December 8, 2008: Obama on the Economy & Caroline Kennedy, New York Senator?


Canada in Focus:

  • Dion’s Speech Beset By Technical Woes: In the battle of the airwaves Wednesday, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion showed up almost an hour late and a few pixels short in his duel with the prime minister he hopes to replace. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08
  • Gov. Gen. Agrees to Suspend Parliament: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has won a stay of political execution – at least until January. Harper convinced Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament on Thursday, delaying a non-confidence vote scheduled for Monday that would have brought down his beleaguered minority Conservative government. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08

The Headlines…

Scott Olson/Getty Images

President-elect Barack Obama introduced retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki as his nominee for secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department on Sunday.

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office:

  • Democrats Pick Up House Seat: Mary Jo Kilroy, a Democrat, won the 15th District, which encompasses Columbus, the state’s capital and largest city, by a little more than 2,000 votes over Steve Stivers, a Republican. Representative Deborah Pryce, a Republican, announced in August 2007 that she was vacating the seat. – NYT, 12-7-08
  • CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: In a move to reassert Congressional independence at the start of the new presidential administration, the vice president will be barred from joining weekly internal Senate deliberations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun. – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08
  • 1st Vietnamese-American elected to US Congress: Republican immigration attorney Anh “Joseph” Cao defeated Democratic U.S. William Jefferson on Saturday in an election postponed for a month by Hurricane Gustav. – AP, 12-7-08
  • What impact will Obama’s public works have on the American landscape?: President-elect Barack Obama is a student of history, as he has deftly demonstrated by following the model of Abraham Lincoln’s “team of rivals” in staffing his Cabinet. So as Obama pushes to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation’s infrastructure, I hope he’ll direct his motorcade past some living architectural history in Chicago, such as the Art Deco-style Lake Shore Drive Bridge over the Chicago River. – Chicago Tribune, 12-7-08
  • The Brightest Are Not Always the Best: IN 1992, David Halberstam wrote a new introduction for the 20th-anniversary edition of “The Best and the Brightest,” his classic history of the hubristic J.F.K. team that would ultimately mire America in Vietnam. He noted that the book’s title had entered the language, but not quite as he had hoped. “It is often misused,” he wrote, “failing to carry the tone or irony that the original intended.” – NYT, 12-7-08
  • Academic elites fill Obama’s roster Critics worry about insularity as Ivy League graduates crowd Cabinet posts: Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser was one of the youngest people to be tenured at Harvard and later became its president. His budget director went to Princeton and the London School of Economics, his choice for ambassador to the United Nations was a Rhodes scholar, and his White House counsel hit the trifecta: Harvard, Cambridge and Yale Law. – Salt Lake Tribune, 12-7-08
  • H. Brandt Ayers: Abraham Obama’s cabinet: We do not yet know how Sen. Hillary Clinton was persuaded to accept appointment as secretary of state, but the process is likely to resemble Abraham Lincoln’s appointment of his chief rival in the presidential race, Sen. William H. Seward. – The Anniston Star, 12-7-08
  • Clinton’s Welcome Will Include a Plate of Global Crises: As a candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton warned that Iran might be obliterated if it launched a nuclear attack on Israel and that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided capital. As a senator, she voted to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization and to approve President Bush’s plan to go to war against Iraq. – NYT, 12-7-08
  • Obamaland ‘Partisan’ Seeks a Prefix: Bi- or Post- : Six weeks before taking office, President-elect Barack Obama can already boast one striking accomplishment: persuading partisan, ideological adversaries to see him in a less partisan, less ideological light. NYT, 12-6-08
  • Lawrence Summers: Harvard Lightning Rod Finds Path to Renewal With Obama – NYT, 12-7-08
  • AP IMPACT: Donors, lobbyists help Obama get ready: Faced with hiring a new administration, President-elect Barack Obama is learning how hard it is to keep his promise to avoid aides who have been entangled with the capital’s lobbying scene. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Kennedy Is Said to Cast Her Eye on Senate Seat: Caroline Kennedy, a daughter of America’s most storied political family who for many years fiercely guarded her privacy, is considering whether to pursue the Senate seat expected to be vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton early next year, a family member said Friday. – NYT, 12-6-08
  • “Car czar” proposed for any automaker bailout – Reuters, 12-6-08
  • Obama speechwriter Favreau learns the perils of Facebook: Jon Favreau, future White House director of speechwriting, has so far been at a loss for words over Facebook pictures of him at a recent party. – CNN, 12-6-08
  • Louisiana voters oust indicted Rep. Jefferson: In a year when national Republican fortunes took a turn for the worse, Louisiana delivered the GOP two seats in Congress in elections delayed by Hurricane Gustav. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Rumsfeld nemesis Shinseki to be named VA secretary: President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, turning to a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Obama campaign mulls what to do with $30M surplus: Democrats carrying significant campaign debt after winning a string of House and Senate races are grumbling about President-elect Barack Obama’s financial reserves, saying the party’s leader is sitting on a pile of cash while Democratic leaders are broke. – AP, 12-5-08
  • Obama in the public eye Sunday: President-elect Barack Obama, who has been laying low the last few days, plans to be out in public in high-profile appearances on Sunday. In the morning, he’s the guest on NBC’s venerable “Meet the Press,” where he is certain to be questioned on the economy, his cabinet picks, and more. In the afternoon, he plans a press conference in Chicago. His office said this afternoon that “on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, President-Elect Barack Obama will be speaking about the contributions of those that have served our nation.” – Boston Globe, 12-5-08
  • 3 Palin Stylists Cost Campaign More Than $165,000: Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign spent more than $165,000 over the course of nine weeks on a trio of stylists for Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, equivalent to what a Hollywood studio might invest in preparing an A-list actress for a movie premiere or publicity campaign, other stylists said. – N”YT, 12-5-08
  • Biden picks Bernstein as his economic adviser: Vice President-elect Joe Biden on Friday named Jared Bernstein as his chief economic policy adviser, a new post created as the nation faces a recession. – AP, 12-5-08
  • Obama donors urged to ease Clinton campaign debt: Hillary Rodham Clinton is scrambling to reduce her massive campaign debt before she becomes secretary of state, when federal ethics laws — and political sensitivities — will severely hamper her ability to do so. – AP, 12-5-08

