Political Highlights October 25, 2010: Obama & Palin Campaign for Democrats & Republicans – Polls Predict GOP House Victory

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

Image: Sarah Palin in Florida and President Obama in Minnesota

Reuters, AP

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin addresses a Republican rally in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, the same day President Barack Obama addresses a Democratic rally in Minneapolis, Minn.

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Brown surges against Whitman in Calif. gov race-poll: Democrat Jerry Brown has more than doubled his lead over Republican rival Meg Whitman in the California governor’s race, gaining support from Latino voters after an illegal immigration furor over the former eBay chief’s ex- housekeeper. A Los Angeles Times/USC poll on Sunday gave Brown, the state’s attorney general who first served as California governor from 1975 to 1983, a 13 point lead over Whitman. Brown has 52 percent support, compared to 39 percent for Whitman. In the same poll a month ago, Brown had a five point overall lead over Whitman. Sunday’s survey showed he now has a 36 percentage point lead over Whitman among Latino voters, up from 19 percent in September…. – Reuters, 10-24-10
  • Jobless Rate Declines in 23 States: Unemployment rates were little changed in most states in September, as a recovery in the labor market remained sluggish across the country. The Labor Department reported Friday that 23 states and Washington, D.C., experienced decreases in jobless rates, while the rate rose in 11 states and was unchanged in 16.
    States hardest-hit by the housing bust, such as Florida and California, continue to struggle with double-digit unemployment rates. Nevada remained the state with the highest unemployment rate, at 14.4%, more than a percentage point higher than the 13% recorded in second-place Michigan. In all, 15 states had rates above the 9.6% national figure released earlier this month.
    North and South Dakota continued to have the lowest rates in the country, at 3.7% and 4.4%, respectively.
    Despite some improvement in jobless rates, 34 states reported a decrease in the number of people employed, possibly as fewer people hunted for jobs. Fourteen of the state declines are regarded as statistically significant. Just New Mexico, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C., posted statistically significant increases in employment from August…. – WSJ, 10-20-10
  • Prop. 19 trailing badly, poll shows: Prop. 19 would legalize marijuana in California. But the Los Angeles Times/USC Poll found that voters oppose the measure 51% to 39%. The poll found that the measure is far behind in Southern California…. – LAT, 10-22-10
  • American Voices: Candidates Want More than “Maybe” From the Youth Vote: The midterm elections potentially bring major victories for the Republican party, which was run out of town in the 2008 presidential election. Now that the tables are turned, the Democrats are scrambling to convince voters to support their candidates on November 2. A key constituency for both parties is the youth vote, which made up 18 percent of the electorate in 2008 and helped catapult Barack Obama into the presidency. A recent Rock the Vote survey found 34 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 favor the Democrats, compared with 28 percent for Republicans, with 36 percent not concerned about which party ends up controlling Congress. A CBS News-Knowledge Networks poll released Tuesday found that two-thirds of Obama voters in 2008 (67 percent), which included young voters, say they’ll vote for one of his fellow Democrats in 2010. Eight percent of those voters say they will vote Republican this year, and 21 percent say it depends…. – CBS News, 10-21-10
  • AP-GfK Poll: Likely voters ready to embrace GOP: All signs point to huge Republican victories in two weeks, with the GOP now leading Democrats on virtually every measure in an Associated Press-GfK poll of people likely to vote in the first major elections of Barack Obama’s presidency. In the final survey before Election Day, likely voters say the GOP would do a better job than Democrats on handling the economy, creating jobs and running the government. Most also think the country’s headed in the wrong direction. More than half disapprove of Obama’s job performance. And even more don’t like the Democratic-controlled Congress. Neither party is popular. But likely voters view the GOP a bit more positively than they do the Democrats. Slightly more say they will vote for the Republican congressional candidate in their district over the Democrat. And most think the GOP will win control of Congress from the Democrats…. – AP, 10-20-10
  • GOP in Lead in Final Lap: A vigorous post-Labor Day Democratic offensive has failed to diminish the resurgent Republicans’ lead among likely voters, leaving the GOP poised for major gains in congressional elections two weeks away, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
    Among likely voters, Republicans hold a 50% to 43% edge, up from a three-percentage-point lead a month ago.
    In the broader category of registered voters, 46% favor a Democratic-controlled Congress, compared with 44% who want Republican control. But in the 92 House districts considered most competitive, the GOP’s lead among registered voters is 14 points, underscoring the Democrats’ challenge in maintaining their hold on the House. The poll of 1,000 registered voters was taken Oct. 14-18…. – WSJ, 10-19-10
  • Need to get voters excited? Call Bill Clinton, not Obama: A Gallup poll suggests that both Democrats and independents are more likely to be enthusiastic about a campaign visit from former President Bill Clinton than from President Obama. In a poll conducted October 14-17, Gallup asked registered voters whether having Clinton or Obama campaign for a candidate would be a plus, minus, or make no difference. From those responses, Gallup calculated a “net impact” by subtracting the percentage who said campaigning would make them less likely to vote for a candidate from the percentage who said it would make them more likely to vote for a candidate.
    “Clinton does modestly better than Obama among Democrats,” writes Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport. The net positive impact of Clinton’s campaigning among Democrats is 48 percent, while for Obama it is 42 percent. Where the former president dramatically outshines Obama is with independent voters. Among independents, “Clinton’s impact breaks about even,” Mr. Newport writes. Some 21 percent of independents are more likely to support a candidate if Mr. Clinton works for them, while 23 percent are less likely, leaving the net result at a negative 2 percent…. – CS Monitor, 10-19-10
  • Election 2010 Monday Polls: Voter Enthusiasm, Nevada, Colorado Obama voters vs. McCain Voters, Nevada, Colorado, Hawaii, Utah Senate Races: An AP-Knowledge Networks poll released today shows 67 percent (about two-thirds) of John McCain voters are certain to vote in the 2010 election, compared to only 51 percent of Obama voters. The same study indicated that the majority of Obama voters (59 percent) feel “hopeful” about Obama’s presidency, while the majority of McCain voters (71 percent) feel “frustrated.” The poll also shows that 30 percent of Obama voters think he is maintaining his promise to change Washington. And, about 25 percent of Obama voters say they are thinking about voting for the GOP in 2010.
    A Gallup Poll released today shows that 66 percent of Republicans think the federal government “poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens” in 2010 compared to 21 percent of Democrats. However, the same poll found the opposite results when George W. Bush was president. In 2006, 57 percent of Democrats saw the federal government as a threat compared to 21 percent of Republicans. The overall percentage of Americans who agree has shifted only 2 percentage points in the four years, with 46 percent of Americans viewing the government as a threat in 2010…. – US News, 10-18-10

THE HEADLINES….

