February 24, 2009: President Barack Obama’s Address to the Joint Session of Congress

If you are looking for commentary on President Obama’s State of the Union Address see: January 27, 2010: President Obama Gives First State of the Union Address

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The U.S. Capitol building

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Borger: Have we seen too much Obama?: President Obama has made his priorities very clear: health care, energy and education. The speech is more like a standard State of the Union address — with an added element of extreme urgency, given the fiscal crisis. If it somehow seems that we have heard this before from Obama, it’s because we have. Which raises the question: have we been seeing him too much? – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Poll: Positive Reception For Obama Address: Seventy-nine percent of speech watchers approve of President Obama’s plans for dealing with the economic crisis. Before the speech, 62 percent approved. – CBS News, 2-24-09
  • Obama’s poll numbers after first month? Eh. He’s average: Washington Post/ABC News poll: President Barack Obama scores a 68 percent approval rating. At this stage in his presidency, that number is about average.
    Partisan breakdown: How is Obama doing in this age of post-partisanship? Some 90 percent of Democrats approve of Obama’s first month, compared to 37 percent of Republicans.
    Uniter, not a divider: A full 73 percent of Americans believe Obama is trying to work with Republicans. Only 34 percent believe the GOP is working with Obama.
    Gallup Poll: Job approval numbers are similar to the Wash Post/ABC poll. But they note Obama’s disapproval rating has doubled from from 12 percent to 24 percent. – CS Monitor, 2-24-09
  • Obama tops Jesus in new poll. Reagan 4th, God 11th: America’s Top Heroes. Rounding out the top ten is Martin Luther King, Jr., Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, U.S. Airways pilot Chesley Sullenberger, and Mother Teresa. Other notables include God (11), Hillary Clinton (12), Gandhi (15), and Sarah Palin (21). – CS Monitor, 2-22-09
  • Times/CBS News Poll: Michelle Obama’s Appeal: Overall, 49 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the first lady, just 5 percent view her unfavorably and 44 percent don’t yet have an opinion. – NYT, 2-24-09

THE HEADLINES….

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress.

The Headlines…

  • A message of help and hope: President Obama reassured a nervous nation Tuesday night that his administration will continue to respond aggressively to the economic crisis and still pursue broad reforms in areas such as health care, energy and education. In his first address to Congress, the new president balanced candor about the deep recession with optimism for a long-term agenda that would be ambitious even in good times. It was an impressive performance and a powerful reminder that America’s challenges stretch beyond the daily stock market swings and grim reports of job losses, home foreclosures and bankruptcies. – St. Petersberg Times, 2-24-09
  • Obama says US will survive ‘day of reckoning’: Standing before a nation on an economic precipice, President Barack Obama told worried Americans Tuesday night the U.S. has reached a dire “day of reckoning” that will require boldness and long-term vision to create lasting revival and prosperity. – AP, 2-25-09
  • Analysis: Obama address renews audacity to hope: President Barack Obama gave America the audacity to hope again. After describing the U.S. economy in nearly apocalyptic terms for weeks, pushing his $787 billion stimulus plan through Congress, the president used his address to Congress on Tuesday night to tap the deep well of American optimism — the never-say-die spirit that every president tries to capture in words. And great presidents embody.
    “We will rebuild. We will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before,” Obama said, echoing Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. “The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach,” Obama said. “What is required now is for this country is to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.” – AP, 2-24-09
  • Obama Assures Nation: ‘We Will Rebuild’: President Obama urged the nation on Tuesday to see the economic crisis as reason to raise its ambitions, calling for expensive new efforts to address energy, health care and education programs even as he warned that more money might be needed to bail out banks. – NYT, 2-24-09
  • Obama: High School Education Not Enough: President Obama calls on all Americans to commit to at least one year of higher education or career training.
    “So tonight I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training,” Obama said. “This can be a community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.” – Fox News, 2-24-09
  • Live Blog: Obama’s Address to CongressNYT, 2-24-09
  • Obama insight: Being realistic on economy maintains credibility: The new president was keeping with a longstanding tradition on days when the commander in chief delivers an address to a joint session of Congress: Around the table Tuesday sat television anchors and the Sunday morning interview program hosts and two senior aides. The location was the dining room in the White House residence… – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Confident Obama does just one practice session: President Obama apparently buys into that old slogan about never letting ’em see you sweat. Despite the pressure of his first speech to a joint session of Congress at a time of national crisis, two senior aides tell me the President quietly had only one full dress rehearsal with a teleprompter at about 6pm ET in the White House’s historic map room. – CNN, 2-24-09
  • First Lady’s Guests Reflect Themes of the Speech: Seated in Michelle Obama’s box on Tuesday night were living symbols of the ideas in President Obama’s first speech to a joint session of Congress, including a bank executive, Leonard Abess, who shared a vast fortune with his employees, and an eighth-grade student from South Carolina, Ty’Sheoma Bethea, who in a letter had urged Congress not to neglect education financing. NYT, 2-24-09
  • White House reveals first lady’s guests: The White House has announced the names of the more than two dozen guests who will join first lady Michelle Obama at the president’s address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. The list includes a range of political supporters, good Samaritans, members of the military, students, and citizens adversely affected by the nations flailing economy… – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Lunch offers insight into Obama’s thinking: When the waiter reached for the plate, President Obama shook his head and smiled as he asked for a few more minutes. He had been talking to his guests, and had barely taken a bite of his lunch. The new president was keeping with a longstanding tradition on days when the commander in chief delivers an address to a joint session of Congress: Around the table Tuesday sat television anchors and the Sunday morning interview program hosts and two senior aides. The location was the dining room in the White House residence…. – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Obama address: Hearing from the opposing party: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will give the Republican response to Pres. Obama’s speech Tuesday night. The first official “response” to the State of the Union by the opposing party was delivered by Republicans Sen. Everett Dirksen and Rep. Gerald Ford in 1966. Each television network offered a half-hour slot for response time, although the slots were not “roadblocked” (i.e. did not air at the same time on all networks), and did not air immediately after the President’s address – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Obama address: Obama to make history with speech: President Obama will become the first African American in history to address a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. Although a number of prominent black officials from around the globe, including Nelson Mandela in 1990 and 1994 and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2006, have addressed Congress in the past, no African American has ever been tapped to address both houses of Congress from the chamber of the House of Representatives, as Obama will do Tuesday. – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Decision Near on 2010 Withdrawal From Iraq: NYT, 2-24-09
  • Officials: Most troops out of Iraq in 18 months: President Barack Obama plans to remove all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by August of next year, administration officials said Tuesday, ending the war that helped define his upstart presidential campaign — although a little more slowly than he promised…. – AP, 2-24-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama addressed Congress Tuesday night.

Political Quotes

  • Transcript President Obama’s Address to Congress: Following is a transcript of President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, as recorded by CQ Transcriptions…. NYT, 2-24-09
    Download Mp3
  • Text President Obama’s Address to Congress: Following is the prepared text of President Obama’s address to the joint session of Congress tonight, as provided by the White House…. NYT, 2-24-09
  • Transcript: The Republican Response by Gov. Bobby Jindal: Following is a transcript of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s remarks on behalf of the Republican Party on Tuesday night, responding to President Obama’s address, as recorded by CQ Transcriptions….NYT, 2-24-09
    Download Mp3
  • Obama: ‘We are not quitters’: The White House has released the full text of President Obama’s address to Congress this evening – CNN, 2-24-09
Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama told Congress, “Now is the time to act boldly.”

  • The President’s first address to a joint session of Congress, Excerpts:
    Read the President’s full remarks

