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


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:

  • 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. –, 11-19-08

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


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.


  • 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:

  • 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.”

Republican National Convention Day 2: September 2, 2008


Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on Tuesday in St. Paul. (NYT)

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on Tuesday in St. Paul. (NYT)

Day 2 ScheduleTUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2008: Service

    The 2008 Republican National Convention today announced the program of events for Tuesday, Sept. 2. The program will feature speeches by U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman and former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson. Their remarks will reflect the convention’s overall theme, “Country First,” and the theme for Tuesday’s events, which is “service.”

    “We are excited to announce Tuesday’s featured speakers, who will share John McCain’s remarkable record of leadership and service with millions of Americans tonight. We are looking forward to showcasing John McCain’s life-long record of putting his country first,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. “Mike” Duncan.

    “From his days as a POW who refused early release to his 20-year career in the U.S. Senate, John McCain has always put country first. Tonight’s program will reflect his unmatched commitment to service and his vision for increasing Americans’ participation in service and volunteer activities,” said Rick Davis, McCain 2008 campaign manager.

    Among the other speakers announced today are President George W. Bush (via satellite), First Lady Laura Bush, U.S. House Republican Leader John Boehner (Ohio), U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.), and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.).
    GOP Convention 2008


  • September 2, 2008: Bush tells convention McCain is ready to lead, support of war shows his courage … McCain says Palin was thoroughly checked out before she was selected … With GOP struggling, Obama content to keep it local and low-key … Outside GOP convention, heavy police presence meets thousands protesting poverty, homelessness … McCain and Obama camps air new ads, alter playing field. – AP, 9-2-08
    Thompson, Lieberman to speak Tuesday night as GOP gets convention back on track … McCain’s veep vetter says Palin voluntarily disclosed teen’s pregnancy, husband’s past DUI … AP photographer, Democracy Now! TV and radio host arrested while covering anti-war protest … McCain has opposed spending on teen pregnancy prevention programs, sex education. – AP, 9-2-08

Stats & In the News…

  • 8 Years Later, Lieberman Extols McCain – NYT, 9-2-08
  • McCain Cancels Larry King Interview – NYT, 9-2-08
  • Exclusive photos show Sarah Palin has convinced John McCain – NY Daily News, 9-2-08
  • Lieberman gets convention spotlight, Bush a cameo – AP, 9-2-08
  • Bush praises McCain, Republicans defend Palin – AP, 9-2-08
  • Sarah Palin: Shooting Star? – WaPo, 9-2-08
  • Analysis: Palin choice scrambles left-right roles – AP, 9-2-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Historians Offer Insight on RNC’s Day Two: historians Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith and Peniel Joseph examine the strengths of the night’s speeches and the rally for the GOP party in St. Paul. – PBS Newshour, 9-2-08
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University: Well, it’s interesting. I think Judy’s right. This crowd goes out tonight feeling probably a lot better than they did even coming in this evening. I was struck by the extent to which this night was about John McCain’s personal story. And as we all know, it is a very powerful story. But it’s interesting. Here we are, two months before the campaign, and you have — before the election, and you have the feeling this is still a candidacy driven very much by biography. And I suspect what a lot of people are eager to hear over the next two nights is a lot more about what a McCain presidency would actually mean, whether it’s the economy, or health care, or a host of other issues. One other thing I would just add as an asterisk, knowing some Republicans and having been around Republicans, I don’t think you can overestimate the emotional surge in this hall that arises from the sense as a result of the Sarah Palin feeding frenzy that the “media,” quote, unquote, is out to get them. – PBS Newshour, 9-2-08
  • PENIEL JOSEPH, Brandeis University: Certainly. I think that tonight, it was an extraordinary night. I think Joe Lieberman’s speech quoting George Washington, who was against parties, at least partisanship, and calling for a bipartisan participation in this next election, Democrats, independents to vote for McCain, really building on what Richard said, based on biography rather than specific public policy proposals. And I think the controversy over the Palin choice is energizing their base. And they really feel they’re trying to rally around Palin in a way that — when we think of 1972, George McGovern didn’t, and when we think of 1988, George Bush, in fact, did. – PBS Newshour, 9-2-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: Maybe not a lot. And as a matter of fact, you know, you were talking a moment ago, Jim, about going after the media, which never hurts to do for a speaker at any convention, maybe particularly a Republican one. And, in 1964, probably the most powerful applause line at that convention, the Republicans in San Francisco, aside from the one given by — the speech given by Barry Goldwater, Dwight Eisenhower, of all people, who people thought of as rather mild-mannered, said, “Let us particularly scorn the sensation-seeking columnists because, my friends, I can assure you these are people who couldn’t care less about the good of our party.” And there was almost an animal roar. One lady started screaming, “Down with Walter Lippman!” It really brought down the house. The other thing you were saying, Jim, about, you know, reaching across the aisle. You know, Joe Lieberman’s speech tonight, I think it probably can be fairly said, if he had been nominated for vice president this week, we probably would have heard maybe three-quarters of the words that we heard tonight. That was probably large chunks of an acceptance speech that he never got to give. The reason he never got to give it, we are told, is that John McCain wanted to choose him, but his party said you can’t reach across the aisle, you can’t nominate a Democrat who has very differing views from many of us and from John McCain. And so there was a great irony that here he is saying, “Let’s all reach across the aisle,” to a group that essentially prevented John McCain from choosing a Democrat, Lieberman, as vice president. – PBS Newshour, 9-2-08
  • H.W. Brands on “McCain Walks Fine Line With Bush Legacy”: Dealing with the legacy of the previous president “is a perennial problem for candidates of the same party as the incumbent, especially when the incumbent has baggage.” said H.W. Brands, author of Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    A professor of history at the University of Texas, Brands — who was not in Minnesota — said that presidential candidate Al Gore tried to embrace Bill Clinton’s prosperity but not Clinton’s personal behavior. George H. W. Bush endorsed Reaganism, but distanced himself from the Iran-Contra affair. When Hubert Humphrey ran for president in 1968, he endorsed Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society but wavered on the Vietnam war. Calvin Coolidge echoed Warren G. Harding on the economy in 1924 but not on the Teapot Dome scandal. And Martin Van Buren wanted to be Andrew Jackson, without some of Jackson’s sharp edges.

