Political Highlights: May 31, 2010: Is the BP Oil Spill Obama’s Katrina or Worse?

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.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The  President walks with BP Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 6/1/10

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Bush details decision to quit drinking: New book analyzes key moments in former president’s life In a book, “Decision Points,” to be published in about six months, George W. Bush will detail some of the controversies of his presidency. George W. Bush said Tuesday that his upcoming book begins with an anecdote about his wife persuading him to give up drinking by pushing him to decide whether he preferred booze to fatherhood…. – MSNBC, 5-25-10
  • New poll shows Obama approval rising: A new poll Wednesday showed an upward tick in President Barack Obama’s approval ratings as he faces a political storm over the Gulf oil spill and girds for crucial mid-term elections in November.
    The Quinnipiac University survey showed that 48 percent of voters gave Obama a positive approval rating, compared to 43 percent who disapproved. Most respondents however were pessimistic on the White House’s economic management.
    Respondents also told Quinnipiac, by 42 to 36 percent, that they would vote for a Democrat over a Republican in November’s congressional elections, which will have a big impact on the rest of Obama’s term, which ends in 2013… – AFP, 5-26-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • BP’s top kill effort fails to plug Gulf oil leak: The most ambitious bid yet to stop the worst oil spill in U.S. history ended in failure Saturday after BP was unable to overwhelm the gusher of crude with heavy fluids and junk. President Obama called the setback “as enraging as it is heartbreaking.” The oil giant immediately began readying its next attempted fix, using robot submarines to cut the pipe that’s gushing the oil into the Gulf of Mexico and cap it with funnel-like device, but the only guaranteed solution remains more than two months away.
    “It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking, and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole,” Obama said Saturday. – AP, 5-29-10
  • Bill Clinton has not shrunk from the political spotlight Bill Clinton remains engaged in American politics, providing fresh fodder for the long debate of whether he truly changed his party.
    Bill Clinton was all over the news Friday. He was identified as the go-between in a (failed) White House effort last year to get Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania to drop his (ultimately successful) Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter. And he was live, on stage, in Arkansas in a full-throated defense of embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D). In Washington, of course, the Sestak melodrama got all the attention. But Clinton’s efforts to save Lincoln from defeat in the June 8 primary runoff election against Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter matters more, and is more interesting. It isn’t just that Lincoln is a longtime ally from the former president’s home state. Her battle is in many ways Clinton’s, as well. It is a fight over differences and grievances within the Democratic Party that have festered for years…. – WaPo, 5-30-10
  • Obama: Memorial Day is time to honor fallen troops: Obama, who has sent thousands of troops into war in Afghanistan, used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to reflect on what the nation owes those men and women who died in uniform… “In short, by serving all those who have ever worn the uniform of this country — and their families — as well as they have served us,” the president said…. – AP, 5-29-10
  • A GOP Oil Trap Panicked Republicans risk future energy development: With oil now lapping the Louisiana shore, a political oil panic is beginning to wash over the GOP. Somewhere, Rahm Emanuel is wondering if the Gulf spill is another crisis he won’t have to let go to waste. Start with Sarah Palin, who spent most of 2008 rapping Democrats for not being more supportive of domestic energy production, only to turn around and suggest President Obama was in bed with Big Oil. The argument seems to be that anyone who accepts oil contributions must be in favor of oil spills…. – WSJ, 5-28-10
  • President Obama will skip Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery: President Obama is skipping the traditional Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery, a move that has dismayed some veterans — and comes at a sensitive moment in the administration’s relationship with the military. Instead of speaking at Arlington, as he did last year and as most presidents have done, Obama will appear at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery outside Chicago, the White House said. Vice President Biden will take his place at Arlington, the most prestigious military cemetery in the country and home to Section 60, a large burial ground for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Obama family in Chicago for Memorial Day weekend: President Barack Obama is spending the long Memorial Day holiday weekend at home in Chicago, where he will sleep in his own bed for the first time in more than a year. Obama said before he took office that he hoped to come home about every six weeks. But the demands of the presidency and his daughters’ busy schedules have thwarted his intentions. First lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, Obama’s mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, and family dog Bo accompanied the president. Obama is scheduled to return to Washington on Monday…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Obama Honors Jewish Americans at White House Reception: Did you hear the one about the African-American president and Jewish-American baseball legend who were in the East Room of the White House for a reception? The president tells the audience that he and Sandy Koufax have something in common. “We are both lefties. He can’t pitch on Yom Kippur. I can’t pitch.” Oy. Where’s Jackie Mason when you need him? It was a bit of Jewish humor from President Barack Obama in welcoming remarks at what he said was the first-ever White House reception observing Jewish American Heritage Month…. – CBS News, 5-27-10
  • Congress moves to end ban on gays in military: Congress has taken two big steps toward ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. In quick succession Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House approved measures to repeal the 1993 law that allows gay people to serve in the armed services only if they hide their sexual orientation…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Sarah Palin Builds Fence as Joe McGinniss’ Son Denies “Stalker” Claim: On Tuesday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote a sarcastic note on her Facebook page complaining about the fact that nonfiction author Joe McGinniss had moved into the house next door. Palin complains that McGinniss, who is writing a book about her, will likely be unfair. She also casts his behavior as creepy: “Wonder what kind of material he’ll gather while overlooking Piper’s bedroom, my little garden, and the family’s swimming hole?”…. – CBS News, 5-27-10
  • Is oil spill becoming Obama’s Katrina?: 37 days: Oil has been spilling 6 million: Total gallons spilled, according to estimates from BP and the Coast Guard28,958 square miles: Size of oil slick; an area about the size of South Carolina 70 miles: Louisiana coastline affected 1,300: Number of vessels involved
    The hurricane that drowned New Orleans and cast George W. Bush as out of touch swept across the Gulf Coast nearly five years ago. Now, as oil laps ashore in the very same region, local officials are asking: Is there another government-Gulf Coast disconnect? Is BP’s oil spill becoming this president’s Katrina? President Obama will face questions today at his first news conference since oil started gushing five weeks ago. Frustrated Gulf Coast residents say they understand that only BP can plug the leak. But they want to know why the federal government didn’t act faster to stop the oil from reaching shore, why BP hasn’t been forced to skim more oil from the surface and why their request hasn’t been approved to build new barrier islands to help keep the oil at bay….. – USA Today, 5-27-10
  • Cost of Jobs Bill Leaves Some Democrats Leery: The emergence of the escalating federal debt and government spending as a defining political issue is complicating Democratic efforts this week to push through a major package of tax breaks and unemployment aid over the reluctance of Democrats wary of being painted as budget busters.
    “We have put together a wonderful bill, and every piece in it can be justified as good public policy,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a freshman Democrat from Virginia. “But it is not paid for. Until somebody shows me a path for this being paid for, I am a no.”… – NYT, 5-26-10
  • The Early Word: The President Answers: It’s been awhile, but President Obama will hold a formal news conference at the White House this afternoon. With oil still leaking out of a well in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama plans to announce at today’s question-and- answer session that he will extend a moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling permits for six months and will delay or cancel specific projects off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia and in the western Gulf of Mexico, The Times’s Peter Baker and Anahad O’Connor report. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty gives her fellow reporters some ideas on what to ask the president, who is scheduled to visit the Gulf Coast on Friday. One of her five proposed questions: “Should anyone in the government be fired as the result of this disaster?”… – NYT, 5-27-10
  • Obama to speak on Gulf spill in first news conference since summer ’09: President Obama will face the cameras and take questions from reporters Thursday about the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, giving him another chance to finesse, and perhaps even ratchet up, his rhetoric on the crisis. The president’s news conference in the East Room is scheduled for 12:45 p.m., and it will take place even as BP’s dramatic “top kill” operation to halt the flow of leaking oil continues deep below the Gulf surface. This will be Obama’s first full-fledged news conference in more than 300 days. It is the latest attempt by the White House to calibrate the presidential message about the oil catastrophe with the anxiety captured on television screens…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Gulf oil spill now nation’s worst: As crews pumped mud at a furious rate into the damaged blowout preventer that sits on the uncapped well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, a group of scientists said the amount of oil spewing into the ocean is much greater than originally believed…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Obama fires MMS chief Elizabeth Birnbaum: President Obama has fired the head of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, according to the Associated Press. The news agency, citing unnamed sources, says Obama will announce later today that Elizabeth Birnbaum has been taken off the job. She’s been head of the MMS since July 2009. Her agency, which grants leases to oil companies and monitors offshore drilling, has come under criticism for lax oversight since the BP well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20…. – USA Today, 5-27-10
  • Judiciary Republicans Call for Special Prosecutor: All seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee joined together on Wednesday to request appointment of a special prosecutor to look into Representative Joe Sestak’s claim that the White House offered him a job to drop out of the Senate Democratic primary race in Pennsylvania. In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the Republican senators said the assertions are “very serious and, if true, suggest a possible violation of various federal criminal laws intended to safeguard our political process from the taint of bribes and political machine manipulation.”…
    Mr. Sestak first said in February that the White House had proposed an administration job if he would back off his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter, but he refused and went on to win the primary last week. In the days since, Republicans have revived and pressed the matter, while the White House and Mr. Sestak have refused to provide details of what happened. The White House has said it looked into the situation and determined nothing inappropriate happened…. – NYT, 5-26-10
  • Neither side happy with jobs bill being pushed through Congress: Some conservatives say people who are out of work shouldn’t be able to collect jobless benefits for almost two years. Liberals, meanwhile, want Congress to pay for a New Deal-style program in which the federal government would send money to states and localities, which would then directly hire people. Neither group will be completely happy with the “jobs bill” being pushed through Congress right now. The $192 billion “American Jobs and Closing Loopholes Act of 2010,” which could be approved in the House as soon as Wednesday and later this week in the Senate, largely keeps in place the policies that Democrats have pushed over the past year to deal with the recession as unemployment remains at almost 10 percent. WaPo, 5-26-10
  • ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal up for 2 votes: After 17 years, a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military heads into two razor-thin votes before the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, with passage uncertain, as Democrats facing losses in the midterm elections push to enact repeal while they still can. But even if repeal passes both chambers, gays and lesbians would not be able to serve openly in the military right away. A compromise late Monday between congressional leaders and the White House paved the way for the votes, which will come as amendments to the Defense Department’s authorization bill…. – SF Chronicle, 5-25-10
  • Republican Senators’ Lunch With Obama Is Marked by Spirited Confrontations: President Obama’s luncheon Tuesday with Senate Republicans was not televised like a similar session earlier this year with the House opposition, but evidently it would have made for captivating theater. By nearly all accounts, pent-up frustrations boiled over as the president and the very lawmakers who have consistently opposed much of his agenda engaged in spirited and at times confrontational exchanges over immigration, spending, White House tactics and other issues during a private 75-minute session. Senator John McCain, Mr. Obama’s former presidential rival, lashed out at the administration for its portrayal of the new immigration law in his home state of Arizona. And Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee suggested that the administration had been less than sincere in trying to seek a bipartisan deal on the financial regulatory overhaul, which was passed last week with just four Republican votes. “To come in on the Tuesday after it all occurred and to now talk about seven or eight items he wants to do in a bipartisan way, I just asked him how he could reconcile that duplicity,” Mr. Corker said. “I was very aware that we were props today as we move into an election cycle.”… – NYT, 5-26-10
  • Proposal moves up a vote on gays in military: Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., an Iraq war veteran, is expected to introduce the legislative proposal Tuesday. A vote could come as early as Thursday. The White House had hoped lawmakers would delay action until Pentagon officials had completed their study so fellow Democrats would not face criticism that they moved too quickly or too far ahead of public opinion in this election year. When administration officials recognized they could not stop Congress in its effort to repeal the ban, they invited gay rights activists to the White House to work on a compromise Monday…. – AP, 5-25-10
  • Obama seeks to force votes on spending cuts: President Barack Obama on Monday is sending legislation to Congress that would allow him to force lawmakers to vote on cutting wasteful programs from spending bills. The legislation would award Obama and his successors the ability to take two months or more to scrutinize spending bills that have already been signed into law for pet projects and other dubious programs. He could then send Congress a package of spending cuts for a mandatory up-or-down vote on whether to accept or reject them. Senate Democrats killed the idea just three years ago, and so Obama’s move would seem like a long shot. But the plan could pick up traction in the current anti-Washington political environment in which lawmakers are desperate to demonstrate they are tough on spending…. – AP, 5-23-10
  • White House: Justice Dept. has been to Gulf spill: The White House says the Justice Department has been gathering information about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Press secretary Robert Gibbs isn’t saying whether the department has opened a criminal investigation. He would only tell CBS’ “Face the Nation” that department representatives have been to the Gulf as part of the response to the BP oil leak…. – AP, 5-24-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Clinton: Don’t let anger sink Lincoln re-election: Former President Bill Clinton on Friday urged voters in his home state to send Sen. Blanche Lincoln back to Washington for another term, warning them to not let their anger guide their choice in next month’s Democratic runoff. Clinton, who remains beloved in the state where he served as governor for 12 years, urged voters to look at Lincoln’s years in the Senate and her work as the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Lincoln, considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Washington, is fighting to keep her job in the June 8 Democratic runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. “If you want somebody to channel your anger, don’t vote for her,” Clinton said at a rally at Philander Smith College, a historically black school located near downtown Little Rock. “If you want somebody to get up and go to work and change your life for the better, you should vote for her.”…. – AP, 5-28-10
  • Paul opposes citizenship for babies of illegals: U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul is stirring it up again, this time by saying he opposes citizenship for children born in the U.S. to parents who are illegal immigrants. Paul, who a week ago won the GOP primary, told a Russian TV station in a clip circulating on political Web sites Friday that he wants to block citizenship to those children. “We’re the only country I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen,” Paul told RT, an English-language station, shortly after his win over GOP establishment candidate Trey Grayson. “And I think that should stop also.”… – AP, 5-28-10
  • Republicans Have Most Action in Arizona Primary: Intraparty challenges to U.S. Sen. John McCain and Gov. Jan Brewer top contested races in Arizona’s Aug. 24 primary election. Those and other races put most of the high-profile action in the Republican primary, though Democrats also have some contested contests for statewide offices. Wednesday at 5 p.m. was the deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions, though the Secretary of State’s Office said an updated list would not be immediately available. As the filing deadline neared, the four-term incumbent McCain was challenged in the primary by former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth and Navy veteran Jim Deakin. [See who is donating to McCain's campaign.]… – US News, 5-27-10
  • A.G. Andrew Cuomo picks Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy as his Lt. Governor candidate: Newly minted gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo has picked the mayor of Rochester as his running mate. Cuomo’s campaign announced Wednesday morning that fellow Democrat Robert Duffy, a former cop, had gotten the nod. NY Daily News, 5-26-10
  • Rossi turns spotlight on U.S. Senate race: Republican Dino Rossi’s long-awaited entry into the U.S. Senate race Wednesday pushes Washington onto the national political map this year, morphing the state from a footnote into a more closely watched battleground that could shape control of Congress…. – Seattle Times, 5-26-10
  • Idaho lawmaker wins GOP nod in US House race: Idaho state Rep. Raul Labrador won the Republican nomination Tuesday in the state’s nationally targeted 1st Congressional District, pulling an upset over rival Vaughn Ward. Labrador won the race despite a significant fundraising disadvantage and a campaign endorsement for Ward by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Labrador’s victory sets up a battle with first-term Democrat Walt Minnick in November…. With 435 of 462 precincts reporting, Labrador collected 48.1 percent of the vote compared to 38.8 percent for Ward, who described the race as “a humbling experience.” AP, 5-26-10
  • Rand Paul plans campaign shake-up after gaffes: Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul said Tuesday he’s planning a campaign staff shake-up a week after a round of interviews in which he dismayed fellow Republicans by discussing his views on racial segregation. Campaign manager David Adams, who had been a Republican blogger in Nicholasville before joining up, will remain though perhaps in a different role, Paul said…. Adams would only say, “I don’t have any comment about that yet.” A former aide to Paul’s father, Texas congressman and former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, has become increasingly visible in the Senate campaign. Jesse Benton, who was communications director for Ron Paul’s last presidential bid, has been by the younger Paul’s side at most of his recent campaign events…. – AP, 5-26-10
  • Gingrich endorses Meg Whitman for governor: When Carly Fiorina launched her campaign for U.S. Senate late last year, she wanted little to do with Sarah Palin. “I’ve never met her,” Fiorina replied when asked about the former Alaska governor’s leadership skills. “Next question.”… But as the races for governor and senator go down to the wire before the June 8 primary, big name Republicans are jumping into the fray with endorsements — 11th-hour nods that may offer big boosts now but carry serious risks in the fall, when the primary winners face the general electorate in a solidly blue state. Palin endorsed Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, on May 6. Former Vice President Cheney endorsed Whitman 10 days later. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorses the eBay billionaire in an op-ed piece in the Mercury N ews today, calling her “a transformational leader for California.”… – San Jose Mercury News, 5-25-10
  • Republicans See Big Chance, but Are Worried, Too: Republicans remain confident of making big gains in the fall elections, but as the midterm campaign begins in earnest, they face a series of challenges that could keep the party from fully capitalizing on an electorate clamoring for change in Washington. There are growing concerns among Republicans about the party’s get-out-the-vote operation and whether it can translate their advantage over Democrats in grass-roots enthusiasm into turnout on Election Day. They are also still trying to get a fix on how to run against President Obama, who, polls suggest, remains relatively well-liked by voters, even as support for his agenda has waned. Republicans are working to find a balance between simply running against Democrats and promoting a specific alternative agenda. And they are struggling with how to integrate the passions of the Tea Party movement — with its anti-government ideology, anti-incumbent bent and often-rough political edges — into the Republican Party apparatus…. – NYT, 5-24-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Remarks by the President After Meeting with BP Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs Rose Garden: We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have to experience a crisis like this again. If the laws on our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change. If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed. If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region….
    We’re continuing our efforts on all fronts to contain the damage from this disaster and extend to the people of the Gulf the help they need to confront this ordeal. We’ve already mounted the largest cleanup effort in the nation’s history, and continue to monitor — minute to minute — the efforts to halt or capture the flow of oil from the wrecked BP well. Until the well is stopped, we’ll multiply our efforts to meet the growing threat and to address the widespread and unbelievably painful losses experienced by the people along the Gulf Coast. What’s being threatened — what’s being lost — isn’t just the source of income, but a way of life; not just fishable waters, but a national treasure…. WH, 6-2-10
  • Obama wishes US soccer team luck in World Cup: Barack Obama gave the U.S. World Cup team a presidential sendoff, greeting players at the White House on Thursday along with Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. “I just want to say how incredibly proud we are of the team,” Obama said. “Everybody’s going to be rooting for you. And although sometimes we don’t remember it here in the United States, this is going to be the biggest world stage there is. And you’re going to be representing all of us.”… “We’re going to be proud of what you do when you get to South Africa, and you will have somebody in the Oval Office who’s going to be watching ESPN to make sure that things are going OK,” Obama said…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Obama in S.F. for Boxer faces critics on spill:
    President Obama, facing criticism that his administration has failed to respond aggressively to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, assured supporters in San Francisco on Tuesday that “the situation in the gulf is heartbreaking, and we’re doing everything we can.”
    “Nobody is more upset than me, because ultimately,” he said, “when this happens on your watch, you are thinking, how does this get solved?” Obama said his administration has marshaled more than 1,000 people to help deal with the spill and “we are now having to do a thorough review” to see how oil companies “can say they know how to handle these problems when actually they don’t.”… – SF Chronicle, 5-26-10
  • Palin suggests Obama oil ties impede spill cleanup The White House responds by questioning her information about oil politics and policy: Sarah Palin speaking on ” Fox News Sunday,” the former Alaska governor said she remained a “big supporter” of oil drilling but believed “these oil companies have got to be held accountable.” Pointing to what she termed the White House’s relationship with “the oil companies who have so supported President Obama in his campaign and are supportive of him now,” Palin questioned whether “there’s any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.”
    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” suggested Palin do some homework. “I’m almost sure that the oil companies don’t consider the Obama administration a huge ally,” Gibbs said. “We proposed a windfall profits tax when they jacked their oil prices up to charge more for gasoline.” Gibbs said, “My suggestion to Sarah Palin would be to get slightly more informed as to what’s going on in and around oil drilling in this country.”…. – LAT, 5-24-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Obama, the Thin-Skinned President: Not surprisingly, Obama’s thin skin leads to self pity. As Daniel Halper of The Weekly Standard pointed out, in a fundraising event for Sen. Barbara Boxer, Obama said,
    Let’s face it: this has been the toughest year and a half since any year and a half since the 1930s.
    Really, now? Worse than the period surrounding December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001? Worse than what Gerald Ford faced after the resignation of Richard Nixon and Watergate, which constituted the worse constitutional scandal in our history and tore the country apart? Worse than what Ronald Reagan faced after Jimmy Carter (when interest rates were 22 percent, inflation was more than 13 percent, and Reagan faced something entirely new under the sun, “stagflation”)? Worse than 1968, when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated and there was rioting in our streets? Worse than what LBJ faced during Vietnam — a war which eventually claimed more than 58,000 lives? Worse than what John Kennedy faced in the Bay of Pigs and in the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we and the Soviet Union edged up to the brink of nuclear war? Worse than what Franklin Roosevelt faced on the eve of the Normandy invasion? Worse than what Bush faced in Iraq in 2006, when that nation was on the edge of civil war, or when the financial system collapsed in the last months of his presidency? Worse than what Truman faced in defeating imperial Japan, in reconstructing post-war Europe, and in responding to North Korea’s invasion of South Korea?…. – Politics Daily, 5-27-10
  • How Obama Measures Up: Lessons From 70 Years of Presidential Scholars – Politics Daily, 4-2-10
  • Thomas Schwartz: Up from the deep sea: a nightmare for Obama: Presidential historian Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University professor, said presidencies are often defined by the crises encountered. He said the oil spill could prove to be a defining crisis but he cautioned against comparing the leak to Katrina, for instance. “This one has been slowly developing and could have those qualities, but if BP were to suddenly get it capped, things could be defused very quickly. The air could go out of the balloon,” Schwartz said. Reuters, 5-27-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama could pay “huge price” for spill response: “I think that the President has to get control over this situation,” historian Doug Brinkley said on CNN’s Campbell Brown Monday night. “Right now there is a feeling in the country that BP’s in charge but BP is the one that has been grossly negligent,” Brinkley said. Brinkley, a longtime resident of New Orleans, offered Brown suggestions about what President Obama needs to do: Address the American people on television within 48 hours, tell them what’s happening in the Gulf and talk about what’s being lost. Brinkley also believes the White House must consider freezing BP’s assets in the United States and called for the Justice Department to speed up its probe into BP. When asked by Brown what price the President could pay for a slow response, Brinkley told Brown “It’s a huge price.”… – CNN.com (5-24-10)

Memorial Day 2010: Obama & It’s Origins

IN THE NEWS….

