Political Highlights June 15, 2010: Obama Dealing with the Fallout over Gulf Oil Spill

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:

President Obama Meets with Bipartisan Members of Congress in the  Cabinet Room

President Barack Obama meets with, from left, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the Cabinet Room of the White House to discuss the upcoming work period, the economy and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. June 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Hillary more likeable than her boss: The woman U.S. President Barack Obama once called “likeable enough” has actually surpassed her boss in likeability, the latest polling indicates. Depending on the poll, Americans like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton some 10 to 25 percent better than the president, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. For example, this month’s Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll found Obama with a 51 percent favorability rating compared to Secretary Clinton with favorability in the 60s…. – UPI, 6-15-10
  • Poll: 65% of Jewish Israelis say U.S. Jews should criticize Obama’s Mideast policy: B’nai B’rith survey also found 54% of Jewish Israelis believe Jewish advocacy groups who work with foreign governments should always support Israeli policy…. – Haaretz, 6-15-10
  • Poll: Obama’s gulf work gets thumbs down: More Americans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill than of his overall job performance, a Gallup Poll indicated Tuesday. Results indicated Obama’s rating for the oil spill was 40 percent, 7 percentage points lower than his overall job approval rating. More Americans disapprove than approve of his handling of the oil spill that began April 20 when an oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers, and sank two days later. In an earlier poll, Gallup said 53 percent of Americans called Obama’s efforts in responding to the spill “very poor” or “poor,” while 73 percent expressed the same sentiments about BP…. – UPI, 6-8-10
  • Fox News Poll: White House Could Have Done More, Moved Faster On Spill: Fifty-seven percent think the administration could have done more and reacted more quickly to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s 20 percentage points higher than the 37 percent who think the administration did as much as it could as fast as it could.
    Not unexpectedly, most Republicans (72 percent) think the administration could have done more. A majority of independents (63 percent), as well as a substantial minority of Democrats (43 percent), agree.
    And while many voters — 36 percent — think the Obama administration is “up to the job” of fixing the problem in the gulf, a 54 percent majority thinks the administration is “in over its head.” Fox News, 6-10-10
  • Fla. Poll: Oil Spill Takes Toll on Obama: The oil spill is taking a toll on the president, a new Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters shows. The poll, released today, shows that Floridians, by a 51%-42% margin, oppose more offshore oil drilling – a big shift from the 66%-27% support drilling received in an April 19 poll.
    At the same time, President Barack Obama’s job approval numbers plummeted to a negative 40%-54% in Florida, off from a 50%-45% approval-disapproval rating in April when he called for relaxing standards for offshore drilling. WSJ, 6-9-10

THE HEADLINES….

The President at a tele-town hall with seniors
The President at a tele-town hall with seniors, Wheaton, Md.,, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 6/8/10
  • Obama to cap Gulf tour with Oval Office speech: President Barack Obama is capping two days in the suffering Gulf of Mexico with a solemn, high-stakes address to the nation that will lay out the enormous effort needed to right the multifaceted damage from the country’s worst environmental disaster. With the political import of Tuesday evening’s address clear, Obama for the first time will use the Oval Office as an austere backdrop for a speech in which he will assign himself and his administration the momentous task of bringing back the Gulf’s teeming wildlife and beauty to what it was before it was fouled by hundreds of millions of gallons of oil…. – AP, 6-15-10
  • Obama continues Gulf visit, prepares to address nation: President Obama will continue his Gulf Coast visit Tuesday with a stop in Florida’s Panhandle, where beaches have started to see signs of oil as crude continues to gush from a ruptured deepwater well. Obama, on his fourth trip to the region since oil began spewing from the well in April, is scheduled to return to Washington later Tuesday and address the nation about the situation from the Oval Office…. – CNN, 6-15-10
  • Republicans seek pay freeze for federal workers; a ‘cynical ploy,’ Democrats say: Looking to demonstrate their commitment to balancing the budget, Republicans are increasingly targeting the federal workforce. In the past month, congressional Republicans have tried to attach to several bills language that would limit pay increases for federal workers. This week, as part of a GOP amendment to a Democratic bill that would spend billions on unemployment benefits and help states fund their Medicaid programs, Senate Republicans are including a proposal that would freeze pay levels for the 2 million people who work for the government… – WaPo, 6-15-10
