Political Highlights November 15, 2010: Obama’s Asia Trip, Possible Deal with Israel, Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago Run, and Nancy Pelosi Retains Democratic Leadership

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & MIDTERM ELECTIONS 2010:

The President speaks at the University of Indonesia
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 11/10/10

STATS & POLLS

  • Better News For Palin: PPP’s newest batch of 2012 Republican primary polls conducted right before last week’s election finds Mitt Romney ahead in the critical early state of Florida, Tim Pawlenty surprisingly weak in his home state of Minnesota, and Sarah Palin posting leads in Texas, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Maine…. – NYT, 11-12-10
  • Republican election win fails to excite public: poll: The Republican Party may have excited conservatives when it recaptured the House of Representatives in last week’s midterm elections but a recession-jilted public is less than enthused, according to a poll released on Thursday by the Pew Research Center.
    The survey found that 48 percent of those polled were happy with the Republican victory.
    This compared to 60 percent who said they were happy in 2006 when the Democrats regained majorities in both branches of Congress and the 57 percent who applauded the historic 1994 midterm gains for the Republican Party that saw them take control of the legislature for the first time in 40 years.
    “The nature of the victory itself is a little different because the Republicans this time only captured one chamber as opposed to the whole Congress,” said Carroll Doherty, associate director of the Pew Research Center. “One of the things that you see here is that we have seen these transitions of power before and they are happening more frequently and so it is not so novel,” he told Reuters in a telephone interview…. – Reuters, 11-11-10
  • Poll: 77% say elections more negative than 2006 campaign: Americans believe the midterm elections were more negative than the 2006 campaign, a new Pew Research Center poll says. Nearly 8 in 10 voters, or 77%, say there was more mudslinging and negative campaigning than in previous elections. That compares with 69% after the elections four years ago.
    The 2010 elections may be remembered in history for these images: attacks on President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, voters clamoring for less government and taxes participating in Tea Party rallies, and people railing against “Obamacare” and the new health insurance law. Most important, this election was about the economy. So maybe it’s not surprising that the low grades for Campaign 2010 weren’t partisan: 70% of Republicans, 79% of Democrats and 81% of independents said this political season was more negative than in 2006… – USA Today, 11-11-10
  • Nine Congress and governor races not yet decided: Here are the congressional and gubernatorial races that remain uncalled after Tuesday’s election… – WaPo, 11-10-10
  • AP-GfK Poll: Palin most polarizing of 2012 crowd: Sarah Palin is the most polarizing of the potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, while impressions of Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney lean more positive, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. As for the rest — Pawlenty, Barbour, Thune, Daniels — most Americans say, “Who?”
    Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee, is the best-known and most divisive of the bunch. In the wake of her high-profile role in endorsing candidates all over the country, 46 percent of Americans view her favorably, 49 percent unfavorably, and 5 percent don’t know enough about her to form an opinion.
    Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who won the 2008 GOP Iowa caucus, received the highest favorability rating, 49 percent. About one in four people has no opinion of him, and 27 percent view him unfavorably.
    Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran in 2008, had similar results. Nearly a quarter of all Americans have no opinion about him, while 46 percent view him favorably, and 31 percent unfavorably.
    In terms of winning the 2012 nomination, the question is how Republican-leaning Americans view the contenders. Palin comes out on top. Among adults who identify themselves as Republicans or GOP-leaning independents, 79 percent view her favorably, and 17 percent unfavorably.
    These findings worry many Republican officials. The poll suggests Palin might be able to win the nomination. But among independents_they could be the deciding factor in the general election — just 43 percent hold a favorable view of Palin, compared with 61 percent with a positive view of Obama…. – AP, 11-10-10
  • 2010: An Aligning Election: Elections with results as dramatic as those of Tuesday night are sometimes referred to as “realigning elections.” The term — although somewhat ambiguous and overused — usually refers to a case in which one or another party not only gains a significant amount of power, but also, in which coalitions are shifted, the signature of which is usually that the rising party performs particularly well in certain geographic regions or among certain demographic groups.
    The 1980 election, for instance, arguably marked the beginning of a long-term shift toward Republicans in America’s suburbs, with Jimmy Carter’s share of the suburban vote dropping from 53 percent in 1976 to 37 percent in 1980: the 16-point swing against Mr. Carter was about twice the one he suffered in cities or rural areas. Likewise, in 1994, the shift against Democrats was particularly sharp in the South: 19 of the 52 representatives which they lost having come from that part of the country.
    The 2010 elections, by contrast, were remarkable for their orderliness — and they tended to reinforce, to an almost uncanny degree, existing political coalitions.
    Below is a chart that arranges America’s 435 congressional districts from those (on the left) which gave the highest percentage of their vote to Barack Obama in 2008 to those (on the right) which gave the highest share to John McCain; the chart then compares which party each district had elected to the House before and after Tuesday night…. – NYT, 11-8-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama at a Press Conference at the G20 Summit at   Coex Center in Seoul, South Korea

