History Buzz, November 15, 22, 2010: Debating Stephen Douglas’s Legacy at Eastern Illionis University

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. Her blog is History Musings

IN FOCUS: DEBATING STEPHEN DOUGLAS’S LEGACY

  • Douglas Hall name sparks debate: Eastern Illionis University students gathered in the Doudna Fine Arts Center to listen to a panel of faculty debate whether Douglas Hall should be renamed. The panel consisted of English professors, Christopher Hanlon and Michael Loudon, and history professors, Martin Hardeman and Mark Hubbard. The panel was moderated by Janice Collins, a journalism professor. The debate began with opening statements from each panelist, followed by questions…. – Den News, 11-2-10
  • Campus undecided over renaming hall: On September 18, 1858, Illinois Senators Abraham Lincoln and Stephan A. Douglas participated in their fourth debate together in Charleston, Ill. where the Coles County Fairgrounds are today. In order to commemorate the event, the university later named two residence halls after the senators, Lincoln Hall and Douglas Hall. Now, English professor Christopher Hanlon has started a debate about the idea of renaming Douglas Hall to Douglass Hall, after Frederick Douglass. Hanlon’s reasoning sets within the legislation Douglas publicly endorsed- he ran on a platform that would extend slavery into the west. When this issue came up, questions came up across campus. Is this building commemorating the debate that took place or the individual man, Stephan A. Douglas, who advocated for the extension of slavery? On Nov. 1, a debate took place that focused on the man- Stephen A. Douglas. Hanlon and Michael Loudon were opposed to Douglas while Mark Hubbard and Martin Hardemon were unopposed…. – Den News, 11-11-10
  • Allen C. Guelzo: The Douglas Debate–No Lincoln This Time: What’s in a name? A great deal, if it happens to be Stephen A. Douglas. A hundred and fifty years ago, Stephen Arnold Douglas was the most powerful politician in America. He had begun his political career as a hyper-loyal Andrew Jackson Democrat, snatched up one of Illinois’ U.S. Senate seats in 1846, and rose from there to the heights of Congressional stardom by helping the great Henry Clay cobble together the Compromise of 1850 – which effectively averted civil war over the expansion of slavery into the West for another decade. No man was a more obvious presidential candidate than Douglas, and in 1860, he won his party’s nomination to the presidency. That, unhappily for Douglas, was when the cheering stopped. Still, Douglas’s name was revered by Illinois Democrats for a generation afterward…. Douglas Hall, a 200-bed residence hall built in the 1950s [at Eastern Illinois University], may have been the most innocuous of all the memorializations of Stephen A. Douglas. But not after November 9th…. – Minding the Campus (11-17-10)
  • The New Lincoln-Douglas Debate – Inside Higher Ed (11-16-10)
  • Column: Taking history seriously is important Christopher Hanlon/Associate Professor of American Literature: In a column published in yesterday’s Daily Eastern News, Mark Hubbard accuses supporters of re-naming Douglas Hall of attempting to “prettify history.” He claims that it “distorts history” to “vilify” Stephen Douglas, whose legislation made slavery legal where it had not been since 1820, and whose public remarks seethed contempt for African Americans. But in fact, those of Douglass’ own era were harsh in their assessment of his contributions. The New York Tribune called out Douglas for being “on his marrow bones at the feet of slavery” after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, while Senator Salmon Chase of Ohio criticized Douglas for having served “Slavery that again wants more room … Slavery with its insatiate demand for more slave territory and more slave States.”… – Den News, 11-17-10
  • Staff Editorial: Douglas Hall more than just a name: On September 18, 1858, Illinois Senators Abraham Lincoln and Stephan A. Douglas participated in their fourth debate together in Charleston, where the Coles County Fairgrounds are today. In order to commemorate the event, the university later named two residence halls after the senators, Lincoln Hall and Douglas Hall. Professor Christopher Hanlon has worked this semester to try and change the name of Douglas Hall. Early proposals suggested the university rename the building after Frederick Douglass, a former slave who worked to abolish slavery. Recently, Hanlon has proposed to change the name to Douglass, but is willing for it to be another person. The Daily Eastern News editorial board does not support changing the name of Douglas Hall in any form. Three residence halls, Lincoln and Douglas, are named after the two prominent figures in the debates over slavery. Though these debates took place in many different cities in Illinois, one of the debates was here in Charleston, extending some historical significance to this town. The debate of whether to change the name stems from some of Douglas’ role in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, helping to enact the Fugitive Slave Law that criminalized the work of the Underground Railroad and the claim he was a white supremacist…. – Den News, 11-17-10
  • Allen C. Guelzo, a prominent Lincoln scholar, is William Garwood Visiting Professor of Politics at Princeton.
    Douglas’s entire policy toward race and slavery arose from an even more toxic assumption, which Douglas deified as the principle of “popular sovereignty.” In Douglas’s dictionary, democracy is an end in itself, and democratic process amounts entirely to consulting what a majority of the people want at any given time. If the voters wanted to legalize slavery, so be it; if not, that was up to them, too, so long as they did not attempt to force this conviction on others. “The principle of self-government is, that each community shall settle this question for itself… and we have no right to complain, either in the North or the South, whichever they do.” Douglas liked to speak of this as an example of what he called “diversity;” but in the context of the crisis over slavery in the 1850s, what it meant in practical terms was that “If Kansas wants a slave-State constitution she has a right to it…. I do not care whether it is voted down or voted up.”
  • Christopher Hanlon, an associate professor of American literature, the 19th century
    Stephen Douglas gave voice to a contemptuous view of African Americans, a view that has long since been recognized as incompatible with modern American democracy. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, which Douglas introduced into the Senate in 1854 and which was passed principally with the support of Southern votes that year, effectively annulled the 1820 Missouri Compromise, which had stipulated that slavery would be prohibited north of the 36°30′ parallel of the United States…. The conflagration in Kansas, indeed, was one of the most decisive events in U.S. history, propelling the nation toward its eventual division in 1861…. The fact is that Stephen Douglas inveighed and legislated tirelessly on behalf of the interests of slavery. Unlike with Lincoln or Jefferson or Washington, there’s little on the record to complicate that.”
  • Martin Hardeman, an associate professor of history who studies the 19th century and African-American history
    The Faculty Senate resolution is “a presentist idea in that it is imposing values of the present on views from the past…. Douglas was very much a man of his time, what we would consider a white supremacist. He was neither for nor against slavery. He was very much for the Union after losing the election.”
  • Thomas D. Russell, a professor of legal history at the University of Denver whose research led the University of Texas at Austin
    However wrongheaded we think he was today, he was acting within the confines of the common law, of the Constitution at the time. Scouring the past for people who took the wrong positions is not fruitful.
  • Jonathan Coit, an assistant professor of history, the 20th century
    “I look at this through the lens of historiography about slavery, and the war and Reconstruction.”… Naming a hall for Douglas “tells us the story of the Civil War as it was understood in the 1950s, that it was about states’ rights, and that the Civil War was a tragic struggle, a brothers’ war.” “The pairing of Lincoln and Douglas to stand for the entirety of the debate on slavery draws from that narrative.”

THANKSGIVING

  • Hot Topics: Thanksgiving
  • Jerry Plantz: Thanksgiving story omits much history: Thanksgiving Day, four centuries later. We have been taught the myth since grade school that our first settlers were those 53 surviving settlers, of which 32 were Pilgrims, who landed at Plymouth, Mass., in 1620. They first celebrated Thanksgiving sometime in early autumn, 1621. Actually, they were celebrating a successful harvest with Native America King Massasoit of the Wampanoags.
    The Plymouth entourage was not the first white American settlers. That distinction belongs to those first pathfinders sent by the London Company to Jamestown, Va., in 1607. Further, renowned historian James W. Loewen reminds us in his writings, “Starting the story of America’s settlement with the Pilgrims leaves out not only American Indians but also the Spanish. The first non-Native settlers in the United States were African slaves left in South Carolina in 1526 by Spaniards who abandoned a settlement attempt. …. Few Americans know that one-third of the United States, from San Francisco to Arkansas to Natchez to Florida, has been Spanish longer than it has been “America.”…. – Examiner, 11-20-10
  • Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims: Coming inside from the chilling wind and stepping toward the fire provides welcome warmth, yet the thick smoke in the air compels one to move toward the open door and window for relief. Making a choice between these two conditions, combined with a dirt floor and no real place of comfort to sit down begs the question of how anyone could have lived this way. This was part of an experience from one of the best trips ever taken one November a few years ago. It was where visitors can learn about one of the first permanent settlements in the New World by walking through the primitive streets and homes while observing the inhabitants in the course of their daily lives. Where can you also explore the vessel that brought these people across the Atlantic almost 400 years ago and visit a nearby Native homesite? This place is Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts and the site of the “First Thanksgiving.”… – Observer, NY, 11-21-10
  • Plimoth Plantation helps reveal “The Real Story of Thanksgiving”: From the truth about the first Thanksgiving to the history behind Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the History Channel and Workaholic Productions had their hands full with creating “The Real Story of Thanksgiving,” which premiered Thursday night at Plimoth Plantation. The show, which will air on the History Channel next Monday at 9 p.m., is one of three episodes dedicated to revealing the truth about the holidays. Workaholic Productions also produced “The Real Story of Halloween” last month, and will air “The Real Story of Christmas” on Nov. 29, also on the History Channel…. – Boston Globe, 11-19-10

HISTORY NEWS:

  • Dispute Over Dead Sea Scrolls Leads to a Jail Sentence: A man convicted of impersonating a New York University scholar in a debate over the Dead Sea Scrolls was sentenced on Thursday to six months in jail and five years’ probation. The man, Raphael Haim Golb, was taken from a courtroom in State Supreme Court in Manhattan in handcuffs, after which one of his lawyers headed to the appellate division to ask that he be allowed to remain free pending appeal. Mr. Golb, 50, a real estate lawyer, was convicted in September on 30 of 31 counts, including identity theft, criminal impersonation and aggravated harassment. Mr. Golb’s father, Norman, is a prominent University of Chicago professor who studies the Dead Sea Scrolls…. – NYT (11-18-10)
  • Historian Michael Bliss advises end universality in Canadian health care…National Post (11-18-10)
  • Igor Pykhalov: Pro-Stalin historian attacked in Russia: ‘Igor Pykhalov was beaten on Thursday night near his house by two people aged about 30 and of Caucasian appearance,’ a police representative from the southeastern Nevsky district of Russia’s second largest city told AFP…. Straits Times (11-13-10)
  • Environmental historian William Cronon elected president of American Historical Association: Historians around the country recently elected a University of Wisconsin professor as president of the American Historical Association, UW officials announced Friday… Cronon said he will serve as president-elect in 2011 before assuming his position as president in 2012… – Badger Herald (11-14-10)
  • Duke historian Peter Sigal draws fire for provocative Facebook photo: A history professor at Duke University has attracted criticism from bloggers for posting a picture of engaged in BDSM activity on his Facebook profile. The photograph of Peter Sigal, a historian of sexuality and Latin America at Duke University, was published on K.C. Johnson’s blog Durham-in-Wonderland. Dr. Sigal is shown to be choking and whipping a kneeling, bound-and-gagged young man. Dr. Sigal co-hosted an “informal gathering” with Joelyn Olcott and Sally Deutsch on historicizing the Karen Owen affair. Ms. Owen is the Duke student who crafted a faux thesis on her sex life with a number of student-athletes…. – HNN Staff (11-16-10)
  • Controversy continues over WWII Hawaii conference: Penelope Blake, a history professor at Rock Valley College in Rockford, IL, appeared on Fox News’s Hannityon November 11 to discuss her outrage over a National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored workshop on the Pacific War she attended in July. She came away from the workshop, hosted by the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, disgusted by what she called an “extremist, agenda-driven, revisionist conference,” and wrote a letter to her congressman, Illinois Republican Donald Manzullo, and NEH chairman Jim Leach in late October calling for a comprehensive review of NEH policy. She subsequently released the letter to the conservative blog Powerline, which called for an investigation on November 1…. – HNN Staff (11-14-10)
  • At University of Tampa, never a tenured African-American: History and geography professor George F. Botjer, 73, is white, and he is committed to racial justice. These two factors shaped the professor’s career in a personal way at the University of Tampa. He has taught at UT since 1962, longer than any other professor. He earned tenure during the 1965-66 school year and was promoted to full professor in 1974. He loves his work and Tampa U, as he refers to it…. – St. Petersburg Times (11-8-10)
  • ‘Jewish assets seized by Nazis funded 30 percent of WWII expenses,’ estimates historian: Historians have uncovered evidence leading to the estimation that the Nazis’ wartime confiscation of wealth from Europe’s Jews financed about 30 percent of the expenditure of the German armed forces during WWII. The official study of the German Finance Ministry under the Nazis from 1933 to 1945 was conducted by historian Hans- Peter Ullmann. Last month a similar study of the German Foreign Ministry under the Nazis established that its diplomats and bureaucrats played a key role in the Holocaust…. – Haaretz (11-8-10)
  • ‘I was wrong,’ admits historian over claims of Malaya massacre: A public inquiry into one of Britain’s darkest postwar military incidents, the alleged massacre of 24 unarmed villagers by UK troops in Malaya, has moved a step closer after the official British historian of the “Malayan emergency” last week withdrew his account of the 1948 incident. Professor Anthony Short said his initial report absolving British troops was “wrong”. The plantation workers were shot by a 16-man patrol of the Scots Guards. Many of the victims’ bodies were reported to have been mutilated, and the village of Batang Kali was burned to the ground…. – Guardian (UK) (11-7-10)
  • Ripping the USA: Revising History Dismally: It happened in July. A group of 25 selected professor historians met in Hawaii at a workshop sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). They were to present and hear scholarly papers on the history of these United States in World War II. It was to be a high-level intellectual rendering of that war receding now into history. It turned out to be a largely left-liberal diatribe about our nation’s sinful past. It was partisan as hell and, worst of all, an awkward attempt to rewrite history to make America out to be the world’s worst villain and all- around Bad Guy. Some speaker/presenters, presumably sticklers for historical accuracy, even made the USA out to be the moral equivalent of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Yes, you read that correctly. The workshop was at the East-West Center at University of Hawaii. Its title sounded noble enough, and honest — “History and Commemoration: The Legacies of the Pacific War.” Content, much of it at least, was neither noble nor honest, nor exclusively about the Pacific War. The scholars’ gathering became a platform for anti-American, anti-military rants by suspect historians who should have known better…. – American Thinker (11-6-10)

OP-EDs:

  • Eric Weinberger:” All the president’s books: In my two years working in the president’s office at Harvard, before I was laid off in spring, I gave myself the job of steward of her books. Gift books would arrive in the mail, or from campus visitors, or from her hosts when she traveled; books by Harvard professors were kept on display in reception or in storage at our Massachusetts Hall office; books flowed in from publishers, or authors seeking blurbs, or self-published authors of no reputation or achievement, who sometimes sent no more than loosely bound manuscripts…. – Boston Globe, 11-21-10
  • Niall Ferguson: In China’s Orbit: …Despite the painful interruption of the Great Depression, the U.S. suffered nothing so devastating as China’s wretched mid-20th century ordeal of revolution, civil war, Japanese invasion, more revolution, man-made famine and yet more (“cultural”) revolution. In 1968 the average American was 33 times richer than the average Chinese, using figures calculated on the basis of purchasing power parity (allowing for the different costs of living in the two countries). Calculated in current dollar terms, the differential at its peak was more like 70 to 1. This was the ultimate global imbalance, the result of centuries of economic and political divergence. How did it come about? And is it over?… – WSJ (11-18-10)
  • Victor Davis Hanson: The George W. Bush Fixation: Barack Obama remains fixated on George W. Bush. For nearly two years, President Obama and his team have prefaced their explanations for the tough economy, the tough finances, and the tough situation abroad with a “Bush did it” chorus. Apparently, they believed that most of our problems, here and abroad, either started with George W. Bush, or at least would not transcend him….
    Obama’s serial fixation on his predecessor made little sense when he first took office — and it has now become a disastrous misreading of political realities…. – National Review (11-18-10)
  • Damian Thompson: Oxford professor throws hissy fit over Ordinariate: From behind the Times paywall, the muffled sound of a High Table explosion. Quick, someone send for help! Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford, has suffered a devastating failure of scholarly objectivity. His face is getting redder and redder as he struggles to come to terms with… eeeek! … the Ordinariate!… – Telegraph (UK) (11-9-10)

REVIEWS & FIRST CHAPTERS:

  • Sarah Palin’s ‘America by Heart’ sure to stir friends – and enemies: Sarah Palin’s new book ‘America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag’ goes on sale Tuesday. It arrives as Palin ponders a run for the presidency, drawing criticism from the right…. – LAT, 11-21-10
  • Palin book lauds ‘Juno,’ snubs JFK: ‘America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag,’ due out Nov. 23, has been billed as a tribute to American values…. – LAT, 11-20-10
  • Mark Twain’s Autobiography Flying Off the Shelves: “Autobiography of Mark Twain” is a smash hit across the country. Now it is a smash hit across the country, landing on best-seller lists and going back to press six times, for a total print run — so far — of 275,000. The publisher cannot print copies quickly enough, leaving some bookstores and online retailers stranded without copies just as the holiday shopping season begins…. – NYT, 11-20-10Excerpt
  • Edmund Morris: Final Scenes From a Life of Bully Adventure: COLONEL ROOSEVELT Theodore Roosevelt lived for 60 hale, hearty, prodigiously adventurous years. Edmund Morris has devoted more than half that time to writing a magisterial three-volume Roosevelt biography. He began by writing a screenplay about the young Roosevelt’s cattle ranching years in the Dakota Territory. This led to the biography’s Pulitzer Prize- winning first volume, “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt,” in 1979. It took more than two decades for Mr. Morris to complete his installment about the Roosevelt presidency, “Theodore Rex,” which arrived in 2001. Now with “Colonel Roosevelt,” the magnum opus is complete. And it deserves to stand as the definitive study of its restless, mutable, ever-boyish, erudite and tirelessly energetic subject. Mr. Morris has addressed the toughest and most frustrating part of Roosevelt’s life with the same care and precision that he brought to the two earlier installments. And if this story of a lifetime is his own life’s work, he has reason to be immensely proud…. – NYT, 11-17-10
  • JOHN STEELE GORDON Reviewing H. W. Brands How Economic Brawn Transformed a Nation: AMERICAN COLOSSUS The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900 H. W. Brands tells this story of extraordinary economic transformation in his new book, “American Colossus.” Mr. Brands, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and one of the country’s foremost historians, has written first-rate biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson and both Presidents Roosevelt, as well as numerous other books on American history. In “American Colossus” he paints a broad picture, putting the growth of American economy firmly in the political and social context of the time. He has no ideological ax to grind, providing a rounded and largely fair portrait of the capitalists and the world they made. This is warts-and-all history, but the warts don’t get undue attention. Mr. Brands opens his account just after the Civil War, which had greatly fostered American industry with its unprecedented demands for guns, powder, railroad rails and rolling stock, blankets, uniforms and a thousand other industrial products. At the same time the huge increase in the national debt turned Wall Street from a minor player in world markets into the second largest financial market on the globe, after London’s. A booming industrial base and a rapidly expanding capital market on Wall Street provided the synergy that produced the colossus of the book’s title…. –
  • Mr. Clemens, in his own words: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN Volume 1 Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith
    Hard upon a fat dose of advance publicity – including a cover story in Newsweek and a front-page report in the New York Times – here at last is the first volume of the “Autobiography of Mark Twain,” published, as its author wished, a century after his death. The response in the press and elsewhere has mostly been genuflection and adulation, not surprising when one considers that this is a “new” book by one of the very few American writers whose greatness is beyond question. Still, our gratitude for this book should be tempered by an objective reading of it, which yields less rhapsodic judgments…. – WaPo, 11-21-10
  • Review: “Revival,” Richard Wolffe’s look inside Obama White House: REVIVAL The Struggle for Survival Inside the Obama White House If the word “revival” has been associated with anyone this year, it is the Republican Party, which has raised itself from the dead, or the tearful televangelist Glenn Beck, who led an old-fashioned camp meeting on the Mall in August. The president of the United States would not seem to have an especially strong claim. Which gives Richard Wolffe’s new book — or, at least, its title — a counterintuitive quality. In “Revival,” Wolffe, a cable news commentator and veteran journalist, zeroes in on the first few months of 2010, a brief but, he contends, “defining period” in which President Obama “was forced to reexamine himself and his team” and emerged wiser and stronger. Wolffe’s central piece of evidence is the improbable passage of health-care reform, thanks largely to the president’s constancy and grit. Progress in other areas — the economy, especially — was more incremental, as Wolffe recounts…. – WaPo, 11-21-10
  • Danielle L. McGuire: Black women’s cries that roused the world: AT THE DARK END OF THE STREET Black Women, Rape, and Resistance: A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power In the segregated American South, a white man could rape a black woman with little fear of legal or social recourse, and black women lived in a persistent state of apprehension. Rape was used as a weapon of terror in the subjugation of black women, their families and whole communities. In “At the Dark End of the Street,” Danielle L. McGuire writes that white men raped black women and girls “with alarming regularity and stunning uniformity,” with some victims as young as 7. While some readers will rightly be stunned by that assertion, many African American women will recognize a commonly acknowledged danger…. – WaPo, 11-21-10
  • What Obama and Palin have in common: Sarah Palin: AMERICA BY HEART Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag; Barack Obama: of thee i sing A Letter to My Daughters We’re a nation of shared hopes and shared heroes, so it’s no surprise that President Obama and Sarah Palin trot out the same American demigods in new books aimed at scoring points for patriotism.
    President Obama’s “Of Thee I Sing” is an illustrated work for children that the dad in chief wrote as a letter to his daughters. The book, released last week, offers brief flag-waving portraits of memorable Americans throughout history. Palin’s “America by Heart,” due out this week, is a fast-reading reiteration of the former Alaska governor’s folksy values, centered around God, gunpowder and family… – WaPo, 11-21-10
  • Gal Beckerman: Refuseniks’ rough road to Israel: WHEN THEY COME FOR US, WE’LL BE GONE The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry …In the years that followed, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the refuseniks left the U.S.S.R. and were forgotten. In “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone,” a fresh, surprising and exceedingly well-researched book, Gal Beckerman retells their story. Or rather, he retells two stories: that of the Soviet Jews who made their religion and their desire to emigrate to Israel into a protest movement, and that of the American Jews who championed their cause. Alternating chapters between Russia and the United States, Beckerman shows how the two groups developed in a strange symbiosis, even while knowing very little about each other…. – WaPo, 11-21-10
  • Rebellion in Boston Harbor Retracing the story of the Tea Party, the patriots’ act of defiance in 1773: Despite the rise of the Tea Party movement, no one can be sure whether it will remain a political force in the future. But its appropriation of the Boston Tea Party of December 1773 bears witness to the enduring symbolism of that iconic event in American history. No question that the Boston Tea Party was a trigger for the Revolution, writes Benjamin L. Carp in his sterling account of the event. But, argues Carp, a professor of history at Tufts University, it was not the spontaneous citizen uprising of historic myth. After the success of the Revolution, it vanished from public memory until well into the 19th century…. – Boston Globe, 11-21-10
  • Kicked out: How gold lust uprooted native Americans: Book review: “Driven West: Andrew Jackson’s Trail of Tears to the Civil War,” by A.J. Langguth. Simon & Schuster, $30.
    Following passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations (collectively known as The Five Civilized Tribes) were forcibly removed from their homelands east of the Mississippi to reservations in Indian territory in (present-day) Oklahoma. The whites have “more land than they can use,” a Cherokee boy protested. “What do they want to get ours for?” The answer was gold, which was discovered near Dahlonega, Ga., in 1829. And the insatiable hunger of speculators eager to be awarded farms (cultivated by Indians for generations) in a lottery…. – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11-21-10
  • Omar Ali: ‘In the Lion’s Mouth’ Rewrites Chapter of African-American History: The collapse of Reconstruction was not the end of African-American political activism in the South during the late 19th century as it is often portrayed – far from it, argues Dr. Omar Ali in his new book, “In the Lion’s Mouth: Black Populism in the New South, 1886-1900.” Black populism, an independent political movement of African-American farmers, sharecroppers and agrarian workers distinct from the white populist movement of the same period, was the largest black movement in the South until the rise of the modern civil rights movement, says the historian and associate professor in the UNCG African American Studies Program…. – Univ. of North Carolina Greensboro, 11-17-10
  • Timothy Garton Ash: Spheres of Influence: FACTS ARE SUBVERSIVE Political Writing From a Decade Without a Name Timothy Garton Ash specializes in what he calls (quoting George F. Kennan) the “history of the present.” He is a historian with the journalist’s urge to be there, and a journalist with the historian’s knowledge of where he is. These qualities have made him one of the most reliable and acute observers of the past present, able to report on events as a witness and, simultaneously, assess them with a coolness of judgment that almost always holds up over time…. – NYT, 11-14-10
  • Jon Meacham on A. J. Langguth: Original Sins: DRIVEN WEST Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears to the Civil War …And as a biographer of Andrew Jackson I had long struggled to reconcile his love of union with his fondness for states’ rights. So it was with quickened interest that I began A. J. Langguth’s “Driven West: Andrew Jackson and the Trail of Tears to the Civil War.” Langguth’s case, roughly put, is that the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Jackson’s breaking of Indian treaties and his support of the Southern states, especially Georgia, in resisting a Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the Cherokees were “salvos . . . fired in the nation’s first civil war” — a war that gave us the next, more cataclysmic one three decades later. But the horrors of the Trail of Tears did not take America from the 1830s to the horrors of the Civil War…. – NYT, 11-14-10Excerpt
  • Robert Coram: How a Little Man Became a Big, Big Marine in World War II and Beyond: BRUTE The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine The military historian Robert Coram captures General Krulak’s striding march across the Marine Corps, and across the American century, in “Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine.” It’s a work of popular military history that’s at times ragged and hectoring, but always plainspoken and absorbing…. – NYT, 11-14-10Excerpt
  • David Greenberg Reviews Aziz Rana: History Review Sweet land of liberty – and empire: THE TWO FACES OF AMERICAN FREEDOM This fundamental challenge of writing groundbreaking historical syntheses, I think, explains why, despite its commendable ambition, Aziz Rana’s “Two Faces of American Freedom” comes as something of a disappointment. An assistant professor of law at Cornell University, Rana has in his first book attempted a synthesis that follows in the footsteps of such scholarly heavyweights as Christopher Lasch (“The True and Only Heaven”), Michael Sandel (“Democracy’s Discontent”) and Robert Wiebe (“Self-Rule”), to name but a few – all of whom bemoaned America’s supposed slide from a Jeffersonian republic of self-sufficient farmers and workmen to a vast administrative state that allows citizens only token participation in national political decisions…. – WaPo, 11-14-10
  • Michael Kazin Reviews Philip Dray: History Review Labor’s lost love: THERE IS POWER IN A UNION The Epic Story of Labor in America In this book, Philip Dray seeks to use the past to help American unionists escape the substantial disdain of the present. His thick, engrossing narrative about close to 200 years of labor history is dedicated to the simple proposition that unions, while hardly without their flaws, did much to turn the United States into a more decent, more egalitarian society and might do so again, if they ever reverse a decline that began some four decades ago…. – WaPo, 11-14-10
  • UK media was wrong to condemn unions over Solidarnosc, says historian: The press – and 1980 Thatcher Government – unfairly criticised the trade union movement over its support for the newly formed Polish Solidarity Trade Union, according to the most detailed analysis of the period ever carried out. Professor Stefan Berger, from The University of Manchester, says an initial slowness to react gave way to strong political and practical support – often behind the scenes- for Lech Walesa’s fledgling union by his UK counterparts. The findings, a chapter in a new book published this month, emerge on the thirtieth anniversary of the tumultuous events which captivated the world in 1980…. – University of Manchester (11-8-10)

FEATURES:

  • Humanities scholars embrace digital technology: “The digital humanities do fantastic things,” said the eminent Princeton historian Anthony Grafton. “I’m a believer in quantification. But I don’t believe quantification can do everything. So much of humanistic scholarship is about interpretation.”…
    Digital humanities scholars also face a more practical test: What knowledge can they produce that their predecessors could not? “I call it the ‘Where’s the beef?’ question said Tom Scheinfeldt, managing director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University…. – NYT (11-16-10)
  • The Lost Colony may now be found: It’s a typical day at the Hatteras Histories and Mysteries Museum in Buxton, N.C., and Scott Dawson is buzzing around glass cases full of centuries-old arrowheads and broken pottery. Puzzled visitors listen as he explains for the gazillionth time the difference between fact and speculation. • He speaks with certainty in a voice tinged with more than a hint of frustration. • “Anybody who researches it knows that the colony came down here,” he says, confidently dismissing competing theories on America’s oldest unsolved mystery. • The artifacts, many unearthed during archaeological digs in the past year, may hold the clues that finally answer the question: What happened to the Lost Colony, a group of 117 Englishmen who settled on a tiny island off the North Carolina coast and then vanished with barely a trace? The 32-year-old Dawson has a personal stake in what happened to the early settlers. The son of a family whose roots can be traced back to the Croatoan Indians, he thinks his ancestors have been falsely maligned by the legends that have grown up around the case of the missing Englishmen…. – The Virginian-Pilot, 11-1-10

