Political Highlights June 15, 2010: Obama Dealing with the Fallout over Gulf Oil Spill

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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


President Obama Meets with Bipartisan Members of Congress in the  Cabinet Room

President Barack Obama meets with, from left, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the Cabinet Room of the White House to discuss the upcoming work period, the economy and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. June 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


  • Hillary more likeable than her boss: The woman U.S. President Barack Obama once called “likeable enough” has actually surpassed her boss in likeability, the latest polling indicates. Depending on the poll, Americans like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton some 10 to 25 percent better than the president, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. For example, this month’s Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll found Obama with a 51 percent favorability rating compared to Secretary Clinton with favorability in the 60s…. – UPI, 6-15-10
  • Poll: 65% of Jewish Israelis say U.S. Jews should criticize Obama’s Mideast policy: B’nai B’rith survey also found 54% of Jewish Israelis believe Jewish advocacy groups who work with foreign governments should always support Israeli policy…. – Haaretz, 6-15-10
  • Poll: Obama’s gulf work gets thumbs down: More Americans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill than of his overall job performance, a Gallup Poll indicated Tuesday. Results indicated Obama’s rating for the oil spill was 40 percent, 7 percentage points lower than his overall job approval rating. More Americans disapprove than approve of his handling of the oil spill that began April 20 when an oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers, and sank two days later. In an earlier poll, Gallup said 53 percent of Americans called Obama’s efforts in responding to the spill “very poor” or “poor,” while 73 percent expressed the same sentiments about BP…. – UPI, 6-8-10
  • Fox News Poll: White House Could Have Done More, Moved Faster On Spill: Fifty-seven percent think the administration could have done more and reacted more quickly to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s 20 percentage points higher than the 37 percent who think the administration did as much as it could as fast as it could.
    Not unexpectedly, most Republicans (72 percent) think the administration could have done more. A majority of independents (63 percent), as well as a substantial minority of Democrats (43 percent), agree.
    And while many voters — 36 percent — think the Obama administration is “up to the job” of fixing the problem in the gulf, a 54 percent majority thinks the administration is “in over its head.” Fox News, 6-10-10
  • Fla. Poll: Oil Spill Takes Toll on Obama: The oil spill is taking a toll on the president, a new Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters shows. The poll, released today, shows that Floridians, by a 51%-42% margin, oppose more offshore oil drilling – a big shift from the 66%-27% support drilling received in an April 19 poll.
    At the same time, President Barack Obama’s job approval numbers plummeted to a negative 40%-54% in Florida, off from a 50%-45% approval-disapproval rating in April when he called for relaxing standards for offshore drilling. WSJ, 6-9-10


