History Q & A: What Event in U.S. History Most Resembles the Debt Ceiling Crisis of 2011

History Q & A



Debt Ceiling Showdown, 2011 & Shays Rebellion 1786: For Debt Crisis Lessons, Look Back 225 years

Shays' Rebellion, an armed uprising in Massachusetts in the 1780s, may offer lessons in today's standoff over the debt ceiling.
Shays’ Rebellion, an armed uprising in Massachusetts in the 1780s, may offer lessons in today’s standoff over the debt ceiling.
  • Same issues in today’s debate over debt crisis also drove Shays’ Rebellion of 1786
  • Nation’s leaders opted for robust U.S. government after uprising led by New England farmer
  • But debate still stirs about the size and power of the federal government
  • Compromise rarely has resolved protracted political gridlock in the U.S., historians say

(CNN) — America’s political leaders are paralyzed. The government is reeling from debt. Corrupt bankers foreclose on people’s homes as a brutal recession sweeps the land.

We’re talking, of course, about the great debt standoff of 1786: Shays’ Rebellion.

Nervous Americans glancing at the upcoming August 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling are being told that the nation is entering uncharted territory. But historians say they’ve seen this movie before.

Many of the same issues driving this modern-day standoff — disagreement on how to handle the national debt, ineffective government and a populist citizen’s revolt — drove the 18th-century uprising that’s been called America’s first civil war.

Historians say the lesson that can be drawn from Shays’ Rebellion and other transformative events in U.S. history is this: Protracted political gridlock is seldom resolved through compromise. It comes when one political party finally beats the other down.

Many Americans, however, have told pollsters that they want the political parties to work together to solve the debt ceiling crisis. Yet political stability doesn’t always come through give-and-take, some historians say

“There are times when only the outright defeat of political enemies can bring about needed reform,” says Richard Striner, a history professor at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

“It was only by confronting and defeating the aggressive leadership of the slave states that Lincoln and the Civil War Republicans rid the nation of slavery.”…READ MORE

Political Highlights November 29, 2010: Wikileaks Releases New State Documents, Thanksgiving and Stitches at the Obama White House & Sarah Palin Releases “American by Heart”

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.


Image: Obama pardons a turkey


  • Poll: Sarah Palin can’t beat Obama. But Mitt Romney can. Sarah Palin is the front-runner for the GOP nomination in 2012, according to a new Quinnipiac survey. But the poll indicates she wouldn’t win the general election: Sarah Palin can’t beat Barack Obama. But Mitt Romney can – beat Mr. Obama, that is. Except he won’t get the chance, because he can’t beat Ms. Palin to get the chance to run against Obama. Let’s start at the beginning. In a new Quinnipiac poll of GOP 2012 front-runners, Palin would lose a head-to-head matchup with Obama, if it were held today. She would win 40 percent of the vote, and Obama would get 48 percent, according to Quinnipiac survey respondents. But that does not mean Obama is in a strong position. Far from it. By 49 to 43 percent, the respondents to Quinnipiac said that the president does not deserve a second term. Mr. Romney would edge Obama by 45 to 44 percent, according to the Quinnipiac survey. Mike Huckabee would effectively tie with the incumbent US chief executive…. – CS Monitor, 11-22-10


