Scott Casper: Nationally Recognized History Professor Named College of Liberal Arts Dean

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

University of Nevada, Reno Foundation Professor Scott Casper steps up from leading history department

Source: UNR, University of Nevada, Reno, 6-29-11

Foundation Professor Scott Casper, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts

Foundation Professor Scott Casper, chair of the Department of History at the University of Nevada, Reno, has accepted the position of interim dean of the University’s College of Liberal Arts and will assume his duties July 1.

Casper has been at the University since 1992, served as the history department’s chair for five years, and as the department’s director of graduate studies before that. He has received several honors, including the Professor of the Year from the prestigious Carnegie Foundation in 2008, and the Nevada Regents’ Teaching Award in 2005.

“Scott is an award-winning teacher with a strong record of research in his specialty, nineteenth-century United States history, and a distinguished record of campus and professional service and outreach,” said Heather Hardy, the College’s former dean who was named the University’s executive vice president and provost June 1. “He is well respected by both students and colleagues alike, and we are very pleased that he has accepted this new challenge.”

Casper has also chaired the Faculty Senate and participated in numerous college and university committees, chairing the College of Liberal Arts Personnel Committee and Planning Committee. A historian of the 19th-century United States, his research has focused on the ways Americans understood their past and on the history of books and reading….READ MORE

Full Text Debt Ceiling Showdown, June 29, 2011: President Obama’s Press Conference on the Economy & Debt Limit (Transcript)

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

Transcript of Obama News Conference

Source: WSJ, 6-29-11

Here is the White House transcript of President Barack Obama’s news conference on Wednesday.

President Barack Obama holds a press conference Chuck Kennedy, 6/29/11

PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE PRESIDENT

East Room

June 29,2011

11:40 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Have a seat, please.  I just want to say a few words about the economy before I take your questions.

There are a lot of folks out there who are still struggling with the effects of the recession.  Many people are still looking for work or looking for a job that pays more.  Families are wondering how they’d deal with a broken refrigerator or a busted transmission, or how they’re going to finance their kids’ college education, and they’re also worrying about the possibility of layoffs.

The struggles of middle-class families were a big problem long before the recession hit in 2007.  They weren’t created overnight, and the truth is our economic challenges are not going to be solved overnight.  But there are more steps that we can take right now that would help businesses create jobs here in America.

Today, our administration is trying to take those steps, so we’re reviewing government regulations so that we can fix any rules in place that are an unnecessary burden on businesses.  We’re working with the private sector to get small businesses and start-ups the financing they need to grow and expand.  And because of the partnership that we’ve launched with businesses and community colleges, 500,000 workers will be able to receive the right skills and training for manufacturing jobs in companies all across America — jobs that companies are looking to fill.

In addition to the steps that my administration can take on our own, there are also things that Congress could do right now that will help create good jobs.  Right now, Congress can send me a bill that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to patent a new product or idea –- because we can’t give innovators in other countries a big leg up when it comes to opening new businesses and creating new jobs.  That’s something Congress could do right now.

Right now, Congress could send me a bill that puts construction workers back on the job rebuilding roads and bridges –- not by having government fund and pick every project, but by providing loans to private companies and states and local governments on the basis of merit and not politics.  That’s pending in Congress right now.

Right now, Congress can advance a set of trade agreements that would allow American businesses to sell more of their goods and services to countries in Asia and South America -– agreements that would support tens of thousands of American jobs while helping those adversely affected by trade.  That’s pending before Congress right now.

And right now, we could give middle-class families the security of knowing that the tax cut I signed in December will be there for one more year.

So there are a number of steps that my administration is taking, but there are also a number of steps that Congress could be taking right now on items that historically have had bipartisan support and that would help put more Americans back to work.

Many of these ideas have been tied up in Congress for some time.  But, as I said, all of them enjoy bipartisan support, and all of them would help grow the economy.  So I urge Congress to act on these ideas now.

Of course, one of the most important and urgent things we can do for the economy is something that both parties are working on right now –- and that’s reducing our nation’s deficit.  Over the last few weeks, the Vice President has been leading negotiations with Democrats and Republicans on this issue, and they’ve made some real progress in narrowing down the differences.  As of last week, both parties had identified more than $1 trillion worth of spending cuts already.

But everyone also knows that we’ll need to do more to close the deficit.  We can’t get to the $4 trillion in savings that we need by just cutting the 12 percent of the budget that pays for things like medical research and education funding and food inspectors and the weather service.  And we can’t just do it by making seniors pay more for Medicare.  So we’re going to need to look at the whole budget, as I said several months ago.  And we’ve got to eliminate waste wherever we find it and make some tough decisions about worthy priorities.

And that means trimming the defense budget, while still meeting our security needs.  It means we’ll have to tackle entitlements, as long as we keep faith with seniors and children with disabilities by maintaining the fundamental security that Medicare and Medicaid provide.  And, yes, we’re going to have to tackle spending in the tax code.

There’s been a lot of discussion about revenues and raising taxes in recent weeks, so I want to be clear about what we’re proposing here.  I spent the last two years cutting taxes for ordinary Americans, and I want to extend those middle-class tax cuts.  The tax cuts I’m proposing we get rid of are tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires; tax breaks for oil companies and hedge fund managers and corporate jet owners.

It would be nice if we could keep every tax break there is, but we’ve got to make some tough choices here if we want to reduce our deficit.  And if we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we choose to keep a tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars, then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship.  That means we’ve got to stop funding certain grants for medical research.  That means that food safety may be compromised.  That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden.  Those are the choices we have to make.

So the bottom line is this:  Any agreement to reduce our deficit is going to require tough decisions and balanced solutions.  And before we ask our seniors to pay more for health care, before we cut our children’s education, before we sacrifice our commitment to the research and innovation that will help create more jobs in the economy, I think it’s only fair to ask an oil company or a corporate jet owner that has done so well to give up a tax break that no other business enjoys.  I don’t think that’s real radical.  I think the majority of Americans agree with that.

So the good news is, because of the work that’s been done, I this we can actually bridge our differences.  I think there is a conceptual framework that would allow us to make huge progress on our debt and deficit, and do so in a way that does not hurt our economy right here and right now.

And it’s not often that Washington sees both parties agree on the scale and the urgency of the challenge at hand.  Nobody wants to put the creditworthiness of the United States in jeopardy.  Nobody wants to see the United States default.  So we’ve got to seize this moment, and we have to seize it soon.  The Vice President and I will continue these negotiations with both leaders of both parties in Congress for as long as it takes, and we will reach a deal that will require our government to live within its means and give our businesses confidence and get this economy moving.

So, with that, I will take your questions.  I’ve got my list here.  Starting off with Ben Feller, Associated Press.

Q    Thank you very much, Mr. President.  I’d like to follow up on the comments you just made as you try to reach a deal to raise the debt limit and cut the deficit.  You keep saying that there needs to be this balanced approach of spending cuts and taxes.  But Republicans say flatly, they won’t –

THE PRESIDENT:  That they don’t want a balanced approach.

Q    They don’t want any tax increases, as they put it.  And the House Speaker says not only that he doesn’t support that, but that plan won’t — will not pass the House.  So my question is will you insist, ultimately, that a deal has to include those tax increases that you just laid out?  Is that an absolute red line for you?  And if it is, can you explain to us how that can possibly get through the Congress?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, I think that what we’ve seen in negotiations here in Washington is a lot of people say a lot of things to satisfy their base or to get on cable news, but that hopefully, leaders at a certain point rise to the occasion and they do the right thing for the American people.  And that’s what I expect to happen this time.  Call me naïve, but my expectation is that leaders are going to lead.

Now, I just want to be clear about what’s at stake here.  The Republicans say they want to reduce the deficit.  Every single observer who’s not an elected official, who’s not a politician, says we can’t reduce our deficit in the scale and scope that we need to without having a balanced approach that looks at everything.

Democrats have to accept some painful spending cuts that hurt some of our constituencies and we may not like.  And we’ve shown a willingness to do that for the greater good.  To say, look, there are some things that are good programs that are nice to have; we can’t afford them right now.

I, as Commander-in-Chief, have to have difficult conversations with the Pentagon saying, you know what, there’s fat here; we’re going to have to trim it out.  And Bob Gates has already done a good job identifying $400 billion in cuts, but we’re going to do more.  And I promise you the preference of the Pentagon would not to cut any more, because they feel like they’ve already given.

So we’re going to have to look at entitlements — and that’s always difficult politically.  But I’ve been willing to say we need to see where we can reduce the cost of health care spending and Medicare and Medicaid in the out-years, not by shifting costs on to seniors, as some have proposed, but rather by actually reducing those costs.  But even if we’re doing it in a smart way, that’s still tough politics.  But it’s the right thing to do.

So the question is, if everybody else is willing to take on their sacred cows and do tough things in order to achieve the goal of real deficit reduction, then I think it would be hard for the Republicans to stand there and say that the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we’re not willing to come to the table and get a deal done.  Or, we’re so concerned about protecting oil and gas subsidies for oil companies that are making money hand over fist — that’s the reason we’re not going to come to a deal.

I don’t think that’s a sustainable position.  And the truth of the matter is, if you talk to Republicans who are not currently in office, like Alan Simpson who co-chaired my bipartisan commission, he doesn’t think that’s a sustainable position.  Pete Domenici, Republican, co-chaired something with Alice Rivlin, the Democrat, says that’s — he doesn’t think that’s a sustainable position.  You can’t reduce the deficit to the levels that it needs to be reduced without having some revenue in the mix.

And the revenue we’re talking about isn’t coming out of the pockets of middle-class families that are struggling.  It’s coming out of folks who are doing extraordinarily well and are enjoying the lowest tax rates since before I was born.

If you are a wealthy CEO or a health — hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they have ever been.  They’re lower than they’ve been since the 1950s.  And you can afford it.  You’ll still be able to ride on your corporate jet; you’re just going to have to pay a little more.

And if we — I just want to emphasize what I said earlier.  If we do not have revenues, that means there are a bunch of kids out there who are not getting college scholarships.  If we do not have those revenues, then the kinds of cuts that would be required might compromise the National Weather Service.  It means that we would not be funding critical medical research.  It means that food inspection might be compromised.  And I’ve said to some of the Republican leaders, you go talk to your constituents, the Republican constituents, and ask them are they willing to compromise their kids’ safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break.  And I’m pretty sure what the answer would be.

So we’re going to keep on having these conversations.  And my belief is, is that the Republican leadership in Congress will, hopefully sooner rather than later, come to the conclusion that they need to make the right decisions for the country; that everybody else has been willing to move off their maximalist position — they need to do the same.

Q    You think they’ll ultimately give in?

THE PRESIDENT:  My expectation is that they’ll do the responsible thing.

Chuck Todd.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  There have been a lot of questions about the constitutionality — constitutional interpretations of a few decisions you’ve made, so I’ll just simply ask:  Do you believe the War Powers Act is constitutional?  Do you believe that the debt limit is constitutional, the idea that Congress can do this?  And do you believe that marriage is a civil right?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that was a hodgepodge.  (Laughter.)  Chuck, we’re going to assign you to the Supreme Court, man.  (Laughter.)

I’m not a Supreme Court justice so I’m not going to — putting my constitutional law professor hat on here.  Let me focus on, initially, the issue of Libya.  I want to talk about the substance of Libya because there’s been all kinds of noise about process and congressional consultation and so forth.  Let’s talk about concretely what’s happened.

Muammar Qaddafi, who, prior to Osama bin Laden, was responsible for more American deaths than just about anybody on the planet, was threatening to massacre his people.  And as part of an international coalition, under a U.N. mandate that is almost unprecedented, we went in and took out air defense systems so that an international coalition could provide a no-fly zone, could protect — provide humanitarian protection to the people on the ground.