PROFILES:

  • Routine Has Become History for Niall Ferguson: The British historian and Harvard University professor talks to The Wall Street Journal Europe about how he starts his weekend. Best-selling author Niall Ferguson’s travel schedule is out of hand. “I often don’t even know what day it is,” he says, only half mockingly. When he isn’t shuttling all over the world to give speeches, do research or film documentaries, the financial and economics historian splits his time between Boston and London. His most recent book “High Financier: The Lives and Times of Siegmund Warburg” has been critically acclaimed, and his documentary “Civilization: the West and the Rest” will be released next spring. A regular television commentator whose debating style, controversial views and telegenic looks have led to his being referred to as the “rock-star historian,” Mr. Ferguson is currently on a year away from Harvard to teach at the London School of Economics and to work on a biography of Henry Kissinger…. – WSJ (11-19-10)

QUOTES:

  • Stephanie Coontz consulted in Pew marriage poll: Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., was among four scholars who consulted with Pew. “The relationship of marriage is taken more seriously than it used to be and it means more to people, but the institution is no longer as dominant,” she says…. – USA Today (11-18-10)
  • Neil Foley, associate professor of history and American studies at the University of Texas at Austin, Latinos lack unifying figure, historian says: “Latinos are a relatively new creation in terms of the label Hispanic or Latino,” which was instituted by the U.S. Census in 1980, he said… Segments of Latinos have their own leaders in different parts of the country, Foley explained…. – Brownsville Herald (11-17-10)

INTERVIEWS:

  • Simon Schama interview: history is dangerous, teachers need to be brave: Simon Schama, the new government adviser on history teaching, tells Sameer Rahim why children need a return to chronology…. – Telegraph UK, 11-20-10
  • Stories From Victims Of Stalin’s Terror with Stephen F. Cohen: Stephen F. Cohen wrote his new book, The Victims Return, which tells the stories of survivors of Stalin’s Terror, more than two decades after he first outlined it. He began research in the 1970s, while living in Russia and befriending former Gulag inmates, but then put the project aside. In 2007, the year his friend the historian Robert Conquest turned 90, Cohen picked up where he left off. In the opinion of Anna Larina, the widow of the prominent Stalin victim Nikolai Bukharin, recounting this history was Cohen’s “fate.” “It was a duty unfulfilled, a debt unpaid,” Cohen told HuffPost. “People had taken risks for me, and I hadn’t done what I said I was going to do. And then I did it — late, but I did it.”… – HuffPo (11-11-10)
  • Four Loko and the history of banned drinks with Daniel Okrent: So where does the Four Loko ban figure in the history of taboo spirits? To get some historical perspective, we turned to Dan Okrent, the former public editor of the New York Times and an expert on the biggest ban in alcohol history: Prohibition. Okrent’s book. “The Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” is the definitive history of the period. Salon spoke with him over the phone about how moral outrage over alcohol is different today than 80 years ago, and whether the banning of a drink can actually make it more popular…. – Salon (11-15-10)
  • Author and historian Jonathan Soffer speaks about his biography of Ed Koch: Historian Jonathan Soffer’s biography, Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City, is a richly sourced and detailed assessment of the mayor, a city in the financial trenches and urban politics. We spoke with Soffer, a professor of history at NYU-Poly, about working with Koch, his enduring public persona and the real cause of New York City’s money problems… – NY Press (11-15-10)
  • Lawrence Goodwyn: The Great Predicament Facing Obama: What happened to the dream of Barack Obama’s transformational politics? There’s been very little deviation from the disastrous Bush years on the key issues of war, empire and the distribution of wealth in the country. I turned to Lawrence Goodwyn, historian of social movements whose books and methods of explaining history have had a profound influence on many of the best known authors, activists and social theorists of our time. Goodwyn’s account of the Populist movement, Democratic Promise, is quoted extensively by Howard Zinn in People’s History of the United States, and also in William Greider’s masterpiece on the Federal Reserve, Secrets of the Temple. You can find Goodwyn quoted in the first paragraph of Bill Moyers’ recent book, On Democracy, and cited in just the same way in countless other books and essays. I interviewed Goodwyn from his home in Durham, North Carolina about the pitfalls of recording American history, Obama’s presidency in light of previous presidents, and portents of change in our political culture…. – Alternet (10-30-10)

AWARDS &APPOINTMENTS:

  • British professor wins Cundill literary prize: An Oxford professor and noted historian has won the $75,000 Cundill Prize for his acclaimed book A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years. The prize jury announced British historian Diarmaid MacCulloch as the 2010 winner of McGill University’s non-fiction historical literature honour at a ceremony in Montreal Sunday night. “At a time when quarrels between believers and non-believers, new atheists and old faithfuls, dominate so much of our public discourse, Diarmaid MacCulloch has given us the one thing that we most need — not polemic but history, high, wide, and lucid, and, given the enormity of his task, often winningly light of touch,” juror Adam Gopnik said in a statement. “If any book could truly fulfill the charge of the Cundill Prize — to make first class history more potent to a wide reading public, and above all to remind us that history, even three thousand years worth, matters — this one does,” said Gopnik, a New Yorker writer and McGill alumnus. The author triumphed over the more than 180 entries submitted from around the globe this year. MacCulloch, 59, also hosted a six-part BBC television series based on his book. His previous titles include Thomas Cranmer: A Life, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and Reformation: Europe’s House Divided 1490–1700, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award and the British Academy Book Prize…. – CBC, 11-15-10
  • Historian Will Direct Schomburg Center in Harlem: Khalil Gibran Muhammad, a history professor at Indiana University, has been named the new director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, to begin in July. New York Public Library officials made the announcement on Wednesday, ending a sometimes contentious search…. – NYT (11-18-10)
  • History Professor Named Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences: Jason Sharples, assistant professor of history, has been appointed a visiting scholar at the American Academy of Arts & Sciences for the 2010-2011 academic year…
    He will be working on a project titled “Mastering Fear: Imagination, Rebellion, and Race in Early America and the Atlantic World, 1640-1800.” He says he hopes the results of his project will challenge people “to question their assumptions about how often slave rebellions occurred in colonial America, and to see that colonists’ outsized dread of insurrection shaped their world far more profoundly.”… – Media Newswire, 11-12-10
  • Cape Breton University to honour rights icon with named chair: Nova Scotia rights icon Viola Desmond is being honoured by Cape Breton University,+ which is creating a chair in her name — the Viola Desmond chair in social justice. Desmond, a black woman, was convicted in 1946 for sitting in the whites-only section of a movie theatre in New Glasgow. She was pardoned by the province earlier this year. History professor Graham Reynolds will be the first holder of the chair…. – CBC News (11-5-10)

ANNOUNCEMENTS & EVENTS CALENDAR:

  • 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.

SPOTTED:

  • Front Page Mag: Juan Cole Blames the West (Again): Juan Cole’s recent lecture at Auburn University in Alabama was a jarring reminder of the importance of pursuing accountability from our academics. Speaking in the Haley Center’s primary auditorium to a room overflowing with students and a smattering of aging hippies, Cole provided an hour-long lecture on America’s relationship with the Middle East. While the seating arrangement was not uncomfortable, the lighting and the acoustics left something to be desired…. – Front Page Mag (11-15-10)
  • Mo. corrects record on 1923 college-town lynching: Hundreds looked on as an angry mob dragged a black University of Missouri janitor from his jail cell in April 1923, publicly lynching him before he could stand trial on charges of raping a white professor’s 14-year-old daughter…. Local filmmaker Scott Wilson teamed up last month with the Boone County medical examiner’s office to successfully lobby state officials to change the cause of death on Scott’s death certificate…. Keynote speaker Patrick Huber, an associate professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology whose undergraduate thesis discussed the Scott lynching, said the killing was one of more than 4,000 racially motivated lynchings in this country from 1885 to 1923 – including 75 in Missouri…. – WaPo (11-8-10)

ON TV:

BEST SELLERS (NYT):

  • Inside the List: HIS TURN: Things might be a little less tense in Crawford this Christmas now that George W. Bush has his own No. 1 best seller. “Decision Points,” the former president’s new memoir, enters in the top spot, just as his wife’s “Spoken From the Heart” did last spring. But don’t worry, ladies, Laura Bush isn’t totally ceding the stage. Her memoir, which spent 12 weeks on the printed list, is still hanging around at No. 28 on the extended list, six months after publication.
    If history is any guide, George Bush’s book won’t have as much staying power. As Craig Fehrman wrote in an essay in the Book Review in May, memoirs by first ladies often do better than those of their husbands. For Gerald Ford’s 64th birthday, in 1977, Betty Ford gave him a T-shirt that read, “I bet my book outsells yours.” (The couple’s joint $1 million book deal spared him the embarassment of a lower advance.) Of course, Bush also has nonspousal rivals to worry about. A mere two weeks after the release of “Decision Points,” his account of how he quit drinking — not to mention his indelible comments about the political memories dredged up by his Scottish terrier Barney’s madeleine- like droppings — had been eclipsed by rumors that Bill Clinton will make a cameo appearance in “The Hangover 2.” – NYT, 11-28-10
  • NYT Non-Fiction Best Sellers List – November 28, 2010
  • NYT Non-Fiction Best Sellers List – November 21, 2010