Vice President Biden Lays a Wreath at the  Tomb of the Unknowns in    Arlington

Vice President Joe Biden lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • What is Memorial Day?: Source Chicago Sun-Times, 5-31-10
    Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
    The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
    The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies….
  • Take time to remember meaning, intent of Memorial Day:
    Source: The Olympian, 5-31-10
    Today is more than the end of a three-day weekend. It’s a day to honor the deceased — especially those men and women who have served this nation in the armed forces. Unfortunately, over the years Memorial Day has lost much of its meaning. Today, families look upon the Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer — especially when the weather cooperates. It’s an opportunity to get away to the beach or the mountains, have a picnic or family reunion or the first opportunity of the year to pitch the family tent at a favorite campground.
    Sadly, not many of us take the time to remember the dead or say a prayer for the 1.2 million uniformed men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that we might thrive as a nation blessed with freedom and liberty….
  • Obama’s plan for Memorial Day speech in Illinois wiped out by rain, lightning: It has been years since President Obama attended a rally like the one that took place Monday night at Andrews Air Force Base: sparsely attended, thrown together at the last minute, involving people who were not expecting to be there. Yet that’s what happened after a torrential downpour ruined well-laid presidential plans. Chased out of a Memorial Day service in Illinois by a fierce storm, Obama flew home to make remarks that he intended to deliver eight hours earlier. Instead of speaking in front of thousands, he addressed a small crowd of hastily summoned service members in a hangar…. – WaPo, 6-1-10
  • Biden honors war dead; rain forces Obama to cancel Ill. speech In Afghanistan, McChrystal leads tribute to fallen: Vice President Joe Biden hailed America’s fighting men and women yesterday as the “spine of this nation,” while President Obama’s Land of Lincoln tribute got washed out by a severe thunderstorm and high winds. Discuss Biden made the more traditional appearance at Arlington National Cemetery on Obama’s behalf, saying the country has “a sacred obligation’” to make sure its servicemen and women are the best equipped and best supported troops in the world. “As a nation, we pause to remember them,” Biden said. “They gave their lives fulfilling their oath to this nation and to us.”… – Boston Globe, 6-1-10
  • Obama Not the 1st President to Miss Memorial Day at Arlington:
    CBS News, 5-31-10
    Some conservative talk show hosts and pundits have mounted an effort to politicize Memorial Day by questioning President Obama’s plan to visit a national cemetery in Illinois instead of attending the annual ceremony at Arlington.
    Let’s set the record straight. Mr. Obama will participate today in a ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, about 50 miles south of Chicago. He is not the first president to be away from Washington on a patriotic holiday.
    The critics were either ignorant of the facts or they failed to mention the 2007 Veterans Day ceremony when Vice President Dick Cheney spoke while President George W. Bush observed the holiday in Texas.
    Vice President Dan Quayle laid the wreath at Arlington on Memorial Day, 1992. I recall covering President George H.W. Bush, a distinguished World War II vet, as he marked the holiday that year at his favorite vacation spot, Kennebunkport, Maine, where he spoke to a veterans group.
    Back in 1983, a Defense Department official laid the Memorial Day wreath at Arlington when Ronald Reagan was at a G-7 Summit meeting in Williamsburg, Virginia….
  • President Barack Obama is scheduled to give his remarks at a Memorial Day service in Elwood, Illinois today:
    Source: WBEZ, 5-30-10
    President Obama and the first family are wrapping up their weekend visit to Chicago. Obama is expected to give the address at a Memorial Day Ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, about 50 miles south-west of the city. The service will be accompanied by music from the Joliet American Legion Band and readings from students of the Elwood Community Consolidated Elementary School.
    Back in Washington, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden will host a breakfast for Gold Star Families at the White House. Afterwards, the Vice President will visit Arlington National Cemetery where he’ll participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
  • Support slipping for women’s war memorial Organizers hope new generation of soldiers will help keep it open:
    Source: AP, 5-31-10
    Garage sales and quilt raffles helped a determined group of female World War II veterans raise money to transform a rundown wall at Arlington National Cemetery into a grand stone memorial to women who served their country. But those women are dying off, even as the memorial runs short of funds. With women now involved more heavily in combat jobs, those early organizers hope a new generation will step up to the challenge of keeping the memorial open so military women’s stories won’t be lost. The dedication of the memorial that today is a visitor’s first view of the cemetery was such a joyous event that 40,000 people attended in 1997. One of them, a 101-year-old World War I vet named Frieda Mae Hardin, met with cheers when she told the crowd that women considering military careers should, “Go for it!”…

QUOTES

Vice President Biden Speaks in  Arlington

Vice President Joe Biden delivers Memorial Day remarks in the Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater in Arlington, May 31, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

  • Vice President Joe Biden: “And As a Nation, We Pause Today to Remember Them”:
    Source: WH, 5-31-10
    Collectively, the generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who have served and sacrificed for us are the heart and soul, and I would say, spine of this nation. And as a nation, we pause today to remember them. They gave their lives fulfilling their oath to this nation and to us. And in so doing, they imparted a responsibility on us to recognize, to respect, to honor and to care for those who risked their lives so that we can live ours. Moments ago, I had the distinct honor and high privilege of laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This morning, I welcomed to the White House the Gold Star families, who know all too well the price of their loved ones’ patriotism. I met Ruth Stonesifer, the current President of the Gold Star Mothers, who lost her son Kristofor on the first night of major operations in Afghanistan on October of 2001; and Emogene Cupp, the mother who played a pivotal role in the early stages of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and unveiled the first panel; to Terry Davis, a remarkable champion of Gold Star families. Terry, God love her, is a Gold Star sister, a Gold Star wife, and a Gold Star mother — none should be asked to sacrifice that much.
    To those who have lost a loved one in the service of our nation, I recall a famous headstone in Ireland. And the headstone reads as follows, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal.” No one can steal the memory from you. I can tell you from my own personal experience that eventually the pain and heartache you now feel will eventually, God-willing, be replaced by the joyful memory of the son or daughter or husband and wife or father or mother that you loved so dearly and lost. Jill and my prayer for you is that that day will come sooner rather than later. But it will come, I promise you.
  • President Barack Obama: WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Invites All Americans to Honor America’s Fallen Heroes this Memorial Day:
    Source: WH, 5-29-10
    Remarks of President Barack Obama, Saturday, May 29, 2010, Weekly Address, Washington, DC: This weekend, as we celebrate Memorial Day, families across America will gather in backyards and front porches, fire up the barbeque, kick back with friends, and spend time with people they care about. That is as it should be. But I also hope that as you do so, you’ll take some time to reflect on what Memorial Day is all about; on why we set this day aside as a time of national remembrance.
    It’s fitting every day to pay tribute to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. Still, there are certain days that have been set aside for all of us to do so. Veterans Day is one such day – when we are called to honor Americans who’ve fought under our country’s flag.
    Our calling on Memorial Day is different. On this day, we honor not just those who’ve worn this country’s uniform, but the men and women who’ve died in its service; who’ve laid down their lives in defense of their fellow citizens; who’ve given their last full measure of devotion to protect the United States of America. These are the men and women I will be honoring this weekend, and I know many of you are doing the same.
    On April 25, 1866, about a year after the Civil War ended, a group of women visited a cemetery in Columbus, Mississippi, to place flowers by the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen at Shiloh. As they did, they noticed other graves nearby, belonging to Union dead. But no one had come to visit those graves, or place a flower there. So they decided to lay a few stems for those men too, in recognition not of a fallen Confederate or a fallen Union soldier, but a fallen American.
    A few years later, an organization of Civil War veterans established what became Memorial Day, selecting a date that coincided with the time when flowers were in bloom. So this weekend, as we commemorate Memorial Day, I ask you to hold all our fallen heroes in your hearts, and if you can, to lay a flower where they have come to rest.

Top Young Historians: 104 Charlotte Brooks, 38

Top Young Historians

Charlotte Brooks, 38

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Department of History, Co-Chair, Program in Asian and Asian American Studies, Baruch College, City University of New York.
Area of Research: Twentieth-century U.S. history, particularly urban history, politics and policy, race, immigration, and Asian American history.
Education: 2002 Ph.D. U.S. History, Northwestern University.
Major Publications: Brooks is the author of Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009). Charlotte Brooks JPG
Brooks is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others: “The War on Grant Avenue: Business Competition and Ethnic Rivalry in San Francisco’s Chinatown, 1937-1942,” Journal of Urban History, forthcoming (March 2011); “Sing Sheng vs. Southwood: Housing, Race, and the Cold War in 1950s California,” Pacific Historical Review 73:3 (August 2004). [Reprinted in The Best American History Essays 2006, edited by Joyce Appleby (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)]; “In the Twilight Zone Between Black and White: Japanese American Resettlement and Community in Chicago, 1942-1945,” Journal of American History 86:4 (March 2000).
She is currently doing research for her second book, Between Mao and McCarthy: Chinese American Political Culture in Cold War America (under contract with the University of Chicago Press). This book will examine the contours of Chinese American political activism after World War Two and the way it intersected with U.S. foreign policy, larger Asian American struggles for access to equal citizenship, the growth of Great Society programs, and the postwar black civil rights movement.
Awards: Brooks is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Brooks is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Honorable Mention, 2010 Frederick Jackson Turner Award (for an author’s first book on some significant phase of American history), Organization of American Historians, 2010;
Eugene M. Lang Junior Faculty Research Program Fellowship, Baruch College, 2009-2010;
Professional Staff Congress-City University of New York Grant, Baruch College, 2009;
Baruch College, Weissman School Dean’s Office Summer Research Grant, 2008;
Professional Staff Congress-City University of New York Grant, Baruch College, 2008;
Individual Development Award, State University of New York Joint Labor-Management Committee; 2006;
Louis Knott Koontz Memorial Award (for best article in the previous volume of the Pacific Historical Review), Pacific Coast Branch, American Historical Association, 2005;
Faculty Research Assistance Program B Grant, University at Albany, 2004-2005;
Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities, Barnard College (declined), 2003;
Northwestern University Graduate School Dissertation Year Fellowship, 2001-2002;
Social Science Research Council International Migration Dissertation Fellowship, 2000-2001;
Harry S Truman Library Foundation Research Grant, 2000;
Haynes Foundation Southern California History Research Grant, 2000;
Northwestern University Graduate School Research Grant, 2000;
Teaching Assistant Fellow, Searle Center for Teaching Excellence, 1999-2000.
Additional Info:
Formerly Assistant Professor, Department of History, Faculty Affiliate, Department of Public Administration and Policy, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, University at Albany, State University of New York.

Personal Anecdote

Although born in Los Angeles, I grew up in Auburn, a small town about forty-five minutes outside of Sacramento. At the time, Auburn’s boosters played up its status as an old Gold Rush hub to lure tourists; as I grew older, however, I realized that the town also possessed what in those days was a largely unexplored Asian American past. I caught an occasional glimpse in the Shanghai Bar in Old Town, the tumbledown shacks that longtime residents still referred to as the “Chinese section,” or a stack of the town’s old high school yearbooks, where I discovered that until 1942, one-third of the student body of the now almost all-white school had been Japanese American.

Yet it took me many years to explore this past any further. Our high school textbooks didn’t discuss Asian American history, nor did Yale offer any courses in the subject when I was a student there. During my undergrad years I tried to remedy what I felt was my general provinciality and weak educational background by taking courses on every area of the world except the US. In the process, I became particularly fascinated with modern China, studying everything from Chinese history to Chinese literature to the Chinese language itself. Desperate to actually visit China, I signed up with a program to teach English there after college, only to find myself placed at the last minute in a xenophobic town in Hubei Province. As the only white person and the only obvious foreigner in the city, I faced not only constant stares but actual harassment on a daily basis. People routinely came up to me and clapped in my face to see how I would react, children threw firecrackers and debris at me with the encouragement of adults, and even students from other departments in my college taunted me on campus. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but at the same time, one of the most important. While I could never escape for a moment my status as an outsider, I had the opportunity to watch China in the midst of a wrenching industrial revolution.

My time in Hubei and a subsequent stint in Hong Kong made me think about issues such as race, class, environmental degradation, and economic development in ways I had never considered before. They also inspired to me to apply to graduate school to study U.S. history while further exploring the Chinese past.

The question I hear most often from students, friends, and family members is, “Why do you study that?” They’re not referring to urban history or 20th century America, but to Asian American history. It’s a question I’ve always struggled to answer satisfactorily, mostly because its racial subtext makes me self-conscious. I know, too, that historians often decide to study their own communities when they focus on fields such as gay and lesbian history, women’s history, African American history, or similar subjects. I can’t claim to be doing the same in my work, but I do think that my background is the reason I study Asian American history. And I believe that the importance of this field to the larger American story means that while I am not Asian American, Asian American history is my history too.

Quotes

By Charlotte Brooks

  • “California’s postwar racial transformation did not result mainly from growing white acceptance of Asian American citizenship. Nor did it take place simply because of the repeal of prewar anti-Asian laws, although Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends JPG Asian Americans welcomed and benefited from such changes. Rather, it occurred largely because the meaning of Asian American ‘foreignness’ itself shifted with changing American interests in Asia. As the cold war deepened, a growing number of white Californians saw Asian American housing integration as a necessary price to pay for victory in the struggle. And as thousands of Asian Americans began moving to neighborhoods where blacks could not follow, the racial geography of urban and suburban California in the late 1950s because the most obvious barometer of the state’s racial transformation.” — Charlott Brooks in “Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California”
  • Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California

    About Charlotte Brooks

  • “The Turner Award Committee identified three studies for honorable mention, each of which reflects innovative as well as rigorous methodological inquiry. Each of these studies merits honorable recognition… Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California (The University of Chicago Press) broadens the history of U.S. Cold War foreign policy to consider the rapidly changing place of Asian Americans within American society. Its focus on housing patterns highlights how California’s most persecuted minority communities before and especially during World War II became representatives of new but nonetheless limited forms of American liberalism after the war.” — OAH’s Frederick Jackson Turner Committee for “Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends: Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California”, which received an honorable mention
  • “A nuanced exploration of multiracial race relations and the complexities attending Asian Americans’ shifting social status in California’s cities, this book is an important contribution to urban and Asian American history. Charlotte Brooks’s discussions about the exclusion of Asian Americans from New Deal programs and the undoing of racial covenants in the cold war era are original, well researched, and subtly argued. She compellingly illuminates the limits of postwar racial liberalism.” — Mae Ngai, Columbia University, author of “Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America”
  • “A fascinating study, beautifully accomplished. Comparing the experience of Japanese and Chinese Americans in two California cities, Brooks illuminates the complex texture of discrimination, and the role of citizenship and international affairs in the evolution of equality. This book illustrates the way focused studies of particular communities contribute important insights to our understanding of the intersection of U.S. foreign affairs and civil rights history.” — Mary L. Dudziak, USC Law School, author of “Exporting American Dreams; Thurgood Marshall’s African Journey”
  • “Alien Neighbors, Foreign Friends takes a direct and compelling approach to its investigation of how the most viciously racialized groups in pre-World War II California became, in the decades after the war, the state’s most praised non-whites. This book is especially important for its intervention in the black-white binaries of recent urban historiography on racial segregation, the urban crisis, and civil rights politics. It is a book unlike almost anything else in the literature, and as such it significantly broadens our understanding of how race has shaped American cities.” — Robert Self, Brown University, author of “American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland”
  • “Professor Brooks is a highly qualified professor. She is so passionate about history which you can tell through her lectures.”…
    “One of the best professors at Baruch. I took her for History which isn’t even my focus, but I learned the most in this class out of the whole semester. She keeps all the lessons interesting. Coming to class was a pleasure for me.”…
    “She is a great teacher!!! I learned a lot in her history class. I strongly recommend her..awesome!!!”…
    “Love her!Amazing professor!!! extremly helpful and crystal clear. Makes lectures interesting. “…
    “Great professor, really cares about students succeeding in her class, very enthusiatic and knowledgeable about subject.”…
    “Excellent teacher. Really cares about students’ learning the material and makes herself available for extra help.”…
    “You couldnt ask for a better professor. Great person,passionate, interesting lectures, cool sense of humor. ” — Anonymous Students
  • Posted on Sunday, May 30, 2010 at 8:45 AM

    History Buzz: May 31, 2010: Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Fleming, Michael Bellesiles, & Jonathan Alter on Obama in the News

    History Buzz

    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.

    HISTORY BUZZ:

    POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

    IN FOCUS

    • Michael A. Bellesiles Contraversial New Book “1877: America’s Year of Living Violently”HNN
    • Thomas Fleming “Channelling George Washington” Series – HNN
    • Orlando Figes Contraversay: Who gives a Figes for Orlando? – Sydney Morning Herald, 5-18-10

    THIS WEEK IN HISTORY:

      On This Day in History….

      This Week in History….

