Political Highlights April 4, 2011: Obama Addresses Libya & Energy Policy; Republican and Democratic Budget Showdown

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:

The President speaks at Georgetown University

The President speaks at Georgetown University, Pete Souza, 3/30/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Hillary Clinton now most popular figure in Obama administration: A recent Gallup poll has indicated that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is enjoying a high favorable rating of 66%. That is 7 points higher than President Obama, 9 points higher than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and 15 points beyond that of Vice President Joe Biden. Are you pleased with her performance so far?
    As war rages on several fronts and much of the Middle East and northern Africa is in turmoil, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoys a favorable rating higher than President Obama, Vice President Biden, or Secretary of Defense Gates…. – CS Monitor, 4-4-11
  • Obama plays long game as crises rage: Obama’s approval ratings in most polls remain in the high 40 percent range — down from the heady days of his early presidency, but still viable, especially with what looks like a weak Republican 2012 field in prospect.
    But there are some warning signs. About half of Americans viewed Obama as a strong and decisive leader in a new Gallup poll this week, down from 60 percent a year ago and 73 percent in April 2009…. – AFP, 4-3-11
  • AP-GfK Poll: Americans souring more on economy: Obama’s approval ratings have held steady at around 50 percent over the past month. But the disconnect between negative perceptions of the economy and signs that a rebound are under way could provide an opening for Republicans at the outset of the 2012 campaign…. – AP, 3-30-11
  • Few Americans see Obama as strong military leader: Only 17 percent of Americans see President Barack Obama as a strong and decisive military leader, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the United States and its allies began bombing Libya. Nearly half of those polled view Obama as a cautious and consultative commander-in-chief and more than a third see him as indecisive in military matters…. – Reuters, 3-24-11

IN FOCUS

  • Wisconsin: Judge Again Halts Law Stripping Union Rights: A judge on Thursday halted Gov. Scott Walker’s plans — at least temporarily — to cut most public workers’ pay and strip them of most of their union rights. Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court issued a declaration stating in no uncertain terms that the collective bargaining law that led to weeks of protests had not taken effect, contradicting Republican arguments that it had because a state office published it online. Governor Walker, a Republican, said his administration would comply, despite misgivings…. – AP, 3-31-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

