Memorial Day 2010: Obama & It’s Origins

IN THE NEWS….

Vice President Biden Lays a Wreath at the  Tomb of the Unknowns in   ArlingtonVice President Joe Biden lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • What is Memorial Day?: Source Chicago Sun-Times, 5-31-10
    Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
    The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
    The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies….
  • Take time to remember meaning, intent of Memorial Day:
    Source: The Olympian, 5-31-10
    Today is more than the end of a three-day weekend. It’s a day to honor the deceased — especially those men and women who have served this nation in the armed forces. Unfortunately, over the years Memorial Day has lost much of its meaning. Today, families look upon the Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer — especially when the weather cooperates. It’s an opportunity to get away to the beach or the mountains, have a picnic or family reunion or the first opportunity of the year to pitch the family tent at a favorite campground.
    Sadly, not many of us take the time to remember the dead or say a prayer for the 1.2 million uniformed men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might thrive as a nation blessed with freedom and liberty….
  • Obama’s plan for Memorial Day speech in Illinois wiped out by rain, lightning: It has been years since President Obama attended a rally like the one that took place Monday night at Andrews Air Force Base: sparsely attended, thrown together at the last minute, involving people who were not expecting to be there. Yet that’s what happened after a torrential downpour ruined well-laid presidential plans. Chased out of a Memorial Day service in Illinois by a fierce storm, Obama flew home to make remarks that he intended to deliver eight hours earlier. Instead of speaking in front of thousands, he addressed a small crowd of hastily summoned service members in a hangar…. – WaPo, 6-1-10
  • Biden honors war dead; rain forces Obama to cancel Ill. speech In Afghanistan, McChrystal leads tribute to fallen: Vice President Joe Biden hailed America’s fighting men and women yesterday as the “spine of this nation,” while President Obama’s Land of Lincoln tribute got washed out by a severe thunderstorm and high winds. Discuss Biden made the more traditional appearance at Arlington National Cemetery on Obama’s behalf, saying the country has “a sacred obligation’” to make sure its servicemen and women are the best equipped and best supported troops in the world. “As a nation, we pause to remember them,” Biden said. “They gave their lives fulfilling their oath to this nation and to us.”… – Boston Globe, 6-1-10
  • Obama Not the 1st President to Miss Memorial Day at Arlington:
    CBS News, 5-31-10
    Some conservative talk show hosts and pundits have mounted an effort to politicize Memorial Day by questioning President Obama’s plan to visit a national cemetery in Illinois instead of attending the annual ceremony at Arlington.
    Let’s set the record straight. Mr. Obama will participate today in a ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, about 50 miles south of Chicago. He is not the first president to be away from Washington on a patriotic holiday.
    The critics were either ignorant of the facts or they failed to mention the 2007 Veterans Day ceremony when Vice President Dick Cheney spoke while President George W. Bush observed the holiday in Texas.
    Vice President Dan Quayle laid the wreath at Arlington on Memorial Day, 1992. I recall covering President George H.W. Bush, a distinguished World War II vet, as he marked the holiday that year at his favorite vacation spot, Kennebunkport, Maine, where he spoke to a veterans group.
    Back in 1983, a Defense Department official laid the Memorial Day wreath at Arlington when Ronald Reagan was at a G-7 Summit meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia….
  • President Barack Obama is scheduled to give his remarks at a Memorial Day service in Elwood, Illinois today:
    Source: WBEZ, 5-30-10
    President Obama and the first family are wrapping up their weekend visit to Chicago. Obama is expected to give the address at a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, about 50 miles south-west of the city. The service will be accompanied by music from the Joliet American Legion Band and readings from students of the Elwood Community Consolidated Elementary School.
    Back in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden will host a breakfast for Gold Star Families at the White House. Afterwards, the Vice President will visit Arlington National Cemetery where he’ll participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
  • Support slipping for women’s war memorial Organizers hope new generation of soldiers will help keep it open:
    Source: AP, 5-31-10
    Garage sales and quilt raffles helped a determined group of female World War II veterans raise money to transform a rundown wall at Arlington National Cemetery into a grand stone memorial to women who served their country. But those women are dying off, even as the memorial runs short of funds. With women now involved more heavily in combat jobs, those early organizers hope a new generation will step up to the challenge of keeping the memorial open so military women’s stories won’t be lost. The dedication of the memorial that today is a visitor’s first view of the cemetery was such a joyous event that 40,000 people attended in 1997. One of them, a 101-year-old World War I vet named Frieda Mae Hardin, met with cheers when she told the crowd that women considering military careers should, “Go for it!”…

QUOTES

Vice President Biden Speaks in  Arlington

Vice President Joe Biden delivers Memorial Day remarks in the Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater in Arlington, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • Vice President Joe Biden: “And As a Nation, We Pause Today to Remember Them”:
    Source: WH, 5-31-10
    Collectively, the generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have served and sacrificed for us are the heart and soul, and I would say, spine of this nation. And as a nation, we pause today to remember them. They gave their lives fulfilling their oath to this nation and to us. And in so doing, they imparted a responsibility on us to recognize, to respect, to honor and to care for those who risked their lives so that we can live ours. Moments ago, I had the distinct honor and high privilege of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This morning, I welcomed to the White House the Gold Star families, who know all too well the price of their loved ones’ patriotism. I met Ruth Stonesifer, the current President of the Gold Star Mothers, who lost her son Kristofor on the first night of major operations in Afghanistan on October of 2001; and Emogene Cupp, the mother who played a pivotal role in the early stages of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and unveiled the first panel; to Terry Davis, a remarkable champion of Gold Star families. Terry, God love her, is a Gold Star sister, a Gold Star wife, and a Gold Star mother — none should be asked to sacrifice that much.
    To those who have lost a loved one in the service of our nation, I recall a famous headstone in Ireland. And the headstone reads as follows, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.” No one can steal the memory from you. I can tell you from my own personal experience that eventually the pain and heartache you now feel will eventually, God-willing, be replaced by the joyful memory of the son or daughter or husband and wife or father or mother that you loved so dearly and lost. Jill and my prayer for you is that that day will come sooner rather than later. But it will come, I promise you.
  • President Barack Obama: WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Invites All Americans to Honor America’s Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day:
    Source: WH, 5-29-10
    Remarks of President Barack Obama, Saturday, May 29, 2010, Weekly Address, Washington, DC: This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, families across America will gather in backyards and front porches, fire up the barbeque, kick back with friends, and spend time with people they care about. That is as it should be. But I also hope that as you do so, you’ll take some time to reflect on what Memorial Day is all about; on why we set this day aside as a time of national remembrance.
    It’s fitting every day to pay tribute to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Still, there are certain days that have been set aside for all of us to do so. Veterans Day is one such day – when we are called to honor Americans who’ve fought under our country’s flag.
    Our calling on Memorial Day is different. On this day, we honor not just those who’ve worn this country’s uniform, but the men and women who’ve died in its service; who’ve laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens; who’ve given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America. These are the men and women I will be honoring this weekend, and I know many of you are doing the same.
    On April 25, 1866, about a year after the Civil War ended, a group of women visited a cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi, to place flowers by the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen at Shiloh. As they did, they noticed other graves nearby, belonging to Union dead. But no one had come to visit those graves, or place a flower there. So they decided to lay a few stems for those men too, in recognition not of a fallen Confederate or a fallen Union soldier, but a fallen American.
    A few years later, an organization of Civil War veterans established what became Memorial Day, selecting a date that coincided with the time when flowers were in bloom. So this weekend, as we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts, and if you can, to lay a flower where they have come to rest.
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Top Young Historians: 104 Charlotte Brooks