  • Leaked Cables Uncloak U.S. Diplomacy: A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at backroom bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.
    Some of the cables, made available to The New York Times and several other news organizations, were written as recently as late February, revealing the Obama administration’s exchanges over crises and conflicts. The material was originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents. WikiLeaks intends to make the archive public on its Web site in batches, beginning Sunday…. – NYT, 11-28-10
  • State Secrets: A cache of diplomatic cables provide a chronicle of the United States’ relations with the world: About the Documents A mammoth cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the last three years, provides an unprecedented look at bargaining by embassies, candid views of foreign leaders and assessments of threats. The material was obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of news organizations in advance….. – NYT, 11-28-10
  • Cables Shine Light Into Secret Diplomatic Channels: A huge trove of State Department communiqués offer an extraordinary look at the inner workings, and sharp elbows, of diplomacy…. – NYT, 11-28-10
  • Around the World, Distress Over Iran: Diplomatic cables show how two presidents have dealt with Iran and how President Obama built support for a harsher package of sanctions…. – NYT, 11-28-10
  • Iran Is Fortified With North Korean Aid: American intelligence assessments say that Iran has obtained Russian-designed missiles that are much more powerful than other weapons in its arsenal…. – NYT, 11-28-10
  • Mixing Diplomacy With Spying: State Department personnel were told to gather the credit card and frequent-flier numbers, schedules and other personal data of foreign officials…. – NYT, 11-28-10
  • Documents: Selected Dispatches: Cables obtained by WikiLeaks offer a huge sampling of the daily traffic between the State Department and 270 embassies and consulates worldwide…. – NYT, 11-28-10
  • U.S. Expands Role of Diplomats in Spying: The United States has expanded the role of American diplomats in collecting intelligence overseas and at the United Nations, ordering State Department personnel to gather the credit card and frequent-flier numbers, work schedules and other personal information of foreign dignitaries. Revealed in classified State Department cables, the directives, going back to 2008, appear to blur the traditional boundaries between statesmen and spies…. – NYT, 11-28-10
  • WikiLeaks: Clinton ordered probe on UN chief Secret files show Washington wanted to find links between UN members, terror groups: WikiLeaks revealed Sunday that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered a probe on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as an investigation on possible ties between UN members and terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
    “Washington wanted intelligence on the contentious issue of the ‘relationship or funding between UN personnel and/or missions and terrorist organizations’ and links between the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Middle East, and Hamas and Hezbollah,” the British Guardian reported, citing the documents leaked by the controversial Web entity.
    Washington also sent out orders signed by Clinton or Rice (aka Condoleezza Rice, Clinton’s predecessor) ordering diplomats to gather “biographic and biometric” on various UN officials, including Ban, the report says.
    It adds that the US may have “blurred the line between diplomacy and spying”, and that the country’s relations with the UN may now suffer due to the publication of the secret orders…. – YNet News, 11-28-10
  • WikiLeaks: Leaked cables reveal the rough workings of diplomacy: WikiLeaks gave some 250,000 confidential and secret diplomatic cables to several news outlets, which published them Sunday. The leaks could prove embarrassing and potentially dangerous. After days of anticipation and unheeded warnings from the Obama administration, the huge and controversial data dump from whistle-blower website WikiLeaks is being published and broadcast. As reported by the New York Times (which, along with the British newspaper the Guardian and the German news magazine Der Spiegel, began revealing the data Sunday afternoon), the cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables “provides an unprecedented look at backroom bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.”… – CS Monitor, 11-28-10
  • Obama back on basketball court two days after busting lip, shoots hoops with daughters Malia, Sasha: President Barack Obama got back on the basketball court Sunday, shaking off his lip injury to take on two tough opponents: his kids. Obama brought daughters Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9, to a gym in the Interior Department building for an early morning game, according to the White House. He seemed in good spirits, despite getting 12 stitches in his lower lip on Friday after taking an elbow to the face during a game with family and friends at Fort McNair. The stray elbow belonged to Rey Decerega, director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, who said in a press release from the White House that the President was a “tough competitor and a good sport.” “I’m sure he’ll be back out on the court again soon,” Decerega said after the incident.
    Sure enough, Obama and his daughters were all smiles on the court on Sunday, capping off an eventful weekend in which all eyes were on the President’s lip. Known for his jump shot in high school as “Barry O’bomber,” the President is an avid basketball player, and is often snapped throwing the ball around with his family…. – NY Daily News, 11-28-10
  • Obama: “Real and Honest Discussion” on Expiring Tax Cuts: President Obama says he wants a “real and honest discussion” at the White House on Tuesday morning, as Democratic and Republican House and Senate leaders meet to talk about the expiring Bush tax cuts and other issues. In his weekly address, the President said, “I believe that if we stop talking at one another, and start talking with one another, we can get a lot done.” The main point of contention is what to do with the tax rates for American families making over $250,000. Republicans say they should be included in any tax cut extensions. The top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, who is expected to attend the meeting at the White House on Tuesday, said last week, “Americans don’t think we should be raising taxes on anybody, especially in the middle of a recession.” But President Obama and Congressional Democrats, who argue the government can’t afford to lose tax money coming in from the wealthy, want to extend the tax cuts for those families making $250,000 or less, about 98% of taxpayers. The tax cuts expire at the end of this year…. – Fox News, 11-27-10
  • Horse-drawn wagon delivers White House Christmas tree: A horse-drawn wagon delivered the White House Christmas tree on Friday, with first lady Michelle Obama and her children Sasha and Malia on hand to receive it as a military band played “Oh Christmas Tree.” The family gave the tree — a Douglas fir from Lehighton, Pennsylvania — a thumbs up before heading back into the White House on a cool day under overcast skies…. – Reuters, 11-26-10
  • Obama’s lip busted in basketball game The president receives 12 stitches after being elbowed during a post-Thanksgiving pickup game: Presidential politics can be a bloody business, but it was a friendly basketball game Friday that gave President Obama a cut on his lip that required 12 stitches. Playing in a post-Thanksgiving pickup game with visiting family members and personal aide Reggie Love, Obama caught an elbow to the lip. The injury was treated by the medical unit located on the first floor of the White House. Obama was given a local anesthetic. The medical staff used a procedure that required more stitches than usual in an effort to minimize the scar. The White House did not name the player who bloodied the presidential lip, though in Washington’s hothouse media environment, that name isn’t likely to stay secret for long…. – LAT, 11-26-10
  • Obama Gets 12 Stitches in Lip After Basketball Mishap: President Barack Obama got 12 stitches in his lip after being injured during a basketball game, spokesman Robert Gibbs said. “After being inadvertently hit with an opposing player’s elbow in the lip while playing basketball with friends and family, the president received 12 stitches today administered by the White House medical unit,” Gibbs said in a statement. The president played basketball for about 90 minutes at a gym at Fort McNair in Washington…. – Bloomberg, 11-26-10
  • US says joint South Korea war games ‘not directed’ at China: The United States sought Friday to reassure China over joint US-South Korean military exercises, with the Pentagon insisting the war games were “not directed” at Beijing. The four-day exercises starting Sunday come in the wake of North Korea’s artillery bombardment of a South Korean island, and will include a US aircraft carrier in a bid to deter the North.
    “The Chinese government was informed of our intent to conduct this naval exercise in the areas west of the Korean Peninsula,” said Pentagon spokesman Darryn James. “It is important to point out that this exercise is not directed at China. As with previous exercises in this series, these operations are defensive in nature and designed to strengthen deterrence against North Korea,” he said…. – India Times, 11-27-10
  • North Korea Issues Warning: Tension mounted Friday near a South Korean island bombarded this week by North Korea, as the North’s military again fired artillery, this time in what appeared to be a drill on its own territory. As an American aircraft carrier steamed toward the Yellow Sea for joint exercises with South Korea, the North’s state- run media warned that the maneuvers could push the Korean Peninsula closer to “the brink of war,” while China also raised objections. South Korea, meanwhile, was struggling with domestic political fallout from Tuesday’s deadly attack, which exposed the weakness of South Korean defenses and brought criticism of President Lee Myung-bak for failing to retaliate more forcefully. On Friday, he appointed a new defense minister, whose predecessor resigned Thursday for failing to keep forces ready in an area that has been the site of repeated military clashes with North Korea…. – NYT, 11-26-10