  • Arizona bill would deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants: A proposed Arizona law would deny birth certificates to children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents. The bill comes on the heels of Arizona passing the nation’s toughest immigration law. John Kavanagh, a Republican state representative from Arizona who supports the proposed law aimed at so-called “anchor babies,” said that the concept does not conflict with the U.S. Constitution. “If you go back to the original intent of the drafters … it was never intended to bestow citizenship upon (illegal) aliens,” said Kavanagh, who also supported Senate Bill 1070 — the law that gave Arizona authorities expanded immigration enforcement powers… – CNN, 6-15-10
  • The Big Tax Increase Facing Small Business Congress Wants to Collect $11B More in Taxes Over 10 Years: The President urges Congress to enact legislation that helps small businesses While a possible increase in taxes on the “carried interest” of hedge fund and private equity money managers is getting all the attention, in the same bill Congress is also creating a tax mess for small-business owners in the form of an $11 billion tax hike over the next 10 years. The tax increase was included in H.R. 4213, a peddler’s wagon of legislation (new spending, physicians’ reimbursement, extensions of expired tax breaks, etc.) that was passed by the House in a narrow vote just before Memorial Day and is now being considered by the Senate… – Forbes.com, 6-13-10
  • F.B.I. Opens Kennedy File: Most of the death threats made against Senator Edward M. Kennedy warned of shootings, but one claimed that a crossbow would be used. For years after two of his brothers were slain by assassins, Mr. Kennedy received repeated warnings that he would meet the same fate, according to thousands of pages of documents about Mr. Kennedy that were released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation…. The F.B.I. files on Mr. Kennedy — 2,352 pages covering 1961 to 1985 — are mostly devoted to the scores of threats against him, but they also pull back the curtain on other episodes before and after he became a senator. NYT, 6-15-10
  • Obama wants BP escrow fund for spill damage: As more oil washes ashore, a letter from 54 senators calls for the company to set aside $20 billion. In an effort to seize greater control of the gulf oil catastrophe, President Obama is prepared to compel BP executives to set up a multibillion-dollar escrow account to pay damage claims in the region, a senior White House official said Sunday…
    “Our mission is to hold them accountable in every appropriate way,” Obama advisor David Axelrod said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “He is going to be very clear about what our expectations are in terms of taking care of the people who’ve been damaged by this crisis.”…. – LAT, 6-14-10
  • Kagan confirmation would affect major tobacco case: It’s a simple matter of math: Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court has complicated the government’s effort to force the tobacco industry to cough up nearly $300 billion. If confirmed by the Senate as a justice, Kagan would have to sit out high court review of the government’s decade- old racketeering lawsuit against cigarette makers. That’s because she already has taken sides as solicitor general, signing the Obama administration’s Supreme Court brief in the case — an automatic disqualifier. Kagan is expected to step aside from 11 of the 24 cases the court has so far agreed to hear beginning in October…. – AP, 6-13-10
  • Schwarzenegger makes media rounds in D.C.: Fresh from his open primary ballot victory, he keeps the focus on his final year as governor, not what’s next for him. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, fresh from his victory in the passage of Proposition 14, spent a day last week hopping from one Washington, D.C., media outlet to another touting his success and his final year’s agenda. Schwarzenegger had pushed the open primary election system ordained in the ballot measure. It will allow all candidates in a primary to appear on a single ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, to run against each other in the general election. It does not apply to presidential contests…. – LAT, 6-14-10
  • Obama Appeals to Congress for $50 Billion in Emergency Aid: President Obama is pressing Congress to approve emergency aid money to support economic recovery and help avoid widespread layoffs of public workers, the Washington Post reported Saturday. Congressional leaders received a letter from the president asking for almost $50 billion for distribution to state and local governments, saying that increased spending is “urgent and unavoidable,” the Post reported. The money would protect the jobs of teachers, police and firefighters.
    “Because the urgency is high—many school districts, cities and states are already being forced to make these layoffs,” Obama wrote, “these provisions must be passed as quickly as possible.” Fox News.com, 6-13-10
  • Heat on BP to improve oil spill response: BP Plc faced renewed U.S. pressure on Sunday to do more to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as the United States and Britain played down diplomatic tensions over the crisis.
    British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was up to the British energy giant, under pressure in the United States to suspend its dividend to help pay for the damage, to decide on its payout to shareholders.