    While our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
    The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more….
    We have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.
    Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here.
    Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity. Now is the time to jumpstart job creation, re-start lending, and invest in areas like energy, health care, and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. That is what my economic agenda is designed to do, and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about tonight….
    The recovery plan and the financial stability plan are the immediate steps we’re taking to revive our economy in the short-term. But the only way to fully restore America’s economic strength is to make the long-term investments that will lead to new jobs, new industries, and a renewed ability to compete with the rest of the world. The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil and the high cost of health care; the schools that aren’t preparing our children and the mountain of debt they stand to inherit. That is our responsibility.
    In the next few days, I will submit a budget to Congress. So often, we have come to view these documents as simply numbers on a page or laundry lists of programs. I see this document differently. I see it as a vision for America – as a blueprint for our future.
    My budget does not attempt to solve every problem or address every issue. It reflects the stark reality of what we’ve inherited – a trillion dollar deficit, a financial crisis, and a costly recession.
    Given these realities, everyone in this chamber – Democrats and Republicans – will have to sacrifice some worthy priorities for which there are no dollars. And that includes me.
    But that does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity…..
    Yesterday, I held a fiscal summit where I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office. My administration has also begun to go line by line through the federal budget in order to eliminate wasteful and ineffective programs. As you can imagine, this is a process that will take some time. But we’re starting with the biggest lines. We have already identified two trillion dollars in savings over the next decade.
    In this budget, we will end education programs that don’t work and end direct payments to large agribusinesses that don’t need them. We’ll eliminate the no-bid contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq, and reform our defense budget so that we’re not paying for Cold War-era weapons systems we don’t use. We will root out the waste, fraud, and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn’t make our seniors any healthier, and we will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas. ….
    I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground. ….
    But in my life, I have also learned that hope is found in unlikely places; that inspiration often comes not from those with the most power or celebrity, but from the dreams and aspirations of Americans who are anything but ordinary.
    I think about Leonard Abess, the bank president from Miami who reportedly cashed out of his company, took a $60 million bonus, and gave it out to all 399 people who worked for him, plus another 72 who used to work for him. He didn’t tell anyone, but when the local newspaper found out, he simply said, ”I knew some of these people since I was 7 years old. I didn’t feel right getting the money myself.”
    I think about Greensburg, Kansas, a town that was completely destroyed by a tornado, but is being rebuilt by its residents as a global example of how clean energy can power an entire community – how it can bring jobs and businesses to a place where piles of bricks and rubble once lay. “The tragedy was terrible,” said one of the men who helped them rebuild. “But the folks here know that it also provided an incredible opportunity.”
    And I think about Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the young girl from that school I visited in Dillon, South Carolina – a place where the ceilings leak, the paint peels off the walls, and they have to stop teaching six times a day because the train barrels by their classroom. She has been told that her school is hopeless, but the other day after class she went to the public library and typed up a letter to the people sitting in this room. She even asked her principal for the money to buy a stamp. The letter asks us for help, and says, “We are just students trying to become lawyers, doctors, congressmen like yourself and one day president, so we can make a change to not just the state of South Carolina but also the world. We are not quitters….
    I know that we haven’t agreed on every issue thus far, and there are surely times in the future when we will part ways. But I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. That must be the starting point for every debate we have in the coming months, and where we return after those debates are done. That is the foundation on which the American people expect us to build common ground.
    And if we do – if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, “something worthy to be remembered.” – WH Blog, 2-24-09
  • Obama: Economy is a ‘reckoning’ for past poor decisions in his first speech to a joint session of Congress: “A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day…. Now is the time to act boldly and wisely — to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity.” – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal this evening delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s address to Congress: “Tonight, we witnessed a great moment in the history of our Republic. In the very chamber where Congress once voted to abolish slavery, our first African-American president stepped forward to address the state of our union. With his speech tonight, the president completed a redemptive journey that took our nation from Independence Hall … to Gettysburg … to the lunch counter … and now, finally, the Oval Office….
    Republicans are ready to work with the new president. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don’t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the president’s strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward.
    Today in Washington, some are promising that government will rescue us from the economic storms raging all around us.
    Those of us who lived through Hurricane Katrina, we have our doubts….
    To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you — the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything.
    Democrats passed the largest government spending bill in history — with a price tag of more than $1 trillion with interest. While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending….
    Republicans want “your trust.” Republicans want to work with President Obama. We appreciate his message of hope — but sometimes it seems we look for hope in different places. Democratic leaders in Washington place their hope in the federal government.
    We place our hope in you — the American people. In the end, it comes down to an honest and fundamental disagreement about the proper role of government. We oppose the national Democrats’ view that says — the way to strengthen our country is to increase dependence on government. We believe the way to strengthen our country is to restrain spending in Washington, and empower individuals and small businesses to grow our economy and create jobs.
    In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear — because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust — and rightly so.
    Tonight, on behalf of our leaders in Congress and my fellow Republican governors, I say: Our party is determined to regain your trust. We will do so by standing up for the principles that we share… the principles you elected us to fight for … the principles that built this into the greatest, most prosperous country on earth.” – USA Today, 2-24-09
  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who gave the Republican Party’s official response “GOP leaders say Obama’s plan is irresponsible”: “The way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. It’s irresponsible….
    You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Our party is determined to regain your trust….” – AP, 2-24-09
  • House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia “GOP leaders say Obama’s plan is irresponsible”: “Washington shouldn’t be spending money that we don’t have,” House Republican Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia said in his response to Obama’s speech. He said Republicans will work with Obama, but they will not betray core principles. – AP, 2-24-09
  • Jindal to criticize stimulus, say GOP ‘lost trust’: “Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt…
    Republicans are ready to work with the new president to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don’t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital….
    In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear – because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust – and rightly so…..
    As I grew up, my mom and dad taught me the values that attracted them to this country – and they instilled in me an immigrant’s wonder at the greatness of America. As a child, I remember going to the grocery store with my dad. Growing up in India, he had seen extreme poverty. And as we walked through the aisles, looking at the endless variety on the shelves, he would tell me: ‘Bobby, Americans can do anything.’ I still believe that to this day….
    Republicans are ready to work with the new President to provide those solutions. Here in my state of Louisiana, we don’t care what party you belong to if you have good ideas to make life better for our people. We need more of that attitude from both Democrats and Republicans in our nation’s capital. All of us want our economy to recover and our nation to prosper. So where we agree, Republicans must be the President’s strongest partners. And where we disagree, Republicans have a responsibility to be candid and offer better ideas for a path forward….
    The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and enterprising spirit of our citizens….
    To solve our current problems, Washington must lead. But the way to lead is not to raise taxes and put more money and power in hands of Washington politicians. The way to lead is by empowering you – the American people. Because we believe that Americans can do anything…. Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt. Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did. It’s irresponsible. And it’s no way to strengthen our economy, create jobs, or build a prosperous future for our children….
    In recent years, these distinctions in philosophy became less clear – because our party got away from its principles. You elected Republicans to champion limited government, fiscal discipline, and personal responsibility. Instead, Republicans went along with earmarks and big government spending in Washington. Republicans lost your trust – and rightly so….
    A few weeks ago, the President warned that our nation is facing a crisis that he said ‘we may not be able to reverse.’ Our troubles are real, to be sure. But don’t let anyone tell you that we cannot recover – or that America’s best days are behind her.”… – CNN, 2-24-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama greeted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Analysis: Clinton’s mockery of Obama proves true”: “Clinton’s earlier critique of change has quickly become very valid,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “The Washington of George Bush is the same Washington of Barack Obama. The promise of bipartisanship and hope in Washington is difficult to actually achieve.” – CNN, 2-24-09
  • Robert V. Remini “Presidents’ First Speeches to Congress Focus on Parts of the State of the Union”: The major difference between a State of the Union address and a first-year report is the scope of the speech, said House historian Robert V. Remini. A State of the Union is expected to cover both domestic and foreign matters. Remini said Obama could, for example, skip a discussion about Afghanistan on Tuesday night. “In a State of the Union he would be obliged to do it,” he said. – CQ Politics, 2-24-09
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February 15, 2009: The Congress and Senate Pass the Economic Stimulus Bill, Obama Signs it into Law on Tuesday