President Barack Obama answers questions during a press conference at the G20 Summit at Coex Center in Seoul, South Korea, November 12, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Netanyahu Backs U.S. Proposal for Freeze: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will ask cabinet ministers to support a U.S. proposal to extend restrictions on building in Jewish settlements for 90 days in exchange for a package of incentives from Washington, according to Israeli officials. If approved by the Israeli government, the deal could help revive peace talks with the Palestinians, which collapsed at the end of September when a 10-month period of building restrictions expired and Israel refused to extend it. Also Sunday, one of Israel’s most senior intelligence officials issued a stark warning that without immediate and meaningful progress toward peace, the Palestinian security services, which have earned consistent Israeli praise in recent months, could rapidly start to unravel. In a rare briefing to a small group of journalists, the intelligence official said there was a window of between three months and a year to show progress toward peace. “If there will not be real progress, I believe we can find that sometime within three months, six months or one year from now, that the functioning of the Palestinian security system is in a very different place,” the intelligence official said. “In order to keep the legitimacy and functioning of the Palestinian security system we need real progress in the peace process.”… – WSJ, 11-14-10
  • Obama calls latest Israeli plan promising: President Barack Obama on Sunday hailed the prospect of a new settlement freeze in the disputed West Bank as a promising step toward peace, urging Israelis and Palestinians to get back into serious negotiations quickly. An upbeat president also pledged to return to the basic principles that drove his thinking when he first came to the White House, including sticking to a more bipartisan tone and better explaining his decisions to the American people. He spoke of moving from an “obsessive focus” on policy and making changes to his approach after a humbling midterm election.
    “The fact that we are out of crisis — although still obviously in a difficult time — I think will give me the capacity,” Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One at the end of long Asia trip.
    On the Mideast, Washington’s new proposal for reviving peace talks includes a 90-day ban on housing starts in West Bank settlements — but not in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital. The goal is to give the two sides a three-month period to shape borders of side-by-side states, a daunting, elusive mission.
    Obama commended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for making a “very constructive step” toward creating an environment for peace. “I think it’s a signal that he’s serious,” Obama said…. – AP, 11-14-10
  • White House, GOP look for middle ground on taxes: The White House and Republican lawmakers set the terms for a looming tax debate Sunday, coalescing around a possible temporary extension of existing income tax rates that would protect middle class and wealthy Americans from sharp tax increases next year. Top White House adviser David Axelrod stressed that President Barack Obama opposes a “permanent” extension of current tax rates for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and married couples making more than $250,000. But Axelrod, appearing on two Sunday television talk shows, was carefully silent on the possibility of extending current tax rates for the short term. He said he wants to leave negotiations to Obama and members of Congress. “The bottom line is he wants to sit down and talk about this,” Axelrod said. “There is no bend on the permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”… – AP, 11-14-10
  • US asks Israel for 90-day settlement building moratorium: Netanyahu discusses possibility of halting building with septet; in exchange, US would support Israel in the UN and give 20 fighter jets; request does not include e. Jerusalem. The US asked Israel to freeze all new settlement construction begun after September 26th for a 90-day period in exchange for support in the United Nations and 20 additional advanced fighter planes worth $3 billion, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The principles of this agreement designed to restart peace talks with the Palestinians, were relayed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to his inner cabinet, a forum of seven ministers, on Saturday night and will be explained to the full cabinet on Sunday. The US said that if the deal was accepted it would not request an additional settlement freeze. The request does not include east Jerusalem…. – Jpost, 11-13-10
  • Obama and Republicans find common ground on ‘earmarks’: The president and GOP House leaders agree that curtailing or eliminating the provisions would be a step toward restoring fiscal responsibility.
    “I agree with those Republican and Democratic members of Congress who’ve recently said that, in these challenging days, we can’t afford what are called ‘earmarks,'” Obama said. “We can’t afford ‘Bridges to Nowhere,’ like the one that was planned a few years back in Alaska.”
    In his radio address Saturday, Obama said that curtailing or eliminating earmarks would be a first step toward restoring fiscal responsibility.
    “I agree with those Republican and Democratic members of Congress who’ve recently said that, in these challenging days, we can’t afford what are called ‘earmarks,'” Obama said. “We can’t afford ‘Bridges to Nowhere,’ like the one that was planned a few years back in Alaska.”
    “Earmarks have become a symbol of a dysfunctional Congress and serve as a fuel line for the culture of spending that has dominated Washington for too long,” said Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the presumptive incoming House speaker, and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), likely the next majority whip. “We welcome President Obama’s remarks on earmark reform, and we call upon him to urge congressional Democrats to vote on a similar measure next week,” they said…. – LAT, 11-13-10
  • Justices Leave Military Gay Ban in Place: The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy restricting openly gay, lesbian and bisexual people from serving will remain in force while a legal challenge is considered by a federal appeals court, the United States Supreme Court declared Friday. In an unsigned, two-paragraph order, the justices denied a request by the Log Cabin Republicans, the group trying to overturn the law, to reinstate an order by a federal district judge in California, Virginia A. Phillips, that prohibited enforcement during the appeal. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had ruled, however, that the military could continue enforcement during the appeal, and on Friday the Supreme Court agreed. The decision did not address the merits of the case.
    The Supreme Court order noted that the newest justice, Elena Kagan, “took no part in the consideration or decision” of the application; she may have recused herself because she was involved in the case as solicitor general, the position she held before President Obama nominated her to the court…. – NYT, 11-12-10
  • Obama Tells Business Leaders That U.S. Is `Here to Stay’ in Asian Markets: President Barack Obama told Japanese business leaders that the U.S. is “here to stay” in Asia as he neared the end of a 10-day trip across the region. Speaking to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s CEO Business Summit in Yokohama, Japan, Obama said engagement with Asia is a “jobs strategy,” important to his goal of increasing U.S. exports and spurring economic growth around the world.
    “We don’t want to lose the opportunity to sell our goods and services in fast-growing markets. We don’t want to lose the opportunity to create new jobs back home,” he said according to the prepared text of the speech. “When it comes to this growing, sprawling region of the world, the United States is here to stay.”
    Obama is in Japan for the APEC leaders meeting on a trip that has taken him to India, Indonesia and South Korea. At each stop he’s highlighted the need to boost exports in Asia’s rapidly growing economies in order to create jobs at home, where the unemployment rate has been 9.5 percent or higher for the last 14 months.
    Obama told the hundreds of Japanese chief executives gathered at the conference that he makes “no apologies” for trying to bring jobs to the U.S. through trade, but that economic growth in any country is good for others.
    “There’s no need to view trade, commerce, or economic growth as zero sum games, where one country always has to prosper at the expense of another,” he said. “If we work together, and act together, strengthening our economic ties can be a win-win for all of our nations.”… – Bloomberg, 11-12-10
  • Obama seeking compromise on Bush tax cuts: With tax breaks for millions of Americans set to expire Dec. 31, President Obama has opened the door to a compromise with Republicans, signaling a new willingness to accept tax breaks for the wealthy to avoid immediate tax hikes across the board. But as lawmakers head back to town next week for their first battle since this month’s congressional elections, no one is sure just how far Obama is willing to go.
    In recent days, the White House has appeared to vacillate on the expiring tax cuts, swerving from a humble tone of capitulation back to one of defiance. On Wednesday, White House senior adviser David Axelrod seemed to suggest in an interview with the Huffington Post that Obama was poised to acquiesce to GOP demands to extend all the tax cuts in tandem, saying “we have to deal with the world as we find it.”
    On Friday, Obama pushed back, telling reporters with him on a trip to South Korea that “that is the wrong interpretation.” “Here’s the right interpretation: I want to make sure that taxes don’t go up for middle-class families starting on January 1,” Obama said. “That’s my number one priority for those families and for our economy.”…. – WaPo, 11-12-10
  • Obama, GOP could meet halfway on foreign policy: Voters gave no clear direction to U.S. foreign policy in this month’s congressional elections, leaving President Barack Obama and his strengthened Republican opponents plenty of room in which to find common ground — or duke it out over pressing international challenges. Senior GOP lawmakers say Republicans will challenge Obama over his approach to Iran’s nuclear program, and are balking at Senate approval of a new nuclear arms control accord with Moscow. They’ll help cushion Obama, however, against criticism of his Afghanistan war strategy from his own Democratic Party’s liberal wing. Afghanistan “is one area where Republicans feel comfortable standing with the president,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the Halifax International Security Forum, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Nov. 6… – Miami Herald, 11-12-10
  • After G20, Obama says his global influence is intact: President Obama asserted Friday that the punishment his party took in midterm elections has not damaged his ability to advance U.S. interests overseas, saying his Asia trip has shown that many countries still want to work with the United States. In a news conference following the Group of 20 summit, Obama said the United States, while still the world’s most powerful economy, can no longer dictate the terms of how the world does business, especially after a global economic turndown that many blame on American policies. But he said his relationships with fellow heads of state have evolved during his two years in office – relying less on the novelty of his election and the enthusiasm it generated than on a shared view of where the global economy should be heading…. – WaPo, 11-12-10
  • Deficit report favors ‘do-nothing Congress’ Debt-to-GDP ratio benefits from inaction: Buried inside the wide-ranging blueprint put out this week by the respected co-chairmen of President Obama’s bipartisan commission to slash the federal deficit is a powerful argument for doing nothing. The commission’s recipe of tax increases, spending cuts, elimination of popular tax breaks and reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits continued to roil Washington on Thursday, as both liberals and conservatives condemned some of the painful steps contained in the draft proposal to reduce federal red ink over the coming decades. But the report, offered by Democrat Erskine Bowles and former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson, also demonstrates that Congress and Mr. Obama can take a major chunk out of the deficit without passing a single bill or issuing a single veto…. – The Washington Times, 11-11-10
  • Action, not talk: Deficit panel pushes Dems, GOP: The leaders of the deficit commission are baldly calling out the budget myths of both political parties, challenging lawmakers to engage in the “adult conversation” they say they want. Their plan — mixing painful cuts to Social Security and Medicare with big tax increases — has no chance of enactment as written, certainly not as a whole. But the commission’s high profile will make it harder for Republicans and Democrats to simply keep reciting their tax and spending talking points without acknowledging the real sacrifices that progress against government deficits would demand. It’s time for both conservatives and liberals to “put up or shut up,” says Jon Cowan, head of the centrist-Democratic group Third Way, which praised the bold new proposals and urged politicians to show courage. Republicans failed to produce their often-promised deficit reductions when they controlled the government, Cowan said, and Democrats refuse to acknowledge that entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare must be trimmed…. – AP, 11-11-10
  • Clinton offers Netanyahu security pledge on peace talks: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday that Israel’s security requirements would be fully taken into account in any peace deal with the Palestinians. In a move that could allow Netanyahu to persuade his governing coalition to back a new freeze on Israeli settlement construction, Clinton and the visiting Israeli leader ended a marathon round of talks in New York with a strong declaration of Washington’s “unshakable commitment to Israel’s security and to peace in the region.”
    “The prime minister and the secretary agreed on the importance of continuing direct negotiations to achieve our goals,” the two sides said in a joint statement, which did not mention the settlement issue directly. But Clinton repeated that the peace talks — which have hit an impasse over the settlement issue — could yet yield an independent Palestine living next to Israel “with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements.”
    “Those requirements will be fully taken into account in any future peace agreement,” the joint statement said…. – Reuters, 11-11-10
  • As G-20 begins, Obama gets few concessions from other leaders: Obama predicts that leaders will reach ‘a broad-based consensus’ on trade and currency issues, but the opening session of the summit offers little evidence that other nations are willing to help the U.S…. – LAT, 11-11-10
  • SKorea-US trade chiefs end talks as Obama arrives: South Korea and the United States ended a third day of talks aimed at jump-starting a long-stalled trade agreement, offering no clues on progress a day before their presidents meet. Washington and Seoul have been holding what are seen as make-or-break negotiations to infuse new life into the deal to slash tariffs and other barriers to trade that was signed in 2007 when previous administrations were in power. It remains unratified by lawmakers in both countries…. – Business Week, 11-10-10
  • Netanyahu defiantly answers Obama’s warning over construction in East Jerusalem: The Israeli leader’s sharp words come hours after Obama, in Indonesia, said new construction could harm a renewed Mideast peace effort. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clashed publicly with President Obama on Tuesday over Israeli construction in disputed East Jerusalem, throwing a teetering Mideast peace effort deeper in doubt. Responding to criticism from Obama, Netanyahu struck a defiant tone in commenting on plans to build 1,300 more Jewish housing units in East Jerusalem, saying his government had never agreed to limit construction in the city. “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is the capital of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “Israel sees no connection between the diplomatic process and the planning and building policy in Jerusalem.”
    Netanyahu’s statement came hours after Obama warned that the new construction, announced by Israel on Monday, could harm a renewed Mideast peace effort began in early September. Obama made the remarks a few hours after arriving in Indonesia, his boyhood home for four years, where he was set to deliver the second major speech Wednesday in his outreach to the Muslim world.
    “This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations, and I’m concerned that we’re not seeing each side make that extra effort involved to get a breakthrough,” Obama said. “Each of these incremental steps end up breaking trust.”
    Israel also is moving ahead with 800 units in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Israeli news reports said Tuesday. Netanyahu’s pronouncement was consistent with Israeli policy, yet his sharp tone may embarrass Obama at a moment of vulnerability. Obama is visiting the world’s largest Muslim country, and the rebuke may again raise questions in the Muslim world about how much influence the American leader really has on a priority issue. The disagreement also comes a week after Obama suffered a setback in the midterm elections, which gave Republicans, who are likely to be sympathetic to Netanyahu’s point of view, majority control of the House of Representatives. Some Israeli officials and U.S. analysts had predicted before the election that Netanyahu might feel emboldened to push back on Obama if the Democrats fared poorly…. – LAT, 11-9-10
  • No Charges in Destruction of C.I.A. Interrogation Tapes: Central Intelligence Agency officials will not face criminal charges for the destruction of dozens of videotapes depicting the brutal interrogation of terrorism suspects, the Justice Department said Tuesday. After a closely watched investigation of nearly three years, the decision by a special federal prosecutor is the latest example of Justice Department officials’ declining to seek criminal penalties for some of the controversial episodes in the C.I.A.’s now defunct detention and interrogation program. The destruction of the tapes, in particular, was seen as so striking that the Bush administration itself launched the special investigation after the action was publicly disclosed…. – NYT, 11-9-10
  • Obama trip welcomes India to high table of global influence: President Obama left India with reassurances of his strong support for a ‘strategic partnership’ – as well as strong words about his commitment to free trade…. – CS Monitor, 11-9-10
  • Fed Global Backlash Grows China and Russia Join Germany in Scolding; Obama Defends Move as Pro-Growth: Global controversy mounted over the Federal Reserve’s decision to pump billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, with President Barack Obama defending the move as China, Russia and the euro zone added to a chorus of criticism. Mr. Obama returned fire in the growing confrontation over trade and currencies Monday in a joint news conference with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, taking the unusual step of publicly backing the Fed’s decision to buy $600 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds—a move that has come under withering international criticism for weakening the U.S. dollar…. – WSJ, 11-8-10
  • Obama heads to Indonesia, finally: President Barack Obama finally heads to Jakarta on Tuesday for a visit during which he will seek to boost U.S. security and trade ties with Indonesia, and also reach out to the larger Islamic world. His visit to a country where he spent four years of his childhood comes after two previously scheduled trips were put off because of problems at home — in March as he fought to pass his healthcare overhaul law and in June as he faced the cleanup of the massive BP oil spill. The delays disappointed and angered some Indonesians, and even this visit had been in some doubt because of concerns about volcanic ash from repeated eruptions of Mount Merapi volcano. Indonesia is important destination for Obama for a variety of strategic and personal reasons, aides said. Its importance as a U.S. ally is on the rise, even if the joy over Obama’s election has faded since he became president almost two years ago. Indonesia is an emerging economy, a democracy, a member of the G20 and the world’s most populous Muslim country…. – Reuters, 11-8-10
  • Obama boosts India for ‘rightful place in world’: Deepening America’s stake in Asian power politics, President Barack Obama on Monday endorsed India’s bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, hoping to elevate the nation of a billion people to “its rightful place in the world” alongside an assertive China.
    Obama’s declaration, delivered to the pounding applause of India’s parliament members, spoke to a mission broader than the makeup of one global institution. By spending three packed days in India, announcing trade deals, dismissing job-outsourcing gripes and admonishing India’s rival Pakistan, Obama went all in for an ally whose support he hopes to bank on for years.
    “I want every Indian citizen to know: The United States of America will not simply be cheering you on from the sidelines,” Obama said inside the soaring legislative chamber of the capital city. “We will be right there with you, shoulder to shoulder, because we believe in the promise of India.”… – AP, 11-8-10
  • Diplomacy, Diwali, dinner on Obama’s agenda in India: A female tribal leader working to get more girls into classrooms, in a rural society that places boys first. A former civil servant running a website to battle corruption. Schoolchildren who got the first couple dancing for the Hindu festival Diwali.
    These were some of the Indians whom President Obama met Sunday on the second day of his four-nation Asia tour. The issues raised highlight the massive challenges facing this poor but fast-growing nation of 1.1 billion people, to whom Obama promised he would elevate the U.S.-India partnership “to an entirely new level.”
    He also faced the sensitive question of Pakistan-based terrorism, when asked, at a town-hall-style meeting with students, the question on many Indians’ minds: Why hasn’t the USA declared Pakistan a terrorist state? Obama stressed the need to work with Islamabad “to eradicate this extremism that we consider a cancer within the country that can potentially engulf the country.”… – 11-7-10
  • Fresh Slate at the Pentagon Lies Ahead for Obama: With critical decisions ahead on the war in Afghanistan, President Obama is about to receive an unusual opportunity to reshape the Pentagon’s leadership, naming a new defense secretary as well as several top generals and admirals in the next several months…. – NYT, 11-7-10
  • Obama calls India creator, not poacher, of US jobs: Searching for help half a world away, President Barack Obama on Saturday embraced India as the next jobs-creating giant for hurting Americans, not a cheap-labor rival that outsources opportunity from the United States. “For America, this is a jobs strategy,” Obama said of his emphasis on trade, although it could stand as a motto for his 10-day trip. He is spending Sunday with young people in Mumbai and then heading onto meetings in New Delhi, the capital, before shifting later in the week ahead to Indonesia and economic talks in South Korea and Japan…. – AP, 11-6-10
  • Obama Invokes Gandhi, Whose Ideal Eludes Modern India: President Obama and his wife, Michelle, with Usha Thakkar, director of Mani Bhavan, the Gandhi Museum in Mumbai, “He is a hero not just to India, but to the world,” the president wrote in a guest book on Saturday in Gandhi’s modest former home in Mumbai, now the Mani Bhavan museum. Yet if paying homage to Gandhi is expected of visiting dignitaries, Mr. Obama’s more personal identification with the Gandhian legacy — the president once named him the person he would most like to dine with — places him on complicated terrain…. – NYT, 11-7-10

