Douglas Brinkley: 2010 In Review: The Year For White Americans:

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Source: NPR, 12-30-10

America ends the decade with its first black president, and census numbers have revealed that the country isn’t so black-and-white anymore. Hispanics and Asians are increasing in numbers compared to an aging white population. Historian Douglas Brinkley reflects on what’s shaking up the status quo….

Prof. BRINKLEY: Well, I think the big change was when Barack Obama got elected president. It seems surreal to a lot of white Americans. Nobody ever thought the country was ready to have an African-American as president, let alone one with only a modest background in politics. He was quite young, and with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. The right thought that this was a guy they’d be able to, you know, dissolve on the campaign trail, and instead he beat John McCain and was sworn in in this historic inauguration. And you had, as first family in the White House, a black family.
And it created, I think, a real schism of – in the country – oh, in -particularly with white people that perhaps we are losing something in America, the, you know, white male ascendancy. If you look at even a children’s breakfast mat, you’ll see it’s all white presidents. And now, suddenly, there’s Barack Obama. And, you know, something had changed, and I’m not sure people knew how to respond to it.
And a lot of grassroots native, this sort of anti-Obama energy, started bubbling to the forefront, some of it legitimate in the sense that people worried about the sagging economy and high unemployment rate. But some of it was connected to the fact that we’re – Americans were losing their essence, what Americanism meant. And we’re on a downward slide if we’re having a guy like Obama who got soon dubbed a socialist in the White House. But there is a lot of veiled, you know, racial references, in one way or another, that dominated much of the political discourse this past year. – Mp3 Download

History News: Virgina History Textbook Inaccuracies Controversy

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See also: History Buzz October 25, 2010: Carol Sheriff & the Virginia Civil War Textbook Controversy

Source: CNN, 12-30-10

 

“Our Virginia: Past and Present” is published by Five Ponds Press in Weston, Conn.

 

CNN — It’s a textbook case of getting it wrong. A Virginia elementary school textbook will soon be history after a college professor and parent, caught more than one mistake in it.

Turns out the errors she spotted were not the only ones. Some of the glaring errors had to do with African-Americans and the Civil War.

“The United States entered World War I in 1916.” Wrong – it was 1917.

“There were 12 confederate states.” Also wrong – actually, there were 11.

“In 1800, New Orleans was a U.S. port.” Wrong yet again – the port of New Orleans was still under Spanish control at the time.

These and dozens of other errors can be found in the textbook handed out to thousands of Virginia fourth graders. Problems with the book ‘Our Virginia: Past and Present’, published by Five Ponds Press, first surfaced last October, as reported by the Washington Post, when the mother of one student, a college history professor, spotted several lines on page 122.

“It was particularly jarring when I got to this one passage that was so at odds with what historians have been saying about who participated in the Civil War,” said William & Mary Professor Carol Sheriff, a parent of one student.

The book says thousands of southern blacks fought in the confederate ranks, something not supported by mainstream Civil War scholarship. But it’s the next line that’s just plain wrong: “including two black battalions under the command of Stonewall Jackson.” The textbook actually, does note that it wasn’t ’til 1865 that African-Americans could legally serve in the confederate army. It also tells children that Stonewall Jackson died in 1863.

The error about blacks serving in the confederate army was outrageous to many in academia….READ MORE

History Shorts: After 130 years, will Billy the Kid finally get a governor’s pardon?

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Source: CS Monitor, 12-29-10

Outgoing New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is considering a pardon for celebrated outlaw Billy the Kid. An informal e-mail poll shows support. But time is running out.

Billy the Kid, upper right, is pictured in this tintype photo from the late 1870s. Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico has posted a poll on his website asking if he should posthumously pardon the outlaw in exchange for testimony at an 1879 murder trial. AP

Public perception regarding the Kid is split into two camps, says Paul Hutton, a history professor and Old West expert at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque: “people who see him as this homicidal maniac and [others] who see him as a romantic character fighting for justice against a corrupt New Mexico system.”
In 2000, Richardson assembled a team of scholars, including Mr. Hutton, to investigate competing claims to Billy the Kid’s identity. An effort to dig up the remains of a woman thought to be his mother for DNA sampling created a public outcry and Richardson abandoned the effort to concentrate on his presidential campaign.
He is returning to this issue just a few days from leaving office. Historians say documents show Billy the Kid was promised a pardon by Lew Wallace, then the state governor, in exchange for testimony the Kid gave against the three men who killed a one-armed lawyer during the Lincoln County wars….
Hutton says most historians agree that Billy the Kid’s life was not as violent as the legend suggests and that he was a product of his unwieldy times of government corruption and vigilante justice.
“He certainly felt solving problems with a gun was the way to go, but that was the world in which he lived in,” he says. “The forces of authority in 1877 New Mexico were nothing to brag about.”…
Hutton says the historic ramification of a pardon will simply be “a state recognition that the Kid was wronged, which he actually was.”
However, others suggest the decision will do nothing to re-frame how the Old West is perceived, truthfully or otherwise.
“History is already written,” Tim Sweet, owner of the Billy the Kid Museum in Fort Sumner, told National Public Radio. “All it is going to do is bring publicity. In three months, nobody will care.”

Paul Kengor: Stalin’s dupes, past and present

Gallery of the hoodwinked ranges from FDR to the D-Day Memorial

Source: The Washington Times, 12-28-10

Mugshot

It’s customary at year’s end to share our favorite news items from the year past – from happy moments to outrages. As a professor and historian, I tend to highlight things I fear are lost to American education. To that end, I’ve become somewhat of a pessimist, especially as I observe what the next generation is not being taught.

So, my enduring “news item” of 2010 falls under the category of historical outrage, though it is redeemed somewhat by another item considerably more positive. I’d like to link them here as a teachable moment.

My outrage of 2010: the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va., erected a statue of Josef Stalin, architect of the Great Purge, Ukrainian famine, gulag, war on religion and upwards of 60 million deaths. We learned about this travesty, thanks to the vigilant work of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which has the heroic goal of trying to educate Americans about the forgotten holocaust committed by communists. The group created a website (Stalinstatue.com) to call attention to this moral-historical slander. The site featured a petition to remove the statue, with thousands of signatures from all over the world. Addressed to the National D-Day Memorial Foundation and to President Obama‘s secretary of the interior, it demanded that the “true history of World War II must be protected from distortion and misinformation.”…READ MORE

Political Highlights December 28, 2010: Obama celebrates Christmas in Hawaii with Military families — Looking towards the 112th Congress & the 2012 Presidential Election

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.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

The President records the Weekly Address

STATS & POLLS

  • White House Holidays: Simple Gifts
  • Optimism for Obama Should Come With Caution: For as poorly as President Obama’s Democrats performed on Nov. 2, you can find several assessments of his re-election chances that seem doggone optimistic….
    Has the public taken on a more favorable view of Mr. Obama since the Democrats’ defeat? The evidence here is mixed, but for the time being points toward “no.” Mr. Obama’s Gallup approval rating reached 49 percent late last week — the highest it had been since July — but other surveys show it about flat, and the overall trend shows little change.
    On the other hand, Mr. Obama’s approval rating had already been “stuck” at about 45 or 46 percent several months ahead of the midterms and had not been declining; most of the damage to Mr. Obama and the Democrats had come in 2009. Given how hardened partisan attitudes have become, it may be that Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are liable to fluctuate within a relatively narrow range…. – NYT, 12-28-10
  • Obama, Clinton ‘most admired’ in 2010: US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were the “most admired” man and woman in the United States in 2010, according to an annual Gallup poll.
    Obama led the field of male candidates with 22 percent, followed by former presidents George W. Bush (five percent) and Bill Clinton (four percent). They were followed by post-Apartheid South African leader Nelson Mandela and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, each with two percent.
    Obama has held the title since 2008, after he won the election and became the first African-American US president. That year he was the “most admired” by 32 percent of those polled.
    Hillary Clinton held onto the title of “most admired” woman for the ninth straight year after largely dominating the poll over the last two decades. This year she led with 17 percent, followed by conservative former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin with 12 percent and TV titan Oprah Winfrey with 11 percent. They were trailed by First Lady Michelle Obama with five percent and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice with two percent…. – AP, 12-26-10
  • A timeline of Schwarzenegger’s tenure: Key moments in the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger… – AP, 12-25-10
  • Schwarzenegger leaves mixed legacy in California: Arnold Schwarzenegger landed in the governor’s office after announcing his upstart bid on late night TV and railing against government spending during raucous campaign rallies — at one playing a spirited round of air guitar to the rock anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
    Then the world’s best known action star, Schwarzenegger conveyed an image of invincibility, persuading Californians that anything was possible if only they had the right mindset. “I know how to sell something,” he said then. As he would come to learn, selling a political idea is one thing. Delivering on it is quite another.
    In high Hollywood style, Schwarzenegger made bold commitments to cut through Sacramento’s dysfunctional political system and put the state on a path to prosperity. But his celebrity quickly ran aground on the shoals of bureaucracy, entrenched politics and something Schwarzenegger had never faced before — angry detractors who didn’t hesitate to attack him publicly…. – Fox News, 12-25-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua on Christmas

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet service men and women, along with their families, during Christmas dinner in the mess at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua, Hawaii, December 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Lawmakers Finance Pet Projects Without Earmarks: No one was more critical than Representative Mark Steven Kirk when President Obama and the Democratic majority in the Congress sought passage last year of a $787 billion spending bill intended to stimulate the economy. And during his campaign for the Illinois Senate seat once held by Mr. Obama, Mr. Kirk, a Republican, boasted of his vote against “Speaker Pelosi’s trillion-dollar stimulus plan.”
    Though Mr. Kirk and other Republicans thundered against pork-barrel spending and lawmakers’ practice of designating money for special projects through earmarks, they have not shied from using a less-well-known process called lettermarking to try to direct money to projects in their home districts…. – NYT, 12-28-10
  • In ‘Daily Show’ Role on 9/11 Bill, Echoes of Murrow: Did the bill pledging federal funds for the health care of 9/11 responders become law in the waning hours of the 111th Congress only because a comedian took it up as a personal cause? Mr. Stewart declined to comment on the passage of the bill. And does that make that comedian, Jon Stewart — despite all his protestations that what he does has nothing to do with journalism — the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow?
    Certainly many supporters, including New York’s two senators, as well as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, played critical roles in turning around what looked like a hopeless situation after a filibuster by Republican senators on Dec. 10 seemed to derail the bill. But some of those who stand to benefit from the bill have no doubt about what — and who — turned the momentum around…. – NYT, 12-27-10
  • Assange signs book deals worth more than £1m: Julian Assange has signed book deals worth more than £1m in the US and UK, to allow the WikiLeaks founder to cover his legal fees and maintain the whistleblowing site. He will be racing a disgruntled former colleague to release an autobiography telling his side of the WikiLeaks story. Both books are to be published by divisions of Random House next year….
    The controversy did not dissuade readers of Time magazine voting Mr Assange their “person of the year” for his campaign for freedom of information and radical transparency from governments…. – Financial Times, 12-27-10
  • Barack Obama Visits Troops on Christmas Day: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dropped by a Marine Corps base in Hawaii on Christmas Day, shaking hands with servicemen and women, taking photos, and hearing Christmas tales from children. Obama made the unannounced 40-minute visit while on his 11-day family vacation to Kailua Bay, Hawaii, his home state, according to Reuters.
    The first family and hundreds of Marines and their families were enjoying Christmas dinner in the hall decked with Christmas decorations. “Merry Christmas, Mr. President!” one boy said to Obama, who was with Michelle Obama. “No, she’s Mrs. President,” Obama said to the children, according to CNN…. – Epoch Times, 12-26-10
  • Obamas attend church in Hawaii: President Obama and his family attended church Sunday in Hawaii, making one of their few public appearances since he arrived here Thursday.
    The Obamas went to the St. Michael’s Chapel, the church at the Marine base a few miles from where the family is staying. About 100 people were in attendance, and they clapped when the first family walked in. At the service, churchgoers sang “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.” In his sermon, chaplain Steve Moses joked about a recent heart ailment. Moses said he went for a routine physical but was instead told he needed to have surgery on his heart. God must have put him through that surgery to ensure he would not have a heart attack while preaching in front of a president, Moses said. Moses said this story illustrated his message that God is either protecting people from something “far worse” or preparing them for “something greater.”
    The Sunday morning stop at church was unusual for Obama, at least in the past two years. The president is a Christian and frequently speaks about the role of faith in his life, but has not attended services often or become a member of a church in the Washington area…. – WaPo, 12-26-10
  • Sunday Church for the Obamas: President Obama, whose Hawaiian vacation has included golfing, beach-going and visiting the troops on Christmas Day — as well as his regular economic and intelligence briefings — took time out Sunday morning to go to church with his family. About 100 parishioners were in attendance when the Obamas arrived at St. Michaels, the chapel on the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where Mr. Obama greeted troops during Christmas dinner on Saturday. “Joy to the World” was being sung by a full band, and those in attendance clapped as the family walked in.
    Mr. Obama is not a particularly regular churchgoer when he is in Washington, and questions about his faith — he is Christian, but polls have shown that many Americans mistakenly believe he is Muslim — have come up repeatedly during his presidency. His aides say he prays daily, and he has attended chapel while at Camp David…. – NYT, 12-26-10
  • The next Congress: Action or just argument?: When the 112th Congress convenes on Jan. 5, it will have a decidedly new look, a feisty new attitude and a penchant for partisanship. Republicans will have their biggest House of Representatives majority since the Truman administration in the late 1940s, and, they believe, a mandate to slash spending dramatically and overturn President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law. But their chances of success are dim, since Democrats will still control the White House and the Senate. That makes the potential for getting serious work done in 2011 difficult to predict.
    “The 112th Congress is going to be a mix of cooperation and conflict, “said John Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif…. – McClatchy Newspapers
  • President Obama, ‘Lame Duck’ Democratic Congress bask in Zadroga bill, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell success: In a swift and improbable political turnaround, the lame-duck Congress has revived a dead-duck President, pols and pundits believe. “There was nothing lame about this Congress,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) quipped about the flurry of bills passed in the final days of the postelection session.
    President Obama, left limping after the Republicans scored a huge victory in the November midterm elections, was the major beneficiary. Democrats managed to get their ducks in a row and help resuscitate Obama with some luck – and some well-played chess just weeks after what Obama bemoaned as a “shellacking” in the elections.
    “Pundits wanted to write him off, but President Obama went right back to work and we delivered,” said Gillibrand, who gained national attention for championing the 9/11 health care bill and an extension of unemployment benefits. Political scientists have taken notice.
    “It’s official. Like it or not, this lame-duck session is the most productive of the 15 held since [World War] II,” noted University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.
    A new CNN poll showed a majority of Americans have reversed course and say Obama is again taking the country on the right track…. – NY Daily News, 12-26-10
  • A Firmly Drawn Presidential Line Between Work and Play: If there is one thing President Obama craves during his leisure time, it is privacy. Mr. Obama arrived on the island of Oahu in the middle of the night as Wednesday turned into Thursday and slipped on a green lei as he descended the steps of Air Force One. Then he sped off in an S.U.V. toward this laid-back residential community on the windward side of the island, far from the bustle of Waikiki Beach, where the bulk of his traveling White House stays, in Honolulu, the city he lived in as a boy. Then, the most visible man in America promptly dropped out of sight.
    Mr. Obama’s disappearance behind the palm trees reveals much about his presidential style, and also his thinking about how to balance work and play. He tends to separate the two, as much as any president can. Other presidents, especially those who owned secluded homes or vacation retreats, often mixed them, using their homes outside Washington as tools of the presidency — another means of advancing their goals and agendas…. – NYT, 12-25-10
  • President begins vacation with a smile: Almost immediately after he walked off Air Force One early Thursday morning, a relaxed-looking President Obama had a green lei around his neck and a smile on his face. It was the first sign that while the president will be working while he is on vacation, it’s not a “working vacation.” Administration aides emphasized that the president wanted real down time after an intense two-month period after Election Day, and Obama started his 11-day trip with several hours of golf Thursday. He spent much of Friday afternoon at the beach with his daughters, Sasha and Malia.
    Forced to delay his vacation by five days as Congress worked on a series of the president’s top priorities, Obama added a day on the back end. He will now depart for Washington on Jan. 2, instead of Jan. 1 as originally scheduled.
    White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama would spend time “recharging his batteries, spending time with family and dealing with presidential duties.”
    To be sure, a president is never truly off. He has spoken to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about a nuclear weapons treaty between the United States and Russia that the Senate ratified on Wednesday. Obama receives a daily national security briefing.
    And the president is spending some time preparing for a critical stage of his presidency in which he must work with a House now controlled by the GOP and start laying the groundwork for his reelection campaign in 2012. Aides said he is reading “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,” a biography by Lou Cannon, as well as a biography of former president Bill Clinton by Taylor Branch…. – WaPo, 12-25-10
  • Bruno’s Lawyers Ask Court to Overturn His Conviction: Lawyers for Joseph L. Bruno, the longtime Republican leader of the New York State Senate, have asked a federal appeals court to overturn his conviction on fraud charges, following a landmark Supreme Court decision that whittled down the law under which he was found guilty, and to prohibit the government from retrying him. The appeal, filed on Thursday in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was an expected development in the labyrinthine legal case of Mr. Bruno, 81, who ruled the Senate for almost 14 years before resigning in 2008 amid a federal corruption investigation. He was convicted in 2009 in Federal District Court in Albany on two counts of fraud for failing to disclose lucrative payments he had received from businessmen seeking help in the Legislature…. – NYT, 12-25-10
  • Obama, Congress end ’10 with blast of bipartisanship: Shaken by a historic election in which angry voters canceled Democratic control of the House, lawmakers of both parties and President Obama tried something new: They consulted each other. They cooperated. And finally, they compromised.
    From tax cuts to a nuclear arms treaty and the repeal of the ban on openly serving gay soldiers, Congress and the Obama White House closed up their respective shops and headed out for the holidays with an uncommonly full bag of accomplishments. Bipartisanship was one of them.
    “That progress is … a reflection of the message the voters sent in November, a message that said it’s time to find common ground on challenges facing our country,” Obama said before joining his family in Hawaii. “It’s a message that I will take to heart in the new year, and I hope my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same.”… – AP, 12-25-10
  • Obama administration on alert for holiday terror threats: President Obama may be relaxing on vacation in Hawaii, but his counterterrorism team remains at work in hopes of keeping things quiet over the holidays. John Brennan, the White House adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, convened a conference call today with more than half a dozen other top officials to review the steps being taken to guard against terrorism. That includes close coordination with foreign nations such as Yemen, whose president, Ali Abdallah Saleh, spoke with Brennan by phone Thursday. The two discussed ways to strengthen the cooperation between their counterterrorism operations in light of threats against the United States and other nations by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula… – USA Today, 12-24-10
  • White House confirms Sarkozy visit January 10: French President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit Washington next month and hold talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama on January 10, the White House said Friday. “I can confirm” the French leader’s visit, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told AFP, without providing further details. The Elysee presidential palace announced Thursday that Sarkozy would visit the US capital to discuss the agendas of next year’s G8 and G20 summits with Obama…. – AFP, 12-24-10
  • Vice President Joe Biden sees growing acceptance of gay marriage: Joe Biden compares the nation’s evolving views on gay marriage to the military’s acceptance of gays and lesbians serving openly…. – LAT, 12-24-10
  • Biden says gay marriage ‘inevitable': Vice President Joe Biden says the country is evolving on the issue of gay marriage and he thinks it’s inevitable there will be national consensus. He said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday the same thing is happening with the issue of marriage that happened with gays’ service in the military…. – AP, 12-24-10
  • For Obama, ‘lame duck’ Congress ends on high note: It may have ended in a lame-duck session with Democrats set to lose their majority in January, but the first US Congress of the Obama era was among the most prolific in 40 years
    The legislative accomplishments were anything but lame in the post-election period, according to analysts and even some of President Barack Obama’s Republican adversaries who begrudged him some late 2010 victories, including a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia and repeal of a ban on openly gay troops.
    Having described his Democrats’ drubbing at the ballot box in November as a “shellacking”, Obama headed to a Hawaii vacation this week on a high, savoring the latest in a litany of legislative victories that marked his first two years in office…. – AFP, 12-23-10
  • Chastened, unpopular Congress rallies in lame duck: In the middle of a House debate, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky handed the woman in charge of the rules a paper bag. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., peered inside, saw the bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon and laughed. Indeed, a shot of something strong might help make sense of a prolific Congress that seemed to break the rules of political physics. Democrats were punished by voters for a long list of accomplishments, then rallied with a post- election session that was anything but lame.
    Among the lessons of 2010: Being the opposite of a “do-nothing Congress” can produce just as much loathing and election losses for the party in control of government. And bipartisanship in President Barack Obama’s Washington is possible, if fleeting.
    “Congress and the administration simply failed to listen to the American people,” incoming House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement as lawmakers left town. “Beginning on Jan. 5, the American people are going to watch their Congress do something differently.”
    “I’m not naive,” Obama told reporters this week. “I know there will be tough fights in the months ahead…. – AP, 12-23-10
  • For Hawaii governor, discrediting anti-Obama ‘birthers’ is a top priority: Democrat Neil Abercrombie, who knew Obama’s parents, is determined to torpedo the conspiracy theory. Underlying his effort may be a desire to dispel the view that Hawaiians aren’t Americans in the same way as mainlanders…. – LAT, 12-23-10
  • Obama vacation: What flavor shave ice will he order?: President Obama joined his family in Hawaii late Wednesday, anticipating an 11-day vacation. Forget tax-cut deals and nuclear weapons treaties. The Obama vacation is all about shave ice. President Obama has made it to Hawaii to join his wife, daughters, and dog on vacation. He arrived just before midnight Wednesday, local time, after winging in on Air Force One from Washington following a press conference. In his first official act of relaxation, he donned a green lei after he stepped off the plane.
    Now all the US political world is holding its breath as it awaits the results of an important policy decision the president is likely to make at some point during his projected 11 days in an island paradise. The question facing Obama is this: What flavor of shave ice will he pick at Island Snow?… – CS Monitor, 12-23-10

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden on Christmas Day at Walter Reed

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden visit with troops and their families on Christmas Day at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., December 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

111TH & 112TH CONGRESS

  • AP Exclusive: Jackson Jr says ‘everyone has erred': Illinois Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. says he’s a “public servant” not a “perfect servant.” The Democrat tells The Associated Press that even as he’s been dogged by links to disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and questions about his relationship with a female “social acquaintance,” he’s never deviated from his mission of bringing jobs to his Chicago area district. Jackson says he carries the burden of his “personal shortcomings” even as he tries to help others…. – AP, 12-25-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Signs of doubt about Palin, from the right: The Wall Street Journal editorial page has taken Sarah Palin to task for her overreaction to Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity. This is not only notable by itself, but it has sparked similar criticism from other conservative sources. It’s interesting that she’s drawing this kind of fire from my fellow righties. Palin, the Journal writes, sees a big government plot in Mrs. Obama’s campaign. On her reality show, she served her family “smores,” saying, “This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert.”…
    In Palin’s defense, Michelle Obama has gone much farther than merely urging parents to provide healthy food for their kids, as when she blurted out, “We can’t just leave it up to the parents.” This isn’t mentioned in The Journal editorial. Still, the point of the piece was valid: Palin overreacted, and in the process raised even more doubts among those who don’t believe she’s electable…. – Kansas City Star, 12-28-10
  • Governor: Palin e-mails won’t be released ’til May: The Alaska governor’s office says it needs until May 31 to release potentially thousands of e-mails sent and received by former Gov. Sarah Palin. By that time, more than 2 1/2 years will have elapsed since media outlets, including The Associated Press, requested the e-mails. Palin has been out of office since July 2009…. – WaPo, 12-28-10
  • Republican Drops a Tack in Alaska Senate Race: Joe Miller said late Sunday that he would no longer try to prevent the certification of the Alaska Senate race, but he did not concede and he did not congratulate the unofficial winner, Senator Lisa Murkowski. Unofficial results show Ms. Murkowski winning the race by more than 10,000 votes, and she is expected to be sworn in for her new term on Jan. 5. But a stay in federal court, in response to a lawsuit by Mr. Miller, has prevented state election officials from certifying her as the winner. The state and Ms. Murkowski have repeatedly expressed concerns that Mr. Miller’s legal challenges could leave Alaska with just one senator when Congress reconvenes in January…. – NYT, 12-27-10
  • Bill Clinton to campaign for Emanuel in Chicago In January, former president to stump for Emanuel in mayor’s race: Former President Bill Clinton is coming to Chicago in January to campaign for mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel. Before serving in President Barack Obama’s White House and representing the North Side of Chicago in Congress, Emanuel worked in Clinton’s administration as a senior adviser for policy and strategy. Clinton is scheduled to headline a public event that highlights Emanuel’s role in passing a crime bill that put 100,000 more cops on the street nationally. The visit is expected to be Clinton’s first in the new year and election cycle…. – Chicago Tribune, 12-25-10
  • Chicago election board upholds Emanuel’s residency: A panel of three commissioners votes to keep the former White House chief of staff in the city’s mayoral race, saying he meets the residency requirement. But this is not the final say. Chicago election commissioners voted Thursday to keep Rahm Emanuel on the city’s February mayoral ballot, ruling that the former White House chief of staff meets the residency requirement. The election board, however, is not expected to have final say on the issue. The objectors have a week to appeal the board’s 3-0 decision to the Cook County Circuit Court. The case could wind its way through the court system for weeks, including the Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court. “It has not been established that the candidate, a resident of Chicago, abandoned his status as such a resident,” hearing officer Joe Morris wrote of Emanuel’s time in Washington. “In any event, his absence from Illinois during that time in question is excused, for purposes of the safeguarding and retention of his status as a resident and elector, by express operation of Illinois law.”… – LAT, 12-23-10
  • Meeks withdraws from Chicago mayor’s race: Illinois state Sen. James Meeks withdrew his candidacy for Chicago mayor on Thursday, and he urged other African- American candidates to follow his lead and rally what he called a divided black community around a single candidate. The surprise Christmas week announcement came a day after he met to discuss the idea of a unity candidate from the city’s large African-American community with fellow Democratic candidates U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, both of whom are black.
    “My friends, I come before you today to say that our city – and our community – is divided,” Meeks said in a statement. “As long as our community remains divided and splintered – to the specific advantage of the front-running, status quo candidates – we will never see things improve. We need to speak with one voice.”
    While the idea of a consensus African-American candidate has been discussed for weeks, Meeks has stumbled in recent days while courting voters and he won little support in a recent poll. He said in his statement he had no plans to endorse any other candidate, and his spokeswoman said he would not have any further comment as he planned to spend the holidays with his family…. – AP, 12-23-10

QUOTES

West Wing Week

  • Behind the Scenes with the Kennedy Center Honorees: Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey and More: Every year around the holidays, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts selects and celebrates individuals who have, through their lifetime achievement in the arts, contributed to enriching and enhancing culture in America. On December 5th, 2010, the Kennedy Center Honors 33rd Annual National Celebration of the Arts was held and videotaped for a television broadcast, which airs tonight on CBS. Before the gala event at the Kennedy Center, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a reception for this year’s recipients in the East Room of the White House. Watch this video which features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the honorees at the White House – Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Merle Haggard, Bill T. Jones, and Jerry Herman….. – WH, 12-28-10
  • Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend Christmas Greeting and Urge Americans to Support the Troops and Their Families: Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama Weekly Address The White House December 25, 2010:
    THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas, everybody. Michelle and I just wanted to take a moment today to send greetings from our family to yours. 

    THE FIRST LADY: This is one of our favorite times of year. And we’re so fortunate to be able to celebrate it together in this wonderful home.
    This is the “People’s House.” So Barack and I try to open it to as many people as we can, especially during the holiday season.
    This month, more than 100,000 Americans have passed through these halls. And the idea behind this year’s theme, “Simple Gifts,” is that the greatest blessings of all are the ones that don’t cost a thing – the comfort of spending time with loved ones…the freedoms we enjoy as Americans… and the joy we feel upon giving something of ourselves.
    So in this time of family, friends, and good cheer; let’s also be sure to look out for those who are less fortunate, who’ve hit a run of bad luck, or who are hungry and alone this holiday season.

    THE PRESIDENT: Because this is the season when we celebrate the simplest yet most profound gift of all: the birth of a child who devoted his life to a message of peace, love, and redemption. A message that says no matter who we are, we are called to love one another – we are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper, our separate stories in this big and busy world are really one.
    Today, we’re also thinking of those who can’t be home for the holidays – especially all our courageous countrymen serving overseas.
    That’s the message I delivered when I visited our troops in Afghanistan a few weeks ago – that while you may be serving far from home, every American supports you and your families. We’re with you. And I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander in Chief.
    Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen make up the finest fighting force in the history of the world. Just like their predecessors, they do extraordinary things in service to their country. What makes that all the more remarkable is that today’s military is an all-volunteer force – a force of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives.

    THE FIRST LADY: That’s right. As First Lady, I’ve had the honor to meet members of our military and their families on bases and in communities all across the country. I’ve gotten to know husbands and wives doing the parenting of two while their spouse is on another deployment…children trying their best in school but always wondering when mom or dad is coming home…patriots putting their lives on hold to help with a loved one’s recovery…or carry on the memory of a fallen hero.
    When our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve, too. And they’re proud and glad to do it. But as long as that service keeps the rest of us safe, their sacrifice should also be our own. Even heroes can use a hand, especially during the holidays.

    THE PRESIDENT: So we’re encouraging Americans to ask what you can do to support our troops and their families in this holiday season. For some ideas on how to get started, just visit Serve.gov.

    THE FIRST LADY: You’ll see that you don’t need to be an expert in military life to give back to those who give so much to us. There are countless ways to contribute by harnessing your unique talents.
    If you live near a base, you can reach out through your local school or church. If you don’t, you can volunteer with organizations that support military families. And anybody can send a care package or pre-paid calling card to the front lines, or give what’s sometimes the most important gift of all: simply saying “thank you.”

    THE PRESIDENT: America’s brave servicemen and women represent a small fraction of our population. But they and the families who await their safe return carry far more than their fair share of the burden. They’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do. They’ve been everything we’ve asked them to be. And even as we speak, many are fighting halfway around the globe – in hopes that someday, our children and grandchildren won’t have to.
    So let’s all remind them this holiday season that we’re thinking of them – and that America will forever be here for them, just as they’ve been there for us.
    And on behalf of Michelle, Malia, Sasha…
    THE FIRST LADY: and Bo…
    THE PRESIDENT: and Bo…have a very Merry Christmas.
    THE FIRST LADY: and an even happier New Year. – WH, 12-25-10TranscriptMp4Mp3

  • The President’s Press Conference: “The Most Productive Post-Election Period We’ve Had in Decades”: First of all, I’m glad that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve my top national security priority for this session of Congress – the new START Treaty. This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify; and to continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges – from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran, to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.
    In the last few weeks, we also came together across party lines to pass a package of tax cuts and unemployment insurance that will spur jobs, businesses, and growth. This package includes a payroll tax cut that means nearly every American family will get an average tax cut next year of about $1,000 delivered in their paychecks. It will make a difference for millions of students, and parents, and workers, and people still looking for work. It’s has led economists across the political spectrum to predict that the economy will grow faster than they originally thought next year.
    In our ongoing struggle to perfect our Union, we also overturned a 17-year old law and a longstanding injustice by finally ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As I said earlier today, this is the right thing to do for our security. And it is the right thing to do, period.
    In addition, we came together across party lines to pass a food safety bill – the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression. And I hope the House soon joins the Senate in passing a 9/11 health bill that will help cover the health care costs of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and residents who inhaled toxic air near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning, and the days that followed.
    So, I think it’s fair to say this has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years we’ve had in generations. – WH, 12-22-10TranscriptMp4Mp3

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

West Wing Week

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Race could backfire on the right: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a possible Republican presidential candidate, recently caused a major stir. In an interview with the Weekly Standard, he referred to race relations while growing up in Mississippi this way: “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.”
    Of course, his state was one of the most racially explosive sections of the country in the days of segregation and the start of the civil rights movement.
    In the same interview, Barbour also tried to distinguish the citizens councils of his hometown from the Ku Klux Klan, even though historians have amply documented how citizens councils spent much of their energy using economic, and sometimes physical, intimidation to prevent racial integration. Although Barbour sought to clarify his remarks when they triggered a political firestorm, the fallout is likely to continue given the long and complicated history of conservatism.
    With these statements, Barbour tapped directly into one of the most problematic aspects of the modern conservative tradition: the interest among some on the right to resist racial and ethnic pluralism. The comments come at an inopportune time.
    In recent months, there have been questions about the degree to which racial politics has influenced Tea Party activists and some Republican politicians. The heated debates about illegal immigration and the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center near ground zero brought out some of the uglier elements of the conservative movement. At some of the early Tea Party events, there were placards that drew on explicitly racial imagery of the nation’s president.
    The conservative political tradition has revolved around many issues other than race….
    Conservatives should think long and hard about nominating a Republican who cannot demonstrate, once and for all, without any question, that he or she fully understands the history of racial inequality in this country and appreciates the centrality of a pluralistic America…. – CNN, 12-27-10
  • Stephen Hess: For Obama, ‘lame duck’ Congress ends on high note: “The 111th Congress is one of the most productive Congresses in American history, certainly since Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ and the programs that were passed in the mid-1960s,” Stephen Hess, an expert on American politics at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington, told AFP. “History will tell over time the value of what (Congress has done) but in terms of sheer production it is really an exceptional record.”… – AFP, 12-23-10
  • David Gergen: Obama’s stunning turnaround: Voters who flocked to the Republican banner seven weeks ago are probably scratching their heads, wondering, “Who really won in November?” After handing the president and Congressional Democrats the worst drubbing in more than half a century, they can only watch in disbelief as Obama has reeled off a series of unexpected victories.
    A new stimulus bill, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and now START — who would have believed that this shirt- tail session of Congress would have been so triumphant? They call it “lame duck” but it was anything but lame.
    What happened? One answer, I would submit, is that the president and his team found a better approach to governing: Instead of relying on the Democratic caucus in each chamber to deliver, they built up coalitions of their own that swayed public opinion in their direction and gave them leverage in Congress…. – CNN, 12-22-10

Top 12 Civil War books ever written

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The top 12 Civil War books ever written One great book for each month of 2011, the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States:

By Glenn W. LaFantasie

Source: — Salon, 12-26-10

Glenn W. LaFantasie is the Richard Frockt Family Professor of Civil War History and Director of the Institute for Civil War Studies at Western Kentucky University. His most recent book is “Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground” (Indiana University Press, 2008). More: Glenn W. LaFantasie

First, some arbitrary rules that have guided my selection of titles. I’ve only included books published after World War II, which means I’m leaving out a long shelf of good books issued before the second half of the 20th century, some of which still stand the test of time. Out of necessity, I’ve narrowly defined the universe from which I have picked my top dozen. For example, I’ve not included any biographies on this list — an exclusion that some may find indefensible. No series or multivolume works are included here either, which means that Allan Nevins’ majestic “The Ordeal of the Union” (eight volumes), Bruce Catton’s “Centennial History of the Civil War” (three volumes), and Shelby Foote’s very popular “The Civil War” (three volumes) are not to be found below, despite the fact that they all qualify as masterpieces. What’s more, I’ve stuck to only nonfiction titles, so fans of Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” or Michael Shaara’s “The Killer Angels” (both winners of the Pulitzer Prize) will be disappointed to see these novels missing from my list.

In any event, here are a dozen books that, for me, tell the story of the Civil War with literary elegance, intellectual gusto and enormous flair….

  • 12. “The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War” by Bruce Catton
    11. “Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America”: by William E. Gienapp
    10. “Lincoln’s Men: How President Lincoln Became Father to an Army and a Nation”: By William C. Davis
    9. “Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War”: By Charles Bracelen Flood
    8. “Chancellorsville 1863: The Souls of the Brave”: By Ernest B. (“Pat”) Furgurson
    7. “Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam”: By Stephen W. Sears
    6. “Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches From the Unfinished Civil War”: By Tony Horwitz
    5. “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory”: By David W. Blight
    4. “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War”: By Drew Gilpin Faust
    3. “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era”: By James M. McPherson
    2. “The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans”: By Charles Royster
    1. “A Stillness at Appomattox”: By Bruce Catton

Daniel Rasmussen: New book chronicles largest slave revolt in U.S. history

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Source: Louisiana Weekly, 12-27-10

Daniel Rasmussen, American Uprising The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt

https://i1.wp.com/www.harpercollinscatalogs.com/TR/vlarge/9780061995217_0_Cover.jpgOn January 8, 1811 a group of determined enslaved Africans set into motion a plan to rise up against slavery and take their destiny into their own hands. Vowing to cast the shackles that bound them to the sugar cane plantations just west of the Crescent City, these ambitious warriors carved out a place in history for themselves that some have sought to bury for two centuries.
While many are familiar with the stories of uprisings led by Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey and John Brown, a significantly fewer number of people know the story of revolutionaries Charles Deslondes, Harry Kenner, Kook and Quamana who led a group of enslaved Africans toward a vulnerable New Orleans during the annual Mardi Gras celebration in hopes of gaining their freedom. That is about to change.
American Uprising, a new book written by Daniel Rasmussen and slated for an early January 2011 release tells the story of the planning and execution of this uprising and its aftermath.
Rasmussen, a recent Harvard University grad, says he began researching and writing the book about three years ago after stumbling upon the story of the revolt while working on his senior thesis. “In a lot of history about slavery there were only three sentences about this revolt, the largest slave revolt in America,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “Very little was known about it. The more I came upon this in different books, I said to myself ‘I’ve got to figure this out.’ I’ve done a fair amount of investigative journalism so the idea of looking into something that other people didn’t know about and I think some people have consciously tried to keep secret was really intriguing to me.
“The more I learned about it, the more fascinated I became,” he continued. “Number one, my thesis was exactly right, this revolt had been covered up for almost 200 years by very powerful people with very strong interests in keeping this secret. As soon as I found that out, I got even more excited.”… -

Political Highlights December 22, 2010: Obama’s Major Victories in Lame Duck Congressional Session

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN, and 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.

President Obama spoke during a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press President Obama spoke during a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.

