OTD in History… June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln delivered his House Divided Speech on slavery

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OTD in History… June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln delivered his House Divided Speech on slavery

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln accepted the Illinois state Republican nomination for Senator, where he delivered his “House Divided” speech, about the future of slavery in which he declared, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln would be facing off against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas in the election. Lincoln worked on the speech for weeks, memorized it, and delivered his half-hour message to the Republican State Convention in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln used the gospels “a house divided” theme to emphasize the breaking point that slavery was sending the country.

Lincoln believed that Douglas’ 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, allowing the territories to decide whether they would be slave or free and the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision protecting Southern slave owners bringing their slaves in Free states, as pushing that slavery would be accepted throughout the nation. Lincoln would lose against Douglas in round one but would go on to win the presidency in 1860. His House Divided speech’s doomsday view did not foreshadow, however, that in two years slavery would not expand but the slave states succeed pushing the nation to Civil War, with the Union on the line.

Lincoln faced a tough battle to win, at that point the state legislature voted for Senators, and the public only voted for their legislators. Republicans were also grateful to Douglas, while Republican journalist Horace Greeley advocated in his New York Tribune that Republicans vote for Douglas rather than Lincoln. The Republican platform at their convention “rebuffed” Douglas as historian Eric Foner noted in his book The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery; instead, “It called for barring slavery from all the territories and denounced the Dred Scott decision and the entire idea of the ‘extra-territorial operation’ of slave law.” (Foner, 99)

The “House Divided” speech is considered one of Lincoln’s best and most historically memorable along with the Gettysburg and his second inaugural addresses. He was warning the Republicans against compliance regarding the expansion of slavery, arguing the status quo could not “stand,” and that the government had the power to end slavery. Lincoln’s most notable part of his speech quoted the biblical “house divided,” notably in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew. Lincoln, however, was not the first American politician to use the line to describe the danger slavery posed to the Union, Texas Senator Sam Houston used a similar line “A nation divided against itself cannot stand,” when debating the Compromise of 1850 regarding slavery in the newly acquired territories during the Mexican-American War.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new — North as well as South. Have we no tendency to the latter condition? Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machinery so to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine, and the Dred Scott decision.”

Lincoln divided his speech into three parts. The first was the “House Divided” introduction on the meaning of Republicanism in opposition to slavery and its expansion. The second section was the proslavery conspiracy facilitated by the courts and government but mostly his opponent Douglas. The third and last section was the “living dog” one, where Lincoln refuted that Douglas was an antislavery leader because he opposed and voted with Republicans against the Lecompton Constitution that would have made Kansas a slave state.

Lincoln argued that all three branches of government were pushing back the divisions between slave and free states that have been instituted since the American Revolution and that the compromises that have kept the country balanced were destroyed by Douglas’ act. While the Supreme Court was invading in the Free State’s laws outlawing slavery, Lincoln believed that popular sovereignty and the Dred Scott decision would allow slavery to expand. As historian Don E. Fehrenbacher indicated in his book, Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850’s, Lincoln regarded the territorial problem as just the point of contact in a larger and more fundamental mental struggle.” (Fehrenbacher, 78) The larger picture was not just how slavery was dealt with in new territories and states, but as Lincoln later said in a March 1, 1859 speech, “this whole matter of right or wrong of slavery in the Union.” (Fehrenbacher, 78)

In the second section, Lincoln looked at the two events, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision as a conspiracy to expand slavery; although they did not come to fruition in the spring of 1858, they seemed a possibility. Lincoln blamed Douglas, Presidents Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney as conspiring together. While historian David H. Donald indicates in his book Lincoln, the second section was “designed to show that Douglas was part of a dangerous plot to nationalize slavery.” (Donald, 207)

As Fehrenbacher analyzes Lincoln was “exercising the politician’s privilege of overstating his case.” Fehrenbacher believes that Lincoln agreed his assertion could not be proved; however, “popular sovereignty” made the “nationalization of slavery” a possibility. Donald, however, argues, “Lincoln probably genuinely believed in this alleged proslavery conspiracy among Northern Democratic leaders because he so totally distrusted Douglas…. But his charge of conspiracy was not based on fact.” (Donald, 208) Foner indicated that the conspiracy “had become standard fare among Republican circles.” (Foner, 101) To Fehrenbacher there is a distinct connection between the house divided passage and the conspiracy in Lincoln’s address, “Just as the first step towards the ultimate extinction of slavery was the thwarting of efforts to extend it, so the first step towards nationalization of slavery was the blunting the moral opposition to it.” (81)

Lincoln argued that the country could go either way, but a vote for Douglas because of his advocacy of popular sovereignty would push the country towards morally accepting slavery. As Lincoln pointed out, “Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mould public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, to not care whether slavery is voted down or voted up.” Lincoln would continue to use the image as Douglas complicit in the “proslavery conspiracy” as he ran for president against him in 1859 and 1860.

In the third section of his speech, where he claimed, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Lincoln warned Republicans against viewing Douglas as an anti-Slavery leader, telling them, “Clearly, he is not now with us — he does not pretend to be — he does not promise to ever be. Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends — those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work — who do care for the result.”

Fehrenbacher argues the “immediate purpose” of the “House Divided” Speech was “A matter of practical politics it was an attempt to minimize the significance and impact of Douglas’s anti-Lecompton heroics and to demonstrate the folly of diluting Republican convictions with the watery futility of popular sovereignty-in short to vindicate the nomination of the Republican candidate for the Senate in Illinois.” (Fehrenbacher, 83) Donald seemed to have concurred that Douglas was the enemy, concluding, “Thus the three sections of Lincoln’s house-divided speech had the inevitability of a syllogism: the tendency to nationalize slavery had to be defeated, Stephen A. Douglas powerfully contributed to that tendency. Therefore, Stephen A. Douglas had to be defeated.” (Donald, 209) Foner agreed but focuses just on slavery, writing, “Lincoln’s point in the House Divided Speech was not the imminence of civil war but that Illinois voters, and all Americans, must choose between supporting and opposing slavery.” (Foner, 100)

The speech made Lincoln appear as a “radical,” to both his party and to Douglas, who used it against Lincoln, accusing him of being a fanatic that would advocate racial equality. The two candidates would go on to debate three times during the campaign known as Lincoln-Douglas Debates. In the end, the Democratic majority in the state legislature worked in Douglas’s favor garnering him 54 to 46 votes, however, Lincoln would use his speech and campaign to launch himself on the national stage. In 1860, he would beat Douglas this time in the presidential campaign. Lincoln’s foreshadowing would come to fruition, just not as he argued it would. The nation, the “house divided against itself cannot stand,” and did not as the Southern slave states seceded from the Union upon Lincoln’s election, launching the country into a civil war that finally put an end to the slavery question, with the country entirely free of slavery.

SOURCES

Donald, David H. Lincoln. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Fehrenbacher, Don E. Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850’s. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1962.

Foner, Eric. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012.

Lincoln, Abraham, Henry L. Gates, and Donald Yacovone. Lincoln on Race & Slavery. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

House Divided Speech

Springfield, Illinois, June 16, 1858


Even Lincoln’s friends regarded the speech as too radical for the occasion. His law partner, William H. Herndon, considered Lincoln as morally courageous but politically incorrect. Lincoln read the speech to him before delivering it, referring to the “house divided” language this way: “The proposition is indisputably true … and I will deliver it as written. I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language as universally known, that it may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”
On June 16, 1858 more than 1,000 delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention. At 5:00 p.m. they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. At 8:00 p.m. Lincoln delivered this address to his Republican colleagues in the Hall of Representatives. The title reflects part of the speech’s introduction, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” a concept familiar to Lincoln’s audience as a statement by Jesus recorded in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).

The speech created many repercussions, giving Lincoln’s political opponent fresh ammunition. Herndon remarked, “when I saw Senator Douglas making such headway against Mr. Lincoln’s house divided speech I was nettled & irritable, and said to Mr. Lincoln one day this — ‘Mr. Lincoln — why in the world do you not say to Mr. Douglas, when he is making capitol out of your speech, — ‘Douglas why whine and complain to me because of that speech. I am not the author of it. God is. Go and whine and complain to Him for its revelation, and utterance.’ Mr. Lincoln looked at me one short quizzical moment, and replied ‘I can’t.'”

