May 2, 2011: Obama Announces Osama bin Laden Caught, Killed, and Buried — World Reacts

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:


White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 5/1/11

Political Highlights

STATS & POLLS

  • For Obama, Big Rise in Poll Numbers After Bin Laden Raid: Support for President Obama rose sharply after the killing of Osama bin Laden, with a majority now approving of his overall job performance, as well as his handling of foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
    The glow of national pride seemed to rise above partisan politics, as support for the president rose significantly among both Republicans and independents. In all, 57 percent said they now approved of the president’s job performance, up from 46 percent last month.
    But euphoria was tempered by a sense of foreboding: more than six in 10 Americans said that killing Bin Laden was likely to increase the threat of terrorism against the United States in the short term. A large majority also said that the Qaeda leader’s death did not make them feel any safer. Just 16 percent said they personally felt more safe now…. – NYT, 5-5-11
  • The Partisan Divide Over Who Gets Credit for Osama bin Laden’s Death: Who deserves the most credit for Osama bin Laden’s death? It depends whom you ask, and different partisan groups are answering the question differently. Predictably, Democrats give more credit to President Obama, while Republicans prefer to credit his predecessor, former President George W. Bush…. – The Atlantic, 5-4-11
  • Overnight Polls Find Muted Improvement in Obama’s Approval Rating: In the parlor game to predict the magnitude of improvement in President Obama’s approval rating after the killing of Osama bin Laden, the weight of the evidence is with the skeptics so far. The poll receiving the most attention is a Pew Research/Washington Post survey. It shows a 9-point improvement in Mr. Obama’s approval rating — to 55 percent from 46 percent — based on polling conducted yesterday.
    Other polls show more marginal gains for Mr. Obama, however. A CNN/Opinion Research survey shows Mr. Obama’s approval at 52 percent — up from just 1 point from polling conducted earlier in the weekend, and 4 points from a poll conducted in late April. A Daily Beast/Newsweek poll, conducted by Douglas E. Schoen, LLC, showed no improvement in his numbers, with his approval rating at 48 percent both before and after news of the killing. An automated poll by SurveyUSA has Mr. Obama’s approval rating at 46 percent, and one by InsiderAdvantage has it at 48 percent, although they provide no recent baseline for comparison.
    On average across the five surveys conducted entirely since Bin Laden’s death, Mr. Obama’s approval rating is 50 percent, and his disapproval rating is 46 percent. By comparison, Mr. Obama’s numbers had been roughly the reverse of that — 45 percent approving, and 50 percent disapproving — based on polls conducted before Sunday night, according to the Pollster.com trendline…. – NYT, 5-3-11