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

President Obama Delivers Your Weekly Address

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • The Senate cast the final vote, 60-38, hours after the House of Representatives passed an identical bill, 246-183.
  • House Roll Call: House passes economic stimulus: The 246-183 roll call Friday by which the House passed a $787 billion economic stimulus bill.
    Voting yes were 246 Democrats and no Republicans.
    Voting no were seven Democrats and 176 Republicans. – AP, 2-13-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • NYT Op-Classic: Presidents’ Day Edition: Over the years, presidents past, present and future have written for Op-Ed. In honor of the holiday, here are selections from the dozens of their essays that have appeared on the page. – NYT, 2-15-09
  • To Fix Detroit, Obama Is Said to Drop Plan for ‘Car Czar’: President Obama has dropped the idea of appointing a single, powerful “car czar” to oversee the revamping of General Motors and Chrysler and will instead keep the politically delicate task in the hands of his most senior economic advisers, a top administration official said Sunday night. – NYT, 2-15-09
  • White House Says Stimulus Won’t Be a Quick Fix: As President Obama prepares to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill, administration officials sought to temper expectations, warning that the economy has not yet reached bottom and that increased economic activity as a result of the legislation would “take time to show up in the statistics.” – NYT, 2-15-09
  • Illinois GOP leader calls on Sen. Burris to resign: Just as Illinois was moving past the agony and embarrassment of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s ousting, the fellow Democrat whom Blagojevich appointed to the U.S. Senate was hearing calls for his own resignation Sunday amid allegations he lied to legislators. – AP, 2-15-09
  • McCain cites bad bipartisan start with Obama: Sen. John McCain says President Barack Obama failed to include Republicans in writing the big economic stimulus bill. – AP, 2-15-09
  • Obama’s big victory comes at a cost: President Barack Obama’s crucial victory in getting a $787 billion economic stimulus plan through Congress was achieved quickly, but his hopes of gaining a bipartisan consensus died an early death. The bitter Washington debate over the stimulus plan, which the majority Democrats muscled through both chambers despite nearly unified Republican opposition, has political consequences that boil down to one question: Will it work? – Reuters, 2-15-09
  • For Obama, governing isn’t campaigning For the most part, your can chalk up his shaky debut to the difference between campaigning and governing: Barack Obama made running for president look easy. As a candidate, he was famously steady and cool, and his campaign team was a marvel of internal harmony. “No drama Obama,” they called him. Fixing a broken economy is turning out to require some drama. To win his stimulus plan, Obama had to turn white-hot and warn that the alternative was “catastrophe.” Backstage at the White House, there has been confusion and even discord, evidence that Team Obama might be populated by mortals after all. – LAT, 2-15-09
  • Stimulus bill, foreclosure aid tops Obama agenda: Keeping the economy front and center, President Barack Obama heads west this week to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill and tackle the home mortgage foreclosure crisis. The direct appeals for public support follow scant GOP backing in Congress for his agenda and increasing partisan bickering. – AP, 2-15-09
  • Obama to sign $787 billion stimulus bill Tuesday: Savoring his first big victory in Congress, President Barack Obama on Saturday celebrated the newly passed $787 billion economic stimulus bill as a “major milestone on our road to recovery.” – AP, 2-14-09
  • Democrats muscle huge stimulus through Congress: In a major victory for President Barack Obama, Democrats muscled a huge, $787 billion stimulus bill through Congress late Friday night in hopes of combating the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous. – AP, 2-14-09
  • A Smaller, Faster Stimulus Plan, but Still With a Lot of Money: On its way to becoming law, two crucial things happened to President Obama’s economic recovery plan: It got smaller and faster. Smaller in that it was cut to $787 billion from more than $800 billion in early versions in the House and Senate. And faster in that the Congressional Budget Office now projects that 74 percent of the money will be spent by Sept. 30, 2010, compared with 64 percent in the original House bill. – NYT, 2-14-09
  • U.S. Congress sends stimulus bill to Obama: Congress hands President Obama a major legislative victory, approving a $787 billion stimulus bill that aims to rush emergency spending and tax cuts to a nation in the grip of a severe recession. – Reuters, 2-14-09
  • Obama back in Chicago for Valentine’s Day weekend President Barack Obama flies back to Chicago for a Chicago weekend retreat: President Barack Obama returned to Chicago Friday, making his first trip home since his inauguration and ending a turbulent week in which he dealt with partisan bickering over his massive economic stimulus package. – Chicago Tribune, 2-13-09
  • White House provides plane to senator for key stimulus vote: The White House has provided the use of a government airplane to a key Democratic senator Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in order to ensure the availability of what may prove to be the deciding 60th vote in favor of the $787 billion economic stimulus package. – CNN, 2-13-09
  • DeFazio joins Republicans in saying ‘no’ on stimulus Economy – The bill is too full of tax cuts, says the Democrat, one of a handful to break ranks: With the nation’s economy hanging in the balance, Oregon’s delegation broke along party lines, with one major exception, Friday as Congress approved a $787 billion spending and tax plan. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., voted against the package, saying it had too many tax cuts and not enough direct spending. – Oregan Live, 2-14-09
  • Specter, a Fulcrum of the Stimulus Bill, Pulls Off a Coup for Health Money: Even lobbyists are stunned by the coup Mr. Specter pulled off this week. In return for providing one of only three Republican votes in the Senate for the Obama administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, he was able to secure a 34 percent increase in the health agency’s budget — to $39 billion from $29 billion. – NYT, 2-13-09
  • Obama to unveil foreclosure plan, big lenders wait: U.S. President Barack Obama will unveil a plan to stem home foreclosures on Wednesday, a spokesman said, and major U.S. lenders said they had stopped foreclosing until details of the program have been firmed up. – Reusters, 2-13-09
  • Clinton urges NKorea against ‘provocative’ actions: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, making her first major policy speech, urged North Korea Friday not to take any “provocative” actions that could undermine peace efforts. Amid press reports that North Korea might be preparing a long-range missile test, Clinton pledged to hold the communist regime to its commitments to give up its nuclear programs in return for international aid and political concessions. – AP, 2-13-09
  • Gregg’s Withdrawal Stirs Speculation Over Obama’s Census Plan: New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg cited differences with the Obama administration over the economic stimulus bill and the census for ending his bid as commerce secretary, raising questions about which factor played a bigger role in his decision. – Fox News, 2-13-09
  • Did President Obama Get Crossed Up by Head of Company He Visited?: President Obama said during an appearance at the Caterpillar tractor factory in East Peoria, Illinois, that the company CEO had promised in the Peoria Journal Star: “If Congress passes our (stimulus) plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off.”
    But after the president left, Caterpillar chief Jim Owens said there actually would be more layoffs coming — in addition to the 22,000 already expected: “We’ll probably have more layoffs before we start hiring again. We don’t want false expectations. If we sign a stimulus bill, that doesn’t mean we’ll start hiring right away.”
    Owens back-tracked today, saying the passage of stimulus packages could — over time — lead to the recall of some employees laid off during this downturn. – Fox News, 2-13-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

download .mp4 | also available here| audio

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATION, February 14, 2009: This week, I spent some time with Americans across the country who are hurting because of our economic crisis. People closing the businesses they scrimped and saved to start. Families losing the homes that were their stake in the American Dream. Folks who have given up trying to get ahead, and given in to the stark reality of just trying to get by.
    They’ve been looking to those they sent to Washington for some hope at a time when they need it most.
    This morning, I’m pleased to say that after a lively debate full of healthy difference of opinion, we have delivered real and tangible progress for the American people.
    Congress has passed my economic recovery plan – an ambitious plan at a time we badly need it. It will save or create more than 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, ignite spending by business and consumers alike, and lay a new foundation for our lasting economic growth and prosperity.
    This is a major milestone on our road to recovery, and I want to thank the Members of Congress who came together in common purpose to make it happen. Because they did, I will sign this legislation into law shortly, and we’ll begin making the immediate investments necessary to put people back to work doing the work America needs done….
    Now, some fear we won’t be able to effectively implement a plan of this size and scope, and I understand their skepticism. Washington hasn’t set a very good example in recent years. And with so much on the line, it’s time to begin doing things differently.
    That’s why our goal must be to spend these precious dollars with unprecedented accountability, responsibility, and transparency. I’ve tasked my cabinet and staff to set up the kind of management, oversight, and disclosure that will help ensure that, and I will challenge state and local governments to do the same….

    And in the weeks ahead, I will submit a proposal for the federal budget that will begin to restore the discipline these challenging times demand. Our debt has doubled over the past eight years, and we’ve inherited a trillion- dollar deficit – which we must add to in the short term in order to jumpstart our sick economy. But our long- term economic growth demands that we tame our burgeoning federal deficit; that we invest in the things we need, and dispense with the things we don’t. This is a challenging agenda, but one we can and will achieve.
    This morning, I’m reminded of words President Kennedy spoke in another time of uncertainty. “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.”
    America, we will prove equal to this task. It will take time, and it will take effort, but working together, we will turn this crisis into opportunity and emerge from our painful present into a brighter future. After a week spent with the fundamentally decent men and women of this nation, I have never been more certain of that. – WH Blog, 2-14-09

