History Buzz July 4, 2011: Obamas & Nation Celebrate Independence Day 2011

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

INDEPENDENCE DAY: JULY 4TH, 2011

STATS & POLLS

  • Celebrating Independence Day: Americans come together for Fourth of July festivities in the District and throughout the region…. – WaPo
  • How well do you know the Declaration of Independence? Take our quiz: Every Fourth of July, Americans celebrate the independence of the United States with fireworks, parades, and picnics. But how much do people know about the 1776 events that are being cheered? Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge of the Declaration of Independence…. – CS Monitor, 7-4-11

IN FOCUS

  • Obama thanks troops at July 4 party on South Lawn: Telling U.S. troops that “America is proud of all of you,” President Barack Obama marked the Fourth of July holiday by hosting a barbecue and concert for military members and families on the South Lawn of the White House.
    The president and his family – wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia – greeted more than 1,200 guests from a White House balcony Monday evening. After brief remarks, the first couple stood in the driveway and shook hands with visitors.
    “You represent the latest in a long line of heroes who have served our country with honor, who have made incredible sacrifices to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy,” Obama said. “You’ve done everything we could’ve asked of you,” he said, also recognizing the “families that serve alongside of you with strength and devotion.”… AP, 7-4-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Fireworks, parades, 62 hot dogs: US celebrates 4th: The U.S. marked the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with parades, fireworks, barbecues — plus presidential campaigning, a White House birthday and competitive eating….
    The holiday is celebrated as the nation’s birthday, but it also was Malia Obama’s 13th birthday. The president’s eldest daughter had to share her parents with hundreds of others as Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama invited troops and their families to attend a special barbecue and USO concert on the South Lawn.
    Some of the Republicans hoping to replace Obama in the White House spent part of the day campaigning in states where presidential politics are as much a part of the holiday as fireworks and barbecues…. – AP, 7-4-11
  • A Fireworks Show for the Nation: Fireworks will be illuminating the skies in cities across the country on this July 4 holiday.
    Among the classic destinations for Independence Day displays, the fireworks show on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has long been a go-to for pyrotechnic enthusiasts.
    A Tennessee-based company called Pyro Shows is on its ninth year of designing Washington’s fireworks celebration. We talked to Tom Stiner about what goes into pulling a pyrotechnic show of this magnitude.
    Set against the backdrop of the Washington monument, the event includes “A Capitol Fourth” concert, which you can watch on many PBS stations starting at 8 p.m. ET…. – PBS, 7-4-11
  • Fourth of July Celebrations Draw Families, Troops and Presidential Hopefuls: SUMMARY Americans at home and abroad celebrated Independence Day with parades, barbeques, and fireworks. Judy Woodruff reports on how Americans celebrated Independence Day here and abroad.
    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States marked its birthday today, the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with parades and fireworks, plus competitive eating, presidential campaigning, and a new teenager at the White House.
    The party started late last night, midnight, to be exact, in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The tiny mountain town kicked off the Fourth of July in classic fashion, with banners, music, and plenty of kids up past their bedtime.
    Today, in cities across the country, preparations were under way for a robust celebration, unpacking fireworks and prepping the stages…. – PBS Newshour, 7-4-11Mp3

QUOTES

The President and First Lady watch the fireworks

The President and First Lady watch the fireworks over the National Mall, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 7/4/10

Barack Obama: Today we are celebrating our country, honoring our troops, and enjoying a little BBQ. From all of us at Obama 2012, have a wonderful Fourth.

George W. Bush: Laura and I wish our fellow Americans a happy 4th of July. On this anniversary of our independence, we give thanks for our freedom. We salute the men and women in uniform who defend it. And we ask for God’s continued blessings on the United States.

John McCain: Independence Day Message: I was honored to join General David Petraeus today at a re-enlistment ceremony in Afghanistan for 235 of our brave troopers on this, America’s 235th Independence Day. It was both humbling and inspiring to share this day with so many young Americans who have committed their lives to a cause greater than themselves — the freedom and security of our nation.
As we gather today for backyard barbecues and community events this 4th of July, let us pay tribute to our troops in harms way, their families who miss and love them so dearly, and all the heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend the nation we love.
Have a safe and joyful 4th of July, and God Bless America!

Michelle Obama: What You Can Do to Support Military Families: Good morning, This Independence Day, I hope you’ll join me and my family in recognizing both our brave men and women in uniform and their families for everything they do to protect our country and our way of life.
We know that when our troops are called to serve, their families serve right along with them. For military kids, that means stepping up to help with the housework and putting on a brave face through all those missed holidays, bedtimes and ballet recitals. For military spouses, it means pulling double-duty, doing the work of both parents, often while juggling a full-time job or trying to get an education.
That’s why, a few months ago, Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, a nationwide campaign to recognize, honor, and serve our military families. Our troops give so much to this country and they ask us for just one thing in return: to take care of their families while they’re gone. So we’ve put out a call to action. We’re urging all Americans to ask themselves one question: What can I do to give back to these families that have given so much?
To answer that question you can go to JoiningForces.gov and learn more about how you can get involved. And you can get started right now through Operation Honor Card by pledging to spend a certain number of hours serving military families in your community. – WH, 7-4-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

An illustration shows Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams reviewing a draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson (left), Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Illustration courtesy Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, Library of Congres