Top Young Historians

Charlotte Brooks, 38

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Department of History, Co-Chair, Program in Asian and Asian American Studies, Baruch College, City University of New York.
Area of Research: Twentieth-century U.S. history, particularly urban history, politics and policy, race, immigration, and Asian American history.
Education: 2002 Ph.D. U.S. History, Northwestern University.
Major Publications: Brooks is the author of Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). Charlotte Brooks JPG
Brooks is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others: “The War on Grant Avenue: Business Competition and Ethnic Rivalry in San Francisco’s Chinatown, 1937-1942,” Journal of Urban History, forthcoming (March 2011); “Sing Sheng vs. Southwood: Housing, Race, and the Cold War in 1950s California,” Pacific Historical Review 73:3 (August 2004). [Reprinted in The Best American History Essays 2006, edited by Joyce Appleby (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)]; “In the Twilight Zone Between Black and White: Japanese American Resettlement and Community in Chicago, 1942-1945,” Journal of American History 86:4 (March 2000).
She is currently doing research for her second book, Between Mao and McCarthy: Chinese American Political Culture in Cold War America (under contract with the University of Chicago Press). This book will examine the contours of Chinese American political activism after World War Two and the way it intersected with U.S. foreign policy, larger Asian American struggles for access to equal citizenship, the growth of Great Society programs, and the postwar black civil rights movement.
Awards: Brooks is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Brooks is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Honorable Mention, 2010 Frederick Jackson Turner Award (for an author’s first book on some significant phase of American history), Organization of American Historians, 2010;
Eugene M. Lang Junior Faculty Research Program Fellowship, Baruch College, 2009-2010;
Professional Staff Congress-City University of New York Grant, Baruch College, 2009;
Baruch College, Weissman School Dean’s Office Summer Research Grant, 2008;
Professional Staff Congress-City University of New York Grant, Baruch College, 2008;
Individual Development Award, State University of New York Joint Labor-Management Committee; 2006;
Louis Knott Koontz Memorial Award (for best article in the previous volume of the Pacific Historical Review), Pacific Coast Branch, American Historical Association, 2005;
Faculty Research Assistance Program B Grant, University at Albany, 2004-2005;
Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities, Barnard College (declined), 2003;
Northwestern University Graduate School Dissertation Year Fellowship, 2001-2002;
Social Science Research Council International Migration Dissertation Fellowship, 2000-2001;
Harry S Truman Library Foundation Research Grant, 2000;
Haynes Foundation Southern California History Research Grant, 2000;
Northwestern University Graduate School Research Grant, 2000;
Teaching Assistant Fellow, Searle Center for Teaching Excellence, 1999-2000.
Additional Info:
Formerly Assistant Professor, Department of History, Faculty Affiliate, Department of Public Administration and Policy, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, State University of New York.

Personal Anecdote

Although born in Los Angeles, I grew up in Auburn, a small town about forty-five minutes outside of Sacramento. At the time, Auburn’s boosters played up its status as an old Gold Rush hub to lure tourists; as I grew older, however, I realized that the town also possessed what in those days was a largely unexplored Asian American past. I caught an occasional glimpse in the Shanghai Bar in Old Town, the tumbledown shacks that longtime residents still referred to as the “Chinese section,” or a stack of the town’s old high school yearbooks, where I discovered that until 1942, one-third of the student body of the now almost all-white school had been Japanese American.

Yet it took me many years to explore this past any further. Our high school textbooks didn’t discuss Asian American history, nor did Yale offer any courses in the subject when I was a student there. During my undergrad years I tried to remedy what I felt was my general provinciality and weak educational background by taking courses on every area of the world except the US. In the process, I became particularly fascinated with modern China, studying everything from Chinese history to Chinese literature to the Chinese language itself. Desperate to actually visit China, I signed up with a program to teach English there after college, only to find myself placed at the last minute in a xenophobic town in Hubei Province. As the only white person and the only obvious foreigner in the city, I faced not only constant stares but actual harassment on a daily basis. People routinely came up to me and clapped in my face to see how I would react, children threw firecrackers and debris at me with the encouragement of adults, and even students from other departments in my college taunted me on campus. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but at the same time, one of the most important. While I could never escape for a moment my status as an outsider, I had the opportunity to watch China in the midst of a wrenching industrial revolution.

My time in Hubei and a subsequent stint in Hong Kong made me think about issues such as race, class, environmental degradation, and economic development in ways I had never considered before. They also inspired to me to apply to graduate school to study U.S. history while further exploring the Chinese past.

The question I hear most often from students, friends, and family members is, “Why do you study that?” They’re not referring to urban history or 20th century America, but to Asian American history. It’s a question I’ve always struggled to answer satisfactorily, mostly because its racial subtext makes me self-conscious. I know, too, that historians often decide to study their own communities when they focus on fields such as gay and lesbian history, women’s history, African American history, or similar subjects. I can’t claim to be doing the same in my work, but I do think that my background is the reason I study Asian American history. And I believe that the importance of this field to the larger American story means that while I am not Asian American, Asian American history is my history too.

Quotes

By Charlotte Brooks

  • “California’s postwar racial transformation did not result mainly from growing white acceptance of Asian American citizenship. Nor did it take place simply because of the repeal of prewar anti-Asian laws, although Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends JPG Asian Americans welcomed and benefited from such changes. Rather, it occurred largely because the meaning of Asian American ‘foreignness’ itself shifted with changing American interests in Asia. As the cold war deepened, a growing number of white Californians saw Asian American housing integration as a necessary price to pay for victory in the struggle. And as thousands of Asian Americans began moving to neighborhoods where blacks could not follow, the racial geography of urban and suburban California in the late 1950s because the most obvious barometer of the state’s racial transformation.” — Charlott Brooks in “Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California”

Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California

About Charlotte Brooks

  • “The Turner Award Committee identified three studies for honorable mention, each of which reflects innovative as well as rigorous methodological inquiry. Each of these studies merits honorable recognition… Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California (The University of Chicago Press) broadens the history of U.S. Cold War foreign policy to consider the rapidly changing place of Asian Americans within American society. Its focus on housing patterns highlights how California’s most persecuted minority communities before and especially during World War II became representatives of new but nonetheless limited forms of American liberalism after the war.” — OAH’s Frederick Jackson Turner Committee for “Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California”, which received an honorable mention
  • “A nuanced exploration of multiracial race relations and the complexities attending Asian Americans’ shifting social status in California’s cities, this book is an important contribution to urban and Asian American history. Charlotte Brooks’s discussions about the exclusion of Asian Americans from New Deal programs and the undoing of racial covenants in the cold war era are original, well researched, and subtly argued. She compellingly illuminates the limits of postwar racial liberalism.” — Mae Ngai, Columbia University, author of “Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America”
  • “A fascinating study, beautifully accomplished. Comparing the experience of Japanese and Chinese Americans in two California cities, Brooks illuminates the complex texture of discrimination, and the role of citizenship and international affairs in the evolution of equality. This book illustrates the way focused studies of particular communities contribute important insights to our understanding of the intersection of U.S. foreign affairs and civil rights history.” — Mary L. Dudziak, USC Law School, author of “Exporting American Dreams; Thurgood Marshall’s African Journey”
  • “Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends takes a direct and compelling approach to its investigation of how the most viciously racialized groups in pre-World War II California became, in the decades after the war, the state’s most praised non-whites. This book is especially important for its intervention in the black-white binaries of recent urban historiography on racial segregation, the urban crisis, and civil rights politics. It is a book unlike almost anything else in the literature, and as such it significantly broadens our understanding of how race has shaped American cities.” — Robert Self, Brown University, author of “American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland”
  • “Professor Brooks is a highly qualified professor. She is so passionate about history which you can tell through her lectures.”…
    “One of the best professors at Baruch. I took her for History which isn’t even my focus, but I learned the most in this class out of the whole semester. She keeps all the lessons interesting. Coming to class was a pleasure for me.”…
    “She is a great teacher!!! I learned a lot in her history class. I strongly recommend her..awesome!!!”…
    “Love her!Amazing professor!!! extremly helpful and crystal clear. Makes lectures interesting. “…
    “Great professor, really cares about students succeeding in her class, very enthusiatic and knowledgeable about subject.”…
    “Excellent teacher. Really cares about students’ learning the material and makes herself available for extra help.”…
    “You couldnt ask for a better professor. Great person,passionate, interesting lectures, cool sense of humor. ” — Anonymous Students

