January 20, 2009: The Barack Obama Inauguration

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY: THE INAUGURATION

The Inauguration of President Barack Obama

IN FOCUS: INAUGURATION DAY STATS

OathDoug Mills/The New York Times

In Focus: Stats

  • Americans flooded D.C. for historic presidential inauguration: They came from across America, a buoyant and determined crowd of well over 1 million people, confronting numbing cold and logistical disarray to witness a profound moment in history. – NJ.com, 1-20-09
  • Crowds of 1 million or more test US capital: More than 1 million people crammed onto the National Mall and along the inauguration parade route Tuesday to celebrate the swearing-in of the nation’s first black president in what was one of the largest-ever gatherings in the nation’s capital. The Associated Press based its estimate on crowd photographs and comparisons with past events. – IHT, 1-20-09
  • INAUGURATION JOLTS INTERNET: President Obama’s inauguration sparked significant traffic jams – not only on Washington’s streets but in cyberspace as well, according to Web performance monitors. They reported slowdowns at the Web sites run by the White House and the U.S. Senate as well as at several online news outlets. – MSNBC, 1-20-09
  • Barack Obama inauguration: his worst speech: QUITE a day, but not much of speech unfortunately. Obama got where he is by speechifying, but this effort would not have won him many votes. It was his worst on a grand stage, though still better than most politicians could muster. The delivery, as ever, was first class, but the message was wasn’t clear enough and the language not insufficiently inspiring. – Telegraph UK, 1-20-09

THE HEADLINES….

WalkingPresident Obama and the First Lady walking on Pennsylvania Avenue during his inaugural parade. (Jae Hong/Associated Press)

The Headlines…

    President Barack Obama: New White House website

  • Obama Is Sworn In as the 44th President: Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday before a massive crowd reveling in a moment of historical significance, and called on Americans to confront together an economic crisis that he said was caused by “our collective failure to make hard choices.” – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Having a Ball: The Obamas have been zooming through their 10 official balls and are now running more than an hour ahead of schedule. The whole ball tour was supposed to end at 2:55 a.m., but they’re wrapping it up before 12:45. And who can blame them? By the fifth and sixth of these things, the First Couple was clearly operating on fumes. – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Obamas dance to ‘At Last’ at Neighborhood Ball: “At Last” may have been just what President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were thinking Tuesday night as they glided through their first inaugural dance to the Etta James classic. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Obama takes power, urges unity vs. ‘raging storms’: Before a jubilant crowd of more than a million, Barack Hussein Obama claimed his place in history as America’s first black president, summoning a dispirited nation to unite in hope against the “gathering clouds and raging storms” of war and economic woe. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Sen. Kennedy OK after seizure at Obama’s luncheon: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, ill with a brain tumor, was hospitalized Tuesday but quickly reported feeling well after suffering a seizure at a post-inauguration luncheon for President Barack Obama. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Relationship gets official for Roberts and Obama: Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Barack Obama as president Tuesday in the first of what could be many important interactions for the two men of differing politics who rose quickly to power. The encounter was briefly awkward after Obama stepped on Roberts’ opening lines from the 35-word constitutionally prescribed oath of office. The chief justice then wandered into a verbal detour of his own. AP, 1-20-09
  • Thousands welcome the Bushes back to Texas: A large crowd in Waco greets former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, on Tuesday. George W. Bush basked in the warmth of an enthusiastic Texas crowd on Tuesday as thousands came from all across the state to welcome him home after eight years in the White House. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Gone to Texas: Bush returns to state he loves: Leaving the White House for the last time on Tuesday, President George W. Bush blew a kiss out the window of his presidential limousine, a gesture that capped an eight-year administration marked by two wars, recession and the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Bush exits White House, goes home to Texas: After eight years in office, Bush flew home to Texas, where he was welcomed at a rally in Midland, before ending the day at his Crawford ranch. – Reuters, 1-20-09
  • Staff emotional as President George W. Bush passes reins to Barack Obama: President Bush took a final solo stroll on the South Lawn and later blew a departing kiss to the White House on Tuesday to end two terms marked by crisis at home and abroad. – NY Daily News, 1-20-09
  • Obama Renovates WhiteHouse.gov: Before Barack Obama even finished taking the oath of office, the White House site switched over to the Obama administration’s version. Macon Phillips, who identified himself as the director of new media for the White House, wrote a post describing the features of the new site. NYT, 1-20-09
  • A Day of New Beginnings for Michelle Obama and Her Daughters: On Inauguration Day, President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, became the first black family to move into the White House. – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Inaugural prayers aim for a more diverse America: Evangelical pastor Rick Warren, whose participation drew criticism from liberals and gay rights groups, directly invoked Jesus as expected in his invocation, but did so personally. “I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life,” he prayed. He also quoted from the most important prayer in Judaism, the Sh’ma, when he said, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One,” and he called God “the compassionate and merciful one,” a phrase from Muslim devotion. “His was as inclusive a prayer as an evangelical can give,” said Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Obama inauguration: George Bush – the man who was no longer president: 43rd president leaves note in the Resolute desk for successor — Bushes head to Midland, Texas after ceremony – Guardian, UK, 1-20-09
  • In Bipartisan Appeal, Obama Praises McCain and Powell: In a major bipartisan appeal on the eve of his inauguration, Barack Obama held dinners Monday evening for Republicans Colin Powell and John McCain, praising both to the skies and perhaps making a down payment on future political success. – NYT, Caucus Blog, 1-19-09

IN FOCUS: OBAMA’S INAUGURAL ADDRESS

Inaugural speech“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America,” President Obama said. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address

    Transcript
    MP3 Download

  • My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.
    I thank President Bush for his service to our nation…… as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
    Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.
    The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
    So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
    That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age….
    Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.
    On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
    On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.
    We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
    In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.
    It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.
    Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom….
    This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.
    Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
    For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
    All this we can do. All this we will do….
    The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, hether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.
    Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end….
    And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.
    We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We’ll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan….
    And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, “Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
    For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.
    And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace….
    As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
    We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.
    And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
    For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies….
    Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old.
    These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.
    What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.
    This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
    This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
    This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
    So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.
    In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river.
    The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.
    At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
    “Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.”
    America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
    Thank you. God bless you.
    And God bless the United States of America.

