Friday, September 4, 2009

Obama (and other presidents) in the classroom

The Obama administration announced this week that the president will deliver an special address to school children on September 8, 2009. The White House is asking schools to tune at 12:00 for the address, which will focus on staying in school - more from

Here is an advance for the speech

A few Republicans are calling for students to skip or boycott the speech, with some even going so far as calling for schools to block the speech.

This begs the question, what's the history of presidents' speaking in schools?

Every president in the modern age has used schools as the backdrop for live and taped messages, although few have attempted to pull off a nationwide live address to be played in schools (more below). This week, Democrats have made much over a November 14, 1988 speech President Ronald Reagan made for invited students in the White House. The Reagan administration taped the speech and sent it to schools across the U.S. The speech was also broadcast on C-Span for schools to show at some later date. The major Democratic party talking point on this speech is summed up as follows from the a story at Media Matters. "According to press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, the speech was broadcast live and rebroadcast by C-Span, and Instructional Television Network fed the program 'to schools nationwide on three different days.'"

Of course, we all remember that George W. Bush was in an elementary classroom when planes struck the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.

Here, President Franklin Roosevelt meets with children in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

President George Bush addressed school children in 1991 at Alice Deal Junior High. The Bush administration hoped the talk would be carried in schools across the country and in fact Bush opens the speech saying "Thank you, Ms. Mostoller, and thanks for allowing me to visit your classroom to talk to you and all these students, and millions more in classrooms all across the country." Democrats criticized Bush at the time for using taxpayer dollars to deliver a political speech to a captive audience.

At a much different time using a much different medium, President Abraham Lincoln responded to a 1864 petition from 195 children in Massachusetts sent by Mary Mann (wife of Horace Mann) asking the president to free all slaves. Lincoln most certainly knew the his reply would be made public. I suppose this communique was a 19th century version of the modern-day schoolhouse presidential talk.

The Lincoln slave petition letter

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Presidents vacationing

As President Obama vacations at Martha's Vineyard, a bit of perspective on presidential vacations is in order. Barack Obama is not the first president to spend time on Martha's Vineyard. Bill Clinton vacationed there numerous times. The Clintons and the Obamas rent their vacations homes. Other presidents has retreated to homes they or their families owned to vacation. George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan to their ranches in Crawford, Texas and Rancho del Cielo, in Santa Barbara, California respectively. George H. W. Bush spent time at the family home in Kennebunkport, Maine. Of course, John F. Kennedy spent considerable time at his family home in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Jimmy Carter split most of the limited time that he vacationed between his home in Plains Georgia and on the Georgia coast on St. Simmons Island at Musgrove Plantation and on Sapelo Island. Carter's vacation spots coincidentally intersected with other presidential getaways. George and Barbara Bush honeymooned on Sea Island in 1946 at the Cloister just a few miles from Musgrove. Carter's home in Plains was also just 75 miles or so south of Warm Springs, where Franklin Roosevelt convalesced weeks on end for relief from polo and to be with his mistress Lucy Page Mercer Rutherfurd. Carter also vacationed at the Brinkerhoff Lodge in Grand Teton National Park (pictured right) as did presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and George H. W. Bush.

(Back to the list) Richard Nixon's regular vacation home was in Key Biscayne, Florida. Truman spent time in Key West. Herbert Hoover in Rapidan Camp in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Theodore Roosevelt was on vacation in 1901 in the Adirondacks when president McKinley was shot. And, last on this short list, Abraham Lincoln vacationed (as it was) down the street from the White House on Soldiers Home (left), perhaps just enough to get away from it all!

POTUS as House Guest: A Short History

Article on the History News Network about the length of presidential vacations. James Madison took the longest single vacation at four months long. Jimmy Carter vacationed the least over a four year period at just 79 days total.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Weapons, Obama, and history

Today, President Obama spoke to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Phoenix and in his wide-ranging remarks discussed the future of military weapons programs. Obama described what he called 21st century weapons programs that will "equip our forces with the assets and technologies they need to fight and win." Included in the program are new Army helicopters for "the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that gives our troops the advantage; the special operations forces that can deploy on a moment's notice." Gone are the big budget programs of the 80s and 90s including the F22 And for all those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, including our National Guard and Reserve, more of the protective gear and armored vehicles that saves lives."

