Political Highlights December 28, 2010: Obama celebrates Christmas in Hawaii with Military families — Looking towards the 112th Congress & the 2012 Presidential Election

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

The President records the Weekly Address

STATS & POLLS

  • White House Holidays: Simple Gifts
  • Optimism for Obama Should Come With Caution: For as poorly as President Obama’s Democrats performed on Nov. 2, you can find several assessments of his re-election chances that seem doggone optimistic….
    Has the public taken on a more favorable view of Mr. Obama since the Democrats’ defeat? The evidence here is mixed, but for the time being points toward “no.” Mr. Obama’s Gallup approval rating reached 49 percent late last week — the highest it had been since July — but other surveys show it about flat, and the overall trend shows little change.
    On the other hand, Mr. Obama’s approval rating had already been “stuck” at about 45 or 46 percent several months ahead of the midterms and had not been declining; most of the damage to Mr. Obama and the Democrats had come in 2009. Given how hardened partisan attitudes have become, it may be that Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are liable to fluctuate within a relatively narrow range…. – NYT, 12-28-10
  • Obama, Clinton ‘most admired’ in 2010: US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were the “most admired” man and woman in the United States in 2010, according to an annual Gallup poll.
    Obama led the field of male candidates with 22 percent, followed by former presidents George W. Bush (five percent) and Bill Clinton (four percent). They were followed by post-Apartheid South African leader Nelson Mandela and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, each with two percent.
    Obama has held the title since 2008, after he won the election and became the first African-American US president. That year he was the “most admired” by 32 percent of those polled.
    Hillary Clinton held onto the title of “most admired” woman for the ninth straight year after largely dominating the poll over the last two decades. This year she led with 17 percent, followed by conservative former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin with 12 percent and TV titan Oprah Winfrey with 11 percent. They were trailed by First Lady Michelle Obama with five percent and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice with two percent…. – AP, 12-26-10
  • A timeline of Schwarzenegger’s tenure: Key moments in the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger… – AP, 12-25-10
  • Schwarzenegger leaves mixed legacy in California: Arnold Schwarzenegger landed in the governor’s office after announcing his upstart bid on late night TV and railing against government spending during raucous campaign rallies — at one playing a spirited round of air guitar to the rock anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
    Then the world’s best known action star, Schwarzenegger conveyed an image of invincibility, persuading Californians that anything was possible if only they had the right mindset. “I know how to sell something,” he said then. As he would come to learn, selling a political idea is one thing. Delivering on it is quite another.
    In high Hollywood style, Schwarzenegger made bold commitments to cut through Sacramento’s dysfunctional political system and put the state on a path to prosperity. But his celebrity quickly ran aground on the shoals of bureaucracy, entrenched politics and something Schwarzenegger had never faced before — angry detractors who didn’t hesitate to attack him publicly…. – Fox News, 12-25-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua on Christmas

