May 11, 2009: President Obama Unrolls Budget, Credit Card and Health Care Plans

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President discusses fiscal responsibility

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Obama Approval Picks Up in May Still, only 25% say they would definitely vote to re-elect him in 2012: President Barack Obama appears to be slightly more popular with Americans at the start of his second 100 days in office than he was, on average, during his first 100. Gallup Poll Daily tracking from May 7-9 finds 66% of Americans approving of how he is handling his job, compared with an average 63% from January through April.
    Obama’s approval rating has registered 66% or better in each Gallup three-day rolling average since May 2. His 68% approval rating reported on May 3 is tied for the second highest of his presidency, exceeded only by the 69% recorded immediately after his inauguration. And except for one 66% approval rating in late April, all of Obama’s previous 66% to 68% readings were obtained near the start of his term…. – Gallop, 5-11-09

THE HEADLINES.

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The President talks to the stakeholders
(President Barack Obama meeting with healthcare stakeholders in the Roosevelt Room at White House
May 11, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Headlines….

  • Reboot in Afghanistan: Gates replaces top general: Taking a cue from voters who elected a president promising a different approach, the Obama administration is replacing the general overseeing the war in Afghanistan with a commander who has special-forces experience. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a senior administrator with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take the place of Gen. David McKiernan once he is confirmed by the Senate. Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez will become McChrystal’s deputy with the Senate’s approval, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked be granted as soon as possible…. – AP, 5-12-09
  • US to borrow 46 cents for every dollar spent: The government will have to borrow nearly 50 cents for every dollar it spends this year, exploding the record federal deficit past $1.8 trillion under new White House estimates. Budget office figures released Monday would add $89 billion to the 2009 red ink — increasing it to more than four times last year’s all-time high as the government hands out billions more than expected for people who have lost jobs and takes in less tax revenue from people and companies making less money…. – AP, 5-11-09
  • Obama’s Push for Health Care Cuts Faces Daunting Odds: President Obama engineered a political coup on Monday by bringing leaders of the health care industry to the White House to build momentum for his ambitious health care agenda. Mr. Obama pronounced it “a historic day, a watershed event,” because doctors, hospitals, drug makers and insurance companies voluntarily offered $2 trillion in cost reductions over 10 years. The savings, he said, “will help us take the next and most important step — comprehensive health care reform.”… – NYT, 5-11-09
  • Governor of Florida Plans Bid for Senate: Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce Tuesday that he will run next year for the United States Senate, ending months of speculation and creating a domino effect that will leave several state positions up for grabs…. – NYT, 5-11-09
  • Obama changes office name, pushes Web work: Someone really is reading those comments left on Barack Obama’s Web sites: the president himself. The White House on Monday changed the name of a major office to reflect how much the administration is using the Internet to sell its agenda and communicate directly with voters. For a candidate who harnessed the Internet to win the presidency, the move — announced on the White House Web site, naturally — underscores Obama’s understanding of new media’s power. “This office will seek to engage as many Americans as possible in the difficult work of changing this country, through meetings and conversations with groups and individuals held in Washington and across the country,” Obama said in a video message posted to the Web…. – AP, 5-11-09
  • Obama Enlists Biden’s Expertise About High Court: The person in the White House most knowledgeable about Supreme Court nominations sits in the vice president’s office. With President Obama filling his first high court vacancy with the retirement of Justice David H. Souter, Vice President Biden finds himself regularly consulting with the president and fielding queries from the White House counsel and others for insights on the process…. – WaPo,
  • Obama says Health overhaul could save U.S. trillions: President Barack Obama will aim on Monday to build support for a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting a drive for greater efficiency he predicts could save trillions of dollars…. – Reuters, 5-10-09
  • Health Industry Is Said to Promise to Rein In Costs: Doctors, hospitals, drug makers and insurance companies will join President Obama on Monday in announcing their commitment to a sharp reduction in the growth of national health spending, White House officials said Sunday…. – NYT, 5-10-09
  • U.S. Adviser Holds Firm on Airstrikes in Afghanistan: President Obama’s top national security adviser said on Sunday that the United States would likely continue conducting airstrikes against extremists in Afghanistan despite a sharp warning from President Hamid Karzai that civilian casualties were fast turning ordinary Afghans against the United States…. – NYT, 5-10-09
  • Cheney backs Limbaugh over Powell on GOP future: Dick Cheney made clear Sunday he’d rather follow firebrand broadcaster Rush Limbaugh than former Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell into political battle over the future of the Republican Party. Even as Cheney embraced efforts to expand the party by ex-Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and the House’s No. 2 Republican, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the former vice president appeared to write his one-time colleague Powell out of the GOP. Asked about recent verbal broadsides between Limbaugh and Powell, Cheney said, “If I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I’d go with Rush Limbaugh. My take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn’t know he was still a Republican.”… – AP, 5-10-09 Washington Times, 5-10-09
  • Obama pokes fun at himself, Dems and GOP: It was the hottest ticket in town, a black-tie dinner gathering of Washington’s political and media elite but Dick Cheney couldn’t make it. The former vice president was busy, President Barack Obama joked, working on his memoir “tentatively titled, How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People.'”…. – AP, 5-9-09
  • Obama: Send me credit card legislation this month: Send me a bill that stops credit card companies from taking advantage of consumers, and do it by month’s end, President Barack Obama is demanding of Congress. But there’s no guarantee lawmakers will deliver by Memorial Day, and the banking industry is fighting back…. – AP, 5-9-09
  • Republicans and ObamaCare The sound of silence is deafening: Listen. That sound of silence? That’s what’s known as the united Republican response to President Barack Obama’s drive to socialize health care. The president has a plan, and he’s laid it on the table. The industry groups that once helped Republicans beat HillaryCare are today sitting at that table. Unions are mobilized. A liberal umbrella group, Health Care for American Now, is spending $40 million to get a “public option,” a new federal entitlement that would kill off private insurance. Democrats passed a budget blueprint that will allow them to cram through that “public option” with just 51 votes…. – WSJ, 5-9-09
  • Gaps Appear in G.O.P. Solidarity: WAfter being stingy with their support in the early days of the Obama administration, significant numbers of House Republicans have begun breaking from their party leaders and voting for legislation moving through the Democratic-led Congress…. – NYT, 5-9-09
  • On Politics: Dwindling, Connecticut G.O.P. Won’t Look Inward: ON June 4, Newt Gingrich is to address a shrinking Connecticut Republican Party that has sworn off God, guns and gays as wedge issues and rallied around the Yankee ideals of “common sense” and “fiscal responsibility.” Not exactly bumper-sticker material. But this is a state where the G.O.P. has badly withered as Republicans in other states thrived using gay marriage, abortion and the death penalty to energize social conservatives and twice elect George W. Bush as president…. – NYT, 5-9-09
  • US report blames Taliban for civilian deaths: The U.S. coalition blamed Taliban militants Saturday for causing what Afghan officials say are dozens of civilian deaths during a prolonged battle that included American airstrikes. The U.S. said an unspecified number of civilians died but did not take responsibility for any deaths…. – AP, 5-9-09
  • Obama to hold town hall meeting on credit cards: U.S. President Barack Obama will hold a town hall meeting next week in New Mexico to promote congressional efforts to reform credit card practices, the White House said on Friday…. – Rreuters, 5-8-09
  • Analysis: Slow recovery no help for Obama’s plans: Barack Obama’s budget, unveiled with fanfare, fails to deal with his biggest money problems. A molasses-slow economic recovery will make it hard to find the huge sums he’ll need to reach his biggest goals — fixing health care, confronting climate change and overhauling the tax system — without much deeper cuts than he’s proposing in other programs. Obama faces not only fiscal obstacles but political ones, as well…. – AP, 5-8-09
  • The Half-Penny Solution Cutting the budget paper clip by paper clip: President Obama unveiled a budget Thursday with a 2010 price tag of $3.5 trillion financed with $1.2 trillion of new debt. For domestic agencies, that’s a 9.3% spending hike over last year…. – WSJ, 5-8-09
  • List Says Top Democrats Were Briefed on Interrogations: Congressional Republicans on Friday accused Democrats of full complicity in the approval of the Bush administration’s brutal interrogations, citing a new accounting that shows briefings for some top Democrats on waterboarding and other harsh methods starting in 2002…. – NYT, 5-8-09
  • Pelosi still explaining interrogation briefing: It’s a political squall that won’t die: What did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi know about harsh questioning of detainees, and when did she know it? On Friday, the California Democrat was forced to issue yet another press release, reiterating her past assertions that she had been briefed in 2002 only on new interrogation techniques that had been deemed legal and were planned for future use. Pelosi had made the same comments in 2007 when word first leaked that she was aware of the interrogation program and had not objected to it. Her latest statement came three weeks after the Justice Department released formerly classified legal memos that detailed the once-secret CIA harsh interrogation program, and two weeks after she told reporters that when she got her sole CIA briefing on interrogation back in 2002, she had no idea the technique of waterboarding had already been used on a prisoner. Waterboarding is a form of simulated drowning that President Barack Obama last week called torture…. – AP, 5-8-09
  • New Jersey’s GOP Sees Opportunity in Corzine Another moderate Christie seeks the Republican nod: One bright spot for Northeast Republicans is the chance this year to retake the governorship of New Jersey. The seat is now held by Democrat Jon Corzine — a former Goldman-Sachs CEO who has been trailing or tied in the polls with the two Republicans running in the party’s June 2 primary for the chance to unseat him. But the party is divided between moderates who say that only a centrist can win and conservatives who believe that only a bold agenda of tax cuts, spending restraint, and school reform can catch fire with voters…. – WSJ, 5-8-09
  • Souter’s Exit Opens Door for a More Influential Justice: A couple of days ago, Fred R. Shapiro, the editor of The Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations, asked constitutional law scholars for memorable quotations from Justice David H. Souter of the Supreme Court. Mr. Shapiro got only four responses. One was about television coverage of the court (“The day you see a camera come into our courtroom, it’s going to roll over my dead body”). Another concerned the limited pleasures of reading legal briefs rather than serious books (“I find the workload of what I do sufficiently great that when the term of court starts I undergo a sort of annual intellectual lobotomy”). Just two quotations came from the hundreds of opinions that Justice Souter, who is retiring in June, wrote in his 19 years on the court. Neither had much juice to it. ….Instead, he told Mr. Obama that was retiring “under the provision of 28 U.S.C. Section 371(b)(1), having attained the age and met the service requirements of subsection (c) of that section.” He appeared to have signed it in fountain pen, in script that would not have looked out of place on the Declaration of Independence. – NYT, 5-8-09
  • Official Quits Over Jet Flight That Alarmed New Yorkers: The photo shoot of Air Force One soaring above the Statue of Liberty cost taxpayers $328,835. Now the incident, which incited panic among scores of people in New York City, has cost the director of the White House Military Office his job. The White House released the photo that caused the controversy on Friday. The director, Louis Caldera, who was appointed by President Obama to the White House post and had been a secretary of the Army in the Clinton administration, resigned on Friday for his role in approving the April 27 flyover. In a brief letter to Mr. Obama, Mr. Caldera said that the matter “has become a distraction for the important work you are doing as president.”…. – NYT, 5-8-09
  • Aide resigns over NYC flyover; probe continues: The Pentagon and Air Force are reviewing whether their officials may be partly to blame for a $328,835 photo-op of a jumbo jet used by the president soaring above New York City that has already forced the White House military director to step down… – AP, 5-9-09
  • Banks’ tests results lift cloud of uncertainty: Government exams of the nation’s biggest banks have helped lift a cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the economy. The so-called stress tests — a key Obama administration effort to boost confidence in the financial system — showed nine of the 19 biggest banks have enough capital to withstand a deeper recession. Ten must raise a total of $75 billion in new capital to withstand possible future losses…. – AP, 5-8-09
  • Obama opts out of prayer day The move disappoints evangelicals. Under President George W. Bush, the event was held at the White House with political fanfare: For years, it’s been a staple of the White House calendar. On the first Thursday of May, dedicated as the National Day of Prayer, President George W. Bush hosted an ecumenical service in the East Room, a big public endorsement of evangelical Christians. (The event is different from the National Prayer Breakfast, held elsewhere in Washington on the first Thursday of February.) President Obama opted not to have a service in the White House this year. “Prayer is something that the president does every day,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, adding that Obama will sign a proclamation to recognize the day. “I think the president understands, in his own life and in his family’s life, the role that prayer plays.” President Truman signed the first National Day of Prayer proclamation, and President Reagan made it a permanent occasion…. – LAT, 5-7-09
  • Specter gets chairmanship consolation prize Seniority to be settled in 2011 caucus: Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday gave Sen. Arlen Specter the chairmanship of a key Judiciary subcommittee, pacifying the veteran Pennsylvania lawmaker after his shaky start as the chambers newest Democrat. In another reversal of fortune, Mr. Specter’s prospects for re-election as a Democrat in 2010 improved slightly when Republican heavyweight Tom Ridge announced he would not enter the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania…. – Washington Times, 5-7-09
