June 21, 2010: Obama Selling the Economy & Introduces Father’s Day Initiative

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

White House Photo, Pete Souza, 6/16/10

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • AP-GfK Poll bolsters congressional Democrats: There’s encouraging news for Democrats battling to retain control of Congress in this fall’s elections, with the party holding a slender edge in public trust for shepherding the economy and small gains in those saying their finances are healthy, according to a new poll. The reeling economy remains people’s top concern, according to an Associated Press-GfK Poll conducted earlier this month, making public attitudes about it crucial for both parties’ hopes in November. The good news for Democrats: By a margin of 47 percent to 42 percent, people trust them more than Republicans to guide the economy, and slightly more — 64 percent — say their household budgets are in good shape. In addition, people want Democrats to win control of Congress by a 46 percent to 39 percent margin. That is the second straight month in which Democrats have held a delicate advantage on that question since April, when 44 percent preferred Republicans and 41 percent picked Democrats…. – AP, 6-16-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House: Emanuel Quitting Report ‘Ludicrous': White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is expected to leave his job within six to eight months because he is fed up with the “idealism” of President Barack Obama’s closest advisers, The London Daily Telegraph reported Monday.
    The newspaper cited Washington insiders, who said Congress veteran Emanuel, 50, is also concerned about burning out and losing touch with his three children due to the pressure of the job.
    In response to the report, a senior White House official told Fox News early Monday the story was “ludicrous” and “not worth looking into.”
    The Telegraph, however, quoted a Democratic source as saying: “I would bet he will go after the midterms.” “Nobody thinks it’s working, but they can’t get rid of him — that would look awful. He needs the right sort of job to go to, but the consensus is he’ll go.” “It might not be his fault, but the perception is there,” said the consultant. “Every vote has been tough, from health care to energy to financial reform. “Democrats have not stood behind the President in the way Republicans did for George W. Bush, and that was meant to be Rahm’s job.”…. – Fox News, 6-21-10
  • Obama steps up fatherhood advocacy with new mentoring initiative: In what is becoming a Father’s Day ritual for the Obama administration, the president on Monday will bring together children, famous dads and nonprofit groups that promote fatherhood to highlight the importance of fathers. The center of President Obama’s day-long celebration will be a speech at the ARC, an arts and recreation campus in Southeast Washington, where he is set to announce the creation of the President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative. It will build on a theme that has been central to his family policy and a core part of the White House’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The new initiative, which is enlisting a network of organizations, will expand on a six-city listening tour the administration held last year to bring attention to the issue of fatherlessness. “The tour was a national conversation on responsible fatherhood that was rooted in the president’s personal experiences growing up and his realization that father absence is a real challenge facing many communities,” said Joshua DuBois, director of the partnerships office…. – WaPo, 6-21-10
  • A yachting trip? The 10 worst BP gaffes in Gulf oil spill: BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward attended a yachting race in England yesterday. It was just the latest BP public relations gaffe in the Gulf oil spill. Here are 10 of the worst…. – CSMonitor, 6-20-10
  • Records suggest Kagan played small part in settling Harvard-military dispute Lawrence H. Summers took the lead: When Elena Kagan suspended help to military recruiters as dean of Harvard Law School, consternation inside the Pentagon reached all the way to then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to government documents released Saturday. The records show that the controversy was resolved by Harvard’s president with little apparent input from Kagan…. – WaPo, 6-20-10
  • Election-year deficit fears stall Obama stimulus plan: Barely a week after President Obama tried to re-energize his push for more spending on the economy, his agenda is stalled on Capitol Hill, mired in election-year anxiety about the deficit…. Even the state aid that Obama last week called critical to preventing the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers and other government workers is foundering. After days of talks, frustrated Democratic leaders in the Senate failed again Thursday to muster the 60 votes needed to approve the cash and left town for the weekend with no clear path forward…. – WaPo, 6-18-10
  • Obama dashing to Ohio to keep economy out front: Determined to keep showing the economy is on his mind, President Barack Obama is dashing into Ohio for the groundbreaking of a road project, hoping to remind the nation that the massive, costly stimulus act is still churning out jobs. Millions of unemployed people have yet to feel the relief. Obama was to be on the ground in Ohio for only about 90 minutes Friday, long enough to celebrate what the White House calls a significant moment: the start of the 10,000th road project launched under the recovery act. The president’s message is that a summer season of more help is on the way…. – AP, 6-18-10