STATS & POLLS

  • Poll: Barack Obama rebounding: President Barack Obama may be staging a comeback in the eyes of the American people, a new poll suggests. In a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released Monday, 48 percent of Americans say they approve of how Obama is handling his job, while 48 percent disapprove. The disapproval number is the lowest it’s been since May, when it was 46 percent in the same poll. His disapproval rating reached as high as 54 percent in September — when the five-month Gulf Coast oil spill saga ended — and clocked in at 50 percent in November…. – Politico, 12-22-10
  • 2010 census results: Why did US population growth slow?: The US added some 27 million residents in the past decade. But that population growth is small, percentage-wise – 9.7 percent. Only during the Great Depression decade was the growth rate lower. The United States population has crashed through the 300 million mark, according to just-released 2010 census data. The total number of people living in the US as of April 1 this year was 308,745,538. That means the country has added about 27 million residents over the past 10 years…. – CS Monitor, 12-21-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Senate ratifies nuclear arms treaty with Russia: In a major foreign-policy victory for President Obama, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted 71 to 26 to ratify the New START treaty with Russia, the broadest nuclear arms-reduction pact between the former Cold War foes in nearly two decades.
  • Obama signs repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell': President Obama signed legislation on Wednesday that repeals the 17-year-old law preventing homosexuals from serving openly in the U.S. military. The bill requires military officials to complete implementation plans before lifting the old policy, a process that could take months. -
  • Senate Passes 9/11 Health Bill as Republicans Back Down: After years of fierce lobbying and debate, Congress approved a bill on Wednesday to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers and others who became sick from toxic fumes, dust and smoke after the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. The $4.3 billion bill cleared its biggest hurdle early in the afternoon when the Senate unexpectedly approved it just 12 days after Republican senators had blocked a more expensive House version from coming to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
    In recent days, Republican senators had been under fire for their opposition to the legislation. The House quickly passed the Senate bill a few hours later, as was widely expected. The vote was 206 to 60, breaking down largely along party lines. The White House said President Obama would sign the bill into law. After the Senate vote, a celebration broke out in a room in the Capitol that was packed with emergency workers and 9/11 families, as well as the two senators from New York, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand, and the two senators from New Jersey, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez. The senators, all Democrats, were greeted with a huge ovation and repeated chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”… – NYT, 12-22-10
  • Obama emerges from defeat with a taste of victory: Less than two months after the midterm ‘shellacking,’ the president is buoyed by a series of important bipartisan accomplishments in the lame-duck Congress. But the new legislative session will present a different set of challenges…. – LAT, 12-22-10
  • ‘We Are Not Doomed to Endless Gridlock': President Obama on Wednesday declared the lame-duck session of Congress to be the “most productive post-election period that we have had in decades” and promised to continue seeking common ground next year. “We are not doomed to endless gridlock,” Mr. Obama said.
    Speaking to reporters before leaving for a 10-day vacation in Hawaii, Mr. Obama hailed the flurry of accomplishments, including Wednesday’s approval of a new nuclear treaty with Russia.
    He called the treaty “the most significant arms control agreement in more than two decades” and the top national security priority of the first half of his presidency. “With this treaty our inspectors will also be back on the ground with Russian nuclear bases,” Mr. Obama said. He called the 71-26 vote a “powerful signal to the world.”
    But Mr. Obama rejected an opportunity to gloat about the successes of the past several weeks by declaring himself the “comeback kid,” telling a reporter that the results are “not a victory for me. It’s a victory for the American people.”
    In fact, the president appeared to go out of his way to suggest that Americans would see from him more of the kinds of compromises that led him to cut a deal with Republicans on the extension of tax cuts for the middle class and the wealthy.
    “A lot of folks in this time predicted that after the midterm elections, Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock,” Mr. Obama said. Instead, he said, Washington politicians decided that it was time to find common ground. “That’s a message that I will take to heart in the new year, and I hope my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same,” he said…. – NYT, 12-22-10
  • Obama Press Conference Will Cap Day of Accomplishment: The smile on his face said it all. President Obama arrived Wednesday morning to formally repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with an ear-to-ear grin. He strode across the stage, stopping to hug his Democratic allies. He gave a peck on the cheek to Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine. And when he got to the microphone, the “shellacking” his party took just seven weeks ago seemed a distant memory.
    “This is a good day,” Mr. Obama said as one of the 500 people in attendance yelled, “You rock, President Obama!” “You know,” the president continued, letting the applause linger a bit, “I am just overwhelmed. This is a very good day.”… -
  • Obama Says Recent Weeks Marked a ‘Season of Progress': President Barack Obama said his administration and Congress demonstrated over the past few weeks that Democrats and Republicans can find common ground on some of the nation’s most pressing issues. Rather than a stalemate after the midterm elections in November, “this has been a season of progress for the American people,” Obama said at a year-end press conference at the White House before leaving for Hawaii for the holidays with his family. He returns to Washington on Jan. 1. “If there’s any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it’s that we’re not doomed to endless gridlock,” he said. After what he described as a “shellacking” for his party in the November elections, the president can claim victories during the lame-duck Congress on a host of priorities. These include Senate ratification of a nuclear-reduction treaty with Russia, an $858 billion deal to extend tax cuts and unemployment assistance for the long-term jobless and repeal of a law that banned gays from serving openly in the military.
    “This has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in years,” Obama said of the actions taken by Congress…. – Bloomberg, 12-22-10
  • Obama hails bipartisanship after arms pact passes: President Barack Obama celebrated a bipartisan “season of progress” on Wednesday at a year-end news conference a few hours after the Senate ratified an arms control treaty with Russia. In addition to cutting nuclear weapons and launchers, Obama said the pact will allow U.S. inspectors to “be back on the ground” in Russia. “So we’ll be able to trust but verify,” he said, quoting the late President Ronald Reagan in another in a string of bipartisan gestures of recent weeks.
    The president signed legislation earlier in the day permitting openly gay members of the armed forces to serve openly, but said he does not currently favor legalizing gay marriage. “I struggle with this. I have friends, people who work for me who are in powerful, long standing gay or lesbian unions,” he said. “I have said that at this point my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them protection and legal rights.”
    The president said that after midterm elections on Nov. 2, many “predicted Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock. Instead, this has been a season of progress for the American people.” He added that the accomplishments of a postelection session of Congress demonstrate “we are not doomed to endless gridlock.”… – AP, 12-22-10
  • Obama Hails ‘Season of Progress’ in Year-End News Conference: During a year-end news conference at the White House Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama celebrated what he called a bipartisan “season of progress,” a few hours after the Senate ratified an arms control agreement with Russia.
    President Obama told reporters that after November’s mid-term elections, many people predicted that Washington would be headed for more partisanship. But Obama said the accomplishments of a post-election season of Congress demonstrate that “we are not doomed to endless gridlock.”… – VOA, 12-22-10
  • Obama still wrestling with gay marriage question: President Barack Obama says he is still wrestling with whether gay couples should have the right to marry, now that a new law will allow them to serve openly in combat…. – AP, 12-22-10
  • New START treaty: How will next efforts for nuclear weapons reduction fare?: The Senate ratified the new START treaty by a vote of 71 to 26. But this could turn out to be the high-water mark in Obama’s efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
    With Wednesday’s Senate ratification of a new nuclear-arms reduction treaty with Russia, President Obama accomplished what he has said for months was his top foreign-policy priority.
    The irony of Mr. Obama’s triumph is that, rather than constituting the dawn of a new era of measures reducing the nuclear threat, it may turn out to be the high-water mark in his efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons.
    With Vice President Joe Biden presiding and Secretary of State (and former senator) Hillary Rodham Clinton in attendance, the Senate voted 71 to 26 to ratify the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), achieving the two-thirds vote required to ratify a treaty…. – CS Monitor, 12-22-10
  • Deal reached on aid package for 9/11 responders: After a last-minute compromise, the Senate passed legislation Wednesday to provide up to $4.2 billion in new aid to survivors of the September 2001 terrorism attack on the World Trade Center and responders who became ill working in its ruins. A House vote was expected on the bill within hours as lawmakers raced to wrap up their work for the year before Christmas. President Obama has said he looks forward to signing the measure, though some supporters of the bill have criticized him for not getting more involved in the fight.
    The measure was a product of a compromise involving Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. “The Christmas miracle we’ve been looking for has arrived,” Schumer and Gillibrand said in a joint statement…. – AP, 12-22-10
  • Senate poised to launch new arms treaty: A nuclear arms control treaty with Russia that is President Obama’s top foreign policy priority in the year-end session of Congress is poised for bipartisan approval in the Senate today after it won support from a swath of Republicans.
    In a vote Tuesday to end debate on the treaty, 11 Republicans joined 56 Democrats to back the measure — exceeding the two-thirds vote that will be needed to ratify the measure today. The treaty would cut each country’s nuclear arsenal by nearly a third. The vote cleared way for Congress to finish work before Christmas after a productive post-election session in which lawmakers extended expiring tax cuts and jobless benefits, passed a new food safety bill, repealed a ban on gays serving openly in the military and passed a measure to keep the government funded through March.
    “I feel pretty good about where we’ve gotten to,” said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We look forward to the Senate doing what it does best, which is a really important, thoughtful debate about our national security concerns.”
    Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton both visited Capitol Hill on Tuesday to push wavering lawmakers. Obama, who has cast the treaty as a national security priority, postponed his family vacation to lobby senators by phone…. – USA Today, 12-21-10
  • White House: Obama won’t give up on ‘DREAM Act': The White House says President Barack Obama is not giving up on legislation that would offer a path to legal status to young illegal immigrants. Obama on Tuesday met with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and reiterated his support for the DREAM Act, which died in the Senate last weekend and appears to have even less chance when a new, more Republican Congress convenes in January.
    The legislation would have provided a route to legal status for illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before age 16, have been here for five years, graduated high school or gained an equivalency degree, and who joined the military or attend college. Obama also told lawmakers a broader reform of the immigration system should be a priority for the next Congress. – AP, 12-21-10
  • Barbour explains remarks about desegregation: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential Republican presidential candidate, said Tuesday he was not trying to downplay the pain that many endured during the South’s segregation era when he defended his home town’s 1970 public school integration process.
    Barbour spoke out a day after several liberal activists criticized his published comments about school desegregation in Yazoo City, which occurred when he was 20. Historical accounts confirm the schools integrated peacefully, as Barbour stated in a recent profile in the Weekly Standard magazine.
    Some critics, however, said his comments skimmed over the segregationist role played by so-called Citizens Councils in the state. Asked by the magazine why Yazoo City’s public school integration avoided the violence seen in other towns, Barbour said: “Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it. You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town.”
    A January 1970 Time Magazine article about Yazoo City said, “local white leaders began more than a month ago to prepare their city for the shock of final desegregation. A loosely knit committee of prominent whites met with the city’s whites, urging them to support the public schools rather than abandon them.”… – AP, 12-21-10
  • Divided FCC adopts rules to protect Web traffic: Federal regulators adopted new rules Tuesday to keep the companies that control the Internet’s pipelines from restricting what their customers do online or blocking competing services, including online calling applications and Web video. The vote by the Federal Communications Commission was 3-2 and quickly came under attack from the commission’s two Republicans, who said the rules would discourage investments in broadband. Prominent Republicans in Congress vowed to work to overturn them…. – AP, 12-21-10
  • >New Start treaty vote could come on Tuesday in the Senate: The Senate vote as early as Tuesday on a U.S. Russia arms treaty could be a defining moment for the Obama administration’s foreign policy. The New Start agreement could strengthen President Obama’s hand on a long list of foreign policy challenges, or show foreign leaders unexpected weakness at a moment when the president badly needs a foreign policy victory.
    By bolstering Obama’s “reset” of relations with Russia the Senate vote would help the White House with Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and nuclear proliferation, among others. And by demonstrating that the United States is willing to reduce its own nuclear arsenal, it would encourage other countries to take part in the administration’s nuclear arms reductions agenda.
    The Obama administration has held out its “reset” of relations with Russia as its most tangible foreign policy accomplishment of the past two years. It has viewed the New Start treaty, which would reduce the ceiling on long distance nuclear warheads by up to 30%, as the centerpiece of the new relationship with Moscow. The outcome of the vote, in shifting perceptions of the administration, could have wide effects on how much other world powers help the United States in the war in Afghanistan, the struggle to contain Iran’s nuclear program, and its efforts to forge a Mideast peace…. – LAT, 12-20-10
  • Obama to sign repeal of military gay ban, but Pentagon will write the rules to carry it out: No public displays of affection. No separate bathrooms. No harassment and no special treatment. As the U.S. military begins to map out how it will implement the new edict allowing gays to serve openly, the first order of business is drafting the regulations. The rule changes under discussion won’t dictate how troops feel about the change, but will strictly enforce how they act on it.
    From small wording tweaks and training programs to more complex questions about benefits and religion, the proposed guidelines demand that gays and lesbians be treated just like any other soldier, sailor, airman or marine. But they also leave the door open for some flexibility in room assignments or other instances when commanders believe it’s needed to maintain order and discipline in their units.
    The Senate voted Saturday to repeal the ban on openly gay service, following earlier action by the House of Representatives. Fulfilling a 2008 campaign promise, President Barack Obama plans to sign the bill into law on Wednesday at a Department of Interior ceremony. But in letters to the troops over the weekend, the four military service chiefs warned that the ban is still in place, and will be for some time to come.
    “The implementation and certification process will not happen immediately; it will take time,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said in an email to airmen. “Meanwhile, the current law remains in effect. All Air Force members should conduct themselves accordingly.”…. – Canadian Press, 12-20-10
  • ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repealed: What’s next?: President Obama is scheduled to sign legislation Wednesday that will end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, officially shifting to the Defense Department the political pressure surrounding the repeal of the 17-year ban on gays serving openly in uniform. Even after Obama scrawls his signature, the law won’t actually change until the Pentagon certifies to Congress that the military has met several preconditions, including education and training programs for troops. On Monday, Pentagon officials repeatedly declined to predict how long they would need, saying only that they would proceed at a “methodical” and “deliberate” pace. “I don’t think anybody has any idea yet how long this will take,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said…. – WaPo, 12-20-10

111TH & 112TH CONGRESS

  • McCain amendment could make way for START deal: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) filed an amendment on the resolution of ratification to the START treaty Monday that non- proliferation experts suggested could clear the way for a swift deal, I report on the home page: McCain’s amendment, co-sponsored with Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), would seek to address Republican concerns that the U.S.-Russian arms control pact not limit U.S. missile defenses. At the same time, it doesn’t demand changes to the treaty language itself that would have effectively killed the deal with Russia, as several Republican-proposed amendments defeated over the weekend would have done. Arms-control advocates were cautiously optimistic Monday reviewing McCain’s amendment that it was acceptable for START advocates if it could deliver the Republican votes the administration needs for treaty ratification.
    “While in my view these amendments to the resolution of advice and consent are unnecessary, their appearance would suggest that there are ways to address the missile defense-related concerns of a number of New START skeptics short of treaty-killing amendments to the treaty,” the Arms Control Association’s Daryl Kimball told POLITICO Monday.
    Monday afternoon, following a rare closed Senate session on the treaty, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said talks were continuing about adding additional language to the resolution of ratification at the request of Republicans.
    “We have included some 13 different amendments already that are in the resolution that reflect their concerns,” Kerry told reporters. “We were just having a conversation now with Sen. Kyl. There may be some additional things that we can incorporate.”… – Politico, 12-20-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Alaska Supreme Court Rules Against Senate Hopeful Joe Miller: The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday denied Senate candidate Joe Miller’s claims that the state conducted the midterm election improperly, effectively affirming incumbent Lisa Murkowski’s 10,328-vote lead over Mr. Miller and paving the way for her to begin her term in January. Ms. Murkowski, who like Mr. Miller is Republican, had launched a write-in campaign for the Senate seat in August after Mr. Miller beat her in the Republican primary. The Associated Press declared her victorious in mid-November. But Mr. Miller had hoped that a court decision in his favor could pull him ahead of his rival…. – WSJ, 12-22-10
  • Obama’s 2008 states lose six electoral votes in new census”: President Obama lost six electoral votes. That’s the upshot of new Census numbers for states that Obama carried in the 2008 election. Because of population changes, eight of the states Obama won in 2008 lost a total of 10 U.S. House seats, while four other states he carried picked up four seats; the number of U.S. House slots helps determine a state’s presidential electoral votes. Of course, Obama has a little bit of a margin to play with — he defeated John McCain in the Electoral College, 365-173.
    Still, Republican presidential prospects appear to have improved, if the Census is any guide. Reuters reports:
    Of the eight states that gain at least one (House) seat, five were won by McCain. Staunchly Republican Texas will gain four House seats, helped by a growing Hispanic population, while Arizona, Utah, Georgia and South Carolina — all reliably conservative — will pick up one each. The states won by McCain that lose a seat are Missouri and Louisiana, which suffered a population drop after Hurricane Katrina in 2005…. – USA Today, 12-21-10
  • Census Data Likely to Help the GOP: The Census Bureau’s release of new population data Tuesday will likely lead to a shift in political power from the Democratic Rust Belt to the Republican Sun Belt, potentially helping the GOP consolidate power in Congress. The U.S.’s 435 House seats are distributed according to the census, a decennial effort that apportions power in ways that sometimes last for generations. State legislatures, a slight majority of which will be in Republican hands next year, have the power to redraw district maps to maximize the chances of victory for a party’s candidate…. – WSJ, 12-20-10

QUOTES

  • The President’s Press Conference: “The Most Productive Post-Election Period We’ve Had in Decades”: First of all, I’m glad that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve my top national security priority for this session of Congress – the new START Treaty. This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify; and to continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges – from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran, to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.
    In the last few weeks, we also came together across party lines to pass a package of tax cuts and unemployment insurance that will spur jobs, businesses, and growth. This package includes a payroll tax cut that means nearly every American family will get an average tax cut next year of about $1,000 delivered in their paychecks. It will make a difference for millions of students, and parents, and workers, and people still looking for work. It’s has led economists across the political spectrum to predict that the economy will grow faster than they originally thought next year.
    In our ongoing struggle to perfect our Union, we also overturned a 17-year old law and a longstanding injustice by finally ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As I said earlier today, this is the right thing to do for our security. And it is the right thing to do, period.
    In addition, we came together across party lines to pass a food safety bill – the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression. And I hope the House soon joins the Senate in passing a 9/11 health bill that will help cover the health care costs of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and residents who inhaled toxic air near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning, and the days that followed.
    So, I think it’s fair to say this has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years we’ve had in generations. – WH, 12-22-10
  • The President Signs Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”: “Out of Many, We Are One”: You know, I am just overwhelmed. This is a very good day. (Applause.) And I want to thank all of you, especially the people on this stage, but each and every one of you who have been working so hard on this, members of my staff who worked so hard on this. I couldn’t be prouder….
    I want to express my gratitude to the men and women in this room who have worn the uniform of the United States Armed Services. (Applause.) I want to thank all the patriots who are here today, all of them who were forced to hang up their uniforms as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — but who never stopped fighting for this country, and who rallied and who marched and fought for change. I want to thank everyone here who stood with them in that fight…. – WH, 12-22-10TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Scott Brown to support New START treaty: Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican, announced that he will support the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, providing a potentially crucial vote when the measure comes up for a vote as soon as Tuesday.
    “I’ve done my due diligence, and I’m going to be … ultimately supporting the START treaty,” Brown told reporters after emerging late this afternoon from a closed-door intelligence briefing for all senators. “I believe it’s something that’s important for our country, and I believe it’s a good move forward to deal with our national security issues.” – Boston Globe, 12-20-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • No Congress Since 1960s Has Impact on Public as 111th: “This is probably the most productive session of Congress since at least the ‘60s,” said Alan Brinkley, a historian at New York’s Columbia University. “It’s all the more impressive given how polarized the Congress has been.” – Bloomberg, 12-22-10
  • For Obama, victories offer second chance: A renewed tax-cut package and other congressional wins might be giving the president a political boost.
    “There’s no way you can credibly say anybody could have delivered more,” said presidential historian H.W. Brands of the University of Texas at Austin…. – McClatchy News, 12-22-10
  • Obama emerges from defeat with a taste of victory: Princeton historian Julian E. Zelizer said Obama would need to “move sharply toward the center, indeed, to embrace parts of the Republican agenda, to rebuild his own political strength.” The president could find it difficult to “win any support for significant legislation that Republicans don’t want, when he doesn’t have something as huge as tax cuts to give them in return,” he said…. – LAT, 12-22-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: The real threat to health care reform: When U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled that the mandate to purchase health insurance in the new law was unconstitutional, many people began looking to the Supreme Court for a final determination.
    Supporters and opponents of President Obama’s health care bill are speculating as to whether the highest court in the land might rule the president’s signature measure unconstitutional.
    But the truth is that a Supreme Court ruling along these lines, which is against the odds, is probably not the greatest threat that health care faces. Nor is outright repeal. As Americans become more familiar with the benefits of the program, Republicans will find it more difficult to attack health care outright. With all the discussion about constitutional challenge or congressional repeal, the more likely threat is that Republicans will gradually weaken the program to the point that it is ineffective…. – CNN, 12-20-10
  • Mass., NY could lose more seats in Congress: “These states are still holding onto memories of an earlier era when the Northeast was a dominant power in politics,” said Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University. “The Sun Belt is where the action is now.” iBerkshires.com, 12-21-10
  • In ‘Christmas miracle,’ NY senators predict passage of WTC health bill: Now, with the measure’s price tag lowered and the question of its funding answered, it’ll be hard for Republicans to find grounds to vote against it, said Princeton University public affairs professor Julian Zelizer. “Not everyone in the GOP is with McCain on this one. The Democrats can come out of this lame-duck session with another victory,” said Zelizer, citing the extension of unemployment benefits and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”… – amNY, 12-19-10
  • Elite Colleges Rethink Ties to R.O.T.C. After ‘Don’t Ask’ Repeal: The Senate vote to repeal the 17-year old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy against gay men and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces removes a reason that many elite colleges have cited for barring the Reserve Officers Training Corps from recruiting on their campuses.
    Already, the presidents of Harvard, Yale and Columbia have issued statements expressing interest in bringing back the R.O.T.C.. But it is not clear whether there will be enough student interest on those campuses to warrant its presence.
    The R.O.T.C., which has units on 327 campuses nationwide, was sent packing from several Ivy League and other prominent campuses in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in the firestorm of student protests against the Vietnam War. More recently, though, it has faced opposition because of discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the military.
    Drew Faust, the president of Harvard, said over the weekend that she was looking forward to “pursuing discussions with military officials and others to achieve Harvard’s full and formal recognition of R.O.T.C..”
    President Lee Bollinger of Columbia said the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” would allow the university to fulfill its desire to be more open to the military. In a statement, Mr. Bollinger said the repeal “effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia, given our desire to be open to our military, but not wanting to violate our own core principle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”… – NYT, 12-21-10
  • Population shifts further complicate Obama’s reelection plans: President Obama’s already difficult path to reelection became more treacherous, as national population shifts announced Tuesday showed significant migrations away from Rust Belt and Democratic-leaning states to Republican strongholds. Released every 10 years, the Census Bureau figures determine the number of House seats and Electoral College votes each state receives. And the influx of residents to traditionally red states in the south and west is a welcome development for Republicans still relishing the results of midterm elections in which they took control of the House and dozens of state legislatures and governorships.
    “This matters,” said Dennis Goldford, a political scientist at Drake University in Iowa. “The population has been moving south and west, reliable Republican territory. We don’t have a national presidential election. Obama has to make up those votes somehow.”
    “I don’t see why there’s any reason why in a number of these places both parties can’t be equally competitive and I don’t think it will have a huge practical impact,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
    “Although things shift slightly in the Republican direction, if [Obama] wins the same states he won in 2008, he still wins the presidency,” said Michael McDonald, a George Mason University political science professor who specializes in redistricting. “By and large, the map pretty much stays the same in terms of what states you need to put together to win the presidency.”… Washington Examiner, 12-21-10

 

Stanley Harrold: Prof examines role of border states in Civil War

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Source: The Times and Democrat, 12-21-10

A South Carolina State University professor goes beyond the traditional understanding of the Civil War’s causes in his new book.

History professor Stanley Harrold explores the conflict and bloody violence over slavery in the border states in his latest book, “Border War” (University of North Carolina Press).

The author of seven previous books about the Civil War, Harrold offers documentation of incidents involving factions other than just pro- and anti-slavery forces.

“All of my books have dealt with the years leading up to the Civil War,” Harrold said. “These involved the abolitionist movement and the resulting conflict in the North-South border states.

“The usual assumption by most historians was the border region was conservative. That thinking held that it was the radical components in the upper North and the Deep South that pushed the country toward Civil War.”

Harrold contends the border states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri were the tinderbox where people with varying views on slavery met face to face.

The book covers what Harrold says are two main phases to the border conflict.

“The first was, as time went by, the border slave states came to realize they needed to get slavery protection from the federal government,” Harrold said. “If they secede from the Union, they won’t be covered by federal laws allowing recovery of runaway slaves. That led them to stay with the Union.

“The second phase was the domino theory held by the Deep South. It held if slavery was weaker in the border states, then the next tier of states will fall, eventually pushing down to the Gulf of Mexico. Secession was the Deep South’s way to try and head off what it saw was that logical progression.”..READ MORE

John Welsh: Centennial Professor of History

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Source: University of Penn Almanac, 12-21-10

John Welsh Centennial Professor of History: Richard R. Beeman
PDF
December 21, 2010, Volume 57, No. 16
Beeman

Richard R. Beeman has been appointed the John Welsh Centennial Professor of History in the School of Arts and Sciences. As a historian of the American Revolutionary Era, Dr. Beeman’s research focuses on aspects of America’s political and constitutional history in the 18th and 19th centuries. He has written seven books and is currently working on his eighth, which is focused on the Continental Congress. His latest, The Penguin Guide to the United States was published by Penguin Press in August. His book, Plain Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution (Random House, 2009) won the George Washington Book Prize and the Literary Award of the Philadelphia Athenaeum. He has also written several dozen articles…. READ MORE

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History Buzz: December 2010, Christmas, Civil War at 150 & Best of 2010

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

IN FOCUS:

  • Will Tuesday Be the Darkest Day in 456 Years?: A painting of a total lunar eclipse viewed from the surface of the moon, as imagined by Lucien Rudax in the 1920s. Break out the flashlights. When a full lunar eclipse takes place on the shortest day of the year, the planet may just get awfully dark. The upcoming Dec. 21 full moon — besides distinguishing itself from the others in 2010 by undergoing a total eclipse — will also take place on the same date as the solstice (the winter solstice if you live north of the equator, and the summer solstice if you live to the south).
    Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and marks the official beginning of winter. The sun is at its lowest in our sky because the North Pole of our tilted planet is pointing away from it…. – Fox News, 12-18-10
  • First Winter Solstice Meeting With Lunar Eclipse In 456 Years: This year’s winter solstice will coincide with a full lunar eclipse for the first time in 456 years. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, and it has not fallen on the same day as a lunar eclipse since 1554, according to NASA.
    This eclipse will be the second on two eclipses in 2010. The first was a partial lunar eclipse that took place on June 26, 2010.
    Some believe that this event holds special significance, such as one ancient culture who saw the winter solstice as a time of renewal.
    The winter solstice played an important role in the Greco-Roman rituals.
    “It’s seen as a time of rebirth or renewal because, astrologically, it’s a time where the light comes back,” Shane Hawkins, a professor of Greek and Roman studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, told the Montreal Gazette. “If (the eclipse) happened on the 21st, they might well have been drunk,” he said. However, skeptics say that it is just an event with not significance…. – Red Orbit, 12-18-10
  • Retraction and Apology Issued to Professor Guenter Lewy: In the summer 2008 issue of its Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported that Guenter Lewy, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, was part of a network of persons, financed by the Government of Turkey, who dispute that the tragic events of World War I constituted an Armenian genocide. We now realize that we misunderstood Professor Lewy’s scholarship, were wrong to assert that he was part of a network financed by the Turkish Government, and were wrong to assume that any scholar who challenges the Armenian genocide narrative necessarily has been financially compromised by the Government of Turkey. We hereby retract the assertion that Professor Lewy was or is on the Government of Turkey’s payroll….

    Professor Lewy adds the following comment: “The SPLC has made important contributions to the rule of law and the struggle against bigotry. Thus I took no pleasure in commencing legal action against it. But the stakes, both for my reputation as a scholar and for the free and unhindered discussion of controversial topics, were compelling. It must be possible to defend views that contradict conventional wisdom without being called the agent of a foreign government.” – PR Newswire, 12-1-10

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Beneath the Dead Sea, Scientists Are Drilling for Natural History: Five miles out, nearly to the center of the Dead Sea, an international team of scientists has been drilling beneath the seabed to extract a record of climate change and earthquake history stretching back half a million years.
    “We knew the lake went through high levels and lower levels,” said Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham, a leading Dead Sea expert and the driving force behind the project, “but we did not know it got so low.” Professor Ben-Avraham, a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and chief of the Minerva Dead Sea Research Center at Tel Aviv University, had been pushing for such a drilling operation for 10 years…. – NYT, 12-18-10
  • A protest against tuition hikes becomes a generational phenomenon in Britain: IN LONDON The first sign that something is awry inside the venerable halls of University College London is a fresh red scrawl on the side of the regal entrance that simply reads, “Join the fight.” “A lot of students feel this overwhelming sense of disillusionment,” said Sylvia Ellis, associate professor of history at Northumbria University. “This is the first time that many of them have come face to face with the fact that politicians will let them down.” Now, the student opposition – including building occupations at Cambridge, Manchester University, Birmingham University and scores of others – has generated the seven-month-old coalition’s most serious political challenge. The Liberal Democrats are bitterly split, with one block set to vote against the measure. In an olive branch to students, the government agreed Wednesday to offer more flexible student loan terms…. – WaPo, 12-8-10

HISTORY OP-EDs:

  • Eric Weinberger: All the [Harvard] President’s Books, Drew Gilpin Faust: I took charge of the president’s books because it was my assigned job to write thank-you letters for them. I would send her the books and the unsigned draft replies on presidential letterhead; for each one, she sent me back the signed letter and, most of the time, the book, meaning she had no further use for it. Some books she would keep, but seldom for very long, which meant those came back to me too, in one of the smaller offices on the third floor of Mass Hall where there was no room to put them. Furthermore they weren’t so easily disposed of. Often they bore inscriptions, to President Drew Faust or to her and her husband from people they knew; and even if the volume was something rather less exalted — a professor from India sending his management tome or a book of Hindi poems addressed, mysteriously, to “Sir” or to the “vice-chancellor of Harvard University” — these books obviously couldn’t end up in a secondhand bookshop or charity bin or anywhere they could cause embarrassment. All were soon moved to an overflow space at the very end of the hall, coincidentally looking out at a donation bin for books at a church across the street…. – Inside Higher Ed, 12-13-10
  • Stephanie Coontz: Is marriage becoming obsolete?: According to a TIME/Pew research poll released last week, 40 percent of Americans believe that marriage is becoming obsolete, up from just 28 percent in 1978. In that same poll, only one in four unmarried Americans say they do not want to get married. And among currently married men and women, 80 percent say their marriage is as close as or closer than their parents’ marriage. These seemingly contradictory responses reflect the public’s recognition of a new and complex reality. On the one hand, marriage as a voluntary relationship based on love and commitment is held in higher regard than ever, with more people saying that love is essential to marriage (Consider that in 1967, two-thirds of college women said they’d consider marrying a man they didn’t love if he met other criteria, such as offering respectability and financial security.)… – CNN, 11-24-10

HISTORY REVIEWS:

  • NYT 100 Notable Books of 2010 NYT, 12-5-10
  • NYT: The 10 Best Books of 2010: Stacy Schiff: CLEOPATRA: A Life: With her signature blend of wit, intelligence and superb prose, Schiff strips away 2,000 years of prejudices and propaganda in her elegant reimagining of the Egyptian queen who, even in her own day, was mythologized and misrepresented.
    Isabel Wilkerson: THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration: Wilkerson, a former national correspondent for The Times, has written a masterly and engrossing account of the Great Migration, in which six million African-Americans abandoned the South between 1915 and 1970. The book centers on the journeys of three black migrants, each representing a different decade and a different destination. – NYT, 12-12-10
  • Noah Feldman’s book on FDR’s Supreme Court: SCORPIONS The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices Now Noah Feldman, himself a Harvard law professor, has written a book similar to Simon’s, although “The Antagonists” have bulked up into “Scorpions” and two more Roosevelt appointees have entered the lists: Justices William O. Douglas and Robert Jackson. Having reviewed “The Antagonists” for The Post, I doubted that Simon’s topic deserved another look. In truth, however, it did. “The Antagonists” remains a very good book, but “Scorpions” is even better. In it, Feldman tells how four ambitious and strong-willed jurists jockeyed for position on a Supreme Court asked to rule on the constitutionality of New Deal programs and to find a balance between governmental objectives and individual rights…. – WaPo, 12-5-10
  • New book chronicles largest slave revolt in U.S. history: On January 8, 1811 a group of determined enslaved Africans set into motion a plan to rise up against slavery and take their destiny into their own hands. Vowing to cast the shackles that bound them to the sugar cane plantations just west of the Crescent City, these ambitious warriors carved out a place in history for themselves that some have sought to bury for two centuries. American Uprising, a new book written by Daniel Rasmussen and slated for an early January 2011 release tells the story of the planning and execution of this uprising and its aftermath.
    Rasmussen, a recent Harvard University grad, says he began researching and writing the book about three years ago after stumbling upon the story of the revolt while working on his senior thesis. “In a lot of history about slavery there were only three sentences about this revolt, the largest slave revolt in America,” he told The Louisiana Weekly. “Very little was known about it. The more I came upon this in different books, I said to myself ‘I’ve got to figure this out.’ I’ve done a fair amount of investigative journalism so the idea of looking into something that other people didn’t know about and I think some people have consciously tried to keep secret was really intriguing to me.
    “The more I learned about it, the more fascinated I became,” he continued. “Number one, my thesis was exactly right, this revolt had been covered up for almost 200 years by very powerful people with very strong interests in keeping this secret. As soon as I found that out, I got even more excited.”… – Louisiana Weekly, 12-27-10
  • Nonfiction Chronicle: Robert Dallek: THE LOST PEACE Leadership in a Time of Horror and Hope, 1945-1953 Dallek has written at least one book about each of six different United States presidents: no wonder his latest offering assumes that Great Men really do influence history. Specifically, it indicts World War II’s victorious leaders for resorting to the traditional politics of great-power rivalry rather than imagining unprecedented global cooperation, a metadecision that saddled us with the dangers of the nuclear age. The errors of these men and their successors, Dallek argues, were “not the result of inevitable forces beyond human control; rather, they were the consequence of bad judgments.” But if Dallek proves anything (and he proves a great deal in this excellent book) it is how little room the “most talented and memorable government chiefs in modern history” had to act differently…. – NYT, 1-2-11
  • Glenn W. LaFantasie: The top 12 Civil War books ever written: One great book for each month of 2011, the sesquicentennial of the War Between the States. In any event, here are a dozen books that, for me, tell the story of the Civil War with literary elegance, intellectual gusto and enormous flair….
    12. “The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War” by Bruce Catton
    11. “Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America”: by William E. Gienapp
    10. “Lincoln’s Men: How President Lincoln Became Father to an Army and a Nation”: By William C. Davis
    9. “Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War”: By Charles Bracelen Flood
    8. “Chancellorsville 1863: The Souls of the Brave”: By Ernest B. (“Pat”) Furgurson
    7. “Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam”: By Stephen W. Sears
    6. “Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches From the Unfinished Civil War”: By Tony Horwitz
    5. “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory”: By David W. Blight
    4. “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War”: By Drew Gilpin Faust
    3. “Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era”: By James M. McPherson
    2. “The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans”: By Charles Royster
    1. “A Stillness at Appomattox”: By Bruce Catton — Salon, 12-26-10
  • Michael Korda: Arabian Knight: HERO The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia Most treatments of Lawrence’s life can be divided into debunkings and hagiographies. “Hero” by Michael Korda, as the title implies, is closer to the latter category. Yet into this baggy but beguiling biography, Korda, the author of several works of history, has also crammed the darker incarnations of Lawrence, the shy depressive, the tortured ascetic, the “odd gnome, half cad — with a touch of genius,” in the words of one of his companions behind Turkish lines. This book, for all its worship of Lawrence, leaves the impression that his heroism lay in a unique brand of personal eccentricity, a refusal to fit into the expectations of others, an unshakable determination to do things his own way, however peculiar and wrong-headed this seemed…. – NYT, 12-24-10 Excerpt
  • David Wootton: GALILEO Watcher of the Skies; J. L. Heilbron: GALILEO: Starry Messenger Inevitably, the serious biographer also mirrors something of himself in depicting his subject. Readers who make it through the occasional eye-glazing geometrical digression in J. L. Heilbron’s “Galileo” will not be surprised to find that the author’s extensive output includes a fresh explication of Euclid. Likewise, the reader of David Wootton’s “Galileo: Watcher of the Skies,” which includes a revisionist chapter on Galileo’s “(un)belief,” as he puts it, will not be surprised to learn that Wootton has written repeatedly about atheism…. – NYT, 12-24-10
  • Henry Louis Gates Jr.: Scholars Say Chronicler of Black Life Passed for White: Renown came to Jean Toomer with his 1923 book “Cane,” which mingled fiction, drama and poetry in a formally audacious effort to portray the complexity of black lives. But the racially mixed Toomer’s confounding efforts to defy being stuck in conventional racial categories and his disaffiliation with black culture made him perhaps the most enigmatic writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance.
    Now Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard scholar, and Rudolph P. Byrd, a professor at Emory University, say their research for a new edition of “Cane” documents that Toomer was “a Negro who decided to pass for white.” They lob this intellectual grenade in their introduction to the book, which W. W. Norton & Company is to publish next month. Their judgment is based on “an analysis of archival evidence previously overlooked by other scholars,” Mr. Byrd and Mr. Gates write, including Toomer’s draft registrations and his and his family’s census records, which they consider alongside his writings and public statements…. – NYT, 12-26-10
  • Joseph J. Ellis: A Marriage That Defied Separation and War: FIRST FAMILY Abigail and John Adams John and Abigail Adams exchanged some 1,200 letters, providing a window into the marriage of this Revolutionary-era power couple. In his new book, “First Family: Abigail and John Adams,” Joseph J. Ellis draws on those letters to create a portrait of a couple forced to spend long months apart….
    But Mr. Ellis — the author of an astute 1993 portrait of John Adams (“Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams”), as well as of books on Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other members of the Revolutionary generation — uses his easy familiarity with the era to invest his portrait of the couple with authoritative historical perspective. We may not learn anything appreciably new about the Adams family, per se, but in “First Family” Mr. Ellis employs his narrative gifts to draw a remarkably intimate portrait of John and Abigail’s marriage as it played out against the momentous events that marked the birth of a nation…. – NYT, 12-20-10
  • Book Review – The Women Jefferson Loved – By Virginia Scharff: A historian seeks to understand Thomas Jefferson through his relationships with the women in his life.
    Now Virginia Scharff, a professor of history at the University of New Mexico, has sought to understand Jefferson through his relationships with the women he loved: his mother, Jane Randolph; his wife, Martha; his daughters and granddaughters; and his slave mistress, Sally Hemings…. – NYT, 12-19-10
  • Book Review – Decision Points – By George W. Bush: The 43rd president reviews his choices and finds them for the most part good. – There is something very modern, almost New Agey, and endearingly insecure, about the tone and posture the son adopts in “Decision Points.” Even as he’s bombing Baghdad back to the Stone Age, he’s very much in touch with his feelings. In college, he says, he was appalled to learn how the French Revolution betrayed its ideals…. – NYT, 12-19-10 Excerpt
  • David Horowitz: Reforming Our Universities, Reforming Our Universities: The Campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights: Why doesn’t David Horowitz give up? That question will occur to most readers well before they reach the end of his new book. Reforming Our Universities: The Campaign for an Academic Bill of Rights (Regnery, 2010) is a narrative of frustration, disappointment, resurgent optimism, further defeat, and finally the rescuing of small consolation from the wreckage of high hope. For his trouble, Horowitz endures vilification piled on calumny; gets to see his olive branches to the academic Left treated as though they were curare-tipped arrows; and secures the support of allies that range from faint-hearted Chihuahuas to politically clueless puppies.
    So why doesn’t Horowitz give up? For the publication of this volume is ample proof that he hasn’t. And though Horowitz has much to complain about, Reforming Our Universities seems untouched by self-pity. He has indignation to spare, but the spirit of this narrative of his six-year campaign to persuade American universities to embrace fair-minded intellectual inquiry is the spirit of undaunted determination…. – Front Page Mag, 12-20-10
  • ‘Capital Offense’ and ‘Revival’ – Book Reviews: Deeper Looks at the Crisis of ’08 and the Oval Office: Michael Hirsh: CAPITAL OFFENSE How Washington’s Wise Men Turned America’s Future Over to Wall Street; Richard Wolffe: REVIVAL The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House
    Michael Hirsh, in “Capital Offense,” looks at the financial crisis of 2008, and Richard Wolffe delves into the Obama administration anew with “Revival.”
    In fact, the main reason the financial crisis of 2008 occurred, the journalist Michael Hirsh argues in his provocative new book, “Capital Offense,” is that “the people in charge of our economy, otherwise intelligent and capable men like Greenspan, Rubin and Summers — and later Hank Paulson and Tim Geithner — permitted themselves to believe, in the face of a rising tide of contrary evidence, that markets are for the most part efficient and work well on their own.”
    Richard Wolffe’s new book, “Revival” — which argues in passing that “Obama’s economic team was the most dysfunctional group of the president’s advisers” — uses the administration’s efforts to grapple with the country’s fiscal woes and its handling of health care legislation as prisms by which to look at how this White House operates. – NYT, 12-14-10
  • Book Review – Atlantic – By Simon Winchester: ATLANTIC Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories Simon Winchester tells the story of the Atlantic Ocean.
    In “Atlantic,” Winchester attempts to wrap his arms around a subject so vast that it nearly defeats him at the outset. “I wanted so much to write the story of the ocean,” writes the author, an Englishman whose life has been marked by memorable encounters with the gray Atlantic. “But what and where was the structure? I was, as they say, all at sea.”… – NYT, 12-12-10
  • Book Review – Pirates of Barbary – By Adrian Tinniswood: The Shores of Tripoli PIRATES OF BARBARY Corsairs, Conquests, and Captivity in the Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean In the early 19th century, the United States Navy and Marines played a small but significant part in the demise of the Barbary corsairs, the pirates who terrorized the Mediterranean from their bases in Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli and Morocco. As a result, we Americans have tended to view this history through the lens of our own past. Adrian Tinniswood’s dramatic narrative, “Pirates of Barbary,” reminds us that the corsairs had preyed on Europeans long before the United States arrived on the scene. Indeed, they reached the height of their power in the 17th century, not long after the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock…. – A history of the Barbary pirates who menaced the Mediterranean for three centuries. NYT, 12-12-10
  • Book Review – Why The West Rules — For Now – By Ian Morris: WHY THE WEST RULES — FOR NOW The Patterns of History, and What They Reveal About the Future A Stanford historian views the clash between East and West from a long perspective, and argues that we face an immediate choice — East-West cooperation or catastrophe.
    In his new book, he sets out to discover broad patterns, “the overall ‘shape’ of history,” by sifting through the world’s long development process. Following the oscillating forces from prehistory to the present, he shows how both the East and West managed to catalyze themselves at different times and in different ways to progressively new heights of development. But his ultimate challenge is to make sense of all these cycles of rise and fall, the better to judge whether either side was in possession of any innate superiority. His answer to that question is an emphatic no. East and West, he tells us, are just “geographical labels, not value judgments.”… – NYT, 12-12-10
  • DAVID WALDSTREICHER: Book Review – Tories – By Thomas B. Allen: TORIES Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War A Revolutionary War history emphasizes the strangely neglected topic of the Americans who opposed the Revolutionary War. Thomas B. Allen, the author of several books about American warfare, has a strangely neglected topic in the Americans who opposed the Revolutionary War. There hasn’t been a big book about the loyalists since before the Bicentennial.- NYT, 12-12-10 Excerpt
  • Book Review – George Washington’s America – Barnet Schecter: George Washington’s story told using his collection of maps and atlases, probably one of the largest in 18th-century America.
    In GEORGE WASHINGTON’S AMERICA: A Biography Through His Maps, Barnet Schecter aims “to tell Washington’s entire life story” from these fascinating materials. He concentrates on a collection of 43 maps assembled into an atlas, now owned by Yale University, that depict eastern North America from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Supplemented by other maps from the Mount Vernon library, including some drawn by Washington himself, these images provide an unusually rich visual foundation for Schecter’s narrative…. – NYT, 12-5-10
  • Book Review ‘Fragments’ by Marilyn Monroe and ‘Dear Mrs. Kennedy’: By LIESL SCHILLINGER FRAGMENTS Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters By Marilyn Monroe, Edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment; Jay Mulvaney and Paul De Angelis: DEAR MRS. KENNEDY A World Shares Its Grief: Letters, November 1963
    Collections of Marilyn Monroe’s private documents and of letters Jackie Kennedy received after her husband’s assassination.
    Two new books refresh the images of two larger-than-life American contemporaries who continue to compel the global imagination half a century after their deaths: Marilyn Monroe, who died of an overdose of sleeping drugs on Aug. 5, 1962, at the age of 36; and President John F. Kennedy, assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, at the age of 46. Unearthing long-buried letters and private documents, these books — “Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters,” edited by Stanley Buchthal and Bernard Comment, and “Dear Mrs. Kennedy: A World Shares Its Grief,” by Jay Mulvaney and Paul De Angelis — attest to the spell these figures cast, in the past and in the present… – NYT, 12-3-10
  • Book Review – Bloodlands – Europe Between Hitler and Stalin – By Timothy Snyder: By JOSHUA RUBENSTEIN
    How Poland, Ukraine, the Baltics and Belarus were victimized by two mass murderers with competing utopian visions. In “Bloodlands,” Snyder concentrates on the area between Germany and Russia (Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic region and Belarus) that became the site of horrific experiments to create competing utopias based on class or race war. For Stalin, this meant controlling “the largest social group in the Soviet Union, the peasantry.” They needed to be driven off small plots of land into more efficient collective farms; many were forced to move to factory zones to sustain rapid industrialization…. – NYT, 11-26-10
  • GEOFFREY C. WARD on Edmund Morris: A Headlong Life: COLONEL ROOSEVELT On the evidence offered in “Colonel Roosevelt,” the third and concluding volume of Edmund Morris’s monumental life of the 26th president, both of my forebears had a point. Morris is a stylish storyteller with an irresistible subject. The seismic personality that one White House visitor said had to be wrung from one’s clothes when leaving Roosevelt’s presence infuses every one of his trilogy’s nearly 2,500 pages…. – NYT, 11-26-10
  • Book Review – And the Show Went On – Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris – By Alan Riding: AND THE SHOW WENT ON Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris In gripping and painful detail, Alan Riding shows how French writers and artists adapted to the Nazis.
    Thirty years ago, while reporting on Latin America for The New York Times, Alan Riding began wondering how artists and writers responded to brutal dictatorships. He then went to live in Paris and realized that not so long before, the French intellectual and cultural elite had provided an answer, in often unlovely ways. “And the Show Went On” describes this history in gripping and painful detail…. – NYT, 11-26-10
  • Michael Korda’s ‘Hero,’ About T. E. Lawrence – Review: The strength of Michael Korda’s new biography of T. E. Lawrence, “Hero,” lies in its ability to analyze its subject’s accomplishments and to add something to the body of Lawrence lore. – NYT, 11-21-10

