Political Highlights December 22, 2010: Obama’s Major Victories in Lame Duck Congressional Session

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

President Obama spoke during a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press President Obama spoke during a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.

STATS & POLLS

  • Poll: Barack Obama rebounding: President Barack Obama may be staging a comeback in the eyes of the American people, a new poll suggests. In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Monday, 48 percent of Americans say they approve of how Obama is handling his job, while 48 percent disapprove. The disapproval number is the lowest it’s been since May, when it was 46 percent in the same poll. His disapproval rating reached as high as 54 percent in September — when the five-month Gulf Coast oil spill saga ended — and clocked in at 50 percent in November…. – Politico, 12-22-10
  • 2010 census results: Why did US population growth slow?: The US added some 27 million residents in the past decade. But that population growth is small, percentage-wise – 9.7 percent. Only during the Great Depression decade was the growth rate lower. The United States population has crashed through the 300 million mark, according to just-released 2010 census data. The total number of people living in the US as of April 1 this year was 308,745,538. That means the country has added about 27 million residents over the past 10 years…. – CS Monitor, 12-21-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Senate ratifies nuclear arms treaty with Russia: In a major foreign-policy victory for President Obama, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted 71 to 26 to ratify the New START treaty with Russia, the broadest nuclear arms-reduction pact between the former Cold War foes in nearly two decades.
  • Obama signs repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’: President Obama signed legislation on Wednesday that repeals the 17-year-old law preventing homosexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military. The bill requires military officials to complete implementation plans before lifting the old policy, a process that could take months. –
  • Senate Passes 9/11 Health Bill as Republicans Back Down: After years of fierce lobbying and debate, Congress approved a bill on Wednesday to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers and others who became sick from toxic fumes, dust and smoke after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. The $4.3 billion bill cleared its biggest hurdle early in the afternoon when the Senate unexpectedly approved it just 12 days after Republican senators had blocked a more expensive House version from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

    In recent days, Republican senators had been under fire for their opposition to the legislation. The House quickly passed the Senate bill a few hours later, as was widely expected. The vote was 206 to 60, breaking down largely along party lines. The White House said President Obama would sign the bill into law. After the Senate vote, a celebration broke out in a room in the Capitol that was packed with emergency workers and 9/11 families, as well as the two senators from New York, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, and the two senators from New Jersey, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez. The senators, all Democrats, were greeted with a huge ovation and repeated chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”… – NYT, 12-22-10

  • Obama emerges from defeat with a taste of victory: Less than two months after the midterm ‘shellacking,’ the president is buoyed by a series of important bipartisan accomplishments in the lame-duck Congress. But the new legislative session will present a different set of challenges…. – LAT, 12-22-10
  • ‘We Are Not Doomed to Endless Gridlock’: President Obama on Wednesday declared the lame-duck session of Congress to be the “most productive post-election period that we have had in decades” and promised to continue seeking common ground next year. “We are not doomed to endless gridlock,” Mr. Obama said.

    Speaking to reporters before leaving for a 10-day vacation in Hawaii, Mr. Obama hailed the flurry of accomplishments, including Wednesday’s approval of a new nuclear treaty with Russia.

    He called the treaty “the most significant arms control agreement in more than two decades” and the top national security priority of the first half of his presidency. “With this treaty our inspectors will also be back on the ground with Russian nuclear bases,” Mr. Obama said. He called the 71-26 vote a “powerful signal to the world.”

    But Mr. Obama rejected an opportunity to gloat about the successes of the past several weeks by declaring himself the “comeback kid,” telling a reporter that the results are “not a victory for me. It’s a victory for the American people.”

    In fact, the president appeared to go out of his way to suggest that Americans would see from him more of the kinds of compromises that led him to cut a deal with Republicans on the extension of tax cuts for the middle class and the wealthy.

    “A lot of folks in this time predicted that after the midterm elections, Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock,” Mr. Obama said. Instead, he said, Washington politicians decided that it was time to find common ground. “That’s a message that I will take to heart in the new year, and I hope my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same,” he said…. – NYT, 12-22-10

  • Obama Press Conference Will Cap Day of Accomplishment: The smile on his face said it all. President Obama arrived Wednesday morning to formally repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with an ear-to-ear grin. He strode across the stage, stopping to hug his Democratic allies. He gave a peck on the cheek to Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. And when he got to the microphone, the “shellacking” his party took just seven weeks ago seemed a distant memory.

    “This is a good day,” Mr. Obama said as one of the 500 people in attendance yelled, “You rock, President Obama!” “You know,” the president continued, letting the applause linger a bit, “I am just overwhelmed. This is a very good day.”… –

  • Obama Says Recent Weeks Marked a ‘Season of Progress’: President Barack Obama said his administration and Congress demonstrated over the past few weeks that Democrats and Republicans can find common ground on some of the nation’s most pressing issues. Rather than a stalemate after the midterm elections in November, “this has been a season of progress for the American people,” Obama said at a year-end press conference at the White House before leaving for Hawaii for the holidays with his family. He returns to Washington on Jan. 1. “If there’s any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it’s that we’re not doomed to endless gridlock,” he said. After what he described as a “shellacking” for his party in the November elections, the president can claim victories during the lame-duck Congress on a host of priorities. These include Senate ratification of a nuclear-reduction treaty with Russia, an $858 billion deal to extend tax cuts and unemployment assistance for the long-term jobless and repeal of a law that banned gays from serving openly in the military.

    “This has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in years,” Obama said of the actions taken by Congress…. – Bloomberg, 12-22-10

  • Obama hails bipartisanship after arms pact passes: President Barack Obama celebrated a bipartisan “season of progress” on Wednesday at a year-end news conference a few hours after the Senate ratified an arms control treaty with Russia. In addition to cutting nuclear weapons and launchers, Obama said the pact will allow U.S. inspectors to “be back on the ground” in Russia. “So we’ll be able to trust but verify,” he said, quoting the late President Ronald Reagan in another in a string of bipartisan gestures of recent weeks.

    The president signed legislation earlier in the day permitting openly gay members of the armed forces to serve openly, but said he does not currently favor legalizing gay marriage. “I struggle with this. I have friends, people who work for me who are in powerful, long standing gay or lesbian unions,” he said. “I have said that at this point my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them protection and legal rights.”

    The president said that after midterm elections on Nov. 2, many “predicted Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock. Instead, this has been a season of progress for the American people.” He added that the accomplishments of a postelection session of Congress demonstrate “we are not doomed to endless gridlock.”… – AP, 12-22-10

  • Obama Hails ‘Season of Progress’ in Year-End News Conference: During a year-end news conference at the White House Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama celebrated what he called a bipartisan “season of progress,” a few hours after the Senate ratified an arms control agreement with Russia.

    President Obama told reporters that after November’s mid-term elections, many people predicted that Washington would be headed for more partisanship. But Obama said the accomplishments of a post-election season of Congress demonstrate that “we are not doomed to endless gridlock.”… – VOA, 12-22-10

  • Obama still wrestling with gay marriage question: President Barack Obama says he is still wrestling with whether gay couples should have the right to marry, now that a new law will allow them to serve openly in combat…. – AP, 12-22-10
  • New START treaty: How will next efforts for nuclear weapons reduction fare?: The Senate ratified the new START treaty by a vote of 71 to 26. But this could turn out to be the high-water mark in Obama’s efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

    With Wednesday’s Senate ratification of a new nuclear-arms reduction treaty with Russia, President Obama accomplished what he has said for months was his top foreign-policy priority.

    The irony of Mr. Obama’s triumph is that, rather than constituting the dawn of a new era of measures reducing the nuclear threat, it may turn out to be the high-water mark in his efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

    With Vice President Joe Biden presiding and Secretary of State (and former senator) Hillary Rodham Clinton in attendance, the Senate voted 71 to 26 to ratify the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), achieving the two-thirds vote required to ratify a treaty…. – CS Monitor, 12-22-10

  • Deal reached on aid package for 9/11 responders: After a last-minute compromise, the Senate passed legislation Wednesday to provide up to $4.2 billion in new aid to survivors of the September 2001 terrorism attack on the World Trade Center and responders who became ill working in its ruins. A House vote was expected on the bill within hours as lawmakers raced to wrap up their work for the year before Christmas. President Obama has said he looks forward to signing the measure, though some supporters of the bill have criticized him for not getting more involved in the fight.

    The measure was a product of a compromise involving Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. “The Christmas miracle we’ve been looking for has arrived,” Schumer and Gillibrand said in a joint statement…. – AP, 12-22-10

  • Senate poised to launch new arms treaty: A nuclear arms control treaty with Russia that is President Obama’s top foreign policy priority in the year-end session of Congress is poised for bipartisan approval in the Senate today after it won support from a swath of Republicans.

    In a vote Tuesday to end debate on the treaty, 11 Republicans joined 56 Democrats to back the measure — exceeding the two-thirds vote that will be needed to ratify the measure today. The treaty would cut each country’s nuclear arsenal by nearly a third. The vote cleared way for Congress to finish work before Christmas after a productive post-election session in which lawmakers extended expiring tax cuts and jobless benefits, passed a new food safety bill, repealed a ban on gays serving openly in the military and passed a measure to keep the government funded through March.

    “I feel pretty good about where we’ve gotten to,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We look forward to the Senate doing what it does best, which is a really important, thoughtful debate about our national security concerns.”

    Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton both visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to push wavering lawmakers. Obama, who has cast the treaty as a national security priority, postponed his family vacation to lobby senators by phone…. – USA Today, 12-21-10

  • White House: Obama won’t give up on ‘DREAM Act’: The White House says President Barack Obama is not giving up on legislation that would offer a path to legal status to young illegal immigrants. Obama on Tuesday met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and reiterated his support for the DREAM Act, which died in the Senate last weekend and appears to have even less chance when a new, more Republican Congress convenes in January.

