Examining the Bush Legacy: George W. Bush’s “Decision Points” & Julian Zelizer’s “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment”

THE BUSH PRESIDENCY: GEORGE W. BUSH’S “DECISION POINTS”:

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.

George W. Bush JPG

DECISION POINTS by GEORGE W. BUSH, Crown, 2010

The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment Edited by Julian E. Zelizer, Princeton University Press, 2010

INTRO:

President George W. Bush’s awaited memoirs Decision Points will be released on this Tuesday, November 9th from Crown, an imprint of Random House. The book is being shielded from the public until its release date however; a few copies have been released to the press. The New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, and USA Today are among the media who received advanced copies, and are leaking excerpts from the memoirs.

Early reviews have ranged widely from the lukewarm reception in the Washington Post, ‘Competent, readable and flat’ Decision Points JPG to the Washington Times glowing comments calling it it as ‘strikingly personal’, while Time has ranked Decision Points as the #2 political memoir of all time. As the publishing date gets closer, more news sources are releasing reviews of Decision Point, most are positive and some rather enthusiastic; the Christian Science Monitor hails “It’s a page- turner.”

One of the major evaluating points has been how personal Bush gets in recounting events of his presidency; the NYT claims that Bush was not one for introspection, writing; “”Decision Points” lacks the emotional precision and evocative power of his wife Laura’s book, “Spoken From the Heart,” published earlier this year, though it’s a considerably more substantial effort than Mr. Bush’s perfunctory 1999 campaign memoir, “A Charge to Keep.”” While north of the border the Montreal Gazette headlines “Dubya gets personal in memoirs.”

Crown is expecting a huge demand for the memoirs, and has ordered an initial first printing of 1.5 million copies. The book is being released in a plentitude of formats, including a deluxe multimedia e-book, which includes audio, video, letters and speeches. It is an unprecedented e-book publication, and will only be available in Amazon.com’s Kindle format. A deluxe hardcover version will be released later on November 30th.

Decision Points is divided into 14 chapters. Each chapter examines a particular defining moment in Bush’s life and presidency, including “Day of Fire” about 9/11, “Stem Cells”, “Katrina” and “Financial Crisis.” Bush opens his memoirs with the chapter “Quitting”, and the words, “It was a simple question, ‘Can you remember the last day you didn’t have a drink?'” discussing his decision to stop drinking.

Some of the previews of the memoir appearing in the media range from revelations about Bush’s reaction to 9/11, consideration to drop his Vice President, Richard Cheney from the ticket in his 2004 re-election bid, regret over the release of the photo showing him flying over New Orleans in Air Force One after Hurricane Katrina to resoluteness concerning his decisions with Iraq, stem cell research, and the financial crisis. Bush has emphasized the lowest point of his presidency was when rapper Kayne West called Bush a racist, because he deemed the President was being indifferent to black New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and it’s aftermath.

This upcoming week Bush will be taking to the road to promote Decision Points, signing books in Miami and Dallas and making high profile appearances on a special interview with Matt Lauer on NBC, Monday at 8pm, and then Oprah on Tuesday. Other stops on the publicity rounds include interviews with Jay Leno, Candy Crowley on CNN on TV and with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on the radio. Bush will also appear on Fox News. Bush is also including his family when he is interviewed; wife Laura Bush, and his parents Barbara Bush and former President George H. W. Bush, and brother former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will appear alongside him at various points this week. Early clips and excerpts show Oprah attempting to get Bush to give his opinions on President Barack Obama and Republican Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin however, Bush wants to stay out of the political fray.

Coinciding with the publication of Decision Points, Princeton University Press released last month Princeton University Professor Julian E. Zelizer’s edited book The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment. The scholarly work attempts to begin the historical examination of Bush’s presidency and legacy by examining in twelve essays every facet of Bush’s two terms in office, and examine the Bush presidency in relations to Obama’s Presidency. It looks not to take sides about Bush, but to look at his presidency through the prism of historical perspective.

The following includes some of the articles and excerpts released from the press about President Bush’s Decision Points and Julian Zelizer’s The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment:

COMMENTS & REVIEWS

     

  • Book review: ‘Decision Points’ by George W. Bush: The former president delivers an unexpectedly engrossing rehash of what he considers to be the pivotal moments of his eight years in office. The first great American autobiographies both appeared in the 19th century, were born of conflict and written by public men — “The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass” and “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.” Since then, what we might call the publishing-industrial complex has turned the reminiscences of our public men and women into a never-ending stream. As former President George W. Bush — barely two years out of office — points out in the acknowledgement of his memoir, “Decision Points,” virtually every member of his extended, very political family has published a bestseller, including his parents’ dogs. Where does Bush’s account of his astonishingly eventful eight years rank in such company? Probably far higher than many of his detractors expected. As Bush writes in “Decision Points,” he enjoys surprising those who underestimate him. As the title suggests, the former chief executive elected to abandon the usual chronological approach to these volumes (except for a brief, obligatory foray into childhood and school years) in favor of his recollection of his presidency’s key choices and the personal decisions that Bush says prepared him to make them…. – LAT, 11-9-10
  • Global reaction to Bush’s ‘Decision Points’ memoir: It’s a page-turner: George W. Bush’s ‘Decision Points’ memoir is attracting global scrutiny for its views on everything from the Abu Ghraib scandal to Israel’s bombing of Syria to rapper Kanye West…. – CS Monitor, 11-8-10
  • Dubya gets personal in memoirs: Almost two years after leaving the White House as one of the most polarizing presidents in American history, Bush returns to the public arena Tuesday with the publication of a candid memoir, Decision Points, that recounts everything from his personal struggles with alcohol to an admission of failure in his leadership after Hurricane Katrina.
    Through a steady stream of publicity leaks and pre-publication interview excerpts, Americans already know many of the book’s highlights — including Bush’s revelation that he considered dropping Dick Cheney from the 2004 Republican ticket and his disgust with rapper Kanye West’s post-Katrina accusation that he didn’t care about black people. Almost two years after leaving the White House as one of the most polarizing presidents in history, Bush returns to the public arena Tuesday with the publication of a candid memoir, Decision Points, that reveals everything from his personal struggles with alcohol to his disappointment in having failed to capture Osama bin Laden…. – Montreal Gazette
  • Personality Intersects With Policy: George W. Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” could well have been titled “The Decider Decides”: it’s an autobiography focused around “the most consequential decisions” of his presidency and his personal life from his decision to give up drinking in 1986 to his decision to invade Iraq in 2003 to his decisions regarding the financial crisis of 2008. It is a book that is part spin, part mea culpa, part family scrapbook, part self-conscious effort to (re)shape his political legacy.
    A dogged work of reminiscence by an author not naturally given to introspection, “Decision Points” lacks the emotional precision and evocative power of his wife, Laura’s, book, “Spoken From the Heart,” published earlier this year, though it’s a considerably more substantial effort than Mr. Bush’s perfunctory 1999 campaign memoir, “A Charge to Keep.”… – NYT, 11-4-10
  • Top 10 Political Memoirs: While George W. Bush’s new memoir Decision Points doesn’t hit bookshelves until Nov. 9, it has already managed to make waves. TIME takes a look at other memorable political autobiographies… 2. George W. Bush, Decision Points, 2010: The Decider has written a book called Decision Points. George W. Bush’s presidential memoir — which covers key decisions he made from 1986 (when he vowed to stop drinking) to 2008 (when he found himself faced with the start of the financial crisis) — seems to be more honest than anyone expected. Bush still defends the Iraq war, yet describes a “sickening feeling” whenever he thinks about the absence of weapons of mass destruction. He talks about wishing he had handled Hurricane Katrina better. He refers to Dick Cheney as “the Darth Vader of the administration” and says he considered dropping him from the 2004 presidential ticket. And he relates a strange anecdote about Vladimir Putin’s assertion that his pet Labrador was “bigger, stronger, faster” than Bush’s Scottish terrier, Barney. “You’re lucky he only showed you his dog,” quipped Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper upon hearing the story. Time, 11-6-10
  • George W. Bush’s ‘Decision Points’: ‘Competent, readable and flat’: All is sweet reason in “Decision Points,” George W. Bush’s account of his eight-year presidency and some of the events — quitting drinking, serving as governor of Texas — that preceded it. To be sure there are a few hints of the pugnacity Americans came to know so well — barbs directed at the press, the professoriate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a few other sitting ducks — but Bush as he presents himself here is calm, deliberative, reasonable, open-minded, God-fearing, loyal, trustworthy, patriotic.
    This should come as no surprise. The presidential memoir as it has evolved, especially in the wake of recent presidencies, is not a memoir as the term is commonly understood — an attempt to examine and interpret the writer’s life — but an attempt to write history before the historians get their hands on it. Yes, from time to time mistakes must be acknowledged — on the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, for instance, “I had sent American troops into combat based in large part on intelligence that proved false,” or on Katrina, “The problem was not that I made the wrong decisions. It was that I took too long to decide” — but the clear purpose of these non-apologies is to humanize the person making them, and to make us like him better for making them…. – WaPo, 11-6-10
  • Leaked Bush memoir ‘strikingly personal’: An anonymous source on Thursday leaked former President George W. Bush’s memoir to the Drudge Report 11 days before its scheduled publication. Excerpts from “Decision Points” have put Mr. Bush back on public radar after a long absence; the 14-chapter book is deemed a “strikingly personal” look at the president’s challenges, personal convictions and faith, and it takes few shots at his critics…. – The Washington Times, 10-29-10

THE HEADLINES….

     

  • Bush memoir ‘Decision Points’ sells 220,000 copies on first day: Former President George W. Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” sold at least 220,000 copies through its first day of release, with more than 20 per cent generated by e-book purchases.
    Random House Inc. announced Wednesday that opening-day sales, which include preorders and represent 95 per cent of accounts reporting, was the publisher’s highest for nonfiction since former President Clinton’s “My Life” debuted with 400,000 in 2004. Bush’s book came out Tuesday with an announced first printing of 1.5 million copies, the same as Clinton’s did.
    Random House said that e-sales were 50,000 so far, a number unthinkable when “My Life” was published…. – CP, 11-10-10
  • Bush to speak in Chicago Thursday: Former president George W. Bush will speak at the Union League Club in downtown Chicago as part of his “Decision Points” book tour Thursday. The event will takes place at 8:45 a.m…. – ABC Local, 11-10-10
  • George Bush ‘Decision Points’ – how many books will he sell?: Publishers of President Bush’s ‘Decision Points’ have printed up 1.5 million copies. President Bill Clinton’s ‘My Life’ sold 606,000 in its first week, and has totaled 2.2 million since…. – CS Monitor, 11-10-10
  • Room for forgiveness on Bush book tour: Former President George W. Bush’s media blitz to sell his new book seems carefully designed to minimize surprises, although he got one Wednesday in a surprise rapprochement with Kanye West. The rapper says now that he “didn’t have the grounds” to call Bush a racist after Hurricane Katrina. The former president was shown tape of West’s comments in a live “Today” show interview and said he appreciated West’s regret.
    Bush has primarily favored the leaders of their respective fields in an effort to spread his salesmanship as wide as possible: NBC News, Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh, Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno. ABC, CBS and CNN were deemphasized or left behind entirely.
    In an earlier media era, Matt Lauer’s one-hour taped interview with Bush would have been jealously guarded until airtime, said Jim Bell, executive producer of the “Today” show. Instead, it was sliced and diced and spread around various outlets: clips aired on “Today” last Thursday and Friday and on “Nightly News.” A business-oriented response was sent to CNBC, and political comments to MSNBC and further quotes out to local NBC affiliates. MSNBC is airing an expanded, two-hour version of the interview this weekend.
    Monday’s prime-time special wasn’t a big seller, finishing fourth in its time slot with more than 7 million viewers, the Nielsen Co. said. That’s generally a tough night for NBC, and the interview did slightly better than “Chuck” usually does in the time slot…. – AP, 11-10-10
  • Former President Bush Uses New Book, Media Tour to Defend His Legacy: Tuesday marks the official release of former President George W. Bush’s memoir, “Decision Points,” in which he reflects on the most significant decisions he made as president, as well as in his personal life. Mr. Bush’s media blitz to promote the book began Monday night in a taped interview with Matt Lauer of NBC News that saw the former president accept blame for some controversial decisions while giving a forceful defense of others…. – PBS Newshour, 11-9-10
  • Decision Points, the George W. Bush memoir, released: George W. Bush is on a book tour to promote his memoir “Decision Points.”… – WaPo, 11-9-10
  • In memoir, Bush defends waterboarding, admits mistakes: After staying largely mum on the political scene since leaving office almost two years ago, former President George W. Bush will reveal his thoughts on the most historic — and controversial — parts of his presidency with the release of his memoir Tuesday. In the 481-page book, Bush shares his thoughts on the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina and what he calls the “worst moment” of his presidency…. – CNN, 11-9-10
  • Bush book praised in Dallas, criticized overseas: Autograph-seekers descended on a Dallas shopping center Tuesday as former President George W. Bush officially kicked off the release of his new memoir, receiving praise for his candor at a hometown bookstore even as his renewed defense of waterboarding as an interrogation tactic was greeted with derision overseas. First in line at the Borders store about a mile from Bush’s Dallas home were Terry and Tammy Jones of suburban Justin, who camped out overnight. They said when they told Bush of their wait, he said he’d sign their books “with admiration,” shaking 53-year-old Terry Jones’ hand and kissing his wife’s. “Eighteen hours for two seconds and a kiss on the hand,” Tammy Jones, 52, said with a smile. Terry Jones said he admired Bush because “when he makes a decision, he sticks with it.”
    But such steadfastness also prompted criticism Tuesday in Europe, where reports about Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” focused on waterboarding…. – AP, 11-9-10
  • George W. Bush Begins Publicity Tour: President George W. Bush is starting to do the rounds promoting his new book “Decision Points.” He spoke with NBC’s Matt Lauer on the Today Show. In the book and in the interview he defended the decision to invade Iraq, even though the casus belli, weapons of mass destruction, was a mirage.
    “Was there ever any consideration of apologizing to the American people?” Lauer asked. 

    “I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision,” Bush replied. “And I don’t believe it was the wrong decision. I thought the best way to handle this was to find out why. And what went wrong. And to remedy it.”
    In his book, Bush writes, “There were things we got wrong in Iraq, but that cause is eternally right.”
    Bush also spoke with the Times of London. Both in the book and the interview he strongly defended the use of waterboarding.(yes, they have a pay wall)
    In an interview with The Times, the former US President offered a vigorous defence of the coercive interrogation technique: “Three people were waterboarded and I believe that decision saved lives.” He denied that waterboarding, which simulates drowning, amounted to torture.
    Asked if he authorised the use of waterboarding to get information from the captured al-Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he was unequivocal: “Damn right!” In his new book he writes: “Their interrogations helped break up plots to attack American diplomatic facilities abroad, Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf in London, and multiple targets in the United States.” – NPR, 11-9-10

  • Was George W. Bush Willing to Endorse Barack Obama?: He called himself The Decider, but as former president George W. Bush emerges from his self-imposed exile to promote his new book, he’s become The Denier. Specifically, he’s been busy denying rumors about his contempt for John McCain. On Friday, the Daily News quoted a “Republican official familiar with Bush’s thinking” who claimed that Bush thought McCain “destroyed any chance of winning by picking Palin” and was “less of a man” for doing so. He wouldn’t be the first one to think that, but on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show yesterday, Bush insisted, “I never said that, never would have said that.”
    Yesterday, an even more intriguing story appeared on a blog of the Financial Times. Alex Barker writes of his “favourite Bush anecdote,” which “some of the witnesses still dine out on”:
    The venue was the Oval Office. A group of British dignitaries, including Gordon Brown, were paying a visit. It was at the height of the 2008 presidential election campaign, not long after Bush publicly endorsed John McCain as his successor.
    Naturally the election came up in conversation. Trying to be even-handed and polite, the Brits said something diplomatic about McCain’s campaign, expecting Bush to express some warm words of support for the Republican candidate.
    Not a chance. “I probably won’t even vote for the guy,” Bush told the group, according to two people present. “I had to endorse him. But I’d have endorsed Obama if they’d asked me.” Now, Bush not voting for McCain and giving him a forced endorsement, sure, we can buy that. The two never had a great relationship following their bitter primary battle in 2000, and in Decision Points, Bush laments that McCain kept his distance in the 2008 campaign. He also writes that McCain was unimpressive in their meeting during the financial crisis.
    But endorsing Obama?… A Bush spokesman says, “This is ridiculous and untrue. President Bush proudly supported John McCain in the election and voted for him.” – NY Mag, 11-10-10
  • 2,500 show up for Bush book signing in Dallas: An estimated 2,500 people showed up at a North Dallas Borders bookstore to get an autographed copy of George W. Bush’s first memoir, the bookseller reports. But the former president could put his John Hancock on only 1,300 copies of Decision Points and on 500 bookplates for the legion of unlucky buyers. In a news release, Borders noted that Bush signed 500 copies more than expected (800) and that hundreds of others in line would receive a signed bookplate later. First in line were Terry and Tammy Jones of Justin, Texas, who camped out overnight after arriving at the store yesterday about 2 p.m. They bought four books Bush autographed, met him briefly, and beamed, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes. “I waited 18 hours for two seconds and a kiss on my hand. I’m never washing this hand again,” Tammy Jones said…. – USA Today, 11-9-10
  • Bush is back, and eager to help history judge him: George W. Bush knows that history will shape his legacy more than anything he can say. But that’s not gonna stop a guy from trying. After two years of near silence, Bush is back.
    With his new memoir, “Decision Points,” and a promotion tour, the president who in cockier times could not think of a single mistake he had made, lists many. He counts the years without a post-9/11 attack as his transcendent achievement. He says the economic calamity he handed off to Barack Obama was “one ugly way to end a presidency.”… – AP, 11-8-10
  • “Decision Points”: George Bush’s view of his presidency: In his new memoir “Decision Points,” George W. Bush weighs in on the Iraq war, the financial crisis, Hurricane Katrina, John McCain’s 2008 campaign, and other episodes in his presidency…. – CS Monitor, 11-7-10
  • Busy week awaits author George W. Bush: Former President George W. Bush will be highly visible next week when his memoir, Decision Points, goes on sale. According to reports from copies that were leaked this week, Bush writes that he considered replacing Vice President Dick Cheney, that he personally signed off on water-boarding as an interrogation technique and that he considers it a mistake to have flown over – but not landed near – the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The book release comes a week ahead of the groundbreaking for Bush’s presidential library at Southern Methodist University on Nov. 16…. – The Dallas Morning News, 11-6-10
  • John McCain looks bad in George W. Bush’s book: Sen. John McCain never asked then-President George W. Bush to campaign for him in 2008, though Bush thinks he could have helped the Arizona senator. In his forthcoming memoir, “Decision Points,” Bush explores his “complex relationship” with McCain. “I understood he had to establish his independence,” Bush wrote. “I thought it looked defensive for John to distance himself from me. I was confident I could have helped him make his case. But the decision was his. I was disappointed I couldn’t do more to help him.” The 43rd president suggests his opponent for the Republican nomination in 2000 blew an opportunity to capitalize politically on the financial crisis eight years later. Without saying it explicitly, Bush portrays then-Sen. Barack Obama as more presidential than McCain in his handling of the financial crisis…. – Politico, 11-6-10
  • George W Bush says he was ‘blindsided’ by financial crisis: George W Bush, the former US president, has said that he was “blindsided” by the financial crisis that began at the end of his final term in office…. – Telegragh UK, 11-9-10
  • George W Bush memoir ‘Decision Points’ to go on sale: George W Bush will on Monday begin a media blitz that will thrust him back into the lives of Americans after two years of near silent retirement. The former US president campaign to rehabilitate his reputation in multiple interviews and television appearances to publicise the memoir, which is published this week both in the US and UK.
    He will be on screens and the airwaves every day for a week, conducting interviews with giants of American broadcasting such as Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno. On Winfrey’s show he will be accompanied by his parents, former President George Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, while his wife Laura will join him on a breakfast television appearance…. – Telegraph (UK), 11-7-10
  • George Bush: I was not in shock on 9/11 In memoirs and TV interview, George Bush says he wanted to project calm after 9/11 attacks: They were the seven minutes that, for some, came to define a presidency. On one side of the TV screen, a New York landmark was in flames after hijacked planes smashed into the World Trade Centre. On the other, George Bush sat before a group of children looking like a startled rabbit, conveying a sense of paralysis, if not panic, after an aide told him of the attacks.
    But Bush says that anyone who thinks he was in shock has got it wrong. He was trying not to create panic. “My first reaction was anger. How dare they do this to America?” Bush told NBC News in an interview to be broadcast on Monday to coincide with the release of his memoirs.
    “I made the decision not to jump up and create a chaotic scene, because right after … These are quick reflections, anger, duty to protect the country, and then all of a sudden the cellphones are ringing. Now, the noise [from reporters receiving calls about the attacks],” he said. “But it clarified to me that people were going to be watching my reaction. And I’d had enough experience as governor of Texas during some disasters to know that the reaction of the leader is essential in the first stage of any crisis.”
    Pressed on whether he was paralysed into inaction, Bush was dismissive. “I’m not going to debate the critics as to whether or not I was in shock or not. I wasn’t. And they can read the book, and they can draw their own conclusion,” he said.
    Bush’s book, Decision Points, offers insights into his beliefs, including a vigorous defence of the death penalty in an argument over dinner with Cherie Blair. Much of it is dedicated to justifying what some consider to be indefensible, not least his invasion of Iraq on what proved to be the spurious pretext of hunting for weapons of mass destruction. The former president acknowledges there were dissenters on the question of whether to go to war. He claims he was among them.
    “I was a dissenting voice. I didn’t want to use force. I mean force is the last option for a president,” he said. But he told NBC there was no need for an apology. “I mean apologising would basically say the decision was a wrong decision. And I don’t believe it was the wrong decision,” he said…. – Guardian UK, 11-3-10
  • In memoir, Bush says he considered dropping Cheney from 2004 ticket: Former president George W. Bush once considered replacing his vice president, Richard B. Cheney, Bush says in a revealing memoir in which he offers advice on the U.S. economy and admits mistakes on Iraq and Hurricane Katrina. Bush’s book, “Decision Points,” is full of anecdotes and behind-the-scenes details of eight eventful years that began with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and ended with an economic meltdown in which “I felt like the captain of a sinking ship.”
    “No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do,” Bush writes.
    Bush writes that he considered the offer, adding that although Cheney “helped with important parts of our base, he had become a lightning rod for criticism from the media and the left.”
    Although Bush did not like Cheney’s image as described by critics, accepting his resignation offer would help “demonstrate that I was in charge,” he writes…. – WaPo, 11-3-10
  • In book, Bush strongly defends use of waterboarding: When then-President George W. Bush was asked to approve a tough interrogation technique known as waterboarding on September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, he wasted little time in deciding. “Damn right,” he said. Bush’s approval of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning condemned by human rights activists as torture, to try to wrench information from captured al Qaeda operatives was among the most controversial decisions he made during eight years in the White House.
    In his memoir, “Decision Points,” Bush strongly defends the use of waterboarding as critical to his efforts to prevent a repeat of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. He says waterboarding was limited to three detainees and led to intelligence breakthroughs that thwarted attacks. The book, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, is to hit bookstores on Tuesday. He writes that his ability to prevent another September 11 attack on U.S. soil was “my most meaningful accomplishment.”… – Reuters, 11-4-10
  • Bush rejects accusations of racism over Katrina: Former President George W. Bush says criticism from some, including prominent rapper Kanye West, that his handling of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina showed he did not care about black people represented “an all-time low.” In his memoir, “Decision Points,” to be released next Tuesday, Bush writes that charges flung at him that he was a racist during the Katrina crisis “was the worst moment of my presidency.”
    In excerpts of an interview of Bush by NBC’s “Today” show to be aired next Monday, the former president was asked about West’s comment that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
    “And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now. It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘this man’s a racist,'” Bush said. “I resent it, it’s not true,” Bush said. “And it was one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency.” He said his record was strong “when it came to race relations and giving people a chance.”
    Bush writes in his book, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, that his initial mistake on Katrina was failing to communicate his concern for the storm’s victims. He said he should not have done an Air Force One flyover of New Orleans while much of the city was under water. “The photo of my hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground. That wasn’t how I felt. But once the public impression was formed, I couldn’t change it,” he writes…. – Reuters, 11-3-10
  • Ex-President George W. Bush rips wisdom of Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and John McCain to friends: “Naming Palin makes Bush think less of McCain as a man,” a Republican official familiar with Bush’s thinking told the Daily News. “He thinks McCain ran a lousy campaign with an unqualified running mate and destroyed any chance of winning by picking Palin.” “I want my President to succeed because if my President succeeds my country succeeds, and I want my country to succeed,” Bush typically says when asked about Obama.
    “He won’t call Obama by name but he won’t trash him,” a confidant noted, referring to Bush’s comments in post- presidency speaking appearances, which have netted him millions, often at $100,000 or more a pop. Still, he thinks Obama has failed as a President – a judgment supported by this week’s robust Republican gains. “He thinks the policy is adrift,” one insider reported. NY Daily News, 11-5-10
  • Bush’s memoir explains: U.S. can’t appear to be doing Israel’s bidding: In excerpts released from soon-to-be-published book, ex-president says was asked by then PM Olmert to strike Syria’s nuclear reactor…. – Haaretz, 11-7-10
  • Bush/Nixon: The early reviews of George W. Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” are already out, even though the book is under a sales embargo until next Tuesday. If you want to read one of the book’s “deluxe” copies — the hand-numbered, hand- signed edition that comes with a slipcase, a “special color photo frontispiecE” and a $350 price tag — you’ll have to wait even longer, until Nov. 30. Bush may have left office with rock-bottom approval ratings. But if the experience of another unpopular ex-president is any guide, both editions of his book may do surprisingly well…. – NY, 11-6-10
  • Bush memoir coming with huge first printing: We’re one month and a day away from the launch of George W. Bush’s presidential memoir “Decision Points.” The former president’s book, which goes on sale on Nov. 9, will have a huge first printing of 1.5 million copies, Crown Publishers said in a statement on Thursday.
    Bush writes about crucial points in his life and presidency including his decision to run for the highest office in the country; 9/11; the decisions to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq; his response to Hurricane Katrina; and his relationship with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, Crown said.
    But there’s so much more than just a book (and book tour) coming next month. The publishers are simultaneously rolling out the whole kit and caboodle — across multiple platforms — with the hardcover version, an e-book edition, a Deluxe e-book edition and an audiobook (from RandomHouse), read by the author himself… – Reuters, 10-8-10
  • George W. Bush starting to emerge from cone of silence: President No. 43 gave a lecture at the University of Texas in Tyler, Texas, on Tuesday and spoke before a sold-out crowd of 2,000 people. All this is according to the Tyler newspaper. Bush talked up a book he has written about major decisions he made as president, “Decision Points,” which is to be published on Nov. 9. The author will be doing a number of major interviews surrounding the publication of his memoir, including with a Facebook fan.
    “This will come as a shock to some people in our country who didn’t think I could read a book, much less write one,” he joked… “I miss being pampered. I miss Air Force One. I miss being commander-in-chief of an awesome group of (people),” he said.
    Bush said Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told him, “If you don’t do something significant, you’re likely to see a depression greater than the Great Depression.”… “Depression, no depression,” Bush said. “It wasn’t that hard for me, just so you know. I made the decision to use your money to prevent the collapse from happening.”
    Bush also said he read a dozen biographies of Abraham Lincoln while in office, and, “I think he’s the country’s greatest president.” Reuters, 10-20-10