The President at a tele-town hall with seniors
The President at a tele-town hall with seniors, Wheaton, Md.,, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 6/8/10
  • Obama to cap Gulf tour with Oval Office speech: President Barack Obama is capping two days in the suffering Gulf of Mexico with a solemn, high-stakes address to the nation that will lay out the enormous effort needed to right the multifaceted damage from the country’s worst environmental disaster. With the political import of Tuesday evening’s address clear, Obama for the first time will use the Oval Office as an austere backdrop for a speech in which he will assign himself and his administration the momentous task of bringing back the Gulf’s teeming wildlife and beauty to what it was before it was fouled by hundreds of millions of gallons of oil…. – AP, 6-15-10
  • Obama continues Gulf visit, prepares to address nation: President Obama will continue his Gulf Coast visit Tuesday with a stop in Florida’s Panhandle, where beaches have started to see signs of oil as crude continues to gush from a ruptured deepwater well. Obama, on his fourth trip to the region since oil began spewing from the well in April, is scheduled to return to Washington later Tuesday and address the nation about the situation from the Oval Office…. – CNN, 6-15-10
  • Republicans seek pay freeze for federal workers; a ‘cynical ploy,’ Democrats say: Looking to demonstrate their commitment to balancing the budget, Republicans are increasingly targeting the federal workforce. In the past month, congressional Republicans have tried to attach to several bills language that would limit pay increases for federal workers. This week, as part of a GOP amendment to a Democratic bill that would spend billions on unemployment benefits and help states fund their Medicaid programs, Senate Republicans are including a proposal that would freeze pay levels for the 2 million people who work for the government… – WaPo, 6-15-10
  • Arizona bill would deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants: A proposed Arizona law would deny birth certificates to children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents. The bill comes on the heels of Arizona passing the nation’s toughest immigration law. John Kavanagh, a Republican state representative from Arizona who supports the proposed law aimed at so-called “anchor babies,” said that the concept does not conflict with the U.S. Constitution. “If you go back to the original intent of the drafters … it was never intended to bestow citizenship upon (illegal) aliens,” said Kavanagh, who also supported Senate Bill 1070 — the law that gave Arizona authorities expanded immigration enforcement powers… – CNN, 6-15-10
  • The Big Tax Increase Facing Small Business Congress Wants to Collect $11B More in Taxes Over 10 Years: The President urges Congress to enact legislation that helps small businesses While a possible increase in taxes on the “carried interest” of hedge fund and private equity money managers is getting all the attention, in the same bill Congress is also creating a tax mess for small-business owners in the form of an $11 billion tax hike over the next 10 years. The tax increase was included in H.R. 4213, a peddler’s wagon of legislation (new spending, physicians’ reimbursement, extensions of expired tax breaks, etc.) that was passed by the House in a narrow vote just before Memorial Day and is now being considered by the Senate… – Forbes.com, 6-13-10
  • F.B.I. Opens Kennedy File: Most of the death threats made against Senator Edward M. Kennedy warned of shootings, but one claimed that a crossbow would be used. For years after two of his brothers were slain by assassins, Mr. Kennedy received repeated warnings that he would meet the same fate, according to thousands of pages of documents about Mr. Kennedy that were released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation…. The F.B.I. files on Mr. Kennedy — 2,352 pages covering 1961 to 1985 — are mostly devoted to the scores of threats against him, but they also pull back the curtain on other episodes before and after he became a senator. NYT, 6-15-10
  • Obama wants BP escrow fund for spill damage: As more oil washes ashore, a letter from 54 senators calls for the company to set aside $20 billion. In an effort to seize greater control of the gulf oil catastrophe, President Obama is prepared to compel BP executives to set up a multibillion-dollar escrow account to pay damage claims in the region, a senior White House official said Sunday…
    “Our mission is to hold them accountable in every appropriate way,” Obama advisor David Axelrod said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “He is going to be very clear about what our expectations are in terms of taking care of the people who’ve been damaged by this crisis.”…. – LAT, 6-14-10
  • Kagan confirmation would affect major tobacco case: It’s a simple matter of math: Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court has complicated the government’s effort to force the tobacco industry to cough up nearly $300 billion. If confirmed by the Senate as a justice, Kagan would have to sit out high court review of the government’s decade- old racketeering lawsuit against cigarette makers. That’s because she already has taken sides as solicitor general, signing the Obama administration’s Supreme Court brief in the case — an automatic disqualifier. Kagan is expected to step aside from 11 of the 24 cases the court has so far agreed to hear beginning in October…. – AP, 6-13-10
  • Schwarzenegger makes media rounds in D.C.: Fresh from his open primary ballot victory, he keeps the focus on his final year as governor, not what’s next for him. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, fresh from his victory in the passage of Proposition 14, spent a day last week hopping from one Washington, D.C., media outlet to another touting his success and his final year’s agenda. Schwarzenegger had pushed the open primary election system ordained in the ballot measure. It will allow all candidates in a primary to appear on a single ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, to run against each other in the general election. It does not apply to presidential contests…. – LAT, 6-14-10
  • Obama Appeals to Congress for $50 Billion in Emergency Aid: President Obama is pressing Congress to approve emergency aid money to support economic recovery and help avoid widespread layoffs of public workers, the Washington Post reported Saturday. Congressional leaders received a letter from the president asking for almost $50 billion for distribution to state and local governments, saying that increased spending is “urgent and unavoidable,” the Post reported. The money would protect the jobs of teachers, police and firefighters.
    “Because the urgency is high—many school districts, cities and states are already being forced to make these layoffs,” Obama wrote, “these provisions must be passed as quickly as possible.” Fox News.com, 6-13-10
  • Heat on BP to improve oil spill response: BP Plc faced renewed U.S. pressure on Sunday to do more to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as the United States and Britain played down diplomatic tensions over the crisis.
    British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was up to the British energy giant, under pressure in the United States to suspend its dividend to help pay for the damage, to decide on its payout to shareholders.
    He also said that the British government was offering the United States large quantities of chemical dispersant to help clean up the spill…. – Reuters, 6-13-10
  • Bill Clinton still has touch as he aids President Obama, former president is back to save Democrats: It’s Bubba to the rescue. Former President Bill Clinton’s outsized presence is already a force on the 2010 campaign trail as Democrats scramble to save their hides in a rough political climate. He almost single-handedly reversed the fortunes of embattled Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln last week against an insurgent primary challenger. This week, he’s off to Las Vegas to hold a campaign rally for Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader in a hard fight to win reelection…. – NY Daily News, 6-13-10
  • Obama, British PM to discuss BP’s Gulf oil spill: The Gulf oil spill, with a British company the villain, is raising tensions on both sides of the Atlantic. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron planned to discuss the environmental catastrophe Saturday by telephone, hoping to ease what has become a growing rift between the two countries over the criticism of the well’s owner, BP PLC. As BP struggles unsuccessfully to halt the gushing oil that is bringing environmental chaos to the Gulf Coast, Obama has sharpened his criticism of the British company. He said he would have fired BP’s top executive if he were in charge, embraced the idea that the oil giant suspend its quarterly dividend and reproached BP for spending money on a public relations campaign. And occasionally Obama would refer to “British Petroleum,” although the company years ago began using only its initials and, in fact, is a far-reaching international corporation with extensive holdings in the United States, including a Texas refinery and a share of the Alaska oil pipeline…. – AP, 6-12-10
  • Top US senators: Obama, stand by Israel: The top two US senators are urging President Barack Obama to stand by Israel in the face of recent global pressure following the lethal raid on the Gaza-bound Marmara ship. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote a letter to the President, urging him to show strong support for Israel in international bodies, insist on the Jewish State’s right for self-defense, and look into the terror connections of the Turkish organization that led the violent Gaza sail… – YNet News, 6-12-10
  • Kagan Expressed Broad View of Religious Freedom: As an associate White House counsel from 1995 to 1996, Ms. Kagan provided advice to a president with his own political agenda, so it is hard to gauge how much her analyses reflected her own views or how they would apply if she had the authority of a Supreme Court justice. But since she has never served as a judge and has done only a limited amount of scholarly writing, the 43,000 pages released Friday offer a rare look at her legal thinking that may influence her coming confirmation hearings.
    The papers were the second batch released by the library, for a total of nearly 90,000 pages from her files as associate counsel and later deputy domestic policy director. The library plans to release another 70,000 pages of e-mail messages before the Senate Judiciary Committee opens hearings June 28, but Republicans argue that they need more time to examine the material…. – NYT, 6-12-10
  • Bill Clinton: Another comeback for ‘Comeback Kid’: The former two-term president may have finally found a role in Obama world after struggling to fit in after the caustic Democratic presidential campaign that sullied his reputation. Clinton is heading up special projects for Haiti and outreach to North Korea for the White House. He was the closer in rural Pennsylvania last month, helping Democratic Rep. Mark Critz win a special election. His campaigning was a factor in Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s narrow victory in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff in Arkansas.
    Now, he’s hoping to rally voters for vulnerable Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the swing state of Nevada. Clinton was the headliner at a rally Thursday night, wondering out loud why Reid’s seat is in jeopardy. “Why would you give away the Senate majority leader who has delivered time and time and time again?'”‘ Clinton asked about 700 Nevada voters at the Andre Agassi College Prepatory Academy. Reid was in Washington… – AP, 6-11-10
  • Senators head to Gulf as local tempers flare: A delegation of U.S. senators head to the heart of coastal Louisiana Friday to assess the damage caused by the nearly two-month-long BP oil disaster.
    The four senators, Sens. Benjamin Cardin, David Vitter, Jeff Merkley and Barbara Mikulski, will be in Grand Isle, one of the early areas hit by the slick created by the underwater gusher. The senators, who are members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, will hold a news conference after their “oversight” operation along the Gulf…. – CNN, 6-11-10
  • Obama to meet with owners of small businesses: President Barack Obama meets with small business owners in the Oval Office to highlight his small business jobs initiatives. He’ll also make a statement Friday in the Rose Garden. The administration has made a series of proposals aimed at helping small businesses grow and hire new workers, and Obama says he’ll continue to urge Congress to act on them…. – AP, 6-11-10
  • Senate Rejects Republican Effort to Thwart Carbon Limits: The Senate on Thursday defeated a Republican-led effort to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from curbing greenhouse gases as lawmakers road-tested arguments for a future fight over climate change legislation. The Senate voted 53-47 to reject an attempt by Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, to block the E.P.A. from imposing new limits on carbon emissions based on its 2009 finding that such gases from industry, vehicles and other sources represent a threat to human health and the environment…. – NYT, 6-11-10
  • Lawmakers begin merging Wall St regulatory bills: House and Senate lawmakers began assembling a massive financial regulation bill on Thursday, dividing sharply along partisan lines as Democrats vowed to fend off efforts to weaken its major provisions. “This is a very strong bill and it is time we get it to the president’s desk for his signature,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said, kicking off a meeting of lawmakers selected to blend House and Senate versions into one bill. AP, 6-10-10
  • McCain to Snooki: I won’t tax your tanning bed: Arizona Sen. John McCain is taking to Twitter to slam President Barack Obama, this time in an exchange with a star from MTV’s hit reality series “Jersey Shore.” Snooki says, “McCain would never put a 10 percent tax on tanning, because he’s pale and he would probably want to be tan.”
    McCain, a skin cancer survivor, replied Wednesday on Twitter, saying “u r right, I would never tax your tanning bed! Pres Obama’s tax/spend policy is quite The Situation. but I do rec wearing sunscreen!”
    Snooki replied: “Haha Yes!!”… – AP, 6-11-10
  • US gets tough but not crippling Iran sanctions: The United States and its allies won approval for the toughest U.N. sanctions against Iran for refusing to negotiate on its suspect nuclear program — but they’re not the “crippling” penalties U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to pursue a year ago if U.S. attempts to engage Iran diplomatically failed…. – AP, 6-10-10
  • Obama pledges $400 million for Palestinians: Obama had planned the White House meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to talk mainly about Mideast peace. But after the aid flotilla assault, they ended up focusing on the blockade of Gaza…. – LAT, 6-10-10
  • Day 49: The Latest on the Oil Spill: The Interior Department issued new guidelines on Tuesday under which shallow-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico can resume. Virtually all offshore oil and gas operations were halted late last month, but the new standards will allow drilling in water that is less than 500 feet deep. All wells in deeper water will remain under a moratorium for at least six months while a presidential panel studies the Deepwater Horizon explosion and makes recommendations on whether and how to resume such drilling.