112TH CONGRESS

  • Democrats avoid House leadership battle Nancy Pelosi helps craft an accord with potential rivals that will make her the minority leader: House Democrats, already hurting from their election shellacking, averted a potentially ugly leadership fight Saturday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco helped broker an agreement that paves the way for her to remain Democratic leader, Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland to remain in the party’s second-ranking position of minority whip, and James E. Clyburn of South Carolina to take the new title of assistant leader. Democrats who will serve in the new Congress will vote on their leaders Wednesday. The arrangement, which Pelosi announced in a letter to her party’s rank and file, averts a clash between Hoyer, whose appeal to more conservative Democrats is seen as crucial to helping the Democrats win back control of the House in 2012, and Clyburn, a black member who is popular with the liberal base…. – LAT, 11-13-10
  • House Democrats Avoid Fight on No. 2 Position: Updated: Shuler Considers Run Top House Democrats said late Friday night that they had settled on an arrangement that avoided a divisive fight for the No. 2 position in the party when it reverts to the minority in January. In a statement, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would nominate Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina to be the No. 3 Democrat when the party holds an internal party election on Wednesday. “Over the past four years, Congressman Clyburn’s effective leadership in the whip’s office was crucial to our passage of historic legislation on jobs, health care, veterans and Wall Street reform on behalf of the American people,” Ms. Pelosi said…. – NYT, 11-13-10
  • Ambition is curbed, but Democrats still have a lame-duck agenda: With a few weeks left in control of both houses of Congress, Democrats are pressing a scaled-back agenda that would extend middle-class tax cuts, fund the government and possibly repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday to begin a complicated lame-duck session that will mark the last time Democrats will be in control of Congress for the foreseeable future….
    Despite electoral losses that handed control of the House to Republicans and diminished Democrats’ majority in the Senate, Democratic leaders are pressing an agenda that would extend middle-class tax cuts, fund the government and perhaps repeal the ban on openly gay men and women serving inthe military.
    Yet nothing is certain in the new political climate. As many as 80 incoming House Republicans elected two weeks ago will arrive in town for freshman orientation in advance of their January swearing-in ceremony, and some plan to join a rally Monday to protest the Democrats’ plans.
    In addition, lawmakers who will be members of the 112th Congress will vote for their leaders next week. Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to become the next House speaker, while Democrats will decide whether to retain the outgoing speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as their leader. In the Senate, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to remain majority leader, with Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to continue leading the GOP…. – LAT, 11-13-10
  • Rahm: It’s on Presumptive front-runner makes official entry into race for mayor: As Rahm Emanuel made his entry into Chicago’s mayoral race official Saturday, a major theme of his campaign echoed off the school gymnasium walls: He is the tenacious leader Chicago needs during tough times. The former North Side congressman and White House chief of staff laid out a broad agenda, declaring he’d work to help generate jobs, improve education and decrease crime at a juncture in the city’s history when all three need to be addressed.
    “The choices we make in the next few years will define Chicago for future generations. They will determine whether we remain a world-class city — or fall back,” he told 250 supporters jammed in the gym at Coonley Elementary School. “The question in this election is who has the experience, imagination and strength to see a better future for Chicago? And who has the determination to see that vision through the end?” While providing few specifics in an 18-minute speech, Emanuel did say increasing taxes to address the city’s continued budget woes isn’t on the table. Still, Emanuel hinted at service cuts by promising that “necessary changes” and “tough choices” will be made and residents will “share in the sacrifices.”… – Chicago Tribune, 11-13-10
  • Recount Could Trap Pawlenty in Governor’s Mansion: Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota has been gearing up for a bid for the Republican presidential nomination for months. He chose not to run for re-election as governor. He has hit the early-state circuit. Everything is ready once he leaves office on Jan. 3. Except for this: He may not be able to leave. Under Minnesota law, the governor’s term extends as long as it takes to swear in a successor, even if a recount takes months. And that could just happen.
    The race to replace Mr. Pawlenty between the Democrat Mark Dayton and the Republican Tom Emmer ended last Tuesday in what is becoming a regular outcome in the North Star state — a virtual tie. Out of about 2.1 million votes cast, Mr. Dayton leads Mr. Emmer by about 8,500 votes, less than the half-percentage point margin that mandates an automatic recount.
    That recount will start on Nov. 27 and is scheduled to last until early December, at which point the trailing candidate could choose to challenge the recount by filing a lawsuit. Mr. Emmer’s advisers and state Republicans have made it clear they will do so if they feel they have a legitimate case.
    “If we are behind and we think that there are issues with the recount, we could file a contest,” said Tony Sutton, the chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota. “We’re not looking to kick this past the first of the year. We are not going to do things to throw stuff against the law and see what sticks.”… – NYT, 11-13-10
  • No. 2 House Democrat Will Try to Retain Post: Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said Monday that he would try to hold on to that position when his party slips into the minority next year as the leadership of House Democrats remained in turmoil one week after devastating election losses…. – NYT, 11-8-10
  • Hoyer collecting liberal support in whip bid: Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) continued Tuesday to collect high-profile endorsements from his party’s liberal wing in his bid to become House minority whip, trying to counter the impression that his candidacy is built around support from moderate-to-conservative Democrats. Seven Democratic committee chairmen issued a letter Tuesday endorsing Hoyer’s candidacy for the No. 2 post in the House leadership, including a trio of the leading legislative liberals: Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.), Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).
    Hoyer, currently the majority leader, has publicly touted his momentum in his campaign against Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), unveiling a string of key endorsements. With Tuesday’s rollout – first reported by Politico – Hoyer now has nearly 50 public endorsements, almost halfway to the roughly 95 or so supporters he will need to win the secret ballot later next week.
    Clyburn, currently the majority whip, the No. 3 post in the majority, has about 10 public endorsements but is also expected to collect the lion’s share of the roughly 40 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. He has won some key backing, including Monday’s endorsement by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), who is the highest-ranking Latino member of congressional leadership…. – WaPo, 11-9-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Congressman Danny Davis announces bid for Chicago mayor: U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, a veteran Chicago politician, struck populist tones as he declared his candidacy for mayor today, saying he will bridge the gap between wealthy and struggling communities.
    “Notwithstanding the economic climate, we the people, we the grassroots, everyday people, we the policeman, we the postman, we the clerks. . . can exercise our God-given rights to participate, be involved and make decisions about ourselves and our city,” Davis said at a rally held in a ballroom of the Hotel Allegro downtown.
    The announcement felt a little like a church service. Davis started with an invocation, and some of his 200 supporters gathered in the ballroom engaged in a call and response as Davis and others spoke.
    While Davis offered few policy details, he said he would create jobs and economic development opportunities and attempt to “save our children from lifetimes of drug use, abuse, (and) incarceration.”
    “I know that everyone in our city is concerned about balancing the budget and finding ways to keep our city solvent,” he said. “I don’t pretend at the moment to have the answers to all of our financial problems. . . but I can assure you that we have a team of researchers and experts looking at the issues and preparing recommendations.” … – Chicago Tribune, 11-14-10
  • Miller: Ballot fight unlikely if math doesn’t work: Republican Senate nominee Joe Miller is watching absentee ballots from military voters as he takes his next steps in Alaska’s still-undecided Senate race….
    The state has so far recorded more than 98,500 write-in ballots cast. Saturday marked the fourth day of a write-in ballot hand count that could stretch well into next week, with thousands of absentee and questioned ballots yet to be combed through.
    The count Saturday showed Murkowski with 74,449 votes, or 89.6 percent of the write-in vote undisputedly — a trend that has largely held throughout the process. Another 7.9 percent was credited to her tally over challenges by Miller observers, generally for things like misspellings of her name or penmanship. Murkowski’s campaign believes it needs to win at least 90 percent of the unchallenged vote to declare victory. Miller’s vote total, as of Friday night, was 87,517…. – AP, 11-14-10
  • Paging Jeb Bush — for 2012: In fact, some folks in the GOP are so convinced that there is a Bush renaissance in the offing that they’re hoping to turn that wave into another White House victory for the Bush family. That’s right. If the era of Bush fatigue is really over, then here comes baby brother. Jeb Bush, the popular former two-term governor of Florida, is being mentioned as a viable Republican candidate for the presidency in 2012, although he has denied having an interest in running.
    (Both Bush brothers will be guests on a special edition of State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Sunday at 8 and 11 p.m. ET.)
    While Jeb has his share of detractors, he also seems to have the same knack for bringing people together that his big brother had for driving them apart. And, with the Tea Party ready to go to war with the GOP establishment in the political equivalent of a cage match for control of the Republican Party, that skill set could come in handy…. – CNN, 11-12-10
  • Murkowski confident in re-election chances: If wrestling with a variety of spellings for write-in candidate Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s name isn’t enough, officials counting ballots in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race are also dealing with such oddball entries as “Donald Duck,” ”Elmo” and “Revolt.”
    Those ballots were quickly tossed Friday even as a count showed the Republican incumbent maintaining a healthy 90 percent of the write-in vote.
    Saying she feels “pretty good about the direction” the tally is headed, Murkowski expressed confidence that she’ll pull off an improbable write-in victory over Republican nominee Joe Miller.
    So far, the state has recorded 98,565 write-in votes and 87,517 votes for Miller. Murkowski has been getting about 90 percent of write-in votes. Another 7.6 percent have been apparent votes for Murkowski that have been challenged, generally by observers for Miller for things like penmanship issues and misspellings.
    The hand count is scheduled to go through the weekend and run well into next week to determine if Murkowski got enough write-in votes to win…. – AP, 11-13-10
  • Michigan Republican Anuzis to challenge RNC’s Michael Steele: Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis announced Friday that he will run for chairman of the Republican National Committee, making him the first official challenge to current leader Michael Steele. Anuzis said in a statement that the decision for him was not easy, since he regards Steele as a “friend and colleague.” “As someone who believes in loyalty, my natural instinct would be to sit this out,” Anuzis wrote. “But the simple fact is that the overriding challenge we face is winning back the Presidency in 2012 and we will not accomplish that objective unless there is dramatic change in the way the RNC does business.”… – Yahoo News, 11-12-10
  • Reagan Library to Host First Republican Debate for 2012 Primary: What took so long? It’s been over a week since the 2010 vote and debate plans are finally being made for the presidential election in two years. The first Republican primary debate is set for spring 2011 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California, The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.
    “Ronnie would be thrilled that the road to the White House will begin at his Presidential Library,” former first lady Nancy Reagan said in a press release. “I look forward to welcoming and watching the top candidates debate the issues next spring.” NBC News and Politico will be the event’s media partners. No Republicans have announced their intentions to challenge President Obama. Among names being floated are Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
    “The fact that we are already talking about the 2012 presidential race only foreshadows how invested and deeply rooted America will be in the political discussion come next spring,” NBC News President Steve Capus…. – Politics Daily, 11-11-10
  • Nancy Reagan to host debate for 2012 GOP hopefuls: Republicans hoping to take back the White House in 2012 will have an audition of sorts at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Former first lady Nancy Reagan announced today she will invite the leading 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls to a debate at the library in spring 2011. The debate will be co-hosted by NBC News and Politico. “Ronnie would be thrilled that the road to the White House will begin at his presidential library,” Mrs. Reagan said in a statement. A second Republican debate will be held at the library before the Super Tuesday primaries….. – USA Today, 11-11-10
  • Murkowski returning to Alaska amid ballot count: U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is returning to Alaska as election workers continue tabulating write-in ballots that will help determine whether she wins re-election. Anchorge Daily News, 11-11-10
  • Nurkowski? Makowski? Murckoski? Counting the Write-In Votes in Alaska: “Liza Makowski?” “Challenge.” So said Terry Campo, an observer working on behalf of Joe Miller, the Republican Senate candidate, as he hovered over a table where two election workers on Wednesday helped sift through more than 230,000 ballots cast in the Alaska Senate race. The question looming over the warehouse in this remote state capital: will Senator Lisa Murkowski become the first write-in candidate elected to the Senate since 1954? Write-in votes have a clear lead over Mr. Miller, but the process of actually seeing whose name is on them did not begin until Wednesday. The count is expected to last until at least Friday – but a court fight could last much longer…. – NYT, 11-10-10
  • 2012 Senate races pose challenge to President Obama: The votes are still being counted in some states for this year’s congressional elections, but already some political types are sweating the 2012 contests in the Senate. An analysis by The National Journal discusses a “civil war” brewing for Republicans in 2012, since the anti-tax, small-government Tea Party movement roiled the GOP this year.
    There’s also been some sniping between Rep. Spencer Bachus and former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin about the Tea Party’s role in the 2010 elections. Palin has pushed back on the Alabama Republican’s comment that “Palin cost us control of the Senate” with her support of candidates such as Christine O’Donnell, who was defeated in her bid for a Delaware Senate seat. But some 2012 Senate races aren’t just interesting for Republicans. The contests also pose a challenge to Democrats and President Obama, especially in some of the states he won in 2008. In all, Democrats will have to defend 23 Senate seats including the two held by independents who vote with them. Republicans hold 10 Senate seats up for grabs in two years…. – USA Today, 11-10-10
  • Republicans Maneuver to Oust Their Leader: Turning their attention to the 2012 presidential election, Republican leaders are digging in for a battle over control of the Republican National Committee, judging that its role in fund-raising, get-out-the-vote operations and other tasks will be critical to the effort to topple President Obama. Some senior party officials are maneuvering to put pressure on Michael Steele, the controversial party chairman, not to seek re-election when his term ends in January or, failing that, to encourage a challenger to step forward to take him on…. – NYT, 11-9-10
  • GOP lawmaker: Palin cost party control of Senate: Questioned about those comments on Tuesday, a spokesman for Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama said the remarks had been taken out of context but didn’t retract them. Bachus, in line to become chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, initially blamed Palin last week at a local Chamber of Commerce luncheon. According to the Shelby County Reporter, he said the Senate would be in Republican hands if not for losses by tea party candidates endorsed by the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee.
    “Sarah Palin cost us control of the Senate,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. He added that while tea party candidates did well in House races, “they didn’t do well at all” in Senate contests.
    In a statement Tuesday, Bachus spokesman Tim Johnson said the congressman was expressing a widely held belief that stronger Republican candidates could have won in states such as Delaware and Nevada, where Republicans Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle lost. “That’s a lesson going forward,” Johnson said. “As the article noted, (Bachus) was extremely complimentary of the tea party movement and Governor Palin in crediting them with the great turnout of conservatives that led to many of the successes on Tuesday.” “He said that the tea party, rather than being criticized, is on the same page as many in the country, including independents, in cutting spending, lowering taxes and limiting the size of government,” Johnson added…. – WaPo, 11-9-10
  • Joe Miller: Cautiously optimistic on prospects: Alaska Senate hopeful Joe Miller says he’s cautiously optimistic about his prospects for winning on the eve of the absentee ballot count. Election workers plan to begin tallying more than 30,000 absentee ballots Tuesday; the counting of write-in ballots will begin Wednesday. Initial returns from last week’s election showed Miller trailing write-ins by more than 13,000 votes. Sen. Lisa Murkowski ran as a write-in following her loss in the GOP primary to Miller. It’s not clear how many of those votes are for her or how many for her were properly cast. Murkowski has sounded confident, telling supporters they’d “made history.” But Miller tells The Associated Press this is premature, and says her hiring of a “high-power” legal team suggests she’s nervous. – WaPo, 11-9-10
  • 12 in 2012: Jim DeMint Earns His Stripes as Tea Party Power Broker: Senator Tea Party, as Jim DeMint is sometimes known, is a moniker the first-term senator began wearing before the Tea Party became a household name. It’s also a description that has pushed the South Carolina Republican out of the shadows and into the forefront of electoral politics.
    “I’m proud to be called Senator Tea Party. I feel like I’m giving a voice to people who are very frustrated that Washington’s not listening,” DeMint told Fox News.
    This fall, DeMint, who was just re-elected to his second term in the Senate, took his commitment to making Washington listen out on the campaign trail – and not merely in his own race. He endorsed high-profile conservatives and donated millions from his political action committee to failed Senate candidates Ken Buck of Colorado, Sharron Angle of Nevada and Christine O’Donnell of Delaware as well as successful contestants Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky…. – Fox News, 11-9-10
  • Clyburn: Pelosi has a role in House leadership: Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a place in the Democratic leadership after Republicans take control next year. The South Carolina Democrat is downplaying the emerging contest between himself and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer for the No. 2 spot when Democrats become the minority party. Clyburn says he plans to keep his current job as whip…. – AP, 11-7-10
  • Pence, Pawlenty Still Weigh 2012 Bids: Rep. Mike Pence (R., Ind.) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said they were still weighing whether to run for president in 2012, but decisions could be coming shortly. Mr. Pence, in an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” said he was “intent on taking the coming weeks to really prayerfully consider that, to wait on the Lord, to seek counsel. And after the first of the year, we’ll make a decision.”
    “Well, I don’t know for sure what I’m going to do after I’m done being governor,” Mr. Pawlenty told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “I’ll decide that early next year.”
    Sen. Jim DeMint (R. S.C.) had some advice for whoever wants to win the Republican nomination. “I think the next Republican running for president needs to run on complete repeal” of the new health care law, he in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, said he “absolutely” was not running for president in 2012. Or vice president, for that matter.
    “Can you see me as somebody who’s a vice president?” he said on “Meet the Press.” “After that question about ‘Governor Wrecking Ball?’ I would feel bad for that poor man or woman.” – WSJ, 11-7-10

