November 2009: President Obama, Health Care Reform, Afghanistan, State Trips & State Dinners

Luke Sharrett/The New York Times
Gursharan Kaur, the first lady of India, Michelle Obama, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, and President Obama arrived for the state Dinner.


  • Obama’s Approval Slide Finds Whites Down to 39% Support has declined much more among whites than among nonwhites: In his first full week in office (Jan. 26-Feb. 1), an average of 66% of Americans approved of the job Obama was doing, including 61% of non-Hispanic whites and 80% of nonwhites. In the most recent week, spanning Nov. 16-22 interviewing, his approval rating averaged 49% overall, 39% among whites, and 73% among nonwhites. Thus, since the beginning of his presidency, his support has dropped 22 points among whites, compared with a 7-point loss among nonwhites. – Gallop, 11-24-09
  • SPIN METER: ‘War and Peace’ in 209 pages?: Republicans are using everything short of forklifts to show Americans that Democratic health care legislation is an unwieldy mountain of paper. They pile it high on desks, hoist it on a shoulder trussed in sturdy rope and tell people it’s longer than “War and Peace,” which it isn’t… – AP, 11-25-09
  • The harris poll (r) President’s Job Approval Ratings Hinge on Good, Bad Element of Change Some think he is trying to do too much; others say his efforts are positive.: These are some of the results of The Harris Poll(R) of 2,303 adults surveyed online between Nov. 2 and 11, 2009 by Harris Interactive(R).
    Right now, more than two in five Americans (43 percent) give Obama positive job approval ratings. When these people are asked why they think some people like the job Obama is doing, the highest response, given by 13 percent of Americans, is that he is trying to bring about much needed change. One in 10 U.S. adults (9 percent) think people like the job the president is doing because he is working for the people’s best interests and doing the right thing. Further down the list as reasons are that he seems to care about everyone, or the common man (7 percent) and the same number say people like Obama because he is not George W. Bush. In fact, 5 percent each say people like the job the president is doing because the country needs a fresh outlook with new ideas. – The Ledger, 11-24-09
  • AP Poll: Americans fret over health overhaul costs: It’s the cost, Mr. President. Americans are worried about hidden costs in the fine print of health care overhaul legislation, an Associated Press poll says. That’s creating new challenges for President Barack Obama as he tries to close the deal with a handful of Democratic doubters in the Senate. The poll found that 43 percent oppose the health care plans being discussed in Congress, while 41 percent are in support. An additional 15 percent remain neutral or undecided…. – AP, 11-16-09
  • Michelle Obama’s poll numbers slide: When Michelle Obama moved into the White House, she instantly became one of the most famous first ladies in history, a symbol of racial pride, a victor in the battle of the sexes and the picture of a modern woman, mother and wife. But from her days on the campaign trail to her residency in the White House, Obama’s favorability rating has been in flux, from a low of 48 percent in June 2008 to a peak of 72 percent last March to a slide to 61 percent in a recent Gallup Poll. – Politico, 11-4-09


  • Debate on Creating Jobs, Without Raising Deficit: As Democrats renew their push to create jobs, they are at odds over the timing, cost and scope of additional measures, with the White House’s concern about high budget deficits pitted against the eagerness of many in Congress to spur hiring before next year’s elections. After months in which his focus has been on a health care overhaul and foreign policy issues, President Obama will pivot later this week to the economy, convening a White House forum on Thursday to discuss ideas for job creation and then traveling to Allentown, Pa., for his first stop on a “Main Street Tour.” – NYT, 11-29-09
  • Sam Tanenhaus: North Star Populism, politics, and the power of Sarah Palin. – New Yorker, 12-7-09
  • US senators to begin fractious health care debate: The US Senate was set Monday to begin debate on a massive health care reform bill that is a key priority for President Barack Obama but faces stiff Republican opposition and is plagued by divisions in Democratic ranks. Debate is to begin Monday morning on the measure to overhaul the US health care system, at an estimated cost of 848 billion dollars through 2019, but a final Senate vote on the bill is not expected for a month at the earliest. The administration hailed the November 22 vote that cleared the way for debate to begin, but Senate Majority Harry Reid faces a tough challenge constructing a coalition strong enough to get the bill out of the Senate. He can count on almost unanimous opposition to the measure from Republicans, one of whom has vowed a “holy war” against the bill…. – AFP, 11-29-09
  • Uninvited Pair Met Obama; Secret Service Offers Apology: President Obama and his wife, Michelle, had a face-to-face encounter with the couple who sneaked into a state dinner at the White House this week, White House officials acknowledged on Friday. The revelation underscored the seriousness of the security breach and prompted an abject apology from the Secret Service…. – NYT, 11-27-09
  • Tis the season: White House Christmas tree arrives: The White House is open for Christmas. A day after celebrating Thanksgiving, first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha received the official White House Christmas tree: an 18 1/2-foot Douglas fir delivered from a farm in Shepherdstown, W.Va., by traditional horse-drawn carriage. Growers Eric and Gloria Sundback officially presented the tree to the Obamas on Friday…. – AP, 11-27-09
  • Karl Rove: Voter Anger Is Building Over Deficits: The generic poll shows a 16-point swing to the GOP over last year. WSJ, 11-27-09
  • Obama’s agenda runs into economic angst in Congress: U.S. President Barack Obama is paying a price for a recession that began before he took office, and fellow Democrats have started to balk at his legislative agenda and demand greater efforts to create jobs. Some liberal Democrats even want Obama to replace his economic team while moderates fear his bid to overhaul healthcare and stem global warming — two top priorities — may mean more fiscal hard times, at least in the short term…. – Reuters, 11-26-09
  • Obamas’ Uninvited Guests Prompt an Inquiry: The Secret Service is investigating how a couple aspiring to be reality-show celebrities managed to appear at President Obama’s first state dinner without being on the guest list, provoking questions about security at the White House…. – NYT, 11-27-09
  • Oprah to visit White House, interview Obamas for holiday special: Oprah Winfrey will interview President Obama and his wife, Michelle, next month for a 60-minute program to air before Christmas, the talk show host announced Wednesday. “Christmas at the White House: An Oprah Primetime Special” will air at 10 p.m. ET December 13 on ABC, her Web site said…. – CNN, 11-25-09