The President on Libya
President Obama at the National Defense University, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/28/11
  • US planes attack as US cuts back Libya mission: U.S. Air Force and Marine attack planes struck targets in Libya on a stretch of Mediterranean coastline near the cities of Sirte and Brega on Monday, the final day of planned U.S. combat missions in the North African nation, U.S. officials said…. – AP, 4-4-11
  • US lifts sanctions on ex-Libyan foreign minister: The Treasury Department said Monday that it had dropped the former minister, Moussa Koussa, from a blacklist of Libyan officials who had been banned from traveling to the United States and whose assets in U.S. jurisdictions had been frozen. The department said it took the step to reward Koussa for his decision last week to defect and encourage other members of Gadhafi’s inner circle to follow suit…. – AP, 4-4-11
  • Former president suggests aiding Libyan rebels: Former President Bill Clinton says the Obama administration should consider arming rebels fighting to oust strongman Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. Clinton tells ABC News in an interview that he “sure wouldn’t shut the door” to assistance for the rebels, reflecting a position that some in Congress have urged President Barack Obama to pursue…. – AP, 4-4-11
  • UN uses attack helicopters in Ivory Coast: The United Nations and French forces opened fire with attack helicopters Monday on the arsenal of this country’s entrenched ruler, as columns of Ivorian fighters allied with his challenger finally pierced the city limit. The fighters aiming to topple strongman Laurent Gbagbo after a decade in power had succeeded in taking nearly the entire countryside in just three days last week, but they faltered once they reached the country’s largest city, where the presidential palace and residence are located…. – AP, 4-4-11
  • US ending its air combat role in Libya: The Pentagon is about to pull its attack planes out of the international air campaign in Libya, hoping NATO partners can take up the slack. The announcement Thursday drew incredulous reactions from some in Congress who wondered aloud why the Obama administration would bow out of a key element of the strategy for protecting Libyan civilians and crippling Moammar Gadhafi’s army.
    “Odd,” “troubling” and “unnerving” were among critical comments by senators pressing for an explanation of the announcement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that American combat missions will end Saturday.
    “Your timing is exquisite,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said sarcastically, alluding to Gadhafi’s military advances this week and the planned halt to U.S. airstrikes. “I believe this would be a profound mistake with potentially disastrous consequences.”… – AP, 4-1-11
  • Gates Calls for Limited Role Aiding Libyan Rebels: Gates, Mullen get tough questioning from House members on US involvement in Gadhafi’s Libya The U.S. should avoid developing a closer relationship with Libyan opposition forces, defense leaders said Thursday, telling an often hostile Congress that foreign nations must now take over airstrike responsibilities and any effort to train and equip the rebels. With the U.S. role in Libya at a turning point, the next critical decision is how, if at all, the U.S. chooses to support the opposition forces, particularly in the face of the ongoing budget crisis at home. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he is opposed to arming the rebels, a step his boss President Barack Obama has not ruled out…. – ABC News, 3-31-11
  • CIA sends teams to Libya; US considers rebel aid: Political and economic pressures will eventually drive Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from power, but the military operation will help force him to make those choices by degrading his defense capabilities, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.
    As the U.S. turned over control of the military operation to NATO, Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen told Congress that the U.S. participation will be limited and will not involve an active role in airstrikes as time goes on…. – AP, 3-31-11
  • US rips Assad’s speech but can’t do much about it: The Obama administration sharply criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for failing Wednesday to address any of the reforms demanded by anti-government protesters, saying his widely anticipated address to the Syrian parliament lacked substance and would not satisfy calls for change or ease unrest. However, the administration’s displeasure is unlikely to progress beyond verbal reprimands as the U.S. doesn’t see the Syrian government’s two-week crackdown on dissent as requiring the same response as the large-scale violence launched against protesters by Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi… – AP, 3-30-11
  • Rebels retreat from Libya oil port under attack: Moammar Gadhafi’s ground forces recaptured a strategic oil town Wednesday as they made new inroads in beating back a rebel advance toward the capital Tripoli. Western powers kept up the pressure to force Gadhafi out with new airstrikes to weaken his military, hints that they may arm the opposition and intense negotiations behind the scenes to persuade Libya’s leader of nearly 42 years to step down.
    Airstrikes have neutralized Gadhafi’s air force and pounded his army, but those ground forces remain far better armed, trained and organized than the opposition. Rebels have few weapons more powerful than rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, and are no match for Gadhafi’s tanks and longer- range heavy weapons…. – AP, 3-30-11
  • Lawmakers seek answers on Libya: A top NATO commander says the U.S. Military role in Libya will be reduced “measurably” with other partners handling responsibilities…. – AP, 3-30-11
  • Obama: Too early to negotiate exit with Gadhafi: President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday to increase diplomatic and political pressure on Moammar Gadhafi to compel the Libyan strongman to step down.
    “Hopefully, he’s going to be getting the message soon,” the president said.
    “One of the questions that we want to answer is: Do we start getting to a stage where Gadhafi’s forces are sufficiently degraded, where it may not be necessary to arm opposition groups,” Obama said on NBC Nightly News.
    He told CBS Evening News that Gadhafi’s inner circle is beginning to recognize that “their days are numbered.” He said some may be negotiating to leave the regime. “But that information may not have filtered to Gadhafi yet,” he said, AP, 3-29-11
  • Renewed US missile barrage amid Libya talks: Stepping up attacks far from the front-line fighting, a U.S. Navy ship fired 22 Tomahawk cruise missiles at weapon storage sites around Tripoli on Tuesday, while President Barack Obama said the effectiveness of the allies’ fight is a factor in deciding whether to arm the rebels.
    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, meanwhile, held talks in London with an envoy from the Libyan political opposition group trying to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi…. – AP, 3-29-11
  • Levin, McCain back Obama on Libya military action: The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee say President Barack Obama was right to use military force in Libya.
    Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican John McCain of Arizona made the comments Tuesday at the start of a congressional hearing and the day after Obama’s speech on Libya… – AP, 3-29-11
  • Obama adviser: Nonmilitary means can oust Gadhafi: The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says there are plenty of “non-military means at our disposal” to oust Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.
    Appearing on the same show, Sen. John McCain said he doesn’t believe it’s possible “in the short term” to get rid of Gadhafi through non-military means such as economic and diplomatic pressure. McCain says “Gadhafi in power is unacceptable. We should use any means to bring him down.”… – AP, 3-29-11
  • FACT CHECK: How Obama’s Libya claims fit the facts: There may be less than meets the eye to President Barack Obama’s statements Monday night that NATO is taking over from the U.S. in Libya and that U.S. action is limited to defending people under attack there by Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
    In transferring command and control to NATO, the U.S. is turning the reins over to an organization dominated by the U.S., both militarily and politically. In essence, the U.S. runs the show that is taking over running the show.
    And the rapid advance of rebels in recent days strongly suggests they are not merely benefiting from military aid in a defensive crouch, but rather using the multinational force in some fashion — coordinated or not — to advance an offensive.
    Here is a look at some of Obama’s assertions in his address to the nation Monday, and how they compare with the facts…. – AP, 3-28-11
  • Obama on Libya: ‘We have a responsibility to act’: Vigorously defending American attacks in Libya, President Barack Obama declared Monday night that the United States intervened to prevent a slaughter of civilians that would have stained the world’s conscience and “been a betrayal of who we are” as Americans. Yet he ruled out targeting Moammar Gadhafi, warning that trying to oust him militarily would be a mistake as costly as the war in Iraq….
    “To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” Obama said. He spoke in a televised address to the nation, delivered in front of a respectful audience of military members and diplomats.
    “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different,” Obama said. “And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”…. – AP, 3-28-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • Israel panel approving new east Jerusalem building: Jerusalem officials on Monday gave preliminary approval for the building of 942 new apartments in a Jewish development in the city’s contested eastern sector, threatening to create new friction ahead of the Israeli president’s White House visit.
    Although it would take years before construction starts, the project in the neighborhood of Gilo will likely infuriate the Palestinians at an especially delicate diplomatic moment. Israeli President Shimon Peres is scheduled to meet Tuesday with President Barack Obama to explore ways to jump-start stalled Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking…. – AP, 4-4-11
  • Quran protests spread to turbulent Afghan east: In Jalalabad, the largest city in the east, hundreds of people blocked the main highway for three hours, shouting for U.S. troops to leave, burning an effigy of President Barack Obama and stomping on a drawing of a U.S. flag. More than 1,000 people set tires ablaze to block another highway in eastern Parwan province for about an hour, said provincial police chief Sher Ahmad Maladani…. – AP, 4-3-11
  • US to seek new term on UN human rights panel: The Obama administration announced on Wednesday that it will seek a new term on the United Nations Human Rights Council despite concerns that the panel remains a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment and a forum for repressive nations to deflect attention from abuses they may have committed. The State Department said the U.S. intends to run in 2012 for another three-year term on the oft-criticized council. Officials said the U.S. believes its presence on the panel for the past two years has helped steer it in the right direction and that it can continue to do so…. – AP, 3-30-11
  • US hits Belarus firm with Iran-related sanctions: The Obama administration on Tuesday slapped sanctions on a state-owned energy company in Belarus over a $500 million investment with an Iranian firm accused of contributing to Iran’s suspect nuclear program…. – AP, 3-29-11
  • Papers: Guatemalans welcomed US syphilis doctor: As U.S. doctors in Guatemala were wrapping up one of the most unethical medical experiments they had ever conducted, a Guatemalan medical official praised the lead researcher as noble and thanked him profusely. The Guatemalan official’s praising letter from more than 60 years ago is among thousands of documents released Tuesday concerning the doctor who led the study that infected Guatemalan prison inmates and mental patients with syphilis in the 1940s…. – AP, 3-29-11
  • US sending robots to Japan to help nuclear plant: The U.S. government is sending some robotic help to Japan to help regain control of the tsunami-damaged nuclear plant. A top Energy Department official told a Senate panel Tuesday that a shipment of “radiation hardened robotics” will be sent to Japan to assist in the crisis. A department spokeswoman said a robotic device from the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory is being shipped to Japan along with several radiation-hardened cameras…. – AP, 3-29-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • New Hurdles in Race to Avert Federal Shutdown: House Republicans demanded on Monday that President Obama and Senate Democrats agree to federal spending cuts beyond $33 billion for this year as budget talks hit serious new obstacles just four days before financing for federal agencies runs out. Trying to head off a crisis, President Obama invited Congressional leaders to the White House for a meeting Tuesday to try to resolve the impasse that is threatening to shutter a large part of the federal government as of Saturday. But the administration also accelerated preparations for a potential shutdown.
    “We are aware of the calendar, and to be prudent and prepare for the chance that Congress may not pass a funding bill in time, O.M.B. today encouraged agency heads to begin sharing their contingency plans with senior managers throughout their organizations to ensure that they will have their feedback and input,” Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, said Monday…. – NYT, 4-4-11
  • In abrupt reversal, 9/11 suspects to get Guantánamo military tribunals: The Obama administration had wanted to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 suspects in a civilian court in New York. It abandoned that plan Monday in favor of military tribunals…. – CS Monitor, 4-4-11
  • Holder: 9/11 suspects to face military tribunals: Yielding to political opposition, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged henchmen will be referred to military commissions for trial rather than to a civilian federal court in New York.
    The families of those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks have waited almost a decade for justice, and “it must not be delayed any longer,” Holder told a news conference.
    Holder had announced the earlier plan for trial in New York City in November 2009, but that foundered amid widespread opposition to a civilian court trial, particularly in New York. Congress passed legislation that prohibits bringing any detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States…. – AP, 4-4-11
  • Government shutdown Friday? Why Tuesday could be crucial: Rep. Paul Ryan will release a ‘dramatic’ budget for 2012 Tuesday that looks to cut $4 trillion over 10 years. That plan makes the $30 billion at issue in a potential government shutdown over 2011 spending look like small potatoes…. – CS Monitor, 4-4-11
  • Obama invites lawmakers to budget session: President Barack Obama on Monday summoned key lawmakers from both parties to the White House for budget talks in hopes of avoiding a government shutdown this weekend. The White House said the president has invited House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and top negotiators on the appropriations committees to a session Tuesday. Obama spokesman Jay Carney said time was running short and the president would urge the lawmakers to reach an agreement.
    “Despite attempts by Democrats to lock in a number among themselves, I’ve made clear that their $33 billion is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors,” Boehner said in a statement. “That’s unacceptable.”… – AP, 4-4-11
  • Obama begins 2012 run with challenges, advantages: He was a long shot when he launched his race for the White House in 2008. This time, he’s the front-runner. Surprising no one, President Obama is poised to file papers with the Federal Election Commission as early as today, officially launching his bid for a second term.
    He starts his re-election campaign in one of the stronger positions of sitting presidents over the past four decades. His job-approval rating at this point in his tenure is higher than that of Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan, presidents who won second terms, and the nation’s jobless rate, now 8.8%, has been slowly declining.
    But as he turns 50 this year, Obama must traverse some perilous landscape. The economic recovery is fragile, and the U.S. military now is involved in three controversial military campaigns — in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya — that draw significant opposition from war-weary Americans. What’s more, the big legislative achievement of his presidency, an overhaul of the health care system, fails to win majority support in national public opinion polls more than a year after he signed it…. – USA Today, 4-3-11
  • Obama: Shift from imported oil, new jobs will come: Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to promote his ideas for bringing down gasoline prices by decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. A blueprint he outlined in a recent speech calls for increasing domestic oil exploration and production, making cars and trucks more energy efficient and building vehicles that run on alternative fuels or electricity….
    “By doing so, we’re going to make our economy less vulnerable to wild swings in oil prices,” Obama said. “We’re going to use cleaner sources of energy that don’t imperil our climate. And we’re going to spark new products and businesses all over the country by tapping America’s greatest renewable resource: our ingenuity.”… – AP, 4-2-11
  • Obama: Lawmakers close to agreement on budget: President Barack Obama says Democrats and Republicans are close to an agreement on the amount of spending cuts needed in order to keep the government operating and avoid a government shutdown. Obama says there are details and differences to work out, but he says a compromise is within reach…. – AP, 4-1-11
  • Obama: Jobs numbers are sign of economy’s strength: President Barack Obama says unemployment numbers released Friday indicate the economy is showing signs of strength. The unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March, capping the strongest two months of hiring since the recession began. The rate has fallen a full percentage point over the past four months, the sharpest drop since 1983…. – AP, 4-1-11
  • Pentagon defends lifting ban on gays in military: The Pentagon said Friday the military should be trained in working with openly gay members by summer’s end, prompting House Republicans to complain that repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was moving too quickly in wartime. In a status report to Congress, Clifford Stanley, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Vice Adm. William Gortney of the Joint Staff said the Pentagon was moving forward on educating members of the military on the new policy, what’s expected of them and the responsibilities for commanders and other leaders…. – AP, 4-1-11
  • Obama showcases fuel-saving vehicles: With one eye on the gas pump and the other on his energy agenda, President Barack Obama is showcasing fuel- efficient vehicles as part of his goal to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil. The president was to make a short trip Friday to Landover, Md., to visit a UPS shipping facility that features fuel-saving vehicles. Obama was to launch a public-private partnership designed to help large commercial fleets cut back on their diesel and gasoline use. Besides UPS vehicles, Obama also was to view examples of fuel efficiency in the fleets of AT&T, PepsiCo and Verizon…. – AP, 4-1-11
  • For federal workers, anxiety over a possible shutdown: The government could shut down in a week if Congress can’t reach a budget deal. And the Obama administration hasn’t told workers what a shutdown would look like — who will be asked to come to work and who will be told to stay home…. – WaPo, 3-31-11
  • Families urge Obama to end deportations: Hispanic families and immigrant advocates criticized President Barack Obama Thursday for failing to keep campaign promises to change the U.S. immigration system. The critics questioned Obama’s recent comment that he could not use his executive order powers to suspend deportations because doing so “would not conform with my appropriate role as president.” Obama made the comment at a town hall organized by Univision TV network.
    The statement has received a lot of attention in immigrant and some Latino communities. Hispanics voted heavily for Obama in 2008 and some have felt he has let Latino supporters down by failing to move an immigration bill providing legal status to some illegal immigrants, while deporting record numbers of immigrants, many of them Hispanics…. – AP, 3-31-11
  • Obama woos Hispanic vote on education: President Barack Obama, aware of news that the U.S. Hispanic population has hit 50 million, is turning his attention on issues key to Hispanics, including education. Early this week, Obama held a town hall meeting at a D.C. high school, roughly three miles from the White House, where two-thirds of the students are Hispanic. The town hall, broadcast by the Spanish-language TV network Univision, overlapped with the president’s live address to the nation on Libya, but reportedly drew 2.7 million viewers.
    “This is an issue that is critical for the success of America generally,” Obama said. “We already have a situation where one out of five students are Latino in our schools, and when you look at those who are 10 years old or younger, it’s actually one in four.
    “So what this means is, is that our workforce is going to be more diverse; it is going to be, to a large percentage, Latino. And if our young people are not getting the kind of education they need, we won’t succeed as a nation,” the president said….- AP, 3-31-11
  • Obama health idea could mean better care, savings: The Obama administration on Thursday outlined a new approach to medical care that it said could mean higher quality and less risk for patients, while also saving millions of dollars for taxpayers. The plan involves accountable care organizations, which are networks of hospitals, doctors, rehabilitation centers and other providers. They would work together to cut out duplicative tests and procedures, prevent medical errors, and focus on keeping patients healthier and out of the emergency room.
    “We need to bring the days of fragmented care to an end,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said as she announced a proposal regulation that defines how the networks would operate within Medicare…. – AP, 3-31-11
  • Clinton deputy steps down from State Department: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s top deputy, James Steinberg, is resigning his position to take an academic post at Syracuse University. Clinton told State Department personnel on Wednesday that Steinberg will be replaced as the agency’s second-in-command by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, who is currently the highest-ranking career diplomat in the foreign service. She said President Barack Obama would nominate Burns for the job, which requires Senate confirmation.
    Clinton said in a notice to employees he had been “indispensable” in helping to formulate and execute policy “on every foreign policy challenge, big and small.”… – AP, 3-30-11
  • Obama to unveil energy security plan: President Barack Obama is outlining a plan for America’s energy security. He’ll give the speech Wednesday morning at Georgetown University in Washington…. – AP, 3-30-11
  • US back to denying same sex couple visas: After a brief reprieve, immigration authorities are once again denying applications for immigration benefits for same sex couples following a legal review. Chris Bentley, a spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, said Wednesday that after a review by lawyers from the Homeland Security Department, it was concluded that a law prohibiting the government from recognizing same sex marriages must be followed, despite the Obama administration’s decision to stop defending the constitutionality of the law in court. The law, the Defense of Marriage Act, defines marriage as being between a man and a woman…. – AP, 3-30-11
  • Analysis: US still lacks border strategy: The federal government hasn’t come up with a comprehensive strategy to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, even as an all- out war between Mexico and its violent drug gangs has claimed 35,000 lives and pushed hundreds of thousands of immigrants into the United States…. – AP, 3-30-11
  • Two-thirds of oil and gas leases in Gulf inactive: More than two-thirds of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico are sitting idle, neither producing oil and gas, nor being actively explored by the companies who hold the leases, according to an Interior Department report released Tuesday…. – AP, 3-29-11
  • Cost shift seen in raising Medicare age to 67: Employers and even some younger people would pay more for health insurance if lawmakers raise the eligibility age for Medicare, a study to be released Tuesday concludes. The findings suggest that the emerging debate over Medicare’s future matters not only to seniors and those nearing retirement, but to a broad cross-section of Americans. The report from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation shows that federal taxpayers would save billions if the Medicare eligibility age, currently 65, is increased by two years. But people ages 65 and 66, employers — along with states, Medicare recipients and even some younger families — would see ripple effects that add to their costs…. – AP, 3-29-11
  • Obama says too much testing makes education boring: President Barack Obama said Monday that students should take fewer standardized tests and school performance should be measured in other ways than just exam results. Too much testing makes education boring for kids, he said. “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,” the president told students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C.
    “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” the president said. “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.”
    “And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in,” Obama said. “They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.”… – AP, 3-28-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • House Republicans Propose $4 Trillion in Cuts Over Decade: House Republicans plan this week to propose more than $4 trillion in federal spending reductions over the next decade by reshaping popular programs like Medicare, the Budget Committee chairman said Sunday in opening a new front in the intensifying budget wars.
    Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” the chairman, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, also said Republicans would call for strict caps on all government spending that would require cuts to take effect whenever Congress exceeded those limits.
    “We are going to put out a plan that gets our debt on a downward trajectory and gets us to a point of giving our next generation a debt-free nation,” Mr. Ryan said, even as he predicted that the politically charged initiatives he intended to lay out in the 2012 budget beginning Tuesday would give Democrats a “political weapon to go against us.” “But they will have to lie and demagogue to make that a political weapon,” he said…. – NYT, 4-4-11
  • GOP 2012 budget to make $4 trillion-plus in cuts: A Republican plan for the 2012 budget would cut more than $4 trillion over the next decade, more than even the president’s debt commission proposed, with spending caps as well as changes in the Medicare and Medicaid health programs, its principal author said Sunday. The spending blueprint from Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is to be released Tuesday. It deals with the budget year that begins Oct. 1, not the current one that is the subject of negotiations aimed at preventing a partial government shutdown on Friday…. – AP, 4-4-11
  • Boehner wants to pass spending cuts with GOP alone: Sometimes in politics and legislation, whether you win is less important than how you win. That’s the dilemma facing House Speaker John Boehner as he tries to round up the votes to pass a fast-approaching spending compromise and avert a partial government shutdown by week’s end.
    Boehner, R-Ohio, wants the overwhelming majority of those votes to come from his fellow Republicans, even if dozens of easily attainable Democratic votes could help carry the budget bill to victory…. – AP, 4-3-11
  • Rubio speaks out after low profile early in Senate: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a breakout star of the 2010 election and a tea party favorite, kept a low profile early on in the Senate. That’s begun to change. In a matter of days, Rubio made his opposition clear in a Wall Street Journal article to raising the federal debt ceiling and he has called on lawmakers to authorize force to capture Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi…. – AP, 4-2-11
  • House GOP votes to go it alone on budget cuts: The House has passed a Republican bill that declares their $61 billion in budget cuts the law of the land if the Senate and Obama don’t act on the spending measure before April 9. They acknowledge the bill has no practical effect. But House Republicans say it reminds voters that they have passed a budget bill while the Democratic-controlled Senate has not. They say they want to ensure that Democrats are held accountable if there’s a government shutdown next week…. – AP, 4-1-11
  • As Budget Talks Continue, Hard-Liners Get Support From Tea Party: As House Republican leaders worked to cobble together a spending plan for this year that can win bipartisan support, their more conservative members made increasingly clear on Thursday that they consider a proposed $33 billion budget cut to be insufficient. Even as Speaker John A. Boehner urged Republicans to keep in mind that they would have additional opportunities in the coming weeks to cut long-term spending, some members of his caucus said they would be willing to accept a government shutdown if necessary to back up their demand for $61 billion in cuts for the current fiscal year…. – NYT, 3-31-11
  • House amendments undermine safety regulations: The House has approved an amendment that would effectively block a safety regulation proposed by the Obama administration to prevent fires involving air shipments of lithium batteries. The amendment was added Thursday, by a vote of 251-168, to a sweeping aviation bill in the House. The battery regulation has been the focus of intense lobbying by U.S. industry and foreign governments who say it would increase the cost of countless products…. – AP, 3-31-11
  • Democrats lack a heavy hitter against Sen. Brown: Democrats haven’t found a solid challenger to GOP Sen. Scott Brown in liberal Massachusetts next year, stoking concerns the party could blow its best shot to take back the seat held for nearly a half-century by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. It’s a seat close to Democrats’ hearts, still raw from their humiliating loss to the upstart Brown in 2010.
    The senator’s widow, Vicki Kennedy, has flatly ruled out running. So did former Rep. Joe Kennedy, who joked he was “feeling ill all of a sudden” when reporters recently asked him about challenging Brown.
    The state’s leading Democrat, Gov. Deval Patrick, insists he’s not interested. Former Rep. Martin Meehan, flush with $4.8 million in campaign cash, has rejected pleas from party officials to jump in.
    Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who rarely minces words, described Brown’s prospects bluntly. “There’s nobody that can beat him,” he told the Boston Herald recently…. – AP, 3-31-11
  • Plane revelations dog McCaskill’s re-election bid: Sen. Claire McCaskill once turned a political opponent’s use of a plane to her advantage. Now she’s seeing the issue from a different vantage point. With a tough re-election race in 2012, the Missouri Democrat has come under heavy criticism for her use of a plane she owns with her husband. First it was revealed that McCaskill, among the wealthiest members of the Senate, had received approximately $79,000 in federal reimbursements for her flights, including at least one to a political event. A few days later, McCaskill revealed that she and her husband had also failed to pay about $320,000 in state taxes on the plane…. – AP, 3-30-11
  • Republicans grill DHS officials on FOIA delays: Republicans in Congress objected Thursday to the Homeland Security Department’s now-rescinded practice of requiring secretive reviews by political advisers of hundreds of requests for government files under the Freedom of Information Act. The chairman of a House oversight committee said the process “reeks of a Nixonian enemies list” and was unacceptable.
    The senior official in charge of submitting files for the reviews, Mary Ellen Callahan, acknowledged there had been “management challenges” in the program and said the political scrutiny “at times took longer than anticipated.” But Callahan deflected suggestions by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that the process injected political considerations into decisions about federal records the government was turning over to journalists, watchdog groups or even members of Congress…. – AP, 3-30-11
  • House votes to end mortgage reduction program: House Republicans pushed through legislation Tuesday to terminate an underachieving Obama administration program designed to reduce mortgage payments for homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. Most Democrats, while acknowledging that the Home Affordable Modification Program has fallen short of original goals, protested the vote to kill it. The White House, in a statement, said that if the bill ever reaches President Barack Obama’s desk, his senior advisers would recommend he veto it. The vote was 252-170…. – AP, 3-29-11
  • House GOP: No stopgap spending bill beyond April 8: The No. 2 Republican in the House said Tuesday that the chamber won’t pass another short-term federal funding bill to avert a government shutdown if talks between the GOP and the White House fail to produce a 2011 spending agreement by an April 8 deadline.
    Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia said “time is up” and that it’s up to Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate to offer significant spending cuts as part of legislation to fund the government for the rest of the budget year.
    “We’re going to need to see a deal struck where our members can go home and tell their constituents that we’re doing what we said we would do,” Cantor said…. – AP, 3-29-11
  • Time short, tempers flare in budget showdown: With the clock ticking toward a possible government shutdown, spending-cut talks between Senate Democrats and the Republicans controlling the House have broken off in a whom-do-you-trust battle over legislation to keep operations running for another six months.
    “Republicans refuse to negotiate,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared on Monday. “The infighting between the tea party and the rest of the Republican Party — including the Republican leadership in Congress — is keeping our negotiating partner from the negotiating table. And it’s pretty hard to negotiate without someone else on the other side of the table,” the Nevada Democrat said…. – AP, 3-28-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • Court leaves in place Ariz. school tax break: The Supreme Court rejected a challenge Monday to an Arizona tax break that directs millions of dollars to private religious schools. The justices, in a 5-4 ruling, said that Arizona taxpayers who filed a lawsuit to block the tax break have no legal claim because they are not forced to contribute to the state program that sends money to the religious schools.
    Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the court’s majority opinion, joined by the four conservative justices. Justice Elena Kagan dissented, along with three other liberal justices…. – AP, 4-4-11
  • Government appeals judge’s health care ruling: The Obama administration has appealed a judge’s ruling that found the federal overhaul of the health care system unconstitutional. The Justice Department filed a 62-page motion Friday to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta that said there’s clear and well-established precedent that Congress acted within its authority in adopting the overhaul. It said Congress made “detailed findings establishing a foundation” for exercising the authority.
    Florida and 25 other states filed the lawsuit that said Congress exceeded its authority by requiring all citizens to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson agreed in a Jan. 31 ruling that said Obama’s entire health care overhaul is unconstitutional. It is considered the most sweeping ruling against the health care law.
    Some states, including Alaska, have cited the decision in refusing to cooperate with the health care law. But Vinson issued another ruling in March ordering states to continue implementing the law while the case makes its way through the courts…. – AP, 4-3-11
  • DOJ probe says Panthers case handled appropriately: In a case that has drawn strong criticism from Republican conservatives, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has found no evidence that politics played a role when department attorneys dismissed three defendants from a voting rights lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party.
    “We found no evidence of improper political interference or influence from within or outside the department” and the government attorneys acted appropriately in the exercise of their supervisory duties, OPR said in a letter Tuesday to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas…. – AP, 3-29-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • La Follette says union law not in effect, Walker official disagrees: Special Section: Ongoing coverage of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial budget-repair bill and the battle over the 2011-’13 state budget Secretary of State Doug La Follette said Saturday that the budget-repair bill has not taken effect because it has not been published by his office.
    “It’s still an act of the Legislature that has not yet become law because I have not yet designated a publication date,” La Follette said. He added the law cannot take effect until he directs publication in the official state newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Normally, a bill takes effect the day after publication…. – Journal Sentinel