I spoke to the American people about what we would do.  I said there would be no troops on the ground.  I said that we would not be carrying the lion’s share of this operation, but as members of NATO, we would be supportive of it because it’s in our national security interest and also because it’s the right thing to do.

We have done exactly what I said we would do.  We have not put any boots on the ground.  And our allies — who, historically, we’ve complained aren’t willing to carry enough of the load when it comes to NATO operations — have carried a big load when it comes to these NATO operations.  And as a consequence, we’ve protected thousands of people in Libya; we have not seen a single U.S. casualty; there’s no risks of additional escalation.  This operation is limited in time and in scope.

So I said to the American people, here’s our narrow mission.  We have carried out that narrow mission in exemplary fashion.  And throughout this process we consulted with Congress.  We’ve had 10 hearings on it.  We’ve sent reams of information about what the operations are.  I’ve had all the members of Congress over to talk about it.  So a lot of this fuss is politics.

And if you look substantively at what we’ve done, we have done exactly what we said to do, under a U.N. mandate, and we have protected thousands of lives in the process.  And as a consequence, a guy who was a state sponsor of terrorist operations against the United States of America is pinned down and the noose is tightening around him.

Now, when you look at the history of the War Powers resolution, it came up after the Vietnam War in which we had half-a-million soldiers there, tens of thousands of lives lost, hundreds of billions of dollars spent — and Congress said, you know what, we don’t want something like that happening again.  So if you’re going to start getting us into those kinds of commitments you’ve got to consult with Congress beforehand.

And I think that such consultation is entirely appropriate.  But do I think that our actions in any way violate the War Powers resolution?  The answer is no.  So I don’t even have to get to the constitutional question.  There may be a time in which there was a serious question as to whether or not the War Powers resolution — act was constitutional.  I don’t have to get to the question.

We have engaged in a limited operation to help a lot of people against one of the worst tyrants in the world — somebody who nobody should want to defend — and we should be sending a unified message to this guy that he should step down and give his people a fair chance to live their lives without fear.  And this suddenly becomes the cause célèbre for some folks in Congress?  Come on.

So you had, what, a three-parter?  (Laughter.)  What are the other two?

Q    There is some question about the constitutionality of the War Powers Act.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m just saying I don’t have to reach it.  That’s a good legal answer.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me start by saying that this administration, under my direction, has consistently said we cannot discriminate as a country against people on the basis of sexual orientation.  And we have done more in the two and a half years that I’ve been in here than the previous 43 Presidents to uphold that principle, whether it’s ending “don’t ask, don’t tell,” making sure that gay and lesbian partners can visit each other in hospitals, making sure that federal benefits can be provided to same-sex couples.  Across the board — hate crimes  — we have made sure that that is a central principle of this administration, because I think it’s a central principle of America.

Now, what we’ve also done is we’ve said that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional.  And so we’ve said we cannot defend the federal government poking its nose into what states are doing and putting the thumb on the scale against same-sex couples.

What I’ve seen happen over the last several years, and what happened in New York last week I think was a good thing, because what you saw was the people of New York having a debate, talking through these issues.  It was contentious; it was emotional; but, ultimately, they made a decision to recognize civil marriage.  And I think that’s exactly how things should work.

And so I think it is — I think it is important for us to work through these issues — because each community is going to be different and each state is going to be different — to work through them.  In the meantime, we filed a — we filed briefs before the Supreme Court that say we think that any discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgenders is subject to heightened scrutiny, and we don’t think that DOMA is unconstitutional [sic].  And so I think the combination of what states are doing, what the courts are doing, the actions that we’re taking administratively, all are how the process should work.

Q    Are you at all uncomfortable that there could be different rules in different states, you know, and for somebody to make the argument that’s what we saw during segregation –

THE PRESIDENT:  Chuck, I think what you’re seeing is a profound recognition on the part of the American people that gays and lesbians and transgender persons are our brothers, our sisters, our children, our cousins, our friends, our co-workers, and that they’ve got to be treated like every other American.  And I think that principle will win out.  It’s not going to be perfectly smooth, and it turns out that the President — I’ve discovered since I’ve been in this office — can’t dictate precisely how this process moves.  But I think we’re moving in a direction of greater equality and I think that’s a good thing.

Julianna.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I only have a two-parter.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks.

Q    Are you concerned that the current debate over debt and deficits is preventing you from taking the kind of decisive and more balanced action needed to create jobs in this country, which is the number one concern for Americans?

And also, one of the impediments to job growth that the business community repeatedly cites is the regulatory environment.  So do you think that the NLRB complaint against Boeing, that this has created some of the — is an example of the kinds of regulations that chill job growth, and also that you yourself have called “just plain dumb”?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s important to understand that deficit reduction, debt reduction, should be part of an overall package for job growth over the long term.  It’s not the only part of it, but it’s an important part of it.

So as I mentioned at the top, I think it’s important for us to look at rebuilding our transportation infrastructure in this country.  That could put people back to work right now — construction workers back to work right now.  And it would get done work that America needs to get done.  We used to have the best roads, the best bridges, the best airports.  We don’t anymore.  And that’s not good for our long-term competitiveness.

So we could put people to work right now and make sure that we’re in a good position to win the future, as well.  I think –

Q    — spending and (inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to get to it.  I think that it’s important for us to look at the tax code and figure out, are there ways that we can simplify it and also build on the work that we’ve already done, for example, saying to small businesses or start-up businesses, you don’t have to pay capital gains when you’re in start-up mode, because we want you to get out there and start a business.  That’s important.  Making sure that SBA is helping to get financing to small businesses, that’s important.

So there are a whole range of things that we can be doing.  I think these trade deals will be important — because right now South Korea, frankly, has a better deal when it comes to our trading relationship than we do.  Part of the reason I want to pass this trade deal is you see a whole bunch of Korean cars here in the United States and you don’t see any American cars in Korea.  So let’s rebalance that trading relationship.  That’s why we should get this passed.

So there are a range of things that we could be doing right now.  Deficit and debt reduction should be seen as part of that overall process, because I think if businesses feel confident that we’ve got our act together here in Washington, that not only is the government not going to default but we’re also preparing for a future in which the population is getting older and we’re going to have more expenses on the Medicare side and Social Security, that businesses will feel more confident about investing here in the United States of America.

So I don’t think they’re contradictory.  And as I’ve said before, certainly in my job, but I think Congress, as well, they’ve got to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.  So we can focus on jobs at the same time as we’re focusing on debt and deficit reduction.

Now, one of the things that my administration has talked about is, is there, in fact, a bunch of — a tangle of regulations out there that are preventing businesses from growing and expanding as quickly as they should.  Keep in mind that the business community is always complaining about regulations.  When unemployment is at 3 percent and they’re making record profits, they’re going to still complain about regulations because, frankly, they want to be able to do whatever they think is going to maximize their profits.

I’ve got an obligation to make sure that we’re upholding smart regulations that protect our air and protect our water and protect our food.  If you’re flying on a plane, you want to make sure that there are some regulations in place to assure safety in air travel, right?  So there are some core regulations that we’ve got to maintain.

But what I have done — and this is unprecedented, by the way, no administration has done this before — is I’ve said to each agency, don’t just look at current regulations — or don’t just look at future regulations, regulations that we’re proposing, let’s go backwards and look at regulations that are already on the books, and if they don’t make sense, let’s get rid of them.  And we are in the process of doing that, and we’ve already identified changes that could potentially save billions of dollars for companies over the next several years.

Now, you asked specifically about one decision that was made by the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB, and this relates to Boeing.  Essentially, the NLRB made a finding that Boeing had not followed the law in making a decision to move a plant.  And it’s an independent agency.  It’s going before a judge.  So I don’t want to get into the details of the case.  I don’t know all the facts.  That’s going to be up to a judge to decide.

What I do know is this — that as a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate.  They have to follow the law, but that’s part of our system.  And if they’re choosing to relocate here in the United States, that’s a good thing.  And what it doesn’t make — what I think defies common sense would be a notion that we would be shutting down a plant or laying off workers because labor and management can’t come to a sensible agreement.

So my hope is, is that even as this thing is working its way through, everybody steps back for a second and says, look, if jobs are being created here in the United States, let’s make sure that we’re encouraging that.  And we can’t afford to have labor and management fighting all the time, at a time when we’re competing against Germany and China and other countries that want to sell goods all around the world.  And obviously, the airplane industry is an area where we still have a huge advantage, and I want to make sure that we keep it.

Mark Lander.

Q    Thank you very much, Mr. President.  Yesterday, Admiral McRaven testified before Congress that he was concerned that there wasn’t a clear procedure to be followed if a terrorist were captured alive abroad.  The administration has also been clear that it doesn’t want to continue to send suspected terrorists to Guantanamo.

What message do you have for American men and women in uniform who are undertaking missions, like the very risky one to capture and kill bin Laden, about what they should do in the event that they capture someone alive?  And does the lack of these clear procedures raise the risk that forces might be more inclined to kill suspected terrorists in the field, rather than capture them alive, thus depriving the U.S. of the intelligence that they could provide?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, my top priority in each and every one of these situations is to make sure that we’re apprehending those who would attack the United States; that we are getting all the intelligence that we can out of these individuals, in a way that’s consistent with due process of law; and that we try them, we prosecute them, in a way that’s consistent with rule of law.

And, frankly, there are going to be different dispositions of the case depending on the situation.  And there are going to be sometimes where a military commission may be appropriate.  There are going to be some times where Article III courts are appropriate in terms of prosecution.  And we do have a process to work through all the agencies — Department of Defense, Department of Justice, FBI, anybody else who might be involved in these kinds of operations — to think through on a case-by-case basis how a particular individual should be dealt with.

And I think that when it comes to our men and women in uniform who might be carrying out these missions, the instructions are not going to be based on whether or not the lawyers can sort out how we detain them or how we prosecute them.  Their mission is to make sure that they apprehend the individual; they do so safely with minimum risk to American lives.  And that’s always going to be the priority, is just carrying out the mission.  And that message is sent consistently to our men and women in uniform anytime they start carrying out one of these missions.

But I think it’s important to understand, and the American people need to be assured that anytime we initiate a mission like this, our top priorities are making sure this person is not able to carry out attacks against the United States and that we’re able to obtain actionable intelligence from those individuals.  And so that mitigates against this danger that you’re suggesting that our main goal is going to be to kill these individuals as opposed to potentially capturing them.  Okay?

Mike Emanuel, FOX.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last week when you gave your Afghanistan drawdown speech, the word “victory,” in terms of the overall war in Afghanistan, was not in your speech.  So I’m wondering, sir, if you can define for the 100,000 troops you have in harm’s way in Afghanistan “victory” in the war, and for their families, as well, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I didn’t use “victory” in my West Point speech, either.  What I said was we can be successful in our mission, which is narrowly drawn, and that is to make sure that al Qaeda cannot attack the United States of America or our allies or our interests overseas, and to make sure that we have an Afghan government that — and an Afghan people that can provide for their own security.

We are being successful in those missions.  And the reason that we’re in a position to draw down 10,000 troops this year and a total of 33,000 troops by the end of next summer is precisely because of the extraordinary work of our men and women in uniform.  What they’ve been able to do is to severely cripple al Qaeda’s capacities.

Obviously bin Laden got the most attention, but even before the bin Laden operation we had decimated the middle ranks and some of the upper ranks of al Qaeda.  They’re having a great deal of difficulty operating, a great deal of difficulty communicating and financing themselves, and we are going to keep the pressure on.  And in part that’s because of the extraordinary sacrifices that have been made by our men and women in uniform in Afghanistan.

What we’ve also been able to do is to ramp up the training of Afghan forces.  So we’ve got an additional 100,000 Afghan troops, both Army and police, that have been trained as a consequence of this surge.  And that is going to give the Afghans more capacity to defend themselves because it is in our national interest to make sure that you did not have a collapse of Afghanistan in which extremist elements could flood the zone once again, and over time al Qaeda might be in a position to rebuild itself.

