February 11, 2009: The Senate and Congress agree on an Economic Stimulus Bill

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Members of the House and the Senate working on the final version of the stimulus on Wednesday. The fragile consensus, and the president’s agenda, face many tests in coming months.

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • President Obama’s first prime time press conference attracted 49.5 million viewers on Monday night.

    The Headlines…

  • Congress, White House agree on $790B stimulus bill: Moving with lightning speed, the Democratic-controlled Congress and White House agreed Wednesday on a compromise $790 billion economic stimulus bill designed to create millions of jobs in a nation reeling from recession. President Barack Obama could sign the measure within days. – AP, 2-11-09
  • Obama’s Battle on Stimulus Shows Threats to His Agenda: It is a quick, sweet victory for the new president, and potentially a historic one. The question now is whether the $789 billion economic stimulus plan agreed to by Congressional leaders on Wednesday is the opening act for a more ambitious domestic agenda from President Obama or a harbinger of reduced expectations. – NYT, 2-11-09
  • Stimulus fight gives Obama lessons early: When the first big priority of his presidency was at risk of unraveling last week, Barack Obama went back to the fundamentals that enabled him to win a historic victory in the presidential election…. – USA Today, 2-11-09
  • Louisiana governor to give high-profile GOP response to Obama: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is set to deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s upcoming joint address to Congress, a high-profile slot the party often gives to one of its rising stars. “Gov. Jindal embodies what I have long said: The Republican Party must not be simply the party of ‘opposition,’ but the party of better solutions,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a Wednesday statement. – CNN, 2-11-09
  • McCain announces another run – proves you can campaign forever: No, he hasn’t announced plans for the presidential race in 2012. McCain loves campaigning so much, he’s running earlier. 2010. He wants a fifth term in the US Senate. – Christian Sciene Monitor, 2-11-09
  • Despite Post-Partisan Pledges, Obama Enters ‘Campaign Mode’ to Sell Stimulus: In going over the heads of lawmakers to sell his economic recovery plan to the public, political scholars say the president showed a fierce practical streak. Despite a pledge to bridge the partisan divide in Washington, President Obama left the capital this week to deploy a battle-tested strategy of bypassing Congress and taking his policy proposals to the people. The result was a political scene that more resembled the hard-knuckle presidential campaign than the diplomatic transition period. – Fox news, 2-11-09
  • The Big Winners In Stimulus Compromise: The Upper-Middle Class: Amid all the cutting, however, one group emerged unscathed: the upper-middle class, the not-quite-super-rich, but certainly not on the ropes. Most of these folks, in terms of income and employment, are what could be called the un-needy, a group clearly distinct from those Obama identified as the core target of the legislation. The “compromise” legislation includes $70 billion, or just under 10 percent of the whole package, to be used expressly to take care of these affluent people. –
  • Instead of stimulus, do nothing – seriously: Stimulus is unconstitutional. And history shows that the economy can recover strongly on its own, if politicians stay out of the way. – Christian Science Monitor, 2-9-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

ALT TEXT

Biden is set to push the stimulus bill in Pennsylvania (Getty Images)

Political Quotes

  • Obama praises news of stimulus deal “Statement on Recovery and Reinvestment Act Agreement”: “I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans in Congress who came together around a hard-fought compromise that will save or create more than 3.5 million jobs and get our economy back on track. Just today, the CEO of Caterpillar said that if this American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is passed, his company would be able to rehire some of the employees they’ve been forced to lay off. It’s also a plan ] that will provide immediate tax relief to families and businesses, while investing in priorities like health care, education, energy, and infrastructure that will grow our economy once more. I’m grateful to the House Democrats for starting this process, and for members in the House and Senate for moving it along with the urgency that this moment demands.” – CNN, 2-11-09
  • Biden heads back to Pennsylvania to push stimulus: I doubt whether anything this massive, this consequential, this significant, has passed this quickly in any other administration. We’re talking about 100 days, we haven’t even hit 25 days yet.” – CNN, 2-11-09
  • John McCain in an e-mail announcing his intentions for re-election: Being the Republican nominee for President was one of the great honors of my life and an experience I will never forget. Some have wondered, after my hard fought presidential campaign, if I plan to run for re-election to the United States Senate.
    I want you to know that I do intend to seek re-election. The magnitude of the financial crisis that many American families are facing makes it clear to me that I want to continue to serve our country in the Senate.
    The economic challenges currently confronting our nation are immense and unfortunately, the Democrats in Congress propose addressing these challenges through increased spending that wastes billions of taxpayers dollars and saddles our children and grandchildren with a staggering debt. Their proposals will not stimulate economic growth or create jobs. While the leader of the Democratic Party, President Obama, has pledged to change business as usual in Washington and spoken of bipartisanship, I have been saddened to watch as Congressional Democrats try to use their majority to advocate more of the same failed policies and wasteful spending of the past. With so much at stake, now is not the time to step away from my work in the Senate.
    As always, I anticipate a tough re-election challenge. But with your help, we will counter those efforts and put forth an aggressive campaign by registering new voters, reaching out to Democrats, Independents and Republicans, and again earning the support of Hispanic and Native American voters in Arizona.
    I am honored to serve the people of Arizona as their United States Senator. I would be most appreciative of your support of my re-election efforts.

