January 13, 2009: Leading up to the Inauguration & the Bush Legacy

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

IN FOCUS: The Bush Presidency

President Bush met in the Oval Office on Wednesday with President-elect Barack Obama and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. (Photos: Doug Mills/ The New York Times)

In Focus:

  • Bush, issue by issue: A look at the ups and downs of George W. Bush’s presidency on some of the biggest issues of the day – AP, 1-10-09
  • Bush endures stormy present, counting on history’s judgment: George W. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20 as one of the most vilified presidents in American history. Battered by an unpopular war and an economic collapse, Bush has racked up the longest streak of negative job-approval ratings in the history of polling. His end-of-term scores are worse than any modern president except Richard Nixon, who resigned in disgrace….
    “We have, by any polling measure, the most unpopular president in American polling history,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff. San Antonio Express, 1-10-09
  • A presidential welcome for USS George H.W. Bush: It’s the perfect gift for an old Navy flier: 1,092 feet of flattop. “What do you give a guy who has been blessed and has just about everything he has ever needed?” asked President George W. Bush from aboard the Navy’s newest ship. “Well, an aircraft carrier.” – AP, 1-10-09
  • Analysis: Bush’s personality shapes his legacy: President George W. Bush will be judged on what he did. He will also be remembered for what he’s like: a fast-moving, phrase-mangling Texan who stays upbeat even though his country is not. – AP, 1-3-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

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

  • All the Pageantry, Just Without the President NYT, 1-11-09
  • GOP chooses Rep. Kevin McCarthy as chief deputy whip: The Bakersfield lawmaker assumes a leadership position after one term in Congress. ‘He puts a friendly face on the party,’ one analyst says. – LAT, 1-11-09
  • Obama’s Cheney Dilemma: Cheney pushed for expanded presidential powers. Now that he’s leaving, what will come of his efforts? The new president won’t have to wait long to tip his hand. – Newsweek, 1-10-09
  • Obama’s inaugural luncheon fit for President Lincoln: Barack Obama had better like shellfish. The first course at his inaugural luncheon on Jan. 20, a seafood stew, consists of lobster, scallops and shrimp – all personal favorites, apparently, of Obama’s fellow Illinois politician, Abraham Lincoln. In fact, the 2009 inaugural luncheon has been designed to commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of Lincoln (Feb. 12, 1809), the 16th president. Newsday, 1-10-09
  • Obama to honor McCain on inauguration eve – AP, 1-11-09
  • Paterson and Kennedy Meet to Discuss Senate: Gov. David A. Paterson met with Caroline Kennedy on Saturday for their first formal discussion about her interest in being appointed to the United States Senate, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting, which may suggest that the long and at times circuslike selection process may be drawing toward an end. – N”YT, 1-11-09
  • Lifting veil of privacy, friends discuss Kennedy: In a series of interviews with The Associated Press, friends and colleagues of Kennedy painted a picture of a reserved but intelligent and tenacious woman who writes her own speeches and who, despite her vast wealth, still takes the subway…. – AP 1-10-09
  • Obama advisers: Plan would create up to 4.1M jobs: President-elect Barack Obama countered critics with an analysis Saturday by his economic team showing that a program of tax cuts and spending like he’s proposed would create up to 4.1 million jobs, far more than the 3 million he has insisted are needed to lift the country from recession. – AP, 1-10-09
  • Ill. House impeaches governor, who vows to fight: Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached Friday by Illinois lawmakers furious that he turned state government into a “freak show,” setting the stage for an unprecedented trial in the state Senate that could get him thrown out of office. – 1-9-09
  • Democrats criticize Obama’s proposed tax cuts: President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed tax cuts ran into opposition Thursday from senators in his own party who said they wouldn’t do much to stimulate the economy or create jobs. – AP, 1-8-08
  • Ill. House panel recommends governor’s impeachment: An Illinois House committee has unanimously recommended that Gov. Rod Blagojevich be impeached for abuse of power. – AP, 1-8-09
  • Senate Democrats yield to Obama, retreat on Burris: Senate Democrats beat a hasty retreat Wednesday from their rejection of Roland Burris as President-elect Barack Obama’s successor, yielding to pressure from Obama himself and from senators irked that the standoff was draining attention and putting them in a bad light. Burris said with a smile he expected to join them “very shortly.” – 1-8-09
  • Obama taps spending watchdog, eyes Social Security: Pointing with concern to “red ink as far as the eye can see,” President-elect Barack Obama pledged Wednesday to tackle out-of-control Social Security and Medicare spending and named a special watchdog to clamp down on other federal programs — even as he campaigned anew to spend the largest pile of taxpayer money in history to revive the sinking economy. – AP, 1-8-09
  • Obama hails ‘extraordinary’ moment with presidents: Confronting a grim economy and a Middle East on fire, Barack Obama turned Wednesday to perhaps the only people on the planet who understand what he’s in for: the four living members of the U.S. presidents’ club. In an image bound to go down in history, every living U.S. president came together at the White House on Wednesday to hash over the world’s challenges with the president-elect. There they stood, shoulder-to-shoulder in the Oval Office: George H.W. Bush, Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. – AP, 1-7-09
  • End to Minn. Senate race pushed even further out: Republican Norm Coleman filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Democrat Al Franken’s apparent recount victory, likely keeping one of Minnesota’s two U.S. Senate seats unoccupied for weeks or even months. – AP, 1-7-09
  • Richardson adviser worked for firm feds probing: One of Gov. Bill Richardson’s close friends and advisers worked as a consultant for the California firm at the center of a federal pay-to-play probe that derailed the governor’s appointment as commerce secretary. – AP, 1-7-09
  • Ex-Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush won’t run for Senate in 2010: Former Gov. Jeb Bush announced Tuesday that he won’t run for the U.S. Senate in 2010 to replace the retiring Mel Martinez, saying that it was not the right time to return to elected office. – AP, 1-6-08
  • CNN: Gupta approached about surgeon general post: President-elect Barack Obama has approached CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, about becoming the country’s next surgeon general, the cable network said Tuesday. – AP, 1-6-09
  • Democrats’ opposition to Burris begins to crackAP, 1-6-09
  • Obama’s CIA pick unlikely to face Senate challenge: President-elect Barack Obama had to do a little fence-mending Tuesday with the new Congress controlled by his own party — apologizing to a key Senate Democrat for failing to consult on his decision to name veteran Washington hand Leon Panetta CIA director. – AP, 1-6-09
  • Obama’s intel picks short on direct experience: President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of an old White House hand to head the CIA shows a preference for a strong manager over an intelligence expert. Obama’s decision to name Leon Panetta to lead the premier U.S. intelligence agency surprised the spy community and signaled the Democrat’s intention for a clean break from Bush administration policies. – AP, 1-6-09
  • Richardson withdraws bid to be commerce secretary: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Sunday announced that he was withdrawing his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama’s commerce secretary amid a grand jury investigation into how some of his political donors won a lucrative state contract. – AP, 1-4-09
  • Denver schools chief named to fill Senate vacancy: Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter on Saturday named Denver’s public schools superintendent Michael Bennet as his choice to fill a Senate vacancy that will be created by the promotion of Sen. Ken Salazar to interior secretary in the Obama administration. – AP, 1-3-09
  • Obama’s team polishing economic stimulus measure: President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is putting the finishing touches on an economic recovery plan that could run from $675 billion to $775 billion. Briefings for top congressional Democratic officials are likely this weekend or on Monday, a senior transition official said Friday. Obama is slated to meet Monday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a session likely to focus on the economic recovery package. – AP, 1-2-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