  • Colin Powell’s Bad Advice Nobody wants the government in their living room: In good times or bad, there’s always someone willing to tell the Republican Party that the road to success is to embrace the liberal agenda. In a speech in Washington Monday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell joined the chorus. We hope for the sake of the country that his party doesn’t listen. Mr. Powell insisted that he doesn’t want the Republicans to turn into Democrats or clones of the Democrats. But it’s hard to see what other space he hopes the GOP will carve out for itself given his analysis. According to press accounts, Mr. Powell argued that America has changed, and “Americans do want to pay taxes for services” and “Americans are looking for more government in their life, not less.”… – WSJ, 5-7-09
  • Specter gets subcommittee chair, primary challenge: Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter gained a Judiciary subcommittee chairmanship but also a potential primary challenger Thursday, the latest twists in a turbulent episode of party switching. The good news-bad news day for Specter didn’t stop there. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge announced he would not challenge Specter next year. Ridge, a moderate Republican and the first homeland security chief, had been running about even against Specter in a hypothetical general election race, according to a recent poll. “My desire and intention is to help my party craft solutions that both sides of the aisle can embrace,” said Ridge, whose decision eliminates one major challenge to Specter…. – AP, 5-7-09
  • Obama touts $17 billion ‘lot of money’ budget cuts: President Barack Obama sent Congress a detailed budget Thursday boasting of cutting or killing 121 federal programs in a belt-tightening he likened to that of most Americans in difficult times. But the trims amounted to a tiny fraction of the new spending he wants, and some have already been nixed by allies on Capitol Hill. Obama said his cuts would amount to $17 billion — in a budget totaling well over $3 trillion for the fiscal year that begins in October. He’s estimating the government’s red ink will still be about $1.2 trillion, down only slightly from this year’s all-time record…. – AP, 5-7-09
  • Bush attorneys who wrote terror memo face backlash: Pressure is mounting against two former Bush administration attorneys who wrote the legal memos used to support harsh interrogation techniques that critics say constituted torture. John Yoo, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is fighting calls for disbarment and dismissal, while Judge Jay Bybee of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals faces calls for impeachment…. – AP, 5-7-09
  • Souter chokes up at farewell: Supreme Court Justice David Souter, momentarily choked with emotion, bid an affectionate farewell yesterday to judges and lawyers he has worked with for nearly two decades. AP, 5-6-09
  • Baucus, Obama talk health care at White House: Montana Sen. Max Baucus says a private lunch with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden should help as he leads efforts to overhaul the nation’s health care system. Baucus, a veteran Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, had lunch with Obama and Biden at the White House Wednesday, along with Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the senior Republican on the finance panel. Baucus said the four men had a wide-ranging discussion, but focused on health care. Baucus called the meeting productive. He pledged to continue to work with Obama, Biden, Grassley and others to get a bill passed…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • Franken meets with vice president in Washington: Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken met privately with Vice President Joe Biden late Wednesday afternoon to update him on the still-contested Minnesota Senate race. Franken, who said he is eager to join the Senate, said the two men also discussed President Barack Obama’s policy goals…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • New Democrat Specter loses committee seniority: Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party has cost him his seniority on Senate committees. The Senate passed a resolution Tuesday night that made him the most junior Democrat on the committees on which he serves. The resolution was passed after an agreement was reached between leadership in both parties and Specter, said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Manley said the seniority issue will be revisited after the 2010 elections…. Specter serves on the Appropriations, Judiciary, Veterans Affairs, Environment and Public Works, and Special Aging committees…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • Source: No charges seen over interrogation memos: Justice Department investigators say Bush administration lawyers who approved harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects should not face criminal charges, according to a draft report that also recommends two of the three attorneys face possible professional sanctions…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • Senate hears a dim forecast for newspapers’ future: One way to save some of the nation’s struggling newspapers would be to let them become nonprofits similar to public broadcasting stations, a senator said Wednesday as editors and other journalists painted a grim future for daily print journalism. “We need to save our community newspapers and the investigative journalism they provide,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told a subcommittee of the Senate’s Commerce Committee. Under a bill proposed by Cardin, newspapers turning to nonprofit status would no longer be able to make political endorsements but could report on all issues including political campaigns. Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt and contributions to support coverage could be tax deductible…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • AP sources: Obama to seek $17B in budget savings: After a line-by-line scrub of the federal budget, President Barack Obama has signed off on a roster of 121 budget cuts totaling $17 billion — or about one-half of 1 percent of the $3.4 trillion budget Congress has approved for next year. Budget Director Peter Orszag briefed Democratic lawmakers on a partial roster of the cuts Wednesday before a public release on Thursday. Obama also is fleshing out the details of the $1.3 trillion portion of the budget that he requested Congress pass through appropriations bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • Top Judiciary Republican Inclined Against Blocking Supreme Court Nominee: Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said a deal among centrist senators four yours ago that averted filibusters against some of former President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees established a “standard” that shouldn’t be discarded except in unusual circumstances…. – Fox News, 5-6-09
  • U.S. Says Bank of America Needs $33.9 Billion Cushion: The government has told Bank of America it needs $33.9 billion in capital to withstand any worsening of the economic downturn, according to an executive at the bank…. – NYT, 5-5-09
  • Pakistani President Tries to Assure U.S. on Taliban: Pakistan’s leaders began an arduous campaign here on Tuesday to convince the United States that they will repel recent incursions by Taliban militant groups, secure their own nuclear arsenal and make good use of American military and economic assistance. NYT, 5-5-09
  • House Dems narrow energy, climate bill differences: Key lawmakers agreed Tuesday on a strategy for replacing gas-guzzling cars with more fuel-efficient models, but much tougher negotiations lie ahead on a bill that would, for the first time, limit emissions linked to global warming. President Barack Obama summoned three dozen House Democrats to the White House to build consensus around climate and energy legislation that is under increasing criticism from Republicans and members of his own party. AP, 5-5-09
  • Party Switch Costs Specter His Seniority on Senate Committees: The Senate last night stripped Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) of his seniority on committees, a week after the 29-year veteran of the chamber quit the Republican Party to join the Democrats. In announcing his move across the aisle last week, Specter asserted that Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had assured him he would retain his seniority in the Senate and on the five committees on which he serves. Specter’s tenure ranked him ahead of all but seven Democrats. Instead, though, on a voice vote last night, the Senate approved a resolution that made Specter the most junior Democrat on four committees for the remainder of this Congress. Reid himself read the resolution on the Senate floor, underscoring the reversal…. – WaPo, 5-5-09
  • Michelle Obama captivates glittery crowd in NYC: She’s already conquered Britain, France and Germany. On Tuesday, it was time for Michelle Obama to conquer New York. After a visit to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and an appearance on “Sesame Street,” Mrs. Obama capped her first visit to New York as first lady with an appearance before a glittery crowd at Time magazine’s annual Time 100 gala, honoring its 100 “Most Influential People.” There, she mixed sparkle with substance, introducing the administration’s proposal to give $50 million to innovative nonprofit groups…. – AP, 5-5-09
  • Republicans attacking Obama on terror policy: After weeks of concentrating their attacks against President Barack Obama on the economy, Republicans are branching out. They’re taking aim at his anti-terrorism policy. “Just what is the administration’s overarching plan to take on the terrorist threat and to keep America safe?” asks House Republican leader John Boehner in a new Web video featuring ominous music, unsettling images and less than flattering photos of the president…. – AP, 5-5-09
  • G.O.P. Picks Conservative for Senate Judiciary Post: Senator Jeff Sessions, a conservative from Alabama, has struck an agreement to assume the top Republican position on the Judiciary Committee, making him the chief voice of the opposition in summer confirmation hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee…. – NYT, 5-5-09
  • At Annual Meeting, Pro-Israel Group Reasserts Clout: The formidable political strength of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation’s major pro-Israel lobby, has been on decidedly intentional display here in the last few days. But this year, Aipac’s annual conference comes after a period fraught with small anxieties for the group and its supporters…. – NYT, 5-5-09
  • White House seeks comments on education law: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former big-city schools chief, traveled through rural terrain Tuesday as he asked educators and parents how the Obama administration should overhaul the No Child Left Behind law. Duncan is from Chicago, but he made West Virginia the first stop on a 15-state “listening tour.” “I think the challenges are very similar,” Duncan told The Associated Press in an interview. “I know there are high-performing schools in every state in the country, and what’s important to me is to really understand what enables them to beat the odds.”… – AP, 5-5-09
  • Republicans branch out from criticism over economy to hit Obama on terror policy: After weeks of concentrating their attacks against President Barack Obama on the economy, Republicans are branching out. They’re taking aim at his anti-terrorism policy. “Just what is the administration’s overarching plan to take on the terrorist threat and to keep America safe?” asks House Republican leader John Boehner in a new Web video featuring ominous music, unsettling images and less than flattering photos of the president…. – AP, 5-5-09
  • Congress leery about Obama’s plan on tax loopholes: President Barack Obama promised sternly on Monday to crack down on companies “that ship jobs overseas” and duck U.S. taxes with offshore havens. It won’t be easy. Democrats have been fighting — and losing — this battle since John F. Kennedy made a similar proposal in 1961. Obama’s proposal to close tax loopholes was a reliable applause line during the presidential campaign, but it got a lukewarm response Monday from Capitol Hill…. – AP, 5-5-09
  • Obama vows tougher overseas tax policies: President Barack Obama vowed on Monday to overhaul tax policies that he said reward companies for shifting U.S. jobs overseas and allow wealthy people to evade taxes using offshore accounts. The White House estimated the plan would save $210 billion over the next decade. In one proposal businesses are poised to fight, Obama would tighten tax-code provisions that allow firms to defer paying taxes on profits they make overseas as long as those earnings are ploughed back into the foreign subsidiaries…. – Reuters, 5-4-09
  • Standing on Ceremony Is the press showing more respect for Obama than Bush?: A video, put together by Politico’s Patrick Gavin, is making the rounds showing two presidential visits to the White House briefing room. In one, George Bush arrives for a press conference in February 2008, and the press remains seated. In the second, from last Friday, Barack Obama surprises the press by appearing in the midst of the daily briefing. They stand to greet him. (Given that the press is supposedly in the tank for Obama, shouldn’t critics be happy they didn’t kneel?)… – Slate, 5-4-09
  • Palin To Be Part of National Council: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be part of the National Council for a New America, an attempt by leaders in Congress and potential 2012 presidential candidates to rebrand the struggling party. “I am pleased to announce that Governor Palin has joined the National Council for a New America’s panel of experts,” said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) today. “When NCNA was announced last week, we spoke about a dynamic organization that worked to constantly bring in new people and innovative ideas.”… – WaPo, 5-4-09
  • Senators to Obama: Look beyond the federal bench: Wanted: Supreme Court justice. Judicial experience not required. Not only is experience as a judge not a requirement under the Constitution, some of the senators who will conduct confirmation hearings for Justice David Souter’s replacement think it’s time for a nominee who hasn’t served on the federal appeals court. For all nine of the current justices, the appeals court was a final stepping stone to the Supreme Court. “I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery, somebody who has had some real-life experience, not just as a judge,” said Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee…. – AP, 5-4-09
  • Obama calls senators about high court pick: President Barack Obama, eager to have his Supreme Court nominee seated by early October, has begun calling senators who will play key roles in the confirmation process. While it is unclear when Obama will name a nominee, aides said he wants the process to move rapidly enough so that the Senate can confirm the person shortly after Congress returns from its August recess, if not sooner…. – AP, 5-4-09
  • Vanity, Karma Continue to Take Toll on Edwards: Feds are combing through John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign checkbook to see if there’s more to the story of his payments to his former mistress Reille Hunter, a probe that some observers say couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy…. – FOX News, 5-4-09
  • Ridge May Run for Specter’s Senate Seat: Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge (R) is seriously considering a 2010 bid for the Senate seat held by Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter and will make his decision in the next two weeks, according to several sources familiar with his thinking…. – WaPo, 5-4-09
  • Obama to meet Afghan and Pakistan leaders: President Barack Obama presents his strategy for defeating al Qaeda to the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Wednesday amid growing U.S. concern it is losing the war and neither is a reliable ally. The White House meetings with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are likely to be cagey affairs — both visitors have been heavily criticized by Obama’s administration and are also wary of each other…. – Reuters, 5-4-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President gives his Weekly Address on credit card reform

