On This Day in History… January 20, 1961 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Inauguration

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

IN FOCUS: 5OTH ANNIVERSARY OF PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY’S INAUGURATION

https://i1.wp.com/i.usatoday.net/communitymanager/_photos/the-oval/2011/01/20/Kennedyx-large.jpg

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY….

On this day in history… January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated the 35th president of the United States.

  • 50 years later, JFK’s words resonate: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country . . .”
    It’s been 50 years since the phrase from President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address first resonated from Capitol Hill and challenged Americans to take pride and be willing to sacrifice in making the world a better place. The fourth-shortest inaugural address delivered by a U.S. president, Kennedy’s 14-minute speech promoted public service and was a catalyst to programs such as the Peace Corps and NASA’s push to send astronauts to the moon… – Boston Herald, 1-20-11

QUOTES

  • 50 Years Later, JFK’s Inaugural Address Continues to Resonate: On the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, watch an excerpt of John F. Kennedy’s famous speech on the steps of the Capitol that began his presidency on Jan. 20, 1961.:
    U.S. PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: To those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge, but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace. Remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof, let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.
    (APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let both sides explore what problems unite us, instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.
    (APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.
    Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
    Now the trumpet summons us again, not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need, not as a call to battle, though embattled we are, but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
    And, so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what, together, we can do for the freedom of man.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
    JOHN F. KENNEDY: Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.
    With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that, here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.
    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)….
    Mp3 Download
  • President Barack Obama: “Because of his vision, more people prospered; more people served; our union was made more perfect. Because of that vision, I can stand here tonight as President of the United States.”
President Obama delivered remarks on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

HEADLINES

  • Kennedy’s Inauguration Still Captivates, 50 Years Later PBS Newshour, 1-20-11
  • Why Is JFK’s Legacy So Enduring? PBS Newshour, 1-20-11
  • 50 Years Later, Why Is America Still In Love With JFK?: On a frigid day, exactly 50 years ago, John F. Kennedy took office with the words, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” The world had high hopes for this dashing fellow from Boston — at just 43, the youngest president elected to office, and the only Catholic. While other presidents’ anniversaries come and go without fanfare, Kennedy will be honored this week with celebrations worthy of a king…. – MSNBC, 1-19-11
  • Robert Frost and J.F.K., Fifty Years Later: It was a bright and blustery day in Washington fifty years ago today for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy. An old newsreel reporting the day’s events notes that the city was recovering from a blizzard and that “battalions of snow fighters kept Pennsylvania Avenue clear for the swearing-in ceremony.” That earnest footage also communicates the enthusiasm that accompanied the event for many in the country. It was “the smoothest transition of power in history” from Eisenhower to Kennedy, the newsreader informs us. Nixon, recently defeated, even manages to smile brightly. Yet it was a new day, a new age: Kennedy was, at forty-three, then the youngest President and the first born in the twentieth century. (The past, though, had not been completely thrown off, judging by the top hats that Eisenhower and Kennedy wore to some of the festivities.)
    The anniversary marks Kennedy’s brief but era-defining inauguration address, but it also marks another coming together of custom and modernity, of the past and the future: the eighty-six-year-old Robert Frost reciting “The Gift Outright,” which ends with the lines: 

    Such as we were we gave ourselves outright
    (The deed of gift was many deeds of war)
    To the land vaguely realizing westward,
    But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,
    Such as she was, such as she would become.

    New Yorker, 1-20-11

  • JFK: Great man, great liberal, great American, great goals, great nation: Today America celebrates the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy assuming the presidency with Kennedy remaining the most popular president of the last 50 years. Let’s end the mythology that America is moving to the right. In a Gallup poll released in December, Americans gave John F. Kennedy an approval rating of 85 percent, the highest of any of the nine presidents who have served in the last 50 years…. – The Hill, 1-20-11
  • 50 Years After the New Frontier Dawned, a Toast to Kennedy: On Thursday in the nation’s capital, the guest of honor was in effect President John F. Kennedy, who had been inaugurated 50 years earlier. And 15 members of Kennedy’s White House staff gathered for lunch at a restaurant with a view of the Capitol where he gave his famous speech, to celebrate the anniversary and reminisce…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Biden, others celebrate 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration: Vice President Biden led the celebration on Capitol Hill today for the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961. The celebration included remarks from Caroline Kennedy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Rep. John Lewis, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, former secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and House Speaker John Boehner…. – USA Today, 1-20-11
Caroline Kennedy on Jan. 13, 2011, in Washington.
  • Congress pays tribute to 50th anniversary of JFK’s inaugural address: Congressional leaders today paused to pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address that motivated a nation 50 years ago. In the rotunda of the US Capitol, congressional officials, aides, and Kennedy family members listened in silence to the 14-minute, 1,355-word speech that Kennedy delivered on a blustery day in 1961. Top congressional leaders – including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – attended the event.
    “Sadly, this is the first congress to convene without a Kennedy since the Truman administration,” Boehner said, before looking over at the president’s daughter. “Caroline, there’s still time.”
    Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, both delivered remarks. “It took President Kennedy just 1,355 words to summon a new generation and set in motion generations of service and sacrifice – to reignite the fires of idealism and patriotism in millions of Americans,” Kerry said…. – Boston Globe, 1-20-11
  • Obama celebrates JFK’s ‘unfinished life’: President Barack Obama on Thursday paid tribute to the “unfinished life” of John F. Kennedy and said his inauguration 50 years ago and his accompanying call for Americans to serve their country still “inspires us and lights our way.” “We are the heirs of this president, who showed us what is possible,” Obama said. “Because of his vision, more people prospered, more people served, our union was made more perfect. Because of that vision I can stand here tonight as president of the United States”.
    Obama confessed that “I don’t have my own memories of that day.” But, Obama said, “even now, one half-century later, there is something about that day, Jan. 20, 1961, that feels immediate, feels new and urgent and exciting, despite the graininess of the 16-millimeter news reels that recorded it for posterity.” He said Kennedy could have a chosen a different life, one of luxury, but that he opted instead for one of leadership and idealism, “soaring but sober that inspired the country and the world” five decades ago….
    “I can only imagine how he must have felt entering the Oval Office in turbulent times,” Obama said, as the audience applauded and laughed. He said Kennedy led a “volatile America, in this tinderbox of a world,” with a steady hand, “defusing the most perilous crisis since the Cold War without firing a single shot.” “He knew that we, as a people, can do big things. We can reach great heights. We can rise to any challenge, so long as we’re willing to ask what we can do for our country,” Obama said, recreating one of the more memorable lines from Kennedy’s inaugural address. – AP, 1-20-11
  • At the Kennedy Center, Gratitude to a President Fond of the Arts: President Obama and performing arts luminaries gathered at the Kennedy Center Thursday night to pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy on the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, with many paying homage to the inspiration they drew from the slain president. In his brief remarks, Mr. Obama characterized Mr. Kennedy as a visionary leader who made ardent strides in nuclear disarmament, civil rights, and space exploration in a “tinderbox of a land.”
    “Because of his vision, more people prospered; more people served; our union was made more perfect,” Mr. Obama said “Because of that vision, I can stand here tonight as President of the United States.”… – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Sen. Harry Reid: Honoring JFK’s legacy: The whole world watched with excitement and expectation in 1961 when Senator John and Jacqueline Kennedy moved into the White House with their young family. No one noticed when I first came to Washington the same year. I was a law student, a new father and to make ends meet, a Capitol Police Officer.
    At the end of those long days, I would often pass the White House on my way home. I can still vividly remember seeing Caroline’s pony, Macaroni, on the South Lawn.
    Fifty years later, it is a great privilege to be with Caroline – as well as the Vice President, Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, Secretary Chao, and all of you – to remember the history and the hope of Caroline’s father’s presidency.
    We also remember and honor President Kennedy’s brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, who led an exemplary life of public service, and who did so much for so many who had so little. We extend our condolences to his loved ones…. – The Hill, 1-20-11

HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION

  • Thurston Clarke: Passing the Torch to a New Generation 50 Years Ago a Young John F. Kennedy Took the Oath of Office, Changing the Presidency – and a Nation – Forever: “Not just the youngest elected but also the first Catholic,” notes historian Thurston Clarke. “And also elected by the slimmest vote, majority in the popular vote. And so that’s another reason that he had to give a speech for the ages. A speech that would unite the country.”…
    “You had all of the celebrities in Washington,” said Clarke. “You had a feeling that this was a gathering of the best and the brightest in the country.”…
    “I think you would find that John Kennedy contributed most of the passages and the famous words that we remember: ‘The torch has been passed to a new generation.’ The “Ask not’ line. ‘Bear any burden.’ All of those were Kennedy. He had a Sorenson draft in front of him. On January 10th he flew to Palm Beach, he looked at the draft, and he dictated his changes and his additions to the draft.”…
    “People remember this as a kind of Cold War speech because of ‘We’ll pay any price, bear any burden,'” said Clarke. “But most of the rest of the speech was about peace and about negotiations and about the threat of nuclear war.”…
    “When Kennedy said, ‘Ask not,’ people knew that this was a man who’d been decorated in World War II,” said Clarke. “Who’d almost lost his life trying to save the surviving crew members of PT-109. So it wasn’t Where does he get off saying ‘Ask not’? He had the credentials to make this claim on people.”…
    “I think what we do – what John Kennedy did – is we compartmentalize things,” said Clarke. “There was so much that was accomplished, that was on its way to being accomplished. We put this in one compartment. And then we have the other compartment, is this terribly reckless sexual life.”…
    “I think it’s what we thought could have happened,” said Clarke, “because in the last 100 days of his life he was suddenly beginning to have the courage to do the things that were going to make him a great president. And one was the civil rights bill and the other was the test ban treaty.
    “But the beginning of his presidency – and what turned out to be the end of his presidency – were both times when the American people hoped that … this president was going to solve their problems, and was going to become what he hoped to be, which was a great president.”… – CBS News, 1-16-11
  • E.J. DIONNE JR.: JFK’s words: The torch still burns: It’s remembered as a day chilled by “a Siberian wind knifing down Pennsylvania Avenue” and illuminated by “the dazzling combination of bright sunshine and deep snow.” On Jan. 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy began his presidency with a speech at once soaring and solemn. Fifty years on, we have not heard an inaugural address like it. Tethered to its time and place, it still challenges with its ambition to harness realism to idealism, patriotism to service, national interest to universal aspiration…. – WaPo, 1-20-11
  • John F. Kennedy inaugural address: How good was it?: The John F. Kennedy inaugural address was 50 years ago to the day – on Jan. 20, 1961. It remains an iconic American speech and is the subject of Google’s Thursday home-page doodle. Google’s logo is drawn using words that Mr. Kennedy used on that historic day.
    How good was Kennedy’s inaugural address? Very. Historians generally rank it as one of the four best US presidential inaugural speeches of all time. William Safire, former New York Times columnist and Nixon speechwriter, included it in a volume he compiled of the greatest speeches delivered in history, writing that it “set the standard by which presidential inaugurals have been judged in the modern era.”… – CS Monitor, 1-20-11
  • JFK and Obama: Their Similarities and Differences: History shows that despite their differences in ideology, most U.S. presidents have qualities in common with their predecessors. On this fiftieth anniversary of the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy, President Obama is marking the midpoint of his four-year term in office. The comparisons are inevitable as Mr. Obama begins the third year of his presidency, a year in office that Kennedy left unfinished… – CBS News, 1-20-11
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January 30, 2009: President Obama’s First Week in Office

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

IN FOCUS: STATS

Pete Souza/The White House

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

In Focus: Stats

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

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act

The Headlines…

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

President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act

Lilly Ledbetter hero

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

Learn more

President Obama with business leaders

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

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act

Lilly Ledbetter hero

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

Learn more

President Obama with business leaders

Meeting with business leaders

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

President Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum

From peril to progress

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

Weekly Address

Political Quotes

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

President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act

Lilly Ledbetter hero

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

Learn more

President Obama with business leaders

Meeting with business leaders

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

President Obama signs a Presidential Memorandum

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

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

Pete Souza/White House, via Bloomberg News

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

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

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

IN FOCUS: The Bush Presidency

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

In Focus:

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

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

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

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

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

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

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

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

December 26, 2008: President-Elect Barack Obama Completes his Cabinet

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

President-elect Barack Obama met with Senator John McCain, his Republican rival, after the election in November.

In Focus:

  • Barack Obama: Yes, He Could Quite A Year, As Illinois Senator Claims Presidency: In the first week of 2008, Barack Obama rocked the political world with a win in the Iowa caucuses. But the question remained: Could this black man with a rich personal history and sparse elective resume make it all the way to the presidency? Yes, he could.
    Obama took us along on a wild ride, smashing political and racial barriers as he was elected the nation’s 44th president in an electoral landslide. His message of hope and change – and the viral YouTube mantra of “Yes, we can” – resonated with millions of voters after eight years of George W. Bush. – CBS News, 12-24-08
  • 2008: The Political Year in Quotes FOXNews.com runs down the most memorable lines of the 2008 political year:
  • John Edwards: “I don’t talk about these tabloids. The tabloid trash is full of lies.”
  • John Mc
  • Barack Obama: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
  • Cain: “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
  • Tina Fey: “I can see Russia from my house!”
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson: “I want to cut his nuts off.”
  • Bill Clinton: “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in ’84 and ’88, and he ran a good campaign, and so did Obama.”
  • Rev. Jeremiah Wright: “I believe our government is capable of doing anything.”
  • Rod Blagojevich: “There’s nothing but sunshine hanging over me.””Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it has about 18 million cracks in it.”
  • Ted Kennedy: “Together we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat. But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world. And I pledge to you that I will be there next January.” – Fox News, 12-24-08
  • Barack Obama just added you as a friend on Facebook: (Humor) Washington: Despite the assumption that President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet nominees are told of their selection via phone calls, the Los Angeles Times has learned that the Obama is actually notifying his picks by “friending” them on the social networking site Facebook. Requests to Obama for comment on the following transcript have gone unanswered, though he did “poke” us just as this went to press…. – LAT
  • Name by name, Obama’s Cabinet taking shape 12-11-08