    The legislation would have provided a route to legal status for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before age 16, have been here for five years, graduated high school or gained an equivalency degree, and who joined the military or attend college. Obama also told lawmakers a broader reform of the immigration system should be a priority for the next Congress. – AP, 12-21-10

  • Barbour explains remarks about desegregation: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential Republican presidential candidate, said Tuesday he was not trying to downplay the pain that many endured during the South’s segregation era when he defended his home town’s 1970 public school integration process.

    Barbour spoke out a day after several liberal activists criticized his published comments about school desegregation in Yazoo City, which occurred when he was 20. Historical accounts confirm the schools integrated peacefully, as Barbour stated in a recent profile in the Weekly Standard magazine.

    Some critics, however, said his comments skimmed over the segregationist role played by so-called Citizens Councils in the state. Asked by the magazine why Yazoo City’s public school integration avoided the violence seen in other towns, Barbour said: “Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it. You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town.”

    A January 1970 Time Magazine article about Yazoo City said, “local white leaders began more than a month ago to prepare their city for the shock of final desegregation. A loosely knit committee of prominent whites met with the city’s whites, urging them to support the public schools rather than abandon them.”… – AP, 12-21-10

  • Divided FCC adopts rules to protect Web traffic: Federal regulators adopted new rules Tuesday to keep the companies that control the Internet’s pipelines from restricting what their customers do online or blocking competing services, including online calling applications and Web video. The vote by the Federal Communications Commission was 3-2 and quickly came under attack from the commission’s two Republicans, who said the rules would discourage investments in broadband. Prominent Republicans in Congress vowed to work to overturn them…. – AP, 12-21-10
  • >New Start treaty vote could come on Tuesday in the Senate: The Senate vote as early as Tuesday on a U.S. Russia arms treaty could be a defining moment for the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The New Start agreement could strengthen President Obama’s hand on a long list of foreign policy challenges, or show foreign leaders unexpected weakness at a moment when the president badly needs a foreign policy victory.

    By bolstering Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia the Senate vote would help the White House with Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and nuclear proliferation, among others. And by demonstrating that the United States is willing to reduce its own nuclear arsenal, it would encourage other countries to take part in the administration’s nuclear arms reductions agenda.

    The Obama administration has held out its “reset” of relations with Russia as its most tangible foreign policy accomplishment of the past two years. It has viewed the New Start treaty, which would reduce the ceiling on long distance nuclear warheads by up to 30%, as the centerpiece of the new relationship with Moscow. The outcome of the vote, in shifting perceptions of the administration, could have wide effects on how much other world powers help the United States in the war in Afghanistan, the struggle to contain Iran’s nuclear program, and its efforts to forge a Mideast peace…. – LAT, 12-20-10

  • Obama to sign repeal of military gay ban, but Pentagon will write the rules to carry it out: No public displays of affection. No separate bathrooms. No harassment and no special treatment. As the U.S. military begins to map out how it will implement the new edict allowing gays to serve openly, the first order of business is drafting the regulations. The rule changes under discussion won’t dictate how troops feel about the change, but will strictly enforce how they act on it.

    From small wording tweaks and training programs to more complex questions about benefits and religion, the proposed guidelines demand that gays and lesbians be treated just like any other soldier, sailor, airman or marine. But they also leave the door open for some flexibility in room assignments or other instances when commanders believe it’s needed to maintain order and discipline in their units.

    The Senate voted Saturday to repeal the ban on openly gay service, following earlier action by the House of Representatives. Fulfilling a 2008 campaign promise, President Barack Obama plans to sign the bill into law on Wednesday at a Department of Interior ceremony. But in letters to the troops over the weekend, the four military service chiefs warned that the ban is still in place, and will be for some time to come.

    “The implementation and certification process will not happen immediately; it will take time,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said in an email to airmen. “Meanwhile, the current law remains in effect. All Air Force members should conduct themselves accordingly.”…. – Canadian Press, 12-20-10

  • ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repealed: What’s next?: President Obama is scheduled to sign legislation Wednesday that will end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, officially shifting to the Defense Department the political pressure surrounding the repeal of the 17-year ban on gays serving openly in uniform. Even after Obama scrawls his signature, the law won’t actually change until the Pentagon certifies to Congress that the military has met several preconditions, including education and training programs for troops. On Monday, Pentagon officials repeatedly declined to predict how long they would need, saying only that they would proceed at a “methodical” and “deliberate” pace. “I don’t think anybody has any idea yet how long this will take,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said…. – WaPo, 12-20-10

111TH & 112TH CONGRESS

  • McCain amendment could make way for START deal: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) filed an amendment on the resolution of ratification to the START treaty Monday that non- proliferation experts suggested could clear the way for a swift deal, I report on the home page: McCain’s amendment, co-sponsored with Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), would seek to address Republican concerns that the U.S.-Russian arms control pact not limit U.S. missile defenses. At the same time, it doesn’t demand changes to the treaty language itself that would have effectively killed the deal with Russia, as several Republican-proposed amendments defeated over the weekend would have done. Arms-control advocates were cautiously optimistic Monday reviewing McCain’s amendment that it was acceptable for START advocates if it could deliver the Republican votes the administration needs for treaty ratification.

    “While in my view these amendments to the resolution of advice and consent are unnecessary, their appearance would suggest that there are ways to address the missile defense-related concerns of a number of New START skeptics short of treaty-killing amendments to the treaty,” the Arms Control Association’s Daryl Kimball told POLITICO Monday.

    Monday afternoon, following a rare closed Senate session on the treaty, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said talks were continuing about adding additional language to the resolution of ratification at the request of Republicans.

    “We have included some 13 different amendments already that are in the resolution that reflect their concerns,” Kerry told reporters. “We were just having a conversation now with Sen. Kyl. There may be some additional things that we can incorporate.”… – Politico, 12-20-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Alaska Supreme Court Rules Against Senate Hopeful Joe Miller: The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday denied Senate candidate Joe Miller’s claims that the state conducted the midterm election improperly, effectively affirming incumbent Lisa Murkowski’s 10,328-vote lead over Mr. Miller and paving the way for her to begin her term in January. Ms. Murkowski, who like Mr. Miller is Republican, had launched a write-in campaign for the Senate seat in August after Mr. Miller beat her in the Republican primary. The Associated Press declared her victorious in mid-November. But Mr. Miller had hoped that a court decision in his favor could pull him ahead of his rival…. – WSJ, 12-22-10
  • Obama’s 2008 states lose six electoral votes in new census”: President Obama lost six electoral votes. That’s the upshot of new Census numbers for states that Obama carried in the 2008 election. Because of population changes, eight of the states Obama won in 2008 lost a total of 10 U.S. House seats, while four other states he carried picked up four seats; the number of U.S. House slots helps determine a state’s presidential electoral votes. Of course, Obama has a little bit of a margin to play with — he defeated John McCain in the Electoral College, 365-173.

    Still, Republican presidential prospects appear to have improved, if the Census is any guide. Reuters reports:

    Of the eight states that gain at least one (House) seat, five were won by McCain. Staunchly Republican Texas will gain four House seats, helped by a growing Hispanic population, while Arizona, Utah, Georgia and South Carolina — all reliably conservative — will pick up one each. The states won by McCain that lose a seat are Missouri and Louisiana, which suffered a population drop after Hurricane Katrina in 2005…. – USA Today, 12-21-10

  • Census Data Likely to Help the GOP: The Census Bureau’s release of new population data Tuesday will likely lead to a shift in political power from the Democratic Rust Belt to the Republican Sun Belt, potentially helping the GOP consolidate power in Congress. The U.S.’s 435 House seats are distributed according to the census, a decennial effort that apportions power in ways that sometimes last for generations. State legislatures, a slight majority of which will be in Republican hands next year, have the power to redraw district maps to maximize the chances of victory for a party’s candidate…. – WSJ, 12-20-10

QUOTES

  • The President’s Press Conference: “The Most Productive Post-Election Period We’ve Had in Decades”: First of all, I’m glad that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve my top national security priority for this session of Congress – the new START Treaty. This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify; and to continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges – from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran, to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.

    In the last few weeks, we also came together across party lines to pass a package of tax cuts and unemployment insurance that will spur jobs, businesses, and growth. This package includes a payroll tax cut that means nearly every American family will get an average tax cut next year of about $1,000 delivered in their paychecks. It will make a difference for millions of students, and parents, and workers, and people still looking for work. It’s has led economists across the political spectrum to predict that the economy will grow faster than they originally thought next year.

    In our ongoing struggle to perfect our Union, we also overturned a 17-year old law and a longstanding injustice by finally ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As I said earlier today, this is the right thing to do for our security. And it is the right thing to do, period.

    In addition, we came together across party lines to pass a food safety bill – the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression. And I hope the House soon joins the Senate in passing a 9/11 health bill that will help cover the health care costs of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and residents who inhaled toxic air near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning, and the days that followed.

    So, I think it’s fair to say this has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years we’ve had in generations. – WH, 12-22-10

  • The President Signs Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”: “Out of Many, We Are One”: You know, I am just overwhelmed. This is a very good day. (Applause.) And I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage, but each and every one of you who have been working so hard on this, members of my staff who worked so hard on this. I couldn’t be prouder….

    I want to express my gratitude to the men and women in this room who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Services. (Applause.) I want to thank all the patriots who are here today, all of them who were forced to hang up their uniforms as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — but who never stopped fighting for this country, and who rallied and who marched and fought for change. I want to thank everyone here who stood with them in that fight…. – WH, 12-22-10TranscriptMp4Mp3

  • Scott Brown to support New START treaty: Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican, announced that he will support the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, providing a potentially crucial vote when the measure comes up for a vote as soon as Tuesday.

    “I’ve done my due diligence, and I’m going to be … ultimately supporting the START treaty,” Brown told reporters after emerging late this afternoon from a closed-door intelligence briefing for all senators. “I believe it’s something that’s important for our country, and I believe it’s a good move forward to deal with our national security issues.” – Boston Globe, 12-20-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • No Congress Since 1960s Has Impact on Public as 111th: “This is probably the most productive session of Congress since at least the ‘60s,” said Alan Brinkley, a historian at New York’s Columbia University. “It’s all the more impressive given how polarized the Congress has been.” – Bloomberg, 12-22-10
  • For Obama, victories offer second chance: A renewed tax-cut package and other congressional wins might be giving the president a political boost.