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Bipartisanship is not always good”: This week, some politicians and pundits will boast of the bipartisan coalition that — under the leadership of Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) — cut the economic recovery legislation by more than $100 billion and moved the bill through the chamber. The legislation might be the first concrete evidence that an influential bipartisan coalition has emerged.
    It is not clear the bill we have will work. Many prominent economists, including Paul Krugman, have argued that the House version of the bill is not big enough to stabilize economic conditions. Instead of relying on this bipartisan coalition, President Barack Obama could have rallied his campaign troops and mounted pressure on wavering senators to support a bolder bill.
  • If the Senate coalition went too far with its cuts, the damage could be twofold. The bill might not stop the economic meltdown Americans are facing. In six months, we could find ourselves with even worse conditions and more government debt. At the same time, Americans would have little tolerance for new proposals for federal intervention. After all, future opponents would say, the financial bailout and the economic recovery bills did not work. The administration and congressional Democrats could find themselves in a political straitjacket just as America is desperate for help. – Politico, 2-11-09
  • Timothy Roberts “Obama’s Challenge: What Would Lincoln Do?”: Their crises were different, but the responses of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama bear striking parallels, historians say.
    “Both Lincoln and Obama advocated big government and actively believed it could do good,” said Timothy Roberts, professor of American history at Western Illinois University in Moline, Ill. “The size and complexity of the situation facing Obama would have baffled Lincoln, but he would have embraced Obama’s attempt to balance tax cuts — intended to encourage individual initiative and entrepreneurship — and government spending,” Roberts said…. “Critics of Obama, like critics of Lincoln, claim these policies smack of European style socialism,” Roberts said…. “Lincoln was elected by the smallest percentage support of any U.S. president. And at the beginning he was criticized and lampooned unmercifully by foreigners who assumed he was a buffoon,” Roberts said. – Fox News, 2-11-09
  • Alan Kraut “Obama’s Challenge: What Would Lincoln Do?”: Their crises were different, but the responses of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama bear striking parallels, historians say.
    “The Whig Party — which later became the Republican Party — was very much interested in the government having input into the economy,” said Alan Kraut, professor of American history at American University in Washington, D.C. “Lincoln expanded the government’s role enormously during his presidency,” Kraut said…. “While Lincoln was willing to take a lot of this bold action himself, Obama is trying very hard to work in a spirit of [bipartisanship] and to work cooperatively with the Congress,” said Kraut. – Fox News, 2-11-09
  • Richard Brookhiser “Obama’s Challenge: What Would Lincoln Do?”: Their crises were different, but the responses of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama bear striking parallels, historians say.
    “Lincoln came into his crises very well-prepared. He had spent six years contending with Stephen Douglas about the expansion of slavery into the territories — which was the major issue at the time. Obama hadn’t been challenged in the same way prior to his election,” said American historian Richard Brookhiser. Fox News, 2-11-09

President Obama at a Virgina construction site with Gov. Tim Kaine

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December 1, 2008: The Obama Transition, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, First Ladies, and the Bush Legacy.

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Damon Winter/The New York Times

Barack Obama’s national security team is to include, from left, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gen. James L. Jones, a retired Marine commandant.

Stats:

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

The Headlines…

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

  • Consensus emerging on universal healthcare The prospect of bold government action appears to be accepted among key players across the ideological and political spectrum, including those who staunchly opposed the idea in the 1990s. – LA Times, 12-1-08
  • Hillary Clinton’s test at State: How she’ll work with Obama – USA Today, 11-30-08
  • Jonah Goldberg: The Obama School Scandal? National Review Online: Public Schools Are Unacceptable To Pretty Much Anyone, Liberal Or Conservative – NRO, CBS News, 11-30-08
  • Obama turns to friends, foes for White House posts – AP, 11-30-08
  • Obama’s small-donor ‘myth’ The campaign’s base was dominated by those who gave less than $200, the political standard for small donors. But a new study asks, are you still a small donor if you do that five times? – La Times, 11-30-08
  • Officials: Obama set to introduce Clinton Monday: A deal with Bill Clinton over his post-White House work helped clear the way for Hillary Rodham Clinton to join President-elect Barack Obama’s national security team as secretary of state, reshaping a once-bitter rivalry into a high-profile strategic and diplomatic union. Obama was to be joined by the New York senator at a Chicago news conference Monday, Democratic officials said, where he also planned to announce that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would remain in his job for a year or more and that retired Marine General James L. Jones would serve as national security adviser. – AP, 11-30-08
  • Obama’s strong-willed national security team: With Clinton as secretary of State, retired Marine Gen. James Jones Jr. as national security advisor and Gates remaining in Defense, Obama will have a choice among often starkly differing views. – LA Times, 11-30-08
  • Liberals Angry Over Obama Keeping Gates as Pentagon Chief President-elect Obama’s expected selection of Robert Gates as his defense secretary and retired Gen. Jim Jones as his national security adviser is raising eyebrows among liberals. – Fox News, 11-29-08
  • Bill Clinton agrees to release donor’s names – Reuters, 11-30-08
  • Inauguration turning into D.C. windfall Frenzy to find accommodations sparks complaints of price-gouging – Houston Chronicle, NYT, 11-29-08
  • Bush Offers Support To India After Attacks Terror Ends With At Least 195 Dead; Tensions High Between India And Pakistan – CBS News, 11-29-08
  • Obama’s Supporters Spoke With Wallets – The Tampa Tribune, 11-30-08
  • on the Bush legacy: The most damaging president since Herbert Hoover – National Post, 11-29-08
  • Bush legacy remains to be written – National Post, 11-21-08
  • Remembered Unkindly Some say Bush will displace Buchanan as worst president – National Post, 11-21-08
  • Meet Obama’s financial SWAT team Three star advisers have formidable reputations and loads of experience. Now all they have to do is get the derailed U.S. economic engine back on trackAll three star nominees: Timothy Geithner, head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as the new treasury secretary, and prominent academic economists Lawrence Summers and Christina Romer as top advisers – looked decidedly glum as they were introduced by a beaming Mr. Obama. – Globe & Mail, 11-29-08
  • National Security Pick: From a Marine to a Mediator: James L. Jones, a retired four-star general, was among a mostly Republican crowd watching a presidential debate in October when Barack Obama casually mentioned that he got a lot of his advice on foreign policy from General Jones. – – NYT, 11-29-08
  • Obama to Name Defense Secretary on Monday President-elect Barack Obama is expected to announce Monday who will be his secretary of defense. – Fox News, 11-28-08
  • Barack Obama set to roll out national security team; Hillary could be first: President-elect Barack Obama plans to roll out his national security team next week and could officially name Hillary Clinton secretary of state as early as Monday, Democratic sources said. – Ny Daily News, 11-28-08
  • Hillary Clinton as diplomat Obama’s bold choice for his secretary of State shows the two can be partners on the world stage. – LAT, 11-28-08
  • Obama Picks May Leave Big Holes As Elected Officials Migrate, Democratic Seats Are Vulnerable – WaPo, 11-28-08
  • Malia Obama Calls Dibs on Lincoln’s Desk Obama Talks to Barbara Walters About Homework, History and Happy Family – ABC News, 11-26-08
  • Obama’s Speechwriter Moves to the White House: In his latest round of White House staff announcements, Mr. Obama said Wednesday that he was naming Jon Favreau as his director of speechwriting. Mr. Favreau, 27, has had a hand in practically every speech that the president-elect has delivered over the last four years, following Mr. Obama from his Senate office to the presidential campaign. – NYT, 11-26-08
  • Bush twins show Obama girls fun White House tricks – AP, 11-26-08
  • McCain Plans to Run Again (for the Senate) – NYT, 11-25-08
  • Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware will be replaced in the United States Senate by his longtime aide, Edward Kaufman, when Mr. Biden resigns the seat to become vice president. – NYT, 11-24-08

President-elect Barack Obama, flanked by National Economic Council ...

AP

Mon Nov 24, 1:16 PM ET

Political Quotes

  • First Lady Laura Bush describes post-White House plans: I’ll miss being with the military, too, and that’s one of the things about Camp David that we liked so much, and that’s going to church at Camp David with the people who are posted there. I’ll miss all the people that are around us all the time. From the ushers and the butlers who are there for every president and have been there four or five administrations, to our own staff, of course, that we love to laugh with and talk with and solve problems with. And so I’ll miss the people the most….
    She also said her husband “is going to build a freedom institute with his presidential library and museum at SMU [Southern Methodist University] in Dallas, and that’ll be a really good vehicle, I think, for me to continue to work with, especially, women and children in Afghanistan.”…
    “The main point I wanted to say to her is that this is — the White House is a home, and it can be a very happy home for her and for her children and her husband, and it certainly has been for us.” – CNN, 11-30-08

Mrs. Laura Bush is framed by equipment on the set of "Meet the Press" as she joins NBC host Tom Brokaw for the Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008, edition of the weekly TV show at the NBC studios in Washington, D.C. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Mrs. Laura Bush is framed by equipment on the set of “Meet the Press” as she joins NBC host Tom Brokaw for the Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008, edition of the weekly TV show at the NBC studios in Washington, D.C. White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