A backyard discussion with Seattle area families

White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 10/21/10
  • Obama likely to focus on deficit in next 2 years: Preparing for political life after a bruising election, President Barack Obama will put greater emphasis on fiscal discipline, a nod to a nation sick of spending and to a Congress poised to become more Republican, conservative and determined to stop him. He is already giving clues about how he will govern in the last two years of his term.
    Obama will try to make gains on deficit reduction, education and energy. He will enforce his health care and inancial overhauls and try to protect them from repeal should Republicans win control of Capitol Hill. He will use executive authority when blocked by Congress, and steel for scrutiny and investigations if the GOP is in charge.
    While trying to save money, Obama will have to decide whether to bend to Republican and growing Democratic pressure to extend Bush-era tax cuts, even for the wealthy, that expire at year’s end. Obama wants to extend them for people making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000, but a broader extension is gaining favor with an increasing number of Democrats. Moving to the fore will be a more serious focus on how to balance the federal budget and pay for the programs that keep sinking the country into debt…. – AP, 10-24-10
  • In Losing the Midterms, There May Be Winning: Let there be no mistake: President Obama wants the Democrats to win next week’s midterm elections. His voice has gone hoarse telling every audience that from Delaware to Oregon. But let’s also acknowledge this: Although he will not say so, there is at least a plausible argument that he might be better off if they lose. ADVERSARY President Clinton was able to play off Speaker Newt Gingrich, left. The reality of presidential politics is that it helps to have an enemy. With Democrats controlling the White House and Congress, they shoulder responsibility for the country’s troubles. No amount of venting about George W. Bush or the filibuster rule has convinced the public otherwise. But if Republicans capture Congress, Mr. Obama will finally have a foil heading toward his own re-election battle in 2012.
    “The best possible result for Obama politically is for the Republicans to gain control of both houses,” said Douglas E. Schoen, a Democratic pollster and strategist who helped President Bill Clinton recover from his own midterm Congressional defeat in 1994 to win re-election two years later. “That’s what Obama should want.”… – NYT, 10-24-10
  • G.O.P. Is Poised To Seize House, If Not Senate: A costly and polarizing Congressional campaign heads into its closing week with Republicans in a strong position to win the House but with Democrats maintaining a narrow edge in the battle for the Senate, according to a race-by- race review and lawmakers and strategists on both sides. President Obama campaigned for a fourth consecutive day on Saturday as the Democratic Party threw its full weight into preventing a defeat of historic proportions in an election shaped by a sour economy, intense debate over the White House’s far-reaching domestic agenda and the rise of a highly energized grass-roots conservative movement. But Republicans have placed enough seats into play that Democrats now seem likely to give up many of the gains they made in the last two election cycles, leaving Washington on the brink of a substantial shift in the balance of power. The final nine days of the midterm election are unfolding across a wide landscape, with several dozen House races close enough to break either way, determining whether the election produces a Republican wave that reaches deep into the Democratic ranks. In the Senate, Democrats were bracing to lose seats, but the crucial contests remained highly fluid as Republicans struggled to pull away in several Democratic-leaning states…. – NYT, 10-23-10
  • Big guns push midterm campaigns into high gear In Florida, Palin invokes past; in Minneapolis, Obama says don’t repeat it: President Barack Obama warned against a return to the past while former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin invoked a past president’s name Saturday as each led midterm election rallies thousands of miles and millions of voters apart. Obama closed a four-day campaign swing ahead of the Nov. 2 elections by imploring supporters to defeat the conventional wisdom that Democrats face steep losses. He cast the choice Election Day as one between the economic policies “that got us into this mess” and the policies leading the nation out…. – MSNBC, 10-23-10
  • President Seeks Edge in a Contest for Governor: President Obama wrapped up a four-day campaign swing on Saturday, telling students and the Democratic Party faithful to seize the chance to win a Republican-held governor’s seat here next month. Mr. Obama appeared at a rally on behalf of the candidate Mark Dayton, who probably represents the Democrats’ best chance in the midterm elections to take a seat held by a Republican governor. Unlike many other races across the country where polls show Republicans with an edge, in Minnesota, Mr. Dayton, a former United States senator, is polling ahead of Tom Emmer, a Republican, and Tom Horner of the Independence Party…. – NYT, 10-23-10
  • G-20 powers agree to Geithner currency and trade plan: Finance ministers from the world’s major nations agreed to a U.S.-brokered plan for easing tensions over exchange rates and world trade patterns, saying that a “fragile and uneven” economic recovery was at risk if top powers pursued conflicting policies or used the value of their currencies to gain an edge for their exports. Aiming to head off what some have dubbed a developing “currency war,” the statement from the finance leaders of the Group of 20 nations was a carefully worded bargain across a range of issues. It put China on the record as seeking to bring down its massive trade surplus and let its exchange rate fluctuate more. It also hinted that any move by the U.S. Federal Reserve to further ease monetary policy would be measured so as not to disrupt currency values or capital flows in emerging market nations…. – WaPo, 10-23-10
  • Despite latest coup, WikiLeaks facing challenges: “Wikileaks,” said the godfather of whistleblowers, Daniel Ellsberg, “has become the future of unauthorized disclosure.” Speaking Saturday in London, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers and their damning history of American involvement in Vietnam a generation ago, expressed what is partly hope and partly a reflection of reality: the Internet makes it harder to keep secrets. But still to be determined is whether WikiLeaks itself is that future, or some other Web site or collection of online organizations. WikiLeaks is evolving, working through challenges posed by the new media model, such as to what degree can a site devoted to holding the powerful accountable hold itself beyond reach? And can a site dedicated to combating secrecy continue to be so secret… – WaPo, 10-23-10
  • U.S. Offers Pakistan Army $2 Billion Aid Package: Even as the Obama administration moved to stop training and equipping Pakistani Army units that have killed civilians in the offensive against the Taliban, the United States said Friday that it planned increased aid for Pakistan’s military over the next five years. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the announcement in Washington alongside the Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, as leaders from both nations convened for a series of meetings.
    The new aid package, totaling $2 billion, is meant to replace one that expired Oct. 1. It would complement $7.5 billion in aid that the United States has already pledged to Pakistan for civilian projects, some have which have been directed toward helping the nation recover from the damaging floods…. – NYT, 10-22-10
  • The Iraq Archive: The Strands of a War: A huge trove of secret field reports from the battlegrounds of Iraq sheds new light on the war, including such fraught subjects as civilian deaths, detainee abuse and the involvement of Iran. The secret archive is the second such cache obtained by the independent organization WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations. Like the first release, some 92,000 reports covering six years of the war in Afghanistan, the Iraq documents provide no earthshaking revelations, but they offer insight, texture and context from the people actually fighting the war. A close analysis of the 391,832 documents helps illuminate several important aspects of this war…. – NYT, 10-22-10Read the full Pentagon response
  • Detainees Fared Worse in Iraqi Hands, Logs Say: The public image of detainees in Iraq was defined by the photographs, now infamous, of American abuse at Abu Ghraib, like the hooded prisoner and the snarling attack dog. While the documents disclosed by WikiLeaks offer few glimpses of what was happening inside American detention facilities, they do contain indelible details of abuse carried out by Iraq’s army and police…. – NYT, 10-22-10
  • Obama rallies voters in Los Angeles to support Sen. Boxer, Democratic control of Congress: President Barack Obama is accusing Republicans of peddling “snake oil” as he asks voters who backed him over the GOP in 2008 for a repeat performance. Obama was raising money and rallying support for Sen. Barbara Boxer of California on Friday, day three of a four-day tour ahead of the Nov. 2 election. Boxer is one of several endangered Democratic incumbents Obama is trying to help on a campaign trip that started Wednesday in Portland and ends Saturday in Minneapolis…. – CP, 10-22-10
  • Obama targets women voters in Seattle trip with talk of jobs, cupcakes: President Obama tried to energize women voters at a town hall meeting Thursday in Seattle. He’s also set to campaign for Washington’s Patty Murray and California’s Barbara Boxer…. – CS Monitor, 10-21-10
  • Happy Dems, a few GOPers pack Obama-Murray rally: With Washington’s vote-by-mail election already under way, President Barack Obama urged a raucous crowd Thursday to quickly cast their votes for Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. With Washington’s vote-by-mail election already under way, President Barack Obama urged a raucous crowd Thursday to quickly cast their votes for Democratic Sen. Patty Murray. “You need to go, right after this rally, fill out that ballot, and mail it in,” Obama told a packed crowd at the University of Washington’s basketball arena. “Today. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but today.” Obama’s second campaign trip to Washington state this year was part of a flood of high-profile Democrats trying to whip up voters for Murray this month. The three-term incumbent is in a competitive race with Republican Dino Rossi, a two-time runner-up for governor. “I am proud to be at your back, and I know you’re proud to be at mine,” Murray told the crowd. “We are going to continue to move forward with leadership for this state.”…. – Seattle Times, AP, 10-21-10
  • ‘The Daily Show,’ Rolling Stone, and MTV: Obama’s youth vote push: President Obama isn’t trying to make Stephen Colbert jealous by appearing on ‘The Daily Show’ five days before the midterm elections – he’s trying to fire up young voters. President Obama is going to appear on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart before the November elections. Last night the White House announced that Obama will tape a segment for the show on October 27. What’s the point of that? Is the president angling to get a good spot on the stage for Mr. Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity,” which will be held on the National Mall the following weekend? Or is he just trying to make Stephen Colbert jealous? Well, he’s probably not going to hang around Washington for the “Sanity” meeting and Mr. Colbert’s competing “March to Keep Fear Alive.” In all likelihood Obama will be out campaigning that weekend in a last-minute push to avoid a Democratic electoral apocalypse. Obama has called the dueling-rally premise “amusing”, but that’s not exactly a full-throated endorsement is it? No, Obama is appearing on “The Daily Show” for the same reason he recently gave an interview to “Rolling Stone” and appeared in an hour-long MTV “town hall” – young voters. He’s trying hard to fire up a cohort that went overwhelmingly for Democrats in 2008. The audience for Stewart’s show skews young, and many of them view it as a main source of news, even if the producers insist their product is really a hybrid of pseudo-news and comedy…. – CS Monitor, 10-20-10
  • Justice Department asks appeals court to overturn ‘don’t ask’ injunction: The motion calls on the appeals court to lift a judge’s order immediately. The government says the ‘extraordinary decision’ went too far, too fast and is causing ‘confusion and uncertainty’ in the Pentagon and among gays and lesbians in the ranks…. – LAT, 10-20-10
  • The Conversation: Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas, Nearly 20 Years Later After Virginia Thomas Asks Hill for an Apology, Explosive Hearings Are Back in the News: In October 1991, the Senate was set to confirm Clarence Thomas as a Justice of the United States Supreme Court when Anita Hill, a former aide to Thomas, came forward publicly with allegations of sexual harassment. Hill’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee riveted the nation, airing live on the broadcast networks. After three days of contentious hearings, the Senate voted to confirm Thomas as a Supreme Court justice in a narrow 52-to-48 vote. A New York Times/CBS News poll at the time found that 58 percent of Americans believed Thomas, while only 24 percent believed Hill. Hill’s words and Thomas’s denial turned sexual harassment into a national discussion, prompting a wholesale reexamination of workplace policies and training procedures. To this day, Anita Hill and her allegations are firmly linked to Justice Thomas and his reputation. That, perhaps, is why Thomas’s wife, Ginny Thomas, called Hill to ask for her apology, catapulting the story back into the news all these years later…. – CBS News, 10-20-10
  • Official: Shooting at Pentagon appears to be a ‘random incident’: A Pentagon official said he believes the shooting early Tuesday at the U.S. Defense Department headquarters was a “random incident.” “We are looking at all the possibilities,” Steven E. Calvery, director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, said at a news conference late Tuesday morning. “What we have is an isolated incident, so far.” Pentagon police officers, as well as several construction workers in the area, heard at least five shots fired around 4:50 a.m., Pentagon officials said…. – CNN, 10-19-10
  • Obama and Democrats count on Senate wins out West: With Republicans headed to big election gains on November 2, Democrats are counting on the liberal-leaning West Coast to counter the national trend and help them preserve their fragile Senate majority. President Barack Obama heads to California and Washington state this week to drum up support for endangered incumbents Barbara Boxer and Patty Murray in the last days of a campaign that finds his Democrats playing defense around the country. Wins in those two Democratic-leaning states — most polls show Boxer and Murray with slight leads — likely would be enough to ensure Democrats retain narrow control of the Senate even if Republicans sweep the other competitive races…. – Reuters, 10-19-10
  • Democrats try to woo women as more embrace GOP candidates: In the final stretch before the midterms, President Obama is giving a lot of attention to the traditional Democratic base: young people, black voters and white women. But women are his most urgent target. Unlike the other core groups, women are undecided, rather than merely unmotivated. And there are signs in parts of the country that they are open to defecting to the Republicans, potentially defying the long-standing “gender gap” that has skewed heavily toward Democratic candidates…. – WaPo, 10-19-10
  • Is Obama’s Excuse for Not Repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Legitimate?: President Obama claims he must defend and enforce the ban on gays serving in the military, even though he opposes it. But most experts in constitutional and military law say he has other options…. – Newsweek, 10-19-10
  • US military ready to accept gay applicants: Pentagon: The US military is ready to accept gays applying to join the armed forces, a spokeswoman said Tuesday after a federal judge struck down a ban on homosexuals serving openly in uniform. But the military will tell potential recruits that a law barring openly gay members — known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — could still be reinstated depending on the outcome of pending court decisions, spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said.
    “Recruiters have been given guidance, and they will process applications for applicants who admit they are openly gay or lesbian,” she told AFP. “Recruiters are reminded to set the applicants’ expectations by informing them that a reversal in the court’s decision of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law/policy may occur,” she said in an email.
    A federal judge in California, Virginia Phillips, last week ordered the government to immediately suspend the rule, which requires gay troops to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face expulsion…. – AFP, 10-19-10
  • Republican Candidates Outpacing Democrats in Race for Campaign Cash: Republican candidates have pulled ahead in the bare-knuckles race for campaign cash, registering big hauls in the final weeks and months before Election Day. Though the Democratic congressional campaign arms are outpacing their GOP counterparts in the fundraising race, individual GOP candidates are consistently attracting the most money. In Nevada, Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle reported raising a whopping $14 million in the critical third quarter, compared with less than $3 million for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In Kentucky, Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul raised $2.7 million in that period, $1 million more than Democrat Jack Conway. According to local reports, Delaware Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell raised $3.8 million between the end of August and the end of September, while Democrat Chris Coons raised just over $1 million…. – Fox News, 10-18-10
  • Five myths about Sarah Palin: Think you know Sarah Palin? The former Alaska governor has been in the spotlight ever since John McCain named her as his running mate on Aug. 29, 2008. Yet, while practically everybody has an opinion about Palin, not all of those opinions are grounded in reality. Many of them are based more on a “Saturday Night Live” caricature than on the living, breathing, 46-year-old mother of five. The real Sarah Palin is a complex woman who has risen in no time from obscurity to the stratosphere of American politics, fusing celebrity and populism in novel ways. Now that she’s laying the foundation for a possible presidential run in 2012, it’s worth taking a moment to separate the facts about Palin from the fables…. – WaPo, 10-17-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Obama at a rally Saturday at the University of Minnesota.

  • Political ads: Mean, and getting meaner, before Nov. 2: It’s nastier than ever this election cycle. Coast to coast, North to South, hotly contested mid-term races have candidates going negative in ads in a big way. And it’s getting personal, with zingers aimed at the private lives and even the religious beliefs of opponents. Political operatives and observers wonder how low it can go before Nov. 2. While no one can put a hard number on negative ads, neither does anyone dispute that they are especially rampant this election season…. – AP, 10-24-10
  • Crist, Meek gang up on Rubio in Fla. Senate debate: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist defends his changing positions on issues by saying as a former college quarterback he knows how to call an audible. By the end of Sunday’s debate with his opponents for U.S. Senate, it looked like he was throwing a Hail Mary. The debate spun out of control near the end as independent Crist and Republican Marco Rubio rapidly talked over each other. Crist, who is down by double digits in multiple polls with just more than a week left before the election, repeatedly interrupted Rubio with accusations that as House speaker he steered money to a university and a hospital and later took jobs from them. He also said Rubio doesn’t advocate transparency because he won’t release credit card records from his state GOP-issued American Express card.
    “I’ve never had a heckler at the debate, I’ve always had them in the audience,” Rubio said with a laugh.
    “Welcome to the NFL,” responded Crist.
    It was clear that Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek stepped up their efforts to make up ground against Rubio. Earlier in the debate, Meek, a congressman from Miami-Dade County, argued with Rubio about whether tax cuts passed under President George W. Bush should be extended. The debate was sponsored by CNN, the University of South Florida and the St. Petersburg Times…. – AP, 10-23-10
  • Love-hate relationship with Washington plays out in Nevada politics: The West has long been torn between attacking and cozying up to the federal government. Now Harry Reid and Sharron Angle have picked sides in that fight…. – LAT, 10-23-10
  • Rand Paul will face Jack Conway in final debate after all: Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul will participate in a debate Monday night on Kentucky Educational Television with his Democratic rival, Jack Conway. Paul, who said earlier in the week that he was not sure if he would appear with Conway in the fifth and final scheduled debate before the Nov. 2 election, held a news conference Friday afternoon at the Lexington Hyatt Regency to discuss his decision…. – The Lexington Herald-Leader, 10-22-10
  • Sharron Angle, Harry Reid Nevada race: Wild, woolly, and weird: If you believe the ads, Harry Reid is a rich playboy and Sharron Angle doesn’t know the difference between Latinos and Asians. Then there’s the former Republican Party chief who’s endorsed the Democrat…. – CS Monitor, 10-22-10
  • Reid Speculates Angle’s in “Cheney’s Bunker”: Leader discusses opponent’s absence from interviews, addresses questions of his “manhood” in MSNBC interview…. – Time, 10-21-10
  • Former GOP national chairman endorses Reid: Former Republican National Committee Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. has endorsed Democratic Sen. Harry Reid, saying it would be a mistake for Nevadans to elect Republican Sharron Angle and lose Reid’s clout to protect the state’s lifeblood gambling industry. Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, suggested Angle should distance herself from the anti- gambling Campaign for Working Families, which has endorsed her and begun running television advertisements attacking Reid. The political action committee’s founder and chairman is Gary Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate affiliated with several Christian right groups over the years. “It’s disturbing that she (Angle) is taking money from people who oppose gambling,” Fahrenkopf told The Associated Press. “She may not even know it, but Gary Bauer has been a longtime, outspoken opponent of legalized gambling. I did a double-take when I read she was receiving assistance from someone who has opposed Nevada’s chief industry for so long.”…. – Business Week, 10-21-10
  • In California midterm election’s tight races, voter turnout is key: Voter turnout will be especially important for Democrats in the midterm elections. The higher the overall turnout, the more likely Democrats will benefit. Both parties are appealing energetically to independents and the undecided…. – CS Monitor, 10-21-10
  • Sarah Palin endorses Pat Toomey for Pa. Senate: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is backing Republican Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania’s competitive race for U.S. Senate against Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak. In a note posted on her Facebook page — her preferred method of endorsing candidates — the conservative stalwart tied Toomey to several other Republican candidates running in “‘rust belt’ and energy producing states,” including West Virginia and Kentucky. “I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think cap-and-tax could potentially be more disastrous to our economy than Obamacare because it would devastate our businesses and cripple our energy and industrial sectors,” Palin wrote, referring to the Democratic energy policy approved by the House last year to curb greenhouse gas emissions. “Senate races in particular have national significance when it comes to legislation like cap-and-tax.”… – AP, 10-20-10
  • Is Giannoulias ready to take on Senate job?: At 34 years old and yet to complete his first term as Illinois treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias decided the time was right for him to succeed an admired friend and basketball buddy, President Barack Obama, in the U.S. Senate. Giannoulias, whose only other big job was working at his late father’s bank, was told by some to get more experience under his belt. Even the White House courted another Democrat for the job. But Giannoulias pushed ahead — eventually winning the nomination and the embrace of national party leaders — in what some call a mark of the drive and ambition that also characterizes his style on the basketball court, where he likes to have his hands on the ball and admittedly doesn’t pass as much as he should. Giannoulias attributes his ambition to his Greek family’s immigrant background, and some of his success to a lucky sense of timing…. – Chicago Tribune, 10-20-10
  • Why Republicans shouldn’t take a Pennsylvania Senate win for granted: Polls suggested that Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey had a firm grip on his race with Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania. But new polls point to hope for Democrats here and elsewhere…. – CS Monitor, 10-20-10
  • Separation of church and state questioned by Christine O’Donnell: Delaware Senate candidates Chris Coons (D) and Christine O’Donnell (R) met again Tuesday at Widener University’s School of Law for a debate over, among other contentious topics, the separation of church and state. After a squabble over whether or not schools should be permitted to teach creationism as a competing theory to evolution, Coons said that the First Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to imply the case for the separation of church and state…. – WaPO, 10-19-10
  • Did Jack Conway go too far?: A new ad being run by state Attorney General Jack Conway (D) against ophthalmologist Rand Paul (R) in the Kentucky Senate race using several college-era incidents to raise questions about the Republican’s character has created a national firestorm.
    “Why was Rand Paul a member of a secret society that called the Holy Bible a ‘hoax’,” asks the ad’s narrator. “Why did Rand Paul once tie a woman up, tell her to bow down before a false idol and say his god was ‘Aqua Buddha’.” The ad’s charges both can be traced back to Paul’s collegiate years…. – WaPo, 10-19-10
  • Sarah Palin kick-starts final Tea Party Express bus tour of 2010: Tea Party Express launches its last tour of the 2010 campaign in (guess where) Sen. Harry Reid’s home state of Nevada with an event headlined by (guess who) Sarah Palin…. – CS Monitor, 10-18-10
  • Palin in Nevada launch Tea Party Express tour: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was back in Nevada on Monday to help rev up the Tea Party Express for the stretch drive of a coast-to-coast campaign determined to throw out Sen. Harry Reid and his Democratic allies in Congress. Palin headlined a rally outside county GOP headquarters in Reno to kick off the 15-day bus tour hoping to capitalize on government discontent and unify conservatives two weeks away from the off-year election…. – AP, 10-18-10
  • Kentucky Senate Election 2010: Rand Paul and Jack Conway trade attacks in contentious final weeks until election: The Kentucky Senate race has turned ugly, as both Rand Paul and Jack Conway traded barbs in their final debate, even refusing to chake hands afterwards. As election day nears this contest will receive ample national attention from both parties and the national media. As WhoRunsGov explains: In May 2010, riding a wave of anti-Washington anger as part of the tea party movement, he crushed the competition to win the Republican nod for the open seat of retiring Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). “I have a message, a message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our government back,” Paul said…. – WaPo, 10-18-10
  • Nevada Senate Election 2010: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid looks to fend off Sharron Angle, retain seat: Nevada’s Senate race has attracted national attention as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid fights for his political life against Republican Sharron Angle, who has been a lightning rod of controversy from the start of her campaign…. – WaPo, 10-18-10
  • Sharron Angle Tells Hispanic Students That They Might Be Asian: When Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle dropped by the Rancho High School Hispanic Student Union in Las Vegas on Friday, she was asked about an ad she aired which, in criticizing Harry Reid on immigration, included a photo of three allegedly menacing-looking Hispanics…. – NY Mag, 10-18-10
  • Miller cites Communist East Germany as effective in dealing with border security: The scuffle between the editor of Alaska Dispatch and Joe Miller’s security guards at a public forum in Anchorage late Sunday is getting much national attention today. Getting lesser but growing attention is Miller’s answer at the forum to a question from the audience about how he would deal with illegal immigration. Anchorage blogger Steve Aufrecht was there and is among those today who are criticizing Miller’s response that Communist East ermany is a good example of a nation achieving border security. He quotes Miller as saying: “The first thing that has to be done is secure the border. … East Germany was very, very able to reduce the flow. Now, obviously, other things were involved. We have the capacity to, as a great nation, secure the border. If East Germany could do it, we could do it.”… – Anchorage Daily News, 10-18-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President Records the Weekly Address

