Political Buzz June 6, 2011: Weinergate: Rep. Anthony Weiner Sexting Scandal

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

IN FOCUS: WEINERGATE: REP. ANTHONY WEINER SEXTING SCANDAL

US Congressman Anthony Weiner speaks to the media in New York, Monday. Representative Anthony Weiner admitted to sending a lewd photo of himself to a 21-year-old female college student over his Twitter account after previously denying he had done so.

NY Democrat acknowledged ‘inappropriate’ online conduct, had insisted he has no plans to resign: Weiner spokeswoman Risa Heller said Saturday afternoon that the congressman “departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person.”
She added that he would request “a short leave of absence from the House” after which he would make a decision on his political future.

Pelosi and Other Leaders Call On Weiner to Resign: The move by the House Democratic leader underscored Democrats’ growing concern about Representative Anthony D. Weiner’s online exchanges with women.

Rep. Anthony Weiner admits sending lewd Twitter picture of himself: Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) acknowledged Monday that he tweeted the lewd picture that has been at the center of a controversy since it surfaced a week ago, and he said the image was of him. “It was something that I did that was just wrong and I regret it,” he said. He apologized and said he is not resigning.

  • Timeline of Rep. Weiner’s online sex scandalWatertown Daily News, 6-11-11
  • Timeline: From a Photo to an Apology (June 7, 2011)NYTREP. ANTHONY WEINER, D-N.Y.:
    Last Friday night, I tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle.
    Once I realized I had posted it to Twitter, I panicked. I took it down, and said that I had been hacked. I then continued with that story, to stick to that story, which was a usually regrettable mistake.
    To be clear, the picture was of me, and I sent it. I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife, Huma, and our family and my constituents, my friends, supporters, and staff.
    In addition, over the past few years, I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, email, and occasionally on the phone with women I have met online. I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.
    For the most part, these relations — these communications took place before my marriage, though some have, sadly, took place after. To be clear, I have never met any of these women or had physical relationships at any time.
    I am deeply regret — regretting what I have done, and I am not resigning.
    I have made it clear that I accept responsibility for this, and people who draw conclusions about me are free to do so. I have worked for the people of my district for 13 years and in politics for 20 years. And I hope that they see fit to see in the light that it is, which is a deeply regrettable mistake.
    For my use of Twitter, I mean, it’s not — it’s something that I found useful. And Facebook is a way to get out the message. But I — I certainly wouldn’t obviously do the things that I have done that — that led me — that led me — that led me to this place.
  • Poll backs Weiner vow not to quit: Under growing pressure to quit, Rep. Anthony Weiner insisted again Thursday that he won’t resign, and a new poll showed a majority of voters in his district agreed he should stay in office.
    A new Marist poll released Thursday found 56 percent of registered voters in his 9th Congressional District in Queens and Brooklyn don’t think he should quit over revelations of his salacious social-media life. But the poll also included troubling news for Weiner: Only 30 percent said they definitely would vote for him again…. – Seattle Times, 6-9-11
  • Weiner to Enter Treatment Center and Seek Leave From House: Representative Anthony D. Weiner planned to check himself into a treatment center on Saturday after House Democratic leaders, including Nancy Pelosi, called on him to resign and suggested he needed psychiatric counseling.
    A spokeswoman for Mr. Weiner said he would request a leave of absence from the House and seek treatment, but provided no further details. “Congressman Weiner departed this morning to seek professional treatment to focus on becoming a better husband and healthier person,” said the spokeswoman, Risa Heller. “In light of that, he will request a short leave of absence from the House of Representatives so that he can get evaluated and map out a course of treatment to make himself well. “Congressman Weiner takes the views of his colleagues very seriously and has determined that he needs this time to get healthy and make the best decision possible for himself, his family and his constituents.”
    Ms. Pelosi, the minority leader, was joined in her call for Mr. Weiner to step down by other leading Democrats, including the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida; and the leader of the House Democrats’ re-election efforts, Representative Steve J. Israel of New York. Their calls underscored the growing concern that his online exchanges with women had become a distraction for the party. “Congressman Weiner has the love of his family, the confidence of his constituents, and the recognition that he needs help,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement. “I urge Congressman Weiner to seek that help without the pressures of being a member of Congress.”
    Ms. Wasserman Schultz called Mr. Weiner’s online exchanges a “sordid affair” that had become an “unacceptable distraction” for the congressman, his constituents and the House. “The behavior he has exhibited is indefensible and Rep. Weiner’s continued service in Congress is untenable,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said…. – NYT, 6-11-11
  • Abandoned by party leaders, how long can Anthony Weiner hang on?: In a major blow to Rep. Anthony Weiner’s attempt to hold onto his job in the wake of a “sexting” scandal, three top Democratic leaders Saturday told the embattled New York congressman that he has to go…. – CS Monitor, 6-11-11
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner Could Face Trouble For Interacting With 17-Year-Old: A 17-year-old high school student went to a Delaware Police Station Friday with her laptop and cell phone to help authorities analyze the conversations made between her and New York Rep. Anthony Weiner.
    According to Fox News, the girl’s mother said her daughter told her that none of the messages between her and Weiner were inappropriate.
    The Philadelphia Inquirer also reported Friday that Daniel P. McElhatton, who represents the high school student’s family, issued a statement saying: “The ‘Tweets’ in question between the student in question and the Congressman were not salacious or in any manner inappropriate. No photographers were ever sent to her or from her.”… – Neon Tommy (USC), 6-10-11
  • Weiner’s Fifth Sexting Partner Revealed: The fifth woman in the Weinergate scandal has been identified as Traci Nobles, a Pilates and Zumba instructor who repeatedly referred to the Rep. Anthony Weiner’s genitalia in their online chats, the New York Post reported Friday….
    The other women who have come forward are Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old single mother, Lisa Weiss, a 40-year-old Las Vegas blackjack dealer, and porn star Ginger Lee…. – Fox News, 6-10-11
  • Congressman Anthony Weiner: Why Democrats are extra mad at him: Congressman Weiner faces some steep political fallout – in addition to any personal consequences – after admitting to ‘regrettable’ interactions with several women other than his wife…. – CS Monitor, 6-7-11
  • Huma Abedin, Rep. Anthony Weiner’s wife: Abedin, 34, is a longtime top aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton. She usually stays out of the limelight, in contrast to her headline-grabbing husband, who has been an outspoken Democrat on Capitol Hill…. – WaPo, 6-7-11
  • Report: Rep. Weiner’s wife is pregnant: Huma Abedin, the wife of embattled Rep. Anthony Weiner, is pregnant with the couple’s first child, according to The New York Times.
    The newspaper, citing “three people with knowledge of the situation,” said the couple has disclosed the pregnancy to close friends and family.
    The revelation tops a wild day in which key Democrats have called on Weiner to resign. After days of denials, the New York congressman admitted Monday that he sent a lewd, crotch-level photo of himself to a Seattle woman. He also said he had “inappropriate” relationships with women on Facebook and Twitter.
    Weiner has said he will not resign. During his sometimes-tearful news conference, Weiner also said he and his wife — an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — have no plans to split up. They got married in July 2010.
    His Democratic colleagues are starting to show their impatience. Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, who recruits Democratic candidates to run for office, said Weiner has lost his credibility.
    “Having the respect of your constituents is fundamental for a member of Congress. In light of Anthony Weiner’s offensive behavior online, he should resign,” Schwartz, a top lieutenant of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement…. – USA Today, 6-8-11
  • Weiner’s Wife Is Pregnant: Their marriage has become the subject of intense speculation and scrutiny amid an embarrassing online sex scandal.
    Now, Representative Anthony D. Weiner and Huma Abedin are about to make news of a different kind: they are expecting their first child.
    Ms. Abedin, 35, is in the early stages of pregnancy, according to three people with knowledge of the situation…. – NYT, 6-8-11
  • Huma Abedin, Rep. Anthony Weiner’s unflappable wife: Huma Abedin, the wife of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), has for years drawn notice in Washington. In a town that demands conservative conformity, she has been seen as a high-powered professional with exotic beauty and a closet full of Prada suits and heels.
    Now, with her husband’s admission of sexually explicit Internet and phone exchanges with several women, Abedin, 35, joins a more pedestrian group — the wives of wayward and powerful husbands. And her dilemma may be even greater than previously thought after the New York Times reported late Wednesday that the senior State Department aide is pregnant with the couple’s first child. The Times said that Abedin, who is very close to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was in the early stages of pregnancy when the Weiner scandal unfolded. Abedin left Wednesday for a trip to Northern Africa with Clinton. A person close to the Clinton family confirmed the pregnancy to The Post on Wednesday.
    When asked directly about the development late Wednesday, State Department official Philippe Reines, e-mailed from the Clinton trip in Abu Dhabi: “no comment.”… – WaPo, 6-7-11
  • Online Flirtation With Weiner Started With One Word: Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old Texan, came to Representative Anthony D. Weiner’s attention when she posted a single word on his Facebook page: “Hottttt.” But, she says, it was the New York congressman who turned up the heat.
    In an interview broadcast Tuesday morning on “Good Morning America,” Ms. Broussard said it was Mr. Weiner who quickly initiated a conversation via instant messaging, Mr. Weiner who moved that conversation in a sexual direction and Mr. Weiner who sent racy photos. “It wasn’t like I was chasing him, at all,” she said.
    Ms. Broussard said she first wrote on Mr. Weiner’s Facebook page in April, after being impressed by a speech she saw on the Internet, delivered by Mr. Weiner, who until last week had best been known for his fiery liberal speech. “He sent me a friend request the same day,” Ms. Broussard said. “I just thought, that’s weird.”
    Ms. Broussard, in the first on-the-record mainstream media interview offering a window into how Mr. Weiner entered into at least six sexually explicit online relationships with women he met via Facebook, said her online exchange with the congressman started simply enough. The congressman, she said, was “asking about Texas, that sort of thing, just joking back and forth.”… – NYT, 6-8-11
  • Weiner exchanges ‘didn’t make sense’ Student’s story fits online pattern: Gennette Cordova said she did not even think the photo was real. It was nearly 9 p.m. on a Friday when Cordova, who was preparing to head out for the night with a friend, logged onto Twitter and discovered that Representative Anthony D. Weiner had sent her a suggestive photo of himself in gray boxer briefs.
    “It didn’t make any sense,” Cordova, a 21-year-old college student in northwestern Washington state, said in her first extensive interview since Weiner confessed in a news conference Monday to sending her the photo. “I figured it must have been a fake.”
    Cordova’s experience with Weiner appears to fit a pattern: In rapid and reckless fashion, he sought to transform informal online conversations about politics and policy into sexually charged exchanges, often laced with racy language and explicit images.
    Cordova, who had text-messaged with Weiner, a New York Democrat, about their shared concern over his conservative critics, said she had never sent Weiner anything provocative. Asked if she was taken aback by Weiner’s decision to send the photo, she said, “Oh gosh, yes.”
    Cordova spoke to The New York Times as Weiner faced intensifying calls for his resignation because of his acknowledged online sexual communications with at least six women over a period of three years. Yesterday, House leaders began a concerted effort to persuade him to step down, as another of his missives, more explicit in nature, surfaced and word went out that his wife, Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, is pregnant…. – Boston Globe, 6-8-11
  • Weiner’s downfall a reminder of perils of Jewish pride: He was supposed to be one of Congress’ rising stars, a Jewish boy from Brooklyn with great ambition and promise.
    A truculent Democrat with a penchant for media attention, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) was an unabashed liberal on domestic affairs and a hard-liner on foreign policy, particularly Israel. Like his predecessor in his U.S. House of Representatives seat, Sen. Charles Schumer, Weiner had larger ambitions — in his case, mayor of New York City.
    But then came his shamefaced news conference Monday, when the 46-year-old congressman, who was married last year, admitted to lying about sending a lewd photo to a woman he met on the internet…. – JTA, 6-7-11
  • Weiner should resign, Cantor says: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the U.S. House of Representatives majority leader, called on Congressman Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) to resign.
    “I don’t condone his activity. And I think he should resign,” Cantor said Tuesday after a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, the Charlottesville Daily Progress reported.
    “We’ve got a lot of serious challenges in this country and a lot of work for Congress to do,” Cantor said. “The last thing we need to do is get enmeshed in a discussion about Congressman Weiner and his Twitter activities.”… – JTA, 6-7-11
  • Anthony Weiner: Jon Stewart Says Congressman’s Confession Is ‘Killing Me’: “This is the weirdest f—ing story I’ve ever seen in my life — or the greatest episode of ‘Maury’ ever,” the “Daily Show” host quips of Andrew Breitbart’s press conference interruption…. – Hollywood Reporter, 6-7-11
  • Weiner Constituents Grapple With ‘Juvenile’ Behavior: Fierce advocate for heavily Jewish district on the ropes after admitting lies and lewd tweeting…. – The Jewish Week, 6-7-11
  • Weiner silent as few colleagues defend him: With pressure increasing from colleagues on both sides of the aisle, embattled Rep. Anthony Weiner fell uncharacteristically silent Tuesday: no news conferences, no cable television appearances and certainly no Twitter posts.
    One day after admitting he had sent sexually charged messages via Twitter and Facebook to half a dozen women over three years — and then lying about it when evidence surfaced last week — the New York Democrat found few friends on Capitol Hill.
    His party’s leader in the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, formally referred his case to the Ethics Committee. Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Weiner should resign. And when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was asked what he would tell the congressman if Weiner called seeking advice, he replied, “Call somebody else.”
    Nevertheless, even Weiner’s critics suggested the decision on his fate was up to the congressman and his Brooklyn and Queens constituency…. – USA Today, 6-8-11
  • Anthony Weiner explained self to Bill Clinton: Rep. Anthony Weiner explained himself and apologized for his conduct to Bill Clinton, who officiated his wedding to wife Huma Abedin, sources familiar with the call said.
    Weiner made the call within the past 48 hours. It took place following his emotional press conference Monday in New York City, where he admitted that he had posted a lewd photo of himself to Twitter 10 days earlier, the sources said…. – Politco, 6-7-11
  • Weiner admits he sent lewd picture; won’t quit: After days of denials, a choked-up Rep. Anthony Weiner confessed Monday that he tweeted a photo of his bulging underpants to a young woman, and he also admitted to “inappropriate” exchanges with six women before and after he got married. He apologized for lying but said he would not resign.
    “This was me doing a dumb thing and doing it repeatedly and lying about it,” the 46-year-old New York Democrat said after a week of double-entendre headlines and late-night wisecracks full of Weiner jokes.
    House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi immediately called for an ethics committee investigation into whether Weiner broke House rules…. – AP, 6-6-11
  • Weiner Admits He Sent Lewd Photos; Vows Not to Resign: Representative Anthony D. Weiner, a rising star in Democratic politics who has long aspired to be mayor of New York City, admitted on Monday to having inappropriate online exchanges with at least six women, and repeatedly lying about his role in sending a sexually suggestive photograph to a young woman over Twitter last month.
    An image of Representative Anthony D. Weiner, one of several posted on Andrew Breitbart’s Web site, BigGovernment.com.
    After a week of sometimes indignant public denials and insistence that he was the victim of an Internet hacker, a weeping and stammering Mr. Weiner, 46, acknowledged at a news conference that he had sent the photo of himself in his underwear to the woman in Seattle.
    The six-term congressman from Brooklyn insisted that he had broken no laws and vowed to remain in office, calling the matter an “aberration from which I’ve learned.”
    During an extraordinary 27-minute appearance, the congressman went on to describe a side of his life that he had kept secret from his closest confidants and family members, in which he befriended young female admirers over the Internet and engaged in intimate sexual banter with them. “Over the past few years, I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and occasionally on the phone with women I had met online,” Mr. Weiner said.
    Mr. Weiner said he had never met the women with whom he corresponded in person and added: “I don’t know what I was thinking. This was a destructive thing to do. I’m apologetic for doing it.”
    But Mr. Weiner’s political standing appeared in grave danger after his news conference. There was a striking absence of any public expressions of support from his colleagues, and the House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi, called for an ethics investigation into Mr. Weiner’s conduct. “I am deeply disappointed and saddened about this situation,” she said.
    House ethics rules state that members should conduct themselves “at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.”… – NYT, 6-6-11
  • Weiner Says He Sent Photos and Lied, But Won’t Resign: At a news conference in Midtown Monday afternoon, Representative Anthony D. Weiner tearfully confessed to sending a photo of himself in his underwear to a woman via Twitter and then lying about it.
    Mr. Weiner said the indiscretion was part of a pattern of sending inappropriate and at times explicit photos and messages to women he met over the Internet.
    Mr. Weiner, 46, a popular and brash Democrat from Queens who has been considering a run for mayor of New York City and is known for aggressive and sometimes intemperate political commentary on Twitter, apologized repeatedly.
    “I have made terrible mistakes that have hurt the people I care about the most and I’m deeply sorry,” Mr. Weiner said. “I have not been honest with myself, my family, my constituents, my friends and supporters and the media.”
    He said he had no intention of resigning, that he had broken no laws and that while his wife “made it clear that she thought that what I did was very dumb,” his marriage was not ending. He said he never met any of the women.
    After Mr. Weiner’s appearance, the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, called for an ethics investigation of her Democratic colleague to see if he broke any House rules. Mr. Weiner responded that he would “fully cooperate” with it.
    Mr. Weiner’s speech and question-and-answer session was the culmination (so far) of a drama that began over Memorial Day weekend when the conservative blog BigGovernment.com published a close-up of a man in underwear that appeared to have gone out over Mr. Weiner’s Twitter account to the attention of a woman in Seattle. Mr. Weiner had maintained ever since that he had not sent the photograph, though he said he could not be certain whether he was the person in it.
    On Monday, though, BigGovernment.com published a series of embarrassing photos of Mr. Weiner that it said he had sent to another woman last month, prompting Mr. Weiner to call a 4 p.m. news conference at the Sheraton hotel in Midtown…. – NYT, 6-6-11
  • Rep. Weiner confesses ‘terrible mistakes.’ Did he save his career?: After a week of dodging questions, Rep. Weiner says he sent a lewd photo of himself and lied about it. Nancy Pelosi calls for a federal investigation. Will voters forgive him?… –
    Saying he had made “terrible mistakes” and had lied about it, Rep. Anthony Weiner finally came clean.
    After a week of dodging questions over whether he had sent a lewd photo of himself to a coed in Seattle, the grim faced congressman admitted that and more at a press conference Monday in New York City.
    He admitted he sent photos and had on-line chats – even intimate phone calls – with at least six women over the last three years. He termed his own behavior “destructive,” especially since he continued the practice of communicating with women and sending them risky – even nude – photos, even after he was married…. – CS Monitor, 6-6-11
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner admits sending lewd photos: Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., held a news conference in New York Monday afternoon. He said he lied last week when he claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked by someone who sent photos of a man’s underwear-clad crotch to a young woman in Seattle. At the time, he said he could not say “with certitude” whether the photo was of him…. – USA Today, 6-6-11
  • Rep. Weiner admits tweeting lewd photo of himself: In an extraordinary reversal at an extraordinary news conference, Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York admitted Monday afternoon that he had repeatedly lied to his constituents and the country in denying that he had sent a lewd picture of himself to a college-age woman on Twitter. In a tearful admission, he said that he had in fact sent multiple inappropriate messages to multiple women but that he had done nothing illegal and would not resign.
    “The picture was of me, and I sent it,” said Weiner (D), who called it “a very dumb thing to do,” “a hugely regrettable mistake” and “destructive.” “I am deeply ashamed,” said Weiner, his jaw clenched.
    Soon after Weiner finished speaking, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who he said had urged him to tell the whole truth, called on the House ethics committee to conduct an investigation into his case…. – WaPo, 6-6-11
  • Breitbart publishes alleged photos of Anthony Weiner: Rep. Anthony Weiner is set to to hold a 4 p.m. news conference on Monday after two Web sites run by conservative activists posted stories claiming the lawmaker sent a shirtless photo of himself to a young woman.
    The photo, which has not been independently verified by Weiner or other news organizations, could raise a new problem for the New York Democrat, who gave a muddled account last week in explaining how a photo of a man’s crotch was sent under his Twitter account to a young woman in Washington state.
    At a dramatic Manhattan news conference, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) said he won’t resign despite taking and sending lewd pictures to women. (June 6)
    The new photo shows the bare torso and part of the face of a man resembling Weiner. The websites BigGovernment.com and BigJournalism.com, both of which are run by conservative Andrew Breitbart, posted the photo this morning and said they came from a young woman who got them from Weiner. The websites didn’t identify the woman.
    The photograph is reminiscent of one sent by Rep. Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) to a young woman in the Washington area via the “personals” category on Craigslist.com. Lee resigned shortly after the photo became public…. – WaPo, 6-6-11
  • Rep. Anthony Weiner: ‘The Picture Was of Me and I Sent It’: Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York said today he has engaged in “several inappropriate” electronic relationships with six women over three years, and that he publicly lied about a photo of himself sent over Twitter to a college student in Seattle over a week ago.
    “I take full responsibility for my actions,” Weiner said. “The picture was of me, and I sent it.”
    The announcement came as ABC News prepared to release an interview with Meagan Broussard, a 26-year-old single mother from Texas who provided dozens of photos, emails, Facebook messages and cell phone call logs that she says chronicle a sexually-charged electronic relationship with Weiner that rapidly-evolved for more than a month, starting on April 20, 2011.
    ABC News reached out to Weiner earlier today for comment about his possible ties to Broussard, but he did not respond to requests for an interview. At a press conference later, Weiner confirmed Broussard was one of the women with whom he sexted…. – ABC News, 6-6-11View an exclusive slideshow of images obtained by ABC News.
  • Web Site Posts Image Said to Be of Bare-Chested Weiner: A conservative blog published a series of embarrassing photographs and e-mails on Monday that it claimed had been sent by Representative Anthony D. Weiner to an unidentified woman over the last few weeks.
    The blogger, Andrew Breitbart, said he had obtained the photos and messages from the woman, but did not describe either her or her connection to Mr. Weiner, who is married.
    The photos, posted throughout the day on BigGovernment.com, apparently depict Mr. Weiner barechested and sitting at his computer and show him lounging on a couch in a T-shirt, with two cats at his side.
    Mr. Breitbart said the photos were sent last month, on May 4, 5 and 20.
    Mr. Breitbart, a provocative scourge of the political left, said in an interview that he knows who the woman is and that she would be stepping forward shortly to explain how she came into possession of the photos.
    “You’re going to know who this person is by tomorrow,” Mr. Breitbart said. “She is going to come out of her anonymity in a very short time. She will be coming forward to communicate the means by which she received these photos. I think it will be clear that she is telling the truth.”
    An ABC News employee said that the network has conducted an interview with a woman, who says she received the photos from Mr. Weiner, evidently the same photos Mr. Breitbart obtained.
    As of this afternoon, the network was determining when it would broadcast the interview.
    Mr. Weiner is expected to address the news media at 4 p.m. at a Midtown Manhattan, breaking several days of silence.
    Two people close to Mr. Weiner said he would not resign on Monday, but rather express some responsibility for his actions…. – NYT, 6-6-11Big Government Photos
  • Anthony Weiner: How Twitter’s features tripped him upCS Monitor, 6-6-11
  • Anthony Weiner: Were his dreams of being mayor just Twittered away?CS Monitor, 6-2-11
  • Weiner Admits to Sending Lewd Photos, Faces Call for Ethics Investigation: Rep. Anthony Weiner, D – N.Y., went before cameras Monday to admit to sending sexually explicit photos and messages to several different women. Jeffrey Brown discusses the scandal with NewsHour Political Editor David Chalian. … – PBS Newshour, 6-6-11
  • Twitter scandal: a mess for Anthony Weiner, a lesson for CongressCS Monitor, 6-1-11
  • Why Weiner’s no-sex scandal has him hanging by a thread: It never gets old. The political sex scandal occupies such an integral place in the American experience that it should get a wing of its own at the Smithsonian.
    The past month has been particularly fecund in revelations of gasp-worthy behaviour by the power elite. Dominique Strauss-Kahn (allegedly) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (definitively) became examples of foreign-born bigwigs whose reputations were soiled on U.S. soil.
    U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner, D-NY, wipes his eye during a news conference in New York where he admitted that he tweeted a bulging-underpants photo of himself to a young woman. Richard Drew/AP
    Then new details of John Edwards’s shameless duplicity emerged in his six-count indictment last week on charges of violating campaign finance laws to hide the affair he was having during his last presidential run.
    New York congressman Anthony Weiner, perhaps proving that one’s patronymic is destiny after all, is the latest to join the bad boys’ club.
    There’s only one problem with this so-called sex scandal, however. Apparently, there was no sex. Unlike Mr. Edwards and Mr. Schwarzenegger, the newlywed Mr. Weiner did not get physical with any of the six women to whom he has admitted sending sexually suggestive photos of himself and talking (lewdly, one presumes) on the phone. He never even met them in person.
    “In an era where we are more and more tolerant and less and less embarrassed by various sexual content – we see more of it on TV and are more explicit about it in our daily conversations – we’re making scandals of things that wouldn’t even have been that scandalous in the Victorian era,” Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, remarked in an interview…. – Globe and Mail, 6-8-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Surviving sex scandals: Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) has been at the center of a major scandal ever since the conservative web mogul Andrew Breitbart revealed that the congressman’s Twitter account was a little more interesting than most. As details about Weiner’s tweets and Facebook chats became public, along with photos of naked body parts, the congressman made a profuse public apology.
    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for an ethics investigation less than five minutes after he spoke. A growing number of legislators are now demanding that Weiner resign.
    Though the pressure has intensified, Weiner insists he is staying in office. A new poll supports his decision — revealing that more than 60 percent of his constituents believe he should not resign…. – Politico, 6-10-11
  • History shows Weiner could persevere past scandal: If he manages to keep his seat in Congress, Anthony Weiner would join a handful of political figures who survived what initially looked like a career-ending debacle.
    And even if the experiences of the likes of Bill Clinton, Barney Frank, David Vitter and others weren’t enough, a new poll points to a forgiving constituency.
    Both factors point to what observers call a truism in the fast-paced world of seamy gossip and online revelations — the first few days after a politician comes clean are invariably the worst.
    “By sitting tight, most of the politicians were able to stay in office,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “In general, voters are interested in these sex scandals, but they are not willing to kick their senators or representatives out of office.”… – AP, 6-11-11
  • Rabbi Joshua Hammerman: Jewish Ethics and Anthony Weiner’s Very Bad Week: Q – Does Rep. Weiner’s admitted act of sending out explicit photos of himself disqualify him from public office? Is this a new form of adultery? Given the fact that “sexting” is so common these days among young people, will it become a political albatross comparable to pot smoking for aspiring pols who came of age in the ’60s? After all, isn’t this just a byproduct of the Internet revolution in the way that drug use was the byproduct of the counter culture? Eventually, won’t the culture simply catch up to these new freedoms and no one will care that he did this?
    A – I see what you are getting it. “I took the photo but did not send it” comes perilously close to “I didn’t inhale.” And now, having inhaled pot in one’s youth does not even raise an eyebrow, much less disqualify one from office, as President Obama has proven. So will the same be said for “sexting” a few years from now?
    I doubt it, at least in the case of Rep. Wiener. Politicians may get a pass for other recklessness, but our tolerance for sexual indiscretion while in office has been decreasing with each shocking new revelation…. – The NY Jewish Week, 6-9-11
Advertisements