EXCERPTS

     

  • Excerpt: President Bush in his own words on 9/11, Iraq In ‘Decision Points,’ he describes moments of high emotion, prayer:
    “While my emotions might have been similar to those of most Americans, my duties were not,” President Bush writes of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “There would be time later to mourn. … But first I had to manage the crisis.”
    In his new memoir “Decision Points,” President George W. Bush shares candid, never-before-heard details about his presidency. This excerpt conveys the emotions Bush felt in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the decision to go to war in Iraq.
    The Secret Service wanted to get me to Air Force One, and fast. As the motorcade charged down Florida Route 41, I called Condi from the secure phone in the limo. She told me there had been a third plane crash, this one into the Pentagon. I sat back in my seat and absorbed her words. My thoughts clarified: The first plane could have been an accident. The second was definitely an attack. The third was a declaration of war.
    My blood was boiling. We were going to find out who did this, and kick their ass. …
    … I stepped into the presidential cabin and asked to be alone. I thought about the fear that must have seized the passengers on those planes and the grief that would grip the families of the dead. So many people had lost their loved ones with no warning. I prayed that God would comfort the suffering and guide the country through this trial. I thought of the lyrics from one of my favorite hymns, “God of Grace and God of Glory”: “Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, for the facing of this hour.”
    While my emotions might have been similar to those of most Americans, my duties were not. There would be time later to mourn. There would be an opportunity to seek justice. But first I had to manage the crisis. We had suffered the most devastating surprise attack since Pearl Harbor. An enemy had struck our capital for the first time since the War of 1812. In a single morning, the purpose of my presidency had grown clear: to protect our people and defend our freedom that had come under attack …
    … The collapse of the towers magnified the catastrophe. Fifty thousand people worked in the buildings on a typical business day. Some had been evacuated, but I wondered how many were left. Thousands? Tens of thousands? I had no idea. But I was certain that I had just watched more Americans die than any president in history.
    I kept up-to-date on the latest developments by calling Dick and Condi in the PEOC (Presidential Emergency Operations Center). We tried to establish an open line, but it kept dropping. …
    … When we did receive information, it was often contradictory and sometimes downright wrong. I was experiencing the fog of war. There were reports of a bomb at the State Department, a fire on the National Mall, a hijacked Korean airliner bound for the United States, and a call-in threat to Air Force One. The caller had used the plane’s code name, Angel, which few people knew. The most bizarre report came when I was informed of a high-speed object flying toward our ranch in Crawford. All of this information later proved to be false. But given the circumstances, we took every report seriously.
    One report I received proved true. A fourth plane had gone down somewhere in Pennsylvania. “Did we shoot it down, or did it crash?” I asked Dick Cheney. Nobody knew. I felt sick to my stomach. Had I ordered the death of those innocent Americans? 

    On Wednesday, March 19, 2003, I walked into a meeting I had hoped would not be necessary.
    The National Security Council had gathered in the White House Situation Room, a nerve center of communications equipment and duty officers on the ground floor of the West Wing. The top center square of the secure video screen showed General Tommy Franks sitting with his senior deputies at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. In the other five boxes were our lead Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, and Special Operations commanders. Their counterparts from the British Armed Forces and Australian Defense Forces joined as well.
    I asked each man two questions: Do you have everything you need to win? And are you comfortable with the strategy?
    Each commander answered affirmatively.
    Tommy spoke last. “Mr. President,” the commanding general said, “this force is ready.”
    I turned to Don Rumsfeld. “Mr. Secretary,” I said, “for the peace of the world and the benefit and freedom of the Iraqi people, I hereby give the order to execute Operation Iraqi Freedom. May God bless the troops.”
    Tommy snapped a salute. “Mr. President,” he said, “may God bless America.”
    As I saluted back, the gravity of the moment hit me. For more than a year, I had tried to address the threat from Saddam Hussein without war. We had rallied an international coalition to pressure him to come clean about his weapons of mass destruction programs. We had obtained a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution making clear there would be serious consequences for continued defiance. We had reached out to Arab nations about taking Saddam into exile. I had given Saddam and his sons a final forty-eight hours to avoid war. The dictator rejected every opportunity. The only logical conclusion was that he had something to hide, something so important that he was willing to go to war for it.
    I knew the consequences my order would bring. I had wept with widows of troops lost in Afghanistan. I had hugged children who no longer had a mom or a dad. I did not want to send Americans into combat again. But after the nightmare of 9/11, I had vowed to do what was necessary to protect the country. Letting a sworn enemy of America refuse to account for his weapons of mass destruction was a risk I could not afford to take.
    I needed time to absorb the emotions of the moment. I left the Situation Room, walked up the stairs and through the Oval Office, and took a slow, silent lap around the South Lawn. I prayed for our troops, for the safety of the country, and for strength in the days ahead. Spot, our springer spaniel, bounded out of the White House toward me. It was comforting to see a friend. Her happiness contrasted with the heaviness in my heart.
    There was one man who understood what I was feeling. I sat down at my desk in the Treaty Room and scrawled out a letter:
    Dear Dad, …
    At around 9:30 a.m., I gave the order to SecDef to execute the war plan for Operation Iraqi Freedom. In spite of the fact that I had decided a few months ago to use force, if need be, to liberate Iraq and rid the country of WMD, the decision was an emotional one. …
    I know I have taken the right action and do pray few will lose life. Iraq will be free, the world will be safer. The emotion of the moment has passed and now I wait word on the covert action that is taking place.
    I know what you went through.
    Love,
    George
    MSNBC, 11-8-10

  • “Decision Points”: Other revelations from the new George W. Bush memoir: Was banned from the Princeton campus after a game where he led fellow Yalie undergrads to tear down the goalposts. (“All these years later I still haven’t been back.”) Yeah, he had been drinking.
    Climbed onstage at a 1976 Willie Nelson concert in Odessa, Tex. (“I looked like a fool up there.”) Yeah, he had been drinking.
    After he gave up drinking at 40, got seriously into running. And chocolate. “My body was screaming for sugar.”
    He and Laura were close to adopting when they found out she was pregnant with twins.
    The twins’ reaction to his presidential bid: “Dad, you’re going to lose. You’re not as cool as you think you are,” and “Why do you want to ruin our lives?”
    Knew he was going to get along with Tony and Cherie Blair when, during their first meeting at Camp David, the Brits picked “Meet the Parents” as an after-dinner movie. (“There was no stuffiness.”)
    Totally pulled Josh Bolten’s leg just before his first meeting with Bono: “Used to be married to Cher, didn’t he?”
    Vladimir Putin made a point of introducing his big black Labrador during a visit to Russia. “Bigger, stronger, and faster than Barney,” Putin smirked. Later, Canadian PM Stephen Harper told Bush, “You’re lucky he only showed you his dog.” – WaPo, 11-8-10
  • Inside Bush’s White House: A preview of W.’s memoir: Former U.S. president George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points, is due to be released next Tuesday, but excerpts are already circulating.
    Outside observers might pick his decision to go to war in Iraq, based on the non-evidence of weapons of mass destructions. But although Mr. Bush admits to “a sickening feeling” about being proved wrong, it was Kanye West’s description of him as racist that really hit home. “George W. Bush doesn’t care about black people” the rapper said during a post-Katrina telethon. Mr. Bush calls the incident “one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency.”… “Damn right,” Mr. Bush said when asked by the Central Intelligence Agency whether agents should employ the coercive and controversial interrogation technique against the terror suspect. “Had I not authorized waterboarding on senior al-Qaeda leaders, I would have had to accept a greater risk that the country would be attacked.”… 

    Says he felt “blindsided” over the Abu Ghraib scandal Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, “had told me the military was investigating reports of abuse at the prison, but I had no idea how graphic or grotesque the photos would be,” he writes. “The first time I saw them was the day they were aired on 60 Minutes II.”
    … “We were blindsided by a financial crisis that had been more than a decade in the making.” His focus, he writes, “had been kitchen-table economic issues like jobs and inflation. I assumed any major credit troubles would have been flagged by the regulators or rating agencies.”…
    Detainees were given “a personal copy of the Koran” and access to a library among whose popular offerings was “an Arabic translation of Harry Potter.”…
    “There was no way I was going to let a group of retired officers bully me into pushing out the civilian secretary of defense. It would have looked like a military coup and would have set a disastrous precedent.”… “Why hadn’t I thought of Bob?” Mr. Bush wonders….
    “While Dick helped with important parts of our base, he had become a lightning rod for criticism from the media and the left. He was seen as dark and heartless – the Darth Vader of the administration.”… “Accepting Dick’s offer would be one way to demonstrate that I was in charge.”… Mr. Cheney pushed Mr. Bush to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice-president’s former chief of staff who was convicted of lying in the CIA leak case. Mr. Bush wrestled with the decision in his final weekend at Camp David so much his wife, Laura, finally told him, “Just make up your mind. You’re ruining this for everyone.” When he decided against a pardon, Mr. Cheney was bitter: “I can’t believe you’re going to leave a soldier on the battlefield,” he said. “The comment stung,” Mr. Bush writes. “In eight years, I had never seen Dick like this, or even close to it.” – National Post, 11-5-10

  • George W. Bush on Alcohol: ‘It Became a Love’: “It became a love and, therefore, began to compete for my love with my wife and my daughters,” he said, according to People.com. “I wasn’t a knee-walkin’ drunk,” Bush said in his interview with Lauer. “I could easily have a beer or two, or a martini, before dinner, bourbons, B&Bs. I was a drinker.”
    In an interview promoting his memoir, “Decision Points,” the 43rd president said he got caught driving drunk on Labor Day weekend in 1976 after a night of “drinking no hands at a bar” — meaning he picked up and tossed back a drink using only his mouth. Bush didn’t discuss the DUI until days before the 2000 election, when it became a scandal. Trying to keep the story under wraps for so long is a choice that Bush considers “one of the top stupidest decisions I made.” “Was really a bad choice. And if I had to do it — look, you don’t get to do it over again. But if I had to do it over again, of course I would have disclosed. I mean there was nothing to hide. I — yeah, I drank too much. I had been pulled over. And I quit. It was a good story with a good ending, poorly timed.”
    “So I’m drunk at the dinner table at Mother and Dad’s house in Maine. And my brothers and sister are there, Laura’s there. And I’m sitting next to a beautiful woman, friend of Mother and Dad’s,” he said, according to the magazine. “And I said to her out loud, ‘What is sex like after 50?'” The room went silent, and Bush said his wife and mother gave him “serious daggers.” Bush said he later apologized to the woman. Though drinking took its toll, Bush says his inebriation came to an end years before his inauguration. The former president noted that he gave up drinking cold turkey on his 40th birthday in 1986 and hasn’t had a sip since…. – AOL News, 11-5-10
  • Putin to Bush: My dog bigger than yours: Russian leader Vladimir Putin once boasted to then-President George W. Bush about the size of his dog, in the ultimate of “mine-is-bigger-than-yours” stories. Former President Bush writes about the episode in his memoir, “Decision Points,” which hits book stores next Tuesday. Bush says he had introduced then-Russian President Putin to his Scottish terrier, Barney, on a visit to the U.S. presidential retreat, Camp David. Putin returned the favour when Bush visited Russia and Putin was giving him a tour of the grounds of his dacha. “A big black Labrador came charging across the lawn. With a twinkle in his eye, Vladimir said, ‘Bigger, stronger, faster than Barney,'” Bush writes. A copy of the book was obtained by Reuters. Bush says he later told the story to the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, who replied: “You’re lucky he only showed you his dog.”… – Times Live, 11-6-10
  • Drudge Report: Decision Points Excerpts & Preview: BUSH MAKES PEACE: BOOK REVEALED “It was a simple question, ‘Can you remember the last day you didn’t have a drink?'” So begins President George W. Bush in the opening chapter [“Quitting”] from the most anticipated book of the season, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal. With DECISION POINTS, set for release November 9, Bush pulls back the curtain with a strikingly personal work that takes very few shots at his critics. The former president even stays clear of Obama! – Drudge Report, 10-28-10

INTERVIEWS

     

  • West, Bush and “Today” Show Spar Over “Racist” Remark: The three-way verbal sparring began when Bush hit the promotional circuit for “Decision Points” and was asked about passages that address comments West made on a television fund-raiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina. On the program West said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” In the book and in his own interview earlier this week on “Today,” Bush told Lauer the comment upset him. “He called me a racist…I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now.”
    “Today” then pursued an interview with West, which will air on Thursday, November 11. When asked by Lauer about those past comments, West seemed to soften his stance about the former president.
    “I would tell George Bush in my moment of frustration that I didn’t have the grounds to call him a racist. But I believe that in a situation of high emotion, like that, we as human beings don’t always choose the right words,” he said.
    On Wednesday, Bush responded by saying, “I appreciate that. It wasn’t just Kanye West who was talking like that during Katrina. I cited him as an example. I cited others as an example as well. And, I appreciate that.”… – ABC News, 11-10-10
  • UPDATED: Kanye West Criticizes ‘Today’ Show for ‘Brutal’ Interview: One of several messages posted by Kanye West on his Twitter account after he taped an interview with the “Today” show. An occasionally contentious interview between Kanye West and Matt Lauer taped for NBC’s “Today” show in some ways conforms with a preemptive critique that Mr. West posted on his Twitter account, but at times appears to contradict the rapper’s fiery recollection of it.
    On Tuesday night, Mr. West wrote of an interview he recorded that morning with Mr. Lauer, a “Today” co-host. Mr. West said he intended to respond to remarks by former President George W. Bush, who has said that Mr. West’s criticism that he did not care about black people after Hurricane Katrina was “one of the most disgusting moments” of his presidency.
    Mr. West wrote on his Twitter feed, “I went up there to express how I was empathetic to Bush because I labeled him a racist and years later I got labeled as a racist.” Instead, Mr. West said, “While I was trying to give the interview they started playing the ‘MTV’ under me with audio,” referring to the incident in which Mr. West interrupted an acceptance speech by Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. In an all-caps message, Mr. West wrote that Mr. Lauer “tried to force my answers,” adding, “It was very brutal and I came there only with positive intent.”… – NYT, 11-10-10
  • Kanye called in to a Houston radio station the next day and apologized for the comments, saying, “I definitely can understand the way he feels to be accused of being a racist in any way, because the same thing happened to me,” he said, referring to criticism he got following his 2009 bum-rush of Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards. “I got accused of being a racist, and …… with both situations it was a lack of compassion that America… — Kanye West – MTV
  • Unusually reflective Bush gives his side of the story: This isn’t the George W. Bush who couldn’t come up with an answer when he was asked during a 2004 White House news conference to name his biggest mistake. Almost two years after leaving office, the former president readily lists his mistakes. He recites a litany of errors in an interview and in his new book, Decision Points: He didn’t act swiftly enough after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He should not have drawn down U.S. troops from Iraq so quickly. He wishes he had focused first on immigration instead of an unsuccessful overhaul of Social Security during his second term.
    “I readily concede I could have done things better,” he says in his first newspaper interview since leaving the presidency. To document his administration for future historians, “I had to concede that I did make mistakes, and there was no question I did.”
    Bush says he was “blindsided” by the financial meltdown that shook the nation during his final year in office, but he shares blame with Congress and defends his decisions when asked about the role of his policies in the recession.
    Bush is unusually introspective as he speaks about his administration, his feelings about being the target of mockery and the shape of his post-presidency. He makes it clear that after he promotes his book with a round of media appearances, he will step out of the spotlight again. During an hour-long interview, he never mentions President Obama’s name…. – USA Today, 11-9-10
  • Oprah Fails to Question Bush on Important Aspects of His Legacy: Former president George W. Bush being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on Nov. 11, 2010. If someone were to ask you what the dominant political issue is at the moment, you’d probably say the national debt or extension of the Bush tax cuts. The most controversial political fight of the last two years? Surely health-care reform. So, when former president George W. Bush granted a long televised interview to promote his new memoir—which is to say, as Bush attempts to polish his tarnished reputation—you’d think he would be asked about his budget- busting tax cuts and the creation of a Medicare prescription-drug benefit. You would be wrong. Like Matt Lauer Monday night, Oprah Winfrey, in her gauzy interview with Bush on Tuesday afternoon, did not ask a single question about those policies…. – Newsweek, 11-10-10
  • Bush admits mistakes, defends decisions In memoir, he candidly writes about professional, personal regrets: President George W. Bush will join Matt Lauer for a live sit-down interview on TODAY on Wednesday, Nov. 10. Former President George W. Bush admits in his memoir “Decision Points” that his 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech and his demeanor in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina were some of the professional and personal mistakes that he made. In his first one-on-one television interview since leaving the White House, the former president sat down with Matt Lauer and opened up about his regrets…. – MSNBC, 11-8-10
  • Bush recounts Katrina, WMD mistakes on talk show: George W. Bush recounted the mistakes of his presidency on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show as he launched a book tour to promote his just-released memoir “Decision Points.”
    The former president said he still feels “sick about” the fact no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq. His response to Hurricane Katrina could have been quicker, he said, and he should have landed Air Force One two days after the storm instead of viewing the destruction through the plane’s window. And he said he didn’t see the financial meltdown coming.
    The former president appeared Tuesday in a taped episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Writing the memoir, he said, “was an easy process” that has kept him busy. “A lot of people don’t think I can read, much less write,” Bush joked on the program…. – AP, 11-9-10
  • George W. Bush calls Katrina photo a ‘huge mistake’: “Let’s get to the picture that we may have seen more of you in the last couple years of your presidency than any other picture,” Lauer said. “You’re sitting in Air Force One, flying back toward Washington. You fly right over New Orleans and you look out the window.”
    “Yes,” Bush responded. “Huge mistake.”
    LAUER: Yeah. And in comes the press and they take that picture. And it made you look so out of touch.
    BUSH: Detached and uncaring. No question about it.
    LAUER: Whose fault was it?
    BUSH: It’s always my fault. I mean I was the one who should have said, A, don’t take my picture, B, let’s land in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, C, let’s don’t even come close to the area. Let’s — the next place to be seen is in Washington at a command center. I mean, it was my fault.
    LAUER: When the picture’s released you write, “I immediately knew it was a problem.”
    BUSH: Of course. I’d been around long enough to know that when it was released. And the reason why we didn’t land in Louisiana is because I was concerned that first responders would be pulled off their task and I’d be criticized. In retrospect, however, I should have touched down in Baton Rouge, met with the governor and walked out and said, “I hear you. We understand. And we’re going to help the state and help the local governments with as much resources as needed.” And then got back on a flight up to Washington. I did not do that. And paid a price for it. – Yahoo News, 11-5-10
  • Cheney angered by Bush decision on Scooter Libby pardon: Mr Bush told NBC News his decision at the end of his presidency merely to spare Libby a prison sentence rather than pardon him angered Mr Cheney. But, in a interview to promote a book, he said the friendship had recovered.
    “We are friends today,” Mr Bush said. “I was a little concerned at the time. It was a hard decision at the time but that’s what you do when you’re president, you make hard decisions.”
    Lewis Libby, also known by his nickname, “Scooter” Libby, was found guilty in March 2007 in the case connected to Mr Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Mr Bush said the prison sentence was excessive and commuted it…. – BBC News, 11-8-10
  • Bush: Mother’s miscarriage shaped pro-life views In memoir, he recalls driving her to hospital with fetus in jar: Bush writes about the miscarriage in his book, “Decision Points,” publicly disclosing it for the first time after receiving permission from his mother to do so. He sat down with Matt Lauer for his first one-on-one television interview since leaving the White House. When Barbara Bush miscarried at home, she had young George drive her to the hospital. In her lap, Barbara Bush held a jar containing the remains of the fetus, George Bush said. 0 “She says to her teenage kid, “Here’s a fetus,'” the former president told Lauer. “No question it — that affected me — my philosophy that we should respect life.” Recalling what he saw in the jar, Bush wrote, “There was a human life, a little brother or sister.”… – MSNBC, 11-8-10
  • A Content Man: In an interview with Matt Lauer, Bush describes himself as “a content man.”
    No one was more shocked or angry than I was when we didn’t find the weapons. I had a sickening feeling every time I thought about it. I still do.
    I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision… And I don’t believe it was the wrong decision.
    It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘This man’s a racist.’ I resent it. It’s not true. And it was one of the most disgusting moments in my presidency.
    I made an additional mistake by failing to adequately communicate my concern for the victims of Katrina. This was a problem of perception, not reality. My heart broke at the sight of helpless people trapped on their rooftops waiting to be rescued.
    If I invoked the Insurrection Act against [Governor Kathleen Blanco’s] wishes, the world would see a male Republican president usurping the authority of a female Democratic governor by declaring an insurrection in a largely African- American city. … I was as frustrated as I had been at any point in my presidency…. – New Yorker, 11-3-10
  • Bush won’t critique Obama (or Palin): “I want to treat my successor the way I’d like to have been treated,” Bush tells Oprah Winfrey in an interview tied to release of his memoirs, Decision Points. “I don’t think it’s good for a former president to be out there opining on every darned issue,” Bush adds. “He’s got a plenty tough job. Trust me. And there’s gonna be plenty of critics and he doesn’t need me criticizing him. And I don’t think it’s good for the presidency. Other people have a different point of view.”
    The Oprah interview airs Nov. 9, the day of the book’s official release.
    Here, according to a transcript provided by Oprah’s people, Winfrey tries to draw out Bush on Sarah Palin: OPRAH: So your brother Jeb was recently asked by CNN if he would support Sarah Palin for president. Did you hear that? In 2012. PRES. BUSH: Yeah.
    OPRAH: And he responded, “You betcha.” Do you think that Sarah Palin is the one for the Republican party in 2012?
    PRES. BUSH: You know, I am not a political pundit. I’m really not. And secondly, a lot is gonna happen between now and the nominating process. I — I have no clue.
    OPRAH: I’m not asking you to pundit.
    PRES. BUSH: Yeah, you are.
    OPRAH: I’m just asking you your opinion.
    PRES. BUSH: You’re asking me to wade back into the swamp.
    OPRAH: Come on in. Come on in.
    USA Topday, 11-6-10

THE PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH: A FIRST HISTORICAL ASSESSMENT

     

