August 23 2010: Last American Combat Troops Leave Iraq, Americans see Obama as a Muslim

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Poll: Nearly 6 in 10 oppose war in Afghanistan: A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
    With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama’s first term, only 38 percent say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan — a drop from 46 percent in March. Just 19 percent expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29 percent think it will get worse. Some 49 percent think it will remain the same…. – AP, 8-20-10
  • Faith and Reason: A conversation about religion, spirituality and ethics The “M-word’: Is “Muslim” political code for ‘I don’t like you!’ Evangelist leads ‘disinformation campaign’ on Obama: Religion professor: Who, exactly, is “Christian”? Or Christian enough? Or the right variation of Christian — i.e. probably the one you are or you like.
    With all the hoohah over the 18% of folks who told a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey that President Obama is Muslim and 34% who said Obama is Christian, the 43% who are unsure what he believes have gotten less attention…. – USA Today, 8-20-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama, daughters go book shopping in Martha’s Vineyard: President Barack Obama and his two daughters went book shopping Friday on the first outing of their 10-day vacation in Massachusetts’ upscale Martha’s Vineyard, witnesses said. Obama, wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and sandals, arrived at the “Bunch of Grapes” bookstore in central Vineyard Haven aboard an SUV along with daughters Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9…. – AFP, 8-20-10
  • Clinton announces direct talks to resume on Sept. 2: Washington to invite Israel and Palestinians to peace negotiations; Netanyahu welcomes decision saying reaching an agreement is ‘difficult challenge but possible.’… – JPost, 8-20-10
  • Obama Faces Middle East ‘Train Wreck’ as Iran Builds Nuclear Program: This is the last article of a three-part series on Iran’s entry into the world’s “nuclear club” as it begins fueling its nuclear reactor in Bushehr.
    Oil prices spike. Shipping routes come under attack. Mideast peace talks collapse. Progress in Afghanistan is shattered. President Obama finds himself caught in a shouting match between Israel’s supporters in America and critics abroad. And so much for restoring ties with the Muslim world.
    That’s just a sampling of what could happen if Israel or the United States launches an attack on Iran to halt what some see as its otherwise inexorable march toward developing a nuclear weapon. It sounds bad … but Israel has vowed to forbid a nuclear-armed Iran, and the consequences of its bold words could be severe.
    Anyone who thinks the president of the United States has it easy needs only to consider his predicament…. – Fox News, 8-20-10Part 1Part 2
  • Obama to GOP: Stop blocking small business bill: President Barack Obama is urging Republican congressional leaders to stop blocking a bill aimed at helping small businesses hire more people. Speaking at the White House, Obama said there would be plenty of time for politics but that the bill should not fall victim to partisanship…. – AP, 8-19-10
  • Blagojevich is campaign distraction for Ill. Dems: Alexi Giannoulias had planned to talk jobs. The Democrat in a tight race for President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat wanted to take the opportunity to say his Republican opponent had helped wreck the nation’s economy. Reporters, though, only wanted to talk about the ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, a newly convicted felon who prosecutors plan to retry on some counts.
    The unfinished business of the Blagojevich trial poses a major new hurdle for Illinois Democrats, who are already facing a difficult election season. After hoping Blagojevich’s trial would wrap up well before the November vote, a retrial could begin as soon as this fall, in the final weeks of campaigning.
    Blagojevich’s saga will keep diverting attention away from the pocketbook issues Democrats want to talk about as they try to keep Obama’s old seat, hold on to the governor’s mansion and maintain their lock on the state Legislature… – AP, 8-19-10
  • From shock and awe to a quiet exit – US troops pull out of Iraq: It began with shock and awe and ended with a silent trickle across the border in the dead of night. As the 4th Stryker Brigade, Second Infantry division, arrived at their staging post in the sands of Kuwait, Sergeant Donald Wilms got out of his battle truck and high-fived friends in his platoon. A few hours earlier they had rumbled across the dusty border, becoming the last US combat unit to leave Iraq.
    “We knew we were going to make history,” he said. “The whole platoon is extremely proud of the difference they were able to make.”
    Two trucks in front of him, Staff Sergeant Wiley Baker also had a sense of the moment. “Any time in a war, whether it be world war two or Vietnam, the first and the last in are setting the agenda,” he said. “We were glad to be a part of it.”
    For the men and women of the division, seven years and five months of war in Iraq is now over. As soon as they had crossed the border after a three-day drive along the spine of central Iraq, US commanders announced that the overall American combat mission in the country was also complete – 12 days earlier than the official end of operations and with doubts about the continuing US role in Iraq lingering…. – Guardian UK, 8-19-10
  • Obama Is Questioned on Economy: President Barack Obama gestures during a backyard gathering to talk about the economy at the home of Rhonda and Joe Weithman in Clintonville, Ohio. President Barack Obama, at a summit of sorts in an Ohio family’s backyard, sought to reassure citizens Wednesday that the economy is on track and that his administration’s legislative victories will benefit voters.
    “Slowly, but surely, we are moving in the right direction. We’re on the right track. The economy is getting stronger,” Mr. Obama said at the beginning of a question-and-answer session with Columbus, Ohio, residents at the home of Rhonda and Joe Weithman.
    The summit comes as a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows American citizens have their dimmest view yet of how Obama is handling the economy. It also comes a few months ahead of midterm elections, in which the economy is expected to play a vital role in whether Democrats hold onto their majority in Congress…. – AP, 8-18-10
  • Obama on mosque: ‘The answer is no regrets’: President Obama has made his first public comment on the mosque controversy since Saturday — a very short comment. It came when a television reporter in Ohio asked Obama if he had any regrets about weighing in. “The answer is no regrets,” Obama said…. – USA Today, 8-18-10
  • Some Muslims question mosque near ground zero: American Muslims who support the proposed mosque and Islamic center near ground zero are facing skeptics within their own faith — those who argue that the project is insensitive to Sept. 11 victims and needlessly provocative at a time when Muslims are pressing for wider acceptance in the U.S. “For most Americans, 9/11 remains as an open wound, and anything associated with Islam, even for Americans who want to understand Islam — to have an Islamic center with so much publicity is like rubbing salt in open wounds,” said Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic studies at American University, a former Pakistani ambassador to Britain and author of “Journey Into America, The Challenge of Islam.” He said the space should include a synagogue and a church so it will truly be interfaith…. – AP, 8-18-10
  • Blagojevich jurors ask for advice on verdict form: A two-part note on Tuesday from deliberating jurors in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich suggests they may be in the process of filling out verdict forms in the case — or are thinking about doing so soon. The jurors asked Judge James B. Zagel how they should mark the verdict form if they can’t reach a decision on a count. In the first part of the note, they also asked for a copy of the oath they took before deliberating. Zagel said in his response that they shouldn’t mark the form if they haven’t been able to reach an agreement on a count but should write a statement saying they couldn’t agree. He also said he would provide a copy of the oath, in which jurors pledge to do their best to reach a verdict…. – AP, 8-17-10
  • California gay marriage case hangs on technicality: The next stage of California’s gay marriage court battle rests on a procedural issue that could halt the case, leaving same-sex unions legal in California without a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to guide the country…. – Reuters, 8-17-10
  • Mama Grizzlies Beware: Liberal PAC Launches Campaign Against Sarah Palin’s Candidates: ABC News’ Huma Khan reports: Sarah Palin is firing up conservative women with her “mama grizzlies” campaign, but liberal women are showing they have a roar in them too. Emily’s List, one of the largest political action committees dedicated to electing pro-choice female Democrats, today unveiled its “Sarah Doesn’t Speak For Me” campaign, designed to counter Sarah Palin’s influence in the mid-term elections. The highlight of the campaign is a video ad mocking Palin’s “mama grizzlies.” “We call upon women and men to let their voices be heard and to reject Palin’s reactionary candidates and backwards- looking agenda. We created this campaign because Sarah Palin and her endorsed candidates are extreme and bad for America, because women voters are key to this election and our country,” Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock said at a news conference today. “We created this campaign because we didn’t want women across the country to think that there’s only one voice for women and we didn’t want Sarah Palin’s voice to go unchallenged.”…. – ABC News, 8-17-10
  • Obama says GOP hindering efforts to help business: President Barack Obama is accusing Republicans of thwarting efforts to help small business owners by blocking legislation containing tax breaks and other incentives. He made the charges, a familiar theme for him, in the midst of a three-day fundraising outing on behalf of besieged Democratic candidates. He was in Seattle to help Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, whose re-election bid is closely watched by Democrats across the nation. Obama spoke on the day of Washington’s primary. Murray is on the ballot and was expected to advance. The president met with a group of small business owners and told reporters afterward that Congress needs to act on the small business legislation. He said Republicans “won’t even let it go to a vote.”…. – AP, 8-17-10
  • Obama launches 3 days of fundraising travel: President Barack Obama, embarking on a three-day tour to raise money for Democrats, said Monday that a rising homegrown clean energy industry can help reverse years of manufacturing job losses overseas and help heal a still- ailing economy. “We can’t turn back, we’ve got keep going forward,” Obama told a group of workers at the ZBB Energy Corp, underscoring what he said was his lasting commitment to a clean energy future. Later, Obama portrayed Republicans as a party of naysayers, opposing nearly all of his domestic initiatives from clean-energy incentives to his landmark health care and financial overhaul legislation. In a play on his 2008 campaign slogan of “Yes we can,” Obama told a Democratic fundraiser in Milwaukee, “These guys’ slogan is ‘no we can’t.'”… – AP, 8-16-10
  • Obama Asks Hollywood For Campaign Cash At LA Fundraiser: Streisand, Spielberg Listed As Hosts, Pelosi Will Also Attend Party At ER Producer’s Mansion… – ABC News, 8-16-10
  • Gates plans to retire next year: Defense Secretary Robert Gates plans to leave his job next year. A Republican and holdover from the Bush administration, Gates had agreed to stay on at the request of President Barack Obama. The move was intended to maintain stability at a time of two wars, although Gates has been open about his desire to return to civilian life in his home state of Washington. In an interview published Monday, Gates told Foreign Policy magazine that leaving in 2011 makes sense. It would give him time to oversee the major offensive under way in Afghanistan but bow out before the 2012 presidential elections. Gates has been defense secretary since December 2006. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed Monday that Gates has set his sights on leaving next year…. – AP, 8-16-10