    “There’s no way you can credibly say anybody could have delivered more,” said presidential historian H.W. Brands of the University of Texas at Austin…. – McClatchy News, 12-22-10

  • Obama emerges from defeat with a taste of victory: Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer said Obama would need to “move sharply toward the center, indeed, to embrace parts of the Republican agenda, to rebuild his own political strength.” The president could find it difficult to “win any support for significant legislation that Republicans don’t want, when he doesn’t have something as huge as tax cuts to give them in return,” he said…. – LAT, 12-22-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: The real threat to health care reform: When U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled that the mandate to purchase health insurance in the new law was unconstitutional, many people began looking to the Supreme Court for a final determination.

    Supporters and opponents of President Obama’s health care bill are speculating as to whether the highest court in the land might rule the president’s signature measure unconstitutional.

    But the truth is that a Supreme Court ruling along these lines, which is against the odds, is probably not the greatest threat that health care faces. Nor is outright repeal. As Americans become more familiar with the benefits of the program, Republicans will find it more difficult to attack health care outright. With all the discussion about constitutional challenge or congressional repeal, the more likely threat is that Republicans will gradually weaken the program to the point that it is ineffective…. – CNN, 12-20-10

  • Mass., NY could lose more seats in Congress: “These states are still holding onto memories of an earlier era when the Northeast was a dominant power in politics,” said Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University. “The Sun Belt is where the action is now.” iBerkshires.com, 12-21-10
  • In ‘Christmas miracle,’ NY senators predict passage of WTC health bill: Now, with the measure’s price tag lowered and the question of its funding answered, it’ll be hard for Republicans to find grounds to vote against it, said Princeton University public affairs professor Julian Zelizer. “Not everyone in the GOP is with McCain on this one. The Democrats can come out of this lame-duck session with another victory,” said Zelizer, citing the extension of unemployment benefits and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”… – amNY, 12-19-10
  • Elite Colleges Rethink Ties to R.O.T.C. After ‘Don’t Ask’ Repeal: The Senate vote to repeal the 17-year old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy against gay men and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces removes a reason that many elite colleges have cited for barring the Reserve Officers Training Corps from recruiting on their campuses.

    Already, the presidents of Harvard, Yale and Columbia have issued statements expressing interest in bringing back the R.O.T.C.. But it is not clear whether there will be enough student interest on those campuses to warrant its presence.

    The R.O.T.C., which has units on 327 campuses nationwide, was sent packing from several Ivy League and other prominent campuses in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the firestorm of student protests against the Vietnam War. More recently, though, it has faced opposition because of discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the military.

    Drew Faust, the president of Harvard, said over the weekend that she was looking forward to “pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard’s full and formal recognition of R.O.T.C..”

    President Lee Bollinger of Columbia said the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would allow the university to fulfill its desire to be more open to the military. In a statement, Mr. Bollinger said the repeal “effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia, given our desire to be open to our military, but not wanting to violate our own core principle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”… – NYT, 12-21-10

  • Population shifts further complicate Obama’s reelection plans: President Obama’s already difficult path to reelection became more treacherous, as national population shifts announced Tuesday showed significant migrations away from Rust Belt and Democratic-leaning states to Republican strongholds. Released every 10 years, the Census Bureau figures determine the number of House seats and Electoral College votes each state receives. And the influx of residents to traditionally red states in the south and west is a welcome development for Republicans still relishing the results of midterm elections in which they took control of the House and dozens of state legislatures and governorships.

    “This matters,” said Dennis Goldford, a political scientist at Drake University in Iowa. “The population has been moving south and west, reliable Republican territory. We don’t have a national presidential election. Obama has to make up those votes somehow.”

    “I don’t see why there’s any reason why in a number of these places both parties can’t be equally competitive and I don’t think it will have a huge practical impact,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

    “Although things shift slightly in the Republican direction, if [Obama] wins the same states he won in 2008, he still wins the presidency,” said Michael McDonald, a George Mason University political science professor who specializes in redistricting. “By and large, the map pretty much stays the same in terms of what states you need to put together to win the presidency.”… Washington Examiner, 12-21-10

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March 28, 2010: Health Care Passage Aftermath

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The President delivers the Weekly Address