Political Highlights May 19, 2011: President Obama’s Speech on the Middle East Advocates Israel Returning to Pre-1967 Borders — Israel Reacts

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:

IN FOCUS

  • Obama Backs Mideast Plan Based on 1967 Borders: Declaring that “the dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” President Obama said that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must embody two sovereign states based on pre-1967 borders.

THE HEADLINES….

  • As Obama Endorses ’67 Borders, Netanyahu Objects: President Obama’s endorsement on Thursday of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute based on the 1967 borders — the first time an American president has explicitly endorsed those borders as the baseline for negotiations over a Palestinian state — prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to push back and the Palestinian leadership to call an urgent meeting.
    Mr. Netanyahu said in a statement just before boarding a plane to Washington that while he appreciated Mr. Obama’s commitment to peace, he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of American commitments made to Israel in 2004 which were overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress.”
    Those commitments came in a letter from President George W. Bush that stated, among other things, that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” which was another way of describing the 1967 boundaries…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama Endorses 1967 Borders for Israel: Seeking to harness the seismic political change still unfolding in the Arab world, President Obama for the first time on Thursday publicly called for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would create a non-militarized Palestinian state on the basis of Israel’s borders before 1967.
    “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent that ever,” he said.
    Although Mr. Obama said that “the core issues” dividing Israelis and Palestinians remain to be negotiated, including the searing questions of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, he spoke with striking frustration that efforts to support an agreement had so far failed. “The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said.
    The outline for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement came in what the president called “a moment of opportunity” following six months of political upheaval that has at times left the administration scrambling to keep up. The speech was an attempt to articulate a cohesive American policy to an Arab Spring that took a dark turn as the euphoria of popular revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt gave way to violent crackdowns in Bahrain and Syria, a civil war in Libya and political stalemate in Yemen…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama Speech Backlash on Call to Reinstate 1967 Mideast Borders: President Obama’s call this afternoon for Israel and Palestine to redraw boundaries based on 1967 lines has already generated backlash.
    “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” the president said in a wide-ranging, Mideast speech at the State Department.
    “The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”
    The suggestion landed with a thud in Israel, where some skeptics worry that such a border makes the country less secure. The country will object to any “indefensible” borders, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.
    “The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel’s existence,” said Netanyahu, who is expected to arrive here in Washington Friday.
    Netanyahu’s office tweeted its clear disapproval of the president’s reference to the 1967 borders.
    “Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress,” the office wrote on Twitter. “Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines.”… – ABC News, 5-19-11
  • Obama pledges new aid to Mideast nations embracing democracy: Under pressure from key allies to act more decisively on several volatile issues in the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama on Thursday promised new U.S. aid to nations that embrace democracy while he also condemned attacks on demonstrators, notably in Syria.
    Saying that the future of the United States is bound to the region in a number of ways, Obama said he was focused on “how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.”
    In what was billed as a major speech meant to define U.S. interests in the region amid the wave of change known as the Arab Spring, Obama was unveiling a series of economic initiatives to encourage democracy there, including aid for Tunisia and a total of $2 billion in debt relief and loan guarantees for Egypt’s fledgling government.
    Speaking at the State Department before an audience of U.S. diplomats, administration officials and foreign envoys, Obama made his first broad attempt to place the region’s wave of popular uprisings, which have swept away autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt and threatened several others, in the context of American interests and values. Aides said he felt it was importrant to address the armed rebellion in Libya, the uprising in Syria and the moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
    The speech was aimed in part at reassuring allies alarmed by what they perceive as drift in Obama’s policy in the rapidly changing region, after weeks when Osama bin Laden’s killing and a domestic debate over the national debt took center stage…. – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Obama Lays Out U.S. Policy on Arab World Amid Uprisings: With a backdrop of continuing anti-government protests in the Arab world and criticism from some corners over a perceived uneven U.S. response, President Obama said in a major policy speech Thursday that the U.S. would use its influence and economic power to support the region’s transitions to democracy.
    “Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States,” he said.
    The president said that for decades, the United States has pursued a set of interests, including countering terrorism, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, securing the flow of commerce and security in the region, and standing up for Israel’s security along with pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.
    And while the U.S. would continue to do these things, “we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind,” he said.
    President Obama also acknowledged that “we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force — no matter how well-intended it may be.”… – PBS Newshour, 5-19-11
  • Barack Obama throws full US support behind Middle East uprisings: • President unveils shift in US policy towards Arab countries
    • ‘Status quo not sustainable,’ he warns region’s autocracies
    • Sets out two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    • Tells Syria’s Assad to lead transition or ‘get out of way’
    Barack Obama has sought to realign US policy on the Middle East, promising to shift from the long-held American backing for autocratic regimes to support for pro-democracy movements – and pledging to set out the shape of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
    “The status quo is not sustainable,” Obama said in a major speech at the state department in Washington on Thursday, the first on the Middle East since he spoke in Cairo in 2009.
    In a speech dubbed Cairo 2, he threw US weight behind the protesters, saying: “We face a historic opportunity. We have embraced the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator … After decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.”
    He was addressing criticism that America has moved too slowly in response to the pro-democracy movements sweeping the region.
    As well as support for the newly emerging democracies in Egypt and Tunisia, he criticised long-term US allies such as Bahrain, where America has a large naval base, for its suppression of democracy movements…. – Guardian UK, 5-19-11
  • President Obama has message for Mideast regimes: We’ll give you aid, if you promote reform: President Obama proposed billions in economic aid Thursday to reward Mideast regimes that reform, delivering a much-hyped speech on U.S. policy toward a region rocked by upheaval.
    “Square by square, town by town, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights,” Obama told an audience at the U.S. State Department. “And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics, security, by history, by faith.”
    Obama embraced the sea change triggered in Tunisia and vowed to support the growing freedom movement across the Arab world.
    “We have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals,” Obama said.
    “The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they’re built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.”… – NY Daily News, 5-19-11
  • Obama Addresses ‘Extraordinary Change’ in Middle East, North Africa: ‘In Libya, we had a mandate to take action,’ says President Obama. ‘Syrian government must stop unjustified arrests of protesters.’
    U.S. President Barack Obama has welcomed the “extraordinary change” taking place in the Middle East and North Africa, but said too many countries have met the calls for change with violence.
    Mr. Obama, speaking Thursday at the State Department, said the most extreme example is Libya, where he said Moammar Gadhafi launched a war against his own people. He said thousands of people would have been killed in Libya if the United States and its partners did not act.
    He said Syria has also chosen the “path of murder and mass arrests.” Mr. Obama called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to either lead a transition to democracy or “get out the way.” He called on the Syrian government to stop shooting protestors, allow peaceful protests and stop unjust arrests.
    Mr. Obama noted that in the last six months two leaders have been replaced in the Middle East and North Africa, and he said “more may follow” as people rise up to demand their basic rights.
    He said it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region and support a transition to democracy. He said that effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia…. – VOA, 5-19-11
  • The speech that signals a Washington-Jerusalem collision: Analysis: The tone of Netanyahu’s response to the Obama speech made clear that he disliked it more than he liked it.
    US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seemed on a collision course following Obama’s speech Thursday night where the president called for a return to the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed-upon land swaps.
    Netanyahu’s position, which he highlighted in an unexpectedly negative response to the president’s speech, is that the 1967 lines are indefensible.
    Although Obama made an effort to give some points to Israel and some to the Palestinians, in the final analysis he essentially adopted the Palestinian position that the 1967 lines – and not defensible borders – should be the baseline of any agreement.
    Obama also adopted the Palestinian position that was a point of sharp contention during the proximity, or indirect, talks last year: that the negotiations should start with borders and security. Israel’s position was that all the core issues, including Jerusalem and the refugee issue, should be discussed simultaneously so that the Palestinians, and not only Israel, will have to make concessions.
    Obama also seemed to rule out a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley, as Netanyahu has demanded, saying the Palestinian state should border on Egypt, Israel and Jordan – meaning that the Palestinians, and not Israel, would control the border to the east.
    The elements of the speech that were pleasant to Netanyahu’s ears were the US president’s call for a return to negotiations; his unequivocal dismissal of the Palestinian effort to isolate Israel at the UN in September by bringing a resolution calling for recognition of a Palestinian state; his questioning of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation; and his strong words of commitment to Israel’s security.
    But the tone of Netanyahu’s response to the overall speech made clear that he disliked it more than he liked it – and all this before his five-day trip to Washington began. – JPost, 5-19-11
  • Netanyahu: ‘67 borders ‘indefensible’: Benjamin Netanyahu responded to President Obama’s call for negotiations based on the 1967 borders by saying those borders are “indefensible” for Israel.
    Instead, the Israeli prime minister urged Obama to reaffirm commitments made by President George W. Bush regarding Israel’s borders.
    “Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement. “Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state.”
    In his Thursday policy address at the State Department, Obama had said that the borders of a “sovereign, nonmilitarized” Palestinian state “should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
    Netanyahu’s office said in response that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress.”
    “Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines,” the Prime Minister’s Office said. “Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel.”
    The statement also reiterated the prime minister’s insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as “the nation state of the Jewish people” and that Israel retain a military presence along the Jordan River.
    Obama contradicted one element of that in his speech when he said he envisions a permanent Palestinian state with a border with Jordan.
    Netanyahu’s statement also said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “seeks a Palestinian state in order to continue the conflict with Israel,” citing his unity agreement with Hamas and recent statements by the Palestinian leader. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Israeli leader reacting to Obama speech: West Bank pullout would leave Israel indefensible: In his speech, Obama endorsed the Palestinian position on the borders of their future state, saying it should be based on Israel’s lines before the 1967 Mideast war. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the fighting, and the Palestinians claim those areas for their state.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned to convene a meeting with senior officials as soon as possible to decide on the next steps, said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
    Abbas is determined “to give President Obama’s effort and that of the international community the chance they deserve,” Erekat said.
    The U.S., the international community and even past Israeli governments have endorsed a settlement based on the 1967 lines, but Obama was far more explicit than in the past. His position appeared to put him at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not accepted the concept.
    Reacting to Obama’s speech, Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a full withdrawal from the West Bank, saying the 1967 lines were “indefensible” and would leave major Jewish settlements outside Israel. Netanyahu rejects any pullout from east Jerusalem…. – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel must act boldly: In major policy speech, President Obama says ‘Israel must act boldly to advance lasting peace,’ stresses status quo ‘unsustainable.’ Border between Israel, Palestinians to be based on 1967 lines, he says
    Israel must act boldly in order to advance a peace agreement with the Palestinians, President Barack Obama said in his highly anticipated Mideast policy speech Thursday, presenting his vision for future negotiations.
    “The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” he said.
    “There are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward (on peace,)” Obama said. “I disagree… the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever.”
    Obama blamed both Israel and the Palestinians for failing to meet expectations in their pursuit of peace thus far.
    “Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks,” he said.
    Turning his attention to the Jewish State, the president stressed that America’s friendship with Israel “is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values.”
    Obama noted that America’s committed to Israel’s security is “unshakable,” but added that “precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”… – YNet News, 5-19-11
  • Obama: 1967 borders with swaps should serve as basis for negotiations: President Obama said the future state of Palestine should be based on the pre-1967 border with mutually agreed land swaps with Israel.
    In his address Thursday afternoon on U.S. policy in the Middle East, Obama told an audience at the State Department that the borders of a “sovereign, nonmilitarized” Palestinian state “should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
    Negotiations should focus first on territory and security, and then the difficult issues of the status of Jerusalem and what to do about the rights of Palestinian refugees can be breached, Obama said.
    “Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and secuertiy does not mean it will be easy to come back to the table,” Obama said, noting the new unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, a group foreswarn to Israel’s destruction.
    “How can one negotiate with a party that shows itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist?” Obama said. “Palestinians have to provide a credible answer to that question.”
    The U.S. president did not announce a specific initiative to bring Palestinians and Israelis back to the negotiating table.
    The speech, which focused mostly on the Arab democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world, marked the first time Obama formally declared that the pre-Six Day War borders should form the basis of negotiations. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel-Palestine Borders Should Be on 1967 Lines: In his speech on Thursday morning regarding Middle East policy, American President Barack Obama declared that a two-state solution is imperative to the security of the middle east, and that the borders must be based on the 1967 borders of the state of Israel with agreed upon territorial exchange. This, the president claims will provide “security” for both sides.
    “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
    As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state.”
    The President also stated that nothing can go forward without full Palestinian recognition of the state of Israel on the side of the Palestinians, as well as full cooperation and change of policy from Hamas. Hamas recently signed a formal accord with its opposing party Fatah, and while no leader has yet been named to head this new party, it is clear that this new marriage of Palestinian leaders is not in Israel’s best interest as Hamas has declared repeatedly that all Jews should be killed and Israel does not actually exist.
    Recently, a Hamas official stated that while Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, it will not agree to recognize Israel formally as the “future generations” must be given the opportunity to “liberate the lands.”
    Briefly addressing the upcoming declaration of a unilateral Palestinian state by the United Nations in September, President Obama reiterated American support of Israel multiple times. “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection… Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.” – Virtual Jerusalem, 5-19-11
  • Obama: Israel, Palestine borders must be based on 1967 lines: Obama says status quo in Mideast and North Africa is not sustainable, stresses U.S. opposes use of violence, oppression against people of the region.
    President Barack Obama said Thursday that the U.S. endorses the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war.
    “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state. ”
    U.S. President Barack Obama urged Palestinians and Israelis to renew peace talks on Thursday, and stressed that the Palestinians’ efforts to delegitimize Israel will fail.
    “For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state,” Obama said. “Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”
    “As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it is important that we tell the truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.”… – Haaretz, 5-19-11
  • Obama: America’s future bound to Middle East: President Barack Obama says the future of the U.S. is bound to the Middle East and North Africa by the forces of economics, security, history and fate.
    Obama opened a major speech on U.S. policy in the region by trying to tell Americans why it matters to them even though the countries “may be a great distance from our shores.”
    He made the comments at the State Department Thursday in speech meant as his first comprehensive response to revolts sweeping the Arab world. It was aimed at audiences in the U.S. and the Middle East and North Africa, where the State Department was providing simultaneous translation in Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew.
    In his remarks, Mr. Obama addressed the Israel-Palestine conflict, and, in a move that will likely infuriate Israel, endorsed the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war. Israel says the borders of Palestinian state have to be determined through negotiations.
    Mr. Obama sided with the Palestinians’ opening position a day ahead of a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is vehemently opposed to referring to the 1967 borders.
    Until Thursday, the U.S. position had been that the Palestinian goal of a state based on the 1967 borders, with agreed land swaps, should be reconciled with Israel’s desire for a secure Jewish state through negotiations…. – CBS News, 5-19-11
  • ZOA to AIPAC: Withdraw Obama invite: The Zionist Organization of America urged AIPAC to rescind its invitation to President Obama after he called for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the basis of 1967 lines, saying Obama is the most hostile U.S. president ever to Israel.
    “We urge AIPAC to rescind the invitation for President Obama to speak and we urge friends of Israel and enemies of Islamist terrorism to contact your Members of Congress to fight against Obama’s anti-Israel policy,” said the ZOA’s statement Thursday. ZOA President Morton Klein added, “President Obama is the most hostile president to Israel ever.”
    Obama is set to address the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday.
    The ZOA statement on Thursday “strongly condemned President Obama’s Mideast speech given today promoting and supporting the establishment of a Hamas/Fatah/Iran terrorist state on the Auschwitz 1967 indefensible armistice lines.”
    Obama called for negotiations to be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.Obama is the first president to explicitly call for such a basis for negotiations, although predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have alluded to it.
    Other Jewish groups, including the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League, praised Obama’s speech for rejecting any unilateral attempt to declare Palestinian statehood and for criticizing Fatah for its pact with Hamas.
    Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. Netanyahu is also set to speak to AIPAC. – JTA, 5-19-11
  • What Arabs want to hear (or not hear) from Obama speech: In contrast with Obama’s major speech two years ago in Cairo, today’s address on the Middle East has generated little interest in Egypt. But Libyans and Syrians have higher hopes…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East Speech Has Many American Audiences: Thursday’s speech by President Obama on the upheaval in the Middle East is aimed at a global audience. But it will also play out in a domestic — and political — context as Mr. Obama seeks a second term in the White House.
    Since taking office, Mr. Obama has sought to strike a balance between reaching out to the Muslim world while also combating terrorism and pushing for progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The as-yet unfulfilled promise of that approach, which he described in a speech in Cairo in 2009, helped win him the Nobel Peace Prize early in his presidency.
    But the effort to construct a cohesive narrative for American voters about his administration’s efforts in the region has proved more difficult. The peace process has been largely halted. The move away from Bush-era terrorism policies has gone more slowly than expected. And the uprisings in the Arab world have forced case-by-case decisions that sometimes appear contradictory…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Obama’s Middle East speech — how far will he go?: We know many of the topics President Obama will discuss in this morning’s Middle East speech. The question is: How far will he go?
    For example, we suspect Obama will talk about the sanctions his government slapped yesterday on Syrian President Bashar Assad. But will he call on Assad to step aside in light of his government’s attacks on pro-democracy protesters?
    Obama is also expected to call for revived peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, despite recent clashes between the two. But how much pressure will he put on either side, especially with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming to town for a presidential meeting on Friday?
    We know that Obama will announce plans for new economic aid to Tunisia and Egypt, countries that actually threw off authoritarian governments earlier this year; but how much money does that involve?… – USA Today, 5-19-11
  • Obama Speech to Test Extent of U.S. Influence: When President Barack Obama outlines his vision of U.S. policy in the Middle East today, his challenge will be to get people in the region to care.
    The excitement generated by Obama’s call two years ago for a “new beginning” in U.S.-Arab relations evaporated as people waited for changes that haven’t come, said Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations and others who study the region.
    As protests have swept the Arab world, toppling some leaders and challenging others, U.S. influence has been diminished by a response seen as cautious and inconsistent, Danin and other analysts said. And the U.S. has suffered some very public diplomatic setbacks in dealing with Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, and the Israelis and Palestinians.
    “It’s not clear what the United States says right now matters to the people of the Middle East,” Danin said. “The people of the Arab world are more interested in seeing what the United States does, not what it has to say.”… – Bloomberg, 5-19-11
  • Focus Is on Obama as Tensions Soar Across Mideast: Few game-changing proposals are emerging to defuse tensions in the Middle East as a busy week of diplomacy unfolds with President Obama’s address to the region and his meeting with Israel’s prime minister.
    Against the backdrop of Middle East uprisings that have intensified animus toward Israel and growing momentum for global recognition of a Palestinian state, American and Israeli officials are struggling to balance national security interests against the need to adapt to a transformative movement in the Arab world.
    The White House unveiled a $2 billion multiyear economic aid package for Egypt, which officials say would largely shift existing funds. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel prepared to arrive in Washington with a package that he hoped would shift the burden of restarting the peace process to the Palestinians.
    Mr. Obama, who is set to address Americans — and, more significantly, Muslims around the world — from the State Department on Thursday morning, may yet have something surprising up his sleeve. One administration official said that there remained debate about whether Mr. Obama would formally endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state, a move that would send an oratorical signal that the United States expected Israel to make concessions…. – NYT, 5-18-11