HISTORY FEATURES:

  • Gary C. Anderson: Minnesota Execution 150 Years Ago Spurs Calls for Pardon: On Dec. 26, 1862, thirty-eight doomed Dakota Indians wailed and danced atop the gallows, waiting for the trapdoors to drop beneath them. The square scaffold, built here to accommodate the largest mass execution in United States history, swayed under their weight….
    But one man, historians say, did not belong there. A captured Dakota named We-Chank-Wash-ta-don-pee, often called Chaska, had had his sentence commuted by President Abraham Lincoln days earlier. Yet on the day after Christmas 1862, Chaska died with the others. It was a case of wrongful execution, Gary C. Anderson, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma and Little Crow biographer, said last week in an interview. “These soldiers just grabbed the wrong guy,” he said…. – NYT, 12-13-10
  • Historian David Kiehn traces old Bay Area films: David Kiehn has spent most of his life working in film-related jobs. But it wasn’t until he made a remarkable discovery – and was featured on “60 Minutes” – that anyone outside the film community took notice. For years, Kiehn knew about “A Trip Down Market Street,” a 12-minute silent film, shot in San Francisco from a cable car. The Library of Congress dated the film to 1905, but Kiehn suspected otherwise. Studying weather reports, vehicle registration records and show-biz trade publications, he discovered that “Market Street” was in fact shot four days before the great earthquake of April 18, 1906. Suddenly, the film took on a haunting poignancy: We now look at the San Francisco newsboys, the carriage jockeys and the women in elaborate hats, and know that many will soon be dead…. – San Francisco Chronicle, 12-6-10
  • Dan Cohen and Fred Gibbs-helmed digitization project making headway on Victorian literature: Victorians were enamored of the new science of statistics, so it seems fitting that these pioneering data hounds are now the subject of an unusual experiment in statistical analysis. The titles of every British book published in English in and around the 19th century — 1,681,161, to be exact — are being electronically scoured for key words and phrases that might offer fresh insight into the minds of the Victorians.
    This research, which has only recently become possible, thanks to a new generation of powerful digital tools and databases, represents one of the many ways that technology is transforming the study of literature, philosophy and other humanistic fields that haven’t necessarily embraced large-scale quantitative analysis.
    Dan Cohen and Fred Gibbs, the two historians of science at George Mason University who have created the project, have so far charted how frequently more than two dozen words — among them “God,” “love,” “work,” “science” and “industrial” — appear in British book titles from the French Revolution in 1789 to the beginning of World War I in 1914. To Mr. Cohen, the sharply jagged lines that dance across his graphs can be used to test some of the most deeply entrenched beliefs about the Victorians, like their faith in progress and science: “We can finally and truly test these and other fundamental claims that have been at the heart of Victorian studies for generations.”… – NYT, 12-4-10
  • William Quinn: Wreck is doomed schooner: The dean of Cape shipwreck historians thinks the wooden timbers found on Nauset Beach recently belong to the schooner Montclair, a three-masted cargo vessel that broke apart on the outer bars in March 1927. William Quinn of Orleans, said the method of construction of the timbers he has observed at the Nauset Beach wreck site jibes with what he knows about the Montclair, which was bound for New York from Halifax, Nova Scotia, when fate intervened and five men died in icy, storm-churned waters.
    The timbers that emerged on the beach last week have now been covered again by tide and sand. But Quinn cited the presence of tapered dowels and bronze spikes at the wreck site as evidence that it was the Montclair that surfaced from the sand again. The historian was also on scene when the broken remains of the Montclair made an appearance on Nauset Beach in 1957. “I think it’s one and the same,” Quinn said…. – Boston Herald, 11-26-10
  • Christopher Colombowicz: America’s discoverer Polish not Portuguese, claim historians: He is celebrated as the humble Italian weaver who ended up discovering the Americas. But the conventional wisdom relating to Christopher Columbus is under threat after academics concluded the explorer was actually a Polish immigrant. An international team of distinguished professors have completed 20 years of painstaking research into his beginnings…. ‘Another nutty conspiracy theory! That’s what I first supposed as I started to read… I now believe that Columbus is guilty of huge fraud carried out over two decades against his patrons,’ said US historian Prof. James T. McDonough…. Daily Mail (UK) (11-29-10)
  • Cold War Air Defense Relied on Widespread Dispersal of Nuclear Weapons, Documents Show: Washington, D.C., November 16, 2010 – To counter a Soviet bomber attack, U.S. war plans contemplated widespread use of thousands of air defense weapons during the middle years of the Cold War according to declassified documents posted today at the National Security Archive’s Nuclear Vault and cited by a recently published book, Continental Defense in the Eisenhower Era: Nuclear Antiaircraft Arms and the Cold War (Palgrave Macmillan) by historian Christopher J. Bright. The U.S. government publicly acknowledged the facts of the deployments in the 1950s, yet they garnered surprisingly little public opposition, Bright concludes, in disclosing for the first time that air defense weapons comprised as much as one-fifth of the US nuclear arsenal in 1961. Still, nearly 25 years after the United States retired the last of them in 1986, their exact number remains secret…. – National Security Archive at GWU, 11-16-10

HISTORY PROFILES:

  • Raul Ramos: Texas history professor immerses himself in dorm life: In retrospect, Raul Ramos says his first eight years at the University of Houston were spent in “blissful ignorance.” “I didn’t know how parking works, how the dining halls work, how financial aid works,” said the associate professor of history. “Now I do.” Ramos, 43, is fully immersed in campus life, living in a dorm for the first time in more than two decades, along with his wife, Elizabeth Chiao, and their sons, Noe and Joaquin Ramos Chiao…. – Houston Chronicle (11-28-10)

HISTORY QUOTES:

  • Alan Brinkley: 111th Congress most productive “since at least the 60s”: The 111th Congress capped its remarkable term – which historian Alan Brinkley called “probably the most productive session of Congress since at least the ’60s” – with a flurry of legislative activity that President Obama described as “the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades.”… – WaPo, 12-23-10
  • Joseph Crespino: Barbour wrong on Citizens Council claims: Joseph Crespino, an associate professor of history at Emory University, also noted a particular incident in Yazoo City undermining Barbour’s claims. “One of the things the Citizens Council would do is carry out economic harassment — sometimes physical intimidation — against local blacks,” he said. “There was this well-known incident in Yazoo City in the 1950s where a handful of black parents tried to file a lawsuit against a local public school. They lost their jobs because they filed a lawsuit and they participated in the local civil rights movement. So it’s well- documented that the kind of harassment that blacks faced when they tried to desegregate the schools there in Yazoo City.”… – Huff Post, 12-20-10
  • Of Course the Civil War Was About Slavery: Concrete concerns about saving and expanding slavery, and not the nebulous theology of states’ rights, ignited the U.S. Civil War. Why does that message keep getting lost?
    “Of course, when South Carolina did secede, there was enormous celebration, dancing in the streets and so on,” said James McPherson, a Princeton Civil War historian and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning history Battle Cry of Freedom…. “Probably 90 percent, maybe 95 percent of serious historians of the Civil War would agree on the broad questions of what the war was about and what brought it about and what caused it,” McPherson said, “which was the increasing polarization of the country between the free states and the slave states over issues of slavery, especially the expansion of slavery.”…
    In the post-Reconstruction era of national “reunion,” Yale historian David Blight says the country came back together around the idea of the common valor of soldiers on both sides of the war, around a common economy and around the imperial adventures of America as it began to grow into a world power. “But primarily — and this is complex — but primarily the country reunified ultimately by the 1890s and the turn of the 20th century around white supremacy,” Blight said, “around the Jim Crow system, which took deep hold in the South but also in the North.”
    Some historians call this era the most racist in American history — even more so than the age of slavery. This racism, and the new narrative of an unfortunate war between brothers, took hold in popular fiction, in presidential speeches, in monument building. The story of the emancipation of 4 million slaves — and of the 200,000 blacks who fought for the Union army — “all but vanished from the national story by 1900, 1910,” Blight says…. – Miller-McCune, 12-20-10
  • Bob Sutton: Confederacy: 150th Anniversary, Civil War about slavery: Most historians would disagree, and strongly! “Slavery was the principal cause of the U.S. Civil War, period,” said Bob Sutton, chief historian for the National Park Service. “Yes, politics was important. Yes, economics were important. Yes, social issues and states’ rights were important. But when you get to the core of why all these things were important, it was slavery!”… – Atlanta Examiner, 12-11-10
  • Eric Foner: Lincoln’s party is not today’s GOP: Foner is a history professor at Columbia University and has written many acclaimed books on the Civil War period, including “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men.”… How different is today’s GOP party from the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln?
    It could not be more different. Lincoln in 1860 did not receive a single vote in most of the southern states. His Republican party was the party of opposition to the expansion of slavery and later of emancipation, and a strong federal government protecting the civil and political rights of black Americans. Today the party’s center of gravity is in the South, it opposes most federal initiatives (except defense) and is the inheritor of Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy” aimed almost exclusively at white voters…. – CNN.com, 12-7-10
  • Small-City Congregations Try to Preserve Rituals of Jewish Life: According to Jonathan D. Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, most Jews in the United States have migrated from small communities to large cities: he estimates that 85 percent of the country’s 5.2 million Jews live in 20 metropolitan areas, primarily on the East and West Coasts and in Sun Belt states….
    The process of dismantling a community, experts say, is fraught with potential tensions involving both purse and heartstrings. Mark A. Raider, a professor of modern Jewish history at the University of Cincinnati, cited disagreements over disposition of material assets…. – NYT, 12-1-10

HISTORY INTERVIEWS:

  • Todd Moye: Segregationist Citizens Councils Were A ‘Terrorist Organization': So what was Gov. Haley Barbour doing, exactly, when he defended the reputation of the Citizens Councils, a segregationist movement that was formed to oppose the civil rights movement after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision? Barbour released a statement this afternoon, declaring: “My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the ‘Citizens Council,’ is totally indefensible, as is segregation.” So let’s take a look at exactly who they were.
    Earlier, I asked Todd Moye, an associate professor of history at the University of North Texas, and also the author of Let the People Decide: Black Freedom and White Resistance Movements in Sunflower County, Mississippi, 1945-1986, for his expertise on the matter. He called the councils a “terrorist organization.”… Talking Points Memo, 12-21-10
  • Times Q& A: El Paso historian: Billy the Kid undeserving of a pardon: Bernie Sargent, director of the El Paso County Historical Commission, has researched the legend of Billy the Kid. He has strong opinions about the case…. – El Paso Times, 12-20-10
  • Robert E. May: Professor’s talk looks at Antebellum Christmases in the South: In the pre-Civil War South, Christmas traditions were a lot different than what they are today. The holiday brought out surprising kindness in slave owners, giving their slaves numerous gifts and lavish banquets, according to Purdue University history professor Robert E. May. Still, often these acts of kindness had a dark side to them. May discussed this segment of American history during the holidays at Tippecanoe County Public Library, during his talk, “Christmas in the Confederacy.”
    Question: What was Christmas like in the South before the Civil War? Answer: Churchgoing, shopping and gift-giving were extremely important to Southern whites before the Civil War, and the holiday became crucial in mitigating the possibility of slave revolts in the region. Many masters were remarkably generous to slaves at Christmas, throwing them sumptuous banquets (including astounding amounts of liquor) and giving them many days off from work and many presents — some under a ritual with psychological nuances called “Christmas Gif.” Slave weddings commonly took place over the holidays, for reasons that I will get into at my talk…. – BoilerStation.com, 12-13-10
  • The Last Utopia with Samuel Moyn: The German critic Walter Benjamin once gave a set of satirical pointers about how to write fat books — for example, by making the same point repeatedly, giving numerous examples of the same thing, and writing a long introduction to outline the project, then reminding the reader of the plan as often as possible. Whether or not they are aware of doing so, many academic authors seem to follow his advice closely. Samuel Moyn’s The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History, published by Harvard University Press, is a remarkable exception. Its survey of the legacy of ideas later claimed as cornerstones of the politics of human rights is both dense and lucid; its challenging reassessment of recent history is made in a little over two hundred pages. It’s almost as if the book were written with the thought that people might want to read it. After writing a review of The Last Utopia, I interviewed the author by e-mail; a transcript follows. Moyn is a professor of history at Columbia University and the editor of Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press…. – Inside Higher Ed (12-8-10)
  • Daniel Pipes: “You can’t fight Islamism with ideas coming out of Europe”: Citizen Times: Mr. Pipes, you head various organizations concerning the Middle East and Islam, and are one of the best known American writers on these subjects. How did this all begin for you?
    Daniel Pipes: I am a historian of Islam with a special interest in the role of Islam in public life. I received my Ph.D. in 1978, just as Ayatollah Khomeini appeared. For the first time in modern history, Islam had a large and obvious role in Western public life. What had been in the 1970s an abstract interest turned very practical. Islamic matters subsequently became very topical. That prompted me to transit from medieval history to current events. While I cover many other topics besides Islam, Islam remains central to my interests. I have a perspective I hope is useful to understand the role of Islam in politics.
    Citizen Times: And what is that perspective?
    Daniel Pipes: That Islam is deeply important to the public lives of Muslims. That Islam is a religion of laws, and those laws are quite permanent and universal. That they are not the same everywhere at all times, but the basics are consistent. That there are times of greater emphasis and times of lesser emphasis but Muslims always come back to these laws. Now, of course, is a time of greater emphasis. Islamic laws have far greater power than they had when I entered this field over forty years ago. How does one understand this change; how do Muslims view it, and how does the West respond to it? – these are some of the questions that I focus on…. – Citizen Times (12-1-10)

HISTORY AWARDS & APPOINTMENTS:

  • 2 historians are chosen for UR’s Eiseman Award: Two historians, connected by the University of Rochester and their love of climbing, are the winners of the Eiseman Writers Award for their book, “Fallen Giants: A History of Himalayan Mountaineering from the Age of Empire to the Age of Extremes.”
    Stewart Weaver, professor of history and department chair at the University, and Maurice Isserman, who received his doctorate in history from the University in 1979 and is a professor of history at Hamilton College in Clinton, are co-authors of this first comprehensive history of Himalayan mountaineering written by professional historians.
    The Eiseman Writers Award celebrates writers from western New York who have been published during the previous two calendar years and comes with a $1,000 prize.
    Hailed as an “awe-inspiring work of history and storytelling,” “Fallen Giants” (Yale University Press, 2008) chronicles 250 years of the international quest to climb the world’s tallest peaks. “Isserman and Weaver,” wrote Bruce Barcott in the New York Times, “brilliantly present the complete picture — the political context, the changing social dynamics, the emergence of modern climbing technique — without losing sight of the need to entertain. ‘Fallen Giants’ absolutely brims with vivid characters, from the Duke of the Abruzzi to George Mallory … hard men and egotists, saints and scoundrels.”… – The Daily News Online, 12-11-10
  • A Leadership Change at the Adirondack Museum: The Board of Directors of the Adirondack Historical Association announced today that Caroline M. Welsh, the Director of the Adirondack Museum since 2007, has been replaced by Michael Lombardi, the current Director of Finance and Operations. Lombardi is being named Interim Director, and Welsh, who has been with the museum since 1987, will become Senior Art Historian and Director Emerita…. – Adirondack Almanack (12-1-10)
  • Walter Muir Whitehill Prize announced by the Colonial Society: In 1990, members of the Colonial Society established a prize of two thousand five hundred dollars, in memory of Walter Muir Whitehill, for many years Editor of Publications for the Colonial Society and the moving force behind the organization. It is be awarded for an outstanding essay on colonial history, not previously published, with preference being given to New England subjects. A distinguished committee of members of the Colonial Society act as judges: Bernard Bailyn, Adams University Professor and James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, Emeritus, Harvard University; Robert Middlekauff, Hotchkiss Professor of U.S. History, University of California, Berkeley; and Edmund Sears Morgan, Sterling Professor Emeritus, History, Yale University.By arrangement with the editors of The New England Quarterly, the winning essay is published in an appropriate issue of that journal.
    The deadline for receiving submissions for the 2010 prize is 31 December 2010. The Society expects to announce the winning candidate in the spring of 2011. For further information on this prize, please contact the Whitehill Prize Committee, c/o Linda Smith Rhoads, Meserve Hall, Second Floor, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115. – Press Release (12-1-10)
  • Jon Butler to head Univ. libraries: History professor Jon Butler will become Acting University Librarian Dec. 1, just months after stepping down as dean of the Graduate School. Butler, whose six-year term as dean ended this June, was on leave to write a book, but has agreed to assume leadership of Yale’s libraries after the sudden death of University Librarian Frank Turner GRD ’71 from a pulmonary embolism Nov 11. Until a new librarian is found, Butler said he will work full time in the post and will resume his leave of absence at the end of the spring term.
    “I’m very honored that the President would ask me, and I hope I can help…make sure that the library has a sense of leadership and continuity while the University searches for a permanent librarian,” Butler said in an interview last Monday…. – Yale Daily News (11-29-10)

HISTORY ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • Bruce Catton papers now indexed online at the University of Wyoming: An inventory of papers and correspondence of Bruce Catton, widely regarded (along with Shelby Foote) as the most popular of America’s Civil War historians, is now accessible online through the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center. There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes, and the collection is open to the public…. A description and inventory for this collection [is now] accessible at http://rmoa.unm.edu/docviewer.php?docId=wyu-ah04032.xml/ University of Wyoming, 12-20-10
  • Black history catalogued at new U. of C. website: ….On Friday at the University of Chicago’s Joseph Regenstein Library, researchers unveiled a new website intended to make it easy for the public and scholars alike to locate these African-American artifacts as well as a host of others in the city from the same period in history…. The website is the “cutting edge portal into discovering primary source materials to study and know black Chicago’s history from the 1930s to the 1970s,” said Jacqueline Goldsby, a former U. of C. professor who headed up the three-year project…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 12-11-10 uncap.lib.uchicago.edu
  • Camelot’s archives, available with the click of a mouse: During a 1962 news conference, a reporter asked President John F. Kennedy if he’d consider locating his presidential library in Washington, D.C., after leaving the White House so scholars and historians would have the broadest possible access to it. No, he replied playfully, “I’m going to put it in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”…
    A four-year, $10 million effort to digitize the JFK Library and Museum’s archives, making hundreds of thousands of documents, photographs, and recordings available online, is nearing completion of its first phase. A formal announcement will come Jan. 13, one week before the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, at a press conference in the nation’s capitol.
    “Access to a Legacy,” as the project is called, marks the first time a presidential library established in the paper age has fully committed itself to the digital era. The amount of material to be posted online in January is huge — 200,000 pages of text, 1,500 photos, 1,250 files of audio recordings and moving images, and 340 phone conversations totaling 17 1/2 hours — but represents just a small portion of the collection….
    Presidential historian Robert Dallek, who has made liberal use of the Kennedy archives, said the primary payoff is reaching the largest possible international audience. “What this means is, people in Japan or Germany can have access to [JFK’s] office files, and that’s a splendid step forward.” Other presidential libraries will probably follow suit, he added, “because they don’t want to expire, so to speak. Plus, there’s still tremendous interest in subjects like World War II, Vietnam, and the New Deal.”… – Boston Globe (11-28-10)
  • THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY MAKES ITS MOST IMPORTANT COLLECTIONS RELATING TO SLAVERY AVAILABLE ONLINE: Rich trove of material becomes easily accessible at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollection The New-York Historical Society is proud to announce the launch of a new online portal to nearly 12,000 pages of source materials documenting the history of slavery in the United States, the Atlantic slave trade and the abolitionist movement. Made readily accessible to the general public for the first time at www.nyhistory.org/slaverycollections, these documents from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries represent fourteen of the most important collections in the library’s Manuscript Department….
  • Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,” is the only comprehensive website on the famous Reagan-era government scandal, which stemmed from the U.S. government’s policies toward two seemingly unrelated countries, Nicaragua and Iran. Despite stated and repeated denials to Congress and to the public, Reagan Administration officials supported the militant contra rebels in Nicaragua and sold arms to a hostile Iranian government. These events have led to questions about the appropriateness of covert operations, congressional oversight, and even the presidential power to pardon…. – irancontra.org
  • Thousands of Studs Terkel interviews going online: The Library of Congress will digitize the Studs Terkel Oral History Archive, according to the agreement, while the museum will retain ownership of the roughly 5,500 interviews in the archive and the copyrights to the content. Project officials expect digitizing the collection to take more than two years…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Digital Southern Historical Collection: The 41,626 scans reproduce diaries, letters, business records, and photographs that provide a window into the lives of Americans in the South from the 18th through mid-20th centuries.

HISTORIANS SPOTTED:

  • Doris Kearns Goodwin makes puzzling remark on CBS Social Security special: If there were prizes given for the most one-sided, misleading story about Social Security this year, a segment aired on the CBS Evening News before Thanksgiving would make a great candidate. In a breathless recitation of the horrors befalling the system, CBS painted a grim picture of Social Security, using scare words and phrases like “the system is headed for a crisis,” “the government is confronting a painful reality,” and “there’s no debating that we’re running out of time.” How’s that for opinion journalism on a news show?… CBS presented a puzzling remark from historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who must have been consulted for a sound bite because she knew something about FDR, the father of Social Security; or maybe she was tapped in an effort to give “balance” to the piece without bringing on experts who might have known the ins and outs of the subject.
    Kearns Goodwin said that one reason Social Security was established was to get older workers to retire so younger ones could get jobs; she told viewers that “it’s ironic today that we’re in the opposite direction in wanting older people to work longer, so that we can afford to keep paying them.” Gosh! That makes it sound like the main reason they should work longer is just to get a government handout. Kearns Goodwin doesn’t come to my mind as a Social Security expert, and apparently she doesn’t understand that older workers hang onto their jobs because they must, given the demise of good employer-provided pensions, the inadequacy of 401(k) plans, and the difficulty of moving around the workplace when you’re older…. – Columbia Journalism Review (11-29-10)
  • Presidential historian Edmund Morris curses, calls Americans ‘lazy and obese': Presidential biographer Edmund Morris delivered one of the more, well, colorful lines on this week’s Sunday morning shows. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” host Bob Schieffer, anchoring an authors roundtable discussion with the likes of Bob Woodward and Arianna Huffington, kept engaging the panelists in discussion about how America’s Founding Fathers would have felt about today’s political climate. “What would Teddy Roosevelt think of today’s politics, Edmund?” “You keep asking these presentist questions,” said the Kenyan-born, British-accented historian. “As the immortal Marisa Tomei said in ‘My Cousin Vinny,’ ‘That’s a b——t question!'” Morris said, relishing the word as network censors bleeped him out…. – Politico (11-28-10)

HISTORY ON TV:

HISTORY BEST SELLERS (NYT):

UPCOMING HISTORY BOOK RELEASES:

  • Alison Weir: The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, (Paperback), December 28, 2010
  • T. Harry Williams: Lincoln and His Generals, (Paperback), January 11, 2011
  • Robert Wright: Our Man in Tehran: The Truth Behind the Secret Mission to Save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home, (Hardcover), January 11, 2011
  • Jay M. Shafritz: Classics of Public Administration, (Paperback), January 14, 2011
  • Petra Pertici: Battle of San Romano: A Day in History, (Paperback), January 16, 2011
  • Alan Bennett: Captain Roy Brown: The Definitive Biography, Including His Encounter with the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, (Hardcover), January 16, 2011
  • Douglas Brinkley: The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Lawrence Goldstone: Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Michael G. Long: Marshalling Justice: The Early Civil Rights Letters of Thurgood Marshall, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Edward G. Lengel: Inventing George Washington: America’s Founder, in Myth and Memory, (Hardcover), January 18, 2011
  • Ron Reagan: My Father at 100, January 18, 2011
  • Deborah Blum: The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, (Paperback), January 25, 2011
  • Peter N. Stearns: World Civilizations: The Global Experience (New Edition), (Hardcover), January 28, 2011
  • Barbara F. Stokes: Myrtle Beach: A History, 1900-1980, (Paperback), January 28, 2011
  • Donald A. Clark: The Notorious “Bull” Nelson: Murdered Civil War General (1st Edition), (Hardcover), January 31, 2011
  • Michael D. Coe: The Maya (Eighth Edition), (Paperback), January 31, 2011
  • Molly Caldwell Crosby: Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Remains One of Medicine’s Greatest Mysteries, (Paperback), February 1, 2011
  • Jonathan Gill: Harlem: The Four Hundred Year History from Dutch Village to Capital of Black America, (Hardcover), February 1, 2011
  • Amy Louise Wood: Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940, (Paperback), February 1, 2011
  • David Eisenhower: Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969, (Hardcover), February 2, 2011
  • Frederick Brown: For the Soul of France: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Donald Rumsfeld: Known and Unknown: A Memoir, (Hardcover), February 8, 2011
  • Holger H. Herwig: The Marne, 1914: The Opening of World War I and the Battle That Changed the World, (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Christopher Corbett: The Poker Bride: The First Chinese in the Wild West (Reprint), (Paperback), February 8, 2011
  • Justin Fox: The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street, (Paperback), February 8, 2011

HISTORIANS PASSINGS:

  • Jacqueline de Romilly, Studied Greek Culture, Dies at 97: Jacqueline de Romilly, one of France’s leading scholars of Greek civilization and language and only the second woman to be elected to the Académie Française, died on Saturday in the Paris suburb Boulogne-Billancourt. She was 97…. – NYT, 12-20-10
  • J. M. Hagopian, Who Told of Armenian Genocide, Dies at 97: J. Michael Hagopian, a survivor of the Armenian genocide who came to the United States from Turkey after World War I, studied filmmaking and made a series of documentaries based on interviews with hundreds of other survivors, died on Dec. 10 at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 97…. – NYT, 12-20-10
  • Dan Kurzman, Military Historian, Is Dead at 88: Dan Kurzman, who wrote military histories that illuminated little-known incidents in World War II and an exhaustively reported account of the first Arab-Israeli war, died Dec. 12 in Manhattan. He was 88 and lived in North Bergen, N.J…. – NYT, 12-24-10
  • Historian Donald Curl, an original FAU faculty member, dies at 75: Donald Walter Curl, an original faculty member at Florida Atlantic University and a Florida historian considered the expert on Addison Mizner architecture, died Saturday after battling lymphoma for three years. He was 75. Born in East Liberty, Ohio, Curl received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Ohio State University, where he studied American history. He moved to Boca Raton in 1964 to teach history at FAU, where he was one of 60 original faculty members, and remained there until his retirement in 2004…. – Palm Beach Post, 12-6-10
  • Bob DeArmond: Noted Southeast Alaska historian dies: Bob DeArmond, a prolific writer about the history of Alaska and one of the founding fathers of the city of Pelican, died Friday at home in Sitka. He was 99. DeArmond also wrote for several Southeast Alaska publications, including the Empire and the Ketchikan Daily News…. Juneau Empire, 11-29-10
  • Margaret T. Burroughs, Archivist of Black History, Dies at 95: Margaret T. Burroughs, a founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, one of the first museums devoted to black history and culture in the United States, died on Sunday in Chicago. She was 95. Her death was confirmed by her grandson Eric Toller…. – NYT, 11-27-10
  • Raymond Ward: Founder of Chicago’s DuSable Museum dies: A founder of one of the oldest African-American history museums in the country has died. A spokesman for the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Raymond Ward, says Margaret Burroughs died in her sleep at her Chicago home Sunday morning at age 93. President Barack Obama said in a statement that Burroughs was “widely admired for her contributions to American culture as an esteemed artist, historian, educator, and mentor.”… – WaPo, 11-22-10



Political Highlights December 20, 2010: Lame Duck Congress Passes Bipartisan Tax Cuts Package & Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, President Obama Updates Afghanistan Progress — Christmas at the White House

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN, and 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.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

The President records the Weekly Address

STATS & POLLS

  • White House Holidays: Simple Gifts
  • Fox News Poll: Majority Approves Tax Cut Agreement: A majority of American voters approve of the proposed deal to preserve Bush-era tax cuts agreed on between President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress, and voters are more likely to think the compromises made by both sides represent how things “should” work in Washington.
    A Fox News poll released Thursday found that by 68 to 26 percent, most voters approve of the compromise deal.
    Moreover, approval is across the board: 69 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents endorsed the deal.
    When asked what they would do if forced to choose between either continuing the tax cuts for all Americans or letting taxes increase for all Americans, 73 percent of voters said they would continue the tax cuts for all. That includes 83 percent of Republicans, 73 percent independents and 64 percent of Democrats…. – Fox News, 12-16-10
  • Gallup Poll: Obama loses the backing of some liberals: President Obama’s support among liberals falls to 79% in a Gallup tracking poll.
    Liberals, part of President Obama’s core backers, continue to be unhappy with the president, according to the Gallup tracking poll released Thursday.
    The poll shows that support among liberals has dipped to 79%, the first time it has fallen below 80%, according to Gallup. A week before the midterm elections, Obama stood at 88% with those who called themselves liberals…. – LAT, 12-16-10
  • Congress gets 83% disapproval rating in Gallup Poll, worst in over 30 years: People who identified themselves as Democrats registered the biggest decline in approval, from 38% to 16%. But the institution should bounce back in approval ratings in the next few months, if a pattern of past changes in partisan power hold true, Gallup noted.
    Just 13% of Americans say they approve of the way Congress is doing its job while 83% disapprove, the worst disapproval rating for lawmakers in more than 30 years, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.
    The previous record low approval rating was 14% in July 2008, a time of high prices for gasoline and a poor economy. For the year, Congress averaged about a 19% approval rating, tied with the averages in 2008 and 1979, another tough year for the economy.
    Politically, independents and Republicans were down slightly in their view of Congress, while those saying they were Democrats had the biggest drop. From October to December, Democratic support fell from 38% to 16%. Republicans fell from 9% to 7% and independents from 16% to 13% during the same period…. – LAT, 12-15-10
  • Post-ABC poll: public not yet sold on GOP: Republicans made major gains in the November elections but they have yet to win the hearts and minds of the American people, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The midterm elections – where Republicans gained 63 seats to take control of the House of Representatives and added six seats to their Senate minority – were widely seen as a rebuke to President Obama. Still, the public now trusts Obama marginally more than congressional Republicans to deal with the country’s main problems in the coming years, 43 to 38 percent. And when it comes to who has taken the stronger leadership role in Washington, it’s an even divide: 43 percent say Obama, 42 percent the GOP.
  • Facebook’s Zuckerberg is Time’s Person of the Year: The social networking magnate beats out WikiLeaks’ Assange and the Tea Party
    The man behind the world’s largest social network has been named Time’s Person of the Year. Time magazine announced today that its editors picked Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the annual honor, beating out runners-up Julian Assange, the man behind the internationally controversial WikiLeaks, and the Tea Party.
    Time credited Zuckerberg with connecting more than half a billion people with through Facebook and mapping the social relations among them. And because Facebook’s 26-year-old CEO also is credited with creating a new system of exchanging information that is changing how people live their lives, he was named Person of the Year.
    “The way we connect with one another and with the institutions in our lives is evolving,” wrote Time managing editor Richard Stengel in an essay posted online today. “Our sense of identity is more variable, while our sense of privacy is expanding. What was once considered intimate is now shared among millions with a keystroke.” Zuckerberg, according to Stengel, is at the epicenter of these cultural and social changes.
    “The social-networking platform he invented is closing in on 600 million users,” he added. “In a single day, about a billion new pieces of content are posted on Facebook. It is the connective tissue for nearly a tenth of the planet. Facebook is now the third-largest country on Earth and surely has more information about its citizens than any government does. Zuckerberg, a Harvard dropout, is its T-shirt-wearing head of state.”
    Hadley Reynolds, an analyst with IDC, noted that 2010 was the year when the media hype about Zuckerberg went through the roof.
    “Hopefully, Time is giving him the recognition because he is the youngest tech baron to pledge to give away billions — in his case, before they’ve even been monetized. Bill Gates had practically retire before he got the Time kudo in 2005. More likely, they know Zuckerberg’s face will sell magazines, and they can only dream of being in touch with an audience like the one Facebook touches every minute.”…. – Computerworld, 12-15-10
  • The Man Who Took On Obama Health Care — and Won One Round: Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican who filed the Richmond lawsuit against the U.S. government, challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care act.Jay Paul for The New York Times Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, a Republican who filed the Richmond lawsuit against the U.S. government, challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care act.
    Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, Virginia’s attorney general, is quick to cite the legal basis for challenging President Obama’s signature legislative achievement: Congress has no power to punish people who choose not to buy private health insurance, he says.
    A federal judge on Monday agreed with him, ruling that parts of the health care reforms Mr. Obama championed violate the Constitution. Mr. Cuccinelli sued the federal government on behalf of Virginia.
    “On the issues the Tea Party cares about, I land right in their bulls eye.” — Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia attorney general
    “I wouldn’t have brought a case like this if it didn’t have legal merit,” he said in an interview with The Caucus. He added that he had turned away plenty of activists urging him to sue the federal government in other areas. “My answer is usually, ‘no.’ I don’t get to sue just because I don’t like something.”
    But it doesn’t take long for Mr. Cuccinelli to acknowledge that his motivations are not purely legal. The onetime state senator is a conservative Republican who has long sought to shrink government, limit federal powers and trumpet state rights…. – 12-14-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama makes Congressional calls on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010