IN FOCUS

  • Obama: Al-Qaida head bin Laden dead: Osama bin Laden, the glowering mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks that killed thousands of Americans, was slain in his luxury hideout in Pakistan early Monday in a firefight with U.S. forces, ending a manhunt that spanned a frustrating decade.
    “Justice has been done,” President Barack Obama said in a dramatic announcement at the White House. A jubilant crowd of thousands gathered outside the White House as word spread of bin Laden’s death. Hundreds more sang and waved American flags at Ground Zero in New York — where the twin towers that once stood as symbols of American economic power were brought down by bin Laden’s hijackers 10 years ago…. – AP, 5-1-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Bin Laden Is Dead, Obama Says: Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the most devastating attack on American soil in modern times and the most hunted man in the world, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan on Sunday, President Obama announced.
    In a dramatic late-night appearance in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he disclosed that American military and C.I.A. operatives had finally cornered Bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader who had eluded them for nearly a decade. American officials said Bin Laden resisted and was shot in the head. He was later buried at sea.
    The news touched off an extraordinary outpouring of emotion as crowds gathered outside the White House, in Times Square and at the Ground Zero site, waving American flags, cheering, shouting, laughing and chanting, “U.S.A., U.S.A.!” In New York City, crowds sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Throughout downtown Washington, drivers honked horns deep into the night.
    “For over two decades, Bin Laden has been Al Qaeda’s leader and symbol,” the president said in a statement televised around the world. “The death of Bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda. But his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.”… – NYT, 5-1-11
  • Official: Bin Laden buried at sea: A U.S. official says Osama bin Laden has been buried at sea. After bin Laden was killed in a raid by U.S. forces in Pakistan, senior administration officials said the body would be handled according to Islamic practice and tradition. That practice calls for the body to be buried within 24 hours, the official said. Finding a country willing to accept the remains of the world’s most wanted terrorist would have been difficult, the official said. So the U.S. decided to bury him at sea…. – AP, 5-1-11
  • Joyous Americans gather to mark bin Laden death: Joyous at the release of a decade’s frustration, Americans streamed to the site of the World Trade Center, the gates of the White House and smaller but no less jubilant gatherings across the nation to celebrate the death of Osama bin Laden — cheering, waving flags and belting the national anthem. Ground zero, more familiar these past 10 years for bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” and solemn speeches and arguments over what to build to honor the Sept. 11 dead, became, for the first time, a place of revelry…. – AP, 5-1-11
  • How U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden: The mission that killed one of the world’s most notorious terrorist leaders was carried out by U.S. forces with the cooperation of Pakistan, U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday night.
    Osama bin Laden – the longtime leader of al Qaeda – was killed by U.S. forces in a mansion about 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, north of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad along with other family members, a senior U.S. official told CNN.
    Members of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, were on site in Abbottabad during the operation, a senior Pakistani intelligence official said.
    Bin Laden resisted the assault and was killed in a firefight, senior administration officials said…. – CNN, 5-2-11
  • US: Islamic procedure followed in bin Laden burial: The Pentagon says Osama bin Laden’s body was placed into the waters of the North Arabian Sea after adhering to traditional Islamic procedures — including washing the corpse — aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson…. The intelligence official also said that DNA analysis on Monday provided certainty that the body was that of bin Laden…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • President’s Vow Fulfilled: President Obama’s announcement late Sunday that Osama bin Laden had been killed delivered not only a long-awaited prize to the United States, but also a significant victory for Mr. Obama, whose foreign policy has been the subject of persistent criticism by his rivals.
    In his 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. Obama bluntly declared, “We will kill Bin Laden.” But as time passed, Bin Laden’s name had gradually fallen out of presidential speeches and the political discourse, raising concern from critics that Mr. Obama’s administration was not sufficiently focused on the fight against terrorism.
    In delivering the news from the East Room of the White House, as jubilant crowds gathered outside waving American flags and cheering, Mr. Obama did not address his critics or gloat about his trophy. He instead used the moment to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and to issue a new call for national unity.
    “Let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11,” Mr. Obama said. “I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.”
    Bin Laden’s death is certainly one of the most significant and defining moments of Mr. Obama’s presidency. It allows him to claim the biggest national security victory in a decade — something that eluded President George W. Bush for nearly eight years — and instantly burnishes his foreign policy credentials at a time when he has been questioned about his decisions on the Middle East. The gravity of the moment was impossible to minimize. At ground zero, in baseball stadiums and on college campuses across the country, elation erupted as though a war had been won.
    Mr. Obama called Mr. Bush on Sunday evening to tell him that Bin Laden had been killed. Shortly after Mr. Obama’s announcement at the White House, Mr. Bush issued a statement congratulating his successor, saying, “No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”… – NYT, 5-1-11
  • Obituary | Osama bin Laden, 1957-2011 The Most Wanted Face of Terrorism: Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan on Sunday, was a son of the Saudi elite whose radical, violent campaign to recreate a seventh-century Muslim empire redefined the threat of terrorism for the 21st century.
    As the leader of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, here in video recorded in 2001, waged a terror war against the United States.
    With the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, Bin Laden was elevated to the realm of evil in the American imagination once reserved for dictators like Hitler and Stalin. He was a new national enemy, his face on wanted posters, gloating on videotapes, taunting the United States and Western civilization.
    “Do you want Bin Laden dead?” a reporter asked President George W. Bush six days after the Sept. 11 attacks.
    “I want him — I want justice,” the president answered. “And there’s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, Wanted: Dead or Alive.'”
    It took nearly a decade before that quest finally ended in Pakistan with the death of Bin Laden during a confrontation with American forces, who attacked a compound where officials said he had been hiding…. – NYT, 5-1-11
  • Osama bin Laden killed: How the world is reacting: Western leaders and Arab citizens alike said that Osama bin Laden’s death is an important symbolic victory, but does not signal an end to the threat of terrorism in the West…. – CS Monitor, 5-2-11
  • Amid Cheers, a Message: ‘They Will Be Caught’: In the midnight darkness, the crowds gathered, chanting and cheering, waving American flags, outside the front gates of the White House. In Times Square, tourists poured out of nearby hotels and into the streets early Monday morning to celebrate with strangers. And in the shadow of the World Trade Center site, as the news of Osama bin Laden’s killing by American special forces spread, a police car drove north on Church Street blaring the sound of bagpipes from open windows. Officers raised clenched fists in the air.
    President Obama’s stunning announcement Sunday night about the death of the terrorist who had eluded capture for almost 10 years produced an outpouring of emotion around the world, from political figures and citizens alike.
    “This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001,” said former President George W. Bush in a statement. “The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.”
    Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose city bore the brunt of the 9/11 attack, issued a statement saying: “The killing of Osama bin Laden does not lessen the suffering that New Yorkers and Americans experienced at his hands, but it is a critically important victory for our nation — and a tribute to the millions of men and women in our armed forces and elsewhere who have fought so hard for our nation. “New Yorkers have waited nearly 10 years for this news. It is my hope that it will bring some closure and comfort to all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001.”
    Former President Bill Clinton said in a statement that this was a “profoundly important moment.” Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York called the killing of Bin Laden “a major step in our country’s efforts to defeat terrorism.”
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said it was “a resounding triumph for justice.”… – NYT, 5-1-11
  • >Clinton: Bin Laden’s death doesn’t end war on terror: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that the U.S. message to al-Qaeda remains the same today, but it “might have even greater resonance” in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death. “You cannot defeat us,” Clinton said at the State Department. She urged al-Qaeda members to renounce the terror organization and back U.S. efforts to stop violence against innocents.
    Clinton said bin Laden’s death was a milestone in the war on terrorism, but stressed that the “battle to stop al-Qaeda and its syndicate of terror” is not over. She said the operation to find and kill bin Laden nearly a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks showed the U.S. would never abandon its pursuit of justice. And, she said the U.S. would continue to boost its counterterrorism cooperation with other nations, including Pakistan…. – USA Today, 5-2-11
  • Osama bin Laden killed near Pakistan’s West Point. Was he really hidden?: The world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, was not hiding in a cave along the lawless border with Afghanistan, as many believed. Instead, US forces killed him 75 miles north of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad…. – CS Monitor, 5-2-11
  • Bin Laden: How They Got Him — And What Happens to al Qaeda Now: The reports started coming in more than a month ago: Osama bin Laden was on the move, and the U.S. had its eye on him. Stressed by the turmoil sweeping his part of the world – tumult he had no roll in sparking – bin Laden was trying to bolster al Qaeda’s credibility as young people Tweeted and Facebooked about a future that didn’t involve him, or al Qaeda. Surprisingly, he didn’t die a standoff death from an unseen Predator drone, as most would have expected. Instead, a team of U.S. special-operations forces helicoptered into a high-walled compound deep inside Pakistan and killed him and four others in a firefight, including a son of bin Laden and a woman allegedly being used as a human shield.
    Dispatching a joint Navy SEAL-CIA team of four choppers into Pakistan makes two things crystal clear: the U.S. believed its intelligence was solid, and it wanted proof he was dead; they wanted his corpse. One of the choppers involved in the raid malfunction and was destroyed; no U.S. personnel were injured in the operation, which lasted about 40 minutes. The whereabouts and fate of Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy, remain unknown. Whether bin Laden’s death sparks a spasm of violence – or marks the end of al Qaeda as a potent terror force – also remains unclear…. – Time, 5-2-11
  • Obama’s remarkable 72-hour poker face: After giving the order to get Osama bin Laden, President Obama went about his duties without giving anything away
    In a remarkable 72 hours of his presidency, Barack Obama carried a momentous secret and gave no hint of it as he consoled tornado victims, delivered a college commencement address and cracked jokes at a black-tie dinner. What few insiders knew was that Obama had given the go-ahead Friday for the military operation that would end with the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, target of the world’s most intense manhunt.
    After giving his consent, Obama, wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia left the White House on a busy day of travel, with three stops in two states. In Alabama, one of several Southern states battered by fierce tornados, Obama assumed his role as consoler in chief as he and the first lady got an up-close look at communities in Tuscaloosa that had been flattened by the twisters…. – CBS News, 5-2-11
  • Minute-by-minute: The operation to get bin Laden: Hours after receiving the go-ahead from President Barack Obama to perform a “surgical strike” on an expansive compound thought to house Osama bin Laden, helicopters descended out of the darkness into an affluent Pakistani neighborhood a few hours from Islamabad by car. Mr. Obama and his top advisors watched the action unfold in the Situation Room. “The minutes [in the Situation Room] passed like days,” said White House Counter Intelligence chief John Brennan at a press conference Monday. As the information from the operation flowed into the Situation Room on Sunday afternoon, the president exclaimed, “We got him,” based on what he was hearing and seeing. Bin Laden died on the scene, shot fatally in the chest and head. One official heard a commander on scene say, “Geronimo E-KIA.” Geronimo was the code name for Bin Laden; E-KIA is “enemy killed in action.”… – CBS News, 5-2-11
  • First strands on bin Laden gathered in CIA prison: Officials say CIA interrogators in secret overseas prisons developed the first strands of information that ultimately led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.
    Current and former U.S. officials say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, provided the nom de guerre of one of bin Laden’s most trusted aides. The CIA got similar information from Mohammed’s successor, Abu Faraj al-Libi. Both were subjected to harsh interrogation tactics inside CIA prisons in Poland and Romania.
    The news is sure to reignite debate over whether the now-closed interrogation and detention program was successful. Former president George W. Bush authorized the CIA to use the harshest interrogation tactics in U.S. history. President Barack Obama closed the prison system…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Bin Laden discovered ‘hiding in plain sight’: Half an hour had passed on the ground, but the American commandos raiding Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani hideaway had yet to find their long-sought target. Two of bin Laden’s protectors were already dead, shot by the Navy SEALs carrying out the raid, and one of the U.S. helicopters sat crippled in the courtyard. Pakistan’s military, which had been kept in the dark about the operation, was scrambling to respond to reports of explosions and gunfire at the one-acre compound. The commandos swept methodically through the compound’s main building, clearing one room and then another as they made their way to the upper floors where they expected to find bin Laden. As they did so, Obama administration officials in the White House Situation Room listened to the SEAL team’s conversations over secure lines.
    “The minutes passed like days,” said John O. Brennan, the administration’s chief counterterrorism adviser. “It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled.” Finally, shortly before 2 a.m. in Pakistan, the commandos burst into an upstairs room. Inside, an armed bin Laden took cover behind a woman, Brennan said. With a burst of gunfire, one of the longest and costliest manhunts in modern history was over…. – WaPo, 5-2-11
  • The next front: Claiming credit for Osama bin Laden’s death: The hunt for Osama bin Laden is over, but the quest for credit is just getting started. Just one day after the Navy SEALs’ daring raid, Democrats were already outlining plans to seize the opportunity to portray President Barack Obama as a decisive leader who should get full acclaim for green-lighting the assault that brought down bin Laden. But supporters of his predecessor, George W. Bush, are irked that the White House isn’t doing more to share the glory. The subtle but unmistakable jockeying provided a revealing glimpse into how official Washington thinks: Even in a rare moment of national unity, the political stakes provide a temptation – and even an imperative – for the parties to jostle for maximum advantage…. – Politico, 5-2-11
  • How did U.S. confirm the body was bin Laden’s?: It took mere hours to confirm that the person killed in a compound near Pakistan’s capital was Osama bin Laden. How did officials know that the man who was shot in the head Sunday was really the world’s most wanted terrorist? Officials compared the DNA of the person killed at the Abbottabad compound with the bin Laden “family DNA” to determine that the 9/11 mastermind had in fact been killed, a senior administration official said…. – CNN, 5-2-11
  • Behind the Hunt for Bin Laden: For years, the agonizing search for Osama bin Laden kept coming up empty. Then last July, Pakistanis working for the Central Intelligence Agency drove up behind a white Suzuki navigating the bustling streets near Peshawar, Pakistan, and wrote down the car’s license plate. The man in the car was Bin Laden’s most trusted courier, and over the next month C.I.A. operatives would track him throughout central Pakistan. Ultimately, administration officials said, he led them to a sprawling compound at the end of a long dirt road and surrounded by tall security fences in a wealthy hamlet 35 miles from the Pakistani capital. On a moonless night eight months later, 79 American commandos in four helicopters descended on the compound, the officials said. Shots rang out. A helicopter stalled and would not take off. Pakistani authorities, kept in the dark by their allies in Washington, scrambled forces as the American commandos rushed to finish their mission and leave before a confrontation. Of the five dead, one was a tall, bearded man with a bloodied face and a bullet in his head. A member of the Navy Seals snapped his picture with a camera and uploaded it to analysts who fed it into a facial recognition program. And just like that, history’s most expansive, expensive and exasperating manhunt was over. The inert frame of Osama bin Laden, America’s enemy No. 1, was placed in a helicopter for burial at sea, never to be seen or feared again. A nation that spent a decade tormented by its failure to catch the man responsible for nearly 3,000 fiery deaths in New York, outside Washington and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001, at long last had its sense of finality, at least in this one difficult chapter…. – NYT, 5-3-11
  • Experts Say DNA Match Is Likely a Parent or Child: While federal officials said that analysis of DNA from several relatives helped confirm that it was Osama bin Laden who was killed in the military raid on Sunday, they have not yet disclosed the relationships of the family members whose DNA was used. Officials said they collected multiple DNA samples from Bin Laden’s relatives in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks. And they said the analysis, which was performed the day Bin Laden was killed but after his body was buried at sea, confirmed his identity with 99.9 percent accuracy. Some scientific experts said on Monday that if results really were so accurate, at least one of the sources was likely to have been a close relative, like a child or parent with whom he shared half his genes…. – NYT, 5-3-11
  • Details of raid on bin Laden compound unfold: Osama bin Laden was not armed but did put up resistance when U.S. forces stormed the compound outside Islamabad where he and his family were living, then killed him, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday. Carney, reading a narrative drawn up by the Defense Department, provided new details of the events that transpired early Monday. Carney said military personnel arrived at the compound in Abbottabad, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Islamabad, aboard two helicopters. CIA Director Leon Panetta, who commanded the mission and was in contact with the 25 commandoes as it unfolded, told PBS the U.S. Navy SEALs arrived aboard two Black Hawks that landed outside the compound. “They had to breach through walls,” he said. There were no armed guards around the compound, said a U.S. official who asked not to be identified because the official was not authorized to speak on the record. In an operation that lasted nearly 40 minutes, the SEALs — working in two groups — methodically cleared the compound, where three families were living, Carney said…. – CNN, 5-3-11
  • Bin Laden alive? To debunk latest myth, White House near release of photo: The US had reasons to bury Osama bin Laden at sea. But now conspiracy theories are cropping up that he is not dead, adding to domestic pressure on the US to release a photo of his body…. – CS Monitor, 5-3-11
  • Good Feeling Gone, in Congress, Anyway: Whatever sense of unity the nation might have felt after the killing of Osama bin Laden, it did not extend to the pressing domestic policy issues that divide Congressional Republicans and Democrats, who returned to work in earnest Tuesday. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, complained about the “excessive regulation” of business. Lawmakers were quickly back to arguing over economic and health care policy, trading blame for high gasoline prices and positioning themselves for the fight over raising the federal debt limit. The Senate found itself at multiple impasses over a small-business bill and judicial confirmations. There was even division within Congress over whether to pass a resolution recognizing the military and intelligence operatives who pulled off the strike on Bin Laden. Members of the Senate, standing formally at their desks, voted 97 to 0 to approve a measure commending “the men and women of the United States armed forces and the United States intelligence community for the tremendous commitment, perseverance, professionalism and sacrifice they displayed in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.”… – NYT, 5-3-11
  • How U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden: Under the cover of night, U.S. helicopters steered toward a secure compound in Pakistan on a mission to capture or kill the world’s most-notorious terrorist. Less than 40 minutes later — early Monday morning in Pakistan — Osama bin Laden was dead, along with others inside the complex, and U.S. forces departed with the slain al Qaeda leader’s body, fulfilling a vow that originated shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. “It was a staggering undertaking and there was no one else, I believe, other than an American group of military warriors who could do it. And the world is a safer place today, not only for the American people but for all people,” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday, in his first remarks on the death of bin Laden. Officials on Tuesday offered new details about that raid, clarifying accounts of events given earlier…. – CNN, 5-4-11
  • AG: Killing of bin Laden marks historic progress: Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress on Tuesday that the killing of Osama bin Laden marks historic progress by the U.S. government in protecting the American people from terrorism. Holder’s comments to the House Judiciary Committee marked the first appearance before Congress by an Obama administration Cabinet official since the mission targeting bin Laden was carried out successfully. The attorney general told the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee that the completion of the hunt for bin Laden was the result of an almost decade-long effort that spanned two administrations…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • U.S. officials combing data from bin Laden compound, Holder says: Attorney General Eric Holder predicted Wednesday more names will be added to U.S. terrorist watch lists as law enforcement agencies review the evidence gathered in Pakistan after the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound on Monday. “The material that was seized from that residence is being reviewed by an inter-agency team: CIA, Justice, other intelligence agencies, other law enforcement agencies are contributing people and machines to go through that material. As we glean information from that material, we will make appropriate decisions with regard to who might we add to the terrorist watch list, the No Fly list, all those things,” Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, asked, “You expect you probably will add people as a result of what you got?” Holder replied, “My guess is that we probably will.”… – CNN, 5-4-11
  • In NH, Romney praises Obama for bin Laden’s death: Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama deserves credit for authorizing the military operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death. Before starting a round-table discussion with New Hampshire business owners Tuesday, Romney thanked Obama, U.S. military forces and the intelligence community for finding and killing the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Obama giving NY its moment of justice on bin Laden: From the heart of the shocking terror strike on America, President Barack Obama will try to bury the memory of Osama bin Laden by honoring those who died in the fiery Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. In private talks with families and a somber ceremony at ground zero, Obama is out to let New York have its own moment of justice. Obama heads to New York City on Thursday after sharply rejecting calls for him to release photos of a slain bin Laden so the world could see some proof of death. The president said he would not risk giving propaganda to extremists or gloat by publicizing grotesque photos of a terrorist leader shot in the head. To those who keep on doubting, Obama said, “You will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”… – AP, 5-5-11
  • Cables: U.S. near bin Laden in ’08, didn’t know it: U.S. troops were unwittingly within a few hundreds yards of Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound in October 2008, WikiLeaks cables reveal. According to a report in the Guardian, diplomatic cables show the U.S. military was “training the trainers” of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps. Abbottabad is home to the Pakistan Military Academy. The compound where bin Laden was tracked down and killed by Navy SEALs is near the academy. On Tuesday, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said that bin Laden was likely in the highly fortified compound for five or six years, meaning that the U.S. military presence in the city overlapped with his…. – CBS News, 5-4-11
  • Seal Team 6’s secret weapon in Bin Laden hunt: a dog Canine member of elite US Navy Seals team that found al-Qaida leader was probably a German shepherd or Belgian Malinois: There has already been a good deal of slightly fevered speculation about the training and tactics of the 79 elite US Navy Seals who raided Osama bin Laden’s hideout. Now this has extended to the less-heralded final member of their team: a military dog. According to a series of reports, the so far unidentified canine was lowered into the compound from a helicopter while strapped to a human member of the team. It was most likely needed to check for hidden explosives, or perhaps to seek Bin Laden if the house contained a secret hiding place. While the dog’s presence emerged immediately after the assault, some new details have emerged. The courageous canine was most likely a German shepherd or the similar-looking Belgian Malinois, the New York Times said, quoting unnamed military sources…. – Guardian UK, 5-5-11
  • Bin Laden fallout: How Abbottabad tweets reveal changes in modern warfare: Governments are having to change how they carry out and report military operations because of the rise of social media, and the strike on Osama bin Laden was a prime example…. – CS Monitor, 5-5-11
  • Bin Laden, two others didn’t fire on SEALs: sources: Only one of four principal targets shot dead by U.S. commandos in the raid which killed Osama bin Laden was involved in any hostile fire, a person familiar with the latest U.S. government reporting on the raid told Reuters on Thursday. The account of Monday’s daring 40-minute raid has new descriptions of the event, including that Navy SEALs shot an occupant of the compound who they thought was armed, but apparently was not. It confirms that bin Laden was not armed when he was shot dead, nor are there indications that he directly threatened his attackers, according to the first source and a second U.S. government source who is familiar with briefings on the raid…. – Reuters, 5-5-11
  • Bush feels Obama ignoring ex-president’s role in Osama Bin Laden strike for ‘victory lap’: source: George W. Bush won’t be at Ground Zero with President Obama Thursday in part because he feels his team is getting short shrift in the decade-long manhunt for Osama Bin Laden. “[Bush] viewed this as an Obama victory lap,” a highly-placed source told the Daily News Wednesday. Bush’s visit to the rubble after the 9/11 attacks was the emotional high point of his presidency, but associates say the invitation to return with his successor was a non-starter.
    “He doesn’t feel personally snubbed and appreciates the invitation, but Obama’s claiming all the credit and a lot of other people deserve some of it,” the source added. “Obama gave no credit whatsoever to the intelligence infrastructure the Bush administration set up that is being hailed from the left and right as setting in motion the operation that got Bin Laden. It rubbed Bush the wrong way.”
    Bush spokesman David Sherzer said Bush “appreciated the invite, but has chosen in his post-presidency to remain largely out of the spotlight.” Associates familiar with his thinking say Bush does not believe Obama or his handlers wanted to exploit his presence. But the tag-team idea “was for the benefit of Obama, and Obama withheld credit from people Bush believes deserved it,” a source said…. – NY Daily News, 5-4-11
  • Sarah Palin tells Obama to stop ‘pussy-footing around’ with release of Bin Laden death photos: Sarah Palin is bashing President Obama’s decision not to release Osama Bin Laden’s death photos, comparing it to holding back his birth certificate. In a speech in Alabama, the Tea Party darling said denying the world a look at the ghoulish photos of the Al Qaeda chief was akin to “pussy-footing around.” “Don’t do kind of that birth certificate whole mocking of Americans for asking for it,” Palin said in a speech in Point Clear, Ala., hours before Obama put the kibosh on releasing the photos.
    After resisting for years, Obama released his long-form birth certificate last week to silence those who doubted he is American born. Earlier Wednesday, Obama told CBS “60 Minutes” that he’s barring release of the Osama photos to avoid inciting “additional violence” or to have them used as a “propaganda tool.” “We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies,” Obama said…. – NY Daily News, 5-4-11
  • Obama in NY: We never forget, we mean what we say: Solemnly honoring victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, President Barack Obama hugged survivors, thanked the heroes of one of the nation’s darkest days and declared Thursday that the killing of Osama bin Laden after all these years was an American message to the world: “When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.” On a brilliant blue-sky day, one of reflection more than celebration, Obama offered New Yorkers a moment of their own. Standing at the gritty construction site of ground zero, where the towers fell and a memorial now rises, the president laid a wreath of red, white and blue flowers for the nearly 3,000 who died as he marked a turning point for the nation and this city of steely resilience. For Obama, the day was about the importance of being in New York in the aftermath of the successful raid to find and kill bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader. Obama addressed families who have watched and wondered for nearly a decade whether the government would track down its most infamous enemy…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • In NYC, Obama says Osama mission ‘sent a message’: Visiting New York just days after the mastermind of the 2001 attack on the city was killed U.S. special forces, President Obama on Thursday told police and firefighters the terrorist’s death is proof that American justice has a long reach. In surprise visits to the “Pride of Midtown” firehouse, which lost 15 men in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks nearly a decade ago, and then later at the 1st Precinct police station in Lower Manhattan, Mr. Obama said the Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden Sunday in Pakistan did it “in the name of your brothers that were lost.”
    “What happened on Sunday, because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence, sent a message around the world, but also sent a message here back home that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say,” the president told the firefighters. He also visited with family members of victims of the attack and laid a wreath at the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. Along the roads his motorcade was greeted by cheering crowds… – Washington Times, 5-5-11
  • After bin Laden death, Obama visits Ground Zero: Days after the killing of Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama met New York firefighters and police on Thursday and visited Ground Zero to offer comfort to a city still scarred by the September 11 attacks. His predecessor, George W. Bush, just three days after hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, had stood bullhorn in hand in the smoldering wreckage to declare, “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” Almost a decade later, in a bookend to that historic visit, Obama came to New York to say that promise had been kept. He said the killing of bin Laden told the world “that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.”
    Obama visited Engine 54 in midtown, which with 15 deaths lost more members on 9/11 than any other firehouse, before heading to Lower Manhattan to talk with police and lay a wreath at Ground Zero, the Twin Towers site, where he also met with victims’ families. Obama told firefighters at the “Pride of Manhattan” firehouse, “I wanted to just come here to thank you.” “This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago,” he said. “It didn’t matter who was in charge, we were going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act — ‘ that they received justice…. – Reuters, 5-5-11

