Political Highlights May 22, 2011: Obama Addresses AIPAC — Reaffirms His Position on Israel’s 1967 Borders — Canada Objects, Palin, & Gingrich Criticize

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama to AIPAC: Israelis, Palestinians should negotiate a new border: President Obama said his call for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines did not mean the future state of Palestine would have those exact borders.
    “By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama said on Sunday morning to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.”
    Last week, Obama said Israeli-Palestinian peace talks should be based on the pre-’67 lines, with mutually agreed swaps. He also said the difficult issues of Jerusalem and the right of return for Palestinian refugees should be deferred for later. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called such borders “indefensible.”
    “If there is a controversy, it’s not based on substance,” Obama said Sunday. “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.”… – JTA, 5-22-11
  • Obama Challenges Israel to Make Hard Choices: President Obama struck back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in a speech to a pro-Israel lobbying group on Sunday, defending his stance that talks over a Palestinian state should be focused on Israel’s pre-1967 borders, along with negotiated land swaps, and challenging Israel to “make the hard choices” necessary to bring about a stable peace.
    Mr. Obama, speaking before a conference of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, offered familiar assurances that the United States’ commitment to Israel’s long-term security was “ironclad.” But citing the rising political upheaval near Israel’s borders, he presented his peace plan as the best chance Israel has to avoid growing isolation.
    “We cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace,” Mr. Obama said. The world, he said, “is moving too fast.”
    Administration officials said it would be up to Mr. Obama, during an economic summit in Paris next weekend, to try to talk his European counterparts out of endorsing Palestinian statehood in a coming United Nations vote, a prospect that would deeply embarrass Israel. Some French officials have already indicated that they are leaning toward such an endorsement.
    “He basically said, ‘I can continue defending you to the hilt, but if you give me nothing to work with, even America can’t save you,’ ” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator and a fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan research group.
    The appearance by Mr. Obama on Sunday punctuated a tense week in which he and Mr. Netanyahu made their separate cases about Palestinian statehood to American audiences. Mr. Netanyahu will address the same group on Monday and will speak before Congress on Tuesday at the invitation of Republican lawmakers…. – NYT, 5-22-11
  • Obama seeks to reassure Israel on Mideast policy in speech at AIPAC conference: President Obama sought to reassure Israel and its supporters of “ironclad” U.S. support Sunday in a speech to a Jewish lobbying group that also warned that time could be running out for a peace accord with Palestinians.
    Obama, wading afresh into a topic that evoked anger from Israeli leaders last week, insisted again that 1967 boundary lines should be the starting point for talks on a new Palestinian state. But he allowed that the dividing line would be negotiated to accommodate Israeli settlements and security needs.
    “Israelis and Palestinians will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at its annual conference in Washington.
    While sticking to the views he outlined in a Middle East policy speech Thursday, Obama more clearly aligned his position on borders to one espoused by the George W. Bush administration in 2004. The Bush White House had concluded that a return to the precise boundaries that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War was “not realistic,” because of the presence of large Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
    Acknowledging that Israel faced “hard choices” and security risks, Obama argued that stalling on peace negotiations posed even greater dangers for the country’s survival. The Arab Spring movement and changing demographic forces — including growing numbers of Palestinians west of the Jordan River — present long-term challenges to Israel that will be resolved only by the creation of separate homelands for Jews and Palestinians, he said.
    “No matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option,” he said. “The status quo is unsustainable.”
    “No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction,” he said.
    Obama said he was not surprised by the uproar over his Thursday speech but added that “if there is controversy, it is not based on substance.”
    “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately,” he said. “I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.:”… – WaPo, 5-22-11
  • Obama to AIPAC: I won’t back down on Israel-Palestine border issue: Speaking to AIPAC Sunday, President Obama repeated his position that Israel-Palestine peace negotiations must acknowledge the 1967 borders as a starting point. But he also emphasized that US commitment to Israel’s security is ‘ironclad.’
    President Obama is not backing down on how to solve the Israel-Palestine border issue in achieving peace in the Middle East.
    Speaking Sunday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – which identifies itself as America’s leading pro-Israel lobby – Obama reiterated his stance: Any negotiation has to begin by acknowledging the 1967 borders before the Six-Day War in which Israel occupied land in Jordan, Syria, and Egypt.
    Speaking to AIPAC Sunday, Obama sought to clarify what he had meant on Thursday regarding the 1967 borders.
    “By definition, it means that the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967,” Obama said. “It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides.”
    “The ultimate goal is two states for two people,” he said, “Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people – and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people – each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”… – CS Monitor, 5-22-11
  • Mideast Obama restates call for ‘1967 lines’ in Israeli-Palestinian talks: Unwilling to retreat from Benjamin Netanyahu’s angry outbursts, Barack Obama warned thousands of ardent pro-Israelis that finding a lasting peace with Palestinians begins with Israel’s pre-1967 frontiers.
    The U.S. President’s tone was soothing and his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee placatory, but he didn’t budge from his statement last week that has sparked a furor and the remarkable spectacle of an Israeli prime minister publicly disputing an American president in the Oval Office.
    As Mr. Obama reiterated Sunday, it remains the obvious – if not explicitly stated position by any previous president – that negotiating boundaries for a Palestinian state begins with Israel’s frontiers before the lightning war of June 1967, when Israel defeated Egypt, Syria and Jordan, seizing and occupying the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the revered walled city of old Jerusalem.
    “If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance,” Mr. Obama said, added that he has said nothing new or startling, although his reference to “1967 lines” drew scattered boos from the audience that has been explicitly told to respectively receive speakers, even if they disagree.
    “It was my reference to the 1967 lines – with mutually agreed swaps – that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now,” Mr. Obama said. He said his position has been “misrepresented” although he didn’t call out Mr. Netanyahu – who will deliver his own version of the way forward Monday to the 10,000-plus AIPAC at the most powerful pro-Israeli group’s annual convention. (The blunt-speaking Israeli leader – whose relationship with Mr. Obama has ranged from distant to frosty – will give a speech Tuesday to a joint session of Congress.)
    “What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace.” “Delay will undermine security,” he added…. – The Globe & Mail, 5-22-11
  • Obama Quotes Talmud at AIPAC, Tells Hamas “Release Shalit”: In an address aimed at placating his disgruntled Jewish supporters, President Barack Obama told his audience of over 10,000 at the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday that “a strong and secure Israel is in the interest of the United States and the bond between our two vibrant democracies must be nurtured.”
    He maintained that he did not say anything fundamentally new in his Thursday speech, when he mentioned the “1967 borders” as a basis for future peace
    Taking intense criticism from pro-Israel supporters since then, when he called for Israel to negotiate a future Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, he sought to heal wounds by enumerating actions taken by the US to foster Israel’s security…. – Virtual Jerusalem Post, 5-22-11
  • Obama, at AIPAC, takes on the 1967 borders issue: An interesting morning at the AIPAC policy conference. Then again, how could it not be with President Barack Obama addressing more than 10,000 participants only days after giving a major policy address on the Middle East?
    I half expected a purely political speech, reaffirming his strong support for Israel, using key slogans like Israel’s qualitative military edge and banging away at Iran, and avoiding his call the other day for peace negotiations kith the Palestinians based on the 1967, with negotiated land swaps.
    In an almost stern tone, he referred to how his comments have been “misrepresented” – presumably by those pro-Israel activists who say he called for a return to the exact borders of 1967, which polite critics call “indefensible” and less polite ones call “Auschwitz borders.”
    He said that “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means that “the parties themselves – Israelis and Palestinians – will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. It is a well known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”
    Then, an almost chiding tone: “If there’s a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.”
    His core argument: with the winds of change sweeping across the Arab world, with growing attempts to delegitimize Israel – which he promised his administration would “steadfastly” oppose – and with the Palestinian effort to bypass direct negotiations with its UN General Assembly gambit, the “status quo is unsustainable” and time is running out…. – The NY Jewish Week, 5-22-11
  • Protests Break Out at AIPAC During Obama’s Speech: KnightNews.com has a crew in Washington D.C. where protests against Israeli and US foreign policy are breaking out outside the AIPAC convention.
    KnightNews.com ilive streamed video of the protests, and we have concluded the live stream to go inside the conference and get video interviews with the other side. An updated video story with both sides will be posted as soon as possible. The protests came before, during and after US President Barack Obama spoke at the conference…. – Knight News, 5-22-11
  • ’67 lines not top Mideast peace hurdle: US lawmaker: Palestinian refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist remains the primary impasse for Mideast peace, and not the recently revised dispute over territorial lines, the Republican US House majority leader said Sunday.
    Representative Eric Cantor, the most senior Jewish member in House history, also told the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference that it was time for the Arab world and Palestinians in particular to stop “scapegoating” Israel and to earn their statehood by renouncing violence.
    A Palestinian “culture infused with resentment and hatred” over the Jewish state is stymieing the peace process, which has all but frozen in recent months, and whose future is in turmoil with the Palestinian Authority recently signing a unity pact with Hamas, which Washington considers a terrorist group.
    “It is this culture that underlies the Palestinians’ and the broader Arab world’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state,” Cantor said told some 10,000 delegates at AIPAC’s annual policy conference.
    “This is the root of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not about the ’67 lines,” he said to a rousing standing ovation.
    “And until Israel’s enemies come to terms with this reality, a true peace will be impossible.”… – AFP, 5-22-11
  • Several GOP presidential hopefuls to attend AIPAC Conference: As President Barack Obama’s Mideast speech this week came under fire from many in the Republican Party for not being supportive enough of Israel, several GOP prospective presidential candidates will be appearing this week at a major event sponsored by a key American Israeli lobbying organization.
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Michele Bachmann, businessman Herman Cain and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman will attend a policy conference of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, Ari Goldberg, a spokesman for the group, confirmed to CNN.
    Obama will be making his first appearance as president before an AIPAC event when he addresses the conference Sunday morning. Several leading members of Congress are also scheduled to speak at the event…. – CNN, 5-21-11
  • Palin slams Obama, supports Israel: Former Alaska governor says US should defend Israel against enemies, adds her primary goal is to make sure Obama not reelected
    Former Alaska Governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin slammed Barack Obama’s Mideast policy speech, saying that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “does not need to be lectured by President Obama on the importance of peace. He understands it.”
    In an interview for Fox News on Saturday, Palin went on to speak in support of the Jewish state: “Anyone who studies history, studies the Old Testament, studies geography understands that Israel now is surrounded by enemies at all times,” she said. “It should be now that America takes a stand in defending our enemies in Israel.
    “More than ever we should be standing strong with Israel and saying ‘No, you don’t have to divide Jerusalem, you don’t have to divide your capital city,’” she added.
    She continued to attack Obama, saying his foreign policy “really makes no sense.”
    “I’m going to call him our temporary leader because my goal is to make sure that President Obama is not reelected in 2012,” she said.
    Palin, who has yet to decide whether to run for president in the coming elections, wasn’t the only Republican to express disapproval of Obama following his tense weekend meeting with Netanyahu.
    Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a prominent contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said that Obama “threw Israel under the bus.”
    “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said.
    Tim Pawlenty, another Republican presidential hopeful, called Obama’s demand for Israel to return to 1967 borders a “disaster waiting to happen.”… – YNet News, 5-22-11
  • Ottawa won’t back Obama’s Mideast peace proposal: The Harper government is refusing to join the United States in calling for a return to 1967 borders as a starting point for Mideast peace, a position that has drawn sharp criticism from Canada’s staunch ally Israel.
    At a briefing ahead of the upcoming G8 summit in France, federal officials said the basis for the negotiations must be mutually agreed upon.
    Israel quickly rejected U.S. President Barack Obama’s proposal for the talks to be guided by the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps.
    “What the government of Canada supports is basically a two-state solution that is negotiated,” a senior federal official said. “If it’s border, if it’s others issues, it has to be negotiated, it cannot be unilateral action.”
    Pressed by reporters, federal officials said both the Israelis and the Palestinians have to decide on their bottom lines, which the Israelis have said will not include a return to the 1967 border.
    “If the two parties are of the view that this is a starting point, that is fine for them,” said the federal official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
    The Prime Minister’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, added that Canada’s position continues to be the search for a two-state solution.
    “No solution, ultimately, is possible without both parties sitting down, negotiating and agreeing on what that final outcome will look like,” he said…. – The Globe & Mail, 5-22-11
  • Israel ‘approves new West Bank settler homes': Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has approved the construction of 294 new homes in Beitar Ilit settlement on the occupied West Bank, anti-settlement NGO Peace Now reported on Sunday.
    It also said that work had started on more than 2,000 settler homes since the end in September of Israel’s 10-month freeze on Jewish construction on Palestinian land.
    Peace Now made its announcement as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington preparing to address the US Congress and a powerful pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
    It said Barak has also approved building of homes for the elderly and a shopping centre in the settlement of Efrat…. – AFP, 5-22-11

QUOTES

  • Remarks by the President at the AIPAC Policy Conference 2011 Walter E. Washington Convention Center Washington, D.C.: THE PRESIDENT: ….Now, I’m not here to subject you to a long policy speech. I gave one on Thursday in which I said that the United States sees the historic changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of opportunity for greater peace and security for the entire region, including the State of Israel.
    On Friday, I was joined at the White House by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we reaffirmed — (applause) — we reaffirmed that fundamental truth that has guided our presidents and prime ministers for more than 60 years — that even while we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable — (applause) — and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad. (Applause.)
    A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and children can live free from the threat of violence. It’s not simply because we face common dangers, although there can be no denying that terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons are grave threats to both our nations.
    America’s commitment to Israel’s security flows from a deeper place — and that’s the values we share. As two people who struggled to win our freedom against overwhelming odds, we understand that preserving the security for which our forefathers — and foremothers — fought must be the work of every generation. As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedoms we cherish must be constantly nurtured. And as the nation that recognized the State of Israel moments after its independence, we have a profound commitment to its survival as a strong, secure homeland for the Jewish people. (Applause.)
    We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel living in a very tough neighborhood. I’ve seen it firsthand. When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland. When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map — face of the Earth.
    Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. (Applause.) It’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. (Applause.) And that includes additional support –- beyond regular military aid -– for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. (Applause.) A powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation — a powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved Israeli lives. So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. (Applause.)
    You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.) Here in the United States, we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. (Applause.) At the United Nations, under our leadership, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world. Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we’re going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear –- we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.)
    Its illicit nuclear program is just one challenge that Iran poses. As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality. Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and we will stand up to groups like Hezbollah, who exercise political assassination and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.
    You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel. (Applause.) As I said at the United Nations last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.” (Applause.)
    So when the Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. In the wake of the Goldstone Report, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself. (Applause.) When an effort was made to insert the United Nations into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it. (Applause.)
    And so, in both word and deed, we have been unwavering in our support of Israel’s security. (Applause.) And it is precisely because of our commitment to Israel’s long-term security that we have worked to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. (Applause.)
    Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties. (Applause.) And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. (Applause.) No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. (Applause.) And we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel’s right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements. (Applause.) And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years. (Applause.)
    And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option. The status quo is unsustainable. And that is why on Thursday I stated publicly the principles that the United States believes can provide a foundation for negotiations toward an agreement to end the conflict and all claims — the broad outlines of which have been known for many years, and have been the template for discussions between the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians since at least the Clinton administration.
    I know that stating these principles — on the issues of territory and security — generated some controversy over the past few days. (Laughter.) I wasn’t surprised. I know very well that the easy thing to do, particularly for a President preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy. I don’t need Rahm to tell me that. Don’t need Axelrod to tell me that. But I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination. I also believe that real friends talk openly and honestly with one another. (Applause.) So I want to share with you some of what I said to the Prime Minister.
    Here are the facts we all must confront. First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. This will make it harder and harder — without a peace deal — to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.
    Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace.
    Third, a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region. A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders. Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained.
    And just as the context has changed in the Middle East, so too has it been changing in the international community over the last several years. There’s a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process, or the absence of one, not just in the Arab World — in Latin America, in Asia, and in Europe. And that impatience is growing, and it’s already manifesting itself in capitals around the world.
    And those are the facts. I firmly believe, and I repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict. No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state. And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum. (Applause.) Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate. That is my commitment; that is my pledge to all of you. (Applause.)
    Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner –- which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist. (Applause.) And we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and for their rhetoric. (Applause.)
    But the march to isolate Israel internationally — and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations –- will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative. And for us to have leverage with the Palestinians, to have leverage with the Arab States and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success. And so, in advance of a five-day trip to Europe in which the Middle East will be a topic of acute interest, I chose to speak about what peace will require.
    There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations. Since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday — not what I was reported to have said.
    I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps — (applause) — so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
    As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself –- by itself -– against any threat. (Applause.) Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. (Applause.) And a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign and non-militarized state. (Applause.) And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated. (Applause.)
    Now, that is what I said. And it was my reference to the 1967 lines — with mutually agreed swaps — that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now. And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.
    By definition, it means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. (Applause.) That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means. It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. (Applause.) It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people — (applause) — and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace. (Applause.)
    If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance. What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately. I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace. (Applause.) The world is moving too fast. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.
    Now, I know that some of you will disagree with this assessment. I respect that. And as fellow Americans and friends of Israel, I know we can have this discussion.
    Ultimately, it is the right and the responsibility of the Israeli government to make the hard choices that are necessary to protect a Jewish and democratic state for which so many generations have sacrificed. (Applause.) And as a friend of Israel, I’m committed to doing our part to see that this goal is realized. And I will call not just on Israel, but on the Palestinians, on the Arab States, and the international community to join us in this effort, because the burden of making hard choices must not be Israel’s alone. (Applause.)
    But even as we do all that’s necessary to ensure Israel’s security, even as we are clear-eyed about the difficult challenges before us, and even as we pledge to stand by Israel through whatever tough days lie ahead, I hope we do not give up on that vision of peace. For if history teaches us anything, if the story of Israel teaches us anything, it is that with courage and resolve, progress is possible. Peace is possible.
    The Talmud teaches us that, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.” And that lesson seems especially fitting today.
    For so long as there are those across the Middle East and beyond who are standing up for the legitimate rights and freedoms which have been denied by their governments, the United States will never abandon our support for those rights that are universal.
    And so long as there are those who long for a better future, we will never abandon our pursuit of a just and lasting peace that ends this conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security. This is not idealism; it is not naïveté. It is a hard-headed recognition that a genuine peace is the only path that will ultimately provide for a peaceful Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and a Jewish state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. (Applause.) That is my goal, and I look forward to continuing to work with AIPAC to achieve that goal.
    Thank you. God bless you. God bless Israel, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.) Thank you. – Transcript
  • Gene Simmons Slams President Obama’s Israel Policy: ‘He Has No F-Ing Idea What The World Is Like’Breitbart, 5-22-11
  • Sarah Palin Criticizes Obama on Israel; Calls Him ‘Temporary Leader': In an interview with Fox News’ Judge Jeanine on Saturday, Palin spoke in support of the Jewish state, saying, “Anyone who studies history, studies the Old Testament, studies geography understands that Israel now is surrounded by enemies at all times.
    “It should be now that America takes a stand in defending our friends in Israel.”
    Obama has been drawing fire from Republicans after delivering a major speech on Thursday. In it, he stated, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
    Also rejecting Obama’s stance, Palin stated on Fox, “To tell Israel that now they have to pull back from their homeland, that they have to concede even more, and that they have to negotiate with terrorists, with Hamas, having been a part now joining in the unity government under Palestinian authority, we’re flirting with disaster under President Obama’s very clouded, very murky foreign policy as it applies to Israel.”
    What the U.S. should be doing more than ever is “standing strong with Israel and saying, ‘No, you don’t have to divide Jerusalem, you don’t have to divide your capital city,’” she continued.
    Palin commented, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not need to be lectured by President Obama on the importance of peace. He understands it.”
    “I’m going to call him a temporary leader, because my goal is to make sure that President Obama is not reelected in 2012,” she said on Fox.
    “We the people need to rise up, saying we’ll take a stand for Israel. We’ll be on their side, no matter if our ‘temporary leader’ sides with terrorists and demands Israel negotiate with terrorists.
    “Until President Obama is replaced by a president who understands the importance of treating our friends right and being strong against our enemies – until that happens – it’s ‘We the People’ who have to rise up and make sure that Israel knows they have friends here.”… – Christian Post, 5-21-11
  • Newt Gingrich Leads Criticism on Obama’s Israel-Palestine Remarks: Republican presidential hopeful and Catholic convert Newt Gingrich has labeled President Obama’s Israeli-Palestinian policy a “disaster” during Sunday’s CBS program “Face the Nation.”
    Outspoken Gingrich said Obama’s remarks were “extraordinarily dangerous,” and further stated that “a president who can’t control his own border probably shouldn’t lecture Israel about their border.”
    Gingrich was referring to Obama’s comments this week that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations be based on border demarcations from before the six-day war in 1967, in which Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip among other territories. Furthermore, he stated that potential agreements should include land swap deals to reflect changes over recent decades.
    Gingrich said on “Face the Nation:” “I think that defining the 1967 border would be an act of suicide for Israel. They are totally non-defensible.
    “You have Hamas, which is a terrorist organization whose stated goal is the destruction of Israel. The idea that somehow we’re supposed to be neutral between Hamas and Israel is fundamentally flawed and I do not believe that we should have any pressure on Israel as long as Hamas’ policy is the destruction of Israel and as long as missiles are being fired into Israel and terrorists are preparing to try to kill Israelis.”
    Gingrich is not the only one condemning Obama’s stance towards Israel; Congressman Ron Paul has also issued a blistering critique of Obama’s recent proposals.
    “Unlike this President, I do not believe it is our place to dictate how Israel runs her affairs,” the Texas Republican said in a press statement.
    “There can only be peace in the region if those sides work out their differences among one another. We should respect Israel’s sovereignty and not try to dictate her policy from Washington,” he added…. – Christian Post, 5-22-11
  • MK Katz Warns AIPAC, ‘Obama Put a Gun to Israel’s Head': “Don’t fall for U.S. President Barack Obama’s magical oratory. He put a gun to Israel’s head and asked it to commit suicide,” National Union chairman and Knesset Member Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz MK wrote the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Sunday.
    The legislator continued, “I urge you not to be captured by his magic tongue because he actually is asking you for your votes and your money.”
    MK Katz wrote to AIPAC committee members, “The People of Israel, in the Diaspora for 2,000 years, developed a sense of who loves us and who hates us. President Obama knows very well that former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban described the 1967 borders as ‘Auschwitz borders.'”
    “The People of Israel will not fall for the false charm of posters, slogans, cellophane wrappers of sweetened drugs of death”, he concluded. – Israel National News, 5-22-11
  • Livni on Obama speech: US and Israel have shared interests: Opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday commented on US President Barack Obama’s speech to AIPAC earlier, saying “The principle of Israel’s security and the need to arrive at a two-state solution, one of which is the State of Israel, is first of all an Israeli interest. Therefore, we need to be going in this direction in our partnership with the US.”
    “It’s important to understand that the entire world looks at the relationship between Israel and the United States, especially those who still do not accept our existence here. And part of Israel’s deterrence capability comes from the understanding that we are working together [with the US]. Therefore, there is a very important message coming from Washington these days,” Livni said.
    She stressed, “The things that Obama mentioned represent a long-standing American policy. We have shared interests. This is very important to Israel, so that it can once and for all advance the process to prevent unilateral moves at the United Nations.” – JPost, 5-22-11
  • Eric Cantor: Israel is America’s Most Loyal Ally: Republican Eric Cantor, the GOP majority leader in the House of Representatives, addressed the attendees of the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
    Speaking of his immigrant roots and of his pride of being Jewish, Cantor told the audience that “America needs Israel as it is our most stable and loyal ally,” adding that “America must do everything in its power to protect Israel. It is okay to vilify Israel but it is not okay to scapegoat Israel.”
    He addressed the conflict between Israelis and Arabs and said that the root of the conflict is not the so-called 1967 lines (the 1949 armistice lines which defense experts have said would be indefensible), but rather the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel. Israel wants to live in peace, said Cantor, but PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has to stop promoting hate and should come to the negotiating table. Until that happens, noted Cantor, there can be no peace, particularly with Hamas being part of the PA government…. Israel National News, 5-22-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: Despite the talk about “Obama’s Mideast speech” Thursday, I actually heard two separate addresses. In the first, President Barack Obama offered vague nostrums about the “Arab spring,” best summarized in three words: Democracy is good. Obama transitioned awkwardly to the second speech, about Israelis and Palestinians, saying: “Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.” In this section, the professorial president turned from airy abstractions to problematic particulars. Although it was impossible to predict America’s next move in the Arab world from the speech’s first part, we now know exactly how an Israel-Palestine peace treaty would look if Obama could dictate it and those annoying people who live there would just follow….
    Even more problematic was his call for “the borders of Israel and Palestine” to “be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” These words not only seem to contradict George W. Bush’s vow to Ariel Sharon based on decades of American policy, but the deification of 1967 boundaries lacks historical nuance in a region obsessed with nuance and history.
    The logical starting point in advocating a two-state solution comes by acknowledging that in the region particular borders shifted and populations moved. Anyone who talks about people frozen in place for centuries or borders as if they were permamarked on a map is either a fool or a fanatic. Bible-based Israelis must admit that the boundaries of Biblical land of Israel, varied, just as passionate Palestinians must admit that the boundaries of Palestine-Israel in the twentieth-century alone shifted repeatedly.
    We cannot undo history and we must move forward, from 2011, trying to minimize disruptions to populations while maximizing satisfaction on both sides. Rather than trying to freeze one random moment in historical time, demography and the current status quo should be our guides, tempered by sensitivity, creativity, and a touch but not too much historicity. Obama’s overlooked line about the “growing number of Palestinians [who] live west of the Jordan River,” explains why each of the two clashing people should have a state. Peace will work if it passes the test of what Obama called populism, working logically for many people today, not at some random point from the past.
    Obama did speak beautifully about “a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future.” Alas, this speech did not do enough to buttress the forces of hope over hate, and by feeding the 1967 obsession, Obama himself was too shackled to one unhelpful perspective on the past.