The Headlines…

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

  • Obama Should Heed the Advice of George H.W. Bush: There has been much talk about President-elect Barack Obama looking to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt for inspiration and insight on building his administration and charting his first 100 days in office. But some of the most helpful guidance available could come from an over-looked source — George H.W. Bush. – WaPo, 12-24-08
  • Obama’s Zen State, Well, It’s Hawaiian: NYT, 12-24-08
  • Obama Sets Ambitious Bar in Pledge to Rein In Executive Power: Barack Obama promised during the campaign to “reverse” the expansions of executive power under the Bush administration — but will he follow through? – Fox News, 12-24-08
  • Bush withdraws 1 of 19 pardons he issued Tuesday: President George W. Bush on Wednesday revoked a pardon he had granted only a day before — a step unheard of in recent memory — after learning in news reports of political contributions to Republicans by the man’s father and other information. – AP, 12-24-08
  • Resistance to Kennedy Grows Among Democrats – NYT, 12-24-08
  • Kennedy’s pursuit of Senate snared in NY politics: Caroline Kennedy’s bid to get appointed to the Senate and extend the Camelot dynasty has run into the bare-knuckle world of New York politics, where a backlash appears to be building against her. – AP, 12-24-08
  • Top Bush Aides to Linger on High-Profile Boards: As President Bush settles in for his last Christmas in office, he has been busy handing out presents to some of his top aides. And they are not the kind that require wrapping paper or a bow. – NYT, 12-24-08
  • For Now, Obama Proves to Be Elusive Target for G.O.P.: Almost two months after Barack Obama’s election, Republicans are struggling to figure out how — or even whether — to challenge or criticize him as he prepares to assume the presidency. – NYT, 12-24-08
  • Bush pardons man who helped Israel during wartime: The last words Charles Winters spoke to his son nearly 25 years ago — “Keep the faith” — guided the Miami businessman as he sought a rare presidential pardon for his late father’s crime: aiding Israel in 1948 as it fought to survive. – AP, 12-23-08
  • Blagojevich questioning takes up Obama’s time: President-elect Barack Obama has said all along that neither he nor his team was involved in any eye-popping dealmaking over filling his vacated Senate seat. Obama’s hand-picked investigator agreed. – AP, 12-23-08
  • Obama to release review on Blagojevich contacts: President-elect Barack Obama plans to reveal on Tuesday his staff’s conversations with the Illinois governor accused of trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat, transition officials said Monday. “We have a report,” said Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. “It’s been ready for release for a week. We’ve held off at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s office and that continues to be the case, though we expect to be able to release the report shortly.” – AP, 12-22-08
  • Ill. impeachment panel awaits word from prosecutor: The legislative committee considering impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich could be at the beginning of its work or nearing the end, depending on the wishes of federal prosecutors. – AP, 12-21-08
  • Senate-for-sale case threatens new chief of staff: But there was always one call Blagojevich regularly took, say his aides, and that was from Rahm Emanuel — his congressman, his one-time campaign adviser and, more recently — and troubling for Emanuel — one of his contacts with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition staff. – AP, 12-21-08
  • Automakers grab loans, look to Obama White House: The long-term fate of the auto industry rests with Barack Obama now that President George W. Bush has given car companies $17.4 billion in emergency rescue loans. – AP, 12-20-08
  • Bush orders emergency bailout of the auto industry: Citing imminent danger to the national economy, President Bush ordered an emergency bailout of the U.S. auto industry Friday, offering $17.4 billion in rescue loans and demanding tough concessions from the deeply troubled carmakers and their workers. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Ill. Gov. Blagojevich pledges to fight, won’t quit: A combative Gov. Rod Blagojevich served notice Friday that he has no intention of quitting over his corruption arrest, declaring: “I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong.” The forceful three-minute speech marked the first time the former amateur boxer directly addressed the allegations since his arrest 10 days earlier. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Obama fills econ team, says business will revive: Completing his Cabinet a month before taking office, President-elect Barack Obama named officials to oversee transportation, labor, trade and small business policy Friday but warned that economic recovery won’t be nearly as swift. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Mark Felt, Watergate’s ‘Deep Throat,’ dies at 95: W. Mark Felt, the former FBI second-in-command who revealed himself as “Deep Throat” 30 years after he helped The Washington Post unravel the Watergate scandal, has died. He was 95. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Elizabeth Alexander, Yale poet prepares for inauguration: Alexander, professor of African-American studies at Yale University, was chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his inauguration on Jan. 20. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Trade policy unclear in pick of former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, some say: The choice of Ron Kirk as the nation’s top trade negotiator disappointed Barack Obama’s union supporters and left trade experts wondering Thursday how hard the president-elect will push against business interests in future deals. – Dallas Morning News, 12-19-08
  • In Transition Labor Secretary, U.S. Trade Representative: Hilda L. Solis: Current job: Democratic congresswoman from California… – WaPo, 12-19-08
  • Impeachment drive slowed against Illinois governor: Illinois lawmakers could be forced to build their impeachment case against Gov. Rod Blagojevich on a raft of relatively small grievances, rather than the blockbuster Senate-seat-for-sale allegations, for fear of undermining federal prosecutors’ criminal investigation. – AP, 12-18-08
  • Obama team weighs up to $850 billion economic jolt: President-elect Barack Obama is laying the groundwork for a giant economic stimulus package, possibly $850 billion over two years, in his first test of legislative give and take with Congress. – AP, 12-18-08
  • Ill. parties clash over potential special election: Illinois Republicans have launched a political ad campaign demanding a special election to fill the Senate vacancy that Gov. Rod Blagojevich allegedly tried to sell, hoping to pick up a seat they had no shot at before the scandal. – AP, 12-16-08
  • Obama chooses Chicago schools chief Ed. Secretary: President-elect Barack Obama announced Arne Duncan, the head of the Chicago school system, as education secretary Tuesday and declared that failing to improve classroom instruction is “morally unacceptable for our children.” – AP, 12-16-08
  • Obama “Review shows no inappropriate contact”: President-elect Barack Obama said Monday a review by his own lawyer shows he had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement, and transition aides did nothing inappropriate. – AP, 12-15-08
  • Ill. lawmakers take first step to oust Blagojevich: Illinois lawmakers took the first step Monday toward removing Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office as the disgraced Democrat conferred with a bulldog defense attorney known for taking cases to trial. – AP, 12-15-08
  • Caroline Kennedy Is Seeking Seat Held by Clinton: Caroline Kennedy, the deeply private daughter of America’s most storied political dynasty, will seek the United States Senate seat in New York being vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton. – NYT, 12-15-08
  • Obama to announce environment, energy team: President-elect Barack Obama, who has vowed to adopt an aggressive approach to global warming and the environment, will announce his choices to lead the effort at a news conference on Monday. – Reuters, 12-14-08
  • Iraqi journalist throws shoes at Bush in Baghdad: A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at — but missed — President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit. – CNN, 12-14-08
  • Spousal Ties to Lobbying Test a Vow From Obama: Linda Hall Daschle is one of the most important aviation lobbyists in town. Ms. Daschle is also the wife of Tom Daschle, whom President-elect Barack Obama has chosen to be the next secretary of health and human services. – NYT, 12-14-08
  • Awwww! Joe Biden gets a new puppy The Vice President-elect’s grandchildren will pick out a name – MSNBC, 12-14-08