  • The historians whose essays appear in this book do not attempt to resolve this debate. The chapters catalogue some of the successes of the administration, ranging from counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda between 2001 and The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment JPG 2003 through AIDS policy in Africa to the appointment of minorities to prominent government positions. They also examine some of the failures, including the damage caused by the war in Iraq, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, and the devastating collapse of financial markets following years of deregulation in the fall of 2008. Rather than speculate whether he was the worst or the best president in U.S. history, the contributors have attempted to place the Bush White House in a broader historical perspective by understanding his presidency in relationship to the conservative movement.The authors of the essays in this book are trying to write a first take on the history of this period, but one that builds on the rich literature on the history of conservatism in modern America. We hope the essays provoke further investigation. Since this is an early effort to write the history of the George W. Bush presidency, the work is necessarily incomplete. We do not yet have access to some archival materials that will become available in the future. Yet, in addition to the substantial documentation instantaneously available in the age of the Internet, the contributors also have the advantage of producing this interpretation at a time when the emotions and sentiment and context of President Bush’s actions are still vivid. We hope these essays offer the opening to a conversation that will continue for centuries. — Julian E. Zelizer in “The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment”
  • Julian Zelizer: Five myths about George W. Bush: I am very much looking forward to this chat about President George W. Bush and his legacy. In several of my recent publications, including an article in the Washington Post yesterday and a new book that I edited, The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment, I have tried to move beyond some of the existing debate. Rather than answer whether Bush is the “best or worst” president or to repeat discussions about why people hated or loved him, the time has come to start understanding what actually happened when he was in office, to place these events and personalities in broader context, and to start understanding his presidency in relationship to President Obama’s.
    Besides some of the more familiar issues that shaped his presidency, such as 9/11 and the war on terrorism, looking back from 2010 raises new kinds of questions that might not have been as obvious at the time that his term ended: What impact did Bush have on the conservative movement? What was the relationship between deregulation during these years and the economic collapse in 2008? How did the economic policies of the period influence economic inequality? What was the relationship between President Bush and congressional Republicans? How did Bush overcome some of the obstacles that Obama has struggled in the political process? Did the Bush Doctrine really constitute as much as a turning point in U.S. foreign policy as it seemed at the time? How do we evaluate the impact of the Surge–and what did the decision-making behind that policy tell us about how the White House worked? How did President Bush come to push for a substantial expansion of government–through TARP–in the middle of the economic crisis? What impact did the 2006 elections have on the politics of his presidency? Which policies will outlast his presidency and why?
    Obviously these are just a few questions and there are many more to discuss. But the time has come to start thinking more seriously about this two-term president and the impact that he had on the nation. It is also to start developing a more sophisticated understanding of the roots of this administration rather than writing about these years as if everything started in 2001…. – WaPo, 11-8-10
  • “An all-star cast of historians examines the perplexing presidency of George W. Bush–the ‘compassionate conservative’ who frequently ended up allied with the hard right, the ‘uniter’ who presided over one of the nation’s most divisive political eras, the advocate of ‘humility’ on the world stage who fiercely championed unilateral presidential powers. After the journalists and pundits have had their say, the historians are here to put Bush’s tumultuous tenure in historical perspective. An essential resource for anyone seeking to understand contemporary American politics.” — Jacob S. Hacker, coauthor of Winner-Take-All Politics and Off Center
  • “With clarity and precision, some of America’s most prominent historians of politics, law, and international relations examine the controversial presidency of George W. Bush. Their assessments of Bush’s administration are sober, rigorous, and eye-opening. Together these essays will provide a foundation for the next generation of scholarship on early twenty-first-century America.” — Thomas J. Sugrue, author of Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race
  • “George W. Bush once stated that ‘we’ll all be dead’ by the time history casts its judgment on his presidency. Instead, in this engaging and timely portrait of the Bush era, eleven leading scholars assess the ‘war on terror,’ the resurrection of the imperial presidency, the effects of tax cuts and corporate deregulation, and other foreign and domestic policies promoted by big-government conservatism. While acknowledging the administration’s political accomplishments, the contributors to this volume emphasize the ultimate failures of the Bush presidency and the conservative movement’s strategies of governance.” — Matthew D. Lassiter, University of Michigan
  • “Analytically shrewd and historically rich, this harvest of a book convenes a group of leading historians to assess the country’s recent past. Ranging from tax cuts to terrorism, and encompassing questions of ideology, multiculturalism, and presidential capacity, the contributions to this volume establish the scope and agenda for future studies of George W. Bush’s tumultuous presidency.” — Ira Katznelson, Columbia University
  • “This impressive collection features brilliant essays by some of America’s best historians on the presidency of George W. Bush. It’s all here–from the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision that sealed Bush’s first-term victory to the stunning financial crisis that closed his tenure in office. This stimulating and highly accessible volume is must reading for scholars, journalists, and concerned citizens.” — Eric M. Patashnik, author of Reforms at Risk
  • “This is a superb collection of essays. I am impressed with the range of issues they cover and the lucidity with which each essay illuminates a particular topic. Their interleaved and overlapping evidence reminds a general reader of the layers of meaning embedded in every political decision taken by the Bush administration–and the sometimes unfortunate consequences. This is an important and timely book.” — Alice Kessler-Harris, author of In Pursuit of Equity

HISTORIANS’ VIEW

     

  • Bush Releases Memoir: ‘He Knows the Historians Are Coming’: In his new memoir “Decision Points,” former President George W. Bush explains some of the tough decisions he made while in office, including how he dealt with 9/11, the lack of weapons of mass destruction and Hurricane Katrina. Historians Michael Beschloss and Julian Zelizer give perspective on presidential memoirs…. – PBS Newshour, 11-10-10
  • Kanye West, George W. Bush Clash Doesn’t Surprise Historian: Bush is ‘trying to show he’s not coming out of a racist tradition,’ political author says….
    “For the last 40 years, pop culture has become much more important in politics,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and a leading figure in the field of American political history. “[It’s become about] how a president fits into pop culture and his relationship to some stars, whose political activism has increased over the past 40 years. … I do think the lines between celebrity culture and political culture have thinned.”…
    Zelizer — author of books about the presidencies of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — said Bush’s revelation that West’s remark hurt his feelings is a remarkable moment in the confluence of West Wing and pop culture.
    “That it elicited the kind of emotion that nothing else does, even criticism about torture … part of it is a celebrity attacking him, but it’s also a bigger issue that bothers [Bush]. This idea that he’s trying to show he’s not coming out of a racist tradition and distinguish himself, that shows a broader frustration about how he’s perceived,” Zelizer said… But when they clash with pop-culture figures, Zelizer said, it’s a testament to the power of both players. “It’s not beneath the president” to beef with a star, he said. Whereas in the past presidents might not have bothered to respond to such slights, or would have ignored them, some modern Oval Office residents have weighed in, even when they’re not the subject of the dis….
    “The reality is, like it or not, that celebrities have lots of influence in contemporary life,” he said. “In theory, it might be beneath them [to respond to stars’ attacks] because there are other things they should be worried about, but presidents will take it personally. It will get to them, maybe more by being attacked by Kanye West than a member of Congress because of the reality of the world we live in.” – MTV, 11-10-10
  • Julian Zelizer: 5 myths about George W. Bush: September 11. Katrina. Iraq. These events will be forever linked with the presidency of George W. Bush. Now, with the release of his memoir, “Decision Points,” the former president has the chance to defend his record and explain his actions. But as historians and the public alike look back on the Bush White House, will we be able to move past the persistent myths that endure about those tumultuous eight years?…
    1. George W. Bush was an uninformed Texas cowboy….
    2. Compassionate conservatism was just a campaign slogan….
    3. Bush committed America to nation-building projects in Iraq and Afghanistan….
    4. Dick Cheney ran the Bush White House….
    5. Bush left conservatism in ruins.
    WaPo, 11-3-10
  • Shrub Studies: Next week, Crown Publishers will issue President George W. Bush’s memoir Decision Points, covering what the former president calls “eight of the most consequential years in American history,” which seems like a fair description. They were plenty consequential. To judge from the promotional video, Bush will plumb the depths of his insight that it is the role of a president to be “the decider.” Again, it’s hard to argue with his point — though you have to wonder if he shouldn’t let his accumulated wisdom ripen and mellow for a while before serving it.
    Princeton University Press has already beat him into print with The Presidency of George W. Bush: A First Historical Assessment, edited by Julian E. Zelizer, who is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton. The other 10 contributors are professors of history, international relations, law, and political science, and they cover the expected bases — the “War on Terror,” the invasion of Iraq, social and economic policy, religion and race. It is a scholarly book, which means that it is bound to make everybody mad. People on the left get angry at remembering the Bush years, while those on the right grow indignant that anyone still wants to talk about them. So the notion that they were consequential is perhaps not totally uncontroversial after all.
    The contributors make three points about the Bush administration’s place in the history of American conservatism that it may be timely to sum up, just now…. – Inside Higher Ed, 11-3-10
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June 28, 2010: Obama at the G20, Passing Financial Reform & Kagan’s Confirmation Hearings Begin

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:

President Obama Commends Congress for Finalizing Wall Street

President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press regarding the congressional agreement on Financial Reform from the South Lawn of the White House June 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • President Obama at the G8 in Photos: The President spent today at the G8 Summit in Canada, which focused amongst other things on the Muskoka Initiative on maternal and child health (MCH). See an array of photos from the day below…. – WH, 6-25-10
  • Poll: Obama’s ratings fall amid Gulf oil spill: President Barack Obama’s job performance rating has dropped to the lowest level of his presidency as Americans grow less confident in his leadership, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday. Obama’s rating stood at 45 percent in the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, down 5 points from early last month. For the first time in the survey, more people — 48 percent — say they disapprove of Obama’s job performance. A majority of respondents, 62 percent, said the country was on the wrong track. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed rate Obama positively on “strong leadership qualities,” down from 70 percent when he became president and a drop of 8 points since January…. – Reuters, 6-23-10
  • GOP: generic optimism over poll: Republicans must be giddy over the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Thanks to the BP oil spill in the gulf, the administration’s problems getting a public handle on the disaster and the stubborn economy, President Obama’s job approval rating dropped from 50 percent last month to 45 percent now. His disapproval rating is now 48 percent. To make matters worse, 60 percent of those polled say the nation is on the wrong track. Republicans surely are smiling over who poll respondents said they wanted ruling Congress after the November midterms. For the second survey in a row the GOP came out on top. They were favored 45 to 43 over Democrats. WaPo, 6-25-10
  • Confidence Waning in Obama, U.S. Outlook: Americans are more pessimistic about the state of the country and less confident in President Barack Obama’s leadership than at any point since Mr. Obama entered the White House, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The survey also shows grave and growing concerns about the Gulf oil spill, with overwhelming majorities of adults favoring stronger regulation of the oil industry and believing that the spill will affect the nation’s economy and environment. Sixty-two percent of adults in the survey feel the country is on the wrong track, the highest level since before the 2008 election. Just one-third think the economy will get better over the next year, a 7-point drop from a month ago and the low point of Mr. Obama’s tenure. WSJ, 6-23-10
  • Cherry-picking polls: Obama’s leadership numbers tumble and would you believe Senator Charlie Crist?: As one result, a new CBS News Poll finds most Americans believe Obama reacted too slowly to the catastrophe (61%) and has no clear plan to deal with it (59% nationwide, 64% in the gulf area). Forty-five percent say Obama has no clear plan for developing new energy sources and 54% still say he has no clear plan for developing new jobs, 16 months after he signed his own massive jobs plan and numerous expensive sales trips to sell its benefits…. – LAT, 6-22-10
  • Rasmussen: McCain 47%, Hayworth 36%: Longtime Senator John McCain continues to lead Arizona’s Republican Primary by double digits but remains in the same narrow range of support he’s drawn since January. The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters in the state Voters shows McCain picking up 47% support, while challenger J.D.Hayworth earns the vote from 36%. Navy veteran and Tea Party activist Jim Deakin picks up seven percent (7%) support. One percent (1%) like another candidate in the race, and eight percent (8%) are undecided…. – Tucson Weekly, 6-22-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama talks with President Dmitry Medvedev of