Posted on Sunday, May 30, 2010 at 8:45 AM

Political Highlights: May 31, 2010: Is the BP Oil Spill Obama’s Katrina or Worse?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The  President walks with BP Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 6/1/10

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Bush details decision to quit drinking: New book analyzes key moments in former president’s life In a book, “Decision Points,” to be published in about six months, George W. Bush will detail some of the controversies of his presidency. George W. Bush said Tuesday that his upcoming book begins with an anecdote about his wife persuading him to give up drinking by pushing him to decide whether he preferred booze to fatherhood…. – MSNBC, 5-25-10
  • New poll shows Obama approval rising: A new poll Wednesday showed an upward tick in President Barack Obama’s approval ratings as he faces a political storm over the Gulf oil spill and girds for crucial mid-term elections in November.
    The Quinnipiac University survey showed that 48 percent of voters gave Obama a positive approval rating, compared to 43 percent who disapproved. Most respondents however were pessimistic on the White House’s economic management.
    Respondents also told Quinnipiac, by 42 to 36 percent, that they would vote for a Democrat over a Republican in November’s congressional elections, which will have a big impact on the rest of Obama’s term, which ends in 2013… – AFP, 5-26-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • BP’s top kill effort fails to plug Gulf oil leak: The most ambitious bid yet to stop the worst oil spill in U.S. history ended in failure Saturday after BP was unable to overwhelm the gusher of crude with heavy fluids and junk. President Obama called the setback “as enraging as it is heartbreaking.” The oil giant immediately began readying its next attempted fix, using robot submarines to cut the pipe that’s gushing the oil into the Gulf of Mexico and cap it with funnel-like device, but the only guaranteed solution remains more than two months away.
    “It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking, and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole,” Obama said Saturday. – AP, 5-29-10
  • Bill Clinton has not shrunk from the political spotlight Bill Clinton remains engaged in American politics, providing fresh fodder for the long debate of whether he truly changed his party.
    Bill Clinton was all over the news Friday. He was identified as the go-between in a (failed) White House effort last year to get Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania to drop his (ultimately successful) Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter. And he was live, on stage, in Arkansas in a full-throated defense of embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D). In Washington, of course, the Sestak melodrama got all the attention. But Clinton’s efforts to save Lincoln from defeat in the June 8 primary runoff election against Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter matters more, and is more interesting. It isn’t just that Lincoln is a longtime ally from the former president’s home state. Her battle is in many ways Clinton’s, as well. It is a fight over differences and grievances within the Democratic Party that have festered for years…. – WaPo, 5-30-10
  • Obama: Memorial Day is time to honor fallen troops: Obama, who has sent thousands of troops into war in Afghanistan, used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to reflect on what the nation owes those men and women who died in uniform… “In short, by serving all those who have ever worn the uniform of this country — and their families — as well as they have served us,” the president said…. – AP, 5-29-10
  • A GOP Oil Trap Panicked Republicans risk future energy development: With oil now lapping the Louisiana shore, a political oil panic is beginning to wash over the GOP. Somewhere, Rahm Emanuel is wondering if the Gulf spill is another crisis he won’t have to let go to waste. Start with Sarah Palin, who spent most of 2008 rapping Democrats for not being more supportive of domestic energy production, only to turn around and suggest President Obama was in bed with Big Oil. The argument seems to be that anyone who accepts oil contributions must be in favor of oil spills…. – WSJ, 5-28-10
  • President Obama will skip Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery: President Obama is skipping the traditional Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery, a move that has dismayed some veterans — and comes at a sensitive moment in the administration’s relationship with the military. Instead of speaking at Arlington, as he did last year and as most presidents have done, Obama will appear at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery outside Chicago, the White House said. Vice President Biden will take his place at Arlington, the most prestigious military cemetery in the country and home to Section 60, a large burial ground for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Obama family in Chicago for Memorial Day weekend: President Barack Obama is spending the long Memorial Day holiday weekend at home in Chicago, where he will sleep in his own bed for the first time in more than a year. Obama said before he took office that he hoped to come home about every six weeks. But the demands of the presidency and his daughters’ busy schedules have thwarted his intentions. First lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, Obama’s mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, and family dog Bo accompanied the president. Obama is scheduled to return to Washington on Monday…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Obama Honors Jewish Americans at White House Reception: Did you hear the one about the African-American president and Jewish-American baseball legend who were in the East Room of the White House for a reception? The president tells the audience that he and Sandy Koufax have something in common. “We are both lefties. He can’t pitch on Yom Kippur. I can’t pitch.” Oy. Where’s Jackie Mason when you need him? It was a bit of Jewish humor from President Barack Obama in welcoming remarks at what he said was the first-ever White House reception observing Jewish American Heritage Month…. – CBS News, 5-27-10
  • Congress moves to end ban on gays in military: Congress has taken two big steps toward ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. In quick succession Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House approved measures to repeal the 1993 law that allows gay people to serve in the armed services only if they hide their sexual orientation…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Sarah Palin Builds Fence as Joe McGinniss’ Son Denies “Stalker” Claim: On Tuesday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote a sarcastic note on her Facebook page complaining about the fact that nonfiction author Joe McGinniss had moved into the house next door. Palin complains that McGinniss, who is writing a book about her, will likely be unfair. She also casts his behavior as creepy: “Wonder what kind of material he’ll gather while overlooking Piper’s bedroom, my little garden, and the family’s swimming hole?”…. – CBS News, 5-27-10
  • Is oil spill becoming Obama’s Katrina?: 37 days: Oil has been spilling 6 million: Total gallons spilled, according to estimates from BP and the Coast Guard28,958 square miles: Size of oil slick; an area about the size of South Carolina 70 miles: Louisiana coastline affected 1,300: Number of vessels involved
    The hurricane that drowned New Orleans and cast George W. Bush as out of touch swept across the Gulf Coast nearly five years ago. Now, as oil laps ashore in the very same region, local officials are asking: Is there another government-Gulf Coast disconnect? Is BP’s oil spill becoming this president’s Katrina? President Obama will face questions today at his first news conference since oil started gushing five weeks ago. Frustrated Gulf Coast residents say they understand that only BP can plug the leak. But they want to know why the federal government didn’t act faster to stop the oil from reaching shore, why BP hasn’t been forced to skim more oil from the surface and why their request hasn’t been approved to build new barrier islands to help keep the oil at bay….. – USA Today, 5-27-10
  • Cost of Jobs Bill Leaves Some Democrats Leery: The emergence of the escalating federal debt and government spending as a defining political issue is complicating Democratic efforts this week to push through a major package of tax breaks and unemployment aid over the reluctance of Democrats wary of being painted as budget busters.
    “We have put together a wonderful bill, and every piece in it can be justified as good public policy,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a freshman Democrat from Virginia. “But it is not paid for. Until somebody shows me a path for this being paid for, I am a no.”… – NYT, 5-26-10
  • The Early Word: The President Answers: It’s been awhile, but President Obama will hold a formal news conference at the White House this afternoon. With oil still leaking out of a well in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama plans to announce at today’s question-and- answer session that he will extend a moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling permits for six months and will delay or cancel specific projects off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia and in the western Gulf of Mexico, The Times’s Peter Baker and Anahad O’Connor report. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty gives her fellow reporters some ideas on what to ask the president, who is scheduled to visit the Gulf Coast on Friday. One of her five proposed questions: “Should anyone in the government be fired as the result of this disaster?”… – NYT, 5-27-10