Reflecting on it several years later, Herndon said the speech did awaken the people, and despite Lincoln’s defeat, he thought the speech made him President. “Through logic inductively seen,” he said, “Lincoln as a statesman, and political philosopher, announced an eternal truth — not only as broad as America, but covers the world.”

Another colleague, Leonard Swett, said the speech defeated Lincoln in the Senate campaign. In 1866 he wrote to Herndon complaining, “Nothing could have been more unfortunate or inappropriate; it was saying first the wrong thing, yet he saw it was an abstract truth, but standing by the speech would ultimately find him in the right place.”

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention.

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and howto do it.

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.

Have we no tendency to the latter condition?

Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination — piece of machineryso to speak — compounded of the Nebraska doctrine, and the Dred Scott decision. Let him consider not only whatwork the machinery is adapted to do, and how well adapted; but also, let him study the history of its construction, and trace, if he can, or rather fail, if he can, to trace the evidence of design and concert of action, among its chief architects, from the beginning.

But, so far, Congress only, had acted; and an indorsement by the people, real or apparent, was indispensable, to save the point already gained, and give chance for more.

The new year of 1854 found slavery excluded from more than half the States by State Constitutions, and from most of the national territory by congressional prohibition.

Four days later, commenced the struggle, which ended in repealing that congressional prohibition.

This opened all the national territory to slavery, and was the first point gained.

This necessity had not been overlooked; but had been provided for, as well as might be, in the notable argument of “squatter sovereignty,” otherwise called “sacred right of self government,” which latter phrase, though expressive of the only rightful basis of any government, was so perverted in this attempted use of it as to amount to just this: That if any one man, choose to enslave another, no third man shall be allowed to object.

That argument was incorporated into the Nebraska bill itself, in the language which follows: “It being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or state, not to exclude it therefrom; but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States.”

Then opened the roar of loose declamation in favor of “Squatter Sovereignty,” and “Sacred right of self-government.”

“But,” said opposition members, “let us be more specific — let us amend the bill so as to expressly declare that the people of the territory may exclude slavery.” “Not we,” said the friends of the measure; and down they voted the amendment.

While the Nebraska Bill was passing through congress, a law case involving the question of a negroe’s freedom, by reason of his owner having voluntarily taken him first into a free state and then a territory covered by the congressional prohibition, and held him as a slave, for a long time in each, was passing through the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Missouri; and both Nebraska bill and law suit were brought to a decision in the same month of May, 1854. The negroe’s name was “Dred Scott,” which name now designates the decision finally made in the case.

Before the then next Presidential election, the law case came to, and was argued in, the Supreme Court of the United States; but the decision of it was deferred until after the election. Still, before the election, Senator Trumbull, on the floor of the Senate, requests the leading advocate of the Nebraska bill to state his opinionwhether the people of a territory can constitutionally exclude slavery from their limits; and the latter answers: “That is a question for the Supreme Court.”

The election came. Mr. Buchanan was elected, and the indorsement, such as it was, secured. That was the second point gained. The indorsement, however, fell short of a clear popular majority by nearly four hundred thousand votes, and so, perhaps, was not overwhelmingly reliable and satisfactory.

The outgoing President, in his last annual message, as impressively as possible, echoed back upon the people the weight and authority of the indorsement.

The Supreme Court met again; did not announce their decision, but ordered a re-argument.

The Presidential inauguration came, and still no decision of the court; but the incoming President, in his inaugural address, fervently exhorted the people to abide by the forthcoming decision, whatever might be.

Then, in a few days, came the decision.

The reputed author of the Nebraska Bill finds an early occasion to make a speech at this capital indorsing the Dred Scott Decision, and vehemently denouncing all opposition to it.

The new President, too, seizes the early occasion of the Silliman letter to indorse and strongly construe that decision, and to express his astonishment that any different view had ever been entertained.

At length a squabble springs up between the President and the author of the Nebraska Bill, on the mere question of fact, whether the Lecompton constitution was or was not, in any just sense, made by the people of Kansas; and in that squabble the latter declares that all he wants is a fair vote for the people, and that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up. I do not understand his declaration that he cares not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, to be intended by him other than as an apt definition of the policy he would impress upon the public mind — the principle for which he declares he has suffered much, and is ready to suffer to the end.

And well may he cling to that principle. If he has any parental feeling, well may he cling to it. That principle, is the only shred left of his original Nebraska doctrine. Under the Dred Scott decision, “squatter sovereignty” squatted out of existence, tumbled down like temporary scaffolding — like the mould at the foundry served through one blast and fell back into loose sand — helped to carry an election, and then was kicked to the winds. His late jointstruggle with the Republicans, against the Lecompton Constitution, involves nothing of the original Nebraska doctrine. That struggle was made on a point, the right of a people to make their own constitution, upon which he and the Republicans have never differed.

The several points of the Dred Scott decision, in connection with Senator Douglas’ “care-not” policy, constitute the piece of machinery, in its present state of advancement. This was the third point gained.

\ The working points of that machinery are:

First, that no negro slave, imported as such from Africa, and no descendant of such slave can ever be a citizen of any State, in the sense of that term as used in the Constitution of the United States.

This point is made in order to deprive the negro, in every possible event, of the benefit of this provision of the United States Constitution, which declares that–

“The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States.”

Secondly, that “subject to the Constitution of the United States,” neither Congress nor a Territorial Legislaturecan exclude slavery from any United States Territory.

This point is made in order that individual men may fill up the territories with slaves, without danger of losing them as property, and thus to enhance the chances of permanency to the institution through all the future.

Thirdly, that whether the holding a negro in actual slavery in a free State, makes him free, as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave State the negro may be forced into by the master.

This point is made, not to be pressed immediately; but, if acquiesced in for a while, and apparently indorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott’s master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free State of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free State.

Auxiliary to all this, and working hand in hand with it, the Nebraska doctrine, or what is left of it, is to educate and mould public opinion, at least Northern public opinion, to not care whether slavery is voted down or voted up.

This shows exactly where we now are; and partially, also, whither we are tending.

It will throw additional light on the latter, to go back, and run the mind over the string of historical facts already stated. Several things will now appear less dark and mysterious than they did when they were transpiring. The people were to be left “perfectly free” “subject only to the Constitution.” What the Constitution had to do with it, outsiders could not then see. Plainly enough now, it was an exactly fitted niche, for the Dred Scott decision to afterward come in, and declare the perfect freedom of the people, to be just no freedom at all.

Why was the amendment, expressly declaring the right of the people to exclude slavery, voted down? Plainly enough now, the adoption of it would have spoiled the niche for the Dred Scott decision.

Why was the court decision held up? Why even a Senator’s individual opinion withheld, till after the presidential election? Plainly enough now, the speaking out then would have damaged the “perfectly free” argument upon which the election was to be carried.

Why the outgoing President’s felicitation on the indorsement? Why the delay of a reargument? Why the incoming President’s advance exhortation in favor of the decision?

These things look like the cautious patting and petting of a spirited horse, preparatory to mounting him, when it is dreaded that he may give the rider a fall.

And why the hasty after indorsements of the decision by the President and others?

We can not absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places and by different workmen — Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance — and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece too many or too few — not omitting even scaffolding — or, if a single piece be lacking, we can see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared to yet bring such piece in — in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first lick was struck.

It should not be overlooked that, by the Nebraska Bill, the people of a State, as well as Territory, were to be left “perfectly free” “subject only to the Constitution.

Why mention a State? They were legislating for territories, and not for or about States. Certainly the people of a State are and ought to be subject to the Constitution of the United States; but why is mention of this lugged into this merely territorial law? Why are the people of a territory and the people of a state therein lumped together, and their relation to the Constitution therein treated as being precisely the same?

While the opinion of the Court, by Chief Justice Taney, in the Dred Scott case, and the separate opinions of all the concurring Judges, expressly declare that the Constitution of the United States neither permits Congress nor a Territorial legislature to exclude slavery from any United States territory, they all omit to declare whether or not the same Constitution permits a state, or the people of a State, to exclude it.

