History Buzz, Feb 21-Mar. 8, 2010: ‘Last Train From Hiroshima’ Dropped



  • Rosalind Rosenberg: Interview with Professor Rosenberg: Why should we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month? So that women do not disappear again from history…. – Columbia Spectator, 2-28-10



  • Congressman Wants Reagan on $50 Bill, Joan Waugh objects to call to replace Grant on the $50 bill with Reagan: “President Reagan is indisputably one of the most transformative presidents of the 20th century,” Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Republican, said in a letter to his fellow members of Congress. “Like President Roosevelt on the dime and President Kennedy on the half-dollar, President Reagan deserves a place of honor on our nation’s currency.”
    “I’m outraged,” Joan Waugh, UCLA history professor and the author of “U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth,” told AOL News. “I think it’s a bad idea, and particularly troublesome coming from Southern Republicans.”
    The commanding general who led the North to victory in the Civil War, Grant was not a beloved figure in the Deep South, Waugh says. “But for the rest of the country, he was an incredibly popular two-term president.”… – AOL News (3-3-10)
  • Diane Ravitch: Scholar’s School Reform U-Turn Shakes Up Debate: Diane Ravitch, the education historian who built her intellectual reputation battling progressive educators and served in the first Bush administration’s Education Department, is in the final stages of an astonishing, slow-motion about-face on almost every stand she once took on American schooling…. – NYT, 3-3-10
  • Henry Holt drops publication of ‘Last Train From Hiroshima’: Henry Holt is dropping publication of “The Last Train From Hiroshima” after the author, Charles Pellegrino, failed to adequately answer questions about a source in the book and the revocation of his PhD more than 25 years ago…. – WaPo, 3-2-10
  • Pellegrino’s atom bom book withdrawn from circulation: Publication has been halted for a disputed book about the atomic bombing of Japan that “Avatar” director James Cameron had optioned for a possible film, The Associated Press has learned. Publisher Henry Holt and Company, responding to questions from the AP, said Monday that author Charles Pellegrino “was not able to answer” concerns about The Last Train from Hiroshima, including whether two men mentioned in the book actually existed…. AP (3-2-10)
  • Vichy remains a source of discomfort in modern France: The tangled oak woods of the Château de l’Écluse are inhabited by a great silence. The descendants of Fernand Plée, who purchased these grounds and this red-brick manor in central France in 1941, say they have nothing to hide. Their grandfather, they say, was a good man: a decorated veteran of the First World War, a willing partner to the Allies in the second, a man of generosity and courage…. – NYT (3-1-10)
  • Historians (among others) honored at White House ceremony: “Sorry I’m a little late. I had this thing I had to do,” joked President Obama, just before an afternoon ceremony at the White House on Thursday in which luminaries in the arts and academics were presented with the highest medals for achievements in their fields….
    The humanities citations went to prizewinning authors and historians Robert A. Caro (“The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power, Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate”), Annette Gordon-Reed (“The Hemingses of Monticello”), David Levering Lewis (“W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963”) and William H. McNeill (“Plagues and Peoples”). The list also includes speechwriter and lawyer Theodore Sorensen, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Philippe de Montebello and philanthropist Albert H. Small, as well as Wiesel, founding chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the author of “Night,” whom the president gave his own big hug…. – WaPo (2-26-10)
  • Israel names two biblical tombs in West Bank heritage sites: Israel named the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s tomb in the West Bank heritage sites on Monday. Both biblical tombs are in Palestinian cities, and the decision brought warnings of violence and protests on Tuesday…. – CS Monitor, 2-23-10
  • Adrian Johns: History shows that intellectual property is more complex than either its creators or copiers care to admit, says a Chicago scholar: The history of publishing is swimming with pirates—far more than Adrian Johns expected when he started hunting through the archives for them. And he thinks their stories may hold keys to understanding the latest battles over digital publishing—and the future of the book…. – Chronicle of Higher Education (2-21-10)
  • Film Based on Book by Duke Professor Opens Nationwide Friday Duke connections helped bring “Blood Done Sign My Name” to big screen: The film version of Duke professor Timothy Tyson’s best-selling memoir “Blood Done Sign My Name” opens nationwide in select theaters this Friday, Feb. 19…. – Duke News, 2-17-10
  • Tests show King Tut died from malaria, study says: King Tutankhamen, the teen-aged pharaoh whose Egyptian tomb yielded dazzling treasures, limped around on tender bones and a club foot and probably died from malaria, researchers said on Tuesday…. – Reuters, 2-16-10


  • ROBERT W. MERRY: Op-Ed Contributor The Myth of the One-Term Wonder: No doubt President Obama was sincere when he recently told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that he’d “rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.” The president seemed to be saying that he would make decisions with history in mind rather than voter sentiment, even if voter sentiment would get him tossed out at the next election.
    This is perhaps a noble sensibility — and one worth reflecting on as President’s Day approaches. But it’s also misguided. The judgment of history — in the form of presidential rankings yielded up by those periodic polls of heavyweight historians — coincides to a remarkable degree with the contemporaneous judgment of the electorate. With few exceptions, history has not smiled upon one-term presidents. Only one such chief executive has managed with any consistency to get into the historians’ “near great” category…. – NYT, 2-13-10
  • Ron Radosh: Growing Anti-Semitism On The Campus: But even more disturbing is the growing evidence that Jewish students are having a most confused response to this development…. – Minding the Campus (3-3-10)