  • Valerie Strauss: Top 5 myths about July 4: Back by popular demand (well, I like them), here are the top five myths about Independence Day, adapted from George Mason University’s History News Network:
    1. Independence was declared on the Fourth of July.
    2. The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4.
    3. The Liberty Bell rang in American Independence.
    4. Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag.
    5. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the Fourth of July…. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Fourth of July: Nine Myths Debunked Paul Revere didn’t ride solo, for one: Many time-honored patriotic tales turn out to be more fiction than fact. On the Fourth of July—today marked by a continent-spanning Google doodle—here’s a look at some memorable myths from the birth of the United States.
    1. The Declaration of Independence Was Signed on July 4
    2. Paul Revere Rode Solo
    3. July 4, 1776, Party Cracked the Liberty Bell
    4. Patriots Flocked to Fight for Freedom
    5. The Declaration of Independence Holds Secret Messages
    6. John Adams Died Thinking of Thomas Jefferson
    7. America United Against the British
    8. Betsy Ross Made the First American Flag
    9. Native Americans Sided With the British… – National Geo, 7-4-11
  • E.J. Dionne Jr.: What our Declaration really said: Our nation confronts a challenge this Fourth of July that we face but rarely: We are at odds over the meaning of our history and why, to quote our Declaration of Independence, “governments are instituted.”
    Only divisions this deep can explain why we are taking risks with our country’s future that we’re usually wise enough to avoid. Arguments over how much government should tax and spend are the very stuff of democracy’s give-and-take. Now, the debate is shadowed by worries that if a willful faction does not get what it wants, it might bring the nation to default.
    This is, well, crazy. It makes sense only if politicians believe — or have convinced themselves — that they are fighting over matters of principle so profound that any means to defeat their opponents is defensible.
    We are closer to that point than we think, and our friends in the Tea Party have offered a helpful clue by naming their movement in honor of the 1773 revolt against tea taxes on that momentous night in Boston Harbor…. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Special: Independence Daze – A History Of July 4th: Everybody knows that July 4th celebrates our nation’s beginnings. But for the first 94 years of our existence, the 4th wasn’t an official holiday at all. The Declaration of Independence itself sat untended in a dusty archive for 150 years. So how did Independence Day become the holiest day on our secular calendar? And why do we observe it with hot dogs, fireworks and mattress sales?
    In this hour, the History Guys explore the origins and curiosities of July 4th. They reveal the holiday’s radical roots, and look how the Declaration’s meaning has changed over time. They also consider how the Declaration’s messages about liberty and equality have been embraced by the descendents of slaves. And, as always, they take calls from BackStory listeners looking to the past to understand the America of today.
    Highlights Include:
    Historian Pauline Maier (“American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence”) contrasts the sections of the Declaration of Independence that mattered to the Founders with the sections that matter today.
    July 4th chronicler James Heintze (“The Fourth of July Encyclopedia”) recounts the early days of celebrating independence, with a special focus on explosives.
    Historian David Blight (“Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee”) analyzes Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro,” widely known as one of the greatest abolitionist speeches ever…. – KUOW, 7-4-11
  • On the Fourth, a declaration we still must live up to: MORE THAN 130 British ships had set sail from Nova Scotia on June 9, on their way to the rebellious American colonies. The king of England had hired thousands of German mercenaries. The British penalty for treason was death and confiscation of one’s estate. These were some of the things on the minds of members of the Continental Congress as they met in Philadelphia to debate independence 235 years ago.
    “And yet,” writes the historian Pauline Maier, “as the British began to bring the greatest fleet and the largest army ever assembled in North America into action against the Americans, Congress devoted the better part of two days to revising the draft declaration of Independence. Wars, it understood, were not won by ships and sailors and arms alone. Words, too, had power to serve the cause of victory.”
    The Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today, wasn’t even an official act of government. The Continental Congress had voted for independence on July 2. The July 4 Declaration, drafted mostly by Thomas Jefferson, was meant as inspiration for the soldiers and to justify and explain a drastic action against the crown to a divided and worried public. To be cynical about it, it was in some ways an early exercise in spin control, especially in its over-the-top excoriation of King George III’s alleged offenses. But in time it became — to use the title of Professor Maier’s 1997 book on the subject — “American Scripture,” with an impact on the national consciousness that far exceeded its revolutionary role….. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Victor Davis Hanson: America trusts its citizens: Putting confidence in individuals, and not the state or the bureaucracy, is what makes the U.S. an exceptional nation.
    For the last 235 years, on the Fourth of July, Americans have celebrated the birth of the United States, and the founding ideas that have made it the most powerful, wealthiest, and freest nation in the history of civilization.
    But today, there has never been more uncertainty about the future of America – and the anxiety transcends even the dismal economy and three foreign wars. President Obama prompted such introspection in April 2009, when he suggested that the United States, as one of many nations, was not necessarily any more exceptional than others. Recently, a New Yorker magazine article sympathetically described our new foreign policy as “leading from behind.”
    The administration not long ago sought from the United Nations and the Arab League – but not from Congress – authorization to attack Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya. Earlier, conservative opponents had made much of the president’s bows to Chinese and Saudi Arabian heads of state, which, coupled with serial apologies for America’s distant and recent past, were seen as symbolically deferential efforts to signal the world that the United States was at last not necessarily preeminent among nations.
    Yet there has never been any nation even remotely similar to America. Here’s why. Most revolutions seek to destroy the existing class order and use all-powerful government to mandate an equality of result rather than of opportunity – in the manner of the French Revolution’s slogan of “liberty, equality and fraternity” or the Russian Revolution’s “peace, land and bread.”… – PA Inquirer, 7-4-11
  • Around America, a spirited Fourth: In the nation’s capital, revelers celebrated the Fourth at the Mall in Washington. Festivities included a parade and fireworks.