President Barack Obama makes Congressional calls from the Oval Office before Senate’s final vote on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. December 18, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Biden defends White House compromise on tax cuts: Vice President Joe Biden defended the Obama administration for its willingness to extend tax cuts for top earners, despite earlier promises that he and the president would fight against the Bush-era policy.
    “We got to the end, we couldn’t get it done, and we had to make a decision,” Biden said about President Barack Obama’s compromise with Republicans to allow tax cuts across the income scale to continue. The vice president told NBC’s “Meet The Press” in an interview broadcast Sunday that he and Obama still believe tax cuts for the wealthiest are “morally troubling” and that they would fight to avoid renewing the cuts when they expire in 2012.
    “The one target for us in two years is no longer extending the upper income tax credit for millionaires and billionaires,” Biden said…. – AP, 12-19-10
  • Republicans fail in second bid to amend START: A second Republican bid to amend President Barack Obama’s strategic nuclear arms treaty with Russia failed during debate in Senate on Sunday and top Democrats expressed confidence they would have the votes to approve the accord. Republican Senators concerned about the large disparity in tactical, short-range nuclear weapons between Russia and the United States rallied behind a treaty-killing amendment that would have inserted a reference to the issue in the preamble of the accord. The amendment was defeated 60-32. Democratic Senator Bob Casey said members of both parties were concerned about Russian tactical nuclear weapons but there was a simple reason the New START nuclear treaty did not address them — because it is an agreement dealing with strategic, or long-range, atomic arms…. – Reuters, 12-19-10
  • Senate Rejects Republican Effort to Amend Treaty: The Senate rejected another Republican attempt to rewrite the new arms control treaty with Russia on Sunday as the signature foreign policy agreement of President Obama’s tenure moved closer to a decisive vote expected later this week. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that he would vote against the arms control treaty with Russia. Senators voted 60 to 32 to defeat an amendment proposed by Senator Jim Risch, Republican of Idaho, to add language to the treaty preamble recognizing the importance of tactical nuclear weapons. The treaty, known as New Start, focuses only on reducing strategic nuclear weapons, meaning those that can be delivered at great distances. The vote on the amendment came after three prominent Republican senators announced they would vote against the treaty. Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Jon Kyl of Arizona, the top two Republican leaders, said on Sunday talk shows that they would oppose it because of concerns about its possible impact on missile defense and other issues…. – NYT, 12-19-10
  • Backers of 9/11 health bill optimistic: Backers of a bill in Congress to help people who became sick after working in the World Trade Center dust created by the Sept. 11 attacks said Sunday they’re optimistic the Senate will approve the measure before the lame-duck session ends.
    “We are on the verge of a Christmas miracle,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. Gillibrand and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are offering a less-costly alternative to the original bill to aid 9/11 responders and survivors, saying that they believe it will gain needed support from the GOP. They said the Senate was expected to consider the new bill once they finish dealing with the U.S.-Russia treaty on nuclear weapons. “Barring a setback, we believe we are on the path to victory by the end of the week,” Schumer said.
    Supporters were three votes short of the 60 votes they needed for the original bill on a recent Senate test vote. The House has passed the original bill but would have to consider any new version as the final days of the lame-duck session wear down. New York lawmakers are pressing House Democratic leaders to stay in session long enough to vote after the Senate acts on the new bill…. – AP, 12-19-10
  • In historic vote, Senate moves to end ‘don’t ask, don’t tell': Eight Republicans joined Democrats to vote for an end to the 1993 ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law banning gay troops from serving openly. Proponents compare it to ending racial segregation in the military.
    The Senate Saturday voted to end a longstanding ban on gay troops serving openly in the US armed services – a move Democrats compare to President Truman’s ending the ban on racial segregation in the military in 1948.
    “It is time to close this chapter in our history,” said President Obama in a statement. “It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly.” Six Republicans – Sens. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and George Voinovich of Ohio – broke with their party to give Democrats the votes needed to break a GOP filibuster. The measure subsequently passed, 65 to 31. Sens. John Ensign (R) of Nevada and Richard Burr (R) of North Carolina also joined Democrats on the final vote.
    The House passed an identical repeal on Wednesday, 250-175, sending the bill to the White House. At least 60 days before the law takes effect, both the President and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have to certify that ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy won’t adversely affect military readiness or morale.
    That issue was a major theme in today’s Senate debate. The Senate Armed Services Committee held two days of hearings on the final report of a Pentagon working group that reviewed the issue. Its conclusion was that a repeal of the ban “would present a low risk to the military’s effectiveness even during a time of war,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, who chairs the panel. “Seventy percent of the surveyed members believe that the impact on their units would be positive, mixed or of no consequence,” he added, during Saturday’s floor debate. “While combat units expressed more concerns about the consequences of repeal, those concerns disappeared for troops who have worked with a gay or lesbian coworker.”… – CS Monitor, 12-18-10
  • John McCain’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Last Stand: In the end, eight Republican senators cast their votes to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces, repealing the 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.\ But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did not join them and used his time on the Senate floor Saturday to stand athwart history yelling stop.
    “Today is a very sad day,” McCain announced, detailing his continuing opposition to allowing gay and lesbian soldiers to be open about their sexuality. “There will be high-fives over all the liberal bastions of America,” he predicted, from “the elite schools that bar military recruiters from campus” to “the salons of Georgetown” and the “talk shows” where people — “most of whom have never have served in the military” — will crow over the law’s repeal.
    Allowing gays to serve openly in the Marines would prove a potentially deadly distraction McCain said, quoting from a Marine Corps Commandant warning, “and I don’t want to permit that opportunity to happen.”…. – The Atlantic, 12-18-10
  • White House unveils science integrity policy: The White House released a long-awaited federal scientific integrity policy on Friday, which says, “political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings.” President Barack Obama talks with Erika DeBenedictis, 18, a student at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, during an unscheduled tour of auxiliary exhibits in the East Garden Room of the White House following the White House Science Fair, Oct. 18, 2010. DeBenedictis won the top award in the Intel Science Talent Search for developing a software navigation system to improve spacecraft travel through the solar system.
    Released by Office of Science and Technology Policy chief John Holdren, the four-page guidance to federal agencies and departments gives them 120 days to report on their implementation of policies. President Obama called for the science integrity rules in March of 2009, following years of disputes over political interference with scientists at NASA, FDA, the Fish and Wildlife Service and elsewhere in the executive branch during the Bush Administration.
    “The new memorandum describes the minimum standards expected as departments and agencies craft scientific integrity rules appropriate for their particular missions and cultures, including a clear prohibition on political interference in scientific processes and expanded assurances of transparency,” Holdren writes on a White House blog. The guidance lists principles for scientific integrity standards, public communication, federal advisory committee membership, scholarly development and implementation of the guidance. “Scientific progress depends upon honest investigation, open discussion, refined understanding, and a firm commitment to evidence,” Holdren says…. – USA Today, 12-18-10
  • Senate Blocks Bill for Young Illegal Immigrants: The Senate on Saturday blocked a bill that would have created a path to citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children, completed two years of college or military service and met other requirements, including passing a criminal background check. The vote by 55-41 in favor of the bill, which is known as the Dream Act, effectively kills it for this year, and its fate is uncertain. The measure needed the support of 60 senators to cut off a filibuster and bring it to the floor. Supporters said they were heartened that the measure won the backing of a majority of the Senate. They said they would continue to press for it, either on its own or as part of a wide immigration overhaul that some Democrats hope to undertake next year and believe could be an area of cooperation with Republicans, who will control a majority in the House…. – NYT, 12-18-10
  • Republicans Prepare for Looming Budget Battle: The collapse of a government-wide spending package in the final days of this Congressional session sets up a politically charged fiscal showdown early next year, testing the determination of Republicans about to take over the House with promises to slash an array of domestic programs. Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio vowed Friday that Republicans would continue to focus on cutting spending. President Obama signing the $858 billion tax and unemployment insurance bill into law. As Congress struggled to assemble a stopgap measure to finance the government at least into the first months of 2011, House and Senate Republicans on Friday hailed their ability to derail a $1.2 trillion spending measure put forward by Senate Democrats, and promised to use their new Congressional muscle to respond to public demands to shrink government.
    “Beginning in January, the House is going to become the outpost in Washington for the American people and their desire for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the incoming House speaker. “I will tell you,” he added, “we are going to cut spending.” With the lame-duck session entering its final days, there was an air of partisan chaos on Capitol Hill as both parties scored important legislative victories and events changed on an almost hour-to-hour basis as the end of Democratic control of the House approached….. – NYT, 12-18-10
  • Napolitano confirms gang killed border agent in battle: An elite Border Patrol squad was pursuing a gang that preyed on drug smugglers when agent Brian Terry was shot and killed Tuesday night, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Friday. “They were seeking to apprehend what’s called a ‘rip crew,’ which is a name given to a crew that it is organized to seek to rip off people who are drug mules or traversing the border illegally,” she said during a meeting with The Arizona Republic’s editorial board. “That’s why they were in that area.” Her comments were the first official confirmation that Terry and other members of the Border Patrol’s specially trained tactical unit known as BORTAC were pursuing bandits the night the 40-year-old agent was killed in a gunbattle, which occurred in a remote canyon near Rio Rico…. – USA Today, 12-18-10
  • Could Lame Duck Be a Big Win for Obama Agenda?: Is President Obama on the verge of one of his most productive months in office? Far from being the legislative wasteland that some had predicted, this year’s Congressional lame-duck session has developed into an intense, make-or-break series of cliffhanger events for the president and his soon-to-expire Democratic majority in the House. “There’s a clean slate coming starting Jan. 1, when Republicans are back in control. They are going to start judging then.” — Kevin Madden, Republican strategist
    Mr. Obama is now on the knife’s edge; the hours and days ahead could go either way for him. But the president is concluding 2010 by directly confronting issues that have come to define the sweep of his presidency – the economy, foreign engagement and questions of social justice.
    In the early hours of Friday morning, the president won passage of the $858 billion tax deal he reached with Republicans and he appeared close to achieving approval of the landmark nuclear treaty he negotiated with the Russians. Both political parties have grudgingly agreed to do whatever is necessary to keep the federal government operating by approving an extension of the current budget authority into early next year.
    And in something of a surprise, it appears there may be enough Republican support to provide Mr. Obama with a victory on a major promise: to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bars gay people from serving openly in the armed forces.
    “This might turn out to be a very good month for the president,” said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, which backs repeal. “Getting rid of D.A.D.T. is important not just to the gay community but to progressives as a whole. If he’s able to get this done, I think it will send an important message that he’s still got his progressive creds.'”…. – NYT, 12-17-10
  • Obama signs tax-cut legislation: ‘This is real money that is going to make a real difference in peoples’ lives,’ Obama says as he signs the measure, which extends the Bush-era tax cuts.
    President Obama on Friday signed the bill that extends the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, while Congress moved to wind up its lame-duck deliberations in a session marked by the changing nature of politics and power.
    Speaking at the signing ceremony, Obama again defended his compromise, worked out with Republicans. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was prominent at the ceremony, as was Vice President Joe Biden, who bargained with the Republican leader
    “This is real money that is going to make a real difference in peoples’ lives,” Obama said. Without the bill, the tax cuts would have expired at the end of the year.
    The measure won final approval in the House late Thursday night. In addition to extending the tax cuts for two years, the bill adds 13 months of jobless benefits and cuts the payroll tax by 2 percentage points for a year….. – LAT, 12-17-10
  • Obama Signs Tax Deal, Hails Bipartisan Effort to Grow Jobs President: ‘It’s A Good Deal for the American People': President Obama today signed into law an agreement to extend Bush-era tax cuts into 2011, ending with the stroke of his pen a bitter schism in his own party and heading off what could have been a major standoff with Republicans. The president hailed the bipartisan effort, acknowledging that both parties compromised on the deal by extending both tax cuts for the wealthy and benefits for the unemployed.
    “It’s a good deal for the American people. This is progress and that’s what they sent us here to achieve,” Obama said before an assembled group of lawmakers from both parties. The bill, he said, “would protect our middle class, grow our economy and create jobs.” Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle “did what was right for the country,” despite what he called “occasional political discomfort” from partisans who thought the deal made too many concessions to one party or the other….
    “By a wide bipartisan margin, both houses of Congress have now passed a package of tax relief that will protect the middle class, that will grow our economy, and will create jobs for the American people,” the president said…. – ABC News, 12-16-10
  • When out walking Bo, Obama says he scoops the poop: He may be leader of the free world, but when he takes his dog for a walk, President Obama says he bends down to do the nasty work of cleaning up like anyone else. Answering questions Friday from youngsters at an elementary school, Obama described going for nighttime walks with first dog Bo on the White House South Lawn. He says that’s fun. But, Obama says, “Sometimes I have to scoop up his poop, because I don’t want to just leave it in the lawn!”
    The response from the kids: “Eeew!” Obama admonished them: “If you guys have a dog, you’ve got to walk your dog, too — and clean up after him.”…. -
  • House puts Obama tax deal on ice — for now: The bill to temporarily extend tax cuts and jobless benefits is on ice — for now — in the House. House Democratic leaders have pulled the rules for debate, which first have to get approved before lawmakers can take up the tax legislation. A party caucus meeting is set for this afternoon. Many liberals in the Democratic caucus are upset at the bill’s provision on estate taxes and want to amend the measure and send it back to the Senate. The problem is that Democrats would have to vote on the Senate-passed bill if they want to change the estate tax provision. The deal worked out by President Obama and congressional Republicans would extend for two years tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 for all income levels. Liberals such as Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., are upset that the extension includes families earing more than $250,000…. – USA Today, 12-16-10
  • What the Tax Deal Means to Your Wallet: The pressure is off — at least for now. With the Bush-era tax cuts extended for all Americans for at least the next two years under the law signed today by President Obama, government leaders have managed to postpone some tough decisions to be made surrounding the U.S. tax code until 2012.
    The law has been labeled “compromise” legislation, and for good reason. In exchange for the tax-cuts extension, Republicans agreed to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. They also agreed to give a one-year tax break to workers, giving those who make approximately $40,000 annually an additional $800 in their pockets throughout the course of 2011.
    So what can the average taxpayer expect in the year to come? According to experts, more of the same. Here are some of the key things you should know regarding the new law, and what it means for your tax preparation in the year ahead and beyond…
    The law affects more than just 2011….
    The most immediate benefit will be a 2% payroll tax cut…. Payroll taxes will drop, and it is on your employer to act ASAP….
    Tax preparation sites are up to speed….
    Wealth transfer provisions are on target….. – Fox Business, 12-17-10
  • House urges Obama to block unilateral Palestinian statehood: The U.S. House of Representatives called on President Obama to veto any United Nations Security Council resolution recognizing a Palestinian state.
    The non-binding resolution passed unanimously Wednesday evening calls on the Obama administration to “affirm that the United States would deny recognition to any unilaterally declared Palestinian state and veto any resolution by the United Nations Security Council to establish or recognize a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated by the two parties.” The resolution also affirms “strong support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states, a democratic, Jewish state of Israel and a viable, democratic Palestinian state, living side-by- side in peace, security, and mutual recognition.”
    White House officials have said that they are working to push back a Palestinian Authority effort to garner international recognition of statehood, but have stopped short of pledging to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution…. – JTA, 12-16-10
  • Obama: US will back UN on rights of native peoples: President Barack Obama said Thursday that the United States will reverse course and support a United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous people.
    Obama told Native American leaders that the declaration affirms the importance and rich cultures of Native peoples throughout the world. The U.S. voted against the declaration when the General Assembly adopted it in 2007, arguing that it was incompatible with existing laws. Three other countries, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, also opposed the declaration, but have since announced their support.
    The declaration protects the rights of more than 370 million native peoples worldwide, affirming their equality and ability to maintain their own institutions, cultures and spiritual traditions. It also establishes standards to combat discrimination and marginalization and eliminate human rights violations against them.
    “We’re making progress. We’re moving forward. And what I hope is that we are seeing a turning point in the relationship between our nations,” Obama told a conference of tribal nations attended by more than 500 people representing more than 320 tribes…. – AP, 12-16-10
  • Senate Passes Compromise Tax Plan by Wide Margin: The Senate on Wednesday approved the $858 billion tax plan negotiated by the White House and Republican leaders — the first concrete product of a new era of divided government and acid compromise. The vote was 81 to 19, as Democrats yielded in their long push to end the Bush-era lowered tax rates for high-income taxpayers, and Republicans agreed to back a huge economic stimulus package, including an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and a one-year payroll-tax cut for most workers, with the entire cost added to the federal deficit.
    The bill goes next to the House, where Democratic leaders said they expected to bring the bill to the floor on Thursday. They predicted that it would be approved this week, despite lingering opposition among rank-and-file Democrats who are still intent on making changes to a provision that grants a generous tax exemption to wealthy estates. Republicans have said they will not accept any change.
    “A tremendous accomplishment,” the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, declared shortly before the vote on Wednesday. “Whether you agree with all the contents of the bill or not, everyone should understand this is one of the major accomplishments of any Congress where two parties, ideologically divided, have agreed on a major issue for the American people.”
    The two-year tax measure will touch virtually every American — poor and rich, old and young, married or single, with children or living alone, and even those who die. And, with a reprise of this year’s contentious debate now slated for the height of the 2012 presidential campaign, the bill is likely to be a precursor to a broader effort by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s labyrinthine tax code and begin tackling the long-term deficit…. – NYT, 12-15-10
  • Dems fight over 3 percent of the tax deal: Congressional Democrats are making noise over the estate tax cuts, though they’re only 3 percent of the total cuts. These cuts are deep and deficit-funded, but so is the rest of the agreement. The Senate is about to pass the full tax cut “compromise,” but House Democrats are trying to hold out for a more fiscally responsible option. The strong Senate vote also appeared to have weakened resolve among House Democrats to block the measure when it comes to the floor this week. After meeting for two hours with rank-and-file lawmakers late Tuesday, senior Democrats said the House is likely to stage votes to change the terms of a revived estate tax that many Democrats view as overly generous to the wealthy. Outraged by the agreement to exempt individual estates worth as much as $5 million from taxation, senior Democrats said they would press to lower the threshold to $3.5 million. They also want to impose a stiffer tax on larger estates, by setting the rate at 45 percent rather than the 35 percent demanded by Republicans and agreed to by Obama….. – CS Monitor, 12-15-10
  • Executives Look for Place on the Obama Team: Terry McGraw, the chairman and chief executive officer of the McGraw-Hill Companies, said he had been “very pleasantly surprised” by President Obama’s recent efforts to promote the interests of American business. But Mr. Obama could do better, he added, if he had a high-powered adviser with more of a business bent in the White House.
    “You’ve got to strengthen the team,” Mr. McGraw said in an interview on Tuesday. “You’ve got to get some gravitas.” Nearly halfway through Mr. Obama’s term, the dearth of business and Wall Street types in his administration rankles many executives, if only as a proxy for their unhappiness with his policies and occasional antibusiness political speech. And the White House has struggled to find such a person to fill the one spot about to open in Mr. Obama’s inner circle, the director of the National Economic Council, the job being vacated this month by Lawrence H. Summers.
    The president’s uneasy and somewhat distant relationship with the worlds of business and finance will hang over his meeting on Wednesday with the chiefs of about 20 corporations, among them Google, American Express, UPS and Intel. While Mr. Obama has held such roundtables in the past, this one is part of a new effort by the administration to build closer ties over the next two years, officials say. Relations have improved since the big Republican gains in the midterm elections: Mr. Obama has concluded a free-trade agreement with South Korea, negotiated a tax-cut package with Congressional Republicans and delayed antipollution emissions regulations, all steps applauded by business constituencies…. – NYT, 12-15-10
  • Govt sues BP, 8 other companies in Gulf oil spill: The Justice Department on Wednesday sued BP and eight other companies in the Gulf oil spill disaster in an effort to recover billions of dollars from the largest offshore spill in U.S. history. The Obama administration’s lawsuit asks that the companies be held liable without limitation under the Oil Pollution Act for all removal costs and damages caused by the oil spill, including damages to natural resources. The lawsuit also seeks civil penalties under the Clean Water Act.
    “We intend to prove these violations caused or contributed to the massive oil spill,” Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference. The amount of damages and the extent of injuries sustained by the United States as a result of the Deepwater Horizon Spill are not yet fully known, the lawsuit states…. – AP, 12-15-10
  • Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal goes to Senate again. Has anything changed?: Last week, Senate Republicans blocked a repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ Now the House has passed the repeal in a different form. But the result in the Senate could be the same.
    The House today passed a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy banning gays from serving openly in the military, but it’s not clear that the Senate can muster the time or political will to move it to the floor before the end of the 111th Congress.
    Only last week, Senate Republicans blocked a bid to repeal of the Clinton-era ban as part of the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill. Democrats fell three votes short of the 60 votes needed to break the filibuster. The House has now decoupled the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal from the defense authorization bill in the hopes that the repeal might pass on its own in the Senate. House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland called the 250-to-175 vote for repeal “a very strong statement that it is time to move forward.”…. – CS Monitor, 12-15-10
  • US House votes to lift military gay ban: The US House of Representatives voted to end the US military ban on gays serving openly, leaving it to the Senate to seize what backers of repeal say may be their last chance for years. US President Barack Obama, in a statement shortly after the vote, called ending the prohibition “the right thing to do” and said all those who risk their lives for their country must be “treated fairly and equally.”
    By a 250-175 margin, the House approved a stand-alone bill to scrap the 1993 policy, popularly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that requires gays to keep quiet about their sexual orientation or face dismissal.
    “‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ doesn’t contribute to our national security and it contravenes our American values,” Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, charging the policy had led to the ouster of 13,000 US troops. “Fighter pilots, infantry officers, Arabic translators and other specialists have been discharged at a time when our nation is fighting two wars,” in Iraq and Afghanistan, she said on the floor of the House…. – AFP, 12-15-10
  • Obama review cements troop withdrawal, challenges: President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan war review will conclude the United States has made enough security gains to begin withdrawing troops in July, but the findings will also emphasize lasting troubles, from Afghanistan’s ability to serve its people to Pakistani havens for extremists.
    In a detailed preview of statements Obama will make Thursday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the yearlong review of Obama’s war plan will, essentially, offer no surprise. The president plans to stick with his pledge to start drawing home troops next summer after ordering one year ago that 30,000 more troops be sent to Afghanistan to blunt the Taliban’s momentum. The goal of coalition forces is to shift control to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.
    A summary of the classified war report is expected to be released Thursday, when Obama will speak about the effort from the White House…. – AP, 12-14-10
  • Lifting gay ban could endanger US Marines: general: The chief of the US Marine Corps said Tuesday that ending a ban on openly gay troops in the military could jeopardize the lives of Marines in combat by undermining closely knit units. General James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps and an opponent of lifting the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” prohibition, cited a Pentagon study saying Marines fighting in Afghanistan were worried that permitting gays to serve openly could disrupt “unit cohesion.”
    “When your life hangs on a line, on the intuitive behavior of the young man … who sits to your right and your left, you don’t want anything distracting you,” Amos told reporters at the Pentagon. “I don’t want to lose any Marines to distraction. I don’t want to have any Marines that I’m visiting at Bethesda (hospital) with no legs,” he said.
    He added that “mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives. That’s the currency of this fight.” His comments were the toughest yet on the issue, after he testified at a congressional hearing that he opposed lifting the ban in a time of war. Amos said Marines in combat in Afghanistan sent a “very strong message” in the Pentagon’s study released earlier this month, expressing opposition to repealing the ban in a survey. “I have to listen to that,” he said…. – AP, 12-14-10
  • Veteran U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke dies in Washington hospital, according to the Associated Press: Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, died in Washington Monday after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his aorta, according to the Associated Press. He was 69.
  • Diplomat Richard Holbrooke dies at 69: President Obama’s emissary to Afghanistan and Pakistan began his career as a junior Foreign Service officer during the Vietnam War.
    Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s emissary to Afghanistan and Pakistan and one of the most celebrated American diplomats of the last half-century, died Monday. He was 69.
    Holbrooke died at George Washington University Hospital, where he had undergone surgery after doctors discovered a tear in his aorta on Friday.
    Holbrooke, who began his career as a junior Foreign Service officer in the Vietnam War and ended it helping lead the battle to overcome militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, shaped the narrative of U.S. diplomacy as an advisor to presidents, secretaries of State and Democratic presidential candidates.
    A 6-foot-2, barrel-chested man, he was renowned for his ruthless negotiating style, which earned him such nicknames as “The Bulldozer” and “Raging Bull.” His most important achievement came in 1995 when he intimidated Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic and brokered the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian War.
    Holbrooke served every Democratic president since John F. Kennedy, and was a contender to be secretary of State for two decades, though he never accomplished the goal. But he was the only person to be assistant secretary of State for two regions — East Asia and Europe — and was also U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as well as ambassador to Germany.
    In adding him to his administration two days after his inauguration, President Obama praised Holbrooke as “one of the most talented diplomats of his generation.”…. – LAT, 12-13-10
  • In region he oversaw, a mixed review for Holbrooke: In Kabul, he was seen as out of touch and too combative to forge a partnership with Afghan leaders. But in Islamabad, he is called a seasoned envoy who tried to strengthen U.S. ties with Pakistan.
    Richard C. Holbrooke is being praised in the United States after his death as a giant of diplomacy, but in South Asia, the turbulent region that constituted his last assignment, his legacy received mixed reviews. In Kabul, he was regarded as out of touch with the society and too combative to forge a meaningful partnership with Afghanistan’s leadership. But in Islamabad, Pakistan, he was lauded as a seasoned envoy who earnestly tried to strengthen Washington’s fragile alliance with the country…. – LAT, 12-14-10
  • Tax-Cut Package Passes Crucial Test in Senate: With robust bipartisan support, the Senate on Monday advanced the tax-cut package negotiated by President Obama and Congressional Republicans, increasing pressure on House Democrats to set aside their opposition.
    The vote, to cut off debate and end any filibuster, assured that the Senate would approve the $858 billion package on Tuesday and send it to the House, where Democrats are still demanding changes to a provision granting a generous tax exemption to wealthy estates.
    The Senate vote was 83 to 15, with 45 Democrats and 37 Republicans in favor. Opposed were nine Democrats, five Republicans and Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont…. – NYT, 12-13-10
  • Has Obama won the tax cut staredown of 2010?: Both the left and right are mad about the tax-cut bill. Does that mean President Obama will benefit from appearing to stand at the center of American politics?
    The tax-cut bill agreed to by President Obama and congressional Republicans should start to move through Congress this week. Many D.C. vote-counters think it’s likely the legislation will eventually pass, but liberals still don’t like it. Many Democrats remain unhappy over its continuation of tax breaks for the wealthy.
    There has been “much consternation” among Democratic House members about parts of the bill, said House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland on Monday at the National Press Club.
    That said, there is grumbling about the effort on the right as well. Some in the GOP think Republican leaders gave away too much to get an across-the-board Bush tax cut extension.
    Both the left and right are mad. Does that mean Mr. Obama will benefit from appearing to stand at the center of American politics?… – CS Monitor, 12-13-10
  • Obama signs anti-hunger, anti-obesity school lunch bill: US President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law a bill that will fight childhood hunger and bolster his wife’s project to roll back obesity in kids by making school meals healthier.
    “Right now, across the country, too many children don’t have access to school meals and often the food that’s being offered isn’t as healthy as it should be,” Obama said at a signing ceremony for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act at an elementary school in Washington.
    The new law would help reverse the worrying trend of doctors diagnosing what used to be considered adult conditions — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes — in increasingly fatter American children, and would do so “without adding a dime to the deficit,” Obama said.
    The new law, which pledges 4.5 billion dollars over 10 years to child nutrition programs, will give thousands more US children access to school meals and allow the Department of Agriculture to set nutrition guidelines for food sold in schools, including in vending machines. It comes at a time when 17 million US children live in households that have to sometimes skip meals to make ends meet, and one in three US kids is obese or overweight.
    Childhood hunger and obesity were “two sides of the same coin,” Michelle Obama said at the signing ceremony. AP, 12-13-10

111TH & 112TH CONGRESS

The President signs the tax cut compromise

  • With era ending, Patrick Kennedy embraces new opportunities: Representative Patrick Kennedy stepped carefully around a clutter of half-packed cardboard boxes, overstuffed luggage, and several open bags of potato chips at his Capitol Hill apartment. It seemed more like a scene of a college student heading home than the end of a 64-year political legacy. But Kennedy’s upcoming retirement will break a bond between the nation’s capital and Camelot. When the new House is seated in January, it will mark the first time since 1947 — the year a 29-year-old John F. Kennedy was sworn in as a Massachusetts congressman — that no member of the Kennedy family will be serving in the House, Senate, or White House.
    The House is scheduled to end its session today, but late bills may delay the wrapup. Patrick Kennedy, 43, an eight-term Democrat from Rhode Island and the son of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, is bracing for entry into a world he has never known, away from the public spotlight.
    “I feel liberated to try to live a life as foreign to me as anything — a life outside of politics,” Kennedy said in an interview. “I’m actually for the first time in my life venturing out on my own. This is unfamiliar territory.”… – Boston Globe, 12-17-10
  • Key senator: ‘We’ve got the votes’ to repeal ‘don’t ask': A leading Senate force behind repeal of the ban on gay people serving openly in the military says there are the votes to pass the measure. The Senate will vote Saturday on a procedural move to break a logjam on a bill to overturn the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that has been in place since 1993. The Pentagon was taking steps Friday to implement repeal. “We’ve got the votes. It’s time to get it done,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. Lieberman’s comments came in an interview with CNN’s John King, which will air Friday night.
    The senator said there are more than 60 votes for the procedural move, which would signal the bill would easily pass when it comes up for a separate vote. Final passage could occur as early as Saturday, if senators agree to move ahead with debate.
    Lieberman told CNN that repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” would be remembered as a historic civil rights achievement. “This will allow gay and lesbian Americans to be called … what they want to be called, which is Americans — not gays or lesbians — who want to serve our country,” Lieberman said…. – USA Today, 12-17-10
  • Senate plans showdown votes Saturday on 2 big issues: The Senate plans crucial votes Saturday on two of the year’s most incendiary political issues: repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays and lesbians and revamping immigration laws to help put children of illegal aliens on a path to citizenship.
    Opponents have blocked both measures for months. The Senate will try to cut off debate on each bill, a maneuver that requires the votes of 60 of the 100 senators. Should either bill fail to get 60, it’s dead, probably for years to come, since Republicans will control the House of Representatives for two years starting next month. Both measures were campaign promises of President Barack Obama, and neither is expected to get many GOP votes.
    Many Republicans were outraged that the votes were even being taken. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., protested that the action is “clearly in keeping with the other side’s political agenda.”
    The “don’t ask, don’t tell” bill is the better bet to move ahead. The House of Representatives passed the measure Wednesday by a largely partisan 250-175 vote. The bill’s Senate co-sponsor, Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said he was confident he had the votes to end debate and move to a final vote, since at least three Republicans are expected to join virtually all the Senate’s 56 Democrats and two independents who support it. A previous Senate effort to end debate on the question failed, but this is a new version of the legislation and three Republicans say they’re ready to back it now.
    The Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, aimed at changing immigration law, faces more opposition. The bill would allow illegal immigrants younger than 30 who entered the U.S. before age 16, lived here for five years without committing serious crimes, graduated from high school and attended college or joined the military to be eligible for legal residency after meeting other criteria. A study by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the act would help 300,000 to 500,000 undocumented immigrants….. – McClatchy Newspapers, 12-17-10
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich drops Oversight Committee bid: Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich is dropping his bid to be top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and will support the candidacy of Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings. The committee’s current chairman, Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York, announced today that he won’t seek the committee’s top Democratic job when Republicans take over Congress next year. Cummings and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York are now vying for the spot. Kucinich says Cummings would provide a strong Democratic counterpoint to the next GOP chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa. Although Issa represents California in Congress, he happens to be a native Clevelander. Kucinich said Issa will likely make “unsubstantiated charges” against the Obama administration that will need to be challenged.
    “My bid has never been about my own personal advancement,” Kucinich said in a press statement. “It has been about protecting the oversight process from abuse. Mr. Cummings is well prepared for the challenge. Tomorrow, I will recommend to the Steering and Policy Committee and to the Democratic Caucus that they choose Mr. Cummings as Ranking Member.” – The Plain Dealer, 12-14-10
  • Dreaming of a Post-Christmas Congress: The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said on Tuesday that Democrats were not prepared to give up any of their priorities and would work as long as it takes – right up until the end of the 111th Congress on Jan. 4 – to deal with their punch list of major items: the tax package; the New START arms control treaty with Russia; a huge spending bill; a bill to authorize repeal of the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy; and an immigration measure that would create a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants brought to the United States as young children.
    “I hate to report all this to you,” Mr. Reid told reporters at a news conference at the Capitol, “but you know, there’s still Congress after Christmas. So if the Republicans think that they can stall and stall and stall that we take a break, we’re through, we’re not through. Congress ends on January 4th. So we’re going to continue working on this stuff until we get it done, or we have up-and-down votes and find that it can’t happen that way.”… – NYT, 12-14-10
  • House Democrats to Make Final Push on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’: House Democratic leaders have decided to make one last push to repeal the military’s ban on gays serving openly before the end of the lame-duck Congress.
    Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the House majority leader, said he and Representative Patrick Murphy, Democrat of Pennsylvania, would bring a standalone repeal of the ban to the floor as early as Wednesday. The House move comes in response to the Senate’s failure last week to break a Republican filibuster against a broader Pentagon measure that would have lifted the ban.
    Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, urged Senate leaders to try to pass a separate measure ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule, untangling the issue from the broader military policy measure.
    “I look forward to bringing this bill to the House floor soon, and I hope the Senate will swiftly take action as well so that the bill can be signed into law as soon as possible,” Mr. Hoyer said Tuesday. “This discriminatory and harmful policy has weakened America’s security by depriving us of the work of tens of thousands of gay and lesbian troops who have served their country honorably. And it has severely compromised our armed forces’ core value of integrity…. – NYT, 12-14-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Getting a Head Start on the 2012 Presidential-Debate Drinking Games: With the notable exception of Barack Obama, not a single politician has publicly confirmed his or her intentions to run for president in 2012. As the home page of Politico will insist day after day after day, this does not mean that the 2012 presidential race is not already well underway. To wit: so far there are five scheduled debates: ABC News and WMUR-TV’s Republican-primary debate in New Hampshire, the CNN–WMUR-TV–New Hampshire Union Leader primary debate, NBC News and Politico’s Republican-primary debate at the Reagan Presidential Library, Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party’s debate, and, as of today, the widely necessary CNN/Tea Party Express debate. “The Tea Party movement is a fascinating, diverse, grassroots force,” deadpanned Sam Feist, CNN’s political director. He added, “Undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party.” Tampa, Florida, the global cradle of the hard-core death-metal persuasion, will host the debate, as well as the cycle’s Republican National Convention…. – Vanity Fair, 12-17-10
  • CNN and Tea Party team up for debate: CNN and the Tea Party Express (a political action committee) are teaming up to co-host a presidential primary debate for the 2012 Republican contenders. The showdown will take in Tampa, Fla. around Labor Day in 2011.
    “If you’re producing a debate that is for Republican candidates that is intended to try and raise issues important to Republican primary voters – you would be remiss in not thinking about the Tea Party,” CNN Political Director Sam Feist told MediaBiz today.
    Feist said news organizations “regularly partner” with groups that are part of a political party’s coalition and he pointed out that CNN partnered with the Congressional Black Caucus in 2008 for a debate.
    “We have all sponsored debates with Republican state party organizations. Primary debates are for primary voters. Primary voters are Republican voters, and the Tea Party is a big part of the Republican coalition,” Feist said. Feist added that it’s “not at all unusual” for debates to be sponsored with groups that have political agendas.
    “In this case, they have an agenda that is of particular interest to Republican voters and because this is a Republican primary, we thought it would be the right group to partner with,” Feist said…. – Boston Herald, 12-17-10
  • As Republicans’ Power Grows, So Do Rifts: What do Republicans stand for? As the first half of President Obama?s term comes to a close, three political realities are forcing Republicans to confront that question more directly, and producing interesting conflicts along the way. The first reality is the assumption of power by Republicans in the House next year. After two years of being a political minority in Congress, the party’s lawmakers are showing signs of the disagreement that comes with the responsibility to lead. The second reality is the presidential campaign that begins in earnest for Republicans as soon as Washington returns from the holidays next month. The search for a challenger to Mr. Obama is designed to highlight the differences among Republicans, and it’s already beginning to do so…. – NYT, 12-15-10
  • Fox News, CNN Announce Dates Of First Presidential Debates: On Monday, CNN announced that it will host a Republican debate in New Hampshire on June 7, in collaboration with the Manchester Union-Leader and television station WMUR. It will be the first debate of the 2012 cycle to take place in the pivotal state.
    On Wednesday, Fox News announced that it will host two Republican debates in South Carolina. The first will take place on May 5, 2011, and the second will take place sometime in 2012.
    ABC and NBC News also announced debates this week. ABC said this Wednesday that it will host a debate in early 2012, between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary.
    NBC News will host the first debate of the overall cycle. It will take place in the spring of 2011 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. – Huff Post, 12-15-10
  • Tax Deal Is Shaping 2012 GOP Campaign: The tax deal now before Congress has kicked off the first real debate of the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, with several prospective candidates heralding the package as a victory for taxpayers and others criticizing it as a costly stimulus bill in disguise.
    Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have both come out sharply against the measure, which President Barack Obama hammered out last week with Senate Republican leaders. Both cite the deal’s price tag, with Mr. Romney saying it will heap billions more onto the nation’s debt load. Supporting the package are former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all of whom praise the deal as good for the economy and the only way to spare Americans the jolt of a sudden tax increase that otherwise would take effect on Jan. 1.
    The debate suggests an early line of cleavage among the potential 2012 Republican aspirants on the key issues of taxes and government spending.
    The tax package was expected to win final passage in the Senate Tuesday night or Wednesday and advance to the House, which could take it up as early as Wednesday afternoon.
    In opposing the deal, Ms. Palin and Mr. Romney are aligning themselves with several large tea-party groups that see the tax deal as a betrayal of the Republican Party’s pledge during the last election to slash spending and attack the deficit. By opposing their party’s own leaders in Congress, who negotiated the package with Mr. Obama, the two also appear intent on shoring up their outsider, anti-Washington credentials…. – WSJ, 12-14-10
  • Bloomberg for president? Nolabels.org could be just the vehicle: New York’s mayor is says he is not – ‘no way, no how’ – running for president. But his role in the nonpartisan political movement Nolabels.org raises speculation…. – CS Monitor, 12-13-10
  • GOP National Chairman Michael Steele to run again: Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says he will run for a second term. The news was posted on the Twitter account of Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan GOP party chairman who is among several candidates seeking to oust Steele. The RNC will pick its chairman next month.
    Steele outlined his record during a conference call tonight with the 168-member committee. “I’m asking tonight for your support, I’m asking for another term,” Steele said, according to an ABC News blog post…. – USA Today, 12-13-10

QUOTES

President Obama speaks on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review

  • The President on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010: “An Historic Step”: Today, the Senate has taken an historic step toward ending a policy that undermines our national security while violating the very ideals that our brave men and women in uniform risk their lives to defend. By ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” no longer will our nation be denied the service of thousands of patriotic Americans forced to leave the military, despite years of exemplary performance, because they happen to be gay. And no longer will many thousands more be asked to live a lie in order to serve the country they love.
    As Commander-in-Chief, I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known. And I join the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the overwhelming majority of service members asked by the Pentagon, in knowing that we can responsibly transition to a new policy while ensuring our military strength and readiness.
    I want to thank Majority Leader Reid, Senators Lieberman and Collins and the countless others who have worked so hard to get this done. It is time to close this chapter in our history. It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed. It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly. I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk so that I can sign it into law. – WH, 12-18-10
  • Weekly Address: START is About the Safety and Security of America; Not Scoring Political Points
    Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address The White House December 18, 2010:

    This week, Congress passed – and I signed into law – an essential economic package that will help grow our economy, spur businesses, and jumpstart job creation.
    Instead of a New Years Day tax hike on the vast majority of Americans, two million Americans who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own will now know with certainty that they won’t lose their emergency unemployment insurance at the end of the month. Eight million college students who’d otherwise face a tuition hike next semester will continue having access to the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Twelve million families with twenty-four million children will benefit from extensions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. And millions of entrepreneurs who’ve been waiting to invest in their businesses will receive new tax incentives to help them expand, buy new equipment, or make upgrades, freeing up money to hire new workers.
    This package, which is so important for our economy at this pivotal time, was the product of hard negotiations. Like any negotiations, there was give and take on both sides. But I’m heartened by our ability to come together to do what’s best for middle class families across this country, and our economy as a whole.
    Before going away for the holiday break, I’m hopeful we can also come together on another urgent national priority – and that is, the new START treaty that will reduce the world’s nuclear arsenals and make America more secure. Twenty- five years ago, the Soviet Union and United States each had about 25,000 nuclear weapons. In the decades since, that number has been reduced by over 70 percent, and we have had on-site inspections of Russian nuclear facilities. That progress would not have been possible without strategic arms control treaties….
    We have taken the time to get this right. The START treaty has now been under review by the Senate for over seven months. It’s gone through 18 hearings. Nearly 1,000 questions have been asked – and answered. Several Republican Senators have come out in support of ratification. Meanwhile, further delay comes at a cost. Every minute we drag our feet is a minute that we have no inspectors on the ground at those Russian nuclear sites.
    It’s time to get this done. It’s time to show the same spirit of common purpose on our security that we showed this week on our economy. It’s time to remember the old saying that politics stops at the water’s edge. That saying was coined by a Republican Senator, Arthur Vandenberg, who partnered with a Democratic President, Harry Truman, to pass landmark national security measures at the dawn of the Cold War. Today, over sixty years later, when we’re threatened not only by nuclear weapons, but an array of other dangers, that’s a principle we must continue to uphold. Thank you, and have a nice weekend…. – WH, 12-18-10Mp4Mp3
  • Biden Says Tax-Cut Deal Reflects Bipartisan Aims: Vice President Joseph Biden said the administration’s effort to work with Republicans on issues such as extending tax cuts shows a conscious effort by the White House to respond to the voter discontent displayed in November’s mid- term elections.
    “We understand that the message is the American public wants us to cooperate, wants us to work together,” Mr. Biden said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Americans “want us to reasonably compromise to move the business of the nation forward,” he said.
    “We got to the end, we couldn’t get it done and we had to make a decision,” Mr. Biden said. He said the tax-cut extensions were important to middle-income Americans and businesses, and so the administration wanted to preserve them. But the administration was still committed to eventually ending the tax cuts for top earners, he said.
    “The one target for us in two years is no longer extending the upper-income tax credit for millionaires and billionaires,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re coming back and going at it again.”… – WSJ, 12-19-10
  • The President Signs the Tax Cut & Unemployment Insurance Compromise: “Some Good News for the American People this Holiday Season”: First and foremost, the legislation I’m about to sign is a substantial victory for middle-class families across the country. They’re the ones hit hardest by the recession we’ve endured. They’re the ones who need relief right now. And that’s what is at the heart of this bill.
    This bipartisan effort was prompted by the fact that tax rates for every American were poised to automatically increase on January 1st. If that had come to pass, the average middle-class family would have had to pay an extra $3,000 in taxes next year. That wouldn’t have just been a blow to them — it would have been a blow to our economy just as we’re climbing out of a devastating recession.
    I refused to let that happen. And because we acted, it’s not going to. In fact, not only will middle-class Americans avoid a tax increase, but tens of millions of Americans will start the New Year off right by opening their first paycheck to see that it’s actually larger than the one they get right now. Over the course of 2011, 155 million workers will receive tax relief from the new payroll tax cut included in this bill -– about $1,000 for the average family.
    This is real money that’s going to make a real difference in people’s lives. And I would not have signed this bill if it didn’t include other extensions of relief that were also set to expire -– relief that’s going to help families cover the bills, parents raise their children, students pay for college, and business owners to take the reins of the recovery and propel this economy forward.
    As soon as I sign this legislation, 2 million Americans looking for work who lost their jobs through no fault of their own can know with certainty that they won’t lose their emergency unemployment insurance at the end of this month. Over the past few weeks, 600,000 Americans have been cut off from that lifeline. But with my signature, states can move quickly to reinstate their benefits –- and we expect that in almost all states, they’ll get them in time for Christmas.
    Eight million college students who otherwise would have faced a tuition hike as soon as next semester will instead continue to have access to a $2,500 tax credit to afford their studies.
    Twelve million families with 24 million children will benefit from extensions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. And when combined with the payroll tax cut, 2 million American families who otherwise would have lived in poverty next year will instead be lifted out of it. (Applause.)
    And millions of entrepreneurs who have been waiting to invest in their businesses will receive new tax incentives to help them expand, buy new equipment, or make upgrades — freeing up other money to hire new workers.
    Putting more money in the pockets of families most likely to spend it, helping businesses invest and grow — that’s how we’re going to spark demand, spur hiring, and strengthen our economy in the New Year. WH, 12-17-10Mp4Mp3
  • President Obama on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review: “A Very Difficult Endeavor” but “Significant Progress”: I want to be clear. This continues to be a very difficult endeavor. But I can report that thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals.
    It’s important to remember why we remain in Afghanistan. It was Afghanistan where al Qaeda plotted the 9/11 attacks that murdered 3,000 innocent people. It is the tribal regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border from which terrorists have launched more attacks against our homeland and our allies. And if an even wider insurgency were to engulf Afghanistan, that would give al Qaeda even more space to plan these attacks.
    And that’s why, from the start, I’ve been very clear about our core goal. It’s not to defeat every last threat to the security of Afghanistan, because, ultimately, it is Afghans who must secure their country. And it’s not nation-building, because it is Afghans who must build their nation. Rather, we are focused on disrupting, dismantling and defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and preventing its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.
    In pursuit of our core goal we are seeing significant progress. Today, al Qaeda’s senior leadership in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan is under more pressure than at any point since they fled Afghanistan nine years ago. Senior leaders have been killed. It’s harder for them to recruit; it’s harder for them to travel; it’s harder for them to train; it’s harder for them to plot and launch attacks. In short, al Qaeda is hunkered down. It will take time to ultimately defeat al Qaeda, and it remains a ruthless and resilient enemy bent on attacking our country. But make no mistake — we are going to remain relentless in disrupting and dismantling that terrorist organization.
    In Afghanistan, we remain focused on the three areas of our strategy: our military effort to break the Taliban’s momentum and train Afghan forces so they can take the lead; our civilian effort to promote effective governance and development; and regional cooperation, especially with Pakistan, because our strategy has to succeed on both sides of the border.
    Indeed, for the first time in years, we’ve put in place the strategy and the resources that our efforts in Afghanistan demand. And because we’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, and brought home nearly 100,000 of our troops from Iraq, we’re in a better position to give our forces in Afghanistan the support and equipment they need to achieve their missions. And our drawdown in Iraq also means that today there are tens of thousands fewer Americans deployed in harm’s way than when I took office. With those additional forces in Afghanistan, we are making considerable gains toward our military objectives. The additional military and civilian personnel that I ordered in Afghanistan are now in place, along with additional forces from our coalition, which has grown to 49 nations. Along with our Afghan partners, we’ve gone on the offensive, targeting the Taliban and its leaders and pushing them out of their strongholds….
    We’re going to have to continue to stand up. We’ll continue to give our brave troops and civilians the strategy and resources they need to succeed. We will never waver from our goal of disrupting, dismantling, and ultimately defeating al Qaeda. We will forge enduring partnerships with people who are committed to progress and to peace. And we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure the security and the safety of the American people. – WH, 12-16-10Mp4Mp3
  • Obama: Significant Progress In Fighting al-Qaida, Taliban: President Barack Obama says the U.S.-led coalition is making progress in fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The president talked with reporters Thursday about his administration’s annual review of its policy in the region.
    “This continues to be a very difficult endeavor,” said President Obama. “But I can report that, thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals.”
    “Senior leaders have been killed,” said Obama. “It is harder for them to recruit. It is harder for them to travel. It is harder for them to train. It is harder for them to plot and launch attacks. In short, al-Qaida is hunkered down.”
    “In many places, the gains we have made are still fragile and reversible,” he said. “But there is no question we are clearing more areas from Taliban control, and more Afghans are reclaiming their communities.”
    “Now, our review confirms, however, that for these security gains to be sustained over time, there is an urgent need for political and economic progress in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Obama.
    “Nevertheless, progress has not come fast enough,” he said. “So we will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with. At the same time, we need to support the economic and political development that is critical to Pakistan’s future.”… VOA, 12-16-10
  • Meet The Next House Speaker, Rep. John Boehner Lesley Stahl Profiles The Ohio Republican Who Will Be Third In Line For The Presidency: John Boehner is about to replace Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House, and become the most powerful Republican in the country – and third in line to the presidency. He was swept in with the biggest Republican landslide in the house since 1938.
    As “60 Minutes” and correspondent Lesley Stahl set off to meet him, we had two questions: Which John Boehner will show up as speaker? The compromiser that he’s been in the past, or the more hard-line conservative of late, who’s aligned himself with the Tea Party that helped bring him and his party back into power…. – CBS News, 12-13-10
  • Huckabee: Obama self-destructed defending tax cuts: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) harshly criticized President Obama in an interview, saying the president “has shown no appetite for compromise with Republicans, zero.” Huckabee, who is a possible 2012 presidential candidate, said Obama to “some degree, he still has his head in the sand.” He added: “He is a very ideologically left-of-center person who wants to take the country in a very dramatic direction, and I don’t think that’s what people wanted.”
    In the interview with National Journal, Huckabee said the tax-cut extension Obama worked out with congressional Republicans was “the best anyone can hope for” but said he was shocked that it was only two years. “Politically, I was shocked it was going to be two not three, because it puts this whole thing in the very center, the bullseye of the 2012 presidential election,” the former governor said. “The most bizarre part of the whole process was watching President Obama self-destruct at the podium [Dec. 7th]. I was just stunned — I really couldn’t believe that a man that was elected president was as amateurish as he was and essentially launched from the podium at some of his own, taking aim and mowing down everybody in D.C. and walking away having not understood that he just lost a lot of people.”… – The Hill, 12-13-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama tax deal: why estate tax is the new sticking point: House Democratic leaders set very tight rules for debate of the Obama tax deal Thursday, and rank-and-file Democrats revolted. Their main frustration now: the estate tax.
    “That’s how you prevent a deal from being undone in Congress,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “Speaker Pelosi is obviously deeply disappointed with this bill, which gives up on one of the Democrats’ major promises in 2008 to oppose tax breaks for the wealthy, but there’s almost no wiggle room in this deal between Republicans and the president,” he adds. “By limiting amendments, the Speaker is bowing to the president.”… – CS Monitor, 12-19-10
  • With era ending, Patrick Kennedy embraces new opportunities: Boston Globe, 12-17-10
  • CNN and Tea Party team up for debate: Boston University political professor Tom Whalen said it hasn’t taken long for the Tea Party to go “big time.” “Maybe they’re going to loose their moorings, at least what they profess to be their moorings, of being close with the people and not to be bought by anyone,” Whalen said. “They’re supposed to be common people – now they’re aligning themselves with this mega-media company,” Whalen added. “It just seems like old style, power politics.” Boston Herald, 12-17-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Why George W. Bush must be smiling: Somewhere in Texas, former President George W. Bush must be smiling. When President Obama and the Republican leadership reached a deal on extending all of the Bush tax cuts, including a generous exemption for estate taxes, the current president ratified a key policy from the former administration.
    While Obama ran as the candidate who would fight to overturn Bush’s record, a huge number of his policies remain in place. This says a lot about President Bush. One of the key measures that we have to evaluate the success of a president is not simply how many of his proposals pass through Congress but also how many of his policies outlast his time in office. Many of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s programs, including Social Security and the Wagner Act, survive into our time…. – CNN, 12-13-10
  • Opposition to Health Law Is Steeped in Tradition: “We are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program,” said one prominent critic of the new health care law. It is socialized medicine, he argued. If it stands, he said, “one of these days, you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”
    The health care law in question was Medicare, and the critic was Ronald Reagan. He made the leap from actor to political activist, almost 50 years ago, in part by opposing government-run health insurance for the elderly. Today, the supposed threat to free enterprise is a law that’s broader, if less radical, than Medicare: the bill Congress passed this year to create a system of privately run health insurance for everyone. On Monday, a federal judge ruled part of the law to be unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court will probably need to settle the matter in the end.
    We’ve lived through a version of this story before, and not just with Medicare. Nearly every time this country has expanded its social safety net or tried to guarantee civil rights, passionate opposition has followed. The opposition stems from the tension between two competing traditions in the American economy. One is the laissez- faire tradition that celebrates individuality and risk-taking. The other is the progressive tradition that says people have a right to a minimum standard of living — time off from work, education and the like…. – NYT, 12-14-10