QUOTES

  • Moment of Opportunity: President Obama on the Middle East & North Africa: In a major speech at the State Department, President Obama laid out his vision for a new chapter in American diplomacy as calls for reform and democracy spread across the Middle East and North Africa. He made clear that the United States will support people who call for democracy and reform and leaders who implement them, will oppose violence in cracking down on protests and efforts to limit the rights of minorities, and continue to work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
    Fact Sheet: Economic Support for the Middle East and North Africa Fact Sheet: “A Moment of Opportunity” in the Middle East and North AfricaWH, 5-19-11
  • TEXT: Obama’s Mideast Speech: Following is a text of President Obama’s prepared speech on the Middle East, delivered on Thursday in Washington, as released by the White House:
    I want to thank Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark – one million frequent flyer miles. I count on Hillary every day, and I believe that she will go down as of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.
    The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change take place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square; town by town; country by country; the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security; history and faith.
    Today, I would like to talk about this change – the forces that are driving it, and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security. Already, we have done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we have removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we have broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader – Osama bin Laden.
    Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate – an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy – not what he could build.
    Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • Clinton introduces Obama address, says US vital in Mideast: Opening US President Barak Obama’s Middle East speech on Thursday, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that the “president’s clear vision, and pure principles” show the “indispensable role [the US] must play in the Middle East.”
    Clinton said “America’s leadership is more essential than ever,” and that the “US must lead in a new and innovative way.” She thanked the State Department, where Obama was speaking, for doing work “engaging with citizens in the streets and through social networks as [Middle East citizens] move from protests to politics.”… – JPost, 5-19-11
  • Netanyahu’s Office Tweets Disapproving Response to President Obama’s Speech: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Office twitter account — run by Dr. Eitan Eliram, new media director of the prime minister’s office –- sent out a rapid succession of tweets stating clear disapproval with the president’s reference to the 1967 borders:
    “Israel appreciates President Obama’s commitment to peace. Israel believes that for peace to endure between Israelis and Palestinians, the viability of a Palestinian state… cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state,” the tweets state. “That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress. Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines. Those commitments also ensure Israel’s well-being as a Jewish state by making clear that Palestinian refugees will settle in a future Palestinian state rather than in Israel. Without a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem outside the borders of Israel, no territorial concession will bring peace. Equally, the Palestinians, and not just the United States, must recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, and any peace agreement with them must end all claims against Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu will make clear that the defense of Israel requires an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.”… – ABC News, 5-19-11
  • Mitt Romney: Obama threw Israel ‘under the bus’ in speech: President Obama “has thrown Israel under the bus,” potential rival Mitt Romney said in a statement responding to the president’s speech on Middle East policy Thursday
    The former Massachusetts governor criticizes Obama for endorsing a call for Israel to withdraw to borders that were in place before the 1967 war in the interests of achieving peace.
    “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said. “He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”… – LAT, 5-19-11
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R), another candidate seeking to challenge Obama, later reacted more broadly to the policy Obama outlined for the region: “No speech can make up for the lost time and opportunity President Obama has squandered,” he said. “The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies.”
  • President Obama’s Suicide Speech for Israel: McCotter’s Statement re President Obama’s Middle East Speech: In response to President Obama’s address on the Middle East and North Africa, U.S. Representative Thaddeus G. McCotter (MI) has issued the following statement:
    In his latest lecture to the Middle East, an ideologically purblind President Obama has again failed to acknowledge the facts on the ground, much to the detriment of American and Israeli strategic interests.
    …Such strategic celerity, though, is lacking in the Obama Administration. For, as is becoming abundantly clear, its missteps and missed opportunities stem from the President’s inconstant commitment to the strategic partnership that founds America’s Middle Eastern policies for our national security and regional peace: the American-Israeli alliance.
    Israel is a market-based, liberal democracy that protects the lives and property of its people, including its minorities.
    Israel is America’s key strategic ally in the region. Israel enhances our defense capabilities; provides us a secure foothold in the strategically important and turbulent Middle East; and has supported our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan by sharing its military technology and its intelligence on hostile forces.
    Israel is under a constant and increasing threat from terrorist forces, such as Hamas and Hezbollah; instability on its borders; and the hatred of hostile nations, notably Iran and Syria, that seek our ally’s demise.
    Already, due to the Obama administration’s bungling, radical political forces in Egypt are promising to press for the abrogation of the Camp David accords with Israel, both as a matter of law and a matter of fact.
    Inexcusably, the President’s opining and overtures have caused America’s and Israel’s shared strategic interests to decline in the Arab world – as has, not ironically, America’s popularity.
    Now must end the Obama Administration’s pressure upon our ally to make dangerous strategic concessions, which the President has done since entering office. Indeed, from day one the President has misunderstood and mangled the peace process, demanding concessions on Israeli settlements that the Palestinians had never made a precondition in negotiations. In return, all the President has reaped is the Palestinian National Authority pulling out of negotiations and endeavoring to have the United Nations foist a Palestinian state upon Israel without any direct negotiations. Moreover, the President’s “policies” have done nothing to stem the Palestinian national authority allying with the terrorists of Hamas, who are pledged to Israel’s destruction.
    Today’s speech repeats the injurious canards of forcing unilateral concessions on Israel; and claiming Hamas is becoming “moderate”. This is naïve at best, and, in reality, a foolish and dangerous misreading of a terrorist group that is America’s and Israel’s enemy. Instead, The President should have made clear that, if the Palestinian Authority chooses Hamas, it has turned its back on peace and forfeited American support, aid and assistance.
    Bluntly, a continued destabilization of Israel’s security is a strategic sellout of the highest order, and a breaking of our solemn promise to our ally.
    Mideast peace will not result from arbitrarily and unilaterally imposed solutions that will, in consequence, only further destabilize the region. Peace will come when the Palestinians and the Arab nations accept Israel as a Jewish state, abandon their dreams of eradicating it; stop demonizing Israel; cease teaching their children to hate it; and, conversely, tolerate and protect the minorities in their midst. When this happens, the Israelis will have a true partner in peace, one with whom they can mutually work for liberty, prosperity and security in that long troubled land.
    Thus, to do otherwise in our strategic partnership with Israel, however unwittingly, would reveal President Obama’s failure to acknowledge President Kennedy’s sage advice: “The surest path to war is the path of weakness and disunity.”
    No, in the interests of peace and American and Israeli security, the President must acknowledge the truths underpinning our alliance; recognize those facts on the ground endangering our alliance; and, so doing, commence strengthening the foundations of the American-Israeli alliance; and the very hopes for Middle East peace. – The Hill, 5-19-11
  • Republican Jewish Committee: JC Executive Director Matt Brooks: RJC Concerned about Obama’s Call for Israel to Return to 1967 borders: Today the President called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based “on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Those borders, actually the 1949 armistice lines, are physically indefensible, as numerous military experts have plainly stated. Asking Israel to return to those borders is unacceptable and places Israel in a vulnerable and dangerous position.
    President Bush, in his 2004 letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon memorializing the position of the United States, made it clear that, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
    President Bush spoke often about Israel’s need for secure and defensible borders and recognized Israel’s legitimate claim to certain high-population Jewish areas, such as the immediate suburbs of Jerusalem, which are beyond the 1949 armistice line. In contrast, President Obama has consistently condemned even the building of housing in municipal Jerusalem itself. It is, in fact, President Obama’s insistence on a settlement freeze as a pre-condition to negotiations, more than anything else, that doomed his administration’s peace-making efforts. That stand emboldened Palestinian extremists, damaged the PA’s ability to negotiate, and forced Israelis to question the sincerity of the administration’s friendship.
    With that immediate history in mind, we are concerned that when President Obama speaks of “the 1967 borders,” he means borders for Israel that are much less secure and defensible and that put Israel at risk. – RJCHQ, 5-19-11
  • B’nai B’rith International commends and critiques: B’nai B’rith International commends President Obama for clearly reiterating U.S. support for Israel. The president noted the relationship between the United States and Israel is rooted in shared history and values and he strongly asserted that the commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable, while he affirmed that Israel is a Jewish state.
    It was also encouraging that the president spoke against unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, a measure the Palestinians are planning to bring before the United Nations in September….
    B’nai B’rith is concerned that the president is prejudging the outcome of the peace process by publicly calling for pre-1967 borders as a basis for a Palestinian state, with land swaps. Discussion about this difficult issue should be reserved for direct negotiations between the parties.
    Though he noted the issue of Palestinian refugees, B’nai B’rith is disappointed that the president failed to mention the one million Jewish refugees created at the same time. The issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is often overlooked. JTA, 5-19-11
  • Reactions to Obama’s Middle East speechLAT, 5-19-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, on Fox News: “This is a radical shift in US policy toward Israel. Frankly, the 1967 lines are not defensible. …… Israel today is 45 miles wide. You put us back to the ’67 lines, we are eight miles wide.”
  • Politico Arena: Did Obama lay out cohesive Middle East policy?Politico, 5-19-11
  • Was Obama’s speech too tough on Israel? Republican criticism mounts: Congressional appropriators voiced doubts about some aspects of Obama’s speech. But the most pointed criticism was from the GOP. ‘Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,’ Mitt Romney said…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • Tevi Troy: Three Reasons That Obama’s Speech Will Worry the Jewish Community: Laura Meckler had a piece in this morning’s Wall Street Journal about Jewish donors’ warning Obama not to push Israel too hard in his Middle East speech today. If she’s right about Jewish discomfort with Obama’s Middle East policies — and I think she is — Jewish donors and voters alike will not be comforted by Obama’s speech.
    There were three main problems with the address. The first is the way in which Obama explained the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict. It is notable that when Obama said, “Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks,” he put the Israeli action first. A plausible interpretation of this is that, in Obama’s view, Palestinians walked away as a result of Israel’s settlement activity, and the Palestinian walkaway is therefore justified.
    Second is that Obama did not demand an end to Palestinian misbehavior so much as predict, in a removed way, that such behavior will not serve them well:
    For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
    Compare this with Bush’s starker and more direct words on the subject in his June 24, 2002, speech:
    And the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure.
    When it comes to Israel, however, Obama returns to demand, rather than predictive, mode, saying that “Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
    Third, Obama placed few limits on his support for a two-state solution. He also minimized Israel’s security concerns and limited Israel’s negotiating leverage by calling for a state with 1967 borders, instead of letting the parties themselves hash out the parameters. Again, compare this with the words of Bush, who rightly made American support for a Palestinian state contingent on concrete Palestinian actions:
    If Palestinians embrace democracy, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror, they can count on American support for the creation of a provisional state of Palestine.
    All of this is not accidental. Presidential speeches are written and rewritten so that they convey specific messages.
    For these reasons, Obama has ample reason to worry about a poor reception when he speaks to a very pro-Israel audience at AIPAC this Sunday. In addition, Obama’s campaign goal of raising $1 billion becomes much harder if he loses major Jewish fundraisers. While Bush’s 2004 improvement in the polls among American Jews was relatively small — from 19 percent support in 2000 to 24 percent in 2004 — Bush also poached a number of significant fundraisers from the Democratic side because of his pro-Israel stance.
    Finally, Obama has reason to fear a poorer showing in the overall Jewish vote in 2012. More important, though, it’s not just Jewish voters Obama needs to worry about. Polls have consistently shown that Americans in general are supportive of Israel. Jews are only 2 percent of the population, but the percentage of Israel backers who will be going to the polls in 2012 will be much higher. – NRO, 5-19-11
  • Snap analysis: Obama’s Mideast speech had political message too: It may not have been a campaign speech, but President Barack Obama’s foreign policy address on Thursday sent a series of political messages that could resonate in his 2012 race to retain the White House.
    Standing in front of a row of American flags at the State Department, Obama directed his comments on U.S. policy to populations throughout the Middle East and North Africa, offering economic and political support for democratic reform.
    But the president had another target audience: voters at home.
    By spelling out U.S. positions on the war in Libya, violence in Syria, and roadblocks in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Obama addressed specific interest groups and crucial independent voters who use foreign policy as a criteria at the ballot box.
    Here is a look at the political implications of Obama’s speech:
    1) Prodding the peace process forward….
    2) Showing leadership on Libya — and Syria?…
    3) Using the optics…
    4) Making the Arab Spring relevant to America…. – Reuters, 5-19-11
  • In Obama’s Middle East Speech, a little something for everyone to hate: President Barack Obama may have impressed much of the Arab world with his 2009 Cairo speech. But today’s effort won’t be remembered nearly as fondly…. – CS Monitor, 5-19-11
  • President Obama Rewards Hamas: President Obama delivered an unprecedented rebuke of the Israeli people by an American president today. In words that were designed to reach more Muslim citizens than United States citizens, Obama called Israel’s legitimate West Bank settlements an “occupation”; and by calling for a return to the 1967 borders, he is calling for a divided Jerusalem. He continued to press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and, subsequently, with the “unity government” the PA has formed with the terrorist group, Hamas.
    It’s extremely troubling that President Obama would side with the Palestinian Authority in an effort to jump-start peace talks in the Middle East. President Obama is not the negotiator-in-chief for the Middle East and to make sweeping demands and characterizations not only hurts the peace process but also damages U.S.-Israeli relations.
    For decades, Israel has been our most important ally in the region. Sadly, with the President’s remarks, and decision to side with the Palestinian Authority, it appears he no longer believes that is the case. By endorsing the “unity government” he has rewarded Hamas – a terrorist organization that calls for the elimination of the Jews…. – Liberty Alerts, American Center for Law and Justice, 5-19-11
  • Obama speech greeted with skepticism, apathy in Mideast: President Obama’s vow that the United States will “stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights” in the Middle East was received with a mix of apathy and skepticism by people in the region who watched the speech Thursday night.
    Some said they saw little news or any discernible shift in policy from an administration that has struggled to formulate a coherent response to the wave of popular uprisings roiling the region this spring.
    “My hope was for an unqualified apology” for Obama’s perceived support of dictators, said Hossam Bahgat, a Cairo human rights activist who was among a handful of people who got up from his table to watch the speech at a popular downtown cafe. “And I thought only Obama could do that.”
    Baghat said he was expecting stronger words from a president who delivered a speech at Cairo University two years ago that left many in the Middle East feeling that the United States was backing away from its commitment to support democratic reform in the region.
    “The overwhelming sense was one of deja vu,” Bahgat said. “I kept waiting for Cairo II, but all I heard was Cairo I.”… – WaPo, 5-19-11
  • Digesting Obama’s speech—some goes down easy, some hard: Within hours of President Obama’s Middle East policy speech, Israeli leaders and Jewish groups on the left and right were picking through his remarks on Israel, alternately praising, fretting and criticizing.
    The big news was that Obama called for negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines, with land swaps.
    “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states,” he said.
    That prompted a round of fretting in Israel and among some American Jewish groups: Why did he say 1967 instead of 1949, when Israel’s armistice lines were established? Why did Obama bring up borders at all? Is there a difference between “lines” and “borders?”
    Obama also said negotiations should start by focusing on territory and security; the status of Jerusalem and the question of Palestinian refugees would come later. That prompted another round of fretting about those two issues.
    But there was also relief. Israel and Jewish groups were pleased Obama said he’s not happy about Fatah’s pact with Hamas. He talked about Israel as a Jewish state, and rejected “delegitimization.” He talked about a demilitarized Palestine.
    What was missing in all the Thursday afternoon quarterbacking was the bigger picture: Obama talked about Israeli-Palestinian peace as part of his larger speech on U.S. policy in the region because he believes consideration of the Middle East is impossible without advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.
    “At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever,” Obama said. “That’s certainly true for the two parties involved.”
    Obama believes U.S. interests in the region will be advanced through democratization and development, but that it won’t happen unless the Israelis and the Palestinians get it together.
    The rebuke to Israelis and Palestinians for failing to reach accord was implicit but unmistakable at a time when the Palestinians and Israelis appear determined to go divergent ways. Israel’s government would prefer incremental advances to an interim solution, while the Palestinians appear to be seeking unilateral statehood by September.
    The rebuke is all the sharper on the eve of a visit to Washington by Benjamin Netanyahu; the Israeli prime minister had hoped the meeting would help restore the focus to the threat of Iran.
    Netanyahu’s statement in response to Obama’s speech knocked back the president’s key demands, point by point.
    “The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of the viability of the one and only Jewish state,” Netanyahu said, a direct reference to Obama’s call for a “viable Palestine, a secure Israel.”
    The Israeli leader went on to make it clear that the speech did not go far enough in extending reassurances that the Obama administration would protect Israel’s interests during negotiations.
    Netanyahu wanted Obama to go as far as President George W. Bush did in 2004.
    “Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress,” the statement said.
    In his letter that year, Bush called it “unrealistic” to expect Israel to return major population centers, although he, like Obama, said the final-status negotiations should include mutually agreed land swaps. Netanyahu apparently wants to hear the same moral support for retaining some settlements that his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, extracted from Bush.
    Also of concern for Netanyahu was how Obama left out Bush’s rejection of a Palestinian “right of return.” All Obama would say was that the issues of refugees and Jerusalem were “wrenching and emotional” and should be left for later.
    Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League national director, praised the speech as a “strong outline of principles” but said Obama didn’t get what the stakes of the refugee issue are for Israel.
    “Jerusalem is emotional, yes,” he said. “Refugees is not emotional — it’s strategic.” – JTA, 5-19-11
  • Jonathan S. Tobin: Obama on Thin Ice With Jewish Voters: The White House has gotten the message that even many stalwart Jewish Democratic donors are not happy with his attitude toward Israel. Should he decide to make Israel pay for a “reset” with the Arab world, the backlash will not be inconsiderable.
    As the Journal rightly notes, most Jews are not one-issue voters. Most are liberals as well as partisan Democrats who care more about other issues, which means Obama is likely to retain a majority of Jewish votes in 2012 no matter what he does to Israel. But his advisors understand that another blow-up with Israel will hurt vital fundraising efforts. It could also cost him some Jewish votes. Even an increase in the Jewish vote going to the GOP from McCain’s paltry 22 percent to a number in the mid-30s could be important in pivotal states like Pennsylvania and Florida.
    Obama can, as he will in his speech to AIPAC on Sunday, point to the fact that the strategic alliance with Israel has not been weakened on his watch with respect to aid aimed at improving Israel’s defenses. Despite his hostility to Israel’s government and his foolish persistence in believing that more Israeli concessions will convince intransigent Palestinians to make peace, he has avoided a complete meltdown with Jerusalem though that is largely because Netanyahu has refused to take the bait and snipe back. But, if, as the Journal reports, over 40 percent of Jews would consider voting for someone other than Obama next year, the president must weigh the dubious diplomatic benefits of pressuring Israel against the certainty that such a policy will come with a not inconsiderable political price tag. – Commentary, 5-19-11
  • Obama and the Jews, 2012: You know the 2012 presidential race has started when… you start seeing stories about whether President Obama has to worry about losing Jewish votes and Jewish money.
    Check out this headline from The Wall Street Journal: “Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel.”
    The story is short on any examples of one-time major Obama supporters who have or are considering pulling their support.
    That said, it quotes at least one major Obama backers who have warned that campaign that it may have a problem:
    One top Democratic fund-raiser, Miami developer Michael Adler, said he urged Obama campaign manager Jim Messina to be “extremely proactive” in countering the perception in the Jewish community that Mr. Obama is too critical of Israel. He said his conversations with Mr. Messina were aimed at addressing the problems up front. “This was going around finding out what our weaknesses are so we can run the best campaign,” said Mr. Adler, who hosted a fund-raiser at his home for Mr. Obama earlier this year. …The WSJ also reports that top Friend of Obama Penny Pritzker has been tapped to look into the issue — though it’s unclear if this is a well-run campaign doing its homework or reflects a “Houston we have a problem” mode:
    The Obama campaign has asked Penny Pritzker, Mr. Obama’s 2008 national finance chairwoman, to talk with Jewish leaders about their concerns, Ms. Pritzker said. So far, she said, she’s met with about a half dozen people. She said the campaign is in the process of assembling a larger team for similar outreach.