    He also said that the British government was offering the United States large quantities of chemical dispersant to help clean up the spill…. – Reuters, 6-13-10
  • Bill Clinton still has touch as he aids President Obama, former president is back to save Democrats: It’s Bubba to the rescue. Former President Bill Clinton’s outsized presence is already a force on the 2010 campaign trail as Democrats scramble to save their hides in a rough political climate. He almost single-handedly reversed the fortunes of embattled Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln last week against an insurgent primary challenger. This week, he’s off to Las Vegas to hold a campaign rally for Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader in a hard fight to win reelection…. – NY Daily News, 6-13-10
  • Obama, British PM to discuss BP’s Gulf oil spill: The Gulf oil spill, with a British company the villain, is raising tensions on both sides of the Atlantic. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron planned to discuss the environmental catastrophe Saturday by telephone, hoping to ease what has become a growing rift between the two countries over the criticism of the well’s owner, BP PLC. As BP struggles unsuccessfully to halt the gushing oil that is bringing environmental chaos to the Gulf Coast, Obama has sharpened his criticism of the British company. He said he would have fired BP’s top executive if he were in charge, embraced the idea that the oil giant suspend its quarterly dividend and reproached BP for spending money on a public relations campaign. And occasionally Obama would refer to “British Petroleum,” although the company years ago began using only its initials and, in fact, is a far-reaching international corporation with extensive holdings in the United States, including a Texas refinery and a share of the Alaska oil pipeline…. – AP, 6-12-10
  • Top US senators: Obama, stand by Israel: The top two US senators are urging President Barack Obama to stand by Israel in the face of recent global pressure following the lethal raid on the Gaza-bound Marmara ship. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote a letter to the President, urging him to show strong support for Israel in international bodies, insist on the Jewish State’s right for self-defense, and look into the terror connections of the Turkish organization that led the violent Gaza sail… – YNet News, 6-12-10
  • Kagan Expressed Broad View of Religious Freedom: As an associate White House counsel from 1995 to 1996, Ms. Kagan provided advice to a president with his own political agenda, so it is hard to gauge how much her analyses reflected her own views or how they would apply if she had the authority of a Supreme Court justice. But since she has never served as a judge and has done only a limited amount of scholarly writing, the 43,000 pages released Friday offer a rare look at her legal thinking that may influence her coming confirmation hearings.
    The papers were the second batch released by the library, for a total of nearly 90,000 pages from her files as associate counsel and later deputy domestic policy director. The library plans to release another 70,000 pages of e-mail messages before the Senate Judiciary Committee opens hearings June 28, but Republicans argue that they need more time to examine the material…. – NYT, 6-12-10
  • Bill Clinton: Another comeback for ‘Comeback Kid’: The former two-term president may have finally found a role in Obama world after struggling to fit in after the caustic Democratic presidential campaign that sullied his reputation. Clinton is heading up special projects for Haiti and outreach to North Korea for the White House. He was the closer in rural Pennsylvania last month, helping Democratic Rep. Mark Critz win a special election. His campaigning was a factor in Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s narrow victory in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff in Arkansas.
    Now, he’s hoping to rally voters for vulnerable Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the swing state of Nevada. Clinton was the headliner at a rally Thursday night, wondering out loud why Reid’s seat is in jeopardy. “Why would you give away the Senate majority leader who has delivered time and time and time again?'”‘ Clinton asked about 700 Nevada voters at the Andre Agassi College Prepatory Academy. Reid was in Washington… – AP, 6-11-10
  • Senators head to Gulf as local tempers flare: A delegation of U.S. senators head to the heart of coastal Louisiana Friday to assess the damage caused by the nearly two-month-long BP oil disaster.
    The four senators, Sens. Benjamin Cardin, David Vitter, Jeff Merkley and Barbara Mikulski, will be in Grand Isle, one of the early areas hit by the slick created by the underwater gusher. The senators, who are members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, will hold a news conference after their “oversight” operation along the Gulf…. – CNN, 6-11-10
  • Obama to meet with owners of small businesses: President Barack Obama meets with small business owners in the Oval Office to highlight his small business jobs initiatives. He’ll also make a statement Friday in the Rose Garden. The administration has made a series of proposals aimed at helping small businesses grow and hire new workers, and Obama says he’ll continue to urge Congress to act on them…. – AP, 6-11-10
  • Senate Rejects Republican Effort to Thwart Carbon Limits: The Senate on Thursday defeated a Republican-led effort to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from curbing greenhouse gases as lawmakers road-tested arguments for a future fight over climate change legislation. The Senate voted 53-47 to reject an attempt by Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, to block the E.P.A. from imposing new limits on carbon emissions based on its 2009 finding that such gases from industry, vehicles and other sources represent a threat to human health and the environment…. – NYT, 6-11-10
  • Lawmakers begin merging Wall St regulatory bills: House and Senate lawmakers began assembling a massive financial regulation bill on Thursday, dividing sharply along partisan lines as Democrats vowed to fend off efforts to weaken its major provisions. “This is a very strong bill and it is time we get it to the president’s desk for his signature,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said, kicking off a meeting of lawmakers selected to blend House and Senate versions into one bill. AP, 6-10-10
  • McCain to Snooki: I won’t tax your tanning bed: Arizona Sen. John McCain is taking to Twitter to slam President Barack Obama, this time in an exchange with a star from MTV’s hit reality series “Jersey Shore.” Snooki says, “McCain would never put a 10 percent tax on tanning, because he’s pale and he would probably want to be tan.”
