History Buzz, February 8-15, 2010: Presidents’ Day




  • Books on Abraham Lincoln: Michael Burlingame offers a Presidents Day reading list: Distinctive personal portraits of Abraham Lincoln…. – 1. Honor’s Voice, By Douglas L. Wilson, Knopf, 1998
    2. The Young Eagle, By Kenneth J. Winkle, Taylor, 2001
    3. Lincoln’s Melancholy, By Joshua Wolf Shenk, Houghton Mifflin, 2005
    4. Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly, By Jennifer Fleischner, Broadway, 2003
    5. Herndon’s Lincoln, By William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik, University of Illinois, 2006 – WSJ, 2-13-10
  • Test your knowledge of presidential history: Ultimately, the Founding Fathers rejected the prevailing concept of governance at the time – a monarch – in setting up an infant nation, opting instead for someone a little closer to home. The President….
    And because we put so much faith in one man – no women, yet – we want to know as much about him as possible. So as we recognize Presidents Day today, it might be a good time to determine just what we do know about the presidents who’ve come and gone…. – The Gainsville Sun, 2-15-10



  • Faulkner Link to Plantation Diary Discovered: The climactic moment in William Faulkner’s 1942 novel “Go Down, Moses” comes when Isaac McCaslin finally decides to open his grandfather’s leather farm ledgers with their “scarred and cracked backs” and “yellowed pages scrawled in fading ink” — proof of his family’s slave-owning past. Now, what appears to be the document on which Faulkner modeled that ledger as well as the source for myriad names, incidents and details that populate his fictionalized Yoknapatawpha County has been discovered…. – NYT, 2-11-10
  • Niall Ferguson: Sex and summitry: the rise of the raunchy summit: So now we know what it takes to remove leading public intellectuals from their studies and source-notes. Niall Ferguson, TV historian, neo-Conservative and heart-throb of the conference circuit, has left his wife for the terrifyingly glamorous feminist writer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali…. – UK Standard, 2-11-10
  • Snow Is No Longer a Joking Matter in Washington For what might be the first time ever, says Fred Beuttler, the House’s deputy historian, the chamber’s cafeteria was forced to close… – Time, 2-10-10