QUOTES

  • The President in NYC: “When We Say We Will Never Forget, We Mean What We Say”:
    To the firefighters: This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago. Obviously we can’t bring back your friends that were lost, and I know that each and every one of you not only grieve for them, but have also over the last 10 years dealt with their family, their children, trying to give them comfort, trying to give them support.
    What happened on Sunday, because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence, sent a message around the world, but also sent a message here back home that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say; that our commitment to making sure that justice is done is something that transcended politics, transcended party; it didn’t matter which administration was in, it didn’t matter who was in charge, we were going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act — that they received justice.
    So it’s some comfort, I hope, to all of you to know that when those guys took those extraordinary risks going into Pakistan, that they were doing it in part because of the sacrifices that were made in the States. They were doing it in the name of your brothers that were lost.To the police: And so since that time I know a lot of you have probably comforted loved ones of those who were lost. A lot of you have probably looked after kids who grew up without a parent. And a lot of you continue to do extraordinary — extraordinarily courageous acts without a lot of fanfare. What we did on Sunday was directly connected to what you do every single day. And I know I speak for the military teams, the intelligence teams that helped get bin Laden in saying that we know the sacrifices and courage that you show as well, and that you are part of the team that helped us achieve our goal, but also help us keep our citizens safe each and every day.
    So I couldn’t be prouder of all of you. I couldn’t be more grateful to you. And I hope that you know that the country will continue to stand behind you going forward, because there are still going to be threats out there and you’re still going to be called on to take courageous actions and to remain vigilant, and you’re going to have an entire country behind you when you do it. – WH, 5-5-11
  • Live Video of President Obama’s AddressNYT, 5-1-11
  • Text Obama’s Remarks on Bin Laden’s Killing: Following is the text of President Obama’s remarks Sunday night announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden, as released by the White House… – NYT, 5-1-11
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON OSAMA BIN LADEN East Room 11:35 P.M. EDT:
    THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda, and a terrorist who’s responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.
    It was nearly 10 years ago that a bright September day was darkened by the worst attack on the American people in our history. The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory — hijacked planes cutting through a cloudless September sky; the Twin Towers collapsing to the ground; black smoke billowing up from the Pentagon; the wreckage of Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction.
    And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace. Nearly 3,000 citizens taken from us, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.
    On September 11, 2001, in our time of grief, the American people came together. We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of community and country. On that day, no matter where we came from, what God we prayed to, or what race or ethnicity we were, we were united as one American family.
    We were also united in our resolve to protect our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice. We quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda — an organization headed by Osama bin Laden, which had openly declared war on the United States and was committed to killing innocents in our country and around the globe. And so we went to war against al Qaeda to protect our citizens, our friends, and our allies.
    Over the last 10 years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals, we’ve made great strides in that effort. We’ve disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In Afghanistan, we removed the Taliban government, which had given bin Laden and al Qaeda safe haven and support. And around the globe, we worked with our friends and allies to capture or kill scores of al Qaeda terrorists, including several who were a part of the 9/11 plot.
    Yet Osama bin Laden avoided capture and escaped across the Afghan border into Pakistan. Meanwhile, al Qaeda continued to operate from along that border and operate through its affiliates across the world.
    And so shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat his network.
    Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
    Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
    For over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda.
    Yet his death does not mark the end of our effort. There’s no doubt that al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must –- and we will — remain vigilant at home and abroad.
    As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not –- and never will be -– at war with Islam. I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer of Muslims. Indeed, al Qaeda has slaughtered scores of Muslims in many countries, including our own. So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.
    Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.
    Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.
    The American people did not choose this fight. It came to our shores, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who’s been gravely wounded.
    So Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.
    Tonight, we give thanks to the countless intelligence and counterterrorism professionals who’ve worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The American people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice.
    We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since that September day.
    Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores.
    And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today’s achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.
    The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.
    Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. – WH, 5-1-11
  • World leaders react to news of bin Laden’s death: World reaction poured in early Monday after President Barack Obama’s announcement that terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan. The U.S. put its diplomatic facilities around the world on high alert and issued a global travel warning for Americans…. – CNN, 5-1-11
  • Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard: “Our fight against terrorism does not end with bin Laden’s death. We must remain vigilant against the threat posed by al Qaeda and the groups it has inspired.” “We will continue our support for the counterterrorism efforts of the United States and our partners, and we will continue our efforts in Afghanistan to ensure that the country never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism.”
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron: “Osama bin Laden was responsible for the worst terrorist atrocities the world has seen — for 9/11 and for so many attacks, which have cost thousands of lives. This is a time to remember all those murdered by Osama bin Laden, and all those who lost loved ones,” he said. “It is also a time too to thank all those who work round the clock to keep us safe from terrorism.”
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Israel joins in the joy of the American people on this historic day in which Osama bin Laden was killed. … This is a resounding victory for justice, freedom and for the joint values of all the countries that fight side by side determinedly against terror.”
  • Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak: “The U.S. proved determination and operational prowess in this operation. Again we learn that the fight against terror is shared by all leading democracies in the world and will be won with joint effort that is not over yet.”
  • Pakistan Foreign Ministry: “In an intelligence driven operation, Osama bin Laden was killed in the surroundings of Abbotabad in the early hours of this morning. This operation was conducted by the U.S. forces in accordance with declared U.S. policy that Osama bin Laden will be eliminated in a direct action by the U.S. forces, wherever found in the world.” “Earlier today, President Obama telephoned President Zardari on the successful U.S. operation which resulted in killing of Osama bin Laden.”
  • Afghan leader: bin Laden strike is blow to terror: Afghanistan’s president lauded Osama bin Laden’s death as a serious blow to terrorism Monday and argued that the strike in Pakistan proves the real fight against terrorists is outside his country’s borders.
    “This is a very important day. Maybe you have already heard on the television or on the radio that American forces have killed Osama bin Laden, delivering him his due punishment,” President Hamid Karzai told an assembly of district government officials in Kabul, as the hall erupted in applause. “For years we have said that the fight against terrorism is not in Afghan villages and houses,” said Karzai. “It is in safe havens, and today that was shown to be true.”… – AP, 5-1-11
  • House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, called the death of bin Laden “great news for the security of the American people and a victory in our continued fight against al Qaeda and radical extremism around the world.” Boehner commended Obama “and his team, as well as President (George W.) Bush for all of their efforts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.”
  • Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld congratulate President Obama: Cheney said in a statement early Monday morning that bin Laden’s death was “a victory for the United States and a tremendous achievement for the military and intelligence professionals who carried out this important mission.” In a statement released later in the morning, Rumsfeld called it “an achievement of which our country can be proud.” Cheney – who played a central role in the Bush administration’s efforts to capture or kill bin Laden following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – thanked those whose “tireless work since 9/11 has made this achievement possible, and enabled us to capture or kill thousands of al Qaeda terrorists and many of their leaders.”
    “At this moment when bin Laden has been brought to justice, we especially remember the sacrifice of the young Americans who’ve paid the ultimate price in defense of the nation, as well as the nearly 3000 Americans who lost their lives on 9/11,” Cheney said. Cheney offered his appreciation to the Obama administration. “I also want to congratulate President Obama and the members of his national security team,” he said. “Al Qaeda remains a dangerous enemy. Though bin Laden is dead, the war goes on,” Cheney said. “We must remain vigiliant, especially now, and we must continue to support our men and women in uniform who are fighting on the front lines of this war every day. Today, the message our forces have sent is clear — if you attack the United States, we will find you and bring you to justice.”
    Rumsfeld, who served in the Bush administration from 2001 to 2006, also praised the Obama administration, but not before celebrating his own. “All of this was made possible by the relentless, sustained pressure on al Qaeda that the Bush administration initiated after 9/11 and that the Obama administration has wisely chosen to continue,” he said. The former defense secretary also noted that interrogations of suspected terrorist at Guantanamo Bay — something he supported — “may have played an essential role in this success.” Rumsfeld, meanwhile, cautioned that “the struggle will go on. We must not have any illusions that it ends today or that America can afford to let down its guard tomorrow.” – Politico, 5-2-11
  • Obama: I won’t release bin Laden death photos: In an interview with Steve Kroft for this Sunday’s “60 Minutes” conducted today, President Obama said he won’t release post-mortem images of Osama bin Laden taken to prove his death. “It is important to make sure that very graphic photos of somebody who was shot in the head are not floating around as an incitement to additional violence or as a propaganda tool,” said the president. “We don’t trot out this stuff as trophies,” Mr. Obama added. “The fact of the matter is, this is somebody who was deserving of the justice that he received.”
    In explaining his choice not to release the photo, Mr. Obama said that “we don’t need to spike the football.” He said that “given the graphic nature of these photos it would create a national security risk.” “We discussed this internally,” he said. “Keep in mind that we are absolutely certain that this was him. We’ve done DNA sampling and testing. And so there is no doubt that we killed Osama bin Laden.” When Kroft noted that there are people in Pakistan and elsewhere who believe bin Laden is still alive, the president said “we we monitoring worldwide reaction.” “There is no doubt that Osama bin Laden is dead,” he said. “Certainly there is no doubt among al Qaeda members that he is dead. So we don’t think that a photograph in and of itself is going to make any difference.” “There are going to be some folks who deny it,” he added. “The fact of the matter is, you will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”… – CBS News, 5-5-11TRANSCRIPT: Obama discusses decision not to release images on CBS’s “60 Minutes”

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Osama bin Laden’s death will boost Obama approval rating, but for how long?: Amid bipartisan praise for the bin Laden mission, the Obama approval rating will get a bump, but the feel-good moment won’t last forever. In the 2012 election, economic recovery will be the issue.
    “Obviously [the death of bin Laden] is a big mission accomplished, and the exuberance will clearly benefit Obama,” says Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. “There will be a moment of celebration, but then the partisanship will continue. It doesn’t insulate him from those kinds of attacks down the line.” Still, Mr. Zelizer adds, the elimination of Mr. bin Laden is not just a foreign policy and military achievement; the war on terror is one of the big issues of our era, and bin Laden was enemy No. 1. “Clearly,” he says, “it’s something Republicans are aware is going to loom large in the public’s mind – that he was the president to do it.”… – CS Monitor, 5-2-11
  • Jeremi Suri: Reaction to Bin Laden: Osama bin Laden is dead – and a U-W Madison professor said it took a sensitive-and-complex operation for American forces to pull it off. The mastermind of the September 11th terrorist attacks from 2001 was shot-to-death yesterday in a firefight with U-S troops in Pakistan. Madison history professor Jeremi Suri said it required the combining of intelligence, diplomacy, and the military – as well as a keen understanding of Middle East affairs. Suri told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it took a long time but the result shows that quote, “The United States has the capabilities to do this.” Bin Laden was thought for years to be in Pakistan, but U-S intelligence had lost his trail for most of the time since 9-11. But America got a fresh tip last August. President Obama said late last night that it took months to confirm everything – and he was finally able to approve a secret military operation last week. U-W professor Suri called it one of the most successful operations of this kind in the Muslim world. But Marquette professor Phillip Naylor says new leaders have emerged in al-Qaida, and there are still challenges to snuff them out. Naylor calls bin Laden’s death an historic event but quote, “extremism is still out there.” – University of Wisconsin – Madison, WHBL, 5-2-11
  • Bin Laden’s death doesn’t end war on terror: “Decapitation does not mean the end of the movement,” said Georgetown University professor Bruce Hoffman, who has studied terrorism and insurgencies for more than three decades. Hoffman said al-Qaeda’s surviving franchises are likely to be joined by other aspiring groups jockeying to fill a leadership void left in the wake of bin Laden’s death. “Some may see this as an opportunity to steal the limelight,” Hoffman said. “While the risk may go up, the good news is that in the rush to do something, some of these (attacks) may go off half-cocked” and allow U.S. officials to learn more about the surviving terror networks…..
    Mark Lytle, Bard College historian and co-author of the American history textbook, Nation of Nations, called the killing of bin Laden “a shot in the arm for America’s image,” especially compared to the debacle that resulted when President Jimmy Carter mounted a similar effort to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980. “Americans can take a certain comfort that we were able to do this, especially in a period that’s been pretty grim for the average citizen,” he said Monday. But for all the euphoria, Lytle said bin Laden’s demise probably seems more important now than it will in retrospect. “This is sweet revenge, but it won’t change much,” he said. “Sept. 11 will be remembered because so much changed.” – USA Today, 5-2-11
  • Officials warn that bin Laden’s death does not end war on terror: “It remains to be seen whether al Qaeda will come up with another leader of the magnetism that bin Laden had,” said Peter Mansoor, a professor of military history at Ohio State who as an army colonel served as Petraeus’ executive officer in Iraq. “If it does, it will continue. If not, it will splinter into a lot of operations.”
    Even though administration officials said Sunday night the White House did not reveal the operation to Pakistani officials until after the attack, Mansoor guessed that “this was coordinated” with Pakistani government officials. “I think it would be highly unusual for us to do a military operation in Pakistan without letting them know,” Mansoor said. “Even all the drone strikes (inside Pakistan) are coordinated,” adding that the Pakistanis “don’t want to admit it, but they are.” Mansoor also said “it makes sense” that the U.S. buried bin Laden at sea. “You don’t want the grave to become a shrine for Islamic militants or vandalized by people who hate Osama bin Laden. It’s the same reason Hitler doesn’t have a grave.”… – The Columbus Dispatch, 5-2-11
  • Joel Beinin, professor of Middle East history at Stanford: KTVU watched President Obama’s speech with Joel Beinin, a professor of Middle East history at Stanford. He said bin Laden’s death was a blow to would-be terrorists and mostly symbolic. He also said there was a very important piece missing from the President’s speech. “He did not once mention any cooperation from Pakistan intelligence or government, so indirectly it seems to me the speech indicated there was not collaboration on this,” said Prof. Beinin. “Historically there have been links between Pakistan and Al Qaeda.” That fact was an important one, according to Beinin, because Pakistan is a U.S. ally, but a difficult one with its own interests. – KTVU, 5-2-11
  • A Survey of Books About Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda: The Al Qaeda leader was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in a firefight during a “targeted operation” Mr. Obama ordered. Since 9/11, there has been an outpouring of books about Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan. Here is an annotated list of some of the more useful books on those subjects….
    THE LONGEST WAR: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda (2011) By Peter L. Bergen.
    OSAMA: The Making of a Terrorist (2004). By Jonathan Randal.
    THE BIN LADENS: An Arabian Family in the American Century (2008). By Steve Coll.
    HOLY WAR, INC.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (2001). By Peter L. Bergen.
    OSAMA BIN LADEN (2011). By Michael Scheuer.
    THE LOOMING TOWER: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006) By Lawrence Wright.
    IN THE GRAVEYARD OF EMPIRES: America’s War in Afghanistan (2009). By Seth G. Jones.
    GHOST WARS: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (2004). By Steve Coll. – NYT, 5-2-11
  • The War on Terror After Osama bin Laden: The killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan caused jubilation in the United States. In announcing Bin Laden’s death on Sunday, President Obama said that it “marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat Al Qaeda.” But, the president continued, “there’s no doubt that Al Qaeda will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must and we will remain vigilant at home and abroad.” What does the death mean for the future of United States involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and how does it affect the direction of the global war on terror?… – NYT, 5-2-11
    Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings Institution: A Limited Demoralizing Effect
    Juan Zarate, former counterterrorism official: Al Qaeda’s Internal Divisions
    C. Christine Fair, Georgetown University: The Taliban Is Not the Enemy
    Mark Quarterman, Center for Strategic and International Studies: More Powerful Dead Than Alive? Gilles Dorronsoro Gilles Dorronsoro, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Finding New Recruits
  • Bruce Buchanan: Inside the Beltway: “He was matter-of-fact, he was perfunctory in his delivery of very serious news, and that worked for him,” Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas presidential historian, tells Inside the Beltway.
    “Mr. Obama was the one who got to pull the trigger on this rather than President George W. Bush, though there is a certain luck of the draw involved. Still, Mr. Obama gets only a short-term political boost,” Mr. Buchanan says. “We are still far, far away from the 2012 election, and those public passions can fade very quickly.” – Washington Times
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May 25, 2009: President Obama, Dick Cheney & Guantanamo

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President gives the Weekly Address paying tribute to America’s veterans

White House Photo, 5/22/09, Samantha Appleton

Weekly Address 5/23/09 Memorial Day

The President pays tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – and their families.