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • A Tea Party Star Stirs Iowans, and She Isn’t Palin Michele Bachmann is weighing a run for president in 2012: Sarah Palin, the reigning heroine of many social conservatives, has given few signals that she will make a presidential bid. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 on the strength of his appeal to evangelicals and other constituencies, has mostly offered reasons for not joining the race.
    “It isn’t that I was born thinking I had to be president,” she said, leaning in and talking softer than she does on television or at Tea Party rallies. “I’m getting a lot of encouragement to run from people across the country. I don’t believe this is a rash decision.”… – NYT, 4-3-11
  • For Romney, 2012 strategy runs through NH, Nevada: In his first presidential run in 2008, Mitt Romney sought back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire to propel him to the GOP nomination. He won neither, the two-state sprint failed and so did his candidacy.
    This time his strategy is more of a multi-state marathon, with economically suffering Nevada an important round in what advisers predict could be a protracted fight to be the party’s 2012 nominee.
    “Seeing somebody learn on the job in the presidency has not been a pretty sight,” Romney said Saturday to the Republican Jewish Coalition in a speech casting himself as a seasoned business executive. “I think the president’s inexperience in negotiations contributed to less than positive developments on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating front,” Romney said…. – AP, 4-2-11
  • AP sources: Obama set to launch re-election bid: President Barack Obama is about to make one of Washington’s worst kept secrets official: He wants a second term. Democratic officials familiar with the president’s plans said Saturday that Obama intends to file papers as early as this coming week with the Federal Election Commission to launch his 2012 re-election campaign. He also will announce his candidacy to supporters by email and text messages. The officials asked not to be identified in order to speak before the papers are filed…. – AP, 4-2-11
  • Bachmann says she wouldn’t have gone into Libya: A tea party-backed conservative congresswoman says President Barack Obama has failed to demonstrate a vital U.S. national security interest for going into Libya. Rep. Michele Bachmann also says “I would not have gone in” to the strife-torn North African country where strongman Moammar Gadhafi is fighting to cling to power against a resistance force. She says the “Obama doctrine” would provide a rationale for the United States “to enter into one country after another.” Bachmann says she’s against giving military assistance to the rebels fighting Gadhafi, saying she fears there are al Qaida elements among their numbers…. – AP, 3-30-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address

