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Day 22 of the Obama Administration - History

Day 22 of the Obama Administration - History



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The day began with the President receiving his morning security and economic briefing. He then met with his senior advisors.

Presdient Obama continued his campaign to win support for his stimulus package with a visit to a Springfield Virginia construction site. At the site he spoke of the number of jobs that will be created if the stimulus package is passed. Full Text of Remarks

In the afternoon the President met Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. In the afternoon the Senate and the Congress reached an agreement on the stimulus package called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In the course of the day the President spoke to Israeli President Shimon Peres to congradulate him on the Israeli elections. He also spoke to Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and Pakistan President Asif Al Zardi..

In the evenng the President and the First Lady attended the gala reopening of the Ford Theater, were President Lincoln was killed.


Earth Day Round Up from Across the Administration

It&rsquos been a busy Earth Day here at the White House and around the Administration. Yesterday Vice President Biden kicked off the Administration&rsquos Earth Day Celebration by announcing $452 million in Recovery Act funding to support a &ldquoRetrofit Ramp-Up.&rdquo This program will create thousands of jobs and allow these communities to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses while testing out innovative strategies that can be adopted all over the country. President Obama also issued a Presidential Proclamation on Earth Day calling on Americans to join in the spirit of the first Earth Day forty years ago to take action in their communities to make our planet cleaner and healthier.

This afternoon, Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, hosted a live chat on WhiteHouse.gov to answer your questions about how the Administration is working to improve the environment and build a clean energy economy that supports the jobs of the future. This evening, the President hosted an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden at the White House where he discussed some of the challenges that lie ahead in achieving a clean energy economy:

I think we all understand that the task ahead is daunting that the work ahead will not be easy and it&rsquos not going to happen overnight. It&rsquos going to take your leadership. It&rsquos going to take all of your ideas. And it will take all of us coming together in the spirit of Earth Day -- not only on Earth Day but every day -- to make the dream of a clean energy economy and a clean world a reality.

Over on the Social Innovation and Civic Participation blog, guest blogger and former Peace Corps volunteer Kelly McCormack shares here story about a community solution to an environmental problem in Gautemala.

Finally, President Obama&rsquos cabinet and other senior government officials fanned out across the country as part of the Administration&rsquos 5-day celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. From live chats, to announcing major investments in renewable energy, to appearing on the David Letterman show - all-in-all a busy day!


Where was President Obama on September 11th, 2001?

In just over a week, the country will mark ten years since the September 11th terrorist attacks. We’ll be bringing you all sorts of stories and conversations related to that anniversary. Today we’re going to focus on one Chicago resident: what he did that day, and how he reacted in the days that followed.

In 2001, Barack Obama was a lawyer, a professor and a state senator. We have this look at the president’s 9/11 story.

As personal memories of September 11th go, President Obama’s are remarkable in how unremarkable they are. Mr. Obama recounted the day as “one bright, beautiful Tuesday morning” a few years ago in an August 2007 speech captured by C-SPAN.

“I remember that I was driving to a state legislative hearing in downtown Chicago when I heard the news on my car radio, that a plane had hit the World Trade Center,” he said.

Then an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama recalled he was on Lake Shore Drive. He continued to the Thompson Center, the state building in downtown Chicago, for a meeting of the policy wonky Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Vicki Thomas is the committee’s director. She and her staff rushed to the Thompson Center when they heard of the attacks.

“And on the plaza outside, we began to see members arriving, so we all kind of clustered,” Thomas recalled. “They decided to cancel the meeting.”

“As members arrived, we told them that that had been the decision, and everyone was sharing news, of course, about what had happened, what they had heard,” Thomas said.

Thomas doesn’t remember exactly who was in the group. Mr. Obama may have even arrived at the building a bit later.

“By the time I got to my meeting, the second plane had hit and we were told to evacuate,” Mr. Obama said. “People gathered in the streets in Chicago, looking up at the sky and the Sears Tower, transformed from a workplace to a target.”

He went next to his day job, at the law firm Miner, Barnhill and Galland.

“Back in my law office, I watched the images from New York - the plane vanishing into glass and steel, men and women clinging to window sills, then letting go. Tall towers crumbling to dust,” Mr. Obama said. “It seemed all the misery and all the evil in the world were in that rolling black cloud blocking out the September sun.”

In his book, The Audacity of Hope, Mr. Obama wrote about the scene in the law office. “A group of us sat motionless,” he wrote, “as the nightmare images unfolded across the TV screen.”

“This is our conference room, and this is where we had the television when the 9/11 explosions happened,” said William Miceli, a partner at the firm, standing in the small basement room, with old furniture, law books and green carpeting.

The firm’s offices are kind of hidden in a three flat, with no sign on a relatively quiet street just North of downtown.

“The firm was clustered in this room - basically everyone - lawyers, secretaries, paralegals - and the room was full,” Miceli said. “We were all watching…it was a small screen… As I remember it, there was really little conversation. There was no talking. People were just transfixed by what they were seeing on the screen.”

So transfixed, Miceli said this week, that he wasn’t aware of exactly who was in the room. He has no specific memory of Mr. Obama being there.

Miceli recalled that most people left early that day. At some point, Mr. Obama did too, to his home at the time, a condo not far from Hyde Park’s Promontory Point. He described that night in a recent interview on CBS.

“I remember going home and Sasha had just been born,” he said. “And I usually had night duty, so Michelle could get some sleep. And I remember staying up…late into the middle of the night, burping my child and changing her diapers, and wondering, ‘What kind of world is she going to be inheriting?‘”

At that time, few were interested in any profound thoughts this Illinois legislator had on the state of the world. His reaction to the attacks did not appear in the local newspapers, except for a very local one: the Hyde Park Herald.

The paper frequently ran columns by the neighborhood’s elected officials, including Mr. Obama. After 9/11, then-editor Caitlin Devitt invited them to submit short statements for the following week’s edition.

“The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others,” Mr. Obama wrote. “Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.”

Devitt said these comments were perhaps more nuanced that most political reactions at the time. Politicians like Mr. Obama, she said, know how to write for the less-hawkish Hyde Parkers.

Devitt doesn’t remember taking special notice of Mr. Obama’s September 19th statement.

“I mean, I never really imagined that these words that I’m reading now would one day maybe be translated into policy - foreign policy, you know, or our national policy, that’s, you know, that’s pretty, I don’t think I thought that big about him,” Devitt said.

At that time, the future president was also a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago’s law school. The fall quarter hadn’t yet begun, but a university spokesman said that by late September, Mr. Obama was teaching a couple courses.

Jaime Escuder was in one of them: Constitutional Law III: Equal Protection and Substantive Due Process. Escuder said in a recent interview that he can remember only one time that Mr. Obama made a comment related to September 11th.

“People starting wearing…the American flag starting appearing everywhere, and particularly - frankly - Republicans, although he didn’t mention Republicans,” Escuder said. “He did make a comment, though, such that it was clear he was uncomfortable with the - I guess you could say - the effort to politicize the American flag.”

Escuder is a public defender now, and remembers his professor’s comment when he sees other lawyers wearing flag pins, and when he sees President Obama wearing one. He said it maybe disappoints him a little, but he doesn’t fault the president.

“He probably made the calculation that it could be turned into something far bigger than it really was, if he didn’t wear it,” Escuder said. “He is a patriot and it just takes away one more argument that people could be making against him, if he just sort of goes with the flow on that small issue.”

In the fall of 2001, Mr. Obama’s political future was cloudy. The year before he’d had an embarrassing primary election loss when he tried to oust U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush. But he’d started to think about a statewide run.

“We went to lunch right after 9/11,” said Eric Adelstein, a political consultant based in Chicago.

At lunch, he and Mr. Obama talked about the terrorist attacks, which dominated most conversations at the time, Adelstein recalled. And the state senator with eyes for a bigger office asked him about the logistics of a U.S. Senate campaign. Adelstein said they both acknowledged a specific hurdle.

“He or I might have said, ‘You know, now his name rhymes with this horrible mass murderer who’s been accused of doing this thing and that would just create an added challenge,” Adelstein said this week.

In his book, Mr. Obama wrote about this lunch with an unnamed “media consultant.”

“We both looked down at the newspaper beside him,” Obama wrote. “There, on the front page, was Osama bin Laden.”

