Blogs > HNN > November 10, 2008: The Obama Transition & Historians Weigh in on the Moment

Nov 10, 2008 2:40 am

November 10, 2008: The Obama Transition & Historians Weigh in on the Moment




  • A Breakdown of the Obama Vote:
    • 66 percent of voters under age 30.
    • 66 percent of Hispanic voters.
    • 68 percent of first-time voters.
    • 95 percent of Black voters.
  • A timeline of the Obama campaign - Newsday
  • Get to know the Obamas: Bios of Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha - Newsday

The Headlines...

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office:

  • Obama Team Weighs What to Take On First - NYT, 11-9-08
  • Economy won't stop Obama's priorities, aides say - AP, 11-9-08
  • Obama already holds bully pulpit He's moving fast to build his governing team, but wants to avoid endorsing the policies of President Bush, whom he visits Monday. - Christian Sciene Monitor, 11-9-08
  • Obama to use executive orders for immediate impact: President-elect Obama plans to use his executive powers to make an immediate impact when he takes office, perhaps reversing Bush administration policies on stem cell research and domestic drilling for oil and natural gas. - AP, 11-9-08
  • Transition, too, for Michelle Obama to first lady - AP, 11-9-08
  • Quotes by clergy members about Obama's election - AP, 11-9-08
  • Obama likely to tap fresh faces, old hands - San Fransico Chronicle, 11-8-08
  • Like Lincoln and FDR, Obama faces nation in crisis - AP, 11-8-08
  • Palin Calls Criticism by McCain Aides 'Cruel and Mean-Spirited' - AP, 11-8-08
  • Obama, in His New Role as President-Elect, Calls for Stimulus Package - 11-7-08
  • President-elect Obama assembled his economic team Friday and soberly told the nation that strong action is needed to confront"the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime." In his first news conference since being elected Tuesday, Obama called on Congress to extend unemployment benefits and pass a stimulus bill. But his more ambitious remedies, he said, must wait until he takes office Jan. 20. - AP, 11-7-08
  • Byrd will voluntarily give up chairmanship - AP, 11-7-08
  • Live Blogging the Obama News Conference - NYT, The Caucus, 11-7-08
  • Obama to center stage, promises action on economy: Inheriting an economy in peril, President-elect Obama warned on Friday that the nation faces the challenge of a lifetime and pledged he would act urgently to help Americans devastated by lost jobs, disappearing savings and homes seized in foreclosure. But the man who promised change cautioned against hopes of quick solutions. AP, 11-7-08

Political Quotes

  • John Podesta on Fox News Sunday: "Across the board, whether it's national security; the economy; the senior leadership that will manage healthcare, energy, and the environment, [Obama] intends to move very quickly." - Fox News, 11-9-08
  • Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urges GOP to move beyond ideology: The governor told CNN's John King that Republicans should not"always just say, 'This is spending. We can't do that.' No, don't get stuck with that. We have heard that dialogue. Let's move on." Schwarzenegger says it is important for his party to regroup and support spending on programs Americans want. -"I think the important thing for the Republican Party is now to also look at other issues that are very important for this country and not to get stuck in ideology," the governor said in an interview broadcast on CNN this morning."Let's go and talk about healthcare reform. Let's go and . . . fund programs if they're necessary programs and not get stuck just on the fiscal responsibility."....
    They should not"always just say, 'This is spending. We can't do that.' No, don't get stuck with that. We have heard that dialogue. Let's move on."...
    "I was touched by it," he said."Democrats and Republicans should do everything they can to help this man and his administration to be successful." - LA Times, 11-9-08
  • Obama Apologizes for 'Seances' Remark: "President-elect Barack Obama called Nancy Reagan today to apologize for the careless and off-handed remark he made during today’s press conference. The President-elect expressed his admiration and affection for Mrs. Reagan that so many Americans share and they had a warm conversation," said Stephanie Cutter, transition team spokeswoman.