  • Clinton urges NKorea against ‘provocative’ actions: “We will need to work together to address the most acute challenge to stability in northeast Asia: North Korea’s nuclear program…. I will assure our allies in Japan that we have not forgotten the families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea and I will meet with some of those families in Tokyo next week…. Climate change is not just an environmental nor an energy issue, but also has implications for our health, our economies and our security…. We believe we have an opportunity to move these discussions forward. But it is incumbent on North Korea to avoid any provocative action and unhelpful rhetoric toward South Korea…. If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula’s long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty, and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people. – AP, 2-13-09
  • McCain says Obama needs to work on bipartisanship: “I think that the majority of people understand that this was generational theft. I hope they’ve learned a lesson. I hope that they will reverse course, and sit down, negotiate from the beginning, so you’re in on the takeoff, so you can be in on the landing.” – Reuters, 2-13-09
  • Gregg says he couldn’t support Obama 100 percent: Republican Sen. Judd Gregg said Friday that he pulled out of the job of commerce secretary after realizing that “I’m just going to be a little too conservative” for President Barack Obama’s administration.
    If you’re going to be on a football team, “you’ve got to pull out and block on every play, you can’t do it on every other play,” the senator said.
    “I didn’t feel comfortable going forward because of my individuality, for lack of a better term,” Gregg said during an appearance Friday morning on CNBC. – AP, 2-13-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “The recovery plan: A national jolt to economy”: “The stakes are so high now, this is such a big bill, average Americans are following it,” says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. “It’s become a bill that is an argument about what government can or can’t do. “If there is no effect and in six months we are talking about the same economy or a worse economy, I think it would be a devastating blow to the president, Democrats, and to liberal claims about what government can do.”….
    “There are seeds in this bill for long-term change,” says Zelizer. “There are things that can develop out of the research that can change our lives.” – AP, 2-14-09
  • Kenneth C. Davis “The recovery plan: A national jolt to economy”: “We’re not reinventing government,” said historian Kenneth C. Davis, author of the best-selling “Don’t Know Much About” series. “We’re modifying things that exist.”
    “It was a transformation of society in a way that hadn’t been done since the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery,” Davis said. AP, 2-14-09
  • Larry Sabato “Despite Obama’s successes, some promises go unmet”: “Clearly, the White House has not been firing on all cylinders but it’s only been three weeks,” said Larry Sabato, a political science professor at the University of Virginia. “A new engine needs a test period.” – Reuters, 2-14-09
  • Gil Troy “Is Obamania Stopping Us From Questioning Obama’s Competence?”: Wow, the descent from “Yes We Can” to “I screwed up” has been rapid – and unnerving. It hurts me to write this post. Like the millions who were in Washington on Inauguration Day, and the billions who watched around the world, I want Barack Obama to succeed, America needs Obama to succeed. But as American patriots – and as historians – we cannot be so blinded by our hopes and his charms that we overlook the truth. Obama’s Keystone Kops Cabinet farce would be funny if it were not so tragic. His utter failure to put together an effective team without getting so much egg on his face plays to one of my greatest fears about Obama. As an academic who has never been an administrator (beyond one year as department chair), I wondered how he, with only minimally more administrative experience, could take on one of the most complicated executive jobs in history. So far, the results are depressing….
    Careful analyses of the 2008 presidential campaign will discover a systematic bias in favor of Obama. His story was fresher, more compelling, and thus less scrutinized than Hillary Clinton’s, John McCain’s, or the other also-rans. Even some journalists have admitted in retrospect that many reporters liked Obama, loved the idea of Obama, and frequently gave him a free pass.
    Still, there may also be a more benign explanation. The financial meltdown has sobered Americans – and reporters. Barack Obama’s call for a new, more constructive politics have resonated. This really is not the time for the kind of partisan, “gotcha” bickering that has marred our politics for so long.
    All this makes Obama’s repeated missteps so disturbing. The stakes are too high for amateur hour. Obama needs to explain why his personnel process has been so spectacularly incompetent, what he is going to do to fix it, and what he has learned from this experience. There is a lot of goodwill and desperation out there, both of which Obama has been able to tap effectively. But rather than just talking beautifully, he must start governing competently. – HNN, 2-13-09
  • Tevi Troy “What Was Judd Gregg Thinking?”: The real question about Judd Gregg is not why he pulled out, but why President Obama picked him in the first place, and why Gregg accepted the offer.
    Cabinet members from the non-governing party serving in the Cabinet often cause problems for themselves, as well as for the presidents they serve. In this case, it was unclear why Obama needed a third Republican in his Cabinet, in addition to Gates at Defense and LaHood at Transportation.
    And of these three Departments, Commerce probably is the most directly involved in the key issues on which the Democrats and Republicans diverge — especially the economy, immigration, and trade.
    In a short time, it became clear that there were going to be significant policy differences between Gregg and the administration: on the stimulus package, on who would run the Census, and to what extent Gregg would have a role in economic policy-making. Down the road, Gregg’s position as a staunch free trader would likely have caused even more problems, with both the administration and the Democratic Congress.
    Gregg is also a partisan Republican — he served as the debate foil for President Bush in the 2004 re-election campaign. Once he insisted on a Republican replacement in the Senate, he took away the administration’s main reason for having him. When the administration made noises about taking away the Census, Gregg must have seen that he would have been far more of a figurehead than a policy shaper. – Fox Forum, 2-13-09

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

At the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., in 1991, Mr. Reagan was joined by President Bush and former Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter.

February 10, 2009: Reactions to Obama First Press Conference and the Economic Stimulus Plan

Also: February 9, 2009: President Obama’s First Press Conference

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The First Lady read to children at Mary's Center in Washington, D.C.

White House photo 2/10/09 by Joyce N. Boghosian

FLOTUS at Mary’s Center

That was Mrs. Obama’s message to a group of young people at a non-profit community organization in Washington, D.C. — where she spoke about her own humble beginnings.

Watch the video

President Obama at a town hall in Ft. Myers, FL

White House photo 2/10/09 by Pete Souza

POTUS in Ft. Myers, FL

On Tuesday, February 10, 2009, President Obama held a town hall in Ft. Myers, FL — one of the towns hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

See the slideshow

Mrs. Obama visits the Department of the Interior

White House photo 2/9/09 by Joyce N. Boghosian

FLOTUS at Interior

In a visit the Department of the Interior, Mrs. Obama spoke about how important it is to protect our natural resources and move towards a clean, sustainable energy future.

Read the First Lady's remarks

President Obama addresses town hall in Elkhart, Indiana

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Gallop Poll: Feb. 6-7 Gallup poll released yesterday that shows 67 percent of the public approves of the way the president is handling the stimulus debate and only 31 percent approve of Republican efforts on the legislation, 48 percent approve of how Democrats are handling it. — Bloomberg, 2-10-09
  • FACTBOX: How Obama plan ranks against New Deal, other programs – Reuters, 2-10-09
  • Treasury Department Fact Sheet on the Rescue Plan Overhaul [PDF] – Download PDF

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • House and Senate close in on compromise: Top lawmakers and White House officials ended more than nine hours of closed-door negotiations on the economic stimulus bill shortly before midnight Tuesday indicating a final deal on the roughly $800 billion bill is possible as early as Wednesday. – CNN, 2-11-09
  • $3 trillion! — Senate, Fed, Treasury attack crisis: On a single day filled with staggering sums, the Obama administration, Federal Reserve and Senate attacked the deepening economic crisis Tuesday with actions that could throw as much as $3 trillion more in government and private funds into the fight against frozen credit markets and rising joblessness.
    “It’s gone deep. It’s gotten worse,” President Barack Obama said of the recession at a campaign-style appearance in Fort Myers, Fla., where unemployment has reached double digits. “The situation we face could not be more serious.” – AP, 2-11-09
  • Bailout Plan: $2.5 Trillion and a Strong U.S. Hand: The White House plan to rescue the nation’s financial system, announced on Tuesday by Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, is far bigger than anyone predicted and envisions a far greater government role in markets and banks than at any time since the 1930s. – NYT, 2-11-09
  • GOP group gets tough against Republicans who support stimulus: An influential conservative political action committee is pledging to support primary challengers to any Republican senator who supports President Obama’s stimulus package — the latest public show of dissatisfaction from the right over the massive measure before Congress. – CNN, 2-10-09
  • Deal on stimulus bills mired in details: The Senate approves its version of the economic stimulus package, but reconciling it with the smaller House bill will be no easy task. Obama stumps for his plan in Florida. – LAT, 2-10-09
  • Geithner’s bear of a day: The Obama administration’s revamped program to fix the nation’s ailing financial markets was met with harsh criticism Tuesday, as the stock market tumbled and lawmakers complained that it lacked details and missed essential targets. – AP, 2-10-09
  • For Geithner’s Debut, a Lukewarm Reception: For Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner as much as for the troubled government program to bail out the financial system, Tuesday amounted to a do-over. – NYT, 2-10-09
  • Angered by stimulus plan vote, Republican vows to oust Specter: U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s vote for the Senate stimulus bill is stimulating long-festering Republican opposition to his re-election. Mr. Specter, whose term expires next year, was one of three GOP senators who voted for the Senate version of the economic recovery measure. The vote prompted Glen Meakem, the CEO of the former Internet firm FreeMarkets, to declare his determination to play a still unspecified role in ousting the veteran Republican in the 2010 GOP primary. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2-10-09
  • Stimulus, Partisanship Mean Obama Faces a Harsh New Reality Although the bill passed the Senate, only three Republicans signed on: It took only two weeks from Inauguration Day for harsh reality to overtake Barack Obama. But he is now facing a burgeoning list of challenges that have plagued his predecessors for at least a generation, starting with the intense partisanship of Washington and the difficulty of finding compromise on critical issues—coupled with a unique economic crisis that seems to worsen by the day. A massive economic stimulus package passed the Senate Tuesday after winning House approval earlier, but major compromises will be needed to reconcile the two versions of the plan, which Obama says is vital to economic recovery. “The realization hits pretty quickly. He is beginning to confront the enormity of the challenges of governing,” says Rutgers political scientist Ross Baker. – US News & World Report, 2-10-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The First Lady read to children at Mary's Center in Washington, D.C.

White House photo 2/10/09 by Joyce N. Boghosian

FLOTUS at Mary’s Center

That was Mrs. Obama’s message to a group of young people at a non-profit community organization in Washington, D.C. — where she spoke about her own humble beginnings.