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Obama Widens Approval as Democrats Converge With Republicans: President Barack Obama receives lukewarm ratings from Americans, at least until you compare him with other major political figures and institutions. Fifty percent approve of the job he is doing, a Bloomberg National Poll shows, down from 54 percent in December….
    Obama, 48, still enjoys an 85 percent job-approval rating among Democrats, compared with 46 percent among independent voters and 11 percent among Republicans…. – Business Week, 3-24-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Palin kicks off Tea Party Express tour: Organizers described this gathering Saturday of thousands of Tea Partiers minutes from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s home in desolate Nevada scrub as a “conservative Woodstock.” But instead of gorging on LSD, free love and Jimi Hendrix, thousands of attendees binged on seething anger at Washington and swooned to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Tea Party Express kicked off a 43-city cross-country bus tour that’s intended to rouse voters to their cause.
    “We’re sending a message to Washington,” Palin told the crowd that exploded in chants of “Sarah! Sarah!” when she took the stage. “The big government, big tax Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending spree is over,” she said, referring also to the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. “You’re fired.”… – SF Chronicle, 3-27-10
  • What didn’t get into the healthcare bill: In the year it took Congress to write and pass a healthcare overhaul, turbulent political shifts — including the Democrats’ loss of the seat long held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and the rise of the tea party movement — forced critical compromises on the scope of legislation. The downsized ambitions of the final package mean that 32 million more people — not the 37 million in the original proposals — will end up insured by 2019. Others will face greater financial strain than lawmakers originally envisioned…. – Miami Herald, 3-28-10
  • Obama Announces 15 Recess Appointments, Scolds GOP Obama announces 15 recess appointments in agencies, citing GOP stalling tactics in Senate: Fed up with waiting, President Barack Obama announced Saturday he would bypass a vacationing Senate and name 15 people to key administration jobs, wielding for the first time the blunt political tool known as the recess appointment. The move immediately deepened the divide between the Democratic president and Republicans in the Senate following a long, bruising fight over health care. Obama revealed his decision by blistering Republicans, accusing them of holding up nominees for months solely to try to score a political advantage on him. “I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government,” Obama said in a statement…. – AP, 3-28-10
  • Obama must seize momentum after big week: Doubted and deeply in need of a comeback, President Barack Obama had a political dream week: a historic remaking of America’s health care system, an overhaul of how students pay for college and a groundbreaking deal with Russia to shrink nuclear arsenals. The biggest foreign and domestic policy victories of Obama’s presidency positioned him to keep swinging big. He has fresh results to back up his argument that persistence pays. The White House’s thinking is that the burst of success, particularly in extending health coverage to millions more people, will carry over to other issues and show lawmakers, and perhaps foreign leaders, the value of sticking with Obama.
    As a vindicated tone took hold in West Wing offices, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs put it this way: “Accomplishment demonstrates leadership and strength. And those are tangible currencies in Washington.” Yet this town also is known for having a short memory, and the forces working against the president are considerable…. – AP, 3-27-10
  • McCain understudy Sarah Palin is now the star: John McCain and Sarah Palin were back together again Friday. His presidential campaign was floundering when he first reached out to her. Now, facing a challenge from within his party as he seeks reelection to the Senate, McCain has turned to her again to help bail him out. But what a difference.
    For starters, the understudy is now the star. A majority of Americans may think Palin is not qualified to be president, but the GOP faithful love her, as does cable television. Cable news was fixed on Palin as she delivered her introduction of McCain at a rally in Tucson on Friday afternoon. Minutes after McCain took the microphone, they cut away from the rally for other news…. – WaPo, 3-28-10
  • Two big wins, a presidency transformed for Obama: Two big wins for Barack Obama at home and abroad — a historic health care bill and a new arms treaty with Russia — have injected sudden momentum into a presidency that had been looking beleaguered. “What a week here,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs wrote on his twitter feed, as Obama concluded a new strategic arms reduction treaty in a call with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday…. – AFP, 3-26-10
  • Republicans fight extension of jobless pay: Democrats say they’ll seek retroactive unemployment benefits when the Senate returns in two weeks…. – LAT, 3-27-10
  • Still time to fix lapse in jobless benefits: Congress left for a two-week vacation Friday without extending jobless benefits for people who have been out of work for more than six months. But that may not be as bad as it sounds. The impact of the benefit cutoff will be limited, so long as lawmakers quickly fix the problem when they return next month. The same holds true for a lapse in authorization for generous health subsidies for the unemployed and for a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors. Dropping the ball on jobless benefits doesn’t put Congress in a flattering light. But unlike an episode three weeks ago, when Kentucky Republican Sen. Jim Bunning held up a nearly identical measure over deficit concerns, Democrats don’t seem poised to reap political gain from this round of GOP obstruction…. – AP, 3-26-10
  • Healthcare changes head to Obama for signature: U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday formally signed and sent to President Barack Obama the final installment of landmark healthcare overhaul legislation. “This our gift to the American people,” said Pelosi, who celebrated her 70th birthday on Friday. The much smaller companion bill to the broad overhaul signed this week by Obama includes changes sought by the House that would make insurance more affordable, raise taxes on the wealthy and close a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage for the elderly. Obama will sign the companion bill, which also includes changes in the U.S. student loan program, on Tuesday at a community college in Virginia, the White House said. Congress is beginning a two-week spring break and Democrats plan an all-out effort to try to sell the package to a skeptical public. Republicans remained united in their opposition to the sweeping $940 billion overhaul and have vowed a campaign to repeal it…. – Reuters, 3-27-10
  • Why did health-care reform pass? Nancy Pelosi was in charge: Congress had tried to hammer together a national health-care initiative for a century, but it wasn’t until a woman ascended to a key position of power in Washington that a plan actually passed. This is not a mere historical coincidence. Sure, President Obama pushed health-care reform to the top of the country’s agenda, and the Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate were essential to passing the bill. But make no mistake: The overhaul happened because Nancy Pelosi wanted it to happen, deep in her DNA…. – WaPo, 3-28-10
  • Can Republicans win by opposing Obama?: Can Republicans ride all the way to Election Day in November by opposing most of President Barack Obama’s major policies? So far they are sticking with this strategy…. – Reuters, 3-27-10
  • Obama administration revises anti-foreclosure strategy: The Obama administration Friday tried to manage expectations about its newest foreclosure-prevention efforts, while consumer advocates and others who track the housing market praised the initiative but questioned whether it would succeed in curtailing the foreclosure epidemic. The initiative, announced Friday, expands on the government’s marquee foreclosure prevention program, Making Home Affordable. That program was originally expected to reach as many as 4 million borrowers, but it is not on track to help so many…. – WaPo, 3-27-10
  • Congress approves final changes to health plan: Democrats overcome GOP efforts to derail the overhaul. Obama is expected to sign the bill in the next few days…. – LAT, 3-25-10
  • Congress passes amended health-care law: Congress agreed Thursday to amend the nation’s new health-care law, concluding a long, contentious quest to pass major changes, and lawmakers prepared to head home for a two-week recess to hear voters’ reactions…. – WaPo, 3-25-10
  • A look at details of the health care overhaul law: Some features of the health care overhaul bill President Barack Obama has signed, as modified by a package of changes passed Thursday by the House and Senate…. – AP, 3-26-10
  • Unemployment benefits set to expire April 5: Unemployment benefits are set to expire for at least a week on April 5, as Congress plans to break for two weeks without agreeing on an extension of the program. Last week, the House approved a $9 billion measure containing one-month extensions of unemployment insurance, COBRA health benefits and federal flood insurance. Senate Democrats hoped to have their chamber approve the same bill Thursday. But Republicans refused, complaining that the bill is not offset with spending cuts elsewhere…. – WaPo, 3-25-10
  • Obama shopping for Rove memoir?: President Barack Obama smiles as he holds up copies of Karl Rove and Mitt Romney’s books as he makes an unannounced stop at Prairie Lights book shop in Iowa City in Iowa, Thursday, March 25, 2010.
    President Obama popped into an Iowa City bookstore Thursday joking he was there to buy Karl Rove’s memoir. The president surprised the staff of Prairie Lights Books, one of America’s great independent bookstores, after mentioning its plight in a health care speech at the University of Iowa. He used the 32-year-old bookstore to highlight how small businesses would benefit from the health care overhaul bill he signed into law on Tuesday…. – WaPo, 3-26-10
  • Mandate idea was touted by right: The lawsuit against the healthcare-reform act focuses on a provision that was originally developed by conservatives…. – Miami Herald, 3-26-10
  • White House to announce housing aid: sources: The White House plans to announce on Friday that it will require lenders to lower the mortgage payments of some unemployed workers and encourage lenders to eliminate some principal debt of homeowners who owe more than their home is worth, sources familiar with the plan said on Thursday…. – Reuters, 3-26-10
  • G.O.P. Forces New House Vote on Package of Health Bill Changes: With the Senate working through an all-night session on a package of changes to the Democrats’ sweeping health care legislation, Republicans early Thursday morning identified parliamentary problems with at least two provisions that will require the measure to be sent back to the House for yet another vote, once the Senate adopts it. Senate Democrats had been hoping to defeat all of the amendments proposed by Republicans and to prevail on parliamentary challenges so that they could approve the measure and send it to President Obama for his signature. But the bill must comply with complex budget reconciliation rules, and Republicans identified some flaws. Under the reconciliation rules, provisions in the bill must directly affect government spending or revenues…. – NYT, 3-25-10
  • Obama issues low-key order on abortions: Anything but jubilant, President Barack Obama awkwardly kept a promise Wednesday he made to ensure passage of historic health care legislation, pledging the administration would not allow federal funds to pay for elective abortions covered by private insurance. Unlike Tuesday, when a beaming Obama signed the health care law in a nationally televised ceremony interrupted repeatedly by applause, the White House refused to permit coverage of the event. It occurred in the Oval Office in the presence of a small group of anti-abortion Democratic lawmakers who had extracted the commitment over the weekend. The president supports abortion rights…. – AP, 3-25-10
  • 20 Ways ObamaCare Will Take Away Our Freedoms: If some reports are to be believed, the Democrats will pass the Senate health care bill with some reconciliation changes later today. Thus, it is worthwhile to take a comprehensive look at the freedoms we will lose. Of course, the bill is supposed to provide us with security. But it will result in skyrocketing insurance costs and physicians leaving the field in droves, making it harder to afford and find medical care. We may be about to live Benjamin Franklin’s adage, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”… – Investors, 3-23-10
  • 14 states sue to block health care law: Officials from 14 states have gone to court to block the historic overhaul of the U.S. health care system that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, arguing the law’s requirement that individuals buy health insurance violates the Constitution. Thirteen of those officials filed suit in a federal court in Pensacola, Florida, minutes after Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The complaint calls the act an “unprecedented encroachment on the sovereignty of the states” and asks a judge to block its enforcement.
    “The Constitution nowhere authorizes the United States to mandate, either directly or under threat of penalty, that all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage,” the lawsuit states. The case was filed by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and joined by 11 other Republican attorneys general, along with one Democrat. McCollum said the new law also forces states “to do things that are practically impossible to do as a practical matter, and forcing us to do it without giving any resources or money to do it.”… – CNN, 3-23-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Palin stumps for McCain at Arizona rally: They have rarely spoken in 17 months. Their relationship, as America now knows, turned testy before they parted ways. But as at many family reunions, the old feelings were set aside as Sarah Palin embraced Sen. John McCain here on Friday and argued that he should not be unseated by a conservative challenger. “We need this new blood coming into the system and new party officials and folks who are willing to stand up and speak out for common-sense conservative solutions,” Palin said. “But we also need statesmen and heroes like John McCain to help us get through these challenging times.”… – NYT, 3-26-10
  • Romney attacks health care law similar to his own: Mitt Romney has a problem with Obamacare. It looks a lot like Romneycare. The prospective Republican presidential candidate’s vulnerability on the issue was evident this week, when he was interrupted during a tour for his new book by a woman upset with the Massachusetts health care law Romney signed as governor in 2006. That law has some of the same core features as the federal law President Barack Obama, a Democrat, signed on Tuesday. And that’s creating an uncomfortable straddle for Romney as his party makes attacking the new health care law its main message this midterm year…. – AP, 3-26-10
  • Romney keeping it real – and we need it now more than ever: Perhaps it’s fitting that, days before President Obama signed into law his version of health care reform, former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mitt Romney retook the lead in the early 2012 White House polls. According to a March Public Policy Polling survey, Romney led former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee by 28 percent- 24 percent among Republican primary voters, with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin securing 23 percent. A day earlier, a separate PPP poll found Romney tied Obama at 44 percent in the general election—a better showing than from any other… – Daily Caller, 3-26-10
  • McCain, Palin to campaign together in Arizona: John McCain and Sarah Palin will be back on the campaign trail Friday, their first time campaigning together since McCain lost the presidential election a year and a half ago with Palin as his running mate. This time, they have a different prize in sight: McCain’s Senate seat…. – AP, 3-25-10
  • Palin Makes Fans Uneasy by Backing McCain: Tea Party Favorite Heads to Arizona to Help Running Mate Battle a Primary Challenge From Immigration Foe Hayworth…
    Like many Republicans, Ms. Palin is trying to navigate a political order transformed from 2008. Mr. McCain was the Republican nominee for president in 2008, but he is now fighting off an aggressive primary challenge in a state he has represented since 1983. A Rasmussen Report released March 16 shows Mr. McCain ahead by seven points, with a margin of error of plus or minus four points. Earlier polling put Mr. McCain ahead by 22 points…. – WSJ, 3-25-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Weekly Address: Two Major Reforms on Health Care & Higher Ed: The President looks back on a week that saw the passage of two major sets of reforms: one putting Americans in control of their own health care, and one ensuring student loans work for students and families, not as subsidies for bankers and middlemen…. – WH, 3-27-10
  • Remarks by the President on the Announcement of New START Treaty James S. Brady Press Briefing Room: Broadly speaking, the new START treaty makes progress in several areas. It cuts — by about a third — the nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia will deploy. It significantly reduces missiles and launchers. It puts in place a strong and effective verification regime. And it maintains the flexibility that we need to protect and advance our national security, and to guarantee our unwavering commitment to the security of our allies.
    With this agreement, the United States and Russia — the two largest nuclear powers in the world — also send a clear signal that we intend to lead. By upholding our own commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons, and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities.
    I’m pleased that almost one year to the day after my last trip to Prague, the Czech Republic — a close friend and ally of the United States — has agreed to host President Medvedev and me on April 8th, as we sign this historic treaty. The following week, I look forward to hosting leaders from over 40 nations here in Washington, as we convene a summit to address how we can secure vulnerable nuclear materials so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists. And later this spring, the world will come together in New York to discuss how we can build on this progress, and continue to strengthen the global non-proliferation regime…. – WH, 3-26-10
  • Mitt Romney: A Campaign Begins Today: America has just witnessed an unconscionable abuse of power. President Obama has betrayed his oath to the nation — rather than bringing us together, ushering in a new kind of politics, and rising above raw partisanship, he has succumbed to the lowest denominator of incumbent power: justifying the means by extolling the ends. He promised better; we deserved better.
    He calls his accomplishment “historic” — in this he is correct, although not for the reason he intends. Rather, it is an historic usurpation of the legislative process — he unleashed the nuclear option, enlisted not a single Republican vote in either chamber, bribed reluctant members of his own party, paid-off his union backers, scapegoated insurers, and justified his act with patently fraudulent accounting. What Barack Obama has ushered into the American political landscape is not good for our country; in the words of an ancient maxim, “what starts twisted, ends twisted.”
    His health-care bill is unhealthy for America. It raises taxes, slashes the more private side of Medicare, installs price controls, and puts a new federal bureaucracy in charge of health care. It will create a new entitlement even as the ones we already have are bankrupt. For these reasons and more, the act should be repealed. That campaign begins today. – NRO, 3-22-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: Welcome to Obama’s America By passing health care reform, the president has become a transformational leader, although not a post-partisan one: To pass this legislation, Obama had to break the vow that had defined him politically and helped launch him into the White House. He failed to become the post-partisan, red and blue together healer he hoped to be; what the American people elected him to be. But he did fulfill the promise he made in January 2008 to be a “transformational” leader. At the time, he offended his rival Hillary Clinton and many other Democrats by saying bluntly that “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, that Bill Clinton did not,” and that Reagan “put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.”… – The Mark, 3-26-10
  • Robert Dallek: Health care bill anger a sign of the times?: “It’s unusual that you get this kind of outrage and response to a piece of legislation,” said historian Robert Dallek, author of the upcoming book “The Lost Peace: Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope.” “Of course, it’s being fanned in some ways by Republican leaders who keep saying majorities are against this legislation, when in fact there is a pretty even divide in the country, from what the polling data shows,” he added….
    “I think it’s partly the fact that you have this recession, an economic problem that puts people further on edge than they are normally,” he said. “I think there’s an awful lot of anxiety about that out there. That fans the flames of agitation.” He likens those worries to fears in the 1930s with the Great Depression. “Remember in the 1930s when you had such a dreadful economic downturn,” he said, noting that a movement popped up that was “full of a kind of rhetoric and anti-Semitism and anti-government.”… – CNN, 3-26-10
  • Julian Zelizer: Health care bill anger a sign of the times?: Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian and CNN.com contributor, wrote that frustration with joblessness — like the opposition to Obama’s economic stimulus bill — was also seen during the New Deal era. “It is possible that continued frustration about jobs allows Democrats to target Republicans as an obstructionist party that has in fact hampered their efforts to revitalize economic growth,” Zelizer wrote in the commentary. “During the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt understood that you could not have recovery without jobs. This is why he made public works programs the centerpiece of the New Deal.”… – CNN, 3-26-10
  • Tevi Troy: Bush, Obama, and the Intellectuals America’s intellectual class seems to adore President Barack Obama nearly as much as it reviled his predecessor. While George W. Bush was routinely derided for his purported lack of intelligence and learning, Obama has been embraced by the intellectuals as one of their own — to a degree unmatched by any president since perhaps Woodrow Wilson. Indeed, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof spoke for many when he argued after the 2008 election that “American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.” Rebecca Mead of the New Yorker even sought to make it official, calling Obama a “certified intellectual.”
    This difference in attitudes says as much about the state of American intellectuals as it does about Bush and Obama. It also highlights the complicated relationship between intellectuals and the modern American presidency. That relationship has been of great interest to recent presidents; most chief executives since John Kennedy have tended, in some overt way, to their links with the nation’s intellectual elite. They have sought to use these intellectuals to their own advantage, whether as expert advisors, cultural ornaments, or political cover.
    The story of those efforts, and of the assumptions underlying them, illustrates the changing role of intellectuals in our culture — from esteemed and establishmentarian, to countercultural and oppositional, to highly politicized and partisan. This narrative can also help us better understand the interplay of elitism and populism in our recent political history. Above all, it is a cautionary tale for President Obama…. – National Affairs, Spring 201