  • Obama to speak on Gulf spill in first news conference since summer ’09: President Obama will face the cameras and take questions from reporters Thursday about the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, giving him another chance to finesse, and perhaps even ratchet up, his rhetoric on the crisis. The president’s news conference in the East Room is scheduled for 12:45 p.m., and it will take place even as BP’s dramatic “top kill” operation to halt the flow of leaking oil continues deep below the Gulf surface. This will be Obama’s first full-fledged news conference in more than 300 days. It is the latest attempt by the White House to calibrate the presidential message about the oil catastrophe with the anxiety captured on television screens…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Gulf oil spill now nation’s worst: As crews pumped mud at a furious rate into the damaged blowout preventer that sits on the uncapped well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, a group of scientists said the amount of oil spewing into the ocean is much greater than originally believed…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Obama fires MMS chief Elizabeth Birnbaum: President Obama has fired the head of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, according to the Associated Press. The news agency, citing unnamed sources, says Obama will announce later today that Elizabeth Birnbaum has been taken off the job. She’s been head of the MMS since July 2009. Her agency, which grants leases to oil companies and monitors offshore drilling, has come under criticism for lax oversight since the BP well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20…. – USA Today, 5-27-10
  • Judiciary Republicans Call for Special Prosecutor: All seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee joined together on Wednesday to request appointment of a special prosecutor to look into Representative Joe Sestak’s claim that the White House offered him a job to drop out of the Senate Democratic primary race in Pennsylvania. In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the Republican senators said the assertions are “very serious and, if true, suggest a possible violation of various federal criminal laws intended to safeguard our political process from the taint of bribes and political machine manipulation.”…
    Mr. Sestak first said in February that the White House had proposed an administration job if he would back off his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter, but he refused and went on to win the primary last week. In the days since, Republicans have revived and pressed the matter, while the White House and Mr. Sestak have refused to provide details of what happened. The White House has said it looked into the situation and determined nothing inappropriate happened…. – NYT, 5-26-10
  • Neither side happy with jobs bill being pushed through Congress: Some conservatives say people who are out of work shouldn’t be able to collect jobless benefits for almost two years. Liberals, meanwhile, want Congress to pay for a New Deal-style program in which the federal government would send money to states and localities, which would then directly hire people. Neither group will be completely happy with the “jobs bill” being pushed through Congress right now. The $192 billion “American Jobs and Closing Loopholes Act of 2010,” which could be approved in the House as soon as Wednesday and later this week in the Senate, largely keeps in place the policies that Democrats have pushed over the past year to deal with the recession as unemployment remains at almost 10 percent. WaPo, 5-26-10
  • ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal up for 2 votes: After 17 years, a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military heads into two razor-thin votes before the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, with passage uncertain, as Democrats facing losses in the midterm elections push to enact repeal while they still can. But even if repeal passes both chambers, gays and lesbians would not be able to serve openly in the military right away. A compromise late Monday between congressional leaders and the White House paved the way for the votes, which will come as amendments to the Defense Department’s authorization bill…. – SF Chronicle, 5-25-10
  • Republican Senators’ Lunch With Obama Is Marked by Spirited Confrontations: President Obama’s luncheon Tuesday with Senate Republicans was not televised like a similar session earlier this year with the House opposition, but evidently it would have made for captivating theater. By nearly all accounts, pent-up frustrations boiled over as the president and the very lawmakers who have consistently opposed much of his agenda engaged in spirited and at times confrontational exchanges over immigration, spending, White House tactics and other issues during a private 75-minute session. Senator John McCain, Mr. Obama’s former presidential rival, lashed out at the administration for its portrayal of the new immigration law in his home state of Arizona. And Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee suggested that the administration had been less than sincere in trying to seek a bipartisan deal on the financial regulatory overhaul, which was passed last week with just four Republican votes. “To come in on the Tuesday after it all occurred and to now talk about seven or eight items he wants to do in a bipartisan way, I just asked him how he could reconcile that duplicity,” Mr. Corker said. “I was very aware that we were props today as we move into an election cycle.”… – NYT, 5-26-10
  • Proposal moves up a vote on gays in military: Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., an Iraq war veteran, is expected to introduce the legislative proposal Tuesday. A vote could come as early as Thursday. The White House had hoped lawmakers would delay action until Pentagon officials had completed their study so fellow Democrats would not face criticism that they moved too quickly or too far ahead of public opinion in this election year. When administration officials recognized they could not stop Congress in its effort to repeal the ban, they invited gay rights activists to the White House to work on a compromise Monday…. – AP, 5-25-10
  • Obama seeks to force votes on spending cuts: President Barack Obama on Monday is sending legislation to Congress that would allow him to force lawmakers to vote on cutting wasteful programs from spending bills. The legislation would award Obama and his successors the ability to take two months or more to scrutinize spending bills that have already been signed into law for pet projects and other dubious programs. He could then send Congress a package of spending cuts for a mandatory up-or-down vote on whether to accept or reject them. Senate Democrats killed the idea just three years ago, and so Obama’s move would seem like a long shot. But the plan could pick up traction in the current anti-Washington political environment in which lawmakers are desperate to demonstrate they are tough on spending…. – AP, 5-23-10
  • White House: Justice Dept. has been to Gulf spill: The White House says the Justice Department has been gathering information about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Press secretary Robert Gibbs isn’t saying whether the department has opened a criminal investigation. He would only tell CBS’ “Face the Nation” that department representatives have been to the Gulf as part of the response to the BP oil leak…. – AP, 5-24-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Clinton: Don’t let anger sink Lincoln re-election: Former President Bill Clinton on Friday urged voters in his home state to send Sen. Blanche Lincoln back to Washington for another term, warning them to not let their anger guide their choice in next month’s Democratic runoff. Clinton, who remains beloved in the state where he served as governor for 12 years, urged voters to look at Lincoln’s years in the Senate and her work as the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Lincoln, considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Washington, is fighting to keep her job in the June 8 Democratic runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. “If you want somebody to channel your anger, don’t vote for her,” Clinton said at a rally at Philander Smith College, a historically black school located near downtown Little Rock. “If you want somebody to get up and go to work and change your life for the better, you should vote for her.”…. – AP, 5-28-10
  • Paul opposes citizenship for babies of illegals: U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul is stirring it up again, this time by saying he opposes citizenship for children born in the U.S. to parents who are illegal immigrants. Paul, who a week ago won the GOP primary, told a Russian TV station in a clip circulating on political Web sites Friday that he wants to block citizenship to those children. “We’re the only country I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen,” Paul told RT, an English-language station, shortly after his win over GOP establishment candidate Trey Grayson. “And I think that should stop also.”… – AP, 5-28-10
  • Republicans Have Most Action in Arizona Primary: Intraparty challenges to U.S. Sen. John McCain and Gov. Jan Brewer top contested races in Arizona’s Aug. 24 primary election. Those and other races put most of the high-profile action in the Republican primary, though Democrats also have some contested contests for statewide offices. Wednesday at 5 p.m. was the deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions, though the Secretary of State’s Office said an updated list would not be immediately available. As the filing deadline neared, the four-term incumbent McCain was challenged in the primary by former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth and Navy veteran Jim Deakin. [See who is donating to McCain’s campaign.]… – US News, 5-27-10
  • A.G. Andrew Cuomo picks Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy as his Lt. Governor candidate: Newly minted gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo has picked the mayor of Rochester as his running mate. Cuomo’s campaign announced Wednesday morning that fellow Democrat Robert Duffy, a former cop, had gotten the nod. NY Daily News, 5-26-10
  • Rossi turns spotlight on U.S. Senate race: Republican Dino Rossi’s long-awaited entry into the U.S. Senate race Wednesday pushes Washington onto the national political map this year, morphing the state from a footnote into a more closely watched battleground that could shape control of Congress…. – Seattle Times, 5-26-10