Political Quotes

  • Gen. Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs: President-elect Barack Obama announced today that General Eric Shinseki will be his nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. General Shinseki is a former Army Chief of Staff and 38-year Army veteran who served two combat tours in Vietnam. He understands the changing needs of our troops and their families and shares President-elect Obama’s commitment to modernizing the VA to meet the challenges of our time. – You Tube, 12-7-08
  • Obama Sharpens Tone on Auto Industry: Part of what I’m hoping to introduce as the next president is a new ethic of responsibility, where we say that, if you’re laying off workers, the least you can do when you’re making $25 million a year is give up some of your compensation and some of your bonuses, figure out ways in which workers maybe have to take a haircut, but they can still keep their jobs, they can still keep their health care, and they can still stay in their homes…. They have been building better cars now than they were 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. They are making some investments in the kind of green technologies and the new batteries that would allow us to create plug-in hybrids. – NYT, 12-7-08
  • Obama Warns of Further Economic Pain: “This is a big problem, and it’s going to get worse.”….. “I don’t think it’s an option to simply allow it to collapse… I think Congress is doing exactly the right thing by asking for a conditions-based assistance package that holds the auto industry’s feet to the fire… If this management team that’s currently in place doesn’t understand the urgency of the situation and is not willing to make tough choices and adapt to new circumstances, then they should go. As part of our economic recovery package, what you will see coming out of my administration right at the center, is a strong set of new financial regulations, in which banks, ratings agencies, mortgage brokers, a whole bunch of folks start having to be much more accountable and behave much more responsibly.
    I am absolutely confident, that if we take the right steps over the coming months, that not only can we get the economy back on track, but we can emerge leaner, meaner and ultimately more competitive and more prosperous.” NYT, 12-8-08
  • Obama Noncommittal on Caroline Kennedy, and Smoking: Caroline Kennedy has become one of my dearest friends and is just a wonderful American, a wonderful person. But the last thing I want to do is get involved in New York politics….
    I have done a terrific job, under the circumstances, of making myself much healthier. And I think that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House…. – N”YT, 12-7-08
  • Obama: Economy to get worse before it improves – on “Meet the Press”: “We’ve got to provide a blood infusion to the patient right now to make sure that the patient is stabilized. And that means that we can’t worry short term about the deficit. We’ve got to make sure that the economic stimulus plan is large enough to get the economy moving….
    Congress is doing the exact right thing by asking for a conditions-based assistance package that holds the industry’s feet to the fire and gives the industry some short-term assistance….
    What we need to do is examine, what are the projects where we’re going to get the most bang for the buck? How are we going to make sure taxpayers are protected? You know, the days of just pork coming out of Congress as a strategy, those days are over…
    We are going to maintain a large enough force in the region to assure that our civilian troops or our civilian personnel and our embassies are protected, to make sure that we can ferret out any remaining terrorist activity in the region. – AP, 12-7-08
  • The Saturday Word: Roads and Cars: In the wake of dismal job reports, President-elect Barack Obama called in his radio/YouTube address for the creation of “millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s.” – NYT, 12-6-08
  • Barack Obama: Your Weekly Address from the President-Elect: December 6, 2008: This week President-elect Barack Obama addresses the job loss that our nation continues to endure and offers solutions to the challenges we face. – You Tube, 12-6-08
  • Obama vows vast public works program: He proposes rebuilding roads, extending access to Web as way to revive economy – “We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least 2 1/2 million jobs so that the nearly 2 million Americans who’ve lost them know that they have a future.” Houston Chronicle, 12-6-08
  • Obama Statement: Town meetings start health reform effort: Providing quality affordable health care for all Americans is one of my top priorities for this country because our long-term fiscal prospects will have a hard time improving as long as sky-rocketing health care costs are holding us all down. Yet in order for us to reform our health care system, we must first begin reforming how government communicates with the American people. These Health Care Community Discussions are a great way for the American people to have a direct say in our health care reform efforts and I encourage Americans to take part if they are able. – Reuters, 12-6-08
  • Tom Daschle “Town meetings start health reform effort”: The myth is that we have the best healthcare system in the world. We do have islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity.” – Reuters, 12-6-08
  • Biden’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander: CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: “Biden had no intention of continuing the practice started by Vice President Cheney of regularly attending internal legislative branch meetings — he firmly believes in restoring the Office of the Vice President to its historical role. He and Senator Reid see eye to eye on this.” – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08
  • Harry Reid: CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: “He can come by once and a while, but he’s not going to sit in on our lunches. He’s not a senator. He’s the vice president.” – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Donald Ritchie: CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: Associate Senate Historian Donald Ritchie said Johnson was “hurt by the angry response.” Senators then, as they had throughout history, understood potential encroachment of the executive branch on their power. Similar rebuffs fill the pages of Senate history, from John Adams to Spiro Agnew. “Every vice president who has tried to be assertive has been restrained by the Senate,” said Ritchie, the historian. “Usually the vice president gets the hint and goes back to the White House.” – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08
  • Gil Troy “Will recession mean a toned-down inauguration?”: Though costly, an inauguration helps set the tone for a presidency, said Gil Troy, a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
    The president shouldn’t be seen noshing on caviar, but neither should he dispense with glamour entirely, Troy said. Americans want their leader to be a man of the people and a celebrity superstar, both.
    “Americans are people who love to indulge, and deep in our hearts want our leaders to be like the king and queen of England — but not too much,” he said.
    President Ronald Reagan fit the bill best when he set a new standard of opulence for his 1981 inauguration, Troy said. Nancy Reagan wore a $10,000 gown to the three-hour gala with Frank Sinatra.
    “Reagan had the ability — and maybe the Obamas will — to somehow make spending look patriotic,” Troy said. – AP, 12-7-08
  • Donald A. Ritchie “Can’t Put a Price on History For Some, Preparing for Inaugural Events Is No Time for Frugality”: Donald A. Ritchie, associate historian at the U.S. Senate Historical Office, said atypical visitors also attended the second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Blacks came because it was the first time they were allowed to march in the parade. “Probably the most popular so far was Andrew Jackson’s first inauguration in 1829, because he was seen as the people’s president,” Ritchie said. “The well-to-do of Washington were appalled at the common folk who showed up for Jackson’s inauguration.” – WaPo, 12-7-08
  • Carl Sferrazza Anthony “For Michelle Obama, great expectations”: Historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony said the public misperceived what Carter, who also maintained a weekly working lunch with her husband, was trying to do. “She was just avoiding having to bother him later with questions,” said Anthony, of the National First Ladies Library…. Dolley Madison, on the other hand, was admiringly called “Presidentress” by some for her role as a national symbol for all Americans, one who knew “how to strike the delicate balance between queen and commoner,” Anthony said. But Elizabeth Monroe, who came next and was much less popular, suffered from the comparison…. The wealthy Julia Tyler was deemed overly regal or queenlike, but then her successor, Sarah Polk, was called “monstrously small” (meaning small-minded) by President Tyler himself, Anthony said. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Michael Beschloss “300,000 Apply for 3,300 Obama Jobs”: The presidential historian Michael R. Beschloss said that “it’s hard to find a parallel in modern times to this degree of enthusiasm for going into government,” all the more striking in a period previously known for cynicism about government employment. – NYT, 12-6-08
  • Joan Hoff: ‘It was the best of times … worst of times:’ Presidential historian analyzes election: “Never before have we had a president coming in facing two wars, the collapse of a financial system and a country on the brink of decline in its great nation status.”…
    “Number one was the question of race. But also, we as a country are reluctant to vote for a president who does not try to hide his intellect. The last one before Obama was Woodrow Wilson. If you combine these two factors, it makes it a hugely unique vote.”…
    “The country is on a seismic brink,” Hoff said. “As foreign observers are now saying that all the time, we are on a downward slope in terms of economic footing and our position of power in the world. We are at the tipping point. And, if that is the case, any president will have to deal calmly and intellectually with our declining economic and diplomatic power in the world.”…
    “He has to be like Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” Hoff said. “FDR gave Americans the impression that he was solving the Depression. It was the second world war that brought the country out of the Depression.”…
    “Obama has become an international phenomenon like no other candidate has. It is said that as the U.S. goes, so goes the world. And people around the world were interested in what was happening in our election. There is the perception that Obama could bring change not only to the U.S. but also to the world.”…
    “I was in New York City during the election and it was fun to be there. People poured out into the streets and closed many of them off when it was announced that Obama had won. In addition, large crowds unprecedented in size gathered to watch the results in Times Square, Columbus Circle and Rockefeller Center.”
    “To be classified as a landslide, a candidate has to win at least 400 electoral votes, and preferably more than 500. So Obama’s 365 (current projections) was definitely was not a landslide, but it was a good mandate. Historians may, as they have with Truman and the Korean War, positively re-evaluate his Middle Eastern foreign policy if in 20 years or so it appears more successful than it does now. ” “This election was really something to experience. Obama will have to utilize his optimism and popularity to make changes following a failed presidency of unprecedented proportions. No previous president-elect has inherited two wars and a major recession. The situation is depressing, but it was such an upbeat election that I can’t be depressed. Obama has raised our expectations in a time of great need and I wish him well in trying to fulfill them.” – MSU News, 12-5-08
  • David Brinkley “Bush must navigate a treacherous post-presidency”: “The first year for every ex-president is really hard,” said David Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “You have to raise all this money for your library, you’ve got to build an organization, you have to write a huge memoir, your papers are in disarray, and you suddenly realize your mistakes because your pace slows down.”…
    “This is going to be Bush vision.” Brinkley said of the institute. “Bush has never liked the academics, and this is a nonacademic institute aimed at cutting to the core of things: only pro-democracy foot soldiers who are green-lit by George and Laura Bush are in the mix.” – CNN, 12-5-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Bush must navigate a treacherous post-presidency”: “He is a president where people are expecting some kind of repair work,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton. “If he just goes on the speaking circuit and focuses his time making huge money, that would only tarnish a presidency that only has a low approval rating.” Instead, Bush is more likely to choose a similar post-presidential path, at least initially, as that of Jimmy Carter, who also left the White House with poor approval ratings, Zelizer said. “What Jimmy Carter showed is that you can be very active in your post-presidential years and help improve how people think of you as a leader and a policy maker,” Zelizer said. – CNN, 12-5-08
  • Stephen Hess “Bush must navigate a treacherous post-presidency”: “This president’s low approval rating is overwhelmingly connected to Iraq. It will rise and fall depending what turns out to be the history of that country and that part of the world,” said Stephen Hess, a former Eisenhower aide and a scholar at the conservative Brookings Institution. “That really is what his legacy for future historians is all about.” – CNN, 12-5-08
  • Gil Troy: Is Bush’s Greatest Achievement a Non-Achievement: No Subsequent 9/11s?: In yet another example of “blowback” actually undermining Islamist terrorism, the Mumbai mayhem may boost George W. Bush’s historical legacy. In the waning days of his presidency, the massacres highlighted one of Bush’s most significant but elusive achievements. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is a non-event. After September 11, most Americans assumed they would endure a wave of terrorist attacks. Even those Americans who hate Bush must grant him at least some credit for the fact that not one major attack has occurred again on American soil….
    Despite all the hype during a presidential campaign about a candidate’s skills, judgment, character, experience, and potential, external events often define presidencies. George W. Bush himself entered office expecting to focus on domestic affairs. The horrific murders in Mumbai – along with the continuing economic roller coaster – illustrate that Obama’s legacy, like that all of his predecessors, remains in the hands of powerful actors and historical forces beyond his control, no matter how talented he is, no matter how focused on this one leader we remain. – HNN, 12-4-08
  • Julian Zelizer: Can President-Elect Obama Manage His Team of Egos?: Obama has assembled a powerful team that is full of experience, and opinions “He does have this challenge,” says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. “It’s not a modest cabinet by any stretch of the imagination. These are people of opinions and experience,” and they won’t be shy about “pushing the president” to adopt their ideas. The question is whether Obama will be strong enough to manage the egos around him—and distill from the resulting tensions and rivalries the best policies for the nation without allowing his government to descend into constant infighting, as happened under President Jimmy Carter and other chief executives. – – US News & World Report, 12-2-08
  • Douglas Brinkley “Presidential Historian Obama Could Permanently Ban ANWR Drilling”: Douglas Brinkley tells CNN’s Lou Dobbs new president may turn Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to a national monument – “I think what they’re trying to do is in the Obama administration, start pointing out some clear divot spots where they’re going to deviate from the Bush administration –things like Guantanamo, things that, ‘No, we are not going to be for drilling around parks,'” Brinkley said. “I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming year if you see someplace like ANWR in Alaska turn from being a wildlife refuge run by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and turn over to becoming a National Monument where you couldn’t drill. So you’re going to be, and that’s because you’re going to have to do some things sort of on the cheap,” he said. – Business and Media, 11-12-08