July 10, 2009: Obama’s First 4th in the White House, Bush Celebrates in OK., Obama’s Meeting in Moscow, & G-8 Summit

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

President Obama and President Medvedev sign agreements

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Voters’ Remorse — Is Baracklash on the Horizon? Since January Obama has failed to help many of his core supporters. Will they soon turn against him?: Call it Baracklash: so far, Barack Obama isn’t helping many people who voted for him in high percentages when he was elected president eight months ago. Fox News, 7-9-09
  • Obama Approval Drops by Double Digits in Ohio Poll: A new poll found that President Barack Obama’s approval rating has dropped by 13 percentage points from two months ago in Ohio, traditionally a critical swing state in presidential elections. The survey by Quinnipiac University released today showed 49 percent of Ohio voters approved of Obama’s job performance, down from 62 percent in a May 6 poll. The disapproval figure for Obama in the new poll was 44 percent, up from 31 percent in the May survey. The pollsters termed Obama’s ratings “lackluster” in a release, and said the numbers were his lowest marks “in any national or statewide Quinnipiac University poll since he was inaugurated.” – Bloomberg, 7-7-09
  • Obama kicks back for the Fourth Golf, cookout, rock concert mark president’s holiday: President Barack Obama took his own advice Saturday, relaxing on the Fourth of July with some golf, a cookout and a private Foo Fighters concert in the backyard, capped by the annual fireworks show on the National Mall. While Vice President Joe Biden celebrated with U.S. forces in Iraq, the president played host to 1,200 members of the military and their families at a White House barbecue. In his weekly radio and online video address, Obama called on Americans to celebrate the spirit of their national day with family and friends. “Kick back and enjoy a little time off,” he advised. “I hope that’s exactly what all of you do.”… – Baltimore Sun, 7-5-09

THE HEADLINES….

The President calls in to the H1N1 Flu Summit

Bill Branson, N.I.H. Photography, 7/9/09

H1N1 Summit

HHS opens a contest with a $2,500 prize for best H1N1 PSA video as the Administration holds an all-day summit on preparation.
Learn More
Watch the live-stream

