July 31, 2009: Obama’s Poll Numbers Fall, Sarah Palin Resigns & Health Care Reform


(President Barack Obama delivers remarks on “Race To the Top” at the Department of Education with Secretary  of Education Arne Duncan, left, in Washington, D.C.  Friday,  July 24, 2009. Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)


  • New Obama poll: Honeymoon over?: According to a new CNN Poll of Polls, 54 percent of Americans approve of how Obama is handling his duties in the White House. That’s down 7 points from late June, when the president’s approval rating stood at 61 percent. The latest approval rating is the lowest for Obama in his young presidency. The CNN Poll of Polls, compiled and released Thursday, is an average of seven national surveys conducted over the past nine days…. – CNN, 7-30-09
  • Poll: Obama mishandled comments on race – AP, 7-30-09
  • Obama’s Handling of Gates Flap Seems To Have Hurt Public Image, Poll Finds: The intriguing possibility comes from a Pew Research Center analysis released Thursday: The poll finds that Obama’s overall approval rating among whites tumbled seven percentage points from just after his July 22 news conference through last weekend, as the focus turned increasingly to his handling of the situation. The percentage of whites who “like” the kind of person he is fell by six points. In a callback survey Monday evening, more than twice as many whites disapproved than approved of how Obama was dealing with the matter (45 percent disapproved, 22 approved and 33 percent said they did not know)…. – WaPo, 7-30-09
  • Poll: Obama’s Disapproval Rises To 50 Percent: Yesterday’s Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll has the president’s approval rating among likely voters at 49 percent and his disapproval rating at 50 percent. A reported 72 percent of Republicans “strongly disapprove” of Mr. Obama’s job performance while a relatively low 56 percent of Democrats “strongly approve” of it…. – Philadelphia Bulletin, 7-27-09
  • Poll: President’s popularity suffers in health reform push: The survey showed 49 percent of likely voters approved of Mr. Obama’s job performance and 51 percent disapproved. It reflects a steady decline from a high job-approval rating of 60 percent immediately following his inauguration Jan. 20…. – Washington Times, 7-26-09
  • FACT CHECK: Obama’s health care claims adrift? President Barack Obama’s assertion Wednesday that government will stay out of health care decisions in an overhauled system is hard to square with the proposals coming out of Congress and with his own rhetoric. Even now, nearly half the costs of health care in the U.S. are paid for by government at all levels. Federal authority would only grow under any proposal in play…. – AP, 7-22-09
  • AP-GfK Poll: Great hopes for Obama fade to reality: An Associated Press-GfK Poll shows that a majority of Americans are back to thinking that the country is headed in the wrong direction after a fleeting period in which more thought it was on the right track. Obama still has a solid 55 percent approval rating — better than Bill Clinton and about even with George W. Bush six months into their presidencies — but there are growing doubts about whether he can succeed at some of the biggest items on his to-do list. And there is a growing sense that he is trying to tackle too much too soon…. – AP, 7-22-09
  • Obama’s Sinking Approval Ratings Are Even Worse Than They Look: Having come into office with an ambitious agenda to remake America, Barack Obama is discovering that time is not his friend. According to the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, Obama’s approval rating has dropped by nine points, down to 55 percent from where it was when he first entered the White House six months ago….
    The decline in Obama’s job approval number is matched, overmatched really, by a significant increase in the number of people who disapprove of the job he is doing as president. That number is up 16 points—to 41 percent—from the first time the survey was taken during the Obama presidency. – US News, 7-21-09
  • Minorities, youth showed some gains in 2008 vote: The bureau’s survey found that about 131 million people reported voting in the 2008 presidential election – a turnout of 64 percent, the same percentage as 2004. Of the 5 million additional voters in 2008, 2 million were black, 2 million Hispanic and 600,000 Asian…. – Newsday, 7-20-09
  • The Ultimate Obama Insider – NYT Magazine, 7-26-09


