July 26, 2010: Obama Signs Finanicial Overhaul Bill, Newt Gingrich Contemplates Running for President

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The President speaks for campaign finance reforms

White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 7/26/10

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • President Obama and Vice President Biden’s Daily Public Schedules Now Online – WH Schedules
  • Obama would lose Presidential election to Republican – ANY Republican – if held today: poll: Two-plus years before the 2012 election, a Republican candidate — any Republican candidate — has a better chance of being President than current White House occupant Barack Obama does. According to a new Quinnipiac University poll , Americans would rather vote for an unnamed Republican than Obama in 2012 by a 39% to 36% margin.
    Obama’s approval rating is now at an all-time low. According to the poll, 44% of Americans approved of the president, while 48% disapproved. Just two months ago, 48% of voters approved while 43% did not.
    “It was a year ago, during the summer of 2009 that America’s love affair with President Barack Obama began to wane,” said Peter A. Brown., assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. And it is the confidence of those critical independent voters he is losing the most. “Today, his support among Democrats remains strong, but the disillusionment among independent voters, who dropped from 52% to 37% approval to 52% to 38% disapproval in the last 12 months, is what leads to his weakness overall when voters start thinking about 2012.”… – NY Daily News, 7-22-10

THE HEADLINES….

The President signs Wall Street Reform White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 7/21/10