    “Every candidate promises to be his own man,” Brands said, “but wants to be associated with such success as his predecessor achieved. Some strike the balance, others don’t.” – NPR, 9-2-08

  • Ted Frantz on “Assessing Gustav damage to RNC”: “You can make the argument that in some ways Gustav helped John McCain, given what he was trying to run on and stress. Leadership and experience,” said Ted Frantz.
    University of Indianapolis history professor Ted Frantz said even though the Republican Party didn’t get the media coverage it had wanted, Gustav didn’t keep John McCain out of the news. Rather it allowed the Senator an opportunity to react to a potential disaster on the national stage. “Hey this is what I would do as commander in chief, putting Americans first and party loyalty second,” said Frantz.
    But Frantz notes, of the two parties, the Democrats were the ones who needed more convention time. Not only did the party want to take time to reintroduce Senator Barack Obama to the nation, but party leaders had to deal with far more drama. In this case, giving the Clintons prime time coverage so they could show their support for Barack Obama and encourage their supporters to do the same.
    With John McCain a well known entity, viewers may not be as interested in the Republican National Convention.
    “I think generally they would tune in for McCain’s speech and to see Sarah Palin speak for the longest time, after that, probably most Americans wouldn’t have tuned in that heavily anyway,” said Frantz. – WISH-TV 8, 9-2-08
  • Melissa Harris-Lacewell on “Cindy and Michelle Defy First Lady Stereotypes Political Experts Say Either Woman Could Create Stronger White House Role”:

    “Americans are going to get a different first lady,” said Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, and who is friends with Michelle Obama. “Whoever winds up there, it’s going to be a different approach.”…
    As a working mother, Obama’s central theme could be balancing home and work. “How do contemporary women fulfill their own series while also fulfilling their desire for family?” asked Harris-Lacewell. “How do they support their husbands without getting lost in their identities?” Harris-Lacewell also suggested that Michelle Obama may champion issues involving her children as they grow, such as gender equality and education.