    "In terms of speaking to former presidents, I've spoken to all of them that are living," Mr. Obama said, before zeroing in on that fact that he had been asked whether he had spoken to living people."Obviously, President Clinton — I didn't want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any séances." - NYT, The Caucus, 11-7-08
  • President-Elect Barack Obama's First News Conference:Transcript
    We are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime, and we're going to have to act swiftly to resolve it..... A new president can have an enormous impact. I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead.
    Immediately after I become president, I will confront this economic challenge head-on by taking all necessary steps to ease the credit crisis, help hardworking families, and restore growth and prosperity. Some of the choices that we're going to make are going to be difficult. It is not going to be quick. It's not going to be easy for us to dig ourselves out of the hole that we are in." But he said he was confident the country could do it. I think that the plan that we've put forward is the right one, but obviously over the next several weeks and months, we're going to be continuing to take a look at the data and see what's taking place in the economy as a whole.
  • Robert Byrd"Byrd will voluntarily give up chairmanship":
    To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. Those Biblical words from Ecclesiastes 3:1 express my feelings about this particular time in my life.... I have been privileged to be a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee for 50 years and to have chaired the committee for ten years, during a time of enormous change in our great country, both culturally and politically. I have learned that nothing is quite so permanent as change. It is simply a part of living and should not be feared.

