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Jan 30, 2009 4:01 am

January 30, 2009: President Obama's First Week in Office



In Focus: Stats

  • The Gallup Organization survey: 68 percent of Americans approve of Obama's performance as the nation's chief executive. - AP, 1-25-09
  • What History Foretells for Obama’s First Job Approval Rating: Barack Obama can expect to receive a rating above 50% when Gallup reports his first job approval rating this weekend. All elected presidents since Dwight Eisenhower began their terms in office with approval ratings above 50%, generally low disapproval ratings, and high"no opinion" levels. -, 1-22-09


The Headlines...

  • After Jabs at Cheney, Biden Pursues an Activist Role: Vice President Follows Initial Gaffes by Diving Into Wide Range of Issues; Drawing Contrasts With Predecessor Vice President Joe Biden, in a bid to become an influential second-in-command, is striving to carve out meaty roles for himself quickly. - WSJ, 1-30-09
  • Obama Signs Equal-Pay Legislation: President Obama signed his first bill into law on Thursday, approving equal-pay legislation that he said would"send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody." - NYT, 1-29-09
  • Obama's busy, bold first 10 days in office could rival Roosevelt's pace: Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt passed 15 major bills in three months during his first term as president in the early 1930s, American presidents have been judged by their first 100 days in the Oval Office. - Canadian Press, 1-29-09
  • Republicans take a back seat: Lacking strong leadership and the political capital to oppose a popular president, the fractured GOP can only agree on one thing: This really isn't their moment. As Republicans fight President Obama's gargantuan economic plan, they have plenty of ideas. What they don't have is a party-wide consensus: They can't agree among themselves on the best alternative, or on whether government action is even needed to pull the economy from its nose dive. - LAT, 1-29-09
  • House OKs $819B stimulus bill with GOP opposition: In a swift victory for President Barack Obama, the Democratic-controlled House approved a historically huge $819 billion stimulus bill Wednesday night with spending increases and tax cuts at the heart of the young administration's plan to revive a badly ailing economy. The vote was 244-188, with Republicans unanimous in opposition despite Obama's frequent pleas for bipartisan support. - AP, 1-28-09
  • White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code: The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat. - NYT, 1-28-09
  • Obama open to compromise on $825B stimulus bill: On the eve of a key vote, President Barack Obama privately promised Republicans he stands ready to accept changes in the $825 billion economic stimulus legislation, invoked Ronald Reagan to rebut conservative critics and urged lawmakers to"put politics aside" in the interest of creating jobs. - AP, 1-27-09
  • Geithner is sworn in as treasury secretary: The nation has a new treasury secretary, and his name is Timothy Geithner. Geithner was quickly sworn in to office Monday night, becoming the nation's 75th treasury secretary and one of the point men President Barack Obama will be counting on to help pull the country out of its economic slide. - AP, 1-26-09
  • Some global adversaries ready to give Obama chance: Already, there are signs that some of those foes were listening, sensing an opening for improved relations after eight combative years under President George W. Bush. Fidel Castro is said to like the new American leader, and North Korea and Iran both sounded open to new ideas to defuse nuclear-tinged tensions. - NY Daily News, 1-25-09
  • Democrats: Stimulus plan no quick fix for economy: The White House warned Sunday that the country could face a long and painful financial recovery, even with major government intervention to stimulate the economy and save financial institutions."We're off and running, but it's going to get worse before it gets better," said Vice President Joe Biden. - AP, 1-25-09
  • Obama breaks from Bush, avoids divisive stands: Barack Obama opened his presidency by breaking sharply from George W. Bush's unpopular administration, but he mostly avoided divisive partisan and ideological stands. He focused instead on fixing the economy, repairing a battered world image and cleaning up government. - AP, 1-25-09
  • Pro-gun US Senate pick makes some NY pols unhappy: ...Even before the governor took the podium Friday to introduce little-known upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand as his pick, a Long Island congresswoman elected on a pledge to stem gun violence was telling reporters she would either challenge Gillibrand in the Democratic primary next year or find someone who would. - AP, 1-24-09
  • Obama reverses Bush abortion-funds policy: President Barack Obama on Friday struck down the Bush administration's ban on giving federal money to international groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information — an inflammatory policy that has bounced in and out of law for the past quarter-century. - AP, 1-24-09
  • In Selection Mess, Paterson Dug Hole Deeper: When Gov. David A. Paterson began consulting with his aides about picking a replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton, they had one overriding message: First do no harm to yourself.... NYT, 1-23-09
  • Senate OKs several Obama nominees, waits on others: It's nine down, six to go to fill President Barack Obama's Cabinet. Yet, for all of the progress, his picks for attorney general and deputy defense secretary remain mired in questions over interrogation methods and ethics. - AP, 1-23-09