White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 10/20/10
  • No surprise: Democrats and Republicans differ on election predictions: Will an anti-incumbent wave return Republicans to power in the House and Senate, or can Democrats engineer a late rush to hold on to their congressional majorities? The 2010 mid-term elections comes down to campaign basics in the final nine days until vote-counting begins. For now, the two parties agree that Republicans will win more seats than they currently hold, but they differ sharply on how many and whether a major power shift will occur.Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program that an unprecedented GOP wave would win control of both chambers as well as state legislatures in a broad condemnation of President Barack Obama and Democratic policies.
    “The voters are tired of the fact that the federal government has not listened to them over the past two years, has moved in its own direction, at its own rhythm and they want to pull back on that,” Steele said. “And I think you’re going to see a wave, an unprecedented wave on election day that’s going to surprise a lot of people.”
    His Democratic counterpart, former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, pointed to strengthening poll numbers for his party’s candidates as a sign that the Democratic base was getting energized. “From this point forward, it’s all about turnout and ground game, and we’re seeing good early voting trends,” said Kaine, the Democratic National Committee chairman, when asked on the ABC program “This Week” if Democrats can hold their majorities. “We’ve got work to do, but we think we can do it.”
    While Kaine said the House remains uncertain, he sounded much more confident about the Senate.
    “Four or five months ago, the Republicans thought they had a great chance at taking both houses,” Kaine said. “For a variety of reasons, the Senate has gotten much more difficult for them. And again, we’re seeing this week strong moves in polling for our Senate candidates” in several states…. – CNN, 10-24-10
  • Weekly Address: Warns of GOP Efforts to Repeal Wall Street Reform – Including Foreclosure Protections
    Remarks of President Barack Obama, Saturday, October 23, 2010, Weekly Address, Washington, DC:
    Over the past two years, we’ve won a number of battles to defend the interests of the middle class. One of the most important victories we achieved was the passage of Wall Street Reform.
    This was a bill designed to rein in the secret deals and reckless gambling that nearly brought down the financial system. It set new rules so that taxpayers would never again be on the hook for a bailout if a big financial company went under. And reform included the strongest consumer protections in history – to put an end to a lot of the hidden fees, deceptive mortgages, and other abusive practices used to tilt the tables against ordinary people in their financial dealings.
    Yet despite the importance of this law – and despite the terrible economic dislocation caused by the failures in our financial system under the old rules – top Republicans in Congress are now beating the drum to repeal all of these reforms and consumer protections. Recently, one of the Republican leaders in the Senate said that if Republicans take charge of Congress, repeal would be one of the first orders of business. And he joins the top Republican in the House who actually called for the law to be repealed even before it passed. I think that would be a terrible mistake. Our economy depends on a financial system in which everyone competes on a level playing field, and everyone is held to the same rules – whether you’re a big bank, a small business owner, or a family looking to buy a house or open a credit card. And as we saw, without sound oversight and common-sense protections for consumers, the whole economy is put in jeopardy. That doesn’t serve Main Street. That doesn’t serve Wall Street. That doesn’t serve anyone. And that’s why I think it’s so important that we not take this country backward – that we don’t go back to the broken system we had before. We’ve got to keep moving forward. – WH, 10-23-10
  • Big guns push midterm campaigns into high gear In Florida, Palin invokes past; in Minneapolis, Obama says don’t repeat it: Palin, at a Republican rally in Orlando, Fla., claimed Obama and other Democratic leaders created more debt instead of jobs by funding “shovel-ready” projects such as a $3 million Tallahasee turtle tunnel. “We know what he’s shoveling and it’s not asphalt,” Palin said. No matter what your political views may be, if you’re in a contested race for federal office this cycle, someone, somewhere, is probably calling you “extreme.”
    “The momentum is with us but now is not the time to let up; now is the time to dig deep,” Palin said with 10 days to go until the elections. Hundreds of Republicans with “Fire Pelosi” and “Listen to Me!” signs clapped, hooted and waved American flags in the ballroom of the Marriott World Center near Walt Disney World. The gathering was cast as a fundraising rally but had the feel of a county fair.
    “You know, the president is now telling us that we’re not thinking straight because of all the fear and frustration,” Palin said. “You know Mr. President, you have it right on one point there. We are afraid, knowing that your economic policies are driving us off a cliff.” Palin referred to the rally as a “Reagan crowd,” and invoked late President Ronald Reagan’s name several times, noting he was for “the little guy.” “What I love best is he didn’t waste time looking back,” Palin said.
    “Remember the national security policy back then, that was lived out by (former Florida Gov.) Jeb and (former President) G.W. Bush, of we win and they lose.”
    “Before spending more or borrowing or printing, adopt the test of Reagan: Will it empower the individual and make us reach for the stars?”… – MSNBC, 10-23-10
  • In Seattle, Obama tells party faithful: ‘We need you fired up’: President Obama swooped into this traditionally Democratic corner of the country Thursday to implore the party faithful to rekindle the enthusiasm they felt in 2008 and help propel a senator locked in a surprisingly close reelection contest.
    “We need you fired up,” Obama told a packed crowd inside a basketball arena here at the University of Washington to rally for Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). He added: “We are grinding it out. We are doing the hard, frustrating, inch-by- inch, day-by-day, week-by-week work of bringing about change.”
    “They figured if they just sat on the sidelines and opposed us every step of the way, then eventually they could ride that anger and that frustration to success in this election,” Obama said. “In other words, they were betting on amnesia. They were betting on the idea that you’d forget who caused this mess in the first place. Now let me tell you, Seattle: It’s up to you to tell them you haven’t forgotten.”
    Obama drew about 10,000 students and area residents to the arena here, with 3,000 more watching from a nearby stadium, in a gathering reminiscent of the huge rallies he staged during his 2008 presidential campaign. As Seattle’s morning fog was lifting, the line of supporters wrapped around the university’s soccer field and stretched for several blocks through campus…. – WaPo, 10-21-10
  • Obama: Biden and Clinton are doing great ‘where they are’: President Obama said today that stories about Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton switching jobs are “completely unfounded.” “They are both doing outstanding jobs where they are,” Obama said in an interview with National Journal. It’s the surest sign yet that Biden will be on the ticket when Obama seeks re-election in 2012. The president has been chatting up his veep ever since book author Bob Woodward and others began talking about the prospect of a Biden-Clinton switch. During a Democratic fundraiser Friday in Biden’s home of Wilmington, Del., Obama said, “The single best decision that I have made was selecting Joe Biden as my running mate.” USA Today, 10-19-10
  • Helen Thomas Cries, Denies Anti-Semitism, Calls President Obama ‘Reprehensible’: In a radio interview, former White House correspondent Helen Thomas acknowledges she touched a nerve with remarks about Israel that led to her retirement. But she says the comments were “exactly what I thought,” even though she realized soon afterward that it was the end of her job. “I hit the third rail. You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive,” Thomas told Ohio station WMRN-AM in a sometimes emotional 35-minute interview that aired Tuesday. It was recorded a week earlier by WMRN reporter Scott Spears at Thomas’ Washington, D.C., condominium. Thomas, 90, stepped down from her job as a columnist for Hearst News Service in June after a rabbi and independent filmmaker videotaped her outside the White House calling on Israelis to get “out of Palestine.” She gave up her front row seat in the White House press room, where she had aimed often pointed questions at 10 presidents, going back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. She has kept a low profile since then….
    In the below clip (via Mediaite), Thomas can be heard crying after learning that President Obama condemned her remarks about Israel on the “Today” show, calling them “offensive and out of line.” “I think he was very unfair, and I return the compliment on his remarks,” Thomas said. “Reprehensible.”… – Huffington Post, 10-13-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Why Democrats are hurting: With the midterm elections just a week away, many Democrats are scratching their heads and wondering what went wrong.
    After Barack Obama’s election in 2008, many in the party thought that they were on the cusp of a new era in American politics. Republicans, and the conservative philosophy that had shaped their party for several decades, seemed to be in retreat.
    Yet less than years later, Republicans are on the verge of recapturing control of the House of Representatives and maybe the Senate. President Obama’s approval ratings have slid since his first year, while Republicans are now looking forward to the election of 2012.
    The most conventional argument about what went wrong for Democrats is that Obama moved too far to the left in a country that is center-right. But this argument is not supported by a recent study by The Washington Post, Henry Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.
    The study found that Americans are philosophically conservative but operationally liberal….Conservatives have also done very well at playing the politics of the media by staying on message and framing Obama and his policies in a negative light. They have been able to turn the president’s legislative victories into political defeats. Obama and his supporters have spent the last few months trying to explain all that he has done. But when a president has to do so much explaining, that means that he has already lost the battle.
    Whatever the outcome of the midterms, Democrats will need to regroup in the coming months. Rather than focusing on allegations of foreign money flowing into the campaign or embarking on some wholesale philosophical shift to the right, Democrats would do better to look at the specific strategic mistakes that they have made along the way and make sure that they don’t repeat them on the road to 2012. – CNN, 10-25-10
  • FRANK RICH: What Happened to Change We Can Believe In?: PRESIDENT Obama, the Rodney Dangerfield of 2010, gets no respect for averting another Great Depression, for saving 3.3 million jobs with stimulus spending, or for salvaging GM and Chrysler from the junkyard. And none of these good deeds, no matter how substantial, will go unpunished if the projected Democratic bloodbath materializes on Election Day. Some are even going unremembered. For Obama, the ultimate indignity is the Times/CBS News poll in September showing that only 8 percent of Americans know that he gave 95 percent of American taxpayers a tax cut.
    The reasons for his failure to reap credit for any economic accomplishments are a catechism by now: the dark cloud cast by undiminished unemployment, the relentless disinformation campaign of his political opponents, and the White House’s surprising ineptitude at selling its own achievements. But the most relentless drag on a chief executive who promised change we can believe in is even more ominous. It’s the country’s fatalistic sense that the stacked economic order that gave us the Great Recession remains not just in place but more entrenched and powerful than ever.
    No matter how much Obama talks about his “tough” new financial regulatory reforms or offers rote condemnations of Wall Street greed, few believe there’s been real change. That’s not just because so many have lost their jobs, their savings and their homes. It’s also because so many know that the loftiest perpetrators of this national devastation got get-out-of-jail-free cards, that too-big-to-fail banks have grown bigger and that the rich are still the only Americans getting richer… – NYT, 10-24-10
  • MARK HALPERIN: After the Midterm Elections: How Obama Can Meet Promises: It is time for a new White House plan. Even the best case for Democrats in the midterms will leave President Barack Obama with the tarnish of repudiation and far fewer members of his own party with whom to work.
    If he wants to continue to achieve his campaign promises, the President is going to have to make some profound changes, something Obama’s stay-the-course history suggests does not come naturally to him. (See scenes from a midterm-elections road trip.)
    By luck or design, however, the newly installed interim chief of staff, Pete Rouse, is one of Washington’s great long-range planners. And Obama and Rouse have at least one comeback model. The Clinton game plan circa 1994 shows how a young Democratic President, seen as overreaching and lurching leftward two years into his term, can move back to the political center, reconnect with the opposition, reclaim his momentum and successfully maintain his agenda…. – Time, 10-25-10
  • Julian Zelizer: FDR Has Suffered This, Too Just when Democrats think they’re making headway, voters send them a midterm message”: President Obama has warned Democratic voters not to be apathetic. “If the other side does win,” he told an audience in Wisconsin on Sept. 28, “They will spend the next two years fighting for the very same policies that led to this recession in the first place.” But Obama probably understated the case. Over the last century, a series of pivotal midterm elections has severely undermined liberal policies—at just those moments when it seemed they were flourishing. With polls predicting strong Republican gains, this election looks to be another such turnaround…. – Newswweek, 10-22-10
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August 9, 2010: President Obama Celebrates his Birthday, Jobs Bill & the Economy