Political Quotes

  • Obama’s Night-Before-Christmas Address: “This holiday season, their families celebrate with a joy that is muted knowing that a loved one is absent, and sometimes in danger. In towns and cities across America, there is an empty seat at the dinner table; in distant bases and on ships at sea, our servicemen and women can only wonder at the look on their child’s face as they open a gift back home.” – NYT, 12-24-08
  • Condoleezza Rice in an interview with AFP, the chief US diplomat conceded that eight years after President George W. Bush came to power, his administration’s popularity was “not very great” in the Arab world. “I understand that a lot of the history between the US and the Arab world is one that Arabs look to as a time of humiliation and of lack of respect. That did not start with President Bush and it will not merely end with President Bush,” she said. …Rice, whose job ends when Bush hands over the presidency to Barack Obama on January 20, predicted the Arabs will change their view of the Bush administration. “Over time I think that the fact that America has stood for the Arab world and for the Arabs to have the same rights and the same ability to live in freedom as we have, that that will ultimately be respected,” Rice said. History will vindicate Bush, she said, by showing that Iraq, in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion, will change the face of the Middle East and will be the first multi-ethnic and multi-confessional democracy in the Arab world. …The war on terror has failed to eliminate Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, but the US-led coalition and Iraq are close to defeating the group’s Iraq branch, she said. – Pam’s House Blend, 12-24-08
  • Cheney says Congress failed struggling automakers on “Fox News Sunday.”: “The president decided specifically that he wanted to try to deal with it and not preside over the collapse of the automobile industry just as he goes out of office.” Lawmakers “had ample opportunity to deal with this issue and they failed. The president had no choice but to step in.”…
    “If you think about what Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War, what FDR did during World War II. They went far beyond anything we’ve done in a global war on terror.”…
    “I’d want to see what they’re going to spend it on. There usually are fairly significant differences between we Republicans and the Democrats on how you stimulate the economy.”
    On Sarah Palin in 2012: “I don’t think she has any kind of lock on that. She’ll have to go out and earn it just as anybody else would have to.”
    On bin Laden: “He’s been holed up in a way where he’s not even been communicating and there are questions about whether or not he’s even running the operation.”
    “It wasn’t my decision to make,” Cheney said of firing Rumsfeld. “The president doesn’t always take my advice.”
    did not regret using an obscenity beginning with “f” in an exchange with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the Senate floor in June 2004. “I thought he merited it at the time,” Cheney said with a chuckle in the interview. “And we’ve since, I think, patched over that wound and we’re civil to one another now.” – AP, 12-21-08
  • Ill. Gov. Blagojevich pledges to fight, won’t quit: “I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong.”…. “I’m not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob.”… “I’m here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way.”…. “Merry Christmas, happy holidays.” – AP, 12-19-08
  • Harry Reid: Obama team weighs up to $850 billion economic jolt: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday that Obama has indicated that Congress will get his recovery recommendations by the first of the year.
    “He’s going to get that to us very quickly, and so we would hope within the first 10 days to two weeks that he’s in office, that is after Jan. 20, that we could pass the stimulus plan. We want to do it very quickly.” – AP, 12-18-08
  • Bush says he didn’t compromise soul to be popular: “Look, everybody likes to be popular.” “What do you expect? We’ve got a major economic problem and I’m the president during the major economic problem. I mean, do people approve of the economy? No. I don’t approve of the economy. … I’ve been a wartime president. I’ve dealt with two economic recessions now. I’ve had, hell, a lot of serious challenges. What matters to me is I didn’t compromise my soul to be a popular guy.”
    “I’m a free market guy. But I’m not going to let this economy crater in order to preserve the free market system. So we made a lot of very strong moves and it’s been painful for a lot of people, particularly because, you know, this — the excesses of the past have caused a lot of folks to hurt when it comes to, like, their 401(k)’s or, you know, their jobs.”
    “I think the incoming administration’s going to have to fully analyze the risks and the tools and — come to their own conclusion. But one thing’s for certain. I’m confident that President-elect Obama knows that one of his most solemn duties is to protect the American people.”
    “They’re going to have to sort it through in Illinois. Obviously anytime anybody allegedly betrays the public trust there’s got to be great concern because, you know, democracy really is, you know, really rests on the trust of the people. It’s a system of people and by people and for people. And, therefore, the public trust is important.” – AP, 12-18-08
  • Obama chooses Chicago schools chief Ed. Secretary: “When it comes to school reform, Arne is the most hands-on of hands-on practitioners. He’s not beholden to any one ideology, and he’s worked tirelessly to improve teacher quality.” – AP, 12-16-08
  • Will deft shoe-dodge improve Bush’s image?: “Everybody calm down please,” he said over his attacker’s shouting from the next room, before a small grin returned to his face. “First of all, thank you for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn’t bother me. If you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe.” – National Post, 12-15-08
  • McCain on ABC’s “This Week” I can’t promise to support Palin for president”: I can’t say something like that. We’ve got some great other young governors. I think you’re going to see the governors assume a greater leadership role in our Republican Party…. The greatest appreciation for Gov. Palin and her family, and it was a great joy to know them. She invigorated our campaign….
    Have no doubt of my admiration and respect for her and my view of her viability, but at this stage, again … my corpse is still warm, you know?
    I think that the Obama campaign should and will give all information necessary. You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody — right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy, stimulus package, reforms that are necessary.
    I don’t know all the details of the relationship between President-elect Obama’s campaign or his people and the governor of Illinois. But I have some confidence that all the information will come out. It always does, it seems to me.
    I think my job is, of course, to be a part of, and hopefully exert some leadership, in the loyal opposition. But I emphasize the word loyal. We haven’t seen economic times like this in my lifetime. We haven’t seen challenges abroad at the level that we are experiencing, certainly since the end of the Cold War, and you could argue in some respects that they’re certainly more complex, many of these challenges. So let’s have our first priority where we can work together… Will there be areas of disagreement? Of course. We are different parties and different philosophy. But the nation wants us to unite and work together.
    That would sound like I am detracting from President-elect Obama’s campaign. I don’t want to do that… Nobody likes a sore loser. Get busy and move on. That’s the best cure for it. I spent a period of time feeling sorry for myself. It’s wonderful. It’s one of the most enjoyable experiences that you can have. But the point is: You’ve got to move on… I’m still a senator from the state of Arizona. I still have the privilege and honor of serving this country, which I’ve done all my life, and it’s a great honor to do so. – CNN, 12-14-08