Political Highlights May 20, 2011: President Obama & Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Meet & Disagree over Israel Borders

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

IN FOCUS: OBAMA & NETANYAHU MEET

Doug Mills/The New York Times

President Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office on Friday.

THE HEADLINES….

  • Divisions Are Clear as Obama and Netanyahu Discuss Peace: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel told President Obama on Friday that he shared his vision for a peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and then promptly listed a series of nonnegotiable conditions that have kept the two sides at an impasse for years.
    Sitting at Mr. Obama’s side in the Oval Office, leaning toward him and at times looking him directly in the eye, the Israeli leader bluntly rejected compromises of the sort Mr. Obama had outlined the day before in hopes of reviving a moribund peace process. Mr. Obama, who had sought to emphasize Israel’s concerns in his remarks moments earlier, stared back.
    In his public remarks, delivered after a meeting that lasted more than two hours, Mr. Netanyahu warned against “a peace based on illusions,” seemingly leaving the prospect for new talks as remote as they have been since the last significant American push for peace collapsed last fall. Officials said that the meeting was productive, but that there were no plans for formal negotiations or any mechanisms in place to push the two sides forward.
    Most significant among his public objections, Mr. Netanyahu said that Israel would not accept a return to the boundaries that existed before the war in 1967 gave it control of the West Bank and Gaza, calling them indefensible.
    “Remember that before 1967, Israel was all of nine miles wide; it’s half the width of the Washington Beltway,” Mr. Netanyahu said. He was referring to the narrowest point between the West Bank and the Mediterranean Sea, north of Tel Aviv, while displaying a well-honed familiarity with American cultural references to make his point for an American audience. “These were not the boundaries of peace. They were the boundaries of repeated wars.”… – NYT, 5-20-11
  • Israeli leader rejects ’67 lines At a tense appearance with the president, Netanyahu rebuffed the idea, while Obama spoke of differences between friends: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday publicly lectured President Obama on the shortcomings of his plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks during a tense Oval Office appearance that laid bare the strained relations between the leaders.
    Admonishing a president of the United States on international television, Netanyahu rejected the plan outlined by Obama that would use the boundaries in effect before 1967 – more accurately, an armistice line set by the United Nations in 1949 after Israeli and Arab forces stopped fighting – as the starting point for negotiations, saying that doing so would risk Israel’s security and force it to negotiate with “a Palestinian version of al-Qaeda.”
    “The only peace that will endure is one based on reality, on unshakable facts,” Netanyahu said, leaning intently toward a grim Obama in the news appearance that followed an unexpectedly long, three-hour meeting.
    Obama acknowledged the chasm. “Obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulation and language, and that’s going to happen between friends,” he said.
    The clash was remarkable even by the standards of frequently fractious ties between U.S. and Israeli leaders. Obama and Netanyahu sat, mostly stiff and unsmiling. It has contributed to worry among Israelis, who prefer that their leaders be on good terms with the Americans…. – PA Inquirer, 5-20-11
  • In meeting with Obama, Netanyahu rules out Israeli withdrawal to 1967 boundaries: Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu suggested Friday that President Obama holds an unrealistic view of how to achieve peace in the Middle East, saying that Israel would never pull back to the boundaries that the American president said a day earlier must be the basis for negotiations. The unusual Oval Office exchange, following a nearly two-hour meeting, laid bare the fundamental differences between Obama and the hawkish leader of the chief U.S. ally in the Middle East. Republicans on Capitol Hill, meanwhile, injected partisan politics into the debate by vowing to formally condemn Obama’s position toward Israel in a resolution next week…. – WaPo, 5-20-11
  • Talking, and Listening, in the Oval Office: When President Obama met with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, in the Oval Office on Friday, this photo caught our eye. The two men have had a sometimes rocky relationship, (see today’s story by Helene Cooper) but they exchanged cordial words on Friday. This picture was snapped as Mr. Obama listened, almost frozen, during long remarks by Mr. Netanyahu, in which the Israeli leader pushed back against the framework for a peace deal that Mr. Obama outlined in a speech Thursday at the State Department. It made us wonder: What is Mr. Obama thinking?… – NYT, 5-20-11
  • Israel ‘Cannot Go Back to the 1967 Lines,’ Netanyahu Tells Obama: Before the meeting, Mr. Netanyahu’s aides told reporters that Mr. Obama failed to understand “the reality” of Israel’s situation and suggested that the American president was harboring some “delusions.” Speaking to the press as Mr. Obama sat by his side, Mr. Netanyahu echoed those sentiments, saying “a peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality.”
    The Israeli prime minister then reiterated his strong objection to Mr. Obama’s statement, in his speech on Thursday, that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
    In his remarks on Friday, Mr. Netanyahu said: “While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible; because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the past 44 years.”… – NYT, 5-20-11
  • Israeli official: Washington does not understand what Israel faces: A senior Israeli official says President Barack Obama demonstrated in his latest Mideast policy speech that “Washington does not understand what we face.”
    The official says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was disappointed the speech did not address the Palestinian demand to repatriate to Israel millions of Palestinians, most descendants of people who were driven from or fled homes in the war over the Jewish state’s 1948 creation.
    Speaking Friday ahead of Netanyahu’s White House meeting with Obama, the official said, “There is a sense that Washington does not understand the reality, that Washington does not understand what we face.”
    Netanyahu arrived in Washington early Friday…. – WaPo, 5-20-11
  • Netanyahu to Confront Obama With ‘Reality,’ Israelis Say: Even as he flew to Washington for talks at the White House on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to signal his anger with President Obama’s statement on Thursday that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
    While it has been a central point of negotiations for years that Israel would swap at least some of the land it seized during the Six-Day War in 1967 for peace, Mr. Netanhayu was apparently disappointed that Mr. Obama had failed to mention specifically the idea that Israel should be allowed to redraw its borders to include the parts of the West Bank where hundreds of thousands of Israelis have settled since the land was occupied.
    In a written response to Mr. Obama’s speech on Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu’s office suggested that the Obama administration should be bound by “U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004,” by President George W. Bush. In a letter to the Israeli leader Ariel Sharon that year, Mr. Bush had called a return to the borders of 1967 “unrealistic,” given “already existing major Israeli populations centers” on the West Bank…. – NYT, 5-20-11
  • Netanyahu brings starkly different vision to Obama’s White House: While President Obama has voiced support for pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East, the instability has made Israel’s Netanyahu wary of making concessions for peace.
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened a US visit today at the White House, bringing with him a fundamentally different vision of the Middle East than the one presented by President Barack Obama in a major policy speech yesterday.
    As Mr. Obama encourages democratic reforms across the Arab world, he meets the leader of a nation deeply wary about the regional instability wrought by six months of Arab uprisings. Israeli officials emphasize that the rising influence of political Islam and efforts by Iran to expand its footprint in the region make concessions for peace riskier than ever.
    “If we warned before, our concerns have been reinforced,’’ says Zalman Shoval, a Netanyahu aide. “While we hope that this will lead to democratization, there’s no guarantee…. Nobody really knows the answers.”… – CS Monitor, 5-20-11
  • Damage control on the Middle East speech: President Obama blew it yesterday. The Israelis are infuriated, numerous sharp-eyed lawmakers spotted the forced concessions Obama was demanding of Israel and, if former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block is any indication, the most prominent pro-Israel Jewish group is very, very worried. So what does Obama do? He reverses course — fast!
    On the BBC last night, Obama immediately nixed his definitive language on the 1967 borders and reverted to language that sounded more in tune with that of former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush:To the BBC, the president said, “The basis for negotiations will involve looking at that 1967 border, recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed and there are going to need to be swaps to accommodate the interests of both sides. That’s on the one hand and on the other hand, and this was an equally important part of the speech, Israel is going to have to feel confident about its security on the West Bank and that security element is going to be important to the Israelis.”
    The president said that the Israelis “will not be able to move forward unless they feel that they themselves can defend their territory particularly given what they have seen happen in Gaza and the rockets that have been fired by Hezbollah.”
    That is as sure a sign as any that the speech was an overstep, and a misstep, that the Israelis are infuriated and that Obama is now in a pinch…. – WaPo, 5-20-11
  • Obama’s Peace Tack Contrasts With Key Aide, Friend of Israel: Five days ago, during a closed-door meeting with a group of Middle East experts, administration officials, and journalists, King Abdullah II of Jordan gave his assessment of how Arabs view the debate within the Obama administration over how far to push Israel on concessions for peace with the Palestinians.
    Dennis B. Ross, right, with Benjamin Netanyahu in 1997. Mr. Ross has served as a Middle East envoy for several presidents….
    By almost all accounts, Dennis B. Ross — Middle East envoy to three presidents, well-known architect of incremental and painstaking diplomacy in the Middle East that eschews game-changing plays — is Israel’s friend in the Obama White House and one of the most influential behind-the-scenes figures in town.
    His strategy sometimes contrasts sharply with that of a president who has bold instincts and a willingness to elevate the plight of the Palestinians to a status equal to that of the Israelis.
    But now, as the president is embarking on a course that, once again, puts him at odds with Israel’s conservative prime minister, the question is how much of a split the president is willing to make not only with the Israeli leader, but with his own hand-picked Middle East adviser…. – NYT, 5-20-11
  • Obama’s Take on the Middle East The U.S. President says he believes in a separate Palestinian state: In an unprecedented speech on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama expressly conveyed the long held yet rarely stated U.S. policy that the borders of a future Palestinian state should reflect those prior to the 1967 Middle East conflict….
    Reaction to the speech has been mixed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is said to have initially rejected the parameters of the speech. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas apparently called an “urgent meeting” of Palestinian leaders.
    Obama stated that a fundamental shift in U.S. policy must transpire, lest the divide with the Arab world grow ever more expansive.
    “A failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and the Arab world,” Obama said. – Shalom Life, 5-20-11
  • AIPAC: Don’t Boo Obama!: AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg has sent an e-mail to delegates not to boo President Barack Obama during his speech to the AIPAC annual policy conference on Sunday. “We ask that you act and react to every speech, address, and briefing, that will be offered as part of the conference program in only the most positive manner,” Rosenberg wrote.
    Rosenberg’s e-mail is clearly targeted at responses to Obama’s speech, as there is no concern that the AIPAC delegates will heckle Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other Israeli speakers.aipac obama lee rosenberg
    While top US administration officials (usually the president or vice president) always reiterate the US’s commitment to Israel’s security, calls for talks with the Palestinians, or to show flexibility, are liable to inflame some delegates. Whistles and boos, or alternatively a thunderous silence or weak handclapping, have been heard in past appearances.
    AIPAC’s leadership wants to avoid such spontaneous protests during Obama’s speech, especially now, when no one knows what his message will be. As far as AIPAC is concerned booing the President would be a public relations disaster…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-20-11
  • Israel rejects pre-’67 lines as condition for peace Prime minister warns President Barack Obama old borders indefensible: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel told President Barack Obama on Friday that he shared his vision for a peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and then promptly listed a series of nonnegotiable conditions that have kept the two sides at an impasse for years.
    Sitting at Obama’s side in the Oval Office, the Israeli leader rejected compromises of the sort Obama had outlined the day before in hopes of reviving a moribund peace process.
    Obama, who had sought to emphasize Israel’s concerns in his remarks moments earlier, stared back.
    In his public remarks, delivered after a meeting that lasted more than two hours, Netanyahu warned against “a peace based on illusions,” seemingly leaving the prospect for new talks as remote as they have been since the last significant U.S. push for peace collapsed last fall. Officials said that the meeting was productive, but that there were no plans for formal negotiations or any mechanisms in place to push the two sides forward.
    Most significant among his public objections, Netanyahu said that Israel would not accept a return to the boundaries that existed before the war in 1967 gave it control of the West Bank and Gaza, calling them indefensible…. – Albany Times-Union, 5-20-11
  • Next Israel-US Crisis Brewing in Jerusalem: The next diplomatic crisis between the US and Israel has arrived. On the eve of his departure for Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved discussion of construction in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.
    Several hours ahead of President Barack Obama’s policy speech on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and a couple of hours before Netanyahu himself flies to the US for a meeting with Obama on Friday, the Ministry of Interior regional planning and building committee will discuss the construction of 1,550 housing units in Har Homa in southeast Jerusalem and Pisgat Ze’ev in northeast Jerusalem, both neighborhoods over the 1967 “Green Line.”
    Discussion on these plans have already been postponed several times, and the cabinet secretary has now finally approved them at an especially sensitive moment…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-20-11
  • Obama Elaborates on Call for 67 Borders: President Obama has elaborated upon his call for the 1967 lines to serve as the basis for a Palestinian state’s border in an interview with the BBC.obama sitting
    “The basis for negotiations will involve looking at that 1967 border, recognizing that conditions on the ground have changed and there are going to need to be swaps to accommodate the interests of both sides,” Obama told the BBC Thursday in an interview following his Middle East policy speech.
    “Israel is going to have to feel confident about its security on the West Bank, and that security element is going to be important to the Israelis,” Obama added. “They will not be able to move forward unless they feel that they themselves can defend their territory, particularly given what they’ve seen happen in Gaza and the rockets that have been fired by Hezbollah.”
    In his speech, Obama had said that the borders of a Palestinian state “should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office responded with a statement calling the 1967 lines “indefensible” for Israel…. – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-20-11

QUOTES

President Barack Obama Meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, in the Oval Office, May 20, 2011. (by Pete Souza)