Watch the Video

The President on American security and values

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Your Government & New Media – WH Blog, 5-21-09
  • Poll gives Va. dark horse Deeds a boost Democratic bid is wide open: State Senator R. Creigh Deeds was the only one of three candidates vying for the party’s nomination to show a jump in the latest poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling. The survey shows support for Mr. Deeds at 20 percent – up 6 percent from a similar poll taken two weeks ago. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe continues to lead the race with 29 percent support – one point down from the previous poll. Former Delegate Brian J. Moran remained at 20 percent support, with undecided voters making up 31 percent…. – Washington Times, 5-22-09
  • Poll shows Obama getting little support in Oklahoma: President Barack Obama’s approval rating in Oklahoma is only 38 percent, according to a new poll that shows that even a third of the state’s Democrats aren’t happy with the new president. The poll, released Thursday by Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina firm, reflects little change in the state’s sentiment toward Obama since the election in November. Nationally, Obama had his worst showing in Oklahoma, getting just 34 percent of the vote and losing all 77 counties to Republican Sen. John McCain…. – Tulsa World, 5-21-09
  • Roll Call: House rejects probe of Pelosi’s claims: The 252-172 roll call Thursday by which the House rejected a measure to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that the CIA misled her on the use of torture. A “yes” vote is a vote against an investigation. Voting yes were 250 Democrats and 2 Republicans. Voting no were 0 Democrats and 172 Republicans…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • House panel advances global warming bill: Legislation imposing the first nationwide limits on the pollution blamed for global warming advanced in the House late Thursday, clearing a key committee despite strong Republican opposition. The Energy and Commerce Committee approved the sweeping climate bill 33-25 after repeatedly turning back GOP attempts to kill or weaken the measure during four days of debate…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • The Death of the Republican Party May Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Some in the media believe the Republican Party is washed up and dying. Leslie Savan wrote in The Nation earlier this month: “What sort of psychological bent would lead people to want to be part of a dead-end political party like the GOP has become?”
    But, a new Gallup poll from May 7 – 10 shows it’s not quite that bad for the GOP. Thirty-two percent of participants in the survey identified themselves as Republicans, 32 percent as Democrats, and 34 percent Independents. And if you include Independent “leaners,” Republicans and Democrats are also tied at 45 percent between May 7 – 10. Fox News, 5-20-09
  • Poll: Nearly half of Nevadans would oust Sen. Reid: Along with the 45 percent who said they’d oust the four-term Democrat, 17 percent of the 625 voters contacted statewide for the Las Vegas Review-Journal poll said they would consider another candidate. Thirty-five percent of the poll respondents said they would re-elect him…. – Mercury News, 5-19-08
  • Poll: Americans want moderate judge as next justice: In the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, however, majorities said it is “not important at all” that Obama nominate a woman, an African American, or a Hispanic. A plurality, 32 percent, said it’s not important for the nominee to have experience in elected office.
    But 67 percent of respondents said it’s important that the nominee has experience as a judge.
    In terms of political ideology, 37 percent said they believed Obama should nominate a moderate, while 27 percent said someone who was very or somewhat liberal, and 35 percent said a nominee who was very or somewhat conservative. Also, 68 percent said they do not want to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that established the right to abortions in the first three months of pregnancy…. – Boston Globe, 5-18-09
  • Did Nancy Pelosi lie? New poll shows Americans are divided: 43 percent of those polled believe that it;s “at least somewhat likely” the CIA misled Pelosi while 41 percent believe it’s not likely. The partisan gap is what’s telling. Sixty-two percent of Democrats are willing to accept what she said while an identical 62 percent of Republicans don;t buy it.
    Those not affiliated with a party are more likely not to support Pelosi’s statement by a 48 percent to 38 percent margin…. – CS Monitor, 5-18-09

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama signs credit card reform legislation
(President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of lawmakers applaud after the President signed the  Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act in the Rose Garden of the White House  Friday, May 22, 2009.  Official White House photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The Headlines…

  • Memorial Day roll call honors 148,000 veterans: The names are whisked away by the hot, gusting wind as soon as they are spoken, forgotten in the stream of the next name and the next name and the next name…. The story of America could be told through these names, tales of bravery and hesitation, of dreams achieved or deferred and of battles won and lost. Taken alone, they are just words, identities stripped of place and time, stripped of rank and deeds and meaning. But they are not taken alone. They are taken together — 148,000 names, representing the entire veteran population of Riverside National Cemetery, a roll call of the dead read aloud over 10 days by more than 300 volunteers…. – AP, 5-23-09
  • Dick Cheney: Washington trembles at the return of ‘Darth Vader’: Dick Cheney was a formidable backroom operator during his eight years as vice-president in the Bush administration. Having abandoned his short-lived retirement in Wyoming, he is now leading the Republican charge against Obama from the front…. – Guardian UK, 5-24-09
  • Obama Signs Credit-Card Overhaul Legislation Into Law: President Barack Obama put his signature on legislation Friday clamping down on credit-card companies’ ability to boost interest rates and slap higher fees on consumers, a measure long-sought by the White House but reviled by the banking sector.
    “We’re not going to give people a free pass, and we expect consumers to live within their means and pay what they owe, but we also expect financial institutions to act with the same sense of responsibility that the American people aspire to in their own lives,” Obama said at a signing ceremony in the Rose Garden…. – WSJ, 5-22-09
  • Cheney Seeks Book Deal on Bush Years and More: With his sustained blitz of television appearances and speeches, former Vice President Dick Cheney has established himself as perhaps the leading Republican voice against President Obama. Not a bad time, then, to be in the market for a multimillion-dollar book contract. Mr. Cheney is actively shopping a memoir about his life in politics and service in four presidential administrations, a work that would add to what is already an unusually dense collection of post-Bush-presidency memoirs that will offer a collective rebuttal to the many harshly critical works released while the writers were in office and beyond…. – NYT, 5-22-09
  • GOP effort to discredit Pelosi sees modest success: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has avoided serious damage from the relentless Republican effort to discredit her, though there’s some evidence that the GOP is making small inroads. Republicans have been battering the California Democrat over her assertion that the CIA misled her in 2002 about whether terrorism suspects had been tortured…. – Miami Herald, 5-22-09
  • President’s Detention Plan Tests American Legal Tradition: President Obama’s proposal for a new legal system in which terrorism suspects could be held in “prolonged detention” inside the United States without trial would be a departure from the way this country sees itself, as a place where people in the grip of the government either face criminal charges or walk free…. – NYT, 5-22-09
  • House Climate Change Bill Clears Key Hurdle: The nation’s first federal climate change cleared a key hurdle last night by making it out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on a 33-25 vote. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill because of its two authors, now heads to the full House and could see a vote as early as late June, according to reports. But the massive bill faces more revisions as it makes its way through additional committees and also faces opposition in the Senate…. – Reuters, 5-22-09
  • House panels will make haste on climate bill, Hoyer says: Expect another fast-paced month of committee action on a sweeping global warming and energy bill ahead of possible floor debate in late June or early July, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said today.
    “I think the speaker and I will both be urging the committee chairs to consider these quickly,” the Maryland Democrat said in an interview, referring to eight panels with jurisdiction on a bill approved last night by the Energy and Commerce Committee. “Frankly, they’ve been considering them for some time now. It’s not like it’s a great surprise.” For most committees, the work will be swift, Hoyer said. “Their level of concern,” he said, “is not high.”… – NYT, 5-22-09
  • Naval graduates include Sen. McCain’s son, Jack: Far from the madding crowds of last year’s campaign trail, Barack Obama quietly greeted the newly graduated midshipman and son of the man he defeated for the presidency. The moment had to be a bit cathartic for both John Sidney “Jack” McCain IV and Obama, whose fitness to be commander in chief was questioned just months ago by young Jack’s father, Sen. John McCain…. – AP, 5-22-09
  • To cover both wars, Senate passes $91.3B bill: The Senate is backing President Barack Obama’s efforts to ramp up the war in Afghanistan, granting his request for $91.3 billion for military and diplomatic operations there and in Iraq. The spending bill, approved on an 86-3 vote Thursday night, goes to congressional negotiators to work out a compromise with a similar measure the House passed. Lawmakers expected to present a bill for Obama’s signature next month…. – AP, 5-22-09
  • Bush’s Gitmo Vindication Obama still hasn’t said where the worst terrorists will go: President Obama delivered a major speech yesterday on how he intends to prosecute the war on terror (or whatever it’s now called), and in particular his desire to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay. As rhetoric, his remarks were at pains to declare a bold new moral direction. On substance, however, the speech and other events this week look more like a vindication of the past seven years. The President’s speech came after both houses of Congress had denied his funding requests to shut down Guantanamo and relocate some of the most dangerous prisoners to the U.S. The 90-6 vote in the Senate was especially notable because all but a half-dozen Democrats opposed their own President, on that high-minded principle known as not-in- my-backyard…. – WSJ, 5-22-09
  • Obama backs Gitmo plan, Cheney defends Bush policy: President Barack Obama fought Thursday to retake command of the emotional debate over closing Guantanamo, denouncing “fear-mongering” by political opponents and insisting that maximum-security prisons in the U.S. can safely house dangerous terror suspects transferred from Cuba. In a unique bit of Washington theater, former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered his own address just one minute later, defending the Bush administration’s creation of the prison camp as vigorously as Obama denounced it….. – AP, 5-21-09
  • Obama: 50 Gitmo detainees cleared for transfer: Forty-eight terror suspects currently held at Guantanamo Bay are waiting to be released to other nations, the Obama administration said Thursday. The detainees are among 50 detainees whose cases President Barack Obama said Thursday have already been reviewed. The detainees would be the first to be released to other nations under the Obama administration’s effort to empty the Cuba-based prison without bringing all its inmates to the United States…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • Palin picks memoir collaborator: Sarah Palin has picked a collaborator for her memoir. A spokeswoman for SarahPAC, the Alaska governor’s political action committee, says that Palin has selected Lynn Vincent, an author and features editor for World magazine, a conservative Christian publication. Palin’s book, currently untitled, is scheduled for release next year by HarperCollins…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • Obama vs. Cheney: Just the facts: President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney laid out a variety of arguments Thursday in staking out two widely divergent views of national security in the age of terror…. – Politico, 5-21-09
  • SPIN METER: Obama vs. Cheney: Two tough speeches conveying two radically different views of America’s fight against terrorism and the nation’s values unfolded Thursday in separate halls, minutes apart…. – AP, 5-21-09
  • GOP’s best hope: Obama overreaches or underachieves: If history’s any guide, the Republican Party’s best hope for winning back power is a public backlash against Barack Obama. That’s how Republicans came back from the edge of a political abyss in 1966, as voters started to turn against Lyndon Johnson two years after his landslide election. That’s what helped unify them in the late 1970s, when a wholesale rejection of Jimmy Carter set the stage for Ronald Reagan’s sweeping victory of 1980. It worked again in 1994, when the public turned thumbs down on the first two years of Bill Clinton’s presidency and turned the Congress over to Republicans for the first time in four decades. Whether the American people will turn against Obama is an open question. Even if they do, it could take years, well beyond the 2010 midterm elections or Obama’s likely run for re-election in 2012…. – Miami Herald, 5-21-09
  • 14 hours later, House Democrats hold the line on climate bill: House Democrats defeated a series of Republican “benchmark” amendments aimed at halting a future U.S. global warming law during a 14-hour, politically charged Energy and Commerce Committee markup yesterday. The GOP amendments took on a familiar theme by proposing the law’s sunset should the measure lead to significant job losses, higher gas prices and electricity rates, or a lack of corresponding action from China and India…. – NYT, 5-20-09
  • Obama Speech to Address Gitmo Worries: President Barack Obama will attempt to explain in a speech Thursday a series of decisions on the handling of detainees that has given ammunition to political opponents and raised concerns among Democrats that the issue could prove damaging to the young administration…. – WSJ, 5-20-09
  • GOP drops effort to rename Democrats ‘Socialist’: Republicans on Wednesday abandoned an effort to label their opponents the “Democrat Socialist Party,” ending a fight within the GOP ranks that reflected the divide between those who want a more centrist message and those seeking a more aggressive, conservative voice…. – AP, 5-20-09
  • Senate OKs bill to rein in credit card industry: The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to rein in credit card rate increases and excessive fees, hoping to give voters some breathing room amid a recession that has left hundreds of thousands of Americans jobless or facing foreclosure. “This is a victory for every American consumer who has ever suffered at the hands of a credit card company,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Banking Committee. The bill passed the Senate 90-5…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • Senators reject closing Gitmo prison without plan: President Barack Obama’s promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison suffered a blow Tuesday when his allies in the Senate said they would refuse to finance the move until the administration delivers a satisfactory plan for what to do with the detainees there…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • Obama’s new rules will transform US auto fleet: Some soccer moms will have to give up hulking SUVs. Carpenters will still haul materials around in pickup trucks, but they will cost more. Nearly everybody else will drive smaller cars, and more of them will run on electricity. The higher mileage and emissions standards set by the Obama administration on Tuesday, which begin to take effect in 2012 and are to be achieved by 2016, will transform the American car and truck fleet. The new rules would bring new cars and trucks sold in the United States to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon, about 10 mpg more than today’s standards. Passenger cars will be required to get 39 mpg, light trucks 30 mpg…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • Sen. Reid botches 3 subjects at news conference: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid became the latest Democrat to stray into rhetorical trouble Tuesday, botching statements on three subjects in one news conference — including the fragile health of the chamber’s most senior members…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • FEC dismisses complaint over Palin clothing: The Federal Election Commission has dismissed a complaint over the $150,000-plus designer wardrobe the Republican Party bought to outfit vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the good-government group that filed the complaint, argued that candidates aren’t supposed to use donor money for personal expenses such as clothes. The FEC ruled Tuesday that the ban doesn’t apply to party money, however…. – AP, 5-19-09
  • U.S. pressing Israel for gestures to PA before June 4: The United States expects Israel to make concrete concessions to the Palestinians before U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Cairo on June 4, an American official said during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week. Israel’s cabinet is due to discuss the situation in the Gaza Strip this Sunday, and one concession the U.S. would like to see is for Israel to decide at this meeting to ease its restrictions on imports and exports of goods to Gaza. It also wants Israel to ease restrictions on movement in the West Bank…. – Haaretz, 5-19-09
  • Obama prods Netanyahu, Iran in Mideast foray: President Barack Obama on Monday opened his deepest foray into the Middle East quagmire, telling Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu he must stop Jewish settlements and should grasp a “historic opportunity” to make peace with the Palestinians. Obama also had pointed words for Iran on a second major Mideast dispute, warning the Iranians they had until year’s end to get serious about talks with the world community on curbing their nuclear ambitions. “We’re not going to have talks forever,” the president said. Obama and Netanyahu spoke highly of their hopes for progress in the Mideast after a lengthy private meeting in the Israeli’s first visit to the White House since Obama became president and Netanyahu began his second stint as prime minister. Yet the new president was firm in insisting the Israelis move toward peace with the Palestinians, and Netanyahu stuck to his stance that Israel cannot negotiate with people who deny its right to exist…. – “We should have a fairly good sense by the end of the year as to whether they are moving in the right direction and whether the parties involved are making progress and that there’s a good-faith effort to resolve differences,” the president said. “We have seen progress stalled on this front, and I suggested to the prime minister that he has a historic opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue during his tenure,” Obama said. “That means that all the parties involved have to take seriously obligations that they have previously agreed to.” “There is a clear understanding that we have to make progress on settlements; that settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward,” Obama said, referring to past negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. AP, 5-18-09
  • Obama Tells Netanyahu He Has an Iran Timetable: President Obama said Monday that he expected to know by the end of the year whether Iran was making “a good-faith effort to resolve differences” in talks aimed at ending its nuclear program, signaling to Israel as well as Iran that his willingness to engage in diplomacy over the issue has its limits…. – NYT, 5-18-09
  • Vatican: Obama seeks “common ground” on abortion: The Vatican said Monday that President Barack Obama was clearly looking for some common ground with his speech at the University of Notre Dame about abortion. The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said Obama’s speech at the leading Catholic university on Sunday confirmed what he had said at a recent news conference — that signing the so-called Freedom of Choice Act in the U.S. Congress wasn’t his highest legislative priority. The bill would protect a woman’s right to have a child or end a pregnancy. Obama’s stance on the issue is that he supports abortion rights but says the procedure should be rare…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Obama to link auto emissions and mileage standards: President Barack Obama, seeking to end a stand-off between states and the auto industry, plans to issue new national emission limits and mileage requirements for cars and trucks. Obama plans to announce on Tuesday that he will couple pollution reduction from vehicle tailpipes with increased efficiency on the road. It would be the first time that limits on greenhouse gases were linked with federal standards for passenger cars and light trucks…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Bill Clinton to be named special UN envoy to Haiti: Former President Bill Clinton will be named special U.N. envoy to this impoverished Caribbean nation that has been mired in political and social turmoil for decades, his spokesman said Monday. An official announcement is expected from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday, Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna told The Associated Press…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Dodd to face Democratic challenger in 2010: Embattled Sen. Christopher Dodd is getting a Democratic challenger. Connecticut businessman and former Air Force officer Merrick Alpert plans to launch a 2010 primary campaign against Dodd, who faces his toughest re-election in five terms. The official announcement is expected Tuesday…. – AP, 5-18-09
  • Pelosi got warning from administration on CIA memo: The Central Intelligence Agency gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., advance warning before CIA chief Leon Panetta sent a memo to employees at the spy agency that countered Pelosi’s claim that the agency lied to Congress about waterboarding. A CIA official, but not Panetta, made the call to Pelosi “His office gave a heads-up,” a Democratic aide said Monday…. – Washington Examiner, 5-18-09
  • Biden speaks at Wake Forest – does not disclose nuclear launch codes: Good news for Vice President Biden’s office! The Veep successfully delivered the commencement address at Wake Forest University without disclosing top secret information. The problem is, he may have done that a few weeks ago. Newsweek is reporting that Biden may have revealed where former Vice President Cheney’s undisclosed location was. After the 9/11 attacks, Cheney’s whereabouts were frequently unknown. And that was on purpose. White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer coined the phrase “undisclosed location” and it stuck. And no one, save a few with the highest of clearances, knew where it was located…. – CS Monitor, 5-18-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President gives the Weekly Address paying tribute to America’s veterans