President Barack Obama addresses the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue
(President Barack Obama addresses the opening session of the first U.S.-China Strategic and Economic  Dialogue at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, Monday,  July 27, 2009.  Listening at left are Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, center, and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, left.   Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
  • Obama, Cabinet meet for mid-year assessment: President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, senior officials and Cabinet members were gathering away from the White House this weekend to discuss administration progress at the six-month mark and plot a course ahead…. – AP, 7-31-09
  • Final House Panel Approves Health Reform Bill: The vote was made possible by a deal brokered earlier this week between Democratic leaders and conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats, though health reform legislation still is being held up in one Senate committee…. – Fox News, 7-31-09
  • House votes to clamp limits on Wall Street bonuses: Bowing to populist anger, the House voted Friday to prohibit pay and bonus packages that encourage bankers and traders to take risks so big they could bring down the entire economy. Passage of the bill on a 237-185 vote followed the disclosure a day earlier that nine of the nation’s biggest banks, which are receiving billions of dollars in federal bailout aid, paid individual bonuses of $1 million or more to nearly 5,000 employees…. – AP, 7-31-09
  • Liberal Democrats threaten to reject House healthcare deal: Dozens say they’ll vote against a plan that includes concessions to Blue Dogs. The dispute could jeopardize a long-held goal of progressives…. – LAT, 7-30-09
  • Health bill inches forward in House: House Democrats methodically pushed ahead with a compromise health overhaul Thursday over liberals’ complaints, intent on achieving tangible — if modest — success on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority ahead of a monthlong summer recess…. “We’ve got to pass the bill. Not only do we have to, but we’re going to,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the last of three House committees to act on the sweeping legislation…. – AP, 7-30-09
  • Obama to award Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16: President Barack Obama is awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 16 people, including political ally Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, tennis legend Billie Jean King and retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa….
    Other names on the list are: Race for the Cure founder Nancy Brinker, physicist Stephen Hawking, civil rights activist Rev. Joseph Lowery, and entertainers Sidney Poitier and Chita Rivera. Former Rep. Jack Kemp, who died in May, and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, who was assassinated in 1978, will receive posthumous awards…. – AP, 7-30-09
  • A look at the deal worked out on health care: The White House, Democratic leaders and four fiscally conservative House lawmakers worked out a deal Wednesday to move ahead on sweeping health care legislation. The agreement would allow a committee vote, preserving momentum on President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority. The deal calls for exempting more small businesses from a requirement to offer coverage, trimming subsidies to help people buy health insurance, and making any government-sponsored insurance plan negotiate payment rates with medical providers — instead of dictating them…. – AP, 7-29-09
  • House Democrats make a healthcare deal: An agreement that saves $100 billion and addresses ‘Blue Dog’ and business concerns could lead to a vote in September. But now some angry liberal Democrats will have to be mollified…. – LAT, 7-29-09
  • Judiciary Committee OKs Sotomayor for high court: Pushing toward a historic Supreme Court confirmation vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic justice, over nearly solid Republican opposition. The panel’s 13-6 vote for Sotomayor masked deep political divisions within GOP ranks about confirming President Barack Obama’s first high court nominee…. – AP, 7-29-09
  • House Republicans unveil $700B health care plan: House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled a $700 billion health care plan that would offer tax credits to help people buy insurance, yet unlike Democratic proposals, wouldn’t require either individuals or employers to get coverage…. – AP, 7-29-09
  • Karl Rove: Obama’s Great Health Scare The president resorts to the politics of fear:
    On the campaign trail last year, Barack Obama promised to end the “politics of fear and cynicism.” Yet he is now trying to sell his health-care proposals on fear…. – WSJ, 7-29-09
  • Food safety bill defeated in House: The House defeated a far-reaching food safety bill Wednesday after farm-state lawmakers complained it would be too invasive and others said it was pushed to the floor too quickly…. – AP, 7-29-09
  • Analysis: Obama facing tough choice on health care: After months of talk, decision time is nearing for President Barack Obama on health care. Bipartisan Senate negotiators are weakening some of his top priorities, leaving the president with a difficult choice: He can give ground, and implore disappointed liberals to go along with him. Or he can try to ram through a Democratic bill with his wishes intact, infuriating Republicans. His eventual decision could be a pivotal moment in his presidency. Remaking health care is Obama’s top domestic priority. He wants to expand coverage, contain costs, make insurance more competitive and change the way doctors and hospitals are compensated…. – AP, 7-28-09
