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

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


The President announces new Wall Street Reform proposals


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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
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