Political Quotes

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Calls on All Americans to Honor the Service of the Troops and Their Families: On this Memorial Day weekend, President Obama calls on the American people to join him in paying tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice – and their families…. – White House, 5-23-09Weekly Address: Sacrifice
  • Obama sees court pick as smart with common touch: On the verge of choosing his first Supreme Court nominee, President Barack Obama has already provided a profile of the person he is likely to pick: an intellectual heavyweight with a “common touch,” someone whose brand of justice means seeing life from the perspective of the powerless. Obama is expected to announce his nominee this week, as early as Tuesday…
    “You have to have not only the intellect to be able to effectively apply the law to cases before you,” Obama said in an interview carried Saturday on C-SPAN television. “But you have to be able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes and get a sense of how the law might work or not work in practical day-to-day living.”… – AP, 5-23-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING OF THE CREDIT CARD ACCOUNTABILITY, RESPONSIBILITY AND DISCLOSURE ACT: …And that’s why, because of this new law, statements will be required to tell credit card holders how long it will take to pay off a balance and what it will cost in interest if they only make the minimum monthly payments. We also put a stop to retroactive rate hikes that appear on a bill suddenly with no rhyme or reason…. – White House, 5-22-09A New Era for Credit Cards
  • Obama Is Embraced at Annapolis: “As long as I am your commander in chief,” Mr. Obama said, “I will only send you into harm;s way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy and the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done.”…..
    “These Americans have embraced the virtues that we need most right now: self-discipline over self-interest; work over comfort; and character over celebrity,” the president said. “After an era when so many institutions and individuals have acted with such greed and recklessness, it’s no wonder that our military remains the most trusted institution in our nation.” – NYT, 5-22-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE UNITED STATES NAVAL ACADEMY COMMENCEMENT – White House, 5-22-09Annapolis
  • Obama vows not to send people to war without cause: “I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy, the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done,” the president told more than 1,000 graduates during a sun-splashed ceremony at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium….
    “In short, we will maintain America’s military dominance and keep you the finest fighting force the world has ever seen,” Obama said, as more than 30,000 watched from the stands….
    “The extraordinary precision and professionalism displayed that day was made possible, in no small measure, by the training, the discipline and the leadership skills that so many of those officers learned at the United States Naval Academy,” Obama said in his first public comments on the matter…. – AP, 5-22-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING OF THE WEAPONS SYSTEMS ACQUISITION REFORM ACT: The bill I’m signing today, known as the Weapons System Acquisition Reforms Act, represents an important next step in this procurement reform process. It reforms a system where taxpayers are charged too much for weapons systems that too often arrive late — a system that suffers from spending on unproven technologies, outdated weapons, and a general lack of oversight…. – White House, 5-22-09Reform for Our Troops
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON NATIONAL SECURITY: In the midst of all these challenges, however, my single most important responsibility as President is to keep the American people safe. It’s the first thing that I think about when I wake up in the morning. It’s the last thing that I think about when I go to sleep at night.
    And this responsibility is only magnified in an era when an extremist ideology threatens our people, and technology gives a handful of terrorists the potential to do us great harm. We are less than eight years removed from the deadliest attack on American soil in our history. We know that al Qaeda is actively planning to attack us again. We know that this threat will be with us for a long time, and that we must use all elements of our power to defeat it…. – White House, 5-21-09Security & Values
  • SPIN METER: Obama vs. Cheney: Obama: “I released the memos because the existence of that approach to interrogation was already widely known. The Bush administration had acknowledged its existence. And I had already banned those methods. The argument that, somehow, by releasing those memos, we are providing terrorists with information about how they will be interrogated makes no sense. We will not be interrogating terrorists using that approach. That approach is now prohibited.”….
    “The decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable — a framework that failed to rely on our legal traditions and time-tested institutions, that failed to use our values as a compass.”….
    “I can stand here today as president of the United States and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture and that we will vigorously protect our people while forging a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law. Make no mistake. If we fail to turn the page on the approach that was taken over the past several years, then I will not be able to say that as president. And if we cannot stand for our core values, then we are not keeping faith with the documents that are enshrined in this hall (the National Archives).”…
    “Now let me be clear: We are indeed at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates. … Al-Qaida terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture, like other prisoners of war, must be prevented from attacking us again.”…
    “Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. And I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that too often our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us — Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists and citizens — fell silent.” – AP, 5-21-09
  • Remarks by Richard B. Cheney: On May 21, 2009, former vice president Richard B. Cheney, now a member of AEI’s Board of Trustees, spoke at AEI on the serious and ongoing threat terrorism poses to the United States. He was introduced by AEI president Arthur C. Brooks…. – AEI, 5-21-09
  • SPIN METER: Obama vs. Cheney: Cheney: “Releasing the interrogation memos was flatly contrary to the national security interests of the United States. The harm done only begins with top-secret information now in the hands of terrorists who have just received a lengthy insert for their training manual.”….
    “We did not invent that authority. It’s drawn from Article Two of the Constitution, and it was given specificity by Congress after 9/11 in a joint resolution authorizing all necessary and appropriate force to protect the American people.”…
    “When just a single clue that goes unlearned or one lead that goes unpursued can bring on catastrophe, it’s no time for splitting differences. There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people hang in the balance.”…
    “Apparently using the term ‘war’ where terrorists are concerned is starting to feel a bit dated. So henceforth we’re advised by the administration to think of the fight against terrorists as ‘overseas contingency operations.’ … And when you hear that there are no more enemy combatants, as there were back in the days of that scary war on terror, at first that sounds like progress. The only problem is that the phrase is gone, but the same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers are still there. And finding some less judgmental or more pleasant-sounding name for terrorists doesn’t change what they are or what they would do if we let them loose.”…
    “To the very end of our administration, we kept al-Qaida terrorists busy with other problems. We focused on getting their secrets, instead of sharing ours with them. And on our watch, they never hit this country again. … It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed.” – AP, 5-21-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE SIGNING OF THE HELPING FAMILIES SAVE THEIR HOMES ACT AND THE FRAUD ENFORCEMENT AND RECOVERY ACT: Well, standing up for the American people is exactly what we’re doing here today with two bills that I’m about to sign — The Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, and The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act. These landmark pieces of legislation will protect hardworking Americans, crack down on those who seek to take advantage of them, and ensure that the problems that led us to this crisis never happen again. – White House, 5-20-09
  • A Culture Change on Climate Change: “For what everyone here believes, even as views differ on many important issues, is that the status quo is no longer acceptable.” – WH Blog, 5-19-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON NATIONAL FUEL EFFICIENCY STANDARDS – White House, 5-19-09
  • Obama brings foes together for auto deal: “In the past, an agreement such as this would have been considered impossible,” Obama said Tuesday in announcing the deal, the usually pokerfaced president reveling in his own achievement. “It represents not only a change in policy in Washington but the harbinger of a change in the way business is done in Washington.”… – AP, 5-19-09
  • Steele: GOP must confront Obama’s celebrity appeal: “He’s young. He’s cool. He’s hip … he’s got all the qualities America likes in a celebrity, so of course he’s going to be popular,” Steele told state party chairmen Tuesday. But “this is not American Idol. This is serious … and we are going to take them on.” “The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over,” he said. “We have turned the corner. No more looking in the rearview mirror. From this point forward, we will focus all of our energies on winning the future.” – AP, 5-19-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President with former Secretaries of State
(President Barack Obama meets with, from left: former Defense Secretary William Perry;  former Georgia Sen.  Sam Nunn; former Secretary of State George P. Shultz; and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger  in the Oval Office Tuesday, May 19, 2009.  Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Why Guantanamo has become Obama’s problem”: As Princeton scholar Julian E. Zelizer points out, when it comes to national security, Obama seems to lose the confidence he so evidently has on other major issues…. – Xinhua, 5-22-09
  • Barack Obama gives the national security speech Democrats were waiting for: President Barack Obama delivered the national security speech Thursday that Democrats have been waiting for. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Democrats have stumbled in offering a response to the Republican approach to the war on terrorism. When former Vice President Dick Cheney speaks on national security — as he did again Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute — most Democrats continue to shudder. Republicans have argued that they are the party that will be tough on terrorists and that their policies offer the only way to keep Americans safe…. – Politico, 5-21-09
  • Lou Zickar: Commentary: Republicans must move to center: In his CNN.com column last week, Ed Rollins said of the Republican Party, “We may be down for awhile, but what we won’t become is a ‘Democratic Party lite’! We are a party that wants smaller government and lower taxes. Obama and the Democrats do not. We are a party that wants to encourage small business.”….
    The success of these efforts provides the GOP with a road map on how to rebuild their party today. In this, Rollins is right — Republicans should not abandon their core philosophy of a strong defense, low taxes and smaller federal government. But they do need to figure out how to make this philosophy relevant to the lives of more Americans. And for this, they would be wise to do what the Democrats did in 1992 and 2006.
    They need to turn toward the center. Among other things, this means coming to grips with the role of government in our lives. For nearly 30 years, the party’s position in this regard has been clear and absolute — government should be smaller. But Katrina and Iraq and Walter Reed brought to light a simple truth — government needs to be more efficient, too.
    Unfortunately, smart government is not in the Republican Party’s rhetorical toolbox. It also runs counter to everything many on the far right represent. Yet it’s going to be one of the defining issues of the next few years as taxpayers begin to demand greater accountability and transparency in how their federal tax dollars are being spent.
    Simply arguing that we need to establish pro-growth tax policies and leave it at that is not enough anymore. Republicans also need to acknowledge government has a role to play, and it is the responsibility of all elected lawmakers to get it right. Taking this kind of step would not only move the GOP closer to the political center, but would also be another step in the party’s journey back from political oblivion. CNN, 5-22-09
  • Julian Zelizer: Commentary: Democrats play defense on security: President Obama has been struggling to get things right on national security. The president has not displayed the same kind of poise and confidence as he has with domestic issues.
    In contrast to the economic stimulus and health care reform, there have been a number of missteps, reversals and intra-party tensions over national security since Obama took office.
    Obama, who in February 2008 said the trials of Guantanamo detainees were “too important to be held in a flawed military commission system,” now says that he will continue to use that system, though in slightly modified fashion. When Obama announced that he would not release photographs of mistreated detainees, many of his supporters could not help but be disappointed….
    We have a growing military engagement in Afghanistan, the possibility of greater involvement in Pakistan, and the announcement that Obama plans to leave between 30,000 and 50,000 troops in Iraq after the “withdrawal” next year. To be sure, Obama has sent Clinton to embark on a more ambitious diplomatic agenda, but we have only seen the outlines of what they hope to achieve. The administration must start explaining what the primary objectives of its foreign policy will be.
    The more thought that goes into what we are doing before a crisis hits, the better prepared we are to deal with a crisis should it occur.
    But Democrats have a political incentive to be proactive as well. Democrats have shown in the previous two elections that Republicans don’t have an electoral monopoly on national security debates. But unless they provide a bold and coherent vision of their alternative, Democrats will continue to play defense. – CNN, 5-20-09
  • John Steele Gordon: Why Government Can’t Run a Business: The Obama administration is bent on becoming a major player in — if not taking over entirely — America’s health-care, automobile and banking industries. Before that happens, it might be a good idea to look at the government’s track record in running economic enterprises. It is terrible.
    In 1913, for instance, thinking it was being overcharged by the steel companies for armor plate for warships, the federal government decided to build its own plant. It estimated that a plant with a 10,000-ton annual capacity could produce armor plate for only 70% of what the steel companies charged….. – WSJ (5-20-09)


(President Barack Obama pets the family dog, Bo, during a brief break from meetings on the South Lawn of the White House May 12, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

May 15, 2009: President Obama & Health Care Reform

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President speaks at a town hall in New Mexico

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Giuliani Narrows Gap With Cuomo in NY Governor Race: In an early look at the 2010 Governor’s race, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani leads Paterson 54 – 32 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released this week.
    Giuliani leads 86 – 6 percent among Republicans and 60 – 21 percent among independent voters, while Democrats back Paterson 56 – 30 percent. Giuliani leads 62 – 25 percent among white voters and 51 – 42 percent among Hispanics, while black voters back Paterson 64 – 18 percent.
    Cuomo leads Giuliani 47 – 41 percent in a head-to-head matchup, down from a 53 – 36 percent lead April 6. Independent voters have shifted from 49 – 38 percent for Cuomo April 8 to 44 – 40 percent for Giuliani today. In this latest survey, Giuliani leads 80 – 9 percent among Republicans while Democrats back Cuomo 78 – 16 percent. Cuomo leads 76 – 13 percent among black voters and 52 – 40 percent among Hispanics, as white voters go to Giuliani 47 – 42 percent…. – Newsmax, 5-13-09
  • Obama Approval Picks Up in May Still, only 25% say they would definitely vote to re-elect him in 2012: President Barack Obama appears to be slightly more popular with Americans at the start of his second 100 days in office than he was, on average, during his first 100. Gallup Poll Daily tracking from May 7-9 finds 66% of Americans approving of how he is handling his job, compared with an average 63% from January through April.
    Obama’s approval rating has registered 66% or better in each Gallup three-day rolling average since May 2. His 68% approval rating reported on May 3 is tied for the second highest of his presidency, exceeded only by the 69% recorded immediately after his inauguration. And except for one 66% approval rating in late April, all of Obama’s previous 66% to 68% readings were obtained near the start of his term…. – Gallop, 5-11-09

THE HEADLINES….