Possibly, this is a mere omission; but who can be quite sure, if McLean or Curtis had sought to get into the opinion a declaration of unlimited power in the people of a state to exclude slavery from their limits, just as Chase and Macy sought to get such declaration, in behalf of the people of a territory, into the Nebraska bill — I ask, who can be quite sure that it would not have been voted down, in the one case, as it had been in the other.

The nearest approach to the point of declaring the power of a State over slavery, is made by Judge Nelson. He approaches it more than once, using the precise idea, and almost the language too, of the Nebraska act. On one occasion his exact language is, “except in cases where the power is restrained by the Constitution of the United States, the law of the State is supreme over the subject of slavery within its jurisdiction.”

In what cases the power of the states is so restrained by the U.S. Constitution, is left an open question, precisely as the same question, as to the restraint on the power of the territories was left open in the Nebraska act. Put thatand that together, and we have another nice little niche, which we may, ere long, see filled with another Supreme Court decision, declaring that the Constitution of the United States does not permit a state to exclude slavery from its limits.

And this may especially be expected if the doctrine of “care not whether slavery be voted down or voted up, shall gain upon the public mind sufficiently to give promise that such a decision an be maintained when made.

Such a decision is all that slavery now lacks of being alike lawful in all the States.

Welcome, or unwelcome, such decision is probably coming, and will soon be upon us, unless the power of the present political dynasty shall be met and overthrown.

We shall lie down pleasantly dreaming that the people of Missouri are on the verge of making their State free; and we shall awake to the reality, instead, that the Supreme Court has made Illinois a slave State.

To meet and overthrow the power of that dynasty, is the work now before all those who would prevent that consummation.

This is what we have to do.

But how can we best do it?

There are those who denounce us openly to their own friends, and yet whisper us softly, that Senator Douglas is the aptest instrument there is, with which to effect that object. They wish us to infer all, from the facts, that he now has a little quarrel with the present head of the dynasty; and that he has regularly voted with us, on a single point, upon which, he and we, have never differed.

They remind us that he is a great man, and that the largest of us are very small ones. Let this be granted. But “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” Judge Douglas, if not a dead lion for this work, is at least a caged and toothless one. How can he oppose the advances of slavery? He don’t care anything about it. His avowed mission is impressing the “public heart” to care nothing about it.

A leading Douglas Democratic newspaper thinks Douglas’ superior talent will be needed to resist the revival of the African slave trade.

Does Douglas believe an effort to revive that trade is approaching? He has not said so. Does he really think so? But if it is, how can he resist it? For years he has labored to prove it a sacred right of white men to take negro slaves into the new territories. Can he possibly show that it is less a sacred right to buy them where they can be bought cheapest? And, unquestionably they can be bought cheaper in Africa than in Virginia.

He has done all in his power to reduce the whole question of slavery to one of a mere right of property; and as such, how can he oppose the foreign slave trade — how can he refuse that trade in that “property” shall be “perfectly free” — unless he does it as a protection to the home production? And as the home producers will probably not ask the protection, he will be wholly without a ground of opposition.

Senator Douglas holds, we know, that a man may rightfully be wiser to-day than he was yesterday — that he may rightfully change when he finds himself wrong.

But can we, for that reason, run ahead, and infer that he will make any particular change, of which he, himself, has given no intimation? Can we safely base our action upon any such vague inference?

Now, as ever, I wish not to misrepresent Judge Douglas’ position, question his motives, or do ought that can be personally offensive to him.

Whenever, if ever, he and we can come together on principle so that our great cause may have assistance from his great ability, I hope to have interposed no adventitious obstacle.

But clearly, he is not now with us — he does not pretend to be — he does not promise to ever be.

Our cause, then, must be intrusted to, and conducted by its own undoubted friends — those whose hands are free, whose hearts are in the work — who do care for the result.

Two years ago the Republicans of the nation mustered over thirteen hundred thousand strong.

We did this under the single impulse of resistance to a common danger, with every external circumstance against us.

Of strange, discordant, and even, hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought the battle through, under the constant hot fire of a disciplined, proud, and pampered enemy.

Did we brave all then to falter now? — now — when that same enemy is wavering, dissevered and belligerent?

The result is not doubtful. We shall not fail — if we stand firm, we shall not fail.

Wise councils may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later the victory is sure to come.

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Full Text Political Transcripts December 9, 2016: President-elect Donald Trump Get-Out-the-Vote Rally in Baton Rouge, LA

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION:

President-elect Donald Trump Get-Out-the-Vote Rally in Baton Rouge, LA

Campaign Headlines July 18, 2012: Obama Campaign Sues to Extend Ohio Early Voting

CAMPAIGN 2012

CAMPAIGN BUZZ 2012

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Campaign Sues to Extend Ohio Early Voting

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-18-12

President Obama’s re-election campaign has filed suit in federal court to block a Republican-sponsored Ohio law that mandates that early, in-person voting end a full three days before Election Day this fall.

The lawsuit is the latest twist in an ongoing battle over early voting in the state between Obama allies and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Gov. John Kasich….READ MORE

February 4, 2011: Crisis & Protest in Egypt; President Obama, U.S. and the World React

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

CRISIS IN EGYPT & THE MIDDLE EAST:

The President Discusses the Situation in Egypt
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 2/1/11

IN FOCUS

  • Egypt News— The ProtestsNYT
  • Hosni MubarakNYT
  • Latest Updates on Day 10 of Egypt ProtestsNYT