    • Malcolm and Martin, closer than we ever thought: As the 85th birthday of Malcolm X is marked on Wednesday, history has freeze-framed him as the angry black separatist who saw whites as blue-eyed devils. Yet near the end of his life, Malcolm X was becoming more like King — and King was becoming more like him. “In the last years of their lives, they were starting to move toward one another,” says David Howard-Pitney, who recounted the Capitol Hill meeting in his book “Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and the Civil Rights Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.” “While Malcolm is moderating from his earlier position, King is becoming more militant,” Pitney says…. – CNN, 5-19-10

    HISTORY NEWS:

    • Controversy over medieval conference location in Arizona: The site of next year’s annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America is in doubt after scholars raised objections that it is being held in Arizona, the US state which recently passed controversial legislation against illegal immigration. As several scholars have made calls for the conference to be boycotted, officials with the academy have confirmed that they are examining several options, including moving the meeting out-of-state… – Medieval News, 5-24-10
    • Why Arizona targeted ethnic studies: Earlier this month Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that had been pushed by Tom Horne, Arizona’s longtime secretary of education,who took a disliking to the program several years ago. The bill prohibits any class in the state from promoting either the overthrow of the U.S. government or resentment toward a race or class of people, and that advocates ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals, and — here’s the big one — that are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. The Tucson program offers specialized courses in African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that focus on history and literature and includes information about the influence of a particular ethnic group… – WaPo, 5-25-10
    • Historian Stuart Macintyre slams Australian school course: Professor Macintyre told The Australian the consultation process set up by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority had become derailed by “capricious” decisions made to change the course without reference to the expert advisory groups or the writers…. – The Australian (5-25-10)
    • Company, Harvard prof work on Web-linked textbook, WWII game: “Today’s students want to be engaged, and those who play strategy games know more about history than those who just read today’s textbooks,” said Ferguson. “The interactive approach to learning history is going to be a game-changer.”… – Boston Herald, 5-24-10
    • More conservative textbook curriculum OK’d: In a landmark move that will shape the future education of millions of Texas schoolchildren, the State Board of Education on Friday approved new curriculum standards for U.S. history and other social studies courses that reflect a more conservative tone than in the past. Split along party lines, the board delivered a pair of 9-5 votes to adopt the new standards, which will dictate what is taught in all Texas schools and provide the basis for future textbooks and student achievement tests over the next decade…. – The Dallas Morning News, 5-22-10
    • Texas State Board of Education Approves Controversial Social Studies Curriculum Changes: On Friday, the members of the Texas State Board of Education voted 9-5 on social studies curriculum standards for Texas Public Schools. Proposed revisions to textbooks will largely eliminate the civil rights movement from the curriculum. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous were among those who spoke before the board earlier in the week. Paige, who served as Education Secretary during President George W. Bush’s first term, implored the board members to take more time to consider the new standards, saying they will diminish the importance of civil rights and slavery…. – Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 5-24-10
    • AHA Calls on the Texas State Board of Education to Reconsider TEKS Social Studies Amendments – AHA Press Release, 5-18-10
    • New Report Shows Little Growth in Salaries for History Faculty: Historians in academia saw little, if any improvement in their wages over the past academic year, as average salaries for regular full-time faculty at most ranks grew by less than 1 percent according to a new study from the College and University Personnel Association for Human Resources (CUPA–HR). This represents the smallest average increase in salaries for historians in 15 years…. – Robert Townsend in Perspectives, 4-22-10
    • Historian helps to save Lake Ontario steamship: An iconic photo taken by historian Mike Filey shows three canoeists paddling out of a partly submerged, abandoned Toronto ferry…. In this case instead of being scrapped, the century-old paddlewheeler was raised and refitted after Filey and his wife, Yarmila, launched a bid to save the vessel after seeing it “literally rotting” in a Toronto island lagoon…. – Toronto Sun, 5-17-10

    OP-EDs:

    • Joe Mozingo: An old diary throws him a curve: He could grasp having a black ancestor way back in the 1600s. But in the 1800s? A slave? It had to be a mistake. What would his family think?… – LAT, 5-22-10

    REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

    • DAVID OSHINSKY on Daniel Okrent: Temperance to Excess: LAST CALL The Rise and Fall of Prohibition “Last Call,” by Daniel Okrent, provides the sobering answers. Okrent, the author of four previous books and the first public editor of The New York Times, views Prohibition as one skirmish in a larger war waged by small- town white Protestants who felt besieged by the forces of change then sweeping their nation — a theory first proposed by the historian Richard Hofstadter more than five decades ago. Though much has been written about Prohibition since then, Okrent offers a remarkably original account, showing how its proponents combined the nativist fears of many Americans with legitimate concerns about the evils of alcohol to mold a movement powerful enough to amend the United States Constitution…. – NYT, 5-23-10
    • Nick Bunker: Founding Entrepreneurs: MAKING HASTE FROM BABYLON The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History Maybe the most important point that Bunker highlights concerns the interplay between the Pilgrims’ faith and their education, political standing and financial position…. – NYT, 5-23-10Excerpt
    • Hampton Sides: Death of a Dream: HELLHOUND ON HIS TRAIL The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin There’s still a line between narrative history and entertainment, in other words, and Hampton Sides flirts with it in his new book about James Earl Ray and Martin Luther King, “Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His ­Assassin.” If that sounds like a graphic novel, well, you’re getting the drift. Sides, whose books include “Ghost Soldiers,” a World War II drama, and “Blood and Thunder,” on the conquest of the American West, is not overly interested in new research, thorough­going analysis or traditional bio­graphy. He wants to deliver a heart-pounding nonfiction thriller. This must be the first book on King that owes less to Taylor Branch than Robert Ludlum…. – NYT, 5-16-10Excerpt
    • Jonathan Alter: Penetrating the Process of Obama’s Decisions: THE PROMISE President Obama, Year One Alter’s book “The Promise” actually does give us a new perspective on the 44th president by providing a detailed look at his decision-making process on issues like health care and the Afghanistan war, and a keen sense of what it’s like to work in his White House, day by day.
      It’s an effective and often revealing approach reminiscent of Mr. Alter’s 2006 book, “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope” (a book that Mr. Obama reportedly read before taking office), and Richard Reeves’s 1993 book, “President Kennedy: Profile of Power,” though obviously without the kind of retrospective wisdom possible decades after the completion of those presidents’ tenures…. – NYT, 5-13-10
    • Jonathan Alter: Interim Report: THE PROMISE President Obama, Year One One of the earliest off the mark is Jonathan Alter…. “The Promise” offers an excellent opportunity to appraise Obama’s initial efforts. Drawing on interviews with over 200 people, including the president and his top aides, Alter examines everything from the economic bailouts to the military surge in Afghanistan.
      Throughout, he seeks to avoid what he refers to as the “polemics of punditry.” This endows his narrative with a lapidary tone that is mercifully free of the breathless sensationalism of recent campaign books, but it also results, at times, in a somewhat cloistered quality… – NYT, 5-30-10
    • David Farber: The Rise of Conservatism, in Historical Scholarship: Now, among the latest entrants to the growing list of books on the right comes David Farber’s The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism: A Short History, new from Princeton University Press…. – CHE, 5-26-10
    • The birth control pill’s legacy at 50: Talking with Elaine Tyler May: As May writes in her new book, “America + the Pill,” that is perhaps the one expectation that the Pill has actually fulfilled 50 years later. It was not the miracle drug that solved the population explosion and world poverty; nor did it help defeat communism, as many of its advocates hoped. Its primary legacy today is that it gives the women lucky enough to get it the power to control the creation of life in their bodies — and the chance to reach for their dreams. “The Pill was hugely important in allowing women to control their fertility and their lives,” said May, a professor of history and American studies at the University of Minnesota…. – Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 5-24-10
    • David J. Garrow: Book review: ‘Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin,’ by Hampton Sides: Sides, a Memphis native, divides his book into four strands. The first one traces Ray’s activities following his April 1967 escape from a Missouri prison through the assassination a year later and his flight first to Canada and then to Europe. A second strand follows King’s road to Memphis, and a third paints the city’s racial divisions. The final strand tracks the FBI’s intense hostility toward King and covers its dogged investigation, including forensic success in identifying Ray and the pursuit of the assassin as he makes a bumbling effort to reach white-ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe)…. – WaPo, 5-14-10
    • Selina Hastings’s ‘The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham,’ reviewed by Michael Dirda: During the second half of his life, William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was the most famous writer in the world. Not only did readers love his sardonic tales of sexual passion and dark secrets, of desperation and sudden violence, but so did Hollywood: More of his stories, novels and plays have been filmed than those of any other author. Just one short story, “Rain” — about the prostitute Sadie Thompson and the preacher obsessed with saving her — has provided star turns for Tallulah Bankhead, Gloria Swanson, Joan Crawford and Rita Hayworth, among others. As this excellent biography by Selina Hastings makes clear, Somerset Maugham lived a life of quite astonishing richness and variety…. – WaPo, 5-19-10
    • In the beginning with Obama Jonathan Alter’s report just the first chapter of presidential work in progress: Which brings us to where we are. President Obama’s first year in office is done. We are hearing what many think about that. It is not a bad time to wonder what Alter thinks of it. And he obliges us with The Promise (Simon & Schuster, $28). Journalism has been called “literature in a hurry.” Alter’s book is history in a hurry, as he freely admits, but is a good first step for putting events in order and figuring things out…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 5-16-10

    FEATURES:

    • Oscar Martinez: University of Arizona historians asks why Mexico is poorer than the U.S.: Martinez, 67, is a regents professor of history at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He’s finishing his latest book, titled “Why Mexico is Poorer than the United States.” It makes the case that there is a logical, empirically measurable set of answers. “It is greatly exaggerated that Mexico is a rich country with regard to raw materials and resources. The reality is that Mexico is one of the poorest countries in terms of land,” he said. “The difference is the United States has the best space on the planet.”… – El Paso Inc., 5-25-10
    • Will Bagley: My brother, the historian by Pat Bagley: This week one of Utah and the West’s most eminent historians turns 60. He has won dozens of awards, been awarded prestigious fellowships and lectured as far afield as Italy. He even appeared with Russell Crowe in the remake of the Western classic, “3:10 to Yuma.” (OK, he’s in the companion DVD, elucidating on the history of Old West outlawry.) Will Bagley also happens to be my brother. For years he wrote a column in this space called “History Matters.” It was a good label. On one level it alludes to sifting evidence for the salient fact; on another it means that history is not bunk. To Will, history is not dead. I have seen him wade into a discussion and passionately defend the honor and reputation of someone he felt was being slighted. That the person in question is dead and long past caring is beside the point. His best-known work to date, Blood of the Prophets , is a gripping narrative of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the largest white-on-white murder in north America. As it deals with Mormons, Gentiles, a U.S. Army marching on Utah and the LDS Church hierarchy, it wasn’t a task for a shrinking violet…. – The Salt Lake Tribune, 5-21-10
    • From Tory to Turkey: Maverick historian Norman Stone storms back with partisan epic of Cold War world: It isn’t every day that one interviews a figure described on an official British Council website as “notorious”. That badge, which this fearsome foe of drippy-liberal state culture will wear with pride, comes inadvertently via Robert Harris. In his novel Archangel, Harris created the “dissolute historian” (© the British Council and our taxes) Fluke Kelso: an “engaging, wilful, impassioned and irreverent” maverick on the trail of Stalin’s secret papers…. – Independent (UK), 5-14-10

    QUOTES:

    • Robert Dallek: The character issue is “always out there”: As a general matter, the character issue never seems to go away. “It’s always out there,” says historian Robert Dallek… – U.S. News & World Report, 5-27-10
    • MN Historian Calls Ft. Snelling ‘Site Of Genocide': Waziyatawin, of Granite Falls, holds a doctorate in history from Cornell. She says Fort Snelling needs an extreme makeover. She wants it torn down. “It feels like a constant assault on our Dakota humanity,” said Waziyatawin. “I don’t want the Fort sitting on that site of genocide,” she said. “I don’t want the American flag flying high. I don’t want soldiers reenacting marching out to that site and firing cannons every day.”… – WCCO (MN), 5-27-10
    • Stalin projected Moscow University’s Museum of Earth Sciences as church, says historian: “On Stalin’s idea, this hall was built as a kind of chapel, a kind of church, where only elite is allowed,” historian Olga Zinovyeva told TV Center…. – Interfax (RU), 5-19-10
    • Nancy F. Koehn: Harvard Business School historian compares Bono to Abraham Lincoln: Nancy F. Koehn, a historian, at the Harvard Business School, and author, celebrated U2’s Bono’s 50th birthday by celebrating the Irish musician and campaigner for his great skills as a leader. She said “Bono, like Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago, has not let himself become isolated in an elite atmosphere. He has used his touring and travels as classrooms to help him understand the hopes, dreams and tribulations of his fellow citizens, whom he often calls his brothers and sisters. And he has used this knowledge to light his way, his music and his leadership.”… – Irish Central, 5-14-10
    • Mark Mancall on the idea of public space in a democracy: However the idea of public space, professor of history, emeritus, Stanford university, California, Mark Mancall said, has never been fully achieved anywhere, according to historians. “Gender, ethnic differences, class groupings, all participated in defining who could enter public space,” said the professor, who is the director of the royal education council, Thimphu, during the first of a series of discussions on media and democracy that the Bhutan centre for media and democracy organised yesterday. Kuensel Newspaper, 5-14-10
    • USSR planned nuclear attack on China in 1969 , claims Chinese historian: Liu Chenshan, the author of a series of articles that chronicle the five times China has faced a nuclear threat since 1949, wrote that the most serious threat came in 1969 at the height of a bitter border dispute between Moscow and Beijing that left more than one thousand people dead on both sides. He said Soviet diplomats warned Washington of Moscow’s plans “to wipe out the Chinese threat and get rid of this modern adventurer,” with a nuclear strike, asking the US to remain neutral…. – Telegraph (UK), 5-13-10

    INTERVIEWS:

    • Jamie Glazov interviews Olga Velikanova: Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Olga Velikanova, an Assistant Professor of Russian History at the University of North Texas. She was among the first scholars to work with declassified Communist Party and secret police archives. Her research about everyday Stalinism, the cult of Lenin and Russian popular opinion has been broadcast by the BBC, Finnish and Russian radio and TV, as well as the History Channel in Canada. She is the author of Making of an Idol: On Uses of Lenin, The Public Perception of the Cult of Lenin Based on the Archival Materials and The Myth of the Besieged Fortress: Soviet Mass Perception in the 1920s-1930s. She is a recipient of many awards from different international research foundations…. – FrontPageMag, 5-24-10

    AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

    • The Emerson Prize 2010 Winners: The Emerson Prize is awarded annually to students published in The Concord Review during the previous year who have shown outstanding academic promise in history at the high school level. Since 1995, 74 students have won the Emerson Prize. The five laureates this year were from Ohio, New York, New York, Washington, DC, and Wisconsin. Past laureates have come from Czechoslovakia, Canada, Louisiana, Florida, California, Tennessee, Vermont, Maryland, New Zealand, Texas, Russia, Washington State, Tennessee, Connecticut, Singapore, New Hampshire, Illinois, Japan, and New York.
      2010 Jane Abbottsmith, of Summit Country Day School, in Cincinnati, Ohio (now at Princeton).
      2010 Colin Rhys Hill, of Atlanta International School in Atlanta, Georgia, (now at Christ Church College, Oxford). 2010 Amalia Skilton, of Tempe Preparatory Academy in Tempe, Arizona, (now at Yale).
      2010 Alexander Zou, of Monte Vista High School in Danville, California, (now at Pomona).
      2010 Liang En Wee, of the Hwa Chang Institution in Singapore, (now at the National University of Singapore). – The Concord Review
    • Women behind the rise of the house of Orange-Nassau: WHEN the house of Orange-Nassau finally became monarchs in The Netherlands in 1815, it was the result of hundreds of years of manoeuvring: battles physical and political and, Susan Broomhall contends, a solid effort by generations of the family’s women. “The male line was really weak, they died in battle or were minors for many years,” says Broomhall, a professor of history at the University of Western Australia. “It was the women who kept reminding people of the family through systematically promoting it, so when The Netherlands decided on a monarchy, their family was the obvious choice.” The family still rules, via Queen Beatrix. A $450,000, four-year Australian Research Council grant will help Broomhall and colleague Jacqueline Van Gent tease out the scope of the women’s influence…. – The Australian, 5-26-10
    • Thomas Fleming receives best book award from American Revolution Round Table of New York: The American Revolution Round Table of New York has announced that Thomas Fleming’s The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers has won its 2009 award for best book on the American Revolution. A plaque will be presented to Mr. Fleming at the June 1 meeting of the Round Table at New York City’s Princeton Club. His editor, Elisabeth Kallick Dyssegaard, currently the editor-in-chief of Hyperion Books, will also be recognized at the ceremony. Previous winners include Mary Beth Norton, James Thomas Flexner, and Willard Sterne Randall…. – HNN, 5-19-10

    SPOTTED:

    • History, Not Politics, at Jonathan Spence Jefferson Lecture: Jonathan Spence came here to deliver a speech, but don’t let that fool you: his address — the 39th Annual Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, which took place Thursday — in no way resembled the sort typically associated with D.C…. – Inside Higher Ed, 5-21-10
    • Historian probes native perceptions of foreign diseases: Dr. Kevin Terraciano, professor of history and chair of the Latin American Studies Program at University of California, Los Angeles, gave the 2010 Jonas A. “Steine” Jonasson Endowed Lecture to a crowd of more than 60 people on May 12. “Most studies on the spread of disease beginning in 1520 are focused on the types of disease and how they were spread,” Terraciano said. “But I want to explore what the indigenous people of the time thought the cause and spread of disease was.” Linfield News, 5-14-10

    ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

    • September 17-18, 2010 at Notre Dame University: Conference aims to bring medieval, early modern and Latin American historians together: An interdisciplinary conference to be held at the University of Notre Dame this fall is making a final call for papers to explore the issue surrounding similarities between late-medieval Iberia and its colonies in the New World. “From Iberian Kingdoms to Atlantic Empires: Spain, Portugal, and the New World, 1250-1700″ is being hosted by the university’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies and will take place on September 17-18, 2010. Medieval News, 4-29-10
    • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
    • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.

    ON TV:

    BEST SELLERS (NYT):

    BOOKS COMING SOON:

    • Larry Schweikart: 7 Events that Made America America: And Proved that the Founding Fathers Were Right All Along, (Hardcover) June 1, 2010
    • Spencer Wells: Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization, (Hardcover), June 8, 2010
    • John Mosier: Deathride: Hitler vs. Stalin – The Eastern Front, 1941-1945, (Hardcover), June 15, 2010
    • Evan D. G. Fraser: Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, (Hardcover), June 15, 2010
    • Ruth Harris: Dreyfus: Politics, Emotion, and the Scandal of the Century (REV), (Hardcover), June 22, 2010
    • James Mauro: Twilight at the World of Tomorrow: Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War, (Hardcover), June 22, 2010.
    • William Marvel: The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of Lincoln’s War, (Hardcover), June 22, 2010
    • Suzann Ledbetter: Shady Ladies: Nineteen Surprising and Rebellious American Women, (Hardcover), June 28, 2010.
    • Julie Flavell: When London Was Capital of America, (Hardcover), June 29, 2010
    • Donald P. Ryan: Beneath the Sands of Egypt: Adventures of an Unconventional Archaeologist, (Hardcover), June 29, 2010
    • Jane Brox: Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light, (Hardcover), July 8, 2010.
    • Rudy Tomedi: General Matthew Ridgway, (Hardcover), July 30, 2010.
    • Richard Toye: Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made, (Hardcover), August 3, 2010.
    • Alexander Hamilton: The Federalist Papers, (Hardcover), August 16, 2010
    • Holger Hoock: Empires of the Imagination: Politics, War, and the Arts in the British World, 1750-1850, (Hardcover), September 1, 2010
    • Anna Whitelock: Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen, (Hardcover), September 7, 2010
    • James L. Swanson: Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln’s Corpse, (Hardcover), September 28, 2010
    • Timothy Snyder: The Red Prince: The Secret Lives of a Habsburg Archduke (First Trade Paper Edition), (Paperback), September 28, 2010
    • Ron Chernow: Washington: A Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
    • George William Van Cleve: A Slaveholders’ Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic, (Hardcover), October 1, 2010.
    • John Keegan: The American Civil War: A Military History, (Paperback), October 5, 2010
    • Bill Bryson: At Home: A Short History of Private Life, (Hardcover), October 5, 2010
    • Robert M. Poole: On Hallowed Ground: The Story of Arlington National Cemetery , (Paperback), October 26, 2010
    • Robert Leckie: Challenge for the Pacific: Guadalcanal: The Turning Point of the War , (Paperback), October 26, 2010
    • Manning Marable: Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, (Hardcover), November 9, 2010
    • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
    • Elizabeth White: The Socialist Alternative to Bolshevik Russia: The Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1917-39, (Hardcover), November 10, 2010
    • G. J. Barker-Benfield: Abigail and John Adams: The Americanization of Sensibility, (Hardcover), November 15, 2010
    • Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
    • Michael Goldfarb: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, (Paperback), November 23, 2010

    DEPARTED:

    • Norman A. Graebner, diplomatic historian, dies at 94: Norman A. Graebner, 94, who shaped the field of diplomatic history with his critiques of American foreign policy, died May 10 at the Colonnades retirement community in Charlottesville after a stroke…. – WaPo, 5-14-10

    Sestakgate?: Obama White House Offered Joe Sestak Job to Drop Senate Run

    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.

    THE HEADLINES….

    • White House Used Bill Clinton to Ask Sestak to Drop Out of Race: President Obama’s chief of staff used former President Bill Clinton as an intermediary to see if Representative Joe Sestak would drop out of a Senate primary if given a prominent, but unpaid, advisory position, people briefed on the matter said Friday.
      Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, asked Mr. Clinton to explore the possibilities last summer, accordingto the briefed individuals, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the politically charged situation. Mr. Sestak said no and went on to win last week’s Pennsylvania Democratic primary against Senator Arlen Specter. NYT, 5-28-10
    • Obama Promises Response on Question of Job Offer: President Obama refused to say Thursday whether his White House offered a job to Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania to drop out of a Democratic primary but promised that the administration would respond soon. “There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue, which I hope will answer your questions,” Mr. Obama told reporters at a White House news conference. “I can assure the public that nothing improper took place.” – NYT, 5-27-10
    • Sestak says his brother, White House met about alleged job offer: Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) said Thursday his brother has spoken with White House officials about the congressman’s allegation that he was offered an Obama administration job if he would stay out of a Democratic Senate primary… He told reporters Thursday that he would not expand upon his prior statements until the White House releases its report on the matter. President Obama said in his news conference such a report would come “shortly.” Richard Sestak, who has served as his brother’s top political adviser and campaign lawyer, spoke with administration officials Wednesday, Joe Sestak said.
      “They got ahold of my brother on his cellphone, and he spoke to the White House . . . about what’s going to occur,” said Sestak, who said he expects the White House will release its information Friday. He declined to elaborate on his discussions with his brother…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
    • Dig into alleged Joe Sestak job offer, GOP tells Justice Department: The White House backed Rep. Joe Sestak’s opponent in the Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania. The GOP wants to know whether it offered Mr. Sestak a job to drop out of the race.
      “The allegations in this matter are very serious and, if true, suggest a violation of various criminal laws intended to safeguard our political process from the taint of bribes and political machine manipulation,” said Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee in a Wednesday letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
      Those who signed the letter include Sens. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma…. – CS Monitor, 5-26-10
    • Did the White House offer Joe Sestak a job?: Rep. Joe Sestak is in a tough primary race against Obama-backed Senator Arlen Specter. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs for the first time responded to questions about whether the White House offered Sestak a post to lure him out of the race…. – CS Monitor, 3-16-10

    Political Highlights May 27, 2010: Obama Press Conference on BP Oil Spill & Joe Sestak Job Offer

    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.

    OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

    President Obama offered Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama was also asked about Arizona’s new immigration law, as well as whether the White House offered Representative Joe Sestak a job in the administration.