Historians’ Comments

  • David Greenberg ‘Buff’ Obama Images Cause Stir in U.S. David Greenberg, a professor at Rutgers University who is working on a history of political spin, said no one should be surprised by the latest development. When then-president John F. Kennedy was pictured shirtless, there were media accounts then fretting about the threshold Americns had crossed as a country, he said. “There was John F. Kennedy by the beach, shirt off, this young, glamorous president,” Greenberg said. “So in a way this is 48 years old now that we’re having this.” Since then, Lyndon Johnson lifted his shirt to show reporters his surgery scar and there have been pictures of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in swim trunks.
    “It was kind of an erosion of what had been boundaries of formality between the president and the public,” Greenberg said. “We’ve had ‘boxers and briefs’ and a real acquaintanceship with a personal side, an uninhibited side, an unclothed side of the president.”…
    But such personal shots – dropping the girls off at school, hitting the gym, practising his golf swing – also serve to humanize the president. Greenberg can see why Obama might allow the beach photos to be taken. “I’m sure if he didn’t do it on purpose, he’s not exactly crying in his coffee about it,” he said. “I don’t see any downside.” – AP, 12-24-08
  • James M. McPherson Historian sees lessons, Lincoln parallels for Obama: …Georges Clemenceau, the French prime minister during World War I, famously said that “War is too important to be left to the generals.” Lincoln certainly would have agreed with that. What Clemenceau meant is that every activity involved with fighting a war has political consequences, has consequences far beyond the battlefield, has an impact on the entire society and therefore can’t really be decided strictly on military criteria. And I think that Lincoln certainly learned that and that’s something Obama will have to keep in mind. I think he probably is well aware of it, that, for example, whatever decisions he makes about withdrawing troops from Iraq or beefing up troops in Afghanistan don’t take place in a social and cultural and political vacuum. They all have consequences far beyond the battlefield itself.
    Lincoln had the ability to communicate ideas and communicate policy to the average person. He could make things clear, even complicated things clear, to the average person, and I think Obama has that gift, too.
    I think I do. … Lincoln occasionally did lose his temper, but he usually managed to maintain his cool. … This kind of temperament — keeping your cool, keeping your temper, trying to base your decisions on rational thought rather than emotions or temporary explosions of temper — I think they’re similar in that respect and that was a really important factor in Lincoln’s leadership qualities.
    Well yes, it’s almost exhilarating to have a president who reads history, knows history and realizes the value of understanding history. “Pleasure” is the right word. – CNN, 12-23-08
  • E.J. Dionne: Obama team may be more left than it seems: Oh, my: Barack Obama is still more than a month away from assuming the presidency and already there are reports about “the left” being dispirited about change they no longer believe in. These fears — in this case expressed by a rather small number of bloggers and writers — are aggravated by praise for Obama’s transition choices from conservatives who seem relieved the president-elect is neither Lenin nor Robespierre…. This means that parts of the political left will have some differences with Obama over the next four years, but it doesn’t mean that most on the left are already disillusioned with him. Take it from Schlesinger. In his 1960 diary entry he ascribed to Kennedy the view that “especially with a liberal Congress, conservative-appearing men can win more support for liberal measures than all-outers.” Schlesinger added: “Of course, there is something to this argument.” – Newsday, 12-24-08
  • A changing Washington: Obama’s new home was slow to integrate McClatchy Newspapers, 12-24-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama completes cabinet of ‘rivals’ line-up”: “This was one of the more well-organized and well-prepared transitions that we have seen,” Princeton University historian Julian Zelizer said. “Not only has he appointed some very high-quality picks in terms of intellectual capacity and experience, but on key areas — including economics and defense — he has been able to move to the center without alienating his core supporters,” he said. By common consent, Obama has filled his cabinet quickly but also with much thought to ability as he emulates the “team of rivals” assembled by his political hero, Civil War president Abraham Lincoln. AP, 12-19-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Contrasting views of Cheney”: Historian Julian Zelizer calls Vice President Dick Cheney the most influential vice president in history. – Poitico, 12-22-08
  • Michael Beschloss: Obama Cabinet Picks Create Open Senate Seats, and Controversy: As top Democrats move from the U.S. Senate into jobs in President-elect Barack Obama’s White House, the process of filling those Senate seats without elections has, in some instances, led to charges of nepotism or bribery.
    According to presidential historian Michael Beschloss, the process of selecting senators via state legislators bred corruption. “The reason why the 17th Amendment in 1913 changed all that was that the Senate was brought so many cases where people said, ‘This guy became a senator because of bribery and intimidation,’ they felt you needed direct election,” Beschloss told the NewsHour. – PBS Newhour, 12-16-08
  • Gil Troy: Will deft shoe-dodge improve Bush’s image?: According to Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University, Mr. Bush handled the potentially embarrassing situation with a grace that could benefit the way people remember him. “One of the things that he has always had as an advantage as part of his skill set has been a very fluid and smooth physicality,” he said. “At his best, when he’s been most effective, he has been able to use a kind of sheer physical presence and fluidity, the grace of an athlete — and he has the grace of a jogger. I think that helped him in this incident.” – National Post, 12-15-08
  • Elena Razlogova: Will deft shoe-dodge improve Bush’s image?: Elena Razlogova, an assistant professor at Concordia University, surmised in an e-mail from Moscow that regardless of how Mr. Bush reacted to the situation, the damage has been done. “However graceful Bush was, he’ll never live this down,” she wrote. “In Russia, the networks reported on this at length and with glee. I think people everywhere are just happy his presidency is over…. True, Bush did seem to dodge shoes better than reporters’ queries, but throwing a shoe seems so much more pithy and symbolic than a question.” – National Post, 12-15-08
  • Fred Greenstein “Obama faces heady challenges, and they’re growing”: “There’s a lot of ground giving under him. It’s a terrific challenge,” said Fred Greenstein, a Princeton University professor emeritus of politics and a presidential historian.
    “From one perspective, it’s as if he’s about to take over the captain’s job on a sinking ship. From the other perspective, he could be on a glide path to Mount Rushmore if he does a combination of morale building and energizing people while dealing with the economic distress by producing some constructive changes in the society and in the economy.”
    “The striking thing is he doesn’t seem scared,” Greenstein added.
    “Part of what he’s doing is paying lip service to the notion that there’s only one president while sucking up all the oxygen,” Greenstein said. – AP, 12-14-08
  • Gary Mormino: “Fla.’s First Ladies Have Rich History Carole Rome to join unusual cast of characters when marrying Gov. Crist”: One of the earliest intersections of matrimony and politics in Florida comes from 1929, according to historian Gary Mormino, an author and professor at the University of South Florida. The Florida Legislature convened in a special session that year to censure the wife of President Herbert Hoover, Lou Henry Hoover, who had offended state lawmakers by inviting the wife of a black congressman for a White House reception. Mormino said the role of first lady has only recently shifted toward the caretaking of pet causes. The wife of Gov. Spessard Holland had dubious timing with her announcement that she would push for cleaner public restrooms. Mary Holland’s statement was released on Dec. 7, 1941, as Pearl Harbor was attacked. The Ledger, 12-14-08