    The White House said President Obama would travel to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida on Monday and Tuesday to survey the response efforts…. – NYT, 6-9-10
  • Gulf oil hearings continue on Capitol Hill: Capitol Hill will be awash in oil disaster hearings Wednesday as the House and Senate tackle issues ranging from safety and cleanup to liability. Three committees and two subcommittees will discuss matters related to the gusher in the Gulf of Mexico and the oil industry. The hearings come as President Obama announced that he will make a fourth trip to the Gulf region next week and as environmental groups plan to hold a vigil later in June protesting offshore oil drilling…. – CNN, 6-9-10
  • Health-care debate still alive and well for parties: There was a year of hearings, speeches and protests. Three bills passed in the House to complete the process, and two in the Senate. President Obama held several events to commemorate signing the legislation into law. But the two parties are still arguing about health-care reform…. – WaPo, 6-8-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Poll: Dems losing independents New study finds favorability ratings slip for Cuomo, Schumer: Independent voters slipped away from some of the most popular Democratic incumbent political figures, a poll released Monday shows. Both Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general who is the party’s standard-bearer, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a figure of statewide and national prominence and a media fixture, saw their favorability ratings slip, particularly among independent voters. In a month, Cuomo’s rating dropped from 60 to 51 percent and Schumer’s from 54 to 41 percent… – Albany Times-Union, 6-15-10
  • Election speculation comes from all corners after S.C. primary: It’s the voting machines. No wait, it’s random-selecting voters. Or, maybe, shadowy Republican operatives. Or Democratic antagonists. Take your pick. Everyone’s got a theory about why Alvin M. Greene — an unemployed veteran and political newbie who didn’t trifle with campaign speeches or public appearances — handily won South Carolina’s Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate last week. Protests have been lodged and the White House has chimed in (senior presidential adviser David Axelrod called Greene’s win “a mysterious deal” on “Meet the Press”), yet the reason for the top shocker of the primary season remains anyone’s guess…. – WaPo, 6-14-10
  • Sandoval bridges GOP worlds Gubernatorial hopeful draws moderates, hard-liners: The historic Caughlin Ranch House in Reno, where Brian Sandoval celebrated his win over Gov. Jim Gibbons in the Republican gubernatorial primary, was a far cry from the hard, dusty patch of land in Searchlight where two months ago both candidates sought votes among hard-line Tea Party conservatives…. – Las Vegas Review-Journal, 6-14-10
  • Stutzman wins on 2nd ballot Caucus quickly determines 3rd district GOP nod: Sen. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe, bested 14 other candidates to win the 3rd District Republican congressional nomination Saturday in a surprisingly swift two ballots. “Moving forward, this is going to take all of us in this room,” he told the 400 precinct committee members who had gathered at Indian Springs Middle School in Columbia City. “We cannot let (Nancy) Pelosi pick off the third district. If all of us band together, we can win on Nov. 2.”
    Stutzman will likely face Democrat Tom Hayhurst on two fall ballots Nov. 2. One will be a special election to fill the remainder of former U.S. Rep. Mark Souder’s term, which runs through Jan. 3, and the other will be for a new two-year term that starts after that. Journal Gazette (IN), 6-13-10
  • More Questions About Mysterious South Carolina Senate Candidate: David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior adviser, has added his voice to those saying they smell something fishy in a Democratic primary in South Carolina that selected a jobless man who faces felony obscenity charges as the party’s nominee for the Senate. “It was a mysterious deal,” Mr. Axelrod told David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” doubtless sharing a view held by many of the state’s Democrats. Asked whether the nominee, Alvin Greene, was a legitimate candidate, Mr. Axelrod replied, “It doesn’t appear so.” Mr. Greene, as Mr. Axelrod noted, had barely campaigned — perhaps not surprising, since he had raised no campaign funds and had hired no staff. “The whole thing is odd,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I don’t really know how to explain it, and I don’t think anybody else does either.” Asked whether Mr. Greene, 32, should bow out, Mr. Axelrod stopped just short of agreeing. “The Democrats of South Carolina deserve a strong, credible candidate,” he said. Until the “big mystery” of how Mr. Greene won Tuesday’s primary is resolved, he said, “I don’t think he can claim to be a strong, credible candidate.”… – NYT, 6-13-10
  • Tea party shaping Republican Party, fall faceoffs: The tea party movement shows some growing pains, but it still wields remarkable powers to shape the Republican Party and set up a fall election with unconventional candidates and stark choices for voters. In two high-profile primary elections Tuesday, establishment GOP candidates were stunned by come-from-behind winners backed by tea party activists and other conservatives who don’t necessarily associate with that loose-knit group.
    National Republican leaders are sifting through the results. Voter fervor on the right encourages them, but some fear their insurgent nominees might stray too far from the mainstream to win in November. The party purity drive has a weaker grip on the Democratic Party, as centrist Sen. Blanche Lincoln illustrated when she held off a union-backed challenger in Arkansas…. – AP, 6-12-10
  • The Fix: Republican wins give Democrats hope: A series of developments over the last month (or so) have brightened Democrats’ hopes in a handful of Senate races — although the overall national landscape suggests the party is still headed toward losses in the fall. Recent Republican primaries have been good to Democrats. Victories by tea party backed candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky mean those seats, once considered off the radar, are now back in play. WaPo, 6-11-10
  • Reid ad slams GOP nominee on Scientology, Medicare: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unleashed his first negative ad of the general election campaign Friday, depicting Republican Sharron Angle as a heartless extremist who would slash Social Security and Medicare for the elderly.
    The 30-second ad airing statewide also reminds voters that Angle once suggested inmates enter a drug rehabilitation program devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
    “Shockingly, Sharron Angle wants to wipe out Social Security,” a narrator says ominously in the commercial. “She’d cut benefits for everyone.” “What’s next?” the narrator asks… – AP, 6-12-10
  • Abortion veto puts Crist in the middle: Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the ultrasound abortion bill and drew the ire of anti-abortion advocates as well as some Democrats. Gov. Charlie Crist rejected a controversial abortion bill Friday, using his veto pen to repudiate the conservative Republicans who elected him and championed the legislation as “the most significant pro-life measure in Florida’s history.”
    The legislation required most women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound and listen to a doctor describe the fetus, unless they sign a form to opt out, and included a provision to ensure that tax dollars didn’t cover elective abortions…. – Miami Herald, 6-12-10
  • Was candidate involved in U.S. healthcare scam?: The GOP candidate for governor led Columbia/HCA when it defrauded the federal government. He was not charged, and it is unclear what, if anything, he knew at the time. Rick Scott’s opponents for governor are telling reporters to essentially fluff off a new poll Thursday that shows the former Columbia/HCA hospital CEO beating both Attorney General Bill McCollum in the Republican primary for governor and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in a hypothetical November match-up.
    Focus on the fraud, they say. The fraud. The fraud. “Rick Scott has spent $15 million in half as many weeks to fund his public image repair squad’s pricey and misleading paid media campaign,” McCollum spokesman Kristy Campbell said Thursday. “It’s no surprise he has skyrocketed in the polls since Floridians are just beginning to learn about his questionable past. His lead will evaporate when Floridians learn Rick Scott oversaw the most massive Medicare fraud scheme in American history.”… – Miami Herald, 6-11-10
  • Who’s Alvin Greene? State Asks After Vote: For a few hours this week, it looked as if South Carolina might ditch its never-fail reputation for political scandal in favor of a genuine history-making event. There was Nikki Haley, a lawmaker of Indian descent, beaming on election night with her husband and children after taking a major step toward becoming the first female governor of the state. It was a feel-good image to obscure the stain of a campaign marked by ethnic slurs, accusations of marital infidelity and yet more national marveling over how a single state can produce a string of political embarrassments as long as the Appalachian Trail.
    But then, the television cameras started rolling on Alvin Greene’s overgrown lawn. “Yeah, it’s been pretty nonstop for a few days,” said Mr. Greene, 32, in a phone interview Friday. Because everyone wants to know how Mr. Greene, an unemployed Army veteran who had been completely unknown until Tuesday, inexplicably defeated a heavily favored former legislator and judge to become the state’s Democratic nominee for the Senate — and the state’s latest political circus act…. – NYT, 6-11-10
  • S.C. lawmaker calls for investigations of Democratic primary, 2 other races: House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) called for federal and state investigations into alleged campaign irregularities in South Carolina after an unemployed Army veteran who lives with his parents won a Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate there. Alvin M. Greene, who has an outstanding felony obscenity charge pending, “was someone’s plant,” Clyburn said Thursday. Clyburn added that Greene was one of three individuals, all African American, whose congressional campaigns were designed to upend the Democratic primary process in the Palmetto State. The lawmaker also raised questions about the campaigns of Gregory A. Brown, who ran a vigorous but unsuccessful challenge against Clyburn in the 6th Congressional District, and Benjamin Frasier Jr., a perennial candidate who surprised observers by beating retired Air Force Reserve Col. Robert Burton in the 1st District…. – WaPo, 6-10-10
  • Whitman, Fiorina victories draw comparisons to Feinstein, Boxer wins in 1992: Despite the parallels, there are major contrasts between the elections themselves, the makeup of California’s electorate and the issues on voters’ minds…. – LAT, 6-10-10
  • Poll: Crist holding on to Senate race lead: One polls shows Charlie Crist maintaining his lead in the U.S. Senate race, while another finds the governor and Marco Rubio in a tie. Crist leads with 37 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent for Republican Marco Rubio and 17 percent for Democrat Kendrick Meek. It is the third major statewide poll since Crist’s April 29 announcement, and Crist has led all three…. – Miami Herald, 6-10-10
  • Unknown Senate candidate in SC faces felony charge: A day after an unemployed veteran charged with a felony shocked South Carolina’s Democratic establishment by winning the U.S. Senate primary, party officials were still scratching their heads: What happened?
    Greene was considered such a long shot that his opponent and media didn’t even bother to check his background. If they had, they would have discovered he faces a felony obscenity charge after an alleged encounter with a college student last fall.
    “The Democratic Party has chosen their nominee, and we have to stand behind their choice,” Greene told the AP at his home in Manning. “The people have spoken. We need to be pro-South Carolina, not anti-Greene.” AP, 6-10-10
  • In Tuesday’s Primaries, Three Messages From Three States: If you are looking for a unified theme out of Tuesday’s round of primaries, good luck. In states holding the biggest votes of the night there were decidedly different storylines and lessons. The tea party movement had some reason to celebrate, in Nevada particularly, but not in California, where its supporters were trounced. Even the widely accepted political storyline of 2010 – incumbents are in trouble – took a hit in Arkansas, for now anyway. Reading too much into primary results can be foolhardy. Voters, beyond the most engaged, are usually not fully tuned into the election until later in the season and Tuesday’s turnout numbers bear that out: 30 percent in Nevada, 25 percent in California, 15 percent in Arkansas.
    But the results in those three states do send some messages about those individual places for November. And the Patchwork Nation breakdown of the results is revealing…. – Newshour, 6-9-10
  • Calif. Voting Change Could Signal Big Political Shift: The time for tinkering is done. That was the message Californians sent when they voted Tuesday to radically rejigger elections in the nation’s most populous state. Under Proposition 14, a measure that easily passed, traditional party primaries will be replaced in 2011 with wide-open elections. The top two vote-getters — whatever their party, or if they have no party at all — will face off in the general election. Supporters argue that without parties picking candidates for the general election, moderates and independents will move to the fore, and voters will pay more attention to the electoral process. Critics of the measure say it will give a huge advantage to candidates who have the most money or the widest name recognition…. – NYT, 6-10-10
  • Ladies Roll Through Primaries in Arkansas, Nevada, and California Blanche Lincoln, Sharron Angle, Meg Whitman, and Carly Fiorina all advance: Tuesday was a day for the ladies. Four women won high-profile nominations—two in California, one each in Arkansas and Nevada, with a fifth in a good position to win her South Carolina gubernatorial runoff election in two weeks. Elsewhere, Georgia sent a new member (a man) to the U.S. House of Representatives, while Republicans tapped nominees in a handful of targeted congressional races. In the day’s biggest surprise, incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas dashed to the finish line ahead of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the state’s Senate primary runoff. She earned 52 percent of the vote to Halter’s 48 percent. The result shocked political insiders who saw Lincoln trailing in recent polls…. – US News & World Report, 6-9-10
  • Consistent theme lacking in primaries: There was a wide variety of results from primary elections held in 11 states on Tuesday. Primary votes in 11 states this week helped set the table for November’s general elections, but don’t look for a theme menu with one cuisine from these results. It’s more of a food court. Outsiders winning? Many did, but veteran insiders won top races in Arkansas and Iowa. From coast to coast, the latest round of primaries shows that the electorate remains ready to challenge the status quo and the establishment, but also that state and local issues and the quirks of individual candidates still can drive elections in any state. The results also serve to remind that voter turnout in summer party primaries tends to be small, where organization often counts more than trends in national opinion…. – Miami Herald, 6-10-10