President Barack Obama talks with President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada as as they walk with other G8 leaders at the G8 Summit in Muskoka, Canada June 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Robert Byrd, Respected Voice of the Senate, Dies at 92: Robert C. Byrd, who used his record tenure as a United States senator to fight for the primacy of the legislative branch of government and to build a modern West Virginia with vast amounts of federal money, died at about 3 a.m. Monday, his office said. He was 92. He had been in failing health for several years. Mr. Byrd served 51 years in the Senate, longer than anyone in American history, and with his six years in the House, he was the longest-serving member of Congress. He held a number of Senate offices, including majority and minority leader and president pro tem. But the post that gave him the most satisfaction was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with its power of the purse — a post he gave up only last year as his health declined. A New Deal Democrat, Mr. Byrd used the position in large part to battle persistent poverty in West Virginia, which he called “one of the rock bottomest of states.”… – NYT, 6-28-10
  • M.D. Ginsburg, 78, Dies; Lawyer and Tax Expert: Martin D. Ginsburg, a tax lawyer and professor of tax law and the husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court, died Sunday at his home in Washington. He was 78. The cause was cancer, according to a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court, which announced the death…. – NYT, 6-28-10
  • Obama’s G20 Attendance Signifies Debt Reduction Plan: The G20 Summit in Toronto has been taking place, ensuring that world leader’s from 20 of the largest countries have been able to discuss some of the key issues concerning international finance.
    One of the main issues has been the deficits which many countries are having to contend with – the UK included. Britain has recently announced that they are going to be making billions of dollars worth of cuts to their public sector, in order to try and reduce the public sector net borrowing deficit.
    Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to reducing America’s deficit today, agreeing with other nations at the event to reduce oustanding debt by half over a three-year period. However, the President warned about how being too proactive over this matter could result in what is known as a ‘double dip’ recession, meaning that previous economic difficulties could return on a far worse scale. As it is, some European leaders believe that Barack Obama’s plans are ineffective in some ways, particularly because of how levels of unemployment in America have remained fairly constant…. – News Quench, 6-27-10
  • Oops! Joe Biden’s smart mouth gives GOP more ammo with botched Wisconsin trip: Would you call it a disastrous trip? Maybe not disastrous, but memorable. You will hear about Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to the Wisconsin custard shop many times over the course of the next five months. The simple campaign-like stop will give conservatives even more ammunition in an upcoming midterm election season that already looks ominous for President Obama…. – LAT, 6-27-10
  • Obama’s high court pick Kagan faces Senate hearing: Elena Kagan, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, faces a potential grilling by Republicans as she begins her Senate confirmation hearing on Monday even as Obama rejected as “pretty thin gruel” arguments advanced by her critics.
    Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee that will hold the hearings, made it clear that Kagan can expect tough questioning on whether she has what it takes to be a Supreme Court justice. “This is a confirmation, not a coronation,” said Sessions, appearing on Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “She has the least experience of any nominee at least in the last 50 years,” Sessions said…. – Reuters, 6-28-10
  • White House launches plan to boost broadband: U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to free up airways would nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum currently available for wireless devices, an administration official said on Monday. The plan would make available 500 megahertz of federal and commercial spectrum over the next 10 years, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity…. – Reuters, 6-28-10
  • Palin in Tyler: Says Obama falls short on leadership: Sarah Palin fired up an enthusiastic Texas crowd late Saturday by criticizing President Barack Obama’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, saying he’s falling short on leadership. “You asked for the job, Mr. President, so buck up,” Palin said to voracious applause inside the nearly packed Oil Palace. Organizers said the event drew about 5,000 people…. – AP, 6-27-10
  • US legislation could help Obama at G-8 talks: President Obama came to the summit table this weekend with a strong hand to press his case to foreign leaders for tougher financial regulations, after Congress agreed to a far-reaching overhaul of the American regulatory system. The opposite is true for his effort to persuade other governments to keep stimulating their economies rather than attacking deficits. While Congress allowed Obama to pack the big victory on banking regulation as he left for the Group of 20 summit, the Senate separately dealt him a significant setback that no doubt resonated with the foreign leaders here pushing fiscal austerity: Democratic leaders shelved an economic stimulus package of aid for the long-term unemployed and financially squeezed states, along with assorted tax cuts…. – NYT, 6-27-10
  • Senate Democrats poised to start energy bill: Legislation could include a carbon cap on utility companies. Many Democrats hope a summer discussion on energy will establish a strong contrast with Republicans before this fall’s election… – LAT, 6-27-10
  • GOP: Obama’s panel is biased Critics contend spill inquiry panel has no oil experts, only drilling foes: The presidential commission investigating offshore drilling safety and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill came under fresh fire Thursday with Republicans accusing President Barack Obama of stacking it with environmental activists. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., charged the Obama administration with keeping oil and gas drilling experts off its seven-member commission in favor of people who philosophically oppose offshore exploration. And Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, said there was a huge conflict of interest in putting environmental advocates on a panel responsible for investigating the spill and recommending new safety mandates for offshore drilling…. – Houston Chronicle, 6-27-10
  • Specter ready to press Kagan to take a stand: Elena Kagan wrote 15 years ago that Supreme Court confirmation hearings had become a “vapid and hollow charade” filled with blather instead of rigorous thought. For a lifetime appointment, she argued, there should be a substantial exchange of ideas. When her own turn before the Senate Judiciary Committee begins Monday, however, Kagan probably will stick to platitudes…. – Philadelphia Inquirer, 6-27-10
  • 3 Democrats urge U.S. to not sue Arizona: A trio of U.S. House Democrats from Arizona is making a last-ditch effort to discourage President Barack Obama’s administration from suing the state over its controversial new illegal-immigration law. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords support a comprehensive approach to border security and immigration reform, something Congress has failed to pass despite years of trying. All three, who could find themselves in difficult re-election battles this year, want the administration to focus on practical steps to repair the broken U.S. immigration system and shore up border security instead of suing Arizona. A federal legal challenge could come from the Justice Department as early as this week…. – The Arizona Republic, 6-27-10
  • ‘McChrystal downbeat on Afghan war before sacking’: US General Stanley McChrystal issued a highly critical assessment of the war in Afghanistan just days before he was sacked by President Barack Obama, a British newspaper reported Sunday. The Independent on Sunday said leaked military documents showed McChrystal had briefed defence ministers from the countries involved in the war earlier this month and warned them to expect no progress in the next six months…. – AFP, 6-27-10
  • Vice President Biden to visit Gulf Coast region to see BP’s oil spill first hand: Vice President Biden will visit the Gulf Coast on Tuesday to check on progress in the ongoing fight against the massive oil spill, officials said Friday. Biden will visit the National Incident Command Center in New Orleans and the Florida Panhandle, where miles of beach are closed as murky plumes of oil loom not far offshore. The trip will be the vice president’s first since the crisis in the Gulf began. President Obama has visited the region four times in recent months…. – NY Daily News, 6-26-10
  • GOP: Schwarzenegger ‘a great disappointment’: Gov. has few friends in Calif. party, massive deficit, low approval ratings… – WaPo, MSNBC, 6-26-10
  • Former VP Cheney hospitalized: Former Vice President Dick Cheney was admitted to the hospital Friday after experiencing discomfort, the latest health scare for the 69-year-old Republican leader who has a long history of heart disease. Cheney was expected to remain at George Washington University Hospital over the weekend, said spokesman Peter Long…. – AP, 6-25-10
  • Democrats Fix Strategy for Undefined Climate and Energy Bill: Emotions surged during a “thrilling” caucus gathering in which Democrats plotted to bring a vote on climate legislation to the floor this summer. They promised to challenge resistant Republicans to oppose a measure focusing on polluters as oil from the site of an exploded rig continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.
    But the party faces the same thorny questions it did before the rousing “rank and file uprising,” as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) described the meeting. The questions include whether Democrats have enough support among their own members to impose a price on greenhouse gas emissions…. – NYT, 6-25-10
  • Lawmakers Agree on Wall Street’s Biggest Overhaul Since 1930s: Congressional negotiators today approved the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. financial regulation since the Great Depression, reshaping oversight of Wall Street and some of its most opaque concoctions. Lawmakers from the House and Senate worked through the night in a 20-hour session to reach deals on two of their most far-reaching and contentious proposals — a ban on proprietary trading by banks and new oversight of the derivatives market. This month, they’ve also agreed on measures to wind down big firms whose collapse might shake markets, to keep tabs on hedge funds and to make it easier for investors to sue credit raters.
    “This is going to be a very strong bill, and stronger than almost everybody predicted that it could be and that I, frankly, thought it would be,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, told reporters June 23 as lawmakers prepared for the final round of talks…. – Bloomberg, 6-25-10
  • House, Senate lawmakers reach a deal on financial reform: The sweeping legislation, an attempt to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis, would create a consumer protection bureau, impose tough regulations on derivatives and grant the government power to seize and dismantle teetering firms… – LAT, 6-25-10
  • Congress Fails to Pass an Extension of Jobless Aid: Legislation to extend unemployment subsidies for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits teetered on the edge of collapse on Thursday, as Senate Democrats and Republicans traded bitter accusations about who was to blame for an eight-week impasse. Senate Republicans and a lone Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, joined forces to filibuster the bill in a procedural vote on Thursday. Visibly frustrated, the majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said he would move on to other business next week because he saw little chance of winning over any Republican votes. The vote was 57 to 41, with the Democrats falling three short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure. “You’ll hear a lot of excuses,” Mr. Reid said at a news conference. “The bottom line is the minority just said no.”… – NYT, 6-25-10
  • House OKs campaign-spending disclosure bill: Democrats in Congress, scrambling to rein in special-interest spending before November’s midterm elections, pushed through a bill Thursday that would require CEOs to appear in campaign ads they fund and impose broad new disclosure rules on political spending. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives by a 219-206 vote, was opposed by most Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, who cast it as violating free-speech protections and riddled with loopholes for powerful groups, such as the National Rifle Association and labor unions. The measure’s prospects are uncertain in the Senate, where Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to pass a bill over Republican objections. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the chamber’s top Republican, Thursday assailed the proposal as “protecting incumbent Democratic politicians.”… – USA Today, 6-25-10
  • Obama, new Australian prime minister speak about war: Australia’s new prime minister pledged her commitment to the war in Afghanistan during a phone call with President Obama, the two leaders said. “I assured President Obama that my approach to Afghanistan will continue the approach taken to date by the Australian government,” said Julia Gillard, Australia’s new prime minister, on Friday. “I fully support the current deployment and I indicated to President Obama that he should expect to see the Australian effort in Afghanistan continuing.”
    During the talk, Obama and Gillard “underscored their shared commitment to closely work together on the broad range of global challenges confronting both countries, including in Afghanistan,” the White House statement said… – CNN, 6-25-10
  • CNN, 6-24-10
  • Short, Tense Deliberation, Then a General Is Gone: By the time he woke up Wednesday morning, President Obama had made up his mind. During the 36 frenetic hours since he had been handed an article from the coming issue of Rolling Stone ominously headlined “The Runaway General,” the president weighed the consequences of cashiering Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, whose contemptuous comments about senior officials had ignited a firestorm. Mr. Obama, aides say, consulted with advisers — some, like Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who warned of the dangers of replacing General McChrystal, others, like his political advisers, who thought he had to go. He reached out for advice to a soldier-statesman, Colin L. Powell. He identified a possible successor to lead the war in Afghanistan. And then, finally, the president ended General McChrystal’s command in a meeting that lasted only 20 minutes. According to one aide, the general apologized, offered his resignation and did not lobby for his job. After a seesaw debate among White House officials, “there was a basic meeting of the minds,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and a major player in the deliberations. “This was not good for the mission, the military and morale,” Mr. Emanuel said…. – NYT, 6-24-10
  • Oregon woman accused Gore of sexual misconduct in 2006: Law officials say former Vice President Al Gore was accused of “unwanted sexual contact” during a visit to Portland in October 2006. Authorities in Portland investigated in late 2006 and early 2007 whether former Vice President Al Gore sexually assaulted a masseuse while visiting that city, but the matter was dropped for lack of evidence, officials said Wednesday…. – Seattle Times, 6-23-10
  • Dems exploit Barton apology to BP in election push: In need of political momentum, Democrats are exploiting Republican Rep. Joe Barton’s startling apology to Gulf oil spiller BP for its treatment by the Obama administration, launching a steady, low-budget campaign of fundraising appeals, a pair of television commercials and Web ads. Little more than four months before midterm elections, party officials appear to be testing ways to maximize the gain from an episode that ricocheted across the Capitol at a furious pace last week, and that Republicans deemed significant enough to force Barton to recant his remarks…. – AP, 6-23-10
  • Obama seeks new drill ban as oil still spews: The White House was set on Wednesday to step up its legal battle to keep deepwater drilling on hold in the Gulf of Mexico following the worst oil spill in U.S. history. A U.S. judge on Tuesday overturned a six-month ban on drilling in water deeper than 500 feet (152 metres) after an appeal by drillers who stand to lose business… – Reuters, 6-23-10
  • SPIN METER: Defining ‘border security’: You wouldn’t know it from the public debate, but the U.S.-Mexico border is more fortified now than it was even five years ago. Far more agents patrol it, more fences, barriers and technology protect it and taxpayers are spending billions more to reinforce it. Despite those efforts, calls for increased border security are elbowing out cries for an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws and inducing Congress and the administration to spend even more money on border enforcement…. – AP, 6-23-10
  • Obama requests $600 million for border security: The president’s emergency funding request would pay for more Border Patrol agents, drones, National Guard troops and more…. – LAT, 6-22-10
  • Obama Says Health Law Shouldn’t Be Excuse to Raise Rates: President Obama, whose vilification of insurers helped push a landmark health care overhaul through Congress, warned industry executives at the White House on Tuesday not to use the bill “as an opportunity to enact unjustifiable rate increases that don’t boost care and inflate their bottom line.” Mr. Obama made his remarks in the East Room of the White House after a private meeting with executives of leading health insurance companies and with state insurance commissioners who regulate them. As the new law is being implemented, the White House wanted to issue a pointed reminder to insurers — and the public — that the president intends to monitor the industry’s behavior.
    “There are genuine cost drivers that are not caused by insurance companies,” Mr. Obama said. “But what is also true is that we’ve got to make sure that this new law is not being used as an excuse to simply drive up costs.”… – NYT, 6-22-10
  • Hoyer: Permanent middle class tax cuts too costly: A top House Democrat said Tuesday that tax increases will eventually be necessary to address the nation’s mounting debt, raising a difficult election-year issue as Democrats fight retain control of Congress. In the near term, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer raised the possibility that Congress will only temporarily extend middle-class tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year. He pointedly suggested that making them permanent would be too costly…. – AP, 6-20-10
  • AP source: White House budget chief stepping down: White House Budget Director Peter Orszag’s expected resignation would make him the first high-profile member of President Barack Obama’s team to depart the administration. A Democratic official said Monday that Orszag is expected to leave in the coming months, although the exact timing is not known. The official confirmed the news to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it had not been announced…. – AP, 6-22-10
  • A White House “shakedown?” A lot of House Republicans agree: Republican Rep. Joe Barton’s apology to BP last week for what he called a “shakedown” by President Obama to pay for the gushing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico barely caused a ripple among local Republican House members. Is it because they agree with him? The White House had worked out a deal with BP that the oil giant would create a $20 billion compensation fund. But Barton, a senior Texas Republican and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, apologized to BP. “I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” he told BP executives at a hearing. “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown…I apologize.” Kansas City Star, 6-22-10
  • High court upholds anti-terror law prized by Obama: The Supreme Court upheld the government’s authority Monday to ban aid to designated terrorist groups, even when that support is intended to steer the groups toward peaceful and legal activities….
    The justices voted 6-3 to reject a free-speech challenge from humanitarian aid groups to the law that bars “material support” — everything from money to technical know-how to legal advice — to foreign terrorist organizations…. – AP, 6-21-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Despite opposition, Texas two-step primary process prevails: The unique Texas two-step primary process scooted forward, despite a move Saturday to scrap the system that was overwhelmed by overflow crowds in 2008. Boyd Richie, accompanied by wife Betty, was reinstated as state chairman Saturday during the Texas Democratic Party’s convention in Corpus Christi. Texas Democrats meeting at their state convention upheld the dual primary vote and caucus system called the two- step. Delegates also reinstated Boyd Richie as state chairman and adopted a policy statement that endorses the new federal health care law…. – Dallas News, 6-27-10
  • McCain will join 2 GOP debates: Sen. John McCain’s re-election campaign on Friday announced that he has accepted two invitations to debate Republican primary opponents J.D. Hayworth and Jim Deakin next month. McCain has agreed to 7 p.m. televised debates on July 16 on Phoenix’s Channel 3 (KTVK) and on July 17 on the “Arizona Illustrated” program on Tucson PBS affiliate Channel 6 (KUAT). Early voting for the Aug. 24 GOP primary starts July 29. The Arizona Republic, 6-26-10
  • Texas Democrats to rally at convention: After traveling for months courting all types of Texas voters, Democrat Bill White will try to ignite excitement among party loyalists with his starring role at the Democratic Party’s state convention.
    “The face of the party looks much like the face of the state. So this is an opportunity for people in different parts of the state to get to know each other and to resolve we want an election that will put Texas first,” White said this week. He’s urging delegates to recruit friends and neighbors, even those who don’t always vote for Democrats.
    That kind of support from independent voters is what White will need in November in conservative Texas, where Republicans have dominated state politics since sweeping all statewide elections in 1998 and where incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry is the fall favorite… – AP, 6-25-10
  • Navy exaggerations damage Ill. Senate candidate: Republican Mark Kirk has stepped on a political landmine of his own creation, leaving him as damaged as his Democratic opponent in the race for an Illinois Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. Kirk, a 21-year veteran in the Navy Reserve, was caught exaggerating his military record. He claimed an award he didn’t win. He mentioned serving in overseas conflicts while he was safely in the United States. He stretched the facts when talking about combat and coming under fire. And his troubles don’t end there: Even his references to being a teacher are being questioned. Two months ago, it was Kirk’s Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, who was on the ropes. Federal regulators had taken over his family’s Chicago bank, Broadway Bank, which had grown insolvent because of bad loans and a bad economy. Stories about the bank lending money to criminals were resurrected, leading Republicans to start calling Giannoulias a “mob banker.”…. – AP, 6-24-10
  • South Carolina Republicans buck biases in runoff election: The conservative state’s GOP nominates Nikki Haley for governor and Tim Scott for Congress in a runoff vote. Mississippi, North Carolina and Utah also hold nomination contests for November’s midterms…. – LAT, 6-23-10
  • Inglis becomes fifth congressional casualty of anti-incumbent year: South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis became the latest victim of the anti-incumbent wave Tuesday, losing his bid for a seventh term to GOP rival Trey Gowdy. Prosecutor Trey Gowdy has just made six-term incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis the fifth congressional incumbent to fall prey to this year’s anti-incumbent tide. Gowdy has defeated the veteran South Carolina lawmaker in a runoff for the GOP nomination, the Associated Press reports…. – USA Today, 6-22-10
  • Matheson cruises to victory: Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, easily held off his first-ever primary challenge Tuesday and will get a shot at a sixth term. With 98 percent of precincts counted by press time, Matheson led 2nd Congressional District Democratic challenger Claudia Wright 68 percent to 32 percent. Republican Morgan Philpot awaits in the Nov. 2 general election…. – The Salt Lake Tribune, 6-23-10
  • Lee wins Utah GOP Senate nomination: Utah Republicans chose their nominee for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, selecting a legal scholar who grew up in a family of lawyers and fondly recalls discussing the Constitution over childhood dinners. Mike Lee is the overwhelming favorite to win in November and replace Sen. Bob Bennett, who was ousted at the Republican convention in May amid a wave of anti-incumbent rage around the country. Lee and businessman Tim Bridgewater beat out Bennett at the convention to advance to Tuesday’s primary. Lee won on Tuesday, earning a nearly a 5,000 vote lead with 84 percent of precincts reporting for about 51 percent of the vote…. – AP, 6-23-1-
  • Gowdy knocks Inglis out of office: Seventh Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg has knocked U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis out of the 4th Congressional seat. Several hundred Gowdy supporters are celebrating at the Chapman Cultural Center in downtown Spartanburg. The solicitor was the leader in the Republican Primary two weeks ago, and once again bested Inglis tonight, scoring well with voters in the congressman’s home county of Greenville. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Gowdy had 51,541 votes (70 percent). Inglis garnered 21,898 votes (30 percent)…. – Go Up State, 6-22-10
  • Harold Johnson wins 8th District GOP race Newcomer rides recognition, party endorsements to primary victory: Former sportscaster Harold Johnson defeated businessman Tim D’Annunzio Tuesday after an expensive and combative 8th District congressional primary that saw party leaders go to extraordinary lengths in supporting him. Johnson, who turns 69 next week, was winning about 61 percent of the vote in unofficial returns. He piled up big margins in the district’s western portion, including Cabarrus County, which offset D’Annunzio’s support in the east. Johnson now faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell and Libertarian Thomas Hill in the 10-county district that stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville…. – Charlotte Observer, 6-23-10
  • Elaine Marshall, William Randall score runoff election wins in Person County: Despite a low voter turnout, two candidates emerged victorious in a pair of runoff elections in Person County Tuesday and the two also appeared headed to wins statewide as of press time for today’s edition. The runoff contests were between two Democrats vying to challenge Richard Burr this fall for his seat in the U.S. Senate and two Republicans battling for the U.S. House of Representatives District 13 seat, now occupied by Democrat Brad Miller. The Democratic runoff featured Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham. Marshall was North Carolina’s secretary of state for over 10 years and Cunningham is a former state senator from Lexington. In the Republican runoff, William (Bill) Randall and Bernie Reeves faced off to determine who would move on to face Burr, who easily defeated his three Republican challengers in May…. – Roxboro Courier, 6-23-10
  • Primary/Runoff Day in Utah, South and North Carolina: What to Watch ForWaPo, 6-22-10
  • Utah Republican Senate primary could be a test for tea party: As a test of the “tea party” movement’s ability to galvanize voters for a single chosen candidate, Utah’s GOP Senate primary Tuesday is likely to deliver a mixed message. Republicans Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee survived a bruising convention in May that knocked out incumbent Sen. Robert F. Bennett and gave the tea party and other conservative groups bragging rights as a dragon-slayer. Now, most of those groups — but not all of them — have rallied around Lee, a 38-year-old lawyer. But Bridgewater, 49, is even or ahead in several polls…. – WaPo, 6-22-10
  • Cuomo, Lazio toked pot in youth: New York governor candidates Andrew Cuomo and Rick Lazio say they have both smoked marijuana in their youth. The question is, does anyone care? Maurice Carroll of the Quinnipiac University poll answers with a loud “no.” AP, 6-22-10
  • McCain Is Now Running Just to Stay in Place: But less than two years after he was defeated by Barack Obama, nothing seems quite the same for Senator John McCain, who has gone from being his party’s candidate for president rallying 1,000 supporters at a Florida football stadium to furiously defending his Senate seat before 60 recession-weary residents in a Hampton Inn in Lake Havasu, Ariz…. – NYT, 6-22-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President Records the Weekly Address
  • Elena Kagan’s Opening Statement: Excerpts: “Mr. Chairman, the law school I had the good fortune to lead has a kind of motto, spoken each year at graduation. We tell the new graduates that they are ready to enter a profession devoted to “those wise restraints that make us free.” That phrase has always captured for me the way law, and the rule of law, matters. What the rule of law does is nothing less than to secure for each of us what our Constitution calls “the blessings of liberty” – those rights and freedoms, that promise of equality, that have defined this nation since its founding. And what the Supreme Court does is to safeguard the rule of law, through a commitment to even-handedness, principle, and restraint.
    “The idea is engraved on the very face of the Supreme Court building: Equal Justice Under Law. It means that everyone who comes before the Court – regardless of wealth or power or station – receives the same process and the same protections. What this commands of judges is even-handedness and impartiality. What it promises is nothing less than a fair shake for every American.
    “[T]he Supreme Court is a wondrous institution. But the time I spent in the other branches of government remind me that it must also be a modest one – properly deferential to the decisions of the American people and their elected representatives. What I most took away from those experiences was simple admiration for the democratic process. That process is often messy and frustrating, but the people of this country have great wisdom, and their representatives work hard to protect their interests. The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the Court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”
    “I’ve led a school whose faculty and students examine and discuss and debate every aspect of our law and legal system. And what I’ve learned most is that no one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom. I’ve learned that we make progress by listening to each other, across every apparent political or ideological divide. I’ve learned that we come closest to getting things right when we approach every person and every issue with an open mind. And I’ve learned the value of a habit that Justice Stevens wrote about more than fifty years ago – of ‘understanding before disagreeing.’
    I will make no pledges this week other than this one – that if confirmed, I will remember and abide by all these lessons. I will listen hard, to every party before the Court and to each of my colleagues. I will work hard. And I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law.” – CBS News, 6-28-10
  • Vice President Joe Biden caught on video calling custard shop manager a ‘smarta–‘ after taxes quip: Biden was in Milwaukee to talk about jobs on Saturday, and made a stop at a Kopp’s Frozen Custard outside the city.
    “What do we owe ya?” the vice president asked after enjoying some of the cold treats.
    “Don’t worry, it’s on us,” the unnamed store manager replied, but then added: “Lower our taxes and we’ll call it even.”
    A few minutes later, Biden indicated he didn’t exactly appreciate the remark. “Why don’t you say something nice instead of being a smarta– all the time?” he said to the manager, in an exchange captured on video by local station WISN. “Say something nice.”… – NY Daily News, 6-27-10
  • Palin: Obama administration selling out allies: Sarah Palin on Sunday painted President Barack Obama’s administration as a cowering giant intent on surrendering the nation’s mantle as a superpower and willing to sell out its allies…. “Do they think, really, that we’re getting anything in return for all this bowing and kowtowing and apologizing? No, we don’t get anything positive in return for this,” Palin said at the event spearheaded by a Norfolk talk radio station. “So while President Obama is getting pushed around by the likes of Russia and China, our allies are left to wonder about the value of an alliance with our country any more. They’re asking what is it worth,” she said…. – AP, 6-28-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Urges Congress to Complete Work on Wall Street Reform Bill Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, June 26, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: This weekend, I’m traveling to Toronto to meet with members of the G20. There, I hope we can build on the progress we made at last year’s G20 summits by coordinating our global financial reform efforts to make sure a crisis like the one from which we are still recovering never happens again. We’ve made great progress toward passing such reform here at home. As I speak, we are on the cusp of enacting the toughest financial reforms since the Great Depression.
    I don’t have to tell you why these reforms are so important. We’re still digging ourselves out of an economic crisis that happened largely because there wasn’t strong enough oversight on Wall Street. We can’t build a strong economy in America over the long-run without ending this status quo, and laying a new foundation for growth and prosperity.
    That’s what the Wall Street reforms currently making their way through Congress will help us do – reforms that represent 90% of what I proposed when I took up this fight. We’ll put in place the strongest consumer financial protections in American history, and create an independent agency with an independent director and an independent budget to enforce them….
    Beyond these reforms, we also need to address another piece of unfinished business. We need to impose a fee on the banks that were the biggest beneficiaries of taxpayer assistance at the height of our financial crisis – so we can recover every dime of taxpayer money.
    Getting this far on Wall Street reform hasn’t been easy. There are those who’ve fought tooth and nail to preserve the status quo. In recent months, they’ve spent millions of dollars and hired an army of lobbyists to stop reform dead in its tracks.
    But because we refused to back down, and kept fighting, we now stand on the verge of victory. And I urge Congress to take us over the finish line, and send me a reform bill I can sign into law, so we can empower our people with consumer protections, and help prevent a financial crisis like this from ever happening again. – WH, 6-26-10
  • Remarks by the President on Wall Street Reform: Now, let me be clear. Our economic growth and prosperity depend on a strong, robust financial sector, and I will continue to do what I can to foster and support a dynamic private sector. But we’ve all seen what happens when there’s inadequate oversight and insufficient transparency on Wall Street.
    The reforms making their way through Congress will hold Wall Street accountable so we can help prevent another financial crisis like the one that we’re still recovering from.
    We’ll put in place the toughest consumer financial protections in our history, while creating an independent agency to enforce them. Through this agency, we’ll combine under one roof the consumer protection functions that currently are divided among half a dozen different agencies. Now there will be one agency whose sole job will be to look out for you.
    Credit card companies will no longer be able to mislead you with pages and pages of fine print. You will no longer be subject to all kinds of hidden fees and penalties, or the predatory practices of unscrupulous lenders.
    Instead, we’ll make sure that credit card companies and mortgage companies play by the rules. You’ll be empowered with easy-to-understand forms so you know what you’re agreeing to. And you’ll have the clear and concise information you need to make financial decisions that are best for you and your family.
    Wall Street reform will also strengthen our economy in a number of other ways. We’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex deals that help trigger this crisis, like trades in a $600 trillion derivatives market, into the light of day. We’ll enact the Volcker Rule to make sure that banks protected by the safety net of the FDIC can’t engage in risky trades for their own profit. And we’ll create what’s called a resolution authority to help wind down firms whose collapse would threaten our entire financial system. No longer will be have companies that are “too big to fail”.
    Over the last 17 months, we passed an economic Recovery Act, health insurance reform, education reform, and we are now on the brink of passing Wall Street reform. And at the G20 summit this weekend, I’ll work with other nations not only to coordinate our financial reform efforts, but to promote global economic growth while ensuring that each nation can pursue a path that is sustainable for its own public finances. – WH, 6-25-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

President Barack Obama talks with British Prime Minister David

President Barack Obama talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at the G8 summit in Muskoka, Canada June 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Julian E. Zelizer: How Afghanistan became the ignored war: If the Korean War, which began 60 years ago this past weekend, was America’s forgotten war, Afghanistan has been America’s ignored war.
    Since President Obama authorized a surge of troops in Afghanistan in December 2009, there has been a notable absence of public debate or interest about this conflict.
    Although the media has tracked conditions on the ground and more recently has examined the rapid deterioration of U.S. military strategy, Afghanistan has not elicited the same kind of civic dialogue that surrounded President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and certainly nothing like President Johnson’s war in Vietnam.
    Indeed, when the controversy over Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s comments in Rolling Stone magazine erupted in the past week, one of the most surprising aspects of the story was that, for a brief moment, Americans were actually talking about Afghanistan once again. Our nation is in the middle of a war that has gone on for over nine years, but many people have not been paying attention.
    As a result of these factors, Afghanistan has remained off the radar. Perhaps with the McChrystal controversy, the nation will start asking tougher questions about what is going on in this war, what our objectives are and how the strategy is working.
    Unfortunately, we will most likely turn our attention back to other issues, such as the feature story in Rolling Stone called “Lady Gaga Tells All.” In doing so, we will continue an unhealthy pattern of fighting wars outside of the public mind. – CNN, 6-28-10
  • Gil Troy: Primary job for wives of G20 leaders: Do no harm: Though prominent wives have advocated for political initiatives at home, they’ve stayed away from the microphones at international summits…
    “Their basic job is not to do damage,” Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University, says. Mr. Troy cites a memo written by U.S. president Richard Nixon in 1972, where he considered bringing his wife on a state visit. “If Pat comes to China, she’s coming as a prop,” Mr. Nixon wrote. Not a lot has changed since then, Prof. Troy says…
    Summits can be a haven for the lonely other halves of presidents and prime ministers, Prof. Troy says. “If you’re feeling frustrated or if you’re feeling bored, this is an opportunity to share concerns, to find people who are like minded in the zone of confidence and comfort. If you do have a cause, this is an opportunity to find people who have shared interest and the same power,” he says…
    Prof. Troy says Ms. Obama may not get to speak up about her position on the McChrystal affair, but she can recruit support among other spouses for her less-controversial childhood obesity initiative. The stipulation, though, is “it has to be done within all the protocols and pageantry of the summit.”… – The Globe & Mail, 6-25-10

July 1, 2009: Are the Democrats too Liberal? Obama’s Climate and Health Care Reforms

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • More Americans See Democratic Party as “Too Liberal” More believe Democratic Party’s, rather than Republican Party’s, views are about right: A Gallup Poll finds a statistically significant increase since last year in the percentage of Americans who describe the Democratic Party’s views as being “too liberal,” from 39% to 46%. This is the largest percentage saying so since November 1994, after the party’s losses in that year’s midterm elections.
    Notably, there has been no change over the past year in the percentage of Americans who say the Republican Party is “too conservative,” though the 43% who say the party leans too far to the right matches the historical high mark set last year. – Gallop, 6-30-09
  • Poll: Crist has big lead in Fla. Senate race: A new poll shows Republican Gov. Charlie Crist has a sizable lead in his campaign for Senate. A Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. telephone survey taken June 24-26 shows Crist leading primary opponent Marco Rubio by a 51-23 margin. In a general election matchup with Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, Crist leads 48-26. – AP, 6-29-09
  • Healthcare Town Hall Tanked on the Tube: “The one-hour ABC News special ‘Primetime: Questions for the President: Prescription for America’ (4.7 million viewers, 1.1 preliminary adults 18-49 rating) had the fewest viewers in the 10 p.m. hour. The special tied some 8 p.m. comedy repeats as the lowest-rated program on a major broadcast network,” the Reporter noted.
    NBC’s “Inside the Obama White House” special on June 2, in contrast, won viewers ages 18-49 during its 9 p.m. airing, garnering 9.1 million viewers over all and making NBC the ratings winner for the evening.
    One possible explanation for the discrepancy comes from recent polls that show the president is more popular personally than his policies are…. – WaPo, 6-25-09
  • Palin popular among Republicans but polarizing according to poll: Nearly as many of the people surveyed said they have an unfavorable impression of Palin (44 percent) as have a favorable view of her (45 percent).
    But Palin had an overall higher favorability rating than any of the other three, with Romney in second at 40 percent. Romney’s unfavorables, though, were only at 28 percent and 32 percent said they didn’t know. – AP, 6-25-09
  • Poll: Specter’s numbers sink with party switch: The Franklin & Marshall College Poll released Thursday morning shows that the Republican Specter had 52% of voters’ approval in March, while that number was down to 34% for the Democratic Specter this month — a drop that pollsters called “startling.” Twenty-eight percent of voters say Specter deserves to be re-elected, compared with 40% who said that in March.
    In a matchup against possible primary challenger Joe Sestak, Specter beats the Democratic congressman 33%-13% among likely Democratic voters, but nearly half of those voters are undecided, according to the poll. Pollsters surveyed 580 Pennsylvania voters from June 16 to 21.
    Of course, poll results vary. Last week, we told you about a Rasmussen Reports poll that showed Specter defeating Sestak 51% to 32% in a Democratic primary and Specter beating likely Republican nominee Pat Toomey 50% to 39% in a general election. – USA Today, 6-25-09
  • Poll of Polls: Obama more popular than his policies: According to a CNN Poll of Polls compiled Tuesday, 60 percent say they’re happy with how Obama’s handling his duties as president. Thirty-one percent disapprove of his performance.
    While Obama’s overall approval rating remains basically unchanged, his marks on some specific issues have dropped over the past few months. “President Obama is more popular than his policies. Three-quarters of Americans like President Obama. But just over half approve of his policies,” says CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider. – CNN, 6-23-09

THE HEADLINES….