“Hell of a thing, isn’t it?” Mr. Obama quoted the consultant. “Really bad luck. You can’t change your name of course.”

Mr. Obama wrote that the consultant “shrugged apologetically before signaling the waiter to bring us the check.”

Adelstein doesn’t remember it quite like that.

“I think I’d write that off to the poetic license of the author,” Adelstein said. “It didn’t exactly happen that way. But, you know, he’s become president at a difficult time. Everyone who knew him back then, knew that this guy was going to go far, and I think we’re grateful that he has.”

Adelstin doesn’t remember the exact date of the lunch, name of the restaurant or what the two men ate.

A lot of details get fuzzy over ten years. And it’s not like everyone in the aftermath of 9/11 made a conscious decision to remember their interactions with Barack Obama, on the off-chance he would someday be in a position to, say, order a military operation to kill the terrorist behind the attacks.

Back then, he was a lawyer, a professor and a state senator. No more important than any of us, on a day that nonetheless would largely shape his presidency.


Obama and 'History'

By Mona Charen - August 22, 2014

Bad actors around the globe keep getting confused about the calendar, and it falls to the Obama administration to set them straight. The Russians, Secretary of State John Kerry protested back in March, have forgotten what century we're living in: "You just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th-century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext." Kerry was echoing President Obama's observation that by seizing Crimea, Russian president Putin was putting himself "on the wrong side of history."

It's a theme this president sounded in his first inaugural address, warning that "those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent" are "on the wrong side of history." He returned to it in his remarks (bracketed by golf outings) about the horrific murder of James Foley. After describing just how barbaric the ISIL terrorists are, Obama offered the following complacent analysis: "And people like this ultimately fail. They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy and the world is shaped . by the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed [Foley] . One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century."

That would be nice, but it's fatuous. "History" is not an actor with a point of view and a direction. You cannot be on its "wrong" side. Progressives tend to believe that the world is evolving, through some unseen but inexorable force, toward greater peace, equality, prosperity and justice. The great task for a leader of the United States, Obama appears to believe, is to get out of history's way. That's why it's a good idea to reduce our army to its smallest size since 1940, and to reduce the Marines by 8 percent. According to the American Thinker, the Army chief of staff recently testified that due to cutbacks in training funds, 75 percent of our forces are not combat ready. Apparently that's OK, because according to the words of Martin Luther King Jr., which Obama had embroidered into the Oval Office rug, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

James Foley's family might not agree. Nor would the Yazidis, or the hundreds of thousands of Syrians murdered by gas and artillery and barrel bombs, or the 100,000 Bosnians and others killed in the heart of Europe in the late 20th century, or the 1 million Rwandans killed in 1994, or the roughly 2 million Cambodians massacred between 1975 and 1979. History, in all cases, looked on impassively.

In Obama's telling, history is making American might unnecessary because the "tide of war is receding." Others believe that wars are won or lost. They don't ebb and flow like oceans.

Sadly for the president and the country he leads, his own over-eagerness to disengage from global responsibilities and to back away from military commitments has stimulated just the sort of forces he describes as retrograde.

In his Martha's Vineyard remarks, the president said, "Let's be clear about ISIL" and itemized some of its depredations including torture, rape and slavery. He might have added crucifixions and beheadings. He might also have admitted that despite his boasts that "core al-Qaida" has been decimated, ISIL is al-Qaida reborn.

Yet, aside from an air campaign (which is good as far it goes), the president again seems ready to permit a benevolent history to manage events. "Governments and peoples across the Middle East" will unite to "extract this cancer," he predicted.

That has never been true. When have the nations of the Middle East ever joined forces against an evil government or movement? Even the Europeans proved utterly feckless at intervening in the Bosnian genocide. Only with American leadership did the killing come to an end.

The peace of the post-World War II world was kept, to the degree it was, by American arms and American world leadership. Obama's abandonment of an American role in Iraq left the space into which ISIL has moved. Only American leadership and engagement can defeat ISIL. But that will require vigorous presidential leadership, not wan invocations of history's trajectory.


Glued to the ObamaTron

By Carol Ness, Public Affairs | 22 January 2009

BERKELEY — Barack Obama's inauguration brought a joyful, mellow crowd of some 10,000 to Sproul Plaza on Tuesday, perhaps the biggest gathering ever in the storied history of Berkeley's most sacred spot.

For many, the epicenter of the Free Speech Movement and site of many civil-rights and anti-war protests in the 1960s was the place to be to witness the swearing-in of the nation's first African American president, elected on the promise of a new direction for the country.

Obama's status as America's first African American president held special meaning for many in the crowd.

Then she added, "This is the place where everything good happens that's new. The Free Speech Movement started here and guess what? This is the result of all that hard work."

Andy Schumacher '89, a lawyer and Berkeley law graduate, seconded that emotion: "We couldn't think of a better place, because this is a time for some freedom to be returned back to the people." He and his wife, Nancy, drove over from San Anselmo by 7:20 a.m., early enough to stake out prime seating around Ludwig's Fountain with a good view of the giant TV screen erected on the steps of Sproul Hall.

By the time Obama took the oath of office, just after 9 a.m., people of all ages and colors, some with kids on their shoulders, stretched to the back of Lower Sproul, and spread out almost to Sather Gate and Telegraph Avenue. Every nook and cranny with even a partial view was occupied.

Unlike the loud anger of Sproul's most famous moments, Tuesday's crowd was in a mood as sunny as the day, and kept its attention quietly riveted on the C-SPAN feed from Washington.

The Berkeley crowd saved some of its heartiest cheers (and cowbells) for the departure of the helicopter carrying outgoing President Bush into retirement.

Only light booing greeted the invocation by Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, a Christian conservative whose selection to deliver the inauguration's invocation enraged many, especially in the gay community, because of his comments comparing gay marriage to pedophilia and incest.

When Obama was finally sworn in as the 44th U.S. president, several minutes past the constitutional deadline, the plaza erupted in sustained cheering and clapping. Up front, a 15-foot-long banner unfurled, reading "UROCKBARACK," handpainted by Berkeley resident Susan Louie, a graduate from the 1990s (she wouldn't say exactly when) who sees Obama as the epitome of a multicultural society and a force for peace.

A deep quiet fell again for the new president's first speech, a call for Americans to "dust ourselves off and start the work of remaking America."

For most of the speech, a call for a new era of responsibility and national service, the Berkeley audience was in sync with the masses watching from the Mall in Washington. They cheered together when Obama conjured a nation where "all are equal, all are free," an America that is "a friend of each nation . and . ready to lead once more."

But Robin Lakoff, a Berkeley linguistics professor, noticed several lines that drew cheers at Sproul while Washington stayed quiet: When Obama added "non-believers" to the list of faiths that need to come together, when he said "we'll restore science to its rightful place" in American political discussion, and when he called for developing green-energy sources and transforming "our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age."

While both audiences were similar, Lakoff said, "Ours was more of a Berkeley crowd."

Susan Louie (kneeling, left) and friends displayed their banner on Sproul as the crowd thinned after the ceremony.

The event was made possible by the gift of an anonymous donor, which paid for the rental of the 15-by-20-foot screen, plus vats of free coffee for everyone.

Getting the festivities off to a rousing start, the Straw Hat Band played the national anthem, and ASUC President Roxanne Winston described the ways that Berkeley faculty, staff, and students worked for Obama's election. Ultimately, she said, "this is not about Barack Obama it's about changing the political process so that it's not alienating it lets everyone feel empowered and have ownership over government."

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau followed, saying that with Obama's election, the "country has taken a real step toward equity and inclusion." He drew attention to the many campus faculty called to serve in the Obama administration's transition and Cabinet, including law Dean Christopher Edley, economics professor Christina Romer, and physicist Steven Chu, but cheers interrupted him as Obama's daughters appeared on the screen.

Echoing the new president's call for a culture of public service, Birgeneau urged people to find Cal Corps recruiters in the crowd, who were signing up volunteers for community projects. (Signup forms also are available.)

The Sproul celebration attracted not just Berkeley students, faculty, staff, and alumni, but residents of the East Bay and beyond who were drawn by the desire to spend a historic moment with others who shared their ideals, in the place that best represents them.