  • Marilyn Johnson: Library Science THIS BOOK IS OVERDUE How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All NYT, 3-7-10 Excerpt
  • Karl Rove: Book review: ‘Courage and Consequence’ by Karl Rove: COURAGE AND CONSEQUENCE My Life as a Conservative in the Fight In his memoir, Karl Rove acknowledges mistakes during the Bush presidency, but defends his former boss…. – WaPo, 3-5-10
  • Francis Wheen: Book review: ‘Strange Days Indeed: The 1970s: The Golden Age of Paranoia’ by Francis Wheen: STRANGE DAYS INDEED The 1970s: The Golden Age of Paranoia Some historians believe in the great man theory of history. Not Francis Wheen. In “Strange Days Indeed,” Wheen advances what might be called the “crazy man theory of history.” And it makes perfect sense because he’s writing about the 1970s, when world leaders exhibited astonishing levels of lunacy…. – WaPo, 3-5-10
  • James S. Hirsch: Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid: WILLIE MAYS The Life, the Legend All those old passions rose in me again when reading James S. Hirsch’s fine new book, “Willie Mays: The Life, the Legend.”… In his long, fascinating account, Hirsch tells the full story of Mays’s baseball life…. – NYT, 2-28-10Excerpt
  • Book Review of “Princess Noire: The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone,” by Nadine Cohodas: Indeed, what kept me from warming to Nadine Cohodas’s sharply observed biography is that it tethered me to such a deeply unpleasant character: a woman who neglects her own daughter and pushes away everyone who does her a good turn, who dwindles into alcoholism and self-exile without losing an ounce of her arrogance…. – WaPo, 2-26-10
  • Nadine Cohodas: Nina Simone, Diva Out of Carolina: PRINCESS NOIRE The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone Indeed, Nadine Cohodas’s disturbing portrait in “Princess Noire” sets out to confirm Simone’s genius. The author lingers on her stage performances, her musical decisions, her sartorial choices — the alchemy she created in sound and fury…. – NYT, 2-25-10 Excerpt
  • History Book review: “Our Times” by A.N. Wilson: OUR TIMES The Age of Elizabeth II The reign of Queen Elizabeth II “is the one in which Britain effectively stopped being British,” A.N. Wilson argues…. – WaPo, 2-26-10
  • More Obama books on the way: We’ve seen several books on the 2008 election — Game Change now rides the top of the non-fiction charts — and soon we’ll be seeing new, broader works on Barack Obama’s life and times…. – USA Today, 2-22-10
  • Ken Gormley: The President and the Prosecutor: THE DEATH OF AMERICAN VIRTUE Clinton vs. Starr: “The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr,” by Ken Gormley, recreates it all, from the Clintons’ investment in the Whitewater development in rural Arkansas to the Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit and Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky, culminating in the impeachment trial. This hefty volume, going beyond the sordid details, provides helpful context for the larger story, the fractionalization of American politics that defined the Clinton years…. – NYT, 2-16-10
  • Damages: Bill Clinton’s Legal Mess: THE DEATH OF AMERICAN VIRTUE Clinton vs. Starr: NYT, 2-15-10
  • David Greenberg: Book review of ‘The Death of American Virtue,’ by Ken Gormley: THE DEATH OF AMERICAN VIRTUE Clinton vs. Starr Ken Gormley’s new book about the Clinton impeachment saga bears the lurid and trite title “The Death of American Virtue,” which sounds like a mashup of works by the conservative pundit William Bennett. Happily, though, it’s nothing of the sort. It is, rather, something I didn’t imagine would arrive so soon: a restrained, fair-minded, soup-to-nuts history of the largely fruitless investigations of Bill Clinton that shadowed so much of his presidency…. WaPo, 2-19-10
  • Nadine Cohodas: Under a Strange, Soulful Spell: PRINCESS NOIRE The Tumultuous Reign of Nina Simone One result was a stunning song, “Mississippi Goddam,” written by Simone in the wake of the 1963 Birmingham church bombings and the killing of the civil rights advocate Medgar Evers. It was a song that inserted her into the forefront, at least musically, of the civil rights movement. Its recording is a moment that Nadine Cohodas’s fascinating if turgid new biography of Simone, “Princess Noire,” builds toward and then falls away from…. – NYT, 2-18-10 Excerpt