  • Tom DeLay cleared in federal probe, but Texas charges loom: Former House majority leader Tom DeLay was not charged in a federal investigation into ties with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But he faces a Texas indictment for violating campaign-finance laws…. – CS Monitor, 8-16-10
  • Analysis: Mosque talk another hurdle for Dems: Add another election-year hurdle for Democrats: President Barack Obama’s forceful defense of the right of Muslims to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site. His comments are giving Republicans a campaign-year cudgel and forcing Democrats to address a divisive issue within weeks of midterm contests that will decide the balance of power in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a competitive re-election fight, was the highest profile Democrat to move away from Obama on the matter. “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion,” Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley said in a statement Monday. “Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else.”… – AP, 8-16-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Kendrick Meek: The White House Has My Back: On a campaign stop in Florida Wednesday, President Obama said Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek is the “kind of fighter” that “we need” in the Senate. The “campaigner-in-chief” made the comment on his first trip down to Florida, only a week before the August 24th primary. The president’s previous absence in the race, where Meek is the underdog, had left many wondering whether the Democratic candidate was essentially on his own.
    Meek, however, insisted on “Washington Unplugged” Thursday that “The White House has answered the question constantly,” arguing to CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer that he has the full backing of the administration…. – CBS News, 8-19-10
  • Primaries being decided in 3 states: Democratic Sen. Patty Murray looked to move a step closer toward a fourth term Tuesday in a race that Republicans believe they can win in an election year when antiestablishment sentiment is running high. Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi are heavily favored to win Washington’s primary and face off in November, in what could be a crucial election in the battle for control of the Senate. They already have been campaigning against each other in anticipation of a fall matchup, and President Barack Obama came to the state Tuesday to raise money for Murray. Washington is one of three states holding primaries Tuesday. Wyoming was deciding a gubernatorial primary in the race to replace popular Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal, and Democrats in a legislative district along the California coast were hoping to lock up a state Senate seat in a closely watched special election that has attracted the interest of the president…. – AP, 8-17-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Weekly Address: President Obama Challenges Politicians Benefiting from Citizens United Ruling to Defend Corporate Influence in Our Elections: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address August 21, 2010: …You would think that making these reforms would be a matter of common sense. You’d think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections wouldn’t be a partisan issue.
    But the Republican leaders in Congress said no. In fact, they used their power to block the issue from even coming up for a vote.
    This can only mean that the leaders of the other party want to keep the public in the dark. They don’t want you to know which interests are paying for the ads. The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.
    Well, we cannot allow the corporate takeover of our democracy. So we’re going to continue to fight for reform and transparency. And I urge all of you to take up the same fight. Let’s challenge every elected official who benefits from these ads to defend this practice or join us in stopping it.
    At a time of such challenge for America, we can’t afford these political games. Millions of Americans are struggling to get by, and their voices shouldn’t be drowned out by millions of dollars in secret, special interest advertising. Their voices should be heard…. – WH, 8-21-10
  • Obama challenges GOP on campaign finance ruling: President Barack Obama says Republicans should join him in opposing a Supreme Court ruling that vastly increased how much corporations and unions can spend on campaign ads. Instead, the GOP wants to “keep the public in the dark” about who’s behind the expenditures, Obama charged in his weekly radio and Internet address, released Saturday as he vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard.
    “You’d think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections wouldn’t be a partisan issue,” said Obama. “But the Republican leaders in Congress said no. In fact,they used their power to block the issue from even coming up for a vote.
    “This can only mean that the leaders of the other party want to keep the public in the dark,” said the president. “They don’t want you to know which interests are paying for the ads. The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.”… – AP, 8-21-10
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scoffed at the president’s message: “Americans want us to focus on jobs, but by focusing on an election bill, Democrats are sending a clear message to the American people that their jobs aren’t as important as the jobs of embattled Democrat politicians,” McConnell said. “The president says this bill is about transparency. It’s transparent all right. It’s a transparent effort to rig the fall elections.”… – AP, 8-21-10
  • The Rev. Franklin Graham Says President Obama was ‘Born a Muslim’ Comments Come As Poll Shows One in Five Americans Wrongly Believes Obama Is Muslim: On the heels of a new poll suggesting that nearly one in five Americans incorrectly believes that President Obama is a Muslim, one of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders has weighed in with a seemingly lukewarm endorsement of the president’s Christian faith. Why do 18 percent of Americans believe the president is a Muslim?
    The Rev. Franklin Graham waded into the discussion with his own controversial explanation of why people wrongly believe the president is a Muslim. Graham, who prayed with Obama in a session with his father, Billy Graham, earlier this year, was asked whether he has any doubts about Obama’s self-avowed Christian faith.
    “I think the president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name,” Graham told CNN’s John King in a televised interview that aired Thursday night…. – ABC News, 8-20-10
  • Bush comments on end of combat: Seven years after declaring the end of “major combat operations in Iraq,” former President George W. Bush Thursday commented on the departure of the last U.S. combat troops from the country by expressing his gratitude to members of the U.S. military.
    “President Bush is always proud of our troops,” Bush spokesman David Sherzer said in a statement to POLITICO. “Like all Americans, he is deeply grateful for all they do to defend our country and help make the world a freer and more peaceful place.”…
    Bush has rarely spoken about the war since leaving office, even as violence in the country has decreased and the United States prepares for a full withdrawal next summer. But in a tweet late Wednesday night as the last U.S. combat troops crossed the Iraqi border into Kuwait, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted the former president’s role: “Last American combat troops leave Iraq. I think President George W. Bush deserves some credit for victory.” – Politico, 8-19-10
  • Ending the War in Iraq:
    Good afternoon,
    Shortly after taking office, I put forward a plan to end the war in Iraq responsibly. Today, I’m pleased to report that — thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians in Iraq — our combat mission will end this month, and we will complete a substantial drawdown of our troops.
    Over the last 18 months, over 90,000 U.S. troops have left Iraq. By the end of this month, 50,000 troops will be serving in Iraq. As Iraqi Security Forces take responsibility for securing their country, our troops will move to an advise-and-assist role. And, consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all of our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year. Meanwhile, we will continue to build a strong partnership with the Iraqi people with an increased civilian commitment and diplomatic effort.
    A few weeks ago, men and women from one of the most deployed brigades in the U.S. Army, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, returned home from Iraq. The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden were at Fort Drum to welcome the veterans home and spoke about their personal experiences as a military family:
    Our commitment to our troops doesn’t end once they come home — it’s only the beginning. Part of ending a war responsibly is meeting our responsibility to the men and women who have fought it. Our troops and their families have made tremendous sacrifices to keep our nation safe and secure, and as a nation we have a moral obligation to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.
    That’s why we’re building a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs. We’ve made one of the largest percentage increase in the VA’s budget in 30 years, and we’re dramatically increasing funding for veterans’ health across the board. In particular, we’re delivering unprecedented resources to treat signature wounds of today’s wars—Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    Our sacred trust to take care of our veterans goes beyond simply healing the wounds incurred in battle. We must ensure that when our veterans leave the Armed Forces, they have the opportunities they need to further their education and support their families. Through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, some 300,000 veterans and families members have pursued a college degree. Others are taking advantage of job training and placement programs.
    My Administration will continue to do our part to support the brave men and women in uniform that have sacrificed so much. But supporting our troops and their families is not just the job of the Federal Government; it’s the responsibility of all Americans.
    As we mark this milestone in the Iraq war and our troops continue to move out of Iraq, I hope you’ll join me in thanking them, and all of our troops and military families, for their service.
    Sincerely,
    President Barack Obama
    WH, 8-19-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Andrew Bacevich: OBAMA AND THE MISSION: “If we can’t have a victory parade, we at least ought to be able to make some definitive conclusions,” said Andrew Bacevich, a military specialist at Boston University who lost a son in Iraq and has written a new book, “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.” “And it just doesn’t seem that we are going to do so. We want to just move on, sadly.”… – NYT, 8-21-10
  • Judy Chu: pposing view on Iraq endgame: U.S. deadline improved Iraq: Last Thursday, the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, crossed the border out of Iraq. With this exit, two weeks ahead of schedule, our military met the timeline to withdraw combat troops that President Obama first proposed 16 months ago. For that, every American should feel reassured.
    The president’s withdrawal timeline produced a more orderly transition and reduced violence.
    According to the Iraq Body Count project, civilian deaths caused by coalition troops, paramilitary forces, or criminal attacks averaged 1,390 each month from the beginning of the war in March 2003 through February of last year. But after the president officially announced a timetable, that average fell to 364 monthly casualties.
    During the past year and a half, our troops curbed Iraq’s civil war, restrained the insurgency and transitioned into a peacekeeping, advisory force…. – USA Today, 8-23-10
  • Why doesn’t Obama wear his religion on his sleeve?: What will it take for Obama to convince the world that he’s a Christian, or at least not a Muslim? Teaching Baptist Sunday School like Jimmy Carter? Putting a ‘My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter’ bumper sticker on Air Force One?… – CS Monitor, 8-21-10
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May 31, 2009: Obama’s Economic Stimulus at 100 Days – Bush & Clinton Debate