  • Obama Works to Reassure Seniors: Cutting Medicare Spending Won’t Hurt Retirees’ Benefits, He Tells AARP Forum WSJ, 7-28-09
  • US, China pledge closer cooperation: The United States and China on Tuesday pledged closer cooperation to deal with global hot spots such as Iran and the worst financial crisis since the 1930s…. – AP, 7-28-09
  • Schwarzenegger signs budget with more welfare cuts: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a revised $85 billion budget Tuesday that he said contained “the good, the bad and the ugly,” including additional cuts to child welfare programs, health care for the poor and AIDS prevention efforts…. – AP, 7-28-09
  • Senators Progress as House Delays Again on Health Bill: Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday that the House would vote on health care after learning more about the Senate version. “We’re on schedule either to do it now or to do it whenever,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had hoped to win approval in the full House by the end of this week…. – NYT, 7-27-09
  • Obama admin looks to many small cost-cutting tactics – Reuters, 7-27-09
  • Sotomayor roundup: How Republicans will vote: Five GOP senators have announced their intentions ahead of Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee vote on the Supreme Court nominee…. – CS Monitor, 7-27-09
  • Clinton plans to visit 7 nations in Africa: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to travel to Africa next week on a seven-nation tour aimed at highlighting the Obama administration’s commitment to the continent. Clinton is to begin her trip on Aug. 5 in Kenya, the State Department said Monday…. – AP, 7-27-09
  • Sarah Palin steps down as Alaska governor: At times, it seemed like a flashback to the 2008 presidential campaign. Sarah Palin stepped down as Alaska governor on Sunday with a fiery speech reminiscent of her days as running mate to Republican John McCain — when she frequently revved up crowds while attacking Democrats and the news media…. – AP, 7-27-09
  • Palin’s Formal Farewell Includes Parting Shots: Sarah Palin stepped down Sunday as Alaska governor to write a book and build a right-of-center coalition, but she left her long-term political plans unclear and refused to address speculation she would seek a 2012 presidential bid…. – AP, 7-26-09
  • Obama Tries to Move Past Gates Furor: The White House expressed hope that it has put behind it a controversy surrounding President Barack Obama’s remarks on the arrest of African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. But the incident highlights the challenge facing Mr. Obama in addressing the issue of race and in keeping the debate focused on his broader agenda.
    David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, said Sunday that he believed the president’s expression of regret for his initial statement that the police “acted stupidly” was having “the desired effect.”
    “People are talking more constructively now,” Mr. Axelrod said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” “The steam has gone out of this. Instead of heat being generated, more light is being generated.”
    The incident highlighted social divisions that Mr. Obama hoped had been eased by his election as the nation’s first African-American president. The emotions triggered by his comments on the Gates arrest suggest that the issue of race continues to hang over his presidency….. – WSJ, 7-26-09
  • Democrats: We will move forward on health overhaul: Sen. Kent Conrad, a key Democratic senator says his party doesn’t have enough votes to pass an overhaul of the nation’s health care system without Republican backing, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she has the votes in her chamber…. – AP, 7-26-09
  • U.S. tries to spur Middle East peace talks: Settlement issue obstacle to renewing peace talks… Washington seeking comprehensive peace, envoy says… Netanyahu says U.S.-Israeli relations still strong…. – Reuters, 7-26-09
  • Obama, Gates and the American Black Man: NYT, 7-25-09
  • US-POLITICS Summary: Obama touts healthcare plan for small businesses…. U.S. defense chief heads to Israel, Jordan…. Obama unveils $4 billion school improvement plan…. Alaska Gov. Palin to leave office with cloudy future… WaPo, 7-25-09
  • GOP, in Attack Mode, Tries to Avoid Obstructionist Label – WSJ, 7-25-09
  • Are lobbyists silver lining in health care storm?: A strong force, perhaps as powerful in Congress as President Barack Obama, is keeping the drive for health care going even as lawmakers seem hopelessly at odds. Lobbyists…. – AP, 7-25-09
  • Obama pressures states to embrace schools overhaul: Dangling the promise of $5 billion in grants, President Barack Obama pressured states to embrace his ideas for overhauling the nation’s schools, ideas that include performance pay for teachers and charter schools….
    “Not every state will win, and not every school district will be happy with the results,” the president said Friday. “But America’s children, America’s economy, America itself will be better for it.” – AP, 7-24-09
  • Palin picnic in Alaska hometown draws big crowd: More than a thousand people showed up Friday for Gov. Sarah Palin’s annual picnic held in her hometown of Wasilla. Palin, who is resigning and leaves office on Sunday, used the occasion to sign autographs and hand out hot dogs…. – AP, 7-24-09
  • Grassley, Ross Say Passage of Health-Care Bill Likely This Year: The top Senate Republican drafting health-care legislation and a leader of House Democrats balking at the plan said they don’t expect committee and floor-vote delays to keep a bill from passing this year. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said “it’s going to be difficult” for his panel to approve legislation in the next two weeks. Beyond that, the odds of Congress enacting an overhaul later this year are “very, very good,” the Iowa senator said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend…. – Bloomberg, 7-24-09