  • Co-founder of Libertarian Party dies in Arizona: Libertarian Party co-founder David F. Nolan died unexpectedly in Arizona after making runs in recent years for the U.S. Senate and House, the party said Friday. He was 66. Nolan died unexpectedly Sunday in Tucson, where he lived, according to a statement released by the party in Washington. His cause of death remained unclear.
    Nolan helped found the party with a group of colleagues at his home in Denver on Dec. 11, 1971, the statement said. “He not only helped found the Libertarian Party but remained active and helped to guide our party for the last 40 years,” Mark Hinkle, chairman of the Libertarian Party, said in the statement. “We are now the third-largest political party in America, and one of the most persistent and successful third parties in American history, thanks in large part to David Nolan,” he said…. – AP, 11-26-10
  • WikiLeaks has a new batch of classified files: The documents, believed to include thousands of diplomatic cables between the U.S. and other countries, could be released this weekend. The State Department says international relations could be harmed…. – LAT, 11-25-10
  • U.S. embassies warn allies of possible fallout from new WikiLeaks disclosure: U.S. embassies around the world are warning allies that WikiLeaks might be poised to release classified cables that could negatively impact relations by revealing sensitive assessments and exposing U.S. sources, a State Department spokesman said Thursday. The State Department has prepared for the possible release – which WikiLeaks has said would be seven times larger than the Iraq files released last month – by reviewing thousands of diplomatic cables and “assessing the potential consequences of the public release of these documents,” spokesman P.J. Crowley said…. – WaPo, 11-25-10
  • Judge Has Many Options in Sentencing Ex-Rep. DeLay: Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay argued throughout his trial that the deck was stacked against him by a politically motivated prosecutor and a jury from the most Democratic city in one of the most Republican states. But following DeLay’s conviction Wednesday on money laundering and conspiracy charges, some legal experts say the edge may now shift to the Republican who represented a conservative Houston suburb for 22 years. Before DeLay’s inevitable appeal, which his lawyers predict will be a far friendlier process than his trial, he faces sentencing next month from Senior Judge Pat Priest. While technically the money laundering charge carries a punishment of up to life in prison, the judge has wide latitude and could end up just giving him probation…. – AP, 11-25-10
  • Obama spares turkeys ‘shellacking’ he got at polls Following decades-old tradition, president pardons ‘Cider’ and ‘Apple’ in Rose Garden ceremony: It’s official: President Barack Obama has pardoned the National Thanksgiving Turkey. Continuing a decades-old White House tradition, Obama issued pardons Wednesday to a gobbler named “Apple” and its alternate, “Cider.’ The two 21-week-old, 45-pound turkeys were raised on a California farm. Obama said it “feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November.”… – AP, 11-25-10
  • Obama pardons 2 turkeys on Thanksgiving Eve: A good-natured President Barack Obama on Wednesday spared the lives of two turkeys that played their own parts perfectly. In what has become a Thanksgiving-eve ritual, Obama offered a presidential pardon to “Apple” and its pal “Cider.” The turkeys remained calm and statesmanlike as the president blessed them with a pointed reminder of his own recent political woes. “Let me say,” Obama said, “that it feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November.” Officially, Apple is now the National Thanksgiving Turkey. Cider is the feathered understudy. Both of the 21-week-old birds were raised on the Foster Farms’ Wellsford Ranch, outside of Modesto, Calif. Both will now live out their remaining days at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home. The turkeys will be part of a special holiday display through Jan. 6, and then will live with the estate’s other livestock…. – Miami Herald, 11-24-10
  • Obama to call China’s Hu over Korean crisis: With top U.S. officials continuing to declare that help from China will be key in calming tensions between North and South Korea, President Obama is planning to call Chinese President Hu Jintao in the next few days to discuss the critical situation, according to senior administration officials. The phone call will come just days after Obama held a bilateral meeting with Hu on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Seoul, South Korea, where administration officials were quick to tout the fact that it was the seventh face-to-face meeting the two leaders have had since Obama took office. “I think that the region looks to the United States, with respect to China, to engage in a positive, constructive relationship with China,” White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon told reporters in Asia earlier this month. “We obviously pursue our interest; they pursue their interest. But I think the region looks to us to engage that relationship and manage that relationship in a positive and constructive way.”… – CNN, 11-24-10
  • DeLay Is Convicted in Texas Donation Case: Tom DeLay, one of the most powerful and divisive Republican lawmakers ever to come out of Texas, was convicted Wednesday of money-laundering charges in a state trial, five years after his indictment here forced him to resign as majority leader in the House of Representatives. After 19 hours of deliberation, a jury of six men and six women decided that Mr. DeLay was guilty of conspiring with two associates in 2002 to circumvent a state law against corporate contributions to political campaigns. He was convicted of one charge of money laundering and one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering…. – NYT, 11-24-10
  • US warns of likely harm from WikiLeaks release: The Obama administration said Wednesday it has alerted Congress and begun notifying foreign governments that the WikiLeaks website is preparing to release sensitive U.S. diplomatic files that could damage U.S. relations with friends and allies across the globe. “These revelations are harmful to the United States and our interests,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “They are going to create tension in relationships between our diplomats and our friends around the world.”… – AP, 11-24-10
  • Obama touts Chrysler rebound during Indiana visit: A week after General Motors made a showy return to Wall Street, President Obama highlighted the revival of the other bailed-out auto company during a trip to an Indiana transmission factory. The campaign-style visit to a Chrysler plant here, a city battered by plant closures, was meant to underscore the message that the stimulus, the auto-company bailouts and other federal measures had prevented even worse economic devastation. The unemployment rate in Kokomo has dropped from 20 percent last year to 12 percent, thanks in part to $400 million in stimulus money and the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler, administration officials said.
    “No, we aren’t out of the woods yet,” Obama said at the plant. “It took a lot of years to get us into this mess. It will take longer than anybody would like to get us out. But I want everybody to be absolutely clear, we are moving in the right direction.”… – WaPo, 11-23-10
  • Obama Meets with Top Advisers on Korea Situation: U.S. President Barack Obama met Tuesday with his top advisers about the situation on the Korean peninsula, in the wake of North Korea’s artillery attack on a South Korean island. Obama is expected to telephone South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to reiterate U.S. support for South Korea. Immediately upon his return to the White House from a brief trip to the Midwestern state of Indiana, the president went into a meeting of his national security team. According to a White House statement, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and Secretaries of State and Defense Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates were among those taking part…. – VOA, 11-23-10
  • Obama Is Preparing New Overtures to Counter Anti-Business Image: President Barack Obama is preparing new overtures to business that may start with a walk into the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a retreat with corporate chief executive officers, according to people familiar with his plans. The Obama administration has been at odds with the Chamber, which fought Obama’s health-care and financial regulatory overhauls and committed $75 million to political ads in the midterm congressional elections, mainly directed against Democrats. The CEO summit would be a way to address complaints from some executives the Democratic administration is anti- business. The Chamber had invited Obama to speak on Dec. 2 and the administration hadn’t yet replied when the Chamber canceled the event, said an administration official. The cancellation wasn’t related to the president’s potential participation, said a Chamber official who declined to be identified….. – Bloomberg, 11-23-10
  • Sarah Palin’s attacks on Barack Obama get personal in new book In America by Heart, Palin tackles race and Obama’s former pastor as well as liberals and being unpatriotic: Sarah Palin’s new book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, added to indications she will seek the Republican nomination for the 2012 election. Sarah Palin’s new book published tomorrow reads like a dress rehearsal for a campaign against Barack Obama for the White House in 2012, making pointed criticism not just of his policies but about his personal life. In America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, Palin tackles areas that even Obama’s 2008 Republican challenger, John McCain, regarded as off-limits: race and Obama’s incendiary former pastor, the Rev Jeremiah Wright. In a lengthy passage, she questions whether Obama is proud of America. “I think ordinary Americans are tired of Obama’s global apology tour and of hearing about what a weak country America is from left-wing professors and journalists,” Palin says…. – Guardian UK, 11-22-10