  • Obama and Republicans trade charges over economy: In his weekly radio address, the president says a House GOP plan would kill jobs. Republicans respond that the administration’s policies have failed…. – LAT, 7-24-10
  • Obama, Boehner turn up the partisan rhetoric: President Obama and House Minority Leader John Boehner blasted each other Saturday. As the November elections approach, partisan rhetorical sniping can be expected to escalate, especially on the economy…. – CS Monitor, 7-24-10
  • Obama signs bill targeting government waste: President Barack Obama turned his attention to the ongoing fight against government waste Thursday, signing a bill requiring federal agencies to spend at least $1 million annually on audits targeting improper payments and fraud. Among other things, the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act provides new financial incentives for auditors to track down government waste and requires the administration to report to Congress each fiscal year on steps taken to cut down on inappropriate expenditures.
    Government needs to be a “responsible steward” of taxpayer dollars, Obama said shortly before signing the bill at the White House. “There are outstanding public servants … but too often their best efforts are thwarted by outdated technologies and outmoded” ways of doing business…. – CNN, 7-22-10
  • Less money for dead people: Obama signs waste law: President Barack Obama on Thursday signed legislation intended to slash by $50 billion the taxpayer money improperly paid to dead people, fugitives and those in jail who shouldn’t be getting benefits. But that goal, if achieved, would not even halve the $110 billion made in such payments last year. The new law will strengthen the efforts by federal agencies to halt the flow of improper money in a series of ways. Among those steps: requiring more audits of programs and adding penalties for agencies that don’t comply with the law. The legislation also broadens how any recovered money can be used. Obama chose to sign the bill in front of cameras in the White House’s State Dining Room in hopes of bringing attention to the new law. He announced a goal of reducing improper payments by $50 billion by 2012; the White House says that last year’s total of nearly $110 billion in these payments was the highest ever…. – AP, 7-22-10
  • Judge starts hearing on Arizona immigration law: A federal judge heard arguments Thursday in a packed Phoenix courtroom over whether Arizona’s tough new immigration law should take effect next week. U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton was holding the hearing on whether the law should be put on hold and whether a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups and others challenging it should be dismissed. About 30 lawyers were in court to represent defendants in the case. There also were about 150 spectators in the courtroom, many in a second-floor gallery. Defendants include various county officials from throughout the state, most of whom sent lawyers to the hearing. Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever was there in person, however, sitting at the front of the courtroom…. – AP, 7-22-10
  • Bernanke Says Extending Bush Tax Cuts Would Maintain Stimulus: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said extending the tax cuts passed during former President George W. Bush’s administration would help strengthen a U.S. economy still in need of stimulus. “In the short term I would believe that we ought to maintain a reasonable degree of fiscal support, stimulus for the economy,” Bernanke said today in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. “There are many ways to do that. This is one way.” – Business Week, 7-22-10
  • Obama voices regret to ousted Agriculture official: The White House says President Barack Obama has conveyed “his regret” to ousted Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod over her ouster in the midst of a racially-tinged firestorm. It says Obama made the call to Sherrod after she declared publicly that she would like to speak with him. In a statement, the White House says Obama told her that “this misfortune can present an opportunity for her to continue her hard work on behalf of those in need.”… – AP, 7-22-10
  • Sherrod speaks to President Obama in a telephone call: President Barack Obama spoke Thursday with Shirley Sherrod, the former Agriculture Department employee who was forced to resign from her job based on incomplete and misleading reports about a speech she gave in March. Sherrod received a text message telling her Obama had been trying to reach her since Wednesday night, said Julie O’Neill, a CNN Special Investigations Unit producer who was with her at the time. Sherrod called the White House and was asked to call back in 10 minutes, at which time she spoke to the president. Sherrod was “very, very pleased with the conversation,” O’Neill said, and told her Obama had said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was “very apologetic and very sincere.” Vilsack apologized to Sherrod on Wednesday and offered her a different position within the department…. – CNN, 7-22-10
  • Obama signs financial overhaul law: Declaring that “the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street’s mistakes,” President Obama on Wednesday signed landmark legislation providing the most sweeping overhaul of financial rules since the Great Depression.
    The new law reverses decades of deregulation, aiming to provide greater government protection for consumers and reduce risky practices at financial institutions to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis.
    Its controversial centerpiece is a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which will have broad authority to write new rules for mortgages, credit cards, payday loans and other consumer products and make sure firms are adhering to them…. – LAT, 7-21-10
  • Factbox: Major financial regulation reform proposals: Following are the key elements of the 2,300-page bill… – Reuters, 7-21-10
  • The Top 10 Things You May Not Know About the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection ActWH, 7-21-10
  • Bernanke Sees No Quick End to High Rate of Joblessness: The unemployment rate in the United States is likely to remain well above 7 percent through the end of 2012 and the duration of President Obama’s current term, according to the Federal Reserve. Federal Reserve chairman Ben S. Bernanke struck a more cautious tone than he did when he last submitted the report, in February.
    Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, told Congress on Wednesday that it would take “a significant amount of time” to restore the 8.5 million jobs lost in the United States in 2008 and 2009, and warned that “the economic outlook remains unusually uncertain.” He also warned that financial conditions, particularly the European sovereign debt crisis, had “become less supportive of economic growth in recent months.” In presenting the Fed’s semiannual monetary policy report to Congress, Mr. Bernanke struck a more cautious tone than he did when he last submitted the report, in February…. – NYT, 7-21-10
  • Clinton announces new sanctions against North Korea: The U.S. announced that it will strengthen sanctions against North Korea as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates toured South Korea…. – WaPo, 7-21-10
  • AP sources: No charges for ’06 US attorney firings: The Justice Department has concluded its two-year investigation into the Bush administration’s firing of U.S. attorneys and will file no charges, people close to the case said Wednesday. The investigation looked into whether the Bush administration dismissed the nine U.S. attorneys as a way to influence investigations. The scandal contributed to mounting criticism that the administration had politicized the Justice Department, a charge that contributed to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales…. – AP, 7-21-10
  • Key U.S. Democrat backs keeping tax cuts for rich: A fiscally conservative Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate’s budget committee on Wednesday said he supports extending all of the tax cuts that expire this year, including for the wealthy. “The general rule of thumb would be you’d not want to do tax changes, tax increases … until the recovery is on more solid ground,” Senator Kent Conrad said in an interview with reporters outside the Senate chambers, adding he did not believe the recovery has come yet…. – Reuters, 7-21-10
  • Cameron grabs hot dog in NYC, plans meetings: British Prime Minister David Cameron grabbed a quick hot dog lunch with Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday as he arrived in New York for his first official visit, but he remained silent ahead of planned meetings with business leaders and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
    Cameron, who took office 10 weeks ago, arrived in New York by train after a visit to Washington, where he met with President Barack Obama and Pentagon officials.
    Bloomberg met Cameron on a street corner outside the station, and the pair grabbed lunch from a street vendor but ignored questions from reporters while they ate. Cameron did flash a thumbs-up when asked about his lunch…. – AP, 7-21-10
  • Vilsack to apologize to ousted Agriculture worker: The White House says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is reaching out to a black employee to apologize on behalf of the “entire administration” for forcing her ouster because of her remarks on race. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday that Vilsack had been unable to reach Shirley Sherrod so far. Sherrod was asked by department officials to resign on Monday after conservative bloggers posted an edited video of her saying she didn’t initially give a white farmer as much help as she could have 24 years ago. Sherrod says the video distorted her full speech…. – AP, 7-21-10
  • Senate Democrats set to leap hurdle on extending jobless benefits: Democrats are expected to overcome Republican opposition to the package of new aid for unemployed Americans…. – LAT, 7-20-10
  • Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan approved by Senate Judiciary Committee in 13-6 vote: Kagan wins approval in a nearly party-line vote, with Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina joining the majority Democrats. She is expected to gain full Senate confirmation in August…. – LAT, 7-20-10
  • BP stealing thunder from Cameron’s US visit: On the way to Washington, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he wants to talk about Afghanistan, Middle East peace prospects and the global economy. Everyone else wants to talk about BP. Cameron’s first trip to Washington as prime minister begins Tuesday and is being overshadowed by anger in the United States over BP’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the British oil giant’s alleged involvement in the decision to free Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from jail last year and send him home to Libya…. – AP, 7-20-10
  • Florida Legislature rejects oil drilling ban vote, adjourns: The Florida House abruptly adjourned a special legislative session after 49 minutes Tuesday, rejecting Gov. Charlie Crist’s proposal to let voters place a permanent ban on offshore drilling in the Florida Constitution. The party-line vote to adjourn the session was 67-44, with Republicans supporting adjournment and Democrats in favor of continuing the debate. A heckler from the visitors’ gallery shouted that all 67 were “in the pocket of BP.” The Senate adjourned at 2:20 p.m. with an 18-16 vote…. – Miami Herald, 7-20-10
  • Bush Tax Cuts: To Extend or Not to Extend?: The political battle for the hearts and minds of Main Street reached new levels in Washington, D.C., on Monday, a day ahead of a scheduled vote on extending unemployment benefits for millions of out-of-work Americans. While seemingly contradictory on the surface, the battle over unemployment benefits for struggling Americans is linked to the battle over extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, which are set to expire at the end of 2010. How can politics over giving minimal support to the jobless be tied up with making the rich richer? That’s just politics, and it actually makes perfect sense, and it’s all coming to a head in Washington…. – Newsweek, 7-20-10
  • Sarah Palin stands by made-up word ‘refudiate,’ compares self to Shakespeare: Refudiate is not a word — at least, not one that appears in the dictionary. But don’t try telling former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. She’s been dropping refudiate bombs all over the place lately, and she’s not about to give up. Last week, Palin went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to claim that it’s “divisive” for the NAACP to call out racist elements in the Tea Party movement. (See the clip below.) Her I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I argument built to this stirring conclusion: “[The Obamas] could refudiate what it is that this group is saying. They could set the record straight.” Liberal bloggers LOL’d at her word choice, but then she did it again yesterday. In a since-deleted tweet, Palin wrote, “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.” After much Twitter mockery, she erased the tweet, re-posting new versions that used actual words like reject and refute instead of the one she made up. Yet she followed this with another tweet defending her imaginary word: “‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up.’ English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!”… – EW, 7-19-10
  • A hidden world, growing beyond control: The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work. These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine…. – WaPo, 7-19-10
  • Washington Post exposes US ‘intelligence flaws’: Secret US intelligence gathering has grown so much since 9/11 no-one knows its exact cost, nor how many people are involved, the Washington Post reports. It says nearly 2,000 private companies and 1,270 government agencies are involved in counter-terror work at 10,000 locations across the country. The report, Top Secret America, follows a two-year investigation by the paper. Officials quoted acknowledge the system has shortcomings, but question some of the newspaper’s conclusions. Before the report was published, the White House told the Washington Post it knew about the problems within US intelligence gathering and was trying to fix them…. – BBC, 7-19-10
  • Next up on unfinished Senate agenda: unemployment insurance: Once Democrat Carte Goodwin is sworn in Tuesday to replace the late Sen. Robert Byrd, Senate Democrats will have the votes to try again to extend unemployment insurance to the jobless…. – CS Monitor, 7-19-10
  • Clinton tries to win over skeptical Pakistan: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought Monday to convince skeptical Pakistanis that American interest in their country extends beyond the fight against Islamist militants by announcing a raft of new aid projects worth $500 million.
    “Of course there is a legacy of suspicion that we inherited. It is not going to be eliminated overnight,” said Clinton following talks in Islamabad. “It is however our goal to slowly but surely demonstrate that the United States is concerned about Pakistan for the long term and that our partnership goes far beyond security against our common enemies,” she said…. – AP, 7-19-10
  • Sarah Palin Joins Chorus Slamming Ground Zero Mosque: Palin Calls on ‘Peace-Loving Muslims’ to Oppose Mosque Near 9/11 Site…
    Sarah Palin plunged into the raging debate over a proposed Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan, saying in series of posts on Twitter that the project should not be built. “Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand. Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in the interest of healing,” the former Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential candidate tweeted on Sunday. In another message, she wrote, “Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real.”… – ABC News, 7-19-10
  • Clinton, With Initiatives in Hand, Arrives in Pakistan: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived here Sunday for high-level deliberations with Pakistani leaders, the latest in a series of encounters that the Obama administration hopes will chip away at decades of suspicion between Pakistan and the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was greeted by Ghalib Iqbal, Pakistan’s chief of protocol, in Islamabad on Sunday. Mrs. Clinton will announce a raft of initiatives to help Pakistan in public health, water distribution and agriculture, to be funded by $500 million in American economic aid. Among other things, the United States will build a 60-bed hospital in Karachi and help farmers export their mangoes…. – NYT, 7-19-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Gingrich to wait for November elections before deciding on White House run: “I think that’s a decision we’ll make in February or March,” Gingrich said on “Fox News Sunday” of a presidential run. “This is a very hard family decision because it’s such a deep commitment, and it is so absorbing.”… – LAT, 7-25-10
  • GOP Rivals Jane Norton, Ken Buck Fight Over “High Heels” and Manhood: Who needs to fight about race when you can fight about gender? Jane Norton, who is facing off against Ken Buck in the GOP Senate primary in Colorado, has released an ad spotlighting Buck’s comment that people should vote for him because he does not “wear high heels.” “Why should you vote for me? Because I do not wear high heels,” Buck is shown saying in the spot, in comments he made last week. “I have cowboy boots. They have real bullsh** on them.” Says a narrator: “Now Ken Buck wants to go to Washington? He’d fit right in.” In a statement trumpeting the fact that the ad is going “viral,” Norton campaign spokesman Cinamon Watson said, “Ken is going to have to use all of his best lawyer-speak to explain this really stupid statement.” Watson went on to argue that the comment could have a significant impact on the race… – CBS News,7-22-10
  • W.Va.’s US Senate seat attracts 5 GOP candidates: Five Republicans filed paperwork Thursday to challenge West Virginia’s popular Democratic governor for the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Robert C. Byrd. Industrialist and media owner John Raese is the best known among the Republicans who joined a field of candidates that already included Gov. Joe Manchin and two other Democrats. The GOP pack also includes a substitute teacher’s aide also running for the state Legislature and a California man who attracted 44 votes in the party’s 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary. The parties will hold Aug. 28 primaries before the Nov. 2 general election. The candidate filing period ends Friday. U.S. Senate candidates must be residents of the state they wish to serve by Election Day…. – AP, 7-22-10
  • W.Va. gov, a popular Dem, to go for US Senate seat: Gov. Joe Manchin, a centrist and popular Democrat known for his handling of a coal mine disaster that killed 29 in April, declared Tuesday that he will run for the late Robert C. Byrd’s U.S. Senate seat. The bid marks the latest rise in profile for the 62-year-old Manchin since the former state lawmaker captured the governor’s office in 2004 after a term as secretary of state. He became chairman of the influential National Governors Association earlier this month, enjoys high approval ratings in his state and was seen as a comforter- in-chief to victims’ families following April’s Upper Big Branch mine explosion and the 2006 Sago mine disaster…. – AP, 7-20-10
  • Democrats retake lead in generic ballot: 1. A week removed from an internecine fight about whether or not control of the House is up for grabs this fall (it is), Democrats got some welcome news this morning as the party re-took the lead in Gallup’s generic congressional ballot question.
    Forty-nine percent of those tested said they preferred a generic Democratic candidate for Congress while 43 percent said they would opt for a generic Republican. Democrats’ six point margin represents a bump from the Gallup data earlier this month — Democrat 47 percent, Republican 46 percent — and marks the first time that Democrats have had a statistically significant edge on the question so far this election cycle.
    The reason for Democrats’ upward movement in the poll appears to be independent voters where Republicans now hold a four point generic edge (43 percent to 39 percent), a major drop from Gallup polling earlier this month that showed the GOP with a 14-point margin…. – WaPo, 7-20-10
  • Surprise SC Senate candidate makes first speech: In his first campaign appearance, South Carolina’s surprising U.S. Senate candidate Alvin Greene avoided any major gaffes Sunday as he hit his three major themes of jobs, education and justice. The speech started off with a joke and ended with Greene timidly waving, a shy smile spreading across his face as he got a standing ovation before a friendly audience in his hometown of Manning. Greene’s 6 1/2 minute speech at the local NAAP’s monthly meeting was mostly serious. Left out was any mention of his suggestion earlier this month that creating a line of action figures modeled after him could give South Carolinians jobs. In their place came platitudes familiar to anyone who has heard a stump speech.
    “Let’s get South Carolina and America back to work and let’s move South Carolina forward,” said Greene, one of about a dozen lines that got applause from the several hundred folks crammed into a sweltering junior high gymnasium…. – AP, 7-19-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the   United Kingdom Stop to Talk on the South Lawn