Freshman Simone Johnson got up early to be there at 8:20 a.m., and not just because the semester started Tuesday. Her first class wasn't until 2 p.m.

Even the delivery guy making his regular rounds got into the Obama spirit.

Ann Bartz was a Berkeley freshman in 1970 when she was tear-gassed on Sproul Plaza during protests over the killing of four Kent State students during an antiwar demonstration in Ohio. She now lives in Berkeley and works for a San Francisco non-profit, BALLE, which helps build sustainable, local economies.

Back then, she said, "we were expecting the revolution any minute. But then it was clear it was going to be a much longer process." She wanted to be at Sproul because Obama's election makes her think "it's going to work out OK."

Sherry Core, a mental-health worker whose daughter just graduated from Berkeley, drove up from Bakersfield to be at Sproul.

"I had to see history. Finally the people have a voice, and we're ready for a change. It's almost a revolution," said Core, who stayed in her daughter's Bancroft Way apartment. Her daughter slept in through the goings-on.

Even after the inauguration, people lingered in Sproul. On the big screen, a military helicopter waited outside the Capitol as the 43rd president and first lady descended the stairs and got in. Marlene Stein, an Alamo resident, made a lifting gesture with her hands, as if she could levitate the helicopter herself and speed the Bushes on their way.


Obama Cabinet Turnover Rate Remains Historically Low (So Far)

John Bryson’s resignation as Commerce Secretary Thursday is the third departure from Barack Obama’s cabinet during the first 41 months of his administration.

Presuming, for the moment, that Bryson is the last cabinet member to exit during the remaining seven months of Obama’s first term, the 44th President will rank on the low end of cabinet department head exits in the era of the modern presidency.

A Smart Politics review of presidential cabinet data finds that Obama currently ranks tied for fourth of the 23 administrations since FDR’s first term for the lowest rate of department head departures in his administration.

(Note: This analysis focuses on department heads. Excluded from analysis were the departures of acting or interim secretaries who temporarily filled posts between confirmed (or recessed) cabinet appointees). Also excluded are so-called “cabinet-level” positions, such as the Vice-President, Chief of Staff, OMB Director etc.).

Overall, there have been 272 cabinet posts across the 23 administrations since Roosevelt’s first term.

A total of 152 department heads departed during this span (through resignation, death etc.) for an average rate of departure of 0.56 per cabinet post – or just over one departure for every two cabinet positions.

The average department head exit rate for presidents in their second term (and beyond, with FDR) is much higher (0.74) than in the first term (0.47) during this span.

Obama is tied with Lyndon Johnson’s first term for the fourth lowest rate of departure of 0.20 cabinet department heads per administration post.

Prior to Bryson’s resignation, Obama had previously accepted the retirements of Gary Locke (Commerce) and Robert Gates (Defense) in 2011 for a total of three departures across the 15 cabinet posts.

LBJ had two departures out of the 10 departments in his (partial) first term after taking over for the assassinated John Kennedy: Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Commerce Secretary Luther Hodges.

The only three administrations with a lower rate of departure were the first and fourth terms of FDR with one departure from the 10 cabinet positions of that era (0.10) and George W. Bush’s first term at 0.13, with just two departures from 15 cabinet positions (Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and HUD Secretary Mel Martinez).

(Note: Roosevelt’s fourth administration comes with an asterisk as it lasted less than three months).

Other cabinet department head departure rates for the first terms of recent presidents are Bill Clinton at 0.29 (4 departures from 14 posts), John Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower at 0.30 (3 of 10), Ronald Reagan at 0.46 (6 of 13), George H.W. Bush at 0.57 (8 of 14), and Jimmy Carter at 0.62 (8 of 13).

Not surprisingly, the administrations with the highest rate of departures for department heads were Harry Truman’s first term at 1.36 departures per post and Gerald Ford at 1.09.

Truman and Ford of course inherited Roosevelt and Nixon’s cabinet after their predecessors’ death and resignation respectively – less than three months into the term for Truman in 1945 and one year and seven months for Ford in 1974.

Other administrations with a high departure rate include the second terms of Nixon (1.00, 11 departures) and George W. Bush (1.00, 15).

It is not clear at this point when Barack Obama will send a new appointee to Congress for confirmation to replace Bryson.

In the meantime, his deputy secretary, Rebecca Blank, continues to serve as acting secretary as she did while Bryson took a leave of absence earlier this month after his involvement in two car crashes in California.

Rate of Cabinet Department Head Departures by Administration, 1933-Present


Obama Is Not Who We Are

The Washington Free Beacon has put together a video montage of Obama using his catchphrase, &ldquoit&rsquos not who we are&rdquo 46 times.

The video editor, David Rutz, observes:

Not unlike his warning to political opponents that they may be on the &ldquowrong side of history,&rdquo the expression is useful in its ability to shut down conversation and seize a moral high ground, however imaginary.

Obama has deployed the term to convince the country of his rightness on immigration, Obamacare, education, national security and not voting for Mitt Romney, among other important issues to his presidency.

I don&rsquot recall him using it a 47th time after the San Bernardino slaughter, though his statement seemed to suggest the actual victims were the terrorists, who had magically, mysteriously (Islam not mentioned) become radicalized, suggesting it was somehow our fault.

Since there is little flexibility in his thinking, &ldquonot who we are&rdquo is likely to be used even more to delegitimize his opponents as his term in office runs down, his popularity sinks, and he becomes ever more desperate to stifle mounting criticism.

No matter how many times it&rsquos used, it is a weak debate trick to muzzle his opponents by suggesting that no true American could possibly disagree with his point of view.

Allow me to turn the tables and point out some of the multiple instances when Obama&rsquos actions are not what we are. I know there are many others, but these stand out in my mind right now.

If you're a Brit, your head is spinning. It's not just the personal slights to Prime Minister Gordon Brown -- the ridiculous 25-DVD gift, the five refusals before Brown was granted a one-on-one with The One.

Nor is it just the symbolism of Obama returning the Churchill bust that was in the Oval Office. Query: If it absolutely had to be out of Obama's sight, could it not have been housed somewhere else on U.S. soil rather than ostentatiously repatriated?

Perhaps it was the State Department official who last year denied there even was a special relationship between the United States and Britain, a relationship cultivated by every U.S. president since Franklin Roosevelt.

And then there was Hillary Clinton's astonishing, nearly unreported (in the United States) performance in Argentina last month. She called for Britain to negotiate with Argentina over the Falklands.

Instances of his disrespect for Israel are legion. Here&rsquos but one example:

It appears that someone in the administration is trying to preempt Prime Minister Netanyahu&rsquos criticism of an imminent and highly problematic deal with Iran that will guarantee the Islamic Republic&rsquos position as a threshold nuclear power,&rdquo the official said. &ldquoIt is a transparent attempt to discredit the messenger instead of dealing with the substance of his criticism.&rdquo

The November 24 deadline for talks between the world powers and the Islamic Republic is looming, and Jerusalem has voiced concern that the Iranians may be allowed to retain nuclear threshold capabilities.

The Atlantic&rsquos Jeffrey Goldberg on Tuesday quoted a senior official as saying about Netanyahu, &ldquoThe thing about Bibi is, he&rsquos a chickenshit.&rdquo

The good thing about Netanyahu is that &ldquohe&rsquos scared to launch wars,&rdquo Goldberg quoted the official as saying.

[snip]

Goldberg, considered well connected in the White House, said that over the years Obama administration officials have described the prime minister as &ldquorecalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous and Aspergery.

2. Repeated unconstitutional acts.

Two years ago at Forbes Ilya Shapiro noted the 10 top such acts. Since then there have been more.

hapiro&rsquos list notes these: Delay of Obamacare&rsquos out-of-pocket caps Delay of ObamaCare&rsquos employer mandate Delay of Obamacare&rsquos insurance requirements Exemption of Congress from Obamacare Expansion of the employer mandate penalty through IRS regulation Political profiling by the IRS Outlandish Supreme Court arguments: Recess appointments Assault on free speech and due process on college campuses.

