History Buzz July 4, 2011: Obamas & Nation Celebrate Independence Day 2011

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

INDEPENDENCE DAY: JULY 4TH, 2011

STATS & POLLS

  • Celebrating Independence Day: Americans come together for Fourth of July festivities in the District and throughout the region…. – WaPo
  • How well do you know the Declaration of Independence? Take our quiz: Every Fourth of July, Americans celebrate the independence of the United States with fireworks, parades, and picnics. But how much do people know about the 1776 events that are being cheered? Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge of the Declaration of Independence…. – CS Monitor, 7-4-11

IN FOCUS

  • Obama thanks troops at July 4 party on South Lawn: Telling U.S. troops that “America is proud of all of you,” President Barack Obama marked the Fourth of July holiday by hosting a barbecue and concert for military members and families on the South Lawn of the White House.
    The president and his family – wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia – greeted more than 1,200 guests from a White House balcony Monday evening. After brief remarks, the first couple stood in the driveway and shook hands with visitors.
    “You represent the latest in a long line of heroes who have served our country with honor, who have made incredible sacrifices to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy,” Obama said. “You’ve done everything we could’ve asked of you,” he said, also recognizing the “families that serve alongside of you with strength and devotion.”… AP, 7-4-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Fireworks, parades, 62 hot dogs: US celebrates 4th: The U.S. marked the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with parades, fireworks, barbecues — plus presidential campaigning, a White House birthday and competitive eating….
    The holiday is celebrated as the nation’s birthday, but it also was Malia Obama’s 13th birthday. The president’s eldest daughter had to share her parents with hundreds of others as Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama invited troops and their families to attend a special barbecue and USO concert on the South Lawn.
    Some of the Republicans hoping to replace Obama in the White House spent part of the day campaigning in states where presidential politics are as much a part of the holiday as fireworks and barbecues…. – AP, 7-4-11
  • A Fireworks Show for the Nation: Fireworks will be illuminating the skies in cities across the country on this July 4 holiday.
    Among the classic destinations for Independence Day displays, the fireworks show on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has long been a go-to for pyrotechnic enthusiasts.
    A Tennessee-based company called Pyro Shows is on its ninth year of designing Washington’s fireworks celebration. We talked to Tom Stiner about what goes into pulling a pyrotechnic show of this magnitude.
    Set against the backdrop of the Washington monument, the event includes “A Capitol Fourth” concert, which you can watch on many PBS stations starting at 8 p.m. ET…. – PBS, 7-4-11
  • Fourth of July Celebrations Draw Families, Troops and Presidential Hopefuls: SUMMARY Americans at home and abroad celebrated Independence Day with parades, barbeques, and fireworks. Judy Woodruff reports on how Americans celebrated Independence Day here and abroad.
    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States marked its birthday today, the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with parades and fireworks, plus competitive eating, presidential campaigning, and a new teenager at the White House.
    The party started late last night, midnight, to be exact, in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The tiny mountain town kicked off the Fourth of July in classic fashion, with banners, music, and plenty of kids up past their bedtime.
    Today, in cities across the country, preparations were under way for a robust celebration, unpacking fireworks and prepping the stages…. – PBS Newshour, 7-4-11Mp3

QUOTES

The President and First Lady watch the fireworks

The President and First Lady watch the fireworks over the National Mall, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 7/4/10

Barack Obama: Today we are celebrating our country, honoring our troops, and enjoying a little BBQ. From all of us at Obama 2012, have a wonderful Fourth.

George W. Bush: Laura and I wish our fellow Americans a happy 4th of July. On this anniversary of our independence, we give thanks for our freedom. We salute the men and women in uniform who defend it. And we ask for God’s continued blessings on the United States.

John McCain: Independence Day Message: I was honored to join General David Petraeus today at a re-enlistment ceremony in Afghanistan for 235 of our brave troopers on this, America’s 235th Independence Day. It was both humbling and inspiring to share this day with so many young Americans who have committed their lives to a cause greater than themselves — the freedom and security of our nation.
As we gather today for backyard barbecues and community events this 4th of July, let us pay tribute to our troops in harms way, their families who miss and love them so dearly, and all the heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend the nation we love.
Have a safe and joyful 4th of July, and God Bless America!