  • Bush Calls on Republican Party to Be Inclusive: “Look, obviously we got whipped in 2008, and there will be a new wave of leadership arriving on the scene,” Mr. Bush said. “But it’s very important for our party not to narrow its focus, not to become so inward-looking that we drive people away from a philosophy that is compassionate and decent.”
    “We should be open-minded about big issues like immigration reform, because if we’re viewed as anti-somebody — in other words, if the party is viewed as anti-immigrant — then another fellow may say, well, if they’re against the immigrant, they may be against me.”
    “Listen, the man is obviously a charismatic person, and the man is able to persuade people that they should trust him. And he’s got something — he’s got a lot going for him.”
    “I would hope that the team that is, has the honor of, serving the country will take a hard look at the realities of the world and the tools now in place to protect the United States from further attack,” Mr. Bush said. “They will find that with a considerable amount of care and concern for civil liberties, for example, that I have put in place procedures that will enable the professionals to better learn the intentions of Al Qaeda, for example.”
    “During the darkest days of Iraq people came to me and said, you’re creating incredible political difficulties for us. And I said, oh, really, what do you suggest I do? Some suggested, retreat, pull out of Iraq,” he said. “I didn’t compromise that principle for the sake of trying to bail out my political party, for example.” NYT, 1-11-09
  • Obama in his weekly radio and YouTube broadcast address: “These numbers are a stark reminder that we simply cannot continue on our current path. If nothing is done, economists from across the spectrum tell us that this recession could linger for years and the unemployment rate could reach double digits — and they warn that our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world,” he said. – AP, 1-10-09
  • Palin: Is Kennedy getting ‘kid glove’ treatment? “I’ve been interested to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled and if she will be handled with kid gloves or if she will be under such a microscope.” “… we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy versus, say, the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be.”
    “I wasn’t believed that Trig was really my son,” she said. She called it a “sad state of affairs.” “What is the double-standard here? Why would people choose to believe lies? What is it that drives people to believe the worst, perpetuate the worst? When did we start accepting as hard news sources bloggers, anonymous bloggers especially?”
    “I was not commenting at all on Caroline Kennedy as a prospective U.S. senator, but rather on the seemingly arbitrary ways in which news organizations determine the level and kind of scrutiny given to those who aspire to public office. In fact, I consider Ms. Kennedy qualified and experienced, and she could serve New York well.” – AP, 1-10-09
  • Cheney says no one saw financial crisis coming: Cheney said that “nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure it out.” He said Bush doesn’t need to apologize because he has taken “bold, aggressive action.” – 1-9-09
  • Obama: Congress must act boldly and now on economy: “If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years,” with unemployment reaching double digits, Obama said in a speech at George Mason University in suburban Virginia. “A bad situation could become dramatically worse.” AP, 1-8-09
  • Evan Thomas – An Interview with Barack Obama: NEWSWEEK: Going back to the period where you were deciding whether to run or not, I’m very curious about what you wanted to hear when you sat around with your friends and advisers. What were you looking for in terms of what you hoped to hear from them?
    Barack Obama: Well, the first question was, could I win? And I think that’s something that I needed to get some very objective assessments of, because one of the things that I’ve always been suspicious of is the hype that surrounded my entry into the U.S. Senate. I wanted to make sure that we hadn’t fallen prey to hype and believing our own press, so I wanted to test in very concrete terms and push very hard on the question of whether we could win. Since we assumed that we had a strong field, including Sen. Clinton and John Edwards.
    The second question, which had more to do with conversations between Michelle and myself on which we needed some feedback from the staff who had been through a presidential election, was how it would have an impact on our family. And that actually was the most important question, but unless we crossed the threshold where we could win, the second one became moot, because I had no interest in running if I didn’t think we could win. I wasn’t interested in setting myself up for four years from now because to some degree I was very fortunate; I already had a very high profile. I stood to lose more than gain in a presidential race if I wasn’t successful. So the second question was: how it would affect our family? And then thinking about schedules and workloads and the rhythm of a campaign, the nature of the scrutiny involved, how it would alter our daily round, and how would we, how effectively could we shield our families, our girls?
    And then the third question, which was the most profound question, and one where probably … in the end I had to answer all by myself was: should I win? Just because you can win doesn’t mean you’re the person who’s best for the country at this moment in time, and I, I, I actually believe my own rhetoric when I say I think we’re in a defining moment. It’s very difficult to think back to a time where we had a bigger series of choices, and obviously World War maybe, and then the immediate aftermath of WWII, the Great Depression, and before that, the Civil War . . . but the country has a lot of issues that it’s got to deal with. And so I don’t, I didn’t think it was sufficient for me to run just because of my own ambition or because I thought this was my time. I felt as if there had to be at least the possibility that I could do something that no other candidate in the race could do, whether it was bringing the country together more effectively, [or] building a consensus, [or] reinvigorating the American people’s interest in government. So that was a series of questions that had to be raised, and those questions were probably the ones that were least amenable to quantification. I mean, we can do some polling and sort of figure out, “Alright, can we win this thing or not?” It’s a lot harder to gauge whether you are what the country needs at this point in time. – Newsweek, 1-8-09
  • President Bush Welcomes President-Elect Obama, Former President Clinton, Former President Bush and Former President Carter to the White House:
    PRESIDENT BUSH: I want to thank the President-elect for joining the ex-Presidents for lunch. And one message that I have and I think we all share is that we want you to succeed. Whether we’re Democrat or Republican, we care deeply about this country. And to the extent we can, we look forward to sharing our experiences with you. All of us who have served in this office understand that the office transcends the individual. And we wish you all the very best. And so does the country. PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: Thank you. I just want to thank the President for hosting us. This is an extraordinary gathering. All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office. And for me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary. And I’m very grateful to all of them. But, again, thank you, Mr. President, for hosting us.
  • Ex-Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush won’t run for Senate in 2010: “I can play a role in helping to reshape the Republican Party’s message and focus on 21st century solutions to 21st century problems. Not running does not preclude me from being involved in these things and I will be.” “One of the benefits of being governor is people get to know you and I think people know I love this state. While I’m proud of my brother and I love my brother … people know that I’m Jeb Bush and I don’t think that would have been a problem.” – AP, 1-6-08
  • Obama says his plan with tax cuts to get quick OK: “The economy is very sick. The situation is getting worse. … We have to act and act now to break the momentum of this recession. The reason we are here today is because the people’s business cannot wait. I expect to be able to sign a bill shortly after taking office. By the end of January or the first of February.” AP, 1-5-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin and Harold Holzer “Obama’s challenge From the economy to war, this president faces crises unimagined since Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt”: “The real challenge will come once he gets in there,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “The crisis is pretty large, and I don’t think until you become president that you really absorb how big it is. … We will see what inner resources Obama can draw on.”
    Goodwin believes Obama has shown evidence of that ability. “It certainly seems so, from the way his campaign was run and how little dissension bubbled out into the public — his staffers were not jockeying against one another, there were not people leaving, though in other campaigns people were fired, people left, people were dissenting,” she said. “Great leaders create a climate of respect for one another, in that group around you, so there’s a reservoir of good feeling. I’m sure when the memoirs are written, we’ll learn of the dissenting views about what to do at various moments during the campaign, but obviously those things got settled during the campaign.” – The News Journal, 1-11-09
  • Harold Holzer “Obama’s challenge From the economy to war, this president faces crises unimagined since Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt”: “The world is so divided and fractured — in ways that Lincoln could never have imagined,” said Harold Holzer, who is the author of 30 books, including the 2008 “Lincoln President-Elect,” and the co-chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. “And there is every bit as much fear and concern.”
    Lincoln wanted the strongest, most able leaders in the country working with him, Goodwin said. Though he had no pro-slavery voices in his circle of advisers, he had a “great range of opinions” about how to handle slavery, she said.
    “They were contentious internally, disputatious with each other, there were plots and schemes for power,” he said. “But were they critics? I don’t necessarily agree that they were critics. They may have been doubters, but I think it’s more a team of rivals for Obama. … None of Lincoln’s rivals ever debated him, criticized him or ran against him. Obama, though, has been appointing a team of rivals — and all were pretty blunt in their criticism of Obama. That is heartening.”
    “Lincoln was gregarious sometimes, morose at other times,” Holzer said. “But at his heart, he was a no-drama person as well. He was a very calm and collected person. He stood before Confederate sharpshooters outside Washington once. He was the only president to actually come under enemy fire. He had great physical courage. … And few saw the emotion that was beneath the surface.” – The News Journal, 1-11-09
  • Eric Rauchway “Obama’s challenge From the economy to war, this president faces crises unimagined since Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt”: Obama does not inherit a 25 percent unemployment rate, as Roosevelt did at his first inauguration, arriving as it did at the nadir of the Great Depression. Half of those who had jobs in 1933 were working only part time, said Eric Rauchway, professor of history at the University of California-Davis and director of the Center for History, Society and Culture.
    “We’re already talking about fiscal stimulus, which Roosevelt didn’t get around to until 1938,” he said. “One of the problems everyone agrees we have is the health insurance of this country — the great unpassed New Deal reform,” he said. “They took it out of the Social Security law because they thought they couldn’t get it through and we’re still stuck with the problem, these 75 years later. Public health insurance increases the mobility of workers, who won’t quit a job because they don’t have health insurance. It can be an economic stimulus.”
    Rauchway sees no big effect of the 24-hour news cycle — “people who want news get news, whether in 1933 or now” — but he does see a parallel in the way Roosevelt and Obama delivered their messages to the American people.
    “The new media of Roosevelt’s day — radio and newsreels — some would say this is really critical to turning the corner on the Depression, and I suppose it is,” he said. “It’s very intangible. But with Roosevelt coming to the American people in the intimate way radio can provide, you get a sense of why this was good. He spoke in plain language, but he didn’t oversimplify the problems they were dealing with. It was not dumbed down, but in pretty plain English. It’s too soon to say, but we have some indication that Barack Obama is the same way. His infomercial before the election was a lot of Barack Obama talking directly to the people.” – The News Journal, 1-11-09
  • Douglas Brinkley Analysis: Bush legacy _ grim times, gloomy nation: “He put everything into his campaign for Iraqi democracy,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and professor at Rice University. “The results seem to be quite painful for the United States, not just in terms of more than 4,000 dead soldiers, but the ideological fervor instead of a cool-headed pragmatism.” AP, 1-11-09
  • Gil Troy “BALLOT BOX BLUES – Votes for sale: Political candy replaces ideas and ideals”: “If ever there was a moment where we needed a candidate who could come out with a big idea, we just experienced it, in the Canadian and American elections,” says Gil Troy, a political historian at McGill University. “This was a real leadership moment. But as the stock markets imploded, the candidates just went small bore rather than embracing big ideas.” “I didn’t hear anything from (Stephen) Harper or (Stephane) Dion that was particularly illuminating,” he says. “There was no inspiration and no insight. It was deeply disappointing.” Dion had tried to campaign on a big idea, but his Green Shift was so poorly explained, and so quickly overshadowed by the unfolding economic crisis, says Troy, that if anything it proved ideas don’t work in election campaigns anymore. – Canwest News, 1-11-09
  • Robert Dallek “For Bush and His Staff, a Season of ‘the Lasts'”: “They’re working hard to build their historical reputations,” said the presidential historian Robert Dallek. “Generally, presidents don’t spend the last days and weeks in office defending their record. They produce a memoir, they write a volume. “To spend your waking hours on a defense of yourself speaks volumes about how, in a sense, defeated they’ve been.” – NYT, 1-11-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama’s Vision: Only Government Can End Economic Woes”: “Ronald Reagan in 1980 began the new conservative era in America. And 2008 is 1980 in reverse,” said Allan Lichtman, an expert on the presidency at American University in Washington. “Reagan famously said government is not the solution, it’s the problem,” Lichtman said. “Obama is saying government is the solution and, in fact, the only real solution to the crisis we’re experiencing today. It’s not just a matter of fixing the economy. It’s a matter of fundamentally moving the economy in a new direction. And government, not private enterprise, has to take the lead.” – San Jose Mercury News, 1-8-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Shape of the Office: Obama and Executive Power” – “The notion that there’s some magic formula he can achieve within a month or two is unfair,” said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University. “There are many components to the crisis, many things that deal with financial regulation, and it will be hard for Obama to deal with this on his own.” For this reason, Zelizer and other scholars expect Obama to begin his term with a flurry of high-profile, somewhat symbolic actions — say, closing Guantanamo — then throttle back and begin the trickier task of managing everyone’s expectations. – Congressional Quarterly, 1-10-09
  • Julian Zelizer “The Ultimate Power Lunch”: As Princeton historian Julian Zelizer told CBS News, ” Diplomatic funerals overseas actually are often the way presidents get together, or the death of a former president but this is not that kind of meeting. This is not ceremonial. This really almost a think tank.” – CBS News, 1-7-09
  • Douglas Brinkley “The Ultimate Power Lunch”: Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told the CBS News Early Show that at least for today, “Obama’s making a real statement that I’m going to be seeking counsel and advice from all of the ex-presidents.” – CBS News, 1-7-09

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December 5, 2008: The Obama Transition, Bill Richardson, Economy, Healthcare and Harper Dodges Non-Confidence

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Bill Richardson joined Barack Obama for the announcement Wednesday that Mr. Richardson was commerce secretary-designate.