October 27, 2008: In the Aftermath of the Debates…


The week that was….

  • October 26, 2008: McCain says ‘I’m going to win it’ as Obama says the Republican is running out of time’ … McCain says Palin returned some of the $150,000 in clothing the Republican Party bought her … The Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s largest newspaper, endorses Obama for president … – AP
  • October 25, 2008: Obama, campaigning in New Mexico, reaches out to Hispanic voters … McCain looks for votes in West as he portrays Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal … Can’t stop talking: Nader claims Guinness record for speech making – AP
  • October 24, 2008: Obama spends records in first 2 weeks; cash reserves for both candidates dwindle … Obama leaves campaign trail to visit ill grandmother … Former Mass. Gov. William Weld, a Republican, endorses Obama for ‘ability to unify’ … McCain soldiers on in Colorado despite cutting ad spending and trailing Obama in polls AP
    McCain says Obama’s economic plan would harm middle class; warns against one-party control … Palin to speak under oath on Troopergate firing … Biden dismisses McCain claim on change as Democrat campaigns in West Virginia … McCain campaign pays Palin’s makeup artist more than foreign policy adviser in October … Obama leaves campaign trail to visit ill grandmother … Former Mass. Gov. William Weld, a Republican, endorses Obama for ‘ability to unify’ – AP
    Lieberman skirts question on whether Palin is ready to be president … McCain’s brother dropping out of campaign after calling 911 to complain about traffic … Ex-Justice lawyers want attorney general to ensure investigation won’t hinder minority voters …. – AP
  • October 23, 2008: Palin blames ‘double standard’ for flap over her designer clothes … Grandmother ailing, Obama returns to Hawaii for what might be their final visit … McCain soldiers on in Colorado despite cutting ad spending and trailing Obama in polls … — AP
    Obama launches sharp offensive in Indiana against McCain’s corporate tax breaks … McCain says Obama changed tax plan to avoid criticism … Biden tells NC audience McCain is getting out of control when steady hand needed … McCain keeps comment short on Palin’s GOP-paid $150,000 shopping spree … Former Minn. Gov. Carlson, a Republican, endorses Obama for president … On election night, McCain to speak to supporters’ via television from hotel lawn – AP
  • October 22, 2008: McCain to traverse Florida with ‘Joe the Plumber’ as the focus of his anti-tax pitch … Obama to campaign in red-state Indiana before flying to visit ill grandmother in Hawaii … Biden lashes out at corporate executives who make millions while their employees lose pensions – AP….
    AP poll: McCain gains, drawing even with Obama with two weeks until Election Day … Obama says he only wants to reverse tax cuts for the wealthy that McCain himself opposed … McCain asks New Hampshire voters for another come-from-behind victory … Palin calls Obama “Barack the wealth spreader” … GOP spent $150,000 in campaign funds to accessorize Palin — AP
  • October 21, 2008: In tossup Florida, Obama says McCain offers ‘willful ignorance, wishful thinking’ on economy … McCain reminds Biden he’s been tested in just the kind of crisis he warns Obama may face … Obama spends $87.5 million in September; entered October with $133.6 million in hand … Negative ads leave undecideds decidedly unmoved — AP
    Obama takes on national security while keeping focus on economy during Va. swing … McCain returns to NH, site of two pivotal primary wins, hoping to stave off November loss … Palin charged state for children’s travel, later amended expense reports –
  • October 20, 2008: Obama to take time off from campaign to go to Hawaii to visit ill, 85-year-old grandmother … McCain says his concern about Obama’s readiness for presidency is bolstered by Biden’s warning … Obama brings Democratic governors of GOP states to Florida for summit on his jobs plan. AP
    Obama spends $87.5 million in September; enters October with $133.6 million in hand … McCain dismisses idea that the economy is a losing issue for his presidential campaign … Obama brings Democratic governors of GOP states to Florida for summit on his jobs plan – AP….
    Obama invokes Reagan line to criticize handling of the economy; vows to halt foreclosures … McCain, supporters target liberal, feminists, media to rally GOP base in bellwether Missouri … McCain spends $37 million in September, has $47 million for campaign in October … Sarah Palin hits Obama again on taxes … Biden’s medical records show he appears in very good health 20 years after aneurysm – AP
  • October 19, 2008: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorses Obama, criticizes tone of McCain’s campaign … Palins set to give depositions to Troopergate investigator this week … Obama exudes confidence, reaches for decisive victory in Republican states. – AP

The Stats

  • October 25, 2008: John McCain leads Barack Obama nationally by 22 percentage points among white men and by 7 points among white women, according to a recent AP-GfK survey. – AP
  • October 23, 2008: Democrat Barack Obama has a 7-percentage-point lead over Republican John McCain — 50 percent to 43 percent — among registered voters, according to the latest Gallup Poll daily tracking update. – AP, 10-23-08
  • October 22, 2008: John McCain has an 18-percentage-point lead among rural voters over Barack Obama, according to a recent AP-GfK survey – AP, 10-22-08
  • October 22, 2008: Associated Press-GfK poll found Obama at 44 percent and McCain at 43 percent – AP, 10-22-08
  • October 22, 2008: Democrat Barack Obama has a 9-percentage-point lead over Republican John McCain — 51 percent to 42 percent — among registered voters, according to the latest Gallup Poll daily tracking update. – AP, 10-22-08
  • October 19, 2008: Democrat Barack Obama is trusted more than Republican John McCain to improve the economy by 54 percent to 44 percent and to handle the financial crisis by 53 percent to 46 percent, according to a recent AP-Yahoo News poll. – AP, 10-19-08
  • October 14, 2008: 63.2 million: The number of viewers watching the second presidential debate on Oct. 7 between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, according to Nielsen Media Research.