Michelle Obama: What You Can Do to Support Military Families: Good morning, This Independence Day, I hope you’ll join me and my family in recognizing both our brave men and women in uniform and their families for everything they do to protect our country and our way of life.
We know that when our troops are called to serve, their families serve right along with them. For military kids, that means stepping up to help with the housework and putting on a brave face through all those missed holidays, bedtimes and ballet recitals. For military spouses, it means pulling double-duty, doing the work of both parents, often while juggling a full-time job or trying to get an education.
That’s why, a few months ago, Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, a nationwide campaign to recognize, honor, and serve our military families. Our troops give so much to this country and they ask us for just one thing in return: to take care of their families while they’re gone. So we’ve put out a call to action. We’re urging all Americans to ask themselves one question: What can I do to give back to these families that have given so much?
To answer that question you can go to JoiningForces.gov and learn more about how you can get involved. And you can get started right now through Operation Honor Card by pledging to spend a certain number of hours serving military families in your community. – WH, 7-4-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

An illustration shows Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams reviewing a draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson (left), Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Illustration courtesy Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, Library of Congres

  • Valerie Strauss: Top 5 myths about July 4: Back by popular demand (well, I like them), here are the top five myths about Independence Day, adapted from George Mason University’s History News Network:
    1. Independence was declared on the Fourth of July.
    2. The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4.
    3. The Liberty Bell rang in American Independence.
    4. Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag.
    5. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the Fourth of July…. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Fourth of July: Nine Myths Debunked Paul Revere didn’t ride solo, for one: Many time-honored patriotic tales turn out to be more fiction than fact. On the Fourth of July—today marked by a continent-spanning Google doodle—here’s a look at some memorable myths from the birth of the United States.
    1. The Declaration of Independence Was Signed on July 4
    2. Paul Revere Rode Solo
    3. July 4, 1776, Party Cracked the Liberty Bell
    4. Patriots Flocked to Fight for Freedom
    5. The Declaration of Independence Holds Secret Messages
    6. John Adams Died Thinking of Thomas Jefferson
    7. America United Against the British
    8. Betsy Ross Made the First American Flag
    9. Native Americans Sided With the British… – National Geo, 7-4-11
  • E.J. Dionne Jr.: What our Declaration really said: Our nation confronts a challenge this Fourth of July that we face but rarely: We are at odds over the meaning of our history and why, to quote our Declaration of Independence, “governments are instituted.”
    Only divisions this deep can explain why we are taking risks with our country’s future that we’re usually wise enough to avoid. Arguments over how much government should tax and spend are the very stuff of democracy’s give-and-take. Now, the debate is shadowed by worries that if a willful faction does not get what it wants, it might bring the nation to default.
    This is, well, crazy. It makes sense only if politicians believe — or have convinced themselves — that they are fighting over matters of principle so profound that any means to defeat their opponents is defensible.
    We are closer to that point than we think, and our friends in the Tea Party have offered a helpful clue by naming their movement in honor of the 1773 revolt against tea taxes on that momentous night in Boston Harbor…. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Special: Independence Daze – A History Of July 4th: Everybody knows that July 4th celebrates our nation’s beginnings. But for the first 94 years of our existence, the 4th wasn’t an official holiday at all. The Declaration of Independence itself sat untended in a dusty archive for 150 years. So how did Independence Day become the holiest day on our secular calendar? And why do we observe it with hot dogs, fireworks and mattress sales?
    In this hour, the History Guys explore the origins and curiosities of July 4th. They reveal the holiday’s radical roots, and look how the Declaration’s meaning has changed over time. They also consider how the Declaration’s messages about liberty and equality have been embraced by the descendents of slaves. And, as always, they take calls from BackStory listeners looking to the past to understand the America of today.
    Highlights Include:
    Historian Pauline Maier (“American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence”) contrasts the sections of the Declaration of Independence that mattered to the Founders with the sections that matter today.
    July 4th chronicler James Heintze (“The Fourth of July Encyclopedia”) recounts the early days of celebrating independence, with a special focus on explosives.
    Historian David Blight (“Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee”) analyzes Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro,” widely known as one of the greatest abolitionist speeches ever…. – KUOW, 7-4-11