  • President Bush Weighs In on His Legacy: “I came to Washington with a set of values, and I’m leaving with the same set of values. And I darn sure wasn’t going to sacrifice those values; that I was a President that had to make tough choices and was willing to make them. I surrounded myself with good people. I carefully considered the advice of smart, capable people and made tough decisions.”…
    But he said he wanted to be known “as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace; that focused on individuals rather than process; that rallied people to serve their neighbor; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package; that came to Washington, D.C., with a set of political statements and worked as hard as I possibly could to do what I told the American people I would do.”…. “I’ve been in the Bible every day since I’ve been the President, and I have been affected by people’s prayers a lot. I have found that faith is comforting, faith is strengthening, faith has been important…. “And the greatness of America — it really is — is that you can worship or not worship and be equally American. And it doesn’t matter how you choose to worship; you’re equally American. And it’s very important for any President to jealously protect, guard, and strengthen that freedom.” – NYT, 11-28-08
  • Barack Obama: Your Weekly Address from the President-Elect: In a preview of his weekly address, President-elect Barack Obama addressed the nation on the occasion of Thanksgiving, nearly one hundred and fifty years after President Lincoln called for the last Thursday in November to be set aside to acknowledge our blessings. You Tube, 11-26-08
  • Swing voters give Obama flexibility to solve US economic crisis: Even President-elect Barack Obama’s least enthusiastic supporters seem willing to cut him slack in solving the nation’s problems.That is one conclusion of a focus group conducted Nov. 22 by pollster Peter Hart among Virginia voters who might not have been expected to vote for Obama. Eight of the 12 voted for George Bush in 2004, nine considered backing John McCain. The focus group session, conducted for the Annenberg Public Policy Center, will air Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. on C-SPAN. – Christian Science Monitor, 11-28-08
  • President-elect Obama announces two more leaders of economic team: At a press conference in Chicago today, President-elect Barack Obama announced additional members of his economic team — nominating Peter Orszag as Director and Rob Nabors as Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. – You Tube, 11-25-08
  • President-elect Obama announces economic team: At a press conference in Chicago today, President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden officially announced key members of their economic team, naming Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury and Lawrence Summers as Director of the National Economic Council. – You Tube, 11-24-08
  • A Barbara Walters Special: Barack and Michelle Obama Watch the Full Special With Barbara Walters and the President-Elect on ABC.com – ABC News, 11-27-08 Video: Barack and Michelle Obama on ‘Barbara Walters Special’ – Ace Showbiz, 11-27-08
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman: Obama ‘about perfect’ in Cabinet picks: “Everything that President-elect Obama has done since election night has been just about perfect, both in terms of a tone and also in terms of the strength of the names that have either been announced or are being discussed to fill his administration….
    I will ask them to judge me by my record. Generally speaking, I’ve had a record, a voting record, which is really ultimately what it’s about, not unlike most Democrats….
    It appears to me that the war in Iraq is coming to a successful — I don’t want to say conclusion yet, but it’s moving in a way that it will not be a divisive issue either in the Democratic Party or between Democrats and Republicans in the time ahead. And therefore, I think we’ll return to more normal times, which I welcome. – AP, 11-26-08
  • Obama reassures nervous nation on ailing economy: “Help is on the way…There is no doubt that during tough economic times family budgets are going to be pinched. I think it is important for the American people, though, to have confidence that we’ve gone through recessions before, we’ve gone through difficult times before, that my administration intends to get this economy back on track….
    “People should understand that help is on the way. And as they think about this Thanksgiving shopping weekend, and as they think about the Christmas season that is coming up, I hope that everybody understands that we are going to be able to get through these difficult times, We’re just going to have to make some good choices….
    The American people would be troubled if I selected a treasury secretary or a chairman of the National Economic Council at one of the most critical economic times in our history who had no experience in government whatsoever. What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking. But understand where the vision for change comes from. First and foremost, it comes from me. That’s my job.
    What I don’t want to do is to somehow suggest that because you served in the last Democratic administration, that you’re somehow barred from serving again. Because we need people who are going to be able to hit the ground running – AP, 11-26-08
  • Obama and the Budget: “This isn’t about big government or small government; it’s about building a smarter government that focuses on what works.”…. Mr. Obama gave an example of the kind of cuts he intends to make (look out, subsidized farmers, here may come the ax): “There’s a report today that from 2003 to 2006, millionaire farmers received $49 million in crop subsidies even though they were earning more than the $2.5 million cutoff for such subsidies,” he said. “If this is true, it is a prime example of the kind of waste I intend to end as President.” “We had a decisive win. I don’t think that there’s any question that we have a mandate to move the country in a new direction and not continue the same old practices that have gotten us into the fix we’re in.”… “Friendship doesn’t come into this. That’s part of the old way of doing business.” He says he wants to undertake projects that will “give the American economy the most bang for the buck.”… – NYT, 11-25-08
  • Obama urges Congress to pass costly stimulus bill: “If we do not act swiftly and boldly, most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year.”…. “The economy is likely to get worse before it gets better. Full recovery will not happen immediately. I know we can work our way out of this crisis because we have done it before.” – AP, 11-24-08
President-elect Barack Obama, with his wife, Michelle, left, and daughters Sasha and Malia, handed out food for Thanksgiving during a visit yesterday to Chicago's St. Columbanus Parish.
President-elect Barack Obama, with his wife, Michelle, left, and daughters Sasha and Malia, handed out food for Thanksgiving during a visit yesterday to Chicago’s St. Columbanus Parish. (Jim Watson/ AFP/ Getty Images