    IN FOCUS: STATS

    • Poll: Wide Majority See Spill as ‘Disaster': A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds most Americans rating the president’s response to the oil spill negatively. More than half of Americans, 53 percent, say the president’s response to the spill has been “poor” or “very poor,” the poll finds. Negative ratings rise to 60 percent for the job the federal government has done in responding to the spill, and rise to 73 percent for the efforts by BP, the company whose well exploded.
      Most Americans, moreover, envision deep, long-term consequences. More than 7 in 10 say the impact of the oil spill in the long run will be a disaster, including almost 4 in 10 who say it will be the worst environmental disaster in the United States in at least 100 years. Just 26 percent hold a more positive view, seeing the spill as a problem but not a disaster…. – NYT, 5-27-10

    THE HEADLINES….

    • Live Blogging Obama’s News Conference: From Jeff Zeleny: So did President Obama accomplish his task of demonstrating to America that he – and his government – are in control of the crisis on the Gulf?
      During a full hour of questioning, he illustrated that he has a grasp of the technical challenges at work in the oil spill. He said the government was calling the shots, the buck stopped with him and the ultimate responsibility rested in the Oval Office.
      But it remains an open question whether the measured tone that has become the soundtrack of Mr. Obama’s presidency – a detached, calm, observational pitch – served to drive the point home that he is sufficiently enraged by the fury in the Gulf Coast…. – NYT The Caucus, 5-27-10
    • Obama Open to Ideas on How to Plug Oil Leak, Defends Administration Response: President Obama said the federal government is open to ideas from anyone and anywhere on how to plug the oil leak on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, but rejected the notion that Washington has been sitting on the “sidelines” and pledged to fix the problem. “We are relying on every resource and every idea,” he said Thursday, at his first full-blown press conference since July. “We will take ideas from anywhere, but we are going to stop it.” Obama said that the federal government is “in charge” of the efforts to contain the damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He called the leak his administration’s “highest priority” and said anyone claiming otherwise doesn’t know the facts…. – Fox News, 5-27-10
    • Fixing oil disaster my responsibility, Obama says: On the defensive more than five weeks into the nation’s worst-ever oil spill, President Barack Obama insisted Thursday that his administration, not oil giant BP, was calling the shots in the still-unsuccessful response. “I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down,” Obama declared at a news conference in the East Room of the White House. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill dominated the hour-long session… – AP, 5-27-10
    • ‘Top kill’ stops gulf oil leak for now, official says: Officials are cautionary but say drilling fluid has blocked oil and gas temporarily. Engineers plan to begin pumping in cement and then will seal the well…. – LAT, 5-27-10
    • Gulf spill surpasses Valdez; plug try going well: An untested procedure to plug the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico seemed to be working, officials said Thursday, but new estimates showed the spill has already surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the worst in U.S. history. A team of scientists trying to determine how much oil has been flowing since the offshore rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and sank two days later found the rate was more than twice and possibly up to five times as high as previously thought…. – AP, 5-27-10
    • Obama: “Nothing Improper” in Alleged Sestak Job Offer: President Obama said at his press conference today that he “can assure the public that nothing improper took place” in conversations between the White House and Rep. Joe Sestak, who suggested earlier this year he was offered a White House job in exchange for dropping his primary challenge against Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. CBS News, 5-27-10
    • The Early Word: The President Answers: It’s been awhile, but President Obama will hold a formal news conference at the White House this afternoon. With oil still leaking out of a well in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama plans to announce at today’s question-and- answer session that he will extend a moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling permits for six months and will delay or cancel specific projects off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia and in the western Gulf of Mexico, The Times’s Peter Baker and Anahad O’Connor report. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty gives her fellow reporters some ideas on what to ask the president, who is scheduled to visit the Gulf Coast on Friday. One of her five proposed questions: “Should anyone in the government be fired as the result of this disaster?”… – NYT, 5-27-10
    • Obama to speak on Gulf spill in first news conference since summer ’09: President Obama will face the cameras and take questions from reporters Thursday about the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, giving him another chance to finesse, and perhaps even ratchet up, his rhetoric on the crisis. The president’s news conference in the East Room is scheduled for 12:45 p.m., and it will take place even as BP’s dramatic “top kill” operation to halt the flow of leaking oil continues deep below the Gulf surface. This will be Obama’s first full-fledged news conference in more than 300 days. It is the latest attempt by the White House to calibrate the presidential message about the oil catastrophe with the anxiety captured on television screens…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
    • Gulf oil spill now nation’s worst: As crews pumped mud at a furious rate into the damaged blowout preventer that sits on the uncapped well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, a group of scientists said the amount of oil spewing into the ocean is much greater than originally believed…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
    • Obama fires MMS chief Elizabeth Birnbaum: President Obama has fired the head of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, according to the Associated Press. The news agency, citing unnamed sources, says Obama will announce later today that Elizabeth Birnbaum has been taken off the job. She’s been head of the MMS since July 2009. Her agency, which grants leases to oil companies and monitors offshore drilling, has come under criticism for lax oversight since the BP well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20…. – USA Today, 5-27-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    We can always do better, the president said.Doug Mills/The New York Times “If the question is are we doing everything perfectly out there, then the answer is absolutely not, we can always do better,” the president says.
    • Defending Spill Response, Obama Expresses Frustration: President Obama declared on Thursday that he is “angry and frustrated” over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and ordered a further moratorium on new permits to drill new deepwater wells as he tried to address deepening public frustration.
      “Every day I see this leak continue, I am angry and frustrated as well,” the president told reporters in the East Room. He acknowledged that not every decision has been perfect, and “we can always do better.” But he added: “Those who think we were either slow in our response or lacked urgency don’t know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred.”
      “But make no mistake, BP is operating at our direction,” he said. “Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance.”
      Mr. Obama said that the government has made “the largest effort of its kind in U.S. history” to address the oil leak, deploying 20,000 people, 1,300 vessels and 3 million feet of boom in the region to contain and clean up the spill.
      “We are relying on every resource and every idea, every expert and every bit of technology to work to stop it,” the president said. “We will take ideas from anywhere but we are going to stop it. I know that doesn’t lessen the enormous sense of anger and frustration felt by people on the Gulf and so many Americans.”
      “Absolutely, I take responsibility for that,” he said. “There wasn’t a sufficient urgency.” Although the regulators were in some instances constrained by law from being more thoroughgoing, he added, “We should have busted through those constraints.” – NYT, 5-27-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    • Thomas Schwartz: Up from the deep sea: a nightmare for Obama: Presidential historian Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University professor, said presidencies are often defined by the crises encountered. He said the oil spill could prove to be a defining crisis but he cautioned against comparing the leak to Katrina, for instance. “This one has been slowly developing and could have those qualities, but if BP were to suddenly get it capped, things could be defused very quickly. The air could go out of the balloon,” Schwartz said. Reuters, 5-27-10
    • Douglas Brinkley: Obama could pay “huge price” for spill response: “I think that the President has to get control over this situation,” historian Doug Brinkley said on CNN’s Campbell Brown Monday night. “Right now there is a feeling in the country that BP’s in charge but BP is the one that has been grossly negligent,” Brinkley said. Brinkley, a longtime resident of New Orleans, offered Brown suggestions about what President Obama needs to do: Address the American people on television within 48 hours, tell them what’s happening in the Gulf and talk about what’s being lost. Brinkley also believes the White House must consider freezing BP’s assets in the United States and called for the Justice Department to speed up its probe into BP. When asked by Brown what price the President could pay for a slow response, Brinkley told Brown “It’s a huge price.”… – CNN.com (5-24-10)

    History Shorts: Why Arizona targeted ethnic studies:

    Why Arizona targeted ethnic studies: Earlier this month Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law a bill that had been pushed by Tom Horne, Arizona’s longtime secretary of education,who took a disliking to the program several years ago. The bill prohibits any class in the state from promoting either the overthrow of the U.S. government or resentment toward a race or class of people, and that advocates ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals, and — here’s the big one — that are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group. The Tucson program offers specialized courses in African-American, Mexican-American and Native-American studies that focus on history and literature and includes information about the influence of a particular ethnic group…  WaPo, 5-25-10

    Richard Beeman wins George Washington Book Prize

    WASHINGTON COLLEGE ANNOUNCES WINNER OF $50,000 GEORGE WASHINGTON BOOK PRIZE

    Washington College is pleased to announce that the sixth annual George
    Washington Book Prize has been awarded to Richard Beeman for /Plain,
    Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution/ (Random House,
    2009). Beeman, author of five previous books on the history of
    revolutionary America, received the $50,000 prize on May 20, at a
    black-tie dinner at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

    The jury of scholars who chose Beeman’s book as a finalist from among 62
    nominees described it as “the fullest and most authentic account of the
    Constitutional Convention ever written.” They also praised the author
    for his clear, accessible prose and his mission “to instill a sense of
    stewardship among twenty-first century Americans, urging them to see the
    Constitution as not only a durable document, but a living one,
    unfettered by original intentions.”

    The George Washington Book Prize is sponsored by a partnership of three
    institutions devoted to furthering scholarship on America’s founding
    era: Washington College, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American
    History, and George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The $50,000 prize is the
    nation’s largest literary award for early American history, and one of
    the largest prizes of any kind.

    For more information, please visit:
    http://news.washcoll.edu/events/2010/05/gwbookprize/

    Political Highlights: May 24, 2010: Obama Doctrine, New National Security Plan – Super Primaries Day Roundup

    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.

    OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

    IN FOCUS: STATS

    • The Obama effect — Are you with him or against him?: Halfway through the 2010 primary season, the fundamental tension in the American political system is becoming more clear: A liberal government is struggling to impose its agenda on an electorate increasingly responsive to an activist conservative movement operating inside the Republican Party…. – WaPo, 5-21-10

    THE HEADLINES….

    • White House: Justice Dept. has been to Gulf spill: The White House says the Justice Department has been gathering information about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Press secretary Robert Gibbs isn’t saying whether the department has opened a criminal investigation. He would only tell CBS’ “Face the Nation” that department representatives have been to the Gulf as part of the response to the BP oil leak…. – AP, 5-24-10
    • Obama seeks to force votes on spending cuts: President Barack Obama on Monday is sending legislation to Congress that would allow him to force lawmakers to vote on cutting wasteful programs from spending bills. The legislation would award Obama and his successors the ability to take two months or more to scrutinize spending bills that have already been signed into law for pet projects and other dubious programs. He could then send Congress a package of spending cuts for a mandatory up-or-down vote on whether to accept or reject them. Senate Democrats killed the idea just three years ago, and so Obama’s move would seem like a long shot. But the plan could pick up traction in the current anti-Washington political environment in which lawmakers are desperate to demonstrate they are tough on spending…. – AP, 5-23-10
    • Obama Outlines National Security Strategy: President Obama outlined a new national security strategy rooted in diplomatic engagement and international alliances on Saturday as he repudiated his predecessor’s emphasis on unilateral American power and the right to wage preemptive war. Eight years after President George W. Bush came to the United States Military Academy to set a new course for American security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Obama used the same setting to offer a revised doctrine, one that vowed no retreat against American enemies while seeking “national renewal and global leadership.” “Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system,” the president told graduating cadets. “But America has not succeeded by stepping outside the currents of international cooperation. We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice – so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities, and face consequences when they don’t.” Mr. Obama said the United States “will be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well” while also trying to “build new partnerships and shape stronger international standards and institutions.” He added: “This engagement is not an end in itself. The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times.” – NYT, 5-22-10
    • Results of Kandahar offensive may affect future U.S. moves: The Obama administration’s campaign to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan’s second-largest city is a go-for-broke move that even its authors are unsure will succeed. The bet is that the Kandahar operation, backed by thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars, will break the mystique and morale of the insurgents, turn the tide of the war and validate the administration’s Afghanistan strategy. There is no Plan B…. – WaPo, 5-22-10
    • Clinton says North Korean attack on ship will not go ‘unanswered': Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned North Korea on Friday for a deadly attack on a South Korean warship and vowed that it would not go “unanswered,” but senior U.S. officials stressed that neither side on the Korean Peninsula seems to be heading toward war….
      In a blunt statement after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Clinton said the United States “strongly condemns” the North Korean attack and that both countries would seek an international response. “Let me be clear,” Clinton said in her first public comments since South Korea released a report on Thursday formally blaming the North for the torpedo strike. “This will not be and cannot be business as usual.”… – WaPo, 5-22-10
    • As financial overhaul takes shape, it’s crunch time for lobbyists: Few differences exist between the Senate and House bills, leaving little time to push for changes. Obama says his administration will keep the rules tough… – LAT, 5-21-10
    • Pentagon’s Clapper may lead intelligence agencies: The Pentagon’s top intelligence official emerged as the leading choice Friday for what’s fast becoming known as one of the most thankless jobs in Washington — director of national intelligence. The position has a great title, but the office has just claimed its third victim. James R. Clapper, now the defense undersecretary for intelligence, is the White House’s leading candidate to replace retired Adm. Dennis Blair, who is resigning, two current U.S. officials and one former military official say. Another candidate is Mike Vickers, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for special operations, officials say, but a Defense Department official says he has not been contacted for an interview. With three previous intelligence directors all saying the same thing — the job description itself is flawed — who would want it?… – AP, 5-21-10
    • Senate Passes Finance Bill Biggest Regulatory Overhaul of Wall Street Since Depression Moves Closer to Law: The Senate on Thursday approved the most extensive overhaul of financial-sector regulation since the 1930s, hoping to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis that hit the U.S. economy starting in 2007. The legislation passed the Senate 59 to 39 and must now be reconciled with a similar bill passed by the House of Representatives in December, before it can be sent to President Barack Obama to be signed into law. The controversial measure, supported by the Obama administration, sets up new regulatory bodies and restricts the actions of banks and other financial firms. It is designed to try to make order of the cascading regulatory chaos that ensued in 2008 when mammoth banks and some unregulated financial firms collapsed, and public funds were used to save them…. – WSJ, 5-21-10
    • Senate Passes Massive Financial Regulation Bill: In its broad sweep, the massive bill would touch Wall Street CEOs and first-time homebuyers, high-flying traders and small town lenders…. – AP, 5-20
    • National intelligence director resigning: National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair is resigning under pressure from the White House, ending a tumultuous 16-month tenure marked by intelligence failures and spy agency turf wars. Blair, a retired Navy admiral, is the third director of national intelligence, a position created in response to public outrage over the failure to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His departure underscores the disorganization inside the Obama administration’s intelligence apparatus, rocked over the past six months by a spate of high-profile attempted terror attacks that revealed new national security lapses. And it comes two days after a stark Senate report criticized Blair’s office and other intelligence agencies for new failings that, despite a top-to-bottom overhaul of the U.S. intelligence apparatus after 9/11, allowed a would-be bomber to board a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day. In a message Thursday to his work force, Blair said his last day would be May 28…. – AP, 5-21-10
    • Oil spill scrutiny turns to Obama administration: Last week, it was oil executives who faced the wrath of lawmakers eager to find blame for the massive oil spill spreading in the Gulf of Mexico. On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other federal officials will come under questioning for what the government did — or did not do — to prevent the oil spill, and how they have responded since oil started streaming into the Gulf last month…. – AP, 5-18-10
    • Lincoln loses leverage on financial reform bill: Senator Blanche Lincoln, a key voice for financial reform, was forced on Tuesday into a Democratic runoff election in Arkansas and lost leverage for her plan to force big banks to spin off swaps desks. She was expected to be the vote-leader in the primary and possibly win the nomination outright. Instead, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter ran neck-and-neck with her in a race colored by anti-Washington sentiment. Her swap reform proposal would cost a handful of big U.S. banks billions of dollars in revenue. It is one of the final issues in a mammoth Wall Street reform bill pending in the Senate. The swaps-desk language was a hallmark of Lincoln-authored legislation to bring the $615 trillion market in over- the-counter derivatives under federal regulation. While Lincoln said her proposal would “ensure that banks get back to the business of banking,” there was broad opposition to the idea within the financial industry and among some Obama administration officials. Analysts said she probably would not prevail on the issue, even if she won the three-way Democratic primary. They expected efforts to strip the language would begin immediately after the primary. One alternative would be the so-called Volcker language to restrict derivatives trading by banks…. – Reuters, 5-19-10

    ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

    • Cuomo joins race in first As governor, the Democrat pledges he’d put an end to “national disgrace” of state government in Albany and to usher in a new era of reform: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor on Saturday, slamming Albany corruption and promising to build a coalition to help him drive priorities ranging from freezing public employee salaries to support for a constitutional convention to bring about change.
      Cuomo enters the race as an overwhelming front-runner with no Democratic challengers, Republicans in disarray and a hefty campaign account of at least $16 million.
      In a polished speech rehearsed privately before groups all year, Cuomo launched a gubernatorial effort in which he will be campaigning all summer while three Republicans seeking to oppose him try to knock each other out in a primary battle.
      The announcement came first with a 21-minute online video as slick as a Madison Avenue presentation. He later made his case for governor before the Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan, criticizing abuses of 19th-century Democratic leader William “Boss” Tweed, who was convicted of stealing from taxpayers during a scandalous reign.
      “Our state government in Albany is disreputable and discredited . . . a national disgrace,” Cuomo said. “The corruption in Albany could even make Boss Tweed blush.”… – Albany Times-Union, 5-22-10
    • Rand Paul and the Perils of Textbook Libertarianism: When Rand Paul, the victor in the Republican Senate primary last week in Kentucky, criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964, singling out the injustice of non-discriminatory practices it imposed on private businesses, the resulting furor delighted Democrats and unsettled Republicans. Mr. Paul hastened to state his abhorrence of racism and assert that had he served in the Senate in 1964, he would have voted for the measure. On the surface Mr. Paul’s contradictory statements might seem another instance of the trouble candidates get into when ideological consistency meets the demands of practical politics… – NYT, 5-22-10
    • GOP wins House seat in Obama’s home district: Republican Charles Djou (duh-JOO’) has won a Democratic-held House seat in Hawaii in the district where President Barack Obama grew up. The special election is the latest triumph for the GOP as it looks to take back control of Congress. Djou’s victory was also a blow to Obama and other Democrats who could not rally around a candidate and find away to win a congressional race that should have been a cakewalk. The seat had been held by a Democrat for nearly 20 years and is located in the district where Obama was born and spent most of his childhood. Djou received 67,274 votes, or 39.5 percent. He was followed by state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case — both Democrats…. – AP, 5-22-10
    • ZEV CHAFETS: The Limbaugh Victory: THERE are many theories for why very conservative Republicans seem to be doing so well lately, taking their party’s Senate nominations in Florida, Kentucky and Utah, and beating Democrats head-to-head in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. Some attribute this to a generalized anti-incumbent mood. Others say it reflects the tendency of parties in power to falter in midterm elections. Recently it has been fashionable to ascribe right-wing success to the Tea Party movement. But the most obvious explanation is the one that’s been conspicuously absent from the gusher of analysis. Republican success in 2010 can be boiled down to two words: Rush Limbaugh…. – NYT, 5-20-10
    • After Explaining a Provocative Remark, Paul Makes Another: Rand Paul, the newly nominated Republican candidate for Senate from Kentucky, touched off more controversy on Friday by calling the Obama administration “un-American” for taking a tough stance with BP over the company’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico…. “What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'” Mr. Paul said, referring to a remark by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar about the oil company. “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”… – NYT, 5-22-10
    • ‘Tea party’ candidate faces civil rights controversy: Rand Paul, winner of Kentucky’s Republican nomination for the Senate, is working to tamp down the controversy over his statements criticizing nondiscrimination laws… – LAT, 5-21-10
    • Obama endorsements don’t seem to help Democrats: Voters rejected one of President Barack Obama’s hand-picked candidates and forced another into a runoff, the latest sign that his political capital is slipping beneath a wave of anti-establishment anger. Sen. Arlen Specter became the fourth Democrat in seven months to lose a high-profile race despite the president’s active involvement, raising doubts about Obama’s ability to help fellow Democrats in this November’s elections. The first three candidates fell to Republicans. But Specter’s loss Tuesday to Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania’s Democratic senatorial primary cast doubts on Obama’s influence and popularity even within his own party — and in a battleground state, no less. Of course, it’s possible that Democrats will fare better than expected this fall. And there’s only so much that any president can do to help other candidates, especially in a non-presidential election year…. – AP, 5-19-10
    • Blogging the Primaries: One incumbent, Senator Arlen Specter, lost in a tough primary against Representative Joe Sestak, who surged in the last few weeks. The outcome in Pennsylvania ended the five-term Senate career of Mr. Specter, who switched parties last year to avoid what he believed was a certain defeat as a Republican.
      Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas faced an uphill battle against the popular lieutenant governor, Bill Halter. Neither reached the 50-percentage threshold, so they’ll got to a runoff on June 8…. – NYT, 5-18-10
    • House Republicans: “We’ve Got a Lot of Work To Do”: “Mark Critz’s victory demonstrates that Democrats can win in a tough political environment,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman Brendan Daly. “The Republicans have been boasting that they can win 50 or even 100 House seats, yet they could not win a seat that independent analysts called a ‘must win’ for them in a district that John McCain won in 2008.”
      When the outcome was still unclear, House majority leader Steny Hoyer was not so sure. “If he wins will that mean the Democrats are going to sweep? I don’t think so,” Hoyer said yesterday. “These special elections are, you know, they are what they are.”
      Republican Whip Eric Cantor said this morning that he thinks Americans still want to vote for some kind of check and balance to Democrat’s power in Washington. “Obviously, I’m disappointed as a Republican that Tim Burns did not win the seat,” Cantor said in an interview for CBSNews.com’s “Washington Unplugged.” “What is pretty indicative was that the Democratic candidate refused to get anywhere near the policy agenda promoted by Speaker Pelosi and President Obama,” Cantor said. That said, Cantor acknowledged that “last night is evidence of the fact that we’ve got a lot of work to do.”… – CBS News, 5-19-10
    • Today’s Primaries Offer New Clues: It’s decision day for voters in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Kentucky, where the outcome of Senate primary contests on Tuesday will deliver more clues to the puzzle that is the midterm election of 2010. Two Democratic senators, with combined Washington experience of nearly 50 years, will discover if they have assembled strong-enough coalitions to withstand an anti-incumbent surge or if their careers will effectively end. And an open Senate seat in Kentucky will help show whether Tea Party advocates can produce an electoral victory. The contests, taken together, offer the biggest trove of information so far this year about the mood of the electorate…. – NYT, 5-17-10
    • Primaries in 4 states, 1 House election: President Barack Obama is not on the ballot in this week’s primaries, nor is Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican Senate leader. But both have a stake in intensely competitive Senate races in three states, contests testing the strength of the tea party among Kentucky Republicans and the durability of incumbent Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. In a fourth race of national significance, Republican Tim Burns and Democrat Mark Critz battled to fill out the term of the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha in a congressional district in southwestern Pennsylvania. Both political parties reported spending roughly $1 million to sway the race, turning it into a laboratory for the fall campaign, when all 435 House seats will be on the ballot… – AP, 5-18-10
    • Obama’s Midterm Strategy: Blame the GOP: The only people more unpopular than Democrats are congressional Republicans, so President Obama is reminding us of what Republican rule was like….
      Two years later the president is tentatively unveiling the strategy he and fellow Democrats will pursue in this fall’s election season, and it has a heavy dose of … looking backward. It’s going to be as much about history as hope, and more about attacking Republicans than promoting his own vision. The goal is to give pause to independent voters eager to punish Obama for their economic insecurity by voting for GOP candidates. The message: we can’t return power to the very people who gave us the catastrophic Great Recession to begin with…. – Newsweek, 5-17-10
    • McCain shakes up campaign; Pa. Senate race tight: Sen. John McCain’s re-election bid lost its campaign manager and another veteran Republican official, part of a shake-up for the Arizona lawmaker locked in a tight primary race with radio host and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. The pair of GOP hands — who started before Hayworth entered the race — will instead work on the Republican National Committee’s effort in Arizona. Campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said neither Shiree Verdone nor Mike Hellon, a former Arizona GOP chairman, was fired. “Senator McCain is very grateful for all that Shiree and Mike have done to launch the re-election campaign and establish it on a firm footing and looks forward to working closely with them for victory in November,” Rogers said in a statement. AP, 5-17-10
    • Senate primaries today may give hint of voters’ mood: In Pennsylvania, Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican turned Democrat, is trying to hold off US Representative Joe Sestak for the party’s nomination. Sestak has spent much of the campaign painting Specter as a political opportunist for switching parties last year. In Kentucky, Rand Paul, who has strong backing from Tea Party activists, is seeking the Republican nomination in a race against Trey Grayson, the secretary of state. Grayson is backed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and Kentucky’s senior senator. In Arkansas, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter will try to oust the incumbent Democrat, Senator Blanche Lincoln, who has been criticized by her opponent for failing to support the health care overhaul legislation. A poll released yesterday shows the Pennsylvania race is too close to call, the latest of many tough election challenges for Specter, 80…. – Boston Globe, 5-18-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    • Weekly Address: President Obama Establishes Bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling:
      Names Former Two-Term Florida Governor and Former Senator Bob Graham and Former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William K. Reilly as Commission Co-Chairs
      Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, May 22, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: One month ago this week, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off Louisiana’s coast, killing 11 people and rupturing an underwater pipe. The resulting oil spill has not only dealt an economic blow to Americans across the Gulf Coast, it also represents an environmental disaster. In response, we are drawing on America’s best minds and using the world’s best technology to stop the leak. We’ve deployed over 1,100 vessels, about 24,000 personnel, and more than 2 million total feet of boom to help contain it. And we’re doing all we can to assist struggling fishermen, and the small businesses and communities that depend on them….
      One of the reasons I ran for President was to put America on the path to energy independence, and I have not wavered from that commitment. To achieve that goal, we must pursue clean energy and energy efficiency, and we’ve taken significant steps to do so. And we must also pursue domestic sources of oil and gas. Because it represents 30 percent of our oil production, the Gulf of Mexico can play an important part in securing our energy future. But we can only pursue offshore oil drilling if we have assurances that a disaster like the BP oil spill will not happen again. This Commission will, I hope, help provide those assurances so we can continue to seek a secure energy future for the United States of America…. – WH, 5-22-10
    • At West Point, Obama offers new security strategy: …In a commencement speech to the graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the president outlined his departure from what Bush had called a “distinctly American internationalism.” Instead, Obama pledged to shape a new “international order” based on diplomacy and engagement.
      “Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system. But America has not succeeded by stepping outside the currents of international cooperation,” he said. “We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice — so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities, and face consequences when they don’t.”
      “The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times,” he said in prepared remarks. “Countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing its wounds.”
      And yet, as he calls for global cooperation, Obama has intensified the U.S. war in Afghanistan. And his administration has repeatedly confronted the dangers of Islamic terrorism on U.S. soil, including unsuccessful attempts to down a Detroit-bound airliner and explode a car bomb in New York’s Times Square…. – WaPo, 5-22-10
    • Obama Tells Ohio, ‘Our Economy Is Growing Again': President Obama came Tuesday to this area long synonymous with economic distress to take a few strides on a victory lap for the policies he credits with helping create jobs and to knock Republicans for standing in the way. “Despite all the naysayers in Washington, who are always looking for the cloud in every silver lining, the fact is our economy is growing again,” Mr. Obama told an audience of several hundred workers in a cavernous — and expanding — pipe-making plant, citing four months of job growth…. “If the ‘just say no’ crowd had won out,” he said, “if we had done things the way they wanted to go, we’d be in a deeper world of hurt than we are right now.”… – NYT, 5-19-10
    • Citing Affair, Congressman Souder Resigns: Representative Mark Souder, a conservative Indiana Republican, said Tuesday that he was resigning as of Friday after having an extramarital affair with a staff member in his district office, as events continued to roil the midterm election landscape. “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff,” Mr. Souder said in a statement. “In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain. I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process.” … – NYT, 5-18-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    • Thomas Schwartz: Up from the deep sea: a nightmare for Obama: Presidential historian Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University professor, said presidencies are often defined by the crises encountered. He said the oil spill could prove to be a defining crisis but he cautioned against comparing the leak to Katrina, for instance. “This one has been slowly developing and could have those qualities, but if BP were to suddenly get it capped, things could be defused very quickly. The air could go out of the balloon,” Schwartz said. Reuters, 5-27-10
    • The end of the Specter era: Something seems off-kilter in Philadelphia… After five decades as a towering figure in the public life of his city, state, and nation, Sen. Arlen Specter is in the strange position of counting the days until the likely end of his political career…. “He’s one of the most complicated people in public life today,” said Randall Miller, a political historian at St. Joseph’s University. “He defies easy characterization. For that matter, he defies political science. . . . He just doesn’t do what you expect him to do.”… – Philadelphia Inquirer, 5-19-10
    • Julian E. Zelizer Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton: Those kinds of comments are always a problem for Gingrich. The former speaker, an intelligent and sometimes highly effective politician, often can’t help himself in making these kind of statements. If Gingrich wants to make a run he has to demonstrate that he can be a disciplined leader. While he might want to appeal to the tea party movement, it is a mistake to adopt their rhetoric. That will alienate many suburban voters not win them over. Republicans are looking for a serious candidate who looks like someone with big ideas and who can govern. They don’t need someone who imitates Joe the Plumber. – Politico Arena, 5-21-10

    Top Young Historians: 103 – Moshik Temkin

    Moshik Temkin, 39

    Basic Facts

    Teaching Position: Assistant Professor, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government.
    Area of Research: Modern transatlantic history, with an emphasis on 20th century political cultures in the US and Europe, the United States in the World
    Education: Ph.D. History, Columbia University, 2007
    Major Publications: Temkin is the author of The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial (Yale University Press, 2009), an international history of one of the major legal and political episodes of the twentieth century, selected for the long list of the 2009 Cundill International Prize in History at McGill University.
    Moshik Temkin JPG Temkin is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, book chapters and reviews including among others: “Internationalism and the Limits of Political Tolerance: Malcolm X in Europe, 1964-1965″ (article manuscript in preparation); “Cold War Culture and the Lingering Myth of Sacco and Vanzetti”, in Duncan Bell and Joel Isaac, eds., The Cold War in Pieces: Explorations of a Model for Postwar American History (forthcoming, OUP); “Culture vs. Kultur: The First World War, American Intellectuals, and the Clash of Civilizations” (article under revision); “‘Avec un certain malaise': The Paxtonian Trauma in France, 1973-74,” Journal of Contemporary History (April 2003). His current research interests include the death penalty in transatlantic perspective, Malcolm X’s career and politics in global context, and internationalism and border control in the twentieth century.”
    Awards: Temkin is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
    Finalist, Cundill International Prize and Lecture in History, for The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial (2009);
    Bernard and Irene Schwartz Postdoctoral Fellowship, the New School University and the New-York Historical Society, 2007-2008 (declined);
    Finalist, Bancroft Dissertation Award, 2008-2009;
    Visiting Fellow, Institute for Scholars at Reid Hall, Paris, 2006-2007;
    Visiting Fellow, Centre d’Études Nord-Américains, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, Spring 2007; Visiting Fellow, Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, Paris, 2004-2005;
    History Department Teaching Fellow, Columbia University, 2001-2003;
    Gerson Cohen Memorial Fellow in History, Columbia University, 2003l;
    Visiting Fellow, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge, UK, Summer 2002;
    Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies Fellow, Columbia University, 2000-2007.
    Additional Info:
    Affiliated with both the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Center for European Studies, Harvard University.
    Temkin previously taught at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris and at Columbia University.
    With Alex Keyssar, convenes the Harvard Seminar on History and Policy at the Kennedy School of Government.
    Temkin has written articles for The Nation, Haaretz, and the Journal of Contemporary History, and was a founder of The Israel Forum of New York, which organized public discussions of Middle East politics and history, particularly the role of the United States.

    Personal Anecdote

    When I read or hear other people’s accounts of how they wrote their dissertation or their first book-the sojourns in dusty but marvelous out-of-the-way archives, the fateful chance meetings with ousted despots in abandoned mineshafts, the luggage mistakenly switched with that of the shady foreign operative-I can’t help but think of the recurring Seinfeld joke about “Rochelle, Rochelle”, the film-turned-Broadway musical about “a young girl’s strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk.” In reality, at least in my experience, there’s very little glamour or romance involved in getting a PhD in history. Yes, there is often a lot of travel involved, and anyone who spends an inordinate amount of time in airports and hotels is bound to have more than her share of misadventures. I am no exception. But the process of the PhD is in some ways nasty, brutish, and long-sometimes strange, yes, but not necessarily in a good way, and in any case rarely erotic. Still, I like to think I’m not a masochist, so it’s reasonable to ask why I wound up walking that road. It wasn’t at all obvious, and I can’t claim to be following a calling I felt since I was a child. History was one of my worst subjects, my inability to memorize names and dates surpassed perhaps only by my inability to comprehend the most simple geometric axioms. I still recall the big day of the matriculation exam in history-as dictated by the high school curriculum in the frenetic Middle Eastern country where I spent most of my boyhood, we were tested on our knowledge of Second Temple-era Judea, and I bravely chose to answer the question about the differences in religious practices and beliefs between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. I wrote my response with some pride, pleased that I was actually able to remember all the priestly minutiae. It was only later that day that I realized in horror-though not with total surprise-that I had been absolutely correct about all the religious practices and beliefs, but had attributed those of the Pharisees to the Sadducees, and vice versa. I hoped against hope that the exam would be graded by an understanding soul who could appreciate that I had included all the relevant information, just the other way around, but no such luck was forthcoming.

    In all the time that’s passed since then I’m still not sure I’ve mastered the elusive art of memorization, and I’ve certainly forgotten most of what I knew about Judea in 70AD. It wasn’t until over a decade later that I decided on an academic career (long story), and even after I embarked on the road to becoming a professional historian I was sorely tempted on a few occasions to opt for alternate paths: during one lull in graduate school I considered returning to my previous life as a journalist, and during another-this one more sustained, a probable side effect of the distractions of living in New York and then Paris-I seriously contemplated diving headlong into the world of music. What kept me going in the discipline is, I think, something that I first grasped in college, listening to a talk by wizened scholar of medieval France, and to which I have returned in such moments of doubt: that history should not, cannot, be treated as a “subject”, something separate from other domains of life, to be learned in isolation. Eric Hobsbawm was on to something (though maybe not for the right reasons) when he demanded that history not be treated as “merely one damned thing after another.” What I try to convey to students as they begin to delve into the past is that history, contrary to what they may have thought or heard, is not a body of knowledge to be absorbed, but “a way of thinking”, as Marc Bloch put it, about the world they live in. That may sound banal to those of us professionalized in the discipline, but I wish I realized that twenty years ago. I think that’s where I (and my teachers, for that matter) went wrong in high school. Armed with that insight, I might have enjoyed history much more even then, been somewhat more adept with names and dates (though probably still not with those geometric axioms) and maybe even remembered-correctly!-what it was exactly that those pesky Pharisees and Sadducees did differently from each other.

    Quotes

    By Moshik Temkin

  • “The Sacco-Vanzetti affair emerged as a major international concern at the height of one of the most sensitive and tumultuous periods in the history of America’s interaction with the world, and particularly Europe, a period that, in a number of ways, resembles our own. The affair was generated not only by the widespread notion that Sacco and Vanzetti were punished purely for their politics and ethnicity but also by the potent reaction to the post-World War I rise of American global supremacy and, concomitantly, American isolationism. The result of this protest, both national and foreign, was complex and paradoxical. It turned Sacco and Vanzetti into famous men, put tremendous pressure on American authorities, created a raucous controversy in the United States over the intervention of foreigners in American matters, and led to a backlash that sealed Sacco and Vanzetti’s fate: the two men were executed not despite the international campaign on their behalf but rather because of it.” — Moshik Temkin in The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial (Yale University Press, 2009)
  • “Sacco and Vanzetti left a number of odd legacies. A lot of people in the United States, Europe, and Latin America still recognize their names. I’ve seen or heard them mentioned in The Sopranos and Sports Illustrated, in novels by Kurt Vonnegut and Phillip Roth, in random conversations. The largest pencil-producing factory in Russia was named after them, and generations of Russian children associated the names Sacco and Vanzetti with the pencils and crayons they used. There was a film in Italy, a tango in Argentina, a song by Joan Baez and Ennio Morricone, a punk band in Germany, a brand of cigarettes in Uruguay. There are streets named after them in Italy and France. They often come up when people give examples of past injustices, or more facetiously, when people want to denote famous duos, as in Abbott and Costello, Jagger and Richards, Siegfried and Roy, Sacco and Vanzetti. The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair America on Trial JPGI think all this reflects an uncertainty in how they are remembered. Sacco and Vanzetti do not have a clear place in our civic life or historical record. Part of the reason for this has to do with the fact that we still don’t know-and never will know-whether they “did it.”

    But in many ways, the Sacco-Vanzetti affair is still with us. Certainly the issues that animated it are very much alive. Americans today still do battle over the issue of immigration, and intolerance toward foreigners is still widespread, sometimes virulent, especially when times are hard. Europeans, Latin Americans, and other non-Americans are still concerned over, and in some cases outright hostile to, America’s presence in the world, and the way Americans handle international politics. And then as now, Americans are still divided over what was called, in Sacco and Vanzetti’s day, “foreign interference” in American affairs.

    Whether it is the death penalty, or the health care system, or how to deal with terrorism suspects, or even who should be elected U.S. president, non-Americans have and will continue to have opinions, because the United States is so powerful and what it does domestically reverberates externally. Many Americans bristle at this but many others welcome this. It depends on whether they see the United States as an entity separated in principle from the rest of the world, or as a genuine part of the world-a world in which Americans have a stake in the lives of non-Americans, and vice versa.

    This issue divided Americans when Sacco and Vanzetti were what one magazine called “the two most famous prisoners in the world,” and it still divides Americans today. This, I believe, is the context in which the Sacco-Vanzetti affair took place. My book is not an attempt to end the discussion about Sacco and Vanzetti, or to provide a definitive account. My aim was to start a new conversation, one that would not be about guilt or innocence but rather about the Sacco-Vanzetti affair-its significance and place in history.” — — Moshik Temkin in an interview with “Rorotoko” about his book “The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair: America on Trial”

    About Moshik Temkin

  • “More than 80 years after Italian immigrant anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were electrocuted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Sacco-Vanzetti case continues to confound, fascinate, and even outrage. . . . Kennedy School Professor Temkin examines how. . .the Sacco-Vanzetti case turned into the Sacco-Vanzetti affair. . . . This is a fresh look at an enduring controversy and a reminder that modern ambivalence about American power has deep roots.” — ALA Booklist
  • “[Starred Review] In the first half of the 20th century, America was known internationally for its decisive contribution to two world wars, its Jim Crow laws, and the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. This most recent study. . .surpasses all prior analyses of this subject in terms of scope, erudition, and objectivity. Temkin (Kennedy School of Government, Harvard) not only brings light to bear on the most recent historical research but focuses attention on a much-neglected facet of the case: the worldwide controversy the affair still engenders. Built upon a foundation of meticulous research, this book discusses many fascinating elements of controversy, not least the long-term views held by Sacco and Vanzetti’s defenders and accusers and how their participation in the search for justice was perceived by their peers. Timely given the contemporary attacks America faces abroad for its policies and justice system, this signal study is worthy reading.” — Library Journal
  • “What could possibly have united so many unlikely bedfellows in support of a pair of radical anarchists? Why did Sacco and Vanzetti attract so much attention given the much more widespread injustices done to black Americans in the criminal justice system? Why did a cause that gained so much national and international support ultimately fail? And what does the case tell us about relations between the United States and the rest of the world between the wars? Moshik Temkin does a brilliant job answering these questions. And in his answers, it turns out, lie the roots of the current controversy over America’s war on terror.” – David Cole, London Review of Books
  • “The “agony” of the good shoemaker and the poor fish peddler has been chronicled in scores of books, articles, pamphlets, movies, documentaries, and even ballads. By describing the case as a uniquely American story and by focusing on its legal and criminal aspects, those sources have centered on the trial in an attempt to prove the men’s guilt or innocence. Rather than follow this well-worn path, Moshik Temkin maps out the transformation of the Sacco and Vanzetti case from a local episode to a global cause célèbre. In the book’s most significant contribution, Temkin explains why the legal and political campaign to save Sacco and Vanzetti was more than just a battle against a judicial murder. As the United States rose to a position of unrivaled industrial and financial prominence, the Sacco and Vanzetti affair was a prism through which the rest of the world might understand the new emerging global power.” — Journal of American History
  • “Moshik Temkin has written a brilliant contribution. . . . The Sacco-Vanzetti Affair is a remarkable achievement, a serious book about a sensational subject.” — French Politics
  • “Moshik Temkin has written an engaging book on the political impact and debates spawned by the Sacco and Vanzetti- affair. In a novel way, he uses them to illuminate the deep socio-political and cultural fissures in American life, which have remained enduring over time.” — Jeremy Kuzmarov, History News Network
  • “After 80 years of books, films, plays, paintings and songs commemorating the Sacco-Vanzetti case, it’s challenging for an author to break new ground. Moshik Temkin’s new book does just that by focusing on the relationship between the domestic and international reactions to the case. . . .It’s a refreshing change to read a book about Sacco and Vanzetti that doesn’t stop to ask: “Were they guilty?” While a conclusive answer to that question may be lost to history, Temkin is explaining something even more important: how the case of Sacco and Vanzetti influenced this nation’s transformation into a world power and stimulated some of the important and ongoing debates about our role in the world community.” — Barbara Berenson, Lawyer’s Weekly
  • “Drawing on extensive research on two continents, Moshik Temkin skillfully connects the Sacco-Vanzetti affair to how the wider world was reacting to America’s global supremacy and isolation after World War I. The result is a primer on how the case became a template for how to use radical propaganda to advance political causes. A well-written and absorbing read, Temkin’s book also demonstrates how this case is relevant to today’s multicultural world as it was its harbinger.” — Paula Adamick, The Canada Post
  • “Temkin’s original contribution is to set the case of Sacco and Vanzetti in international context, and he does so in engaging and energetic fashion.” — Sarah Farmer, University of California, Irvine
  • “This exemplary international history reveals for the first time the full scope and multiple meanings of the Sacco- Vanzetti affair.” — Richard Fox, University of Southern California
  • “In contrast to others who have written about the Sacco and Vanzetti case in the U.S., Temkin sets the Affair and responses to it in a genuinely transatlantic context. In so doing he makes an original and distinctive contribution to his subject.” — Tony Judt, New York University
  • Posted on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 12:56 AM |

    HNN’s “Top Young Historians: The Next 100″

    HNN’s “Top Young Historians: The Next 100″ (Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman)

    History News Network commencing “Top Young Historians: The Next 100″

    Having completed profiling the first 100 historians in our series in 2009, we are now relaunching the series to profile another 100 fascinating and dynamic Top Young Historians making their mark on the profession.