    Ken Solomon, an Obama fund-raiser and CEO of the Tennis Channel, told WSJ that “any problems were minimal and that most Jewish voters were concerned about many issues, not just Israel.”
    Meanwhile, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is quoted as saying Obama could face a problem with unhappy Jewish donors sitting on their hands and their wallets:
    “It’s that people hold back, people don’t have the enthusiasm and are not rushing forward at fund-raisers to be supportive,” he said. “Much more what you’ll see is holding back now.” – JTA, 5-19-11

  • DANNY DANON: Making the Land of Israel Whole: OVER the past few months, analysts in Israel and abroad have warned that Israel will face what Defense Minister Ehud Barak has termed a “diplomatic tsunami.” In September, the Palestinian Authority plans to bring the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundary to the United Nations General Assembly for a vote. The Palestinians’ request will almost certainly be approved.
    While most voices in the Israeli and international news media are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to grant major concessions to the Palestinians to forestall such a move, he should in fact do the opposite: he should annex the Jewish communities of the West Bank, or as Israelis prefer to refer to our historic heartland, Judea and Samaria.
    In 1995, as part of the Oslo accords, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that “neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” If the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, decide to disregard this section of the accords by seeking United Nations recognition of statehood, it would mean that Israel, too, is no longer bound by its contents and is freed to take unilateral action.
    The first immediate implication would be that all of the diplomatic and security assistance that Israel provides to the Palestinians would be halted, and the transfer of tax revenues — upward of $1 billion per year — would end permanently. This alone could threaten the very existence of the Palestinian Authority.
    Second, a United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood would give Israel an opportunity to rectify the mistake we made in 1967 by failing to annex all of the West Bank (as we did the eastern half of Jerusalem). We could then extend full Israeli jurisdiction to the Jewish communities and uninhabited lands of the West Bank. This would put an end to a legal limbo that has existed for 44 years.
    In addition to its obvious ideological and symbolic significance, legalizing our hold on the West Bank would also increase the security of all Israelis by depriving terrorists of a base and creating a buffer against threats from the east. Moreover, we would be well within our rights to assert, as we did in Gaza after our disengagement in 2005, that we are no longer responsible for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who would continue to live in their own — unannexed — towns.
    These Palestinians would not have the option to become Israeli citizens, therefore averting the threat to the Jewish and democratic status of Israel by a growing Palestinian population.
    While naysayers will no doubt warn us of the dire consequences and international condemnation that are sure to follow such a move by Israel, this would not be the first time that Israel has made such controversial decisions…. – NYT, 5-19-11
  • LAURA MECKLER: Jewish Donors Warn Obama on Israel: Jewish donors and fund-raisers are warning the Obama re-election campaign that the president is at risk of losing financial support because of concerns about his handling of Israel.
    The complaints began early in President Barack Obama’s term, centered on a perception that Mr. Obama has been too tough on Israel.
    Some Jewish donors say Mr. Obama has pushed Israeli leaders too hard to halt construction of housing settlements in disputed territory, a longstanding element of U.S. policy. Some also worry that Mr. Obama is putting more pressure on the Israelis than the Palestinians to enter peace negotiations, and say they are disappointed Mr. Obama has not visited Israel yet.
    One top Democratic fund-raiser, Miami developer Michael Adler, said he urged Obama campaign manager Jim Messina to be “extremely proactive” in countering the perception in the Jewish community that Mr. Obama is too critical of Israel.
    He said his conversations with Mr. Messina were aimed at addressing the problems up front. “This was going around finding out what our weaknesses are so we can run the best campaign,” said Mr. Adler, who hosted a fund-raiser at his home for Mr. Obama earlier this year…. – WSJ, 5-19-11
  • Deciphering Obama’s mideast speech: President Obama’s speech on the Middle East this morning is an attempt to put the Arab Spring into context– and also, in effect, to hit the “reset button” on U.S. policy in the region. Administration officials say they have tried to tackle each uprising in a deliberate fashion, with a

Political Highlights May 9, 2011: Week in Review Osama bin Laden Captured & Killed — Republicans Debate

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 tapes the Weekly Address at Allison Transmission in Indiana, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 5/6/11

STATS & POLLS

  • NBC poll: Nearly two-thirds back decision not to release bin Laden photos: The latest NBC News poll finds that nearly two-thirds of Americans back President Obama’s decision not to release the photos taken after Osama bin Laden’s death.
    Fifty-two percent said they strongly believe the Obama administration should not release the photos, and an additional 12 percent agreed, although not as strongly. By comparison, 24 percent said they strongly believe the photos should be released, and 5 percent more agreed not so strongly…. – MSNBC, 5-8-11
  • Polls: worry about attacks, confidence in Obama up: Americans are concerned about retaliatory terrorist attacks following Osama bin Laden’s death but also have more confidence in President Barack Obama’s leadership as commander in chief, according to three polls taken after American forces killed the terror leader. Still, the surveys show that people divide sharply along partisan lines when choosing whether to credit Obama, a Democrat, or former President George W. Bush, a Republican, for bin Laden’s death.
    There is near universal acclaim for the military action that killed bin Laden — 93 percent approve according to a USA Today/Gallup poll — and a Washington Post-Pew Research Center survey finds most feel relieved, proud or happy about the death of the al-Qaida leader.
    A CNN/Opinion Research Center poll also finds Obama’s ratings as a “strong and decisive leader” rose after an April dip following a standoff with Congress over the federal budget. In the new poll, 58 percent said he is a strong leader, up 5 percentage points overall and 14 percentage points among independents. The USA Today/Gallup survey finds a narrow majority feel more confident in Obama’s abilities as commander in chief.
    But voters divide along partisan lines over the roles of Obama and Bush in bringing an end to the decade-long manhunt. Though 76 percent in the Post-Pew poll give Obama at least some credit for bin Laden’s death, that dips to 61 percent among Republicans. Likewise, while 51 percent overall give Bush some of the credit, just 35 percent of Democrats do…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Nielsen: 56 million watch Obama’s bin Laden speech: Despite the late hour in the East, President Obama’s speech announcing the death of Osama bin Laden had an audience of 56.5 million viewers. The Nielsen Co. says Sunday’s audience was larger than Obama’s recent prime-time addresses, including his March 28 speech on Libya. The Wall Street Journal reports that Nielsen says it was Obama’s biggest audience since election night in 2008. On that night, about 70 million people were watching election coverage during the period that included Obama’s speech…. – AP, 5-3-11