    President Barack Obama thanked U.S. service members and their families Monday by hosting them on the South Lawn of the White House for a patriotic cookout and fireworks display.\ “After all that you do for our country every day, we wanted to give you guys a chance to get out of uniform, relax and have some fun,” Obama said.
    And fun was the order of the day as Americans celebrated Independence Day around the nation with flags, fireworks and food.
    Monday evening, revelers along the Hudson River readied for the Macy’s annual fireworks show, which usually attracts around 2 million people each year.
    In Washington, a display on the National Mall was scheduled to light up the night sky with the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop.
    In key states around the nation, GOP presidential hopefuls for 2012 spent the day meeting with supporters at various events.
    Meanwhile, the rest of us settled in for a summer day as, well, American, as apple pie…. – CNN, 7-4-11
  • July 4th Menus in Years Past: July 4th cake Our idea of what types of food to serve on July 4th is pretty clear: hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, and a red-white-and blue dessert, perhaps, like the festive cake pictured.
    But how was Independence Day celebrated in the early days of the new republic? Food historian Sandra Oliver has delved into the past for answers, and was happy to share her findings with Epicurious.
    The news of Independence took time to trickle down through the country, she says, and celebrations were low-key local observances. “That’s pretty much the case for the first 30 or 40 years or so,” says Oliver…. – Epicurious, 7-4-11
  • Charles Cohen: History Bits About the Declaration of Independence and Its Main Author: For this July 4th Independence Day, we asked a historian to share a few stories about the Declaration of Independence and the people who drafted it.
    Charles Cohen, a professor of history and religious studies at U-W Madison, says there was genius behind Thomas Jefferson and others who crafted the document establishing the United States.
    But Cohen says misconceptions have also arisen about the Declaration and its authors…. – WUWM, 7-4-11Download Mp3
  • Some of the signers are obscure but Declaration of Independence endures: When you set off fireworks this holiday, remember to say “thanks” to William Whipple. Or tip your hat to Caesar Rodney as you throw hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. William who? Caesar what? Not exactly household names are they? But without them, and 54 other men like them, people wouldn’t have July 4 off from work, much less a country.
    At a crucial time 235 years ago, those 56 men signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, telling King George III theywere “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” The document was a momentous step, and the signers were the movers and shakers of their time. Yet, history has not been kind to many of them.
    “Some are well remembered, but the rest of them unfortunately go down in history as footnotes,” said Broome County Historian Gerald Smith…. – Press Connects, 7-3-11
  • What does our “Declaration of Independence” really mean?: Shocked again! Did YOU hear the news report that only 58% of us (Americans) know when our Declaration of Independence was signed on TV news last evening? The TV report continued to announce that a quarter of us (Americans) do NOT know from whom our founders declared INDEPENDENCE! Do YOU know?
    And now it is dawning the 4th of July 2011, the 235th anniversary of our DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE from GREAT BRITIAN. Did YOU know 1776 was the year? Did YOU know that GREAT BRITAIN was the “mother country” from which we did declare our INDEPENDENCE?
    The BRITISH “Daily Mail” online specifically puts its focus on our lack of knowledge as to whom we declared our INDEPENDENCE from, “While 76 per cent correctly said Great Britain, 19 per cent were unsure, and 5 per cent mentioned another country.”… – Gazette Extra, 7-4-11
  • Eric Slauter: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: How did these words become the most important in the Declaration of Independence? The answer starts with a small band of motivated Americans.
    In America’s revolutionary history, no document is more iconic than the Declaration of Independence, the short but sweeping statement issued by Congress on July 4, 1776, severing bonds with Britain and launching the Colonies on their path to independence.
    But what does the Declaration of Independence actually declare? For most Americans today, the answer is embodied in the opening sentence of the second paragraph: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.�
    Perhaps no sentence in American history is better known or has had a greater impact than these powerful words about equality and rights. It is no wonder then that schoolchildren memorize this sentence, that adults consider it the founding creed of America’s civil religion, or that this and other newspapers will highlight these words on their editorial pages tomorrow…. – Boston Globe, 7-3-11
  • Steven Greiert: History lesson Nation’s Founding Fathers had plenty of blemishes: Dr. Steven Greiert, a history professor at Missouri Western State University, said a surprising number of people confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, which came more than a decade later.
    “I think it’s very important that Americans spend time looking at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to really understand what went on at that time,” Dr. Greiert said. “Know the difference between the two documents.”
    The document that declared the states independent from British rule meant something different to the men who drafted it than what it means to citizens today. “All men are created equal” was written by men who owned slaves, and nearly 100 years before the 15th amendment, which prohibits denying a person (male) the right to vote on “account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”
    “What they really were saying was that all white men should have equal opportunity,” Dr. Greiert said of the drafters, many of whom were wealthy landowners. Women wouldn’t be considered “equal,” where voting was concerned, until 144 years after the Declaration of Independence was written…. – News Press Now, 7-4-11
  • Michael Steiner: History lesson Nation’s Founding Fathers had plenty of blemishes: Dr. Michael Steiner, a history professor at Northwest Missouri State University, references the study of historian Richard Shenkman, who said the public has a hard time accepting that the Founding Fathers “stooped to playing politics.” The public might also have a hard time swallowing that the founders didn’t approve of a popular vote for presidential elections.
    “Less well known is that the Founding Fathers didn’t particularly want the Electoral College to make the decision either,” wrote the author. “The expectation was that in most cases the electors would deadlock, throwing the contest into the House of Representatives.”
    Dr. Steiner said the more his students read about the Founding Fathers, the more human the drafters become.
    “And I believe that’s a good thing,” he said. “We create this mythic infallibility around them that is simply inaccurate. We want them to be better than they were. But they were normal living and breathing human beings like you and me. Thank goodness.”… – News Press Now, 7-4-11
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March 19, 2009: AIG’s Bonus Scandal and St. Patty’s Day at the O’Bama White House