Political Quotes

  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON REFORMING THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM TO REDUCE COSTS: And that’s what makes today’s meeting so remarkable — because it’s a meeting that might not have been held just a few years ago. The groups who are here today represent different constituencies with different sets of interests. They’ve not always seen eye to eye with each other or with our government on what needs to be done to reform health care in this country. In fact, some of these groups were among the strongest critics of past plans for comprehensive reform.
    But what’s brought us all together today is a recognition that we can’t continue down the same dangerous road we’ve been traveling for so many years; that costs are out of control; and that reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait. It’s a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise, who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the ’90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America….
    Ultimately, the debate about reducing costs — and the larger debate about health care reform itself — is not just about numbers; it’s not just about forms or systems; it’s about our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. And I understand that. As I’ve mentioned before during the course of the campaign, my mother passed away from ovarian cancer a little over a decade ago. And in the last weeks of her life, when she was coming to grips with her own mortality and showing extraordinary courage just to get through each day, she was spending too much time worrying about whether her health insurance would cover her bills. So I know what it’s like to see a loved one who is suffering, but also having to deal with a broken health care system. I know that pain is shared by millions of Americans all across this country. WH Blog, 5-11-09
  • Obama does turn as comedian in chief: “I must confess I really did not want to be here tonight,” Obama told guests at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner — an annual black-tie gathering of journalists, politicians and Hollywood celebrities. “But I knew I had to come. That’s one more problem that I inherited from George W. Bush.”…. “The last thing Tim Geithner needs is someone else treating him like a fire hydrant,” he said…. “Finally, I believe that my next 100 days will be so successful that I will be able to complete them in 72 days. And on the 73rd day, I will rest,” he joshed…. In a dig at the press, Obama said: “We look for you for truth — even if it’s always an approximation.” Reuters, 5-10-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ ASSOCIATION DINNERWH, 5-9-09
  • Obama Delivers the Zingers at Journalists’ Dinner: Not Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: “The minute she got back from Mexico, she pulled me into a hug and said I should go down there myself.”… Not Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “This is a tough holiday for Rahm. He’s not used to saying the word ‘day’ after ‘mother.’ “… Not even, it turned out, himself: “During the second 100 days, we will design, build and open a library dedicated to my first 100 days.”… And: “My next 100 days will be so successful, I will complete them in 72 days. And on the 73rd day, I will rest.”… The routine brought mostly guffaws from the 2,500 journalists, politicians and celebrities jammed into the Washington Hilton ballroom for the press corps’ annual celebration of itself. The president acknowledged perceptions that he’s a media darling: “Most of you covered me; all of you voted for me. Apologies to the Fox table.” – WaPo, 5-10-09
  • Biden to grads: You have chance to shape history: “There is a much greater risk in accepting a situation we know we cannot sustain than in steeling our spine and embracing the challenge of change,” Biden said to students from Syracuse University and the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry…. “It is totally within your power to shape history. … This has been the journey of America since its inception,” said Biden, a 1968 graduate of Syracuse’s law school, speaking to more than 19,000 people in the Carrier Dome…. “All over this great country, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness began to take hold,” Biden said. “But as I walked across that stage, I never doubted for one instant that we could change that history, that we could rewrite the outcome we were careening toward, and we did,” he said. “It’s 2009. Now it’s your turn. You are graduating into a world of anxiety and uncertainty … ,” said Biden, pointing to a troubled economy, two wars and a planet in environmental peril. “These are the challenges you face. But these are the moments you can embrace. Throughout the span of history, only a handful of us ever get a chance to actually shape the course of history,” said the vice president, who received several standing ovations…. – AP, 5-10-09
  • Latino Town Hall: Full Video and Transcript: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT LATINO TOWN HALL: ….So I’m very proud of this first White House town hall meeting conducted entirely in Spanish. I am grateful — except for my part. (Laughter.) You know, I’m kind of messing up the whole thing. (Laughter.) I’m grateful for Univision for hosting us, and I’m happy to see that we’ve got officials from many different departments, including my Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.
    So I want to let you continue with your conversation. I hope you learn something. Please ask questions — these folks are extraordinarily well informed — and then distribute the information that you learn from this town hall throughout your communities. And this is just the first of many, I hope, mechanisms for outreach that will improve the quality of service that the White House provides to the American people. – WH Blog, 5-9-09
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Calls on Congress to Pass Credit Card Reform Bill: Good morning. I want to briefly share some news about our economy, and talk about the work that we’re doing both to protect American consumers, and to put our economy back on a path to growth and prosperity.
    This week, we saw some signs that the gears of America’s economic engine are slowly beginning to turn. Consumer spending and home sales are stabilizing. Unemployment claims are dropping and job losses are beginning to slow. But these trends are far from satisfactory. The unemployment rate is at its highest point in twenty-five years. We are still in the midst of a deep recession that was years in the making, and it will take time to fully turn this economy around. We cannot rest until our work is done. Not when Americans continue to lose their jobs and struggle to pay their bills. Not when we are wrestling with record deficits and an over-burdened middle class. That is why every action that my Administration is taking is focused on clearing away the wreckage of this recession, and building a new foundation for job-creation and long-term growth…. – WH Blog, 5-9-09
  • Obama: Send me credit card legislation this month: “Americans know that they have a responsibility to live within their means and pay what they owe,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. “But they also have a right to not get ripped off by the sudden rate hikes, unfair penalties and hidden fees that have become all too common.” “You shouldn’t have to fear that any new credit card is going to come with strings attached, nor should you need a magnifying glass and a reference book to read a credit card application. And the abuses in our credit card industry have only multiplied in the midst of this recession, when Americans can least afford to bear an extra burden,” the president said. Obama wants to sign the legislation by Memorial Day. “There is no time for delay. We need a durable and successful flow of credit in our economy, but we can’t tolerate profits that depend upon misleading working families. Those days are over,” he said. Railing against what he said was “abuse that goes unpunished,” the president stressed the need “to strengthen monitoring, enforcement and penalties for credit card companies that take advantage of ordinary Americans.” “Instead of fine print that hides the truth, we need credit card forms and statements that have plain language in plain sight, and we need to give people the tools they need to find a credit card that meets their needs,” he said. – AP, 5-9-09
  • Cheney: Mistake for GOP to ‘moderate’: “This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas … what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and constitutional principles,” Cheney said in an interview with North Dakota radio host Scott Hennen Thursday, according to a transcript. “You know, when you add all those things up, the idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy,” Cheney also said. “I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most of us aren’t. Most Republicans have a pretty good idea of values, and aren’t eager to have someone come along and say, ‘Well, the only way you can win is if you start to act more like a Democrat.'” “I think periodically we have to go through one these sessions. It helps clear away some of the underbrush … some of the older folks who’ve been around a long time — like yours truly — need to move on and make room for that young talent that’s coming along,” he said. “We resorted … to waterboarding, which is the source of much of the controversy, with only three individuals. In those cases, it was only after we’d gone through all the other steps of the process,” he said. “The way the whole program was set up was very careful, to use other methods and only to resort to the enhanced techniques in those special circumstances.” “If anybody takes a look at the record, they’ll find that we had significant success as a result of these policies,” he said. “One way to nail that down is that there are two documents in particular that I personally have read and know about that are still classified in that National Archives,” he said. – CNN, 5-7-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON REDUCING SPENDING IN THE BUDGET: We’re doing everything that we can to create jobs and to get our economy moving while building a new foundation for lasting prosperity — a foundation that invests in quality education, lowers health care costs, and develops new sources of energy powered by new jobs and industries.
    But one of the pillars of this foundation is fiscal responsibility. We can no longer afford to spend as if deficits don’t matter and waste is not our problem. We can no longer afford to leave the hard choices for the next budget, the next administration — or the next generation.
    That’s why I’ve charged the Office of Management and Budget, led by Peter Orszag and Rob Nabors who are standing behind me today, with going through the budget — program by program, item by item, line by line — looking for areas where we can save taxpayer dollars….
    In addition, we’re going to save money by eliminating unnecessary defense programs that do nothing to keep us safe, but rather prevent us from spending money on what does keep us safe. One example is a $465 million program to build an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. The Defense Department is already pleased with the engine it has. The engine it has works. The Pentagon does not want and does not plan to use the alternative version. That’s why the Pentagon stopped requesting this funding two years ago. Yet it’s still being funded.
    These are just a few examples. But the point to remember is that there are consequences for this kind of spending. It makes the development of new tools for our military, like the Joint Strike Fighter, more expensive — even prohibitively so — and crowds out money that we could be using, for example, to improve our troops’ quality of life and their safety and security. It makes government less effective. It makes our nation less resilient and less able to address immediate concerns and long-term challenges. And it leaves behind a massive burden for our children and grandchildren. – WH Blog, 5-7-09
  • Obama applauds Afghan and Pakistan cooperation: President Barack Obama is applauding Pakistan and Afghanistan for their commitment to helping the U.S. fight terrorists holed up in their territory, but he also is cautioning that the path to success is slow and unsure. “The road ahead will be difficult,” Obama said Wednesday after a series of meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari that yielded few announced new commitments. “There will be more violence, and there will be setbacks.” Obama added, “The United States has made a lasting commitment to defeat al-Qaida, but also to support the democratically elected sovereign governments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. That commitment will not waver, and that support will be sustained.”… – AP, 5-7-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER THE TRILATERAL MEETING WITH PRESIDENT KARZAI OF AFGHANISTAN AND PRESIDENT ZARDARI OF PAKISTAN: We meet today as three sovereign nations joined by a common goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their ability to operate in either country in the future. And to achieve that goal, we must deny them the space to threaten the Pakistani, Afghan, or American people. And we must also advance security and opportunity, so that Pakistanis and Afghans can pursue the promise of a better life.
    There is much to be done. Along the border where insurgents often move freely, we must work together with a renewed sense of partnership to share intelligence, and to coordinate our efforts to isolate, target and take out our common enemy. But, we must also meet the threat of extremism with a positive program of growth and opportunity. That is why my Administration is working with members of Congress to create opportunity zones to spark development. And that is why I’m proud that we’ve helped advance negotiations toward a landmark transit-trade agreement to open the Afghanistan and Pakistan border to more commerce.
    Within Afghanistan, we must help grow the economy, while developing alternatives to the drug trade by tapping the resilience and ingenuity of the Afghan people. We must support free and open national elections later this fall, while helping to protect the hard-earned rights of all Afghans. And we must support the capacity of local governments and stand up to corruption that blocks progress. I also made it clear that the United States will work with our Afghan and international partners to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties as we help the Afghan government combat our common enemy.
    Within Pakistan, we must provide lasting support to democratic institutions, while helping the government confront the insurgents who are the single greatest threat to the Pakistani state. And we must do more than stand against those who would destroy Pakistan – we must stand with those who want to build. That is why I have asked Congress for sustained funding for schools, roads, and hospitals. I want the Pakistani people to understand that America is not simply against terrorism – we are on the side of their hopes, and their aspirations. Because we know that the future of Pakistan must be determined by the talent, innovation and intelligence of its people…. – WH Blog, 5-6-09
  • Specter: Reid Promised Seniority, Eventual Judiciary Chairmanship: “When I talked to Senator Reid he assured me that my seniority would be as if I came in (as a Democrat) in 1980, and I relied . . . on his representation, and that’s the long and short of it,” Specter said in an interview in his Capitol “hideaway” office…. “There was no mention of the caucus when we talked. We talked more particularly about if Leahy became chairman of Appropriations, I would become chairman of the Judiciary. Ask him about that. That was the arrangement,” Specter said…. Assuming he wins that reelection, Specter is confident Reid will convince the Democrats to stand down from their concerns and give him his seniority back. “I think Senator Reid speaks for the caucus, he’s a very strong leader,” Specter said. – WaPo, 5-6-09
  • REMARKS OF FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA AT TIME 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE AWARDS: The idea is simple: to find the most effective programs out there and then provide the capital needed to replicate their success in communities around the country that are facing similar challenges. By focusing on high-impact, result-oriented non-profits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable and worthy of the public trust….
    Careers focused on lifting up our communities – whether helping transform troubled schools or training workers for green jobs or helping low-income families access health care – are not always obvious. But, at a time when our nation is facing unprecedented challenges, encouraging careers in public service and social innovation are more important than ever…. – WH, 5-5-09
  • Good Jobs Here at Home REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON INTERNATIONAL TAX POLICY REFORM: So the steps I am announcing today will help us deal with some of the most egregious examples of what’s wrong with our tax code and will help us strengthen some of these other efforts. It’s a down payment on the larger tax reform we need to make our tax system simpler and fairer and more efficient for individuals and corporations.
    Now, it will take time to undo the damage of distorted provisions that were slipped into our tax code by lobbyists and special interests, but with the steps I’m announcing today we are beginning to crack down on Americans who are bending or breaking the rules, and we’re helping to ensure that all Americans are contributing their fair share.
    In other words, we’re beginning to restore fairness and balance to our tax code. That’s what I promised I would do during the campaign, that’s what I’m committed to doing as President, and that is what I will work with members of my administration and members of Congress to accomplish in the months and years to come…. – WH Blog, 5-4-09
  • Vanity, Karma Continue to Take Toll on Edwards: “I think the biggest problem we’re hearing from people when they talk about this case, aside from the criminal possibilities, is how angry a lot of people still are at John Edwards, not for his infidelity but for claiming the mantle of his wife’s illness as part of the reason for his running for president, and then while he was running for president engaging in this kind of conduct,” said Washington Examiner political editor Chris Stirewalt. “I think there’s going to be very little sympathy for the former senator as this goes forward. I mean, people are mad,” Stirewalt said. – FOX News, 5-4-09
  • Vanity, Karma Continue to Take Toll on Edwards: In a carefully worded statement issued Sunday, Edwards said none of the money Hunter received was wrongly paid. “I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly. However, I know that it is the role of government to ensure that this is true. We have made available to the United States both the people and the information necessary to help them get the issue resolved efficiently and in a timely matter,” he said. – FOX News, 5-4-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President and the Russian Foreign Minister
(President Barack Obama meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office of the
White House May 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: News can outlast newspapers”: Last week, Sen. John Kerry convened a discussion of the troubled state of journalism in America by way of a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.
    In Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts, the Boston Globe is barely surviving. Several major metro papers have closed down, and there are indications that many more could soon follow. Experts have been warning in recent months that much of the newspaper industry may not survive.
    While the end of the metro newspaper would constitute a huge blow to journalism and the political system, realistically there might be nothing that we can do. The popularity of news on the Web and the potential of mobile devices such as the Kindle makes it difficult to see how we can sustain news in print — unless electronic delivery can produce enough revenue to support the cost of newspaper staffs.
    Sometimes technological innovations and consumer preferences cause changes that are irreversible. The industry has seen other important shifts in the way that Americans receive their news, such as the advent of television news in the 1950s and 1960s.
    But the real issue is not whether we can save the newspapers, but how we can create the best Internet news system possible. As Kerry said in his opening statement: “There also is the important question of whether online journalism will sustain the values of professional journalism, the way the newspaper industry has.”…
    The Internet can also combine written news with video and audio sources, as well as disseminate stories through social networking sites. Readers have the opportunities to interact with reporters and comment on stories.
    The death of the metro newspaper would be a huge loss. But rather than only focusing on lament, our best response would be to make the new medium of Internet news as strong as it can possibly be.
    We must address the major challenges by developing sites with the resources to edit, insisting on venues where the pursuit of objectivity remains a goal, and cultivating sites that help bring together different subject matter. If we do, the technological transition that we are living through can turn into a positive moment of advance for the media rather than a moment of decline. – CNN, 5-11-09
  • Conservative Historian Andrew Bacevich Warns Against Obama’s Escalation of War in Afghanistan and Intensifying Use of Air Power in Region: Well, I was invited to testify by Senator Kerry and thought it was appropriate for me to accept the invitation. I have been deeply disappointed by the direction of US policy in AfPak, as the Obama administration chooses to call it, ever since President Obama was inaugurated. I know, as do others, that when he was running for the office, he promised to reorient the US military effort from Iraq to Afghanistan. I had hoped that that was simply campaign talk to protect himself from the charge of being weak on national security. And therefore, I regret that it turns out that he’s serious on doubling down in Afghanistan and expanding US military efforts in Pakistan. I think both of those are mistaken…. – Democracy Now, 5-11-09
  • Robert Dallek “Obama Faces Mounting Challenges in His Next 100 Days With Iraq, Afghanistan, and the struggling economy, Obama is just getting started”: “He comes across as self-confident but not arrogant,” says historian Robert Dallek. “It reminds me of what Oliver Wendell Holmes said about Franklin Roosevelt—that he had a first-class temperament but a second-class intellect. Only with Obama, you have both a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect.” But Dallek adds that those personal traits will take him only so far. “The economy has to start coming back,” he says. “Patience will only last so long.” US News & World Report, 5-5-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Grateful Dead on health care”: All the stars seem to have aligned for the passage of national health care reform. Victory, supporters say, is inevitable. During the past week, two important developments excited health care proponents. First, President Obama and Senate Democrats included reconciliation instructions in the budget for health care. If a deal is not reached by October, congressional Democrats can use a process that prohibits a filibuster and allows passage of the bill with 51 rather than 60 votes in the Senate. And even if opponents of the bill attempted to stage a filibuster, the switch of Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party, combined with the likely victory of Al Franken as a senator from Minnesota, would provide Democrats with 60 votes to fight it off. Yet, as the Grateful Dead sang in one of their most famous songs, “When life looks like Easy Street, there is danger at your door.”…
    But some of the older pitfalls remain. The administration and congressional Democrats need to reach an agreement sooner rather than later about how these benefits will be financed, or they will be bogged down by the same kinds of internal conflicts over taxes. Once they have a plan in place, Democrats also need to think of an effective way to package it to the public in order to counteract attacks from Republicans who may characterize it as socialized medicine. If Democrats are able to achieve national health care reform, they will go into the 2010 and 2012 election with a major, concrete political achievement. If they fail, as Clinton’s experience reminds us, they might give Republicans the kind of issue that they have been looking for to recover from 2008. – CNN, 5-4-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Measuring Obama by FDR’s yardstick If the first 100 days mean anything, the president is looking a lot like Franklin Roosevelt. But recent history shows a lot can change after the early days of a presidency”: “He’s not a revolutionary; he’s a liberal,” said historian Allan Lichtman of American University. “Obama’s made big changes, but within the normal liberal-conservative arc. Yes, the pendulum has swung, but it’s swung from mainstream conservatism to mainstream liberalism.” One more thing, Lichtman noted: Obama is a fox, not a hedgehog. The phrase comes from British philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who quoted an ancient Greek poet: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing.”… – LAT, 4-21-09
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March 8, 2009: Obama Focuses on the Economy, Budget Debate Dominates, but Afghanistan Looms

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

President Obama at the Graduation of the Columbus Police Division’s 114th Class

President Obama at the Graduation of the Columbus Police Division’s 114th Class

White House photo 3/6/09 by Pete Souza

Jobs in Ohio

Today the President went to Ohio for the Graduation of the Columbus Police Division’s 114th Class. The bad economic numbers are more than statistics there, but the recovery act did bring some good news.

Learn More

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Poll: Obama’s rating at all-time high NBC/WSJ poll shows gap between popularity of president and his policies: 68 percent have a favorable opinion of the president, including 47 percent whose opinion is “very positive” — both all-time highs for Obama in the poll.
    67 percent say they feel more hopeful about his leadership and 60 percent approve of his job in the White House.
    Yet the percentage of Americans who are confident that Obama has the right goals and policies for the country — 54 percent — is slightly smaller, suggesting that the president is more popular than his policies are. An example: 57 percent tend to support the stimulus, compared with 34 percent who tend to oppose it. – MSNBC, 3-7-09
  • FOX News Poll: Obama Believes in Bigger Government: Despite the president’s claim that he doesn’t believe in bigger government, a new poll shows there is widespread belief among Americans that he does.
    President Obama’s job approval rating stands at 63 percent, with 26 percent saying they disapprove.
    92 percent of Democrats say they approve — more than three times as many as the 30 percent of Republicans who give Obama the thumbs up. Among independents, 61 percent approve.
    Just over half of Americans — 52 percent — think so far Obama is meeting expectations and 14 percent say he is actually exceeding expectations. – Fox News, 3-5-09
  • FACT CHECK: Obama ‘tax hikes’ a matter of words: President Barack Obama says he would lower taxes on 95 percent of Americans now and raise them on the rich in 2011. Republicans say he will increase taxes for all and in the midst of a recession to boot. So who’s right? Yes, all Americans would pay more under the president’s policies. His own aides concede that. But no, Obama would not raise taxes in the midst of a recession, as long as his economic assumptions bear out. – AP, 3-7-09

President Barack Obama and White House Domestic Advisor Melody Barnes listen as firefighter Travis Ulerick of Dublin, Ind., addresses the White House Forum on Health Reform, Thursday, March 5, 2009, in the East Room at the White House.