  • On the Fourth, a declaration we still must live up to: MORE THAN 130 British ships had set sail from Nova Scotia on June 9, on their way to the rebellious American colonies. The king of England had hired thousands of German mercenaries. The British penalty for treason was death and confiscation of one’s estate. These were some of the things on the minds of members of the Continental Congress as they met in Philadelphia to debate independence 235 years ago.
    “And yet,” writes the historian Pauline Maier, “as the British began to bring the greatest fleet and the largest army ever assembled in North America into action against the Americans, Congress devoted the better part of two days to revising the draft declaration of Independence. Wars, it understood, were not won by ships and sailors and arms alone. Words, too, had power to serve the cause of victory.”
    The Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today, wasn’t even an official act of government. The Continental Congress had voted for independence on July 2. The July 4 Declaration, drafted mostly by Thomas Jefferson, was meant as inspiration for the soldiers and to justify and explain a drastic action against the crown to a divided and worried public. To be cynical about it, it was in some ways an early exercise in spin control, especially in its over-the-top excoriation of King George III’s alleged offenses. But in time it became — to use the title of Professor Maier’s 1997 book on the subject — “American Scripture,” with an impact on the national consciousness that far exceeded its revolutionary role….. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Victor Davis Hanson: America trusts its citizens: Putting confidence in individuals, and not the state or the bureaucracy, is what makes the U.S. an exceptional nation.
    For the last 235 years, on the Fourth of July, Americans have celebrated the birth of the United States, and the founding ideas that have made it the most powerful, wealthiest, and freest nation in the history of civilization.
    But today, there has never been more uncertainty about the future of America – and the anxiety transcends even the dismal economy and three foreign wars. President Obama prompted such introspection in April 2009, when he suggested that the United States, as one of many nations, was not necessarily any more exceptional than others. Recently, a New Yorker magazine article sympathetically described our new foreign policy as “leading from behind.”
    The administration not long ago sought from the United Nations and the Arab League – but not from Congress – authorization to attack Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya. Earlier, conservative opponents had made much of the president’s bows to Chinese and Saudi Arabian heads of state, which, coupled with serial apologies for America’s distant and recent past, were seen as symbolically deferential efforts to signal the world that the United States was at last not necessarily preeminent among nations.
    Yet there has never been any nation even remotely similar to America. Here’s why. Most revolutions seek to destroy the existing class order and use all-powerful government to mandate an equality of result rather than of opportunity – in the manner of the French Revolution’s slogan of “liberty, equality and fraternity” or the Russian Revolution’s “peace, land and bread.”… – PA Inquirer, 7-4-11
  • Around America, a spirited Fourth: In the nation’s capital, revelers celebrated the Fourth at the Mall in Washington. Festivities included a parade and fireworks.
    President Barack Obama thanked U.S. service members and their families Monday by hosting them on the South Lawn of the White House for a patriotic cookout and fireworks display.\ “After all that you do for our country every day, we wanted to give you guys a chance to get out of uniform, relax and have some fun,” Obama said.
    And fun was the order of the day as Americans celebrated Independence Day around the nation with flags, fireworks and food.
    Monday evening, revelers along the Hudson River readied for the Macy’s annual fireworks show, which usually attracts around 2 million people each year.
    In Washington, a display on the National Mall was scheduled to light up the night sky with the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop.
    In key states around the nation, GOP presidential hopefuls for 2012 spent the day meeting with supporters at various events.
    Meanwhile, the rest of us settled in for a summer day as, well, American, as apple pie…. – CNN, 7-4-11
  • July 4th Menus in Years Past: July 4th cake Our idea of what types of food to serve on July 4th is pretty clear: hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, and a red-white-and blue dessert, perhaps, like the festive cake pictured.
    But how was Independence Day celebrated in the early days of the new republic? Food historian Sandra Oliver has delved into the past for answers, and was happy to share her findings with Epicurious.
    The news of Independence took time to trickle down through the country, she says, and celebrations were low-key local observances. “That’s pretty much the case for the first 30 or 40 years or so,” says Oliver…. – Epicurious, 7-4-11
  • Charles Cohen: History Bits About the Declaration of Independence and Its Main Author: For this July 4th Independence Day, we asked a historian to share a few stories about the Declaration of Independence and the people who drafted it.
    Charles Cohen, a professor of history and religious studies at U-W Madison, says there was genius behind Thomas Jefferson and others who crafted the document establishing the United States.
    But Cohen says misconceptions have also arisen about the Declaration and its authors…. – WUWM, 7-4-11Download Mp3