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The President Records the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 8/6/10

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

IN FOCUS: THE PRESIDENT’S BIRTHDAY

  • Obama gets to test his game against hoops greats: Every hoops fan dreams of that one special birthday when his pro-ball heroes gather on a court to see if he’s got game. President Obama had that chance Sunday, assembling a virtual dream team of college and pro basketball players for a presidential pickup game in front of wounded veterans and participants in a White House mentoring program. Obama, who turned 49 on Wednesday, took to the court for a game with a stunning list of all-stars, including Grant Hill, Shane Battier, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Derek Fisher, LeBron James, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Maya Moore, Alonzo Mourning, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Bill Russell, Etan Thomas, Dwyane Wade and David West. The game was closed to the media… – WaPo, 8-8-10
  • Obama’s ladies phone in happy birthday wishes: President Barack Obama got a couple of birthday presents that didn’t need unwrapping, and the White House says they were the highlight of his day. Obama turned 49 on Wednesday. Spokesman Robert Gibbs says the president got birthday wishes by telephone from first lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Sasha, who are visiting Spain. And daughter Malia, who is away at camp, used her allotted phone time to call around lunchtime to wish her dad a happy birthday…. – AP, 8-5-10
  • Obama celebrates with Chicago friends (including Oprah): President Obama enjoyed a birthday dinner last night with some old Chicago friends, including one very prominent one: Oprah Winfrey. The talk show queen and friend Gayle King joined Obama at the Chicago restaurant graham elliot (the name really is in small letters, so you know it’s fancy). Long-time pals Eric Whittaker, Marty Nesbitt, and Valerie Jarrett also helped Obama celebrate his 49th birthday, as a crowd of about 75 people gathered on the street in the River North neighborhood. Obama — dark jacket, white shirt, no tie — spent more than three hours at the restaurant and left about 10:50 p.m…. – USA Today, 8-5-10
  • Obama celebrates with Chicago friends: Obama had to celebrate with friends because his family is spread out across the globe. Wife Michelle and daughter Sasha are vacationing in Spain, while daughter Malia is at camp — and all checked in throughout the day, as reported by spokesman Robert Gibbs:
    The President received two phone calls, first from the First Lady and Sasha, who, as you know, are traveling, to wish him a happy birthday …. I think everyone knows that, much to the President’s chagrin, Malia is away at camp. She gets one phone call during that time away, and she used that phone call around lunchtime today to call in and wish her Dad a happy birthday. And needless to say, both those calls were the highlights of his day. – USA Today, 8-5-10
  • Obama to have belated birthday bash: President Barack Obama may be celebrating his 49th birthday Wednesday without his wife and daughters, but CNN has learned there will be a hush-hush party at the White House on Sunday with close family and friends to make it up to him. Two top White House aides confirmed the belated birthday bash on the condition of anonymity because the details are a state secret around the corridors of the West Wing.
    “There will be some stuff Sunday,” a top adviser to the president said vaguely without giving away any of the details…. – CNN, 8-4-10

KAGAN CONFIRMED AND SWORN IN AS THE 112TH JUSTICE

  • Kagan Is Sworn in as the Fourth Woman, and 112th Justice, on the Supreme Court: Elena Kagan was sworn in on Saturday as the 112th person, and fourth woman, to serve on the Supreme Court, continuing a generational and demographic transformation of the nation’s highest bench.
    In keeping with tradition, Ms. Kagan first took the constitutional oath given to a wide array of officials and then the judicial oath administered to those wearing the robe. Joined by family and friends in the Supreme Court building, she swore to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”
    The low-key formal ceremony came two days after she was confirmed by the Senate and a day after President Obama marked her ascension with a jubilant televised celebration in the East Room of the White House. She was Mr. Obama’s second successful nominee to the court, and her approval by the Senate was taken as a jolt of validation for a White House battered by political and economic troubles…. – NYT, 8-8-10
  • Kagan sworn in as fourth woman on Supreme Court: Elena Kagan was sworn in Saturday as the 112th justice and fourth woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to Kagan in a brief private ceremony at the court. Kagan, joined by family and friends, pledged to faithfully and impartially uphold the law. Afterward, she smiled broadly as a crowd of onlookers stood and applauded. “We look forward to serving with you,” Roberts said…. – AP, 8-7-10
  • Elena Kagan sworn in as Supreme Court justice: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administers the oath two days after her confirmation by the Senate. She is not expected to dramatically alter the ideological makeup of the court…. – LAT, 8-7-10
  • Brewing legal disputes could define Kagan’s early tenure: Reporting from Washington– This summer, as Elena Kagan quietly moved toward confirmation to the Supreme Court, three major legal disputes took shape that could define her early years. The justices soon will be called upon to decide whether states like Arizona can enforce immigration laws, whether same-sex couples have a right to marry and whether Americans can be required to buy health insurance. Kagan’s record strongly suggests she will vote in favor of federal regulation of immigration and health insurance and vote to oppose discrimination against gays and lesbians. What is less clear is whether she will be voting with a center-left majority that includes Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, or as liberal dissenter on a court whose five Republican appointees outvote the four Democratic appointees…. – LAT, 8-8-10
  • Kagan celebrates with Obama, to be sworn Saturday: A beaming Elena Kagan and President Barack Obama on Friday celebrated her imminent ascension to the Supreme Court with jokes and references to the irreverent sense of humor she put on display during her Senate confirmation hearing.
    An audience in the East Room of the White House, filled with Kagan’s friends and extended family, along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, screamed with joy and applauded as Obama introduced “Justice Elena Kagan.” Kagan, 50, holds the title of U.S. solicitor general for one more day.
    “While she may be feeling a twinge of sadness about giving up the title of general — a cool title — I think we can agree that Justice Elena Kagan has a pretty nice ring to it,” Obama said of his second successful appointment to the court…. – AP, 8-6-10
  • Obama on Kagan: ‘This is a good day’: After receiving some so-so news on unemployment this morning, President Obama got to kick back today and celebrate the elevation of his second Supreme Court justice. “This is a good day,” Obama said in a ceremony for Elena Kagan, who on Saturday will be sworn in as the high court’s 112th justice. Noting that he appointed Kagan as U.S. solicitor general two years ago, Obama said: “While she may be feeling a twinge of sadness about giving up the title of general — a cool title — I think we can all agree that Justice Elena Kagan has a pretty nice ring to it.”… – USA Today, 8-6-10
  • Senate confirms Kagan as 112th justice: The Senate confirmed Elena Kagan Thursday as the Supreme Court’s 112th justice and the fourth woman in its history, granting a lifetime term to a lawyer and academic with a reputation for brilliance, a dry sense of humor and a liberal bent.
    The vote was 63-37 for President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens.
    Five Republicans joined all but one Democrat and the Senate’s two independents to support Kagan. In a rarely practiced ritual reserved for the most historic votes, senators sat at their desks and stood to cast their votes with “ayes” and “nays.”
    Kagan watched the vote with her Justice Department colleagues in the solicitor general’s conference room, the White House said. Obama, traveling in Chicago, said her confirmation was an affirmation of her character and judicial temperament, and called the addition of another woman to the court a sign of progress for the country…. – AP, 8-5-10
  • Honoring Elena Kagan: Remarks by the President and Elena Kagan at Reception Honoring Her Confirmation: These folks may not agree on much, but they’ve all been impressed, as I have, by Elena’s formidable intellect and path-breaking career — as an acclaimed scholar and presidential advisor, as the first woman to serve as Dean of the Harvard Law School, and most recently as Solicitor General. They admire how, while she could easily have settled into a comfortable practice in corporate law, she chose instead to devote her life to public service. They appreciate her even-handedness and open-mindedness, and her excellent — and often irreverent — sense of humor.
    These are traits that she happens to share with the last Solicitor General who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice — one for whom Elena clerked, and whom she considers one of her heroes — Justice Thurgood Marshall. And we are very proud to have Justice Marshall’s widow here today joining us. (Applause.)
    In a tribute she wrote after Justice Marshall’s death, Elena recalled how she and her fellow clerks took turns standing guard when his casket lay in state at the Supreme Court — and how 20,000 people stood in a line that stretched around the block to pay their respects. They were people from every background and every walk of life: black, white, rich and poor, young and old. Many brought their children, hoping to impress upon them the lessons of Justice Marshall’s extraordinary life. Some left notes, some left flowers. One mourner left a worn slip opinion of Brown v. Board of Education.
    It is, to this day, a moving reminder that the work of our highest Court shapes not just the character of our democracy, but the most fundamental aspects of our daily lives — how we work, how we worship, whether we can speak freely and live fully, whether those words put to paper more than two centuries ago will truly mean something for each of us in our time. – WH, 8-6-10
  • Honoring Elena Kagan: Remarks by Elena Kagan at Reception Honoring Her Confirmation: Finally, I want to thank my family and friends. I have a lot of family here today — my brothers and sister-in- law, a nephew, a niece, aunts, uncles, cousins — and I have a great many friends here as well. You came from all over the country as soon as you heard the Senate had approved my nomination. And I’m moved and deeply grateful for your support.
    And all around me in this room, I feel the presence of my parents. I wouldn’t be standing here today if not for their love and sacrifice and devotion. And although my parents didn’t live to see this day, what I can almost hear them saying — and I think I can hear Justice Marshall saying this to me right now as well — is that this appointment is not just an honor. Much more importantly, it is an obligation — an obligation to protect and preserve the rule of law in this country; an obligation to uphold the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution; and an obligation to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building promises: equal justice under law.
    Tomorrow, I will take two oaths to uphold this solemn obligation: one, to support and defend the Constitution; and the other, to administer justice without respect to persons, to the rich and poor alike.
    Today, Mr. President, I will simply say to you and to everyone here and across the nation that I will work my hardest and try my best to fulfill these commitments and to serve this country I love as well as I am able. – WH, 8-6-10

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Bush Pushes Back Memoirs So GOP Isn’t Hurt In Midterms, Friends Say: George W. Bush pushed back publication of his memoirs, “Decision Points,” out of fear that a public reminder of his presidential legacy would hurt Republicans heading into November’s midterm elections, Bush’s friends tell the Financial Times. The FT reports that Bush refused to allow publication in September, which would have been a better time to unveil his book from a sales perspective. Instead, it’s slated to hit stores on Nov. 9, one week after Election Day. Bush isn’t scheduled to give any interviews for the book tour until Nov. 8.
    For their part, Random House’s Crown group said they made the call to delay “Decision Points,” concluding, “From a media perspective the period leading up to the midterm elections is a very noisy and crowded space and we believe the president’s book will be better served by being launched following that time.” Huff Post, 8-4-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama Signs the Fair Sentencing Act in the Oval Office