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet service men and women, along with their families, during Christmas dinner in the mess at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua, Hawaii, December 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Lawmakers Finance Pet Projects Without Earmarks: No one was more critical than Representative Mark Steven Kirk when President Obama and the Democratic majority in the Congress sought passage last year of a $787 billion spending bill intended to stimulate the economy. And during his campaign for the Illinois Senate seat once held by Mr. Obama, Mr. Kirk, a Republican, boasted of his vote against “Speaker Pelosi’s trillion-dollar stimulus plan.”
    Though Mr. Kirk and other Republicans thundered against pork-barrel spending and lawmakers’ practice of designating money for special projects through earmarks, they have not shied from using a less-well-known process called lettermarking to try to direct money to projects in their home districts…. – NYT, 12-28-10
  • In ‘Daily Show’ Role on 9/11 Bill, Echoes of Murrow: Did the bill pledging federal funds for the health care of 9/11 responders become law in the waning hours of the 111th Congress only because a comedian took it up as a personal cause? Mr. Stewart declined to comment on the passage of the bill. And does that make that comedian, Jon Stewart — despite all his protestations that what he does has nothing to do with journalism — the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow?
    Certainly many supporters, including New York’s two senators, as well as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, played critical roles in turning around what looked like a hopeless situation after a filibuster by Republican senators on Dec. 10 seemed to derail the bill. But some of those who stand to benefit from the bill have no doubt about what — and who — turned the momentum around…. – NYT, 12-27-10
  • Assange signs book deals worth more than £1m: Julian Assange has signed book deals worth more than £1m in the US and UK, to allow the WikiLeaks founder to cover his legal fees and maintain the whistleblowing site. He will be racing a disgruntled former colleague to release an autobiography telling his side of the WikiLeaks story. Both books are to be published by divisions of Random House next year….
    The controversy did not dissuade readers of Time magazine voting Mr Assange their “person of the year” for his campaign for freedom of information and radical transparency from governments…. – Financial Times, 12-27-10
  • Barack Obama Visits Troops on Christmas Day: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dropped by a Marine Corps base in Hawaii on Christmas Day, shaking hands with servicemen and women, taking photos, and hearing Christmas tales from children. Obama made the unannounced 40-minute visit while on his 11-day family vacation to Kailua Bay, Hawaii, his home state, according to Reuters.
    The first family and hundreds of Marines and their families were enjoying Christmas dinner in the hall decked with Christmas decorations. “Merry Christmas, Mr. President!” one boy said to Obama, who was with Michelle Obama. “No, she’s Mrs. President,” Obama said to the children, according to CNN…. – Epoch Times, 12-26-10
  • Obamas attend church in Hawaii: President Obama and his family attended church Sunday in Hawaii, making one of their few public appearances since he arrived here Thursday.
    The Obamas went to the St. Michael’s Chapel, the church at the Marine base a few miles from where the family is staying. About 100 people were in attendance, and they clapped when the first family walked in. At the service, churchgoers sang “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.” In his sermon, chaplain Steve Moses joked about a recent heart ailment. Moses said he went for a routine physical but was instead told he needed to have surgery on his heart. God must have put him through that surgery to ensure he would not have a heart attack while preaching in front of a president, Moses said. Moses said this story illustrated his message that God is either protecting people from something “far worse” or preparing them for “something greater.”
    The Sunday morning stop at church was unusual for Obama, at least in the past two years. The president is a Christian and frequently speaks about the role of faith in his life, but has not attended services often or become a member of a church in the Washington area…. – WaPo, 12-26-10
  • Sunday Church for the Obamas: President Obama, whose Hawaiian vacation has included golfing, beach-going and visiting the troops on Christmas Day — as well as his regular economic and intelligence briefings — took time out Sunday morning to go to church with his family. About 100 parishioners were in attendance when the Obamas arrived at St. Michaels, the chapel on the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where Mr. Obama greeted troops during Christmas dinner on Saturday. “Joy to the World” was being sung by a full band, and those in attendance clapped as the family walked in.
    Mr. Obama is not a particularly regular churchgoer when he is in Washington, and questions about his faith — he is Christian, but polls have shown that many Americans mistakenly believe he is Muslim — have come up repeatedly during his presidency. His aides say he prays daily, and he has attended chapel while at Camp David…. – NYT, 12-26-10
  • The next Congress: Action or just argument?: When the 112th Congress convenes on Jan. 5, it will have a decidedly new look, a feisty new attitude and a penchant for partisanship. Republicans will have their biggest House of Representatives majority since the Truman administration in the late 1940s, and, they believe, a mandate to slash spending dramatically and overturn President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law. But their chances of success are dim, since Democrats will still control the White House and the Senate. That makes the potential for getting serious work done in 2011 difficult to predict.