  • Tim Lewis: Teaching Canadian history through hockey: Turning hockey into a history lesson is a dream come true for Tim Lewis. Lewis combined his love of hockey and passion for history and developed two hockey-themed history courses in the summer including “Hockey and the Canadian Identity to 1952: The Development of a National Obsession”, and “Hockey and the Canadian Identity since 1952: Canada’s Game in the Cold War and Beyond”…. – Canada.com (3-3-10)
  • Black History Today: A Profile of Historian Crystal Feimster: Crystal Feimster went to college thinking she was going to be an attorney. The legal profession’s loss was history’s gain. While she was still an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina, Feimster met a string of distinguished African-American historians who made history exciting, including Tera Hunter, Darlene Clark Hine and Clayborne Carson…. Today, Feimster, 38, is at the forefront of a new wave of black historians exploring the forgotten nooks and crannies of American history. This fall, she will move from Princeton, where she has been a visiting professor, to a position in the Department of African-American Studies at Yale University. She is married to Australian historian Daniel Bottsman, whose work centers on Japan… – The Root (2-19-10)


  • Missing Element in Obama’s Ties With G.O.P. Leaders: Good Chemistry: “The founders’ work was grounded in personal chemistry,” said Ted Widmer, a presidential historian at Brown University and former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton. “They spent endless time together. They lived near each other in Philadelphia. They disagreed profoundly on things, but they all knew each other, and that helped.”… – NYT, 2-24-10


  • Robert Dallek: All Things Considered, Obama, Congress, And The Need For Toughness: President Obama is known for his consensus-building style. But does he have the stomach for the tactics to get his agenda passed? President Lyndon Johnson went one-on-one with dissenting congressmen and threatened to end their careers unless they toed the party line. Would those tactics fly today? In the wake of an unprecedented health-care summit this week, host Guy Raz talks with historian Robert Dallek about how tough presidents have to be…. – NPR, 2-27-10
  • Jeffrey Wasserstrom: The Dalai Lama’s Visit to D.C.: A Short Interview With Historian A. Tom Grunfeld: The lead-up to the Dalia Lama’s meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House last week received a great deal of attention from the press, and there was also a considerable amount of after-the-fact assessment of the event. In order to place what happened into a broad historical perspective, I put a few questions to A. Tom Grunfeld, who is a past contributor to “China Beat” and the author of The Making of Modern Tibet. Here are the results of our interview via e-mail…. Huffington Post (2-24-10)
  • Michael Kazin says America is an optimistic nation — Interview with CNN: What does it mean when 86 percent of the Americans surveyed last week by CNN/Opinion Research Corp. say they believe that their system of government is broken? It probably means, Michael Kazin says, that Americans are behaving like they always do. A repeated theme in American history, says Kazin, a historian at Georgetown University, “is Americans believing the country is in decline and then finding ways to rebound from both the fear of decline and the problems that gave rise to that fear.”… – CNN (2-23-10)


  • Robert S. McElvaine: Clintonian receives literary honor: Historian, author and longtime Clintonian Robert S. McElvaine is a winner of the 2010 Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award. The honor was presented Friday at the 21st annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration in Natchez. It is given annually to honor Wright, the internationally acclaimed author and Natchez native who wrote the classic books Black Boy and Native Son…. – Clintonian News, 3-4-10
  • Gordon S. Wood wins American History Book Prize: The historian Gordon S. Wood won the American History Book Prize last week for “Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815,” an account of how America’s leaders created the country’s democratic institutions. The award, presented by the New-York Historical Society, comes with a $50,000 prize, an engraved medal and the title of American Historian Laureate…. – NYT (2-28-10)
  • Washington College Announces George Washington Book Prize Finalists: The finalists are: Richard Beeman’s Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (Random House), R.B. Bernstein’s The Founding Fathers Reconsidered (Oxford), and Edith B Gelles’ Abigail & John: Portrait of A Marriage (William Morrow)…. – The C.V. Starr Center at Washington College
  • Henry Snyder: UC – Riverside historian named Officer of the British Empire (OBE): To the titles Recipient of a National Humanities Medal and Professor of History Emeritus at UC Riverside Henry Snyder can add one more: Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. The award, which is presented to few individuals outside the United Kingdom, was announced by Queen Elizabeth II in December and will be presented to Snyder at the British embassy in Washington, D.C. in early spring…. – UC – Riverside (2-22-10)


  • Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. captivates Messiah College audience with lecture on genealogy and history: On Thursday night, before a packed audience at the Eisenhower Campus Center at Messiah College in Grantham, Gates’ formidable command of history and genealogy, plus his natural and authentic style at the podium, captivated an audience of students, adults and dignitaries — young, old, black and white — with a lecture that wove personal stories with American history, and the important implications of personal ancestry…. – Penn Live, 2-25-10


  • Spotlight, Greenwich Offering Face Time With History: the Bruce is hosting a three-part lecture series. On Feb. 25, Philip B. Kunhardt III, a Lincoln scholar and Bard Center Fellow (and Mr. Kunhardt Jr.’s uncle), will discuss the photographs in “Lincoln, Life-Size,” which span the period from 1857 to 1865. “I’m going to focus in on Lincoln’s face,” he said, “what we can learn from it, how it changed over time.”… – NYT, 2-21-10
  • Studying and debunking Civil War myths: Civil War history is rich with tales of blood and gore, heroism, and too many lies. Some of the nation’s pre-eminent historians will examine that history in a symposium, “Race, Slavery and the Civil War: The Tough Stuff of American History and Memory,” at Norfolk State University in September. The conference is free and open to the public, and registration opened this week…. – The Virginian-Pilot (3-2-10)
  • Civil War Web site gears up State promoting events for war’s 150th anniversary: With just one year to go until the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, history lovers across Tennessee have taken their battle for the past to a new front – cyberspace. The Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and the state Department of Tourist Development launched a new Web site this month to help promote events planned statewide for the war’s anniversary, which will stretch from 2011-2015. The Web site – http://www.tncivilwar150.com – remains a work in progress but has already drawn praise from East Tennessee historians and preservationists…. – Knox News, 2-8-10