Canada in Focus:

  • Dion’s Speech Beset By Technical Woes: In the battle of the airwaves Wednesday, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion showed up almost an hour late and a few pixels short in his duel with the prime minister he hopes to replace. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08
  • Gov. Gen. Agrees to Suspend Parliament: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has won a stay of political execution – at least until January. Harper convinced Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament on Thursday, delaying a non-confidence vote scheduled for Monday that would have brought down his beleaguered minority Conservative government. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08
  • Christopher Dummitt: Trent professor argues coalition government perfectly constitutional – Kawartha Media Group, Canada, 12-3-08
  • U.S. Worried Over Canada’s Political Drama: The whole world is watching and our closest ally – the United States – is worried as Canada goes through a “constitutional psychodrama,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Tuesday. – Canadian Press, 12-3-08
  • Canada PM calls for crisis talks with premiers: “A critical objective of this meeting will be to identify issues related to accelerating infrastructure investments, strengthening financial market regulation, improving competitiveness and ensuring labor market preparedness and flexibility where immediate government actions will make positive economic impacts,” Harper’s office said in a statement. – Reuters, 12-3-08
  • Tories Fuming Over Political Crisis: Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion of betraying Canadian voters with the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition to replace the Conservative minority government, saying Dion is “turning his back” on the results of the recent federal election. – CBC News, 12-2-08
  • Canada government may seek to suspend Parliament: Canada’s minority Conservative government may seek the temporary suspension of Parliament to stop opposition parties from voting it out and taking power, an aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday.
    The Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois signed a deal on Monday committing them to bringing down the government, just seven weeks after it won re-election with a strengthened minority, and forming a coalition government to replace the Conservatives.
    The formal agreement quickly triggered one of the worst political crises in Canada’s history. – Reuters, 12-2-08
  • Canada government may seek to suspend Parliament: Harper told Parliament that the coalition deal was “the worst mistake the Liberal Party has ever made in its history”. Conservative legislators chanted “Shame, shame” at the opposition during an often charged session of Parliament. “The highest principle of Canadian democracy is that if you want to be prime minister, you get your mandate from the Canadian people, not the separatists,” said Harper.
    Dion shouted back: “Every member of this House has received a mandate from the Canadian people… The prime minister doesn’t have the support of this House any more.” – Reuters, 12-2-08

The Headlines…

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

  • Obama Hauls in Record $750 Million for Campaign – NYT, 12-4-08
  • Obama’s donor list asked to help pay Clinton debt – AP, International Herald Tribune, 12-5-08
  • Richardson pledges seamless transition in NM: Gov. Bill Richardson and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish met Thursday to map out a transition of power in New Mexico as the governor prepares to assume new duties as commerce secretary in President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet. – AP, 12-4-08
  • Obama laying the groundwork for U.S. health reform – Reuters, 12-5-08
  • FACTBOX: Obama’s ambitious healthcare plan – Reuters, 12-5-08
  • A New Home, a Bit Smaller, for the Bushes: As hard as it may be to leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the president and first lady, Laura Bush, have settled on a new home in the upscale Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Bush said Thursday. – NYT, 12-4-08
  • Democrats: Obama needs hands-on economic approach: Democrats are growing impatient with President-elect Barack Obama’s refusal to inject himself in the major economic crises confronting the country. Obama has sidestepped some policy questions by saying there is only one president at a time. But the dodge is wearing thin. “He’s going to have to be more assertive than he’s been,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told consumer advocates Thursday. – AP, 12-4-08
  • Save the date: Ala. county passes Obama holiday: In central Alabama’s Perry County, government workers already get a day off for President’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Veterans Day. In 2009, they’ll get one more: “Barack Obama Day.”
    The rural county, which overwhelmingly supported Obama in last month’s presidential election, has approved the second Monday in November as “The Barack Obama Day.” Commissioners passed a measure that would close county offices for the new annual holiday and its roughly 40 workers will get a paid day off. – AP, 12-3-08
  • Becerra a top candidate for Obama trade chief: – California congressman Xavier Becerra has emerged as a leading candidate to be the chief U.S. trade negotiator for President-elect Barack Obama, a Democratic official and lobbyists said on Wednesday. – Reuters, 12-3-08
  • Obama is delivering diversity, but some seek more: Barack Obama, soon to be the first black U.S. president, is on the road to making good his pledge to have a Cabinet and White House staff that are among most diverse ever, although some supporters are asking him to go even further. – AP, 12-3-08
  • Gates: Military looks to accelerate Iraq pullout: Defense Secretary Robert Gates signaled a willingness to forge ahead with two key priorities for the incoming Obama administration: accelerating the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and shutting down the Guantanamo Bay detention center. – AP, 12-3-08
  • A new poll shows Americans feel good about President-elect Barack Obama, seen here with his selections for his national security team in Chicago on Monday, and the choices he has made for his Cabinet.: More than three of four Americans, including a majority of Republicans, approve of the job Obama has done so far — broad-based support he’ll need as he faces tough decisions ahead. By 69%-25%, those surveyed approve of his pick of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his former Democratic primary rival, as secretary of State. By an even wider margin, 80%-14%, they favor his decision to ask President Bush’s Pentagon chief, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to stay on the job. – AP, 12-2-08
  • Republicans win crucial Georgia Senate seat: Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss won a run-off election in Georgia on Tuesday, CNN said, denying Democrats the chance for a 60-seat “super majority” in the Senate that would have enabled them to pass legislation virtually at will. – Reuters, 12-2-08
  • Clinton for a Clinton? Senate guessing game begins: New York Gov. David Paterson has famous names to choose from in picking a replacement for Sen. Hillary Clinton, including a Kennedy, a Cuomo and even another Clinton, as in the former president of the United States. – Reuters, 12-2-08
  • TERROR WATCH: Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball: 1900 Days And Counting: In advance of a new report to the White House, Bob Graham talks about the possible nature and likelihood of a WMD terrorist attack over the next few years. – Newsweek, 12-2-08
  • Chinese-American activists oppose any Bill Richardson cabinet nomination: The group is upset at the New Mexico governor for his handling of the nearly decade-old case of Taiwanese- American Wen Ho Lee, a former nuclear scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. U.S. officials once suspected Lee of giving nuclear secrets to China when Richardson was President Clinton’s energy secretary. – San Jose Mercury News, 12-2-08