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President announces the plan for GM

White House Photo, 6/1/09, Samantha Appleton

A New GM

The President balances the interests of stakeholders, the American taxpayer, and the economy at large in announcing his plan for GM and the American auto industry.

Watch the Video

The Weekly Address

In Focus: Stats

  • George W. Bush: ‘What Do You Do?’: Since leaving office, former President Bush’s approval rating has climbed 6 points in one recent poll, something many in the media have attributed to his low profile since leaving office. Of course, former Vice President Cheney’s approval rating is up too, and he’s been very vocal. It’s more likely that Bush and Cheney’s approval ratings are up because they really couldn’t go down, and since they’re not in power, the negative media coverage that comes with a failed presidency has abated…. – Politics Daily, 5-30-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Battle for Senate Seat Goes to Minnesota’s Top Court: After half a year of arguments and more than 19,000 pages of legal briefs, the battle over recounting election results for Minnesota’s vacant United States Senate seat reaches the state’s Supreme Court on Monday. And that may not be the last stop…. – NYT, 6-1-09
  • Obama’s efforts to engage Cuba facing big test: A diplomatic tug-of-war over Cuba’s outcast status in the Organization of American States takes center stage at the group’s meeting this week in Honduras, testing U.S. efforts to engage the communist nation. Numerous Latin American countries are pushing to reverse the 1962 expulsion of Cuba from the 34-country group, although the Cuban government insists it has no interest in returning…. – AP, 5-31-09
  • U.S. Weighs Tactics on Israeli Settlement: As President Obama prepares to head to the Middle East this week, administration officials are debating how to toughen their stance against any expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The measures under discussion — all largely symbolic — include stepping back from America’s near-uniform support for Israel in the United Nations if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel does not agree to a settlement freeze, administration officials said…. – NYT, 5-31-09
  • Senators to meet Obama’s nominee: Senators this week will begin to take the measure of Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the U.S. Supreme Court. The confirmation hearing for the court’s first Hispanic nominee is not expected until July. But on Tuesday, escorted by home state Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), she will meet key players, including Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)…. – AJC, 5-31-09
  • Senators Preview Stances on Sotomayor: Senators hit the talk shows Sunday in an informal opening act to Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, battling over whether she would bring a nuanced judgment seasoned by a complex life or would let her personal views trump the law. The formal hearings won’t begin for several weeks, and Republicans on Sunday suggested they wouldn’t seek to block her confirmation. But senators from both parties, and especially those from the Judiciary Committee, are already seeking to shape the debate and Ms. Sotomayor’s image…. – WSJ, 5-31-09
  • Iowa presidential campaigning returns: It’s been six months since voters handed Barack Obama the White House, and in the minds of a lot of Iowa activists that means only one thing: It’s time to start the campaign again. 2012 already? Yes, 2 1/2 years before Iowans gather for their first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses, early presidential campaigning has begun…. – AP, 5-31-09
  • Baucus, Kennedy to work together on health care: The two Senate Democrats leading the drive to overhaul health care say they will work together to come up with legislation. Sens. Max Baucus and Edward Kennedy said in a joint statement Saturday they intend to cooperate so their committees pass similar bills that can be combined into a single piece of legislation before the Senate leaves for its August recess…. – AP, 5-30-09
  • First couple’s NY date: a campaign promise kept: President Barack Obama made good on a campaign promise to his most important supporter Saturday night — his wife, Michelle. The president and first lady jetted to a date in New York late Saturday afternoon, aides and media in tow. “I am taking my wife to New York City because I promised her during the campaign that I would take her to a Broadway show after it was all finished,” the president said in a statement an aide read to the press…. – AP, 5-30-09
  • Politics Can Wait: The President Has a Date: The Obamas escaped Washington on Saturday in search of a quintessential New York evening — dinner and a Broadway show. They found it at Blue Hill, a low-key Greenwich Village restaurant, and at the Belasco Theater near Times Square for a performance of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” the Tony-nominated August Wilson play…. – NYT, 5-30-09
  • RNC slams Obama for romantic date with Michelle in New York: “As President Obama prepares to wing into Manhattan’s theater district on Air Force One to take in a Broadway show, GM is preparing to file bankruptcy and families across America continue to struggle to pay their bills,” RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in an email this afternoon. That’s not all from Gitcho. She then added a snitty, “Have a great Saturday evening — even if you’re not jetting off somewhere at taxpayer expense.”… – CS Monitor, 5-30-09
  • Bush, Clinton appear on stage together in Canada: Former President George W. Bush called former President Bill Clinton “his brother” and the two rarely disagreed in their first-ever appearance together on stage. The Republican and Democratic ex-presidents defended each other at a Toronto forum on Friday, disappointing some in the crowd of 6,000 who expected a more heated debate. Bush said that he never liked it when previous administration officials criticized his government but said Clinton was respectful and never did…. – AP, 5-29-09
  • Bush-Clinton Policy Talk Strikes a Congenial Tone: Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton appeared together Friday for the first time as Frank McKenna, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, moderated a talk on global affairs in Toronto. The two were paid $150,000 each…. – NYT, 5-29-09
  • Sotomayor’s Focus on Race Issues May Be Hurdle: The selection of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court has opened a new battle in the fight over affirmative action and other race-conscious remedies for patterns of inequality, with each side invoking the election of the first black president in support of its cause…. – NYT, 5-29-09
  • A Burger Run Or A Photo Op?: For the second time this month, Mr. Obama went out for a lunch of burgers and fries. He fired up the motorcade and drove a couple of miles into southeast D.C. to a Five Guys restaurant near Nationals’ Stadium. This time, he didn’t take Vice President Biden along. Instead, he was accompanied by NBC News anchor Brian Williams, who was at the White House today taping elements for his two-part hour-long prime time specials on a day-in-the- life the president. Spokesman Robert Gibbs pooh-poohed a reporte’s suggestion that today’s burger outing was staged principally for the benefit of NBC’s cameras. “I can assure you it was done simply for the benefit of the appetite of the Commander-in-Chief,” he said…. – CBS News, 5-29-09
  • Romney: Va., NJ races will give GOP its voice back: The nation’s Republican Party has a chance to reclaim its voice in governors’ elections this fall in Virginia and New Jersey, former Republican presidential prospect Mitt Romney said Friday…. – AP, 5-29-09
  • McCain to back Meg Whitman in 2010 race: Arizona Sen. John McCain wants Meg Whitman to be California’s next governor. The former eBay chief executive has not formally declared her candidacy, but a spokesman said Wednesday that she will pick up the 2008 Republican presidential nominee’s endorsement at an event in Orange County on Friday…. – AP, 5-28-09
  • Obama to create cyber czar in awareness effort: The Obama administration is creating a “cyber czar” within the White House to coordinate the nation’s computer security. Critics already say the post will not have enough authority to haul the government into the digital age…. – AP, 5-28-09
  • Sotomayor’s Sharp Tongue Raises Issue of Temperament – NYT, 5-28-09
  • Obama drops into California for political money: President Barack Obama looked not for votes in California on Wednesday but for millions of dollars to aid Democratic campaigns in other states…. – AP, 5-27-09
  • Obama names US ambassadors to Japan, India, Sri Lanka: Obama named longtime technology-focused lawyer John Roos as US ambassador to Japan, and named Democratic former congressman Timothy Roemer to be his envoy in India, the White House said. Obama also named Patricia Butenis, a career diplomat who has previously been posted in Baghdad, Pakistan and New Delhi, as ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives…. – AFP, 5-27-09
  • Obama promotes clean energy, stimulus in Nevada: President Barack Obama on Wednesday hailed solar energy as a cost saver for a major Air Force base, one stop on a Western trip devoted to raising political money and promoting his economic policies. Obama’s aides had mocked reporters for making a fuss over his first 100 days in office, but the president was eager to assess the first 100 days of his $787 billion economic stimulus package. It has “saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs,” he said, including “jobs building solar panels and wind turbines; making homes and buildings more energy-efficient.”… – AP, 5-27-09
  • Gates to press for Far East unity on NKorea threat: The U.S. on Wednesday accused North Korea of “provocative and belligerent” behavior as Defense Secretary Robert Gates took on the delicate task of reassuring Asian allies of U.S. support without further provoking the communist government…. – AP, 5-27-09
  • No filibuster, but Sotomayor battle still loom: Republicans see little chance of blocking Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, a key GOP senator conceded Wednesday. But senators and advocacy groups are still girding for this summer’s battle — partly with an eye toward raising money and perhaps preparing for Barack Obama’s next nominee…. – AP, 5-27-09
  • Historic nomination: Hispanic Sotomayor as justice: Reaching for history, President Barack Obama on Tuesday chose federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court, championing her as a compassionate, seasoned jurist whose against-the-odds life journey affirms the American dream. Republicans who will decide whether to make a fight of her confirmation said they want thorough hearings…. – AP, 5-26-09
  • Obama Chooses Sotomayor for Supreme Court Nominee – NYT, 5-26-09
  • Army chief says US ready to be in Iraq 10 years: The Pentagon is prepared to leave fighting forces in Iraq for as long as a decade despite an agreement between the United States and Iraq that would bring all American troops home by 2012, the top U.S. Army officer said Tuesday.
    Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, said the world remains dangerous and unpredictable, and the Pentagon must plan for extended U.S. combat and stability operations in two wars. “Global trends are pushing in the wrong direction,” Casey said. “They fundamentally will change how the Army works.”…. – AP, 5-26-09
  • Obama Revamps National Security Posts: President Barack Obama is merging the domestic and foreign sides of the White House national-security team, effectively eliminating a division created after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The White House will use the reorganization to make broader changes as well. Among them is the creation of positions at the National Security Council focused on cybersecurity, energy, the environment and the threat of terrorism involving weapons of mass destruction, officials said Tuesday…. – WSJ, 5-26-09
  • Obama raises money for Democrats out West: Hours after exercising a cherished presidential right Tuesday — naming a Supreme Court nominee — Barack Obama engaged in one of the office’s grubbier traditions: raising money for an embattled lawmaker. The president launched a two-day, three-stop Western trip that will devote more time to fundraising than to public policy…. – AP, 5-26-09
  • President lays wreath at Tomb of Unknowns: President Barack Obama avoided a racial controversy on his first Memorial Day in office by sending wreaths to separate memorials for Confederate soldiers and for blacks who fought against them during the Civil War. Last week, a group of about 60 professors petitioned the White House, asking the first black U.S. president to break tradition and not memorialize military members from the Confederacy, the group of Southern states that supported slavery. “The Arlington Confederate Monument is a denial of the wrong committed against African-Americans by slave owners, Confederates and neo-Confederates, through the monument’s denial of slavery as the cause of secession and its holding up of Confederates as heroes,” the petitioners said. “This implies that the humanity of Africans and African-Americans is of no significance.” The White House ignored the request…. – AP, 5-25-09
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton surprises Yale graduates: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made a surprise return to her alma mater on Monday, picking up an honorary degree from Yale University 36 years after earning her law degree from the Ivy League school. AP, 5-26-09
  • Republicans invoke Ronald Reagan to fight Harry Reid: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s critics are already in full-blown campaign mode 17 months before the 2010 election. A conservative political action committee known as Our Country Deserves Better PAC launched an attack Monday that quotes Ronald Reagan criticizing the Nevada Democrat back in 1986. The ad, which will run on Nevada radio and TV stations, says Reid is “emblematic of all that’s wrong in Washington.” Politico, 5-26-09
  • G.O.P. Eyes Tough Task: Winning Reid’s Seat: Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has emerged as a tempting target for Republicans as he prepares for re-election next year: unpopular at home, identified with partisan battles in Washington and shadowed by the memory of the election defeat suffered by the last Democrat who held his job, Tom Daschle of South Dakota…. – NYT, 5-25-09
  • Dick Cheney’s Second Act The president plays defense on security: By goading a sitting president into responding to his arguments on his terms, Dick Cheney won the contest with Barack Obama last week before either said a word. And his re-emergence onto the public square seems to be driving everybody nuts…. – WSJ, 5-26-09
  • Obama picks Bolden for NASA: It looks like manned spaceflight may yet have a future at NASA, with the selection this weekend of former astronaut Charlie Bolden to head the troubled agency. Bolden would be the agency’s first black Administrator…. – ZDNet, 5-24-09
  • GOP senator threatens filibuster over court pick: The Senate’s No. 2 Republican on Sunday refused to rule out a filibuster if President Barack Obama seeks a Supreme Court justice who decides cases based on “emotions or feelings or preconceived ideas.” Sen. Jon Kyl made clear he would use the procedural delay if Obama follows through on his pledge to nominate someone who takes into account human suffering and employs empathy from the bench. The Arizona Republican acknowledged that his party likely does not have enough votes to sustain a filibuster, but he said nonetheless he would try to delay or derail the nomination if Obama ventures outside what Kyl called the mainstream. “We will distinguish between a liberal judge on one side and one who doesn’t decide cases on the merits but, rather, on the basis of his or her preconceived ideas,” Kyl said…. – AP, 5-24-09
  • Key Democrat warns against ‘activist’ Obama court nominee: A leading Democratic senator warned Sunday his party could support a potentially polarizing obstruction of President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court if he names an “activist” to the bench. “I don’t care whether they’re liberal or conservative,” Nelson told Fox News Sunday in an interview. “I just want to make sure they’re not activist. I don’t want an activist on the bench.” “I think that’s the test — will they be an activist or not?” Nelson said. “And I would hope that there wouldn’t be any circumstances that would be so extreme with any of the president’s nominees that the other side would feel the need to filibuster or that I might feel the need to filibuster in a case of extraordinary circumstances.”… AFP, 5-24-09
  • Biden is a Key Adviser and Confidant in Obama’s White House: Biden is settling into his job as second in command and is making the role his own…. – US News & World Report, 5-20-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

  • Specter: Not guaranteed free ride in Dem primary: Sen. Arlen Specter said Sunday he did not seek and was not given any assurance that he would not face a primary challenge when he made the decision to leave the Republican party to rejoin the Democratic party. “I didn’t ask that the field be cleared. There was no discussion of that,” Specter said on “Fox News Sunday” when asked about a possible Democratic primary challenge by Rep. Joe Sestak. “Everybody ought to run if he or she wants to run,” Specter said. “And I’m ready to take on all comers.”… – AP, 5-31-09
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Calls for Thorough and Timely Confirmation for Judge Sonia Sotomayor: This week, I nominated Judge Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Court of Appeals to replace Justice David Souter, who is retiring after nearly two decades on the Supreme Court. After reviewing many terrific candidates, I am certain that she is the right choice. In fact, there has not been a nominee in several generations who has brought the depth of judicial experience to this job that she offers…. – White House, 5-30-09
  • Obama On Cybersecurity: We’re Not That Prepared: President Obama on Friday said the U.S. government is “not as prepared” as it should be to respond to disruptions caused by computer or Internet attacks and announced that a new cybersecurity coordinator position would be created inside the White House staff.
    “We will ensure that these networks are secure, trustworthy and resilient,” Mr. Obama said. “We will deter, prevent, detect, and defend against attacks and recover quickly from any disruptions or damage.”… – CBS News, 5-29-09
  • Gates issues warning to North Korea: In a speech in Singapore, the Defense chief says the U.S. will hold Pyongyang ‘fully accountable’ if it sells or transfers nuclear material abroad…. “The transfer of nuclear weapons or material by North Korea to states or non-state entities would be considered a grave threat to the United States and our allies,” Gates told officials gathered at an Asian defense summit here. “And we would hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences of such action.”… – LAT, 5-29-09
  • Bush defends interrogation program in Michigan speech: Former President George W. Bush on Thursday repeated Dick Cheney’s assertion that the administration’s enhanced interrogation program, which included controversial techniques such as waterboarding, was legal and garnered valuable information that prevented terrorist attacks. The former president was speaking to the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan. In a change in format, he agreed to answer questions directly from the audience instead of responding to pre-submitted questions provided to a moderator. Bush told a southwestern Michigan audience of nearly 2,500 — the largest he has addressed in the United States since leaving the White House in January — that, after the September 11 attacks, “I vowed to take whatever steps that were necessary to protect you.”
    “The first thing you do is ask what’s legal?” Bush said. “What do the lawyers say is possible? I made the decision, within the law, to get information so I can say to myself, ‘I’ve done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.’ I can tell you that the information we got saved lives.”
    “Nothing I am saying is meant to criticize my successor,” Bush said. “There are plenty of people who have weighed in. Trust me, having seen it first-hand. I didn’t like it when a former president criticized me, so therefore I am not going to criticize my successor. I wish him all the best.” He repeated his disclaimer about not passing judgment on Obama later when asked about North Korea’s nuclear test. Before answering, the 43rd president said he is “in no way trying to shape my successor’s decisions or criticize them.”
    “I know there are news people here, and they love conflict,” he said. Bush then went on to say that diplomacy is impossible without leverage. “A lot of times people want to give out the carrots,” he said. “My attitude is, you give out the carrots when the behavior changes.”
    He strongly defended his Troubled Asset Relief Program in response to the economic crisis at the end of his presidency, calling it crucial to preventing capital markets from freezing up, which he said would have led to another Great Depression. However, he said he remains “a free-market guy.” Asked what he thinks about conservative pundits who say the Obama administration’s fiscal policies are opening the door to socialism, Bush said: “I think the verdict is out. I think people are waiting to see what all this means.”
    “Well, I hope it is this: The man showed up with a set of principles, and he was unwilling to compromise his soul for the sake of popularity,” he said. He also revealed the topic of the first chapter in his forthcoming book, which he said will be about “the stories of my administration, as I saw them.” That first chapter, he said, will answer the question: “Why did I run for president?” – CNN, 5-29-09
  • Bush: White House pressure made marriage stronger: “I can promise you that her life dream when she was growing up was not to be first lady of the United States,” he told a Michigan audience in one of his first major domestic speeches since leaving the White House. “Frankly, I am not so sure that if we hadn’t married, she’d have voted for me,” he joked of his wife, who was raised in a Democratic family. “There’s a lot of pressure in the White House, as I’m sure you can imagine. Pressure sometimes can make a marriage stronger or weaker. In my case because of her patience and her enthusiasm, it made our marriage a really good marriage,” Bush said. “It’s much harder to be the son of the president than to be the president. And it’s much harder to be the father of the president than to be the president,” he said in a reference to his dad, former President George H.W. Bush. “And I used to have to admonish him not pay attention to what they were writing on the editorial pages about his son. I had gone through the same agony myself. And so I am confident that the end of the presidency is a great relief because of our strong love.” “I was pleased to have someone serve as my vice president who was not running for president, because someone who is running for president, at times, will try to distance themselves,” Bush said. “If things got tough, [he] could be one of the first persons off the ship, and that would be really unpleasant in the White House.” “I was frustrated because the stakes were so high in some of the decisions that I had to make. I wasn’t surprised that people would forget the feeling of how they felt after September 11. I was grateful that people were moving beyond September 11. As a president, you don’t want your nation to be so worried about an attack that people don’t go about their lives. … The psychology of the nation concerned me. Which then made it harder to get people to listen to you, to some of the decisions I made.” “The truth of the matter is, I never watched the nightly news, because it was predictable, I thought. Nor did I ever pay attention to the editorial pages, good editorials or bad,” he said. “I knew what was in the news. When you’re president, you can get so obsessed with this stuff that I felt it would cloud your vision.” “The truth of the matter is, there is so much attention paid to you, I thought it was important even in the toughest moments to be upbeat and not to be so worried about myself that I couldn’t convey a sense of confidence.” “People ask, what is it like? Well, I have never stopped at a traffic light for eight years,” he said. “The neighborhood we live in is nice. You know, Laura bought this house sight unseen. At least she saw. I didn’t. It was like a faith-based initiative.” – CNN, 5-29-09
  • Obama sure Sotomayor would restate 2001 comment: President Barack Obama on Friday personally sought to deflect criticism of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who finds herself under intensifying scrutiny for saying in 2001 that a female Hispanic judge would often reach a better decision than a white male judge. “I’m sure she would have restated it,” Obama flatly told NBC News, without indicating how he knew that.
    “I think that when she’s appearing before the Senate committee, in her confirmation process, I think all this nonsense that is being spewed out will be revealed for what it is,” Obama said in the broadcast interview, clearly aware of how ethnicity and gender issues are taking hold in the debate…. – AP, 5-29-09
  • Obama presses Israel, Palestinians on West Bank: Gingerly trying to advance Mideast peace, President Barack Obama on Thursday challenged Israel to stop settlement construction in the West Bank on the same day the Israelis rejected that demand. Obama pushed Palestinians for progress, too, deepening his personal involvement. “I am confident that we can move this process forward,” Obama said after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House. The president said that means both sides must “meet the obligations that they’ve already committed to” — an element of the peace effort that has proved elusive for years…. – AP, 5-28-09
  • Obama says health care changes must come this year: President Barack Obama warned Thursday that if Congress doesn’t deliver health care legislation by the end of the year, the opportunity will be lost, a plea to political supporters to pressure lawmakers to act. “If we don’t get it done this year, we’re not going to get it done,” Obama told supporters by phone as he flew home on Air Force One from a West Coast fundraising trip.
    Obama’s political organization, Organizing for America, invited campaign volunteers to a midday conference call to describe a nationwide June 6 kickoff for its health care campaign. “The election in November — that did not bring about change, it just gave us an opportunity for change,” Obama said. “So now, we are really going to have to remobilize, we have all had a chance to catch our breath after election and we have gotten a lot of things done during our first four months.” “But health care, that’s a big push.”
    “I think the status quo is unacceptable and that we’ve got to get it done this year,” Obama repeated, ginning up his supporters for a door-to-door and phone-to-phone canvass similar to his presidential campaign…. – AP, 5-28-09
  • Gates: No reason to build up US troops in Korea: While worrisome, North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests have not reached a crisis level that would warrant additional U.S. troops in the region, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said. “I don’t think that anybody in the (Obama) administration thinks there is a crisis,” Gates told reporters aboard his military jet early Friday morning, still Thursday night in Washington. “What we do have, though, are two new developments that are very provocative, that are aggressive, accompanied by very aggressive rhetoric,” he said. “And I think it brings home the reality of the challenge that North Korea poses to the region and to the international community.”… – AP, 5-28-09
  • Obama talks politics, basketball at Beverly Hills fundraiser: Demonstrators outside the Beverly Hilton urge the president to stand up for gay rights. Obama says he intends to keep his campaign promises…. – LAT, 5-28-09
  • President Obama: “You ain’t seen nothing yet”, should he be so confident?: Perhaps feeling proud of his accomplishments during his first four months in office, President Obama told a star-studded Hollywood crowd, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”…. “It won’t be easy. There will be setbacks. It will take time.” He added that he’s made some mistakes and guarantees he’ll make more. – CNN’s Jack Cafferty, 5-29-09
  • Obama drops into California for political money: President Barack Obama painted an upbeat vision of the economy Wednesday as he addressed Californians who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to aid Democratic campaigns in other states. “It’s safe to say we have stepped back from the brink, that there is some calm that didn’t exist before,” Obama told donors and celebrities at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. He said the stimulus bill that Congress passed three months ago is starting to improve the economy. He acknowledged that his young administration has had “some fits and starts.” “I’ve made some mistakes, and I guarantee you I will make some more,” he said…. – AP, 5-28-09
  • Sestak says he plans to take on Specter: Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) confirmed that he’s planning on challenging Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), in an interview this afternoon with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “We have to ask the question will [Specter] be with the right policies that our president has put out there… There’s too much doubt in my mind not to have the intent right now to get in this race, pending just a little time with my family to make sure we’re all together.”… – Politico, 5-27-09