  • Cliff Sloan: The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court, (Paperback) March 2, 2010
  • Hugh Ambrose: The Pacific, (Hardcover) March 2, 2010
  • Jonathan Phillips: Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades, (Hardcover) March 9, 2010
  • Thomas Asbridge: The Crusades, (Hardcover) March 9, 2010
  • Bryan D. Palmer: James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928 (1st Edition), (Paperback) March 1, 2010
  • C. Brian Kelly: Best Little Stories from the Civil War, (Paperback) March 1, 2010
  • Nicholas Schou: Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World, (Hardcover) March 16, 2010
  • Timothy M. Gay: Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson, (Hardcover) March 16, 2010
  • Miranda Carter: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, (Hardcover) March 23, 2010
  • John W. Steinberg: All the Tsar’s Men: Russia’s General Staff and the Fate of the Empire, 1898-1914, (Hardcover) April 1, 2010
  • Simon Dixon: Catherine the Great, (Paperback) April 6, 2010
  • J. Todd Moye: Freedom Flyers: The Tuskegee Airmen of World War II, (Hardcover) April 12, 2010
  • Seth G. Jones: In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan (Paperback) April 12, 2010
  • Nick Bunker: Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History, (Hardcover) April 13, 2010
  • Dominic Lieven: Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace, (Hardcover), April 15, 2010
  • Timothy J. Henderson: The Mexican Wars for Independence, (Paperback) April 13, 2010
  • Hampton Sides: Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Max Hastings: Winston’s War: Churchill, 1940-1945, (Hardcover) April 27, 2010
  • Bradley Gottfried: The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 – July 13, 1863, (Hardcover) April 19, 2010
  • Kelly Hart: The Mistresses of Henry VIII, (Paperback) May 1, 2010
  • Mark Puls: Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution, (Paperback) May 11, 2010


  • William LaFleur, noted scholar at Penn: WILLIAM R. LaFleur was a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, delving into such subjects as bioethics, Zen Buddhism, Japanese culture and the like, but one subject that also caught his interest was abortion. He wrote on this subject in a book, “Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan,” one of his many books on subjects ranging from medieval literature to unethical medical research, religious thought, Zen and many other topics. He died of a massive heart attack Friday at the age of 73…. – Philadelphia Daily News, 3-4-10
  • Professor Jack Pole: historian of the US, dies at 87: Professor Jack Pole was the foremost British historian of the United States in his generation, and his books and articles won him recognition and acclaim in the highest ranks of US historians. He was an expert on the American Revolution but he wrote on all periods and linked the history of the US to that of Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries. Times Online (UK) (2-16-10)
  • David Bankier, Scholar of Holocaust, Dies at 63: David Bankier, who helped expand the contours of Holocaust research by examining the participation of ordinary Europeans in the extermination of their Jewish neighbors, died over the weekend after a long illness, Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem Holocaust center, announced. He was 63. Mr. Bankier, who was head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, focused his scholarly work on anti-Semitism, especially its use by the Nazis to promote and sustain a broader ideology. He was the author of “Germans and the Final Solution: Public Opinion Under Nazism” as well as a collection of essays, “Hitler, the Holocaust and German Society: Cooperation and Awareness.”…. – NYT (2-28-10)

June 18, 2009: President Obama & the Financial Overhaul, Health Care Reform and Iran



In Focus: Stats

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


The Headlines…

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


Political Quotes

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

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

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


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

Historians’ Comments

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

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

April 13, 2009: The Obamas Introduce “Bo” The First Dog & Celebrate Passover & Easter at the White House


The President pets Bo


In Focus: Stats

  • Obama’s Approval Tops Recent Presidents Bush, Clinton: Obama’s approval rating climbed to a high of 66 percent in an April 1-5 New York Times/CBS News poll. The poll follows recent surveys by the Gallup Poll, Quinnipiac University and the Pew Research Center showing that about six out of 10 Americans approve of the job the president is doing.
    A Gallup Poll taken in March gave Obama, a Democrat, a 64 percent approval rating. That compares with 56 percent for Republican George H.W. Bush, 52 percent for Democrat Bill Clinton and 53 percent for Republican George W. Bush at similar points in their presidencies. The last Bush left office with an approval rating of 34 percent, according to a Jan. 9-11 Gallup Poll…. – Bloomberg, 4-7-09
  • Obama’s Journey from Charismatic to Polarizing The president is facing strong resistance from Republicans and some conservative Democrats: ….Obama is facing an additional problem that has been little noticed by the media and little discussed by his own strategists, at least in public. He is turning out to be what he said he wouldn’t be: a polarizing figure. Each of his immediate predecessors was popular with core members of his own party—Bill Clinton with Democrats, George W. Bush with Republicans—but alienated the other side. That’s what’s happening to Obama as his ratings remain strong with fellow Democrats but slide with Republicans. Independents remain up for grabs…. – US News & World Report, 4-9-09
  • Republican in N.Y. House Race Up by 24 Votes: Republican Jim Tedisco is leading Democrat Scott Murphy by 24 votes in the latest count of a too-close-to-call special congressional election in New York state. The state Board of Elections reported Thursday that unofficial vote counts show Mr. Tedisco leads Mr. Murphy 77,201 to 77,177. That margin is up from a 17-vote margin Tuesday. The lead has fluctuated since the March 31 election in the 20th congressional district…. – AP, 4-9-09
  • Fox News poll (taken March 31 to April 1): Found that Mr. Obama’s job approval among independents has fallen to 52 percent, down nine points from the start of March and down 12 points from late January.
    Over the same period, the number of independents who disapprove of Mr. Obama’s performance has doubled to 32 percent from 16 percent. – Washington Times, 4-9-09