The President answers an online video question

The Headlines…

  • Emotion, few details, in Obama’s health care pitch: “We are going to try to find ways to help you immediately,” he told Smith as hundreds looked on at a community college forum — and countless others watched on television. But the nation’s long-term needs require a greater emphasis on preventive care and “cost-effective care,” he said… The health care changes that Obama called for Wednesday would reshape the nation’s medical landscape. He says he wants to cover nearly 50 million uninsured Americans, to persuade doctors to stress quality over quantity of care, to squeeze billions of dollars from spending. But details on exactly how to do those things were generally lacking in his hour-long town hall forum before a friendly, hand-picked audience in a Washington suburb. The lingering questions underscore the tough negotiations awaiting Congress, the administration and dozens of special interest groups in the coming months. Lawmakers will return to debating the issue when they return from a one-week recess on Monday…. – AP, 7-1-09
  • Sarah Palin: An “unholy amalgam”?: The latest issue of Vanity Fair isn’t even on newsstands yet and it’s already making headlines for a not-so-politely titled article, “It Came from Wasilla,” about Gov. Sarah Palin. William Kristol at the Weekly Standard is calling it a “hit piece,” taking writer Todd Purdum to task for his “dubious claims.” A blogger at the Atlantic writes that the article “paints a gruesome picture” of the governor. Politico’s Ben Smith mulls the “political fallout from the very tough piece.” Early in the almost 10,000-word article, Purdum describes Palin’s life as an “unholy amalgam of ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Northern Exposure.'” Purdum has plenty of juicy quotes, but not a single source was willing to go on record…. – AP, 7-1-09
  • Schwarzenegger declares Calif. fiscal emergency: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a fiscal emergency to address California’s deficit and has ordered state offices closed three days a month to save cash. The Legislature will have 45 days to send him a plan to balance the state’s budget, which ended the fiscal year with a $24.3 billion deficit. The shortfall is expected to grow by $7 billion because the Legislature did not enact several stopgap measures Tuesday. If lawmakers fail to act within the 45 days, they cannot adjourn or act on other bills until they solve the crisis…. – AP, 7-1-09
  • Brown, Whitman raise most in Calif. governor race: State Attorney General Jerry Brown and former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman have raised the most campaign money this year for the 2010 California governor’s race, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday. Brown, a Democrat and former California governor, has collected $7.3 million through Tuesday, the end of the current reporting period. Whitman, a Republican, said her campaign brought in $6.5 million, on top of $4 million she contributed from her personal fortune…. – AP, 7-1-09
  • Obama pledges support for social innovators: President Barack Obama on Tuesday promised that the White House will do its part to support grassroots organizations that are successful in their efforts to improve communities. “Solutions to America’s challenges are being developed every day at the grassroots. And government shouldn’t be supplanting those efforts, it should be supporting those efforts,” Obama told representatives of nonprofit programs during a White House gathering…. – AP, 7-1-09
  • Adviser: Gillibrand gets Maloney primary challenge: New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney has decided to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the state’s Democratic primary, setting the stage for a potentially costly and contentious fight that other congressional Democrats have avoided. The nine-term congresswoman believes New Yorkers need a “strong, experienced and independent leader,” according to a statement Wednesday by Paul Blank, director of Trippi & Associates, hired by Maloney to serve as a chief strategist. Blank said Maloney is putting together a campaign team and will make her announcement in two weeks…. – AP, 7-1-09
  • Democrat Franken wins protracted Minn. Senate race: Democrat Al Franken with his wife Franni at his side, speak with the media outside their home in Minneapolis, Tuesday June 30, 2009. Republican Norm Coleman conceded to Franken in Minnesota’s contested Senate race Tuesday, hours after a unanimous state Supreme Court ruled the former ‘Saturday Night Live’ comedian should be certified the winner.
    Franken’s victory over Republican Norm Coleman gives Democrats 60 Senate seats, the critical number needed to overcome Republican filibusters. When Franken is seated, which could come as early as next week, his party will have a majority not reached on either side of the aisle in some three decades…. – AP, 6-30-09
  • Court rulings loom on campaign funds, civil rights: The Supreme Court will have a new look — and perhaps a new member — but the same right-of-center tilt when the justices return in late summer to deal with unfinished business about money in campaigns. Some justices will change seats with the retirement of Justice David Souter, with the more senior justices closer to the center of the bench. But the conservatives still should be able to muster majorities in the areas of civil rights and campaign cash…. – AP, 6-30-09
  • Foes of Sotomayor emboldened by discimination case: Foes of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor celebrated the high court’s reversal of her decision in a reverse discrimination case. The 5-4 ruling Monday, backing of reverse discrimination claims by white firefighters, is unlikely to derail Sotomayor’s nomination — and it may not even sway a vote. Reaction to the decision fell almost purely along partisan lines, with Republicans cheering the decision and saying it raises serious concerns about the judge, and Democrats condemning the opinion and arguing that Sotomayor had acted appropriately. Still, the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Ricci v. DeStefano highlighted the competing ideological strains that will shape the debate over confirming Sotomayor…. – AP, 6-30-09
  • Obama team members to fan out on summer rural tour: President Barack Obama is dispatching top administration officials and Cabinet members on a “rural tour” this summer to explore ways to strengthen rural America…. – AP, 6-30-09
  • Obama pats his fundraisers on the back: Whether you’re working Chicago’s South Side or Beverly Hills, a good organizer knows that a pat on the back will coax another mile — or maybe another few thousand — out of the troops. Even so, local Democratic activists were pretty impressed when the president invited them to Washington on Monday for a dinner at the Mandarin Oriental hotel designed to thank members of the Obama National Finance Committee and other supporters, like the ones who helped make his recent national fundraising tour on behalf of the Democratic National Committee such a success. The star-studded evening last month at the Beverly Hilton was the tour’s crown jewel, so it was no surprise that a large contingent of longtime Obama supporters in Hollywood were invited back to Washington to accept the chief executive’s personal expression of gratitude…. – LAT, 6-30-09
  • Conservative Ire Rains on 8 Republicans Who Voted for House Climate Bill: In the wake of last week’s landmark passage of the House climate bill, conservatives have focused their fury on the handful of Republicans who voted in favor of the sweeping legislation. Conservative commentators are blasting the eight Republican “aye” votes as betrayers of GOP principles and, perhaps more important, holding them accountable for the bill’s seven-vote margin of passage, 219-212. The eight Republicans are Mark Kirk of Illinois; Mike Castle of Delaware; Mary Bono Mack of California; Dave Reichert of Washington; John McHugh of New York; and Frank LoBiondo, Leonard Lance and Chris Smith of New Jersey…. – NYT, 6-30-09
  • Administration sends Congress consumer legislation: President Barack Obama asked Congress on Tuesday to create a new agency to police the fine print on consumer products like credit cards and mortgages and determine what fees, penalties and interest rates are fair. The Consumer Financial Protection Agency would be in charge of regulating those products in the same way other government agencies regulate the safety of drugs, food and toys. Obama said Americans are demanding it. “Those ridiculous contracts with pages of fine print that no one can figure out — those things will be a thing of the past,” the president said in a statement accompanying the 152-page draft bill. “And enforcement will be the rule, not the exception.” – AP, 6-30-09
  • Iraqis celebrate US pullback but bombing kills 27: Not a single American soldier was in sight. Gone, too, were the American helicopters whose buzz has for years defined Baghdad’s background track. Left alone to protect the capital Tuesday were thousands of Iraqi troops and police manning checkpoints, with army tanks deployed at potential trouble spots and convoys of pickup trucks with machine guns roaming the streets. But it was elsewhere, 180 miles to the north, that militants delivered their first deadly challenge to Iraq’s security forces on a highly symbolic day after the formal withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from cities at midnight…. – AP, 6-30-09
  • Will the Republicans or the Democrats be the ‘Party of Growth’?: The single most-profitable franchise for the Republican Party is growth, the kind of growth that sustains the relative competitiveness of the U.S. Instead of being the GOP, the Republicans should become the POG, the Party of Growth. This growth franchise is Republicans’ for the taking because the Democratic Party leadership is in hot pursuit of other franchises — the green biz, civil rights and their dearest goal, more government health care. – Bloomberg, 6-30-09Business Week, 6-30-09
  • Reverse discrimination ruling leaves confusion: The Supreme Court ruling in favor of white New Haven firefighters who said they were victims of reverse discrimination will probably leave employers confused, civil rights advocates and labor attorneys say. The court ruled 5-4 Monday that the white firefighters were denied promotions unfairly because of their race, reversing a decision that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as a federal appeals court judge…. – AP, 6-29-09
  • Decision Reflects Court’s Deep Division: Sonia Sotomayor, the New York appellate judge President Barack Obama has nominated to the Supreme Court, has credited her success in part to postwar America’s efforts to correct centuries of racial discrimination. If, as expected, her nomination is confirmed, the self-described “affirmative-action baby” will join a court divided on that very topic…. – WSJ, 6-29-09
  • Obama Toughens Rules for Some Lighting: President Obama announced tougher energy efficiency requirements for certain types of fluorescent and incandescent lighting on Monday, the latest step in the administration’s push to cut the country’s energy use. “Now I know light bulbs may not seem sexy,” Mr. Obama said, “but this simple action holds enormous promise because 7 percent of all the energy consumed in America is used to light our homes and our businesses.”
    Of the two types of lighting covered by Monday’s announcement, the most important is “general service fluorescent lamps,” which commonly take the form of tubular office lights (but do not include the squiggly compact fluorescents commonly found in home lamps). The other type of lighting covered by the new rule is incandescent reflector lamps; these cone-shaped fixtures can often be found in track lighting. – NYT, 6-29-09
  • Obama Backs Zelaya as Honduran President After Ouster: President Barack Obama said today that Manuel Zelaya remains the president of Honduras and his ouster by that nation’s military “was not legal.” “All of us have great concerns” about the situation in Honduras, Obama said after meeting at the White House with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe…. – Bloomberg, 6-29-09
  • SC governor resolves to stay put despite scandal: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford says he’s not quitting — though he considered it — despite intense scrutiny and criticism over his affair with a woman from Argentina. That woman, 41-year-old former television reporter Maria Belen Chapur, acknowledged Sunday that she had a relationship with Sanford and that the matter has been “very painful to me, my two children, my entire family and close friends.”… “I want to apologize to you for letting you down,” he told the state’s top financial officers before tackling an agenda focused on the state’s budget woes…. – AP, 6-29-09
  • Ex-Edwards Aide to Write Tell-All: A man who was one of former Senator John Edwards’s closest aides has a deal to write a book claiming that Mr. Edwards said he “would be taken care of for life” in return for falsely claiming he was the father of the baby carried by Mr. Edwards’s mistress, Rielle Hunter…. “‘You know how much I love you,’ Edwards said. ‘You know I’d walk off a cliff for you, and I know you’d walk off a cliff for me,'” Mr. Young wrote in the book proposal. “‘I will never forget this. And I will always be there for you.'” The proposal was shared with The New York Times by a book publishing industry executive. Portions of it were reported over the weekend by The Daily News of New York. – NYT, 6-29-09
  • Ruling in firefighters case fuels critics of Sotomayor: The Supreme Court’s reversal of a discrimination ruling by an appeals panel that included Sotomayor is seen by conservatives as a rebuke of her handling of the case…. – LAT, 6-29-09
  • Obama reassures gay rights activists: President Barack Obama is reiterating his support for gay rights causes, telling activists that he’s a friend who will fight for them and with them while in the White House. The president and first lady Michelle Obama are holding an East Room reception Monday afternoon to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the birth of the modern gay rights movement. – AP, 6-29-09
  • Obama’s double sworn in at Paris wax museum: Barack Obama’s wax double joined the pantheon of world leaders and stars at the Grevin Museum in Paris on Monday, after being unveiled at the foot of the Eiffel Tower…. – AFP, 6-29-09
  • White House Not Ruling Out Health Benefits Tax: In an appearance on ABC’s This Week, presidential adviser David Axelrod would not rule out taxing health insurance benefits as a means to pay for the administration’s healthcare reform proposal. Axelrod said, “The President had said in the past he doesn’t believe taxing healthcare benefits at any level, is necessarily the best way to go here. He still believes that. But there’s a number of formulations. And we’ll wait and see.” The Washington Post notes this morning that “under repeated questioning…Axelrod said the White House is open to ‘a lot of different formulations’ for paying for healthcare reform.” The Washington Times reports that “during the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama called [Sen. John] McCain’s insurance-tax proposal ‘the largest middle-class tax increase in history.” The AP also reports that “if…Obama compromises on that point, it would reverse a campaign tax promise.” – US News, 6-29-09
  • Obama champions energy bill but not its tariffs: The president calls the measure ‘an extraordinary first step’ toward a halt to global warming but sounds a cautionary note about its provision to penalize countries that don’t similarly crack down.
    “What seems contentious now is going to seem like common sense in hindsight,” he told a small group of reporters in the Oval Office…. – LAT, 6-28-09
  • Obama scoffs at Ahmadinejad’s demand for apology: President Barack Obama’s criticism of Iran escalated Friday into an unusually personal war of words. To Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s demand he apologize for meddling, Obama shot back that the regime should “think carefully” about answers owed to protesters it has arrested, bludgeoned and killed. “The violence perpetrated against them is outrageous,” Obama said. “We see it and we condemn it.” “I don’t take Mr. Ahmadinejad’s statements seriously about apologies, particularly given the fact that the United States has gone out of its way not to interfere with the election process in Iran,” Obama responded sternly. “I would suggest that Mr. Ahmadinejad think carefully about the obligations he owes to his own people,” he added. “And he might want to consider looking at the families of those who’ve been beaten or shot or detained. And, you know, that’s where I think Mr. Ahmadinejad and others need to answer their questions.”… – AP, 6-27-09
  • AP sources: Obama eyeing order for Gitmo detainees: Stymied by Congress so far, the White House is considering issuing an executive order to indefinitely imprison a small number of Guantanamo Bay detainees considered too dangerous to prosecute or release, two administration officials said Friday. No final decisions have been made about the order, which would be the fourth major mandate by President Barack Obama to deal with how the United States treats and prosecutes terror suspects and foreign fighters…. – AP, 6-27-09
  • For Republicans, a Narrowing List of Presidential Prospects Nevada Sen. John Ensign’s and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s extramarital affairs are the latest blow to the GOP as the Republican presidential herd thins fast — leaving many to wonder who will lead the party in its attempt to reclaim the White House: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels are the names now being whispered in Republican circles as potential winners — although observers admit political speculations can change overnight. – Fox News, 6-27-09
  • Economic View The Pitfalls of the Public Option: IN the debate over health care reform, one issue looms large: whether to have a public option. Should all Americans have the opportunity to sign up for government-run health insurance? President Obama has made his own preferences clear. In a letter to Senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Max Baucus of Montana, the chairmen of two key Senate committees, he wrote: “I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans. This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest.” – NYT, 6-27-09
  • Climate Change Bill May Be Election-Year Issue: As Democrats strained to win over crucial holdouts on the way to narrow, party-line approval of global warming legislation, they were dogged by a critical question: Has the political climate changed since 1993? Veteran members of both parties vividly remember when many House Democrats, in the early months of the Clinton administration, reluctantly backed a proposed B.T.U. tax — a new levy on each unit of energy consumed — only to see it ignored by the Senate and seized as a campaign issue by Republicans, who took control of the House the next year…. – NYT, 6-27-09
  • Analysis: Obama shows flexibility on health care: The reversals, hints of concessions and politically dicey proposals on health care are piling up for President Barack Obama, whose appeal for bipartisan legislation carries risk with no guarantee of reward. By one definition, that’s called presidential leadership, flexibility first, meant to embolden others to do the same. By another, it’s political inconsistency that risks offending people on Medicare, liberals who favor government-run health care and union families with coverage negotiated by contract with employers…. – AP, 6-27-09
  • Obama and Congress Clash on How to Pay for Health Care: It has become the trillion-dollar question: can President Obama find that much in spending cuts and tax increases to keep his campaign promise to overhaul the health care system, without adding to already huge deficits? Mr. Obama and the Democrats running Congress are deeply split over the possibilities…. – NYT, 6-26-09
  • Senators claim $1 trillion health bill in reach: Senators working to give President Barack Obama a comprehensive health care overhaul said Thursday they had figured out how to pare back the complex legislation to keep costs from crashing through a $1 trillion, 10-year ceiling. The announcement from Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and other lawmakers amounted to a small, parting gift to Obama on his top domestic priority as Congress prepares to leave town for its weeklong July 4 recess. It moved Congress a bit closer to a deal on legislation to lower costs and provide coverage to nearly 50 million Americans who lack it…. – AP, 6-26-09
  • Climate-Change Legislation Clears U.S. House, Sent to Senate: The U.S. House passed legislation to impose the nation’s first-ever limits on greenhouse-gas emissions linked to global warming, handing President Barack Obama a win on one of his top policy priorities. The measure now faces what is expected to be a tough legislative battle in the Senate. Obama called yesterday’s House vote “a bold and necessary step that holds the promise of creating new industry and millions of new jobs.” The bill, he said, would usher in “a critical transition to a clean-energy economy without untenable burdens on the American people.” House Republicans, who formed the bulk of the opposition to the bill, disputed that characterization of it. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a statement, called the measure “an unrealistic approach that could further harm the economy and shed American jobs.” The close 219-212 House vote on it signaled the fight that lies ahead for the plan, which would create a market for trading pollution permits to curb emissions…. – Bloomberg, 6-26-09
  • Questions and answers about the US climate bill: Cap-and-trade? Offsets? Pollution credits? The climate bill passed Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives tackles global warming with new limits on pollution and a market-based approach to encourage more environmentally friendly business practices. But what exactly do the proposed rules mean, and how would they work?… – AP, 6-26-09
  • How Obama Handled Jackson’s Death: Though President Obama regards Michael Jackson as a “spectacular performer” and “a music icon,” the White House did not issue a formal written statement on his passing. Not every celebrity, even one as talented and widely-known as Jackson, merits a presidential tribute…. – CBS News, 6-26-09
  • Alaska’s Murkowski moves up in Senate GOP leadership: Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is moving into the Senate GOP’s inner circle. Her Senate Republican colleagues voted today to make her vice chairman of the Republican Conference. In that role, she’ll be in charge of spreading the Republican message, Murkowski said. “It’s not just an issue of pushing back, for instance, on a health care plan that doesn’t deliver what the president is seeking,” Murkowski said during a press conference announcing the election results. “We need to, as Republicans, be able to voice, be able to express what our solutions, what our plans, what our proposals are and how they truly fit in with the agenda, whether it is from Alaska to Maine or parts in between.”… – Miami Herald, 6-25-09
  • Obama’s Health Future Rationing, and not only withholding care from the elderly: President Obama’s TV health-care forum on Wednesday evening was useful, because revealing. Namely, Mr. Obama shared more than he probably intended about the kind of rationing that his health plan will inevitably impose…. – WSJ, 6-25-09
  • Obama and Congress Clash on How to Pay for Health Care: It has become the trillion-dollar question: can President Obama find that much in spending cuts and tax increases to keep his campaign promise to overhaul the health care system, without adding to already huge deficits? Mr. Obama and the Democrats running Congress are deeply split over the possibilities…. – NYT, 6-25-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

(President Barack Obama delivers remarks highlighting innovative non-profit programs from across the country, Tuesday, June 30, 2009, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Political Quotes

  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN AN ONLINE TOWN HALL ON HEALTH CARE: Northern Virginia Community College Annandale, Virginia – White House, 7-1-09
  • Emotion, few details, in Obama’s health care pitch: “We are going to try to find ways to help you immediately,” he told Smith as hundreds looked on at a community college forum — and countless others watched on television. But the nation’s long-term needs require a greater emphasis on preventive care and “cost-effective care,” he said… The president would bar insurance companies from turning down applicants because of their “pre-existing conditions.” He would establish health care exchanges that would spread the costs of treating patients such as Smith over a large number of people. Obama called for shifting huge sums of money from current health care spending to new goals. About two-thirds of the overall new costs “will come from reallocating money that is already being spent in the health care system but isn’t being spent wisely,” he said. “The biggest thing we can do to hold down costs is to change the incentives of a health care system that automatically equates expensive care with better care,” the president said. He said the formula system drives up costs “but doesn’t make you better.” – AP, 7-1-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS AGENDA East Room: And finally, I want to thank all of you here today for everything you’re doing to find new solutions to some of our oldest, toughest problems. I know what you do is not easy. I know that for many of you, the hours are long, the pay could be better — let’s face it. But I also know the difference that each of you make. I know the lives that you change every single day. You teach us that there’s no such thing as a lost cause if you’re willing to be creative, and challenge the conventional wisdom, and take some risks — if you’re willing to try, and fail, and then try again until you find something that works. And today, I want to recognize that pioneering spirit and thank you all for the contributions that you’re making to our communities…. The bottom line is clear: Solutions to America’s challenges are being developed every day at the grass roots — and government shouldn’t be supplanting those efforts, it should be supporting those efforts. Instead of wasting taxpayer money on programs that are obsolete or ineffective, government should be seeking out creative, results- oriented programs like the ones here today and helping them replicate their efforts across America…. – White House, 6-30-09
  • White House announces new lighting standards: Aiming to keep the focus on climate change legislation, President Barack Obama put a plug in for administration efforts to make lamps and lighting equipment use less energy. “I know light bulbs may not seem sexy, but this simple action holds enormous promise because 7 percent of all the energy consumed in America is used to light our homes and businesses,” the president said, standing alongside Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the White House…. – AP, 6-29-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON ENERGY Grand Foyer: So we’ve gotten a lot done on the energy front over the last six months. But even as we’re changing the ways we’re producing energy, we’re also changing the ways we use energy. In fact, one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner is to make our economy more energy efficient. And that’s something that Secretary Chu is working every single day to work through.
    The first step we’re taking sets new efficiency standards on fluorescent and incandescent lighting. Now I know light bulbs may not seem sexy, but this simple action holds enormous promise because 7 percent of all the energy consumed in America is used to light our homes and our businesses. Between 2012 and 2042, these new standards will save consumers up to $4 billion a year, conserve enough electricity to power every home in America for 10 months, reduce emissions equal to the amount produced by 166 million cars each year, and eliminate the need for as many as 14 coal-fired power plants…. – White House, 6-29-09
  • AP Interview: Snowe seeks bipartisan health bill: Sen. Olympia Snowe, a key figure in shaping federal health care legislation, said Monday that a government-run plan that would take effect if the private insurance market fails to deliver affordable coverage could bridge the partisan divide that threatens to derail President Barack Obama’s efforts to reform the system. Snowe, R-Maine, said she’s working with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to establish that kind of a framework in the bill expected to emerge next month from the Senate Finance Committee. In an Associated Press interview in Portland, Snowe said it would be unfair to include a government-run health insurance option that would take effect immediately…. – AP, 6-29-09
  • Rudy for Governor?: Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared on CNN’s American Morning today and admitted, in a roundabout fashion, that he’s considering running for governor of New York in 2010. Giuliani said, “I don’t know if I am or if I’m not” entering the gubernatorial race, but disclosed that he’s been thinking about it. Incumbent Gov. David Paterson has been polling poorly for some time and would likely lose to Giuliani in a general election. But if Paterson doesn’t run, other Democratic contenders, such as Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose political heritage would serve him well, would be tougher competitors…. – Newsweek, 6-29-09
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Calls Energy Bill Passage Critical to Stronger American Economy: Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a historic piece of legislation that will open the door to a clean energy economy and a better future for America. For more than three decades, we have talked about our dependence on foreign oil. And for more than three decades, we have seen that dependence grow. We have seen our reliance on fossil fuels jeopardize our national security. We have seen it pollute the air we breathe and endanger our planet. And most of all, we have seen other countries realize a critical truth: the nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy. Now is the time for the United States of America to realize this too. Now is the time for us to lead…. – White House, 6-27-09
  • Obama pressures Senate on climate change measure: Hailing the House, President Barack Obama put pressure on senators Saturday to follow its lead and pass legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions, helping usher the U.S. into a new age of energy efficiency. “Now my call to every senator, as well as to every American, is this: We cannot be afraid of the future. And we must not be prisoners of the past,” the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “Don’t believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth. It’s just not true.” – AP, 6-27-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PASSING A HISTORIC ENERGY BILL Rose Garden: Right now, the House of Representatives is moving towards a vote of historic proportions on a piece of legislation that will open the door to a new clean energy economy…. Now is the time for the United States of America to realize this, as well. Now is the time for us to lead. The energy bill before the House will finally create a set of incentives that will spark a clean energy transformation of our economy. It will spur the development of low-carbon sources of energy — everything from wind, solar, and geothermal power to safe nuclear energy and cleaner coal. It will spur new energy savings like the efficient windows and other materials that reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer…. – White House, 6-25-09
  • Quick-draw Sarah Palin takes long shot at John Kerry: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin didn’t wait long to jab back at U.S. Sen. John Kerry for his joke this week that it was too bad she hadn’t gone missing instead of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Former GOP vice-presidential candidate Palin, in Kosovo visiting troops, said yesterday she wanted to reach out to the Bay State Democratic senator. “He looked quite frustrated and he looked so sad,” she told the troops in comments later posted on YouTube. “I just wanted to reach out to the TV and say: ‘John Kerry, why the long face?'” The soliders broke out in laughter at Palin poking fun at Kerry’s renowned lantern jaw. – Boston Herald, 6-26-09
  • Obama Tackles Health Care Concerns in ABC’s Questions for the President: President Barack Obama promoted what he called a “uniquely American” health care plan in a prime-time appearance devoted to questions about health-care reform….
    During the forum, which was moderated by ABC News’ Diane Sawyer and Charles Gibson, the president said he understood apprehension about reforms. “[Americans] know they’re living with the devil. But the devil they know, they think may be better than the devil they don’t.” He also said government involvement would be essential to reform: “Unfortunately government, whether you like it or not, is going to already be involved,” he said. “We pay for Medicare, we pay for Medicaid. There are a whole host of rules, both at the state and federal level, governing how health care is administered,” Obama continued. “And so the key is for us to try to figure how to take that involvement … and to keep doing what works, and stop doing what doesn’t work.” He also said hurdles remain. “These things are going to be tough politically,” he said. “What’s lacking is political will. And that’s what I’m hoping the American people will provide.” – TV Guide, 6-25-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Franken as 60th Senate Democrat: How big a prize?” It’s better for Democrats than 59. But a Senate supermajority didn’t much help the last president to have one: Jimmy Carter….
    “Given how frequently the filibuster is used as a tool in party battles, it’s obviously better to have 60 votes than 59,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “But if you follow divisions that have emerged on healthcare and energy, there are a lot of intraparty tensions within the Democratic Party. If Democrats splinter come October on such legislation, being able to block a Republican filibuster won’t mean much.” – CS Monitor, 7-1-09
  • James A. Morone and Lou Cannon: “From FDR to Obama, a fight for health care” “For people who know the boring details of health care, the debate is really deja vu all over again, although I’m not sure the general public picks up on all the echoes from previous debates,” says James A. Morone, co-author of “The Heart of Power,” a newly released history of health care and the presidency….
    “That wasn’t unusual for conservatives in those days, including Reagan,” says Reagan biographer Lou Cannon. “They would make an exception for something catastrophic by saying, `That’s a special situation.'” What they didn’t want was a cradle to grave system for the general public.” – AP, 7-1-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama Criticized as Mr. Nice Guy Toward Iran, Congress Critics argue Obama is too conciliatory in dealing with Iran, Republicans, and other adversaries”: “There is part of America that wants an assertive president, a president who will be tough on adversaries and who can, at least in theory, be scary in dealing with threats from overseas,” says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. So far, Obama doesn’t match up with that tough-guy profile, either at home or abroad. But Zelizer points out that there is another slice of the country that has an entirely different outlook, more in keeping with Obama’s style. “There’s part of America that wants a tempered president,” someone who will reach out to adversaries, avoid seeing issues and people in absolute terms, and avoid confrontation, Zelizer says. “Both are part of the American psyche.”… – US News, 6-30-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Polls don’t make a president”: President Obama continues to enjoy high approval ratings. Despite spending months navigating through one of the most treacherous economic crises in recent history and struggling with a Congress that is as partisan as ever, the latest CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, released Monday, found that his approval rating stands at 61 percent.
    But approval ratings have rarely been a good predictor of presidential success. Some presidents have exited Washington with the public loving them but without the legislative record of success they wanted. At other times, presidents have watched their high approval ratings plummet within weeks….
    If Obama can achieve the same popularity in Congress this summer as he has achieved in national opinion polls, he might be able to defy the high odds of passing sweeping legislation in an era of polarized politics and start building the foundation for the transformative presidency that he desires. CNN, 6-30-09

Celebrating Helen Keller Deaf-Blind Awareness Week.