QUOTES

Wave, President Bush

Quotes

  • President Obama Inaugural Balls Comments: Today was your day. Today was a day that represented all your efforts, all your faith, all your confidence in what’s possible in America. They said it couldn’t be done. And you did it….
    There is something in the spirit of the American people that insists on recreating this country when we get a little bit off course. That’s what powered this election, it’s what’s given our team the kind of energy that has allowed us to overcome extraordinary obstacles and given me so much confidence that our better days are ahead…. That this is not the end, this is the beginning….
    When you look at the history of this campaign, what started out as an improbable journey, where nobody gave us a chance, was carried forward by, was inspired by, was driven by, was energized by young people all across America….
    I can’t tell you how many people have come up to Michelle and myself and said, ‘You know, I was kind of skeptical, but then my daughter, she wouldn’t budge, she just told me I needed to vote for Obama.’ Or, ‘Suddenly I saw my son, he was out volunteering and knocking on doors and traveling and getting involved like never before.’ And so new generations inspired previous generations, and that’s how change happens in America. And as this is broadcast all around the world. We know that young people everywhere are in the process of imagining something different than what has come before. Where there is war, they imagine peace. Where there is hunger, they imagine people being able to feed themselves. Where there is disease, they imagine a public health system that works for everybody. Where there is bigotry, they imagine togetherness. The future will be in your hands if you are able to sustain the kind of energy and focus that you showed on this campaign. I promise you that America will get stronger and more united, more prosperous, more secure — you are going to make it happen, and Michelle and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts….
    Every day that I’m in the White House, I’ll try to serve you as well as you serve America. We will write the next great chapter in America’s story. – NYT, 1-20-09
  • George W. Bush Homecoming Speech in Midland, TX: “I always felt it was important to tackle the tough issues today and not try to them on to future presidents, and future generations. I never took an opinion poll to tell me what to think. And I’m coming home with my head held high and a sense of accomplishment.
    There were some good days and there were some tough days but every day was an honor to be your president. I gave it my all. Listen. Sometimes what I did wasn’t popular, but that’s okay, I always did what I thought was right….
    Popularity is as fleeting as the Texas wind; character and conscious are as sturdy as our oaks.
    History will be the judge of my decisions, but when I walked out of the Oval Office this morning, I left with the same values that I took to Washington eight years ago. And when I get home tonight and look in the mirror, I’m not going to regret what I see — except maybe some gray hair….
    My dad is America’s only sky-diving former president and that’s a title he’s going to keep.”
    In the morning, he said, he would make his wife coffee, “skim” the newspaper, call some friends, read a book, feed the dogs, go fishing, take a walk and by that time it will be 8 in the morning. “That’s what happens when you’re a type A personality. I told Laura I was excited about her cooking again — kinda. She told me she was excited about me mowing the lawn and taking out the trash –- it’s my new domestic agenda.
    I’m the first former president to be able to share the post-presidency with both my parents.
    I want people to be able to understand what it was like in the Oval Office when I had to make some of the tough decisions that I was called upon to make. History tends to take a little time for people to remember what happened and to have an objective accounting of what took place and I’d like to be a part of making a real history of this administration come to life.” NYT, 1-20-09
Bushes and ObamasIn an inaugural tradition, the Bushes welcomed the Obamas to the White House for tea. Michelle Obama’s outfit was designed by Isabel Toledo. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)
  • Bush Says Decisions in Office Kept America Safe From Attack: President Bush says in his farewell address that he is “filled with gratitude,” and that the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama represents a “moment of hope and pride” for the country.
    Fellow citizens, for eight years, it has been my honor to serve as your president. The first decade of this new century has been a period of consequence, a time set apart.
    Tonight, with a thankful heart, I have asked for a final opportunity to share some thoughts on the journey we have traveled together and the future of our nation….
    Tonight, I am filled with gratitude to Vice President Cheney and members of the administration; to Laura, who brought joy to this house and love to my life; to our wonderful daughters, Barbara and Jenna; to my parents, whose examples have provided strength for a lifetime.
    And above all, I thank the American people for the trust you have given me. I thank you for the prayers that have lifted my spirits. And I thank you for the countless acts of courage, generosity and grace that I have witnessed these past eight years.
    This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house, September 11, 2001. That morning, terrorists took nearly 3,000 lives in the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor….
    As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation. And I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe.
    Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists’ movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots….
    There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil. This is a tribute to those who toil night and day to keep us safe — law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, homeland security and diplomatic personnel, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
    Our nation is blessed to have citizens who volunteer to defend us in this time of danger. I have cherished meeting these selfless patriots and their families. And America owes you a debt of gratitude. And to all our men and women in uniform listening tonight: There has been no higher honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief….
    Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I’ve always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.
    The decades ahead will bring more hard choices for our country, and there are some guiding principles that should shape our course.
    While our nation is safer than it was seven years ago, the gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack. Our enemies are patient, and determined to strike again. America did nothing to seek or deserve this conflict. But we have been given solemn responsibilities, and we must meet them. We must resist complacency. We must keep our resolve. And we must never let down our guard.
    ….In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad. If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led.
    As we address these challenges — and others we cannot foresee tonight — America must maintain our moral clarity. I’ve often spoken to you about good and evil, and this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two of them there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense — and to advance the cause of peace.
    President Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” As I leave the house he occupied two centuries ago, I share that optimism. America is a young country, full of vitality, constantly growing and renewing itself. And even in the toughest times, we lift our eyes to the broad horizon ahead.
    I have confidence in the promise of America because I know the character of our people. This is a nation that inspires immigrants to risk everything for the dream of freedom. This is a nation where citizens show calm in times of danger, and compassion in the face of suffering. We see examples of America’s character all around us….
    In citizens like these, we see the best of our country – resilient and hopeful, caring and strong. These virtues give me an unshakable faith in America. We have faced danger and trial, and there’s more ahead. But with the courage of our people and confidence in our ideals, this great nation will never tire, never falter, and never fail.
    It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your President. There have been good days and tough days. But every day I have been inspired by the greatness of our country, and uplifted by the goodness of our people. I have been blessed to represent this nation we love. And I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other – citizen of the United States of America.
    And so, my fellow Americans, for the final time: Good night. May God bless this house and our next President. And may God bless you and our wonderful country. Thank you. – Fox News, 1-15-09
  • Cheney Mocks Biden, Defends Rumsfeld in ‘FOX News Sunday’ Interview: In one of his last interviews before leaving Washington, D.C., Vice President Cheney, a 40-year veteran of Washington politics, tried to straighten out a few misconceptions about his tenure and the way the executive and legislative branches are supposed to work.
    He also said that all the powers and responsibilities of the executive branch are laid out in Article I of the Constitution. Well, they’re not. Article I of the Constitution is the one on the legislative branch. Joe’s been chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate for 36 years, teaches constitutional law back in Delaware, and can’t keep straight which article of the Constitution provides for the legislature and which provides for the executive. So I think I’d write that off as campaign rhetoric. I don’t take it seriously.
    If he wants to diminish the office of the vice president, that’s obviously his cal. President-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president and apparently, from the way they’re talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I have had during my time….
    The president of the United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States. He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen.
    He doesn’t have to check with anybody. He doesn’t have to call the Congress. He doesn’t have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in.
    I did disagree with the decision. The president doesn’t always take my advice.
    We’ve been here for eight years now, eventually you wear out your welcome in this business but I’m very comfortable with where we are and what we’ve achieved substantively. And frankly I would not want to be one of those guys who spends all his times reading the polls. I think people like that shouldn’t serve in these jobs. – Fox News, 1-21-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

(Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Obama speech draws on past inaugurations”: “I think the message he wanted to convey was to give a sober, serious, laundry-list, speech. The point was the campaign is over and it’s time to work,” Princeton University presidential historian Julian Zelizer said.
    “He spoke about trying to find which government programs worked and which didn’t, to overcome old divisions,” he said, noting Obama’s use of a biblical line from Corinthians to urge the nation “to set aside childish things”.
    “If this turns into an FDR-like Hundred Days, I think the overall tenor of the address will be what we discuss rather than one line or another,” Zelizer added. – The Age, Australia, 1-20-09
  • Timothy Garton Ash “Obama Promises the World a Renewed America “: “We have entered a period of historical transition in which the United States will become first among equals, rather than simply top dog, hyperpower and unquestioned hegemon,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European studies at Oxford. “But for Europeans, it may be a case of being careful what you wish for, because the Obama administration is likely to say, ‘Good, then put your money where your mouth is, and in the first place, put more troops in Afghanistan.'” – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Julian Zelizer “A fitting speech for a time of a crisis”: And for Princeton professor Julian Zelizer, one line particularly stood out: “One of the most important lines was ‘What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them.’ If any of our recent presidents had said this, the line would quickly be forgotten, more false promises by the new kid in town,” Zelizer says. “But this time it seems different. Never has there been a leader whose presidency in itself is a sign that the possibility of change is real in American politics.” – First Post, UK, 1-20-09
  • Historians Offer Post-Speech Analysis: Video Online – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • ELLEN FITZPATRICK, University of New Hampshire “Obama Claims Presidency, Cites Challenges Ahead”: The suddenness of it I think is striking in one sense, and yet one could argue that it took our entire history to get us to the place that we are today, that is, we crossed the threshold of American history today. This was truly a historic moment in electing and inaugurating our first African-American president. And I think the day was very rich in history. And the people on the mall came because they were conscious of that and moved by it. You could feel it and see it in the crowd.
    I think it’s actually — I dissent a little bit, I think, from the sentiment that’s shaping up and to say that I think it was an extraordinarily powerful speech. And the pageantry and that element that Richard just mentioned was surely there, but embedded in it was a critique that we have strayed far from our founding. He asked us to choose our better history, and it was an unvarnished view of American history that he offered. There was that phrase, “We have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, but we’ve triumphed over these tragedies and the hatred of our past.” And so, in that sense, he was seizing the historic occasion of his inauguration and using it as a way to call Americans back to their origins. And there was a critique here of where we’ve been. He said, “We don’t have to choose between our safety and our ideals.” That, to me, was a reference to the abrogation, or so he would argue, I would say, from those ideals through the war on terror. So it was a very powerful cry to remake America by drawing on our fundamental historical values.
    Well, I think in some ways that it was somber in the way these speeches tend to be. I think that, in a sense, as an African-American, he writes in his biography about remaking himself, by going back to the well of the past, that he’s called America back to the well of its own past. And I think in evoking segregation, the civil war and the tragedies of America’s racial history, in a sense, as an African-American, he is singularly well-placed to be mindful that history is full of tragedy. He’ll be the least surprised, I suspect, of any president about the tragedies that may unfold under his watch. – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • PENIEL JOSEPH, Brandeis University “Obama Claims Presidency, Cites Challenges Ahead”: Well, in terms of historically, there’s very few days that actually transform the aesthetics of our democracy. The memory that this day invokes the most is probably the march on Washington, August 28, 1963. Forty-five years and five months ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., came to the Lincoln Memorial with really an expansive vision of American democracy. In that speech, King talked about the previous 100 years, especially the civil war, slavery. In this speech, the president-elect really — or the president really elegantly evoked race. He didn’t make race the central point of his speech, but he acknowledged the notion of slavery, the notion of Jim Crow segregation, and the notion that his father actually couldn’t have been seated at a restaurant 45 years ago.
    Well, three speeches come to mind. One, FDR’s first inauguration in 1933, where he really had an expansive critique of capitalism sort of run amok. In 1941, FDR has a speech where he talks about democracy and uses the word democracy about two dozen times in his inaugural address and basically makes the argument that democracy will not die because the spirit and faith of American people won’t let it die. And the final one is John F. Kennedy, Kennedy’s speech about a new generation of Americans and a new generation taking the leadership. Obama’s speech really evokes all of that, but the twist is really the iconography. I think one of the reasons why some of the commentators are saying that the speech was only good and not great is because the pageantry, like Richard talked about and Ellen talked about, is really overwhelming all of us. But when you really read the speech — and I’m not sure this crowd got the substantive nature of this speech — the speech substantively matches the overwhelming symbolism of the day.
    Well, I agree. I concur. I think that this speech really links the notion of race in a democracy in an expansive way. Historically, race has been a paradoxical part of American democracy. In this speech, we crossed the Rubicon, so to speak, as a nation, not turning the page on racism, but turning the page on really a tragic racial past. And it makes an argument that race actually is a strength of the democracy, rather than a weakness. – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • RICHARD BROOKHISER, National Review “Obama Claims Presidency, Cites Challenges Ahead”: Well, no, you can’t, but I was struck today by the kind of pageant of confirmation that this whole day was. And there have been some of those in the American past, where people sort of collectively get together and say, “Yes, we like this. This is good.” Washington’s First Inaugural was like that. The government was new. The Constitution was new. The great war hero was coming back to lead it. You know, he went from Mount Vernon to New York. It was like a six-day triumphal progress. And then the numbers were much smaller, but in terms of percentage of population, it was maybe equal or even greater to the turnout we had today. But it was just like a collective embracing of the moment and saying, “We’re happy to be here.” And I got a feeling of that watching this day as it unfolded.
    Well, it was, but, you know, history always gives people surprises. Now, eight years ago, George W. Bush was coming in, and he did not imagine he was going to be fighting two wars. I mean, no one would have. And there was a foreign policy component of this speech. He did mention that. He made the points that you touched on. He also addressed our enemies and said, “We will defeat you.” But, you know, the enemies will have the freedom of action, also. And they will try and pick and choose their battles. And now all those phone calls are coming to our new president, many of which we will never hear about, but, you know, the killers are out there. They’re still after us. Now there’s a new commander- in-chief who will have to deal with them.
    Well, you know, we have a sense of where he would like to go, and now the work begins. And it was a very, I think, kind of an ambitious, if open-ended sort of a vision, but, you know, now there’s — now the follow-up will come. – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • Gil Troy “Religious Figures, Kennedy, Oprah Nab Hot Inauguration Seats Obama Families Seen Alongside Politicians, Celebs at the Hotly Anticipated Event “: “The simple fact that they give a ticket to one person and not others … becomes tremendously important,” said Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University in Montreal, and a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. “You are setting up a historic tableau. … Each one of them [the guests] is carrying a different part of the narrative, not just your personal narrative but being weaved into the political narrative of United States history.”…
    “It needs to be used carefully and effectively so that you can turn all this symbolic hour into real political opportunity and power,” Troy said. “The inauguration has to be an opportunity of looking forward to starting the presidency.” – ABC News, 1-20-09
  • Nikki Brown “A Day of New Beginnings for Michelle Obama and Her Daughters”: “A part of what this family is going to do is to show that families of color are not so different,” said Nikki Brown, an assistant professor of history at the University of New Orleans. “That’s what I see, when I see them on TV: a working father, a working mother, a grandmother that cares for the babies, children that are doing well in school,” Ms. Brown said. “That’s a narrative that the country is still trying to create a language for, normal families of color.” – NYT, 1-20-09
Barack and Michelle Obama danced to Beyoncé Knowles singing “At Last.” (Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times)