  • Andrew Young’s Memoir of John Edwards: THE POLITICIAN An Insider’s Account of John Edwards’s Pursuit of the Presidency and the Scandal That Brought Him Down In “The Politician,” Young, a longtime aide to John Edwards, ventilates his abhorrence for former Senator Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, both of whom he seems to have undertaken Stakhanovite efforts to please…. – NYT, 2-12-10 Excerpt
  • Jerry Z. Muller: Jews and the Burden of Money: CAPITALISM AND THE JEWS – In his slim essay collection “Capitalism and the Jews,” Jerry Z. Muller presents a provocative and accessible survey of how Jewish culture and historical accident ripened Jews for commercial success and why that success has earned them so much misfortune. NYT, 2-12-10
  • James S. Hirsch: A Nice Guy in a Perfect Baseball World: WILLIE MAYS The Life, the Legend James S. Hirsch’s new book, “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend,” is the first biography written with Mays’s participation. (Mr. Hirsch and Mays intend to split the book’s earnings.) The result is an authoritative if sometimes listless book, one that’s less “Say Hey” than so-so. Like a long out to center field that scores a runner, however, it’s a book that gets the job done… – NYT, 2-12-10 Excerpt
  • Michael Shelden: Books of The Times Mark Twain: A Public Image as Tailored as His Snow-White Suits: MARK TWAIN: MAN IN WHITE The Grand Adventure of His Final Years As Michael Shelden illustrates in his lively, star-struck and surprise-filled portrait of Twain the septuagenarian, this kind of behavior was carefully calculated. Twain made crucial, image-shaping decisions about how he would live his last years, and Mr. Shelden takes his book’s title from one of these choices… – NYT, 2-12-10 Excerpt
  • Kevin Boyle: Book review of ‘Root and Branch’ by Rawn James, Jr.: ROOT AND BRANCH Charles Hamilton Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and the Struggle to End Segregation In “Root and Branch,” Rawn James, Jr. isn’t trying to add to that imposing scholarship as much as he’s trying to give it a popular spin. A Washington lawyer, he moves nimbly through the complex legal issues Houston and his team raised. To add a poignant touch, he interweaves Houston’s and Marshall’s powerful personal stories. And he gives their campaign a stirringly triumphal arc, the story of a whole nation being forced — by the fierce will of two learned men — to overcome…. – WaPo, 2-12-10
  • PUBLIC POLICY Book review: ‘The Great American University,’ by Jonathan R. Cole: THE GREAT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected Our high schools may be hurting, but the best U.S. universities — the Ivies, Johns Hopkins, Stanford, the select state universities (Virginia, California at Berkeley, Michigan and others) — are the envy of the world. In his new book, Jonathan R. Cole, a former provost and dean of faculties at Columbia, shows how our research universities in particular came to be what they are… – WaPo, 2-12-10
  • Book review: ‘Inside Obama’s Brain,’ by Sasha Abamsky: INSIDE OBAMA’S BRAIN – Sasha Abramsky promises us a glimpse in “Inside Obama’s Brain.” He tells us right away what his book is not: It’s not a biography, not political history, not inside-the-Beltway prattle. It is, he says, “a psychological profile writ large.”… – WaPo, 2-12-10
  • Bettye Collier-Thomas: Faith-Based Defiance: JESUS, JOBS, AND JUSTICE African American Women and Religion In “Jesus, Jobs, and Justice,” Bettye Collier-Thomas, a professor of history at Temple University, tells the untold stories of scores of religious and politically active black women, their organizations, informal gatherings and intellectual movements. For readers who imagine that the religious and political activism of Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod Bethune and Rosa Parks is exceptional, the book will be a revelation…. – NYT, 2-5-10
  • SUSAN RUBIN SULEIMAN on Frederick Brown: French Contentions: FOR THE SOUL OF FRANCE Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus The real question for the opposing camps was not whether Alfred Dreyfus was guilty or innocent, but whether France itself was to be modern or traditional, cosmopolitan or nationalist, Catholic or secular, a republic or a monarchy. The struggle, as Frederick Brown puts it in “For the Soul of France,” his briskly paced and highly readable book, was between “champions and foes of the Enlightenment.” – NYT, 2-5-10
  • Rebecca Skloot: Eternal Life: THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS In “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” Rebecca Skloot introduces us to the “real live woman,” the children who survived her, and the interplay of race, poverty, science and one of the most important medical discoveries of the last 100 years. – NYT, 2-5-10Excerpt
  • Charles Pellegrino Book review: ‘The Last Train from Hiroshima’: THE LAST TRAIN FROM HIROSHIMA The Survivors Look Back But the tragedies and atrocities of World War II now belong to history, while Hiroshima is still part of our world, our continuing present, maybe our dreaded future. “The Last Train from Hiroshima” reminds us why this is so. Charles Pellegrino’s account of what it was actually like on the ground in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, culled from survivors’ memories and his own work in forensic archaeology, is the most powerful and detailed I have ever read. It puts flesh on the skeletons…. – WaPo, 2-7-10
  • Garry Wills: Book review: ‘Bomb Power’: BOMB POWER The Modern Presidency and the National Security State Gary Wills begins his provocative account of the atomic bomb’s impact on the republic with a high-detonation assertion…. The ensuing pages carry the reader through well-written, sometimes exciting vignettes of the bomb’s damage to liberty and constitutional checks and balances. WaPo, 2-7-10
  • Jonathan R. Cole: Tales Out of School: THE GREAT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY Its Rise to Preeminence, Its Indispensable National Role, Why It Must Be Protected As provost of Columbia University for 14 years and a professor of sociology and dean of faculties before that, Jonathan R. Cole is in an excellent position to write about the rise of the American research university and its special contribution to American life. In “The Great American University,”he makes a case for the extraordinary role such institutions play in improving our daily lives. He also argues that these “jewels in our nation’s crown” face a host of serious threats. NYT, 2-5-10


  • Tomb May Hold Answer to How Much Shakespeare Actually Wrote: A sarcophagus in an English parish church built by the writer Fulke Greville, a Shakespeare contemporary, could contain clues about several works traditionally attributed to Shakespeare. St. Mary’s Church in Warwick, England, contains a tomb that parishioners believe may contain clues about Shakespeare’s work. The church was built by Fulke Greville, a “prominent 17th-century nobleman, … scholar, soldier, statesman,” spy, writer and Shakespeare contemporary who “some believe is the true author of several of the Bard’s works,” according to the Daily Telegraph. – Finding Dulcinea, 2-15-10
  • HOW CHRISTIAN WERE THE FOUNDERS? The Christian “truth” about America’s founding has long been taught in Christian schools, but not beyond. Recently, however — perhaps out of ire at what they see as an aggressive, secular, liberal agenda in Washington and perhaps also because they sense an opening in the battle, a sudden weakness in the lines of the secularists — some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.” – San Francisco Sentinel, 2-14-10
  • Changing History Four new ways to write the story of the world: The fame of Howard Zinn, who died a week and a half ago, rested on his long record of challenging the status quo. As a young professor, he was a leader of the civil rights and antiwar movements, and throughout his career he was an inveterate demonstrator and speaker at rallies and strikes. His writings brought formerly obscure events like Bacon’s Rebellion, the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, and the Philippine-American War into the light, arguing that such popular uprisings – and their brutal suppression – were central to the American story. It’s a vision that resonated with readers: Zinn’s 1980 book, “A People’s History of the United States,” has sold more than 2 million copies…. Boston Globe, 2-7-10
  • A Chronicler of the World Now Looks Inward: In one of the short personal reminiscences that the historian Tony Judt has been writing for The New York Review of Books he mentions that he was part of the “lucky generation” born in the affluent West after World War II, free to indulge in daydreams and passions. Mr. Judt’s world, sadly, has contracted considerably. Now 62, he learned about 16 months ago that he has a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and since then he has lost the ability to move nearly every muscle in his body, including those that help him breathe and swallow…. – NYT, 2-8-10