Most of these transgressions are self-explanatory or well-publicized, but you might have now forgotten or overlooked the Supreme Court arguments to which Shapiro refers. Let his explanation refresh your recollection: &ldquoBetween January 2012 and June 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Justice Department&rsquos extreme positions 9 times. The cases ranged from criminal procedure to property rights, religious liberty to immigration, securities regulation to tax law. They had nothing in common other than the government&rsquos view that federal power is virtually unlimited. As a comparison, in the entire Bush and Clinton presidencies, the government suffered 15 and 23 unanimous rulings, respectively.&rdquo

3. Constant executive branch overreaching.

In addition to the unconstitutional actions of the president, he has engaged in numerous acts of overreaching. The Committee for Justice lists 25 such acts. In addition to those noted by Shapiro, this publication reminds us of these: refusal to build a fence along the Mexican border as required by law authoring over 21 executive orders that restrict 2d Amendment rights the administration&rsquos Fast & Furious Operation, which clearly was designed to create gun crimes and further erode the Constitutional right of citizens to bear arms -- and failure to dismiss Eric Holder when his attorney general refused to testify before Congress about it and was held in contempt overreaching regulations and mandates by his EPA, Department of Justice, IRS, FCC, EEOC, Department of Energy, and department of Interior. Some of the most serious wrongdoing includes:

18.Without Congressional approval, Obama gutted the work requirement for welfare recipients passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

19. In the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, Obama illegally shortchanged bond holders in favor of Labor Unions, despite U.S. bankruptcy laws that specify that bond holders be first in line to be paid back.

20.Eager to use the killing of Osama bin Laden for political gain, Obama exposed the identity and method of operation of the Navy SEALs team that conducted the operation in Pakistan, thus exposing its members to a lifetime of risk because they have been targeted for assassination by Islamists. A short time after Obama exposed the Navy SEALs' method of operation, 22 SEALs were shot down and killed in Afghanistan. It is a violation of law for the President or any American to reveal classified military secrets.

21.President Obama established an extra-constitutional top secret "kill list" of people (including Americans) who can be summarily killed on sight &ndash presumably by drones -- without due process. Once on Obama's kill list, an American citizen can be targeted and executed on the opinion of a single government bureaucrat. That's not how our legal system is supposed to work.

22.Obama Administration officials twisted the arms of defense contractors to not issue layoff notices in October of 2012 so as to avoid causing bad news for Obama right before the election -- even though federal law (the "WARN Act") requires such notices. Not only is this a violation of the WARN Act, it's also an unlawful use of federal officials for campaign purposes.

24.President Obama intervened militarily in Libya in 2011 without the Congressional approval required by the War Powers Act.

23.Obama knowingly lied to Congress and the American people about the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. The president and his representatives repeatedly said an anti-Islamic video sparked a spontaneous uprising in Libya that resulted in the killings even though Obama knew that the attack was a well-planned military-style assault by al Qaeda on the anniversary of September

I&rsquod add to this lengthy list his inexplicable trade of a Bergdahl, a deserter, for 5 known jihadis in Gitmo, an act which endangers all of us and undercuts military discipline when we most need it. And don&rsquot forget, as we go to press Secretary Kerry is negotiating a climate change agreement which has no Congressional approval, even though treaties must be approved by it, in the same way he negotiated a one-sided unsigned deal with Iran which was never received Congressional approval.

4. In his public actions he has undermined the rule of law.

For example, jumping in prematurely on the side of Trayvon Martin, Professor Gates, Black Lives Matter protestors, Michael Brown, and others, including Clock Boy, before the facts which exonerated the police actions were known.

5. He has honored thugs and ignored victims of racial and terrorist violence.

Even in his honorific role, he has expressed contempt for most of America. To give but two examples:

President Obama did not send a White House representative to attend the memorial Mass on Sunday for James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State militants.

The president did, however, send three White House aides on Monday to attend the funeral for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old black male who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, CNS News reported.

He continues this pattern by not sending a single representative to San Bernardino to meet with the victims&rsquo families or to participate in any memorial there. Instead his attorney general warned of a backlash against Moslems (which has not occurred) and threatened in vague terms the First Amendment rights of those who spoke out against Moslems. Members of his party went to a radical mosque in the DC area to show their support for Moslems

"The Democrats set to attend include Reps. Don Beyer (D., Va.), Joseph Crowley (D., N.Y.), Betty McCollum (D., Minn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., D.C.), and several Virginia state lawmakers, according to the New York Times."

To really rub it in, the head of Homeland Security held a press conference with an Imam linked to the Moslem Brotherhood and Hamas.

6. He has gone out of his way to insult the religious sensibilities of traditional Christians and Jews.

He has done so in every way at his disposal -- from regulations on ObamaCare to ceremonial functions -- even turning the annual Hanukah celebration at the white House into a pro-Moslem event.

Consider the fact that Obama&rsquos inaugural address abroad was &ldquoA New Beginning,&rdquo delivered in Cairo in 2009 &ndash a contrite appeal to the Muslim world for forgiveness and for partnership. Go back and listen as Obama waxes eloquent about &ldquohearing the call of the azaan&rdquo as a youth in Indonesia, and about the historical achievements of Islamic civilization in algebra and architecture. This is Obama speaking from the recesses of his soul.

Consider Obama&rsquos refusal to even mutter the words &ldquoIslamic extremism&rdquo or &ldquojihadism,&rdquo and to connect terrorism to Islam. I think that this is because Obama doesn&rsquot believe that Western (or Judeo-Christian) civilization is any better than Islamic civilization, and thus he refuses to tar Islam with terrorism.

Speaking to the National Prayer breakfast in Washington on February 5, Obama said: &ldquoBefore we get on our high horse and think this [ISIS beheadings, sex slavery, crucifixion, roasting of humans, etc.] is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.&rdquo

This is tantamount to saying that the West is rooted in immorality, and that it is time for other, no less moral and possibly more moral, powers to emerge -- specifically, Islamic powers. It is equivalent to saying that the denouement of America and rise of an Islamic superpower will elevate world politics to a better sphere.

It is like saying that America sanctions a seismic shift in the global balance of power in favor of Islam.

Undoubtedly, Obama&rsquos claim that this or that is not who &ldquowe are&rdquo, depends on the meaning of &ldquowe.&rdquo Maybe some smart journalist can ask him.

The Washington Free Beacon has put together a video montage of Obama using his catchphrase, &ldquoit&rsquos not who we are&rdquo 46 times.

The video editor, David Rutz, observes:

Not unlike his warning to political opponents that they may be on the &ldquowrong side of history,&rdquo the expression is useful in its ability to shut down conversation and seize a moral high ground, however imaginary.

Obama has deployed the term to convince the country of his rightness on immigration, Obamacare, education, national security and not voting for Mitt Romney, among other important issues to his presidency.

I don&rsquot recall him using it a 47th time after the San Bernardino slaughter, though his statement seemed to suggest the actual victims were the terrorists, who had magically, mysteriously (Islam not mentioned) become radicalized, suggesting it was somehow our fault.

Since there is little flexibility in his thinking, &ldquonot who we are&rdquo is likely to be used even more to delegitimize his opponents as his term in office runs down, his popularity sinks, and he becomes ever more desperate to stifle mounting criticism.

No matter how many times it&rsquos used, it is a weak debate trick to muzzle his opponents by suggesting that no true American could possibly disagree with his point of view.

Allow me to turn the tables and point out some of the multiple instances when Obama&rsquos actions are not what we are. I know there are many others, but these stand out in my mind right now.

If you're a Brit, your head is spinning. It's not just the personal slights to Prime Minister Gordon Brown -- the ridiculous 25-DVD gift, the five refusals before Brown was granted a one-on-one with The One.

Nor is it just the symbolism of Obama returning the Churchill bust that was in the Oval Office. Query: If it absolutely had to be out of Obama's sight, could it not have been housed somewhere else on U.S. soil rather than ostentatiously repatriated?

Perhaps it was the State Department official who last year denied there even was a special relationship between the United States and Britain, a relationship cultivated by every U.S. president since Franklin Roosevelt.

And then there was Hillary Clinton's astonishing, nearly unreported (in the United States) performance in Argentina last month. She called for Britain to negotiate with Argentina over the Falklands.

