Mason in the News

Posted: January 23, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Following are highlights of national news coverage Mason recently received.

Saturday, Jan. 17, Boston Globe

Presidency a Test of Obama’s Leadership Model Campaign Offered Hints, Analysts Say

“In conception and execution, the presidential campaign of Barack Obama was nearly flawless, a model of consistency and discipline for almost two years. Yet amid all the oratorical flourishes of the candidate and the machine-like efficiency of his $750-million operation, there were persistent questions about Obama’s resume and whether the skills that would help him win the election were transferable to the task of governing. But James Pfiffner, a professor at George Mason University who has written extensively about the presidency and American government, said campaign skills were relevant for the nation’s manager. ‘There should be some spillover in his ability to run a competent White House if you pick good people who know how to manage.’ Despite Obama’s campaign pledges to thin the ranks of middle managers and cull ineffective programs, Pfiffner doubts he will seek a ‘big management overhaul because it’s a huge undertaking that gets marginal results.’”

Monday, Jan. 19, ABC News: World News with Charles Gibson

A Closer Look: Race in America

Roger Wilkins, Clarence J. Robinson Professor Emeritus, appeared on ABC News to comment on the significance the inauguration had for black Americans and the racial divide that exists in the United States. “To see a black man elected president of the United States gave [the black community] hope in places where hope doesn’t visit very often. Even if the politics didn’t require him to do it, his soul would not permit him to run away from [the issues affecting the black community],” Wilkins said.

Monday, Jan. 19, Time

Will Obama’s Inaugural Address Be One for the Ages?

“Millions of people, hundreds of parties, tens of millions of dollars in security, and in 10 years’ time, if President-elect Barack Obama is lucky, all that most people will likely recall from his Inauguration is one sentence. ‘I was there when Obama said …’ they’ll tell their friends. The parade, the cold, the crowds and the traffic will all dim next to the bright memory of how it felt to witness and listen to that historic address. Obama and his speechwriters know this all too well, and they have surely spent the past several weeks pondering what that memorable line might be, and whether the speech can still be great without one. ‘I do understand the pressure to come up with the nugget, but it’s a pressure that should be resisted,’ says Richard Norton Smith, a presidential historian at George Mason University. ‘We don’t vote for the speechwriters.’ On the other hand, Obama is one of those rare presidents, along with Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, who writes large portions of his own speeches.”

Monday, Jan. 19, Washington Post

White House Directive Guides Policy on Arctic

“The White House last week issued a new policy directive to guide government decisions involving the Arctic, a document that outlines an array of challenges the incoming administration will face as rising temperatures spark a surge in economic and military activity there — along with new environmental concerns. The new policy directive covers several key areas, including national security, energy exploration and the environment, but it does not specify whether any should take precedence over others. That led Jeremy Rabkin, a professor at George Mason University [School of Law], to comment: ‘It’s really a list of all the things we’re concerned about; that’s not policy. I don’t see anything here that helps you decide what gets priority.’”

Tuesday, Jan. 20, Los Angeles Times

In-Flight Confrontations Can Lead to Charges Defined as Terrorism

“The intent of the Patriot Act provisions was to put terrorists in violation of the law before they could execute an actual takeover, said Nathan Sales, a law professor at George Mason University who helped write the Patriot Act when he served in the Justice Department. But Sales acknowledged that in the fervor to protect the skies, the practical application of the law has strayed. ‘A woman spanking her child is not as great a threat to aviation as members of Al Qaeda with box cutters. That much is clear,’ he said. ‘[But] if you get out of your seat and walk to the front of a plane and talk about bombs, you get what you deserve.’”

Wednesday, Jan. 21, Wall Street Journal

Inaugural Balls Take On a Green Tinge

“Power is shifting in this city, and that includes the inaugural balls to fete the 44th president. ‘Every time Obama comes on the screen the room sort of erupts in applause,’ said Andrew Light, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a professor at George Mason University. ‘But when everyone saw Cheney in a wheelchair it seemed like this hugely symbolic moment.’ The former vice president had strained his back lifting boxes.”

Thursday, Jan. 22, BusinessWeek

Historian Richard Norton Smith on Obama and the Economy

Richard Norton Smith, Mason scholar in residence, spoke to BusinessWeek about Obama and the economy. “I have thought on a number of occasions during the past few months that in some cases his admirers do him a disservice by making facile comparisons to Lincoln or to Roosevelt. You have to remember, no one knew in March 1933 that FDR was going to be FDR. Just a few months earlier, Walter Lippmann, dean of journalists, had referred to him as a pleasant man who, without any particular qualifications, would very much like to be president. He was elected in no small measure because he wasn’t Herbert Hoover. And by the same token, Lincoln’s election, far from enshrining him in myth, encouraged seven Southern states to pull out of the Union. It was only over time, dealing with that and other crises, that Lincoln obtained this larger-than-life quality.”

Thursday, Jan. 22, NPR

Economists Offer Two Takes on Obama Stimulus Plan

“Economists Paul Krugman and Russell Roberts have very different opinions on what shape President Obama’s proposed $800 billion-plus stimulus package should take. Krugman is of the opinion that the proposed $800 billion-plus stimulus package is not large enough to have a meaningful impact. He says the administration should spend $1 trillion or more over two years. Not so, says Roberts, professor of economics at George Mason University. He argues that public spending is unlikely to have the desired effect. ‘The money is going to be borrowed, which encourages people to be more worried about the future and their future taxes down the road, and I don’t think it’s going to be particularly well spent,’ Roberts tells Siegel in a separate interview. ‘So I see a hurried project, financed by borrowing on stuff that’s probably going to be wasteful.’ Roberts instead favors a cut in tax rates.”

Thursday, Jan. 22, USA Today

Poll: Country’s Optimism Swells as Obama Takes Oath

“President Obama’s inauguration has given a recession-battered nation a boost. By nearly 6-1, those surveyed Tuesday in a USA Today/Gallup Poll say Obama’s inauguration has made them feel more hopeful about the next four years, a far more positive response than the one President Bush’s swearing-in prompted in 2005. In the new poll, 62 percent say they feel more hopeful, 11 percent less hopeful. Four years ago, Americans felt more hopeful by less than 2-1, 43 percent-25 percent. The wave of good feeling can give Obama clout with Congress and breathing space with the public, says James Pfiffner of George Mason University, author of ‘The Modern Presidency.’ ‘We’re in a big mess, but if we’re going to trust this big mess to anybody, this guy exudes confidence and competence,’ Pfiffner says. ‘Capitol Hill is still polarized politically, but members of Congress are sensitive to public opinion. … ‘It’s not going to solve problems, but I think it’s going to give him a little bit of slack.’”

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