December 8, 2008: Obama on the Economy & Caroline Kennedy, New York Senator?

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Canada in Focus:

  • Dion’s Speech Beset By Technical Woes: In the battle of the airwaves Wednesday, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion showed up almost an hour late and a few pixels short in his duel with the prime minister he hopes to replace. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08
  • Gov. Gen. Agrees to Suspend Parliament: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has won a stay of political execution – at least until January. Harper convinced Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament on Thursday, delaying a non-confidence vote scheduled for Monday that would have brought down his beleaguered minority Conservative government. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08

The Headlines…

Scott Olson/Getty Images

President-elect Barack Obama introduced retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki as his nominee for secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department on Sunday.

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

  • Democrats Pick Up House Seat: Mary Jo Kilroy, a Democrat, won the 15th District, which encompasses Columbus, the state’s capital and largest city, by a little more than 2,000 votes over Steve Stivers, a Republican. Representative Deborah Pryce, a Republican, announced in August 2007 that she was vacating the seat. – NYT, 12-7-08
  • CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: In a move to reassert Congressional independence at the start of the new presidential administration, the vice president will be barred from joining weekly internal Senate deliberations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun. – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08
  • 1st Vietnamese-American elected to US Congress: Republican immigration attorney Anh “Joseph” Cao defeated Democratic U.S. William Jefferson on Saturday in an election postponed for a month by Hurricane Gustav. – AP, 12-7-08
  • What impact will Obama’s public works have on the American landscape?: President-elect Barack Obama is a student of history, as he has deftly demonstrated by following the model of Abraham Lincoln’s “team of rivals” in staffing his Cabinet. So as Obama pushes to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation’s infrastructure, I hope he’ll direct his motorcade past some living architectural history in Chicago, such as the Art Deco-style Lake Shore Drive Bridge over the Chicago River. – Chicago Tribune, 12-7-08
  • The Brightest Are Not Always the Best: IN 1992, David Halberstam wrote a new introduction for the 20th-anniversary edition of “The Best and the Brightest,” his classic history of the hubristic J.F.K. team that would ultimately mire America in Vietnam. He noted that the book’s title had entered the language, but not quite as he had hoped. “It is often misused,” he wrote, “failing to carry the tone or irony that the original intended.” – NYT, 12-7-08
  • Academic elites fill Obama’s roster Critics worry about insularity as Ivy League graduates crowd Cabinet posts: Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser was one of the youngest people to be tenured at Harvard and later became its president. His budget director went to Princeton and the London School of Economics, his choice for ambassador to the United Nations was a Rhodes scholar, and his White House counsel hit the trifecta: Harvard, Cambridge and Yale Law. – Salt Lake Tribune, 12-7-08
  • H. Brandt Ayers: Abraham Obama’s cabinet: We do not yet know how Sen. Hillary Clinton was persuaded to accept appointment as secretary of state, but the process is likely to resemble Abraham Lincoln’s appointment of his chief rival in the presidential race, Sen. William H. Seward. – The Anniston Star, 12-7-08
  • Clinton’s Welcome Will Include a Plate of Global Crises: As a candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton warned that Iran might be obliterated if it launched a nuclear attack on Israel and that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided capital. As a senator, she voted to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization and to approve President Bush’s plan to go to war against Iraq. – NYT, 12-7-08
  • Obamaland ‘Partisan’ Seeks a Prefix: Bi- or Post- : Six weeks before taking office, President-elect Barack Obama can already boast one striking accomplishment: persuading partisan, ideological adversaries to see him in a less partisan, less ideological light. NYT, 12-6-08
  • Lawrence Summers: Harvard Lightning Rod Finds Path to Renewal With Obama – NYT, 12-7-08
  • AP IMPACT: Donors, lobbyists help Obama get ready: Faced with hiring a new administration, President-elect Barack Obama is learning how hard it is to keep his promise to avoid aides who have been entangled with the capital’s lobbying scene. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Kennedy Is Said to Cast Her Eye on Senate Seat: Caroline Kennedy, a daughter of America’s most storied political family who for many years fiercely guarded her privacy, is considering whether to pursue the Senate seat expected to be vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton early next year, a family member said Friday. – NYT, 12-6-08
  • “Car czar” proposed for any automaker bailout – Reuters, 12-6-08
  • Obama speechwriter Favreau learns the perils of Facebook: Jon Favreau, future White House director of speechwriting, has so far been at a loss for words over Facebook pictures of him at a recent party. – CNN, 12-6-08
  • Louisiana voters oust indicted Rep. Jefferson: In a year when national Republican fortunes took a turn for the worse, Louisiana delivered the GOP two seats in Congress in elections delayed by Hurricane Gustav. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Rumsfeld nemesis Shinseki to be named VA secretary: President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, turning to a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Obama campaign mulls what to do with $30M surplus: Democrats carrying significant campaign debt after winning a string of House and Senate races are grumbling about President-elect Barack Obama’s financial reserves, saying the party’s leader is sitting on a pile of cash while Democratic leaders are broke. – AP, 12-5-08
  • Obama in the public eye Sunday: President-elect Barack Obama, who has been laying low the last few days, plans to be out in public in high-profile appearances on Sunday. In the morning, he’s the guest on NBC’s venerable “Meet the Press,” where he is certain to be questioned on the economy, his cabinet picks, and more. In the afternoon, he plans a press conference in Chicago. His office said this afternoon that “on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, President-Elect Barack Obama will be speaking about the contributions of those that have served our nation.” – Boston Globe, 12-5-08
  • 3 Palin Stylists Cost Campaign More Than $165,000: Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign spent more than $165,000 over the course of nine weeks on a trio of stylists for Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, equivalent to what a Hollywood studio might invest in preparing an A-list actress for a movie premiere or publicity campaign, other stylists said. – N”YT, 12-5-08
  • Biden picks Bernstein as his economic adviser: Vice President-elect Joe Biden on Friday named Jared Bernstein as his chief economic policy adviser, a new post created as the nation faces a recession. – AP, 12-5-08
  • Obama donors urged to ease Clinton campaign debt: Hillary Rodham Clinton is scrambling to reduce her massive campaign debt before she becomes secretary of state, when federal ethics laws — and political sensitivities — will severely hamper her ability to do so. – AP, 12-5-08