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of the Taliban: President Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq. – NYT, 3-8-09
  • Analysis: Obama’s ambitious plans raise questions: President Barack Obama offered his domestic-policy proposals as a “break from a troubled past.” But the economic outlook now is more troubled than it was even in January, despite Obama’s bold rhetoric and commitment of more trillions of dollars. – AP, 3-7-09
  • When economy bottoms out, how will we know?: When will this wretched economy bottom out? The recession is already in its 15th month, making it longer than all but two downturns since World War II. For now, everything seems to be getting worse: The Dow is in free fall, jobs are vanishing every day, and one in eight American homeowners is in foreclosure or behind on payments. But the economy always recovers. It runs in cycles, and economists are watching an array of statistics, some of them buried deep beneath the headlines, to spot the turning point. The Associated Press examined three markets — housing, jobs and stocks — and asked experts where things stand and how to know when they’ve hit bottom. None of them expects it to come anytime soon. – AP, 3-7-09
  • Obama Turkey visit to focus on Iraq, Afghanistan: For one of his first foreign visits, President Barack Obama will call on NATO ally Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country viewed as critical to aiding the U.S. pullout from Iraq, turning around the Afghanistan war and blocking Iran’s nuclear ambitions. – AP, 3-7-09
  • Obama on stimulus: ‘I know we did the right thing’: While aknowledging an “astounding” number of job losses in February, President Barack Obama told critics of his $787 billion economic recovery plan Friday that it is saving jobs and said, “I know we did the right thing.” He suggested that critics talk to 25 police recruits in Ohio’s capital city who owe their jobs to stimulus spending and “talk to the teachers who are still able to teach our children because we passed this plan.” – AP, 3-6-09
  • Source: Obama to reverse limits on stem cell work: Reversing an eight-year-old limit on potentially life-saving science, President Barack Obama plans to lift restrictions Monday on taxpayer-funded research using embryonic stem cells. The long-promised move will allow a rush of research aimed at one day better treating, if not curing, ailments from diabetes to paralysis — research that crosses partisan lines, backed by such notables as Nancy Reagan and the late Christopher Reeve. But it stirs intense controversy over whether government crosses a moral line with such research. – AP, 3-6-09
  • Government-run plan could trip up health overhaul: Giving Americans the option of buying medical coverage through the government — an idea put forth by President Barack Obama — is a potential deal breaker for some Republicans and insurance companies whose support would ease the way for a health care overhaul. The proposal, which Obama advocated in his presidential campaign, would for the first time offer government-sponsored coverage to middle class families, as an alternative to private health plans. By some estimates, it could reduce premiums by 20 percent or more — making it much more affordable to cover the estimated 48 million people who don’t have health coverage…. – AP, 3-6-09
  • Fight Brewing Within GOP Over Soul, Future of Party: This week’s dustup between GOP chief Michael Steele and influential radio host Rush Limbaugh underscored the struggle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. – Fox News, 3-6-09
  • Dean under consideration for surgeon general: report: Former Vermont governor Howard Dean was under consideration by the Obama administration for U.S. surgeon general, CNN reported on Friday, but a source said he was not interested in the post. – Reuters, 3-6-09
  • Congressman Labels Obama ‘Abortion President’ Ahead of Stem Cell Reversal: Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., accused Obama of launching two attacks on pro-life measures. – Fox News, 3-6-09
  • Democrats blast Limbaugh for comment on Kennedy: A Democratic official rebuked conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh on Friday for suggesting a health care proposal will be named in memory of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer. On his radio show, Limbaugh said President Barack Obama’s proposed health care revisions will be championed by “the liberal lion Teddy Kennedy.” – AP, 3-6-09
  • Top Dems adjust to life in Obama’s shadow Pelosi and Reid balance executive priorities with legislative powers: As the party’s highest-ranking elected officials, they used their congressional majorities to thwart key elements of Bush’s agenda. Now with Obama the Democrats’ unquestioned leader, Reid and Pelosi play less visible and more intermediary parts…. – MSNBC, 3-6-09
  • CIA destroyed 12 harsh interrogation tapes: The CIA destroyed a dozen videotapes of harsh interrogations of terror suspects, according to documents filed Friday in a lawsuit over the government’s treatment of detainees. The 12 tapes were part of a larger collection of 92 videotapes of terror suspects that the CIA destroyed. The extent of the tape destruction was disclosed through a suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the government. – AP, 3-6-09
  • Gupta withdraws from surgeon general search: CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta won’t be the next surgeon general, the Obama administration confirmed Thursday. Gupta, 39, a neurosurgeon with star appeal, was seen as President Barack Obama’s first pick for the job. He would have brought instant recognition to the office of surgeon general, a post that has lacked visibility since the days of C. Everett Koop during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. – AP, 3-5-09
  • Obama: Every voice must be heard on health reform: President Barack Obama pumped health care allies and skeptics alike for ways to overhaul the nation’s costly and frustrating system Thursday and heard only applause and agreement when he told them there’s “a clear consensus that the need for health care reform is here and now.” – AP, 3-5-09
  • Congress passes stopgap bill to avoid shutdown: With a $410 billion catchall spending bill stalled in the Senate and a midnight deadline looming, Congress rushed through stopgap legislation Friday to keep the government running for another five days. The House passed the bill by a 328-50 vote; the Senate acted by unanimous voice vote. President Barack Obama will sign the measure later Friday. The stopgap measure was needed because on Thursday night, Senate Republicans unexpectedly put the brakes on the sweeping measure. The so-called omnibus bill would award domestic agencies with big spending increases and it also contains about 8,000 pet projects sought by lawmakers. – AP, 3-5-09
  • Treasury secretary’s choice for deputy withdraws: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is two steps further away from filling the ranks of his senior staff. As markets quake and Treasury confronts the worst economic crisis in decades, Geithner has seen two people he had hoped to name to key posts withdraw from consideration. – AP, 3-5-09
  • Senate preparing huge spending bill for Obama: Senate leaders hoped Thursday to clear for President Barack Obama a huge spending bill that awards big increases to domestic programs and is stuffed with pet projects sought by lawmakers in both parties. The $410 billion spending bill, spanning 1,122 pages, has an extraordinary reach, wrapping nine spending bills together to fund the annual operating budgets of every Cabinet department except for Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs. – AP, 3-5-09
  • White House Health Care Summit: The wrap up session: President Obama entered the room with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who said said he looked forward to being a “foot soldier” in the push for health care reform and “this time we will not fail.” – NYT, 3-5-09
  • Clinton accuses Iran of seeking to intimidate: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton swiped hard at Iran on Wednesday, accusing its hardline leaders of fomenting divisions in the Arab world, promoting terrorism, posing threats to Israel and Europe, and seeking to “intimidate as far as they think their voice can reach.” – AP, 3-4-09
  • Key Democrats oppose Obama’s tax deduction plan: President Barack Obama’s proposal to limit itemized tax deductions for high earners is running into opposition from key Democrats in Congress who worry that charities and the housing market would be hurt. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus questioned Wednesday whether the proposal was viable, a day after his House counterpart also expressed reservations. – AP, 3-4-09
  • Obama takes aim at costly defense contracts: President Barack Obama said on Wednesday the U.S. government was paying too much for things it did not need and ordered a crackdown on spending “plagued by massive cost overruns and outright fraud.” – AP, 3-4-09
  • Senate votes to preserve earmarks in spending bill: The Senate has approved 13 pet spending projects sought by a lobbying firm accused of funneling illegal campaign contributions to lawmakers. Senators voted 52-43 to preserve the so-called earmarks in a 1,000-page- plus catchall spending bill even though they were sought by the PMA Group, a lobbying firm that closed up shop after being raided by the FBI last year. They included money for high-tech firms and colleges in Pennsylvania. – AP, 3-4-09
  • Obama’s plan to hike taxes meets fierce opposition: President Barack Obama’s call to raise taxes on high earners and greenhouse gas polluters met fierce opposition Tuesday from congressional Republicans and also a few Democrats. “I would never want to adversely affect anything that is charitable or good,” Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said of Obama’s call to limit high-income taxpayers’ itemized deductions for charitable donations and mortgage interest. – AP, 3-3-09
  • Trade nominee is 4th Obama pick to owe back taxes: Another Obama administration nominee has tax troubles. This time, it’s Ron Kirk, the president’s choice to be U.S. trade representative. Kirk owes an estimated $10,000 in back taxes from earlier in the decade and has agreed to pay them, the Senate Finance Committee said Monday. AP, 3-3-09
  • Obama pushes centers as one focus of health reform: President Barack Obama has been vague about details of his healthcare reform efforts, but he provided a hint on Monday of one direction he could take — community health centers. – Reuters, 3-3-09
  • Economic gloom shrouds Obama talks with Brown: A pall of economic gloom Tuesday hung over President Barack Obama’s talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who came armed with a plan for huge reforms of the reeling global finance system. – AFP, 3-3-09
  • Clinton vows to work for creation of Palestinian state: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed her “aggressive” Middle East diplomacy on Tuesday, saying she was sending two envoys to Syria and vowing to work towards a Palestinian state. – AFP, 3-3-09
  • US: ‘Inescapable’ movement to Palestinian state: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised Tuesday to work with the incoming Israeli government, but delivered a clear message that could put her at odds with the country’s next leader: Movement toward the establishment of a Palestinian state is “inescapable.” – AP, 3-2-09
  • Obama lifts veil on Bush-era terror methods: President Barack Obama’s administration lifted the veil further Monday on past “war on terror” tactics, releasing Bush-era legal memos and revealing the CIA destroyed 92 controversial interrogation videos. Hours after Attorney General Eric Holder ruled out the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique — because it amounted to torture — his Justice Department released nine internal documents from the previous administration, which had given legal grounding to the controversial policies….. – AP, 3-2-09
  • Extraordinary Measures A new memo shows just how far the Bush administration considered going in fighting the war on terror: In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Justice Department secretly gave the green light for the U.S. military to attack apartment buildings and office complexes inside the United States, deploy high-tech surveillance against U.S. citizens and potentially suspend First Amendment freedom-of-the-press rights in order to combat the terror threat, according to a memo released Monday. Many of the actions discussed in the Oct. 23, 2001, memo to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s chief lawyer, William Haynes, were never actually taken. – Newsweek, 3-2-09
  • Web-Savvy Obama Team Hits Unexpected Bumps Washington Post: Issues Of Technology, Security And Privacy Slow The Administration’s Effort To Foster Instant Communication: The team that ran the most technologically advanced presidential campaign in modern history is finding it difficult to adapt that model to government. WhiteHouse.gov, envisioned as the primary vehicle for President Obama to communicate with the online masses, has been overwhelmed by challenges that staffers did not foresee and technological problems they have yet to solve. – CBS News, 3-2-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama spoke at a White House conference on health care.

Political Quotes

  • Sen. Richard Shelby “Some banks should be allowed to fail, say two top Republicans”: “Close them down, get them out of business. If they’re dead, they ought to be buried,” Sen. Richard Shelby, the Ranking Republican on the banking committee, told ABC’s This Week. “We bury the small banks — we’ve got to bury some big ones, and send a strong message to the market.” He did not mention any banks by name, although he responded to a question about Citigroup by noting that “Citi’s always been a problem child.” – CNN, 3-8-09
  • Sen. John McCain “Some banks should be allowed to fail, say two top Republicans”: Former GOP presidential candidate John McCain told Fox News Sunday that he did not think President Obama “made the hard decision, and that is to let these banks fail.” He did not call for nationalization of troubled financial institutions, which many Republicans oppose, but said their assets should be sold. “Unfortunately, the shareholders and others will take a beating,” he said. – CNN, 3-8-09
  • Eric Cantor: White House spending stance has ‘no credibility’: The Virginia Republican said on State of the Union Sunday that the White House’s contention that the legislative process was too far along to change course was completely inaccurate. “Let’s call it how it is. First of all, if you make a promise, people expect that you live up to it. And that’s why this administration’s refusal to go in and change this bill is, I think, is a false position.
    “There is no way anyone could take what Mr. Orszag has said with any credibility. Of course they’re negotiating on this bill in the Senate right now. To say that we would have drawn it differently, but leave $430 billion plus on the table like this? No way. People are expecting this administration to live up to the promises made.”
    “There is no question that we’ve got to change this entire process, it is a system gone bad,” he said.
    “Listen, the future of the Republican Party is tied to the future of this country. People right now are desperate for leadership, are desperate for us in this party as well as the other to begin talking about ideas that deal with the relevant challenges that they’re facing every single day,” he said.
    “And it is not about individuals, it’s not about Rush, it’s not about Rahm Emanuel, it’s not about any particular individual… if we do not begin to start acting more like adults in this town and produce so that people can get back to work, all of us are very concerned with where this country will end up.” – CNN, 3-8-09
  • Remarks of President Barack Obama, Weekly Address, Saturday, March 7, 2009, Washington, DC – WH Blog, 3-7-09, Mp3
  • Obama: Time of crisis can be ‘great opportunity’: “We will get through this,” Obama said in his weekly radio and video address, taped Friday after another week of downbeat news. “We’ve experienced great trials before, And with every test, each generation has found the capacity to not only endure, but to prosper — to discover great opportunity in the midst of great crisis. That is what we can and must do today. And I am absolutely confident that is what we will do.”….
    “What I don’t think people should do is suddenly stuff money in their mattresses and pull back completely from spending,” Obama told the newspaper in an interview posted on its Web site Saturday. “I don’t think that people should be fearful about our future. I don’t think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions because the overwhelming majority of them actually have managed things reasonably well.”….
    “From the day I took office, I knew that solving this crisis would not be easy, nor would it happen overnight,” Obama said in the weekly address. “And we will continue to face difficult days in the months ahead. But I also believe that we will get through this — that if we act swiftly and boldly and responsibly, the United States of America will emerge stronger and more prosperous than it was before.” – AP, 3-7-09
  • Obama: US should reach out to Taliban moderates: “But you’ve seen conditions deteriorate over the last couple of years. The Taliban is bolder than it was. I think … in the southern regions of the country, you’re seeing them attack in ways that we have not seen previously.”… “The national government still has not gained the confidence of the Afghan people. And so it’s going to be critical for us to not only, get through these national elections to stabilize the security situation, but we’ve got to recast our policy so that our military, diplomatic and development goals are all aligned to ensure that al-Qaida and extremists that would do us harm don’t have the kinds of safe havens that allow them to operate.”… “If you talk to Gen. Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us.”…. “There could be situations — and I emphasize ‘could be’ because we haven’t made a determination yet — where, let’s say that we have a well-known al-Qaida operative that doesn’t surface very often, appears in a third country with whom we don’t have an extradition relationship or would not be willing to prosecute, but we think is a very dangerous person.” – AP, 3-7-09
  • Sen. McCain: ‘Generational Theft’ Being Committed With Big Government Spending: Well, it is impossible for anyone to predict the market, but I think two things. One, America will come out of this. We will. There is no doubt about it. There have been worse times, not many, and this is a terrible time, but we will come out of it, but I think the market might be reacting because they have not confidence yet that the Obama administration is taking the necessary steps to cure the housing market and to bring about an economic recovery. They do not have confidence that the government is taking sufficient steps early enough that they are sort of playing catch-up.
    I think two things. One is that these steps have not been taken early enough. They always seem to be reacting to circumstances rather than anticipating. The second thing is that we are laying a debt on future generations of Americans, which is unconscionable. We are committing generational theft when we just keep spending hundreds of billions and even trillions of dollars at a time.
    We will continue to fight. There are 9,000 earmarks in it. Incredibly, the president and his chief of staff and director of his budget of OMD have both said this is last year’s business. It is this year’s business. It is this is this year’s spending, this year’s debt and this year’s pork barrel projects which breeds corruption, and we have former members of Congress convicted, in prison, and it is all because to a large degree — because of this earmark, pork barrel spending, which is – just, I cannot describe to you have a terrible it is, and the American people are tightening their belts and having to make tough decisions. Meanwhile, it is business as usual here in the Congress. $2 million for astronomy awareness in Hawaii.
    I think a lot of them are, but there are appropriators, Republicans, a number of them, who are on the Appropriations Committee, who consistently vote against our efforts to curtail this outrageous spending, and again I want to point out the reason we did not have a bill last year is that the Democrats would not pass these bills last year. They wanted to wait until this year so they could get a better deal, and this bill is eight percent more spending than we did last year in the toughest of times, and there are 9,000 pork barrel projects on it. It is as bad as anything as I have seen around here, given the economy of the country….
    Well, the president said he wants to work on reform. It is long overdue. We need to work on reform, and he will face some of the greatest resistance from his own party, who have said, majority leader and Congressman Steny Hoyer’s said, “We are not going to change. It is our prerogative.”….
    Forty percent Republican earmarks. Republicans let’s spending get completely out of control. We paid a very heavy penalty for it in the last election because we did not stick to our principles.
    I think you are going to see a real revolt out there on the part of the voters. We are seeing an increase in the independent voter registration. Americans are very fed up. Look at new low approval ratings for Congress. We either act or they are going to elect people who will act responsibly.

    If we keep this up, two things, I think, are going to happen. At some point the Chinese may stop buying our debt. The second thing that’s going to happen, if we keep printing money, trillions of dollars worth that we don’t have, then it is going to cause hyperinflation. And that inflation is the greatest enemy of the middle-income Americans, because they are on a fixed income. And it has happened in the past. It would not be the first time that governments got into such deep debt that they printed more money, and the currency was debased. I worry a great deal about it when we are laying these multi- trillion dollar debts on future generations of Americans. – Fox News, 3-5-09

  • Karl Rove: Obama, not Bush, is to blame for the financial crisis: “It makes them look small and churlish. And hastens the moment in which people say, you know what, it is your problem. And frankly, it is their problem in many respects…. he president and every Democrat worth his or her salt were out today saying the old guy’s numbers, the old guy’s job losses, the old guy’s recession. When will it be their recession?” – Dallas Morning News, 3-6-09
  • Barack Obama “Rebuilding America, town by town”: This city of Columbus needs the courage and the commitment of this graduating class to keep it safe, to make sure that people have the protection that they need. This economy needs your employment to keep it running. Just this morning we learned that we lost another 651,000 jobs throughout the country in the month of February alone, which brings the total number of jobs lost in this recession to an astounding 4.4 million.
    Four point four million jobs. I don’t need to tell the people of this state what statistics like this mean, because so many of you have been watching jobs disappear long before this recession hit….
    In Savannah, Georgia, the police department would use this funding to hire more crime and intelligence analysts and put more cops on the beat protecting our schools. In Long Beach, California, it will be able to help fund 17,000 hours of overtime for law enforcement officials who are needed in high-crime areas. West Haven, Connecticut will be able to restore crime prevention programs that were cut, even though they improved the quality of life in the city’s most troubled neighborhoods. And the state of Iowa will be able to rehire drug enforcement….
    So for those who still doubt the wisdom of our recovery plan, I ask them to talk to the teachers who are still able to teach our children because we passed this plan. I ask them to talk to the nurses who are still able to care for our sick, and the firefighters and first responders who will still be able to keep our communities safe. I ask them to come to Ohio and meet the 25 men and women who will soon be protecting the streets of Columbus because we passed this plan. (Applause.) I look at these young men and women, I look into their eyes and I see their badges today and I know we did the right thing. – WH Blog, 3-7-09
  • Obama orders overhaul of ‘broken’ US contracting: “Far too often, the spending is plagued by massive cost overruns, outright fraud, and the absence of oversight and accountability…. It starts with reforming our broken system of government contracting. There is a fundamental public trust that we must uphold. The American people’s money must be spent to advance their priorities, not to line the pockets of contractors or to maintain projects that don’t work.” – AP, 3-4-09
  • Britain PM Gordon Brown: US must lead on economy, climate change: “We should seize this moment because never before have I seen a world willing to come together so much, never before has that been more needed.”… Brown pushed lawmakers to embrace his “global New Deal” plan for overhauling the rules of international finance and share the wealth of a world economy he promised would double over the next 20 years. President Barack Obama’s historic election has given “the whole world renewed hope in itself,” he said, adding that “now more than ever the rest of the world wants to work with you” including “your friend Europe.”… “Should we succumb to a race to the bottom and to a protectionism that history tells us that in the end protects no one? No.”… “I believe you, the nation that had the vision to put a man on the moon, are also the nation with a vision to protect and preserve our planet Earth.”… “Our shared message to Iran, it is simple: We are ready for you to rejoin the international community, but first you must cease your threats and suspend your nuclear programs.”… AFP, 3-4-09
  • REMARKS BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AND BRITISH PRIME MINISTER GORDON BROWN AFTER MEETING: “Where are the Brits? They’re over there,” President Obama said, playfully, during a press Q&A following a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
    “In fact, they’re everywhere,” Prime Minister Brown replied. And in that spirit of Anglo-American equity, the President and Prime Minister took questions from reporters from both sides of the pond.
    “I think that there are a set of shared values and shared assumptions between us,” President Obama said said during a meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. “That we believe in the free market, we believe in a government that is not overbearing and allows entrepreneurs and businesses to thrive, but we also share a common belief that there have to be sufficient regulatory structures in place so that the market doesn’t spin out of control.” – WH Blog, 3-3-09
  • President Obama to PBS’ “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” in an interview “Analysis: Obama embracing crisis as opportunity”: “I think that we are at an extraordinary moment that is full of peril but full of possibility, and I think that’s the time you want to be president,” Obama told PBS’ “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” in an interview Friday. “I think there’s a sense that right now we are having to make some very big decisions that will help determine the direction of this country, and in ways large and small the direction of the world for the next generation. “And I won’t lie to you. I wish that they weren’t all having to be made at once. It would nice to be able to stage them on one another,” Obama added. – AP, 3-2-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

President Obama at the Graduation of the Columbus Police Division’s 114th Class

White House photo 3/6/09 by Pete Souza

Jobs in Ohio

Today the President went to Ohio for the Graduation of the Columbus Police Division’s 114th Class. The bad economic numbers are more than statistics there, but the recovery act did bring some good news.