    “Eight years ago, she had incredible dignity and was a fierce advocate of her own adopted daughter,” Harris-Lacewell said. “She is a woman of more substance than people imagine.” – ABC News, 9-2-08

  • Carl Sferrazza Anthony on “Cindy and Michelle Defy First Lady Stereotypes Political Experts Say Either Woman Could Create Stronger White House Role”: “The campaigns don’t necessarily want the wives to appear overly substantive,” said Carl Sferrazza Anthony, a historian for the National First Ladies Library in Canton, Ohio. “The campaign of 1992 stands out as a stark reminder of how a first lady can be demonized if there is the slightest suggestion she might use her intelligence and experience and offer advice to her husband.”…
    “Michelle gave [Barack Obama] a sense of grounding and purpose in Chicago,” said Anthony. “She gave him a sense of home.” – ABC News, 9-2-08
  • Catherine Algore on “Cindy and Michelle Defy First Lady Stereotypes Political Experts Say Either Woman Could Create Stronger White House Role”: “The twist is that Cindy McCain has more of an opportunity to make a more radical difference,” said Catherine Algore, visiting professor at Claremont McKenna College and author of “A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation.” “It’s the paradox of her being a Republican woman, with traditional appearance and presence of self. She can actually do more than someone looked at as a radical, liberal feminist and black woman,” Algore told “In some ways Michelle Obama is constrained by our own prejudices and expectations, whereas Cindy McCain can take that conservative, former beauty queen wife and mother and philanthropist and run with it,” she said. – ABC News, 9-2-08
  • Edward Berkowitz on “Cindy and Michelle Defy First Lady Stereotypes Political Experts Say Either Woman Could Create Stronger White House Role”: History demonstrates that the role of first lady is complex, according to Edward Berkowitz, professor of history and public policy at George Washington University. “There are contradictions built in to the family and political roles,” he told “How to reconcile between being active and not getting involved, giving the president the proper space, the proper environment for giving advice, but not definitive advice. The tensions are very hard to navigate.”…
    “Michelle Obama is a different animal than any other first lady ever,” said Berkowitz. “She is this sort of black, upwardly mobile, upper-class type. She is not that aristocratic, but very often the high-achieving black world has its own rules and decorum.”…
    “She’s like Nancy Reagan, in the sense that she and Ronnie had been divorced,” Berkowitz said. “Reagan made it a nonissue. She’s from that world.” And her wealth is “relatively new money,” Berkowitz said. “Having a beer distributorship, it’s not unlike the Kennedy father. It’s not like being a banker, not that respectability. It’s more working class.” – ABC News, 9-2-08
  • Joseph Crespino on “Obama and the New South”: She is a very compelling personality and has already injected a lot of enthusiasm and interest into McCain’s campaign. But Palin is a huge wild card. I thought that the one question that the Dems had not fully answered by the end of their convention was the experience issue, but obviously the McCain camp thought differently because they’ve taken that off the table. It’s hard to know what to make of the news about Palin’s daughter. Nobody really wants to touch it because it’s sad to have the private lives of family members injected into national politics, but how can you hear that new — not to mention the troopergate story — and not wonder who actually vetted this candidate….
    I don’t think any Republicans are remiss about George Bush being unable to speak in prime time Monday night — or the fact that Dick Cheney will not be at the convention. It looks now like Gustav will more or less blow through New Orleans with relatively little impact, and if the Republicans get three full days in, then I think they will be thrilled. – Emory Wheel, 9-1-08
  • Richard Norton Smith and Peniel Joseph: Experts Mull Historical Context of GOP’s Convention Postponement: The Republican Committee decided to delay convention events on Monday due to Hurricane Gustav — a first in party convention history. Historians discuss the decision and its political significance in the context of past conventions. – PBS Newshour, 9-1-08 Download
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University:: In a word, no. I thought someone this week would be brief, you know. No, this is unprecedented. But, you know, Andy had a point when he was talking earlier. There are going to be some people who won’t say it in front of a camera, but who privately see this as not entirely a cause for despondency, because the fewer people out there who see the president and the vice president this evening, the better it may be for the people in here….