  • Mark Dyreson “It’s a weird world of sports, but Winter Games have charms too”: “Part of the reason we don’t get the Winter Games is that we just don’t understand the sports — 300,000 Swedes lining a snow-covered path to watch people skiing strikes us as absurd,” said Mark Dyreson, sports historian and professor at Penn State. “But part of it is also bald nationalism. We don’t like it because we’re not top dog.” – LAT, 2-12-10
  • On Religion A Rare Blend, Pro Football and Hasidic Judaism: For Jews, abundant as fans but uncommon as top players, the visibility of a Shlomo Veingrad serves both reassuring and cathartic roles. Having a Jew to root for — whether Hank Greenberg, Sandy Koufax or the Israeli N.B.A. rookie Omri Casspi — “has a lot to do with our desire to define ourselves as Americans in the most American way, which is sports,” said Jeffrey S. Gurock, a history professor at Yeshiva University and the author of “Judaism’s Encounter With American Sports.” At a deeper and more anxious level, American Jews continue to grapple with the stereotypical view of the Jew as egghead, nerd, weakling. That dismissive portrayal was a staple not only of anti-Semites, but also of early Zionists, who envisioned their “new man” with his plow and rifle as the antidote to the “golus Yid,” the exilic Jew unable even to defend himself. “I don’t think those feelings are as conscious as in prior generations, but they still have some resonance,” Professor Gurock said in a telephone interview. “So there’s a residual pride of someone achieving in this very secular world of sports.” – NYT, 2-6-10


  • Michael Kazin: What’s Behind The New Populism?:
    In the year 2010, what is populism?
    It is as it has always been: the language of people who see ordinary people as a noble group and the elite class as self-serving. This year, the elites are perceived as Wall Street, the Obama administration and Democrats who want to increase the size of government. The left and right have been arguing in populist terms — whether the big evil is big government or big business — since the 1930s. NPR, 2-5-10
  • Brown’s Entry Ends Democrats’ Supermajority: Republican Scott Brown was sworn in Thursday as the 41st Republican in the U.S. Senate. His election ends the Democratic supermajority in the chamber. WELNA: Senate Historian Don Ritchie says years ago it was normal that Republicans and Democrats would cross the aisle on key votes. He says its lately become normal that they dont.
    Mr. DON RITCHIE (Senate Historian): The two parties are much more internally cohesive than they ever were before. The ideological spectrum inside the Democratic conference and inside the Republican conference is much narrower than it was before, and they tend to vote together. WBUR, NPR, 2-4-10


  • Michael Burlingame “UIS professor wins 2010 Lincoln Prize”: Authorities at the University of Illinois Springfield have announced two new honors for Professor Michael Burlingame, a noted Abraham Lincoln scholar. On Thursday, Burlingame was installed as holder of the Naomi Lynn Distinguished Chair of Lincoln Studies. On Friday, it was announced that Burlingame has won the 2010 Lincoln Prize for his two-volume “Abraham Lincoln: A Life,” published last year by Johns Hopkins University Press…. – Chicago Tribune, 2-12-10
  • Anna Pegler-Gordon: Professor wins book prize: Anna Pegler-Gordon, an associate professor in MSU’s James Madison College was awarded the 2009 Theodore Saloutos book prize of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society for her book. Pegler-Gordon, who also is acting director of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program, won the award for the book “In Sight of America: Photography and the Development of U.S. Immigration Policy.” – MSU State News, 2-9-10


  • How Dovid Katz Thirst For Jewish History Rabbi Dovid Katz’s unique perspectives bend minds and preconceived notions: On a cold and misty Saturday evening, the small sanctuary at Beth Abraham Congregation in Northwest Baltimore is packed to overflowing. Men and women, young and old, Orthodox and Conservative, Reform and non-affiliated, have all come to hear about modern Jewish history. The speaker is Dovid Katz, the rabbi of Beth Abraham (known widely as “Hertzberg’s Shul”), who also happens to hold a Ph.D. in Jewish history and is attracting large audiences to his current 12-part lecture series — most of whom find his talks entertaining, interesting and informative. That’s one reason why the program is underwritten by the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and co-sponsored by a number of local businesses and individuals…. – Baltimore Jewish Times,