President Obama Calls British Prime Minister Cameron

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Saturday, June 12, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Weekly Address: President Obama Calls on Senate Republicans to Allow a Vote to Protect Medicare Reimbursements Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, June 12, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: … I’m absolutely willing to take the difficult steps necessary to lower the cost of Medicare and put our budget on a more fiscally sustainable path. But I’m not willing to do that by punishing hard-working physicians or the millions of Americans who count on Medicare. That’s just wrong. And that’s why in the short-term, Congress must act to prevent this pay cut to doctors.
    If they don’t act, doctors will see a 21% cut in their Medicare payments this week. This week, doctors will start receiving these lower reimbursements from the Medicare program. That could lead them to stop participating in the Medicare program. And that could lead seniors to lose their doctors.
    We cannot allow this to happen. We have to fix this problem so that our doctors can get paid for the life-saving services they provide and keep their doors open. We have to fix this problem to keep the promise of Medicare for our seniors so that they get the health care they deserve. So I urge Republicans in the Senate to at least allow a majority of Senators and Congressmen to stop this pay cut. I urge them to stand with America’s seniors and America’s doctors. – WH, 6-12-10
  • Obama takes aim at Republicans again on healthcare: President Barack Obama called on Republicans on Saturday to vote for a delay in cutting government Medicare insurance payments to doctors, taking aim at the opposition party in a renewed election-year push for his new healthcare law. “This year, a majority of Congress is willing to prevent a pay cut of 21 percent — a pay cut that would undoubtedly force some doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients altogether,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. Medicare is the government health program for the elderly. “But this time, some Senate Republicans may even block a vote on this issue. After years of voting to defer these cuts, the other party is now willing to walk away from the needs of our doctors and our seniors,” Obama said…. Reuters, 6-12-10


  • Historians weigh in on released Kennedy FBI files: “Many people thought the FBI may have been digging into Ted Kennedy’s personal life. We’re so used to the FBI stories of the ’60s and ’70s being about Hoover bugging famous people’s bedrooms,” said historian Douglas Brinkley. “But what emerges is the FBI as the great protector of a US senator….
    While Kennedy politicians have always attracted a core of vocal dissenters, “I had no idea” of all the threats against the senator, said historian Robert Dallek. “I’m kind of surprised there would be so much rage at him.”… Boston Globe (6-15-10)
  • Julian E. Zelizer: For Obama, crisis may outweigh record: As Democrats move into the 2010 midterm elections and start thinking about 2012, the administration is struggling to deal with two difficult crises, both of which have generated concerns about the president’s response and the perceptions of him as a leader.
    The first is the oil leak in the Gulf, one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in American history. The second is an unemployment rate that continues to hover near 10 percent. The slow economic recovery has still failed to make a significant dent in the number of Americans who don’t have jobs. American voters are frustrated and angry.
    Democrats are counting on President Obama’s substantial legislative record to provide the best selling points on the campaign trail, enough to counter any concerns about his detached demeanor….
    But Obama can’t afford to wait to see what the outcome is. He must start Tuesday, with the address to the nation. He needs to act with greater resolve in response to the twin crises of his second year or he might find that the most impressive list of accomplishments doesn’t mean much when voters go into the ballot box.
    In his talk about the Gulf, Obama must stop complaining about the press or simply saying that he is doing everything possible.
    Instead, he must genuinely convey his frustration and concern about what is happening and lay out a specific agenda about what the federal government intends to do over the next few months to help bring the environmental crisis to an end and to diminish the risks that another one occurs soon. – CNN, 6-14-10
  • Obama Takes a Hard Line Against Leaks to Press: “The Baltimore Sun stories simply confirmed that the agency was ineptly managed in some respects,” said Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian and author of “The Secret Sentry,” a history of the N.S.A. Such revelations hardly damaged national security, Mr. Aid said. – NYT, 6-12-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Enviros give Obama a pass on Gulf spill: “The environmental movement as such has nowhere to turn but Obama,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “They’re feeling they have one person to do business with…..We’re down to like two Republican senators who want to deal with these environmental groups.” – Politico, 6-12-10
  • Michael Egan: Enviros give Obama a pass on Gulf spill: “There is a level of confusion,” said Michael Egan, an environmental historian at McMaster University in Ontario. “Part of it is they’re still trying to figure out how to work with the Obama administration, which is sounding more and more like a Clinton one—much to their chagrin.” “While they’re disappointed by a variety of Obama’s actions, the alternatives are much, much worse,” Egan said. – Politico, 6-12-10
  • William Jelani Cobb: Spelman College historian analyzes Obama: ‘So far I would give him a B’: So what should we make of Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency? And what does his journey tell us about the United States and how the country’s attitudes about race have evolved? Since Obama’s candidacy began, a barrage of writers and pundits have been trying to answer those questions. Now author William Jelani Cobb, an associate professor and chair of the history department at Spelman College, tries to tackle them in his new book, “The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.” Surprisingly, the book does not dwell on the president’s first year in office to provide clues. Instead it looks at candidate Obama’s peculiar relationship with the old guard of the civil rights movement and, among other things, the carefully scripted language he used about race during the campaign. In an edited conversation, Cobb, who just returned from a Fulbright teaching fellowship in Russia, talked about politics, paradoxes and possibilities…. – Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6-11-10
  • Historians Reactions: How Clinton and Bush Would Have Handled the Oil Spill: Obama’s taken considerable heat for his handling of the BP disaster. But would recent past presidents have done any better?… – Newsweek, 6-11-10
  • Michael Green: Nevada challenger can “beat Reid,” says Nevada historian: “Angle can beat Reid if she can avoid being defined as too right-wing even for conservatives, which, given her history, will be hard for her to avoid,” said Michael Green, a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada. “If even worse economic news came out, it presumably could help her.”… – NYT, 6-9-10
  • Conrad Black: Israel’s friends in Canada: Stephen Harper has shown foresight and political courage by turning Canada into Israel’s greatest friend in the world. Let us remember a few facts: This dreadful mess in the Middle East arose because the British sold the same real estate twice, simultaneously, to the Arabs and the Jews. They compounded this sleazy practice by denying access to Palestine to many helpless Jewish fugitives from the Nazis before, during and just after the Second World War…
    Israel is an admirable democracy, has fought courageously for its life, has built a small, barren, beleaguered country into an advanced prosperous state. Even so, too many Western leaders — including Barack Obama — sometimes truckle to militant Muslim sentiment when the two sides clash, as they did last week off the coast of Gaza. But not Mr. Harper.
    All Canadians can be proud that the country has a prime minister who does not grovel to the received international opinion on matters such as the Middle East. (He rendered the same service on the global-warming debate by not signing Canada prematurely onto one of the Doomdsay scenarios, that have become the subject of scientific reappraisal.) This is a huge improvement on the trendy pandering of Pierre Trudeau: the Third Way, North-South, his absurd arms-control proposals, facilitation of Castro’s war-making in Angola, veneration of the Nyerere economic miracle in Tanzania (a 90% decline in per capita income). On these matters, Stephen Harper has been a prophet with honour. – National Post, 6-12-10
  • David Greenberg: Presidential scholars see recent White House job offers as nothing new: “This kind of jockeying happens all the time in politics,” says David Greenberg, professor of history, journalism and media studies at Rutgers University. “Politicians are always trying to get people in and out of races, and they will use offers, inducements and even threats to do that.”… – The Hill, 6-8-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama’s Swearing Nothing New for Presidents: “That was a unique moment in presidential history — to go on a morning show and use that kind of language,” historian Douglas Brinkley, who has written about the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the beginnings of the conservation movement, told AOL News.
    “Kicking ass” has become “part of American parlance,” Brinkley said. “It’s not like using the F-word where mothers cringe. Football coaches and military people use it all day long.”
    Brinkley, who is following the BP disaster closely for his next book, rejected any hint of political calculation on Obama’s part. As he has learned more about BP ‘s safety record before the oil rig blowout and been “upping his game” against the energy giant in recent days, the president has been “like a volcano that’s been about to blow publicly,” Brinkley said. “His anger is not ginned up. It’s very real.” AOL News, 6-8-10
  • Robert Dallek: Obama’s Swearing Nothing New for Presidents: “Truman “got a lot of mileage out of plain speaking,” presidential historian Robert Dallek said….
    “The public finds it appealing that he’s being strong-willed and speaking his mind,” Dallek said. “But presidents need to be restrained and operate in rational, thoughtful ways as well. They can’t go half-cocked, explosive, emotional. That’s not very appealing to the public.”… – AOL News, 6-8-10
First Lady Michelle Obama during the Anacostia Senior High School  commencement ceremony

First Lady Michelle Obama sits with class valedictorian Jordan Smiley during the Anacostia Senior High School commencement ceremony at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C. June 11, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