In the News…

Campaign Bloopers

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Historians Size Up Obama’s Timeout”: Though Mr. Obama is leading in the polls, “there are still so many uncertainties, and 36 hours is a lot of time in two weeks,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. “Even having television campaigning isn’t the same as being there in person. There is a cost.” Still, he said, the lost personal connection with undecided voters could be offset by the focus of media attention on Mr. Obama’s personal life and his compassion. “One of the issues that Obama has faced is people literally knowing who he is,” Mr. Zelizer continued, noting that opponents had tried to raise questions in voters minds like “is he a socialist, aligned with terrorists?” – NYT, 10-21-08
  • Stephen Hess “Historians Size Up Obama’s Timeout”: Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution also saw potential that the trip could help flesh out voters’ image of Mr. Obama. “They say he’s too mechanical, he’s cool, and here he does something terribly human,” Mr. Hess said in a telephone interview. “This isn’t planned by his strategist. He made the case in his book that she is very important to him. You can turn it around and ask, ‘What if he didn’t go?'” In short, he said, “It’s an awful thing to say — but it’s a political plus.” And besides, Mr. Hess added, “people in Ohio have grandmothers, too.” – NYT, 10-21-08
  • Doug Wead “Historians Size Up Obama’s Timeout”: Doug Wead, the controversial presidential historian — he has written about presidential families and revealed in 2005 that he had secretly taped George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas — found a somewhat comparable situation from a century ago, involving William Howard Taft. In 1907, Taft was secretary of war under Theodore Roosevelt, his close friend and adviser, who had promised not to run again and had chosen Taft as his preferred successor. Roosevelt urged Taft to make a round-the-world goodwill trip and get to know world leaders before the 1908 election. But there was a problem. “Taft was very much a mamma’s boy,” Mr. Wead said in a telephone interview today. “His mother was dying, and he thought that he had to cancel the trip.” Louisa Torrey Taft would not hear of it, though. Mr. Wead said she wrote her son a letter that said, in effect, “No Taft to my knowledge has ever turned down a public duty to fulfill a private need.” Taft went on the world tour, and his mother died while he was away, two months before her 80th birthday. Still, he won the presidency the following year, in an era before the extensive personal campaigning that marks today’s presidential politics. – NYT, 10-21-08
  • Gil Troy “Stuck In the Muck Mudslinging Isn’t New. Here’s the Messy Truth”: “Everybody always assumes there was a golden age of presidential campaigning that occurred 20 years ago,” says Gil Troy, an American history scholar at McGill University. “Almost from the start, American politics had its two sides — it had its Sunday morning high church sermon side, and it had its Saturday night rough-and- tumble ugly side.”… Oh, “John Quincy Adams was accused of pimping for the czar,” Troy says. Really. The czar of Russia. The press backing Jackson labeled Adams “The Pimp.” – Washington Post, 10-13-08
  • David A. Hollinger: Palin Distorts Small-Town America – New West Politics, 10-12-08
  • David S. Tanenhaus: Barack, Bill, and MeThe Bill Ayers that Barack Obama and I worked with was no “domestic terrorist.” – Slate, 10-10-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Palin Abused Power in Trooper Case, Alaska Probe Says”: “It’s one more blow to a deeply troubled campaign,” said Julian Zelizer, a history and public affairs professor at Princeton University in New Jersey. “The report on Palin raises more questions about why McCain made this choice and how much he really cares about fighting corruption.” – Bloomberg, 10-11-08
  • Dewar MacLeod “A lesson for WPU students in making every vote count”: “Democracy is not something that happens only once every four years; democracy needs to happen every single day. While this year’s ongoing presidential election promises to bring millions of new voters, especially the young, I hope students will also explore and participate in the ongoing process of civic engagement. Our democracy is only as strong as citizens are willing to make it.” –, NJ, 10-11-08
  • Peter Kastor “If history is guide, path to White House is through Missouri”: “Missouri is in the middle of the country geographically but also the center of the country politically,” Washington University history professor Peter Kastor said. “It is a state where various regional political cultures all exist.” – AFP, 10-10-08

On The Campaign Trail….

  • October 26, 2008: John McCain on Meet the Press, Discussing the Palins $150,000 Wardrobe Look, she lives a frugal life. She and her family are not wealthy. She and her family were thrust into this, and there was some — and some third of that money is given back, the rest will be donated to charity.
  • October 25, 2008: Barack Obama at the University of New Mexico to Hispanic Voters They’ll ask us is this a time when America lost its sense of purpose, when we lost our nerve, when we allowed the same divisions and fears to point us into a deeper recession or, will they say, is this one of those moments when America overcomes?…It’s time to build this economy by investing in the middle class again, and that’s what I’ll do as president.
  • October 25, 2008: John McCain in New Mexico: I’m a fellow Westerner, I understand the issues, I understand the challenges the great Western states face. We know what our great Southwest is, we welcome it and I’m proud to be a senator from the West.
  • “We’re a few points down and the pundits, of course, as they have four or five times, have written us off. We’ve got them just where we want them.” — John McCain.
  • October 24, 2008: John McCain at a rally in Denver The answer to a slowing economy is not higher taxes, but that is exactly what is going to happen when the Democrats have total control in Washington….
    Anytime you hear talk of a targeted tax increase, you might want to double-check the skill of the marksman — the U.S Congress has been known to fire wildly. America didn’t become the greatest nation on earth by giving our money to the government to spread the wealth around.
  • October 24, 2008: Biden said during an outdoor rally in CHARLESTON, W.Va. I know Halloween is coming, but John McCain as the candidate of change? Whoa, come on, John McCain and change? He needs a costume for that. Folks, the American people aren’t going to buy this.
  • “And too often, even if our own day, it seems that children with special needs have been set apart and excluded. Too often state and federal laws add to those challenges. … And I’m going to work to change that.” — Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
  • October 24, 2008: Joe Lieberman on Sarah Palin’s readiness Thank God, she’s not gonna have to be president from day one, because McCain’s going to be alive and well… If, God forbid, an accident occurs or something of that kind, she’ll be ready. She’s had executive experience. She’s smart and she will have had on-the-job training. I hope and pray, and I am working my heart out for McCain to be elected our next president, but if for whatever the reason he is not, I am going to do everything I can to be part of bringing people together across party lines to support the new president so he can succeed. What’s at stake for our country is just too serious.
  • October 23, 2008: John McCain in Ormond Beach, Florida: Thirteen days to go, and he changed his tax plan because the American people had learned the truth about it and they didn’t like it. It’s another example that he’ll say anything to get elected.
  • October 22, 2008: Barack Obama John McCain likes to talk about Joe the Plumber, but he’s in cahoots with Joe the CEO.
  • October 22, 2008: Barack Obama at a News Conference in Response to Republican Assertions Was John McCain a socialist back in 2000? I think it’s an indication that they have run out of ideas.
  • October 22, 2008: John McCain at a rally in a college hockey rink in GOFFSTOWN, N.H. I love you. I love New Hampshire. I know I can count on you again to come from behind and take a victory and bring it all the way to Washington, D.C., next January. I’m asking you to come out one more time. Get out the vote.
    Acting like the election is over won’t let him take away your chance to have the final say in this election.
  • October 21, 2008: Barack Obama says McCain offers ‘willful ignorance’ While President Bush and Sen. McCain were ready to move heaven and earth to address the crisis on Wall Street, the president has failed so far to address the crisis on Main Street, and Sen. McCain has failed to fully acknowledge it.
  • October 21, 2008: John McCain speaking about the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis in HARRISBURG, Pa.: I was on board the USS Enterprise. I sat in the cockpit, on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise, off of Cuba. I had a target. My friends, you know how close we came to a nuclear war.
  • October 20, 2008: John McCain in Belton, Mo. responding to Joe bidens comments: Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy: We don’t want a president who invites testing from the world at a time when our economy is in crisis and Americans are already fighting in two wars. What is more troubling is that Sen. Biden told their campaign donors that when that crisis hits, they would have to stand with them, because it wouldn’t be apparent Sen. Obama would have the right response. Forget apparent. Sen. Obama won’t have the right response, and we know that because we’ve seen the wrong response from him over and over during this campaign.
  • October 20, 2008: Sarah Palin: I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans … to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that’s where we would go.
  • October 20, 2008: Barack Obama Speaking in Miami: I’ve got news for Sen. McCain: Hardworking families who’ve been hard hit by this economic crisis — folks who can’t pay their mortgages or their medical bills or send their kids to college — they can’t afford to wait and see. They can’t afford to go to the back of the line behind CEOs and Wall Street banks.
  • October 20, 2008: Barack Obama in Tampa, FL, using Ronald Reagan Campaign line in 1980: At this rate, the question isn’t just “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” It’s “Are you better off than you were four weeks ago?”
  • October 19, 2008: Colin Powell endorsing Barack Obama on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: It isn’t easy for me to disappoint Senator McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that. I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that’s why I’m supporting Barack Obama, not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Senator John McCain.
    I found that (John McCain) was a little unsure as to how to deal with the economic problems that we were having. Almost every day there was a different approach to the problem and that concerned me, sensing that he doesn’t have a complete grasp of the economic problems that we had.