QUOTES

The President Records the Weekly Address

For this edition of West Wing Week, walk step by step with the President as he travels through Asia.

  • President Obama at the G-20 in Seoul: “Focusing on Growth”WH, 11-12-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Calls for Earmark Reform Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address November 13, 2010: This weekend, I’m concluding a trip to Asia whose purpose was to open new markets for American products in this fast-growing part of the world. The economic battle for these markets is fierce, and we’re up against strong competitors. But as I’ve said many times, America doesn’t play for second place. The future we’re fighting for isn’t as the world’s largest importer, consuming products made elsewhere, but as the world’s largest manufacturer of ideas and goods sold around the world.
    Opening new markets will not only help America’s businesses create new jobs for American workers. It will also help us reduce our deficits – because the single greatest tool for getting our fiscal house in order is robust economic growth. That kind of growth will require ensuring that our students are getting the best education possible; that we’re on the cutting edge of research and development; and that we’re rebuilding our roads and railways, runways and ports – so our infrastructure is up to the challenges of the 21st century.
    Given the deficits that have mounted up over the past decade, we can’t afford to make these investments unless we’re also willing to cut what we don’t need. That’s why I’ve submitted to Congress a plan for a three-year budget freeze, and I’m prepared to offer additional savings. But as we work to reform our budget, Congress should also put some skin in the game. I agree with those Republican and Democratic members of Congress who’ve recently said that in these challenging days, we can’t afford what are called earmarks. These are items inserted into spending bills by members of Congress without adequate review….
    As a Senator, I helped eliminate anonymous earmarks and created new measures of transparency so Americans can better follow how their tax dollars are being spent. As President, time and again, I’ve called for new limitations on earmarks. We’ve reduced the cost of earmarks by over $3 billion. And we’ve put in place higher standards of transparency by putting as much information as possible on earmarks.gov. In fact, this week, we updated the site with more information about where last year’s earmarks were actually spent, and made it easier to look up Members of Congress and the earmarks they fought for.
    Today, we have a chance to go further. We have a chance to not only shine a light on a bad Washington habit that wastes billions of taxpayer dollars, but take a step towards restoring public trust. We have a chance to advance the interests not of Republicans or Democrats, but of the American people; to put our country on the path of fiscal discipline and responsibility that will lead to a brighter economic future for all. And that’s a future I hope we can reach across party lines to build together. – WH, 11-13-10
  • President Obama in Jakarta: “Indonesia’s Example To the World”: I first came to this country when my mother married an Indonesian named Lolo Soetoro. And as a young boy I was — as a young boy I was coming to a different world. But the people of Indonesia quickly made me feel at home.
    And we lived in a small house. We had a mango tree out front. And I learned to love Indonesia while flying kites and running along the paddy fields and catching dragonflies, buying satay and baso from the street vendors. (Applause.) I still remember the call of the vendors. Satay! (Laughter.) I remember that. Baso! (Laughter.) But most of all, I remember the people — the old men and women who welcomed us with smiles; the children who made a foreign child feel like a neighbor and a friend; and the teachers who helped me learn about this country.
    In the years since then, Indonesia has charted its own course through an extraordinary democratic transformation — from the rule of an iron fist to the rule of the people. In recent years, the world has watched with hope and admiration as Indonesians embraced the peaceful transfer of power and the direct election of leaders. And just as your democracy is symbolized by your elected President and legislature, your democracy is sustained and fortified by its checks and balances: a dynamic civil society; political parties and unions; a vibrant media and engaged citizens who have ensured that — in Indonesia — there will be no turning back from democracy.
    But even as this land of my youth has changed in so many ways, those things that I learned to love about Indonesia — that spirit of tolerance that is written into your Constitution; symbolized in mosques and churches and temples standing alongside each other; that spirit that’s embodied in your people — that still lives on. (Applause.) Bhinneka Tunggal Ika — unity in diversity. (Applause.) This is the foundation of Indonesia’s example to the world, and this is why Indonesia will play such an important part in the 21st century.
    When I moved to Indonesia, it would have been hard to imagine a future in which the prosperity of families in Chicago and Jakarta would be connected. But our economies are now global, and Indonesians have experienced both the promise and the perils of globalization: from the shock of the Asian financial crisis in the ‘90s, to the millions lifted out of poverty because of increased trade and commerce. What that means — and what we learned in the recent economic crisis — is that we have a stake in each other’s success.
    America has a stake in Indonesia growing and developing, with prosperity that is broadly shared among the Indonesian people — because a rising middle class here in Indonesia means new markets for our goods, just as America is a market for goods coming from Indonesia. So we are investing more in Indonesia, and our exports have grown by nearly 50 percent, and we are opening doors for Americans and Indonesians to do business with one another.
    These are the issues that really matter in our daily lives. Development, after all, is not simply about growth rates and numbers on a balance sheet. It’s about whether a child can learn the skills they need to make it in a changing world. It’s about whether a good idea is allowed to grow into a business, and not suffocated by corruption. It’s about whether those forces that have transformed the Jakarta I once knew — technology and trade and the flow of people and goods — can translate into a better life for all Indonesians, for all human beings, a life marked by dignity and opportunity.
    Now, this kind of development is inseparable from the role of democracy.
    Today, we sometimes hear that democracy stands in the way of economic progress. This is not a new argument. Particularly in times of change and economic uncertainty, some will say that it is easier to take a shortcut to development by trading away the right of human beings for the power of the state. But that’s not what I saw on my trip to India, and that is not what I see here in Indonesia. Your achievements demonstrate that democracy and development reinforce one another.
    I said then, and I will repeat now, that no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust. But I believed then, and I believe today, that we do have a choice. We can choose to be defined by our differences, and give in to a future of suspicion and mistrust. Or we can choose to do the hard work of forging common ground, and commit ourselves to the steady pursuit of progress. And I can promise you — no matter what setbacks may come, the United States is committed to human progress. That is who we are. That is what we’ve done. And that is what we will do. (Applause.)
    Now, we know well the issues that have caused tensions for many years — and these are issues that I addressed in Cairo. In the 17 months that have passed since that speech, we have made some progress, but we have much more work to do.
    Innocent civilians in America, in Indonesia and across the world are still targeted by violent extremism. I made clear that America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Instead, all of us must work together to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion –– certainly not a great, world religion like Islam. But those who want to build must not cede ground to terrorists who seek to destroy. And this is not a task for America alone. Indeed, here in Indonesia, you’ve made progress in rooting out extremists and combating such violence.
    That spark of the divine lives within each of us. We cannot give in to doubt or cynicism or despair. The stories of Indonesia and America should make us optimistic, because it tells us that history is on the side of human progress; that unity is more powerful than division; and that the people of this world can live together in peace. May our two nations, working together, with faith and determination, share these truths with all mankind. WH, 11-10-10
  • Palin calls Obama ‘most pro-abortion president’: Sarah Palin attacked President Barack Obama on Wednesday for his support of abortion rights and for the federal health care overhaul as the former Alaska governor appeared in Texas with another tea party favorte, Gov. Rick Perry. Palin described Obama as “the most pro-abortion president to occupy the White House” at the Dallas event, which was sponsored by a nonprofit organization that promotes an anti-abortion message. The 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee also said the federal health care law is the “mother of all unfunded mandates” and means federal funding will go toward abortions…. – AP, 11-11-10
  • Obama says Indonesia, U.S. ‘on right path’: President Obama on Tuesday said his efforts to find ways to cooperate with Indonesia were “direct results of my call … for a new beginning between the United States and Muslim communities.” “Our efforts have been earnest, sustained,” Obama said. “We don’t expect that we are going to completely eliminate some of the misunderstandings and mistrust that have developed … but we do think that we’re on the right path.” “I have made it clear that America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam,” he said in remarks prepared prior to the speech and distributed to the news media. “Instead, all of us must defeat al-Qaeda and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion — certainly not a great, world religion like Islam.”
    Most of Indonesia’s 240 million people follow a moderate form of Islam…. – USA Today, 11-9-10
  • Peggy Noonan: Sarah Palin A ‘Nincompoop’ For Reagan Reduction: Excuse me, but this was ignorant even for Mrs. Palin. Reagan people quietly flipped their lids, but I’ll voice their consternation to make a larger point. Ronald Reagan was an artist who willed himself into leadership as president of a major American labor union (Screen Actors Guild, seven terms, 1947-59.) He led that union successfully through major upheavals (the Hollywood communist wars, labor-management struggles); discovered and honed his ability to speak persuasively by talking to workers on the line at General Electric for eight years; was elected to and completed two full terms as governor of California; challenged and almost unseated an incumbent president of his own party; and went on to popularize modern conservative political philosophy without the help of a conservative infrastructure. Then he was elected president…. – WSJ, 11-6-10
  • Obama: US elections force ‘midcourse corrections’: Hampered by heavy election losses at home, President Barack Obama promised on Sunday from Indian to make “midcourse corrections” to reinvigorate his embattled domestic agenda in the face of a testier American public and more combative Congress….
    The president agreed that people vented their frustration about the economy by sacking many incumbents. A “healthy thing,” he said, even though his Democratic Party suffered, losing control of one of the chambers in Congress. He said he would not retreat on spending money for energy and education, and offered no specific policy changes.
    But then he added that the election “requires me to make some midcourse corrections and adjustments. And how those play themselves out over the next several months will be a matter of me being in discussions with the Republican Party.”… – AP, 11-7-10
  • Obama Says Vote Turned on Economy: President Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday night that he views last week’s mid-term Congressional elections as “a referendum on the economy” rather than a referendum on him, his policies or the Democratic Party.
    While he said he should be held accountable for the economy as the nation’s leader, he did not accept the suggestion that he pursued the wrong agenda over the last two years, and he focused blame on his failure to build public support for what he was doing or to change the way Washington works.
    In a session taped for CBS’s “60 Minutes” before Mr. Obama left for Asia, the correspondent Steve Kroft pointed out to the president that Republicans view the election as a referendum on him and the Democrats, and asked if he agreed. “I think first and foremost it was a referendum on the economy,” Mr. Obama said. “And the party in power was held responsible for an economy that is still underperforming.”… – NYT, 11-10-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Calls for Compromise and Explains his Priorities on Taxes Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House November 6, 2010: This week, Americans across the country cast their votes and made their voices heard. And your message was clear.
    You’re rightly frustrated with the pace of our economic recovery. So am I.
    You’re fed up with partisan politics and want results. I do too.
    So I congratulate all of this week’s winners – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. But now, the campaign season is over. And it’s time to focus on our shared responsibilities to work together and deliver those results: speeding up our economic recovery, creating jobs, and strengthening the middle class so that the American Dream feels like it’s back within reach….
    Here’s why this lame duck session is so important. Early in the last decade, President Bush and Congress enacted a series of tax cuts that were designed to expire at the end of this year.
    What that means is, if Congress doesn’t act by New Year’s Eve, middle-class families will see their taxes go up starting on New Year’s Day.
    But the last thing we should do is raise taxes on middle-class families. For the past decade, they saw their costs rise, their incomes fall, and too many jobs go overseas. They’re the ones bearing the brunt of the recession. They’re the ones having trouble making ends meet. They are the ones who need relief right now.
    So something’s got to be done. And I believe there’s room for us to compromise and get it done together.
    But at a time when we are going to ask folks across the board to make such difficult sacrifices, I don’t see how we can afford to borrow an additional $700 billion from other countries to make all the Bush tax cuts permanent, even for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. We’d be digging ourselves into an even deeper fiscal hole and passing the burden on to our children.
    I recognize that both parties are going to have to work together and compromise to get something done here. But I want to make my priorities clear from the start. One: middle class families need permanent tax relief. And two: I believe we can’t afford to borrow and spend another $700 billion on permanent tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
    There are new public servants in Washington, but we still face the same challenges. And you made it clear that it’s time for results. This a great opportunity to show everyone that we got the message and that we’re willing, in this post-election season, to come together and do what’s best for the country we all love. – WH, 11-6-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