Instances of his disrespect for Israel are legion. Here&rsquos but one example:

It appears that someone in the administration is trying to preempt Prime Minister Netanyahu&rsquos criticism of an imminent and highly problematic deal with Iran that will guarantee the Islamic Republic&rsquos position as a threshold nuclear power,&rdquo the official said. &ldquoIt is a transparent attempt to discredit the messenger instead of dealing with the substance of his criticism.&rdquo

The November 24 deadline for talks between the world powers and the Islamic Republic is looming, and Jerusalem has voiced concern that the Iranians may be allowed to retain nuclear threshold capabilities.

The Atlantic&rsquos Jeffrey Goldberg on Tuesday quoted a senior official as saying about Netanyahu, &ldquoThe thing about Bibi is, he&rsquos a chickenshit.&rdquo

The good thing about Netanyahu is that &ldquohe&rsquos scared to launch wars,&rdquo Goldberg quoted the official as saying.

[snip]

Goldberg, considered well connected in the White House, said that over the years Obama administration officials have described the prime minister as &ldquorecalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous and Aspergery.

2. Repeated unconstitutional acts.

Two years ago at Forbes Ilya Shapiro noted the 10 top such acts. Since then there have been more.

hapiro&rsquos list notes these: Delay of Obamacare&rsquos out-of-pocket caps Delay of ObamaCare&rsquos employer mandate Delay of Obamacare&rsquos insurance requirements Exemption of Congress from Obamacare Expansion of the employer mandate penalty through IRS regulation Political profiling by the IRS Outlandish Supreme Court arguments: Recess appointments Assault on free speech and due process on college campuses.

Most of these transgressions are self-explanatory or well-publicized, but you might have now forgotten or overlooked the Supreme Court arguments to which Shapiro refers. Let his explanation refresh your recollection: &ldquoBetween January 2012 and June 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Justice Department&rsquos extreme positions 9 times. The cases ranged from criminal procedure to property rights, religious liberty to immigration, securities regulation to tax law. They had nothing in common other than the government&rsquos view that federal power is virtually unlimited. As a comparison, in the entire Bush and Clinton presidencies, the government suffered 15 and 23 unanimous rulings, respectively.&rdquo

3. Constant executive branch overreaching.

In addition to the unconstitutional actions of the president, he has engaged in numerous acts of overreaching. The Committee for Justice lists 25 such acts. In addition to those noted by Shapiro, this publication reminds us of these: refusal to build a fence along the Mexican border as required by law authoring over 21 executive orders that restrict 2d Amendment rights the administration&rsquos Fast & Furious Operation, which clearly was designed to create gun crimes and further erode the Constitutional right of citizens to bear arms -- and failure to dismiss Eric Holder when his attorney general refused to testify before Congress about it and was held in contempt overreaching regulations and mandates by his EPA, Department of Justice, IRS, FCC, EEOC, Department of Energy, and department of Interior. Some of the most serious wrongdoing includes:

18.Without Congressional approval, Obama gutted the work requirement for welfare recipients passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

19. In the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, Obama illegally shortchanged bond holders in favor of Labor Unions, despite U.S. bankruptcy laws that specify that bond holders be first in line to be paid back.

20.Eager to use the killing of Osama bin Laden for political gain, Obama exposed the identity and method of operation of the Navy SEALs team that conducted the operation in Pakistan, thus exposing its members to a lifetime of risk because they have been targeted for assassination by Islamists. A short time after Obama exposed the Navy SEALs' method of operation, 22 SEALs were shot down and killed in Afghanistan. It is a violation of law for the President or any American to reveal classified military secrets.

21.President Obama established an extra-constitutional top secret "kill list" of people (including Americans) who can be summarily killed on sight &ndash presumably by drones -- without due process. Once on Obama's kill list, an American citizen can be targeted and executed on the opinion of a single government bureaucrat. That's not how our legal system is supposed to work.

22.Obama Administration officials twisted the arms of defense contractors to not issue layoff notices in October of 2012 so as to avoid causing bad news for Obama right before the election -- even though federal law (the "WARN Act") requires such notices. Not only is this a violation of the WARN Act, it's also an unlawful use of federal officials for campaign purposes.

24.President Obama intervened militarily in Libya in 2011 without the Congressional approval required by the War Powers Act.

23.Obama knowingly lied to Congress and the American people about the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. The president and his representatives repeatedly said an anti-Islamic video sparked a spontaneous uprising in Libya that resulted in the killings even though Obama knew that the attack was a well-planned military-style assault by al Qaeda on the anniversary of September

I&rsquod add to this lengthy list his inexplicable trade of a Bergdahl, a deserter, for 5 known jihadis in Gitmo, an act which endangers all of us and undercuts military discipline when we most need it. And don&rsquot forget, as we go to press Secretary Kerry is negotiating a climate change agreement which has no Congressional approval, even though treaties must be approved by it, in the same way he negotiated a one-sided unsigned deal with Iran which was never received Congressional approval.

4. In his public actions he has undermined the rule of law.

For example, jumping in prematurely on the side of Trayvon Martin, Professor Gates, Black Lives Matter protestors, Michael Brown, and others, including Clock Boy, before the facts which exonerated the police actions were known.

5. He has honored thugs and ignored victims of racial and terrorist violence.

Even in his honorific role, he has expressed contempt for most of America. To give but two examples:

President Obama did not send a White House representative to attend the memorial Mass on Sunday for James Foley, the American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State militants.

The president did, however, send three White House aides on Monday to attend the funeral for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old black male who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, CNS News reported.

He continues this pattern by not sending a single representative to San Bernardino to meet with the victims&rsquo families or to participate in any memorial there. Instead his attorney general warned of a backlash against Moslems (which has not occurred) and threatened in vague terms the First Amendment rights of those who spoke out against Moslems. Members of his party went to a radical mosque in the DC area to show their support for Moslems

"The Democrats set to attend include Reps. Don Beyer (D., Va.), Joseph Crowley (D., N.Y.), Betty McCollum (D., Minn.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D., D.C.), and several Virginia state lawmakers, according to the New York Times."

To really rub it in, the head of Homeland Security held a press conference with an Imam linked to the Moslem Brotherhood and Hamas.

6. He has gone out of his way to insult the religious sensibilities of traditional Christians and Jews.

He has done so in every way at his disposal -- from regulations on ObamaCare to ceremonial functions -- even turning the annual Hanukah celebration at the white House into a pro-Moslem event.

Consider the fact that Obama&rsquos inaugural address abroad was &ldquoA New Beginning,&rdquo delivered in Cairo in 2009 &ndash a contrite appeal to the Muslim world for forgiveness and for partnership. Go back and listen as Obama waxes eloquent about &ldquohearing the call of the azaan&rdquo as a youth in Indonesia, and about the historical achievements of Islamic civilization in algebra and architecture. This is Obama speaking from the recesses of his soul.

Consider Obama&rsquos refusal to even mutter the words &ldquoIslamic extremism&rdquo or &ldquojihadism,&rdquo and to connect terrorism to Islam. I think that this is because Obama doesn&rsquot believe that Western (or Judeo-Christian) civilization is any better than Islamic civilization, and thus he refuses to tar Islam with terrorism.

Speaking to the National Prayer breakfast in Washington on February 5, Obama said: &ldquoBefore we get on our high horse and think this [ISIS beheadings, sex slavery, crucifixion, roasting of humans, etc.] is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.&rdquo

This is tantamount to saying that the West is rooted in immorality, and that it is time for other, no less moral and possibly more moral, powers to emerge -- specifically, Islamic powers. It is equivalent to saying that the denouement of America and rise of an Islamic superpower will elevate world politics to a better sphere.

It is like saying that America sanctions a seismic shift in the global balance of power in favor of Islam.

Undoubtedly, Obama&rsquos claim that this or that is not who &ldquowe are&rdquo, depends on the meaning of &ldquowe.&rdquo Maybe some smart journalist can ask him.