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times The waters of the fountains at the White House ran green to mark St. Patrick’s Day.

The President Picks His Winners for the NCAA Tournament

White House Photo, 3/17/09, Pete Souza

President’s Picks Bracket

The President picks his winners for the
NCAA Tournament.

President Obama, with the Budget Committee Chairmen

Official White House Photo, 3/17/09, by Chuck Kennedy

Budget Spratt Conrad

The President outlines the new priorities in his budget, and calls for his critics to come to the table with good ideas, not political tactics.

Read the President's Remarks

President Obama pledges help for small business, condemns AIG bonuses

White House Photo, 3/16/09, Chuck Kennedy

AIG

President Obama pledges to help small businesses, fight AIG bonuses.

Watch the video

IN FOCUS: STATS

Monica Almeida/The New York Times President Barack Obama during a town hall meeting at the Orange County Fairground in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Wednesday.

In Focus: Stats

  • Obama’s Approval Equal To or Better Than Bush’s, Clinton’s: President Barack Obama’s job approval rating, at 61% in the latest three-day average of Gallup Poll Daily tracking, is slightly above where George W. Bush’s and in particular Bill Clinton’s were at this point in mid-March of the first years of their administrations.
    Bush’s disapproval rating in mid-March 2001 was about the same as Obama’s is now (28%), while Clinton’s disapproval rating was significantly higher. Gallop.com, 3-16-09

THE HEADLINES….

The President Picks His Winners for the NCAA Tournament

White House Photo, 3/17/09, Pete Souza

President’s Picks Bracket

The President picks his winners for the
NCAA Tournament.

President Obama, with the Budget Committee Chairmen

Official White House Photo, 3/17/09, by Chuck Kennedy

Budget Spratt Conrad

The President outlines the new priorities in his budget, and calls for his critics to come to the table with good ideas, not political tactics.

Read the President's Remarks

President Obama pledges help for small business, condemns AIG bonuses

The Headlines…

  • President to pioneer chat on late-night TV: President Obama hasn’t been practicing one-liners, but he is going Thursday night where no sitting president has gone before: to a late-night comedy show. Obama plans to be a guest on NBC’s The Tonight Show With Jay Leno at 11:35 p.m. ET. His press secretary says not to look for a comedy routine. “I anticipate that a large amount of the discussion will center around the president’s economic plans, and the president’s economic ideas,” spokesman Robert Gibbs says. “And I think the president believes it’s a unique audience with which to explain those challenges and the decisions that he’s made.” – USA Today, 3-18-09
  • Obama schedules second prime time news conference: President Obama will hold his second prime time news conference next Tuesday evening at 8 pm ET, the White House announced Wednesday. The president is expected to use the forum to promote his ambitious budget plan, which has come under fire from Republicans and conservative Democrats for its hefty price tag…. – CNN, 3-18-09
  • Dodd: Administration pushed for language protecting bonuses: Senate Banking committee Chairman Christopher Dodd told CNN Wednesday that he was responsible for language added to the federal stimulus bill to make sure that already-existing contracts for bonuses at companies receiving federal bailout money were honored. CNN, 3-18-09
  • Bush to deliver first U.S. post-presidency speech in May: Former President George W. Bush will make his first domestic post-presidency speech on May 28 in Benton Harbor, Michigan, his spokesman, Rob Saliterman, said Wednesday. Bush will be speaking to members of the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan. The event will be closed to the media. Separately, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also will address the economic club on April 30. – CNN, 3-18-09
  • Obama nixes idea of billing vets’ insurance: President Barack Obama has decided to drop any consideration of billing veterans’ private insurance companies for the treatment of combat-related injuries, the White House said Wednesday. – AP, 3-18-09
  • Chaos in the White House – Obama’s teleprompter blows up: Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen liked President Obama’s speech so much yesterday that he repeated it — for 20 seconds. At that time he realized that Obama’s speech was still on the teleprompter…. – Christian Science Monitor, 3-17-09
  • Health care overhaul may cost about $1.5 trillion: Guaranteeing health insurance for all Americans may cost about $1.5 trillion over the next decade, health experts say. That’s more than double the $634 billion ‘down payment’ President Barack Obama set aside for health reform in his budget, raising the prospect of sticker shock at a time of record federal spending. Administration officials have pointedly avoided providing a ballpark estimate, saying it depends on details to be worked out with Congress. – AP, 3-17-09
  • The McCain ‘Twitterview’: has Twitter jumped the shark?: That “Twitterview” was a little weird. Watching questions from George Stephanopoulos (@GStephanopoulos) and answers from Sen. John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) bounce back and forth felt like watching a tennis match on delay. But it took Twitter somewhere it hadn’t been before, and brought users an instant interview with a major newsmaker in a format that only it could manage….. – Christian Science Monitor, 3-17-09
  • Battle brews over Bush library: Former President George W. Bush is preparing for one final struggle against the odds: raising $300 million for a presidential library, museum and policy institute at a time when dollars are tight and skepticism about his presidency runs high. – Politico, 3-16-09
  • Palin to headline GOP dinner in Washington: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will deliver the keynote address at a dinner sponsored by the House and Senate Republican campaign committees…. – AP, 3-16-09
  • 8 Dems oppose quick debate on global warming bill: Eight Senate Democrats are opposing speedy action on President Barack Obama’s bill to combat global warming, complicating prospects for the legislation and creating problems for their party’s leaders…. – AP, 3-16-09
  • US says it shot down Iranian drone last month: U.S. jets shot down an Iranian unmanned surveillance aircraft last month over Iraqi territory about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Monday. A U.S. statement said the Ababil 3 was tracked for about 70 minutes before U.S. jets shot it down “well-inside Iraqi airspace” and that the aircraft’s presence over Iraq “was not an accident.”… – AP, 3-16-09
  • Obama tries to loosen credit for small businesses: President Barack Obama freed billions of dollars to help the nation’s small businesses on Monday, hoping to get credit flowing again to Main Street, not just Wall Street. He heaped praise on the little guys of American industry, often overshadowed in the blitz of government bailouts. The centerpiece of Obama’s latest plan will allow the government to spend up to $15 billion to buy the small-business loans that are now choking community banks and lenders. That, in turn, could allow those banks to start lending money again to small companies to invest, pay bills and stay afloat…. – AP, 3-16-09
  • Obama berates AIG and vows to try to block bonuses: Joining a wave of public anger, President Barack Obama blistered insurance giant AIG for “recklessness and greed” Monday and pledged to try to block it from handing its executives $165 million in bonuses after taking billions in federal bailout money. “How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?” Obama asked. “This isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s about our fundamental values.” – AP, 3-16-09
  • Obama will try to block executive bonuses at AIG: President Barack Obama declared Monday that insurance giant American International Group is in financial straits because of “recklessness and greed” and said he intends to stop it from paying out millions in executive bonuses. AP, 3-16-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President Picks His Winners for the NCAA Tournament