  • U.S. wants no more Jewish settlement growth, Clinton says: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says Israel must stop expanding Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory. The Obama administration stance is a key difference with Israel….. “Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interest of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease,” Mrs Clinton said…. – LAT, 5-27-09
  • Biden Teases Obama Over Teleprompter Dependence, After Mishap: The vice president razzed his boss Wednesday while speaking at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony in Colorado. Biden made the crack about Obama’s crutch after a strong gust of wind blew over one of the vice president’s Teleprompters. Biden was talking about Colorado’s thin air at the time and when he heard the crash, he added, “and the strong winds.” Then he said: “What am I gonna tell the president when I tell him his Teleprompter is broken? What will he do then?”… – Fox News, 5-27-09
  • No filibuster, but Sotomayor battle still loom: Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he didn’t foresee a filibuster, essentially the only way Republicans could try to stop Sotomayor since Democrats control the Senate. Still, he made it clear that Republicans were ready to raise pointed questions about whether Sotomayor, the first Hispanic nominee to the high court, would let her personal life color her legal opinions — and whether that’s appropriate for a Supreme Court justice.
    “We have an absolute constitutional duty to make sure that any nominee, no matter what their background and what kind of life story they have, that we examine that so the American people can know that the person we give a lifetime appointment to … will be faithful to the law and not allow their personal views to influence decision-making,” Sessions said in an interview on NBC’s “Today.” – AP, 5-27-09
  • ‘They Answered a Call,’ Obama Says of Veterans: “They felt some tug; they answered a call; they said, ‘I’ll go,'” Mr. Obama said after the wreath-laying ceremony in a 12-minute address paying tribute to veterans and fallen soldiers. “That is why they are the best of America, and that is what separates them from those of us who have not served in uniform: their extraordinary willingness to risk their lives for people they never met.” The president asked all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. on Monday for a moment of “national unity” to honor the war dead. “I ask you to ring a bell, or offer a prayer, say a silent ‘thank you,'” Mr. Obama said, “and commit to give something back to this nation, something lasting, in their memory.”… – NYT, 5-25-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON MEMORIAL DAY: Here lie Presidents and privates; Supreme Court justices and slaves; generals familiar to history, and unknown soldiers known only to God. A few moments ago, I laid a wreath at their tomb to pay tribute to all who have given their lives for this country. As a nation, we have gathered here to repeat this ritual in moments of peace, when we pay our respects to the fallen and give thanks for their sacrifice. And we’ve gathered here in moments of war, when the somber notes of Taps echo through the trees, and fresh grief lingers in the air. Today is one of those moments, where we pay tribute to those who forged our history, but hold closely the memory of those so recently lost. And even as we gather here this morning, all across America, people are pausing to remember, to mourn, and to pray…. – White House, 5-25-09
  • Answering Critics, Powell Says G.O.P. Needs Change: “Rush will not get his wish, and Mr. Cheney was misinformed,” Mr. Powell said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation,” “I’m still a Republican.”….
    “For the previous 20 years I voted solidly for Republican candidates,” Powell said. “I served Ronald Reagan for two years. I spoke at the 1996 convention and I spoke at the 2000 convention.” He added that he had voted for several Democratic presidents: John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and “even” Jimmy Carter. Mr. Powell called it “unfortunate” that Mr. Limbaugh said he supported Mr. Obama because he, too, was black…. “I’d like to point out that in the course of my 50 years of voting for presidents, I have voted for the person I thought was best qualified at that time to lead the nation,” he said. “Last year, I thought it was President-now Barack Obama.”….
    Noting the party’s substantial losses in last fall’s elections, he said: “You can only do two things with a base. You can sit on it and watch the world go by, or you can build on it. In almost every demographic indicator, the Republican Party is losing. North, South, East, West. Men, women, whites, blacks, Hispanics. Are we simply moving further to the right, and by so doing opening up the right-of-center and the center to be taken over by independents and to be taken over by Democrats?” – NYT, 5-24-09
  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Gingrich continued his criticism of Mr. Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo. “I think the president made a very big mistake,” said Mr. Gingrich, who, like Mr. Cheney, has made repeated media appearances in recent weeks. “It was a campaign promise. It is not a national security plan. I think, frankly, they should keep Guantánamo open. Whatever things that are wrong with Guantánamo they would fix by moving them to somewhere else, fix them at Guantánamo.” When pressed to say when he thought the base could be closed, Mr. Gingrich said, “When the terrorists disappear.” – NYT, 5-24-09
  • Ridge offers strong words on how GOP can rebound: “Rush articulates his point of views in ways that offend very many,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s a matter of language and a matter of how you use words. And it does get the base all fired up, and he’s got strong following. But, personally, if he would listen to me — and I doubt if he would — the notion is, express yourselves, but let’s respect others’ opinions. And let’s not be divisive.”…
    He said Republicans should respect the opinions of others and explain in “a rational, thoughtful, responsible and reasonable way” why Republican ideas should be more acceptable to the average American. Ridge has ruled out running against Republican-turned Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter next year, but sidestepped a question on whether he might make a run for the White House in 2012. He said he plans to work within the party so the GOP wins the presidency in 2012 “and we’ll just leave it at that.” “I’m a strong, strong Republican but … I’ve never, ever, ever voted straight Republican ticket in my life and I never will,” he said…. – AP, 5-24-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Sotomayor puts GOP at crossroads”: It seems as if Republican opponents of President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court are now coalescing around the issue of affirmative action as their main point of attack. Their focus is her ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano as well as her remark about the benefits that a Latina judge could bring to a court.
    Just months after Americans made a historic decision to elect an African-American as president, this approach is a high-stakes strategy that poses huge risks for the GOP regardless of the outcome of this nomination.
    Some Republicans, such as former Speaker Newt Gingrich, have called on their colleagues to aggressively oppose Sotomayor in response to arguments about affirmative action and liberalism that have been central to the base of the party. Other Republicans, including several in Congress, have suggested that this strategy would further marginalize the Republican Party among Hispanics, women and moderates.
    By focusing an assault on affirmative action, Republicans would add African Americans and other minorities to that list, playing to the accusations of their opponents that the GOP is a white man’s party. The debate about Sotomayor’s nomination is in many ways a strategic debate about the future of the Republican Party…. – CNN, 6-1-09
  • David C. McCullough “Nation needs review of anti-terror tactics”: “A nation that forgets its past can function no better than an individual with amnesia,” says historian David C. McCullough, author of the best-selling book “1776” about the early years of the American revolution. “History is not the story of heroes entirely,” McCullough observes. “It is often the story of cruelty and injustice and shortsightedness. There are monsters, there is evil, there is betrayal … the best, the worst, the height of noble attainment and the depths of depravity.”… – Detroit Free Press, 5-31-09
  • Obama’s Battle With the Liberal Wing of the Democratic Party: Four decades ago, the liberal, antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped to force President Lyndon B. Johnson from office. Specifically, Johnson decided not to run for re-election in 1968 in large part because of rising primary challenges and increasingly vitriolic demonstrations against him. One chant that was heard often at anti-Vietnam War rallies was “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” The level of anger now is nowhere close to that level, but there are warning signs that President Obama is starting to generate serious opposition on the fiery left. There is increasing unease about his sending 21,000 more troops into Afghanistan, which some compare to the early escalations in Vietnam…. – Us News & World Report, 5-31-09
  • Lawrence Baum “The Waves Minority Judges Always Make”: It is not clear, though, that any of those stories caused Justice O’Connor to change her vote. “Justice O’Connor was not nearly as sympathetic to racial civil rights claims as she was to gender claims,” said Lawrence Baum, a political science professor at Ohio State. – NYT, 5-31-09
  • David J. Garrow “The Waves Minority Judges Always Make”: Justice Clarence Thomas, the second African-American justice, is by some measures the most conservative justice since 1937, while Justice Marshall was the most liberal. “Thomas is living proof and a daily reminder that not everyone from a particular background has a particular point of view,” said David J. Garrow, a historian at Cambridge University, in England. – NYT, 5-31-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Obama and the life of the party”: With his appointment of Sonia Sotomayor and a fiery speech in Nevada, President Obama bought himself a little breathing space with congressional Democrats after taking a big political hit from them last week.
    The debate over closing the Guantanamo prison intensified when congressional Democrats refused to provide the administration with the funds needed to conduct the transfer.
    Democrats were frustrated that Obama, who had announced the closure as one of the first pieces of business for his administration, had failed to provide his own party’s leaders with the details of the plan.
    When conservatives warned that detainees would be sent to American prisons from where they could potentially spread terrorism in the heartland, congressional Democrats were vulnerable, left without enough information to mount a defense.
    Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, didn’t find the vote particularly difficult. He told reporters that the reason was clear: The White House had failed to forward “a coherent plan for closing this prison.”
    To make matters worse, this came one week after Speaker Nancy Pelosi came under fire as a result of CIA Director Leon Panetta’s announcement that she had been briefed on the agency’s interrogation techniques, including the use of waterboarding.
    This kind of conflict between the executive and legislative branches when they are under the control of the same party is not new in contemporary American history. One party’s control of government is not a guarantee of harmony. These conflicts have stemmed from basic policy differences but also because of political missteps…. – CNN, 5-28-09
  • Peniel Joseph “In Dueling Speeches, a National Security Debate Obama Says Bush Set Aside Principles in Terrorism Fight”: “I think it is unprecedented in the modern era,” said Peniel Joseph, a historian at Brandeis University. “We’ve seen outgoing administrations that did not get along with the new administration, but we have never seen the vice president of an outgoing administration lambasting the new administration like this.” – WaPo, 5-22-09