    5-10-10: HNN’s Top Young Historians: This Week … Kathryn Lofton

    5-17-10: HNN’s Top Young Historians: This Week … Jeremy Kuzmarov

    All profiled historians are nominated and undergo a review process before they are chosen. Each historian on this list has made outstanding contributions to the discipline in their area of research through their commitment and achievement to scholarship and teaching. They are also highly regarded outside academia for their expertise, and many are consulted by the popular media.

    Political Highlights: May 17, 2010: Questioning Kagan, Obama Campaigns for Arlen Specter

    OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

    The President Gives an Update on the Response to the Oil Spill

    White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 5/14/1

    IN FOCUS: STATS

    • Ratings Changes – Reid’s Included – Show GOP Momentum: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s persistent vulnerability in his Nevada re-election campaign is the top takeaway from the latest race rating changes by the CQ-Roll Call elections team – the subject of today’s and tomorrow’s columns.
      But after another strong Democratic year in 2008, the tides have turned sharply in favor of a Republican rebound, this time in reaction to the assertive but politically risky agenda pursued by President Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress. CQPolitics’ ratings in recent months have reflected this trend, as the newest changes drive home.
      Headlining the Senate ratings changes summarized below, Reid has been hurt politically by his central role as the Democrats’ point person in a series of highly partisan policy battles. With public polls continuing to show him struggling against much lesser-known candidates competing for the Republican Senate nomination in the June 8 primary, CQPolitics has changed its rating on the Nevada race to Leans Republican from Tossup…. – CQ Politics, 5-14-10
    • Voters Shifting to GOP, Poll Finds: Republicans have solidified support among voters who had drifted from the party in recent elections, putting the GOP in position for a strong comeback in November’s mid-term campaign, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
      Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women and small town and rural voters—all of whom had moved away from the party in the 2006 elections, in which Republicans lost control of the House. Those voter groups now favor GOP control of Congress.
      A big shift is evident among independents, who at this point in the 2006 campaign favored Democratic control of Congress rather than Republican control, 40% to 24%. In this poll, independents favored the GOP, 38% to 30%…. – WSJ, 5-13-10

    THE HEADLINES….

    • Kagan’s skills well-suited to Senate hearings: Standing before the nine Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan is forceful, quick on her feet, admits error when necessary, then goes right back at the questioner — blunt yet polite. Her style as solicitor general is likely to serve her in confirmation hearings, but only to an extent, legal and political analysts say. Kagan has exhibited the dexterity necessary to respond to tough questions in a public forum, but a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is a more politically charged setting than the high court. “She can’t just show that she’s a super-duper lawyer for the president,” says Ken Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Reagan who handled several Supreme Court nominations. “She has to tell a life story and convey a temperament that shows she’ll be fair and impartial.”… – USA Today, 5-17-10
    • Senator says Kagan broke law at Harvard: While Senate Republicans acknowledge that they are unlikely to derail Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, that hasn’t stopped them from testing potential lines of attack against her. Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, accused Kagan of violating the law when she was dean of Harvard Law School between 2003 and 2008. During her tenure, she continued the school’s restrictions on campus military recruitment because of the armed forces’ “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans openly gay people from serving. Sessions blasted Kagan on ABC’s “This Week” for enforcing the recruitment restrictions during a time of war, which he called “no little-bitty matter.”… – WaPo, 5-17-10
    • Obama: Democratic clean up, GOP car crashes: President Barack Obama mocked Republicans with images of cars in ditches and mopping up messes. Determined to rally Democrats, Obama told donors at a fundraiser Thursday night in New York City that his administration and congressional Democrats have tried to repair a battered economy while Republicans have remained on the sidelines. “So after (Republicans) drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back,” Obama said. “You can’t drive! We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch! We just got the car out!”… – AP, 5-15-10
    • Personal ties bind Obama, Kagan President joins ranks of picking friend for court: If Elena Kagan is confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice, President Obama will have something that has become increasingly rare for presidents: a personal friend on the court. Indeed, when Obama introduced Kagan at the White House as his court nominee, it sounded almost as if he were talking about himself: a former Chicago law professor, Harvard graduate, and White Sox fan who eschewed the lucrative world of corporate law to focus on academia and public service. Obama brought her into his administration by nominating her to be solicitor general and now, after slightly more than a year in that job, he wants to elevate her to the Supreme Court. Boston Globe, 5-16-10
    • Pragmatism over partisanship? Kagan described as favoring a consensus-building, analytical style over a passion for her own ideas: Just after Election Day the fall of her senior year at Princeton, Elena Kagan published an opinion piece in the campus newspaper recounting how she had wept and gotten drunk on vodka at a campaign gathering for a liberal Brooklyn congresswoman who had unexpectedly lost a race for the Senate. Ronald Reagan was heading to the White House, and Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman — a champion for women’s causes for whom Ms. Kagan had toiled 14-hour days as a campaign press assistant — was leaving Capitol Hill. Ms. Kagan, then 20 and imbued with the liberal principles on which she had been raised, said she was flirting with despair that “there was no longer any place for the ideals we held. … I wonder how all this could possibly have happened and where on earth I’ll be able to get a job next year.”… – WaPo, 5-16-10
    • ‘General Kagan’ no newcomer to high court: Six times in the past nine months, Solicitor General Elena Kagan has come to the mahogany lectern in the hushed reverence of the Supreme Court to argue the government’s case before the justices she now hopes to join soon…. – AP, 5-15-10
    • Palin Warns NRA Obama Wants to Ban Guns: Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, told National Rifle Association members during their annual meeting that the only thing stopping Obama and his Democratic allies from trying to ban guns is political backlash.
      “Don’t doubt for a minute that, if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the Second Amendment,” said Palin, a lifelong NRA member who once had a baby shower at a local gun range in Alaska. “It’s the job of all of us at the NRA and its allies to stop them in their tracks.”… – AP, 5-14-10
    • Palin pushes abortion foes to form ‘conservative, feminist identity’ Network News: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin told a group of women who oppose abortion rights that they are responsible for an “emerging, conservative, feminist identity” and have the power to shape politics and elections around the issue. Speaking to a breakfast gathering of the Susan B. Anthony List in downtown Washington on Friday, Palin urged more than 500 audience members to back only those candidates for public office who are uncompromisingly opposed to abortion. Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, delivered calls to action to an audience dominated by women. “The mama grizzlies, they rise up,” she said, to laughter. “You thought pit bulls are tough. You don’t want to mess with the mama grizzlies. And I think there are a whole lot of those in this room.”… – WaPo, 5-14-10
    • Congressman to launch inquiry on how much oil is gushing into Gulf: A U.S. congressman said he will launch a formal inquiry Friday into how much oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico after learning of independent estimates that are significantly higher than the amount BP officials have provided. Rep. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said he will send a letter to BP and ask for more details from federal agencies about the methods they are using to analyze the oil leak. Markey, who chairs a congressional subcommittee on energy and the environment, said miscalculating the spill’s volume may be hampering efforts to stop it. “I am concerned that an underestimation of the oil spill’s flow may be impeding the ability to solve the leak and handle the management of the disaster,” he said in a statement Thursday. “If you don’t understand the scope of the problem, the capacity to find the answer is severely compromised.” BP officials have said 5,000 barrels per day of crude, or 210,000 gallons, have been leaking for the past three weeks…. – CNN, 5-14-10
    • Senate panel approves money for Afghan, Iraq wars: A Senate committee on Thursday approved another $33.5 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq this year, although some members said they did so reluctantly. The action by the Senate Appropriations Committee is the first step toward congressional approval of the extra war spending that President Barack Obama requested in February to support his surge of 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan…. Chairman Daniel Inouye said he hoped the Senate would act on the legislation by the end of May. The money comes on top of about $130 billion that Congress already approved for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars through September 30 of this year…. – Reuters,
    • President’s visit makes impression at Industrial Support: After President Obama and his White House entourage left, when the television cameras were off, David Sullivan and managers at Industrial Support Inc. gathered in his office late Thursday and cracked open a few beers to celebrate one heck of a day. “Unbelievable,” said Sullivan, founder and president of Industrial Support. “The man is incredible — sharp, funny, personable. People were crying talking to him. The thing couldn’t have gone better.”… – Buffalo News, 5-13-10
    • Swipe this card; shopping could be cheaper: Striking at a lucrative bank business, the Senate on Thursday voted to force credit card companies to reduce fees for debit card transactions and permit merchants to offer customer discounts based on their payment method. The 64-33 vote inserted the fee requirement in a package of new financial rules the Senate is considering to ward off a repeat of the financial crisis. The vote was a major defeat for banks, which lobbied hard against it. But the measure attracted heavy bipartisan support and surpassed a 60-vote threshold for passage. Seventeen Republicans voted for the amendment; 10 Democrats voted against it. The measure from Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., would force credit card companies to charge businesses less for debit card transactions than for credit card payments…. – AP, 5-13-10
    • Kagan’s Link to Marshall Cuts 2 Ways: In the spring of 1988, Justice Thurgood Marshall assigned a clerk, Elena Kagan, to write a first draft of his opinion in a case considering whether a school district could charge a poor family for busing a child to the nearest school, which was 16 miles away….
      Because Ms. Kagan has never been a judge and has produced only a handful of scholarly writings, clues to her philosophy are rare. In that vacuum, liberals and conservatives alike are attributing special significance to her clerkship year with Justice Marshall, who led the civil rights movement’s legal efforts to dismantle segregation before becoming a particularly liberal Supreme Court justice.
      But while Ms. Kagan, a former board member for the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, clearly relished the experience and admired the justice as a historic figure, she appears to have had a far more ambivalent attitude toward his jurisprudence, according to a review of his papers at the Library of Congress, her comments over the years about him and interviews with her fellow clerks and colleagues…. – NYT, 5-13-10
    • Other border states shun Arizona’s immigration law They don’t see the illegal flow of people as problematic: U.S. Border Patrol vehicles patrol near the San Ysidro port of entry, late Monday in San Diego. Arizona’s sweeping new law empowering police to question and arrest anyone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally is finding little support in the other states along the Mexican border….
      Among the reasons given: California, New Mexico and Texas have long-established, politically powerful Latino communities; they have deeper cultural ties to Mexico that influence their attitudes toward immigrants; and they have little appetite for a polarizing battle over immigration like one that played out in California in the 1990s…. – Salt Lake Tribune, 5-12-10
    • Climate change bill has critics from both sides: Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John Kerry, D-Mass., unveiled their long-delayed climate change bill Wednesday and immediately encountered liberal and conservative critics who said the measure was either an energy bailout or a danger to the American economy.
      “Those who’ve spent years stalling need to understand something: Killing a Senate bill is not the measure of success or victory, because if Congress can’t legislate a solution, the EPA will regulate one,” Kerry said, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency. “And it will come without the help to America’s businesses and consumers that is in this bill.”… – Houston Chronicle, 5-13-10
    • Big oil to get more grilling as oil gushes in Gulf: Oil execs to be grilled again by U.S. lawmakers * BP stock value drops $30 billion, underscoring uncertainty * Protests planned in several U.S. cities * Oil starting to wash up on shore, BP says…
      Top oil executives face a second day of grilling by U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday over a deadly well rupture that unleashed a huge oil slick and the specter of environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico… – Reuters, 5-12-10
    • As Clinton Aide, Kagan Recommended Tactical Support for an Abortion Ban: Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, once recommended to President Bill Clinton that he support a Democratic-sponsored ban on some late-term abortions as a way to defeat a stronger measure gaining momentum in the Senate.
      As a White House domestic policy aide, Ms. Kagan sent Mr. Clinton a memorandum urging him to endorse the ban sponsored by Senator Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota. The memo anticipated that the Daschle plan would fail but suggested that it would provide political cover for enough senators to stick by the president when he ultimately vetoed the tougher bill sponsored by Republicans.
      “We recommend that you endorse the Daschle amendment in order to sustain your credibility on HR 1122 and prevent Congress from overriding your veto,” Ms. Kagan and her boss, Bruce Reed, said in the memo on May 13, 1997…. – NYT, 5-12-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    The President delivers the Weekly Address

    White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 5/14/10

    • Weekly Address: President Obama “Wall Street Reform Will Bring Greater Security to Folks on Main Street” Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, May 15, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: The way the system is currently set up, these banks are at a disadvantage because while they are often playing by the rules, many of their less scrupulous competitors are not. So, what reform will do is help level the playing field by making sure all our lenders – not just community banks – are subject to tough oversight. That’s good news for our community banks, which is why we’ve received letters from some of these banks in support of reform….
      That’s why Wall Street reform is so important. With reform, we’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex, backroom deals that helped trigger this crisis into the light of day. We’ll prevent banks from taking on so much risk that they could collapse and threaten our whole economy. And we’ll give shareholders more of a say on pay to help change the perverse incentives that encouraged reckless risk-taking in the first place. Put simply, Wall Street reform will bring greater security to folks on Main Street….
      Next week, we have a chance to help lay a cornerstone in that foundation. The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system – no bill could. But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America’s economic future in the 21st century…. – WH, 5-15-10
    • Obama pushes Wall Street reform with populism: President Barack Obama on Saturday called for swift Senate action on a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street rules to “secure America’s economic future” as a reform bill moves into the decisive stage next week. With months to go before November’s pivotal congressional elections, Obama pressed a populist theme of helping the “folks on Main Street” as he urged approval of tighter regulations to prevent a repeat of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
      Obama’s Democrats and opposition Republicans are continuing to haggle over a slew of amendments, but the bill could come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate by the end of next week and is widely expected to pass.
      “The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system — no bill could,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America’s economic future in the 21st century.”… – Reuters, 5-15-10
    • Palin to Obama: ‘Do your job, secure our border': Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin joined the national battle over Arizona’s controversial new immigration law Saturday, appearing with Gov. Jan Brewer in Phoenix to denounce the Obama administration’s criticism of the law. “It’s time for Americans across this great country to stand up and say ‘We’re all Arizonans now and, in clear unity, we say Mr. President, do your job, secure our border,'” Palin said, standing beside Brewer at a Saturday afternoon press conference…. – CNN, 5-16-10
    • Sarah Palin speaks in Rosemont: Only moments after taking the stage Wednesday at the Rosemont Theatre, former Alaska governor and conservative firebrand Sarah Palin took on officials of Highland Park High School for cancelling a trip to Arizona for its girls basketball team because of opposition to the state’s controversial new immigration law. “Keeping the girls basketball team off the court for political reasons? Those are fighting words,” Palin said. Noting the school has allowed student trips to China, Palin questioned whether school officials knew “how they treat women in China.”
      “An economic and political boycott of one of our sister states is not a way to secure our borders,” Palin said, using the title of her first book to encourage the team members to “go rogue, girls.”… – Chicago Tribune, 5-12-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    • Matthew Dallek “History warns Obama on primaries”: President Barack Obama is deeply enmeshed in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary….
      Obama is entangled in other Democratic primaries, as well. His White House has endorsed incumbent moderate Democrats in a handful of key midterm races. It has actively intervened in support of Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.
      Obama’s political team has pressured potential rivals to bow out of some races. The president has raised funds for his preferred candidates. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs argued, for example, that Lincoln is the president’s favored candidate because she’s the incumbent.
      Obama is not the first president to be involved in intraparty fights during midterms. Ideology and political disputes have sparked squabbling in Democratic primaries throughout the past century.
      While Obama’s efforts seem motivated by a desire to retain Democratic majorities in Congress, his predecessors often had larger policy issues that spurred them to purge their Democratic foes. But in virtually every case, the results were never good for the president… – Politico, 5-11-10

    The President tours Industrial Support Inc. in Buffalo, N.Y.

    The President tours Industrial Support Inc. in Buffalo, N.Y., White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 5/13/10

    Elena Kagen: Obama’s Supreme Court Justice Nominee

    THE HEADLINES….