G8 Group Photo

  • Obama to conclude summit talks, meet with pope: Global problems, Africa and the pope all figure in President Barack Obama’s day…. – AP, 7-10-09
  • Obama set for emotional visits to Vatican, Ghana: President Barack Obama is ending three days of often-wonkish policy discussions with fellow world leaders to embark on two of the most photogenic and emotional events of his young presidency: meeting the pope at the Vatican and becoming the first black American president to visit a mostly black African country. He was throwing in a televised news conference from Italy for good measure. Obama, his wife and daughters were to meet Pope Benedict XVI shortly before leaving Italy late Friday for Ghana. The two men have spoken by phone but not met before, aides say…. – AP, 7-10-09
  • NY Senate gets to work after resolving roadblock: New York’s Senate stalemate ended Thursday as it started 31 days ago, with a freshman Democrat convulsing the 62-seat house by switching sides and getting a powerful leadership post in the majority… Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada’s return to the Democratic conference gives Democrats a 32-30 majority for the first time since the June 8 coup. As part of the deal, Espada took the title of Senate majority leader…. – AP, 7-10-09
  • Despite Obama’s pledge, G-8 makes little headway on global warming: The president promises at the Italy G-8 summit that the U.S. will lead on climate change, but familiar obstacles — compounded by the global recession — produce familiar results…. – LAT, 7-9-09
  • Obama and Kadhafi shake hands: US President Barack Obama shook hands warmly on Thursday with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, long reviled in Washington. The landmark handshake took place as leaders from major economic powers and emerging nations prepared to take a group photo at a summit in L’Aquila, central Italy…. – AP, 7-9-09
  • Health care overhaul bill suffers another setback: The drive to remake the nation’s health care system suffered yet another setback in Congress on Thursday when a pivotal group of House Democrats demanded numerous changes in legislation the leadership was drafting on a fast track. The emerging bill “lacks a number of elements essential to preserving what works and fixing what is broken,” 40 members of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate to conservative Democrats wrote in a letter to party leaders. To win their support, they said, any legislation would need to be much more aggressive in reining in the growth of health care…. – AP, 7-9-09
  • Worst violence since US pullback hits Iraq: Bombs killed nearly 60 people in Iraq on Thursday in the worst violence since U.S. combat troops withdrew from urban areas last week, and American forces released five Iranian officials suspected of aiding Shiite insurgents. U.S. officials said they believe the Iranians, detained in northern Iraq in January 2007, had facilitated attacks on American-led forces but handed them over to the Iraqi government at its request because they were obliged to do so under a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement. The U.S. State Department said it was concerned their release could present a security threat to American troops in Iraq…. – AP, 7-9-09
  • AP source: Burris won’t run for full Senate term: Sen. Roland Burris, whose deep ties to former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich seemed to doom his Senate tenure from the start, will not run for a full Senate term in 2010. The move increases Democrats’ chances of holding on to the former Senate seat of President Barack Obama…. – AP, 7-9-09
  • US officials eye North Korea in cyber attack: U.S. authorities on Wednesday eyed North Korea as the origin of the widespread cyber attack that overwhelmed government Web sites in the United States and South Korea, although they warned it would be difficult to definitively identify the attackers quickly. The powerful attack that targeted dozens of government and private sites underscored how unevenly prepared the U.S. government is to block such multipronged assaults…. – AP, 7-9-09
  • Presidential records a time capsule of Bush years: Spread upon a table are a sampling of gifts to former President George W. Bush: a purse made of vines from the Thai queen, a Texas Rangers jersey autographed by pitcher Nolan Ryan and a framed mosaic of St. Peter’s Basilica from the pope. The gifts, documents and electronic records accumulated during Bush’s two terms have gone from the White House to a warehouse in suburban Dallas, just a few miles north of a turnpike named for his father. They will remain there until Bush’s $300 million presidential library — the nation’s 13th and the third in Texas — opens in 2013 on the Southern Methodist University campus near downtown Dallas. “It’s a wonderful eight-year time capsule,” said Jennifer M. Schulle, the registrar for the Bush library. “It’s everything that was going on — politically, personally and socially.”… – AP, 7-9-09
  • US, other wealthy nations vow global warming cuts: Targeting global warming, President Barack Obama and other leaders of the world’s richest industrial countries pledged Wednesday to seek dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to slow dangerous climate change. Setting a marker for success, they agreed for the first time that worldwide temperatures must not rise more than a few degrees…. – AP, 7-8-09
  • Near Tents and Ruins, G-8 Summit Meeting Opens: It had seemed an audacious choice: bringing the leaders of some of the world’s most industrialized countries to a city ravaged by an earthquake just three months before. But as so often happens in Italy, a country that appears to handle last-minute emergencies better than long-term planning, the Group of 8 summit meeting opened here on Wednesday without any glaring hitches.
    “We’re proud that we were able to pull off a miracle,” Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday evening at a news conference. ‘I thank everyone who agreed to move the venue here,” Mr. Berlusconi said, adding that world leaders said they were “happy” to come to L’Aquila, “the capital of grief.” – NYT, 7-8-09
  • PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama tax pledge unrealistic: President Barack Obama promised to fix health care and trim the federal budget deficit, all without raising taxes on anyone but the wealthiest Americans. It’s a promise he’s already broken and will likely have to break again. Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress have already increased tobacco taxes — which disproportionately hit the poor — to pay for extending health coverage to 4 million children in working low-income families. Now, lawmakers are looking for more revenues to help pay for providing medical insurance to millions more who lack it at a projected cost of $1 trillion over the next decade. The floated proposals include increasing taxes on alcohol, which could raise $62 billion over the next decade, and a new tax on sugary drinks such as soda, which could raise $52 billion…. – AP, 7-8-09
  • House Dems look at surtax on the wealthy: A plan to raise taxes on the wealthy is emerging as the leading option among House Democrats looking to finance health care legislation that President Barack Obama wants. Numerous officials say that under the proposal, an income tax surcharge would be imposed on individuals earning more than $200,000, with a higher threshold for couples…. – AP, 7-8-09
  • Obama, summit partners, eye intense global talks: President Barack Obama joined fellow world leaders in Italy Wednesday for talks on threats to global security and stability at a summit where climate change, a continuing global economic crisis, nuclear proliferation and world hunger took top billing. The G-8 meetings may lack the intrigue of Obama’s sit-downs earlier in the week with Russia’s top leaders, or the emotion of the reception the first black American president surely will get in Ghana Saturday. But they didn’t lack for ambition, on the surface at least, as the world’s most powerful officials discuss the problems threatening the planet. AP, 7-8-09
  • Mixed results for Obama’s first Moscow summit: For two days, President Barack Obama pressed the reset button with Russia. The results: He ended up getting the expected agreement on deep cuts in nuclear arsenals, but he is leaving Moscow with few assurances of Kremlin help in solving other issues key to his foreign policy agenda. He is also leaving behind a spark he hopes will blaze to life and thaw U.S. relations with a former superpower with a chip on its shoulder. But his two days of summitry produced no unexpected breakthroughs…. – AP, 7-7-09
  • Palin returns to work, defends decision to resign: Gov. Sarah Palin returned to the spotlight Tuesday with an appearance in a remote Arctic village where she stood by her perplexing decision to resign just as she tries to elevate her national profile ahead of a possible 2012 presidential run…. – AP, 7-7-09
  • Power of Stimulus Slow to Take Hold Rising Joblessness Blunts President’s Plan for Recovery: Five months after Congress approved a massive package of spending and tax cuts aimed at reviving an ailing economy, the jobless rate is still climbing and the White House is scrambling to reassure an anxious public that President Obama’s prescription for economic recovery is on the right track. Yesterday, Obama took time out of his first presidential trip to Moscow to defend the $787 billion stimulus package, arguing that the measure was the right medicine at the right time. “There’s nothing that we would have done differently,” he told ABC News…. – WaPo, 7-7-09
  • Democrats expand Senate control, yet splits remain: Democrats have potential to clear Republican hurdles. Obama still faces challenges in passing major measures. Democrats achieved their biggest majority in the U.S. Senate in decades on Tuesday as Al Franken of Minnesota finally took his seat — but President Barack Obama will still have to fight hard to muster the votes to pass healthcare reform and other major initiatives…. – Reuters, 7-7-09
  • Reading (Too Much?) Into Palin’s Resignation: Unanticipated events in politics — say, for example, Sarah Palin’s announcement that she was quitting as governor of Alaska — tend to be overanalyzed, imbued with more motive, forethought and political calculus than might really be there…. – NYT, 7-7-09
  • Bush gives Oklahoma town a special Fourth of July: The July Fourth celebration here featured all the food and revelry you would expect of a small-town holiday event. Swing sets and shaved ice. Root beer in corked bottles. Brass bands and bunting. Yet this remote city in western Oklahoma also won the lottery when it came to the headliner for “Let Freedom Ring 2009”: George W. Bush. The Woodward visit represents the latest example of Bush’s tendency to limit his public appearances to friendly venues…. – The Dallas Morning News, 7-6-09
  • Vietnam War architect Robert McNamara dies at 93: Robert S. McNamara, the brainy Pentagon chief who directed the escalation of the Vietnam War despite private doubts the war was winnable or worth fighting, died Monday at 93. McNamara revealed his misgivings three decades after the American defeat that some called “McNamara’s war.” “We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of our country. But we were wrong. We were terribly wrong,” McNamara told The Associated Press in 1995, the year his best-selling memoir appeared…. – AP, 7-6-09
  • US Congress back to wrestle with healthcare reform: Health care overhaul still faces big obstacles. Congress begins month of intensive healthcare work. Plan’s cost remains crucial factor…. After a week of holiday barbecues and hometown parades, the U.S. Congress returned to work on Monday to face what could be the year’s most severe test — finding common ground on a huge and costly U.S. healthcare overhaul…. – Reuters, 7-6-09
  • Health-Care Plan May Not Pass Senate by August, Grassley Says: Congress will probably complete a health-care overhaul this year, though the Senate is unlikely to complete consideration of a measure by the August recess as planned, the Senate Finance Committee’s top Republican said. “We might get it out of committee by the August recess,” Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television…. – Bloomberg, 7-6-09
  • A Busy Week Ahead as Senate Starts Work on Climate Bill: The Senate climate debate cranks up this week with a series of hearings and high-level meetings aimed at producing legislation that can be matched up with last month’s House-passed bill…. – NYT, 7-6-09
  • GOP: Dems have closed door on open government But Democrats say progress being made toward transparency: To many Republicans, that June 26 energy policy legislation will be remembered as the 1,400-page bill that broke the camel’s back. After Democratic promises to run the most open and transparent Congress in history, Republicans say they are stunned by the number of closed-off debates over legislation, including spending bills, and the lack of time to actually see, let alone read, measures before the House votes…. – Salt Lake Tribune, 7-5-09
  • Obama to meet powerful Putin for first time: U.S. President Barack Obama meets Russia’s most powerful politician, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, for the first time on Tuesday as part of a trip designed to improve relations between the world’s top nuclear powers. Obama’s meeting with the former KGB spy follows talks on Monday with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that produced agreements on a target for cuts in nuclear arms and a deal to let U.S. troops fly across Russia to fight in Afghanistan. On the second day of his visit to Russia, Obama is also due to deliver a major speech on democracy, the global economy and the U.S.-Russian relationship…. – Reuters, 7-6-09
  • Obama seeks new start in sagging US-Russia ties: Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev end a seven-year hiatus in U.S.-Russian summitry on Monday, with each declaring his determination to further cut nuclear arsenals and repair a badly damaged relationship…. – AP, 7-5-09
  • Alaskans Consider Palin’s Legacy As She Prepares to Leave Office: In November 2006, as Sarah Palin celebrated her gubernatorial victory at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, she told the crowd she would bring a “new energy” to the governor’s office, stand up to “Big Oil” and usher in a new era of ethical reforms. But less than three years later, Palin is calling it quits, and Alaskans offer mixed assessments of her legacy as she steps down with 18 months left in her term. – WaPo, 7-6-09
  • Top Republicans puzzled by Palin’s abrupt resignation: Sarah Palin has no intention of retiring from public life, the soon-to-be ex-Alaska governor’s spokeswoman said Sunday, but top Republicans are expressing befuddlement at the decision by one of the party’s leading presidential prospects to give up her job… – USA Today, 7-5-09
  • Observers: Palin resignation cuts losses in Alaska: Ever since Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin returned from the presidential campaign trail, many Alaskans felt her heart wasn’t in the job…. – AP, 7-5-09
  • Sarah Palin not under FBI investigation, agency spokesman says: The former GOP vice presidential candidate’s surprise resignation as Alaska governor had set off speculation, including rumors of a pending federal corruption probe or charges. – LAT, 7-4-09
  • Palin Resigning Governor’s Job; Future Unclear: At a Friday news conference, Gov. Palin said, “I am determined to take the right path for Alaska even though it is unconventional.” Ms. Palin, 45, the Republican vice-presidential nominee last year, was supposed to serve through the end of 2010; she said she would cede control of the state to Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell on July 25. – NYT, 7-3-09
  • Text: Palin’s Announcement: Transcript of Sarah Palin’s speech on Friday in Wasilla, Alaska, as she announced that she would be resigning as governor, as recorded by The New York Times – NYT, 7-3-09
  • Hillary Clinton tougher on Iran than political-straddler Obama: While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated a stronger U.S. response to the beating and killing of protesting Iranians, President Obama resisted. When he finally at least said he was appalled and outraged by the Iranian government behavior, it was long after both England and France had condemned it. Always the egotist, Obama did not even let Clinton know that he was finally going to speak out and took the action without informing her. The situation was one more piece evidence of Obama’s weak-kneed response when it came to standing up to tyrants around the world. It was a reminder of his shaking hands and accepting a book from Chavez and his willingness to talk with other U.S. enemies without preconditions. And his bow in Saudia Arabia is not to be forgotten…. – Examiner, 7-3-09
  • Washington Post says publishers’ conference won’t be held: The Washington Post asked lobbyists and business leaders to pay $25,000 to attend a dinner discussion with government officials and journalists at the home of its publisher, and then canceled the event after the invitations became public. The newspaper’s executive editor, Marcus Brauchli, said Thursday that no one in the newsroom had vetted the invitation and its journalists would not participate. “The Washington Post’s name is not for sale,” Brauchli said. “The Washington Post’s reputation is not for sale.”… – AP, 7-2-09
  • Obama says he gets daily prayers on his BlackBerry: President Barack Obama says he gets a prayer every morning on his BlackBerry. Obama told reporters from religious news organizations on Thursday that White House faith director Joshua DuBois sends him a morning devotional every day to his e-mail device. He says it’s a “wonderful practice” that started during the campaign…. – AP, 7-2-09