August 4, 2008: Veepstakes and Race Card


The week that was….

  • August 3, 2008: Republican Candidate John McCain has asked for personal documents from Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, and according to insiders he is under serious consideration for the Vice-Presidential slot on the Republican ticket.
    Democratic candidate Barack Obama has backed away from the pre-convention town hall debates McCain has proposed. In May when a McCain advisor suggested the pre-debates in May, Obama said “I think that’s a great idea.” Obama will only agree to the standard three debates in the fall.
  • August 2, 2008: Obama has shifted his position on offshore drilling, now stating he will support in a limited capacity if it will foster a policy that will make autos fuel-efficient and will help “develop alternate energy sources.”
    McCain criticized Obama position on school vouchers, especially since Obama sends his own children to private schools.
  • August 1, 2008: Discussing his energy policy Obama said he would push “for a windfall profits tax to fund $1,000 emergency rebate checks.”
    McCain accused Obama of using the race card after Obama claimed to a Missouri auudience on Wednesday “that the likely Republican nominee and others in the GOP would try to scare voters by saying the Democrat “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.” McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis “the race card” and calling the remarks “divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.” However, Obama’s strategist, David Axelrod claimed McCain made the comments about race when McCain made those conclusions.

The Stats

  • August 2, 2008: According to Quinnipiac University poll about voting the battleground state of Florida, the state is divided racially. 53 to 39 percent of whites prefer McCain over Obama. However blacks overwhelmingly support Obama 89 percent to 2 percent for McCain.

Historians’ Comments

  • Gil Troy: Happy Birthday Obama — the Baby Buster – HNN, 8-8-08
  • Dan T. Carter on “Obama, McCain find race issue isn’t easily discarded”: “It is not to Barack Obama’s advantage to make this a big issue,” said Dan T. Carter, a history professor at the University of South Carolina, who has written extensively about race and politics. At the same time, McCain cannot afford to be seen as exploiting racial tensions for political gain, Carter said: “It is simply not acceptable to the majority of people, including many of those who may be sympathetic.” – LAT, 8-3-08
  • H. W. Brands on “John McCain’s oft-used Teddy Roosevelt analogy is fitting”: “The main thing about Roosevelt’s appeal is he’s remembered by most people as an image and a style,” said biographer H. W. Brands (“T.R.: The Last Romantic”), a professor at the University of Texas at Austin. – LAT, 8-3-08
  • John Milton Cooper Jr. on “John McCain’s oft-used Teddy Roosevelt analogy is fitting”: “Sooner or later, just about every Republican who runs for president will invoke T.R.,” said John Milton Cooper Jr., a history professor at the University of Wisconsin. “Usually, though, they don’t know what they’re talking about. McCain is more serious about it. I think he’s got more justification.” – LAT, 8-3-08
  • Lewis L. Gould on “John McCain’s oft-used Teddy Roosevelt analogy is fitting”: “Contemporary Republicans are well to the right of where Roosevelt was in 1912 in terms of their view of the power of government,” said presidential historian Lewis L. Gould. “If Sen. McCain were to get beneath the surface, he’d have to say, ‘There are some parts of Roosevelt I like and some parts I don’t like.'” – LAT, 8-3-08
  • Robert Dallek on “It’s not about experience, experts say Voters may take issue with a lighter resume, but president’s judgment called key”: “Experience matters, but its importance is terribly overstated,” said historian Robert Dallek, the author of recent books about Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon…. John F. Kennedy was 43 years old when he took office in 1961, four years younger than Obama. Kennedy’s early years were rocky, Dallek said, but “he was a quick learner” and his third and final year as president was masterful…. “Yet his management of the economy was a disaster,” Dallek said of Hoover’s one-term presidency, which began months before the Great Depression. – Houston Chronicle, 8-2-08
  • Richard Norton Smith on “It’s not about experience, experts say Voters may take issue with a lighter resume, but president’s judgment called key”: “John Quincy Adams understood the world, but he didn’t have a political gene in his makeup,” Richard Norton Smith, a presidential scholar at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Va., said of the nation’s sixth president, who isn’t remembered as successful…. Kennedy’s actions those June days were “the moments he mastered the presidency,” Smith said. “He understood then how you take risks and use your political judgment.” – Houston Chronicle, 8-2-08
  • Carl Pinkele on “It’s not about experience, experts say Voters may take issue with a lighter resume, but president’s judgment called key”: “The presidency has too many moving pieces. Trying to gauge whether experience matters really eludes measurement,” said Carl Pinkele, a presidential expert at Ohio Wesleyan University, in Delaware, Ohio. – Houston Chronicle, 8-2-08
  • John Baick on “It’s not about experience, experts say Voters may take issue with a lighter resume, but president’s judgment called key”: Jimmy Carter also brought a management background, taking office in 1977 after one term as the governor of Georgia and more than 20 years running his family business. But “he was then universally criticized for being a micromanager in the White House,” said John Baick, an associate professor of history at Western New England College, in Springfield, Mass. – Houston Chronicle, 8-2-08
  • Stephen Hess on “Obama Opens Platform to Rank and File as Focus Turns to Economy”: “Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama truly agreed on virtually everything,” said historian Stephen Hess, who was chief editor of the 1976 Republican platform. The Democrats are “anxious to win, and they are united.” – Bloomberg, 8-1-08
  • Stephen Hess on “Too Fit to Be President? Facing an Overweight Electorate, Barack Obama Might Find Low Body Fat a Drawback”: The last overweight president to be elected was 335-pound William Howard Taft in 1908. As for tall and lanky presidents, “you might have to go back to Abraham Lincoln” in 1860, says presidential historian Stephen Hess. “Most presidents were sort of in the middle.” – WSJ, 8-1-08

On the Campaign Trail….