BOOKS COMING SOON:

  • Gary Ecelbarger: The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Michael Goldfarb: Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance, (Paperback), November 23, 2010
  • Edmund Morris: Colonel Roosevelt, (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Linda Porter: Katherine the Queen: The Remarkable Life of Katherine Parr, the Last Wife of Henry VIII (First Edition), (Hardcover), November 23, 2010
  • Alison Weir: The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn, (Paperback), December 28, 2010
  • Donald Rumsfeld: Known and Unknown: A Memoir, (Hardcover), January 25, 2011

DEPARTED:

  • Retired UT professor, theater historian dies: Oscar Brockett, a renowned theater historian and longtime University of Texas professor, has died. He was 87. Brockett died Sunday at an Austin hospital after suffering a stroke the day before, said Sondra Lomax, assistant dean of UT’s College of Fine Arts. Doug Dempster, dean of UT’s College of Fine Arts, told the Austin American-Statesman that Brockett, who retired in 2006, was “an absolute giant in the field of theater history.” “He defined it in many ways. His name is synonymous with the field across several continents,” Dempster said. “He was a prolific, meticulous scholar into the very last year of his long career. He leaves a legacy that will last as long again as his long life.”… – Houston Chronicle (11-8-10)
  • Rhys Isaac, only Australian to win Pulitzer for history dies at 72: RHYS Isaac, the first and only Australian to receive the prestigious American Pulitzer prize for history, has died of advanced melanoma at his home in Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsula. He was 72. Isaac was awarded the Pulitzer in 1983 for his seminal book The Transformation of Virginia, in which he expounded methods used to understand radical changes in both blacks and whites in colonial plantation culture that had traded a king for a constitution and bill of rights. Rhys’s academic achievement was perhaps not as big a surprise as his arrival: his parents weren’t expecting twins because only one heartbeat had ever been detected….. – The Age (AU) (11-9-10)
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Political Highlights, November 22, 2010: Obama and Congress Wrestles over Tax Cuts, New Start Treaty, and NATO, Obama Set End of Afghanistan War

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 & MIDTERM ELECTIONS 2010:

The President meets with national security experts on the New   START treaty

STATS & POLLS

     

  • Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell: One and done: To be a great president, Obama should not seek reelection in 2012: President Obama must decide now how he wants to govern in the two years leading up to the 2012 presidential election. In recent days, he has offered differing visions of how he might approach the country’s problems. At one point, he spoke of the need for “mid-course corrections.” At another, he expressed a desire to take ideas from both sides of the aisle. And before this month’s midterm elections, he said he believed that the next two years would involve “hand-to-hand combat” with Republicans, whom he also referred to as “enemies.”… – WaPo, 11-14-10

THE HEADLINES….

     

  • Hillary Clinton Says She Won’t Run Again for Elective Office: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today she won’t run again for elective office, ruling out a future presidential bid. “I am very happy doing what I’m doing and I am not in any way interested in or pursuing anything in elective office,” the 63-year-old former First Lady said on the “Fox News Sunday” program…. – Bloomberg, 11-21-10
  • Obama and Medvedev urge Republicans to support START: Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev have urged Republicans to support a new sweeping arms control treaty between the two countries after the pair held an impromptu meeting on the sidelines of the Nato summit. The US administration has warned that failing to ratify the treaty would endanger the substantial gains made in relations with Russia.
    Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said the issue was one of “life and death” with thousands of Russian nuclear missiles still pointing at American soil. “This is in the national security interests of the United States, there is no doubt about it,” she said on US television…. – Telegraph UK, 11-21-10
  • ‘Invasive’ airport pat-downs not going away for the holidays: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she herself wouldn’t like to get one, ‘but everybody’s trying to do the right thing.’ The TSA’s John Pistole cites the determination of terrorists to take American lives…. – LAT, 11-21-10
  • Palin book lauds ‘Juno,’ snubs JFK: ‘America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag,’ due out Nov. 23, has been billed as a tribute to American values…. – LAT, 11-20-10
  • Sarah Palin’s ‘America by Heart’ sure to stir friends – and enemies: Sarah Palin’s new book ‘America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag’ goes on sale Tuesday. It arrives as Palin ponders a run for the presidency, drawing criticism from the right…. – LAT, 11-21-10
  • Medal of Honor recipient cheered at Jets game: Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, the first living Medal of Honor recipient from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has received a standing ovation from the crowd during the second quarter of the New York Jets’ game against the Houston Texans. Giunta was brought out to one of the end zones with his wife, Jennifer, just before halftime and waved to the cheering crowd at the New Meadowlands Stadium on Sunday. The Jets are celebrating Military Appreciation Day. Giunta received the nation’s top military award from President Barack Obama on Tuesday, three years after retrieving a wounded comrade under gunfire in Afghanistan as the Taliban carried the stricken soldier away…. – WSJ, 11-21-10
  • Obama says boosting jobs, growth can help Europe: U.S. President Barack Obama said on Saturday the best thing he could do to help Europe as it tackles debt problems was to promote jobs and growth, and also reiterated calls for en end to economic imbalances. “The most important thing that I can do for Europe is the same thing that I need to do for the United States, and that is to promote growth and increased employment in the United States,” he told a news conference after a NATO summit…. – Reuters, 11-20-10
  • NATO adopts transition plan for Afghan war: President Obama said Sunday he was confident that a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan would begin in July and that “the objective assessment is that we have made progress” in the war effort. “We are in a better place now than we were a year ago,” Obama said in anticipation of next month’s promised White House review of the surge strategy he announced last December. He said Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the U.S.- led coalition, had begun “planning and mapping” areas where security conditions would allow a drawdown. Obama spoke at the end of a two-day NATO summit at which the coalition agreed to start turning parts of Afghanistan over to Afghan security control this spring, in a transition to be completed by the end of 2014, and secured Russia’s promise to cooperate in a Europe-based missile-defense program…. – WaPo, 11-20-10
  • EU and U.S. look to secure Doha trade deal in 2011: The United States and the European Union promised on Saturday to use their considerable economic weight to try to secure a successful conclusion to the Doha round of global trade negotiations in 2011. President Barack Obama held two hours of talks with Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, and Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Lisbon, with both sides emphasizing the importance of their economic relationship. They reaffirmed a commitment made at the G20 summit in Seoul this month to promote balanced growth and avoid competitive currency devaluations that can lead to global imbalances, and underlined the critical importance of bolstering trade.
    “We highlighted our commitment to reject protectionism as a response to the challenges our economies face,” read a joint statement released after their first summit in a year. “We reiterated our strong commitment to direct our negotiators to engage in across-the-board negotiations to promptly bring the Doha Development Agenda to a successful, ambitious, comprehensive and balanced conclusion…. – Reuters, 11-20-10
  • Obama: NATO backs missile defense shield Leaders also review plan to pull most foreign troops from Afghanistan by end of 2014: President Barack Obama won NATO summit agreement Friday to build a missile shield over Europe, an ambitious commitment to protect against Iranian attack while demonstrating the alliance’s continuing relevance — but at the risk of further aggravating Russia. That end date is three years beyond the time that Obama has said he will start withdrawing U.S. troops, and the challenge is to avoid a rush to the exits as public opinion turns more sharply against the war and Afghan President Hamid Karzai pushes for greater Afghan control. While celebrating the missile shield decision, Obama also made a renewed pitch for Senate ratification back in the U.S. of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, asserting that Europeans believe rejection of the deal would hurt their security and damage relations with the Russians.