The Obama Morning News || January 22, 2015

DOJ unlikely to prosecute Wilson . . . Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and his civil rights chief, Vanita Gupta, will have the final say on whether the Justice Department will close the case against the officer, Darren Wilson. But it would be unusual for them to overrule the prosecutors on the case, who are still working on a legal memo explaining their recommendation. New York Times

Domino’s to Obama: Calorie rule unworkable . . . The final Obamacare regulation forcing restaurant chains to display calorie information is causing headaches for companies that say it is “impossible to comply” with the new rule. Washington Free Beacon

Government rehires Obamacare website geniuses . . . Seven months after federal officials fired CGI Federal for its botched work on the Obamacare website, the IRS awarded the same company a $4.5 million IT contract for its new Obamacare tax program. Daily Caller

SOTU ratings worst in 15 years . . . Nearly 32 million Americans watched President Barack Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address on television, the lowest turnout since President Bill Clinton’s final State of the Union address in 2000, according to newly released Nielsen ratings. Politico

Obama goal not to eliminate Iran nukes . . . A senior official in the State Department admitted on Wednesday that the Obama administration’s goal during negotiations with Iran is delaying the regime’s development of nuclear weapons rather than shutting down the Islamic Republic’s contested nuclear program. Washington Free Beacon

Obama mum as Yemen strategy implodes . . . With Shiite rebels eroding Yemen’s government, President Obama’s anti-terror strategy — which included using Yemen as a model for action against Islamic terrorists and even opening a terrorist halfway house in the troubled gulf country — is in free fall. But the White House is declining to say whether the administration plans to go ahead with its plans to open a rehabilitation center for Guantanamo Bay detainees in Yemen. Washington Examiner


On First Day, Obama Quickly Sets a New Tone

WASHINGTON — 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.

Mr. Obama called the moves, which overturned two policies of his predecessor, “a clean break from business as usual.” Coupled with Tuesday’s Inaugural Address, which repudiated the Bush administration’s decisions on everything from science policy to fighting terrorism, the actions were another sign of the new president’s effort to emphasize an across-the-board shift in priorities, values and tone.

“For a long time now there’s been too much secrecy in this city,” Mr. Obama said at a swearing-in ceremony for senior officials at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House. He added, “Transparency and rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

With the pageantry of Tuesday’s inaugural festivities behind them, Mr. Obama and his team spent Wednesday grappling with matters as mundane as e-mail access and getting to work (some aides arrived at the gates of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday morning to discover they lacked clearance to enter) and as weighty as Senate confirmation of cabinet secretaries.

On Capitol Hill, Hillary Rodham Clinton was confirmed by the Senate as Mr. Obama’s secretary of state — and later sworn in — and it appeared that Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary nominee, was headed for confirmation. But Republicans forced a one-week delay in the vote on Mr. Obama’s nominee for attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., and there are other jobs yet to fill, including that of commerce secretary.

The transparency and ethics moves were set forth in two executive orders and three presidential memorandums Mr. Obama signed them at the swearing-in ceremony with a left-handed flourish.

The new president effectively reversed a post-9/11 Bush administration policy making it easier for government agencies to deny requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act, and effectively repealed a Bush executive order that allowed former presidents or their heirs to claim executive privilege in an effort to keep records secret.

“Starting today,” Mr. Obama said, “every agency and department should know that this administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information, but those who seek to make it known.”

Advocates for openness in government, who had been pressing for the moves, said they were pleased. They said the new president had traded a presumption of secrecy for a presumption of disclosure.

“You couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an advocacy group that tangled frequently with the Bush administration over records. “For the president to say this on Day 1 says: ‘We mean it. Turn your records over.’ ”

A president’s first act in office carries great symbolism. Aides to Mr. Obama spent weeks debating a variety of options including an executive order to shut down the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — a decision that is now expected to come on Thursday.

In the end, Mr. Obama used his first day to send two messages that echoed themes from his campaign: first, that he is intent on keeping his promises to run a clean and open government and, second, that he understands the pain Americans are feeling as a result of the economic crisis.

“These executive orders are traditional for presidents — we did them the first day as have others,” said Dan Bartlett, who was counselor to President George W. Bush. “But he has decided to put a finer point on it by elevating a clear theme from his campaign, which was, ‘We’re not going to do business as usual.’ I think it’s a smart move, and the type of thing that the public wants to hear right now.”

It may not be the type of thing that Mr. Bush wants to hear, however. Experts said Mr. Obama’s moves would have the practical effect of allowing reporters and historians to obtain access to records from the Bush administration that might otherwise have been kept under wraps.

“Historians are overjoyed by this,” said Lee White, executive director of the National Coalition for History.

In announcing the salary freeze, Mr. Obama effectively gave pay cuts to roughly 100 top executive branch officials, like the national security adviser, the press secretary and the White House counsel, who earn more than $100,000 a year. “Families are tightening their belts,” Mr. Obama said, “and so should Washington.”

The new president also moved to fulfill his campaign pledge to end the so-called revolving door, the longstanding Washington practice whereby White House officials depart for the private sector and cash in on their connections by lobbying former colleagues.

In what ethics-in-government advocates described as a particularly far-reaching move, Mr. Obama barred officials of his administration from lobbying their former colleagues “for as long as I am president.” He barred former lobbyists from working for agencies they had lobbied within the past two years and required them to recuse themselves from issues they had handled during that time.

The Republican National Committee criticized the Obama administration for violating this new standard in some of its appointments. Mr. Obama’s nominee for deputy secretary of defense, William Lynn, has been a lobbyist for the defense contractor Raytheon, and his nominee for deputy secretary of health and human services, William V. Corr, lobbied for stricter tobacco regulations as an official with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

A senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, conceded the two nominees did not adhere to the new rules. But he said that Mr. Lynn had the support of Republicans and Democrats, and would receive a waiver under the policy, and that Mr. Corr did not need a waiver because he had agreed to recuse himself from tobacco issues.

“When you set very tough rules, you need to have a mechanism for the occasional exception,” this official said, adding, “We wanted to be really tough, but at the same time we didn’t want to hamstring the new administration or turn the town upside down.”

Mr. Obama’s pledge for openness and transparency also ran smack into the stark reality that setting up a new administration takes time. During his campaign, Candidate Obama and his team of technically savvy young aides promised to harness the power of the Internet to allow the public easy access to government documents and presidential decisions.

It took six hours on Tuesday for the ordinarily fast-moving aides to Mr. Obama to post his executive orders on the White House Web site. Until then, the site declared, “The president has not issued any executive orders.”


Obama’s lasting legacies in the West

Eight years ago, President-elect Barack Obama wanted Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar to be his Interior secretary. David Hayes, who was leading Obama’s transition team for Interior and other agencies, remembers trekking to Salazar’s office on Capitol Hill at least twice to make the case for the Cabinet post.

He had the perfect bait. Three years earlier, Sen. Salazar had led a successful effort to require the Bureau of Land Management to authorize renewable energy projects on public land. The agency was supposed to approve 10,000 megawatts of solar, wind and geothermal electricity by 2015, but under then-President George W. Bush, its congressional mandate went nowhere. Hayes, seeing a rare opportunity, told Salazar that as Interior secretary, he’d have the chance to make renewables on public land a signature issue.

“We talked about renewable energy and how the Interior Department could turbo-charge potential renewable energy on public lands and make up for the historic and long-standing failure to give renewable energy anything like the attention fossil fuels had gotten on public lands,” Hayes recalled in a recent interview.

Salazar took the job, and made clean energy projects on public land a top priority. The initiative took the department from zero to 60 on renewables, and it is a clear example of the paradigm shift that the Obama administration brought to the West and to its energy development.

Eight years later, a new president-elect has dismissed climate change as a hoax, promised to revive coal and other extractive industries, and sworn to cut — or gut — the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Come Jan. 20, 2017, many of Obama’s initiatives will be under sustained attack. Some of them won’t survive. But Obama helped transform the West’s view of its energy potential, and he encouraged the region to get involved in the global fight against climate change. Changes like that go deep and may prove harder to undo.

Obama and the West

President Barack Obama’s environmental record reflects an inclination toward compromise and incremental progress: He delisted 29 recovered species, but weakened the Endangered Species Act he designated over two dozen national monuments, more than any other president, but left other key public lands unprotected he promoted tribal sovereignty, but made little progress in addressing the systemic inequalities in Indian Country and he failed in his attempts to loosen Big Ag’s grip over small ranchers.

Yet Obama may well be remembered as the first leader to seriously address the foremost environmental issue of our times — climate change. Though he oversaw surges in oil and gas production, he embraced clean energy and tackled greenhouse gas emissions, drawing deep opposition from the fossil fuel industry along the way.