Political Quotes

  • Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen “Fla. rep. ‘flabbergasted’ Obama call wasn’t prank”: “I was just flabbergasted. I just hung up on the most powerful man on earth — twice….. But this one was just out of the blue he’s calling me. And I said, ‘Boy, you’re a much better impersonator than that guy on Saturday Night Live,’ and he’s laughing and he’s thinking I’m kidding.” She “wished him the best of luck and told him I was going to hang up on him.” “I said I really do appreciate it. I love these pranks more than anybody and I’m honored that you would prank me, but I’m gonna hang up.” When Obama finally called back, the congresswoman said they talked about policies on Cuba and Israel. He told her “anytime my ego gets too pumped up, I think Michelle will remind me that you hung up not once, but twice on me,” Ros-Lehtinen said. – AP, 12-4-08
  • President-elect Obama and governors tackle the economy: Speaking to an assembly of nearly all of the nation’s governors in Philadelphia this morning, President-elect Obama called for innovation and collaboration, and invited dissenting opinions on how best to fix the economy. YouTube, 12-3-08
  • Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary: President-elect Barack Obama tapped Gov. Bill Richardson to be Commerce Secretary at a press conference in Chicago on December 3rd, 2008. – YouTube, 12-3-08
  • Obama Names Richardson as Commerce Secretary: “Commerce secretary is a pretty good job,” Mr. Obama said, after being asked by a Hispanic reporter about the appointment of Mr. Richardson to a post not considered among the cabinet’s more prestigious or influential…. “his mixture of diplomatic experience, hands-on experience as governor, experience in the cabinet, experience in Congress, means that he is going to be a key strategist on all the issues that we work on.” “I think the notion that somehow commerce secretary is not going to be central to everything we do is fundamentally mistaken.” – NYT, 12-3-08
  • Biden “US must halt spread of nuclear, bio weapons” : “We’re not doing all we can to prevent the world’s most lethal weapons from winding up in the hands of terrorists,” Biden told reporters at Obama’s Washington transition headquarters. – Reuters, 12-3-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Harold Holzer, and H.W. Brands: Lessons From Presidents Past As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office amid an economic crisis and conflicts overseas, the experiences of former presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt are being regularly recalled, including by Mr. Obama himself. – PBS Newshour, 11-25-08
  • HAROLD HOLZER, Author, “Lincoln-President-Elect”: Well, I think they were undervalued. I think they have been undervalued by historians. I think they’re the great Achilles’ heel in Lincoln’s otherwise sterling reputation, this prevailing idea that he was a docile president- elect who just dawdled away the hours while the secession crisis magnified. I took a look at the private correspondence and the conversations that Lincoln had during this period and found, in fact, that he did quite a bit, if not to prevent the union from fracturing, at least to preventing slavery from expanding and perpetuating….
    Well, the notion of gridlock, of political factions not being able to get along, which obviously reached the boiling point in the Lincoln era, is something that Sen. Obama has cited as a rationale for a different approach to government. Obviously, it’s a different time. Red state-blue state divisions are not the same as gray state-blue state divisions. And, of course, half of the country chose not even to recognize Abraham Lincoln’s election, but to react as if it hadn’t occurred, while half of the people in the states that did accept it had voted for someone else. So it was — there was none of the universal celebration of Lincoln’s election that took place. It’s the confrontation of division, the healing, the unifying, actually, that Lincoln did later in his term that I think Sen. Obama is looking to inciting now….
    Well, of course, the media focus is so much more intense now that it’s almost unavoidable. Lincoln certainly did not do any public statements, but, of course, he hadn’t campaigned for president, either. And yet there are things that Sen. Obama is doing that are so eerily like Lincoln, it’s as if he’s got a playbook that he’s — and it’s a very good playbook — that he’s referring to. I mean, he is considering the senator from New York whom he defeated for the nomination as his secretary of state, as Lincoln did with Seward. He even went back for a pilgrimage to the woman who raised him for a final goodbye, as Lincoln did, when he went to see his step-mother a few days before leaving for Washington, again, the last time he would see her. That sense of taking renewal from his roots was very important to Lincoln. And both of them are reading the works of former presidents in crisis. Lincoln read Andrew Jackson’s protests against nullification, just as Sen. Obama is reading Abraham Lincoln. So the arc of the presidency continues….
    I mean, in the case of Lincoln, I think not. This is really, in a large way, the culmination or at least a giant step toward completing the unfinished work that Abraham Lincoln spoke about at Gettysburg. The very notion that an African-American has been elected president of the United States fulfills those parts of the American dream that were unfulfilled. So I think it’s a magnificent moment and one that we should embrace as long as our honeymoon can last with a new president. – PBS Newshour, 11-25-08
  • H.W. BRANDS, Author, “Traitor to His Class”: I wanted to figure out how this son of privilege became the champion of the ordinary man and woman in America. Roosevelt was born wealthy. He had everything that wealth could buy and everything that opportunity could give. But he became in certain respects the most radical populist ever to occupy the White House. And I wanted to see how that came about….
    Well, circumstances now are looking eerily like the circumstances in 1932 and 1933. When Roosevelt was elected, the economy was at the bottom of the depression. Probably 25 percent of Americans were out of work. The financial system was in freefall. There was a clear repudiation of the status quo that is in Roosevelt’s election. And Roosevelt had four months to figure out what he could do between then and the inauguration. It was a very difficult transition, probably one of the most difficult in American history….
    Despite the efforts at cooperation, there is a definite difference in philosophy between the Bush administration and the Obama administration. And there will certainly be an effort by the Bush administration to preserve as much of that philosophy as possible. And Barack Obama would be well advised — assuming that he intends to take things in a different direction — to avoid making any commitments. He’s absolutely right. There’s only one president at a time. He can get his team together, and he can get his plans together, but he’s really not going to get anything done on his own authority until he’s sworn in….
    President-elect Obama can take comfort from the fact that the recession that the country seems to be entering will almost certainly not get as deep and severe as the Great Depression of the 1930s, in large part because of the reforms that Roosevelt and the New Deal Congress put into place. And I think he can take a lesson from Roosevelt’s example in connecting with the American people at an emotional level as soon as he became president. Roosevelt took charge very quickly. And one of the first things he did, after just five days in office, was to deliver the first of his fireside chats, in which he reached over the heads of Congress and over parties and made an emotional appeal to the American people, saying that everything that we’ve done, everything that we’ve started will only work if we have the support of the American people. So he made Americans part of his administration, and his administration benefited enormously from that. – PBS Newshour, 11-25-08
  • Gil Troy: Is Bush’s Greatest Achievement a Non-Achievement: No Subsequent 9/11s?: In yet another example of “blowback” actually undermining Islamist terrorism, the Mumbai mayhem may boost George W. Bush’s historical legacy. In the waning days of his presidency, the massacres highlighted one of Bush’s most significant but elusive achievements. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is a non-event. After September 11, most Americans assumed they would endure a wave of terrorist attacks. Even those Americans who hate Bush must grant him at least some credit for the fact that not one major attack has occurred again on American soil…. Despite all the hype during a presidential campaign about a candidate’s skills, judgment, character, experience, and potential, external events often define presidencies. George W. Bush himself entered office expecting to focus on domestic affairs. The horrific murders in Mumbai – along with the continuing economic roller coaster – illustrate that Obama’s legacy, like that all of his predecessors, remains in the hands of powerful actors and historical forces beyond his control, no matter how talented he is, no matter how focused on this one leader we remain. – HNN, 12-4-08
  • Julian Zelizer: Can President-Elect Obama Manage His Team of Egos?: Obama has assembled a powerful team that is full of experience, and opinions “He does have this challenge,” says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. “It’s not a modest cabinet by any stretch of the imagination. These are people of opinions and experience,” and they won’t be shy about “pushing the president” to adopt their ideas. The question is whether Obama will be strong enough to manage the egos around him—and distill from the resulting tensions and rivalries the best policies for the nation without allowing his government to descend into constant infighting, as happened under President Jimmy Carter and other chief executives. – – US News & World Report, 12-2-08
  • Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. “Obama as Hoover: The Importance of Storytelling”: You may have heard of the late liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. How about Charley Michelson? As the Obama era takes shape, the roles of both Schlesinger and Michelson deserve attention. Particularly as Americans are seeing newsmagazines with cover stories comparing the President-elect who campaigned on a dour vision of scarcity with Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, a considerable leap to understate. – American Spectator, 12-2-08
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin on the relevancy of ‘Team of Rivals’: Number one, what you’ve got is a president-elect who reads history and values it, and that’s just a great thing…. He called me after he read the book, way back at the beginning of the primary. My cell phone rang, I picked it up and he just said, ‘Hello, this is Barack Obama.’ He talked to me even then about the book, and then throughout the campaign he kept talking about it, how he would want to put people around him who would argue with him, have a range of opinions. His first step seems to be totally in step with that concept, both in terms of possibly appointing Hillary to be secretary of state, talking with John McCain.
    I think it’s the combination of, you know, what we’ve gone through in the last eight years, and the awareness that we’re at one of those moments in time when we have a series of crises that have to be dealt with.
    Even Roosevelt, when WWII was on the horizon, FDR understood that, as he put it, Dr. New Deal had to become Dr. Win-the-War, and he brought in two top Republicans, [former Secretary of State Henry] Stimson and [former vice presidential candidate Frank] Knox, to be in his cabinet. He put out the olive branch to the business community…Not that he gave up his progressive goals, but he reached out more so he could bring them together at a moment of necessity. – Politico.com, 11-19-08

Campaign Highlights: Obama Completes his Cabinet “A Team of Rivals”

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

AT HIS RIGHT HAND Barack Obama and Valerie Jarrett getting lunch last week in Chicago. Ms. Jarrett took Mr. Obama under her wing nearly two decades ago.

Stats:

  • A timeline of the Obama campaign – Newsday
  • Get to know the Obamas: Bios of Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha – Newsday

The Headlines…

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

  • An Old Hometown Mentor, and Still at Obama’s Side – NYT, 11-24-08
  • Official: Richardson to be commerce secretary – AP, 11-23-08
  • Obama Books Dominate Political Best-Seller List – NYT, 11-22-08
  • Clearer picture emerges of Obama’s Cabinet: A picture of President-elect Barack Obama”s Cabinet became clearer Friday, with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson emerging as a likely pick for commerce secretary. As word spread Friday that Sen. Hillary Clinton was expected to accept the secretary of state position, senior Democratic officials said Obama intended to name Timothy Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve, as his Treasury secretary to confront the nation”s intense economic turmoil. – San Jose Mercury News, 11-21-08
  • Obama Tilts to Center, Inviting a Clash of Ideas: Now, his reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as secretary of the Treasury — suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues. – NYT, 11-22-08
  • Geithner Is Said to Be Obama’s Pick for U.S. Treasury Secretary – Bloomberg, 11-21-08
  • ‘Amtrak Joe’ No More – NYT, 11-23-08
  • TYLER COWEN: The New Deal Didn’t Always Work, Either – NYT, 11-
  • Another Triumph for Clinton, Many Women Agree: Hillary Rodham Clinton, a first lady turned senator turned almost-president, is now transforming herself again, this time into the nation’s top diplomat. But she is also back to a role she cannot seem to shake: a canvas for women’s highest hopes and deepest fears about the workplace. – NYT, 11-21-08
  • Al Qaeda Coldly Acknowledges Obama Victory – NYT, 11-19-08
  • For ’60 Minutes,’ a Jump in Ratings – NYT, 11-19-08
  • Dem officials: Daschle accepts HHS Cabinet post – AP, 11-19-08
  • Democrats Gain as Stevens Loses His Senate Race – NYT, 11-19-08
  • Blogtalk: The Lieberman Vote: Today’s decision by Senate Democrats to let the Democrat-turned-independent keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee has only further frustrated the liberal blogosphere’s quest for decisive triumph over the moderate who emphatically backed Senator John McCain’s White House bid. – NYT, The Caucus, 11-18-08
  • White House Memo Obama Team Anything but Shy and Retiring: Whatever happened to Mr. No-Drama-Obama? – NYT, 11-18-08
  • Obama moves closer to key cabinet pick: A Democratic source said a conditional offer for the post of attorney general had been made to former Clinton administration official Eric Holder, making him the automatic front-runner for the nation’s top law enforcement position. – Reuters, 11-18-08
  • Clinton job for Obama may depend on Bill: If Sen. Hillary Clinton is to be picked by President-elect Barack Obama as his secretary of state, it may well depend on a review of the business activities of her husband, former President Bill Clinton. – Reuters, 11-18-08
  • Biden’s Guv Plans Midnight Swearing-in: ABC News has learned that Delaware’s newly elected Democratic governor is planning to take the oath of office at 12:01 a.m. ET on Jan. 20, 2009, making it possible for him to name Vice President-elect Joe Biden’s replacement to the United States Senate ABC News, 11-18-08
  • Cheney, Gonzalez Indicted in Texas Prison Case The indictment accuses Vice President Dick Cheney of a conflict of interest and “at least misdemeanor assaults” on detainees by working through prison companies: A South Texas grand jury has indicted Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on charges related to the alleged abuse of prisoners in Willacy County’s federal detention centers. – Fox News, 11-18-08
  • Senate Republicans postpone vote on Ted Stevens – Miami Herald, 11-18-08
  • Obama moves to defrost relations between White House, Congress – Miami Herald, 11-18-08
  • McCain Vows to Work With Obama: The bitter general election campaign behind them, President-elect Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain met Monday to discuss ways to reduce government waste, promote bipartisanship and find other ways to improve government. – AP, 11-17-08
  • Obama Quits Senate, Names More Staffers President-Elect to Meet With McCain Today – WaPo, 11-17-08
  • Clinton Vetting Includes Look at Mr. Clinton – NYT, 11-16-08
  • Palin’s political potential: THE 2008 presidential campaign may be over, but Sarah Palin’s moment in the spotlight has yet to run its course. – Boston Globe, 11-16-08
  • Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal: Barack Obama is to pursue an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East involving the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, according to sources close to America’s president-elect. – The Sunday Times, 11-16-08
  • Absent Obama still a presence in the capital – AP, 11-15-08
  • Obama Team Decides on 2 for Top Posts: Gregory B. Craig as White House counsel, Ronald A. Klain, a former lobbyist and Clinton administration lawyer, as chief of staff to Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. – NYT, 11-16-08
  • Say Goodbye to BlackBerry? Yes He Can, Maybe: Sorry, Mr. President. Please surrender your BlackBerry. Those are seven words President-elect Barack Obama is dreading but expecting to hear, friends and advisers say, when he takes office in 65 days. – NYT, 11-16-08
  • President-elect Obama reaches out to former rivals: Presidents typically say they want to be surrounded by strong-willed people who have the courage to disagree with them. President-elect Barack Obama, reaching out to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republicans, actually might mean it. – AP, 11-15-08