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom stop to talk during a walk across the South Lawn of the White House July 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Geithner Says U.S. Employers `Very Cautious,’ Job Growth Not Fast Enough: Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said U.S. companies scarred by the financial crisis remain “very cautious” and are trying to get more productivity from current employees before hiring new ones. Job growth is “not as fast as we need,” Geithner said in an interview broadcast today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. Employers “are still cautious, still very cautious,” he said. “So they’ve been trying to get as much productivity out of their employees as possible.” Geithner also said, in a separate interview on ABC’s “This Week” program, that allowing tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to lapse at the end of this year wouldn’t hurt economic growth…. – Bloomberg, 7-25-10
  • Obama to ‘Netroots’: We have begun to deliver on change: President Obama addressed a group of generally supportive skeptics this week: Internet-based political activists known as “Netroots,” some of whom have criticized Obama over such items as Afghanistan and the failure to create a truly government-run health care system. “Change hasn’t come fast enough for too many Americans, I know that,” Obama said by video to a Netroots Nation convention in Las Vegas. “I know it hasn’t come fast enough for many of you who fought so hard during the election.” But Obama added, “we’ve begun to deliver on the change we promised.” His video included a review — narrated by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow — of such accomplishments as the health care bill, the stimulus bill and the recently signed Wall Street regulation bill. “In ways large and small, we’ve begun to deliver on the change you fought so hard for,” Obama said. “And we’re not finished.”… – USA Today, 7-25-10
  • Biden praises Spratt as ‘graceful’ Vice president talks at Columbia fundraiser: Recalling the nearly 30 years they served together in Congress, Vice President Joe Biden on Friday praised U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-S.C., as “a graceful man who has more decency, and a more powerful intellect, than almost anybody I’ve worked with.” Biden spoke at a fundraiser at the South Carolina State Museum, where 150 to 200 invited guests enjoyed a grilled chicken buffet lunch and then filed into an auditorium to hear from the vice president. Tickets started at $500, Spratt campaign officials said.
    “This man engineered a balanced budget,” Biden said, pointing toward Spratt. “These guys, our opponents, talking about balanced budgets and deficits is like an arsonist lecturing us on fire safety.”
    “Here’s the problem – we’ve been working so hard to get these major new building blocks laid down,” Biden said. “They are so big, so heavy, that the American people don’t understand what’s in it for them yet.
    “Now that the hard lifting is done, we’re going to spend the next 90 days going out explaining to people exactly what it means to them.” Rock Hill SC Herald, 7-24-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Praises New Wall Street Reform Law; Says GOP Plan Will Take Us Backward
    Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address The White House July 24, 2010:
    ….Unfortunately, those are the ideas we keep hearing from our friends in the other party. This week, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives offered his plan to create jobs. It’s a plan that’s surprisingly short, and sadly familiar.
    First, he would repeal health insurance reform, which would take away tax credits from millions of small business owners, and take us back to the days when insurance companies had free rein to drop coverage and jack up premiums. Second, he would say no to new investments in clean energy, after his party already voted against the clean energy tax credits and loans that are creating thousands of new jobs and hundreds of new businesses. And third, even though his party voted against tax cuts for middle-class families, he would permanently keep in place the tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans – the same tax cuts that have added hundreds of billions to our debt.
    These are not new ideas. They are the same policies that led us into this recession. They will not create jobs, they will kill them. They will not reduce our deficit, they will add $1 trillion to our deficit. They will take us backward at a time when we need to keep America moving forward.
    I know times are tough. I know that the progress we’ve made isn’t good enough for the millions of Americans who are still out of work or struggling to pay the bills. But I also know the character of this nation. I know that in times of great challenge and difficulty, we don’t fear the future – we shape the future. We harness the skills and ingenuity of the most dynamic country on Earth to reach a better day. We do it with optimism, and we do it with confidence. That’s the spirit we need right now, and that’s the future I know we can build together. – WH, 7-24-10
  • Remarks by the President on the Economy: I want to talk about the progress that we made this week on three fronts, as we work to repair the damage to our economy from this recession and build a stronger foundation for the future…
    …And to unlock the growth of our entrepreneurs, we’ll finally do what I’ve been advocating since I ran for President, which is to eliminate capital gains taxes entirely for key investments in small businesses.
    Now, last night, after a series of partisan delays, the Senate took an important step forward by supporting a lending fund in the overall small business jobs bill. I want to thanks Senators Mary Landrieu and George Lemieux for their leadership and advocacy on behalf of the millions of small business people for whom this will make a meaningful difference. I was heartened that Senator LeMieux and Senator George Voinovich crossed party lines to help pass this lending provision last night, and I hope we can now finish the job and pass the small business jobs plan without delay and without additional partisan wrangling.
    You know, the small businessmen and women who write to me every day, and the folks who I’ve met with across this country, they can’t afford any more political games. They need us to do what they sent us here to do. They didn’t send us here to wage a never-ending campaign. They didn’t send us here to do what’s best for our political party. They sent us here to do what’s best for the United States of America and all its citizens, whether Democrats or Republicans or independents. In other words, they sent us here to govern. And that’s what I hope we will do in the remaining days before the Congress takes its August recess. – WH, 7-23-10
  • President Obama Signs Wall Street Reform: “No Easy Task”
    Remarks by the President at Signing of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act:

    Passing this bill was no easy task. To get there, we had to overcome the furious lobbying of an array of powerful interest groups and a partisan minority determined to block change. So the members who are here today, both on the stage and in the audience, they have done a great service in devoting so much time and expertise to this effort, to looking out for the public interests and not the special interests. (Applause.) And I also want to thank the three Republican senators who put partisanship aside — (applause) — judged this bill on the merits, and voted for reform. We’re grateful to them. (Applause.) And the Republican House members. (Applause.) Good to see you, Joe. (Applause.)
    Now, let’s put this in perspective. The fact is, the financial industry is central to our nation’s ability to grow, to prosper, to compete and to innovate. There are a lot of banks that understand and fulfill this vital role, and there are a whole lot of bankers who want to do right — and do right — by their customers. This reform will help foster innovation, not hamper it. It is designed to make sure that everybody follows the same set of rules, so that firms compete on price and quality, not on tricks and not on traps.
    It demands accountability and responsibility from everyone. It provides certainty to everybody, from bankers to farmers to business owners to consumers. And unless your business model depends on cutting corners or bilking your customers, you’ve got nothing to fear from reform. (Applause.)
    Now, for all those Americans who are wondering what Wall Street reform means for you, here’s what you can expect. If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, a student loan, or a mortgage, you know the feeling of signing your name to pages of barely understandable fine print. What often happens as a result is that many Americans are caught by hidden fees and penalties, or saddled with loans they can’t afford.
    That’s what happened to Robin Fox, hit with a massive rate increase on her credit card balance even though she paid her bills on time. That’s what happened to Andrew Giordano, who discovered hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees on his bank statement –- fees he had no idea he might face. Both are here today. Well, with this law, unfair rate hikes, like the one that hit Robin, will end for good. (Applause.) And we’ll ensure that people like Andrew aren’t unwittingly caught by overdraft fees when they sign up for a checking account. (Applause.)
    With this law, we’ll crack down on abusive practices in the mortgage industry. We’ll make sure that contracts are simpler -– putting an end to many hidden penalties and fees in complex mortgages -– so folks know what they’re signing.
    With this law, students who take out college loans will be provided clear and concise information about their obligations.
    And with this law, ordinary investors -– like seniors and folks saving for retirement –- will be able to receive more information about the costs and risks of mutual funds and other investment products, so that they can make better financial decisions as to what will work for them.
    So, all told, these reforms represent the strongest consumer financial protections in history. (Applause.) In history. And these protections will be enforced by a new consumer watchdog with just one job: looking out for people -– not big banks, not lenders, not investment houses -– looking out for people as they interact with the financial system. – WH, 7-21-10
  • Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom in Joint Press Availability:
    We have just concluded some excellent discussions — including whether the beers from our hometowns that we exchanged are best served warm or cold. My understanding is, is that the Prime Minister enjoyed our 312 beer and we may send him some more. I thought the beer we got was excellent — but I did drink it cold. (Laughter.)
    Mr. Prime Minister, we can never say it enough. The United States and the United Kingdom enjoy a truly special relationship. We celebrate a common heritage. We cherish common values. And we speak a common language —- most of the time. We honor the sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform who have served together, bled together, and even lay at rest together.
    Above all, our alliance thrives because it advances our common interests. Whether it’s preventing the spread of nuclear weapons or securing vulnerable nuclear materials, thwarting terrorist attacks, or confronting climate change, or promoting global economic growth and development, when the United States and the United Kingdom stand together, our people —- and people around the world — are more secure and they are more prosperous.
    In short, the United States has no closer ally and no stronger partner than Great Britain. And I appreciate the opportunity to renew our relationship with my partner, Prime Minister Cameron.
    In his campaign, David was known for his extensive town halls discussions with voters —- “Cameron Direct.” And that’s the same spirit that we had here today. I appreciate David’s steady leadership and his pragmatic approach. And just as he’s off to an energetic start at home, I think we’ve had a brilliant start as partners who see eye-to- eye on virtually every challenge before us. – WH, 7-20-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Maureen Dowd: You’ll Never Believe What This White House Is Missing: The Obama White House is too white. It has Barack Obama, raised in the Hawaiian hood and Indonesia, and Valerie Jarrett, who spent her early years in Iran. But unlike Bill Clinton, who never needed help fathoming Southern black culture, Obama lacks advisers who are descended from the central African-American experience, ones who understand “the slave thing,” as a top black Democrat dryly puts it…. – NYT, 7-25-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Why Obama’s poll numbers have sunk: President Obama’s supporters have been frustrated about the apparent paradox of this administration. With the recent passage of historic financial regulation legislation, many Democrats are having trouble grasping why his approval ratings still lag and why Democrats might lose control of the House in the fall elections.
    Supporters say the economic stimulus bill, education and health care reform, and now financial reform, should have Americans looking at the White House with the same admiration they had for President Roosevelt in the 1930s or President Johnson at the height of his success in 1964 and 1965.
    But according to a recent CBS News poll, just 40 percent of those polled approved of how the president was handling the economy. This was a drop of five percentage points since June….
    Rather than complain about what the public thinks or dismiss liberals as unrealistic, Obama would do better to be more responsive to public concerns, with joblessness at the top of his list. The president must give serious consideration to another stimulus package, and be willing to spend the kind of political capital that he used in pushing for health care and financial regulation. He must also be willing to look at some of the shortcomings of the first bill, such as insufficient funds for public works projects and for assistance to the states. – CNN, 7-19-10
  • Robert Dallek: Obama’s vacation: Time with the family … and the nuclear codes: Obama’s vacation in Maine will be a short one. But no matter where they go, presidents never really leave their job the way a typical white-collar professional does when he packs his beach towel and powers down his Blackberry. “The president is always on call, 24/7, if there is a crisis,” says presidential historian Robert Dallek. “They’re lucky if they go on vacation and there’s no crisis, and then they get some downtime. But they’re always on call.”
    Mr. Dallek recalls that when President Dwight Eisenhower showed John Kennedy around the White House after the 1960 election, Eisenhower showed the president-elect a special button that would call a helicopter to the South Lawn within seconds. That kind of rapid response follows the president everywhere, and it has only gotten better over time.
    “That was 50 years ago,” Dallek says. “Now, it’s pretty instantaneous.”… – CS Monitor, 7-16-10
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June 18, 2009: President Obama & the Financial Overhaul, Health Care Reform and Iran