Learn More

President Barack Obama and White House Domestic Advisor Melody Barnes listen as firefighter Travis Ulerick of Dublin, Ind., addresses the White House Forum on Health Reform, Thursday, March 5, 2009, in the East Room at the White House.

White House photo 3/5/09 by Pete Souza

White House Forum on Health Reform

The forum was a major step in the monumental, transparent, imperative process to reform America’s health care system.

HealthReform.gov
Follow the live-blog

Contracting Reform

Historians’ Comments

  • Bruce Buchanan “Obama taking big political risk with budget”: “What you’ve got is a context that makes a very ambitious budget strategy possible in a way that wouldn’t be possible in times we would call normal,” said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas. “This is a rare moment.” – San Francisco Chronicle, 3-8-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama taking big political risk with budget”: As it is, taking on health care, global warming and a major increase in spending on education and social programs all at once is “a huge political risk,” said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University. “In 2004, we forget, Bush looked as strong as any president,” Zelizer said, until he took on just one issue, Social Security, and failed. – San Francisco Chronicle, 3-8-09
  • Bruce Schulman “Obama taking big political risk with budget”: By reaching so high, Obama’s fortunes rest on the economy. “If the economy recovers and there’s prosperity in 2011, he’ll beat any Republican,” said Boston University historian Bruce Schulman. “If not, many, many Republicans could beat him.” – San Francisco Chronicle, 3-8-09
  • David Frum “Why Rush is Wrong”: The party of Buckley and Reagan is now bereft and dominated by the politics of Limbaugh. A conservative’s lament. – Newsweek, 3-7-09
  • Robert Dallek “Will Obama Be a President Defined by War?”: It’s the unfinished agendas of domestic reformers that have lately been on the minds of presidential historians like Robert Dallek. Dallek has in recent months become a Cassandra about Obama’s plans for reform, prophesying the potential undoing of Obama’s domestic agenda by affairs abroad. He tends to reference the foreboding historical adage, “war kills reform.”… “If Obama gets drawn too deeply into Afghanistan it can be very destructive to his reform agenda,” Dallek said. – Real Clear Politics, 3-2-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Will Obama Be a President Defined by War?”: “American history teaches us that the world has a way of unexpectedly catching a president’s attention and priority,” said Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University. “Not only do presidents have limited power to control the economy but limited power to predict the economy,” Lichtman said. – Real Clear Politics, 3-2-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Will Obama use ‘Facebook politics’?”: The battle over the federal budget is about to begin. President Obama has laid out an ambitious agenda…. As the president pushes for Congress to enact his budget, he is unlikely to receive much Republican support. The vote over the first economic stimulus bill revealed that partisanship is alive and well in Washington. In addition, the budget proposal will open the president up to the familiar Republican attack of being a tax-and- spend liberal. Obama should not underestimate how effective such criticism can be. He can just ask Bill Clinton, who saw Republicans take over Congress in 1994 following the defeat of his health care proposal….
    Using what might be called “Facebook politics,” the netroots could raise money to campaign against opponents of Obama’s budget proposals. They might also encourage volunteers to explain and promote Obama’s policies to their neighbors. They could also provide a forum to counteract Republican attacks, and remind senators of the kind of voter turnout they might encounter in the midterm elections if they decide to stand in the way of Obama’s program. Of course, Republicans could counter with their own Web-based politics, but so far they have lagged behind the Democrats. When Obama proposed the economic stimulus legislation in January, he didn’t really use Facebook politics and instead relied on an inside-the-beltway approach. He let legislators hammer out the details without heavy-handed presidential intervention….
    If Obama can show that Facebook politics is as organizationally strong as the party politics of yesteryear, then he would on to something big. Not only would the president be able to tap into a powerful political army that could pressure legislators into supporting his agenda, but he very well could introduce a new paradigm for governance, one that would remain a model for future presidents. On the other hand, when he calls on the netroots to support him against those pesky senators, he might learn that many of his virtual supporters have already clicked onto another page. – CNN, 3-2-09
  • Leo Ribuffo “Analysis: Obama embracing crisis as opportunity”: “Whenever there’s a crisis in American life, whoever is in charge has used it for a backlogged agenda,” said Leo Ribuffo, a history professor at George Washington University. “This is what leaders are supposed to do: take advantage of the situation to do what they think is good for the country.” – AP, 3-2-09
  • Robert Dallek “The First 100 Days: Lyndon Johnson Fulfilled Kennedy’s Legacy Johnson wanted to assure the country that he would carryout the policies of his predecessor”: “By contrast with Mr. Obama, Johnson had no mandate to govern except for being vice president. No one expected a Southern politician to suddenly replace the youngest man ever elected to the White House. . . . Johnson understood that his greatest initial challenge was to provide reassurance—to convince not just Americans but people around the world, who looked to the United States for leadership in the cold war, that he could measure up to the standard JFK had set as an effective president at home and abroad.” – US News & World Report, 3-5-09

January 30, 2009: President Obama’s First Week in Office

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

IN FOCUS: STATS

Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama in the Oval Office on Wednesday. More Photos >

In Focus: Stats

  • The Gallup Organization survey: 68 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s performance as the nation’s chief executive. – AP, 1-25-09
  • What History Foretells for Obama’s First Job Approval Rating: Barack Obama can expect to receive a rating above 50% when Gallup reports his first job approval rating this weekend. All elected presidents since Dwight Eisenhower began their terms in office with approval ratings above 50%, generally low disapproval ratings, and high “no opinion” levels. – Gallop.com, 1-22-09

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act

The Headlines…

  • After Jabs at Cheney, Biden Pursues an Activist Role: Vice President Follows Initial Gaffes by Diving Into Wide Range of Issues; Drawing Contrasts With Predecessor Vice President Joe Biden, in a bid to become an influential second-in-command, is striving to carve out meaty roles for himself quickly. – WSJ, 1-30-09
  • Obama Signs Equal-Pay Legislation: President Obama signed his first bill into law on Thursday, approving equal-pay legislation that he said would “send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody.” – NYT, 1-29-09
  • Obama’s busy, bold first 10 days in office could rival Roosevelt’s pace: Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt passed 15 major bills in three months during his first term as president in the early 1930s, American presidents have been judged by their first 100 days in the Oval Office. – Canadian Press, 1-29-09
  • Republicans take a back seat: Lacking strong leadership and the political capital to oppose a popular president, the fractured GOP can only agree on one thing: This really isn’t their moment. As Republicans fight President Obama’s gargantuan economic plan, they have plenty of ideas. What they don’t have is a party-wide consensus: They can’t agree among themselves on the best alternative, or on whether government action is even needed to pull the economy from its nose dive. – LAT, 1-29-09
  • House OKs $819B stimulus bill with GOP opposition: In a swift victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge $819 billion stimulus bill Wednesday night with spending increases and tax cuts at the heart of the young administration’s plan to revive a badly ailing economy. The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obama’s frequent pleas for bipartisan support. – AP, 1-28-09

President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act

Lilly Ledbetter hero

With the new law’s namesake, Lilly Ledbetter,
at his side, President Obama signed his first
piece of legislation — a powerful tool to fight
discrimination.

Learn more

President Obama with business leaders

  • White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code: The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat. – NYT, 1-28-09
  • Obama open to compromise on $825B stimulus bill: On the eve of a key vote, President Barack Obama privately promised Republicans he stands ready to accept changes in the $825 billion economic stimulus legislation, invoked Ronald Reagan to rebut conservative critics and urged lawmakers to “put politics aside” in the interest of creating jobs. – AP, 1-27-09
  • Geithner is sworn in as treasury secretary: The nation has a new treasury secretary, and his name is Timothy Geithner. Geithner was quickly sworn in to office Monday night, becoming the nation’s 75th treasury secretary and one of the point men President Barack Obama will be counting on to help pull the country out of its economic slide. – AP, 1-26-09
  • Some global adversaries ready to give Obama chance: Already, there are signs that some of those foes were listening, sensing an opening for improved relations after eight combative years under President George W. Bush. Fidel Castro is said to like the new American leader, and North Korea and Iran both sounded open to new ideas to defuse nuclear-tinged tensions. – NY Daily News, 1-25-09
  • Democrats: Stimulus plan no quick fix for economy: The White House warned Sunday that the country could face a long and painful financial recovery, even with major government intervention to stimulate the economy and save financial institutions. “We’re off and running, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Vice President Joe Biden. – AP, 1-25-09
  • Obama breaks from Bush, avoids divisive stands: Barack Obama opened his presidency by breaking sharply from George W. Bush’s unpopular administration, but he mostly avoided divisive partisan and ideological stands. He focused instead on fixing the economy, repairing a battered world image and cleaning up government. – AP, 1-25-09
  • Pro-gun US Senate pick makes some NY pols unhappy: …Even before the governor took the podium Friday to introduce little-known upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand as his pick, a Long Island congresswoman elected on a pledge to stem gun violence was telling reporters she would either challenge Gillibrand in the Democratic primary next year or find someone who would. – AP, 1-24-09
  • Obama reverses Bush abortion-funds policy: President Barack Obama on Friday struck down the Bush administration’s ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information — an inflammatory policy that has bounced in and out of law for the past quarter-century. – AP, 1-24-09
  • In Selection Mess, Paterson Dug Hole Deeper: When Gov. David A. Paterson began consulting with his aides about picking a replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton, they had one overriding message: First do no harm to yourself…. NYT, 1-23-09
  • Senate OKs several Obama nominees, waits on others: It’s nine down, six to go to fill President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. Yet, for all of the progress, his picks for attorney general and deputy defense secretary remain mired in questions over interrogation methods and ethics. – AP, 1-23-09
  • Clinton promises to bolster foreign aid programs: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised on Friday to strengthen U.S. foreign aid and development programs and told workers at the agency supervising those efforts they would be an equal partner in diplomacy. – Reuters, 1-23-09
  • Republicans agree stimulus to pass in February: U.S. congressional Republicans predicted on Friday that legislation to boost the sagging economy would pass by mid-February, but pressed President Barack Obama to support more tax cuts in the plan. – Reuters, 1-23-09
  • President Obama swiftly sets course on Day One: President Obama signed his first executive order today, concerning ethics within the executive office, accompanied by Vice President Biden. – Los Angeles Times, 1-22-09
  • On Day One, Obama Sets a New Tone: President Obama moved swiftly on Wednesday to impose new rules on government transparency and ethics, using his first full day in office to freeze the salaries of his senior aides, mandate new limits on lobbyists and demand that the government disclose more information. – NYT, 1-22-09
  • Senate panel approves Geithner for treasury post: The Senate Finance Committee has cleared the nomination of Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary despite unhappiness over his mistakes in paying his taxes. The committee approved the nomination on an 18-5 vote, sending it to the full Senate. President Barack Obama is hoping for quick approval so that the point man for the administration’s economic rescue effort can begin work. – AP, 1-22-09
  • Caroline Kennedy Drops Bid for Open Senate Seat: Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of a former president who whipped up excitement and controversy during her campaign for the New York Senate seat, withdrew from consideration Wednesday night… – WSJ, 1-22-09
  • Kennedy associate says decision was personal issue: Caroline Kennedy withdrew her Senate bid because of a personal matter unrelated to her ill uncle, rejecting the governor’s attempt to get her to reconsider, a person who worked closely with her said Thursday. Kennedy discussed withdrawing from the race with Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday, and Paterson asked her to reconsider for 24 hours, the person said. – AP, 1-22-09
  • Secretary of State Clinton Arrives at Foggy Bottom: Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived for her first day of work at the State Department Thursday, assuming the mantle of the nation’s chief diplomat and preparing to name a pair of renowned diplomats to serve as special emissaries to the Middle East and South Asia. – NYT, 1-22-09
  • President Obama retakes oath of office: In an effort to keep things on the up-and-up and ensure there was no debate, President Obama retook the oath Wednesday night, after he and Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed it earlier…. And that’s exactly what happened at 7:35 p.m. Wednesday night in the White House’s Map Room. When Roberts asked if Obama – who took this second oath sans Bible – was ready, the President reportedly replied: “I am, and we’re going to do it very slowly.”… – NY Daily News, 1-21-09
  • Obama moves to reshape US policy by closing Gitmo: President Barack Obama moved quickly Thursday to reshape U.S. national-security policy, ordering the Guantanamo Bay prison camp closed within a year, forbidding the harshest treatment of terror suspects and naming new envoys to the Middle East and Afghanistan-Pakistan. “We have no time to lose,” he said at the State Department as he welcomed newly confirmed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to help him forge what he called “a new era of American leadership” in the world. – AP, 1-22-09
  • Obama to order Guantanamo closed: President Barack Obama will begin overhauling U.S. national security policy Thursday with orders to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, review military trials of terror suspects and end harsh interrogations, two government officials said. – From A Draft of Obama’s Executive Order to Close Guantanamo: “in view of significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice.” – AP, 1-22-09
  • Obama’s whirlwind first day: economy, war and more: In a first-day whirlwind, President Barack Obama showcased efforts to revive the economy on Wednesday, summoned top military officials to the White House to chart a new course in Iraq and eased into the daunting thicket of Middle East diplomacy. – AP, 1-22-09
  • Senate confirms Clinton as secretary of state: The Senate confirmed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state Wednesday as President Barack Obama moved to make his imprint on U.S. foreign policy, mobilizing a fresh team of veteran advisers and reaching out to world leaders. The Senate voted 94-2, with Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Jim DeMint of South Carolina opposing. – AP, 1-22-09
  • President Obama’s First Day: President Obama reported to work at 8:35 a.m. on Wednesday, walking into the Oval Office for the first time as the nation’s chief executive. He read the note left behind by George W. Bush, which was sitting in a folder on top of the desk, with a note marked “44.” Mr. Obama was in the office alone for a brief time, aides said, starting his day after a late night celebrating and dancing at inaugural balls across Washington. So the new White House is officially opened for business, but it feels more like a start-up than the seat of government. – NYT, 1-21-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act

Lilly Ledbetter hero

With the new law’s namesake, Lilly Ledbetter,
at his side, President Obama signed his first
piece of legislation — a powerful tool to fight
discrimination.