President Barack Obama signs the Fair Sentencing Act in the Oval Office, Aug. 3, 2010. Joining the President are, from left, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Attorney General Eric Holder, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, of Ill., Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Obama touts benefits to Medicare from health law: President Barack Obama says Medicare will exist for many more years, thanks to new legislation that helped put the health care program for America’s seniors on stronger financial footing. Seniors already are benefiting from that new health care law, said Obama, noting that many have received $250 rebates to help buy medicine, for example. Obama said the law and efforts by his administration to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse both in Medicare and across government generally are making the program stronger and cutting health care costs for seniors.
    “Medicare isn’t just a program,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet message. “It’s a commitment to America’s seniors — that after working your whole life, you’ve earned the security of quality health care you can afford.” “As long as I am president, that’s a commitment this country is going to keep” he said. AP, 8-7-10
  • Why GOP reaction is muted as judge affirms gay marriage rights: GOP conservatives may not be itching for a culture war over a judge’s decision overturning California’s gay marriage ban. Economic issues, not cultural ones, are their focus heading into Election 2010…. – CS Monitor, 8-7-10
  • Jobs report puts a damper on Obama’s effort to keep the message positive: President Obama spent much of the week harvesting bits of good news from some of his short- and longer-term initiatives…. – WaPo, 8-6-10
  • Gay Marriage Ruling a Challenge for Both Parties: A federal judge’s decision on Wednesday overturning Proposition 8 — California’s ban on same-sex marriage — has tossed a largely unwanted issue into the middle of the November midterm elections…. – NYT, 8-6-10
  • Romer says her White House departure long planned: Christina Romer, the departing chief of President Barack Obama’s economic advisory council, cast disagreements among key players on the White House economic team as a healthy part of reaching tough policy decisions.
    “Everybody knows we’re all strong personalities,” Romer told The Associated Press on Friday. “We don’t hesitate to have a very aggressive back and forth. But I think one of the things that we have done is absolutely find our groove. We’re a wonderful team.” “I think we’ve served the president well,” Romer said. “He likes to hear different points of view. And we think it helps us get to the best policy.” AP, 8-6-10
  • President Obama’s beliefs meet his policy, Prop 8 ruled unconstitutional: A federal judge in California ruled Wednesday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the constitutional right to equal protection, the first step in a legal struggle that is widely expected to end at the Supreme Court. Judging by the White House statement after a federal judge struck down California’s Proposition 8 on Wednesday, you might think President Obama supports the rights of gays to marry. The president “has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans,” the White House said. But Obama does not endorse gay marriage. As a candidate for president, he consistently said marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman…. – WaPo, 8-5-10
  • Obama and gay marriage — a tricky balancing act: A federal judge’s decision to strike down California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban doesn’t make things any easier for President Obama. Obama opposed the ban when California voters approved Proposition 8 back in 2008, but he also opposes the concept of gay marriage — a tricky balancing act he will have to maintain as the issue works its way through the appeals courts.
    “The president does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples, and benefits and other issues, and that has been effectuated in federal agencies under his control,” White House aide David Axelrod said today on MSNBC. “He supports civil unions, and that’s been his position throughout. So nothing has changed.”
    Obama opposed Proposition 8 because “he felt that it was divisive,” Axelrod said. “He felt that it was mean-spirited.”
    Social conservatives who oppose gay marriage probably won’t back Obama in any event because of such other issues as abortion…. – USA Today, 8-5-10
  • Fallout Begins After Senate’s Failure to Act on Energy, Oil Spill: After the worst oil leak in U.S. history and months of heated negotiations on energy and spill-response legislation, senators will head home for the August recess empty-handed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he plans to bring back the spill bill or a broader measure in September, but even narrowed legislation may not pass with a cluttered legislative calendar and the November elections looming…. – NYT, 8-5-10
  • Jobs bill to stop teacher layoffs nears approval: Legislation to provide billions to save the jobs of teachers and other public workers is on track to pass the Senate, helped along by the votes of a couple of GOP moderates. Democrats cracked a GOP filibuster on Wednesday, and the House was being called back from its summer break for an expected final vote next week to help cash-strapped states and school districts…. – AP, 8-5-10
  • Judge overturns California gay marriage ban: A federal judge overturned California’s ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday, the latest twist in a legal saga which could have nationwide implications for the divisive social issue. In a written opinion, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in favor of rights activists who argued that a November 2008 referendum which barred gays and lesbians from tying the knot was discriminatory and therefore violated the US Constitution. The referendum, known as Proposition 8, was passed by a 52 percent majority only six months after California’s Supreme Court overturned a previous ban on same-sex weddings triggering a flood of same-sex marriages…. – AFP, 8-4-10
  • Senate jobs bill clears key hurdle: Senate Democrats on Wednesday overcame Republican opposition and cleared the way for a $26 billion measure to help states ease their severe budget problems and save the jobs of tens of thousands of teachers and other public employees. The bill advanced by a 61-38 tally that ensures the measure will pass the Senate on Wednesday or Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday that she will call the House back into session next week for a final vote that would deliver the bill to President Barack Obama. His larger jobs agenda was curtailed by Republicans who argue against the spending it would entail…. – AP, 8-4-10
  • GOP Senators Push to End Birthright Citizenship: The 14th Amendment is fast becoming the latest front in America’s bitter immigration debate. Key GOP senators, led by South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, have suggested repealing a clause that gives automatic citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. Instead, they propose denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants (sometimes called “anchor babies”), thereby ending one of the perceived incentives for people to cross the border. Conservative TV host Lou Dobbs believes it’s a step too far, but on Wednesday, Sen. John McCain signaled a willingness to consider the idea…. – Newsweek, 8-4-10
  • Missouri vote puts health care back in crosshairs: Missouri voters’ overwhelming opposition to requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance puts one of the least popular parts of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law back in the political crosshairs. Even if the vote sets no legally binding precedent, it will help mobilize foes of Obama’s agenda in the fall midterm elections, and that could make a difference in some states with close congressional races that could decide the balance of power in Washington. On Tuesday, Missouri voters cast 71 percent of their ballots in favor of a state measure to bar the government from requiring people to carry health insurance, and penalizing those who don’t…. – AP, 8-4-10
  • Real Reason Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston Split?: Bristol To People Magazine: Levi May Have Gotten Another Woman Pregnant – CBS News, 8-4-10
  • Majority of senators back Kagan on eve of vote: Elena Kagan has won the support of a majority of senators on the eve of a vote to confirm her as the Supreme Court’s fourth woman. At least 51 senators have announced they will back Kagan in the vote expected Thursday. President Barack Obama named the 50-year-old solicitor general to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens. She’s drawn the support so far of all but one Democrat — Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska — plus one independent and five Republicans…. – AP, 8-4-10
  • Senate Opens Debate on Kagan: The Senate on Tuesday opened floor debate of on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Democrats praised her as a sagacious legal mind and a refreshing choice from outside the usual ranks of federal judges, while Republicans denounced her as a liberal partisan who would use her perch on the high court to bend the law to her political views.
    Ms. Kagan, the solicitor general and former dean of Harvard Law School, was chosen by President Obama to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. She is all but certain to be confirmed, with the Senate Democratic majority virtually unanimous in support and Republicans pledging not to filibuster. A vote is planned by the end of this week, and may happen as soon as Thursday…. – NYT, 8-3-10
  • Jobs, Kagan Are Top Priority for Senate Democrats With the August recess closing in, Harry Reid is pushing his agenda: It’s August and that means Senate Democrats have only a few days left on their legislative agenda before they head home for a month-long recess. With the bulk of Republicans against them on key matters, it could be another fruitless week in the upper chamber, at least as far as voters are concerned…. – US News & World Report, 8-2-10
  • Obama Says GOP Has Same Ideas As Ex-Pres George W Bush: President Barack Obama, speaking at a fundraising event for the Democratic party in Atlanta, said the Republican party hasn’t differentiated itself from former President George W. Bush. “They don’t have a single idea that’s different from George Bush’s ideas–not one,” Obama said to applause. Obama rarely refers to his predecessor by name during speeches, preferring instead to say “the previous administration.”… – WSJ, 8-2-10
  • McCain is Clapper stopper: Sen. John McCain is blocking James Clapper’s nomination for U.S. intelligence chief until he gets a requested report, an aide to the Arizona Republican says…. – UPI, 8-2-10
  • National intelligence director nomination blocked: A spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain says the senator is blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the director of national intelligence. Spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan says the Arizona Republican has requested a specific report from retired Air Force Gen. James R. Clapper. Buchanan declined the provide any details about the report but said it was not related to Clapper or his views. Buchanan said McCain will continue to put a hold on Clapper’s nomination until he provides the report. AP, 8-2-10
  • MIT students helped WikiLeaks suspect, hacker says: Adrian Lamo, the former computer hacker who tipped off federal authorities to WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning, says two men in the Boston area have told Lamo in phone conversations that they assisted Manning. Lamo said both men attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but he refused to identify them because, he said, at least one of them has threatened him. One of these men allegedly told Lamo they gave encryption software to Manning and taught the Army private how to use it, Lamo said….. – CNN, 8-2-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • RNC adopts new 2012 presidential primary schedule: The Republican National Committee adopted a new schedule for the 2012 presidential primaries Friday, agreeing to a plan worked out in concert with Democrats and designed to delay the start of the campaign season. The proposal, drafted by a special RNC panel, gained approval from more than the necessary two-thirds of the committee’s 168 members…. – WaPo, 8-6-10
  • GOP to Launch “Fire Pelosi” Bus Tour: Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele tried to energize his party today with the announcement that the RNC is sponsoring a “Fire Pelosi” bus tour this fall. Steele appeared at the RNC convention in Kansas City, Missouri with a red “Fire Pelosi” cap on, the Associated Press reports. “Get on the bus!” he yelled on stage, next to a cardboard bus that read, “Need a job? Fire Pelosi.”… – CBS News, 8-6-10
  • Mo., Mich., Kan., choose candidates in primaries: Voters had no shortage of options in choosing party nominees in Tuesday’s primaries as they focused on successors to Republican senators in Kansas and Missouri and term-limited Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
    Five Republicans and two Democrats were vying to succeed Granholm in Michigan, a state reeling from the economic downturn. Three Democrats and nine Republicans were running in Missouri’s Senate race, and four Republicans and five Democrats were competing for their party’s Senate nominations in Kansas.
    Ballots were even more crowded — with up to as many as nine candidates in some cases — in House races in all three states…. – AP, 8-3-10
  • Term limits will hobble more Republicans than Democrats: State’s term limits law will hobble more Republicans than Democrats in the upcoming November elections, according to the Montana Secretary of State…. – Belgrade News, 8-3-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Weekly Address: President Obama Highlights Benefits to Seniors Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
    Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Saturday, August 7, 2010 Washington, DC:

    Forty-five years ago, we made a solemn compact as a nation that senior citizens would not go without the health care they need. This is the promise we made when Medicare was born. And it’s the responsibility of each generation to keep that promise.
    That’s why a report issued this week by the Trustees who oversee Medicare was such good news. According to this report, the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing. Reform has actually added at least a dozen years to the solvency of Medicare – the single longest extension in history – while helping to preserve Medicare for generations to come….
    We’ve made Medicare more solvent by going after waste, fraud, and abuse – not by changing seniors’ guaranteed benefits. In fact, seniors are starting to see that because of health reform, their benefits are getting better all the time.
    And as reform ramps up in the coming years, we expect seniors to save an average of $200 per year in premiums and more than $200 each year in out of pocket costs, too…. So we are no longer accepting business as usual. We’re making tough decisions to meet the challenges of our time. And as a result, Medicare is stronger and more secure. That’s important. Because Medicare isn’t just a program. It’s a commitment to America’s seniors – that after working your whole life, you’ve earned the security of quality health care you can afford. As long as I am President, that’s a commitment this country is going to keep…. – WH, 8-7-10
  • Palin: Obama ‘in over his head’: Sarah Palin’s critiques of President Obama continue to draw buzz. Just a few days after saying Obama lacked the “cojones” to tackle illegal immigration, Palin told Fox conservative talk show host Sean Hannity that Obama simply isn’t up to the job:
    I think he’s quite complacent. And I think he’s in over his head. And I think he has poor advisers around him. And I think he’s really in flux kind of when it comes to what his governing philosophy actually is. Some of this, though, is a result of he not having much experience and then a complicit media and maybe some voters who chose to not to allow him to be vetted very closely. – USA Today, 8-6-10
  • Mitch McConnell: After November, Legislation Is ‘Going To Have To Be Center Right’: “What I hope we are going to have after November is more balance, more balance, which would give us the opportunity to do things together that simply were missing when you have this kind of disparity,” McConnell said. “But, I’m not going to be very interested in doing things left of center. It is going to have to be center right. I think the president is a flexible man. I’m hoping he will become a born-again moderate.” – Huff Post, 8-5-10
  • Obama salutes promised end of US combat in Iraq: Nearing a milestone in the long and divisive Iraq war, President Barack Obama on Monday hailed this month’s planned withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops — “as promised and on schedule” — as a major success despite deep doubts about the Iraqis’ ability to police and govern their country.
    Portraying the end of America’s combat role in the 7-year war as a personal promise kept, Obama said Iraq will have 90,000 fewer U.S. troops by September than when he took office — a steady homeward flow he called “a season of homecomings.” But there could still be more fighting involving U.S. forces.
    “The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq,” the president said in a speech to the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans. “But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing — from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats.”… – AP, 8-2-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • At the White House, Losing a Game of Phone Tag: The White House switchboard — able to conjure up Santa Claus at a moment’s notice for a young Caroline Kennedy — is famous for its ability to track down anyone, anywhere, anytime. But last week, both the White House and the secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, were unable to muster that switchboard magic to reach Shirley Sherrod….
    “I was astonished,” said Richard Reeves, a professor at the University of Southern California and the author of several books about the presidency. “It seems impossible to me that the president can’t get to people anytime he wants to.”…
    Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University, had his own take: “It may be a metaphor for a kind of societal incompetence, where a 20-year-old intern for CNN or Fox or MSNBC can track down the main players, when the federal government can’t.”… – NYT (7-25-10)
  • Julian Zelizer: Don’t give Obama blank check on war: Despite all the questions surrounding the war in Afghanistan, congressional Democrats have not challenged the administration’s policies since President Obama announced a surge of troops in 2009….
    Democrats don’t want Afghanistan to become a political problem for Obama. Their party is having enough trouble as a result of the recession and the deficit that they don’t want to give their opponents one more issue to run on. Democrats, who have suffered for decades when being attacked as “weak on defense,” also fear that any questions about the war will open them up to those attacks again….
    Democrats can’t continue to write a blank check for this president. They must use the power of oversight and investigation to start addressing the problems with the war strategy and to create pressure on the administration to strengthen its military plans for the coming year. They can’t simply trust the president do just to the right thing. Too often, when Congress has remained silent, presidents have made huge mistakes — and it has taken decades for the nation to recover…. – CNN, 8-3-10

April 8, 2009: President Obama’s Europe, Turkey & Iraq Trips

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President visits the troops in Iraq

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Democrat wins Illinois congressional seat: Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley, 50, trounced GOP nominee Rosanna Pulido and Green Party candidate Matt Reichel for the 5th Congressional District seat that Emanuel first won in 2002. With 59 percent of precincts reporting, Quigley had 15,977, or 74 percent of the vote. Pulido had 4,184 or 19 percent and Reichel had 7 percent…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Absentees push Franken’s Senate lead to 312: Democrat Al Franken’s lead in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race widened Tuesday to 312 votes after previously rejected absentee ballots were added to the counting. Franken did better than Republican Norm Coleman by a nearly 2-to-1 margin as the ballots were opened and counted as part of a lawsuit brought by Coleman over the statewide recount. A three-judge panel ruled earlier that 351 ballots had been improperly rejected during the election and should be restored…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Is Obama the Divider-In-Chief?: A Pew Research poll indicates 88 percent of Democrats approve of the president’s job performance, while just 27 percent of Republicans say the same thing. That’s a 61-point difference.
    The gap for President George W. Bush at a similar juncture was 51 points. It was 45 for Bill Clinton — 38 for the first President Bush — and 46 for Ronald Reagan. Fox News, 4-6-09
  • Obama’s scorecard: Some setbacks but a good summit: At his summit debut, President Barack Obama failed to persuade foreign counterparts to commit to fresh and lavish spending to boost economic revival. And the success he did achieve in finding common ground was as much the result of modified goals as swaying other countries to bend to U.S. priorities…. – AP, 4-2-09

THE HEADLINES….