So what I laid out was a plan in which we are going to be drawing down our troops from Afghanistan after 10 very long years and an enormous sacrifice by our troops.  But we will draw them in a — draw them down in a responsible way that will allow Afghanistan to defend itself and will give us the operational capacity to continue to put pressure on al Qaeda until that network is entirely defeated.

Q    — the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel yesterday, sir?  And does that concern you that Afghan forces may not be able to step up if these guys are able to attack a high-profile target in the nation’s capital?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, keep in mind the drawdown hasn’t begun.  So we understood that Afghanistan is a dangerous place, that the Taliban is still active, and that there are still going to be events like this on occasion.  The question is, in terms of overall trend, is Afghanistan capacity increasing.

Kabul, for example, which contains a huge proportion of the Afghan population as a whole, has been largely policed by Afghan forces for quite some time.  And they’ve done a reasonably good job.  Kabul is much safer than it was, and Afghan forces in Kabul are much more capable than they were.

That doesn’t mean that there are not going to be events like this potentially taking place, and that will probably go on for some time.  Our work is not done.  But as I said in my speech, the tide of war is receding.  We have shifted to a transition phase.  And much like we’ve seen in Iraq, where we’ve drawn down our troops, the remainder of our troops will be coming out by the end of this year, but Iraq has been able to maintain a democratic government and to tamp down violence there — we think a similar approach makes sense in Afghanistan.

But even in Iraq, you still see the occasional attack.  These are still countries that are digging themselves out of a lot of war, a lot of conflict.  They’re dangerous places.  And so they’re not going to be perfectly safe, even if we were there.  But we can improve the chances for the Afghan people to defend themselves.

Jim Sciutto.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You’re aware that Senators Kerry and McCain have a proposal on the Senate floor to give you the leeway to continue operations in Libya for a further year.  You’ve just said that this, from the beginning, has been an operation limited in time and scope.  Initially you said days, not weeks.  Are you prepared, are the American people prepared for this operation, with American support, to continue for a further year?  And is there any other definition of success than Qaddafi being removed from power?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, Jim, just a slight correction.  What I told the American people was that the initial phase where Americans were in the lead would take days, perhaps weeks.  And that’s exactly what happened, right?  I mean, after — around two weeks, a little less than two weeks, we had transitioned where NATO had taken full control of the operation.  So promise made, promise kept.

Second, I think when you have the former Republican nominee for President, John McCain, and the former nominee for President on the Democratic side, John Kerry, coming together to support what we’re doing in Libya, that should tell the American people that this is important.  And I very much appreciate their efforts in that regard.

Third, when it comes to our definitions of success, the U.N. mandate has said that we are there to make sure that you do not see a massacre directed against Libyan civilians by the Libyan regime.  The Libyan regime’s capacity has been greatly reduced as a consequence of our operation.  That’s already been successful.  What we’ve seen both in the East and in the West is that opposition forces have been able to mobilize themselves and start getting organized, and people are starting to see the possibility of a more peaceful future on the horizon.

What is also true is, as long as Qaddafi is still presenting himself as the head of the Libyan government, and as long as he still controls large numbers of troops, the Libyan people are going to be in danger of counter-offensives and of retribution.  So there is no doubt that Qaddafi stepping down from power is — from the international community’s perspective — going to be the primary way that we can assure that the overall mission of Libya’s people being protected is accomplished.

And I just want to point out — I know it’s something you know — the International Criminal Court identified Qaddafi as having violated international law, having committed war crimes.  What we’ve seen is reports of troops engaging in horrible acts, including potentially using rape as a weapon of war.  And so when you have somebody like that in charge of large numbers of troops, I think it would be hard for us to feel confident that the Libyan people are going to be protected unless he steps down.

Now, what that means, whether there’s the possibility of Libyans arriving at some sort of political settlement, that I think is something that ultimately the Libyan people are going to have to make a decision about — because the international community is there in service of that broader goal, of a peaceful Libya.

Q    Would you accept a political settlement with him involved as success from the American perspective?

THE PRESIDENT:  I would accept him stepping down so that he is not directing armed forces against the Libyan people.  He needs to step down.  He needs to go.

Laura Meckler.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  In these debt talks, would you accept — would you like to see some sort of tax breaks aimed at stimulating the economy, even though that would of course add to the deficit itself?

And I’d also like to follow up on one of your earlier answers about same-sex marriage.  You said that it’s a positive step that so many states, including New York, are moving towards that.  Does that mean that you personally now do support same-sex marriage, putting aside what individual states decide?  Is that your personal view?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not going to make news on that today.  (Laughter.)  Good try, though.

And with respect to the deficit and debt talks and where we need to go, I do think it’s important, since we’re looking at how do we reduce the debt and deficit both in a 10-year window as well as beyond a 10-year window, to understand that one of the most important things we can do for debt and deficit reduction is to grow the economy.

And so if there are steps that in the short term may reduce the amount of cash in the treasury but in the long term mean that we’re growing at 3.5 percent instead of 2.5 percent, then those ideas are worth exploring.

Obviously that was what we did in December during the lame duck session, when Democrats and Republicans came together and we said, you know what, a payroll tax cut makes sense in order to boost the economy; unemployment insurance makes sense in order to boost the economy.  All that stuff puts money in people’s pockets at a time when they’re still struggling to dig themselves out of this recession.  And so the American people have an extra thousand dollars, on average, in their pockets because of the tax cuts that we initiated.  And that has helped cushion some of the tough stuff that happened in the first six months of this year, including the effects on oil prices as a consequence of what happened in the Middle East as well as what happened in Japan.

I think that it makes perfect sense for us to take a look at can we extend the payroll tax, for example, an additional year, and other tax breaks for business investment that could make a big difference in terms of creating more jobs right now.

What we need to do is to restore business confidence and the confidence of the American people that we’re on track — that we’re not going to get there right away, that this is a tough slog, but that we still are moving forward.  And I think that it makes sense, as we’re looking at an overall package, to see, are there some things that we can do to sustain the recovery, so long as the overall package achieves our goals — the goals that I set out, which is $4 trillion within a 10-to 12-year window, and making sure that we’re bending the costs of things like health care over the long term.

Q    I’m sorry, I know you don’t want to say anything further on the same-sex marriage issue, but what you said before really led me to believe that that’s what is in your personal mind.  And I’m wondering what’s the distinction you’re drawing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Laura, I think this has been asked and answered.  I’ll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one, all right?  And that won’t be today.  (Laughter.)

Q    That’s going to be — (inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, exactly.  I thought you’d like that one.  (Laughter.)

Antonieta Cádiz?  There you are.

Q    Thank you very much, Mr. President.  First, if you receive a mandatory E-verify bill only without legalization, are you planning to veto that deal?

And second, on Fast and Furious, members of Congress and the government of Mexico are still waiting for answers.  Are you planning to replace ATF leadership?  And when can we expect the results of the current investigation?

THE PRESIDENT:  On the second question, as you know, my attorney general has made clear that he certainly would not have ordered gun running to be able to pass through into Mexico.  The investigation is still pending.  I’m not going to comment on a current investigation.  I’ve made very clear my views that that would not be an appropriate step by the ATF, and we got to find out how that happened.  As soon as the investigation is completed, I think appropriate actions will be taken.

With respect to E-verify, we need comprehensive immigration reform.  I’ve said it before.  I will say it again.  I will say it next week.  And I’ll say it six months from now.  We’ve got to have a system that makes sure that we uphold our tradition as a nation of laws and that we also uphold our tradition as a nation of immigrants.  And that means tough border security, going after employers that are illegally hiring and exploiting workers, making sure that we also have a pathway for legal status for those who are living in the shadows right now.

We may not be able to get everything that I would like to see in a package, but we have to have a balanced package.  E-verify can be an important enforcement tool if it’s not riddled with errors, if U.S. citizens are protected — because what I don’t want is a situation in which employers are forced to set up a system that they can’t be certain works.  And we don’t want to expose employers to the risk where they end up rejecting a qualified candidate for a job because the list says that that person is an illegal immigrant, and it turns out that the person isn’t an illegal immigrant.  That wouldn’t be fair for the employee and would probably get the employer in trouble as well.

So I think the goal right now is to let’s continue to see if we can perfect the E-verify system.  Let’s make sure that we have safeguards in place to prevent the kind of scenarios that I talked about.  But let’s also not lose sight of some of the other components to immigration reform.  For example, making sure that DREAM Act kids — kids who have grown up here in the United States, think of themselves as Americans, who are not legal through no fault of their own, and who are ready to invest and give back to our country and go to school and fight in our military and start businesses here — let’s make sure that those kids can stay.

We need to have a more balanced approach than just a verification system.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t have an answer as to whether the investigation is completed yet, and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on the investigation if I don’t — if it’s not yet completed.

Jessica Yellin.  Congratulations, your first question here.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  No pressure.  You’re going to do great.  (Laughter.)

Q    Thank you.  Your administration has laid out four different dates by which you’ve said that the debt ceiling must be raised or the U.S. would face potential dire consequences.  Three of those dates have come and gone and we haven’t faced financial calamity.  Some of your critics have argued that these are then scare tactics to force a deal.  So why should the American people believe that the August 2nd deadline is the final deadline by which a deal must be raised?  And would you also spell out for us what you believe will happen if the debt ceiling is not raised by that date?

THE PRESIDENT:  Jessica, let’s be clear.  We haven’t given out four different dates.  We have given out dates that are markers for us getting into trouble.  It’s the equivalent of you’re driving down the street and the yellow light starts flashing.  The yellow light is flashing.  Now, it hasn’t been a red light yet.  So what Tim Geithner has said is, technically speaking, we’re in a position now where we’re having to do a whole bunch of things to make sure that our bills are paid.

By August 2nd, we run out of tools to make sure that all our bills are paid.  So that is a hard deadline.  And I want everybody to understand that this is a jobs issue.  This is not an abstraction.  If the United States government, for the first time, cannot pay its bills, if it defaults, then the consequences for the U.S. economy will be significant and unpredictable.  And that is not a good thing.

We don’t know how capital markets will react.  But if capital markets suddenly decide, you know what, the U.S. government doesn’t pay its bills, so we’re going to start pulling our money out, and the U.S. Treasury has to start to raise interest rates in order to attract more money to pay off our bills, that means higher interest rates for businesses; that means higher interest rates for consumers.  So all the headwinds that we’re already experiencing in terms of the recovery will get worse.

That’s not my opinion.  I think that’s a consensus opinion.  And that means that job growth will be further stymied, it will be further hampered, as a consequence of that decision.  So that’s point number one.

Point number two, I want to address what I’ve been hearing from some quarters, which is, well, maybe this debt limit thing is not really that serious; we can just pay interest on the debt.  This idea has been floating around in some Republican circles.

This is the equivalent of me saying, you know what, I will choose to pay my mortgage, but I’m not going to pay my car note.  Or I’m going to pay my car note but I’m not going to pay my student loan.  Now, a lot of people in really tough situations are having to make those tough decisions.  But for the U.S. government to start picking and choosing like that is not going to inspire a lot of confidence.

Moreover, which bills are we going to decide to pay?  These guys have said, well, maybe we just pay the interest on — for bondholders.  So are we really going to start paying interest to Chinese who hold treasuries and we’re not going to pay folks their Social Security checks?  Or we’re not going to pay to veterans for their disability checks?  I mean, which bills, which obligations, are we going to say we don’t have to pay?