    “The 112th Congress is going to be a mix of cooperation and conflict, “said John Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif…. – McClatchy Newspapers
  • President Obama, ‘Lame Duck’ Democratic Congress bask in Zadroga bill, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell success: In a swift and improbable political turnaround, the lame-duck Congress has revived a dead-duck President, pols and pundits believe. “There was nothing lame about this Congress,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) quipped about the flurry of bills passed in the final days of the postelection session.
    President Obama, left limping after the Republicans scored a huge victory in the November midterm elections, was the major beneficiary. Democrats managed to get their ducks in a row and help resuscitate Obama with some luck – and some well-played chess just weeks after what Obama bemoaned as a “shellacking” in the elections.
    “Pundits wanted to write him off, but President Obama went right back to work and we delivered,” said Gillibrand, who gained national attention for championing the 9/11 health care bill and an extension of unemployment benefits. Political scientists have taken notice.
    “It’s official. Like it or not, this lame-duck session is the most productive of the 15 held since [World War] II,” noted University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.
    A new CNN poll showed a majority of Americans have reversed course and say Obama is again taking the country on the right track…. – NY Daily News, 12-26-10
  • A Firmly Drawn Presidential Line Between Work and Play: If there is one thing President Obama craves during his leisure time, it is privacy. Mr. Obama arrived on the island of Oahu in the middle of the night as Wednesday turned into Thursday and slipped on a green lei as he descended the steps of Air Force One. Then he sped off in an S.U.V. toward this laid-back residential community on the windward side of the island, far from the bustle of Waikiki Beach, where the bulk of his traveling White House stays, in Honolulu, the city he lived in as a boy. Then, the most visible man in America promptly dropped out of sight.
    Mr. Obama’s disappearance behind the palm trees reveals much about his presidential style, and also his thinking about how to balance work and play. He tends to separate the two, as much as any president can. Other presidents, especially those who owned secluded homes or vacation retreats, often mixed them, using their homes outside Washington as tools of the presidency — another means of advancing their goals and agendas…. – NYT, 12-25-10
  • President begins vacation with a smile: Almost immediately after he walked off Air Force One early Thursday morning, a relaxed-looking President Obama had a green lei around his neck and a smile on his face. It was the first sign that while the president will be working while he is on vacation, it’s not a “working vacation.” Administration aides emphasized that the president wanted real down time after an intense two-month period after Election Day, and Obama started his 11-day trip with several hours of golf Thursday. He spent much of Friday afternoon at the beach with his daughters, Sasha and Malia.
    Forced to delay his vacation by five days as Congress worked on a series of the president’s top priorities, Obama added a day on the back end. He will now depart for Washington on Jan. 2, instead of Jan. 1 as originally scheduled.
    White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama would spend time “recharging his batteries, spending time with family and dealing with presidential duties.”
    To be sure, a president is never truly off. He has spoken to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about a nuclear weapons treaty between the United States and Russia that the Senate ratified on Wednesday. Obama receives a daily national security briefing.
    And the president is spending some time preparing for a critical stage of his presidency in which he must work with a House now controlled by the GOP and start laying the groundwork for his reelection campaign in 2012. Aides said he is reading “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,” a biography by Lou Cannon, as well as a biography of former president Bill Clinton by Taylor Branch…. – WaPo, 12-25-10
  • Bruno’s Lawyers Ask Court to Overturn His Conviction: Lawyers for Joseph L. Bruno, the longtime Republican leader of the New York State Senate, have asked a federal appeals court to overturn his conviction on fraud charges, following a landmark Supreme Court decision that whittled down the law under which he was found guilty, and to prohibit the government from retrying him. The appeal, filed on Thursday in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was an expected development in the labyrinthine legal case of Mr. Bruno, 81, who ruled the Senate for almost 14 years before resigning in 2008 amid a federal corruption investigation. He was convicted in 2009 in Federal District Court in Albany on two counts of fraud for failing to disclose lucrative payments he had received from businessmen seeking help in the Legislature…. – NYT, 12-25-10
  • Obama, Congress end ’10 with blast of bipartisanship: Shaken by a historic election in which angry voters canceled Democratic control of the House, lawmakers of both parties and President Obama tried something new: They consulted each other. They cooperated. And finally, they compromised.
