Reform proposals

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Date for State of Union, January 27, 2010: President Obama will deliver his first State of the Union address on Jan. 27. The White House announced Monday that the president would speak to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday at 9 p.m. – NYT, 1-18-10
  • In poll, Obama gets unexceptional marks: A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Jan. 8-9 shows President Obama with 50% or higher approval for handling foreign affairs and terrorism, but 50% or more disapproval on health care and the economy. On handling the situation in Afghanistan there is an almost even divide: 48% approve-47% disapprove. There is broad agreement, however, that the challenges he faces are more serious than those other new presidents have faced. Nearly two-thirds, 63%, agree with that. Just 6% say the problems are less serious…. – USA Today, 1-20-10
  • Fewer Americans think Obama has advanced race relations, poll shows: Soaring expectations about the effect of the first black president on U.S. race relations have collided with a more mundane reality, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. On the eve of President Obama’s inauguration a year ago, nearly six in 10 Americans said his presidency would advance cross-racial ties. Now, about four in 10 say it has done so. The falloff has been highest among African Americans. Last January, three-quarters of blacks said they expected Obama’s presidency to help. In the new poll, 51 percent of African Americans say he has helped, a wider gap between expectations and performance than among whites…. – Washington Post, 1-18-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • McCain Nudges Obama Toward His Party’s Health Plans: In the wake of a political setback for national health care legislation, Senator John McCain, the losing candidate in the last presidential election, advised his victorious 2008 adversary on Sunday that the way to get meaningful changes passed is to “start from the beginning” by meeting with Republicans.
    Mr. McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said on the CBS news program “Face the Nation” that President Obama should sit down with Republican leaders and begin adopting some of their ideas for improving the nation’s health care system such as overhauling medical malpractice lawsuits, allowing residents of one state to buy health insurance from a company in another state, and granting tax credits for people who purchase health insurance on their own…. – NYT, 1-24-10
  • G.O.P. Seeks to Widen Field of Play in Fall Elections: Republicans are luring new candidates into House and Senate races, and the number of seats up for grabs in November appears to be growing, setting up a midterm election likely to be harder fought than anyone anticipated before the party’s big victory in Massachusetts last week.
    Republicans still face many obstacles, not least a number of potentially divisive primaries in coming months that will highlight the deep ideological rifts within the party. But in the days since Republicans claimed the Senate seat that Edward M. Kennedy had held for decades, upending assumptions in both parties about the political landscape for 2010, they have seen not just a jolt of energy and optimism but also more concrete opportunities to take on Democrats…. – NYT, 1-25-10
  • White House, Top Senate Republican Say Bernanke Will Keep Job: Ben S. Bernanke will keep his job as Federal Reserve chairman, the White House and the Senate’s senior Republican predicted two days after wavering support among some Democrats helped drive stock prices lower. President Barack Obama “is very confident that the chairman will be confirmed,” David Axelrod, a senior White House adviser, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press: that Bernanke will have “bipartisan support in the Senate” even as a number of his party are opposed…. – Bloomberg, 1-25-10
  • Democrats Seek to Counter Court Ruling on Political Spending: Democrats are exploring ways to counter a Supreme Court ruling that threw out a century of limits on corporate political spending, hoping it will hand them a populist issue to stem a Republican tide rising on public anger…. – WSJ, 1-24-10
  • Late spending frenzy fueled Senate race Cash came from across US: Candidates and groups that supported them spent nearly $23 million on Tuesday’s US Senate election, burning through nearly all of it in the frenzied final three weeks of the contest, including $8.5 million on television advertising alone during the seven days leading up to the vote.
    A flood of national money propelled Republican Scott Brown’s historic upset of Democrat Martha Coakley in the race for the seat long held by Edward M. Kennedy. Brown’s triumph helped tip the balance of power in Washington, giving Senate Republicans enough votes to block Democratic initiatives…. – Boston Globe, 1-23-10
  • Can the healthcare overhaul drive recover?: Its supporters were dealt a setback with the Republican Senate election victory in Massachusetts, which cost them a supermajority. But it may not be dead…. – LAT, 1-23-10
  • 2009 Democratic agenda severely weakened by Republicans’ united opposition: The breathless pace that President Obama set after taking office last January jolted lawmakers from the soporific haze of the final George W. Bush years, revving up dormant committees and lighting up phone lines with a frenzy of dealmaking….
    Then the bullet train screeched to a halt. Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts special election on Tuesday cost the Democrats’ their filibuster-proof Senate majority. Obama’s biggest priorities — overhauling health care, expanding college aid, reducing climate change — are now in limbo, facing dim prospects as Republicans show little interest in cooperating, and Democrats brace for a 2010 midterm election year potentially as volatile as 1994, when the GOP captured the Senate and the House two years after Bill Clinton was elected president…. – WaPo, 1-23-10
  • Obama Moves to Centralize Control Over Party Strategy: President Obama is reconstituting the team that helped him win the White House to counter Republican challenges in the midterm elections and recalibrate after political setbacks that have narrowed his legislative ambitions. Mr. Obama has asked his former campaign manager, David Plouffe, to oversee House, Senate and governor’s races to stave off a hemorrhage of seats in the fall. The president ordered a review of the Democratic political operation — from the White House to party committees — after last week’s Republican victory in the Massachusetts Senate race, aides said…. – NYT, 1-23-10
  • Obama Sharpens His Populist Tone: President Barack Obama tried to relaunch his political agenda Friday with a populist attack on banks and insurance companies that signaled he would fight for his priorities going into the fall elections rather than give ground to Republicans on key issues.
    Mr. Obama’s campaign-style speech here capped one of the most bruising weeks of his year in office. The president traveled to this swing-state manufacturing town ostensibly to deliver a speech about jobs and the economy, but instead he repeatedly veered off-script to interject pledges to battle his political foes over health care and other issues “so long as I have breath in me.”… – WSJ, 1-23-10
  • Snowe still willing to cooperate with Democrats on health bill: US Senator Olympia Snowe, smarting over the way Democrats moved health care negotiations behind closed doors and left her and other Republicans shut out of the process, is waiting for them to make the first move toward salvaging portions of the health care overhaul bill. Snowe, once viewed as President Obama’s best hope of crossing party lines to support his health care legislation, said she remains committed to playing a constructive role. But she was left frustrated by the partisanship she saw after Senate Democrats mustered 60 votes, enough to move forward without the threat of delaying tactics by Republicans. Boston Globe, 1-23-10
  • Campaign contributions ruling stymies states: A day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government may not ban political spending by corporations or unions in candidate elections, officials across America were rushing to cope with the fallout, as laws in 24 states were directly or indirectly called into question by the ruling…. – NYT, 1-23-10
  • Top Democrats: We Will Push Ahead With Health Care President Barack Obama and top congressional Democrats insist they will push ahead with efforts to overhaul health care, though they aren’t explaining how they will proceed in that uphill fight. The president acknowledged Friday that the effort ran into a ”bit of a buzz saw” of opposition. And a leading member of his party suggested Congress slow it down on health care, a sign of eroding political will in the wake of Tuesday’s Republican election upset in Massachusetts. AP, 1-23-10
  • Obama visits Ohio, defends healthcare agenda: In a stop reminiscent of his campaign trips through the battleground state, he admits his agenda has ‘hit a little bit of a buzz saw’ this week. LAT, 1-22-10
  • John Edwards: From Dem darling presidential candidate to national disgrace – NY Daily News, 1-21-10
  • Edwards Admits He Fathered Girl With Mistress: Former Senator John Edwards admitted on Thursday that he fathered a daughter with a campaign videographer with whom he had an extramarital affair during his presidential campaign. “I am Quinn’s father,” Mr. Edwards said bluntly in a statement released to the news media, confirming what his wife, Elizabeth, his children, close friends, former staff members and the general public already knew or suspected. “I have been able to spend time with her during the past year and trust that future efforts to show her the love and affection she deserves can be done privately and in peace,” he continued. “It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me.”… – NYT, 1-21-09
  • Andrew Young says John Edwards asked him to fake paternity test on Rielle Hunter’s baby: NY Daily News, 1-21-10
  • Scott Brown gets a hero’s welcome from Senate Republicans: The Senator-elect from Massachusetts is being treated as the savior of a party trying to return to its conservative roots. Yet his positions are relatively liberal…. – LAT, 1-20-10
  • With Populist Stance, Obama Takes on Banks: The tougher approach to financial regulation that President Obama outlined on Thursday reflected a changed political climate, the rebound in big banks’ fortunes after their taxpayer bailout and a shift in power within the administration away from those who had been seen as most sympathetic to Wall Street. In calling for new limits on the size of big banks and their ability to make risky bets, Mr. Obama was throwing a public punch at Wall Street for the third time in a week, underscoring the imperative for him and his party to strike a more populist tone, especially after the Republican victory Tuesday in the Massachusetts Senate race…. – NYT, 1-21-10