  • Obama’s ‘rock star’ persona boosts U.S.: President Obama’s soaring popularity has significantly boosted attitudes toward the United States in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, surveys in 24 countries by the Pew Research Center finds. But animosity toward the U.S. in some predominantly Muslim nations remains deep and strong…. – USA Today, 7-23-09
  • Obama: ‘Victory’ not right word for Afghanistan: He says the U.S. fight there is against broader terrorism and not a nation…. – AP, 7-23-09
  • Analysis: Obama putting more emphasis on restraint: At a critical moment in his presidency, Barack Obama finds increasing need to talk about taming federal deficits as he struggles with a dour economy…. – AP, 7-23-09
  • Obama Complains About the News Cycle but Manipulates It: It has become his common lament. Challenged about difficulties with his economic or legislative programs, President Obama complains about the tyranny of “the news cycle,” pronouncing the words with an air of above-it-all disdain for the impatience and fecklessness of today’s media culture…. – AP, 7-23-09
  • Health Reform’s Hidden Victims: He insisted he “won’t reduce Medicare benefits” but instead would “make delivery more efficient.” The most Mr. Obama would concede is that some people will have to “give up paying for things that don’t make you healthier.” That is simply not credible…. – WSJ, 7-23-09
  • Obama Moves to Reclaim the Debate on Health Care: President Obama tried on Wednesday to rally public support for overhauling the nation’s health care system and said for the first time that he would be willing to help pay for the plan by raising income taxes on families earning more than $1 million a year…. – NYT, 7-22-09
  • Live Blogging Obama’s News ConferenceNYT, 7-22-09
  • Obama rallies support for struggling health revamp: Six months in office, President Barack Obama sought Wednesday night to rally support for sweeping health care legislation he’s struggling to push through Congress, expressing support for a surtax on families making more than $1 million a year to help pay for it. Under pressure from Democrats to weigh in personally on the details of legislation, Obama also vowed at a prime-time news conference to reject any measure “primarily funded through taxing middle-class families.”… – AP, 7-22-09
  • Conservative Democrat says US health bill not ready: A stalled healthcare overhaul bill in the House of Representative should not move forward without firm numbers on cost savings, and it is unlikely to win enough votes to pass in current form, the leader of a group of conservative Democrats said on Wednesday. – Reuters, 7-22-09
  • Pelosi: House Dems have the votes on health care: Democrats command the votes needed to pass a sweeping health care bill through the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday, an unexpected statement that quickly drew a biting response from conservative members of the party’s rank-and-file demanding changes in President Barack Obama’s trademark legislation…. – AP, 7-22-09
  • Obama presses Iraqi leader on reconciliation: Vowing to hold to agreements to pull all U.S. forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011, Obama said he and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki realized violence had not ended and there “will be some tough days ahead.” – AP, 7-22-09
  • GOP Sen. Graham says he will vote for Sotomayor – AP, 7-22-09
  • Clinton offers North Korea the carrot or the stick: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to tell North Korea that it can avoid “unrelenting” sanctions and win normalized relations with the U.S. by completely scrapping its nuclear program…. – AP, 7-22-09
  • Bernanke resists plan for consumer-products agency: Ben Bernanke put himself at odds with the Obama administration Wednesday by resisting its plan to create a consumer protection agency for risky financial products. The Federal Reserve chief said those responsibilities should stay with the central bank. – AP, 7-22-09
  • Concealed guns law rejected in close Senate vote – AP, 7-22-09
  • Obama: No time for delay on health care: President Barack Obama remained on the offensive Tuesday on the pace and shape of legislation reinventing health care, against stiffening opposition from Republicans and growing wariness among rank-and-file congressional Democrats…. – AP, 7-21-09
  • Obama wins fight to limit fighter jets: The 58-40 vote to cut the money from a $680 billion defense bill was a hard-fought victory for Obama, who had threatened to veto defense spending legislation if it included funds for more F-22s. – AP, 7-21-09
  • Investigator rules against Palin in ethics probe: An independent investigator has found evidence that Gov. Sarah Palin may have violated ethics laws by trading on her position in seeking money for legal fees, in the latest legal distraction for the former vice presidential candidate as she prepares to leave office this week…. – AP, 7-21-09
  • Democrats irked by Obama signing statement: President Barack Obama has irked close allies in Congress by declaring he has the right to ignore legislation on constitutional grounds after having criticized George W. Bush for doing the same. Four senior House Democrats on Tuesday said they were “surprised” and “chagrined” by Obama’s declaration in June that he doesn’t have to comply with provisions in a war spending bill that puts conditions on aid provided to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund…. – AP, 7-21-09
  • Abortion Compromise Considered For US House Health-Care Bill: An anti-abortion Democrat on Monday said he is negotiating a compromise aimed at resolving concerns that House health-care legislation would allow federal funding of abortions…. – WSJ, 7-20-09