President Barack Obama participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
(President Barack Obama participates in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery Monday, May 25, 2009. White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson)

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

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Bill Richardson joined Barack Obama for the announcement Wednesday that Mr. Richardson was commerce secretary-designate.

Canada in Focus:

  • Dion’s Speech Beset By Technical Woes: In the battle of the airwaves Wednesday, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion showed up almost an hour late and a few pixels short in his duel with the prime minister he hopes to replace. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08
  • Gov. Gen. Agrees to Suspend Parliament: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has won a stay of political execution – at least until January. Harper convinced Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament on Thursday, delaying a non-confidence vote scheduled for Monday that would have brought down his beleaguered minority Conservative government. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08
  • Christopher Dummitt: Trent professor argues coalition government perfectly constitutional – Kawartha Media Group, Canada, 12-3-08
  • U.S. Worried Over Canada’s Political Drama: The whole world is watching and our closest ally – the United States – is worried as Canada goes through a “constitutional psychodrama,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Tuesday. – Canadian Press, 12-3-08
  • Canada PM calls for crisis talks with premiers: “A critical objective of this meeting will be to identify issues related to accelerating infrastructure investments, strengthening financial market regulation, improving competitiveness and ensuring labor market preparedness and flexibility where immediate government actions will make positive economic impacts,” Harper’s office said in a statement. – Reuters, 12-3-08
  • Tories Fuming Over Political Crisis: Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion of betraying Canadian voters with the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition to replace the Conservative minority government, saying Dion is “turning his back” on the results of the recent federal election. – CBC News, 12-2-08
  • Canada government may seek to suspend Parliament: Canada’s minority Conservative government may seek the temporary suspension of Parliament to stop opposition parties from voting it out and taking power, an aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday.
    The Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois signed a deal on Monday committing them to bringing down the government, just seven weeks after it won re-election with a strengthened minority, and forming a coalition government to replace the Conservatives.
    The formal agreement quickly triggered one of the worst political crises in Canada’s history. – Reuters, 12-2-08
  • Canada government may seek to suspend Parliament: Harper told Parliament that the coalition deal was “the worst mistake the Liberal Party has ever made in its history”. Conservative legislators chanted “Shame, shame” at the opposition during an often charged session of Parliament. “The highest principle of Canadian democracy is that if you want to be prime minister, you get your mandate from the Canadian people, not the separatists,” said Harper.
    Dion shouted back: “Every member of this House has received a mandate from the Canadian people… The prime minister doesn’t have the support of this House any more.” – Reuters, 12-2-08

The Headlines…

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office: http://change.gov/

  • Obama Hauls in Record $750 Million for Campaign – NYT, 12-4-08
  • Obama’s donor list asked to help pay Clinton debt – AP, International Herald Tribune, 12-5-08
  • Richardson pledges seamless transition in NM: Gov. Bill Richardson and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish met Thursday to map out a transition of power in New Mexico as the governor prepares to assume new duties as commerce secretary in President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet. – AP, 12-4-08
  • Obama laying the groundwork for U.S. health reform – Reuters, 12-5-08
  • FACTBOX: Obama’s ambitious healthcare plan – Reuters, 12-5-08
  • A New Home, a Bit Smaller, for the Bushes: As hard as it may be to leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the president and first lady, Laura Bush, have settled on a new home in the upscale Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Bush said Thursday. – NYT, 12-4-08
  • Democrats: Obama needs hands-on economic approach: Democrats are growing impatient with President-elect Barack Obama’s refusal to inject himself in the major economic crises confronting the country. Obama has sidestepped some policy questions by saying there is only one president at a time. But the dodge is wearing thin. “He’s going to have to be more assertive than he’s been,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told consumer advocates Thursday. – AP, 12-4-08
  • Save the date: Ala. county passes Obama holiday: In central Alabama’s Perry County, government workers already get a day off for President’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Veterans Day. In 2009, they’ll get one more: “Barack Obama Day.”
    The rural county, which overwhelmingly supported Obama in last month’s presidential election, has approved the second Monday in November as “The Barack Obama Day.” Commissioners passed a measure that would close county offices for the new annual holiday and its roughly 40 workers will get a paid day off. – AP, 12-3-08
  • Becerra a top candidate for Obama trade chief: – California congressman Xavier Becerra has emerged as a leading candidate to be the chief U.S. trade negotiator for President-elect Barack Obama, a Democratic official and lobbyists said on Wednesday. – Reuters, 12-3-08
  • Obama is delivering diversity, but some seek more: Barack Obama, soon to be the first black U.S. president, is on the road to making good his pledge to have a Cabinet and White House staff that are among most diverse ever, although some supporters are asking him to go even further. – AP, 12-3-08
  • Gates: Military looks to accelerate Iraq pullout: Defense Secretary Robert Gates signaled a willingness to forge ahead with two key priorities for the incoming Obama administration: accelerating the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and shutting down the Guantanamo Bay detention center. – AP, 12-3-08
  • A new poll shows Americans feel good about President-elect Barack Obama, seen here with his selections for his national security team in Chicago on Monday, and the choices he has made for his Cabinet.: More than three of four Americans, including a majority of Republicans, approve of the job Obama has done so far — broad-based support he’ll need as he faces tough decisions ahead. By 69%-25%, those surveyed approve of his pick of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his former Democratic primary rival, as secretary of State. By an even wider margin, 80%-14%, they favor his decision to ask President Bush’s Pentagon chief, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to stay on the job. – AP, 12-2-08
  • Republicans win crucial Georgia Senate seat: Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss won a run-off election in Georgia on Tuesday, CNN said, denying Democrats the chance for a 60-seat “super majority” in the Senate that would have enabled them to pass legislation virtually at will. – Reuters, 12-2-08
  • Clinton for a Clinton? Senate guessing game begins: New York Gov. David Paterson has famous names to choose from in picking a replacement for Sen. Hillary Clinton, including a Kennedy, a Cuomo and even another Clinton, as in the former president of the United States. – Reuters, 12-2-08
  • TERROR WATCH: Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball: 1900 Days And Counting: In advance of a new report to the White House, Bob Graham talks about the possible nature and likelihood of a WMD terrorist attack over the next few years. – Newsweek, 12-2-08
  • Chinese-American activists oppose any Bill Richardson cabinet nomination: The group is upset at the New Mexico governor for his handling of the nearly decade-old case of Taiwanese- American Wen Ho Lee, a former nuclear scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. U.S. officials once suspected Lee of giving nuclear secrets to China when Richardson was President Clinton’s energy secretary. – San Jose Mercury News, 12-2-08