White House Photo, Pete Souza, 4/1/11

  • Weekly Address: Gas Prices & Energy Security: Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Landover, Maryland April 2, 2011: This week, I released a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. It’s a strategy to reduce the oil we import from around the world, and to make our economy stronger at home. Part of this strategy involves increasing our oil exploration right here in America. In fact, our oil production last year reached its highest level since 2003, and we want to encourage more safe, responsible drilling where we can.
    But the truth is, drilling alone is not a real strategy to replace our dependence on foreign oil. And that’s because even though America uses 25 percent of the world’s oil, we currently have only about 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Even if we used every last drop of all the oil we have, it wouldn’t be enough to meet our long-term energy needs. So, real energy security can only come if we find ways to use less oil – if we invest in cleaner fuels and greater efficiency.
    That’s what we’ve been doing since I took office. For example, we secured an agreement from all the major auto companies to raise the fuel efficiency of their cars and trucks. So if you buy a new car, the better gas mileage is going to save you about $3,000. Altogether, this will save us about 1.8 billion barrels of oil as a country.
    We need to build on this progress. As we make our cars and trucks more efficient, we’ve got to harness new technologies to fuel our vehicles with everything from biofuels to natural gas to advanced batteries. And the good news is, these technologies aren’t science fiction anymore. They exist today. Already, American car companies are producing electric vehicles that use little or no gas. And innovators across America are testing new products that hold incredible promise not just for new vehicles, but for countless new jobs.
    To help jumpstart this market, the federal government has doubled the number of clean energy vehicles that we have in our fleet. In the next few years, we’re going to switch the entire fleet over. And I’m here at UPS because it’s not just the government getting in on the action. Companies like UPS, FedEx, AT&T, Verizon, and PepsiCo – firms with some of the largest fleets in the country – are switching to more efficient vehicles. And through our Clean Fleets Partnership, driven not by government, but by business, more companies are going to be switching to electric and alternative vehicles, too – not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because it’s good for their bottom lines.
    The goal is simple. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. Through these and other steps, by a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one third. And by doing so, we’re going to make our economy less vulnerable to wild swings in oil prices. We’re going to use cleaner sources of energy that don’t imperil our climate. And we’re going to spark new products and businesses all over the country by tapping America’s greatest renewable resource: our ingenuity.
    We know how important that is. This week, we learned that the economy added 230,000 private sector jobs last month. That makes 1.8 million private sector jobs created in the last thirteen months. That’s a good sign. But we have to keep up the momentum, and transitioning to a clean energy economy will help us do that. It will ensure that the United States of America is home to the jobs and industries of tomorrow. That’s how we’ll win the future. And that’s how we’ll leave our children an America that is more secure and prosperous than before. – WH, 4-2-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • John Boehner: I and my GOP colleagues continue to fight for the largest possible spending cuts. Washington Democrats have claimed there is an “agreement” on cuts – there isn’t. Nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to. It’s been 41 days since the House passed H.R. 1 to cut spending & keep the government running. Instead of “rooting for a shutdown,” the Democrat-run Senate should do its job and pass a bill. – Facebook, 4-1-11
  • The Obama Administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future: Remarks by the President on America’s Energy Security Georgetown University Washington, D.C.: The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity, our long-term security on a resource that will eventually run out, and even before it runs out will get more and more expensive to extract from the ground. We can’t afford it when the costs to our economy, our country, and our planet are so high. Not when your generation needs us to get this right. It’s time to do what we can to secure our energy future.
    And today, I want to announce a new goal, one that is reasonable, one that is achievable, and one that is necessary. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third. That is something that we can achieve. (Applause.) We can cut our oil dependence — we can cut our oil dependence by a third.
    I set this goal knowing that we’re still going to have to import some oil. It will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time, until we’ve gotten alternative energy strategies fully in force. And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, obviously we’ve got to look at neighbors like Canada and Mexico that are stable and steady and reliable sources. We also have to look at other countries like Brazil. Part of the reason I went down there is to talk about energy with the Brazilians. They recently discovered significant new oil reserves, and we can share American technology and know-how with them as they develop these resources.
    But our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard — because we boast one critical, renewable resource that the rest of the world can’t match: American ingenuity. American ingenuity, American know-how.
    To make ourselves more secure, to control our energy future, we’re going to have to harness all of that ingenuity. It’s a task we won’t be finished with by the end of my presidency, or even by the end of the next presidency. But if we continue the work that we’ve already begun over the last two years, we won’t just spark new jobs, industries and innovations — we will leave your generation and future generations with a country that is safer, that is healthier, and that’s more prosperous.
    So today, my administration is releasing a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that outlines a comprehensive national energy policy, one that we’ve been pursuing since the day I took office. And cutting our oil dependence by a third is part of that plan.
    Here at Georgetown, I’d like to talk in broad strokes about how we can achieve these goals.
    Now, meeting the goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things: first, finding and producing more oil at home; second, reducing our overall dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency…. – Read the full Blueprint (pdf) WH, 3-30-11Transcript
  • Mitt Romney: On Jobs, Where is Obama?: Sometimes truth arrives from the most unexpected sources. Christina Romer, President Obama’s former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, said last week that she was dismayed at Washington’s lack of focus on jobs.
    “I frankly don’t understand why policymakers aren’t more worried about the suffering of real families,” Romer said. “We need to realize that there is still a lot of devastation out there.” She called the 8.9% unemployment rate “an absolute crisis.”
    How bad is it? Last week, in the blue-collar community ofTaunton, Mass., the annual jobs fair was canceled because not enough companies came forward to offer jobs.
    Defining Deviancy Down was the title of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s seminal account of how American society came to condone previously stigmatized conditions and behavior. Moynihan focused on the growing acceptance of the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, the expansion of single-parent families and the violence in inner cities. To his examples, we can now add joblessness…. – Mitt Romney, 3-30-11
  • Sarah Palin: FLASHBACK: What We Were Saying One Year Ago About Obama’s Failed Energy Policy: It’s unbelievable (literally) the rhetoric coming from President Obama today. This is coming from he who is manipulating the U.S. energy supply. President Obama is once again giving lip service to a “new energy proposal”; but let’s remember the last time he trotted out a “new energy proposal” – nearly a year ago to the day. The main difference is today we have $4 a gallon gas in some places in the country. This is no accident. This administration is not a passive observer to the trends that have inflated oil prices to dangerous levels. His war on domestic oil and gas exploration and production has caused us pain at the pump, endangered our already sluggish economic recovery, and threatened our national security. Through a process of what candidate Obama once called “gradual adjustment,” American consumers have seen prices at the pump rise 67 percent since he took office. Meanwhile, the vast undeveloped reserves that could help to keep prices at the pump affordable remain locked up because of President Obama’s deliberate unwillingness to drill here and drill now. We’re subsidizing offshore drilling in Brazil and purchasing energy from them, instead of drilling ourselves and keeping those dollars circulating in our own economy to generate jobs here. The President said today, “There are no quick fixes.” He’s been in office for nearly three years now, and he’s about to launch his $1 billion re-election campaign. When can we expect any “fixes” from him? How high does the price of energy have to go?… – Sarah Palin on Facebook, 3-30-11
  • President Obama’s Speech on Libya: Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Libya National Defense University Washington, D.C.: Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.
    At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Qaddafi declared he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted — if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.
    It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
    We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Qaddafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Qaddafi’s air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi’s deadly advance.
    In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies -– nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey –- all of whom have fought by our sides for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people.
    To summarize, then: In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days. – WH, 3-28-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Weekly Address: The Military Mission in Libya: Remarks of President Barack Obama Washington D.C. March 26, 2011: Last week, when I ordered our armed forces to help protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Qaddafi, I pledged to keep the American people fully informed. Since then, I’ve spoken about the limited scope and specific purpose of this mission. Today, I can report that thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we’ve made important progress.
    As Commander in Chief, I face no greater decision than sending our military men and women into harm’s way. And the United States should not—and cannot—intervene every time there’s a crisis somewhere in the world.
    But I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized; when someone like Qaddafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region; and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives—then it’s in our national interest to act. And it’s our responsibility. This is one of those times.
    Our military mission in Libya is clear and focused. Along with our allies and partners, we’re enforcing the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. We’re protecting the Libyan people from Qaddafi’s forces. And we’ve put in place a no fly zone and other measures to prevent further atrocities.
    We’re succeeding in our mission. We’ve taken out Libya’s air defenses. Qaddafi’s forces are no longer advancing across Libya. In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Qaddafi threatened to show “no mercy,” his forces have been pushed back. So make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians—innocent men, women and children—have been saved.
    As I pledged at the outset, the role of American forces has been limited. We are not putting any ground forces into Libya. Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea. Key Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have committed aircraft. And as agreed this week, responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the United States to our NATO allies and partners.
    This is how the international community should work—more nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and cost of upholding peace and security.
    This military effort is part of our larger strategy to support the Libyan people and hold the Qaddafi regime accountable. Together with the international community, we’re delivering urgent humanitarian assistance. We’re offering support to the Libyan opposition. We’ve frozen tens of billions of dollars of Qaddafi’s assets that can help meet the needs and aspirations of the Libyan people. And every day, the pressure on Qaddafi and his regime is increasing.
    Our message is clear and unwavering. Qaddafi’s attacks against civilians must stop. His forces must pull back. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach those in need. Those responsible for violence must be held accountable. Moammar Qaddafi has lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized.
    In recent days, we’ve heard the voices of Libyans expressing their gratitude for this mission. “You saved our lives,” said one Libyan. Said another, “Today, there is hope.”
    Every American can be proud of the lives we’ve saved in Libya and of the service of our men and women in uniform who once again have stood up for our interests and our ideals. And people in Libya and around the world are seeing that the United States of America stands with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny. – WH, 3-26-11TranscriptMp4Mp3

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Government shutdown Friday? Why Tuesday could be crucial: The 2012 budget “is a dramatic proposal, and it gives the freshmen some cover,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. Congressman “Ryan is talking about going after all the big entitlements and making the kind of cuts in the future that will fundamentally restructure government.”
    “They’ve made this [2012] budget symbolically so charged that it gives Republicans an excuse to compromise [on FY 2011 spending] based on the compromise that they’re going to go big in the budget,” he adds. “That’s quite useful.” – CS Monitor, 4-4-11
  • Obama plays long game as crises rage: “He is a pragmatist, he is also a leader who is elusive, I think on purpose, he doesn’t like to be boxed in ideologically… he purposely makes that difficult for his opponents,” said presidential scholar Julian Zelizer. Zelizer, of Princeton University, said Obama’s approach allows him the elasticity to shift positions if needed — as witnessed in his apparently swift reversal of tack on a no-fly zone in Libya.
    “It’s a strength in that it gives him wiggle room,” said Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas professor of government.
    “It’s a weakness in that it makes him too chameleon-like, a little bit too easily changed, a little bit too fuzzy for some audiences — especially Republican audiences.”… – AFP, 4-3-11

Political Highlights March 28, 2011: Obama’s Latin American Trip — Decides, Defines Libya Mission — Sarah Palin’s Israel Trip — Geraldine Ferraro, First Woman on Presidential Ticket, Dies

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:

White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 3/25/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Fox News Poll: Voters Approve President’s Decision to Resume Gitmo Tribunals: By a 51-25 percent margin, voters approve of the president’s recent reversal on his Gitmo policy, which restarts U.S. military tribunals for terrorist detainees held there. Nearly one voter in four has no opinion on the policy change (23 percent).
    A 56 percent majority of Republicans approves of the resumption of military tribunals at Gitmo, as do about half of independents (49 percent) and Democrats (48 percent).
    More than two-thirds of those considering themselves part of the Tea Party movement approve of the president’s policy reversal (67 percent)… – Fox News, 3-24-11
  • A third of Americans see Obama as an ‘indecisive’ military leader…as White House label Libya bombing ‘kinetic action’: NATO agree tentative deal to take charge of Libya bombing
    One third think Obama ‘indecisive’ on military action
    White House refuse to use the word ‘war’
    79 per cent think U.S. should remove Gaddafi
    Only 7 per cent polled wanted ground troops deployed
    Poll comes day Obama was ‘locked out’ of White House… – Daily Mail UK, 3-24-11
  • Few Americans see Obama as strong military leader: Only 17 percent of Americans see President Barack Obama as a strong and decisive military leader, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the United States and its allies began bombing Libya. Nearly half of those polled view Obama as a cautious and consultative commander-in-chief and more than a third see him as indecisive in military matters…. – Reuters, 3-24-11