And last point I want to make about this.  These are bills that Congress ran up.  The money has been spent.  The obligations have been made.  So this isn’t a situation — I think the American people have to understand this — this is not a situation where Congress is going to say, okay, we won’t — we won’t buy this car or we won’t take this vacation.  They took the vacation.  They bought the car.  And now they’re saying maybe we don’t have to pay, or we don’t have to pay as fast as we said we were going to, or — that’s not how responsible families act.  And we’re the greatest nation on Earth, and we can’t act that way.

So this is urgent and it needs to get settled.

Q    So is August 2nd a yellow light or a red light?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think people should think of — look, I’m the President of the United States and I want to make sure that I am not engaging in scare tactics.  And I’ve tried to be responsible and somewhat restrained so that folks don’t get spooked.

August 2nd is a very important date.  And there’s no reason why we can’t get this done now.  We know what the options are out there.  This is not a technical problem any longer.  This is a matter of Congress going ahead and biting the bullet and making some tough decisions.  Because we know what the decisions are.  We’ve identified what spending cuts are possible.  We’ve identified what defense cuts are possible.  We’ve identified what health care cuts are possible.  We’ve identified what loopholes in the tax code can be closed that would also raise revenue.  We’ve identified what the options are.  And the question now is are we going to step up and get this done.

And, you know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time.  Malia is 13, Sasha is 10.

Q    Impressive.

THE PRESIDENT:  It is impressive.  They don’t wait until the night before.  They’re not pulling all-nighters.  (Laughter.)  They’re 13 and 10.  Congress can do the same thing.  If you know you’ve got to do something, just do it.

And I’ve got to say, I’m very amused when I start hearing comments about, well, the President needs to show more leadership on this.  Let me tell you something.  Right after we finished dealing with the government shutdown, averting a government shutdown, I called the leaders here together.  I said we’ve got to get done — get this done.  I put Vice President Biden in charge of a process — that, by the way, has made real progress — but these guys have met, worked through all of these issues.  I met with every single caucus for an hour to an hour and a half each — Republican senators, Democratic senators; Republican House, Democratic House.  I’ve met with the leaders multiple times.  At a certain point, they need to do their job.

And so, this thing, which is just not on the level, where we have meetings and discussions, and we’re working through process, and when they decide they’re not happy with the fact that at some point you’ve got to make a choice, they just all step back and say, well, you know, the President needs to get this done — they need to do their job.

Now is the time to go ahead and make the tough choices.  That’s why they’re called leaders.  And I’ve already shown that I’m willing to make some decisions that are very tough and will give my base of voters further reason to give me a hard time.  But it’s got to be done.

And so there’s no point in procrastinating.  There’s no point in putting it off.  We’ve got to get this done.  And if by the end of this week, we have not seen substantial progress, then I think members of Congress need to understand we are going to start having to cancel things and stay here until we get it done.

They’re in one week, they’re out one week.  And then they’re saying, Obama has got to step in.  You need to be here.  I’ve been here.  I’ve been doing Afghanistan and bin Laden and the Greek crisis.  You stay here.  Let’s get it done.

All right.  I think you know my feelings about that.  (Laughter.)

Caren Bohan.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You talked about the payroll tax holiday and possibly extending that.  Are you worried, though, that by adding a discussion of short-term measures on the economy into these discussions about long-term deficit reductions that that may complicate the conversation and make it harder to pass a debt limit?

THE PRESIDENT:  I will — let me put it this way.  If we’ve got a good deal on debt and deficit reduction that focuses not just on the 10-year window but also the long term, we will get it done.  And then we can argue about some other things — because I think that’s very important.

I will say that precisely because tough votes in Congress are often avoided, that it may make sense to also deal with something like a payroll tax cut at the same time — because it does have budget implications and the American people need to know that we’re focused on jobs and not just on deficit reduction, even though, as I said, deficit reduction helps to serve the job agenda.  I think they want to have some confidence that we’ve got a plan that’s helping right now.

But I don’t think it should be a complicating factor — because if Mitch McConnell and John Boehner came to me and said, all right, we’re ready to make a deal, here’s a balanced approach to debt and deficit reduction, but we want to argue about payroll tax cuts later, they’re not set to expire until the end of this year — if that was a situation that they presented, then I think we would have a serious conversation about that.  I would not discount that completely.

I do think that the steps that I talked about to deal with job growth and economic growth right now are vitally important to deficit reduction.  Just as deficit reduction is important to grow the economy and to create jobs — well, creating jobs and growing the economy also helps reduce the deficit.  If we just increased the growth rate by one percentage point, that would drastically bring down the long-term projections of the deficit, because people are paying more into the coffers and fewer people are drawing unemployment insurance.  It makes a huge difference.

And this may be sort of a good place to wrap up.  You know, every day I get letters from folks all around the country who show incredible resilience, incredible determination, but they are having a very, very tough time.  They’re losing their homes.  Some have lost their businesses.  Some have lost work and have not been able to find jobs for months, maybe a year, maybe a year and a half.  And they feel some desperation.  And some folks who are working just are having a tough time paying the bills because they haven’t seen their wages or incomes go up in 10 years, and the costs of everything else have gone up.

And every day that weighs on me.  Every minute of every day that weighs on me.  Because I ran for President precisely to make sure that we righted this ship and we start once again creating a situation where middle-class families and people who aspire to be in the middle class, if they’re working hard, then they’re living a better life.

Now, these structural changes in our economy that have been going on for a decade — in some cases, longer — they’re not going to be solved overnight.  But we know what to do.  We know that if we are educating our kids well, then they’re going to be more competitive.  We know that if we are investing in things like infrastructure, it pays off.

I was in Alcoa, in Iowa, one of our most successful companies.  They took a big hit during the recession, but they still invested $90 million in new equipment in a plant that makes airplane wings and parts for automobiles.  And they’ve bounced back.  They’ve hired back all their people and are increasing market share because they made those investments.

Well, just like a company like Alcoa, America has got to make some investments.  We know that we’ve got to get control of our deficit.  There are some things that aren’t going to solve all our problems but can make progress right now.  And the question is whether or not Democrats and Republicans are willing to put aside the expedience of short-term politics in order to get it done.

And these folks are counting on us.  They desperately want to believe that their leadership is thinking about them and not playing games.  And I think that if all the leadership here in Washington has the faces and the stories of those families in mind, then we will solve this debt limit issue; we will put in place steps like a payroll tax cut and infrastructure development; we’ll continue to fund education; we’ll hold true to our commitment to our seniors.

These are solvable problems, but it does require us just getting out of the short-term and, frankly, selfish approach that sometimes politics breeds.  We’ve got to think a bit long term.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END                              12:47 P.M. EDT

Dr. Andrew Bacevich’s Quacker

If you think American kids are ignorant about history, wait till you get a load of this historian.

Source:WSJ, 6-28-11

Andrew J. Bacevich: America Comes to Its Senses

Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, has an innovative foreign-policy theory. “At periodic intervals,” he argues in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece, “the American body politic” succumbs to “war fever,” which he defines as “a sort of delirium” whose symptoms are “delusions of grandeur and demented behavior.”

He offers a medical history beginning with the Spanish-American War: “Gripped by such a fever in 1898, Americans evinced an irrepressible impulse to liberate oppressed Cubans.” Once it was all over, “no one could quite explain what had happened or why.”

Then, “in 1917, the fever suddenly returned. Amid wild ravings about waging a war to end war, Americans lurched off to France. This time the affliction passed quickly, although the course of treatment proved painful: confinement to the charnel house of the Western Front, followed by bitter medicine administered at Versailles.”…

Were they really? Half a dozen years ago would be 2005, two years after Iraq was liberated from Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. By that time, there was no clamor for more “wars of choice.” To the contrary, opposition was mounting to the continuing American presence in Iraq. The next “war of choice” didn’t begin until just a few months ago, in Libya. (Bacevich obliquely acknowledges that last point, writing that “the post-9/11 fever . . . lingers most strongly in the Obama White House, where a keenness to express American ideals by dropping bombs persists”–though our recollection is that the “keenness” for intervention in Libya emanated from the State Department rather than the White House.)…READ MORE

Niall Ferguson: America’s Dumbest Budget Cut

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: Newsweek, 6-26-11

Why Republicans are wrong to put fiscal arithmetic ahead of global influence.

republicans-budget-ferguson

Emmanuel Dunand / AFP-Getty ImagesPeople outside the 2012 Republican candidates debate in New Hampshire. Bring the troops home. Considering how polarized American politics is supposed to be, the consensus on this one point verges on the supernatural.

President Obama recently announced a new schedule for scaling down the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. A total of 10,000 men will come home this year and a further 20,000 by the end of next summer. The surge is over.

This is not a declaration of victory. It is a declaration of bankruptcy. “From a fiscal standpoint, we’re spending too much money on Iraq and Afghanistan,” a senior administration official told The New York Times. “There’s a belief from a fiscal standpoint that this is cannibalizing too much of our spending.”

There was a time when Republicans—and not a few Democrats—would have been dismayed by such a retreat. Yet in their televised debate just a few days before the president’s announcement, the Republican presidential hopefuls vied with one another to out-dove him….READ MORE

Conrad Black: Returning to Jail for at Least a Year

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Conrad M. Black, once a media mogul whose newspaper empire spanned several continents, is headed back to prison after a federal judge ruled on Friday that he had not served enough time for defrauding investors.

Judge Amy J. St. Eve of United States District Court in Chicago, sentenced Mr. Black to three and a half years in prison after berating, then praising him. But prosecutors said he would be given credit for more than two years already served, meaning he will go back for little more than a year. As Judge St. Eve announced the sentence with Mr. Black standing expressionless before her, his 70-year-old wife, Barbara Amiel, fainted on a wooden courtroom bench. As she sprawled across the laps of other spectators, medics rushed in to attend to her.

In a 20-minute statement before he was sentenced, Mr. Black, 66, spoke confidently and philosophically, citing poetry and maintaining he had been falsely accused. At no point did he apologize….READ MORE

Full Text: President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan Military Withdrawal

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

Remarks by the President on the Way Forward in Afghanistan

East Room

8:01 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  Nearly 10 years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor.  This mass murder was planned by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security –- one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives.

In the days that followed, our nation was united as we struck at al Qaeda and routed the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Then, our focus shifted.  A second war was launched in Iraq, and we spent enormous blood and treasure to support a new government there.  By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year.  But al Qaeda’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive.  Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.

For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan.  When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives:  to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban’s momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country.  I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.

Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment.  Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals.  As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point.  After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead.  Our mission will change from combat to support.  By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

We’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength.  Al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11.  Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al Qaeda’s leadership.  And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al Qaeda had ever known.  This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11.  One soldier summed it up well.  “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget.  You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”

The information that we recovered from bin Laden’s compound shows al Qaeda under enormous strain.  Bin Laden expressed concern that al Qaeda had been unable to effectively replace senior terrorists that had been killed, and that al Qaeda has failed in its effort to portray America as a nation at war with Islam -– thereby draining more widespread support.  Al Qaeda remains dangerous, and we must be vigilant against attacks.  But we have put al Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.

In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds.  Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country.  Afghan security forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we’ve already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people.  In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.

Of course, huge challenges remain.  This is the beginning — but not the end –- of our effort to wind down this war.  We’ll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we’ve made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government.  And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.

We do know that peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement.  So as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban.  Our position on these talks is clear:  They must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution.  But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.

The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply:  No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies.  We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place.  We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely.  That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace.  What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures –- one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government.

Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.  No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to expand its participation in securing a more peaceful future for this war-torn region.  We’ll work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments.  For there should be no doubt that so long as I am President, the United States will never tolerate a safe haven for those who aim to kill us.  They cannot elude us, nor escape the justice they deserve.

My fellow Americans, this has been a difficult decade for our country.  We’ve learned anew the profound cost of war — a cost that’s been paid by the nearly 4,500 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and the over 1,500 who have done so in Afghanistan -– men and women who will not live to enjoy the freedom that they defended.  Thousands more have been wounded. Some have lost limbs on the battlefield, and others still battle the demons that have followed them home.

Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding.  Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way.  We’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country.  And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance.  These long wars will come to a responsible end.

As they do, we must learn their lessons.  Already this decade of war has caused many to question the nature of America’s engagement around the world.  Some would have America retreat from our responsibility as an anchor of global security, and embrace an isolation that ignores the very real threats that we face.  Others would have America over-extended, confronting every evil that can be found abroad.

We must chart a more centered course.  Like generations before, we must embrace America’s singular role in the course of human events.  But we must be as pragmatic as we are passionate; as strategic as we are resolute.  When threatened, we must respond with force –- but when that force can be targeted, we need not deploy large armies overseas.  When innocents are being slaughtered and global security endangered, we don’t have to choose between standing idly by or acting on our own.  Instead, we must rally international action, which we’re doing in Libya, where we do not have a single soldier on the ground, but are supporting allies in protecting the Libyan people and giving them the chance to determine their own destiny.

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded.  We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens.  We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others.  We stand not for empire, but for self-determination.  That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world.  We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home.  Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times.  Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource –- our people.  We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means.  We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy.  And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war.  For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.

In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.  To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care and benefits and opportunity that you deserve.

I met some of these patriotic Americans at Fort Campbell.  A while back, I spoke to the 101st Airborne that has fought to turn the tide in Afghanistan, and to the team that took out Osama bin Laden.  Standing in front of a model of bin Laden’s compound, the Navy SEAL who led that effort paid tribute to those who had been lost –- brothers and sisters in arms whose names are now written on bases where our troops stand guard overseas, and on headstones in quiet corners of our country where their memory will never be forgotten.  This officer — like so many others I’ve met on bases, in Baghdad and Bagram, and at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital -– spoke with humility about how his unit worked together as one, depending on each other, and trusting one another, as a family might do in a time of peril.

That’s a lesson worth remembering -– that we are all a part of one American family.  Though we have known disagreement and division, we are bound together by the creed that is written into our founding documents, and a conviction that the United States of America is a country that can achieve whatever it sets out to accomplish.  Now, let us finish the work at hand.  Let us responsibly end these wars, and reclaim the American Dream that is at the center of our story.  With confidence in our cause, with faith in our fellow citizens, and with hope in our hearts, let us go about the work of extending the promise of America -– for this generation, and the next.

May God bless our troops.  And may God bless the United States of America.

END           8:16 P.M. EDT

Political Buzz June 22, 2011: President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan Military Withdrawal

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

IN FOCUS: OBAMA’S ADDRESS ON AFGHANISTAN EXIT STRATEGY


White House Photo, Photo by Chuck Kennedy, 6/22/11

Obama announces that ‘surge’ troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by summer 2012: President Obama on Wednesday announced that 10,000 U.S. troops will come home from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and that 23,000 more will be withdrawn by next summer, a timeline that is more rapid than military commanders had wanted.
“America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home,” Obama said, speaking from the White House East Room.

Obama to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year: President Obama will announce in his address at 8 p.m. Wednesday that he will order home 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan this year and another 23,000 by the end of September 2012, according to administration officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
The plan, charting the U.S. military’s exit from America’s longest war, outlines the withdrawal of the 33,000 forces that Obama ordered to Afghanistan at the end of 2009, after a months-long strategy review meant to find ways of salvaging a flagging war.

“America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.” – President Obama, declaring that the United States had achieved its main goals in Afghanistan.

Text of President Obama’s Speech on Afghanistan: The following is the prepared text of President Obama’s speech regarding the troop pullout in Afghanistan, as provided by the White House…. – NYT, 6-22-11

  • LIVE BLOG: Obama’s Afghanistan speechWaPo, 6-22-11 
  • Obama’s day: Afghanistan speech: President Obama has some meetings today, but will spend most of his time preparing for tonight’s speech on a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan…. – USA Today, 6-22-11
  • Obama’s Afghanistan speech: Admitting the limits of American power: In November of 1986, Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev addressed the Politburo about his country’s futile war in Afghanistan. The conflict had already dragged on for six years, Gorbachev told his comrades, but no end was in sight. “In general, we haven’t found the key to resolving this problem,” the communist leader explained, according to Gregory Feifer’s book, The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan. “We need to finish this process as soon as possible.” That was especially true in a nation whose economy was groaning from the expense of the war. … – AP, 6-23-11
  • Obama Orders Troop Cuts in Afghanistan: President Obama declared Wednesday that the United States had largely achieved its goals in Afghanistan, setting in motion a timetable for the rapid withdrawal of American troops in an acknowledgement of the shifting threat in the region and fast-changing political and economic landscape in a war-weary America.
    Asserting that the country that served as a launching pad for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks no longer represented a terrorist threat to the United States, Mr. Obama declared that the “tide of war is receding.” And in a blunt acknowledgment of domestic economic strains, he said, “America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home.”
    Mr. Obama announced plans to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The remaining 20,000 troops from the 2009 “surge” of forces would leave by next summer, amounting to about a third of the 100,000 troops now in the country. He said the troop reductions would continue “at a steady pace,” bringing to an end America’s longest war — a conflict that has cost 1,500 American lives.
    The troop reductions, which came after a short but fierce internal debate, are both deeper and faster than the recommendations made by Mr. Obama’s military commanders, and they come as the president faces relentless budget pressures, an increasingly restive Congress and American public and a re-election campaign next year…. – NYT, 6-22-11
  • Obama speech reflects unease at home after decade of war: President Obama announced his troop withdrawal from Afghanistan Wednesday night, but the real surprise was how much time he spent clothing his decision in domestic concerns with an eye to U.S. politics.
    As expected the president explained how the surge in U.S. troops had worked in hindering Al Qaeda from finding a safe haven in Afghanistan. He mentioned the U.S. raid in which terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan as well. He also praised Afghanistan and Pakistan for their efforts while noting they needed to do more.
    All of that had been expected, as had been the pledge to withdraw 10,000 troops this year and the rest of the surge forces in 2012.
    But the president made it clear he was aware of the American weariness with the almost decade-long war and a desire in many quarters to use any peace dividend for domestic needs.
    “America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home,” Obama said…. – LAT, 6-22-11
  • Obama details plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan: President Obama announced that the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will begin with 10,000 troops this year, plus another 23,000 by the end of next summer. Gains have been made against the Taliban, he said, but the fight against al Qaeda will continue wherever necessary…. – CS Monitor, 6-22-11
  • Obama’s Middle Ground on Afghanistan Is Between a Rock and a Hard Place: By seeking the middle ground in unwinding U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, President Obama now finds himself on an island.
    In Wednesday night’s 13-minute address from the East Room of the White House, the president declared, “[T]he tide of war is receding,” and announced his decision to remove 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year and 23,000 more by next summer. That pace is much faster than his military commanders had recommended, but not fast enough to please his base…. – PBS Newshour, 6-23-11
  • Joint chiefs chairman: Obama Afghanistan plan incurs risk: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress today that President Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan is more risky than the military proposed, but still workable.
    “The president’s decisions are more aggressive and incur more risk than I was originally prepared to accept,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
    “More force for more time is, without doubt, the safer course,” Mullen said. “But that does not necessarily make it the best course. Only the president, in the end, can really determine the acceptable level of risk we must take. I believe he has done so.”… – USA Today, 6-23-11

    THE SPEECH

  • President Obama on the Way Forward in Afghanistan: By the time I took office, the war in Afghanistan had entered its seventh year. But al Qaeda’s leaders had escaped into Pakistan and were plotting new attacks, while the Taliban had regrouped and gone on the offensive. Without a new strategy and decisive action, our military commanders warned that we could face a resurgent al Qaeda and a Taliban taking over large parts of Afghanistan.
    For this reason, in one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve made as President, I ordered an additional 30,000 American troops into Afghanistan. When I announced this surge at West Point, we set clear objectives: to refocus on al Qaeda, to reverse the Taliban’s momentum, and train Afghan security forces to defend their own country. I also made it clear that our commitment would not be open-ended, and that we would begin to draw down our forces this July.
    Tonight, I can tell you that we are fulfilling that commitment. Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security. We’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength….
    The goal that we seek is achievable, and can be expressed simply: No safe haven from which al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland or our allies. We won’t try to make Afghanistan a perfect place. We will not police its streets or patrol its mountains indefinitely. That is the responsibility of the Afghan government, which must step up its ability to protect its people, and move from an economy shaped by war to one that can sustain a lasting peace. What we can do, and will do, is build a partnership with the Afghan people that endures –- one that ensures that we will be able to continue targeting terrorists and supporting a sovereign Afghan government….
    In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power -– it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We’re a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire, but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab world. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.
    Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home. Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times. Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource –- our people. We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means. We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy. And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war. For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.
    America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.
    In this effort, we draw inspiration from our fellow Americans who have sacrificed so much on our behalf. To our troops, our veterans and their families, I speak for all Americans when I say that we will keep our sacred trust with you, and provide you with the care and benefits and opportunity that you deserve. – WH, 6-22-11Transcript: Speech Full-TextMp4Mp3