    McCain, a skin cancer survivor, replied Wednesday on Twitter, saying “u r right, I would never tax your tanning bed! Pres Obama’s tax/spend policy is quite The Situation. but I do rec wearing sunscreen!”
    Snooki replied: “Haha Yes!!”… – AP, 6-11-10
  • US gets tough but not crippling Iran sanctions: The United States and its allies won approval for the toughest U.N. sanctions against Iran for refusing to negotiate on its suspect nuclear program — but they’re not the “crippling” penalties U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to pursue a year ago if U.S. attempts to engage Iran diplomatically failed…. – AP, 6-10-10
  • Obama pledges $400 million for Palestinians: Obama had planned the White House meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to talk mainly about Mideast peace. But after the aid flotilla assault, they ended up focusing on the blockade of Gaza…. – LAT, 6-10-10
  • Day 49: The Latest on the Oil Spill: The Interior Department issued new guidelines on Tuesday under which shallow-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico can resume. Virtually all offshore oil and gas operations were halted late last month, but the new standards will allow drilling in water that is less than 500 feet deep. All wells in deeper water will remain under a moratorium for at least six months while a presidential panel studies the Deepwater Horizon explosion and makes recommendations on whether and how to resume such drilling.
    The White House said President Obama would travel to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida on Monday and Tuesday to survey the response efforts…. – NYT, 6-9-10
  • Gulf oil hearings continue on Capitol Hill: Capitol Hill will be awash in oil disaster hearings Wednesday as the House and Senate tackle issues ranging from safety and cleanup to liability. Three committees and two subcommittees will discuss matters related to the gusher in the Gulf of Mexico and the oil industry. The hearings come as President Obama announced that he will make a fourth trip to the Gulf region next week and as environmental groups plan to hold a vigil later in June protesting offshore oil drilling…. – CNN, 6-9-10
  • Health-care debate still alive and well for parties: There was a year of hearings, speeches and protests. Three bills passed in the House to complete the process, and two in the Senate. President Obama held several events to commemorate signing the legislation into law. But the two parties are still arguing about health-care reform…. – WaPo, 6-8-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Poll: Dems losing independents New study finds favorability ratings slip for Cuomo, Schumer: Independent voters slipped away from some of the most popular Democratic incumbent political figures, a poll released Monday shows. Both Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general who is the party’s standard-bearer, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a figure of statewide and national prominence and a media fixture, saw their favorability ratings slip, particularly among independent voters. In a month, Cuomo’s rating dropped from 60 to 51 percent and Schumer’s from 54 to 41 percent… – Albany Times-Union, 6-15-10
  • Election speculation comes from all corners after S.C. primary: It’s the voting machines. No wait, it’s random-selecting voters. Or, maybe, shadowy Republican operatives. Or Democratic antagonists. Take your pick. Everyone’s got a theory about why Alvin M. Greene — an unemployed veteran and political newbie who didn’t trifle with campaign speeches or public appearances — handily won South Carolina’s Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate last week. Protests have been lodged and the White House has chimed in (senior presidential adviser David Axelrod called Greene’s win “a mysterious deal” on “Meet the Press”), yet the reason for the top shocker of the primary season remains anyone’s guess…. – WaPo, 6-14-10
  • Sandoval bridges GOP worlds Gubernatorial hopeful draws moderates, hard-liners: The historic Caughlin Ranch House in Reno, where Brian Sandoval celebrated his win over Gov. Jim Gibbons in the Republican gubernatorial primary, was a far cry from the hard, dusty patch of land in Searchlight where two months ago both candidates sought votes among hard-line Tea Party conservatives…. – Las Vegas Review-Journal, 6-14-10
  • Stutzman wins on 2nd ballot Caucus quickly determines 3rd district GOP nod: Sen. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe, bested 14 other candidates to win the 3rd District Republican congressional nomination Saturday in a surprisingly swift two ballots. “Moving forward, this is going to take all of us in this room,” he told the 400 precinct committee members who had gathered at Indian Springs Middle School in Columbia City. “We cannot let (Nancy) Pelosi pick off the third district. If all of us band together, we can win on Nov. 2.”