WikiLeaks Week 3: Julian Assange Out on Bail

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN, and 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: WIKILEAKS SCANDAL

  • Bank of America Suspends Payments to WikiLeaks: In a sign of the increasing tensions between WikiLeaks and the corporate world, Bank of America has said it will no longer help process payments for the organization, which released a huge cache of secret State Department cables in late November and has threatened to “take down” a major United States bank with another data dump.
    “Bank of America joins in the actions previously announced by MasterCard, PayPal, Visa Europe and others and will not process transactions of any type that we have reason to believe are intended for WikiLeaks,” the bank said in a statement issued on Friday. “This decision is based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments.” In a Twitter post put up soon after Bank of America’s announcement, WikiLeaks called on supporters to boycott the bank, urging that “all people who love freedom close out their accounts at Bank of America.”…. – NYT, 12-18-10
  • Pro-WikiLeaks hackers may be hard for U.S. to pursue: Legal hurdles could make it tough for U.S. prosecutors to go after pro-WikiLeaks hackers who waged cyber attacks last week on Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and other companies. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week he was “looking into” it but there are enormous challenges finding, moving, investigating and finally convicting those the United States might accuse. Typically the federal government prosecutes hacking under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which prohibits the “transmission of a program, information, code, or command” that “intentionally causes damage without authorization, to a protected computer.” It’s a broad, powerful statute that applies even to computer crime committed abroad, and can carry prison sentences and heavy fines. But to use it, authorities will first have to locate the elusive hackers and bring them to the United States…. – Reuters, 12-18-10
  • Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks’ Alleged Leaker, ‘Very Annoyed’ At Solitary Confinement: Detained U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning’s supporters went public with their concerns about the harsh conditions of his imprisonment — he has no access to exercise or even a pillow and bedsheets during his solitary confinement — only after their complaints to the military over several months went unheeded. As Salon’s Glenn Greenwald reported on Wednesday, Manning, who has been accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of any crime but has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico “under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture.”
    “We were aware of those situations and we were hoping that they would improve without applying public pressure through the media,” Jeff Paterson, who runs Manning’s legal defense fund, told The Huffington Post. “His attorney and supporters were hoping that this could be taken care of through the appropriate channels.”
    Paterson says that Manning is “very annoyed” at the conditions of his confinement, adding that he is primarily upset at his inability to exercise. “He sits in this small box, for the most part only to take a shower – he just sits and eats and four months have gone by.”… – Huff Post, 12-15-10
  • Julian Assange freed on bail: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange emerges from high court and is driven away to backer’s country estate. With a smile and a short statement of quiet defiance, Julian Assange tonight walked free from custody and into the kind of media scrum more commonly seen after a decades-long prison sentence, rather than nine days on remand. This was the third hearing in as many weeks relating to the WikiLeaks founder’s bail application over sex assault charges against two Swedish women, for which his extradition is being sought, and is unlikely to be the last before the allegations, which he denies, are resolved…. – Guardian UK, 12-16-10
  • Julian Assange bail decision made by UK authorities, not Sweden: Swedish prosecutor’s office says it has ‘not got a view at all on bail’ and that Britain made decision to oppose it
    The decision to have Julian Assange sent to a London jail and kept there was taken by the British authorities and not by prosecutors in Sweden, as previously thought, the Guardian has learned. The Crown Prosecution Service will go to the high court tomorrow to seek the reversal of a decision to free the WikiLeaks founder on bail, made yesterday by a judge at City of Westminster magistrates court.
    It had been widely thought Sweden had made the decision to oppose bail, with the CPS acting merely as its representative. But today the Swedish prosecutor’s office told the Guardian it had “not got a view at all on bail” and that Britain had made the decision to oppose bail…. – Guardian UK, 12-15-10
  • Court costs strain WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s finances: Julian Assange might be freed tomorrow but an extradition battle with Sweden looms and his legal bill is growing. If, as seems likely, Julian Assange walks free from the high court tomorrow, his triumph will be a brief one. As well as a looming extradition battle with Sweden, he faces a familiar headache known to defendants everywhere: how to pay his lawyers? Since his dramatic arrest last week, and incarceration in Wandsworth jail, Assange’s legal bill has been growing. In theory, the founder of WikiLeaks is sitting on a pile of cash. But currently all his bank accounts are frozen. And his legal costs are separate from donations to WikiLeaks, which since October 2009 have reached €900,000 (£770,000). Today Assange’s lawyers said they were trying to organise a legal defence fund to pay for his bills, including ones he is likely to incur in his extradition hearing in February…. — Guardian UK, 12-15-10
  • Release on Bail of WikiLeaks Founder Is Delayed by Appeal: Julian Assange, the jailed founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, was ordered freed on $315,000 bail on Tuesday but remained at least temporarily in custody awaiting a final decision on whether he will be extradited to Sweden over allegations of sexual offenses against two women.
    Protesters demonstrated outside the City of Westminster Magistrates Court, where Julian Assange attended a bail hearing on Tuesday.
    Mr. Assange was driven back to Wandsworth Prison in London on Tuesday night, past cheering and whistling supporters and scores of flashbulbs, pending an appeal of the bail ruling by the Swedish authorities, which must be heard at Britain’s High Court within the next 48 hours.
    Judge Howard Riddle, presiding over a packed and rapt courtroom at Westminster Magistrate’s Court in Central London, said that his decision to jail Mr. Assange as a “serious flight risk” at an initial hearing on Dec. 7 was “marginal” and that, with conditions, Mr. Assange should now be freed until further proceedings on Jan. 11.
    Judge Riddle was swayed Tuesday, he told the court, when a friend of Mr. Assange offered to allow him to stay at a lavish country mansion in Sussex, an hour away from London. Mr. Assange, according to conditions the judge laid out, must spend every night at the mansion, Ellingham Hall, a 10-bedroom home on a 650-acre estate owned by Vaughan Smith, the wealthy founder of a journalists’ club in London…. – NYT, 12-15-10
  • Swedish Prosecutor Raises Possible Extradition of WikiLeaks Founder to U.S.: A Swedish prosecutor raised the possibility that Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, could eventually be extradited to the United States in a statement posted online on Tuesday. Marianne Ny, the Swedish prosecutor who asked British authorities to detain Mr. Assange and send him to Sweden for questioning about possible sex crimes, discussed the possibility of sending him to the United States in a statement posted on the Swedish Prosecution Authority’s Web site on Tuesday. Perhaps prompted by speculation that Mr. Assange might be indicted by a grand jury meeting in secret in the United States to consider charges against him related to the publication of leaked American military and diplomatic documents, one section of the Swedish prosecutor’s statement, under the heading, “Facts About Extradition of a Person Who Has Been Surrendered,” reads…. – NYT, 12-14-10
  • WikiLeaks Founder’s Statement From Prison: My convictions are unfaltering. I remain true to the ideals I have expressed. This circumstance shall not shake them. If anything this process has increased my determination that they are true and correct.
    We now know that Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and others are instruments of U.S. foreign policy. It’s not something we knew before. I am calling for the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral attacks. – NYT, 12-14-10
  • Poll: Almost half of Britons feel WikiLeaks sex charges are “excuse”: Almost half of Britons believe that the sex charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are “an excuse” to keep him in custody so that the US government can prosecute him for releasing secret diplomatic cables, … CNN, 12-13-10
  • US grand jury works on Assange charges: lawyer: Julian Assange’s British attorney, Mark Stephens, said Monday a secret US grand jury had been set up in Virginia to work on charges that could be filed against the WikiLeaks founder.
    Stephens said in an interview with Al Jazeera, citing unnamed Swedish authorities, that “there has been a secretly impaneled grand jury in Alexandria,” Virginia, just outside Washington.
    If the report proves true, it could mean an indictment of Assange is possible. The Australian Assange became the world’s most wanted man after he dumped to several media 250,000 US diplomatic cables in late November. So far, 1,300 have been published. He is currently being held in Britain on sex assault claims in Sweden which is seeking his extradition.
    But according to Stephens, “we understand that if it comes to Sweden they will defer their interest in him to the Americans. That shows some level of collusion and embarrassment,” he stressed.
    The 39-year-old Australian will appear in court in London for a second time Tuesday where his lawyers will make a second application for bail. He faces allegations of sexual assault and rape made against him in Sweden…. – AFP, 12-13-10

Senate Passes Compromise Tax Package / Tax Cuts Extension, 81-19

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Senate passes tax package: A sweeping tax package negotiated by the White House and GOP leaders sailed through the Senate on a 81-19 vote Wednesday and now awaits action by the House as early as Thursday.

Senate Passes Compromise Tax Package, 81-19: The Senate on Wednesday approved the $858 billion tax plan negotiated by the White House and Republican leaders — the first concrete product of a new era of divided government and acid compromise. The vote was 81 to 19, as Democrats yielded in their long push to end the Bush-era lowered tax rates for high-income taxpayers, and Republicans agreed to back a huge economic stimulus package, including an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and a one-year payroll-tax cut for most workers, with the entire cost added to the federal deficit. — NYT, 12-15-10

Richard Holbrooke: Key Democratic Diplomat dies at 69

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

THE HEADLINES….

  • Veteran U.S. diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke dies in Washington hospital, according to the Associated Press: Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, died in Washington Monday after undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his aorta, according to the Associated Press. He was 69.

Richard Holbrooke

Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has died. He was 69. (Virginia Mayo / Associated Press / December 13, 2010)

  • Diplomat Richard Holbrooke dies at 69: President Obama’s emissary to Afghanistan and Pakistan began his career as a junior Foreign Service officer during the Vietnam War.
    Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s emissary to Afghanistan and Pakistan and one of the most celebrated American diplomats of the last half-century, died Monday. He was 69.
    Holbrooke died at George Washington University Hospital, where he had undergone surgery after doctors discovered a tear in his aorta on Friday.
    Holbrooke, who began his career as a junior Foreign Service officer in the Vietnam War and ended it helping lead the battle to overcome militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan, shaped the narrative of U.S. diplomacy as an advisor to presidents, secretaries of State and Democratic presidential candidates.
    A 6-foot-2, barrel-chested man, he was renowned for his ruthless negotiating style, which earned him such nicknames as “The Bulldozer” and “Raging Bull.” His most important achievement came in 1995 when he intimidated Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic and brokered the Dayton Accords that ended the Bosnian War.
    Holbrooke served every Democratic president since John F. Kennedy, and was a contender to be secretary of State for two decades, though he never accomplished the goal. But he was the only person to be assistant secretary of State for two regions — East Asia and Europe — and was also U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as well as ambassador to Germany.
    In adding him to his administration two days after his inauguration, President Obama praised Holbrooke as “one of the most talented diplomats of his generation.”…. – LAT, 12-13-10

Political Shorts: Tax Cut Extension Bill Passes in Senate, 83 to 15

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

  • Tax-Cut Package Passes Crucial Test in Senate: With robust bipartisan support, the Senate on Monday advanced the tax-cut package negotiated by President Obama and Congressional Republicans, increasing pressure on House Democrats to set aside their opposition.
    The vote, to cut off debate and end any filibuster, assured that the Senate would approve the $858 billion package on Tuesday and send it to the House, where Democrats are still demanding changes to a provision granting a generous tax exemption to wealthy estates.
    The Senate vote was 83 to 15, with 45 Democrats and 37 Republicans in favor. Opposed were nine Democrats, five Republicans and Senator Bernard Sanders, independent of Vermont…. – NYT, 12-13-10
  • Has Obama won the tax cut staredown of 2010?: Both the left and right are mad about the tax-cut bill. Does that mean President Obama will benefit from appearing to stand at the center of American politics?
    The tax-cut bill agreed to by President Obama and congressional Republicans should start to move through Congress this week. Many D.C. vote-counters think it’s likely the legislation will eventually pass, but liberals still don’t like it. Many Democrats remain unhappy over its continuation of tax breaks for the wealthy.
    There has been “much consternation” among Democratic House members about parts of the bill, said House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland on Monday at the National Press Club.
    That said, there is grumbling about the effort on the right as well. Some in the GOP think Republican leaders gave away too much to get an across-the-board Bush tax cut extension.
    Both the left and right are mad. Does that mean Mr. Obama will benefit from appearing to stand at the center of American politics?… – CS Monitor, 12-13-10

December 13, 2010: Judge Henry Hudson in Va. Rules Federal Health Care Law Unconstitutional

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson struck down on Monday a key facet of the federal health-care reform law. 

U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson struck down on Monday a key facet of the federal health-care reform law. (Jay Paul For The Washington Post)

STATS & POLLS

  • Read Judge Hudson’s 42-page health care law rulingDocumentCloud

THE HEADLINES….

  • Judge in Va. strikes down federal health care law: A federal judge declared the foundation of President Barack Obama’s health care law unconstitutional Monday, ruling that the government cannot require Americans to purchase insurance. The case is expected to end up at the Supreme Court.
    U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson rejected the government’s argument that it has the power to enact the requirement under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
    He wrote that no court had extended the clause to allow regulation of a person’s decision not to buy a product, and that the government’s reasoning could also apply to decisions about transportation, housing or nutrition.
    “At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance — or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage — it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate,” Hudson wrote.
    In his order, he said he will allow the law to remain in effect while appeals are heard, meaning there is unlikely to be any immediate impact on other provisions that have already taken effect. The insurance coverage mandate is not scheduled to begin until 2014…. – AP, 12-13-10
  • Judge Voids Key Part of Health Care Law: A federal district judge in Virginia ruled on Monday that the keystone provision in the Obama health care law is unconstitutional, becoming the first court in the country to invalidate any part of the sprawling act and ensuring that appellate courts will receive contradictory opinions from below.
    Judge Henry E. Hudson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, declined the plaintiff’s request to freeze implementation of the law pending appeal, meaning that there should be no immediate effect on the ongoing rollout of the law. But the ruling is likely to create confusion among the public and further destabilize political support for legislation that is under fierce attack from Republicans in Congress and in many statehouses.
    In a 42-page opinion issued in Richmond, Va., Judge Hudson wrote that the law’s central requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance exceeds the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The insurance mandate is central to the law’s mission of covering more than 30 million uninsured because insurers argue that only by requiring healthy people to have policies can they afford to treat those with expensive chronic conditions.
    The judge wrote that his survey of case law “yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, not withstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme.”
    Judge Hudson is the third district court judge to reach a determination on the merits in one of the two dozen lawsuits filed against the health care law. The others — in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va. — have upheld the law. Lawyers on both sides said the appellate process could last another two years before the Supreme Court settles the dispute…. – NYT, 12-13-10
  • Virginia health-care ruling strikes down key provision of Obama’s plan: A federal judge in Virginia ruled Monday that a key provision of the nation’s sweeping health-care overhaul is unconstitutional, the most significant legal setback so far for President Obama’s signature domestic initiative.
    U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson found that Congress could not order individuals to buy health insurance.
    In a 42-page opinion, Hudson said the provision of the law that requires most individuals to get insurance or pay a fine by 2014 is an unprecedented expansion of federal power that cannot be supported by Congress’s power to regulate interstate trade.
    “Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market,” he wrote. “In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution.] WaPo, 12-13-10
  • Virginia Judge Rules Major Health Reform Provision Unconstitutional: Federal judge Henry Hudson ruled Monday afternoon that a major provision of the health care reform law is unconstitutional, setting up a legal battle that will likely end at the Supreme Court…. Hudson is the first federal judge to declare the individual mandate unconstitutional — two other judges have sided with the Obama administration.
    “I am gratified we prevailed. This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution,” Cuccinelli said in a statement.
    Cuccinelli argued that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives the federal government the authority to regulate interstate economic activity, could not be used to justify requiring individuals to buy health insurance.
    “The federal government asked the court to consider as economic activity the decision not to buy health insurance,” he said in a press conference. “This court and this judge rejected that leap of logic.”… – PBS Newshour, 12-13-10
  • Top Republicans praise Va. health care ruling: Top Republicans Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor all oppose President Obama’s health care law. Top Republicans say a Virginia court’s ruling striking down a key part of President Obama’s health care law helps their push to repeal the measure…. – USA Today, 12-13-10
  • WH: Health care case does not create uncertainty: The White House says it disagrees with a Virginia judge’s ruling declaring a key provision of President Barack Obama’s health care law unconstitutional. But officials say it does not create uncertainty about the implementation of the law’s provisions.
    “Our belief is that when all the legal wrangling is done, this is something that will be upheld,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
    White House health reform director Nancy-Ann DeParle said that while the Virginia judge ruled against the law, the administration is encouraged by two other federal judges that have upheld the law…. – ABC, WRIC, 12-13-10
  • Big legal setback for Obama’s health care overhaul: President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul hit its first major legal roadblock Monday, thrown into doubt by a federal judge’s declaration that the heart of the sweeping legislation is unconstitutional. The decision handed Republican foes ammunition for their repeal effort next year as the law heads for almost certain eventual judgment by the U.S. Supreme Court….. – AP, 12-13-10
  • Judge’s decision on health law conflicts with other cases: A U.S. district judge’s ruling Monday that overthrows a key portion of President Obama’s health care law conflicts with other lower-court rulings and centers on a thorny area of the law at the Supreme Court.
    At issue in the latest ruling on the health care initiative is a provision that requires most Americans to buy health insurance. The legal question is whether a person’s decision not to buy coverage is economic activity that affects interstate commerce and can be regulated by Congress.
    U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled Monday that the decision to forgo insurance does not affect interstate commerce. Hudson said the law would penalize a person for not acting, rather than for voluntarily taking part in some economic activity.
    Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon, also in Virginia, ruled the opposite, saying a decision to opt out is an “economic” one that ends up affecting the whole system, for example, “by collectively shifting billions of dollars on to other market participants and driving up the prices of insurance policies.”
    At the Supreme Court, where the ultimate fate of the health care overhaul probably rests, the justices’ recent rulings on the power of Congress have been marked by narrow votes and shifting majorities. Yet in one of the most significant disputes, a 2005 case testing federal anti-drug law, the high court broadly interpreted congressional power…. – USA Today, 12-13-10

QUOTES

  • Judge Henry Hudson, Washington Post: “Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market,” he wrote. “In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution.]”
  • Cantor, McDonnell call for expedited Supreme Court review of health-care law: U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) are calling on the Obama administration to join Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) in fast-tracking Supreme Court consideration of the constitutionality of the federal health-care law.
    Those statements are some of a staggering volume of reaction within Virginia to today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson that a central provision of the law requiring that individuals obtain health insurance by 2014 is unconstitutional. The federal government can appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. But Cuccinelli has asked them to consider joining him in requesting immediate Supreme Court review.
    At an afternoon news conference, Cuccinelli said bypassing the appeals court would relieve the country — and its massive health-care market — of the uncertainty of a continued lengthy legal battle. Already, Americans face a confused landscaped including 25 challenges to the law. Some have been dismissed on standing; two other judges have found the same provision of the law to be constitutional.
    Cuccinelli said he would consider asking the Supreme Court to take the case even without Justice Department cooperation, but he has made no decisions on the issue…. – WaPo, 12-13-10
  • John Boehner: A federal judge today ruled that the individual mandate in President Obama’s jobs-killing health care law is unconstitutional. When the new Congress convenes, Republicans will make good on our pledge to America & fight to repeal ObamaCare. We need to start over w/common-sense reforms that will protect jobs & help lower health care costs without unconstitutional mandates, new taxes, & penalties on small businesses.
  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R): In a statement, McDonnell said he has asked other governors and governors-elect to sign on to a letter to the Justice Department asking for their cooperation. McDonnell called the legal decision a “victory for the constitution” but said executives like him need a final resolution of the issue as they move ahead with implementing the complicated law. “There must be certainty and finality in order for our businesses and citizens to both know and adhere to the law.”
  • U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.): Cantor pledged that the new Republican-led House of Representatives would pass a repeal of the act next year, but in the meantime also called for expedited review. “In this challenging environment, we must not burden our states, employers and families with the costs and uncertainty created by this unconstitutional law, and we must take all steps to resolve this issue immediately,” he said.
  • Rep. Eric Cantor, the incoming House majority leader:
    “We must not burden our states, employers and families with the costs and uncertainty created by this unconsitutional law,” said Cantor, R-Va., who vowed that Republicans in the House will push for the law’s repeal when the party takes control in January.
  • Eric Cantor: Today’s ruling is a clear affirmation that President Obama’s health care law is unconstitutional and that the efforts of Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli have raised legitimate concerns. Furthermore, once the new House Republican Majority is sworn into office in January, we will pass a clean repeal of ObamaCare.
  • Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli: “I am gratified we prevailed. This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution,” Cuccinelli said in a statement.
    “The federal government asked the court to consider as economic activity the decision not to buy health insurance,” he said in a press conference. “This court and this judge rejected that leap of logic.”
    “Unfortunately, striking the ‘individual responsibility’ provision could also jeopardize the most popular insurance reform in the statute: preventing insurance companies from denying health coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions. While politically motivated opponents of the Affordable Care Act, like Attorney General Cuccinelli, may applaud this decision, for people with health conditions it could be quite tragic,” he said.
  • Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler in a statement: “We are disappointed in today’s ruling but continue to believe — as other federal courts in Virginia and Michigan have found — that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.” “We are confident that we will ultimately prevail.”
  • White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a press conference that the administration would appeal the ruling and that “Our belief is that the health care act will go forward and that it is constitutional.”
  • Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.: “Today’s ruling should signal the beginning of the end for Obamacare.”:
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, hailed the ruling as “a great day for liberty.” He summed up the issue of the government mandate like this: “If the government can tell you what to buy, then what limits on federal power exist?”
  • Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee: “This decision strikes a blow for freedom.”
  • On the Democratic side, Rep. Henry Waxman says it’s clear the question of whether the individual mandate is constitutional will be decided by the Supreme Court.
    “When it gets there (to the high court), I am confident that cooler heads will prevail and that the health reform law will be upheld in full,” said Waxman, D-Calif., the current chairman of the commerce committee. He noted that some justices early on ruled that Social Security was illegal.
  • MA Senator Scott Brown lauds unconstitutional ruling on Obama Care: “This shows you the federal mandate of one size fits all is not appropriate,” Brown told the Herald. “It should be left up to the states.” “This also shows the Massachusetts health care law is nothing like the federal mandate,” Brown said. “The federal mandate does not pass constitutional muster. The state’s rights are very important and this ruling proves it.” – Boston Herald, 12-13-10
  • Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects: Today’s Health Care Court Ruling: Today’s narrow ruling in Virginia on the constitutionality of a provision of the Affordable Care Act is just one of many recent rulings on similar cases that have come down in recent months. Since the law passed, opponents of reform have filed more than 20 different legal challenges. Judges have already granted the Administration’s motion to dismiss 12 of these cases. And in two cases, federal judges looked at the merits of the opponents’ arguments, determined that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and upheld the law.
    We disagree with the ruling issued today in Virginia and the Department of Justice is considering its appeal options.
    We are pleased that Judge Hudson agrees that implementation of the law will continue uninterrupted. In the nine months since the health reform law was passed, we’ve made tremendous progress to strengthen our health care system, including lowering costs and implementing a new patient’s bill of rights to end some of the worst insurance company abuses. That work continues. And we’re confident that when it’s all said and done, the courts will find the Affordable Care Act constitutional.
    History and the facts are on our side. Similar legal challenges to major new laws — including the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act — were all filed and all failed. Contrary to what opponents argue the new law falls well within Congress’s power to regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause.
    Opponents of reform claim that the individual responsibility requirement – the requirement that all Americans carry a minimum level insurance by 2014 –exceeds Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce because it penalizes economic “inactivity.” Make no mistake — individuals who choose to go without health insurance are actively engaged in economic decision making – the decision to pay for health care out-of-pocket or to seek uncompensated care. Every year millions of those who have chosen to go without health insurance actively seek medical care, which is evident in the billions of dollars spent on uncompensated care every year.
    The Affordable Care Act came into being precisely because of the interconnectedness of our health care costs. People who make an economic decision to forego health insurance do not opt out of the health care market, but instead shift their costs to others when they become ill or are involved in an accident and cannot pay. Those costs – $43 billion in 2008 alone – are borne by doctors, hospitals, insured individuals, taxpayers and small businesses throughout the nation. This cost-shift added on average $1,000 to family premiums in 2009 and roughly $410 to an individual premium.
    This concept is clearly seen in other areas of commerce. For example, in most states, drivers are required to carry a minimum level of auto insurance. Accidents happen and when they do, they need to be paid for quickly and responsibly. Requiring drivers to carry auto insurance accomplishes this goal. Similarly, the Affordable Care Act, through the individual responsibility requirement, will require everyone to carry some form of health insurance since everyone at some point in time participates in the health care system, and incur costs that must be paid for.
    It’s no surprise then, that President Reagan’s Solicitor General Charles Fried recently wrote, “the health care law’s enemies have no ally in the Constitution.” Two federal judges that recently ruled on the challenge to the constitutionality of the reform law in Michigan and Virginia agreed. These lawsuits were dismissed, with the federal judge in Virginia concluding “how and when to pay for health care are activities…in the aggregate…substantially affect[s] the interstate health care market.”
    Two federal judges have agreed with this argument. In an earlier ruling in the Western District of Virginia, a federal judge wrote:
    “I hold that there is a rational basis for Congress to conclude that individuals’ decisions about how and when to pay for health care are activities that in the aggregate substantially affect the interstate health care market…Nearly everyone will require health care services at some point in their lifetimes, and it is not always possible to predict when one will be afflicted by illness or injury and require care…Far from ‘inactivity,’ by choosing to forgo insurance, Plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now, through the purchase of insurance. As Congress found, the total incidence of these economic decisions has a substantial impact on the national market for health care by collectively shifting billions of dollars on to other market participants and driving up the prices of insurance policies.”
    The Affordable Care Act also bans insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions. However, unless every American is required to have insurance, it would be cost prohibitive to cover people with preexisting conditions. Here’s why: If insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to anyone who applies for insurance – especially those who have health problems and are potentially more expensive to cover – then there is nothing stopping someone from waiting until they’re sick or injured to apply for coverage since insurance companies can’t say no. That would lead to double digit premiums increases – up to 20% – for everyone with insurance, and would significantly increase the cost health care spending nationwide. We don’t let people wait until after they’ve been in a car accident to apply for auto insurance and get reimbursed, and we don’t want to do that with healthcare. If we’re going to outlaw discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, the only way to keep people from gaming the system and raising costs on everyone else is to ensure that everyone takes responsibility for their own health insurance.
    There have been many rulings on court cases regarding health reform and we know there will be many more. In the end, the Affordable Care Act will prevail and the American people will enjoy the benefits of reform. WH, 12-13-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Larry J. Sabato Professor of Politics, University of Virginia “Hiccup or heart attack for health care reform? Plus, will White House charm offensive work?”: Let’s see. The Democratic judges who have ruled so far have upheld the health care reform law and the Republican judge has struck down the law’s heart. Very predictable to this point because — despite the claims of many in the judicial branch — the partisan identification and personal ideology of judges matter enormously in cases with strong political overtones. If you knew the backgrounds of the Democratic judges and Republican Judge Henry Hudson, you could have made a bundle betting in Vegas.
    Eventually the controversy will reach the Supreme Court, otherwise known as “Anthony Kennedy,” for its resolution.
  • Mary Frances Berry Professor of American Social Thought and History, U. Penn.: Since the legality of the Health reform law will be at issue until decided by the Supreme Court, it is worth noting that Justice Thomas has repeatedly expressed an interest in curbing the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause. He would revisit decisions dating back to the New Deal. Other justices have shown varying degrees of interest.
    It is, therefore, entirely possible that the health reform individual mandate could be overturned in a 5-4 decision. It is also entirely possible that other recent congressional enactments, under the Commerce Clause, might be affected. Since the individual mandate is the “linchpin” of the health reform law, there is reason for worry.
  • Tevi Troy Visiting Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary: President Obama is right to be concerned about oversight investigations, but a charm offensive directed toward the new GOP chairmen may not help him much. With the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress for Obama’s first two years, the White House has not had to worry much about congressional oversight into agency activities. This will change in January, and White House phone calls or tea parties with the GOP chairmen are unlikely to deter them from their investigative efforts.
  • Julian E. Zelizer Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton : Many say there wasn’t that much to investigate with President Clinton, but the GOP found a way. As the politics heat up, investigations are likely to come.
  • Kyle Wingfield: Strike one against ObamaCare: Today’s ruling by a federal judge in Virginia, declaring the health-insurance mandate in ObamaCare unconstitutional, is not the last word by any means. But to paraphrase Vice President Biden’s line about the law, it’s a big bleepin’ deal. This isn’t the big states’ lawsuit against the federal government over the law; Georgia and 20 other states are pursuing a lawsuit working its way through federal courts in Florida. It is, however, the lawsuit that addresses the constitutional question that so many conservatives raised during the health-reform debate: Can the federal government compel citizens to buy a particular product (in this case, health insurance)?…. – Atlanta Journal Constitution, 12-13-10
  • Derek Thompson: What if the Supreme Court Strikes Down the Insurance Mandate?: The key provision in the health care reform law that requires all citizens to buy insurance is unconstitutional, according to a Virginia district judge. Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled that the insurance mandate violated the Commerce Clause because it tries to regulate the opposite of commerce — the refusal to purchase health care insurance. Before I start to make a big deal about this story, let’s remember why it’s silly to make a big deal about this story. First, two judges have already ruled that the insurance mandate is constitutional. Second, it could be another two years before the Supreme Court picks up the case against the insurance mandate. Third, the bulk of the health care overhaul doesn’t come online until 2014 anyway, which means we’re debating the legality of provisions that won’t become reality for another two election cycles.
    But in the slim chance that the Supreme Court does strike down the insurance mandate, what would be the options of an Obama administration, or Democratic Party? To get a handle on that question, I spoke with Paul Van de Water at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Here were the four ideas we discussed…. – The Atlantic, 12-13-10

Political Highlights December 13, 2010: President Obama & Bill Clinton Sell Tax Cut Extension at Press White House Press Conferences

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama & President Clinton Shake Hands Before   Discussing Tax Cuts, Unemployment Insurance & Jobs

President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton appear together in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House for statements and to answer questions from the media, December 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

STATS & POLLS

Barack Obama's approval rating has dipped below George W. Bush,   according to Gallup.

Applewhite/AP Barack Obama’s approval rating has dipped below George W. Bush, according to Gallup.