Political Quotes

  • Nov. 22, 2008: Barack Obama Delivers Weekly Address On YouTube – YouTube, 11-21-08
  • Gloria Steinem said in an interview: “Secretary of state is far superior to vice president, because it’s involved in continuously solving problems and making policy and not being on standby.” – – NYT, 11-21-08
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman said during a press conference: The resolution expresses strong disapproval and rejection of statements that I made about Senator Obama during the campaign. And in that regard, I said very clear, some of the statements — some of the things that people have said I said about Senator Obama are simply not true.
    There are other statements that I made that I wish I had made more clearly. And there are some that I made that I wish I had not made at all.
    And, obviously, in the heat of campaigns, that happens to all of us, but I regret that.
    And now it’s time to move on. – NYT, The Caucus, 11-18-08
  • An Obama campaign aide: “‘No-Drama Obama’ during the campaign meant that if you had something to say, you said it,” You didn’t go around people, or try to undermine people, you said what you thought. That’s how he’s going to run his administration.” – N”YT, 11-21-08
  • Stephanie Cutter, Mr. Obama’s transition spokeswoman: “He doesn’t put up with drama, but he encourages strong opinions and advice. In that environment of mutual respect, there tends to be little drama.” – N”YT, 11-21-08
  • Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn: “He said he’ll have our back. He’ll look out for House members. The idea is, we have his back, we do what Obama wants (and) he’ll do what we want. Something like that.” – Miami Herald, 11-18-08
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.: “What happened this morning was in large measure due to him. We all know that Senator Obama has said that he doesn’t think anybody should hold a grudge, that we’ve got too much work to do.” Miami Herald, 11-18-08
  • Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees taxes, trade, pensions and health care, said that he’ll not be bound blindly by Obama proposals. : “My goal is to work with Republicans. My goal is to work with everyone. We all have to keep an open mind about this. There’s going to be a lot of knee-jerking on both sides, and my job will be to help stop the knee-jerking.” – Miami Herald, 11-18-08
  • McCain Vows to Work With Obama — Joint Statement after meeting: “At this defining moment in history, we believe that Americans of all parties want and need their leaders to come together and change the bad habits of Washington so that we can solve the common and urgent challenges of our time. It is in this spirit that we had a productive conversation today about the need to launch a new era of reform where we take on government waste and bitter partisanship in Washington in order to restore trust in government, and bring back prosperity and opportunity for every hardworking American family. We hope to work together in the days and months ahead on critical challenges like solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy economy, and protecting our nation’s security.” – AP, 11-17-08
  • Obama On Economic Crisis, Transition Also Discusses National Security, Iraq, And His Cabinet In 60 Minutes Interview – CBS News, 11-16-08
  • Sarah Palin at the Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami: “I had a baby; I did some traveling; I very briefly expanded my wardrobe; I made a few speeches; I met a few VIPs, including those who really impact society, like Tina Fey.”…. “The future is not that 2012 presidential race; it’s next year and our next budgets,” she said. – Boston Globe, 11-16-08
  • The feminist social critic Camille Paglia, a pro-choice Democrat, is appalled by the Democrats’ anti-Palin debauch, especially their attacks on her intelligence: “As a career classroom teacher, I can see how smart she is,” Paglia writes, “and, quite frankly, I think the people who don’t see it are the stupid ones, wrapped in the fuzzy mummy-gauze of their own worn-out partisan dogma.” – Boston Globe, 11-16-08
  • Nov. 15, 2008: Barack Obama Delivers Weekly Address On YouTube – YouTube, 11-14-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin: “Clinton-Richardson: Benefits of a ‘Team of Rivals'”: In her book, Ms. Kearns Goodwin explained the essence of Lincoln’s approach: “That Lincoln, after winning the presidency, made the unprecedented decision to incorporate his eminent rivals into his political family, the cabinet, was evidence of a profound self-confidence and a first indication of what would prove to others a most unexpected greatness … It soon became clear … that Abraham Lincoln would emerge the undisputed captain of this most unusual cabinet, truly a team of rivals. The powerful competitors who had originally disdained Lincoln became colleagues who helped him steer the country through its darkest days.” By “rivals,” Ms. Kearns Goodwin meant not only the Republicans who contested Lincoln for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination, but also several pro-Union Democrats who supported his opponent in the 1860 general election. – Washington Times, 11-24-08
  • Paul Light “Bum nominations hard to avoid, history shows”: Historian Light said experience shows that the lure of a Cabinet appointment sometimes proves irresistible to people who should know better. “The ambition to be a presidential appointee is so great that somebody’s not going to tell the truth, no matter how hard you push the vetting process,” said Light. “It happens all the time. There have been some recent nominees who just flat-out lied when asked whether there was anything about their personal or financial history that might embarrass the president.” – AP, 11-20-08
  • Gil Troy “Michelle Obama’s fashion Wife of U.S. president-elect has a wardrobe that is colourful and accessible”: Historian Gil Troy, of McGill University, agrees, saying everything about the new First Family will be scrutinized and copied by an adoring public. “We’ve seen this thing before, with the Kennedys,” says the author of “Mr. and Mrs. President, from the Trumans to the Clintons.” “But the frenzy this time is going to be that much more intense.” The press, which shares a “vibe” with the intellectual, urban Obama, is giving him a bit of a free ride right now, says Troy, feeding the public’s appetite for information about his favourite snacks (Planter’s Trail Mix), preferred drink (Black Forest Berry Honest Tea) and favourite book (Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls). “This product placement is a boon for consumer manufacturers of all kinds.” The Obamas, Troy says, are clever at making decisions, such as what car to buy, and “turning it into political points.” Saying this couple “is very coached,” he points out Michelle Obama has replaced early complaints about her “stinky, snoring husband” with the traditional supporting role. “Michelle didn’t play well. She was being passive aggressive,” Troy says of the early days of the campaign. The couple has to give off an air of authenticity, Troy says. Any signs “that it is too faux, too calculating and on the make will cause a backlash.” Their White House style will fit in with the new era of austerity, predicts Troy, but will still have sparkle and energy. As he puts it, “They give great celebrity.” – Toronto Star, 11-21-08
  • Robert Watson “All eyes are on Michelle Obama”: “Michelle Obama has done the impossible” said Watson, director of American Studies at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla.. “The age-old debate, can women do it all? The answer with Michelle Obama is, you bet. She’s been the breadwinner. She’s been a great mother. She’s also managed to keep her marriage together. Michelle Obama has been superwoman. So why shouldn’t the expectations be high?” – Kansas City Star, 11-21-08
  • Catherine Allgor “All eyes are on Michelle Obama”: Catherine Allgor, a history professor at the University of California-Riverside, said optimism surrounds the entire Obama family, “and I think it’s completely tied up with how bad things are and how great they (the family) seem to be.”
    First ladies have become larger-than-life embodiments of everything their husbands stand for, powerful figures in modern, media-driven times, Allgor said. Obama carries a lot on her shoulders into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Women in particular see themselves in her, said Allgor, author of Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government.
    She is not a governor’s wife or a vice-presidential spouse moving her family from one mansion into the next. She’s more the girl in the movies who wakes up one day to discover that she is really a princess, Allgor said. “She is the closest to a regular person to take on this role,” Allgor said. “She is really, literally, coming from a life that we are familiar with. To go from that to the White House … this is the ‘Princess Diaries.'”
    “While they were being lovely and gracious, they are going out and changing the world,” Allgor said. “I think she recognizes this,” Allgor said. “I think she will be very, very careful to couch the work that she will do under very traditional veils. My sense is that she’ll be working to correct inequities in class, race, gender. But she won’t say that. She’ll say, ‘I’m looking out for working moms and the health of our children.’ And she’s very smart to do that because she saw what happened to Hillary Clinton. “The other thing I would say, too, that is going to be easier for Michelle than Hillary, is that somehow we demand first ladies to be the women we are not. Because she has young children, it’s going to be much easier for her to use that role. “When you have young children, you end up doing things like carving pumpkins and making cookies, whereas Hillary had a 15-year-old. So I think with this young family and all of its needs, it’s going to make it much easier to present herself as nonthreatening.” – Kansas City Star, 11-21-08
  • Myra Gutin “All eyes are on Michelle Obama”: “The more official side of her life is putting people onto her staff in the East Wing, which is traditionally the first lady’s bailiwick. My guess is she’s flooded with resumes,” said Myra Gutin, author of The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the Twentieth Century. Obama will choose a chief of staff, press secretary and social secretary. In the past, first ladies have been drawn to people who have government experience. Choosing people with Washington smarts “is even more important for someone like the Obamas who really haven’t been in Washington very much,” said Gutin, a communications professor at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. – – Kansas City Star, 11-21-08
  • Don Ritchie “Clinton Would Leave Big Shoes to Fill Hillary Clinton is poised to be nominated as President-elect Obama’s secretary of state, leaving an empty seat in the Senate”: Senate historian Don Ritchie added that Bill Clinton is eligible for appointment to the seat because he is a New York resident. It is unclear though, if he would be interested. Ritchie cautions that anyone who is appointed faces a 50 percent chance of losing the next election. – Fox News, 11-21-08
  • Professor Eric Rauchway reviews the presidential electionCalifornia Aggie, 11-20-08
  • Ronald White “Can Lincoln’s playbook help Obama in the years ahead?”: Lincoln historian and author Ronald White said that both had a “tremendous trust in words and the power of language.” “And I think today, we come with a real kind of cynicism. … It’s only words. And yet I think underneath the words are the public’s perception of looking for someone with integrity and authenticity and not someone simply playing a role,” White said. White, author of the upcoming book “A. Lincoln: A Biography,” has lectured on Lincoln at the White House and the Library of Congress. “Both of them rose, in a sense, beyond their inexperience and in spite of their relative youth, the wings of their ability to use public language,” he added….
    White said Lincoln’s strategy was to surround himself with people who were equally strong. “And I think one of the comparisons to recent presidents is that they often have put in people from their own states who often are ‘yes people’ to them. Therefore, they have not been given the benefit of strong contending points of view,” he added…. “I think this is the great question. Would it be possible? I hope it is. I think it’s a more difficult task today,” White said. “The Civil War also helped kind of say, ‘we have to have kind of a unity government.’ This is a big challenge. I hope [Obama] can do it. I’m not sure he can.” – CNN, 11-19-08
  • Eric Foner “Can Lincoln’s playbook help Obama in the years ahead?”: But Columbia University history professor Eric Foner, also a Lincoln scholar, said people should take a step back from the comparisons. “Lincoln is a great man, and people should learn from him. But I think, as a historian, people ought to calm down a little about these comparisons,” he said. “They are entirely different situations, worlds, political systems. There aren’t I think a lot of exact direct lessons one can or should necessarily try to learn from Lincoln.” Foner, author of the new book “Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World,” said Lincoln has become something of a model for politicians on both sides of the aisle. “Lincoln is a Rorschach test. Everybody finds themselves in Lincoln. Everybody finds what they want to find in Lincoln. There are dozens of Lincolns out there. So saying ‘I’m reading Lincoln or modeling myself on Lincoln’ doesn’t really tell us a heck of a lot.”…
    “A lot of what has been said as a historian strikes me as a little misguided. [Obama], for example, is modeling himself after Lincoln by [possibly] putting Hillary Clinton in the secretary of state,” Foner said. “But, by the way, that was typical in the 19th century. Most presidents took a major figure of their own political party, often someone who wanted the job himself, and made him secretary of state. That was a fairly conventional thing to do.” – CNN, 11-19-08
  • Harold Holzer “Can Lincoln’s playbook help Obama in the years ahead?”: Harold Holzer, one of the country’s leading authorities on Lincoln and the Civil War, said the state of the nation today may be a major barrier to putting in place Lincoln’s playbook. “Sen. Obama could have never contemplated a state leaving the country in reaction to his election, which was pretty rough. Lincoln could have never imagined nuclear war, the kind of foreign challenges that occur,” Holzer said. Holzer’s new book, “Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861,” examines the period between his election and inauguration. But Holzer said that although the nation’s challenges may be different, “leadership comes not from experience alone or sometimes not from experience at all. It comes from a gravitas and self- deprecation and understanding of other people. It’s going to be a very interesting period.” – CNN, 11-19-08
  • Gil Troy “Winds of patriotism renewed Election brings a liberal zeal for Old Glory”: Gil Troy, a historian who teaches at McGill University in Quebec, said that while Democrats accuse Republicans of co-opting patriotism, they’re also guilty of giving it up. “One of the great failures of the Democratic Party … is how they have ceded God and the flag to the Republicans,” he said. “Even as many Democratic voters have continued to wave the flag, party leaders and elite liberal opinion leaders have equated patriotism with” rednecks “and deep faith with dangerous morons.” – McClatchy Newspapers, 11-23-08
  • H.W. Brands “Winds of patriotism renewed Election brings a liberal zeal for Old Glory”: H.W. Brands, a historian at the University of Texas at Austin, said that Democrats became uncomfortable with only a certain type of patriotism — the exclusive variety. Primal and powerful, it appears most forcefully during times of war, whipping up fervor through an us-versus-them mentality, squelching most dissent in the name of national unity. It was on broad display, Brands noted, in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. – McClatchy Newspapers, 11-23-08
  • JAMES OAKES “What’s So Special About a Team of Rivals?”: INSPIRED by the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, President-elect Barack Obama is considering appointing a “team of rivals” to his cabinet — if rumors about the nomination of Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state are true. But there’s more mythology than history in the idea that Lincoln showed exceptional political skill in offering cabinet positions to the men he had beaten in the race for the 1860 Republican nomination….
    There is little doubt that Abraham Lincoln was a great president. But not much of what made him great can be discerned in his appointment of a contentious, envious and often dysfunctional collection of prima donnas to his cabinet. – NYT, 11-19-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Can McCain be Obama’s friend in Congress?”: President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain will meet for the first time on Monday since the election. The meeting comes at an important time for McCain, who must decide what to do with remainder of his career in the Senate.
    With his reputation severely harmed as a result of the campaign — some Republicans furious at him for having lost the White House with a poor campaign and some Democrats furious with the negative tone that his campaign embraced in September and October — he will have an interest in building a positive legacy.
    McCain’s best bet would be to form a bipartisan alliance with Obama on as many issues as possible — perhaps with an economic stimulus bill, immigration reform, exiting Iraq and new regulations on Wall Street….
    But what McCain can do, as he has done in the past with campaign finance and ethics reform, is to team up with the opposition and get legislation through Congress. According to Congressional Quarterly, former Bush and McCain adviser Mark McKinnon has predicted that “Senator McCain’s interest after this election will be not any political ambition but a genuine desire to make his last chapter in Washington all about bipartisan healing.”
    Now he has a chance to enhance his mark in the history books, this time with the person who defeated him, and then his legacy would not be the failed political campaign of 2008. CNN, 11-17-08
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “President-elect Obama reaches out to former rivals”: It so happens that Obama and New York Sen. Clinton share a reverence for “Team of Rivals,” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about how Lincoln brought foes into his fold. Clinton listed it during the campaign as the last book she had read. Obama, clearly a student of Lincoln, spoke of it several times. “I think it reflects a great inner strength on Obama’s part that he is seriously considering creating a team of rivals as Lincoln did,” Goodwin told The Associated Press on Friday. “By surrounding himself with people who bring different perspectives, he will increase his options, absorb dissenting views and heighten his ability to speak empathetically to people on different sides of each issue. The challenge, of course, is to ensure that the discussions do not become paralyzing, and that once a decision is made the inner circle accepts that the time for debate is over,” she said. Goodwin says a true team of rivals is exceptionally difficult to make work in these days of hyperpartisanship, scandal-hungry blogs and raw feelings between parties and factions of the same party from the often nasty campaign. Disharmony in Lincoln’s Cabinet was largely kept inside the meetings, exposed years later in memoirs, and that’s not how the world works anymore. Still, she said the even-keeled Obama displayed a temperament in the campaign that could help him pull it off. “And I believe the country would respond with great enthusiasm, recognizing the great contrast to recent times.” – – AP, 11-15-08