Political Quotes

  • Gen. Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs: President-elect Barack Obama announced today that General Eric Shinseki will be his nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. General Shinseki is a former Army Chief of Staff and 38-year Army veteran who served two combat tours in Vietnam. He understands the changing needs of our troops and their families and shares President-elect Obama’s commitment to modernizing the VA to meet the challenges of our time. – You Tube, 12-7-08
  • Obama Sharpens Tone on Auto Industry: Part of what I’m hoping to introduce as the next president is a new ethic of responsibility, where we say that, if you’re laying off workers, the least you can do when you’re making $25 million a year is give up some of your compensation and some of your bonuses, figure out ways in which workers maybe have to take a haircut, but they can still keep their jobs, they can still keep their health care, and they can still stay in their homes…. They have been building better cars now than they were 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. They are making some investments in the kind of green technologies and the new batteries that would allow us to create plug-in hybrids. – NYT, 12-7-08
  • Obama Warns of Further Economic Pain: “This is a big problem, and it’s going to get worse.”….. “I don’t think it’s an option to simply allow it to collapse… I think Congress is doing exactly the right thing by asking for a conditions-based assistance package that holds the auto industry’s feet to the fire… If this management team that’s currently in place doesn’t understand the urgency of the situation and is not willing to make tough choices and adapt to new circumstances, then they should go. As part of our economic recovery package, what you will see coming out of my administration right at the center, is a strong set of new financial regulations, in which banks, ratings agencies, mortgage brokers, a whole bunch of folks start having to be much more accountable and behave much more responsibly.
    I am absolutely confident, that if we take the right steps over the coming months, that not only can we get the economy back on track, but we can emerge leaner, meaner and ultimately more competitive and more prosperous.” NYT, 12-8-08
  • Obama Noncommittal on Caroline Kennedy, and Smoking: Caroline Kennedy has become one of my dearest friends and is just a wonderful American, a wonderful person. But the last thing I want to do is get involved in New York politics….
    I have done a terrific job, under the circumstances, of making myself much healthier. And I think that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House…. – N”YT, 12-7-08
  • Obama: Economy to get worse before it improves – on “Meet the Press”: “We’ve got to provide a blood infusion to the patient right now to make sure that the patient is stabilized. And that means that we can’t worry short term about the deficit. We’ve got to make sure that the economic stimulus plan is large enough to get the economy moving….
    Congress is doing the exact right thing by asking for a conditions-based assistance package that holds the industry’s feet to the fire and gives the industry some short-term assistance….
    What we need to do is examine, what are the projects where we’re going to get the most bang for the buck? How are we going to make sure taxpayers are protected? You know, the days of just pork coming out of Congress as a strategy, those days are over…
    We are going to maintain a large enough force in the region to assure that our civilian troops or our civilian personnel and our embassies are protected, to make sure that we can ferret out any remaining terrorist activity in the region. – AP, 12-7-08
  • The Saturday Word: Roads and Cars: In the wake of dismal job reports, President-elect Barack Obama called in his radio/YouTube address for the creation of “millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s.” – NYT, 12-6-08
  • Barack Obama: Your Weekly Address from the President-Elect: December 6, 2008: This week President-elect Barack Obama addresses the job loss that our nation continues to endure and offers solutions to the challenges we face. – You Tube, 12-6-08
  • Obama vows vast public works program: He proposes rebuilding roads, extending access to Web as way to revive economy – “We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least 2 1/2 million jobs so that the nearly 2 million Americans who’ve lost them know that they have a future.” Houston Chronicle, 12-6-08
  • Obama Statement: Town meetings start health reform effort: Providing quality affordable health care for all Americans is one of my top priorities for this country because our long-term fiscal prospects will have a hard time improving as long as sky-rocketing health care costs are holding us all down. Yet in order for us to reform our health care system, we must first begin reforming how government communicates with the American people. These Health Care Community Discussions are a great way for the American people to have a direct say in our health care reform efforts and I encourage Americans to take part if they are able. – Reuters, 12-6-08
  • Tom Daschle “Town meetings start health reform effort”: The myth is that we have the best healthcare system in the world. We do have islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity.” – Reuters, 12-6-08
  • Biden’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander: CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: “Biden had no intention of continuing the practice started by Vice President Cheney of regularly attending internal legislative branch meetings — he firmly believes in restoring the Office of the Vice President to its historical role. He and Senator Reid see eye to eye on this.” – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08
  • Harry Reid: CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: “He can come by once and a while, but he’s not going to sit in on our lunches. He’s not a senator. He’s the vice president.” – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Donald Ritchie: CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: Associate Senate Historian Donald Ritchie said Johnson was “hurt by the angry response.” Senators then, as they had throughout history, understood potential encroachment of the executive branch on their power. Similar rebuffs fill the pages of Senate history, from John Adams to Spiro Agnew. “Every vice president who has tried to be assertive has been restrained by the Senate,” said Ritchie, the historian. “Usually the vice president gets the hint and goes back to the White House.” – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08
  • Gil Troy “Will recession mean a toned-down inauguration?”: Though costly, an inauguration helps set the tone for a presidency, said Gil Troy, a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
    The president shouldn’t be seen noshing on caviar, but neither should he dispense with glamour entirely, Troy said. Americans want their leader to be a man of the people and a celebrity superstar, both.
    “Americans are people who love to indulge, and deep in our hearts want our leaders to be like the king and queen of England — but not too much,” he said.
    President Ronald Reagan fit the bill best when he set a new standard of opulence for his 1981 inauguration, Troy said. Nancy Reagan wore a $10,000 gown to the three-hour gala with Frank Sinatra.
    “Reagan had the ability — and maybe the Obamas will — to somehow make spending look patriotic,” Troy said. – AP, 12-7-08
  • Donald A. Ritchie “Can’t Put a Price on History For Some, Preparing for Inaugural Events Is No Time for Frugality”: Donald A. Ritchie, associate historian at the U.S. Senate Historical Office, said atypical visitors also attended the second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Blacks came because it was the first time they were allowed to march in the parade. “Probably the most popular so far was Andrew Jackson’s first inauguration in 1829, because he was seen as the people’s president,” Ritchie said. “The well-to-do of Washington were appalled at the common folk who showed up for Jackson’s inauguration.” – WaPo, 12-7-08