    “It offers a role for all of our allies,” Obama told reporters. “It responds to the threats of our times. It shows our determination to protect our citizens from the threat of ballistic missiles.” He did not mention Iran by name, acceding to the wishes of NATO member Turkey, which had threatened to block the deal if its neighbor was singled out…. – CS Monitor, 11-19-10
  • NATO Agrees to Build Missile Defense System: NATO leaders agreed on Friday evening to establish a missile defense shield that would cover all NATO member states, and on Saturday they expect Russia to agree to discuss the possibility of cooperating on the system’s development. President Obama, who has promoted a less costly, more flexible missile defense system that will have components in Europe and at sea, praised the day’s work, saying that for the first time “we’ve agreed to develop a missile defense capability that is strong enough to cover all NATO European territory and populations as well as the United States.”… – NYT, 11-19-10
  • Obama’s Democrats in disarray over expiring tax cuts: President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats in the U.S. Congress, many upset with him for election losses, are in disarray over what to do about tax cuts for millions of Americans that are set to expire on December 31. With time running out and high political and economic stakes, Obama is pushing Democratic leaders to determine if they can win an acceptable extension of the cuts, which he could sign into law…. Despite a number of options — including renewing all tax cuts or only those for the middle class or tying any extension to a renewal of jobless benefits — there is no indication a consensus is near.
    “How the hell should we know when we will figure this out?” said a senior Senate Democratic aide. “This is the Democratic Party,” long known for internal struggles and diverse views…. – Reuters, 11-19-10
  • Obama, Biden to visit Chrysler plant in Indiana Tuesday: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will visit a Chrysler Group LLC transmission plant in Indiana on Tuesday — the president’s fourth trip to a U.S. auto factory this year. Obama will visit Chrysler’s Indiana Transmission Plant II in Kokomo, a plant that opened in late 2003. He will tout the overall recovery of the U.S. auto industry, underscored Thursday with General Motors Co.’s successful launch of its initial public stock offering. Chrysler Group LLC hopes to do so the same in late 2011…. – Detroit News, 11-19-10
  • An uproar over Palin — Bristol, that is: The ‘Dancing with the Stars’ contestant is voted by viewers into the finals. Critics charge that ‘tea party’ activists did some scheming at the ballot box in favor of Sarah Palin’s daughter. LAT, 11-19-10
  • Obama helps Biden cover campaign debts: Vice President Joe Biden’s effort to pay off campaign debt is getting a hand from his boss and former rival, President Barack Obama. The Federal Election Commission said Thursday that Obama for America, Obama’s presidential campaign with running mate Biden, can use leftover money to give Biden’s unsuccessful presidential primary campaign $138,000 to help it cover its bills…. – WaPo, 11-18-10
  • Bristol Palin apologizes for Facebook rant: Bristol Palin is apologizing for herself and her younger sister for their Facebook rant against posters criticizing their family. Palin posted the apology on her Facebook page, saying she and her 16-year-old sister Willow “shouldn’t have reacted to negative comments about our family. We apologize.”…. – AP, 11-18-10
  • Republicans may be less eager than Obama for bipartisanship: Never mind figuring out what to do about the national debt or the tax cuts that are set to expire soon. President Obama and the Republicans who just won control of the House seem to be having a hard time even setting up a meeting. GOP congressional leaders told the White House that scheduling conflicts will prevent them from attending a meeting Thursday to which Obama invited them during a news conference two days after his party’s drubbing in the midterm elections. They said the timing was bad, with leadership elections and new members to welcome. And they pointed out that they had never officially confirmed.
    Presidential aides accepted the explanations. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs joked Wednesday that the announcement of a new date for the gathering, Nov. 30, is a sign that “bipartisanship has happened.” But the postponement – whatever the reason – could be a bad omen for Obama, who was counting on the meeting to start turning around his political fortunes. It appeared to signal that Republicans are less eager than the White House to begin a new era of bipartisanship, and it was a stark example of Obama’s diminished ability to bend lawmakers to his will…. – WaPo, 11-17-10
  • Deficit Panels Go Where Politicians Won’t: Two bipartisan plans for reining in the federal debt have been tossed onto the national stage in the past week, after a campaign season in which President Obama and Congressional Republicans separately promised to act but offered few specifics. The two plans suggest why: Each proposes substantial cuts to spending across the board and an end to popular tax breaks for individuals and corporations after 2012. Those are not the kind of promises that candidates generally make. The sponsors of the plans say that the scale of the nation’s fiscal problem is too great to resolve without both raising taxes and cutting projected spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, all popular entitlement programs…. – NYT, 11-17-10
  • TSA boss: New pat-downs are more invasive: The head of the Transportation Security Administration is acknowledging that the new pat-downs are more invasive than what travelers were used to in the past. TSA administrator John Pistole says he has received the new pat-down, as has his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Some travelers complain that the new inspections target sensitive body areas. Pistole says he understands those privacy concerns, but says the government must provide the best possible security for air travelers…. – AP, 11-17-10
  • White House: Bipartisan Congressional Meeting Delayed To Nov 30: A meeting between Congressional leaders from both parties that was scheduled for later this week is being postponed, dashing any hopes of a quick resolution to a dispute over Bush-era tax breaks, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday…. WSJ, 11-16-10
  • Court Backs Illegal Immigrant Students: In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that illegal immigrants can be eligible for the same reduced tuition at public colleges and universities as legal residents of the state. The ruling is the latest in a series of high-profile battles about state immigration policies. In addition to Arizona’s strict new immigration law, which the United States Department of Justice has challenged in court, nine other states have laws similar to California’s, with lawsuits pending in Nebraska and Texas. Currently, students who attend at least three years of high school in California and graduate are eligible for in- state tuition at public schools, which can save them as much as $12,000 a year compared with students who come from other states. Illegal immigrants remain ineligible for state or federal financial aid…. – NYT, 11-15-10
  • People: ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’ brings record viewers to TLC: The first episode of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” Sunday night drew nearly 5 million viewers for TLC, the biggest launch in the channel’s history. MediaBistro.com gave exact numbers as 4.96 million, further breaking down the viewership as 1.8 million adults ages 25-54 and 1.6 million adults 18-49, key demographics for the reality-centric channel…. – Mercury News, 11-15-10
  • As His Ethics Trial Begins, Rangel Meets With Farm Workers: Thirty minutes into his Congressional ethics trial on Monday, all that remained of Representative Charles B. Rangel was the conspicuous presence of his absence. He had just announced that he would not take part in the proceedings and left behind an empty desk with his name card, a vacant chair and an untouched bottle of Poland Spring. Mr. Rangel, the Harlem Democrat who is the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, had left the building — literally — but did not remain idle very long. Within minutes of leaving the hearing room, where he was to face a jury of his peers and a series of internal allegations, he installed himself in a different sort of chair: the one in his office, in the Rayburn House Office Building, next door. There, instead of calling witnesses or pleading his own defense, he tried as best he could to immerse himself in work. His aides came and went toting briefing books and sandwiches from the first-floor cafeteria. Some farmworkers turned up for a meeting on the Healthy Families Act. They stayed for more than an hour. “It’ll be a normal day of business,” said George Henry, Mr. Rangel’s chief of staff…. – NYT, 11-15-10
  • Delaware’s Coons, West Virginia’s Manchin sworn in as U.S. senators: The 112th Congress doesn’t kick off until Jan. 5, but on Monday, the two winners of special elections in Delaware and West Virginia became the Senate’s newest members. Democratic Sens. Chris Coons (Del.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) were sworn in by Vice President Biden on the first day of Congress’s lame-duck session… – WaPo, 1-15-10