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House, Egypt Discuss Plan for Mubarak’s Exit: The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately, turning over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.
    Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.
    The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.
    Senior administration officials said that the proposal was one of several options under discussion with high-level Egyptian officials around Mr. Mubarak in an effort to persuade the president to step down now…. – NYT, 2-3-11
  • Israel ponders border security, enlarged military amid Egypt unrest: Israelis are looking fearfully beyond the end of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, expecting it will force them to stiffen security across an extensive southwestern border and perhaps reoccupy a strategic corridor between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
    In the long term, it may require Israel to expand its military force and budget if a new Egyptian government comes under the sway of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, or otherwise casts into doubt the long-standing peace accord between the two nations.
    Israel has relied for three decades on the assumption that it would never again fight a land war against the Arab world’s most populous state, or worry about Egypt openly supporting militants in the Gaza Strip or elsewhere…. – WaPo, 2-4-11
  • Canada’s cautious position on Egypt linked to support for Israel: On the surface, the Conservative government’s statements on the crisis in Egypt might seem a carbon copy of those churned out by the White House. But there has been one major difference — and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s staunch support for Israel and strong backing within Canada’s Jewish community could offer clues about why.
    President Barack Obama’s administration, along with major European countries, have called for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step aside now and allow for a transition of power. But the Canadian government has markedly refrained from asking for Mubarak’s ouster. Instead, it has spoken in broad terms about the need to respect human rights and a peaceful transition to democracy.
    Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon on Thursday condemned the detention of Canadian journalists in Cairo, but did not wade into the question of Mubarak’s presidency.
    During an emergency House of Commons debate late Wednesday night, Conservative MPs repeatedly noted their concerns about Israeli security and the need to uphold the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace accord. “In order for us, here in Canada, to recognize and support the future Egyptian government, it must meet four basic conditions: first, it must respect freedom, democracy and human rights, particularly the rights of women; second, it must recognize the State of Israel; third, it must adhere to existing peace treaties; and fourth, it must respect international law,” Cannon said…. – Canadian Press, 2-2-11
  • Kerry-McCain resolution calls on Mubarak to step down: Senator John F. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Senator John McCain are calling on embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to immediately begin a peaceful transition to a new democratic government. The two former presidential candidates, Kerry in 2004 and McCain in 2008, have been among the leading voices of their parties on international affairs in general and the violent unraveling of Egypt’s power structure specifically. The two co-wrote a resolution, passed by the Senate on a voice vote tonight, that calls on Mubarak to hand over power to a caretaker government…. – Boston Globe, 2-3-11Resolution Copy
  • Yemen’s President Is Latest To Vow Exit: President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he won’t run for re-election when his term ends in 2013, and that he won’t attempt to pass on the presidency to his son, abruptly ending his bid to change the constitution to erase all term limits on the post. Opposition leaders called the president’s concessions insufficient and urged their supporters to join renewed mass protests Thursday. Ahead of that rally, most major commercial banks in the capital, San’a, reported large withdrawals from thousands of citizens, as fears grow that the protest will turn violent.
    Separately, Jordan’s largest political group, the Islamic Action Front, said it plans mass protests Friday over the appointment of a new prime minister, Maruf Bakhit, who started talks Wednesday on the formation of a new government…. – WSJ, 2-3-11
  • Obama Continues to Monitor Tense Egypt Situation: President Obama returned to the White House after a brief trip to Pennsylvania on Thursday, and has been holding more consultations with his advisers on the situation in Egypt. The United States pressed harder on the Egyptian government and military to stop a wave of violence.
    The president moved quickly past members of the press corps without comment, and into the Oval Office where over the past few days of the Egyptian crisis he has met with advisers and spoken twice by telephone with President Hosni Mubarak.
    In an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Mr. Mubarak referred to those conversations and said, according to excerpts, while he is a “very good man” Mr. Obama didn’t understand the culture of Egypt. In the same interview, Mr. Mubarak said he was “very unhappy” with violence in Egypt, which he blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, but said he could not step down and risk the chaos he says would ensue…. – VOA, 2-3-11
  • US, UK condemn attacks on journalists in Egypt: The United States and Britain condemned the intimidation of foreign reporters covering protests against President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday and said the Egyptian government must not target journalists.
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned assaults on American journalists in Cairo as concern rose about the possibility of an intensified round of rioting on Friday.
    “This is a violation of international norms that guarantee freedom of the press and it is unacceptable under any circumstances,” she said, reading a statement…. – Reuters, 2-3-11
  • Tens of thousands turn out for rival rallies in Yemen: Anti-government protesters in Sana are met with a competing rally across town by the president’s supporters, who get logistical support from the army…. – LAT, 2-3-11
  • Egypt’s VP uses state TV to blame unrest on ‘foreign agendas’: Egypt’s new Vice President Omar Suleiman took to state TV Thursday night to make a play for Mubarak to hang on until presidential elections in September…. – CS Monitor, 2-3-11
  • The Arab reform dodge: Cosmetic concessions aren’t enough: LIKE EGYPTIAN President Hosni Mubarak, Arab rulers around the Middle East are trying to head off the swelling popular discontent in their countries while retaining political control…. – WaPo, 2-3-11
  • GOP divided over Obama response to Egypt: As chaos roils Egypt, Republican lawmakers and the GOP’s potential presidential candidates are divided over President Barack Obama’s response though united in concern that an Islamic regime could rise to power in a nation that is an important U.S. ally in the precarious Middle East.
    Compared with recent verbal sparring on domestic issues, the debate between Democrats and Republicans on Egypt is somewhat muted. That’s perhaps because the two parties differ little over U.S. policy toward Egypt. Both view the country as a linchpin to a peaceful Middle East. And while supportive of democracy there, both also express concern about the influence of extremists in a post-Mubarak government, a particular worry of Israel.
    Trying to set the tone for their party, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the country’s two top elected Republicans, have deferred to the Democratic president. They are signaling an unwillingness among the GOP leadership in Congress to pick a fight, in line, at least on this issue, with the tradition that politics stops at the waters’ edge in the midst of foreign crises. “America ought to speak with one voice,” said McConnell…. –
  • The Pentagon View of Egypt: What the Uprising Means for the U.S. MilitaryABC News, 2-3-1
  • Why Obama’s position on Egypt’s Mubarak was too little, too late: The images that have come out of Egypt over the past week are stunning: tens of thousands of largely unarmed protestors facing tanks, teargas, and live ammunition and who are still demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down. But throughout the upheaval, the United States response has been guarded, if not inadequate. After days of tepid statements and measured acknowledgements of the Egyptian people’s “legitimate grievances,” even an eventual call for “free and fair elections,” the Obama administration would still not publicly call for Mr. Mubarak’s departure…. – CS Monitor, 2-2-11
  • Journalists Are Targets of Violence in Cairo: As chaos gripped central Tahrir Square in Cairo on Wednesday, journalists covering the scene on the ground found themselves the targets of violence and intimidation by demonstrators chanting slogans in favor of President Hosni Mubarak. One prominent American television correspondent, Anderson Cooper of CNN, was struck in the head repeatedly.
    Reporters Without Borders said it had received dozens of confirmed reports of violence against local and international journalists in Egypt. Tala Dowlatshahi, a spokeswoman for the group, said to “expect more foreign journalists to be targeted.” The attacks were reported by Al Jazeera, CNN and Twitter users almost as soon as violent clashes began in the square, also known as Liberation Square, eliciting a strong condemnation from the White House and the State Department…. – NYT, 2-2-11
  • Uprising in Egypt Splits U.S Conservatives: Glenn Beck blasts the uprising in Cairo as a threat to our way of life. Michelle Goldberg on how the rebellion is splitting U.S. conservatives—and the fallout for the 2012 presidential campaign. Plus, full coverage of Egypt’s protests…. – The Daily Beast, 2-1-11
  • Obama Urges Quick Transition in Egypt: President Obama declared on Tuesday night that an “orderly transition” in Egypt “must begin now,” but he stopped short of demanding that President Hosni Mubarak leave office immediately. Mr. Obama used his four-and-a-half minute speech from the Cross Hall of the White House to embrace the cause of the protestors in Egypt far more fully than he has at any previous moment since the uprising against Mr. Mubarak’s 30-year-rule began.
    He praised the Egyptian military for refusing to fire on the protestors. And by declaring that Mr. Mubarak had to begin the process of transition immediately, he seemed to be signaling that the United States would not stand by if Mr. Mubarak tried to slow-walk the process, or manipulate its results.
    But if he pushed Mr. Mubarak, he did not shove him. Mr. Obama said there would be “difficult days ahead,” a clear signal of recognition that the transition period could be messy. Only a few hours before, Mr. Mubarak had declared he would not run for re-election, but planned to stay in office through September. Mr. Obama never discussed that timetable in his public response, and he did not declare exactly what steps he wants the Egyptian leader to take to start the process of transition.
    But he made clear that the process started by the protestors could not be reversed. “We’ve born witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country,” Mr. Obama said, casting it as a natural successor to other moments of transition in a society that goes back thousands of years…. – NYT, 2-1-11
Netanyahu and Mubarak
Reuters Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, left, and President Hosni Mubarak at a meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on Jan. 6.
  • Israel wary of transition in Egypt, concerned about regional stability: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s quickening collapse and increasing political turmoil in Jordan have prompted concerns in Israel that its historic peace treaties with those countries may not withstand the convulsion sweeping the region.
    A change of power in Egypt and instability in Jordan could have profound consequences for Israel, which depends on the peace accords – its only two with Arab countries – as a cornerstone of its security. The treaties struck by Israel with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994 remain unpopular among the residents of the two Arab nations, and Israel has relied on the strength of Mubarak’s regime and the Jordanian monarchy to keep them intact.
    Not all of the recent developments have been bad from the Israelis’ perspective: Newly appointed Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman has become a trusted interlocutor on regional security issues, and the United States will push to ensure that the peace accords remain in place. But the fast pace of events may change how Israel perceives its position, and make it less willing to offer territorial concessions as part of any peace deal with the Palestinians. The country is still digesting the rise in Lebanon of a new government chosen by the Shiite Hezbollah, one of its chief antagonists, and may now sense instability on all sides.
    Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened top intelligence analysts and senior cabinet members in Tel Aviv for a day of urgent consultations Tuesday to weigh the changes underway in Egypt and assess the strength of Jordan’s King Abdullah II, an Israeli official said. Abdullah sacked his cabinet Tuesday amid clamors for more economic and political reform. After the meetings, Netanyahu said the international community “must demand that any Egyptian government preserve the peace accord with Israel.”… – WaPo, 2-1-11
  • Quiet Acts of Protest on a Noisy DayNYT, 2-1-11
  • Israel shocked by Obama’s “betrayal” of Mubarak: If Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak is toppled, Israel will lose one of its very few friends in a hostile neighborhood and President Barack Obama will bear a large share of the blame, Israeli pundits said on Monday. Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers of the Jewish state to make no comment on the political cliffhanger in Cairo, to avoid inflaming an already explosive situation. But Israel’s President Shimon Peres is not a minister.
    “We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak,” he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. “I don’t say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East.”… – Reuters, 1-31-11
  • Turbulence Rocks an Israeli Ally: The street revolt in Egypt has thrown the Israeli government and military into turmoil, with top officials closeted in round-the-clock strategy sessions aimed at rethinking their most significant regional relationship. Israel’s military planning relies on peace with Egypt; nearly half the natural gas it uses is imported from Egypt; and the principle of trading conquered land for diplomatic ties began with its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has met with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt more than with any other foreign leader, except President Obama. If Mr. Mubarak were driven from power, the effect on Israel could be profound. “For the United States, Egypt is the keystone of its Middle East policy,” a senior official said. “For Israel, it’s the whole arch.”… – NYT, 1-30-11
  • Clinton Calls for ‘Orderly Transition’ in Egypt: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Sunday for “an orderly transition” to a more politically open Egypt, stopping short of telling its embattled president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down but clearly laying the groundwork for his departure. Mrs. Clinton, making a round of Sunday talk shows, insisted that Mr. Mubarak’s future was up to the Egyptian people. But she said on “State of the Union” on CNN that the United States stood “ready to help with the kind of transition that will lead to greater political and economic freedom.” And she emphasized that elections scheduled for this fall must be free and fair. President Obama reinforced that message in phone calls on Saturday and Sunday to other leaders in the region, including King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, as the administration tried to contain the regional reverberations…. – NYT, 1-30-11
  • U.S. cautiously prepares for post-Mubarak era: Mindful of other allies in the region, U.S. officials have been careful not to abandon the Egyptian leader, urging him to implement a transition to democracy. But they are also preparing for the possibility of his ouster…. – LAT, 1-30-11
  • What impact will the uprising in Egypt have on the Middle East, the U.S., Canada, China, and the EU? The Mark’s experts weigh in.The Mark News, 2-2-11