  • Carl Sferrazza Anthony “For Michelle Obama, great expectations”: Historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony said the public misperceived what Carter, who also maintained a weekly working lunch with her husband, was trying to do. “She was just avoiding having to bother him later with questions,” said Anthony, of the National First Ladies Library…. Dolley Madison, on the other hand, was admiringly called “Presidentress” by some for her role as a national symbol for all Americans, one who knew “how to strike the delicate balance between queen and commoner,” Anthony said. But Elizabeth Monroe, who came next and was much less popular, suffered from the comparison…. The wealthy Julia Tyler was deemed overly regal or queenlike, but then her successor, Sarah Polk, was called “monstrously small” (meaning small-minded) by President Tyler himself, Anthony said. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Michael Beschloss “300,000 Apply for 3,300 Obama Jobs”: The presidential historian Michael R. Beschloss said that “it’s hard to find a parallel in modern times to this degree of enthusiasm for going into government,” all the more striking in a period previously known for cynicism about government employment. – NYT, 12-6-08
  • Joan Hoff: ‘It was the best of times … worst of times:’ Presidential historian analyzes election: “Never before have we had a president coming in facing two wars, the collapse of a financial system and a country on the brink of decline in its great nation status.”…
    “Number one was the question of race. But also, we as a country are reluctant to vote for a president who does not try to hide his intellect. The last one before Obama was Woodrow Wilson. If you combine these two factors, it makes it a hugely unique vote.”…
    “The country is on a seismic brink,” Hoff said. “As foreign observers are now saying that all the time, we are on a downward slope in terms of economic footing and our position of power in the world. We are at the tipping point. And, if that is the case, any president will have to deal calmly and intellectually with our declining economic and diplomatic power in the world.”…
    “He has to be like Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” Hoff said. “FDR gave Americans the impression that he was solving the Depression. It was the second world war that brought the country out of the Depression.”…
    “Obama has become an international phenomenon like no other candidate has. It is said that as the U.S. goes, so goes the world. And people around the world were interested in what was happening in our election. There is the perception that Obama could bring change not only to the U.S. but also to the world.”…
    “I was in New York City during the election and it was fun to be there. People poured out into the streets and closed many of them off when it was announced that Obama had won. In addition, large crowds unprecedented in size gathered to watch the results in Times Square, Columbus Circle and Rockefeller Center.”
    “To be classified as a landslide, a candidate has to win at least 400 electoral votes, and preferably more than 500. So Obama’s 365 (current projections) was definitely was not a landslide, but it was a good mandate. Historians may, as they have with Truman and the Korean War, positively re-evaluate his Middle Eastern foreign policy if in 20 years or so it appears more successful than it does now. ” “This election was really something to experience. Obama will have to utilize his optimism and popularity to make changes following a failed presidency of unprecedented proportions. No previous president-elect has inherited two wars and a major recession. The situation is depressing, but it was such an upbeat election that I can’t be depressed. Obama has raised our expectations in a time of great need and I wish him well in trying to fulfill them.” – MSU News, 12-5-08
  • David Brinkley “Bush must navigate a treacherous post-presidency”: “The first year for every ex-president is really hard,” said David Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “You have to raise all this money for your library, you’ve got to build an organization, you have to write a huge memoir, your papers are in disarray, and you suddenly realize your mistakes because your pace slows down.”…
    “This is going to be Bush vision.” Brinkley said of the institute. “Bush has never liked the academics, and this is a nonacademic institute aimed at cutting to the core of things: only pro-democracy foot soldiers who are green-lit by George and Laura Bush are in the mix.” – CNN, 12-5-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Bush must navigate a treacherous post-presidency”: “He is a president where people are expecting some kind of repair work,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton. “If he just goes on the speaking circuit and focuses his time making huge money, that would only tarnish a presidency that only has a low approval rating.” Instead, Bush is more likely to choose a similar post-presidential path, at least initially, as that of Jimmy Carter, who also left the White House with poor approval ratings, Zelizer said. “What Jimmy Carter showed is that you can be very active in your post-presidential years and help improve how people think of you as a leader and a policy maker,” Zelizer said. – CNN, 12-5-08
  • Stephen Hess “Bush must navigate a treacherous post-presidency”: “This president’s low approval rating is overwhelmingly connected to Iraq. It will rise and fall depending what turns out to be the history of that country and that part of the world,” said Stephen Hess, a former Eisenhower aide and a scholar at the conservative Brookings Institution. “That really is what his legacy for future historians is all about.” – CNN, 12-5-08
  • Gil Troy: Is Bush’s Greatest Achievement a Non-Achievement: No Subsequent 9/11s?: In yet another example of “blowback” actually undermining Islamist terrorism, the Mumbai mayhem may boost George W. Bush’s historical legacy. In the waning days of his presidency, the massacres highlighted one of Bush’s most significant but elusive achievements. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is a non-event. After September 11, most Americans assumed they would endure a wave of terrorist attacks. Even those Americans who hate Bush must grant him at least some credit for the fact that not one major attack has occurred again on American soil….
    Despite all the hype during a presidential campaign about a candidate’s skills, judgment, character, experience, and potential, external events often define presidencies. George W. Bush himself entered office expecting to focus on domestic affairs. The horrific murders in Mumbai – along with the continuing economic roller coaster – illustrate that Obama’s legacy, like that all of his predecessors, remains in the hands of powerful actors and historical forces beyond his control, no matter how talented he is, no matter how focused on this one leader we remain. – HNN, 12-4-08
  • Julian Zelizer: Can President-Elect Obama Manage His Team of Egos?: Obama has assembled a powerful team that is full of experience, and opinions “He does have this challenge,” says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. “It’s not a modest cabinet by any stretch of the imagination. These are people of opinions and experience,” and they won’t be shy about “pushing the president” to adopt their ideas. The question is whether Obama will be strong enough to manage the egos around him—and distill from the resulting tensions and rivalries the best policies for the nation without allowing his government to descend into constant infighting, as happened under President Jimmy Carter and other chief executives. – – US News & World Report, 12-2-08
  • Douglas Brinkley “Presidential Historian Obama Could Permanently Ban ANWR Drilling”: Douglas Brinkley tells CNN’s Lou Dobbs new president may turn Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to a national monument – “I think what they’re trying to do is in the Obama administration, start pointing out some clear divot spots where they’re going to deviate from the Bush administration –things like Guantanamo, things that, ‘No, we are not going to be for drilling around parks,'” Brinkley said. “I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming year if you see someplace like ANWR in Alaska turn from being a wildlife refuge run by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and turn over to becoming a National Monument where you couldn’t drill. So you’re going to be, and that’s because you’re going to have to do some things sort of on the cheap,” he said. – Business and Media, 11-12-08
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