  • Earning trust is biggest obstacle in disbursing $20 billion BP escrow fund: It is not easy to divvy up $20 billion. Perhaps no one in America knows this better than Kenneth R. Feinberg. The nation’s unofficial authority on disbursing massive relief funds oversaw the paying out of billions of dollars for families of those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the Virginia Tech shootings. His phone rang once again this month, not long before word began to spread in Washington about such a fund for victims of the gulf oil spill. BP executives contacted Feinberg to see whether he would be willing to take the job. He agreed, and President Obama signed on…. – WaPo, 6-18-10
  • Kagan’s e-mails show dry wit, political savvy: Newly released e-mails from Elena Kagan’s time as an aide to President Bill Clinton portray the Supreme Court nominee as a driven and opinionated person with a flair for political tactics and little tolerance for high-flying rhetoric. The e-mails — among tens of thousands of pages of her e-mails released Friday — also show how Kagan often had to place political considerations ahead of policy views…. – AP, 6-19-10
  • Day 58: The Latest on the Oil Spill: BP Chief Testifies Before Congress: Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, testifying before a Congressional subcommittee, apologized for the oil spill, saying it “never should have happened,” but then he faced a barrage of criticism from lawmakers who grew frustrated that he would not answer their questions on specifics about the disaster still unfolding in the Gulf Coast. “With all due respect, Mr. Hayward, I think you’re copping out,” said Representative Phil Gingrey, Republican of Georgia. NYT, 6-17-10
  • U.S. official calls for Kyrgyzstan investigation: A U.S. official on Friday called for a “substantial” investigation into the killings of more than 170 people during recent ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake was at a refugee camp near the border in Uzbekistan, where thousands of ethnic Uzbeks fled violence in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Blake said he wants Kyrgyzstan authorities to investigate who carried out the attacks on ethnic Uzbeks and to bring those responsible to justice. He planned to go to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek later Friday to deliver the message personally, he said…. – CNN, 6-18-10
  • Bill To Help Unemployed Fails In Senate: A beleaguered bill to extend benefits for the long term unemployed stalled on Capitol Hill Tuesday, when the Senate voted 45-52 to block the $140 billion catchall bill that also would delay a Medicare fee cut, extend a hodgepodge of expiring tax cuts, and other provisions that Democrats say will help stimulate job growth. Although the bill also included tax increases on investment managers and oil companies to help offset the cost, it has run into opposition from Republicans as well as many Democrats who are worried about adding to the burgeoning budget deficit. The vote to block the bill came on a motion to waive budget rules to allow it to pass – a motion that would have required 60 votes. Eleven Democrats and one Independent – Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — joined 40 Republicans in voting… – LAT, 6-17-10
  • Obama Adds To Iran Sanctions: Washington….The Obama administration Wednesday added several dozen Iranian individuals and organizations to its sanctions blacklist, its first steps to intensify international pressure in the aftermath of international sanctions adopted last week by the United Nations Security Council. The penalties were aimed at entities tied to Iran’s nuclear and missile program, including one bank, five front companies, 22 energy and insurance concerns, and two individuals and four groups tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, announcing the sanctions at the White House, said that to be effective “we need to have in place a concerted international approach. This is not something the United States can do alone.”… – LAT, 6-16-10
  • 9/11 payout czar Kenneth Feinberg to dole out gulf oil disaster funds: President Obama’s choice to oversee the gulf oil disaster fund is one of the very few people who have weighed the dollar value of devastation before: 9/11’s special master Kenneth Feinberg. Feinberg, 64, oversaw the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund created by Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks, doling out $7 billion over nearly three years. “I’m confident he will ensure that claims are administered as quickly, as fairly and as transparently as possible,” Obama said yesterday, adding Feinberg would have $20 billion to start with…. – NY Daily News, 6-17-10