Aaron Tomlinson/CBS

The Obamas, interviewed by Steve Kroft for “60 Minutes.”

November 14, 2008: The Obama Transition Continues, Bipartisanship & the Historical Moment

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Stats:

  • A timeline of the Obama campaign – Newsday
  • Get to know the Obamas: Bios of Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha – Newsday

The Headlines…

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

  • Hillary Clinton emerges as US State dept candidate: Sen. Hillary Clinton emerged on Thursday as a candidate to be U.S. secretary of state for Barack Obama, months after he defeated her in an intense contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. – Reutera, 11-14-08
  • Obama resigns Senate seat effective Sunday – Reuters, 11-13-08
  • Palin stars at Republican governors meeting – Reuters, 11-13-08For Obama and Family, a Personal Transition – NYT, 11-13-08
  • Obama inauguration in January – but D.C. travel rush underway: Barack Obama won’t be sworn in as the nation’s 44th president for two months, but his historic election has already set off a frenzied scramble for inauguration tickets, hotel rooms and flights to Washington. – San Francisco Chronicle, 11-13-08
  • Crowd of 1 million could attend Obama inauguration: AP, 11-13-08
  • US general urges Obama to keep missile defense – AP, 11-12-08
  • Cheney, Biden to meet privately at VP residence – AP, 11-12-08
  • Obama to pioneer Web outreach as president: Transition officials call it Obama 2.0 — an ambitious effort to transform the president-elect’s vast Web operation and database of supporters into a modern new tool to accomplish his goals in the White House. If it works, the new president could have an unprecedented ability to appeal for help from millions of Americans who already favor his ideas, bypassing the news media to pressure Congress. – AP, 11-12-08
  • Obama taps veteran Dems for DoD, State handovers: President-elect Obama has hired former Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sam Nunn to help shepherd his Pentagon transition, a spokeswoman said Tuesday. Similarly, a senior administration official said former Secretary of State Warren Christopher would advise Obama on his State Department transition. – AP, 11-11-08
  • Catholic bishops will fight Obama on abortion – AP, 11-11-08
  • Bush wistfully salutes veterans on Intrepid in NYC: President Bush wistfully saluted the nation’s veterans Tuesday as he prepares to hand two ongoing wars over to his successor, saying he’ll “miss being the commander in chief of such a fabulous group.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • Pelosi calls for emergency aid for auto industry – AP, 11-11-08
  • Obama wants Lieberman to stay with Senate Dems – AP, 11-11-08
  • Bush, Obama discuss economy, foreign policy – AP, 11-10-08
  • Obama, Bush complete historic White House meeting: The Bushes welcomed the Obamas to the White House on Monday, visiting for nearly two hours and offering the nation a glimpse of a new first family at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. President-elect Obama and President Bush met in the Oval Office, their first substantive one-on-one session, while first lady Laura Bush and Obama’s wife, Michelle, talked in the White House residence. – AP, 11-10-08
  • DNC Chairman Howard Dean will not seek second term: Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean plans to step down from his post when his term expires in January, wrapping up a tenure in which the party heavily invested in all 50 states for a payoff that helped elect Barack Obama president. – AP, 11-10-08
  • Senator asks sites not to sell inaugural tickets – AP, 11-10-08
  • Obama plans US terror trials to replace Guantanamo: President-elect Obama’s advisers are crafting plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and prosecute terrorism suspects in the U.S., a plan that the Bush administration said Monday was easier said than done. – AP, 11-10-08