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Obama change message resonates, poll finds: The Zogby-Scoop44 poll found nearly two-thirds of voters under 30 polled said Obama’s change message has matched his work in the White House, and among those 18-24, 70 percent said they believed this.
    Among voters over 30, slightly more than one in four said they don’t believe Obama’s campaign promises translated into action in office, the poll found. Only 18 percent of those younger than 30 and 5 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds said they shared that view.
    The poll found 43 percent of Republicans said they believe Obama’s actions are in keeping with his promised change. – UPI, 6-19-09
  • Analysis: Deficit could be chink in Obama’s armor: The nonpartisan Pew Research Center reported Thursday that a majority of Americans — 55 percent — are optimistic that Obama will eventually reduce the budget deficit. But that’s a smaller slice than the 61 percent of people who approve of him generally.
    And according to a new New York Times/CBS News poll, 60 percent of Americans don’t believe the president has a strategy for dealing with the deficit. Also, 58 percent in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll want Obama to make controlling the deficit a higher priority than a speedy economic recovery. And, nearly half expressed a “great deal” of concern about the increase of government intervention in American life that Obama has overseen, from taking over companies to influencing corporate bonuses and seeking to add government-sponsored insurance to the health care system…. – AP, 6-19-09
  • ABC News to air Obama interview on health care: ABC News will present a prime-time interview with President Barack Obama on health care issues next week. The special will air June 24 at 10 p.m. Eastern, on two-hour tape delay. Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer will moderate the White House discussion with a live audience, also taking questions submitted by viewers. After a break for local news, the discussion will continue on “Nightline.” That morning, Sawyer will interview Obama for “Good Morning America.” Gibson will anchor that evening’s edition of “World News” from the White House Blue Room…. – AP, 6-15-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Democrats Scramble to Cut Costs From Health Plan: The high cost of securing health insurance for all Americans, the top domestic priority of President Obama, has Congressional Democrats scrambling to scale back their proposals or find ways to trim tens of billions of dollars a year from existing health programs. According to slides presented at a closed-door meeting this week, members of the Senate Finance Committee are debating several new ideas, including “an automatic mechanism” to reduce the growth of Medicare under an expedited procedure like the one used to close military bases…. – NYT, 6-18-09
  • Obama’s Pledge on Donations Faces Reality: When President Obama arrived at the Mandarin Oriental hotel for a fund-raising reception on Thursday night, the new White House rules of political purity were in order: no lobbyists allowed. But at the same downtown hotel on Friday morning, registered lobbyists have not only been invited to attend an issues conference with Democratic leaders, but they have also been asked to come with a $5,000 check in hand if they want to stay in good favor with the party’s House and Senate re-election committees…. – NYT, 6-18-09
  • Republican: Will Sotomayor represent ‘all of us’?: A GOP senator said Thursday he will use hearings on Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court to ask whether she intends to be a justice “for all of us, or just for some of us.”… – AP, 6-18-09
  • Elections in Iran, Illinois? Obama very busy not picking sides: If you ever wondered what Illinois and Iran might have in common, here’s one answer: President Obama is most definitely not picking sides in their elections. So insists the White House. “Our response … on this has been, from the very beginning, consistent,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a briefing Thursday when asked about the post-election turmoil in Iran. “The American people and this government are not going to pick the next leader of Iran,” he said. “That’s something that the Iranians have to do.” – Reuters, 6-18-09
  • Senate skeptical of financial oversight plan: Senators sharply questioned yesterday whether President Obama’s plan to increase oversight of banks and other financial institutions was enough to prevent another economic meltdown. “They’re very angry, and they are worried. And they are wondering who’s looking out for them,” said Senator Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. In testimony before the panel, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner defended the proposal as the nation’s best shot. “It will be very hard, perhaps impossible, for any authority, any individual to anticipate and pre-empt all potential sources of future risk,” Geithner said…. – AP, 6-18-09
  • Senate passes apology for slavery, segregation: The Senate has unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for slavery and racial segregation and sent the measure to the House. Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin first introduced the measure years ago but wanted it passed Thursday on the eve of Juneteenth – a day of celebration commemorating the end of the Civil War and the release of African Americans from slavery. He said the House is to take it up soon and that a formal celebration will be held next month in the Capitol Rotunda…. – AP, 6-18-09
  • Karl Rove: The GOP Can Stop ObamaCare The public is in no mood for drastic changes in current coverage: It’s extremely unlikely that Republicans will be able to pass their own health-care plan in this Congress. But in politics you can’t beat something with nothing, so it is critical that the GOP offers an alternative to President Barack Obama’s government-run monstrosity.
    Americans will listen more closely to Republicans if they make empirical and specific arguments against Mr. Obama’s attempted government takeover of the nation’s health system. But they must also offer proposals that families, small-businesspeople and health-care providers will applaud.
    Fortunately, Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Devin Nunes of California have devised a plan that will likely appeal to anyone interested in making health insurance more affordable and portable…. – WSJ, 6-18-09
  • Key Iran Adviser Gains Obama’s Ear: President Barack Obama, facing a mounting political crisis in Iran, is increasingly relying on the counsel of a career diplomat who has been a staunch supporter of tough measures to curtail Tehran’s nuclear program. The emergence of Middle East specialist Dennis Ross as a presidential confidant is being scrutinized in Washington for its potential impact on Mr. Obama’s approach to Tehran, as the nuclear issue and electoral crisis play out…. – WSJ, 6-18-09
  • Obama Under Fire Again From Members of His Own Party: Some Congressional Democrats representing rural America are feeling left out when it comes to the President Obama’s ambitious agenda. The Politico newspaper reports from greenhouse gases and climate legislation, to the closing of hundreds of car dealerships, many within his party aren’t exactly feeling the love from the White House…. – Fox News, 6-17-09
  • Wall Street isn’t buying Obama’s reform plan: Banks and other firms are quick to attack Obama’s consumer-friendly overhaul of financial rules. The stage is set for a legislative battle, with Wall Street turning to allies in Congress…. Reporting from Washington — At its core, President Obama’s overhaul of regulations for the financial industry seeks a fundamental change: Make the federal bureaucracy work for consumers, not just Wall Street. And Wall Street, not surprisingly, doesn’t like it. Striking a populist tone, Obama complained in a White House speech Wednesday that average Americans were often baffled by such intricacies as the terms of credit cards, home loans and other financial products. That confusion helped fuel the subprime mortgage meltdown that sent the U.S. and foreign economies reeling…. – LAT, 6-18-09
  • Aggressive timetable for healthcare reform hits snag: A Senate panel will probably delay debate until July. The GOP accuses Democrats of moving too quickly and failing to find money to cover the costs of the massive overhaul…. – LAT, 6-17-09
  • Hillary Clinton fractures elbow in fall: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fractured her right elbow during a fall Wednesday, her chief of staff said. Clinton was on her way to the White House when she fell and injured her elbow, chief of staff Cheryl Mills said in a statement released late Wednesday…. – AP, 6-17-09
  • 4 ex-senators prepare $1.2T, bipartisan health overhaul plan: Trying to prevent a repeat of the 1990s standoff over health care, four former Senate leaders are preparing a plan that combines ideas from both political parties to guarantee coverage for all. Democrats Tom Daschle and George Mitchell are set to join Republicans Bob Dole and Howard Baker on Wednesday to release a $1.2 trillion proposal that would be fully paid for with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases…. – AP, 6-17-09
  • Strong words on climate change White House report notes apparent effects: Harmful effects from global warming are already here and worsening, warns the first climate report from Barack Obama’s presidency in the strongest language on climate change ever to come out of the White House…. – Boston Globe, 6-16-09
  • Corrected: Obama plan urges review of Fed system: document: The Obama administration’s regulatory reform plan calls for a review of the Federal Reserve System’s structure, which the U.S. Treasury would then consider to propose possible changes, according to a document obtained by Reuters on Tuesday. “We propose a comprehensive review of the ways in which the structure and governance of the Federal Reserve System affect its ability to accomplish its existing and proposed functions,” the document states. It said the review would be led by the central bank’s Washington-based board and would take a look at the governance of the 12 regional Fed banks and their role in financial supervision. The Fed would be called upon to propose recommendations by October 1, the document said…. – Reuters, 6-16-09
  • House passes $106 billion war funding bill: War-funding legislation survived a fierce partisan battle in the House on Tuesday, a major step in providing commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan the money they would need for military operations in the coming months. The $106 billion measure, in addition to about $80 billion for military operations, provides for an array of other spending priorities, including $7.7 billion to respond to the flu pandemic and more than $10 billion in development and security aid for Pakistan and Iraq as well as countries such as Mexico and the nation of Georgia. Democratic leaders pushing the bill on behalf of the Obama administration had to overcome an unusual alliance. Anti-war Democrats opposed continued war spending and Republicans condemned $5 billion in the measure to secure a $108 billion U.S. line of credit to the International Monetary Fund for loans to poor countries…. The vote was 226-202, with only five Republicans voting for the bill and 32 Democrats opposing it…. – AP, 6-16-09
  • Obama Intends to Extend Federal Benefits to Unmarried Partners: President Obama will announce tomorrow that he is extending federal benefits to include unmarried domestic partners of federal workers, including same-sex partners, White House officials said tonight. Obama will sign an executive order implementing the change in the Oval Office, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging the president’s announcement. The move would give partners of federal employees access to health care and financial benefits such as relocation fees for moves. The State Department announced a similar extension of benefits last month, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling it “the right thing to do.”… – WaPo, 6-15-09
  • Obama Sought to Enlist a Wide Consensus on Finance Rules: President Obama’s plan to reshape financial regulation, which he will unveil on Wednesday, is the product of weeks of meetings among government officials, financial experts, lawmakers, industry executives and lobbyists, many of whom were invited to help the White House draft the proposal. Mr. Obama told reporters on Tuesday that a “lack of oversight” allowed what he called “wild risk-taking.” He said it led to “very dangerous” conditions that imperiled the global economy…. – NYT, 6-16-09
  • John Aloysius Farrell Democrats Win Youth, But Republicans Have a Chance: OK, young voters. Your turn. The “millennial generation” is the subject of today’s analysis, as we continue to sift through the commentary and statistics presented at the joint Brookings Institution/American Enterprise Institute conference on American political demography last Friday…. Once again, the news is bad for the Republican Party. The kids went Democratic. Big time. By 66 to 31 percent. But it is significant that young voters went 2 to 1 for Audacity since they are, of course, the future. And John Kerry also did well with younger voters in 2004, Keeter noted…. – US News & World Report, 6-16-09
  • GOP weakened by demographic, political forces Experts say changing geographic and demographic trends are further endangering an already-beleaguered Republican party: For the past few months, political analysts and demographers have been poring over the results of the 2008 election and comparing them with presidential results from the past two decades. From whatever angle of their approach – age, race, economic status, geography – they have come to a remarkably similar conclusion. Almost all indicators are pressing the Republicans into minority status. Republicans are still capable of winning individual elections, but until they find a way to reverse, or at least minimize, these broader changes in the country, their chances of returning to majority status will be severely reduced…. – CS Monitor, 6-15-09
  • Senate near bipartisan consensus on care reform: The U.S. Senate is near agreement on a broad bipartisan plan to revamp the costly healthcare system, and legislation is very likely to pass, a leading senator said on Monday. Democratic Senator Max Baucus said the powerful Senate Finance Committee he chairs would propose legislation this week, estimating there was an “85 to 90 percent” chance meaningful healthcare reform would be passed in the Senate with bipartisan support. “I’ll get you 85 to 90 percent (chance) — bipartisan — because enough Republican senators want to do the right thing and have spent a lot of time working on it,” the Democrat told Reuters in an interview…. – Reuters, 6-15-09
  • Obama says Italy will take 3 Guantanamo detainees: Italy has agreed to accept three detainees from Guantanamo Bay, President Barack Obama said Monday, as the administration continues its struggle to find homes for the prisoners so the facility can be shut down early next year. Speaking after an Oval Office meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Obama praised the leader for supporting U.S. efforts to close Guantanamo, saying his assistance “is very important to us.”… – AP, 6-15-09
  • Senate GOP launches health care attack: As President Barack Obama tried to sell the American Medical Association today on his health care overhaul, the top Senate Republicans launched a familiar line of attack. They warned of rationed medical care, lack of patient control and government bureaucracy. “The American people will not stand for rationed health care,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said Monday. “We believe that a one size fits all approach is the wrong approach.”… – Reuters, 6-15-09
  • Analysis: GOP word war asserts ‘socialism’: Republicans are honing an attack line against President Barack Obama in an attempt to play on Americans’ fears of government overreach and economic uncertainties, suggesting he is nationalizing American industry and socializing medicine….
    Democrats dismiss it as conservative sloganeering. And Obama is pushing back hard, lashing out on Monday at opponents to his health-care overhaul efforts as using “fear tactics to paint any effort to achieve reform as an attempt to, yes,; socialize medicine.'” “There is a fear of change — a worry that we may lose what works about our health care system while trying to fix what doesn’t,” he told an American Medical Association conference in Chicago…. – AP, 6-15-09
  • Did Netanyahu pass the Obama test?: In the wake of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s major address Sunday, the Obama administration has publicly been emphasizing the positive nature of the message despite it falling short of US demands that Israel halt settlement growth. The focus on the positive move by Netanyahu is being seen as effort to move past public disagreements with Israel to allay Israeli concerns and find a constructive approach that might include compromise on some points.
    “The Netanyahu government took a big step forward yesterday in acknowledging for the first time the need for a two- state solution,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs Monday. “I think the president believes that there is a long way to go and many twists and turns in the road to get there, but is pleased thus far with the progress that’s being made. And I think yesterday’s speech certainly is a big part of that.”
    In his speech, Netanyahu said that “in my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect; each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government.” … Jerusalem Post, 6-15-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