President Barack Obama places a wreath at the base of the Yongsan   War Memorial
The President places a wreath at the base of the Yongsan War Memorial, White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 11/11/10
  • Lawrence Goodwyn: The Great Predicament Facing Obama: What happened to the dream of Barack Obama’s transformational politics? There’s been very little deviation from the disastrous Bush years on the key issues of war, empire and the distribution of wealth in the country. I turned to Lawrence Goodwyn, historian of social movements whose books and methods of explaining history have had a profound influence on many of the best known authors, activists and social theorists of our time. Goodwyn’s account of the Populist movement, Democratic Promise, is quoted extensively by Howard Zinn in People’s History of the United States, and also in William Greider’s masterpiece on the Federal Reserve, Secrets of the Temple. You can find Goodwyn quoted in the first paragraph of Bill Moyers’ recent book, On Democracy, and cited in just the same way in countless other books and essays.
    I interviewed Goodwyn from his home in Durham, North Carolina about the pitfalls of recording American history, Obama’s presidency in light of previous presidents, and portents of change in our political culture…. – Alternet (10-30-10)
  • Can the Tea Party endure? CNN asks Michael Kazin: The midterm elections dealt a powerful blow to President Obama and the Democratic Party as the country appeared to shift decisively to the right, moved by mass anger, “due to a combination of two kinds of fear,” historian Michael Kazin told CNN…. Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University, editor of The Princeton Encyclopedia of American Political History and author of “A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan” and other books, spoke to CNN last week.
    CNN: Would Republicans have captured the House without the Tea Party?
    Michael Kazin: We historians hate counterfactual questions! But clearly, the aura of a grass-roots rebellion helped to obscure the fact that most of corporate America was rooting for the GOP and helping finance Republican campaigns. The specific policy ideas of the Tea Partiers mattered less than did their anger at the perceived sins of “big government” and of President Obama. As [political writer] Kevin Phillips once wrote, much of political conflict comes down to the question of “who hates whom.”… – CNN.com (11-7-10)
  • Julian Zelizer: GOP leaders, beware the newcomers John Boehner has a huge problem on his hands. Now that the elections are over, and Republicans were victorious, he will need to tame the passions of the GOP freshmen who are coming to town determined to change everything about the way that Washington works.
    If he does not, the Republicans could divide among themselves, thereby undercutting their ability to push forward legislation and giving President Obama an opportunity to challenge their competence….
    Just as Democrats would do well to remember that life wasn’t so great for Clinton after 1994, even with his high approval rates, Republicans would do the same to recall how a massive opportunity was wasted and ultimately consumed some of its own leaders. – CNN, 11-8-1
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November 2009: President Obama, Health Care Reform, Afghanistan, State Trips & State Dinners

Luke Sharrett/The New York Times
Gursharan Kaur, the first lady of India, Michelle Obama, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, and President Obama arrived for the state Dinner.

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Obama’s Approval Slide Finds Whites Down to 39% Support has declined much more among whites than among nonwhites: In his first full week in office (Jan. 26-Feb. 1), an average of 66% of Americans approved of the job Obama was doing, including 61% of non-Hispanic whites and 80% of nonwhites. In the most recent week, spanning Nov. 16-22 interviewing, his approval rating averaged 49% overall, 39% among whites, and 73% among nonwhites. Thus, since the beginning of his presidency, his support has dropped 22 points among whites, compared with a 7-point loss among nonwhites. – Gallop, 11-24-09
  • SPIN METER: ‘War and Peace’ in 209 pages?: Republicans are using everything short of forklifts to show Americans that Democratic health care legislation is an unwieldy mountain of paper. They pile it high on desks, hoist it on a shoulder trussed in sturdy rope and tell people it’s longer than “War and Peace,” which it isn’t… – AP, 11-25-09
  • The harris poll (r) President’s Job Approval Ratings Hinge on Good, Bad Element of Change Some think he is trying to do too much; others say his efforts are positive.: These are some of the results of The Harris Poll(R) of 2,303 adults surveyed online between Nov. 2 and 11, 2009 by Harris Interactive(R).
    Right now, more than two in five Americans (43 percent) give Obama positive job approval ratings. When these people are asked why they think some people like the job Obama is doing, the highest response, given by 13 percent of Americans, is that he is trying to bring about much needed change. One in 10 U.S. adults (9 percent) think people like the job the president is doing because he is working for the people’s best interests and doing the right thing. Further down the list as reasons are that he seems to care about everyone, or the common man (7 percent) and the same number say people like Obama because he is not George W. Bush. In fact, 5 percent each say people like the job the president is doing because the country needs a fresh outlook with new ideas. – The Ledger, 11-24-09
  • AP Poll: Americans fret over health overhaul costs: It’s the cost, Mr. President. Americans are worried about hidden costs in the fine print of health care overhaul legislation, an Associated Press poll says. That’s creating new challenges for President Barack Obama as he tries to close the deal with a handful of Democratic doubters in the Senate. The poll found that 43 percent oppose the health care plans being discussed in Congress, while 41 percent are in support. An additional 15 percent remain neutral or undecided…. – AP, 11-16-09
  • Michelle Obama’s poll numbers slide: When Michelle Obama moved into the White House, she instantly became one of the most famous first ladies in history, a symbol of racial pride, a victor in the battle of the sexes and the picture of a modern woman, mother and wife. But from her days on the campaign trail to her residency in the White House, Obama’s favorability rating has been in flux, from a low of 48 percent in June 2008 to a peak of 72 percent last March to a slide to 61 percent in a recent Gallup Poll. – Politico, 11-4-09

THE HEADLINES….