IN FOCUS

  • Wisconsin: Judge Again Halts Law Stripping Union Rights: A judge on Thursday halted Gov. Scott Walker’s plans — at least temporarily — to cut most public workers’ pay and strip them of most of their union rights. Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court issued a declaration stating in no uncertain terms that the collective bargaining law that led to weeks of protests had not taken effect, contradicting Republican arguments that it had because a state office published it online. Governor Walker, a Republican, said his administration would comply, despite misgivings…. – AP, 3-31-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • Obama defends Libya mission REGION IN TURMOIL He tells nation the U.S. has a ‘strategic interest’ in stopping Kadafi: President Obama told a skeptical American public that he ordered military action in Libya because circumstances allowed the U.S. and its allies to halt a humanitarian disaster, but he acknowledged that even a weakened Moammar Kadafi still may be a long way from leaving power.
    In his first address to the nation since launching cruise missiles and airstrikes 10 days ago, Obama on Monday cast doubt on the likelihood of U.S. military action in other Middle Eastern countries, where oppressed citizens have taken to the streets to demand reform. Under his leadership, he said, the United States would not act unilaterally, risking American lives and treasure as it did by launching the Iraq war in 2003…. – LAT, 3-29-11
  • Obama on Libya: ‘We have a responsibility to act’: Vigorously defending American attacks in Libya, President Barack Obama declared Monday night that the United States intervened to prevent a slaughter of civilians that would have stained the world’s conscience and “been a betrayal of who we are” as Americans. Yet he ruled out targeting Moammar Gadhafi, warning that trying to oust him militarily would be a mistake as costly as the war in Iraq….
    “To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” Obama said. He spoke in a televised address to the nation, delivered in front of a respectful audience of military members and diplomats.
    “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different,” Obama said. “And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”… – AP, 3-28-11
  • Obama’s Speech Draws Praise, Questions, Criticism In Congress: U.S. President Barack Obama’s address to the nation about the rationale for an intervention in Libya drew an array of reactions at the U.S. Capitol, mixing pride with unease and reflecting the lack of a coherent position among either party over the military action.
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nev.) said that the U.S. had “stopped the deadly advance” of Col. Moammar Gadhafi towards Benghazi, the rebel capital, and would encourage “progress toward real change in Libya and throughout the Middle East.”… – WSJ, 3-28-11
  • McConnell: Obama needs to spell out U.S. role, costs in Libya: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll listen to President Obama’s speech on Libya tonight for answers to these questions: When will the U.S. combat role in the operation end? What will its duration be and at what cost? What are U.S. national security interests in Libya? What is the long-term role for the United States in Libya?
    McConnell said “it was the limited nature of our combat role that encouraged me the president was acting” within his responsibilities as commander in chief. The Senate GOP leader praised Defense Secretary Robert Gates for his counsel as the situation in Libya worsened and said he hopes Obama has been taking that advice to heart…. – USA Today, 3-28-11
  • Potential GOP candidates scold Obama on Libya Newt Gingrich concedes he made conflicting remarks but is unrepentant: Likely Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich conceded Saturday that he made conflicting statements about U.S. involvement in Libya, but he blamed them on contradictions in President Obama’s policy. The former House speaker called for a no-fly zone early this month after Obama said that Moammar Kadafi “must leave.” Last week, Gingrich backtracked, saying he would not have intervened using U.S. and European forces.
    Addressing an audience of conservative activists, Gingrich explained that when he advocated the no-fly zone, he was merely “trying to follow Obama” and did not favor intervention. But once Obama said the Libyan dictator should go, Gingrich said, “he pitted the prestige and power of the United States against a dictator who’s been anti-American for over 40 years.”… – LAT, 3-27-11
  • Obama to lay out his case on Libya to nation: President Barack Obama will make his case for U.S. involvement in Libya to an anxious public Monday night, while officials offered assurances that military action there does not set a precedent for how the U.S. will handle similar uprisings throughout the Middle East. White House aides were reluctant to spell out details of Obama’s speech, set for 7:30 p.m. EDT Monday. However, deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough said the rationale Obama would lay out for involvement in Libya cannot be applied to escalating clashes between pro- and anti-government forces in Syria and elsewhere.
    “Obviously there are certain aspirations that are being voiced by each of these movements, but there’s no question that each of them is unique,” McDonough said. “We don’t get very hung up on this question of precedent.”… – AP, 3-28-11
  • US reducing naval firepower aimed at Gadhafi: In a sign of U.S. confidence that the weeklong assault on Libya has tamed Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, the Pentagon has reduced the amount of naval firepower arrayed against him, officials said Sunday. The move, not yet publicly announced, reinforces the White House message of a diminishing U.S. role — a central point in President Barack Obama’s national address Monday night on Libya. The White House booked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on three Sunday news shows to promote the administration’s case ahead of the speech.
    Yet Gates, asked whether the military operation might be over by year’s end, said, “I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that.”… – AP, 3-27-11
  • US reducing naval firepower aimed at Gadhafi: In a sign of U.S. confidence that the weeklong assault on Libya has tamed Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, the Pentagon has reduced the amount of naval firepower arrayed against him, officials said Sunday.
    The move, not yet publicly announced, reinforces the White House message of a diminishing U.S. role — a central point in President Barack Obama’s national address Monday night on Libya. The White House booked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on three Sunday news shows to promote the administration’s case ahead of the speech.
    Yet Gates, asked whether the military operation might be over by year’s end, said, “I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that.”… – AP, 3-27-11
  • Obama says pressure increasing on Moammar Gadhafi: President Barack Obama says the pressure is increasing on Moammar Gadhafi as Libyans see that the U.S. stands “with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny. The Libyan leader “has lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address, aired one week after the U.S.-led military action began…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Air raids force Gadhafi retreat, rebels seize east: Libyan rebels clinched their hold on the east and seized back a key city on Saturday after decisive international airstrikes sent Moammar Gadhafi’s forces into retreat, shedding their uniforms and ammunition as they fled. Ajdabiya’s initial loss to Gadhafi may have ultimately been what saved the rebels from imminent defeat, propelling the U.S. and its allies to swiftly pull together the air campaign now crippling Gadhafi’s military. Its recapture gives President Barack Obama a tangible victory just as he faces criticism for bringing the United States into yet another war… – AP, 3-26-11
  • US considers more firepower to hit Gadhafi forces: Even after a week of U.S.-led air strikes, forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are a potent threat to civilians, say Pentagon officials who are considering expanding the firepower and airborne surveillance systems in the military campaign.
    “Every day, the pressure on Gadhafi and his regime is increasing,” President Barack Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, aired just after Libyan rebels regained control of the eastern city of Ajdabiya. It was the first major turnaround in an uprising that once appeared on the verge of defeat.
    Obama also readied for a speech to the nation Monday evening to explain his decision-making on Libya to a public weary of a decade of war… – AP, 3-26-11
  • Obama to address nation on Monday about Libya: To a nation and a Congress seeking answers, President Barack Obama on Monday will offer his most expansive explanation of the U.S. role in the Libyan war, delivering a speech that is expected to cover the path ahead and his rationale about the appropriate use of force.
    Obama’s 7:30 p.m. EDT speech, to be given from the National Defense University in Washington, comes as leading Republican lawmakers and some from his own party have pressed him for clarity about the goals and exit strategy of the United States. Obama and top U.S. security officials spent about an hour talking to lawmakers on Friday, with the president answering direct questions from critics…. – AP, 3-25-11
  • NATO deal on Libya doesn’t mean quick exit for US: NATO’s limited role in command of the no-fly zone over Libya doesn’t allow the U.S. to make a quick exit from the costly military operation as the Obama administration had wanted.
    American sea and airpower remain key parts of the effort to counter forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi after allies balked at assuming complete command of the campaign that began six days ago. The U.S., along with France and Great Britain, maintain primary responsibility for attacks on Gadhafi’s ground forces and air defense systems, which are the toughest and most controversial parts of the operation…. – AP, 3-25-11
  • Obama confident coalition will lead Libyan war: President Barack Obama expressed confidence on Tuesday the United States will be able to transfer control of the Libyan military operation to an international coalition in a matter of days. Amid negotiations among allies about who will control the operation, Obama told a news conference with El Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes that “I have absolutely no doubt” that an agreement will be found soon. Obama spoke earlier in the day with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron and the White House said they agreed NATO should play an important role in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone…. – Reuters, 3-24-11
  • Boehner presses Obama to define Libya mission: President Barack Obama came under pressure from Republicans on Wednesday to outline the U.S. goals in Libya, where American aircraft and warships are part of an international campaign enforcing a no-fly zone, as lawmakers sought to protect Congress’ constitutional role in military decisions.
    In a letter to the White House, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said while he respected Obama’s authority as commander in chief, he complained that the president ordered the military into combat without clearly describing the mission and U.S. role for the American people and Congress. Boehner insisted that certain questions be answered on U.S. strategy, the cost of the operation, the continued support of coalition partners and whether it was acceptable for Gadhafi to remain in power after the military effort is over.
    “Because of the conflicting messages from the administration and our coalition partners, there is a lack of clarity over the objectives of this mission, what our national security interests are and how it fits into our overarching policy for the Middle East,” Boehner wrote. “The American people deserve answers to these questions. And all of these concerns point to a fundamental question: What is your benchmark for success in Libya?”…. – AP, 3-23-11
  • Obama insists actions in Libya serve US interests: Obama said he believes the public supports the mission. Obama said he believes the public supports the mission.
    “When this transition takes place, it is not going to be our planes that are maintaining the no-fly zone,” the president said at a news conference in El Salvador as he neared the end of a Latin American trip overshadowed by events in Libya. “It is not going to be our ships that are necessarily enforcing the arms embargo. That’s precisely what the other nations are going to do.’’
    “This is something that we can build into our budget. And we’re confident that not only can the goals be achieved, but at the end of the day the American people are going to feel satisfied that lives were saved and people were helped,” he said…. – AP, 3-22-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

President Barack Obama delivers a speech at Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda in Santiago, Chile, March 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • White House says Obama Accomplishes Goals on Latin America Trip: During his five day trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, President Barack Obama spoke in soaring tones about the progress of democracy and economic and social advancement in Latin America. Mr. Obama now faces the task of following through with commitments he made. Though distracted from the very beginning of his trip in Brazil, through its conclusion in El Salvador, by events in Libya and the Middle East, White House aides say President Obama accomplished the main goals of his Latin America journey.
    In major speeches in Rio de Janeiro and Santiago, he underscored what he sees as the importance of the Americas to the United States, and noted the progress countries have made in solidifying democracy, economic growth, and fighting poverty….
    “The realities of our time, and the new capabilities and confidence of Latin America, demand something different. President Kennedy’s challenge endures; to build a hemisphere where all people can hope for a sustainable, suitable standard of living, and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom,” he said. “But half a century later, we must give meaning to this work in our own way, in a new way.”… – VOA, 3-24-11
  • Alan McPherson: Obama in Latin America: So not Nixon: President Obama is not the only high-profile U.S. official to have kicked around a soccer ball in Latin America, as he did in Brazil a few days ago.
    When Vice President Richard Nixon toured Latin America in 1958, he walked out onto a soccer field in front of 10,000 Ecuadorians and did some dribbling, joking that he never could use his head.
    Obama didn’t try to head the ball in Rio, but I bet he could have. He is not only more athletic than Nixon ever was but also a better statesman. His popularity in Latin America is another testament to that.
    In the 1950s, Nixon went to Latin America ostensibly to woo the middle classes but he wound up lecturing them and reverting to patting dictators on the back.
    Obama, in contrast, went to connect with all groups. He met with elected presidents from the left and the right, and with business groups. In Rio, he visited a slum and spoke, like the former community organizer that he is, of the possibilities of self-improvement. In El Salvador, he visited the crypt of Archbishop Oscar Romero, slain by a U.S. ally in 1980.
    Obama came to the poor and forgotten. Nixon avoided them, so they came to him. When he landed in Caracas, Venezuela, denizens of a lower-class neighborhood rushed his motorcade, spit on his windshield and banged it with iron bars, almost killing the vice president.
    Obama has shown that he can use his head and his heart…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 3-25-11