Learn more

President Obama with business leaders

Meeting with business leaders

President Obama met with top business
leaders, and emphasized that most of the
funds in the Recovery Package will go to
create jobs in the private sector.
read the president's remarks

President Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum

From peril to progress

In his first two Presidential Memoranda,
President Obama took two bold steps on
the journey towards energy independence.
read the president's remarks

Weekly Address

Political Quotes

  • On Wednesday morning Obama went off script from the important business of the day and poked fun at local officials for canceling school because of icy conditions, saying: “My 7-year-old pointed out that you’d go outside for recess. You wouldn’t even stay indoors. So, I don’t know. We’re going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town.” Later at the Pentagon he kept it up: “Aren’t you a little surprised that they canceled school for my kids?” – WaPo, 1-29-09
  • President Obama told Al Arabiya in his Interview as President: “My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy….
    Sending George Mitchell to the Middle East is fulfilling my campaign promise that we’re not going to wait until the end of my administration to deal with Palestinian and Israeli peace, we’re going to start now. It may take a long time to do, but we’re going to do it now.” – WH Blog, 1-27-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER MEETING WITH HOUSE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS Ohio Clock Corridor, U.S. Capitol: Hello, everybody. We had a very constructive meeting with the House members, members of the Republican Caucus. I’m a little bit late for my Senate colleagues — former Senate colleagues.
    And the main message I have is that the statistics every day underscore the urgency of the economic situation. The American people expect action. They want us to put together a recovery package that puts people back to work, that creates investments that assure our long-term energy independence, an effective health care system, an education system that works; they want our infrastructure rebuilt, and they want it done wisely, so that we’re not wasting taxpayer money.
    As I explained to the Republican House Caucus, and I’ll explain to my former Senate colleagues, the recovery package that we have proposed and is moving its way through Congress is just one leg in a multi-legged stool. We’re still going to have to have much better financial regulation, we’ve got to get credit flowing again, we’re going to have to deal with the troubled assets that many banks are still carrying and that make the — that have locked up the credit system.
    We’re going to have to coordinate with other countries, because we now have a global problem. I am absolutely confident that we can deal with these issues, but the key right now is to make sure that we keep politics to a minimum. There are some legitimate philosophical differences with parts of my plan that the Republicans have, and I respect that. In some cases they may just not be as familiar with what’s in the package as I would like. I don’t expect a hundred percent agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people’s business right now. All right. – WH Blog, 1-27-09
  • Biden: We’ve Inherited A Real Mess: Face The Nation: VP Says Stimulus Plan Is Off and Running, But U.S. Faces Challenges On Pak-Afghan Front, Closing Gitmo: It is worse, quite frankly, than everyone thought it was, and it’s getting worse every day. There’s been no good news, and there’s no good news on the immediate horizon. The only good news is the president acted swiftly; he’s put together an economic stimulus package that we believe, and outsiders believe, will create 3 million to 4 million new jobs and set a new framework for the economy to develop on, a new foundation. And so we’re off and running, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”I don’t see myself as the ‘deputy president. I see myself as the president’s confidant. Hopefully I can help shape policy with him. … Hopefully I’m the last person in the room with every important decision he makes. Thus far, that’s how it’s worked. The agreement he and I have is that I would be available for every single major decision that he makes, in the room; I’d have all the paper, all the material, all the meetings – and, again, not for me to make decisions [but] for me to give the best advice that I can give. So that’s what I view my role to be: A confidant, an adviser, essentially the last guy in the room when he makes these critical decisions. It is harder now. I’m really happy to be part of a team. But what I have to think about now is, everything I say … reflects directly on the administration. And so I may have strongly-held views that the president may not have. But, yes, the bottom line, it’s harder! – CBS News, Transcript, 1-25-09
  • President Obama delivers Your Weekly Address: In his first weekly address since being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, President Barack Obama discusses how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will jump-start the economy. “This is not just a short-term program to boost employment. It’s one that will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century.” – WH Blog, 1-24-09
  • Clinton vows robust diplomacy as State Dept chief: “I believe with all of my heart that this is a new era for America…. This is going to be a challenging time and it will require 21st century tools and solutions to meet our problems and seize our opportunities. I’m going to be asking a lot of you. I want you to think outside the proverbial box. I want you to give me the best advice you can. I want you to understand there is nothing that I welcome more than a good debate and the kind of dialogue that will make us better. We cannot be our best if we don’t demand that from ourselves and each other…. We are responsible for two of the three legs. And we will make clear as we go forward that diplomacy and development are essential tools in achieving the long-term objectives of the United States…. At the heart of smart power are smart people, and you are those people. And you are the ones that we will count on and turn to for the advice and counsel, the expertise and experience to make good on the promises of this new administration.” – AP, 1-22-09

President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act

Lilly Ledbetter hero

With the new law’s namesake, Lilly Ledbetter,
at his side, President Obama signed his first
piece of legislation — a powerful tool to fight
discrimination.

Learn more

President Obama with business leaders

Meeting with business leaders

President Obama met with top business
leaders, and emphasized that most of the
funds in the Recovery Package will go to
create jobs in the private sector.
read the president's remarks

President Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Allan Lichtman “Analysis: Obama tries to keep political tone civil”: “I cannot remember any president coming in so determined to do all the little things to change the tone in Washington,” American University political scientist Allan Lichtman says. USA Today, 1-29-09
  • Bruce Buchanan “Analysis: Obama tries to keep political tone civil”: “Every one of them tries to set a tone that’s friendlier, more open, more inviting,” says University of Texas presidential historian Bruce Buchanan. “But people get past the kumbaya moments and they start arguing policy. And then the question is whether you can do it civilly.” – USA Today, 1-29-09
  • Julian Zelizer: “Obama’s busy, bold first 10 days in office could rival Roosevelt’s pace”: “It is a bold, aggressive start,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. “Obviously if you pass a bill of this size really within the first month of your presidency, along with five or six others ahead and a number of executive orders, it’s a good start in terms of matching Roosevelt’s pace,” Zelizer said… Zelizer says that Obama’s first days in office are likely setting the tone for his presidency. “Almost every indication suggests this is going to be a very energized and active president,” he said. Canadian Press, 1-29-09
  • Fred Greenstein: “Obama breaks from Bush, avoids divisive stands”: “It’s as if Superman stepped out of a phone booth and became Clark Kent,” said Fred Greenstein, a Princeton University professor emeritus of politics. “He’s beginning to put aside the rhetoric in favor of listing the policies and doing the checklist. He’s not going out of his way to show a lot of flash. It’s much more lets-get-down-to-work.” That said, there’s a limit to what he can immediately accomplish, Greenstein said, and “the really big things can’t be done on Day One, particularly if they are going to be done well.” – AP, 1-25-09
  • Peniel Joseph “Week of Symbolism, History in Washington”: “This is an enormous weight that has been lifted from the nation’s psyche. And it does not mean that racism is over, but the notion that there were still barriers for a black person or a person of color to ascend to the nation’s highest political post is now left behind us,” said Peniel Joseph, a professor of Afro-American studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and a guest on VOA’s Press Conference USA program.
    But Brandeis Professor Peneil Joseph said Mr. Obama’s success depends on his ability to turn around the weakened U.S. economy. “If the economy starts to show real promise in terms of new jobs being created that are connected to the president’s stimulus package, then he will be able to do a lot of what he wants to do in terms of health care, the environment, education and other aspects,” said Joseph. – VOA, 1-23-09
  • Gil Troy “President Obama the Liberal Nationalist”: Shrewdly, pragmatically, constructively, Obama wants to channel this energy into a badly needed sense of communal renewal. His campaign slogan was “Yes We Can,” not “Yes I Can.” He is continuing the initiative he began with his lyrical, extraordinary 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, trying to articulate a vision of liberal American nationalism that works for the 21st century. Obama’s repudiation in 2004 of the “red America” versus “blue America” division, his inaugural celebration of “our patchwork heritage” as a “strength not a weakness,” seeks to forge a new nationalist center that heals America’s wounds, and revives a sense of community…..
    In launching his administration, Obama has demonstrated that he just might govern as he speechifies, creating a “Yes We Can” muscular moderation that advances a substantive agenda in ways millions of Americans in the big, broad, pragmatic center can applaud. And during this hopeful moment, when the Obama presidency has only happy tomorrows ahead and no embarrassing yesterdays – yet – we should all join in hoping that this extraordinary politician can live up to the best of his rhetoric and the heady aspirations people are projecting on him, in the streets of Washington, and throughout the world. – HNN, 1-21-09

Pete Souza/White House, via Bloomberg News

President Obama in a meeting last week in the Oval Office, where his predecessor required a coat and tie at all times.

January 13, 2009: Leading up to the Inauguration & the Bush Legacy

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

IN FOCUS: The Bush Presidency

President Bush met in the Oval Office on Wednesday with President-elect Barack Obama and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. (Photos: Doug Mills/ The New York Times)

In Focus:

  • Bush, issue by issue: A look at the ups and downs of George W. Bush’s presidency on some of the biggest issues of the day – AP, 1-10-09
  • Bush endures stormy present, counting on history’s judgment: George W. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20 as one of the most vilified presidents in American history. Battered by an unpopular war and an economic collapse, Bush has racked up the longest streak of negative job-approval ratings in the history of polling. His end-of-term scores are worse than any modern president except Richard Nixon, who resigned in disgrace….
    “We have, by any polling measure, the most unpopular president in American polling history,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff. San Antonio Express, 1-10-09
  • A presidential welcome for USS George H.W. Bush: It’s the perfect gift for an old Navy flier: 1,092 feet of flattop. “What do you give a guy who has been blessed and has just about everything he has ever needed?” asked President George W. Bush from aboard the Navy’s newest ship. “Well, an aircraft carrier.” – AP, 1-10-09
  • Analysis: Bush’s personality shapes his legacy: President George W. Bush will be judged on what he did. He will also be remembered for what he’s like: a fast-moving, phrase-mangling Texan who stays upbeat even though his country is not. – AP, 1-3-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office: http://change.gov/

  • All the Pageantry, Just Without the President NYT, 1-11-09
  • GOP chooses Rep. Kevin McCarthy as chief deputy whip: The Bakersfield lawmaker assumes a leadership position after one term in Congress. ‘He puts a friendly face on the party,’ one analyst says. – LAT, 1-11-09
  • Obama’s Cheney Dilemma: Cheney pushed for expanded presidential powers. Now that he’s leaving, what will come of his efforts? The new president won’t have to wait long to tip his hand. – Newsweek, 1-10-09
  • Obama’s inaugural luncheon fit for President Lincoln: Barack Obama had better like shellfish. The first course at his inaugural luncheon on Jan. 20, a seafood stew, consists of lobster, scallops and shrimp – all personal favorites, apparently, of Obama’s fellow Illinois politician, Abraham Lincoln. In fact, the 2009 inaugural luncheon has been designed to commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of Lincoln (Feb. 12, 1809), the 16th president. Newsday, 1-10-09
  • Obama to honor McCain on inauguration eve – AP, 1-11-09
  • Paterson and Kennedy Meet to Discuss Senate: Gov. David A. Paterson met with Caroline Kennedy on Saturday for their first formal discussion about her interest in being appointed to the United States Senate, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting, which may suggest that the long and at times circuslike selection process may be drawing toward an end. – N”YT, 1-11-09
  • Lifting veil of privacy, friends discuss Kennedy: In a series of interviews with The Associated Press, friends and colleagues of Kennedy painted a picture of a reserved but intelligent and tenacious woman who writes her own speeches and who, despite her vast wealth, still takes the subway…. – AP 1-10-09
  • Obama advisers: Plan would create up to 4.1M jobs: President-elect Barack Obama countered critics with an analysis Saturday by his economic team showing that a program of tax cuts and spending like he’s proposed would create up to 4.1 million jobs, far more than the 3 million he has insisted are needed to lift the country from recession. – AP, 1-10-09
  • Ill. House impeaches governor, who vows to fight: Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached Friday by Illinois lawmakers furious that he turned state government into a “freak show,” setting the stage for an unprecedented trial in the state Senate that could get him thrown out of office. – 1-9-09
  • Democrats criticize Obama’s proposed tax cuts: President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed tax cuts ran into opposition Thursday from senators in his own party who said they wouldn’t do much to stimulate the economy or create jobs. – AP, 1-8-08
  • Ill. House panel recommends governor’s impeachment: An Illinois House committee has unanimously recommended that Gov. Rod Blagojevich be impeached for abuse of power. – AP, 1-8-09
  • Senate Democrats yield to Obama, retreat on Burris: Senate Democrats beat a hasty retreat Wednesday from their rejection of Roland Burris as President-elect Barack Obama’s successor, yielding to pressure from Obama himself and from senators irked that the standoff was draining attention and putting them in a bad light. Burris said with a smile he expected to join them “very shortly.” – 1-8-09
  • Obama taps spending watchdog, eyes Social Security: Pointing with concern to “red ink as far as the eye can see,” President-elect Barack Obama pledged Wednesday to tackle out-of-control Social Security and Medicare spending and named a special watchdog to clamp down on other federal programs — even as he campaigned anew to spend the largest pile of taxpayer money in history to revive the sinking economy. – AP, 1-8-09
  • Obama hails ‘extraordinary’ moment with presidents: Confronting a grim economy and a Middle East on fire, Barack Obama turned Wednesday to perhaps the only people on the planet who understand what he’s in for: the four living members of the U.S. presidents’ club. In an image bound to go down in history, every living U.S. president came together at the White House on Wednesday to hash over the world’s challenges with the president-elect. There they stood, shoulder-to-shoulder in the Oval Office: George H.W. Bush, Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. – AP, 1-7-09
  • End to Minn. Senate race pushed even further out: Republican Norm Coleman filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Democrat Al Franken’s apparent recount victory, likely keeping one of Minnesota’s two U.S. Senate seats unoccupied for weeks or even months. – AP, 1-7-09
  • Richardson adviser worked for firm feds probing: One of Gov. Bill Richardson’s close friends and advisers worked as a consultant for the California firm at the center of a federal pay-to-play probe that derailed the governor’s appointment as commerce secretary. – AP, 1-7-09
  • Ex-Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush won’t run for Senate in 2010: Former Gov. Jeb Bush announced Tuesday that he won’t run for the U.S. Senate in 2010 to replace the retiring Mel Martinez, saying that it was not the right time to return to elected office. – AP, 1-6-08
  • CNN: Gupta approached about surgeon general post: President-elect Barack Obama has approached CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, about becoming the country’s next surgeon general, the cable network said Tuesday. – AP, 1-6-09
  • Democrats’ opposition to Burris begins to crackAP, 1-6-09
  • Obama’s CIA pick unlikely to face Senate challenge: President-elect Barack Obama had to do a little fence-mending Tuesday with the new Congress controlled by his own party — apologizing to a key Senate Democrat for failing to consult on his decision to name veteran Washington hand Leon Panetta CIA director. – AP, 1-6-09
  • Obama’s intel picks short on direct experience: President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of an old White House hand to head the CIA shows a preference for a strong manager over an intelligence expert. Obama’s decision to name Leon Panetta to lead the premier U.S. intelligence agency surprised the spy community and signaled the Democrat’s intention for a clean break from Bush administration policies. – AP, 1-6-09
  • Richardson withdraws bid to be commerce secretary: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Sunday announced that he was withdrawing his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama’s commerce secretary amid a grand jury investigation into how some of his political donors won a lucrative state contract. – AP, 1-4-09
  • Denver schools chief named to fill Senate vacancy: Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter on Saturday named Denver’s public schools superintendent Michael Bennet as his choice to fill a Senate vacancy that will be created by the promotion of Sen. Ken Salazar to interior secretary in the Obama administration. – AP, 1-3-09
  • Obama’s team polishing economic stimulus measure: President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is putting the finishing touches on an economic recovery plan that could run from $675 billion to $775 billion. Briefings for top congressional Democratic officials are likely this weekend or on Monday, a senior transition official said Friday. Obama is slated to meet Monday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a session likely to focus on the economic recovery package. – AP, 1-2-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