  • President Obama Hosts Prime Minister Netanyahu: “An Extremely Constructive Discussion”: A day after the President’s speech on the Middle East and North Africa, where he spoke on the changes sweeping the region as well as the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the President hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel for a lengthy meeting. Afterwards they both spoke to the press in the Oval Office, and the President described their discussion as focusing on the same themes as his speech, including support for reforms in countries throughout the region…. – WH, 5-20-11Transcript
  • Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu Following Their Meeting at the White House: THE WHITE HOUSE, WASHINGTON, D.C. 1:56 P.M. EDT, FRIDAY, MAY 20, 2011
    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, let me first of all welcome once again Prime Minister Netanyahu, who, I think, has — has now been here seven times during the course of my presidency. And I want to indicate that the frequency of these meetings is an indication of the extraordinary bond between our two countries, as is the opportunity for the prime minister to address Congress during his visit here. I know that’s — that’s an honor that’s reserved for those who have always shown themselves to be a great friend of the United States and — and is indicative of the friendship between our countries.
    We just completed a prolonged and extremely useful conversation, touching on a wide range of issues. We discussed first of all the changes that are sweeping the region and what has been happening in places like Egypt and Syria and how they affect the interests and security of the United States and Israel, as well as the opportunity for prosperity, growth and development in the Arab world.
    We agreed that there is a moment of opportunity that can be seized as a consequence of the Arab Spring, but also acknowledged that there are significant perils as well and that it’s going to be important for the United States and Israel to consult closely as we see developments unfold. I outlined for the prime minister some of the issues that I discussed in my speech yesterday, how important it was going to be for the United States to support political reform, support human rights, support freedom of speech, religious tolerance and economic development, particularly in Egypt as the largest Arab country; as well as Tunisia, the country that first started this revolutionary movement that’s taking place throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
    We also discussed the situation in Syria, which is obviously of acute concern to Israel, given its shared border. And I gave more details to the prime minister about the significant steps that we are taking to try to pressure Syria and the Assad regime to reform, including the sanctions that we placed directly on President Assad.
    We continued to share our deep concerns about Iran, not only the threat that it poses to Israel but also the threat that it poses to the region and the world if it were to develop a nuclear weapon. We updated our strategy to continue to apply pressure, both through sanctions and our other diplomatic work. And I reiterated my belief that it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. We also discussed the hypocrisy of Iran, suggesting that it somehow supports democratization in the Middle East when in fact they first showed the repressive nature of that regime when they responded to (the ?) own peaceful protests that took place inside Iran almost two years ago.
    Finally, we discussed the issue of a prospective peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
    And I reiterated and we discussed in depth the principles that I laid out yesterday, the belief that our ultimate goal has to be a secure Israeli state, a Jewish state, living side by side in peace and security with a contiguous, functioning and effective Palestinian state.
    Obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulations and language, and that’s going to happen between friends.
    But what we are in complete accord about is that a true peace can only occur if the ultimate resolution allows Israel to defend itself against threats and that Israel’s security will remain paramount in U.S. evaluations of any prospective peace deal. I said that yesterday in the speech, and I continue to believe it. And I think that it is possible for us to shape a deal that allows Israel to secure itself, not to be vulnerable, but also allows it to resolve what has obviously been a wrenching issue for both peoples for decades now.
    I also pointed out, as I said in the speech yesterday, that it is very difficult for Israel to be expected to negotiate in a serious way with a party that refuses acknowledge its right to exist. And so that — for that reason, I think the Palestinians are going to have to answer some very difficult questions about this agreement that’s been made between Fatah and Hamas.
    Hamas has been, and is, an organization that has resorted to terror, that has refused to acknowledge Israel’s rights to exist. It is — it is not a partner for a significant, realistic peace process. And so, as I said yesterday during the speech, the Palestinians are going to have to explain how they can credibly engage in serious peace negotiations in the absence of observing the Quartet principles that have been put forward previously.
    So, overall, I thought this was an extremely constructive discussion. And coming out of this discussion, I once again can reaffirm that the extraordinarily close relationship between the United States and Israel is sound and will continue, and that together, hopefully, we are going to be able to work to usher in a new period of peace and prosperity in a region that is going to be going through some very profound transformations in the coming weeks, months and years.
    So, Mr. Prime Minister, welcome. Great to see you.
    PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: Thank you, Mr. President.
    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you very much.
    PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: Thank you, Mr. President.
    Well, Mr. President — and first, I want to thank you and the first lady for the gracious hospitality that you’ve shown me, my wife and our entire delegation. We have an enduring bond of friendship between our two countries. And I appreciate the opportunity to have this meeting with you after your important speech yesterday.
    We share your hope and your vision for the spread of democracy in the Middle East. I appreciate the fact that you reaffirmed once again now and in our conversation, and in actual deed, the commitment to Israel’s security. We value your efforts to advance the peace process.
    This is something that we want to have accomplished. Israel wants peace. I want peace. What we all want is a peace that will be genuine, that will hold, that will endure. And I think that the — we both agree that a peace based on illusions will crash eventually on the rocks of Middle Eastern reality, and that the only — the only peace that will endure is one that is based on reality, on unshakable facts.
    I think for there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities. The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible, because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years. Remember that before 1967, Israel was all of 9 miles wide — half the width of the Washington Beltway. And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive from them.
    So we can’t go back to those indefensible lines, and we’re going to have to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan.
    I discussed this with the president. I think that we understand that Israel has certain security requirements that will have to come into place in any deal that we make.
    The second is — echoes something the president just said, and that is that Israel cannot negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas. Hamas, as the president said, is a terrorist organization, committed to Israel’s destruction. It’s fired thousands of rockets on our cities, on our children. It’s recently fired an anti-tank rocket at a — at a yellow school bus, killing a 16-year-old boy.
    And Hamas has just attacked you, Mr. President, and the United States for ridding the world of bin Laden. So Israel obviously cannot be asked to negotiate with a government that is backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaida.
    I think President Abbas has a simple choice. He has to decide if he negotiates or keeps his pact with Hamas, or makes peace with Israel. And I — I can only express what I said to you just now: that I hope he makes the choice, the right choice, of choosing peace with Israel.
    But a third reality is that the Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state but certainly not in the borders of Israel. The Arab attack in 1948 on Israel resulted in two refugee problems, Palestinian refugee problem and Jewish refugees, roughly the same number, who were expelled from Arab lands. Now tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees.
    Now, 63 years later, the Palestinians come to us and they say to Israel: accept the grandchildren, really, and the great-grandchildren of these refugees, thereby wiping out Israel’s future as a Jewish state.
    So that’s not going to happen. Everybody knows it’s not going to happen. And I think it’s time to tell the Palestinians forthrightly, it’s not going to happen.
    The Palestinian refugee problem has to be resolved. It can be resolved. And it will be resolved if the Palestinians choose to do so in Palestinian state. That’s a real possibility. But it’s not going to be resolved within the Jewish state.
    The president and I discussed all of these issues, and I think we may have differences here and there, but I think there is an overall direction that we wish to work together to pursue a real, genuine peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, a peace that is defensible.
    Mr. President, you are the — you are the leader of a great people, the American people. And I am the leader of a much smaller people. The –
    PRESIDENT OBAMA: A great people.
    PRIME MIN. NETANYAHU: It’s a great people too. It’s the ancient nation of Israel. And you know, we’ve been around for almost 4,000 years. We have experienced struggle and suffering like no other people. We’ve gone through expulsions and pogroms and massacres and the murder of millions.
    But I can say that even at the dearth of — even at the nadir of the valley of death, we never lost hope and we never lost our dream of reestablishing a sovereign state in our ancient homeland, the land of Israel. And now it falls on my shoulders as the prime minister of Israel at a time of extraordinary instability and uncertainty in the Middle East to work with you to fashion a peace that will ensure Israel’s security and will not jeopardize its survival.
    I take this responsibility with pride but with great humility, because, as I told you in our conversation, we don’t have a lot of margin for error and because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance.
    So, in the coming days and weeks and months, I intend to work with you to seek a peace that will address our security concerns, seek a genuine recognition that we wish from our Palestinian neighbors and give a better future for Israel and for the entire region. And I thank you for the opportunity to exchange our views and to work together for this common end.
    Thank you, Mr. President.
    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. – Israel Embassy, 5-21-11
  • Pro-Israel push for magic words from Obama: Josh Block, the former AIPAC spokesman and a pro-Israel stalwart now at the Progressive Policy Institute, this morning emailed over quotes from several pro-Israel Democratic legislators unhappy with the White House move to formally embrace the 1967 lines around Israel as the basis for future negotiation.
    He also suggested language with which Obama could “make clear” something that, unless you’re very close to the page, already seemed fairly clear: That he’s not proposing withdrawal to the ’67 lines.
    The language Block suggests: Everyone understands the lines as they were in 1949/1967 are not defensible, and no one can expect Israel to accept them as final borders, but they can form the basis for negotiation, as they have in the past. As I have said, changes must be mutually agreed, and swaps should compensate for territory exchanged…. – AP, 5-21-11
  • Benjamin Netanyahu, The Prime Minister of Israel: PMO Announcement following President Obama’s speech: Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.
    That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.
    Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.
    Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel.
    Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace.
    Equally, the Palestinians, and not just the United States, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and any peace agreement with them must end all claims against Israel.
    Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.
    Prime Minister Netanyahu will also express his disappointment over the Palestinian Authority’s decision to embrace Hamas, a terror organization committed to Israel’s destruction, as well as over Mahmoud Abbas’s recently expressed views which grossly distort history and make clear that Abbas seeks a Palestinian state in order to continue the conflict with Israel rather than end it. – PM Israel, Facebook, 5-20-11
  • Eric Cantor: The President needs to join the bipartisan majority in Congress and say that the United States’ security in the region goes hand in hand with Israel’s, and that our country is going to stand with our democratic ally.
  • Joseph Lieberman: Unfortunately, President Obama’s important and constructive speech embracing and supporting the peaceful, democratic revolutions in the Arab world was also undermined by an unhelpful and surprising set of remarks about Israel and the Palestinians that will not advance the peace process and in fact is likely to set it back.
    While the President made some strong statements about the “unshakeable” support for Israel’s security and rightly criticized the Palestinian pursuit of a symbolic statehood declaration at the UN in September, his unilateral call for negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps — the first time any president has adopted this position — was profoundly ill-advised. As in the case of the President’s counterproductive demand for a settlement freeze two years ago, unilateral statements of this sort do nothing to bring the two parties back to the negotiating table and in fact make it harder for them to do so. They also damage the relationship of trust that is critical to peacemaking.
    In particular, the President’s remarks have revived and exacerbated fears in Israel about the commitment and understanding of this Administration with regard to their unique security situation. The fact is, while the exciting and hopeful new reality in the Arab world is the Arab spring, the newest reality in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not hopeful. It is the threatening new unity government between the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, a group which the U.S. government has long designated as terrorist because it is committed to violence and the destruction of Israel.
    In the days ahead, I hope President Obama will make clear Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a Fatah-Hamas unity government until Hamas accepts the Quartet conditions. I also hope that the President will make clear that his Administration recognizes the 1967 borders themselves are no longer an acceptable endpoint for negotiations because they do not allow Israel to defend itself, and that any peace agreement must reflect new realities on the ground, including the major new Israeli communities that have grown up since 1967, and the need for an extended presence by the IDF in the Jordan River Valley.
    In the past few months, the forces of freedom and self-determination have begun to move inexorably through the region. It is in that movement where we can find the greatest hope for peace between neighbors in the region, including Israelis and Palestinians. Full Statement
  • Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.) Statement: “I commend President Obama for reiterating to the entire world — including the 22 Arab countries that surround Israel — that the United States has an unshakable commitment to the safety and security of the Jewish State of Israel. I agree with the President that the United Nations is not the place to negotiate the final parameters of peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and that Israel should not be forced to talk with parties, such as Hamas, that don’t recognize its right to exist and seek to drive it into the sea. A two-state solution agreed upon by the Israelis and Palestinians should be negotiated through direct talks, but it is important to remember that a full return to the 1967 borders will be indefensible for Israel and that talking with terrorists who want to destroy Israel is a non-starter.”
  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.): First, I am unclear as to why the President did not recount the three conditions of the Quartet, comprised of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia, for dealing with Hamas. (1) Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist, (2) Hamas must renounce terrorism, and (3) Hamas must commit to all of the agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians. Those conditions, laid down in 2006, establish the foundation of our policy toward Hamas and must not be disregarded or glossed over. Further, we cannot expect Israel to negotiate with a Palestinian Authority which has Hamas, a terrorist organization, as a working partner until Hamas accepts these conditions.
    Second, the 1967 armistice lines were simply not defensible, and Israel must not be made to return to them. Moreover, United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which forms the basis of any future peace between Israelis and Palestinians, does not require Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines in exchange for peace. The President is correct that land swaps built into a peace agreement could make Israel’s borders safe and secure, but make no mistake about it – such territorial adjustments would be very significant so that Israel would no longer be 9 miles wide at its narrowest point.
    The reason that there has been no progress toward a peace agreement is that the Palestinians have refused to sit down with Israel and have used every excuse under the sun to refuse to negotiate. President Abbas, with all his talk of moderation, has been anything but. It is time to tell the Palestinians that the only way to statehood is through negotiations at the bargaining table, not through unilateral actions.
    The President still has the opportunity to elaborate on these points when he speaks on Sunday about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and I, for one, will listen carefully to what he has to say.” Full Statement
  • Florida Republican Allen West also blasted Obama’s speech in a statement he released and which was quoted by Newsmax: “Today’s endorsement by President Barack Obama of the creation of a Hamas-led Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders, signals the most egregious foreign policy decision his administration has made to date, and could be the beginning of the end as we know it for the Jewish state,” said West.
    “The pre-1967 borders endorsed by President Obama would deny millions of the world’s Jews access to their holiest site and force Israel to return the strategically important Golan Heights to Syria, a known state-sponsor of terrorism,” he added and emphasized that “there has always been a Nation of Israel and Jerusalem has been and must always be recognized as its rightful capital.”
    West also said that “the Hamas-run Palestinian state envisioned by President Obama would be devastating to Israel and the world’s 13.3 million Jews. It would be a Pavlovian style reward to a declared Islamic terrorist organization, and an unacceptable policy initiative.” He called for the United States to “never negotiate with the Palestinian Authority- which has aligned itself with Hamas.” – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-20-11
  • Mitt Romney: “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,” Former Massachusetts governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney said in a statement quoted on Politico.com. “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace. He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”
  • Michele Bachmann: Minnesota House member Michele Bachmann also responded to the presidential speech, saying on her Twitter account that Obama had “betrayed our friend and ally Israel. Obama’s call for 1967 borders will cause chaos, division & more aggression in Middle East and put Israel at further risk.”
  • Tim Pawlenty: Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, also a potential Republican candidate for the presidency, called Obama’s call for Israel return to the so-called ‘1967 borders’ – the 1949 Armistice Lines which are considered indefensible by defense experts – “a mistaken a very dangerous demand.”
    In a statement quoted in Politico, Pawlenty said that “the city of Jerusalem must never be re-divided. To send a signal to the Palestinians that America will increase its demands on our ally Israel, on the heels of the Palestinian Authority’s agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization, is a disaster waiting to happen. At this time of upheaval in the Middle East, it’s never been more important for America to stand strong for Israel and for a united Jerusalem.” – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-20-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Dore Gold: Israel’s 1967 Borders Aren’t Defensible: Fair observers have never considered the old armistice line as a non-negotiable starting point for peace talks.
    It’s no secret that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to lobby the U.N. General Assembly this September for a resolution that will predetermine the results of any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on borders. He made clear in a New York Times op-ed this week that he will insist that member states recognize a Palestinian state on 1967 lines, meaning Israel’s boundaries before the Six Day War.
    Unfortunately, even President Barack Obama appears to have been influenced by this thinking. He asserted in a speech Thursday that Israel’s future borders with a Palestinian state “should be based on the 1967 lines,” a position he tried to offset by offering “mutually agreed land swaps.” Mr. Abbas has said many times that any land swaps would be minuscule.
    Remember that before the Six Day War, those lines in the West Bank only demarcated where five Arab armies were halted in their invasion of the nascent state of Israel 19 years earlier. Legally, they formed only an armistice line, not a recognized international border. No Palestinian state ever existed that could have claimed these prewar lines. Jordan occupied the West Bank after the Arab invasion, but its claim to sovereignty was not recognized by any U.N. members except Pakistan and the U.K. As Jordan’s U.N. ambassador said before the war, the old armistice lines “did not fix boundaries.” Thus the central thrust of Arab-Israeli diplomacy for more than 40 years was that Israel must negotiate an agreed border with its Arab neighbors.
    The cornerstone of all postwar diplomacy was U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, passed in November 1967. It did not demand that Israel pull back completely to the pre-1967 lines. Its withdrawal clause only called on Israel to withdraw “from territories,” not from all territories. Britain’s foreign secretary at the time, George Brown, later underlined the distinction: “The proposal said ‘Israel will withdraw from territories that were occupied,’ and not from ‘the’ territories, which means that Israel will not withdraw from all the territories.”
    Prior to the Six Day War, Jerusalem had been sliced in two, and the Jewish people were denied access to the Old City and its holy sites. Jerusalem’s Christian population also faced limitations. As America’s ambassador to the U.N., Arthur Goldberg, would explain, Resolution 242 did not preclude Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem. In fact, Resolution 242 became the only agreed basis of all Arab-Israeli peace agreements, from the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace to the 1993 Oslo Agreements between Israel and the Palestinians…. – WSJ, 5-20-11
  • ‘Borders’ vs. ‘lines': A distinction with meaning: Lines, borders, boundaries. Distinctions without a difference? Not legally, and certainly not in the Middle East, where President Obama’s prescription that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” of land to create “secure and recognized borders” for both states, triggered ire in supporters of Israel after many media outlets, paraphrasing Obama’s Thursday speech, used “lines” and “borders” interchangeably.
    “The so-called 1967 borders are not borders at all, just armistice lines,” said attorney John Smith, of Reed Smith, the Philadelphia firm with an international law group and eight overseas offices. Israel has “honest-to-goodness . . . bona fide borders” with Egypt and Jordan, which were created by treaties, Smith said. But its boundary with the West Bank, which Israel conquered after being attacked by Arab armies in 1967, is merely a tracing on military maps, not a demarcation with a border’s permanence and legal weight.
    The U.N. partition plan of 1947 called for a Jewish state of Israel, an Arab state, and international control over Jerusalem, said Paul Scham, a professor of Israeli studies at the University of Maryland, in College Park.
    “But fighting started shortly after the U.N. resolution,” Scham said. “Israel not only defended the areas that were to be Jewish, it expanded into areas that were supposed to be the Palestinian state. Then five Arab armies invaded in 1948, to support the Palestinians and grab territory for themselves. “At the end of the war, which Israelis call the War of Independence, Jordan held what we now call the West Bank, and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. The armistice lines reflect where the armies were when the cease-fire happened” in 1949…. – PA Inquirer, 5-21-11
  • Obama’s speech: where’s the followup?: Days after President Obama’s big Middle East speech at the State Department, the Jewish left is caught between skepticism and hope, the right is on the warpath – and I suspect most American Jews are wondering what the fuss is all about.
    Yes, President Obama uttered the words “1967 borders” on Thursday along with “mutually agreed swaps,” all of which has been more or less U.S. policy for a long time even though that particular rhetorical formulation hasn’t been used.
    What both sides seem to be missing is that President Obama didn’t say a word about how he plans to follow up on his words. And I suspect that’s no accident…. – The NY Jewish Week, 5-21-11
  • Lowell Ponte: What Does Obama Gain by Snubbing Israel?: American politics underwent a tectonic shift this week, a change that apparently reflects a huge shift in political money and global power.
    Breaking with more than half a century of bipartisan U.S. policy on the Middle East, President Barack Obama appeared to turn against our longtime ally Israel.
    He called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be based on Israel retreating to its pre-1967 borders, a boundary to be altered only by “a few swaps” of land between the parties.
    To those of us who have stood near the old Syrian cannon emplacements on the Golan Heights looking down on the Galilee and Tiberius, or who have landed at Israel’s international airport within 3 miles of the pre-1967 border, or who understand that this would produce an indefensible Israel only 8 miles wide at its narrowest point, Obama’s proposal seems bizarre.
    As recently as 2005, President George W. Bush promised Israel, in exchange for new concessions, that the United States would not press Israel to return to the 1967 borders.
    This week President Obama broke that pledge by our government.
    Obama’s new pressure on Israel, he knows, will alienate many American Jews. Jews comprise only about 2 percent of America’s population, but this mostly-Democratic bloc turns out to vote, and 80 percent in 2008 voted for him…. – Newsmax, 5-20-11
  • The blowup with Israel: PRESIDENT OBAMA and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have a powerful and urgent common interest. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has turned his back on both Israel and the United States; he is seeking accommodation with the extremist Hamas movement and has announced that he will seek a declaration of Palestinian statehood from the U.N. General Assembly in September. The result could be what Mr. Netanyahu’s defense minister calls “a diplomatic tsunami” against Israel and possibly the eruption of another Israeli-Palestinian war. As for the United States, the U.N. vote could isolate it in support of Israel, undermine the ambitious strategy that Mr. Obama has just announced to promote democracy in the Arab world — and maybe derail the Arab Spring itself.
    Now, of all times, the Israeli and U.S. governments ought to be working closely together; they should be trying to defuse the U.N. threat, induce Mr. Abbas to change course, and above all prevent a resumption of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, Friday found Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu once again publicly and poisonously at odds with each other, thanks to a handful of lines added by Mr. Obama to his Middle East speech on Thursday. The president’s decision to publicly endorse terms for a peace settlement seemingly calculated to appeal to Mr. Abbas, over the strong objections of Mr. Netanyahu, has had the effect of distracting attention from the new U.S. agenda for the region…. – WaPo, 5-20-11
  • What’s really behind harsh GOP responses to Obama’s Middle East speech: How much of the Republican candidates’ harsh reaction to President Obama’s policy speech on the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue was campaign strategy?…
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is trying to recover from a terrible campaign rollout week, called Obama’s speech a “disaster.” “I understand he has already in effect offered concessions to the Palestinians, in advance of anything the Israelis do, in a way that could be a significant security threat to the Israelis,” Mr. Gingrich told reporters following him in Iowa.
    Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who is best known for his strongly conservative views on social issues but has also given speeches devoted to foreign policy, also reacted harshly: “The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies.”… – CS Monitor, 5-20-11
  • Israel’s 1967 borders: Three reasons Obama’s stance is a very big deal: In the subtle world of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Obama’s step – describing the 1967 borders as something more than a ‘Palestinian goal’ – could signal a significant policy shift…. – CS Monitor, 5-20-11
  • ANALYSIS Harman: Netanyahu Could ‘Be the Peacemaker Israel Has Been Seeking': SUMMARY President Obama met Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after delivering a U.S. policy speech calling for a return to pre-1967 borders. Judy Woodruff discusses what comes next in the peace process with former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and former California Democratic Rep. Jane Harman. – PBS Newshour, 5-20-11
  • ANALYSIS After Obama Speech, What’s Next for Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Relations?: SUMMARY In a speech Thursday, President Obama called for support of democratic reforms in the Arab world and steps toward peace in the Middle East. Jeffrey Brown discusses the president’s address and U.S. policy with reporter Mona Eltahawy, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk and American University of Beirut’s Rami Khouri…. – PBS Newshour, 5-19-11
  • Sean Hannity: Reaction to Obama’s Israel Rhetoric Ranges From ‘Historic’ to ‘Shameful': Special Guests: Michael Ghouse, author of “They Must Be Stopped” & president for Act for America, Brigitte Gabriel
    SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Now in a speech today President Obama may have radically altered U.S. foreign policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but he completely failed to address all the other ongoing Mideast conflicts and what America should be doing about them.
    Take Libya for instance. Now, time has run out on the administration’s 60-day occupation limit as provided by the War Powers Resolution and now the White House must obtain Congressional approval for the war in Libya by tomorrow in order to continue deploying troops there. But there was noticeably no mention of this pressing situation or the impending deadline in today’s speech.
    Also missing was any reference to the disturbing fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is likely about to take over Egypt and with its strict interpretation of Sharia law put an end to things like freedom of speech, religious diversity, and gender equality.
    Joining me now with reaction is the President of the American Together Foundation — is Michael Ghouse and the author of “They Must Be Stopped,” the president for Act for America, Brigitte Gabriel…. – Fox News, 5-19-11
  • Dershowitz: Obama made ‘serious mistake’ (Video): BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Israeli advocate and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz says President Obama hurt the Middle East peace process by calling for 1967 borders as a starting point… – CNN, 5-20-11

Political Highlights March 14, 2011: President & Michelle Obama Launch Anti-Bullying Initiative — Reactions to Japan’s Earthquake — Budget Battles — Wisconsin Passes Anti-Union Bill

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama's News Conference
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/11/11

STATS & POLLS

  • StopBullying.gov
  • Obama weekly approval rating lowest of the year: Gallup reported that Obama’s latest weekly approval rating — Feb. 28-March 6 — clocked in at 46%, it’s lowest level since mid-December.
    “Obama’s weekly approval rating had steadily improved from mid-December to late January, peaking at 50% during the final two weeks in January, before dropping below that mark in February,” Gallup said. It also reported that “Obama is now essentially back to where he was in the immediate post-election phase of 2010,” when Republicans won control of the U.S. House and picked up six Senate seats… – USA Today, 3-8-11
  • Sarah Palin’s Popularity Slips to 60 Percent Disapproval Rate in Poll:
    Sarah Palin, perhaps the most closely watched of all potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, is viewed in an unfavorable light by 60 percent of those questioned in a new Bloomberg News poll. Palin’s numbers suggest she would face a challenge in attracting voters beyond her conservative base if she decides to run for president next year. Bloomberg’s survey of 1,001 adults was taken between March 4-7 by the Iowa firm, Selzer & Co. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
    Within the 60 percent who disapproved of Palin, 38 percent said they had “very unfavorable” feelings about her. She was viewed favorably by 28 percent, with only 4 percent not sure how they felt. A December Bloomberg poll had Palin’s unfavorable rating at 57 percent…. – Politics Daily, 3-11-11
  • Poll: Evangelicals Like Huckabee, Palin; Not Obama: Among evangelicals, Huckabee’s ratings (88 percent favorable, 11 percent unfavorable) led those of Palin (79 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable), Gingrich (57 percent/37 percent), Romney (56 percent/29 percent and Ron Paul (51 percent/26 percent). Obama, though, is viewed favorably by only 6 percent of evangelicals. Ninety-four percent view him unfavorably…. – Baptist Press, 3-7-11
  • Poll: New Jerseyans’ opinion of Gov. Christie has dropped 10 points: New Jerseyans’ opinion of Gov. Chris Christie has dropped 10 points since December, according to a Rutgers- Eagleton poll made public Monday. At the same time, a strong majority of residents, 57 percent, hold a favorable view of President Obama, while only 36 percent view him unfavorably. The president’s favorable rating remains largely unchanged since December…. – New Jersey Newsroom, 3-7-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • Arab League’s backing of no-fly zone over Libya increases pressure on West: The Arab League endorsed the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya on Saturday and recognized the fledgling rebel movement seeking to topple Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi… – WaPo, 3-12-11
  • Bahrain protesters clash with police: Sunday’s clashes between police and anti-government protesters are among the most violent since a Feb. 17 protest. At Bahrain University, Shiite Muslims clash with Sunnis amid rising sectarian tension…. – LAT, 3-14-11
  • In Libya, an underground jail a daunting reminder of Moammar Gaddafi’s grip: Fadlallah Haroun spent seven years in Libyan prisons without being charged. Here he is seen through a hole in the roof of an underground prison found in the rebel-held city of Benghazi…. – WaPo, 3-12-11
  • Clinton urges reform in post-revolt Egypt, Tunisia: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s trip to the turbulent Middle East highlights the Obama administration’s deep concern over developments in Libya and fear that the unrest roiling the Arab world may not produce the changes demanded by increasingly vocal and emboldened anti-government protesters.
    Failure to meet those demands for greater economic, political and social freedoms could spark more chaos and complicate the U.S. position in one of the world’s most critical regions… – AP, 3-13-11
  • Gadhafi drives rebels from one of last strongholds: Moammar Gadhafi’s forces swept rebels from one of their final strongholds with hours of searing waves of strikes from warships, tanks and warplanes on Sunday but the insurgents claimed that they moved back in after nightfall. One rebel said that after their initial defeat, opposition forces destroyed armored vehicles and captured dozens of fighters from Gadhafi’s elite Khamis Brigade in the oil town of Brega, driving others back into the town’s airport…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • White House hails Arab League no-fly zone request: The White House says the Arab League has taken an “important step” by asking the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and increasing international pressure on Moammar Gadhafi.
    A statement from the White House says there’s a clear international message that the violence in Libya must stop…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Bahrain protesters march on palace as Gates visits: Tens of thousands of Bahraini protesters encircled one of the royal family’s palaces Saturday, shouting calls for political freedom and the king’s ouster a day after a similar march triggered a violent response from security forces. There was no repeat of the violent scenes from a day earlier when police backed by pro-government mobs drove crowds back from a different palace by firing rubber bullets and tear gas in a melee that injured dozens, according to witness accounts. In contrast, Saturday’s demonstration — which coincided with a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates — was allowed to ring the palace with police deployed only inside its premisses… – AP, 3-12-11
  • Gates: Arab nations must enact democratic reforms: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday he believes leaders in Persian Gulf ally Bahrain are serious about addressing grievances that have spawned a growing protest movement, but swift action is needed to deny rival Iran the chance to exploit the current instability.
    “I told them that in this instance, time is not our friend” in light of Iran’s interest in capitalizing on the unrest, the Pentagon chief said in an interview after meetings in Manama, the capital. “We have no evidence that suggested that Iran started any of these popular revolutions or demonstrations across the region, but there is clear evidence that as the process is protracted — particularly in Bahrain — that the Iranians are looking for ways to exploit it and create problems,” Gates said…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Gadhafi pushes ahead as Arab League calls for help: The world moved a step closer to a decision on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya but Moammar Gadhafi was swiftly advancing Saturday on the poorly equipped and loosely organized rebels who have seized much of the country…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • AP Interview: Libyan rebels plead for no-fly zone: A rebel leader pleaded Saturday with the international community to approve a no-fly zone over Libya as Moammar Gadhafi’s forces gained strength in the east, securing a key port city and oil refinery.
    Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of the opposition’s interim governing council, also expressed disappointment over the failure to act by the United States and other Western countries, which have expressed solidarity with the rebels in their fight to oust Gadhafi but stopped short of approving any military action.
    “If there is no no-fly zone imposed on Gadhafi’s regime, and if his ships are not checked then we will have a catastrophe in Libya,” Abdul-Jalil told The Associated Press in an interview in a professors’ lounge at the Omar Mukhtar University in Bayda, where he is also head of the city council…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • US extends sanctions on Gadhafi clan, advisers: The Obama administration extended its Libya sanctions to more Gadhafi family members and close advisers on Thursday, blacklisting business with the Libyan leader’s wife, four of his children and his chief of military intelligence.
    The Treasury Department froze the assets of nine Libyans in all as part of the strategy to peel off Moammar Gadhafi’s closest advisers while punishing those who remain loyal to the regime even as it commits human rights violations…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • US officials are at odds over Libya outcome: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper expects Moammar Kadafi to ultimately defeat rebels, but the White House has a different view… – LAT, 3-10-11
  • Source: Gadhafi willing to discuss his exitMSNBC, 3-10-11
  • NATO to Discuss Libya Options: NATO members begin two days of talks on Libya Thursday to discuss the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone to stop air attacks by forces supporting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi…. – Voice of America, 3-10-11
  • US, Europe increase diplomatic pressure on Libya: The Obama administration cut ties Thursday with Libya’s embassy in the United States and announced high-level meetings with opposition leaders, as France became the first nation to recognize the governing council fighting against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.
    As Western powers examined their military options, the U.S. warned that a go-it-alone approach in Libya could have unforeseeable and devastating consequences.
    “We’re looking to see whether there is any willingness in the international community to provide any authorization for further steps,” she said. “Absent international authorization, the United States acting alone would be stepping into a situation whose consequences are unforeseeable.,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said amid NATO discussions about a possible no-fly zone over Libya… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Qaddafi bombs oil facility in blow to Libya’s oil infrastructure: A rebel position at Libya’s Ras Lanuf came under withering fire today as Muammar Qaddafi’s forces set an oil tank ablaze at a key export terminal…. – CS Monitor, 3-9-11
  • WH: No imminent decision on further steps on Libya: The White House says a top level meeting by President Barack Obama’s top security advisers to discuss Libya will not result in an immediate decision on whether the U.S. should further intervene in the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Egypt’s security forces are weakened after decades as Mubarak’s enforcer: Motivated by recent shows of political strength by neighbors in Egypt, demonstrators in the Middle East and North Africa are taking to the streets of many cities to rally for change… – WaPo, 3-9-11
  • Cameron and Obama in Libya talks: The international community cannot “stand aside” and allow brutal repression to continue in Libya, David Cameron has said after discussing plans for the “full spectrum of possible responses” including a no-fly zone with US President… – The Press Association, 3-9-11
  • Yemeni security forces open fire on protesters: As Yemen’s growing protest movement sought to expand its presence in the capital, at least 10 were injured by gunfire from security forces, eyewitnesses said…. – CS Monitor, 3-8-11
  • Gadhafi: Libyans will fight against no-fly zone: Moammar Gadhafi says Libyans will fight if a no-fly zone is imposed by Western nations, saying that would show their real intention is to seize the country’s oil.
    Gadhafi made his remarks during an interview aired Wednesday by Turkey’s state-run TRT Turk television. The interview was conducted on Tuesday night… – AP, 3-8-11
  • Obama and his team mull responses on Libya: Preparing for the prospect of deeper international intervention, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron conferred Tuesday on the spectrum of military and humanitarian responses to Libya’s worsening civil strife. The British leader bluntly said after the talk that the world cannot stand aside and let Moammar Gadhafi brutalize his people.
    In weighing the options, the Obama administration underscored that any authorization of a no-fly zone over Libya must come from the United Nations Security Council.
    “We think it’s important that the United Nations make this decision — not the United States,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Britain’s Sky News. The comment reflected Obama’s thinking that any action intended to halt Libya’s violence must carry the legitimacy and strength of an international coalition…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • A million Libyans need aid as UK, France seek no-fly zoneReuters, 3-7-11
  • US, allies edge toward military options for Libya: The U.S. and its NATO allies edged closer Monday to formulating a military response to the escalating violence in Libya as the alliance boosted surveillance flights over the country and the Obama administration signaled it might be willing to help arm Moammar Gadhafi’s opponents. Europe, meanwhile, kick-started international efforts to impose a no-fly zone.
    The violence “perpetrated by the government in Libya is unacceptable,” President Barack Obama declared as he authorized $15 million in new humanitarian aid to assist and evacuate people fleeing the fighting. “I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Col. Gadhafi,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office alongside Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is in Washington for meetings. “It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward. And they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place.”… – AP, 3-7-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • Dalai Lama resigns: ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Dalai Lama has announced that he will step down from his role as the political leader of the Tibetan exile government. ABC Online, 3-11-11

THE HEADLINES….

President and First Lady Obama at Bullying Prevention Conference

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with a group of students and parents from the Conference on Bullying Prevention in the Oval Office, March 10, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • White House urges Cuba to release US contractor: An outraged White House said Saturday it wants the Cuban government to immediately release an American international development worker sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the state.
    National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the prison term “adds another injustice” to Alan Gross’s ordeal…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Born in the USA: Barack Obama joke enjoyed by journalists at annual dinner: Barack Obama was in lighthearted mood at the annual Gridiron Club dinner for the president and Washington’s political journalists…. – The Guardian, 3-13-11
  • Obama cracks jokes at Gridiron: Obama delivered remarks at the dinner Saturday. They were his first at the event as president…. – Politico, 3-12-11
  • Obama, journalists ham it up at dressy dinner: Searching for laughs — and finding them — president Barack Obama spared few targets Saturday night, from Democratic allies to Republican antagonists to the journalists who cover him. At his first presidential appearance before the Gridiron Club, Obama picked up on the spirit of the evening, leveling jokes in every direction including his own.
    He jabbed at potential Republican presidential rivals. He saluted Mississippi’s portly Gov. Haley Barbour, saying he appreciated his support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. “Haley, when Michelle said you should run, she didn’t mean for president.”
    He didn’t spare himself, either. He noted that last time he was at the Gridiron, in 2006, he was a first-term senator from Illinois. “Back then I was a newcomer who couldn’t get anything done in the Senate. Now I’m a president who can’t get anything done in the Senate.”
    Obama also poked fun at a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. “Tim Pawlenty’s not here, but he’s hit the campaign trail hard,” Obama said. “And to be honest, I think the American people are going to have some tough questions for Tim. Specifically, ‘Who are you and where do you come from?’ Which is OK. Two years into my presidency and I’m still getting those questions.”
    Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the main Republican speaker, needled the president by recalling one of Obama’s private musings to fundraisers during the 2008 campaign that conservatives found refuge in religion and guns. Daniels, his right arm in a sling due to rotator cuff surgery, quipped: “Mr. President, until I get this thing off, I can cling to my gun or my Bible, but not both.” Later he turned to Obama and mockingly took a shot at the president’s penchant for assistance during his speeches. “Mr. President you’re not laughing, who forgot to put ha-ha-ha on the teleprompter?”… – AP, 3-12-11
  • Former President George HW Bush Honors Reagan With Public Service Award: Former President George HW Bush posthumously honored his friend and mentor, President Ronald Reagan, with the 2011 George Bush Award For Excellence In Public Service…. – Fox News, 3-11-11
  • Sebelius: GOP health care move would cut benefits: The Obama administration says a Montana Republican’s long-shot legislation to deny funding for the new federal health care law would prevent Medicare from paying the bills for millions of seniors — displaying the GOP’s difficulty trying to unwind a law that recrafted much of the nation’s health care rules.
    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says if Congress passes the defunding bill, Medicare would not be able to issue payments to popular private insurance plans that cover about one-fourth of all the seniors in the program. The health care law scaled back payments to Medicare Advantage plans, as the private insurance option is known…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Obama keeps focus on fight for women’s equality: Father of two girls, President Barack Obama says he wants to improve the status of women in the United States. Women are more likely than men to graduate from college today, yet earn less on average, face a greater chance of living in poverty and are outnumbered in critical subjects such as math and science, he said in his weekly radio and online address Saturday.
    “Achieving equality and opportunity for women isn’t just important to me as president. It’s something I care about deeply as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve,” he said…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Obama tells GOP: Nice try on health care records: President Barack Obama once promised that negotiations over his health care overhaul would be carried out openly, in front of TV cameras and microphones. Tell that to the White House now. Republican congressional investigators got the brush-off this past week after pressing for details of meetings between White House officials and interest groups, including drug companies and hospitals that provided critical backing for Obama’s health insurance expansion… – AP, 3-12-11
  • Appeals court speeds up health overhaul appeal: A federal appeals court has agreed to act swiftly in considering a Florida judge’s ruling that President Obama’s health care overhaul is unconstitutional.
    The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said Friday that it had agreed to expedite the appeal, setting a faster timetable than even the federal government had requested.
    The decision means the federal government must file its first set of court papers on the issues in the case by April 4, and the state of Florida has until May 4 to file its papers. The federal government would file additional papers by May 18.
    The appeals court said it had not made a decision on a request that the initial review be held before all 10 federal judges…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • GOP budget targets agency that warned of tsunami: A spending plan being pushed by Republicans would slash funding for the agency that warned Hawaii and the West Coast about the devastating tsunami in Japan.
    The plan, approved by the GOP-controlled House last month, would trigger an estimated $126 million in cuts for the National Weather Service, the agency that houses the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii. The center issued widespread warnings minutes after Friday’s earthquake and issued guidance and updates throughout the day…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama: Treatment of WikiLeaks suspect appropriate: President Barack Obama said Friday that the Pentagon has assured him that the Army private believed responsible for the largest leak of classified American documents ever is being held under appropriate conditions. He commented after the State Department’s top spokesman made waves by describing the military’s treatment of the suspect as “ridiculous” and “stupid.” Pfc. Bradley Manning is being held in solitary confinement for all but an hour every day at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., and is stripped naked each night, given a suicide-proof smock to wear to bed…
    Obama said he asked the Pentagon whether the suspected WikiLeaks leaker’s confinement conditions were appropriate and whether they met basic standards. “They assure me that they are,” he told a White House news conference…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama, McConnell, agree _ and disagree _ on budget: President Barack Obama and the Senate’s top Republican both declared on Friday they want to take on the huge entitlement programs driving America’s long-term deficits — but their lines of attack differed sharply and that could lead to a showdown over government borrowing.
    Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell warned that GOP senators would not vote to increase the federal debt limit unless Obama agreed to significant long-term budget savings that could include cost curbs for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, laying down a high-stakes marker just weeks before the limit is reached.
    Obama said he also wants to tackle military spending and tax loopholes — issues on which he can expect Republican opposition…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama: Japan earthquake potentially ‘catastrophic': President Barack Obama said he was “heartbroken” by images of devastation in Japan following Friday’s deadly earthquake and tsunami, and pledged U.S. assistance to help the country recover.
    “Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region, and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy,” Obama said during a White House news conference…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Gates to allies: Don’t rush to Afghan war exits: In a blunt warning to U.S. allies eager to pull out of Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that while the U.S. intends to begin withdrawing troops in July, a rush to the exits by European forces would risk squandering battlefield gains achieved at great American expense.
    In a closed-door meeting of NATO defense ministers, Gates urged the allies to resist domestic political pressure to depart prematurely, while asserting that the U.S. troop reductions promised by President Barack Obama will be made this summer “based on conditions on the ground,” not politics…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama: Address long-term debt after spending deal: President Barack Obama says he and Congress should address the nation’s long-term fiscal condition after lawmakers complete a deal on spending for the current fiscal year…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Last WWI vet to be buried in Arlington service: The body of the West Virginia soldier who outlived every other American who served in World War I will be buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery, a family spokesman said Thursday.
    Biographer and filmmaker David DeJonge said the service for Frank Buckles is set for 4 p.m., but it’s unclear who can attend.
    “The family is trying to get answers,” he said in an e-mail. “The family desires every American and foreign organization an ability to pay respects and recognize the passing of the generation.”… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Obama to hold White House news conference Friday: The White House says President Barack Obama will address rising oil and gasoline prices at a news conference on Friday… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Obamas Focus on Antibullying Efforts: President Obama poked fun at his own big ears and funny name on Thursday, but all in the service of a serious subject as he and Michelle Obama opened a White House conference to spur antibullying efforts in schools and communities nationwide…. – NYT, 3-10-11
  • Obama to bullying victims: I know what it’s like: President Barack Obama smiled when he said his large ears and funny name once made him a target of school-yard harassment. But he was all seriousness Thursday when he told a White House conference on bullying that torment and intimidation must not be tolerated.
    “If there’s one goal of this conference,” Obama said, “it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.” He spoke to more than 100 parents, students, teachers and others gathered to discuss the problem and share ideas for solutions. “Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And it’s not something we have to accept,” he said…. – AP, 3-10-11
  • Obama Administration Seeks Fast Appeal of Health-Care Ruling: The US Justice Department is seeking an expedited appeal of a federal judge’s ruling striking down President Barack Obama’s health-care reform legislation… – Bloomberg, 3-9-11
  • Obama nominates Locke to be ambassador to China: Hoping to make China more friendly to American business, President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated as his top envoy to Beijing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the first Chinese-American to serve in that diplomatically and commercially important assignment.
    Locke is well-versed in the Chinese trade policies that have frustrated American businesses trying to sell their products in the huge and growing Asian power. He’s led delegations of U.S. companies on dozens of trade missions abroad, including to China, where U.S. exports were up 34 percent last year. “When he’s in Beijing, I know that American companies will be able to count on him to represent their interests in front of China’s top leaders,” Obama said as he announced Locke’s nomination…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Australian PM pledges cooperation with US: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday endorsed the U.S. strategy in the ongoing war in Afghanistan and promised her country’s cooperation on the increasingly critical Asia-Pacific region, trade and job promotion.
    “You have a true friend down under,” Gillard told a joint meeting of the House and Senate. The Washington visit, which also included an Oval Office meeting with President Barack Obama, was Gillard’s first since winning election last summer as Australia’s first female prime minister… – AP, 3-9-11
  • Obamas take anti-bullying message to Facebook: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have posted a video on Facebook to promote a bullying prevention conference they’ll host at the White House…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Obama to meet with Clinton, host basketball party: President Barack Obama is meeting Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before hosting a White House party to watch basketball.
    In between, Obama will meet with the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Richard Eubank…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • AP Interview: Petraeus says tough summer ahead: Fighting in Afghanistan may be considerably worse this summer than last, but some reduction in American forces is still possible in July, the top U.S. and NATO commander in the country said Wednesday.
    Gen. David Petraeus told The Associated Press that he will present President Barack Obama with multiple plans, including different levels of troop reductions that accommodate Obama’s July target for starting a force drawdown…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Biden in Moscow for 2 days of talks: Two years after he introduced the phrase “push the reset button” for America’s relations with Russia, Vice President Joe Biden is in Moscow to see what sort of fine-tuning is needed.
    Biden plans two days of meetings Wednesday and Thursday, including with President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and representatives of Russia’s beleaguered opposition groups. He is to cap the trip with an address at Moscow State University that is expected to lay out the White House’s vision for U.S.-Russian relations in the last half of President Barack Obama’s term.
    “This trip for the vice president is an opportunity to take stock of the reset and what we’ve achieved and where we hope to go next,” said Biden’s national security adviser Tony Blinken. AP, 3-9-11
  • Expounding on a Theme, Obama Visits Boston School: President Obama visited a high-tech public school in Boston on Tuesday to pound away at his themes of innovation and education, sticking to a schedule that has taken him out of Washington nearly every week, despite budget battles and upheaval in the Arab world.
    Declaring that “there is no better economic policy than one that produces more graduates with the skills necessary to succeed,” Mr. Obama said that revitalizing education was one of his administration’s top priorities and a “responsibility of every American — every parent, every teacher, every business leader, every public official, and yes, every student.”
    The president has been elaborating on a theme of American competitiveness since he first articulated it in his State of the Union address in January. The school Mr. Obama visited here, known as the TechBoston Academy, was ideally suited to illustrate his points, its gritty classrooms stuffed with laptops and students mixing fluids to analyze their density and purity…. – NYT, 3-8-11
  • First lady celebrates women in US and around world: Michelle Obama says that while women are breaking barriers and excelling in careers their mothers and grandmothers believed were off-limits, more progress is needed to achieve true equality.
    American women still earn less than men and lag in math and science fields, she said Tuesday, while many foreign countries exclude female voices from government decision-making.
    Still, the first lady said: “We’ve come a long way, ladies.”… – AP, 3-8-11
  • White House veto threat on home refinance bill: The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto a Republican bill that would abolish an Obama administration program aimed at helping people refinance homes that are worth less than they paid for them.
    The veto threat could be the first of several as House Republicans begin working on bills terminating four administration-backed programs aimed at preventing foreclosures.
    The House Financial Services Committee voted last week to terminate The Federal Housing Administration Refinance Program on a 33-22 party line vote, with majority Republicans saying the program has not worked. AP, 3-8-11
  • Obama to GOP: Don’t cut education spending: Placing a limit on his own willingness to slice spending, President Barack Obama issued a not-too-veiled warning at Republican budget cutters Tuesday and characterized any reductions in money for education as irresponsible and harmful to the long-term health of the nation’s economy.
    In his most vigorous defense yet of his education spending proposals, Obama conceded that after years of deficits, the government needed to embrace fiscal discipline. And in a restrained speech to Democratic donors, he cautioned the partisan crowd not to equate compromise with failure…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Gates sees war gains _ but can Afghans hold them?: Gates visited some of the most hotly contested parts of the country, where the effects of President Barack Obama’s 30,000-troop surge have been most keenly felt, as the Obama administration considers where to begin withdrawing and thinning out U.S. forces. The defense secretary’s very presence in some far-flung combat bases was meant to show the progress the U.S.-led international military force claims.
    “The closer you are to the fight, the better it looks,” he told reporters Tuesday at a U.S. combat outpost to the west of here, in Kandahar province… – AP, 3-8-11
  • Obama Reopens Debate on Military Trials of Guantanamo Detainees: President Barack Obama’s decision to order the resumption of military trials for detainees at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has reopened the debate about how to handle suspected terrorists … – Bllomberg, 3-8-11
  • White House Says Tribunals Can Resume at Guantánamo: President Obama reversed his order halting new military charges against detainees, implicitly admitting failure for now of his pledge to close the camp…. – NYT, 3-7-11
  • John Ensign Will Retire From Senate: Senator John Ensign, the two-term Nevada Republican caught up in a sex scandal, is to announce that he will not seek re-election, according to Republicans familiar with the decision. NYT, 3-7-11
  • Gates: US should stay involved in Afghanistan: US, Afghan leaders say US military should stay involved in Afghanistan beyond 2014… Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the U.S. will likely begin pulling troops from Afghanistan this summer, but that the reduction would be small…. – WaPo, 3-7-11
  • Congressional leaders push Obama for more aggressive response to Libya violence: Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, for the first time raised the possibility of bombing military airfields in Libya to deny the use of runways to Moammar Gaddafi’s air force… – WaPo, 3-7-11
  • Obama takes Australian prime minister to school: Obama and Gillard began with a more traditional approach on Monday. They held a private meeting and then a relatively news-free appearance before reporters in the Oval Office, proclaiming cooperation on the war in Afghanistan, trade and security. But then the president took the prime minister back to school.
    The two took a quick road trip to Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., to mix it up with an 11th grade history class. Obama had used the school as the site of a national address on education, and Gillard is Australia’s former education minister and was interested in taking a look at U.S. education methods…. – AP, 3-7-11
  • Joe Biden in Finland, en route to Moscow, Moldova: Finland, Russia and Moldova — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived Monday in Helsinki on the first leg of an unusual European tour aimed at building warmer ties between Washington and Moscow… – AP, 3-7-11
  • Obama officials push for S. Korea trade pact: The Obama administration said Monday it’s ready to send a highly coveted South Korea trade agreement to Congress for final approval but warned that delaying the deal would cause U.S. companies to miss out on jobs and export opportunities…. – AP, 3-7-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Peter King hearings: Are American Muslims the problem or the solution?: A hearing chaired by Rep. Peter King to investigate radicalization within the American Muslim community touches on an important topic, terrorism experts say. But they question the tone… – CS Monitor, 3-10-11
  • McConnell: No debt increase without benefit cuts: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell warned on Friday that GOP senators will not vote to increase the government’s borrowing limit unless President Barack Obama agrees to rein in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, laying down a high-stakes marker just weeks before the debt ceiling is reached.
    In an interview with The Associated Press, McConnell complained that Obama has refused his offers — both public and private — to work on a bipartisan plan to tackle the nation’s massive benefit programs, which threaten to overwhelm the budget in coming years.
    “There will be no entitlement reform without President Obama,” McConnell said. “It cannot be done without him, will not be done without him.” AP, 3-10-11
  • Senators push tough law on Guantanamo detainees: Senate Republicans said Thursday a tougher, more comprehensive military detention policy for terror suspects is necessary to fill the void created by two years of what they call the Obama administration’s inconsistent approach.
    Just days after President Barack Obama’s decision to resume military trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, five GOP lawmakers and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., proposed legislation that would keep open the military prison by barring money for any alternative, impose restrictions on transferring detainees to foreign countries and push for military commissions, not civilian courts, to decide the fate of detainees… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Spending fight: Back to the bargaining table: Their opening budget gambits history, lawmakers are returning to the bargaining table in search of a fiscal plan that cuts spending, as voters demanded in the last election, and could carry political value in the next one.
    The balance is particularly delicate for senators up for re-election next year. Some, mostly Democrats, bucked their parties in a pair of votes Wednesday that sank a slashing budget proposal passed by the House and killed a less onerous Senate alternative.
    The two versions were nearly $50 billion apart on how much spending should be cut over the next seven months. Neither stood a chance of passing. Senate Democrats brought them up to cancel each other out and move forward with negotiations on a compromise. The votes could be faint memories by Election Day 2012, suggested senators who will face voters then…. – AP, 3-10-11
  • A fresh focus on Social Security in budget debate: In the midst of the budget crisis, an old debate has broken out with new force: Should Social Security be seen as part of the deficit that Washington needs to rein in?
    The White House is balking at calls to tackle Social Security’s financial problems now, before baby boomers swamp the system. But the massive retirement program, like the rest of the government, is running a deficit and has become part of the argument on Capitol Hill…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • GOP challenges proposed gov’t deal on foreclosures: Leading House Republicans challenged a deal Wednesday that federal and state officials have offered to five big U.S. banks that would change the handling of foreclosures and force lenders to modify more mortgages.
    In a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the five GOP lawmakers said the draft offer would reshape the rules long governing the mortgage industry. They posed more than dozen questions to Geithner about the proposal, including what the legal justification is for the federal and state governments to try imposing such sweeping changes.
    The lawmakers wrote that the proposal raised “significant concerns about its effect on the financial system, as well as concerns that the administration and state agencies are attempting to legislate through litigation.”… – AP, 3-9-11
  • House Republicans say federal workers are overpaid: While conservative GOP governors are demanding concessions from state workers, House Republicans are making federal employees the next target.
    Republicans at a House hearing on Wednesday complained that the 2.1 million-strong federal work force is overpaid compared with workers holding similar jobs in the private sector…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Senate rejects rival GOP, Democratic budgets: The Democratic-led Senate on Wednesday emphatically rejected a budget-slashing House spending bill as too draconian. It then immediately killed a rival Democratic plan that was derided by moderate Democrats as too timid in its drive to cut day-to-day agency budgets.
    The votes to scuttle the competing measures were designed, ironically, to prompt progress. The idea was to show tea party-backed GOP conservatives in the House that they need to pare back their budget-cutting ambitions while at the same time demonstrating to Democratic liberals that they need to budge, too…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • In Senate’s debt debate, talk isn’t cheap: In the United States Senate, failure is not an option. It is a requirement. Lawmakers, unable to agree on action to deal with the looming debt crisis, set up camp on a new plateau of pointlessness Wednesday: They scheduled votes on two rival plans to cut spending – but only after guaranteeing in advance that both plans would be defeated.
    Senate Republicans needed to prove to their colleagues in the House, and conservative activists everywhere, that they don’t have the votes to pass major cuts to the current year’s budget. Senate Democrats needed to prove to the White House, and to their liberal base, that they don’t have the votes to maintain the status quo.
    And so, after days of haggling, both sides agreed that they would effectively doom both proposals – severe Republican cuts and cosmetic Democratic cuts – by subjecting them to 60-vote supermajorities. As it happens, such precautions were unnecessary, because, after a three-hour debate, both proposals fell well short of even a simple 50-vote majority…. – WaPo, 3-9-11
  • Domestic Terrorism Hearing Set to Begin: A much-anticipated Congressional hearing on homegrown Islamic terrorism — lambasted by critics as a throwback to McCarthyism — gets under way Thursday on Capitol Hill, featuring testimony from a Muslim member of Congress, the Los Angeles County sheriff and the relatives of two young men who embraced extremist violence.
    The hearing, convened by Representative Peter T. King, the Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and represents parts of Long Island, is the first in a series that Mr. King says will explore the threat of Islamic fundamentalism inside the United States. The session, titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response” will also examine what the congressman asserts is the failure of some Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement…. – NYT, 3-9-11
  • Senate passes bill to overhaul patent system: The nation’s outmoded patent system, which has forced innovators and inventors to wait years and outlast challenges and lawsuits before getting recognition for their products, would be overhauled under a measure passed Tuesday by the Senate.
    The legislation, which was approved 95-5, transforms a patent system now operating under a law passed in 1952, at a time when the high-tech revolution was still in the future and international competition was still negligible. It now moves to the House.
    President Barack Obama said he looked forward to signing into law “the most significant patent reform in over half a century” to help grow the economy and create jobs…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Republicans push for tougher Guantanamo limits: House Republicans on Tuesday demanded tougher restrictions for terror suspects at Guantanamo even after President Barack Obama reversed course and ordered the resumption of military trials for detainees. Annoyed that Obama acted by executive authority — and without congressional input, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and six other GOP lawmakers said Tuesday they would introduce legislation to limit legal representation for detainees and permanently block money to build or renovate a facility in the United States to house suspects now held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
    The bill also would give the defense secretary rather than the attorney general the final say on keeping a detainee in military custody and restrict the transfer of a detainee to other countries unless the defense secretary certifies a host country meets certain standards…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Hornet’s nest ahead? Congress examines Islam in US: Now comes New York Rep. Peter King, forcing the issue with congressional hearings about radical Islam in the U.S. The first is Thursday, and the protests have already started. Among his fiercest critics, comparisons to McCarthyism, the era of hunting communist sympathizers, are being heard.
    “We see no productive outcome in singling out a particular community for examination in what appears to be little more than a political show trial,” a coalition of 50 liberal groups said in a letter to King on Tuesday…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Freshman Democrat upbraids Obama on spending: A freshman Democratic senator accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of failing to provide leadership on a worsening national deficit as top Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill spent more time pointing fingers than seeking common ground on a must-do measure to fund the government for the next six months… – AP, 3-8-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • ‘Wisconsin 14′ group of Democratic senators returns, greeted by thousands at CapitalWaPo, 3-12-11
  • PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama Shies Away From ProtestsABC News
  • Democratic senators return to Wisconsin Capitol, get boisterous welcomeMilwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-13-11
  • Union Bill Is Law, but Debate Is Far From Over: Protesters packed the hallways of the Capitol in Madison, with many chanting “shame, shame” as the bill was signed. Democrats and union leaders, emboldened by the huge outpouring of protesters who have rallied for weeks at the Capitol to oppose what they called a politically motivated effort to weaken unions, pledged to redouble their political, legal and legislative efforts to block measures that the governor had described as necessary to balance the budget…. – NYT, 3-11-11
  • Walker not interested in vice-presidential run: Gov. Scott Walker, considered by many in the national Republican Party to be a politician on the rise, dismissed any talk of a vice-presidential nomination in 2012. “Honestly, that’s not an issue that crosses my mind. I made a firm commitment to help the people of Wisconsin and the private sector create 250,000 jobs by 2015. I’m firmly committed to seeing that through,” Walker told Journal Sentinel reporters on Friday, just hours after he signed a bill that ends most collective bargaining for public employee unions… – Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 3-11-11
  • 2011-’13 Budget in Brief (pdf, 77 pages)
  • Budget Repair Bill summary (pdf)
  • Current state budget
  • Republican lawmakers receive e-mail threats: Republican senators and representatives likely are looking over their shoulders a bit more after receiving e-mail death threats related to the measure that eliminates most collective bargaining … – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-11-11
  • Unions: Losing friends all around: As Barack Obama stood on that frigid inaugural stage in 2009, labor leaders could envisage the glorious future awaiting them…. – Fortune, 3-10-11
  • Wis. GOP bypasses Dems, cuts collective bargaining: The Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday night to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers, approving an explosive proposal that had rocked the state and unions nationwide after Republicans discovered a way to bypass the chamber’s missing Democrats.
    All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair bill” — a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Hard Stance Seems Softer In E-Mail Of Governor: For weeks, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has publicly held firm to his plan to sharply curtail collective bargaining rights for most public workers, despite the protests of union supporters. But e-mail messages released Tuesday between representatives of Mr. Walker and some Senate Democrats who oppose the measure suggest that Mr. Walker has privately considered tempering at least some limited elements of those bargaining changes.
    Mr. Walker’s initial proposal, which set off a firestorm of debate in Wisconsin and beyond, would allow collective bargaining on matters of wages only, limit raises to the Consumer Price Index, keep contracts to one year and require unions to vote annually to determine whether most workers still wish to be members.
    The e-mails show that as recently as Sunday evening Mr. Walker’s representatives appeared willing to agree to some changes…. – NYT, 3-9-11
  • Walker blames unions for standoff Governor thinks national labor leaders barring deal: Gov. Scott Walker blamed national labor organizers Monday evening for scuttling attempts at compromise with 14 Democratic senators who fled to Illinois to avoid a vote on a budget-repair bill that would take away most collective bargaining rights of public workers. Citing a Wall Street Journal report, Walker said Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) indicated Sunday that the Democrats would return to Wisconsin. But he said that changed Monday.
    The governor said he doesn’t know what happened, but he suspects it was union leaders who are influencing the 14 Democrats. “I don’t have this on firsthand knowledge. My guess is he got a phone call from one of the union bosses in D.C. who said, ‘You cannot go back there and let them have a vote,’ ” Walker said… – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-7-11
  • Why ‘Wisconsin 14′ are ready to return: They think they’re winning: Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic absentee state senators indicate they’re ready to return – because they think they’ve already won the war, if not this battle…. – CS Monitor, 3-7-11
  • Lawmaker: Wisconsin Democrats returning soon: The Democratic senators who fled are convinced that Republicans will be severely hurt if Walker’s plan is passed…. The State Senate Democrats who left Wisconsin to block a vote on a bill that would severely curb collective bargaining for most public employees are planning to return soon, one of the lawmakers said…. – WaPo, 3-7-11
  • Wisconsin’s Walker dismisses Democratic overture: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dismissed as “ridiculous” a request on Monday from the leader of absent Senate Democrats to meet and negotiate a compromise in their standoff over Republican plans to limit public sector union powers…. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker blasted the leader of the state’s Senate Democrats as an obstacle in getting some of the Democrats to return and vote on his budget proposal…. – Reuters, 3-7-11
  • Walker blames unions for standoff: Gov. Scott Walker blamed national labor organizers Monday evening for scuttling attempts at compromise with 14 Democratic senators who fled to Illinois to avoid a vote on a budget-repair bill… – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-7-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Tea party favourite US Rep. Bachmann flubs Revolutionary War geography: A potential Republican presidential candidate who is a favourite of the conservative tea party movement which extolls America’s Founding Fathers got her geography mixed up when it came to where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were … The Canadian Press, 3-13-11
  • Dems hope to taint Romney with health law praise: President Barack Obama and other top Democrats have been quick to lavish praise on former Massachusetts Republican Gov…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • Barbour contrasts himself with Obama on economy: Previewing a presidential campaign pitch, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is blaming President Barack Obama for the sluggish recovery and accusing him of enacting a series of policies that “created economic uncertainty or directly hurt the economy.”
    The two-term Republican governor also is holding up his record as proof that he could do better on two pillars: economic growth and job creation.
    “We still have more to do in Mississippi. But we have made great progress and are laying a foundation for the future,” Barbour says in remarks prepared for delivery later Monday to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • Campaigning as All Things to All Republicans: CONCORD, NH – Many aspiring Republican presidential candidates are going to great lengths to avoid the spotlight, but not Tim Pawlenty…. – NYT, 3-13-11
  • Pawlenty takes on “problem-solver” mantle in NH: In Arizona recently, Tim Pawlenty courted a convention of Tea Party supporters with a passionate defense of constitutional freedoms…. – Boston Globe, 3-11-11
  • Mitt supporter loves Romneycare: Health care may be Mitt Romney’s biggest political liability, but the controversial program he enacted as Massachusetts governor actually helped earn him a key endorsement Thursday … – Politico, 3-11-11
  • Julianne Moore to star in Sarah Palin movie: Actress Julianne Moore is to star as Sarah Palin in the movie Game Change about the former Alaska governor’s rise to prominence in the 2008 presidential election campaign, it was announced Wednesday. Monsters and Critics.com, 3-11-11
  • Plastic Mitt: Nyhan argues that Romney is being caricatured as inauthentic. Waldman half-agrees; he thinks that Romney’s pandering is self-evident but “that doesn’t mean that everything [Romney] does should be presented as evidence of his phoniness…. – The Atlantic, 3-10-11
  • Florida Senate sets ‘Obamacare’ showdown for 2012: The Florida Senate approved a showdown Wednesday over “Obamacare” on next year’s presidential ballot with a constitutional amendment that would block mandates to buy health insurance. Florida Today, 3-10-11
  • Republicans push for restrictions on voting rights: New Hampshire Republicans are pushing for new laws that would stop many college students from voting in the state… – AP, 3-9-11
  • Out of spotlight, GOP hopefuls prepping for 2012: Newt Gingrich is the Republican taking some of the most public first steps for a presidential bid, but he’s hardly the only one in motion. Far from the media spotlight, White House hopefuls are furiously hiring staff, testing messages for the powerful conservative base of the GOP and mapping out a rough political calendar, all part of a hard-charging effort that precedes the official kickoff…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Mitt Romney, the most transparent candidate: We’re all for transparency these days, and if anything is transparently clear about American politics, it is that Mitt Romney will do or say anything to become president. The best guess is that at heart he is an old-fashioned, business-oriented Republican. But there’s no knowing for sure. He may have no sincere beliefs at all. There was a piece about Romney on Page 1 of The New York Times on Sunday, and what amazes me is the deadpan frankness with which the article and the Romney aides and allies quoted in it accept the premise that, of course, he is a phony, that this reputation as a phony could be a bit of a problem if he runs in 2012. And then they go on to discuss what Romney might do to solve this problem. He was criticized last time for being a stiff, so this time he is not wearing a tie. Ever. Problem solved, as Romney sees it.
    “I like President Obama,” Romney says patronizingly, “but he doesn’t have a clue how jobs are created.” The last time he ran, Romney played down his experience as a businessman and played up his recently acquired views as a social conservative, because that’s what commentators and consultants were telling him to do back then… – Politico, 3-8-11
  • GOP contenders make early pitch to Iowa evangelicals: While the national political debate continues to swirl around the state of the economic recovery, five Republicans with their eyes on the White House spent the evening in a Des Moines suburb pitching themselves to Iowa evangelicals… CNN, 3-8-11
  • Romney, Weighing Run for President, Focuses on Jobs: Focusing on jobs offers Romney a chance to sidestep the concerns of social conservatives and avoid the Mass. health care… Mitt Romney made the case in a speech that the halting economic recovery provides the most compelling rationale that he should take on President Obama…. – NYT, 3-7-11
  • Palin Says “No” to Cutting Israel Aid: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin came out strongly in favor of continued U.S. foreign aid to Israel. Think of what this state Israel has gone through, and what they have suffered through and what they have triumphed over…. – virtualjerusalem.com, 3-7-11
  • Mitt Romney tries to explain ‘RomneyCare.’ Will it work?: Speaking to Republican activists in New Hampshire, likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed a major challenge: The health care program he took credit for as governor of Massachusetts. Critics say it’s a lot like “ObamaCare.”… – CS Monitor, 3-7-11

QUOTES

President Obama Takes Questions at a Press Conference

President Barack Obama answers questions from the media during a news conference in the South Court Auditorium of the White House, March 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

  • Weekly Address: Women’s History Month & Fair Pay: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address Saturday, March 12, 2011 Washington, DC: March is Women’s History Month, a time not only to celebrate the progress that women have made, but also the women throughout our history who have made that progress possible.
    One inspiring American who comes to mind is Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1961, the former First Lady was unhappy about the lack of women in government, so she marched up to President Kennedy and handed him a three-page list of women who were qualified for top posts in his administration. This led the President to select Mrs. Roosevelt as the head of a new commission to look at the status of women in America, and the unfairness they routinely faced in their lives.
    Though she passed away before the commission could finish its work, the report they released spurred action across the country. It helped galvanize a movement led by women that would help make our society a more equal place.
    It’s been almost fifty years since the Roosevelt commission published its findings – and there have been few similar efforts by the government in the decades that followed. That’s why, last week, here at the White House, we released a new comprehensive report on the status of women in the spirit on the one that was released half a century ago.
    There was a lot of positive news about the strides we’ve made, even in recent years. For example, women have caught up with men in seeking higher education. In fact, women today are more likely than men to attend and graduate from college.
    Yet, there are also reminders of how much work remains to be done. Women are still more likely to live in poverty in this country. In education, there are areas like math and engineering where women are vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts. This is especially troubling, for we know that to compete with nations around the world, these are the fields in which we need to harness the talents of all our people. That’s how we’ll win the future.
    And, today, women still earn on average only about 75 cents for every dollar a man earns. That’s a huge discrepancy. And at a time when folks across this country are struggling to make ends meet – and many families are just trying to get by on one paycheck after a job loss – it’s a reminder that achieving equal pay for equal work isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s a family issue.
    In one of my first acts as President, I signed a law so that women who’ve been discriminated against in their salaries could have their day in court to make it right. But there are steps we should take to prevent that from happening in the first place. That’s why I was so disappointed when an important bill to give women more power to stop pay disparities – the Paycheck Fairness Act – was blocked by just two votes in the Senate. And that’s why I’m going to keep up the fight to pass the reforms in that bill.
    Achieving equality and opportunity for women isn’t just important to me as President. It’s something I care about deeply as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve.
    As I’ve traveled across the country, visiting schools and meeting young people, I’ve seen so many girls passionate about science and other subjects that were traditionally not as open to them. We even held a science fair at the White House, where I met a young woman named Amy Chyao. She was only 16 years old, but she was actually working on a treatment for cancer. She never thought, “Science isn’t for me.” She never thought, “Girls can’t do that.” She was just interested in solving a problem. And because someone was interested in giving her a chance, she has the potential to improve lives.
    That tells me how far we’ve come. But it also tells me we have to work even harder to close the gaps that still exist, and to uphold that simple American ideal: we are all equal and deserving of the chance to pursue our own version of happiness. That’s what Eleanor Roosevelt was striving toward half a century ago. That’s why this report matters today. And that’s why, on behalf of all our daughters and our sons, we’ve got to keep making progress in the years ahead. – WH, 3-12-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • The Earthquake in Japan and Tsunami Preparedness: Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis. The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy. We will continue to closely monitor tsunamis around Japan and the Pacific going forward and we are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials as I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the US states and territories that could be affected. WH, 3-11-11
  • The Ongoing Response to the Earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has released an overview of the United States’ reponse in support of our friends in Japan.
  • Our thoughts and our prayers remain with the people of Japan. The President has been kept fully briefed on developments and the response throughout the weekend. As directed by the President, we have offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed as America will stand with Japan as they recover and rebuild. – WH, 3-13-11
  • Joseph Lieberman: “My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan and all those affected by this devastating natural disaster, including the thousands of American citizens in Japan. America has no better friend and ally in Asia than Japan, and we in the United States must stand ready to mobilize any assistance we can to help as quickly as possible. The people of the United States stand in solidarity with the people of Japan through the difficult days ahead.
    “As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I am also monitoring closely the tsunami warnings that have been issued for parts of the United States, including Hawaii, Alaska, and parts of the West Coast. I urge all Americans in areas potentially affected to heed these advisories, follow the warnings that have been issued, and listen carefully for updates from authorities.” — Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT) – LIEBERMAN STATEMENT ON JAPANESE DISASTER
  • The President’s Press Conference: The Causes, Government Response, and Long-Term Solutions to Rising Gas Prices: But the bottom line is this. We’ve been having this conversation for nearly four decades now. Every few years, gas prices go up; politicians pull out the same old political playbook, and then nothing changes. And when prices go back down, we slip back into a trance. And then when prices go up, suddenly we’re shocked. I think the American people are tired of that. I think they’re tired of talk. We’ve got to work together – Democrats, Republicans, and everybody in between –- to finally secure America’s energy future. I don’t want to leave this for the next President, and none of us should want to leave it for our kids…. – WH, 3-11-11
  • News Conference by the President, South Court Auditorium: THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Before I begin, I want to say a few words about the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan earlier today.
    First and foremost, our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of Japan. This is a potentially catastrophic disaster and the images of destruction and flooding coming out of Japan are simply heartbreaking. Japan is, of course, one of our strongest and closest allies, and this morning I spoke with Prime Minister Kan. On behalf of the American people, I conveyed our deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families, and I offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed.
    We currently have an aircraft carrier in Japan, and another is on its way. We also have a ship en route to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed. The Defense Department is working to account for all our military personnel in Japan. U.S. Embassy personnel in Tokyo have moved to an offsite location. And the State Department is working to account for and assist any and all American citizens who are in the country.
    Tsunami warnings have been issued across the Pacific, and we’ve already seen initial waves from the tsunami come ashore on Guam and other U.S. territories, in Alaska and Hawaii, as well as on — along the West Coast. Here in the United States, there hasn’t been any major damage so far. But we’re taking this very seriously, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. FEMA is fully activated and is coordinating with state and local officials to support these regions as necessary. And let me just stress that if people are told to evacuate, do as you are told.
    Today’s events remind us of just how fragile life can be. Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy…. – WH, 3-11-11
  • The First Lady at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention: So as parents, we know we need to make a real effort to be engaged in our children’s lives, to listen to them and be there for them when they need us. We need to get involved in their schools and in their activities so that we know what they’re up to, both in and out of the classroom. And when something is wrong, we need to speak up, and we need to take action.
    That’s just what Jacqui Knight did. She’s a mom from Moore, Oklahoma, who’s here with us today. We got a chance to spend some time with her before. But when her child was bullied, she got together with other parents and planned community meetings where parents and students could share their stories. They also held meetings for the public to raise awareness about bullying. And they’ve been meeting with the school board and superintendent to discuss steps that they can take to keep their kids safe.
    But parents aren’t the only ones who have a responsibility. We all need to play a role — as teachers, coaches, as faith leaders, elected officials, and anyone who’s involved in our children’s lives. And that doesn’t just mean working to change our kids’ behavior and recognize and reward kids who are already doing the right thing. It means thinking about our own behavior as adults as well. – WH, 3-10-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • President Obama at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention: As adults, we all remember what it was like to see kids picked on in the hallways or in the schoolyard. And I have to say, with big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune. (Laughter.) I didn’t emerge unscathed. But because it’s something that happens a lot, and it’s something that’s always been around, sometimes we’ve turned a blind eye to the problem. We’ve said, “Kids will be kids.” And so sometimes we overlook the real damage that bullying can do, especially when young people face harassment day after day, week after week.
    So consider these statistics. A third of middle school and high school students have reported being bullied during the school year. Almost 3 million students have said they were pushed, shoved, tripped, even spit on. It’s also more likely to affect kids that are seen as different, whether it’s because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, the disability they may have, or sexual orientation.
    And bullying has been shown to lead to absences and poor performance in the classroom. And that alone should give us pause, since no child should be afraid to go to school in this country.
    Today, bullying doesn’t even end at the school bell — it can follow our children from the hallways to their cell phones to their computer screens. And in recent months, a series of tragedies has drawn attention to just how devastating bullying can be. We have just been heartbroken by the stories of young people who endured harassment and ridicule day after day at school, and who ultimately took their own lives. These were kids brimming with promise — kids like Ty Field, kids like Carl Walker-Hoover — who should have felt nothing but excitement for the future. Instead, they felt like they had nowhere to turn, as if they had no escape from taunting and bullying that made school something they feared. I want to recognize Ty’s mom and dad who are here today; Carl’s mother and sister who are here today. They’ve shown incredible courage as advocates against bullying in memory of the sons and the brother that they’ve lost. And so we’re so proud of them and we’re grateful to them for being here today. (Applause.)
    No family should have to go through what these families have gone through. No child should feel that alone. We’ve got to make sure our young people know that if they’re in trouble, there are caring adults who can help and young adults that can help; that even if they’re having a tough time, they’re going to get through it, and there’s a whole world full of possibility waiting for them. We also have to make sure we’re doing everything we can so that no child is in that position in the first place. And this is a responsibility we all share — a responsibility we have to teach all children the Golden Rule: We should treat others the way we want to be treated…. – WH, 3-10-11TranscriptMp4Mp3

President Obama & the First Lady Address Bullying

West Wing Week: 3/11/11 or “Law School in 15 Seconds”

  • Women and Girls Around the World Celebrating International Women’s Day: On Tuesday, I joined First Lady Michelle Obama and people around the world in celebrating the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. One hundred years ago, millions of people rallied in cities across the globe to demand equal rights for women: calling for the right to vote, to hold office, to work for fair pay and good conditions, and to be educated and trained. Since 1911, people have gathered every year in March to celebrate advancements in gender equality and to peacefully call attention to issues affecting women around the world. Our celebration in the White House demonstrated just how far we have come since 1911 and how, in 2011, we are committed to going even further.
    First Lady at International Women’s Day Celebration
    First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests during the International Women’s Day reception in the East Room of the White House.
    The international theme of this year’s celebration is “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.” Not only are women and girls essential to winning the future in the United States, they are important for global prosperity. Just in time for International Women’s Day, the United Nations released a report that giving women the same agricultural tools, resources, and access to work as men could feed 150 million people. And last week, our White House Council on Women and Girls released our report on “Women in America,” that documented “ the ways in which American women and girls have made substantial progress in educational attainment and achievement in the last few decades.” The full report can be found here.
    The President has emphasized the importance of education, and especially in math, science and technology. As he recently said at the TechBoston Academy, “There’s no better economic policy than one that produces more graduates with the skills they need to succeed — to start their own businesses, to create their own Microsoft, to create new industries.” And to win the future we will need women and girls to fully participate in those fields and careers of the future. You can read more about the President’s commitment to women in education here. That’s why we are committed to investing in the efforts of the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation to encourage girls to pursue science, math, engineering, and technology. Preparing young women for careers in these important fields is key to our commitment to innovation and growth. That’s why Startup America, a new public/private collaboration launched by the President, will help female entrepreneurs connect with corporations, startup funders, foundations and mentors to help their businesses start and grow.
    At the White House’s celebration in the East Room, we had the opportunity to hear from two young women who are helping forge that pathway to work for women in their countries and abroad. We met Aissatou Hamidou Diall, an inspiring young activist and 6th grade student from the West African country Burkina Faso. Last year, Aissatou represented her school at an event in the city of Dori with over 500 important guests, including the Minister of Education, the Governor, and a Vice President of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Aissatou is an advocate for educating girls like herself – someone who is the first in her family to go to college. Aissatou is just the type of young woman that the President wants to empower. We want more young women acting as ambassadors for women’s issues in their communities and around the world. – WH, 3-10-11
  • Statement by the President on International Women’s Day: History shows that when women and girls have access to opportunity, societies are more just, economies are more likely to prosper, and governments are more likely to serve the needs of all their people. That is why my administration has stood up for gender equality and women’s empowerment around the world…. – WH, 3-8-11
  • The First Lady on International Women’s Day: “We as a nation benefit from every girl whose potential is fulfilled, from every woman whose talent is tapped. We benefit from their intelligence, from their hard work, from their creativity, from their leadership.”… – WH, 3-8-11
  • Remarks by the First Lady at International Women’s Day Reception: MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness. I love you all. This is an exciting, exciting day — exciting. We had a fabulous morning at the State Department. And I hope you all are having just a lot of fun here this evening.
    We are just honored and delighted to have you here to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month here at the White House. Yes. (Applause….
    And tonight, I just want to say to all of you that your journeys, that your achievements and your very presence in this room are a perfect illustration of the progress that we’ve made since this day was first celebrated 100 years ago. We’ve come a long way, ladies! (Applause.)
    And we are celebrating those accomplishments here in America. Women are now the majority of graduates of colleges and universities. We make up nearly half of America’s workforce. We got to get paid more for it. (Applause.) But we do. Women are thriving in every sector of our society. We are leading businesses. We’re serving at the highest levels of government and the armed forces. We’re breaking barriers and succeeding in careers that our mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.
    And as more opportunities have become open to women, that hasn’t just enriched our own lives. As we all know, it’s enriched the life of this nation. And that’s one of the reasons why we have to do this, because we need to remind ourselves and our country that we’re here because of us. Because we as a nation benefit from every girl whose potential is fulfilled; from every woman whose talent is tapped. We benefit as a nation. We as a nation benefit from their intelligence, from their hard work, from their creativity, from their leadership.
    And that’s not just true here in America. Time and again, we have seen that countries across the globe are more prosperous, they’re more peaceful when women are more equal and have the rights and opportunities they deserve. (Applause.)
    And that is why women and girls are a core focus of America’s engagement with the world, including our diplomatic and development work, and our work to prevent and respond to conflict. And that’s why here at home we continue our work to close the pay gap once and for all, to get that done. That’s why we continue our work here at home to bring women into fields like math and science. Keep studying your math. (Laughter.) We’re still under-represented. So we still have work to do.
    We continue our work to promote entrepreneurship and workplace flexibility so that women can contribute as fully as possible to our economy. And while we’ve made some important strides, all of you in this room know better than anyone else that this work is far from finished. We have so, so much more to do. You all know better than just about anyone that change is hard, and change is slow. Many of you might not win the battles you’re fighting or see the progress you’re fighting for in your lifetimes. You know that. But I’m thinking tonight of a quote from the author Alice Walker, who once wrote, “So our mothers and grandmothers have more often than not anonymously handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see.”
    And that is why all of you keep on fighting. That’s why all of you keep on leading and working toward a better day for all of us. You do it so that our daughters and granddaughters and, just as importantly, our sons and grandsons can have the opportunities that many of us only dreamed of. You do it because you know that your work could be the spark or that seed for the dreams and aspirations of girls like Aissatou and Shannon generations from now. This is why we do this work. We do it for you. We do it for you.
    So I want to close tonight by simply saying thank you. This is a small — very small way for me, for my husband, for this administration to let you know just how proud we are of all that you do for women and girls. Our work is so far from done. But 100 years ago, we would have never imagined that we’d be standing here in the East Room of the White House — (laughter) — celebrating this day with this administration. So we have reason to celebrate. (Applause.) – WH, 3-8-11
  • President Obama Announces “100 Youth Roundtables”: The Office of Public Engagement has put together a great initiative to assure that young Americans of all walks of life can participate in a roundtable discussions about important issues…. – WH, 3-9-11
  • President Obama on Education at TechBostonTranscriptMp4Mp3
  • President Obama to Those Conducting Violence in Libya: “It is Their Choice… and They Will Be Held”: During his joint appearance with Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, the President addresses those involved in the violence and discusses the international response….
    “I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Qaddafi: It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward, and they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place there.”… – WH, 3-7-11
  • President Obama Makes a Long-Distance Call to Space: On Thursday, President Obama called the crews of the Space Shuttle Discovery and International Space Station to congratulate them on their achievements and courage as they work and live in orbit around the Earth….
    “You are setting such a great example with your dedication, courage, and commitment to exploration. These are traits that built America.”… – WH, 3-6-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

The President records the Weekly Address

White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 3/11/11

  • Julian Zelizer: Dems hope to taint Romney with health law praise: “Democrats need to be careful of that strategy of praising him too much,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “Once he has the nomination he’ll be playing to moderates and independent voters and he could use that in his favor.”… – AP, 3-13-11
  • Gaddafi, the author: Libyan protesters furious at strongman Moammar Gaddafi have vented their rage on his writings, burning his political manifesto in the streets. The dictator’s odd social, political and economic thoughts are contained in “The Green Book,” which he wrote in the 1970s.
    To try to understand the man and his current ravings, it is useful to look back at the three slim volumes that make up “The Green Book.”
    But as Prof. Dirk Vandewalle, a professor at Dartmouth College and author of “A History of Modern Libya,” told NPR, the work is “very difficult to understand in part because it really is not a coherent thought if you compare it, for example, to ‘The Little Red Book’ of Mao . . . where you get at least a consistent argument. ‘The Green Book’ contains really a set of aphorisms more than a completely thought-out integrated philosophical statement.”… – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Why Obama will be tough to beat: Republicans are looking ahead — some with glee and others with fear — to the presidential election in 2012…. Most of them, even the optimists, realize that there is a rough road ahead. With all the challenges that President Obama confronts, he won’t be easy to beat….
    Republicans don’t have a similar candidate lined up for 2012. The current crop of Republicans includes state officials relatively untested in national political waters, candidates with more experience but lacking charisma, and national veterans like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with substantial political liabilities. The next Ronald Reagan has yet to arrive.
    History should give Republicans some pause as they start to think about their choice. None of this means Obama is a lock for re-election. After all, conditions can change and new voices can rapidly emerge in today’s media. But it’s going to take a special candidate and a change in the political environment for a Republican to win…. – CNN, 3-7-11



Revolutions in the Middle East: Libya in Chaos

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

President Barack Obama addresses the Situation in Libya During a Joint Press Conference with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico

President Barack Obama addresses the situation in Libya at the start of a joint press conference with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, left, in the East Room of the White House, March 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