  • President Barack Obama’s approval rating is below George W. Bush: Gallup Poll: This one’s gotta hurt. President Obama’s approval rating has dipped below, gulp, George W. Bush. The ex-President’s approval rating rose to 47% in recent weeks according to a Gallup poll released Monday, which is one point higher than Obama’s rating in a survey also taken this week.
    The poll results represent a surprising rebound for the once fiercely unpopular Bush, whose approval rating was just 25% just a little over a year ago. Politico speculates the unexpected boomerang could be a result of the positive reviews Bush’s recently released memoir, “Decision Points,” has received in addition to the former commander-in-chief’s opening of a presidential library in Texas.
    That coupled with criticism over Obama’s handling of the economy and stinging Democratic losses in the midterm elections, may have affected Americans’ views of the President.
    Before the release of his memoir, Bush had a 44% approval rating. The most recent survey numbers mark the highest for him since 2005 – before Hurricane Katrina – CBS News reported. Bush’s highest rating was 87%, immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
    Still, it’s not all good news for the former President. His disapproval rating, (51%) is still higher than his approval rating, a similarity he shares with Richard Nixon, whose approval rating is just 29%.
    Obama’s disapproval rating (47%) is just one point higher than his approval rating.
    John F. Kennedy remains the most popular President in Gallup’s annual poll with 85% approval. Ronald Reagan came in second with 74%, followed by Bill Clinton’s 69%. – NY Daily News, 12-
  • Poll: Obama’s approval ratings fall to new low: President Barack Obama’s approval ratings have sunk to the lowest level of his presidency, so low that he’d lose the White House to Republican Mitt Romney if the election were held today, according to a new McClatchy Newspapers-Marist poll. The biggest reason for Obama’s fall: a sharp drop in approval among Democrats and liberals, apparently unhappy with his moves toward the center since he led the party to landslide losses in November’s midterm elections. At the same time, he’s gained nothing among independents.
    “He’s having the worst of both worlds right now,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion at Marist College in New York, which conducted the national survey.
    “As he moves to the center, he’s not picking up support among independents and he’s having some fall-off among his base. If his strategy is to gain independents and keep the Democrats in tow, it isn’t working so far.”
    The poll was taken from Dec. 2 through Wednesday, as the president proposed a two-year freeze on federal civilian workers’ pay and cut a deal with congressional Republicans to extend expiring tax cuts – even those for the wealthy, which he’d opposed.
    Overall, just 42 percent of registered voters approve of how he’s doing his job, while 50 percent disapprove.
    Obama’s standing among Democrats dropped from a month ago, with his approval rating falling to 74 percent from 83 percent, and his disapproval rating rising from 11 percent to 21 percent.
    Among liberals, his approval rating dropped from 78 percent to 69 percent and his disapproval rating jumped from 14 percent to 22 percent.
    His position among independents remained virtually the same, with 39 percent approving and 52 percent disapproving. A month ago, it was 38-54…. – McClatchy Newspapers, 12-10-10
  • Poll: Obama’s approval ratings fall to new low: The president’s continued failure to rally independents could ruin his bid for re-election. A hypothetical 2012 matchup showed him getting the support of 44 percent of registered voters and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, getting 46 percent.
    Obama now is running slightly ahead of Republican former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, drawing 47 percent to Huckabee’s 43 percent.
    Both results were within the poll’s margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
    He would easily defeat Republican former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, however; he’d get 52 percent of registered voters and she’d get 40 percent, if the election were held today…. – McClatchy Newspapers, 12-10-10
  • Poll: Americans Want Action on the Deficit, but Oppose Most Proposals to Cut It: Amid all the discussion and debate about the deficit and what to do about it, several hard truths keep emerging: an overwhelming majority of Americans believe it is a major problem and almost none of the most widely mentioned proposals to cut the red ink by reducing spending or raising taxes get majority support from the public.
    Those realities stand out starkly in a new Pew Research Center poll, conducted Dec. 1-5, in which 70 percent of Americans say the deficit is a major problem that must be solved now, but disapprove by a big margin of the deficit commission’s plan to get the red ink under control.
    Forty-eight percent opposed the commission’s proposal — which would do things like cut spending for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and eliminate the popular home mortgage interest deduction — while 30 percent supported it, with 21 percent undecided.
    While 7 out of 10 want action on the deficit, it takes a back seat to concern over jobs. Forty-seven percent said the job situation is the economic issue that worries them most compared to 19 percent who cited the deficit.
    Throw into this mix the lack of confidence that the public has in Democratic or Republicans leaders to address the problem. Fifty-six percent say they have “not too much” or no confidence in the Republicans compared to 40 percent who do, while 52 percent have little or no confidence in the Democrats compared to 42 percent who do. (The remainder in each case is undecided). President Obama fares better, with 53 percent expressing confidence in him while 44 percent do not, with the rest undecided…. – Politics Daily,, 12-9-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama News Conference
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 12/7/10

  • Tax cuts will pass despite Democratic uprising, Obama advisor says: Congress will approve without major changes the $858-billion package that extends tax cuts and jobless benefits, says President Obama’s senior advisor David Axelrod: ‘No one wants to see taxes go up on 150 million Americans.’
    A top advisor to President Obama said Sunday a $858-billion package of tax cuts and jobless benefits will pass Congress without major changes, despite a revolt by some House Democrats. Senior advisor David Axelrod, appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” said the administration would prevail on the deal struck with GOP lawmakers “because at the end of the day, no one wants to see taxes go up on 150 million Americans on Jan. 1.” A showdown in the lame-duck Congress is coming this week. Axelrod told ABC’s “This Week” that some provisions of the compromise struck with Republican lawmakers were “odious.” He cited upper-income tax cuts and estate-tax relief. But that’s the nature of compromise, he said, calling the overall package a “win for the American people.”… – LAT, 12-12-10
  • US diplomat Richard Holbrooke critically ill after surgery Richard Holbrooke, the veteran US diplomatic trouble-shooter nicknamed “the bulldozer”, was in critical condition in hospital on Saturday with his family by his bedside after emergency heart surgery:
    The 69-year-old has maintained a gruelling work and travel schedule as President Barack Obama’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan for nearly two years. A forceful negotiator, he was best-known for brokering the 1995 Bosnian peace accords in Dayton, Ohio, that ended the ended the bloody ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslav republic.
    Mr Holbrooke, a key but controversial player in Mr Obama’s efforts to turn around the nine-year-old war in Afghanistan, was working at the State Department when he fell ill on Friday.
    He was rushed to the nearby George Washington University hospital where he underwent surgery to a torn aorta, the major artery carrying blood from the heart to other parts of the body. “Doctors completed surgery to repair a tear in his aorta,” a State Department spokesman said. “He is in critical condition and has been joined by his family.” His friend and boss, secretary of state Hillary Clinton, visited the hospital on Saturday…. – Telegraph, UK, 12-11-10
  • Bill Clinton Holds Forth on Tax Plan, for Starters: They have been foes and they have been, kind of, friends. And on Friday afternoon, President Obama and former President Bill Clinton walked unexpectedly into the White House briefing room for a news conference that was part surreal flashback, part one-two political punch. With Mr. Obama standing largely silently at his side, Mr. Clinton took over the lectern to lend his backing to the tax compromise the White House reached this week with Republicans. And then Mr. Clinton went on, for half an hour, answering questions and holding forth on topics from triangulation to Haiti to the mortgage crisis and the nuclear arms treaty with Russia.
    “I have reviewed this agreement that the president reached with the Republican leaders,” Mr. Clinton told reporters. “The agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the most Americans.”
    After finishing one soliloquy, Mr. Clinton summed up with, “for what it’s worth, it’s what I think.” From the side, and just out of camera range, Mr. Obama piped up: “It’s worth a lot.”
    “I’ve been keeping the first lady waiting,” Mr. Obama said.
    “I don’t want to make her mad,” Mr. Clinton quipped. “Please go.”
    “In my opinion, this is a good bill, and I hope that my fellow Democrats will support it,” Mr. Clinton said. “We all see this differently. But I really believe this will be a significant net plus for the country.”
    “There are a lot of fights worth having,” he said, “but this holds the promise that after the fights are over, we will be able to find principled compromise on those as well. To me, that’s worth doing.” – NYT, 12-10-10
  • If Bill Clinton Were President: By the end of last week, it certainly looked as if Barack Obama had outsourced his presidency to Bill Clinton. First, he cut a Clintonian-style deal with Republicans on tax cuts and then he literally turned over the White House lectern to his predecessor. STAND IN Bill Clinton took the podium from President Obama on Friday. Equally riveting and astonishing, Mr. Clinton’s blast-from-the-past performance in the White House briefing room on Friday afternoon reinforced the impression of political déjà vu, the sense that once again a Democratic president humbled by midterm elections was pivoting to the center at the expense of his own supporters.
    But as no less an authority than Mr. Clinton reminded us, the comparison is incomplete and imperfect. “The story line is how well we worked with the Republicans and all that,” he said during his brief West Wing comeback. “But you know, we played political kabuki for a year.”
    Indeed, the real history of his response to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 was more complicated than the reductionist version. And so far, Mr. Obama’s response to the November elections has been more complicated as well. The current president’s uncomfortable tax compromise with Republicans harked back to only one aspect of Mr. Clinton’s recovery strategy in 1995 and 1996, although the howls of protest from the left must have sounded familiar to the visiting former chief executive. Mr. Clinton’s approach involved as much confrontation as conciliation, and most of all, improvisation.
    Even in the few weeks since the Republican election victory, Mr. Obama has already sampled from the full menu of options. On the tax cuts, he concluded that he had little choice but to cut a deal with Republicans, conceding to them one of their core priorities and angering his own supporters even as he squeezed out of the opposition as many concessions as he could to balance the agreement…. – NYT, 12-11-10
  • Add-ons turn tax cut bill into ‘Christmas tree': In the spirit of the holiday season, President Barack Obama’s tax-cut deal with Republicans is becoming a Christmas tree tinseled with gifts for lobbyists and lawmakers. There are ethanol subsidies for rural folks, commuter tax breaks for their cousins in the cities and suburbs, wind and solar grants for the environmentalists — all aimed at winning votes, particularly from reluctant Democrats. The holiday additions are being hung on the big bill that was Congress’ main reason for spending December in Washington, long after the elections that will give Republicans new power in January. The measure will extend Bush-era tax cuts, averting big tax increases for nearly all Americans, and keep jobless benefits flowing. Republicans generally liked that agreement, worked out by Obama and GOP leaders. Democrats generally didn’t, hence the add-ons…. – AP, 12-10-10
  • Bill’s Back: Clinton commands stage at White House: No comment? No way. You don’t stop Bill Clinton when he’s back at the White House with something to say. Well, OK. He and President Barack Obama, two of the most famous men in the world, did need a little help getting a door unlocked first. But then it was on.
    The former president came before surprised reporters to let it be known that he endorsed the tax deal that Obama cut with the Republican Party, even though many Democrats were raising a fuss about it. That was the news. But it wasn’t the story.
    What had the West Wing buzzing was the scene itself: Clinton in his element, like he had never left. And almost like he wasn’t going to leave this time.
    For one remarkable half hour, Clinton turned a seemingly slow Friday afternoon into his stage. He tutored in loving detail about economic theory and nuclear disarmament. He was short on time, yet somehow found some for just one more question. He bit on his lip and spread his arms as he spoke and did all those other familiar gestures…. – AP, 12-10-10
  • Obama enlists Clinton to sell tax deal: President Barack Obama on Friday enlisted former President Bill Clinton to help sell a compromise tax package negotiated with Republicans to reluctant Democrats.
    After meeting with Clinton at the White House, Obama brought him to the briefing room to tout the proposal to reporters, even backing off after a brief introduction to let Clinton do the talking and take questions.
    “I personally think this is a good deal, and the best we can get,” Clinton said, arguing that the combination of payroll tax cuts, unemployment insurance benefits and various tax credits would help the economy grow.
    Acknowledging that the Republican insistence on extending tax cuts to the wealthy would help him personally, Clinton said the compromise meant that both sides had to accept provisions they disliked.
    “There’s never a perfect bipartisan bill in the eyes of a partisan,” Clinton said. “I believe this will be a significant net-plus for the country.”
    It was the latest salvo by the Obama administration in a battle for public and political support for the plan that combines extended tax cuts from the Bush era with extended unemployment benefits, tax breaks and the payroll tax holiday intended to bolster a sluggish recovery from economic recession…. – CNN, 12-10-10
  • How tax cut revolt helps Obama: It’s a page from Clinton playbook
    Perhaps President Obama’s tax-cut deal with the GOP was astute, after all. While he angered liberals, he also won back some independent support – an example of Clintonian ‘triangulation.':
    Former President Clinton’s impromptu press conference in the White House briefing room Friday – in which he announced his support of President Obama’s tax-cut deal with the Republicans – could not have put in sharper relief the new political landscape in Washington.
    Sixteen years ago, Mr. Clinton was in the same situation Mr. Obama finds himself in today: the Democratic majority in Congress swept out of power, and the need to rethink how policy is formed. For Clinton, the answer was “triangulation,” the practice of meeting Republicans part-way, often to the chagrin of Democrats.
    Obama already appears to be getting the hang of it. This week’s crackup between Obama and his liberal base over a tax-cut deal he reached with the Republicans seemed poised to threaten Obama’s support among the progressive grassroots, whose energy and donations he will need to win reelection. But just as easily, it opens him up to a second look from independents and moderates who abandoned the Democrats in the midterms and whose support he needs if he wants a second term…. – CS Monitor, 12-10-10
  • Gates Regrets Rejection of ‘Don’t Ask’ Repeal: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Friday that he was disappointed “but not surprised” by the Senate vote late Thursday that dimmed chances for repeal this year of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Speaking to reporters on his plane during a flight from Abu Dhabi to Washington, Mr. Gates said that he had not been optimistic that the Senate would repeal the law, which requires gay men, lesbians and bisexual people in the military to keep their sexual orientation secret or face discharge. Nonetheless, he held out some possibility that the Senate might end the policy by other means, even though time is rapidly running out before the end of the year.
    “There is still roughly a week left in the lame-duck session and so I would hope that the Congress would act to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” Mr. Gates said. He was evidently referring to a plan late Thursday by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, to pull the measure out of the military spending bill it is attached to and try to pass it as stand-alone legislation.
    If that does not happen, Mr. Gates repeated warnings that the Pentagon would face what he has described as judicial chaos. “My greatest worry will be that then we are at the mercy of the courts and all the lack of predictability that that entails,” he said…. – NYT, 12-10-10
  • Senate halts repeal of ban on gays serving openly in the military: The Senate voted 57 to 40 against bringing to the floor a defense spending bill that included a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The vote delivers a significant blow to efforts to end the ban on gays serving openly in the military. -
  • Democrats demand changes in Obama-GOP tax deal: Disappointed Democratic congressional leaders demanded changes in the White House’s tax deal with Republicans on Tuesday despite a spirited argument by President Barack Obama that concessions were preferable to higher taxes for millions of Americans.
    In a remarkable political role reversal, Republicans lined up to support the package, while lawmakers of the president’s party said they were prepared to oppose it. Liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pledged to “do everything I can to defeat this,” including a filibuster to prevent a final vote.
    The deal includes an extension of expiring Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels — not just for lower and middle-income taxpayers, as Democrats wanted. It also contains a renewal of jobless benefits due to expire in a few weeks, and a one-year cut in Social Security taxes paid by workers.
    Other elements would loosen the estate tax and provide breaks for businesses to spur hiring. Officials said that overall, the proposal could add $900 billion to the federal deficit over two years.
    Democratic opposition focused chiefly on two parts of the deal that marked concessions to Republicans — the decision to let expiring tax cuts remain in effect for people in upper incomes, and a change in the estate tax that the GOP has long sought…. – AP, 12-7-10
  • Obama defends tax deal at news conference: One day after announcing a framework for a deal that would preserve the very tax cuts for the wealthy that he promised would be allowed expire, a fiery President Obama today defended the agreement, saying that he did not want to hurt the American people or the economy with a protracted political fight.
    Under the agreement — which has angered many Democrats, especially in the House — the Bush-era tax rates would be extended for two years for people at all income levels, unemployment insurance would be extended for 13 months, and payroll taxes would be decreased by 2 percentage points for one year. According to a fact sheet provided by the White House, the deal would allow a typical working family to avoid a $3,000 tax increase next year.
    At a hastily convened news conference in the press briefing room, the president vowed to continue the debate over tax cuts for the rich, saying he would fight to end them when they expire again. In a nod to his pragmatic governing philosophy, Obama said a refusal to compromise on any issue would lead nowhere and he asked members of his own party to remember “this is a long game, not a short game.”
    “This country was founded on compromise,” Obama said. “I couldn’t go through the front door at this country’s founding. And, you know, if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn’t have a union. So my job is to make sure that we have a North Star out there: What is helping the American people live out their lives?”… – MSNBC, 12-7-10
  • Obama urges Democrats to support tax cut deal: President Obama on Tuesday defended the deal he reached with Republicans on extending a broad range of expiring tax cuts, saying he did not want Americans to be harmed while he engages in a long-term political fight with the GOP. Obama held a hastily arranged news conference to answer questions on the agreement struck late Monday. Vice President Biden went to Capitol Hill to sell the agreement to Democrats who played no part in reaching a compromise Obama said he struck because Republicans would not budge.
    “The deal we struck here … gives us time to have a political battle,” Obama said, adding that he was unwilling to see millions of Americans “immediately damaged at a time when the economy is about to recover.”…
    “To my Democratic friends, what I’d suggest is let’s make sure that we understand this is a long game. This is not a short game,” Obama said….
    “In order to get stuff done, we’re going to have to compromise,” Obama said. “This country was founded on compromise.”… – USA Today, 12-7-10
  • Tax Deal Suggests New Path for Obama: President Obama announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans on Monday to extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for two years as part of a package that would also keep benefits flowing to the long-term unemployed, cut payroll taxes for all workers for a year and take other steps to bolster the economy.
    President Obama, who on Monday visited Greensboro, N.C., announced from the White House his deal with the Republicans. The deal appeared to resolve the first major standoff since the midterm elections between the White House and newly empowered Republicans on Capitol Hill. But it also highlighted the strains Mr. Obama faces in his own party as he navigates between a desire to get things done and a retreat from his own positions and the principles of many liberals.
    Congressional Democrats pointedly noted that they had yet to agree to any deal, even as many Republicans signaled that they would go along.
    Mr. Obama said that he did not like some elements of the framework, but that he had agreed to it to avoid having taxes increase for middle class Americans at the end of the year. He said that in return for agreeing to Republican demands that income tax rates not go up on upper-income brackets, he had secured substantial assistance to lower- and middle-income workers as well as the unemployed.
    “It’s not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery,” Mr. Obama said. “It will stop middle-class taxes from going up. It will spur our private sector to create millions of new jobs, and add momentum that our economy badly needs.”… – NYT, 12-6-10
  • Payroll Tax Holiday Discussed in Talks on Bush Rates: The Obama administration proposed a year-long reduction in payroll taxes of 2 percentage points as part of a broader compromise to extend Bush-era tax cuts temporarily, a congressional aide said. The proposed reduction was offered as an alternative to renewing the “Making Work Pay” tax credit, a creation of President Barack Obama that expires Dec. 31 along with lower income-tax rates enacted in 2001 and 2003, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Some Senate Republicans oppose the credit.
    Negotiators also are discussing including Obama’s proposal to allow a full deduction for equipment purchases that currently must be deducted over time, an administration official said. The proposal would accelerate $200 billion in tax savings for companies in the first year and benefit 1.5 million companies and several million individuals who run businesses, according to White House estimates…. – Bloomberg, 12-6-10
  • Source: White House presents proposed tax deal to Democratic leaders: President Barack Obama presented congressional Democratic leaders Monday with a proposed deal with Republicans that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years and unemployment benefits for 13 months while also setting the estate tax at 35% for two years on inheritances worth more than $5 million, a senior Democratic source told CNN.
    The deal also includes a temporary 2% reduction in the payroll tax to replace Obama’s “making work pay” tax credit from the 2009 economic stimulus package for lower-income Americans, the senior Democratic source said.
    As currently crafted, the deal would prohibit amendments by either party, according to the source, who spoke on condition of not being identified by name…. – CNN, 12-6-10

111TH & 112TH CONGRESS

  • GOP freshmen back to Washington: Freshman members haven’t even been sworn in yet, but they’re already heading to Washington for another round of orientation — this time to learn about policy issues and begin the committee assignment process. The Republican freshmen class — 84 members strong — is in town for a “retreat” hosted by the Congressional Institute at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel, with workshops in which they’ll learn about congressional process and rules before they meet with their conference to determine chairmanships and begin to hash out committee assignments…. – Politico, 12-7-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Obama’s Tax Deal Likely to Emerge as Campaign Issue in 2012: If Congress approves President Obama’s deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts for two more years, the compromise is all but certain to be a major issue in the next election cycle. “I’m a little bit surprised that there weren’t more people pushing to have this be a three-year deal instead of a two-year deal,” said Andy Card, the former White House chief of staff to President George W. Bush. “Because they’ve guaranteed that taxes will be front and center of the debate in terms of the presidential election in 2012. Which means it’s also going to be front and center for the election for every member of Congress and for one third of the United States Senate.”…
    The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint oppose it. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee support it. And former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence either aren’t sure or are just staying mum.
    Obama, who met with congressional leaders on Nov. 30 to work on this deal says he’s focused on the issue at hand right now. “These aren’t times for us to be playing games,” he said. “As I told the leaders at the beginning of the meeting, the next election is two years away and there will be plenty of time for campaigning.”… – Fox News, 12-11-10

QUOTES

President Obama & President Clinton Discuss Tax Cuts,   Unemployment Insurance & Jobs

President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton make statements and answer questions from the press corps in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, December 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Strongly Urges Passage of the Framework Agreement on Middle Class Tax Cuts
    Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House December 11, 2010:

    Right now, there’s a big debate taking place in Washington that will affect how much you pay in taxes next year. If Congress doesn’t act, tax rates will automatically go up for just about everyone in our country. Typical middle class families would end up paying an extra $3,000.
    That’s unacceptable to me. Not when we know that it’s the middle class that was hit the hardest by the recession. And not when we know that taking this money out of the pockets of working people is exactly the wrong thing to do to get our economy growing faster. Economists tell us that this tax hike on working families could actually cost us well over a million jobs.
    That’s why I’ve been fighting so hard to cut middle class taxes. And that’s why I brought both Democrats and Republicans to the table – to put together a compromise, and work through our differences, so we could get this done.
    Now, the Republicans in Congress strongly favored permanent tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers and the wealthiest estates, most of which would go to millionaires and even billionaires. But I didn’t believe that these tax cuts were worth the cost. They’d add to our deficits without really boosting the economy.
    I believed that the best way to help the economy, and working families, was to keep middle class tax rates low, and cut taxes for working parents, college students, and small businesses. And I believed that with millions of people looking for jobs, it would be a terrible mistake to end unemployment insurance – not only for people who are out of work, but for our entire economy.
    So we hammered out a deal that reflects ideas from both sides. It wasn’t easy, and it’s by no means perfect. And as with any compromise, everybody had to live with elements they didn’t like. But this is a good deal for the American people. The vast majority of the tax cuts in this plan will help the middle class, including a new cut in payroll taxes that will save the average family about $1,000. And as this plan is debated in Congress, what I want to make clear is the real difference it will make in people’s lives….
    So this plan is going to help millions of families to make ends meet, through tax cuts and unemployment insurance for people who’ve lost their jobs by no fault of their own. And we included tax relief for businesses, too – making it easier for them to invest and expand. All told, this will not only directly help families and businesses. By putting more money in people’s pockets, and helping companies grow, we’re going to see people being able to spend a little more, we’re going to spur hiring – we’re going to strengthen our entire economy.
    Now, I recognize that many of my friends in my own party are uncomfortable with some of what’s in this agreement, in particular the temporary tax cuts for the wealthy. And I share their concerns. It’s clear that over the long run, if we’re serious about balancing the budget, we cannot afford to continue these tax breaks for the wealthiest taxpayers – especially when we know that cutting the deficit is going to demand sacrifice from everyone. That’s the reality.
    But at the same time, we cannot allow the middle class in this country to be caught in the political crossfire of Washington. People want us to find solutions, not score points. And I will not allow middle class families to be treated like pawns on a chessboard.
    The opportunity for families to send their kids to college hinges on this debate. The ability of parents to put food on the table while looking for a job depends on this debate. And our recovery will be strengthened or weakened based on the choice that now rests with Congress.
    So I strongly urge members of both parties to pass this plan. And I’m confident that they will do the right thing, strengthening the middle class and our economic recovery. – – TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Remarks by President Obama and Former President Clinton: PRESIDENT OBAMA: Hey, everybody. I thought it was a slow day, so I’ve –Q Slow news day, huh?

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: — bring the other guy in.
    Obviously, there’s a big debate going on about taxes, and about the need to grow the economy and to create jobs. And just about every day this week, I’ve been making an argument as to why the agreement that we’ve struck to provide billions of dollars in payroll tax cuts that can immediately help rejuvenate the economy, as well as tax cuts for middle-class families, unemployment insurance for folks who desperately need it, credits for college, Child Tax Credits, as well as a range of business investments credits are so important to make sure that we keep this recovery moving.
    I just had a terrific meeting with the former President, President Bill Clinton. And we just happened to have this as a topic of conversation. And I thought, given the fact that he presided over as good an economy as we’ve seen in our lifetimes, that it might be useful for him to share some of his thoughts.
    I’m going to let him speak very briefly. And then I’ve actually got to go over and do some — just one more Christmas party. So he may decide he wants to take some questions, but I want to make sure that you guys hear it from him directly.

    FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr. President. First of all, I feel awkward being here, and now you’re going to leave me all by myself. (Laughter.)
    Let me just say a couple of things. First of all, I still spend about an hour a day trying to study this economy. And I’m not running for anything, and I don’t have a political agenda. I just — I try to figure out what to do.
    I have reviewed this agreement that the President reached with Republican leaders. And I want to make full disclosure I make quite a bit of money now, so the position that the Republicans have urged will personally benefit me. And on its own, I wouldn’t support it because I don’t think that my tax cut is the most economically efficient way to get the economy going again. But I don’t want to be in the dark about the fact that I will receive the continuation of the tax rates.
    However, the agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans, and to maximize the chances that the economic recovery will accelerate and create more jobs, and to minimize the chances that it will slip back, which is what has happened in other financial collapses. Like, that’s what Japan faced, and it’s something that we have to avoid in America.
    Why do I say that? First of all, because clearly the extension of unemployment, which gives people a percentage of the income they were previously making, will — that money will be spent and it will bolster the economy for the next couple of years.
    Secondly, the conversion of the Make Work Pay Tax Credit, which the President passed before, which goes to — went to 95 percent of the American people, converting that into an $120 billion one-year payroll tax relief act is, according to all the economic analyses, the single most effective tax cut you can do to support economic activity. This will actually create a fair number of jobs. I expect it to lower the unemployment rate and keep us going.
    Thirdly, and one thing I haven’t seen much about in the reports, this agreement will really help America over the long term, because it continues the credits for manufacturing jobs related to energy coming in to America. And I’ll remind you, just in the last two years, there have been 30 high-powered battery factories either opened or presently being built in America, taking us from 2 to 20 percent of the world’s share of that. And we’re going to probably be at 40 percent by 2014. This is a really important thing, bringing manufacturing back to America, because it’s a huge multiplier to create new jobs.
    So in my opinion, this is a good bill. And I hope that my fellow Democrats will support it. I thank the Republican leaders for agreeing to include things that were important to the President.
    There is never a perfect bipartisan bill in the eyes of a partisan. And we all see this differently. But I really believe this will be a significant net-plus for the country. I also think that in general a lot of people are heaving a sigh of relief that there’s finally been some agreement on something.
    But don’t minimize the impact of the unemployment relief for working families, of the payroll tax relief, and of the continuation of the incentives to grow jobs, which will trigger more credit coming out of the banks.
    Keep in mind, ultimately the long-term answer here is to get the $2 trillion, which banks now have in cash reserves uncommitted to loans, out there in the economy again, the $1.8 trillion in corporate treasuries not now being invested out there in the economy again. I think this is a net-plus.
    And you know how I feel. I think the people that benefit most should pay most. That’s always been my position — not for class warfare reasons; for reasons of fairness in rebuilding the middle class in America. But we have the distribution of authority we have now in the Congress and what we’re going to have in January, and I think this is a much, much better agreement than would be reached were we to wait until January. And I think it will have a much more positive impact on the economy.
    So for whatever it’s worth, that’s what I think.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s worth a lot…. – WH, 12-10-10TranscriptMp4Mp3

  • President Obama on the Middle Class Tax Cuts and Unemployment Insurance Agreement: “A Good Deal For The American People”:
    I’m focused on making sure that tens of millions of hardworking Americans are not seeing their paychecks shrink on January 1st just because the folks here in Washington are busy trying to score political points.
    And because of this agreement, middle-class Americans won’t see their taxes go up on January 1st, which is what I promised — a promise I made during the campaign, a promise I made as President.
    Because of this agreement, 2 million Americans who lost their jobs and are looking for work will be able to pay their rent and put food on their table. And in exchange for a temporary extension of the high-income tax breaks — not a permanent but a temporary extension — a policy that I opposed but that Republicans are unwilling to budge on, this agreement preserves additional tax cuts for the middle class that I fought for and that Republicans opposed two years ago.
    I’ll cite three of them. Number one, if you are a parent trying to raise your child or pay college tuition, you will continue to see tax breaks next year. Second, if you’re a small business looking to invest and grow, you’ll have a tax cut next year. Third, as a result of this agreement, we will cut payroll taxes in 2011, which will add about $1,000 to the take-home pay of a typical family.
    So this isn’t an abstract debate. This is real money for real people that will make a real difference in the lives of the folks who sent us here. It will make a real difference in the pace of job creation and economic growth. In other words, it’s a good deal for the American people.
    Now, I know there are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight, even if it had meant higher taxes for all Americans, even if it had meant an end to unemployment insurance for those who are desperately looking for work.
    And I understand the desire for a fight. I’m sympathetic to that. I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years. In the long run, we simply can’t afford them. And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them, just as I suspect the Republican Party may fight to end the middle-class tax cuts that I’ve championed and that they’ve opposed.
    So we’re going to keep on having this debate. We’re going to keep on having this battle. But in the meantime I’m not here to play games with the American people or the health of our economy. My job is to do whatever I can to get this economy moving. My job is to do whatever I can to spur job creation. My job is to look out for middle-class families who are struggling right now to get by and Americans who are out of work through no fault of their own.
    A long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics, but it would be a bad deal for the economy and it would be a bad deal for the American people. And my responsibility as President is to do what’s right for the American people. That’s a responsibility I intend to uphold as long as I am in this office…. – WH, 12-7-10TranscriptMp3Mp4 Video
  • Democrats Urge Senate Leaders to Add Build Americas to Tax Deal: Senate Democrats are seeking changes to a tax-cut agreement President Barack Obama reached with Republican lawmakers, said Majority Leader Harry Reid, who hopes to bring the measure to the floor this week. Some changes “would make the bill much better, and I’m going to work on those,” Reid of Nevada told reporters after meeting with members of his party today to discuss the plan. He said he hopes the Senate would take the measure up “in the next day or two.” Asked whether the Senate would have the votes to pass the measure, he said, “I hope so.” – Bloomberg, 12-8-10
  • Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Republican leadership, said he expects few changes to the negotiated pact, even though Democrats may want them. “I don’t think there’s going to be any real changes to speak of,” he said.
  • Obama earlier today rejected the notion that he betrayed congressional Democrats by making the deal. “I think Democrats are looking at this bill, and you’ve already had a whole bunch of them who said ‘this makes sense,'” Obama said following an Oval Office meeting with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski. “I think they’re going to feel confident that, in fact, this is the right course.”
  • Democratic Senator Jim Webb of Virginia called the agreement the “ultimate stimulus plan” that “shows great promise for reinvigorating the economy” by putting more money in the pockets of workers and small- business owners.
    “The American people, and particularly those who are out of work, cannot afford to wait while politics-as-usual blocks an effective, bipartisan plan to stimulate the economy and restore growth,” he said in a statement. ‘Imperfect Agreement’
  • Lawrence Summers, Obama’s chief economic adviser, told reporters in a briefing that a failure by Congress to adopt what he called an “imperfect agreement” would raise the risk of a double-dip recession.
    “I don’t think at the end of the day the Congress will take a step that materially increases the risk of this economy stalling,” Summers said.
  • President Barack Obama at December 7, 2010 Press Conference: At his hastily called news conference, Obama bristled at times, casting himself in the role of compromiser-in-chief with the best interests of the economy and public in mind.
    “I’m not here to play games with the American people or the health of the economy,” Obama said of his day-old deal, which is designed to avert a scheduled Jan. 1 expiration of tax cuts at all income levels. “This isn’t an abstract debate. This is real money, It will make a real difference in the lives of people who sent us here,” Obama said.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, yesterday termed the estate tax provision “a bridge too far.” She also said that in general, “the response has not been very good” among House Democrats to the deal.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev: The compromise is “something that’s not done yet. We’re going to have to do some more work,” he said after a closed door meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and members of the Democratic rank-and-file.
  • Across the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that said: “Republicans have held the middle class hostage for provisions that benefit only the wealthiest 3%, do not create jobs and add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit…. We will continue discussions with the president and our caucus in the days ahead.”
  • Text Obama’s Remarks on the Tax Compromise: Following is a text of President Obama’s remarks on Monday in which he announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, as released by the White House:For the past few weeks there’s been a lot of talk around Washington about taxes and there’s been a lot of political positioning between the two parties. But around kitchen tables, Americans are asking just one question: Are we going to allow their taxes to go up on January 1st, or will we meet our responsibilities to resolve our differences and do what’s necessary to speed up the recovery and get people back to work?
    Now, there’s no doubt that the differences between the parties are real and they are profound. Ever since I started running for this office I’ve said that we should only extend the tax cuts for the middle class. These are the Americans who’ve taken the biggest hit not only from this recession but from nearly a decade of costs that have gone up while their paychecks have not. It would be a grave injustice to let taxes increase for these Americans right now. And it would deal a serious blow to our economic recovery.
    Now, Republicans have a different view. They believe that we should also make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I completely disagree with this. A permanent extension of these tax cuts would cost us $700 billion at a time when we need to start focusing on bringing down our deficit. And economists from all across the political spectrum agree that giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires does very little to actually grow our economy.
    This is where the debate has stood for the last couple of weeks. And what is abundantly clear to everyone in this town is that Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost or impact on the deficit.
    We saw that in two different votes in the Senate that were taken this weekend. And without a willingness to give on both sides, there’s no reason to believe that this stalemate won’t continue well into next year. This would be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts.
    I am not willing to let that happen. I know there’s some people in my own party and in the other party who would rather prolong this battle, even if we can’t reach a compromise. But I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I’m not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we’re pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.
    I’m not willing to see 2 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month be put in a situation where they might lose their home or their car or suffer some additional economic catastrophe.
    So, sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do. The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories. They would much rather have the comfort of knowing that when they open their first paycheck on January of 2011, it won’t be smaller than it was before, all because Washington decided they preferred to have a fight and failed to act…. – NYT, 12-7-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

The President records the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 12/10/10

  • Scott Sandage: Obama “not a naturally tough character”: As angry Democrats beat a path to television cameras Wednesday to denounce a White House tax compromise with Republicans, President Obama was making a show of being presidential…. “He is certainly straining to prove that he is tough,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist. “But there is a real threat to the White House now in that it is officially open season on the administration from the left and the right….
    “The key risk in all of this for Obama is that he is not a naturally tough character. Scott Sandage, a professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University, said Obama’s short stint in the Senate didn’t give him a killer instinct for legislative wrangling. “It often seems like when Obama recedes, he is trusting the process to drive itself — and it just doesn’t work that way,” Sandage said…. – Washington Examiner (12-8-10)
  • K.C. Johnson: “No incentive” for politicians to be contrite: In Washington, shame isn’t what it used to be. That was the lesson of the showdown Thursday between Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and the rest of the House of Representatives. Rangel’s colleagues voted overwhelmingly to censure him for ethics violations – a punishment that included a public scolding in the House chamber. But Rangel didn’t cooperate. The rebuke would only work if he felt ashamed. And he didn’t….
    “If you show shame, or show an honest contriteness, that’s likely to appear in a campaign commercial against you,” said KC Johnson, a professor of history at Brooklyn College in New York. “The fact is that there’s really no incentive to admit to any wrongdoing in this kind of environment.”… – WaPo (12-4-10)
  • As Obama faces Democratic ire over tax deal, some recall Carter years: Nonetheless, “there are certainly parallels,” said Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University historian and the author of “Jimmy Carter,” a book about Carter’s presidency.
    “There is a real level of discomfort among Democrats that Obama is not giving them policy that is good for the party and he’s putting them in political trouble, something Carter dealt with right off the bat,” Zelizer said Wednesday.
    “Liberals have a feeling that the administration has simply abandoned the principles that brought them to office.”
    Similar ire from within his own party helped sound a death knell for Carter, Zelizer said, as the late Ted Kennedy, in particular, worked to undermine him at every turn. Kennedy even mounted a challenge to Carter’s leadership, unsuccessfully running for the Democratic nomination in 1980 — a headache Obama isn’t realistically expected to face, despite anger from congressional Democrats.
    Both Carter and Obama also dealt with an economic crisis they couldn’t hose down, said Zelizer — in Carter’s case, stagflation and an energy crisis.
    “Carter faced this underlying stagnant economy that he couldn’t do much about; he couldn’t figure out how to stimulate it. It ate away at his administration and his presidency, and that’s happening to Obama as well.”
    Zelizer, however, said the White House ignores Carter’s experiences at its own peril.
    “The problem is if you alienate your supporters, and you alienate congressional Democrats, and you have an opponent that is vowing to attack you no matter what you do, you end up an isolated president, and that’s very dangerous,” he said.
    “That’s what happened to Carter, and what could happen to Obama.” – Winnipeg Free Press, 12-8-10
  • As Obama faces Democratic ire over tax deal, some recall Carter years: Stephen Hess, a longtime Washington political operative who once advised Carter in addition to several Republican presidents, said he sees few similarities between the two men, either personally or in terms of their political situation.
    “Of all the presidents I’ve known since Dwight D. Eisenhower, these two are about as far apart as any two I’ve seen,” Hess said.
    “Carter was an engineer; he was involved in all the joints and connections. Obama is much more of an intellectual, and much more broadly engaged. They look at life from opposite ends of the telescope, one looking at it widely and the other quite narrowly.”
    Obama has also had many more legislative accomplishments in his two years in the Oval Office than Carter ever did, Hess adds.
    “His record of achievement is tremendous, much greater than anybody else in a long, long time,” he said. “He got three major pieces of legislation through in his first Congress; nothing like that ever happened for Carter.”
    As well, Hess added, Obama’s “bring it on” strategy against critics in his own party might actually turn out to be a cunning bit of political gamesmanship, whereas Carter’s fumbles were exactly that.
    “With the tax deal, Obama landed basically where the American people want to be, he got as much as he could for his position, and he might have created some groundwork for future deals,” Hess said.
    “Sure, the liberals are mad at him but it’s the independents in the middle that he’s going to need. Appearing to be fighting back against liberal Democrats could be useful to him because it shows independents that he’s a centrist, despite conservatives trying to portray him as something he isn’t — a socialist, a communist.” – Winnipeg Free Press, 12-8-10
  • Krugman: Obama’s Tax Defense ‘Enormously Self-Indulgent': President Obama used a White House news conference to make the case for a new tax cut compromise and appeal to supporters unhappy with the plan. Jeffrey Brown talks to Paul Krugman and Stephen Moore for reaction to the deal…. – PBS Newshour, 12-7-10
  • Julian Zelizer: Focusing on deficit a lose-lose move for Obama: The political pressure on the administration to tackle deficit reduction is mounting. Even before he began negotiations with Republicans last week, President Obama conceded ground by announcing a federal pay freeze. He has given indications that, like President Jimmy Carter in 1978, he intends to shift his focus from unemployment to deficits in response to the “message” from the midterms.
    Yet Obama should be extremely cautious before he shifts the focus of his agenda. Emphasizing deficits over unemployment threatens to carry huge political costs for Democrats. The latest unemployment numbers are a stark reminder of the terrible shape of the economy. Regardless of the conventional wisdom, moreover, the move won’t leave him in a stronger political position. At a time when many economists believe that the time is not right to move toward deficit reduction, given that the economy is still fragile and unstable, Obama is heading into a political trap.
    The major political problem for Obama is that making deficit reduction an immediate priority is unlikely to win over Republican support. The record since 2008 has been that even when Obama gives ground to the GOP on issues like health care and economic policy, Republicans have rarely offered their support in return. Rather, the GOP has demanded more from the president, while continuing to attack the administration as left-of-center….
    The moves will not win over Republicans and at the same time threaten to deepen the rift between Obama and congressional Democrats. All of this will happen and the levels of unemployment won’t abate. Like Carter, Obama can find himself in the worst of both worlds, angering his supporters and doing nothing to appease his opponents, thus becoming increasingly isolated as the 2012 elections approach. – CNN, 12-6-10

On This Day in History… Supreme Court Decides Bush V. Gore & 2000 Presidential Election in Bush’s Favor

By Bonnie Goodman

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

IN FOCUS: BUSH V. GORE, ELECTION 2000

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY…

On this day in history…December 12, 2000, a divided U.S. Supreme Court made Republican George W. Bush president-elect over Democrat Al Gore as the justices reversed a state court decision for recounts in Florida’s contested election. (The nation’s highest court agreed, 7-2, to overturn the order for a state recount and voted 5-4 that there was no acceptable procedure by which a timely new recount could take place.) (LAT)

IN THE NEWS…

     

  • Ten years after Bush v. Gore, the fight goes on: Al Gore won the popular vote by more than 500,000. But it was the contentious recount in Florida – halted by the Supreme Court – that gave it to Bush. What that meant still is being argued. Some battles in American history and politics never end, at least in terms of passionate public argument. The Civil War. The Vietnam War. Abortion. The Red Sox and the Yankees. Bush v. Gore. Fortunately, the last one did not come to violent revolution. But the end of the 2000 presidential election – marked Sunday by the 10-year anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision that made George W. Bush the 43rd President of the United States – is just as debatable. The closest presidential race in US history came down to 537 votes out of 101,455,899 cast. Gore had won the popular vote by more than half a million, but it was the contentious recount in Florida – eventually halted by the Supreme Court – that gave it to Bush in the Electoral College, 271-266…. – CS Monitor, 12-12-10

QUOTES

     

  • “Voters who cast ballots incompetently are not entitled to have election officials toil to divine these voters’ intentions, Al Gore got certain Democratic-dominated canvassing boards to turn their recounts into unfettered speculations and hunches about the intentions of voters who submitted inscrutable ballots.” — George Will, Christian Science Monitor
  • George F. Will: A decade after Bush v. Gore: The passions that swirled around Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that ended 10 years ago Sunday, dissipated quickly. And remarkably little damage was done by the institutional collisions that resulted when control of the nation’s supreme political office turned on 537 votes out of 5,963,110 cast in Florida.
    Many controversies concerned whether particular votes could be said to have been cast properly. Chads are those bits of paper that, when a ballot is properly cast by puncturing spots next to candidates’ names, are separated from the ballot. In Florida, there were “dimpled” chads that were merely dented and “hanging” chads not separated from the ballots. Furthermore, there were undervotes (ballots with no vote for president) and overvotes (votes for two presidential candidates) and ill-designed (by a Democrat) butterfly ballots…. – WaPo, 12-12-10

WikiLeaks: Week 2 Julian Assange is Arrested and Held without Bail, Hackers Avenge

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

WIKILEAKS SCANDAL:

IN FOCUS: WIKILEAKS

  • A Selection From the Cache of Diplomatic Dispatches: Below are a selection of the documents from a cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks intends to make public starting on Nov. 28. A small number of names and passages in some of the cables have been removed by The New York Times to protect diplomats’ confidential sources, to keep from compromising American intelligence efforts or to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens…. – NYT
  • A look at the 251,287 diplomatic cables, based on WikiLeaks’ analysisWaPo
  • What is Wiki Leaks? CNN
  • WikiLeaks embassy cables: the key points at a glance: There are no fewer than 251,287 cables from more than 250 US embassies around the world, obtained by WikiLeaks. We present a day-by-day guide to the revelations from the US embassy cables both from the Guardian and its international media partners in the story…. – Guardian UK
  • WikiLeaks, Guardian UK
  • Leaked Cables Uncloak U.S. Diplomacy: A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at backroom bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.
    Some of the cables, made available to The New York Times and several other news organizations, were written as recently as late February, revealing the Obama administration’s exchanges over crises and conflicts. The material was originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents. WikiLeaks intends to make the archive public on its Web site in batches, beginning Sunday…. – NYT, 11-28-10
  • State Secrets: A cache of diplomatic cables provide a chronicle of the United States’ relations with the world: About the Documents A mammoth cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the last three years, provides an unprecedented look at bargaining by embassies, candid views of foreign leaders and assessments of threats. The material was obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of news organizations in advance….. – NYT, 11-28-10

THE HEADLINES….