  • Full agenda as Congress tries to finish for year: The unemployed and millionaires. Doctors and black farmers. Illegal immigrants hiding from the law and gays hiding in the military. Along with just about everybody else, they all have something at stake as Congress struggles to wrap up its work for the year. Lawmakers, after taking Thanksgiving week off, arrive in town Monday along with the Capitol Christmas tree for the final stretch of the postelection session. Facing a daunting agenda, they could have that tree in their sights well into Christmas week. At the top of the to-do list are the George W. Bush-era tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003 and due to expire at year’s end. President Barack Obama and most Democrats want to retain them for any couple earning $250,000 or less a year. Republicans are bent on making them permanent for everybody, including the richest. The cuts apply to rates on wage income as well as to dividends and capital gains. A failure to act would mean big tax increases for people at every income level. Obama has scheduled a meeting at the White House with Republican leaders on Tuesday, and possible options for compromise will be on the table, including providing a temporary extension for the wealthy….. – AP, 11-28-10
  • DC voting rights effort appears doomed: Advocates of voting rights for D.C. in the House of Representatives say the Republican takeover of Congress appears to have doomed their efforts for now. The D.C. voting rights push had momentum in 2008 after the election of President Barack Obama. But House leaders decided to pull a voting rights bill from the floor this year rather than have it coupled with a measure to weaken D.C.’s gun laws. Now, former Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia puts the chances of voting rights getting through Congress as “zero.” Davis was the lead Republican supporter of voting rights before he retired in 2008, and he says Democrats missed their best chance this year. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who sits on committees but can’t vote on the House floor, is not as pessimistic as Davis. She says she’s looking forward to meeting with new House Speaker John Boehner…. – AP, 11-28-10
  • Lame duck cuts Congress’ break short: Once again, the Capitol could be in for a long winter. Senate aides and senators believe that adjournment this year will be close to Christmas – again. And House Republicans are signaling that they’ll begin their legislating right after the Jan. 5 swearing-in of new members. And with the House planning to come into session in early January, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) might feel pressure to bring the Democratic-led upper chamber back into session around the same time. The result? A short vacation for Washington. “Voters sent a clear message on Election Day that not only didn’t they approve of the policies being pursued by Democrats, but that they expect Congress to listen and shape up,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), explaining the GOP’s desire to get a quick start…. – Politico, 11-24-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Palin says Iowa book signing stop not political: Hundreds turned out for a Sarah Palin book signing in Iowa, an event the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate insisted was not for political purposes. Palin’s stop Saturday at the Borders in West Des Moines brought her back to Iowa, which hosts the caucuses that kick off the presidential nominating season. The “American by Heart” author has hinted that she’s considering a 2012 presidential run, but says the visit was to promote her new book and that’s all. Security was tight, and Palin did no media interviews….. – AP, 11-28-10
  • Is Sarah Palin’s new book a bid for the White House in 2012?: Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and former Republican vice-presidential candidate is publishing a new book called America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag. Her first book, Going Rogue, sold two million copies. She has yet to reveal whether she intends to run for president in 2012, but some see this book as a strong hint…. – BBC, 11-27-10
  • California’s ailing Republicans: A dying breed?: Republicans are relishing the coming of a new day on Capitol Hill. But across the country in California, the party of Nixon and Reagan is drifting toward obscurity. The latest sign of imperiled health: In a year Republicans notched big victories in Congress, governor’s offices and statehouses around the nation, California Democrats made a clean sweep of eight statewide contests on Nov. 2. Democrats padded their majority in the Legislature, where the party controls both chambers and no congressional seats changed parties. California counted more registered Republicans in 1988 than it does today, even though the state population has since grown by about 10 million. Setting aside the politically ambidextrous Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose celebrity eclipsed his Republican registration, the California GOP counts only a single victory in 21 statewide contests since 2002 – that of insurance commissioner in 2006. You’d have to go back more than two decades to find a Republican, George H.W. Bush, who carried the state in a presidential election. “They know who we are and they don’t like us,” former state Republican Party Chairman Duf Sundheim says bluntly. “The brand of the Republican Party in California is tarnished.”…. – WaPo, 11-28-10
  • McNerney takes 11th Congressional District; Harmer yet to concede: Rep. Jerry McNerney has won the race to retain his 11th Congressional District seat. The latest ballot-tallying updates from the most populous part of the district showed McNerney, D-Pleasanton, again had widened his lead over Republican challenger David Harmer to a margin of 2,475 votes, or about 1 percent of the 237,808 ballots counted. The Associated Press reported fewer than 1,900 ballots remained to be counted. McNerney declared victory Nov. 10, when he was up by 1,681 votes, about seven-tenths of a percent. Harmer, an attorney from San Ramon’s Dougherty Valley area, has yet to concede, and recently attended the GOP’s freshman orientation on Capitol Hill. Harmer’s campaign spokesman didn’t return phone calls and an e-mail Wednesday…. – Mercury News, 11-24-10
  • Democratic Rep. Jim Costa holds on to Calif. seat: Democratic Rep. Jim Costa has narrowly won enough votes to retain his seat in a California district where Democrats hold a 20-point registration advantage. Costa, a conservative Democrat, beat Republican Andy Vidak, a farmer running for his first political office, in the 20th Congressional District. With just a small number of ballots outstanding Tuesday – three weeks after Election Day – Costa had a lead of 3,031 votes over Vidak, 51.7 percent to 48.2 percent…. – AP, 11-23-10
  • President Palin? Don’t dare dismiss it Could Prime Minister David Cameron shake hands with President Sarah Palin in two years’ time?: Before explaining why, let me interject: it is not just Brits who cringe at the prospect of the Alaskan matriarch running for the White House, let alone winning. Plenty of Americans, by no means all of them Democrats, were horrified when Palin last week all but confirmed that she would bid for the 2012 Republican nomination. But with her ineffable talent for publicity, she is proving impossible to ignore. Every speech, every tweet, every Facebook posting, every political endorsement makes headlines….
    With the recession enduring, and Obama and the Democrats over-reaching with healthcare reform, these are propitious times for a populist such as Palin, especially one from a frontier state that reinforces the nation’s pioneering spirit. Moreover, the Republican field for the nomination is, to her benefit, wide open. There is no outstanding candidate and her rivals are all men, who will be wary of criticising not only the only woman among them, but the only candidate with a solid nationwide following…. – Telegraph UK, 11-23-10
  • And Then There Were Two: 2010 Midterms Almost Over: The 2010 midterms are almost, almost over. With five House races and one Senate race yet to be decided this morning, two concessions and an executive decision by the Associated Press have narrowed things down. Democratic Rep. Jim Costa has held onto his seat in Fresno, California, the Associated Press declared Tuesday evening, fending off a challenge from Republican Andy Vidak. Costa led by over 3,000 votes after Election Day. That leaves Republicans’ total 2010 House gains at 63, with only two House races still undecided. Democrats are poised to hold onto their seats in those races…. – The Atlantic, 11-23-10
  • Factbox: Five House races still undecided: Nearly three weeks after Republicans swept Democrats from power in the U.S. House of Representatives, five House races remain undecided and the winners might not be clear for days — or longer…. – Reuters, 11-22-10
  • Mike Huckabee in Iowa: There’s no timetable for 2012 decision: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said in Iowa on Sunday that he is considering a 2012 presidential campaign, but he stopped short of giving a time frame for a decision as other prospective candidates have done. “I’m not on a timetable. I’m not on somebody’s calendar to say this is the time when I have to decide,” Huckabee said at a news conference before headlining a meeting of evangelical conservatives in Des Moines. “Am I keeping the option open? Yes. Am I open to it, considering it and giving, you know, thought? Of course. I think it would be foolish not to in light of having been through it, understanding what it’s about.”… – Des Moines Register, 11-22-10