(President Barack Obama meets with a group from the Helen Keller National Center in the Oval Office June 26, 2009.  Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

May 11, 2009: President Obama Unrolls Budget, Credit Card and Health Care Plans

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President discusses fiscal responsibility

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Obama Approval Picks Up in May Still, only 25% say they would definitely vote to re-elect him in 2012: President Barack Obama appears to be slightly more popular with Americans at the start of his second 100 days in office than he was, on average, during his first 100. Gallup Poll Daily tracking from May 7-9 finds 66% of Americans approving of how he is handling his job, compared with an average 63% from January through April.
    Obama’s approval rating has registered 66% or better in each Gallup three-day rolling average since May 2. His 68% approval rating reported on May 3 is tied for the second highest of his presidency, exceeded only by the 69% recorded immediately after his inauguration. And except for one 66% approval rating in late April, all of Obama’s previous 66% to 68% readings were obtained near the start of his term…. – Gallop, 5-11-09

THE HEADLINES.

..

The President talks to the stakeholders
(President Barack Obama meeting with healthcare stakeholders in the Roosevelt Room at White House
May 11, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The Headlines….

  • Reboot in Afghanistan: Gates replaces top general: Taking a cue from voters who elected a president promising a different approach, the Obama administration is replacing the general overseeing the war in Afghanistan with a commander who has special-forces experience. Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, a senior administrator with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will take the place of Gen. David McKiernan once he is confirmed by the Senate. Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez will become McChrystal’s deputy with the Senate’s approval, which Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked be granted as soon as possible…. – AP, 5-12-09
  • US to borrow 46 cents for every dollar spent: The government will have to borrow nearly 50 cents for every dollar it spends this year, exploding the record federal deficit past $1.8 trillion under new White House estimates. Budget office figures released Monday would add $89 billion to the 2009 red ink — increasing it to more than four times last year’s all-time high as the government hands out billions more than expected for people who have lost jobs and takes in less tax revenue from people and companies making less money…. – AP, 5-11-09
  • Obama’s Push for Health Care Cuts Faces Daunting Odds: President Obama engineered a political coup on Monday by bringing leaders of the health care industry to the White House to build momentum for his ambitious health care agenda. Mr. Obama pronounced it “a historic day, a watershed event,” because doctors, hospitals, drug makers and insurance companies voluntarily offered $2 trillion in cost reductions over 10 years. The savings, he said, “will help us take the next and most important step — comprehensive health care reform.”… – NYT, 5-11-09
  • Governor of Florida Plans Bid for Senate: Gov. Charlie Crist is expected to announce Tuesday that he will run next year for the United States Senate, ending months of speculation and creating a domino effect that will leave several state positions up for grabs…. – NYT, 5-11-09
  • Obama changes office name, pushes Web work: Someone really is reading those comments left on Barack Obama’s Web sites: the president himself. The White House on Monday changed the name of a major office to reflect how much the administration is using the Internet to sell its agenda and communicate directly with voters. For a candidate who harnessed the Internet to win the presidency, the move — announced on the White House Web site, naturally — underscores Obama’s understanding of new media’s power. “This office will seek to engage as many Americans as possible in the difficult work of changing this country, through meetings and conversations with groups and individuals held in Washington and across the country,” Obama said in a video message posted to the Web…. – AP, 5-11-09
  • Obama Enlists Biden’s Expertise About High Court: The person in the White House most knowledgeable about Supreme Court nominations sits in the vice president’s office. With President Obama filling his first high court vacancy with the retirement of Justice David H. Souter, Vice President Biden finds himself regularly consulting with the president and fielding queries from the White House counsel and others for insights on the process…. – WaPo,
  • Obama says Health overhaul could save U.S. trillions: President Barack Obama will aim on Monday to build support for a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting a drive for greater efficiency he predicts could save trillions of dollars…. – Reuters, 5-10-09
  • Health Industry Is Said to Promise to Rein In Costs: Doctors, hospitals, drug makers and insurance companies will join President Obama on Monday in announcing their commitment to a sharp reduction in the growth of national health spending, White House officials said Sunday…. – NYT, 5-10-09
  • U.S. Adviser Holds Firm on Airstrikes in Afghanistan: President Obama’s top national security adviser said on Sunday that the United States would likely continue conducting airstrikes against extremists in Afghanistan despite a sharp warning from President Hamid Karzai that civilian casualties were fast turning ordinary Afghans against the United States…. – NYT, 5-10-09
  • Cheney backs Limbaugh over Powell on GOP future: Dick Cheney made clear Sunday he’d rather follow firebrand broadcaster Rush Limbaugh than former Joint Chiefs chairman Colin Powell into political battle over the future of the Republican Party. Even as Cheney embraced efforts to expand the party by ex-Govs. Jeb Bush of Florida and Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and the House’s No. 2 Republican, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, the former vice president appeared to write his one-time colleague Powell out of the GOP. Asked about recent verbal broadsides between Limbaugh and Powell, Cheney said, “If I had to choose in terms of being a Republican, I’d go with Rush Limbaugh. My take on it was Colin had already left the party. I didn’t know he was still a Republican.”… – AP, 5-10-09 Washington Times, 5-10-09
  • Obama pokes fun at himself, Dems and GOP: It was the hottest ticket in town, a black-tie dinner gathering of Washington’s political and media elite but Dick Cheney couldn’t make it. The former vice president was busy, President Barack Obama joked, working on his memoir “tentatively titled, How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People.'”…. – AP, 5-9-09
  • Obama: Send me credit card legislation this month: Send me a bill that stops credit card companies from taking advantage of consumers, and do it by month’s end, President Barack Obama is demanding of Congress. But there’s no guarantee lawmakers will deliver by Memorial Day, and the banking industry is fighting back…. – AP, 5-9-09
  • Republicans and ObamaCare The sound of silence is deafening: Listen. That sound of silence? That’s what’s known as the united Republican response to President Barack Obama’s drive to socialize health care. The president has a plan, and he’s laid it on the table. The industry groups that once helped Republicans beat HillaryCare are today sitting at that table. Unions are mobilized. A liberal umbrella group, Health Care for American Now, is spending $40 million to get a “public option,” a new federal entitlement that would kill off private insurance. Democrats passed a budget blueprint that will allow them to cram through that “public option” with just 51 votes…. – WSJ, 5-9-09
  • Gaps Appear in G.O.P. Solidarity: WAfter being stingy with their support in the early days of the Obama administration, significant numbers of House Republicans have begun breaking from their party leaders and voting for legislation moving through the Democratic-led Congress…. – NYT, 5-9-09
  • On Politics: Dwindling, Connecticut G.O.P. Won’t Look Inward: ON June 4, Newt Gingrich is to address a shrinking Connecticut Republican Party that has sworn off God, guns and gays as wedge issues and rallied around the Yankee ideals of “common sense” and “fiscal responsibility.” Not exactly bumper-sticker material. But this is a state where the G.O.P. has badly withered as Republicans in other states thrived using gay marriage, abortion and the death penalty to energize social conservatives and twice elect George W. Bush as president…. – NYT, 5-9-09
  • US report blames Taliban for civilian deaths: The U.S. coalition blamed Taliban militants Saturday for causing what Afghan officials say are dozens of civilian deaths during a prolonged battle that included American airstrikes. The U.S. said an unspecified number of civilians died but did not take responsibility for any deaths…. – AP, 5-9-09
  • Obama to hold town hall meeting on credit cards: U.S. President Barack Obama will hold a town hall meeting next week in New Mexico to promote congressional efforts to reform credit card practices, the White House said on Friday…. – Rreuters, 5-8-09
  • Analysis: Slow recovery no help for Obama’s plans: Barack Obama’s budget, unveiled with fanfare, fails to deal with his biggest money problems. A molasses-slow economic recovery will make it hard to find the huge sums he’ll need to reach his biggest goals — fixing health care, confronting climate change and overhauling the tax system — without much deeper cuts than he’s proposing in other programs. Obama faces not only fiscal obstacles but political ones, as well…. – AP, 5-8-09
  • The Half-Penny Solution Cutting the budget paper clip by paper clip: President Obama unveiled a budget Thursday with a 2010 price tag of $3.5 trillion financed with $1.2 trillion of new debt. For domestic agencies, that’s a 9.3% spending hike over last year…. – WSJ, 5-8-09
  • List Says Top Democrats Were Briefed on Interrogations: Congressional Republicans on Friday accused Democrats of full complicity in the approval of the Bush administration’s brutal interrogations, citing a new accounting that shows briefings for some top Democrats on waterboarding and other harsh methods starting in 2002…. – NYT, 5-8-09
  • Pelosi still explaining interrogation briefing: It’s a political squall that won’t die: What did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi know about harsh questioning of detainees, and when did she know it? On Friday, the California Democrat was forced to issue yet another press release, reiterating her past assertions that she had been briefed in 2002 only on new interrogation techniques that had been deemed legal and were planned for future use. Pelosi had made the same comments in 2007 when word first leaked that she was aware of the interrogation program and had not objected to it. Her latest statement came three weeks after the Justice Department released formerly classified legal memos that detailed the once-secret CIA harsh interrogation program, and two weeks after she told reporters that when she got her sole CIA briefing on interrogation back in 2002, she had no idea the technique of waterboarding had already been used on a prisoner. Waterboarding is a form of simulated drowning that President Barack Obama last week called torture…. – AP, 5-8-09
  • New Jersey’s GOP Sees Opportunity in Corzine Another moderate Christie seeks the Republican nod: One bright spot for Northeast Republicans is the chance this year to retake the governorship of New Jersey. The seat is now held by Democrat Jon Corzine — a former Goldman-Sachs CEO who has been trailing or tied in the polls with the two Republicans running in the party’s June 2 primary for the chance to unseat him. But the party is divided between moderates who say that only a centrist can win and conservatives who believe that only a bold agenda of tax cuts, spending restraint, and school reform can catch fire with voters…. – WSJ, 5-8-09
  • Souter’s Exit Opens Door for a More Influential Justice: A couple of days ago, Fred R. Shapiro, the editor of The Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations, asked constitutional law scholars for memorable quotations from Justice David H. Souter of the Supreme Court. Mr. Shapiro got only four responses. One was about television coverage of the court (“The day you see a camera come into our courtroom, it’s going to roll over my dead body”). Another concerned the limited pleasures of reading legal briefs rather than serious books (“I find the workload of what I do sufficiently great that when the term of court starts I undergo a sort of annual intellectual lobotomy”). Just two quotations came from the hundreds of opinions that Justice Souter, who is retiring in June, wrote in his 19 years on the court. Neither had much juice to it. ….Instead, he told Mr. Obama that was retiring “under the provision of 28 U.S.C. Section 371(b)(1), having attained the age and met the service requirements of subsection (c) of that section.” He appeared to have signed it in fountain pen, in script that would not have looked out of place on the Declaration of Independence. – NYT, 5-8-09
  • Official Quits Over Jet Flight That Alarmed New Yorkers: The photo shoot of Air Force One soaring above the Statue of Liberty cost taxpayers $328,835. Now the incident, which incited panic among scores of people in New York City, has cost the director of the White House Military Office his job. The White House released the photo that caused the controversy on Friday. The director, Louis Caldera, who was appointed by President Obama to the White House post and had been a secretary of the Army in the Clinton administration, resigned on Friday for his role in approving the April 27 flyover. In a brief letter to Mr. Obama, Mr. Caldera said that the matter “has become a distraction for the important work you are doing as president.”…. – NYT, 5-8-09
  • Aide resigns over NYC flyover; probe continues: The Pentagon and Air Force are reviewing whether their officials may be partly to blame for a $328,835 photo-op of a jumbo jet used by the president soaring above New York City that has already forced the White House military director to step down… – AP, 5-9-09
  • Banks’ tests results lift cloud of uncertainty: Government exams of the nation’s biggest banks have helped lift a cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the economy. The so-called stress tests — a key Obama administration effort to boost confidence in the financial system — showed nine of the 19 biggest banks have enough capital to withstand a deeper recession. Ten must raise a total of $75 billion in new capital to withstand possible future losses…. – AP, 5-8-09
  • Obama opts out of prayer day The move disappoints evangelicals. Under President George W. Bush, the event was held at the White House with political fanfare: For years, it’s been a staple of the White House calendar. On the first Thursday of May, dedicated as the National Day of Prayer, President George W. Bush hosted an ecumenical service in the East Room, a big public endorsement of evangelical Christians. (The event is different from the National Prayer Breakfast, held elsewhere in Washington on the first Thursday of February.) President Obama opted not to have a service in the White House this year. “Prayer is something that the president does every day,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, adding that Obama will sign a proclamation to recognize the day. “I think the president understands, in his own life and in his family’s life, the role that prayer plays.” President Truman signed the first National Day of Prayer proclamation, and President Reagan made it a permanent occasion…. – LAT, 5-7-09
  • Specter gets chairmanship consolation prize Seniority to be settled in 2011 caucus: Senate Democratic leaders on Thursday gave Sen. Arlen Specter the chairmanship of a key Judiciary subcommittee, pacifying the veteran Pennsylvania lawmaker after his shaky start as the chambers newest Democrat. In another reversal of fortune, Mr. Specter’s prospects for re-election as a Democrat in 2010 improved slightly when Republican heavyweight Tom Ridge announced he would not enter the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania…. – Washington Times, 5-7-09
  • Colin Powell’s Bad Advice Nobody wants the government in their living room: In good times or bad, there’s always someone willing to tell the Republican Party that the road to success is to embrace the liberal agenda. In a speech in Washington Monday, former Secretary of State Colin Powell joined the chorus. We hope for the sake of the country that his party doesn’t listen. Mr. Powell insisted that he doesn’t want the Republicans to turn into Democrats or clones of the Democrats. But it’s hard to see what other space he hopes the GOP will carve out for itself given his analysis. According to press accounts, Mr. Powell argued that America has changed, and “Americans do want to pay taxes for services” and “Americans are looking for more government in their life, not less.”… – WSJ, 5-7-09
  • Specter gets subcommittee chair, primary challenge: Republican-turned-Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter gained a Judiciary subcommittee chairmanship but also a potential primary challenger Thursday, the latest twists in a turbulent episode of party switching. The good news-bad news day for Specter didn’t stop there. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge announced he would not challenge Specter next year. Ridge, a moderate Republican and the first homeland security chief, had been running about even against Specter in a hypothetical general election race, according to a recent poll. “My desire and intention is to help my party craft solutions that both sides of the aisle can embrace,” said Ridge, whose decision eliminates one major challenge to Specter…. – AP, 5-7-09
  • Obama touts $17 billion ‘lot of money’ budget cuts: President Barack Obama sent Congress a detailed budget Thursday boasting of cutting or killing 121 federal programs in a belt-tightening he likened to that of most Americans in difficult times. But the trims amounted to a tiny fraction of the new spending he wants, and some have already been nixed by allies on Capitol Hill. Obama said his cuts would amount to $17 billion — in a budget totaling well over $3 trillion for the fiscal year that begins in October. He’s estimating the government’s red ink will still be about $1.2 trillion, down only slightly from this year’s all-time record…. – AP, 5-7-09
  • Bush attorneys who wrote terror memo face backlash: Pressure is mounting against two former Bush administration attorneys who wrote the legal memos used to support harsh interrogation techniques that critics say constituted torture. John Yoo, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is fighting calls for disbarment and dismissal, while Judge Jay Bybee of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals faces calls for impeachment…. – AP, 5-7-09
  • Souter chokes up at farewell: Supreme Court Justice David Souter, momentarily choked with emotion, bid an affectionate farewell yesterday to judges and lawyers he has worked with for nearly two decades. AP, 5-6-09
  • Baucus, Obama talk health care at White House: Montana Sen. Max Baucus says a private lunch with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden should help as he leads efforts to overhaul the nation’s health care system. Baucus, a veteran Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, had lunch with Obama and Biden at the White House Wednesday, along with Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the senior Republican on the finance panel. Baucus said the four men had a wide-ranging discussion, but focused on health care. Baucus called the meeting productive. He pledged to continue to work with Obama, Biden, Grassley and others to get a bill passed…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • Franken meets with vice president in Washington: Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken met privately with Vice President Joe Biden late Wednesday afternoon to update him on the still-contested Minnesota Senate race. Franken, who said he is eager to join the Senate, said the two men also discussed President Barack Obama’s policy goals…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • New Democrat Specter loses committee seniority: Arlen Specter’s switch to the Democratic Party has cost him his seniority on Senate committees. The Senate passed a resolution Tuesday night that made him the most junior Democrat on the committees on which he serves. The resolution was passed after an agreement was reached between leadership in both parties and Specter, said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Manley said the seniority issue will be revisited after the 2010 elections…. Specter serves on the Appropriations, Judiciary, Veterans Affairs, Environment and Public Works, and Special Aging committees…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • Source: No charges seen over interrogation memos: Justice Department investigators say Bush administration lawyers who approved harsh interrogation techniques of terror suspects should not face criminal charges, according to a draft report that also recommends two of the three attorneys face possible professional sanctions…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • Senate hears a dim forecast for newspapers’ future: One way to save some of the nation’s struggling newspapers would be to let them become nonprofits similar to public broadcasting stations, a senator said Wednesday as editors and other journalists painted a grim future for daily print journalism. “We need to save our community newspapers and the investigative journalism they provide,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., told a subcommittee of the Senate’s Commerce Committee. Under a bill proposed by Cardin, newspapers turning to nonprofit status would no longer be able to make political endorsements but could report on all issues including political campaigns. Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax-exempt and contributions to support coverage could be tax deductible…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • AP sources: Obama to seek $17B in budget savings: After a line-by-line scrub of the federal budget, President Barack Obama has signed off on a roster of 121 budget cuts totaling $17 billion — or about one-half of 1 percent of the $3.4 trillion budget Congress has approved for next year. Budget Director Peter Orszag briefed Democratic lawmakers on a partial roster of the cuts Wednesday before a public release on Thursday. Obama also is fleshing out the details of the $1.3 trillion portion of the budget that he requested Congress pass through appropriations bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1…. – AP, 5-6-09
  • Top Judiciary Republican Inclined Against Blocking Supreme Court Nominee: Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said a deal among centrist senators four yours ago that averted filibusters against some of former President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees established a “standard” that shouldn’t be discarded except in unusual circumstances…. – Fox News, 5-6-09
  • U.S. Says Bank of America Needs $33.9 Billion Cushion: The government has told Bank of America it needs $33.9 billion in capital to withstand any worsening of the economic downturn, according to an executive at the bank…. – NYT, 5-5-09
  • Pakistani President Tries to Assure U.S. on Taliban: Pakistan’s leaders began an arduous campaign here on Tuesday to convince the United States that they will repel recent incursions by Taliban militant groups, secure their own nuclear arsenal and make good use of American military and economic assistance. NYT, 5-5-09
  • House Dems narrow energy, climate bill differences: Key lawmakers agreed Tuesday on a strategy for replacing gas-guzzling cars with more fuel-efficient models, but much tougher negotiations lie ahead on a bill that would, for the first time, limit emissions linked to global warming. President Barack Obama summoned three dozen House Democrats to the White House to build consensus around climate and energy legislation that is under increasing criticism from Republicans and members of his own party. AP, 5-5-09
  • Party Switch Costs Specter His Seniority on Senate Committees: The Senate last night stripped Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) of his seniority on committees, a week after the 29-year veteran of the chamber quit the Republican Party to join the Democrats. In announcing his move across the aisle last week, Specter asserted that Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) had assured him he would retain his seniority in the Senate and on the five committees on which he serves. Specter’s tenure ranked him ahead of all but seven Democrats. Instead, though, on a voice vote last night, the Senate approved a resolution that made Specter the most junior Democrat on four committees for the remainder of this Congress. Reid himself read the resolution on the Senate floor, underscoring the reversal…. – WaPo, 5-5-09
  • Michelle Obama captivates glittery crowd in NYC: She’s already conquered Britain, France and Germany. On Tuesday, it was time for Michelle Obama to conquer New York. After a visit to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and an appearance on “Sesame Street,” Mrs. Obama capped her first visit to New York as first lady with an appearance before a glittery crowd at Time magazine’s annual Time 100 gala, honoring its 100 “Most Influential People.” There, she mixed sparkle with substance, introducing the administration’s proposal to give $50 million to innovative nonprofit groups…. – AP, 5-5-09
  • Republicans attacking Obama on terror policy: After weeks of concentrating their attacks against President Barack Obama on the economy, Republicans are branching out. They’re taking aim at his anti-terrorism policy. “Just what is the administration’s overarching plan to take on the terrorist threat and to keep America safe?” asks House Republican leader John Boehner in a new Web video featuring ominous music, unsettling images and less than flattering photos of the president…. – AP, 5-5-09
  • G.O.P. Picks Conservative for Senate Judiciary Post: Senator Jeff Sessions, a conservative from Alabama, has struck an agreement to assume the top Republican position on the Judiciary Committee, making him the chief voice of the opposition in summer confirmation hearings for President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee…. – NYT, 5-5-09
  • At Annual Meeting, Pro-Israel Group Reasserts Clout: The formidable political strength of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation’s major pro-Israel lobby, has been on decidedly intentional display here in the last few days. But this year, Aipac’s annual conference comes after a period fraught with small anxieties for the group and its supporters…. – NYT, 5-5-09
  • White House seeks comments on education law: Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former big-city schools chief, traveled through rural terrain Tuesday as he asked educators and parents how the Obama administration should overhaul the No Child Left Behind law. Duncan is from Chicago, but he made West Virginia the first stop on a 15-state “listening tour.” “I think the challenges are very similar,” Duncan told The Associated Press in an interview. “I know there are high-performing schools in every state in the country, and what’s important to me is to really understand what enables them to beat the odds.”… – AP, 5-5-09
  • Republicans branch out from criticism over economy to hit Obama on terror policy: After weeks of concentrating their attacks against President Barack Obama on the economy, Republicans are branching out. They’re taking aim at his anti-terrorism policy. “Just what is the administration’s overarching plan to take on the terrorist threat and to keep America safe?” asks House Republican leader John Boehner in a new Web video featuring ominous music, unsettling images and less than flattering photos of the president…. – AP, 5-5-09
  • Congress leery about Obama’s plan on tax loopholes: President Barack Obama promised sternly on Monday to crack down on companies “that ship jobs overseas” and duck U.S. taxes with offshore havens. It won’t be easy. Democrats have been fighting — and losing — this battle since John F. Kennedy made a similar proposal in 1961. Obama’s proposal to close tax loopholes was a reliable applause line during the presidential campaign, but it got a lukewarm response Monday from Capitol Hill…. – AP, 5-5-09
  • Obama vows tougher overseas tax policies: President Barack Obama vowed on Monday to overhaul tax policies that he said reward companies for shifting U.S. jobs overseas and allow wealthy people to evade taxes using offshore accounts. The White House estimated the plan would save $210 billion over the next decade. In one proposal businesses are poised to fight, Obama would tighten tax-code provisions that allow firms to defer paying taxes on profits they make overseas as long as those earnings are ploughed back into the foreign subsidiaries…. – Reuters, 5-4-09
  • Standing on Ceremony Is the press showing more respect for Obama than Bush?: A video, put together by Politico’s Patrick Gavin, is making the rounds showing two presidential visits to the White House briefing room. In one, George Bush arrives for a press conference in February 2008, and the press remains seated. In the second, from last Friday, Barack Obama surprises the press by appearing in the midst of the daily briefing. They stand to greet him. (Given that the press is supposedly in the tank for Obama, shouldn’t critics be happy they didn’t kneel?)… – Slate, 5-4-09
  • Palin To Be Part of National Council: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be part of the National Council for a New America, an attempt by leaders in Congress and potential 2012 presidential candidates to rebrand the struggling party. “I am pleased to announce that Governor Palin has joined the National Council for a New America’s panel of experts,” said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) today. “When NCNA was announced last week, we spoke about a dynamic organization that worked to constantly bring in new people and innovative ideas.”… – WaPo, 5-4-09
  • Senators to Obama: Look beyond the federal bench: Wanted: Supreme Court justice. Judicial experience not required. Not only is experience as a judge not a requirement under the Constitution, some of the senators who will conduct confirmation hearings for Justice David Souter’s replacement think it’s time for a nominee who hasn’t served on the federal appeals court. For all nine of the current justices, the appeals court was a final stepping stone to the Supreme Court. “I would like to see more people from outside the judicial monastery, somebody who has had some real-life experience, not just as a judge,” said Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee…. – AP, 5-4-09
  • Obama calls senators about high court pick: President Barack Obama, eager to have his Supreme Court nominee seated by early October, has begun calling senators who will play key roles in the confirmation process. While it is unclear when Obama will name a nominee, aides said he wants the process to move rapidly enough so that the Senate can confirm the person shortly after Congress returns from its August recess, if not sooner…. – AP, 5-4-09
  • Vanity, Karma Continue to Take Toll on Edwards: Feds are combing through John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign checkbook to see if there’s more to the story of his payments to his former mistress Reille Hunter, a probe that some observers say couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy…. – FOX News, 5-4-09
  • Ridge May Run for Specter’s Senate Seat: Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge (R) is seriously considering a 2010 bid for the Senate seat held by Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter and will make his decision in the next two weeks, according to several sources familiar with his thinking…. – WaPo, 5-4-09
  • Obama to meet Afghan and Pakistan leaders: President Barack Obama presents his strategy for defeating al Qaeda to the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Wednesday amid growing U.S. concern it is losing the war and neither is a reliable ally. The White House meetings with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are likely to be cagey affairs — both visitors have been heavily criticized by Obama’s administration and are also wary of each other…. – Reuters, 5-4-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President gives his Weekly Address on credit card reform