Historians’ Comments

  • George Herring: “Will Obama and Clinton work as a team? They’ve had differences, but Obama is expected to name her as secretary of State.”: “I do think the differences between them on some of these foreign-policy issues were magnified by the heat of campaign rhetoric,” says George Herring, a historian and professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky. “I don’t buy into the whole idea that Obama is, more than anything else, viewing Clinton as a rival.”…. “Nixon and Kissinger had a close but very weird relationship, suspicious of each other and each demeaning the other when he wasn’t around. But they respected each other’s views and capabilities, and they worked together,” he says. – Christian Science Monitor, 11-30-08
  • Paul C. Light: “For Obama, a chance to push big changes”: “Everything that he talked about during the campaign that can be seen as stimulus is going to be in that package,” predicted Paul C. Light, a professor at New York University’s graduate school of public service. “It will be one of the heaviest pieces of legislation passed by Congress in the last 20 years, and I mean heavy in terms of actual weight and page numbers.” – Boston Globe, 11-30-08
  • Paul Light “Liberals to keep pressure on Obama for results”: “I think he’s moving center-left, rather than left-center. It’s fair to call him pragmatic,” said Paul Light, a public policy professor and presidential historian at New York University. “I think labor is going to get a lot from him. I think his liberal supporters are going to get a lot from him. But they’re going to be disappointed if they want all liberal all the time.” – AP, 11-30-08
  • Carl Anthony “FIRST LADIES Very Little in Common But That ‘O'”: “There seems to be this moving train that simply insists that Mrs. Obama is the new Mrs. Kennedy,” says Carl Anthony, historian for the National First Ladies’ Library, who has been fielding calls from reporters eager to connect the dots. But Anthony thinks they’re worlds apart. – Newsweek, 11-30-08
  • Michael Beschloss: “Historian: Obama’s message also liability lower expectations”: Hope is the greatest asset and greatest liability for Barack Obama, said Michael Beschloss, author and scholar on presidential history. “He knows how damaging it could be to a new president (for voters) to expect a Superman, especially at a time when the problems are so great that everyone is looking for miracles,” Mr. Beschloss said…. “many people had doubts about, I would say, down to the evening of Nov. 3,” he said, adding some predicted a last-minute swelling of racial prejudice to bare itself at the polls. “That did not happen.” “If al-Qaida is saying that America has been captured by a white reactionary clique … Barack Obama does not look that way, and I think they’re going to have a much harder time recruiting,” Mr. Beschloss said. – The Times Tribune, 11-14-08
  • Betty Caroli: “Defining the job has challenged first ladies”: Many a first lady has said, in retrospect, that she had no idea how hard being first lady would be. Even the current one, Laura Bush, according to author and first lady historian Betty Caroli. Of all the first ladies, she should have known what was in store: Her mother-in-law, Barbara, was first lady from 1989-1993. “So no matter I suppose how well prepared … she’s probably going to be surprised by the enormity of the publicity, the focus, the demands and so forth,” Caroli said of Michelle Obama. – AP, 11-28-08
  • Robert P. Watson: “Defining the job has challenged first ladies”: Still, the job description is ill-defined, said Robert P. Watson, who has written two books about first ladies and directs the American studies program at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. “The first lady has to find her own way and match that with her husband’s interests,” Watson said. – AP, 11-28-08
  • Gerald Gawalt: “Scenes from Obamas’ love story Their affection stands out among presidential pairs”: Historians say Ronald and Nancy Reagan were perhaps the most adoring first couple. Like the Obamas, they appeared to genuinely enjoy being together. They often exchanged love notes and cards, including one in which the president declared his wife “my valentine forever.” “They seemed to be one of these couples that were head over heels in love with each other, even as they got older,” said Gerald Gawalt, a Library of Congress historian. – Chicago Tribune, 11-30-08
  • Michael Beschloss “Barack and Michelle: A more perfect union? First Couple-to-be could be relationship role models for nation, experts say”: In general, the relationship between the American president and his wife has always been an important one, and does have an impact on the public, said NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss. “We know that a person’s partner [choice] is one of the biggest clues to what that person is all about,” he said. Beschloss said that in the past, how a political figure interacted with his or her spouse didn’t matter as much, and as with the Kennedys, the media often looked the other way when it came to philandering. “Presidents are so intensely covered, we know so much about their personal lives that it’s inevitable that the public is going to know a lot about, and make judgments on, what happens between political wives and husbands,” he said. “John and Jackie Kennedy almost never held hands or showed affection in public — nowadays, people would think something was wrong.” – MSNBC, 11-29-08
  • Gil Troy “Barack and Michelle: A more perfect union? First Couple-to-be could be relationship role models for nation, experts say”: The Obamas have the best of both worlds, said Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University and author of “Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons.” “The Obama marriage is a modern partnership between equals; they are a working couple just like the Clintons,” he said. “But, unlike the Clintons — and more like the Bushes — the Obamas appear to be a solid couple, devoted to each other, with no fidelity questions hovering overhead.” – MSNBC, 11-29-08
  • Liza Mundy “Barack and Michelle: A more perfect union? First Couple-to-be could be relationship role models for nation, experts say”: “Their friends have observed that they have a very positive relationship,” said Liza Mundy, author of “Michelle: A Biography.” “One of Barack’s friends pointed out how effusive he is in his praise of Michelle — he knows how much his career has demanded of her, and he’s very appreciative of that.” – – MSNBC, 11-29-08
  • Stephen J. Wayne “Obama has a hand on the helm weeks before taking oath of office”: – “It’s a consequence of the state of the economy and the invisibility of President Bush,” said Georgetown University’s presidential historian, Stephen J. Wayne. “I don’t think Obama expected it.” Kasas City Star, 11-29-08
  • David Bercuson “Bush legacy remains to be written:” “Kennedy’s got a great legacy. But what did he ever do? He got killed before he did anything,” suggests David Bercuson, a University of Calgary historian. After Kennedy dragged his heels on civil rights, it was Lyndon Johnson who finally advanced the cause. But “all poor old Johnson gets credit for is the Vietnam War,” which Kennedy set in motion, Prof. Bercuson argues….
    “He [Bush] will wear this recession, rightly or wrongly, the same way [Herbert] Hoover wore the Depression and the great crash,” says Prof. Bercuson. National Post, 11-29-08
  • Bush legacy remains to be written – Mr. Bush’s legacy in the academy is not off to a propitious start: Princeton University’s Sean Wilentz, one of the country’s leading historians, speculated a couple years ago that Mr. Bush could be the “worst president in all of American history.” In an unscientific poll earlier this year of 109 historians by the History News Network, 98.2% rated the Bush presidency a failure; 61% called it the worst ever. National Post, 11-29-08
  • Allen C. Guelzo: The Bush legacy: The five best things he ever did The war in Iraq, ‘Axis of Evil’ speech, Faith-based initiatives, Blunting the metastasis of abortion, Balancing the bench – National Post, 11-21-08
  • Robert S. McElvaine “The Bush legacy: The five worst things he did”: Fight against terror, ‘Pre-emptive war’, Economic policies, Trashed the constitution, ‘Gulf coast war’ – – National Post, 11-21-08