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Va. Race Acquires Washington Backdrop: McDonnell Taps Anxiety Over National Issues to Woo Moderates Away From Deeds…. – WaPo, 7-26-09
  • Some incumbent senators seem to get no respect: When it comes to next year’s primaries, three senators probably are feeling a lot like Rodney Dangerfield: They can’t get any respect. As veteran lawmakers, Sens. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Jim Bunning, R-Ky., should be coasting, under normal circumstances, to the general election. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., appointed in January as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s successor, has the White House’s backing…. – AP, 7-26-09
  • Obama raises millions for Democrats: President Barack Obama raised millions of dollars Thursday for Democratic candidates in next year’s elections, making a side trip to his hometown of Chicago after pushing for health care changes in Cleveland…. – AP, 7-23-09


Palin’s Farewell Includes Parting Shots

  • Obama: Stimulus Helping ‘Put The Brakes On Recession’: “This and other difficult but important steps that we have taken over the last six months have helped us put the brakes on the recession.”… “This means that eventually, businesses will start growing and they will start hiring again. And that is when it will truly feel like a recovery to the American people.”… “It is working so well that there are legitimate concerns that the funds in this program might soon be exhausted. So we are now working with Congress on a bipartisan solution to ensure that the program can continue for everyone out there who is still looking to make a trade.” – VOA, 7-31-09
  • Minn. Gov: GOP must welcome others, broaden base: Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday urged fellow Republicans to welcome outsiders into the party ranks, not scorn them, as the GOP rebuilds from defeats that left the White House and Congress in Democratic hands…. To move forward at a time when Republican numbers are shrinking in many states, the party should show “respect of those who don’t agree with us,” Pawlenty said. “Let’s make sure that we welcome others who are not yet Republicans.”… – AP, 7-30-09
  • Gov. Pawlenty: Current Health Care Plan Not Reform, Builds Upon Broken System – Fox News, 7-29-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE U.S./CHINA STRATEGIC AND ECONOMIC DIALOGUE Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Washington, D.C. – WH, 7-28-09
  • Hawaii: Obama birth certificate is real: “I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawai’i State Department of Health verifying Barrack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen. I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago….” – USA Today, 7-27-09
  • Palin steps down as Alaska governor: “Now people who know me, they know how much I love this state … I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics-as-usual, lame-duck session in one’s last year in office,” Palin said, just moments before Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell was sworn in as governor. “With this decision, now I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right and for the truth,” Palin continued. “And I have never felt you need a title to do that.” “What I promised, we accomplished,” she told the mostly supportive crowd…. – CNN, 7-26-09
  • CQ Transcript: White House Adviser Axelrod on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’CQ, 7-26-09
  • Pelosi Says She Will Pass U.S. Health-Care Overhaul: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will pass legislation to overhaul the U.S. health-care system through her chamber even as members of her own Democratic Party expressed skepticism after days of discord and delays.
    “When I take this bill to the floor, it will win,” Pelosi said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program that aired today. “This will happen.”… – Bloomberg, 7-26-09
  • Clinton hopes for female president in her lifetime: “It will take the right woman who can make the case and win the votes and get elected. I am certainly hoping it will happen in my lifetime,” she told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program…. “I do want to see a woman elected. I hope it is a Democratic woman who represents the type of approach that I happen to favor.”… – Reuters, 7-26-09
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama: Health Insurance Reform Will Strengthen Small Businesses: It has taken months to reach this point, and once this legislation passes, we’ll need to move thoughtfully and deliberately to implement these reforms over a period of several years. That is why I feel such a sense of urgency about moving this process forward.
    Now I know there are those who are urging us to delay reform. And some of them have actually admitted that this is a tactic designed to stop any reform at all. Some have even suggested that, regardless of its merits, health care reform should be stopped as a way to inflict political damage on my Administration. I’ll leave it to them to explain that to the American people….
    This debate is not a political game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to keep waiting for reform. We owe it to them to finally get it done – and to get it done this year. – WH, 7-25-09
  • Text: Obama’s Remarks on Health Care: Following is a text of President Obama’s remarks on health care, delivered on Thursday in Shaker Heights, Ohio, as released by the White House. The president answered questions from the public immediately following his remarks.
    “…What we’re talking about is not completely scrapping the existing health care system. All we’re saying is if you’ve got health insurance, you can keep it. If you don’t have health insurance, you can now afford to buy it with some help. If you have health insurance, we’re going to reform the insurance industry so that it can still make a profit, it can still offer good services to its patients — or to its customers; it just can’t engage in some of these rules that basically have them collecting a lot of premiums but not wanting to pay out when people really need it and when people get sick….” – NYT, 7-23-09
  • The President’s Press Conference – Full VideoWhite House, 7-22-09
  • Obama Makes Fresh Appeal on Health Care at Prime-time News Conference: This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait for reform any longer. They are counting on us to get this done. They are looking to us for leadership. And we must not let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice, and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year. And with that, I’ll take your questions…. – PBS Newshour, 7-22-09
  • Excerpts of Obama’s Remarks Released – NYT, 7-22-09
  • Obama says healthcare overhaul needed to curb deficits: “If we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit,” he said after another day when leaders in Congress struggled to find common ground on the cost and scope of a healthcare plan, Obama’s top legislative priority.
    “We are now seeing broad agreement thanks to the work that was done over the last few days. So even though we still have a few issues to work out, what’s remarkable at this point is not how far we have left to go — it’s how far we have already come,” he said. – Reuters, 7-22-09
  • “If they try to fix our healthcare system like they’ve tried to rescue our economy, I think we’re in really, really big trouble,” said House Republican Leader John Boehner. – Reuters, 7-22-09
  • Inside Blue Dogs’ W.H. meeting: Following their meeting with POTUS Tuesday afternoon, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee … … and Blue Dog Coalition spoke with reporters at the White House. “We had a very constructive meeting,” Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said. “Members of our Energy and Commerce Committee who are also members of the Blue Dogs had great concern on cost of the legislation … it’s not just theirs but ours as well.” – Politico, 7-21-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON HEALTH CARE AND THE SENATE VOTE ON F-22 FUNDING Rose Garden: But I reject the notion that we have to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on outdated and unnecessary defense projects to keep this nation secure. That’s why I’ve taken steps to greatly reduce no-bid defense contracts. That’s why I’ve signed overwhelmingly bipartisan legislation to limit cost overruns on weapons systems before they spiral out of control. And that’s why I’m grateful that the Senate just voted against an additional $1.75 billion to buy F-22 fighter jets that military experts and members of both parties say we do not need….
    We’ve agreed that our health reform bill will extend coverage and include unprecedented insurance protections for the American people. Under each of these bills, you won’t be denied coverage if you’ve got a preexisting medical condition. You won’t lose your health care if you change jobs, if you lose your job, or if you start a business. And you won’t lose your insurance if you get sick…. – White House, 7-21-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON HEALTH CARE Children’s Hospital Washington, D.C.: …And we can’t afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care. Not this time. Not now. There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake. There are too many families who will be crushed if insurance premiums continue to rise three times as fast as wages. There are too many businesses that will be forced to shed workers, scale back benefits, or drop coverage unless we get spiraling health care costs under control. – White House, 7-20-09