Obama described his vision for this 21st century military.

"We're adopting new concepts -- because the full spectrum of challenges demands a full range of military capabilities -- both the conventional and the unconventional, the ability to defeat both an armored division and the lone suicide bomber; the intercontinental ballistic missile and the improvised explosive device; 18th-century-style piracy and 21st-century cyber threats. No matter the mission, we must maintain America's military dominance.

So even as we modernize our conventional forces, we're investing in the capabilities that will reorient our force to the future -- an Army that is more mobile and expeditionary and missile defenses that protect our troops in the field; a Navy that not only projects power across the oceans but operates nimbly in shallow, coastal waters; an Air Force that dominates the airspace with next-generation aircraft, both manned and unmanned; a Marine Corps that can move ashore more rapidly in more places.

And across the force, we're investing in new skills and specialties, because in the 21st century, military strength will be measured not only by the weapons our troops carry, but by the languages they speak and the cultures that they understand."

How do Obama's shifting priorities resonant with other periods of military reform? One interesting comparison can be made with Theodore Roosevelt's efforts to reorient American military might at the turn of the 20th century. You might wonder how TRs expansionist military strategies can compare with Obama's decidedly anti-war political career. In fact, George W. Bush seems a more likely comparison. But, what I have in mind is not the rhetoric of Obama and Roosevelt, but willingness to view the world anew in a time of realignment. In a short two year period at the close of the 20th century, the United States became an imperial power.

Photograph of Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet anchored in Elliot Bay at night, May 1908. Spotlights are beaming off the fleet’s ships. Photo courtesy Washington State Digital Archives.

In 1898 and 1899, the United States annexed Hawaii and acquired the Philippines, Puerto Rico, parts of the Samoan islands as well establishing a dominate position in Cuba and throughout Latin America. Roosevelt came to office in 1901 in this new American world. He responded with a political effort to transform the American military to meet these new conditions, most dramatically taking shape with the 1907-1909 voyage of the Great white Fleet (see an announcement for the fleet's arrival in New South Wales, Australia). Likewise, Obama came to office with a new military context in a part of the world where American has little experience. In response, Obama has called for reformed military that can meet the challenges of war and peace in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. The question is how will the military look in five years?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

(ex)-Presidential photo ops

For this photo, North Korean dictator Kim Jung Il held two American journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, prisoner for four months. The image with president Clinton was the sort of high profile publicity that Kim craves as he attempts to situate his country among elite countries, and more importantly among the small group of countries that have nuclear weapons.

This was not the first visit to North Korea by an ex-American president. President Jimmy Carter visited North Korea in 1994 and met with then president Kim Il Sung in an effort to jump start peace negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea.

Of course, Presidential travel abroad has become a very important means for the United States to both influence and protect its interests overseas. President Obama has already visited 17 foreign nations in only seven months. And, president Obama has already had an instantly infamous photo op with a president who is often at odds with the United States.

The question many people are asking today is, what role should ex-presidents play in world affairs, and what are the consequences for ex-presidential travel?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Art, Portraits, and Presidents

This trailer for an exhibit from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts titled Peace, Liberty, and Independence": 225 Years After the Treaty of Paris considers the impact of art on the American Revolution.

The video highlights this painting of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale. The painting was one of several portraits Peale would paint of Washington. His most famous was the 1779 portrait shown in the video, which was titled Washington at Princeton. It was commissioned by the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. The painting was so popular, Peale would make 18 copies, one of which hangs in the United Stated Senate chamber today.

This portrait of Washington painted by Peale in 1776 carries even more symbolic value. This painting was commissioned by John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress in 1776 after Washington lead the Continental Army in their surprising route of British troops from Boston. Peale completed the portrait on June 1, 1776, the day the Continental Congress voted on independence.

Peale travel to London in 1767 when he was 26 years old where he studied under Benjamin West for two years. In a series of postings on other blogs (listed below), I have written about Benjamin West's work as a history painter.

Today, portraiture is more of a ritual than a genuine artistic or historical expression. A review the recent history of presidential portrait paintings bears this out. The official home of presidential portraits is the Smithsonian Institute's National Portrait Gallery. Selections from the collection are often displayed in the White House. Presidential portraits today are painted from photographs taken during the presidency. The paintings are then unveiled at the end of a presidents term. This official digital portrait of President Obama may be used to paint his portrait.