The Second Presidential Debate: Highlights

The Second Presidential Debate: Highlights

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH: THE SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

The Second Presidential Debate between Democratic nominee Barack Obama and Republican nominee John McCain, was held October 7, 2008 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Tom Brokaw moderated the town hall style debate.

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain take the stage at Tuesday’s debate in Nashville. (Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times)

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain took the stage at Tuesday's debate in Nashville

The Stats

  • CNN debate poll: Obama beats McCain – 54 percent saying Democrat Barack Obama won and 30 percent thinking Republican John McCain was the victor.
  • A CBS poll of uncommitted voters: 40 percent identified Obama as the winner; 26 percent said McCain won, while 35 percent said it was a tie.
  • CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, 10-7-08 55 percent say that Obama “cares more about people like you” than McCain
  • Ipsos/McClatchy poll, 10-7-08: Obama, the Democratic nominee, had the support of 47% of registered voters; McCain, the Republican candidate, had the support of 40%; Independent candidate Ralph Nader had 3%; Libertarian candidate Bob Barr had 1%.

In the News…

During Tuesday night’s debate, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain engaged in a town-hall setting. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

During Tuesday night's debate, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain engaged in a town-hall setting. (Rick Wilking/Reuters)

Candidate Soundbites

  • Full Transcript Download
  • McCAIN: It’s good to be with you at a town hall meeting.
  • On the Economy

  • OBAMA: I believe this is the final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years, strongly promoted by President (George) Bush and supported by Sen. McCain….(Those policies) essentially said that we should strip away regulations and consumer protections and let the market run wild, and prosperity would rain down on all of us. It hasn’t worked out that way….You’re not interested in politicians pointing fingers. You’re interested in the impact on you.
  • McCAIN: I have a plan to fix this problem, and it’s got to do with energy independence. We’ve got to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don’t like us very much. And we’ve got to keep taxes low and stop the spending spree in Washington.
  • On Morgages

  • McCAIN: I would order the secretary of the Treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes — at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those — be able to make those payments and stay in their homes. Is it expensive? Yes. But we all know, my friends, until we stabilize home values in America, we’re never going to start turning around and creating jobs and fixing our economy. And we’ve got to give some trust and confidence back to America. I know how the do that, my friends. And it’s my proposal, it’s not Sen. Obama’s proposal, it’s not President Bush’s proposal. But I know how to get America working again, restore our economy and take care of working Americans.
  • OBAMA: This is not the end of the process; this is the beginning of the process. And that’s why it’s going to be so important for us to work with homeowners to make sure that they can stay in their homes. The secretary already has the power to do that in the rescue package, but it hasn’t been exercised yet. And the next president has to make sure that the next Treasury secretary is thinking about how to strengthen you as a home buyer, you as a homeowner, and not simply think about bailing out banks on Wall Street.
  • McCAIN: But you know, one of the real catalysts, really the match that lit this fire was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I’ll bet you, you may never even have heard of them before this crisis. But you know, they’re the ones that, with the encouragement of Sen. Obama and his cronies and his friends in Washington, that went out and made all these risky loans, gave them to people that could never afford to pay back. And you know, there were some of us that stood up two years ago and said we’ve got to enact legislation to fix this. We’ve got to stop this greed and excess.
  • OBAMA: Now, I’ve got to correct a little bit of Sen. McCain’s history, not surprisingly. Let’s, first of all, understand that the biggest problem in this whole process was the deregulation of the financial system. Sen. McCain, as recently as March, bragged about the fact that he is a deregulator. On the other hand, two years ago, I said that we’ve got a sub-prime lending crisis that has to be dealt with.
  • On the National Debt

  • OBAMA: And so while it’s true that nobody’s completely innocent here, we have had, over the last eight years, the biggest increases in deficit spending and national debt in our history. And Senator McCain voted for four out of five of those George Bush budgets.
  • McCAIN: I can see why you feel that cynicism and mistrust, because the system in Washington is broken. And I have been a consistent reformer.
  • On Energy