The President meets with House Leaders
(President Barack Obama meets with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Education and Labor Committee Chair Rep. George Miller, in the Oval Office Wednesday, May 13, 2009.  House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Henry Waxman, and House Ways and Means Committee  Chair Rep. Charlie Rangel also attended the meeting but are not in the photo.  Official White house Photo by Pete Souza.)

The Headlines…

  • House votes $97 billion war funds, despite doubts: Despite Democrats’ rising anxiety about Afghanistan, the House on Thursday easily passed a $96.7 billion measure filling President Barack Obama’s request for war spending and foreign aid efforts there and in Iraq. Some 51 Democrats broke with Obama, who is sending thousands more troops into Afghanistan, but all but a handful of Republicans stood behind the president to produce a 368-60 tally. Republicans supported the measure even though majority Democrats added almost $12 billion to Obama’s $85 billion request…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • Pelosi Says She Knew of Waterboarding by 2003: The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, acknowledged for the first time Thursday that she knew by early 2003 that the Central Intelligence Agency had subjected terror detainees to waterboarding but saw little recourse to challenge the practice except by achieving Democratic control of Congress and the White House…. – NYT, 5-14-09
  • GOP recruiters tilting toward center in 2010 races: Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh contend the Republican Party needs less moderation and more conservative backbone to win back voters who have been abandoning it in droves. Leaders of the party’s 2010 election efforts are showing they don’t think ideological purity is the answer…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • CIA rebuffs Cheney over interrogation documents: The CIA on Thursday rejected a request by former Vice President Dick Cheney that it make public documents that he said showed the effectiveness of using harsh interrogation methods on terrorism suspects…. – Reuters, 5-14-09
  • Obama to revive terror tribunals, with more rights: President Barack Obama will restart Bush-era military tribunals for a small number of Guantanamo detainees, reviving a fiercely disputed trial system he once denounced but with new legal protections for terror suspects, U.S. officials said Thursday. The military trials will remain frozen for another four months as the administration adjusts the legal system that is expected to try fewer than 20 of the 241 detainees currently at the U.S. naval detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Thirteen detainees — including five charged with helping orchestrate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — are already in the tribunal system…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • Obama administration to expand housing plan: The Obama administration expanded its $50 billion mortgage aid program on Thursday, announcing new measures that would help homeowners avoid a foreclosure if they don’t qualify for other assistance…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos: President Barack Obama declared Wednesday he would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners, abruptly reversing his position out of concern the pictures would “further inflame anti-American opinion” and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan…. – AP, 5-13-09
  • Bill Clinton Takes ‘Aim’ at Cheney’s Criticisms of Obama’s Foreign Policy: At a campaign event for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, former President Bill Clinton said he believes the country’s foreign policy is better off in the hands of the Obama administration. “I like this new approach. I think it will serve us well,” he said, referring to the administration’s diplomatic outreach to countries that were isolated by Bush officials…. – Fox News, 5-13-09
  • Republicans block Obama pick for Interior No. 2: Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s pick for the No. 2 job at the Interior Department on Wednesday in a dispute over oil and gas development on federal lands, but Democrats vowed they would soon make a second attempt to win confirmation. The 57-39 vote was three short of the 60 needed to advance David Hayes past Republican objections, and made him the first of Obama’s top-level nominees to be sidetracked on the Senate floor. – AP, 5-13-09
  • Obama, Dems press unified message on health care: The White House scrambled to unify Democrats behind a single health care appeal Wednesday — lower costs, plenty of choice — amid concerns Republicans could scare votes away with images of a ghastly system run by bureaucrats. A key senator pushed to enforce an offer from care providers to trim $2 trillion in costs over the next decade…. – AP, 5-13-09
  • Obama has more than 6 people for court: President Barack Obama is considering more than six contenders for the Supreme Court, a list dominated by women and Hispanics, including judges and leaders from own his administration who have never donned a judicial robe. Among those under consideration are Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Appeals Court judges Sonia Sotomayor and Diane Pamela Wood. California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno is also under review by Obama…. – AP, 5-13-09
  • Steele praises Romney after criticizing him: The head of the Republican Party said Tuesday he regrets the public interpretation of comments in which he said the GOP voted against Mitt Romney last year in part because he was a Mormon. “Chairman Steele regrets the way his comments have been interpreted,” Republican National Committee spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in a statement. “Chairman Steele believes Mitt Romney is a respected and influential voice in the Republican Party and looks to his leadership and ideas to help move our party and our nation in the right direction.”… – AP, 5-12-09
  • Sarah Palin’s book deal a done deal with HarperCollins: Word just in by snow machine that Alaska’s Republican Governor and most famous hockey mom Sarah Palin has signed a book deal with HarperCollins. She’ll have a collaborator but wants to write much of it herself for publication a year from now. The advance figure was not revealed, but safe to say given her celebrityhood and controversy and loyal advocates and venom-filled non-advocates, it’s significant. Certainly sufficient to buy a few winters’ worth of snow machine gas and oil…. – LAT, 5-12-09
  • Crist Senate bid seen as sign of resurgent GOP fortunes: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s announcement Tuesday that he will run for the Senate is being cast by Republicans as a sign that their political fortunes are turning with the emergence of a new crop of moderate voices lining up for 2010 races. “It’s a big tent with plenty of room for the Charlie Crists of this world,” said Ari Fleischer, a former White House press secretary, of the current state of the GOP…. – WaPo, 5-12-09
  • House Democrats Block Republican Effort to Force Ethics Inquiries of Several Lawmakers: The Republican resolution focused on a lobbying firm, PMA, which was raided by the FBI last year…. – Fox News, 5-12-09
  • Cheney Emerges as Defender-in-Chief for Bush Years, Says He Won’t ‘Roll Over’: Former Vice President Dick Cheney has taken an aggressive approach to his post-administration life, holding on to the spotlight in order to defend the Bush administration against criticism from the party in power…. – Fox News, 5-12-09
  • Senators weigh tax hikes to pay for health care: Senators are considering limiting — but not eliminating — the tax-free status of employer-provided health benefits to help pay for President Barack Obama’s plan to provide coverage to 50 million uninsured Americans…. – AP, 5-12-09
  • Social Security and Medicare finances worsen: Social Security and Medicare are fading even faster under the weight of the recession, heading for insolvency years sooner than previously expected, the government warned Tuesday…. – AP, 5-12-09
  • Reboot in Afghanistan: Gates replaces top general: Taking a cue from voters who elected a president promising a different approach, the Obama administration is replacing the general overseeing the war in Afghanistan with a commander who has special-forces experience. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a senior administrator with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take the place of Gen. David McKiernan once he is confirmed by the Senate. Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez will become McChrystal’s deputy with the Senate’s approval, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked be granted as soon as possible…. – AP, 5-12-09
  • US to borrow 46 cents for every dollar spent: The government will have to borrow nearly 50 cents for every dollar it spends this year, exploding the record federal deficit past $1.8 trillion under new White House estimates. Budget office figures released Monday would add $89 billion to the 2009 red ink — increasing it to more than four times last year’s all-time high as the government hands out billions more than expected for people who have lost jobs and takes in less tax revenue from people and companies making less money…. – AP, 5-11-09
  • Obama’s Push for Health Care Cuts Faces Daunting Odds: President Obama engineered a political coup on Monday by bringing leaders of the health care industry to the White House to build momentum for his ambitious health care agenda. Mr. Obama pronounced it “a historic day, a watershed event,” because doctors, hospitals, drug makers and insurance companies voluntarily offered $2 trillion in cost reductions over 10 years. The savings, he said, “will help us take the next and most important step — comprehensive health care reform.”… – NYT, 5-11-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President speaks at a town hall in New Mexico

White House Photo, 5/14/09, Chuck Kennedy

Credit Card Town Hall

At a town hall in New Mexico, the President emphasizes his commitment to signing the Credit Card Bill of Rights into law by Memorial Day.

Read the Remarks

The President discusses health care reform

Political Quotes

  • Pelosi: CIA misled her on waterboarding: “We were told that waterboarding was not being used,” the speaker said. “That’s the only mention, that they were not using it. And we now know that earlier they were.” She suggested the CIA release the briefing material…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER MEETING WITH HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP: ….In the coming weeks and months, I believe that the House and Senate will be engaged in a difficult issue, and I’m committed to building a transparent process to get this moving. But whatever plans emerge, both from the House and the Senate, I do believe that they’ve got to uphold three basic principles: first, that the rising cost of health care has to be brought down; second, that Americans have to be able to choose their own doctor and their own plan; and third, all Americans have to have quality, affordable health care…. – White House, 5-14-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN RIO RANCHO TOWN HALL ON CREDIT CARD REFORM: ….You should not have to worry that when you sign up for a credit card, you’re signing away all your rights. You shouldn’t need a magnifying glass or a law degree to read the fine print that sometimes don’t even appear to be written in English — or Spanish. (Applause.) And frankly, when you’re trying to navigate your way through this economy, you shouldn’t feel like you’re getting ripped off by “any time, any reason” rate hikes, and payment deadlines that seem to move around every month. That happen to anybody? You think you’re supposed to pay it this day, and suddenly — and it’s never on the end of the month where you’re paying all the rest of your bills, right? It’s like on the 19th. (Laughter.) All kinds of harsh penalties and fees that you never knew about.
    Enough is enough. It’s time for strong, reliable protections for our consumers. It’s time for reform — (applause) — it’s time for reform that’s built on transparency and accountability and mutual responsibility — values fundamental to the new foundation we seek to build for our economy…. – White House, 5-14-09
  • Obama urges Congress to act on credit card bill: President Barack Obama urged Congress on Thursday to quickly send him legislation ending abusive credit card practices. But his populist appeal also included a stern warning to shoppers whose eyes are bigger than their budgets.
    “There’s no doubt that people need to accept responsibility,” Obama said at a town hall-style appearance at a high school here. “This is not free money — it’s debt and you should not take on more than you can handle.”… “Banks are businesses too. So they have a right to insist that timely payments are made,” Obama said. “Those days are over,” he said. “This is America and we don’t begrudge a company’s success when that success is based on honest dealings with consumers,” Obama said. “We need reform to restore some sense of balance.”… “We didn’t agree on anything — everything — as you might imagine,” Obama said about the meeting, then laughing as he realized his verbal mistake. “That was a slip of the tongue,” he joked. “We didn’t agree on everything.” AP, 5-14-09
  • Treasury asks for control of derivatives market: “All (over-the-counter) derivatives dealers and all other firms whose activities in those markets create large exposures to counterparties should be subject to a robust regime of prudential supervision and regulation,” Geithner wrote in his letter. “Key elements of that robust regulatory regime must include conservative capital requirements, business conduct standards, reporting requirements and conservative requirements relating to initial margins on counterparty credit exposures.”…. – AP, 5-14-09
  • Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos: President Barack Obama declared Wednesday he would try to block the court-ordered release of photos showing U.S. troops abusing prisoners, abruptly reversing his position out of concern the pictures would “further inflame anti-American opinion” and endanger U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan…. He said the photos had already served their purpose in investigations of “a small number of individuals.” Those cases were all concluded by 2004, and the president said “the individuals who were involved have been identified, and appropriate actions have been taken.”… “This is not a situation in which the Pentagon has concealed or sought to justify inappropriate action,” Obama said of the photos. “In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti- American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.” – AP, 5-13-09
  • Obama say his, graduates’ best work ahead: “I come here not to dispute the suggestion that I haven’t yet achieved enough in my life,” Obama said. With a smile he added: “First of all, (first lady) Michelle (Obama) concurs with that assessment. She has a long list of things that I have not yet done waiting for me when I get home.” “But more than that I come to embrace the notion that I haven’t done enough in my life. I heartily concur,” the president said. “I come to affirm that one’s title, even a title like ‘president of the United States,’ says very little about how well one’s life has been led.” “I want to say to you today, graduates, class of 2009, that despite having achieved a remarkable milestone in your life — despite the fact that you and your families are so rightfully proud — you, too, cannot rest on your laurels. … Your own body of work is also yet to come,” the president said, wearing a black gown with red embellishments…. – AP, 5-13-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON REFORMING THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM TO REDUCE COSTS: And that’s what makes today’s meeting so remarkable — because it’s a meeting that might not have been held just a few years ago. The groups who are here today represent different constituencies with different sets of interests. They’ve not always seen eye to eye with each other or with our government on what needs to be done to reform health care in this country. In fact, some of these groups were among the strongest critics of past plans for comprehensive reform.
    But what’s brought us all together today is a recognition that we can’t continue down the same dangerous road we’ve been traveling for so many years; that costs are out of control; and that reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait. It’s a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise, who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the ’90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America….
    Ultimately, the debate about reducing costs — and the larger debate about health care reform itself — is not just about numbers; it’s not just about forms or systems; it’s about our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. And I understand that. As I’ve mentioned before during the course of the campaign, my mother passed away from ovarian cancer a little over a decade ago. And in the last weeks of her life, when she was coming to grips with her own mortality and showing extraordinary courage just to get through each day, she was spending too much time worrying about whether her health insurance would cover her bills. So I know what it’s like to see a loved one who is suffering, but also having to deal with a broken health care system. I know that pain is shared by millions of Americans all across this country. WH Blog, 5-11-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President speaks at a town hall in New Mexico

White House Photo, 5/14/09, Chuck Kennedy

Credit Card Town Hall

At a town hall in New Mexico, the President emphasizes his commitment to signing the Credit Card Bill of Rights into law by Memorial Day.