  • Bush takes swipes at Obama policies: “I know it’s going to be the private sector that leads this country out of the current economic times we’re in,” the former president said to applause from members of a local business group. “You can spend your money better than the government can spend your money.”…
    “Government does not create wealth. The major role for the government is to create an environment where people take risks to expand the job rate in the United States,” he said to huge cheers….
    “The way I decided to address the problem was twofold: One, use every technique and tool within the law to bring terrorists to justice before they strike again,” he said, adding that the country needs to stay on offense, not defense. On Guantanamo, which while in office Mr. Bush said he wanted to close, the former president was diplomatic.
    “I told you I’m not going to criticize my successor,” he said. “I’ll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don’t believe that — persuasion isn’t going to work. Therapy isn’t going to cause terrorists to change their mind.”…
    “Clearly, there’s a level of frustration on the Iranian streets,” Mr. Bush said. “It looks like it’s not a very fair election.”….
    “I am told, ‘If you do not move strongly, Mr. President, you will be a president overseeing a depression that will ultimately be greater than the Great Depression,'” Mr. Bush said. “I firmly believe it was necessary to put money in our banks to make sure our financial system did not collapse. … I did not want there to be bread lines, to be a great depression.”….
    He said his administration sought to address the “housing bubble” before the system broke down. “We tried to reform” mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, “but couldn’t get it through the vested interests on Capitol Hill.” Still, Mr. Bush was optimistic, pressing, as he did as president, free trade, open markets and the free enterprise system. “We’ll come out of this better than before,” he said to more applause.
    But he was less than convinced about Mr. Obama’s move to overhaul the health care system.
    “There are a lot of ways to remedy the situation without nationalizing health care,” Mr. Bush said. “I worry about encouraging the government to replace the private sector when it comes to providing insurance for health care.”
    Asked by the evening emcee at the 104th annual Manufacturer and Business Association meeting if he finds the new president’s policies “socialist,” Mr. Bush started — then stopped.
    “I hear a lot of those words, but it depends on –” he said, breaking off. He later offered a more diplomatic assessment: “We’ll see.” Washington Times, 6-18-09
  • STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM ON FEDERAL BENEFITS AND NON-DISCRIMINATION, AND SUPPORT OF THE LIEBERMAN-BALDWIN BENEFITS LEGISLATION: I am also proud to announce my support for an important piece of legislation introduced in both Houses of Congress last month — the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009. This legislation will extend to the same-sex partners of Federal employees the same benefits already enjoyed by the opposite-sex spouses of Federal employees. The legislation has a number of co-sponsors in both Houses of Congress, but among those many sponsors, I want to recognize one in particular — Representative Tammy Baldwin, who has been a real leader on this issue, and more broadly on the LGBT struggle for equality. Representative Baldwin, I look forward to working with you to achieve the important objectives set out in this bill as it moves through the legislative process. I also look forward to working with the bill’s Senate champions, Senators Lieberman and Collins; I know that they will approach this process with the same spirit of cooperation in pursuit of our shared goals that they bring to all of their work in the Senate…. – White House, 6-17-09
  • New Foundation, New Stability: There’s always been a tension between those who place their faith in the invisible hand of the marketplace and those who place more trust in the guiding hand of the government — and that tension isn’t a bad thing. It gives rise to healthy debates and creates a dynamism that makes it possible for us to adapt and grow. For we know that markets are not an unalloyed force for either good or for ill. In many ways, our financial system reflects us. In the aggregate of countless independent decisions, we see the potential for creativity — and the potential for abuse. We see the capacity for innovations that make our economy stronger — and for innovations that exploit our economy’s weaknesses.
    We are called upon to put in place those reforms that allow our best qualities to flourish — while keeping those worst traits in check. We’re called upon to recognize that the free market is the most powerful generative force for our prosperity — but it is not a free license to ignore the consequences of our actions.
    This is a difficult time for our nation. But from this period of challenge, we can once again tap those values and ideals that have allowed us to lead the global economy, and will allow us to lead once again. That’s how we’ll help more Americans live their own dreams. That’s why these reforms are so important. And I look forward to working with leaders in Congress and all of you to see these proposals put to work so that we can overcome this crisis and build a lasting foundation for prosperity. – White House, 6-17-09