Watch the video

President Obama at a town hall in Ft. Myers, FL

Political Quotes

  • Treasury Secretary Geithner speaking about the new Financial Stability Plan: “Our plan will help restart the flow of credit, clean up and strengthen our banks, and provide critical aid for homeowners and for small businesses. As we do each of these things, we will impose new, higher standards for transparency and accountability.” – WH Blog, 2-10-09
  • Liveblog: Ft. Myers, FL townhallWH Blog, 2-10-09
  • Obama: ‘There Is No Easy Out’ for Wall Street: In Exclusive Interview, President Warns of ‘a Perfect Storm of Financial Problems’ – ABC News, 2-10-09
  • Obama: No ‘Easy Out’ for Wall Street Transcript Excerpts: Terry Moran Interviews President Obama:
    Well, you know, Wall Street, I think, is hoping for an easy out on this thing and there is no easy out. Essentially, what you’ve got are a set a banks that have not been as transparent as we need to be in terms of what their books look like.
    And we’re going to have to hold out the Band-Aid a little bit and go ahead and just be clear about some of the losses that have been made because until we do that, we’re not going to be able to attract private capital into the marketplace…..

    Well, because ultimately, what happens is going to depend on how the markets respond over the long term, not today or the next day but a month from now or two months from now. How effective we are in actually cleaning out some of these bad assets out of these banks.
    If we’re doing a good job and we’ve got a template that creates transparency and accountability, clarity and consistency in terms of how we’re applying this program, then what we’ll end up seeing is private capital coming back into the marketplace.
    If we do a poor job, then private capital will continue to stay out and frankly, at, at a certain point, the government can’t replace all that private capital, so you know, our job is to get this right, get the model right….

    Well, you know, I’m constantly trying to thread the needle between sounding alarmist but also letting the American people know the circumstances that we’re in. And the fact of the matter is that we are in not just an ordinary recession, we are in a perfect storm of financial problems and now, a decline in worldwide demand that is resulting in huge numbers of jobs being shed, the lowest consumer confidence we’ve seen, credit locked up.
    And so this was a big difficult situation. Now, I think we’ve got to keep perspective. We’re not going through the Great Depression. I know there have been some analogies there but when FDR took over, unemployment at that time was 30 percent, as opposed to 7.5 or 7.6.
    And so, you know, I think it’s important to recognize we’ve still got enormous assets, we’ve got the same workforce that we did that’s as productive as it’s ever been, we’ve still got some of the best universities in the country and, you know, a wonderful infrastructure and some great companies.
    You know, I spoke with the CEO of International yesterday, who’s investing billions of dollars in opening up new plants in the face of this recession. And so some of what we need is just a restoration of confidence and people’s belief that in fact, we can harness all these resources to continue to be the most dynamic economy on earth.
    But we’re not going to get there by pretending that we don’t have some very big problems and I think the American people understand that.

    Let me, first of all, point out, I — I think there are a number of different arguments that have been leveled at, at this recovery package. There are a set of folks who just don’t believe in government intervening in the marketplace, period. I mean, they’re still fighting FDR and the New Deal and you have — these are the same folks who think we should be privatizing Social Security and you know, we — there’s no room for government to help people get health care and on and on and on.
    So there’s a big ideological battle that they want to fight. Frankly, I think that fight’s already been won, the American people certainly think so. That’s not the argument that makes much sense to them. There are then people who I think are making a sincere argument that if you look at the stimulus package, that maybe some things are more stimulative and some things are not….

    I think that they made a decision that they want to continue the same fights that we’ve been having over the last decade. The American people, on the other hand, realize that we want something different; hence, the results of the election.
    And, you know, I think if you look at how people are doing right now and how the Republicans have responded to a great deal of overtures by me, I think it’s pretty clear that the American people would like to see a different way of doing business. But old habits break hard and, and you know, I, I understand that and so we’re going to keep on reaching out and eventually, I have confidence that it’s going to pay off.

    I think there are going to be other areas where we can potentially work together and I’m still hopeful that some Republicans take their cues from Republican governors and Republican mayors like Charlie Christ down here in Florida who recognize that not doing anything is simply not an option…. – ABC News, 2-10-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Martha Kumar “Obama Press Conference”: According to Towson University presidential historian Martha Kumar, Obama held a prime time press conference earlier than any president in history, beating Richard Nixon by almost a month. Now, he needs to hold 31 more to pass Ronald Reagan for total number of East Room get togethers with the White House press corps. – Real Clear Politics, 2-9-09
  • Douglas Brinkley “Obama Adopts Elkhart as Everytown in Pitch for Stimulus Plan”: That’s what he should have done in the first place, rather than getting bogged down in negotiations with Congress, Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University in Houston, said. “Obama needs to show that he’s a leader of a movement, that a change isn’t just having a black man in the White House, that we really are in an era of clean government and progressive reform,” Brinkley said. – Bloomberg, 2-10-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama Adopts Elkhart as Everytown in Pitch for Stimulus Plan”: Obama’s news conference, broadcast live on major broadcast and cable news channels, was “highly forceful and successful and should help the president with the American people and the Congress,” said Allan Lichtman, a political history professor at American University in Washington. “He did not shrink from the magnitude of the crisis, but like FDR expressed confidence that the problem could be solved with decisive action.” – Bloomberg, 2-10-09
  • Charles Calomiris “What’s Missing in Geithner’s Bank Plan The Obama Administration’s Financial Stability Plan isn’t a clean break with the past, because it doesn’t spell out clearly who will lose “: Charles Calomiris, a Columbia University economic historian who has studied banking crises, says the key mistake of the Obama Administration is trying to come up with a plan that emphasizes political palatability over economic reality. To buy support, Calomiris says, the plan emphasizes “very careful investments over a period of time with a lot of upside potential for taxpayers, and with all sorts of limits on what bankers can do.” The problem with that approach, Calomiris says, is that it doesn’t do enough to make the banks truly healthy, and just prolongs the crisis. He favors taking strong action to improve banks’ health dramatically and quickly by guaranteeing them a floor price on their real estate assets, even though such action would be criticized as a giveaway. Says Calomiris: “What makes sense economically doesn’t make sense politically, so I’m not very optimistic.” – Business Week, 2-10-09
  • Charles Geisst “Vague rescue plan disappoints Dow plunges 380 points as Geithner rolls out stimulus package; investors say lack of detail sparked mass sell-off”: Charles Geisst, a financial historian and professor of finance at Manhattan College, said he doesn’t believe the public-private partnership will work, and suggested Mr. Obama’s team may be stalling with yesterday’s announcement. “It’s too vague, it’s not firm enough, and it’s just more of the same,” said Prof. Geisst, author of a forthcoming book called Collateral Damage. “I think they’re trying to buy time … I think what they’re trying to do is tread water until they can figure it out.” – Globe and Mail, 2-10-09
  • Richard Skinner: “Political Partisanship Deeply Rooted, Says Professor”: “If Obama thinks it will be easy to overcome these divisions, he’ll end up being disappointed,” notes Bowdoin Visiting Professor of History Richard Skinner. “Partisanship is an underlying part of our political system now and a lot of Republicans just don’t like the direction he’s taking the country.”
    “We need to move beyond outdated notions of presidents above party politics,” he writes, “and instead understand presidents who are passionately engaged in them and seek to use their parties as tools of governance.” – Bowdoin News, 2-10-09

February 9, 2009: President Obama’s First Press Conference

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

President Obama, at his White House news conference on Monday night, where he discussed the Democratic stimulus plan and opposition to it by Republicans.

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • FACT CHECK: Obama has it both ways on pork: Obama’s sales pitch on the enormous package he wants Congress to make law has sizzle as well as steak. He’s projecting job creation numbers that may be impossible to verify and glossing over some ethical problems that bedeviled his team. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Obama’s Ratings: The Gallup Organization released a poll Monday showing Obama’s approval rating holding steady at 67 percent, with Congress much less popular. Republicans in Congress drew only 31 percent approval, and Democrats had 48 percent. The poll also showed that 80 percent think it’s either important or critically important that a stimulus plan be approved. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Senate Vote 61-36 in Favor: The Senate on Monday voted 61-36 to end debate on an $838 billion economic stimulus bill, one more vote than needed to avoid a potential filibuster on the measure when it goes to a final vote as early as Tuesday. – PBS Newshour, 2-9-09

THE HEADLINES….