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama confers with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, right, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, left, and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, following a conference call on Libya with his national security team, in San Salvador, El Salvador, March 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Obama says too much testing makes education boring: “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,” the president told students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. Obama, who is pushing a rewrite of the nation’s education law that would ease some of its rigid measurement tools, said policymakers should find a test that “everybody agrees makes sense” and administer it in less pressure-packed atmospheres, potentially every few years instead of annually.
    “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” the president said. “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.” “And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in,” Obama said. “They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.”… – AP, 3-28-11
  • Obama gets an iPad: Barack Obama famously became the first Blackberrier-in-Chief when it was reported the president received a $3,000 NSA-approved smartphone to use following his inauguration. It was quickly dubbed the “Barackberry” and the president was often seen with the device. Today President Obama was asked during a Univision town hall if he owns a computer. Obama joked, “I’m the President of the United States. You think I’ve got a – you think I’ve got to go borrow somebody’s computer?” He added that he even has an iPad.
    Surely this makes Obama the most tech savvy president in history – he owns a computer, carries a blackberry, listens to an iPod, and now he uses an iPad. After all, George W. Bush never used email during his two terms and Bill Clinton sent just two emails while in office. But up until recently, Obama was iPadless…. – CNN, 3-28-11
  • Emails: Insiders worried over political ‘meddling’: The Homeland Security Department official in charge of submitting sensitive government files to political advisers for secretive reviews before they could be released to citizens, journalists and watchdog groups complained in emails that the unusual scrutiny was “crazy” and hoped someone outside the Obama administration would discover the practice…. – AP, 3-28-11
  • Geraldine Ferraro, first woman on U.S. presidential ticket, dies: Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic congresswoman who became the first woman on a major party presidential ticket as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984, died on Saturday at the age of 75, her family said.
    Ferraro died at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston of a blood cancer after a 12-year illness, according to a statement from her family. “Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed,” the statement said.
    Ferraro was an energetic and articulate three-term congresswoman with a liberal reputation when Mondale picked her from the male-dominated U.S. House of Representatives. Ferraro’s presence on the Democratic ticket generated excitement on the campaign trail, particularly among women. Yet on Election Day, Republican President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush won in a landslide, carrying every state except Mondale’s home state of Minnesota.
    In delivering her concession speech that night, Ferraro saluted Mondale for helping women reach new political heights. “For two centuries, candidates have run for president. Not one from a major party ever asked a woman to be his running mate — until Walter Mondale,” she said. “Campaigns, even if you lose them, do serve a purpose. My candidacy has said the days of discrimination are numbered.”… – Reuters, 3-26-11
  • First female VP candidate Ferraro dies at 75: Geraldine Ferraro’s selection as Walter Mondale’s Democratic running mate in the 1984 presidential election made her a winner as far as history was concerned, despite an unsuccessful campaign that proved to be a tough political slog against a popular incumbent.
    Her vice presidential bid, the first for a woman on a major party ticket, emboldened women across the country to seek public office and helped lay the groundwork for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential candidacy in 2008 and John McCain’s choice of his running mate, Sarah Palin, that year.
    “By choosing a woman to run . you send a powerful signal to all Americans: There are no doors we cannot unlock,” Ferraro said in her acceptance speech at the 1984 Democratic convention. “We will place no limits on achievement. If we can do this, we can do anything.”
    Ferraro died Saturday in Boston, where the 75-year-old was being treated for complications of blood cancer. She died just before 10 a.m., said Amanda Fuchs Miller, a family friend who worked for Ferraro in her 1998 Senate bid and was acting as a spokeswoman for the family…. – AP, 3-27-11
  • Obama: Ferraro blazed trail for all Americans: President Barack Obama calls Geraldine Ferraro a political trailblazer who broke down barriers for women and Americans of all backgrounds. Obama says his daughters — Sasha and Malia — will grow up in a more equal country because of Ferraro’s career and her ideals…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Anti-this, pro-that, all convene at White House: What do Yemeni violence, Bahrain’s monarchy and genetically modified foods have in common? All were the subjects Saturday of small but animated protests in front of the White House, where President Barack Obama was ensconced indoors on the other side of the fence.
    The pedestrian-only strip of Pennsylvania Avenue, between the White House and Lafayette Square, often hosts demonstrators. Rarely, however, do so many interests bump into each other, literally, and generate such a cacophony of unrelated chants…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Obama’s Not Returning His Peace Prize: The Libyan assault as well as continued American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan have many people saying that either the Nobel Peace Prize committee should demand the prize be returned or that the president should volunteer to hand it back. For those who think these are serious options, I have some bad news for you — it’ll never happen. Not tomorrow, not next week, not ever.
    Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize raised a lot of eyebrows around the world given that he had barely been in office and had little on the resume to justify the prize. My conclusion was that the committee gave it for two main reasons: (1) to remind America that they really disliked George W. Bush and (2) to inspire Obama to act on his eloquent expressions of global harmony. Obama was well aware that he had done nothing to deserve the award and so he was faced with the choice of either respectfully declining or of accepting the prize while explaining that he doesn’t currently or in the future deserve it. He chose the latter both in words and in deeds…. – Huff Post, 3-25-11
  • Obama cites Libya at Greek celebration: President Obama did discuss Libya in public today — a brief mention during a White House reception for the 190th anniversary of Greek Independence Day.
    “As we celebrate the independence of the Greek people, the United States and Greece are standing with our NATO allies to support the Libyan people as they stand up for their own freedom,” Obama told an audience in the East Room.
    Obama also said that the democratic ideals of ancient Greece have inspired the United States from the beginning. “Our Founding Fathers were students of Greek philosophy and Greek history,” he said, “drawing on Greek principles to guide our own nation in its earliest days.”… – USA Today, 3-25–11
  • Obama is locked out of the White House (temporarily): President Obama had a little trouble getting back to the Oval Office yesterday after his trip to Latin America. The first door he tried was locked — and it’s not like the president carries around a set of house keys. No biggie; Obama tried another door and walked in. But the incident did produce some amusing video… – USA Today, 3-25-11
  • Michelle Obama to speak to West Point graduates: Michelle Obama will build on her military outreach this spring when she speaks to graduates at West Point and at a high school that serves military families. The first lady’s office said on Friday that Mrs. Obama will speak May 20 at the graduation banquet at West Point. The dinner is the final social event cadets take part in as a class before to their commencement ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy.
    Mrs. Obama will also speak at graduation ceremonies at University of Northern Iowa and Spelman College. On June 3, she’ll address graduates at Quantico Middle High School, a Virginia school located on the Marine Corps Base at Quantico. The high school serves families of Marines stationed on the base…. – WSJ, 3-25-11
  • Welcome back: Big political challenges greet Obama: Returning home to some messy politics, President Barack Obama must contend with a battery of challenges, from a spending standoff that threatens to shut down the government to congressional angst over the U.S.-led war against Libya. Foreign crises rage across Africa and the Middle East, and Americans still want a more quickly improving economy.
    The president left behind a wave of goodwill in Latin America as he shored up alliances that the White House said would prove pivotal for years to come. Yet the timing made for political and logistical headaches, as his five-day trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador took place just as the U.S. and allies launched a U.N.-sanctioned assault against Moammar Gadhafi’s menacing regime…. – AP, 3-24-11
  • As Health Care Reform Turns 1, Backers and Detractors Dig In But many agree the provision requiring insurance for all is a tough pill to swallow: The Affordable Care Act turns 1 year old on Wednesday, and the health-care reform package — the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s first term in office — remains as controversial as the day it was signed into law…. – Businessweek, 3-25-11
  • One Year Anniversary of Health Care Law | Special Report: BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: First, it goes to the appellate court. There is the district court, then there are appeal courts, and then it goes to the Supreme Court. But here is the key point, though. And I said this in the “State of the Union.” I don’t want to spend the next two years refighting the battles of the last two years.
    GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, R-VIR.: For the Obama administration to oppose this expedited review to me is unconscionable. It strings this thing out to potentially for years of litigation where we could perhaps with their agreement have an expedited review in the Supreme Court.
    BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the healthcare law was signed into law one year ago today. And you look at the latest polls, here’s one from Fox News opinion dynamics, and the question, do you believe the healthcare law will be repealed or not? And there you see, no, 56 percent, it won’t be repealed…. – Fox News, 3-25-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Time short, tempers flare in budget showdown: With the clock ticking toward a possible government shutdown, spending-cut talks between Senate Democrats and the Republicans controlling the House have broken off in a whom-do-you-trust battle over legislation to keep operations running for another six months. Democrats have readied a proposal to cut $20 billion more from this year’s budget, a party official said, but they haven’t yet sent it to House Republicans. That’s because they say it’s unclear whether the majority Republicans would accept a split-the-difference bargain they’d earlier hinted at or will yield to demands of tea party-backed GOP freshmen for a tougher measure.
    “Republicans refuse to negotiate,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared on Monday. “The infighting between the tea party and the rest of the Republican Party — including the Republican leadership in Congress — is keeping our negotiating partner from the negotiating table. And it’s pretty hard to negotiate without someone else on the other side of the table,” the Nevada Democrat said…. – AP, 3-28-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • Agents can delay Miranda warnings in some cases: After being criticized for providing Miranda warnings in terrorism cases, the FBI has reminded its agents that in some instances they can question terrorist suspects without immediately reading them their rights. The Justice Department said Thursday the FBI guidance issued late last year was a reminder that investigators can delay telling suspects of their rights to an attorney and to remain silent when there is immediate concern for the safety of the public.
    The guidance outlines how to use the public safety exception when appropriate. The guidelines do not change Miranda or the public safety exception, which the Justice Department does not have the authority to alter because they flow from court decisions based on the Constitution. “The evolving nature of the terrorist threat demands that we keep the men and women on the front lines advised of all lawful and appropriate tools available to them to identify, locate, detain, and interrogate terrorism suspects,” the Justice Department said in a statement…. – AP, 3-24-11
  • Judge rejects Google’s deal with authors and publishers to put books online: In a blow to Google’s bid to put all books online and expand its Internet dominance, a federal judge in New York on Tuesday rejected the search giant’s settlement with authors and publishers, saying the terms “simply go too far” in giving Google an advantage over competitors and copyright holders. The decision comes as regulators in this country and in Europe scrutinize Google’s supremacy in the search business. The judge’s thinking, laid out in a 48-page filing, echoed many of the antitrust arguments made by the Department of Justice when it criticized the deal a year ago. Google vowed on Tuesday to continue digitizing books, only a portion of which are affected by the settlement, which would have allowed Google to sell access to millions of out-of-print books to consumers and libraries. “This is clearly disappointing, but we’ll review the court’s decision and consider our options,” said Hilary Ware, managing counsel at Google. “Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the U.S. today.”… – WaPo, 3-22-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • La Follette says union law not in effect, Walker official disagrees: Special Section: Ongoing coverage of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial budget-repair bill and the battle over the 2011-’13 state budget Secretary of State Doug La Follette said Saturday that the budget-repair bill has not taken effect because it has not been published by his office. “It’s still an act of the Legislature that has not yet become law because I have not yet designated a publication date,” La Follette said. He added the law cannot take effect until he directs publication in the official state newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Normally, a bill takes effect the day after publication…. – Journal Sentinel

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Obama Campaign Picks Headquarters in Chicago: President Obama’s aides have settled on the location of a campaign headquarters in downtown Chicago, with his re-election effort poised to open early next month by raising money and building a political organization for the 2012 presidential race….
    Jim Messina, who stepped down as deputy White House chief of staff, will be the campaign manager for the re-election effort. He will be joined in Chicago by two deputy campaign mangers: Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, and Julianna Smoot, a former White House social secretary, who led Mr. Obama’s fund-raising efforts in 2008.
    David Plouffe, who ran the first presidential race for Mr. Obama, is now working in the White House as a senior adviser to the president. He said this year that putting the re-election headquarters in Chicago was an important step in rebuilding the campaign operation that helped elect Mr. Obama. “‘There’s not going to be two dueling power centers,” Mr. Plouffe said in a January interview. “‘The philosophy of this campaign will not be that the White House is somehow running the campaign. The people running the campaign are in charge of the campaign. That’s the way the president wants it. We’ll do it in a coordinated way, but they’re running this thing.”… – NYT, 3-28-11
  • Analysis: Palin takes own tack in presidential prelude: If Sarah Palin is going to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, she is sure going about it her own way. A conservative TV idol and household name, the former Alaska governor sees little need to behave like a traditional presidential candidate.
    Palin has been nowhere to be seen recently in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, while potential rivals scour in search of staff and supporters. Instead, Palin has relied on her appearances on Fox News and often caustic comments on her Facebook page to rally support for conservative causes and perhaps prepare the ground for a run against Democratic President Barack Obama.
    “She’s certainly feisty and doesn’t think that the normal rules and the normal conventional wisdom apply to her,” said Republican strategist Charlie Black…. – Reuters, 3-27-11
  • GOP presidential hopefuls hammer health care: A handful of high-profile Republicans who may be eyeing the White House told hundreds of conservative activists Saturday that most Americans agree with their values, and insisted that opposition to the president’s health care overhaul could help the GOP make historic gains in 2012.
    Rep. Michele Bachmann, a tea party favorite, got the noisiest reception when she told about 500 people gathered in Des Moines that voters are ready to overturn the federal health care law and oust President Barack Obama during next year’s election.
    “The ultimate arrogance, in my opinion, is Obama-care,” the Minnesota congresswoman said. “That’s why I am so absolutely confident in 2012. Americans have made the decision that we’re going to take our country back.”… – AP, 3-26-11
  • Obama’s Libya policy blasted by GOP 2012 hopefuls: The Republicans looking to succeed President Barack Obama all say he’s bungling Libya. What most haven’t spelled out: how they would address the latest international crisis if they were in the White House…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Huckabee and Romney lead Republican field: Gallup: Mike Huckabee leads a list of potential candidates for the 2012 U.S. Republican nomination, edging out Mitt Romney, while support for Sarah Palin has slipped, according to a Gallup Poll released on Friday. Huckabee’s support has been creeping up while voters backing Romney have slipped from 16 percent in February and 19 percent in November. Palin, holding at 16 percent since September, dropped to 12 percent in the latest poll…. – Reuters, 3-25-11
  • Is Michele Bachmann the brightest bulb in GOP race?: Move over Sarah Palin. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann — a gorgeous, charismatic, Tea Party leader, mother of five, foster mother of 23 and former tax lawyer — plans to form a presidential exploratory committee. America’s heartland is all aquiver. So is cable TV. Imagine the wild ride. The first GOP debate, May 2, could feature bomb throwers Sarah Palin, Bachmann, Donald Trump and oh-so-reasonable Mitt Romney just struggling to be noticed…. – Boston Herald, 3-27-11
  • Adviser: Bachmann likely to enter WH race: Tea party favorite and Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is feeling pressure from the political calendar to rush a decision on a White House bid and may announce her intentions as early as May, one of her top advisers said Thursday. “I’m not sure the debate is what’s going to make our final decision,” he said. “Is it a factor? Yes.”
    “I’m in for 2012 in that I want to be a part of the conversation in making sure that President (Barack) Obama only serves one term, not two, because I want to make sure that we get someone who’s going to be making the country work again. That’s what I’m in for,” Bachmann told ABC News. “But I haven’t made a decision yet to announce, obviously, if I’m a candidate or not, but I’m in for the conversation.”… – AP, 4-24-11
  • Potential Republican presidential candidates court evangelicals: With the 2012 Republican presidential field slowly taking shape, potential candidates are barnstorming early primary states, with an eye on a group that will prove decisive in picking the eventual GOP nominee: evangelicals. Likely candidates have met with preachers, conservative Christians and religious leaning home-schoolers in South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa, where winning the evangelical vote is tantamount to winning the caucus…. – WaPo, 3-23-11
  • Republican Pawlenty takes election step: Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on Monday became the first high-profile Republican to show serious intent to enter the presidential election race against President Barack Obama in 2012. Pawlenty, 50, announced in a flag-waving video on his Facebook page that he will set up a presidential exploratory committee, a formal step toward running for the Republican nomination.
    “We, the people of the United States, will take back our government,” he said in the two-minute video, which included references to Republican giants Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln.
    Leaping into the fray ahead of his rivals gives Pawlenty some of the U.S. media attention that he needs to raise his national profile…. – Reuters, 3-23-11
  • A perfect GOP candidate is hard to find: Mitt Romney is the godfather of what Republican critics call Obamacare. Newt Gingrich is an adulterer on his third marriage. Tim Pawlenty is too green — environmentally, that is.
    Jon Huntsman worked for President Barack Obama. And Haley Barbour has come off as dismissive of racial segregation.
    Is any potential Republican presidential nominee without vulnerabilities that could alienate voters, especially those in the GOP primaries, and provide ready-made attacks for opponents? Not in this crop…. – AP, 3-22-11
  • Sarah Palin makes dramatic u-turn on her way to Bethlehem, officials said she didn’t follow protocol: Sarah Palin had a possibly embarrassing moment during her visit in Israel on Monday. The former vice presidential candidate had to abruptly turn back from her trip to the Christian holy site of Bethlehem, which was supposed to be the first stop of her day, according to British newspaper The Telegraph…. – NY Daily News, 3-21-11
  • Sarah Palin makes dramatic u-turn on her way to Bethlehem, officials said she didn’t follow protocol: On her first visit to Jerusalem, the former Alaska governor lamented that Jews can’t pray openly at the Temple Mount. “Why are you apologizing all the time?” Palin asked the Israelis who took her and husband Todd on a tour of the sacred site, the Jerusalem Post reported. It was not immediately clear how Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz and Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon responded to Palin’s puzzler…. – Politico, 3-21-11
  • Sarah Palin meets Netanyahu, vows return to Israel: Sarah Palin promised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that she’ll come back for a longer visit, as she wrapped up her overseas tour. The Jerusalem Post reports that Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and her husband, Todd, met with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at their official residence in Jerusalem. Palin traveled to Israel after delivering a speech in India over the weekend.
    Palin declined Netanyahu’s offer to meet with other Israeli officials and she turned down requests for interviews from the news media, the Post reported. Palin’s meeting with Netanyahu came as the battle for the Republican presidential nomination effectively began in the USA when ex-Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty launched an exploratory committee for a White House bid…. – USA Today, 3-21-11