  • OBAMA: What Sen. McCain doesn’t mention is he’s been there 26 of them. And during that time, he voted 23 times against alternative fuels, 23 times. So it’s easy to talk about this stuff during a campaign, but it’s important for us to understand that it requires a sustained effort from the next president.
  • McCAIN: It was an energy bill on the floor of the Senate, loaded down with goodies, billions for the oil companies, and it was sponsored by Bush and Cheney. You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one. You know who voted against it? Me.
  • On Taxes

  • OBAMA: It means — and I have to, again, repeat this. It means looking (ph) at the spending side, but also at the revenue side. I mean, Sen. McCain has been talking tough about earmarks, and that’s good, but earmarks account for about $18 billion of our budget. Now, when Sen. McCain is proposing tax cuts that would give the average Fortune 500 CEO an additional $700,000 in tax cuts, that’s not sharing a burden. And so part of the problem, I think, for a lot of people who are listening here tonight is they don’t feel as if they are sharing the burden with other folks…. That’s using a hatchet to cut the federal budget while I would use a scalpel
  • McCAIN: Nailing down Senator Obama’s various tax proposals is like nailing Jell-O to the wall… I am not in favour of tax cuts for the wealthy. Let’s create jobs and let’s get our economy going again and let’s not raise taxes on anyone.
  • OBAMA: But I think it’s important to understand, we’re not going to solve Social Security and Medicare unless we understand the rest of our tax policies. And you know, Sen. McCain, I think the “Straight Talk Express” lost a wheel on that one.
  • On Health Care

  • McCAIN: He starts saying, government will do this and government will do that, and then government will, and he’ll impose mandates. If you’re a small business person and you don’t insure your employees, Sen. Obama will fine you. Will fine you. That’s remarkable. If you’re a parent and you’re struggling to get health insurance for your children, Sen. Obama will fine you. I want to give every American a $5,000 refundable tax credit. They can take it anywhere, across state lines. Why not? Don’t we go across state lines when we purchase other things in America?
  • OBAMA: If you’ve got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it. All I’m going to do is help you to lower the premiums on it. You’ll still have choice of doctor. There’s no mandate involved. Small businesses are not going to have a mandate. What we’re going to give you is a 50 percent tax credit to help provide health care for those that you need. Now, it’s true that I say that you are going to have to make sure that your child has health care. … The reason that it’s a problem to go shopping state by state, you know what insurance companies will do? They will find a state — maybe Arizona, maybe another state — where there are no requirements for you to get cancer screenings, where there are no requirements for you to have to get pre-existing conditions, and they will all set up shop there.
  • On Iraq

  • McCAIN: Sen. Obama was wrong about Iraq and the surge. He was wrong about Russia when they committed aggression against Georgia. And in his short career, he does not understand our national security challenges. We don’t have time for on-the-job training, my friends… My judgment is something that I think I have a record to stand on…. There was a lot at stake there, my friends. And I can tell you right now that Sen. Obama would have brought our troops home in defeat. I’ll bring them home with victory and with honor and that is a fundamental difference.
  • OBAMA: It’s true. There are some things I don’t understand. I don’t understand how we ended up invading a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, while Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda are setting up base camps and safe havens to train terrorists to attack us… When Sen. McCain was cheerleading the president to go into Iraq, he suggested it was going to be quick and easy, we’d be greeted as liberators. That was the wrong judgment, and it’s been costly to us.
  • On Pakistan

  • McCAIN: Teddy Roosevelt used to say walk softly, talk softly, but carry a big stick. Senator Obama likes to talk loudly. In fact, he said he wants to announce that he’s going to attack Pakistan. Remarkable….
    Not true. Not true. I have, obviously, supported those efforts that the United States had to go in militarily and I have opposed that I didn’t think so. I understand what it’s like to send young American’s in harm’s way. I say — I was joking with a veteran — I hate to even go into this. I was joking with an old veteran friend, who joked with me, about Iran. But the point is that I know how to handle these crises. And Sen. Obama, by saying that he would attack Pakistan, look at the context of his words. I’ll get Osama bin Laden, my friends. I’ll get him. I know how to get him.
  • OBAMA: Now, Sen. McCain suggests that somehow, you know, I’m green behind the ears and I’m just spouting off, and he’s somber and responsible…. Sen. McCain, this is the guy who sang, ‘Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran,’ who called for the annihilation of North Korea. That I don’t think is an example of speaking softly. This is the person who, after we had — we hadn’t even finished Afghanistan, where he said, ‘Next up, Baghdad.’ So I agree that we have to speak responsibly and we have to act responsibly. And the reason Pakistan — the popular opinion of America had diminished in Pakistan was because we were supporting a dictator, (former President Pervez) Musharraf, had given him $10 billion over seven years, and he had suspended civil liberties. We were not promoting democracy. This is the kind of policies that ultimately end up undermining our ability to fight the war on terrorism, and it will change when I’m president.
  • On Russia