The President records the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 11/24/10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Delivers Thanksgiving Greeting:
    Today, like millions of other families across America, Michelle, Malia, Sasha and I will sit down to share a Thanksgiving filled with family and friends – and a few helpings of food and football, too. And just as folks have done in every Thanksgiving since the first, we’ll spend some time taking stock of what we’re thankful for: the God-given bounty of America, and the blessings of one another.
    This is also a holiday that captures that distinctly American impulse to give something of ourselves. Even as we speak, there are countless Americans serving at soup kitchens and food pantries; contributing to their communities; and standing guard around the world.
    And in a larger sense, that’s emblematic of what Americans have always done. We come together and do what’s required to make tomorrow better than today. That’s who we are.
    Consider our journey since that first Thanksgiving. We are among the world’s youngest of peoples, but time and again, we have boldly and resiliently led the way forward. Against tough odds, we are a people who endure – who explored and settled a vast and untamed continent; who built a powerful economy and stood against tyranny in all its forms; who marched and fought for equality, and connected a globe with our own science and imagination.
    None of that progress was predestined. None of it came easily. Instead, the blessings for which we give thanks today are the product of choices made by our parents, and grandparents, and generations before – whose determination and sacrifice ensured a better future for us.
    This holiday season, we must resolve once more to do the same.
    This is not the hardest Thanksgiving America has ever faced. But as long as many members of our American family are hurting, we’ve got to look out for one another. As long as many of our sons and daughters and husbands and wives are at war, we’ve got to support their mission and honor their service. And as long as many of our friends and neighbors are looking for work, we’ve got to do everything we can to accelerate this recovery and keep our economy moving forward.
    And we will. But we won’t do it as any one political party. We’ve got to do it as one people. And in the coming weeks and months, I hope that we can work together, Democrats and Republicans and Independents alike, to make progress on these and other issues.
    That’s why, next week, I’ve invited the leadership of both parties to the White House for a real and honest discussion – because I believe that if we stop talking at one another, and start talking with one another, we can get a lot done.
    For what we are called to do again today isn’t about Democrats or Republicans. It’s not about left or right. It’s about us. It’s about what we know this country is capable of. It’s about what we want America to be in this new century.
    A vibrant nation that makes sure its children are the best-educated in the world. A healthy, growing economy that runs on clean energy and creates the jobs of tomorrow. A responsible government that reduces its deficits. An America where every citizen is able to go as far as he or she desires.
    We can do all this, because we’ve done it before. We’re made of the same sturdy stuff as the travelers who sat down to the first Thanksgiving, and all who came after – who worked, and sacrificed, and invested, because they believed that their efforts would make the difference for us.
    That’s who we are. We shape our own destiny with conviction, compassion, and clear and common purpose. We honor our past and press forward with the knowledge that tomorrow will be better than today. We are Americans. That’s the vision we won’t lose sight of. That’s the legacy that falls to our generation. That’s the challenge that together, we are going to meet.
    To every American, I am thankful for the privilege of being your President. To all our service members stationed around the world, I am honored to be your Commander-in-Chief. And from the Obama family to yours, have a very Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you. – WH, 11-25-10
  • Michelle Obama: Giving Thanks and Giving Back:
    Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to come together with family and friends to give thanks for all the blessings in our lives. It’s also an important time to be thankful for our men and women in uniform and their families who risk everything so that we can be safe and free. And we must also remember those in our community who are in need of our help and support — especially during these tough economic times.
    In our family, we have a tradition: Every year on the day before Thanksgiving, we take some time as a family to help out people in our community who are in need. Today, we’re handing out turkeys, stuffing, pumpkin pies and all the Thanksgiving fixings with our friends and family at Martha’s Table, a local non-profit organization.
    This Thanksgiving, I encourage all Americans to find a way to give back — and maybe even start a family tradition of your own. Whether you volunteer at a local soup kitchen, visit the elderly at a nursing home or reach out to a neighbor or friend who comes from a military family, there are plenty of ways to get involved in your community. If you’re not sure how to get started, visit Serve.gov.
    President Obama and I wish you and your family a very happy and safe Thanksgiving.
    Michelle Obama
    First Lady of the United States WH, 11-24-10
  • Remarks by the President Pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey: THE PRESIDENT: Please, everybody, have a seat. Good morning.
    AUDIENCE: Good morning.
    THE PRESIDENT: I have my two trusty assistants here — (laughter) — Malia and Sasha for one of the most important duties that I carry out as President.
    Before everybody heads home for Thanksgiving, there is one official duty I am sworn to uphold as the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth. Today, I have the awesome responsibility of granting a presidential pardon to a pair of turkeys. Now, for the record, let me say that it feels pretty good to stop at least one shellacking this November. (Laughter.)
    This year’s national turkey goes by the name of Apple, and his feathered understudy is appropriately named Cider. They are being presented today by the Chairman of the National Turkey Federation, Yubert Envia — and I want to just point out that Yubert seems very comfortable with that turkey. (Laughter.) As well as the man who helped raise and handle them since birth, Ira Brister. Where’s Ira? There’s Ira. Give Ira a big round of applause for raising such outstanding turkeys. (Applause.) I want to thank you both for joining us here at the White House.
    Now, Apple and Cider came to us from the Foster Farms Wellsford Ranch, just outside of Modesto, California. Out of about 20,000 turkeys born at Foster Farms this summer, 25 were selected for a final competition that involved strutting their stuff before a panel of judges with an eclectic mix of music playing in the background. (Laughter.) It’s kind of like a turkey version of “Dancing With the Stars” — (laughter) — except the stakes for the contestants was much higher. (Laughter.)
    Only one pair would survive and win the big prize: life — (laughter) — and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, where they’ve been living it up on corn feed at the W hotel. The W hotel has really been putting them up. (Laughter.) It’s great advertising. (Laughter.) It makes you want to stay at the W. (Laughter.) And after today, Apple and Cider will spend their retirement at the same beautiful place our first President spent his –- Mount Vernon, Virginia…. – WH, 11-24-10
  • Pardoning the National Thanksgiving Turkey: This, of course, is what’s truly meant by Thanksgiving -– a holiday that asks us to be thankful for what we have, and generous to those who have less. It’s a time to spend with the ones we love, and a chance to show compassion and concern to people we’ve never met. It’s a tradition that’s brought us together as a community since before we were a nation, when the ground we’re standing on was nothing but wilderness.
    Back then, the simple act of survival was often the greatest blessing of all. And later, President Lincoln declared the first national day of Thanksgiving in the midst of the Civil War. During the depths of the Great Depression, local businesses gave donations and charities opened their doors to families who didn’t have a place to celebrate Thanksgiving. In times of war, our military has gone through great lengths to give our men and women on the front lines a turkey dinner and a taste of home.
    So in America, we come together when times are hard. We don’t give up. We don’t complain. And we don’t turn our backs on one another. Instead, we look out for another and we pitch in and we give what we can. And in the process, we reveal to the world what we love so much about this country.
    That’s who we are. And that’s who Thanksgiving reminds us to be. So I hope everyone takes some time during this holiday season to give back and serve their community in some way. And I also want to take a moment to say how grateful I am to the men and women who are serving this country bravely and selflessly in places far away from home right now. You and your families are in our thoughts and in our prayers, and you make me so very proud to be your Commander-in-Chief. – WH, 11-24-10
  • Obama sets out to defend record (including health care): “The fact is, is that we stabilized the financial system,” Obama said during the interview broadcast on ABC’s 20/20. “We turned an economy that was contracting to one that was growing. We have added a million jobs over the last year to the economy.”
    I am absolutely confident that when we fully implemented health care, and we started to see those costs go down and we have seen people who don’t have health insurance get health insurance, and we have seen families who have health insurance more secure and they are not being jerked around by arbitrary rules from their insurance companies, that that’s gonna be a lasting legacy that I am extraordinarily proud of.
    We haven’t seen all the progress that they said they were going to engage in. So part of what we’re doing right now is monitoring: have, in fact, all the political prisoners who they said were going to be released, have they been released?
    Step by step, we’re exploring other ways that we can break the impasse. But my watchword is how do we assure freedom and dignity for the Cuban people? And if in fact Cuba’s ready to turn a corner, I think they will find a welcome partner in the United States of America. But we’re not there yet…. – USA Today, 11-27-10
  • Obama to ABC’s Barbara Walters: Pursuing an overhaul of the nation’s health care system was worth the time and effort. “That’s going to be a lasting legacy that I am extraordinarily proud of,” Obama says.
    The first family says grace together every night it can. “In the end we always say, ‘We hope we live long and strong,’” Michelle Obama says.
    Thanksgiving at the White House was a family-and-friends affair, but the guests didn’t have to contribute. “The Secret Service would have to taste everything,” the president quips…. – USA Today, 11-26-10
  • Exclusive: President Barack and Michelle Obama Reflect on Tenure President and First Lady Open Up to Barbara Walters on Family Life, Thanksgiving Traditions: “This is gonna be something that evolves. We are gonna have to work on it,” Obama told Barbara Walters, indicating the need for new technologies. “I understand people’s frustrations with it, but I also know that if there was an explosion in the air that killed a couple of hundred people…and it turned out that we could have prevented it possibly… that would be something that would be pretty upsetting to most of us — including me.”…. – ABC News, 11-26-10
  • Obama to ABC: Pat-downs worth the price: President Obama says full-body screenings and extensive pat-downs are part of an evolving air travel security strategy that’s needed to prevent further acts of terrorism. Obama tells ABC’s Barbara Walters that and more on a Thanksgiving special airing at 10 p.m. ET tonight. “This is going to be something that evolves. We are going to have to work on it,” Obama says, indicating the need for new technologies. “I understand people’s frustrations with it, but I also know that if there was an explosion in the air that killed a couple of hundred people … and it turned out that we could have prevented it possibly … that would be something that would be pretty upsetting to most of us, including me.”… USA Today, 11-26-10
  • Obama Hints at Greater Focus on Education, Research: President Barack Obama defends his legislative priorities in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters that airs Friday night, while hinting at a greater focus on education and research in the future.
    “We have got a lot more work to do, but I am confident that if we make the investments we need to make sure our kids are getting the best education…if we are investing in our infrastructure…We have got a lot more work to do, but I am confident that if we are investing in research and development that continues to make us an innovation leader for the future, that we are gonna do great,” Mr. Obama says, according to excerpts released by ABC. “I am very, very confident that our best days are still ahead of us.” “This notion that somehow you can only do one thing at once is simply not true,” Mr. Obama said. “The fact is, is that we stabilized the financial system…we turned an economy that was contracting to one that was growing. We have added a million jobs over the last year to the economy…. “I am absolutely confident that when we fully implemented health care, and we started to see those costs go down and we have seen people who don’t have health insurance get health insurance, and we have seen families who have health insurance more secure and they are not being jerked around by arbitrary rules from their insurance companies, that that’s gonna be a lasting legacy that I am extraordinarily proud of,” he said. WSJ, 11-26-10
  • Sarah Palin: ‘We Gotta Stand With Our North Korean Allies’: Was it a simple blunder or did a possible 2012 presidential contender really get her geography wrong? That’s the question being debated after Sarah Palin said in an interview with Glenn Beck Wednesday that North Korea was a U.S. ally. When asked by Beck how she would handle a situation like the one that was developing in North Korea, Palin responded: “This is stemming from, I think, a greater problem when we’re all sitting around asking, ‘Oh no, what are we going to do,’ and we’re not having a lot of faith that the White House is going to come out with a strong enough policy to sanction what it is that North Korea is going to do.” It is unclear whether Palin is talking about sanctions against North Korea, or U.S. sanctioning — i.e. approving or supporting — its actions. Palin continued: “Obviously, we gotta stand with our North Korean allies,” when Beck interrupted and corrected her to say “South Korea.”… – ABC News, 11-25-10
  • Palin fires back at ‘blue-blood’ Barbara Bush: In an interview with Larry King, former first lady Barbara Bush said she hopes former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin chooses to stay in Alaska. “I sat next to her once, thought she was beautiful,” Bush said. “And I think she’s very happy in Alaska — and I hope she’ll stay there.” Also of note in the Larry King interview, former President George H.W. Bush said he is “confused” by the tea party, adding that he doesn’t “know what it really is.” Still, he said, “some of [their] ideas make a lot of sense.”… – WaPo, 11-24-10
  • Palin fires back at ‘blue-blood’ Barbara Bush: “I don’t want to concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because I don’t think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and I want to say it will all due respect because I love the Bushes — the blue-bloods who want to pick and choose their winners instead of allowing competition,” Palin said.
    Palin also suggested that the Bushes upper-class status had contributed to “the economic policies that were in place that got us into these economic woeful times.”…. – WaPo, 11-24-10
  • Sarah Palin Hits George and Barbara Bush as Elite “Blue Bloods”: Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s radio show today, Sarah Palin said that while she “love[s] the Bushes,” she sees George H.W. and Barbara Bush as “blue bloods” who are trying to “pick and choose” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee for president. Palin replied that said elites don’t understand that “competition is good.” Efforts to “shoot internally” don’t make sense, Palin continued, but “that’s the way they roll.”
    “I don’t want to sort of concede that we have to get used to this kind of thing, because I don’t think the majority of Americans want to put up with the blue-bloods — and I say it with all due respect, because I love the Bushes — but the blue bloods who want to pick and chose their winners instead of allowing competition to pick and choose the winners.”
    “I don’t know if that kind of stuff is planned out, but it is what it is, we deal with it, and as I say we forge ahead and we keep doing what we’re doing,” Palin added. Top Republicans are reportedly working behind the scenes to keep Palin from winning the Republican nomination out of fears that the polarizing former vice presidential candidate would lose badly to President Obama in a general election.
    “Instead of a government thinking that they need to take over, make decisions for us according to some politician or politician’s wife’s priority, just leave us alone, get off our back, and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions, and then our country gets back on the right track,” she said…. – CBS News, 11-24-10
  • Barack Obama reveals he doesn’t view Palin as a threat: President Barack Obama indicated he is not worried about a possible 2012 presidential contest against Sarah Palin, saying: “I don’t think about her.” A poll this week showed Mr Obama, right, leading Mrs Palin, left, by 48 per cent to 40 per cent…
    Barack Obama indicated that he was not worried about a possible 2012 presidential contest against Sarah Palin, saying: “I don’t think about her.” The US president said he had “respect for her skills” but dismissed the notion that he could be defeated by the former governor of Alaska in a race for the White House. He has previously avoided discussing such a contest, but he opened up during an interview with the veteran broadcaster Barbara Walters. Asked whether he could beat Mrs Palin in 2012, he said: “I don’t speculate on what’s going to happen two years from now.” When pressed, he said: “I don’t think about Sarah Palin. Obviously, Sarah Palin has a strong base of support in the Republican Party and I respect those skills. “But I spend most of my time right now on how I can be the best possible president.”… – Telegraph UK, 11-24-10


