April 2, 2009: Obama in Europe, Online Town Hall and Budget passed by House


Pool photo by John Stillwell President and Mrs. Obama with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh during an audience at Buckingham Palace


In Focus: Stats

  • Poll: Dodd’s approval numbers drop to new lows: Slipping below a 50 percent approval rating is often considered a red flag for incumbents. Quinnipiac Poll Director Douglas Schwartz said Dodd’s 33 percent approval rating, a dip from 44 percent in a March 10 poll, is “especially devastating.” “A 33 percent job approval is unheard of for a 30-year incumbent, especially a Democrat in a blue state,” Schwartz said. – AP, 4-2-09
  • CNN POLL: Some 51 percent of Americans now oppose the Afghanistan war, and 64 percent of Democrats do. – CNN, 3-28-09
  • BRENT BOZELL III: Washington Polling Games: It has become almost amusing, watching how the so-called “news” media are manipulating their own polls to keep the political weather sunny for their hero. The Washington Post kicked off President Barack Obama’s European trip with the headline “Blame For Downturn Not Fixed on Obama.” Of course, what was “fixed” was the poll itself …. This is one important reason why newspapers are on shaky financial ground. Washington Post readers who are not completely on the Obama bandwagon should see the discrepancies described here and feel completely manipulated. The Post is loading on the bias, coming and going, manipulating the polls after it paints pretty presidential pictures on the front page. – Wall Street Journal, 4-1-09
  • Media: Obama’s London Sojourn Nothing Like Bush’s: President Obama’s European trip receives mostly positive coverage in this morning’s newspapers, with many articles contrasting his reception with that given to former President Bush in previous years….ABC World News, meanwhile, reported that “according to our ABC News/Washington Post poll, 43% of Americans say the country’s image abroad is improving under…Obama. That number was just 10% under President Bush.” The President “continues to get high marks at home, as well, 64% say they are confident the President’s programs will improve the economy.” – US News & World Report, 4-1-09
  • U.S. voters don’t blame Obama for economy: U.S. President Barack Obama benefits from a broadly held perception that others bear the bulk of responsibility for state of the U.S. economy, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll published on Tuesday…. – Reuters, 3-30-09
  • Experts: Bias didn’t skew NH polls against Clinton: olling that ended too early and other technical shortcomings — rather than undetected racial bias — are the likeliest reasons so many surveys incorrectly suggested Barack Obama would defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary, a report concluded Monday. Clinton defeated Obama 39 percent to 36 percent in the Jan. 8, 2008, contest, even though many pre-primary polls showed Obama with solid leads. Clinton’s victory gave her a badly needed burst of momentum just five days after Obama won a surprising victory in the Iowa caucuses, the year’s first presidential contest. – AP, 3-30-09


President Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown

White House Photo, 4/2/09, Chuck Kennedy

London G20

Read the President’s remarks on progress at the G-20 Summit, or watch his press conference with Prime Minister Brown beforehand.

Read the Remarks
Watch the Video

Vice President Biden in Latin America

White House Photo, 3/28/09, David Lienemann

Biden in Latin America

The Vice President returns from Latin America, where he urged a new era of cooperation.
Read his remarks and see the photos.

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President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the American automotive industry in the Grand Foyer.

The Headlines…

  • House, in Party-Line Vote, Passes Obama’s Budget Democrats Make Some Changes to $3.6 Trillion Plan but Maintain President’s Priorities on Health Care, Energy: The House Thursday approved a 2010 budget that includes President Barack Obama’s biggest priorities, giving the president a significant victory as he tries to shift the government’s direction from the Bush era. Democrats made some changes in Mr. Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget, but like the Senate, which also moved to approve the budget Thursday night, the House kept intact Mr. Obama’s plans for major spending on health care, energy and education.
    The House vote Thursday was 233-196, with 20 Democrats dissenting. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) made a point of announcing the vote total herself. As with the economic stimulus package, no House Republican voted for the Democratic plan. – WSJ, 4-2-09
  • Obama’s star shines bright in London: Maybe it should have been called the O-20. Just over two months into his presidency, Barack Obama commanded center stage at this high-wattage gathering of the world’s industrialized nations, vacuuming up attention both inside the summit and throughout a sophisticated city not easily star-struck. Obama proclaimed at the end of the conference that his country would be more humble in the world, but there was nothing modest about the attention he received. His profile was so immense that it threatened to diminish both the global summit itself and the protests taking place on the streets of London. – Politico, 4-2-09
  • Obama turns to survey researcher for census post: President Barack Obama on Thursday selected Robert M. Groves to be the next census director, turning to a survey researcher who has clashed with Republicans over the use of statistical sampling to lead the high-stakes head count. The White House announced Obama’s intention to nominate Groves, a former Census Bureau associate director of statistical design from 1990-92. If confirmed by the Senate, Groves will take the helm less than a year before the census, which has been beset by partisan bickering and will be used to apportion House seats and allocate billions in federal dollars. – AP, 4-2-09
  • HHS nominee on track for confirmation by Senate: Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius stepped around potential land mines on abortion and her own tax errors Thursday as she testified at a hearing en route to her expected confirmation as health and human services secretary. – AP, 4-2-09
  • Obama issues warning as North Korea readies rocket: As North Korea fueled a multistage rocket Thursday for its threatened satellite launch, President Barack Obama promised a “stern” response and Japan vowed to press for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council. Senior U.S. defense officials said that trailers and vehicles carrying rocket propellant were in place at North Korea’s coastal launch site and that fueling had begun…. – AP, 4-2-09
  • Key players in the indictment against Blagojevich: The federal indictment of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and five co-defendants charges they conspired to trade official government action for Blagojevich’s political or personal gain involve a variety of characters…. – AP, 4-2-09
  • Obama seems everywhere as he takes global stage: He talked nuclear threats with Russia’s president and gave an iPod to the queen. And that was only the beginning. It was an eventful first day on the world stage for President Barack Obama, launching new arms control talks, placing China ties on fresh footing and calming fears about the ailing U.S. economy — seemingly everywhere, relaxed and smiling all the while. While wife Michelle attracted breathless attention with every stop, fashionable outfit and sip of tea. AP, 4-1-09
  • On the White House Eyes of the World Are on Obama: The rapid political rise of Barack Obama can be gauged in many ways, but one of the best measures can perhaps be found in London, on the front stoop of No. 10 Downing Street…. That scene was magnified yet again on Wednesday. This time, after meeting for two hours inside No. 10 with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr. Obama held forth at a press conference that was televised live on both sides of the Atlantic…. – NYT, 4-1-09
  • Obama presents Queen Elizabeth II with an iPod: Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t the only one on President Barack Obama’s gift list Wednesday. He gave presents to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s wife, Sarah, and their two sons, too…. – AP, 4-1-09
  • Govt. seeks to reverse Ted Stevens’ conviction: Faced with embarrassing revelations about withheld evidence, the Justice Department on Wednesday moved to reverse the conviction of former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who lost his bid for re-election just days after a jury found that he had lied about gifts and home renovations. – “I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial,” Attorney General Eric Holder said. He said the department must ensure that all cases are “handled fairly and consistent with its commitment to justice.” – AP, 4-1-09
  • Absentees could decide House race in New York: A special election to fill a U.S. Congressional seat vacated after Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State was too close to call on Wednesday and will likely be determined by absentee ballots in the next few weeks. Seen by some as an early gauge of support for the policies of President Barack Obama, Tuesday’s contest pitted Democrat Scott Murphy, a venture capitalist, against Republican Jim Tedisco in a district in northeastern New York state that has traditionally been strongly Republican. The winner will fill the Congressional seat vacated by Kirsten Gillibrand, a conservative Democrat who was named U.S. Senator to succeed Clinton. Of the votes cast on Tuesday, Murphy, a political novice, led by between 59 and 65 votes, a figure being rechecked on Wednesday, a state Board of Elections spokesman said. Some 154,000 votes were cast. The board said 10,162 outstanding absentee ballots can be returned as late as April 13. – Reuters, 4-1-09
  • House passes new, weaker bill in AIG bonus flap: The House is taking another, albeit weaker, stab at trying to keep bailed-out financial institutions from paying their employees hefty bonuses after lawmakers had second thoughts about their vote two weeks ago to tax the bonuses away. A new bill, which passed 247-171 on Wednesday, would allow the bonuses if the Treasury Department and financial regulators determine they are not “unreasonable or excessive.” – AP, 4-1-09
  • Bidens: Stimulus aid is going out to small towns: About $1.8 billion in federal stimulus money was released Wednesday to help strengthen rural communities by supporting loan guarantees and loosening credit for small-town home buyers, Vice President Joe Biden said. Biden joined Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a daylong tour of eastern North Carolina in the White House’s latest effort to highlight the $787 billion federal stimulus package President Barack Obama signed earlier this year. – AP, 4-1-09
  • Obama, in Europe, Faces Big Challenges to His Agenda: For nearly 30 years, American presidents have arrived at economic summit meetings with nearly identical talking points: the solution to most ailments lies in more economic integration, unleashing free markets and using a light touch to tame capitalism. As President Obama landed here Tuesday night to attend the Group of 20 summit meeting, almost every one of those principles appeared up for debate. – NYT, 3-31-09
  • Desperate world leaders meet on economic woes: The President of the United States, Barack Obama, and first lady Michelle Obama, wave as they walk down the steps from Air Force One at London’s Stansted Airport, ahead of the G20 summit in London. President Obama has arrived in Europe, with a hefty economic and political agenda for his first journey across the Atlantic since taking office two months ago. Obama’s focus is a G-20 meeting of the world’s major economic powers and a NATO summit marking the 60 years since the alliance was founded to blunt Soviet aggression in Europe.
    Desperate but divided on ways to lift their nations from economic misery, world leaders converged for an emergency summit Tuesday holding scant hopes of finding a magic-bullet solution for the crisis that brought them hurrying to London. – AP, 3-31-09
  • Pakistani Taliban threatens attack on White House: Pakistan’s Taliban chief claimed responsibility Tuesday for a deadly assault on a police academy, saying he wanted to retaliate for U.S. missile attacks on the militant bases on the border with Afghanistan. Baitullah Mehsud, who has a $5 million bounty on his head from the United States, also vowed to “amaze everyone in the world” with an attack on Washington or even the White House…. – AP, 3-31-09
  • Today’s election could inspire high turnout: While special elections typically garner below-average turnout, today’s contest between candidates in the 20th Congressional District may buck the trend. After a 45-day campaign for the congressional seat vacated when Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed to the Senate, Republican James Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy could see higher voter numbers because of a conflagration of state and national events. – Saratogian, 3-31-09
  • NYT, 3-31-09
  • In reversal, U.S. to join U.N. rights council: The United States will seek to join the U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing the U.S. policy of shunning the group. On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced it would participate in May elections for a seat on the 47-member council, prompting concern among some Jewish groups. The Bush administration had withheld U.S. membership from the Geneva-based council for its failure to confront human rights abusers and its singling out of Israel for condemnation. –
  • Sebelius admits errors, pays $7,000 in back taxes: Health and Human Services nominee Kathleen Sebelius recently corrected three years of tax returns and paid more than $7,000 in back taxes after finding “unintentional errors” — the latest tax troubles for an Obama administration nominee. The Kansas governor explained the changes to senators in a letter dated Tuesday that the administration released. She said they involved charitable contributions, the sale of a home and business expenses…. – AP, 3-31-09
  • US, Iranian diplomats break the ice at conference: In a cautious first step toward unlocking 30 years of tense relations, senior U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke had a brief but cordial meeting with Iran’s deputy foreign minister Tuesday at an international conference on Afghanistan… U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cautioned that the talks between Holbrooke and Iranian diplomat Mehdi Akhundzadeh were promising but not “substantive.”… – AP, 3-31-09