Now comes a president whose Cabinet choices appear innately friendly to extractives and hostile to public lands and environmental protections. The Republican-backed Trump administration has pledged to roll back as many of Obama’s decisions as it can. Still, it may prove hard for it to undo all the accomplishments of the 44th president.

Delisted species
Obama’s administration has delisted more endangered species than any other

Tribes get a seat at the table
Native American leaders say Obama’s legacy boils down to one thing: He listened

Obama’s monuments of the West
3.9 million acres designated, 8.1 million more acres proposed

The ‘chickenization’ of beef
Under Obama, small-scale ranchers remained without safeguards against Big Ag

CLIMATE CHANGE
The president’s work on climate change started slowly. During his first term, Obama spent most of his political capital on the Affordable Healthcare Act and his economic recovery plan to lift the nation out of recession. Following his re-election, however, he focused broadly on domestic energy production and later the growing threat of climate change.

In early 2012, Obama traveled to Boulder City, Nevada, to stand in the midst of a sea of photovoltaic panels at what was at the time the largest facility of its kind in the country. “I want everybody here to know that as long as I’m president, we will not walk away from the promise of clean energy,” he told the crowd. But he also underscored his commitment to drilling. “We are going to continue producing oil and gas at a record pace. That’s got to be part of what we do. We need energy to grow.”

In his 17-minute speech, which was entirely about energy, Obama did not use the term “climate change” once, signaling an administration-wide retreat that continued for many months. Congressional Republicans, some of whom deny that climate change is a threat and others who reject attempts to deal with it as economically risky, kept attacking. Meanwhile, activists grew impatient.

In February 2013, 48 climate scientists and activists were arrested after some of them cuffed themselves to the White House gate, determined to force Obama to make potentially politically perilous decisions to fight global warming, such as rejecting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who was among them, told me before the demonstration that their civil disobedience signaled “a new level of urgency regarding climate change, and a growing impatience about the lack of political courage that we’re seeing from the president and from leaders in Congress.” The demonstration also marked a major shift for some mainstream environmental groups, who began prodding the president more and cheering him less. This period also saw the rise of brasher environmental groups like 350.org and WildEarth Guardians, who staged large public demonstrations or tackled the president in the courts.

In response, Obama came out with his Climate Action Plan in June 2013. It outlined a sweeping agenda to use his executive powers to slash greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production and cut the federal government’s carbon pollution. It also recommended preparing communities for bigger storms, rising seas and fiercer wildfires, and it called for better climate science. In January 2014, Obama recruited John Podesta, former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, to implement the plan. Soon, the administration was ticking off successes.

In his final years in office, Obama has produced a powerful National Climate Change Assessment, preserved vast stretches of land as national monuments, won court battles over its clean car rules and the EPA’s right to regulate carbon pollution from power plants, drafted regulations to slash greenhouse gases, and negotiated major bilateral treaties with China, India and Brazil, as well as the historic Paris Climate Agreement with nearly every nation on the planet. What had started slowly was picking up steam.

Under Obama, the Interior Department started examining climate impacts across broad landscapes, combining the forces of various state and federal agencies and universities. The department set up and staffed 22 landscape conservation cooperatives across the country and eight regional climate centers. The National Park Service, which had no climate change program before Obama, has completed climate impact assessments on 235 of 413 of the nation’s parks — documenting intensified wildfires, hastened snowmelt, vanishing glaciers, rising sea and lake levels, warming streams and displaced plants and animals.

All told, Obama has elevated climate change’s importance for federal land and water managers and invigorated state and local action.

“It’s a gargantuan legacy,” says Douglas Brinkley, a historian at Rice University. “I put him as one of the top environmental presidents in history. He’s not Theodore or Franklin Roosevelt. But he’s in that league with Lyndon Johnson, J.F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.” Climate change is shaping up to be a major issue for Obama’s post-presidential life. “It’s become personal to him. His wife and daughters have helped him reach this conclusion.”

Obama himself underscored his dedication on a trip to Yosemite National Park in June with the First Lady and their daughters. “When we look to the next century, the next 100 years, the task of protecting our sacred spaces is even more important,” he told some 200 invited guests, against the stunning backdrop of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. “And the biggest challenge we’re going to face, in protecting this place and places like it, is climate change. Make no mistake: Climate change is no longer just a threat it’s already a reality.”

RENEWABLES
Throughout the West, climate change has exacerbated forest fires, threatened water supplies, flooded communities, killed millions of trees and irreversibly altered the landscape. As these consequences have become clearer, the Obama administration has helped steer the West toward a cleaner energy future.

Eight years after Salazar became Interior secretary, the BLM has approved plans for 15,000 megawatts of renewable power, enough to power millions of homes. Projects providing up to 5,500 megawatts’ worth of power are already built or under construction, mostly in California and Nevada.

By establishing a system for approving renewable energy projects on public lands, the Obama administration helped drive phenomenal growth in renewable electricity in the West and a precipitous drop in prices. “I think it is an unsung part of the administration’s legacy, and I think the administration can and should be taking credit for really creating the conditions for this huge clean energy revolution to take off,” says Rhea Suh, who was assistant secretary of Interior for policy management and budget until she became president of the Natural Resources Defense Council last year.

After Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Ray Brady was tapped to be the BLM’s manager for implementing the law. With targets for renewable energy 10 years in the future, nothing much happened. The top staff at the agency gave the new program little notice. Expediting oil and gas production was their chief focus. The agency didn’t even open a renewable energy office. That all changed when Salazar walked in the door.

In his first secretarial order, in March 2009, Salazar moved up the deadline for permitting 10,000 megawatts of clean power on BLM lands three years, to 2012. “We have to connect the sun of the deserts and the wind of the plains with the places where people live,” Salazar said at the time. He pushed his staff to identify specific zones on U.S. public lands suitable for large-scale production of solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy.

This was a revolutionary vision at the time there weren’t any large-scale solar plants anywhere in the United State. Brady had to travel to Spain in 2008 just to glimpse the technology. For decades, Brady had been an obscure bureaucrat, but suddenly he found himself regularly summoned to high-level meetings with Salazar and other Interior leaders. Meanwhile, Salazar met regularly with other Cabinet members — including the secretaries of Defense, Agriculture and the Treasury — to knock down barriers to nascent projects.

The timing was right: Obama had campaigned, twice, on the promise of clean energy and its ability to create good jobs for the future. And there was a growing market for renewable power, because many Western states had passed renewable energy requirements, while California was pursuing one of the world’s most aggressive commitments to greenhouse gas reduction.

The enormity of the endeavor really struck Brady when he first visited the Ivanpah Solar Generating System project in San Bernardino County, California, in 2012: Three shining towers, emerging from the desolate desert, each surrounded by a huge circular field of mirrors, 173,500 of them, and covering 3,500 acres of BLM land. (Critics say such facilities endanger birds and other wildlife, but the project stands as a monument to the shifting attitudes toward energy on public lands.)

For much of his career, Brady worked on oil and gas, where drilling pads covered a single acre. “It’s awe-inspiring,” said Brady, who recently retired from the BLM. “I was absolutely amazed by the scope and scale and size of the project. It had not sunk into me before that. It really was, in my mind, the most exciting period in my 40-year career.”

While nudging individual projects forward, the agency’s new renewable energy office worked to track down Western locations suited to solar power. They looked for easy access to transmission lines and big metropolitan areas, lack of conflicts with local tribes, and few risks to endangered wildlife and plants or other fragile natural resources. In these so-called solar energy zones, the agency conducts the environmental analysis up-front, to reduce permitting times. The BLM held its first-ever competitive auction for solar projects in the summer of 2014. Three companies won bids, and one recently started construction in Dry Lake, Nevada, north of Las Vegas.

Interior was much less successful at establishing wind power on public land. The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind project in south-central Wyoming, for example, has been a priority since Salazar took the helm at Interior. The enormous project would erect up to 1,000 wind turbines, employing as many as 1,000 people during peak construction, and eventually provide clean electricity to about a million homes. The BLM gave it basic approval in 2012, but many more permitting requirements remained. “To put it bluntly, they lost momentum,” says Bill Miller, president of two ­subsidiaries of the Anschutz Power Company of Wyoming and TransWest Express. Miller still believes in the project despite the delays. He told me: “There is no better wind asset in the country.” And he’s optimistic that he’ll get final approval before Obama leaves office to erect the first 500 turbines.