    REACTIONS

  • HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER, REPUBLICAN: I am pleased the president recognizes that success in Afghanistan is paramount. Continuing to degrade al Qaeda’s capabilities in Afghanistan and the surrounding region must take priority over any calendar dates. It’s important that we retain the flexibility necessary to reconsider troop levels and respond to changes in the security environment should circumstances on the ground warrant.
  • SENATOR JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRAT, CHAIRMAN SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The president correctly laid out the next phase of our strategy in Afghanistan — a transition to Afghan control that begins by redeploying the 33,000 surge troops starting next month and ending next summer, and puts the Afghans in complete control by 2014. In doing so, he kept the commitment he made to the American people 18 months ago at West Point. As a result of the gains made since the course correction outlined at West Point, we’re now operating from a position of strength.
  • SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, ARIZONA REPUBLICAN: I am concerned that the withdrawal plan that President Obama announced tonight poses an unnecessary risk to the hard-won gains that our troops have made thus far in Afghanistan and to the decisive progress that must still be made. This is not the ‘modest’ withdrawal that I and others had hoped for and advocated.
  • SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, CONNECTICUT INDEPENDENT: I am disappointed by the pace and timing of the withdrawal of those troops the President announced tonight. I had hoped the president would draw down our forces more cautiously and am therefore concerned that the accelerated withdrawal which the president has ordered will put at risk the substantial gains we have made in Afghanistan.
  • SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR, SENIOR REPUBLICAN ON SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: No rational review would commit nearly 100,000 troops and $100 billion a year to Afghanistan.
    The country does not hold that level of strategic value for us, especially at a time when our nation is confronting a debt crisis and our armed forces are being strained by repeated combat deployments.
  • JEFF DRESSLER, A MILITARY ANALYST AT THE INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: My sense is that the military in general was in favor of a much smaller withdrawal. Something they could have lived with was a couple thousand troops. But the fact is the conditions on the ground don’t merit any sort of withdrawal — it’s not time to be pulling out a substantive amount of troops. There’s a lot that has to be done in the east and you’re not out of the woods in the south yet.
  • LAWRENCE KORB, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS AND FORMER ASSISTANT DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it’s also important that you send a signal to the government of Afghanistan that they are going to have to step up and take over. … You’re also balancing this against other U.S. interests. If the United States doesn’t have any money, we’re not going to be able to protect our interest in others areas. It’s obviously going to save some money.
  • CHRISTOPHER PREBLE, DIRECTOR OF FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, CATO INSTITUTE: Despite reports that the president’s decision signals a move toward a narrowly focused counter-terrorism mission, the fact is nearly 70,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan after this drawdown.
    Such a force is unnecessary, and a far less costly alternative is available to us. We could keep pressure on the Taliban, and deny al Qaeda a sanctuary, with perhaps as few as 10,000 troops in Afghanistan. We should be moving rapidly in that direction. President Obama hasn’t been, and this announcement suggests that he won’t.
  • TODD HARRISON, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND BUDGETARY ASSESSMENTS: With the faster drawdown that is being proposed, they (the administration) will actually save about $17 billion in ‘FY12 compared to what they had requested. That will bring the war budget down by about 15 percent, so that’s a significant reduction in war funding. Relative to the overall DOD (Department of Defense), it’s not that much of a reduction and relative to the overall federal budget and the deficit, this does not make much of a difference.
  • GOP hopefuls stake out Afghanistan positions: As President Obama called Wednesday night for scaling down troop numbers in Afghanistan over the next year, differences over how to approach the conflict emerged among GOP presidential hopefuls, with some calling for a faster withdrawal and others arguing for a more conditions-based drawdown.
    The contrast among 2012 Republican candidates reflects a change in the party’s hawkish orthodoxy, unease over spending and crumbling support for the war. The most recent poll shows that nearly three quarters of Americans believe a substantial number of troops should come home this summer. USA Today, 6-22-11
  • Jon M. Huntsman Jr.: Said the nation faces “a generational opportunity to reset our position in the world in a way that makes sense for our security as well as our budget.” “Now it is time we move to a focused counter-terror effort which requires significantly fewer boots on the ground than the President discussed tonight. We need a safe but rapid withdrawal which encourages Afghans to assume responsibility, while leaving in place a strong counter intelligence and special forces effort proportionate to the threat.”
  • Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, in a Fox News interview: “When America goes to war, America needs to win. We need to close out the war successfully, and what that means now is not nation-building. What it means is to follow General Petraeus’s advice and to get those security forces built up where they can pick up the slack as we draw down.”
  • Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney: “We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we shouldn’t adhere to an arbitrary timetable on the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan. This decision should not be based on politics or economics.”
  • Newt Gingrich: “Given the reality of the larger war that President Obama refuses to name, it’s not responsible to make a decision on Afghanistan in isolation just in order to meet a domestic political agenda.”
  • Military Experts Scrutinize Obama’s Drawdown Plan: Military analysts weigh in on President Obama’s new plan to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan…. – PBS Newshour, 6-23-11
  • Analysis: U.S. forces face new challenges after drawdown: The United States and its allies have made dramatic progress in Afghanistan over the past year, seizing the initiative from the Taliban and driving insurgents from key strongholds in the south.
    The challenge for military commanders now will be to consolidate those gains and shift the military main effort to tackle insurgent strongholds in the east — all with fewer troops. The plan is a “compromise that will be problematic to many of the players,” warned David Barno, a retired three-star general who commanded coalition forces in Afghanistan and is now a senior adviser at the Center for a New American Security.
    Several commanders in Afghanistan had said reductions should be made so as to not jeopardize gains.
    “Ultimately the commanders on the ground will be able to reshape the plan” to achieve objectives, Barno said…. – USA Today, 6-22-11
  • Analysts rate Obama’s Afghanistan address: President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night that all the 33,000 additional U.S. forces he ordered to Afghanistan in December 2009 will be home within 15 months.
    In a nationally televised address from the East Room of the White House, Obama said 10,000 of the “surge” forces would withdraw by the end of this year, and the other 23,000 would leave Afghanistan by September 2012.
    At the same time, Obama said the drawdown would help the United States begin to refocus attention and resources on efforts to resolve economic and other problems and to unify a politically divided nation.
    Here’s how CNN analysts reacted to the address…

    Bergen: President for first time acknowledged talks with Taliban
    Borger: Difficult to separate the military decision from political decision
    Gergen: Obama winding down Iraq, Afghanistan wars like he said he would
    Zakaria: Kept with his basic strategic rationale from the start

    - CNN, 6-22-11

David McCullough: Textbooks “so politically correct as to be comic”

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: WSJ, 6-18-11

‘We’re raising young people who are, by and large, historically illiterate,” David McCullough tells me on a recent afternoon in a quiet meeting room at the Boston Public Library. Having lectured at more than 100 colleges and universities over the past 25 years, he says, “I know how much these young people—even at the most esteemed institutions of higher learning—don’t know.” Slowly, he shakes his head in dismay. “It’s shocking.”

He’s right. This week, the Department of Education released the 2010 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which found that only 12% of high-school seniors have a firm grasp of our nation’s history. And consider: Just 2% of those students understand the significance of Brown v. Board of Education….

The 77-year-old author has been doing his part—he’s written nine books over the last four decades, including his most recent, “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris,” a story of young Americans who studied in a culturally dominant France in the 19th century to perfect their talents. He’s won two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

“History is a source of strength,” he says. “It sets higher standards for all of us.” But helping to ensure that the next generation measures up, he says, will be a daunting task….READ MORE

Robert Jay Lifton: Life of a Psychohistorian

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: NYT, 6-17-11

Review by Maurice Isserman

For many years, Robert Jay Lifton has been recognized as a leading “psychohistorian,” or as he prefers to define his vocation, a “historically minded psychiatrist.” Psychohistory is the field of inquiry that explores the psychological motives of individuals and groups of historical actors, as well as the psychological impact of historical events. Lifton is perhaps best known as the author of “Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima,” published in 1967, which received a National Book Award. In that book, he described how the hibakusha, those residents of Hiroshima who survived the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945, lived with deep and shameful feelings of being “inwardly poisoned” by their experience, as well as an embittered “sense of special knowledge” that set them apart from those who had not witnessed the horrors of the attack.

“Witness to an Extreme Century” is a memoir of Lifton’s life and career, and as one is forewarned by its title, he doesn’t offer readers many laughs. Still, one passage toward the end did make me smile. “Dad,” he reports his daughter, Natasha, once asking him, “have you ever considered taking up more cheerful subjects?”

Apparently not. Lifton, whose academic affiliations include stints at the City University of New York, Yale and, most recently, Harvard, has devoted himself to studying how individuals have coped with extreme circumstances: war, torture, genocide. In addition to Hiroshima survivors, his subjects have included Vietnam veterans, the victims of Chinese Communist “thought reform,” and German concentration camp doctors.

“Witness to an Extreme Century” is a work of intellectual autobiography. Mentors, including Lifton’s fellow psychohistorian Erik Erikson, the sociologist David Riesman and the anthropologist Margaret Mead, are discussed at length, while his parents, children and wife make only occasional appearances — although there is a tribute in the epilogue to his spouse, the well-known author Betty Jean Lifton, who died in November 2010….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 16, 2011: Weinergate: Rep. Anthony Weiner Announces his Resignation after Sexting Scandal

POLITICAL HEADLINES

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

IN FOCUS: REP. ANTHONY ANNOUNCES HIS RESIGNATION AFTER SEXTING SCANDAL

Congressman Anthony Weiner announced his resignation Thursday after weeks of being embroiled in a scandal over lewd text messages.
Craig Warga/News

Congressman Anthony Weiner announced his resignation Thursday after weeks of being embroiled in a scandal over lewd text messages.

Rep. Anthony Weiner announces his resignation: Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) announced his resignation Thursday in Brooklyn, again apologizing for his actions. At a news conference where he was heckled by bystanders, he said “the distraction I have caused” had made it impossible for him to remain in office.
The news conference comes hours after a Democratic source claimed Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) plans to step down from his House seat Thursday after revelations of his lewd online exchanges with women.

Rep. Anthony Weiner Resignation Speech: “I’m here to apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment that I have caused. I make this apology to my neighbors and my constituents, but I make it particularly to my wife, Huma…. I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do, but the unfortunately, the distraction I created has made that impossible… Today I announce my resignation, so my colleagues can get back to work and my neighbors choose a new representative, and most importantly, that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage that I have caused.”

  • PHOTOS: WEINER’S WOMEN: Anthony Weiner’s ‘sextual’ partners: PHOTOS Women of Weiner-Gate: Porn star, college student, single mom among his ‘sext’ pals.
    TIMELINE: THE RISE AND FALL OF WEINER
  • Weiner resigns in wake of sexting scandal: Embattled New York Rep. Anthony Weiner is resigning from Congress, saying he cannot continue in office amid the intense controversy surrounding sexually explicit messages he sent online to several women…. – AP, 6-16-11
  • Live blog: Rep. Anthony Weiner resigns: We live blogged Rep. Anthony Weiner’s resignation announcement. The New York Democrat has admitted he sent sexually explicit messages to women through Twitter and Facebook.
    Weiner spoke at the Council Center for Senior Citizens in Brooklyn, in the district he’s represented since 1998…. – USA Today, 6-16-11
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner resigns after online sex scandal: Embattled Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned today after admitting to sexually charged relationships with women on Facebook and Twitter.
    “Today I announce my resignation … so my colleagues can get back to work and my neighbors can choose a new representative,” the New York Democrat said, in brief remarks at a senior citizens center in Brooklyn.
    A Democratic source, who asked for anonymity, confirmed to USA TODAY that Weiner informed Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of his plans last night while she was attending the annual congressional picnic at the White House…. – USA Today, 6-16-11
  • Weiner Quits House Seat Over ‘Mistakes’: Representative Anthony D. Weiner, an influential Democrat who had been considered a leading candidate to be the next mayor of New York City, said Thursday that he was resigning from Congress following revelations of lewd online exchanges with several women.
    “I’m here to apologize for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment that I have caused,” Mr. Weiner said, adding that he had hoped to be able to continue serving his constituents. “Unfortunately,” he said, “the distraction I created has made that impossible.”
    Mr. Weiner announced his resignation in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, at a senior center where he announced his first campaign for City Council in 1991.
    On Wednesday night, Mr. Weiner called Representative Nancy Pelosi of California and Representative Steve Israel of New York while they were at a White House picnic to inform them he had decided to resign, a top Democratic official said.
    The news came as Democratic leaders prepared to hold a meeting on Thursday to discuss whether to strip the 46-year-old congressman of his committee assignments, a blow that would severely damage his effectiveness.
    Mr. Weiner began telling his most trusted advisers about his decision on Wednesday night by phone, informing them that it no longer seemed fair to his constituents and his colleagues for him to remain in office…. – NYT, 6-16-11
  • Anthony Weiner resigns: Disgraced congressman calls it quits over sexting scandal: Rep. Anthony Weiner finally stepped down Thursday after a three-week cybersex scandal that turned the once promising politician into a laughingstock.
    “I had hoped to be able to continue the work that the citizens of my district elected me to do,” Weiner said. “But the distraction that I have created has made that impossible.”
    Then Weiner said he was resigning his seat and in a sign of how low his stock had fallen in a district that reelected him handily several times, some in the crowd actually broke into cheers – and one man was heard yelling “bye-bye pervert.”
    Weiner paused for a moment and then finished his statement. It was an unusually terse statement from the normally loquacious liberal…. – NY Daily News, 6-16-11
  • Anthony Weiner resigns from Congress, apologizes for ‘embarrassment’ he caused: Anthony Weiner announced his resignation from Congress on Thursday, apologizing for the “embarrassment” his personal behavior caused to his family and colleagues.
    Standing without his wife but before a horde of media at a senior center in his Brooklyn district, Weiner said he had hoped to continue his work in the House but “unfortunately, the distraction that I created has made that impossible.”
    Resigning, Weiner said, will allow him to “continue to heal from the damage that I have caused.”
    Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, recently returned from overseas travel with her boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His Democratic colleagues have been steadily ramping up pressure on him to step down, and were prepared to take further action had he tried to stay on.
    Pandemonium erupted in the room as Weiner made his announcement, which lasted less than five minutes. “Bye-bye, pervert,” one man screamed as others showed support for Weiner…. – LAT, 6-16-11
  • Weiner’s colleagues say scandal isn’t the end of his career: As they absorbed news of his coming resignation, colleagues of Rep. Anthony Weiner expressed a mix of relief and regret at his stunning downfall Thursday.
    “It’s a loss,” said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). “He could articulate the issues very well and dramatize them. Anytime you lose that kind of talent, of course it’s a loss.”
    “There is life after Congress for Anthony Weiner and I hope he devotes himself to repairing the damage he caused to his personal life,” Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said in a statement…. – LAT, 6-16-11
  • Ami Eden: Weiner follies: OK, now that Anthony Weiner is closing the zipper on his congressional career and stepping down — it’s time to focus on his critics.
    Let’s start on the right.
    In the past few campaign cycles, a standard line from Jewish conservatives has been… liberals should learn to love conservatives because support for Israel is more important than abortion rights and a host of other domestic issues.
    Well… Weiner has been one of the hawkish supporters of Israel in the Democratic caucus. He’s a regular at the annual dinner of the Zionist Organization of America, often taking the stage to declare that he represents the “ZOA wing of the Democratic Party.” I’ve seen him adapt the line for other crowds — “I represent the CAMERA wing of the Democratic Party.”
    To be clear, ZOA — which has been a strong critics of U.S.-led diplomatic efforts, Israeli concessions and the idea that the current Palestinian leadership is a partner for peace — did not throw Weiner under the bus over Twitter-Gate. It’s president, Morton Klein, praised Weiner’s record and said his troubles represented a “terrible loss for the pro-Israel community.” But Republicans who talk about the importance supporting Israel, like GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, had no trouble saying it was time for Weiner to go.
    Of couse, after the scandal broke, it might be unrealistic to expect partisans to take a pass on the scandal, just because Weiner was, from their perspective, good in one area. But what about before the fact? Andrew Breitbart, the right-wing muckraking blogger who broke the story, was a featured speaker at a Republican Jewish Coalition gathering on Sunday in Los Angeles.
    It turns out that several RJC members also helped bankroll Breitbart:

    “My first event was held here,” he told the audience. “Not in this esteemed room, but in the bar downstairs.” Since then, Breitbart said, he’s had the chance to speak to RJC gatherings numerous times, and he acknowledged that he has financial backers from the ranks of the RJC. “What a lucrative alliance we’ve created,” Breitbart said.

    Hey, it’s a free country, and no one forced Weiner to live up to his name in so many different ways. But next time you hear a Jewish conservative talking about how Jewish liberals should put domestic concerns aside to worry more about Israel… just remember… a bunch of Jewish conservatives helped bring down one of Israel’s staunchest congressional defenders over these tweets.
    But liberals, wipe that self-satisifed smile off your face. How many times in the past 15 years have you ripped into Republicans for trying to impeach Bill Clinton over his sexual indiscretions and lying under oath. Somehow all these Democratic leaders who have spent years painting Ken Starr and the congressional GOPers as waging a puratanical crusade against the will of the people took just a few days to conclude that Weiner had to go.
    Weiner sent tweets to young women, Clinton had an actual affair with his intern.
    Weiner lied to the press, Clinton lied under oath.
    Weiner lied for a few days, Clinton lied and roped his Cabinet into the lies for about eight months.
    Why exactly did Weiner have to go, but Bubba had to stay?
    OK, OK. That’s politics. But, still. – JTA, 6-16-11

Anthony Weiner announces his resignation from Congress in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Anthony Weiner announces his resignation from Congress in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Justin Lane / EPA)

Jonathan Sarna: Solving the Mystery of Washington’s Famous Letter

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: Jewish Daily Forward, 6-15-11

It started as a mystery.

During a lecture in England last December, Jonathan Sarna, America’s foremost scholar of American Jewish history, said he did not know the whereabouts of one of American Jewry’s most important documents: George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation, in Newport, R.I.

Upon this yellowed piece of 18th-century rag paper, composed in 1790, is a short but powerful statement from the first president of the United States reassuring one of the original colonial congregations that his nascent government guaranteed religious liberty for all.

“For, happily,” Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, “the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

More than a vital piece of American Jewish history, the letter is one of the primary documents guaranteeing religious tolerance in America, its famous words still quoted by community leaders and politicians whenever they want to underline America’s commitment to religious liberty.

But where is the letter?

After months of searching, the Forward has found the elusive letter in an art storage facility in a squat, nondescript building in an industrial park in Maryland, a stone’s throw from the home of the Washington Redskins, at FedExField. The letter is owned by the Morris Morgenstern Foundation and has been on loan to the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum for more than 50 years….READ MORE

Juan Cole: Ex-Spy Alleges Bush White House Sought to Discredit Critic

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

Source: NYT, 6-15-11

A former senior C.I.A.official says that officials in the Bush White House sought damaging personal information on a prominent American critic of the Iraq war in order to discredit him.

Arturo Rodriguez for the New York Times

Juan Cole, a professor, blogger and Iraq war critic, said he would have been a disappointing target for the Bush White House.

Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog that criticized the war.

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Glenn L. Carle, a former C.I.A. officer, said he was “intensely disturbed” by what he said was an effort against Professor Cole.

In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole, and made clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to collect information about him, an effort Mr. Carle rebuffed. Months later, Mr. Carle said, he confronted a C.I.A. official after learning of another attempt to collect information about Professor Cole. Mr. Carle said he contended at the time that such actions would have been unlawful.

It is not clear whether the White House received any damaging material about Professor Cole or whether the C.I.A. or other intelligence agencies ever provided any information or spied on him. Mr. Carle said that a memorandum written by his supervisor included derogatory details about Professor Cole, but that it may have been deleted before reaching the White House. Mr. Carle also said he did not know the origins of that information or who at the White House had requested it.

Intelligence officials disputed Mr. Carle’s account, saying that White House officials did ask about Professor Cole in 2006, but only to find out why he had been invited to C.I.A.-sponsored conferences on the Middle East. The officials said that the White House did not ask for sensitive personal information, and that the agency did not provide it.

“We’ve thoroughly researched our records, and any allegation that the C.I.A. provided private or derogatory information on Professor Cole to anyone is simply wrong,” said George Little, an agency spokesman.

Since a series of Watergate-era abuses involving spying on White House political enemies, the C.I.A. and other spy agencies have been prohibited from collecting intelligence concerning the activities of American citizens inside the United States…. READ MORE

Political Headlines June 15, 2011: Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Republican Governor Scott Walker’s Anti-Union Bill

POLITICAL HEADLINES

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS: WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS ANTI-UNION LAW

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker: “The Supreme Court’s ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again.”

  • Court allows Wisconsin’s union law to take effect: A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court handed Republican Gov. Scott Walker a major victory Tuesday, ruling that a polarizing union law that strips most public employees of their collective bargaining rights could take effect.
    In a 4-3 decision that included a blistering dissent, the court ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority when she declared the law void. She sided with a lawsuit that claimed Republicans didn’t provide proper public notice of a meeting that helped get the original legislation approved.
    The legislation sparked weeks of protests when Walker introduced it in February. Tens of thousands of demonstrators descended on the state Capitol for weeks and Democratic senators fled the state to prevent a vote, thrusting Wisconsin to the forefront of a national debate over labor rights.
    Walker claimed that the law, which also requires public employees to pay more for their health care and pensions, was needed to help address the state’s $3.6 billion budget shortfall and give local governments enough flexibility on labor costs to deal with deep cuts to state aid. Democrats saw it as an attack on public employee unions, which usually back their party’s candidates…. – AP, 6-15-11
  • Wisconsin Court Reinstates Law on Union Rights: The Wisconsin Supreme Court cleared the way on Tuesday for significant cuts to collective bargaining rights for public workers in the state, undoing a lower court’s decision that Wisconsin’s controversial law had been passed improperly.
    The Supreme Court’s ruling, issued at the close of the business day, spared lawmakers in the Republican-dominated Capitol from having to do what some of them strongly hoped to avoid: calling for a new vote on the polarizing collective bargaining measure, which had drawn tens of thousands of protesters to Madison this year and led Democratic lawmakers to flee the city in an effort to block the bill.
    Republican leaders had warned on Monday that if the Supreme Court did not rule by Tuesday, they would feel compelled to attach the same measure to the state’s budget bill, which is expected to be approved this week…. – NYT, 6-15-11
  • Divided Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds anti-union law: A sharply divided Wisconsin Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a controversial measure that curbs the collective bargaining rights of public workers in the state can go into effect.
    In what was essentially a 4-3 decision, the high court overturned a lower court, which had ruled Republican lawmakers violated the state’s open meetings law when they passed the measure in March.
    “Access was not denied,” the Supreme Court declared in Tuesday’s decision. “There is no constitutional requirement that the legislature provide access to as many members of the public as wish to attend meetings of the legislature or meetings of legislative committees.”
    But Tuesday’ 68-page decision was a thicket of concurrences and dissents, reflecting the sharp divide the measure has created in the state itself.
    David Prosser, whose recent reelection to the state’s high court had been hotly contested by opponents of the union measure, wrote in his eight-page concurrence that GOP legislators had good reason to rush things they way they did, given the ugly mood of protesters at the Capitol.
    “The circuit court concluded that the legislature should have provided public notice of the special session conference committee 24 hours in advance,” Prosser wrote.
    “The court did not acknowledge that thousands of demonstrators stormed and occupied the state Capitol within a few hours of the notice that a conference committee meeting would be held.”
    But Justices Shirley Abrahamson, Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Coons disagreed, saying their colleagues had rendered a “hasty judgment” in a case where “the answers are not clear and our precedent is conflicting.”
    The three in dissent blasted the order to overrule the lower court, saying it was “based on errors of fact and law.
    “They inappropriately use this court’s original jurisdiction, make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties’ arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin’s constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891,” the three said…. – Reuters, 6-15-11
  • Court allows Wisconsin’s union law to take effect: The ruling on the law, which strips most public employees of collective bargaining rights, is a major victory for Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
    The Wisconsin Supreme Court handed Republican Gov. Scott Walker a major victory on Tuesday, ruling that a polarizing anti-union law stripping most public employees of collective bargaining rights could take effect.
    In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi overstepped her authority when she said Republican lawmakers had violated the open meetings statutes and declared the law void….
    In a one-sentence reaction, the governor said: “The Supreme Court’s ruling provides our state the opportunity to move forward together and focus on getting Wisconsin working again.”… – LAT, 6-15-11
  • Supreme Court reinstates collective bargaining law: Acting with unusual speed, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the reinstatement of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial plan to end most collective bargaining for tens of thousands of public workers.
    The court found that a committee of lawmakers was not subject to the state’s open meetings law, and so did not violate that law when it hastily approved the collective bargaining measure in March and made it possible for the Senate to take it up. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled a Dane County judge who had halted the legislation, ending one challenge to the law even as new challenges are likely to emerge.
    The changes on collective bargaining will take effect once Secretary of State Doug La Follette arranges for official publication of the stalled bill, and the high court said there was now nothing to preclude him from doing that. La Follette did not return a call Tuesday to say when the law would be published.
    The ruling came on lines that have become familiar in recent years for the often divided court.
    The majority opinion was by Justices Michael Gableman, David Prosser, Patience Roggensack and Annette Ziegler. The other three justices – Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and N. Patrick Crooks – concurred in part and dissented in part. Abrahamson’s dissent was particularly stinging as she upbraided her fellow justices for errors and faulty analysis…. – Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, 6-15-11

History Education: Jobs-focused education leaves history in the dustbin

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

New test scores on history and civics reveal how little American students know their nation’s past. Yet such knowledge is essential for active citizens.

Source: CS Monitor, 6-14-11

A society can make progress only if its young people know of the progress their country has made so far. In America, that means fourth-graders should be able to identify Abraham Lincoln – only 9 percent can. High school seniors must know about the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling Brown v. Board of Education – only 2 percent do.