QUOTES

President Obama at the National Defense University, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/28/11
  • President Obama’s Speech on Libya: Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Libya National Defense University Washington, D.C.: Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.
    At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Qaddafi declared he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted — if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.
    It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
    We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Qaddafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Qaddafi’s air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi’s deadly advance.
    In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies -– nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey –- all of whom have fought by our sides for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people.
    To summarize, then: In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days. – WH, 3-28-11 Transcript Mp4 Mp3
  • Weekly Address: The Military Mission in Libya: Remarks of President Barack Obama Washington D.C. March 26, 2011: Last week, when I ordered our armed forces to help protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Qaddafi, I pledged to keep the American people fully informed. Since then, I’ve spoken about the limited scope and specific purpose of this mission. Today, I can report that thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we’ve made important progress.
    As Commander in Chief, I face no greater decision than sending our military men and women into harm’s way. And the United States should not—and cannot—intervene every time there’s a crisis somewhere in the world.
    But I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized; when someone like Qaddafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region; and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives—then it’s in our national interest to act. And it’s our responsibility. This is one of those times.
    Our military mission in Libya is clear and focused. Along with our allies and partners, we’re enforcing the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. We’re protecting the Libyan people from Qaddafi’s forces. And we’ve put in place a no fly zone and other measures to prevent further atrocities.
    We’re succeeding in our mission. We’ve taken out Libya’s air defenses. Qaddafi’s forces are no longer advancing across Libya. In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Qaddafi threatened to show “no mercy,” his forces have been pushed back. So make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians—innocent men, women and children—have been saved.
    As I pledged at the outset, the role of American forces has been limited. We are not putting any ground forces into Libya. Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea. Key Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have committed aircraft. And as agreed this week, responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the United States to our NATO allies and partners.
    This is how the international community should work—more nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and cost of upholding peace and security.
    This military effort is part of our larger strategy to support the Libyan people and hold the Qaddafi regime accountable. Together with the international community, we’re delivering urgent humanitarian assistance. We’re offering support to the Libyan opposition. We’ve frozen tens of billions of dollars of Qaddafi’s assets that can help meet the needs and aspirations of the Libyan people. And every day, the pressure on Qaddafi and his regime is increasing.
    Our message is clear and unwavering. Qaddafi’s attacks against civilians must stop. His forces must pull back. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach those in need. Those responsible for violence must be held accountable. Moammar Qaddafi has lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized.
    In recent days, we’ve heard the voices of Libyans expressing their gratitude for this mission. “You saved our lives,” said one Libyan. Said another, “Today, there is hope.”
    Every American can be proud of the lives we’ve saved in Libya and of the service of our men and women in uniform who once again have stood up for our interests and our ideals. And people in Libya and around the world are seeing that the United States of America stands with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny. – WH, 3-26-11 Transcript Mp4 Mp3
  • John Bolton: President Obama ‘doesn’t care’ about foreign policy: John Bolton laced into President Barack Obama’s foreign policy credentials Saturday, saying Obama “doesn’t care very much” about national security because “it’s not what motivates him.”
    “How ’bout the war in Libya that our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president announced last week?” the former United Nations Ambassador said to laughs, adding that it “reflects a crisis in American international leadership.”
    “We ask ourselves, why does the president perform this way, and first of all, he doesn’t care very much about national security. It’s not what gets him up in the morning,” Bolton said. “It’s not what motivates him.” “He is our first post-American president,” Bolton said. “I didn’t say un-American, I didn’t say anti-American… because he’s a citizen of the world. He doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism.”… – Politico, 3-26-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian Zelizer: It’s too easy for presidents to go to war: Many people across the political spectrum have been unhappy with President Barack Obama’s decision to send American fighting forces to attack Libya. They argue that Obama failed to provide an adequate explanation for making this choice…
    Obama will finally make a speech to the nation about Libya, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET Monday. But the speech, coming long after American forces are already in the middle of the conflict, is almost beside the point. What’s more relevant is we are already there with very little public debate.
    Obama’s decision fits into a long-standing pattern — one that many should find troubling — of war becoming too easy to start, though not necessarily easy to win. Unlike some areas of policy, where people may have a sense that politicians need more flexibility, this is one area where the obstacles and challenges should be great…. – CNN, 3-28-11
  • Hail On The Chief: Obama Takes Hits On All Sides: Obama “has always used his plastic persona to his advantage,” says Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. “During the 2008 campaign, he was able to put together a broad coalition ranging from progressive activists to disaffected Republicans because everyone could see something in him that they liked. He continued to use this persona during the heated first two years of his presidency.” The Republicans undercut some of Obama’s successes, Zelizer says, by painting him as a left-of-center Democrat even when he shifted toward the center. “Still, he often confounded his opponents by defying political stereotypes,” Zelizer says. “Many other presidents have taken this approach as well. We just need to remember Bill Clinton.” But at some point, Zelizer says, “it is important that the president articulates a certain set of core principles, some kind of line in the sand, so that he still appears as a leader and so that he has the political capital to push through legislation.”… – NPR, 3-25-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Obama needs to show he’s on top of crises: Major crises can inflict great political damage on U.S. presidents. Regardless of all the weapons that come with the office, presidents throughout American history have discovered that they can quickly be overwhelmed when events spin out of control.
    The ways in which presidents respond to these crises have a profound impact on their political standing.
    President Obama is still in a good political position for the 2012 election. Most of the Republicans who have toyed with the possibility of running would be candidates with significant vulnerabilities. And the Tea Party’s power among Republicans could alienate moderate voters.
    But over the past few months, Obama has had to confront crises at a dizzying pace. And these events swirled against the background of a chronically high unemployment rate that has been the most frustrating challenge that this administration has faced. Some critics say Obama has not been leading in these areas, that he is shifting his position as events unfold and that he lacks a strong plan for handling these multiple situations….
    As Carter discovered, public perceptions of a president in crisis matter very much in American politics. President Obama’s cool and deliberative style has been hugely effective at different moments of his career. The president’s strategy has been to ride out political turmoil and fluctuations in international conditions without appearing frantic.
    Yet there comes a point when voters want to know that the president has some control over events, rather than events controlling the president. Obama will need to provide Americans with a clearer sense that he does have a roadmap to handle these multiple challenges or it is possible that voters could lose confidence in his being able to do so. This would give Republicans, who are struggling politically, the opening they need. – CNN, 3-21-11

Political Highlights March 20, 2011: US & UN Launch Airstrikes Against Libya Leader Moammar Gaddafi

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.

US & UN LAUNCH AIRSTRIKES AGAINST LIBYA LEADER  MOAMMAR GADDAFI

IN FOCUS

The President on Libya
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/18/11

 

 