  • Evening gowns, saris at Obama’s first state dinner: Traditional evening gowns and vibrantly colored saris mixed with banded-collar dinner jackets and tuxedos at President Barack Obama’s first state dinner. There also were turbans and bindis and diamonds aplenty, as several hundred guests put on the glitz and joined a White House celebration in honor of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Outshining them all was first lady Michelle Obama in a strapless, cream and gold silk chiffon gown with a sparkling silver floral design…. – AP, 11-25-09
  • Panel 1st up in SC Gov. Sanford impeachment debate: Gov. Mark Sanford’s tearful confession that he quietly disappeared from the state for five days to rendezvous with his lover in Argentina has shattered his marriage and dimmed his once-bright political future. A small group of lawmakers on Tuesday started the debate whether his decision to vanish last summer without telling his staff his whereabouts or leave anyone in charge rises to the “serious crimes or serious misconduct in office” standard necessary to impeach him…. – AP, 11-25-09
  • Obama to vow greenhouse emissions cuts in Denmark: Putting his prestige on the line, President Barack Obama will personally commit the U.S. to a goal of substantially cutting greenhouse gases at next month’s Copenhagen climate summit. He will insist America is ready to tackle global warming despite resistance in Congress over higher costs for businesses and homeowners…. – AP, 11-25-09
  • Obama will unveil Afghan troops move at West Point: President Barack Obama plans to announce a redrawn battle plan for Afghanistan, including what the military says could be a roughly 50 percent increase in U.S. forces, in a national address Tuesday night from the U.S. Military Academy… – AP, 11-25-09
  • ‘Going Rogue’ Goes to Top of Book Sales Chart: “Going Rogue,” the newly released memoir by Sarah Palin, the former Alaskan governor and Republican nominee for vice president, sold 469,000 copies in its first week of release, according to sales figures released Wednesday by Nielsen BookScan. That made “Going Rogue” the top-selling book of the week on Nielsen BookScan’s chart. – NYT, 11-25-09
  • Obama team battles to portray healthcare reform as cost-cutting: House and Senate bills on healthcare reform include most cost-cutting ideas that have surfaced in recent years, asserts Obama’s budget director…. – CS Monitor, 11-25-09
  • Modern Flourishes at Obamas’ State Dinner: It is an old tradition, a White House dinner governed by ritual and protocol that happens to be this city’s hottest social event. But at their first state dinner on Tuesday night, President Obama and his wife, Michelle, made sure to infuse the glittering gala with distinctive touches…. – NYT, 11-25-09
  • Obama’s first state dinner blends pageantry with politics: President Obama toasted a growing U.S. friendship with India at the first state dinner of his administration Tuesday, an evening of regal pageantry and symbolic politics in a tent on the White House South Lawn. “To the future that beckons all of us,” Obama said with glass raised toward his guest of honor, visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Let us answer its call. And let our two great nations realize all the triumphs and achievements that await us.”…
    The Tuesday night dinner showed Obama’s intention to signal strong ties with the world’s largest democracy and go his own way in navigating the pomp and tradition of White House customs…. – CNN, 11-25-09
  • Uninvited Guests Make It Into State Dinner: This much is known: About 7:15 Tuesday night, a glittering blonde, decked out in a red and gold sari, holding the hand of her black-tuxedoed escort, swept past the camera crews and reporters camped out to catch the red-carpet arrivals for the first state dinner given by President Obama.
    In fact, the couple — Michaele Salahi and her husband, Tareq — are Virginians who have been auditioning for a possible role in a different housewives TV franchise: “The Real Housewives of Washington.”… – NYT, 11-25-09
  • SC lawmakers question impeachment for governor: A cool-headed legal debate has replaced the once-passionate calls to oust Gov. Mark Sanford that began after his tearful summertime admission that he disappeared from the state to pursue an extramarital affair in Argentina. A panel on Tuesday began debating whether his failure to inform his staff of his whereabouts and put anyone in charge rise to the high standard of impeachment, usually reserved for officeholders who break the law…. – AP, 11-24-09
  • Obama to unveil plan to add troops in Afghanistan: War-weary Americans will support more fighting in Afghanistan once they understand the perils of losing, President Barack Obama declared Tuesday, announcing he was ready to spell out war plans virtually sure to include tens of thousands more U.S. troops. He is expected to make his case to the nation in a Tuesday night speech, even as the military completes plans to begin sending in reinforcements in the spring…. – AP, 11-24-09
  • Looking for Tea Leaves in Obama’s Sliding Numbers: President Obama returned from his trip to Asia facing some unsettling news: two new polls showed that his approval rating had dipped below 50 percent for the first time. To many of his critics, who had chafed as he enjoyed broad support among Americans even as many were critical of his handling of specific issues like the economy, this erosion is a tipping point, the end of Mr. Obama’s perceived near-invulnerability. In many ways, the slide should not come as a surprise. And coming less than a year into his presidency, not to mention almost a full year from the 2010 Congressional elections, its long-term political significance is anything but clear…. – NYT, 11-24-09
  • Schumer says failure not an option on health care: Failure is not an option on health care, a leading Democratic senator said Monday, even as Republicans turned up the heat on moderates who hold the fate of the legislation in their hands. “We’re not going to not pass a bill,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. With or without Republican support, Democrats will get it done, Schumer said, because a health care system that leaves nearly 50 million uninsured and spends more than any other is clearly broken…. – AP, 11-24-09
  • Senate Democrats at odds over health care bill: Senate Democrats on Sunday sparred with each other over how to fix the nation’s troubled health care system, the moderates threatening to scuttle legislation if their demands weren’t met and the more liberal members warning their party leaders not to bend. The dispute among Democrats foretells of a rowdy floor debate next month on legislation that would extend health care coverage to roughly 31 million Americans. Republicans have already made clear they aren’t supporting the bill. Final passage is in jeopardy, even after the chamber’s historic 60-39 vote Saturday night to begin debate…. – AP, 11-22-09