White House Photo, 3/17/09, Pete Souza

President’s Picks Bracket

The President picks his winners for the
NCAA Tournament.

President Obama, with the Budget Committee Chairmen

Political Quotes

  • Biden: Officials must ‘get it right’ on stimulus: Vice President Joe Biden issued a stern warning to local officials Wednesday, urging them to “get it right” when it comes to spending money from the administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package.
    “The work you are doing is being watched very closely, not just by me, but by everybody…. I’ll show up in your city, and tell you it was a stupid idea… The Recovery Act will help ensure older Americans are not forced to choose between paying bills and buying food…. We will recover. The economy will grow.” – AP, 3-18-09
  • Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh: ‘Moderate Dems Working Group’ organized in Senate: A group of 15 Senate Democrats have organized their own working group, the office of Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh announced Wednesday.
    “Our group seeks to work collaboratively with the Obama administration and Senate leadership to make sure legislation is crafted in a practical way that will solve people’s problems,” Bayh said in a statement. “It’s going to take all of us working together in the Senate to get the 60 votes necessary to deliver the change the American people deserve.” – CNN, 3-18-09
  • Florida Rep. Connie Mack “GOP Rep calls on Geithner to ‘resign or be fired'”: “Well before Timothy Geithner became Secretary of the Treasury, he was working hand-in-hand with AIG and other financial institutions to provide them hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money as one of the key architects of the financial sector bailout,” Florida Rep. Connie Mack said in a statement released Wednesday. “I was outspoken against the bailouts then, and I’m even more outraged now.”
    “I’ve had serious concerns about Secretary Geithner from the moment he was nominated. In the months since, he has shown us time and again why he was the wrong choice for this critical post. This week’s news on the AIG bonus scandal is but the latest fiasco under his watch and he has lost the confidence of the American people.” “Quite simply, the Timothy Geithner experience has been a disaster.” – CNN, 3-18-09
  • GOP Rep calls on Geithner to ‘resign or be fired’: Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking Republican on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also called on Geithner to step down.
    “As one of the chief architects of the AIG bailout, Secretary Geithner was in a position to do what any lender of the last resort would do – negotiate concessions from AIG,” he said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.
    “Secretary Geithner either didn’t know about the bonuses, and was grossly negligent, or he did know and failed to bring this to the President’s attention. Either way, the end result has been a significant waste of taxpayer dollars and he should take immediate responsibility and resign.” CNN, 3-18-09
  • Boehner says GOP budget alternative being drafted: “Mr. President, with all due respect: your budget spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much, and that’s going to do further harm to our economy at a time when it desperately needs our help,” Boehner says in a video message posted on YouTube Wednesday. “We believe there’s a better way – better solutions to restore some fiscal sanity here in Washington while encouraging more job creation and more investment.”Our alternative, which is being drafted as we speak by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and others, will reflect core principles that should guide us as our nation works to emerge from this crisis stronger than ever.” – CNN, 3-18-09
  • McCain: ‘Too Early’ to Tell If Obama Has Put Nation at Risk of Terror Attack: GStephanopoulos@SenJohnMcCain AIG: Would a President McCain break bonus contracts? Obama teams says that would cause more harm than good
    SenJohnMcCain@GStephanopoulos i would have never bailed out AIG, the real scandal is billions to foreign banks.
    GStephanopoulos@SenJohnMcCain ok, but today: should bonus contracts be broken? Dodd wants a targeted tax on bonuses OK with that?
    SenJohnMcCain@GStephanopoulos i haven’t seen it but i would explore every option. i repeat, we wouldn’t have this problem if we hadn’t bailed them out….. – ABC News, 3-17-09
  • Obama Defends Budget Proposal: “If there are members of Congress who object to specific policies and proposals in this budget, then I ask them to be ready and willing to propose constructive, alternative solutions,” Mr. Obama said. “‘Just say no’ is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs. It is not an acceptable response to whatever economic policy is proposed by the other party.” – NYT, 3-17-09
  • Bush refuses to criticize Obama in Canada: “I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence. I love my country a lot more than I love politics. I think it is essential that he be helped in office….
    I’m going to put people in my place, so when the history of this administration is written at least there’s an authoritarian voice saying exactly what happened. I want people to understand what it was like to sit in the Oval Office and have them come in and say we have captured Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, the alleged killer of a guy named Danny Pearl because he was simply Jewish, and we think we have information on further attacks on the United States….
    I actually paid for a house last fall. I think I’m the only American to have bought a house in the fall of 2008. AP, 3-17-09