  • Idaho lawmaker wins GOP nod in US House race: Idaho state Rep. Raul Labrador won the Republican nomination Tuesday in the state’s nationally targeted 1st Congressional District, pulling an upset over rival Vaughn Ward. Labrador won the race despite a significant fundraising disadvantage and a campaign endorsement for Ward by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Labrador’s victory sets up a battle with first-term Democrat Walt Minnick in November…. With 435 of 462 precincts reporting, Labrador collected 48.1 percent of the vote compared to 38.8 percent for Ward, who described the race as “a humbling experience.” AP, 5-26-10
  • Rand Paul plans campaign shake-up after gaffes: Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul said Tuesday he’s planning a campaign staff shake-up a week after a round of interviews in which he dismayed fellow Republicans by discussing his views on racial segregation. Campaign manager David Adams, who had been a Republican blogger in Nicholasville before joining up, will remain though perhaps in a different role, Paul said…. Adams would only say, “I don’t have any comment about that yet.” A former aide to Paul’s father, Texas congressman and former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, has become increasingly visible in the Senate campaign. Jesse Benton, who was communications director for Ron Paul’s last presidential bid, has been by the younger Paul’s side at most of his recent campaign events…. – AP, 5-26-10
  • Gingrich endorses Meg Whitman for governor: When Carly Fiorina launched her campaign for U.S. Senate late last year, she wanted little to do with Sarah Palin. “I’ve never met her,” Fiorina replied when asked about the former Alaska governor’s leadership skills. “Next question.”… But as the races for governor and senator go down to the wire before the June 8 primary, big name Republicans are jumping into the fray with endorsements — 11th-hour nods that may offer big boosts now but carry serious risks in the fall, when the primary winners face the general electorate in a solidly blue state. Palin endorsed Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, on May 6. Former Vice President Cheney endorsed Whitman 10 days later. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorses the eBay billionaire in an op-ed piece in the Mercury N ews today, calling her “a transformational leader for California.”… – San Jose Mercury News, 5-25-10
  • Republicans See Big Chance, but Are Worried, Too: Republicans remain confident of making big gains in the fall elections, but as the midterm campaign begins in earnest, they face a series of challenges that could keep the party from fully capitalizing on an electorate clamoring for change in Washington. There are growing concerns among Republicans about the party’s get-out-the-vote operation and whether it can translate their advantage over Democrats in grass-roots enthusiasm into turnout on Election Day. They are also still trying to get a fix on how to run against President Obama, who, polls suggest, remains relatively well-liked by voters, even as support for his agenda has waned. Republicans are working to find a balance between simply running against Democrats and promoting a specific alternative agenda. And they are struggling with how to integrate the passions of the Tea Party movement — with its anti-government ideology, anti-incumbent bent and often-rough political edges — into the Republican Party apparatus…. – NYT, 5-24-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Remarks by the President After Meeting with BP Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs Rose Garden: We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have to experience a crisis like this again. If the laws on our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change. If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed. If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region….
    We’re continuing our efforts on all fronts to contain the damage from this disaster and extend to the people of the Gulf the help they need to confront this ordeal. We’ve already mounted the largest cleanup effort in the nation’s history, and continue to monitor — minute to minute — the efforts to halt or capture the flow of oil from the wrecked BP well. Until the well is stopped, we’ll multiply our efforts to meet the growing threat and to address the widespread and unbelievably painful losses experienced by the people along the Gulf Coast. What’s being threatened — what’s being lost — isn’t just the source of income, but a way of life; not just fishable waters, but a national treasure…. WH, 6-2-10
  • Obama wishes US soccer team luck in World Cup: Barack Obama gave the U.S. World Cup team a presidential sendoff, greeting players at the White House on Thursday along with Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. “I just want to say how incredibly proud we are of the team,” Obama said. “Everybody’s going to be rooting for you. And although sometimes we don’t remember it here in the United States, this is going to be the biggest world stage there is. And you’re going to be representing all of us.”… “We’re going to be proud of what you do when you get to South Africa, and you will have somebody in the Oval Office who’s going to be watching ESPN to make sure that things are going OK,” Obama said…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Obama in S.F. for Boxer faces critics on spill:
    President Obama, facing criticism that his administration has failed to respond aggressively to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, assured supporters in San Francisco on Tuesday that “the situation in the gulf is heartbreaking, and we’re doing everything we can.”
    “Nobody is more upset than me, because ultimately,” he said, “when this happens on your watch, you are thinking, how does this get solved?” Obama said his administration has marshaled more than 1,000 people to help deal with the spill and “we are now having to do a thorough review” to see how oil companies “can say they know how to handle these problems when actually they don’t.”… – SF Chronicle, 5-26-10
  • Palin suggests Obama oil ties impede spill cleanup The White House responds by questioning her information about oil politics and policy: Sarah Palin speaking on ” Fox News Sunday,” the former Alaska governor said she remained a “big supporter” of oil drilling but believed “these oil companies have got to be held accountable.” Pointing to what she termed the White House’s relationship with “the oil companies who have so supported President Obama in his campaign and are supportive of him now,” Palin questioned whether “there’s any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.”
    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” suggested Palin do some homework. “I’m almost sure that the oil companies don’t consider the Obama administration a huge ally,” Gibbs said. “We proposed a windfall profits tax when they jacked their oil prices up to charge more for gasoline.” Gibbs said, “My suggestion to Sarah Palin would be to get slightly more informed as to what’s going on in and around oil drilling in this country.”…. – LAT, 5-24-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Obama, the Thin-Skinned President: Not surprisingly, Obama’s thin skin leads to self pity. As Daniel Halper of The Weekly Standard pointed out, in a fundraising event for Sen. Barbara Boxer, Obama said,
    Let’s face it: this has been the toughest year and a half since any year and a half since the 1930s.
    Really, now? Worse than the period surrounding December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001? Worse than what Gerald Ford faced after the resignation of Richard Nixon and Watergate, which constituted the worse constitutional scandal in our history and tore the country apart? Worse than what Ronald Reagan faced after Jimmy Carter (when interest rates were 22 percent, inflation was more than 13 percent, and Reagan faced something entirely new under the sun, “stagflation”)? Worse than 1968, when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated and there was rioting in our streets? Worse than what LBJ faced during Vietnam — a war which eventually claimed more than 58,000 lives? Worse than what John Kennedy faced in the Bay of Pigs and in the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we and the Soviet Union edged up to the brink of nuclear war? Worse than what Franklin Roosevelt faced on the eve of the Normandy invasion? Worse than what Bush faced in Iraq in 2006, when that nation was on the edge of civil war, or when the financial system collapsed in the last months of his presidency? Worse than what Truman faced in defeating imperial Japan, in reconstructing post-war Europe, and in responding to North Korea’s invasion of South Korea?…. – Politics Daily, 5-27-10
  • How Obama Measures Up: Lessons From 70 Years of Presidential Scholars – Politics Daily, 4-2-10
  • Thomas Schwartz: Up from the deep sea: a nightmare for Obama: Presidential historian Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University professor, said presidencies are often defined by the crises encountered. He said the oil spill could prove to be a defining crisis but he cautioned against comparing the leak to Katrina, for instance. “This one has been slowly developing and could have those qualities, but if BP were to suddenly get it capped, things could be defused very quickly. The air could go out of the balloon,” Schwartz said. Reuters, 5-27-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama could pay “huge price” for spill response: “I think that the President has to get control over this situation,” historian Doug Brinkley said on CNN’s Campbell Brown Monday night. “Right now there is a feeling in the country that BP’s in charge but BP is the one that has been grossly negligent,” Brinkley said. Brinkley, a longtime resident of New Orleans, offered Brown suggestions about what President Obama needs to do: Address the American people on television within 48 hours, tell them what’s happening in the Gulf and talk about what’s being lost. Brinkley also believes the White House must consider freezing BP’s assets in the United States and called for the Justice Department to speed up its probe into BP. When asked by Brown what price the President could pay for a slow response, Brinkley told Brown “It’s a huge price.”… – CNN.com (5-24-10)