Political Quotes

  • Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen “Fla. rep. ‘flabbergasted’ Obama call wasn’t prank”: “I was just flabbergasted. I just hung up on the most powerful man on earth — twice….. But this one was just out of the blue he’s calling me. And I said, ‘Boy, you’re a much better impersonator than that guy on Saturday Night Live,’ and he’s laughing and he’s thinking I’m kidding.” She “wished him the best of luck and told him I was going to hang up on him.” “I said I really do appreciate it. I love these pranks more than anybody and I’m honored that you would prank me, but I’m gonna hang up.” When Obama finally called back, the congresswoman said they talked about policies on Cuba and Israel. He told her “anytime my ego gets too pumped up, I think Michelle will remind me that you hung up not once, but twice on me,” Ros-Lehtinen said. – AP, 12-4-08
  • President-elect Obama and governors tackle the economy: Speaking to an assembly of nearly all of the nation’s governors in Philadelphia this morning, President-elect Obama called for innovation and collaboration, and invited dissenting opinions on how best to fix the economy. YouTube, 12-3-08
  • Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary: President-elect Barack Obama tapped Gov. Bill Richardson to be Commerce Secretary at a press conference in Chicago on December 3rd, 2008. – YouTube, 12-3-08
  • Obama Names Richardson as Commerce Secretary: “Commerce secretary is a pretty good job,” Mr. Obama said, after being asked by a Hispanic reporter about the appointment of Mr. Richardson to a post not considered among the cabinet’s more prestigious or influential…. “his mixture of diplomatic experience, hands-on experience as governor, experience in the cabinet, experience in Congress, means that he is going to be a key strategist on all the issues that we work on.” “I think the notion that somehow commerce secretary is not going to be central to everything we do is fundamentally mistaken.” – NYT, 12-3-08
  • Biden “US must halt spread of nuclear, bio weapons” : “We’re not doing all we can to prevent the world’s most lethal weapons from winding up in the hands of terrorists,” Biden told reporters at Obama’s Washington transition headquarters. – Reuters, 12-3-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Harold Holzer, and H.W. Brands: Lessons From Presidents Past As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office amid an economic crisis and conflicts overseas, the experiences of former presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt are being regularly recalled, including by Mr. Obama himself. – PBS Newshour, 11-25-08
  • HAROLD HOLZER, Author, “Lincoln-President-Elect”: Well, I think they were undervalued. I think they have been undervalued by historians. I think they’re the great Achilles’ heel in Lincoln’s otherwise sterling reputation, this prevailing idea that he was a docile president- elect who just dawdled away the hours while the secession crisis magnified. I took a look at the private correspondence and the conversations that Lincoln had during this period and found, in fact, that he did quite a bit, if not to prevent the union from fracturing, at least to preventing slavery from expanding and perpetuating….
    Well, the notion of gridlock, of political factions not being able to get along, which obviously reached the boiling point in the Lincoln era, is something that Sen. Obama has cited as a rationale for a different approach to government. Obviously, it’s a different time. Red state-blue state divisions are not the same as gray state-blue state divisions. And, of course, half of the country chose not even to recognize Abraham Lincoln’s election, but to react as if it hadn’t occurred, while half of the people in the states that did accept it had voted for someone else. So it was — there was none of the universal celebration of Lincoln’s election that took place. It’s the confrontation of division, the healing, the unifying, actually, that Lincoln did later in his term that I think Sen. Obama is looking to inciting now….
    Well, of course, the media focus is so much more intense now that it’s almost unavoidable. Lincoln certainly did not do any public statements, but, of course, he hadn’t campaigned for president, either. And yet there are things that Sen. Obama is doing that are so eerily like Lincoln, it’s as if he’s got a playbook that he’s — and it’s a very good playbook — that he’s referring to. I mean, he is considering the senator from New York whom he defeated for the nomination as his secretary of state, as Lincoln did with Seward. He even went back for a pilgrimage to the woman who raised him for a final goodbye, as Lincoln did, when he went to see his step-mother a few days before leaving for Washington, again, the last time he would see her. That sense of taking renewal from his roots was very important to Lincoln. And both of them are reading the works of former presidents in crisis. Lincoln read Andrew Jackson’s protests against nullification, just as Sen. Obama is reading Abraham Lincoln. So the arc of the presidency continues….
    I mean, in the case of Lincoln, I think not. This is really, in a large way, the culmination or at least a giant step toward completing the unfinished work that Abraham Lincoln spoke about at Gettysburg. The very notion that an African-American has been elected president of the United States fulfills those parts of the American dream that were unfulfilled. So I think it’s a magnificent moment and one that we should embrace as long as our honeymoon can last with a new president. – PBS Newshour, 11-25-08
  • H.W. BRANDS, Author, “Traitor to His Class”: I wanted to figure out how this son of privilege became the champion of the ordinary man and woman in America. Roosevelt was born wealthy. He had everything that wealth could buy and everything that opportunity could give. But he became in certain respects the most radical populist ever to occupy the White House. And I wanted to see how that came about….
    Well, circumstances now are looking eerily like the circumstances in 1932 and 1933. When Roosevelt was elected, the economy was at the bottom of the depression. Probably 25 percent of Americans were out of work. The financial system was in freefall. There was a clear repudiation of the status quo that is in Roosevelt’s election. And Roosevelt had four months to figure out what he could do between then and the inauguration. It was a very difficult transition, probably one of the most difficult in American history….
    Despite the efforts at cooperation, there is a definite difference in philosophy between the Bush administration and the Obama administration. And there will certainly be an effort by the Bush administration to preserve as much of that philosophy as possible. And Barack Obama would be well advised — assuming that he intends to take things in a different direction — to avoid making any commitments. He’s absolutely right. There’s only one president at a time. He can get his team together, and he can get his plans together, but he’s really not going to get anything done on his own authority until he’s sworn in….
    President-elect Obama can take comfort from the fact that the recession that the country seems to be entering will almost certainly not get as deep and severe as the Great Depression of the 1930s, in large part because of the reforms that Roosevelt and the New Deal Congress put into place. And I think he can take a lesson from Roosevelt’s example in connecting with the American people at an emotional level as soon as he became president. Roosevelt took charge very quickly. And one of the first things he did, after just five days in office, was to deliver the first of his fireside chats, in which he reached over the heads of Congress and over parties and made an emotional appeal to the American people, saying that everything that we’ve done, everything that we’ve started will only work if we have the support of the American people. So he made Americans part of his administration, and his administration benefited enormously from that. – PBS Newshour, 11-25-08
  • Gil Troy: Is Bush’s Greatest Achievement a Non-Achievement: No Subsequent 9/11s?: In yet another example of “blowback” actually undermining Islamist terrorism, the Mumbai mayhem may boost George W. Bush’s historical legacy. In the waning days of his presidency, the massacres highlighted one of Bush’s most significant but elusive achievements. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is a non-event. After September 11, most Americans assumed they would endure a wave of terrorist attacks. Even those Americans who hate Bush must grant him at least some credit for the fact that not one major attack has occurred again on American soil…. Despite all the hype during a presidential campaign about a candidate’s skills, judgment, character, experience, and potential, external events often define presidencies. George W. Bush himself entered office expecting to focus on domestic affairs. The horrific murders in Mumbai – along with the continuing economic roller coaster – illustrate that Obama’s legacy, like that all of his predecessors, remains in the hands of powerful actors and historical forces beyond his control, no matter how talented he is, no matter how focused on this one leader we remain. – HNN, 12-4-08
  • Julian Zelizer: Can President-Elect Obama Manage His Team of Egos?: Obama has assembled a powerful team that is full of experience, and opinions “He does have this challenge,” says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. “It’s not a modest cabinet by any stretch of the imagination. These are people of opinions and experience,” and they won’t be shy about “pushing the president” to adopt their ideas. The question is whether Obama will be strong enough to manage the egos around him—and distill from the resulting tensions and rivalries the best policies for the nation without allowing his government to descend into constant infighting, as happened under President Jimmy Carter and other chief executives. – – US News & World Report, 12-2-08
  • Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. “Obama as Hoover: The Importance of Storytelling”: You may have heard of the late liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. How about Charley Michelson? As the Obama era takes shape, the roles of both Schlesinger and Michelson deserve attention. Particularly as Americans are seeing newsmagazines with cover stories comparing the President-elect who campaigned on a dour vision of scarcity with Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, a considerable leap to understate. – American Spectator, 12-2-08
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin on the relevancy of ‘Team of Rivals’: Number one, what you’ve got is a president-elect who reads history and values it, and that’s just a great thing…. He called me after he read the book, way back at the beginning of the primary. My cell phone rang, I picked it up and he just said, ‘Hello, this is Barack Obama.’ He talked to me even then about the book, and then throughout the campaign he kept talking about it, how he would want to put people around him who would argue with him, have a range of opinions. His first step seems to be totally in step with that concept, both in terms of possibly appointing Hillary to be secretary of state, talking with John McCain.
    I think it’s the combination of, you know, what we’ve gone through in the last eight years, and the awareness that we’re at one of those moments in time when we have a series of crises that have to be dealt with.
    Even Roosevelt, when WWII was on the horizon, FDR understood that, as he put it, Dr. New Deal had to become Dr. Win-the-War, and he brought in two top Republicans, [former Secretary of State Henry] Stimson and [former vice presidential candidate Frank] Knox, to be in his cabinet. He put out the olive branch to the business community…Not that he gave up his progressive goals, but he reached out more so he could bring them together at a moment of necessity. – Politico.com, 11-19-08

December 2, 2008: Obama Presents Hillary and His National Security Team & The Canadian Political Gamble

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

President-Elect Barack Obama’s National Security Team: President-Elect Barack Obama unveiled his national security team at a press conference in Chicago on December 1st, 2008. – You Tube, 12-1-08

Canada in Focus:

  • Liberals, NDP Reach Coalition Deal: “Harper accused the Liberals of playing the “biggest political game in history.”: Liberal Leader Stephane Dion sent a letter to Michaelle Jean today advising that the Harper government has lost the confidence of the House of Commons.
    He said the Liberals and NDP – backed by the Bloc Quebecois – have reached a deal to form a coalition for at least 18 months, with Dion as prime minister until spring.
    Dion’s letter states that the new government “will effectively, prudently, promptly and competently address these critical economic times.” – Canadian Press, 12-1-08
  • THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The Headlines…

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

President-elect Barack Obama in Chicago announcing appointments, including Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.

  • Hillary Clinton A Concession Wrapped in an Acceptance: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech was no ordinary public-service pledge; for plenty of viewers, it was the moment when Mrs. Clinton finally conceded the election for real.
    The occasion was solemn, but like a wedding where the parents are divorced, the ceremony was carefully choreographed to avert awkward moments and camouflage past unpleasantness. – NYT, 12-2-08
  • Holder a historic pick for A.G., with big challenges ahead: Eric Holder, the first African-American nominee for attorney general, has blazed trails before. He was the first black U.S. attorney, the Justice Department’s first black deputy attorney general — its second-highest- ranking official — and the acting attorney general for 14 days at the end of the Clinton administration. – USA Today, 12-1-08
  • Clinton begins new chapter with State job: She may not have the title she sought, but Hillary Clinton still got what she wanted on Monday: the opportunity to “clean up” after President George W. Bush on the world stage. Clinton, the one-time Democratic White House hopeful, became the face of President-elect Barack Obama’s foreign policy, putting aside any lingering doubts about her former rival as she accepted his offer to be secretary of state. – Reuters, 12-1-08
  • Live Blog: Presenting the National Security Team – NYT, 12-1-08
  • Who will replace Hillary Clinton as New York senator? The scramble to replace Hillary Clinton on Capitol Hill was well underway by the time President-elect Obama officially nominated her Monday morning. Among those mentioned to to take her seat as New York’s junior senator: her husband, former President Bill Clinton. – CNN, 12-1-08
  • Obama Releases Names of Donors – NYT, 12-1-08
  • Obama taps Clinton, Gates for US ‘new dawn’ abroad: Barack Obama promised “a new dawn of American leadership” in a troubled world Monday, announcing a strong-willed national security team headed by Hillary Rodham Clinton, who fought him long and bitterly for the presidency, and Robert Gates, the man who has been running two wars for George W. Bush. – AP, 12-1-08
  • Is Obama America’s First Co-President?: Presidential historians say Barack Obama has a larger role than any president-elect in the last 75 years, as he takes on the financial crisis even before taking office. – Fox News, 12-1-08

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday with President-elect Barack Obama.