  • Debate on Creating Jobs, Without Raising Deficit: As Democrats renew their push to create jobs, they are at odds over the timing, cost and scope of additional measures, with the White House’s concern about high budget deficits pitted against the eagerness of many in Congress to spur hiring before next year’s elections. After months in which his focus has been on a health care overhaul and foreign policy issues, President Obama will pivot later this week to the economy, convening a White House forum on Thursday to discuss ideas for job creation and then traveling to Allentown, Pa., for his first stop on a “Main Street Tour.” – NYT, 11-29-09
  • Sam Tanenhaus: North Star Populism, politics, and the power of Sarah Palin. – New Yorker, 12-7-09
  • US senators to begin fractious health care debate: The US Senate was set Monday to begin debate on a massive health care reform bill that is a key priority for President Barack Obama but faces stiff Republican opposition and is plagued by divisions in Democratic ranks. Debate is to begin Monday morning on the measure to overhaul the US health care system, at an estimated cost of 848 billion dollars through 2019, but a final Senate vote on the bill is not expected for a month at the earliest. The administration hailed the November 22 vote that cleared the way for debate to begin, but Senate Majority Harry Reid faces a tough challenge constructing a coalition strong enough to get the bill out of the Senate. He can count on almost unanimous opposition to the measure from Republicans, one of whom has vowed a “holy war” against the bill…. – AFP, 11-29-09
  • Uninvited Pair Met Obama; Secret Service Offers Apology: President Obama and his wife, Michelle, had a face-to-face encounter with the couple who sneaked into a state dinner at the White House this week, White House officials acknowledged on Friday. The revelation underscored the seriousness of the security breach and prompted an abject apology from the Secret Service…. – NYT, 11-27-09
  • Tis the season: White House Christmas tree arrives: The White House is open for Christmas. A day after celebrating Thanksgiving, first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha received the official White House Christmas tree: an 18 1/2-foot Douglas fir delivered from a farm in Shepherdstown, W.Va., by traditional horse-drawn carriage. Growers Eric and Gloria Sundback officially presented the tree to the Obamas on Friday…. – AP, 11-27-09
  • Karl Rove: Voter Anger Is Building Over Deficits: The generic poll shows a 16-point swing to the GOP over last year. WSJ, 11-27-09
  • Obama’s agenda runs into economic angst in Congress: U.S. President Barack Obama is paying a price for a recession that began before he took office, and fellow Democrats have started to balk at his legislative agenda and demand greater efforts to create jobs. Some liberal Democrats even want Obama to replace his economic team while moderates fear his bid to overhaul healthcare and stem global warming — two top priorities — may mean more fiscal hard times, at least in the short term…. – Reuters, 11-26-09
  • Obamas’ Uninvited Guests Prompt an Inquiry: The Secret Service is investigating how a couple aspiring to be reality-show celebrities managed to appear at President Obama’s first state dinner without being on the guest list, provoking questions about security at the White House…. – NYT, 11-27-09
  • Oprah to visit White House, interview Obamas for holiday special: Oprah Winfrey will interview President Obama and his wife, Michelle, next month for a 60-minute program to air before Christmas, the talk show host announced Wednesday. “Christmas at the White House: An Oprah Primetime Special” will air at 10 p.m. ET December 13 on ABC, her Web site said…. – CNN, 11-25-09
  • Evening gowns, saris at Obama’s first state dinner: Traditional evening gowns and vibrantly colored saris mixed with banded-collar dinner jackets and tuxedos at President Barack Obama’s first state dinner. There also were turbans and bindis and diamonds aplenty, as several hundred guests put on the glitz and joined a White House celebration in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Outshining them all was first lady Michelle Obama in a strapless, cream and gold silk chiffon gown with a sparkling silver floral design…. – AP, 11-25-09
  • Panel 1st up in SC Gov. Sanford impeachment debate: Gov. Mark Sanford’s tearful confession that he quietly disappeared from the state for five days to rendezvous with his lover in Argentina has shattered his marriage and dimmed his once-bright political future. A small group of lawmakers on Tuesday started the debate whether his decision to vanish last summer without telling his staff his whereabouts or leave anyone in charge rises to the “serious crimes or serious misconduct in office” standard necessary to impeach him…. – AP, 11-25-09
  • Obama to vow greenhouse emissions cuts in Denmark: Putting his prestige on the line, President Barack Obama will personally commit the U.S. to a goal of substantially cutting greenhouse gases at next month’s Copenhagen climate summit. He will insist America is ready to tackle global warming despite resistance in Congress over higher costs for businesses and homeowners…. – AP, 11-25-09
  • Obama will unveil Afghan troops move at West Point: President Barack Obama plans to announce a redrawn battle plan for Afghanistan, including what the military says could be a roughly 50 percent increase in U.S. forces, in a national address Tuesday night from the U.S. Military Academy… – AP, 11-25-09
  • ‘Going Rogue’ Goes to Top of Book Sales Chart: “Going Rogue,” the newly released memoir by Sarah Palin, the former Alaskan governor and Republican nominee for vice president, sold 469,000 copies in its first week of release, according to sales figures released Wednesday by Nielsen BookScan. That made “Going Rogue” the top-selling book of the week on Nielsen BookScan’s chart. – NYT, 11-25-09
  • Obama team battles to portray healthcare reform as cost-cutting: House and Senate bills on healthcare reform include most cost-cutting ideas that have surfaced in recent years, asserts Obama’s budget director…. – CS Monitor, 11-25-09
  • Modern Flourishes at Obamas’ State Dinner: It is an old tradition, a White House dinner governed by ritual and protocol that happens to be this city’s hottest social event. But at their first state dinner on Tuesday night, President Obama and his wife, Michelle, made sure to infuse the glittering gala with distinctive touches…. – NYT, 11-25-09
  • Obama’s first state dinner blends pageantry with politics: President Obama toasted a growing U.S. friendship with India at the first state dinner of his administration Tuesday, an evening of regal pageantry and symbolic politics in a tent on the White House South Lawn. “To the future that beckons all of us,” Obama said with glass raised toward his guest of honor, visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Let us answer its call. And let our two great nations realize all the triumphs and achievements that await us.”…
    The Tuesday night dinner showed Obama’s intention to signal strong ties with the world’s largest democracy and go his own way in navigating the pomp and tradition of White House customs…. – CNN, 11-25-09
  • Uninvited Guests Make It Into State Dinner: This much is known: About 7:15 Tuesday night, a glittering blonde, decked out in a red and gold sari, holding the hand of her black-tuxedoed escort, swept past the camera crews and reporters camped out to catch the red-carpet arrivals for the first state dinner given by President Obama.
    In fact, the couple — Michaele Salahi and her husband, Tareq — are Virginians who have been auditioning for a possible role in a different housewives TV franchise: “The Real Housewives of Washington.”… – NYT, 11-25-09
  • SC lawmakers question impeachment for governor: A cool-headed legal debate has replaced the once-passionate calls to oust Gov. Mark Sanford that began after his tearful summertime admission that he disappeared from the state to pursue an extramarital affair in Argentina. A panel on Tuesday began debating whether his failure to inform his staff of his whereabouts and put anyone in charge rise to the high standard of impeachment, usually reserved for officeholders who break the law…. – AP, 11-24-09
  • Obama to unveil plan to add troops in Afghanistan: War-weary Americans will support more fighting in Afghanistan once they understand the perils of losing, President Barack Obama declared Tuesday, announcing he was ready to spell out war plans virtually sure to include tens of thousands more U.S. troops. He is expected to make his case to the nation in a Tuesday night speech, even as the military completes plans to begin sending in reinforcements in the spring…. – AP, 11-24-09
  • Looking for Tea Leaves in Obama’s Sliding Numbers: President Obama returned from his trip to Asia facing some unsettling news: two new polls showed that his approval rating had dipped below 50 percent for the first time. To many of his critics, who had chafed as he enjoyed broad support among Americans even as many were critical of his handling of specific issues like the economy, this erosion is a tipping point, the end of Mr. Obama’s perceived near-invulnerability. In many ways, the slide should not come as a surprise. And coming less than a year into his presidency, not to mention almost a full year from the 2010 Congressional elections, its long-term political significance is anything but clear…. – NYT, 11-24-09
  • Schumer says failure not an option on health care: Failure is not an option on health care, a leading Democratic senator said Monday, even as Republicans turned up the heat on moderates who hold the fate of the legislation in their hands. “We’re not going to not pass a bill,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. With or without Republican support, Democrats will get it done, Schumer said, because a health care system that leaves nearly 50 million uninsured and spends more than any other is clearly broken…. – AP, 11-24-09
  • Senate Democrats at odds over health care bill: Senate Democrats on Sunday sparred with each other over how to fix the nation’s troubled health care system, the moderates threatening to scuttle legislation if their demands weren’t met and the more liberal members warning their party leaders not to bend. The dispute among Democrats foretells of a rowdy floor debate next month on legislation that would extend health care coverage to roughly 31 million Americans. Republicans have already made clear they aren’t supporting the bill. Final passage is in jeopardy, even after the chamber’s historic 60-39 vote Saturday night to begin debate…. – AP, 11-22-09
  • Dems snare 60 votes to move ahead on health care: Democratic leaders secured the last two votes to move ahead on historic health care legislation, clearing the way for a Saturday night showdown on President Barack Obama’s top domestic initiative. In long-awaited speeches, centrist Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said they would stand with their party and vote “yes” on the crucial test vote despite deep reservations with elements of the 2,074-page bill to remake the nation’s health care system. “The truth is this issue is very complex. There is no easy fix and it’s imperative that we build on what’s already working in health care in America,” Lincoln told her Senate colleagues…. – AP, 11-21-09
  • GOP: Health test recommendations could affect care: Republicans are seizing on this week’s recommendations for fewer Pap smears and mammograms to fuel concern about government-rationed medical care — and to try to chip away support by women for President Barack Obama’s proposed health care overhaul. “This is how rationing starts,” declared Jon Kyl of Arizona, the party’s second-in-command in the Senate, during a news conference. “This is what we’re going to expect in the future.”… – AP, 11-21-09
  • Obama, Holder predict conviction in 9/11 case: From opposite ends of the globe, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder firmly rejected criticism Wednesday of the planned New York trial of the professed Sept. 11 mastermind and predicted Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be exposed as a murderous coward, convicted and executed. “Failure is not an option,” Holder declared. The president, in a series of TV interviews during his trip to Asia, said those offended by the legal rights accorded Mohammed by virtue of his facing a civilian trial rather than a military tribunal won’t find it “offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.”…. – AP, 11-19-09
  • A Great Wall: Obama tours China’s iconic site: President Barack Obama absorbed history’s expanse Wednesday from atop the Great Wall of China, a manmade wonder of such enormity that Obama found himself putting daily life in perspective. “It’s magical,” Obama said, walking down a ramp alone, his hands in his pockets. “It reminds you of the sweep of history and our time here on earth is not that long. We better make the best of it.”… – AP, 11-18-09
  • Obama: Rally the world for climate deal next month: President Barack Obama, with China’s leader at his side, lifted his sights Tuesday for a broad interim accord at next month’s climate conference that he said will lead to immediate action and “rally the world” toward a solution on global warming.
    Obama and President Hu Jintao talked of a joint desire to tackle climate change, but failed to move off differing positions on an root issue that could block a deal at the 192-nation conference in Copenhagen: how much each country can contribute to curb greenhouse gases and how the world will pay the billions of dollars needed to fight rising temperatures…. – AP, 11-18-09
  • White House: Israeli housing plans dismaying: The White House rebuked Israel with heavy criticism Tuesday after the Jerusalem city government moved toward the construction of 900 additional housing units in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim for the capital of their future state. President Barack Obama has made restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians a top foreign policy goal. To that end, he has demanded that Israel cease building new or expanding existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel insists that East Jerusalem will never be surrendered to Arab rule and that the entirety of the city will remain the capital of the Jewish state. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordanian control in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed it…. – AP, 11-18-09
  • Republicans blast ‘bait and switch’ health bill: Digging in for a long struggle, Republican senators and governors assailed the Democrats’ newly minted health care legislation Thursday as a collection of tax increases, Medicare cuts and heavy new burdens for deficit-ridden states. Despite the criticism, there were growing indications Democrats would prevail on an initial Senate showdown set for Saturday night, and Majority Leader Harry Reid crisply rebutted the Republican charges. The bill “will save lives, save money and save Medicare,” he said.
    The legislation is designed to answer President Barack Obama’s call to expand coverage, end industry practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions, and restrain the growth of health care spending. Republicans saw little to like. “It makes no sense at all and affronts common sense,” said Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, one of several Republicans to criticize the measure. He added that a plan to expand Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, was a “bait and switch” with states as the victims… – AP, 11-19-09
  • Senate health bottom line: $849 billion overhaul: The political stakes enormous, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid launched long-awaited health care legislation Wednesday estimated to extend coverage to 94 percent of eligible Americans at a cost of $849 billion…. – AP, 11-18-09
  • Obama: How low can he go?: President Barack Obama’s deep bow to the Japanese emperor during a weekend visit in Tokyo has been met with sharp criticism from conservatives in the United States. Conservatives took to the airwaves and blogosphere Monday to rip Obama’s gesture as subservient, inappropriate and a sign of weakness, with one rightwing blogger going as far to call it “treasonous.”
    Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko hosted Obama for a meeting on Saturday. As Obama shook Akihito’s hand, he bowed a full 90 degrees forward. Blogging on the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Malcolm said the move might score him some points in Japan but will surely elicit frowns back home. “How low will the new American president go for the world’s royalty?” Malcolm wrote, pointing out that vice president Dick Cheney’s simple handshake with Akihito in 2007 was the proper way to greet the emperor. Obama received similar criticism when he offered more of a half- bow to Saudi King Abdullah in April, prompting The Washington Times to editorialize it as a “shocking display of fealty.” A senior administration official has dismissed the criticism, telling Politico it’s “just way, way, way off base.” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said it was merely “a sign of respect to the emperor.” – Earth Times, Kansas City Star, 11-17-09
  • Obama says world urgently watching US-China talks: President Barack Obama declared Monday the world is urgently watching for a “meeting of the minds” between the U.S. and China as he meets with President Hu Jintao on the globe’s biggest issues — climate change, economic recession, nuclear proliferation and more.
    In his first visit here, Obama is strongly suggesting that China, now a giant in economic impact as well as territory, must take a bigger role on the world stage — part of “burden of leadership” it shares with the United States.
    “I will tell you, other countries around the world will be waiting for us,” Obama said in an American-style town-hall discussion with Chinese university students in Shanghai, where he spent a day before flying to China’s capital for a state visit with President Hu…. – AP, 11-16-09
  • Dems, GOP split on NY trials of alleged terrorists: Bringing those accused in the Sept. 11 attacks to New York for trial would increase the security threat to the city and give radical Islamists a platform to propagate their ideology, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Sunday…. Democrats defended the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder to try the five in New York where more than 2,000 civilians were killed on Sept. 11. If someone murders Americans in this country, they should be tried in the U.S., said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. – AP, 11-15-09
  • In first visit to China, Obama walks a tightrope: President Barack Obama is walking a tightrope on his first trip to China, seeking to enlist help in tackling urgent global problems while weighing when and how — or if — he should raise traditional human rights concerns. Obama arrived in Shanghai late at night, in a driving rain, hustling through a phalanx of umbrella-holding dignitaries to reach his limousine. On Monday, the president is holding talks with local politicians and, in one of the marquee events of his weeklong Asian trip, conducting an American-style town hall discussion with Chinese university students…. – AP, 11-15-09
  • In Asia, Obama pushing arms control with Russians: A major pact within tantalizing reach, President Barack Obama aims to nudge forward an arms-control deal in talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum brought Obama to Singapore, but he is focusing on individual meetings Sunday with Medvedev and with Indonesia’s Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of the world’s largest Muslim nation and Obama’s home as a boy. The U.S.-Russia meeting takes place as the nations seek a successor to a Cold War-era agreement…. – AP, 11-14-09
  • FACT CHECK: Palin’s book goes rogue on some facts: Sarah Palin’s new book reprises familiar claims from the 2008 presidential campaign that haven’t become any truer over time. Ignoring substantial parts of her record if not the facts, she depicts herself as a frugal traveler on the taxpayer’s dime, a reformer without ties to powerful interests and a politician roguishly indifferent to high ambition…. – AP, 11-14-09
  • Reid eyes payroll tax hike on wealthy: Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering a plan for higher payroll taxes on the upper-income earners to help finance health care legislation he intends to introduce in the Senate in the next several days, numerous Democratic officials said Wednesday…. – AP, 11-12-09
  • Obama’s hesitancy on war buildup sends messages: President Barack Obama’s drawn-out decision-making on Afghanistan is sending messages. To the Afghan government: Clean up your act. To the Pentagon: I’m no rubber stamp. To the American public: More troops can’t be the sole answer. Obama has been accused by some Republicans of “dithering” about whether to send more troops and deepen U.S. involvement in an increasingly unpopular war. The slow process also has left him open to critics who recall his pronouncement in March, after developing what he called a “stronger, smarter and comprehensive” Afghan war strategy, that the situation there was “increasingly perilous.” He ordered more troops to battle then, with little discernible result so far…. – AP, 11-12-09
  • White House: Obama eyeing host of Afghan choices: President Barack Obama is considering four options for realigning U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, his spokesman said Tuesday, while military officials said the choices involve several ways the president could employ additional U.S. forces next year…. – AP, 11-10-09
  • House health bill unacceptable to many in Senate: Don’t look for the Senate to quickly follow the House on health care overhaul. A government health insurance plan included in the House bill is unacceptable to a few Democratic moderates who hold the balance of power in the Senate. They’re locked in a battle with liberals, with the fate of President Barack Obama’s signature issue at stake. If a government plan is part of the deal, “as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent whose vote Democrats need to overcome GOP filibusters. “The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said…. – AP, 11-9-09
  • Obama asks House to vote on health care bill: President Barack Obama summoned Democrats to “answer the call of history” Saturday as the House pushed toward a vote on a landmark health care bill holding out the promise of coverage for tens of millions who lack it. After months of struggle capped by a final wrenching compromise over abortion, Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted, “we will pass health care reform,” and likened the events to the creation of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later. Across hours of debate, minority Republicans cataloged their criticism of the 1,990-page, $1.2 trillion measure. “The American people need to understand this is about a government takeover of the whole health care system,” said Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga…. – AP, 11-7-09
  • What recovery? Unemployment shoots past 10 percent: Just when it was beginning to look a little better, the economy relapsed Friday with a return to double-digit unemployment for only the second time since World War II and warnings that next year will be even worse than previously thought. The jobless rate rocketed to 10.2 percent in October, the highest since early 1983, dealing a psychological blow to Americans as they prepare holiday shopping lists. It was another worse-than-expected report casting a shadow over the struggling recovery. President Barack Obama called it “a sobering number that underscores the economic challenges that lie ahead.” He signed a measure to extend unemployment benefits and to expand a tax credit for homebuyers…. – AP, 11-6-09
  • House Dems struggle for final votes on health care: Amid intense lobbying by the Obama administration, House Democratic leaders struggled Friday for the final votes needed to pass sweeping health care legislation, weighing fresh concessions to abortion opponents and working to ease concerns among Hispanic holdouts…. In a struggle that combined the fate of President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority and a 2010 campaign issue, bipartisanship was not an option. GOP leaders boasted that all 177 House Republicans stood ready to oppose the $1.2 trillion bill, which would create a new federally supervised insurance marketplace where the uninsured could purchase coverage… – AP, 11-6-09
  • Democrats’ plan to help ‘uninsurables’ questioned: You’re afraid your cancer is back, and a health insurance company just turned you down. Under the health care bills in Congress, you could apply for coverage through a new high-risk pool that President Barack Obama promises would immediately start serving patients with pre-existing medical problems. Wait a second. Read the fine print. You may have to be uninsured for six months to qualify….
    Advocates for people with serious health problems, as well as some insurance experts, are raising questions about one of the most important upfront benefits in the Democratic health care legislation: a high-risk pool for the medically uninsurable. – AP, 11-5-09
  • Obama, House Dems confident on health care vote: Buoyed by two major endorsements, House Democratic leaders on Thursday predicted swift passage of President Barack Obama’s historic health overhaul initiative. The president himself declared, “We are closer to passing this reform than ever before.”
    “I urge Congress to listen to AARP, listen to the AMA, and pass this reform for hundreds of millions of Americans who will benefit from it,” Obama told reporters during an unannounced visit to the White House briefing room after the endorsements were announced.
    “We are right on the brink,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “We have an historic opportunity for us to again provide quality health care for all Americans. It is something that many of us have worked our whole political lifetimes on.” – AP, 11-5-09
  • THE INFLUENCE GAME: Liberals targeting moderates: Get on the health overhaul bandwagon, or don’t count on our help in your re-election. That’s the hardball message liberal groups are hurling at moderate Democratic senators in a battle that is dividing their party. Their demands: Support a bill that offers optional government-run health coverage and oppose Republican attempts to derail the legislation…. – AP, 11-4-09