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Though conceding that “the plan is not perfect,” President Obama asserted that “a failure to act will only deepen this crisis.” More Photos >

The Headlines…

  • Analysis: Obama makes serious case for stimulus: No drama with Obama. No joking with Obama. In his first prime-time news conference, Americans saw a determined, deadly serious President Barack Obama make his case for a historically huge economic recovery plan — pledging to push it through Congress in record time, even if he and fellow Democrats must steamroll Republicans to do it. No more blind bipartisanship with Obama, either…. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Analysis: Obama learning to deal with Washington’s partisan ways: In his first three weeks in the bully pulpit, President Barack Obama has offered a post-partisan vision while resorting to old-school pressure tactics. So far he has managed to draw three Republican votes – learning, as presidents inevitably do, that Washington will not bend easily to his will. – Dallas Morning News, 2-9-09
  • Obama: ‘Only Government’ Can Break Cycle of Job Loss, Economic Downturn: President Obama, in his first prime-time press conference, warns that a failure to pass his economic recovery plan could “turn a crisis into a catastrophe.” – Fox News, 29-09
  • Obama presses case for stimulus: President Obama took his case for more than $800 billion in economic stimulus directly to the American people Monday, accusing Republicans of playing politics with a plan that’s “exactly what this country needs.” – USA Today, 2-9-09
  • It Seemed Familiar, and Yet So Different: President Obama insisted that he was nothing like his predecessor. “What I won’t do is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place,” he said Monday night, “because those theories have been tested, and they have failed.” Yet Mr. Obama’s first prime-time presidential news conference had an eerie similarity to the first one held by George W. Bush, in 2001. – NYT, 2-10-09
  • Taking on Critics, Obama Puts Aside Talk of Unity: President Obama has made a show of reaching across the aisle since taking office, inviting three Republicans into his cabinet and wining and dining other opposition leaders. But by Monday, he sounded like a candidate back on the trail, railing against the status quo and dismissing critics as apostles of a failed philosophy. – NYT, 2-10-09
  • Live Blogging the Obama News ConferenceNYT, 2-9-09
  • Obama to Congress: Pass stimulus, don’t play games: President Barack Obama, urgently pressuring lawmakers to approve a massive economic recovery bill, turned his first news conference Monday night into a determined defense of his emergency plan and an offensive against Republicans who try to “play the usual political games.” – AP, 2-9-09
  • Obama Says Failing to Act Could Lead to a ‘Catastrophe’: President Obama took his case for his $800 billion economic recovery package to the American people on Monday, as the Senate cleared the way for passage of the bill and the White House prepared for its next major hurdle: selling Congress and the public on a fresh plan to bail out the nation’s banks. – NYT, 2-9-09
  • Stimulus bill draws Kennedy back to Senate: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy returned to the Senate in the midst of his battle with brain cancer Monday to vote for President Barack Obama’s massive economic stimulus package. “We are obviously very concerned” about the recession, Kennedy said as he donned a coat and stepped into an elevator to leave following a key test vote. He was expected to return Tuesday for the vote to approve or reject the measure. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Stimulus bill narrowly survives Senate test vote: An $838 billion economic stimulus bill backed by the White House survived a key test vote in the Senate on Monday despite strong Republican opposition, and Democratic leaders vowed to deliver legislation for President Barack Obama’s signature within a few days. – AP, 2-9-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Obama in the East Room of the White House. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Political Quotes

  • Press Conference Transcript: Obama takes questions on economy: CNN, 2-9-09 Download Mp3: …As we speak, similar scenes are playing out in cities and towns across America. Last Monday, more than 1,000 men and women stood in line for 35 firefighter jobs in Miami [Florida]. Last month, our economy lost 598,000 jobs, which is nearly the equivalent of losing every single job in the state of Maine.
    And if there’s anyone out there who still doesn’t believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside-down because they don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from.
    And that is why the single most important part of this economic recovery and reinvestment plan is the fact that it will save or create up to 4 million jobs, because that’s what America needs most right now.
    It is absolutely true that we can’t depend on government alone to create jobs or economic growth. That is and must be the role of the private sector. But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life.
    It is only government that can break the vicious cycle, where lost jobs lead to people spending less money, which leads to even more layoffs. And breaking that cycle is exactly what the plan that’s moving through Congress is designed to do.
    When passed, this plan will ensure that Americans who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own can receive greater unemployment benefits and continue their health care coverage…..
    But as we’ve learned very clearly and conclusively over the last eight years, tax cuts alone can’t solve all of our economic problems, especially tax cuts that are targeted to the wealthiest few Americans. We have tried that strategy time and time again, and it’s only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now.
    And that’s why we have come together around a plan that combines hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the middle class with direct investment in areas like health care, energy, education, and infrastructure, investments that will save jobs, create new jobs and new businesses, and help our economy grow again, now and in the future….
    Now, after many weeks of debate and discussion, the plan that ultimately emerges from Congress must be big enough and bold enough to meet the size of the economic challenges that we face right now.
    It’s a plan that is already supported by businesses representing almost every industry in America, by both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. It contains input, ideas and compromises from both Democrats and Republicans.
    It also contains an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability so that every American will be able to go online and see where and how we’re spending every dime. What it does not contain, however, is a single pet project, not a single earmark, and it has been stripped of the projects members of both parties found most objectionable.
    Now, despite all of this, the plan’s not perfect. No plan is. I can’t tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hoped, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis, as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans.
    Now, my administration inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion, but because we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression, doing little or nothing at all will result in even greater deficits, even greater job loss, even greater loss of income, and even greater loss of confidence.
    Those are deficits that could turn a crisis into a catastrophe, and I refuse to let that happen. As long as I hold this office, I will do whatever it takes to put this economy back on track and put this country back to work.
    I want to thank the members of Congress who’ve worked so hard to move this plan forward, but I also want to urge all members of Congress to act without delay in the coming week to resolve their differences and pass this plan.
    We find ourselves in a rare moment where the citizens of our country and all countries are watching and waiting for us to lead. It’s a responsibility that this generation did not ask for, but one that we must accept for the future of our children and our grandchildren.
    The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose. That’s the test facing the United States of America in this winter of our hardship, and it is our duty as leaders and citizens to stay true to that purpose in the weeks and months ahead.
    After a day of speaking with and listening to the fundamentally decent men and women who call this nation home, I have full faith and confidence that we can do it, but we’re going to have to work together. That’s what I intend to promote in the weeks and days ahead.
  • President Obama, Indiana Town Hall on Economic Recovery, 2/9/09, REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT TOWN HALL, Concord Community High School, Elkhart, Indiana, February 9, 2009:
    I don’t know if you guys have been noticing, but we’ve had a little debate in Washington — (laughter) — over the last week or two about the economy. You know, we tend to take the measure of the economic crisis we face in numbers and statistics. But when we say that we’ve lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began, nearly 600,000 in the past month alone; when we say that this area has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in the United States of America, with an unemployment rate of over 15 percent, when it was 4.7 percent just last year; when we talk about layoffs at companies like Monaco Coach, and Keystone RV, and Pilgrim International — companies that have sustained this community for years — we’re not just talking numbers, we’re talking about Ed. We’re talking about people in the audience here today. People not just in Elkhart, but all across this country. We’re talking about people who have lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place.
    We’re talking about parents who’ve lost their health care and lie away at night, praying their kids don’t get sick. We’re talking about families who’ve lost the home that was the corner — their foundation for their American Dream. Young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can’t afford it. That’s what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis…. – WH Blog, 2-9-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

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February 8, 2009: Obama Heading into his Third Week as President, Economic Stimulus Bill Debate & Daschle Drops his HHS Bid