  • Some of the signers are obscure but Declaration of Independence endures: When you set off fireworks this holiday, remember to say “thanks” to William Whipple. Or tip your hat to Caesar Rodney as you throw hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. William who? Caesar what? Not exactly household names are they? But without them, and 54 other men like them, people wouldn’t have July 4 off from work, much less a country.
    At a crucial time 235 years ago, those 56 men signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, telling King George III theywere “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” The document was a momentous step, and the signers were the movers and shakers of their time. Yet, history has not been kind to many of them.
    “Some are well remembered, but the rest of them unfortunately go down in history as footnotes,” said Broome County Historian Gerald Smith…. – Press Connects, 7-3-11
  • What does our “Declaration of Independence” really mean?: Shocked again! Did YOU hear the news report that only 58% of us (Americans) know when our Declaration of Independence was signed on TV news last evening? The TV report continued to announce that a quarter of us (Americans) do NOT know from whom our founders declared INDEPENDENCE! Do YOU know?
    And now it is dawning the 4th of July 2011, the 235th anniversary of our DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE from GREAT BRITIAN. Did YOU know 1776 was the year? Did YOU know that GREAT BRITAIN was the “mother country” from which we did declare our INDEPENDENCE?
    The BRITISH “Daily Mail” online specifically puts its focus on our lack of knowledge as to whom we declared our INDEPENDENCE from, “While 76 per cent correctly said Great Britain, 19 per cent were unsure, and 5 per cent mentioned another country.”… – Gazette Extra, 7-4-11
  • Eric Slauter: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: How did these words become the most important in the Declaration of Independence? The answer starts with a small band of motivated Americans.
    In America’s revolutionary history, no document is more iconic than the Declaration of Independence, the short but sweeping statement issued by Congress on July 4, 1776, severing bonds with Britain and launching the Colonies on their path to independence.
    But what does the Declaration of Independence actually declare? For most Americans today, the answer is embodied in the opening sentence of the second paragraph: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.�
    Perhaps no sentence in American history is better known or has had a greater impact than these powerful words about equality and rights. It is no wonder then that schoolchildren memorize this sentence, that adults consider it the founding creed of America’s civil religion, or that this and other newspapers will highlight these words on their editorial pages tomorrow…. – Boston Globe, 7-3-11
  • Steven Greiert: History lesson Nation’s Founding Fathers had plenty of blemishes: Dr. Steven Greiert, a history professor at Missouri Western State University, said a surprising number of people confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, which came more than a decade later.
    “I think it’s very important that Americans spend time looking at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to really understand what went on at that time,” Dr. Greiert said. “Know the difference between the two documents.”
    The document that declared the states independent from British rule meant something different to the men who drafted it than what it means to citizens today. “All men are created equal” was written by men who owned slaves, and nearly 100 years before the 15th amendment, which prohibits denying a person (male) the right to vote on “account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”
    “What they really were saying was that all white men should have equal opportunity,” Dr. Greiert said of the drafters, many of whom were wealthy landowners. Women wouldn’t be considered “equal,” where voting was concerned, until 144 years after the Declaration of Independence was written…. – News Press Now, 7-4-11
  • Michael Steiner: History lesson Nation’s Founding Fathers had plenty of blemishes: Dr. Michael Steiner, a history professor at Northwest Missouri State University, references the study of historian Richard Shenkman, who said the public has a hard time accepting that the Founding Fathers “stooped to playing politics.” The public might also have a hard time swallowing that the founders didn’t approve of a popular vote for presidential elections.
    “Less well known is that the Founding Fathers didn’t particularly want the Electoral College to make the decision either,” wrote the author. “The expectation was that in most cases the electors would deadlock, throwing the contest into the House of Representatives.”
    Dr. Steiner said the more his students read about the Founding Fathers, the more human the drafters become.
    “And I believe that’s a good thing,” he said. “We create this mythic infallibility around them that is simply inaccurate. We want them to be better than they were. But they were normal living and breathing human beings like you and me. Thank goodness.”… – News Press Now, 7-4-11
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December 26, 2008: President-Elect Barack Obama Completes his Cabinet

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

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

In Focus:

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

The Headlines…

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

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

Political Quotes

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

Historians’ Comments

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