  • Obama asserts gov’t control over the auto industry: President Barack Obama asserted unprecedented government control over the auto industry Monday, bluntly rejecting turnaround plans by General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, demanding fresh concessions for long-term federal aid and raising the possibility of quick bankruptcy for either ailing auto giant…
    “I am absolutely committed to working with Congress and the auto companies to meet one goal: The United States of America will lead the world in building the next generation of clean cars,” Obama said in his first extended remarks on the industry since taking office nearly 10 weeks ago. And yet, he added, “our auto industry is not moving in the right direction fast enough to succeed.” – AP, 3-31-09
  • Obama takes step over the line that separates government from private industry: His automaker bailout plan wades into ‘industrial policy,’ in which government officials, not business executives or the free market, decide what products a firm makes and how it charts its future…. – LAT, 3-30-09
  • Critics call Senate’s proposed cuts ‘devastating’: Education and health-care advocates decried the first budget out of the Legislature Monday, calling the Senate’s cuts to public schools, higher education and state health-care plans devastating…. – Seattle PI, 3-30-09
  • Congressional election in NY seen as economic test: The first U.S. Congressional election since President Barack Obama took office on January 20 will be held on Tuesday and may indicate what voters think of his handling of the financial crisis, political experts say…. – Reuters, 3-30-09
  • GOP gleeful at prospects for 2010: Republican strategists eager to rebuild the party and regain voter confidence see the comeback road running over a number of unpopular Democratic governorships on a playing field that favors making statehouse gains in traditionally Republican red states. – Washington Times, 3-30-09
  • Romney’s work puts him in 2012 political spotlight: Mitt Romney doesn’t have a job for the first time in his adult life. That hardly means he’s not working. In ways both subtle and overt, the 2008 Republican presidential contender, former Massachusetts governor, one-time Olympics chief and high-flying businessman is building toward a 2012 White House campaign by judiciously engaging and disengaging with the national debate. – AP, 3-30-09
  • Obama heads overseas to tackle world economy: After 10 weeks in office trying to save the U.S. economy, President Obama is ready to take on the world economy. Whether the world is ready for his remedy remains in doubt. Obama flies to London on Tuesday, then on to four other nations, for his first overseas trip since assuming office and with the global economy in shambles. It’s one of the most anticipated presidential trips since John Kennedy went to Berlin in 1963. – USA Today, 3-29-09
  • Merkel Is Ready to Greet, and Then Resist, Obama: Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, an avowed friend of the United States and the leader of the European Union’s biggest economy, is diplomatic about the coming visit by President Obama. But she is clear that she is not about to give ground on new stimulus spending, stressing the need to maintain fiscal discipline even as she professes to want to work closely with the new American president. – NYT, 3-29-09
  • Administration Delays Change to Military’s ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Policy: Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the military has too much on its plate right now to alter the policy of relieving openly gay service members from duty. – Fox News, 3-29-09
  • McCain: Let’s see who runs in 2012: Sen. John McCain isn’t committing to supporting his vice presidential pick, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, if she runs for president in 2012. McCain — the GOP’s presidential nominee last year — says he wants to see who the other candidates are and what the situation might be. – AP, 3-29-09
  • GM CEO Wagoner to step down at White House request: General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner will step down immediately at the request of the White House, administration officials said Sunday. The news comes as President Obama prepares to unveil additional restructuring efforts designed to save the domestic auto industry…. – AP, 3-29-09
  • Obama seeks to rein in Wall Street, broaden agenda: President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are stepping through an economic minefield and sowing the ground with unprecedented initiatives that capitalize on the recession to rein in Wall Street and broaden government’s reach….
    “This budget is inseparable from this recovery, because it is what lays the foundation for a secure and lasting prosperity,” he said during his prime-time press conference Tuesday.
    Sen. Judd Gregg, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, used his party’s weekly radio address Saturday to slam Obama’s grand spending plans. “We believe you create prosperity by having an affordable government that pursues its responsibilities without excessive costs, taxes or debt.” said Gregg, R-N.H.- AP, 3-29-09
  • Seeking the inside track in bellwether race: Murphy, Tedisco stump amid signs of national interest in 20th contest… Democrat Scott Murphy and Republican Jim Tedisco attempted to energize their political bases Sunday in the sprint before Tuesday’s special election to fill Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand’s 20th Congressional District seat…. – Times Union, 3-29-09
  • Obama Will Face a Defiant World on Foreign Visit: President Obama is facing challenges to American power on multiple fronts as he prepares for his first trip overseas since taking office, with the nation’s economic woes emboldening allies and adversaries alike. Despite his immense popularity around the world, Mr. Obama will confront resentment over American-style capitalism and resistance to his economic prescriptions when he lands in London on Tuesday for the Group of 20 summit meeting of industrial and emerging market nations plus the European Union. – NYT, 3-28-09
  • Sen. Gregg no longer in Obama’s corner: Last month, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg agreed to join President Barack Obama’s cabinet as Commerce Secretary, but then he abruptly withdrew his name, saying he and the president were “functioning from a different set of views on many different items of policy.” Saturday, Gregg drove the point home when he warned that Obama is engineering an “extraordinary move of our government to the left.” – Kansas City Star, 3-28-09
  • Bank execs vow to work with Obama on recovery plan: Top executives of the nation’s biggest banks said Friday after meeting with President Barack Obama that they will work with the administration on its economic recovery plans, but want more specifics from the White House.
    In an interview with CBS News, Obama said his overarching message was this: “Show some restraint. Show that you get that this is a crisis and everybody has to make sacrifices. They agreed and they recognized it. Now, the proof in the pudding is in the eating.” – AP, 3-28-09
  • Classic Clinton Phrase Inspires New GOP Strategy to Regain Power: Republicans appear to be crafting their own version of Bill Clinton’s legendary campaign phrase in an effort to recapture both chambers in Congress next year: Sixteen years ago, Bill Clinton surged to an improbable presidential victory over incumbent George H.W. Bush, primarily on the strength of a snarky campaign phrase: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Now, Republicans appear to be crafting their own version in an effort to recapture both chambers in Congress next year. Their message: President Obama’s fiscal policy “spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much.” – – Fox News, 3-28-09
  • Obama calls major economies climate change meeting: President Barack Obama is launching a “Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate” to help facilitate a U.N. agreement on global warming, the White House said on Saturday. Leaders from 16 major economies have been invited to a preparatory session on April 27 and 28 in Washington to “help generate the political leadership necessary” to achieve an international pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions later this year, it said in a statement. – Reuters, 3-28-09
  • Obama moves to fill 3 more slots at Treasury: President Barack Obama on Saturday moved to fill three top Treasury Department positions, seeking to give Secretary Tim Geithner added manpower at an agency that has been slow to fill vacancies. Helen Elizabeth Garrett, a University of Southern California vice president for academic planning, is being nominated to be assistant secretary for tax policy. Also selected for slots were Michael S. Barr to be assistant secretary for financial institutions, and George W. Madison for general counsel. – AP, 3-28-09
  • Ire at Wall St. Bonuses Is Now Factor in House Race: The race for the 20th Congressional District seat has never been solely about the concerns of the residents of the 10 mostly rural counties in the district. Nationally, Republicans have sent in money and campaign workers, hoping to recapture the seat and post their first victory since November’s blowout election…. – NYT, 3-28-09
  • US health insurance mandate gains support: Support grew on Friday for insurance industry demands that all Americans be required to obtain coverage as part of a planned healthcare system overhaul, with a senior Senate Democrat and a coalition of business and … Reuters, 3-28-09
  • U.S. Expected to Give More Financing to Automakers: The Obama administration will probably extend more short-term aid to General Motors and Chrysler on Monday, but will impose a strict deadline for bondholders and union workers to make concessions that would help the ailing automakers become viable businesses and avert bankruptcy. – NYT, 3-27-09
  • Sources: More US troops for Afghan war: Confronting an inherited and faltering war, President Barack Obama plans to dispatch thousands more military and civilian trainers to Afghanistan by the fall on top of the 17,000 combat troops he has already ordered, senior administration officials said Thursday. Obama’s war strategy, which he plans to announce Friday, includes no timeline for withdrawal of troops. The war began more than seven years ago. – AP, 3-27-09
  • Financial overhaul plan draws GOP opposition: The Obama administration’s aggressive plan for strict scrutiny of hedge funds and other freewheeling investors, part of the biggest expansion of financial restraints since the Great Depression, is drawing instant opposition from Republican lawmakers and the rules’ targets. And skeptics are questioning whether the new rulebook would work anyway…. – AP, 3-27-09
  • Obama nominates ex-Miss. gov for Navy post: President Barack Obama has nominated former Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus (MAY’-bus) to be the secretary of the Navy. The White House made the announcement in a statement Friday. – AP, 3-27-09
  • Key Senate panel backs Obama’s budget blueprint: A key Senate panel stacked with allies of President Barack Obama approved his ambitious budget blueprint Thursday, giving the president a symbolic endorsement of efforts to boost clean energy, fight global warming and improve access to health care. Senate Budget Committee approval by a party-line vote sets the stage for floor debate next week, where moderate Democrats unhappy with deficits wield more influence. The Senate measure is a nonbinding road map for major legislation later this year on health care, energy and education. – AP, 3-26-09
  • Senate Democrats move ahead with budget plan: Senate Budget Democrats approve $3.41 trillion plan
    Republicans offer budget alternative with few details
    Senate budget panel rejects attempt to cut some spending
    Democrats in the U.S. Congress on Thursday pushed forward President Barack Obama’s $3.55 trillion budget proposal with minor changes, brushing aside Republican attempts to slash spending and taxes…. – Reuters, 3-26-09
  • Obama to meet bank CEOs to discuss economic crisis: President Barack Obama will quiz top U.S. bankers on Friday about developments in the economy and their businesses as his administration seeks broader authority to regulate the financial system…. – Reuters, 3-26-09
  • Obama seizes bully pulpit online to pitch budget: President Barack Obama seized the bully pulpit Thursday and reprised the best of his acclaimed campaign skills in an unprecedented Internet town hall from the White House — a direct sales pitch for Americans to get behind his $3.6 trillion budget and be patient as he tries to right the tottering economy. After an opening statement and declaring, “This isn’t about me, it’s about you,” Obama took up a microphone and strolled the ornate East Room, playing to an audience of 100 invited guests and what the White House said were an estimated 67,000 people watching him in cyberspace. – AP, 3-26-09
  • Obama Makes History in Live Internet Video Chat: The White House said more than 64,000 people watched President Obama answer questions on Thursday in the first live Internet video chat by an American president. But in declaring itself “Open for Questions,” on the economy, the White House learned it must be careful what it wishes for. “I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Mr. Obama said, drawing a laugh from an audience gathered in the East Room, which included teachers, nurses and small-business people. “The answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow the economy.” NYT, 3-26-09
  • Tough financial rules proposed — will they work?: The Obama administration’s aggressive plan for strict scrutiny of hedge funds and other freewheeling investors, part of the biggest expansion of financial restraints since the Great Depression, is drawing instant opposition from Republican lawmakers and the rules’ targets. And skeptics are questioning whether the new rulebook would work anyway…. – AP, 3-26-09
  • Congress OKs lands bill: After a long and twisted path through Congress, the House on Wednesday finally passed and sent to President Barack Obama a massive package of 170 public lands bills — including several affecting Utah — that would create 2 million acres of wilderness nationwide…. – Deseret News, 3-25-09
  • Obama Turns to Web to Bypass News Media: Call it Round Two of the news conference, with a big Internet twist. President Barack Obama took questions from the White House press corps on Tuesday in a prime-time, East Room session that represented the most formal and time-honored of president-and-reporter interactions. On Thursday, he is taking to that same room for another public grilling — this time by regular folks armed with questions submitted via the Internet and in person, as part of a political strategy to engage Americans directly. – AP, 3-26-09