QUOTES

Anti-government protestors gather in Cairo's central Tahrir Square on Thursday. New clashes erupted as anti-government protesters came face-to-face with Egyptian President Hosni Mubaraka's supporters. 

Anti-government protestors gather in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Thursday. New clashes erupted as anti-government protesters came face-to-face with Egyptian President Hosni Mubaraka’s supporters.
  • Press Secretary Gibbs on Egypt, Violence & Journalists: During his gaggle with the press aboard Air Force One, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opens the session with pointed remarks about recent developments in Egypt…. – WH, 2-3-11
  • Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt: Good evening, everybody. Over the past few days, the American people have watched the situation unfolding in Egypt. We’ve seen enormous demonstrations by the Egyptian people. We’ve borne witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a long-time partner of the United States.
    And my administration has been in close contact with our Egyptian counterparts and a broad range of the Egyptian people, as well as others across the region and across the globe. And throughout this period, we’ve stood for a set of core principles.
    First, we oppose violence. And I want to commend the Egyptian military for the professionalism and patriotism that it has shown thus far in allowing peaceful protests while protecting the Egyptian people. We’ve seen tanks covered with banners, and soldiers and protesters embracing in the streets. And going forward, I urge the military to continue its efforts to help ensure that this time of change is peaceful.
    Second, we stand for universal values, including the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the freedom to access information. Once more, we’ve seen the incredible potential for technology to empower citizens and the dignity of those who stand up for a better future. And going forward, the United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Egypt and around the world.
    Third, we have spoken out on behalf of the need for change. After his speech tonight, I spoke directly to President Mubarak. He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place. Indeed, all of us who are privileged to serve in positions of political power do so at the will of our people. Through thousands of years, Egypt has known many moments of transformation. The voices of the Egyptian people tell us that this is one of those moments; this is one of those times.
    Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders. Only the Egyptian people can do that. What is clear — and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak — is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.
    Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties. It should lead to elections that are free and fair. And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles, but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
    Throughout this process, the United States will continue to extend the hand of partnership and friendship to Egypt. And we stand ready to provide any assistance that is necessary to help the Egyptian people as they manage the aftermath of these protests.
    Over the last few days, the passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt has been an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom.
    To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear: We hear your voices. I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren. And I say that as someone who is committed to a partnership between the United States and Egypt.
    There will be difficult days ahead. Many questions about Egypt’s future remain unanswered. But I am confident that the people of Egypt will find those answers. That truth can be seen in the sense of community in the streets. It can be seen in the mothers and fathers embracing soldiers. And it can be seen in the Egyptians who linked arms to protect the national museum — a new generation protecting the treasures of antiquity; a human chain connecting a great and ancient civilization to the promise of a new day. – WH, 2-1-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Time for Mubarak to ‘step down’: US Senator McCain: Top US Senator John McCain, shortly after talks with President Barack Obama, urged embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday to “step down and relinquish power.” “Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres Mubarak 2 step down (and) relinquish power,” McCain said in a post on the microblogging site Twitter roughly an hour after discussing the bloody political crisis in Egypt with Obama. “It’s in the best interest of Egypt, its people (and) its military,” said the lawmaker, Obama’s rival for the US presidency in 2008 and the top Republican on the US Senate Armed Services Committee…. – AFP, 2-2-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • New York Times: Room For Debate: Mubarak’s Role and Mideast Peace: What does the crisis in Egypt mean for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?… – NYT, 2-1-11
  • Gil Troy: Anxiety and Skepticism: Egypt’s uprising has already undermined most Israelis’ sense of security and their willingness to take risks for peace with the Palestinians. Israelis now worry about the biggest risk they ever took for peace: the withdrawal from Sinai in 1982.
    A radical Egypt downgrading or abrogating its peace treaty with Israel would top the litany of failed peace-making attempts and reinforce the argument of right-wing skeptics against trading land for peace with the Palestinians. Moreover, a hostile Egypt would reinforce the sense of betrayal so many Israelis have felt since 2000, as the failure of the Oslo peace process triggered a wave of Palestinian terror, the withdrawal from Lebanon boosted Hezbollah, and disengagement from Gaza brought Hamas to power.
    Israelis have longed for greater intimacy with the Egyptian people, always speaking of “peace with Egypt” not with Mubarak. Yet this “cold peace” has been government to government not people to people. Israelis have accepted the limits, given their alternatives.
    Mubarak’s Egypt has served as an important counterweight to Ahmadinejad’s Iran. The recent Wikileaks documents suggested some of the benefits Israel enjoyed from its alliance with Mubarak, including diplomatic support, intelligence sharing and military cooperation. Most important have been decades of non-belligerency. With the loss of that sense of security on its southern border, Israelis will be much more reluctant to cede control of their eastern border to an independent Palestine.
    This week’s hysterical headlines in the Israeli press about the potential loss of Egypt, the dip in Tel Aviv stocks, the debate about whether President Obama can be trusted to support American allies, all suggest that Israel’s strategic doctrine is being hastily rewritten.
    The prospects of peace become even more unlikely if Egypt turns Islamist. Israel’s safest border will suddenly look menacing. Hamas will look stronger in Gaza with an Islamist Egyptian regime not even pretending to try to stop the flow of arms. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will look like a less viable peace partner with fundamentalism ascendant, and any pro-peace or pro-Western Palestinians demonized as collaborators. Moreover, Israeli policymakers will feel caught, doubting Mahmoud Abbas as another unelected autocrat while fearing the popular Palestinian street more than ever.
    Israelis find themselves once again in dissonance with the international community. Many Israelis wish they could wholeheartedly support this popular move against an aging dictator. But the bitter experience of the last ten years suggests that skepticism is in order. – NYT, 2-1-11
  • Khaled Fahmy: Mubarak Fails to Quell Protests as Turmoil Spreads to Yemen: “I expect the demonstrations to continue,” said Khaled Fahmy, professor of history at American University in Cairo, in a telephone interview. “He really hasn’t offered much. What I’ve seen is that he has burned bridges. There is no trust between him and the people.” SF Chronicle/Blomberg, 2-2-11
  • Yale History prof sign letter to Obama regarding Egypt: As protests against the 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak continue in Egypt, three Yale professors joined over 150 academics in signing an open letter to President Barack Obama yesterday, calling on Obama to support Egypt’s democratic movement. The letter reads:
    For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday ‘political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,’ your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.
    Alan Mikhail, an assistant professor of history who researches Egypt during the Ottoman period, said he saw the letter as a “small gesture” academics could make, regardless of whether it sways Obama’s opinion.
    “It seems like a small gesture that I as a historian could do, to show support for the people in Egypt who are protesting, and sometimes putting their lives on the line, for a better society and a better government,” Mikhail said. “Is [Obama] going to read it? I have no idea. He’s a very busy guy.”… – Yale Daily News, 2-2-11
  • Kent Schull: Professor to students: Write your members of Congress about Egypt: In an effort to support the millions of Egyptians protesting their authoritarian government, one University of Memphis professor is asking students to flock to their keyboards. Kent Schull, assistant history professor, has expertise in modern Middle East history and said he thinks students should write to their state and U.S. representatives.
    “These people are really trying to get a better life for themselves, and that resonates with all of us,” he said. “We all want basic freedoms that we all feel we have a right to, and this is what the Egyptian people want, and I think the United States has to put the Egyptian people’s interest ahead of our own international interest.”
    “You have a huge gap between the rich and poor,” he said. “Egypt has a lot of its money coming from tourism and from small manufacturing depths from agricultural production, and the people that control that — they have a lot of money, but the vast majority of the population is very poor.”
    Schull said that the U.S.-Egypt alliance is based, in part, on geography and natural resources. “Egypt has been a very close trade partner with the United States,” he said. “(It’s) a very close political partner for trying to keep stability within the Middle East. Without Egypt as an ally, then it would be very tough to get Saudi Arabia’s oil to us.”
    The U.S. doesn’t want Egyptian people viewing it as a country that funds a dictator, Schull said. “The U.S. has been walking this fine line and probably needs to throw its support very squarely behind the Egyptian people going for democratic change,” he said. Schull said that the more representatives and senators hear from Americans about supporting these Egyptian protests, the more likely it is that “maybe they’ll listen.”… – Daily Helmsman, 2-2-11
  • Charles Wilkins: Wake Forest Professor: Economy Plays Role In Egyptian Protests: The violence is escalating in Cairo. Protestors for and against President Hosni Mubarak are clashing, surrounded by burning buildings and gun fire. Hundreds have been hurt since Wednesday when the protests turned violent. So what’s causing the un-rest in Egypt? Wake Forest University Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern History, Charles Wilkins, says it started with pent up anger and the resentment of Egypt’s government
    The economy also plays a role. “Economics of it are very important. We have high unemployment, we have low wages and high cost of living. We have basically a housing shortage,” says Charles Wilkins. “It’s a young generation that’s actual rebeling. This is a politically active and aware population that want to see change.”
    Wilkins also credits the internet with helping protestors coordinate their efforts and making them more powerful. He says the protests in Tunisia a few weeks ago gave Egyptians, Jordanians and Syrians the courage to question their governments…. – WFMY News 2, CBS Newspath, CNN Newsource, 2-3-11
  • Historians worry about Egyptian antiquities: The fighting has intensified in Tahrir Square. It has become a battle field. That is where the Egyptian Museum is located, filled with antiquities and the history of Egypt. There are concerns among historians about the fate of the museum and its huge collection.
    “In a situation like this where anything could happen you are always worried,” Professor Carol Redmount director of Near East Studies at UC Berkeley said.
    “On the one hand in a situation like this you are always concerned, these things are irreplaceable, they’re national treasure, international treasures, they tell is about our human history,” Redmount said. “But the Egyptian people will do whatever they can to protect it.”
    Redmount has reason to be concerned. Earlier this week vandals broke into a museum and smashed statues and glass. It is likely the next wave will steal items.
    “You can try to sell it on the antiquities market, now everyone is going to be looking for these things on the antiquities market,” Redmount said. “They’ve been looting the site with shovels, which is better than bulldozers, at the same time we don’t know how much damage has been done,” Redmount said… – ABC Local SF, 2-2-11