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Commander in Chief Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum in Washington, Tuesday. AP/Charles DharapakDancing queen: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Commander in Chief Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum in Washington, Tuesday. AP/Charles Dharapak

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Post Election News & Analysis: The Obama Presidency

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Election Result Snapshot:

    Google News Results

  • Barack Obama: 364, 53% 64,643,455
  • John McCain: 162, 46% 56,903,815 — 47%
  • Barr 0% 494,102 Nader (I) 1% 667,416
  • Nader 1% 667,416
  • Senate: 35 seats contested
    Democrats: 57, 18 won, +6
    Republicans: 40, 14 won
  • House: 435 seats contested
    Democrats: 254, +20
    Republicans: 173

Doug Mills/The New York Times

President-elect Barack Obama, who went for a morning workout on Thursday in Chicago, plans a news conference on Friday.

The Headlines…

  • Obama speaks with 9 world leaders: President-elect Obama accepted congratulations from nine presidents and prime ministers Thursday, returning calls from world leaders who reached out after his presidential victory. – AP, 11-7-08
  • Palin lays low as interview requests pile up: Gov. Sarah Palin hadn’t been back home in Alaska for a full day and her staff had begun fielding requests Thursday for postelection interviews, including from Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, Larry King and others. AP, 11-7-08
  • Obama’s choice of Emanuel shows switch in tone: Barack Obama is signaling a shift in tactics and temperament as he moves from candidate to president-elect, picking sharp-elbowed Washington insiders for top posts. – AP, 11-6-08
  • Palin gone, anything but forgotten: GOP vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin returned home in defeat to Wasilla, Alaska, on Wednesday night – leaving behind eyebrow-raising tales about towel-clad appearances and internal campaign feuds. – San Francisco Chronicle, 11-6-08
  • Among Democrats’ Leadership Questions: What to Do With Lieberman?: As election returns in Oregon gave Democrats a sixth new seat in the Senate, Democratic leaders on Thursday began to confront some of the crucial personnel questions that would shape the next Congress, including the fate of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut after his ardent backing of Senator John McCain for president. – NYT, 11-6-08
  • Tough Election Leaves GOP In Dire Straits: Politico: Republican Party Seen As Increasingly Out-Dated, In Its Worst Shape Since Rise Of The Conservative Coalition – Politico, 11-6-08
  • Rahm Emanuel Accepts Chief of Staff Post: President-elect Barack Obama said Thursday afternoon that he selected Representative Rahm Emanuel, a fierce and consummate navigator of the capital’s political terrain, as his chief of staff because he has “deep insights into the challenging economic issues that will be front and center for our administration.” – NYT, 11-6-08
  • Bush Wants to Ensure a Smooth Transfer to Obama: President Bush and Barack Obama on Monday will hold their first substantive talks about the nation’s daunting priorities as the transition to a Democratic administration accelerates. Bush, soon to return to Texas after two terms in office, ordered employees on Thursday to ensure a smooth transfer of power to Obama. The transition is a delicate dance in which the White House keeps the president-elect in the loop, and even solicits his input, but the decisions remain solely the president’s. – AP, 11-6-08
  • Breaking Down Obama’s Cabinet Contenders As Obama Prepares To Fill Key Cabinet Roles, CBSNews.com Looks At The Names Generating The Most Buzz In Washington – CBS News, 11-6-08
  • Obama Unveils Presidential Transition Team As Congratulations Pour In, President-Elect Begins Process To Build Cabinet To Help Deal With Challenges At Home And Abroad: President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday announced that his presidential transition team will be led by John Podesta, who served as chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, campaign advisor Valerie Jarrett, and Pete Rouse, who has been Obama’s chief of staff in the Senate. CBS/AP, 11-5-08
  • Obama picks Clinton alum Emanuel chief of WH staff: President-elect Barack Obama pivoted quickly to begin filling out his new administration on Wednesday, selecting hard-charging Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff while aides stepped up the pace of transition work that had been cloaked in pre-election secrecy. – AP, 11-5-08
  • Obama aims for smooth transition: Democrat Barack Obama put aside the victory celebrations on Wednesday and began crafting a White House team to help him lead a country mired in a deep economic crisis and two lingering … Reuters, 11-5-08
  • Great expectations: Obama will have to deliver: Over and over, Barack Obama told voters if they stuck with him “we will change this country and change the world.” They did, and now their expectations for him to deliver are firmly planted on his shoulders. Many supporters greeted his victory with euphoria. – AP, 11-5-08
  • McCain starts mapping out a new role in the Senate: Before resting from the grueling presidential race, John McCain began discussing with senior aides what role he will play in the Senate now that he has promised to work with the man who defeated him for president. One obvious focus will be the war in Iraq. After two years spent more on the campaign than in the Senate, McCain will return as the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. – AP, 11-5-08
  • Minnesota Senate race heads into automatic recount: A slugfest for nearly two years, Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race headed into a new round Wednesday as the campaigns girded for an automatic statewide recount to determine whether Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s bare lead over Democratic challenger Al Franken would stand. – AP, 11-5-08
  • Daley celebrates a peaceful rally GRANT PARK | ‘It was a homecoming … a baptism’ – Chicago Sun-Times, 11-6-08
  • World reaction to Obama victory: Elation – LA Times, 11-6-08