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(First Lady Michelle Obama hosts the Bancroft Elementary School for the garden harvest of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 16, 2009. Offical White House Photographer Samantha Appleton)

  • REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY AT THE WHITE HOUSE GARDEN HARVEST PARTY First Lady’s Garden: Well, I’ve learned that if it’s fresh and grown locally, it’s probably going to taste better. That’s what I learned. And that’s how I’ve been able to get my children to try different things, and in particular fruits and vegetables. By making this small change in our family’s diet and adding more fresh produce for my family, Barack, the girls, me, we all started to notice over a very short period of time that we felt much better and we had more energy, right? And so I wanted to share this little piece of experience that I had with the rest of the nation, a wider audience, which is what brings us here today.
    This gorgeous and bountiful garden that you saw over there has given us the chance to not just have some fun, which we’ve had a lot of it, but to shed some light on the important — on the important food and nutrition issues that we’re going to need to address as a nation. We have to deal with these issues…. – White House, 6-17-09<object width=”425″ height=”344″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/R1vUBYr0-LE&hl=en&fs=1″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/R1vUBYr0-LE&hl=en&fs=1&#8243; type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”344″></embed></object>
  • United We Serve: The President is announcing United We Serve — a call to action for all Americans to volunteer this summer and be part of building a new foundation for America, one community at a time: Serve.gov White House, 6-17-09
  • Palin accepts Letterman apology, protest goes on: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accepted late-night TV host David Letterman’s apology over a sexually charged joke about her teenage daughter, but it was not enough to stop a protest outside the comedian’s studio on Tuesday. “Of course it’s accepted on behalf of young women, like my daughters, who hope men who ‘joke’ about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve,” Palin said in a statement late on Monday night. “Letterman certainly has the right to ‘joke’ about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction,” she said. On the occasion of a Palin trip to New York, Letterman joked on June 8 that New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez had “knocked up” Palin’s daughter during a family trip to a baseball game. The comedian apologized for the joke on his show broadcast on Monday night…. – Reuters, 6-16-09
  • Obama puts his name behind Dems’ pick for Va. gov.: President Barack Obama plugged his party’s candidate for Virginia governor into his fundraising and organizational pipeline by e-mailing hundreds of thousands of Democrats on Monday. Obama’s political action committee, Organizing for America, blasted out the e-mail in support of R. Creigh Deeds to its vast contact list and Democratic National Committee lists. Obama’s e-mail exhorts his supporters to reprise last year’s efforts for Deeds…. – AP, 6-15-09
  • Cheney: I Hope Panetta Was ‘Misquoted’ in Claiming My Wish for Attack: After the CIA director apparently told The New Yorker that he thinks the former vice president is crossing his fingers for another attack on America, Dick Cheney says he hopes his “old friend” didn’t really say those words….
    “I hope my old friend Leon was misquoted,” Cheney said, in a written statement to FOX News. “The important thing is whether the Obama administration will continue the policies that have kept us safe for the past eight years.”… – Fox News, 6-15-09
  • Berlusconi eyes concrete results for G8 summit: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday, called for concrete results on financial regulation, climate change and trade at next month’s G8 summit of world leaders. “We want this G8 to reach concrete solutions,” Berlusconi told reporters after meeting with Obama at the White House. “We both agreed on the fact that the G8 will certainly not be able to produce this body of rules, but this is going to be just one of the steps leading to that drafting of rules,” Berlusconi said. “There will be then the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, which will work on it, but the hope is to finally reach a body of rules which can be shared by everybody.”
    Obama, who will visit Russia before attending the G8 meeting in Italy, said he hoped nuclear non-proliferation would also be on the group’s agenda. “Prime Minister Berlusconi, who has strong relationships with the Russians, was able to offer some insight in terms of how to approach reductions in nuclear arsenals,” Obama said. “And that hopefully is going to be a topic at the G8 summit, as well.” – Reuters, 6-15-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President signs the memorandum
(President Barack Obama signs an executive order granting Federal employees with same sex partners more
benefits in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2009.
Offical White House Photographer Lawrence Jackson)