  • Obama to meet with man heading up restoration plan: President Barack Obama is preparing to meet with the man he’s put in charge of developing a recovery plan for the oil-devastated Gulf Coast. Obama and the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus (MAY’-buhs), plan to discuss Mabus’ role in developing a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan. Mabus knows the region — he is a native of Mississippi and served as that state’s governor from 1988 to 1992…. – AP, 6-17-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Another Alvin Greene? Texas Democrats Grapple With Their Own Surprise Candidate: South Carolina’s unexpected Democratic nominee for the US Senate, mystery man Alvin Greene, says he wants to play golf with Barack Obama. But in Texas, another surprise Democratic primary winner, congressional nominee Kesha Rogers, wants to impeach the President. So while South Carolina party officials are still unsure of what to do about Greene’s success at the ballot box, Texas Democrats have no such reservations — they wasted little time in casting Rogers into exile and offering no support or recognition of her campaign to win what once was Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s old seat…. – Time, 6-20-10
  • Donations Create a Tricky Balance for Oil-State Politicians: The outburst by Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas in support of BP underscored the potential peril for lawmakers forced to respond to crises involving industries vital to their regions, and whose bountiful donations finance their political campaigns. Democrats continued to make use of Mr. Barton’s apology to BP, using it to portray Republicans as beholden to big oil. Mr. Barton, the senior Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, worked as a consultant to Atlantic Richfield Oil and Gas Company before being elected to Congress. He has long been one of the top beneficiaries of campaign donations from big energy companies, cornerstones of the Texas economy. But in going after Republicans, the Democrats’ attacks gloss over a more complicated picture. The largest beneficiary of campaign donations from BP in the 2008 election cycle, for instance, was President Obama, who took in $77,000 from company executives and its political action committee. This year, Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas and chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, leads all candidates with $286,000 in donations from oil and gas companies… – NYT, 6-19-10
  • Anybody but Rubio? Democrats are flocking to Charlie Crist in order to upend conservative Marco Rubio: Party affiliation wasn’t the only thing Gov. Charlie Crist switched when he dropped out of the GOP primary and decided to run as independent in the Florida Senate race. Mr. Crist has piqued the ire of many conservatives by flip-flopping on a number of issues in order to ingratiate himself with liberals. In fact, he’s made so many 180s that many Democrats are now considering throwing their weight and money behind him in order to upend the remaining Republican in the race, Marco Rubio. In his most recent about-face, Mr. Crist changed his policy on travel to Cuba. In 2008, Mr. Crist signed a law imposing taxes on companies that traveled to and from the communist country. This week, he told Floridians: “I think that what the [Obama] administration has done by allowing families to visit [Cuba] is compassionate.”… – WSJ, 6-19-10
  • State Party in S. Carolina Rejects Bid for New Vote: In this age of candidate Twitter accounts and robocalls, the surprising victory in a South Carolina Democratic primary by Alvin M. Greene, 32, an unknown candidate without so much as a Web site, harks back to another era. But the state’s Democrats rejected a request by Mr. Greene’s opponent for the Senate nomination, Vic Rawl, to turn back the clock in another way. Though members of the executive committee of the state’s Democratic Party called the election “flawed,” they voted overwhelmingly Thursday to reject Mr. Rawl’s request for a new primary. Representatives for Mr. Rawl, 64, a former judge, contended in a hearing in Columbia that the primary results were so rife with irregularities that they should be discarded…. – NYT, 6-18-10
  • Minn. GOP Pawlenty sets up fundraising in Iowa, NH: Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has expanded his presence in two states pivotal to presidential politics by setting up fundraising operations in Iowa and New Hampshire. The state-based political action committees announced Wednesday will let Pawlenty raise and spend money on behalf of Republicans running for state and local offices. It’s a goodwill strategy common among likely presidential candidates…. – AP, 6-16-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President Records the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 6/18/10
  • The Most Important Job, President Obama’s Father’s Day Message: As the father of two young daughters, I know that being a father is one of the most important jobs any man can have.
    My own father left my family when I was two years old. I was raised by a heroic mother and wonderful grandparents who provided the support, discipline and love that helped me get to where I am today, but I still felt the weight of that absence throughout my childhood. It’s something that leaves a hole no government can fill. Studies show that children who grow up without their fathers around are more likely to drop out of high school, go to jail, or become teen fathers themselves.
    And while no government program can fill the role that fathers play for our children, what we can do is try to support fathers who are willing to step up and fulfill their responsibilities as parents, partners and providers. That’s why last year I started a nationwide dialogue on fatherhood to tackle the challenge of father absence head on.