January 20, 2009: The Barack Obama Inauguration


The Inauguration of President Barack Obama


OathDoug Mills/The New York Times

In Focus: Stats

  • Americans flooded D.C. for historic presidential inauguration: They came from across America, a buoyant and determined crowd of well over 1 million people, confronting numbing cold and logistical disarray to witness a profound moment in history. – NJ.com, 1-20-09
  • Crowds of 1 million or more test US capital: More than 1 million people crammed onto the National Mall and along the inauguration parade route Tuesday to celebrate the swearing-in of the nation’s first black president in what was one of the largest-ever gatherings in the nation’s capital. The Associated Press based its estimate on crowd photographs and comparisons with past events. – IHT, 1-20-09
  • INAUGURATION JOLTS INTERNET: President Obama’s inauguration sparked significant traffic jams – not only on Washington’s streets but in cyberspace as well, according to Web performance monitors. They reported slowdowns at the Web sites run by the White House and the U.S. Senate as well as at several online news outlets. – MSNBC, 1-20-09
  • Barack Obama inauguration: his worst speech: QUITE a day, but not much of speech unfortunately. Obama got where he is by speechifying, but this effort would not have won him many votes. It was his worst on a grand stage, though still better than most politicians could muster. The delivery, as ever, was first class, but the message was wasn’t clear enough and the language not insufficiently inspiring. – Telegraph UK, 1-20-09


WalkingPresident Obama and the First Lady walking on Pennsylvania Avenue during his inaugural parade. (Jae Hong/Associated Press)

The Headlines…

    President Barack Obama: New White House website

  • Obama Is Sworn In as the 44th President: Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday before a massive crowd reveling in a moment of historical significance, and called on Americans to confront together an economic crisis that he said was caused by “our collective failure to make hard choices.” – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Having a Ball: The Obamas have been zooming through their 10 official balls and are now running more than an hour ahead of schedule. The whole ball tour was supposed to end at 2:55 a.m., but they’re wrapping it up before 12:45. And who can blame them? By the fifth and sixth of these things, the First Couple was clearly operating on fumes. – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Obamas dance to ‘At Last’ at Neighborhood Ball: “At Last” may have been just what President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were thinking Tuesday night as they glided through their first inaugural dance to the Etta James classic. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Obama takes power, urges unity vs. ‘raging storms’: Before a jubilant crowd of more than a million, Barack Hussein Obama claimed his place in history as America’s first black president, summoning a dispirited nation to unite in hope against the “gathering clouds and raging storms” of war and economic woe. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Sen. Kennedy OK after seizure at Obama’s luncheon: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, ill with a brain tumor, was hospitalized Tuesday but quickly reported feeling well after suffering a seizure at a post-inauguration luncheon for President Barack Obama. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Relationship gets official for Roberts and Obama: Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Barack Obama as president Tuesday in the first of what could be many important interactions for the two men of differing politics who rose quickly to power. The encounter was briefly awkward after Obama stepped on Roberts’ opening lines from the 35-word constitutionally prescribed oath of office. The chief justice then wandered into a verbal detour of his own. AP, 1-20-09
  • Thousands welcome the Bushes back to Texas: A large crowd in Waco greets former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, on Tuesday. George W. Bush basked in the warmth of an enthusiastic Texas crowd on Tuesday as thousands came from all across the state to welcome him home after eight years in the White House. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Gone to Texas: Bush returns to state he loves: Leaving the White House for the last time on Tuesday, President George W. Bush blew a kiss out the window of his presidential limousine, a gesture that capped an eight-year administration marked by two wars, recession and the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Bush exits White House, goes home to Texas: After eight years in office, Bush flew home to Texas, where he was welcomed at a rally in Midland, before ending the day at his Crawford ranch. – Reuters, 1-20-09
  • Staff emotional as President George W. Bush passes reins to Barack Obama: President Bush took a final solo stroll on the South Lawn and later blew a departing kiss to the White House on Tuesday to end two terms marked by crisis at home and abroad. – NY Daily News, 1-20-09
  • Obama Renovates WhiteHouse.gov: Before Barack Obama even finished taking the oath of office, the White House site switched over to the Obama administration’s version. Macon Phillips, who identified himself as the director of new media for the White House, wrote a post describing the features of the new site. NYT, 1-20-09
  • A Day of New Beginnings for Michelle Obama and Her Daughters: On Inauguration Day, President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, became the first black family to move into the White House. – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Inaugural prayers aim for a more diverse America: Evangelical pastor Rick Warren, whose participation drew criticism from liberals and gay rights groups, directly invoked Jesus as expected in his invocation, but did so personally. “I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life,” he prayed. He also quoted from the most important prayer in Judaism, the Sh’ma, when he said, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God. The Lord is One,” and he called God “the compassionate and merciful one,” a phrase from Muslim devotion. “His was as inclusive a prayer as an evangelical can give,” said Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, a leading evangelical school in Pasadena, Calif. – AP, 1-20-09
  • Obama inauguration: George Bush – the man who was no longer president: 43rd president leaves note in the Resolute desk for successor — Bushes head to Midland, Texas after ceremony – Guardian, UK, 1-20-09
  • In Bipartisan Appeal, Obama Praises McCain and Powell: In a major bipartisan appeal on the eve of his inauguration, Barack Obama held dinners Monday evening for Republicans Colin Powell and John McCain, praising both to the skies and perhaps making a down payment on future political success. – NYT, Caucus Blog, 1-19-09


Inaugural speech“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America,” President Obama said. (Chang W. Lee/The New York Times)

Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address

    MP3 Download

  • My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.
    I thank President Bush for his service to our nation…… as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
    Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.
    The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.
    So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
    That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age….
    Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.
    On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
    On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.
    We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
    In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.
    It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.
    Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom….
    This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.
    Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
    For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.
    All this we can do. All this we will do….
    The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, hether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.
    Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end….
    And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.
    We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We’ll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan….
    And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, “Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.”
    For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.
    And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace….
    As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
    We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.
    And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
    For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies….
    Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old.
    These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.
    What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.
    This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
    This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
    This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
    So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.
    In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river.
    The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.
    At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
    “Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it.”
    America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
    Thank you. God bless you.
    And God bless the United States of America.