The Obamas placed their artist mark on the White House with their choices for display. This work from artist Edward Ruscha titled “I think maybe I’ll…" was selected by the Obamas for display in the White House. It is one of over 450 works of art on display in the White house.

The Library of Congress also maintains an online collection of presidential portraits through its American Memory project. The collection titled By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies 1789 to present includes 156 images in a variety of forms "include small engraved illustrations, prints based on paintings and daguerreotypes, large woodcut campaign banners, elegants mezzotints, and color lithographs" (see about the collection for more).

Friday, July 24, 2009

When presidets misspeak

Wednesday night at the end of a hour press conference on the debate over health care, president Obama offered a comment on the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates. The arrest for disorderly conduct occurred after police responded to a report that two men were attempting to break into the Gates home. It was in fact Gates who had misplaced his keys after return from a trip to China who was breaking into his own home. The charges against Gates were subsequently dropped and Wednesday night president Obama offered this.

Today, president Obama offered new comments today.

Of course, president Obama is not the first president to misspeak. Presidents Nixon and Clinton, in recent history, made what were probably the most grievous missteps with comments on accusations against them. President Obama's comments on the Gates arrest were not near as consequential as Nixon's and Clinton's, but other presidents have similarly misspoken.

President Thomas Jefferson famously "misspoke" when he wrote in the 1798 Kentucky resolutions tat sovereignty rested in the states.

Later, then president James Madison said of Jefferson's ideas, “Allowances also ought to be made for a habit in Mr. Jefferson as in others of great genius of expressing in strong and round terms, impressions of the moment.”

Seventy years later, president Ulysses S. Grant delivered this rambling excuse for ineptitude in his eighth and last state of the union address to Congress on December 5, 1876.

"It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training. From the age of 17 I had never even witnessed the excitement attending a Presidential campaign but twice antecedent to my own candidacy, and at but one of them was I eligible as a voter.

Under such circumstances it is but reasonable to suppose that errors of judgment must have occurred. Even had they not, differences of opinion between the Executive, bound by an oath to the strict performance of his duties, and writers and debaters must have arisen. It is not necessarily evidence of blunder on the part of the Executive because there are these differences of views. Mistakes have been made, as all can see and I admit, but it seems to me oftener in the selections made of the assistants appointed to aid in carrying out the various duties of administering the Government--in nearly every case selected without a personal acquaintance with the appointee, but upon recommendations of the representatives chosen directly by the people. It is impossible, where so many trusts are to be allotted, that the right parties should be chosen in every instance. History shows that no Administration from the time of Washington to the present has been free from these mistakes. But I leave comparisons to history, claiming only that I have acted in every instance from a conscientious desire to do what was right, constitutional, within the law, and for the very best interests of the whole people. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama on Iran, "govern through consent not coercion"

Today president Obama upped the ante in election/regime crisis in Iran. Comments from his news conference of July 23, 2009

“The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings, and imprisonments of the last few days. I strongly condemn these unjust actions, and I join with the American people in mourning each and every innocent life that is lost.”

“the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and is not at all interfering in Iran’s affairs. But we must also bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society. And we deplore violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.”

“Some in the Iranian government are trying to avoid that debate by accusing the United States and others outside of Iran of instigating protests over the elections. These accusations are patently false and absurd. They are an obvious attempt to distract people from what is truly taking place within Iran’s borders. This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won’t work anymore in Iran.”

“As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights, and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent, not coercion. That is what Iran’s own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government.”

Associated Press
"Marzieh Masaebi, at her home in Tehran, watches a satellite-TV broadcast of President Barack Obama's videotaped address to the Iranian people." Wall Street Journal article after Obama's speech to the Iranian people

What do Iranians think of Obama?

AP photo / Hasan Sarbakhshian
"A woman in the streets of Tehran holds up the Iranian daily Rozan with a photo of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama the day after the American election." from Scott Ritter at Truth Dig

In Obama's Nowruz message to the people of Iran, he signaled a possible opening for talks between the two countires.

from the March 20, 2009 address
"Indeed, you will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays...Within these celebrations lies the promise of a new day, the promise of opportunity for our children, security for our families, progress for our communities, and peace between nations. Those are shared hopes, those are common dreams."