  • Washington Memo White House Eager to Project Image of Competence in Relief Efforts: At 5:52 p.m. on Jan. 12, President Obama was in the Oval Office when aides told him of the calamitous earthquake in Haiti. By 8:30, the president had ordered an aggressive relief effort. An hour and a half later, the deputy national security adviser convened an emergency meeting in the White House Situation Room.
    How do we know all this? Because, as part of a remarkable public relations campaign, the White House released a three-page “ticktock,” a newspaper term of art for a minute-by-minute reconstruction of how momentous events unfolded…. – NYT, 1-21-10
  • Obama Retreats on Health: President Barack Obama suggested he’s open to Congress passing a scaled-back health-care bill, potentially sacrificing much of his signature policy initiative as chaos engulfed Capitol Hill Wednesday. The president said that he would be open to a scaled-back plan. Top Democrats said they would press ahead despite growing doubts among rank-and-file members that they can pass a bill they’ve been laboring over for nearly a year. A host of ideas offered in recent days have lost favor…. – WSJ, 1-20-10
  • Coakley aides paint portrait of missteps on campaign trail: Befuddlement. Anger. Shock. Democrats were feeling lots of things yesterday, none of them very good, as they woke up to a new political reality: They had lost the Senate election, given up a seat they had owned for six decades, and were forced to accept that a Republican, Scott Brown, is headed to Washington, D.C. What went wrong? A lot, according to a portrait of Democrat Martha Coakley’s campaign painted by people who either closely observed it or were involved in some fashion. They described a campaign that was too sure of its own success, that waited too long to call in the cavalry, that made key missteps, including focusing on abortion at the expense of the economy, and that did little to court voters in the communities that led Governor Deval Patrick and President Obama to huge victories…. – Boston Globe, 1-20-10
  • Obama to Propose New Limits on Banks: President Barack Obama on Thursday is expected to propose new limits on the size and risk taken by the country’s biggest banks, marking the administration’s latest assault on Wall Street in what could mark a return, at least in spirit, to some of the curbs on finance put in place during the Great Depression, according to congressional sources and administration officials…. – WSJ, 1-20-10
  • Republicans Oppose Obama Deficit Panel: Top Republicans on Wednesday were hostile toward President Obama’s plan to create a bipartisan commission on cutting projected deficits, raising doubts about the prospects of a main piece of his budget strategy.
    Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate, was evasive when pressed by reporters at the Capitol. “I’m not going to decide today what we’re going to do in the future,” he said. But the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, seemed to suggest that Republicans might not take their allotted seats on a commission…. – NYT, 1-20-10
  • Now it’s the boys’ turn to get White House mentors: Now it’s the boys’ turn. First lady Michelle Obama started a yearlong White House mentoring program last fall for young women, pairing about 16 girls from the Washington area with women at top levels in the Obama administration. Now President Barack Obama is following her lead, pairing 20 high school-age boys with White House officials who will serve as mentors. Obama planned to announce the boys’ mentoring program on Wednesday as part of an event marking National Mentoring Month, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity before the president’s announcement. WaPo, 1-19-10
  • Obama makes history with first presidential Tweet: How tweet it is! The American Red Cross announced on Monday afternoon that President Obama has sent out his first post on Twitter. The President sent the tweet via the organization’s @RedCross Twitter account, as he and First Lady Michelle Obama visited the American Red Cross’ Disaster Operations Center in Washington, D.C. The American Red Cross has been instrumental in relief efforts since a devastating earthquake wreaked havoc in Haiti last week.
    Obama pushed the send button for the tweet, which was written by Red Cross staff and read, “President Obama and the First Lady are here visiting our disaster operation center right now.” The Red Cross then followed up with another tweet which read, “President Obama pushed the button on the last tweet. It was his first ever tweet!”… – NY Daily News, 1-19-10
  • Obama to America’s youth: Civil rights struggle isn’t old news: The president hosts a group of African American ‘elders’ at the White House, hoping to remind young people that the battles Martin Luther King Jr. fought weren’t that long ago…. – LAT, 1-18-10
  • Senator said mouthful with his reference to ‘Negro dialect’: What’s in a word? Apparently a whole lot, judging by the firestorm that erupted in recent days over the racially outdated language Sen. Harry Reid is reported to have used during a private conversation to describe Barack Obama’s presidential chances. Reid’s comments about the president, revealed in a new book about the 2008 campaign, included describing Obama as “light-skinned” and saying he has no “Negro dialect” unless he chooses to have one… – Las Vegas Review-Journal, 1-17-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Gov. Paterson’s team starts firing away at expected primary foe Andrew Cuomo: It’s on! Gov. Paterson’s campaign opened fire on Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on Sunday after the Daily News reported he’ll soon announce he’s running for governor…. – NY Daily News, 1-24-10
  • Court ruling on campaign spending could pay off for GOP in November: Unfettered corporate contributions, coming on top of the Massachusetts Senate vote, may spell a double whammy for Democrats in congressional midterm elections… – LAT, 1-21-10
  • Palin and McCain on campaign trail again: Sarah Palin and Sen. John McCain plan to campaign together again. McCain announced Palin will join him in Phoenix in March to help campaign for his re-election to the U.S. Senate. – AP, 1-20-10
  • In epic upset, GOP’s Brown wins Mass. Senate race: In an epic upset in liberal Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown rode a wave of voter anger to win the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Edward M. Kennedy for nearly half a century, leaving President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in doubt and marring the end of his first year in office.
    Addressing an exuberant victory celebration Tuesday night, Brown declared he was “ready to go to Washington without delay” as the crowd chanted, “Seat him now.” Democrats indicated they would, deflating a budding controversy over whether they would try to block Brown long enough to complete congressional passage of the health care plan he has promised to oppose.
    “The people of Massachusetts have spoken. We welcome Scott Brown to the Senate and will move to seat him as soon as the proper paperwork has been received,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said he would notify the Senate on Wednesday that Brown had been elected…. – AP, 1-19-10
  • Big win for Brown Republican trounces Coakley for Senate, imperils Obama health plan: Republican Scott P. Brown pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Massachusetts political history last night, defeating Democrat Martha Coakley to become the state’s next US senator, potentially derailing President Obama’s hopes for a health care overhaul. The stunning, come-from-behind victory caps a dramatic surge in recent days as Brown, a state lawmaker from Wrentham once thought to have little chance of beating a popular attorney general, roared ahead of Coakley to become the first Republican senator elected from Massachusetts since 1972. With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Brown had won 52.2 percent to Coakley’s 46.8 percent. Independent Joseph L. Kennedy received 1 percent…. – Boston Globe, 1-19-10
  • G.O.P. Takes Massachusetts Senate Seat: Scott Brown, a little-known Republican state senator, rode an old pickup truck and a growing sense of unease among independent voters to an extraordinary upset Tuesday night when he was elected to fill the Senate seat that was long held by Edward M. Kennedy in the overwhelmingly Democratic state of Massachusetts. By a decisive margin, Mr. Brown defeated Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general, who had been considered a prohibitive favorite to win just over a month ago after she easily won the Democratic primary. With all precincts counted, Mr. Brown had 52 percent of the vote to Ms. Coakley’s 47 percent…. – NYT, 1-19-10
  • ADAM NAGOURNEY: News Analysis A Year Later, Voters Send a Different Message: By Special elections come and go. And the party that wins the White House one year ordinarily loses seats in the next Congressional election that comes along. But what happened in Massachusetts on Tuesday was no ordinary special election. Scott Brown, a Republican state senator for only five years, shocked and arguably humiliated the White House and the Democratic Party establishment by defeating Martha Coakley in the race for a United States Senate seat. He did it one day short of a year after President Obama stood on the steps of the United States Capitol, looking across a mass of faces that celebrated the potential of his presidency…. – NYT, 1-19-10
  • Democrats Won’t Rush to Pass Senate Bill: Scott Brown’s decisive Senate victory in Massachusetts imperiled the fate of the Democratic health care overhaul in Tuesday as House Democrats indicated they would not quickly approve a Senate-passed health care measure and send it to President Obama. After a meeting of House Democratic leaders even as Mr. Brown’s win was being declared, top lawmakers said they were weighing their options but the prospect of finishing off the debate with House passage of the Senate plan appeared to significantly diminish…. – NYT, 1-19-10
  • The Democrats Hold Their Breath in Massachusetts – Time, 1-19-10
  • Analysis: Obama using populist appeals in 2010: President Barack Obama is using strikingly populist appeals to an angry electorate in Massachusetts’ Senate race, a likely preview of his November strategy to curb steep Democratic Party losses in Congress and the nation’s statehouses. “When the chips are down, when the tough votes come, on all the fights that matter to middle-class families … who is going to be on your side?” Obama asked Sunday, shedding his executive-like tie as he campaigned for a struggling Democratic candidate – and tested a midterm election message. – WaPo, 1-18-10
  • Last-minute TV ad buys raise the stakes in Massachusetts Senate race: Just how big are the stakes in the Massachusetts Senate race? Independent and party groups were set to spend nearly $5 million on television ads in the final weeks leading up to Tuesday’s special election between state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) and state Sen. Scott Brown (R)… – WaPo, 1-17-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