Historians' Comments

  • Michael Beschloss: Presidential Historian: President Obama will face critical early decisions: Obama will quickly have to decide if he's going to tackle the economy with a single-minded focus or puruse the agenda he and the Democrats laid out during the campaign, Beschloss said.
    "I can't tell you what way he'll go," said Beschloss,recently named NBC News' presidential historian."In one year we will know the answer."
    Beschloss said the greatest presidents made decisions they knew would be unpopular, citing George Washington's decision to sign a treaty with Great Britain shortly after the Revolutionary War and Abraham Lincoln's siging of the Emancipation Proclamation at a time he faced a tough re-election challenge. - The Jersey Journal, 11-9-08
  • Allan J. Lichtman"Americans will be looking to Obama to transform their country": "I think the potential for Obama to be a transformative president is very great," said Allan J. Lichtman of American University, author of several books on presidential history...."Strike when you still have the mandate," Lichtman said, citing Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal."Think big. Experiment. Don't govern from the middle."..."I think it's riskier to opt for the middle of the road," Lichtman said."We remember ... the bold presidents." - Kansas City Star, 11-9-08
  • Gil Troy"Americans will be looking to Obama to transform their country": "The crisis increases the chance for a transformative presidency," said author and presidential historian Gil Troy....
    Troy:"Working against him are inexperience, a potentially arrogant Democratic Congress, and a series of foreign and domestic challenges that could crush him." Kansas City Star, 11-9-08
  • John Baick"Obama's campaign inspires U.S., but how long will it last?": "Will they stay involved? Become town councilmen? Join their school boards? That will be the test," said history Professor John Baick of Western New England College."That happened with Kennedy. If it happens again, then you have a real movement. If not, you probably don't."...
    Historian Baick says the young people who voted for President Kennedy made a difference because they stuck around. They became part of the"political culture.""We did not see that with either President Bush or President Clinton," he said. But, Baick said, the Obama campaign already has made progress by directly communicating with this generation."He has created, in 20 months, a new generation of networked and politically active people," Baick said."It will be normal for them to be involved in politics. They are getting e-mails and text messages from Barack Obama. That's their normal." - Arizona Republic, 11-9-08
  • Douglas Brinkley, the best-selling author and professor of history at Rice University"Historians, too, call Obama victory 'monumental'": "Monumental ... a major shift in the zeitgeist of our times."...
    Brinkley, the historian who edited the private White House diaries of Ronald Reagan, agrees that Tuesday's vote marks"the beginning of a new era" in American politics not seen since Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal in 1932, or Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in 1964. With Obama's lopsided victory, and the wave that swept more Democrats into both houses of Congress,"a chapter has been closed on the Reagan era, meaning the days of rolling back the Great Society are over," he says."A new kind of progressivism will now be taking root.""A Great Society 'light,"' Brinkley postulates."It won't be quite as ambitious and sweeping as Lyndon Johnson's, but it will probably focus on one or two big things, such as universal health care and major incentives for 'green' business." -- USA Today, 11-9-08
  • Joan Hoff, a former president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency in New York City"Historians, too, call Obama victory 'monumental'": "I can't think of another election where the issues were two wars and a crashed economy. There just isn't any historical precedent for this."....
    In a globalized world with many newly emerging powers,"We may have to downsize our estimation of ourselves," Hoff says,"and along with it goes a downsizing of our economic and military power." That would mean the end of a"Cold Warrior" mentality that has existed in the White House since Harry Truman. Will Americans grasp such thinking? Will other nations? Ultimately, how Obama handles this will be, Hoff says,"what will really make this election unprecedented." -- USA Today, 11-9-08
  • James McPherson, the renowned author and professor emeritus of history at Princeton University"Historians, too, call Obama victory 'monumental'": "It's an historic turning point ... an exclamation point of major proportions to the civil rights movement that goes back to the 1950s."...
    "Whether an Obama victory means that it will close the book on the Reagan era — I think it may be true, but I think it's too soon to conclude that," McPherson says. -- USA Today, 11-9-08
  • Doris Goodwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, historian and political commentator:"The racial milestone will be much larger than we've even imagined in the course of these last couple of years," says Doris Goodwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, historian and political commentator. Compared with other milestones that students of history read in American textbooks — Booker T. Washington causing a national uproar for having lunch at the White House with Teddy Roosevelt, Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial after being barred from Constitutional Hall, Joe Louis knocking out Nazi Germany's Max Schmeling for the heavyweight boxing crown — the concept of an African-American holding the nation's highest office"is just enormous," she says. -
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin"Harsh Words About Obama? Never Mind Now": The presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said she was hard-pressed to find a similar moment when the tone had changed so drastically, and so quickly, among so many people of such prominence."I don't think that's happened very often," Ms. Goodwin said."The best answer I can give you is they don't want to be on the wrong side of history, and they recognize how the country saw this election, and how people feel that they're living in a time of great historic moment." - NYT, 11-9-08
  • Catherine Allegor"Michelle Obama blazes a new trail":"This is an incredible rebirth of her life," said Catherine Allegor, a first ladies expert and a history professor at California's Claremont McKenna College."I think she's only limited to her imagination.""If she said, 'I'm going to fight against gender inequality,' some people wouldn't like that," Allegor said."So she says 'working mothers' and everyone's OK with it." Chicago Tribune, 11-9-08
  • John Sides"On Historic Day, Political Scientists Take the Long View": "The models were correct in that they predicted an Obama victory, a Democratic victory, and that's what resulted. So in that sense, given the state of the economy, given the popularity of the incumbent, you'd expect a Democrat to win," said John Sides, a professor of political science at George Washington University. For all the talk about Hillary Clinton's supporters shifting over to John McCain, for example, or McCain losing support within the Republican Party, both candidates ended up with roughly equal support within their parties."We live in an era of very strong party loyalty, and this election is really no different," Sides said. - Inside Higher Ed, 11-5-08
  • Taylor Branch disputes NYT's rosy view of Obama's election: "It's a great milestone," but it's not an"explicit achievement or accomplishment in race relations in the lives of everyday Americans....I hope we don't get into a tailspin where everyone calls this the racial promised land."..."I am thrilled to tears. The resonance of it to me is enormous." - NPR, 11-5-08
  • Manning Marable"Obama Sails To Sweeping, Historic Victory":"It's possible that he will be the reverse Reagan," says Columbia University historian Manning Marable. Like Reagan, Marable says, Obama is a charismatic leader whose appeal transcends partisan politics. He says Obama has built his support on a"three-legged stool" made up of African-Americans, Hispanics and young voters of all races. - NPR, 11-5-08
  • Richard Norton Smith and Peniel Joseph Historians Answered Your Questions on Obama's Win, 2008 Campaign:
    Sen. Barack Obama will become the country's first black leader after a campaign season that broke records and saw female candidates break new ground. Historians Richard Norton Smith and Peniel Joseph answered your questions on this historic election. - PBS Newshour, 11-5-08

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