"You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create."

How quickly times have changed

Friday, June 19, 2009

Obama, Iran and history

As Obama sits on the sidelines during the election crisis in Iran, it raises some questions about how other presidents have responded to Iran in other conditions. In fact, Obama mentioned this history in comments earlier this week.

OBAMA: It’s not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections. … I do believe that something has happened in Iran where there is, there is a questioning of the kinds of antagonistic postures towards the international community that have taken place in the past, and that there are people that want to see greater openness and greater debate and want to see greater democracy.

and on Friday

Watch CBS Videos Online


How have other presidents related to or worked with Iran, particularly in times of crisis.

Four presidents have traveled to Iran
Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Carter.

Here - Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and President Kennedy with the Shah Iran at Onslow Beach, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina..
April 14, 1962 (Courtesy of US Marine Corps) More images here

The 1953 Iranian Coup and the 1979 Iranian Revolution, of course, involved deep U. S. involvement.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Presidents on Islam

John Adams
Treaty of peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary," drafted by Joel Barlow, U.S. Consul General of Algiers and signed by President John Adams.
In Article 11, it states:
“The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.”

John Adams to M.M. Noah, July 31, 1818.
"It has pleased the Providence of the first Cause, the Universal Cause, that Abraham should give religion not only to Hebrews but to Christians and Mahomitans, the greatest part of the modern civilized world.”

And...Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, July 27, 1821, Autobiography Draft Fragment, January 6 through July 27

"The bill for establishing religious freedom, the principles of which had, to a certain degree, been enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally passed; and a singular proposition proved that it's protection of opinion was meant to be universal. Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion" the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of it's protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination."

Thomas Jefferson to James Fishback, Sept. 27, 1809
"Every religion consists of moral precepts, and of dogmas. In the first they all agree. All forbid us to murder, steal, plunder, bear false witness &ca. and these are the articles necessary for the preservation of order, justice, and happiness in society. In their particular dogmas all differ; no two professing the same. These respect vestments, ceremonies, physical opinions, and metaphysical speculations, totally unconnected with morality, and unimportant to the legitimate objects of society. Yet these are the questions on which have hung the bitter schisms of Nazarenes, Socinians, Arians, Athanasians in former times, and now of Trinitarians, Unitarians, Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Methodists, Baptists, Quakers &c. Among the Mahometans we are told that thousands fell victims to the dispute whether the first or second toe of Mahomet was longest; and what blood, how many human lives have the words ‘this do in remembrance of me’ cost the Christian world!"

More on Founding Fathers and Islam from American Memory

Barack Obama
June 4, 2009 Remarks by the President on a New Beginning
Cairo University
Cairo, Egypt

"Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Presidents abroad

Theodore Roosevelt in Panama, 1906

One hundred years ago, Theodore Roosevelt became the first U.S. president to travel outside the United States. Roosevelt visited Panama to check on the progress of the Panama channel. Since TRs visit to Panama, presidents have traveled abroad 246 times (as of 2006).

The U. S. Department of State maintains a resource called Visits Abroad of the Presidents of the United States, 1906-2004.

Today, President Obama landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for his fourth trip outside the Untied States. This occasion has me wondering about the history of presidential trip to the Middle East.

According to the State Department resource all five (now six with Obama) recent presidents have visited Saudi Arabia.

June 14-15, 1974
Richard M. Nixon
Met with King Faisal.

January 3-4, 1978
Jimmy Carter
Met with King Kinlid and Crown Prince Fahd.

November 21-22, 1990
George Bush
Jeddah, Dhahran
Met with King Fahd and the Amir of Kuwait. Addressed U.S. and British military personnel in eastern Saudi Arabia.

December 31, 1992
George Bush
Met with King Fahd.

October 28, 1994
William J. Clinton
King Khalid Military City
Met with King Fahd.

May 16-17, 2008
George W. Bush
Riyadh, al-Janadriyah
Met with King Abdullah

Short article from Time Magazine on the history for presidential travel abroad.

Monday, May 25, 2009

in this corner...

In an unusual piece of theater, Vice President Cheney and President Obama squared in oddly scripted back to back foreign policy speeches this past Thursday. I've been thinking about the historical role of vice presidents after they leave office. Is Cheney tour de talk unusually? It's certainly in keeping with Al Gore's work critiquing the second Bush administration on environmental issues.