With Mrs. Laura Bush, the Vice President and Mrs. Cheney and Cabinet secretaries looking on, President George W. Bush addresses his staff Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008, on the South Lawn of the White House. Said the President, "As we head into this final stretch, I ask you to remain focused on the goals ahead. I will be honored to stand with you at the finish line." White House photo by Eric Draper

With Mrs. Laura Bush, the Vice President and Mrs. Cheney and Cabinet secretaries looking on, President George W. Bush addresses his staff Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008, on the South Lawn of the White House. Said the President, “As we head into this final stretch, I ask you to remain focused on the goals ahead. I will be honored to stand with you at the finish line.” White House photo by Eric Draper

Political Quotes

  • President-Elect Barack Obama: I announce this appointment first because the chief of staff is central to the ability of a president and administration to accomplish an agenda. And no one I know is better at getting things done than Rahm Emanuel.
    Michelle and I look forward to meeting with President Bush and the First Lady on Monday to begin the process of a smooth, effective transition. I thank him for reaching out in the spirit of bipartisanship.”
  • Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff, Obama Administration: Now is a time for unity. I will do everything in my power to help you stitch together the frayed fabric of our politics, and help summon Americans of both parties to unite in common purpose….
    Like the record amount of voters who cast their ballot over the last month, I want to do everything I can to help deliver the change America needs. We have work to do, and Tuesday Americans sent Washington a clear message — get the job done.
    I want to say a special word about my Republican colleagues, who serve with dignity, decency and a deep sense of patriotism. We often disagree, but I respect their motives. Now is a time for unity, and Mr. President-elect, I will do everything in my power to help you stitch together the frayed fabric of our politics, and help summon Americans of both parties to unite in common purpose.
  • Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour: With the selection of Rahm Emanuel [as White House Chief of Staff] I think Sen. Obama is sending a strong signal of partisanship. He’s a hardball player if there ever was one. That doesn’t say much to me about this ‘post-partisan’ presidency.’
  • The House minority leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, said in a statement: This is an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil and govern from the center.
  • President George W. Bush: Earlier this year, I promised that I would sprint to the finish. I am keeping that promise, and I know I have given some of you a good workout along the way. As we head into this final stretch, I ask you to remain focused on the goals ahead. I will be honored to stand with you at the finish line.
    We face economic challenges that will not pause to let a new president settle in. This will also be America’s first wartime transition in four decades.