Republicans Elects Reince Priebus as the New RNC Chairman — Michael Steele Drops Bid

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

THE HEADLINES….


(Image: NYT)

  • G.O.P. Elects a New Chairman as Steele Drops Out: The Republican National Committee selected a new leader on Friday, with its choice, Reince Priebus of Wisconsin, surviving seven contentious rounds of balloting to overtake Michael Steele, the embattled chairman, as party officials demanded new leadership to fortify the party for the 2012 presidential race. Mr. Priebus, who broke away from Mr. Steele’s close circle of advisers to run against him, said he would work to rebuild the trust of major contributors who had lost faith in the party and begin preparing to challenge President Obama. He pledged to heal any divisions among Republican constituencies. “We all recognize that there’s a steep hill ahead of us,” Mr. Priebus said, delivering his first remarks as party chairman. “The only way we’ll be able to move forward is if we’re all together.” NYT, 1-14-11
  • G.O.P. Leader’s Promise: Humility and Hard Work: For Reince Priebus, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, politics has long been more than simply a hobby. It provided the entertainment for the first date with his wife. More than a decade ago, when Representatives Henry J. Hyde of Illinois and James F. Sensenbrenner Jr. of Wisconsin were delivering keynote speeches at a Lincoln Day Dinner in Kenosha, Wis., Mr. Priebus reserved two tickets and turned the event into part of his courtship.
    “I know. Nerd alert,” Mr. Priebus said in an interview a few hours after he was elected on Friday to lead the national Republican Party. His voice was filled with self-deprecation as he recalled the moment. “But we went to a movie after that.”
    Humility was a key selling point for Mr. Priebus as he embarked on a two-month campaign to overthrow Michael Steele, the controversial party chairman, and begin the challenging task of rebuilding a committee that is more than $21 million in debt and competing for relevance in an age when the political establishment is no longer the most popular place to be…. – NYT, 1-15-11
  • New chairman targets GOP team setting up 2012 national convention in Tampa: There’s a new Republican National Chairman in office, and he’s about to clean house on the team putting together the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa. Responding to complaints about excessive spending by the RNC’s convention team, newly elected chairman Reince Priebus told Republican U.S. House members in a closed door meeting Saturday that he was going to replace the RNC’s convention team in Tampa Bay with his own team, Politico reported Saturday.
    The RNC has about a half dozen staffers working on the convention out of donated office space in downtown Tampa, but the work has drawn considerable criticism and helped fuel opposition to former RNC chairman Michael Steele. For instance, he hired his former assistant, Belinda Cook, for $15,000-per-month, and she spent thousands of dollars renting a 3,200 square foot waterfront Treasure Island home…. – St Petersburg Times, 1-15-11
  • Reince Priebus replaces Michael Steele as GOP chairman: The Republican National Committee selected Reince Priebus as its new chairman, replacing Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland. Steele’s two-year tenure was marked by high spending, financial debt and verbal gaffes. Priebus won late Friday afternoon after seven rounds of balloting. He received 97 votes out 168 ballots cast.
    Steele, the party’s first African-American chairman, sought a second term, but conceded midafternoon. “I think the party is ready for something different,” Steele said. Priebus is the Wisconsin GOP chairman and a former general counsel for the RNC…. – USA Today, 1-14-11
  • Reince Priebus: “We Can Defeat Barack Obama in 2012”: The Republican Party will face significant challenges in the 2012 election cycle: A geared-up Democratic electorate excited to see President Obama back on the ballot, a rowdy and somewhat unpredictable Tea Party base, funds flowing through multiple outside organizations. On top of all that, the Republican National Committee must deal with its splintered membership and more than $20 million in debt. New RNC Chairman Reince Priebus today acknowledged as much after his fellow committee members chose him to put him at the helm of the organization.
    “We recognize that the Democrats have taken this country on the wrong path, and it isn’t going to be easy or glamorous, but together we must lead,” he said. Priebus, a 38-year-old lawyer who served as chairman of the Wisconsin GOP, said he plans to keep his head down and get to work. That means restructuring the RNC’s financial operation, hiring a top-notch staff, improving the lines of communication with state parties and — perhaps most importantly — restoring the faith of the party’s donors. “Together we can defeat Barack Obama in 2012, together, unified as a committee,” Priebus said…. – CBS News, 1-14-11
  • Michael Steele’s many blunders led to defeat in RNC chair reelection campaign: Republicans emerged from a 2008 electoral drubbing not only lacking a telegenic spokesman for the party but virtually any major officials who were not white, a major void after the election of the nation’s first black president. Michael Steele seemed like the right man at the right time: an African-American Republican who loved going on television. But instead of turning into a solution for the GOP, critics say Steele blundered so many times in his first few months as chairman of the Republican National Committee that party officials openly considered replacing him well before the first quarter of his two-year tenure had ended. Republicans completed the dumping of Steele on Friday, voting out the party’s first-ever black chairman…. – WaPo, 1-14-11