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush and President-elect Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama pause for photographs Monday, Nov. 10, 2008, after the Obama's arrival at the South Portico of the White House. White House photo by Chris Greenberg

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush and President-elect Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama pause for photographs Monday, Nov. 10, 2008, after the Obama’s arrival at the South Portico of the White House. White House photo by Chris Greenberg

Political Quotes

  • Barack Obama resigns Senate seat effective Sunday: “It has been one of the highest honors and privileges of my life to have served the people of Illinois in the United States Senate…. In a state that represents the crossroads of a nation, I have met so many men and women who’ve taken different journeys, but hold common hopes for their children’s future. It is these Illinois families and their stories that will stay with me as I leave the United States Senate and begin the hard task of fulfilling the simple hopes and common dreams of all Americans as our nation’s next president.” — Reuters, 11-13-08
  • Edwards speaks about Obama, Clinton but not affair: “In many ways, Barack Obama symbolizes what’s possible in America… That long, drawn-out, tough process played a role in making him a better candidate. He was well-prepared for this general election campaign.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • George W. Bush to CNN: Obama scoped daughters’ bedrooms after visit: “One of things President-elect Obama was interested in — after we had our policy discussions — was his little girls. How would they like the White House? It was interesting to watch him go upstairs, and he wanted to see where his little girls were going to sleep….
    I said ‘Bill, I’m getting ready to meet with the new president and I remember how gracious you were to me,’ ‘I hope I can be as gracious to President-elect Obama as you were to me.’….
    Clearly, this guy is going to bring a great sense of family to the White Hous. I hope Laura and I did the same thing, but I believe he will and I know his girls are on his mind and he wants to make sure that first and foremost he is a good dad. And I think that’s going to be an important part of his presidency….
    I’m not sure what to expect. I know I’ll miss certain things about the presidency. I also know I’m looking forward to getting home, so I’ve got mixed emotions.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • Bush wistfully salutes veterans on Intrepid in NYC: “Today we send a clear message to all who have worn the uniform: Thank you for your courage, thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you for standing up when your nation needed you most. I will miss being the commander in chief of such a fabulous group of men and women, those who wear the uniform of the United States military.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • Vice President Dick Cheney marked Veterans Day by solemnly placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Cheney then offered a glowing tribute to the U.S. armed forces: “No single military power in history has done greater good, shown greater courage, liberated more people, or upheld higher standards of decency and valor.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • McCain says Palin didn’t hurt presidential bid to Jay Leno during an “Tonight Show” interview taped for broadcast Tuesday night: “I’m so proud of her and I’m very grateful she agreed to run with me. She inspired people, she still does. I couldn’t be happier with Sarah Palin….
    I think I have at least a thousand, quote, top advisers. A top adviser said? I’ve never even heard of … a top adviser or high-ranking Republican official.
    “The people were very excited and inspired by her. That’s what really mattered, I think. She’s a great reformer.” – AP, 11-11-08
  • Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pa.: Catholic bishops will fight Obama on abortion: “I cannot have a vice president-elect coming to Scranton to say he’s learned his values there when those values are utterly against the teachings of the Catholic Church….
    They cannot call themselves Catholic when they violate such a core belief as the dignity of the unborn. – AP, 11-11-08
  • Palin blames Bush policies for GOP defeat: “I’m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door,” Palin said in an interview with Fox News on Monday. “And if there is an open door in ’12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.”…
    “I did not order the clothes. Did not ask for the clothes,” Palin said. “I would have been happy to have worn my own clothes from Day One. But that is kind of an odd issue, an odd campaign issue as things were wrapping up there as to who ordered what and who demanded what.”….
    “It’s amazing that we did as well as we did. I think the Republican ticket represented too much of the status quo, too much of what had gone on in these last eight years, that Americans were kind of shaking their heads like going, wait a minute, how did we run up a $10 trillion debt in a Republican administration? How have there been blunders with war strategy under a Republican administration? If we’re talking change, we want to get far away from what it was that the present administration represented and that is to a great degree what the Republican Party at the time had been representing,” Palin said in a separate interview with the Anchorage Daily Newspublished Sunday. – AP, 11-10-08
  • Obama plans US terror trials to replace Guantanamo: At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino said Monday that President Bush has faced many challenges in trying to close the prison. “We’ve tried very hard to explain to people how complicated it is. When you pick up people off the battlefield that have a terrorist background, it’s not just so easy to let them go,” Perino said. “These issues are complicated, and we have put forward a process that we think would work in order to put them on trial through military tribunals.” – AP, 11-10-08

President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama walk the Colonnade to the Oval Office Monday, Nov. 10, 2008, as the President and Mrs. Laura Bush welcomed the President-elect and his wife, Michelle, to the White House. White House photo by Eric Draper
President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama walk the Colonnade to the Oval Office Monday, Nov. 10, 2008, as the President and Mrs. Laura Bush welcomed the President-elect and his wife, Michelle, to the White House. White House photo by Eric Draper