President Obama and Prime Minister Brown at a Press Conference

(President Barack Obama is joined by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a joint news conference Wednesday, April 1, 2009, at the Foreign Commonwealth Office in London.
White House Photo/Chuck Kennedy)

Political Quotes

  • The House Passes the Budget: “Tonight, the House of Representatives took another step toward rebuilding our struggling economy. This budget resolution embraces our most fundamental priorities: an energy plan that will end our dependence on foreign oil and spur a new clean energy economy; an education system that will ensure our children will be able to compete in the economy of the 21st century; and health care reform that finally confronts the back-breaking costs plaguing families, businesses and government alike. And by making hard choices and challenging the old ways of doing business, we will cut in half the budget deficit we inherited within four years. With this vote comes an obligation to pursue our efforts to go through the budget line-by-line, searching for additional savings. Like the families we serve, we must cut the things we don’t need to invest in those we do.” – WH Blog, 4-2-09
  • House, in Party-Line Vote, Passes Obama’s Budget Democrats Make Some Changes to $3.6 Trillion Plan but Maintain President’s Priorities on Health Care, Energy: “Have we inherited a mess? Yes,” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee. “The question is, are we making it better or are we making it worse? I would suggest that the budget before us makes it so much worse.” Like other Republicans, Mr. Ryan decried the Democrats’ budget for its spending and deficits. “This is reckless spending,” Mr. Ryan said. “We are spending like drunken sailors. Wait, I apologize to the drunken sailors of America for that comment.” – WSJ, 4-2-09
  • Huckabee says his remark made McAuliffe ‘break down and cry’: “As someone who served as a Governor for 10 years, I can say if these are the type of things Terry McAuliffe worries about and make him break down and cry, then he won’t last 10 days as Governor much less four years and he doesn’t deserve the people of Virginia’s vote,” Huckabee said in a statement to CNN. – CNN, 4-2-09
  • First lady greeted by shrieks, tears at school: “All of you are jewels, you are precious and you touch my heart,” she said, as she appeared to be trying to hold back tears. “And it is important for the world to know that there are wonderful girls like you all over the world.” Mrs. Obama stressed the importance of getting a good education and called the students the “women that will build the world as it should be.” “By getting a good education, you too can create your own destiny,” Mrs. Obama said. “I never cut class. I like being smart. I thought being smart was the coolest thing in the world.”… – CNN, 4-2-09
  • Barack Obama “A Turning Point”: Today, we’ve learned the lessons of history. I know that in the days leading up to the summit, some of you in the press, some commentators, confused honest and open debate with irreconcilable differences. But after weeks of preparation, and two days of careful negotiation, we have agreed on a series of unprecedented steps to restore growth and prevent a crisis like this from happening again.
    To prevent future crises, we agreed to increased transparency and capital protections for financial institutions. We’re extending supervision to all systemically important institutions, markets and products, including hedge funds. We’ll identify jurisdictions that fail to cooperate, including tax havens, and take action to defend our financial system. We will reestablish the Financial Stability Forum with a stronger mandate. And we will reform and expand the IMF and World Bank so they are more efficient, effective and representative. WH Blog, 4-2-09
  • Huckabee to Va. GOP backers: Flatten Dem voters’ tires: At the GOP event, Huckabee, grinning, told supporters they had two Election Day duties: “One, get all those people who are going to vote for Bob out to the polls and vote. If they’re not going to vote for Bob, you have another job. Let the air out of their tires and do not let them out of their driveway on Election Day,” Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, said with a wide grin as rising laughter is heard on the video. “Keep ’em home. Do the Lord’s work, my friend.” – AP, 4-2-09
  • How the G-20 Succeeded — And Why It Matters: “This is the day that the world came together to fight back against the global recession, not with words but with a plan for global recovery and for reform and with a clear timetable for its delivery,” declared the summit host, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. – AP, 4-2-09
  • How the G-20 Succeeded — And Why It Matters: Speaking of the agreements reached on tighter regulation of financial markets and institutions, French President Nicolas Sarkozy bigged up his own role in agitating for the measures: “That our Anglo-Saxon friends accepted all of this represents immense progress,” he said, adding that “while there were moments of tension, we never thought we’d obtain such a big deal.” – AP, 4-2-09
  • Morning in London: President Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown held a joint press conference following a working meeting: Well, I think if you pulled quotes from 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, from previous news reports, you might find similar contentions that America was on decline. And somehow it hasn’t worked out that way, because I think that there is a vibrancy to our economic model, a durability to our political model, and a set of ideals that has sustained us through even the most difficult times.
    Now, with respect to the current crisis, I think that there is no doubt that at a time when the world is fearful, that there is a strong tendency to look for somebody to blame. And I think that given our prominence in the world financial system, it’s natural that questions are asked — some of them very legitimate — about how we have participated in global financial markets.
    Having said that, I am absolutely confident that this meeting will reflect enormous consensus about the need to work in concert to deal with these problems. I think that the separation between the various parties involved has been vastly overstated. If you look at where there has been the biggest debate, and I think that the press has fastened on this as a ongoing narrative — this whole issue of fiscal stimulus. And the fact of the matter is, is that almost every country that’s participating in this summit has engaged in fiscal stimulus. The ones that are perceived as being resistant to fiscal stimulus have done significant fiscal stimulus. There has not been a dispute about the need for government to act in the face of a rapidly contracting set of markets and very high unemployment. – WH Blog, 4-1-09 Transcript
  • Obama administration takes lead in reshaping automakers: “I am absolutely committed to working with Congress and the auto companies to meet one goal,” Obama said: “The United States of America will lead the world in building the next generation of clean cars.” – Chicago Tribune, 3-31-09
  • Obama administration takes lead in reshaping automakers: “When did the president become an expert in strategic corporate management?” said Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.). “The federal government is famous for its mismanagement, yet this administration continues to demonstrate its certainty that Washington always knows best.” – Chicago Tribune, 3-31-09
  • Obama administration takes lead in reshaping automakers: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) called it a “power grab” that “should send a chill through those who believe in free enterprise.” – Chicago Tribune, 3-31-09
  • RJC Executive Director Matthew Brooks: “In an in-depth article in the April 6, 2009 issue of The New Yorker, investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh states that Carter has met with President Obama to discuss foreign policy, and that the administration was aware of Carter’s trip to Syria in December 2008. Carter is calling for broader U.S.-Syrian relations….
    “Former President Carter has never been perceived as a friend of Israel,” Brooks continued. “In the years since his presidency, Carter has been openly hostile to Israel and has shown a naïve grasp of the realities in the Middle East…. – 3-31-09
  • Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., quickly issued a statement supporting Sebelius: “Congress is going to need a strong partner at the Department of Health and Human Services to achieve comprehensive health reform this year, and we have that partner in Gov. Sebelius,” Baucus said. “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Gov. Sebelius has the political experience, determination, and bipartisan work ethic to get the job done with Congress this year. She’s the right person for the job.” – AP, 3-31-09
  • Meghan McCain: Is Schock the GOP’s Mr. Right?: “The first time I ever heard of Congressman Aaron Schock, I was hanging out with some friends during a girls’ night in, and one of my friends yelled to me from the other room: ‘Meghan, there’s a congressman on TMZ,'” Meghan McCain writes Tuesday in her latest blog post for the Daily Beast. “To which I answered: ‘Twenty bucks he’s a Democrat.’ Well, I was wrong.” “….At the end of the day, Congressman Schock is only three years older than me. Which means he can relay a message in ways my father never could,” she says. “As someone who has been personally attacked when I invited political discourse, I firmly believe that talking about our differences — instead of mudslinging — can only bring people closer to the Republican Party and force them to take a second look at their candidates,” she writes. McCain says the “congressman-turned-TMZ-hottie” may be the cure for what ails the GOP: “If nothing else, in an Obama-crazed land, he is getting people’s attention and putting another fresh face at the center of what it is too often perceived as an old-news, boring party.” – CNN, 3-31-09
  • GOP gleeful at prospects for 2010: “We strongly believe the way to revive the Republican Party is to pick up governorships, because the governors are the party leaders in the state and once voters learn they can trust Republicans to govern effectively, they will start voting for Republicans in federal elections as well,” said Mike Schrimpf, the Republican Governors Association’s communications director. – Washington Times, 3-30-09
  • Critics call Senate’s proposed cuts ‘devastating’: “It’s a budget that gets balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable people: Elderly people, low-income people, people who’ve lost their jobs,” said Rebecca Kavoussi, assistant vice-president of government affairs for the Community Health Network of Washington. – Seattle PI, 3-30-09
  • President Barack Obama announcing his new policy for Afganistan, 3-27-09: “So let me be clear. Al-Qaida and its allies — the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks — are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban, or allows al-Qaida to go unchallenged — that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.” – Salon.com, 3-30-09
  • Timothy Geithner on ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “Treasury secretary says market won’t solve problem”: “We came through a period where people borrowed too much and we let our financial system take on much too much risk,” Geithner said. “And the consequences of those choices, made over years, were a huge boom. And that boom, the air is now coming out of that and that’s causing enormous damage.”…
    “It’s very important for people to understand that, you know, it took us a long time to get into this mess. It’s going to take us a while to get out of this,” he said. “Progress is not going to be even. It’s not going to be steady.”
    “The market will not solve this. And the great risk for us is we do too little, not that we do too much,” he said….
    “Will never happen. Because we have a strong, independent Fed, with a clear authority from the Congress to keep inflation low at — stable at low levels going forward,” he said.
    “And I knew we were going to face really tough choices,” he said. “We were going to have to do things that are going to be deeply unpopular, hard to understand. We’re not going to get it perfect everywhere. … This job, it comes with a lot of heat by definition and there’s nothing surprising in that.”…
    “I would not spend a penny on helping a bank for the purpose of helping a bank,” said Geithner, taking care with words that can move the markets. “Everything we’re doing is for the people that depend on this financial system. Every time we provide assistance to the financial institutions, it’s only because we need them to do a better job of getting credit to help reduce the risk of a deeper recession.” – AP, 3-29-09
  • President Obama Weekly Address: Crisis and Service: “In the Fargodome, thousands of people gathered not to watch a football game or a rodeo, but to fill sandbags. Volunteers filled 2.5 million of them in just five days, working against the clock, day and night, with tired arms and aching backs. Others braved freezing temperatures, gusting winds, and falling snow to build levees along the river’s banks to help protect against waters that have exceeded record levels.” – WH Blog, 3-28-09 Transcript
  • A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan: “Today, I am announcing a comprehensive, new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. And this marks the conclusion of a careful policy review, led by Bruce [Reidel], that I ordered as soon as I took office….” – WH Blog, 3-27-09
  • President Obama’s Face The Nation Interview: President Obama told Bob Schieffer Friday that he has no illusions about how difficult the task of securing Afghanistan and Pakistan from Al Qaeda influence will be for the United States.
    “This is going to be hard, Bob… I am under no illusions,” he said. “If it was easy it would already have been completed. We’re going to have to go with a strategy that is focused, that is narrowly targeted on defeating al- Qaeda,” the president said. Added Mr. Obama: “We think that if you combine military, civilian, diplomatic, development approaches, if we are doing a much better job coordination with our allies, that we can be successful.” – 3-27-09
  • President Obama’s online town hall: That’s a great question. You know, I had just an extraordinary honor — yesterday was Medal of Honor Day. And I went to Arlington National Cemetery, and we had a ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a collection of Medal of Honor winners from all our various wars.
    And a special place of honor was a guy named John Finn, who had been present the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. He was on one of the ships, was shot by — was strafed by the fire from the planes coming in, and yet still had the presence of mind to shoot down a plane, and won the Medal of Honor — or was awarded the Medal of Honor for that. And it just reminds you that we wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the sacrifices of earlier veterans. We would not — (applause) — we would not enjoy the same safety and security and liberty that we do.
    So when our veterans come home from Iraq and Afghanistan — and they have performed brilliantly, they have done everything that’s been asked of them, regardless of what your views are on these wars — they have earned these benefits that all too often we fail to give them.
    And that’s why in my budget we are increasing veterans funding by more than any time in the last 30 years. We’re going to make sure that we deal with the — (applause) — we’re going to make sure that deal with the backlog that too many veterans experience in terms of getting benefits. We’re going to make sure that homeless veterans are receiving housing and services.
    The homeless rate for veterans is multiple times higher than it is for non-veterans. That’s inexcusable. It means that we’re going to provide services for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, that we’re going to provide services for Traumatic Brain Injury that are the signature injuries of these recent wars. So we are going to significantly increase veterans spending…. – WH Blog, 3-26-09 Transcript
  • Clinton calls Mexico’s drug violence ‘intolerable’: “Today, (our) ties are being put to new tests. This situation is intolerable for honest, law-abiding citizens of Mexico, my country or of anywhere people of conscience live,” she said. “The United States recognizes that drug trafficking is not only Mexico’s problem. It is also America’s problem.”
    “The United States will be stepping up to help address the serious security challenges that Mexico is facing and Mexico, of course, must do its part as well,” she said.
    “We (in the U.S.) can worry about what’s coming north, but Mexican people are worried about what’s coming south: assault weapons, bazookas, grenades,” she said. “I mean, we’ve got to get together on this.” – AP, 3-26-09
  • Biden predicts Congress will back Obama on budget: “I’m confident that with the leadership of the speaker and Harry Reid we are going to get our budget with all the major elements intact,” Biden, flanked by Pelosi, told reporters. – Reuters, 3-25-09


Todd Heisler/The New York Times President Obama and the first lady arrived in London for the Group of 20 economic summit.

Historians’ Comments

  • Scholars Discuss Black Power in the Age of Obama: The Black Power movement is not a vestige of the past, but a living didactical legacy that is as relevant now in the Obama era as it has ever been, said a group of scholars and activists during a two-day symposium dedicated to the impact of the Black Power movement on America.
    Panelists Dr. Gregory Carr, a professor of African-American studies at Howard University; Rhonda Williams, an associate professor of history at Case Western Reserve University; and Brazile painted a picture of a multifaceted movement orchestrated by various constituencies of Black America demanding to be heard after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. – Diverse Eucation. 4-1-09
  • Ian Reifowitz “Today’s election could inspire high turnout”: Ian Reifowitz, a professor of history and politics at Empire State College, said several factors will drive turnout. “There was so much attention surrounding the appointment of Rep. Gillibrand and Paterson’s handling of that, that there could be more interest in this race,” Reifowtiz said. He added that some voters will be drawn out by national events and the way the race’s narrative followed them. “People were following the stimulus package, and there were people wanting to know if Tedisco would support it. Then you had the same thing with the AIG bonuses,” Reifowitz said.
    The state’s budget, although seemingly not related to the congressional race, also might factor in voter’s minds, especially because it was constructed by Democrats, Reifowitz said. “That may help by not hurting,” he said. “If Democrats weren’t able to get it together, people would look at that as a reason to not vote for Murphy.” – Saratogian, 3-31-09
  • Robert Turner “Today’s election could inspire high turnout”: Robert Turner, an assistant professor of government at Skidmore College, said average voter turnout in special elections since 2007 has been 91,000 voters. “Voters are not as representative as they are in a general election. They’re more informed, more motivated and more educated,” he said, adding what many pundits have discussed in regard to this race, “This has become a bit of a referendum on the Obama presidency. A lot of pundits want to say ‘the honeymoon’s over.'” That message could drive higher turnout by bringing out people who feel strongly for or against Obama’s presidency, Turner said. “If the issue was just ‘business man’ or ‘career politician,’ that probably wouldn’t be enough,” he said. – Saratogian, 3-31-09
  • Menahem Blondheim “New Analysis: Netanyahu not likely to see more U.S. pressure”: “The change from Bush administration to the Obama administration is not a usual transition,” Menahem Blondheim, professor of American Studies at Hebrew University told Xinhua. “The economic problem is so dominant. Clearly everything will take shape according to the success and the momentum of the administration in terms of taking care of the economic problem,” he said. He noted that the Obama administration still had to establish a clear perspective and program concerning international affairs in general and the Middle East in particular. “Between economic and international policy, the proportion in terms of looking at economic matters is skewed and things are very much on hold,” Blondheim said.
    “There is a lot to the political circumstances built on the deep-seated affinities between America and Israel,” Blondheim said. “The support for Israel as a democracy and its national experience, which resonates ideologically and politically with Americans, is pretty fundamental.” He noted that the Obama administration did not represent a sweeping ideological transformation on the basis of which issues are addressed. “The systemic approach is different but the fundamental values that energize American politics cannot be revolutionized or dramatically transformed,” he said. – www.chinaview.cn, 4-1-09
  • Juan Cole: Obama’s domino theory The president sounds like he’s channeling Cheney or McCain — or a Cold War hawk afraid of international communism — when he talks about the war in Afghanistan.: President Barack Obama may or may not be doing the right thing in Afghanistan, but the rationale he gave for it on Friday is almost certainly wrong. Obama has presented us with a 21st century version of the domino theory. The U.S. is not, contrary to what the president said, mainly fighting “al-Qaida” in Afghanistan. In blaming everything on al-Qaida, Obama broke with his pledge of straight talk to the public and fell back on Bush-style boogeymen and implausible conspiracy theories….
    The Kabul government is not on the verge of falling to the Taliban. The Afghan government has 80,000 troops, who benefit from close U.S. air support, and the total number of Taliban fighters in the Pashtun provinces is estimated at 10,000 to 15,000. Kabul is in danger of losing control of some villages in the provinces to dissident Pashtun warlords styled “Taliban,” though it is not clear why the new Afghan army could not expel them if they did so. A smaller, poorly equipped Northern Alliance army defeated 60,000 Taliban with U.S. air support in 2001. And there is no prospect of “al-Qaida” reestablishing bases in Afghanistan from which it could attack the United States. If al-Qaida did come back to Afghanistan, it could simply be bombed and would be attacked by the new Afghan army. – Salon.com, 3-30-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama administration takes lead in reshaping automakers”: Obama’s actions are “consistent with the pattern of presidents acting during economic crises,” said Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University and an expert on the presidency. “And it’s absolutely consistent with patterns of presidents intervening to make sure major components of the economy don’t fail.” – Chicago Tribune, 3-31-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Big risks if Obama acts boldly on budget”: Americans are usually uninterested in legislative procedure. The technical rules that govern the House and Senate are of little concern to average citizens except for those rare moments when procedures become tied up with major policy battles….
    Congressional procedure is in the news once again. President Obama is thinking about using the budget reconciliation process, which prohibits a filibuster, to push through the Senate the many proposals that he introduced to Congress in last month’s address. Reconciliation would only require a majority vote in the Senate rather than the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster (the Democrats control at least 58 seats). Not only would the administration include tax and spending proposals in the legislation, but health care and possibly environmental measures as well. This would be a bold political move….
    Orszag added that history was on the president’s side: “Pretty much every major piece of budget legislation going back to April 1981, April ’82, April 1990, April 1993, the 1990 Act, the 2001 tax legislation, they were all done through reconciliation. Yet somehow this is being presented as an unusual thing.”
    But what are the risks for the administration? The first risk is that Republicans will become so furious with Obama’s use of this tactic that any chance of bipartisanship will disappear and in future Republicans will be even more willing to use dilatory tactics to block the administration’s priorities. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, warned that including health care in reconciliation would do “serious damage to our bipartisan effort.” Minority Whip John Kyl of Arizona warned that it would turn the bills into a “purely partisan exercise.”….
    The bigger risk has to do with Democrats themselves. Like Republicans, Democrats have remained relatively united since 2006. But by using reconciliation, the administration would be packaging together several bills, each of which has the potential to cause serious fissures within the party….
    The benefits of reconciliation are clear, and the risk of partisan anger should not be overstated. He might need to make this move if he wants to get such sweeping legislation given the partisan environment of Washington. Yet the president must move very carefully if he chooses this route and make certain that in the process of obtaining speed and efficiency, he does not cause excessive damage to the party he will lead in the next three years. – CNN, 3-30-09
  • R. Scott Appleby “Obama Visit to Notre Dame Provokes Debate”: “At Notre Dame there’s the audacity of hope that the president will make good on his promises to take these issues seriously and dialogue with his critics,” said R. Scott Appleby, a history professor at the university, who supports the invitation. “This visit is one occasion, among others, for Notre Dame and the entire Catholic community to find ways to deepen and extend the dialogue on life issues.”…
    Mr. Appleby, the history professor, said the long-range goal of such a discussion with Mr. Obama would be “to change hearts and minds” and move the country “toward a culture of life” that opposes abortion and embryonic stem-cell research and allows medical workers who oppose abortion rights to opt out of participating in certain procedures. “The question is, how can one who is so good and so insightful and so poised on issues of human dignity and human rights — how can that same person not engage fully and seriously in a debate on unborn life?” Mr. Appleby said. – NYT, 3-30-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Dodd’s Troubles Open Debate on Congress’ Ties With Special Interests”: Julian Zelizer, a professor of history at Princeton University and an expert on congressional matters, said most politicians are entangled with conflicts of interest — and they look bad when they’re revealed. “In terms of the financial bailout, this can bite,” he said. But Zelizer said Dodd should not have to sideline himself unless there is clear evidence of wrongdoing. “You have to penalize all of Congress if you started doing this,” he said, adding that long-term reform is needed for a more efficient system. – Fox News, 3-27-09
  • Mark Cauble “Gov. Palin focus of lecture for women’s history”: While Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has fallen out of the national spotlight, a lecture at Barstow Community College recognized the one-time vice presidential nominee as a woman of note during a lecture on women’s history month Wednesday. Palin was the subject of Professor Mark Cauble’s presentation, where the history and humanities professor talked about the governor’s rise in local politics and showed a portion of Palin’s nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Sept. 2008. – Desert Dispatch, 3-25-09
President Barack Obama engages the audience