  • Dear First Lady Michelle: And it’s not just the president who has captured their attention — his wife, Michelle, has, too. From our students’ perspective, Mrs. Obama is glamorous but accessible, maternal but cool. They trust her. So, earlier this fall, 826 National hosted a series of workshops inviting students to write to the first lady. The results were collected in the book “I Live Real Close to Where You Used to Live: Kids’ Letters to Michelle Obama (and to Sasha, Malia and Bo).” Here is a sampling of what they came up with; some letters have been edited for space. — LAUREN HALL, grants director for 826 National… – NYT, 11-27-10
  • Is America on the path to ‘permanent war’?: When the president decided to send more troops to a distant country during an unpopular war, one powerful senator had enough…. As the Afghanistan war enters its ninth year, Andrew Bacevich and other commentators are asking: When does it end? They say the nation’s national security leaders have put the U.S. on an unsustainable path to perpetual war and that President Obama is doing little to stop them. Bacevich has become a leading voice among anti-war critics. He is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, a former West Point instructor and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He’s also a Boston University international relations professor who offers a historical perspective with his criticism. He says Obama has been ensnared by the “Washington Rules,” a set of assumptions that have guided presidents since Harry Truman.
    The rules say that the U.S. should act as a global policeman. “Fixing Iraq or Afghanistan ends up taking precedence over fixing Cleveland or Detroit,” Bacevich writes. His solution: The U.S. should stop deploying a “global occupation force” and focus on nation-building at home. “The job is too big,” he says of the U.S. global military presence. “We don’t have enough money. We don’t have enough troops. There’s a growing recognition that the amount of red ink we’re spilling is unsustainable.”…. – CNN, 11-23-10
  • Dan Mulcare, Assistant Professor of Political Science: Election: Why Republicans Fared: The 2010 midterm election had something for everyone, especially Republicans. If you were part of the Grand Old Party, you rejoiced in the winning of the House of Representatives, with a monumental swing of at least 60 seats. Additionally, the gain of six Senate seats has put additional pressure on Democrats to consider conservative policies. For Democrats, despite their drubbing, they can take solace in that the upper chamber and the White House remained blue, and they have time to convince the public to support them in 2012. Before I detail what I believe the parties should and should not do in order to remain viable, I should first discuss the reason that the Republicans fared so well and the Democrats faltered. First, it should be noted that every election cycle produces its own electorate, far from the entire American populace speaking as one at the ballot box; there are certain groups that are overrepresented and those whose voices are conspicuously absent…. – Salem State Log, 11-26-10
  • WikiLeaks release could damage diplomatic relations, former envoy says: Diplomatic cables expected to be released soon by WikiLeaks could contain highly sensitive information that reveals U.S. negotiating positions, secret intelligence and other confidential matters, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia told CNN. The expected online disclosure has to be taken seriously, said James F. Collins, who served as ambassador to Moscow from 1997 to 2001 and is currently director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
    “Leaking information of this kind will be detrimental to building the trust among officials necessary to conduct effective and productive diplomacy. It will impede doing things in a normal, civilized way,” Collins said. “I would think the information they will leak is likely to contain analysis, records of discussions or reporting on confidential conversations between officials or official policy recommendations or suggestions about policy or diplomatic actions,” he added…. – CNN, 11-26-10
  • Michelle Obama’s White House is ‘not Camelot’: “Because of the campaign, people expected Obama and the first lady to revitalize some of the glamour of the White House and bring Camelot back to Washington,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University who has studied recent presidencies. “But the realities of Washington make that difficult. We’re in an era where it’s hard to recreate Camelot. People are increasingly cynical about politics, and it’s really a partisan world. I don’t think either party would allow the president of the opposite party and the first lady to enjoy that kind of existence.”… – Politico, 11-24-10
  • Michelle Obama’s White House is ‘not Camelot’: But Catherine Allgor, a history professor at the University of California at Riverside, who studies the “parlor politics” of first ladies, said it would be a mistake to dismiss the Washington social scene. “When it comes to politics, parties are never frivolous,” she said. And Allgor has some advice for Michelle Obama: “Get out there and start making friends.”… – Politico, 11-24-10
  • Julian Zelizer: Palin pioneers reality campaigning Sarah Palin’s new reality show looks like it might become a hit.
    During its first week, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” attracted almost five million viewers, the best that a premiere has done on the TLC network.
    The same week that the show debuted, there were reports that Palin was talking with insiders about a presidential run. She told ABC News that she believed she could defeat President Obama in 2012.
    The launch of the show has felt very much like the start of a presidential campaign.
    If this turns out to be true, Palin’s reality show could be a harbinger of campaigns to come. We might be witnessing the start of a new era in presidential campaigning, where candidates take their message directly to the voters while avoiding almost any filters in the process….
    If the nation does shift toward an era of direct campaigning, the process would likely deteriorate. Voters will be exposed to a constant stream of infomercials. Much of the media, now more polarized than ever, won’t be reliable as a source of objective analysis, but rather will function as a cheering section for one of the two teams in Washington.
    We will enter deeper into a world of virtual politics where it is difficult for voters to tell fact from fiction and too easy for politicians to promote an image and arguments that have little basis in reality. – CNN, 11-26-10