IN FOCUS

  • A look at political unrest in the Middle East: A look at anti-government protests, political unrest and key developments in the Middle East… – AP, 3-9-11
  • New York Times Topic: Libya — The Protests (2011)NYT
  • Arab and Middle East protestsGuardian UK
  • Libya protests: live blog of the latest developmentsGuardian UK
  • AP INTERACTIVE: Libya uprising: A look at the state of play in Libya, including a timeline, the latest news, recent photos, key players and an AP expert’s analysis. AP, 3-1-11
  • How do you spell a problem like Gadhafi?: Qaddafi, Qazzafi, Qadhdhafi, Qaththafi, Gadhdhafi, Khadafy? Gadhafi. Read about the unrest in Libya and you might wonder: The man has been in power for 41 years, can’t anyone spell his name? For a leader so notoriously mercurial, perhaps it’s fitting no one can pin down Moammar Gadhafi’s last name using the English alphabet. It’s not just media organizations, even official Libyan government documents vary widely in rendering his name in Latin letters.
    The Associated Press goes with Gadhafi. Why? It has to do with pronunciation — along with a series of letters the Libyan leader sent to American schoolchildren more than 25 years ago…. – AP, 3-10-11
  • Five myths about the Muslim Brotherhood: Myth #1: The Muslim Brotherhood is a global organization — Globally, the Brotherhood is more a school of thought than an official organization of card-carrying members. Attempts to create a more formal global structure have failed…. – WaPo, 3-4-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • NATO to Discuss Libya Options: NATO members begin two days of talks on Libya Thursday to discuss the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone to stop air attacks by forces supporting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi…. – Voice of America, 3-10-11
  • Source: Gadhafi willing to discuss his exitMSNBC, 3-10-11
  • Libya poses difficult question for candidates: What to do about Libya and Moammar Gadhafi? It’s not only a national security question for President Barack Obama. Twenty months before the next election, it’s a difficult political question, too, for the Republicans who hope to take his place as commander in chief. There are plenty of strong opinions coming from Capitol Hill. Lawmakers of both parties are sounding off, including some calling for immediate military action. But others are urging moderation.
    Obama met Wednesday with his top security advisers to discuss a variety of humanitarian and military options. The White House emphasized that key decisions have yet to be made…. – AP, 3-10-11
  • Hoard of Cash Lets Qaddafi Extend Fight Against Rebels: The Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has “tens of billions” in cash secretly hidden away in Tripoli, allowing him to prolong his fight against rebel forces despite an international freeze on many of the Libyan government’s assets, according to American and other intelligence officials….
    Since the protests and fighting erupted, some of the money may have been moved into Colonel Qaddafi’s Tripoli compound, Bab Al Azizia, according to one person with ties to the Libyan government. While United States intelligence officials said they could not confirm such a move, one official said that Colonel Qaddafi “likely has tens of billions in cash that he can access inside Libya.”…. – NYT, 3-10-11
  • McCain renews push for no-fly zone over Libya: The Arizona Republican tells CBS’s “The Early Show” he understands weariness at home over U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. But McCain says the American people “are not prepared to watch … one of the two or three worst despots in the world sit and slaughter innocent civilians.”… – AP, 3-8-11
  • Frontlines hard to find in Libya’s struggleAP, 3-5-11
  • Obama’s Choice: To Intervene or Not in Libya: For President Obama, who told Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi last week that it was time to quit, the bloodshed and terror in Libya have posed a dilemma that sooner or later confronts every modern American president: whether, and how, to intervene with military force in a distant conflict.
    This time, the choice has been made even tougher by history, geography and the peculiar circumstances of Libya’s upheaval: a famously ruthless and unpredictable leader willing to do anything to cling to power, in a conflict that seems as much an African civil war as an Internet-fueled youth revolt of the kind that forced out Arab dictators in Egypt and Tunisia.
    Mr. Obama’s blunt call last Thursday for Colonel Qaddafi to leave office, coupled with a threat to leave all military options on the table if he doesn’t, made it clear that the president believes the United States cannot stand by while Libyan jets bomb civilians. But his reluctance to talk about the most obvious measure — a no-flight zone over the country — reveals his qualms about thrusting the United States into a volatile situation in a region where foreign intervention is usually viewed as cynical neo-colonialism…. – NYT, 3-5-11
  • US increases pressure on Sri Lanka over slain civilians: The United States is increasing pressure on Sri Lanka to investigate the deaths of thousands of civilians at the end of its civil war. Rights groups contend a Sri Lankan government commission has demonstrated no intent of doing it…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • In Libya, Kadafi’s forces launch assault on rebel-held city: Forces led by one of Moammar Kadafi’s sons battle to regain control of Zawiya, west of the capital. Dozens of civilians are killed, witnesses say, as is a leading rebel commander…. – LAT, 3-5-11
  • Qaddafi Brutalizes Foes, Armed or Defenseless: Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi counterattacked with brutal force on Friday, battling rebel forces on two fronts, firing on unarmed protesters in front of international news media and leaving the rebels seeking his ouster in disarray.
    Rebels gathered in Brega before pushing west to Ras Lanuf on Friday. A government brigade surrounded the rebel-controlled town of Zawiyah and opened fire with mortars, machine guns and other heavy weapons, witnesses said, in two skirmishes. More Photos »
    His militia’s actions seemed likely to stir renewed debate over international intervention to limit his use of military power against his own citizens, possibly by imposing a no-flight zone…. – NYT, 3-4-11
  • Thousands protest across Middle East for reform: Security forces opened fire to disperse crowds in Libya and Yemen as tens of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets Friday across the Middle East, hoping to oust longtime leaders as in Tunisia and Egypt, or simply to bring about more political reforms.
    The biggest demonstrations were in Yemen, where tens of thousands of people rallied in several cities — including the capital of Sanaa — calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key U.S. ally in the campaign against al-Qaida. He has promised to step down after national elections in 2013, an offer rejected by the opposition…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Libyan rebels, Gaddafi forces battle for oil sites: Libyan rebels prepared for further attacks by forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi on Friday as both sides struggled for control of a strategic coast road and oil industry facilities…. – Reuters, 3-4-11
  • Gaddafi investigated for ‘crimes against humanity’: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said he will investigate Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his sons and senior aides for crimes against humanity…. – BBC News, 3-4-11
  • Obama Authorizes Airlift of Refugees From Libya: President Obama called again on Thursday for the immediate resignation of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and said he had authorized American military airlifts to help transport refugees fleeing from Libya back to their home countries in the region.
    “The U.S. and the entire world continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people,” Mr. Obama said after a White House meeting with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico. “Muammar el-Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, and he must leave.” …. – NYT, 3-3-11
  • Obama insists every option under review for Libya: Wary that Libya’s bloody crisis could devolve into humanitarian chaos, President Barack Obama on Thursday insisted he is considering every intervention option, including military might, along with America’s allies. To Moammar Gadhafi, he declared: “Step down from power and leave.”
    Obama made clear he has not ruled out establishing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi’s air forces from bombing rebels. His broad assurance came one day after his defense chief, Robert Gates, said bluntly that a no-fly zone would amount to an act of war and warned about too much “loose talk” of U.S. military intervention in Libya.
    “I don’t want us hamstrung,” Obama said in defending his approach. “There is a danger of a stalemate that, over time, could be bloody,” Obama said in an appearance with visiting Mexican President Felipe Calderon. “And that is something that we’re obviously considering. So what I want to make sure of is, is that the United States has full capacity to act — potentially rapidly — if the situation deteriorated in such a way that you had a humanitarian crisis on our hands.”… – AP, 3-3-11
  • Libyan rebels push back assault by Gaddafi forces in port city of Brega: Libyan rebels repelled an assault by troops backing Moammar Gaddafi in a key oil port Wednesday. The battle in the town of Brega lasted for hours until the attackers beat a retreat…. – WaPo, 3-2-11
  • Khadaffi’s jets, troops attack foes: Moammar Khadaffi’s forces struck back on three fronts yesterday, using fighter jets, special forces units, and regular army troops in an escalation of hostilities that brought Libya closer to civil war… – Boston Globe, 3-1-11
  • US, Europe intensify efforts to isolate Gadhafi: The United States and European allies intensified efforts to isolate Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday, redoubling demands for him to step down, questioning his mental state and warning that those who stay loyal to him risk losing their wealth and being prosecuted for human rights abuses. Europe, which buys most of Libya’s oil exports, outlined fresh sanctions to force the dictator to stop attacks on civilians and step down after 42 years of iron-fisted rule. The European Union issued travel bans and an asset freeze against senior Libyan officials, and ordered an arms embargo on the country…. – AP, 2-28-11
  • Battle for Libya Rages as Qaddafi Strikes Back – NYT, 2-28-11
  • Libya rebels set up first political leadership: Politicians in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi said Sunday they are setting up a council to run day-to-day affairs in the eastern half of the country under their control, the first attempt to create a leadership body that could eventually form an alternative to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. A day after a high-ranking minister who defected from the government said he was setting up a provisional government, a prominent human rights lawyer, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, held a news conference in Benghazi to shoot down the claim. Instead, he said politicians in the east were establishing a transitional council to manage daily life in the rebel-controlled areas until Gadhafi falls…. – AP, 2-27-11
  • UN, world further isolate Libya’s Gadhafi: Armed with tough Security Council sanctions, the U.N. and many nations began moving to isolate Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from the international community in hopes of halting his deadly crackdown on protesters. The council voted 15-0 late Saturday to impose an arms embargo and urged U.N. member countries to freeze the assets of Gadhafi, four of his sons and a daughter. The council also backed a travel ban on the Gadhafi family and close associates, including leaders of the revolutionary committees accused of much of the violence against regime opponents…. – AP, 2-26-11
  • Obama says Gadhafi must leave Libya ‘now’: President Barack Obama says Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must leave now. Obama made the comments to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a private telephone conversation Saturday as they discussed the violence in Libya. The White House says Obama told Merkel that when a leader’s only means of holding power is to use violence against his people, then he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what’s right for his country by “leaving now.”… – AP, 2-26-11
  • White House: Libyans have lost faith in Gadhafi: Obama spokesman Jay Carney stopped short of calling for Gadhafi to step down. But he says it’s clear that Gadhafi’s legitimacy has been “reduced to zero.”… – AP, 2-25-11
  • Obama discusses Libya options with Turkish leader: President Barack Obama is consulting with world leaders on possible steps to deal with the violence in Libya, speaking Friday morning with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan… – AP, 2-25-11
  • Obama reaching out to Britain, France on Libya: President Barack Obama is stepping up diplomatic efforts to address the violent crackdown in Libya…. – AP, 2-24-11
  • UN to meet on further options against Libya: The U.N. Security Council will meet Friday to consider actions against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime that could include sanctions aimed at deterring his violent crackdown on anti-government protesters…. – AP, 2-24-11
  • Obama dispatches Clinton for talks on Libya: President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned the violence in Libya as “outrageous … and unacceptable” and said he was dispatching Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Geneva for international talks aimed at stopping the violence.
    Obama said he was studying a “full range of options” to pressure Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime to halt attacks against Libyans as violent clashes spread throughout the North African country. He said the options included possible sanctions that the U.S. could take with its allies as well as steps it might take by itself.
    “We are doing everything we can to protect American citizens,” Obama said in brief remarks at the White House, his first public comments after days of violence in Libya. He appeared with Clinton after the two conferred on the situation at the White House. Clinton is traveling to Geneva on Monday for talks on Libya.
    “We strongly condemn the use of violence in Libya,” Obama said. “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya.”… – AP, 2-23-11
  • Gadhafi forces strike back at revolt near Tripoli: Army units and militiamen loyal to Moammar Gadhafi struck back against rebellious protesters who have risen up in cities close to the capital Thursday, attacking a mosque where many had taken refuge and battling with others who had seized control of a local airport.
    The assaults aimed to push back a revolt that has moved closer to Gadhafi’s bastion in the capital, Tripoli. The uprising has already broken away nearly the eastern half of Libya and unraveled parts of Gadhafi’s regime…. – AP, 2-23-11
  • Obama sharpens critique of Libya amid wider unrest: The Obama administration on Wednesday sharpened its condemnation of a bloody crackdown on Libyan opposition demonstrators as it broadened its outreach to government officials, dissidents, rights activists and youth in other Arab nations across a Middle East that is seething with unrest. Amid the tumult rocking the region, Obama condemned the violence in Libya in the sharpest terms Washington has yet used and directed his administration to prepare a full range of options, including possible sanctions that could freeze the assets and ban travel to the U.S. by Libyan officials. He said he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Geneva for international talks aimed at stopping the bloodshed and formulating a unified global message to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
    “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable,” Obama told reporters after meeting with Clinton at the White House. “So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.”… – AP, 2-23-11
  • US condemns ‘appalling’ violence in Libya: The Obama administration on Tuesday condemned “appalling” violence in Libya, where security forces unleashed a bloody crackdown on protesters demanding the ouster of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. “This violence is completely unacceptable,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. “We believe that the government of Libya bears responsibility for what is occurring and must take actions to end the violence.”… – AP, 2-22-11
  • Arab world protests at a glance: A summary of the developments in the Arab world, as instability and anti-government protests inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia spread in the region…. – AP, 2-22-11
  • Clinton: Gadhafi must stop bloodshed: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the violence against anti-government protesters in Libya on Monday and called on the government of Moammar Gadhafi to “stop this unacceptable bloodshed.” Clinton said the world is watching event unfold in Libya “with alarm.”… At least 233 people have been killed so far, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
    “Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed,” Clinton said in what amounted to the toughest denunciation of the crackdown in Libya by the Obama administration yet…. – AP, 2-21-11
  • US condemns crackdowns on Mideast protests: A senior U.S. diplomat on Sunday condemned the brutal crackdown on opposition protesters in Libya, saying Arab leaders facing pro-democracy protests need to lead the way rather than resist reform. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Obama administration was “very concerned” about reported armed attacks by Libyan security forces on peaceful protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi.
    “We’ve condemned that violence,” Rice told “Meet the Press” on NBC. “Our view is that in Libya as throughout the region peaceful protests need to be respected.”… – AP, 2-20-11
  • Libya, Yemen crack down; Bahrain pulls back tanks: Security forces in Libya and Yemen fired on pro-democracy demonstrators Saturday as the two hard-line regimes struck back against the wave of protests that has already toppled autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia. At least 15 died when police shot into crowds of mourners in Libya’s second-largest city, a hospital official said.
    Even as Bahrain’s king bowed to international pressure and withdrew tanks to allow demonstrators to retake a symbolic square in the capital, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh made clear they plan to stamp out opposition and not be dragged down by the reform movements that have grown in nations from Algeria to Djibouti to Jordan.
    Libyans returned to the street for a fifth straight day of protests against Gadhafi, the most serious uprising in his 42-year reign, despite estimates by human rights groups of 84 deaths in the North African country — with 35 on Friday alone…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Bahrain opposition plots strategy before talks: Bahrain’s opposition wants the nation’s rulers to guarantee they will back up their conciliatory words with actions, a Shiite leader said Sunday as he and other activists weighed the regime’s offer for talks after nearly a week of protests and deadly clashes that have divided the Gulf nation. The streets in the tiny but strategically important island kingdom were calmer as efforts shifted toward political haggling over demands the monarchy give up its near-absolute control over key policies and positions…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Egypt to allow Iranian vessels through Suez Canal: Egypt has agreed to allow two Iranian naval vessels to transit the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, a military official said Friday, ending several days of confusion over their planned passage, which Israel’s foreign minister has labeled a provocation.
    The movement of Iranian naval ships past Israeli shores is of concern there because Israel considers Iran an existential threat. Those fears stem from Iran’s disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region and its threats to destroy Israel.
    The White House said the U.S. was also closely monitoring the progress of the ships, now in the Red Sea. Their passage comes as the region is being swept by anti-government unrest, including the protests that toppled Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak a week ago and left the military in charge of the country…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Obama condemns violence in Middle East: President Barack Obama on Friday condemned reports of violent reprisals against protesters in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen, and called for government restraint as unrest swept the volatile Middle East in the wake of Egypt’s uprising.
    “I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur,” Obama said. “The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people.”… – 2-18-11

QUOTES

  • The President on Libya: “The Violence Must Stop; Muammar Gaddafi Has Lost the Legitimacy to Lead and He Must Leave”: The United States, and the entire world, continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people. The United States is helping to lead an international effort to deter further violence, put in place unprecedented sanctions to hold the Qaddafi government accountable, and support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We are also responding quickly to the urgent humanitarian needs that are developing.
    Tens of thousands of people—from many different countries—are fleeing Libya, and we commend the governments of Tunisia and Egypt for their response, even as they go through their own political transitions. I have therefore approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help move Egyptians who have fled to the Tunisian border to get back home to Egypt. I’ve authorized USAID to charter additional civilian aircraft to help people from other countries find their way home. And we’re supporting the efforts of international organizations to evacuate people as well.
    I have also directed USAID to send humanitarian assistance teams to the Libyan border, so that they can work with the United Nations, NGOs and other international partners inside Libya to address the urgent needs of the Libyan people.
    Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: the violence must stop; Muammar Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave; those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable; and the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and dignity must be met. – WH, 3-3-11
  • STATEMENT BY SENATORS MCCAIN AND LIEBERMAN REGARDING THE SITUATION IN LIBYA: We strongly support President Obama’s declaration yesterday that Colonel Qaddafi must go. The President is correct that Qaddafi and those loyal to him—by unleashing horrific violence against the Libyan people—have lost the legitimacy to remain in power, and we agree that the United States must consider the full range of options to stop the bloodshed taking place in Libya now.
    We also applaud the measures adopted by the United States and our partners so far to ratchet up the pressure on the Qaddafi regime, including the imposition of both unilateral and multilateral sanctions, the regime’s eviction from the UN Human Rights Council, its suspension from the Arab League, and the referral of its case to the International Criminal Court.
    However, we remain deeply concerned about the situation in Libya. Despite the measures adopted by the international community, the Qaddafi regime still appears to be entrenched in Tripoli, and news reports indicate that Qaddafi’s forces are carrying out a campaign of terror against Libyan civilians. We are also deeply concerned that Qaddafi’s forces have launched offensives, including the use of airpower, against the opposition in the liberated areas of Libya.
    It is stated U.S. policy that Qaddafi must go, so now it is critical for the United States, together with our friends and allies, to ensure that he does go – as quickly as possible. A protracted and bloody stalemate in Libya would not only be an unnecessary humanitarian disaster, with the potential to destabilize a critical region. It could also create space for al Qaeda and its extremist allies to exploit the chaos. We agree with Secretary Clinton about the danger that a prolonged Libyan civil war could result in another Somalia. Moreover, if Qaddafi is able to remain in power, it would send a dangerous message that dictators should respond with brutal violence to the peaceful protest movement for universal rights that is sweeping the region and beyond…. – Lieberman Senate, 3-4-11
  • President Obama on Libya: “These Sanctions Therefore Target the Qaddafi Government, While Protecting the Assets that Belong to the People of Libya”: The Libyan government’s continued violation of human rights, brutalization of its people, and outrageous threats have rightly drawn the strong and broad condemnation of the international community. By any measure, Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable. These sanctions therefore target the Qaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya.
    Going forward, the United States will continue to closely coordinate our actions with the international community, including our friends and allies, and the United Nations. We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights, and a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Their human dignity cannot be denied. WH, 2-25-11Executive OrderLetter to Congress

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • If Gadhafi Falls, Who Would Govern Libya and How?: ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, Princeton University: The strongest argument for helping them is strategic, which is that we’ve finally seen a major shift in the narrative of the entire Middle East, from anti-Americanism and anti-Israel, and focused, really, outside to an indigenous demand for democratic government, for accountable government, for government that provides decent services, by the young people of the region who are the majority of the region.
    They are now asking us to help. They’re expecting to see us deliver on our verbal commitment to that kind of government. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is every Islamic country in the world, is asking for a no-fly zone.
    And we have a chance to actually put ourselves where our words have been for decades… – PBS Newshour, 3-9-11
  • If Gadhafi Falls, Who Would Govern Libya and How?: RICHARD HAASS, “War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars”: Let me paraphrase what you just heard. The real reason is it’s not strategic.
    Our interests in no way warrant it. Libya is by far from the most important country in the Middle East. We should be focusing on places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq. Limited interventions would not turn the thing around. No-fly zones and the like wouldn’t be decisive.
    Interventions that might be decisive would be far, far, far more costly than our interests warrant. One last thing: Who would we be helping? We know we hate Gadhafi, or people do. But are we so sure that those we would be helping are good guys? Do we really think, if we went in, they’d all be reading the Federalist Papers in Arabic translation a couple of days later?
    We simply don’t know enough about Libya. One of the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, I would suggest, only intervene militarily if you really know the country well enough to know what you’re getting into.
    We clearly do not on Libya…. – PBS Newshour, 3-9-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Obama steers clear of ‘doctrine’ as Arab tumult rages: “The closest we have to a policy is to allow the different revolutions to take place at their own pace, based on the timing of the people involved and intervening only through general statements of support,” said Julian Zelizer of Princeton University. “Other than that I don’t think there is any consistent principle.”
    “It can push you into wars where you should not be because you want to follow the logic of the doctrine,” said Zelizer. “Vietnam is a great example of where presidents from (Dwight) Eisenhower to (Lyndon) Johnson were following the logic of the ideas set out by Truman but in a war that really wasn’t that necessary and many realized they shouldn’t be in.” – AFP, 3-5-11
  • Dirk Vandewalle: What’s In Gadhafi’s Manifesto?: Moammar Gadhafi’s Green Book is the Libyan leader’s economic, social and political manifesto. First published in the 1970s, it was intended to be required reading for all Libyans. Now it’s being burned by demonstrators in Libya as Gadhafi’s grip on the country loosens. Host Melissa Block talks with Dirk Vandewalle, a professor at Dartmouth College and author of A History of Modern Libya, about what’s in the Green Book…. – NPR, 3-3-11Download MP3
  • Paul Kengor: Bush’s Middle East ‘March of Freedom’: As we watch the growing demand that Middle East autocrats and dictators step down, from Iran in June 2009 to Egypt and Libya this February, on the heels of repeated elections in post-Taliban Afghanistan and post-Saddam Iraq, the wisdom of two presidents keeps coming to mind.
    First is Ronald Reagan, who warned dictators that freedom is “contagious.” As he noted in May 1982, the Soviets feared the “infectiousness” of the freedom posed by groups like Solidarity in Poland. Eight years later, with elections held in Poland and the wall down in Berlin, Reagan, no longer president, observed: “As is always the case, once people who have been deprived of basic freedom taste a little of it, they want all of it.” Looking back at the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, he remarked: “It was as if Gorbachev had uncorked a magic bottle and a genie floated out, never to be put back in again.”
    As president, Reagan had spoken of a “march of freedom” that would leave Marxism-Leninism on the “ash-heap of history.” He said this often, but most memorably in his June 1982 Westminster speech, which also founded the National Endowment for Democracy.
    That brings me to the other president. The president who picked up Reagan’s mantle from Westminster was George W. Bush. Speaking to the National Endowment for Democracy in November 2003, Bush gave the most important address of his presidency, promising to extend Reagan’s “march” into the Middle East, the place most resistant to the freedom tide. What Bush said cannot be reiterated enough, and couldn’t be more appropriate than right now, as the next target by the people of the Middle East is the hideous Muammar Gaddafi; from the Taliban, to Saddam, to Ahmadinejad, to Mubarak, to Gaddafi…. – Spectator, 2-25-11
  • Libya’s Bloody Struggle Tests Loyalty of Gadhafi’s Forces: DIRK VANDEWALLE, Dartmouth College: Well, we should treat all the information that we’re getting right now with a grain of salt. We simply don’t know.
    What we know is that, very likely, and, at this point, there are two or three groups remaining around Gadhafi, first of all, his personal Revolutionary Guard, which is about — estimated at about 3,000 soldiers.
    And there are also some units, brigades from the army that are left loyal to Gadhafi. We don’t know much about them. Some of these units are headed by the sons of Gadhafi or by loyal friends. And then we also have a large number, estimated at least 2,000, perhaps as much as 3,000, of mercenaries that have been trained by Gadhafi, come primarily from Sub-Saharan Africa, Niger in particular, and have really been the backbone of this resistance to the uprising.
    They are headed primarily by members of — or Libyans very close to the regime, and that were part of other brigades that the regime has cultivated over the years.
    The difficulty is that we don’t really know much of what the other side has. We don’t know exactly how many of the brigade members, for example, in the eastern part of the country or — left or have been killed. We don’t know much about the weapons that they have.
    And so, particularly on the opposition side, the people who have risen up against the regime, we’re still not quite sure what exactly is there. It seems to be more of a popular movement at this particular point in time. We also don’t know if some of these brigades have gone over, for example, or how many have been repatriated into Tripoli…. – PBS Newshour, 2-24-11
  • Ghazi Gheblawi and Dirk Vandewalle: Libya and the History of Moammar Gadhafi’s Rule: Verifiable updates have been hard to come by in Libya, where more protests have been reported over the past several days. There is a notable absence of independent journalists reporting from there because of iron-clad restrictions on the press and on the Internet. Protests were reported by ex-patriots around the world who have contacts in Libya. The protests were aimed Libya’s ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, who has been in power for 41 years. What is situation in the North African country today, and what does it say about Gadhafi’s rule?
    Dirk Vandewalle, Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and author of “A History of Modern Libya” gives us some perspective on Gaddafi’s role in the country.
    Ghazi Gheblawi, a Libyan blogger and poet in London says one of his friends, a journalist, has been reported missing in Libya… – The Takeaway, 2-18-11Download
  • Libyan historian Ya’akov Hajaj-Lilof, how will the anti-Gadhafi protests end?: Historian Ya’akov Hajaj-Lilof, 69, is the director of the Institute for the Research and Study of Libyan Jewry and a member of the board of the World Organization of Libyan Jews. In recent days, he has been closely following the reports from Tripoli, Benghazi and the other locations in Libya where there has been political unrest against the regime of Muammar Gadhafi, who has been in power since 1969 and is considered the longest ruling non-royal leader in the world. Hajaj-Lilof believes that if there is a successful revolution against Gadhafi, it will be much more difficult and prolonged than those in Tunisia and Egypt.
    Who is behind the demonstrations in Libya? Who forms the opposition to Gadhafi? I attach great importance to the hatred and antagonism that exists between the two parts of that country – between the region of Cyrenaica which covers a little more than one half of the area of Libya and has Benghazi as its capital, and the region of Tripolitania with its capital, Tripoli. The focus of the unrest is in Cyrenaica where they still remember that Gadhafi overthrew King Idris I who was born in the region…. – Haaretz, 2-21-11

Political Highlights February 28, 2011: Governors & Tea Party Meet — Obama Congress Budget Showdown; Threat of Government Shutdown — Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker & Union Wars — Unrest in the Middle East & Libya

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama and a bipartisan group of governors in the State Dining Room
The President tells Governors that from infrastructure to the health reform law, he wants to give them “the flexibility that you need to find your own innovative ways forward.”