Historians’ Comments

  • David Greenberg “Landslide? Not Exactly: While 2008 represents an unmistakable repudiation of contemporary conservatism, Obama didn’t redraw the electoral map.
    The advent of America’s first black president inexorably calls forth the word historic. Uttered so frequently last evening, as it will be in the days ahead, the adjective would have been drained of meaning but for the palpable momentousness of Barack Obama’s election. Gone was the pretense of post-racialism; revealed was liberal America’s pride in the often-unsung progress toward equality and toleration achieved in the civil rights movement’s aftermath…. TheDailyBeast.com, 11-5-08
  • Alonzo Hamby “President-Elect and Champion Campaigner Obama”:
    ….Yet I am struck that so many different people see different Obamas….
    From my point of view, the transformation of the Daley organization into a 60s Popular Front, with room for Weathermen bombers, old Black Panthers, and Israel-haters are revelatory of the moral confusion of post-Vietnam American liberalism.
    Who IS the real BHO? I’m damned if I know, but I feel that I can only take him and his record at face value. No one can deny, however, that he ran a helluva of a campaign and is as charismatic a figure as we’ve seen in American politics for a long time. Let’s hope for the best. HNN, POTUS Blog, 11-5-08
  • Gil Troy “The Obama-McCain “Return Night” Reconciliation: Lasting Hope or Fleeting Moment?”:
    On Thursday, in Georgetown, Delaware, the losing and winning candidates from the various contests around that state will assemble for Return Day. In a ritual tracing its roots to 1791, voters and politicians will hear the official electoral returns and make nice, no matter how bitter their campaigns may have been. In addition to parading together down the main street in antique automobiles, the rivals will bury a ceremonial tomahawk, quite literally burying the hatchet. Late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, President-elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain mounted their own version of this reconciliation ritual, offering a magnificent display of the grace, civility, and patriotism that could heal America, even during these painful times. – HNN, 11-5-08
  • Richard Norton Smith and Peniel Joseph Historians Answered Your Questions on Obama’s Win, 2008 Campaign:
    Sen. Barack Obama will become the country’s first black leader after a campaign season that broke records and saw female candidates break new ground. Historians Richard Norton Smith and Peniel Joseph answered your questions on this historic election. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • ELLEN FITZPATRICK, University of New Hampshire “An ‘evolution’ of U.S. democracy”:
    I think it’s an incredible moment in the history of this country, one of the more important moments we have seen ever.
    And that is because this election has resolved a moral contradiction that runs through the interstices of our history from its very founding.
    The founders were not able to deal with the issue of slavery and created a republic based on a set of values and beliefs that were denied to African-Americans through more than two centuries.
    And through segregation, after the Civil War, it was followed by segregation, the Jim Crow laws. And that moment — I think we’ve put a punctuation mark on a very important and rather shameful chapter….
    PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • PENIEL JOSEPH, Brandeis University “An ‘evolution’ of U.S. democracy”:
    Well, certainly I think we all agree at this roundtable that this election shows the evolution of American democracy. As historians, we realize that that evolution is not always a linear progression.
    So during the reconstruction era, for instance, we had the first generation of black elected officials, and then that time ended because of Jim Crow segregation. The civil rights movement became a second reconstruction, so to speak.
    And now, 40 years later, I think many African-Americans are thinking of this as a potential third reconstruction. But white Americans and Latinos have joined them, as well, so this really speaks to the potential, in terms of democratic progression for the nation. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University “An ‘evolution’ of U.S. democracy”:
    You know, 50 years later, we don’t think of John F. Kennedy — the first thing that comes to mind is not the first Catholic president.
    Clearly, it loomed much larger in November 1960 than it does 50 years later. And if 50 years from now, the most important thing about Barack Obama was his race, that would give me real pause, and it would suggest that his presidency, which ultimately is going to be about other things than race, was less than successful. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: “An ‘evolution’ of U.S. democracy”:
    And, you know, in a way, that is what happens when there is success in breaking a barrier.
    You know, one reason we don’t think of John Kennedy so much as a Catholic is because, by breaking the barrier, people didn’t notice those things anymore.
    The second Catholic on a national ticket after Kennedy was William Miller, on with Barry Goldwater in 1964. No one even mentioned it, you know? And I think that will happen, the same thing with the second African- American on a national ticket after Barack Obama. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • ELLEN FITZPATRICK “Hopes and concerns”:
    I think what we’re seeing is a tremendous feeling on the part of the public that what they responded to was the sense of hope that was being offered.
    This was ridiculed at times in the campaign. But every social movement that has amounted to anything in American history was based on that kind of idealism and some powerful leadership, a figure, as well, that the greatest ones have been trans-historical, who were able to capture that mood and articulate it.
    And the shifting of generations evokes 1960, as well. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH “Hopes and concerns”:
    Franklin Roosevelt once said that, since our founding, we have been engaged in a permanent peaceful revolution, a revolution that he defined as being all about, ultimately, democratic inclusiveness. And that’s very much a part of the essentially optimistic, hopeful nature of the American people.
    I was struck by those comments. And last night, people feel good. People could have been very angry in this campaign, and certainly there was anger.
    But, you know, Barack Obama notably did not run as an angry candidate. Reagan-esque style, he really did appeal to our sense of possibility. Maybe not optimism, because it’s a tough time to be optimistic, but he clearly laid the groundwork for, in effect, a unity government after a period of considerable division. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • PENIEL JOSEPH “Obama’s challenges ahead”:
    Well, I think domestically we have to go back to FDR. And FDR talked about freedom from fear in 1932, freedom from want, talked about a new social contract with the body politic.
    Certainly. And by 1940, we were faced on the eve of the Second World War, at least the United States’ involvement in that conflict.
    Certainly, in 1960, John Kennedy faced a changing world within the midst of the Cold War, but I think what Obama is facing is unprecedented in a way. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS “Obama’s challenges ahead”:
    Well, you know, another part of this is that, you know, a political scientist would say we had a lot of the ingredients yesterday for high turnout, high intensity: two candidates with big differences on the major issues; and also an election where we really are at a crossroads on economic policy, social issues, national security.
    But I must say I must have been too jaded, because I would have said probably — and I would have been wrong 48 hours ago — that, you know, people have a sense that the system isn’t working and they won’t turn out in those numbers, numbers that approach 1908, 1960, years of very high turnout.
    But the other thing is that, you know, look at Obama. You were talking about optimism and hope. Look what kind of a leader he is.
    There was a potential in the last two months for a demagogue of the kind of Huey Long of Louisiana, to just start an angry campaign, “These horrible people on Wall Street are stealing your money, and the government is paying them off, and why are oil prices so high, and arms merchants got us into a war in Iraq, and oil, and all this stuff.”
    A leader could have gone very far with that kind of an angry appeal; none of that with Obama.
    So the result is that, elected as he is by a decent margin, he’s coming in with an appeal that is almost entirely positive. And I think that says very good things about this country. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH “Obama’s challenges ahead”:
    Well, not only positive, but almost post-ideological. I mean, the really remarkable thing, here is someone who in many ways — let’s face it — is a product of the civil rights revolution, who is a product of the ’60s.
    Certainly a beneficiary, absolutely, but who was very much a product of those times, and yet who’s been very explicit in making clear his desire to turn the page on our unhealthy, cultural obsession with the 1960s. And in a sense, he’s almost a post-boomer president. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • PENIEL JOSEPH “History’s lessons on expectations”:
    Well, I think the Obama campaign has talked about the first 100 days and reading books about FDR’s first 100 days to see how he would respond if he gets into the White House.
    I think when we look at somebody like Bill Clinton, there were high expectations, and the first year was kind of rocky. He got caught up in gays in the military and Whitewater instead of policy implications.
    So in terms of managing expectations, I think it’s going to be difficult, based on the 63 million votes — this is the most in American history — but based on the campaign and the discipline of his campaign, I think he’ll be able to manage it….
    Well, the 63 million for a Democrat. This is the most a victor has gotten in American history. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS “History’s lessons on expectations”: A blessing because he can call on those people and say, “You elected me to do A, and B, and C. I’m asking you for sacrifices that may be required to achieve those things. You people have to come among with me on that.”
    But, you know, here, again, Obama benefits from having read history. In that speech last night, he said, “You know, I may not do everything in my first year or even my first term.” You sort of think that he may have read John Kennedy’s inaugural, where he said, “All this will not be finished in the first 100 days, 1,000 days, life of this administration.”
    Occasionally it does really help when a president has read some history. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH “History’s lessons on expectations”: And echoes of Dr. King. “We may not get there.”…
    Well, I mean, the classic — I mean, Herbert Hoover went into office the most popular man in the country, deemed to be an economic wizard.
    That didn’t — that didn’t sustain itself….
    But what I believe, the inauguration, this is going to be the most exciting inauguration since Andrew Jackson. And the irony is, you know, Jackson ushered in a new era of, quote, “democracy,” very limited. It included basically white men.
    But, nevertheless, it was a profound shift from the well-bred and well-read who had governed the nation before Jackson.
    They had enormous expectations. They formed an army, a new politically potent army, and he sustained that, and he transformed the party, and he transformed the country.
    That’s a tall order. But, clearly, there was that same sense of excitement. And I think, in this case, it transcends narrowly partisan loyalties.
    As I say, there’s a real feeling in this country today of almost universal pride. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • ELLEN FITZPATRICK “History’s lessons on expectations”: I think that every president has a difficult job sustaining the momentum and meeting the expectations. But the great presidents rise to their historical moment.
    It may be a terrible moment. It may be a war; it may be a horrible depression. But the public, I think, is chastened. They understand what we’re up against, and they’re looking for leadership.
    If they provide leadership, even if they don’t have all the answers and the solutions, that will carry them. – PBS Newshour, 11-5-08
  • David Greenberg: McCain Ran the Sleaziest Campaign in History?: ….But unlike those exaggerations, the line about McCain threatens to stain a man’s name for history. And when viewed without partisan blinders or presentist lenses, the charge doesn’t hold up. Indeed, it says more about today’s political culture, which has grown unusually high-minded, and the emotions that Americans invest in presidential elections, which are unfailingly intense, than it does about McCain himself…. – Slate, 11-5-08
  • Allan Lichtman, presidential historian, American University “Latest : Historic win, Canada AM”: Allan Lichtman gives us his reaction to last night’s historic win. He also provides analysis of Obama’s election campaign strategy and the future of American politics – CTV, 11-5-08
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University “Political History Takes New Course in ’08 Election”: Oh, sure. There’s the history you make for the first time and there’s the history that you revisit.
    Clearly, in terms of what is unprecedented, the headline about this is, come January, we will have our first African-American president or our first female vice president. That’s the headline. And it’s a pretty impressive headline.
    Beyond that headline, however, when you begin to ask what is motivating people, in terms of voting, I think you can look at a number of elections in the past which are basically about the economy. And I think, for the last six weeks, that’s certainly been what has been driving this more than anything else.
    It feels a lot like 1980, when there was clearly a desire on the part of most people for something other than the status quo, but the challenger, Ronald Reagan, had to convince a majority of the country that he represented a safe alternative to the status quo. – PBS Newshour, 11-4-08
  • PENIEL JOSEPH, Brandeis University “Political History Takes New Course in ’08 Election”:
    Certainly. The idea that the United States, 43 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, could actually have a major party nominee be an African-American is extraordinary and unprecedented.
    After signing the Voting Rights Act, August 6, 1965, Lyndon Johnson famously said that he was giving away the South, basically, for a generation. And except for a blip in 1976, when Carter won every southern state except for Virginia, that’s basically held true in two-person presidential elections.
    So the idea that an African-American, as all polls suggest, may become the next president is certainly historic and unprecedented. – PBS Newshour, 11-4-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian “Political History Takes New Course in ’08 Election”:
    Once, yes, but it hasn’t been enough. You know, I mean, first of all, it shouldn’t have taken until 1920 nor should it have taken until the end of the Civil War for African-Americans to get the vote.
    Our founders were terrific, but this is a good night to remember, as wonderful as we think they are and admire them for all sorts of reasons, these were people who did not consider African-Americans fully human, considered them mainly slaves, and also never conceived of the idea that women would be an important part of our political culture.
    This night is a triumph in those terms, too. – PBS Newshour, 11-4-08
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH “Parallels to the ’30s”:
    Well, the difference, of course, is that you had this slow-motion train wreck. I mean, you’d had three years in which the American people had been marinated in despair. And, basically, millions of them had given up hopes.
    They had lost their homes; they’d lost their jobs. And they were un-American, in the sense that they had lost that most American sense of optimism, that the future is our friend.
    So Franklin Roosevelt, who, by the way, as you know, was written off by a lot of journalists and would-be pundits in the ’32 campaign as an amiable lightweight, nevertheless won simply because he wasn’t Herbert Hoover.
    And the fact that he promised an experimental, innovative kind of government to a people who were tired of a government that appeared frozen in indifference, the difference, of course, is now — to be sure, people all year long have been saying the economy is the number-one issue, but it’s only in the last six weeks that there’s a sense of panic about the future….
    Yes, what happened in 1980 was people — Americans always believe the future is going to be better than the present. In 1980, there was a disconnect. People questioned that. And that was made-to-order for Ronald Reagan. – PBS Newshour, 11-4-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS “Parallels to the ’30s”:
    I think ’32 will do, because, you know, ’32 was, as Richard is saying, as we’ve suggested, a huge economic problem. But the thing about this year is we’re not just at a fork in the road on our economic system. We’re at a fork in the road also on national security. That rarely happens.
    ’32 was a big economic election; 1940, Franklin Roosevelt was running against Wendell Willkie, who was saying, “Don’t help the British. Let’s stay out of what would become World War II.” Now you’ve got a time when both of these issues are combined in one year.
    You know, all of us, I think, as historians tend to think that you can only see something as historic in retrospect, but anyone tonight who’s going to say that the next president is not going to have an enormous effect over how this country changes on both of those fronts I think is kidding themselves. – PBS Newshour, 11-4-08PBS Newshour, 11-4-08

Brendan Smialowski for The New York Times

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman is not sure which direction he is going in the Senate leadership.

The Vice Presidential Debate: Highlights

The Vice Presidential Debate: Highlights

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH: THE VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

The first and only vice-presidential debate was held October 2, 2008 at Washington University in St. Louis. It was moderated by Gewn Ifill of PBS, the debate covered a wide range of issues, including pressing domestic issues, such as the economy and foreign policy, including Iraq and Iran.