Historians’ Comments

  • Victor Davis Hanson: Understanding Obamaworld: Are you confused by all that has changed since President Barack Obama took office in January? If so, you’re not alone. Perhaps, though, this handy guide to Age of Obama “logic” might be of some assistance…. Once we remember and accept the logic of the above, then almost everything about this Age of Obama begins to make perfect sense. The Union, 6-19-09
  • Morgan State University historian Lawrence A. Peskin: Viewpoint Rewriting the history of America and Islam: President Barack Obama went to Egypt this month to create common ground between America and Islam. In the process, he whitewashed America’s early, troubled history with the Islamic world.In his speech at Cairo University, the president noted that “Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”
    He cited Morocco’s early recognition of American independence in 1778. He also reminded his audience of the U.S.-Tripoli treaty of 1796-97, which denied that the United States bore any “enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity” of Muslims.
    In so doing, the president created a mythic tale of longstanding friendship and understanding on the part of Americans and Islamic North Africans. Although it may have diplomatic uses, this tale has little historical basis.
    President Obama correctly stated that Morocco was the first nation to recognize American independence. However, he omitted the fact that shortly thereafter, Moroccans captured an American ship and its crew to force the United States to sign a pay-for-peace treaty with Morocco’s ruler.
    The payment did stop Morocco from capturing more Americans, but soon its next-door neighbor, Algeria, began capturing American ships. Ultimately it held more than 100 American crew members for ransom, some for a dozen years. Nor did a similar arrangement with Tripoli stop that country from capturing more Americans…. – Baltimore Sun, 6-18-09
  • Julian Zelizer: Congressional Budget Office is threat to health care reform: The most potent threat to the Obama administration’s fledgling health care plan may come not from the insurance industry or skeptical doctors but from the Congressional Budget Office.
    Earlier this week, CBO released preliminary estimates suggesting that the health care proposals — the most ambitious currently under discussion — from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee would cost $1 trillion and trim the number of uninsured by only 16 million.
    With a few more reports like this, CBO could quickly prove more damaging to the administration’s health care efforts than could Republican attacks about “socialized medicine.”… – Politico, 6-18-09
  • Robert Dallek: Obama Seeks Counsel From Ex-Presidents The president has said he wants to reach out to all of his predecessors: Two other former presidents re-entered the spotlight. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush recently held a joint appearance in Toronto. It was a polite affair that generated little news, suggesting that both men are trying to finally put aside their differences, which former presidents tend to do. “They see themselves as part of a distinct club,” says historian Robert Dallek. “The passions fade away, and they tend to come together and consider themselves as elder statesmen.”… – US News & World Report, 6-18-09
  • Donald Ritchie “Biggest Shift in U.S. Health Care Needs 45-Day Sprint”: The packed schedule will be a particular challenge for the slower, more deliberate Senate. Democrats, who control 59 votes, must be able to secure the backing of 60 senators to overcome the possibility of a filibuster. The fast pace also may be an asset, said Senate historian Donald Ritchie. “Sometimes there’s an advantage in setting a short schedule,” Ritchie said. “That gets people responding to the bill, it’s easier to schedule votes, people are more willing to cut a deal and compromise. Leadership around here often gets their best work done here before a recess when everyone has a plane ticket in their pocket.” – Bloomberg, 6-17-09
  • John Steele Gordon “Financial crisis shifts balance toward regulation”: “In theory, regulation and markets should evolve together. In fact, almost always, regulation comes after disasters” and it isn’t always for the better, said John Steele Gordon, an economic historian and author of the book “The Great Game: The Emergence of Wall Street as a World Power.” “Disasters teach us how to prevent the last disaster,” he said…. – AP, 6-17-09
  • Julian Zelizer & Melissa Lerner: Commentary: Obama can succeed in Mideast: At a time when the Obama administration is dealing with a barely stable economy while trying to address long-term health care, two wars, the environment and the threat of terrorism, many ask whether it is wise for President Obama to try to resolve a problem that has frustrated so many presidents before him.
    With the latest events in Iran, there is even more reason for skepticism that progress towards Arab-Israeli peace is possible.
    Despite conventional wisdom, when presidents have become personally active in shaping American policy in the region and resolved to make the Mideast conflict a top priority, they’ve often succeeded in improving Arab-Israeli relations….
    At the same time, Obama will have to work with the Israeli government — without antagonizing it — in order to gain support for a settlement freeze during the negotiations and to push forward Netanyahu’s promise to make progress towards a viable Palestinian state.
    Finally, Obama can’t take his eye off the domestic front. He must continue to engage the domestic coalitions who are most interested in these policies and ensure they are brought into the deliberations.
    The key will be balance. Obama should take this opportunity to embrace a strategy that is truly even-handed and does not let either side avoid its responsibilities. – CNN, 6-16-09
  • Clive Crook: Is this leadership on health care?: Obama’s hands-off approach to health care reform looks ever more questionable. I’m getting tired of listening to speeches that state uncontroversial goals–widen coverage, curb costs, free doctors from useless paperwork, improve medical outcomes–but have little or nothing to say on how these things might actually be done. It’s one thing to refrain from ramming a fully worked-out blueprint down the throat of a skeptical Congress, another entirely to step back altogether from fundamental questions of design and cost recovery…. – The Atlantic, 6-16-09

(The official portrait of the Obama family dog, “Bo,” a Portuguese water dog, on the South Lawn of the White House.  Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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