Political Quotes

  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON REFORMING THE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM TO REDUCE COSTS: And that’s what makes today’s meeting so remarkable — because it’s a meeting that might not have been held just a few years ago. The groups who are here today represent different constituencies with different sets of interests. They’ve not always seen eye to eye with each other or with our government on what needs to be done to reform health care in this country. In fact, some of these groups were among the strongest critics of past plans for comprehensive reform.
    But what’s brought us all together today is a recognition that we can’t continue down the same dangerous road we’ve been traveling for so many years; that costs are out of control; and that reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait. It’s a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise, who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the ’90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America….
    Ultimately, the debate about reducing costs — and the larger debate about health care reform itself — is not just about numbers; it’s not just about forms or systems; it’s about our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. And I understand that. As I’ve mentioned before during the course of the campaign, my mother passed away from ovarian cancer a little over a decade ago. And in the last weeks of her life, when she was coming to grips with her own mortality and showing extraordinary courage just to get through each day, she was spending too much time worrying about whether her health insurance would cover her bills. So I know what it’s like to see a loved one who is suffering, but also having to deal with a broken health care system. I know that pain is shared by millions of Americans all across this country. WH Blog, 5-11-09
  • Obama does turn as comedian in chief: “I must confess I really did not want to be here tonight,” Obama told guests at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner — an annual black-tie gathering of journalists, politicians and Hollywood celebrities. “But I knew I had to come. That’s one more problem that I inherited from George W. Bush.”…. “The last thing Tim Geithner needs is someone else treating him like a fire hydrant,” he said…. “Finally, I believe that my next 100 days will be so successful that I will be able to complete them in 72 days. And on the 73rd day, I will rest,” he joshed…. In a dig at the press, Obama said: “We look for you for truth — even if it’s always an approximation.” Reuters, 5-10-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ ASSOCIATION DINNERWH, 5-9-09
  • Obama Delivers the Zingers at Journalists’ Dinner: Not Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton: “The minute she got back from Mexico, she pulled me into a hug and said I should go down there myself.”… Not Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: “This is a tough holiday for Rahm. He’s not used to saying the word ‘day’ after ‘mother.’ “… Not even, it turned out, himself: “During the second 100 days, we will design, build and open a library dedicated to my first 100 days.”… And: “My next 100 days will be so successful, I will complete them in 72 days. And on the 73rd day, I will rest.”… The routine brought mostly guffaws from the 2,500 journalists, politicians and celebrities jammed into the Washington Hilton ballroom for the press corps’ annual celebration of itself. The president acknowledged perceptions that he’s a media darling: “Most of you covered me; all of you voted for me. Apologies to the Fox table.” – WaPo, 5-10-09
  • Biden to grads: You have chance to shape history: “There is a much greater risk in accepting a situation we know we cannot sustain than in steeling our spine and embracing the challenge of change,” Biden said to students from Syracuse University and the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry…. “It is totally within your power to shape history. … This has been the journey of America since its inception,” said Biden, a 1968 graduate of Syracuse’s law school, speaking to more than 19,000 people in the Carrier Dome…. “All over this great country, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness began to take hold,” Biden said. “But as I walked across that stage, I never doubted for one instant that we could change that history, that we could rewrite the outcome we were careening toward, and we did,” he said. “It’s 2009. Now it’s your turn. You are graduating into a world of anxiety and uncertainty … ,” said Biden, pointing to a troubled economy, two wars and a planet in environmental peril. “These are the challenges you face. But these are the moments you can embrace. Throughout the span of history, only a handful of us ever get a chance to actually shape the course of history,” said the vice president, who received several standing ovations…. – AP, 5-10-09
  • Latino Town Hall: Full Video and Transcript: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT LATINO TOWN HALL: ….So I’m very proud of this first White House town hall meeting conducted entirely in Spanish. I am grateful — except for my part. (Laughter.) You know, I’m kind of messing up the whole thing. (Laughter.) I’m grateful for Univision for hosting us, and I’m happy to see that we’ve got officials from many different departments, including my Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.
    So I want to let you continue with your conversation. I hope you learn something. Please ask questions — these folks are extraordinarily well informed — and then distribute the information that you learn from this town hall throughout your communities. And this is just the first of many, I hope, mechanisms for outreach that will improve the quality of service that the White House provides to the American people. – WH Blog, 5-9-09
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Calls on Congress to Pass Credit Card Reform Bill: Good morning. I want to briefly share some news about our economy, and talk about the work that we’re doing both to protect American consumers, and to put our economy back on a path to growth and prosperity.
    This week, we saw some signs that the gears of America’s economic engine are slowly beginning to turn. Consumer spending and home sales are stabilizing. Unemployment claims are dropping and job losses are beginning to slow. But these trends are far from satisfactory. The unemployment rate is at its highest point in twenty-five years. We are still in the midst of a deep recession that was years in the making, and it will take time to fully turn this economy around. We cannot rest until our work is done. Not when Americans continue to lose their jobs and struggle to pay their bills. Not when we are wrestling with record deficits and an over-burdened middle class. That is why every action that my Administration is taking is focused on clearing away the wreckage of this recession, and building a new foundation for job-creation and long-term growth…. – WH Blog, 5-9-09
  • Obama: Send me credit card legislation this month: “Americans know that they have a responsibility to live within their means and pay what they owe,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. “But they also have a right to not get ripped off by the sudden rate hikes, unfair penalties and hidden fees that have become all too common.” “You shouldn’t have to fear that any new credit card is going to come with strings attached, nor should you need a magnifying glass and a reference book to read a credit card application. And the abuses in our credit card industry have only multiplied in the midst of this recession, when Americans can least afford to bear an extra burden,” the president said. Obama wants to sign the legislation by Memorial Day. “There is no time for delay. We need a durable and successful flow of credit in our economy, but we can’t tolerate profits that depend upon misleading working families. Those days are over,” he said. Railing against what he said was “abuse that goes unpunished,” the president stressed the need “to strengthen monitoring, enforcement and penalties for credit card companies that take advantage of ordinary Americans.” “Instead of fine print that hides the truth, we need credit card forms and statements that have plain language in plain sight, and we need to give people the tools they need to find a credit card that meets their needs,” he said. – AP, 5-9-09
  • Cheney: Mistake for GOP to ‘moderate’: “This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas … what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and constitutional principles,” Cheney said in an interview with North Dakota radio host Scott Hennen Thursday, according to a transcript. “You know, when you add all those things up, the idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy,” Cheney also said. “I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most of us aren’t. Most Republicans have a pretty good idea of values, and aren’t eager to have someone come along and say, ‘Well, the only way you can win is if you start to act more like a Democrat.'” “I think periodically we have to go through one these sessions. It helps clear away some of the underbrush … some of the older folks who’ve been around a long time — like yours truly — need to move on and make room for that young talent that’s coming along,” he said. “We resorted … to waterboarding, which is the source of much of the controversy, with only three individuals. In those cases, it was only after we’d gone through all the other steps of the process,” he said. “The way the whole program was set up was very careful, to use other methods and only to resort to the enhanced techniques in those special circumstances.” “If anybody takes a look at the record, they’ll find that we had significant success as a result of these policies,” he said. “One way to nail that down is that there are two documents in particular that I personally have read and know about that are still classified in that National Archives,” he said. – CNN, 5-7-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON REDUCING SPENDING IN THE BUDGET: We’re doing everything that we can to create jobs and to get our economy moving while building a new foundation for lasting prosperity — a foundation that invests in quality education, lowers health care costs, and develops new sources of energy powered by new jobs and industries.
    But one of the pillars of this foundation is fiscal responsibility. We can no longer afford to spend as if deficits don’t matter and waste is not our problem. We can no longer afford to leave the hard choices for the next budget, the next administration — or the next generation.
    That’s why I’ve charged the Office of Management and Budget, led by Peter Orszag and Rob Nabors who are standing behind me today, with going through the budget — program by program, item by item, line by line — looking for areas where we can save taxpayer dollars….
    In addition, we’re going to save money by eliminating unnecessary defense programs that do nothing to keep us safe, but rather prevent us from spending money on what does keep us safe. One example is a $465 million program to build an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. The Defense Department is already pleased with the engine it has. The engine it has works. The Pentagon does not want and does not plan to use the alternative version. That’s why the Pentagon stopped requesting this funding two years ago. Yet it’s still being funded.
    These are just a few examples. But the point to remember is that there are consequences for this kind of spending. It makes the development of new tools for our military, like the Joint Strike Fighter, more expensive — even prohibitively so — and crowds out money that we could be using, for example, to improve our troops’ quality of life and their safety and security. It makes government less effective. It makes our nation less resilient and less able to address immediate concerns and long-term challenges. And it leaves behind a massive burden for our children and grandchildren. – WH Blog, 5-7-09
  • Obama applauds Afghan and Pakistan cooperation: President Barack Obama is applauding Pakistan and Afghanistan for their commitment to helping the U.S. fight terrorists holed up in their territory, but he also is cautioning that the path to success is slow and unsure. “The road ahead will be difficult,” Obama said Wednesday after a series of meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari that yielded few announced new commitments. “There will be more violence, and there will be setbacks.” Obama added, “The United States has made a lasting commitment to defeat al-Qaida, but also to support the democratically elected sovereign governments of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. That commitment will not waver, and that support will be sustained.”… – AP, 5-7-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER THE TRILATERAL MEETING WITH PRESIDENT KARZAI OF AFGHANISTAN AND PRESIDENT ZARDARI OF PAKISTAN: We meet today as three sovereign nations joined by a common goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their ability to operate in either country in the future. And to achieve that goal, we must deny them the space to threaten the Pakistani, Afghan, or American people. And we must also advance security and opportunity, so that Pakistanis and Afghans can pursue the promise of a better life.
    There is much to be done. Along the border where insurgents often move freely, we must work together with a renewed sense of partnership to share intelligence, and to coordinate our efforts to isolate, target and take out our common enemy. But, we must also meet the threat of extremism with a positive program of growth and opportunity. That is why my Administration is working with members of Congress to create opportunity zones to spark development. And that is why I’m proud that we’ve helped advance negotiations toward a landmark transit-trade agreement to open the Afghanistan and Pakistan border to more commerce.
    Within Afghanistan, we must help grow the economy, while developing alternatives to the drug trade by tapping the resilience and ingenuity of the Afghan people. We must support free and open national elections later this fall, while helping to protect the hard-earned rights of all Afghans. And we must support the capacity of local governments and stand up to corruption that blocks progress. I also made it clear that the United States will work with our Afghan and international partners to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties as we help the Afghan government combat our common enemy.
    Within Pakistan, we must provide lasting support to democratic institutions, while helping the government confront the insurgents who are the single greatest threat to the Pakistani state. And we must do more than stand against those who would destroy Pakistan – we must stand with those who want to build. That is why I have asked Congress for sustained funding for schools, roads, and hospitals. I want the Pakistani people to understand that America is not simply against terrorism – we are on the side of their hopes, and their aspirations. Because we know that the future of Pakistan must be determined by the talent, innovation and intelligence of its people…. – WH Blog, 5-6-09
  • Specter: Reid Promised Seniority, Eventual Judiciary Chairmanship: “When I talked to Senator Reid he assured me that my seniority would be as if I came in (as a Democrat) in 1980, and I relied . . . on his representation, and that’s the long and short of it,” Specter said in an interview in his Capitol “hideaway” office…. “There was no mention of the caucus when we talked. We talked more particularly about if Leahy became chairman of Appropriations, I would become chairman of the Judiciary. Ask him about that. That was the arrangement,” Specter said…. Assuming he wins that reelection, Specter is confident Reid will convince the Democrats to stand down from their concerns and give him his seniority back. “I think Senator Reid speaks for the caucus, he’s a very strong leader,” Specter said. – WaPo, 5-6-09
  • REMARKS OF FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA AT TIME 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE AWARDS: The idea is simple: to find the most effective programs out there and then provide the capital needed to replicate their success in communities around the country that are facing similar challenges. By focusing on high-impact, result-oriented non-profits, we will ensure that government dollars are spent in a way that is effective, accountable and worthy of the public trust….
    Careers focused on lifting up our communities – whether helping transform troubled schools or training workers for green jobs or helping low-income families access health care – are not always obvious. But, at a time when our nation is facing unprecedented challenges, encouraging careers in public service and social innovation are more important than ever…. – WH, 5-5-09
  • Good Jobs Here at Home REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON INTERNATIONAL TAX POLICY REFORM: So the steps I am announcing today will help us deal with some of the most egregious examples of what’s wrong with our tax code and will help us strengthen some of these other efforts. It’s a down payment on the larger tax reform we need to make our tax system simpler and fairer and more efficient for individuals and corporations.
    Now, it will take time to undo the damage of distorted provisions that were slipped into our tax code by lobbyists and special interests, but with the steps I’m announcing today we are beginning to crack down on Americans who are bending or breaking the rules, and we’re helping to ensure that all Americans are contributing their fair share.
    In other words, we’re beginning to restore fairness and balance to our tax code. That’s what I promised I would do during the campaign, that’s what I’m committed to doing as President, and that is what I will work with members of my administration and members of Congress to accomplish in the months and years to come…. – WH Blog, 5-4-09
  • Vanity, Karma Continue to Take Toll on Edwards: “I think the biggest problem we’re hearing from people when they talk about this case, aside from the criminal possibilities, is how angry a lot of people still are at John Edwards, not for his infidelity but for claiming the mantle of his wife’s illness as part of the reason for his running for president, and then while he was running for president engaging in this kind of conduct,” said Washington Examiner political editor Chris Stirewalt. “I think there’s going to be very little sympathy for the former senator as this goes forward. I mean, people are mad,” Stirewalt said. – FOX News, 5-4-09
  • Vanity, Karma Continue to Take Toll on Edwards: In a carefully worded statement issued Sunday, Edwards said none of the money Hunter received was wrongly paid. “I am confident that no funds from my campaign were used improperly. However, I know that it is the role of government to ensure that this is true. We have made available to the United States both the people and the information necessary to help them get the issue resolved efficiently and in a timely matter,” he said. – FOX News, 5-4-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President and the Russian Foreign Minister
(President Barack Obama meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office of the
White House May 7, 2009. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: News can outlast newspapers”: Last week, Sen. John Kerry convened a discussion of the troubled state of journalism in America by way of a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet.
    In Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts, the Boston Globe is barely surviving. Several major metro papers have closed down, and there are indications that many more could soon follow. Experts have been warning in recent months that much of the newspaper industry may not survive.
    While the end of the metro newspaper would constitute a huge blow to journalism and the political system, realistically there might be nothing that we can do. The popularity of news on the Web and the potential of mobile devices such as the Kindle makes it difficult to see how we can sustain news in print — unless electronic delivery can produce enough revenue to support the cost of newspaper staffs.
    Sometimes technological innovations and consumer preferences cause changes that are irreversible. The industry has seen other important shifts in the way that Americans receive their news, such as the advent of television news in the 1950s and 1960s.
    But the real issue is not whether we can save the newspapers, but how we can create the best Internet news system possible. As Kerry said in his opening statement: “There also is the important question of whether online journalism will sustain the values of professional journalism, the way the newspaper industry has.”…
    The Internet can also combine written news with video and audio sources, as well as disseminate stories through social networking sites. Readers have the opportunities to interact with reporters and comment on stories.
    The death of the metro newspaper would be a huge loss. But rather than only focusing on lament, our best response would be to make the new medium of Internet news as strong as it can possibly be.
    We must address the major challenges by developing sites with the resources to edit, insisting on venues where the pursuit of objectivity remains a goal, and cultivating sites that help bring together different subject matter. If we do, the technological transition that we are living through can turn into a positive moment of advance for the media rather than a moment of decline. – CNN, 5-11-09
  • Conservative Historian Andrew Bacevich Warns Against Obama’s Escalation of War in Afghanistan and Intensifying Use of Air Power in Region: Well, I was invited to testify by Senator Kerry and thought it was appropriate for me to accept the invitation. I have been deeply disappointed by the direction of US policy in AfPak, as the Obama administration chooses to call it, ever since President Obama was inaugurated. I know, as do others, that when he was running for the office, he promised to reorient the US military effort from Iraq to Afghanistan. I had hoped that that was simply campaign talk to protect himself from the charge of being weak on national security. And therefore, I regret that it turns out that he’s serious on doubling down in Afghanistan and expanding US military efforts in Pakistan. I think both of those are mistaken…. – Democracy Now, 5-11-09
  • Robert Dallek “Obama Faces Mounting Challenges in His Next 100 Days With Iraq, Afghanistan, and the struggling economy, Obama is just getting started”: “He comes across as self-confident but not arrogant,” says historian Robert Dallek. “It reminds me of what Oliver Wendell Holmes said about Franklin Roosevelt—that he had a first-class temperament but a second-class intellect. Only with Obama, you have both a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect.” But Dallek adds that those personal traits will take him only so far. “The economy has to start coming back,” he says. “Patience will only last so long.” US News & World Report, 5-5-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Grateful Dead on health care”: All the stars seem to have aligned for the passage of national health care reform. Victory, supporters say, is inevitable. During the past week, two important developments excited health care proponents. First, President Obama and Senate Democrats included reconciliation instructions in the budget for health care. If a deal is not reached by October, congressional Democrats can use a process that prohibits a filibuster and allows passage of the bill with 51 rather than 60 votes in the Senate. And even if opponents of the bill attempted to stage a filibuster, the switch of Sen. Arlen Specter to the Democratic Party, combined with the likely victory of Al Franken as a senator from Minnesota, would provide Democrats with 60 votes to fight it off. Yet, as the Grateful Dead sang in one of their most famous songs, “When life looks like Easy Street, there is danger at your door.”…
    But some of the older pitfalls remain. The administration and congressional Democrats need to reach an agreement sooner rather than later about how these benefits will be financed, or they will be bogged down by the same kinds of internal conflicts over taxes. Once they have a plan in place, Democrats also need to think of an effective way to package it to the public in order to counteract attacks from Republicans who may characterize it as socialized medicine. If Democrats are able to achieve national health care reform, they will go into the 2010 and 2012 election with a major, concrete political achievement. If they fail, as Clinton’s experience reminds us, they might give Republicans the kind of issue that they have been looking for to recover from 2008. – CNN, 5-4-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Measuring Obama by FDR’s yardstick If the first 100 days mean anything, the president is looking a lot like Franklin Roosevelt. But recent history shows a lot can change after the early days of a presidency”: “He’s not a revolutionary; he’s a liberal,” said historian Allan Lichtman of American University. “Obama’s made big changes, but within the normal liberal-conservative arc. Yes, the pendulum has swung, but it’s swung from mainstream conservatism to mainstream liberalism.” One more thing, Lichtman noted: Obama is a fox, not a hedgehog. The phrase comes from British philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who quoted an ancient Greek poet: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog knows one big thing.”… – LAT, 4-21-09

April 27, 2009: President Obama’s First Cabinet Meeting & Towards 100 Days

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President Films the Weekly Address

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Democrat wins House race in New York: A Democrat has won a close U.S. congressional election in New York that had been seen by some as an early gauge of support for President Barack Obama. Republican Jim Tedisco conceded defeat on Friday to his Democratic rival Scott Murphy in a district of northeast New York state that has traditionally been Republican but has voted Democratic in recent years. “As a candidate, Scott courageously championed the economic plans we need to lift our nation and put it on a better path, and he will continue to do so in Congress,” Obama said in a statement…. – Reuters, 4-24-09
  • Poll: Public thinks highly of Obama: His opening months in the Oval Office have fortified Barack Obama’s standing with the American public, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, giving him political capital for battles ahead. As his 100th day as president approaches next Wednesday, the survey shows Obama has not only maintained robust approval ratings but also bolstered the sense that he is a strong and decisive leader who can manage the government effectively during a time of economic crisis.
    Since October, the percentage who see Obama as a “strong and decisive leader” has jumped 12 percentage points, and his image as an effective manager has gone up 11 points.
    Now, 56% say he has done an “excellent” or “good” job as president vs. 20% who rate him as “poor” or “terrible.” An additional 23% say he has done “just OK.”
    His excellent/good rating on national security is 53%. On the economy, it is 48%. – USA Today, 4-23-09
  • RCP Poll:
    President Obama Job Approval: RCP Average: +30.3% Approve 60.8% Disapprove 30.5%
    Congressional Job Approval: RCP Average: -25.5% Approve 33.8% Disapprove 59.3%
    Direction of Country: RCP Average: -24.1% Right Direction 34.7% Wrong Track 58.8%

THE HEADLINES….

The President meets with President Clinton and Senator Kennedy
(President Barack Obama meets with Senator Kennedy and former President Clinton to discuss national service.  April 21, 2009.  White House Photo/ Chuck Kennedy.)