  • Barack Obama speaking to Reporters about the race card in Florida, August 2, 2008: “In no way do I think that John McCain’s campaign was being racist. I think they’re cynical. And I think they want to distract people from talking about the real issues.”
  • Remarks by John McCain to the National Urban League Annual Conference, August 1, 2008:
    You’ll hear from my opponent, Senator Obama, tomorrow, and if there’s one thing he always delivers it’s a great speech. But I hope you’ll listen carefully, because his ideas are not always as impressive as his rhetoric. And this is especially true in the case of the Urban League’s agenda of opportunity. Your Opportunity Compact speaks of the urgent need to reform our public schools, create jobs, and help small businesses grow. You understand that persistent problems of failing schools and economic stagnation cannot be solved with the same tired ideas and pandering to special interests that have failed us time and again. And you know how much the challenges have changed for those who champion the cause of equal opportunity in America….

    Democrats in Congress, including my opponent, oppose the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. In remarks to the American Federation of Teachers last month, Senator Obama dismissed public support for private school vouchers for low-income Americans as, “tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.” All of that went over well with the teachers union, but where does it leave families and their children who are stuck in failing schools?

    Over the years, Americans have heard a lot of “tired rhetoric” about education. We’ve heard it in the endless excuses of people who seem more concerned about their own position than about our children. We’ve heard it from politicians who accept the status quo rather than stand up for real change in our public schools. Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent, and diplomas that open doors of opportunity. When a public school fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children. Some parents may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private school. Many will choose a charter school. No entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity….

    But one name is still missing, Senator Obama’s. My opponent talks a great deal about hope and change, and education is as good a test as any of his seriousness. The Education Equality Project is a practical plan for delivering change and restoring hope for children and parents who need a lot of both. And if Senator Obama continues to defer to the teachers unions, instead of committing to real reform, then he should start looking for new slogans….

    Senator Obama and I have fundamental differences on economic policy, and many of them concern tax rates. He supports proposals to raise top marginal rates paid by small business and families, to raise tax rates on those with taxable incomes of more than 32,000 dollars, raise capital gains taxes, raise taxes on dividends, raise payroll taxes and raise estate taxes. That’s a whole lot of raising, and for million s of families, individuals, and small businesses it will mean a lot less money to spend, save and invest as they see fit….

    Our country is passing through a very tough time. But Americans have been through worse, and beaten longer odds. The men and women of the Urban League know more than most about facing long odds, and overcoming adversity. For 98 years, this organization has been at the center of the great and honorable cause of equal opportunity for every American. I’m here today as an admirer and a fellow American, an association that means more to me than any other. I am a candidate for president who seeks your vote and hopes to earn it. But whether or not I win your support, I need your goodwill and counsel. And should I succeed, I’ll need it all the more. I have always believed in this country, in a good America, a great America. But I have always known we can build a better America, where no place or person is left without hope or opportunity by the sins of injustice or indifference. It would be among the great privileges of my life to work with you in that cause.

  • Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Town Hall on Energy, Cedar Rapids, IA, July 31, 2008: We know that Cedar Rapids needs more than immediate assistance, because the problems that you’re facing in your daily lives go beyond this year’s storms. I’ve often said that this election represents a defining moment in our history. You’re working harder for less, and for too many Americans, the dream of opportunity is slipping away. That’s why the decisions we make over the next few years will shape a generation, if not a century.Given the seriousness of the issues, you’d think we could have a serious debate. But so far, even the media has pointed out that Senator McCain has fallen back on predictable political attacks and demonstrably false statements. But here’s the problem. All of those negative ads that he’s running won’t do a thing to lower your gas prices or to lift up the debate in this country. The fact is, these Washington tactics do the American people a disservice by trying to distract us from the very real challenges that we face….Instead of offering any real plan to lower gas prices, Senator McCain touts his support for George Bush’s plan for offshore oil drilling. But even the Bush Administration acknowledges that offshore oil drilling will have little impact on prices. It won’t lower prices today. It won’t lower prices during the next Administration. In fact, we won’t see a drop of oil from this drilling for almost ten years. While this won’t save you at the pump, it sure has done a lot to raise campaign dollars. Last month, Senator McCain raised more than a million dollars from oil and gas company executives and employees – most of which came after he announced his drilling plan in front of a bunch of oil executives in Houston. This is not a strategy designed to end our energy crisis – it’s a strategy designed to get politicians through an election, and that’s exactly why Washington has failed to do anything about our energy dependence for the last thirty years.It’s time to ease the burden on working families. That’s why I support energy rebates that will provide immediate relief for the American people. You won’t have to trust the oil companies to pass the savings on to you – you will get these rebates directly….My energy plan will invest $150 billion over the next ten years to establish a new American energy sector, and Senator McCain’s won’t. We’ll create up to five million American jobs – good jobs, jobs that can’t be outsourced. And we’ll help American manufacturers – particularly in the auto industry – convert to green technology, and help workers learn the skills they need to stay ahead in the global economy.I’ve supported investments in alternative energy, and Senator McCain has opposed them. And as President, I’ll invest in renewable energies like wind power, solar power, and the next generation of homegrown biofuels. That’s how America is going to free itself from our dependence on foreign oil – not through short-term gimmicks, but through a real, long-term commitment to transform our energy sector. That’s what we can choose to do in this election.
  • Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: Town Hall on the Economy, July 30, 2008: For millions of families, these anxieties seem to be growing worse with each passing day, causing many people to lose faith in that fundamental promise of America – that no matter where you come from, or what you look like, or who your parents are, this is a country where you can make it if you try…So we have a choice to make in this election. We can either choose a new direction for our economy, or we can keep doing what we’ve been doing. My opponent believes we’re on the right course. He’s said our economy has made great progress these past eight years. He’s embraced the Bush economic policies and promises to continue them. Our country and the working families of Missouri cannot afford that.These policies haven’t worked for the past eight years and they won’t work now. We need to leave these policies in the past where they belong. It’s time for something new. It’s time to restore balance and fairness to our economy so it works for all Americans, recognizing that we must grow together, Wall Street and Main Street, profits and wages.That starts with giving immediate relief to families who are one illness or foreclosure or pink slip away from disaster. To help folks who are having trouble filling up their gas tank, I’ll provide an energy rebate. To help hardworking Americans meet rising costs, I’ll put a $1,000 tax cut in the pockets of 95% of workers and their families, including 3 million folks here in Missouri. To help end this housing crisis, I’ll provide relief to struggling homeowners. And to protect retirement security, I’ll eliminate taxes for seniors making under $50,000 a year.If Senator McCain wants a debate about taxes in this campaign, that’s a debate I’m happy to have. Because while we’re both proposing tax cuts, the difference is who we’re cutting taxes for. Senator McCain would cut taxes for those making over $3 million. I’ll cut taxes for middle class families by three times as much as my opponent. Let me be clear: if you’re a family making less than $250,000, my plan will not raise your taxes – not your income taxes, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes. And unlike my opponent, I’ll pay for my plan – by cutting wasteful spending, shutting corporate loopholes and tax havens, and rolling back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.But in this election, we can do something more than just provide short-term relief. We can secure our long-term prosperity and strengthen America’s competitiveness in the 21st century. It won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. But I refuse to accept that we cannot meet the challenges of our global economy. I’m running for President because I believe we can choose our own economic destiny.

July 28, 2008: Obama’s Foreign Policy Tour, McCain on the Surge


The week that was….