First Family at Martha’s Table

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and mother-in-law Marian Robinson help distribute Thanksgiving food items at Martha’s Table, a food pantry in Washington, D.C., Nov. 24, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama and Malia at Martha’s Table

First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia distribute various Thanksgiving food items to members of the community at Martha’s Table, a food pantry in Washington, D.C., Nov. 24, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

August 23 2010: Last American Combat Troops Leave Iraq, Americans see Obama as a Muslim

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.



  • Poll: Nearly 6 in 10 oppose war in Afghanistan: A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
    With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama’s first term, only 38 percent say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan — a drop from 46 percent in March. Just 19 percent expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29 percent think it will get worse. Some 49 percent think it will remain the same…. – AP, 8-20-10
  • Faith and Reason: A conversation about religion, spirituality and ethics The “M-word’: Is “Muslim” political code for ‘I don’t like you!’ Evangelist leads ‘disinformation campaign’ on Obama: Religion professor: Who, exactly, is “Christian”? Or Christian enough? Or the right variation of Christian — i.e. probably the one you are or you like.
    With all the hoohah over the 18% of folks who told a Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life survey that President Obama is Muslim and 34% who said Obama is Christian, the 43% who are unsure what he believes have gotten less attention…. – USA Today, 8-20-10


  • Obama, daughters go book shopping in Martha’s Vineyard: President Barack Obama and his two daughters went book shopping Friday on the first outing of their 10-day vacation in Massachusetts’ upscale Martha’s Vineyard, witnesses said. Obama, wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and sandals, arrived at the “Bunch of Grapes” bookstore in central Vineyard Haven aboard an SUV along with daughters Malia, 12, and Sasha, 9…. – AFP, 8-20-10
  • Clinton announces direct talks to resume on Sept. 2: Washington to invite Israel and Palestinians to peace negotiations; Netanyahu welcomes decision saying reaching an agreement is ‘difficult challenge but possible.’… – JPost, 8-20-10
  • Obama Faces Middle East ‘Train Wreck’ as Iran Builds Nuclear Program: This is the last article of a three-part series on Iran’s entry into the world’s “nuclear club” as it begins fueling its nuclear reactor in Bushehr.
    Oil prices spike. Shipping routes come under attack. Mideast peace talks collapse. Progress in Afghanistan is shattered. President Obama finds himself caught in a shouting match between Israel’s supporters in America and critics abroad. And so much for restoring ties with the Muslim world.
    That’s just a sampling of what could happen if Israel or the United States launches an attack on Iran to halt what some see as its otherwise inexorable march toward developing a nuclear weapon. It sounds bad … but Israel has vowed to forbid a nuclear-armed Iran, and the consequences of its bold words could be severe.
    Anyone who thinks the president of the United States has it easy needs only to consider his predicament…. – Fox News, 8-20-10Part 1Part 2
  • Obama to GOP: Stop blocking small business bill: President Barack Obama is urging Republican congressional leaders to stop blocking a bill aimed at helping small businesses hire more people. Speaking at the White House, Obama said there would be plenty of time for politics but that the bill should not fall victim to partisanship…. – AP, 8-19-10
  • Blagojevich is campaign distraction for Ill. Dems: Alexi Giannoulias had planned to talk jobs. The Democrat in a tight race for President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat wanted to take the opportunity to say his Republican opponent had helped wreck the nation’s economy. Reporters, though, only wanted to talk about the ousted Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, a newly convicted felon who prosecutors plan to retry on some counts.
    The unfinished business of the Blagojevich trial poses a major new hurdle for Illinois Democrats, who are already facing a difficult election season. After hoping Blagojevich’s trial would wrap up well before the November vote, a retrial could begin as soon as this fall, in the final weeks of campaigning.
    Blagojevich’s saga will keep diverting attention away from the pocketbook issues Democrats want to talk about as they try to keep Obama’s old seat, hold on to the governor’s mansion and maintain their lock on the state Legislature… – AP, 8-19-10
  • From shock and awe to a quiet exit – US troops pull out of Iraq: It began with shock and awe and ended with a silent trickle across the border in the dead of night. As the 4th Stryker Brigade, Second Infantry division, arrived at their staging post in the sands of Kuwait, Sergeant Donald Wilms got out of his battle truck and high-fived friends in his platoon. A few hours earlier they had rumbled across the dusty border, becoming the last US combat unit to leave Iraq.
    “We knew we were going to make history,” he said. “The whole platoon is extremely proud of the difference they were able to make.”
    Two trucks in front of him, Staff Sergeant Wiley Baker also had a sense of the moment. “Any time in a war, whether it be world war two or Vietnam, the first and the last in are setting the agenda,” he said. “We were glad to be a part of it.”
    For the men and women of the division, seven years and five months of war in Iraq is now over. As soon as they had crossed the border after a three-day drive along the spine of central Iraq, US commanders announced that the overall American combat mission in the country was also complete – 12 days earlier than the official end of operations and with doubts about the continuing US role in Iraq lingering…. – Guardian UK, 8-19-10
  • Obama Is Questioned on Economy: President Barack Obama gestures during a backyard gathering to talk about the economy at the home of Rhonda and Joe Weithman in Clintonville, Ohio. President Barack Obama, at a summit of sorts in an Ohio family’s backyard, sought to reassure citizens Wednesday that the economy is on track and that his administration’s legislative victories will benefit voters.
    “Slowly, but surely, we are moving in the right direction. We’re on the right track. The economy is getting stronger,” Mr. Obama said at the beginning of a question-and-answer session with Columbus, Ohio, residents at the home of Rhonda and Joe Weithman.
    The summit comes as a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows American citizens have their dimmest view yet of how Obama is handling the economy. It also comes a few months ahead of midterm elections, in which the economy is expected to play a vital role in whether Democrats hold onto their majority in Congress…. – AP, 8-18-10
  • Obama on mosque: ‘The answer is no regrets’: President Obama has made his first public comment on the mosque controversy since Saturday — a very short comment. It came when a television reporter in Ohio asked Obama if he had any regrets about weighing in. “The answer is no regrets,” Obama said…. – USA Today, 8-18-10
  • Some Muslims question mosque near ground zero: American Muslims who support the proposed mosque and Islamic center near ground zero are facing skeptics within their own faith — those who argue that the project is insensitive to Sept. 11 victims and needlessly provocative at a time when Muslims are pressing for wider acceptance in the U.S. “For most Americans, 9/11 remains as an open wound, and anything associated with Islam, even for Americans who want to understand Islam — to have an Islamic center with so much publicity is like rubbing salt in open wounds,” said Akbar Ahmed, professor of Islamic studies at American University, a former Pakistani ambassador to Britain and author of “Journey Into America, The Challenge of Islam.” He said the space should include a synagogue and a church so it will truly be interfaith…. – AP, 8-18-10
  • Blagojevich jurors ask for advice on verdict form: A two-part note on Tuesday from deliberating jurors in the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich suggests they may be in the process of filling out verdict forms in the case — or are thinking about doing so soon. The jurors asked Judge James B. Zagel how they should mark the verdict form if they can’t reach a decision on a count. In the first part of the note, they also asked for a copy of the oath they took before deliberating. Zagel said in his response that they shouldn’t mark the form if they haven’t been able to reach an agreement on a count but should write a statement saying they couldn’t agree. He also said he would provide a copy of the oath, in which jurors pledge to do their best to reach a verdict…. – AP, 8-17-10
  • California gay marriage case hangs on technicality: The next stage of California’s gay marriage court battle rests on a procedural issue that could halt the case, leaving same-sex unions legal in California without a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to guide the country…. – Reuters, 8-17-10
  • Mama Grizzlies Beware: Liberal PAC Launches Campaign Against Sarah Palin’s Candidates: ABC News’ Huma Khan reports: Sarah Palin is firing up conservative women with her “mama grizzlies” campaign, but liberal women are showing they have a roar in them too. Emily’s List, one of the largest political action committees dedicated to electing pro-choice female Democrats, today unveiled its “Sarah Doesn’t Speak For Me” campaign, designed to counter Sarah Palin’s influence in the mid-term elections. The highlight of the campaign is a video ad mocking Palin’s “mama grizzlies.” “We call upon women and men to let their voices be heard and to reject Palin’s reactionary candidates and backwards- looking agenda. We created this campaign because Sarah Palin and her endorsed candidates are extreme and bad for America, because women voters are key to this election and our country,” Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock said at a news conference today. “We created this campaign because we didn’t want women across the country to think that there’s only one voice for women and we didn’t want Sarah Palin’s voice to go unchallenged.”…. – ABC News, 8-17-10
  • Obama says GOP hindering efforts to help business: President Barack Obama is accusing Republicans of thwarting efforts to help small business owners by blocking legislation containing tax breaks and other incentives. He made the charges, a familiar theme for him, in the midst of a three-day fundraising outing on behalf of besieged Democratic candidates. He was in Seattle to help Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, whose re-election bid is closely watched by Democrats across the nation. Obama spoke on the day of Washington’s primary. Murray is on the ballot and was expected to advance. The president met with a group of small business owners and told reporters afterward that Congress needs to act on the small business legislation. He said Republicans “won’t even let it go to a vote.”…. – AP, 8-17-10
  • Obama launches 3 days of fundraising travel: President Barack Obama, embarking on a three-day tour to raise money for Democrats, said Monday that a rising homegrown clean energy industry can help reverse years of manufacturing job losses overseas and help heal a still- ailing economy. “We can’t turn back, we’ve got keep going forward,” Obama told a group of workers at the ZBB Energy Corp, underscoring what he said was his lasting commitment to a clean energy future. Later, Obama portrayed Republicans as a party of naysayers, opposing nearly all of his domestic initiatives from clean-energy incentives to his landmark health care and financial overhaul legislation. In a play on his 2008 campaign slogan of “Yes we can,” Obama told a Democratic fundraiser in Milwaukee, “These guys’ slogan is ‘no we can’t.’”… – AP, 8-16-10
  • Obama Asks Hollywood For Campaign Cash At LA Fundraiser: Streisand, Spielberg Listed As Hosts, Pelosi Will Also Attend Party At ER Producer’s Mansion… – ABC News, 8-16-10
  • Gates plans to retire next year: Defense Secretary Robert Gates plans to leave his job next year. A Republican and holdover from the Bush administration, Gates had agreed to stay on at the request of President Barack Obama. The move was intended to maintain stability at a time of two wars, although Gates has been open about his desire to return to civilian life in his home state of Washington. In an interview published Monday, Gates told Foreign Policy magazine that leaving in 2011 makes sense. It would give him time to oversee the major offensive under way in Afghanistan but bow out before the 2012 presidential elections. Gates has been defense secretary since December 2006. Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed Monday that Gates has set his sights on leaving next year…. – AP, 8-16-10
  • Tom DeLay cleared in federal probe, but Texas charges loom: Former House majority leader Tom DeLay was not charged in a federal investigation into ties with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But he faces a Texas indictment for violating campaign-finance laws…. – CS Monitor, 8-16-10
  • Analysis: Mosque talk another hurdle for Dems: Add another election-year hurdle for Democrats: President Barack Obama’s forceful defense of the right of Muslims to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site. His comments are giving Republicans a campaign-year cudgel and forcing Democrats to address a divisive issue within weeks of midterm contests that will decide the balance of power in Washington. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a competitive re-election fight, was the highest profile Democrat to move away from Obama on the matter. “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion,” Reid’s spokesman Jim Manley said in a statement Monday. “Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built some place else.”… – AP, 8-16-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Kendrick Meek: The White House Has My Back: On a campaign stop in Florida Wednesday, President Obama said Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek is the “kind of fighter” that “we need” in the Senate. The “campaigner-in-chief” made the comment on his first trip down to Florida, only a week before the August 24th primary. The president’s previous absence in the race, where Meek is the underdog, had left many wondering whether the Democratic candidate was essentially on his own.
    Meek, however, insisted on “Washington Unplugged” Thursday that “The White House has answered the question constantly,” arguing to CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer that he has the full backing of the administration…. – CBS News, 8-19-10
  • Primaries being decided in 3 states: Democratic Sen. Patty Murray looked to move a step closer toward a fourth term Tuesday in a race that Republicans believe they can win in an election year when antiestablishment sentiment is running high. Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi are heavily favored to win Washington’s primary and face off in November, in what could be a crucial election in the battle for control of the Senate. They already have been campaigning against each other in anticipation of a fall matchup, and President Barack Obama came to the state Tuesday to raise money for Murray. Washington is one of three states holding primaries Tuesday. Wyoming was deciding a gubernatorial primary in the race to replace popular Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal, and Democrats in a legislative district along the California coast were hoping to lock up a state Senate seat in a closely watched special election that has attracted the interest of the president…. – AP, 8-17-10