  • Bush Calls on Republican Party to Be Inclusive: “Look, obviously we got whipped in 2008, and there will be a new wave of leadership arriving on the scene,” Mr. Bush said. “But it’s very important for our party not to narrow its focus, not to become so inward-looking that we drive people away from a philosophy that is compassionate and decent.”
    “We should be open-minded about big issues like immigration reform, because if we’re viewed as anti-somebody — in other words, if the party is viewed as anti-immigrant — then another fellow may say, well, if they’re against the immigrant, they may be against me.”
    “Listen, the man is obviously a charismatic person, and the man is able to persuade people that they should trust him. And he’s got something — he’s got a lot going for him.”
    “I would hope that the team that is, has the honor of, serving the country will take a hard look at the realities of the world and the tools now in place to protect the United States from further attack,” Mr. Bush said. “They will find that with a considerable amount of care and concern for civil liberties, for example, that I have put in place procedures that will enable the professionals to better learn the intentions of Al Qaeda, for example.”
    “During the darkest days of Iraq people came to me and said, you’re creating incredible political difficulties for us. And I said, oh, really, what do you suggest I do? Some suggested, retreat, pull out of Iraq,” he said. “I didn’t compromise that principle for the sake of trying to bail out my political party, for example.” NYT, 1-11-09
  • Obama in his weekly radio and YouTube broadcast address: “These numbers are a stark reminder that we simply cannot continue on our current path. If nothing is done, economists from across the spectrum tell us that this recession could linger for years and the unemployment rate could reach double digits — and they warn that our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world,” he said. – AP, 1-10-09
  • Palin: Is Kennedy getting ‘kid glove’ treatment? “I’ve been interested to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled and if she will be handled with kid gloves or if she will be under such a microscope.” “… we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy versus, say, the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be.”
    “I wasn’t believed that Trig was really my son,” she said. She called it a “sad state of affairs.” “What is the double-standard here? Why would people choose to believe lies? What is it that drives people to believe the worst, perpetuate the worst? When did we start accepting as hard news sources bloggers, anonymous bloggers especially?”
    “I was not commenting at all on Caroline Kennedy as a prospective U.S. senator, but rather on the seemingly arbitrary ways in which news organizations determine the level and kind of scrutiny given to those who aspire to public office. In fact, I consider Ms. Kennedy qualified and experienced, and she could serve New York well.” – AP, 1-10-09
  • Cheney says no one saw financial crisis coming: Cheney said that “nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure it out.” He said Bush doesn’t need to apologize because he has taken “bold, aggressive action.” – 1-9-09
  • Obama: Congress must act boldly and now on economy: “If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years,” with unemployment reaching double digits, Obama said in a speech at George Mason University in suburban Virginia. “A bad situation could become dramatically worse.” AP, 1-8-09
  • Evan Thomas – An Interview with Barack Obama: NEWSWEEK: Going back to the period where you were deciding whether to run or not, I’m very curious about what you wanted to hear when you sat around with your friends and advisers. What were you looking for in terms of what you hoped to hear from them?
    Barack Obama: Well, the first question was, could I win? And I think that’s something that I needed to get some very objective assessments of, because one of the things that I’ve always been suspicious of is the hype that surrounded my entry into the U.S. Senate. I wanted to make sure that we hadn’t fallen prey to hype and believing our own press, so I wanted to test in very concrete terms and push very hard on the question of whether we could win. Since we assumed that we had a strong field, including Sen. Clinton and John Edwards.
    The second question, which had more to do with conversations between Michelle and myself on which we needed some feedback from the staff who had been through a presidential election, was how it would have an impact on our family. And that actually was the most important question, but unless we crossed the threshold where we could win, the second one became moot, because I had no interest in running if I didn’t think we could win. I wasn’t interested in setting myself up for four years from now because to some degree I was very fortunate; I already had a very high profile. I stood to lose more than gain in a presidential race if I wasn’t successful. So the second question was: how it would affect our family? And then thinking about schedules and workloads and the rhythm of a campaign, the nature of the scrutiny involved, how it would alter our daily round, and how would we, how effectively could we shield our families, our girls?
    And then the third question, which was the most profound question, and one where probably … in the end I had to answer all by myself was: should I win? Just because you can win doesn’t mean you’re the person who’s best for the country at this moment in time, and I, I, I actually believe my own rhetoric when I say I think we’re in a defining moment. It’s very difficult to think back to a time where we had a bigger series of choices, and obviously World War maybe, and then the immediate aftermath of WWII, the Great Depression, and before that, the Civil War . . . but the country has a lot of issues that it’s got to deal with. And so I don’t, I didn’t think it was sufficient for me to run just because of my own ambition or because I thought this was my time. I felt as if there had to be at least the possibility that I could do something that no other candidate in the race could do, whether it was bringing the country together more effectively, [or] building a consensus, [or] reinvigorating the American people’s interest in government. So that was a series of questions that had to be raised, and those questions were probably the ones that were least amenable to quantification. I mean, we can do some polling and sort of figure out, “Alright, can we win this thing or not?” It’s a lot harder to gauge whether you are what the country needs at this point in time. – Newsweek, 1-8-09
  • President Bush Welcomes President-Elect Obama, Former President Clinton, Former President Bush and Former President Carter to the White House:
    PRESIDENT BUSH: I want to thank the President-elect for joining the ex-Presidents for lunch. And one message that I have and I think we all share is that we want you to succeed. Whether we’re Democrat or Republican, we care deeply about this country. And to the extent we can, we look forward to sharing our experiences with you. All of us who have served in this office understand that the office transcends the individual. And we wish you all the very best. And so does the country. PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: Thank you. I just want to thank the President for hosting us. This is an extraordinary gathering. All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office. And for me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary. And I’m very grateful to all of them. But, again, thank you, Mr. President, for hosting us.
  • Ex-Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush won’t run for Senate in 2010: “I can play a role in helping to reshape the Republican Party’s message and focus on 21st century solutions to 21st century problems. Not running does not preclude me from being involved in these things and I will be.” “One of the benefits of being governor is people get to know you and I think people know I love this state. While I’m proud of my brother and I love my brother … people know that I’m Jeb Bush and I don’t think that would have been a problem.” – AP, 1-6-08
  • Obama says his plan with tax cuts to get quick OK: “The economy is very sick. The situation is getting worse. … We have to act and act now to break the momentum of this recession. The reason we are here today is because the people’s business cannot wait. I expect to be able to sign a bill shortly after taking office. By the end of January or the first of February.” AP, 1-5-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin and Harold Holzer “Obama’s challenge From the economy to war, this president faces crises unimagined since Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt”: “The real challenge will come once he gets in there,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “The crisis is pretty large, and I don’t think until you become president that you really absorb how big it is. … We will see what inner resources Obama can draw on.”
    Goodwin believes Obama has shown evidence of that ability. “It certainly seems so, from the way his campaign was run and how little dissension bubbled out into the public — his staffers were not jockeying against one another, there were not people leaving, though in other campaigns people were fired, people left, people were dissenting,” she said. “Great leaders create a climate of respect for one another, in that group around you, so there’s a reservoir of good feeling. I’m sure when the memoirs are written, we’ll learn of the dissenting views about what to do at various moments during the campaign, but obviously those things got settled during the campaign.” – The News Journal, 1-11-09
  • Harold Holzer “Obama’s challenge From the economy to war, this president faces crises unimagined since Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt”: “The world is so divided and fractured — in ways that Lincoln could never have imagined,” said Harold Holzer, who is the author of 30 books, including the 2008 “Lincoln President-Elect,” and the co-chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. “And there is every bit as much fear and concern.”
    Lincoln wanted the strongest, most able leaders in the country working with him, Goodwin said. Though he had no pro-slavery voices in his circle of advisers, he had a “great range of opinions” about how to handle slavery, she said.
    “They were contentious internally, disputatious with each other, there were plots and schemes for power,” he said. “But were they critics? I don’t necessarily agree that they were critics. They may have been doubters, but I think it’s more a team of rivals for Obama. … None of Lincoln’s rivals ever debated him, criticized him or ran against him. Obama, though, has been appointing a team of rivals — and all were pretty blunt in their criticism of Obama. That is heartening.”
    “Lincoln was gregarious sometimes, morose at other times,” Holzer said. “But at his heart, he was a no-drama person as well. He was a very calm and collected person. He stood before Confederate sharpshooters outside Washington once. He was the only president to actually come under enemy fire. He had great physical courage. … And few saw the emotion that was beneath the surface.” – The News Journal, 1-11-09
  • Eric Rauchway “Obama’s challenge From the economy to war, this president faces crises unimagined since Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt”: Obama does not inherit a 25 percent unemployment rate, as Roosevelt did at his first inauguration, arriving as it did at the nadir of the Great Depression. Half of those who had jobs in 1933 were working only part time, said Eric Rauchway, professor of history at the University of California-Davis and director of the Center for History, Society and Culture.
    “We’re already talking about fiscal stimulus, which Roosevelt didn’t get around to until 1938,” he said. “One of the problems everyone agrees we have is the health insurance of this country — the great unpassed New Deal reform,” he said. “They took it out of the Social Security law because they thought they couldn’t get it through and we’re still stuck with the problem, these 75 years later. Public health insurance increases the mobility of workers, who won’t quit a job because they don’t have health insurance. It can be an economic stimulus.”
    Rauchway sees no big effect of the 24-hour news cycle — “people who want news get news, whether in 1933 or now” — but he does see a parallel in the way Roosevelt and Obama delivered their messages to the American people.
    “The new media of Roosevelt’s day — radio and newsreels — some would say this is really critical to turning the corner on the Depression, and I suppose it is,” he said. “It’s very intangible. But with Roosevelt coming to the American people in the intimate way radio can provide, you get a sense of why this was good. He spoke in plain language, but he didn’t oversimplify the problems they were dealing with. It was not dumbed down, but in pretty plain English. It’s too soon to say, but we have some indication that Barack Obama is the same way. His infomercial before the election was a lot of Barack Obama talking directly to the people.” – The News Journal, 1-11-09
  • Douglas Brinkley Analysis: Bush legacy _ grim times, gloomy nation: “He put everything into his campaign for Iraqi democracy,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and professor at Rice University. “The results seem to be quite painful for the United States, not just in terms of more than 4,000 dead soldiers, but the ideological fervor instead of a cool-headed pragmatism.” AP, 1-11-09
  • Gil Troy “BALLOT BOX BLUES – Votes for sale: Political candy replaces ideas and ideals”: “If ever there was a moment where we needed a candidate who could come out with a big idea, we just experienced it, in the Canadian and American elections,” says Gil Troy, a political historian at McGill University. “This was a real leadership moment. But as the stock markets imploded, the candidates just went small bore rather than embracing big ideas.” “I didn’t hear anything from (Stephen) Harper or (Stephane) Dion that was particularly illuminating,” he says. “There was no inspiration and no insight. It was deeply disappointing.” Dion had tried to campaign on a big idea, but his Green Shift was so poorly explained, and so quickly overshadowed by the unfolding economic crisis, says Troy, that if anything it proved ideas don’t work in election campaigns anymore. – Canwest News, 1-11-09
  • Robert Dallek “For Bush and His Staff, a Season of ‘the Lasts'”: “They’re working hard to build their historical reputations,” said the presidential historian Robert Dallek. “Generally, presidents don’t spend the last days and weeks in office defending their record. They produce a memoir, they write a volume. “To spend your waking hours on a defense of yourself speaks volumes about how, in a sense, defeated they’ve been.” – NYT, 1-11-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama’s Vision: Only Government Can End Economic Woes”: “Ronald Reagan in 1980 began the new conservative era in America. And 2008 is 1980 in reverse,” said Allan Lichtman, an expert on the presidency at American University in Washington. “Reagan famously said government is not the solution, it’s the problem,” Lichtman said. “Obama is saying government is the solution and, in fact, the only real solution to the crisis we’re experiencing today. It’s not just a matter of fixing the economy. It’s a matter of fundamentally moving the economy in a new direction. And government, not private enterprise, has to take the lead.” – San Jose Mercury News, 1-8-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Shape of the Office: Obama and Executive Power” – “The notion that there’s some magic formula he can achieve within a month or two is unfair,” said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University. “There are many components to the crisis, many things that deal with financial regulation, and it will be hard for Obama to deal with this on his own.” For this reason, Zelizer and other scholars expect Obama to begin his term with a flurry of high-profile, somewhat symbolic actions — say, closing Guantanamo — then throttle back and begin the trickier task of managing everyone’s expectations. – Congressional Quarterly, 1-10-09
  • Julian Zelizer “The Ultimate Power Lunch”: As Princeton historian Julian Zelizer told CBS News, ” Diplomatic funerals overseas actually are often the way presidents get together, or the death of a former president but this is not that kind of meeting. This is not ceremonial. This really almost a think tank.” – CBS News, 1-7-09
  • Douglas Brinkley “The Ultimate Power Lunch”: Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told the CBS News Early Show that at least for today, “Obama’s making a real statement that I’m going to be seeking counsel and advice from all of the ex-presidents.” – CBS News, 1-7-09

November 14, 2008: The Obama Transition Continues, Bipartisanship & the Historical Moment

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Stats:

  • A timeline of the Obama campaign – Newsday
  • Get to know the Obamas: Bios of Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha – Newsday

The Headlines…

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office: http://change.gov/

  • Hillary Clinton emerges as US State dept candidate: Sen. Hillary Clinton emerged on Thursday as a candidate to be U.S. secretary of state for Barack Obama, months after he defeated her in an intense contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. – Reutera, 11-14-08
  • Obama resigns Senate seat effective Sunday – Reuters, 11-13-08
  • Palin stars at Republican governors meeting – Reuters, 11-13-08For Obama and Family, a Personal Transition – NYT, 11-13-08
  • Obama inauguration in January – but D.C. travel rush underway: Barack Obama won’t be sworn in as the nation’s 44th president for two months, but his historic election has already set off a frenzied scramble for inauguration tickets, hotel rooms and flights to Washington. – San Francisco Chronicle, 11-13-08
  • Crowd of 1 million could attend Obama inauguration: AP, 11-13-08
  • US general urges Obama to keep missile defense – AP, 11-12-08
  • Cheney, Biden to meet privately at VP residence – AP, 11-12-08
  • Obama to pioneer Web outreach as president: Transition officials call it Obama 2.0 — an ambitious effort to transform the president-elect’s vast Web operation and database of supporters into a modern new tool to accomplish his goals in the White House. If it works, the new president could have an unprecedented ability to appeal for help from millions of Americans who already favor his ideas, bypassing the news media to pressure Congress. – AP, 11-12-08
  • Obama taps veteran Dems for DoD, State handovers: President-elect Obama has hired former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sam Nunn to help shepherd his Pentagon transition, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. Similarly, a senior administration official said former Secretary of State Warren Christopher would advise Obama on his State Department transition. – AP, 11-11-08
  • Catholic bishops will fight Obama on abortion – AP, 11-11-08
  • Bush wistfully salutes veterans on Intrepid in NYC: President Bush wistfully saluted the nation’s veterans Tuesday as he prepares to hand two ongoing wars over to his successor, saying he’ll “miss being the commander in chief of such a fabulous group.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • Pelosi calls for emergency aid for auto industry – AP, 11-11-08
  • Obama wants Lieberman to stay with Senate Dems – AP, 11-11-08
  • Bush, Obama discuss economy, foreign policy – AP, 11-10-08
  • Obama, Bush complete historic White House meeting: The Bushes welcomed the Obamas to the White House on Monday, visiting for nearly two hours and offering the nation a glimpse of a new first family at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. President-elect Obama and President Bush met in the Oval Office, their first substantive one-on-one session, while first lady Laura Bush and Obama’s wife, Michelle, talked in the White House residence. – AP, 11-10-08
  • DNC Chairman Howard Dean will not seek second term: Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean plans to step down from his post when his term expires in January, wrapping up a tenure in which the party heavily invested in all 50 states for a payoff that helped elect Barack Obama president. – AP, 11-10-08
  • Senator asks sites not to sell inaugural tickets – AP, 11-10-08
  • Obama plans US terror trials to replace Guantanamo: President-elect Obama’s advisers are crafting plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and prosecute terrorism suspects in the U.S., a plan that the Bush administration said Monday was easier said than done. – AP, 11-10-08

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush and President-elect Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama pause for photographs Monday, Nov. 10, 2008, after the Obama's arrival at the South Portico of the White House. White House photo by Chris Greenberg

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush and President-elect Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama pause for photographs Monday, Nov. 10, 2008, after the Obama’s arrival at the South Portico of the White House. White House photo by Chris Greenberg

Political Quotes

  • Barack Obama resigns Senate seat effective Sunday: “It has been one of the highest honors and privileges of my life to have served the people of Illinois in the United States Senate…. In a state that represents the crossroads of a nation, I have met so many men and women who’ve taken different journeys, but hold common hopes for their children’s future. It is these Illinois families and their stories that will stay with me as I leave the United States Senate and begin the hard task of fulfilling the simple hopes and common dreams of all Americans as our nation’s next president.” — Reuters, 11-13-08
  • Edwards speaks about Obama, Clinton but not affair: “In many ways, Barack Obama symbolizes what’s possible in America… That long, drawn-out, tough process played a role in making him a better candidate. He was well-prepared for this general election campaign.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • George W. Bush to CNN: Obama scoped daughters’ bedrooms after visit: “One of things President-elect Obama was interested in — after we had our policy discussions — was his little girls. How would they like the White House? It was interesting to watch him go upstairs, and he wanted to see where his little girls were going to sleep….
    I said ‘Bill, I’m getting ready to meet with the new president and I remember how gracious you were to me,’ ‘I hope I can be as gracious to President-elect Obama as you were to me.’….
    Clearly, this guy is going to bring a great sense of family to the White Hous. I hope Laura and I did the same thing, but I believe he will and I know his girls are on his mind and he wants to make sure that first and foremost he is a good dad. And I think that’s going to be an important part of his presidency….
    I’m not sure what to expect. I know I’ll miss certain things about the presidency. I also know I’m looking forward to getting home, so I’ve got mixed emotions.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • Bush wistfully salutes veterans on Intrepid in NYC: “Today we send a clear message to all who have worn the uniform: Thank you for your courage, thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for standing up when your nation needed you most. I will miss being the commander in chief of such a fabulous group of men and women, those who wear the uniform of the United States military.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • Vice President Dick Cheney marked Veterans Day by solemnly placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Cheney then offered a glowing tribute to the U.S. armed forces: “No single military power in history has done greater good, shown greater courage, liberated more people, or upheld higher standards of decency and valor.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • McCain says Palin didn’t hurt presidential bid to Jay Leno during an “Tonight Show” interview taped for broadcast Tuesday night: “I’m so proud of her and I’m very grateful she agreed to run with me. She inspired people, she still does. I couldn’t be happier with Sarah Palin….
    I think I have at least a thousand, quote, top advisers. A top adviser said? I’ve never even heard of … a top adviser or high-ranking Republican official.
    “The people were very excited and inspired by her. That’s what really mattered, I think. She’s a great reformer.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pa.: Catholic bishops will fight Obama on abortion: “I cannot have a vice president-elect coming to Scranton to say he’s learned his values there when those values are utterly against the teachings of the Catholic Church….
    They cannot call themselves Catholic when they violate such a core belief as the dignity of the unborn. – AP, 11-11-08
  • Palin blames Bush policies for GOP defeat: “I’m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door,” Palin said in an interview with Fox News on Monday. “And if there is an open door in ’12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.”…
    “I did not order the clothes. Did not ask for the clothes,” Palin said. “I would have been happy to have worn my own clothes from Day One. But that is kind of an odd issue, an odd campaign issue as things were wrapping up there as to who ordered what and who demanded what.”….
    “It’s amazing that we did as well as we did. I think the Republican ticket represented too much of the status quo, too much of what had gone on in these last eight years, that Americans were kind of shaking their heads like going, wait a minute, how did we run up a $10 trillion debt in a Republican administration? How have there been blunders with war strategy under a Republican administration? If we’re talking change, we want to get far away from what it was that the present administration represented and that is to a great degree what the Republican Party at the time had been representing,” Palin said in a separate interview with the Anchorage Daily Newspublished Sunday. – AP, 11-10-08
  • Obama plans US terror trials to replace Guantanamo: At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino said Monday that President Bush has faced many challenges in trying to close the prison. “We’ve tried very hard to explain to people how complicated it is. When you pick up people off the battlefield that have a terrorist background, it’s not just so easy to let them go,” Perino said. “These issues are complicated, and we have put forward a process that we think would work in order to put them on trial through military tribunals.” – AP, 11-10-08