111TH/112TH CONGRESS

     

  • Republicans Stymie Democrats on Top Measures: Empowered by their election gains, Congressional Republicans are giving little ground to President Obama and weakened Democrats in the final weeks of the 111th Congress, imperiling Democratic efforts to pass major tax and spending legislation, unemployment aid and a nuclear nonproliferation treaty among other issues. One week into a lame-duck session, Democrats have been unable to gain traction on their top priorities, leaving them casting about for ways to avoid a year-end pileup of expired tax breaks, exhausted jobless benefits and federal agencies running out of money.
    “While there’s business that needs to be done, I would hope that the leaders that are still in charge would heed the advice of the American people that occurred on Election Day in terms of being prudent in their actions here before the end of the year,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the incoming speaker… – NYT, 11-20-10
  • US Sen. Reid to seek START ratification this year: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Thursday he would try to win Senate ratification of the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia this year. “We’re going to do our best to get to that,” Reid told reporters after a meeting with fellow Democrats about the legislative schedule for the rest of the year…. – Reuters, 11-19-10
  • Democrat Israel of New York to Lead House Campaign Committee: Representative Steve Israel of New York will be the next chairman of the House Democrats’ campaign committee, outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today. Israel, 52, first elected to the House in 2000, will be in charge of recruiting candidates, raising money and providing other campaign help for the 2012 House elections…. – Bloomberg, 11-19-10
  • Rep. Maxine Waters House Ethics Case Delayed House Ethics Committee to Investigate New Information in Calif. Dems Case: The House Ethics Committee Friday cancelled the upcoming public trial set for Nov. 29, for California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, saying the discovery of “new materials” in the case means further investigation is required. Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, stands accused of improperly using her influence in 2008 to help secure $12 million in TARP funds for a struggling bank with financial ties to her husband. She has denied any wrongdoing…. – ABC News,
  • Democrats to hold votes on middle class tax cuts: After meeting with President Barack Obama Thursday, Democratic leaders in Congress said they plan to hold a series of politically charged votes to extend middle-class tax cuts while letting tax cuts for the wealthy expire. Republicans are expected to block the plan, leaving both sides back at square one as they try to negotiate a deal to spare families at every income level from a big tax increase in January. Democratic officials said Obama did not embrace a particular approach to the tax cuts in his Oval Office meeting with Democratic leaders. He indicated he wanted to wait for a meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders on Nov. 30 before staking out a position. “I think there’s a reality here which is that while it might be best to continue the middle-class tax cuts and raise taxes on higher income people, the votes are not there to do that,” said Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who caucuses with the Democrats. “I think everybody’s got to deal with a stark reality which is, are we going to leave here knowing that we haven’t come to an agreement and that everybody’s taxes are going to go up Jan. 1?”… – AP, 11-18-10
  • House Panel Recommends Censure for Rangel: The House ethics committee Thursday recommended that Rep. Charles B. Rangel be formally censured for ethical misconduct, the most serious punishment the House can mete out short of expelling a member. The 9 to 1 vote ends the committee’s two-year investigation into the Harlem Democrat’s improper fundraising, failure to pay taxes, and failure to report income on his Congressional financial disclosure forms. Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, called the deliberations “wrenching.” The censure must now be approved by the full House, which plans to take up the matter after its Thanksgiving recess. If, as expected, the censure is approved, Mr. Rangel will become the first member to receive such punishment since 1983, when two congressmen were rebuked for sexual misconduct with House pages. Mr. Rangel will be required to stand in the well of the House while the Speaker reads a resolution rebuking him. The committee also ordered Mr. Rangel to pay thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes from rental income on a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic…. – NYT, 11-18-10
  • Why Nancy Pelosi remains leader of House Democrats despite huge loss: Nancy Pelosi wins her bid to remain leader of the House Democrats, as leadership on both sides of the aisle remains largely the same – despite Election 2010’s mandate for change. Despite presiding over the loss of more than 60 seats in midterm elections, Speaker Nancy Pelosi today retained control of her caucus, with only token opposition. Just minutes later, incoming 61st Speaker John Boehner – who overcame tea party critics and ambitions in GOP leadership ranks – was unanimously confirmed as Republican leader, while celebrating his 61st birthday and, at latest count, his party’s 61-seat net gain. Managing the aspirations unleashed by a big victory can be as challenging as containing the rifts opened by a big loss. In both cases, Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Boehner made it look easy – a sign of how deeply entrenched leadership on both sides of the aisle has become…. – CS Monitor, 11-17-10
  • Murkowski wins in Alaska as write-in to keep Senate seat: Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski won her re-election bid Wednesday, making her the first person elected to the Senate as a write-in candidate since South Carolina’s Strom Thurmond in 1954. Murkowski, a Republican who lost her party’s nomination to a Tea Party candidate backed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, flew back from Washington to speak to supporters at an Anchorage union hall Wednesday night. After two weeks of hand counting 103,569 write-in ballots in a corrugated steel building outside Juneau, the unofficial count put Murkowski ahead by more than 10,000 votes. The Associated Press declared her the winner Wednesday afternoon. But the man who beat Murkowski for the Republican nomination — Fairbanks lawyer Joe Miller — has not conceded, citing “irregularities” in the counting…. – USA Today, 11-18-10
  • Rep. Charlie Rangel found guilty of 11 ethics violations: A House ethics panel has found Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York guilty on 11 counts of breaking House rules. The eight-lawmaker subcommittee that handled the trial – and reached a unanimous verdict on 10 of the counts – will now send the case to the full ethics committee for the equivalent of sentencing. Potential punishments include a formal reprimand or censure, with either of those needing to be ratified by a vote on the House floor. Expulsion is another possible penalty but is considered highly unlikely. The full committee will begin considering Rangel’s punishment Thursday. Rangel was not present for the ruling. He walked out of the trial Monday after the panel rejected his request to delay the proceedings because he had spent $2 million on his defense and had no campaign money left to pay for a legal team.
    He released a statement blasting the decision. “How can anyone have confidence in the decision of the Ethics Subcommittee when I was deprived of due process rights, right to counsel and was not even in the room?” it said. “I can only hope that the full Committee will treat me more fairly, and take into account my entire 40 years of service to the Congress.”… – WaPo, 11-16-10
  • Senate GOP agrees on earmark prohibition: Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to abandon their use of earmarks in the new Congress, a move setting up an unusual alliance with the White House and exerting pressure on reluctant Democratic lawmakers to follow suit. The vote by Senate Republican represented an internal party decision. But along with a similar step expected today by counterparts in the House, it provided an early example of the influence of the tea party and the rising conservative movement that fueled the mid-term electoral wave. Just eight months ago, a similar proposal to do away with earmarks was shot down in an overwhelming vote of the Senate that included substantial Republican opposition. Supporters of the earmark ban now will push for a full Senate floor vote and a promise from President Obama to veto any spending bill containing earmarks.
    “It’s a great first step,” said incoming Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. “We said we wanted to come up here and be an alternative to the direction that the president and the Democratic leadership were taking our country, and this is the first step towards putting our money literally where our mouth is.”… – LAT, 11-16-10
  • Hobbled Dems, eager GOP back for lame-duck session: Dejected Democrats and invigorated Republicans returned to the Capitol Monday to face a mountain of unfinished work and greet more than 100 mainly Republican freshmen-elect lawmakers determined to change how they do business. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, in line to become speaker when the new Republican-led Congress convenes in January, told GOP newcomers Sunday evening that they may spend their next two years doing just two things: stopping what he called “job-killing policies” and the “spending binge.” “The American people are sick and tired of the ‘Washington knows best’ mentality. All the power in this town is on loan from the people,” he told the group, which he noted includes seven farmers, six physicians, three car dealers, two funeral home directors, a former FBI agent, a pizzeria owner, an NFL lineman, and an airline pilot. On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell met 12 of the 13 newly elected Republicans. He noted that two years ago there were only two freshmen Republicans, and said the new class would bring a “huge improvement” to the Senate…. – AP, 11-15-10
  • Rangel ethics case in hands of jury of lawmakers: Once one of the most powerful members of Congress, veteran Rep. Charles Rangel of New York was reduced Monday to pleading with colleagues for more time to raise money for a lawyer before they took up misconduct charges against him. No, they said, and quickly began deliberations, saying the facts were so clear they didn’t need to call witnesses. The panel met for several hours before quitting for the day. Deliberations were to resume Tuesday. Rangel, 80 years old and a 20-term Democrat representing New York’s famed Harlem neighborhood, implored a House ethics committee panel to delay, declaring in an emotional address that “50 years of public service is on the line.” But the panel basically decided that the 2 1/2-year-old case had gone on long enough — and Congress had little time left to deal with it in the lame duck session that commenced Monday. He faces 13 counts of alleged financial and fundraising misconduct that could bring formal condemnation. He left the hearing before his request was formally rejected, and the rare proceeding — only the second for this type of hearing in two decades — went on without him. AP, 11-15-10
  • Delaware’s Coons, West Virginia’s Manchin sworn in as U.S. senators: The 112th Congress doesn’t kick off until Jan. 5, but on Monday, the two winners of special elections in Delaware and West Virginia became the Senate’s newest members. Democratic Sens. Chris Coons (Del.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) were sworn in by Vice President Biden on the first day of Congress’s lame-duck session…. – WaPo, 11-15-10
  • Hill Democrats split on tax cuts: As Republicans held firm to a no-new-taxes mantra, congressional Democrats returned to the Capitol on Monday, divided over a strategy for resolving the standoff over the expiring Bush tax cuts. House and Senate Democratic leaders said that they were waiting to hear from members Tuesday during the first caucus meetings of the lame-duck session, but that nothing may become clear until all sides sit down with President Barack Obama on Thursday.
    Underscoring the absence of party unity, House liberals and progressive groups stepped up their campaign against cutting a deal of any kind with Republicans to temporarily extend the tax cuts for high-income earners — even though the White House has said it’s open to compromise. But moderate Democrats had their own ideas, too. Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor questioned whether it was wise to permanently renew any tax breaks, given the extent of the national debt. Meanwhile, at least two other Senate Democrats floated compromise proposals.
    Republicans, however, weren’t showing any interest in alternatives. “Leaving everything like it is for the next two years is the best approach,” Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said. “Just leave everything like it is. Let’s deal with this issue over the next few years.”… – Politico, 11-15-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

     

  • Moseley Braun announces candidacy for mayor: In front of roughly 200 supporters gathered at a cold, windy Northerly Island, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun formally announced her candidacy for Chicago mayor Saturday. “I just want to serve,” Braun said. “Government is about the people’s business and my life’s work has been dedicated to making government work for all of the people.”…
    “Chicago will always be a great city, because its people will tolerate nothing less,” Braun said. She said the challenge is “whether our city will be great for all its citizens or only for those who live in the right neighborhoods, who have the right jobs, who have the right connections, who get the no-bid contracts, and the multimillion dollar paychecks.”… – Chicago Sun-Times, 11-20-10
  • Sarah Palin in 2012: Could she really beat President Obama?: With 2010 midterms over, the big questions for Sarah Palin are will she run in 2012, and if she does, can she win? Her big challenge: lower her high unfavorable ratings…. – CS Monitor, 11-18-10
  • Republican governors target public employee unions: Several leaders at a San Diego conference frame unions as the enemy, and call for trimming pay and benefits for teachers and others…. – LAT, 11-18-10
  • GOP governors kick off conference in San Diego: The Republican Party hails a new crop of rising stars, including more women and minorities. The message, however, remains the same: States need to fight big government…. – LAT, 11-17-10
  • USA Today, 11-17-10
  • Murkowski emerges as winner in Alaska Senate race: Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Wednesday became the first Senate candidate in more than 50 years to win a write-in campaign, emerging victorious over her tea party rival following a painstaking, week-long count of hand-written votes. The victory completes a remarkable comeback for the Republican after her humiliating loss in the GOP primary to Joe Miller.
    Her victory became clear when Alaska election officials confirmed they had only about 700 votes left to count, putting Murkowski in safe territory to win re-election. Murkowski is flying back from Washington to Alaska to make an “exciting announcement” to supporters Wednesday, proclaiming in an e-mail that the campaign “made history.”
    Murkowski has a lead of about 10,000 votes, a total that includes 8,153 ballots in which Miller observers challenged over things like misspellings, extra words or legibility issues. AP, 11-17-10
  • Sarah Palin May be the Savviest Presidential Hopeful Ever: There is little doubt that Sarah Palin is running for president. But while Mitt Romney is archaically gallivanting across the country to raise money for his run, Palin has molded her platform into a 21st Century media sensation. Topping off her unofficial campaign for the White House, Sarah Palin’s reality show premiered Sunday night with a viewership of over 5 million — TCL’s largest premiere to date. And it is with this show, that Palin will reintroduce herself to the county…. – Death and Taxes Mag
  • Write-in votes tally over 100,000 in Alaska: No clear winner emerged Monday after the addition of the last big batch of absentee ballots in Alaska’s still- undecided Senate race between Sen. Lisa Murkowski and GOP nominee Joe Miller. More than 8,700 ballots were added, bringing the total number of write-in ballots cast for numerous candidates to 102,028. Miller had 90,458 votes, which includes 10 write-in votes. Murkowski has 84,563 undisputed votes. Murkowski is seeking to make history and win redemption through the write-in campaign she mounted after losing her party primary to Miller. No U.S. Senate candidate has won a write-in bid since 1954. Murkowski has consistently been getting about 89 percent of the write-in vote as ballots are counted. If the trend holds, she would outright pull ahead of Miller by several hundred votes. It’s estimated that as many as 600 more ballots from overseas and military addresses could be submitted by a Wednesday deadline. The state plans to count those ballots later this week. The number of contested ballots is critical to whether one candidate will be able to declare victory or the race heads to court…. – AP, 11-15-10