     

  • Anonymous Wikileaks supporters explain web attacks: A group of pro-Wikileaks activists who coordinated a series of web attacks have explained their actions. The Anonymous group said they were not hackers but “average internet citizens” who felt motivated to act because of perceived injustices against Wikileaks. The group said it had no interest in stealing credit card details or attacking critical infrastructure. The details were posted online by one of the many factions claiming to carry out the attacks.
    “Anonymous is not a group, but rather an internet gathering,” it said in a statement published on 10 December. It said the ongoing attacks were a “symbolic action” targeted at corporate website that had withdrawn services from Wikileaks. “We do not want to steal your personal information or credit card numbers. We also do not seek to attack critical infrastructure of companies such as Mastercard, Visa, PayPal or Amazon,” it read.
    The statement comes as other documents have come to light suggesting the group may be changing its tactics…. – BBC, 12-10-10
  • Assange Lawyers Prepare for U.S. Spying Indictment Attorney Says American Indictment Related to Espionage Act In the Works for Wikileaks Founder: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the man behind the publication of more than a 250,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables, could face spying charges in the U.S. related to the Espionage Act, Assange’s lawyer said today.
    “Our position of course is that we don’t believe it applies to Mr. Assange and that in any event he’s entitled to First Amendment protection as publisher of Wikileaks and any prosecution under the Espionage Act would in my view be unconstitutional and puts at risk all media organizations in the U.S.,” Assange’s attorney Jennifer Robinson told ABC News. Robinson said they’re hearing from lawyers in the U.S. that an indictment of Assange could be imminent…. – ABC News, 12-10-10
  • Hackers strike at MasterCard to support WikiLeaks: Hackers rushed to the defense of WikiLeaks on Wednesday, launching attacks on MasterCard, Visa, Swedish prosecutors, a Swiss bank, Sarah Palin and others who have acted against the site and its jailed founder Julian Assange. Internet “hacktivists” operating under the label “Operation Payback” claimed responsibility in a Twitter message for causing severe technological problems at the website for MasterCard, which pulled the plug on its relationship with WikiLeaks a day ago. MasterCard acknowledged “a service disruption” involving its Secure Code system for verifying online payments, but spokesman James Issokson said consumers could still use their credit cards for secure transactions. Later Wednesday, Visa’s website was inaccessible. The online attacks are part of a wave of support for WikiLeaks that is sweeping the Internet. Twitter was choked with messages of solidarity for the group, while the site’s Facebook page hit 1 million fans…. – WaPo, 12-8-10
  • Julian Assange denied bail over sexual assault allegations Judge fears WikiLeaks founder – who denies all charges – has ‘means and ability’ to abscond: The WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who is wanted in Sweden over claims he sexually assaulted two women, was in Wandsworth prison tonight after a judge refused him bail at an extradition hearing in London. The 39-year-old Australian, who denies the allegations, was driven away in a white prison van after an extraordinary one-hour hearing at City of Westminster magistrates court. The district judge, Howard Riddle, ruled there was a risk Assange would fail to surrender if granted bail.
    Despite Jemima Khan, former wife of Pakistan cricketer Imran Khan, the campaigning journalist John Pilger, the British film director Ken Loach and others offering to stand surety totalling £180,000, the judge said Assange’s “weak community ties” in the UK, and his “means and ability” to abscond, were “substantial grounds” for refusing bail.
    He was remanded until 14 December, when the case can be reviewed at the same court. His legal team said he would again apply for bail at that hearing. The move against Assange came on a day when increasing pressure was brought to bear in the US on companies and organisations with ties to WikiLeaks.
    As Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate homeland security committee, urged businesses to sever their ties with the website, Visa suspended all donations through its credit card. Asked about the New York Times’s role in publishing the leaked cables, Lieberman told Fox news the newspaper “has committed at least an act of bad citizenship. Whether they have committed a crime I think bears very intensive inquiry”…. – Guardian UK, 12-7-10
  • WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Has Been Arrested on a Swedish Warrant: British police said on Tuesday they had arrested Julian Assange, the beleaguered founder of the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group, on a warrant issued in Sweden in connection with alleged sex offenses.
    Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, was arrested by officers from Scotland Yard when he went to a central London police station by prior agreement with the authorities, the police said. A court hearing was expected later.
    The widely anticipated arrested came after Mr. Assange, who denies the charges of sexual misconduct said to have been committed while he was in Sweden in August, threatened to release many more diplomatic cables if legal action is taken against him or his organization…. – NYT, 12-7-10
  • WikiLeaks lists sites key to U.S. security: WikiLeaks has published a secret U.S. diplomatic cable listing places the United States considers vital to its national security, prompting criticism that the website is inviting terrorist attacks on American interests. A State Department spokesman said the disclosure “gives a group like al Qaeda a targeting list.”
    The list is part of a lengthy cable the State Department sent in February 2009 to its posts around the world. The cable asked American diplomats to identify key resources, facilities and installations outside the United States “whose loss could critically impact the public health, economic security, and/or national and homeland security of the United States.”
    The diplomats identified dozens of places on every continent, including mines, manufacturing complexes, ports and research establishments. CNN is not publishing specific details from the list, which refers to pipelines and undersea telecommunications cables as well as the location of minerals or chemicals critical to U.S. industry.
    The list also mentions dams close to the U.S. border and a telecommunications hub whose destruction might seriously disrupt global communications. Diplomats also identified sites of strategic importance for supplying U.S. forces and interests abroad, such as in the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf and the Panama Canal. The cable is classified secret and not for review by non-U.S. personnel…. – CNN, 12-6-10
  • Assange making arrangements to meet police, lawyer says: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is “in the process of making arrangements” to meet with British police regarding a Swedish arrest warrant, his attorney said Monday. Assange is wanted for questioning by Swedish authorities over sex-crime allegations unrelated to WikiLeaks’ recent disclosure of secret U.S. documents. Mark Stephens, his British lawyer, told the BBC no time had been set for the meeting as of Monday evening, but one is likely “in the foreseeable future.” “We are in the process of making arrangements to meet with the police by consent in order to facilitate the taking of that question-and-answer as needed,” Stephens said…. – CNN, 12-6-10
  • Julian Assange to be questioned by British police: New extradition warrant issued over alleged sexual assaults — Assange appeals for supporters to put up surety and bail
    Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is expected to appear in a UK court tomorrow after his lawyers said he would meet police to discuss a European extradition warrant from Sweden relating to alleged sexual assaults.
    As the legal net continued to close around the whistleblowers’ website and US attorney general, Eric Holder, said he had authorised “a number of things to be done” to combat the group, Assange appeared to be reconciling himself to a lengthy personal court battle to avoid extradition.
    Jennifer Robinson, a solicitor with Finers Stephens Innocent which represents the Australian freedom of information campaigner, told the Guardian: “We have a received an arrest warrant [related to claims in Sweden]. We are negotiating a meeting with police.”
    Another lawyer representing Assange, Mark Stephens, added: “He has not been charged with anything. We are in the process of making arrangements to meet the police by consent in order to facilitate the taking of that question and answer that is needed.” Stephens explained that the interview would happen in the “foreseeable future” but he could not give a precise time. According to other sources, it is thought that Assange would appear before a court to negotiate bail…. – Guardian UK, 12-6-10
  • Australia: Assange allowed to return home: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would be allowed to return to his Australian homeland, and has the same protections any other Australian citizen would, the nation’s attorney general said Monday. Attorney General Robert McClelland’s comments came in response to Assange’s assertion last week that McClelland and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard “have made it clear that not only is my return impossible, but that they are actively working to assist the United States government in its attacks on myself and our people.
    “This brings into question what does it mean to be an Australian citizen — does that mean anything at all?” Assange said Friday in written answers to readers’ questions posted on the website of the British newspaper The Guardian. “Mr. Assange, like every Australian citizen, has rights, and nothing is stopping him from coming home to Australia,” McClelland said, according to his spokesman. Assange “is entitled to the same rights as any other Australian citizen. This includes the right to return to Australia and also to receive consular assistance while he is overseas if that is requested.”
    However, McClelland also said WikiLeaks’ publishing of leaked documents is “irresponsible,” according to the spokesman…. – CNN, 12-6-10

QUOTES

  • Ron Paul Defends WikiLeaks On House Floor: WikiLeaks release of classified information has generated a lot of attention in the past few weeks. The hysterical reaction makes one wonder if this is not an example of killing the messenger for the bad news. Despite what is claimed, the information that has been so far released, though classified, has caused no known harm to any individual, but it has caused plenty of embarrassment to our government. Losing our grip on our empire is not welcomed by the neoconservatives in charge.
    There is now more information confirming that Saudi Arabia is a principal supporter and financier of al Qaeda, and that this should set off alarm bells since we guarantee its Sharia-run government. This emphasizes even more the fact that no al Qaeda existed in Iraq before 9/11, and yet we went to war against Iraq based on the lie that it did. It has been charged by experts that Julian Assange, the internet publisher of this information, has committed a heinous crime, deserving prosecution for treason and execution, or even assassination. But should we not at least ask how the U.S. government should prosecute an Australian citizen for treason for publishing U.S. secret information that he did not steal? And if WikiLeaks is to be prosecuted for publishing classified documents, why shouldn’t the Washington Post, the New York Times, and others also published these documents be prosecuted? Actually, some in Congress are threatening this as well. Huff Post, 12-10-10

Remembering Elizabeth Edwards, 1949-2010

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

IN FOCUS: ELIZABETH EDWARDS, 1949-2010

     

  • Elizabeth Edwards Dies of Cancer at 61: Elizabeth Edwards, who as the wife of former Senator John Edwards gave America an intimate look at a candidate’s marriage by sharing his quest for the 2008 presidential nomination as she struggled with incurable cancer and, secretly, with his infidelity, died Tuesday at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was 61.
    Her family confirmed the death. A family friend said Mrs. Edwards was surrounded by family and friends when she died shortly after 10:15 a.m. On Monday, two family friends said that her cancer had spread to her liver and that doctors had advised against further medical treatment.
    Mrs. Edwards posted a Facebook message to friends on Monday, saying, “I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces — my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope.” She added: “The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that.”
    In a life of idyllic successes and crushing reverses, Mrs. Edwards was an accomplished lawyer, the mother of four children and the wife of a wealthy, handsome senator with sights on the White House. But their 16-year-old son was killed in a car crash, cancer struck her at age 55, the political dreams died and, within months, her husband admitted to having had an extramarital affair with a campaign videographer…. – NYT, 12-8-0
  • Elizabeth Edwards told not to treat spreading cancer: Elizabeth Edwards announced Monday that her cancer has taken a turn for the worse and has now spread to her liver. Edwards, 61, the estranged wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Now, with cancer in her liver, her doctors have advised her not to undergo any more anti-cancer treatments, according to a family statement. “For them to say that she is not strong enough to benefit from further treatment, that says to me that her disease is far advanced and she is facing the end of her life,” says Ira Byock, director of palliative medicine at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, who has no personal knowledge of Edwards’ case. Doctors say it’s hard to predict how long someone in Edwards’ situation will survive, especially without knowing details of her case…. – USA Today, 12-7-10
  • Elizabeth Edwards was her husband’s biggest asset: When John Edwards declared himself a candidate in his first presidential campaign, his South Carolina rally was interrupted by rowdy critics who ridiculed the trial lawyer-turned-politician as a liberal and an ambulance chaser. Elizabeth Edwards stepped forward, took the microphone and asked for “good Southern manners.” Hecklers hushed.
    The moment showed why Elizabeth Edwards was her husband’s biggest asset. She was his chief defender, even when many people thought he didn’t deserve it, and helped propel his political career with charm, humor, intelligence and directness.
    After I had written about their appearance that day, I headed to catch a flight back to Washington only to see her waiting alone at the same gate. We were both tired after a long, hot day of campaign rallies in our dark business jackets as I approached her to reintroduce myself since our last meeting months earlier.
    “I know who you are,” she said — my first sign just how closely she monitored news coverage and everything else involving her husband’s campaign. “Let’s go ask them to seat us together since no one else will be able to stand the smell of us.” Here she was, a potential first lady joking about body odor.
    Her wit and willingness to acknowledge her imperfections and setbacks, whether a struggle to lose weight or the later loss of her hair during chemotherapy — turned her into a hit in the campaign. She could draw crowds as large as her husband’s, especially among the all-important female voters. They related to her as a mother toting along two young children on a campaign bus where she forced everyone to sing from songbooks.
    And in the second campaign, many women would approach her with tears in their eyes to relay their own experiences with breast cancer. That continual grappling with grief could visibly wear her down some days…. – AP, 12-7-10
  • Elizabeth Edwards’ Final Days: New Details
    Friend Says Devoted Mother Spent Her Last Days in a Very Nurturing and Warm Environment, Preparing Her Kids for a Good Life:
    In Elizabeth Edwards’ final hours, she was surrounded by loved ones, including her children, her estranged husband and close friends. In her final hours, she was surrounded by the people she loved most: her son, Jack, just 10-years-old, daughters Emma Claire, 12, and Cate, 28. Also there, her estranged husband, John, and a handful of close friends, including Jennifer Palmieri, who spoke about Edwards’ children.
    “To say that she prepared them for her death, I don’t think that is correct,” said friend Jennifer Palmieri. “What she wanted to do was prepare them to live a good life.” Edwards was determined that her last days with her children be joyful. “She was able to have you know, normal, good night mom, give them a kiss and go to school, and so it was a very nurturing and warm environment,” said Palmieri. “It was not a sad place if you can imagine that. It was a very warm and nurturing home.”… – CBS News, 12-8-10
  • John Not a Speaker at Elizabeth Edwards Funeral Her Estranged Husband Missing from List of Those Slated to Give Eulogies': Mourners will hear tributes from her daughter and two close friends – but not her estranged husband, former senator and presidential and vice presidential candidate John Edwards. The funeral will be held here at the Edenton Street United Methodist Church in Raleigh, N.C….
    The funeral service, says Quijano, will be open to media cameras and the public, giving people the chance to pay their respects for a woman who inspired so many people. The burial service will be private…. – CBS News, 12-10-10
  • Elizabeth Edwards, Through Many Eyes: The goddess of frumpy wives and older mothers? The cancer patient who would not be defined by her disease? The noble, betrayed wife? The political operative whose complicity in covering up her husband’s infidelity could have cost the Democratic Party the presidency? A modern Job? Or Icarus?
    With her warm smile, left-leaning advocacy, generous hips and personal tragedies, this political spouse — wife of a one-term senator who failed twice in bids for national office — became an extraordinary canvas upon which many different public constituencies projected their narratives. Over time, as Mrs. Edwards’s life, in private and on stage, grew less saintly, more perplexing, anguished and sour, the public seemed to struggle to realign its relationship with her.
    Certainly Mrs. Edwards, who died on Tuesday at 61 and whose funeral was planned for Saturday, was keenly aware of her impact. Much like any politician who publishes a pro forma biography, she tried to control her narrative. With two memoirs, countless public appearances and, even the day before her death, a statement on Facebook, Mrs. Edwards persisted in shaping her image, determined to have the last word on herself…. – NYT, 12-11-10
  • Mourners gather for Edwards funeral: Miller joined hundreds of mourners who went to the church to remember Edwards and join a counter-protest against a controversial fundamentalist church from Kansas. Edwards’ funeral will take place today at the church that became her sanctuary when her son, Wade, died in a car accident in 1996. Her services will be begin at 1 p.m. Edwards will be buried in a private burial next to Wade…. – USA Today, 12-11-10
  • Elizabeth Edwards Eulogized as Defender of Her Family: In the moments before the funeral for Elizabeth Edwards began here Saturday afternoon, women from the Methodist church removed a spray of white lilies and yellow roses from the casket. Men wiped the rain from the lid, preparing it to be wheeled into the sanctuary where 1,100 people waited.
    …For the next 75 minutes, Mrs. Edwards, 61, was eulogized as a smart, authentic and always optimistic friend who was as intense a foe at the game Boggle as she was in law and politics. And above all, speakers said, she was a fierce defender of her family. “One thing that is true and will never change is that we are a family,” said her daughter Catharine Edwards, 28, who, along with two longtime family friends, offered eulogies for Mrs. Edwards. “She would do anything in the world to protect us.” The church held hundreds of friends, former campaign staff members and politicians who arrived to pay respects to a certain breed of political spouse whose high-profile life became an inspiration for people who, like her, had faced the death of a child, cancer and marital infidelity. NYT, 12-11-10

Political Highlights, December 7, 2010: Obama Press Conference Discussing Bipartisan Agreement on Bush Tax Cuts Extension with Republicans


By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama News Conference

THE HEADLINES….

  • Democrats demand changes in Obama-GOP tax deal: Disappointed Democratic congressional leaders demanded changes in the White House’s tax deal with Republicans on Tuesday despite a spirited argument by President Barack Obama that concessions were preferable to higher taxes for millions of Americans.
    In a remarkable political role reversal, Republicans lined up to support the package, while lawmakers of the president’s party said they were prepared to oppose it. Liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pledged to “do everything I can to defeat this,” including a filibuster to prevent a final vote.
    The deal includes an extension of expiring Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels — not just for lower and middle-income taxpayers, as Democrats wanted. It also contains a renewal of jobless benefits due to expire in a few weeks, and a one-year cut in Social Security taxes paid by workers.
    Other elements would loosen the estate tax and provide breaks for businesses to spur hiring. Officials said that overall, the proposal could add $900 billion to the federal deficit over two years.
    Democratic opposition focused chiefly on two parts of the deal that marked concessions to Republicans — the decision to let expiring tax cuts remain in effect for people in upper incomes, and a change in the estate tax that the GOP has long sought…. – AP, 12-7-10
  • Obama defends tax deal at news conference: One day after announcing a framework for a deal that would preserve the very tax cuts for the wealthy that he promised would be allowed expire, a fiery President Obama today defended the agreement, saying that he did not want to hurt the American people or the economy with a protracted political fight.
    Under the agreement — which has angered many Democrats, especially in the House — the Bush-era tax rates would be extended for two years for people at all income levels, unemployment insurance would be extended for 13 months, and payroll taxes would be decreased by 2 percentage points for one year. According to a fact sheet provided by the White House, the deal would allow a typical working family to avoid a $3,000 tax increase next year.
    At a hastily convened news conference in the press briefing room, the president vowed to continue the debate over tax cuts for the rich, saying he would fight to end them when they expire again. In a nod to his pragmatic governing philosophy, Obama said a refusal to compromise on any issue would lead nowhere and he asked members of his own party to remember “this is a long game, not a short game.”
    “This country was founded on compromise,” Obama said. “I couldn’t go through the front door at this country’s founding. And, you know, if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn’t have a union. So my job is to make sure that we have a North Star out there: What is helping the American people live out their lives?”… – MSNBC, 12-7-10
  • Obama urges Democrats to support tax cut deal: President Obama on Tuesday defended the deal he reached with Republicans on extending a broad range of expiring tax cuts, saying he did not want Americans to be harmed while he engages in a long-term political fight with the GOP. Obama held a hastily arranged news conference to answer questions on the agreement struck late Monday. Vice President Biden went to Capitol Hill to sell the agreement to Democrats who played no part in reaching a compromise Obama said he struck because Republicans would not budge.
    “The deal we struck here … gives us time to have a political battle,” Obama said, adding that he was unwilling to see millions of Americans “immediately damaged at a time when the economy is about to recover.”…
    “To my Democratic friends, what I’d suggest is let’s make sure that we understand this is a long game. This is not a short game,” Obama said….
    “In order to get stuff done, we’re going to have to compromise,” Obama said. “This country was founded on compromise.”… – USA Today, 12-7-10
  • Tax Deal Suggests New Path for Obama: President Obama announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans on Monday to extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for two years as part of a package that would also keep benefits flowing to the long-term unemployed, cut payroll taxes for all workers for a year and take other steps to bolster the economy.
    President Obama, who on Monday visited Greensboro, N.C., announced from the White House his deal with the Republicans. The deal appeared to resolve the first major standoff since the midterm elections between the White House and newly empowered Republicans on Capitol Hill. But it also highlighted the strains Mr. Obama faces in his own party as he navigates between a desire to get things done and a retreat from his own positions and the principles of many liberals.
    Congressional Democrats pointedly noted that they had yet to agree to any deal, even as many Republicans signaled that they would go along.
    Mr. Obama said that he did not like some elements of the framework, but that he had agreed to it to avoid having taxes increase for middle class Americans at the end of the year. He said that in return for agreeing to Republican demands that income tax rates not go up on upper-income brackets, he had secured substantial assistance to lower- and middle-income workers as well as the unemployed.
    “It’s not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery,” Mr. Obama said. “It will stop middle-class taxes from going up. It will spur our private sector to create millions of new jobs, and add momentum that our economy badly needs.”… – NYT, 12-6-10
  • Payroll Tax Holiday Discussed in Talks on Bush Rates: The Obama administration proposed a year-long reduction in payroll taxes of 2 percentage points as part of a broader compromise to extend Bush-era tax cuts temporarily, a congressional aide said. The proposed reduction was offered as an alternative to renewing the “Making Work Pay” tax credit, a creation of President Barack Obama that expires Dec. 31 along with lower income-tax rates enacted in 2001 and 2003, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Some Senate Republicans oppose the credit.
    Negotiators also are discussing including Obama’s proposal to allow a full deduction for equipment purchases that currently must be deducted over time, an administration official said. The proposal would accelerate $200 billion in tax savings for companies in the first year and benefit 1.5 million companies and several million individuals who run businesses, according to White House estimates…. – Bloomberg, 12-6-10
  • Source: White House presents proposed tax deal to Democratic leaders: President Barack Obama presented congressional Democratic leaders Monday with a proposed deal with Republicans that would extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years and unemployment benefits for 13 months while also setting the estate tax at 35% for two years on inheritances worth more than $5 million, a senior Democratic source told CNN.
    The deal also includes a temporary 2% reduction in the payroll tax to replace Obama’s “making work pay” tax credit from the 2009 economic stimulus package for lower-income Americans, the senior Democratic source said.
    As currently crafted, the deal would prohibit amendments by either party, according to the source, who spoke on condition of not being identified by name…. – CNN, 12-6-10

QUOTES

  • President Obama on the Middle Class Tax Cuts and Unemployment Insurance Agreement: “A Good Deal For The American People”:
    I’m focused on making sure that tens of millions of hardworking Americans are not seeing their paychecks shrink on January 1st just because the folks here in Washington are busy trying to score political points.
    And because of this agreement, middle-class Americans won’t see their taxes go up on January 1st, which is what I promised — a promise I made during the campaign, a promise I made as President.
    Because of this agreement, 2 million Americans who lost their jobs and are looking for work will be able to pay their rent and put food on their table. And in exchange for a temporary extension of the high-income tax breaks — not a permanent but a temporary extension — a policy that I opposed but that Republicans are unwilling to budge on, this agreement preserves additional tax cuts for the middle class that I fought for and that Republicans opposed two years ago.
    I’ll cite three of them. Number one, if you are a parent trying to raise your child or pay college tuition, you will continue to see tax breaks next year. Second, if you’re a small business looking to invest and grow, you’ll have a tax cut next year. Third, as a result of this agreement, we will cut payroll taxes in 2011, which will add about $1,000 to the take-home pay of a typical family.
    So this isn’t an abstract debate. This is real money for real people that will make a real difference in the lives of the folks who sent us here. It will make a real difference in the pace of job creation and economic growth. In other words, it’s a good deal for the American people.
    Now, I know there are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight, even if it had meant higher taxes for all Americans, even if it had meant an end to unemployment insurance for those who are desperately looking for work.
    And I understand the desire for a fight. I’m sympathetic to that. I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years. In the long run, we simply can’t afford them. And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them, just as I suspect the Republican Party may fight to end the middle-class tax cuts that I’ve championed and that they’ve opposed.
    So we’re going to keep on having this debate. We’re going to keep on having this battle. But in the meantime I’m not here to play games with the American people or the health of our economy. My job is to do whatever I can to get this economy moving. My job is to do whatever I can to spur job creation. My job is to look out for middle-class families who are struggling right now to get by and Americans who are out of work through no fault of their own.
    A long political fight that carried over into next year might have been good politics, but it would be a bad deal for the economy and it would be a bad deal for the American people. And my responsibility as President is to do what’s right for the American people. That’s a responsibility I intend to uphold as long as I am in this office…. – WH, 12-7-10TranscriptMp3Mp4 Video
  • President Barack Obama at December 7, 2010 Press Conference: At his hastily called news conference, Obama bristled at times, casting himself in the role of compromiser-in-chief with the best interests of the economy and public in mind.
    “I’m not here to play games with the American people or the health of the economy,” Obama said of his day-old deal, which is designed to avert a scheduled Jan. 1 expiration of tax cuts at all income levels. “This isn’t an abstract debate. This is real money, It will make a real difference in the lives of people who sent us here,” Obama said.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev: The compromise is “something that’s not done yet. We’re going to have to do some more work,” he said after a closed door meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and members of the Democratic rank-and-file.
  • Across the Capitol, Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement that said: “Republicans have held the middle class hostage for provisions that benefit only the wealthiest 3%, do not create jobs and add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit…. We will continue discussions with the president and our caucus in the days ahead.”
  • Text Obama’s Remarks on the Tax Compromise: Following is a text of President Obama’s remarks on Monday in which he announced a tentative deal with Congressional Republicans to extend the Bush-era tax cuts, as released by the White House:For the past few weeks there’s been a lot of talk around Washington about taxes and there’s been a lot of political positioning between the two parties. But around kitchen tables, Americans are asking just one question: Are we going to allow their taxes to go up on January 1st, or will we meet our responsibilities to resolve our differences and do what’s necessary to speed up the recovery and get people back to work?
    Now, there’s no doubt that the differences between the parties are real and they are profound. Ever since I started running for this office I’ve said that we should only extend the tax cuts for the middle class. These are the Americans who’ve taken the biggest hit not only from this recession but from nearly a decade of costs that have gone up while their paychecks have not. It would be a grave injustice to let taxes increase for these Americans right now. And it would deal a serious blow to our economic recovery.
    Now, Republicans have a different view. They believe that we should also make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I completely disagree with this. A permanent extension of these tax cuts would cost us $700 billion at a time when we need to start focusing on bringing down our deficit. And economists from all across the political spectrum agree that giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires does very little to actually grow our economy.
    This is where the debate has stood for the last couple of weeks. And what is abundantly clear to everyone in this town is that Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost or impact on the deficit.
    We saw that in two different votes in the Senate that were taken this weekend. And without a willingness to give on both sides, there’s no reason to believe that this stalemate won’t continue well into next year. This would be a chilling prospect for the American people whose taxes are currently scheduled to go up on January 1st because of arrangements that were made back in 2001 and 2003 under the Bush tax cuts.
    I am not willing to let that happen. I know there’s some people in my own party and in the other party who would rather prolong this battle, even if we can’t reach a compromise. But I’m not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I’m not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we’re pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.
    I’m not willing to see 2 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month be put in a situation where they might lose their home or their car or suffer some additional economic catastrophe.
    So, sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do. The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories. They would much rather have the comfort of knowing that when they open their first paycheck on January of 2011, it won’t be smaller than it was before, all because Washington decided they preferred to have a fight and failed to act…. – NYT, 12-7-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Krugman: Obama’s Tax Defense ‘Enormously Self-Indulgent’: President Obama used a White House news conference to make the case for a new tax cut compromise and appeal to supporters unhappy with the plan. Jeffrey Brown talks to Paul Krugman and Stephen Moore for reaction to the deal…. – PBS Newshour, 12-7-10
  • Julian Zelizer: Focusing on deficit a lose-lose move for Obama: The political pressure on the administration to tackle deficit reduction is mounting. Even before he began negotiations with Republicans last week, President Obama conceded ground by announcing a federal pay freeze. He has given indications that, like President Jimmy Carter in 1978, he intends to shift his focus from unemployment to deficits in response to the “message” from the midterms.
    Yet Obama should be extremely cautious before he shifts the focus of his agenda. Emphasizing deficits over unemployment threatens to carry huge political costs for Democrats. The latest unemployment numbers are a stark reminder of the terrible shape of the economy. Regardless of the conventional wisdom, moreover, the move won’t leave him in a stronger political position. At a time when many economists believe that the time is not right to move toward deficit reduction, given that the economy is still fragile and unstable, Obama is heading into a political trap.
    The major political problem for Obama is that making deficit reduction an immediate priority is unlikely to win over Republican support. The record since 2008 has been that even when Obama gives ground to the GOP on issues like health care and economic policy, Republicans have rarely offered their support in return. Rather, the GOP has demanded more from the president, while continuing to attack the administration as left-of-center….
    The moves will not win over Republicans and at the same time threaten to deepen the rift between Obama and congressional Democrats. All of this will happen and the levels of unemployment won’t abate. Like Carter, Obama can find himself in the worst of both worlds, angering his supporters and doing nothing to appease his opponents, thus becoming increasingly isolated as the 2012 elections approach. – CNN, 12-6-10

Political Highlights December 6, 2010: Obama Attempts Bipartisanship with New Congressional Leaders & Tax Cuts Negotiations — Obama’s Surprise Visit to Afghanistan

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

Pete Souza, 12/2/10

Speaking to newly-elected governors from around the country, the President discusses how not extending unemployment benefits will be a crushing blow not only to those hit hardest by the economy, but to the economy itself.

STATS & POLLS

  • Palin gives over $500k to candidates, causes: Sarah Palin gave at least $507,000 to candidates and political causes in 2010 as she earned a reputation as kingmaker and raised her profile ahead of a possible presidential run. The biggest chunk of that money, about $306,500, was doled out in the month leading to the Nov. 2 general election by her political action committee, SarahPAC, filings with the Federal Election Commission show. Her latest filing Tuesday showed contributions of nearly $465,000 between Oct. 14 and Nov. 22. During that period, Palin gave $244,000 to conservative candidates, state Republican parties and ballot fights…. – AP, 11-30-10
  • WikiLeaks, Guardian UK
  • A Selection From the Cache of Diplomatic Dispatches: Below are a selection of the documents from a cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks intends to make public starting on Nov. 28. A small number of names and passages in some of the cables have been removed by The New York Times to protect diplomats’ confidential sources, to keep from compromising American intelligence efforts or to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens…. – NYT
  • WikiLeaks embassy cables: the key points at a glance: There are no fewer than 251,287 cables from more than 250 US embassies around the world, obtained by WikiLeaks. We present a day-by-day guide to the revelations from the US embassy cables both from the Guardian and its international media partners in the story…. – Guardian UK
  • The WikiLeaks War Logs: On Oct. 22, Internet-based watchdog organization WikiLeaks posted 391,832 classified U.S. military documents on the war in Iraq, the largest such leak in history. As he did with the July release of 77,000 secret documents related to the war in Afghanistan, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shared the documents with several newspapers — including the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel — in advance of making them public. Among the major revelations were many instances of the U.S. military deliberately ignoring detainee abuse by Iraqi allies and an increase of the civilian-casualty count by 15,000. The July Afghanistan papers consisted primarily of secret reports from troops in the field covering local intelligence and recounting clashes — including a number of missives that detailed civilian casualties at the hands of coalition forces. Another important (though not altogether surprising) revelation was that members of the U.S. military suspect what others have long assumed: that Pakistan’s military intelligence agency has secretly assisted the Afghan Taliban insurgency…. – Time

THE HEADLINES….

Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama greeted troops at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan with Gen. David H. Petraeus, right, on Friday.