Wave, President Bush


  • President Obama Inaugural Balls Comments: Today was your day. Today was a day that represented all your efforts, all your faith, all your confidence in what’s possible in America. They said it couldn’t be done. And you did it….
    There is something in the spirit of the American people that insists on recreating this country when we get a little bit off course. That’s what powered this election, it’s what’s given our team the kind of energy that has allowed us to overcome extraordinary obstacles and given me so much confidence that our better days are ahead…. That this is not the end, this is the beginning….
    When you look at the history of this campaign, what started out as an improbable journey, where nobody gave us a chance, was carried forward by, was inspired by, was driven by, was energized by young people all across America….
    I can’t tell you how many people have come up to Michelle and myself and said, ‘You know, I was kind of skeptical, but then my daughter, she wouldn’t budge, she just told me I needed to vote for Obama.’ Or, ‘Suddenly I saw my son, he was out volunteering and knocking on doors and traveling and getting involved like never before.’ And so new generations inspired previous generations, and that’s how change happens in America. And as this is broadcast all around the world. We know that young people everywhere are in the process of imagining something different than what has come before. Where there is war, they imagine peace. Where there is hunger, they imagine people being able to feed themselves. Where there is disease, they imagine a public health system that works for everybody. Where there is bigotry, they imagine togetherness. The future will be in your hands if you are able to sustain the kind of energy and focus that you showed on this campaign. I promise you that America will get stronger and more united, more prosperous, more secure — you are going to make it happen, and Michelle and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts….
    Every day that I’m in the White House, I’ll try to serve you as well as you serve America. We will write the next great chapter in America’s story. – NYT, 1-20-09
  • George W. Bush Homecoming Speech in Midland, TX: “I always felt it was important to tackle the tough issues today and not try to them on to future presidents, and future generations. I never took an opinion poll to tell me what to think. And I’m coming home with my head held high and a sense of accomplishment.
    There were some good days and there were some tough days but every day was an honor to be your president. I gave it my all. Listen. Sometimes what I did wasn’t popular, but that’s okay, I always did what I thought was right….
    Popularity is as fleeting as the Texas wind; character and conscious are as sturdy as our oaks.
    History will be the judge of my decisions, but when I walked out of the Oval Office this morning, I left with the same values that I took to Washington eight years ago. And when I get home tonight and look in the mirror, I’m not going to regret what I see — except maybe some gray hair….
    My dad is America’s only sky-diving former president and that’s a title he’s going to keep.”
    In the morning, he said, he would make his wife coffee, “skim” the newspaper, call some friends, read a book, feed the dogs, go fishing, take a walk and by that time it will be 8 in the morning. “That’s what happens when you’re a type A personality. I told Laura I was excited about her cooking again — kinda. She told me she was excited about me mowing the lawn and taking out the trash –- it’s my new domestic agenda.
    I’m the first former president to be able to share the post-presidency with both my parents.
    I want people to be able to understand what it was like in the Oval Office when I had to make some of the tough decisions that I was called upon to make. History tends to take a little time for people to remember what happened and to have an objective accounting of what took place and I’d like to be a part of making a real history of this administration come to life.” NYT, 1-20-09
Bushes and ObamasIn an inaugural tradition, the Bushes welcomed the Obamas to the White House for tea. Michelle Obama’s outfit was designed by Isabel Toledo. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)
  • Bush Says Decisions in Office Kept America Safe From Attack: President Bush says in his farewell address that he is “filled with gratitude,” and that the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama represents a “moment of hope and pride” for the country.
    Fellow citizens, for eight years, it has been my honor to serve as your president. The first decade of this new century has been a period of consequence, a time set apart.
    Tonight, with a thankful heart, I have asked for a final opportunity to share some thoughts on the journey we have traveled together and the future of our nation….
    Tonight, I am filled with gratitude to Vice President Cheney and members of the administration; to Laura, who brought joy to this house and love to my life; to our wonderful daughters, Barbara and Jenna; to my parents, whose examples have provided strength for a lifetime.
    And above all, I thank the American people for the trust you have given me. I thank you for the prayers that have lifted my spirits. And I thank you for the countless acts of courage, generosity and grace that I have witnessed these past eight years.
    This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house, September 11, 2001. That morning, terrorists took nearly 3,000 lives in the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor….
    As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before 9/11. But I never did. Every morning, I received a briefing on the threats to our nation. And I vowed to do everything in my power to keep us safe.
    Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists’ movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots….
    There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil. This is a tribute to those who toil night and day to keep us safe — law enforcement officers, intelligence analysts, homeland security and diplomatic personnel, and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.
    Our nation is blessed to have citizens who volunteer to defend us in this time of danger. I have cherished meeting these selfless patriots and their families. And America owes you a debt of gratitude. And to all our men and women in uniform listening tonight: There has been no higher honor than serving as your Commander-in-Chief….
    Like all who have held this office before me, I have experienced setbacks. There are things I would do differently if given the chance. Yet I’ve always acted with the best interests of our country in mind. I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.
    The decades ahead will bring more hard choices for our country, and there are some guiding principles that should shape our course.
    While our nation is safer than it was seven years ago, the gravest threat to our people remains another terrorist attack. Our enemies are patient, and determined to strike again. America did nothing to seek or deserve this conflict. But we have been given solemn responsibilities, and we must meet them. We must resist complacency. We must keep our resolve. And we must never let down our guard.
    ….In the 21st century, security and prosperity at home depend on the expansion of liberty abroad. If America does not lead the cause of freedom, that cause will not be led.
    As we address these challenges — and others we cannot foresee tonight — America must maintain our moral clarity. I’ve often spoken to you about good and evil, and this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two of them there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense — and to advance the cause of peace.
    President Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” As I leave the house he occupied two centuries ago, I share that optimism. America is a young country, full of vitality, constantly growing and renewing itself. And even in the toughest times, we lift our eyes to the broad horizon ahead.
    I have confidence in the promise of America because I know the character of our people. This is a nation that inspires immigrants to risk everything for the dream of freedom. This is a nation where citizens show calm in times of danger, and compassion in the face of suffering. We see examples of America’s character all around us….
    In citizens like these, we see the best of our country – resilient and hopeful, caring and strong. These virtues give me an unshakable faith in America. We have faced danger and trial, and there’s more ahead. But with the courage of our people and confidence in our ideals, this great nation will never tire, never falter, and never fail.
    It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve as your President. There have been good days and tough days. But every day I have been inspired by the greatness of our country, and uplifted by the goodness of our people. I have been blessed to represent this nation we love. And I will always be honored to carry a title that means more to me than any other – citizen of the United States of America.
    And so, my fellow Americans, for the final time: Good night. May God bless this house and our next President. And may God bless you and our wonderful country. Thank you. – Fox News, 1-15-09
  • Cheney Mocks Biden, Defends Rumsfeld in ‘FOX News Sunday’ Interview: In one of his last interviews before leaving Washington, D.C., Vice President Cheney, a 40-year veteran of Washington politics, tried to straighten out a few misconceptions about his tenure and the way the executive and legislative branches are supposed to work.
    He also said that all the powers and responsibilities of the executive branch are laid out in Article I of the Constitution. Well, they’re not. Article I of the Constitution is the one on the legislative branch. Joe’s been chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a member of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate for 36 years, teaches constitutional law back in Delaware, and can’t keep straight which article of the Constitution provides for the legislature and which provides for the executive. So I think I’d write that off as campaign rhetoric. I don’t take it seriously.
    If he wants to diminish the office of the vice president, that’s obviously his cal. President-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president and apparently, from the way they’re talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I have had during my time….
    The president of the United States now for 50 years is followed at all times, 24 hours a day, by a military aide carrying a football that contains the nuclear codes that he would use and be authorized to use in the event of a nuclear attack on the United States. He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen.
    He doesn’t have to check with anybody. He doesn’t have to call the Congress. He doesn’t have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in.
    I did disagree with the decision. The president doesn’t always take my advice.
    We’ve been here for eight years now, eventually you wear out your welcome in this business but I’m very comfortable with where we are and what we’ve achieved substantively. And frankly I would not want to be one of those guys who spends all his times reading the polls. I think people like that shouldn’t serve in these jobs. – Fox News, 1-21-09


(Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Obama speech draws on past inaugurations”: “I think the message he wanted to convey was to give a sober, serious, laundry-list, speech. The point was the campaign is over and it’s time to work,” Princeton University presidential historian Julian Zelizer said.
    “He spoke about trying to find which government programs worked and which didn’t, to overcome old divisions,” he said, noting Obama’s use of a biblical line from Corinthians to urge the nation “to set aside childish things”.
    “If this turns into an FDR-like Hundred Days, I think the overall tenor of the address will be what we discuss rather than one line or another,” Zelizer added. – The Age, Australia, 1-20-09
  • Timothy Garton Ash “Obama Promises the World a Renewed America “: “We have entered a period of historical transition in which the United States will become first among equals, rather than simply top dog, hyperpower and unquestioned hegemon,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European studies at Oxford. “But for Europeans, it may be a case of being careful what you wish for, because the Obama administration is likely to say, ‘Good, then put your money where your mouth is, and in the first place, put more troops in Afghanistan.'” – NYT, 1-20-09
  • Julian Zelizer “A fitting speech for a time of a crisis”: And for Princeton professor Julian Zelizer, one line particularly stood out: “One of the most important lines was ‘What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them.’ If any of our recent presidents had said this, the line would quickly be forgotten, more false promises by the new kid in town,” Zelizer says. “But this time it seems different. Never has there been a leader whose presidency in itself is a sign that the possibility of change is real in American politics.” – First Post, UK, 1-20-09
  • Historians Offer Post-Speech Analysis: Video Online – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • ELLEN FITZPATRICK, University of New Hampshire “Obama Claims Presidency, Cites Challenges Ahead”: The suddenness of it I think is striking in one sense, and yet one could argue that it took our entire history to get us to the place that we are today, that is, we crossed the threshold of American history today. This was truly a historic moment in electing and inaugurating our first African-American president. And I think the day was very rich in history. And the people on the mall came because they were conscious of that and moved by it. You could feel it and see it in the crowd.
    I think it’s actually — I dissent a little bit, I think, from the sentiment that’s shaping up and to say that I think it was an extraordinarily powerful speech. And the pageantry and that element that Richard just mentioned was surely there, but embedded in it was a critique that we have strayed far from our founding. He asked us to choose our better history, and it was an unvarnished view of American history that he offered. There was that phrase, “We have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, but we’ve triumphed over these tragedies and the hatred of our past.” And so, in that sense, he was seizing the historic occasion of his inauguration and using it as a way to call Americans back to their origins. And there was a critique here of where we’ve been. He said, “We don’t have to choose between our safety and our ideals.” That, to me, was a reference to the abrogation, or so he would argue, I would say, from those ideals through the war on terror. So it was a very powerful cry to remake America by drawing on our fundamental historical values.
    Well, I think in some ways that it was somber in the way these speeches tend to be. I think that, in a sense, as an African-American, he writes in his biography about remaking himself, by going back to the well of the past, that he’s called America back to the well of its own past. And I think in evoking segregation, the civil war and the tragedies of America’s racial history, in a sense, as an African-American, he is singularly well-placed to be mindful that history is full of tragedy. He’ll be the least surprised, I suspect, of any president about the tragedies that may unfold under his watch. – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • PENIEL JOSEPH, Brandeis University “Obama Claims Presidency, Cites Challenges Ahead”: Well, in terms of historically, there’s very few days that actually transform the aesthetics of our democracy. The memory that this day invokes the most is probably the march on Washington, August 28, 1963. Forty-five years and five months ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., came to the Lincoln Memorial with really an expansive vision of American democracy. In that speech, King talked about the previous 100 years, especially the civil war, slavery. In this speech, the president-elect really — or the president really elegantly evoked race. He didn’t make race the central point of his speech, but he acknowledged the notion of slavery, the notion of Jim Crow segregation, and the notion that his father actually couldn’t have been seated at a restaurant 45 years ago.
    Well, three speeches come to mind. One, FDR’s first inauguration in 1933, where he really had an expansive critique of capitalism sort of run amok. In 1941, FDR has a speech where he talks about democracy and uses the word democracy about two dozen times in his inaugural address and basically makes the argument that democracy will not die because the spirit and faith of American people won’t let it die. And the final one is John F. Kennedy, Kennedy’s speech about a new generation of Americans and a new generation taking the leadership. Obama’s speech really evokes all of that, but the twist is really the iconography. I think one of the reasons why some of the commentators are saying that the speech was only good and not great is because the pageantry, like Richard talked about and Ellen talked about, is really overwhelming all of us. But when you really read the speech — and I’m not sure this crowd got the substantive nature of this speech — the speech substantively matches the overwhelming symbolism of the day.
    Well, I agree. I concur. I think that this speech really links the notion of race in a democracy in an expansive way. Historically, race has been a paradoxical part of American democracy. In this speech, we crossed the Rubicon, so to speak, as a nation, not turning the page on racism, but turning the page on really a tragic racial past. And it makes an argument that race actually is a strength of the democracy, rather than a weakness. – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • RICHARD BROOKHISER, National Review “Obama Claims Presidency, Cites Challenges Ahead”: Well, no, you can’t, but I was struck today by the kind of pageant of confirmation that this whole day was. And there have been some of those in the American past, where people sort of collectively get together and say, “Yes, we like this. This is good.” Washington’s First Inaugural was like that. The government was new. The Constitution was new. The great war hero was coming back to lead it. You know, he went from Mount Vernon to New York. It was like a six-day triumphal progress. And then the numbers were much smaller, but in terms of percentage of population, it was maybe equal or even greater to the turnout we had today. But it was just like a collective embracing of the moment and saying, “We’re happy to be here.” And I got a feeling of that watching this day as it unfolded.
    Well, it was, but, you know, history always gives people surprises. Now, eight years ago, George W. Bush was coming in, and he did not imagine he was going to be fighting two wars. I mean, no one would have. And there was a foreign policy component of this speech. He did mention that. He made the points that you touched on. He also addressed our enemies and said, “We will defeat you.” But, you know, the enemies will have the freedom of action, also. And they will try and pick and choose their battles. And now all those phone calls are coming to our new president, many of which we will never hear about, but, you know, the killers are out there. They’re still after us. Now there’s a new commander- in-chief who will have to deal with them.
    Well, you know, we have a sense of where he would like to go, and now the work begins. And it was a very, I think, kind of an ambitious, if open-ended sort of a vision, but, you know, now there’s — now the follow-up will come. – PBS Newshour, 1-20-09
  • Gil Troy “Religious Figures, Kennedy, Oprah Nab Hot Inauguration Seats Obama Families Seen Alongside Politicians, Celebs at the Hotly Anticipated Event “: “The simple fact that they give a ticket to one person and not others … becomes tremendously important,” said Gil Troy, professor of history at McGill University in Montreal, and a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. “You are setting up a historic tableau. … Each one of them [the guests] is carrying a different part of the narrative, not just your personal narrative but being weaved into the political narrative of United States history.”…
    “It needs to be used carefully and effectively so that you can turn all this symbolic hour into real political opportunity and power,” Troy said. “The inauguration has to be an opportunity of looking forward to starting the presidency.” – ABC News, 1-20-09
  • Nikki Brown “A Day of New Beginnings for Michelle Obama and Her Daughters”: “A part of what this family is going to do is to show that families of color are not so different,” said Nikki Brown, an assistant professor of history at the University of New Orleans. “That’s what I see, when I see them on TV: a working father, a working mother, a grandmother that cares for the babies, children that are doing well in school,” Ms. Brown said. “That’s a narrative that the country is still trying to create a language for, normal families of color.” – NYT, 1-20-09
Barack and Michelle Obama danced to Beyoncé Knowles singing “At Last.” (Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times)