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

President Barack Obama addresses the House Democrats Conference in Williamsburg,Va. (Photo: Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Rate media coverage of Pres. Obama?: A new Gallup poll shows 38% of those surveyed don’t think the press has been tough enough in its coverage of the new president. 11% say “too tough”, while almost half — 48% — say “about right.” – CNN, 2-9-09
  • Senate confirms Holder as first black AG: The vote was 75-21, with all the opposition coming from Republicans. – AP, 2-2-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Obama faces tough week; stimulus, bailout on tap: President Barack Obama plunges into a difficult test of his leadership this week, struggling to get a divided Congress to agree on his economic recovery package while pitching a new plan to ease loans to consumers and businesses. – AP, 2-8-09
  • First Lady Michelle Obama’s rollout; first FLOTUS visit to Interior Dept. since Eleanor Roosevelt: -First Lady Michelle Obama is stepping up her “rollout tour,” on Monday visiting the Interior Department, probably the first First Lady to stop by the agency since Eleanor Roosevelt. – Chicago Sun-Times, 2-9-09
  • Biden in First Policy Address about Iran: US will talk, but is ready to act: Vice President Joe Biden warned Saturday that the U.S. stands ready to take pre-emptive action against Iran if it does not abandon nuclear ambitions and its support for terrorism.
    “We will draw upon all the elements of our power — military and diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement, economic and cultural — to stop crises from occurring before they are in front of us.”…
    AP, 2-7-09
  • Obama and Senate Republicans bicker over stimulus: President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans bickered Saturday over his historically huge economic recovery plan after states and schools lost tens of billions of dollars in a late-night bargain to save it. – AP, 2-7-09
  • Senators debate stimulus in rare Saturday session: Republicans and Democrats offered starkly different assessments of President Barack Obama’s newly renegotiated economic recovery plan Saturday, as the Senate held a rare weekend debate in advance of a key vote on Monday. – AP, 2-7-09
  • Labor unions press for vote on Solis: Labor unions accused Republicans of seizing on questions about unpaid taxes to stall the confirmation of Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis because they dislike her policies. – AP, 2-6-09
  • Obama considering at least 2 Iraq withdrawal plans: The White House is considering at least two troop withdrawal options as it weighs a new Iraq strategy — one that would preserve President Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to get all combat brigades out within 16 months and a second that would stretch it to 23 months, two officials said Friday. – AP, 2-6-09
  • Obama asks Democrats to quickly pass stimulus plan: Pushing Congress to pass his economic plan by next week, President Barack Obama implored House Democrats on Thursday to reject delaying tactics and political gamesmanship that often stymies legislation and keep a promise to voters who booted Republicans from power. – AP, 2-6-09
  • Obama admin. seeks treaty to cut US, Russia nukes: The Obama administration, reversing the Bush administration’s limited interest in nuclear disarmament, is gearing up for early negotiations with Russia on a new treaty that would sharply reduce stockpiles of nuclear warheads. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has notified Congress and her staff that she intends to get started quickly on talks with the Russians, who have voiced interest in recent weeks in settling on a new treaty calling for cutbacks in arsenals on both sides. – AP, 2-6-09
  • Senators Reach Accord on Stimulus Plan as Jobs Vanish: Senate Democrats reached an agreement with Republican moderates on Friday to pare a huge economic recovery measure, clearing the way for approval of a package that President Obama said was urgently needed in light of mounting job losses. – NYT, 2-6-09
  • Officials say tentative stimulus deal reached: Amid stunning new job losses and yet another bank failure, key senators and the White House reached tentative agreement Friday night on an economic stimulus measure at the heart of President Barack Obama’s recovery plan. Two officials said the emerging agreement was for a bill with a $780 billion price tag, but there was no immediate confirmation. The tentative agreement capped a tense day of back room negotiations in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, joined by White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, sought to attract the support of enough Republicans to give the measure the needed 60-vote majority. – AP, 2-6-09
  • With Stimulus, Partisanship Proves a Worthy Foe: With the Senate on track to pass its version of the economic stimulus legislation, President Obama is widely expected to win final Congressional approval of the plan soon, and thus make good on an assortment of his campaign promises. But in the process, he is confronting the impediments to his most ambitious pledge: to end the capital’s partisan warfare. – NYT, 2-6-09
  • Obama lifts restrictions on kids’ health coverage: The Obama administration on Thursday lifted a Bush-era directive to states that restricted some middle-class families from getting government health insurance.
    “The way I see it, providing coverage to 11 million children through CHIP is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American,” Obama said Wednesday at a White House bill-signing ceremony. – AP, 2-5-09
  • Obama Rallies Democrats on Stimulus Package: President Obama urged House Democrats tonight to set aside their differences with the Senate and Republicans in order to push forward quickly with the stimulus package. At times, he sounded irritated with critics who contended the bill was too big or its purpose wrong-headed. – NYT, 2-5-09
  • Obama seeks action as parties try to pare stimulus: Senate moderates worked to cut tens of bililons of dollars from economic stimulus legislation Thursday in hopes of clearing the way for passage as the government spit out grim new jobless figures and President Barack Obama warned of more bad news ahead. – AP, 2-5-09
  • Obama caps executive pay tied to bailout money: President Barack Obama on Wednesday imposed a $500,000 cap on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving taxpayer bailout money and promised new steps to end a system of “executives being rewarded for failure.” – 2-4-09
  • Senate OKs $15,000 tax break for homebuyers: The Senate voted Wednesday night to give a tax break of up to $15,000 to homebuyers in hopes of revitalizing the housing industry, a victory for Republicans eager to leave their mark on a mammoth economic stimulus bill at the heart of President Barack Obama’s recovery plan. – AP, 2-4-09
  • Senate votes to give a tax break to new car buyers: The Senate voted Tuesday to give a tax break to new car buyers, setting aside bipartisan concerns over the size of an economic stimulus bill with a price tag approaching $900 billion. The vote was 71-26 to allow many car buyers to claim an income tax deduction for the cost of automobile sales taxes and interest payments on car loans. – AP, 2-3-09
  • Obama wants to move ahead after Daschle withdraws: Tom Daschle withdrew Tuesday as President Barack Obama’s nominee to be health and human services secretary, dealing potential blows to both speedy health care reform and Obama’s hopes for a smooth start in the White House. “Now we must move forward,” Obama said in a written statement accepting “with sadness and regret” Daschle’s request to be removed from consideration. A day earlier, Obama had said he “absolutely” stood by Daschle in the face of problems over back taxes and potential conflicts of interest. – AP, 2-3-09
  • Daschle apologizes, fights to salvage nomination: Fighting to salvage his Cabinet nomination, Tom Daschle pleaded his case Monday evening in a closed meeting with former Senate colleagues after publicly apologizing for failing to pay more than $120,000 in taxes. President Barack Obama said he was “absolutely” sticking with his nominee for health secretary, and a key senator added an important endorsement. – AP, 2-2-09
  • Gregg seeks GOP successor to join Obama’s Cabinet: President Barack Obama moved closer to nominating his secretary of commerce on Monday as his top choice, GOP Sen. Judd Gregg, revealed an apparent deal that would keep his seat out of Democratic hands. “I have made it clear to the Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle and to the governor that I would not leave the Senate if I felt my departure would cause a change in the makeup of the Senate,” Gregg said in a statement. – AP, 2-2-09
  • GOP circulates plan to cut the cost of mortgages: Senate Republicans circulated a sweeping plan to drive down the cost of mortgages by expanding the federal government’s role in the industry, officials said Monday night as debate opened on an economic stimulus bill at the top of President Barack Obama’s agenda. – AP, 2-2-09
  • Sources: Sen. Judd Gregg accepts commerce secretary post: Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire has accepted President Barack Obama’s offer to be commerce secretary, two administration officials said Monday. – CNN, 2-2-09
  • Holder Is Confirmed as Attorney General: The Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday evening to confirm Eric H. Holder Jr. to be the new attorney general of the United States. The vote was 75 to 21, with all the votes against the nomination coming from Republicans. NYT, 2-2-09
  • Clinton Sets First High-Level Talks and Travel as Secretary of State: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to meet with her British and German counterparts on Tuesday in her first meetings with senior foreign officials in her new post. Plans are also being made for her first overseas trip as Secretary – to Japan, South Korea and China. – VOA, 2-2-09
  • Ironies pile up as Clinton sworn in to new U.S. post: The ironies and memories piled up fast on Monday when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with husband Bill Clinton at her side, was publicly sworn-in to her new post by Vice President Joe Biden. – Reuters, 2-2-09
  • GOP wants mortgage relief, tax cuts in stimulus: Senate Republicans pressed for mortgage relief as well as larger tax cuts Monday as debate opened on the emergency economic stimulus measure atop President Barack Obama’s agenda. Democrats came under pressure to reduce spending in the bill. AP, 2-2-09
  • Obama says Iraq’s peaceful elections aid pullout: President Barack Obama said Sunday that the peaceful elections in Iraq are “good news” for U.S. troops and their families, and he agreed with the suggestion that a substantial number of those troops could be home within a year. – AP, 2-2-09
  • GOP governors press Congress to pass stimulus bill: Most Republican governors have broken with their GOP colleagues in Congress and are pushing for passage of President Barack Obama’s economic aid plan that would send billions to states for education, public works and health care. – AP, 2-1-09
  • Obama readies road map for new bailout spending: President Barack Obama on Saturday promised to lower mortgage costs, offer job-creating loans for small businesses, get credit flowing and rein in free-spending executives as he readies a new road map for spending billions from the second installment of the financial rescue plan. – AP, 1-31-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Obama talked with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Representative Steny Hoyer at the House Democratic Issues Conference on Thursday. (Photo: Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Political Quotes