  • Let’s Make a Deal: Obama Poised to Break Campaign Promise and Extend Tax Cuts In Exchange, Obama May Get Extension of Unemployment Benefits: The payback for the president: he will get an extension of unemployment benefits. “I think it’s pretty clear now taxes are not going up on anybody in the middle of this recession. We’re discussing how long we should maintain current tax rates,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said this morning on NBC’s Meet the Press. In exchange, McConnell said he could agree to an extension of jobless benefits as part of a tax cut package.
    “I think we will extend unemployment compensation,” he said. “We’ve had some very vigorous debates in the Senate. Not about whether to do it but whether to pay for it as opposed to adding it to the deficit. All of those discussions are still under way.” For Democrats, giving in on taxes to get unemployment benefits extended is a tough pill to swallow…. – ABC News, 12-5-10
  • Tax deal ‘recipe’ could mix in help for all Americans: Members of Congress said Sunday they are on track for a deal that would include a temporary extension of the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans. An extension of unemployment insurance — a demand of President Obama and many Democrats — would also be part of a potential agreement, lawmakers from both parties said on various talk shows.
    “Most folks believe that the recipe would include at least an extension of unemployment benefits … and an extension of all of the tax rates for all Americans for some period of time,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., who is involved in negotiations with the White House.
    Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who appeared with Kyl on CBS’ Face the Nation, said, “We’re moving in that direction,” though he opposes extending tax cuts for the wealthy because it would add $700 billion to the federal budget deficit over 10 years.
    Obama, meanwhile, said this weekend that he would be “rolling up my sleeves” to work with both parties on an agreement. “It will require some compromise, but I’m confident that we can get it done,” he said.
    Both sides are up against a tight deadline: The Bush tax cuts expire at the end of the year. Without an extension, Americans will be looking at a tax hike…. – USA Today, 12-5-10
  • Lawmakers upbeat on extension of tax cuts, unemployment benefits: Leaders from both parties see a compromise in the offing on renewing Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels and extending jobless aid.
    Top lawmakers predicted Sunday that a deal would be reached soon to renew the Bush-era tax cuts for all income levels and to extend unemployment benefits.
    “I’m optimistic we’ll be able to come together,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
    Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, one of his party’s negotiators with the White House, said he was open to discussing making jobless aid, a Democratic priority, part of a bipartisan compromise that would extend the 2001 and 2003 tax rates for all Americans for some period of time, a GOP goal.
    “I think that most folks believe that the recipe would include at least an extension of unemployment benefits for those who are unemployed and an extension of all of the tax rates for all Americans for some period of time,” Kyl said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”…. – LAT, 12-5-10
  • Winfrey, McCartney in DC for Kennedy Center Honors: When The Beatles were storming America, Oprah Winfrey had the band’s poster on her bedroom wall, Merle Haggard was free from prison, Jerry Herman was making Broadway sing and Bill T. Jones was not yet a dancer but growing up in a migrant labor camp.
    On Sunday, these leading artists who followed divergent paths since the 1960s will join Paul McCartney to receive the Kennedy Center Honors. They’ll hear accolades from President Barack Obama and stars who will perform as part of the nation’s top prize for those who define U.S. culture through the arts.
    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted a dinner Saturday for the honorees, along with visiting celebrities, including Julia Roberts, Claire Danes, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, and Gwen Stefani and her band, No Doubt. The guests also included veteran entertainers Carol Channing, Angela Lansbury and Sidney Poitier…. – AP, 12-5-10
  • Prop 8. gay marriage ban to be argued in federal appeals court: The long-running fight over gay marriage in California heads to a federal appeals court Monday. A panel of the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals must decide whether a federal judge was correct in ruling that the US Constitution protects the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry…. – CS Monitor, 12-5-10
  • Senate blocks extension of Bush-era tax cuts: The Senate on Saturday rejected two Democratic proposals to let tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire, a symbolic but bitter defeat that now forces the Democratic majority to compromise with Republicans or risk allowing tax breaks to lapse for virtually everyone at year’s end.
    Efforts quickly shifted to negotiations that would temporarily extend the Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, an outcome that seemed increasingly likely. The pair of nearly party-line votes – one to preserve the tax cuts for only the first $250,000 of family income, and the other for the first $1 million of income – also represented a final stand for Democrats as the session winds down and political posturing gives way to pragmatic dealmaking.
    Congress has much to do before its self-imposed deadline of concluding the session by Dec. 17, including passing a funding resolution to keep the federal government operating into next year, renewing jobless benefits for millions of Americans and ratifying an arms treaty with Russia, a top priority for President Obama…. – WaPo, 12-4-10
  • Senate Rejects Obama’s Tax Plan, Setting Stage for Deal: The Senate on Saturday rejected President Obama’s proposal to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for all but the wealthiest taxpayers, a triumph for Republicans who have long called for continuing the income tax cuts for everyone. The Senate’s verdict set the stage for a possible deal in the coming days to extend the reduced tax rates even on high incomes temporarily, perhaps for up to two years. But with Senate Democrats and the White House badly splintered, and some lawmakers increasingly angry at the idea of sustaining President George W. Bush’s economic policies, the prospects of a compromise remain uncertain.
    If Congress does not act, the tax rates expire for everyone on Dec. 31, meaning an increase across the board. The rate in the lowest bracket would rise to 15 percent from 10 percent and in the highest bracket to 39.6 percent from 35 percent. The administration and Congressional leaders have been discussing a plan that would temporarily extend the income tax rates, and also include a one-year extension of jobless aid for the long-term unemployed, which has started to run out…. – NYT, 12-4-10
  • Biden turns up heat in U.S. tax debate: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urged lawmakers on Saturday to extend middle-class tax cuts and aid for the jobless, fanning a political debate between Democrats and Republicans that is set to intensify next week. Biden, delivering the weekly White House radio and Internet address because President Barack Obama was flying home from Afghanistan, framed the issue as Democrats sticking up for the middle class while Republicans protected richer Americans.
    “I just don’t agree with the folks who’ve said we can’t afford a lifeline for Americans who lost their jobs during the worst recession in generations, but we can afford to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent,” he said…. – Reuters, 12-4-10
  • Military’s ‘Don’t Ask’ Testimony Won’t Be Final Word: It’s been an important week — but not a decisive one — in the debate over gays in the military. First, a Pentagon survey of troops found that more than two-thirds of them had little problem serving with gays and lesbians. Then, the secretary of Defense and the nation’s top military officer testified in favor of repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law barring homosexuals from serving openly. But Friday, the top generals in the Marine Corps and Army told a Senate committee that they are not ready for change just yet…. – NPR, 12-4-10
  • Obama in Unannounced Afghan Visit: President Obama made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Friday as he sought to smooth over a troubled relationship with President Hamid Karzai and take stock of a nine-year-old American-led war that he hopes to begin winding down next summer. Mr. Obama arrived at Bagram Air Base after a secret overnight flight. Bad weather and high winds forced the White House to drop plans for Mr. Obama to fly by helicopter into Kabul to meet with Mr. Karzai, who has complained vocally about American military tactics in recent weeks. Technical difficulties then kept the two leaders from speaking by videoconference, officials said, but they later spoke by phone. Mr. Obama also consulted with his commanding general and visited American troops who are heading into another holiday season far from home. “As we begin this holiday season, there is no place I’d rather be than here with you,” Mr. Obama said, speaking to thousands of troops in a hangar at Bagram after awarding Purple Hearts to five injured service members. Many of those in the audience at the hangar were from the 101st Airborne Division — now on its fourth combat deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. “Thanks to your service, we are making important progress,” he said…. – NYT, 12-3-10
  • Bush tax cuts: why Democrats are planning two votes they know will fail: Senate Democrats are planning for two votes on the Bush tax cuts Saturday. But neither would extend all the Bush tax cuts, and Republicans have vowed to defeat any such proposals…. – CS Monitor, 12-3-10
  • US Stocks Edge Higher; Traders Hope Jobs Report Spurs Action: U.S. stocks closed higher Friday after a late rally erased the session’s wallowing over a disappointing jobs report. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 19.68 points, or 0.17%, to 11382.09 on Friday, extending its December rally to a third day. The measure climbed 2.6% this week, boosted by a dose of better-than-expected economic reports. The Nasdaq Composite gained 12.11, or 0.47%, to 2591.46, its highest close in nearly three years. The Standard ∓ Poor’s 500-stock index rose 3.18, or 0.26% to 1224.71. The market had lagged for much of the day Friday after the November jobs report … – Dow Jones, 12-3-10
  • Biden: Senate should extend middle class tax cuts: Vice President Joe Biden on Friday urged the Senate to extend tax cuts for middle-class Americans, following the example of a politically charged vote by the House of Representatives earlier this week. Biden addressed reporters at the White House during a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and budget director Jack Lew, who are leading talks with congressional leaders on a deal to extend Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year. He did not comment on the status of those talks…. – Reuters, 12-3-10
  • Biden: November Jobs Report ‘Disappointing’ Biden says jobs report is ‘disappointing,’ urges lawmakers to extend unemployment insurance: Vice President Joe Biden says a weak November jobs report is “disappointing” and a sign that the economic recovery is fragile. Biden says the uptick in the jobless rate to 9.8 percent means it is critical that Congress extend unemployment benefits before the end of the year. He also urged the Senate to follow the House in voting to continue tax cuts for the middle class. Biden spoke before being briefed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and budget director Jacob Lew on the negotiations surrounding those tax cuts. A deal to extend the tax cuts for all taxpayers is starting to take shape, although it is not clear how quickly it might come together…. – ABC News, 12-3-10
  • Not so fast on ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal, say top Pentagon brass: Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chair Adm. Mike Mullen have been strong backers of a repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ But the heads of the Army, Marines, and Air Force said Friday the repeal could cause problems and should be delayed…. – CS Monitor, 12-3-10
  • Obama visits Afghanistan to thank troops, rally support back home: President Obama’s visit to Afghanistan comes just as WikiLeaks cables are bringing fresh attention to grave problems on the war front. President Obama addressed US troops Friday on a surprise visit to Afghanistan to thank servicemen and women serving over the holidays and rally support for the war back home.
    “On behalf of more than 300 million Americans, we are here to say thank you for everything that you do,” Mr. Obama told a large gathering of uniformed troops at Bagram Airbase outside Kabul. He made note that nearly one year ago he ordered a surge of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan: “We said we were going to break the Taliban’s momentum and that’s what you’re doing. You’re going on the offensive; [we are] tired of playing defense.” Obama emphasized that despite political divisions at home, the nation was united in support of the troops…. – CS Monitor, 12-3-10
  • GOP resolve dominates the agenda in Congress: Republicans’ confidence levels are so high that they are barreling over what might be considered standard political traps, assuming long-term risks along with their added clout now. LAT, 12-2-10
  • GOP resolve dominates the agenda in Congress: Republicans’ confidence levels are so high that they are barreling over what might be considered standard political traps, assuming long-term risks along with their added clout now…. – LAT, 12-2-10
  • U.S. House Passes Middle-Income Tax Cut Extension: The U.S. House passed a Democratic plan to extend Bush-era tax cuts for middle-income families over the objections of Republicans who say it would harm the economy by letting taxes go up on Jan. 1 for those with higher incomes. The vote was 234-188 for the measure, which would permanently extend lower rates and expanded tax credits on the first $200,000 of individuals’ income and the first $250,000 for married couples. Taxpayers with higher annual income would face increased taxes on wages, capital gains and dividends. Republicans say they plan to block the measure in the Senate.
    Republicans “are determined to take care of the rich,” said Representative Jim McDermott of Washington. “That political maneuvering by the Republicans brings uncertainty to the middle class when they really need certainty.” Republicans derided the vote as political theater, and House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said it was “chicken crap.”… – Bloomberg, 12-2-10
  • House Votes Rare Censure of Rangel in Ethics Case: With his gaze steady and his hands clasped in front of him, Representative Charles B. Rangel stood silently on the floor of House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon as the House speaker read a formal resolution of censure rebuking him for an assortment of ethics violations said to have brought discredit to Congress. Representative Charles B. Rangel outside his office in the Rayburn House office building on Thursday. Despite impassioned last-minute pleas for mercy from Mr. Rangel and a half-dozen of his colleagues, the House voted 333-79 for censure, the sternest punishment it can administer short of expulsion. Moments after the vote, Mr. Rangel rose from his seat, walked to the well of the House, between the members and the speaker’s podium, where he stood alone as the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, seeming at times uncomfortable, read the one-paragraph resolution censuring him for 11 violations of Congressional ethics rules.
    Mr. Rangel asked for a minute to address his colleagues after the censure was read. “I know in my heart I am not going to be judged by this Congress,” he said. “I’ll be judged by my life in its entirety.” NYT, 12-2-10
  • With censure, Charles Rangel joins infamous list in history of Congress: Rep. Charles Rangel becomes the 23rd member of the House to be censured, Congress’s harshest punishment short of expulsion. The vote in favor of censure was 333 to 79….
    In a rare move, the House on Thursday voted, 333 to 79, to censure 15-term Rep. Charles Rangel (D) of New York for 11 ethics violations ranging from failure to disclose income to violating House gift bans. In a solemn moment, Mr. Rangel stood silently, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, looking anguished, read out the 11-line censure resolution, the first delivered in this chamber in 27 years. Rangel became the 23rd congressman in the history of the House to be censured. The vote requires Rangel, former chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, to pay restitution for any unpaid estimated taxes on income from properties in the Dominican Republic and to provide proof of payment to the ethics panel…. – CS Monitor, 12-2-10
  • Reid “confident” Senate to consider START soon: Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed confidence on Thursday the U.S. Senate would debate the New START nuclear treaty with Russia this year, as he gave no sign of yielding to Republican pressure to scale back his agenda for the coming weeks. The treaty is one of President Barack Obama’s top priorities for the current Congress. Some leading Republicans have indicated a willingness to debate the treaty if Reid allowed ample time for discussion and first resolved outstanding tax and spending legislation. Reid is pushing Congress to do considerably more before it breaks for the holidays, including an immigration bill, legislation lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military and ratifying New START. He also wants measures to fund the government and extend tax breaks due to expire soon.
    “I’m confident and hopeful that we can work our way through all these things. All those things are on my agenda,” Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I think if we set our mind to it (START), we can get it done.”… – Reuters, 12-2-10
  • Geithner and lawmakers seek deal on Bush-era tax cuts: President Barack Obama’s top economic advisers sought to break a deadlock over taxes with congressional leaders on Wednesday, haggling over how to extend Bush-era rates while the country struggles with sky-high debt. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who is leading talks for the White House along with budget director Jack Lew, said congressional Republicans and Democrats held a “civil, constructive discussion,” but declined to give specifics. Obama expressed confidence a deal could be reached. “There are going to be ups and downs in this process but I’m confident that we’re going to be able to get it done,” he told reporters at the White House. Negotiators met again later in the day but emerged without a resolution. They were set to meet again on Thursday…. – Reuters, 12-1-10
  • Unemployment benefits: not until Bush tax cuts pass, Senate GOP says: Senate Republicans pledge not to take up any issues, including extending unemployment benefits, until the Bush tax cuts and federal spending bills are sorted out. The lame-duck Congress, mired in a partisan clash over taxes and spending and preoccupied with a battle over extending the Bush tax cuts, refused Wednesday to restore federal financing of extended unemployment benefits, which had lapsed overnight. The inaction means the imminent loss of unemployment compensation for some 800,000 out-of-work Americans, with nearly 2 million long-term unemployed expected to be affected by Jan. 1, according to the Labor Department. US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, speaking Wednesday at a press conference organized by Democratic congressional leaders, said that by next spring, another 6 million unemployed workers will lose benefits if Congress does not act. “Millions of families are going to struggle to put food on the table or put gas in the gas tank,” she said…. – CS Monitor, 12-1-10
  • The secret life of Julian Assange: Julian Assange can be charming yet cagey about his private life and is rarely shaken by discussions of even the most controversial revelations on WikiLeaks. He grew up constantly on the move, the son of parents who were in the theater business in Australia. Now, Julian Assange, 39, finds himself on the move again, wanted in Sweden for alleged sex crimes and wanted by officials around the world for his website WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of documents containing confidential information. If he has succeeded in creating a public firewall of sorts around himself, it is perhaps because he learned as a child to cope with solitude and exposed his mind to the machinery that would overtake his life. Assange has been described by his mother, Christine, as “highly intelligent.”… – CNN, 12-1-10
  • US embassy cables: US and Pakistan deny revelations of mutual mistrust: But security experts say leaks expose threat of terrorism that western governments have deliberately played down
    Pakistani and US officials presented a united front today against revelations in the WikiLeaks cables that portray a fragile relationship dogged by subterfuge, suspicion and worries over the safety of Pakistan’s expanding nuclear arsenal. The American ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, visited the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, at his hilltop residence in Islamabad where the men played down the significance of the leaked dispatches. Gilani said Pakistan’s national interests “would not be compromised by such mischief in any manner”, while Munter said: “Working together, we will get past the WikiLeaks problems.” But outside Pakistan experts in nuclear counterproliferation said the leaked cables exposed a serious threat of nuclear terrorism that western governments have deliberately played down – until now…. – Guardian UK, 12-1-10
  • WikiLeaks disclosures highlight Russia as U.S. scrambles: The United States scrambled to contain the fallout from the slow-motion leak of cables from its embassies worldwide Wednesday as new documents showed American diplomats casting a jaundiced eye toward corruption’s grip on Russia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally made “several dozen” calls to counterparts in other countries in an effort to mitigate the damage from WikiLeaks, a website that facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information, a senior State Department official said. In a CNN interview Wednesday night, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange an “anarchist.” “He’s trying to undermine the collaboration, the cooperation, the system by which we engage with other governments, cooperate with other governments and solve regional challenges,” Crowley told CNN’s “John King USA.” But while Clinton is facing other world leaders, “trying to solve the world’s challenges,” Assange is in hiding, he said…. – m CNN, 12-1-10
  • Obama bans offshore oil drilling in Atlantic waters: In a policy reversal, President Obama’s administration announced Wednesday that it will not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic coast for at least seven more years. “The changes we’re making are based on the lessons we have learned,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters, citing the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and caused the release of an estimated 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. He said drilling possibilities in the Arctic will proceed “with utmost caution.”… – USA Today, 12-1-10
  • No tax cut deal, as bipartisan meeting shows ‘sincere effort': President Obama and congressional Republicans cast aside the sharp-tongued rhetoric of the fall campaign in their first post-election meeting on Tuesday, but they failed to breach an impasse over whether to extend tax cuts for top earners. The sides remained in opposition as a deadline looms: The George W. Bush-era cuts for all taxpayers will expire at the end of the year unless Congress and the White House act. Republicans want to extend the tax cuts for those at all income levels, arguing that’s the best way to boost the economy. Obama opposes extending the cuts to include taxable income for couples exceeding $250,000, saying the government can’t afford the $700 billion it would add to the nation’s debt over the next decade.
    OBAMA TO GOP: I haven’t reached out enough “Here we disagree,” Obama said at the end of the two-hour session. “I continue to believe that it would be unwise and unfair” to extend the tax cuts for those with higher incomes. Republicans sounded just as determined. “If President Obama and the Democratic leaders come up with a plan … to cut spending and stop all the tax hikes, they can expect a positive response from Republicans,” incoming House speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after the meeting…. – USA Today, 11-30-10
  • Who will get Bush tax cuts? Congress can’t decide: Unable to agree on who should be eligible to continue to receive the Bush tax cuts, which expire Jan. 1, President Obama and congressional leaders decided to convene a panel Tuesday. President Obama and congressional leaders on Tuesday tasked a six-man panel with finding a compromise on extension of the Bush tax cuts. The president met with congressional leaders of both parties in a gathering Mr. Obama called “productive,” and Republican leaders called “frank.” There was no deal on the Bush-era tax cuts – which Republicans want to extend for all families and Obama wants to extend only for families making less than 250,000. But both sides committed to extending at least some of the Bush-era tax cuts before the 111th Congress winds down in December. Two Democrats and two Republicans – one each from the House and Senate – will join Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Jacob Lew, who directs the White House Office of Management and Budget, to “break the logjam,” Obama said…. – CS Monitor, 11-30-10
  • For Obama and GOP leaders, just meeting is a bipartisan accomplishment: President Obama met with GOP leaders at the White House Tuesday. The gathering appeared long enough for little else but pleasantries – though, in the current climate, that’s no small thing. The much anticipated White House meeting between President Obama and bipartisan congressional leaders has finally taken place. The president called it “productive.” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called it “a useful and frank discussion.” Both Mr. Obama and likely new House speaker John Boehner (R) spoke of finding common ground. Over the hour, there seemed to be enough time just to air the various topics of concern, starting with the soon-to- expire Bush-era tax cuts and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia that Obama wants ratified before Congress adjourns…. – CS Monitor, 11-30-10
  • ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ report: Little risk to allowing gays to serve openly: The Pentagon’s long-awaited report on gays in the military concludes that repealing the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would present only a low risk to the armed forces’ ability to carry out their mission and that 70 percent of service members believe it would have little or no effect on their units, according to sources briefed on the report’s findings. An extensive Pentagon report about the armed forces’ attitudes toward gays in the military gives a boost to the stalled push by President Obama to repeal the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, undercutting arguments by Republicans and others that such a change would unduly strain the armed forces…. – WaPo, 11-30-10
  • Before Business Leaders, Bernanke Discusses Unemployment’s Toll on Americans: The Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, found some respite on Tuesday from the second-guessing the central bank has faced since it announced a $600 billion effort to stimulate the slow recovery. During a 75-minute discussion here with five business leaders, including the chief executives of I.B.M. and Ford Motor, inflation and monetary policy were not even mentioned, much less debated. Mr. Bernanke did, however, emphasize the toll high unemployment was taking on families and on the share of the unemployed — more than 40 percent — who have been jobless for at least six months. “At the pace of growth that we’re seeing now, we’re not growing fast enough to materially reduce the unemployment rate,” he said. The economy needs to grow at an annualized rate of 2 to 2.5 percent just to accommodate new workers coming into the labor force, he said. Mr. Bernanke has made this point repeatedly this year…. – NYT, 11-30-10
  • WikiLeaks ‘attack': How damaging to US foreign relations?: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemns the WikiLeaks ‘attack on the international community’ as harmful to US policy goals. But major geopolitical shifts are unlikely, analysts say. The US intensified its efforts at damage control on Monday following the publication by WikiLeaks of more than a quarter-million diplomatic cables, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling the massive release not just a problem for American foreign policy but “an attack on the international community.” In a statement to journalists in the State Department’s Treaty Room before she was to leave on a four-country trip through Central Asia and the Persian Gulf, Secretary Clinton said that both the furthering of US national interests and the operation of the world’s international political system depend on thousands of confidential exchanges, assessments, and conversations every day…. – CS Monitor, 11-29-10
  • Federal Pay Freeze Planned Obama Proposes Two-Year Raise Pause in Bid to Seize Agenda in Deficit Talks: President Barack Obama on Monday proposed a two-year salary freeze for all federal civilian employees, signaling an apparent willingness to reach toward Republicans ahead of negotiations on deficit-cutting that are likely to dominate Washington next year. The freeze, which would require congressional approval, would affect about two million workers in 2011 and 2012 and save just $5 billion, a tiny fraction of the current $1.3 trillion annual budget deficit. The GOP has called for much bigger reductions in federal spending and has specifically targeted the federal work force. But the gesture could have broader political ramifications. It was seen by members of both parties as a sign that Mr. Obama, in the wake of what he called his electoral “shellacking,” might be willing to tack away from his liberal base in search of compromise with Republicans. “Going forward, we’re going to have to make some additional very tough decisions that this town has put off for a very long time,” Mr. Obama said. “And that’s what this upcoming week is really about. My hope is that, starting today, we can begin a bipartisan conversation about our future.”… – WSJ, 11-29-10

111TH & 112TH CONGRESS

  • Incoming GOP freshmen rapidly embracing big-money fundraisers The Republicans have taken the House. Now, meet the new lawmakers: After winning election with an anti-Washington battle cry, Canseco and other incoming Republican freshmen have rapidly embraced the capital’s culture of big-money fundraisers, according to new campaign-finance reports and other records.
    Dozens of freshmen lawmakers have held receptions at Capitol Hill bistros and corporate townhouses in recent weeks, taking money from K Street lobbyists and other powerbrokers within days of their victories. Newly elected House members have raised at least $2 million since the election, according to preliminary Federal Election Commission records filed last week, and many more contributions have yet to be tallied.
    The aggressive fundraising efforts underscore the financial pressures facing new members of Congress even before they take their seats. The contributions also represent a symbolic challenge for the Republican class of 2010, many of whom gained office by running against the ways of official Washington and monied interests…. – WaPo, 12-5-10
  • State Lawmakers Bolt Democratic Party After Election Day: Adding insult to injury for their party, at least 13 Democratic state lawmakers have joined the Republican ranks since Election Day — deepening GOP gains and in one case handing the party the state House majority. Democrats in five states have switched parties since Nov. 2, citing concerns about the economy and the political leanings of their constituents. The defections are a troubling sign for state Democratic operations clinging to life following their election drubbing. Though Republicans’ congressional gains drew more attention, the party picked up more than 675 seats at the state level last month and in some cases took over entire state capitals…. – Fox News, 12-3-10
  • Republican Kirk formally takes over Obama seat: President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat formally came under control of his Republican adversaries on Monday, as former Representative Mark Kirk was sworn in as junior senator from Illinois. Kirk replaced Democratic Senator Roland Burris, who had been serving out the remainder of Obama’s term, and brought the number of Republicans in the Senate to 42, strengthening their ability to block the president’s agenda. Kirk, 51, is an intelligence officer in the US Naval Reserve and has been a voice in the US Congress for confronting Iran over its suspect nuclear program and for robust engagement with China…. – AFP, 11-29-10
  • Democrats to Test Republican Mettle With Tax-Cut Vote This Week: Congressional Democrats are ready to test Republican resolve on taxes this week by hastening votes on their proposal to extend middle-class tax cuts. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will schedule a vote this week on legislation that would retain lower tax rates and increased credits that apply to the first $250,000 of a married couple’s gross income or $200,000 for a single person, said her assistant, Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen. The Senate will vote “by next week” on Democrats’ proposal to extend middle-income tax cuts, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus told reporters yesterday. “There should be an early vote on middle-income tax cuts” before the Senate considers alternatives on Bush-era tax cuts set to expire on Dec. 31, said Baucus, a Montana Democrat. The vote’s timing will depend on the rest of the Senate’s agenda, he said…. – Business Week, 11-29-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Sen. Murray agrees to lead Democratic fundraising for 2012 election: Sen. Patty Murray will once again spearhead the tough job of raising millions of dollars for Democrats for the 2012 general election. Girding for a tough fight to preserve their shrunken majority, U.S. Senate Democrats finally persuaded Sen. Patty Murray to once again spearhead the grunt work of raising millions of dollars for the 2012 general elections. In naming Murray as the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada tapped an experienced — albeit reluctant — fundraiser who helped rake in $158 million for Democratic candidates a decade ago…. -
  • Pence says he hasn’t decided on White House bid: The third-ranking Republican in the U.S. House says he’ll decide after Jan. 1 whether to run for president. Indiana Rep. Mike Pence said Monday he and his family are “determined to take the next few months and pray about” a possible White House run. Pence won a sixth congressional term this month and then announced he would step down from his position as the House Republican conference chairman. The decision sparked talk that Pence might run for higher office…. – AP, 11-29-10

QUOTES

The President holds a bipartisan meeting

White House Photo, Pete Souza, 11/30/10

The President expresses optimism on working across the aisle after a meeting with bipartisan Congressional leaders on issues ranging from tax cuts to unemployment benefits to the New START treaty with Russia.

  • Weekly Address: Vice President Biden Calls on Congress to Preserve the Middle Class Tax Cuts and to Extend Unemployment Insurance This Year
    Remarks of Vice President Joe Biden As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address December 4, 2010:

    Hi, this is Joe Biden. I’m filling in for President Obama this weekend because he’s on his way back from Afghanistan, where he was spending some time with the brave men and women of our Armed Forces.
    …One: we’ve got to extend the tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire at the end of the month. If we don’t, millions of middle-class families will see a big bite out of their paychecks starting January 1. And that’s the last thing we should let happen. After a decade in which they lost ground, middle class families can ill-afford a tax hike – and our economy can’t afford the hit it will take if middle class families have less money to spend.
    And the second thing we’ve got to do is extend unemployment insurance for Americans who have lost their jobs in a tough economy. Without unemployment benefits, families can’t spend on basic necessities that are grown, made, and sold by other Americans.
    Together, the economic hit caused by raising taxes on the middle class, and denying two million Americans unemployment insurance, will wind up costing us hundreds of thousands of more jobs. It just isn’t smart.
    And, cutting unemployment insurance is not only not smart, it’s not right either. It would mean telling millions of our neighbors who are out of work today through no fault of their own, that they’re on their own.
    That’s no message to send in the season of hope. We all know someone who’s hit a rough patch. When that happens in America, we help him get back up on his feet. That’s who we are. That’s the American way.
    So I just don’t agree with the folks who’ve said we can’t afford a lifeline for Americans who lost their jobs during the worst recession in generations, but we can afford to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans. That’s bad economic policy, and it’s also just simply wrong.
    Congress must extend these needed unemployment benefits before it goes home for the year. And it must bolster economic growth by preserving tax cuts for our middle class. I’m glad that the House of Representatives voted to do that this week, and I call on the United States Senate to do the same.
    Look, there’s no doubt these are tough times. But we are slowly but surely fighting our way back, moving forward. And we’re going to keep fighting – to grow this economy, to strengthen our middle class, and to restore the American Dream. That’s my pledge to you.
    And hey, one last thing – since the President will be back to record this message next week, let me take this chance to say from my family to yours: Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, have a great Holiday season and an even better New Year. –
    WH, 12-4-10
  • Harry Reid rips John McCain over ‘don’t ask, don’t tell': The majority leader likened McCain and other Republicans to the Peanuts cartoon character Lucy, who continues to pull the football away at the last second as Charlie Brown runs to kick it.
    “First, Sen. McCain said he would seriously consider repealing it if the military leadership thought we should, and [when] the military leadership said it should be repealed, he pulled away the football. Then Sen. McCain said he would need to see a study from the Pentagon. When the Pentagon produced the study saying repeal would have no negative effect at all, he pulled away the football again,” Reid said.
    “And his latest trick, he said yesterday that he opposed repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ a proposal that would be a great stride forward for both equality and military readiness … because of the economy,” Reid added. “I repeat, the senior senator from Arizona said he couldn’t support repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ because of the economy. “I have no idea what he’s talking about and no one else does either,” Reid said.
    McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan responded in an e-mail: “Perhaps someone should inform the majority leader the election is over.”… – Politico, 12-4-10
  • A Surprise Visit to the Troops in Afghanistan: Remarks by the President to the Troops at Bagram Air Base:
    So on behalf of me, on behalf of Michelle, on behalf of Malia and Sasha, on behalf of more than 300 million Americans, we are here to say thank you. (Hooah!) We are here to say thank you for everything that you do.
    Now, I also want to say thank you to your families back home so that when you talk to them you know that they know. (Applause.) They’re serving here with you — in mind and spirit, if not in body.
    Millions of Americans give thanks this holiday season just as generations have before when they think about our armed services. You’re part of an unbroken line of Americans who have given up your comfort, your ease, your convenience for America’s security. — WH, 12-3-10Remarks
  • Text: Obama’s Remarks at Bagram Air Force Base: Following is the transcript of President Obama’s remarks to troops at Bagram Air Force Base on Friday, as released by the White House…. – NYT, 12-3-10
  • ‘Don’t ask’ repeal could hurt war effort, generals warn: “I cannot reconcile, nor turn my back, on the negative perceptions held by our Marines who are most engaged in the hard work of day-to-day operations in Afghanistan,” Marine commandant Gen. James Amos said, citing a Pentagon survey that found 58 percent of Marines and 48 percent of Army respondents think lifting the ban would have negative consequences. “Successfully integrating gays and lesbians into small Marine combat units has strong potential for disruption and will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat,” Amos said.
    Gen. George W. Casey, the chief of staff of the Army, and Gen. Norman Schwarz, Air Force chief of staff, agreed. “Implementation of the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ would be a major cultural and policy change in the middle of a war,” Casey said. “It would be implemented by a force and leaders that are already stretched by the cumulative impacts of almost a decade at war.”
    Said Schwartz, “It is difficult for me, as a member of the Joint Chiefs, to recommend placing any additional discretionary demands on our leadership cadres in Afghanistan at this particularly challenging time.” He recommended that any change not take effect until 2012.
    “I will not agree to have this bill go forward, and neither will, I believe, 41 of my colleagues, either, because our economy is in the tank,” said Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee and the leading opponent of an immediate repeal. “Our economy is in the tank, and the American people want that issue addressed. … So to somehow believe that this is some kind of compelling issue at a time we’re in two wars … is obviously not something that we shouldn’t be exercising a rush to judgment.”
    Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said he wonders if service members will ever be ready to accept openly gay colleagues. “I can’t imagine that that situation is going to be that different in 2012 for that Marine lieutenant or in 2013,” Wicker said. “I wonder if 2012 or 2013 is going to make that lieutenant or that type of lieutenant feel better about it.”
    Of special concern, said Adm. Gary Roughhead, the chief of naval operations, were the 24 percent of sailors who told Pentagon surveyors they were worried about sleeping and showering facilities aboard ships and submarines. “I believe these concerns can be effectively mitigated through leadership, effective communications, training and education, and clear and concise standards of conduct,” he said….. – Miami Herald, 12-3-10
  • Palin Accuses Media of Double Standard in Playing Up Korean Gaffe: Even on Thanksgiving Day, Sarah Palin found time to lash out at her political foes — in this case the media for blowing out of proportion her gaffe on the Korean crisis. In a Facebook posting, the combative Palin addressed a Thanksgiving message to “57 states” — mocking a mistake President Obama made in his 2008 campaign as a way of arguing that the news uses a double standard. “If you can’t remember hearing about them [Obama slip-ups), that’s because for the most part the media didn’t consider them newsworthy,” she wrote, according to ABC News. “I have no complaint about that. Everybody makes the occasional verbal gaffe — even news anchors.” Palin drew ridicule earlier this week when she said in a radio interview with Glenn Beck, “We gotta stand with our North Korean allies” during a discussion about the deadly attack by the North on a South Korean island. Beck quickly corrected her and she replied, “We’re bound by prudence to stand with our South Korean allies, yes.” Roughly 24 hours after reports of the incident, Palin was criticizing the Obama team’s response to the attack. “We’re not having a lot of faith that the White House is going to come out with a strong enough policy to sanction what it is that North Korea is going to do.” Of the media reports that followed her little mix-up, she said, “Obviously, I would have been even more impressed if the media showed some consistency on this issue. Unfortunately, it seems they couldn’t resist the temptation to turn a simple one word slip-of-the-tongue of mine into a major political headline.” And for her part, Palin couldn’t resist firing back…. – Politics Daily, 11-30-10
  • CNN Regrets Not Asking John McCain A Follow-Up Question: So, over the weekend, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) went on CNN’s “State Of The Union”, where he talked about the need for “regime change” in North Korea. John McCain is always doing things like this! During the 2008 campaign, he wanted to bomb Iran, liberate the teensy region of South Ossetia from the Russians, and was even angry at Spain for some reason. And one often wonders, “Where, exactly, are we going to get the troops and/or money to do these things? Or is the hope that somehow, the Green Lantern Corps will kit out McCain with a power ring?”
    In the case of North Korea, if you dial back the interview, you’ll see that in this instance, McCain puts the onus for changing the regime in Pyongyang on China. “They could bring the North Korean economy to its knees if they wanted to,” said McCain, who went on to muse, “And I cannot believe that the Chinese should, in a mature fashion, not find it in their interest to restrain North Korea. So far, they are not.”
    But if not China, where does this leave this dream of regime change in North Korea? As you might expect, CNN had to “leave it there.” And that sets up my favorite read out of the CNN-McCain tete-a-tete, courtesy of Evan McMorris- Santoro:
    Though [State Of The Union host Candy] Crowley moved the interview ahead to Afghanistan shortly after McCain’s “regime change” comments, in a CNN post-mortem webcast after the show she and State Of The Union producer Tom Bettag seemed to scratch their heads over just what it was McCain meant when he said “regime change” during the show.
    “That’s why you always want an hour and half with these guys,” Crowley said. “‘Cuz you want to say, ‘And, so, how would we go about doing that?'”…. – Huff Post, 11-29-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

President Obama and General Colin Powell

White House Photo, Pete Souza, 12/1/10
  • Melissa Harris-Perry: The Misunderestimation of Sarah Palin: ….Whatever her failings, Palin has successfully harnessed new media forms to engage and direct emotional reactions in ways that are surprisingly effective. Using Twitter, Facebook, corporate-news punditry, readable memoirs and reality television, Palin has managed to subvert traditional media. Rather than pay for advertising, she is getting paid to advertise her politics. Rather than wait for kingmakers to declare her a contender, she smirks while predicting her victories. Her reality show is a pinnacle of this new media-saturation strategy. The show’s producer, Mark Burnett of Survivor and The Apprentice, pioneered the infiltration of reality shows into network lineups. His ingenious use of product integration exploded the profitability and desirability of reality television. While highbrow critics mocked the lame, melodramatic obviousness of reality TV, the genre revolutionized American entertainment. Sarah Palin’s Alaska is the ultimate test of this form. Will product placement of a candidate prove to be the flattest, fastest, newest route to the American presidency?… – The Nation, 12-13-10
  • Ed Rollins: Palin, I knew Reagan. You’re no Reagan: And speaking of Obama and the election two years from now, Sarah Palin now says she thinks she can beat him.
    Maybe she can, but 2012 is a long way off, and there is a nominating process that is intense — and it takes more than selling a few hundred books in Iowa to win it. Several other serious political players think they can beat her and will wage full-scale political war against her if she tries. On November 4, I wrote a column under the headline: “Don’t underestimate Palin for 2012 run” (I write the columns, not the headlines). It was not a pro- or anti-Palin article but an analysis of the potential candidates for the Republican nomination in 2012. If I were to title this one, it would be “Sarah, don’t overestimate your chances!” And quit comparing yourself to Ronald Reagan. To paraphrase the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen’s comments to Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice presidential debate: I knew Ronald Reagan, and you’re no Ronald Reagan…. – CNN, 12-1-10

JBuzz: Hanukkah Special, Party at the Obama White House

JBuzz

http://jbuzz.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/jbuzzheader.jpg?w=500

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

Menorah Lighting

Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

HANUKKAH 2010

IN FOCUS

  • The first night of Chanukah at the National Menorah Washington, DCLubavitch.com
  • The Festival of Lights: Hanukkah Stories From Across the Nation – PBS Newshour, 12-3-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House hosts Hanukkah party: President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted a party Thursday marking the second day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Obama offered condolences to those who have died in a forest fire in northern Israel before recounting the story of the Maccabees fighting in the Temple in Jersualem watching a day’s worth of oil burn for eight.
    “That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair,” Obama said. “As the Talmud teaches us, so long as a person has life, he should not abandon faith.”
    Among those attending was Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, who replied, “we’re still talking,” when asked about the status of tax-cut legislation. When asked what night of Hanukkah a deal would be reached, Lew replied: “Aren’t we lucky to have a whole week?”
    The party featured a menorah from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, which was found caked in dirt and mold after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Obama said. Its candles were lit by Susan Retik, whose husband died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and her family…. – Politico, 12-3-10
  • President Obama’s Hanukkah Celebration: The President and First Lady hosted a little gathering Thursday night in the East Room to celebrate Hanukkah. Included on the list of 500 guests, one-third of the Supreme Court justices- Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan. Several Jewish members of Congress and other elected officials and members of the military were there too. The menorah for the event was loaned to the White House by New Orleans’s Congregation Beth Israel. It was one of very few items to survive Hurricane Katrina. It was found by cleanup crews in horrible condition but was restored and re-lit for the first time three years ago…. – CNN, 12-3-10
  • Menorah retrieved from Hurricane Katrina muck in Lakeview is part of White House Hanukkah celebration: Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of Jewish survival, and on Thursday, President Barack Obama and some 500 notables, mostly Jewish, celebrated the second of the holiday’s eight nights by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview after Hurricane Katrina.
    Describing the Hanukkah candles as tiny reminders of “the importance of faith and perseverance,” the president told the festive assemblage in the East Room that “the menorah we’re using tonight, and the family who is going to help us light it, both stand as powerful symbols of that faith.” “This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans,” Obama said. “Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.”… – The candles were lit by Susan Retik and her family…. – Times-Picayune, 12-2-10
  • White House Hanukkah ceremony features menorah salvaged from Lakeview: President Barack Obama and dozens of guests tonight will celebrate the second night of Hanukkah by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview. But for a few bits of ornamental silver that once decorated its ruined Torahs, the blackened menorah was the only sacred object in ritual use the congregation was able to save, said Rabbi Uri Topolosky, who will attend the ceremony with his wife, Dahlia.
    At Beth Israel, the restored menorah has become precious — the sign of their own ordeal and recovery, Topolosky said. The congregation also saved a display menorah, now at the Presbytere, Topolosky said. But the 53-year-old restored menorah at the White House — technically, it is a nine-branched “hanukiah” — is the one the congregation uses to commemorate ancient Jews’ recovery and reconsecration of their temple in Jerusalem…. – NOLA, 12-2-10
  • Gov. Schwarzenegger Joins Chanukah Celebration at Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and local leaders of the Jewish community today joined Chabad of Sacramento to celebrate Chanukah at the 17th Annual Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony.
    “The message of Chanukah is ‘light’ and is about optimism and hope, even in the face of darkness and crisis. That is especially meaningful to me because I am a big believer in the spirit of optimism and hope,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “We all know there is darkness in the world, especially in these challenging times, but one tiny candle can light a room, and one act of kindness can change a life. It is so important that we reach out and help each other through these tough times.”
    This year, guests at the Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony participated in a “reverse toy drive.” The Governor joined West Coast Chabad Director Rabbi Shlomo Cunin in passing the gifts out for the toy drive during today’s ceremony. Chabad has asked guests of the ceremony to present these gifts to children in need…. – Lubavitch, 12-3-10

QUOTES

  • President Obama Hosts A Hanukkah Celebration at the White House: Remarks by the President at a Hanukkah Reception:
    Now, tonight, we gather to celebrate a story as simple as it is timeless. It’s a story of ancient Israel, suffering under the yoke of empire, where Jews were forbidden to practice their religion openly, and the Holy Temple — including the holy of holies — had been desecrated.
    It was then that a small band of believers, led by Judah Maccabee, rose up to take back their city and free their people. And when the Maccabees entered the temple, the oil that should have lasted for a single night ended up burning for eight.
    That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair. And in the 2,000 years since, in every corner of the world, the tiny candles of Hanukkah have reminded us of the importance of faith and perseverance. They have illuminated a path for us when the way forward was shrouded in darkness.
    And as we prepare to light another candle on the menorah, let us remember the sacrifices that others have made so that we may all be free. Let us pray for the members of our military who guard that freedom every day, and who may be spending this holiday far away from home.
    Let us also think of those for whom these candles represent not just a triumph of the past, but also hope for the future — the men, women and children of all faiths who still suffer under tyranny and oppression.
    That’s why families everywhere are taught to place the menorah in public view, so the entire world can see its light. Because, as the Talmud teaches us, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”
    This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans. Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.
    And that feeling is shared by Susan Retik. It’s a feeling they know all too well. After her husband, David, was killed on September 11th, Susan could have easily lost herself in feelings of hopelessness and grief. But instead, she turned her personal loss into a humanitarian mission — co-founding “Beyond the 11th,” a group that reaches out to Afghan widows facing their own struggles.
    So on this second night of Hanukkah, let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy. Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible.” –
    WH, 12-2-10WH, 12-2-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: This Hanukka let’s celebrate Liberalism and Zionism: Let’s face it. Although Hanukka’s basic plot has not changed for 2,000 years, the Hanukka we know and love is a twentieth-century invention. Hanukka’s themes of heroism and power, both physical and spiritual, were Zionist ideas; traditionally, the Rabbis thanked God for the eight-day oil miracle. When the Zionist revolution reevaluated Judaism a century ago, the Maccabees’ story proved that Jewish history was not just about anti-Semites oppressing us and rabbis teaching us but our own warriors defending us. The Maccabees were hometown heroes, rooted in Israel’s ancient soil, willing to fight, if necessary, for their homeland, their beliefs, their freedom. At the same time, our festival of lights became our popular response to the seasonal malady of Christmas envy. Boasting eight nights, meaning eight gift-giving opportunities, Hanukka helped Jews trump their Christian neighbors.
    Considering that pedigree, this Hanukka we should celebrate the happy marriage of liberalism and Zionism. We can fight the trendy claim that liberalism and Zionism are increasingly incompatible without doing violence to the Maccabean story. Emphasizing a liberal-Zionist rift, in a world fighting the dark clouds of Islamic totalitarianism, ignores the shared enlightenment past of both Zionism and liberalism, as well as the light liberal Zionism can generate today….
    There is yet another added bonus that can result from rededicating our commitment to both liberalism and Zionism this Hanukka. Both modern liberalism and modern Zionism struggle with the tension between materialism and altruism, the selfishness of the “I” and the self-sacrifice of the “us,” the desire to take and the need to give. As Hanukka, like its seasonal partner Christmas, has degenerated into what the historian Daniel Boorstin called “festivals of consumption,” the question “what did you get” has eclipsed the more important holiday questions “what does this mean?” and “did you grow?”
    Traditionally, during Hanukka Jewish communities rededicated themselves to Jewish education. In that spirit, parents gave children “gelt” or coins to sweeten the experience of Torah study. In the early 1900s, many Jews used Hanukka as an opportunity to donate the modern equivalent of the “shekel,” the Biblical coin representing the power of responsibility, the importance of being counted, to the Zionist cause. This Hanukka let’s remember the best of both the liberal and Zionist traditions. This Hanukka, let’s look for opportunities to give not just get. This Hanukka, by doing that, we can redeem not just these two noble movements, but ourselves. – Jerusalem Post, 12-3-10
  • HOWARD JACOBSON: Hanukkah, Rekindled: TONIGHT, Hanukkah begins. The word — Hanukkah — is lovely, but what’s the festival itself for? What does it do? But Hanukkah?
    Everyone knows the bare bones of the story. At Hanukkah we celebrate the Maccabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, who defeated the might of the Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C., recapturing the desecrated Temple and reconsecrating it with oil that ought to have run out in a day but lasted eight. Indeed, Hanukkah means “consecration,” and when we light those candles we are remembering the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
    But how many Jews truly feel this narrative as their own? I’m not asking for contemporary relevance. History is history: whatever happens to a people is important to them. But Hanukkah — at least the way it’s told — struggles to find a path to Jewish hearts.
    Those Hasmoneans, for example …. The Maccabees are fair enough: they sound Jewish. Scottish Jewish but still Jewish. There was a sports and social club called the Maccabi round the corner from where I was brought up in North Manchester, and as a boy I imagined the Maccabees as stocky, short-legged, hairy men like the all-conquering Maccabi table tennis team. But “Hasmoneans” rang and rings no bells.
    Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Hanukkah doesn’t draw on events described in the Hebrew Bible. The Book of Maccabees, from which the story comes, is in the Apocrypha, the non-canonical, more esoteric books of sacred scripture. There’s a reason it never made it out of there: I won’t say it’s spurious, but it doesn’t quite feel authentic…. – NYT, 12-1-10
  • Latke vs. Hamantaschen: An Age-Old Debate: It’s a debate that’s spanned the centuries – at least about half of one – and brought professors, writers and philosophers to the table to argue their cases on one of the most essential questions in modern scholarly discourse. Which one is better: the latke or the hamantaschen?
    The famed latke-hamantash debate first launched at the University of Chicago in 1946, and since then it’s been argued at such esteemed academic institutions as Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins. First conceived as a way to shore up a sense of Jewish community, nowadays the debate is as a way for scholars to blow off some steam, poke fun at academia and support their favorite potato- or flour-based foodstuff…. – Patch.com, 12-3-10
  • Hanukkah in public spaces: Although many people have come to identify public menorahs with Hanukkah itself, a recently published book argues that the holiday’s celebration today has been largely defined by just one slice of the Jewish population.
    “Whatever people associate with Hanukkah in the public space is Chabad,” says Maya Balakirsky Katz, associate professor of art history at Touro College in New York and author of The Visual Culture of Chabad. “In the last few decades, Chabad has provided the public image of Hanukkah in America, possibly in the world.” According to Katz, many Jews balk at Chabad’s conspicuous display of religion in the diaspora and consider it “embarrassing, if not also dangerous.” “They pushed religion into the public space and presented it as the Jewish image,” Katz says. “Before Jews even had a chance to react, it became the Jewish holiday image. I think the only people really invested in challenging Chabad’s right to light are other Jews.”
    “Chabad emissaries take comparisons between their giant menorahs and Christmas trees in stride,” Katz says. “Comparisons between their menorahs and the Israeli national symbol make them more nervous.” Katz’s book devotes an entire chapter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s decision to promote menorahs with diagonal branches in sharp contrast to the arced, half-moon branches of the menorah on the Israeli national emblem. The Rebbe claimed his inspiration was an argument by the medieval theologian and physician Maimonides that the original Temple menorah had diagonal branches.
    “For Houston Jews and Jews everywhere, I think the Rebbe initiated a rebirth to diasporist culture; you can proudly be a diaspora Jew and have a whole other material culture that’s not only connected to Israel,” Katz says. “That is definitely going to be part of his legacy. He gave birth to a very proud religious diaspora material culture.”
    Whereas Katz’s book addresses Chabad’s appropriation of Hanukkah as a means to forge an American-Jewish religious material culture, Zaklikofsky focuses on the mitzvah, commandment, of lighting the menorah as a testimony to what he considers a historically documented miracle…. – Houston Chronicle, 12-2-10
  • Southern Jews Put Their Spin On Soul Food: The eight-day Jewish holiday of Hannukah began earlier this week and with it comes culinary traditions of the season. A new book describes how Jews in the American south have blended traditional Jewish fare enjoyed around the holidays with southern cuisine. Host Michel Martin speaks with Marci Cohen Ferris, author of “Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South”…. – NPR, 12-3-10 Download MP3
  • Dianne Ashton: American Hanukkah Traditions Focus on Children: Newswise — Hanukkah isn’t a hugely important holiday on the Jewish calendar, but modern day celebrations of the Festival of Lights do work to get today’s children–and adults–excited about Judaism, according to Dianne Ashton, a professor of religion studies at Rowan University. Author of a book on Hanukkah in America to be released next year by New York University Press, Ashton says two Cincinnati rabbis led a movement to “Americanize” Judaism in the 1860s. That movement included promoting the idea of a fun holiday festival for Jewish children.
    “One of the rabbis said Jewish children shall have a grand and glorious Hanukkah, a festival as nice as any Christmas, with songs, dramatics, candle lighting, ice cream and candy,” says Ashton, whose book examines Hanukkah from 1860-2000. “This really shifted Hanukkah from primarily an observance of Jewish adults to a festival seen as particularly important for Jewish children, a way to keep them interested in Judaism.”… – Newswise, 11-30-10
  • Rethinking the “Jewish Christmas”: Hanuka is back! Perhaps some wonder when it ever was gone. According to Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and professor of history at George Washington University, “Well into the 1880s, Chanukah fared poorly in America, a victim of neglect.” She quotes the despairing voices of 19th century American rabbis, in an article for Reform Judaism magazine (Winter 2008): “‘The customary candles disappear more and more from Jewish homes,’ lamented Rabbi Gustav Gottheil in 1884. ‘Kindle the Chanukah lights anew, modern Israelite!’ declared Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler just a few years later. ‘Make the festival more than ever before radiant with the brightness and beauty of love and charity.’” Instead of kindling Hanuka candles, Americans “were adorning their homes with greenery and parlor illuminations and eagerly exchanging gifts in the spirit of Christmas. The purchase of Christmas gifts, commented the Jewish Daily Forward in 1904, ‘is one of the first things that proves one is no longer a greenhorn,’” the Jewish studies professor writes….
    The historian continues her survey of the festival’s rise, noting that in the 1950s, “American Jews no longer had to dread the ‘cruel month’ of December. Chanukah’s accoutrements had grown to include paper decorations, greeting cards, napkins, wrapping paper, ribbons, and phonograph records. And in the years following World War II, the outside world increasingly freighted Chanukah with the same cultural and social significance as Christmas, yoking the two together in demonstration of America’s ‘cultural oneness.’ Public school educators in particular convened a ‘holiday assembly’ on a ‘compromise date’ in December in which a Christmas tree and a ‘Menorah candle’ as well as the singing of Chanukah hymns and Christmas carols figured prominently.”… – American Jewish World, 11-26-10
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