  • Clinton promises to bolster foreign aid programs: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised on Friday to strengthen U.S. foreign aid and development programs and told workers at the agency supervising those efforts they would be an equal partner in diplomacy. - Reuters, 1-23-09
  • Republicans agree stimulus to pass in February: U.S. congressional Republicans predicted on Friday that legislation to boost the sagging economy would pass by mid-February, but pressed President Barack Obama to support more tax cuts in the plan. - Reuters, 1-23-09
  • President Obama swiftly sets course on Day One: President Obama signed his first executive order today, concerning ethics within the executive office, accompanied by Vice President Biden. - Los Angeles Times, 1-22-09
  • On Day One, Obama Sets a New Tone: President Obama moved swiftly on Wednesday to impose new rules on government transparency and ethics, using his first full day in office to freeze the salaries of his senior aides, mandate new limits on lobbyists and demand that the government disclose more information. - NYT, 1-22-09
  • Senate panel approves Geithner for treasury post: The Senate Finance Committee has cleared the nomination of Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary despite unhappiness over his mistakes in paying his taxes. The committee approved the nomination on an 18-5 vote, sending it to the full Senate. President Barack Obama is hoping for quick approval so that the point man for the administration's economic rescue effort can begin work. - AP, 1-22-09
  • Caroline Kennedy Drops Bid for Open Senate Seat: Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of a former president who whipped up excitement and controversy during her campaign for the New York Senate seat, withdrew from consideration Wednesday night... - WSJ, 1-22-09
  • Kennedy associate says decision was personal issue: Caroline Kennedy withdrew her Senate bid because of a personal matter unrelated to her ill uncle, rejecting the governor's attempt to get her to reconsider, a person who worked closely with her said Thursday. Kennedy discussed withdrawing from the race with Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday, and Paterson asked her to reconsider for 24 hours, the person said. - AP, 1-22-09
  • Secretary of State Clinton Arrives at Foggy Bottom: Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived for her first day of work at the State Department Thursday, assuming the mantle of the nation’s chief diplomat and preparing to name a pair of renowned diplomats to serve as special emissaries to the Middle East and South Asia. - NYT, 1-22-09
  • President Obama retakes oath of office: In an effort to keep things on the up-and-up and ensure there was no debate, President Obama retook the oath Wednesday night, after he and Chief Justice John Roberts flubbed it earlier.... And that's exactly what happened at 7:35 p.m. Wednesday night in the White House's Map Room. When Roberts asked if Obama - who took this second oath sans Bible - was ready, the President reportedly replied:"I am, and we're going to do it very slowly."... - NY Daily News, 1-21-09
  • Obama moves to reshape US policy by closing Gitmo: President Barack Obama moved quickly Thursday to reshape U.S. national-security policy, ordering the Guantanamo Bay prison camp closed within a year, forbidding the harshest treatment of terror suspects and naming new envoys to the Middle East and Afghanistan-Pakistan."We have no time to lose," he said at the State Department as he welcomed newly confirmed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to help him forge what he called"a new era of American leadership" in the world. - AP, 1-22-09
  • Obama to order Guantanamo closed: President Barack Obama will begin overhauling U.S. national security policy Thursday with orders to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, review military trials of terror suspects and end harsh interrogations, two government officials said. - From A Draft of Obama's Executive Order to Close Guantanamo:"in view of significant concerns raised by these detentions, both within the United States and internationally, prompt and appropriate disposition of the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo and closure of the facility would further the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States and the interests of justice." - AP, 1-22-09
  • Obama's whirlwind first day: economy, war and more: In a first-day whirlwind, President Barack Obama showcased efforts to revive the economy on Wednesday, summoned top military officials to the White House to chart a new course in Iraq and eased into the daunting thicket of Middle East diplomacy. - AP, 1-22-09
  • Senate confirms Clinton as secretary of state: The Senate confirmed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state Wednesday as President Barack Obama moved to make his imprint on U.S. foreign policy, mobilizing a fresh team of veteran advisers and reaching out to world leaders. The Senate voted 94-2, with Republican Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and Jim DeMint of South Carolina opposing. - AP, 1-22-09
  • President Obama's First Day: President Obama reported to work at 8:35 a.m. on Wednesday, walking into the Oval Office for the first time as the nation's chief executive. He read the note left behind by George W. Bush, which was sitting in a folder on top of the desk, with a note marked"44." Mr. Obama was in the office alone for a brief time, aides said, starting his day after a late night celebrating and dancing at inaugural balls across Washington. So the new White House is officially opened for business, but it feels more like a start-up than the seat of government. - NYT, 1-21-09


Political Quotes

  • On Wednesday morning Obama went off script from the important business of the day and poked fun at local officials for canceling school because of icy conditions, saying: "My 7-year-old pointed out that you'd go outside for recess. You wouldn't even stay indoors. So, I don't know. We're going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town." Later at the Pentagon he kept it up:"Aren't you a little surprised that they canceled school for my kids?" - WaPo, 1-29-09
  • President Obama told Al Arabiya in his Interview as President: "My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives. My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy....
    Sending George Mitchell to the Middle East is fulfilling my campaign promise that we're not going to wait until the end of my administration to deal with Palestinian and Israeli peace, we're going to start now. It may take a long time to do, but we're going to do it now." - WH Blog, 1-27-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AFTER MEETING WITH HOUSE REPUBLICAN CAUCUS Ohio Clock Corridor, U.S. Capitol: Hello, everybody. We had a very constructive meeting with the House members, members of the Republican Caucus. I'm a little bit late for my Senate colleagues -- former Senate colleagues.
    And the main message I have is that the statistics every day underscore the urgency of the economic situation. The American people expect action. They want us to put together a recovery package that puts people back to work, that creates investments that assure our long-term energy independence, an effective health care system, an education system that works; they want our infrastructure rebuilt, and they want it done wisely, so that we're not wasting taxpayer money.
    As I explained to the Republican House Caucus, and I'll explain to my former Senate colleagues, the recovery package that we have proposed and is moving its way through Congress is just one leg in a multi-legged stool. We're still going to have to have much better financial regulation, we've got to get credit flowing again, we're going to have to deal with the troubled assets that many banks are still carrying and that make the -- that have locked up the credit system.
    We're going to have to coordinate with other countries, because we now have a global problem. I am absolutely confident that we can deal with these issues, but the key right now is to make sure that we keep politics to a minimum. There are some legitimate philosophical differences with parts of my plan that the Republicans have, and I respect that. In some cases they may just not be as familiar with what's in the package as I would like. I don't expect a hundred percent agreement from my Republican colleagues, but I do hope that we can all put politics aside and do the American people's business right now. All right. - WH Blog, 1-27-09
  • Biden: We've Inherited A Real Mess: Face The Nation: VP Says Stimulus Plan Is Off and Running, But U.S. Faces Challenges On Pak-Afghan Front, Closing Gitmo: It is worse, quite frankly, than everyone thought it was, and it's getting worse every day. There's been no good news, and there's no good news on the immediate horizon. The only good news is the president acted swiftly; he's put together an economic stimulus package that we believe, and outsiders believe, will create 3 million to 4 million new jobs and set a new framework for the economy to develop on, a new foundation. And so we're off and running, but it's going to get worse before it gets better.

    "I don't see myself as the 'deputy president. I see myself as the president's confidant. Hopefully I can help shape policy with him. ... Hopefully I'm the last person in the room with every important decision he makes. Thus far, that's how it's worked. The agreement he and I have is that I would be available for every single major decision that he makes, in the room; I'd have all the paper, all the material, all the meetings - and, again, not for me to make decisions [but] for me to give the best advice that I can give. So that's what I view my role to be: A confidant, an adviser, essentially the last guy in the room when he makes these critical decisions. It is harder now. I'm really happy to be part of a team. But what I have to think about now is, everything I say ... reflects directly on the administration. And so I may have strongly-held views that the president may not have. But, yes, the bottom line, it's harder! - CBS News, Transcript, 1-25-09
  • President Obama delivers Your Weekly Address: In his first weekly address since being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, President Barack Obama discusses how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan will jump-start the economy."This is not just a short-term program to boost employment. It's one that will invest in our most important priorities like energy and education; health care and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century." - WH Blog, 1-24-09
  • Clinton vows robust diplomacy as State Dept chief: "I believe with all of my heart that this is a new era for America.... This is going to be a challenging time and it will require 21st century tools and solutions to meet our problems and seize our opportunities. I'm going to be asking a lot of you. I want you to think outside the proverbial box. I want you to give me the best advice you can. I want you to understand there is nothing that I welcome more than a good debate and the kind of dialogue that will make us better. We cannot be our best if we don't demand that from ourselves and each other.... We are responsible for two of the three legs. And we will make clear as we go forward that diplomacy and development are essential tools in achieving the long-term objectives of the United States.... At the heart of smart power are smart people, and you are those people. And you are the ones that we will count on and turn to for the advice and counsel, the expertise and experience to make good on the promises of this new administration." - AP, 1-22-09


Historians' Comments

  • Allan Lichtman"Analysis: Obama tries to keep political tone civil": "I cannot remember any president coming in so determined to do all the little things to change the tone in Washington," American University political scientist Allan Lichtman says. USA Today, 1-29-09
  • Bruce Buchanan"Analysis: Obama tries to keep political tone civil": "Every one of them tries to set a tone that's friendlier, more open, more inviting," says University of Texas presidential historian Bruce Buchanan."But people get past the kumbaya moments and they start arguing policy. And then the question is whether you can do it civilly." - USA Today, 1-29-09
  • Julian Zelizer:"Obama's busy, bold first 10 days in office could rival Roosevelt's pace": "It is a bold, aggressive start," said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School."Obviously if you pass a bill of this size really within the first month of your presidency, along with five or six others ahead and a number of executive orders, it's a good start in terms of matching Roosevelt's pace," Zelizer said... Zelizer says that Obama's first days in office are likely setting the tone for his presidency."Almost every indication suggests this is going to be a very energized and active president," he said. Canadian Press, 1-29-09
  • Fred Greenstein:"Obama breaks from Bush, avoids divisive stands": "It's as if Superman stepped out of a phone booth and became Clark Kent," said Fred Greenstein, a Princeton University professor emeritus of politics."He's beginning to put aside the rhetoric in favor of listing the policies and doing the checklist. He's not going out of his way to show a lot of flash. It's much more lets-get-down-to-work." That said, there's a limit to what he can immediately accomplish, Greenstein said, and"the really big things can't be done on Day One, particularly if they are going to be done well." - AP, 1-25-09
  • Peniel Joseph"Week of Symbolism, History in Washington": "This is an enormous weight that has been lifted from the nation's psyche. And it does not mean that racism is over, but the notion that there were still barriers for a black person or a person of color to ascend to the nation's highest political post is now left behind us," said Peniel Joseph, a professor of Afro-American studies at Brandeis University in Massachusetts and a guest on VOA's Press Conference USA program.
    But Brandeis Professor Peneil Joseph said Mr. Obama's success depends on his ability to turn around the weakened U.S. economy."If the economy starts to show real promise in terms of new jobs being created that are connected to the president's stimulus package, then he will be able to do a lot of what he wants to do in terms of health care, the environment, education and other aspects," said Joseph. - VOA, 1-23-09
  • Gil Troy"President Obama the Liberal Nationalist": Shrewdly, pragmatically, constructively, Obama wants to channel this energy into a badly needed sense of communal renewal. His campaign slogan was"Yes We Can," not"Yes I Can." He is continuing the initiative he began with his lyrical, extraordinary 2004 Democratic National Convention speech, trying to articulate a vision of liberal American nationalism that works for the 21st century. Obama’s repudiation in 2004 of the"red America" versus"blue America" division, his inaugural celebration of"our patchwork heritage" as a"strength not a weakness," seeks to forge a new nationalist center that heals America’s wounds, and revives a sense of community.....
    In launching his administration, Obama has demonstrated that he just might govern as he speechifies, creating a"Yes We Can" muscular moderation that advances a substantive agenda in ways millions of Americans in the big, broad, pragmatic center can applaud. And during this hopeful moment, when the Obama presidency has only happy tomorrows ahead and no embarrassing yesterdays – yet – we should all join in hoping that this extraordinary politician can live up to the best of his rhetoric and the heady aspirations people are projecting on him, in the streets of Washington, and throughout the world. - HNN, 1-21-09

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