Debate
Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Gov. Sarah Palin at the debate in St. Louis. (Photo: James Estrin/The New York Times)

The Stats

  • CBS Poll: More Uncommitted Voters Saw Biden As Winner: 46% Joe Biden, 21 Sarah Palin, 33%, tie – CBS, 10-2-08
  • Debate poll says Biden won, Palin beat expectations:
    CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll: Joe Biden won 51% to 36% Sarah Palin, 11% tie, 2% neither
    Expectations: 84% said Palin did better than expected and 7% said worse, while 64% said Biden did better than expected and 14% worse.
    Palin beats Biden on likability, 54-36
    87 percent say Biden is qualified for job, 42 percent say Palin is – CNN, 10-2-08

In the News…

Candidate Soundbites

  • Full Transcript
  • On the Economy / Bailout Bill

  • BIDEN: I think it’s neither the best or worst of Washington, but it’s evidence of the fact that the economic policies of the last eight years have been the worst economic policies we’ve ever had. As a consequence, you’ve seen what’s happened on Wall Street.
    If you need any more proof positive of how bad the economic theories have been, this excessive deregulation, the failure to oversee what was going on, letting Wall Street run wild, I don’t think you needed any more evidence than what you see now….
    Yes, well, you know, until two weeks ago — it was two Mondays ago John McCain said at 9 o’clock in the morning that the fundamentals of the economy were strong. Two weeks before that, he said George — we’ve made great economic progress under George Bush’s policies.
    Nine o’clock, the economy was strong. Eleven o’clock that same day, two Mondays ago, John McCain said that we have an economic crisis.
    That doesn’t make John McCain a bad guy, but it does point out he’s out of touch. Those folks on the sidelines knew that two months ago.
  • PALIN:….The barometer there, I think, is going to be resounding that our economy is hurting and the federal government has not provided the sound oversight that we need and that we deserve, and we need reform to that end.
    People in the Senate with him, his colleagues, didn’t want to listen to him and wouldn’t go towards that reform that was needed then. I think that the alarm has been heard, though, and there will be that greater oversight, again thanks to John McCain’s bipartisan efforts that he was so instrumental in bringing folks together over this past week, even suspending his own campaign to make sure he was putting excessive politics aside and putting the country first….
    John McCain, in referring to the fundamental of our economy being strong, he was talking to and he was talking about the American workforce. And the American workforce is the greatest in this world, with the ingenuity and the work ethic that is just entrenched in our workforce. That’s a positive. That’s encouragement. And that’s what John McCain meant.
  • On the Lending Meltdown

  • PALIN: Darn right it was the predator lenders, who tried to talk Americans into thinking that it was smart to buy a $300,000 house if we could only afford a $100,000 house. There was deception there, and there was greed and there is corruption on Wall Street. And we need to stop that…. One thing that Americans do at this time, also, though, is let’s commit ourselves just every day American people, Joe Six Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and say never again. Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these dollars….
    I would like to respond about the tax increases. We can speak in agreement here that darn right we need tax relief for Americans so that jobs can be created here. Now, Barack Obama and Senator Biden also voted for the largest tax increases in U.S. history. Barack had 94 opportunities to side on the people’s side and reduce taxes and 94 times he voted to increase taxes or not support a tax reduction, 94 times….
    I’m still on the tax thing because I want to correct you on that again. And I want to let you know what I did as a mayor and as a governor. And I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I’m going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also….
  • BIDEN: So what you had is you had overwhelming “deregulation.” You had actually the belief that Wall Street could self-regulate itself. And while Barack Obama was talking about reinstating those regulations, John on 20 different occasions in the previous year and a half called for more deregulation. As a matter of fact, John recently wrote an article in a major magazine saying that he wants to do for the health care industry deregulate it and let the free market move like he did for the banking industry….
    The charge is absolutely not true…. Number two, using the standard that the governor uses, John McCain voted 477 times to raise taxes….John McCain said as early as last December, quote — I’m paraphrasing — “I’m surprised about this subprime mortgage crisis,” number one.
  • On Taxes and Healthcare

  • BIDEN: The middle class is struggling. The middle class under John McCain’s tax proposal, 100 million families, middle class families, households to be precise, they got not a single change, they got not a single break in taxes….
    And then you’re going to have to replace a $12,000 — that’s the average cost of the plan you get through your employer — it costs $12,000. You’re going to have to pay — replace a $12,000 plan, because 20 million of you are going to be dropped. Twenty million of you will be dropped.
    So you’re going to have to place — replace a $12,000 plan with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the “Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.”
  • PALIN: Now you said recently that higher taxes or asking for higher taxes or paying higher taxes is patriotic. In the middle class of America which is where Todd and I have been all of our lives, that’s not patriotic. Patriotic is saying, government, you know, you’re not always the solution. In fact, too often you’re the problem so, government, lessen the tax burden and on our families and get out of the way and let the private sector and our families grow and thrive and prosper. An increased tax formula that Barack Obama is proposing in addition to nearly a trillion dollars in new spending that he’s proposing is the backwards way of trying to grow our economy.
    …But a $5,000 health care credit through our income tax that’s budget neutral. That’s going to help. And he also wants to erase those artificial lines between states so that through competition, we can cross state lines and if there’s a better plan offered somewhere else, we would be able to purchase that. So affordability and accessibility will be the keys there with that $5,000 tax credit also being offered.
  • On Campaign Promises

  • BIDEN: The bottom line here is that we are going to, in fact, eliminate those wasteful spending that exist in the budget right now, a number of things I don’t have time, because the light is blinking, that I won’t be able to mention, but one of which is the $100 billion tax dodge that, in fact, allows people to take their post office box off- shore, avoid taxes. I call that unpatriotic. I call that unpatriotic.
  • PALIN: I want to go back to the energy plan, though, because this is — this is an important one that Barack Obama, he voted for in ’05. Senator Biden, you would remember that, in that energy plan that Obama voted for, that’s what gave those oil companies those big tax breaks. Your running mate voted for that….
    There is not. And how long have I been at this, like five weeks? So there hasn’t been a whole lot that I’ve promised, except to do what is right for the American people, put government back on the side of the American people, stop the greed and corruption on Wall Street.
    And the rescue plan has got to include that massive oversight that Americans are expecting and deserving. And I don’t believe that John McCain has made any promise that he would not be able to keep, either.
  • On Energy

  • PALIN: We’re circulating about $700 billion a year into foreign countries, some who do not like America — they certainly don’t have our best interests at heart — instead of those dollars circulating here, creating tens of thousands of jobs and allowing domestic supplies of energy to be tapped into and start flowing into these very, very hungry markets.
    Energy independence is the key to this nation’s future, to our economic future, and to our national security. So when we talk about energy plans, it’s not just about who got a tax break and who didn’t. And we’re not giving oil companies tax breaks, but it’s about a heck of a lot more than that. Energy independence is the key to America’s future….
    Yes, Senator McCain does support this. The chant is “drill, baby, drill.” And that’s what we hear all across this country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into…. I was surprised to hear you mention that because you had said that there isn’t anything — such a thing as clean coal. And I think you said it in a rope line, too, at one of your rallies.
  • BIDEN: Well, I think it is manmade. I think it’s clearly manmade. And, look, this probably explains the biggest fundamental difference between John McCain and Barack Obama and Sarah Palin and Joe Biden — Governor Palin and Joe Biden.
    If you don’t understand what the cause is, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade. That’s the cause. That’s why the polar icecap is melting.
  • On Same Sex Marriage & Benefits

  • BIDEN: Absolutely. Do I support granting same-sex benefits? Absolutely positively. Look, in an Obama-Biden administration, there will be absolutely no distinction from a constitutional standpoint or a legal standpoint between a same-sex and a heterosexual couple….
    No. Barack Obama nor I support redefining from a civil side what constitutes marriage. We do not support that.
  • PALIN: Well, not if it goes closer and closer towards redefining the traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman. And unfortunately that’s sometimes where those steps lead….But in that tolerance also, no one would ever propose, not in a McCain-Palin administration, to do anything to prohibit, say, visitations in a hospital or contracts being signed, negotiated between parties…
    Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage and my answer is the same as his and it is that I do not.
  • On Iraq

  • PALIN: And Senator Biden, I respected you when you called him out on that. You said that his vote was political and you said it would cost lives. And Barack Obama at first said he would not do that. He turned around under political pressure and he voted against funding the troops. We do have a plan for withdrawal. We don’t need early withdrawal out of Iraq. We cannot afford to lose there or we’re going to be no better off in the war in Afghanistan either. We have got to win in Iraq….
    Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq and that is not what our troops need to hear today, that’s for sure. And it’s not what our nation needs to be able to count on. You guys opposed the surge. The surge worked. Barack Obama still can’t admit the surge works.
  • BIDEN: Gwen, with all due respect, I didn’t hear a plan. Barack Obama offered a clear plan. Shift responsibility to Iraqis over the next 16 months. Draw down our combat troops. Ironically the same plan that Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq and George Bush are now negotiating. The only odd man out here, only one left out is John McCain, number one. Number two, with regard to Barack Obama not quote funding the troops, John McCain voted the exact same way. John McCain voted against funding the troops because of an amendment he voted against had a timeline in it to draw down American troops. And John said I’m not going to fund the troops if in fact there’s a time line. Barack Obama and I agree fully and completely on one thing. You’ve got to have a time line to draw down the troops and shift responsibility to the Iraqis.
  • BIDEN: But let’s get straight who has been right and wrong…. John McCain was saying the Sunnis and Shias got along with each other without reading the history of the last 700 years. John McCain said there would be enough oil to pay for this. John McCain has been dead wrong. I love him. As my mother would say, god love him, but he’s been dead wrong on the fundamental issues relating to the conduct of the war. Barack Obama has been right. There are the facts.
  • On Iran and Pakistan