    In Chicago, the Department of Health and Human Services held a forum with community leaders, fatherhood experts and everyday dads to discuss the importance of responsible fatherhood support programs. In New Hampshire, Secretary of Education Duncan explored the linkages between father absence and educational attainment in children. In Atlanta, Attorney General Holder spoke with fathers in the criminal justice system about ways local reentry organizations, domestic violence groups and fatherhood programs can join together to support ex-offenders and incarcerated individuals who want to be closer to their families and children.
    Now we’re taking this to the next level. Tomorrow, I’ll make an announcement about the next phase of our efforts to help fathers fulfill their responsibilities as parents — The President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative. You can learn more at http://www.fatherhood.gov.
    This Father’s Day — I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a dad to two wonderful daughters. And I’m thankful for all the wonderful fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and friends who are doing their best to make a difference in the lives of a child. – WH, 6-20-10
  • Weekly Address: Republicans Blocking Progress - WH, 6-219-10
  • Obama: Republicans blocking progress in Congress: President Barack Obama accused Republicans on Saturday of blocking legislation that would boost the nation’s economic recovery and lift a $75 million cap on what oil companies must pay to families and small businesses affected by an oil spill. Obama said the stalled Senate bill would extend unemployment benefits to workers without jobs and a tax credit for first-time homebuyers. He also said the legislation would save thousands of jobs across the country. “Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the Senate won’t even allow this legislation to come up for a vote,” the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “And if this obstruction continues, unemployed Americans will see their benefits stop. Teachers and firefighters will lose their jobs. Families will pay more for their first home.”… – AP, 6-19-10
  • Remarks by the President at the Site of the 10,000th ARRA Road Project Parsons and Livingston Avenue Construction Site Columbus, OhioWH, 6-18-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

President  Obama Speaks in Columbus, Ohio

President Barack Obama, with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, delivers remarks following his tour of the Parsons and Livingston Avenue construction site in Columbus, Ohio, June 18, 2010. The President is in Columbus to tour the site of the 10,000th Recovery Act road project to get underway. The road improvement project is expected to create over 300 construction jobs and will contribute to the broader economic development effort underway in the area around the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Is America tuning out Capitol Hill?: At my local gym Thursday, one of the television sets showed the live CNN broadcast of Rep. Henry Waxman questioning BP CEO Tony Hayward about how so much could have gone wrong.
    The problem was, most people at the gym weren’t watching. Some of them were tuned in to the other television sets on the wall that broadcast the World Cup. Yet others had their eyes glued to the music video stations that play continuously throughout the day near the Nautilus machines….
    Congressional hearings just aren’t what they used to be. We live in a multimedia world that has made it much more difficult for congressional committees to draw attention to their work when they are fulfilling one of the most important roles of the legislative branch: to act as a watchdog by convening hearings.
    While, historically, many hearings have fallen flat and have failed to produce any kind of concrete legislative outcome, the added challenge today is that they take place in a media environment where the public has so many choices as to what they should watch that it is almost impossible to gain national attention.
    This is a shame, for there have been moments when the nation has been absorbed by congressional hearings that produced extremely important debates over key issues of the day….
    Members of Congress have much more trouble shaping national conversations and much more difficulty controlling the flow of information than they did in the period before the 1980s. Legislators such as Waxman, who still believe that the legislative branch has a role to fill in the politics of investigation, might have to start finding new ways to fulfill this historic function…. – CNN, 6-21-10
  • President Obama’s Oval Office oil spill disaster speech draws fire from Robert Reich, other allies: If the reviews of President Obama’s Oval Office oil disaster speech were about a Broadway play, the scenery already would have been loaded into moving vans. The address was “vapid,” “bloodless,” “short on specifics,” “inscrutable” or just plain “flat.” And those verdicts were from Obama’s pals and others who usually give him a thumbs up. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s labor secretary and a current White House favorite on the economy, was nearly in despair in musings to the Huffington Post. The speech “was, to be frank, vapid,” Reich said. “If you watched with the sound off, you might have thought he was giving a lecture on the history of the Interstate Highway System.”… – NY Daily News, 6-17-10
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