  • McCAIN: We’re not going to have another Cold War with Russia. … We have to make the Russians understand that there are penalties for these, this kind of behavior, this kind of naked aggression into Georgia, a tiny country and a tiny democracy. And so, of course we want to bring international pressures to bear on Russia in hopes that that will modify and eventually change their behavior. Now, the G-8 is one of those, but there are many others. But the Russians must understand that these kinds of actions and activities are not acceptable and hopefully we will use the leverage, economic, diplomatic and others united with our allies, with our allies and friends in Europe who are equally disturbed as we are about their recent behaviors.
  • OBAMA: The resurgence of Russia is one of the central issues that we’re going to have to deal with in the next presidency. And for the most part I agree with Sen. McCain on many of the steps that have to be taken. But we can’t just provide moral support. We’ve got to provide moral support to the Poles and Estonia and Latvia and all of the nations that were former Soviet satellites. But we’ve also got to provide them with financial and concrete assistance to help rebuild their economies. Georgia in particular is now on the brink of enormous economic challenges. And some say that that’s what (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin intended in the first place. The other thing we have to do, though, is we’ve got to see around the corners. We’ve got to anticipate some of these problems ahead of time.

Bloopers

Senators John McCain and Barack Obama during Tuesday night’s debate. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Senators John McCain and Barack Obama during Tuesday night's debate. (Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Historians’ Comments

  • Gil Troy “McCain-Obama Take 2: Six Million Questions but Neither Has Good Answers:” We all knew what would happen. This second debate between Barack Obama and John McCain was going to be a slugfest. Journalists, who seem to forget that their job is to report what actually happened not predict what might occur, had been warning about it for days – although cautioning with the kind of glee that suggested they were as hopeful as appalled.
    The overwrought warnings of mudslinging made the actual event appear all the more subdued. Unwilling to ignore the undecided voters’ earnest questions as the stock market imploded, both Obama and McCain answered the questions carefully, soberly, respectfully. Most of the tension centered around the moderator Tom Brokaw’s timekeeping frustrations, as he repeatedly chided the candidates about keeping to their agreement. Brokaw seemed to forget that a moderator’s job is to go with the flow, that the American people tuned in to hear the presidential rivals not monitor their ability to follow some artificial rules which, Brokaw repeatedly reminded the candidates, they had “signed off on.”…
    The scariest thing about hearing both candidates sling clichés about the financial crisis is to realize how clueless they are – and will remain on January 20. If two smart, talented politicians, with such a clear incentive to give a thoughtful, reassuring analysis and plan can sound so lost, it is hard to know just who will magically appear on the scene to navigate the crisis. — HNN, 10-8-08
  • Alan Brinkley “Obama Finally Flashes Some Charm”: I really don’t like “town hall meeting” debates. First, they are (in this context) populist gimmicks to test a skill that has nothing to do with being president. Second, this was not a town hall meeting at all, but a scripted event with bad questions that the candidates had no choice but to evade.
    Having said that, I was surprised at how awkward and inarticulate McCain often was in a format that he claims to especially like and that he tried to induce Obama to join frequently over the summer. McCain was not embarrassing, and he had some good moments–as well as an interesting, but probably unworkable, proposal to have the Treasury buy up bad mortgages. But his body language and demeanor were mostly terrible, while Obama seemed fluid, comfortable, and–something that has not always been the case–charming.
    The substance of the debate had no surprises and didn’t vary much from the first debate. Given that all the polls, and the subsequent momentum, gave Obama the edge after the first debate, it’s pretty surprising that McCain said almost nothing that he hadn’t said earlier. Obama had no big new ideas either, but he’s not the one who has to turn the campaign around.
    I think the big advantage Obama has coming out of the debate is that he was more likable than he usually is– and that will make it much more difficult for the attack ads and the Palin barbs to turn things around.
    I saw nothing tonight that seems likely to change the current trajectory of the campaign. And that, of course, is good news for Obama. – TNR, 10-8-08
  • Michael Beschloss Discussing the Candidates: Obama has made a parallel himself that, like [Abraham] Lincoln, he only has a few years in public life, but he [Lincoln] made a great impact. … If Obama is elected with a large Democratic Congress, it could be one of those years when you have a president during a crisis, such as our financial crisis, with both houses of Congress in his party, and he can change things in a big way. It doesn’t work that way very often, but he could end up like [Franklin D. Roosevelt].
    We tend to not give the White House to the same party for three terms in a row. The only time it’s happened in modern times was with [George H.W.] Bush after [Ronald] Reagan. If McCain wins, it could mean he has a lot of political dexterity. And to distinguish oneself from an unpopular president is difficult. Just look at Adlai Stevenson, who tried to distance himself from [Harry] Truman, or Hubert Humphrey, who tried to distance himself from Lyndon Johnson, who was very unpopular at the time because of the Vietnam War. – Florida Times-Union
  • Stephen Hess on “McCain works to drive voters from Obama”: But while “character assassination is as American as apple pie and George Washington,” according to presidential historian Stephen Hess, “McCain’s problem is he lacks real ammunition.” – AFP, 10-7-08
  • Schuyler VanValkenburg on “Democratic Libel” The Internet and modern technology have allowed vitriol to amplify and multiply but they also have allowed us to return to this more participatory, grassroots democracy. – Style Weekly, 10-8-08
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