(President Barack Obama engages the audience at an “Open for Questions” online townhall.
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 3/26/09)


January 13, 2009: Leading up to the Inauguration & the Bush Legacy


IN FOCUS: The Bush Presidency

President Bush met in the Oval Office on Wednesday with President-elect Barack Obama and former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. (Photos: Doug Mills/ The New York Times)

In Focus:

  • Bush, issue by issue: A look at the ups and downs of George W. Bush’s presidency on some of the biggest issues of the day – AP, 1-10-09
  • Bush endures stormy present, counting on history’s judgment: George W. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20 as one of the most vilified presidents in American history. Battered by an unpopular war and an economic collapse, Bush has racked up the longest streak of negative job-approval ratings in the history of polling. His end-of-term scores are worse than any modern president except Richard Nixon, who resigned in disgrace….
    “We have, by any polling measure, the most unpopular president in American polling history,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff. San Antonio Express, 1-10-09
  • A presidential welcome for USS George H.W. Bush: It’s the perfect gift for an old Navy flier: 1,092 feet of flattop. “What do you give a guy who has been blessed and has just about everything he has ever needed?” asked President George W. Bush from aboard the Navy’s newest ship. “Well, an aircraft carrier.” – AP, 1-10-09
  • Analysis: Bush’s personality shapes his legacy: President George W. Bush will be judged on what he did. He will also be remembered for what he’s like: a fast-moving, phrase-mangling Texan who stays upbeat even though his country is not. – AP, 1-3-09


The Headlines…

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

  • All the Pageantry, Just Without the President NYT, 1-11-09
  • GOP chooses Rep. Kevin McCarthy as chief deputy whip: The Bakersfield lawmaker assumes a leadership position after one term in Congress. ‘He puts a friendly face on the party,’ one analyst says. – LAT, 1-11-09
  • Obama’s Cheney Dilemma: Cheney pushed for expanded presidential powers. Now that he’s leaving, what will come of his efforts? The new president won’t have to wait long to tip his hand. – Newsweek, 1-10-09
  • Obama’s inaugural luncheon fit for President Lincoln: Barack Obama had better like shellfish. The first course at his inaugural luncheon on Jan. 20, a seafood stew, consists of lobster, scallops and shrimp – all personal favorites, apparently, of Obama’s fellow Illinois politician, Abraham Lincoln. In fact, the 2009 inaugural luncheon has been designed to commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of Lincoln (Feb. 12, 1809), the 16th president. Newsday, 1-10-09
  • Obama to honor McCain on inauguration eve – AP, 1-11-09
  • Paterson and Kennedy Meet to Discuss Senate: Gov. David A. Paterson met with Caroline Kennedy on Saturday for their first formal discussion about her interest in being appointed to the United States Senate, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting, which may suggest that the long and at times circuslike selection process may be drawing toward an end. – N”YT, 1-11-09
  • Lifting veil of privacy, friends discuss Kennedy: In a series of interviews with The Associated Press, friends and colleagues of Kennedy painted a picture of a reserved but intelligent and tenacious woman who writes her own speeches and who, despite her vast wealth, still takes the subway…. – AP 1-10-09
  • Obama advisers: Plan would create up to 4.1M jobs: President-elect Barack Obama countered critics with an analysis Saturday by his economic team showing that a program of tax cuts and spending like he’s proposed would create up to 4.1 million jobs, far more than the 3 million he has insisted are needed to lift the country from recession. – AP, 1-10-09
  • Ill. House impeaches governor, who vows to fight: Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached Friday by Illinois lawmakers furious that he turned state government into a “freak show,” setting the stage for an unprecedented trial in the state Senate that could get him thrown out of office. – 1-9-09
  • Democrats criticize Obama’s proposed tax cuts: President-elect Barack Obama’s proposed tax cuts ran into opposition Thursday from senators in his own party who said they wouldn’t do much to stimulate the economy or create jobs. – AP, 1-8-08
  • Ill. House panel recommends governor’s impeachment: An Illinois House committee has unanimously recommended that Gov. Rod Blagojevich be impeached for abuse of power. – AP, 1-8-09
  • Senate Democrats yield to Obama, retreat on Burris: Senate Democrats beat a hasty retreat Wednesday from their rejection of Roland Burris as President-elect Barack Obama’s successor, yielding to pressure from Obama himself and from senators irked that the standoff was draining attention and putting them in a bad light. Burris said with a smile he expected to join them “very shortly.” – 1-8-09
  • Obama taps spending watchdog, eyes Social Security: Pointing with concern to “red ink as far as the eye can see,” President-elect Barack Obama pledged Wednesday to tackle out-of-control Social Security and Medicare spending and named a special watchdog to clamp down on other federal programs — even as he campaigned anew to spend the largest pile of taxpayer money in history to revive the sinking economy. – AP, 1-8-09
  • Obama hails ‘extraordinary’ moment with presidents: Confronting a grim economy and a Middle East on fire, Barack Obama turned Wednesday to perhaps the only people on the planet who understand what he’s in for: the four living members of the U.S. presidents’ club. In an image bound to go down in history, every living U.S. president came together at the White House on Wednesday to hash over the world’s challenges with the president-elect. There they stood, shoulder-to-shoulder in the Oval Office: George H.W. Bush, Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. – AP, 1-7-09
  • End to Minn. Senate race pushed even further out: Republican Norm Coleman filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging Democrat Al Franken’s apparent recount victory, likely keeping one of Minnesota’s two U.S. Senate seats unoccupied for weeks or even months. – AP, 1-7-09
  • Richardson adviser worked for firm feds probing: One of Gov. Bill Richardson’s close friends and advisers worked as a consultant for the California firm at the center of a federal pay-to-play probe that derailed the governor’s appointment as commerce secretary. – AP, 1-7-09
  • Ex-Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush won’t run for Senate in 2010: Former Gov. Jeb Bush announced Tuesday that he won’t run for the U.S. Senate in 2010 to replace the retiring Mel Martinez, saying that it was not the right time to return to elected office. – AP, 1-6-08
  • CNN: Gupta approached about surgeon general post: President-elect Barack Obama has approached CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, about becoming the country’s next surgeon general, the cable network said Tuesday. – AP, 1-6-09
  • Democrats’ opposition to Burris begins to crackAP, 1-6-09
  • Obama’s CIA pick unlikely to face Senate challenge: President-elect Barack Obama had to do a little fence-mending Tuesday with the new Congress controlled by his own party — apologizing to a key Senate Democrat for failing to consult on his decision to name veteran Washington hand Leon Panetta CIA director. – AP, 1-6-09
  • Obama’s intel picks short on direct experience: President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of an old White House hand to head the CIA shows a preference for a strong manager over an intelligence expert. Obama’s decision to name Leon Panetta to lead the premier U.S. intelligence agency surprised the spy community and signaled the Democrat’s intention for a clean break from Bush administration policies. – AP, 1-6-09
  • Richardson withdraws bid to be commerce secretary: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Sunday announced that he was withdrawing his nomination to be President-elect Barack Obama’s commerce secretary amid a grand jury investigation into how some of his political donors won a lucrative state contract. – AP, 1-4-09
  • Denver schools chief named to fill Senate vacancy: Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter on Saturday named Denver’s public schools superintendent Michael Bennet as his choice to fill a Senate vacancy that will be created by the promotion of Sen. Ken Salazar to interior secretary in the Obama administration. – AP, 1-3-09
  • Obama’s team polishing economic stimulus measure: President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team is putting the finishing touches on an economic recovery plan that could run from $675 billion to $775 billion. Briefings for top congressional Democratic officials are likely this weekend or on Monday, a senior transition official said Friday. Obama is slated to meet Monday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a session likely to focus on the economic recovery package. – AP, 1-2-09