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • 4 Vie for Kennedy’s Seat, but Only 3 Seek His Mantle: Ask not how the Democratic candidates to succeed Senator Edward M. Kennedy would blaze a new path: most are too busy trying to prove themselves his ideological twin as the Dec. 8 primary draws near….
    But playing the Kennedy card may not be a winning strategy after all. Virtually every poll has put Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general and the candidate least inclined to invoke Senator Kennedy, far ahead of her three rivals…. – NYT, 11-27-09
  • Obama’s Breakeven Points Versus Palin and Romney: Nate Silver has published an analysis of how far Pres. Obama’s Gallup approval ratings could drop before he could expect to tie Govs. Palin and Romney in head-to-head elections:
    There have been 11 Palin versus Obama polls that have come out this year — 8 by Public Policy Polling and one each from Rasmussen, Clarus, and Marist. Those polls showed Obama approval ranging from 49 percent to 55 percent — not far from Dowd’s sweet spot — but Obama defeating Palin by margins ranging from 6 points to 23. If we make a scatterplot of these polls, we can extrapolate backward to get an estimate of where Obama’s approval rating would need to be in order to bring Palin into a tie with him; the answer is about 43 percent…. – race42008.com, 11-25-09
  • 41 is the crucial number in 2010 battle for the House: In the battle for Congress, 41 is the crucial number. That’s the number of seats the Republicans need to win back from the Democrats in next year’s midterm elections to take control of the House of Representatives.
    Next November, all 435 seats in the House, where Democrats hold an 258-177 advantage, are up for grabs. After winning back Congress in the 2006 contests and increasing their majorities in the 2008 elections, the Democrats will be playing defense next year. Making matters tougher for the Democrats, the country’s political landscape has changed this year, mostly to the benefit of Republicans. But will it be enough to get them to 41? – CNN, 11-24-09
  • GOP governors push for 2010 party rebirth: Thrilled with twin victories this month, Republican governors are looking to lead a party-wide resurgence in 2010 and shape the GOP for years to come.
    “Next year’s going to be a good year for Republican governors,” predicted Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s governor and chairman of the Republican Governors Association. “In states where there are Republican governors, people can see if conservative and Republican ideas, when actually implemented, work.”… – AP, 11-20-09
  • 2012 already? GOP wannabes jockeying early: Sarah Palin is embarking on a book tour. Tim Pawlenty is building a national political operation. Mitt Romney is weighing in on the recession. They’re all jockeying for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination — even if they won’t say so. Make no mistake: At least a half-dozen Republicans are in the early stages of campaigning for the chance to challenge President Barack Obama in his expected re-election race… – AP, 11-15-09
  • Analysis: Election lessons will shape ’10 campaign: What we learned from the off-year elections: The president’s influence is limited, independents rule, incumbents beware, issues trump ideology and, once more, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Also: Republicans can win — even if they lack a leader and their base is cracked. And this certainly isn’t the Democratic-friendly political environment of 2006 and 2008 when the party captured control of Congress and the White House. The first Election Day of Barack Obama’s presidency was a big night for Republicans, who recaptured governorships in the swing state of Virginia and the Democratic stronghold of New Jersey. Democrats won two races for vacant congressional seats, including one in upstate New York that had been long held by Republicans and that exposed a GOP divide…. – AP, 11-5-09
  • GOP Sweep: Big Governor Victories in Virginia, NJ: Republicans sweep governor races in Virginia, New Jersey _ troubling sign for Dems, Obama: Independents who swept Barack Obama to a historic 2008 victory broke big for Republicans on Tuesday as the GOP wrested political control from Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey, a troubling sign for the president and his party heading into an important midterm election year.
    Conservative Republican Bob McDonnell’s victory in the Virginia governor’s race over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and moderate Republican Chris Christie’s ouster of unpopular New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine was a double-barreled triumph for a party looking to rebuild after being booted from power in national elections in 2006 and 2008…. – AP, 11-3-09
  • Races an early test of Obama influence: President Barack Obama’s political standing a year after his election is being tested as voters cast ballots in Virginia and New Jersey, two states he’s worked hard to keep in Democratic hands. A handful of congressional and mayoral races and a same-sex union initative also are among the featured face-offs this Election Day.
    Obama has made a number of forays to neighboring Virginia and northeast to New Jersey as he has sought to ensure that Democrats win governor’s races and pick up a GOP-held congressional seat in upstate New York. In doing so, Obama raised the stakes of a low-enthusiasm off-year election season — and risked political embarrassment if any lost…. – Boston Herald, 11-3-09
  • Election 2009: Test of Obama clout in NJ, Virginia: President Barack Obama’s political clout was on the line Tuesday as Virginia and New Jersey chose governors in contests that could serve as warning signs for Democrats about the public’s mood heading into an important midterm election year…. – AP, 11-3-09
  • 2 hopefuls duel in upstate NY after surprise turn: With the Republican out of the race and unions lining up behind their candidate, national Democrats on Monday used a high-profile campaigner and ramped up get-out-the-vote efforts to try to grab a congressional seat in a district held for decades by the GOP. On the other side, a splintered Republican Party brought in its own big names to try to salve over wounds opened by a bruising special election campaign that has seen a maverick third-party conservative candidate outgun the hand-picked Republican…. – AP, 11-2-09
  • Obama says NJ governor is key to his own agenda: In a final campaign swing on behalf of the only governor seeking re-election this fall, President Barack Obama on Sunday pitched Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s bid as a key component for the White House to make good on its political promises. “He’s one of the best partners I have in the White House. We work together,” Obama said. “We know our work is far from over.” Obama drew 6,500 people at a rally in Camden and another 11,000 later in Newark, according to White House estimates. He urged supporters to work hard to give Corzine another term in office so he can work with Washington to help repair a brittle economy. A Corzine loss would be seen as a political embarrassment for the White House…. – AP, 11-1-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Obama, GOP Air Differences Over Jobs, Economy In Thanksgiving Addresses: On this Thanksgiving, President Obama and top House Republican Mike Pence, R-Ind., each used his party’s weekly address in a bipartisan display of gratitude for U.S. servicemen and women serving abroad.
    “Too many are wondering if the dream of a middle class life – that American Dream – is slipping away,” Obama said. “It’s the worry I hear from folks across the country; good, hard-working people doing the best they can for their families – but fearing that their best just isn’t good enough. These are not strangers. They are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Their struggles must be our concern.” The president argued that his economic policies and the stimulus “have helped break the back of the recession,” but he acknowledged that jobs growth has not yet materialized and “no matter what the economists say, for families and communities across the country, this recession will not end until we completely turn that tide.” Looking ahead to next week’s jobs summit, Obama said “it is my fervent hope – and my heartfelt expectation – that next Thanksgiving we will be able to celebrate the fact that many of those who have lost their jobs are back at work, and that as a nation we will have come through these difficult storms stronger and wiser and grateful to have reached a brighter day.” – ABC News, 11-26-09
  • Toasts by the President and the Prime Minister: Following is a transcript of toasts by President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India at the state dinner on Nov. 24, provided by the White House. Many of you were here when I was honored to become the first President to help celebrate Diwali — the Festival of Lights. (Applause.) Some of you were here for the first White House celebration of the birth of the founder of Sikhism — Guru Nanak. (Applause.) Tonight, we gather again, for the first state dinner of my presidency — with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, as we celebrate the great and growing partnership between the United States and India.
    As we all know, in India some of life’s most treasured moments are often celebrated under the cover of a beautiful tent. It’s a little like tonight. We have incredible food and music and are surrounded by great friends. For it’s been said that “the most beautiful things in the universe are the starry heavens above us and the feeling of duty within us.”
    Mr. Prime Minister, today we worked to fulfill our duty –bring our countries closer together than ever before. Tonight, under the stars, we celebrate the spirit that will sustain our partnership — the bonds of friendship between our people.
    It’s a bond that includes more than two million Indian Americans who enrich every corner of our great nation — leaders in government, science, industry and the arts — some of whom join us tonight. And it’s the bond of friendship between a President and a Prime Minister who are bound by the same unshakable spirit of possibility and brotherhood that transformed both our nations — a spirit that gave rise to movements led by giants like Gandhi and King, and which are the reason that both of us can stand here tonight.
    And so, as we draw upon these ties that bind our common future together, I want to close with the words that your first Prime Minister spoke at that midnight hour on the eve of Indian independence, because Nehru’s words speak to our hopes tonight: “The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the great triumphs and achievements that await us…The past is over and it is the future that beckons us now.” – NYT, 11-25-09
  • Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address Saturday, November 21, 2009: With this in mind, I traveled to Asia to open a new era of American engagement. We made progress with China and Russia in sending a unified message to Iran and North Korea that they must live up to their international obligations and either forsake nuclear weapons or face the consequences. As the two largest consumers and producers of energy, we developed a host of new clean energy initiatives with China, and our two nations agreed to work toward a successful outcome at the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen – an outcome that leads to immediate action to reduce carbon pollution. And I spoke to young men and women at a town hall in Shanghai and across the internet about certain values that we in America believe are universal: the freedom of worship and speech; the right to access information and choose one’s own leaders…. WH, 11-21-09
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Calls for Comprehensive Review of Events Leading to Tragedy at Fort Hood Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address November 14, 2009: Every fall, we set aside a special day to pay tribute to our veterans. But this year, Veteran’s Day took on even greater poignancy and meaning because of the tragic events at Fort Hood. On Tuesday, I traveled there to join with the Fort Hood community, the Army, and the friends and families of the victims to honor thirteen of our fellow Americans who died – and the dozens more who were wounded – not on some distant shore, but on a military base at home…
    There is an ongoing investigation into this terrible tragedy. That investigation will look at the motives of the alleged gunman, including his views and contacts. As I said in Fort Hood, I am confident that justice will be done, and I will insist that the full story be told. That is paramount, and I won’t compromise that investigation today by discussing the details of this case. But given the potential warning signs that may have been known prior these shootings, we must uncover what steps – if any – could have been taken to avert this tragedy…. – WH, 11-14-09
  • Obama, Hu vow cooperation but produce few deals: President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao promised a determined, joint effort to tackle climate change, nuclear disarmament and other global troubles yet emerged from their first full-blown summit Tuesday with scant progress beyond goodwill.
    “The major challenges of the 21st century, from climate change to nuclear proliferation to economic recovery, are challenges that touch both our nations, and challenges that neither of our nations can solve by acting alone,” Obama said, standing with the Chinese leader in the Great Hall of the People.
    Hu, who heads a collective leadership that often has preferred to go it alone internationally, said: “There are growing global challenges, and countries in today’s world have become more and more interdependent.” – AP, 11-17-09
  • Sarah Palin tells Oprah about controversies, future: “When I got the call, it was not such a shocking call to me,” Palin told talk-show host Oprah Winfrey in a highly anticipated interview that aired Monday. “I felt quite confident in my abilities and my executive experience and I knew that this is an executive administrative job. I was happy to get in there and contribute.” “It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do the job because of children,” she said. “My children are my strength. … They allow me to be grounded.”
    “I was surprised that they knew. I was surprised, too, that we didn’t handle that issue, that challenge better,” she said. “If we were given the allowance to deal with the issue in a more productive way, we could have perhaps sent a better message: This is not to be emulated.” She added, “I did not want that message sent out that we were giddy happy to become grandparents, and that’s what that message said.”
    “After the first segment, which didn’t go well, I didn’t do very well — I was annoyed with her badgering of questions — I was scheduled to do a second, then a third and then a fourth. … I know that there were hours of tape that were shot, and I would think that those few minutes that were edited together … and shown to the American public, if people only know me from that interview, [they would think] that I was not qualified,” she said.
    “The reason that we lost: The economy changed under a Republican administration,” Palin said. “People were sincerely looking for change. They were quite concerned about the road that America was on with its economy. They did not want more of the same. They did not want status quo. And I think, unfortunately, our ticket represented what was perceived as status quo.”
    “I resigned as governor of Alaska because I wasn’t going to run for a second term, and I was heading into a lame duck term,” Palin said of that decision, which shocked political observers.
    “We came back [from the campaign] to a new normal in Alaska. Everything had so changed in my administration,” Palin continued. “There were so many opposition researchers up there in Alaska that were sent, probably, by the Obama camp. … It was a point where my state of Alaska was being hampered by my presence there.” – CNN, 11-16-09
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Extends Condolences to the Fort Hood Community Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address Saturday, November 7, 2009: I’d like to speak with you for a few minutes today about the tragedy that took place at Ft. Hood. This past Thursday, on a clear Texas afternoon, an Army psychiatrist walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, and began shooting his fellow soldiers.
    It is an act of violence that would have been heartbreaking had it occurred anyplace in America. It is a crime that would have horrified us had its victims been Americans of any background. But it’s all the more heartbreaking and all the more despicable because of the place where it occurred and the patriots who were its victims….
    Thursday’s shooting was one of the most devastating ever committed on an American military base. And yet, even as we saw the worst of human nature on full display, we also saw the best of America. We saw soldiers and civilians alike rushing to aid fallen comrades; tearing off bullet-riddled clothes to treat the injured; using blouses as tourniquets; taking down the shooter even as they bore wounds themselves…. – WH, 11-7-09
  • Bill Clinton urges Senate passage of health bill: Former President Bill Clinton urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to pass health care legislation by year’s end, pointedly telling skittish lawmakers that an imperfect bill is preferable to another failure like the one he and the party endured in 1994.
    “It’s not important to be perfect here. It’s important to act, to move, to start the ball rolling,” the former president told reporters after the closed-door meeting, held on the cusp of Senate debate on intensely controversial legislation. The House cleared its version of the bill late Saturday night on a narrow, party-line vote of 220-215…. – AP, 11-4-09
  • Romney: Obama economic stimulus plan is a failure: Three days after the Obama White House touted the program as creating or saving some 650,000 jobs, Romney said in a nationally broadcast interview that “the stimulus that the president and the Congress passed is not what’s helped the economy.” Romney said on CBS’s “The Early Show” that the administration’s stimulus plan “didn’t work” and he said the reason things seem to be ticking up in the business world is because the “private sector” has regained its equilibrium on its own. – AP, 11-2-09