    Stutzman will likely face Democrat Tom Hayhurst on two fall ballots Nov. 2. One will be a special election to fill the remainder of former U.S. Rep. Mark Souder’s term, which runs through Jan. 3, and the other will be for a new two-year term that starts after that. Journal Gazette (IN), 6-13-10
  • More Questions About Mysterious South Carolina Senate Candidate: David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior adviser, has added his voice to those saying they smell something fishy in a Democratic primary in South Carolina that selected a jobless man who faces felony obscenity charges as the party’s nominee for the Senate. “It was a mysterious deal,” Mr. Axelrod told David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” doubtless sharing a view held by many of the state’s Democrats. Asked whether the nominee, Alvin Greene, was a legitimate candidate, Mr. Axelrod replied, “It doesn’t appear so.” Mr. Greene, as Mr. Axelrod noted, had barely campaigned — perhaps not surprising, since he had raised no campaign funds and had hired no staff. “The whole thing is odd,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I don’t really know how to explain it, and I don’t think anybody else does either.” Asked whether Mr. Greene, 32, should bow out, Mr. Axelrod stopped just short of agreeing. “The Democrats of South Carolina deserve a strong, credible candidate,” he said. Until the “big mystery” of how Mr. Greene won Tuesday’s primary is resolved, he said, “I don’t think he can claim to be a strong, credible candidate.”… – NYT, 6-13-10
  • Tea party shaping Republican Party, fall faceoffs: The tea party movement shows some growing pains, but it still wields remarkable powers to shape the Republican Party and set up a fall election with unconventional candidates and stark choices for voters. In two high-profile primary elections Tuesday, establishment GOP candidates were stunned by come-from-behind winners backed by tea party activists and other conservatives who don’t necessarily associate with that loose-knit group.
    National Republican leaders are sifting through the results. Voter fervor on the right encourages them, but some fear their insurgent nominees might stray too far from the mainstream to win in November. The party purity drive has a weaker grip on the Democratic Party, as centrist Sen. Blanche Lincoln illustrated when she held off a union-backed challenger in Arkansas…. – AP, 6-12-10
  • The Fix: Republican wins give Democrats hope: A series of developments over the last month (or so) have brightened Democrats’ hopes in a handful of Senate races — although the overall national landscape suggests the party is still headed toward losses in the fall. Recent Republican primaries have been good to Democrats. Victories by tea party backed candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky mean those seats, once considered off the radar, are now back in play. WaPo, 6-11-10
  • Reid ad slams GOP nominee on Scientology, Medicare: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unleashed his first negative ad of the general election campaign Friday, depicting Republican Sharron Angle as a heartless extremist who would slash Social Security and Medicare for the elderly.
    The 30-second ad airing statewide also reminds voters that Angle once suggested inmates enter a drug rehabilitation program devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
    “Shockingly, Sharron Angle wants to wipe out Social Security,” a narrator says ominously in the commercial. “She’d cut benefits for everyone.” “What’s next?” the narrator asks… – AP, 6-12-10
  • Abortion veto puts Crist in the middle: Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the ultrasound abortion bill and drew the ire of anti-abortion advocates as well as some Democrats. Gov. Charlie Crist rejected a controversial abortion bill Friday, using his veto pen to repudiate the conservative Republicans who elected him and championed the legislation as “the most significant pro-life measure in Florida’s history.”
    The legislation required most women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound and listen to a doctor describe the fetus, unless they sign a form to opt out, and included a provision to ensure that tax dollars didn’t cover elective abortions…. – Miami Herald, 6-12-10
  • Was candidate involved in U.S. healthcare scam?: The GOP candidate for governor led Columbia/HCA when it defrauded the federal government. He was not charged, and it is unclear what, if anything, he knew at the time. Rick Scott’s opponents for governor are telling reporters to essentially fluff off a new poll Thursday that shows the former Columbia/HCA hospital CEO beating both Attorney General Bill McCollum in the Republican primary for governor and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in a hypothetical November match-up.
    Focus on the fraud, they say. The fraud. The fraud. “Rick Scott has spent $15 million in half as many weeks to fund his public image repair squad’s pricey and misleading paid media campaign,” McCollum spokesman Kristy Campbell said Thursday. “It’s no surprise he has skyrocketed in the polls since Floridians are just beginning to learn about his questionable past. His lead will evaporate when Floridians learn Rick Scott oversaw the most massive Medicare fraud scheme in American history.”… – Miami Herald, 6-11-10
  • Who’s Alvin Greene? State Asks After Vote: For a few hours this week, it looked as if South Carolina might ditch its never-fail reputation for political scandal in favor of a genuine history-making event. There was Nikki Haley, a lawmaker of Indian descent, beaming on election night with her husband and children after taking a major step toward becoming the first female governor of the state. It was a feel-good image to obscure the stain of a campaign marked by ethnic slurs, accusations of marital infidelity and yet more national marveling over how a single state can produce a string of political embarrassments as long as the Appalachian Trail.