IN FOCUS: OSAMA BIN LADEN CAPTURED & KILLED

President Obama places a wreath at the site of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 5/5/11
  • President Obama on the mission to kill bin Laden: Whether we like it or not, Osama bin Laden changed America. With that September morning in 2001, he introduced fear and ingrained the threat of terrorism into the daily lives of anyone who lives in a big city, travels by air or enters a federal building. For more than a decade, bin Laden managed to elude the U.S. military and intelligence establishments, and he taunted three U.S. presidents. That finally ended last Sunday, and the last thing bin Laden saw was a Navy SEAL in the third floor bedroom of his compound in Pakistan.
    Now, for the first time, we hear the story from President Barack Obama, who spoke with us on Wednesday at the White House. He explains how the plan was prepared and carried out, what was going through his mind as he watched it unfold, and the secrecy leading up to his historic announcement last Sunday night. “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaida,” the president announced in a televised address to the nation late Sunday night…. – CBS News, 5-8-11
  • Obama: ‘Getting our man’ outweighed risks of raid: President Barack Obama ordered the commando raid that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after deciding the risks were outweighed by the possibility “of us finally getting our man” following a decade of frustration, he said in a Sunday broadcast interview. The helicopter raid “was the longest 40 minutes of my life,” Obama told CBS’ “60 Minutes,” with the possible exception of when his daughter Sasha became sick with meningitis as an infant.
    Monitoring the commando raid operation in the White House Situation Room a week ago, Obama said he and top aides “had a sense of when gunfire and explosions took place” halfway around the world, and knew when one of the helicopters carrying Navy SEALs made an unplanned hard landing. “But we could not get information clearly about what was happening inside the compound,” he said…. – AP, 5-8-11
  • Obama: bin Laden had support network: Osama bin Laden benefited from “some sort of support network” inside Pakistan, President Barack Obama said in a Sunday broadcast interview, but he added it is not clear whether government officials knew the terrorist leader was living inside their country when U.S. commandos killed him in a raid last weekend.
    “We don’t know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that’s something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate,” Obama said in an interview for CBS’ “60 Minutes.”…. – AP, 5-8-11
  • Obama on bin Laden: The full “60 Minutes” interview: On Wednesday, May 4, 2011 – three days after he announced that American troops had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan – President Barack Obama talked with “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Below is a transcript of that interview. The video of this i NYT, 5-8-11
  • AP Interview: Petraeus on bin Laden-Taliban link: The killing of Osama bin Laden may weaken al-Qaida’s influence on the Afghan Taliban, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said Sunday. Even so, Gen. David Petraeus warned that Afghanistan is still a potential refuge for international terror groups, and al-Qaida is just one of those. He also warned that the April 29 U.S. raid that killed the al-Qaida leader in his Pakistani compound did not spell the end of the NATO battle in Afghanistan, which began just one month after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington with the aim of wiping out al-Qaida and bin Laden.
    NATO officials have said that they do not intend to speed up their withdrawal just because al-Qaida’s leader is gone, but the military feels it may bring the Taliban closer to negotiations with the Afghan government.
    Interviewed aboard his helicopter by The Associated Press, Petraeus said the strong link between al-Qaida and the Taliban was personal, not organizational.
    “The deal between the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida was between Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, not the organizations,” Petraeus said as he visited U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan…. – AP, 5-8-11
  • Michelle Obama lauds US forces in bin Laden raid: “Just imagine, a small group of brave men, dropped by helicopter, half a world away in the dead of night into unknown danger inside the lair of the most wanted man in the world,” Mrs. Obama told the graduating class at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls. “They did not hesitate, risking everything for us, for our freedom and security. And they did it not just as Navy SEALs. They did it as husbands, as fathers, as sons. Their families were back here, with no idea of their mission or whether their loved one would ever come home.”… “Now, that’s the very essence of the word ‘service,'” she said of the military action. “And the least we can do is give something back to these troops and their families who have given us so much.”… – AP, 5-7-11
  • After Bin Laden: What might come next: After an extraordinary week of events in the United States and abroad, one thing is clear: Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of American forces has the potential to ripple out into global affairs in many ways — political and military, diplomatic and cultural, and of course U.S. national security…. – AP, 5-7-11
  • Bin Laden death reignites debate over CIA tactics: The government’s hunt for Osama bin Laden has left the country questioning whether the tactics used to interrogate suspected terrorists were successful and lawful. With his death, both sides of the debate have regrouped along familiar lines, claiming they were right all along. But America’s greatest counterterrorism success does not represent a victory for either camp. Rather, it paints a clearer picture of the CIA’s interrogation and detention program, revealing where it was successful and where its successes have been overstated…. – AP, 5-7-11
  • Candid videos show rare view of unkempt bin Laden: From a shabby, makeshift office, he ran a global terrorist empire. The world’s most wanted man watched newscasts of himself from a tiny television perched atop a rickety old desk cluttered with wires. For years, the world only saw the 54-year-old Osama bin Laden in the rare propaganda videos that trickled out, the ones portraying him as a charismatic religious figure unfazed by being the target of a worldwide manhunt. On Saturday, the U.S. released a handful of videos, selected to show bin Laden in a much more candid, unflattering light. In the short clips, bin Laden appears hunched and tired, seated on the floor, watching television wrapped in a wool blanket and wearing a knit cap. Outtakes of his propaganda tapes show that they were heavily scripted affairs. He dyed and trimmed his beard for the cameras, then shot and reshot his remarks until the timing and lighting were just right…. – AP, 5-7-11
  • Key role in bin Laden raid for secret choppers: Secret until now, stealth helicopters may have been key to the success of the Osama bin Laden raid. But the so-far- unexplained crash of one of the modified Black Hawks at the scene apparently compromised at least some of the aircraft’s secrets.
    The two choppers evidently used radar-evading technologies, plus noise and heat suppression devices, to slip across the Afghan-Pakistan border, avoid detection by Pakistani air defenses and deliver two dozen Navy SEALs into the al-Qaida leader’s lair. Photos of the lost chopper’s wrecked tail are circulating online — proving it exists and also exposing sensitive details.
    President Barack Obama traveled Friday to Fort Campbell, Ky., and met privately with the elite Army pilots who flew the daring mission. They are members of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, nicknamed the Night Stalkers, and he saluted them in public remarks afterward…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Pentagon chief: Bin Laden death a game-changer: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the killing of Osama bin Laden could be game-changer for the U.S. military in Afghanistan by splitting the native Taliban from the al-Qaeda terror network. Gates took questions for about 35 minutes Friday from about 300 airmen at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Analysis: Reimagining Obama after gutsy raid: It was just a firehouse chat with the guys of Engine 54 in lower Manhattan. But President Barack Obama delivered a message he hopes will also hit home with every American in this week of national catharsis: “You’re always going to have a president and an administration who’s got your back.” In the denouement to the daring raid that brought down Osama bin Laden, the president has in effect been reintroduced to the nation. While taking care to strike the right tone — trying to savor the success of the dramatic covert operation without appearing to gloat — Obama has offered himself as a decisive leader willing to take bold risks…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Source: Bin Laden directing al-Qaida figures: The wealth of information pulled from Osama bin Laden’s compound has reinforced the belief that he played a strong role in planning and directing attacks by al-Qaida and its affiliates in Yemen and Somalia, senior U.S. officials said Friday. And the data further demonstrates to the U.S. that top al-Qaida commanders and other key insurgents are scattered throughout Pakistan, not just in the rugged border areas, and are being supported and given sanctuary by Pakistanis, a senior defense official said. U.S. counterterrorism officials have debated how big a role bin Laden and core al-Qaida leaders were playing in the attacks launched by affiliated terror groups, particularly al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, and al-Shabab in Somalia…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Obama to bin Laden assault team: ‘Job well done’: Brimming with pride, President Barack Obama on Friday met and honored the U.S. commandos he sent after terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, saluting them on behalf of America and the world and capping an extraordinary week for the country. “Job well done,” the president declared. Obama addressed roughly 2,000 troops after meeting privately with the full assault team — Army helicopter pilots and Navy SEAL commandos — who executed the dangerous raid on bin Laden’s compound and killed the al-Qaida leader in Pakistan early Monday. Their identities are kept secret.
    Speaking to a sweltering hangar full of cheering soldiers, Obama said: “The terrorist leader that struck our nation on 9/11 will never threaten America again.”… – AP, 5-5-11
  • Bin Laden eyed US rails from his secret compound: Holed up in a compound in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden was scheming how to hit the United States hard again, according to newly uncovered documents that show al-Qaida plans for derailing an American train on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Details of the plan emerged Thursday as some of the first intelligence was gleaned from the trove of information found in bin Laden’s residence when Navy SEALs killed the al-Qaida leader and four of his associates. They took his body and scooped up computers, DVDs and documents from the compound where U.S. officials think he had been living for as long as six years…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Ground zero crowd voices hope, apprehensionAP, 5-6-11
  • Indian Country network calls for Geronimo support: A media network aimed at Native Americans is urging social network users to change their profile pictures to an image of Geronimo in honor of the legendary Apache warrior. Indian Country Today put out the call to its Facebook and Twitter followers Thursday in response to the U.S. military’s use of Geronimo as a code name for Osama bin Laden. It asks followers and others to use the photo for the next two days to “honor the true spirit” of the 19th century warrior…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Obama to meet some from bin Laden raid: A White House official says President Barack Obama will meet with some of those involved in the military assault that killed Osama bin Laden when he visits Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on Friday…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • Families mourn US troops amid swirl of emotions: As mourners filed out of the church, two by two, the organist struck up an unusual tune for a funeral: “America the Beautiful.” Outside, military pallbearers in ceremonial dress carried the flag-draped casket of 1st Lt. Omar Vazquez to the waiting hearse, while a dozen retired servicemen saluted, flags in hand. About 60 miles away, President Barack Obama was laying a wreath at ground zero — another dramatic moment in a week of celebration and somber reflection that began with news of the death of Osama bin Laden. Families and friends of U.S. troops recently killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan face a swirl of emotions as they bury their dead while the nation marks the killing of the terrorist mastermind of 9/11…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • Bush skips 9/11 event, keeps low public profile: In the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush famously grabbed a bullhorn while speaking to those gathered at ground zero, telling them: “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
    Almost 10 years later, the now former president declined an invitation from President Barack Obama to attend a somber remembrance Thursday at New York’s ground zero to mark the killing by U.S. forces of Osama bin Laden. Bush’s decision is consistent with his desire to keep a low profile.
    “He’s made the real decision not to enter into politics or the public eye,” former first lady Laura Bush told The Associated Press on Thursday after appearing at a Dallas elementary school to announce grants from her foundation to school libraries…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • Pentagon: No firm evidence of Pakistani complicity: The U.S. has no “definitive evidence” that Pakistan knew Osama bin Laden had been living in the compound where Navy SEALs killed him, but the Pakistanis must now show convincingly their commitment to defeating the al-Qaida terrorist network, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • 1st responders see Obama visits as sign of hope: As President Barack Obama visited with firefighters and police officers in New York City on Thursday, some saw a glimmer of hope that Osama bin Laden’s death may help bring an end to the decade of war and grief that began on Sept. 11, 2001.
    “Every day is a memory of that day,” said detective Steven Stefanakos, who was among the officers Obama met on his way to a wreath-laying ceremony at ground zero. “The difference now is we have an end, which means we can have a new beginning, a chance to move forward past this.”
    The president’s visit to New York — part somber, part celebratory — began with a stop at a Manhattan firehouse that suffered grave losses on 9/11…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • Congressmen differ on releasing bin Laden photo: A New York Democrat is backing President Barack Obama’s refusal to release photos of the slain Osama bin Laden, while a California Republican says making the pictures public would bring closure for the relatives of 9/11 victims…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • Islamic world quiet as bin Laden age closes: In life, Osama bin Laden was ingrained in the Muslim consciousness in countless ways: the lion of holy warriors, the untouchable nemesis of the West, the evil zealot who soiled their faith with blood and intolerance. In death, however, the voices across the Islamic world are now relatively muted in sharp counterpoint to the rage and shame — or hero-worship — that he long inspired…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • Clinton: ‘No idea’ about timing of iconic photo: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday she has “no idea” what she and the rest of President Barack Obama’s national security team were watching at the precise moment that a photographer snapped what has become an iconic image of the operation that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
    “Those were 38 of the most intense minutes,” Clinton said of the raid on bin Laden’s compound by U.S. Navy SEALs. “I have no idea what any of us were looking at at that particular millisecond when the picture was taken.”
    “I am somewhat sheepishly concerned that it was my preventing one of my early spring allergic coughs,” she said. “So, it may have no great meaning whatsoever.”… – AP, 5-5-11
  • When a terrorist dies, is it OK to gloat?: It’s one thing to be satisfied that the world’s most wanted terrorist has been killed by a U.S. Navy SEAL unit in Pakistan. But where does satisfaction end and gloating begin? It’s a question being posed online by ordinary Americans, religious figures, various commentators and several 9/11 widows. And it’s bound to be on President Barack Obama’s mind as he treads that fine line in a visit Thursday to ground zero.
    Could Obama’s visit in itself be interpreted as gloating? The president, who decided Wednesday not to release gruesome death photos of bin Laden so as not to “spike the football,” seems well aware of the dangers. He planned a somber and quiet New York visit — no speech, the White House said, just laying a wreath at the World Trade Center site and meeting privately with families and first responders.
    “The president thinks it’s entirely fitting and appropriate to visit the site … in the wake of this significant and cathartic moment for the American people,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Obama to visit Fort Campbell, Ky., on Friday: The White House says President Barack Obama will travel to Fort Campbell, Ky., on Friday to speak with service members who recently came home from Afghanistan. Fort Campbell is home to several units, including the 101st Airborne Division. The division has several Brigade Combat Teams that recently returned from Afghanistan…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Inside bin Laden’s lair with SEAL Team Six: So much could have gone wrong as SEAL Team Six swept over Pakistan’s dark landscape, dropped down ropes into a compound lined by wall after wall, exchanged gunfire and confronted “Geronimo” face to face. The vital things went right. Just about every contingency the 25 commandos trained for came at them, rapidly, chaotically and dangerously, in their lunge for Osama bin Laden…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Spy chief, not Pentagon, led raid on bin Laden: Has anyone noticed that CIA Director Leon Panetta has said a lot more about the Navy commandos’ killing of Osama bin Laden than has the Pentagon chief, who, after all, is second in the military chain of command behind President Barack Obama? The reason Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said exactly nothing about the raid is that the CIA, not the Pentagon, ran the operation. That fact speaks volumes about the government’s rarely noticed post-9/11 melding of military might with intelligence craft…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Indians say bin Laden code name another insult: The U.S. military’s use of Geronimo as a code name for Osama bin Laden tarnished the achievement of the raid by insulting an American ethnic group, Native American tribal leaders and advocates told Congress on Thursday. Comparing the legendary Apache leader to a terrorist and enemy of the United States was deeply insulting and did real damage to Native Americans of all ages, said Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morning Star Institute, a Washington-based Native rights organization.
    “It is shocking, really shocking, that this happened,” said Harjo, a member of the Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Why the US had it wrong about bin Laden’s hideout: The dramatic raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in a Pakistani suburb this week capped a decade-long manhunt, but it also revealed just how wrong the U.S. had been about where the world’s most wanted terrorist was hiding. Time and again, the nation’s top national security officials told each other and the world that their best intelligence suggested that bin Laden was living along the mountainous, ungoverned border of Pakistan and Afghanistan…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Bin Laden death prompts questions about legality: The legality of U.S. forces shooting an unarmed Osama bin Laden hinges on a highly contentious and long-debated question: Is anti-terrorism part of a military campaign or a law-enforcement effort? In war, enemy combatants who don’t explicitly surrender are considered legitimate targets, international experts said. Bin Laden’s killing in a military context would be legal under the scenario officially put out by the White House Wednesday — that bin Laden was unarmed but tried to resist being taken in. In contrast, international human rights law dictates that police must use the greatest possible effort to capture suspects alive, barring direct threats to the lives of officers or civilians.
    “There is a higher obligation not to use lethal force,” said Andrea Prasow, senior counsel in Human Rights Watch’s Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program. “We don’t have enough facts to know whether the killing was justified under international law,” Prasow told AP. “We look forward to the U.S. government disclosing further information so we can understand exactly what happened. It may well have been a lawful killing in an armed conflict situation or it may have been a lawful killing in a law enforcement context.”… – AP, 5-4-11
  • Americans yearn to talk to SEALs in bin Laden raid: Patrons in bars across the country are raising toasts in the air, hoping the gesture of gratitude would somehow reach the clandestine Navy SEAL team that took down Osama bin Laden. Millions of others are turning to social networks with their thoughts. For many of them, it feels frustratingly incomplete to be deprived the chance to see the faces of those they consider heroes for killing the world’s most-wanted terrorist…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • US lawmaker says risk of photo release too high: A top Republican who has seen the death photo of Osama bin Laden says releasing the picture publicly could endanger U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
    Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says the picture could inflame anti-U.S. sentiments around the world and hamper intelligence cooperation with the United States. He says conspiracy theorists won’t be persuaded no matter what the U.S. does…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Obama will not release photo of bin Laden: President Barack Obama says the White House will not release a photo of Osama bin Laden’s body. Obama made the remarks during an interview Wednesday with CBS’ “60 Minutes.”… – AP, 5-4-11
  • Obama to lay wreath at Ground Zero: President Barack Obama will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero and meet with 9/11 families and first responders when he visits Thursday…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Bin Laden mission was risky business for Obama: No guts, no glory. The nail-biting, 40-minute clandestine operation that resulted in Osama bin Laden’s death could have been a calamitous political and military failure; a bloodbath in Pakistan that left U.S. forces and scores of civilians dead or captured by America’s most ferocious enemy.
    Or, as it happened, it could unfold largely in textbook fashion — delivering a stunning success for the often maligned intelligence community, a political and national security coup for a struggling president and revenge for Americans still carrying vivid memories of Sept. 11. By secretly sending a team of special operations forces into an enemy fortress in a suburban neighborhood of a sovereign country, President Barack Obama chose the path of greatest risk, but also greatest reward…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Raid poses narrative challenge for White House: For President Barack Obama, the test now is in the telling. The White House has struggled to craft its account of the audacious raid that killed Osama bin Laden for both a jubilant American public and a skeptical Muslim world, correcting parts of its narrative, withholding others and, after internal debate, deciding not to release photos that could be considered too provocative. “We review this information and make these decisions with the same calculation as we do with so many things — what we’re trying to accomplish and does it serve or in any way harm our interests, not just domestically but globally,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Officials: SEALs thought bin Laden threatening: President Barack Obama ordered grisly photographs of Osama bin Laden in death sealed from public view on Wednesday, declaring, “We don’t need to spike the football” in triumph after this week’s daring middle-of- the-night raid. The terrorist leader was killed by American commandos who burst into his room and feared he was reaching for a nearby weapon, U.S. officials said…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Mayor: Obama will be in NYC for 9/11 anniversary: President Barack Obama will mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11 in New York City at the formal opening of the national memorial to the nearly 3,000 people who died in the terrorist attacks, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday.
    “I certainly think it’s terribly important for him to come on 9/11/11. And he will be there. At least the staff has told me that he will come,” Bloomberg said at an unrelated City Hall news conference. “It’s a very emotional moment in the country now. And I think it’s perfectly appropriate for him to come.”… – AP, 5-3-11
  • Bin Laden was unarmed when SEALs stormed room: Osama bin Laden was unarmed when Navy SEALs burst into his room and shot him to death, the White House said Tuesday, a change in the official account that raised questions about whether the U.S. ever planned to capture the terrorist leader alive. The Obama administration was still debating whether to release gruesome images of bin Laden’s corpse, balancing efforts to demonstrate to the world that he was dead against the risk that the images could provoke further anti- U.S. sentiment. But CIA Director Leon Panetta said a photograph would be released.
    “I don’t think there was any question that ultimately a photograph would be presented to the public,” Panetta said in an interview with “NBC Nightly News.” Asked again later by The Associated Press, he said, “I think it will.” Asked about the final confrontation with bin Laden, Panetta said: “I don’t think he had a lot of time to say anything.” The CIA chief told PBS NewsHour, “It was a firefight going up that compound. … I think it – this was all split-second action on the part of the SEALs.”
    Panetta said that bin Laden made “some threatening moves that were made that clearly represented a clear threat to our guys. And that’s the reason they fired.”…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • White House struggles to get story right on raid: Killing Osama bin Laden was a big victory for the U.S., but how exactly the raid went down is another story — and another, and another. Over two days, the White House has offered contradictory versions of events, including misidentifying which of bin Laden’s sons was killed and wrongly saying bin Laden’s wife died in gunfire, as it tries to sort through what the president’s press secretary called the “fog of combat” and produce an accurate account. Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that officials were trying to get information out as quickly as possible about the complex event witnessed by just a handful of people, and the story line was being corrected.
    “We provided a great deal of information with great haste in order to inform you. … And obviously some of the information was, came in piece by piece and is being reviewed and updated and elaborated on,” Carney said…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • With bin Laden gone, will US stick to war plan?: The demise of Osama bin Laden complicates what was already a tough call for President Barack Obama: how to wind down the nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan. Now the symbolic reason for staying in the fight — to get al-Qaida’s leader and avenge 9/11 — has been undercut. Momentum had been building in Congress and elsewhere for a shift to a narrower, less costly military mission in Afghanistan even before the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden.
    This could suit Obama’s desire to put Afghanistan behind him by beginning a phased troop pullout this summer along with NATO partners. But it also could put him at sharper odds with his military commanders, who argue for a slower drawdown and a longer-term military commitment that they believe would lessen the chances of Afghanistan again falling apart…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • White House: bin Laden photo ‘gruesome’: The White House says the photograph of a dead Osama bin Laden is “gruesome” and that “it could be inflammatory” if released…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • White House: Bin Laden death won’t affect drawdown: The White House says Osama bin Laden’s death won’t affect plans to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan this summer. Spokesman Jay Carney says the plan is on track to begin pulling out troops in July and turning responsibility for security in certain areas over to the Afghans…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Newspapers see big demand from bin Laden news: When big news breaks, newspapers are in demand despite the immediacy of online news. Newspaper across the country including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The News & Advance in Lynchburg, Va., printed extra copies in anticipation of higher demand Monday, when headlines heralded the death of Osama bin Laden.
    Some newspapers stopped their presses to update their front pages with late Sunday’s developments. The Washington Examiner, a free daily newspaper, ran a special edition Monday afternoon under the headline, “We Got Him!”
    The website for the Newseum, a museum in Washington devoted to journalism, was inaccessible for many visitors Monday as thousands of people flocked to it to see how newspapers around the world handled coverage of the terrorist leader’s death. The website posts digital replicas of front pages of hundreds of newspapers every day…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • White House: US determined to destroy al-Qaida: White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan says U.S officials hope to build on the killing of Osama bin Laden to destroy the al-Qaida terrorist organization. Brennan tells NBC’s “Today” show the Obama administration is determined “to pummel the rest of al-Qaida.” He said the organization already has suffered “severe body blows.”… – AP, 5-3-11
  • Analysis: Bin Laden-fed unity may be short-lived: Republicans and Democrats heaped praise on the Obama administration’s role in killing Osama bin Laden. But few expect the goodwill to ease the path for tough domestic issues, such as taming the federal debt. “No way,” said Mike McKenna, a veteran Republican strategist and lobbyist. Everyone is pleased by the terrorist leader’s death, he said, “but it provides zero additional credibility on debt and deficit issues” for President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Fabled SEAL Team 6 ends hunt for bin Laden: The raid that killed Osama bin Laden will go down in history as the most important covert operation since 9/11, earning the elite Navy SEAL team that carried it out permanent bragging rights for finishing off the most-wanted terrorist on Earth. It was a near-textbook operation, despite the near-failure of one of the helicopters carrying the raiders. They all made it into Osama bin Laden’s high-walled compound in Pakistan, sliding down ropes in darkness, as they’ve done on so many raids hunting militants since al-Qaida declared war on the United States…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Phone call by Kuwaiti courier led to bin Laden: When one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted aides picked up the phone last year, he unknowingly led U.S. pursuers to the doorstep of his boss, the world’s most wanted terrorist. That monitored phone call, recounted Monday by a U.S. official, ended a years-long search for bin Laden’s personal courier, the key break in a worldwide manhunt. The courier, in turn, led U.S. intelligence to a walled compound in northeast Pakistan, where a team of Navy SEALs shot bin Laden to death…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Obama golf shoes could have been clue to bin Laden: Golf shoes in the Oval Office could have been a clue. President Barack Obama usually goes to the residence quarters of the White House after putting in a few weekend hours on the links. But he made an unusual beeline for his West Wing office last Sunday that raised eyebrows only in retrospect. He was headed for a top-secret meeting to review final preparations for a military operation he’d approved two days earlier, the one involving a raid by Navy SEALs that would end with the death of Osama bin Laden, one of the world’s most hunted men. But only a few insiders knew the real deal.
    In a remarkable 72 hours of his presidency, Obama carried around a momentous secret and gave no hint of it as he went about his duties consoling tornado victims, delivering a college commencement address and cracking jokes at a black-tie dinner…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Lawmakers: Did bin Laden hide in plain sight?: Incredulous lawmakers are pressing Pakistan for answers to two simple questions: What did its army and intelligence agents know of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts and when did they know it? The al-Qaida terrorist leader behind the Sept. 11 attacks lived and died in a massive, fortified compound built in 2005 and located on the outskirts of Abbottabad, some 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad. It stood just a half- mile from the Kakul Military Academy, Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point, and close to various army regiments. Amid the high praise Monday for the successful U.S. military operation, congressional Republicans and Democrats questioned whether bin Laden was hiding in plain sight, with Pakistani military and intelligence operatives either totally unaware of his location or willfully ignoring his presence to protect him…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Obama urges continuation of national unity: President Barack Obama urged lawmakers Monday to “harness some of that unity” washing over the nation after Osama bin Laden’s death and carry it into the contentious debates awaiting them over federal spending, the debt and other issues. At a White House dinner for members of Congress, Obama acknowledged past disagreements and predicted future ones. But he said bin Laden’s demise was a reminder that what the country can achieve transcends party labels.
    “Last night, as Americans learned that the United States had carried out an operation that resulted in the capture and death of Osama bin Laden, I think we experienced the same sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11,” he said, urging that that spirit continue.
    Upon hearing bin Laden’s name, lawmakers of both parties interrupted the president with a standing ovation and whistles. Among the Republicans who rose to their feet were House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Obama has been sharply critical of Ryan’s 2012 budget plan.
    “We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for and what we can achieve that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics,” Obama said.
    Obama said he knows the unity that permeated the country after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks orchestrated by bin Laden has “frayed a little bit over the years” and said he has “no illusions” about the difficulties of the debates awaiting them. He noted other moments this year that brought the country together, including the January assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.
    He added bin Laden’s death to that list. “So tonight, it is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges that we still face,” he said…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Obama keeps poker face after bin Laden order: In a remarkable 72 hours of his presidency, Barack Obama carried a momentous secret and gave no hint of it as he consoled tornado victims, delivered a college commencement address and cracked jokes at a black-tie dinner. What few insiders knew was that Obama gave the go-ahead Friday for the military operation that would end with the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, target of the world’s most intense manhunt…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Tension as White House Situation Room watched raid: From halfway around the world, President Barack Obama and his national security team monitored the strike on Osama bin Laden’s compound in real time, watching and listening to the firefight that killed the terrorist leader. Gathered in the White House Situation Room, members of the group held their breath and barely spoke as they waited to see whether a carefully crafted yet extremely risky plan would succeed, said White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan. Obama had been playing golf but returned to the White House for the suspenseful watch Sunday.
    Brennan said he would not reveal details “about what types of visuals we had or what type of feeds that were there but it was — it gave us the ability to actually track it on an ongoing basis.” Typically, members of the Navy SEAL team that conducted the operation wear helmet cameras that transmit sound and video to their operation centers and that data can be fed live to the White House and Pentagon. As the SEALs lowered themselves from helicopters into bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the president and his advisers could only wait.
    “It was probably one of the most anxiety-filled periods of time, I think, in the lives of the people who were assembled here yesterday,” Brennan told reporters. “The minutes passed like days, and the president was very concerned about the security of our personnel.”…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Delivering on vow to kill bin Laden boosts Obama: As a candidate, Barack Obama pledged “we will kill bin Laden” by striking in Pakistan, if necessary, without that country’s consent. He drew intense criticism from all corners, even from Joe Biden, the Delaware senator who became his vice president, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, his chief rival for the Democratic nomination who is serving as his secretary of state. But Obama didn’t waver. And as president, he delivered.
    Now, in the early days of his re-election campaign, Obama is in a clear position of political strength as Americans finally are able to savor the death of the man responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. Republicans who have long and successfully painted Democrats as weak on national security face a far tougher task in making that case against a triumphant Democratic incumbent.
    “The world is safer. It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden,” Obama said Monday in a statement certain to become a staple of his speeches in the presidential race…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Phone call by Kuwaiti courier led to bin Laden: When one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted aides picked up the phone last year, he unknowingly led U.S. pursuers to the doorstep of his boss, the world’s most wanted terrorist. That monitored phone call, recounted Monday by a U.S. official, ended a years-long search for bin Laden’s personal courier, the key break in a worldwide manhunt. The courier, in turn, led U.S. intelligence to a walled compound in northeast Pakistan, where a team of Navy SEALs shot bin Laden to death. The violent final minutes were the culmination of years of intelligence work. Inside the CIA team hunting bin Laden, it always was clear that bin Laden’s vulnerability was his couriers. He was too smart to let al-Qaida foot soldiers, or even his senior commanders, know his hideout. But if he wanted to get his messages out, somebody had to carry them, someone bin Laden trusted with his life…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Bin Laden’s demise: US rejoices after a decade: After nearly a decade of anger and fear, America rejoiced Monday at the demise of Osama bin Laden, the terror mastermind behind the horrific 9/11 attacks. Navy SEALs who killed the world’s most-wanted terrorist seized a trove of al-Qaida documents to pore over, and President Barack Obama laid plans to visit New York’s ground zero. Bin Laden, killed in an intense firefight in a daring raid at his fortified hideout in Pakistan, was hunted down based on information first gleaned years ago from detainees at secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe, officials disclosed…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • NY imam: Bin Laden death paves way for healing: The Muslim leader behind plans for a controversial mosque near the World Trade Center site is praising President Barack Obama after the death of Osama bin Laden. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (rah-OOF’) said Monday that Obama’s actions help support “people in the Arab world who are also fighting against terrorism by their own rulers.” Rauf said bin Laden’s death can bring “closure and healing around 9/11.”… – AP, 5-2-11
  • Govt borrowing goes on under GOP, Obama plans: It’s all but impossible to glean from the political rhetoric, but government borrowing will grow by trillions of dollars over the next decade if the budget backed by House Republicans translates into law. And by a few trillion more if President Barack Obama gets his way. Call it the unpleasant truth behind a political struggle over raising the debt limit that is expected to intensify as lawmakers return Monday from a two-week break…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • US: bin Laden must have had some Pakistani support: President Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser says it is inconceivable that Osama bin Laden did not have some support in Pakistan, the country where he was hiding when he was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Not everyone believes bin Laden really is dead: Knowing there would be disbelievers, the U.S. says it used convincing means to confirm Osama bin Laden’s identity during and after the firefight that killed him. But the mystique that surrounded the terrorist chieftain in life is persisting in death. Was it really him? How do we know? Where are the pictures? Already, those questions are spreading in Pakistan and surely beyond. In the absence of photos and with his body given up to the sea, many people don’t believe bin Laden — the Great Emir to some, the fabled escape artist of the Tora Bora mountains to foe and friend alike — is really dead. U.S. officials are balancing that skepticism with the sensitivities that might be inflamed by showing images they say they have of the dead al-Qaida leader and video of his burial at sea. Still, it appeared likely that photographic evidence would be produced…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Islamic scholars criticize bin Laden’s sea burial: Muslim clerics said Monday that Osama bin Laden’s burial at sea was a violation of Islamic tradition that may further provoke militant calls for revenge attacks against American targets. Although there appears to be some room for debate over the burial — as with many issues within the faith — a wide range of senior Islamic scholars interpreted it as a humiliating disregard for the standard Muslim practice of placing the body in a grave with the head pointed toward the holy city of Mecca. Sea burials can be allowed, they said, but only in special cases where the death occurred aboard a ship.
    Bin Laden’s burial at sea “runs contrary to the principles of Islamic laws, religious values and humanitarian customs,” said Sheik Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand Imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque, Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • McChrystal praises courage of bin Laden mission: The raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan took extraordinary courage not only from the service members who carried it out, but from the “decision makers” behind the operation, the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Monday.
    “Think of what would have happened if the mission had not been successful, and all of the second-guessing that would have happened,” Ret. Gen. Stanley McChrystal told a meeting of the American Iron and Steel Institute in Colorado Springs. “This mission sends a message about our will to stand up for what is right.”…. AP, 5-2-11
  • Clinton: bin Laden death doesn’t end war on terror: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is not the end of the war on terrorism and warned the network’s members that the United States would be relentless in its pursuit of them. Clinton said bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. forces in Pakistan nearly a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks proved the United States was committed to tracking down the perpetrators of extremist violence and bringing them to justice.
    “Even as we mark this milestone, we should not forget that the battle to stop al-Qaida and its syndicate of terror will not end with the death of bin Laden,” she said…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Man unknowingly liveblogs Bin Laden operation: A computer programmer, startled by a helicopter clattering above his quiet Pakistani town in the early hours of the morning Monday, did what any social-media addict would do: he began sending messages to the social networking site Twitter. With his tweets, 33-year-old Sohaib Athar, who moved to the sleepy town of Abbottabad to escape the big city, became in his own words “the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it.”
    Soon the sole helicopter multiplied into several and gunfire and explosions rocked the air above the town, and Athar’s tweets quickly garnered tens of thousands of followers as he apparently became the first in the world to describe the U.S. operation to kill one of the world’s most wanted militants. Athar did not respond to an Associated Press request for comment — he explained in another tweet that a filter he set up to stop his email box from flooding could be culling out requests for interviews. He was up to more 70,000 followers by Monday evening.
    “I apologize for reporting the operation ‘unwittingly/unknowingly’ — had I known about it, I would have tweeted about it ‘wittingly’ I swear,” he tweeted after realizing what he had witnessed….
    Soon, however, the rumbling of international events far beyond the confines of this quiet upscale suburb began to dawn on Athar, and he realized what he might be witnessing.
    “I think the helicopter crash in Abbottabad, Pakistan and the President Obama breaking news address are connected,” he tweeted.
    Eight hours and about 35 tweets later, the confirmation came: “Osama Bin Laden killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan,” Athar reported. “There goes the neighborhood.”… – AP, 5-2-11
  • Egypt’s al-Zawahri likely to succeed bin Laden: For years, Osama bin Laden’s charisma kept al-Qaida’s ranks filled with zealous recruits. But it was the strategic thinking and the organizational skills of his Egyptian right hand man that kept the terror network together after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and pushed al-Qaida out. With Bin Laden killed, Ayman al-Zawahri becomes the top candidate for the world’s top terror job…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Analysis: Bin Laden death gives US reason to cheer: At last, something big to celebrate and lift America’s mood. A nation surly over rising gas prices, stubbornly high unemployment and nasty partisan politics poured into the streets to wildly cheer President Barack Obama’s announcement that Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, had been killed by U.S. forces after a decade-long manhunt.
    The outcome could not have come at a better time for Obama, sagging in the polls as he embarks on his re-election campaign. For now, at least, he is assured of a big political boost, something that could strengthen his hand as he heads into a big battle over federal spending with Republicans who control the House…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Inside the raid that killed bin Laden: Helicopters descended out of darkness on the most important counterterrorism mission in U.S. history. It was an operation so secret, only a select few U.S. officials knew what was about to happen. The location was a fortified compound in an affluent Pakistani town two hours outside Islamabad. The target was Osama bin Laden. Intelligence officials discovered the compound in August while monitoring an al-Qaida courier. The CIA had been hunting that courier for years, ever since detainees told interrogators that the courier was so trusted by bin Laden that he might very well be living with the al-Qaida leader…. – AP, 5-2-11
  • Palin asks whether Pakistan helped bin Laden: Did Pakistani leaders help harbor Osama bin Laden? Sarah Palin wants to know. Speaking at a fundraiser the day after bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, the former Republican vice presidential nominee praised the Navy SEALs who killed the man believed to have been the architect of 9/11. But she said Monday’s military operation raises “many serious questions” about Pakistan.
    “He was killed in an affluent city outside Islamabad. It wasn’t in a dark cave in some remote mountains,” Palin said. Palin said “many retired Pakistani military officers live in the area” near where bin Laden was living in “relative luxury.” She went on, “How was the most wanted man in the world able to live in relative comfort out in the open?” Palin concluded, “Perhaps some of the Pakistani leaders were helping him.”… – AP, 5-2-11
  • Americans feel both joy and fear over bin Laden: Americans awoke on Monday to a world without Osama bin Laden, and many felt jubilation, a surge of patriotism and a sense that their prayers had been answered and that the U.S. had finally avenged the nearly 3,000 people killed nearly a decade ago on Sept. 11, 2001. But to many — including some of the same Americans glad to see bin Laden dead — the news didn’t make them feel safer. It led to uncertainty and fear…. – AP, 5-1-11
  • Obama’s remarks on killing of Osama bin Laden: Text of remarks by President Barack Obama Sunday night announcing the killing of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, as transcribed by the White House…. – AP, 5-1-11
  • Bush hails bin Laden death as victory for America: Officials in George W. Bush’s administration joined the former president Monday in expressing gratitude that with the death of Osama bin Laden, justice had finally been served. Bush said in a statement issued late Sunday night that President Barack Obama had called to tell him of bin Laden’s death. “I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission,” he said. “They have our everlasting gratitude.”… – AP, 5-1-11
  • Obama: Bin Laden’s death a ‘good day’ for America: Declaring the killing of Osama bin Laden “a good day for America,” President Barack Obama said Monday the world was safer without the al-Qaida terrorist and mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. His administration used DNA testing to help confirm that American forces in Pakistan had in fact killed bin Laden, as U.S. officials sought to erase all doubt about the stunning news. A U.S. official says Osama bin Laden went down firing at the Navy SEALs who stormed his compound. “Today we are reminded that as a nation there is nothing we can’t do,” Obama said of the news bound to lift his political standing and help define his presidency. He hailed the pride of those who broke out in overnight celebrations as word spread around the globe…. – AP, 5-1-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

