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


Canada in Focus:

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

The Headlines…

Scott Olson/Getty Images

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

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office:

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

Political Quotes

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

Historians’ Comments

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