  • PALIN: An armed, nuclear armed especially Iran is so extremely dangerous to consider. They cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons period… And an issue like that taken up by a presidential candidate goes beyond naivete and goes beyond poor judgment. A statement that he made like that is downright dangerous because leaders like Ahmadinejad who would seek to acquire nuclear weapons and wipe off the face of the earth an ally like we have in Israel should not be met with without preconditions and diplomatic efforts being undertaken first.
  • BIDEN: Now, John and Governor Palin now say they’re all for — they have a passion, I think the phrase was, a passion for diplomacy and that we have to bring our friends and allies along. Our friends and allies have been saying, Gwen, “Sit down. Talk. Talk. Talk.” Our friends and allies have been saying that, five secretaries of state, three of them Republicans. And John McCain has said he would go along with an agreement, but he wouldn’t sit down. Now, how do you do that when you don’t have your administration sit down and talk with the adversary?
  • On Israel

  • PALIN: Israel is our strongest and best ally in the Middle East. We have got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust, despite, again, warnings from Iran and any other country that would seek to destroy Israel, that that is what they would like to see. We will support Israel. A two-state solution, building our embassy, also, in Jerusalem, those things that we look forward to being able to accomplish, with this peace-seeking nation, and they have a track record of being able to forge these peace agreements.
  • BIDEN: Gwen, no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion.
  • PALIN: But for a ticket that wants to talk about change and looking into the future, there’s just too much finger-pointing backwards to ever make us believe that that’s where you’re going. Positive change is coming, though. Reform of government is coming. We’ll learn from the past mistakes in this administration and other administrations…. That’s what John McCain has been known for in all these years. He has been the maverick. He has ruffled feathers. But I know, Senator Biden, you have respected for them that, and I respect you for acknowledging that. But change is coming.
  • On Nuclear Weapons & Afganistan

  • PALIN: Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be all, end all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet, so those dangerous regimes, again, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, period…. Now, Barack Obama had said that all we’re doing in Afghanistan is air-raiding villages and killing civilians. And such a reckless, reckless comment and untrue comment, again, hurts our cause. That’s not what we’re doing there. We’re fighting terrorists, and we’re securing democracy, and we’re building schools for children there so that there is opportunity in that country, also. There will be a big difference there, and we will win in — in Afghanistan, also….
    Barack Obama was saying we need more troops there. Again, we spend in three weeks on combat missions in Iraq, more than we spent in the entire time we have been in Afghanistan. That will change in a Barack Obama administration.
  • BIDEN: Look, we have spent more money — we spend more money in three weeks on combat in Iraq than we spent on the entirety of the last seven years that we have been in Afghanistan building that country. Let me say that again. Three weeks in Iraq; seven years, seven years or six-and-a-half years in Afghanistan. Now, that’s number one. Number two, with regard to arms control and weapons, nuclear weapons require a nuclear arms control regime. John McCain voted against a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty that every Republican has supported.
  • On Foreign Wars, etc..

  • BIDEN: With regard to Iraq, I indicated it would be a mistake to — I gave the president the power. I voted for the power because he said he needed it not to go to war but to keep the United States, the UN in line, to keep sanctions on Iraq and not let them be lifted. I, along with Dick Lugar, before we went to war, said if we were to go to war without our allies, without the kind of support we need, we’d be there for a decade and it’d cost us tens of billions of dollars. John McCain said, no, it was going to be OK.
  • PALIN: Oh, yeah, it’s so obvious I’m a Washington outsider. And someone just not used to the way you guys operate. Because here you voted for the war and now you oppose the war. You’re one who says, as so many politicians do, I was for it before I was against it or vice- versa. Americans are craving that straight talk and just want to know, hey, if you voted for it, tell us why you voted for it and it was a war resolution… .I beg to disagree with you, again, here on whether you supported Barack Obama or John McCain’s strategies. Here again, you can say what you want to say a month out before people are asked to vote on this, but we listened to the debates.
  • On Education

  • PALIN: Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let’s look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future. You mentioned education and I’m glad you did. I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and god bless her. Her reward is in heaven, right? I say, too, with education, America needs to be putting a lot more focus on that and our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding that they are deserving. Teachers needed to be paid more. I come from a house full of school teachers. My grandma was, my dad who is in the audience today, he’s a schoolteacher, had been for many years. My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher in the year, and here’s a shout-out to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the debate.
  • BIDEN: I hope we’ll get back to education because I don’t know any government program that John is supporting, not early education, more money for it. The reason No Child Left Behind was left behind, the money was left behind, we didn’t fund it.
  • On the role of the Vice-President

  • PALIN: Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we’ll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation. And it is my executive experience that is partly to be attributed to my pick as V.P. with McCain, not only as a governor, but earlier on as a mayor, as an oil and gas regulator, as a business owner. It is those years of experience on an executive level that will be put to good use in the White House also.
  • BIDEN: And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there’s a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.
  • On the Candidates’ Achilles heel

  • PALIN: But it wasn’t just that experience tapped into, it was my connection to the heartland of America. Being a mom, one very concerned about a son in the war, about a special needs child, about kids heading off to college, how are we going to pay those tuition bills? About times and Todd and our marriage in our past where we didn’t have health insurance and we know what other Americans are going through as they sit around the kitchen table and try to figure out how are they going to pay out-of-pocket for health care? We’ve been there also so that connection was important…. People aren’t looking for more of the same. They are looking for change. And John McCain has been the consummate maverick in the Senate over all these years…. We have got to win the wars. We have got to get our economy back on track. We have got to not allow the greed and corruption on Wall Street anymore….Change is coming. And John McCain is the leader of that reform.
  • BIDEN: You’re very kind suggesting my only Achilles Heel is my lack of discipline… Others talk about my excessive passion. I’m not going to change. I have 35 years in public office. People can judge who I am. I haven’t changed in that time…. I understand, as well as, with all due respect, the governor or anybody else, what it’s like for those people sitting around that kitchen table. And guess what? They’re looking for help. They’re looking for help. They’re not looking for more of the same….Look, the maverick — let’s talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He’s been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people’s lives.
  • On Bipartisanship

  • BIDEN: I have been able to reach across the aisle. I think it’s fair to say that I have almost as many friends on the Republican side of the aisle as I do the Democratic side of the aisle….
    I have been able to work across the aisle on some of the most controversial issues and change my party’s mind, as well as Republicans’, because I learned a lesson from Mike Mansfield. Mike Mansfield, a former leader of the Senate, said to me one day — he — I made a criticism of Jesse Helms. He said, “What would you do if I told you Jesse Helms and Dot Helms had adopted a child who had braces and was in real need?” I said, “I’d feel like a jerk.” He said, “Joe, understand one thing. Everyone’s sent here for a reason, because there’s something in them that their folks like. Don’t question their motive.”
  • PALIN: Now, Barack Obama, of course, he’s pretty much only voted along his party lines. In fact, 96 percent of his votes have been solely along party line, not having that proof for the American people to know that his commitment, too, is, you know, put the partisanship, put the special interests aside, and get down to getting business done for the people of America….
    You do what I did as governor, and you appoint people regardless of party affiliation, Democrats, independents, Republicans. You — you walk the walk; you don’t just talk the talk. And even in my own family, it’s a very diverse family. And we have folks of all political persuasion in there, also, so I’ve grown up just knowing that, you know, at the end of the day, as long as we’re all working together for the greater good, it’s going to be OK.
  • Changing View & Closing Remarks

  • BIDEN: And so that — that — that was one of the intellectual changes that took place in my career as I got a close look at it. And that’s why I was the first chairman of the Judiciary Committee to forthrightly state that it matters what your judicial philosophy is. The American people have a right to understand it and to know it….
    You know, in the neighborhood I grew up in, it was all about dignity and respect. A neighborhood like most of you grew up in. And in that neighborhood, it was filled with women and men, mothers and fathers who taught their children if they believed in themselves, if they were honest, if they worked hard, if they loved their country, they could accomplish anything. We believed it, and we did. That’s why Barack Obama and I are running, to re-establish that certitude in our neighborhoods. Ladies and gentlemen, my dad used to have an expression. He’d say, “champ, when you get knocked down, get up.” Well, it’s time for America to get up together. America’s ready, you’re ready, I’m ready, and Barack Obama is ready to be the next president of the United States of America.
  • PALIN: …But on the major principle things, no, there hasn’t been something that I’ve had to compromise on, because we’ve always seemed to find a way to work together. Up there in Alaska, what we have done is, with bipartisan efforts, is work together and, again, not caring who gets the credit for what, as we accomplish things up there….
    I want to assure you that John McCain and I, we’re going to fight for America. We’re going to fight for the middle-class, average, everyday American family like mine. I’ve been there. I know what the hurts are. I know what the challenges are. And, thank God, I know what the joys are, too, of living in America. We are so blessed. And I’ve always been proud to be an American. And so has John McCain. We have to fight for our freedoms, also, economic and our national security freedoms. It was Ronald Reagan who said that freedom is always just one generation away from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream; we have to fight for it and protect it, and then hand it to them so that they shall do the same, or we’re going to find ourselves spending our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children about a time in America, back in the day, when men and women were free. We will fight for it, and there is only one man in this race who has really ever fought for you, and that’s Senator John McCain.