STATS & POLLS

  • Almost Six in Ten Americans Give President Obama Negative Job Rating Almost nine in ten give Congress negative ratings: Going into these battles, almost three in five Americans (58%) have a negative opinion of the job the President is doing while 42% have a positive opinion of it. This is slightly down from last month when 44% of U.S. adults gave the job the President was doing positive marks and 56% gave it negative ratings…. – PRNewswire, 2-28-11
  • Gallup poll: Obama’s approval ratings fell across U.S. in 2010: The Gallup survey says President Obama’s approval rating is above 50% in a dozen states, and in 10 states his approval rating is lower than 40%…. – LAT, 2-23-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

Ed Ou for The New York Times

Egyptian protesters taped a flag on the front doors of the Libyan Embassy in Cairo on Sunday.

  • Gaddafi opponents spread control deeper into west Libya: The popular revolt that has already seen opponents of Col. Moammar Gaddafi’s 41-year-rule claim the eastern half of the country spread deeper into the west on Sunday, with rock-wielding residents…. – WaPo, 2-27-11
  • Libya rebels set up first political leadership: Politicians in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi said Sunday they are setting up a council to run day-to-day affairs in the eastern half of the country under their control, the first attempt to create a leadership body that could eventually form an alternative to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. A day after a high-ranking minister who defected from the government said he was setting up a provisional government, a prominent human rights lawyer, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, held a news conference in Benghazi to shoot down the claim. Instead, he said politicians in the east were establishing a transitional council to manage daily life in the rebel-controlled areas until Gadhafi falls…. – AP, 2-27-11
  • Tunisian interim prime minister resigns: The premier, who served in the same post under deposed President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, bows to public pressure and street protests demanding that all traces of the old regime be removed…. – LAT, 2-27-11
  • UN, world further isolate Libya’s Gadhafi: Armed with tough Security Council sanctions, the U.N. and many nations began moving to isolate Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from the international community in hopes of halting his deadly crackdown on protesters. The council voted 15-0 late Saturday to impose an arms embargo and urged U.N. member countries to freeze the assets of Gadhafi, four of his sons and a daughter. The council also backed a travel ban on the Gadhafi family and close associates, including leaders of the revolutionary committees accused of much of the violence against regime opponents…. – AP, 2-26-11
  • British military discreetly evacuates 150 nationals from Libya: In a hush-hush rescue mission, British planes land in the desert to take 150 oil workers and their families to Malta. A Royal Navy frigate is expected to arrive in Benghazi on Sunday to pick up some of the 300 Britons believed to still be in Libya…. – LAT, 2-26-11
  • Foreigners in Libya report being beaten, robbed: Guest workers from Egypt, Tunisia and other nations tell of being attacked by Libyan security forces, robbed and accused of being traitors and inciting the uprising against Moammar Kadafi…. – LAT, 2-26-11
  • Security Council Calls for War Crimes Inquiry in Libya: The UN Security Council called for an international war crimes investigation into “widespread and systemic attacks” against Libyan citizens. NYT, 2-26-11
  • Obama says Gadhafi must leave Libya ‘now': President Barack Obama says Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must leave now. Obama made the comments to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a private telephone conversation Saturday as they discussed the violence in Libya. The White House says Obama told Merkel that when a leader’s only means of holding power is to use violence against his people, then he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what’s right for his country by “leaving now.”… – AP, 2-26-11
  • Libya’s Gaddafi vows to “triumph over the enemy”: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Friday vowed defiantly to triumph over his enemies, urging his supporters in Tripoli’s Green Square to protect Libya and its petroleum interests.
    “Get ready to fight for Libya, get ready to fight for dignity, get ready to fight for petroleum.” The Libyan leader, who has lost swathes of his country to rebels, said: “Respond to them, put them to shame” and “we can triumph over the enemies.”
    Blowing kisses to his supporters and then shaking his fist in the air, Gaddafi said: “This nation, we are the nation of dignity and integrity, this nation has triumphed over (former colonial power) Italy.”
    Gaddafi shouted: “You must dance, sing, and prepare yourself … this spirit you have is stronger than any other attempt by the foreigners and the enemies to destroy us.”… – Reuters, 2-25-11
  • White House: Libyans have lost faith in Gadhafi: Obama spokesman Jay Carney stopped short of calling for Gadhafi to step down. But he says it’s clear that Gadhafi’s legitimacy has been “reduced to zero.”… – AP, 2-25-11
  • Obama discusses Libya options with Turkish leader: President Barack Obama is consulting with world leaders on possible steps to deal with the violence in Libya, speaking Friday morning with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan… – AP, 2-25-11
  • Gadhafi says he’s only a ‘symbolic leader,’ blames unrest on al-QaedaUSA Today, 2-24-11
  • International Pressure Mounts on Libyan Leader to Step Down: International pressure is mounting on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whose violent crackdown on opposition protesters has drawn widespread condemnation…. – Voice of America, 2-25-11
  • Libya: Gaddafi Rages As World Talks Continue: Forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi hit back at rebel-held towns near the Libyan capital, as world leaders struggled to coordinate action against the dictator…. – Sky News, 2-25-11
  • Obama reaching out to Britain, France on Libya: President Barack Obama is stepping up diplomatic efforts to address the violent crackdown in Libya…. – AP, 2-24-11
  • UN to meet on further options against Libya: The U.N. Security Council will meet Friday to consider actions against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime that could include sanctions aimed at deterring his violent crackdown on anti-government protesters…. – AP, 2-24-11
  • Obama dispatches Clinton for talks on Libya: President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned the violence in Libya as “outrageous … and unacceptable” and said he was dispatching Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Geneva for international talks aimed at stopping the violence.
    Obama said he was studying a “full range of options” to pressure Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime to halt attacks against Libyans as violent clashes spread throughout the North African country. He said the options included possible sanctions that the U.S. could take with its allies as well as steps it might take by itself.
    “We are doing everything we can to protect American citizens,” Obama said in brief remarks at the White House, his first public comments after days of violence in Libya. He appeared with Clinton after the two conferred on the situation at the White House. Clinton is traveling to Geneva on Monday for talks on Libya.
    “We strongly condemn the use of violence in Libya,” Obama said. “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya.”… – AP, 2-23-11
  • Newspaper review: Events in Libya remain the focus: A row of dominos is collapsing on top of Colonel Gaddafi, who holds, in one hand, a machine gun and, in the other, an umbrella. Most offer their opinion on the dictator’s latest televised speech – at once comic and disturbing, they say…. – BBC News, 2-23-11
  • US to evacuate Americans from Libya by ferry: The State Department said late Tuesday it has chartered a ferry boat to evacuate Americans from Libya by sea amid increasingly violent unrest in the North African state as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi vowed further crackdowns on opponents seeking his ouster.
    In a notice sent to U.S. citizens in Libya, the department said Americans wishing to leave Libya should report to the As-shahab port in the capital of Tripoli with their passports starting at 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday. The ferry will depart for the Mediterranean island of Malta no later than 3 p.m. local time…. – AP, 2-23-11
  • Gadhafi forces strike back at revolt near Tripoli: Army units and militiamen loyal to Moammar Gadhafi struck back against rebellious protesters who have risen up in cities close to the capital Thursday, attacking a mosque where many had taken refuge and battling with others who had seized control of a local airport.
    The assaults aimed to push back a revolt that has moved closer to Gadhafi’s bastion in the capital, Tripoli. The uprising has already broken away nearly the eastern half of Libya and unraveled parts of Gadhafi’s regime…. – AP, 2-23-11
  • Jackson Diehl: Is the Obama administration soft on Gaddafi?: For the Obama administration, Libya ought to be the easy case in the Middle East’s turmoil. Dictator Moammar Gaddafi, aptly labeled a “mad dog” by Ronald Reagan 25 years ago, is no friend of the United States, unlike Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak… – WaPo, 2-22-11
  • US condemns ‘appalling’ violence in Libya: The Obama administration on Tuesday condemned “appalling” violence in Libya, where security forces unleashed a bloody crackdown on protesters demanding the ouster of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. “This violence is completely unacceptable,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. “We believe that the government of Libya bears responsibility for what is occurring and must take actions to end the violence.”… – AP, 2-22-11

THE HEADLINES….

The President on Libya
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 2/23/11
  • Obama lends support to states’ health alternative: In a concession over his divisive health care overhaul, President Barack Obama offered Monday to let unhappy states design alternative plans as long as they fulfill the goals of his landmark law.
    Addressing the nation’s governors, Obama also challenged state chiefs who have sought to balance their budgets through weakening unions and curbing employees’ benefits, telling them that they should not demonize workers.
    “I don’t think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon. We need to attract the best and the brightest to public service,” the president said…. – AP, 2-27-11
  • Tea party members vow to hold GOP accountable: Antsy for results, tea party supporters gathered for a weekend strategy summit say they’re intent on making sure the Republicans they helped return to power last fall live up to promises to dramatically change course in Washington. That idea emerged as an apparent consensus among the more than 2,000 people attending the Tea Party Patriots event, which wrapped up Sunday in Arizona. The meeting of the conservative-libertarian coalition was filled with warnings to the GOP not to squander their new base of support, at the risk of diminished help or challenges from the right.
    Among the messages from attendees: Congress is too timid when it comes to slashing spending, Republican leaders seem too willing to compromise with President Barack Obama to avoid a government shutdown, and the newly empowered GOP won’t take a firm enough stand to tamp down the nation’s debt…. – AP, 2-27-11
  • NJ gov compliments first lady’s health efforts: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who says he’s struggled with a weight problem most of his life, he thinks first lady Michelle Obama is doing well to speak in favor of healthy eating and exercise…. – AP, 2-27-11
  • Tea Party Group Issues Warning to the G.O.P.: While heaping scorn on President Obama and the Democrats for overspending, more than 2,000 members of the Tea Party Patriots gathered here for a national conference also had strong words on Saturday for Congressional Republicans and vowed to vote them out of office next year if they did not move aggressively to cut the budget.
    They offered up Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, locked in a standoff with his state’s public-sector unions, as a model of budget-cutting fervor. Mr. Walker remained in Wisconsin, but the mere mention of his name led to a standing ovation. It was Washington, not Wisconsin, though, that seemed the source of the most ire…. – NYT, 2-26-11
  • Governors Look for Means to Cope With Budgets: Democratic governors warned Saturday that federal budget cuts could crimp a fragile economic recovery, and governors of both major parties asked the Obama administration to give them more flexibility in running education and health care programs so that they could cope…. NYT, 2-26-11
  • Anxiety on all sides of upcoming House hearing on radicalization of US MuslimsWaPo, 2-26-11
  • US Economy Grew 2.8% in Fourth Quarter; Revised From 3.2%: The US economy grew at a 2.8 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, slower than previously calculated and less than forecast as state and local governments made deeper cuts in spending…. – Bloomberg, 2-25-11
  • Tea party uses Ariz. summit to scope out 2012 role: A couple of thousand tea party members convening a weekend summit in Phoenix are determined to have a say in choosing the next Republican nominee for president. The populist, conservative movement poses an enticing but complicated challenge for potential GOP candidates because it’s comprised of engaged voters who are generally skeptical of the political establishment…. – AP, 2-26-11
  • Tea Party at second anniversary: What happens next?: “It’s time to get serious about … a long-term policy,” Tea Party Patriots co-founder says Phoenix (CNN) — The Tea Party has already stitched together a colorful history made of success and failure, anger and optimism and lots of controversy…. – CNN International, 2-26-11
  • Govs to feds: Avoid causing states any more pain: Their states on the brink of financial catastrophe, governors pleaded Saturday for the divided federal government to avoid doing anything that would hamper the tenuous economic recovery back home.
    Their message to Washington: prevent a government shutdown, abstain from spending cuts that dramatically will affect states and end even preliminary discussions about allowing states to declare bankruptcy.
    “Anything that Congress does that will undermine our recovery is quite troublesome to us,” said Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, head of the National Governors Association, as she opened the bipartisan group’s winter meeting. “We’re asking for cooperation.” “We don’t need a hiccup now in our recovery,” she added. “We are fragile.”… – AP, 2-26-11
  • Daley tells activists to keep fighting, keep faith: White House chief of staff Bill Daley told Democratic activists Saturday to “keep up the fight” and not lose faith despite continued hard economic times. Daley recalled the days after the November elections, when Republicans won the House and increased their ranks in the Senate…. – AP, 2-26-11
  • Signs of progress in averting government shutdown: Lawmakers appear to be moving closer to a compromise that would prevent a government shutdown, at least for now. Democrats say they’re encouraged by efforts to narrow the gap on possible spending cuts, but are pushing back against Republican efforts to force their position on Congress. House Republicans on Friday detailed a proposal to cut $4 billion in federal spending as part of legislation to keep the government operating for two weeks past a March 4 deadline. They urged Senate Democrats to accept their approach and avoid a government shutdown…. – AP, 2-26-11
  • Obama says government shutdown imperils economy: President Barack Obama says the economic recovery will stall if Congress can’t agree on spending cuts and avoid a government shutdown. The current budget expires next Friday. That means lawmakers must OK a new spending plan before the March 4 deadline to keep much of the government from running out of money and closing. The Republican-run House and Democratic-controlled Senate are bickering over how much to cut.
    “For the sake of our people and our economy, we cannot allow gridlock to prevail,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. “I urge and expect them to find common ground so we can accelerate, not impede, economic growth.”… – AP, 2-26-11
  • Obama says Gadhafi’s time is up as Libya’s leader: President Barack Obama dropped the careful condemnation, threats of consequences and the reminders to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime about its responsibility to avoid violence. In their place he delivered a more forceful message to the Libyan leader: Leave.
    The president called on Gadhafi to step down for the first time Saturday, saying that the Libyan government must be held accountable for its brutal crackdown on dissenters. The administration also announced new sanctions against Libya, but that was overshadowed by the sharp demand for Gadhafi’s immediate ouster…. – AP, 2-26-11
  • Republicans Urge Democrats to Accept Budget Cut, Avoid Shutdown: House Republicans demanded that Senate Democrats accept their plan to cut $4 billion in federal spending while keeping the government open until mid-March or bear responsibility for “actively engineering” a shutdown. Each party has offered a short-term extension of the government’s spending authority that expires March 4. Without agreement by then, agencies will close.
    House Republican leaders said their proposed two-week extension, to be released later today, would cut $4 billion from programs President Barack Obama has already targeted for reductions in his 2012 budget proposal. Their plan also would eliminate lawmakers’ special projects, known as earmarks, which Obama has pledged to veto. “If Senate Democrats walk away from this offer” then “they are actively engineering a government shutdown,” Deputy Republican Whip Pete Roskam of Illinois told reporters on a conference call…. – Bloomberg, 2-25-11
  • State conservatives pledge to uphold Defense of Marriage Act: A Bay State conservative group yesterday promised to take up the legal fight against gay marriage in the wake of the historic decision by the Obama administration to abandon its defense of the 15-year-old Defense of Marriage Act… – Boston Herald, 2-24-11
  • Jeremy Bernard: A historic choice for White House social secretary: The White House is set to make news and history this afternoon when it announces the new social secretary. Jeremy Bernard, currently the chief of staff to the U.S. ambassador to France, will become the third person to hold the job in the Obama administration. But he will be the first man and the first openly gay person to be the first family’s and the executive mansion’s chief event planner and host…. – WaPo, 2-25-11
  • Tea Party at second anniversary: What happens next?: “It’s time to get serious about … a long-term policy,” Tea Party Patriots co-founder says Phoenix (CNN) — The Tea Party has already stitched together a colorful history made of success and failure, anger and optimism and lots of controversy. CNN International, 2-25-11
  • Obama rejects Defense of Marriage Act: The Obama administration delivered an unexpected victory to gay-rights activists yesterday, declaring that a law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional and discriminatory and that Department of Justice lawyers will no longer defend it in court…. – Boston Globe, 2-25-11
  • White House meets lobbyists off campus: Caught between their boss’ anti-lobbyist rhetoric and the reality of governing, President Barack Obama’s aides often steer meetings with lobbyists to a complex just off the White House grounds — and several of the lobbyists involved say they believe the choice of venue is no accident. It allows the Obama administration to keep these lobbyist meetings shielded from public view — and out of Secret Service logs kept on visitors to the White House and later released to the public.
    “They’re doing it on the side. It’s better than nothing,” said immigration reform lobbyist Tamar Jacoby, who has attended meetings at the nearby Jackson Place complex and believes the undisclosed gatherings are better than none…. – Politico, 2-24-11
  • White House reverberates with Motown sound, moves: The White House reverberated like a long-ago basement sound studio in Detroit on Thursday as the likes of John Legend, Seal, Jamie Foxx, Nick Jonas and Sheryl Crow channeled their inner Motown before Michelle and Barack Obama. Musical pioneers Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder joined in for the celebration of all things Motown.
    Obama called it “the soundtrack of the civil rights era,” and credited Motown’s tight lyrics, catchy melodies and deep soul with helping to “blur the line between music that was considered either black or white.”
    Foxx, Seal, Legend and Jonas launched the East Room concert celebrating the Motown sound with a high-energy medley in which the four took turns as backup dancers, complete with some smooth dance moves to the likes of “Get Ready,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Can’t Get Next to You” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”… – AP, 2-24-11
  • Conservatives vow to make gay marriage an issue in 2012: Angered conservatives are vowing to make same-sex marriage a front-burner election issue, nationally and in the states, following the Obama administration’s announcement that it will no longer defend the federal law denying recognition to gay married couples…. – WaPo, 2-24-11
  • Conservatives vow to make gay marriage 2012 issue: Angered conservatives are vowing to make same-sex marriage a front-burner election issue, nationally and in the states, following the Obama administration’s announcement that it will no longer defend the federal law denying recognition to gay married couples.
    “The ripple effect nationwide will be to galvanize supporters of marriage,” said staff counsel Jim Campbell of Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal group… – AP, 2-24-11
  • Obama confident oil prices will stabilize: President Barack Obama said Thursday he’s confident that markets will be able to ride out the situation in Libya and the price of oil will stabilize. Obama made the brief comments during a discussion with a new council of business and labor leaders he’s appointed to work on economic competitiveness. He said that energy costs are generally a source of uncertainty for businesses. But as for the spike in oil prices, the president said: “We think we’ll be able to ride out the situation in Libya and it will stabilize.”… – AP, 2-24-11
  • Obama: Unemployment the biggest economic challenge: Obama told his newly created competitiveness council Thursday that its top priority must be creating jobs during a period of fiscal restraint… AP, 2-24-11
  • Saudi man charged with plotting terrorist attack: A college student from Saudi Arabia who studied chemical engineering in Texas bought explosive chemicals online as part of a plan to hide bomb materials inside dolls and baby carriages to blow up dams, nuclear plants or the Dallas home of former President George W. Bush, the Justice Department said Thursday. “After mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad,” or holy war, Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari wrote in his private journal, according to court documents…. – AP, 2-24-11
  • Obama sharpens critique of Libya amid wider unrest: The Obama administration on Wednesday sharpened its condemnation of a bloody crackdown on Libyan opposition demonstrators as it broadened its outreach to government officials, dissidents, rights activists and youth in other Arab nations across a Middle East that is seething with unrest. Amid the tumult rocking the region, Obama condemned the violence in Libya in the sharpest terms Washington has yet used and directed his administration to prepare a full range of options, including possible sanctions that could freeze the assets and ban travel to the U.S. by Libyan officials. He said he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Geneva for international talks aimed at stopping the bloodshed and formulating a unified global message to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
    “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable,” Obama told reporters after meeting with Clinton at the White House. “So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.”… – AP, 2-23-11
  • Obama denounces Cuba’s treatment of dissidents: Obama said Zapata’s “selfless and tragic death” had “galvanized the world’s attention to the ongoing mistreatment of those unjustly held by Cuban authorities.” “The Cuban people must know that their suffering does not go unnoticed and that the United States remains unwavering in our commitment to defend the inalienable right of the Cuban people to enjoy the freedoms that define the Americas and that are universal to all human beings,” he said…. – AP, 2-23-11
  • Government drops defense of anti-gay-marriage law: President Barack Obama ordered his administration on Wednesday to stop defending the constitutionality of a federal law that bans recognition of gay marriage, a policy reversal that could have major implications for the rights and benefits of gay couples and reignite an emotional debate for the 2012 presidential campaign. Obama still is “grappling” with his personal views on whether gays should be allowed to marry but has long opposed the federal law as unnecessary and unfair, said spokesman Jay Carney. First word of the change came not from the White House but from the Justice Department. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Obama had concluded the 15-year-old Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was legally indefensible…. – AP, 2-23-11
  • WH: Obama still ‘grappling’ with gay marriage: The White House says President Barack Obama is “grappling” with his personal views on gay marriage even as he’s ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of a law that bans it. Spokesman Jay Carney said Obama has always opposed the Defense of Marriage Act as “unnecessary and unfair.” But Carney said there’s no change to how Obama views gay marriage itself…. – AP, 2-23-11
  • Judge tosses suit against Obama health care plan: A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit claiming that President Barack Obama’s requirement that all Americans have health insurance violates the religious freedom of those who rely on God to protect them. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Center for Law and Justice, a Christian legal group founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, on behalf of five Americans who can afford health insurance but have chosen for years not to buy it…. – AP, 2-23-11
  • Obama pitches economic message one state at a time: Twenty months ahead of the 2012 election, President Barack Obama is traveling the nation, vying for the public’s attention one state at a time, while international crises and budget fights compete with his plans for economic revival. On Tuesday, Obama curried favor with small businesses in politically important Ohio, pushing his plans to boost American competitiveness by increasing spending on sectors like education and infrastructure. That agenda, however, is running up against opposition from some Republican governors in cash-strapped states, and GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill, whose demands for deep spending cuts raise the prospect of a federal government shutdown…. – AP, 2-22-11
  • Qaddafi’s Grip on Power Appears to WeakenNYT, 2-21-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Boehner signals reluctance about shutdown: ‘Americans want the government to stay open,’ the House speaker says. Meanwhile, a Democratic senator indicates that a Republican spending plan could lead to a temporary agreement…. – LAT, 2-28-11
  • A New Discussion About a Profession That Isn’t: Brooke Taylor voted for Harry Reid in his battle for re-election to the Senate last fall. But now she is incensed…. Now Mr. Reid’s comments are reopening the oldest debate about the oldest profession. And Ms. Taylor is rallying her army of fans and clients to fight back.
    Prostitution never emerged as an issue during the Reid campaign. But then Mr. Reid, a Democrat and the Senate majority leader, returned to his home state last week for his address to the Legislature. “When the nation thinks about Nevada, it should think about the world’s newest ideas and newest careers, not about its oldest profession,” Mr. Reid said. “If we want to attract business to Nevada that puts people back to work, the time has come to outlaw prostitution.”… – NYT, 2-27-11
  • Boehner makes budget case at religious convention: House Speaker John Boehner in a speech to religious broadcasters on Sunday called it a “moral responsibility” to rein in the federal debt. Boehner said Republicans will work to prevent a shutdown of the federal government, but not without spending cuts.
    “Perhaps the activists of unrestrained government think there’s some compromise to be had that allows their spending binge to survive,” the Ohio Republican said in a 25-minute speech at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville. “Ladies and gentlemen, know this: We will do no such thing.” “We have a moral responsibility to address the problems we face,” Boehner said. “That means working together to cut spending and rein in government — not shutting it down.”…. – AP, 2-27-11
  • GOP House freshmen draw mixed response at home: Newly elected Republican Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, like dozens of other freshman members, was sent to Congress on a promise to slash government spending. And slash it she did, voting last weekend to cut $61 billion from the current federal budget and to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform plan.
    Buerkle, who defeated first-term Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei by less than 600 votes in a district that favored Obama in 2008, is one of 87 House GOP freshmen — six from New York alone — swept into office by voters demanding greater fiscal discipline in Washington. But at town halls and other constituent meetings during this week’s Congressional recess, GOP lawmakers — particularly from swing districts like Buerkle’s — were grilled for making good on that promise.
    But others, like Florida Rep. Allen West, won standing ovations from huge crowds. Others, like Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold and Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, drew parents pushing baby strollers protesting potential cuts to Head Start, the federal school readiness program for young children…. – AP, 2-25-11
  • House GOP says shutdown would be irresponsible: House Republicans on Friday detailed a proposal to slash $4 billion in federal spending as part of legislation to keep the government operating for two weeks past a March 4 deadline. They urged Senate Democrats to accept their approach and avoid a government shutdown.
    “A government shutdown is not an acceptable or responsible option for Republicans,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said in a conference call where he and other Republicans promoted their plan for avoiding the first government shutdown since 1996…. – AP, 2-25-11
  • Reid proposes 30-day bill to avert shutdown: The top Democrat in the Senate said Tuesday that he’ll bring legislation to the floor next week to keep the government running at current spending levels for 30 days to avoid a shutdown in March.
    The move by Majority Leader Harry Reid is in keeping with longstanding tradition, but it was immediately rejected by GOP leaders who assailed the Nevada Democrat for freezing spending at levels inflated by generous budget increases provided under President Barack Obama.
    A short-term bill is required because the House on Saturday passed a $1.2 trillion omnibus spending bill to finance the government through Sept. 30. That measure would slash domestic agency budgets by more than $60 billion over the last seven months of the budget year, which would lead to widespread furloughs of federal workers and dismantle a host of environmental regulations…. – AP, 2-22-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

Laura Segall/Getty Images

Like many addressing the Tea Party Patriots, Tim Pawlenty got in a dig at President Obama.