QUOTES

  • Outgoing Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele’s 10 best gaffes: Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele abandoned his re-election bid Friday after four rounds of balloting left him far short of a second term.
    Steele, who just finished his first two-year term in the job, dropped out as four other hopefuls competed to become his successor. Steele, 52, urged his backers to give their support to GOP operative Maria Cino, who worked in George W. Bush’s administration, but Reince Priebus, the head of the Wisconsin Republican Party, ultimately was elected after seven rounds of voting.
    The GOP’s first black chairman received a standing ovation from the party regulars after pulling out of the race. His spotty two-year reign included huge victories by the GOP in the November elections, but for many, Steele is known more for his verbal gaffes than his electoral accomplishments…. – NY Daily News, 1-14-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Dewey Clayton Professor of Political Science, University of Louisville: Michael Steele’s legacy will be a mixed one. On the one hand, Steele first and foremost will be remembered as the first African-American to be elected as chairman of the RNC. Secondly, it was under Steele’s stewardship that Republicans gained the majority in the House in 2010. Many saw Steele’s election as an effort by the Republican Party to reach out to African-American voters and portray an image of being open to all and not as an exclusive party. To that end, two black Republicans were elected to Congress in 2010. They will be the first black Republicans in Congress since J.C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003. And they are also the first black Republicans in the House since Reconstruction.
    Unfortunately, much of the attention that Steele received during his tenure was negative. He was criticized for often acting too independently, people questioned some of his paid speaking engagements, and there were issues of excessive spending. I think the controversy surrounding Steele may have caused many Republican donors to scale back their contributions to the RNC. Because of this, his lack of fundraising will be a lasting legacy. It’s hard to say whether Steele did more harm than good. He was a charismatic leader and some of the controversy during his tenure was not really his fault. I think that ultimately, he did more good than harm and the Republicans did gain the majority in the House under his leadership. The next chairman, assuming that Steele does not win another term, should probably maintain a lower profile and concentrate on improving the level of fundraising.. – Politico Arena, 1-14-11

How Many Elections Has Vietnam Played a Role in?

HISTORY ARTICLES

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HNN, 10-04-04

How Many Elections Has Vietnam Played a Role in?

By Bonnie Goodman

Ms. Goodman is a graduate student at Concordia University and an HNN intern.

The first election in which the Vietnam War played a critical role came in 1964. Thereafter it was a central issue in the elections of 1968, 1972, 1988, 1992, and 2004. (In 1980 and 2000 it briefly became a subject of discussion.) Counting 1980 and 2000, Vietnam has been part of the quadrennial national debate in eight of the last eleven elections. Only the Civil War, of all our conflicts, figured in as many subsequent elections. And at the rate we are going, Vietnam may soon eclipse even the Civil War. (This is not to say that Vietnam had an equal impact on American history. Its impact has obviously been less. But for some reason–which historians must puzzle over–it is having a greater impact as an issue in ensuing campaigns.) These are the elections in which Vietnam has become an issue:

1964

In the 1964 presidential campaign the incumbent, Democratic candidate Lyndon Johnson, repeatedly tried to convince voters that he had no intention of getting the United States involved in the conflict in Vietnam. However, according to historian John Morton Blum, Johnson “was already planning to expand that war.” Johnson maintained his non-intervention position on Vietnam even after August 2, 1964, when North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched a supposedly unprovoked and unequivocal attack against the U.S. destroyer Maddox, which was on patrol in the Tonkin Gulf. When the ship was supposedly attacked two days later in the same vicinity, Johnson that evening announced that the U.S. would begin retaliatory air strikes against North Vietnam. Johnson subsequently asked Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which “supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.”

As Daniel Ellsberg has recalled, LBJ misled the country in several ways. The attack was not unprovoked; the U.S. had recently shelled several of North Vietnam’s islands in an operation run by the United States, code named 34A. Nor was the attack unequivocal; there was no second attack–the ship’s radar had picked up false readings of torpedoes that had never been fired. Finally, the Maddox and a sister vessel, the Turner Joy, were operating in an area long claimed by North Vietnam. The ships were on a secret mission, code named DeSoto, designed to elicit intelligence about the North’s activities.

Unlike Johnson, the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater publicly argued in favor of intervention. He was deemed by many — including many Republicans — an extremist. Goldwater believed that whatever force was needed to defeat the communists in Vietnam should be used, including nuclear bombs. In response to this the Johnson campaign released a controversial television ad which portrayed a little girl picking and counting petals from a daisy in a field, which then dissolves into a picture of a nuclear mushroom cloud. This ad, referred to as the “Daisy Girl,” was intended to highlight Goldwater’s alleged recklessness. In the end voters chose to elect President Johnson in a landslide victory. The following year LBJ began a massive build-up in Vietnam.

  • “Some are eager to enlarge the conflict. They call upon us to supply American boys to do the job that Asian boys should do. They ask us to take reckless action [such as bombing North Vietnam]….Such action would offer no solution at all to the real problems of Viet Nam.”Lyndon Johnson, October 1964
  • “use low yield nuclear bombs, if necessary, to fight communists in Vietnam and elsewhere”Barry Goldwater, 1964

1968

In 1968, the presidential campaign’s main issue was the ongoing war in Vietnam. “Hawks” remained supportive of the Johnson Administration’s policy in Vietnam, but “doves” opposed the war, and college students by the thousands protested American involvement. With this in mind in October 1967, Eugene McCarthy decided to enter the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination, running as an anti-war candidate. McCarthy, with the help of college students, won 42 percent in the New Hampshire primary. Shortly afterward Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy on a peace plank. Johnson, faced with declining poll ratings, decided to drop out of the race on March 31st. On June 6th, Kennedy won the California primary, but was assassinated. Vice President Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic Presidential candidate amidst intense anti-war rioting in August at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

The Republican candidate was former Vice President Richard Nixon. He spoke about his plans concerning the Vietnam War in generalities but promised to end it with honor. Humphrey, closely associated with Johnson’s Vietnam policy, was heckled wherever he went. After initial hesitating to break with the administration, Humphrey decided to assert his independence from Johnson, proclaiming his support for a bombing halt even without a goodwill gesture from the North Vietnamese (LBJ favored a gesture of goodwill prior to a halt). Humphrey gained momentum as he began to draw support from liberal Democrats and anti-war protesters. By October, as negotiations between the U.S. and North Vietnam took place, Humphrey came to wear the mantle of the peace candidate. Even Eugene McCarthy supported him. Nixon, however, believed that the prospect of peace was a campaign ploy. Despite the possibility of peace and Johnson’s decision to order a halt in the bombing, Humphrey lost to Nixon in a very close race.