    From tax cuts to a nuclear arms treaty and the repeal of the ban on openly serving gay soldiers, Congress and the Obama White House closed up their respective shops and headed out for the holidays with an uncommonly full bag of accomplishments. Bipartisanship was one of them.
    “That progress is … a reflection of the message the voters sent in November, a message that said it’s time to find common ground on challenges facing our country,” Obama said before joining his family in Hawaii. “It’s a message that I will take to heart in the new year, and I hope my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same.”… – AP, 12-25-10
  • Obama administration on alert for holiday terror threats: President Obama may be relaxing on vacation in Hawaii, but his counterterrorism team remains at work in hopes of keeping things quiet over the holidays. John Brennan, the White House adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, convened a conference call today with more than half a dozen other top officials to review the steps being taken to guard against terrorism. That includes close coordination with foreign nations such as Yemen, whose president, Ali Abdallah Saleh, spoke with Brennan by phone Thursday. The two discussed ways to strengthen the cooperation between their counterterrorism operations in light of threats against the United States and other nations by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula… – USA Today, 12-24-10
  • White House confirms Sarkozy visit January 10: French President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit Washington next month and hold talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama on January 10, the White House said Friday. “I can confirm” the French leader’s visit, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told AFP, without providing further details. The Elysee presidential palace announced Thursday that Sarkozy would visit the US capital to discuss the agendas of next year’s G8 and G20 summits with Obama…. – AFP, 12-24-10
  • Vice President Joe Biden sees growing acceptance of gay marriage: Joe Biden compares the nation’s evolving views on gay marriage to the military’s acceptance of gays and lesbians serving openly…. – LAT, 12-24-10
  • Biden says gay marriage ‘inevitable’: Vice President Joe Biden says the country is evolving on the issue of gay marriage and he thinks it’s inevitable there will be national consensus. He said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday the same thing is happening with the issue of marriage that happened with gays’ service in the military…. – AP, 12-24-10
  • For Obama, ‘lame duck’ Congress ends on high note: It may have ended in a lame-duck session with Democrats set to lose their majority in January, but the first US Congress of the Obama era was among the most prolific in 40 years
    The legislative accomplishments were anything but lame in the post-election period, according to analysts and even some of President Barack Obama’s Republican adversaries who begrudged him some late 2010 victories, including a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia and repeal of a ban on openly gay troops.
    Having described his Democrats’ drubbing at the ballot box in November as a “shellacking”, Obama headed to a Hawaii vacation this week on a high, savoring the latest in a litany of legislative victories that marked his first two years in office…. – AFP, 12-23-10
  • Chastened, unpopular Congress rallies in lame duck: In the middle of a House debate, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky handed the woman in charge of the rules a paper bag. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., peered inside, saw the bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon and laughed. Indeed, a shot of something strong might help make sense of a prolific Congress that seemed to break the rules of political physics. Democrats were punished by voters for a long list of accomplishments, then rallied with a post- election session that was anything but lame.
    Among the lessons of 2010: Being the opposite of a “do-nothing Congress” can produce just as much loathing and election losses for the party in control of government. And bipartisanship in President Barack Obama’s Washington is possible, if fleeting.
    “Congress and the administration simply failed to listen to the American people,” incoming House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement as lawmakers left town. “Beginning on Jan. 5, the American people are going to watch their Congress do something differently.”
    “I’m not naive,” Obama told reporters this week. “I know there will be tough fights in the months ahead…. – AP, 12-23-10
  • For Hawaii governor, discrediting anti-Obama ‘birthers’ is a top priority: Democrat Neil Abercrombie, who knew Obama’s parents, is determined to torpedo the conspiracy theory. Underlying his effort may be a desire to dispel the view that Hawaiians aren’t Americans in the same way as mainlanders…. – LAT, 12-23-10
  • Obama vacation: What flavor shave ice will he order?: President Obama joined his family in Hawaii late Wednesday, anticipating an 11-day vacation. Forget tax-cut deals and nuclear weapons treaties. The Obama vacation is all about shave ice. President Obama has made it to Hawaii to join his wife, daughters, and dog on vacation. He arrived just before midnight Wednesday, local time, after winging in on Air Force One from Washington following a press conference. In his first official act of relaxation, he donned a green lei after he stepped off the plane.
    Now all the US political world is holding its breath as it awaits the results of an important policy decision the president is likely to make at some point during his projected 11 days in an island paradise. The question facing Obama is this: What flavor of shave ice will he pick at Island Snow?… – CS Monitor, 12-23-10