History Buzz: May 31, 2010: Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Fleming, Michael Bellesiles, & Jonathan Alter on Obama in the News

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor/Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

HISTORY BUZZ:

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

IN FOCUS

  • Michael A. Bellesiles Contraversial New Book “1877: America’s Year of Living Violently”HNN
  • Thomas Fleming “Channelling George Washington” Series – HNN
  • Orlando Figes Contraversay: Who gives a Figes for Orlando? – Sydney Morning Herald, 5-18-10

THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

    On This Day in History….

    This Week in History….

  • Malcolm and Martin, closer than we ever thought: As the 85th birthday of Malcolm X is marked on Wednesday, history has freeze-framed him as the angry black separatist who saw whites as blue-eyed devils. Yet near the end of his life, Malcolm X was becoming more like King — and King was becoming more like him. “In the last years of their lives, they were starting to move toward one another,” says David Howard-Pitney, who recounted the Capitol Hill meeting in his book “Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.” “While Malcolm is moderating from his earlier position, King is becoming more militant,” Pitney says…. – CNN, 5-19-10

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Controversy over medieval conference location in Arizona: The site of next year’s annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America is in doubt after scholars raised objections that it is being held in Arizona, the US state which recently passed controversial legislation against illegal immigration. As several scholars have made calls for the conference to be boycotted, officials with the academy have confirmed that they are examining several options, including moving the meeting out-of-state… – Medieval News, 5-24-10
  • Why Arizona targeted ethnic studies: Earlier this month Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that had been pushed by Tom Horne, Arizona’s longtime secretary of education,who took a disliking to the program several years ago. The bill prohibits any class in the state from promoting either the overthrow of the U.S. government or resentment toward a race or class of people, and that advocates ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals, and — here’s the big one — that are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. The Tucson program offers specialized courses in African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that focus on history and literature and includes information about the influence of a particular ethnic group… – WaPo, 5-25-10
  • Historian Stuart Macintyre slams Australian school course: Professor Macintyre told The Australian the consultation process set up by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority had become derailed by “capricious” decisions made to change the course without reference to the expert advisory groups or the writers…. – The Australian (5-25-10)
  • Company, Harvard prof work on Web-linked textbook, WWII game: “Today’s students want to be engaged, and those who play strategy games know more about history than those who just read today’s textbooks,” said Ferguson. “The interactive approach to learning history is going to be a game-changer.”… – Boston Herald, 5-24-10
  • More conservative textbook curriculum OK’d: In a landmark move that will shape the future education of millions of Texas schoolchildren, the State Board of Education on Friday approved new curriculum standards for U.S. history and other social studies courses that reflect a more conservative tone than in the past. Split along party lines, the board delivered a pair of 9-5 votes to adopt the new standards, which will dictate what is taught in all Texas schools and provide the basis for future textbooks and student achievement tests over the next decade…. – The Dallas Morning News, 5-22-10
  • Texas State Board of Education Approves Controversial Social Studies Curriculum Changes: On Friday, the members of the Texas State Board of Education voted 9-5 on social studies curriculum standards for Texas Public Schools. Proposed revisions to textbooks will largely eliminate the civil rights movement from the curriculum. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous were among those who spoke before the board earlier in the week. Paige, who served as Education Secretary during President George W. Bush’s first term, implored the board members to take more time to consider the new standards, saying they will diminish the importance of civil rights and slavery…. – Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 5-24-10
  • AHA Calls on the Texas State Board of Education to Reconsider TEKS Social Studies Amendments – AHA Press Release, 5-18-10
  • New Report Shows Little Growth in Salaries for History Faculty: Historians in academia saw little, if any improvement in their wages over the past academic year, as average salaries for regular full-time faculty at most ranks grew by less than 1 percent according to a new study from the College and University Personnel Association for Human Resources (CUPA–HR). This represents the smallest average increase in salaries for historians in 15 years…. – Robert Townsend in Perspectives, 4-22-10
  • Historian helps to save Lake Ontario steamship: An iconic photo taken by historian Mike Filey shows three canoeists paddling out of a partly submerged, abandoned Toronto ferry…. In this case instead of being scrapped, the century-old paddlewheeler was raised and refitted after Filey and his wife, Yarmila, launched a bid to save the vessel after seeing it “literally rotting” in a Toronto island lagoon…. – Toronto Sun, 5-17-10

OP-EDs:

  • Joe Mozingo: An old diary throws him a curve: He could grasp having a black ancestor way back in the 1600s. But in the 1800s? A slave? It had to be a mistake. What would his family think?… – LAT, 5-22-10

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

  • DAVID OSHINSKY on Daniel Okrent: Temperance to Excess: LAST CALL The Rise and Fall of Prohibition “Last Call,” by Daniel Okrent, provides the sobering answers. Okrent, the author of four previous books and the first public editor of The New York Times, views Prohibition as one skirmish in a larger war waged by small- town white Protestants who felt besieged by the forces of change then sweeping their nation — a theory first proposed by the historian Richard Hofstadter more than five decades ago. Though much has been written about Prohibition since then, Okrent offers a remarkably original account, showing how its proponents combined the nativist fears of many Americans with legitimate concerns about the evils of alcohol to mold a movement powerful enough to amend the United States Constitution…. – NYT, 5-23-10
  • Nick Bunker: Founding Entrepreneurs: MAKING HASTE FROM BABYLON The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History Maybe the most important point that Bunker highlights concerns the interplay between the Pilgrims’ faith and their education, political standing and financial position…. – NYT, 5-23-10Excerpt
  • Hampton Sides: Death of a Dream: HELLHOUND ON HIS TRAIL The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin There’s still a line between narrative history and entertainment, in other words, and Hampton Sides flirts with it in his new book about James Earl Ray and Martin Luther King, “Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His ­Assassin.” If that sounds like a graphic novel, well, you’re getting the drift. Sides, whose books include “Ghost Soldiers,” a World War II drama, and “Blood and Thunder,” on the conquest of the American West, is not overly interested in new research, thorough­going analysis or traditional bio­graphy. He wants to deliver a heart-pounding nonfiction thriller. This must be the first book on King that owes less to Taylor Branch than Robert Ludlum…. – NYT, 5-16-10Excerpt
  • Jonathan Alter: Penetrating the Process of Obama’s Decisions: THE PROMISE President Obama, Year One Alter’s book “The Promise” actually does give us a new perspective on the 44th president by providing a detailed look at his decision-making process on issues like health care and the Afghanistan war, and a keen sense of what it’s like to work in his White House, day by day.
    It’s an effective and often revealing approach reminiscent of Mr. Alter’s 2006 book, “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope” (a book that Mr. Obama reportedly read before taking office), and Richard Reeves’s 1993 book, “President Kennedy: Profile of Power,” though obviously without the kind of retrospective wisdom possible decades after the completion of those presidents’ tenures…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Jonathan Alter: Interim Report: THE PROMISE President Obama, Year One One of the earliest off the mark is Jonathan Alter…. “The Promise” offers an excellent opportunity to appraise Obama’s initial efforts. Drawing on interviews with over 200 people, including the president and his top aides, Alter examines everything from the economic bailouts to the military surge in Afghanistan.
    Throughout, he seeks to avoid what he refers to as the “polemics of punditry.” This endows his narrative with a lapidary tone that is mercifully free of the breathless sensationalism of recent campaign books, but it also results, at times, in a somewhat cloistered quality… – NYT, 5-30-10
  • David Farber: The Rise of Conservatism, in Historical Scholarship: Now, among the latest entrants to the growing list of books on the right comes David Farber’s The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism: A Short History, new from Princeton University Press…. – CHE, 5-26-10
  • The birth control pill’s legacy at 50: Talking with Elaine Tyler May: As May writes in her new book, “America + the Pill,” that is perhaps the one expectation that the Pill has actually fulfilled 50 years later. It was not the miracle drug that solved the population explosion and world poverty; nor did it help defeat communism, as many of its advocates hoped. Its primary legacy today is that it gives the women lucky enough to get it the power to control the creation of life in their bodies — and the chance to reach for their dreams. “The Pill was hugely important in allowing women to control their fertility and their lives,” said May, a professor of history and American studies at the University of Minnesota…. – Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 5-24-10
  • David J. Garrow: Book review: ‘Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin,’ by Hampton Sides: Sides, a Memphis native, divides his book into four strands. The first one traces Ray’s activities following his April 1967 escape from a Missouri prison through the assassination a year later and his flight first to Canada and then to Europe. A second strand follows King’s road to Memphis, and a third paints the city’s racial divisions. The final strand tracks the FBI’s intense hostility toward King and covers its dogged investigation, including forensic success in identifying Ray and the pursuit of the assassin as he makes a bumbling effort to reach white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)…. – WaPo, 5-14-10
  • Selina Hastings’s ‘The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham,’ reviewed by Michael Dirda: During the second half of his life, William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was the most famous writer in the world. Not only did readers love his sardonic tales of sexual passion and dark secrets, of desperation and sudden violence, but so did Hollywood: More of his stories, novels and plays have been filmed than those of any other author. Just one short story, “Rain” — about the prostitute Sadie Thompson and the preacher obsessed with saving her — has provided star turns for Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford and Rita Hayworth, among others. As this excellent biography by Selina Hastings makes clear, Somerset Maugham lived a life of quite astonishing richness and variety…. – WaPo, 5-19-10
  • In the beginning with Obama Jonathan Alter’s report just the first chapter of presidential work in progress: Which brings us to where we are. President Obama’s first year in office is done. We are hearing what many think about that. It is not a bad time to wonder what Alter thinks of it. And he obliges us with The Promise (Simon & Schuster, $28). Journalism has been called “literature in a hurry.” Alter’s book is history in a hurry, as he freely admits, but is a good first step for putting events in order and figuring things out…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 5-16-10