Excepting the 14 vice presidents who were elected president, here are some other ex-vice presidents who were particularly outspoken

Aaron Burr - As a former vice president, Burr fatally shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel and attempted to foment a revolution in the western territories of Louisiana and Texas.

John C Calhoun - After serving four years a John Quincy Adams' vice president and three plus for Andrew Jackson, Calhoun resigned to take a seat in the Senate from South Carolina. As a senator, Calhoun lead the southern campaign opposed to national efforts to limit the expansion of slavery.

John C. Breckinridge - Vice president under James Buchanan from 1857 until March 4, 1861, Bechinridge enlisted in the Confederate Army in late 1861. He was promptly expelled from a Kentucky senate seat he assumed after his term as vice president ended.

Adlai E. Stevenson - After serving as vice president with democratic president Grover Cleveland, Stevenson ran as vice president on the democratic ticket with Cleveland rival William Jennings Bryan in 1900.

Henry Wallace - Three years after ending his four year term as Franklin Roosevelt's vice president, Wallace ran for president as a progressive against Harry Truman, Thomas Dewey and Strom Thurmond. Wallace railed against Truman foreign policies, but later retreated from his critiques to support the Korean War effort.

And, Jon Stewart does a great job sending up this whole Cheney vs. Obama thing.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
American Idealogues
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Thursday, May 14, 2009

White House technologies

Yesterday, Robert Gibbs got a bit irritated with reporters' cell phones.

Technology in the White House has a long history. Shaun Mullen at Kiko's Place blog has a very interesting post about Abraham Lincoln as the first technology president. Specifically he writes about Lincoln's use of the telegraph.

From the frontispiece of the 1907 book Lincoln in the Telegraph Office. This images is streamed from Mr. Lincoln's
High-Tech War
by Thomas B. Allen
Roger MacBride Allen
at and

Also Abraham Lincoln: A Technology Leader of His Time
Despite his image as a log-splitting bumpkin, technology fueled Lincoln's presidency
From US News By Henry J. Reske
Posted February 11, 2009

More from Lincoln in the Telegraph Office: Recollections of the United States Military Telegraph Corps during the Civil War: David Homer Bates at online at Google Books

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hundred Days on 101

from Wikipedia Hundred Days (disambiguation)

- The Hundred Days was Napoleon Bonaparte's final military campaign in 1815.

Hundred Days may also refer to:
- Hundred Days Offensive, the final Allied offensive on the Western Front during the World War I
- Hundred Days' Reform, a period of social and institutional reform in late imperial China
- Hundred Days Men, a Union military recruitment initiative during the American Civil War
- Canada's Hundred Days, the last 96 days of World War I
- "The First Hundred Days", the start of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 administration, resulting in the New Deal.
By extension, there is often talk of incoming U.S. presidents' actions in their first hundred days. See, e.g., First 100 days of Barack Obama's Presidency.
"100 Days", the first term (1834-1835) of British Prime Minister Robert Peel
"100 Days", the 1994 Rwandan Genocide

In popular culture:
- The Hundred Days (novel), an Aubrey–Maturin novel by Patrick O'Brian, set during Napoleon's 1815 campaign
- "A Hundred Days", an episode of Stargate SG-1
- 100 Days (1991 film), a Bollywood film
- 100 Days (1999 film), a film about the Rwandan Genocide

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 days question

This is an amazing question and a well composed response. The question was posed by Jeff Zeleny from the New York Times - blog here.

The American Presidency Project has compiled a list of presidential new conferences dating back to the presidency of Calvin Coolidge.

One interesting finding is that the frequency of news conferences has dramatically decreased in the television age.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

party switching

Arlen Specter today joined a long list of politicians who have switched political parties while in office. A wikipedia article on party switching identifies hundreds of politicians who have changed their allegiance.