    Well, you know, first of all, to be fair, there’s a poll today that says 71 percent of these delegates approve of President Bush’s performance. That’s just that they’re not necessarily representative of the electorate at large. I’ll give an example. You can’t get much more radioactive than Richard Nixon following his resignation from office in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Two years later, he continued to cast a long shadow over the Ford White House and the Ford campaign against Jimmy Carter. There was a press conference in October of ’76. A reporter stood up and said, “Mr. President,” to Gerald Ford, “twice in this press conference you’ve referred to ‘your predecessor.’ Once you’ve referred to ‘Lyndon Johnson’s successor.’ Are you deliberately trying to avoid saying Richard Nixon’s name?” Ford said, “Yes.” That said it all. Richard Nixon never did, in fact, appear at another Republican convention. And it made news four years ago when his name was actually uttered from the podium by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger….

    Well, I think it warms its fire — its hands by the fire ignited by Ronald Reagan. I mean, this is still very much Ronald Reagan’s party. It’s easier to imagine a post-Bush Republican Party than it is a post-Reagan Republican Party. And yet, if you look at the Tories in England, for example, granted, Mrs. Thatcher left office under different circumstances, but it took a long time for that party to find a new identity, clinging, presumably, to the values of Thatcherism, whatever that means, but adapting them to a different political and cultural climate. And that is one of the real challenges. And it’s interesting, because part of the Reagan coalition, the kind of populist, particularly the religious right, the right-to-life movement, they are ecstatic with the choice of Sarah Palin, because they see her as an unconventional conservative, a populist, anti-establishment conservative, very much, perhaps, the next generation of Reaganism. – PBS Newshour, 9-1-08 Download

  • PENIEL JOSEPH, Brandeis University: In August of 2000, President Bill Clinton proved to be an albatross on the candidate Vice President Al Gore. Clinton had record approval ratings and was really one of only two men in the postwar era to be elected to and serve two terms as president, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. But the Lewinsky scandal made Clinton personally toxic. He appeared once at the convention August 14th. And Al Gore only mentioned him one time in his speech. So for the rest of the campaign, what Al Gore attempted to do was actually embrace Clinton’s legacy, while really distancing himself from the president as a personal figure. And it proved to be a really tough act to follow, and eventually it proved to be his undoing….

    If the post-Lyndon Johnson Democratic Party has been wrestling with the perception that it’s a party of special interests, the post-Reagan Republican Party wrestles with the perception that it’s really the party of business or corporate interest. And what’s very interesting about that is that, over the last quarter of a century, what the Republican Party has attempted to do is really think of itself as a party of compassion, a party of an ownership society, and really a party of racial inclusiveness, to the extent that the perception of the party is that it’s a party that doesn’t really care about poor people, it’s not a party that cares about minorities, and, in fact, is a party that’s hostile to minorities. Ronald Reagan himself had a little something to do with that, when we think about public policy, and the perceptions of his reputation of affirmative action and also his initial resistance to sign the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday into law. By 1988, when his vice president, George Bush, is running, we’ve got the infamous Willie Horton ad, which really solidified for many a perception, at least, that the Republican Party really had a long way to go towards racial inclusiveness. By 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit, that perception almost became political reality and a huge albatross. So when we look at this convention, really postponing or at least truncating its schedule this past Monday, it goes a long way towards combating that perception that the Republican Party doesn’t care about racial minorities. – PBS Newshour, 9-1-08 Download

  • Phil VanderMeer on “Can John McCain break Mo’s Curse?”: “You can certainly say (McCain) is a maverick who spans Barry and Mo in interesting ways,” said Phil VanderMeer, associate professor of history at Arizona State University. “He puts together issues that don’t match traditional liberal and conservative (views). That’s a Western way. He has an ability to appeal to people outside pre-packaged ideologies.”… “All of them had an attitude toward the environment that I would consider Western,” VanderMeer said. The West, he said, “mattered to them differently.” – The Arizona Republic, 9-1-08
  • Richard Norton Smith and Peniel Joseph: Convention Decision Highlights GOP’s Post-Katrina Sensitivity “By cancelling most of tomorrow’s program, this party sends a pretty powerful signal that in effect we have learned our lesson from three years ago … This is, ironically enough, the re-launch of compassionate conservatism, Richard Norton Smith said. – PBS Newshour, 8-31-08

The Speeches….

Damon Winter/The New York Times)

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman at the convention. (Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times)

We meet tonight in the wake of a terrible storm that has hit the Gulf Coast but that hurts all of us, because we are all members of our larger American family.