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden on Christmas Day at Walter Reed

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden visit with troops and their families on Christmas Day at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., December 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

111TH & 112TH CONGRESS

  • AP Exclusive: Jackson Jr says ‘everyone has erred’: Illinois Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. says he’s a “public servant” not a “perfect servant.” The Democrat tells The Associated Press that even as he’s been dogged by links to disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and questions about his relationship with a female “social acquaintance,” he’s never deviated from his mission of bringing jobs to his Chicago area district. Jackson says he carries the burden of his “personal shortcomings” even as he tries to help others…. – AP, 12-25-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Signs of doubt about Palin, from the right: The Wall Street Journal editorial page has taken Sarah Palin to task for her overreaction to Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity. This is not only notable by itself, but it has sparked similar criticism from other conservative sources. It’s interesting that she’s drawing this kind of fire from my fellow righties. Palin, the Journal writes, sees a big government plot in Mrs. Obama’s campaign. On her reality show, she served her family “smores,” saying, “This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert.”…
    In Palin’s defense, Michelle Obama has gone much farther than merely urging parents to provide healthy food for their kids, as when she blurted out, “We can’t just leave it up to the parents.” This isn’t mentioned in The Journal editorial. Still, the point of the piece was valid: Palin overreacted, and in the process raised even more doubts among those who don’t believe she’s electable…. – Kansas City Star, 12-28-10
  • Governor: Palin e-mails won’t be released ’til May: The Alaska governor’s office says it needs until May 31 to release potentially thousands of e-mails sent and received by former Gov. Sarah Palin. By that time, more than 2 1/2 years will have elapsed since media outlets, including The Associated Press, requested the e-mails. Palin has been out of office since July 2009…. – WaPo, 12-28-10
  • Republican Drops a Tack in Alaska Senate Race: Joe Miller said late Sunday that he would no longer try to prevent the certification of the Alaska Senate race, but he did not concede and he did not congratulate the unofficial winner, Senator Lisa Murkowski. Unofficial results show Ms. Murkowski winning the race by more than 10,000 votes, and she is expected to be sworn in for her new term on Jan. 5. But a stay in federal court, in response to a lawsuit by Mr. Miller, has prevented state election officials from certifying her as the winner. The state and Ms. Murkowski have repeatedly expressed concerns that Mr. Miller’s legal challenges could leave Alaska with just one senator when Congress reconvenes in January…. – NYT, 12-27-10
  • Bill Clinton to campaign for Emanuel in Chicago In January, former president to stump for Emanuel in mayor’s race: Former President Bill Clinton is coming to Chicago in January to campaign for mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel. Before serving in President Barack Obama’s White House and representing the North Side of Chicago in Congress, Emanuel worked in Clinton’s administration as a senior adviser for policy and strategy. Clinton is scheduled to headline a public event that highlights Emanuel’s role in passing a crime bill that put 100,000 more cops on the street nationally. The visit is expected to be Clinton’s first in the new year and election cycle…. – Chicago Tribune, 12-25-10
  • Chicago election board upholds Emanuel’s residency: A panel of three commissioners votes to keep the former White House chief of staff in the city’s mayoral race, saying he meets the residency requirement. But this is not the final say. Chicago election commissioners voted Thursday to keep Rahm Emanuel on the city’s February mayoral ballot, ruling that the former White House chief of staff meets the residency requirement. The election board, however, is not expected to have final say on the issue. The objectors have a week to appeal the board’s 3-0 decision to the Cook County Circuit Court. The case could wind its way through the court system for weeks, including the Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court. “It has not been established that the candidate, a resident of Chicago, abandoned his status as such a resident,” hearing officer Joe Morris wrote of Emanuel’s time in Washington. “In any event, his absence from Illinois during that time in question is excused, for purposes of the safeguarding and retention of his status as a resident and elector, by express operation of Illinois law.”… – LAT, 12-23-10
  • Meeks withdraws from Chicago mayor’s race: Illinois state Sen. James Meeks withdrew his candidacy for Chicago mayor on Thursday, and he urged other African- American candidates to follow his lead and rally what he called a divided black community around a single candidate. The surprise Christmas week announcement came a day after he met to discuss the idea of a unity candidate from the city’s large African-American community with fellow Democratic candidates U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, both of whom are black.
    “My friends, I come before you today to say that our city – and our community – is divided,” Meeks said in a statement. “As long as our community remains divided and splintered – to the specific advantage of the front-running, status quo candidates – we will never see things improve. We need to speak with one voice.”
    While the idea of a consensus African-American candidate has been discussed for weeks, Meeks has stumbled in recent days while courting voters and he won little support in a recent poll. He said in his statement he had no plans to endorse any other candidate, and his spokeswoman said he would not have any further comment as he planned to spend the holidays with his family…. – AP, 12-23-10