President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama walk the Colonnade to the Oval Office Monday, Nov. 10, 2008, as the President and Mrs. Laura Bush welcomed the President-elect and his wife, Michelle, to the White House. White House photo by Eric Draper
President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama walk the Colonnade to the Oval Office Monday, Nov. 10, 2008, as the President and Mrs. Laura Bush welcomed the President-elect and his wife, Michelle, to the White House. White House photo by Eric Draper

Historians’ Comments

  • ERIC FONER “What it meant In the great national narrative, where will Obama’s election really fit? Five historians answer”: MOST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS do not fundamentally alter the American political landscape. Even when the party in power changes, the basic assumptions governing policy generally remain the same. But in a few critical elections, the advent of a new president is a transformative moment that reshapes American public life for a generation or more….
    Obama has the bad luck to come to power in the midst of an economic crisis. He has the good luck to do so in a country yearning for strong leadership and a renewed sense of political possibility. No president can perform miracles. But if, like his most successful predecessors, Obama seizes the occasion by striking out boldly, articulating forcefully a new philosophy of governing at home and relating to the rest of the world, we will add 2008 to the very short list of elections that have truly transformed American life. – Boston Globe, 11-9-08
  • STEVEN F. LAWSON “What it meant In the great national narrative, where will Obama’s election really fit? Five historians answer”: IT HAS TAKEN 43 years since passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which extended the right to vote to the majority of African-Americans, for a black candidate to become president of the United States. The significance of this achievement rises further when we remember that it has been nearly 90 years since women received the suffrage and that no woman has been elected president or even chosen by the two major parties to run.
    Barack Obama’s election confirms the faith that the civil rights movement placed in the power of the right to vote. In becoming commander in chief, Obama has inherited the legacy of countless civil rights warriors who risked their lives and many who lost theirs, to gain the right to vote, not as an empty symbol, but as a genuine tool for freedom and equality. He stands on the shoulders of John Lewis, Medgar Evers, Amzie Moore, Ella Baker, and Martin Luther King Jr., among many others….
    And, remember, Obama’s triumph does not guarantee the election of another African-American any time soon. John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic to win election to the presidency in 1960 and remains the only Catholic president to date. In fact, unless Americans become racially blind, which has not happened through 500 years, it will become harder for African-Americans to win the White House again. Demography is working against them, as Hispanic-Americans have now become the nation’s largest minority group. – Boston Globe, 11-9-08
  • THOMAS J. SUGRUE “What it meant In the great national narrative, where will Obama’s election really fit? Five historians answer”: ON ELECTION NIGHT, Barack Obama addressed nearly 200,000 supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park – the place where, just 40 years earlier, antiwar protesters, hippies, yippies and black radicals clashed with police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Alternative visions of America had collided on Chicago’s streets: dissent versus “America love it or leave it” patriotism, militancy versus law and order, sexual libertinism versus family values. Obama’s Grant Park celebration – just like the election of 2008 – exorcized the ghosts of 1968, perhaps forever….
    Generation Obama has its own issues: global warming, worldwide epidemics, the threat of terrorism, and the collapse of the financial markets, to name a few. McCain’s evocations of small-town values, of dissent and the silent majority and campus radicalism, left those problems unaddressed. Obama’s rhetoric of unity – of common purpose and common cause – threw the dated politics of division and resentment into the dustbin of history. The cultural warriors, fighting over law and order, God, guns, and family values, will not be silent during the Obama administration, but they are increasingly relics of the past. – Boston Globe, 11-9-08
  • JACQUELINE JONES “What it meant In the great national narrative, where will Obama’s election really fit? Five historians answer”: NOW THAT HALF a century has passed since the election of President Barack Obama, we can begin to place that watershed event into historical perspective.
    Those of us who witnessed the turbulent campaign of ’08 recall that, at the time, many pundits, scholars, and politicians argued that “racial progress” constituted the true significance of Obama’s election. Certainly his success at the polls that year was a great symbolic victory; less than a century and a half earlier, the vast majority of Americans of African descent were enslaved, and as late as 1965, the vast majority of rural black Southerners were disenfranchised. Obama’s election then was a triumph on two fronts: Many white Americans repudiated centuries of pervasive racial prejudice and discrimination to vote for a black man, and at the same time, President Obama represented the integration of blacks into the highest echelons of American elective office. The night of the election, Obama’s supporters joyfully celebrated what many considered to be the elimination of racial barriers to black people’s full participation in American political and social life….
    In time-honored fashion, many Americans searched for scapegoats to blame as the long era of freewheeling spending came to an abrupt halt; and in the years after 2008, those scapegoats were likely to be African-Americans and undocumented immigrants. In hindsight we know that contemporary observers who celebrated Obama’s victory as a new era in American “race relations” were sadly mistaken. – Boston Globe, 11-9-08
  • JOHN DITTMER “What it meant In the great national narrative, where will Obama’s election really fit? Five historians answer”: FIFTY YEARS FROM now historians will look back on the election of 2008 as a watershed. Transcending the issue of his race, Barack Obama assembled a new progressive coalition, galvanized by the young and minorities, that successfully challenged the conservative consensus that had defined American political life for more than a quarter century….
    On Election Day, men and women who had once fought for the right to vote stood in line for hours to elect a black president. At the Obama victory rally, when asked to explain the tears running down his cheek, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said he was thinking of all the martyrs who had given their lives to make the moment possible. Television footage from across the country showed people crying and hugging each other, evoking images of the spontaneous celebrations at the end of World War II. A new day seemed to be dawning. Once again America was leading by example, giving hope to all who believe in the possibilities of democracy. – – Boston Globe, 11-9-08
  • John Hope Franklin “In Obama’s victory, America comes to terms with past”: “This is one of the most historic moments, if not the most historic moment in the history of this country,” said 93-year-old John Hope Franklin, professor emeritus of history at Duke University. Franklin, one of the nation’s most accomplished historians, said Wednesday that he was confident that Obama could reach this historic milestone. “I knew that it would come sooner or later,” Franklin said. “I had the chance to meet and talk with him, so I was not shocked or terribly surprised because he is a winner.” – Kansas City Star, 11-13-08
  • Horace Huntley “In Obama’s victory, America comes to terms with past”: “I’ve taught for 35 years and I always tell my students, ‘When race comes into play, logic has a way of exiting.’ But I may have to revise that thinking after this,” said Horace Huntley, a historian and the director of oral history at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. “Now it appears that logic may be overtaking the illogical. It appears there’s a groundswell of sensibility.”
    To a generation of young blacks who never experienced overt racism, many can’t fully appreciate the magnitude of Obama’s victory. That’s mainly the fault of black parents and schools that don’t make civil rights history mandatory, Huntley said. – Kansas City Star, 11-13-08
  • Clarence Williams “In Obama’s victory, America comes to terms with past”: Clarence Williams, a history professor at the University of California at Davis, was equally pessimistic about Obama’s chances, saying he never thought he’d see a black president in his lifetime. “Because I think of the United States, historically, as a deeply and pervasive racist country,” Williams said. “It may have changed a bit in some ways, but in some ways it has not. And I have no shame about saying that to you.” Williams, who describes his feelings about America as “critical patriotism,” said that he, too, was heartened by the widespread support that Obama got from nonblack voters who gravitated to his positive message. “This notion of giving people hope is a very important thing,” he said.
    Williams warned, however, that Obama’s victory doesn’t mean that America is or ever will be colorblind. “But what it does is suggest we have taken another gigantic step forward with our racial problem,” Williams said.
    “We attempted to coddle our children and protect them from the harshness of the past rather than teach them what had taken place,” Huntley said. As a result, many young blacks “have put a diesel engine on an oxcart and raced away from their past,” Williams said. – Kansas City Star, 11-13-08
  • Nell Painter: “In Obama’s victory, America comes to terms with past”: Nell Painter, a history professor emeritus at Princeton University, also was taken by the country’s ability, in the end, to judge a black candidate based on his ideas rather than skin color. “The idea that we can vote for a black person for president just really makes me feel good about the United States, given our history,” Painter said. “It’s like we’re saying ‘Look, we’re not these bad old people any more. We’re fair-minded.’ It’s a powerfully positive statement about the United States turning its back on its evil ways.”
    “The breaking down of segregation made possible what we’re seeing today in Barack Obama,” Painter said. “This could not have happened in a segregated America. Too many white people would have found it impossible to vote for him.” – Kansas City Star, 11-13-08
  • Gil Troy “Obama’s “Historic” Triumph: Did He Win or was it a GO George – Get Out George W. victory by default?”: Historians have to navigate carefully when entering the strange, alluring world of media commentary. To maintain our integrity, we need boundaries. Presumably, those of us who comment believe that offering historical perspective even as history unfolds can elevate public debate, using current events as “teachable moments.” But most of the time journalists want us – especially on television – to do things we should not do, namely predict the future or determine the historical meaning of fleeting events as they unfold. Even on the air, historians should dodge certain questions. We should never predict. And we should sidestep premature queries such as “Is George W. Bush the worst president ever,” halfway through his term. Anyone who survived oral exams should be able to handle it. During last week’s remarkable redemptive moment as Barack Obama won the presidency, it seemed that most of the media wanted to trot out historians to certify that this election was indeed “historic.” — HNN, 11-13-08
  • Gil Troy “How Generation Y became Obama’s political animal”: “This is not a generation of enduring loyalty,” said Gil Troy, a presidential historian at McGill University. “They have quicksilver loyalties compared to their parents. At some point, there’ll be a confrontation between hope and government.” – Globe and Mail, 11-11-08
  • Allan Lichtman “‘President Obama’ Will Be Greeted By A Stack Of Problems”: Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University in Washington, D.C., said like great presidents of the past, however, Obama seems suited to the task of navigating the country through its current morass. “He’s very cool, very unruffled; he doesn’t panic and he’s retained his good humor, like Ronald Reagan, and that’s going to be very critical,” Lichtman explained. “Also, he’s been very inspirational and that’s an important quality because it helps bring people along with you and the only way to counter wealthy, special interests is the power of the people. That’s how Teddy Roosevelt countered special interests in his administration.”
    “I think it’s a return to a kind of liberalism that we have not seen since the 1960s, early 1970s,” said Lichtman. “Ther’s a much greater faith in government, a less militaristic approach to foreign policy and a much more multilateral approach compared to the Bush administration….there’s less of an emphasis on supporting the wealthy.”
    “Obama can take good lessons from Franklin Roosevelt, who came into office during a financial crisis, and that is bold, persistent determination and a willingness to try lots of different things. There is no one silver bullet for this economic problem.”
    “He’s shown tremendous willingness to experiment and change and try to do new things and not just walk down the line in Democratic orthodoxy,” he said.
    “Race is a sore spot,” said Lichtman, the American University historian. “He’ll have to tread softly but not back down, and he’s shown his ability to do that. The best way to defuse the issue of race is for Obama to show he can be president of all people and to govern well, and governing well means solving problems.” – Seattle Medium, 11-12-08
  • Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said she was hard-pressed to find a similar moment in history when the tone had changed so drastically, and so quickly, among so many people of such prominence. “The best answer I can give you,” said Goodwin, “is they don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.” – Star Tribune, 11-13-08
  • Douglas Brinkley, the best-selling author and professor of history at Rice University: “Monumental … a major shift in the zeitgeist of our times.”
  • Joan Hoff, a former president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency: “I can’t think of another election where the issues were two wars and a crashed economy. There just isn’t any historical precedent for this.”
  • James McPherson, author and professor emeritus of history at Princeton University: “It’s an historic turning point … an exclamation point of major proportions to the civil rights movement that goes back to the 1950s.”
  • Douglas Brinkley says Obama Could Permanently Ban ANWR Drilling: “I think what they’re trying to do is in the Obama administration, start pointing out some clear divot spots where they’re going to deviate from the Bush administration –things like Guantanamo, things that, ‘No, we are not going to be for drilling around parks.’ I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming year if you see someplace like ANWR in Alaska turn from being a wildlife refuge run by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and turn over to becoming a National Monument where you couldn’t drill. So you’re going to be, and that’s because you’re going to have to do some things sort of on the cheap. – http://www.businessandmedia.org, 11-12-08
  • Edna Greene Medford “Obama’s victory a ‘renewed hope'” Howard University history professor Edna Greene Medford said President-elect Barack Obama’s historic victory is “a symbol” to blacks, but “we don’t expect much because we know we’re not going to get much.” A Lincoln historian, Mrs. Medford said Mr. Obama, like Lincoln, is offering hope but black voters are “smart enough to know” that the 44th president is only one man and his election “does not mean that life is going to get better for me.” Mrs. Medford made her comments, which were disputed by Obama transition team officials, during a heady meeting of the Trotter Group of black columnists at Howard. – Washington Times, 11-12-08
  • Daryl Scott “Obama’s victory a ‘renewed hope'” 20th-century historian Daryl Scott, echoed the sentiment that Mr. Obama “ran a campaign on helping the middle class;” not the poor, who disproportionately are minorities and women. “There will be nothing done for the poor in the name of the poor, nothing done for blacks in the name of blacks,” Mr. Scott said. “Obama will do what Lincoln did – give them nothing but freedom.” – Washington Times, 11-12-08
  • Michael Honey, MLK historian, reflects on Obama presidency: “It took an African-American to really follow through on what freedom means. We have elected a leader whose insight comes from his own historical roots. He is trying to make freedom real for everybody.”…
    In 30 years, people of color will be in the majority in the United States. The U.S. is about inclusive equality and freedom. But a certain portion of the electorate is holding on to the old America. The old idea of white men running things doesn’t fit the reality of the country any more. It’s like we’ve been trying to build America while excluding a big part of America. We have had so much trouble [with racial issues]. But now that Obama has been elected, I feel like we’re finally dealing with our own history. We’re not living in unreality anymore. – http://www.tacomadailyindex.com, 11-10-08
  • Shelby Steele: ‘Why Obama Can’t Win’ Author Defends Analysis: “My feeling is that I stand by every word of the analysis — what is between the covers of the book. For the year I have had to apologize for the stupid, silly subtitle that was slapped on to the book.” – NYT, 11-10-08
  • Harold Holzer & James McPherson ask: WWLD? (What would Lincoln Do?): So, what lessons can Obama learn from what Lincoln did—and didn’t do—in the time between his election and inauguration? To find out, the Tribune asked two Lincoln scholars, Harold Holzer, author of the newly published “Lincoln President-elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861,” and James McPherson, author of the classic Civil War history tome “Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief,” published in October. – Chicago Tribune, 11-9-08
  • Timothy Garton Ash: Obama must show the way to a goal set by Russell, Einstein – and Reagan – Guardian (UK), 11-13-08
  • Alonzo Hamby: Why liberals now call themselves progressives Conservativenet, 11-12-08
  • Julian Zelizer: What Obama should do with Biden CNN, 11-10-08
  • Beverly Gage: Do Rookies Make Good Presidents? – Time Magazine, 11-5-08
  • Andrew Doyle: 2-minute Tuesday: Andrew Doyle, Associate professor of history at Winthrop University – Herald Online, 11-4-08
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