    The President, Vice  President, and Elena Kagan

    White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 5/10/1
    • Speeches and writings show fuller picture of Kagan: Not so long ago, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan opined the law sometimes allows things that are “just plain dumb.” She once compared herself to Oprah Winfrey giving away swag on TV. And she routinely told students at one of the nation’s most competitive law schools they should just relax and have fun. From reams of files from Kagan’s past, glimmers of the would-be Supreme Court justice’s personality and style are emerging to help paint a fuller portrait for senators weighing her confirmation. The documents provide glimpses of Kagan’s sense of humor, her view of the importance and limits of the law, her take on the role of the Supreme Court in American life, and the major issues and sometimes-mundane tasks she handled during a career in legal circles, academia and a Democratic White House…. – AP, 5-20-10
    • Senators Want Kagan Documents: Washington….Moving toward a quick confirmation hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday asked the Clinton presidential library to turn over volumes of documents, correspondence , emails and other memos related to Elena Kagan during her time as a top presidential assistant in the 1990s…. – LAT, 5-19-10
    • Senate panel will begin Kagan confirmation hearings on June 28: Kagan hearings will begin June 28 The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings June 28 for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, the panel’s chairman announced Wednesday. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said the schedule should allow the hearings to be completed before senators go home in early July for a week-long break…. – WaPo, 5-19-10
    • FACT CHECK: Kagan is no ivory-tower peacenik: Elena Kagan is no ivory-tower peacenik. Judging by her own words, the Supreme Court nominee held the armed forces in high regard during her tenure as Harvard Law School dean. She had one beef with the institution, a big one: its “repugnant” prohibition on openly gay service members. Republicans are using that to portray her as an anti-military activist and to accuse her — groundlessly — of acting outside the law in restricting military recruiters on campus. If anything, the record shows Kagan defended Harvard’s conditions for on-campus military recruitment with less than a full-throated roar… – AP, 5-18-10
    • Kagan’s skills well-suited to Senate hearings: Standing before the nine Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan is forceful, quick on her feet, admits error when necessary, then goes right back at the questioner — blunt yet polite. Her style as solicitor general is likely to serve her in confirmation hearings, but only to an extent, legal and political analysts say. Kagan has exhibited the dexterity necessary to respond to tough questions in a public forum, but a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is a more politically charged setting than the high court. “She can’t just show that she’s a super-duper lawyer for the president,” says Ken Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Reagan who handled several Supreme Court nominations. “She has to tell a life story and convey a temperament that shows she’ll be fair and impartial.”… – USA Today, 5-17-10
    • Senator says Kagan broke law at Harvard: While Senate Republicans acknowledge that they are unlikely to derail Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, that hasn’t stopped them from testing potential lines of attack against her. Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, accused Kagan of violating the law when she was dean of Harvard Law School between 2003 and 2008. During her tenure, she continued the school’s restrictions on campus military recruitment because of the armed forces’ “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans openly gay people from serving. Sessions blasted Kagan on ABC’s “This Week” for enforcing the recruitment restrictions during a time of war, which he called “no little-bitty matter.”… – WaPo, 5-17-10
    • Personal ties bind Obama, Kagan President joins ranks of picking friend for court: If Elena Kagan is confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice, President Obama will have something that has become increasingly rare for presidents: a personal friend on the court. Indeed, when Obama introduced Kagan at the White House as his court nominee, it sounded almost as if he were talking about himself: a former Chicago law professor, Harvard graduate, and White Sox fan who eschewed the lucrative world of corporate law to focus on academia and public service. Obama brought her into his administration by nominating her to be solicitor general and now, after slightly more than a year in that job, he wants to elevate her to the Supreme Court. Boston Globe, 5-16-10
    • Pragmatism over partisanship? Kagan described as favoring a consensus-building, analytical style over a passion for her own ideas: Just after Election Day the fall of her senior year at Princeton, Elena Kagan published an opinion piece in the campus newspaper recounting how she had wept and gotten drunk on vodka at a campaign gathering for a liberal Brooklyn congresswoman who had unexpectedly lost a race for the Senate. Ronald Reagan was heading to the White House, and Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman — a champion for women’s causes for whom Ms. Kagan had toiled 14-hour days as a campaign press assistant — was leaving Capitol Hill. Ms. Kagan, then 20 and imbued with the liberal principles on which she had been raised, said she was flirting with despair that “there was no longer any place for the ideals we held. … I wonder how all this could possibly have happened and where on earth I’ll be able to get a job next year.”… – WaPo, 5-16-10
    • ‘General Kagan’ no newcomer to high court: Six times in the past nine months, Solicitor General Elena Kagan has come to the mahogany lectern in the hushed reverence of the Supreme Court to argue the government’s case before the justices she now hopes to join soon…. – AP, 5-15-10
    • Kagan’s Link to Marshall Cuts 2 Ways: In the spring of 1988, Justice Thurgood Marshall assigned a clerk, Elena Kagan, to write a first draft of his opinion in a case considering whether a school district could charge a poor family for busing a child to the nearest school, which was 16 miles away….
      Because Ms. Kagan has never been a judge and has produced only a handful of scholarly writings, clues to her philosophy are rare. In that vacuum, liberals and conservatives alike are attributing special significance to her clerkship year with Justice Marshall, who led the civil rights movement’s legal efforts to dismantle segregation before becoming a particularly liberal Supreme Court justice.
      But while Ms. Kagan, a former board member for the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, clearly relished the experience and admired the justice as a historic figure, she appears to have had a far more ambivalent attitude toward his jurisprudence, according to a review of his papers at the Library of Congress, her comments over the years about him and interviews with her fellow clerks and colleagues…. – NYT, 5-13-10
    • As Clinton Aide, Kagan Recommended Tactical Support for an Abortion Ban: Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, once recommended to President Bill Clinton that he support a Democratic-sponsored ban on some late-term abortions as a way to defeat a stronger measure gaining momentum in the Senate.
      As a White House domestic policy aide, Ms. Kagan sent Mr. Clinton a memorandum urging him to endorse the ban sponsored by Senator Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota. The memo anticipated that the Daschle plan would fail but suggested that it would provide political cover for enough senators to stick by the president when he ultimately vetoed the tougher bill sponsored by Republicans.
      “We recommend that you endorse the Daschle amendment in order to sustain your credibility on HR 1122 and prevent Congress from overriding your veto,” Ms. Kagan and her boss, Bruce Reed, said in the memo on May 13, 1997…. – NYT, 5-12-10
    • Kagan fits Obama’s vision for the Supreme Court: With his second Supreme Court nomination in as many years, President Barack Obama has laid down clear markers of his vision for the court, one that could prove to be among his most enduring legacies….
      Kagan, 50, the solicitor general named to replace outgoing liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, would not immediately alter the ideological balance of the bench. But her addition would almost certainly provide a lasting, liberal presence, and administration officials hope she would, in the words of one, “start to move the court into a different posture and profile.”….
      Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Kagan will have to show “that she was not chosen by the president as a political ally who will rubber-stamp his agenda — but as an impartial jurist who will uphold the Constitution’s limits on the proper role of the federal government and defend the liberties of everyday Americans.”…. – WaPo, 5-10-10
    • Obama Is Said to Select Kagan as Justice: President Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the nation’s 112th justice, choosing his own chief advocate before the Supreme Court to join it in ruling on cases critical to his view of the country’s future, Democrats close to the White House said Sunday. After a monthlong search, Mr. Obama informed Ms. Kagan and his advisers on Sunday of his choice to succeed the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. He plans to announce the nomination at 10 a.m. Monday in the East Room of the White House with Ms. Kagan by his side, said the Democrats, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the decision before it was formally made public…. – NYT, 5-10-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    • Meet Elena Kagan – WH, 5-11-10
    • Nominating Kagan: “Her Passion for the Law is Anything But Academic”: For nearly 35 years, Justice Stevens has stood as an impartial guardian of the law, faithfully applying the core values of our founding to the cases and controversies of our time.
      He has done so with restraint and respect for precedent — understanding that a judge’s job is to interpret, not make law — but also with fidelity to the constitutional ideal of equal justice for all. He’s brought to each case not just mastery of the letter of the law, but a keen understanding of its impact on people’s lives.
      Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds. She’s an acclaimed legal scholar with a rich understanding of constitutional law. She is a former White House aide with a lifelong commitment to public service and a firm grasp of the nexus and boundaries between our three branches of government. She is a trailblazing leader — the first woman to serve as Dean of Harvard Law School — and one of the most successful and beloved deans in its history. And she is a superb Solicitor General, our nation’s chief lawyer representing the American people’s interests before the Supreme Court, the first woman in that position as well. And she has won accolades from observers across the ideological spectrum for her well-reasoned arguments and commanding presence.
      But Elena is respected and admired not just for her intellect and record of achievement, but also for her temperament — her openness to a broad array of viewpoints; her habit, to borrow a phrase from Justice Stevens, “of understanding before disagreeing”; her fair-mindedness and skill as a consensus-builder.
      These traits were particularly evident during her tenure as dean. At a time when many believed that the Harvard faculty had gotten a little one-sided in its viewpoint, she sought to recruit prominent conservative scholars and spur a healthy debate on campus. And she encouraged students from all backgrounds to respectfully exchange ideas and seek common ground — because she believes, as I do, that exposure to a broad array of perspectives is the foundation not just for a sound legal education, but of a successful life in the law.
      This appreciation for diverse views may also come in handy as a die-hard Mets fan serving alongside her new colleague-to-be, Yankees fan Justice Sotomayor, who I believe has ordered a pinstriped robe for the occasion. (Laughter.)
      But while Elena had a brilliant career in academia, her passion for the law is anything but academic. She has often referred to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked, as her hero. I understand that he reciprocated by calling her “Shorty.” (Laughter.) Nonetheless, she credits him with reminding her that, as she put it, “behind law there are stories — stories of people’s lives as shaped by the law, stories of people’s lives as might be changed by the law…”
      That understanding of law, not as an intellectual exercise or words on a page, but as it affects the lives of ordinary people, has animated every step of Elena’s career — including her service as Solicitor General today.
      During her time in this office, she’s repeatedly defended the rights of shareholders and ordinary citizens against unscrupulous corporations. Last year, in the Citizens United case, she defended bipartisan campaign finance reform against special interests seeking to spend unlimited money to influence our elections. Despite long odds of success, with most legal analysts believing the government was unlikely to prevail in this case, Elena still chose it as her very first case to argue before the Court.
      I think that says a great deal not just about Elena’s tenacity, but about her commitment to serving the American people. I think it says a great deal about her commitment to protect our fundamental rights, because in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. – WH, 5-10-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    • Gil Troy: Globe and Mail: A Careerist Conundrum of Supreme Proportions Did Elena Kagan somehow lose her voice and soul while climbing her way to the top?: For New Yorkers born in the 1960s, U.S. President Barack Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court triggered the frissons of pride and envy many of us feel when someone our age and from our humble background makes it. But Ms. Kagan’s careerist conundrum is particularly fascinating. Did this woman with the perfect Princeton- Oxford-Harvard résumé somehow lose her voice and her soul while climbing professionally as deliberately as she did? To be fair, to young New Yorkers in the 1970s, the notion of a woman sitting on the Supreme Court was downright revolutionary. Ms. Kagan’s nomination is the ultimate Free to Be … You and Me moment…
      Still, we do not know how Ms. Kagan will act. She may prove to have been a phony phoenix, emerging, after years of hiding it, as a full-throated ideologue. Alternatively, decades of calculated accommodating might keep her building bridges as she did when she was dean of Harvard Law School.
      Regardless, as a professor and a parent, I wonder: Do I advise my students and my children that they are “free to be you and me?” Or, to go as far as some want to go, must they squelch their voices, round their edges, and be the corporate careerists that excessive media scrutiny in a polarizing political culture demands they be? – The Globe & Mail, 5-17-10
    • Julian Zelizer: Senate should accept Kagan’s ’95 ‘challenge’: In 1995, Elena Kagan published a lengthy book review in the University of Chicago Law Review, titled “Confirmation Messes, Old and New,” in which she was critical of the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees.
      While she challenged the author Stephen Carter’s argument that the confirmations had become nasty and destructive, she instead complained that the hearings tended to avoid substantive issues.
      Kagan argues that in response to the contentious debate over Robert Bork in 1987, senators refrained from dealing with real issues. Rather than offering a serious examination of how a nominee viewed constitutional issues, the hearings instead provided a “vapid and hollow charade” devoid of substance.
      She urged a return to the kind of debate that surrounded Bork, which she said “presented to the public a serious discussion of the meaning of the Constitution, the role of the Court, and the views of the nominees.”
      Based on the initial media and political response to her nomination, it seems that Kagan was spot on. During the first week since President Obama announced his selection, public discussion has revolved around irrelevant issues that won’t teach us much about Kagan….
      Maybe after reading Kagan’s record, the Senate can elevate rather than denigrate the public discourse and demonstrate how Congress can fulfill its functions. – CNN, 5-17-10

    Top Young Historians: 102 – Jeremy Kuzmarov

    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.

    Jeremy Kuzmarov, 30

    Basic Facts

    Teaching Position: Assistant Professor of History, Tulsa University.
    Area of Research: Modern American history, U.S. foreign relations history, American empire, America and the world, American covert operations, war and society, American criminal justice system and its internationalization, US War on Drugs, International police training programs.
    Education: Doctor of Philosophy, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, Completed May 2006
    Dissertation: The Myth of the Addicted Army – Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs
    Major Publications: Kuzmarov is the author of The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs Jeremy Kuzmarov JPG (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009), and is currently writing Modernizing Repression: Police Training and the Violence of Empire (Amhrest, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, under contract).
    Kuzmarov is also the author of numerous scholarly journal articles, and reviews including among others: “Modernizing Repression: Police Training, Political Violence and ‘Nation-Building’ in the American Century” Diplomatic History (April 2009); “The Myth of the ‘Addicted Army': Drug Use in Vietnam in Historical Perspective” War and Society (October 2007); “From Counter-Insurgency to Narco-Insurgency: Vietnam and the International War on Drugs” Journal of Policy History (Summer 2008); “American Police Training and Political Violence: From the Philippines Conquest to the Killing Fields of Afghanistan and Iraq,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, 11-1-10, March 15, 2010.
    Awards: Kuzmarov is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
    Sachar Dissertation Award, Graduate Studies Association Brandeis University, 2004-2005;
    Crown Fellowship, Brandeis University American History Department, 2002-2006.
    Additional Info:
    Formerly Visiting Assistant Professor of History Bucknell University (2006-2009)
    Kuzmarov’s lecture “The Myth of the Addicted Army” at University of Arkansas-Fayetville, sponsored by the local branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws was broadcast on CSPAN in February 2010.

    Personal Anecdote

    I first became interested in history hearing stories from my grandfather, Oscar Weinstein, who passed away last year at the age of 99 and had an incredible memory. Intellectually, my perspective was first shaped by a course that I took at Dawson College in Montreal on the so-called anti-psychiatrists – R.D. Laing and Erich Fromm – whose idea that mental illness was a social construct and a product of the pathologies and intolerance of society I found to be compelling. At McGill University, I took a course on crime and punishment which introduced me to radical theories of criminology and examined the social roots and construction of deviance in Western society. Then I read Noam Chomsky, whose work on state crime and terrorism was (and remains) highly illuminating, and Alfred W. McCoy’s on the CIA’s support for the global narcotics trade, which my own research on the topic confirmed to be right on the mark.

    My first book The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs draws on sociological theories about “moral panics” and the construction of deviance in examining the origins and growth of the modern drug war. I try and demonstrate how policy-makers and the media greatly exaggerated the scope and ravages of drug abuse in the army, creating a climate of hysteria over drugs which supplanted public concern about the war itself and resulted in the growth of repressive prohibition measures. The myth of the drug-addicted soldier took hold so widely in my view because it provided a convenient political scapegoat, which helped to deflect attention away from the carnage in Indochina, and to absolve of responsibility those responsible for perpetrating and expanding the war. The second half of the book analyzes the consequences of the War on Drugs, including its link to the growth of the carcerial state in the US and major human rights abuses internationally while at the same time failing to curb supply rates.

    Building off this work, I am currently completing a book on American international police training programs entitled Modernizing Repression. Adopting a comparative analysis, I chronicle how police programs have served as an important mechanism for expanding American power from the conquest of the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century through the 21st century occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and resulted in significant human rights violations. This book combines my interests in criminal justice, US foreign policy and covert operations and draws on many of the formative intellectual influences in my professional career and life.

    Quotes

    By Jeremy Kuzmarov

  • “The enduring quality of the myth of the addicted army in many respects demonstrates America’s long-standing inability to come to terms with the moral consequences of the Vietnam War. By reimagining their soldiers as victims and the U.S. military defeat as a “tragedy,” Americans were able to deflect responsibility for the massive destruction and loss of life inflicted on the people of Southeast Asia and thus to avoid serious reconsideration of the ideological principles that rationalized the American intervention. The silencing and demonizing of dissenting voices, including antiwar GIs typecast as psychopathic junkies, aided in this process.” — Jeremy Kuzmarov in “The Myth of the Addicted Army”
  • “With remarkable continuity, police aid was used not just to target criminals but to develop elaborate intelligence networks oriented towards internal defense, which allowed the suppression of dissident groups to take place on a wider scope and in a more surgical and often brutal way. In effect, the U.S. helped to modernize intelligence gathering and political policing operations, thus magnifying their impact. They further helped to militarize the police and provided them with a newfound perception of power, while schooling them in a hard-line anticommunism that fostered the dehumanization of political adversaries and bred suspicion about grass-roots mobilization…… Although the U.S. was not always in control of the forces that it empowered and did not always condone their acts, human rights violations were not by accident or the product of rogue forces betraying American principles, as some have previously argued. They were rather institutionalized within the fabric of American policy and its coercive underpinnings.” — Jeremy Kuzmarov in “Modernizing Repression: Police Training, Nation-Building and the Spread of Political Violence in the American Century,” Diplomatic History, April 2009
  • About Jeremy Kuzmarov

  • “The Myth of the Addicted Army will contend for best-book awards in history, sociology, and many fields of policy studies. It is chock full of original research utilizing government documents and interviews with policy makers to show how the war in Vietnam incubated the myth of widespread drug addiction among U.S. troops that became, in turn, the back story to the homefront War on Drugs.” — Jerry Lembcke, author of The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam
  • “What is so compelling about Jeremy Kuzmarov’s book is his careful depiction of how ‘the myth of the addicted army’ was used for a variety of political and cultural purposes. He convincingly shows that Nixon adopted the drug policy he did in order to advance his own political fortunes, and that Nixon’s drug war set the terms of the discussion in several ways. It obscured the real lack of evidence for a drug epidemic among GIs and set off an irrational response to drug use that has been a staple of American politics and popular culture ever since.” — William O. Walker, author of Drug Control in the Americas
  • Posted on Friday, May 14, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    Political Highlights May 10, 2010: Obama Nominates Kagan & Financial Overhaul Debates

    OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

    The President, Vice President, and Elena Kagan

    White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 5/10/1

    IN FOCUS: STATS

    • Polls say Sestak now leads Specter in U.S. Senate race: U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s once seemingly insurmountable lead in the polls is gone. Reflecting a trend that developed over the last month, two new polls released Monday showed Mr. Specter trailing his challenger for the Democratic Senate nomination, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, a suburban Philadelphia congressman. Polls by Rasmussen Reports and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion each showed Mr. Sestak with the support of 47 percent of likely Democratic voters and Mr. Specter with 42 percent. They come a week after a Quinnipiac University poll showed Mr. Specter’s lead had been cut from 21 percentage points in early April to 8 points early last week… – Scranton Times Tribune, 5-10-10
    • Poll: Lincoln, Boozman leading Ark. Senate race: A new poll shows incumbent U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas holding an edge over Lt. Gov. Bill Halter as both seek the Democratic nomination for the post. The Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters released Friday showed Lincoln with 44 percent support among likely voters and Halter next with 32 percent. Among eight Republicans, Congressman John Boozman led the pack with 48 percent support…. – AP, 5-7-10
    • Crist Holds 6-Point Lead as Independent in Florida Senate Race, Poll Shows: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is holding a six-point lead in his state’s Senate race, according to a poll conducted after Crist left the Republican Party to run as an independent last week. The poll showed Crist with 38 percent support, compared with 32 percent for Rubio and 19 percent for Meek. Eleven percent were undecided. Pollster Brad Coker told the Orlando Sentinel that since most of Crist’s supporters are Democrats a large bloc of his support could abandon him as Meek raises his profile in the race. The poll showed 48 percent of Crist’s supporters were Democrats…. – Fox News, 5-6-10
    • Poll: Tea party platform fares best among GOP conservatives: The conservative “tea party” movement appeals almost exclusively to supporters of the Republican Party, bolstering the view that the tea party divides the GOP even as it has energized its base. That conclusion, backed by numbers from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, also suggests that the tea party may have little room for growth. Most Americans — including large majorities of those who don’t already count themselves as supporters — say they’re not interested in learning more about the movement. A sizable share of those not already sympathetic to the tea party also say that the more they hear, the less they like the movement.
      Overall, the tea party remains divisive, with 27 percent of those polled saying they’re supportive but about as many, 24 percent, opposed. Supporters overwhelmingly identify themselves as Republicans or GOP-leaning independents; opponents are even more heavily Democratic. The new movement is also relatively small, with 8 percent of supporters claiming to be “active participants” — about 2 percent of the total population…. – WaPo, 5-4-10

    THE HEADLINES….