  • Dems snare 60 votes to move ahead on health care: Democratic leaders secured the last two votes to move ahead on historic health care legislation, clearing the way for a Saturday night showdown on President Barack Obama’s top domestic initiative. In long-awaited speeches, centrist Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said they would stand with their party and vote “yes” on the crucial test vote despite deep reservations with elements of the 2,074-page bill to remake the nation’s health care system. “The truth is this issue is very complex. There is no easy fix and it’s imperative that we build on what’s already working in health care in America,” Lincoln told her Senate colleagues…. – AP, 11-21-09
  • GOP: Health test recommendations could affect care: Republicans are seizing on this week’s recommendations for fewer Pap smears and mammograms to fuel concern about government-rationed medical care — and to try to chip away support by women for President Barack Obama’s proposed health care overhaul. “This is how rationing starts,” declared Jon Kyl of Arizona, the party’s second-in-command in the Senate, during a news conference. “This is what we’re going to expect in the future.”… – AP, 11-21-09
  • Obama, Holder predict conviction in 9/11 case: From opposite ends of the globe, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder firmly rejected criticism Wednesday of the planned New York trial of the professed Sept. 11 mastermind and predicted Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would be exposed as a murderous coward, convicted and executed. “Failure is not an option,” Holder declared. The president, in a series of TV interviews during his trip to Asia, said those offended by the legal rights accorded Mohammed by virtue of his facing a civilian trial rather than a military tribunal won’t find it “offensive at all when he’s convicted and when the death penalty is applied to him.”…. – AP, 11-19-09
  • A Great Wall: Obama tours China’s iconic site: President Barack Obama absorbed history’s expanse Wednesday from atop the Great Wall of China, a manmade wonder of such enormity that Obama found himself putting daily life in perspective. “It’s magical,” Obama said, walking down a ramp alone, his hands in his pockets. “It reminds you of the sweep of history and our time here on earth is not that long. We better make the best of it.”… – AP, 11-18-09
  • Obama: Rally the world for climate deal next month: President Barack Obama, with China’s leader at his side, lifted his sights Tuesday for a broad interim accord at next month’s climate conference that he said will lead to immediate action and “rally the world” toward a solution on global warming.
    Obama and President Hu Jintao talked of a joint desire to tackle climate change, but failed to move off differing positions on an root issue that could block a deal at the 192-nation conference in Copenhagen: how much each country can contribute to curb greenhouse gases and how the world will pay the billions of dollars needed to fight rising temperatures…. – AP, 11-18-09
  • White House: Israeli housing plans dismaying: The White House rebuked Israel with heavy criticism Tuesday after the Jerusalem city government moved toward the construction of 900 additional housing units in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians claim for the capital of their future state. President Barack Obama has made restarting peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians a top foreign policy goal. To that end, he has demanded that Israel cease building new or expanding existing Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel insists that East Jerusalem will never be surrendered to Arab rule and that the entirety of the city will remain the capital of the Jewish state. Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordanian control in the 1967 Mideast War and annexed it…. – AP, 11-18-09
  • Republicans blast ‘bait and switch’ health bill: Digging in for a long struggle, Republican senators and governors assailed the Democrats’ newly minted health care legislation Thursday as a collection of tax increases, Medicare cuts and heavy new burdens for deficit-ridden states. Despite the criticism, there were growing indications Democrats would prevail on an initial Senate showdown set for Saturday night, and Majority Leader Harry Reid crisply rebutted the Republican charges. The bill “will save lives, save money and save Medicare,” he said.
    The legislation is designed to answer President Barack Obama’s call to expand coverage, end industry practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions, and restrain the growth of health care spending. Republicans saw little to like. “It makes no sense at all and affronts common sense,” said Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, one of several Republicans to criticize the measure. He added that a plan to expand Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, was a “bait and switch” with states as the victims… – AP, 11-19-09
  • Senate health bottom line: $849 billion overhaul: The political stakes enormous, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid launched long-awaited health care legislation Wednesday estimated to extend coverage to 94 percent of eligible Americans at a cost of $849 billion…. – AP, 11-18-09
  • Obama: How low can he go?: President Barack Obama’s deep bow to the Japanese emperor during a weekend visit in Tokyo has been met with sharp criticism from conservatives in the United States. Conservatives took to the airwaves and blogosphere Monday to rip Obama’s gesture as subservient, inappropriate and a sign of weakness, with one rightwing blogger going as far to call it “treasonous.”
    Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko hosted Obama for a meeting on Saturday. As Obama shook Akihito’s hand, he bowed a full 90 degrees forward. Blogging on the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Malcolm said the move might score him some points in Japan but will surely elicit frowns back home. “How low will the new American president go for the world’s royalty?” Malcolm wrote, pointing out that vice president Dick Cheney’s simple handshake with Akihito in 2007 was the proper way to greet the emperor. Obama received similar criticism when he offered more of a half- bow to Saudi King Abdullah in April, prompting The Washington Times to editorialize it as a “shocking display of fealty.” A senior administration official has dismissed the criticism, telling Politico it’s “just way, way, way off base.” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said it was merely “a sign of respect to the emperor.” – Earth Times, Kansas City Star, 11-17-09
  • Obama says world urgently watching US-China talks: President Barack Obama declared Monday the world is urgently watching for a “meeting of the minds” between the U.S. and China as he meets with President Hu Jintao on the globe’s biggest issues — climate change, economic recession, nuclear proliferation and more.
    In his first visit here, Obama is strongly suggesting that China, now a giant in economic impact as well as territory, must take a bigger role on the world stage — part of “burden of leadership” it shares with the United States.