At times like this, we set aside all that divides us, and we come together to help our fellow citizens in need.

What matters is certainly not whether we are Democrats or Republicans, but that we are all Americans.

The truth is, it shouldn’t take a hurricane to bring us together like this….

Instead they see Democrats and Republicans fighting each other, rather than fighting for the American people.

Our founding fathers foresaw the danger of this kind of senseless partisanship. George Washington himself — in his Farewell Address to our country — warned that the “spirit of party” is “the worst enemy” of our democracy and “enfeebles” our government’s ability to do its job.

George Washington was absolutely right. The sad truth is — today we are living through his worst nightmare, in the capital city that bears his name.

And that brings me directly to why I am here tonight. What, after all, is a Democrat like me doing at a Republican convention like this?

The answer is simple.

I’m here to support John McCain because country matters more than party.

I’m here tonight because John McCain is the best choice to bring our country together and lead our country forward.

I’m here because John McCain’s whole life testifies to a great truth: being a Democrat or a Republican is important.

But it is not more important than being an American.

Both presidential candidates this year talk about changing the culture of Washington, about breaking through the partisan gridlock and special interests that are poisoning our politics.

But only one of them has actually done it.

Only one leader has shown the courage and the capability to rise above the smallness of our politics to get big things done for our country and our people.

And that leader is John McCain!

John understands that it shouldn’t take a natural disaster like Hurricane Gustav to get us to take off our partisan blinders and work together to get things done.

It shouldn’t take a natural disaster to teach us that the American people don’t care much if you have an “R” or a “D” after your name.

What they care about is, are we solving the problems they are up against every day?

What you can expect from John McCain as President is precisely what he has done this week: which is to put country first. That is the code by which he has lived his entire life, and that is the code he will carry with him into the White House.

I have personally seen John, over and over again, bring people together from both parties to tackle our toughest problems we face –to reform our campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws, to create the 9/11 Commission and pass its critical national security reforms, and to end the partisan paralysis over judicial confirmations.

My Democratic friends know all about John’s record of independence and accomplishment.

Maybe that’s why some of them are spending so much time and so much money trying to convince voters that John McCain is someone else.

I’m here, as a Democrat myself, to tell you: Don’t be fooled.

God only made one John McCain, and he is his own man.

If John McCain was just another go-along partisan politician, he never would have taken on corrupt Republican lobbyists, or big corporations that were cheating the American people, or powerful colleagues in Congress who were wasting taxpayer money.

But he did!

If John McCain was just another go-along partisan politician, he never would have led the fight to fix our broken immigration system or to do something about global warming.

But he did!

As a matter of fact, if John McCain is just another partisan Republican, then I’m Michael Moore’s favorite Democrat.

And I’m not.

Senator Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country in the years ahead. But eloquence is no substitute for a record — not in these tough times.

In the Senate he has not reached across party lines to get anything significant done, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party.

Contrast that to John McCain’s record, or the record of the last Democratic President, Bill Clinton, who stood up to some of those same Democratic interest groups and worked with Republicans to get important things done like welfare reform, free trade agreements, and a balanced budget.

Governor Sarah Palin, like John McCain, is a reformer who has taken on the special interests and reached across party lines. She is a leader we can count on to help John shake up Washington.

That’s why the McCain-Palin ticket is the real ticket for change this year.

The Washington bureaucrats and power brokers can’t build a pen strong enough to hold these two mavericks.

And together, you can count on John McCain and Sarah Palin to fight for America and to fight for you! And that’s what our country needs most right now.

What we need most is not more party unity in America but more national unity!…

When others were silent, John McCain had the judgment to sound the alarm about the mistakes we were making in Iraq. When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, when Barack Obama was voting to cut off funding for our troops on the ground,

John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion and support the surge, and because of that, today, our troops are at last beginning to come home, not in failure, but in honor!…

But you can always count on him to be straight with you about where he stands, and to stand for what he thinks is right regardless of politics.

As President, you can count on John McCain to be a restless reformer, who will clean up Washington and get our government working again for you!

So tonight, I ask you whether you are an Independent, a Reagan Democrat or a Clinton Democrat, or just a Democrat: This year, when you vote for President, vote for the person you believe is best for the country, not for the party you happen to belong to.