FEATURES:

  • Oscar Martinez: University of Arizona historians asks why Mexico is poorer than the U.S.: Martinez, 67, is a regents professor of history at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He’s finishing his latest book, titled “Why Mexico is Poorer than the United States.” It makes the case that there is a logical, empirically measurable set of answers. “It is greatly exaggerated that Mexico is a rich country with regard to raw materials and resources. The reality is that Mexico is one of the poorest countries in terms of land,” he said. “The difference is the United States has the best space on the planet.”… – El Paso Inc., 5-25-10
  • Will Bagley: My brother, the historian by Pat Bagley: This week one of Utah and the West’s most eminent historians turns 60. He has won dozens of awards, been awarded prestigious fellowships and lectured as far afield as Italy. He even appeared with Russell Crowe in the remake of the Western classic, “3:10 to Yuma.” (OK, he’s in the companion DVD, elucidating on the history of Old West outlawry.) Will Bagley also happens to be my brother. For years he wrote a column in this space called “History Matters.” It was a good label. On one level it alludes to sifting evidence for the salient fact; on another it means that history is not bunk. To Will, history is not dead. I have seen him wade into a discussion and passionately defend the honor and reputation of someone he felt was being slighted. That the person in question is dead and long past caring is beside the point. His best-known work to date, Blood of the Prophets , is a gripping narrative of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the largest white-on-white murder in north America. As it deals with Mormons, Gentiles, a U.S. Army marching on Utah and the LDS Church hierarchy, it wasn’t a task for a shrinking violet…. – The Salt Lake Tribune, 5-21-10
  • From Tory to Turkey: Maverick historian Norman Stone storms back with partisan epic of Cold War world: It isn’t every day that one interviews a figure described on an official British Council website as “notorious”. That badge, which this fearsome foe of drippy-liberal state culture will wear with pride, comes inadvertently via Robert Harris. In his novel Archangel, Harris created the “dissolute historian” (© the British Council and our taxes) Fluke Kelso: an “engaging, wilful, impassioned and irreverent” maverick on the trail of Stalin’s secret papers…. – Independent (UK), 5-14-10

QUOTES:

  • Robert Dallek: The character issue is “always out there”: As a general matter, the character issue never seems to go away. “It’s always out there,” says historian Robert Dallek… – U.S. News & World Report, 5-27-10
  • MN Historian Calls Ft. Snelling ‘Site Of Genocide’: Waziyatawin, of Granite Falls, holds a doctorate in history from Cornell. She says Fort Snelling needs an extreme makeover. She wants it torn down. “It feels like a constant assault on our Dakota humanity,” said Waziyatawin. “I don’t want the Fort sitting on that site of genocide,” she said. “I don’t want the American flag flying high. I don’t want soldiers reenacting marching out to that site and firing cannons every day.”… – WCCO (MN), 5-27-10
  • Stalin projected Moscow University’s Museum of Earth Sciences as church, says historian: “On Stalin’s idea, this hall was built as a kind of chapel, a kind of church, where only elite is allowed,” historian Olga Zinovyeva told TV Center…. – Interfax (RU), 5-19-10
  • Nancy F. Koehn: Harvard Business School historian compares Bono to Abraham Lincoln: Nancy F. Koehn, a historian, at the Harvard Business School, and author, celebrated U2’s Bono’s 50th birthday by celebrating the Irish musician and campaigner for his great skills as a leader. She said “Bono, like Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago, has not let himself become isolated in an elite atmosphere. He has used his touring and travels as classrooms to help him understand the hopes, dreams and tribulations of his fellow citizens, whom he often calls his brothers and sisters. And he has used this knowledge to light his way, his music and his leadership.”… – Irish Central, 5-14-10
  • Mark Mancall on the idea of public space in a democracy: However the idea of public space, professor of history, emeritus, Stanford university, California, Mark Mancall said, has never been fully achieved anywhere, according to historians. “Gender, ethnic differences, class groupings, all participated in defining who could enter public space,” said the professor, who is the director of the royal education council, Thimphu, during the first of a series of discussions on media and democracy that the Bhutan centre for media and democracy organised yesterday. Kuensel Newspaper, 5-14-10
  • USSR planned nuclear attack on China in 1969 , claims Chinese historian: Liu Chenshan, the author of a series of articles that chronicle the five times China has faced a nuclear threat since 1949, wrote that the most serious threat came in 1969 at the height of a bitter border dispute between Moscow and Beijing that left more than one thousand people dead on both sides. He said Soviet diplomats warned Washington of Moscow’s plans “to wipe out the Chinese threat and get rid of this modern adventurer,” with a nuclear strike, asking the US to remain neutral…. – Telegraph (UK), 5-13-10

INTERVIEWS:

  • Jamie Glazov interviews Olga Velikanova: Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Olga Velikanova, an Assistant Professor of Russian History at the University of North Texas. She was among the first scholars to work with declassified Communist Party and secret police archives. Her research about everyday Stalinism, the cult of Lenin and Russian popular opinion has been broadcast by the BBC, Finnish and Russian radio and TV, as well as the History Channel in Canada. She is the author of Making of an Idol: On Uses of Lenin, The Public Perception of the Cult of Lenin Based on the Archival Materials and The Myth of the Besieged Fortress: Soviet Mass Perception in the 1920s-1930s. She is a recipient of many awards from different international research foundations…. – FrontPageMag, 5-24-10