    But then, the television cameras started rolling on Alvin Greene’s overgrown lawn. “Yeah, it’s been pretty nonstop for a few days,” said Mr. Greene, 32, in a phone interview Friday. Because everyone wants to know how Mr. Greene, an unemployed Army veteran who had been completely unknown until Tuesday, inexplicably defeated a heavily favored former legislator and judge to become the state’s Democratic nominee for the Senate — and the state’s latest political circus act…. – NYT, 6-11-10
  • S.C. lawmaker calls for investigations of Democratic primary, 2 other races: House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) called for federal and state investigations into alleged campaign irregularities in South Carolina after an unemployed Army veteran who lives with his parents won a Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate there. Alvin M. Greene, who has an outstanding felony obscenity charge pending, “was someone’s plant,” Clyburn said Thursday. Clyburn added that Greene was one of three individuals, all African American, whose congressional campaigns were designed to upend the Democratic primary process in the Palmetto State. The lawmaker also raised questions about the campaigns of Gregory A. Brown, who ran a vigorous but unsuccessful challenge against Clyburn in the 6th Congressional District, and Benjamin Frasier Jr., a perennial candidate who surprised observers by beating retired Air Force Reserve Col. Robert Burton in the 1st District…. – WaPo, 6-10-10
  • Whitman, Fiorina victories draw comparisons to Feinstein, Boxer wins in 1992: Despite the parallels, there are major contrasts between the elections themselves, the makeup of California’s electorate and the issues on voters’ minds…. – LAT, 6-10-10
  • Poll: Crist holding on to Senate race lead: One polls shows Charlie Crist maintaining his lead in the U.S. Senate race, while another finds the governor and Marco Rubio in a tie. Crist leads with 37 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent for Republican Marco Rubio and 17 percent for Democrat Kendrick Meek. It is the third major statewide poll since Crist’s April 29 announcement, and Crist has led all three…. – Miami Herald, 6-10-10
  • Unknown Senate candidate in SC faces felony charge: A day after an unemployed veteran charged with a felony shocked South Carolina’s Democratic establishment by winning the U.S. Senate primary, party officials were still scratching their heads: What happened?
    Greene was considered such a long shot that his opponent and media didn’t even bother to check his background. If they had, they would have discovered he faces a felony obscenity charge after an alleged encounter with a college student last fall.
    “The Democratic Party has chosen their nominee, and we have to stand behind their choice,” Greene told the AP at his home in Manning. “The people have spoken. We need to be pro-South Carolina, not anti-Greene.” AP, 6-10-10
  • In Tuesday’s Primaries, Three Messages From Three States: If you are looking for a unified theme out of Tuesday’s round of primaries, good luck. In states holding the biggest votes of the night there were decidedly different storylines and lessons. The tea party movement had some reason to celebrate, in Nevada particularly, but not in California, where its supporters were trounced. Even the widely accepted political storyline of 2010 – incumbents are in trouble – took a hit in Arkansas, for now anyway. Reading too much into primary results can be foolhardy. Voters, beyond the most engaged, are usually not fully tuned into the election until later in the season and Tuesday’s turnout numbers bear that out: 30 percent in Nevada, 25 percent in California, 15 percent in Arkansas.
    But the results in those three states do send some messages about those individual places for November. And the Patchwork Nation breakdown of the results is revealing…. – Newshour, 6-9-10
  • Calif. Voting Change Could Signal Big Political Shift: The time for tinkering is done. That was the message Californians sent when they voted Tuesday to radically rejigger elections in the nation’s most populous state. Under Proposition 14, a measure that easily passed, traditional party primaries will be replaced in 2011 with wide-open elections. The top two vote-getters — whatever their party, or if they have no party at all — will face off in the general election. Supporters argue that without parties picking candidates for the general election, moderates and independents will move to the fore, and voters will pay more attention to the electoral process. Critics of the measure say it will give a huge advantage to candidates who have the most money or the widest name recognition…. – NYT, 6-10-10
  • Ladies Roll Through Primaries in Arkansas, Nevada, and California Blanche Lincoln, Sharron Angle, Meg Whitman, and Carly Fiorina all advance: Tuesday was a day for the ladies. Four women won high-profile nominations—two in California, one each in Arkansas and Nevada, with a fifth in a good position to win her South Carolina gubernatorial runoff election in two weeks. Elsewhere, Georgia sent a new member (a man) to the U.S. House of Representatives, while Republicans tapped nominees in a handful of targeted congressional races. In the day’s biggest surprise, incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas dashed to the finish line ahead of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the state’s Senate primary runoff. She earned 52 percent of the vote to Halter’s 48 percent. The result shocked political insiders who saw Lincoln trailing in recent polls…. – US News & World Report, 6-9-10
  • Consistent theme lacking in primaries: There was a wide variety of results from primary elections held in 11 states on Tuesday. Primary votes in 11 states this week helped set the table for November’s general elections, but don’t look for a theme menu with one cuisine from these results. It’s more of a food court. Outsiders winning? Many did, but veteran insiders won top races in Arkansas and Iowa. From coast to coast, the latest round of primaries shows that the electorate remains ready to challenge the status quo and the establishment, but also that state and local issues and the quirks of individual candidates still can drive elections in any state. The results also serve to remind that voter turnout in summer party primaries tends to be small, where organization often counts more than trends in national opinion…. – Miami Herald, 6-10-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Obama Calls British Prime Minister Cameron

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Saturday, June 12, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Weekly Address: President Obama Calls on Senate Republicans to Allow a Vote to Protect Medicare Reimbursements Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, June 12, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: … I’m absolutely willing to take the difficult steps necessary to lower the cost of Medicare and put our budget on a more fiscally sustainable path. But I’m not willing to do that by punishing hard-working physicians or the millions of Americans who count on Medicare. That’s just wrong. And that’s why in the short-term, Congress must act to prevent this pay cut to doctors.