    “I will tell you, other countries around the world will be waiting for us,” Obama said in an American-style town-hall discussion with Chinese university students in Shanghai, where he spent a day before flying to China’s capital for a state visit with President Hu…. – AP, 11-16-09
  • Dems, GOP split on NY trials of alleged terrorists: Bringing those accused in the Sept. 11 attacks to New York for trial would increase the security threat to the city and give radical Islamists a platform to propagate their ideology, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Sunday…. Democrats defended the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder to try the five in New York where more than 2,000 civilians were killed on Sept. 11. If someone murders Americans in this country, they should be tried in the U.S., said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. – AP, 11-15-09
  • In first visit to China, Obama walks a tightrope: President Barack Obama is walking a tightrope on his first trip to China, seeking to enlist help in tackling urgent global problems while weighing when and how — or if — he should raise traditional human rights concerns. Obama arrived in Shanghai late at night, in a driving rain, hustling through a phalanx of umbrella-holding dignitaries to reach his limousine. On Monday, the president is holding talks with local politicians and, in one of the marquee events of his weeklong Asian trip, conducting an American-style town hall discussion with Chinese university students…. – AP, 11-15-09
  • In Asia, Obama pushing arms control with Russians: A major pact within tantalizing reach, President Barack Obama aims to nudge forward an arms-control deal in talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum brought Obama to Singapore, but he is focusing on individual meetings Sunday with Medvedev and with Indonesia’s Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of the world’s largest Muslim nation and Obama’s home as a boy. The U.S.-Russia meeting takes place as the nations seek a successor to a Cold War-era agreement…. – AP, 11-14-09
  • FACT CHECK: Palin’s book goes rogue on some facts: Sarah Palin’s new book reprises familiar claims from the 2008 presidential campaign that haven’t become any truer over time. Ignoring substantial parts of her record if not the facts, she depicts herself as a frugal traveler on the taxpayer’s dime, a reformer without ties to powerful interests and a politician roguishly indifferent to high ambition…. – AP, 11-14-09
  • Reid eyes payroll tax hike on wealthy: Majority Leader Harry Reid is considering a plan for higher payroll taxes on the upper-income earners to help finance health care legislation he intends to introduce in the Senate in the next several days, numerous Democratic officials said Wednesday…. – AP, 11-12-09
  • Obama’s hesitancy on war buildup sends messages: President Barack Obama’s drawn-out decision-making on Afghanistan is sending messages. To the Afghan government: Clean up your act. To the Pentagon: I’m no rubber stamp. To the American public: More troops can’t be the sole answer. Obama has been accused by some Republicans of “dithering” about whether to send more troops and deepen U.S. involvement in an increasingly unpopular war. The slow process also has left him open to critics who recall his pronouncement in March, after developing what he called a “stronger, smarter and comprehensive” Afghan war strategy, that the situation there was “increasingly perilous.” He ordered more troops to battle then, with little discernible result so far…. – AP, 11-12-09
  • White House: Obama eyeing host of Afghan choices: President Barack Obama is considering four options for realigning U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, his spokesman said Tuesday, while military officials said the choices involve several ways the president could employ additional U.S. forces next year…. – AP, 11-10-09
  • House health bill unacceptable to many in Senate: Don’t look for the Senate to quickly follow the House on health care overhaul. A government health insurance plan included in the House bill is unacceptable to a few Democratic moderates who hold the balance of power in the Senate. They’re locked in a battle with liberals, with the fate of President Barack Obama’s signature issue at stake. If a government plan is part of the deal, “as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent whose vote Democrats need to overcome GOP filibusters. “The House bill is dead on arrival in the Senate,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said…. – AP, 11-9-09
  • Obama asks House to vote on health care bill: President Barack Obama summoned Democrats to “answer the call of history” Saturday as the House pushed toward a vote on a landmark health care bill holding out the promise of coverage for tens of millions who lack it. After months of struggle capped by a final wrenching compromise over abortion, Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted, “we will pass health care reform,” and likened the events to the creation of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare 30 years later. Across hours of debate, minority Republicans cataloged their criticism of the 1,990-page, $1.2 trillion measure. “The American people need to understand this is about a government takeover of the whole health care system,” said Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga…. – AP, 11-7-09
  • What recovery? Unemployment shoots past 10 percent: Just when it was beginning to look a little better, the economy relapsed Friday with a return to double-digit unemployment for only the second time since World War II and warnings that next year will be even worse than previously thought. The jobless rate rocketed to 10.2 percent in October, the highest since early 1983, dealing a psychological blow to Americans as they prepare holiday shopping lists. It was another worse-than-expected report casting a shadow over the struggling recovery. President Barack Obama called it “a sobering number that underscores the economic challenges that lie ahead.” He signed a measure to extend unemployment benefits and to expand a tax credit for homebuyers…. – AP, 11-6-09
  • House Dems struggle for final votes on health care: Amid intense lobbying by the Obama administration, House Democratic leaders struggled Friday for the final votes needed to pass sweeping health care legislation, weighing fresh concessions to abortion opponents and working to ease concerns among Hispanic holdouts…. In a struggle that combined the fate of President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority and a 2010 campaign issue, bipartisanship was not an option. GOP leaders boasted that all 177 House Republicans stood ready to oppose the $1.2 trillion bill, which would create a new federally supervised insurance marketplace where the uninsured could purchase coverage… – AP, 11-6-09
  • Democrats’ plan to help ‘uninsurables’ questioned: You’re afraid your cancer is back, and a health insurance company just turned you down. Under the health care bills in Congress, you could apply for coverage through a new high-risk pool that President Barack Obama promises would immediately start serving patients with pre-existing medical problems. Wait a second. Read the fine print. You may have to be uninsured for six months to qualify….
    Advocates for people with serious health problems, as well as some insurance experts, are raising questions about one of the most important upfront benefits in the Democratic health care legislation: a high-risk pool for the medically uninsurable. – AP, 11-5-09
  • Obama, House Dems confident on health care vote: Buoyed by two major endorsements, House Democratic leaders on Thursday predicted swift passage of President Barack Obama’s historic health overhaul initiative. The president himself declared, “We are closer to passing this reform than ever before.”
    “I urge Congress to listen to AARP, listen to the AMA, and pass this reform for hundreds of millions of Americans who will benefit from it,” Obama told reporters during an unannounced visit to the White House briefing room after the endorsements were announced.