The Headlines…

  • U.S. Plans Informal Meetings With Cuba: Seizing the momentum from recent meetings with Latin American leaders, the Obama administration is quietly pushing forward with efforts to reopen channels of communication with Cuba, according to White House and State Department officials. The officials said informal meetings were being planned between the State Department and Cuban diplomats in the United States to determine whether the two governments could open formal talks on a variety of issues, including migration, drug trafficking and other regional security matters…. – NYT, 4-26-09
  • GOP Seeks New Mexico Comeback Republicans Play Up Danger of One-Party Control, Hitting on National Theme: Republicans in New Mexico are maneuvering for a political comeback in a campaign that previews the themes the national GOP is likely to hit hard in 2010. The mantra: checks and balances Democrats control both houses of the New Mexico legislature, the governorship, all statewide offices and all the state’s congressional seats. But the party has been roiled by scandal in recent years, with a steady drumbeat of corruption investigations, indictments and convictions…. – WSJ, 4-26-09
  • Dick Cheney: The Visible Man: Dick Cheney became a one-of-a-kind vice president for two reasons: he cared deeply about governance, and not a bit about his future political standing. Those same factors, for better or worse, have turned him into a one-of-a-kind former vice president. In a sharp break with long-standing practice, Mr. Cheney has emerged as the highest-profile critic of the new administration…. – NYT, 4-26-09
  • Obama, Democrats Eye Tactic to Shield Health Care Plan From GOP Opposition: Republicans, who have been complaining furiously about the prospect of health care reform passing under fast-track rules, are not planning to go down without a fight. – Fox News, 4-25-09
  • Clinton: Bush’s Iran policy was a failure: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is criticizing the Bush administration for what she called a failed eight-year effort to isolate Iran. In congressional testimony Thursday, she said the approach of President Barack Obama’s predecessor did not deter Iran “one bit” in its ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons and support terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. She said Iran’s nuclear program has continued unabated…. – AP, 4-22-09
  • Democrats may maneuver around GOP filibuster on healthcare legislation: Senior Democrats in Congress are said to have agreed on a plan to prevent Republicans from blocking Barack Obama’s healthcare bill. The legislation might not need a single GOP vote in either house… – LAT, 4-24-09
  • Senate to sink mortgage relief plan: The centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s plan to keep thousands of people from losing their homes amid the worst economic crisis in decades is headed for defeat next week in the Senate. Allowing people to seek mortgage relief in bankruptcy court is opposed by Republicans and enough Democrats to block it. They remain worried that the legislation would unleash a torrent of loan defaults, ultimately driving up mortgage rates and introducing fresh uncertainty to an already ailing economy. The rejection would deal a blow to the popular president pushing an ambitious agenda to stabilize the economy. AP, 4-24-09
  • Meghan McCain is moderately impressive on “the View”: Meghan McCain came off as slightly nervous, serious and likable Thursday while walking the fine line between guest and guest host on “The View. “We should become an umbrella party,” she said. “Stop telling me I don’t have a place.”…. “You’ve had your eight years,” she said. “Now go away.” – NY Daily News, 4-24-09
  • F-16 fighter jets take down lost plane (gently) – Obama relocated: It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. A small plane went into restricted airspace in Washington, DC, today. This time though it got a little too close for comfort. So President Obama and Vice President Biden had to be briefly relocated to ensure their safety. And for a while the US Capitol was evacuated. Within minutes of the single-engine plane entering the restricted zone, it was over. Peacefully…. – LAT, 4-24-09
  • Cheney Requests Release of 2 CIA Reports on Interrogations: Former vice president Richard B. Cheney is asking for the release of two CIA reports in his bid to marshal evidence that coercive interrogation tactics such as waterboarding helped thwart terrorist plots, according to documents released yesterday by the National Archives and Records Administration. Cheney’s request was submitted March 31, more than two weeks before President Obama decided to release four “top secret” memos in which Bush administration lawyers sanctioned harsh tactics for questioning prisoners…. – WaPo, 4-24-09
  • President Obama Requests May Sweeps Timeslot: President Barack Obama has asked to make a prime-time appearance during May sweeps. White House officials have requested up to an hour of airtime for Wednesday, April 29, according to TV Week. The press conference, which falls on the 100th day of Obama’s presidency, will probably air in the 8 o’clock hour and address questions of the president’s performance. Broadcast networks have not yet announced their response, but a source said that they will most likely agree to the administration’s request. Will you tune in to President Obama’s “100 Days” press conference? Or have there been too many already? – TV Guide, 4-23-09
  • Analysis: Obama walks thin line on interrogations: Barack Obama, facing perhaps the trickiest political issue of his young presidency, is trying to appease his liberal base without losing control of a potentially volatile inquiry into George W. Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation tactics against terrorism suspects. One step to the left or right could land him in political trouble. – AP, 4-23-09
  • Biden: States to use recovery money to manage aid: States responsible for more than a third of President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus program will be able to tap some of the recovery money to cover costs of managing the new spending, Vice President Joe Biden told Congress Thursday. Biden sent a letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee summarizing new rules that will, among other things, offer states flexibility to use stimulus money to cover the costs of handling their share of Obama’s spending program. Sen. Joe Lieberman, the committee chairman, welcomed the change, saying state and local governments have struggled to find ways to pay for the increased scrutiny and reporting required for the recovery money. “In this balance that we’re trying to strike, it seems to me that this makes a lot of sense,” the Connecticut independent said during a committee hearing Thursday. – AP, 4-23-09
  • Fidel Castro: Obama ‘misinterpreted’ Raul’s words: Fidel Castro says President Barack Obama “misinterpreted” his brother Raul’s remarks regarding the United States and bristled at the suggestion that Cuba should free political prisoners or cut taxes on dollars people send to the island. Raul Castro touched off a whirlwind of speculation last week that the U.S. and Cuba could be headed toward a thaw after nearly a half-century of chilly relations. The speculation began when the Cuban president said leaders would be willing to sit down with their U.S. counterparts and discuss “everything, everything, everything,” including human rights, freedom of the press and expression, and political prisoners…. – AP, 4-22-09
  • Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae sink into managerial turmoil: The death of Freddie Mac’s acting chief financial officer heightens the turmoil at Freddie (FRE) and Fannie Mae (FNM) at a critical time when the two housing-finance giants are assuming larger roles in the Obama administration’s housing rescue program…. – USA Today, 4-22-09
  • Taliban extend hold, advance near Pakistan capital: Taliban militants have extended their grip in northwestern Pakistan, pushing out from a valley where the government has agreed to impose Islamic law and patrolling villages as close as 60 miles from the capital. Police and officials appear to have fled as armed militants also broadcast radio sermons and spread fear in Buner district, just 60 miles from Islamabad, officials and witnesses said Wednesday…. – AP, 4-22-09
  • Obama calls for new era of energy exploration: President Barack Obama, standing Wednesday in the shell of a once-giant Maytag appliance factory that now houses a wind energy company, declared that a “new era of energy exploration in America” would be a crucial to leading the nation out of an economic crisis….
    “The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy,” Obama said in a state that launched him on the road to the White House with a surprise upset over one-time rival Hillary Rodham Clinton. “America can be that nation. America must be that nation. And while we seek new forms of fuel to power our homes and cars and businesses, we will rely on the same ingenuity — the same American spirit — that has always been a part of our American story.” – AP, 4-22-09
  • Torture Cases Would Face Legal Hurdles: Legal barriers to prosecuting Bush-era officials over alleged torture would be substantial, legal experts said Wednesday. But Democrats were seizing on the issue to score political points anyway, while some Republicans warned against opening a Pandora’s box of recrimination that could hit members of Congress, too. – WSJ, 4-22-09
  • As Bush adviser, Rice delivered OK to waterboard: Then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice verbally OK’d the CIA’s request to subject alleged al-Qaida terrorist Abu Zubaydah to waterboarding in July 2002, a decision memorialized a few days later in a secret memo that the Obama administration declassified last week. Rice’s role was detailed in a narrative released Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It provides the most detailed timeline yet for how the CIA’s harsh interrogation program was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House. – AP, 4-22-09
  • Ellen Moran, White House Communications Director, Leaving For Commerce Post: White House communications director Ellen Moran is stepping down to be chief of staff to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, becoming the first senior adviser to President Barack Obama to leave the West Wing. The move, just three months into the new presidency, will take place over the next few weeks. “It has been a real honor to serve in this White House at the start of this historic administration. I am looking forward to working on critical economic issues with Secretary Locke,” Moran said Tuesday. – AP, 4-22-09
  • Obama Signs Volunteer Bill With Nod to Kennedy Era: President Obama on Tuesday became the latest Democratic president to emulate John F. Kennedy’s call for national service as he signed legislation to triple the size of the Americorps program and called on Americans to volunteer time to improve their communities. The latest on President Obama, the new administration and other news from Washington and around the nation. Join the discussion. Joined by Kennedy’s brother and daughter, Mr. Obama took his turn at the Peace Corps legacy by enacting a new law expanding the government’s role in promoting and paying for Americans to restore parks, tutor children and help communities struck by natural disasters…. – NYT, 4-22-09
  • Senator McConnell blasts plan to close Guantanamo: “The administration needs to tell the American people what it plans to do with these men if they close Guantanamo,” U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday. He pointed out that two years ago the Senate voted 94-3 against sending detainees to the U.S. McConnell opposes closing Guantanamo. “Foreign countries have thus far been unwilling to take them in any significant numbers. And even if countries were willing to take them, there’s an increasing probability that some of these murderers would return to the battlefield,” he said. AP, 4-21-09
  • Obama nudges Israel on Palestinian statehood: President Barack Obama nudged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday to accept the goal of a Palestinian state, as he pressed Israel and the Palestinians to “step back from the abyss.” Deepening his direct role in reviving stalled peace efforts, Obama met Jordan’s King Abdullah and invited Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for separate talks by early June…. – AP, 4-21-09
  • Obama open to torture memos probe, prosecution: Widening an explosive debate on torture, President Barack Obama on Tuesday opened the possibility of prosecution for Bush-era lawyers who authorized brutal interrogation of terror suspects and suggested Congress might order a full investigation. Less than a week after declaring it was time for the nation to move on rather than “laying blame for the past,” Obama found himself describing what might be done next to investigate what he called the loss of “our moral bearings.”… – AP, 4-20-09
  • San Fran Mayor Gavin Newsom running for governor: Mayor Gavin Newsom formally announced his candidacy for California governor Tuesday, offering himself as an heir to the same groundswell for generational change that helped send President Barack Obama to the White House. Entering a race that could see him competing against men 15 and 30 years his senior, the 41-year-old Democrat pointedly used YouTube and the social networking sites Twitter and Facebook to disclose that he would seek his party’s nomination to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger…. – AP, 4-21-09
  • Minuteman founder to run for Senate against McCain: The founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps is expected to announce his intentions to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona next year. Chris Simcox is expected to make the announcement Wednesday. He already has a Web site promoting his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2010. – AP, 4-21-09
  • Obama holds first Cabinet meeting as cameras whirl: A president’s first Cabinet meeting, like the White House Easter Egg Roll, is a spring rite that’s more photo op than substantive event. Barack Obama gathered his Cabinet members around a White House table Monday and asked them collectively to find $100 million in cost cuts over the next three months. That’s a fraction of a fraction of the federal deficit, and it quickly drew ridicule from pundits and Republicans…. – AP, 4-20-09
  • Obama and CIA chief patch up rift: U.S. President Barack Obama and his CIA chief buried differences on Monday over the release of classified documents on waterboarding, even as former Vice President Dick Cheney kept the debate alive. Obama visited CIA headquarters and told agency employees that a fight against al Qaeda and other challenges, and foreign policy changes he is pursuing, make their expertise vital. He pledged his full support. “We live in dangerous times. I am going to need you more than ever,” Obama said. He counselled the employees not to be discouraged by public discussion of “mistakes.”… – Reuters, 4-20-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President speaks with credit card representatives

Political Quotes

  • Weekly Address: Calling for Fiscal Discipline: This week the President reiterates a theme that has been a hallmark of his career, namely that “old habits and stale thinking” will simply not help us solve the new and immense problems our country faces. Listing off several specific changes he intends to bring, he describes his guiding principle: “To help build a new foundation for the 21st century, we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative. That will demand new thinking and a new sense of responsibility for every dollar that is spent.”… – WH Blog, 4-25-09Transcript: WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Announces Steps to Reform Government and Promote Fiscal Discipline
  • Clinton Says Moderation Is Lebanon’s Best Hope: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton touched down in Lebanon on Sunday for a lightning visit to express support for this fragile country, six weeks before crucial parliamentary elections in which the Islamic militant group Hezbollah is expected to make significant gains. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signed a condolence book at the grave of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, pictured in the background, in Beirut on Sunday.
    “It won’t surprise you to hear that I think moderation is important in the affairs of states,” Mrs. Clinton said after meeting the president, Michel Suleiman, a former chief of the armed forces who stays above the political fray. “We want to see a strong, independent, free and sovereign Lebanon,” she said, noting that President Obama had sent Mr. Suleiman a letter expressing those sentiments. “This election will be, obviously, an important milestone.”… Still, the United States “will never make any deal with Syria that sells out Lebanon and the Lebanese people,” Mrs. Clinton pledged. “You’ve been through too much.” – NYT, 4-26-09
  • Virginia’s gubernatorial race gets heated Funding accusations lead candidates to defend themselves: One of the three Democratic contenders for governor is accusing Republican candidate Bob McDonnell of using tax dollars to run his campaign. But the Republican’s campaign says the charge from former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe is just hyperbole from a candidate with his own fundraising ethics issues. The accusation, which came coupled with a swipe at Virginia Republican’s reluctance to accept $125 million in additional unemployment funds, was sent in an e-mail to McAuliffe supporters.
    “When the news broke about the millions of taxpayer-funded bonuses going to AIG executives, Bob McDonnell’s own campaign said they ‘should offend every taxpayer,'” McAuliffe wrote. “I agree.” “But it is every bit as offensive for companies like Citigroup — which participated in some of the worst excess that triggered this financial crisis — to use the money they’re getting from the federal government to make contributions to political candidates. And Bob McDonnell’s taken the cash with open arms,” he continued. – NV Daily, 4-26-09
  • Clinton says Iraq on right track: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says this week’s deadly suicide bombings in Iraq are a sign that extremists are afraid the Iraqi government is succeeding. Making her first trip to Iraq as America’s top diplomat, Clinton said the country has made great strides despite the recent violence that killed at least 148 people in Baghdad and outside on Thursday and Friday.
    “I think that these suicide bombings … are unfortunately, in a tragic way, a signal that the rejectionists fear that Iraq is going in the right direction,” Clinton told reporters traveling aboard her plane ahead of her unannounced Saturday visit to Baghdad. “I think in Iraq there will always be political conflicts, there will always be, as in any society, sides drawn between different factions, but I really believe Iraq as a whole is on the right track,” she said, citing “overwhelming evidence” of “really impressive” progress. “Are there going to be bad days? Yes, there are,” Clinton said. “But I don’t know of any difficult international situation anywhere in the world or history where there haven’t been bad days.” – AP, 4-24-09
  • Steve Schmidt McCain campaign chief gets candid: “When Lehman Brothers collapsed in the fall, I knew pretty much straight away the campaign was finished.” Schmidt also said that when polls showed that only 5 percent of the public believed the country was on the right track and the economy had soured, “I knew that was not going to be survivable for us.” He called Sarah Palin’s halting and damaging interview with Katie Couric, “one of the two most consequential interviews that a candidate for national office has given, in a negative way, the other being Roger Mudd’s interview of Ted Kennedy….when he couldn’t answer the question of why he wanted to be president.” Schmidt was equally candid about the Republican Party: “It is near-extinct in many ways in the Northeast, it is extinct in many ways on the West Coast, and it is endangered in the Mountain West, increasingly endangered in the Southwest…and if you look at the state of the party, it is a shrinking entity…..” “….the Republican Party as a matter of reality in (Obama’s) first 100 days has not done anything to improve its political condition.” – Kansas City Star, 4-24-09
  • Student Loans: Cutting Out the Middle Man: Now, some of you have probably seen how this proposal was greeted by the special interests. The banks and the lenders who have reaped a windfall from these subsidies have mobilized an army of lobbyists to try to keep things the way they are. They are gearing up for battle. So am I. They will fight for their special interests. I will fight for Stephanie, and other American students and their families. And for those who care about America’s future, this is a battle we can’t afford to lose.
    In the end, this is not about growing the size of government or relying on the free market — because it’s not a free market when we have a student loan system that’s rigged to reward private lenders without any risk. It’s about whether we want to give tens of billions of tax dollars to special interests or whether we want to make college more affordable for eight and a half million more students. I think most of us would agree on what the right answer is. – WH Blog, 4-24-09
  • Cracking Down on Credit Cards: There are going to be some core principles, though, that I want to adhere to, and I mentioned these to all the credit card issuers involved.
    First of all, I think that there has to be strong and reliable protections for consumers — protections that ban unfair rate increases and forbid abusive fees and penalties. The days of any time, any reason rate hikes and late fee traps have to end.
    Number two, all the forms and statements that credit card companies send out have to be written in plain language and be in plain sight. No more fine print, no more confusing terms and conditions. We want clarity and transparency from here on out.
    Number three, we have to make sure that people can comparison shop when it comes to credit cards without being afraid that they’re going to be taken advantage of. So we believe that it’s important to require firms to make all their contract terms easily accessible online in a fashion that allows people to shop for the best deal for their needs.
    Not every consumer is going to have the same needs. And some may want to take on a higher interest rate because it provides them more convenience or it provides them with a higher credit line. But we want to make sure that they can make those comparisons themselves easily. And we think that one of the things that needs to be explored is the possibility that every credit card issuer has to issue a plain vanilla, easy to understand, simplest terms possible credit card as a default credit card that the average user can feel comfortable with.
    Finally, we think we need more accountability in the system. And that means more effective oversight and more effective enforcement so that people who are issuing credit cards but violate law, they will feel the full weight of the law…. – WH Blog, 4-23-09Transcript: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER MEETING WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE CREDIT CARD INDUSTRY
  • The President Speaks at the Holocaust Days of Remembrance Ceremony: While the uniqueness of the Holocaust in scope and in method is truly astounding, the Holocaust was driven by many of the same forces that have fueled atrocities throughout history: the scapegoating that leads to hatred and blinds us to our common humanity; the justifications that replace conscience and allow cruelty to spread; the willingness of those who are neither perpetrators nor victims to accept the assigned role of bystander, believing the lie that good people are ever powerless or alone, the fiction that we do not have a choice.
    But while we are here today to bear witness to the human capacity to destroy, we are also here to pay tribute to the human impulse to save. In the moral accounting of the Holocaust, as we reckon with numbers like 6 million, as we recall the horror of numbers etched into arms, we also factor in numbers like these: 7,200 — the number of Danish Jews ferried to safety, many of whom later returned home to find the neighbors who rescued them had also faithfully tended their homes and businesses and belongings while they were gone.
    We remember the number five — the five righteous men and women who join us today from Poland. We are awed by your acts of courage and conscience. And your presence today compels each of us to ask ourselves whether we would have done what you did. We can only hope that the answer is yes.
    We also remember the number 5,000 — the number of Jews rescued by the villagers of Le Chambon, France — one life saved for each of its 5,000 residents. Not a single Jew who came there was turned away, or turned in. But it was not until decades later that the villagers spoke of what they had done — and even then, only reluctantly. The author of a book on the rescue found that those he interviewed were baffled by his interest. “How could you call us ‘good’?” they said. “We were doing what had to be done.”
    That is the question of the righteous — those who would do extraordinary good at extraordinary risk not for affirmation or acclaim or to advance their own interests, but because it is what must be done. They remind us that no one is born a savior or a murderer — these are choices we each have the power to make. They teach us that no one can make us into bystanders without our consent, and that we are never truly alone — that if we have the courage to heed that “still, small voice” within us, we can form a minyan for righteousness that can span a village, even a nation.
    Their legacy is our inheritance. And the question is, how do we honor and preserve it? How do we ensure that “never again” isn’t an empty slogan, or merely an aspiration, but also a call to action?
    I believe we start by doing what we are doing today — by bearing witness, by fighting the silence that is evil’s greatest co-conspirator…. – WH Blog, 4-23-09Trabscript: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE HOLOCAUST DAYS OF REMEMBRANCE CEREMONY
  • Remarks by President Obama at Clean Energy at Trinity Structural Towers, Newton, Iowa, April 22, 2009 Thank you all so much for that welcome. It’s a pleasure to be back in Newton and a privilege to be here at Trinity Structural Towers. I just had a terrific tour of this facility led by several of the workers who operate this plant.
    It wasn’t too long ago that Maytag closed its operations in Newton. Hundreds of jobs were lost. To have walked these floors then would have been to walk along empty corridors. The only signs of a once-thriving enterprise would have been the markings on cement in the shape of equipment that was boxed up and carted away.
    Today, this facility is alive again with new industry. This community continues to struggle, and not everyone has been so fortunate as to be rehired, but more than 100 people will now be….
    …employed at this plant, many the same folks who had lost their jobs when Maytag shut its doors.
    Now you’re using the materials behind me to build towers to support some of the most advanced wind turbines in the world. When completed, these structures will hold aloft blades that can generate as much as 2.5 megawatts of electricity – enough energy to power hundreds of homes.
    At Trinity, you are helping to lead the next energy revolution. And you are heirs to the last energy revolution…. – LAT, 4-22-09
  • Clinton says Cheney not a “reliable source”: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took aim on Wednesday at former Vice President Dick Cheney, telling lawmakers she did not view him as a “particularly reliable source” on issues of torture. Asked about Cheney’s request this week to declassify documents showing the “success” of some widely condemned, harsh interrogation techniques launched by ex-President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks, Clinton had a caustic reply. “It won’t surprise you that I don’t consider him (Cheney) a particularly reliable source,” Clinton told the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee. – Reuters, 4-22-09
  • Obama urges citizens to undertake national service: Calling on Americans to volunteer, President Barack Obama signed a $5.7 billion national service bill Tuesday that triples the size of the AmeriCorps service program over the next eight years and expands ways for students to earn money for college. “What this legislation does, then, is to help harness this patriotism and connect deeds to needs,” said Obama, a former community organizer in Chicago. “It creates opportunities to serve for students, seniors and everyone in between,” he said. “And it is just the beginning of a sustained, collaborative and focused effort to involve our greatest resource — our citizens — in the work of remaking this nation.” “I’m asking you to help change history’s course, put your shoulder up against the wheel,” Obama said. “And if you do, I promise you your life will be richer, our country will be stronger, and someday, years from now, you may remember it as the moment when your own story and the American story converged, when they came together, and we met the challenges of our new century.” “All that’s required on your part is a willingness to make a difference,” Obama said. “And that is, after all, the beauty of service: Anybody can do it.”
    Kennedy told the audience that included former President Bill Clinton, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former first lady Rosalyn Carter that Obama’s efforts echoed those of his late brother, President John F. Kennedy. “Today, another young president has challenged another generation to give back to their nation,” Kennedy said, citing his brother’s advocacy for the Peace Corps… – AP, 4-21-09
  • “What Makes the United States Special”: Now, I have put an end to the interrogation techniques described in those OLC memos, and I want to be very clear and very blunt. I’ve done so for a simple reason: because I believe that our nation is stronger and more secure when we deploy the full measure of both our power and the power of our values –- including the rule of law. I know I can count on you to do exactly that.
    There have been some conversations that I’ve had with senior folks here at Langley in which I think people have expressed understandable anxiety and concern. So I want to make a point that I just made in the smaller group. I understand that it’s hard when you are asked to protect the American people against people who have no scruples and would willingly and gladly kill innocents. Al Qaeda is not constrained by a constitution. Many of our adversaries are not constrained by a belief in freedom of speech, or representation in court, or rule of law. I’m sure that sometimes it seems as if that means we’re operating with one hand tied behind our back, or that those who would argue for a higher standard are naïve. I understand that. You know, I watch the cable shows once in a while. (Laughter.)
    What makes the United States special, and what makes you special, is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it’s hard, not just when it’s easy; even when we are afraid and under threat, not just when it’s expedient to do so. That’s what makes us different.
    So, yes, you’ve got a harder job. And so do I. And that’s okay, because that’s why we can take such extraordinary pride in being Americans. And over the long term, that is why I believe we will defeat our enemies, because we’re on the better side of history. – WH Blog, 4-20-09Transcript: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO CIA EMPLOYEES
  • President Obama’s First Cabinet Meeting: $100 million there, $100 million here: Many of the agencies have already taken some extraordinary steps to consolidate, streamline, and improve their practices. Just a couple of examples: Veterans Affairs has cancelled or delayed 26 conferences, saving nearly $17.8 million, and they’re using less expensive alternatives like videoconferencing. The USDA, under Secretary Vilsack, is working to combine 1,500 employees from seven office locations into a single facility in 2011, which we estimate will save $62 million over a 15-year lease term. Janet Napolitano at the Department of Homeland Security estimates that they can save up to $52 million over five years just by purchasing office supplies in bulk.
    So there are a host of efficiencies that can be gained without increasing our personnel or our budget, but rather decreasing the amount of money that’s spent on unnecessary things in order to fund some of the critical initiatives that we’ve all talked about. Obviously, Bob Gates just came out with a historic budget proposal with respect to the Pentagon, and we expect to follow up with significant procurement reform that’s going to make an enormous difference.
    So one of the things that — messages that I delivered today to all members of the Cabinet was: As well as you’ve already done, you’re going to have to do more. I’m asking for all of them to identify at least $100 million in additional cuts to their administrative budgets, separate and apart from the work that Peter Orszag and the rest of our team are doing to go line by line with the budget and identify programmatic cuts that need to be made.
    And in the next few weeks we expect to cut at least 100 current programs in the federal budget so that we can free up those dollars in order to put them to use for critical areas like health care, education, energy, our foreign policy apparatus, which is so important… – WH Blog, 4-20-09Transcript: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER MEETING WITH THE CABINET

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Earth Day

Historians’ Comments

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “Dick Cheney: The Visible Man”: But Mr. Cheney is an altogether different case. No one expects another campaign from him, freeing him to speak his mind. “If he were running for office he’d be tempered more by how it would appear,” the presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said. “His main constituency right now is history.” – NYT, 4-26-09
  • Rich Lowry: Obama’s serial apologies embolden our adversaries: The calendar says President Barack Obama took office in 2009, although that’s only a technicality. In his own mind, Obama ascended in Year Zero, a time of ritualistic cleansing in preparation for the relaunching of an America free from its past sins. Has an American president ever appeared less vested in his nation’s history than Barack Obama? He shrugged off a rancid attack on the United States by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega at the Summit of the Americas, including a rant on the Bay of Pigs operation in 1961, by saying he’d only been 3 months old at the time. Nothing to do with me. It’s Obama’s own personal new order of the ages. Or as an Obama official put it, “His expectation is that these debates of the past can remain that, debates of the past.” Obama’s theory is that “if we are practicing what we preach and if we occasionally confess to having strayed from our values and our ideals, that strengthens our hand.” This is an old strand in America foreign policy, associated with what the historian Walter Russell Mead calls “the Jeffersonian tradition.” It is characterized, Mead writes, by the belief that the U.S. can best serve “the cause of universal democracy by setting an example rather than imposing a model,” and by a diplomacy of “speak softly, and carry the smallest possible stick.”….
    Obama seems to take active pleasure in saying that there are no senior or junior partners on the international stage. The danger is that foreign governments will actually believe him. Obama may think he’s being magnanimous and admirably humble about his own country, but adversaries could be forgiven for detecting weakness. The nightmare scenario is that, while soaking up all the applause, Obama has had a Kennedy-Khrushchev moment. The young, well-intentioned American president got pushed around by the Soviet premier in summit meetings in Vienna. After taking Kennedy’s measure and finding him lacking, Khrushchev embarked on a campaign of international assertion that eventually led to the Cuban missile crisis. This is the risk in Obama’s showy pliability and detachment from his country circa 1776-2008. No president can be an island unto himself. It’s not Year Zero. History is still in full flower, for better or worse. – Salt Lake Tribune, 4-24-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Will Obama, GOP make a deal?”: President Obama could be opening up an important debate with the Republican Party on Monday by meeting with his Cabinet and instructing them to outline specific plans for cutting their budgets. “There will be no sacred cows, and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it’s time their government did the same,” Obama told Americans in his weekly radio address on Saturday….
    Though Monday’s meeting at the White House will draw most of the attention for the debates that will certainly unfold among Democrats about how far to go with these reductions, what is most important to look for is whether any Republicans step forward and start to offer the outline of viable compromise. Will they suggest measures the president could take if he wants to realistically expect more than three Republican votes on the bigger issues that he has put on the table? – CNN, 4-20-09
  • Paul Light “Obama holds first Cabinet meeting as cameras whirl”: “There is no Cabinet government here, and there’s not going to be,” said Paul Light, an authority on White House organizations at New York University. “We haven’t had real Cabinet government since, oh, I don’t know when.” – AP, 4-20-09

The First Lady and Queen Rania

The First Lady and Queen Rania of Jordan

(First Lady Michelle Obama hosts Jordan’s Queen Rania in the Yellow Oval Room in the  White House Residence, April 23, 2009.  White House Photo/ Samantha Appleton)

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