  • US welcomes EU decision on Syria sanctions: The White House is welcoming the European Union’s decision to sanction Syrian officials for cracking down on anti-government protesters. An EU official said the organization next week will freeze the assets of 13 Syrian government officials and ban them from traveling anywhere in the European Union. Syrian President Bashar Assad will not be affected.
    Last week, President Barack Obama imposed financial penalties against three top Syrian officials, Syria’s intelligence agency and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard over the violent crackdown on demonstrators in Syria. On Friday, the White House warned that the U.S. and its allies will take additional steps to register its disapproval with Syria’s behavior…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • US to use frozen Gadhafi assets for Libyan people: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the Obama administration is moving to free up some of the more than $30 billion it has frozen in Libyan assets to support opponents of Moammar Gadhafi…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • Accord Brings New Sense of Urgency to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A day after Palestinian leaders signed what many called a landmark reconciliation accord, the antagonists in the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict and their international mediators in Europe staked out positions in a rapidly shifting political and diplomatic landscape on Thursday. Khaled Meshal of Hamas speaking in Cairo on Wednesday. His group’s agreement with Fatah has changed the dynamics of the situation with Israel.
    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, travelling to Rome for a meeting focused on Libya, refused to slam the door on negotiations that could include Hamas as part of a larger Palestinian authority, even as Hamas’s leader, Khaled Meshal, said he was fully committed to working for a two-state solution.
    But Mr. Meshal was in no mood for concessions. In an interview in his Cairo hotel suite, he declined to swear off violence or to agree that a Palestinian state would produce an end to the conflict — key demands of Israel, the United States and Europe. He defined his goal as “a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital, without any settlements or settlers, not an inch of land swaps and respecting the right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel itself.
    Asked if a deal honoring those principles would produce an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however, Mr. Meshal declined to elaborate. “I don’t want to talk about that,” he said. He added: “When Israel made agreements with Egypt and Jordan, no one conditioned it on how Israel should think. The Arabs and the West didn’t ask Israel what it was thinking deep inside. All Palestinians know that 60 years ago they were living on historic Palestine from the river to the sea. It is no secret.”… – NYT, 5-5-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • Insurgents’ fight halted on 2nd day in Kandahar: Afghan security forces on Sunday killed a few insurgents who had barricaded themselves inside a hotel in the southern city of Kandahar, ending a two-day battle that left more than two dozen militants dead, officials said. The battle raised new questions about the effectiveness of a yearlong campaign to secure Afghanistan’s south and Kandahar in particular. The city was the birthplace of the Taliban and is the economic hub of southern Afghanistan…. – AP, 5-8-11
  • Obama’s pledged trip to Pakistan less certain: President Barack Obama’s promised trip to Pakistan this year, once seen as a reward for a key ally in the fight against terrorism, is now a looming headache for the White House as it tries to determine whether the government in Islamabad was complicit in allowing Osama bin Laden to live for years within the country’s borders. Obama told Pakistani officials in the fall that he planned to travel there in 2011, in part to soothe concerns that the president was favoring Pakistan’s neighbor and archrival, India, by visiting there first. White House spokesmen questioned this week by The Associated Press refused to say whether Obama still planned to go.
    In the hours after bin Laden’s killing by a U.S. special forces team in Pakistan, John Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, left the topic open. “I’m not going to address the president’s schedule,” he said. “I think there’s a commitment that the president has made that he is intending to visit Pakistan. A lot depends on availability, scheduling.”… – AP, 5-7-11
  • US Ambassador to Mexico sets date to depart: U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual will leave Mexico by May 18 as a result of his resignation two months ago amid furor over leaked diplomatic cables that angered the Mexican government. Pascual will take a job on that date as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, U.S. Embassy spokesman Alex Featherstone said Thursday night. “One of his first tasks will be designing a new Bureau for Energy Resources that will integrate energy security with the conduct of U.S. foreign policy,” Featherstone wrote in a message announcing the plans…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Top US diplomat for Latin America resigning: The Obama administration’s senior diplomat for Latin America is stepping down, and the top Republican on the House foreign affairs committee is happy to see him go. The State Department said Friday that Arturo Valenzuela will leave this summer to return to a teaching post at Georgetown University after serving since 2009 as the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs. Spokesman Mark Toner said the administration will start looking for a successor and that it was deeply appreciative of Valenzuela’s service…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Analysis: US-Pakistan relations troubled: Osama bin Laden’s death has Congress pointing fingers at Pakistan and many in the Obama administration expressing thinly veiled exasperation. But it probably won’t mean the breakup of a marriage of convenience that is maddening to both the U.S and nuclear-armed Pakistan. The alternative would be worse. “It is not always an easy relationship,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged Thursday, but it is useful for both countries. “We are going to continue to cooperate between our governments, our militaries, our law enforcement agencies,” she said…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • White House advances US-Colombia trade agreement: The White House said Wednesday that it was ready to start talks with Congress on a free trade deal with Colombia, setting the stage for lawmakers to move ahead on similar agreements with South Korea and Panama, as Republicans had demanded. Administration officials said they expected technical discussions to begin Thursday with congressional aides, the first step in the approval process. President Barack Obama has made boosting U.S. trade an integral part of his economic agenda. The White House had hoped for quick approval of the largest deal, the Korean pact signed in December, but GOP lawmakers threatened to block it unless the White House also finalized agreements with Panama and Colombia…. – AP, 5-4-11