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Cahill to leave Democratic party, set himself up for independent run: State Treasurer Tim Cahill this week will change his political party designation from Democrat to unenrolled, the first step in mounting an independent challenge to Democratic governor Deval Patrick in the 2010 general election, two advisers said today…. – Boston Globe, 7-6-09
  • Romney Emerges as Top Issues Play to His Strength: Most Republicans have just finished what might be called the spring of their discontent. Not much went right in the first half of the year; not much to cheer about. But not Mitt Romney. For this unsuccessful 2008 Republican presidential contender, it is hard to imagine how events could be moving more decisively in his favor in 2009. One can almost hear him wondering: Why didn’t things break this way last year? WSJ, 7-5-09
  • Bill Clinton to appear at Maloney fundraiser: Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s plan to challenge Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary next year will get a surprising boost later this month: a fundraiser headed by Bill Clinton. The former president is scheduled to raise money for the Manhattan Democrat on July 20 – despite the efforts of President Barack Obama and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to clear the field for Gillibrand…. – Newsday, 7-2-09
  • Maine Dems circle GOP contender over stylized ‘O’: O, boy. The executive director of the Democratic Party in Maine is accusing a Republican who’s considering a run for governor of stealing the stylized “O” from President Barack Obama’s Web site. Arden Manning says Les Otten’s “O” is a close copy of one on the Obama Web site…. – AP, 7-2-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Palin Post-Resignation: “I Am Not a Quitter; I Am a Fighter”: “I am not a quitter; I am a fighter,” Palin said to CNN while on a family fishing trip in Dillingham, Alaska. Palin granted interviews with select media outlets to explain her decision to step down from office. “I want to help Alaska in different venues, on a different level,” she said. – TV Guide, 7-7-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT THE NEW ECONOMIC SCHOOL GRADUATION Gostinny Dvor Moscow, Russia: That’s why I have called for a “reset” in relations between the United States and Russia. This must be more than a fresh start between the Kremlin and the White House — though that is important and I’ve had excellent discussions with both your President and your Prime Minister. It must be a sustained effort among the American and Russian people to identify mutual interests, and expand dialogue and cooperation that can pave the way to progress. – White House, 7-7-09
  • How Obama speech sounds to Russian ears: What President Obama said to a Moscow audience and what Russia’s political elite heard were not necessarily one and the same — even when his words sought to reassure.
    I know Russia opposes the planned configuration for missile defense in Europe. And my administration is reviewing these plans to enhance the security of America, Europe and the world. And I’ve made it clear that this system is directed at preventing a potential attack from Iran. It has nothing to do with Russia. In fact, I want to work together with Russia on a missile defense architecture that makes us all safer. But if the threat from Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs is eliminated, the driving force for missile defense in Europe will be eliminated, and that is in our mutual interest.’
    ‘It is our commitment to certain universal values which allows us to correct our imperfections, to improve constantly and to grow stronger over time. Freedom of speech and assembly has allowed women, minorities and workers to protest for full and equal rights at a time when they were denied. The rule of law and equal administration of justice has busted monopolies, shut down political machines that were corrupt and ended abuses of power. . . . Competitive elections allow us to change course and hold our leaders accountable. . . . Governments which serve their own people survive and thrive; governments which serve only their own power do not.’
    ‘State sovereignty must be a cornerstone of international order. Just as all states should have the right to choose their leaders, states must have the right to borders that are secure, and to their own foreign policies. That is true for Russia, just as it is true for the United States. Any system that cedes those rights will lead to anarchy. That is why we must apply this principle to all nations — and that includes nations like Georgia and Ukraine. America will never impose a security arrangement on another country.’ – LAT, 7-7-09
  • PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OBAMA AND PRESIDENT MEDVEDEV OF RUSSIA The Kremlin Moscow, Russia: We’ve just concluded a very productive meeting. As President Medvedev just indicated, the President and I agreed that the relationship between Russia and the United States has suffered from a sense of drift. We resolved to reset U.S.-Russian relations, so that we can cooperate more effectively in areas of common interest. Today, after less than six months of collaboration, we’ve done exactly that by taking concrete steps forward on a range of issues, while paving the way for more progress in the future. And I think it’s particularly notable that we’ve addressed the top priorities — these are not second-tier issues, they are fundamental to the security and the prosperity of both countries…. – White House, 7-6-09
  • No joke: Al Franken takes his new job seriously: “I think they’ll get to used to the idea that I’m a senator, that I’ve kind of changed careers,” Franken said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I just don’t think it will take that long. They’ll see what I do and what I say. Mainly I’m going to put my head down and get to work.”… “As someone who will have been in the committee a grand total of six days and isn’t an attorney, I kind of see myself fulfilling a certain role for Americans watching the hearings,” he said. Franken also said he is looking forward to getting involved in health care legislation and wants to play a role in crafting legislation that contains costs. “It is unsustainable the way we are going,” he said. – AP, 7-6-09
  • Bush Jokes About Retirement, Describes Courage as Key to American Spirit Former President George W. Bush looked back as far as the signers of the Declaration of Independence and as recently as the U.S. soldiers fighting wars abroad as examples of the patriotism and bravery that define Americans: “Patriotism comes in all different kinds of forms,” said the president, who noted a 60-year-old man from Nevada who got a waiver to enroll in the military after his son was killed in Iraq. The man is now serving as a Navy medic.
    “They did the right thing even when it was hard. They did the brave thing even when risky. They did the noble thing even when many others would not,” the president said….
    Having recently returned to Dallas, which he now calls home, Bush said he told his wife that he was “free at last.” “She says, ‘Yeah, you are free to take out the garbage and free to mow the lawn.,'” Bush joked. “I said ‘wait a minute, you’re talking to the former president.’ And she said, ‘Well, consider that your new domestic policy agenda.'” – Fox News, 7-5-09
  • Obama’s backyard bash: Welcome to the White House. (Applause.) And happy Fourth of July. Michelle and I are honored and proud to have you here on the Fourth. And we’re humbled to be joined up here by heroes — men and women who went beyond the call of duty in battle, some selflessly risking their lives again and again so that others might live. True to form, they — like all of you — say they were just doing their job. That’s what makes you the best of us, and that’s why we simply want to say thank you to each and every one of you for your extraordinary service to our country.
    We’re joined in that sentiment by Vice President Joe Biden, who, as many of you know, is marking Independence Day with troops in Iraq; and Jill Biden, who’s spending it with military families in Germany.
    I should say that there’s also one girl in particular who’s just thrilled that all of you are here — and that is Malia Obama, because this happens to be her birthday, as well. (Applause.) When she was younger, I used to say that all these fireworks were for her. (Laughter.) I’m not sure she still buys that, but even if this backyard is a little bit unique, our gathering tonight is not so different from gatherings that are taking place all across the country, in parks and fields and backyards all across America. In small towns and big cities, folks are firing up grills, laughing with family and friends, and laying out a blanket in preparation for the big show. They’re reliving the simple, unmistakable joys of being an American….
    But I want to say this to all of you: You have done everything that has been asked of you. The United States of America is proud of you. I’m proud to be your Commander-in-Chief. And that’s why, this Fourth of July, I renew my pledge to each and every one of you — that for as long as I have that immeasurable honor, you will always have the equipment and support you need to get the job done. Your families will always be a priority of Michelle’s and mine, and remain on our hearts and on our minds. And when our service members do return home, it will be to an America that always welcomes them home with the care that they were promised.
    It is, after all, your service — the service of generations of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen — that makes our annual celebration of this day possible. It’s your service that proves that our founding ideals remain just as powerful and alive in our third century as a nation as they did on that first Fourth of July. And it is your service that guarantees that the United States of America shall forever remain the last, best hope on Earth. – Politico, 7-4-09
  • Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House July 4, 2009: Hello and Happy Fourth of July, everybody. This weekend is a time to get together with family and friends, kick back, and enjoy a little time off. And I hope that’s exactly what all of you do. But I also want to take a moment today to reflect on what I believe is the meaning of this distinctly American holiday.
    Today, we are called to remember not only the day our country was born – we are also called to remember the indomitable spirit of the first American citizens who made that day possible.
    We are called to remember how unlikely it was that our American experiment would succeed at all; that a small band of patriots would declare independence from a powerful empire; and that they would form, in the new world, what the old world had never known – a government of, by, and for the people…. – White House, 7-4-09
  • Mike Huckabee: Palin May Not Be Able To Handle Pressure Of Presidential Run: But her reason for resigning — that she was dogged by critics who cost her state millions in legal fees 00 will be a liability for her if she seeks the White House, Huckabee said. “If that had been the case for me, I would’ve quit in my first month,” said Huckabee. If she’s looking to be a national political figure, it’s not going to get easier, he said. “In a primary this is going to be an issue she’ll have to face. Will she be able to withstand the pressure?” he asked. Huckabee and Rove appeared on “Fox News Sunday.” – Huff Post, 7-5-09
  • Colin Powell worries Obama tackling too much: Colin Powell worries that President Barack Obama is trying to tackle too many big issues at one time and he offers this advice: take a hard look at costs and consider the additional red tape that will be created. “The right answer is, ‘Give me a government that works,'” the former secretary of state said in a television interview to be aired Sunday. “Keep it as small as possible,” added Powell, who said he has spoken recently with Obama and stays in touch with him.