The President records the Weekly Address White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy

  • Julian Zelizer Commentary: Why be afraid of government?: Health care reform has gotten off track. The president’s news conference fell flat. Polls show growing unease with the proposals currently in play. And Congress will not meet the deadline that President Obama imposed.
    The status quo, as the president correctly explained to reporters, is not sustainable. Our health care system is not working. Millions of people lack insurance, costs are out of control, businesses and workers are struggling to keep up with premiums, and there are tremendous inefficiencies plaguing many parts of the system.
    Conditions will only become worse in coming years. Our health care system brings to mind the economist Herbert Stein’s famous maxim: “When something can’t go on forever, it will stop.”… – CNN, 7-27-09
  • JAMES MORONE, Brown University “As Deadline Nears, Obama Steps Up Health Care Push”: With the days ticking down until President Obama’s target date for a deal on health care reform, the White House is pushing to convince the public and Congress that swift action is necessary
    We’ve been doing this since 1935. Harry Truman ran on this in 1948, that great come-from-behind victory, and he encountered the exact same thing. We always have these enormous problems. And what’s so striking is how similar the kinds of debates are. Just one quick example: In every scene in this movie, we’ve had the same idea of people coming in and saying, “Look, we just cannot afford this.” So that’s a very old story. Lyndon Johnson, when he passed Medicare, we just found some newly released tapes of him complaining to newly elected Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts that those fools in the budget office went and projected the costs of Medicare six years down the line. “I’m losing votes.” Bottom line: If we had had good cost projections for Medicare, we believe it would never have won…. Accurate projections. Actually, accurate projections for the costs down the line. LBJ might have known, but he managed to hide them….
    It’s hard for a number of different reasons. For the profession itself, what we’re doing is taking — every year, we’re spending a little bit more of our economy to health care. Anything that threatens to stop that is going to gore an awful lot of sacred cows. Secondly, this is a major battle for control of the high ground in American politics, and everybody in Washington knows that. If Obama gets this through, Roosevelt fails, Truman failed, Carter, Clinton, they all failed. If Obama wins, he’s on an extraordinary roll. If he’s defeated, this is a major defeat for him and a victory for the Republicans. Combine the sheer difficulty and the politics, and you’ve got a recipe for trouble….
    Yes, there are many lessons, and one goes directly to what Amy just said, and that’s the lesson of speed. Lyndon Johnson gathered all of his advisers in a room after his huge 1964 landslide victory — second largest in Democratic Party history — and he said, “Look, every day I lose power. Every day I lose votes. You’ve got to get Medicare fast.” In that sense, Obama has learned an important lesson from history when he says, “Do it by August.” …Eevery day, he loses a little bit of the luster. And six months from now, you know what “Nightline’s” going to be covering: the midterm elections. That’s going to make it almost impossible. One lesson: speed….
    What he needs, what he has to find a way to get is a movement going. Look, this is very scary for Congress… for a lot of congresspeople, particularly in swing districts. If they don’t get a whole lot of Tweets, a whole lot of e-mails, a whole lot of phone calls, this isn’t going to go anywhere. So what Obama needs to do more than getting into the weeds or answering critics is generating excitement that translates into stuff in congressional in-boxes. Without that, it’s never going to win. – PBS Newshour, 7-22-09
  • Julian Zelizer “LBJ Arm-Twisting? Not Really Obama’s Style”: Obama, says Julian Zelizer, a political historian who teaches at Princeton University, “does need a little LBJ in him.”…
    Roosevelt was masterful, Zelizer says, at “living with what was possible instead of what was perfect. For many liberals, this was frustrating.” By using that strategy of relentlessness and occasional compromise, Zelizer says, Roosevelt was able to push through social safety-net legislation. “It paled in compared to Europe’s social security plan,” he says. But it was pretty progressive for the American system at the time.
    Zelizer does say that Obama needs to avoid the pitfalls of Johnson. And of Jimmy Carter. “President Carter had more trouble working with Congress,” Zelizer says. “He had no relationship with Capitol Hill.”
    In the end, Zelizer says, Carter was “too esoteric.” He had great vision when it came to a national energy policy or the SALT II nuclear arms talks. “But he just couldn’t put it together for legislation or the treaty,” Zelizer says. “He just couldn’t articulate his vision.”
    Using his own methods, relying on his own political personality, will Obama be able to sway enough people to get the necessary votes to achieve 1965-style results with 2009 technology? “The jury,” Zelizer says, “is still out.” – NPR, 7-21-09
  • Ted Widmer “LBJ Arm-Twisting? Not Really Obama’s Style”: Plus, the two men “are pretty far apart in most people’s minds, and certainly in [Obama’s],” says Ted Widmer, a fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. Between 1997 and 2001, Widmer served in the Clinton White House as a foreign policy speechwriter and senior adviser to the president.
    “There have never been stories of personal intimidation from Obama,” Widmer says, “and most of the persuasion arts that are used at the moment deploy indirect forms — texting, e-mail, phone messages — rather than in-your-face, LBJ-style orders from on high.” – NPR, 7-21-09
  • Allan Lichtman “LBJ Arm-Twisting? Not Really Obama’s Style”: Johnson as role model for Obama poses other problems, as well. Presidential historian Allan Lichtman, who teaches at American University, points out that “despite his mastery of the legislative process and enormous harvest of domestic legislation,” Johnson is “a tainted example because of Vietnam.”
    Lichtman and others also suggest alternative role models for Obama — former presidents who knew how to negotiate the shoals of Congress yet didn’t get mired in bad choices.
    Perhaps the best beacon would be Woodrow Wilson, Lichtman says. “Wilson was a major legislative craftsman, with deep knowledge of how Congress worked from his studies as a political scientist. He revived the tradition, dormant since Jefferson, of giving the State of the Union speech in person to Congress as another means of outlining and pushing his agenda.”
    During this first two years, Lichtman says, “Wilson succeeded in reforming the protective tariff, establishing the Federal Reserve System. He gained passing major antitrust legislation, a graduated income tax, and limitations on the use of court injunctions against labor unions.” – NPR, 7-21-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Let’s keep an eye on the spies”: In response to the growing pressure for an investigation into potential abuses by the CIA and former Bush administration officials, Republican Sen. John Cornyn warned: “This is high-risk stuff. Because if we chill the ability or the willingness of our intelligence operatives and others to get information that’s necessary to protect America, there could be disastrous consequences.”
    But Cornyn has it wrong. What chills our national security operations is not the discovery of wrongdoing. Rather, what chills our national security operations is tolerating programs that undermine the credibility of our institutions. When Americans are asked to go to war or are warned of dangerous threats, they must be able to believe the people they are hearing from.
    Following the most recent revelations about the CIA, we have reached a tipping point where it is becoming impossible to continue dismissing these allegations as part of the past….
    President Obama has thus far tried to avoid an investigation on the grounds that he wants to focus on the future, not the past.
    But Obama’s formulation, just like Cornyn’s, is wrong. The president must support these investigations. This is not just about investigating the past. If our national security institutions are unaccountable, they will not be able to command the kind of public credibility they need in coming years. – CNN, 7-22-09

September 6 & 7, 2008: On the Campaign Trail



Republican Convention Roundup

Democratic Convention Roundup

The Stats

  • September 7, 2008: McCain leads Obama 48 percent to 45 percent among registered voters, by Gallup’s measure. McCain has so far earned the same convention bounce as Obama, though at a more rapid pace. – Politico, 9-7-08
  • McCain Camp to Leave Convention With $200 Million, Aide Says – AP, 9-6-08
  • John McCain speech draws record TV ratings: “Nielsen Media Research said a record 38.9 million TV viewers watched McCain accept the Republican nomination on Thursday, slightly more than the 38.3 million people who tuned in for Obama’s speech last week. McCain’s tally was believed to be the biggest commercial TV audience every for a single night of a U.S. political convention, Nielsen said.” – Reuters, 9-5-08