Vote for the leader who, since the age of 17, when he raised his hand and took an oath to defend and protect our Constitution, has always put our country first.

So, let’s come together to make a great American patriot our next great President!

…We know that we have challenges — always have, always will.

But we also know that we live in the freest, strongest, most generous and prosperous nation in the history of the world and we are thankful.

Speaking of the vice presidential nominee, what a breath of fresh air Gov. Sarah Palin is.

She is from a small town, with small town values, but that’s not good enough for those folks who are attacking her and her family.

Some Washington pundits and media big shots are in a frenzy over the selection of a woman who has actually governed rather than just talked a good game on the Sunday talk shows and hit the Washington cocktail circuit. Well, give me a tough Alaskan governor who has taken on the political establishment in the largest state in the union — and won — over the beltway business-as-usual crowd any day of the week.

Fred Thompson Speaking to Republican National Convention, Tuesday night. (CNN)

Fred Thompson Speaking to Republican National Convention, Tuesday night. (CNN)

Let’s be clear … the selection of Gov. Palin has the other side and their friends in the media in a state of panic. She is a courageous, successful, reformer, who is not afraid to take on the establishment.

Sound like anyone else we know?

She has run a municipality and she has run a state.

And I can say without fear of contradiction that she is the only nominee in the history of either party who knows how to properly field dress a moose … with the possible exception of Teddy Roosevelt.

She and John McCain are not going to care how much the alligators get irritated when they get to Washington, they’re going to drain that swamp.

But tonight, I’d like to talk to you about the remarkable story of John McCain.

It’s a story about character.

John McCain’s character has been tested like no other presidential candidate in the history of this nation.

He comes from a military family whose service to our country goes back to the Revolutionary War.

The tradition continues…..

…Also here tonight is John’s 96-year-old mother, Roberta. All I’ve got to say is that if Roberta McCain had been the McCain captured by the North Vietnamese, they would have surrendered.

Now, John’s father was a bit of a rebel, too.

In his first two semesters at the Naval Academy, he managed to earn 333 demerits.

Unfortunately, John later saw that as a record to be beaten.

A rebellious mother and a rebellious father – I guess you can see where this is going.

In high school and the Naval Academy, he earned a reputation as a troublemaker.

But as John points out, he wasn’t just a troublemaker. He was the leader of the troublemakers.

Although loaded with demerits like his father, John was principled even in rebellion.

He never violated the honor code.

However, in flight school in Pensacola, he did drive a Corvette and date a girl who worked in a bar as an exotic dancer under the name of Marie, the Flame of Florida.

And the reason I’m telling you these things, is that, apparently, this mixture of rebellion and honor helped John McCain survive the next chapter of his life:

John McCain was preparing to take off from the USS Forrestal for his sixth mission over Vietnam, when a missile from another plane accidentally fired and hit his plane.

The flight deck burst into a fireball of jet fuel.

John’s flight suit caught fire.

He was hit by shrapnel.

It was a scene of horrible human devastation.

Men sacrificed their lives to save others that day. One kid, who John couldn’t identify because he was burned beyond recognition, called out to John to ask if a certain pilot was OK.

John replied that, yes, he was.

The young sailor said, “Thank God”… and then he died.

These are the kind of men John McCain served with.

These are the men and women John McCain knows and understands and loves….

…Putting his “Country First.”

Three months later John McCain was a Prisoner of War.

On October 26, 1967, on his 23rd mission over North Vietnam, a surface-to-air missile slammed into John’s A-4 Skyhawk jet, blowing it out of the sky.

When John ejected, part of the plane hit him — breaking his right knee, his left arm, his right arm in three places.

An angry mob got to him.

A rifle butt broke his shoulder.

A bayonet pierced his ankle and his groin.

They took him to the Hanoi Hilton, where he lapsed in and out of consciousness for days. He was offered medical care for his injuries if he would give up military information in return.

John McCain said “No”….

We hear a lot of talk about hope.

John McCain knows about hope. That’s all he had to survive on. For propaganda purposes, his captors offered to let him go home.

John McCain refused.

He refused to leave ahead of men who’d been there longer.

He refused to abandon his conscience and his honor, even for his freedom.