The President discusses Passover and Easter in his Weekly Address

White House Photo, 4/10/09, Lawrence Jackson

Weekly Address: Passover & Easter 4/11/09

This week the President discusses the
multitude of problems and opportunities
before the world through the prism
of Passover and Easter.

Watch the Video

President Barack Obama and staff in Europe

The Headlines…

  • For Easter worship, Obama picks Episcopal church: President Barack Obama opted for the safe choice for Easter Sunday, visiting the pale yellow church across from the White House where other presidents have worshipped. The pick puts off — for now — a decision on a new permanent congregation for the first family. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters took Communion at St. John’s Church on Lafayette Square, where they heard a come-as-you-are sermon tailored to doubters and skeptics. The Rev. Luis Leon made no direct reference to the Obamas, who made their first trip to a Washington church since Inauguration Day under tight security and scrutiny…. – AP, 4-12-09
  • Kidnapped US captain freed; snipers kill 3 pirates: Navy SEAL snipers on the fantail of a destroyer cut down three Somali pirates in a lifeboat and rescued an American sea captain on Easter Sunday. The surprise nighttime assault in choppy seas ended a five-day standoff between a team of rogue gunmen and the world’s most powerful military. It was a stunning conclusion to an Indian Ocean odyssey that began when 53-year-old freighter Capt. Richard Phillips was taken hostage Wednesday by pirates who tried to hijack the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama. The Vermont native was held on a tiny lifeboat that began drifting precariously toward Somalia’s anarchic, gun-plagued shores. The operation, personally approved by President Barack Obama, quashed fears the saga could drag on for months and marked a victory for the U.S., which for days seemed powerless to resolve the crisis despite massing helicopter- equipped warships at the scene…. – AP, 4-12-09
  • Obama signed off on taking out pirates: President Barack Obama issued a standing order to use force against pirates holding an American captain hostage – including giving a Navy commander the authority to act if he believed the captain’s life was in danger, two senior defense officials said Sunday night. Navy snipers aboard the USS Bainbridge on Sunday shot and killed three of the pirates after the Bainbridge’s commander gave the order, when a pirate was spotted aboard the lifeboat pointing an AK-47 rifle at Capt. Richard Phillips, one defense official said. “The clear belief by the captain of the ship was that he was in imminent danger,” this official said…. – Politico, 4-12-09
  • Obamas ready to unveil first dog Bo: Black and white Portuguese water dog is gift from Ted Kennedy and named in reference to Michelle Obama’s father… – Guardian UK, 4-12-09
    WaPo, 4-12-09 Meet Bo, the First Dog, WH Blog, 4-12-09
  • Obamas Said to Choose a Portuguese Water Dog: It’s decided: the Obamas have chosen a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog to be the first pet. In what was one of the White House’s most tightly kept secrets, President Barack Obama’s daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha, have settled on a black and white pup, a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press Saturday night. The dog, a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts who owns several Portuguese water dogs himself, will make his big debut Tuesday afternoon…. – AP, 4-12-09
  • Obama: World’s problems require global cooperation: Global cooperation is needed to tackle the financial meltdown, climate change, nuclear proliferation and other pressing problems, President Barack Obama said Saturday. Fresh from his first trip overseas as president, Obama used his radio and Internet address to ask people in the United States and around the world to focus on areas of common interest…. – AP, 4-11-09
  • The Bush Family Enjoys Their Quieter Life: As President Obama announced the current state of the nation, news that included anti-American sentiment, a struggling economy, and two wars, George W. Bush and his wife settled into a quiet dinner of chicken pot pie. It seems the couple is enjoying the slower pace: their issues aren’t global, but extend only as far as their lawn. The company they keep no longer includes foreign dignitaries, but neighbors in a supportive community…. – ToTheCenter.com, 4-11-09 WaPo, 4-11-09
  • Crashing the Republican Party: Turns out that a McCain did emerge from the 2008 election victorious — not the captivity-surviving, straight-talking, Palin-picking Republican senator from Arizona but his Bud Light-drinking, talk-show-appearing, insouciantly Twittering 24-year-old daughter. “My cab driver is totally vibing me out,” Meghan McCain Twittered to her online devotees Thursday evening. “Just asked me if my cheekbones are real? Wtf, u can have fake cheekbones???” Yep, that’s the one…. – Politico, 4-11-09
  • Obama has hundreds of important jobs still open: President Barack Obama doesn’t have time for a victory lap now that his Cabinet is finally largely in place. One level down, he faces gaping holes in the ranks he needs to fill if there is to be any hope of turning his ambitious agenda into action on health care, the environment and much more. After a spurt of recent activity that followed a problem-plagued start, Obama is outpacing George W. Bush and Bill Clinton on appointments. But Obama, like his two immediate predecessors, is bogged down in a system that has grown increasingly cumbersome over the years. And he’s added tougher-than-ever background checks and ethics rules…. – AP, 4-11-09