Political Quotes

  • Bush Calls on Republican Party to Be Inclusive: “Look, obviously we got whipped in 2008, and there will be a new wave of leadership arriving on the scene,” Mr. Bush said. “But it’s very important for our party not to narrow its focus, not to become so inward-looking that we drive people away from a philosophy that is compassionate and decent.”
    “We should be open-minded about big issues like immigration reform, because if we’re viewed as anti-somebody — in other words, if the party is viewed as anti-immigrant — then another fellow may say, well, if they’re against the immigrant, they may be against me.”
    “Listen, the man is obviously a charismatic person, and the man is able to persuade people that they should trust him. And he’s got something — he’s got a lot going for him.”
    “I would hope that the team that is, has the honor of, serving the country will take a hard look at the realities of the world and the tools now in place to protect the United States from further attack,” Mr. Bush said. “They will find that with a considerable amount of care and concern for civil liberties, for example, that I have put in place procedures that will enable the professionals to better learn the intentions of Al Qaeda, for example.”
    “During the darkest days of Iraq people came to me and said, you’re creating incredible political difficulties for us. And I said, oh, really, what do you suggest I do? Some suggested, retreat, pull out of Iraq,” he said. “I didn’t compromise that principle for the sake of trying to bail out my political party, for example.” NYT, 1-11-09
  • Obama in his weekly radio and YouTube broadcast address: “These numbers are a stark reminder that we simply cannot continue on our current path. If nothing is done, economists from across the spectrum tell us that this recession could linger for years and the unemployment rate could reach double digits — and they warn that our nation could lose the competitive edge that has served as a foundation for our strength and standing in the world,” he said. – AP, 1-10-09
  • Palin: Is Kennedy getting ‘kid glove’ treatment? “I’ve been interested to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled and if she will be handled with kid gloves or if she will be under such a microscope.” “… we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy versus, say, the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be.”
    “I wasn’t believed that Trig was really my son,” she said. She called it a “sad state of affairs.” “What is the double-standard here? Why would people choose to believe lies? What is it that drives people to believe the worst, perpetuate the worst? When did we start accepting as hard news sources bloggers, anonymous bloggers especially?”
    “I was not commenting at all on Caroline Kennedy as a prospective U.S. senator, but rather on the seemingly arbitrary ways in which news organizations determine the level and kind of scrutiny given to those who aspire to public office. In fact, I consider Ms. Kennedy qualified and experienced, and she could serve New York well.” – AP, 1-10-09
  • Cheney says no one saw financial crisis coming: Cheney said that “nobody anywhere was smart enough to figure it out.” He said Bush doesn’t need to apologize because he has taken “bold, aggressive action.” – 1-9-09
  • Obama: Congress must act boldly and now on economy: “If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years,” with unemployment reaching double digits, Obama said in a speech at George Mason University in suburban Virginia. “A bad situation could become dramatically worse.” AP, 1-8-09
  • Evan Thomas – An Interview with Barack Obama: NEWSWEEK: Going back to the period where you were deciding whether to run or not, I’m very curious about what you wanted to hear when you sat around with your friends and advisers. What were you looking for in terms of what you hoped to hear from them?
    Barack Obama: Well, the first question was, could I win? And I think that’s something that I needed to get some very objective assessments of, because one of the things that I’ve always been suspicious of is the hype that surrounded my entry into the U.S. Senate. I wanted to make sure that we hadn’t fallen prey to hype and believing our own press, so I wanted to test in very concrete terms and push very hard on the question of whether we could win. Since we assumed that we had a strong field, including Sen. Clinton and John Edwards.
    The second question, which had more to do with conversations between Michelle and myself on which we needed some feedback from the staff who had been through a presidential election, was how it would have an impact on our family. And that actually was the most important question, but unless we crossed the threshold where we could win, the second one became moot, because I had no interest in running if I didn’t think we could win. I wasn’t interested in setting myself up for four years from now because to some degree I was very fortunate; I already had a very high profile. I stood to lose more than gain in a presidential race if I wasn’t successful. So the second question was: how it would affect our family? And then thinking about schedules and workloads and the rhythm of a campaign, the nature of the scrutiny involved, how it would alter our daily round, and how would we, how effectively could we shield our families, our girls?
    And then the third question, which was the most profound question, and one where probably … in the end I had to answer all by myself was: should I win? Just because you can win doesn’t mean you’re the person who’s best for the country at this moment in time, and I, I, I actually believe my own rhetoric when I say I think we’re in a defining moment. It’s very difficult to think back to a time where we had a bigger series of choices, and obviously World War maybe, and then the immediate aftermath of WWII, the Great Depression, and before that, the Civil War . . . but the country has a lot of issues that it’s got to deal with. And so I don’t, I didn’t think it was sufficient for me to run just because of my own ambition or because I thought this was my time. I felt as if there had to be at least the possibility that I could do something that no other candidate in the race could do, whether it was bringing the country together more effectively, [or] building a consensus, [or] reinvigorating the American people’s interest in government. So that was a series of questions that had to be raised, and those questions were probably the ones that were least amenable to quantification. I mean, we can do some polling and sort of figure out, “Alright, can we win this thing or not?” It’s a lot harder to gauge whether you are what the country needs at this point in time. – Newsweek, 1-8-09
  • President Bush Welcomes President-Elect Obama, Former President Clinton, Former President Bush and Former President Carter to the White House:
    PRESIDENT BUSH: I want to thank the President-elect for joining the ex-Presidents for lunch. And one message that I have and I think we all share is that we want you to succeed. Whether we’re Democrat or Republican, we care deeply about this country. And to the extent we can, we look forward to sharing our experiences with you. All of us who have served in this office understand that the office transcends the individual. And we wish you all the very best. And so does the country. PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA: Thank you. I just want to thank the President for hosting us. This is an extraordinary gathering. All the gentlemen here understand both the pressures and possibilities of this office. And for me to have the opportunity to get advice, good counsel and fellowship with these individuals is extraordinary. And I’m very grateful to all of them. But, again, thank you, Mr. President, for hosting us.
  • Ex-Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush won’t run for Senate in 2010: “I can play a role in helping to reshape the Republican Party’s message and focus on 21st century solutions to 21st century problems. Not running does not preclude me from being involved in these things and I will be.” “One of the benefits of being governor is people get to know you and I think people know I love this state. While I’m proud of my brother and I love my brother … people know that I’m Jeb Bush and I don’t think that would have been a problem.” – AP, 1-6-08
  • Obama says his plan with tax cuts to get quick OK: “The economy is very sick. The situation is getting worse. … We have to act and act now to break the momentum of this recession. The reason we are here today is because the people’s business cannot wait. I expect to be able to sign a bill shortly after taking office. By the end of January or the first of February.” AP, 1-5-09


Historians’ Comments

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin and Harold Holzer “Obama’s challenge From the economy to war, this president faces crises unimagined since Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt”: “The real challenge will come once he gets in there,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “The crisis is pretty large, and I don’t think until you become president that you really absorb how big it is. … We will see what inner resources Obama can draw on.”
    Goodwin believes Obama has shown evidence of that ability. “It certainly seems so, from the way his campaign was run and how little dissension bubbled out into the public — his staffers were not jockeying against one another, there were not people leaving, though in other campaigns people were fired, people left, people were dissenting,” she said. “Great leaders create a climate of respect for one another, in that group around you, so there’s a reservoir of good feeling. I’m sure when the memoirs are written, we’ll learn of the dissenting views about what to do at various moments during the campaign, but obviously those things got settled during the campaign.” – The News Journal, 1-11-09
  • Harold Holzer “Obama’s challenge From the economy to war, this president faces crises unimagined since Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt”: “The world is so divided and fractured — in ways that Lincoln could never have imagined,” said Harold Holzer, who is the author of 30 books, including the 2008 “Lincoln President-Elect,” and the co-chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. “And there is every bit as much fear and concern.”
    Lincoln wanted the strongest, most able leaders in the country working with him, Goodwin said. Though he had no pro-slavery voices in his circle of advisers, he had a “great range of opinions” about how to handle slavery, she said.
    “They were contentious internally, disputatious with each other, there were plots and schemes for power,” he said. “But were they critics? I don’t necessarily agree that they were critics. They may have been doubters, but I think it’s more a team of rivals for Obama. … None of Lincoln’s rivals ever debated him, criticized him or ran against him. Obama, though, has been appointing a team of rivals — and all were pretty blunt in their criticism of Obama. That is heartening.”
    “Lincoln was gregarious sometimes, morose at other times,” Holzer said. “But at his heart, he was a no-drama person as well. He was a very calm and collected person. He stood before Confederate sharpshooters outside Washington once. He was the only president to actually come under enemy fire. He had great physical courage. … And few saw the emotion that was beneath the surface.” – The News Journal, 1-11-09
  • Eric Rauchway “Obama’s challenge From the economy to war, this president faces crises unimagined since Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt”: Obama does not inherit a 25 percent unemployment rate, as Roosevelt did at his first inauguration, arriving as it did at the nadir of the Great Depression. Half of those who had jobs in 1933 were working only part time, said Eric Rauchway, professor of history at the University of California-Davis and director of the Center for History, Society and Culture.
    “We’re already talking about fiscal stimulus, which Roosevelt didn’t get around to until 1938,” he said. “One of the problems everyone agrees we have is the health insurance of this country — the great unpassed New Deal reform,” he said. “They took it out of the Social Security law because they thought they couldn’t get it through and we’re still stuck with the problem, these 75 years later. Public health insurance increases the mobility of workers, who won’t quit a job because they don’t have health insurance. It can be an economic stimulus.”
    Rauchway sees no big effect of the 24-hour news cycle — “people who want news get news, whether in 1933 or now” — but he does see a parallel in the way Roosevelt and Obama delivered their messages to the American people.
    “The new media of Roosevelt’s day — radio and newsreels — some would say this is really critical to turning the corner on the Depression, and I suppose it is,” he said. “It’s very intangible. But with Roosevelt coming to the American people in the intimate way radio can provide, you get a sense of why this was good. He spoke in plain language, but he didn’t oversimplify the problems they were dealing with. It was not dumbed down, but in pretty plain English. It’s too soon to say, but we have some indication that Barack Obama is the same way. His infomercial before the election was a lot of Barack Obama talking directly to the people.” – The News Journal, 1-11-09
  • Douglas Brinkley Analysis: Bush legacy _ grim times, gloomy nation: “He put everything into his campaign for Iraqi democracy,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian and professor at Rice University. “The results seem to be quite painful for the United States, not just in terms of more than 4,000 dead soldiers, but the ideological fervor instead of a cool-headed pragmatism.” AP, 1-11-09
  • Gil Troy “BALLOT BOX BLUES – Votes for sale: Political candy replaces ideas and ideals”: “If ever there was a moment where we needed a candidate who could come out with a big idea, we just experienced it, in the Canadian and American elections,” says Gil Troy, a political historian at McGill University. “This was a real leadership moment. But as the stock markets imploded, the candidates just went small bore rather than embracing big ideas.” “I didn’t hear anything from (Stephen) Harper or (Stephane) Dion that was particularly illuminating,” he says. “There was no inspiration and no insight. It was deeply disappointing.” Dion had tried to campaign on a big idea, but his Green Shift was so poorly explained, and so quickly overshadowed by the unfolding economic crisis, says Troy, that if anything it proved ideas don’t work in election campaigns anymore. – Canwest News, 1-11-09
  • Robert Dallek “For Bush and His Staff, a Season of ‘the Lasts'”: “They’re working hard to build their historical reputations,” said the presidential historian Robert Dallek. “Generally, presidents don’t spend the last days and weeks in office defending their record. They produce a memoir, they write a volume. “To spend your waking hours on a defense of yourself speaks volumes about how, in a sense, defeated they’ve been.” – NYT, 1-11-09
  • Allan Lichtman “Obama’s Vision: Only Government Can End Economic Woes”: “Ronald Reagan in 1980 began the new conservative era in America. And 2008 is 1980 in reverse,” said Allan Lichtman, an expert on the presidency at American University in Washington. “Reagan famously said government is not the solution, it’s the problem,” Lichtman said. “Obama is saying government is the solution and, in fact, the only real solution to the crisis we’re experiencing today. It’s not just a matter of fixing the economy. It’s a matter of fundamentally moving the economy in a new direction. And government, not private enterprise, has to take the lead.” – San Jose Mercury News, 1-8-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Shape of the Office: Obama and Executive Power” – “The notion that there’s some magic formula he can achieve within a month or two is unfair,” said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University. “There are many components to the crisis, many things that deal with financial regulation, and it will be hard for Obama to deal with this on his own.” For this reason, Zelizer and other scholars expect Obama to begin his term with a flurry of high-profile, somewhat symbolic actions — say, closing Guantanamo — then throttle back and begin the trickier task of managing everyone’s expectations. – Congressional Quarterly, 1-10-09
  • Julian Zelizer “The Ultimate Power Lunch”: As Princeton historian Julian Zelizer told CBS News, ” Diplomatic funerals overseas actually are often the way presidents get together, or the death of a former president but this is not that kind of meeting. This is not ceremonial. This really almost a think tank.” – CBS News, 1-7-09
  • Douglas Brinkley “The Ultimate Power Lunch”: Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told the CBS News Early Show that at least for today, “Obama’s making a real statement that I’m going to be seeking counsel and advice from all of the ex-presidents.” – CBS News, 1-7-09

December 26, 2008: President-Elect Barack Obama Completes his Cabinet


Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

President-elect Barack Obama met with Senator John McCain, his Republican rival, after the election in November.

In Focus:

  • Barack Obama: Yes, He Could Quite A Year, As Illinois Senator Claims Presidency: In the first week of 2008, Barack Obama rocked the political world with a win in the Iowa caucuses. But the question remained: Could this black man with a rich personal history and sparse elective resume make it all the way to the presidency? Yes, he could.
    Obama took us along on a wild ride, smashing political and racial barriers as he was elected the nation’s 44th president in an electoral landslide. His message of hope and change – and the viral YouTube mantra of “Yes, we can” – resonated with millions of voters after eight years of George W. Bush. – CBS News, 12-24-08
  • 2008: The Political Year in Quotes FOXNews.com runs down the most memorable lines of the 2008 political year:
  • John Edwards: “I don’t talk about these tabloids. The tabloid trash is full of lies.”
  • John Mc
  • Barack Obama: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
  • Cain: “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
  • Tina Fey: “I can see Russia from my house!”
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson: “I want to cut his nuts off.”
  • Bill Clinton: “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in ’84 and ’88, and he ran a good campaign, and so did Obama.”
  • Rev. Jeremiah Wright: “I believe our government is capable of doing anything.”
  • Rod Blagojevich: “There’s nothing but sunshine hanging over me.””Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it has about 18 million cracks in it.”
  • Ted Kennedy: “Together we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat. But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world. And I pledge to you that I will be there next January.” – Fox News, 12-24-08
  • Barack Obama just added you as a friend on Facebook: (Humor) Washington: Despite the assumption that President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet nominees are told of their selection via phone calls, the Los Angeles Times has learned that the Obama is actually notifying his picks by “friending” them on the social networking site Facebook. Requests to Obama for comment on the following transcript have gone unanswered, though he did “poke” us just as this went to press…. – LAT
  • Name by name, Obama’s Cabinet taking shape 12-11-08