Read the Remarks

The President discusses health care reform

Health Care Reform July 31st

The President and the House of Representatives set a target of July 31st for passage. The President sends his first White House email to spread the news.
Sign Up for Email Updates

Chart of health care cost savings

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: News can outlast newspapers”: Last week, Sen. John Kerry convened a discussion of the troubled state of journalism in America by way of a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.
    In Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts, the Boston Globe is barely surviving. Several major metro papers have closed down, and there are indications that many more could soon follow. Experts have been warning in recent months that much of the newspaper industry may not survive.
    While the end of the metro newspaper would constitute a huge blow to journalism and the political system, realistically there might be nothing that we can do. The popularity of news on the Web and the potential of mobile devices such as the Kindle makes it difficult to see how we can sustain news in print — unless electronic delivery can produce enough revenue to support the cost of newspaper staffs.
    Sometimes technological innovations and consumer preferences cause changes that are irreversible. The industry has seen other important shifts in the way that Americans receive their news, such as the advent of television news in the 1950s and 1960s.
    But the real issue is not whether we can save the newspapers, but how we can create the best Internet news system possible. As Kerry said in his opening statement: “There also is the important question of whether online journalism will sustain the values of professional journalism, the way the newspaper industry has.”…
    The Internet can also combine written news with video and audio sources, as well as disseminate stories through social networking sites. Readers have the opportunities to interact with reporters and comment on stories.
    The death of the metro newspaper would be a huge loss. But rather than only focusing on lament, our best response would be to make the new medium of Internet news as strong as it can possibly be.
    We must address the major challenges by developing sites with the resources to edit, insisting on venues where the pursuit of objectivity remains a goal, and cultivating sites that help bring together different subject matter. If we do, the technological transition that we are living through can turn into a positive moment of advance for the media rather than a moment of decline. – CNN, 5-11-09

April 23-30, 1968: Columbia University Students Stage a Strike

HNN, 4-29-08


On this day in history…April 23-30, 1968 leftist students took over Columbia University, NYC occupying five buildings on the campus before forcibly being removed by the police.

This year marks the fortieth anniversary of one of the most turbulent years in modern American history. The year was just beginning and yet as early as Aprils it was already volatile. Opposition to the Vietnam War was at an all time high, so much so that President Lyndon Johnson chose not to run for another presidential term. Just a few weeks before Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated, and student protests raged across the country’s universities, peaking in April 1968 with the stand off at Columbia University. According to historian Jeffrey Meyers, the protests “took place during a volatile and often explosive period in American history: between the Berkeley Free Speech Movement (September 1964) and the student riots in Paris, May 1968, between the assassinations of Martin Luther King in Memphis, April 4, 1968 and of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles, June 5, 1968, between the March on the Pentagon, October 1967 and the bloody protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, August 1968, between the Tet Offensive February 1968 and the My Lai Massacre, March 1968, and the escalating protest against the war in Vietnam.” (Myers, 2003) On April 23, leftist students began a strike at the university, which lasted eight days, culminating in a riot in the early hours of April 30 when the police busted the students.

Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at Columbia University

In 1962 Tom Hayden, a twenty-one year old student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor created the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Along with other student activists at the university, they wrote out the Port Huron Statement, the organization’s statement of principles. In only two years, there were 40 SDS chapters on university campuses. Among the organization’s purposes was educating their fellow students about “the evils of capitalism, the plight of blacks, and the perfidies of the military-industrial complex.” (McCaughey, 427) In 1965, as the US was going on the offense in Vietnam, SDS turned its attention to the war.

On March 10, 1965, Columbia University established the fifty-second chapter of SDS, led by Ted Kaptchuck and Dave Gilbert. In its first few months, the chapter focused its attention on building its membership, which included campus radicals and sympathetic faculty, and trying to determine what the relationship was between the university and the country’s defense establishment. (McCaughey, 427) There were other leftist student groups at Columbia including the Columbia Citizenship Council (CCC), organized in 1959 with a mission to help the local community. Most of the University’s chaplains sympathized or supported the leftist groups.

During the revolt a majority of students supported neither the protesters nor the counter protesters. As Robert A. McCaughey writes in his account, “The students who joined SDS, CCC, and anti-war groups and who became sufficiently persuaded of the complicity of the university in the perpetuation of whatever evil they were protesting to move to shut it down were a minority in a minority.” McCaughey, 428 Columbia University had 20,000 students at the time, 6,000 of whom were undergraduates. By comparison, the radical organizations on campus boasted just three hundred members, with another seven hundred more providing moral support. SDS had just fifty members with another hundred supporters. The majority of the student activists were undergraduates. McCaughey, 428

Leading up to the Revolt: SDS Protests 1965-1967

Student protests against the university’s authority commenced in the spring of 1965. The university took minimal actions against the protesters to minimize media attention. University President Grayson Kirk believed the best policy was to keep the disruptions to a minimum, which would have worked, according to McCaughey, “had student protesters wanted immunity in exchange for not directly challenging the president’s disciplinary authority. But it was precisely the latter that the protesters wanted.” (McCaughey, 431) The students primarily opposed military-related recruiters on campus including the NROTC, the Marine Corps, the CIA and Dow Chemical (which supplied Agent Orange for the Vietnam War).

The university’s patience was tested in the spring of 1967 when CIA and Marine Corps recruiters came to the campus sparking anti-war protests. Two incidents prompted President Kirk to ban all indoor demonstrations for the next academic year. By the fall of 1967, SDS seemed to be losing momentum. The majority of Columbia’s students opposed the protests, SDS could not forge alliances with other leftist groups, and the groups were divided by internal battles. The student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, noted on October 30, 1967 that the tactics of SDS were ineffective.

The Three Issues at the Center of the Revolt

There were three central issues behind the revolt with two factions merging together for a common goal; opposition to the university’s administration. The first issue was Columbia University’s proposed expansion into Harlem. The university was planning to build a new gymnasium on city park property in Morningside Heights bordering Harlem. Both Columbia students and local residents would be using the gym; however, they would use separate entrances. Although Harlem civic organizations approved the project, militants objecting to the use of separate entrances, claiming this was an example of blatant racism. (Meyers, 2003) African-American students from the Students’ African-American Society (SAS) and the CCC protested the expansion, calling the new building “Gym Crow.”

At SDS there was a power struggle between Ted Kaptchuk, who wanted to focus on membership, recruitment, and education (what critics referred to as the “praxis axis”) and Mark Rudd, who was more interested in “direct confrontation with authorities.” (McCaughey, 437) Rudd, a junior who had just returned from an extended trip to Cuba, believed in participatory democracy. On March 13, 1968, Rudd was elected chairman of the Columbia SDS chapter on the slogan: “How to get the SDS Moving Again and Screw the University All in One Fell Swoop.” (McCaughey, 437) Rudd was unpopular with many. Columbia’s faculty disliked his arrogance, and those on the radical left objected to his suburban New Jersey upbringing, his athletic country club good looks and his male chauvinism. Tom Hayden described Rudd as “absolutely committed to an impossible yet galvanizing dream: that of transforming the entire student movement through this particular student revolt, into a successful effort to bring down the system.” But Hayden also described Rudd as “sarcastic and smugly dogmatic.” (McCaughey, 437)

Another of the issues that preoccupied radical students was the university’s often secret involvement and affiliation with the Institute of Defense Analysis. (Conlin, 284) The IDA did not issue contracts, but affiliated universities got preferential treatment from agencies that did. Columbia’s involvement with the IDA was common knowledge. What was not known, however, was the extent of the university’s military research. Columbia’s Institute of East European Studies was accumulating economic data for the CIA, while faculty members may have been conducting some contract research. The news came as a surprise to the university community. SDS was firmly committed to convincing the university to disengage itself from the IDA, and in March 1968, around 1,700 Columbia students signed a petition urging the university to break its affiliation as had other universities such as the University of Chicago.

The third issue was the university’s crackdown on the protesters, though this was slow to materialize. In February when two hundred students protested against Dow Chemical recruiters on campus, they went unpunished, as did Mark Rudd a few weeks later when he shoved a lemon meringue pie in the face of the visiting New York City director of Selective Service. But when at the end of March Rudd and a hundred members of SDS staged a new protest at Low Library six of the group’s leaders were identified and put on probation. Immediately the gym issue became relevant, and SDS students began protesting the disciplinary action, declaiming: “No disciplinary action against the Low Six.” (McCaughey, 440) The students claimed their constitutional rights had been violated.

Spring 1968 Events Leading up to the Campus Revolt

In early 1968, the tension that had been mounting around the country’s campuses had “reached a fever pitch.” (Davis, 39) The primary reasons were the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson’s announcement that he would not seek another term, and Martin Luther King’s assassination. SDS saw Johnson’s announcement as a reason to distrust all US institutions including the university administration. As Kirkpatrick Sale explains: “April began the escalation of student resistance that would mark this spring as the most explosive period up to that time in the history of American universities.” (Sale, 429) Columbia’s SDS protest coincided with the Tens Days of Resistance, a massive demonstration against the Vietnam War on campuses all over the country. Fifty colleges and universities participated. On the campuses there were “rallies, marches, teach-ins, and sit-ills, climaxing in a one-day ‘student strike’ on April 26.” As Sale writes, “It was a demonstration of significant proportions — probably as many as a million students stayed away from classes … and yet somehow its impact on the public was slight.” (Sale, 429)

It was the memorial for Martin Luther King, Jr. at Columbia that made the April riots all but inevitable. One of the chaplains at Columbia, John D. Cannon, believed there should be a memorial service. President Kirk and Provost David Truman were not invited until they heard about the plan and insisted on participating. Their presence prompted the SAS not to attend. Held on April 9, the service was well-attended, and was going smoothly until Mark Rudd came to the pulpit while Truman was speaking and “proceeded to declare the service an ‘obscenity’ given Columbia’s systematic mistreatment of blacks and workers King had lost his life championing.” (McCaughey, 441)

Afterwards Rudd left the chapel with forty other students; the walkout shocked the faculty and administration in attendance. The administration was unable to take disciplinary action against Rudd because Chaplain Cannon essentially blessed Rudd’s action by claiming “that St. Paul’s welcomed the views of anyone ‘who sincerely believes he is moved by the spirit.'” (McCaughey, 441) Although it appalled history Professor Fritz Stern, who caught Rudd before he departed and told him “his actions in the chapel were akin to the takeover of Socialist meetings by Nazis in Weimar Germany.” (McCaughey, 441) As McCaughey claims, “This would not be the last time this analogy was invoked in the weeks that followed.” (McCaughey, 441)

SDS found what they believed was a legitimate excuse to protest the administration. SDS adopted the race issue and the gym as their own, and on April 12, the chapter’s steering committee voted to mount demonstrations throughout the spring in protest of the gym and the university’s connections with the Pentagon “war machine.” Then on April 17 at the SDS general assembly, nearly a hundred students voted in favor of spring demonstrations. April 23 was set as the day for the first day of the protest, which would begin with a noontime rally at the sundial in front of the Low Library. Rudd’s mastermind planning included two pre-protest steps to “assure a crowd at the sundial.” (McCaughey, 441) In a letter entitled “Letter to Uncle Grayson” on April 19 Rudd “listed three nonnegotiable demands that SDS had settled on: the cessation of gym construction; Columbia’s withdrawal from the IDA; and no disciplinary action against the Low Six.” (McCaughey, 441) Rudd also began negotiating with other student groups to embrace their issues of concern. According to McCaughey, this “marked a new departure for SAS, which until now had avoided involvement in any campus issues that were not directly related to the circumstances of black students.” (McCaughey, 441)

Although the Ten Days of Resistance was according to Sale “the largest student strike in the history of the country,” it was dwarfed by the sheer size of the Columbia strike, which dominated the press. The media made it seem as if other universities were copying Columbia. (Sale, 429) Over a million students participated in the nationwide strike on April 26. The next day there was a huge anti-war rally in Central park with eighty-seven thousand attending. Still the eight-day saga at Columbia unfolded in the media and stood out in the minds of many as the ultimate student protest. (Davis, 41)

April 23, 1968: Day One

On April 23, 1968 at noon the SDS, CCC, SAS and the university’s black students joined at the sundial in a protest that drew more than a thousand students. (Davis, 39) The SDS and SAS demonstrated at Columbia’s Low Library, but decided they needed to take a more active approach. The groups wanted to get into the Low Library to confront President Kirk, but counter-protesters, the anti-SDS–Students Columbia 1968 JPGfor a Free Campus–blocked the front entrance and the building’s rear entrance was locked. Mark Rudd tried to take charge, using a bullhorn to organize the students. Someone spontaneously suggested the group exit to the grounds of the proposed gymnasium. At the gym site, they were prevented from entering by the police and one student was arrested. As a result, SDS’s main grievance shifted to the student that had just been arrested. Rudd wanted to organize “a democratic decision-making event, proposing a future student strike.” (Boren, 174) However, when someone suggested regrouping again at the sundial the frustrated group moved again.

But instead of moving to the sundial they went to the lobby of Hamilton Hall. It was there that Rudd gained leadership control of the protest, suggesting that the protesters “take a hostage and occupy Hamilton Hall, the main classroom building of Columbia.” (Boren, 174) Their chosen hostage was the university’s interim Dean Henry Coleman, who had not left the building after 6 P.M. in the evening when the majority of the students and faculty had already left. The protesters held him in his office for 24 hours. Coleman was an agreeable hostage, partially because he was treated well by his captors: “We had more food than we could possibly eat.” (Davis, 40)

Although the protests had started off haphazardly, the students began organizing themselves. Rudd acted as the leader, and “appointed a steering committee.” (Boren, 174) The students began drafting their demands to the university, and organized a stand off with the authorities. They also set about posting all over the interior of the building Che Guevara posters and political slogans. (Boren, 174) As Meyers reports, the students “took their revolutionary style and dress, their beards and berets, from Che Guevara” and seemed, as “Dupee wrote, ‘to unite the politics of a guerrilla chieftain with the aesthetic flair of a costumer and an interior decorator.’ ” (Meyers, 2003) Hamilton Hall became a closed occupation and several dozen armed black activists were invited. (McCaughey, 443)

The students made six demands. The first two were the withdrawal from the IDA and a moratorium on building the gym. The others included the right to stage indoor demonstrations, the establishment of open hearings on student discipline, the dropping of charges against the student arrested at the first demonstration, and the granting of amnesty for past, present, and immediate future acts of the protesters. (Colin, 287)

April 24, 1968: Day Two

On April 24, the second day of the revolt the two factions broke ranks, the black students no longer wanting to collaborate with the white ones, and kicked them out of the building. The dynamic changed at midnight, when the SAS voted “that an ongoing occupation of Hamilton–now dubbed Malcolm X Liberation College–should be a blacks only project.” (McCaughey, 444) Although Rudd and SDS were shocked, they agreed to leave. The black students began fortifying the building against a possible police attack and they took over keeping Coleman hostage. (Boren, 174-175) The white students not knowing what to do, took up the suggestion by one of the black students to “Get your own building.” (McCaughey, 444) Rudd, SDSers and white student protesters chose to take over the Low Library, and particularly make their headquarters in President Grayson Kirk’s office. They easily took over the building almost uncontested in the early morning hours. Soon however, there were rumblings that the police were approaching, prompting Rudd and other SDS leaders to jump from the window. The remaining twenty-five students remained there Columbia 1968 JPGunchallenged for the next six days, with many others joining. Rudd wanted to occupy other buildings, but SDSers voted against it fearing it would scare away support, prompting Rudd to briefly resign his post.