In the News…

  • Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has agreed to sit down with ABC’s Charles Gibson later this week for her first television interview since John McCain chose her as his running mate more than a week ago. – AP, 9-7-08
  • Barack Obama isn’t John McCain’s only opponent. Sometimes McCain sounds like he’s running almost as hard against President Bush and the Republican Party as he is against Obama, his Democratic rival for the White House. – AP, 9-7-08
  • McCain-Palin becoming Palin-McCain? – AP, 9-6-08
  • Candidates Launch 60-Day Dash to White House – 9-5-08
  • John McCain, Republican top gun at last The “imperfect” war hero steered clear of George W. Bush as he took aim at Barack Obama and tried to marshal his tarnished party. – Salon.com, 9-5-08
  • Palin is catapulted into starring role – Financial Times, 9-5-08
  • McCain counts on character to clinch it – Financial Times, 9-4-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Susan Livingston on “Palin, family life: Is it really an ‘issue’?”: “I think her daughter’s pregnancy would have been an issue if Palin were running as a pro-life candidate and she had secretly sought an abortion for her daughter,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s an issue at all.” She also thinks some of the other topics that have arisen are irrelevant to the campaign, such as talk about Palin’s priorities as the mother of a special needs child. “I think that is between Palin and her husband, and they will decide about childcare,” she said. Questioning Palin’s experience isn’t sexist, Livingston said. That subject is fair game, but “some of the questions about her success as a mother are a little questionable,” she said. – Clarion Ledger, 9-5-08
  • Gil Troy “Republicans pull it off Against all odds, the GOP held one of its best conventions in decades”: McCain’s speech reinforced the message that Republicans are patriots who serve, especially in the military, and Democrats are doubters who dodge. But McCain also elegantly saluted Barack Obama and the Democrats as “fellow Americans,” saying: “that’s an association that means more to me than any other.” McCain also called for an end to the “partisan rancour” that characterizes so much of contemporary politics. He used his running mate to emphasize his maverick status as a Washington outsider – and as someone not responsible for the Bush administration’s failures. McCain’s speech offered an important balance to his running mate’s rhetoric. Underneath all Palin’s charm was an ugly, divisive call for Republicans to revive the Culture Wars of the last few decades. Her us-vs.- them message, though gift-wrapped beautifully, might help Republicans win in 2008 but is not what the United States needs. Politically, it helped compensate for George W. Bush’s historic lows in the polls, and the perception that Republicans have no fresh solutions to the problems that have appeared on their watch. But it was the equivalent of the lawyer with a guilty client pounding the table passionately to compensate for the weakness of his case…. The election remains too close to call and will inevitably be fought passionately, and at times, viciously. But perhaps, just this once, Americans can be proud that they have such talented people vying to be their leaders. Perhaps, just this once, they can follow John McCain’s cue, and appreciate the common ideals that unite these leaders and their fellow citizens, even amid the hurly-burly and hoopla of a presidential campaign. – Montreal Gazette, 9-6-08
  • Richard Norton Smith, Michael Beschloss, Peniel Joseph on “Historians Examine McCain’s Message of ‘Change'”: panel of historians discuss the strengths and weaknesses of John McCain’s acceptance speech and the GOP message of “change” in Washington. – PBS Newshour, 9-4-08 Download
  • RICHARD NORTON SMITH, George Mason University: I think so. You know, it’s interesting. Clearly, the Democrats have no monopoly on hope and change, because the biggest change that occurred this week is this party has hope. This is a party that came in to St. Paul, if not defeatist, then, quite frankly, highly skeptical of its own chances. This was a party that came here not terribly unified, not altogether thrilled about its nominee. All of that, I think, has been transformed in the course of the last three days. You could feel it last night during Governor Palin’s speech. You can feel it tonight. It’s interesting the pivot away from George Bush. Senator McCain spent more time tonight apologizing for the last eight years than he did boasting about the last eight years. And, finally, we’ve talked several times about whether this was too biographical, whether there was a lack of specifics, particularly on economic issues….

    My sense is the Republicans are very good at stagecraft. And I think the biography that we’ve heard all week long melded very nicely into the substance, if you will, of the speech. Sen. Obama is in for the fight of his life. – PBS Newshour, 9-4-08

  • PENIEL JOSEPH, Brandeis University: Absolutely. Three big things stand out to me about this week, Jim, first, God, guns, and country. Those are the resounding themes of this convention linked to biography and really linked to the pick of Sarah Palin. Second, Palin has successfully solidified McCain’s conservative base. And she really gave a speech last night that echoed Pat Buchanan’s 1992 culture wars speech, but she did it more elegantly. Finally, diversity, or lack thereof. This convention’s delegates are 93 percent white, 5 percent Hispanic, 2 percent black. This party has seemingly ceded the minority vote to Barack Obama and the Democrats, which may have real clear electoral implications. In 2004, George Bush got 14 percent of the black vote in Ohio and 56 percent of the Hispanic vote in Florida, two key swing states that got him re-elected. – PBS Newshour, 9-4-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: Yes, it sure is. You know, it was a great speech, Jim, easily the greatest speech that John McCain ever gave. And you can see the difference between Tuesday night and tonight. This is a party with enormous intensity, especially after a very powerful speech by Sarah Palin last night. And the interesting thing is, about 10 days ago, John McCain by all accounts was intending to choose Joe Lieberman and go in a very different direction, which would have been to — you know, cause there to be a bridge to Democrats, try to go for independents, knowing that the group in this room probably would not have been as enthusiastic as they are tonight with the choice of Sarah Palin. The interesting thing is going to be whether he can augment this kind of intensity in the hall, in this party, in his base with the kind of independents in swing states he’s going to need to win the election….

    You know, when you look at these speeches, you know, the people who write them always looked at acceptance speeches of the past. And this one had references to other acceptance speeches by earlier nominees, but the ones that I found were all Democrats. Harry Truman, 1948, both he and McCain referred to a do-nothing Congress. John Kennedy, McCain talked tonight about getting this country moving again. And of all things, Al Gore in 2000, “I will fight for you.” I think one of the things that we would have expected perhaps least would be that John McCain would be quoting Al Gore. – PBS Newshour, 9-4-08

On the Campaign Trail….