  • Noted historian to examine ‘grand strategy’: “The Nuts and Bolts of Grand Strategy” is the title of a lecture by Yale University historian Paul Kennedy set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, in 16 Robertson Hall. – Princeton, 2-15-10
  • Civil War Web site gears up State promoting events for war’s 150th anniversary: With just one year to go until the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, history lovers across Tennessee have taken their battle for the past to a new front – cyberspace. The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and the state Department of Tourist Development launched a new Web site this month to help promote events planned statewide for the war’s anniversary, which will stretch from 2011-2015. The Web site – http://www.tncivilwar150.com – remains a work in progress but has already drawn praise from East Tennessee historians and preservationists…. – Knox News, 2-8-10




  • Jordan Goodman: The Devil and Mr. Casement: One Man’s Battle for Human Rights in South America’s Heart of Darkness, (Hardcover) February 16, 2010
  • Ken Gormley: The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr (Hardcover), February 16, 2010
  • Jeffrey Race: War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province (Updated), (Paperback) February 16, 2010
  • Patrick Tyler: World of Trouble: The White House and the Middle East–from the Cold War to the War on Terror, (Paperback) 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
  • Cliff Sloan: The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court, (Paperback) March 2, 2010
  • Hugh Ambrose: The Pacific, (Hardcover) March 2, 2010
  • Jonathan Phillips: Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades, (Hardcover) March 9, 2010
  • Thomas Asbridge: The Crusades, (Hardcover) March 9, 2010
  • Bryan D. Palmer: James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928 (1st Edition), (Paperback) March 1, 2010
  • C. Brian Kelly: Best Little Stories from the Civil War, (Paperback) March 1, 2010
  • Nicholas Schou: Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, (Hardcover) March 16, 2010
  • Timothy M. Gay: Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson, (Hardcover) March 16, 2010
  • Miranda Carter: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, (Hardcover) March 23, 2010
  • John W. Steinberg: All the Tsar’s Men: Russia’s General Staff and the Fate of the Empire, 1898-1914, (Hardcover) April 1, 2010
  • Simon Dixon: Catherine the Great, (Paperback) April 6, 2010
  • J. Todd Moye: Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, (Hardcover) April 12, 2010
  • Seth G. Jones: In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan (Paperback) April 12, 2010
  • Nick Bunker: Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History, (Hardcover) April 13, 2010
  • Dominic Lieven: Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, (Hardcover), April 15, 2010
  • Timothy J. Henderson: The Mexican Wars for Independence, (Paperback) April 13, 2010
  • Hampton Sides: Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Max Hastings: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Bradley Gottfried: The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 – July 13, 1863, (Hardcover) April 19, 2010
  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
  • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010


  • Hawaii author and historian Bob Dye dead at 81: Honolulu author, historian and journalist Bob Dye died Friday following a long illness. He was 81. Dye wrote “Merchant Prince of the Sandalwood Mountains: Afong and the Chinese in Hawai’i,” about the first Chinese millionaire in Hawai’i, and he was the editor of “Hawai’i Chronicles II and III.”…. – Honolulu Advertiser, 2-6-10
  • Hans L. Trefousse, Historian and Author, Dies at 88: Sometimes the least prepossessing American presidents are the most enduringly interesting. That is certainly the case for Andrew Johnson. His impeachment trial of 1868 was in the news again in the late 1990s, during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton…. – NYT, 2-4-10
  • Daniel Randall Beirne: Army officer who went on to become a history and sociology professor and expert on Baltimore history: Daniel Randall Beirne, a West Pointer and retired Army officer who later had a second career as a University of Baltimore professor of sociology and history and was considered an authority on Baltimore history, died Wednesday of heart failure at his East Lake Avenue home. He was 85…. – Baltimore Sun, 2-6-10

February 15, 2010: Michelle Obama Launches Let’s Move Campaign,


The President Signs a Memorandum Taking on Childhood Obesity

President Barack Obama signs a memorandum on childhood obesity in the Oval Office. From left are, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar February 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha


  • Partisan tensions continue to escalate: Poll shows that 93% of Americans thinks there is too much fighting between the parties, but a memo by Democrats seeking to increase political heat on GOP isn’t in line with president’s pleas…. – LAT, 2-15-10
  • Poll finds most Americans are unhappy with government: Two-thirds of Americans are “dissatisfied” or downright “angry” about the way the federal government is working, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. On average, the public estimates that 53 cents of every tax dollar they send to Washington is “wasted.” – WaPo, 2-10-10
  • Poll finds most Americans are unhappy with government: Although Palin is a tea party favorite, her potential as a presidential hopeful takes a severe hit in the survey. Fifty-five percent of Americans have unfavorable views of her, while the percentage holding favorable views has dipped to 37, a new low in Post-ABC polling.
    There is a growing sense that the former Alaska governor is not qualified to serve as president, with more than seven in 10 Americans now saying she is unqualified, up from 60 percent in a November survey. Even among Republicans, a majority now say Palin lacks the qualifications necessary for the White House.
    Palin has lost ground among conservative Republicans, who would be crucial to her hopes if she seeks the party’s presidential nomination in 2012. Forty-five percent of conservatives now consider her as qualified for the presidency, down sharply from 66 percent who said so last fall… – WaPo, 2-10-10
  • Voters Divided Over Obama vs. Republican Candidate in 2012 Republicans most often mention Romney, Palin as preferred candidate: These results are based on a Feb. 1-3 Gallup poll. Forty-four percent of U.S. registered voters say they are more likely to vote for Obama, 42% for the Republican candidate, and the remaining 14% are undecided or would vote for another candidate…. – Gallop, 2-11-10
  • Obama’s rating plunges underwater for first time in new poll as just 44% give him their approval: Just 44% of the country approve of the work Obama is doing, while 47% don’t like what they see.
    The tough reviews come as Americans still find the commander in chief likable, with 50% rating him favorably, and 44% viewing him negatively…. – NY Daily News, 2-8-10