Weekly Address

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Vows to Continue Standing Up to the Special Interests on Behalf of the American People Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address January 23, 2010: We’ve been making steady progress. But this week, the United States Supreme Court handed a huge victory to the special interests and their lobbyists – and a powerful blow to our efforts to rein in corporate influence. This ruling strikes at our democracy itself. By a 5-4 vote, the Court overturned more than a century of law – including a bipartisan campaign finance law written by Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold that had barred corporations from using their financial clout to directly interfere with elections by running advertisements for or against candidates in the crucial closing weeks.
    This ruling opens the floodgates for an unlimited amount of special interest money into our democracy. It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way – or to punish those who don’t. That means that any public servant who has the courage to stand up to the special interests and stand up for the American people can find himself or herself under assault come election time. Even foreign corporations may now get into the act.
    I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections….
    We don’t need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans.
    And we don’t intend to. When this ruling came down, I instructed my administration to get to work immediately with Members of Congress willing to fight for the American people to develop a forceful, bipartisan response to this decision. We have begun that work, and it will be a priority for us until we repair the damage that has been done… – WH, 1-23-10
  • Obama Turns Up Heat Over Ruling on Campaign Spending: President Obama took aim at the Supreme Court on Saturday, saying the justices had “handed a huge victory to the special interests and their lobbyists” with last week’s 5-to-4 decision to lift restrictions on campaign spending by corporations and unions. The decision will have major political implications for this year’s midterm elections. After it was announced, Mr. Obama immediately instructed his advisers to work with Congress on legislation that would restore some of the limits the court lifted. But in his weekly address on Saturday, he sharply stepped up his criticism of the high court.
    “This ruling strikes at our democracy itself,” Mr. Obama said, adding: “I can’t think of anything more devastating to the public interest. The last thing we need to do is hand more influence to the lobbyists in Washington, or more power to the special interests to tip the outcome of elections.”… – NYT, 1-23-10
  • President Obama Is Still Bashing Bush: When in doubt, blame Bush. Here’s how President Obama summed up Tuesday’s massive political earthquake in Massachusetts:
    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: “People are angry and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”
    Believe it or not: It’s still Bush’s fault. He actually started out his interview with George Stephanopoulos by blaming the voter anger in Massachusetts on George W. Bush. So, help me with that, Barack: The people are mad at Bush for what he did eight years ago, so they voted for a Republican?… – Fox News, 1-21-10
  • McCain, fired up: Stop this process!: In a passionate and fiery speech on the Senate floor, Sen. John McCain played the history card as he celebrated the election on Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate. And he warned Democrats to “stop this unsavory sausage-making process called health-care reform.”
    “I believe it was Lexington and Concord in which a shot was fired around the world. Last night a shot was fired around this nation. A shot was fired saying no more business as usual in Washington, D.C. Stop this unsavory sausage-making process called health-care reform, where special favors are dispensed to special people for special reasons in order to purchase votes.”
    “Now the rumors are they’ll jam this proposal through the House of Representatives and then bypass what has always been the normal legislative process. They should not do that! The American people have spoken! The people of Massachusetts have spoken for the rest of America. Stop this process!” – MSNBC, 1-20-10
  • Text, Scott Brown’s Victory Speech: The following is the prepared text of state Senator Scott Brown’s remarks after winning the United States Senate race in Massachusetts, as provided by his campaign.
    State Senator Scott Brown: Thank you very much. I’ll bet they can hear all this cheering down in Washington, D.C.
    And I hope they’re paying close attention, because tonight the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken.
    From the Berkshires to Boston, from Springfield to Cape Cod, the voters of this Commonwealth defied the odds and the experts. And tonight, the independent majority has delivered a great victory.
    I thank the people of Massachusetts for electing me as your next United States senator.
    Every day I hold this office, I will give all that is in me to serve you well and make you proud.
    Most of all, I will remember that while the honor is mine, this Senate seat belongs to no one person and no political party – and as I have said before, and you said loud and clear today, it is the people’s seat…. – NYT, 1-19-10
  • Bush Re-Enters Spotlight With Haiti Appeal: The images of devastation in Haiti have brought George W. Bush back to the spotlight. He says these pictures of suffering are heart-wrenching. And he says he has a message for the Haitian people.
    “People around the world know the hardship you are going through and that we care deeply about your lives,” said George W. Bush.
    “I fully understand the anguish that the people of Haiti feel,” he said. “But I hope the people of Haiti know that our government is doing everything it can with our military and USAID to get food, medicine, and water to you as quickly as possible.”… –
  • Bush Pushes Back Against Limbaugh’s Obama-Haiti Remark: “I don’t know if — what they’re talking about,” Bush declared during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I’ve been briefed by the President about the response. And as I said in my opening comment, I appreciate the president’s quick response to this disaster.” “First of all, it takes time to get the supplies in place. That shouldn’t deter them. In other words, there’s an expectation– amongst people that things are going to happen quickly. And sometimes it’s hard to make things happen quickly. Secondly, there is a great reservoir of good will that wants to help. And that’s why he asked us to help, and we’re glad to do it.” – Huff Post, 1-18-10
  • Obama Takes to the Pulpit: President Obama told a black church in the nation’s capital today that the promise inherent in his election as the nation’s first African-American president has yet to be fully realized, acknowledging that partisan Washington politics continued to play a big role in governance.
    But Mr. Obama promised that his health reform package — now hanging in the balance because of the Massachusetts Senate race — will soon become law. “Under the legislation I plan to sign into law, insurance companies won’t be able to drop you,” he said, to murmurs from the congregation at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, which was founded by freed slaves. – NYT, 1-17-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Henry William Brands: Obama’s evolution as commander-in-chief: Obama’s challenge coming into the job was not that he didn’t have experience in the military in terms of making decisions, said Henry William Brands, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “The problem, to some extent, is selling those decisions,” Brands said. “Because he doesn’t have that military background, he’s seen as less credible on military issues.” – WaPo, 1-24-10
  • Fred Greenstein: Obama’s evolution as commander-in-chief: “Bill Clinton and George W. Bush seem actually to have evolved as commanders in chief – Clinton because he was ambivalent about the military and Bush because it took 9/11 to get him engaged,” said Fred Greenstein, a presidential historian at Princeton University. “I don’t see this in Obama. I see a mix of patriotism and his cerebral tendency to step back and analyze issues and policy.” “What you see now,” Greenstein continued, “is pretty much built into his makeup, which is the guy who fascinated his law students at the University of Chicago by being able to walk around issues very analytically and take positions he might not support.” – WaPo, 1-24-10
  • American Academics Disappointed with Obama: Based on his first year in office, American academics are expressing disappointment in President Obama’s performance and believe he is headed toward a “mediocre” presidency.
    That’s the term liberal historian Howard Zinn of Boston University uses in an article that solicited many viewpoints in the February 1st issue of The Nation magazine. Zinn adds that Obama’s foreign policy is “Hardly any different from a Republican…nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike.” And he adds that “mediocre” means “dangerous.”
    Conservative Andrew Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University, writes, “Obama’s decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan indicates that he will not break with the existing national security consensus. The candidate who promised to ;change the way Washington works’ has become Washington’s captive.” – Veterans Today, 1-23-10
  • Ed Gillespie “Blame Bush for Massachusetts”: President Obama echoed Van Hollen’s comments yesterday, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”
    Phew! Good to know. Glad it wasn’t the overreaching liberal agenda of the Democrats in Congress or the Obama White House.
    Once I stopped laughing, I started to think maybe Van Hollen and Obama had a point. I actually came up with three reasons why it was George W. Bush’s fault that a Democratic attorney general in the nation’s most Democratic state lost her bid for a Senate seat held for 47 years by a revered Democrat, less than one year after the inauguration of a Democratic president….- Daily Caller, 1-21-10
  • H.W. Brands: Obama Grade From Historians Will Drop Without Health-Care Bill: The ultimate assessment of Obama’s first year hinges on the fate of his bid to overhaul the U.S. health-care system, said Brands, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. If the measure passes, “then the main thing that he aimed for this year was a success,” said Brands. “If it falls apart, he’s a loser.” “One of the things that the Massachusuetts race generates is that Obama doesn’t pull any votes,” Brands says. “And good political leaders have long coattails. Apparently Obama didn’t do that and if he can’t do it in Massachusetts where can he do it?”… Brands, 56, gave the president a B-plus, based partially on “the avoidance of any major mistakes, but no huge accomplishments.” – Business Week, 1-20-10
  • David Kennedy: Obama Grade From Historians Will Drop Without Health-Care Bill: Kennedy, a professor at Stanford University, near Palo Alto California, said history may judge that Obama made a “tactical error in not teeing up the health-care bill a little differently, maybe waiting until there’d been more economic recovery.” Obama, 48, was “most interested in what you might call the mechanics of how presidents got things done,” said Kennedy. Kennedy, 68, agreed with Dallek. Calling Congress “an awkward-to-operate contraption,” he said Obama was hindered by “the relatively thin majorities” his party has in both chambers unlike the larger majorities Roosevelt and Johnson enjoyed during their early years in office. – Business Week, 1-20-10
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin: Obama Grade From Historians Will Drop Without Health-Care Bill: Goodwin, author “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” said Obama should fight more aggressively for his proposed overhaul of financial regulations. “He can get populist fervor answered by taking on that issue,” said Goodwin, 67. “He needs to reconnect with the people and mobilize the forces that were for him on the campaign.” – Business Week, 1-20-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama Grade From Historians Will Drop Without Health-Care Bill: I think he’s done a remarkable job of maintaining his zen-like quality this year,” said Brinkley, 49, a historian at Rice University in Houston. “He always seems to be in the zone and he’s unflappable, but sometimes this year people wanted to see him flap.” Brinkley gave the president an overall grade of B, based on foreign policy and for being the “most untarnished political figure in America.” For his relationship with Congress, though, Brinkley gave Obama a D. “He needed to have the Obama health-care plan bound and ready so he could tell Congress, ‘this is our plan,'” rather than set broad goals as the House and Senate shaped their own bills, Brinkley said. – Business Week, 1-20-10
  • Robert Dallek: Obama Grade From Historians Will Drop Without Health-Care Bill: Dallek, author of several presidential biographies, said he couldn’t decide whether Obama merited an A-minus or B-plus. He said passage of health-care legislation would be a “minor miracle” because Obama has had to rely solely on the Democratic caucus in the Senate to advance the bill. “The kind of bipartisanship that existed in the 1950’s” when House Speaker Sam Rayburn, a Texas Democrat, and Johnson, a Texas Democrat who was Senate majority leader, worked with Republican President Dwight Eisenhower “is not within anyone’s grasp now,” said Dallek, 75. Kennedy, 68, agreed with Dallek. Calling Congress “an awkward-to-operate contraption,” he said Obama was hindered by “the relatively thin majorities” his party has in both chambers unlike the larger majorities Roosevelt and Johnson enjoyed during their early years in office. Dallek praised Obama’s deliberative process as he decided to send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. He also said the war there “has the potential to be his biggest failure” if it “drains away the energy for his domestic reform programs and traps him into something that in some way or other resembles Iraq or Vietnam.” – Business Week, 1-20-10
  • Craig Shirley: Commonsense Reagan vs. Elitist Obama: President Obama is a product of the Facebook generation, superb at self-promotion, less talented in other areas.
    During the 2008 election, then-candidate Barack Obama shocked the liberal establishment (and infuriated Bill Clinton as a pleasant byproduct) by calling Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election and presidency monumental. In other words he was a “game changing” leader, if you will.
    Obama knew what he was doing, even as many suspect he is at best only a mediocre student of American presidential history.
    To wit, he almost never quotes previous chief executives or cites American historical precedents to support his Jacobinistic policies.
    Perhaps it is because no previous chief executive ever attempted to make Americans wholly depended upon Big Government.
    Clearly, President Obama and his supporters want historians — and indeed all Americans — to see his presidency by the same light as Reagan’s; that his time of office will also be recorded as a political upheaval. This remains to be seen, but it is instructive to recall that Clinton was also obsessed with his place in history –calling in historians late in his second term-bewailing the fact that he never had any big crisis to confront, like some of his predecessors and thus, his eight years would not get the due he felt it deserved.
    Reagan, more self-confident, never lamented to historians, instead accepting the judgment of the American people and not self-puffing elitist members of the academy…. – Fox News, 1-20-10
  • Julian Zelizer: Midterms could sap Obama’s power: Scott Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley in Massachusetts has sent shock waves through the Democratic Party.
    This is a devastating symbolic and practical loss for the party, one that turns the U.S. Senate seat of a liberal lion, the late Ted Kennedy, over to Republican hands. The loss drops the size of the Democratic majority down to 59, which is below the vaunted filibuster-proof majority.
    This could very well just be a taste of things to come. Most likely, the midterm elections won’t be good for the Democrats. Traditionally, midterms are not good for the party that controls the White House. With the exception of 1934, 1998, and 2002, since Reconstruction the president’s party has suffered losses, with some worse than others, in the midterm that followed each president’s election….
    If President Obama suffers through a similar kind of midterm experience, he will have to deal with a Congress where his opponents have enough votes to force even bigger compromises than this year, thus angering liberals, or to block progress on his agenda altogether. That process has already begun as a result of Massachusetts, and now the White House must do everything possible to make sure that the situation does not get even worse in November. – CNN, 1-20-10
  • Why public support for health care failed Health care proposals lack easy-to-sell benefits, experts say: As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to pass a health plan with important benefits for the average American. For the typical family, costs would go down by as much as $2,500 a year. Adults wouldn’t be required to buy insurance. No one but the wealthy would face higher taxes. But a year later, the health care proposals in Congress lack many of those easy-to-sell benefits, which became victims of the lengthy process of trying to win over wavering lawmakers, appeasing powerful special-interest groups and addressing concerns about the heavily burdened Treasury…. – MSNBC, 1-20-10