    “We are right on the brink,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “We have an historic opportunity for us to again provide quality health care for all Americans. It is something that many of us have worked our whole political lifetimes on.” – AP, 11-5-09
  • THE INFLUENCE GAME: Liberals targeting moderates: Get on the health overhaul bandwagon, or don’t count on our help in your re-election. That’s the hardball message liberal groups are hurling at moderate Democratic senators in a battle that is dividing their party. Their demands: Support a bill that offers optional government-run health coverage and oppose Republican attempts to derail the legislation…. – AP, 11-4-09

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • 4 Vie for Kennedy’s Seat, but Only 3 Seek His Mantle: Ask not how the Democratic candidates to succeed Senator Edward M. Kennedy would blaze a new path: most are too busy trying to prove themselves his ideological twin as the Dec. 8 primary draws near….
    But playing the Kennedy card may not be a winning strategy after all. Virtually every poll has put Martha Coakley, the state’s attorney general and the candidate least inclined to invoke Senator Kennedy, far ahead of her three rivals…. – NYT, 11-27-09
  • Obama’s Breakeven Points Versus Palin and Romney: Nate Silver has published an analysis of how far Pres. Obama’s Gallup approval ratings could drop before he could expect to tie Govs. Palin and Romney in head-to-head elections:
    There have been 11 Palin versus Obama polls that have come out this year — 8 by Public Policy Polling and one each from Rasmussen, Clarus, and Marist. Those polls showed Obama approval ranging from 49 percent to 55 percent — not far from Dowd’s sweet spot — but Obama defeating Palin by margins ranging from 6 points to 23. If we make a scatterplot of these polls, we can extrapolate backward to get an estimate of where Obama’s approval rating would need to be in order to bring Palin into a tie with him; the answer is about 43 percent…. –, 11-25-09
  • 41 is the crucial number in 2010 battle for the House: In the battle for Congress, 41 is the crucial number. That’s the number of seats the Republicans need to win back from the Democrats in next year’s midterm elections to take control of the House of Representatives.
    Next November, all 435 seats in the House, where Democrats hold an 258-177 advantage, are up for grabs. After winning back Congress in the 2006 contests and increasing their majorities in the 2008 elections, the Democrats will be playing defense next year. Making matters tougher for the Democrats, the country’s political landscape has changed this year, mostly to the benefit of Republicans. But will it be enough to get them to 41? – CNN, 11-24-09
  • GOP governors push for 2010 party rebirth: Thrilled with twin victories this month, Republican governors are looking to lead a party-wide resurgence in 2010 and shape the GOP for years to come.
    “Next year’s going to be a good year for Republican governors,” predicted Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s governor and chairman of the Republican Governors Association. “In states where there are Republican governors, people can see if conservative and Republican ideas, when actually implemented, work.”… – AP, 11-20-09
  • 2012 already? GOP wannabes jockeying early: Sarah Palin is embarking on a book tour. Tim Pawlenty is building a national political operation. Mitt Romney is weighing in on the recession. They’re all jockeying for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination — even if they won’t say so. Make no mistake: At least a half-dozen Republicans are in the early stages of campaigning for the chance to challenge President Barack Obama in his expected re-election race… – AP, 11-15-09
  • Analysis: Election lessons will shape ’10 campaign: What we learned from the off-year elections: The president’s influence is limited, independents rule, incumbents beware, issues trump ideology and, once more, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Also: Republicans can win — even if they lack a leader and their base is cracked. And this certainly isn’t the Democratic-friendly political environment of 2006 and 2008 when the party captured control of Congress and the White House. The first Election Day of Barack Obama’s presidency was a big night for Republicans, who recaptured governorships in the swing state of Virginia and the Democratic stronghold of New Jersey. Democrats won two races for vacant congressional seats, including one in upstate New York that had been long held by Republicans and that exposed a GOP divide…. – AP, 11-5-09
  • GOP Sweep: Big Governor Victories in Virginia, NJ: Republicans sweep governor races in Virginia, New Jersey _ troubling sign for Dems, Obama: Independents who swept Barack Obama to a historic 2008 victory broke big for Republicans on Tuesday as the GOP wrested political control from Democrats in Virginia and New Jersey, a troubling sign for the president and his party heading into an important midterm election year.
    Conservative Republican Bob McDonnell’s victory in the Virginia governor’s race over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds and moderate Republican Chris Christie’s ouster of unpopular New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine was a double-barreled triumph for a party looking to rebuild after being booted from power in national elections in 2006 and 2008…. – AP, 11-3-09
  • Races an early test of Obama influence: President Barack Obama’s political standing a year after his election is being tested as voters cast ballots in Virginia and New Jersey, two states he’s worked hard to keep in Democratic hands. A handful of congressional and mayoral races and a same-sex union initative also are among the featured face-offs this Election Day.
    Obama has made a number of forays to neighboring Virginia and northeast to New Jersey as he has sought to ensure that Democrats win governor’s races and pick up a GOP-held congressional seat in upstate New York. In doing so, Obama raised the stakes of a low-enthusiasm off-year election season — and risked political embarrassment if any lost…. – Boston Herald, 11-3-09
  • Election 2009: Test of Obama clout in NJ, Virginia: President Barack Obama’s political clout was on the line Tuesday as Virginia and New Jersey chose governors in contests that could serve as warning signs for Democrats about the public’s mood heading into an important midterm election year…. – AP, 11-3-09
  • 2 hopefuls duel in upstate NY after surprise turn: With the Republican out of the race and unions lining up behind their candidate, national Democrats on Monday used a high-profile campaigner and ramped up get-out-the-vote efforts to try to grab a congressional seat in a district held for decades by the GOP. On the other side, a splintered Republican Party brought in its own big names to try to salve over wounds opened by a bruising special election campaign that has seen a maverick third-party conservative candidate outgun the hand-picked Republican…. – AP, 11-2-09
  • Obama says NJ governor is key to his own agenda: In a final campaign swing on behalf of the only governor seeking re-election this fall, President Barack Obama on Sunday pitched Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine’s bid as a key component for the White House to make good on its political promises. “He’s one of the best partners I have in the White House. We work together,” Obama said. “We know our work is far from over.” Obama drew 6,500 people at a rally in Camden and another 11,000 later in Newark, according to White House estimates. He urged supporters to work hard to give Corzine another term in office so he can work with Washington to help repair a brittle economy. A Corzine loss would be seen as a political embarrassment for the White House…. – AP, 11-1-09


  • Obama, GOP Air Differences Over Jobs, Economy In Thanksgiving Addresses: On this Thanksgiving, President Obama and top House Republican Mike Pence, R-Ind., each used his party’s weekly address in a bipartisan display of gratitude for U.S. servicemen and women serving abroad.