    If they don’t act, doctors will see a 21% cut in their Medicare payments this week. This week, doctors will start receiving these lower reimbursements from the Medicare program. That could lead them to stop participating in the Medicare program. And that could lead seniors to lose their doctors.
    We cannot allow this to happen. We have to fix this problem so that our doctors can get paid for the life-saving services they provide and keep their doors open. We have to fix this problem to keep the promise of Medicare for our seniors so that they get the health care they deserve. So I urge Republicans in the Senate to at least allow a majority of Senators and Congressmen to stop this pay cut. I urge them to stand with America’s seniors and America’s doctors. – WH, 6-12-10
  • Obama takes aim at Republicans again on healthcare: President Barack Obama called on Republicans on Saturday to vote for a delay in cutting government Medicare insurance payments to doctors, taking aim at the opposition party in a renewed election-year push for his new healthcare law. “This year, a majority of Congress is willing to prevent a pay cut of 21 percent — a pay cut that would undoubtedly force some doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients altogether,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. Medicare is the government health program for the elderly. “But this time, some Senate Republicans may even block a vote on this issue. After years of voting to defer these cuts, the other party is now willing to walk away from the needs of our doctors and our seniors,” Obama said…. Reuters, 6-12-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Historians weigh in on released Kennedy FBI files: “Many people thought the FBI may have been digging into Ted Kennedy’s personal life. We’re so used to the FBI stories of the ’60s and ’70s being about Hoover bugging famous people’s bedrooms,” said historian Douglas Brinkley. “But what emerges is the FBI as the great protector of a US senator….
    While Kennedy politicians have always attracted a core of vocal dissenters, “I had no idea” of all the threats against the senator, said historian Robert Dallek. “I’m kind of surprised there would be so much rage at him.”… Boston Globe (6-15-10)
  • Julian E. Zelizer: For Obama, crisis may outweigh record: As Democrats move into the 2010 midterm elections and start thinking about 2012, the administration is struggling to deal with two difficult crises, both of which have generated concerns about the president’s response and the perceptions of him as a leader.
    The first is the oil leak in the Gulf, one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in American history. The second is an unemployment rate that continues to hover near 10 percent. The slow economic recovery has still failed to make a significant dent in the number of Americans who don’t have jobs. American voters are frustrated and angry.
    Democrats are counting on President Obama’s substantial legislative record to provide the best selling points on the campaign trail, enough to counter any concerns about his detached demeanor….
    But Obama can’t afford to wait to see what the outcome is. He must start Tuesday, with the address to the nation. He needs to act with greater resolve in response to the twin crises of his second year or he might find that the most impressive list of accomplishments doesn’t mean much when voters go into the ballot box.
    In his talk about the Gulf, Obama must stop complaining about the press or simply saying that he is doing everything possible.