  • Poll: Americans oppose weaker unions: Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. The poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Wisconsin, compared with 33% who would favor such a law…. – USA Today, 2-22-11
  • The Wisconsin Lie Exposed – Taxpayers Actually Contribute Nothing To Public Employee Pensions: Pulitzer Prize winning tax reporter, David Cay Johnston, has written a brilliant piece for tax.com exposing the truth about who really pays for the pension and benefits for public employees in Wisconsin…. Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans. Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, creates the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not. Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers…. – Forbes, 2-25-11
  • Hundreds defy order to vacate Wisconsin CapitolMSNBC, 2-27-11
  • Governors meld minds on mending budget ills: A national governors meeting focused on closing huge state budget gaps showed chief executives deeply divided Sunday over whether a Wisconsin plan that has sparked weeks of protests by public employees is the way to go…. – USA Today, 2-27-11
  • Rallies in 50 states support Wis. protesters: Demonstrations against Gov. Walker’s anti-labor bill spread as other states consider rolling back rights of union workers…. – CBS News, 2-26-11
  • Deadline nears to clear Wisconsin Capitol: The hundreds of people who have called the Capitol home these past two weeks last week have formed a village, demonstrating a common determination to sleep on marble, fight for a common cause and make a heck of a lot of noise…. – USA Today, 2-26-11
  • Governors head to D.C., minds set on economy: Scott Walker, the Republican governor of Wisconsin, probably won’t come. He’s at home battling absentee Democratic lawmakers, unions and protesters over proposed changes to collective bargaining…. – USA Today, 2-25-11
  • Wisconsin GOP wins Round 1 over unions, but final victory still eludes: The Wisconsin GOP-led Assembly approved a bill Friday to sharply curtail the power of public employee unions. But the battle for public opinion, in Wisconsin and the nation, goes on, with the state Senate yet to vote…. – CS Monitor, 2-25-11
  • Gov. Christie says trade not a partisan issue: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that trade shouldn’t be a partisan issue if America wants to get a leg up in the global economy.
    “Trade is not a partisan issue when President Obama nominates Governor Christie to be on anything,” Christie joked. “America has to reach out around the world to grow our economy,” he said…. – AP, 2-26-11
  • State budget crisis looms over governors meeting: Confronting crushing budget woes, many of the nation’s governors are calling for painful spending cuts. But beyond that, their approaches are diverging drastically, from union-cramping proposals in Wisconsin and other states to higher taxes in Illinois and elsewhere. Most states’ chief executives are struggling to plug massive budget holes without pushing unemployment higher and hampering a fragile post-recession recovery, and that’s setting a worrisome atmosphere as they gather in Washington for their winter meeting. Not all are coming; some are choosing to stay at home to wage budget battles with their legislatures…. – AP, 2-25-11
  • Workers expand budget wars to more states: The standoff in Wisconsin over budget cuts spread to other states Tuesday as union leaders began to organize protests in other capitals… – Seattle Times, 2-23-11
  • Rahm to Obama: I couldn’t have done it without you: Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel turned President Obama’s glowing send-off into a near-endorsement that helped Emanuel claim a majority of the black vote…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 2-23-11
  • Emanuel faces big money woes as next Chicago mayor: Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel won’t have much time to celebrate his victory as Chicago’s new mayor. Emanuel, who overwhelmed the race with truckloads of money and friends in high places from Washington to Hollywood, will take control of a city in deep financial trouble with problems ranging from an understaffed police department to underperforming schools.
    On Tuesday, Emanuel won 55 percent of the vote, easily outdistancing former Chicago schools president Gery Chico, who had 24 percent, and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and City Clerk Miguel del Valle, who each had 9 percent. He succeeds Mayor Richard M. Daley, who is retiring after 22 years in office as the longest-serving mayor in Chicago’s history…. – AP, 2-23-11
  • Daley leaves legacy for next mayor: Chicago mayoral candidate Carol Moseley Braun smiled at US Representative Danny Davis (right) at a rally yesterday. Braun, a former US senator, is one of six people on today’s ballot…. – Boston Globe, 2-22-11
  • New Jersey mayors hold their breath over state budget: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has built a national reputation as a fiscal conservative, but New Jersey mayors say they worry a $10.5 billion budget gap will be closed at their expense…. – Reuters, 2-21-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Gingrich closer to presidential run: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich intends to take a formal step toward entering the 2012 presidential race within the next two weeks, Republican officials said Sunday, after months spent traveling to important primary and caucus states.
    These officials declined to say precisely what type of announcement the 67-year-old former Georgia lawmaker would make, but added they expect him to make clear his determination to run. If so, he would be the first Republican to do so in a slow-to-develop field of potential challengers to President Barack Obama…. – AP, 2-27-11
  • Gallup Poll: Mike Huckabee climbs to top of GOP 2012 fieldUSA Today, 2-26-11
  • Factbox: Possible Republican White House candidates in 2012: Big-name Republicans have begun maneuvering to seek their party’s nomination to run for the White House in 2012 to try to deny President Barack Obama a second four-year term…. – Reuters, 2-25-11
  • Gallup: A three-way GOP horserace: A Gallup poll out Wednesday found Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin locked in a close contest for the Republican presidential nomination.
    18 percent of Republicans and R-leaning independents support Mike Huckabee for president.
    16 percent back Mitt Romney, and 16 percent are behind Sarah Palin.
    14 percent have no opinion. No other potential candidate breaks single-digits…. – Politico, 2-25-11
  • Politico says Pawlenty is relevant: Politico’s Mike Allen, in his daily “playbook” column, catalogues the latest evidence that Sarah Palin isn’t doing any of the things she would need to do (court the big donors, lock up the established Iowa and New Hampshire operatives) if she was seriously thinking of running for president.
    Then, switching gears, Allen gives his list of “The likely GOP field, in order of relevance: 1) Mitt Romney, 2) Tim Pawlenty, 3) Haley Barbour, 4) Jon Huntsman, 5) Newt Gingrich, 6) Rick Santorum.”… – MinnPost, 2-25-11
  • Gingrich: We won in government shutdown, not Clinton: The dominant political narrative of the 1995 government shutdown is this: President Bill Clinton stared down Republicans, led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich – and he won… – Politico, 2-25-11
  • Why Mike Huckabee probably won’t run for president in 2012 (video): Mike Huckabee has an Achilles’ heel that nags at him: money. The possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate isn’t good at raising it, and he worries about having an empty bank account – again…. – CS Monitor, 2-24-11
  • Huckabee: Romney should apologize for health plan: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Wednesday that potential White House rival Mitt Romney should offer an apology for the health care overhaul he oversaw as Massachusetts governor.
    “I think it’s not a killer for him. But he has to say either ‘I love it,’ ‘I hate it,’ or, ‘Hey I tried it, it didn’t work and that’s why I would say to you, let’s not do it nationally,'” Huckabee said. “He’s got to figure out how he wants to deal with it. It’s the 800-pound elephant in the room for him,” said Huckabee, who is on tour to promote his latest book, “A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don’t).”… – AP, 2-23-11
  • With Thune out, Senate contenders for White House seem unlikely in 2012: Now that the 2010 midterm elections are over, lips have already started wagging over who the potential Republican presidential candidates may be in 2012…. – WaPo, 2-23-11
  • US Sen. John Thune won’t run against Obama in 2012: U.S. Sen. John Thune said Tuesday that he won’t join what’s expected to be a crowded GOP field of presidential hopefuls next year, concluding he would have a difficult time fundraising and that President Barack Obama would be tough to beat. Thune was seen as one of several potential challengers to Obama in 2012. His exit is the first clear signal of who will — and who will not — compete for the Republicans’ nomination… – AP, 2-22-11
  • Joe Courtney Won’t Seek Senate Seat: A prominent potential candidate for the Connecticut Senate seat being vacated by Joe Lieberman said Monday he won’t run, setting up a two-way Democratic primary between a congressman and a former Connecticut secretary of state…. – WSJ, 2-22-11
  • Insight into a President Mike Huckabee: Today I had the opportunity to be part of a blogger conference call with Mike Huckabee for his new book, A Simple Government… – Politicons, 2-22-11
  • Mike Huckabee in no hurry to decide on presidentialLAT, 2-22-11
  • Ind. treasurer to take on Sen. Lugar for GOP nod: Indiana’s state treasurer, who became a tea party favorite for challenging aspects of the government’s auto industry bailout, said Tuesday he will challenge six-term U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar for the Republican nomination in next year’s primary.
    At a news conference attended by some 200 supporters, Richard Mourdock said he respects Lugar’s decades of public service but thinks his challenge to the moderate senator will ultimately benefit Indiana Republicans.
    “As a party, we are made better when we have a contest for our ideas and ideals,” Mourdock told those gathered at the Indianapolis Artsgarden…. – AP, 2-22-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 2/25/11
  • Weekly Address: “Investments in Education, Innovation, and Infrastructure are an Essential Down Payment on our Future”: Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery February 26, 2011 Washington, DC: Over the last month, I’ve been traveling the country, talking to Americans about how we can out-educate, out-innovate, and out-build the rest of the world. Doing that will require a government that lives within its means, and cuts whatever spending we can afford to do without. But it will also require investing in our nation’s future – training and educating our workers; increasing our commitment to research and technology; building new roads and bridges, high-speed rail and high-speed internet.
    In cities and towns throughout America, I’ve seen the benefits of these investments. The schools and colleges of Oregon are providing Intel – the state’s largest private employer – with a steady stream of highly-educated workers and engineers. At Parkville Middle School outside of Baltimore, engineering is the most popular subject, thanks to outstanding teachers who are inspiring students to focus on their math and science skills.
    In Wisconsin, a company called Orion is putting hundreds of people to work manufacturing energy-efficient lights in a once-shuttered plant. And in the small community of Marquette, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, widely accessible high-speed internet has allowed students and entrepreneurs to connect to the global economy. One small business, a third-generation, family-owned clothing shop called Getz’s is now selling their products online, which has helped them double their workforce and make them one of America’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies in a recent listing.
    Each of these places reminds us that investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure are an essential down payment on our future. But they also remind us that the only way we can afford these investments is by getting our fiscal house in order. Just like any family, we have to live within our means to make room for things we absolutely need.
    That’s why I’ve called for a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years – a freeze that would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, bringing this kind of spending to its lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Just to be clear, that’s lower than it was under the past three administrations, and lower than it was under Ronald Reagan.
    Now, putting this budget freeze in place will require tough choices. That’s why I’ve frozen salaries for hardworking civil servants for three years, and proposed cutting programs I care about deeply, like community action programs in low-income neighborhoods. I’m not taking these steps lightly – but I’m taking them because our economic future demands it.
    Still, a freeze in annual domestic spending is just a start. If we’re serious about tackling our long-run fiscal challenges, we also need to cut excessive spending wherever we find it – in defense spending, spending in Medicare and Medicaid, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.
    I’m willing to consider any serious ideas to help us reduce the deficit – no matter what party is proposing them. But instead of cutting the investments in education and innovation we need to out-compete the rest of the world, we need a balanced approach to deficit reduction. We all need to be willing to sacrifice, but we can’t sacrifice our future.
    Next week, Congress will focus on a short-term budget. For the sake of our people and our economy, we cannot allow gridlock to prevail. Both Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate have said they believe it’s important to keep the government running while we work together on a plan to reduce our long-term deficit.
    Given that, I urge and expect them to find common ground so we can accelerate, not impede, economic growth. It won’t be easy. There will be plenty of debates and disagreements, and neither party will get everything it wants. Both sides will have to compromise.
    That’s what it will take to do what’s right for our country. And I look forward to working with members of both parties to produce a responsible budget that cuts what we can’t afford, sharpens America’s competitive edge in the world, and helps us win the future. Thanks everyone, and have a nice weekend. – WH, 2-26-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Eric Cantor: We have a choice to make about the future of our country. In order to protect our way of life, the choice we must make is about changing course, and renewing our commitment to what makes America unique: Innovation. Creative thinking. Problem solving. Entrepreneurship. Individual liberty and economic freedom. – 2-25-11
  • John McCain: Senator Lieberman and I met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. We contiunue to stand with Israel at a time of historic change in the region. — 2-25-11
  • Barack Obama President Obama on the Situation in Libya: The U.S. strongly supports the universal rights of the Libyan people. That includes the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. They are not negotiable. And they cannot be denied through violence or suppression. — 2-24-11
  • Remarks by the President at “In Performance At The White House: The Motown Sound”: No one knows exactly when jazz began. Nobody knows who the first person was to sing a freedom song. But we know where Motown came from. We know it was born in the basement of a house on West Grand Boulevard in the Motor City — Detroit. (Applause.) And we know it started with a man named Berry Gordy, who is here with us tonight. Stand up, Berry. (Applause.)? ?
    Now, apparently Berry tried a lot of things before following his heart into music. A high school dropout, he failed as a record store owner, competed as an amateur boxer, finally took a job earning $85 a week on the assembly line at the local Lincoln-Mercury plant. And it was there, watching the bare metal frames transformed into gleaming automobiles, that Berry wondered why he couldn’t do the same thing with musicians, and help turn new talent into stars.? ?
    And before long, he quit his job at the plant, borrowed $800, and set up shop in a little house with a banner across the front that read “Hitsville, U.S.A.” His family thought he was delusional. (Laughter.) But as Berry said, “People thought the Wright Brothers had a stupid idea, so I say, ‘Bring on the stupid ideas.’”? ?
    As it turned out, Berry could recognize talent and potential better than anybody else in the business. It began with Smokey Robinson, who stopped by the Motown house with a group of friends calling themselves the Miracles. Then came one of Smokey’s neighbors -– a high school senior named Diana Ross, who started out working as a secretary. One of the Miracles brought along his little brother, who invited a 10-year-old blind kid named Stephen Hardaway Judkins to tag along. (Laughter.) And then there was a group called the Jackson Five, fresh from amateur night at the Apollo, that Gladys Knight told Berry he just had to see.? ?
    Pretty soon, the basement studio was turning out hits faster than Detroit was turning out cars. From 1961 to 1971, Motown produced 110 Top 10 hits from artists like Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops and The Supremes. In the process, Motown’s blend of tight lyrics, catchy melodies and deep soul began to blur the line between music that was considered either “black” or “white.” As Smokey Robinson said, “I recognized the bridges that were crossed, the racial problems and the barriers that we broke down with music. I recognized that because I lived it.”? ?
    Along the way, songs like “Dancing in the Streets” and “What’s Going On” became the soundtrack of the civil rights era. Black artists began soaring to the top of the pop charts for the first time. And at concerts in the South, Motown groups literally brought people together –- insisting that the ropes traditionally used to separate black and white audience members be taken down.? ?
    So, today, more than 50 years later, that’s the Motown legacy. Born at a time of so much struggle, so much strife, it taught us that what unites us will always be stronger than what divides us. And in the decades since, those catchy beats and simple chords have influenced generations of musicians, from Sheryl Crow to the Jonas Brothers. – WH, 2-24-11
  • President Obama on Libya: “These Sanctions Therefore Target the Qaddafi Government, While Protecting the Assets that Belong to the People of Libya”: The Libyan government’s continued violation of human rights, brutalization of its people, and outrageous threats have rightly drawn the strong and broad condemnation of the international community. By any measure, Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable. These sanctions therefore target the Qaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya.
    Going forward, the United States will continue to closely coordinate our actions with the international community, including our friends and allies, and the United Nations. We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights, and a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Their human dignity cannot be denied. WH, 2-25-11Executive OrderLetter to Congress
  • Statement of the Attorney General on Litigation Involving the Defense of Marriage Act: The Attorney General made the following statement today about the Department’s course of action in two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman:
    In the two years since this Administration took office, the Department of Justice has defended Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on several occasions in federal court. Each of those cases evaluating Section 3 was considered in jurisdictions in which binding circuit court precedents hold that laws singling out people based on sexual orientation, as DOMA does, are constitutional if there is a rational basis for their enactment. While the President opposes DOMA and believes it should be repealed, the Department has defended it in court because we were able to advance reasonable arguments under that rational basis standard…. – DOJ, 2-23-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

The President in Cleveland
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 2/22/11
  • Obama rejects Defense of Marriage Act In victory for gay-rights advocates, US won’t defend law in court: “For the Republican leadership, that is the last thing they want to deal with right now,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “I think a lot of Republicans feel that President Obama is quite vulnerable, and they see a real opportunity to do well in 2012, so the last thing you want is to inject an issue that creates dissention and creates divisions. They want to be focused on the deficit, a lot of Republicans — not on this.” — Boston Globe, 2-24-11
  • Right now sees Michelle Obama as fair game: “There’s so much anger in the criticism surrounding Michelle Obama,” said Myra Gutin, a Rider University professor and author of a biography of Barbara Bush and a book on 20th century first ladies. “It seems almost personal to me.”
    Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said Obama “became an easier target” by becoming more political recently with the DNC announcement. “She made herself more political and thus fed these kinds of attacks,” he said…. – Politico, 2-24-11
  • LLOYD M. KRIEGER: ObamaCare Is Already Damaging Health Care: Many of its changes don’t kick in until 2014. But the law is forcing dramatic consolidation and reducing choice in the industry.
    The Republicans who now control the House of Representatives hope to repeal or defund ObamaCare, but the law has already yielded profound, destructive changes that will not be undone by repeal or defunding alone. Active steps and new laws will be needed to repair the damage.
    The most significant change is a wave of frantic consolidation in the health industry. Because the law mandates that insurers accept all patients regardless of pre-existing conditions, insurers will not make money with their current premium and provider-payment structures. As a result, they have already started to raise premiums and cut payments to doctors and hospitals. Smaller and weaker insurers are being forced to sell themselves to larger entities.
    Doctors and hospitals, meanwhile, have decided that they cannot survive unless they achieve massive size—and fast. Six years ago, doctors owned more than two-thirds of U.S. medical practices, according to the Medical Group Management Association. By next year, nearly two-thirds will be salaried employees of larger institutions…. – WSJ, 2-25-11
  • Paul Kengor: Bush’s Middle East ‘March of Freedom': As we watch the growing demand that Middle East autocrats and dictators step down, from Iran in June 2009 to Egypt and Libya this February, on the heels of repeated elections in post-Taliban Afghanistan and post-Saddam Iraq, the wisdom of two presidents keeps coming to mind.
    First is Ronald Reagan, who warned dictators that freedom is “contagious.” As he noted in May 1982, the Soviets feared the “infectiousness” of the freedom posed by groups like Solidarity in Poland. Eight years later, with elections held in Poland and the wall down in Berlin, Reagan, no longer president, observed: “As is always the case, once people who have been deprived of basic freedom taste a little of it, they want all of it.” Looking back at the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, he remarked: “It was as if Gorbachev had uncorked a magic bottle and a genie floated out, never to be put back in again.”
    As president, Reagan had spoken of a “march of freedom” that would leave Marxism-Leninism on the “ash-heap of history.” He said this often, but most memorably in his June 1982 Westminster speech, which also founded the National Endowment for Democracy.
    That brings me to the other president. The president who picked up Reagan’s mantle from Westminster was George W. Bush. Speaking to the National Endowment for Democracy in November 2003, Bush gave the most important address of his presidency, promising to extend Reagan’s “march” into the Middle East, the place most resistant to the freedom tide. What Bush said cannot be reiterated enough, and couldn’t be more appropriate than right now, as the next target by the people of the Middle East is the hideous Muammar Gaddafi; from the Taliban, to Saddam, to Ahmadinejad, to Mubarak, to Gaddafi…. – Spectator, 2-25-11
  • Niall Ferguson: Wanted: A Grand Strategy for America NEWSWEEK’s new columnist on Obama’s Egypt debacle and the vacuum it exposes: The statesman can only wait and listen until he hears the footsteps of God resounding through events; then he must jump up and grasp the hem of His coat, that is all.” Thus Otto von Bismarck, the great Prussian statesman who united Germany and thereby reshaped Europe’s balance of power nearly a century and a half ago.
    Last week, for the second time in his presidency, Barack Obama heard those footsteps, jumped up to grasp a historic opportunity … and missed it completely…. – Newsweek, 2-13-11
  • How Obama’s Legacy Will Generate Big Bucks….: Though several years off, President Obama’s next gig is already shaping up to be a sweet deal. He may be deep in the groove of his Presidency. But we do know he has given thought to what happens next. Before he even sat at the Resolute Desk, he inked a deal to deliver a post-presidency book, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Millions will follow, no doubt, because after you’ve pulled the nation back from the brink of economic disaster, and perhaps even a second Great Depression, what you do for an encore will be worth paying for. He’ll rack up on the speakers’ circuit. He’s one of the world’s most gifted orators, so money won’t be an issue. Neither will his age. When he leaves the White House — in either 2013, or 2017, at the age of 52 or 56, depending on the outcome of the next election — he will still have a dangerous jump-shot and a bop in his walk, and his children will still be youngsters.
    “He’ll be a relatively young ex-President, so he’ll have a long career,” said Alan Brinkley, a historian at Columbia University. “I think we’ve had somewhat younger Presidents fairly recently, and also people are living longer now, so ex-Presidents seem to be around for a longer time. Some of them are very active, like Clinton and Carter, and others seem to just disappear. I doubt that Obama will disappear.”… – ThyBlackMan.com, 2-11-11
  • Debate swirls over Mubarak legacy: “He pretty much wiped them out,” University of Michigan Professor of History Juan Cole said. “It’s not an accident that they were in Afghanistan instead of Egypt.” The government penetrated opposition movements so thoroughly that “if five people (sat) down to plot something, the fifth person (wrote) a report to Hosni Mubarak about it,” he said…. – CNN.com, 2-11-11
  • Timing of Mubarak speech was no accident, says expert: The timing of Hosni Mubarak’s speech Thursday night to the nation was no accident, said Prof. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a sociologist and visiting scholar at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, who was imprisoned three times by Mubarak. “He’s trying to preempt a call for a general strike tomorrow,” Ibrahim told CNN Thursday in a telephone interview, noting that workers began joining the demonstrations early this week and were calling for demonstrations throughout Egypt on Friday. “Usually, after the Friday prayer, people congregate, so he was trying to preempt that.”…
    James Gelvin, a professor of history at UCLA, said Mubarak had little choice but to act on Thursday. “He had to do something,” Gelvin said in a telephone interview. “Today followed on the biggest demonstrations in Egypt’s recent history. It’s not just in Tahrir Square, it’s up and down the country, and it’s labor unrest as well. You’ve got a perfect storm of economic grievances and political grievances at the same time.” The timing of the next move is up to the military, which both supports the protesters and wants order, he said. “They can’t have it both ways.”… – CNN.com, 2-10-11
  • Douglas Brinkley: What Reagan Would Do in Egypt: Egypt’s brutal crackdown on demonstrators and the media would have “angered and goaded” the late, great President Ronald Reagan, who would have sided with the people trying to throw off a dictator, best-selling historian Douglas Brinkley tells Newsmax.
    “One of the things I learned in editing ‘The Reagan Diaries’ is to never say what Reagan would do, because he surprised people,” Brinkley told Newsmax in an exclusive interview Thursday night. However, there’s little doubt how Reagan would have reacted to the mayhem in the streets of Cairo, “The Reagan Diaries” author said.
    “If Reagan had intelligence information that showed that the upheaval in Egypt is actually Democratic in spirit, then he would have, I believe, turned his back on Mubarak, even though there’s a long friendship between the United States and Egypt,” Brinkley said. “And [he would have] supported the Democratic movement.”… – NewsMax, 2-4-11
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