The First Lady Announces "Let's Move"

  • Senate Woes Flag Wider Disease: On this much, just about everybody agrees: The U.S. Senate isn’t well….
    The common explanation for why the Senate doesn’t work better is that 60 has become the new 50. That is, it takes 60 votes, rather than a simple majority of 50 plus one, to break the nonstop debate of a filibuster and move to a vote on a bill. And it’s now become virtually routine for the Senate’s minority party—the Republicans today—to stop any meaningful legislation by threatening a filibuster…. – WSJ, 2-15-10
  • Joe The Plumber McCain and Tea Party Movement: Republican Sen. John McCain gets thrown under the bus by Joe The Plumber. Sam Wurzelbacher joins conservative Tea Party movement. Barack Obama on business taxes…. – News OXY, 2-16-10
  • Palin plays politician around Daytona 500: Sarah Palin took a break from the snow and played politician on stock car racing’s biggest stage. Pretty important place on the political landscape, too. The former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor sped around Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, shaking hands and taking photos with drivers and fans alike before what she called the “all-Americana event.” Palin said she was “having fun and not thinking about the politics of this,” but didn’t miss the chance to energize her base in one of the most critical regions of the largest swing state. “This is awesome,” she said. “It’s all-Americana event. Good, patriotic, wonderful event that’s bringing a whole lot of people together. I think this is good for our country.”… – AP, 2-14-10
  • Cheney criticizes Obama on national security policy, and Biden fires back: Vice President Biden and his predecessor, Richard B. Cheney, engaged in a virtual debate Sunday that highlighted how little progress has been made over the past year — and across consecutive administrations — in resolving the central national security questions raised by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and their aftermath…. – WaPo, 2-14-10
  • Republican strategy: Filibuster everything, win in November: The Senate voted 60-39 Saturday to clear the way for consideration of historic legislation to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system, but reluctant Democratic moderates sent strong signals that the bill has an uncertain future. Senate Republicans are using the filibuster to limit and often derail Democrats’ initiatives, paralyzing the Senate and making it nearly impossible to accomplish even the most routine matters. The filibuster strategy “makes the Senate dysfunctional,” said Mark Strand, the president of the Congressional Institute, a nonpartisan research group. That, in turn, blocks the Obama administration’s agenda, but it also sours public opinion on Washington, with polls showing clear public disdain for Congress in particular. Republicans think voters will reward them for that in November. However disruptive it is to governance, their extensive use of the filibuster – extended debate to block a decisive vote – could prove to be a valuable campaign asset this fall. Democrats used similar tactics in 2006 and won enough seats to gain a Senate majority. Now Republicans hope it’s their turn. McClatchy Newspapers, 2-14-10
  • Failure of health care overhaul will add more woes: What could be worse than health care overhaul? No health care overhaul. It’s anybody’s guess whether President Barack Obama’s health remake will survive in Congress. But there’s no doubting the consequences if lawmakers fail to address the problems of costs, coverage and quality: surging insurance premiums, more working families without coverage, bigger out-of-pocket bills, a Medicare prescription gap that grows wider and deeper, and government programs that pay when people get sick but do little to keep them healthy…. – AP, 2-13-10
  • Obama names U.S. envoy to Islamic Conference: President Obama announced Saturday the appointment of Rashad Hussain, a White House lawyer, to be his special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference…. – WaPo, 2-14-10
  • Cheney keeps firing, and critics fire back: Former Vice President Cheney will appear on ABC’s “This Week” today, and it’s a safe bet what he will say: President Barack Obama projects weakness to terrorists and puts American lives at risk. It’s the kind of brutal charge — nuance-free and politically explosive — that has become a Cheney specialty since he left office 13 months ago. Cheney’s broadsides on Afghanistan policy, detention and surveillance policies and Obama’s general philosophy about the U.S. role in a dangerous world inevitably dominate the news. No other figure in Republican politics has equal ability to drive debate on national security, rally Obama critics and force the administration to respond. Vice President Joe Biden will be countering Cheney today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’s “Face the Nation.”… – Politico, 2-13-10
  • Michelle Obama “Let’s Move” Campaign and Childhood Obesity Rates: Michelle Obama “Let’s Move” campaign and childhood obesity rates. First Lady Michelle Obama is pushing the “Let’s move” campaign in order to fight childhood obesity. For the first time since in history, the life expectancy of our children could be less than our own life expectancies…. – CNM News Network, 2-14-10
  • McCain: Palin reading from hand no different than using teleprompter: Senator John McCain on Friday defended Sarah Palin’s use of her hand to help her remember some key points at last week’s Tea Party convention…. – CS Monitor, 2-12-10
  • Senate Confirms 2 Dozen Obama Nominees: Before leaving for the Presidents’ Day break, the Senate on Thursday night confirmed — by unanimous consent — more than two dozen of President Obama’s nominees to federal positions. Mr. Obama and Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, had warned this week that the president might use the weeklong holiday break to make recess appointments, a threat underscoring his frustration with months of delays in confirming some key nominees…. – NYT, 2-11-10