Some recent high profile switches affecting the Senate include the following (from 2001 CNN article)
• Sen. Strom Thurmond (South Carolina) -- Democrat to GOP, (9/16/64)
• Sen. Phil Gramm (Texas) -- Democrat to GOP (1/5/83), switched while a member of the House
• Sen. Richard Shelby (Alabama) -- Democrat to GOP (11/9/94)
• Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Colorado) -- Democrat to GOP (3/3/95)
• Sen. Bob Smith (New Hampshire) -- GOP to Independent (7/13/99); Independent to GOP (11/1/1999)

Twenty one senators have officially switched parties since 1890. For a list of these senators see

Will Specter move his seat in the Senate? One interesting anecdote from the history of party switching comes from Wane Morse's jump from the Republican party to an independent. According to the Senate website referenced above- "When the 83rd Congress commenced in 1953, Morse listed himself as an independent. As the only third-party member on the Senate floor, he did not know where to sit, and set up a folding chair in the aisle between the Republican and Democratic sections. Eventually, he settled on the Republican side of the aisle."

Monday, April 27, 2009


Obama on a new day for science

will increase level of scientific funding to levels not seen since the 1960s

calls on scientist to engage communities

full text

Sunday, April 26, 2009

golfin and swine flu and Napolitano

(Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

Meanwhile back at the farm, Janet Napolitano tried to reassure the nation that the swine flu outbreak was contained.

Seems like reassurance is something she does (needs to do) well.

And, the gafe on 9/11

The story

Transcript of the interview.

The video
Canada more lax than U.S. about whom it lets in, Napolitano says @ Yahoo! Video

Saturday, April 25, 2009

not quite genocide

President Obama issued a statement yesterday on the aniversey of the start of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Stopping short of calling the actions of Ottomon Turks genocide, Obama said,

"Ninety four years ago, one of the great atrocities of the 20th century began. Each year, we pause to remember the 1.5 million Armenians who were subsequently massacred or marched to their death in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The Meds Yeghern must live on in our memories, just as it lives on in the hearts of the Armenian people."

The full text of Obama's statement is here.

Candidate Obama on the topic - calls it genocide here
January 30, 2008

Samantha Power's influence is certainly evident.

Here's Power calling for an invasion of Israel

Power on Obama negotiated with U.S. foes

Was Obama following Power's advice at the Summit of the Americas?

from Obama's April 18, 2009 speech at the summit.

"To move forward, we cannot let ourselves be prisoners of past disagreements. I am very grateful that President Ortega -- (applause) -- I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old. (Laughter.) Too often, an opportunity to build a fresh partnership of the Americas has been undermined by stale debates. And we've heard all these arguments before, these debates that would have us make a false choice between rigid, state-run economies or unbridled and unregulated capitalism; between blame for right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents; between sticking to inflexible policies with regard to Cuba or denying the full human rights that are owed to the Cuban people."


Or not?

Friday, April 24, 2009

slow down

The Washington Post reported today that President Obama has personally nixed a proposed commission to investigate the enhanced interrogation torture policy of the Bush administration.

With the exception of a few high profile presidential commissions (Roberts, Tower, Rogers and Warren) most of these efforts are simply efforts in political posturing.

The Rockefeller Commission (President's Commission on CIA Activities Within the United States) formed by President Gerald Ford in 1975 and chaired by VP Nelson Rockefeller, investigated a collection of CIA programs that were similarly out of control. The commission's report detailed activities that many Americans thought were unacceptable. The commission's findings in Chapter 11 on Operation CHAOS received the most attention, and was likely the most productive area of work for the commission. Would a commission appointed by Obama uncover covert CIA programs inside or outside the U.S? Perhaps now is not the time to find out.

Once upon a time the CIA acted badly, but got away with it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

taking on the cards

President Obama meet today with leaders from the credit card industry. In another of the what has become an issue a day whirlwind, Obama cajoled the creditors to end predatory lending and commit to a project of consistent and fair intertest rates.

More on the meeting at the White House website.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

prosecuting presidents

President Obama opened the door, according to AFP yesterday on the issue of prosecuting former Bush administration officials on charges related to the use of torture. The move came as Obama distinguished between those who followed orders and those who wrote the orders, with the threat of possible prosecution falling on the highers up.

From Talking Points Memo

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

As if there wasn't enought going on...

"President Obama is launching an effort "to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East," his spokesman said Tuesday." from CNN story published 10:00 pm EST

and an old, but still interesting story from Obama's visit the the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The prayer Obama stuffed into the wall on his visit.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Memos and moral

Page from one of four U.S. Department of Justice memos (released April 16, 2009). The memos, written in 2002 and 2005, are legal arguments justifying CIA interrogation by of terrorist detainees.