  • U.S. Stocks Gain, Capping Biggest Jump Since 1933 as Banks Rise: U.S. stocks rose for a fifth week, capping the steepest rally since 1933, as Wells Fargo & Co.’s higher-than- estimated earnings and speculation banks will pass government stress tests spurred optimism that the industry’s slump is ending. Bank of America Corp., American Express Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. helped drive a gauge of 80 financial companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to a 9.4 percent advance. Wells Fargo surged 20 percent after reporting record first-quarter profit. Lincoln National Corp. and Principal Financial Group Inc. jumped at least 37 percent as the Treasury considered bailouts for life insurers…. – Bloomberg, 4-10-09
  • Hillary Clinton Tries to Pay Down Debt by Raffling Off Day With Her Husband: The secretary of state’s long-shuttered presidential campaign is still trying to pay off a steep debt, and has launched a new fundraising pitch urging donors to give money and compete for the chance to win one of three “exclusive prizes.” One of those is a day with Bill Clinton…. – Fox News, 4-10-09
  • Iowa GOP head says state’s caucus position is safe: The Iowa Republican Party chairman said Friday he’s talked with national party leaders and is confident the state will retain its leadoff role in the presidential nominating process. “I’ve had that conversation already with (National Republican Chairman) Michael Steele,” said Matt Strawn. “I know we need to remain vigilant, but for 2012 we’re safe.”… – AP, 4-10-09
  • Obama releases Reagan records: President Barack Obama is ordering the release of nearly a quarter of a million pages of records from the Reagan White House that were kept from the public during a lengthy review by President George W. Bush. The Reagan documents – which include presidential briefing papers, speechwriting research materials and declassified foreign policy records — are expected to be released Monday…. – Politico, 4-10-09
  • Obama sees ‘glimmers of hope’ “We are starting to see progress,” President Obama said. Still, experts agree that another round of major government aid will be necessary: President Obama, walking a fine line between optimism and caution, said Friday that there were “glimmers of hope” for the economy but warned that substantial, potentially difficult government action was still necessary to ensure a healthy recovery.
    “We are starting to see progress,” Obama said after huddling with senior members of his economic team at the White House. But he warned that the country must not “flinch” at the difficult steps to come…. – LAT, 4-10-09
  • Biden says Bush didn’t lead; Rove says VP lies: Vice President Joe Biden said he gave then-President George W. Bush an earful in the Oval Office. Former Bush adviser Karl Rove says Biden’s version of that encounter is at best an exaggeration — at worst a lie — and part of a pattern. “It’s a habit he ought to drop,” Rove said. The tit-for-tat between Biden and Rove illustrates both the vice president’s colorful way of retelling stories and Bush-era aides’ effort to protect their former boss. The pair tussled during media interviews this week in a political game without an obvious goal: The unpopular Bush is gone from Washington and Biden operates under President Barack Obama. – AP, 4-10-09
  • McCain’s daughter slated to write book on politics: Sen. John McCain’s daughter will write a book about her experience as a progressive Republican. Meghan McCain, who campaigned for her father during the 2008 presidential race, will examine what it means to “love the Republican party, while not always fitting in,” says publisher Hyperion, which inked a deal with McCain. – AP, 4-10-09
  • Obama to seek $83.4 billion for Iraq, Afghan wars: Congressional aides say President Barack Obama is seeking $83.4 billion to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into the fall. Once approved by Congress, the money would bring the total amount for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001 to almost $1 trillion…. – AP, 4-10-09
  • Obama urges families to refinance mortgages President also cautions against scams, con artists: Declaring “good news” in the midst of an economic meltdown, President Obama yesterday urged families to take advantage of near-record-low mortgage rates by refinancing their home loans. “We are at a time where people can really take advantage of this,” Obama said, seated with a handful of homeowners who have already lowered their bills. But he also warned people to watch out for scam artists, cautioning, “If somebody is asking you for money up front before they help you with your refinancing, it’s probably a scam.” – Boston Globe, 4-9-09
  • CIA abandons use of contract interrogators: The CIA has stopped using contractors to interrogate prisoners and fired private security guards at the CIA’s now-shuttered secret overseas prisons, agency Director Leon Panetta said Thursday. Panetta told agency employees in an e-mail message that the guards will be replaced with CIA officers at the sites, which President Barack Obama ordered closed on his second day in office. – AP, 4-9-09
  • US to attend group nuclear talks with Iran: The Obama administration said Wednesday it will participate directly in group talks with Iran over its suspect nuclear program, another significant shift from President George W. Bush’s policy toward a nation he labeled part of an axis of evil. The State Department said the United States would be at the table “from now on” when senior diplomats from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany meet with Iranian officials to discuss the nuclear issue. The Bush administration had generally shunned such meetings, although it attended one last year…. – AP, 4-9-09
  • Biden: Administration working ’round the clock’: Vice President Joe Biden says the Obama administration is working “round the clock” on hostage-taking incident involving a U.S.-flag ship. AP, 4-9-09