With plenty of windy places on private land, wind developers may simply ignore public land. But both geothermal and solar projects have a bright future, even under a Donald Trump administration. The price of photovoltaic solar systems continues to drop, making public land attractive for small and mid-sized projects, especially in areas where the agency has done the upfront work, so developers can get relatively quick ­approval. This fall, the administration and California state government completed the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which charts a course for developing clean power across 22 million acres of desert. In November, the administration finished the regulations that will govern competitive leasing for renewable power projects on public land.

EXTRACTIVES
Still, when it comes to fossil fuels, the administration’s record remains mixed as far as what it did, and didn’t do, for the climate. Obama curtailed fossil fuel pollution but failed to significantly limit industry’s access to the public’s vast fossil fuel resources. Even while promoting renewable energy, the White House simultaneously supported an expansion of oil and gas drilling. Shale gas production grew fourfold from 2009 to 2015, oil production nearly doubled, and oil exports tripled.

On the regulatory side, though, the EPA set new rules to reduce leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from new oil and gas drilling. Near the end of the administration, the BLM went even further, setting new requirements to reduce methane leaks from existing oil and gas operations on public land.

Obama was slow to apply his climate change principles to fossil fuels beneath federal land. Throughout his administration, the Interior Department continued to lease federal lands for oil and gas development and fought in court against environmentalists’ “keep it in the ground” campaign.

Coal, long the mainstay of U.S. electricity production, declined dramatically during Obama’s tenure, a fact that helped the nation reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. This was primarily due to competition from abundant, low-price natural gas, caused by the boom in hydraulic fracturing. But Obama’s air pollution policies played a role, too. By setting the first-ever limits for mercury and other toxic air pollutants, Obama forced companies to decide whether it was cheaper to install expensive pollution-control devices or switch to natural gas or renewables. “What the Obama administration rules did was force utilities to consider the question about whether or not to keep coal online,” the Sierra Club’s Brune explained.

But most of this progress was the result of the EPA’s work. It was only in the final 18 months of Obama’s term that Sally Jewell, who replaced Salazar as Interior secretary, started scrutinizing the department’s coal policies. She held listening sessions in coal country and in Washington, D.C. In January, she set a moratorium on new coal leasing and ordered the first-ever analysis of greenhouse gas impacts from federal coal, which accounts for more than 40 percent of the coal used to produce electricity in the U.S. In Obama’s last State of the Union address, in January, he declared that it was time to revamp the way the country manages its coal and oil, “so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and the planet.”

Despite this, the administration pulled its punches on federal coal until its final days. Most notable was its decision to support Colorado’s plan to allow expansion of coal mining into otherwise roadless national forest areas in the North Fork Valley (where High Country News is headquartered).

In 2014, a federal judge halted an expansion of Colorado’s West Elk Mine because the BLM and Forest Service had failed to take a “hard look” at the climate impacts that an exemption to the roadless rule would create. Environmental groups had sued, demanding that the BLM and Forest Service calculate the costs to society of greenhouse gas emissions from the mining and combustion of that federal coal.

In November, the Forest Service released an environmental impact statement that revealed that its preferred alternative could increase greenhouse gas emissions 433 million tons over time and cost society billions of dollars. Yet it continued to insist that the expansion should take place.

The pollution would come from burning the coal for electricity and from venting methane into the air during mining. Methane is high at West Elk because the coal seams are especially gassy.

Robert Bonnie, undersecretary of Agriculture for natural resources and the environment, justified the decision. “No one is under the belief that we’re going to immediately change the energy mix starting today,” he said. “There’s going to be some level of coal for some time to come.”

But Earthjustice attorney Ted ­Zukoski sees a deep hypocrisy in the decision. “There is a conflict between this administration’s soaring and bold rhetoric on the need to address climate change and its failure to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” he says. “Billions of tons of federal coal were leased on Obama’s watch.”

As for natural gas and oil, the administration purposefully avoided regulations that would slow the upsurge in production. “This administration was not willing or able to take on two fossil fuel industries at the same time,” Brune told me. “And it proactively took many steps to help support the gas industry. We’re going to be wrestling with the effects of that for decades. An increased reliance on natural gas is a disaster for our climate.”

WHAT WILL REMAIN?
During most of his administration, Obama faced Republicans in Congress who simply refused to legislate. In response, Obama turned to executive action. Now, however, Trump’s win endangers much of the progress he made. Trump has vowed to abandon the Paris climate treaty and cancel the Clean Power Plan. Although the specifics remain unclear, many of Obama’s other climate policies, such as his methane rules, are also at risk. But some important changes may escape Trump’s chopping block. The administration and its policies don’t stand alone, so they can have lasting impact. Obama’s energy and climate change policies augmented on-the-ground realities, such as many Western states’ eagerness to embrace renewable energy and the improving economics of solar power. “They helped facilitate it,” said Mark Squillace, law professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “But the story of the West will be about what the states are doing.”

In the Southwest, for example, local, state and federal government officials, scientists and businesses have long worried about the impacts of climate change on water supply, fragile species and wildfire. Obama’s conservation cooperatives and regional climate centers filled a void. “Everybody knew these things were happening,” said Jonathan Overpeck, director of the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment. “Now we have a mandate for research and figuring out what can we do about it. We’re trying to not just generate scientific knowledge for the sake of curiosity, but to make sure we’re generating science that’s useful.”

Hayes, meanwhile, who had been tapped for a big role in a Clinton transition, was flabbergasted by the election results. He hopes the Interior Department’s commitment to climate science will survive the new administration.

Even if research continues, many of Obama’s fossil fuel regulations surely will be targeted by Trump’s administration. The new EPA chief and Interior secretary could settle industry lawsuits by asking courts to send Obama’s rules — including the Clean Power Plan, methane rules and BLM’s fracking regulations — back to agencies to rewrite them. Environmental groups would then likely sue to block Trump’s new rules and reinstate Obama’s, and the ensuing legal battles could take years.

“If Trump gets only one term and is replaced by a Democrat, damage will be significant but also limited,” Squillace said. “I think if Trump gets two terms, all bets are off and significant change in public lands and environmental policy will occur.”

Another danger is a possible government “brain drain.” Squillace, for example, was a young lawyer at the Interior Department when President Ronald Reagan appointed Interior Secretary James Watt, who was hostile to conservation. Squillace remembers asking to be taken off one case after another, because he considered Watt’s positions indefensible. After nine months of this, he resigned. Trump may inspire a similar exodus of scientists and lawyers.

Regardless, some of Obama’s climate policies likely will withstand at least the early years of a Trump administration, particularly the BLM’s renewable energy program. If Trump kills the Clean Power Plan, that would take away one driver for big solar projects on public land. But others won’t disappear, most significantly, California Gov. Jerry Brown’s directive that his state gets 50 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030.

Steve Black, who was Salazar’s counselor at Interior and now is an energy and climate policy consultant based in California, sees other reasons for optimism. More than 100 full-time, career BLM staffers work in renewable energy offices across the West that didn’t exist before Obama. Massive projects like Ivanpah will keep delivering clean power to the grid. “There’s steel in the ground,” he said. “We built 15 utility-scale projects. Those things can’t be changed. I do think there are lasting elements of this legacy.”

Despite Trump’s cheerleading for coal, the new administration is unlikely to rescue the dirtiest fossil fuel. Market forces, namely low natural gas prices, are the main reason for its downturn, but the growing international desire to combat climate change is another. Trump similarly is unlikely to boost oil and gas production, as long as prices are low. For instance, Trump and a Republican Congress may open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil companies, but high costs could deter drilling.

And even with a president and Congress unwilling to tackle tough questions on energy and the climate, states will remain largely responsible for their own energy choices. Even with big utilities fighting hard against solar, low renewable energy prices and state mandates will make the clean energy revolution hard to stop. It’s unlikely that Trump will want to be responsible for killing the good jobs that renewable energy is creating. For all its starts and stops, the Obama administration helped the West embrace a clean energy future that takes climate change into consideration. Trump’s administration won’t be able to change that.

This story was funded with reader donations to the High Country News Research Fund.

Correspondent Elizabeth Shogren writes HCN’s DC Dispatches from Washington. Follow @ShogrenE