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Commander in Chief Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum in Washington, Tuesday. AP/Charles DharapakDancing queen: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Commander in Chief Inaugural Ball at the National Building Museum in Washington, Tuesday. AP/Charles Dharapak

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


Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

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

In Focus:

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

The Headlines…

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

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

Political Quotes

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

Historians’ Comments

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

Democratic Convention Day 1: August 25, 2008

Day 1 Schedule

    Barack Obama’s story is an American story that reflects a life of struggle, opportunity and responsibility like those faced by Americans everyday. The opening night of the Convention will highlight Barack’s life story, his commitment to change, and the voices of Americans who are calling for a new direction for this country.

    Monday’s headline prime-time speaker was Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama addressing the Democratic National Convention (NYT)

Michelle Obama addressing the Democratic National Convention (NYT)

    Other Monday night speakers include: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi; Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri; Barack Obama’s sister Maya Soetero-Ng and Craig Robinson, Michelle Obama’s older brother; Jerry Kellman, mentor and long-time friend of Barack Obama; Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr.; former Indiana Representative Lee Hamilton; Tom Balanoff, President of Illinois SEIU; Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America; NEA President Reg Weaver; AFT President Randi Weingarten; Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan; State Comptroller Dan Hynes; Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulis; Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle; and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. Monday night also featured a tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and a speech by the senator. – DemConvention.com

Historians’ Comments

  • PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer: Historical Perspective A panel of historians, including NewsHour regulars Michael Beschloss and Richard Norton Smith, offers a historical perspective on this week’s Democratic event. – Mp3, RealAudio
  • Richard Reeves on “Kennedy passes the torch to Obama”: Others were wary of making too much the Kennedy-Obama link. The Kennedy magic was unique to its time, said Richard Reeves, author of a book on John Kennedy. The family legacy was in keeping with the spirit of the New Deal and grounded in the common generational experiences of the Great Depression and World War II. “Obama’s totally a new phenomenon,” Reeves said. “He represents totally different things.” – McClatchy Newspapers, 8-25-08
  • Thomas Whalen on “Ailing Kennedy refuses to miss big event”: “This may be Ted Kennedy’s final gift to the party,” said Thomas Whalen, a Boston University political historian who has written on the Kennedys. “This says that he feels this is the Democrats’ year and the party is not as unified as he’d like it to be. His appearance takes the headlines away from the Clinton faction.” “The greatest legacy Kennedy would want would be an Obama victory in November,” Whalen said. – USA Today, 8-26-08
  • Paula Giddings on “Michelle Obama as First Lady”: “People are trying to fit her somewhere in their minds and in this array of images we have in our culture about African-American women, as the vixen, or the mammy or the angry black woman,” said Paula Giddings, a black studies professor at Smith College. “But she doesn’t fit any of the molds so she is kind of unsettling to a lot of people. She is something new.” “Imagine seeing her in the White House. Just the picture of her on the lawn with her two girls,” Giddings said. “In deep ways and superficial ways, it would be a dramatic shift.” – Newsday, 8-25-08<
  • Myra Gutin on “Michelle Obama as First Lady”: “For some people she is supposed to represent a woman who is more traditional in her approach to the office of first lady and be somebody to do the requisite entertaining and look after her husband,” said Myra Gutin, a historian of first ladies. “But some feel like the first lady should be more of an activist in the model of Eleanor Roosevelt or Hillary Clinton.” But Monday night, Gutin said, Michelle Obama must first address some of the negative feelings she has generated, and show that she will be a good first lady. – Newsday, 8-25-08<
  • Jim Lorence on “UWMC History Professor Says Biden a Good Pick for Obama’s Running Mate”: Monday NewsChannel 7 spoke to Professor Jim Lorence of the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County about the importance of picking the right running mate for a presidential campaign. He gave us some insight past vice presidential candidates have influenced elections. “The campaign in which the vice presidency did make a difference was in 1960 when Lyndon Johnson was on the Kennedy ticket, and Johnson brought Texas into the democratic column.” Presidential candidate Barack Obama has already chosen his running mate, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, who has six terms in the Senate and 35 years of political experience. “He [Biden] may make people feel more comfortable with Obama because he brings that foreign policy expertise to the ticket.” Presidential hopeful John McCain is expected to announce his running mate by the end of this week. Rumors are circulating that it will most likely be a McCain-Romney ticket. “I think that Romney’s expertise in the area of foreign policy, or at least his background in the private sector and in business and on economic issues is going to be an important factor in the selection of a vice president,” says Professor Lorence. – WSAW, WI, 8-25-08
  • Sean Wilentz on “Obama Hope of Audacity Means Race Isn’t About Losing Liberals”: Obama has shown an “enormous ability to arouse the intense admiration and affection of his base,” says Sean Wilentz, a history professor at Princeton University. “Exactly what he means by change, hope and transformation — all the sort of big-payoff words that appear in his speeches — he has yet to clearly define.” – Bloomberg, 8-25-08
  • Fred Siegel on “Obama’s ideological elusiveness”: Some critics voice skepticism. They see an ambitious fellow who remains intentionally undefined. “His philosophy is ambition,” said Fred Siegel, a historian at the Cooper Union in New York. “I see him as having a rhetoric rather than a philosophy.” Senator, what is your view of the Supreme Court decision barring the execution of child rapists? The question was standard fare for a politician who has questioned the equity of the death penalty. But Obama’s answer set reporters to typing furiously. “I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes,” he said. “I think the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime.” – International Herald Tribune, 8-25-08
  • Vermont Gov. Madeline Kunin: Former governor and historian to speak at the Democratic National Convention – PolitickerVT, 8-25-08
  • Julian E. Zelizer on “Conventions now even timed for strategy”: Political conventions are no longer the venues where presidential candidates are selected and introduced to the nation’s voters, said Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. That now happens during each party’s primary race, which begins early in the election year. “Basically conventions are now made for the media — carefully choreographed, staged events intended to promote the candidate and the party on the national stage as the real election season kicks off,” Zelizer said. “With their new function, it makes more sense to have them as close as possible to the general election.” – Daily Record, 8-24-08
  • Julian Zelizer on “Obama’s Pick Taking The Measure Of Joe Biden, The Longtime Senator And Democrats’ Choice For VP”: “The role of the attack dog is something he is quite comfortable with,” said Julian E. Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. – CBS News, 8-24-08

The Speeches…

  • Barack Obama on the Campaign Trail in Iowa: “I can’t wait to hear Michelle’s speech, I will tell you that I did get a little preview of the video they did of her, and she was extraordinary.”
  • Nancy Pelosi:
    This week is the culmination of an historic race that has brought millions of voters to the polls–many voting for the first time. All Democrats salute Senator Hillary Clinton for her excellent campaign. Our party and our country are strengthened by her candidacy.

    Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives addressing the Democratic National Convention (CNN)

    Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives addressing the Democratic National Convention (CNN)

    We meet today at a defining moment in our history. America stands at a crossroads, with an historic choice between two paths for our country. One is a path of renewing opportunity and promoting innovation here at home, and of greater security and respect around the world. It is the path that renews our democracy by bringing us together as one nation under God. But there is another path–it leads us to the same broken promises and failed policies that have diminished the American dream and weakened the security of our nation.

    We call this convention to order tonight to put America on the path begun by our founders–a path that renews America’s promise for a new century. We call this convention to order to nominate a new leader for our time– Barack Obama–the next President of the United States. Two years ago, the American people set our nation in a new direction–electing a new Democratic majority in Congress committed to real change….

    Barack Obama’s dream is the American dream. He gives us renewed faith in a vision of the future that is free of the constraints of the tired policies of the past–a vision that is new and bold and calls forth the best in the American people.

    Barack Obama’s change is the change America needs. Whether in Illinois or in Washington, Barack Obama has bridged partisanship to bring about significant reform. Barack Obama knew that to change policy in Washington you had to change how Washington works.

    That means restoring integrity to government by reducing the influence of special interests. I saw firsthand his strong leadership on one of the toughest issues: enacting the toughest ethics reform legislation in the history of Congress. This was only possible with Barack Obama’s leadership…..

    One hundred and fifteen years ago, a young woman named Katharine Lee Bates visited Denver. From the top of Pike’s Peak, she looked across Colorado–to the bountiful golden prairies to the east and to the majestic mountains to the west. That night she returned to her hotel room, opened her notebook, and the words of “America the Beautiful” spilled from her pen. My favorite verse is the fourth: O beautiful, for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years…

    Today, Barack Obama is a 21st century patriot who sees beyond the years. As president, Barack Obama will renew the American dream; Barack Obama is the leader for America’s future.

    Inspired by that same vision of “America the Beautiful,” Democrats will leave this Denver convention, unified, organized, and stronger than ever to take America in a new direction with Barack Obama and Joe Biden as President and Vice President of the United States! – Download, PBS

  • Caroline Kennedy:I am here tonight to pay tribute to two men who have changed my life and the life of this country: Barack Obama and Edward M. Kennedy. Their stories are very different, but they share a commitment to the timeless American ideals of justice and fairness, service and sacrifice, faith and family.Leaders like them come along rarely. But once or twice in a lifetime, they come along just when we need them the most. This is one of those moments. As our nation faces a fundamental choice between moving forward or falling further behind, Senator Obama offers the change we need….I have never had someone inspire me the way people tell me my father inspired them, but I do now, Barack Obama. And I know someone else who’s been inspired all over again by Senator Obama. In our family, he’s known as Uncle Teddy. More than any senator of his generation, or perhaps any generation, Teddy has made life better for people in this country and around the world.For 46 years, he has been so much more than just a senator for the people of Massachusetts. He’s been a senator for all who believe in a dream that’s never died. If you’re no longer being denied a job because of your race, gender or disability, or if you’ve seen a rise in the minimum wage you’re being paid, Teddy is your senator too….

    He is a man who always insists that America live up to her highest ideals, who always fights for what he knows is right and who is always there for others. I’ve seen it in my own life. No matter how busy he is, he never fails to find time for those in pain, those in grief or those who just need a hug. In our family, he has never missed a first communion, a graduation, or a chance to walk one of his nieces down the aisle.

    He has a special relationship with each of us. And his 60 great nieces and nephews all know that the best cookies and the best laughs are always found at Uncle Teddy’s. Whether he is teaching us about sailing, about the Senate or about life, he has shown us how to chart our course, take the helm and sail against the wind. And this summer, as he faced yet another challenge, he and Vicki have taught us all about dignity, courage and the power of love.

                                                  In this campaign, Barack Obama has no greater champion. When he is president, he will have no stronger partner in the United States Senate. Now, it is my honor to introduce a tribute to Senator Edward M. Kennedy. – Download, PBS

  • Senator Edward Kennedy: My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here.And nothing — nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals, and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.As I look ahead, I am strengthened by family and friendship. So many of you have been with me in the happiest days and the hardest days. Together we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat.
    Senator Edward Kennedy addressing the Democration National Convention after a tribute given by his niece Caroline Kennedy

    Senator Edward Kennedy addressing the Democratic National Convention after a tribute given by his niece Caroline Kennedy

    But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world. And I pledge to you — I pledge to you that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin the great test.

    For me this is a season of hope — new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many, and not just for the few — new hope.

    And this is the cause of my life — new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — north, south, east, west, young, old — will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

    We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama. Yes, we can, and finally, yes, we will.

    Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race and gender and group against group and straight against gay.

    And Barack Obama will be a commander in chief who understands that young Americans in uniform must never be committed to a mistake, but always for a mission worthy of their bravery.

    We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor, but when John Kennedy called of going to the moon, he didn’t say it’s too far to get there. We shouldn’t even try.

    Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge, and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.

    Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And we can do it again.

    There is a new wave of change all around us, and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination — not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation.

  • And this November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.
  • Michelle Obama: … every step of the way since that clear day, February, 19 months ago, when, with little more than our faith in each other and a hunger for change, we joined my husband, Barack Obama, on the improbable journey that has led us to this moment. But each of us comes here also by way of our own improbable journey.
    Michelle Obama rehersing her speech with younger daughter Sacha holding the convention gravel

    Michelle Obama rehersing her speech with younger daughter Sacha holding the convention gravel

    I come here tonight as a sister, blessed with a brother who is my mentor, my protector, and my lifelong friend. And I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president.

    And I come here as a mom, as a mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world. They’re the first things I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about before I go to bed at night. Their future — and all our children’s future — is my stake in this election.

    And I come here as a daughter, raised on the South Side of Chicago…

    And, you know, what struck me when I first met Barack was that, even though he had this funny name, and even though he had grown up all the way across the continent in Hawaii, his family was so much like mine.

    He was raised by grandparents who were working-class folks just like my parents and by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills just like we did. And like my family, they scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities that they never had for themselves.

    And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: like, you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; that you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them and even if you don’t agree with them.

    And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values and to pass them onto the next generation, because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them…. And Barack stood up that day, and he spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about “the world as it is” and “the world as it should be.” And he said that, all too often, we accept the distance between the two and we settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.
    But he reminded us that we also know what our world should like — look like. He said we know what fairness and justice and opportunity look like. And he urged us to believe in ourselves, to find the strength within ourselves to strive for the world as it should be. And isn’t that the great American story?…

    … and the 45th anniversary — and the 45th anniversary of that hot summer day when Dr. King lifted our sights and our hearts with his dream for our nation.

    And I stand here today at the crosscurrents of that history, knowing that my piece of the American dream is a blessing hard won by those who came before me, all of them driven by the same conviction that drove my dad to get up an hour early each day to painstakingly dress himself for work, the same conviction that drives the men and women I’ve met all across this country.

    People who work the day shift, they kiss their kids goodnight, and head out for the night shift, without disappointment, without regret, see, that goodnight kiss is a reminder of everything they’re working for.

    The military families who say grace each night with an empty seat at the table.

    The servicemen…

    The servicemen and women who love this country so much, they leave those they love most to defend it.

    The young people across America serving our communities, teaching children, cleaning up neighborhoods, caring for the least among us each and every day.

    People like Hillary Clinton…

    … who put those 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling so that our daughters and our sons can dream a little bigger and aim a little higher.

    People like Joe Biden…

    … who has never forgotten where he came from and never stopped fighting for folks who work long hours and face long odds and need someone on their side again.

    All of us driven by the simple belief that the world as it is just won’t do, that we have an obligation to fight for the world as it should be.

    And that is the thread that connects our hearts. That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack’s journey and so many other improbable journeys that have brought us here tonight, where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.

    And, you see, that is why I love this country….

    It’s what he’s done in the United States Senate, fighting to ensure that the men and women who serve this country are welcomed home not just with medals and parades, but with good jobs, and benefits, and health care, including mental health care.

    See, that’s why Barack’s running: to end the war in Iraq responsibly…

    … to build an economy that lifts every family, to make sure health care is available for every American, and to make sure that every single child in this nation has a world-class education all the way from preschool to college.

    That’s what Barack Obama will do as president of the United States of America….

    … millions of Americans who know that Barack understands their dreams, millions of Americans who know that Barack will fight for people like them, and that Barack will bring finally the change that we need.

    And in the end, and in the end, after all that’s happened these past 19 months, see, the Barack Obama I know today is the same man I fell in love with 19 years ago.

    He’s the same man who drove me and our new baby daughter home from the hospital 10 years ago this summer, inching along at a snail’s pace, peering at us anxiously at — through the rearview mirror, feeling the whole weight of her future in his hands, determined to give her everything he’d struggled so hard for himself, determined to give her something he never had, the affirming embrace of a father’s love….

    … how this time — how this time we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming…

    … how this time, in this great country, where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House…

    … that we committed ourselves…

    … we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.

    So tonight, in honor of my father’s memory and my daughters’ future, out of gratitude for those whose triumphs we mark this week, and those whose everyday sacrifices have brought us to this moment, let us devote ourselves to finishing their work, let us work together to fulfill their hopes, and let’s stand together to elect Barack Obama president of the United States of America.

    Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.

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