  • July 27, 2008: Barack Obama is rejecting Republican criticism over his trip to the Middle East and Europe. Obama commented “John McCain has visited every one of these countries post-primary that I have,” he said. “So it doesn’t strike me that we have done anything different than the McCain campaign has done, which is to recognize that part of the job of the next president, commander in chief is to forge effective relationships with our allies.” He also claimed the Republican suggested he needed the trip to show he was serious and credible in the area of foreign policy.
    According to analysts the foreign leaders Obama met with on his trip treated the Democratoc nominees as if he was already the President of the United States. The only exception was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who did issue a statement about his speech in Berlin, praising his message but also embarassing him stating that “she did not think the historic Brandenburg Gate was a suitable venue for a political event by a traveling American.”
  • July 26, 2008: Obama is scoffing at McCain’s criticism over his scrapping plans to visit wounded soldiers at a German military hispital. Obama was scheduled to visit the soldier, but cited Pentagon security concerns as the reason behind his cancellation. The Pentagon has denied issuing any concerns. McCain has been very critical that Obama cancelled his trip to visit the soldiers, and started to run a TV ad which chides that Obama “time to go to the gym” but not to visit the troops and did not go because it “Seems the Pentagon wouldn’t allow him to bring cameras,” and concludes “John McCain is always there for our troops.” The ad is airing in Colorado, Pennsylvania and the Washington D.C. area.
  • July 25, 2008: An aide to Obama claimed that the Democratic candidate scrapped his planned visit to wounded soldier in Germany because the Pentagon said it would put the soldiers in the middle of campaign contraversay. In response McCain’s campaign spokesman Brian Rogers stated “Barack Obama is wrong. It is never ‘inappropriate’ to visit our men and women in the military.”On Friday, McCain met for 45 minutes with the Dalai Lama and the Republican candidate urge China to release Tibetan prisoners. “I urge the Chinese government to release Tibetan political prisoners, account for Tibetans who have, quote, ‘disappeared’ since protests in March, and engage in meaningful dialogue on genuine autonomy for Tibet,” McCain said. The Dalai Lama however, said he would not endorse McCain.On Friday, Obama continued his European tour meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy where they spoke at a press conference, and Sarkozy came close to endorsing Obama by calling him “my dear Barack Obama.” During the conference Obama and Sarkozy sent “a clear message to Iran to end its illicit nuclear program.”McCain spoke to Hispanic military veterans, and criticized Obama’s opposition to the “surge” stating “We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right” and “Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened.”
  • July 24, 2008: Obama commenced his day in Thursday completing the Middle East portion of his foreign policy tour. He made a short 15 minute pre-dawn visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall, where he bowed in prayer and put a note in the crevice of the wall. One heckler among the morning prayers screamed out “Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale!”Obama started his European tour visiting Germany, France and England by meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Obama then spoke to a crowd of 200,000 people at the Victory Column in Berlin Germany where he asked Americans and Europeans to work together and “defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it.”
    At the same time McCain was visiting the American heartland and a German restaurent in Ohio. At Schmidt’s Sausage Haus und Restaurant in Columbus’ German Village neighborhood, the Republican candidate ate bratwurst with local businessmen, telling reporters. “I’d love to give a speech in Germany. But I’d much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for president.”
    McCain held a town-hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio on cancer with Lance Armstrong.

    Republican Chuck Hagel who accompanied Obama on his Middle East troop criticized McCain saying “Quit talking about, ‘Did the surge work or not work,’ or, ‘Did you vote for this or support this,'” and “Get out of that. We’re done with that. How are we going to project forward?”

  • July 23, 2008: McCain faced Democratic Party criticism about comments he made in a Tuesday CBS interview about when the surge in the Iraq War commenced. He claimed “Because of the surge, we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening.” Explaining his comments McCain stated “A surge is really a counterinsurgency made up of a number of components. … I’m not sure people understand that ‘surge’ is part of a counterinsurgency.”
    Obama will spend $5 million on ads to air on NBC during the Olympics.
    Obama spent his only day in Israel touring and laying a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, took a helicopter tour of the country and visited Sderot, a town battered by bombs from Gaza. Obama met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during his visit, and promised “I’m here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States and my abiding commitment to Israel’s security and my hope that I can serve as an effective partner, whether as a U.S. senator or as president.”
    Obama also “rode past an Israeli checkpoint into Ramallah on the West Bank” and he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas assured him that he supports a Palestinian state living along with Israel.
    During a town hall meeting McCain credited President Bush’s lifting the ban on offshore drilling for the “$10-a-barrel drop in the price of oil.”
  • July 22, 2008: Upon arriving in Jordan, the first stop in his Middle East tour, Obama gave a press conference where he would not claim the troop surge help curb violence in Iraq. Speaking of Gen. David Petraeus’ opposition to his proposed timetable Obama stated: “I think he wants maximum flexibility to be able to — to do what he believes needs to be done inside of Iraq. But keep in mind, for example, one of Gen. Petraeus’ responsibilities is not to think about how could we be using some of that $10 billion a month to shore up a U.S. economy that is really hurting right now. If I’m president of the United States, that is part of my responsibility.” In response a McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds stated “By admitting that his plan for withdrawal places him at odds with Gen. David Petraeus, Barack Obama has made clear that his goal remains unconditional withdrawal rather than securing the victory our troops have earned.”
    Obama also met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
  • July 21, 2008: Visiting Iraq, Obama and Sens. Chuck Hagel, (R) Nebraska, and Jack Reed, (D) Rhode Island issued a joint statemnt that Iraqi want a timetable for troop removal. “Prime Minister Maliki told us that while the Iraqi people deeply appreciate the sacrifices of American soldiers, they do not want an open-ended presence of U.S. combat forces. The prime minister said that now is an appropriate time to start to plan for the reorganization of our troops in Iraq — including their numbers and missions. He stated his hope that U.S. combat forces could be out of Iraq in 2010.”
    McCain visited with the first President Bush and ridiculed Obama’s military credentials, stating “When you win wars, troops come home. He’s been completely wrong on the issue. … I have been steadfast in my position.” McCain also blamed the Democratic candidate for higher prices because he opposes offshore drilling and made the energy position central to a new campaign ad.
    The New York Times defended its decision not publish McCain op-ed which responded to Obama’s July 14 one in the NYT about the Iraq War. They said they usually require the author’s revisions and McCain did not agreed to it. However McCain camp released NYT Op-ed editor David Shipley e-mail where he wrote “that McCain’s article would “have to lay out a clear plan for achieving victory — with troops levels, timetables and measures for compelling the Iraqis to cooperate. And it would need to describe the senator’s Afghanistan strategy, spelling out how it meshes with his Iraq plan.”

The Stats

  • CNN’s “poll of polls” this past week reported Obama leading John McCain 44 percent to 41 percent.
  • July 25, 2008: According to surbey by nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center Hispanics support Sen. Barack Obama for president over Republican Sen. John McCain, 66 percent to 23 percent, with 11 percent undecided. – The Desert Sun, CA, 7-25-08
  • July 24, 2008: A Gallup Poll Daily tracking claim that Obama and McCain are running 45 percent for Obama to 43 percent for McCain.