Charles Dharapak/Associated Press President Obama was greeted by Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, as he arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday.

The Headlines…

  • Obama in Europe: ‘The waters didn’t part’: …How much he succeeded is open to debate, however, and it could take a long time to gauge how successfully he managed to reshape American policy, and with it the course of world affairs. “This will be tested in time,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in Istanbul, his second of his trip. “Moving the ship of state is a slow process. States are like big tankers; they’re not like speedboats. You can’t just whip them around and go in a new direction. Instead you’ve got to slowly move it and then eventually you end up in a very different place.” – Miami Herald, 4-7-09
  • Defense budget plan tough sell on Capitol Hill: Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ proposed budget, which axes some multibillion-dollar weapons projects, is encountering strong resistance from lawmakers whose districts stand to lose thousands of jobs during a recession. Members of Congress and military analysts said Tuesday that the potential loss of jobs is by far the biggest hurdle the administration’s plan must overcome as it looks to build support on Capitol Hill, and they expect some concessions…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Obama misses dinner in Iraq: One thing missing from President Barack Obama’s whirlwind visit to the capital of Iraq? Dinner at the president’s residence. Before he disappeared behind closed doors to meet with President Jalal Talabani, Obama said the meal was one thing he missed. The two shared dinner at Talabani’s house when he visited Baghdad as senator. Tuesday’s unannounced visit to Baghdad was Obama’s first to the Iraq war zone as president…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Obama Makes Surprise Visit to Iraq: President Obama made a surprise detour to Iraq on Tuesday, stopping to visit American troops and commanders before returning to Washington from his first overseas trip as president…. – NYT, 4-7-09
  • ‘House’ actor Kal Penn joins White House team: The White House has hired actor Kal Penn as a liaison between President Barack Obama’s administration and Asian constituents. White House spokesman Shin Inouye said Tuesday that the actor who had a recurring role on Fox’s TV show “House” and has starred in several movies would join the staff as an associate director in the Office of Public Liaison…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Bios of prosecutors facing criminal investigation: NICHOLAS MARSH, JOSEPH BOTTINI, WILLIAM WELCH, EDWARD SULLIVAN, EDWARD SULLIVAN…. – AP, 4-7-09
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press Former President George W. Bush threw out ceremonial first pitch before the game between the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers.
  • Photos: Bringing the Heat on Opening Day: Two political heavy hitters took part in baseball’s opening day festivities. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. took to the field before the Baltimore Orioles opening day game against the New York Yankees….
    Meanwhile, former President George W. Bush received a standing ovation at the Ballpark in Arlington, where he threw out the first pitch before the game between the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers…. – NYT, 4-6-09 ABC, 3-30-09
  • Obama Team’s Finances Released: Recently released financial records paint a contrasting picture of the Obama administration: a cabinet composed largely of politicians and government employees who have been on the public payroll for years, and a White House staffed with numerous aides who received substantial compensation over the past year from firms that could have a big stake in administration policies…. – WSJ, 4-6-09
  • Dismayed Lawyers Lay Out Reasons for Collapse of the Stevens Conviction: Even before Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. moved last week to throw out the conviction, the trial record was filled with instances of serious prosecutorial mistakes that dismayed the large corps of Washington lawyers who followed the case, including former prosecutors and defense lawyers…. – NYT, 4-6-09
  • Virginia Race Takes Tone, Tactics of National Politics: Independent election advocacy groups known as “527s” have been common in national and federal races for years as a way around fundraising limits. Because Virginia has no such limits anyway, 527s scarcely bothered. But are they on the verge of playing a larger role in this fall’s high-stakes gubernatorial races?… – ABC 7 News, 4-6-09
  • Quigley favored to replace Emanuel in Congress: Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley isn’t taking anything for granted even though he’s the favorite in Tuesday’s special congressional race to replace Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s chief of staff…. – AP, 4-6-09
  • President Bush’s Emergency AIDS Plan Saved 1.2 Million in Africa: The largest U.S. foreign aid program fighting the AIDS epidemic has cut the disease’s death toll by 1.2 million from 2004 to 2007 in a dozen hard-hit African countries, researchers said…. – Bloomberg, 4-6-09
  • Obama brings hope for warmer relations to Turkey: President Barack Obama is reaching out to Turkey to help him wind down the Iraq war and bring stability to the Middle East. He is also counting on the only Muslim member of NATO to remain a steadfast ally in the Afghanistan conflict…. – AP, 4-6-09
  • President Obama in Turkey: President Obama, directly addressing a majority Muslim country for the first time in his presidency, said Monday that the United States “would never be at war with Islam.”…. NYT, 4-6-09 Transcript
  • For Obama, politics may be hard to avoid in auto bailout: Given Obama’s ties to the United Auto Workers and his reliance on Ohio, Michigan and Indiana to win the election, he has ‘to be very careful’ about alienating a key political ally in the Rust Belt… – LAT, 4-6-09
  • Analysis: Obama visit to Turkey no afterthought: President Barack Obama’s stop in Turkey is hardly an afterthought, a “while I’m in the neighborhood” visit. For starters, he wants to mend relations strained when the United States went to war in Iraq six years ago. Ankara’s Islamic-rooted government denied Washington’s request to use Turkish territory to invade Iraq from the north. But Turkey also is in line for thanks for trying to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Turkey is the only predominantly Muslim country in NATO, an alliance stalwart and America’s best friend in the Islamic world. Obama, completing a European trip, arrives Sunday and undoubtedly will reprise his message from a town hall meeting Friday in France. “We must be honest with ourselves. In recent years, we’ve allowed our alliance to drift,” he said at that appearance…. – AP, 4-5-09
  • GOP May Be Stuck on Cohesion: On the House floor Thursday, Republicans registered their unanimous opposition to President Obama’s budget proposal…. WaPo, 4-5-09
  • House fight is a boon for lawyers: Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco remain tied in the contest to represent the 20th Congressional District, but one clear winner has emerged: the legal profession. Both candidates have hired top election lawyers to represent them in what could be a lengthy post-ballot battle to for U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s seat in the House. Less than 24 hours after polls closed Tuesday, both sides began asking supporters for money to pay the coming legal bills…. – Albany Times Union, 4-5-09
  • Ted Stevens: Rested, and ready to be Alaska governor?: With his criminal conviction about to be vacated, thanks to a Democratic attorney general, Alaska’s former Senator- for-life Ted Stevens should be tanned, rested and relieved. But is he ready? A fellow Republican, Alaska’s Congressman-for-life Don Young, came up with a capital idea for 85-year-old Uncle Ted. “Personally I’d like to see him run for governor, and that’s my personal feeling,” said Young, who himself has been under investigation by two federal grand juries. Young and Stevens served in Congress together for 36 years. – Seattle PI, 4-5-09
  • Obama: US cannot shoulder Afghan burden alone: On the eve of the NATO summit, President Barack Obama didn’t get what he wanted most from U.S. allies: significant new commitments of combat troops for Afghanistan. Faced with stiff public opposition to war, reluctant European leaders on Friday offered only limited aid for civilians and some troops to help train Afghan police and soldiers. Afghanistan was the theme to which a frustrated Obama returned over and over throughout the day. “This is a joint problem, and it requires a joint effort,” he said. – AP, 4-3-09
  • Analysis: Plenty of cheers but mixed bag for Obama: Stop after stop, crowds are thronging, leaders gushing, headlines blaring. Even a roomful of foreign reporters applauded after President Barack Obama’s London news conference. They love him over here. But are they giving him anything else to take home? It’s a mixed bag: some success, several failures and much still to be determined. The president hit the halfway point Saturday on a European trip that, by the end, will have him charming and listening (not lecturing) his way through five countries, three international summits, one-on-one meetings with at least 17 leaders, a Buckingham Palace audience, at least seven news conferences, three speeches, two question-and-answer sessions with regular-folk foreigners and three official dinners…. – AP, 4-4-09

The President visits the troops in Iraq

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Pete Souza

Troops in Iraq

The President drops in on the troops in Iraq
on his way back from Europe.

Watch the Video
View the Slideshow

President Obama speaks at a Student Roundtable in Turkey

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Chuck Kennedy

Turkish Parliament

The President holds a roundtable with a hundred students in Istanbul, discussing everything from climate change to the relationship between America
and the Muslim world.

Read the Remarks

The President films the Weekly Address

White House Photo, 4/3/09, Pete Souza

Weekly Address: The Challenges of Our Time

The President discusses the breadth and depth of the global challenges we face, as well as our potential to address them through renewed international alliances.

Watch the Video

President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy

  • Analysis: Congress backs some Obama goals, not all: President Barack Obama emerged from this year’s congressional budget debate with a half-victory: a green light to pursue an overhaul of health care, accompanied by a rebuke over how to pay for it. Obama’s plan to tackle global warming fared worse. Nine Democratic senators broke with him on a symbolic but politically resonant vote to cut inheritance taxes.
    In short, Obama’s Democratic allies embraced providing health care to the uninsured, boosting education and promoting clean energy. But the second part of the equation — finding billions of dollars to finance his agenda without further exploding the deficit — suffered repeated setbacks in the Senate. –
    “It’s a realistic blueprint for restoring the promise of the American dream — getting people back to work, ending our energy crisis, improving education for millions of students, and at long last achieving the goal of quality, affordable health care for all Americans,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
    A survey taken March 25 by the Gallup Poll showed that 39 percent of respondents had positive views of Obama’s budget plan and 27 percent had negative views. That was slightly worse than a poll taken just after the budget’s release in February. – AP, 4-4-09
  • Obama Finds That Washington’s Habits of Secrecy Die Hard: At 12:01 p.m. on Jan. 20 — the precise moment Barack Obama became president of the United States — a new White House Web site sprang to electronic life with a pledge to “provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government.” The next day, Mr. Obama issued a memorandum on transparency, promising to make it one of “the touchstones of this presidency.” But on issue after issue — a raucous internal debate over whether to release memorandums detailing harsh interrogation techniques used during the Bush years, for example, or publicizing financial information about high-level administration appointees — Mr. Obama has discovered that fulfilling his pledge is easier said than done…. – NYT, 4-4-09
  • State Department says North Korea launches rocket: President Barack Obama said North Korea should refrain from further provocative actions after that nation’s government made good on their promise to launch a long-range rocket…. – AP, 4-4-09
  • Did President Obama dodge a friendly kiss from French First Lady Carla Bruni?: Forget NATO, world peace or the global recession – it was The Kiss, or the lack of one, that was the talk of Europe Friday. The international kiss-ident unfolded as President Obama and his wife, Michelle, met French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his supermodel wife, Carla Bruni, in Strasbourg, France, as part of this weekend’s NATO summit…. – NY Daily News, 4-4-09
  • Obama tapes message pushing Chicago as 2016 Olympics host: They’re trying to show Chicago is an international city ready for a global event and when they make their case to Olympic evaluators Saturday, members of the Chicago 2016 team will trot out worldwide rock star and hometown guy, President Barack Obama. The White House confirmed the president taped what Chicago 2016 officials describe as a “welcome message” for the 13-member International Olympic Committee’s Evaluation Commission, charged with grading the city’s readiness for the 2016 summer games…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 4-3-09
  • Europe’s Giddiness Eases a Bit for President O-BA-MA: Barack Obama is back in Europe. Only this time, he’s president. On the Continent, the giddiness on display last summer, when 200,000 turned out to hear candidate Obama give a speech in Berlin, has subsided as the weight of the economic crisis unfolds. Candidate Obama was a blank slate on which Europeans drew what they wished. President Obama brought with him wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a global recession. “It’s different, totally different,” said Elisabeth Vogel, a teacher at the Lycée Camille See in Alsace, who took a bevy of students to attend a town hall meeting here. “Now he’s president of the United States. That changes everything.” Since his arrival Tuesday, Mr. Obama and his entourage have cut through Europe like a comet, creating excitement but less gravitational pull — and some irritation…. – WSJ, 4-2-09
  • Obama touts policy changes, seeks Afghanistan help: Courting Europe with an American-style campaign, President Barack Obama on Friday talked up his plans — popular here — to eliminate nuclear weapons, close the Guantanamo Bay prison and tackle global warming. In return, he’s hoping for European popular support in the anti-terror fight in Afghanistan. “It’s not just a matter of more resources, it’s a matter of more effectively using the resources we have,” Obama said. – AP, 4-3-09
  • On the World Stage, Obama Issues an Overture: In his debut on the international stage, President Obama presented himself as the leader of an America that can no longer go it alone, and as abiding by the protocol of a global new deal….
    “If there’s just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy, that’s an easier negotiation,” Mr. Obama said during his hourlong meeting with the international news media, during which he called on reporters from India and China to ask him questions. “But that’s not the world we live in, and it shouldn’t be the world that we live in.” – NYT, 4-2-09
  • Obama, Brown predict G20 deal to fight recession: Doggedly optimistic in the face of doubts, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown predicted Thursday’s emergency G-20 economic summit would produce a significant global deal to tackle the deepening worldwide recession…. – AP, 4-1-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President visits the troops in Iraq

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Pete Souza

Troops in Iraq

The President drops in on the troops in Iraq
on his way back from Europe.

