Tales from the Trail

Obama: “ultimately the buck stops with me”

President Barack Obama reached back into history in choosing the words for his much-awaited statement on intelligence mistakes over the Christmas Day attempted airline attack. SECURITY-AIRLINE/USA

“I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer,” Obama said on Thursday after much speculation on whether he would do a mea culpa.

“For ultimately, the buck stops with me.”

And with those words, Obama became the latest American president to use a variation of that phrase to show the public he was aware of the huge responsibilities that come with the Oval Office.

President Harry S. Truman had a sign on his desk “The BUCK STOPS here!” and he would refer to that motto in public statements to emphasize that it was the president who had to make the decisions. “He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. that’s his job,” Truman said in his farewell address.

And President Gerald Ford used the phrase in his remarks when he granted a pardon to Richard Nixon.

Is Justice Stevens sending early warning signal?

U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has hired only one clerk for the term starting in October 2010, instead of the usual four, fueling speculation that he may be planning to step down next summer, the New York Times reports.

Stevens, 89, is the current court’s longest-serving member. Nominated by Republican President Gerald Ford, Stestevensvens joined the high court in December 1975 and went on to become the leader of its liberal wing.

If  the Chicago-born Stevens steps down, President Barack Obama would have his second opportunity to nominate a justice to the court.