Monday, January 16, 2017

LEGACY - The Obama Years

"Can a president's farewell speech help write history?" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2017


SUMMARY:  President Obama will deliver a farewell address to the nation in Chicago on Tuesday evening.  Why do presidents give goodbye remarks?  Judy Woodruff gets historical context on past speeches and the shaping of political legacy from presidential historian Michael Beschloss and Annette Gordon-Reed of Harvard University Law School.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  President Obama will deliver his farewell address to the nation this evening before a room full of supporters in Chicago.

We discuss a little of the Obama legacy and look ahead to tonight's speech with two historians, NewsHour regular Michael Beschloss, and Annette Gordon-Reed of Harvard University.

And we welcome both of you back to the NewsHour.

Michael, let me start with you.

How often do Presidents give farewell addresses?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian:  Well, George Washington began the tradition, but it's really been more a thing of modern times begun by Harry Truman, who did one from the Oval Office when he retired in 1953.

But they don't always work.  The ones that really work are when you have the sense that the President is sort of leveling with you in a way that perhaps he wasn't able to during his four or eight years in office.  So, he's saying something that you haven't heard before with new candor.

And the other thing is that when he says something that sounds as if it's a lesson he's learned that perhaps he didn't know before.  The best example of this, Eisenhower in 1961, said, worry about the military industrial complex.

It was something that he had been increasingly worried about for a long time, but this was the first time he said it to the public.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Annette Gordon-Reed, of course, it's speculation, but why do you think President Obama wants to do this?

ANNETTE GORDON-REED, Harvard University Law School:  Well, he's in an interesting position.

The election didn't turn out the way he probably thought it was going to turn out.  This is a chance to cement his legacy and talk about the kinds of things that he wanted to do as President.  And he is facing a situation where people might try to undo a good amount of that.

So, I think this is a good way for him to sort of lay a template, perhaps, for historians later on, even though that's almost an impossible thing to do.  But I think it's a way for him to talk about his legacy, to sort of say to the American people what was important to him, what he thinks he accomplished as President.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And, Michael, there is some reporting over the last few days that the president may be rethinking how he wants to spend his post-presidency, given the outcome of the election.  Could this be part of that?

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS:  Might very well be.  He might spend a lot more time replying and criticizing things that Donald Trump may be doing as President.

And if that's true, he's got to have some kind of foreshadowing of that in this speech tonight.  One thing everyone will be wondering is, what is his current thinking about Trump?  Right after the election, he seemed quite moderate about it, hoping perhaps to coax Donald Trump to make more moderate appointments and more moderate policies than he was expecting to.

But that's all over now.  So, if Barack Obama gets through this speech and there's not some, you know, genuine statement from him saying, you know, the country has to worry a little bit about what the new President is doing and, you know, perhaps think about a different direction, then I think we may not feel that he's really leveling with us in the way that other Presidents have.

"How Obama left his mark on the criminal justice system" PBS NewsHour 1/10/2017


SUMMARY:  President Obama has commuted the sentences of more federal prisoners than any other president, and he's on track to leave far fewer federal inmates in federal prison since the 1960s.  Hari Sreenivasan offers a look through the life of a former prisoner.  Then William Brangham gets an assessment from Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and former Florida attorney general Bill McCullum.

"Obama's ‘bold, yet fragile' climate legacy" PBS NewsHour 1/11/2017


SUMMARY:  President Obama is passionate, and vocal, about combating climate change.  As his tenure draws to a close, science correspondent Miles O'Brien reviews the administration's environmental policy -- from the 2009 “cap-and-trade” climate bill, to the 2015 Paris Accord, to executive orders on greenhouse gas emissions -- in assessing the President's legacy.

"Is Obama's economic legacy one of missed opportunity or success?" PBS NewsHour 1/12/2017


SUMMARY:  What is President Obama's economic legacy?  Did his efforts to turn the country around after the 2008 financial crisis constitute a robust recovery, or too little, too late?  Economics correspondent Paul Solman assembled a panel of economic experts to discuss employment across racial groups, the types of jobs created and the obstacles the President faced in enacting his economic agenda.

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