  • Obama asks Democrats to quickly pass stimulus plan: “They didn’t vote for the status quo; they sent us here to bring change. We owe it to them to deliver. This is not a game. This is not a contest for who’s in power and who’s up and who’s down….
    We are not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that for the last eight years doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin….
    I found this deficit when I showed up. I found this national debt doubled, wrapped in a big bow waiting for me when I stepped into the Oval Office….
    This package is not going to be absolutely perfect. All of us are going to have to make some sacrifices. And we have to accommodate the interests of a range of people. Understand, the scale and the scope of this plan is right.” – AP, 2-6-09
  • Vice President Biden: “Quite simply, we cannot wait.”: “Quite simply, we cannot wait. We cannot wait another two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. We cannot wait. Our economic recovery package is now before the Senate. It will put us back on track to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs.” – WH Blog, 2-5-09
  • Remarks of President Barack Obama National Prayer Breakfast: …”In this way, the particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times. This is not only our call as people of faith, but our duty as citizens of America, and it will be the purpose of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that I’m announcing later today.”… – WH Blog, 2-5-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT SIGNING OF CHILDREN’S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM LEGISLATION:
    Now, this is not who we are. We’re not a nation that leaves struggling families to fend for themselves, especially when they’ve done everything right. No child in America should be receiving his or her primary care in the emergency room in the middle of the night. No child should be falling behind at school because he can’t hear the teacher or see the blackboard. I refuse to accept that millions of our children fail to reach their full potential because we fail to meet their basic needs. In a decent society, there are certain obligations that are not subject to tradeoffs or negotiations, and health care for our children is one of those obligations.
    That is why we have passed this legislation. These legislators have passed this legislation on a bipartisan basis to continue coverage for 7 million children, cover an additional 4 million children in need, and finally lift the ban on states providing insurance to legal immigrant children if they choose to do so.
    Since it was created more than 10 years ago, the Children’s Health Insurance Program has been a lifeline for millions of children whose parents work full time and don’t qualify for Medicaid, but through no fault of their own don’t have — and can’t afford — private insurance. For millions of children who fall into that gap, CHIP has provided care when they’re sick and preventive services to help them stay well. This legislation will allow us to continue and build on these successes. – WH Blog, 2-4-09
  • Obama takes blame in Daschle, Killefer controversy on NBC’s “Nightly News with Brian Williams.”: “I screwed up…. It’s important for this administration to send a message that there aren’t two sets of rules — you know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes.”
    “I’m frustrated with myself, with our team. … I’m here on television saying I screwed up.” – AP, 2-4-09
  • Governor John Lynch of New Hampshire: Cabinet deal is set for Gregg N.H. senator to get nod today; Likely successor is a Republican: “It is important that President Obama be able to select the advisers he feels are necessary to help him address the challenges facing our nation,” Lynch said in a statement. “If President Obama does nominate Senator Gregg to serve as commerce secretary, I will name a replacement who will put the people of New Hampshire first and represent New Hampshire effectively in the US Senate.” – Boston Globe, 2-3-09
  • Clinton Sets First High-Level Talks and Travel as Secretary of State: “That sense of enthusiasm as you walk in and through this building – it is contagious,” said Vice President Biden. “And that’s a statement about your ability to inspire, Madame Secretary, as well as to lead.”
    “We have in the leadership of President Obama someone who wants us to reach out to the world, to do so without illusions – understanding the difficulties we face will not be wished away, but meeting them forthrightly and smartly, and that we want to seize the opportunities that exist as well,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. – VOA, 2-2-09
  • Ironies pile up as Clinton sworn in to new U.S. post: “Never did I think, Madame secretary, that I would swear you in as secretary of state. Never did I think I’d be sworn in as vice president,” he said to laughter at a State Department ceremony attended by several hundred of Clinton’s friends and colleagues as well as four former secretaries of state. – Reuters, 2-2-09
  • Ironies pile up as Clinton sworn in to new U.S. post: “For me this has been an amazing personal journey. As Joe laughingly referenced, neither one of us thought we would be standing here together doing what we are now doing. Life has that funny way of unfolding and politics is even stranger.”…
    Clinton singled out Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “who after all presided over my confirmation hearing.” “I look forward to working with all of you — particularly the appropriators,” she said, alluding to the powerful members of Congress who dole out money for the State Department and other government agencies. – Reuters, 2-2-09
  • Obama says Iraq’s peaceful elections aid pullout in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer before the Super Bowl: “I think that you have a sense now that the Iraqis just had a very significant election with no significant violence that we are in a position to start putting more responsibility on the Iraqis and that’s good news not only for the troops on the ground but for the families who are carrying an enormous burden.”
    Lauer asked Obama if he could assure the troops “that a substantial number of them will be home” a year from now. Obama said: “Yes.”
    “We’re going to roll out in a very formal fashion what our intentions are in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.” – AP, 2-2-09
  • Obama pokes fun at Emanuel at Alfalfa Club dinner: “Now this hasn’t been reported yet, but it was actually Rahm’s idea to do the swearing-in ceremony again. Of course, for Rahm, every day is a swearing-in ceremony.”…
    “Every week the guy takes a little time away to give back to the community. Just last week he was at a local school, teaching profanity to poor children.”…
    If Lee “were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old,” Obama joked. “And very confused.”
    The president patted himself on the back for the “toughest diplomacy of my life” — being able to keep his Blackberry. “I finally agreed to limit the number of people who could e-mail me. It’s a very exclusive list. How exclusive?” “Everyone look at the person sitting on your left,” Obama said. “Now look at the person sitting on your right. None of you have my e-mail address.” – AP, 1-31-09
  • Al Gore: The former U.S. vice president to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at its first hearing in the new Congress “Gore urges passing stimulus deal to aid climate”: “For years our efforts to address the growing climate crisis have been undermined by the idea that we must choose between our planet and our way of life. In fact, the solutions to the climate crisis are the very same solutions that will address our economic and national security crises as well. – Reuters, 1-29-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “Presidential rivals can make excellent Cabinet members”: Goodwin noted that political rivals for the presidency, once they have been defeated through the election process, often remain among the strongest and most able people on the national stage.
    It is a truism apparently not lost on Obama, since he appointed his fiercest opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, to his Cabinet. “Hillary Clinton was his biggest rival,” said Goodwin. “I think she’ll be a very good secretary of state.”
    Goodwin also noted that Obama has appointed Republicans to his Cabinet, mentioning that while advice from those who may categorically disagree with you is important, a confident president then has no trouble making his own decisions. “Obama will have to decide what he’ll have to do,” about the welter of sticky problems he faces,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning scholar and author said. – Bradenton Herald, 29-09
  • Robert Dallek “Bush aides quick to criticize the Obama administration”: The tenor of the comments is remarkable so soon after the start of a new administration. Presidential historian Robert Dallek said the wave of criticism “speaks to their defensiveness,” noting that Bush spent much of his last two months in office defending his rocky White House tenure. “This was an administration that left so much under a cloud,” Dallek said. “They’re just continuing a pattern of aggression in defending their failed record, which is what the current judgment is among most Americans.” – Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2-8-09
  • David Greenberg “Will “war on terror” survive without Bush?”: “It may be only symbolic but it signals that Obama is serious about avoiding the kind of Bush-style foreign policy that proved so divisive,” said historian David Greenberg, an expert on presidential communication at Rutgers University in New Jersey. – Reuters, 2-6-09
  • Doug Wead “Obama’s Tardiness Sets Him Apart From Bush Unlike his predecessor, President Obama has struggled to arrive on time to events and news conferences”: “To me, being tardy, it’s got to be one of two things,” said presidential historian Doug Wead, who advised both Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush. “Bad organization that can be corrected, or it’s arrogance. It sounds to me like this is arrogance.”…
    Wead warned that habitual tardiness can be misinterpreted, citing the Cingular dropped-call ads that show how communication breakdown can lead to awkward moments in a New York minute. And he said being late could cost Obama politically. “When Obama’s popularity slips, some people on Capitol Hill will not wait for him, and that will result in diminished political power,” he said. – Fox News, 2-6-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama’s Tardiness Sets Him Apart From Bush Unlike his predecessor, President Obama has struggled to arrive on time to events and news conferences”: Allan Lichtman, a political history professor at American University, had a different explanation for Clinton’s tardiness. “President Clinton was always late because he wasn’t very disciplined in general,” he said. “This was a man who marched to the beat of his own drummer, who liked to talk, liked intellectual discussions, had his finger in every pie.” There are two kinds of presidents, Lichtman said: “Foxes and hedgehogs.” “Foxes know a little about everything. They have their fingers in every pie. … Hedgehogs only know a few things and know it well and leave the details to others. Clinton was a classic fox. Bush was a classic hedgehog.” And Obama? He appears to be a fox, too, Lichtman said. – Fox News, 2-6-09
  • Joseph McCartin “Executive Pay: Obama’s PATCO moment”: Of course, the diminution in union power had multiple causes, including globalization and a decline in U.S. manufacturing. But the attack on PATCO “had great impact,” says Joseph McCartin, a Georgetown University historian who has written extensively on the PATCO strike. “Reagan made strike-breaking more patriotic and striking less patriotic.” – MSNBC, 2-6-09
  • Donald A. Ritchie “Cabinet deal is set for Gregg N.H. senator to get nod today; Likely successor is a Republican”: Donald A. Ritchie, associate historian for the US Senate Historical Office, said governors have rarely reached across the political aisle to fill a Senate vacancy and usually only when state law has required it. Arizona is one of those states; if John McCain had won the presidential race, Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat would have had to appoint a Republican. Ritchie said the last time a governor freely chose a member of the other party to replace an outgoing senator was in 1960, when Governor Mark Hatfield of Oregon, a Republican, chose a Democratic judge to replace a Democratic senator who died. – Boston Globe, 2-3-09
  • Julian Zelizer “With Daschle’s withdrawal, can Obama repair image as ‘change’ agent?”: “Obama has work to do to restore his image as an agent of change,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. – LAT, 2-3-09
  • Stephen Tanner “Afghanistan: Can Obama succeed in the ‘land of the unruly?'”: “Controlling the Afghan people is a losing proposition,” says Stephen Tanner, author of “Afghanistan: A Military History from Alexander the Great to the Fall of the Taliban.” “No one has ever been able to control the country.” Afghan President Hamid Karzai is struggling to control the country now, Tanner says. The landlocked nation, which is roughly the size of Texas, has no strong national police, he says; its citizens are averse to taxes and a strong central government. Afghans seem to unite only when a foreign army occupies their country, Tanner says. “The people are so disunited within that they can’t resist an invader at the border,” Tanner says. “But once you’re in, you’re surrounded by them.” The resurgence of the Taliban will complicate Obama’s plans as well, Tanner says. – CNN, 2-2-09

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