The administration made its headquarters in the unoccupied part of Low Library, and although President Kirk wanted to call in the police and resolve the strike quickly, Provost Truman opposed such action. The administration feared the black students would incite residents in Harlem and was cautious in dealing with them. Support grew rapidly for the strike with students taking over other buildings on campus. Students opposed to the strike “began marching on the city campus” and tried to retake Hamilton Hall, without success. (Boren, 175) (McCaughey, 444)

April 25, 1968: Day Three

Day Three ended with graduate students taking over Fayweather Hall. However the most important event of the day was the faculty’s decision to try to resolve the strike. The faculty made their headquarters in Philosophy 301 where they convened an emergency meeting. Daniel Bell offered the most popular resolution, which called for the students to vacate the occupied buildings and a tripartite committee consisting of faculty, students, and the administration to decide on appropriate disciplinary action. He ended by claiming, “We believe that any differences have to be settled peacefully and we trust that police action will not be used to clear university buildings.” (McCaughey, 447) The SAS released Dean Coleman, and he joined the meeting that almost unanimously endorsed Bell’s proposal.

Kirk and Truman were not as supportive. President Kirk announced that classes were canceled until Monday, and Provost Truman told the faculty the police might need to be called in. In response the faculty created the Ad Hoc Faculty Group (AHFG), which would insert itself between the police and the students.

The students were for the most part were unwilling to work with the faculty. The university hoped to end the stand off by announcing that construction on the gymnasium would stop. But things remained at an impasse for four days. The students demanded amnesty for those involved in the revolt, while the administration resisted, fearful that amnesty would give students an incentive to stage another strike later. (Boren, 175)

The day also marked the occupation of another building, after students in Fayerweather considered abandoning their occupation, hard-line SDSers moved on to Mathematics Hall. Later it would be the scene of the most radical protests. National radical leaders came to the campus to endorse the plight of their local chapters. Black Power leaders Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee also came into to speak with the African-American students occupying Hamilton Hall.

April 26, 1968: Day Four

Faculty members were staying round the clock at Philosophy Hall, but in the early morning Provost Truman warned that the faculty must leave. The administration called in the police “to secure the campus,” and plainclothes policemen scuffled with faculty members at the building. (Boren, 175) Still President Kirk decided to withhold widespread police action, holding out the hope that the AHFG could work out a compromise. A break seemed in sight after a meeting with SDS leadership; Rudd agreed to meet on the next day, Saturday, with AHFG at Philosophy 301.

April 27, 1968: Day Five

AHFG was willing to offer Rudd full amnesty for the protesters at the meeting, but he exclaimed, “Bullshit,” and left. Day Five also saw the appearance of national SDS leaders including Tom Hayden, who held control over one building. (Boren, 175) Counter protesters tried to stop food from being delivered to those involved in the strike. Other strike supporters served as supply blockaders around the occupied buildings.

A routine set in on campus. With the exception of those in Hamilton, protesters moved in and out of the buildings easily. The protesters made themselves comfortable inside the five buildings they were occupying. As Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin write, “protesters slept in the president’s office, smoked his cigars, drank his sherry, and rifled through his files for politically incriminating documents…. Life inside the ‘liberated’ buildings was tense but passionate, sleepless yet amusing.” (Isserman, 229)

On day five even a marriage took place between two of the protesters, Richard Eagan and Andrea Boroff, who recalled, “We went out on the balcony, and the [university] chaplain proclaimed us children of a new age. There were flowers. There was cake. They took us out and marched us around campus with people banging on pots and pans. . . . Someone had keys to a faculty office and they gave us a honeymoon suite.” (Isserman, 229) The day ended with a rally: “The effective united front among all the variety of SDSers was neatly symbolized on Saturday night, when three SDS leaders addressed a crowd of antiwar marchers who collected outside the university gates: Mark Rudd, Ted Kaptchuk, and Tom Hayden, ” as Sale recounted. Sale, 437, 438

April 28, 1968: Day Six

The calm peace was about to turn violent. On Sunday the AHFG, consisting of sociology Professors Immmanuel Wallerstein, Daniel Bell, Allan Silver, history Professors David J. Rothman and Robert Fogelson and economics Professor Peter Kenen, drew up the “Bitter Pill Resolutions”:

  1. Cancellation of the gym construction.
  2. Columbia’s withdrawal from the IDA
  3. Establishment of the principle of collective punishment for the building occupiers
  4. The disavowal by the faculty of either party, students or administration, that refused to accept these resolutions. (McCaughey, 452)

The faculty involved with AHFG voted in favor of the resolutions, but when Kenen and Bell presented them to Provost Truman, he asked them not to present them at the joint faculty meeting or he would resign. At the meeting 400 members of the faculty from the university’s six schools decided to take a centrist position, neither repudiating their president nor abandoning the students. (McCaughey, 453) Meanwhile outside of Low, the power struggle between strikers and counter protesters increased, reaching a boiling point as the anti-protesters circled the building, blocking the delivery of food. The scene, featuring strikers precariously balanced on window ledges, was famously captured by Life magazine in an iconic photograph.

Columbia 1968 JPG

April 29, 1968: Day Seven

Day seven was make or break in the strike and became known as “the day of decision.” Desperate to resolve the matter, the administration told the police to prepare to remove the students in the next 24 hours if they would not agree to end the strike. The intervention would take place in the early morning hours. This detail was kept from AHFG. President Kirk was open to considering the “bitter pill” resolutions, but the university’s trustees wanted changes made. (McCaughey, 455) The protesters’ reaction to the resolutions showed that police action was inevitable. The SDS’s Strike Coordinating Committee refused to compromise without a guarantee of amnesty. Hamilton Hall protesters also refused to go along. Only the Majority Coalition accepted the resolutions, and after one last skirmish with Low’s food suppliers, they vacated their barrier to the building.

April 30, 1968: Day Eight

Eight days into the stand-off there was no solution in sight. The two groups could not meet in agreement, and university officials were concerned that the confrontation was only escalating. As Boren writes: “With major facilities of the campus held by student radicals, a growing national interest in the students’ revolt, and the threat that residents of Harlem might decide to intervene, President Kirk gave the police permission to remove the students on April 30, eight days into the occupation.” (Boren, 175) It was the only way to end the stalemate. The administration, the police, and Mayor Lindsay feared that despite an attempt to remove the students quietly, there would be a riot. It was this fear that had prolonged the strike for so long. One of the mayor’s advisers, Barry Gottehrer, who had watched the proceedings develop since early on in the strike, believed police action could “result in a massacre.” (McCaughey, 456) Mayor Lindsay looked for advice from Yale’s President Kingman Brewster, who told him, “the very future of the American university depended on punishing the strikers.” (McCaughey, 456) His advice helped persuade the mayor to allow the police to move in.

In making that decision, the university administration was giving up its right to control the situation, leaving the police in charge. Provost Truman claimed afterward: “It was like deciding to take an airplane ride and having to leave everything in the air to the pilot.” (McCaughey, 456) The police intended to clear each building one at a time. A thousand police officers were sent in to remove the approximately 1200 students. Police would enter unarmed and the removed students would be transported in vans to jail and booked. Many things could go wrong and ultimately they did. Outside, students and faculty could attempt to stop the police from entering, and inside the officers would be dealing with uncooperative students. It was the perfect recipe for an eventual riot.

At 2:00 A.M. police officers entered the campus to break up the revolt. James Kirkpatrick Davis says the “assault by officers” lasted “nearly to dawn.” (Davis, 41) The first building emptied out was Hamilton Hall; the black students holding the facility had agreed in advance to leave peaceably. Fifteen minutes later the eighty-six protesters were escorted out of the front entrance. The second building emptied was Low Library, at 2:25 A.M. When the police entered they met only passive resistance; ninety-three students were arrested. As one student recounted: “We all gave passive resistance and were dragged out–heads were banged, clothes were torn, some people were bleeding. Nothing serious though.” (McCaughey, 457) Avery Hall was next at 2:30 A.M. After students refused to leave the police broke down the door. Inside they encountered some resistance and both students and police officers received minor injuries; forty-two students were arrested.

With each building the resistance escalated, and it became more difficult to remove the protesters. Fayerweather Hall was the next building the police entered at 2:45 A.M. There the police encountered faculty and students who stood in their path in front of the doors. In the scuffle history Professor James Shenton received a head wound. The injuries continued to mount inside as students resisted the police; 286 students were forcibly removed. The last building was the Mathematics Hall, which was the most difficult to clear. It was there that the most radical students, SDSers, and Mark Rudd, were hold up. The lights were turned off, leaving the police in the dark. Students poured liquid soap all over the stairs to hinder the officers’ access. Students resisted removal and were taken out by force and injured in the process. They threw “bottles, flashlight batteries, furniture and anything else they could get their hands on at the oncoming police.” (Davis, 41) They could get violent, “biting, scratching, punching and even kicking police officers.” (Davis, 41) Stairwells and halls were barricaded with broken furniture, and even a janitor was thrown down a staircase to stop the police from advancing. (Davis, 41) In the end, 203 students were removed. In a little over an hour, all of the buildings were cleared of 711 strikers: 239 were from Columbia, 111 from Barnard, and the rest from other university/college campuses. Three faculty members were arrested. (Davis, 41)

Columbia 1968 JPG

The removal process was far more peaceful than many had feared with only 148 injuries, most of them minor. One police officer suffered a permanent back injury in the process. However, as observers, students, faculty, and families on the South Field were watching students being placed in the vans, a call went out from officers in the vans to other police on campus. It was then that the police came charging at the crowd, and riots and violence commenced. As McCaughey recounts: “A phalanx of police charged the spectators in the South Field, forcing them to retreat south and west until they were backed up against Ferris Booth Hall and Butler Library.” The gates were locked and the crowd could not escape the police. That was where the worst confrontations and violence occurred. As Peter Kenen observed: “Even those of us who were intellectually ready for police action were not emotionally ready for what we saw.” (McCaughey, 459) As Davis states, “the New York Police Department received the highest number of complaints ever received for a single police action. This was also the largest police action in the history of American Universities.” (Davis, 42) In the process, the police injured hundreds of students and faculty, and arrested hundreds more. The day would be remembered as the Battle of Morningside Heights. (Boren, 175)

The Aftermath

When the stand-off was finally over seven days later on April 30, 1968 Columbia’s president Grayson Kirk went into his office at 4:30 A.M. to survey the damage. Protesters had placed a sign on his window ledge that read “LIBERATED AREA. BE FREE TO JOIN US.” (Davis, 39) The state of the office surprised Kirk and the police officer who accompanied him. Kirk wondered, “My God, how could human beings do a thing like this?” The officer exclaimed, “The whole world is in these books. How could they do this to these books?” (Davis, 39) Provost Truman wondered: “Do you think they will know why we had to do this, to call in the police? Will they know what we went through before we decided?” (Davis, 39)

The university remained closed for the next week. Meanwhile, student radicals and SDS planned their next protests. For the rest of the term the students essentially remained on strike. (Boren, 175) On May 21 the students “placed a poster in Ferris Booth Hall which warned of ‘Showdown No. 2.'” (Davis, 42) They also distributed flyers that claimed: “Can an administration, which helps make weapons for Vietnam, steals people’s land and homes discipline anyone?” (Davis, 42) May 22, 1968 marked the second showdown, a much more violent revolt than the April strike. Students occupied Hamilton Hall again, and the more radical among the protesters set fires to parts of the campus. With this revolt, the administration wasted no time and called in the police.

Again, a thousand police officers were called to campus, and the confrontation turned violent. As Davis reports, the police “were in no mood to be pushed around by rowdy college students. Students threw bricks, rocks, and bottles at the lawmen. The police gave no quarter. It was a bloody, wild fight.” (Davis, 42) As with the last strike, the police forced back the crowds that had assembled to watch. Two hundred students were arrested. In a final revolt, that academic year in June students and faculty “dramatically marched out of Columbia’s official commencement ceremonies and held a counter-commencement exercise, officiated by former Sarah Lawrence College President Harold Taylor.” (Boren, 176)

Many of the liberal students at Columbia wanted to reform and restructure the university; many of the students’ demands were met to accomplish this. The university wanted to move on from the strikes, and in August President Kirk resigned, another marker of change that pleased the students. With the changes, SDS lost its less radical liberal advocates. (Boren, 176) Dick Greeman, an SDS veteran and one of the few Columbia faculty members that unconditionally supported the radicals wrote them: “To student rebels, allies must be sought in the black ghettos and in the ranks of labor, not on campus. It means that ‘a free university’ will only exist after we have won a ‘free society’ ” (Sale 440, 441) Many of the radicals left the university after that spring, while others were suspended for the most destructive actions, including Mark Rudd, who soon became the leader of the violent radical group, the Weather Underground.

The events at Columbia radicalized the student movement. The SDS’s slogan of “two, three, many Columbias” inspired radical students all across the country. As Boren explains, “The incident immediately ignited a number of student power demonstrations on campuses throughout the United States, fueled more by antiestablishment sentiments than by specific attainable goals.” (Boren, 176) Rudd later admitted that the stated reasons for the revolt at Columbia were just an excuse to challenge authority. “We just manufactured the issues…. The gym issue is bull. It doesn’t mean anything to anybody.” (Meyers, 2003) As Sale observes: “Conservative critics were right, for the wrong reasons, when they argued that if the university had given in on these demands the radicals would have found three others just as urgent; or, in the words of a famous Berkeley slogan, ‘The issue is not the issue.’ ” (Sale, 435)

Sources and Further Reading

Mark Edelman Boren, Student Resistance: A History of the Unruly Subject, (Routledge, 2001).

Joseph Conlin, The Troubles: A Jaundiced Glance Back at the Movement of the Sixties, (Watts, 1982).

James Kirkpatrick Davis, Assault on the Left: The FBI and the Sixties Antiwar Movement, (Greenwood, 1997).

Maurice Isserman and Michael Kazin, America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s, (Oxford University Press, 2000).

Michael J. Lewis, “Activism & Architecture: A Tale of Two Cities,” New Criterion, Volume: 16. Issue: 10, June 1998.

Robert A. McCaughey, Stand, Columbia: A History of Columbia University in the City of New York, (Columbia University Press, 2003).

Jeffrey Meyers, “Lionel Trilling & the Crisis at Columbia,” New Criterion, Vol. 21, January 2003.

Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS, (Vintage Books, 1974).

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