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian E. Zelizer “Keeping a promise to urban America”: One year ago, as Thanksgiving approached, many Americans were still feeling pleased about the fact that Americans seemed to have broken through an important racial divide. With the election of the first African-American president, some were talking about the possibility of a “post-racial” society.
    Despite all of the progress marked by that election, it remains painfully clear that we are not a post-racial society. Many of the racial disparities that are deeply connected to public policy, from our prison system to our education system to the damaged economies of urban America, remain unchanged.
    Although issues such as health care and the war in Afghanistan have garnered most attention, there is a significant initiative under way that seeks to tackle the problems that have faced African-American children living in poor communities in urban America: the Promise Neighborhoods program.
    The program aims to provide opportunity to young, largely minority Americans who are living in the impoverished neighborhoods of urban America….
    Promise Neighborhoods is one of the most ambitious efforts in recent years to tackle the crisis of urban youth. Geoffrey Canada’s work should offer one area of policy where Democrats and Republicans can join to show to the world that the election of 2008 did indeed reflect a genuine desire to eliminate some of the roots of racial inequality that continue to shape our country. – CNN, 11-25-09
  • Stephen Wayne “In his slow decision-making, Obama goes with head, not gut”: Stephen Wayne, who teaches about the presidency at Georgetown, said: “He’s not an instinctive decision-maker as Bush was. He doesn’t go with his gut, he thinks with his head, which I think is desirable.” Referring to the Afghanistan decision, Wayne said, “I don’t think he is an indecisive person, I just think this is a tough one.” – Wa Po, 11-24-09
  • Allan Lichtman “In his slow decision-making, Obama goes with head, not gut”: “I think the Obama we’ve seen as president is a very different Obama than we saw during the campaign. He doesn’t seem to be connected, he doesn’t seem to have the passion, he doesn’t seem to be conveying the grand and inspiring vision,” says the progressive historian Allan Lichtman of American University. “If you want to be a transformational president, you’ve got to take the risks.” – Wa Po, 11-24-09
  • Sean Wilentz “In his slow decision-making, Obama goes with head, not gut”: Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton, says Obama has suffered from unrealistic expectations among those who put him in office. “They kind of were sold Utopia, and they bought it, and it didn’t happen,” he says. “People were comparing the candidate to Abraham Lincoln before he served a day of his presidency. Nobody can live up to that.” – Wa Po, 11-24-09
  • Victor Davis Hanson: We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: When it comes to the problems facing this country, an old slogan comes to mind: “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” High unemployment, the recession and a terrorist resurgence in Afghanistan are bad enough. But there are a number of problems on the horizon that could dwarf President Obama’s first-year trials. Why the pessimism? In short, we are doing nothing to prepare for the crises to come. A global recession has led to low oil prices. Yet in this window of opportunity, America has not decreased its foreign-oil dependence. We are not encouraging domestic exploration. And we are still ambivalent on nuclear power…. – St Augustine, 11-25-09
  • Stephen Hess “Sizing up the Kennedy dynasty’s next generation”: Stephen Hess, author of “America’s Political Dynasties,” said such dynasties often ebb and flow. And while no obvious family successors to the late senator are apparent, there is a pool of about two dozen Kennedy cousins. Some of them could go on to make their mark in national politics. “To be a dynasty, one of the things that is very helpful, almost necessary, is a lot of children,” said Hess, who has been a consultant, adviser and speechwriter to presidents dating back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. “That name, or that legacy, is going to inspire some of them to go into elective politics, particularly since it obviously gives them an advantage.” Hess noted that back in the 1960s, few were predicting Ted Kennedy would become the family’s standardbearer after his two older brothers, John, the president, and Robert, the former attorney general turned senator, were slain. “He was not expected to be the leading figure of his generation,” Hess said. “Not only was he, tragically, because of the death of his brothers, but more importantly because he stayed in the Senate and had a remarkable record of achievement.” – AP, 11-22-09
  • John R. Bohrer: Hold the Hofstadter: Why the GOP Is Winning 2010: Over the last few months, a number of prominent political columnists have pointed to historian and social critic Richard Hofstadter to explain what is happening to the Republican Party. 1964’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics and his 1954 essay, “The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt,” among others, tell us why so many Republicans are lashing out at town halls and tea parties. And because the protesters make a lot of noise, wave disgusting signs and are embraced by a major political party, they get a lot of attention.
    Here’s the rub: their craziness turns away those who do not already agree with them, and yet the GOP is beginning to pull ahead in the generic congressional ballot match-up. How can this be?
    Perhaps it’s because while we’re all hopped up on Hofstadter and understanding what Sam Tanenhaus defines as The Death of Conservatism, we’ve forgotten about another important contingent of Americans: low-information 2008 Obama voters. Huffington Post, 11-17-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama should focus on jobs, not deficit: Regardless of the outcome of the health care reform effort, the difficult issue of cutting the federal budget deficit is likely to move front and center in 2010. The size of the deficit is causing great concern in Washington. While most economists say the deficit should normally hover at around 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, it has now reached almost 10 percent. With each piece of positive economic news, such as the recent fall in unemployment claims, pressure will grow to shrink the deficit. The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House is considering using some unspent TARP money for debt reduction while Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is pushing for spending cuts if Congress raises taxes….
    The pressure to move faster will intensify after the health care debate is done and the midterm elections approach. The president will need to be cautious about not repeating Roosevelt’s mistake. – CNN, 11-17-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer “Are Republicans too giddy?”: Republicans have been downright giddy following the off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey. In a swing state and a blue state, Republicans pulled off significant victories with Chris Christie’s defeat of Gov. John Corzine and Robert McDonnell defeating Creigh Deeds.
    Just two days after the election, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who had boasted of the results as evidence of a “Republican Renaissance,” issued a stern warning to his colleagues. Steele said that his message for the 2010 midterm elections was that Republicans should remain loyal to the party principles, or “we’ll come after you.”
    Republicans certainly can take some comfort in this election. It is clear that some of the excitement about the Democratic Party has faded since the beginning of 2009. The so-called jobless recovery, with unemployment now at 10.2 percent, is not sitting well with many Americans.
    But Republicans should be cautious. Both political parties have a history of over-reading election results and seeing mandates where none exist. The leaders of each party have often thought that the electorate sent a clear message endorsing a new direction in public policy only to learn that voters were relatively comfortable with the status quo….
    Rather than misread the message of the elections, Republicans must turn to the difficult job of rebuilding their party by finding a new generation of leaders and ideas, while broadening rather than narrowing their reach. If they don’t, their response will leave their ranks in even worse shape than before. CNN, 11-10-09
  • Richard Kohn: Could Fort Hood visit redefine Obama’s relationship with the military?: Recent Democratic presidents have had an uneasy relationship with the armed forces. Obama’s visit to Fort Hood’s memorial service could set the tone for a new rapport with those in uniform.
    “Obama doesn’t have a lot of experience with the military, so in a sense, I don’t think he’ll be on trial [at Fort Hood], but he does fight a natural suspicion of Democrats in the military,” says Richard Kohn, a University of North Carolina historian and expert on presidential wartime leadership.
    “The thing to do is compare his response and emotional intelligence with them when he’s at Fort Hood as opposed to his normal kind of behavior with other groups,” adds Mr. Kohn. “Whether it’ll have the emotional content that many military people expect or seek and whether that can balance or even cancel the natural suspicion is a question.”
    “What Obama is trying to do is to restore the proper sense of, ‘I’m the guy in charge,'” says Mr. Kohn. “What you’re hearing is a kind of partisan buzz that would like to reframe and cancel out Obama’s very concerted effort not to be victimized by that history of Democratic presidents and the military.” CS Monitor, 11-7-09
  • Betty Boyd Caroli: Michelle Obama’s poll numbers slide: “If you asked most people, they would say she defines her job as first lady as taking care of her family, and maybe that’s what the White House wants — what she wants,” said first lady historian Betty Boyd Caroli. “A lot of people appreciate that, but some people wanted more, and maybe that’s why the numbers are dipping.” – Politico, 11-4-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer: What happened to bipartisanship?: When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he would be pushing for a public option in the final health care bill, it looked as if he had given up on the possibility of a bipartisan agreement.
    Most Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition to the Democratic health care proposals. The only serious possibility for GOP backing has come from Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. While expressing support for much of the Senate Finance Committee bill, she has said she would accept a public option only if private markets and new regulations fail to control costs and lower premiums.
    Reid’s decision is not a sign of commitment to an ideal but rather an act of political realism. The notion that either party will be able to find substantive bipartisan support for legislation today is dubious. The political forces that generate partisan conflict in Washington are deeply rooted and hard to change…
    Seriously searching for bipartisanship, for example, would require reforming the campaign finance system so that legislators are not in such desperate need of private campaign contributions, over which party leaders and activist organizations maintain tight control.
    Citizens should also support media outlets that place solid journalism above partisan analysis. Right now, bipartisan votes are not coming. In the past few weeks, Democrats seem to have come to this conclusion and are now focusing more on what will unite their own party than what will win Sen. Snowe’s vote. – CNN, 11-3-09
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