Political Quotes

  • Obama’s National Security Team Announcement: And so in this uncertain world, the time has come for a new beginning, a new dawn of American leadership to overcome the challenges of the 21st century and to seize the opportunities embedded in these challenges.
    We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our friends. We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships. We will show the world once more that America is relentless in the defense of our people, steady in advancing our interests, and committed to the ideals that shine as a beacon to the world. Democracy and justice, opportunity and unyielding hope because American values are America’s greatest export to the world.
    To succeed, we must pursue a new strategy that skillfully using, balances, and integrates all elements of American power, our military, and diplomacy, our intelligence and law enforcement, our economy and the power of our moral example. The team that we’ve assembled here today is uniquely suited to do just that.
    In their past service and plans for the future, these men and women represent all of the those elements of American power and the very best of the American example. They’ve served in you uniform and as diplomats. They have worked as legislators, law enforcement officials, and executives. They share my pragmatism about the use of power and my sense of purpose about America’s role as a leader in the world.
    I have known Hillary Clinton as a friend, a colleague, a source of counsel, and a tough campaign opponent. She possesses an extraordinary intelligence and a remarkable work ethic. I am proud that she will be our next secretary of state. She’s an American of tremendous stature who will have my complete confidence, who know many of the world’s leaders, who will command respect in every capital, and who will clearly have the ability to advance our interests around the world…. – NYT, 12-1-08
  • BARACK OBAMA, President-elect of the United States: They would not have agreed to join my administration and I would not have asked them to be part of this administration unless we shared a core vision of what’s needed to keep the American people safe and to ensure prosperity here at home and peace abroad.
    I assembled this team because I’m a strong believer in strong personalities and strong opinions. I think that’s how the best decisions are made.
    One of the dangers in a White House, based on my reading of history, is that you get wrapped up in group-think, and everybody agrees with everything, and there’s no discussion and there are no dissenting views. So I’m going to be welcoming a vigorous debate inside the White House.
    But, understand, I will be setting policy as president. I will be responsible for the vision that this team carries out, and I expect them to implement that vision once decisions are made….
    Look, I mean, I think this is fun for the press to try to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign. No, I understand. And you’re having fun. But — and there’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, I’m not — I’m not faulting it.
    But, look, I think if you look at the statements that Hillary Clinton and I have made outside of the heat of a campaign, we share a view that America has to be safe and secure. And in order to do that, we have to combine military power with strength and diplomacy. And we have to build and forge stronger alliances around the world so that we’re not carrying the burdens and these challenges by ourselves.
    I believe that there’s no more effective advocate than Hillary Clinton for that well-rounded view of how we advance American interests. – PBS Newshour, 12-1-08
  • HILLARY CLINTON, Secretary of State-designate: America is a place founded on the idea that everyone should have the right to live up to his or her God-given potential. And it is that same ideal that must guide America’s purpose in the world today.
    And while we are determined to defend our freedoms and liberties at all costs, we also reach out to the world again, seeking common cause and higher ground. – PBS Newshour, 12-1-08
  • ROBERT GATES, Secretary of Defense: Mindful that we are engaged in two wars and face other serious challenges at home and around the world, and with a profound sense of personal responsibility to and for our men and women in uniform and their families, I must do my duty as they do theirs. How could I do otherwise? – PBS Newshour, 12-1-08
  • SEN. JOE BIDEN, Vice President-elect of the United States: Each member shares our conviction that strength and wisdom must go hand in hand. Each member believes as we do that America’s security is not a partisan issue. – PBS Newshour, 12-1-08
  • Former President Bill Clinton released the following statement: As an American, I am thankful that President-elect Barack Obama has asked Hillary to be Secretary of State and that she has accepted. As her husband, I am deeply proud.
    She is the right person for the job of helping to restore America’s image abroad, end the war in Iraq, advance peace and increase our security, by building a future for our children with more partners and fewer adversaries, one of shared responsibilities and opportunities.
    She has already earned the respect of foreign leaders and diplomats through her work to promote human rights and the empowerment of women through access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity. And Americans know, from her leadership in the Senate on national security, that she will always put the security, values and the interests of our people first.
    In her service to the people of New York and our nation, Hillary has demonstrated the knowledge, passion, resilience, and capacity to learn that our country needs at this critical time. She loves being a Senator from New York, but as she has in all the thirty-seven years I’ve known her, she answered the call to serve. I commend President-Elect Obama for asking her to be a part of a great national security team. America will be well-served. – NYT, 12-1-08
  • Bush sorry economic crisis has cut jobs, 401 (k)s: “I’m sorry it’s happening, of course. Obviously I don’t like the idea of people losing jobs, or being worried about their 401(k)s. On the other hand, the American people got to know that we will safeguard the system. I mean, we’re in. And if we need to be in more, we will.”….
    “A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein. It wasn’t just people in my administration. A lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington, D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence. I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess. That is a do-over that I can’t do. It’s hard for me to speculate.””….
    “I think I was unprepared for war. In other words, I didn’t campaign and say, ‘Please vote for me, I’ll be able to handle an attack.’ In other words, I didn’t anticipate war. Presidents – one of the things about the modern presidency is that the unexpected will happen.”
    “I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so”…
    “I think it was a repudiation of Republicans. I think most people voted for Barack Obama because they decided they wanted him to be in their living room for the next four years explaining policy. In other words, they made a conscious choice to put him in as president.”
    “It is hard for the average citizen to understand how frozen the system became and how over-leveraged the system became. And so what we’re watching is the de-leveraging of our financial markets, which is obviously affecting the growth of the economy.”
    “This economy will recover. And when it recovers, many of the assets backed by the government now will be redeemed, and we will – could conceivably – make money off of some of the holdings. I can’t guarantee that we’ll get all our money back, but it’s conceivable we could.” – AP, 12-1-08CNN

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush react during a question and answer session Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, at the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. White House photo by Eric Draper

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush react during a question and answer session Monday, Dec. 1, 2008, at the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. White House photo by Eric Draper Full Story

    • Bush: ‘I Was Unprepared for War’ to ABC News’s Charles Gibson: I’ll be frank with you. I don’t spend a lot of time really worrying about short-term history. I guess I don’t worry about long-term history, either, since I’m not going to be around to read it — but, look, in this job you just do what you can. The thing that’s important for me is to get home and look in that mirror and say, I did not compromise my principles. And I didn’t. I made tough calls. And some presidencies have got a lot of tough decisions to make…. – NYT, 12-1-08
    • Rush Limbaugh endorses Clinton for Obama’s cabinet: “You know the old phrase, ‘You keep your friends close and your enemies closer?’ How can she run for president in 2012? She’d have to run against the incumbent and be critical of him – the one who made her secretary of state.” – AP, 12-1-08
    • Palin urges Ga. voters to back Chambliss in runoff: “Losing an election doesn’t mean we have lost our way. If we are to lead again, we have lots of hard work ahead of us. Let it begin here tomorrow in Georgia.” – AP, 12-1-08

    Historians’ Comments

    • PHILIP ZELIKOW, University of Virginia “Obama Crafts Team to Rethink Foreign Policy Challenges”: I want you to note that he’s picked them and presented them as a team. Usually, when people speculate about these jobs, it’s, well, who would be the best secretary of state? Who would be the best national security adviser?
      What you’re looking for from the point of view of the president is the composition of the team. The chemistry of the team in some ways is more important than the chemistry of any of the individual elements. You’re creating a compound, and the team will end up having a distinctive character.
      When this president came into office in 2001, people thought it was a glittering array of talents, all this experience. But the chemistry of the team in some ways didn’t realize some of the hopes people had for it.
      So what President-elect Obama has done, which a lot of experts like me have been urging a lot of president-elects to do, is to think of the administration as a team and compose it that way. He’s done that with the economic team; he’s done that now with the national security team. And I think it’s terrific.

      It is a team that’s not ideological in the sense of it’s not a team that’s associated with the Democratic Party’s ideology. I mean, Gates is in the administration now. Jim Jones has been working as a special envoy for Secretary Rice for more than a year-and-a-half in the Middle East.
      This is not a team that’s being picked because they’ve hit particular litmus tests. It’s a team I think they’ve picked, frankly, because they’re looking at the need for change in national security affairs in two ways.
      First, in Afghanistan, I think they’re looking at a radical change of strategy. They’re going to need to put that change of strategy in place during the winter so that they’ll have forces ready with a new strategy by the time the fighting season returns in the spring.
      That means they need to keep continuity at defense, and they need an experienced hand with NATO and Afghanistan in the White House.
      And the other area of change is, I think, President-elect Obama really wants to hit the energy and climate issues pretty hard. There’s a heavy diplomatic agenda for that in the first year.
      And Jim Jones actually, beyond the background as a Marine and with NATO, actually has done a lot of work on energy issues recently. And it means he’s got a guy in the West Wing who knows energy, and so he doesn’t have to put an energy and climate czar in the White House.

      I’m not sure you get the strong — everybody wants truth-tellers. And they believe it. Whether you actually get truth-telling depends on what kind of process you run.
      This turns a lot on Jones. Sen. Clinton is a politician. Blunt candor in places where it might leak out is not a quality that politicians ordinarily prize.
      It’s going to be up to Jim Jones to run a process that really draws out blunt statements that have analytic clarity to develop policy. And he’s inheriting a policy-development process that’s had some really serious problems in both Democratic and Republican administrations for more than 15 years.
      It’s not a good quality policy process. It hasn’t been for a long time. He has a heavy burden to try to build that up as he faces a formidable agenda. – PBS Newshour, 12-1-08

    • Julian Zelizer “Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama stretch wings over Mumbai”: “If a country is in a crisis and the incumbent administration is weak or inactive, why not have the new President get a jump start?” said Princeton University’s Julian Zelizer. “The more he can do now, in terms of setting up shop and outlining his ideas, the faster he can move after the starting gun in January.” – NY Daily News, 11-28-08
    • Julian Zelizer: Will Bill Clinton capitalise on Hillarys success by taking over her Senate seat? – ANI, 12-1-08
    • Julian Zelizer Commentary: Why Obama’s picks will make Bill Clinton smile: Many observers use historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s term, “A Team of Rivals,” to describe the Cabinet that President-elect Barack Obama is assembling.
      They use the term to characterize choices like former Obama opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton — expected to be nominated Monday as secretary of state — and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is being asked to stay on by Obama.
      But a more useful term might be a team of centrists. The most striking characteristic of the current lineup is how the personalities reflect the centrist vision of the Democratic Party promoted by Bill Clinton and his colleagues at the Democratic Leadership Council in the 1990s. – CNN, 12-1-08
    • Andrew J. Bacevich Expanding War, Contracting Meaning The Next President and the Global War on Terror
      Not long ago, I had a long conversation with a four-star U.S. military officer who, until his recent retirement, had played a central role in directing the global war on terror. I asked him: what exactly is the strategy that guides the Bush administration’s conduct of this war? His dismaying, if not exactly surprising, answer: there is none.
      President Bush will bequeath to his successor the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone. To defense contractors, lobbyists, think-tankers, ambitious military officers, the hosts of Sunday morning talk shows, and the Douglas Feith-like creatures who maneuver to become players in the ultimate power game, the Global War on Terror is a boon, an enterprise redolent with opportunity and promising to extend decades into the future…..
      Bush’s supporters beg to differ, of course. They credit the president with having averted a recurrence of 9/11, doubtless a commendable achievement but one primarily attributable to the fact that the United States no longer neglects airport security. To argue that, say, the invasion and occupation of Iraq have prevented terrorist attacks against the United States is the equivalent of contending that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank since in 1967 has prevented terrorist attacks against the state of Israel.
      Yet the existing strategic vacuum is also an opportunity. When it comes to national security at least, the agenda of the next administration all but sets itself. There is no need to waste time arguing about which issues demand priority action.
      First-order questions are begging for attention. How should we gauge the threat? What are the principles that should inform our response? What forms of power are most relevant to implementing that response? Are the means at hand adequate to the task? If not, how should national priorities be adjusted to provide the means required? Given the challenges ahead, how should the government organize itself? Who — both agencies and individuals — will lead?
      To each and every one of these questions, the Bush administration devised answers that turned out to be dead wrong. The next administration needs to do better. The place to begin is with the candid recognition that the Global War on Terror has effectively ceased to exist. When it comes to national security strategy, we need to start over from scratch. – Philadelphia Jewish Voice, 12-08
    • Michael Beschloss: The Great Inspirer Presidents for generations have turned to Lincoln for solace and guidance: ….It is no surprise that President-elect Barack Obama says he has been rereading the words of Lincoln; the 16th president has been a source of solace—and guidance—for American leaders for well more than a century. Like Stevenson, whose ancestor had been a Lincoln campaign manager, Theodore Roosevelt had listened to tales of his family ties to the great man since he was a child: his father had worked in Lincoln’s government and escorted the president and Mary to church… Newsweek, 11-15-08
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