    “Too many are wondering if the dream of a middle class life – that American Dream – is slipping away,” Obama said. “It’s the worry I hear from folks across the country; good, hard-working people doing the best they can for their families – but fearing that their best just isn’t good enough. These are not strangers. They are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Their struggles must be our concern.” The president argued that his economic policies and the stimulus “have helped break the back of the recession,” but he acknowledged that jobs growth has not yet materialized and “no matter what the economists say, for families and communities across the country, this recession will not end until we completely turn that tide.” Looking ahead to next week’s jobs summit, Obama said “it is my fervent hope – and my heartfelt expectation – that next Thanksgiving we will be able to celebrate the fact that many of those who have lost their jobs are back at work, and that as a nation we will have come through these difficult storms stronger and wiser and grateful to have reached a brighter day.” – ABC News, 11-26-09
  • Toasts by the President and the Prime Minister: Following is a transcript of toasts by President Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India at the state dinner on Nov. 24, provided by the White House. Many of you were here when I was honored to become the first President to help celebrate Diwali — the Festival of Lights. (Applause.) Some of you were here for the first White House celebration of the birth of the founder of Sikhism — Guru Nanak. (Applause.) Tonight, we gather again, for the first state dinner of my presidency — with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, as we celebrate the great and growing partnership between the United States and India.
    As we all know, in India some of life’s most treasured moments are often celebrated under the cover of a beautiful tent. It’s a little like tonight. We have incredible food and music and are surrounded by great friends. For it’s been said that “the most beautiful things in the universe are the starry heavens above us and the feeling of duty within us.”
    Mr. Prime Minister, today we worked to fulfill our duty –bring our countries closer together than ever before. Tonight, under the stars, we celebrate the spirit that will sustain our partnership — the bonds of friendship between our people.
    It’s a bond that includes more than two million Indian Americans who enrich every corner of our great nation — leaders in government, science, industry and the arts — some of whom join us tonight. And it’s the bond of friendship between a President and a Prime Minister who are bound by the same unshakable spirit of possibility and brotherhood that transformed both our nations — a spirit that gave rise to movements led by giants like Gandhi and King, and which are the reason that both of us can stand here tonight.
    And so, as we draw upon these ties that bind our common future together, I want to close with the words that your first Prime Minister spoke at that midnight hour on the eve of Indian independence, because Nehru’s words speak to our hopes tonight: “The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the great triumphs and achievements that await us…The past is over and it is the future that beckons us now.” – NYT, 11-25-09
  • Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address Saturday, November 21, 2009: With this in mind, I traveled to Asia to open a new era of American engagement. We made progress with China and Russia in sending a unified message to Iran and North Korea that they must live up to their international obligations and either forsake nuclear weapons or face the consequences. As the two largest consumers and producers of energy, we developed a host of new clean energy initiatives with China, and our two nations agreed to work toward a successful outcome at the upcoming climate summit in Copenhagen – an outcome that leads to immediate action to reduce carbon pollution. And I spoke to young men and women at a town hall in Shanghai and across the internet about certain values that we in America believe are universal: the freedom of worship and speech; the right to access information and choose one’s own leaders…. WH, 11-21-09
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Calls for Comprehensive Review of Events Leading to Tragedy at Fort Hood Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address November 14, 2009: Every fall, we set aside a special day to pay tribute to our veterans. But this year, Veteran’s Day took on even greater poignancy and meaning because of the tragic events at Fort Hood. On Tuesday, I traveled there to join with the Fort Hood community, the Army, and the friends and families of the victims to honor thirteen of our fellow Americans who died – and the dozens more who were wounded – not on some distant shore, but on a military base at home…
    There is an ongoing investigation into this terrible tragedy. That investigation will look at the motives of the alleged gunman, including his views and contacts. As I said in Fort Hood, I am confident that justice will be done, and I will insist that the full story be told. That is paramount, and I won’t compromise that investigation today by discussing the details of this case. But given the potential warning signs that may have been known prior these shootings, we must uncover what steps – if any – could have been taken to avert this tragedy…. – WH, 11-14-09
  • Obama, Hu vow cooperation but produce few deals: President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao promised a determined, joint effort to tackle climate change, nuclear disarmament and other global troubles yet emerged from their first full-blown summit Tuesday with scant progress beyond goodwill.
    “The major challenges of the 21st century, from climate change to nuclear proliferation to economic recovery, are challenges that touch both our nations, and challenges that neither of our nations can solve by acting alone,” Obama said, standing with the Chinese leader in the Great Hall of the People.
    Hu, who heads a collective leadership that often has preferred to go it alone internationally, said: “There are growing global challenges, and countries in today’s world have become more and more interdependent.” – AP, 11-17-09
  • Sarah Palin tells Oprah about controversies, future: “When I got the call, it was not such a shocking call to me,” Palin told talk-show host Oprah Winfrey in a highly anticipated interview that aired Monday. “I felt quite confident in my abilities and my executive experience and I knew that this is an executive administrative job. I was happy to get in there and contribute.” “It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do the job because of children,” she said. “My children are my strength. … They allow me to be grounded.”
    “I was surprised that they knew. I was surprised, too, that we didn’t handle that issue, that challenge better,” she said. “If we were given the allowance to deal with the issue in a more productive way, we could have perhaps sent a better message: This is not to be emulated.” She added, “I did not want that message sent out that we were giddy happy to become grandparents, and that’s what that message said.”