Watch the Video
View the Slideshow

President Obama at a student roundtable in Turkey
(President Barack Obama addresses his remarks at a town hall meeting Tuesday, April 7, 2009,
at the Tophane Cultural Center in Istanbul. White House Photo/Chuck Kennedy)

Political Quotes

  • Obama in Baghdad, tells troops Iraq must take over: Iraqis “need to take responsibility for their own country,” Obama told hundreds of cheering soldiers gathered in an ornate, marble palace near Saddam Hussein’s former seat of power. “You have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement,” he told some 600 troops, saluting their efforts during six years of American fighting and losses. “We love you,” someone yelled from the crowd of photo-snapping men and women in uniform. “I love you back,” responded the president, repeating a sequence that played out at hundreds of campaign stops on his successful run for the White House last year…. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Biden says Cheney ‘dead wrong’ on security policy: “I don’t think he is out of line, but he is dead wrong. … The last administration left us in a weaker posture than we’ve been any time since World War II: less regarded in the world, stretched more thinly than we ever have been in the past, two wars under way, virtually no respect in entire parts of the world,” Biden said. “And so we’ve been about the business of repairing and strengthening those. I guarantee you we are safer today, our interests are more secure today than they were any time during the eight years” of the Bush administration. – AP, 4-7-09
  • Gov. Sarah Palin Isn’t Happy About Today’s ‘Tyra Show’: “Bristol did not even know Levi was going on the show,” says the statement, issued to People magazine. “We’re disappointed that Levi and his family, in a quest for fame, attention, and fortune, are engaging in flat-out lies, gross exaggeration, and even distortion of their relationship. Bristol’s focus will remain on raising Tripp, completing her education, and advocating abstinence. It is unfortunate that Levi finds it more appealing to exploit his previous relationship with Bristol than to contribute to the well being of the child. Bristol realizes now that she made a mistake in her relationship and is the one taking responsibility for their actions.” – NYT, 4-6-09
  • Obama Ends Trip Pledging ‘New Chapter’ of Global Engagement: “I’m personally committed to a new chapter of American engagement,” the president told a town-hall meeting with students yesterday in Istanbul. In a surprise stop in Iraq before heading back to the U.S., Obama spoke of being committed to an Iraq that is “sovereign, stable and self-reliant.” – Bloomberg, 4-7-09
  • The Student Roundtable in Turkey: I enjoyed visiting your parliament. I’ve had productive discussions with your President and your Prime Minister. But I also always like to take some time to talk to people directly, especially young people. So in the next few minutes I want to focus on three areas in which I think we can make some progress: advancing dialogue between our two countries, but also advancing dialogue between the United States and the Muslim world; extending opportunity in education and in social welfare; and then also reaching out to young people as our best hope for peaceful, prosperous futures in both Turkey and in the United States. – WH Blog, 4-6-09
  • Obama tells Turkish students change will take time: President Barack Obama heralded a “new chapter of American engagement” with the world on Tuesday and vowed to forge new relationships in the Middle East and elsewhere. “States are like big tankers, they’re not like speedboats. You can’t just whip them around and go in another direction,” Obama said in a question-and-answer session with Turkish college students. “You turn them slowly, and eventually you end up in a very different place,” he said, responding to a student who asked about differences between him and his predecessor. Obama ended his first overseas trip as president with an appeal to the world to put aside stereotypes and misconceptions: the view by many Muslims that Israel is to blame for all problems, similar views in reverse by “some of my Jewish friends,” the view in parts of the world that Americans are crass and selfish. “The world will be what you make of it,” Obama told the students. “You can choose to make new bridges instead of new walls.” – AP, 4-6-09
  • Crossroads in Turkey: I know there have been difficulties these last few years. I know that the trust that binds the United States and Turkey has been strained, and I know that strain is shared in many places where the Muslim faith is practiced. So let me say this as clearly as I can: The United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam. (Applause.) In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject, but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people.
    I also want to be clear that America’s relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim world, cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to terrorism. We seek broader engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect. We will listen carefully, we will bridge misunderstandings, and we will seek common ground. We will be respectful, even when we do not agree. We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country. The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their families or have lived in a Muslim-majority country — I know, because I am one of them. (Applause.)… – WH Blog, 4-6-09
  • Obama to Muslim world: No US war with Islam: “We seek broader engagement based upon mutual interest and mutual respect,” Obama said in a speech to Turkey’s Parliament. “Our partnership with the Muslim world is critical, not just in rolling back the violent ideologies that people of all faiths reject but also to strengthen opportunity for all its people,” he said. He portrayed terrorist groups such as al-Qaida as extremists far removed from the vast majority of Muslims…. “Turkey’s greatness lies in your ability to be at the center of things. This is not where East and West divide — this is where they come together,” Obama said. – AP, 4-6-09
  • Obama’s Agenda Demands a Star Player: At this peak moment of college basketball fervor, President Obama likens Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to an underappreciated teammate who “gets that extra rebound, takes the charge, makes that extra pass.” – NYT, 4-6-09
  • NKorea rocket fizzles, US says; Obama urges action: “North Korea broke the rules, once again, by testing a rocket that could be used for long-range missiles,” Obama said in Prague. “It creates instability in their region, around the world. This provocation underscores the need for action, not just this afternoon in the U.N. Security Council, but in our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons.” – AP, 4-5-09
  • Obama outlines sweeping goal of nuclear-free world: “This goal will not be reached quickly — perhaps not in my lifetime,” he told a cheering crowd of more than 20,000 in the historic square outside the Prague Castle gates. We “must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist, ‘Yes, we can.'” – AP, 4-5-09
President Obama and Secretary Clinton

(President Barack Obama confers with U.S.Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during the NATO
summit in Strasbourg, France, Saturday, April 4, 2009. White House Photo/Pete Souza)

  • Afghanistan and NATO: We start from a simple premise: For years, our efforts in Afghanistan have lacked the resources needed to achieve our goals. And that’s why the United States has recommitted itself to a clear and focused goal — to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.
    This effort cannot be America’s alone. All of NATO understands that al Qaeda is a threat to all of us, and that this collective security effort must achieve its goals. And as a signal of that commitment, I am pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support for our new strategy. Keep in mind it was only just a week ago that we announced this new approach. But already with Secretary Clinton’s work at The Hague and with the success at today’s summit we’ve started to match real resources to achieve our goals…. – WH Blog, 4-4-09
  • Europe praises Obama, pledges few Afghan troops: European leaders enthusiastically praised President Barack Obama’s new Afghan strategy at a NATO summit Saturday but held their ground on a central disagreement and offered only military trainers and extra security forces for upcoming elections.
    “I am pleased that our NATO allies pledged their strong and unanimous support for our new strategy,” Obama said. “We’ll need more resources and a sustained effort to achieve our ultimate goals.” – AP, 4-4-09
  • Obama Calls for Global Coordination, Praises G-20 Agreement: President Obama used his weekly address to continue to send the message he has sought to convey throughout his trip to Europe — that no one country can go it alone. Threats to U.S. security and the economy “can no longer be kept at bay by oceans or by borders drawn on maps,” President Obama said in his address, taped aboard Air Force One during his presidential trip… – NYT, 4-4-09

The President visits the troops in Iraq

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Pete Souza

Troops in Iraq

The President drops in on the troops in Iraq
on his way back from Europe.

Watch the Video
View the Slideshow

President Obama speaks at a Student Roundtable in Turkey

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Chuck Kennedy

Turkish Parliament

The President holds a roundtable with a hundred students in Istanbul, discussing everything from climate change to the relationship between America
and the Muslim world.

Read the Remarks

The President films the Weekly Address

  • Weekly Address: The Challenges of Our Time: “The only way forward is through shared and persistent efforts to combat fear and want wherever they exist.” – WH Blog, 4-4-09 Transcript
  • State Department says North Korea launches rocket: “I urge North Korea to abide fully by the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council,” the president said as the council approved an emergency session Sunday to deal with North Korea’s rocket launch. North Korea will not find acceptance in the international community “unless it abandons its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction,” Obama said. – AP, 4-4-09
  • Reset with Russia: As I’ve said in the past, I think that over the last several years the relationship between our two countries has been allowed to drift. And what I believe we’ve begun today is a very constructive dialogue that will allow us to work on issues of mutual interest, like the reduction of nuclear weapons and the strengthening of our nonproliferation treaties; our mutual interest in dealing with terrorism and extremism that threatens both countries; our mutual interest in economic stability and restoring growth around the world; our mutual interest in promoting peace and stability in areas like the Middle East.
    So I am very encouraged by the leadership of the President. I’m very grateful that he has taken the time to visit. I am especially excited about the fact that the President extended an invitation for me to visit Moscow to build on some of the areas that we discussed on today. And I have agreed to visit Moscow in July, which we both agreed was a better time than January to visit. – WH Blog, 4-1-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Todd Heisler/The New York Times President Obama in Prague on Sunday.

Historians’ Comments

  • Bruce Buchanan “Obama Ends Trip Pledging ‘New Chapter’ of Global Engagement”: The trip has been “especially important for a new president,” said Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar at the University of Texas in Austin. “He now has working relations that he can use via the telephone to push for additional action in matters such as stimulus.” – Bloomberg, 4-7-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama Ends Trip Pledging ‘New Chapter’ of Global Engagement”: “Did he accomplish everything he might have hoped for? No,” said Allan Lichtman, a political history professor at American University in Washington. “Did he accomplish everything that could reasonably be expected and more? Yes, and in that sense it was a very successful trip.” Obama’s initial foreign-policy venture compares favorably with those of his predecessors, Lichtman said. While John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, were the “toast of Paris” on their 1961 European trip, the new president’s meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was a “disaster,” he said. And Franklin Delano Roosevelt skipped an economic conference in London held soon after his 1933 inauguration. – Bloomberg, 4-7-09
  • Lou Cannon “Now, Obama ‘Owns’ General Motors Obama’s economic legacy may hinge on whether he becomes known as the President who saved the U.S. car industry or the one who destroyed it “: It’s too early to say how important Obama’s ultimatum to the U.S. auto industry will prove. “This could be an important moment,” says Lou Cannon, a preeminent Reagan scholar and the author of five books on the former President. But even if it is, the decision could turn out to have starkly different meanings. Obama could be “seen two years from now as the President who saved the American automobile industry, or…as the President who destroyed it,” Cannon said by phone from his California home. “Think of the two characterizations.”
    Because of that uncertainty, Cannon thinks there may be a more apt analogy. It is then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s remonstration to President George W. Bush before his final decision to go to war in Iraq: “If you break it, you own it.” “The President of the U.S. owns GM. He put himself in a position in which the success or failure of GM will be blamed on him,” Cannon said. – Business Week, 4-1-09
  • Richard Reeves “Now, Obama ‘Owns’ General Motors Obama’s economic legacy may hinge on whether he becomes known as the President who saved the U.S. car industry or the one who destroyed it”: There’s another key difference between Obama last week and Reagan and Thatcher in the ’80s: The conservative icons acted in the face of blatant opposition, and in the process changed the political equation by showing that government was not going to side with labor, says Richard Reeves, the author of biographies of both JFK and Reagan.
    Obama, by contrast, is in a much more fluid situation. The true message of his move remains to be seen. Reeves compares Obama’s strategy with that of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s. The economic downturns in the 1930s and now were bafflingly complex. FDR “had not mastered the declining economics of the country,” he said. As for Obama, Reeves said, “I can’t believe that, with the amount of time that’s passed and the people involved, that they have dug so deep into these problems. There’s no way that they know what they’re doing. You couldn’t know so many things in such a confusing time.”
    In both cases, the Presidents were “throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks,” Reeves said. “I think Obama is saying, ‘Someone has to be in charge,’ and I think he’s right. If he was just sitting back, he’d be toast. This country wants a sense that someone is in charge.” – Business Week, 4-1-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer “Now, Obama ‘Owns’ General Motors Obama’s economic legacy may hinge on whether he becomes known as the President who saved the U.S. car industry or the one who destroyed it”: “On the most obvious level, if you issue threats or you intimidate business, and in the end business just does what it wants, you lose some of your political capital,” says Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs. “It will suggest the business community is not so frightened of Obama at a time he needs to be able to lean on them.”
    That happened to FDR, too. One of his signature early initiatives, the National Recovery Act, sought to impose voluntary production levels to bring the country out of the Depression. It flopped, even before the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional, Zelizer says. “Sometimes a President can’t use the power of persuasion to get business to act even in a time of major economic crisis,” he said. – Business Week, 4-1-09
  • Julian Zelizer: A surprising model for Obama’s presidency: While pundits have compared President Obama to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, less attention has been paid to another, perhaps more apt parallel — Lyndon Baines Johnson. Sometimes the similarities are striking. Both aimed high, seeking major legislation to reshape America — Johnson with civil rights and Medicare, Obama with health care and energy legislation. Both Johnson and Obama understood that Congress was a credit-claiming institution whose members did not like to have proposals rammed down their throats. Johnson’s style of political leadership was famous. A creature of the Senate, Johnson loved to lean on legislators and intimidate them into supporting his agenda….
    The comparisons between Johnson and Obama likewise offer reminders about what could go wrong for the current president. After all, Johnson was a politician who looked like a transformative president in 1965 but within three years found himself to be a defeated man who withdrew from the Democratic primaries. Johnson’s fears of the right, moreover, pushed him and America deeper into the deadly war in Vietnam. The social movements that LBJ used to his benefit in 1964 and 1965 turned against him as the administration plunged deeper into Vietnam, a lesson worth thinking about for the current administration. Johnson’s policy of respect for committee chairmen prompted him to make compromises over social policy — such as cuts in social spending in 1968 — that weakened his support among the very Democrats he needed to win re-election. Johnson was never fully aware of how his greatest political skills could also become the source of his downfall. Obama’s challenge is to harness the best parts of this comparison — such as how Johnson handled Congress to produce dramatic legislative results — without repeating the destructive characteristics that shattered Johnson’s White House. – CNN, 4-6-09
  • Christiane Amanpour: What Obama’s trip achieved: Such has been the success of President Obama’s first overseas visit that some observers are even suggesting North Korea’s weekend rocket launch was not the dreaded “3 a.m. moment,” but a golden opportunity for the U.S. president. Coming just hours before Obama’s big speech on combating nuclear proliferation, it added urgency to his proposals…. – CNN, 4-6-09

The First Lady at the Notre Dame Cathedral

[Download High Resolution]

(First Lady Michelle Obama and Hayrunnisa Gul, right, the wife of Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, listen to a french interpretor during a tour at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg, Fance, Saturday, April 4, 2009. White House Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

July 21, 2008: Focus on Race & Iraq

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH:HNN, July 21, 2008

The week that was….