QUOTES

West Wing Week

  • Behind the Scenes with the Kennedy Center Honorees: Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey and More: Every year around the holidays, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts selects and celebrates individuals who have, through their lifetime achievement in the arts, contributed to enriching and enhancing culture in America. On December 5th, 2010, the Kennedy Center Honors 33rd Annual National Celebration of the Arts was held and videotaped for a television broadcast, which airs tonight on CBS. Before the gala event at the Kennedy Center, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a reception for this year’s recipients in the East Room of the White House. Watch this video which features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the honorees at the White House – Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Merle Haggard, Bill T. Jones, and Jerry Herman….. – WH, 12-28-10
  • Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend Christmas Greeting and Urge Americans to Support the Troops and Their Families: Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama Weekly Address The White House December 25, 2010:
    THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas, everybody. Michelle and I just wanted to take a moment today to send greetings from our family to yours.THE FIRST LADY: This is one of our favorite times of year. And we’re so fortunate to be able to celebrate it together in this wonderful home.
    This is the “People’s House.” So Barack and I try to open it to as many people as we can, especially during the holiday season.
    This month, more than 100,000 Americans have passed through these halls. And the idea behind this year’s theme, “Simple Gifts,” is that the greatest blessings of all are the ones that don’t cost a thing – the comfort of spending time with loved ones…the freedoms we enjoy as Americans… and the joy we feel upon giving something of ourselves.
    So in this time of family, friends, and good cheer; let’s also be sure to look out for those who are less fortunate, who’ve hit a run of bad luck, or who are hungry and alone this holiday season.

    THE PRESIDENT: Because this is the season when we celebrate the simplest yet most profound gift of all: the birth of a child who devoted his life to a message of peace, love, and redemption. A message that says no matter who we are, we are called to love one another – we are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper, our separate stories in this big and busy world are really one.
    Today, we’re also thinking of those who can’t be home for the holidays – especially all our courageous countrymen serving overseas.
    That’s the message I delivered when I visited our troops in Afghanistan a few weeks ago – that while you may be serving far from home, every American supports you and your families. We’re with you. And I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander in Chief.
    Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen make up the finest fighting force in the history of the world. Just like their predecessors, they do extraordinary things in service to their country. What makes that all the more remarkable is that today’s military is an all-volunteer force – a force of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives.

    THE FIRST LADY: That’s right. As First Lady, I’ve had the honor to meet members of our military and their families on bases and in communities all across the country. I’ve gotten to know husbands and wives doing the parenting of two while their spouse is on another deployment…children trying their best in school but always wondering when mom or dad is coming home…patriots putting their lives on hold to help with a loved one’s recovery…or carry on the memory of a fallen hero.
    When our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve, too. And they’re proud and glad to do it. But as long as that service keeps the rest of us safe, their sacrifice should also be our own. Even heroes can use a hand, especially during the holidays.

    THE PRESIDENT: So we’re encouraging Americans to ask what you can do to support our troops and their families in this holiday season. For some ideas on how to get started, just visit Serve.gov.

    THE FIRST LADY: You’ll see that you don’t need to be an expert in military life to give back to those who give so much to us. There are countless ways to contribute by harnessing your unique talents.
    If you live near a base, you can reach out through your local school or church. If you don’t, you can volunteer with organizations that support military families. And anybody can send a care package or pre-paid calling card to the front lines, or give what’s sometimes the most important gift of all: simply saying “thank you.”