Such statistics are particularly worrisome because today’s 12th-graders will be able to vote in next year’s elections.

Most of these fledgling citizens and future leaders haven’t fared well on a national “report card” issued every few years about how well students grasp civics and history.

In the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, just 12 percent of high school seniors are proficient in US history while 24 percent measure up in civics. And of all the subjects tested under NAEP since 1994 – math, reading, science, writing, geography, civics, history – students do the worst in history.

In the 2010 test, some progress was found among eighth-graders, especially blacks and Hispanics, since 2006. And ever since the NAEP began in 1994, fourth-graders have shown a healthy gain in history scores. But that may reflect improvements in reading skills, experts say.

By the 12th grade, students score the worst on history compared with earlier grades, with more than half not reaching even basic knowledge. (The test categories for history include democracy, culture, technology, and the US role in the world.)

Fixing this problem isn’t easy. Education in the United States has become focused on developing marketable skills for scarce jobs and less on the skills of citizenship. The 2002 No Child Left Behind Act has forced schools to focus almost solely on math and reading, which often leaves history and civics in the dust. As a result, most fourth-graders spend less than two hours a week on social studies in the classroom.

This curriculum gap may be one reason for the generally declining rate of voting among young people. And one recent survey found most 18-to-29-year-olds could not peg the unemployment rate (9 percent) within five percentage points….READ MORE

Political Buzz June 13, 2011: Michele Bachmann Wins Second Republican Debate & Officially Announces Presidential Bid

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

Cheryl Senter for The New York Times

Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain at the debate

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Live Blogging the G.O.P. Debate in New HampshireNYT, 6-13-11
  • Live blogging GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire: We are live blogging tonight’s GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire, being held at Saint Anselm College. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are participating.
    The two-hour debate is sponsored by CNN, WMUR and The Union Leader. CNN’s John King is the moderator…. – USA Today, 6-13
  • Factbox: Republican White House contenders in 2012Reuters, 6-13-11
  • Fact Checking the Republican Debate: As they debated the economic downturn and health care, the Republican candidates who faced off Monday night in New Hampshire sometimes let spin run ahead of the facts…. – NYT, 6-13-11
  • The top five takeaways from the GOP debate: After two hours of talk and lots of interruptions from a moderator, here are the five things you need to know from tonight’s GOP debate:
    1. Bottom line: This debate was about Barack Obama: There was a lot of speculation going in that the candidates would start slugging it out with one another to break out of the pack. Not tonight. It was Republicans United vs. Obama. Here’s a sample of what they said about the President: “He’s failed at a time when the American people counted on him to create jobs and get the economy growing.” (Mitt Romney) “The Obama administration is an anti-jobs, anti-business, anti-American energy destructive force.” (Newt Gingrich) “Just make no mistake about it. I want to announce tonight. President Obama is a one-term president.” (Michele Bachmann)
    2. Mitt Romney maintains his status
    3. Tim Pawlenty blinked
    4. America, Meet Michele Bachmann
    5. The other candidates did what they could -
    CBS News, 6-13-11
  • E.J. Dionne Jr: GOP debate winner: Michele Bachmann: I didn’t expect to think that Michele Bachmann would be the big winner of tonight’s Republican debate in New Hampshire, but that seemed the obvious conclusion. She was at ease and forceful without looking at all crazy or out-of-control. It’s a sign of how far to the right the Republican Party has moved that she didn’t stand out for her extreme views. On this stage, suggesting we should just rid ourselves of the Environmental Protection Agency seemed par for the course.
    Mitt Romney did not lose anything tonight, which means that, since he leads in the polls in New Hampshire, he is a kind of winner. And on substance, his forceful defense of religious liberty was actually a high point. I agree with a view that is becoming widespread on the web – Chris Cillizza and Jennifer Rubin made this point in their winner-and-losers wrap-ups – that it was strange or timid for Tim Pawlenty not to be willing to back up his Sunday attack on “Obamneycare” with any force tonight. Either you want to take that fight on or you don’t…. – WaPo, 6-13-11
  • Bachmann stands out in CNN debate: During tonight’s presidential candidate debate, CNN moderator John King posed a series of “this or that” questions to the candidates. These “Coke or Pepsi,” type questions were light moments in a debate that also presented voters with a lot of “this or that” choices among the candidates….
    Overall: It comes down to Romney or Bachmann. He’s still the front-runner and didn’t hurt himself. That’s enough for some to declare him the winner. But Bachmann had far more to gain from this debate in introducing herself to voters and she took full advantage of the chance. She’s the winner. – Des Moines Register, 6-13-11
  • The Mitt and Michele Show: Romney showed front-runner status, while Bachmann proved she belonged on stage. Mark McKinnon on why they shone-and the rest of the debaters flopped Monday night.
    The two clear winners in the GOP debate hosted Monday night in New Hampshire were former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Political debates are all about expectations. Mitt Romney had more than anyone to lose. Michele Bachmann had more than anyone to gain. Romney deftly fended off attacks particularly on health care, and Bachmann proved she’s smart and credible, and has every right to be on the stage…. – The Daily Beast, 6-13-11
  • Republican presidential candidates attend first debate: The leading contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination appeared together onstage for the first time Monday. But they used the debate to train their fire on President Obama rather than to define their differences.
    Given opportunities to critique one another’s stances, the seven competitors repeatedly deflected the questions during the first hour to attacks on the president….
    The biggest surprise of the evening was the announcement by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) that she has filed the paperwork to begin her campaign. She had previously indicated that she would not make a formal announcement until later this month.
    The debate, held at St. Anselm College, was officially the second of the primary campaign season. But only five candidates showed up last month in South Carolina, and with the exception of Pawlenty, they were all long-shots.
    Monday’s forum included nearly all the leading candidates. But most of them remain largely unknown nationally, a factor that could explain their reluctance to go at one another. At this early stage, they are introducing themselves to a nationwide audience, and testing their competitors’ strengths and vulnerabilities.
    It is a Republican field unlike any other in generations, in which none of the contenders has been able to establish himself or herself as an overwhelming favorite. In the normal order of things, Romney would hold that poll position, by virtue of his organization, his fundraising network and the exposure he received from his 2008 run for the nomination…. – WaPo, 6-13-11
  • 7 in G.O.P. Square Off, 7 Months From First Vote: Opening a new phase in a race that is unusually unsettled for a party once famous for its discipline, seven Republican presidential candidates met Monday night in their highest profile opportunity yet to begin drawing distinctions among themselves even as they united to press the attack against President Obama.
    With the economy wavering and conservatives energized, Republicans see an opportunity to capitalize on the sense that the nation is on the wrong track. But with seven months remaining before the first votes of the nominating contest are cast, the candidates sought to show that they were both electable and ideologically acceptable to primary voters.
    The spotlight was trained squarely on Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, whose appearance here amounted to his debut on the stage four years after losing his first bid for the party’s nomination. He sought to press his business credentials, arguing that he was the strongest nominee to promote a message of economic revival and job creation, but he worked to deflect conservative criticism over the state health care plan he signed that resembles the national one signed into law by Mr. Obama…. – NYT, 6-13-11
  • U.S. Republicans blast Obama, not each other: The Republican White House contenders focused their attacks on President Barack Obama and refrained from attacking each other on Monday in their first major debate of the 2012 nominating race.
    The Republicans criticized Obama as a failure on the economy and attacked his healthcare overhaul as a gross government intrusion, but sidestepped numerous chances to hit their party rivals in the face-to-face encounter.
    “This president has failed, and he’s failed at a time when the American people counted on him to create jobs and get the economy growing,” said former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who leads the Republican pack in opinion polls…. – Reuters, 6-13-11
  • GOP contenders to meet in New Hampshire debate Republican voters get a chance to compare Romney with six rivals: It’s a coming-out party of sorts for the apparent Republican frontrunner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who will be participating in his first debate of this campaign season (several candidates debated in South Carolina in May).
    Romney will have his first chance to spar onstage with his rivals, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, ex-Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain, and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, the only woman in the race and a champion of the Tea Party movement.
    Former ambassador to China and Utah governor Jon Huntsman is not taking part in the debate, but is expected to formally announce his candidacy within days…. – MSNBC, 6-13-11
  • Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney: “This president has failed. And he’s failed at a time when the American people counted on him to create jobs and get the economy growing. And instead of doing that, he delegated the stimulus to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and then he did what he wanted to do: card-check, cap-and-trade, Obamacare, re-regulation.”
  • Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty: “This president is a declinist. He views America as one of equals around the world. We’re not the same as Portugal; we’re not the same as Argentina. And this idea that we can’t have 5 percent growth in America is hogwash.”
  • Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann: “Unlike how the media has tried to wrongly and grossly portray the Tea Party, the Tea Party is really made up of disaffected Democrats, independents, people who’ve never been political a day in their life, people who are libertarians, Republicans — it’s a wide swathe of America coming together.”
  • Former pizza executive Herman Cain: “This economy is stalled. It’s like a train on the tracks with no engine and the administration has simply been putting all of this money in the caboose. We need an engine called the private sector.”

    Michele Bachmann Announces Candidacy for President: Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota interrupted her answer to a question at a Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire to announce that she had filed papers on Monday to formally declare her candidacy for the Republican nomination for president.

  • Michele Bachmann enters presidential race: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, an outspoken Republican with close ties to the tea party, announced Monday that she is running for president, a candidacy that could further shake up a volatile fight for the GOP nomination.
    The first female contender to enter the 2012 race, Bachmann announced her bid during a Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire. The third-term Minnesota congresswoman has been leaning heavily toward a run over the past few months, visiting early primary states, raising money and railing against President Barack Obama.
    “We cannot risk giving President Obama four more years to dismantle our nation. We must act now,” Bachmann said in a fundraising letter sent within an hour of her entrance. “That’s why I’ve made the decision to get in this race.”
    She brings high energy, charisma and proven fundraising ability to the race to nominate a Republican challenger to Obama. She also is known for unyielding stances, biting commentary and high-profile gaffes.
    Bachmann is attempting the rare leap from the U.S. House to the presidency…. – AP, 6-13-11
  • Bachmann confirms presidential candidacy: U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann ended any doubt that she is running for president, saying during Monday night’s CNN GOP presidential debate that she has filed for the 2012 race.
    “I filed … my paperwork to seek the office of the presidency of the United States today, and I’ll very soon be making my formal announcement,” Bachmann said shortly after the start of the debate in Manchester, New Hampshire.
    Bachmann, of Minnesota, became the seventh Republican — and the only woman — to confirm her candidacy. She was the only one of the debate’s seven participants who hadn’t formally declared before the start of Monday’s event at Saint Anselm College’s Sullivan Arena.
    Her campaign also posted a YouTube video in which she announced she was running. “This is the first day of taking our country back,” Bachmann said in the video.
    A third-term congresswoman, Bachmann is a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, founder of the 50-member House Tea Party Caucus and fiery critic of the Obama administration…. – CNN, 6-13-11
  • Michele Bachmann uses GOP debate to announce presidential candidacy: Rep. Michele Bachmann used the first major presidential debate of the 2012 campaign to announce that she is formally running for president.
    For Bachmann, the conservative from Minnesota, the announcement was expected, but the timing of it was not. She had been expected to declare later in the month in Iowa.
    But early in the debate in Manchester, N.H., live on CNN, Bachmann said that she had filed her paperwork Monday with the Federal Election Commission to launch a presidential fundraising committee.
    She said she would soon make a public announcement. CNN’s John King, a bit flustered, quickly pushed Bachmann to return to addressing the debate topic at hand.
    Bachmann, 55, has served in the House since 2007. A former tax attorney, she’s popular among “tea party” activists. At present, she is the only woman in the GOP field.
    She also appeals to social conservatives. The mother of five, she has also served as foster parent to 23 other children…. – LAT, 6-13-11
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