History Buzz, January 25, 2010: National Book Award Finalists Named

HISTORY BUZZ:

Support the Earthquake Recovery Efforts in Haiti: clintonbushhaitifund.org/

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Couple finds Thomas Jefferson letter at Old Town Alexandria’s American LegionWaPo, 1-25-10
  • Historical Society to Open a Children’s Museum: When thinking of ways to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon, studying history is not high on the list for most families. Now, in a bid to make history more vivid, alluring and accessible for the Wii generation, an interactive “museum within a museum,” focusing on the lives of young New Yorkers, will open in November 2011 on the lower level of the New-York Historical Society, museum officials said…. – NYT, 1-22-10
  • Arnved Nedkvitne: NORWAY: Sacked professor sues the state: Earlier this month, five days were spent in an Oslo court to hear testimonies in a case where sacked University of Oslo Professor Arnved Nedkvitne is suing the Norwegian government. Professor Arnved Nedkvitne has demanded he either be reinstated as a full professor in medieval history or paid financial compensation until he reaches pension age…. – University World News, 1-24-10
  • White House welcomes KU professor: President Obama has made a Jayhawk one of the newest members of his administration. Karl Brooks, associate professor in the history and environmental studies departments, will serve as one of 10 regional administrators for the Environmental Protection Agency. Brooks will be the head of Region 7, based in Kansas City, Kan, which covers Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and nine tribal nations…. – University Daily Kansan, 1-25-10

OP-EDs:

  • HAROLD M. HYMAN: Fight over ‘Negro’ has a sad history: The headline over Chronicle reporter Mike Tolson’s article said, “Sparks fly over use of ‘Negro’ by Census” (Page A1, Jan. 14). “Not so long ago,” the article noted correctly, “the word [Negro] was considered benign, a means of racial identification much preferred to crude colloquial alternatives. For recent generations [however], the word Negro, with the N capitalized, is at best archaic and at worst is seen as racist, a holdover from Jim Crow days.” Tolson’s commendable insight deserves a further dig into relevant history. It’s not a pretty tale…. – Houston Chronicle, 1-23-10

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

  • Walter Isaacson on Garry Wills, John Yoo: Who Declares War?: CRISIS AND COMMAND The History of Executive Power From George Washington to George W. Bush, BOMB POWER The Modern Presidency and the National Security State In “Crisis and Command,” his sweeping history of presidential prerogatives, John Yoo argues that national security crises inevitably ratchet up the power of the president at the expense of Congress. “War acts on executive power as an accelerant,” he writes, “causing it to burn hotter, brighter and swifter.” In “Bomb Power,” Garry Wills argues much the same thing, adding that the advent of atomic weapons has made this concentration of power in the White House even greater. “The executive power increased decade by decade,” he writes, “reaching a new high in the 21st century — a continuous story of uni­directional increase.” Where the two authors disagree is on whether this trend should be celebrated or denounced. Yoo finds increased executive power appealing and in accord with the Constitution. Wills finds it appalling and a constitutional travesty…. – NYT, 1-22-10
  • Joyce Appleby: Capitalist Chameleon: THE RELENTLESS REVOLUTION A History of Capitalism Appleby, a distinguished historian who has dedicated her career to studying the origins of capitalism in the Anglo-American world, here broadens her scope to take in the global history of capitalism in all its creative — and destructive — glory… – NYT, 1-22-10
  • Alison Weir: Anne Boleyn, Queen for a Day: THE LADY IN THE TOWER The Fall of Anne Boleyn Alison Weir, a respected and popular historian, has already written about Anne in “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” and “Henry VIII: The King and His Court.” Her new book focuses on the last few months of Anne’s life. She has sifted the sources, examining their reliability. Doubts have already been cast on Weir’s assumptions; the historian John Guy has recently suggested that two sources she took to be mutually corroborating are in fact one and the same person…. – NYT, 1-22-10
  • Alison Weir: THE LADY IN THE TOWER The Fall of Anne Boleyn, Excerpt Chapter 1: Occurrences That Presaged Evil – NYT, 1-22-10
  • Mary Elise Sarotte: The Year That Was: 1989 The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe But this order of things was hardly inevitable, as Mary Elise Sarotte, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, reminds us in “1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe.” Between the wall’s opening (November 1989) and Germany’s unification (October 1990), history lurched forward with no fixed destination. Sarotte describes a host of competing conceptions of post-cold-war Europe that flourished, mutated and perished in the maelstrom of events that led up to German unity. In the end, the visions of President George H. W. Bush and Chancellor Helmut Kohl prevailed — which may not necessarily have been the best of all possible outcomes, though Sarotte stops short of this conclusion…. – NYT, 1-22-10
  • Donald Kagan: History and its flaws seen in Thucydides: Thucydides The Reinvention of History This is an important book, largely right and largely misguided, by one of the most eminent scholars in the field. Kagan, who is Sterling Professor of Classics and History at Yale University, is a foremost authority on the Peloponnesian wars (431-404 B.C.), that interminable, swampy, wasteful, and tragic attrition-match between Sparta and Athens, which ended in disaster for Athens and the end of its democracy and empire. That means he’s also a scholar of Thucydides (circa 460-395 B.C.), the historian of those wars. Kagan’s utter mastery is on display in this vigorous, elegantly written, provocative book. Thucydides is persuasive about its namesake as a great (if willful and biased) historian, but not in its broader aim: to retell the story of the wars themselves…. – Philadelphia Inquirer, 1-30-10
  • Paul Johnson’s Churchill: According to the British historian Walter Reid, some 1,663 books have been written on Winston Churchill. The latest addition to this extensive list, Paul Johnson’s biography, Churchill, may be one of the shortest — and one of the most enjoyable…. – American Spectator, 1-11-10

FEATURES:

  • Charles Joyner: Conservative exterior, colorful exterior: This is certainly not the kind of intro learned folks would expect from a 75-year-old professor popular, in part, for penning a book about slavery in a South Carolina community called “Down by the Riverside.”
    Joyner was recently honored at a meeting of the Southern Historical Association. The group of more than 5,000 historians from around the globe celebrated “Down by the Riverside” as a model for scholarship combining local and universal viewpoints…. – Sun News, 1-24-10
  • Patrick Bellegarde-Smith: UWM professor holds hope for rebuilding Haiti: Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, who was born in Haiti, is a professor of Africology at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee and an expert on Haiti and its Vodou religion. At least nine of his relatives died in the earthquake…. – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 1-22-10
  • Barry Goldberg: Professor Mines History to Show How Americans Create Conceptions of the Past: Barry Goldberg, Ph.D., says that while early members of the American labor movement compared their situation to that of slaves, many were explicitly racist…. – Fordham Online, 1-19-10
  • William Styple: Chatham historian compiles forgotten notes about Lincoln into a book: William Styple, a Chatham author and historian recently published his latest book, “Tell Me of Lincoln, Memories of Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War and Life in Old New York.” The book is based on notes by James Edward Kelly (1855 to 1933) who was an artist and sculptor of public monuments. Kelly possessed a life long fascination with the Civil War and wanted to create a realistic statue of President Lincoln. To do so, he interviewed more than 50 people who had known the 16th president. Kelly died prior to completing his Lincoln sculpture; however he kept thousands of pages of notes. Styple discovered these notes at the New York Historical Society. Independent Press, 1-22-10

QUOTES:

  • Obamas’ carefully crafted image of ordinariness may be working ‘If you were to create the perfect American family in the laboratory, the Obamas would be it,’ says one observer. “Who could possibly dispute or do anything but admire her involvement with military families or planting vegetable gardens?” said Richard Norton Smith, a presidential historian. “Both are safe.”
    “Their appeal,” said Ted Widmer, a professor of history at Brown University and a former advisor to President Clinton, “is that they reach out to so many people.” – LAT, 1-25-10
  • Deborah Lipstadt: Evolution of International Holocaust Day reflects changing times: Deborah Lipstadt, an Emory University historian who has written widely about the phenomenon of Holocaust denial, said she was “gratified as a historian that there is this attention to this event that is now in the past, especially as the survivor generation is passing.” But, she said, “One hopes that there is attention in a deeper way: to examine how this emerged and happened, while the world stood silently by.” – JTA, 1-20-10
  • Stephanie Coontz: Study: Marriage benefits men economically, too: “Just as women are saying they want more from marriage than an economic security blanket, men are more open to marrying women with more education and earnings,” says historian Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage: A History. – USA Today, 1-19-10
  • Rallies, parades honor King’s legacy: “I don’t want to sanitize Martin Luther King Jr.,” Cornel West said. “Even with your foot on the brake, there are too many precious brothers and sisters under the bus,” West said of Obama. “Where is the talk about poverty? We’ve got to protect him and respect him, but we’ve also got to correct him if the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is going to stay alive.” – San Francisco Chronicle, 1-18-10

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

  • National Book Critics Circle Finalists Are Announced: The National Book Critics Circle announced the finalists for its 2009 book awards on Saturday night at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York. The organization consists of some 600 book reviewers and was founded in 1974. The awards will be given out on Thursday, March 11, at the New School in New York…. – 1-23-10

SPOTTED:

  • Gordon Wood: Brown professor addresses MV faculty: The Mystic Valley Charter School faculty received a treat in the form of a lecture by one of the world’s top professors of American History, Gordon S. Wood. Dr. Wood spoke to the faculty during their latest professional development meeting…. – Boston Globe, 1-21-10

ON TV:

  • UNM Historian Paul Hutton to Appear on PBS’ American Experience ‘Wyatt Earp’: Wyatt EarpUNM Distinguished Professor of History Paul Hutton will appear on the PBS program American Experience “Wyatt Earp,” on Monday, Jan. 25 from 9-10 p.m. on PBS. “Wyatt Earp” features interviews with Hutton and other biographers and historians of the American West to present a fresh take on an old legend…. – UNM Today, 1-20-10
  • C-SPAN2: BOOK TV Weekend Schedule
  • PBS American Experience: Mondays at 9pm
  • History Channel: Weekly Schedule

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

BOOKS COMING SOON:

  • Andrew Young: The Politician: An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down (Hardcover) Feb 2, 2010
  • Charles Lachman: The Last Lincolns: The Rise & Fall of a Great American Family (Paperback), February 2, 2010
  • S. M. Plokhy: Yalta: The Price of Peace (Hardcover), February 4, 2010
  • Richard Beeman: Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (Paperback), February 9, 2010
  • Philip Dray: Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen (Paperback) February 11, 2010
  • Ken Gormley: The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr (Hardcover), February 16, 2010
  • Susan Wise Bauer: The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade, (Hardcover) February 22, 2010
  • Richard J. Evans: The Third Reich at War (Paperback) February 23, 2010
  • Seth G. Jones: In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan (Paperback) April 12, 2010

DEPARTED:

  • My Friend A Teacher Jim Kluger Died: My lifelong friend, Dr. James Kluger, professor of American History died yesterday at 5:40 pm of kidney failure…. – Tucson Citizen, 1-13-10

Upset! Massachusetts Votes: Republican Scott Brown Elected to the Senate

MASSACHUSETTS SPECIAL ELECTION FOR THE US SENATE:

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Scott Brown’s road to the US Senate race – Boston Globe
  • With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Brown had won 52.2 percent to Coakley’s 46.8 percent. Independent Joseph L. Kennedy received 1 percent….
  • Rasmussen’s exit polls:
  • Health care has been a huge issue in this election. Fifty-two percent (52%) of Brown voters say it was the most important issue in determining their vote. Sixty-three percent (63%) of Coakley voters say health care was the top issue:
  • 78% of Brown voters Strongly Oppose the health care legislation before Congress.
  • 52% of Coakley supporters Strongly Favor the health care plan. Another 41% Somewhat Favor the legislation.
  • 61% of Brown voters say deficit reduction is more important than health care reform.
  • 46% of Coakley voters say health care legislation more important than deficit reduction.
  • 86% of Coakley voters say it’s better to pass the bill before Congress rather than nothing at all.
  • 88% of Brown voters say it’s better to pass nothing at all.
  • 22% of Democrats voted for Brown. That is generally consistent with pre-election polling. N?YT, 1-19-10
  • Republican Rise Voters are evenly split over which party should run Congress—a sharp comedown for the Democrats: As Barack Obama enters his second year in office amid an enduring economic downturn, voters are less optimistic about his ability to succeed and no longer clearly favor keeping the Democrats in control of Congress, according to the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll….
    Republicans are far more excited than Democrats to turn out and vote in November: 55% of Republican voters said they were “very interested” in the election, compared with 38% of Democrats…. – WSJ,

THE HEADLINES….