He refused, even though his captors warned him, “It will be very bad for you.”

They were right.

It was.

The guards cracked ribs, broke teeth off at the gums. They cinched a rope around his arms and painfully drew his shoulders back.

Over four days, every two to three hours, the beatings resumed. During one especially fierce beating, he fell, again breaking his arm….

Whenever John was returned to his cell — walking if he could, dragged if he couldn’t — as he passed his fellow POWs, he would call out to them.

He’d smile … and give them a thumbs-up.

For five-and-a-half years this went on.

John McCain’s bones may have been broken but his spirit never was.

Now, being a POW certainly doesn’t qualify anyone to be president.

But it does reveal character.

This is the kind of character that civilizations from the beginning of history have sought in their leaders.







It’s pretty clear there are two questions we will never have to ask ourselves, “Who is this man?” and “Can we trust this man with the presidency?”….

…This man, John McCain is not intimidated by what the polls say or by what is politically safe or popular.

At a point when the war in Iraq was going badly and the public lost confidence, John stood up and called for more troops.

And now we are winning.

Ronald Reagan was John McCain’s hero.

And President Reagan admired John tremendously.

But when the president proposed putting U.S. troops in Beirut, John McCain, a freshman Congressman, stood up and cast a vote against his hero because he thought the deployment was a mistake.

My friends … that is character you can believe in….

…The Senate has always had more than its share of smooth talkers.

And big talkers.

It still has.

But while others were talking reform, John McCain led the effort to make reform happen — always pressing, always moving for what he believed was right and necessary to restore the people’s faith in their government.

Confronting when necessary, reaching across the aisle when possible, John personified why we came to Washington in the first place.

It didn’t always set too well with some of his colleagues.

Some of those fights were losing efforts.

Some were not.

But a man who never quits is never defeated.

Because John McCain stood up our country is better off.

The respect he is given around the world is not because of a teleprompter speech designed to appeal to American critics abroad, but because of decades of clearly demonstrated character and statesmanship….

Spending at home that threatens to bankrupt future generations. For decades an expanding government … increasingly wasteful and too often incompetent.

To deal with these challenges the Democrats present a history making nominee for president.

History making in that he is the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for president. Apparently they believe that he would match up well with the history making, Democrat controlled Congress. History making because it’s the least accomplished and most unpopular Congress in our nation’s history.

Together, they would take on these urgent challenges with protectionism, higher taxes and an even bigger bureaucracy.

And a Supreme Court that could be lost to liberalism for a generation.

This is not reform.

And it’s certainly not change.

It is basically the same old stuff they’ve been peddling for years. America needs a president who understands the nature of the world we live in.

A president who feels no need to apologize for the United States of America.

We need a president who understands that you don’t make citizens prosperous by making Washington richer, and you don’t lift an economic downturn by imposing one of the largest tax increases in American history.

Now our opponents tell you not to worry about their tax increases.

They tell you they are not going to tax your family.

No, they’re just going to tax “businesses”! So unless you buy something from a “business”, like groceries or clothes or gasoline … or unless you get a paycheck from a big or a small “business”, don’t worry … it’s not going to affect you.

They say they are not going to take any water out of your side of the bucket, just the “other” side of the bucket! That’s their idea of tax reform.

My friends, we need a leader who stands on principle.

We need a president, and vice president, who will take the federal bureaucracy by the scruff of the neck and give it a good shaking.

And we need a president who doesn’t think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade.

The man who will be that president is John McCain.

In the days ahead at this convention, you will hear much more about what John will do as president — what he will do on the economy, on energy, on health care, the environment… It is not my role tonight to explain that vision.

My role is to help remind you of the man behind the vision. Because tonight our country is calling to all of us to step up, stand up, and put “Country First” with John McCain.

Tonight we are being called upon to do what is right for our country.

Tonight we are being called upon to stand up for a strong military, a mature foreign policy, a free and growing economy and for the values that bind us together and keep our nation free.

Tonight, we are being called upon to step up and stand up with John just as he has stood up for our country.

Our country is calling.

John McCain cannot raise his arms above his shoulders.

He cannot salute the flag of the country for which he sacrificed so much. Tonight, as we begin this convention week, yes, we stand with him.

And we salute him.

We salute his character and his courage.