    “I think one of the cautions that has to be given to the president — and I’ve talked to some of his people about this — is that you can’t have so many things on the table that you can’t absorb it all. And we can’t pay for it all,” Powell said. “And I never would have believed that we would have budgets that are running into the multi-trillions of dollars, and we are amassing a huge, huge national debt that, if we don’t pay for in our lifetime, our kids and grandkids and great grandchildren will have to pay for it.” In the interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” that is to air Sunday, Powell said he hasn’t changed his mind. “Keep it as small as possible. Keep the tax burden on the American people as small as possible, but at the same time, have government that is solving the problems of the people,” he said. He said Obama “has to start really taking a very, very hard look at what the cost of all this is. And, how much additional bureaucracy and will it be effective bureaucracy.” AP, 7-4-09Gen. Colin Powell expresses alarm about Obama spending: In an interview to be broadcast on CNN’s “State of the Union with John King” Sunday, July 5, 2009, Powell expressed concern that Obama’s ambitious iniatives may be enlarging the size of government and that the federal debt it too much. He said: “I’m concerned at the number of programs that are being presented, the bills associated with these programs and the additional government that will be needed to execute them.” Powell also said that, in regard to Obama’s spending; “…And we can’t pay for it all.” – Examiner.com, 7-3-09
  • Obama confident in recovery despite jobs report: The government reported that employers cut a larger-than-expected 467,000 jobs in June. The unemployment rate climbed to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent.
    “And I’m absolutely confident that we can, at this period of difficulty, prove, once again, what this nation can achieve when challenged,” Obama said in the Rose Garden after a meeting with executives from energy companies.
    “Obviously, this is little comfort to all those Americans who have lost their jobs,” he said.
    “So these companies are vivid examples of the kind of future we can create,” the president said Thursday in the Rose Garden, flanked by energy industry leaders. “But it’s now up to the Senate to continue the work that was begun in the House to forge this more prosperous future. We’re going to need to set aside the posturing and the politics, and when we put aside the old ideological debates, then our choice is clear.” He added: “It’s a choice between slow decline and renewed prosperity. It’s a choice between the past and the future.” – AP, 7-3-09
  • Obama: Court leaves room for affirmative action: President Barack Obama said Thursday the Supreme Court is “moving the ball” to limit affirmative action, but he stressed that its ruling in favor of white firefighters still allows employers and educators to take race into account in hiring, promotions and admissions.
    “This was a very narrow case, so it’s hard to gauge where they will take it,” Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press. The president said the city might have prevailed if it “had thought through how it was going to approach the issue ahead of time and said, ‘We think merit and highly qualified firefighters are absolutely important. That doesn’t contradict our desire to make sure that there is diversity in a city that’s 60 percent black and Hispanic. Let’s design promotion approaches that reconcile those two things.'” Instead, Obama said, “I think what people instinctively, probably, reacted to on that particular case had more to do with the fact that the people that studied for those tests already had a set of expectations that were thwarted.” – AP, 7-2-09
  • Hillary Clinton delivers remarks on 4 July holiday: “For Americans, the 4th of July is a day to reconnect with loved ones, to remember our history, and to renew our commitment to democracy, tolerance, and justice. As President [Barack] Obama said in Cairo last month, these are not just American values, these are core principles we share with people everywhere. So it is fitting that we open our doors and share this day with our friends and neighbors around the world,” said Clinton. “We all share responsibility for working together to ensure a more peaceful and prosperous future,” she said, adding: “So I hope that today’s celebration will become tomorrow’s partnership.” – Wsashington TV, 7-2-09
  • SC gov’s wife may be able to forgive affair: South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford says she may be able to forgive her husband’s much-publicized affair with an Argentine woman, but true reconciliation will take more time. In a statement e-mailed to reporters Thursday, Jenny Sanford called her husband’s behavior inexcusable but said she may be able to give him another chance. It was her first public remark since Gov. Mark Sanford told The Associated Press that Maria Belen Chapur is his soul mate but he is trying to fall back in love with his wife. “Forgiveness opens the door for Mark to begin to work privately, humbly and respectfully toward reconciliation with me,” she said. “However, to achieve true reconciliation will take time, involve repentance, and will not be easy.” – AP, 7-2-09
  • INTERVIEW OF THE PRESIDENT BY ALLAFRICA.COM Blue Room July 2, 2009: Q We asked visitors to our site, AllAfrica.com, what they might be interested in with respect to your policy. And as you might imagine, the responses are everywhere: conflict resolution, development issues, trade issues, et cetera. But they and we have one immediate question: How is it that you happened to pick Ghana as the first place to visit in sub-Saharan Africa?
    THE PRESIDENT: Well, part of the reason is because that Ghana has now undergone a couple of successful elections in which power was transferred peacefully, even a very close election. I think that the new President, President Mills, has shown himself committed to the rule of law, to the kinds of democratic commitments that ensure stability in a country. And I think that there is a direct correlation between governance and prosperity. Countries that are governed well, that are stable, where the leadership recognizes that they are accountable to the people and that institutions are stronger than any one person have a track record of producing results for the people. And we want to highlight that…. – White House, 7-2-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President gives an interview to AllAfrica.com
(President Barack Obama gives an interview to AllAfrica.com in advance of a major speech in Ghana on Thursday, July 2, 2009. Official White House Photo, Pete Souza)
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: Democrats should act now”: Democrats are elated because Sen. Al Franken, former comedian and radio host, is finally coming to town. The gates of political heaven seemed to open when former Sen. Norm Coleman finally conceded.
    During his much awaited victory speech, the senator-elect said that “I am not going to waste this chance.”
    With that statement, Franken started his senatorial career with an important message to his colleagues. Without any doubt, 60 votes in the filibuster-happy Senate is a lot better than 59.
    With 60 votes, a united Democratic Party can obtain cloture and end attempted Republican filibusters. But the problem is that 60 votes does not make the Senate “filibuster-proof.”
    That would require 60 votes, plus Democrats sticking together….
    Without compromise by both sides, a moment of unusual opportunity can quickly disappear…. As the 2010 midterms move closer, Democrats must realize these are the best legislative conditions that they might encounter in the next four to eight years. – CNN, 7-6-09
  • Douglas Brinkley “Hussein’s Gun May Go on Display at Bush Library”: Douglas Brinkley, an author and history professor at Rice University, said the pistol opened a psychological window into Mr. Bush’s view of his presidency. “It represents this Texas notion of the white hats taking out the black hats and keeping the trophy,” Mr. Brinkley said. “It’s a True West magazine kind of pulp western mentality. For President Bush, this pistol represents his greatest moment of triumph, like the F.B.I. keeping Dillinger’s gun. He wants people generations from now to see the gun and say, ‘He got the bad guy.'” Mr. Bush once said his favorite biography was of Sam Houston, the Texas hero who would have kept a gun from a vanquished enemy, Mr. Brinkley said. The fact that Mr. Hussein’s gun was unloaded was an amazing “irony,” he added. – NYT, 7-6-09
  • Thomas Whalen Analysis: Why is Sarah Palin resigning?: More than seven months after the presidential election, former Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin is sending shockwaves through the political world. Palin announced today that she is stepping down at the end of the month. There has been a lot of speculation that she may run for president in 2012. Thomas Whalen, a presidential historian and Boston University professor joins NECN for more on the announcement…. – NECN, 7-3-09
  • Diane Ravitch, Historian of education, NYU and Brookings: Sarah Palin is so yesterday. Frankly the blood sport of baiting Palin got tiresome. How much more mileage can the media wring out of this woman? She is just not that interesting, and the campaign of 2008 is over. Really over. Politico, 7-5-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer, Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton: Governor Palin’s decision is very revealing of how she understands the “executive leadership” qualities that she and Republicans boasted about on the campaign trail. If the going gets tough–or is no longer interesting– just quit. If Palin does run for president, her supporters, and the nation, better keep a close eye on her vice presidential running mate because who knows how long she would want to stay on the job before deciding to move on. Her Republican primary opponents will certainly have more than enough to talk about with voters. – Politico, 7-5-09
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin “Barack Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard days to come”: The Obamas face a similar situation that the Clintons did: Neither have their own vacation home or estate. “Unlike FDR, who had Hyde Park, or Lyndon Johnson or George W. Bush who had their own ranches, they need to find a place where they can relax, which the others did by going to their own homes,” said author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. The presidential getaway is no small matter: The off-hours have given shape to the imagery of the presidency. Ronald Reagan cultivated a sun-baked masculinity by spending time at Rancho del Cielo, his California ranch. “Once, when an aide told President Reagan that it might be better if he didn’t go to his ranch so much, he said: ‘You can tell me a lot of things, but you can’t tell me that,'” said Goodwin…. Politico, 7-5-09
  • BARBARA HOWARD: The Politics of Blackness: You say why Republican party; I say why not?: Whenever I see Democrats revise history, I don’t know whether to laugh at how uninformed they are or be afraid at how much they lie. I tend to be more afraid because the desired end result is to discredit the Republican Party, keeping black folk loyal to the Democratic Party.
    So when I read in Leonard Pitts’ Miami Herald column, “GOP blind to its race problem,” that “the modern GOP was created in 1965 with a stroke of Lyndon Johnson’s pen,” I couldn’t help but laugh. I would hope that Pitts would have done his homework to realize that he had stretched the truth so far as to be unrecognizable.
    He wrote about an aide to Tennessee State Senator Diane Black (R), sending a distasteful email about Obama, accusing her and most of the party (as usual) of racism, calling them “weasels in elephants’ clothes.”
    But instead of remaining silent, Frances Rice, president of the National Black Republican Association (NBRA) set P itts straight. In her article, “Democrats’ Racial Hypocrisy,” she quotes Gerald Alexander, who refutes the argument that all the racist Democrats crossed over to the Republican Party in “The Myth of the Racist Republicans.”
  • She also quotes the Rev. Wayne Perryman, who in “Unfounded Loyalty” gives the Democrats’ history in slavery, segregation and socialism. Unfortunately, blacks blindly joined the Democratic Party because of their complete ignorance of its actual civil rights record. They only know the fabricated one…. – South Florida Times, 7-3-09

South Lawn on 4th (The view of the South Lawn of the White House as the Foo Fighters performed on July 4, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

President and First Lady watch fireworks

(President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch the fireworks over the National Mall from the White House on July 4, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

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