    Instead, he must genuinely convey his frustration and concern about what is happening and lay out a specific agenda about what the federal government intends to do over the next few months to help bring the environmental crisis to an end and to diminish the risks that another one occurs soon. – CNN, 6-14-10
  • Obama Takes a Hard Line Against Leaks to Press: “The Baltimore Sun stories simply confirmed that the agency was ineptly managed in some respects,” said Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian and author of “The Secret Sentry,” a history of the N.S.A. Such revelations hardly damaged national security, Mr. Aid said. – NYT, 6-12-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Enviros give Obama a pass on Gulf spill: “The environmental movement as such has nowhere to turn but Obama,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “They’re feeling they have one person to do business with…..We’re down to like two Republican senators who want to deal with these environmental groups.” – Politico, 6-12-10
  • Michael Egan: Enviros give Obama a pass on Gulf spill: “There is a level of confusion,” said Michael Egan, an environmental historian at McMaster University in Ontario. “Part of it is they’re still trying to figure out how to work with the Obama administration, which is sounding more and more like a Clinton one—much to their chagrin.” “While they’re disappointed by a variety of Obama’s actions, the alternatives are much, much worse,” Egan said. – Politico, 6-12-10
  • William Jelani Cobb: Spelman College historian analyzes Obama: ‘So far I would give him a B’: So what should we make of Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency? And what does his journey tell us about the United States and how the country’s attitudes about race have evolved? Since Obama’s candidacy began, a barrage of writers and pundits have been trying to answer those questions. Now author William Jelani Cobb, an associate professor and chair of the history department at Spelman College, tries to tackle them in his new book, “The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.” Surprisingly, the book does not dwell on the president’s first year in office to provide clues. Instead it looks at candidate Obama’s peculiar relationship with the old guard of the civil rights movement and, among other things, the carefully scripted language he used about race during the campaign. In an edited conversation, Cobb, who just returned from a Fulbright teaching fellowship in Russia, talked about politics, paradoxes and possibilities…. – Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6-11-10
  • Historians Reactions: How Clinton and Bush Would Have Handled the Oil Spill: Obama’s taken considerable heat for his handling of the BP disaster. But would recent past presidents have done any better?… – Newsweek, 6-11-10
  • Michael Green: Nevada challenger can “beat Reid,” says Nevada historian: “Angle can beat Reid if she can avoid being defined as too right-wing even for conservatives, which, given her history, will be hard for her to avoid,” said Michael Green, a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada. “If even worse economic news came out, it presumably could help her.”… – NYT, 6-9-10
  • Conrad Black: Israel’s friends in Canada: Stephen Harper has shown foresight and political courage by turning Canada into Israel’s greatest friend in the world. Let us remember a few facts: This dreadful mess in the Middle East arose because the British sold the same real estate twice, simultaneously, to the Arabs and the Jews. They compounded this sleazy practice by denying access to Palestine to many helpless Jewish fugitives from the Nazis before, during and just after the Second World War…
    Israel is an admirable democracy, has fought courageously for its life, has built a small, barren, beleaguered country into an advanced prosperous state. Even so, too many Western leaders — including Barack Obama — sometimes truckle to militant Muslim sentiment when the two sides clash, as they did last week off the coast of Gaza. But not Mr. Harper.
    All Canadians can be proud that the country has a prime minister who does not grovel to the received international opinion on matters such as the Middle East. (He rendered the same service on the global-warming debate by not signing Canada prematurely onto one of the Doomdsay scenarios, that have become the subject of scientific reappraisal.) This is a huge improvement on the trendy pandering of Pierre Trudeau: the Third Way, North-South, his absurd arms-control proposals, facilitation of Castro’s war-making in Angola, veneration of the Nyerere economic miracle in Tanzania (a 90% decline in per capita income). On these matters, Stephen Harper has been a prophet with honour. – National Post, 6-12-10
  • David Greenberg: Presidential scholars see recent White House job offers as nothing new: “This kind of jockeying happens all the time in politics,” says David Greenberg, professor of history, journalism and media studies at Rutgers University. “Politicians are always trying to get people in and out of races, and they will use offers, inducements and even threats to do that.”… – The Hill, 6-8-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama’s Swearing Nothing New for Presidents: “That was a unique moment in presidential history — to go on a morning show and use that kind of language,” historian Douglas Brinkley, who has written about the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the beginnings of the conservation movement, told AOL News.
    “Kicking ass” has become “part of American parlance,” Brinkley said. “It’s not like using the F-word where mothers cringe. Football coaches and military people use it all day long.”
    Brinkley, who is following the BP disaster closely for his next book, rejected any hint of political calculation on Obama’s part. As he has learned more about BP ‘s safety record before the oil rig blowout and been “upping his game” against the energy giant in recent days, the president has been “like a volcano that’s been about to blow publicly,” Brinkley said. “His anger is not ginned up. It’s very real.” AOL News, 6-8-10
  • Robert Dallek: Obama’s Swearing Nothing New for Presidents: “Truman “got a lot of mileage out of plain speaking,” presidential historian Robert Dallek said….
    “The public finds it appealing that he’s being strong-willed and speaking his mind,” Dallek said. “But presidents need to be restrained and operate in rational, thoughtful ways as well. They can’t go half-cocked, explosive, emotional. That’s not very appealing to the public.”… – AOL News, 6-8-10
First Lady Michelle Obama during the Anacostia Senior High School  commencement ceremony

First Lady Michelle Obama sits with class valedictorian Jordan Smiley during the Anacostia Senior High School commencement ceremony at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C. June 11, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

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