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

  • The Emerson Prize 2010 Winners: The Emerson Prize is awarded annually to students published in The Concord Review during the previous year who have shown outstanding academic promise in history at the high school level. Since 1995, 74 students have won the Emerson Prize. The five laureates this year were from Ohio, New York, New York, Washington, DC, and Wisconsin. Past laureates have come from Czechoslovakia, Canada, Louisiana, Florida, California, Tennessee, Vermont, Maryland, New Zealand, Texas, Russia, Washington State, Tennessee, Connecticut, Singapore, New Hampshire, Illinois, Japan, and New York.
    2010 Jane Abbottsmith, of Summit Country Day School, in Cincinnati, Ohio (now at Princeton).
    2010 Colin Rhys Hill, of Atlanta International School in Atlanta, Georgia, (now at Christ Church College, Oxford). 2010 Amalia Skilton, of Tempe Preparatory Academy in Tempe, Arizona, (now at Yale).
    2010 Alexander Zou, of Monte Vista High School in Danville, California, (now at Pomona).
    2010 Liang En Wee, of the Hwa Chang Institution in Singapore, (now at the National University of Singapore). – The Concord Review
  • Women behind the rise of the house of Orange-Nassau: WHEN the house of Orange-Nassau finally became monarchs in The Netherlands in 1815, it was the result of hundreds of years of manoeuvring: battles physical and political and, Susan Broomhall contends, a solid effort by generations of the family’s women. “The male line was really weak, they died in battle or were minors for many years,” says Broomhall, a professor of history at the University of Western Australia. “It was the women who kept reminding people of the family through systematically promoting it, so when The Netherlands decided on a monarchy, their family was the obvious choice.” The family still rules, via Queen Beatrix. A $450,000, four-year Australian Research Council grant will help Broomhall and colleague Jacqueline Van Gent tease out the scope of the women’s influence…. – The Australian, 5-26-10
  • Thomas Fleming receives best book award from American Revolution Round Table of New York: The American Revolution Round Table of New York has announced that Thomas Fleming’s The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers has won its 2009 award for best book on the American Revolution. A plaque will be presented to Mr. Fleming at the June 1 meeting of the Round Table at New York City’s Princeton Club. His editor, Elisabeth Kallick Dyssegaard, currently the editor-in-chief of Hyperion Books, will also be recognized at the ceremony. Previous winners include Mary Beth Norton, James Thomas Flexner, and Willard Sterne Randall…. – HNN, 5-19-10

SPOTTED:

  • History, Not Politics, at Jonathan Spence Jefferson Lecture: Jonathan Spence came here to deliver a speech, but don’t let that fool you: his address — the 39th Annual Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, which took place Thursday — in no way resembled the sort typically associated with D.C…. – Inside Higher Ed, 5-21-10
  • Historian probes native perceptions of foreign diseases: Dr. Kevin Terraciano, professor of history and chair of the Latin American Studies Program at University of California, Los Angeles, gave the 2010 Jonas A. “Steine” Jonasson Endowed Lecture to a crowd of more than 60 people on May 12. “Most studies on the spread of disease beginning in 1520 are focused on the types of disease and how they were spread,” Terraciano said. “But I want to explore what the indigenous people of the time thought the cause and spread of disease was.” Linfield News, 5-14-10

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • September 17-18, 2010 at Notre Dame University: Conference aims to bring medieval, early modern and Latin American historians together: An interdisciplinary conference to be held at the University of Notre Dame this fall is making a final call for papers to explore the issue surrounding similarities between late-medieval Iberia and its colonies in the New World. “From Iberian Kingdoms to Atlantic Empires: Spain, Portugal, and the New World, 1250-1700” is being hosted by the university’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies and will take place on September 17-18, 2010. Medieval News, 4-29-10
  • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.

ON TV:

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

BOOKS COMING SOON:

  • Larry Schweikart: 7 Events that Made America America: And Proved that the Founding Fathers Were Right All Along, (Hardcover) June 1, 2010
  • Spencer Wells: Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, (Hardcover), June 8, 2010
  • John Mosier: Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin – The Eastern Front, 1941-1945, (Hardcover), June 15, 2010
  • Evan D. G. Fraser: Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, (Hardcover), June 15, 2010
  • Ruth Harris: Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century (REV), (Hardcover), June 22, 2010
  • James Mauro: Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War, (Hardcover), June 22, 2010.
  • William Marvel: The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of Lincoln’s War, (Hardcover), June 22, 2010
  • Suzann Ledbetter: Shady Ladies: Nineteen Surprising and Rebellious American Women, (Hardcover), June 28, 2010.
  • Julie Flavell: When London Was Capital of America, (Hardcover), June 29, 2010
  • Donald P. Ryan: Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist, (Hardcover), June 29, 2010
  • Jane Brox: Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, (Hardcover), July 8, 2010.
  • Rudy Tomedi: General Matthew Ridgway, (Hardcover), July 30, 2010.
  • Richard Toye: Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made, (Hardcover), August 3, 2010.
  • Alexander Hamilton: The Federalist Papers, (Hardcover), August 16, 2010
  • Holger Hoock: Empires of the Imagination: Politics, War, and the Arts in the British World, 1750-1850, (Hardcover), September 1, 2010
  • Anna Whitelock: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen, (Hardcover), September 7, 2010
  • James L. Swanson: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse, (Hardcover), September 28, 2010
  • Timothy Snyder: The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (First Trade Paper Edition), (Paperback), September 28, 2010
  • Ron Chernow: Washington: A Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
  • George William Van Cleve: A Slaveholders’ Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic, (Hardcover), October 1, 2010.
  • John Keegan: The American Civil War: A Military History, (Paperback), October 5, 2010
  • Bill Bryson: At Home: A Short History of Private Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
  • Robert M. Poole: On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery , (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Robert Leckie: Challenge for the Pacific: Guadalcanal: The Turning Point of the War , (Paperback), October 26, 2010
  • Manning Marable: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, (Hardcover), November 9, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
  • G. J. Barker-Benfield: Abigail and John Adams: The Americanization of Sensibility, (Hardcover), November 15, 2010
  • Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Michael Goldfarb: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, (Paperback), November 23, 2010

DEPARTED:

  • Norman A. Graebner, diplomatic historian, dies at 94: Norman A. Graebner, 94, who shaped the field of diplomatic history with his critiques of American foreign policy, died May 10 at the Colonnades retirement community in Charlottesville after a stroke…. – WaPo, 5-14-10

Sestakgate?: Obama White House Offered Joe Sestak Job to Drop Senate Run

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House Used Bill Clinton to Ask Sestak to Drop Out of Race: President Obama’s chief of staff used former President Bill Clinton as an intermediary to see if Representative Joe Sestak would drop out of a Senate primary if given a prominent, but unpaid, advisory position, people briefed on the matter said Friday.
    Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, asked Mr. Clinton to explore the possibilities last summer, accordingto the briefed individuals, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the politically charged situation. Mr. Sestak said no and went on to win last week’s Pennsylvania Democratic primary against Senator Arlen Specter. NYT, 5-28-10
  • Obama Promises Response on Question of Job Offer: President Obama refused to say Thursday whether his White House offered a job to Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania to drop out of a Democratic primary but promised that the administration would respond soon. “There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue, which I hope will answer your questions,” Mr. Obama told reporters at a White House news conference. “I can assure the public that nothing improper took place.” – NYT, 5-27-10
  • Sestak says his brother, White House met about alleged job offer: Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) said Thursday his brother has spoken with White House officials about the congressman’s allegation that he was offered an Obama administration job if he would stay out of a Democratic Senate primary… He told reporters Thursday that he would not expand upon his prior statements until the White House releases its report on the matter. President Obama said in his news conference such a report would come “shortly.” Richard Sestak, who has served as his brother’s top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.
    “They got ahold of my brother on his cellphone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with his brother…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Dig into alleged Joe Sestak job offer, GOP tells Justice Department: The White House backed Rep. Joe Sestak’s opponent in the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania. The GOP wants to know whether it offered Mr. Sestak a job to drop out of the race.
    “The allegations in this matter are very serious and, if true, suggest a violation of various criminal laws intended to safeguard our political process from the taint of bribes and political machine manipulation,” said Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee in a Wednesday letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
    Those who signed the letter include Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma…. – CS Monitor, 5-26-10
  • Did the White House offer Joe Sestak a job?: Rep. Joe Sestak is in a tough primary race against Obama-backed Senator Arlen Specter. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs for the first time responded to questions about whether the White House offered Sestak a post to lure him out of the race…. – CS Monitor, 3-16-10
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