  • White House Sends out Invites for Health Summit White House announces format, guests for bipartisan health care summit: In a make or break move, President Barack Obama on Friday challenged three dozen Republicans and Democrats to participate in a one-of-a-kind televised summit this month to thrash out a deal on health care. House Republicans immediately greeted the invite to the Feb. 25 event with derision, casting doubt on whether it would yield any bipartisan agreement to extend coverage to millions of Americans and rein in medical costs. “We need answers before we know if the White House is more interested in partisan theater than in facilitating a productive dialogue about solutions,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio…. – AP, 2-12-10
  • Deal on Jobs Shows Limits of Push for Bipartisanship: Key Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached a rare bipartisan agreement on Thursday on steps to spur job creation. But Democratic leaders said they would move ahead on only some elements as the two parties maneuvered to address both the struggling economy and voter unrest over gridlock in Washington. Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, said he would take four core job-creating initiatives from the bipartisan proposal — including tax breaks for businesses that hire unemployed workers and increased public works spending — and seek to move those rapidly through the Senate…. – NYT, 2-11-10
  • Bill Clinton gets stents in artery after having chest discomfort: The former president undergoes the relatively common procedure at a hospital in Manhattan. He had quadruple bypass surgery in 2004…. – LAT, 2-11-10
  • Obama Report: 95, 000 Jobs to Come Each Month: The United States is likely to average 95,000 more jobs each month this year, while personal savings will remain high as credit remains tight, according to a White House report released Thursday. “I can report that over the past year, this work has begun. In the coming year, this work continues,” Obama said in a letter he sent to the Capitol attached to his economic update to lawmakers. “But to understand where we must go in the next year and beyond, it is important to remember where we began one year ago.” Casting its first year as positive, the administration’s 462-page report served as a summary of its logic and a pitch for Obama’s future agenda…. – AP, 2-11-10
  • Charlie Wilson, Texas Congressman Linked to Foreign Intrigue, Dies at 76: Charlie Wilson, a 12-term Texas congressman who was best known for his playboy ways until he masterminded a covert effort to funnel billions of dollars in arms to Afghan rebels fighting the Soviets in the 1980s, died Wednesday in Lufkin, Tex. He was 76…. – NYT, 2-11-10
  • On Health Bill, G.O.P.’s Road Is a New Map: When Republicans take President Obama up on his invitation to hash out their differences over health care this month, they will carry with them a fairly well-developed set of ideas intended to make health insurance more widely available and affordable, by emphasizing tax incentives and state innovations, with no new federal mandates and only a modest expansion of the federal safety net…. – NYT, 2-8-10
  • To Ace This Interview, Palin Keeps Notes Close: Ask conservatives why they love Sarah Palin so and they will often say it is because she is so “authentic.” Photographs posted to blogs after Ms. Palin’s speech to the National Tea Party Convention on Saturday night captured several words scribbled seventh-grade style on her left palm: “energy,” “tax cuts” (with “budget” crossed out in front of cuts) and “lift American spirits.”… – NYT, 2-8-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Bayh exits Senate against backdrop of angry voters: The stunning announcement by centrist Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh that he’s retiring from a Congress he no longer loves adds yet another name to a list of lawmakers fleeing a town they say has become acidly partisan. And it gives Republicans a chance to pick up a seat. The decision by the Indiana Democrat, who was in strong position to win a third term in November in his GOP-leaning state, also compounds the problems facing Senate Democrats this fall as they cling to their majority in the chamber, where they now hold 59 of the 100 votes…. – AP, 2-15-10
  • Under campaign pressure, McCain makes U turns: Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain has undergone a transformation on significant issues since the failure of his presidential campaign, particularly since he has faced a challenge from a conservative rival in his Senate re-election campaign. A look at some of his changes in policy positions…GAYS IN THE MILITARY, CLIMATE CHANGE, FINANCING CAMPAIGNS, IMMIGRATION, CURBING THE NATIONAL DEBT – AP, 2-13-10
  • Sen. McCain faces toughest re-election challenge: Defeated just two years ago as the Republican presidential candidate and with his bonafides as a true conservative again being challenged, John McCain finds himself in a struggle to get even his party’s nomination for another term in the Senate. Many conservatives and Tea Party activists are lining up behind Republican challenger and former talk radio host J.D. Hayworth, reflecting a rising tide of voter frustration with incumbent politicians. Only 40 percent of Arizonans have a favorable view of McCain’s job performance. Faced with his toughest re-election battle ever, McCain has moved to the right on several hot-button issues, like gays in the military and climate change, and has built a campaign war chest of more than $5 million. Former running mate Sarah Palin and newly elected Republican Sen. Scott Brown, both popular with conservatives, are pitching in…. – AP, 2-13-10
  • Kennedy: ‘I will not be a candidate for reelection’: Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, the last member of his famous family still serving in elective office, has decided not to seek a ninth term in Congress. “I will not be a candidate for reelection this year,” the 42-year-old Kennedy says in an emotion-laden advertisement released by his office Thursday that will air Sunday night. Facing the camera in a blue suit and striped tie, the Rhode Island Democrat mentions his years of service and the death of his father, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, last summer. “We all know how difficult the last few years have been,” Kennedy begins. “Rhode Island families have struggled,” he adds, citing the bad economy and mortgage foreclosures. Then Kennedy says of his father, the longtime Democratic senator from Massachusetts: “Illness took the life of my most cherished mentor and confidant, my ultimate source of spirit and strength.” – Providence Jourbnal, 2-11-10