  • Bush, Cheney strike different post-White House tones: “I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena,” the former president told the audience, according to the Associated Press. “It’s the risk-takers, not the government, that is going to pull us out of this recession,” the former president said, according to the Calgary Herald. “My message to policy-makrs is don’t substitute government for the marketplace. Don’t become protectionist. I’m a free-trader to the core.” But overall, the president’s demeanor in front of a friendly crowd was described as jovial. “This is my maiden voyage,” he said in his debut address on the speaking circuit. “I can’t think of a better place to give it than Calgary, Canada.” – CNN, 3-17-09
  • The President, the Taoiseach, and the Shamrocks: Now, before I turn it over to the Taoiseach, it turns out that we have something in common. He hails from County Offaly. And it was brought to my attention on the campaign that my great-great-great grandfather on my mother’s side came to America from a small village in County Offaly, as well. We are still speculating on whether we are related. (Laughter.)
    I do share, though, a deep appreciation for the remarkable ties between our nations. I am grateful to him for his leadership of Ireland. The bond between our countries could not be stronger. As somebody who comes from Chicago, I know a little bit about Ireland, and the warmth, the good humor, and the fierce passion and intelligence of the Irish people is something that has informed our own culture, as well. And so that’s why this day and this celebration is so important. – WH Blog, 3-17-09
  • STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE BUDGET But the one thing I will say is this: With the magnitude of the challenges we face right now, what we need in Washington are not more political tactics — we need more good ideas. We don’t need more point-scoring — we need more problem-solving. So if there are members of Congress who object to specific policies and proposals in this budget, then I ask them to be ready and willing to propose constructive, alternative solutions. If certain aspects of this budget people don’t think work, provide us some ideas in terms of what you do. “Just say no” is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs. It is not an acceptable response to whatever economic policy is proposed by the other party.
    The American people sent us here to get things done. And in this moment of enormous challenge, they are watching and waiting for us to lead. Let’s show them that we’re equal to this task before us. Let’s pass a budget that puts this nation on the road to lasting prosperity. I know Kent Conrad is committed to doing that; John Spratt is committed to doing that; I’m committed to doing that. We’re going to need everybody working together to get this thing done. – WH Blog, 3-17-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS, COMMUNITY LENDERS AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS – Help for small business, condemnation for AIG bonuses: I’ve asked Secretary Geithner to use that leverage and pursue every single legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole. (Applause.) I want everybody to be clear that Secretary Geithner has been on the case. He’s working to resolve this matter with the new CEO, Edward Liddy — who, by the way, everybody needs to understand came on board after the contracts that led to these bonuses were agreed to last year.
    But I think Mr. Liddy and certainly everybody involved needs to understand this is not just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s about our fundamental values. All across the country, there are people who are working hard and meeting their responsibilities every day, without the benefit of government bailouts or multi-million dollar bonuses. You’ve got a bunch of small business people here who are struggling just to keep their credit line open — that they are foregoing pay, as one of our entrepreneurs talked about, they are in some cases mortgaging their homes, and doing a whole host of things just in order to keep things afloat. All they ask is that everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, play by the same rules. And that is an ethic that we have to demand.
    And what this situation also underscores is the need for overall financial regulatory reform, so we don’t find ourselves in this position again, and for some form of resolution mechanism in dealing with troubled financial institutions, so that we’ve got greater authority to protect American taxpayers and our financial system in cases such as this….
    Well, I want to say to John and to every American running a small business or hoping to run a small business one day: You deserve a chance. America needs you to have that chance. – WH Blog, 3-16-09
  • Obama will try to block executive bonuses at AIG: “It’s hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165 million in extra pay. How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat.”
    Noting that AIG has “received substantial sums” of federal aid from the federal government, Obama said he has asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner “to use that leverage and pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole.”…
    “All across the country, there are people who work hard and meet their responsibilities every day, without the benefit of government bailouts or multimillion-dollar bonuses. And all they ask is that everyone, from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, play by the same rules. This isn’t just a matter of dollars and cents. It’s about our fundamental values.” – AP, 3-16-09
  • Fed chief Bernanke: recession could end in ’09: “We’ve seen some progress in the financial markets, absolutely, But until we get that stabilized and working normally, we’re not going to see recovery. But we do have a plan. We’re working on it. And, I do think that we will get it stabilized, and we’ll see the recession coming to an end probably this year.”…
    AP, 3-16-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President Picks His Winners for the NCAA Tournament