His spirit of independence, and his drive for reform.

His vision to bring security and peace in our time, and continued prosperity for America and all her citizens.

For our own good and our children’s, let us celebrate that vision, that belief, that faith so we can keep America the greatest country the world has ever seen.

God bless John McCain and God bless America.

…As you gather tonight in St. Paul, I want to share some thoughts about our nominee — a great American, and the next President of the United States, John McCain.

Before I do so, I want to say hello to two people in the hall with you tonight. I could have no finer examples of character, decency, and integrity than my mom and dad. And I love you a lot.

I know what it takes to be President. In these past eight years, I’ve sat at the Resolute desk and reviewed the daily intelligence briefings, the threat assessments, and reports from our commanders on the front lines. I’ve stood in the ruins of buildings knocked down by killers, and promised the survivors I would never let them down. I know the hard choices that fall solely to a President. John McCain’s life has prepared him to make those choices. He is ready to lead this nation.

Damon Winter/The New York Times)

President George W. Bush addressed the convention over a video link from the White House. (Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times)

From the day of his commissioning, John McCain was a respected naval officer who made decisions on which the lives of others depended. As an elected public servant, he earned the respect of colleagues in both parties as a man to follow when there’s a tough call to make.

John McCain’s life is a story of service above self. Forty years ago in an enemy prison camp, Lieutenant Commander McCain was offered release ahead of others who had been held longer. His wounds were so severe that anyone would have understood if he’d accepted. John refused. For that selfless decision, he suffered nearly five more years of beatings and isolation. When he was released, his arms had been broken — but not his honor.

Fellow citizens: If the Hanoi Hilton could not break John McCain’s resolve to do what is best for his country, you can be sure the angry left never will.

As the father of seven sons and daughters, John has the heart of a protector. He and his wonderful wife, Cindy, are adoptive parents. John is a leader who knows that human life is fragile, that human life is precious, that human life must be defended.

We’ve seen John McCain’s commitment to principle in our Nation’s Capital. John is a steadfast opponent of wasteful spending. As President, he will stand up to the high tax crowd in Congress, and make the tax relief permanent. He will invest in the energy technologies of tomorrow — and lift the ban on drilling for America’s offshore oil today.

John is an independent man who thinks for himself. He’s not afraid to tell you when he disagrees. Believe me, I know. No matter what the issue, this man is honest and speaks straight from the heart.

Last year, John McCain’s independence and character helped change history. The Democrats had taken control of Congress and were threatening to cut off funds for our troops. In the face of calls for retreat, I ordered a surge of forces into Iraq. Many in Congress said it had no chance of working. Yet one Senator above all had faith in our troops and the importance of their mission — and that was John McCain. Some told him that his early and consistent call for more troops would put his presidential campaign at risk. He told them he would rather lose an election than see his country lose a war. That is the kind of courage and vision we need in our next Commander- in-Chief.

My fellow citizens, we live in a dangerous world. And we need a President who understands the lessons of September the 11th, 2001: that to protect America, we must stay on the offense, stop attacks before they happen, and not wait to be hit again. The man we need is John McCain.

When he takes office next January, John will have an outstanding leader at his side. America will have a strong and principled Vice President in the Governor of the great state of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

In the time the Oval Office has been in my trust, I’ve kept near my desk reminders of America’s character — including a painting of a West Texas mountain lit by the morning sun. It reminds me that Americans have always lived on the sunrise side of the mountain. We’re a nation that looks to the new day with confidence and optimism. And I’m optimistic about our future, because I believe in the goodness and wisdom of the American people. I’m optimistic because I have faith in freedom’s power to lift up all of God’s children, and lead this world to a future of peace.

And I’m optimistic about something else: When the debates have ended, and all the ads have run, and it is time to vote, Americans will look closely at the judgment, the experience, and the policies of the candidates — and they will cast their ballots for the McCain-Palin ticket.

While I am not with you in the Twin Cities on this wonderful night for our party, with Laura Bush speaking, you have clearly traded up. I am so proud the American people have come to know her gracious presence, her determined spirit, and her loving heart. Laura has been a fantastic First Lady.

Thank you, Laura — and thanks to all of you in the hall tonight. God bless you, and God bless America.

On the Campaign Trail….

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