The President delivers the Weekly Address

  • Liz Cheney: Biden, Obama Administration Ignoring Al Qaeda Pursuit of WMD: Liz Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter and a former Bush administration official, on Monday accused Vice President Biden of downplaying the threat from Al Qaeda and suggested the Obama administration isn’t doing everything in its power to stop terror….
    “There’s very strong concern that still remains that Al Qaeda is working very hard to try to obtain weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda armed with any nuclear or biological weapon is clearly one of the gravest threats we face,” Liz Cheney said.
    “The notion that this White House and this administration is minimizing that possibility makes you very concerned, I think has to make us very concerned about whether or not they are doing everything in their power to prevent it,” she added…. – FOX News, 2-15-10
  • Biden bickers with Cheney across TV airwaves: Vice President Biden said his predecessor, Dick Cheney, is either “misinformed or … misinforming” as the two sparred on separate Sunday news shows about Cheney’s continued criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of terror threats.
    Biden said that Cheney is off base criticizing Obama on fighting terrorists and noted that the administration has killed 12 of the 20 most wanted al-Qaeda operatives — and has “taken out 100 of their associates.”
    Cheney said he is a “supporter” of Obama’s policy in the Afghanistan war, including last year’s decision to deploy 30,000 more U.S. troops. But he said the administration has failed to take a wartime posture toward terror suspects.
    Cheney criticized Obama’s treatment of the Christmas Day airline bombing suspect as “an isolated extremist,” when it now is clear that he was trained by al-Qaeda. He said the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, should be tried by a military tribunal as an enemy combatant, instead of in federal court. He also criticized Obama’s order to outlaw “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, and said they should be “on the table” for Abdulmutallab… – USA Today, 2-14-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Praises Restoration of Pay-As-You-Go Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address February 13, 2010: But this isn’t a perfect world. This is Washington. And while in theory there is bipartisan agreement on moving on balanced budgets, in practice, this responsibility for the future is often overwhelmed by the politics of the moment. It falls prey to the pressure of special interests, to the pull of local concerns, and to a reality familiar to every single American – the fact that it is a lot easier to spend a dollar than save one.
    That is why this rule is necessary. And that is why I am pleased that Congress fulfilled my request to restore it. Last night, I signed the “pay as you go” rule into law. Now, Congress will have to pay for what it spends, just like everybody else.
    But that’s not all we must do. Even as we make critical investments to create jobs today and lay a foundation for growth tomorrow – by cutting taxes for small businesses, investing in education, promoting clean energy, and modernizing our roads and railways – we have to continue to go through the budget line by line, looking for ways to save. We have to cut where we can, to afford what we need… – WH, 2-13-10
  • President Obama’s Message to Team USA: I want to congratulate all the athletes here today for making the 2010 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams – you are truly the best of the best. All of us are incredibly proud of everything you’ve accomplished to get here, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish in Vancouver.
    The Olympics represent one of the greatest traditions in sports – a place where legends are born and history is made. And over the next two and a half weeks, each of you will have the experience of a lifetime – the culmination of years of hard work and endless sacrifice; dogged perseverance and unyielding determination.
    As Olympic and Paralympic athletes, you’ll be representing your coaches, family and friends who gave so much to help you get to where you are. You’ll be representing the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans watching at home and around the globe. And you’ll be serving as ambassadors for your country, both on and off the playing field – presenting the very best of America to the world.
    So congratulations again on making the team, and best of luck in Vancouver. Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo and I can’t wait to follow your journeys from here in Washington. I know you’ll all make America enormously proud. Thank you. WH, 2-12-10
  • Biden: Major terror attack on U.S. unlikely: “The idea of there being a massive attack in the United States like 9/11 is unlikely, in my opinion,” Biden said in an interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
    Instead, groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “have decided to move in the direction of much more small-bore but devastatingly frightening attacks,” such as the failed bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day. “I think there are going to be attempts,” Biden said, but he praised the successes of the U.S. security and intelligence apparatus in dealing with the threats. On other issues, Biden said he expected Congress to pass a jobs bill to stimulate employment growth, though it “will be probably less than is needed initially, but it will be very helpful.” “I think you’re going to see net creation of jobs every month” starting in the spring, Biden said, acknowledging the growth would begin slowly. – CNN, 2-11-10
  • Making Moves for a Healthier Generation: “It’s done, honey,” President Obama said to The First Lady earlier today as he signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing a task force on childhood obesity to address the growing health epidemic. “Now we work,” she responded.
    I am so proud of the work that the First Lady, along with the Cabinet Secretaries behind me, has done in trying to tackle one of the most urgent health issues that we face in this country, and that is the increase of childhood obesity. And because of the outstanding planning that they’ve done, they are going to be rolling out a terrific plan of action that involves the private sector as well as government agencies coordinating much more effectively a lot of public information out there to help parents make good decisions about allowing their children to be active and eating healthier….
    “These words – ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ – they don’t tell the full story. This isn’t just about inches and pounds or how our kids look. It’s about how our kids feel, and how they feel about themselves. It’s about the impact we’re seeing on every aspect of their lives.” – WH, 2-9-10Let’s Move campaign


