Political Musings March 13, 2014: Senate finally reaches bipartisan deal to extend unemployment benefits until May





The Senate finally agreed on bipartisan deal on Thursday afternoon, March 13, 2014 that would extend unemployment benefits for two million long-term jobless that lost benefits at the end of last year. The deal will extend the benefits retroactively…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 17, 2013: Immigration Overhaul: House “Gang of Eight” Has Agreement in Principle





Immigration Overhaul: House Has Agreement in Principle

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-17-13

The House bipartisan “Gang of Eight” has reached an agreement in principle on immigration overhaul, including major points such as a pathway to citizenship, border security, health care and guest workers, a member of the group told ABC News Thursday night.

The lower chamber now expects to work out details next week before taking the Memorial Day break and introducing the bill June 4….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency February 7, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast Discusses His Faith & Calls for Humility



President Obama Calls for Humility at the National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-7-13

President Obama addresses the National Prayer Breakfast (February 7, 2013)President Barack Obama addresses the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., Feb. 7, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In discussing his faith at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama made a call for humility — a trait which, he noted, Washington could embrace more fully.

“In a democracy as big and as diverse as ours, we will encounter every opinion,” he said. “And our task as citizens — whether we are leaders in government or business or spreading the word — is to spend our days with open hearts and open minds; to seek out the truth that exists in an opposing view and to find the common ground that allows for us as a nation, as a people, to take real and meaningful action. And we have to do that humbly, for no one can know the full and encompassing mind of God. And we have to do it every day, not just at a prayer breakfast.”

Presidential attendance at the breakfast is a long-standing tradition, and this is President Obama’s fifth appearance.

Read his full remarks here.

Remarks by the President at the National Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 2-6-13

Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

9:03 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please have a seat.
Mark, thank you for that introduction. I thought he was going to talk about my gray hair. (Laughter.) It is true that my daughters are gorgeous. (Laughter.) That’s because my wife is gorgeous. (Applause.) And my goal is to improve my gene pool.

To Mark and Jeff, thank you for your wonderful work on behalf of this breakfast. To all of those who worked so hard to put this together; to the heads of state, members of Congress, and my Cabinet, religious leaders and distinguished guests. To our outstanding speaker. To all the faithful who’ve journeyed to our capital, Michelle and I are truly honored to be with you this morning.

Before I begin, I hope people don’t mind me taking a moment of personal privilege. I want to say a quick word about a close friend of mine and yours, Joshua Dubois. Now, some of you may not know Joshua, but Joshua has been at my side — in work and in prayer — for years now. He is a young reverend, but wise in years. He’s worked on my staff. He’s done an outstanding job as the head of our Faith-Based office.

Every morning he sends me via email a daily meditation — a snippet of Scripture for me to reflect on. And it has meant the world to me. And despite my pleas, tomorrow will be his last day in the White House. So this morning I want to publically thank Joshua for all that he’s done, and I know that everybody joins me in wishing him all the best in his future endeavors — including getting married. (Applause.)

It says something about us — as a nation and as a people — that every year, for 61 years now, this great prayerful tradition has endured. It says something about us that every year, in times of triumph and in tragedy, in calm and in crisis, we come together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as brothers and sisters, and as children of God. Every year, in the midst of all our busy and noisy lives, we set aside one morning to gather as one community, united in prayer.

We do so because we’re a nation ever humbled by our history, and we’re ever attentive to our imperfections — particularly the imperfections of our President. We come together because we’re a people of faith. We know that faith is something that must be cultivated. Faith is not a possession. Faith is a process.

I was struck by the passage that was read earlier from the Book of Hebrews: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” He rewards those who diligently seek Him — not just for one moment, or one day, but for every moment, and every day.

As Christians, we place our faith in the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ. But so many other Americans also know the close embrace of faith — Muslims and Jews, Hindus and Sikhs. And all Americans — whether religious or secular — have a deep and abiding faith in this nation.

Recently I had occasion to reflect on the power of faith. A few weeks ago, during the inauguration, I was blessed to place my hand on the Bibles of two great Americans, two men whose faith still echoes today. One was the Bible owned by President Abraham Lincoln, and the other, the Bible owned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As I prepared to take the sacred oath, I thought about these two men, and I thought of how, in times of joy and pain and uncertainty, they turned to their Bibles to seek the wisdom of God’s word — and thought of how, for as long as we’ve been a nation, so many of our leaders, our Presidents, and our preachers, our legislators and our jurists have done the same. Each one faced their own challenges; each one finding in Scripture their own lessons from the Lord.

And as I was looking out on the crowd during the inauguration I thought of Dr. King. We often think of him standing tall in front of the endless crowds, stirring the nation’s conscience with a bellowing voice and a mighty dream. But I also thought of his doubts and his fears, for those moments came as well — the lonely moments when he was left to confront the presence of long-festering injustice and undisguised hate; imagined the darkness and the doubt that must have surrounded him when he was in that Birmingham jail, and the anger that surely rose up in him the night his house was bombed with his wife and child inside, and the grief that shook him as he eulogized those four precious girls taken from this Earth as they gathered in a house of God.

And I was reminded that, yes, Dr. King was a man of audacious hope and a man of relentless optimism. But he was always — he was also a man occasionally brought to his knees in fear and in doubt and in helplessness. And in those moments, we know that he retreated alone to a quiet space so he could reflect and he could pray and he could grow his faith.

And I imagine he turned to certain verses that we now read. I imagine him reflecting on Isaiah, that we wait upon the Lord; that the Lord shall renew those who wait; that they shall mount up with wings as eagles, and they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.

We know that in Scripture, Dr. King found strength; in the Bible, he found conviction. In the words of God, he found a truth about the dignity of man that, once realized, he never relinquished.

We know Lincoln had such moments as well. To see this country torn apart, to see his fellow citizens waging a ferocious war that pitted brother against brother, family against family — that was as heavy a burden as any President will ever have to bear.

We know Lincoln constantly met with troops and visited the wounded and honored the dead. And the toll mounted day after day, week after week. And you can see in the lines of his face the toll that the war cost him. But he did not break. Even as he buried a beloved son, he did not break. Even as he struggled to overcome melancholy, despair, grief, he did not break.

And we know that he surely found solace in Scripture; that he could acknowledge his own doubts, that he was humbled in the face of the Lord. And that, I think, allowed him to become a better leader. It’s what allowed him in what may be one of the greatest speeches ever written, in his second Inaugural, to describe the Union and the Confederate soldier alike — both reading the same Bible, both prayed to the same God, but “the prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

In Lincoln’s eyes, the power of faith was humbling, allowing us to embrace our limits in knowing God’s will. And as a consequence, he was able to see God in those who vehemently opposed him.

Today, the divisions in this country are, thankfully, not as deep or destructive as when Lincoln led, but they are real. The differences in how we hope to move our nation forward are less pronounced than when King marched, but they do exist. And as we debate what is right and what is just, what is the surest way to create a more hopeful — for our children — how we’re going to reduce our deficit, what kind of tax plans we’re going to have, how we’re going to make sure that every child is getting a great education — and, Doctor, it is very encouraging to me that you turned out so well by your mom not letting you watch TV. I’m going to tell my daughters that when they complain. (Laughter.) In the midst of all these debates, we must keep that same humility that Dr. King and Lincoln and Washington and all our great leaders understood is at the core of true leadership.

In a democracy as big and as diverse as ours, we will encounter every opinion. And our task as citizens — whether we are leaders in government or business or spreading the word — is to spend our days with open hearts and open minds; to seek out the truth that exists in an opposing view and to find the common ground that allows for us as a nation, as a people, to take real and meaningful action. And we have to do that humbly, for no one can know the full and encompassing mind of God. And we have to do it every day, not just at a prayer breakfast.

I have to say this is now our fifth prayer breakfast and it is always just a wonderful event. But I do worry sometimes that as soon as we leave the prayer breakfast, everything we’ve been talking about the whole time at the prayer breakfast seems to be forgotten — on the same day of the prayer breakfast. (Laughter.) I mean, you’d like to think that the shelf life wasn’t so short. (Laughter.) But I go back to the Oval Office and I start watching the cable news networks and it’s like we didn’t pray. (Laughter.)

And so my hope is that humility, that that carries over every day, every moment. While God may reveal His plan to us in portions, the expanse of His plan is for God, and God alone, to understand. “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Until that moment, until we know, and are fully known, all we can do is live our lives in a Godly way and assume that those we deal with every day, including those in an opposing party, they’re groping their way, doing their best, going through the same struggles we’re going through.

And in that pursuit, we are blessed with guidance. God has told us how He wishes for us to spend our days. His Commandments are there to be followed. Jesus is there to guide us; the Holy Spirit, to help us. Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. See in everyone, even in those with whom you disagree most vehemently, the face of God. For we are all His children.

That’s what I thought of as I took the oath of office a few weeks ago and touched those Bibles — the comfort that Scripture gave Lincoln and King and so many leaders throughout our history; the verses they cherished, and how those words of God are there for us as well, waiting to be read any day that we choose. I thought about how their faith gave them the strength to meet the challenges of their time, just as our faith can give us the strength to meet the challenges of ours. And most of all, I thought about their humility, and how we don’t seem to live that out the way we should, every day, even when we give lip service to it.

As President, sometimes I have to search for the words to console the inconsolable. Sometimes I search Scripture to determine how best to balance life as a President and as a husband and as a father. I often search for Scripture to figure out how I can be a better man as well as a better President. And I believe that we are united in these struggles. But I also believe that we are united in the knowledge of a redeeming Savior, whose grace is sufficient for the multitude of our sins, and whose love is never failing.

And most of all, I know that all Americans — men and women of different faiths and, yes, those of no faith that they can name — are, nevertheless, joined together in common purpose, believing in something that is bigger than ourselves, and the ideals that lie at the heart of our nation’s founding — that as a people we are bound together.

And so this morning, let us summon the common resolve that comes from our faith. Let us pray to God that we may be worthy of the many blessings He has bestowed upon our nation. Let us retain that humility not just during this hour but for every hour. And let me suggest that those of us with the most power and influence need to be the most humble. And let us promise Him and to each other, every day as the sun rises over America that it will rise over a people who are striving to make this a more perfect union.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
9:21 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Headlines November 17, 2012: GOP Weekly Address: Sen. Kelly Ayotte Calls for Bipartisan Cooperation on Fiscal Cliff





GOP Address: Sen. Ayotte Calls for Bipartisan Cooperation on Fiscal Cliff

Source: ABC News Radio, 11-17-12


With the threat of the fiscal cliff quickly approaching, both Democrat and Republican lawmakers have voiced ideas about how to avoid the Jan. 1 deadline, when automatic tax hikes for all Americans and deep government spending cuts are set to take effect. In this week’s Republican address, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte criticizes Washington for “ducking the tough decisions,” but says the critical fiscal cliff represents a new opportunity for both parties to change the country’s “irresponsible spending path.”

“And one thing is clear: the American people expect Republicans and Democrats to work together to solve the difficult challenges we face,” Ayotte says, referring to the “spirited debate” over the federal budget that played out over the last year by members of both parties.

“For too long, partisan bickering has paralyzed Washington — preventing members of both parties from reaching across the aisle to find common ground,” she says in the address. “That must stop. Power sharing is an opportunity — not an obstacle.”…READ MORE

Campaign Headlines August 2, 2012: Mitt Romney Promises to ‘Bury The Hatchet,’ Work with Democrats




Romney Promises to ‘Bury The Hatchet,’ Work with Democrats

Source: ABC News Radio, 8-2-12

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Mitt Romney appeared in Colorado today and promoted his bipartisan work as governor of Massachusetts. He told supporters at a rally that Americans need a president who “buries the hatchet.”

Hopping onto a park bench outside, Romney spoke to an overflow crowd prior to his grassroots events, telling the crowd he wanted them to know he wasn’t a “dismembered spirit” on a microphone but a “real person.”

“I worked in a state. I found a way to work across the aisle, by the way. And when I look — we’ve got to have someone that goes to Washington that buries the hatchet and says you know what, there are good Democrats, there are good Republicans that care about America, let’s work together to get the American people working, get some growth again. This is important. Getting America working, this isn’t a statistic we’re talking about.  Twenty-three million Americans out work or underemployed. Twenty-three million. It’s a tragedy. It’s a moral failing for a country as successful as successful and wealthy as ours to have had policies that kept people from going to work. I want to get people back to work that want to work. Put them in good jobs with more take home pay.”…READ MORE

Featured Historian Julian E. Zelizer: What happened to spirit of 9/12?


What happened to spirit of 9/12?

Former President George W. Bush, first lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama at the 9/11 Memorial in New York during the 1oth anniversary observance.
Former President George W. Bush, first lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama at the 9/11 Memorial in New York during the 1oth anniversary observance.
  • Julian Zelizer: Politicians of both parties pledged to work together after 9/11
  • He says that bipartisan spirit after attacks evaporated quickly
  • Zelizer says Democrats, GOP clashed over status of TSA workers
  • He says partisan forces too powerful for most politicians to overcome

Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of “Jimmy Carter” (Times Books) and editor of a book assessing former President George W. Bush’s administration, published by Princeton University Press.

In the days following the horrendous attacks against the United States on 9/11, all the talk in Washington was about the need for bipartisanship. Republicans and Democrats promised that they would work together to protect the home front and capture those who were responsible.

On the day after, Democrats and Republicans followed the traditional post-military crisis ritual of promising to work on policies in bipartisan fashion. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton — who was still struggling to gain her sea legs in her first year on Capitol Hill, after having spent eight years serving as the first lady during some bruising partisan battles — announced that it was important to be “united behind our president and our government, sending a very clear message that this is something that transcends any political consideration or partisanship.”

Republicans also promised political peace. House Speaker Dennis Hastert assured the nation that “we are in complete agreement that we will work together, that we want to share information, that we will be ready to move on whatever the president suggests, and we will go through the debate and the actions of Congress in a bipartisan way to make that happen.” The kind of partisan sniping that voters were accustomed to, he and his colleagues said, would be a thing of the past.

The political question on September 12 was how long this unity would last: Would the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil really transform the politics of national security?

Ten years later, it is evident that the answer was clearly no. The period of good feelings did not last long. One of the most striking aspects of 9/11 was that even a tragedy of this scale could not tame the partisan forces that shape American politics….

Could the promise of September 12 ever be fulfilled? Certainly today there are enormous areas of consensus between the parties, such as over most counterterrorism policies, over the need for strong homeland security programs and even for strong military vigilance with countries such as North Korea and Pakistan.

Nonetheless, the partisan forces that play out on the campaign trail are simply too great to overcome. If 9/11 taught us anything, it’s how deeply rooted partisanship is in our modern political culture. Even a tragedy of its magnitude could barely contain the forces that perpetually rip apart members of the two parties.

Ten years ago, the parties came together. But they came together just for a brief spell. In the long span of history, it was as if the moment ended before either side could even blink.

Political Highlights February 9, 2009: President Obama’s First Press Conference

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.


Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

President Obama, at his White House news conference on Monday night, where he discussed the Democratic stimulus plan and opposition to it by Republicans.


In Focus: Stats

  • FACT CHECK: Obama has it both ways on pork: Obama’s sales pitch on the enormous package he wants Congress to make law has sizzle as well as steak. He’s projecting job creation numbers that may be impossible to verify and glossing over some ethical problems that bedeviled his team. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Obama’s Ratings: The Gallup Organization released a poll Monday showing Obama’s approval rating holding steady at 67 percent, with Congress much less popular. Republicans in Congress drew only 31 percent approval, and Democrats had 48 percent. The poll also showed that 80 percent think it’s either important or critically important that a stimulus plan be approved. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Senate Vote 61-36 in Favor: The Senate on Monday voted 61-36 to end debate on an $838 billion economic stimulus bill, one more vote than needed to avoid a potential filibuster on the measure when it goes to a final vote as early as Tuesday. – PBS Newshour, 2-9-09


Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Though conceding that “the plan is not perfect,” President Obama asserted that “a failure to act will only deepen this crisis.” More Photos >

The Headlines…

  • Analysis: Obama makes serious case for stimulus: No drama with Obama. No joking with Obama. In his first prime-time news conference, Americans saw a determined, deadly serious President Barack Obama make his case for a historically huge economic recovery plan — pledging to push it through Congress in record time, even if he and fellow Democrats must steamroll Republicans to do it. No more blind bipartisanship with Obama, either…. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Analysis: Obama learning to deal with Washington’s partisan ways: In his first three weeks in the bully pulpit, President Barack Obama has offered a post-partisan vision while resorting to old-school pressure tactics. So far he has managed to draw three Republican votes – learning, as presidents inevitably do, that Washington will not bend easily to his will. – Dallas Morning News, 2-9-09
  • Obama: ‘Only Government’ Can Break Cycle of Job Loss, Economic Downturn: President Obama, in his first prime-time press conference, warns that a failure to pass his economic recovery plan could “turn a crisis into a catastrophe.” – Fox News, 29-09
  • Obama presses case for stimulus: President Obama took his case for more than $800 billion in economic stimulus directly to the American people Monday, accusing Republicans of playing politics with a plan that’s “exactly what this country needs.” – USA Today, 2-9-09
  • It Seemed Familiar, and Yet So Different: President Obama insisted that he was nothing like his predecessor. “What I won’t do is return to the failed theories of the last eight years that got us into this fix in the first place,” he said Monday night, “because those theories have been tested, and they have failed.” Yet Mr. Obama’s first prime-time presidential news conference had an eerie similarity to the first one held by George W. Bush, in 2001. – NYT, 2-10-09
  • Taking on Critics, Obama Puts Aside Talk of Unity: President Obama has made a show of reaching across the aisle since taking office, inviting three Republicans into his cabinet and wining and dining other opposition leaders. But by Monday, he sounded like a candidate back on the trail, railing against the status quo and dismissing critics as apostles of a failed philosophy. – NYT, 2-10-09
  • Live Blogging the Obama News ConferenceNYT, 2-9-09
  • Obama to Congress: Pass stimulus, don’t play games: President Barack Obama, urgently pressuring lawmakers to approve a massive economic recovery bill, turned his first news conference Monday night into a determined defense of his emergency plan and an offensive against Republicans who try to “play the usual political games.” – AP, 2-9-09
  • Obama Says Failing to Act Could Lead to a ‘Catastrophe’: President Obama took his case for his $800 billion economic recovery package to the American people on Monday, as the Senate cleared the way for passage of the bill and the White House prepared for its next major hurdle: selling Congress and the public on a fresh plan to bail out the nation’s banks. – NYT, 2-9-09
  • Stimulus bill draws Kennedy back to Senate: Sen. Edward M. Kennedy returned to the Senate in the midst of his battle with brain cancer Monday to vote for President Barack Obama’s massive economic stimulus package. “We are obviously very concerned” about the recession, Kennedy said as he donned a coat and stepped into an elevator to leave following a key test vote. He was expected to return Tuesday for the vote to approve or reject the measure. – AP, 2-9-09
  • Stimulus bill narrowly survives Senate test vote: An $838 billion economic stimulus bill backed by the White House survived a key test vote in the Senate on Monday despite strong Republican opposition, and Democratic leaders vowed to deliver legislation for President Barack Obama’s signature within a few days. – AP, 2-9-09


President Obama in the East Room of the White House. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Political Quotes

  • Press Conference Transcript: Obama takes questions on economy: CNN, 2-9-09 Download Mp3: …As we speak, similar scenes are playing out in cities and towns across America. Last Monday, more than 1,000 men and women stood in line for 35 firefighter jobs in Miami [Florida]. Last month, our economy lost 598,000 jobs, which is nearly the equivalent of losing every single job in the state of Maine.
    And if there’s anyone out there who still doesn’t believe this constitutes a full-blown crisis, I suggest speaking to one of the millions of Americans whose lives have been turned upside-down because they don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from.
    And that is why the single most important part of this economic recovery and reinvestment plan is the fact that it will save or create up to 4 million jobs, because that’s what America needs most right now.
    It is absolutely true that we can’t depend on government alone to create jobs or economic growth. That is and must be the role of the private sector. But at this particular moment, with the private sector so weakened by this recession, the federal government is the only entity left with the resources to jolt our economy back into life.
    It is only government that can break the vicious cycle, where lost jobs lead to people spending less money, which leads to even more layoffs. And breaking that cycle is exactly what the plan that’s moving through Congress is designed to do.
    When passed, this plan will ensure that Americans who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own can receive greater unemployment benefits and continue their health care coverage…..
    But as we’ve learned very clearly and conclusively over the last eight years, tax cuts alone can’t solve all of our economic problems, especially tax cuts that are targeted to the wealthiest few Americans. We have tried that strategy time and time again, and it’s only helped lead us to the crisis we face right now.
    And that’s why we have come together around a plan that combines hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the middle class with direct investment in areas like health care, energy, education, and infrastructure, investments that will save jobs, create new jobs and new businesses, and help our economy grow again, now and in the future….
    Now, after many weeks of debate and discussion, the plan that ultimately emerges from Congress must be big enough and bold enough to meet the size of the economic challenges that we face right now.
    It’s a plan that is already supported by businesses representing almost every industry in America, by both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. It contains input, ideas and compromises from both Democrats and Republicans.
    It also contains an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability so that every American will be able to go online and see where and how we’re spending every dime. What it does not contain, however, is a single pet project, not a single earmark, and it has been stripped of the projects members of both parties found most objectionable.
    Now, despite all of this, the plan’s not perfect. No plan is. I can’t tell you for sure that everything in this plan will work exactly as we hoped, but I can tell you with complete confidence that a failure to act will only deepen this crisis, as well as the pain felt by millions of Americans.
    Now, my administration inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion, but because we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression, doing little or nothing at all will result in even greater deficits, even greater job loss, even greater loss of income, and even greater loss of confidence.
    Those are deficits that could turn a crisis into a catastrophe, and I refuse to let that happen. As long as I hold this office, I will do whatever it takes to put this economy back on track and put this country back to work.
    I want to thank the members of Congress who’ve worked so hard to move this plan forward, but I also want to urge all members of Congress to act without delay in the coming week to resolve their differences and pass this plan.
    We find ourselves in a rare moment where the citizens of our country and all countries are watching and waiting for us to lead. It’s a responsibility that this generation did not ask for, but one that we must accept for the future of our children and our grandchildren.
    The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose. That’s the test facing the United States of America in this winter of our hardship, and it is our duty as leaders and citizens to stay true to that purpose in the weeks and months ahead.
    After a day of speaking with and listening to the fundamentally decent men and women who call this nation home, I have full faith and confidence that we can do it, but we’re going to have to work together. That’s what I intend to promote in the weeks and days ahead.
  • President Obama, Indiana Town Hall on Economic Recovery, 2/9/09, REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT TOWN HALL, Concord Community High School, Elkhart, Indiana, February 9, 2009:
    I don’t know if you guys have been noticing, but we’ve had a little debate in Washington — (laughter) — over the last week or two about the economy. You know, we tend to take the measure of the economic crisis we face in numbers and statistics. But when we say that we’ve lost 3.6 million jobs since this recession began, nearly 600,000 in the past month alone; when we say that this area has lost jobs faster than anywhere else in the United States of America, with an unemployment rate of over 15 percent, when it was 4.7 percent just last year; when we talk about layoffs at companies like Monaco Coach, and Keystone RV, and Pilgrim International — companies that have sustained this community for years — we’re not just talking numbers, we’re talking about Ed. We’re talking about people in the audience here today. People not just in Elkhart, but all across this country. We’re talking about people who have lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place.
    We’re talking about parents who’ve lost their health care and lie away at night, praying their kids don’t get sick. We’re talking about families who’ve lost the home that was the corner — their foundation for their American Dream. Young people who put that college acceptance letter back in the envelope because they just can’t afford it. That’s what those numbers and statistics mean. That is the true measure of this economic crisis…. – WH Blog, 2-9-09


White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)

Historians’ Comments

  • ELLEN FITZPATRICK, University of New Hampshire “Obama Courts Public Support for Economic Stimulus Plan President Obama traveled to Indiana Monday and planned a primetime news conference to build support for the stimulus bill that is nearing a final Senate vote. Reporters examine the next steps for the stimulus plan.”:
    Absolutely. I think it was essential. Barack Obama is in the position of undertaking one of the largest attempts to stimulate the economy in modern American history, and he’s doing it after four decades of a political culture that has turned around a bashing of the federal government.
    We’ve had very strong anti-federal government, anti-tax language and mobilization of extreme views on all sides and even in the middle around that message. And he is attempting to do something that flies in the face of that and to try to educate, re-educate the public that the federal government can actually do good on behalf of all the citizens. – PBS Newshour, 2-9-09
  • ROGAN KERSH, NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service “Obama Courts Public Support for Economic Stimulus Plan President Obama traveled to Indiana Monday and planned a primetime news conference to build support for the stimulus bill that is nearing a final Senate vote. Reporters examine the next steps for the stimulus plan.”:
    Every president — every modern president has tried it. Ronald Reagan was the most successful. He came into office facing a hostile Democratic Congress, promised a program of tax cuts. Congress fiddled, didn’t move much on it. He went directly to the people, called going public, and got an overwhelming number of folks writing and calling their members of Congress.
    These are elected officials. They listen to their constituents. And that helped Reagan get his tax cut through. It was known as the velvet steamroller plan after that, so successful was he.
    Other presidents haven’t had as much luck. Jimmy Carter tried to go to the people complaining about the malaise of a sort of slowed down presidency around economic and other issues, didn’t have as much luck. So one has to use this carefully.
    At the same time, Obama we know is a master of mobilization. He’s the chief — he’s playing mobilizer-in-chief now. And I think he’s going to have success, judging from the pictures today of making members of Congress listen, as your previous guests have been saying. – PBS Newshour, 2-9-09
  • Julian Zelizer: Commentary: Obama’s 100 days of problems?: Tomorrow marks the end of the third week of President Barack Obama’s Hundred Days. After what can only be described as a euphoric inauguration, Obama has encountered some trouble. Despite his effort to court Republicans in the House, he failed to obtain a single GOP vote for the economic recovery package….
    It is still too early to know what the economic recovery bill will mean for Obama’s Hundred Days. His response to the negotiations in conference committee over the next two weeks could be a defining moment for his presidency. The huge size of this legislation raises the stakes beyond what many presidents confronted in their Hundred Days.
    On the one hand, Obama might have found a compromise, moving through Congress one of the most ambitious uses of government to strengthen the economy in several decades. If this is the case, the rough patches from the first weeks will quickly be forgotten.
    On the other hand, if the legislation turns out to be misguided — or if it is weakened too much in the congressional negotiations — and fails to stimulate the economy or provide substantial relief to struggling states and unemployed workers, then this bill could become an albatross for Obama and Democrats.
    The failure of the financial bailout legislation of September, 2008 diminished the confidence of many Americans in government intervention, leaving the impression that a lot of money was thrown into a sinkhole. This could happen again. If Obama makes the wrong decisions in the negotiations, he might find himself in rougher waters as the midterm elections approach. – CNN, 2-9-09
President Obama’s news conference in the East Room of the White House. (Photo: Doug Mills/ The New York Times)

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White House photo by Pete Souza

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