Historians’ Comments

  • Victor Davis Hanson “First, do no harm”: When it comes to our complex economy, President Barack Obama would do well to heed the physician’s ancient commandment to first “do no harm.”
    Instead, Obama’s administration has been prescribing all sorts of multibillion-dollar borrowing remedies without any consistent diagnosis of what is exactly wrong with the weak economy or even how bad things actually are.
    Since becoming president, Obama has offered numerous bleak economic prognoses. He has told Americans: “The situation we face could not be more serious. We have inherited an economic crisis as deep and as dire as any since the Great Depression.” He has also warned, “Recovery will likely be measured in years, not weeks or months” and “If nothing is done, this recession could linger for years.”
    But suddenly last week, physician Obama flipped and issued an entirely new prognosis: “I don’t think things are ever as good as they say, or ever as bad as they say.” He added. “(Things) are not as bad as we think they are now.”…
    Or did Obama’s change in rhetoric reflect a sort of premeditated strategy: talk down the economy to scare everyone into supporting more government spending and borrowing; then, once the stimulus bill has passed, talk up the economy to reassure us that it will work?….
    It is clear from the last two months that no one in this herky-jerky administration quite knows what is going on in the economy, which has its own self-correcting mechanisms that were already in play without vast new federal spending and borrowing.
    So before we give more toxic-debt medicine to the recovering patient, let us take a timeout from the borrowing, let nature do its work – and at least do no more harm to generations not yet born. – San Francisco Chronicle, 3-18-09
  • Julian Zelizer “White House, Congress Complicit in AIG Bonus Scandal”: Julian E. Zelizer, congressional expert at Princeton University, said the failure of policymakers to limit executive pay for bailed out banks was no accident. “Neither Congress nor the president wanted to look as if they were ‘taking over’ financial institutions,” Zelizer wrote in an email, “nor did they want to anger business.” The result, he added, was “predictable:” a bailout strategy with plenty of leeway for the companies receiving the money. – Washington Independent, 3-18-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama Caught In The Eye Of AIG Storm”: Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton University, agreed Obama had no easy way out. “He can come out and say it is bad and reprimand executives–it is another thing to formulate some kind of policy response.” “There is some kind of communication problem here,” said Zelizer. “In the campaign, the president was very good at responding to crises,” he said, refering to Obama’s elegant speech on race after a furore erupted over his fiery former pastor Jeremiah Wright. “But now he is running a government. It is not just him any more–some of Obama’s (top aides) don’t seem as skilled in the political arena as they are in the economic arena.” – mysinchew.com, 3-18-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Commentary: GOP’s “small government” talk is hollow”: As the budget debate heats up, Republicans are warning of socialism in the White House and claiming that Democrats are rushing back to their dangerous tonic of big government. …
    After the past eight years in American politics, it is impossible to reconcile current promises by conservatives for small government with the historical record of President Bush’s administration. Most experts on the left and right can find one issue upon which to agree: The federal government expanded significantly after 2001 when George W. Bush was in the White House….
    Fifty years of American history have shown that even the party that traditionally advocates small government on the campaign trail opts for big government when it gets into power. The rhetoric of small government has helped Republicans attract some support in the past, but it is hard to take such rhetoric seriously given the historical record — and it is a now a question whether this rhetoric is even appealing since many Americans want government to help them cope with the current crisis. – CNN, 3-18-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Economy tops everyone’s agenda as Congress returns”: “The economy is on everyone’s mind, and they have to show they’re thinking about what to do at this point. That’s got to be issue No. 1,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University history professor. “But just as important is getting the groundwork ready to work with the new president. They’re desperately trying to avoid another Jimmy Carter situation.” – News & Observer, 3-17-09

June 23, 2008: Campaign Financing & Future First Ladies in the Spotlight

Reprinted from HNN

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2008 WATCH:

    The week that was….

  • June 16, 2008: Former Vice President Al Gore endorses Barack Obama for the Democratic Nomination.
  • June 17, 2008: Obama reached the million mark in Facebook supporters. That is more supporters than any other page on the most popular social network site.
    A McCain adviser claims “Senator Obama is a perfect manifestation of a September 10th mind-set. … He does not understand the nature of the enemies we face.”
  • June 18, 2008: Barack Obama said in bring Osama bin Laden to justice he would not allow him to become a martyr. “First of all, I think there is an executive order out on Osama bin Laden’s head. And if I’m president, and we have the opportunity to capture him, we may not be able to capture him alive.”
    McCain disccussed energy issues and ways to reduce depency on foreign oil, which would include construction of 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030 and $2 billion “to make clean coal a reality.”
  • June 19, 2008: Barak Obama opted-out of the public campaign financing system. Previously Obama claimed he would use the system if Republican John McCain decided to use it. McCain visits flood ridden Iowa despite Gov. Chet Culver request to cancel the campaign visit.
  • June 20, 2008: Barack Obama is considering Former Senators John Edwards and Sam Nunn as potential running mates, former Vice-President Al Gore is also being mentioned.
  • June 21, 2008: Obama criticized McCain for opposing federal flood prevention programs and spending on levees. The issue is in the spotlight since areas of the Mid-West are still flooded from tornadoes and heavy rains that swept through the area. While McCain critized Obama’s opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
  • The Stats

  • A Quinnipiac University poll found that Obama leads in the three critical states; Florida (47 percent to 43 percent), Ohio (48 percent to 42 percent), and Pennsylvania (52 percent to 40 percent).
  • Michelle Obama is viewed more favorably by voters than Cindy McCain, 48 percent to 39 percent ABC News, 6-18-08
  • Unfavorable view by voters: Obama 29 percent vs. McCain 25 percent – ABC News, 6-18-08
  • Historians Comments:

  • Betty Koed, assistant historian of the Senate:
    Mr. Obama’s Washington He wants to change the culture there. But it’s hard to fix a place you’ve never really known. – Newsweek, 6-30-08
  • Victor Davis Hanson Obama promises to bring change — but what kind?
    By this point in the presidential campaign, the public knows that a charismatic Barack Obama wants sweeping “change.” While the national media have often fallen hard for the Illinois senator’s rhetoric — MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said he felt a “thrill going up my leg” during an Obama speech — exactly what kind of change can Obama bring if he’s elected in November?…

    Overall, Obama’s announced policies are sounding pretty much the same old, same old once promised by candidates like George McGovern, Mike Dukakis, Walter Mondale, Al Gore and John Kerry. Of course, a return to the standard big- government nostrums of the past may well be what the angry voters want after 20 years of the Bushes and Clintons.

    But it is not a novel agenda, much less championed by a post-racial, post-political emissary.

    So what are the Democrats thinking? That a mesmerizing, path-breaking African-American candidate — coupled with Bush exhaustion — will overcome past public skepticism of Northern presidential Democratic candidates, traditional liberal agendas and Obama’s own relative lack of experience.

    In other words, we should count on hope rather than change. – Fresno Bee, 6-22-08

  • John Hope Franklin Calls Obama Success “Amazing” – NPR, 6-20-08
  • John Hope Franklin on an Obama Presidency Esteemed historian reacts to a historic race, one he never believed he would witness in his lifetime:
    “Franklin reminisces about how his mother encouraged him as a youngster to tell people he wanted to become “the first Negro president of the United States.” He says the phrase then seemed “so far-fetched, so incredible that we used to really have fun just saying it.”