See all four online at and Wall Street Journal article from April 17, 2009, CIA Memos Released; Immunity for Harsh Tactic

Today, Obama wet to CIA hedquarters to rally the troops

Sunday, April 19, 2009


The gift

Obama on the book

The Wikipedia article on Galeano's book has been edited 21 times since this news broke about 24 hours ago (UPDATE - 31 times as of 10:00 PM EST 4/21). The only substantial new text in the article over this short period relates to the presentation of the book to Obama. Other edits were technical, bringing the article into convention for Wikipedia standards. There were two conservative attacks.

"Since Barack Obama spent 20 years listening to sermons given by Reverand Jeremiah Wright, he is very accostomed to anti-American sentiment. His wife hates America, too." posted by - the 11th edit from this IP address in Las Vegas Nevada this year. Removed in 15 minutes

"Since Barack Obama spent 20 years listening to sermons given by Reverand Jeremiah Wright, he is very accostomed to anti-American sentiment. His wife hates America, too." posted by - the 15 edit over a four year period from this IP address, also in Las Vegas Nevada. Removed in 18 minutes

"It's a book written by a commie, for commies, that should under no circumstances be read. If for some reason you do read it, take it with a grain of salt, and then burn it." Guayaquil Ecuador

"- Description of the book by an anonymous apologist for five centuries of imperialism" following the above posted by Education4All (new account).

I deleted this sentence. I also moved the following from the top of the article to the bottom in a section I titled "Cultural Significance in Latin America"

"In the foreword for the 1997 edition, Chilean novelist and close relative of former Chilean President [[Salvador Allende]], [[Isabel Allende]] says that "after the [[Chilean coup of 1973|military coup of 1973]] I could not take much with me: some clothes, family pictures, a small bag of dirt from my garden, and two books: an old edition of the ''Odes'' by [[Pablo Neruda]] and the book with the yellow cover, ''Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina''."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

Obama and the Americas

In a speech at the 5th Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain, Trinidad


"Too often, the United States has not pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors. We have been too easily distracted by other priorities, and have failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas. My Administration is committed to the promise of a new day. We will renew and sustain a broader partnership between the United States and the hemisphere on behalf of our common prosperity and our common security."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Misson Mexico

Obama wades into the mess that is Mexico. This a place that has captured plenty of previous presidents.

Obama's day (with damn commercial)

George W. Bush loved 'em

Bill Clinton did Nafta -signing into law December 8, 1993

George HW Bush loved 'em and did Nafta - iniating the process October 7, 1992

Ronald Reagan loved 'em all in Cancun October 23, 1981
President Reagan Dining with Heads of State
Original caption: Cancun, Mexico: United States President Ronald Reagan (2nd from left) talks with heads of state during a dinner hosted by Mexico President Lopez Portillo (R). Also pictured (LTR), Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India, acting Bangladesh president Abdus Sattar and Foreign Minister Hand Dietrich Genscher of West Germany.

Jimmy Carter outside Mexico City February 14, 1979 - talk about lovin 'em Wow!

Oh yes and... Zachary Taylor - much love?... maybe not

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax day, tax cuts, tea party - basketball?

President Obama tries to own the day

tea baggers have their say in my city, Raleigh, NC

better yet, and go figure - a you tube search on tea baggers North Carolina yeilds three hits (on this day), one of which is this...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bo and Obama

The Obamas have their dog - the story

-the video (paid for - pardon the commercial)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Big Egg Rolls

It's a tradition that dates back to the 19th century
Here black children in Washington, D.C. participate in the annual Easter egg hunt at the White House> This was one of the public events that blacks were allowed to attend in that segregated city.

White House Easter Egg Roll, 1898. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Irony yes, but it seems like the Obamas have to one up everything> This year, 30,000 people are expect for the annual White house Easter Egg Roll - more

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Obamas on Easter

The Obama attend Easter service at St. John's Church north of Lafayette Park

Some detail on the Easter service from a pool report Mark Halperin at Time Magazine

Tick-tock - At 10:48 the First Family emerged from the residence. From where we were in the motorcade, we could only see FLOTUS Michelle Obama and one of the Obama daughters. At that point we could not see outfits, but later in church Mrs. Obama and the girls appeared to be wearing matching white or cream-colored sweaters. The first lady was wearing a white or cream-colored floral skirt or dress. POTUS wore dark suit even though we spotted at least 4 parishioners in seersucker suits.