    THE PRESIDENT: America’s brave servicemen and women represent a small fraction of our population. But they and the families who await their safe return carry far more than their fair share of the burden. They’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do. They’ve been everything we’ve asked them to be. And even as we speak, many are fighting halfway around the globe – in hopes that someday, our children and grandchildren won’t have to.
    So let’s all remind them this holiday season that we’re thinking of them – and that America will forever be here for them, just as they’ve been there for us.
    And on behalf of Michelle, Malia, Sasha…
    THE FIRST LADY: and Bo…
    THE PRESIDENT: and Bo…have a very Merry Christmas.
    THE FIRST LADY: and an even happier New Year. – WH, 12-25-10TranscriptMp4Mp3

  • The President’s Press Conference: “The Most Productive Post-Election Period We’ve Had in Decades”: First of all, I’m glad that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve my top national security priority for this session of Congress – the new START Treaty. This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify; and to continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges – from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran, to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.
    In the last few weeks, we also came together across party lines to pass a package of tax cuts and unemployment insurance that will spur jobs, businesses, and growth. This package includes a payroll tax cut that means nearly every American family will get an average tax cut next year of about $1,000 delivered in their paychecks. It will make a difference for millions of students, and parents, and workers, and people still looking for work. It’s has led economists across the political spectrum to predict that the economy will grow faster than they originally thought next year.
    In our ongoing struggle to perfect our Union, we also overturned a 17-year old law and a longstanding injustice by finally ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As I said earlier today, this is the right thing to do for our security. And it is the right thing to do, period.
    In addition, we came together across party lines to pass a food safety bill – the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression. And I hope the House soon joins the Senate in passing a 9/11 health bill that will help cover the health care costs of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and residents who inhaled toxic air near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning, and the days that followed.
    So, I think it’s fair to say this has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years we’ve had in generations. – WH, 12-22-10TranscriptMp4Mp3

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

West Wing Week

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Race could backfire on the right: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a possible Republican presidential candidate, recently caused a major stir. In an interview with the Weekly Standard, he referred to race relations while growing up in Mississippi this way: “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.”
    Of course, his state was one of the most racially explosive sections of the country in the days of segregation and the start of the civil rights movement.
    In the same interview, Barbour also tried to distinguish the citizens councils of his hometown from the Ku Klux Klan, even though historians have amply documented how citizens councils spent much of their energy using economic, and sometimes physical, intimidation to prevent racial integration. Although Barbour sought to clarify his remarks when they triggered a political firestorm, the fallout is likely to continue given the long and complicated history of conservatism.
    With these statements, Barbour tapped directly into one of the most problematic aspects of the modern conservative tradition: the interest among some on the right to resist racial and ethnic pluralism. The comments come at an inopportune time.
    In recent months, there have been questions about the degree to which racial politics has influenced Tea Party activists and some Republican politicians. The heated debates about illegal immigration and the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center near ground zero brought out some of the uglier elements of the conservative movement. At some of the early Tea Party events, there were placards that drew on explicitly racial imagery of the nation’s president.
    The conservative political tradition has revolved around many issues other than race….
    Conservatives should think long and hard about nominating a Republican who cannot demonstrate, once and for all, without any question, that he or she fully understands the history of racial inequality in this country and appreciates the centrality of a pluralistic America…. – CNN, 12-27-10
  • Stephen Hess: For Obama, ‘lame duck’ Congress ends on high note: “The 111th Congress is one of the most productive Congresses in American history, certainly since Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ and the programs that were passed in the mid-1960s,” Stephen Hess, an expert on American politics at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington, told AFP. “History will tell over time the value of what (Congress has done) but in terms of sheer production it is really an exceptional record.”… – AFP, 12-23-10
  • David Gergen: Obama’s stunning turnaround: Voters who flocked to the Republican banner seven weeks ago are probably scratching their heads, wondering, “Who really won in November?” After handing the president and Congressional Democrats the worst drubbing in more than half a century, they can only watch in disbelief as Obama has reeled off a series of unexpected victories.
    A new stimulus bill, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and now START — who would have believed that this shirt- tail session of Congress would have been so triumphant? They call it “lame duck” but it was anything but lame.
    What happened? One answer, I would submit, is that the president and his team found a better approach to governing: Instead of relying on the Democratic caucus in each chamber to deliver, they built up coalitions of their own that swayed public opinion in their direction and gave them leverage in Congress…. – CNN, 12-22-10
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