  • In epic upset, GOP’s Brown wins Mass. Senate race: In an epic upset in liberal Massachusetts, Republican Scott Brown rode a wave of voter anger to win the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Edward M. Kennedy for nearly half a century, leaving President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul in doubt and marring the end of his first year in office.
    Addressing an exuberant victory celebration Tuesday night, Brown declared he was “ready to go to Washington without delay” as the crowd chanted, “Seat him now.” Democrats indicated they would, deflating a budding controversy over whether they would try to block Brown long enough to complete congressional passage of the health care plan he has promised to oppose.
    “The people of Massachusetts have spoken. We welcome Scott Brown to the Senate and will move to seat him as soon as the proper paperwork has been received,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said he would notify the Senate on Wednesday that Brown had been elected…. – AP, 1-19-10
  • Big win for Brown Republican trounces Coakley for Senate, imperils Obama health plan: Republican Scott P. Brown pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Massachusetts political history last night, defeating Democrat Martha Coakley to become the state’s next US senator, potentially derailing President Obama’s hopes for a health care overhaul. The stunning, come-from-behind victory caps a dramatic surge in recent days as Brown, a state lawmaker from Wrentham once thought to have little chance of beating a popular attorney general, roared ahead of Coakley to become the first Republican senator elected from Massachusetts since 1972. With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Brown had won 52.2 percent to Coakley’s 46.8 percent. Independent Joseph L. Kennedy received 1 percent…. – Boston Globe, 1-19-10
  • G.O.P. Takes Massachusetts Senate Seat: Scott Brown, a little-known Republican state senator, rode an old pickup truck and a growing sense of unease among independent voters to an extraordinary upset Tuesday night when he was elected to fill the Senate seat that was long held by Edward M. Kennedy in the overwhelmingly Democratic state of Massachusetts. By a decisive margin, Mr. Brown defeated Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general, who had been considered a prohibitive favorite to win just over a month ago after she easily won the Democratic primary. With all precincts counted, Mr. Brown had 52 percent of the vote to Ms. Coakley’s 47 percent…. – NYT, 1-19-10
  • Brown Scores Upset Victory Over Coakley in Massachusetts Senate Race: Republican Scott Brown’s victory could grind President Obama’s agenda to a halt and portend unexpected losses for Democrats in the November midterms… – Fox News, 1-2-10
  • Massachusetts Senate vote may derail Obama agenda: Brown’s victory made real the once unthinkable prospect of a Republican filling the seat held by Kennedy, known as the liberal lion, for almost 47 years until his death due to brain cancer last August. Before Kennedy won the seat for the first time in 1962, his older brother John held it for nearly eight years until his election as U.S. president in 1960.
    “This really does change everything, you know that?” said Mitt Romney, the former GOP governor of Massachusetts who introduced Brown at his victory rally…. – CNN, 1-20-10
  • NEWS ANALYSIS Senate defeat means Democrats need a new strategy: The healthcare overhaul will be the first issue to revisit, with polls showing the issue has turned many independent voters against the party. Job creation and debt reduction will also be affected… –
  • Democrats Won’t Rush to Pass Senate Bill: Scott Brown’s decisive Senate victory in Massachusetts imperiled the fate of the Democratic health care overhaul in Tuesday as House Democrats indicated they would not quickly approve a Senate-passed health care measure and send it to President Obama. After a meeting of House Democratic leaders even as Mr. Brown’s win was being declared, top lawmakers said they were weighing their options but the prospect of finishing off the debate with House passage of the Senate plan appeared to significantly diminish…. – NYT, 1-19-10
  • Democrats and Republicans get ready to run for Brown’s state Senate seat: Several local politicians from both parties are considering a campaign for Scott Brown’s state Senate seat now that he has won a surprising victory in Tuesday’s special US Senate election.
    “We’re going to contest this seat,” John Walsh, chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, said Tuesday before the polls closed. “A lot of Democrats are looking at this seat.” State Republicans also vowed to compete for the seat…. – Boston Globe, 1-19-10
  • The Democrats Hold Their Breath in Massachusetts – Time, 1-19-10
  • Analysis: Obama using populist appeals in 2010: President Barack Obama is using strikingly populist appeals to an angry electorate in Massachusetts’ Senate race, a likely preview of his November strategy to curb steep Democratic Party losses in Congress and the nation’s statehouses. “When the chips are down, when the tough votes come, on all the fights that matter to middle-class families … who is going to be on your side?” Obama asked Sunday, shedding his executive-like tie as he campaigned for a struggling Democratic candidate – and tested a midterm election message. – WaPo, 1-18-10
  • Last-minute TV ad buys raise the stakes in Massachusetts Senate race: Just how big are the stakes in the Massachusetts Senate race? Independent and party groups were set to spend nearly $5 million on television ads in the final weeks leading up to Tuesday’s special election between state Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) and state Sen. Scott Brown (R)… – WaPo, 1-17-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Text, Scott Brown’s Victory Speech: The following is the prepared text of state Senator Scott Brown’s remarks after winning the United States Senate race in Massachusetts, as provided by his campaign.
    State Senator Scott Brown: Thank you very much. I’ll bet they can hear all this cheering down in Washington, D.C.
    And I hope they’re paying close attention, because tonight the independent voice of Massachusetts has spoken.
    From the Berkshires to Boston, from Springfield to Cape Cod, the voters of this Commonwealth defied the odds and the experts. And tonight, the independent majority has delivered a great victory.
    I thank the people of Massachusetts for electing me as your next United States senator.
    Every day I hold this office, I will give all that is in me to serve you well and make you proud.
    Most of all, I will remember that while the honor is mine, this Senate seat belongs to no one person and no political party – and as I have said before, and you said loud and clear today, it is the people’s seat…. – NYT, 1-19-10
  • Sarah Palin: Mr. Brown Goes to Washington… In a Pick-up Truck, No Less!: Congratulations to the new Senator-elect from Massachusetts! Scott Brown’s victory proves that the desire for real solutions transcends notions of “blue state” and “red state”. Americans agree that we need to hold our politicians accountable and bring common sense to D.C.
    Recent elections have taught us that when a party in power loses its way, the American people will hold them accountable at the ballot box. Today under the Democrats, government spending is up nearly 23 percent and unemployment is higher than it’s been in a quarter of a century. For the past year they’ve built a record of broken promises, fat cat bailouts, closed-door meetings with lobbyists, sweetheart deals for corporate cronies, and midnight votes on weekends for major legislation that wasn’t even read. The good citizens of Massachusetts reminded Democrats not to take them for granted.
    Americans cheered for Scott Brown’s underdog campaign because they viewed his candidacy as a vote against the Democrats’ health care bill. You know that there’s something wrong with this legislation when opposition to it inspired a Republican victory in a state that currently has no Republicans in Congress and last sent a Republican to the Senate nearly 40 years ago…. – Facebook, 1-19-10
  • RNC CHAIRMAN MICHAEL STEELE STATEMENT ON SCOTT BROWN’S ELECTION TO U.S. SENATE: “Tonight, Scott Brown made history by exceeding all expectations and defeating Martha Coakley in the heart of the Democrat Party’s political stronghold. I extend my sincere congratulations to Scott, the Brown family, and his team on their tremendous come from behind victory to become the first Republican U.S. Senator from Massachusetts in more than 30 years. His message of lower-taxes, smaller government, and fiscal responsibility clearly resonated with independent-minded voters in Massachusetts who were looking for a solution to decades of failed Democrat leadership. There is no doubt in my mind that Scott will provide the representation and leadership they have asked for and deserve.
    Now that the people of Massachusetts have made their choice clear, the Senate must move quickly to seat Senator-Elect Brown so that the people have their chosen representative in the Senate as soon as possible. Over the past year, independent voters in Virginia, New Jersey and now Massachusetts have made their voices heard by sending a clear message that they’ve had enough of the binge spending and government-growing agenda coming from Washington – Democrats everywhere are officially on notice.”
  • John McCain: “Scott Brown Wins! This is truly an historic achievement. I have great fondness and respect for Scott Brown and look forward to working with him in the United States Senate.” – Facebook, 1-19-10
  • Laura Bush: :George and I send our congratulations to the newest member of the United States Senate, Scott Brown of Massachusetts. At a time when Americans are faced with many challenges, the need for politicians who are prepared to stand up for what’s right is greater than ever.” – Facebook, 1-19-10
  • Lieberman Urges Party To Go Centrist After Mass. Election: “I think the message is from the voters of Massachusetts that people are anxious about the future and they’re unhappy about what’s happening in Washington,” said the Connecticut Independent Democrat, during an interview on Fox News. “They’re anxious about the economy, the continued high unemployment. They don’t like all the partisanship and deal- making here in Washington. And they’re really skeptical about the health care bill.”
    “So this is going to be a loud message from Massachusetts and whether it’s right or wrong, I was impressed again by one of the national polls I saw yesterday that said two things; one is opposition to health care reform is very large among independents, unregistered with the party voters, and Massachusetts is thought of as a blue state and it generally does vote Democratic but almost 50% of the voters are unaffiliated so they’ve got the liberty to…” – Huff Post, 1-19-10
  • Robert Gibbs: Obama ‘Surprised And Frustrated’ By Mass. Senate Race: “Obviously the president went on Sunday, lent his support for Martha Coakley talked about why he believed she would be the best senator — someone who has fought for middle-class, working-class folks in Massachusetts. We are going to have plenty of time to get in to the back and forth of all this and I prefer to do that when we know what the result is.”
    “I don’t think the president believes that… health care is a priority for him now. It will be a priority for him tomorrow.”
    “I think there is a tremendous amount of upset and anger in this country about where we are economically. That is not a surprise to us in this administration, because in many ways we are here because of that upset.” – Huff Post, 1-19-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Thomas Whalen: Experts: Race aftermath will sink Attorney General, buoy Scott Brown: “This is the coveted prize – the pelt of Ted Kennedy’s seat,” said Thomas Whalen, a Boston University political historian. “There’ll be speculation that the 2012 Republican ticket will be (Sarah) Palin-Brown,” Whalen said. – Boston Herald, 1-19-10
  • Diane Ravitch Historian of education, NYU and Brookings: The Massachusetts race was about the Obama health care program. Voters in Massachusetts already have health care, so they didn’t want to be taxed for a new program that had no impact on them.
    I am a reasonably intelligent citizen. I read the newspapers every day. I am inclined to support health care for all Americans. But I have no idea what is in the President’s health care plan. No one has tried to explain it. Others must be as confused as I am.
    I do not like the fact that the President and the Democratic party want to ram through a major piece of legislation that many Americans don’t understand (like me) and oppose (like a majority).
    Massachusetts was a bellwether. The President should pay attention. – Politico, 1-19-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton: Somewhere Senator Kennedy is shedding a tear. The symbolic blow of the seat of a liberal icon going from blue to red is huge. But much more important the practical impact—of losing 60 votes in the Senate after a year during which even that did not assure a smooth legislative terrain–is even greater. President Obama will have to work some magic if he wants to move all the bills—including health care—that have been stalled in the Senate. What is worse for Democrats is that this is not even the midterms. Those are just around the corner. – Politico, 1-19-10
  • >Mary Frances Berry Professor of American Social Thought and History, U. Penn.: The Democratic Party should be embarrassed by Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts. Blaming Coakley is easy but unhelpful. Essentially, the Democrats in Congress and the President have been too clever by half. On health care reform, they have made too many compromises and end up with no committed group willing to fight for their weakly held beliefs. It is better to have some one group willing to fight for you than everyone willing to watch you succeed or fail. The left is disaffected by the lack of a public option and the abortion compromises. The right and center are upset by the lack of cost controls and the deal-making to buy off senators one by one. The unemployment numbers and the bail-outs and the deficit create consternation in all quarters. Moving quickly to ram health care reform through is attractive in overall policy terms but some Democrats have to feel politically imperiled. – Politico, 1-19-10
  • A revolution begins: It was – for the second time in Massachusetts history – the shot heard round the world, or at the very least from coast to coast and surely in the halls of Congress. Scott Brown won this one fair and square with his down-to-earth charm, his hard work and his forthright position on issues – and with the help of that much-disparaged by the opposition pick-up truck. But it is also true that Brown was the right candidate at the right time with the right message. And it’s that message that the White House and congressional Democrats can no longer ignore…. – Boston Herald, 1-20-10
  • You made the call! Democrats hear an overdue message: Congratulations, you did it!
    It wasn’t Scott Brown, or Martha Coakley or even Dick Cheney’s Vote-Stealing-And-Weather-Control Machine. It was you. You won this election.
    Not to take anything away from Sen.-elect Brown (the phrase just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?), or to lessen the value of those 200,000 miles he put on the Truck Heard ‘Round The World. He has real political talent, and he’s going to need it to survive 2012 with Barack Obama at the top of the Democratic ticket. But yesterday’s once-in-a-generation, never-saw-it-coming, dance-in-the-streets victory for democracy is all yours…. – Boston Herald, 1-20-10
  • JON KELLER: The Backlash Is Coming! The Backlash Is Coming! People in Massachusetts think they’re at the leading edge of politics. That’s not good news for Democrats: With characteristic hubris, people in this state like to think they’ve been at the leading edge of American politics since the “shot heard ’round the world” in 1775. And in the past few years, we’ve given the nation a preview of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign with Deval Patrick’s successful 2006 bid for governor; provided a critical boost for Mr. Obama’s candidacy in the form of an endorsement by Edward Kennedy; and enacted a health-care law that is a template for ObamaCare. But hubris has yielded to shock here at the possibility that the next political trend the Bay State might foreshadow is a voter backlash against the Democratic Party…. – WSJ, 1-20-10
  • Analysis: GOP win forces review of Obama’s mandate: The stunning Republican victory in Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race will force Democrats to fundamentally rethink the meaning of Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, especially the notion that Americans want more government help in matters such as obtaining health insurance.
    Scott Brown’s win in a liberal state will do more than vastly complicate Obama’s bid to overhaul the U.S. health care system and pass climate-change legislation. It will prompt politicians of every stripe to redouble their efforts to understand voters’ anger and desires ahead of the November elections for Congress, governorships and state legislatures.
    Many Americans saw the 2008 election as a repudiation of George W. Bush’s presidency, with Obama as the fresh new leader promising to harness the government to expand health coverage, discipline banks and stimulate the moribund economy.
    But Brown’s victory over Democrat Martha Coakley suggests that many voters still harbor suspicions or outright resentment of the federal government, no matter who’s in charge… – AP, 1-19-10
  • ADAM NAGOURNEY: News Analysis A Year Later, Voters Send a Different Message: By Special elections come and go. And the party that wins the White House one year ordinarily loses seats in the next Congressional election that comes along. But what happened in Massachusetts on Tuesday was no ordinary special election. Scott Brown, a Republican state senator for only five years, shocked and arguably humiliated the White House and the Democratic Party establishment by defeating Martha Coakley in the race for a United States Senate seat. He did it one day short of a year after President Obama stood on the steps of the United States Capitol, looking across a mass of faces that celebrated the potential of his presidency…. – NYT, 1-19-10
  • News Analysis: Voter anger caught fire in final days: Voter anxiety and resentment, building for months in a troubled economy, exploded like a match on dry kindling in the final days of the special election for US Senate. In arguably the most liberal state in the nation, a Republican – and a conservative one at that – won and will crash the Bay State’s all-Democratic delegation with a mandate to kill the health care overhaul pending in Congress. It is difficult to overstate the significance of Scott Brown’s victory because so much was at stake. From the agenda of President Obama and the legacy of the late Edward M. Kennedy to a referendum on the Democratic monopolies of power on Capitol and Beacon hills, voters in a lopsidedly Democratic state flooded the polls on a dreary winter day to turn conventional wisdom on its head…. – Boston Globe, 1-19-10
  • LANNY J. DAVIS: Blame the Left for Massachusetts Democrats should be willing to seek common-ground reforms: Liberal Democrats might attempt to spin the shocking victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts by claiming that the loss was a result of a poor campaign by Martha Coakley. Would that it were so. This was a defeat not of the messenger, but of the message—and the sooner progressive Democrats face up to that fact, the better. It’s the substance, stupid! – WSJ, 1-19-10
  • DAVID W. BRADY, DANIEL P. KESSLER AND DOUGLAS RIVERS: Health Care Is Hurting Democrats New polling data show that voters know exactly where candidates stand: The majority party normally loses seats in midterm elections, but the Republican resurgence of recent months is more than a conventional midterm rebound. How can a little known Republican run a competitive Senate campaign in Massachusetts? The culprit is the unpopularity of health reform, and it means that Democrats will face even worse problems later this year in less liberal places than Massachusetts…. – WSJ, 1-19-10