The Headlines…

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

  • Obama Should Heed the Advice of George H.W. Bush: There has been much talk about President-elect Barack Obama looking to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt for inspiration and insight on building his administration and charting his first 100 days in office. But some of the most helpful guidance available could come from an over-looked source — George H.W. Bush. – WaPo, 12-24-08
  • Obama’s Zen State, Well, It’s Hawaiian: NYT, 12-24-08
  • Obama Sets Ambitious Bar in Pledge to Rein In Executive Power: Barack Obama promised during the campaign to “reverse” the expansions of executive power under the Bush administration — but will he follow through? – Fox News, 12-24-08
  • Bush withdraws 1 of 19 pardons he issued Tuesday: President George W. Bush on Wednesday revoked a pardon he had granted only a day before — a step unheard of in recent memory — after learning in news reports of political contributions to Republicans by the man’s father and other information. – AP, 12-24-08
  • Resistance to Kennedy Grows Among Democrats – NYT, 12-24-08
  • Kennedy’s pursuit of Senate snared in NY politics: Caroline Kennedy’s bid to get appointed to the Senate and extend the Camelot dynasty has run into the bare-knuckle world of New York politics, where a backlash appears to be building against her. – AP, 12-24-08
  • Top Bush Aides to Linger on High-Profile Boards: As President Bush settles in for his last Christmas in office, he has been busy handing out presents to some of his top aides. And they are not the kind that require wrapping paper or a bow. – NYT, 12-24-08
  • For Now, Obama Proves to Be Elusive Target for G.O.P.: Almost two months after Barack Obama’s election, Republicans are struggling to figure out how — or even whether — to challenge or criticize him as he prepares to assume the presidency. – NYT, 12-24-08
  • Bush pardons man who helped Israel during wartime: The last words Charles Winters spoke to his son nearly 25 years ago — “Keep the faith” — guided the Miami businessman as he sought a rare presidential pardon for his late father’s crime: aiding Israel in 1948 as it fought to survive. – AP, 12-23-08
  • Blagojevich questioning takes up Obama’s time: President-elect Barack Obama has said all along that neither he nor his team was involved in any eye-popping dealmaking over filling his vacated Senate seat. Obama’s hand-picked investigator agreed. – AP, 12-23-08
  • Obama to release review on Blagojevich contacts: President-elect Barack Obama plans to reveal on Tuesday his staff’s conversations with the Illinois governor accused of trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat, transition officials said Monday. “We have a report,” said Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. “It’s been ready for release for a week. We’ve held off at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s office and that continues to be the case, though we expect to be able to release the report shortly.” – AP, 12-22-08
  • Ill. impeachment panel awaits word from prosecutor: The legislative committee considering impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich could be at the beginning of its work or nearing the end, depending on the wishes of federal prosecutors. – AP, 12-21-08
  • Senate-for-sale case threatens new chief of staff: But there was always one call Blagojevich regularly took, say his aides, and that was from Rahm Emanuel — his congressman, his one-time campaign adviser and, more recently — and troubling for Emanuel — one of his contacts with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition staff. – AP, 12-21-08
  • Automakers grab loans, look to Obama White House: The long-term fate of the auto industry rests with Barack Obama now that President George W. Bush has given car companies $17.4 billion in emergency rescue loans. – AP, 12-20-08
  • Bush orders emergency bailout of the auto industry: Citing imminent danger to the national economy, President Bush ordered an emergency bailout of the U.S. auto industry Friday, offering $17.4 billion in rescue loans and demanding tough concessions from the deeply troubled carmakers and their workers. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Ill. Gov. Blagojevich pledges to fight, won’t quit: A combative Gov. Rod Blagojevich served notice Friday that he has no intention of quitting over his corruption arrest, declaring: “I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong.” The forceful three-minute speech marked the first time the former amateur boxer directly addressed the allegations since his arrest 10 days earlier. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Obama fills econ team, says business will revive: Completing his Cabinet a month before taking office, President-elect Barack Obama named officials to oversee transportation, labor, trade and small business policy Friday but warned that economic recovery won’t be nearly as swift. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Mark Felt, Watergate’s ‘Deep Throat,’ dies at 95: W. Mark Felt, the former FBI second-in-command who revealed himself as “Deep Throat” 30 years after he helped The Washington Post unravel the Watergate scandal, has died. He was 95. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Elizabeth Alexander, Yale poet prepares for inauguration: Alexander, professor of African-American studies at Yale University, was chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his inauguration on Jan. 20. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Trade policy unclear in pick of former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, some say: The choice of Ron Kirk as the nation’s top trade negotiator disappointed Barack Obama’s union supporters and left trade experts wondering Thursday how hard the president-elect will push against business interests in future deals. – Dallas Morning News, 12-19-08
  • In Transition Labor Secretary, U.S. Trade Representative: Hilda L. Solis: Current job: Democratic congresswoman from California… – WaPo, 12-19-08
  • Impeachment drive slowed against Illinois governor: Illinois lawmakers could be forced to build their impeachment case against Gov. Rod Blagojevich on a raft of relatively small grievances, rather than the blockbuster Senate-seat-for-sale allegations, for fear of undermining federal prosecutors’ criminal investigation. – AP, 12-18-08
  • Obama team weighs up to $850 billion economic jolt: President-elect Barack Obama is laying the groundwork for a giant economic stimulus package, possibly $850 billion over two years, in his first test of legislative give and take with Congress. – AP, 12-18-08
  • Ill. parties clash over potential special election: Illinois Republicans have launched a political ad campaign demanding a special election to fill the Senate vacancy that Gov. Rod Blagojevich allegedly tried to sell, hoping to pick up a seat they had no shot at before the scandal. – AP, 12-16-08
  • Obama chooses Chicago schools chief Ed. Secretary: President-elect Barack Obama announced Arne Duncan, the head of the Chicago school system, as education secretary Tuesday and declared that failing to improve classroom instruction is “morally unacceptable for our children.” – AP, 12-16-08
  • Obama “Review shows no inappropriate contact”: President-elect Barack Obama said Monday a review by his own lawyer shows he had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement, and transition aides did nothing inappropriate. – AP, 12-15-08
  • Ill. lawmakers take first step to oust Blagojevich: Illinois lawmakers took the first step Monday toward removing Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office as the disgraced Democrat conferred with a bulldog defense attorney known for taking cases to trial. – AP, 12-15-08
  • Caroline Kennedy Is Seeking Seat Held by Clinton: Caroline Kennedy, the deeply private daughter of America’s most storied political dynasty, will seek the United States Senate seat in New York being vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton. – NYT, 12-15-08
  • Obama to announce environment, energy team: President-elect Barack Obama, who has vowed to adopt an aggressive approach to global warming and the environment, will announce his choices to lead the effort at a news conference on Monday. – Reuters, 12-14-08
  • Iraqi journalist throws shoes at Bush in Baghdad: A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at — but missed — President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit. – CNN, 12-14-08
  • Spousal Ties to Lobbying Test a Vow From Obama: Linda Hall Daschle is one of the most important aviation lobbyists in town. Ms. Daschle is also the wife of Tom Daschle, whom President-elect Barack Obama has chosen to be the next secretary of health and human services. – NYT, 12-14-08
  • Awwww! Joe Biden gets a new puppy The Vice President-elect’s grandchildren will pick out a name – MSNBC, 12-14-08

Political Quotes

  • Obama’s Night-Before-Christmas Address: “This holiday season, their families celebrate with a joy that is muted knowing that a loved one is absent, and sometimes in danger. In towns and cities across America, there is an empty seat at the dinner table; in distant bases and on ships at sea, our servicemen and women can only wonder at the look on their child’s face as they open a gift back home.” – NYT, 12-24-08
  • Condoleezza Rice in an interview with AFP, the chief US diplomat conceded that eight years after President George W. Bush came to power, his administration’s popularity was “not very great” in the Arab world. “I understand that a lot of the history between the US and the Arab world is one that Arabs look to as a time of humiliation and of lack of respect. That did not start with President Bush and it will not merely end with President Bush,” she said. …Rice, whose job ends when Bush hands over the presidency to Barack Obama on January 20, predicted the Arabs will change their view of the Bush administration. “Over time I think that the fact that America has stood for the Arab world and for the Arabs to have the same rights and the same ability to live in freedom as we have, that that will ultimately be respected,” Rice said. History will vindicate Bush, she said, by showing that Iraq, in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion, will change the face of the Middle East and will be the first multi-ethnic and multi-confessional democracy in the Arab world. …The war on terror has failed to eliminate Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, but the US-led coalition and Iraq are close to defeating the group’s Iraq branch, she said. – Pam’s House Blend, 12-24-08
  • Cheney says Congress failed struggling automakers on “Fox News Sunday.”: “The president decided specifically that he wanted to try to deal with it and not preside over the collapse of the automobile industry just as he goes out of office.” Lawmakers “had ample opportunity to deal with this issue and they failed. The president had no choice but to step in.”…
    “If you think about what Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War, what FDR did during World War II. They went far beyond anything we’ve done in a global war on terror.”…
    “I’d want to see what they’re going to spend it on. There usually are fairly significant differences between we Republicans and the Democrats on how you stimulate the economy.”
    On Sarah Palin in 2012: “I don’t think she has any kind of lock on that. She’ll have to go out and earn it just as anybody else would have to.”
    On bin Laden: “He’s been holed up in a way where he’s not even been communicating and there are questions about whether or not he’s even running the operation.”
    “It wasn’t my decision to make,” Cheney said of firing Rumsfeld. “The president doesn’t always take my advice.”
    did not regret using an obscenity beginning with “f” in an exchange with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the Senate floor in June 2004. “I thought he merited it at the time,” Cheney said with a chuckle in the interview. “And we’ve since, I think, patched over that wound and we’re civil to one another now.” – AP, 12-21-08
  • Ill. Gov. Blagojevich pledges to fight, won’t quit: “I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong.”…. “I’m not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob.”… “I’m here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way.”…. “Merry Christmas, happy holidays.” – AP, 12-19-08
  • Harry Reid: Obama team weighs up to $850 billion economic jolt: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday that Obama has indicated that Congress will get his recovery recommendations by the first of the year.
    “He’s going to get that to us very quickly, and so we would hope within the first 10 days to two weeks that he’s in office, that is after Jan. 20, that we could pass the stimulus plan. We want to do it very quickly.” – AP, 12-18-08
  • Bush says he didn’t compromise soul to be popular: “Look, everybody likes to be popular.” “What do you expect? We’ve got a major economic problem and I’m the president during the major economic problem. I mean, do people approve of the economy? No. I don’t approve of the economy. … I’ve been a wartime president. I’ve dealt with two economic recessions now. I’ve had, hell, a lot of serious challenges. What matters to me is I didn’t compromise my soul to be a popular guy.”
    “I’m a free market guy. But I’m not going to let this economy crater in order to preserve the free market system. So we made a lot of very strong moves and it’s been painful for a lot of people, particularly because, you know, this — the excesses of the past have caused a lot of folks to hurt when it comes to, like, their 401(k)’s or, you know, their jobs.”
    “I think the incoming administration’s going to have to fully analyze the risks and the tools and — come to their own conclusion. But one thing’s for certain. I’m confident that President-elect Obama knows that one of his most solemn duties is to protect the American people.”
    “They’re going to have to sort it through in Illinois. Obviously anytime anybody allegedly betrays the public trust there’s got to be great concern because, you know, democracy really is, you know, really rests on the trust of the people. It’s a system of people and by people and for people. And, therefore, the public trust is important.” – AP, 12-18-08
  • Obama chooses Chicago schools chief Ed. Secretary: “When it comes to school reform, Arne is the most hands-on of hands-on practitioners. He’s not beholden to any one ideology, and he’s worked tirelessly to improve teacher quality.” – AP, 12-16-08
  • Will deft shoe-dodge improve Bush’s image?: “Everybody calm down please,” he said over his attacker’s shouting from the next room, before a small grin returned to his face. “First of all, thank you for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn’t bother me. If you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe.” – National Post, 12-15-08
  • McCain on ABC’s “This Week” I can’t promise to support Palin for president”: I can’t say something like that. We’ve got some great other young governors. I think you’re going to see the governors assume a greater leadership role in our Republican Party…. The greatest appreciation for Gov. Palin and her family, and it was a great joy to know them. She invigorated our campaign….
    Have no doubt of my admiration and respect for her and my view of her viability, but at this stage, again … my corpse is still warm, you know?
    I think that the Obama campaign should and will give all information necessary. You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody — right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy, stimulus package, reforms that are necessary.
    I don’t know all the details of the relationship between President-elect Obama’s campaign or his people and the governor of Illinois. But I have some confidence that all the information will come out. It always does, it seems to me.
    I think my job is, of course, to be a part of, and hopefully exert some leadership, in the loyal opposition. But I emphasize the word loyal. We haven’t seen economic times like this in my lifetime. We haven’t seen challenges abroad at the level that we are experiencing, certainly since the end of the Cold War, and you could argue in some respects that they’re certainly more complex, many of these challenges. So let’s have our first priority where we can work together… Will there be areas of disagreement? Of course. We are different parties and different philosophy. But the nation wants us to unite and work together.
    That would sound like I am detracting from President-elect Obama’s campaign. I don’t want to do that… Nobody likes a sore loser. Get busy and move on. That’s the best cure for it. I spent a period of time feeling sorry for myself. It’s wonderful. It’s one of the most enjoyable experiences that you can have. But the point is: You’ve got to move on… I’m still a senator from the state of Arizona. I still have the privilege and honor of serving this country, which I’ve done all my life, and it’s a great honor to do so. – CNN, 12-14-08