    “After the first segment, which didn’t go well, I didn’t do very well — I was annoyed with her badgering of questions — I was scheduled to do a second, then a third and then a fourth. … I know that there were hours of tape that were shot, and I would think that those few minutes that were edited together … and shown to the American public, if people only know me from that interview, [they would think] that I was not qualified,” she said.
    “The reason that we lost: The economy changed under a Republican administration,” Palin said. “People were sincerely looking for change. They were quite concerned about the road that America was on with its economy. They did not want more of the same. They did not want status quo. And I think, unfortunately, our ticket represented what was perceived as status quo.”
    “I resigned as governor of Alaska because I wasn’t going to run for a second term, and I was heading into a lame duck term,” Palin said of that decision, which shocked political observers.
    “We came back [from the campaign] to a new normal in Alaska. Everything had so changed in my administration,” Palin continued. “There were so many opposition researchers up there in Alaska that were sent, probably, by the Obama camp. … It was a point where my state of Alaska was being hampered by my presence there.” – CNN, 11-16-09
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Extends Condolences to the Fort Hood Community Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address Saturday, November 7, 2009: I’d like to speak with you for a few minutes today about the tragedy that took place at Ft. Hood. This past Thursday, on a clear Texas afternoon, an Army psychiatrist walked into the Soldier Readiness Processing Center, and began shooting his fellow soldiers.
    It is an act of violence that would have been heartbreaking had it occurred anyplace in America. It is a crime that would have horrified us had its victims been Americans of any background. But it’s all the more heartbreaking and all the more despicable because of the place where it occurred and the patriots who were its victims….
    Thursday’s shooting was one of the most devastating ever committed on an American military base. And yet, even as we saw the worst of human nature on full display, we also saw the best of America. We saw soldiers and civilians alike rushing to aid fallen comrades; tearing off bullet-riddled clothes to treat the injured; using blouses as tourniquets; taking down the shooter even as they bore wounds themselves…. – WH, 11-7-09
  • Bill Clinton urges Senate passage of health bill: Former President Bill Clinton urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to pass health care legislation by year’s end, pointedly telling skittish lawmakers that an imperfect bill is preferable to another failure like the one he and the party endured in 1994.
    “It’s not important to be perfect here. It’s important to act, to move, to start the ball rolling,” the former president told reporters after the closed-door meeting, held on the cusp of Senate debate on intensely controversial legislation. The House cleared its version of the bill late Saturday night on a narrow, party-line vote of 220-215…. – AP, 11-4-09
  • Romney: Obama economic stimulus plan is a failure: Three days after the Obama White House touted the program as creating or saving some 650,000 jobs, Romney said in a nationally broadcast interview that “the stimulus that the president and the Congress passed is not what’s helped the economy.” Romney said on CBS’s “The Early Show” that the administration’s stimulus plan “didn’t work” and he said the reason things seem to be ticking up in the business world is because the “private sector” has regained its equilibrium on its own. – AP, 11-2-09


  • Julian E. Zelizer “Keeping a promise to urban America”: One year ago, as Thanksgiving approached, many Americans were still feeling pleased about the fact that Americans seemed to have broken through an important racial divide. With the election of the first African-American president, some were talking about the possibility of a “post-racial” society.
    Despite all of the progress marked by that election, it remains painfully clear that we are not a post-racial society. Many of the racial disparities that are deeply connected to public policy, from our prison system to our education system to the damaged economies of urban America, remain unchanged.
    Although issues such as health care and the war in Afghanistan have garnered most attention, there is a significant initiative under way that seeks to tackle the problems that have faced African-American children living in poor communities in urban America: the Promise Neighborhoods program.
    The program aims to provide opportunity to young, largely minority Americans who are living in the impoverished neighborhoods of urban America….
    Promise Neighborhoods is one of the most ambitious efforts in recent years to tackle the crisis of urban youth. Geoffrey Canada’s work should offer one area of policy where Democrats and Republicans can join to show to the world that the election of 2008 did indeed reflect a genuine desire to eliminate some of the roots of racial inequality that continue to shape our country. – CNN, 11-25-09
  • Stephen Wayne “In his slow decision-making, Obama goes with head, not gut”: Stephen Wayne, who teaches about the presidency at Georgetown, said: “He’s not an instinctive decision-maker as Bush was. He doesn’t go with his gut, he thinks with his head, which I think is desirable.” Referring to the Afghanistan decision, Wayne said, “I don’t think he is an indecisive person, I just think this is a tough one.” – Wa Po, 11-24-09
  • Allan Lichtman “In his slow decision-making, Obama goes with head, not gut”: “I think the Obama we’ve seen as president is a very different Obama than we saw during the campaign. He doesn’t seem to be connected, he doesn’t seem to have the passion, he doesn’t seem to be conveying the grand and inspiring vision,” says the progressive historian Allan Lichtman of American University. “If you want to be a transformational president, you’ve got to take the risks.” – Wa Po, 11-24-09
  • Sean Wilentz “In his slow decision-making, Obama goes with head, not gut”: Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton, says Obama has suffered from unrealistic expectations among those who put him in office. “They kind of were sold Utopia, and they bought it, and it didn’t happen,” he says. “People were comparing the candidate to Abraham Lincoln before he served a day of his presidency. Nobody can live up to that.” – Wa Po, 11-24-09
  • Victor Davis Hanson: We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: When it comes to the problems facing this country, an old slogan comes to mind: “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” High unemployment, the recession and a terrorist resurgence in Afghanistan are bad enough. But there are a number of problems on the horizon that could dwarf President Obama’s first-year trials. Why the pessimism? In short, we are doing nothing to prepare for the crises to come. A global recession has led to low oil prices. Yet in this window of opportunity, America has not decreased its foreign-oil dependence. We are not encouraging domestic exploration. And we are still ambivalent on nuclear power…. – St Augustine, 11-25-09
  • Stephen Hess “Sizing up the Kennedy dynasty’s next generation”: Stephen Hess, author of “America’s Political Dynasties,” said such dynasties often ebb and flow. And while no obvious family successors to the late senator are apparent, there is a pool of about two dozen Kennedy cousins. Some of them could go on to make their mark in national politics. “To be a dynasty, one of the things that is very helpful, almost necessary, is a lot of children,” said Hess, who has been a consultant, adviser and speechwriter to presidents dating back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. “That name, or that legacy, is going to inspire some of them to go into elective politics, particularly since it obviously gives them an advantage.” Hess noted that back in the 1960s, few were predicting Ted Kennedy would become the family’s standardbearer after his two older brothers, John, the president, and Robert, the former attorney general turned senator, were slain. “He was not expected to be the leading figure of his generation,” Hess said. “Not only was he, tragically, because of the death of his brothers, but more importantly because he stayed in the Senate and had a remarkable record of achievement.” – AP, 11-22-09
  • John R. Bohrer: Hold the Hofstadter: Why the GOP Is Winning 2010: Over the last few months, a number of prominent political columnists have pointed to historian and social critic Richard Hofstadter to explain what is happening to the Republican Party. 1964’s The Paranoid Style in American Politics and his 1954 essay, “The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt,” among others, tell us why so many Republicans are lashing out at town halls and tea parties. And because the protesters make a lot of noise, wave disgusting signs and are embraced by a major political party, they get a lot of attention.