QUOTES

The President Records the Weekly Address

White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 11/18/10
  • Weekly Address: Senators Opposing New START “Want to Trust But Not Verify”
    Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House November 20, 2010:
    Today, I’d like to speak with you about an issue that is fundamental to America’s national security: the need for the Senate to approve the New START Treaty this year….
    The choice is clear: a failure to ratify New START would be a dangerous gamble with America’s national security, setting back our understanding of Russia’s nuclear weapons, as well as our leadership in the world. That is not what the American people sent us to Washington to do.
    There is enough gridlock, enough bickering. If there is one issue that should unite us – as Republicans and Democrats – it should be our national security.
    Some things are bigger than politics. As Republican Dick Lugar said the other day, “Every Senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty.”
    Senator Lugar is right. And if the Senate passes this treaty, it will not be an achievement for Democrats or Republicans – it will be a win for America. – WH, 11-20-10
  • President Obama at NATO: “And Today We Stand United in Afghanistan”: Good afternoon, everyone. We have just concluded an extremely productive NATO summit, and I want to thank our hosts, the government and the people of Portugal, for their hospitality in this beautiful city of Lisbon. And I thank my fellow leaders for the sense of common purpose that they brought to our work here.
    For more than 60 years, NATO has proven itself as the most successful alliance in history. It’s defended the independence and freedom of its members. It has nurtured young democracies and welcomed them into Europe that is whole and free. It has acted to end ethnic cleansing beyond our borders. And today we stand united in Afghanistan, so that terrorists who threaten us all have no safe haven and so that the Afghan people can forge a more hopeful future.
    At no time during these past six decades was our success guaranteed. Indeed, there have been many times when skeptics have predicted the end of this alliance. But each time NATO has risen to the occasion and adapted to meet the challenges of that time. And now, as we face a new century with very different challenges from the last, we have come together here in Lisbon to take action in four areas that are critical to the future of the alliance.
    First, we aligned our approach on the way forward in Afghanistan, particularly on a transition to full Afghan lead that will begin in early 2011 and will conclude in 2014.
    It is important for the American people to remember that Afghanistan is not just an American battle. We are joined by a NATO-led coalition made up of 48 nations with over 40,000 troops from allied and partner countries. And we honor the service and sacrifice of every single one.
    With the additional resources that we’ve put in place we’re now achieving our objective of breaking the Taliban’s momentum and doing the hard work of training Afghan security forces and assisting the Afghan people. And I want to thank our allies who committed additional trainers and mentors to support the vital mission of training Afghan forces. With these commitments I am confident that we can meet our objective.
    Here in Lisbon we agreed that early 2011 will mark the beginning of a transition to Afghan responsibility, and we adopted the goal of Afghan forces taking the lead for security across the country by the end of 2014. This is a goal that President Karzai has put forward.
    I’ve made it clear that even as Americans transition and troop reductions will begin in July, we will also forge a long-term partnership with the Afghan people. And today, NATO has done the same. So this leaves no doubt that as Afghans stand up and take the lead they will not be standing alone. – WH, 11-20-10
  • Biden: Palin Formidable, but Couldn’t Beat Obama: Sarah Palin has used the weeks since the Nov. 2 election to declare that she is indeed considering a run for president in 2012 and that she believes she could defeat President Obama. In television appearances Thursday and Friday, Vice President Joe Biden pushed back – at least a little – saying that he believes Palin has a good chance of winning the Republican nomination in 2012 but that Mr. Obama “would be in good shape” to beat her in the general election. “My mom used to have an expression – ‘Be careful what you wish for, Joe, you may get it.’ So I never underestimate anyone,” Biden told CNN’s Larry King Thursday. “But I think, in that race, it would be a clear, clear choice for the country to make, and I believe President Obama would be in very good shape.”…. – CBS News, 11-19-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

     

  • Frank Rich: Could She Reach the Top in 2012? You Betcha: “THE perception I had, anyway, was that we were on top of the world,” Sarah Palin said at the climax of last Sunday’s premiere of her new television series, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” At that point our fearless heroine had just completed a perilous rock climb, and if she looked as if she’d just stepped out of a spa instead, don’t expect her fans to question the reality. For them, Palin’s perception is the only reality that counts.
    Palin is on the top of her worlds — both the Republican Party and the media universe. “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” set a ratings record for a premiere on TLC, attracting nearly five million viewers — twice the audience of last month’s season finale of the blue-state cable favorite, “Mad Men.” The next night Palin and her husband Todd were enshrined as proud parents in touchy-feely interviews on “Dancing With the Stars,” the network sensation (21 million viewers) where their daughter Bristol has miraculously escaped elimination all season despite being neither a star nor a dancer. This week Sarah Palin will most likely vanquish George W. Bush and Keith Richards on the best-seller list with her new book…. – NYT, 11-21-10
  • Halfhearted Soul-Searching at the White House: Unlike Bill Clinton, Obama hasn’t yet experienced a political loss that taught him how to reinvent himself. He needs to surround himself with advisers who will challenge his world view.
    Democrats got the lowest share of the white vote in this midterm election than in any congressional election since World War II, losing key races in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Michigan, and every contested election in Ohio, which spells trouble for President Obama’s reelection. No Democrat can win the White House without these Midwestern swing states, and they are all decimated by job losses that Obama has offered no road map to recover.
    Soul-searching is under way at the White House, but so far it looks pretty sterile. There’s no Dick Morris sneaking in with advice from outside the bubble, or late-night bull sessions with Terry McAuliffe about how to raise money and stage a comeback. Granted, some of the tactics these Clinton-era advisers used wouldn’t pass muster with the Obama crowd, or with Common Cause, but they shook up the White House and got Clinton out of his post-election funk and into fighting form…. – Newsweek, 11-21-10
  • Search for civility grows in Washington after midterms: “The gloves are off,” University of Texas presidential historian Bruce Buchanan says. “Ultimately, politics is a substitute for war. … Is civility impossible? No. Is it likely? No.”… – USA Today, 11-19-10
  • How Obama Can Still Push His Agenda: “Obama and his advisers must make a strategic decision, partly based on their understanding of how the Republicans will respond, and partly based on what the public expects,” says Joseph Pika, co-author of The Politics of the Presidency and a historian at the University of Delaware…. – NPR, 11-18-10
  • Analysis: Obama’s GM success dented by bailout and jobs angst: “They saved the company, they saved an industry, but it doesn’t seem to have any political traction,” said Julian Zelizer, a historian and public policy expert at Princeton University. “As long as high unemployment continues, people are just suspicious of any claims of success,” he added. “That’s not what most Americans see on the ground.”… – Reuters, 11-18-10
  • Why Nancy Pelosi remains leader of House Democrats despite huge loss: “Usually, you bet on the establishment in congressional politics,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “Pelosi and Boehner are strong congressional leaders and powerful insiders. They know how to survive these moments of turmoil.”
    “Boehner gave tea party candidates enough promises that they will be heard and at the same time reminding all the other Republicans of what they owe him and what he can do for them – and the combination is enough to retain leadership,” he adds…. – CS Monitor, 11-17-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Democrats’ best defense? Good offense: In professional football, teams need a good offense if they hope to win the Super Bowl….
    The same can be said about politics. Being good at defense is important, but you need to play offense to win elections and shape political debate. When parties only respond to criticism and participate in the discussion that their opponents want to have, eventually their team will get tired of just being in a reactive mode and the other side will score points….
    The Democrats might want to take a page from the playbook of the Republican Party. Instead of backing down and running away from their platform, they might instead embrace what the party has stood for and make a case as to why their record is better than what Republicans have to offer. If Democrats can’t do this, Republicans will shape the political dialogue in the next two years, regardless of what shifts Obama makes, and Democrats will be looking at a defeat in 2012…. – CNN, 11-18-10
  • Obama=Bush? President Obama isn’t the new Carter, but he just might be the new (first) Bush: Months before Election Day, the name of Jimmy Carter had assumed an incantatory power among observers of politics. President Obama’s supporters began to fret that his presidency was declining as Carter’s did, while his opponents salivated at the prospect, as though the more the 39th president was mentioned, the worse the chances of the 44th. In addition to columnists and bloggers, historians Walter Russell Mead and Sean Wilentz have written on the comparison, while Carter’s vice president, Walter Mondale, has worried over it. Carter himself recently discussed it with Larry King….
    Yet there is a recent one-term president he resembles. George H.W. Bush doesn’t often come up in discussions of Obama, but two years into Obama’s term, the two presidents’ tenures bear a striking resemblance. So too do their governing styles and temperaments, and even, unlikely though it may seem, their speech. Here are two leaders “buffeted by circumstance,” as the presidential historian Bert Rockman characterized Bush, whose same signal qualities in repulsing buffets and discussing them with the public — sobriety, patience, and, yes, prudence, to use Bush- impersonator Dana Carvey’s favorite Bushism — are often enough their least appreciated…. – Boston Globe, 11-14-10
  • Tea Party Rooted in Religious Fervor for Constitution, say Mary Beth Norton, Jon Butler, and David Greenberg: …”There’s a strong strand of divine-guidance thinking, thinking about American exceptionalism,” said Mary Beth Norton, a professor of early American history at Cornell University. “People have certainly seen the texts of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as the equivalent of a secular religion, with the idea then that you can’t challenge these texts.”…
    If anything, the Constitution is especially vulnerable to literalism. “There is a major translation problem for literalism in relation to Christian doctrine,” said Jon Butler, a professor of the history of religion in America at Yale. “And there’s the matter of the age of the texts. But there is no translation issue with the Constitution, and it’s only a couple of centuries old. So that makes it so much more susceptible. There it is. You can find it on the Internet.”
    And from there, it is a short trip indeed to the engaged, enraged Tea Party of 2010, and a campaign that charged Democrats with a kind of Constitutional heresy. “The Constitution has always been the trump card, the ultimate political weapon,” noted David Greenberg, a professor of history and presidential biographer at Rutgers University. “If you don’t like what the other side is doing, you say it’s unconstitutional.” NYT (11-5-10)
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