Historians’ Comments

  • ERIC FONER “What it meant In the great national narrative, where will Obama’s election really fit? Five historians answer”: MOST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS do not fundamentally alter the American political landscape. Even when the party in power changes, the basic assumptions governing policy generally remain the same. But in a few critical elections, the advent of a new president is a transformative moment that reshapes American public life for a generation or more….
    Obama has the bad luck to come to power in the midst of an economic crisis. He has the good luck to do so in a country yearning for strong leadership and a renewed sense of political possibility. No president can perform miracles. But if, like his most successful predecessors, Obama seizes the occasion by striking out boldly, articulating forcefully a new philosophy of governing at home and relating to the rest of the world, we will add 2008 to the very short list of elections that have truly transformed American life. – Boston Globe, 11-9-08
  • STEVEN F. LAWSON “What it meant In the great national narrative, where will Obama’s election really fit? Five historians answer”: IT HAS TAKEN 43 years since passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which extended the right to vote to the majority of African-Americans, for a black candidate to become president of the United States. The significance of this achievement rises further when we remember that it has been nearly 90 years since women received the suffrage and that no woman has been elected president or even chosen by the two major parties to run.
    Barack Obama’s election confirms the faith that the civil rights movement placed in the power of the right to vote. In becoming commander in chief, Obama has inherited the legacy of countless civil rights warriors who risked their lives and many who lost theirs, to gain the right to vote, not as an empty symbol, but as a genuine tool for freedom and equality. He stands on the shoulders of John Lewis, Medgar Evers, Amzie Moore, Ella Baker, and Martin Luther King Jr., among many others….
    And, remember, Obama’s triumph does not guarantee the election of another African-American any time soon. John F. Kennedy was the first Catholic to win election to the presidency in 1960 and remains the only Catholic president to date. In fact, unless Americans become racially blind, which has not happened through 500 years, it will become harder for African-Americans to win the White House again. Demography is working against them, as Hispanic-Americans have now become the nation’s largest minority group. – Boston Globe, 11-9-08
  • THOMAS J. SUGRUE “What it meant In the great national narrative, where will Obama’s election really fit? Five historians answer”: ON ELECTION NIGHT, Barack Obama addressed nearly 200,000 supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park – the place where, just 40 years earlier, antiwar protesters, hippies, yippies and black radicals clashed with police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Alternative visions of America had collided on Chicago’s streets: dissent versus “America love it or leave it” patriotism, militancy versus law and order, sexual libertinism versus family values. Obama’s Grant Park celebration – just like the election of 2008 – exorcized the ghosts of 1968, perhaps forever….
    Generation Obama has its own issues: global warming, worldwide epidemics, the threat of terrorism, and the collapse of the financial markets, to name a few. McCain’s evocations of small-town values, of dissent and the silent majority and campus radicalism, left those problems unaddressed. Obama’s rhetoric of unity – of common purpose and common cause – threw the dated politics of division and resentment into the dustbin of history. The cultural warriors, fighting over law and order, God, guns, and family values, will not be silent during the Obama administration, but they are increasingly relics of the past. – Boston Globe, 11-9-08
  • JACQUELINE JONES “What it meant In the great national narrative, where will Obama’s election really fit? Five historians answer”: NOW THAT HALF a century has passed since the election of President Barack Obama, we can begin to place that watershed event into historical perspective.
    Those of us who witnessed the turbulent campaign of ’08 recall that, at the time, many pundits, scholars, and politicians argued that “racial progress” constituted the true significance of Obama’s election. Certainly his success at the polls that year was a great symbolic victory; less than a century and a half earlier, the vast majority of Americans of African descent were enslaved, and as late as 1965, the vast majority of rural black Southerners were disenfranchised. Obama’s election then was a triumph on two fronts: Many white Americans repudiated centuries of pervasive racial prejudice and discrimination to vote for a black man, and at the same time, President Obama represented the integration of blacks into the highest echelons of American elective office. The night of the election, Obama’s supporters joyfully celebrated what many considered to be the elimination of racial barriers to black people’s full participation in American political and social life….
    In time-honored fashion, many Americans searched for scapegoats to blame as the long era of freewheeling spending came to an abrupt halt; and in the years after 2008, those scapegoats were likely to be African-Americans and undocumented immigrants. In hindsight we know that contemporary observers who celebrated Obama’s victory as a new era in American “race relations” were sadly mistaken. – Boston Globe, 11-9-08
  • JOHN DITTMER “What it meant In the great national narrative, where will Obama’s election really fit? Five historians answer”: FIFTY YEARS FROM now historians will look back on the election of 2008 as a watershed. Transcending the issue of his race, Barack Obama assembled a new progressive coalition, galvanized by the young and minorities, that successfully challenged the conservative consensus that had defined American political life for more than a quarter century….
    On Election Day, men and women who had once fought for the right to vote stood in line for hours to elect a black president. At the Obama victory rally, when asked to explain the tears running down his cheek, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said he was thinking of all the martyrs who had given their lives to make the moment possible. Television footage from across the country showed people crying and hugging each other, evoking images of the spontaneous celebrations at the end of World War II. A new day seemed to be dawning. Once again America was leading by example, giving hope to all who believe in the possibilities of democracy. – – Boston Globe, 11-9-08
  • John Hope Franklin “In Obama’s victory, America comes to terms with past”: “This is one of the most historic moments, if not the most historic moment in the history of this country,” said 93-year-old John Hope Franklin, professor emeritus of history at Duke University. Franklin, one of the nation’s most accomplished historians, said Wednesday that he was confident that Obama could reach this historic milestone. “I knew that it would come sooner or later,” Franklin said. “I had the chance to meet and talk with him, so I was not shocked or terribly surprised because he is a winner.” – Kansas City Star, 11-13-08
  • Horace Huntley “In Obama’s victory, America comes to terms with past”: “I’ve taught for 35 years and I always tell my students, ‘When race comes into play, logic has a way of exiting.’ But I may have to revise that thinking after this,” said Horace Huntley, a historian and the director of oral history at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. “Now it appears that logic may be overtaking the illogical. It appears there’s a groundswell of sensibility.”
    To a generation of young blacks who never experienced overt racism, many can’t fully appreciate the magnitude of Obama’s victory. That’s mainly the fault of black parents and schools that don’t make civil rights history mandatory, Huntley said. – Kansas City Star, 11-13-08
  • Clarence Williams “In Obama’s victory, America comes to terms with past”: Clarence Williams, a history professor at the University of California at Davis, was equally pessimistic about Obama’s chances, saying he never thought he’d see a black president in his lifetime. “Because I think of the United States, historically, as a deeply and pervasive racist country,” Williams said. “It may have changed a bit in some ways, but in some ways it has not. And I have no shame about saying that to you.” Williams, who describes his feelings about America as “critical patriotism,” said that he, too, was heartened by the widespread support that Obama got from nonblack voters who gravitated to his positive message. “This notion of giving people hope is a very important thing,” he said.
    Williams warned, however, that Obama’s victory doesn’t mean that America is or ever will be colorblind. “But what it does is suggest we have taken another gigantic step forward with our racial problem,” Williams said.
    “We attempted to coddle our children and protect them from the harshness of the past rather than teach them what had taken place,” Huntley said. As a result, many young blacks “have put a diesel engine on an oxcart and raced away from their past,” Williams said. – Kansas City Star, 11-13-08
  • Nell Painter: “In Obama’s victory, America comes to terms with past”: Nell Painter, a history professor emeritus at Princeton University, also was taken by the country’s ability, in the end, to judge a black candidate based on his ideas rather than skin color. “The idea that we can vote for a black person for president just really makes me feel good about the United States, given our history,” Painter said. “It’s like we’re saying ‘Look, we’re not these bad old people any more. We’re fair-minded.’ It’s a powerfully positive statement about the United States turning its back on its evil ways.”
    “The breaking down of segregation made possible what we’re seeing today in Barack Obama,” Painter said. “This could not have happened in a segregated America. Too many white people would have found it impossible to vote for him.” – Kansas City Star, 11-13-08
  • Gil Troy “Obama’s “Historic” Triumph: Did He Win or was it a GO George – Get Out George W. victory by default?”: Historians have to navigate carefully when entering the strange, alluring world of media commentary. To maintain our integrity, we need boundaries. Presumably, those of us who comment believe that offering historical perspective even as history unfolds can elevate public debate, using current events as “teachable moments.” But most of the time journalists want us – especially on television – to do things we should not do, namely predict the future or determine the historical meaning of fleeting events as they unfold. Even on the air, historians should dodge certain questions. We should never predict. And we should sidestep premature queries such as “Is George W. Bush the worst president ever,” halfway through his term. Anyone who survived oral exams should be able to handle it. During last week’s remarkable redemptive moment as Barack Obama won the presidency, it seemed that most of the media wanted to trot out historians to certify that this election was indeed “historic.” — HNN, 11-13-08
  • Gil Troy “How Generation Y became Obama’s political animal”: “This is not a generation of enduring loyalty,” said Gil Troy, a presidential historian at McGill University. “They have quicksilver loyalties compared to their parents. At some point, there’ll be a confrontation between hope and government.” – Globe and Mail, 11-11-08
  • Allan Lichtman “‘President Obama’ Will Be Greeted By A Stack Of Problems”: Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University in Washington, D.C., said like great presidents of the past, however, Obama seems suited to the task of navigating the country through its current morass. “He’s very cool, very unruffled; he doesn’t panic and he’s retained his good humor, like Ronald Reagan, and that’s going to be very critical,” Lichtman explained. “Also, he’s been very inspirational and that’s an important quality because it helps bring people along with you and the only way to counter wealthy, special interests is the power of the people. That’s how Teddy Roosevelt countered special interests in his administration.”
    “I think it’s a return to a kind of liberalism that we have not seen since the 1960s, early 1970s,” said Lichtman. “Ther’s a much greater faith in government, a less militaristic approach to foreign policy and a much more multilateral approach compared to the Bush administration….there’s less of an emphasis on supporting the wealthy.”
    “Obama can take good lessons from Franklin Roosevelt, who came into office during a financial crisis, and that is bold, persistent determination and a willingness to try lots of different things. There is no one silver bullet for this economic problem.”
    “He’s shown tremendous willingness to experiment and change and try to do new things and not just walk down the line in Democratic orthodoxy,” he said.
    “Race is a sore spot,” said Lichtman, the American University historian. “He’ll have to tread softly but not back down, and he’s shown his ability to do that. The best way to defuse the issue of race is for Obama to show he can be president of all people and to govern well, and governing well means solving problems.” – Seattle Medium, 11-12-08
  • Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said she was hard-pressed to find a similar moment in history when the tone had changed so drastically, and so quickly, among so many people of such prominence. “The best answer I can give you,” said Goodwin, “is they don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.” – Star Tribune, 11-13-08
  • Douglas Brinkley, the best-selling author and professor of history at Rice University: “Monumental … a major shift in the zeitgeist of our times.”
  • Joan Hoff, a former president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency: “I can’t think of another election where the issues were two wars and a crashed economy. There just isn’t any historical precedent for this.”
  • James McPherson, author and professor emeritus of history at Princeton University: “It’s an historic turning point … an exclamation point of major proportions to the civil rights movement that goes back to the 1950s.”
  • Douglas Brinkley says Obama Could Permanently Ban ANWR Drilling: “I think what they’re trying to do is in the Obama administration, start pointing out some clear divot spots where they’re going to deviate from the Bush administration –things like Guantanamo, things that, ‘No, we are not going to be for drilling around parks.’ I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming year if you see someplace like ANWR in Alaska turn from being a wildlife refuge run by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and turn over to becoming a National Monument where you couldn’t drill. So you’re going to be, and that’s because you’re going to have to do some things sort of on the cheap. – http://www.businessandmedia.org, 11-12-08
  • Edna Greene Medford “Obama’s victory a ‘renewed hope'” Howard University history professor Edna Greene Medford said President-elect Barack Obama’s historic victory is “a symbol” to blacks, but “we don’t expect much because we know we’re not going to get much.” A Lincoln historian, Mrs. Medford said Mr. Obama, like Lincoln, is offering hope but black voters are “smart enough to know” that the 44th president is only one man and his election “does not mean that life is going to get better for me.” Mrs. Medford made her comments, which were disputed by Obama transition team officials, during a heady meeting of the Trotter Group of black columnists at Howard. – Washington Times, 11-12-08
  • Daryl Scott “Obama’s victory a ‘renewed hope'” 20th-century historian Daryl Scott, echoed the sentiment that Mr. Obama “ran a campaign on helping the middle class;” not the poor, who disproportionately are minorities and women. “There will be nothing done for the poor in the name of the poor, nothing done for blacks in the name of blacks,” Mr. Scott said. “Obama will do what Lincoln did – give them nothing but freedom.” – Washington Times, 11-12-08
  • Michael Honey, MLK historian, reflects on Obama presidency: “It took an African-American to really follow through on what freedom means. We have elected a leader whose insight comes from his own historical roots. He is trying to make freedom real for everybody.”…
    In 30 years, people of color will be in the majority in the United States. The U.S. is about inclusive equality and freedom. But a certain portion of the electorate is holding on to the old America. The old idea of white men running things doesn’t fit the reality of the country any more. It’s like we’ve been trying to build America while excluding a big part of America. We have had so much trouble [with racial issues]. But now that Obama has been elected, I feel like we’re finally dealing with our own history. We’re not living in unreality anymore. – http://www.tacomadailyindex.com, 11-10-08
  • Shelby Steele: ‘Why Obama Can’t Win’ Author Defends Analysis: “My feeling is that I stand by every word of the analysis — what is between the covers of the book. For the year I have had to apologize for the stupid, silly subtitle that was slapped on to the book.” – NYT, 11-10-08
  • Harold Holzer & James McPherson ask: WWLD? (What would Lincoln Do?): So, what lessons can Obama learn from what Lincoln did—and didn’t do—in the time between his election and inauguration? To find out, the Tribune asked two Lincoln scholars, Harold Holzer, author of the newly published “Lincoln President-elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861,” and James McPherson, author of the classic Civil War history tome “Battle Cry of Freedom” and “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief,” published in October. – Chicago Tribune, 11-9-08
  • Timothy Garton Ash: Obama must show the way to a goal set by Russell, Einstein – and Reagan – Guardian (UK), 11-13-08
  • Alonzo Hamby: Why liberals now call themselves progressives Conservativenet, 11-12-08
  • Julian Zelizer: What Obama should do with Biden CNN, 11-10-08
  • Beverly Gage: Do Rookies Make Good Presidents? – Time Magazine, 11-5-08
  • Andrew Doyle: 2-minute Tuesday: Andrew Doyle, Associate professor of history at Winthrop University – Herald Online, 11-4-08
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