  • July 20, 2008: Barack Obama is visiting Afganistan; he had breakfast with US troops there, and then met with President Hamid Karzai where he pledged continual aid to the country. This is the second day of Obama’s international tour which is meant to boost his foreign policy credentials.
  • July 19, 2008: Obama landed in Kabul, Afganistan, the first stop on his tour of war zones, which will also include a visit to Iraq. Officially Obama is visiting the regions as part of Congressional delegation, but it also a campaign tour and a response to Republican criticism, which claimed Obama has not visited the area in 900 days.
    The contraversay surrounding Texas Sen. Phil Gramm’s comments has ended; Gramm, who was McCain’s campaign co-chairman resigned from his position. Last week Gramm was criticized for calling “the United States had become a “nation of whiners” whose constant complaints about the U.S. economy show they are in a “mental recession.””
  • July 18, 2008: McCain launched a new TV ad that claimed that Obama changed his positions on Iraq to be elected President. The ad which is the most critical of Obama’s positions on Iraq comes just as he is embarking on a trip to Afganistan and Iraq. The 30-second ad starts by saying: “Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hasn’t been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops. Positions that helped him win his nomination. Now Obama is changing to help himself become president.”
    A new AP-Yahoo News poll claims that Obama supporters are much excited than McCain’s; 38 percent to 9 percent.
    McCain pledged to help revive the auto industry that has been hit hard by the country’s economic woes.
    Obama will meet with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel on July 24, 2008.
  • July 17, 2008: Obama’s upcoming trip to Europe and the Middle East marks his his first “high profile” trip abroad Obama will visit Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and England, and possibly Iraq and Afghanistan in attempt to curb criticism that he does not have enough foreign policy credentials. Obama will give speeches in historic settings usually reserved to past presidents and will meet with foreign leaders.
    Christian Evangelicals according to a new AP-Yahoo News poll are less excited than they were for George W.Bush in 2004. Bush garned 78 percent of Evangelical support, while McCain only has 68 percent.
    In a new interview with Glamour magazine, Obama claimed that what angers him the most is when his wife Michelle is criticized. He called the attcks “infuriating,” adding “If they have a difference with me on policy, they should debate me. Not her.”
  • July 16, 2008: John McCain announces at the NAACP national convention that he supports vouchers for private schools
  • July 15, 2008: Obama announced that he does not believe that the war in Iraq is the best route for protecting the country, and and one of his top priorities would be ending the war “responsibly.”
  • July 14, 2008: In a New York Time Op-ed, Barack Obama outlined that he would consider sending 7,000 more troops/ two more brigades to Afghanistan to curb the resurgent Al-Quaida, while at the same time he would end the war in Iraq. The New Yorker debuts a contraversial caricature cover with Obama dressed as a Muslim, and his wife, Michelle dressed as an armed terrorist.

The Stats

  • July 17, 2008: According to a AP-Yahoo News poll, 30 percent view Michelle Obama favorably as opposed to 35 percent unfavorably. Although Cindy McCain garned a lower favorability rating, her unfavorable rating was also lower than Michelle Obama’s.
  • July 16, 2008: According to Evans and Novak the Electoral College results will be Obama 273, McCain 265 – Human Events
  • July 16, 2008: Obama still faces a racial gap according to a new New York Times/CBS News poll. 83 percent of black respondents had a favorable view of Obama, while only 31 percent of whites view Obama favorably.

Historians Comment

  • Tom Segev, Israel: Let’s Make a Deal:
    The senator may be surprised to discover how Americanized Israelis have become in recent decades: the American Dream is now a central element of their identity. Most Israelis feel deeply dependent on America and will not risk major policy differences with the United States. That means Obama may find them open to a new, more rational approach to the Middle East’s conflicts.
    Obama has declared his support for Israel, and most Israelis believe him: they assume that no one can get elected president of the United States today unless he or she is willing to put Israel’s security near the top of Washington’s list of priorities. For many years, however, U.S. politicians have confused “support for Israel” with support for the Israeli government. There’s a difference, and Obama may be surprised to discover that Israelis are actually much more reasonable than the hawkish parties who keep their coalition government in office—or than the inflexible pro-Israel lobby in Washington…. – Newsweek, 7-28-08
  • Timothy Garton Ash: U.K.: Help Unite Our States:
    First the good news: we are all Obamamaniacs now. In a recent Guardian/ICM poll, 53 percent of British respondents said Barack Obama would make the best U.S. president, compared with just 11 percent for John McCain. That means Obama is now the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidate for president. Then there’s the bad news: even in Britain, America’s linguistic motherland and staunchest ally, nearly eight years of George W. Bush have done huge damage to the United States’ reputation and authority. This distrust has reinforced a deeper historical trend. The old transatlantic West of the cold-war period is no longer cemented together by such an obvious common enemy as the Red Army in the heart of Europe. So enthusiasm for Obama personally is equaled by skepticism about his country. That means there’s a lot of ground for him to make up….
    If Obama truly wants a stronger Europe to forge a renewed strategic partnership with the United States in a world of rising giants like China and India, he will need to start getting that message across to the man who will likely be Britain’s next prime minister. If such a message comes from Obama, he might even listen. Only a charismatic American could persuade conservative Brits to become more European. – Newsweek, 7-28-08
  • Haider al-Mousawi, a history professor in the city of the holy city of Najaf on “What Iraqis Think of Barack”:
    “What is interesting is that a man who is not white is trying to be president. This is interesting because it is so unique,” says Haider al-Mousawi, a history professor in the city of the holy city of Najaf. “His second name, Hussein, is Arabic but that will make no difference because his father refused his religion and his name to get what he wanted. This is the height of pragmatism and is standard in the United States. The person’s interests are above all other things.” He continues: “Anyway, whether Obama or [Sen. John] McCain wins, the president is just the figure who works on strategies run by the institutions that run America. The president is like a middleman.” – Newsweek, 7-20-08
  • Mary Frances Berry, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania: McCain Challenges Obama’s Military Wisdom – NPR, 7-16-08
  • Julian Zelizer on “Romney’s stock rising as possible McCain VP”:
    “They are two very different kinds of people. There is clearly a lot of tension between the two. But that never stops anyone from joining into an alliance if they can win. And given the odds Republicans face and given the challenges that McCain faces in winning, if Romney brings him that one asset that changes his odds, I think McCain would be more than willing to enter into that alliance.” – Reuters, 7-15-08
  • Gil Troy on “The first lady tightrope walk Unlike earlier presidential spouses, Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain must emphasise both career and family to avoid criticism”:
    “Unfortunately for first ladies, the game is often more about un-favourability than favourability,” Gil Troy, a historian at McGill University and the author of Leading from the Centre: Why Moderates Make the Best Presidents, told me. “They rarely deliver votes, but they have much more of a track record of alienating voters or losing voters. So the first lady’s mission is to follow the political version of the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm.” – The Guardian, 7-15-08

On the Campaign Trail….

  • Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, John McCain’s campaign co-chairman upon to the Washington Times commenting about his resignation:
    “It is clear to me that Democrats want to attack me rather than debate Senator McCain on important economic issues facing the country,” Gramm said. “That kind of distraction hurts not only Senator McCain’s ability to present concrete programs to deal with the country’s problems, it hurts the country. To end this distraction and get on with the real debate, I hereby step down as co-chair of the McCain campaign and join the growing number of rank- and-file McCain supporters.” –
  • John McCain, July 18, 2008:
    “I believe that we can modify Iranian behavior. We need to exhaust every possible option before we can ever consider a military option. Americans have made great sacrifices and it has grieved us all.”
  • John McCain, Remarks to the 99th Annual NAACP Convention, July 16, 2008: “Democrats in Congress, including my opponent, oppose the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. In remarks to the American Federation of Teachers last weekend, Senator Obama dismissed public support for private school vouchers for low-income Americans as, “tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.” All of that went over well with the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?Over the years, Americans have heard a lot of “tired rhetoric” about education. We’ve heard it in the endless excuses of people who seem more concerned about their own position than about our children. We’ve heard it from politicians who accept the status quo rather than stand up for real change in our public schools. Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent, and diplomas that open doors of opportunity. When a public system fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children. Some parents may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private school. Many will choose a charter school. No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity….Under my reforms, moreover, parents will exercise freedom of choice in obtaining extra help for children who are falling behind. As it is, federal aid to parents for tutoring for their children has to go through another bureaucracy. They can’t purchase the tutoring directly, without having to deal with the same education establishment that failed their children in the first place. These needless restrictions will be removed, under my reforms. If a student needs extra help, parents will be able to sign them up to get it, with direct public support….

    As much as any other group in America, the NAACP has been at the center of that great and honorable cause. I’m here today as an admirer and a fellow American, an association that means more to me than any other. I am a candidate for president who seeks your vote and hopes to earn it. But whether or not I win your support, I need your goodwill and counsel. And should I succeed, I’ll need it all the more. I have always believed in this country, in a good America, a great America. But I have always known we can build a better America, where no place or person is left without hope or opportunity by the sins of injustice or indifference. It would be among the great privileges of my life to work with you in that cause.

  • Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: 99th Annual Convention of the NAACP, July 14, 2008: And if I have the privilege of serving as your next President, I will stand up for you the same way that earlier generations of Americans stood up for me – by fighting to ensure that every single one of us has the chance to make it if we try. That means removing the barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding that still exist in America. It means fighting to eliminate discrimination from every corner of our country. It means changing hearts, and changing minds, and making sure that every American is treated equally under the law….That’s how we’ll truly honor those who came before us. Because I know that Thurgood Marshall did not argue Brown versus Board of Education so that some of us could stop doing our jobs as parents. And I know that nine little children did not walk through a schoolhouse door in Little Rock so that we could stand by and let our children drop out of school and turn to gangs for the support they are not getting elsewhere. That’s not the freedom they fought so hard to achieve. That’s not the America they gave so much to build. That’s not the dream they had for our children.That’s why if we’re serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives, our own families, and our own communities. That starts with providing the guidance our children need, turning off the TV, and putting away the video games; attending those parent-teacher conferences, helping our children with their homework, and setting a good example. It starts with teaching our daughters to never allow images on television to tell them what they are worth; and teaching our sons to treat women with respect, and to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; that what makes them men is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one. It starts by being good neighbors and good citizens who are willing to volunteer in our communities – and to help our synagogues and churches and community centers feed the hungry and care for the elderly. We all have to do our part to lift up this country.That’s where change begins. And that, after all, is the true genius of America – not that America is, but that America will be; not that we are perfect, but that we can make ourselves more perfect; that brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand, people who love this country can change it. And that’s our most enduring responsibility – the responsibility to future generations. We have to change this country for them. We have to leave them a planet that’s cleaner, a nation that’s safer, and a world that’s more equal and more just.

    So I’m grateful to you for all you’ve done for this campaign, but we’ve got work to do and we cannot rest. And I know that if you put your shoulders to the wheel of history and take up the cause of perfecting our union just as earlier generations of Americans did before you; if you take up the fight for opportunity and equality and prosperity for all; if you march with me and fight with me, and get your friends registered to vote, and if you stand with me this fall – then not only will we help close the responsibility deficit in this country, and not only will we help achieve social justice and economic justice for all, but I will come back here next year on the 100th anniversary of the NAACP, and I will stand before you as the President of the United States of America.

  • Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Summit on Confronting New Threats, July 16, 2008:
    We cannot wait any longer to protect the American people. I’ve made this a priority in the Senate, where I’ve worked with Indiana’s own Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law accelerating our pursuit of loose nuclear materials. And I’ll lead a global effort to secure all loose nuclear materials around the world during my first term as President….

    To protect our national security, I’ll bring together government, industry, and academia to determine the best ways to guard the infrastructure that supports our power. Fortunately, right here at Purdue we have one of the country’s leading cyber programs. We need to prevent terrorists or spies from hacking into our national security networks. We need to build the capacity to identify, isolate, and respond to any cyber-attack. And we need to develop new standards for the cyber security that protects our most important infrastructure – from electrical grids to sewage systems; from air traffic control to our markets….

    That is the task that lies before us. We must never let down our guard, nor suffer another failure of imagination. It’s time for sustained and aggressive action – to take the offense against new dangers abroad, while shoring up our defenses at home. As President, I will call on the excellence and expertise of men and women like the people here today. And I will speak clearly and candidly with the American people about what can be done – what must be done – to protect our country and our communities.

  • Barack Obama in the New York Times Op-ed “My Plan for Iraq,” July 14, 2008
    The call by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for a timetable for the removal of American troops from Iraq presents an enormous opportunity. We should seize this moment to begin the phased redeployment of combat troops that I have long advocated, and that is needed for long-term success in Iraq and the security interests of the United States.

    The differences on Iraq in this campaign are deep. Unlike Senator John McCain, I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president. I believed it was a grave mistake to allow ourselves to be distracted from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban by invading a country that posed no imminent threat and had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Since then, more than 4,000 Americans have died and we have spent nearly $1 trillion. Our military is overstretched. Nearly every threat we face — from Afghanistan to Al Qaeda to Iran — has grown.

    …But this is not a strategy for success — it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

    …Ending the war is essential to meeting our broader strategic goals, starting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban is resurgent and Al Qaeda has a safe haven. Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, and it never has been. As Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently pointed out, we won’t have sufficient resources to finish the job in Afghanistan until we reduce our commitment to Iraq…

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