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama delivers remarks to troops at Fort Campbell, Ky., May 6, 2011. Vice President Joe Biden stands at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Health care costs a hefty price tag for Pentagon: A military built for fighting wars is looking more and more like a health care entitlement program. Costs of the program that provides health coverage to some 10 million active duty personnel, retirees, reservists and their families have jumped from $19 billion in 2001 to $53 billion in the Pentagon’s latest budget request. Desperate to cut spending in Washington’s time of fiscal austerity, President Barack Obama has proposed increasing the fees for working-age retirees in the decades-old health program, known as TRICARE. After years of resisting proposed increases for the military men and women who sacrificed for a nation, budget-conscious lawmakers suddenly are poised to make them pay a bit more for their health care, though not on the president’s terms…. – AP, 5-8-11
  • Automatic budget cuts have spotty record: Congress and President Barack Obama are proposing ways to automatically trigger budget savings if they can’t rein in deficits the old-fashioned way, by enacting laws to cut spending or raise taxes. Similar efforts in the past have a spotty record.
    The last quarter-century has seen plenty of missed deficit and spending targets and inventive evasions of budget curbs. This is because the same legislators who put in place those budget constraints can pass laws to ignore them.
    This year’s expected record deficit of $1.5 trillion and a cumulative national debt topping $14 trillion have snowballed into a major political issue that probably will color presidential and congressional elections in 2012. As a result, Washington is awash with proposals from Obama, lawmakers and anti-deficit groups such as the Bipartisan Policy Center to automatically trigger budget savings if ceilings on spending, the national debt or other benchmarks are pierced…. – AP, 5-7-11
  • Obama tries to reassure public on economy, jobs: President Barack Obama is reassuring the public that jobs and the economy are his top priority. At the end of a historic and emotionally charged week that began with his nationally televised announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan during a raid by U.S. special forces, Obama on Saturday returned to promoting his energy agenda…. The news of bin Laden’s demise dominated the week’s headlines.
    “So although our economy hasn’t been the focus of the news this week, not a day goes by that I’m not focused on your jobs, your hopes and your dreams,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address…. – AP, 5-7-11
  • Feds drop Bush era endangered species policy: The Obama administration has discarded a Bush administration policy that considered state boundaries when determining endangered species protections. Under the policy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could require special protection for a species in one state but not in another, even though the species’ habitat exists in both states…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Obama to participate in town hall meeting on CBS: CBS News says it will be holding a town hall meeting on the economy with President Barack Obama on Wednesday. “Face the Nation” anchor Bob Schieffer and “Early Show” anchor Erica Hill will join Obama before a live audience at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., the network announced Friday. Questions also will come from a nationwide online audience. The one-hour event will be broadcast on Thursday during the 8-to-9 a.m. Eastern hour of “The Early Show.”… – AP, 5-6-11
  • Obama to speak on immigration policy in Texas: The White House says President Barack Obama will deliver a speech on immigration when he visits El Paso, Texas, next Tuesday. It will be the latest in a string of events the White House has devoted to immigration policy despite an unfavorable climate on Capitol Hill for passing the kind of comprehensive legislation Obama favors. The president wants to see a path to legalization for the millions of illegal immigrants in this country, something opposed by Republicans who control the House…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Colin Powell: Obama blew away the birthers: Colin Powell told graduates of South Carolina’s premier historically black university that they were graduating during a tumultuous time that saw a royal wedding, a pope’s beatification and a U.S. military assault that killed Osama bin Laden, “the worst person on earth.” But the former secretary of state and Joint Chiefs chairman told South Carolina State University’s 400 graduates on Friday that he particularly enjoyed another recent event: “That was when President Obama took out his birth certificate and blew away Donald Trump and all the birthers!”… – A, 5-6-11
  • Obama visit highlights Ind. as tough state to hold: President Barack Obama, the first Democrat to win Indiana in a presidential election in four decades, could find it tough to hold on to in 2012 even if Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels decides not to enter the presidential race. And a White House run by Daniels from a state that’s recently become a showcase for conservatives could make a repeat victory by Obama impossible, one political expert said.
    The president made a stop in Indiana on Friday to tout his energy policy, his fifth visit since taking office. Daniels met him on the tarmac at the Indianapolis airport, a meeting his Republican supporters hoped would foreshadow a matchup to come…. – AP, 5-7-11
  • Businesses now hiring at fastest pace since 2006: American companies are on a hiring spree. Businesses delivered a jolt of strength to the economy by creating 268,000 jobs in April, the biggest monthly total in more than five years. The gains were solid across an array of industries, even beleaguered construction. It was the third month in a row of at least 200,000 new jobs. The private sector has added jobs for 14 consecutive months. Even a slight rise in the unemployment rate to 9 percent appears to be a quirk….. – AP, 5-6-11
  • School in rural Wash. town vies for Obama speech: This rural farm town tucked amid Washington’s apple and cherry orchards seems an unlikely stop for a U.S. president. Yet Bridgeport High School is one of three national finalists for a commencement address by President Barack Obama, thanks to an on-time graduation rate that exceeds the national average and a college push that beats some of the ritziest public schools. All 37 seniors will graduate next month. All are headed to college or to a technical school. And the possibility of a presidential visit has them and their whole town buzzing…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Obama talks immigration at Cinco de Mayo event: President Barack Obama says it will take changing minds, hearts and votes to fix a broken immigration system. He also told celebrants at a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House that their help will be needed to make it happen…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Poetry night at the White House next Wednesday: President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, will celebrate American poetry and prose with a gathering of poets, musicians and artists at the White House next Wednesday night. Professionals Elizabeth Alexander, Billy Collins, Common, Rita Dove, Kenneth Goldsmith, Alison Knowles, Aimee Mann and Jill Scott will read, sing and highlight poetry’s influence on American culture…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Obama helps kick off Wounded Warriors’ bike ride: With a 1-2-3 and the sound of a horn, President Barack Obama has kicked off a regional bicycle tour to help raise money for wounded service members. Many of the riders had lost one or both legs and rode hand-cranked bicycles. Obama told the riders they are an inspiration…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Obama to meet with Prince Charles: President Barack Obama will meet with Britain’s Prince Charles on Wednesday. It’s the prince’s first trip to the U.S. visit since 2007…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Some White House records may not be preserved: The nation’s archivist said Tuesday he’s uncomfortable with allowing White House staff members to decide whether their tweets, emails and Facebook messages from personal accounts are work-related and must be saved. David Ferriero, archivist of the United States, told a House hearing that official communications sent from a presidential employee’s personal device, using personal accounts, must be preserved under the law. However, a staff member gets to determine what is official.
    Brook Colangelo, the Obama administration’s chief information officer, said there’s no way to automatically capture communications from personal accounts unless they are accessed through a government-issued computer or personal device, such as an iPad or BlackBerry. He said the administration relies on periodic training to help employees make the right decision…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Obama honors national teacher of the year: President Barack Obama is honoring Michelle Shearer of Maryland as the 2011 National Teacher of the Year. Shearer teaches chemistry at Urbana High School in Frederick, Md. In a Rose Garden ceremony, Obama says Shearer represents all teachers who are committed to improving their own skills in order to better educate their students…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Obama honors 2 Army privates killed in Korean War: When President Barack Obama expressed his pride in America’s men and women in uniform, he was speaking about those who hours earlier had killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and those who six decades earlier had given their lives in the Korean War. During a somber ceremony Monday in the White House East Room, Obama bestowed the Medal of Honor posthumously on two Army privates — Anthony T. Kaho’ohanohano of Pukalani, Hawaii, and Henry Svehla of Belleville, N.J.
    “Today we remember them with the highest military decoration that our nation can bestow,” Obama said, describing the pair as “hometown kids who stood tall in America’s uniform.” The commander in chief also reflected on the news of bin Laden’s death at the hands of U.S. forces during a raid in Pakistan, saying “I think we can all agree this is a good day for America.”… – AP, 5-2-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Boehner Is Boxed In by Republican Party’s Anti-Tax Pledge: Jonathan Alter: Can the Republicans find sweet harmony? On the deficit debate, party frontman John Boehner is boxed in. “Why would you cut a deal before 2012?” asks one tax hard-liner. “It’s Paul’s idea,” House Speaker Boehner, an Ohio Republican, told ABC News in an April 25 interview. “Other people have other ideas.” If you get the sense that John is distancing himself from Paul, don’t blame Yoko. Boehner is worried that Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare — which passed the House with all but four Republican votes on April 15 — isn’t playing so well at town hall meetings. The speaker is in a box…. – Bloomberg, 5-5-11
  • Senate GOP won’t vote for consumer protection head: Almost every Senate Republican said Thursday they will vote against any Obama administration choice to head a new agency designed to protect consumers from harmful financial activities unless changes are made in the agency that Republicans say has been given too much power.
    “No person should have the unfettered authority presently granted to the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” 44 GOP senators wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama. “Therefore we believe that the Senate should not consider any nominee to be CFPB director until the CFPB is properly reformed.”… – AP, 5-5-11
  • House passes bill making it easier to drill: The Republican-controlled House passed the first of three bills Thursday aimed at speeding up offshore oil and gas drilling a year after the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. In a 266-149 vote that included 33 Democrats in its majority, the House approved a bill that would force the federal government to conduct three lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one off the Virginia coast within a year, or by June 2012. Lease sales are the first step in a multi-year process that can culminate in drilling. The Obama administration had postponed the sales after the massive Gulf oil spill, saying it needed time to conduct more thorough environmental reviews, to account for the blowout’s effects on the Gulf ecosystem and to incorporate lessons learned from the disaster…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • GOP seeks common ground with Obama on Medicare: The top House Republican responsible for Medicare says he’s open to other approaches besides privatization to curb the program’s costs. Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan told reporters Thursday he still supports the GOP plan to replace Medicare with a voucher-like payment for future retirees. But Camp said he’s not interested in laying down more political markers and wants solutions President Barack Obama can sign into law…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • House panel moves to revive alternate jet engine: A House panel on Wednesday took a step toward reviving the alternate engine for the next-generation F-35 fighter plane over the objections of President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who consider it wasteful spending. By voice vote, the Armed Services subcommittee overseeing land and air forces approved legislation that would force the Pentagon to re-open competition if it has to ask Congress for more money so Pratt & Whitney can build the chosen engine. Inevitably in military contracting, the Defense Department has to seek more funds for a highly sophisticated warplane. The provision would apply to Pentagon spending in the next budget year…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • House OKs limits on tax breaks for abortions: The House voted Wednesday to limit tax breaks for insurance policies that cover abortions. The bill, which passed 251-175, was the latest Republican effort to chip away at President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul and follow through on the GOP’s campaign promise to keep taxpayers from underwriting abortions. “Abortion is not health care,” said Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • House panel OKs more money for Special Forces: A House panel on Wednesday approved $10.5 billion for Special Operations Command and its Navy SEALs unit widely praised for the bold mission to take out terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. By voice vote, the House Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities agreed to the amount, an increase of about 7 percent from the current level, with lawmakers marveling at the success of the Navy SEALs. The elite unit infiltrated bin Laden’s Pakistan compound on Monday and killed the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • House leaders seek political points in Yucca fight: Yucca Mountain is a wild expanse of desert brush, red mountains and extracted rock 100 miles outside of Las Vegas where deer, coyote and antelope roam isolated fields and human visitors must pass background checks before they are allowed past heavily guarded fences. Republicans claim this stark landscape is the nation’s best hope for a national nuclear waste dump.
    But with Democrats running the White House and Senate, the Yucca Mountain nuclear site has been shuttered with no chance of reopening. Critics claim the project is dangerous. The half-built nuclear junkyard would require nuclear plants to ship their waste to rural Nevada along the nation’s vulnerable roadways and railways…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Boehner says small US force should remain in Iraq: House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday a small, residual U.S. force should remain in Iraq beyond the end of this year, the final drawdown date for the Americans. Boehner said it was imperative for the Obama administration to talk to the Iraqi government about extending the U.S. presence beyond Dec. 31.
    “It’s pretty clear to me there are gaps in the security arrangement of the Iraqi people beginning the first of next year,” said Boehner, who traveled to Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan last month. He said Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “made clear to me there are gaps, that there is assistance that they’re going to need. And I would hope that our military and diplomatic officials begin serious conversations with Iraqis about identifying those gaps in security and try to come to an agreement as soon as possible.”… – AP, 5-4-11
  • Hispanic lawmakers press Obama on immigration: Hispanic lawmakers say they have given President Barack Obama several ways his administration can help certain immigrants stay in the U.S. while they await immigration reform in Congress. Several members of the all-Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with Obama on Tuesday hoping for administrative remedies for young immigrants brought to the country illegally by parents or for other immigrants in danger of being deported…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Senate Democrats eye $4T budget savings plan: The top Democrat in the Senate on budget matters said Tuesday that he’s preparing a fiscal blueprint to slash the deficit by $4 trillion over the upcoming decade — a plan built on the bipartisan findings of President Barack Obama’s deficit commission. Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the plan calls for a complete overhaul of the tax code — stripping out numerous tax write-offs while lowering income tax rates — but would leave Social Security untouched. The tax reform idea would generate an overall revenue increase in the range of perhaps $1 trillion over the coming decade…. – AP, 5-3-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • Battle Over Health Care Law Shifts to Federal Appellate Courts: A five-week flurry of federal appellate hearings on the constitutionality of the Obama health care law kicks off Tuesday in Richmond, Va., beginning the second round of a race to the Supreme Court among a multitude of litigants eager to strike down the president’s signature domestic achievement. At Tuesday’s hearing, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will consider a pair of contradictory rulings sent up from the lower courts. In one case, filed by Virginia’s attorney general, a federal district judge in Richmond ruled late last year that Congress had exceeded its authority by requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance. In the other, filed by Liberty University, a conservative Christian institution, a district judge sitting 100 miles away in Lynchburg, Va., upheld the insurance mandate…. – NYT, 5-8-11
  • Holder intervenes in gay man’s deportation case: Attorney General Eric Holder took the rare step Thursday of asking an immigration judicial panel to reconsider the case of a gay man they’ve cleared for deportation. Holder set aside the Board of Immigration Appeals ruling allowing the deportation of Paul Wilson Dorman, a gay man illegally in the U.S. Dorman wants to stay in the country with his male partner, with whom he celebrated a civil union in New Jersey… – AP, 5-6-11
  • RI lawyer confirmed as US judge; GOP block fails: A trial lawyer nominated by President Barack Obama to be a federal judge in Rhode Island was confirmed on a party-line vote Wednesday just hours after a Senate GOP filibuster attempt failed. The Senate voted 50-44 to confirm lawyer John McConnell to the bench after a more significant 63-33 tally to advance the nomination past a filibuster orchestrated by GOP leaders…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • States ask US court to overturn health overhaul: More than two dozen states challenging the health care overhaul urged a U.S. appeals court on Wednesday to strike down the Obama administration’s landmark law, arguing it far exceeds the federal government’s powers. The motion, filed on behalf of 26 states, urges the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to uphold a Florida federal judge’s ruling that the overhaul’s core requirement is unconstitutional. The judge, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, said Congress cannot require nearly all Americans to carry health insurance. Allowing the law to go forward, the states argued in the 69-page filing, would set a troubling precedent that “would imperil individual liberty, render Congress’s other enumerated powers superfluous, and allow Congress to usurp the general police power reserved to the states.”… – AP, 5-4-11
  • Appeals court hears arguments in Obama birth suit: Leaders in the so-called “birther” movement argued their case over President Barack Obama’s U.S. citizenship before a federal appeals court Monday in Southern California, claiming the full birth certificate he released last week had been doctored. But it was unclear how far their arguments would go, given the previous failed lawsuits on the issue and concern from the court about whether the latest claim was filed too late to be considered…. – AP, 5-2-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Disasters challenge GOP governors of Ala., Miss.: Alabama’s new governor thought his toughest job was going to be making double-digit spending cuts and deciding which state services to eliminate.
    “Then on day 100 of our administration — exactly day 100 — we had this massive outbreak of tornadoes,” Gov. Robert Bentley said.
    The deadly storms that pounded the South on April 27 were a quick initiation for Bentley into the massive task of disaster recovery. They were just another chapter for his colleague next door, fellow Republican and second- term Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Barbour has overseen his state’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and is now bracing for Mississippi River floodwaters. The responses of the two Deep South governors represent the different backgrounds of Bentley, a soft-spoken physician, and Barbour, a savvy, former Washington lobbyist and GOP insider…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • Offensive email sender censured by OC GOP: An Orange County GOP official who sent email depicting President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee was censured Wednesday by the local party’s executive committee. The 12-2 vote to censure 74-year-old Marilyn Davenport, an elected member of the governing Central Committee, is the highest form of disapproval the county GOP could take under its bylaws, Orange County GOP Chairman Scott Baugh said…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • Obama declares emergency in 3 states over flooding: The president has declared an emergency for parts of Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky because of flooding. The White House says the order signed on Wednesday means the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other departments can help the states coordinate all disaster relief efforts in parts of all three states…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Anxiety rises along the flood-swollen Mississippi: People along the lower Mississippi River and its tributaries packed their belongings and emergency workers feverishly filled sandbags as high water pushed its way downstream Wednesday in a slow-motion disaster that could break flood records dating to the 1920s. From Illinois to Mississippi, thousands of people have already been forced from their homes, and anxiety is rising along with the mighty river, even though it could be a week or two before some of the most severe flooding hits…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Daley presides over last council meeting: Richard M. Daley, the longest serving mayor in Chicago history and one of the most powerful mayors in recent American history, presided over his last City Council meeting on Wednesday. With family members in attendance, Daley listened as one alderman after another paid tribute to the man who helped lead the transformation of Chicago from a gritty industrial hub to a sparking metropolis in his 22 years in office. Daley, said longtime Alderman Ed Burke, “made Chicago the most livable city in the nation,” moments before the council gave the mayor a standing ovation…. – AP, 5-4-11

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012…. — FIRST REPUBLICAN DEBATE