Debate

Gov. Sarah Palin and Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. spoke as their families gathered on stage after the vice-presidential debate. (Photo: James Estrin/The New York Times)

Historians’ Comments

  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: Well, I think in one way, and that is, you know, we saw Adlai Stevenson distance himself from the unpopular Harry Truman in ’52. And Hubert Humphrey tried to do that with LBJ in 1968. But Sarah Palin put both of them in the shade tonight. She left George W. Bush way behind in the snow. You would think that there was almost no connection between them, especially because, on one of the rare occasions when Joe Biden essentially tried to say, “This is the president of your party,” and she said, “You know, Joe, you’re looking backwards. Say it ain’t so.”
    And I think the result of that was, you didn’t have a candidate who was trying to defend a lot of the Iraq war, as unpopular as it is, or even some of the president’s decisions that may have led to this economic crisis.
    And the result was that this was sort of an argument by her relentless that was not too different from a lot of the Republican presidential campaigns all the way back to ’72. “The Democrats will give you high taxes. They’re too weak.”
    I thought that she went almost over the line in saying that Biden and Obama, if elected, would raise the white flag of surrender. I think that was really not of the stature of a potential vice president….
    Well, and both of them were probably helped by the rules, the McCain side that was worried that Sarah Palin, if you had longer answers and, as you know better than anyone, Jim, these were rules that were different from the ones that you operated under last week, much more clipped answers, much less sort of interaction between the two candidates.
    And so there was not a gaffe on either side. And I think both sides were relieved.
    But I didn’t think that they really looked equal tonight. I think she got through without saying something that would damage her in the way that some of these interviews that she’s done with Katie Couric and others have done during the last week.
    But I think Biden gave the sense of someone who’s a little bit more human, a lot more willing to confess human error. His was sort of, “You know, here I am, warts and all.” I think that’s appealing in a public figure. – PBS Newshour, 10-2-08
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University: Sure. Well, I agree with David. I think, in a sense, that she obviously surpassed expectations if you thought that Tina Fey basically had set, you know, the threshold.
    I think the biggest change that will probably occur as a result of this evening, I think you will hear those voices on the right, particularly conservative intellectuals, who have been calling publicly for her to get off the ticket, I think that will go away. There is no doubt that Sarah Palin’s name will be on the ballot on November 4th.
    Beyond that, I have to tell you, you know, we’re all understandably spending a lot of time talking about Governor Palin. Joe Biden had a difficult job, in some ways, going into this. Remember Vice President Bush 20 years ago with Geraldine Ferraro.
    Remember going into this debate, everyone was speculating about, would he be condescending? Would he talk down to her? Would he make her a sympathetic figure by, you know, inadvertently? Would he be too long-winded? Would he make gaffes?
    And the fact is, I think he turned in a solid performance this evening. So, on balance, I’m not sure this is really a game-changer. – PBS Newshour, 10-2-08
  • ELLEN FITZPATRICK, University of New Hampshire: Well, I think it may have been; it may not have been. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out.
    But what’s fascinating to me was that, in 1984, Geraldine Ferraro was asked how she could be commander-in-chief during the vice presidential debate when she had no military experience.
    And, furthermore, wouldn’t it be likely that the Soviets might take advantage of her, were we to have a woman president or vice president? Wouldn’t this somehow weaken the powers of the office to have a woman holding it?
    And she answered in a very straightforward way. And throughout that entire debate, she never made reference, really, to her gender.
    Tonight, we heard a debate being waged here in which Governor Palin repeatedly referred to being a mom, to soccer games, to parents, to third-graders, to hockey moms, and to her own children, to her family.
    And in that 25-year period almost that has gone by, it’s an enormous sea change, it seems to me, in the politics of gender. I would wager that, if Geraldine Ferraro had said these things in 1984, that she would have been criticized for calling attention to her role as a mother and relying on that as a kind of expertise.
    Tonight, I thought Governor Palin raised these issues repeatedly as qualifying her in some special way for the office that she aspires to hold.
    …I found it a little bit folksy for my taste, but the voters, of course, will decide. I thought that what we were hearing was a kind of populism in which the implication was that complex problems are not very complex and that common sense is really a qualification that she holds, like many other Americans, that will help solve the problems the nation faces. – PBS Newshour, 10-2-08
  • DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN (presidential historian)From October 2 broadcast of PBS’ Charlie Rose: I didn’t really see any gaffes, nor were there many Tina Fey moments, or what might come on Saturday Night Live. The only one might be when she asked what might trigger a nuclear war, and she went into, “A nuclear war, that’s the be-all and the end-all. That’s bad. A lot of people, gone.” I can see them using that as a moment, but other than that, no, they both handled everything pretty well…. Oh, and there was McKiernan versus McClellan, the name of the general in Afghanistan. – Nedia Matters, 10-2-08
  • Douglas Brinkley “Presidential historian discusses vice presidential debate”: “What she’s good at is about Alaska politics, gas and oil issues, energy issues, and now national issues, so you don’t want to minimize that,” says Brinkley. “But clearly she’s somebody who is not a global thinker in a time of a global economy and a time of a global war on terror, and she has to prove… in this debate tonight that she is a quick study, that she’s got good judgment.” – CbS News7, 10-2-08
  • Allan Lichtman on “At High-Stakes Debate, VP Candidates Face Unique Challenges”: “She has really got to show that she has an understanding of the economy and an understanding of the world,” American University professor Allan Lichtman said. “She should be herself, she shouldn’t hold back (against Biden), but she has got to show that she has substance there.”… “He can’t appear to be overbearing and bullying, but he can be tough,” Lichtman said. “He cannot emit one of his famous gaffes,” Lichtman said. – Fox News, 10-2-08
  • Douglas Brinkley on “At High-Stakes Debate, VP Candidates Face Unique Challenges”: “Let her be a voice of something different,” historian Douglas Brinkley said. “‘I may not have been in Washington, I don’t have the world experience, but my judgment’s good and my heart’s in the right place’.” – Fox News, 10-2-08
  • Peter Kastor on “US braces for VP debate as Palin’s star wanes”: “It’s make-or-break for her in the sense that, in a three-game series, her record so far is one and one: the convention and the interviews,” said Peter Kastor, Washington University history professor, “This could be what seals the deal. If she does extremely well or extremely poorly, obviously it will be the debate that people say defines Sarah Palin’s candidacy.” Washington University history professor Peter Kastor told AFP. – AFP, Time (UK), 10-2-08
  • Julian Zelizer – DEMOCRATS SHOULD IGNORE THE PALIN-BIDEN DEBATE: “Everyone will be watching the Biden-Palin vice presidential debate. This is an eagerly awaited event, with predictions that Americans will tune in high numbers to see whether Palin can handle the tough questions and if Biden puts his foot in his mouth, once again. Democrats need to be very careful. When Senator McCain introduced Governor Palin as his running mate, Republicans completely knocked Democrats off their message. The Democratic Party had just come off a very strong convention and a historic speech by Senator Barack Obama. Yet the introduction of Palin created a media frenzy around her, distracting reporters from the main contest, and giving Republicans a chance to regroup and to rebound in the polls…..
    ….Tonight’s debate, in certain respects, comes at perfect time for Republicans. Whatever happens, Americans will be watching Palin not Obama. Democrats should stay focused on the themes from this week, rather than encourage reporters to spend the next week talking about the gaffes or intelligence of Palin. In the end, this is a contest between McCain and Obama, and about Bush’s record over the last eight years. When Republicans shift to other issues, they do better. When forced to confront the main issues, they have struggled. – Huffington Post, 10-2-08
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – Uneasy Twins: “For the past few weeks the nation has been engaged in a truly bizarre debate over who is better qualified for the presidency — Barack Obama or Sarah Palin. It doesn’t matter that he is a candidate for president, she for vice president. Or that he won his party’s nomination through a hard-fought primary that energized millions of new voters and raised America’s standing abroad. Suddenly, in the first weeks of September, he was last year’s celebrity, she the new star. Plucked from obscurity in Alaska, she was the new Obama even though no one outside her home state had ever checked her name on a ballot. Black man. White woman. The only possible basis for comparison is that neither Barack Obama nor Sarah Palin is a white male….” – Huffington Post, 10-2-08
  • Great Moments In Veep Debate History: “Who Am I? Why Am I Here?” – The Hotline Political Network, 10-1-08
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