[Download High Resolution]

(President Obama hosts a traditional Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House on Thursday
night, April 9, 2009. Some friends and White House employees and their families joined the Obama family.
Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

  • Obama to host seder: President Obama will host a Passover seder Thursday evening in the White House. The president’s schedule for the rest of the week, released on Tuesday evening, said that Obama would mark the beginning of the holiday with a seder for friends and staff. No other information was provided. It is believed to be the first presidential seder held in the White House. William Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the United Jewish Communities Washington office, said the seder was scheduled on the second night so as not to disrupt first night family seders and is “a testament to how far we have come as a Jewish people in America. “Jews are a vital component in the mosaic that is American culture and society,” he said. “Our welcome through the front door, and the dining room door, of the White House speaks to the inclusiveness of today’s America and of President Obama. This night is indeed different from all other nights.” – JTA, 4-8-09
  • Obama to tackle immigration reform this year: report: U.S. President Barack Obama plans to start addressing the thorny issue of immigration reform this year, including the search for a path to legalize the status of millions of illegal immigrants, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, quoting a presidential aide. Obama will speak publicly about the matter in May and bring together working groups including Democratic and Republican lawmakers over the summer to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as the fall, administration officials told the Times…. – Reuters, 4-9-09
  • 10 Holy Cross priests object to Obama invitation: Ten priests from the order that founded the University of Notre Dame say the school risks its “true soul” and could distance itself from the Roman Catholic Church by inviting President Barack Obama to campus next month. The members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, which helps run the university, asked the Rev. John Jenkins, the Holy Cross priest who is Notre Dame’s president, and the university’s board of fellows to reconsider the invitation to Obama because he supports abortion rights…. – AP, 4-8-09
  • Holder tells prosecutors that justice top priority: Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday warned federal prosecutors of increased scrutiny in the wake of mistakes in the corruption case against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens. Holder told assistant U.S. attorneys for the District of Columbia that they must respond to negative perceptions of federal prosecutors by doing “the right thing.” “Your job as assistant U.S. attorneys is not to convict people,” Holder said. “Your job is not to win cases. Your job is to do justice. Your job is in every case, every decision that you make, to do the right thing. Anybody who asks you to do something other than that is to be ignored. Any policy that is at tension with that is to be questioned and brought to my attention. And I mean that.” – AP, 4-8-09


The President discusses Passover and Easter in his Weekly Address

Political Quotes

  • Obama: World’s problems require global cooperation: “These are challenges that no single nation, no matter how powerful, can confront alone,” Obama said. “The United States must lead the way. But our best chance to solve these unprecedented problems comes from acting in concert with other nations.”
    “With all that is at stake today, we cannot afford to talk past one another. We can’t afford to allow old differences to prevent us from making progress in areas of common concern,” Obama said. “We can’t afford to let walls of mistrust stand. Instead, we have to find — and build on — our mutual interests. For it is only when people come together, and seek common ground, that some of that mistrust can begin to fade. And that is where progress begins.”
    “These are two very different holidays with their own very different traditions. But it seems fitting that we mark them both during the same week,” Obama said. “For in a larger sense, they are both moments of reflection and renewal. They are both occasions to think more deeply about the obligations we have to ourselves and the obligations we have to one another, no matter who we are, where we come from, or what faith we practice.” – AP, 4-11-09
  • Weekly Address: Passover & Easter: WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Says Nations Must Unite To Overcome Global Challenges In his weekly address, President Barack Obama extended his best wishes to everyone celebrating this week’s Passover and Easter holidays and called on nations around the world to come together to solve the current trials facing the world. On the heels of his weeklong trip overseas, the President said he believes it is important to acknowledge no single nation can solve global problems like a recession, international terrorism, climate change, or nuclear proliferation. But, working with other nations, the United States can lead the way in overcoming these challenges…. – WH Blog, 4-11-09 Transcript
  • US to attend group nuclear talks with Iran: “We believe that pursuing very careful engagement on a range of issues that affect our interests and the interests of the world with Iran makes sense,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters. “There is nothing more important than trying to convince Iran to cease its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon.” – AP, 4-9-09
  • George W. Bush attends Road 2 Recovery Locals thrilled by veterans’ visit: Bush joined U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, State Rep. Rob Orr, R-Burleson, Cleburne Mayor Ted Reynolds and other city officials Saturday morning at the Comfort Inn to rally the riders before they departed. Bush declined to publicize his appearance because he thought it might distract focus from the veterans and the importance of their bike ride.
    Bush joked about things he misses from his days as president, including tasks he now has to perform on his own, one of which involves walking, and picking up after, his dog.
    “You all remember Barney right?” Bush said. “The other day I took him for a walk through the neighborhood, something I hadn’t done in years and something Barney had never done. Well, I had the experience of using the little plastic bag, and it hit me that I was picking up what I spent eight years in office dodging.” What he most misses, Bush said, is serving as commander in chief of the U.S. Military. – Cleburne Times Review, 4-9-09
  • Bush Aides Challenge Biden’s Boasts of Oval Office Slapdowns: Aides to former President George W. Bush are challenging the veracity of Vice President Joe Biden’s claim this week of having privately castigated Bush. Fox News, 4-9-09
  • DIVISIVE FIGURE: “Mr. Obama has hastened the decline of Republican support with petty attacks on his critics and predecessor,” writes Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, in the Wall Street Journal. “For a person who promised hope and civility in politics, Mr. Obama has shown a borderline obsessiveness in blaming Mr. Bush. Starting with his inaugural address and continuing through this week’s overseas trip, the new president’s jabs at Mr. Bush have been unceasing, unfair and unhelpful. They have also diminished Mr. Obama by showing him to be another conventional politician. Rather than ending ‘the blame game,’ he is personifying it. – Washington Times, 4-9-09