The President holds a bipartisan meeting on the economy

  • E.J. Dionne Jr.: What Bill Clinton could teach President Obama: When word went out that Bill Clinton had been rushed to the hospital, the prospect that he was in danger made me wish that President Obama had spent more time learning lessons that only Clinton can teach… – WaPo, 2-14-10
  • Obama as professor-in-chief: The history of “professor” as a term of derision: Thomas L. Haskell, a professor emeritus of history at Rice University, agrees that racial bias may be implicit in the attack on Obama’s professorial past. “For me and a lot of other academic types, we identify with Obama precisely because he is an intellectual,” Haskell says. “But what does that mean to John Q. Public? I don’t know. John Q. Public may be frightened of these people, especially because this particular intellectual is a black.” – Inside Higher Ed (2-10-10)
  • Obama as professor-in-chief: The history of “professor” as a term of derision: Attacks on the professoriate or intellectuals in general, however, are certainly not limited to African Americans. The late Richard Hofstadter, a historian at Columbia University, explored such attacks in his 1963 book, Anti- Intellectualism in American Life. David S. Brown, author of Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography (University of Chicago Press, 2006), says Hofstadter would probably see shades of Barry Goldwater’s brand of conservatism among the Tea Party activists.
    It’s no surprise that the anti-intellectualism that Hofstadter wrote about has resonance among some Americans today, says Brown, a historian at Elizabethtown College. Higher education programs are increasingly moving toward the pre- professional variety, and students and parents are inclined to press colleges about how their programs will lead to jobs — not to intellectual growth, Brown says. In that context, the stereotypical liberal arts professor is ever more marginalized.
    “A traditional humanities professor is going to be engaged in criticism and speculative ideas, and will probably have more questions than answers,” says Brown. “But we’re a culture that wants answers.” – Inside Higher Ed (2-10-10)
  • Julian Zelizer: One year in, Obama must define himself: In his first year in the White House, President Obama has proved to be an elusive figure. This is ironic given that his campaign to win the Democratic primary in 2007 and 2008 had been premised on the idea that voters preferred a candidate who stood for something.
    For one thing, he distinguished himself from Sen. Hillary Clinton by highlighting the fact that he had been against the Iraq War from the start and never wavered in his position.
    Yet in 2010, many Democrats, as well as Republicans, are unsure of who President Obama is and what exactly he stands for….
    The president is still early in his presidency. He has time to correct his problems and to emerge stronger during year two. But time is slipping away. Many members of the administration must feel like athletes on the court, looking up at the game clock as the minutes fade away.
    The president must do better at explaining just what his presidency is about. This does not mean abandoning a strategy of negotiation and compromise and ideological flexibility, but it does mean better defining the person who will be at the negotiating table. Otherwise, everyone else in the room will do that job themselves…. – CNN, 2-9-10

Vice President Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and Valerie JarrettWave During Olympics Opening Ceremonies

Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Valerie Jarrett, and U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson wave to the U.S. Olympic team as they enter the arena for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada February 12, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

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