Historians’ Comments

  • David Greenberg ‘Buff’ Obama Images Cause Stir in U.S. David Greenberg, a professor at Rutgers University who is working on a history of political spin, said no one should be surprised by the latest development. When then-president John F. Kennedy was pictured shirtless, there were media accounts then fretting about the threshold Americns had crossed as a country, he said. “There was John F. Kennedy by the beach, shirt off, this young, glamorous president,” Greenberg said. “So in a way this is 48 years old now that we’re having this.” Since then, Lyndon Johnson lifted his shirt to show reporters his surgery scar and there have been pictures of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in swim trunks.
    “It was kind of an erosion of what had been boundaries of formality between the president and the public,” Greenberg said. “We’ve had ‘boxers and briefs’ and a real acquaintanceship with a personal side, an uninhibited side, an unclothed side of the president.”…
    But such personal shots – dropping the girls off at school, hitting the gym, practising his golf swing – also serve to humanize the president. Greenberg can see why Obama might allow the beach photos to be taken. “I’m sure if he didn’t do it on purpose, he’s not exactly crying in his coffee about it,” he said. “I don’t see any downside.” – AP, 12-24-08
  • James M. McPherson Historian sees lessons, Lincoln parallels for Obama: …Georges Clemenceau, the French prime minister during World War I, famously said that “War is too important to be left to the generals.” Lincoln certainly would have agreed with that. What Clemenceau meant is that every activity involved with fighting a war has political consequences, has consequences far beyond the battlefield, has an impact on the entire society and therefore can’t really be decided strictly on military criteria. And I think that Lincoln certainly learned that and that’s something Obama will have to keep in mind. I think he probably is well aware of it, that, for example, whatever decisions he makes about withdrawing troops from Iraq or beefing up troops in Afghanistan don’t take place in a social and cultural and political vacuum. They all have consequences far beyond the battlefield itself.
    Lincoln had the ability to communicate ideas and communicate policy to the average person. He could make things clear, even complicated things clear, to the average person, and I think Obama has that gift, too.
    I think I do. … Lincoln occasionally did lose his temper, but he usually managed to maintain his cool. … This kind of temperament — keeping your cool, keeping your temper, trying to base your decisions on rational thought rather than emotions or temporary explosions of temper — I think they’re similar in that respect and that was a really important factor in Lincoln’s leadership qualities.
    Well yes, it’s almost exhilarating to have a president who reads history, knows history and realizes the value of understanding history. “Pleasure” is the right word. – CNN, 12-23-08
  • E.J. Dionne: Obama team may be more left than it seems: Oh, my: Barack Obama is still more than a month away from assuming the presidency and already there are reports about “the left” being dispirited about change they no longer believe in. These fears — in this case expressed by a rather small number of bloggers and writers — are aggravated by praise for Obama’s transition choices from conservatives who seem relieved the president-elect is neither Lenin nor Robespierre…. This means that parts of the political left will have some differences with Obama over the next four years, but it doesn’t mean that most on the left are already disillusioned with him. Take it from Schlesinger. In his 1960 diary entry he ascribed to Kennedy the view that “especially with a liberal Congress, conservative-appearing men can win more support for liberal measures than all-outers.” Schlesinger added: “Of course, there is something to this argument.” – Newsday, 12-24-08
  • A changing Washington: Obama’s new home was slow to integrate McClatchy Newspapers, 12-24-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama completes cabinet of ‘rivals’ line-up”: “This was one of the more well-organized and well-prepared transitions that we have seen,” Princeton University historian Julian Zelizer said. “Not only has he appointed some very high-quality picks in terms of intellectual capacity and experience, but on key areas — including economics and defense — he has been able to move to the center without alienating his core supporters,” he said. By common consent, Obama has filled his cabinet quickly but also with much thought to ability as he emulates the “team of rivals” assembled by his political hero, Civil War president Abraham Lincoln. AP, 12-19-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Contrasting views of Cheney”: Historian Julian Zelizer calls Vice President Dick Cheney the most influential vice president in history. – Poitico, 12-22-08
  • Michael Beschloss: Obama Cabinet Picks Create Open Senate Seats, and Controversy: As top Democrats move from the U.S. Senate into jobs in President-elect Barack Obama’s White House, the process of filling those Senate seats without elections has, in some instances, led to charges of nepotism or bribery.
    According to presidential historian Michael Beschloss, the process of selecting senators via state legislators bred corruption. “The reason why the 17th Amendment in 1913 changed all that was that the Senate was brought so many cases where people said, ‘This guy became a senator because of bribery and intimidation,’ they felt you needed direct election,” Beschloss told the NewsHour. – PBS Newhour, 12-16-08
  • Gil Troy: Will deft shoe-dodge improve Bush’s image?: According to Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University, Mr. Bush handled the potentially embarrassing situation with a grace that could benefit the way people remember him. “One of the things that he has always had as an advantage as part of his skill set has been a very fluid and smooth physicality,” he said. “At his best, when he’s been most effective, he has been able to use a kind of sheer physical presence and fluidity, the grace of an athlete — and he has the grace of a jogger. I think that helped him in this incident.” – National Post, 12-15-08
  • Elena Razlogova: Will deft shoe-dodge improve Bush’s image?: Elena Razlogova, an assistant professor at Concordia University, surmised in an e-mail from Moscow that regardless of how Mr. Bush reacted to the situation, the damage has been done. “However graceful Bush was, he’ll never live this down,” she wrote. “In Russia, the networks reported on this at length and with glee. I think people everywhere are just happy his presidency is over…. True, Bush did seem to dodge shoes better than reporters’ queries, but throwing a shoe seems so much more pithy and symbolic than a question.” – National Post, 12-15-08
  • Fred Greenstein “Obama faces heady challenges, and they’re growing”: “There’s a lot of ground giving under him. It’s a terrific challenge,” said Fred Greenstein, a Princeton University professor emeritus of politics and a presidential historian.
    “From one perspective, it’s as if he’s about to take over the captain’s job on a sinking ship. From the other perspective, he could be on a glide path to Mount Rushmore if he does a combination of morale building and energizing people while dealing with the economic distress by producing some constructive changes in the society and in the economy.”
    “The striking thing is he doesn’t seem scared,” Greenstein added.
    “Part of what he’s doing is paying lip service to the notion that there’s only one president while sucking up all the oxygen,” Greenstein said. – AP, 12-14-08
  • Gary Mormino: “Fla.’s First Ladies Have Rich History Carole Rome to join unusual cast of characters when marrying Gov. Crist”: One of the earliest intersections of matrimony and politics in Florida comes from 1929, according to historian Gary Mormino, an author and professor at the University of South Florida. The Florida Legislature convened in a special session that year to censure the wife of President Herbert Hoover, Lou Henry Hoover, who had offended state lawmakers by inviting the wife of a black congressman for a White House reception. Mormino said the role of first lady has only recently shifted toward the caretaking of pet causes. The wife of Gov. Spessard Holland had dubious timing with her announcement that she would push for cleaner public restrooms. Mary Holland’s statement was released on Dec. 7, 1941, as Pearl Harbor was attacked. The Ledger, 12-14-08

December 11, 2008: Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich Arrested, Obama Handles the Scandal and Continues Filling his Cabinet


President-elect Barack Obama introduced former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services Secretary-designate on Thursday in Chicago. (Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

In Focus:

  • Name by name, Obama’s Cabinet taking shape 12-11-08

The Headlines…

Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich went to his office in Chicago on Thursday to work on the state budget, while state lawmakers worked on ways to remove him from office.

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

  • Inauguration agenda runs 4 days: President-elect Barack Obama plans four days of events to mark his inauguration, including a day of service to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on the eve of the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony. Other activities include a public kickoff on Jan. 18 to welcome visitors to the nation’s capital and a prayer service on Jan. 21, the day after Obama takes the oath. – USA Today, 12-11-08
  • Officials say obstacle remains to auto aid deal – AP, 12-11-08
  • Panel blames White House, not soldiers, for abuse: The physical and mental abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was the direct result of Bush administration detention policies and should not be dismissed as the work of bad guards or interrogators, according to a bipartisan Senate report released Thursday. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Obama picks Daschle to spearhead healthcare: U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday chose former Sen. Tom Daschle to spearhead healthcare reform — putting a Washington veteran in charge of one of the most ambitious and expensive gambles of his administration. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Officials: Obama chooses Chu for energy secretary: President-elect Barack Obama intends to round out his environmental and natural resources team with a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and three former Environmental Protection Agency officials from the Clinton administration. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Illinois governor ignores Obama’s call to resign: His career in shreds, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich clung defiantly to power Wednesday, ignoring a call to step down from President-elect Barack Obama and a warning that Senate Democrats will not let him appoint a new senator from the state. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Clinton to earn about $4,700 less than Rice: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would make about $4,700 less as secretary of state than her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice. Congress late Wednesday lowered the salary for the nation’s top diplomat to keep Clinton’s nomination from running afoul of the Constitution. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Influential Democrat asks Obama to keep spy chiefs: President-elect Barack Obama should retain the Bush administration’s top spy chiefs, the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee’s Democratic chairman said. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Illinois First Lady Faces Scrutiny NYT, 12-11-08
  • Officials Say Jackson Was ‘Candidate 5’ in Blagojevich Case: Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr., long seen here as someone who was willing, even happy, to clash with this city’s old power structure, found himself tangled up on Wednesday in the fallout from the arrest of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois — now a symbol of that old, unseemly political way. – NYT 12-11-08
  • Scandal Is an Early Test for Obama Team NYT, 12-10-08
  • La. Gov. Jindal: 2012 presidential bid unlikely: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday he’s not interested in a 2012 Republican presidential bid and will seek a second term as governor in 2011. – AP, 12-10-08
  • Obama hopes to reboot US image among Muslims: President-elect Barack Obama says he will try to “reboot America’s image” among the world’s Muslims and will follow tradition by using his entire name — Barack Hussein Obama — in his swearing-in ceremony. – AP, 12-10-08
  • Auto rescue bill in peril, opposed by GOP senators: mergency aid for the nation’s imperiled auto industry was thrown into jeopardy Wednesday, opposed by Republicans who were revolting against a hard-fought deal between Democrats and the Bush White House to speed $14 billion to ailing carmakers. – AP, 12-10-08
  • Jackson Jr. denies wrongdoing in Ill. gov scandal: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said Wednesday he openly sought appointment to Barack Obama’s Senate seat but denied offering favors in return to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and said he was not involved “whatsoever in any wrongdoing.” – AP, 12-10-08
  • Court: No review of Obama’s eligibility to serve: The Supreme Court has turned down an emergency appeal from a New Jersey man who says President-elect Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was a British subject at birth. The court did not comment on its order Monday rejecting the call by Leo Donofrio of East Brunswick, N.J., to intervene in the presidential election. – AP, 12-9-08
  • Cracks appear in Obama foreign policy team: As Secretary of State-pick Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. envoy-choice Susan Rice separately visited the diplomatic agency’s headquarters in Washington’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, persons familiar with the transition said that Rice wants to install her own transition team inside the department. – AP, 12-9-08
  • Illinois Governor Arrested: Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois was arrested by federal authorities on Tuesday morning and charged with corruption, including an allegation that he conspired to profit from his authority to appoint President-elect Barack Obama’s successor in the United States Senate, prosecutors said. – NYT, 12-9-08
  • Obama meeting with Gore raises eyebrows: Former Vice President Al Gore is set to meet with President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden Tuesday, leading to speculation Obama is eyeing Gore for a slot in his administration. According to the Obama transition office, the meeting will focus on issues relating to energy and climate change, and how the new administration’s environmental policies can spur job creation. CNN, 12-8-08
  • In a New Tux, Obama Seeks the Proper Tone: President-elect Barack Obama has ordered his first new tuxedo in 15 years for his inaugural celebration. And he has invited the marching band from Punahou School, his high school in Hawaii, to join the parade. (Nearly 1,400 bands have applied; only a few dozen are chosen.) – NYT, 12-8-09
  • Congress sends White House $15B auto aid proposal: Congressional Democrats sent the White House an emergency $15 billion auto bailout plan Monday, complete with provision of a “car czar” to oversee the industry’s reinvention of itself. The Bush administration said there had been progress toward agreement but pressed further negotiations into the night. – AP, 12-8-08
  • Promises Promises: Obama budget cuts face hurdles: Barack Obama promises a line-by-line scrub of the federal budget to root out wasteful programs. But as a practical matter, entire chapters of the $3 trillion federal budget are off limits — and the president-elect’s Democratic allies in Congress are bracing to defend farm subsidies, weapons systems and home-state pork barrel projects. – AP, 12-8-08
  • Obama education pick sparks conflict: President-elect Barack Obama has not signaled what he will do to fix the country’s failing schools, but his choice of education secretary will say a lot about the policies he may pursue. – AP, 12-8-08

Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado in August.

Political Quotes

  • A friendlier McCain visit with David Letterman: “I don’t want to talk about the bleeping campaign. Understand? If you think I’m going to go back to that bleeping situation, then bleep you.”…
    “She is extremely knowledgeable on the issues,” he said. “I think it’s a good team and I think it’s a very wise choice. And I would like to say that I think President-elect Obama has made a number of very wise choices which I think shows a centrist approach to government, which, obviously, the way America and the world is today, is necessary.”…
    “I applaud his selections.”…
    Letterman said that people consider Blagojevich either stupid or nuts. “What do you think?” Letterman asked. “I think it’s a rare combination of both,” McCain replied.
    “You know, you don’t get a lot of statues. At least before you die.” – AP, 12-11-08
  • The Obama Press Conference: I was as appalled and disappointed as anybody by the revelations earlier this week. I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I’m confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat. I think the materials released by the U.S. attorney reflect that fact. I’ve asked my team to gather the facts of any contacts with the governor’s office about this vacancy so we can share them with you over the next few days.
    Finally, on this matter, let me say that this senate seat does not belong to any politician to trade. It belongs to the people of Illinois. They deserve the best possible representation. They also deserve to know that any vacancy will be filled in an appropriate way so that whoever is sent to Washington is going to be fighting for the people of Illinois. I hope and expect that the leaders of the legislature will take these steps to ensure that this is so.” NYT, 12-11-08 Complete Transcript
  • Illinois governor ignores Obama’s call to resign: “The president-elect agrees with Lt. Gov. Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois,” Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said in response to questions from The Associated Press. AP, 12-11-08
  • Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr. — Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Press Conference Transcript: “I did not initiate or authorize anyone at any time to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf. I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer, to plead my case or to propose a deal about a U.S. Senate seat, period.” – NYT, 12-11-08
  • La. Gov. Jindal: 2012 presidential bid unlikely: “I think anybody who is even thinking of running would be well served to roll up their sleeves and support our new president. I told our people, ‘It doesn’t matter whether you’re Republican, Democrat or independent, it doesn’t matter whether you voted for him or not, President-elect Barack Obama is our president.'” – AP, 12-10-08
  • U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald “Illinois Governor Arrested”: This is a sad day for government. It’s a very sad day for Illinois government.
    We should also note that the governor talked about appointing himself to the Senate seat for reasons not having to do with the better welfare of the citizens of Illinois.
    He wanted to do it to avoid impeachment in the Illinois legislature for his conduct. He wanted to do it to have access to greater financial resources, if he were indicted. He wanted to do it to see if he could help his wife work as a lobbyist. He wanted to do it to remake his image to run for office in 2016, and he wanted to do it to see if he could generate speaking fees.
    At the end of the day, the conduct we have before us is appalling. What I do want to note is that, at the end of the day, it’s very, very important that how we proceed from here be the right way to proceed. – NYT, 12-9-08
  • Obama speaks out in his first newspaper interview The president-elect discusses Gov. Blagojevich, the economy, Islam and civil rights, among other topics. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted Tuesday in Chicago with President-elect Barack Obama. The interviewers were Peter Nicholas and Christi Parsons of our Washington bureau and reporter John McCormick of the Tribune.: Have you ever spoken to [ Illinois] Gov. [ Rod R.] Blagojevich about the Senate seat? I have not discussed the Senate seat with the governor at any time. My strong belief is that it needed to be filled by somebody who is going to represent the people of Illinois and fight for them. And beyond that, I was focused on the transition.Are you aware of any conversations between Blagojevich or [chief of staff] John Harris and any of your top aides, including Rahm [Emanuel]? Let me stop you there because . . . it’s an ongoing investigation. I think it would be inappropriate for me to, you know, remark on the situation beyond the facts that I know. And that’s the fact that I didn’t discuss this issue with the governor at all.