Obama, Historians Remember Martin Luther King, Jr.

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. DAY

IN THE NEWS….

Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr. – Beyond Vietnam – A Time To Break The Silence: Starting in 1965, King began to express doubts about the United States’ role in the Vietnam War. In an April 4, 1967 appearance at the New York City Riverside Church—exactly one year before his death—King delivered a speech titled “Beyond Vietnam”.[80] In the speech, he spoke strongly against the U.S.’s role in the war, insisting that the U.S. was in Vietnam “to occupy it as an American colony”[81] and calling the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”.[82] He also argued that the country needed larger and broader moral changes… – Salem News, 1-18-10
  • King papers have reach beyond library walls: In the years since the city of Atlanta acquired more than 10,000 of Dr. Martin Luther King’s personal papers, the collection has been pored over by researchers and used in groundbreaking history courses at Morehouse College. Come February, the writings of Dr. King will be fully available to the public at the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center. – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1-15-10
  • Rallies, parades honor King’s legacy: “I don’t want to sanitize Martin Luther King Jr.,” Cornel West said. “Even with your foot on the brake, there are too many precious brothers and sisters under the bus,” West said of Obama. “Where is the talk about poverty? We’ve got to protect him and respect him, but we’ve also got to correct him if the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is going to stay alive.” – San Francisco Chronicle, 1-18-10

PRESIDENT OBAMA

The President at So Others Might Eat on Martin Luther King Day

  • Obama to America’s youth: Civil rights struggle isn’t old news: The president hosts a group of African American ‘elders’ at the White House, hoping to remind young people that the battles Martin Luther King Jr. fought weren’t that long ago…. – LAT, 1-18-10
  • Service and Dr. King: In honor of Martin Luther King Day, President Barack Obama serves lunch in the dining room at So Others Might Eat, a soup kitchen in Washington January 18, 2010… – WH, 1-18-10
  • Emancipation Proclam. on display at WH: During an event to mark the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, President Obama said the Emancipation Proclamation — the 1863 document that marked the beginning of the process to free the slaves — would be on loan to the White House. It is being displayed in the Oval Office.
    This copy of the document is one of the authorized copies that was made in 1864, according to the White House press office. The original — signed Jan. 1, 1863 — is in the National Archives. This one may hang in the Oval for six months after which it will be placed in the Lincoln Bedroom where the original was signed…. – MSNBC, 1-18-10
  • Obama Takes to the Pulpit: President Obama told a black church in the nation’s capital today that the promise inherent in his election as the nation’s first African-American president has yet to be fully realized, acknowledging that partisan Washington politics continued to play a big role in governance.
    But Mr. Obama promised that his health reform package — now hanging in the balance because of the Massachusetts Senate race — will soon become law. “Under the legislation I plan to sign into law, insurance companies won’t be able to drop you,” he said, to murmurs from the congregation at the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, which was founded by freed slaves. – NYT, 1-17-10

HISTORIANS

P011810PS-0610 by The White House.

President Barack Obama views the Emancipation Proclamation with a small group of African American seniors, their grandchildren and some children from the Washington, D.C. area, in the Oval Office, Jan. 18, 2010. This copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, which is on loan from the Smithsonian Museum of American History, was hung on the wall of the Oval Office today and will be exhibited for six months, before being moved to the Lincoln Bedroom where the original Proclamation was signed by Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

  • Freedom singer delivers civil-rights lessons in Seattle: Freedom singer Bernice Johnson Reagon was the featured speaker at a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Seattle. In a speech at Mount Zion that was part history lesson, part performance and part message about nonviolence, Reagon, a cultural historian and civil-rights activist, spoke about the era when she established herself as a freedom singer…. – Seatle Times, 1-15-10
  • Peniel E. Joseph “Many say U.S. race relations have improved under Obama, but divides remain”: “Light-skinned is equated with good, an ability to pass, to fit in the mainstream,” said Peniel E. Joseph, a Tufts University historian and author of a new book about the shifting racial attitudes that allowed for Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president. “He’s light enough and mainstream enough to appeal to a broad audience. Those who are not really stand out in a conspicuous way as ‘the other.'”… – WaPo, 1-12-10
  • Peniel E. Joseph, From ‘Dark Days’ to ‘Bright Nights,’ Reexamining the Civil Rights Era: Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama – Well, it’s a phrase coming out of the 1960s and really coming out of the civil rights era. Stokely Carmichael was a civil rights activist who first used the term in Greenwood, Mississippi, on June 16, 1966. And for Carmichael, he really was referring to political self-determination. He felt that black people needed political, social, economic self-determination if they were going to really exercise their democratic rights in the country.
    As soon as Carmichael says it, it becomes a racial controversy. It becomes a national controversy. It’s going to be perceived as fomenting violence, as anti-white, as really the opposite of civil rights and Dr. King’s dream of a beloved community.
    Well, Carmichael was really one of the few civil rights activists who becomes a black power militant. So, Carmichael had been a grassroots organizer in Mississippi and Alabama. And for him, black power meant actually exercising the voting rights and exercising the citizenship rights that he had struggled to organize, along with many other civil rights activists, during the first half of the 1960s. So, it meant black elected officials. It meant black political leaders, but it also meant community control of schools. It meant a different definition of black identity. Before this period, African- Americans were really called Negroes or referred to as people of color. It’s after the black power period that they’re referred to as black or Afro-American, and, by the 1980s, African-American.
    When we think about our civil rights history and the history of the 1960s and ’70s, in a way, we flatten that story to a story about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, the Voting Rights Act, and the “I Have a Dream” speech.
    People like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael added their voices to that period of time. And they were really voices of trying to transform American democracy, but in militant and, at times, combative ways…. – PBS Newhour, 1-18-10

The First Lady at So Others Might Eat on Martin Luther King Day

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