President Barack Obama confers with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke following their meeting at the White House, April 10, 2009
(President Barack Obama confers with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke following their meeting
at the White House, April 10, 2009. White House Photo/Pete Souza)

Historians’ Comments

  • Allan J. Lichtman, Professor of History, American University “Opportunity and danger for Obama”: President Obama’s overseas trip signals the arrival of an important new approach to American foreign policy. In contrast to the previous administration, he has adopted a more multilateral and cooperative approach to world affairs. Obama has gained support from foreign leaders and publics, which could pay future dividends later on. He has initiated a much needed outreach to the Muslim world, enhanced America’s standing in Turkey, and made a start in thawing relations with Russia and China. He has introduced a notable initiative on reducing nuclear arms and controlling nuclear testing. Obama has recognized that until the U. S. and other major powers make a real effort to reduce their nuclear arsenals, progress on non-proliferation is likely to be stalled. He did not get all he wanted on economic recovery and reform, but still gained some cooperation on economic stimulus programs and financial regulations.
    Obama has an opportunity to become a great or near great president. However, like another Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, his Achilles Heel could be an unwise and un-winnable foreign war: in this case Afghanistan. The objections of his base voters at home and the reluctance of America’s allies to support fully the war in Afghanistan should come as a loud and clear warning to the new president. – 4-8-09
  • Robert Weisbrot “What Obama’s Great Society challenge is, says Great Society historian”: Robert Weisbrot, co-author of “The Liberal Hour: Washington and the Politics of Change in the 1960s,” says the Great Society revolution was “tremendously liberating” for members of the most vulnerable groups in America.
    But historical circumstances won’t permit Obama to push through his own Great Society, Weisbrot says. “Obama is living in a different age,” Weisbrot said. “The circumstances won’t permit him to be another Lyndon Johnson.” – CNN, 4-7-09
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama is America’s first global president: Barack Obama “is our first global president,” according to historian Douglas Brinkley. “Obama came of age, really, after the Cold War, with the Internet being the transformative engine of society, and he now takes his multicultural heritage and the geographical diversity of his upbringing” to the world, Brinkley said in an interview Tuesday as Obama wrapped up his first trip abroad. Brinkley, who has written about presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan, said Obama “is playing to the world right out of the gates, whereas most presidents have not.” – USA Today, 4-7
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama’s Approval Tops Recent Presidents Bush, Clinton”: “Bush’s popularity was so low it created an opportunity for Obama by contrast to win the hearts and minds of the country,” said Julian Zelizer, a history and public-affairs professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. “He has also consistently shown that magic quality that politician yearn for, the ‘it’ factor which leads people to like what you do.” – Bloomberg, 4-7-09
  • Thomas Whalen “Obama White House Faces ‘Unprecedented’ Onslaught of Domestic, Global Problems With the new administration stretched wafer thin, it’s questionable whether the Obama White House, or any White House, could be equipped to handle such an onslaught of problems.”: “North Korea, strangely enough, is the least of Obama’s foreign policy problems at this point — and that’s pretty bad,” said Thomas Whalen, a political historian and professor at Boston University. Whalen said the breadth of challenges facing Obama less than 80 days into his term is “unprecedented” for a new president. “FDR, he had the Great Depression, but it wasn’t until his third term until he really dealt with foreign policy issues,” he said. “This is … like it’s all coming at once.” Whalen said the magnitude and severity of challenges help explain why Obama is overseas seeking renewed support from European nations and restored relations with countries like Russia and China. Obama also is making fresh overtures to the Muslim world — on Monday, he declared before the Turkish parliament that the United States “is not and will never be at war with Islam” and called for a mutual respect between East and West. “He knows the United States can’t do it alone,” Whalen said. – Fox News, 4-6-09

Bo, the First Dog

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