    Here’s the rub: their craziness turns away those who do not already agree with them, and yet the GOP is beginning to pull ahead in the generic congressional ballot match-up. How can this be?
    Perhaps it’s because while we’re all hopped up on Hofstadter and understanding what Sam Tanenhaus defines as The Death of Conservatism, we’ve forgotten about another important contingent of Americans: low-information 2008 Obama voters. Huffington Post, 11-17-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama should focus on jobs, not deficit: Regardless of the outcome of the health care reform effort, the difficult issue of cutting the federal budget deficit is likely to move front and center in 2010. The size of the deficit is causing great concern in Washington. While most economists say the deficit should normally hover at around 3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, it has now reached almost 10 percent. With each piece of positive economic news, such as the recent fall in unemployment claims, pressure will grow to shrink the deficit. The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House is considering using some unspent TARP money for debt reduction while Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is pushing for spending cuts if Congress raises taxes….
    The pressure to move faster will intensify after the health care debate is done and the midterm elections approach. The president will need to be cautious about not repeating Roosevelt’s mistake. – CNN, 11-17-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer “Are Republicans too giddy?”: Republicans have been downright giddy following the off-year elections in Virginia and New Jersey. In a swing state and a blue state, Republicans pulled off significant victories with Chris Christie’s defeat of Gov. John Corzine and Robert McDonnell defeating Creigh Deeds.
    Just two days after the election, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who had boasted of the results as evidence of a “Republican Renaissance,” issued a stern warning to his colleagues. Steele said that his message for the 2010 midterm elections was that Republicans should remain loyal to the party principles, or “we’ll come after you.”
    Republicans certainly can take some comfort in this election. It is clear that some of the excitement about the Democratic Party has faded since the beginning of 2009. The so-called jobless recovery, with unemployment now at 10.2 percent, is not sitting well with many Americans.
    But Republicans should be cautious. Both political parties have a history of over-reading election results and seeing mandates where none exist. The leaders of each party have often thought that the electorate sent a clear message endorsing a new direction in public policy only to learn that voters were relatively comfortable with the status quo….
    Rather than misread the message of the elections, Republicans must turn to the difficult job of rebuilding their party by finding a new generation of leaders and ideas, while broadening rather than narrowing their reach. If they don’t, their response will leave their ranks in even worse shape than before. CNN, 11-10-09
  • Richard Kohn: Could Fort Hood visit redefine Obama’s relationship with the military?: Recent Democratic presidents have had an uneasy relationship with the armed forces. Obama’s visit to Fort Hood’s memorial service could set the tone for a new rapport with those in uniform.
    “Obama doesn’t have a lot of experience with the military, so in a sense, I don’t think he’ll be on trial [at Fort Hood], but he does fight a natural suspicion of Democrats in the military,” says Richard Kohn, a University of North Carolina historian and expert on presidential wartime leadership.
    “The thing to do is compare his response and emotional intelligence with them when he’s at Fort Hood as opposed to his normal kind of behavior with other groups,” adds Mr. Kohn. “Whether it’ll have the emotional content that many military people expect or seek and whether that can balance or even cancel the natural suspicion is a question.”
    “What Obama is trying to do is to restore the proper sense of, ‘I’m the guy in charge,'” says Mr. Kohn. “What you’re hearing is a kind of partisan buzz that would like to reframe and cancel out Obama’s very concerted effort not to be victimized by that history of Democratic presidents and the military.” CS Monitor, 11-7-09
  • Betty Boyd Caroli: Michelle Obama’s poll numbers slide: “If you asked most people, they would say she defines her job as first lady as taking care of her family, and maybe that’s what the White House wants — what she wants,” said first lady historian Betty Boyd Caroli. “A lot of people appreciate that, but some people wanted more, and maybe that’s why the numbers are dipping.” – Politico, 11-4-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer: What happened to bipartisanship?: When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he would be pushing for a public option in the final health care bill, it looked as if he had given up on the possibility of a bipartisan agreement.
    Most Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition to the Democratic health care proposals. The only serious possibility for GOP backing has come from Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. While expressing support for much of the Senate Finance Committee bill, she has said she would accept a public option only if private markets and new regulations fail to control costs and lower premiums.
    Reid’s decision is not a sign of commitment to an ideal but rather an act of political realism. The notion that either party will be able to find substantive bipartisan support for legislation today is dubious. The political forces that generate partisan conflict in Washington are deeply rooted and hard to change…
    Seriously searching for bipartisanship, for example, would require reforming the campaign finance system so that legislators are not in such desperate need of private campaign contributions, over which party leaders and activist organizations maintain tight control.
    Citizens should also support media outlets that place solid journalism above partisan analysis. Right now, bipartisan votes are not coming. In the past few weeks, Democrats seem to have come to this conclusion and are now focusing more on what will unite their own party than what will win Sen. Snowe’s vote. – CNN, 11-3-09
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