    • Kagan fits Obama’s vision for the Supreme Court: With his second Supreme Court nomination in as many years, President Barack Obama has laid down clear markers of his vision for the court, one that could prove to be among his most enduring legacies….
      Kagan, 50, the solicitor general named to replace outgoing liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, would not immediately alter the ideological balance of the bench. But her addition would almost certainly provide a lasting, liberal presence, and administration officials hope she would, in the words of one, “start to move the court into a different posture and profile.”….
      Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Kagan will have to show “that she was not chosen by the president as a political ally who will rubber-stamp his agenda — but as an impartial jurist who will uphold the Constitution’s limits on the proper role of the federal government and defend the liberties of everyday Americans.”…. – WaPo, 5-10-10
    • Republican senators pressing to end federal control of Fannie, Freddie: The total price tag for mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie MacFannie will be $145 billion, easily becoming the costliest element of the government’s rescue of the financial system.
      As the Senate resumed debate Monday on legislation to overhaul financial regulation, leading Republican lawmakers are pushing an amendment that would wind down the government-controlled mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The proposal by Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Richard C. Shelby (Ala.) and Judd Gregg (N.H.) calls for the government to end its control of the companies within two years. Under the amendment, Fannie and Freddie would have to reduce the size of their mortgage portfolios and begin paying state and local sales taxes…. WaPo, 5-11-10
    • Obama Is Said to Select Kagan as Justice: President Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the nation’s 112th justice, choosing his own chief advocate before the Supreme Court to join it in ruling on cases critical to his view of the country’s future, Democrats close to the White House said Sunday. After a monthlong search, Mr. Obama informed Ms. Kagan and his advisers on Sunday of his choice to succeed the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. He plans to announce the nomination at 10 a.m. Monday in the East Room of the White House with Ms. Kagan by his side, said the Democrats, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the decision before it was formally made public…. – NYT, 5-10-10
    • A Climb Marked by Confidence and Canniness – NYT, 5-10-10
    • Holder Backs a Miranda Limit for Terror Suspects: The Obama administration said Sunday it would seek a law allowing investigators to interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their rights, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. flatly asserted that the defendant in the Times Square bombing attempt was trained by the Taliban in Pakistan. Mr. Holder proposed carving out a broad new exception to the Miranda rights established in a landmark 1966 Supreme Court ruling. It generally forbids prosecutors from using as evidence statements made before suspects have been warned that they have a right to remain silent and to consult a lawyer…. – NYT, 5-10-10
    • Oil executives face U.S. Congress on Gulf spill: Big oil goes under the spotlight on Tuesday when U.S. lawmakers grill top executives on a drilling rig explosion and oil spill that threatens an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.
      The hearings come during a desperate race against time to stem the oil gushing from a well ruptured after an explosion last month that killed 11 workers, sank the rig and set in motion the unfolding economic and ecological disaster…. – Reuters, 5-11-10
    • Reid seeks to fast-track financial overhaul bill Network News: ….”We have had a big day in the Senate,” Reid said, his voice oozing sarcasm. “Because of my Republican friends, we have been able to accomplish almost nothing — not quite, but almost nothing.”… While his frustration seemed genuine, Reid’s scolding in the empty chamber was part political theater, aimed at speeding up a top policy priority for President Obama. His remarks presaged a week in which the Senate moved forward on the landmark legislation in brief spurts of action during long periods of procedural delays and partisan bickering.
      Republicans have warned against pushing ahead too quickly with the far-reaching legislation, arguing that such haste could lead to unintended consequences that harm the very people that lawmakers are trying to help…. – WaPo, 5-10-10
    • US warns Pakistan over Times Square bomb attempt: The United States has delivered a tough new warning to Pakistan to crack down on Islamic militants or face severe consequences after the failed Times Square bombing. In a meeting on Friday between Stanley McChrystal, the US military commander in Afghanistan, and Pakistani military commander General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, General McChrystal urged Pakistan quickly to begin a military offensive against the Pakistani Taleban and al-Qaeda in North Waziristan, according to the New York Times newspaper…. – Times Online, 5-9-10
    • GOP loses consumer plan vote in Senate: Prodded by President Obama, the Senate rejected a Republican consumer protection plan yesterday that would have diluted a central element of the administration’s financial regulation package. Democrats and the president argued that the GOP proposal would have gutted consumer protections. The vote was 61 to 38, with two Republicans — Senators Olympia Snowe of Maine and Charles Grassley of Iowa — joining Democrats to defeat the GOP measure…. – Boston Globe, 5-7-10
    • Walter Hickel, former Alaska governor and Nixon Cabinet Member Walter Hickel dies at 90: Former Alaska Gov. Walter Hickel, who was Richard Nixon’s interior secretary until he was fired after criticizing the handling of Vietnam protests, has died at age 90. Longtime assistant Malcolm Roberts says Hickel died Friday night at Horizon House, an assisted living facility in Anchorage. – AP, 5-8-10
    • Origin of Wall Street’s Plunge Continues to Elude Officials: A day after a harrowing plunge in the stock market, federal regulators were still unable on Friday to answer the one question on every investor’s mind: What caused that near panic on Wall Street? Through the day and into the evening, officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal agencies hunted for clues amid a tangle of electronic trading records from the nation’s increasingly high-tech exchanges. But, maddeningly, the cause or causes of the market’s wild swing remained elusive, leaving what amounts to a $1 trillion question mark hanging over the world’s largest, and most celebrated, stock market…. – NYT, 5-8-10
    • New Justice to Confront Evolution in Powers: As President Obama prepares to nominate somebody to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, his administration appears to be on a collision course with the Supreme Court in legal disputes that will test the limits of executive power. Those disputes — involving issues like detainee rights and secrecy — throw into sharp relief the differences in the records of several leading contenders for the nomination, including Solicitor General Elena Kagan and two appeals court judges, Merrick B. Garland and Diane P. Wood. While any plausible Democratic nominee would probably rule the same way Justice Stevens would have in many areas of law, including abortion rights and the new health care law, executive power may be an exception. Justice Stevens was a critical vote in a five-justice faction that rejected expansive assertions of executive authority by former President George W. Bush. If his successor is more sympathetic to the vantage point of the Obama White House, the balance could shift to a new bare majority that is far more willing to uphold broad presidential powers… – NYT, 5-8-10
    • Pressure on Pakistan amid fresh terror links: Alleged links between the Times Square plot and extremist networks are adding to perceptions of Pakistan as a global exporter of terrorism and increasing pressure on its military to crack down on extremists along the Afghan border.
      U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that Pakistan has become far more helpful in battling extremists over the past year but that cooperation could be improved.
      She also warned that the Obama administration has made it clear there will be “severe consequences” if an attack on U.S. soil is traced back to Pakistan. Clinton spoke in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” to air this weekend AP, 5-8-10
    • Faithful mark prayer day at Capitol after judge’s ruling: Congress established the National Day of Prayer in 1952. But last month, a federal judge in Wisconsin declared that the government’s observance of the event is unconstitutional, calling it “an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function.” The ruling angered many in the faith community. The Obama administration has decided to appeal the ruling. And as he did last year, President Obama issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation: “I call upon the citizens of our Nation to pray, or otherwise give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings.”…. – WaPo, 5-6-10
    • “Joe the Plumber” Wins Local GOP Elected Office: Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher became famous in 2008 when the John McCain presidential campaign heralded him as an average small business owner. Now, he is an elected official himself. Wurzelbacher won one of nearly 400 seats on the Republican Party committee for northwest Ohio’s Lucas County, the Associated Press reports. The group only meets a few times a year to elect the county chairman and sets the party agenda…. – CBS News,
    • Republicans want to lift bank swaps ban: senator: Banks would be allowed to keep their lucrative swaps-trading desks under a softened set of regulations for the $450 trillion derivatives market proposed by U.S. Senate Republicans on Wednesday… – Reuters, 5-6-10
    • Financial regulations still face delays, disputes: A tentative agreement in hand, Democrats and Republicans still face an array of hurdles and uncertain timing over a Senate bill that would rein in financial institutions. While Democrats agreed to jettison a $50 billion fund to liquidate large, failing firms, disputes over consumer protections, Federal Reserve oversight and regulation of complex securities are for the moment beyond compromise. Democrats and Republicans were preparing to fight those issues out on the Senate floor.
      “They’re stalling everything we do,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid complained Tuesday evening. He called for the bill to be completed by the end of next week.
      Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had a different timetable in mind. “I must tell you, I don’t think this is a couple-of-weeks bill,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t want to pass it, but we do want to cover the subject.”… – AP, 5-5-10
    • Chicago judge interviewed for Supreme Court vacancy: Diane Wood, a Chicago federal appeals court judge, was interviewed by President Obama on Tuesday about replacing retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, a source told the Chicago Sun-Times. Wood had a second interview with Vice President Joe Biden about the upcoming vacancy. Stevens, a Chicago native, was in Chicago on Monday to speak at a 7th Circuit lawyers and judges conference where another person in the running to replace him — Solicitor General Elena Kagan — was also on the program. Wood and Obama know each other from the days when he taught law at the University of Chicago…. – Chicago Sun Times, 5-5-10
    • Barack Obama extends US sanctions against Syria US president accuses Damascus of supporting terrorist groups and pursuing weapons of mass destruction: President Barack Obama extended US sanctions against Syria, saying yesterday it supported terrorist organisations and pursued weapons of mass destruction and missile programmes. Syria’s actions and policies “pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States”, Obama said in a statement…. – Guardian.co.uk, 5-4-10
    • Obama administration discloses size of U.S. nuclear arsenal: Shattering a taboo dating from the Cold War, the Obama administration revealed Monday the size of the American nuclear arsenal — 5,113 weapons — as it embarked on a campaign for tougher measures against countries with hidden nuclear programs. The figure was in line with previous estimates by arms-control groups. But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized that it was the very disclosure of the long-held secret that was important. “We think it is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can about the nuclear program of the United States,” she told reporters at a high-level nuclear conference in New York, where she announced the change in policy. “We think that builds confidence.”… –  WaPo, 5-3-10
    • Voting begins in Senate on Wall Street reform: The U.S. Senate will cast its first votes on Tuesday on a sweeping Wall Street reform bill, with passage of a handful of uncontroversial amendments expected and a key procedural question still unsettled. Democratic leaders had not yet determined as of late Monday whether amendments will need 50 or 60 votes to pass. The difference is important because Democrats control 59 votes in the 100-member chamber, versus the Republicans’ 41 votes…. – Reuters, 5-4-10
    • Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens silent on his replacement in speech Justice bypasses court discussion, instead talks about his beloved Cubs: In one of his last public speeches before retiring, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens on Monday bypassed talk of the court’s deep ideological divide and the battle to replace him and instead talked to a Chicago legal group about his beloved Cubs. The Chicago native recalled one of his most precious boyhood memories — watching Babe Ruth hit his famous “called shot” for the New York Yankees in the 1932 World Series with the Cubs… – Chicago Tribune, 5-4-10

    ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

    • Outside groups fuel heated Ark. Senate race: Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter of Arkansas recently complained about a Senate campaign ad in which Indian-American actors thanked him for allegedly outsourcing jobs to India. (Americans for Job Security via Associated Press); For Arkansas voters, the names on the ballot in the Democratic Senate primary election next week will be well known: US Senator Blanche Lincoln, the two-term incumbent, and her opponent, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, the father of the state’s lottery. But the campaign they have waged is like nothing Arkansas has seen before.
      In a state known for face-to-face politics where candidates make the rounds of small-town events such as the Gillett Coon Supper and the Slovak Oyster Supper, the race for Lincoln’s Senate seat has been overwhelmed by a multimillion-dollar, televised proxy battle among some of the nation’s largest interest groups for supremacy in the Democratic Party…. – Boston Globe, 5-10-10
    • Ohio Democrats respond to racy GOP ad: Ohio Democrats have released a political ad full of shirtless workers. It’s the party’s answer to a sexually suggestive GOP ad that depicted a bare-chested U.S. Senate candidate. The original ad, created by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, features an image of a shirtless Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a provocative pose….- AP, 5-10-10
    • National Democrats pull out of Hawaii: National Democrats pull their money out of Hawaii’s special election and local Republicans are rejoicing over the end of their opponent’s smear tactics. Even the local Democrats say they are pleased the national Democrats are leaving saying the negative ads didn’t play well in Hawaii. Voters won’t be getting anymore recorded calls from President Obama either…. – HawaiiNewsNow, 5-10-10
    • Paul may not vote for McConnell as floor leader: Front-runner Rand Paul said in a U.S. Senate debate Monday night that he may not support Kentucky’s other senator, Mitch McConnell, for minority floor leader if he’s elected. “I’d have to know who the opponent is and make a decision at that time,” Paul said in a sometimes testy televised debate, the final face off in what has become an increasing acrimonious race to replace Sen. Jim Bunning…. – AP, 5-11-10
    • Veteran Democrat faces anti-incumbent challenge: Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan has delivered for his West Virginia district for nearly three decades — steering millions of dollars in projects that have helped an anemic economy.
      His rival in Tuesday’s primary is state Sen. Mike Oliverio, who has criticized the agenda of President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In a state where Republican presidential nominee John McCain won handily in 2008, that criticism has helped the 46-year-old financial adviser attract the support of some of West Virginia’s tea party supporters as well as former Mollohan allies. “I think the voters in northern West Virginia have simply lost confidence in Congressman Mollohan,” Oliverio said… – AP/USA Today, 5-9-10
    • Some Palin Facebook fans unhappy with endorsement: Ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has outraged some of her fans with an endorsement of former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina in the GOP’s U.S. Senate primary in California…. In the Thursday posting, Palin called Fiorina a “Commonsense Conservative” who has the potential to beat “liberal” Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in November…. – AP, 5-8-10
    • Last weeks of GOP Senate primary race focus on Boxer Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina face the challenge of drawing attention from Republicans Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman in race for governor. LAT, 5-8-10
    • Bennett out; GOP delegates reject 18-year Senate veteran Delegates reject 18-year Senate veteran; Bridgewater and Lee move to June primary: Three-term Sen. Bob Bennett became the first victim this year of a wave of voter anger toward Washington in a defeat that will likely send a jolt through incumbents everywhere. Businessman Tim Bridgewater finished first in the final round of balloting, beating attorney Mike Lee 57 percent to 43 percent, meaning they will face off in a June 22 primary battle. “I always think I’m going to win. I met 2,700 delegates. I knew where the delegates were,” Bridgewater said. “I feel like I can relate to people from all walks of life in this state.”…. – The Salt Lake Tribune, 5-8-10
    • Suddenly, Rubio likes Arizona’s immigration law: Facing a media throng recently in West Miami that included Spanish-language television, U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio left no doubt where he stood on a contentious new immigration law in Arizona.
      “I think the law has potential unintended consequences, and it’s one of the reasons why I think immigration needs to be a federal issue, not a state one,” Rubio said at the April 27 event, where he signed the official papers to be on the 2010 ballot. “That’s how I felt when I was in the Florida House.” Rubio added at the West Miami event: “Everyone is concerned with the prospect of the reasonable suspicion provisions where individuals could be pulled over because someone suspects they may not be legal in this country,” he said. “I think over time people will grow uncomfortable with that.”… – Miami Herald, 5-8-10
    • Bush backs Rubio, rips Crist in speech: In one of his first political campaign appearances since he left the Florida governor’s office, and an indication of his political re-emergence, former Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed Marco Rubio in a speech to a gathering of Tampa Bay area Republicans on Friday.
      “I’m a little rusty; I don’t speak that much to partisan crowds these days. I haven’t been on the stump that much,” Bush said at the Pasco County Republican Party’s annual fundraising dinner…. – TBO, 5-8-10
    • Last weeks of GOP Senate primary race focus on Boxer: Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina face the challenge of drawing attention from Republicans Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman in race for governor…. – LAT, 5-8-10
    • GOP Senate candidates spar in first face-to-face debate: Campbell, DeVore and Fiorina tussle over immigration, the Wall Street bailout and taxes at L.A.’s Museum of Tolerance. The debate will air in California on ABC stations on Sunday…. – LAT, 5-7-10
    • Case ties himself to Obama in new ad: In a last-ditch attempt to gain momentum, former congressman Ed Case is latching himself to President Obama in his latest television ad – even though the White House hasn’t publicly backed him in the three-way special election taking place in Hawaii. “Only one candidate is strong enough to stand with the president: Ed Case,” a narrator says in the ad. “The White House believes Ed Case has the best chance of beating Djou and moving America forward. Ed Case, President Obama – putting Hawaii first.” The ad also accuses Republicans of wanting Obama to fail in office, and is using Republican Charles Djou, a Honolulu city councilman, to achieve that goal.??… – Politico, 5-6-10
    • Sen. DeMint endorses Paul in US Senate race in Ky.: U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint put himself at odds with Kentucky’s Sen. Mitch McConnell on Wednesday by endorsing an antiestablishment candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, gave his support to political outsider Rand Paul, one day after Minority Floor Leader McConnell endorsed establishment candidate Trey Grayson. “I’m endorsing Rand Paul because he’s a true conservative who will stand up to the Washington establishment,” said DeMint, who released a written statement saying he still supports McConnell as floor leader even though the two disagree on Kentucky’s Senate race. “Rand has been running on the issues that matter since the beginning of this campaign, DeMint said in the statement. “He’s a strong advocate for balanced budgets. He wants to end the culture of earmarks. He supports term limits. And he’s 100 percent pro-life.”… – AP, 5-5-10
    • Bennett appeals to GOP to let him keep Senate seat: Sen. Bob Bennett abandoned Washington this week, spending his days in Utah pleading with Republicans until he was hoarse to let him keep his job — in Washington. The three-term conservative is in serious danger of losing at a GOP state convention Saturday, tripped up by anti- incumbent sentiment and Utah’s quirky nomination system. His only hope is to win over enough delegates to force the party to hold a primary in June. He has until Saturday morning to pitch some 3,500 die-hard GOP convention delegates, who tend to be more conservative than Utah Republicans overall. Polls show Bennett trailing in third place…. – AP, 5-6-10
    • Obey retirement gives GOP hopeful opening in Wis.: Democratic U.S. Rep. David Obey’s unexpected retirement has thrust a conservative former cast member of MTV’s “The Real World” into position to capture a Wisconsin seat held by a leading liberal for four decades. It also left several Democrats pondering the legacy of Obey, at 71 the third longest-serving current member of the House, and weighing whether to get in the race…. – AP, 5-6-10
    • Jeb Bush endorses Marco Rubio in Fla. Senate race: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is endorsing Marco Rubio’s campaign for U.S. Senate. Bush, still popular and influential with Florida Republicans, has long been rumored to be a Rubio backer, but his endorsement comes less than a week after Gov. Charlie crist decided to run as an independent rather than face Rubio in the GOP primary. Bush says Rubio is a passionate, principled leader who wouldn’t change his views when political winds shift… – AP, 5-5-10
    • Cohen hits campaign trail for governor Former lieutenant governor candidate who quit amid political scandal is launching independent bid: Pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen announced his independent candidacy for governor Monday, trying to leap back into the political fray that chewed him up and spit him out in February. Cohen said he was still searching for a running mate, and he was vague on details about how he would circulate enough petitions by June 21 to secure the 25,000 signatures needed for a spot on the ballot. But he claimed that polling he conducted in March suggested he was a viable candidate. “I am not perfect, but I am honest,” Cohen said at a news conference in the plaza outside the Thompson Center. “Illinois needs honesty more than perfection.”… – Chicago Tribune, 5-3-10
    • Union: Ads chiding Ark. Senate candidate ‘racist’: A Virginia-based advocacy group began airing television ads in Arkansas on Monday in which Indian actors “thank” Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, claiming he outsourced jobs overseas. The ad, which features Indian-American actors thanking Halter while superimposed in front of various street scenes in India, was denounced by Halter’s campaign and that of his Democratic rival, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, as offensive. The Arkansas chapter of the AFL-CIO, which has endorsed Halter, called it “horribly racist.” The spot has been criticized as playing up stereotypes of India because it features actors with Indian accents and uses the street scenes…. – AP, 5-3-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    • Weekly Address: Health Reform Starts to Kick In WH, 5-8-10
    • Education vital to U.S. success, Obama tells Hampton University graduates: President Obama delivered a strong argument Sunday on the importance of education, telling the new graduates of the historic black university here that “all of us have a responsibility, as Americans, to change” the comparatively low academic achievement of African Americans in this country.
      Before an audience of more than 12,000 students, family members and guests at Hampton University’s commencement, Obama said the nation must “offer every single child in this country an education that will make them competitive in our knowledge economy.”
      “But I have to say, Class of 2010, all of you have a separate responsibility. To be role models for your brothers and sisters,” Obama told the 1,072 students receiving undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees on the cool but lovely spring morning. “To be mentors in your communities. And, when the time comes, to pass that sense of an education’s value down to your children, a sense of personal responsibility and self-respect.”… – WaPo, 5-10-10
    • President Obama says health law benefits already being felt: “Already we are seeing a health care system that holds insurance companies more accountable and gives consumers more control,” Obama said during his weekly radio address. “For too long, we have been held hostage to an insurance industry that jacks up premiums and drops coverage as they please,” he said. “The new health care law has also begun to end the worst practices of insurance companies,” he said… – NY Daily News, 5-9-10
    • Kerry, Lieberman press climate bill without Graham: The leading sponsors of a long-delayed energy and climate change bill said Friday they will press ahead despite losing the support of their only Republican partner. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said they plan to introduce a bill on Wednesday. The pair made the announcement just hours after Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said it’s impossible to pass the legislation now because of disagreements over offshore drilling and immigration reform.
      “Regrettably, in my view, this has become impossible in the current environment,” Graham said in a statement. “I believe there could be more than 60 votes for this bipartisan concept in the future. But there are not nearly 60 votes today and I do not see them materializing until we deal with the uncertainty of the immigration debate and the consequences of the oil spill.”
      Kerry and Lieberman said they plan to introduce the bill on Wednesday — two weeks after they first pledged to unveil it. “We are more encouraged today that we can secure the necessary votes to pass this legislation this year in part because the last (few) weeks have given everyone with a stake in this issue a heightened understanding that as a nation, we can no longer wait to solve this problem which threatens our economy, our security and our environment,” Kerry and Lieberman said. “We look forward to … passing the legislation with the support of Senator Graham and other Republicans, Democrats and independents this year,” they said…. – AP, 5-7-10
    • Obama: ‘Our obligations to our troops don’t end on the battlefield’: President Obama signed legislation today designed to help keep severely wounded troops in their homes by providing aid to family members who care for them. “Keeping faith with our veterans and their families is work that is never truly finished,” Obama said before signing the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. The law increases health benefits for veterans, and provides new assistance to family members who care for loved ones injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’re forever mindful that our obligations to our troops don’t end on the battlefield,” Obama said…. – USA Today, 5-5-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    • Julian Zelizer: Gov. Daniels: GOP’s best hope for 2012?: Conservative pundits are in love with a candidate for 2012, and it is not Sarah Palin. If you ask many top Republicans their favorite pick for the presidential campaign, they will answer Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels….
      Certain Republicans find Daniels attractive because they realize the 2012 campaign will not only be a mandate on President Obama; the GOP will undertake its campaign in the long shadow of President Bush, who ended his presidency with historically low approval ratings and a demoralized party.
      Daniels could help Republicans reclaim the mantel of fiscal conservatism. The skyrocketing federal deficit has emerged as a significant political issue. Concerns about how European countries will handle their debt have amplified fears within the United States….
      If Daniels decides to run, and he says he does not want to, his fate within the party would tell us a lot about the direction the Republican Party is heading. It is clear that there are other candidates, such as Palin or Romney or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who might be an easier and more predictable choice for the GOP.
      Yet it is not clear whether any of them are candidates, as Daniels might be, who could help Republicans win back suburban and independent voters who went blue in 2008. – CNN, 5-9-10
    • Is Gulf oil spill Obama’s Katrina moment?: “The Obama administration has done nothing wrong,” said Katrina historian Douglas Brinkley. “This has been British Petroleum not having a Plan ‘A’ or Plan ‘B’ or Plan ‘C’ or Plan ‘D.” – CNN, 5-7-10
    • Julian Zelizer: Arizona law foes’ best weapon is dollars: In response to Arizona’s law cracking down on illegal immigration, pro-immigration and Hispanic organizations have launched a national protest campaign…..
      Pro-immigration groups have started a national boycott against Arizona. The boycott promises to be substantial in scale and scope. San Francisco, California, Mayor Gavin Newsom has announced that he will ban city employees from traveling to the state. Los Angeles officials are considering doing the same. There is growing pressure on Major League Baseball to pull next year’s all-star game out of Phoenix if the law is not changed. In other words, Arizona has a potentially big economic problem on its hands.
      The economic boycott has been a powerful tool in the struggle for social rights. During the civil rights era, African-American activists used boycotts to create pressure for social change and to draw national attention to their cause…. – CNN, 5-4-10
    • Douglas Brinkley: White House Expects Battle Over Supreme Court Nominee Advisers say Obama’s pick will draw controversy no matter who he chooses: “There’s no ‘Kumbaya’ going on—it’s gotten harsh and bitter,” says historian Doug Brinkley. He traces the acrimony to President Nixon’s controversial and unsuccessful high court nominations of Clement Haynsworth and Harrold Carswell in 1969 and 1970, respectively, and later, the defeat of Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, and the divisive but successful nomination of Clarence Thomas by George H.W. Bush in 1991. “Now it’s almost par for the course,” Brinkley says. The pattern is for opponents to dredge up everything they can to harm a nominee, including books checked out of a library and movies rented from a video store. “We live in glass houses,” he says, and the result too often is a media circus. US News & World Report, 4-29-10
    %d bloggers like this: