Archive for Sunday, November 9, 2008

Like Lincoln and FDR, Obama faces crises taking office

In this Jan. 7, 1943, file photo, President Franklin D. Roosevelt faces the new 78th Congress to report on the Progress of the Nation in a year of War. President-elect Barack Obama, like Roosevelt, faces several crises when he walks into the Oval Office as president of the United States.

In this Jan. 7, 1943, file photo, President Franklin D. Roosevelt faces the new 78th Congress to report on the Progress of the Nation in a year of War. President-elect Barack Obama, like Roosevelt, faces several crises when he walks into the Oval Office as president of the United States.

November 9, 2008


— All presidents are tested. Few walk into the Oval Office when the nation is in the throes of multiple crises.

Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President-elect Obama is facing a banking emergency.

Like Abraham Lincoln, Obama is trying to patch up national divisions. To ready himself for the job, Obama said Friday he is reading some writings by Lincoln, "who's always an extraordinary inspiration."

And like Richard Nixon, George W. Bush and others, Obama will be commander in chief over U.S. troops in combat.

"With two wars and an economic crisis, this is one step away from what Lincoln or FDR faced," said Terry Sullivan, associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "The question is 'Which direction is the nation going to go?"'

While the challenges Obama faces are daunting, they also give him the opportunity to shape history in a big way.

"My 88-year-old mother asks me regularly, 'Why would anybody want to be president now?'" said Sullivan, who manages the Presidential Transition Project at Rice University. "My answer is 'Every one of them wants to be FDR.' This is their chance. What makes fame in the American presidency is a great challenge and succeeding." Or, Sullivan added, facing a great challenge and failing.

A steep climb

In fewer than 11 weeks, Obama will inherit not just the economic crisis and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also the ongoing threat of a terrorist attack, a resurgent Russia and nuclear proliferation in hot spots across the globe.

"We are in an almost unprecedented situation, at least in modern times," White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten said in a C-SPAN interview Friday.

Knowing his opening moves will be widely scrutinized, Obama tried to roll back expectations on election night.

"Our climb will be steep," he said. "We may not get there in one year or even in one term."

Yet he remained upbeat as did Roosevelt, who took the reins of a nation in the depths of the Depression. FDR used his optimism to lift up the downtrodden and refresh the American spirit. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," he said at his inauguration in 1933.

When Roosevelt died in 1945, by then a wartime president making secret plans for an atomic bomb, Harry Truman told reporters, "I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me."

In an earlier conflict, when the country was on the brink of civil war, Lincoln took a hands-off approach during a four-month lag between his election and inauguration, staying mum so as not to inflame tensions in the North or the South. After Lincoln was elected, but before he took office, South Carolina announced its decision to secede from the Union. Six more states then seceded and together formed the Confederate States of America.

During the transition, Lincoln maintained what became known as an attitude of "masterly inactivity," said Harold Holzer, who recently wrote the book "Lincoln President-Elect." Lincoln didn't want to do anything that would upset the South, lose him the support of abolitionists in the North or the northern Democrats whom he needed on his side if there was going to be a fight to save the union.

"He thought the best way to deal with it was to be silent," Holzer said.

Like Lincoln, Obama used his first speech as president-elect to try to mend fences - and he did it by quoting Lincoln's conciliatory first inaugural address, which was given at a time of such national turmoil that Lincoln traveled to Washington in secret for safety.

"Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity," Obama said of Lincoln, another lanky lawmaker from Illinois.

To reach out to his critics, Lincoln even allowed a reporter from an opposition newspaper, a journalist named Henry Villard, to virtually move into his office in Springfield, Mo., to chronicle the transition.

"That's the equivalent of Obama picking up the phone and asking Sean Hannity to move in," Holzer said of the conservative television personality.

Roosevelt, who picked members of the opposing party for Cabinet spots, was as noncommittal as Lincoln as he was about to be sworn into office amid a banking crisis. When Herbert Hoover asked him to sign on to a bank holiday - a temporary closure of banks - three days before inauguration, Roosevelt famously looked up and said, "The drapes look very pretty. I'm sure Eleanor will want to keep these just as they are."

That made Hoover furious. Soon after taking the oath of office, Roosevelt declared the banking holiday on his own.

In his first fireside chat in March 1933, FDR said: "We had a bad banking situation. Some of our bankers had shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in their handling of the people's funds. They had used the money entrusted to them in speculations and unwise loans. ... It was the government's job to straighten out this situation and do it as quickly as possible, and the job is being performed."

Sound familiar?

"He wanted to do it himself. A clean slate is what Lincoln wanted. It's what Roosevelt wanted," Holzer said. "The lessons of history are there. The most successful transformative presidencies were patient between the election and the inauguration."

Maybe history is repeating itself in that regard. When President Bush announced before the election that he was hosting a global economic summit in Washington on Nov. 15, the Obama camp said the presidential hopeful wouldn't be there. "He understands there is only one president," an Obama adviser said.


jonas_opines 9 years, 7 months ago

Tom Shewmon (Tom Shewmon) says: "GWB didn't face a crisis, nah, nah, nah. W had a cake walk."Only a few wackos think Bush never faced any crises. Only a few wackos think he did very good at handling any of them.

tunahelper 9 years, 7 months ago

the only thing omaba has in common with Abraham Lincoln is that they were both from Illinois.Lincoln had to deal with the greatest crisis this nation ever faced, the Civil War.all omaba is interested in is gay marriage, preventing oil and natural gas drilling anywhere in the USA, taking away our firearms, affirmative action, enviro-whackos halting the American economy. Don't blame me, I voted for McCain (and Lynn Jenkins!)

Flap Doodle 9 years, 7 months ago

Like Warren G. Harding's friends, the O'dude's allies should provide an interesting four years.

yanman 9 years, 7 months ago

The headline is a little over dramatic. According to this headline we better start work now on adding a fifth bust to Mt. Rushmore.

jonas_opines 9 years, 7 months ago

Thank you, beobachter. Again, Right-thinker, you totally misread what I said, to give it the opposite meaning of what it (very clearly) was supposed to imply. This either implies deliberate spin to the level of complete dishonesty, or an inability to actually read, or at least read past what you desperately want to think. Good luck in life, Right-thinker.

BigPrune 9 years, 7 months ago

Forget the economy, I just read a hint at what Obama will do first as president in issuing executive orders. The "messiah" will start with the baby killing - that being allow U.S. overseas aid to fund abortions. So what if people lost their 401K dammit. Oh, and allow embryonic stem cell research - let's get the harvesting business back in business again.

jonas_opines 9 years, 7 months ago

. . . after all, you've just admitted that you don't read my posts, and what you claim to have pulled out of them is your invention almost completely. You could, perhaps, redeem yourself by offering my "socialist talking points," but we both know that you can't.

jonas_opines 9 years, 7 months ago

kidicarus: Please don't equate me with Bozo. Koolaid: Thanks for the candid appraisal. I know enough now to not waste my time worrying about you, and you've just made a fool out of yourself publicly, so no problems.

kidicarus 9 years, 7 months ago

Koolaid - I'd wager that most would agree that Jonas and Bozo's posts are much more thoughtful and coherent than yours. You seem to throw out whatever inflammatory language you can think of with no real rhyme or reason. Also, the ACLU is a fringe group? For which side? They go to bat for any person or group when civil liberties are threatened. Is that bad?

BigAl 9 years, 7 months ago

Some of you right-wingers are way, way out there. You are even putting your hate-filled leaders Hannity and Limbaugh to shame.

Poon 9 years, 7 months ago

Dear President-Elect Obama:You and I may not agree on everything, but please let me congratulate you on your win. We can probably agree that distracted drivers are a major problem in the USA. This issue can be solved with one simple answer - BAN BALLOONS. The multitudes of balloons floating in the air at numerous car dealerships across the USA distract drivers, causing numerous accidents. From harmless looking (but still dangerous) standard size balloons, to giant blow-up gorillas, these hazards must be banned. Lawrence, Kansas took this step recently, and now the streets in this fine midwest town are among the safest in America. Please take up this issue, President-Elect Obama. In the name of safety, let us ban the ever hazardous balloon.

jonas_opines 9 years, 7 months ago

Koolaid (Anonymous) says:"Jonas_another_bozo_on_the_bus,Jonas today has joined bozo as a card carrying clown of the world socialist movement."How so, Koolaid? Can you point to a time in this thread, or really in any thread, that I have given truly positive support for Obama or the world socialist movement, whatever that is? You can't, of course. You see, Koolaid, there is a fundamental error in your train of thought. I'm going to point it out to you, but I'm willing to bet that it's not going to matter anyway in terms of your future performance, because likely you're not actually even reading this at this point, having made up your mind that I am a liberal democrat like Bozo despite the numerous times that I've torn into Bozo just as hard as Right-thinker, or you if the theories on your identity are correct. (I myself am reserving judgment, because if it's true then this moniker has seemed. . . simply dumber than past incarnations). Anyway, you ready? You cannot equate derision for Republicans, Conservatives, Bush, McCain, you, Right-thinker, etc., as support for Democrats, Liberals, Obama, Bozo, etc. In your cartoonish, black and white us vs them world its clear that you do this, constantly. I'm not sure you can comprehend not doing this, but I assure you, I deride Bush and Right-thinker (all that I've done on this thread) because it is clear to me that they are incompetent, and there are numerous, numerous examples to justify that viewpoint. Now, if you want to support your assertion that I support Obama or "socialism," whatever that's supposed to mean, then by all means bring it up.

oldvet 9 years, 7 months ago

"Also, the ACLU is a fringe group? For which side? They go to bat for any person or group when civil liberties are threatened. Is that bad?"Now that is the big lie of the day... The ACLU has never taken a case on the side of Pro-Life or in defense of the 2nd Amendment... they pick and choose the liberal causes they are so fond of... throwing in the occasional wacko who wants to march or parade in public...

kidicarus 9 years, 7 months ago

tom, koolaid, bigprune, tuna, etc. - I'm glad you hope the best for America. Shows your real character.

oldvet 9 years, 7 months ago

"Since it does not believe the Second Amendment imposes any limits on the government's authority to restrict possession of guns, the national ACLU has never challenged gun control laws."This quote your own article only makes my case... The ACLU has never taken a case in defense of the 2nd Amendment... The ACLU picks and chooses which civil liberties they will fight for and which civil liberties they will stand by and watch get trampled...

jonas_opines 9 years, 7 months ago

oldvet: Quick google search shows at least one case where the ACLU came down on the side of gun rights. sure how they're going to support Pro-life groups, as that demographic doesn't ever have their rights infringed upon in the first place.Ever.

jonas_opines 9 years, 7 months ago

Found another interesting one about the Nevada chapter, though, that has bucked the National Office's position on gun control to defend an individual right to own guns and not a collective one. Says the national office: The national ACLU, in a statement by a spokeswoman, said, "ACLU affiliates are free to take positions that differ from those of the national office."

jonas_opines 9 years, 7 months ago

Well, that is their right to interpretation, I suppose, the same as it is yours. Have you ever considered that your interpretation of the 2nd amendment could be inaccurate?

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