    “He has shown an ability to bridge the divides in our society and unite people behind his agenda for change,” he said in his mid April endorsement of Obama. – TheRoot.com, 6-19-08 Video of the Interview

  • Robert Mutch, a campaign-finance historian on “Obama Opts Out of Public Funding for His Campaign”:
    “I’m very much in favor of public financing. However, the existing public-financing law has been flawed from the start. The main problem with the public-financing system for nearly the last 30 years is that it became too easy to get around it.” – Christian Science Monitor, 6-19-08
  • Myra Gutin, a first lady historian at New Jersey’s Rider University and author of the 1989 book “The President’s Partner: The First Lady in the 20th Century” on ” Michelle Obama Makes Appeal to Women Voters, Co-Hosts ‘The View’ Potential First Lady Attempts to Soften Image as Husband Fights for Critical Votes “:
    “She needs to relax, show she has a sense of humor and is someone who can laugh at herself. I see Michelle Obama taking advantage of more of the opportunities of the White House, making speeches on causes important to her, and see Cindy McCain taking on a more traditional, supportive spouse role.” – ABC News, 6-18-08
  • Gil Troy, Professor of History, McGill University on “Race for first lady”: Top Picks : Race for first lady : CTV Newsnet: Gil Troy, presidential historian With five months till the presidential election, the spotlight is now on the political wives. Both Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama are trying to court the public but have stereotypes working against them. – CTV NewsNet, 6-18-08
  • Carl Sferrazza Anthony, a first ladies historian on “Michelle Obama preps for general election close-up”:
    Carl Sferrazza Anthony, a first ladies historian, said it’s important for Michelle Obama to define herself before others define her. “One comment made off-hand … might be easily misinterpreted by the opposition,” he said. – CNN, 6-18-08
  • Allan Lichtman: The (Non-Electoral) Case for the Obama-Clinton Ticket – Britannica Blog, 6-17-08
  • Bruce Bartlett: Election 2008: Obamacons: Conservatives That Support Obama – NPR, 6-13-08
  • On the Campaign Trail….

    Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland Predicting that Ohio and the Presidency will go to Barack Obama, June 21, 2008
    “Barack Obama is the nominee of our party. He is a bright, committed, energizing young leader. I met with him yesterday in Chicago and I pledged to him then, as I had previously, that I will work my heart out for him and that Ohio will work her heart out for him.”

    Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: A Metropolitan Strategy for America’s Future, June, 21, 2008 This is something of a homecoming for me. Because while I stand here today as a candidate for President of the United States, I will never forget that the most important experience in my life came when I was doing what you do each day – working at the local level to bring about change in our communities….

    And it’s precisely because you’re on the front lines in our communities that you know what happens when Washington fails to do its job. It may be easy for some in Washington to remain out of touch with the consequences of the decisions that are made there – but not you….

    And just the other day, Senator McCain traveled to Iowa to express his sympathies for the victims of the recent flooding. I’m sure they appreciated the sentiment, but they probably would have appreciated it more if he hadn’t voted against funding for levees and flood control programs, which he seems to consider pork. Well, we do have to reform budget earmarks, cut genuine pork, and dispense with unnecessary spending, as we confront a budget crisis left by the most fiscally irresponsible administration in modern times….

    But understand – while the change we seek will require major investments by a more accountable government, it will not come from government alone. Washington can’t solve all our problems. The statehouse can’t solve all our problems. City Hall can’t solve all our problems. It goes back to what I learned as a community organizer all those years ago – that change in this country comes not from the top-down, but from the bottom up. Change starts at a level that’s even closer to the people than our mayors – it starts in our homes. It starts in our families. It starts by raising our children right, by turning off the TV, and putting away the video games; by going to those parent-teacher conferences and helping our children with their homework, and setting a good example. It starts by being good neighbors and good citizens who are willing to volunteer in our communities – to keep them clean, to keep them safe, and to serve as mentors and teachers to all of our children.

    That’s where change begins. That’s how we’ll bring about change in our neighborhoods. And if change comes to our neighborhoods, then change will come to our cities. And if change comes to our cities, then change will come to our regions. And if change comes to our regions, then I truly believe change will come to every corner of this country we love.

    Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker in a statement for the McCain campaign on Barack Obama’s Decision not to use Federal Campaign Funding, June 19, 2008 “Today, Barack Obma has revealed himself to be just another typical politician who will do and say whatever is most expedient for Barack Obama. The true test of a candidate for president is whether he will stand on principle and keep his word to the American people. Barack Obama has failed that test today, and his reversal of his promise to participate in the public financing system undermines his call for a new type of politics.”

    Remarks By John McCain On Energy Security, June 17, 2008

    I first addressed this issue at the outset of my primary campaign. And in just that time — a little more than a year — the price of a barrel of oil has more than doubled. And the price of a gallon of gas in America stands at more than four dollars. Yesterday, a barrel of oil cost about 134 dollars. And various oil ministers and investment firms have confidently informed us that soon we can expect to pay 200 dollars for every barrel, and as much as seven dollars for every gallon of gas. That may come as good news in Moscow, Riyadh, or Caracas, where economic growth and rising oil prices are more or less the same thing. But their oil prosperity is our energy vulnerability. And the jobs, family budgets, and futures of the American people should not depend on the whims of foreign powers. Oil and gasoline are the most vital of all commodities in a modern economy. Their price affects the cost of things even more basic and essential. America’s dependence on foreign oil is a matter of large and far-reaching consequences — none of them good….

    The next president must be willing to break with the energy policies not just of the current Administration, but the administrations that preceded it, and lead a great national campaign to achieve energy security for America. So in the days ahead I plan to return to the subject in a series of discussions to explain my reform agenda. And I will set forth a strategy to free America once and for all from our strategic dependence on foreign oil.

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