  • “And I pledge to you tonight that the first priority foreign policy objective of our next administration will be to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam. We shall not stop there — we need a policy to prevent more Vietnams.”Richard Nixon, Acceptance Speech, Republican National Convention, August 8, 1968
  • “Meanwhile, as a citizen, a candidate, and Vice President, I pledge to you and to my fellow Americans, that I shall do everything within my power to aid the negotiations and to bring a prompt end to this war.”Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Acceptance Speech, Democratic National Convention, August 29, 1968
  • “As president, I would stop the bombing of the North as an acceptable risk for peace because I believe it could lead to success in the negotiations and thereby shorten the war.”Hubert Humphrey, September 30, 1968
  • “In the last thirty-six hours, I have been advised of a flurry of meetings in the White House and elsewhere on Vietnam, I am told that the top officials in the administration have been driving hard for an agreement on a bombing halt, accompanied possibly by a cease-fire in the immediate future. I since learned that these reports are true. I am also told that this spurt of activity is a cynical last-minute attempt by President Johnson to salvage the candidacy of Mr. Humphrey. This I do not believe.”Richard Nixon, October 25, 1972

1972

In 1972 American involvement in the Vietnam War still remained an important campaign issue. President Richard Nixon was running for re-election and hoped that he could present himself as a peace candidate and focus on his foreign policy achievements. Although he had not ended the war in Vietnam, he had been able to bring tens of thousands of American troops home. Through the process of “Vietnamization,” Nixon was gradually transferring the burden of the war to the South Vietnamese. However, he still heavily supplied the Vietnamese with military equipment, and authorized punishing bombing runs. An invasion of Cambodia had risked expanding the war.

The Democratic candidate was George McGovern, a South Dakota senator who was considered the spokesman for the anti-war movement. McGovern, a World War II bomber pilot, had opposed American involvement in Vietnam since 1963. The Democratic Party’s 1972 platform called for an immediate withdrawal of all American troops from Vietnam. The party also supported amnesty for draft resisters, as well as an offer of amnesty to deserters on a case by case basis. This would occur after all American troops and POWs returned home.

In the weeks leading up to the end of the campaign Nixon suspended bombing in Vietnam, and negotiations began with the National Liberation Front. Just before the election Secretary of State Henry Kissinger announced that “peace was at hand.” Kissinger’s announcement helped propel Nixon to a landslide victory.

  • “We must have the courage to admit that however sincere our motives, we made a dreadful mistake in trying to settle the affairs of the Vietnamese people with American troops and bombers. . . . There is now no way to end it and to free our prisoners except to announce a definite, early date for the withdrawal of every American soldier. I make that pledge without reservation.”George McGovern, announcement of candidacy for the Presidency, 1972
  • “We believe that war is a waste of human life. We are determined to end forthwith a war which has cost 50,000 American lives, $150 billion of our resources, that has divided us from each other, drained our national will and inflicted incalculable damage to countless people. We will end that war by a simple plan that need not be kept secret: The immediate total withdrawal of all Americans from Southeast Asia.”1972 Democratic Party Platform
  • “We believe that peace is at hand. We believe that an agreement is within sight, It is inevitable that in a war of such complexity that there should be occasional difficulties in reaching a final solution.”Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, October 1972

1980

In the 1980 presidential campaign Republican candidate Ronald Reagan told the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated that the Vietnam War was a “noble cause.” In 1980 the war was still an open wound and his comment became fodder for incumbent Democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter. A desperate Carter, playing on Vietnam fears, claimed that Reagan would likely involve the United States in war. But Reagan was able to score a victory in November, helping sweep into power a Republican Senate, for the first time in decades.

  • “It’s time that we recognized that ours was in truth a noble cause.”Ronald Reagan, August, 1980

1988

Accusations of draft evasion dogged vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle in the 1988 campaign. Quayle, an obscure senator from Indiana, had been virtually unknown to the nation when George H.W. Bush picked him as his running mate at the Republican convention. Wendell C. Phillippi immediately came forward to claim that he had helped Quayle get into to the National Guard to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. Phillippi was a former senior editor at the Indianapolis News, which was owned by Quayle’s family, and also a major general in the Indiana National Guard.

Phillippi also claimed that there was nothing unusual in his intervention on Quayle’s behalf, as he had acted similarly for others as well. The revelation however cost Quayle, who had always assumed a pro-military posture, dearly. Despite calls to drop Quayle, Bush stuck to his decision and kept the senator on the ticket. The Bush/Quayle ticket won the election in November against Democrat Michael Dukakis.

  • “Exactly 20 years ago, who I said, ‘I’d like to get into the National Guard,’ phone calls were made, I can’t answer the – I don’t know the specifics of that. The only thing I know is I did want to get into the National Guard. I’m very proud of my service in the National Guard.”Senator Dan Quayle, 1988
  • “I got into the Guard fairly. There were no rules broken, to my knowledge… I, like many, many other Americans, had particular problems about the way the war was being fought. But yes, I supported my president and I supported the goal of fighting communism in Vietnam. “Vice President Dan Quayle 1992

1992

Once again in the 1992 presidential campaign, the question of a candidate dodging the draft for the Vietnam War became an issue. Quayle’s service in the National Guard once again made headlines. So too did charges that Democrat Bill Clinton dodged the draft for the Vietnam War. The Republicans claimed that in order to get a draft deferment, Clinton had pledged that he would enter the University of Arkansas Law School and join the R.O.T.C after attending Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. Instead, he chose to be reclassified I-A, which would have sent him to war. After the draft lottery was instituted in November 1969, he drew too high a number to be drafted. Instead of going to Vietnam, Clinton attended Yale Law School.

On the eve of the New Hampshire primary a letter Clinton wrote in 1969 to the R.O.T.C chief at the University of Arkansas surfaced. In the letter Clinton expressed his thanks for getting him out of the draft. Despite the controversy–and accusations that he had had affairs with women–Clinton, the “Comeback Kid,” came in second in New Hampshire. In November he won a three-way election against incumbent Republican, George Bush and independent Ross Perot.

  • “I was in the draft before the lottery came in. I gave up the deferment. I got a high lottery number and I wasn’t called. That’s what the record reflects. A Republican member of my draft board has given an affidavit in the last couple of days saying that I got no special treatment and nothing in the letter changes that, although it is a true reflection of a just-turned-twenty-three-year-old young man.Bill Clinton, 1992
  • “I want to thank you, for saving me from the draft…I decided to accept the draft in spite of my beliefs for one reason: to maintain my political viability within the system. For years I have worked to prepare myself for a political life characterized by both practical political ability and concern for rapid social progress.”Bill Clinton to R.O.T.C commander Col. Eugene Holmes on December 3, 1969
  • “The Vietnam War is not an issue in 1992 and should not be”Bob Kerrey, Nebraska Senator and Democratic Candidate, in 1992
  • “To divide our party or our country over this issue today, in 1992, simply does not do justice to what all of us went through during that tragic and turbulent time.”John Kerry, on the Senate floor, February 27, 1992

2000

Vietnam played a minor role in the election, but questions about George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during the height of the Vietnam War damaged the Republican’s credibility. Records indicated that he had possibly skipped duty during 1972 when he left Texas to work on a Republican senatorial candidate’s campaign in Alabama. Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, had served in a non-combat position in Vietnam and escaped criticism on this score at least.

2004

With the war in Iraq continuing, the Vietnam War again became a focus of the presidential campaign. John Kerry was attacked for allegedly “medal-shopping” while in Vietnam and for opposing the war after he returned home. The so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth assailed Kerry’s patriotism. For several weeks the newspapers were filled with stories about Vietnam. Democrats, reeling from the attacks, slowly responded by attacking George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard. A Texas Democrat claimed he had helped Bush jump other candidates to get into the Texas National Guard during the Vietnam War. CBS claimed documents showed that Bush had directly disobeyed an order to take a physical. CBS later apologized, saying the documents may not be authentic.

  • “I’m not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.”John Kerry, comments released ahead of a midnight speech in Springfield, Ohio, September 2, 2004
  • “Character counts. Especially in the president of the United States, character counts. And we want a president that will be truthful and honest and level with the American people. If the president will lie about this, will he lie about how we got into Iraq, for example?”Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, 2004
  • “Nineteen individuals have served both in the National Guard and as president of the United States, and I am proud to be one of them.”George W. Bush, September 14, 2004

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