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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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


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


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


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

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

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


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


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

Memorial Day 2010: Obama & It’s Origins


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

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

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


Vice President Biden Speaks in  Arlington

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

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

Top Young Historians: 105 – Charlotte Brooks, 38


Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

105: Charlotte Brooks, 5-31-10

Basic Facts

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

Personal Anecdote

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

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

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

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


By Charlotte Brooks

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

Asian Americans, Housing, and the Transformation of Urban California

About Charlotte Brooks

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

Posted on Sunday, May 30, 2010 at 8:45 AM

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