    Could you talk to the point of whether an appointment by Gov. Blagojevich would taint whoever your successor would be, given what we know? I think what the people of Illinois deserve is somebody they can trust, somebody that’s going to fight for them and, you know, I think we’ve got to make sure that whatever process emerges gives them that assurance. I haven’t examined all the options that are out there at this point.

    Given the state of the economy, has that forced any changes in your priorities and could you talk about what you would like to roll out in terms of sequencing of the things you would like to accomplish? You’ve got an interesting convergence between the circumstances that we find ourselves in and the agenda that I have set. Because we need to jump-start the economy, all the proposals that I put forward earlier are ones that are directly designed to put people to work and get the economy moving: a tax cut for 95% of working families — I think that’s needed more than ever — a serious investment in infrastructure that lays the foundation for a green-energy economy, that’s a job-creator and makes our economy more competitive. Investing in technologies that can reduce healthcare costs and error; that is needed more than ever. So what you’re seeing is, essentially, an effort on the part of my transition team to develop an economic recovery package that is good for the short-term, gets people back to work, gets money to the states and local communities, gets people working again, but is also laying the foundation for the kind of competitive economy that we need over the long-term. And, you know, there may be issues of sequencing and the need to get certain projects more quickly out the door than we would have expected, in order for a stimulus package to work more effectively. Now, I also think that the economic crisis is going to make the issue of our long-term fiscal problems more severe. You know there are some estimates that I’m already going to be inheriting a trillion-dollar deficit, even before we get started on any of this stuff. And if you look at the glide path that we are on with respect to healthcare spending and a whole host of other areas, we’ve got some big problems. So I think that it is critical that whatever we do this year, or the next, to deal with economic recovery, anticipate the fact that we are going to have to rationalize and reform the federal government, we’re going to have to cut spending that doesn’t work, we’re going to have to reform how the budget operates. . . . ”

    Are you prepared to give a speech in an Islamic capital? Would that send a message about inclusiveness and tolerance given the mutual suspicion that exists between these different faiths? This is something that I talked about doing in the campaign and it’s something that I intend to follow through on. What the time frame is, how we structure that, you know, is something that I will determine with my national security team in the coming weeks and months. But I think we’ve got a unique opportunity to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular. So, we need to take advantage of that and the message I want to send is that we will be unyielding in stamping out the kind of terrorist extremism that we saw in Mumbai. We will be at the same time unrelenting in our desire to create a relationship of mutual respect and partnership with countries and peoples of goodwill who want their citizens and ours to prosper together. And I think that the world is ready for that message.

    Do you anticipate being sworn in as Barack Obama or Barack Hussein Obama? I think the tradition is that they use all three names, and I will follow the tradition, not trying to make a statement one way or the other. I’ll do what everybody else does.

    As the first black president, do you feel a special mission to fulfill the vision of the civil rights movement? And how can you use the office to make further progress in race relations? Obviously, I am honored and gratified to be part of this journey to change how race is viewed and dealt with in this country. But I think it’s important to understand, it’s not just me, or African Americans, that want to see better race relations. I think all Americans do. That’s part of the message that I delivered throughout this campaign. And so I think the burden is going to be on all of us to continue to make progress on these fronts. I think there are some specific things that we should do as a nation, some that are specific to civil rights. I think it’s important to make sure that our civil rights laws are enforced. You know, the Civil Rights Division [of the Justice Department] over the last eight years has had a lot of problems and really declining morale, and I want Eric Holder as the next attorney general to reinvigorate that office and its mission. I think it’s going to be important to make sure that on the criminal justice front that people have confidence that the laws are being evenly applied to everyone and that we are working with local and state as well as federal officials together to try to constantly improve, you know, the way we train people and how we think about the criminal justice system so that it gains confidence. But I think that the biggest challenges that we face right now in improving race relations have to do with the universal concerns of Americans across color lines. If we get a healthcare system that covers more people, is more affordable, reduces costs, emphasizes prevention, that’s going to be good for everybody. And it will be especially good for blacks and Latinos who are more likely to be uninsured and more likely to die of an early age of diseases that are preventable. If we are creating jobs throughout this economy, then, you know, African Americans and Latinos who are disproportionately unemployed, they’re going to be swept up in that rising tide. So, I think that more than anything is going to improve race relations, a sense of common progress, where everybody feels like they have a chance at the American Dream. If we can restore that sense, then I’m confident that the generation coming up behind me is going to be even more willing to embrace the diversity that makes America special.

    Do you expect to keep a long-term presence here [in Chicago]? You joked a couple weeks ago that it is a bad time to sell a house, but what really are your long-term expectations in terms of coming back here in four years or even coming back here in the summertime? Let me explain to you, my Kennebunkport is on the South Side of Chicago. We own one piece of property, and that is our home in Chicago. It is 10 minutes away from where Michelle grew up and where her mother still has a house. Our friends are here. Our family is here. And so we are going to try to come back here as often as possible. My expectation would be that, depending on what my schedule looks like, you know, we’re going to try to get back here at least once every six weeks or couple months.

    What’s it been for you to see Chicago in this national spotlight? It has to be sort of surreal for you to drive through the city and see your face painted on the sides of buildings and on lamp posts. What’s that like for you? You know, unfortunately, because I’m in this bubble, I don’t get to see all this stuff. It’s the hardest thing to adjust to about being president-elect. It was bad, you know, during the campaign and it got progressively worse the further along we got. And now it’s very tough. I don’t get a chance to wander around neighborhoods, interact the way I would like to interact. Probably the best moment I’ve had over these last two to three weeks was when we, on Thanksgiving, when we gave out that food, and then I had a chance to interact with those kids out at St. Columbanus [Catholic Church and school on Chicago’s South Side). Those kinds of interactions I really miss. I will say that the event in Grant Park [where he spoke on election night] was a wonderful symbol of what Chicago is all about. You know, you had people from everywhere converging and, you know, this incredibly peaceful and yet exuberant celebration. You know, I think that being broadcast around the world sent a pretty good message. And the fact that it was 65 degrees in November didn’t hurt. Maybe people will be fooled into thinking that’s our usual weather.

    Some of your more liberal supporters are concerned that you are being too centrist in putting together your administration. Look, I have chosen the people who I think are best equipped to carry out an agenda of change. And people haven’t been arguing somehow that my agenda has changed, because it hasn’t. You know, I want to change our tax code, so that it’s helping middle-class families. I want to get our troops out of Iraq in the 16-month time frame that I discussed during the campaign. I want to create a healthcare system that is affordable and works for all Americans. I want to have a energy transformation in this country so that we are reducing our independence on foreign oil. On all the promises I made during the campaign, there has been no sense that I’m backing off on them. What I’ve been putting in place is a Cabinet of extraordinarily qualified, competent people who would not have accepted my offer for them to join my administration unless they believed in my vision, and I think the proof of the pudding is going to be in what we get done.

    Does it make sense to shoot for those things in your agenda that are agreeable to a larger group of people and leave the harder stuff for later? Look, there’s always a strategy that has to be put in place in order to get things done, and so how we shape our agenda, how we time it, who we work with, how do we build the coalitions, how do we persuade the American people. I’m not going to spill all the beans now. But, yes, we’re sitting there, trying to plan out how to get all this stuff done. And, you know, we’re inheriting probably the most crowded agenda that any president has inherited in a very, very long time. So, yeah, we’re going to have to prioritize, but I don’t think people should make assumptions until they actually see what we do, what we’re going to be prioritizing and how we’re going to do it. – LA Times, Chicago Tribune, 12-10-08

  • Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Mr. Obama’s inaugural committee: “There’s no question that people are in tough times. But we hope that this will be an event in which we celebrate our common values and shared aspirations. What we are looking to achieve is a tone that is hopeful.” – NYT, 12-8-09

Historians’ Comments

  • Donald A. Ritchie: “Senate Vacancies Leave a String of Sordid Tales”: Inevitably, in this kind of situation, said Donald A. Ritchie, associate Senate historian, “the governor makes one friend and a lot of enemies.” – NYT, 12-11-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian “Blagojevich Scandal Shakes Politics in Illinois and Beyond” “‘Even the most cynical’ shocked”: A little bit. And thank you for mentioning I’m a Chicago native. I was born there, grew up there. I’m a Chicagoan even on the bad days like this.
    I think maybe, at lower levels — I was having dinner last year with a former governor of Illinois, an honest one who did not go to prison, I said, you know, two governors did go to prison for things they did in office.
    Otto Kerner in the 1960s was governor. He went to prison for essentially trading favors for getting something back, money, racing dates, and an exit on an expressway near someone’s racetrack.
    And then George Ryan much later, a secretary of state and governor, went to prison for taking money for doing things like giving people truck driver’s licenses.

    He’s there now. And my governor friend said, you know, a lot of this — it happens at the local level. It’s bad enough, but then they become governor. They don’t realize they’re under a different level of scrutiny.
    But having said all of this, what Rod Blagojevich is accused of doing puts all of this into shame. No one ever in Illinois or other places in recent times had evidence of selling a Senate seat.
    One quick thing: The Constitution originally did not have direct election of senators. They said the states should choose senators by their legislatures.
    The reason why the 17th Amendment in 1913 changed all that was that the Senate was brought so many cases where people said, “This guy became a senator because of bribery and intimidation,” they felt you needed direct election. Interestingly, look what happened when you did not have direct election this week. – PBS Newshour, 12-10-08

  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian “Blagojevich Scandal Shakes Politics in Illinois and Beyond” “The silver lining of a scandal”: I guess I should defend the honor of Chicago a little bit. It does happen in other places.
    Spiro Agnew, when he was governor of Maryland, you know, took a lot of cash both there and as vice president, later on had to resign to avoid going to prison. It does happen in other places.
    But we Illinoisans cannot get away from the fact that two of our governors went to prison for things they did in office. Also, Dan Walker, who served in the early 1970s, went to prison for things he did after he was governor.
    But, you know, Laura was talking about this being an atom bomb in Illinois politics. I think she’s totally right, and there’s a precedent for that, which is that Otto Kerner was sent to prison by a U.S. attorney named Jim Thompson, a Republican. Thompson himself ran for governor, won 1976. The Republicans owned the governorship of Illinois for almost 30 years.

    You know, for instance, President-elect Obama encouraged the state legislature of Illinois recently to pass an ethics law. It’s a very good thing.
    But the way that this kind of corruption has been reduced in Illinois has not been so much from laws but from prosecutors like Thompson, who scare politicians into thinking that they might not get away with this kind of stuff. And I think, if you had to look at a silver lining to what we’re seeing this week, that might be one of them. – PBS Newshour, 12-10-08

  • Myra Gutin “For first lady, free work but no free time”: Myra Gutin, first lady historian and professor of communication at Rider University in New Jersey, agreed, noting that while the role is “kind of a throwback and anachronistic,” it needn’t be a “straitjacket.” She estimated that the duties of being first lady probably consume 15 percent to 20 percent of the average presidential spouse’s time. “I think it is fair to say that we don’t expect the first lady to hide out in the White House,” she said. But the role needn’t be all-consuming, either. As to whether the first lady should draw a salary, Gutin demurred: “I’ve thought about it for years, and I still don’t know entirely how I feel about it.” – Politico, 12-9-08
  • Robert Dallek “In a New Tux, Obama Seeks the Proper Tone”: You want the appropriate symbolism that goes with the inauguration of a new president,” said the presidential historian Robert Dallek. “Obama impresses me as a very intelligent politician who has been so in tune with the mood of the country that I can’t imagine he would be so ham-handed as to be unmindful of this, but it would be a gross error to have some kind of huge celebration that seems profligate” – NYT, 12-8-09
  • Donald Ritchie “In a New Tux, Obama Seeks the Proper Tone”: “The importance of the inauguration is that the new president can provide a sense of unity after a divisive campaign,” said Donald Ritchie, an associate historian of the Senate. “So the trappings of the inaugural are useful for the national psyche. If you cut it down too drastically, you lose some of the opportunity that the inauguration affords.” – NYT, 12-8-09
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