  • Obama and McCain spar over Social Security – Reuters, 9-6-08
  • Sarah Palin criticizes Biden, Obama Sarah Palin: “Senator Biden can claim many chairmanships across many, many years in Washington. He certainly has many friends in Washington’s establishment. But most of his admirers, would not call him an agent of change. Senator McCain has called us a ticket of mavericks.”

    Obama: I know the governor of Alaska has been saying she’s change, and that’s great. She’s a skillful politician. When you’ve been taking all these earmarks when it’s convenient, and then suddenly you’re the champion anti- earmark person, that’s not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something. You can’t just make stuff up.

  • John McCain and Sarah Palin speaking to more than 10,000 supporters in suburban Detroit: John McCain: Again and again, I have worked with members of both parties to fix these problems. Senator Obama never has. That is why this ticket is the ticket to shake up Washington because Senator Obama doesn’t have the strength to do it. ‘He has never bucked his party on any issue, never. If you want real reform, if you want real change, send the ones who have actually done it…send a team of mavericks who aren’t afraid to go to Washington and break some china….

    Sarah Palin: True reform really is tough to achieve, but in short order, we put the government of our state back on the side of the people. I came to office promising major ethics reform to end the culture of self-dealing, and today that ethics reform is the law and that’s what we’re going to bring to Washington.

  • McCain RNC Speech Excerpts: ‘Change is Coming’

    “I’m very proud to have introduced our next vice president to the country. But I can’t wait until I introduce her to Washington. And let me offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first, country- second Washington crowd: change is coming….

    The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn’t a cause, it’s a symptom. It’s what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not you. Again and again, I’ve worked with members of both parties to fix problems that need to be fixed. That’s how I will govern as president. I will reach out my hand to anyone to help me get this country moving again. I have that record and the scars to prove it. Senator Obama does not….

    I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here; I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice and goodness of its people.

    I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again. I wasn’t my own man anymore, I was my country’s.

    I’m not running for president because I think I’m blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.

    I hate war. It’s terrible beyond imagination.

    I’m running for president to keep the country I love safe and prevent other families from risking their loved ones in war as my family has. I will draw on all my experience with the world and its leaders, and all the tools at our disposal–diplomatic, economic, military, and the power of our ideals–to build the foundations for a stable and enduring peace.

  • Palin RNC Speech Excerpts:

    From the inside, no family ever seems typical. That’s how it is with us. Our family has the same ups and downs as any other….

    This is America and every woman can walk through every door of opportunity….

    The difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick….

    Here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion; I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this great country….

    We don’t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren’t listening. We tend to prefer candidates who don’t talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco….

    I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organiser, except that you have actual responsibilities….

    I got rid of a few things in the governor’s office that I don’t think our citzens should have to pay for. That luxury jet was over the top. I put it on E-bay….

  • Bill O’Reilly’s interview with Barack Obama on Fox News, Part 1

    O’Reilly: I think you were desperately wrong on the surge, and I think you should admit it to the nation that now we have defeated the terrorists in Iraq, and the Al Qaeda came there after we invaded, as you know. We defeated them.

    Obama: Right.

    O’Reilly: If we didn’t, they would have used it as a staging ground. We’ve also inhibited Iran from controlling the southern part of Iraq by the surge, which you did not support. So why won’t you say, “I was right in the beginning. I was wrong about that”?

    Obama: If you listen to what I’ve said, and I’ll repeat it right here on this show, I think that there’s no doubt that the violence is down. I believe that that is a testimony to the troops that were sent and Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated, by the way, including President Bush and the other supporters. It has gone very well, partly because of the Anbar situation and the Sunni awakening, partly because of the Shia military. Look–

    O’Reilly: But if it were up to you, there wouldn’t have been a surge.

    Obama: Look–

    O’Reilly: No, no, no, no.

    Obama: No, no, no–

    O’Reilly: If it were up to you, there wouldn’t have been a surge.

    Obama: No, no, no.

    O’Reilly: You and Joe Biden, no surge.

    Obama: Hold on a second, Bill. If you look at the debate that was taking place, we had gone through five years of mismanagement of this war that I thought was disastrous. And the president wanted to double down and continue on an open-ended policy that did not create the kinds of pressure on the Iraqis to take responsibility and reconcile.

    O’Reilly: But it worked. It worked. Come on.

    Obama: Bill, what I’ve said is–I’ve already said it succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

    O’Reilly: Why can’t you say, “I was right in the beginning, and I was wrong about the surge”?

    Obama: Because there’s an underlying problem where what have we done. We have reduced the violence.

    O’Reilly: Yes.

    Obama: But the Iraqis still haven’t taken responsibility, and we still don’t have the kind of political reconciliation. We are still spending, Bill, $10 to $12 billion a month.

The week that was….

  • September 7, 2008: Obama, McCain suggest changes in Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac … Republican vice presidential hopeful’s church promotes prayer to make gays straight … Presidential candidates plan joint appearance at Ground Zero to mark Sept. 11 attacks … – AP, 9-7-08
  • September 6, 2008: Pennsylvania Republicans want Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr off presidential ballot … Lawmakers putting Troopergate investigation on fast track, issuing subpoenas … Obama, still raising money, gets help from rocker Bon Jovi … – AP, 9-6-08
  • September 5, 2008: Obama says McCain and GOP are out of touch with middle-class struggles … McCain and Palin present themselves as eager reformers … Poll finds only 4 in 10 say Palin has enough experience to be president; number is higher for Biden … Subpoenas to be issued for Troopergate probe of Palin in Alaska … – AP, 9-5-08
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