Historians’ Comments

  • Harold Cox, professor emeritus of history at Wilkes College on “Small-town Pennsylvanians still unsure of Obama and McCain”
    “It’s old, it’s white, it’s conservative and it’s Democratic,” said Harold Cox, professor emeritus of history at Wilkes College. People here grew up Democratic, and Democratic nominees carried Luzerne and Lehigh Counties in every election since 1992. – McClatchy Washington Bureau, DC, 7-27-08
  • Gil Troy, a McGill University history professor and presidential scholar on “A Kennedyesque future may await Obama”:
    “The Kennedys’ moving into the White House in 1961 was a cultural bombshell. You had this beautiful, glamourous young couple with small adorable children plus the Kennedy mythology behind it. For Irish Catholics, it meant, ‘we made it.’… There will be, as there always is, a downturn after the initial honeymoon, and it will be a test of the African-American community as to whether they can deal with him being treated like anybody else.” – London Free Press, CA, 7-27-08
  • Gil Troy on “Barack Obama’s mad rush toward the middle”:
    But Gil Troy, for one, perceives that Obama is returning to his centrist origins, as well as heeding the rules of post-primary positioning. “When you read Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, or when you hear his 2004 speech to the Democratic convention,” Troy says, “that’s a much more centrist vision than what we saw in the primaries….” – Montreal Gazette, 7-23-08
  • Randall Miller, a professor of history at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia discussing town hall meetings in swing voting areas in “McCain stresses energy policy, slams Obama”:
    “He gets lots of local ink out of them, in places where he needs to do well,” said Randall Miller, a professor of history at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. – McClatchy Washington Bureau, DC, 7-23-08
  • Robert Dallek on “Bush Failures May Force McCain, Obama to Make Like FDR in 2009”:
    “What a burden the next president is going to confront,” says Robert Dallek, a presidential historian and biographer of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. “It’ll be like Franklin Roosevelt coming in, in 1933.” – Bloomberg, 7-20-08
  • Stephen Hess on “Bush Failures May Force McCain, Obama to Make Like FDR in 2009”:
    The next president is “going to wake up very quickly to the fact that the economy so overwhelms everything else,” says Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington. – Bloomberg, 7-20-08
  • Douglas Brinkley on “Barack Obama lands in Afghanistan on first leg of world tour”
    “If Obama says he represents a new politics, he’s certainly smashing an old paradigm by going,” the presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, of Rice University in Texas, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “And for 10 days, he’ll own the media. It’s gigantic for him.” – Guardian, UK, 7-19-08
  • Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University on “Fierce pressure on Obama in Europe-Mideast tour”:
    “This is one of those things that is high risk, but he has no choice,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, noting polls that show voter disquiet over Obama’s inexperience. “If he pulls this kind of trip off, it is a huge payoff because this is his only real weakness at this point.” – AFP, 7-17-08
  • David R. Colburn is a professor of history at the University of Florida “McCain as Truman, Obama as RFK”:
    …McCain reminds me a lot of Harry Truman. I know: Truman was a Democrat. But like Truman, McCain does not hesitate to speak his mind. He has also been accused of being impatient and having a temper, much like Truman. Some partisans take issue with McCain’s unwillingness to conform to the party line, but, as with Truman, he seems to understand that the issues facing the nation are so complex that only a bipartisan approach will ensure successful solutions. … Obama lacks the experience of McCain, but he is one of the brightest minds that has appeared on the national political scene since World War II. I am not easily taken in by a candidate’s speaking ability or rhetoric, but Obama has made me a convert. He reminds me a good deal of Robert F. Kennedy, in that Obama has a magnetic quality when speaking to audiences and an incredible skill at pulling diverse audiences together…. – Orlando Sentinel, 7-17-08
  • Charles J. Holden and Zach Messitte: Choosing a No. 2:
    ….As Senators Obama and McCain ponder a running mate, they would do well to weigh carefully the tactical and the practical benefits of their top choices for the No. 2 spot.
    Voters, for their part, should demand that the presidential nominees think beyond November and reward the candidate who selects a running mate who adds both political and policy benefits to the ticket. – Baltimore Sun, 7-14-08

On the Campaign Trail….

  • John McCain interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, July 27, 2008 ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “There’s also been a flap about Senator Obama’s decision in Germany not to visit the troops at Landstuhl. He now says that, based on what he was hearing from the Pentagon, there was no way that wouldn’t be seen as a political trip, which is why he decided not to go. Do you accept that explanation?” John McCain: “Well, I know this, those troops would have loved to have seen him. And I know of no Pentagon regulation that would have prevented him from going there without the media and the press and all of the associated people. Nothing that I know of would have kept him from visiting those wounded troops. And they are gravely wounded, many of them.”…”In Landstuhl, Germany, when I went through, I visited the hospital. But the important thing is that, if I had been told by the Pentagon that I couldn’t visit those troops, and I was there and wanted to be there, I guarantee you, there would have been a seismic event. And so, I believe he had the opportunity to go without the media. And I’ll let the facts speak for themselves.”…”There was nothing to prevent him from going, if he went without the press and the media and his campaign people. But we’ll see what happens.””I think people make a judgment by what we do and what we don’t do. He certainly found time to do other things.”
  • Remarks by John McCain to the Americans with Disabilities Conference, July 26, 2008 … One of the most fundamental principles of all is that the presence of a disability should not mean the absence of choice. When the government does its duty by extending aid to Americans with disabilities, it should not do so in a heavy-handed way that restricts personal freedom. I will work to enact legislation that would build on the principles of the Money Follows the Person Initiative, while also keeping my commitment to a responsible budget. The offer of assistance in living with a disability should not come with the condition of perpetual confinement to an institutional setting. The great goal here should be to increase choices, to expand freedom, to open doors, and to allow citizens with disabilities to live where they want and to go where they wish.Everyone who seeks the presidency brings to the office his or her own experiences. And one of the finest experiences in my life has been to witness the power of human courage to overcome adversity. I have seen it in war, in prison camps, and in military hospitals. I have seen the capacity of men and women to overcome the hardships, challenges, and bad breaks that life can bring our way. How we face such obstacles can define our lives. And how we support one another at those times can define the character of our country. You at the AADP have seen these same qualities of courage, determination, and grace — you have seen them in each other. And when you enlist your fellow citizens in the cause of equality and fairness for Americans with disabilities, you call upon the best that is in our country.
  • Remarks By John McCain At The American GI Forum, July 25, 2008 ….Senator Obama made a different choice. He not only opposed the new strategy, but actually tried to prevent us from implementing it. He didn’t just advocate defeat, he tried to legislate it. When his efforts failed, he continued to predict the failure of our troops. As our soldiers and Marines prepared to move into Baghdad neighborhoods and Anbari villages, Senator Obama predicted that their efforts would make the sectarian violence in Iraq worse, not better….Three weeks after Senator Obama voted to deny funding for our troops in the field, General Ray Odierno launched the first major combat operations of the surge. Senator Obama declared defeat one month later: “My assessment is that the surge has not worked and we will not see a different report eight weeks from now.” His assessment was popular at the time. But it couldn’t have been more wrong….Above all, America would have been humiliated and weakened. Our military, strained by years of sacrifice, would have suffered a demoralizing defeat. Our enemies around the globe would have been emboldened. Terrorists would have seen our defeat as evidence America lacked the resolve to defeat them. As Iraq descended into chaos, other countries in the Middle East would have come to the aid of their favored factions, and the entire region might have erupted in war. Every American diplomat, American military commander, and American leader would have been forced to speak and act from a position of weakness.Senator Obama told the American people what he thought you wanted to hear. I told you the truth. From the early days of this war, I feared the administration was pursuing a mistaken strategy, and I said so. I went to Iraq many times, and heard all the phony explanations about how we were winning. I knew we were failing, and I told that to an administration that did not want to hear it. I pushed for the strategy that is now succeeding before most people even admitted that there was a problem.Fortunately, Senator Obama failed, not our military. We rejected the audacity of hopelessness, and we were right. Violence in Iraq fell to such low levels for such a long time that Senator Obama, detecting the success he never believed possible, falsely claimed that he had always predicted it. There have been almost no sectarian killings in Baghdad for more than 13 weeks. American casualties are at the lowest levels recorded in this war. The Iraqi Army is stronger and fighting harder. The Iraqi Government has met most of the benchmarks for political progress we demanded of them, and the nation’s largest Sunni party recently rejoined the government. In Iraq, we are no longer on the doorstep of defeat, but on the road to victory.
  • Obama’s Speech in Berlin ….Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other….Now the world will watch and remember what we do here – what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?

    Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words “never again” in Darfur?

    Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

    People of Berlin – people of the world – this is our moment. This is our time.

    I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

    But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived – at great cost and great sacrifice – to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

    These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people – everywhere – became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation – our generation – must make our mark on the world.

    People of Berlin – and people of the world – the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.

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