  • Weekly Address: President Obama Challenges Politicians Benefiting from Citizens United Ruling to Defend Corporate Influence in Our Elections: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address August 21, 2010: …You would think that making these reforms would be a matter of common sense. You’d think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections wouldn’t be a partisan issue.
    But the Republican leaders in Congress said no. In fact, they used their power to block the issue from even coming up for a vote.
    This can only mean that the leaders of the other party want to keep the public in the dark. They don’t want you to know which interests are paying for the ads. The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.
    Well, we cannot allow the corporate takeover of our democracy. So we’re going to continue to fight for reform and transparency. And I urge all of you to take up the same fight. Let’s challenge every elected official who benefits from these ads to defend this practice or join us in stopping it.
    At a time of such challenge for America, we can’t afford these political games. Millions of Americans are struggling to get by, and their voices shouldn’t be drowned out by millions of dollars in secret, special interest advertising. Their voices should be heard…. – WH, 8-21-10
  • Obama challenges GOP on campaign finance ruling: President Barack Obama says Republicans should join him in opposing a Supreme Court ruling that vastly increased how much corporations and unions can spend on campaign ads. Instead, the GOP wants to “keep the public in the dark” about who’s behind the expenditures, Obama charged in his weekly radio and Internet address, released Saturday as he vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard.
    “You’d think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections wouldn’t be a partisan issue,” said Obama. “But the Republican leaders in Congress said no. In fact,they used their power to block the issue from even coming up for a vote.
    “This can only mean that the leaders of the other party want to keep the public in the dark,” said the president. “They don’t want you to know which interests are paying for the ads. The only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.”… – AP, 8-21-10
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scoffed at the president’s message: “Americans want us to focus on jobs, but by focusing on an election bill, Democrats are sending a clear message to the American people that their jobs aren’t as important as the jobs of embattled Democrat politicians,” McConnell said. “The president says this bill is about transparency. It’s transparent all right. It’s a transparent effort to rig the fall elections.”… – AP, 8-21-10
  • The Rev. Franklin Graham Says President Obama was ‘Born a Muslim’ Comments Come As Poll Shows One in Five Americans Wrongly Believes Obama Is Muslim: On the heels of a new poll suggesting that nearly one in five Americans incorrectly believes that President Obama is a Muslim, one of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders has weighed in with a seemingly lukewarm endorsement of the president’s Christian faith. Why do 18 percent of Americans believe the president is a Muslim?
    The Rev. Franklin Graham waded into the discussion with his own controversial explanation of why people wrongly believe the president is a Muslim. Graham, who prayed with Obama in a session with his father, Billy Graham, earlier this year, was asked whether he has any doubts about Obama’s self-avowed Christian faith.
    “I think the president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother. He was born a Muslim, his father gave him an Islamic name,” Graham told CNN’s John King in a televised interview that aired Thursday night…. – ABC News, 8-20-10
  • Bush comments on end of combat: Seven years after declaring the end of “major combat operations in Iraq,” former President George W. Bush Thursday commented on the departure of the last U.S. combat troops from the country by expressing his gratitude to members of the U.S. military.
    “President Bush is always proud of our troops,” Bush spokesman David Sherzer said in a statement to POLITICO. “Like all Americans, he is deeply grateful for all they do to defend our country and help make the world a freer and more peaceful place.”…
    Bush has rarely spoken about the war since leaving office, even as violence in the country has decreased and the United States prepares for a full withdrawal next summer. But in a tweet late Wednesday night as the last U.S. combat troops crossed the Iraqi border into Kuwait, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) noted the former president’s role: “Last American combat troops leave Iraq. I think President George W. Bush deserves some credit for victory.” – Politico, 8-19-10
  • Ending the War in Iraq:
    Good afternoon,
    Shortly after taking office, I put forward a plan to end the war in Iraq responsibly. Today, I’m pleased to report that — thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians in Iraq — our combat mission will end this month, and we will complete a substantial drawdown of our troops.
    Over the last 18 months, over 90,000 U.S. troops have left Iraq. By the end of this month, 50,000 troops will be serving in Iraq. As Iraqi Security Forces take responsibility for securing their country, our troops will move to an advise-and-assist role. And, consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all of our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year. Meanwhile, we will continue to build a strong partnership with the Iraqi people with an increased civilian commitment and diplomatic effort.
    A few weeks ago, men and women from one of the most deployed brigades in the U.S. Army, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, returned home from Iraq. The Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden were at Fort Drum to welcome the veterans home and spoke about their personal experiences as a military family:
    Our commitment to our troops doesn’t end once they come home — it’s only the beginning. Part of ending a war responsibly is meeting our responsibility to the men and women who have fought it. Our troops and their families have made tremendous sacrifices to keep our nation safe and secure, and as a nation we have a moral obligation to serve our veterans as well as they have served us.
    That’s why we’re building a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs. We’ve made one of the largest percentage increase in the VA’s budget in 30 years, and we’re dramatically increasing funding for veterans’ health across the board. In particular, we’re delivering unprecedented resources to treat signature wounds of today’s wars—Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
    Our sacred trust to take care of our veterans goes beyond simply healing the wounds incurred in battle. We must ensure that when our veterans leave the Armed Forces, they have the opportunities they need to further their education and support their families. Through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, some 300,000 veterans and families members have pursued a college degree. Others are taking advantage of job training and placement programs.
    My Administration will continue to do our part to support the brave men and women in uniform that have sacrificed so much. But supporting our troops and their families is not just the job of the Federal Government; it’s the responsibility of all Americans.
    As we mark this milestone in the Iraq war and our troops continue to move out of Iraq, I hope you’ll join me in thanking them, and all of our troops and military families, for their service.
    President Barack Obama
    WH, 8-19-10


  • Andrew Bacevich: OBAMA AND THE MISSION: “If we can’t have a victory parade, we at least ought to be able to make some definitive conclusions,” said Andrew Bacevich, a military specialist at Boston University who lost a son in Iraq and has written a new book, “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.” “And it just doesn’t seem that we are going to do so. We want to just move on, sadly.”… – NYT, 8-21-10
  • Judy Chu: pposing view on Iraq endgame: U.S. deadline improved Iraq: Last Thursday, the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, crossed the border out of Iraq. With this exit, two weeks ahead of schedule, our military met the timeline to withdraw combat troops that President Obama first proposed 16 months ago. For that, every American should feel reassured.
    The president’s withdrawal timeline produced a more orderly transition and reduced violence.
    According to the Iraq Body Count project, civilian deaths caused by coalition troops, paramilitary forces, or criminal attacks averaged 1,390 each month from the beginning of the war in March 2003 through February of last year. But after the president officially announced a timetable, that average fell to 364 monthly casualties.
    During the past year and a half, our troops curbed Iraq’s civil war, restrained the insurgency and transitioned into a peacekeeping, advisory force…. – USA Today, 8-23-10
  • Why doesn’t Obama wear his religion on his sleeve?: What will it take for Obama to convince the world that he’s a Christian, or at least not a Muslim? Teaching Baptist Sunday School like Jimmy Carter? Putting a ‘My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter’ bumper sticker on Air Force One?… – CS Monitor, 8-21-10
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