As the motorcade (en route less than 2 minutes) stopped and we ran to catch up with POTUS, huge cheers erupted from the gathering Easter crowd.

We arrived at 10:53 am.

Service started right at 11, and from press pool spot in back pew, I at first could not see POTUS or first family. Fortunately AP superstar, the much-taller-than-me Phil Elliott, spotted POTUS. He sat at least six rows back from the front of the church, and it was impossible to see the girls even from standing position while everyone else was seated. Two agents were seated in the pew behind POTUS.

Parishioners arriving went through two mags set up outside the entrance. Your pool spotted several little girls in their Easter best with their arms straight out as they went through security.

Rev. Luis Leon, rector, told congregants it was his 15th Easter service at the church.

His sermon included references to famous poets E.E. Cummings and Emily Dickinson, hating the New York Yankees and a shout-out to POTUS-picked NCAA tournament winners the UNC Tarheels. Some quotes to follow in next pool report.

A writer's pool only was allowed into the church while the others had to wait with the motorcade.

The service was heavy with songs performed by lovely choir and brass ensemble. Among the selected hymns - Alleluia, Jesus Christ is risen today, A song of praise, Come, ye faithful, Welcome happy morning.

Readings were:
Exodus 14:10-14, 21-25, 15:20-21
Acts 10:34-43
Mark 16:1-8

A brief mention of President Obama in the program, which served for both the 9 am and 11 am services.

During prayers of the people, led by Robert Black:

"Guide and bless us in our work and play, and shape the patterns of our political and economic life; we pray for Barack, our President, the leaders of Congress, and the Supreme Court, and all who are in authority; for Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and the Middle East, that all people may be filled through the bounty of your creation."

Response from entire church: "We are your servants, O God. Guide us in your grace."

Other than that, there was no mention of president during the service.

The president and first lady stood to briefly greet parishioners during the "peace be with you" portion. FLOTUS had her hair down and straight.

We also could not see if they placed money in the offertory dish as it went by. No one from press pew contributed.

As communion began, congregants snuck peeks at the president and his family. For those wondering, the demographic was at least 90 percent white.

The first family stood to get in line for communion, all smiling.

POTUS went first with communion, followed by Sasha, Malia, and then FLOTUS and an unidentified young girl who looked to be Malia's age.

Smiling wide and seeming to be in great spirits, POTUS returned to his pew. He kept leaning over FLOTUS to talk to his daughters. Several parishioners stopped to say hello to the first family during the long communion session.

Pool escorted out at 12:21, and huge crowds had gathered behind police tape lines on the corner of 16th and H and in Lafayette Park.

A few minutes later, POTUS left from same side door where he'd entered.

Motorcade rolled again at 12:29. Back at White House and stopped at 12:31. Lid called 12:33.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dylan on Obama

This is Bob Dylan on Barack Obama from The Times of London

First off, his mother was a Kansas girl. Never lived in Kansas though, but with deep roots. You know, like Kansas bloody Kansas. John Brown the insurrectionist. Jesse James and Quantrill. Bushwhackers, Guerillas. Wizard of Oz Kansas. I think Barack has Jefferson Davis back there in his ancestry someplace. And then his father. An African intellectual. Bantu, Masai, Griot type heritage - cattle raiders, lion killers. I mean it’s just so incongruous that these two people would meet and fall in love. You kind of get past that though. And then you’re into his story. Like an odyssey except in reverse.

and the new Dylan single - FEEL A CHANGE COMIN' ON

Thursday, April 9, 2009

End of war

The Civil war ended 133 years ago. President Obama and Civil War; some people have things to say.

For one, Thomas Friedman wrote just after the election that Obama's election brought to an end the Civil War.

Here is an interesting little twist on Obama and Civil War and... Lincoln

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Obama in Iraq

White House Photo, 4/7/09, Pete Souze

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you, guys. Let me say Multinational Force Iraq, Multinational Corps Iraq, Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq First Corps, America's Corp Band: Thanks to all of you.

Listen, I am so honored.


THE PRESIDENT: I love you back.

(AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)