  • Attacks begin on Libyan air defense sites: An international coalition launched its first strikes on Libya Saturday to destroy the country’s air and missile defense systems and prevent further attacks by the Libyan government on its citizens and rebels in and around the rebel held city of Benghazi, a senior U.S. military official said.
    More than two dozen warships and a large number of war planes from several countries made up the initial strike force, which was led by the U.S. military’s Africa command, the official said, speaking in an embargoed briefing a few hours before the operation began.
    “The key first strikes would be on the coast because that is where the integrated air and missile defense systems,” the official added.
    The first wave included sea-launched U.S. cruise missiles and the deployment of U.S. electronic warfare aircraft. — WaPo, 3-19-11
  • Obama: Gaddafi must comply with U.N. resolution or face military action: President Obama said an international coalition, including the U.S., will take military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi if he does not comply with a U.N. resolution aimed at protecting Libyan civilians. Obama said Gaddafi has been given “ample warning” and laid out a series of actions Libya must take, saying “these terms are not negotiable.” — WaPo, 3-18-11
  • U.N. approves ‘all necessary measures’ to protect Libya’s civilians: On a 10 to 0 vote with five abstentions, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the international community to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya.
    The resolution demands an “immediate cease-fire in Libya, the complete end of violence and all attacks against and abuse of civilians,” and unspecified action to protect “civilians and civilian population areas under threat of attack.” It also establishes a ban on all flights in the airspace of Libya except for humanitarian and evacuation flights. — WaPo, 3-17-11
  • Poll: Public narrowly approves of Obama’s handling of Libya: A poll released Monday shows that a slight plurality of the American public approves of President Obama’s handling of the ongoing civil strife in Libya. Forty-five percent of respondents in CNN/Opinion Research poll said they approve of the president’s handling of the conflict compared to 40 percent who said they disapprove. Fifteen percent said they have no opinion…. – The Hill, 3-14-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • West backs off calls for Libya regime change as Qaddafi warns of ‘long war’: French, US, and British airstrikes have crippled Libyan coastal defenses and air abilities as the largest coalition of military force since the Iraq war enters its second day…. – CS Monitor, 3-20-11
  • With Libya, is ‘Obama doctrine’ on war emerging?: Barack Obama entered the White House responsible for two wars he had inherited. Now, as Iraq winds down and Afghanistan drags on, he finds himself at the outset of possible US combat in Libya.
    As a result, while any “Obama doctrine” regarding the use of US military force has yet to be declared, one seems to be emerging.
    Obama’s actions in this case have been deliberate, indicating a clear hesitance to be out front in yet another war in a Muslim country…. – CS Monitor, 3-19-11
  • Defiant Libyan Leader Vows ‘Long War’ As Coalition Air Strikes Pound Libya: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s compound was hit by a missile strike late today,as a barrage of airstrikes by US and European militaries destroyed Libyan defenses, rocked the capitol of Tripoli…. – ABC News, 3-20-11
  • With no-fly zone in Libya now, US-led coalition freer to attack: Missile attacks on Libyan air defenses have freed US jets to attack ground targets. But questions remain, including the use of human shields and the chance that Qaddafi might remain in power…. – CS Monitor, 3-20-11
  • First wave of allied assault: 112 cruise missiles: U.S. and British ships and submarines launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses Saturday and a senior American defense official said it was believed substantial damage was inflicted. In the strikes, 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya’s air force. While U.S. defense officials cautioned that it was too early to fully gauge the impact of the onslaught, the official said that given the precision targeting of the Navy’s cruise missiles, they felt that Libya’s air defenses suffered a good deal of damage…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • First wave of allied assault: 112 cruise missiles: U.S. and British ships and submarines launched the first phase of a missile assault on Libyan air defenses, firing 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles Saturday at more than 20 coastal targets to clear the way for air patrols to ground Libya’s air force. In announcing the mission during a visit to Brazil, President Barack Obama said he was reluctant to resort to force but was convinced it was necessary to save the lives of civilians. He reiterated that he would not send American ground troops to Libya.
    “We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy,” he said in Brasilia…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Allies launch Libya force as Gadhafi hits rebels: French fighter jets fired the first shots at Moammar Gadhafi’s troops on Saturday, launching the broadest international military effort since the Iraq war in support of an uprising that had seemed on the verge of defeat.
    In the hours before the no-fly zone over Libya went into effect, Gadhafi sent warplanes, tanks and troops into Benghazi, the rebel capital and first city to fall to the rebellion that began Feb. 15. Then the government attacks appeared to go silent…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Gadhafi vows ‘long war’ after US, allies strike: A defiant Moammar Gadhafi vowed a “long war” after the U.S. and European militaries blasted his forces with airstrikes and over 100 cruise missiles, hitting air defenses and at least two major air bases early Sunday, shaking the Libyan capital with explosions and anti-aircraft fire. Despite the strikes, Gadhafi’s troops lashed back, bombarding the rebel-held city of Misrata with artillery and tanks on Sunday, the opposition reported…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Paris hosts world leaders in critical Libya talks: Leaders from the Arab world, Africa, the United States and other Western powers are holding urgent talks in Paris Saturday over possible military action against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Obama to Gadhafi: Stop or face military action: President Barack Obama demanded Friday that Moammar Gadhafi halt all military attacks against civilians and said that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join in military action against him. Still, Obama also said the United States “is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya.”… – AP, 3-18-11
  • Giuliani mocks Obama as foreign policy weakling: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose drive-by approach to campaigning in New Hampshire drove his 2008 presidential campaign into the ground, is setting the stage for a do-over. Giuliani, who says he hasn’t decided whether he’s running again, sounded a lot like a candidate when he spoke at a GOP fundraiser in Manchester on Friday night…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Obama to Gadhafi: Stop or face military action: President Barack Obama demanded Friday that Moammar Gadhafi halt all military attacks on civilians and said that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join other nations in launching military action against him. However, Obama also said the United States “is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya.” In a brief appearance at the White House, Obama said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would travel to Paris on Saturday to join allies in discussing next steps in Libya, where Gadhafi has pressed a brutal crackdown against rebels trying to end his 42-year reign…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Amid uncertainty, allies prepare for no-fly zone: The United States, France and Britain told Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi to withdraw his troops from formerly rebel-held areas and halt any attacks on civilians there, as warplanes that could strike this north African country moved into the Mediterranean region.
    President Barack Obama went even further, saying that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join other nations in launching military action against him…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Obama endorses military action to stop Gadhafi: After weeks of hesitation and divisions among his advisers, President Barack Obama on Friday endorsed military action against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, saying U.S. values and credibility are at stake to stop “the potential for mass murder” of innocents.
    The U.S. military, which is already stretched thin by two wars and an expanding effort to assist disaster victims in Japan, would take a supporting role, Obama said, with European and Arab partners in the lead. He explicitly ruled out sending American ground forces into the North African nation…. – AP, 3-18-11
  • Officials say US readying for no fly Zone in Libya: Congressional officials say the Obama administration is readying plans to participate in a no-fly zone in Libya with the help of Arab countries in anticipation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. These officials said Thursday they expected the effort to enforce a no-fly zone and ground Moammar Gadhafi’s air force could begin within a few days if the UN takes action by day’s end…. – AP, 3-17-11
  • US readying plans to enforce Libya no-fly zone: The Obama administration was readying plans to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya with the help of Arab countries, officials said Thursday as the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize the move. These officials, who spoke after a closed-door briefing in Congress, said they expected the attempt to ground Moammar Gadhafi’s air force could begin by Sunday or Monday. The effort likely would involve jet fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft…. – AP, 3-17-11
  • Diplomacy Stalls as Libya Rebels Face Pro-Qaddafi Forces: Military forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi cranked up military and psychological pressure on the rebels on Monday, offering amnesty to those who surrendered their weapons but bombing a strategic linchpin in the east and invading a rebel-held town in the west…. – NYT, 3-15-11
  • US eyes Libyan opposition, allies call for action: Under pressure from allies and growing calls for military intervention in Libya, the Obama administration held its first high-level talks with the Libyan opposition on Monday but remained undecided about exactly how much support to lend a group it still knows little about while turmoil and uncertainty increase across the Arab world…. – AP, 3-14-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Sarah Palin touches down in Israel; set to meet with Prime Minister on Monday: Israel got its first official glimpse of Sarah Palin. The former Vice Presidential candidate arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday as part of her whirlwind trip that many think is meant to bolster her foreign policy credentials leading up to a possible 2012 presidential run.
    She visited India earlier this week. Sporting what appears to be a necklace with the Jewish symbol of a Star of David, the Alaska resident visited the Western Wall, the holiest place where Jews can pray.
    She also toured Jerusalem’s Old City and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.
    “Israel is absolutely beautiful and it is overwhelming to see and touch the cornerstone of our faith and I am so grateful to be here,” the devout Christian told reporters. “I’m very thankful to know that the Israeli and American link will grow in strength as we seek peace along with you.”
    Despite meeting with the country’s leader, she is technically traveling as a private citizen and has been coy about whether she hopes to be traveling as something other than that come 2012.
    “I don’t think there needs to be a rush to get out there as a declared candidate,” she said earlier this week. “It’s a life-changing decision.”… – NY Daily News, 3-20-11
  • Obama takes in Rio with Libya on his mind: President Barack Obama played grand tourist to Rio de Janeiro’s vivid extremes on Sunday, traveling from brilliant beaches to a notorious slum even as he monitored U.S. military strikes in faraway Libya.
    With his whole family in tow on the second day of a Latin American tour meant to knit economic and cultural ties, the president visited the City of God shantytown that gained fame after a movie by the same name won Oscar nominations. At a community center in the heart of the jostling slum of 40,000 the president plunged into the lives of children there, playing soccer with kids and watching enthralled at a dazzling martial arts display. The president shed his coat and tie, rolled up his sleeves and dribbled one-on-one soccer with one surprised boy. Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia got involved, too, kicking a ball around with the kids…. – AP, 3-20-11
  • Obama’s juggle: Libya war and Latin America: As American missiles struck Libya, President Barack Obama doggedly promoted his Latin American agenda Saturday, praising Brazil as a soaring economic force and brimming market for trade. Back home, his message was all but lost in the roar over the Libyan conflict.
    “The United States doesn’t simply recognize Brazil’s rise; we support it enthusiastically,” Obama said from this capital city as he launched a five-day outreach mission that will also take him to Chile and El Salvador. He began in Brazil as a sign of solidary between the two largest democracies and economies in the Americas, and he sought to break through here with his themes of bold cooperation on energy, education and trade…. – AP, 3-19-11
  • Obama arrives in Brazil, begins Latin America tour: President Barack Obama has landed in Brasilia, the highland capital of Brazil, for the start of a three-country, five-day tour of Latin America to promote greater economic ties and improved regional security…. – AP, 3-19-11

QUOTES

  • Watch Live: President Obama Speaks on Human Rights in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: The President’s trip to Latin America this weekend focuses on the importance of strengthening our economic partnership with the region to create good jobs at home, as he discussed in his weekly address. This afternoon, President Obama will deliver a speech at Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janiero, Brazil to discuss the deeply held values and interests that bind our countries together — a relationship that is particularly important because of Brazil’s role as a rapidly emerging power on the global stage. – Watch the President’s remarks live at 1:30 PM EDT on WhiteHouse.gov/live.
  • John McCain: Obama should have acted faster: Earlier action, the senator said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” would have been more effective in weakening the grip of the controversial leader, who’s deployed his forces against rebelling civilians. “He waited too long, there is no doubt in my mind about it,” McCain said of the president. “But now, it is what it is. And we need, now, to support him and the efforts that our military are going to make. And I regret that it didn’t – we didn’t act much more quickly, and we could have.” “If we had taken these — this step a couple of weeks ago, a no-fly zone would probably have been enough,” he said. “Now, a no-fly zone is not enough. There needs to be other efforts made.” “There’s a lot of things we can do besides just the air power component of it,” McCain said. Politico, 3-20-11
  • Remarks by the President on Libya: “Today We are Part of a Broad Coalition. We are Answering the Calls of a Threatened People. And We are Acting in the Interests of the United States and the World”: Good afternoon, everybody. Today I authorized the Armed Forces of the United States to begin a limited military action in Libya in support of an international effort to protect Libyan civilians. That action has now begun.
    In this effort, the United States is acting with a broad coalition that is committed to enforcing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which calls for the protection of the Libyan people. That coalition met in Paris today to send a unified message, and it brings together many of our European and Arab partners.
    This is not an outcome that the United States or any of our partners sought. Even yesterday, the international community offered Muammar Qaddafi the opportunity to pursue an immediate cease-fire, one that stopped the violence against civilians and the advances of Qaddafi’s forces. But despite the hollow words of his government, he has ignored that opportunity. His attacks on his own people have continued. His forces have been on the move. And the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown.
    I am deeply aware of the risks of any military action, no matter what limits we place on it. I want the American people to know that the use of force is not our first choice and it’s not a choice that I make lightly. But we cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Misurata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.
    So we must be clear: Actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced. That is the cause of this coalition.
    As a part of this effort, the United States will contribute our unique capabilities at the front end of the mission to protect Libyan civilians, and enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners. And as I said yesterday, we will not — I repeat — we will not deploy any U.S. troops on the ground.
    As Commander-in-Chief, I have great confidence in the men and women of our military who will carry out this mission. They carry with them the respect of a grateful nation.
    I’m also proud that we are acting as part of a coalition that includes close allies and partners who are prepared to meet their responsibility to protect the people of Libya and uphold the mandate of the international community.
    I’ve acted after consulting with my national security team, and Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress. And in the coming hours and days, my administration will keep the American people fully informed. But make no mistake: Today we are part of a broad coalition. We are answering the calls of a threatened people. And we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world. WH. 3-19-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Robert Hunter: Success of Libya air strikes depends on Middle East perception, ISU history professor says: Last weekend’s coalition effort to stop Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi’s clampdown on his opposition will only succeed if the Middle East perceives it as beneficial to government protestors, said Robert Hunter, professor of history. “This means that Obama and the other leaders must not authorize ‘boots on the ground,’ that is, no U.S. or other Western troops in Tripoli or anywhere else,” said Hunter, who has lived in and written extensively about the Middle East.
    Hunter said the operation would not have happened at all without initial support of the Arab League, a group of Middle Eastern countries sharing common diplomatic interests. Originally formed in 1945, the league now consists of 22 countries, including Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.
    “Otherwise, this operation might have been perceived as yet another Western imperialist intervention in the Middle East,” he said. “The Arab League, some of whose states are as autocratic as Ghaddafi’s government, supported it because they are all under pressure from their peoples and did [not] want to be seen as out of line with the ‘street’.”
    Hunter said big questions loomed for U.S. involvement in the coalition. “If we degrade Ghaddafi’s military but he is able to hold onto power in the western part of Libya, what then?” he said. “The temptation may be to remove him by use of special forces or strikes… Something like this might change perceptions in the region.” — Indiana Statesman, 3-20-11
  • Kenneth Levin: Self-Reflection and Self-Blame; Israel and Obama: Much has been written about President Obama’s reported statement to a Jewish group earlier this month that Israelis should search their souls concerning the quest for peace. In this offensive comment and related remarks, Obama once more put the onus on Israel for the absence of movement towards a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while he characterized Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas as eager for a fair deal.
    In fact, Abbas has used the mosques, media and schools under his control to militate against any genuine peace. The message conveyed by all three is that Jews have no historical connection to any part of Palestine, that they are mere usurpers whose presence must be expunged, and that it is the duty of every Palestinian to pursue that goal. In addition, Abbas has personally praised terrorists who have killed Israelis as the ideal all Palestinians should strive to emulate and has explicitly endorsed efforts to delegitimize Israel and its right to exist within any borders.
    But Obama’s hostility to Israel appears impervious to all such realities. Perhaps this should not be surprising, as his jaundiced view of America’s traditional role in world affairs is hardly more responsive to counter-evidence. Thus, he pursues the reining in of American leadership, and the reaching out to those who wish America ill, even as his doing so entails, among other travesties, allowing Muammar Gaddafi to slaughter most of his way back to full control of Libya; promising carrots to Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir despite the continuing genocide in Darfur; and doing nothing meaningful to help the bloodied people of Iran throw off the totalitarian yoke of their nation’s theocracy…. – American Thinker, 3-20-11
  • BENYAMIN KORN: Palin Doctrine Emerges as Arab League Echoes Her Demarche on Libya: The call by the Arab League for Western military intervention in an Arab state — in this case asking that a UN “no-fly zone” be imposed over Libya – is not only without precedent but it puts in formal terms what Governor Palin stated three weeks ago should have been America’s response to the political and humanitarian crisis now unfolding there.
    The former GOP vice presidential candidate was being interviewed on February 23rd on national television by Sean Hannity on a range of issues. On the Libya crisis, she proposed a no-fly zone to protect the armed and un-armed opposition to the Qaddafi regime. Mrs. Palin’s formulation had been blogged about for nearly a week when it was echoed by the man who, before the Iraq war, had led the Iraq democratic movement in exile, Ahmed Chalabi…. – NY Sun, 3-16-11

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
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