  • Campaign 2012: Who’s in and who’s out?: Republicans are beginning to announce whether they will pursue a bid for the presidency…. – WaPo, 5-3-11
  • LIVE-BLOG: The first Republican presidential debatePolitico, 5-5-11
  • Republican Presidential debate in South Carolina: Romney, Huckabee, Palin, Gingrich won’t be there: Republicans are starting their engines for the first presidential debate in South Carolina Thursday — well, some Republicans, anyway. Many of the biggest names in the field won’t be there: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Oh, and Donald Trump.
    So who’s in? The most mainstream candidate attending the debate in Greenville, South Carolina – a key early primary state – will be former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He will be joined by Rep Ron Paul (R-Tex.), former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and former Godfather Pizza CEO and talk radio host Herman Cain.
    Romney, widely seen as the candidate to beat, will skip the debate “because it’s still early, the field is too unsettled and he’s not yet an announced candidate,” according to one of his advisers…. – NY Daily News, 5-5-11
  • GOP Contenders Look to Seize the Moment in First Presidential Debate: The five participants in the first Republican debate of the 2012 presidential race Thursday night are looking to prove themselves to be more than the party’s B-team, as they try to catapult their White House bids into the national spotlight. Fox News and the South Carolina Republican Party are sponsoring the debate, which will feature former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former New Mexico Gov. Gary John and businessman Herman Cain. They are the only candidates who met the sponsors’ criteria to participate: forming a presidential exploratory committee, filing state GOP paperwork and paying $25,000 to get on the state primary ballot. The GOP field is still taking shape, with about a dozen Republicans considering a White House bid or taking initial steps toward full-fledged campaigns. Among the notable absences are Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich…. – Fox News, 5-5-11
  • First GOP debate likely to be a low-key affair: The one to beat in the GOP presidential field, Mitt Romney, won’t attend the first debate of the party’s 2012 nomination race. Neither will any other big-name Republicans weighing bids, like Sarah Palin, or celebrity hopefuls, like Donald Trump. And, with Osama bin Laden’s death commanding the public’s attention, the political spotlight will be turned hundreds of miles to the north as President Barack Obama visits New York’s ground zero days after American forces killed the terrorist behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
    Even so, the lead-off debate of the Republican presidential race is set to go on as planned Thursday night in Greenville, S.C. With only five candidates participating, it’s poised to be a low-key affair much like the sluggish early days of the Republican contest itself.
    “Without any of the front-runners, you really can’t call it a debate,” said Rick Beltram, a former Spartanburg County GOP chairman…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Herman Cain makes splash at first 2012 GOP debate: To get an idea of the strangeness of the first debate of the 2012 presidential cycle – the unofficial kickoff to the 2012 GOP race – consider this: Based on the Fox News focus group conducted immediately following the event, Herman Cain is about to run away with the GOP nomination. If you’re wondering who that is, you’re not alone: The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, who barely registers in national polls, has never held elected office. And he is seen as having virtually no chance to win the GOP nomination.
    \ But the vast majority of the people sitting in with Republican pollster Frank Luntz said Cain had won the debate with his directness and straightforward delivery. (This despite the fact that when asked about what he would do in Afghanistan, he replied that he would rely on “the experts and their advice and their input.” The Fox News debate moderators seemed incredulous that he did not offer a position.) Luntz appeared blown away by the response to Cain, which he cast as unprecedented. “Something very special happened this evening,” he said.
    Perhaps. But the debate was seen as such a non-event inside the beltway that House Speaker John Boehner spent his evening not watching it, opting instead to have a few drinks at a Washington steakhouse. “I’ll read about it tomorrow,” he told Hotsheet…. – CBS News, 5-5-11
  • What You Missed in the Primary Season’s First Republican Debate: The first debate of the Republican presidential primary campaign took place earlier tonight in South Carolina. Because many of the big names sat it out or were ineligible to participate, and the only candidates who showed up were Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Gary Johnson, you would be excused if, instead of watching, you were out downing as many margaritas as your body can physically allow. For you social, fun people, we’ve put together this easily digestible summary of what transpired.
    Nicest Thing Anyone Said About President Obama: “I do congratulate President Obama for the fine job he did …. He did a good job and I tip my cap to him in that moment.” — Tim Pawlenty on President Obama’s role in killing Osama bin Laden….
    Most Crowd-Pleasing One-Liner: Herman Cain, in defending his lack of any political experience, notes that Washington is full of people with political experience, and “how’s that working for you?”… – NY Mag, 5-5-11
  • Bin Laden’s death upends agenda for first Republican presidential debate: Polls show that Americans’ top concern is the economy, but the killing of Osama bin Laden put foreign policy at the top of the agenda in the first Republican candidates debate of the 2012 presidential campaign. In the forum, broadcast by Fox News from Greenville, S.C., a quintet of lesser-known candidates offered their views on the operation that killed the Al Qaeda leader and how it might affect America’s mission in Afghanistan.
    Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor, praised President Obama for “being decisive” in launching the raid on Bin Laden’s compound, but attacked his broader foreign policy outlook. “He’s made a number of other decisions relating to our security here and around the world that I don’t agree with,” he said. “If it turns out that many of the techniques that he criticized during the campaign led to Osama bin Laden’s being identified and killed, he should be asked to explain whether he does or does not support those techniques.”
    Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who just announced the formation of an exploratory committee a day earlier, downplayed what he said was simply a “tactical decision” by Obama. “If you look at what President Obama has done right in foreign policy, it has always been a continuation of the Bush policies,” he said. “The issues that have come up while he is president, he’s gotten it wrong strategically every single time.”… – LAT, 5-5-11
  • GOP debate proves an awkward start in the fight against Obama: The opening act in the contest to pick a challenger for President Obama in 2012 proved to be an awkward moment for the Republican Party. Thursday night’s candidate debate did as much to highlight divisions within the party as it did to offer a brief for why the president should be denied a second term. With many of the party’s potentially strongest candidates either choosing not to participate — or still making up their minds about whether to run — the 90-minute debate offered a platform for second-tier candidates to make their case. They took full advantage of the spotlight, but in the process they offered dissonance in the GOP message along with moments of comedic relief to the audience.
    That made for a sometimes-entertaining evening for the audience in the hall and those watching on television. But it probably did little to help Republican voters figure out who has the stature and the strength to take on the president in 2012. The debate, sponsored by Fox News, came at a moment when Obama’s approval ratings are spiking because of the successful mission that killed Osama bin Laden, though there has been no movement in the public’s view of his handling of the economy. The bin Laden death changed the equation for Thursday’s debate, forcing the candidates onto foreign policy turf, rather than being able to focus on the economy and government spending…. – WaPo, 5-5-11
  • 5 G.O.P. Hopefuls (Who?) Flock to First Debate of ’12 Race: A quorum may be needed to follow parliamentary procedure, but not to put on a presidential debate. Five Republican contenders presented themselves here Thursday evening at the first debate of the 2012 presidential campaign, a televised session that may have only amplified the fretting among some Republican leaders that the party needs to recruit more candidates to find a credible challenger to President Obama.
    While candidates in presidential debates often need no introduction, the participants who filed onto the stage at the Peace Center for the Performing Arts offered an exception to that rule. There were two former governors, a member of Congress, a former senator and the former chief executive of a chain of pizza restaurants — all of whom round out the lower rung of an unsettled Republican field.
    The chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, sought to allay the worries of party activists who believe Republicans are missing an opportunity to start defining Mr. Obama in their quest to win back the White House. “As we all know, there are numerous other candidates that are looking at it — and thank God,” Mr. Priebus said before the proceedings began. “Quite frankly, I think Americans are sick and tired of two-year, knock-out drag-out contests with a zillion debates and forums.”… – NYT, 5-5-11
  • First GOP presidential debate: Was Pawlenty too ‘Minnesota nice’?: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, considered a top-tier GOP candidate for president, didn’t go after the absent Mitt Romney over health care during a GOP debate Thursday night in South Carolina, but he did condemn the Obama reform…. – CS Monitor, 5-6-11
  • Herman Cain Turns Heads at First Republican Presidential Debate | Hannity: HERMAN CAIN, FORMER RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: The immigration issue in America is not one problem. It’s four problems. It’s securing the border, enforcing the laws that are there, promoting the path to citizenship that we already have. We don’t need a new path. We’ve got to clean up the bureaucracy in the process. And then number four, this is where I believe you empower the states to do what the federal government cannot and is not doing. So, no, Arizona did not go too far. They were simply trying to protect themselves. (END OF VIDEO CLIP)
    SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And that was radio talk show host Herman Cain speaking at tonight’s GOP primary debate. Welcome back to the special post-debate edition of “Hannity.” And joining me now is Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain…. – Fox News, 5-5-11
  • Eyes were on Pawlenty at GOP presidential debate: The reviews are coming in about the first GOP presidential debate of the 2012 election season, and there’s a school of thought that Tim Pawlenty did just fine — all things considered. The debate on Thursday night in South Carolina was just as notable for who was missing as for who did appear in Greenville and got precious face time on Fox News, which sponsored the event. Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor, was among the better-known of the five candidates on the stage, and said going in that he was hoping to introduce himself to a wider audience…. – USA Today, 5-6-11
  • Herman Cain answers Rick Santorum’s slight: Herman Cain’s camp is firing back at Rick Santorum after the former Pennsylvania senator challenged Cain’s electoral viability while on the stump in South Carolina. Slate reported that Santorum, chatting ahead of the question-and-answer portion of an Aiken, S.C. luncheon, challenged the notion that Cain was a viable candidate.
    “He’s never won an election,” Santorum said. “And it’s not that he hasn’t tried. He’s run twice and lost.” Cain spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael, responding to Santorum’s comments, said Republicans shouldn’t attack each other in the run-up to the 2012 primaries.
    “We are disappointed to see Senator Santorum violating President Ronald Reagan’s ‘Eleventh Commandment:’ ‘Thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republicans,’ Carmichael said in a statement emailed to POLITICO Friday night. “As conservatives, our mission should be to beat President Obama in 2012, not beat each other up in the process.”
    “We are certain that President Ronald Reagan would be proud of the man that Herman Cain is and the class act he remains,” she said…. – Politico, 5-6-11
  • Pawlenty Hopes ‘I’m Sorry’ Is Enough: It’s a question every candidate faces: how to deal with political liabilities. Do you face them head-on and try to get them out of the way, or try to work around them in the hope that voters will lose interest? Thursday night, at the first Republican presidential debate, broadcast live on Fox News, Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, decided on the former. The moderator turned the room’s attention to a old radio ad for an environmental group in which Mr. Pawlenty heartily endorses a cap-and-trade policy — practically apostasy in his party.
    “Do we have to?” Mr. Pawlenty said awkwardly. His voice soon echoed through the auditorium, saying, “Cap greenhouse gas pollution now!”
    “I’ve said I was wrong. It was a mistake, and I’m sorry,” Mr. Pawlenty told the Fox television audience, presumably filled with potential Republican primary voters. “You’re going to have a few clunkers in your record, and we all do, and that’s one of mine. I just admit it. I don’t try to duck it, bob it, weave it, try to explain it away. I’m just telling you, I made a mistake.”… – NYT, 5-6-11
  • Cain: ‘American People Are Anxious for Solutions’ | Your World Cavuto With: Neil Cavuto Special Guests | Herman Cain: This is a rush transcript from “Your World,” May 4, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
    NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: Remember, you can watch all five candidates face off in the first presidential primary debate here on Fox News Channel at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow night. My next guest is one of those participating in the debate and what’s at stake in that debate. Herman Cain will be joining us shortly. But think of what Carl just said about who is there, but, more importantly, who is not there, and whether people in that state, Republicans particularly in that state, will feel slighted by those who don’t attend. Well, they needn’t worry with the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, Herman Cain, because he will be there.
    Herman, are you going to make hay of the fact that some of your better-known Republican colleagues are not going to be there?
    HERMAN CAIN, CEO, THE NEW VOICE: Well, Neil, as you know, HermanCain.com is here, as I tell people.
    (LAUGHTER) CAIN: I think that — I think that they’re making a mistake, but, hey, they have to make their own decisions. I wanted to be here primarily because I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, which is what it is, to share my common sense solutions with a very large audience. And I appreciate Fox doing this. And we are happy to be here. And we’re delighted….. – Fox News, 5-4-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Rudy Giuliani: ‘I can probably be talked into’ 2012 run: Rudy Giuliani called for a return to American exceptionalism Friday, telling a group of GOP lawyers gathered in the nation’s capital that Ronald Reagan fundamentally changed how Americans felt about themselves. Before Reagan was elected, Giuliani said, much had been written about America’s decline and how it was a country of “limited possibilities” that had run its course.
    “Sounds familiar, right? There are people who believe that today in America. In fact, some of them are running America,” Giuliani said in a speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association, where he appeared to received the group’s highest honor, the Ed Meese Award. “The idea that we’re either no better than anyone else, we’re just another country with our set of problems or our set of assets, or maybe we’re not even as good as others. Ronald Reagan found that to be totally wrong, not a correct view of this country and he changed in a very short period of times how we felt about ourselves.” “That’s the most important thing a leader does,” he added.
    Ticking off a list of his accomplishments while serving as New York’s mayor, Giuliani said he was most proud of making the city a place where people wanted to live, a factor that later helped New York rebuild following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. “I often think that a New York City with the depressed attitude that we had in the early ’90s would have had a much harder time overcoming as quickly the tremendous damage that was done to us by the attacks of September 11,” he said. “It helped New York City that when we were attacked we were a strong city, a confident city, and optimistic city, a city that believed our best days were ahead of us. So the attack was a temporary interruption of that feeling and the city was able to get back on track very, very quickly.”…. – Politico, 5-8-11
  • 3rd Conn. Democrat announces run for US Senate: A third Democrat has announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. State Rep. William Tong of Stamford said Sunday he wants to prove that Americans have better opportunities than previous generations despite a prevailing belief that the American dream is in jeopardy…. – AP, 5-8-11
  • Iowa GOP donors court NJ’s Christie: Some of Iowa’s top Republican campaign contributors, unhappy with their choices in the developing presidential field, are venturing to New Jersey in hopes they can persuade first-term Gov. Chris Christie to run. The entreaty is the latest sign of dissatisfaction within the GOP over the crop of candidates competing for the chance to run against President Barack Obama in 2012. Bruce Rastetter, an Iowa energy company executive, and a half-dozen other prominent Iowa GOP donors sought the meeting with Christie, the governor’s chief political adviser, Mike DuHaime, told The Associated Press. The get-together is set for the governor’s mansion in Princeton, N.J., on May 31…. – AP, 5-8-11
  • Huntsman addresses his Obama role in SC speech: Republican Jon Huntsman, weighing a White House bid, used his first formal event after stepping down as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China to confront the line on his resume that conservatives were most likely to declare a deal-breaker. In a high-profile speech to the University of South Carolina, the former Utah governor said patriotism should trump partisanship and defended his two years in Beijing as the Democratic administration’s top diplomat.
    “Work to keep America great. Serve her if asked. I was — by a president of a different political party,” Huntsman said, directly addressing the job that his rivals and critics hope to make disqualifier among the conservatives who hold great sway in the nominating process.
    “But in the end, while we might not all be of one party, we are all part of one nation — a nation that needs your generational gift, energy and confidence,” he told graduates, pitching himself as an above-politics figure and appealing to voters who have grown weary of political bickering…. – AP, 5-7-11
  • Largest US labor union poised to back Obama 2012: The nation’s largest labor union is poised to back President Barack Obama in his bid for a second term. The National Education Association represents 3.2 million schoolteachers, administrators and educators. President Dennis Van Roekel (ROH’-kul) says Obama has proven his commitment to funding public education and keeping Social Security and Medicare intact…. – AP, 5-6-11
  • GOP candidates want to see photo of bin Laden body: Several Republican presidential hopefuls want President Barack Obama to release photos that prove U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden during a covert raid in Pakistan, criticizing the Democrat’s decision-making just days after many praised him for getting the world’s most-wanted terrorist.
    Texas Rep. Ron Paul said Thursday that he sides with transparency when there is public doubt. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said “it would have been OK to release the photos.” And former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused Obama of “pussy-footing” on making the photos public. It was a contrast to the initial words of commendation that came from many of Obama’s potential GOP rivals just hours after he announced that American forces had tracked down and shot to death the al-Qaida leader behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • A foreign policy void in GOP 2012 field: The daring nighttime raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan draws a sharp contrast between President Barack Obama and a field of potential Republican challengers who have comparatively scant foreign policy experience. That field includes at least six current or former governors, and three current or former House members. The Senate, an incubator for international affairs expertise, doesn’t have a single member running for president, although one former senator has taken steps toward a run.
    The stunning news of bin Laden’s death has temporarily focused attention on foreign policy over domestic issues, and highlighted the lack of international experience in the prospective GOP field compared with the president, a Democrat who has spent more than two years overseeing two wars and, more recently, military action in Libya…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • A Potential Candidate in No Rush for a Race: Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana called the leisurely pace of the 2012 presidential campaign “a blessing” for voters. Whether he plans to take advantage of it is another question, which he did not answer as he paid a visit here Wednesday. For weeks, the clamor about Mr. Daniels has swelled among Republicans. And for weeks, he has dropped only cursory clues about his intentions, sending mixed signals about whether he was looking for a way out of — or into — the party’s presidential nominating contest…. – NYT, 5-5-11
  • Wasserman Schultz elected chairwoman of the DNC: Democrats have elected Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz as the new chair of the Democratic National Committee. President Barack Obama picked the four-term lawmaker from South Florida last month to succeed former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who is seeking a Senate seat in his home state…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Daniels wants piece of 2012 policy debate: Make no mistake: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels wants a role in the 2012 presidential campaign. Less clear: Whether that means as a candidate or a commentator.
    Daniels, in a brief interview with The Associated Press, said Wednesday he hadn’t envisioned running for president. “It’s certainly not the way I planned to spend the rest of my working life. … On the other hand, there’s my sincere concern about the condition and direction of the country. I promise you this, if I thought the country was in good shape or even reasonable shape, I wouldn’t give this a thought.”
    Daniels said he was “alarmed about where we are. I hope I’m wrong, but I do want to see the nation make decisions that can guarantee a great future as opposed to risk of a serious setback to the American way of life.” Asked whether he considered President Barack Obama beatable in 2012, Daniels said he sometimes tells people “he’s either unbeatable or unelectable. I just don’t know which it is.” “I think there are things that ought to be said and ideas that ought to be presented to the American people. I think there are answers that can assure us a great future but there are dangers that will have a blighted future if we don’t act. I can’t see what would be at the end of a campaign.”
    “If I decide to do it, I’ll just try to be as straight as I can be and persuasive as I can be and hope that at least if it doesn’t work out, public understanding was improved,” Daniels said…. – AP, 5-4-11
  • Santorum, Huntsman take next steps toward run: Republican presidential contenders Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman on Tuesday took steps toward formally joining a still-forming GOP field. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, established a presidential exploratory committee and announced he would participate in Thursday’s debate in South Carolina. Huntsman, a former governor of Utah who last week stepped down as the U.S. ambassador to China, filed paperwork that lets him start building a national profile as he weighs a presidential campaign. Meanwhile, two of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s advisers left her side. Foreign policy hands Randy Scheunemann and Michael Goldfarb — who both worked with Palin when she was Sen. John McCain’s vice presidential pick — stepped aside over the weekend. Peter Schweizer, a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, is set to advise Palin on foreign policy.
    The early moves from potential candidates come as the Republican field is coming together. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is preparing to formally join the race in the coming weeks, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is planning an announcement tour and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has scheduled fundraisers in the coming weeks. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is more seriously considering a bid as polls show him competitive despite laying none of the traditional groundwork for a campaign. And Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is weighing a bid now that his Legislature has completed its session…. – AP, 5-3-11
  • Bin Laden death not changing GOP hopefuls’ plans: Republicans hoping to unseat President Barack Obama say they see al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden’s death as a welcome development but no reason to change political strategy. While Obama almost surely will get a boost in his poll numbers, advisers for the still-forming field of GOP candidates expect that it will be temporary and that voters will select a president based on how the economy recovers — or doesn’t — over the next 18 months.
    “This is a major event. I know I woke up the next morning feeling my children are safer, and that’s a key issue,” said Republican pollster Ed Goeas, who no longer is aligned with a presidential candidate now that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has opted out. “The question is whether voters feel safer economically. The focus will return to that fairly quickly. I don’t know that this affects the bottom line except in the short term.”… – AP, 5-3-11
  • Huntsman sets up federal PAC to raise money: Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, seen as a potential presidential candidate, is taking the first steps toward building a national political profile by setting up a committee that will let him raise money, hire staff and travel around the country…. – AP, 5-3-11

QUOTES

President Obama praises those Americans who carried out the  operation to kill Os
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 5/1/11
  • “We and the Entire Nation Are So Proud Of All Of You”: Mother’s Day with the First Lady and Dr. Biden:
    Dr. Jill Biden: Last summer, I traveled to Iraq with my husband, Joe, to visit our troops during the Fourth of July. I had lunch with several female soldiers, many of whom were mothers. These women were managing all the challenges of parenting — arranging health care, childcare, and education — thousands and thousands of miles away from their homes and loved ones.
    One woman across the table fought back tears as she told me that she was missing out on taking her youngest daughter to college. I was at a loss for words. All I could do at that moment was just reach across that table and grab her hand.
    Michelle and I have both been struck by these women fiercely proud to serve their country and never complaining, but still struggling with some of the everyday challenges we all face in managing a home and a family.
    You here today, and all the women we have met in our travels, are doing your part. The government is working hard to do its part. And each American also has the ability to make a difference in the life of a military family. That’s what our Joining Forces initiative is all about.
    Michelle Obama: We’re joining forces across this country, and we’re calling on all Americans to ask themselves just one simple question: How can I give back to these families who have given me so much?
    We’re joining forces across the federal government, building on over 50 commitments that departments and agencies have made for how they can better serve military families. We’re going to be joining forces with cities and states, encouraging them to adopt policies that will help you all.
    We’re joining forces with organizations like the national PTA and the Military Child Education Coalition, to improve school outreach to military kids. We’re joining forces with businesses and nonprofits, getting commitments from companies like Walmart and Sears to help military spouses find and keep jobs.
    And we’re joining forces with families and communities. We’re urging people to do whatever they can as neighbors, colleagues, and classmates to lend a hand to military families.
    We believe that this is what you deserve from us, because showing our gratitude to those who serve our nation whether it’s on the battlefield or at home, is something that every single American can do. And it’s something that every single American should do. – WH, 5-8-11Transcript
  • Tina Fey as Sarah Palin: “It’s just so great to be back on Fox News, a network that both pays me and shows me the questions ahead of time. And I just hope that tonight, the lamestream media won’t twist my words by repeating them verbatim…. This week we finally vanquished one of the world’s great villains, and I for one am thrilled to say good riddance to Katie Couric.”
  • Former Vice President Dick Cheney: “Well, I think you’ve got to give him a lot of credit for making the decision to have Seal Team Six conduct the raid that got Bin Laden. There is no question that was his responsibility. And I think he handled it well. I give him high marks for it, for making that decision. I still am concerned about the fact that I think a lot of the techniques that we had used to keep the country safe for more than seven years are no longer available. That they’ve been sort of taken off the table, if you will.”
  • Jon M. Huntsman Jr., the former governor of Utah: “Work to keep America great. Serve her, if asked. I was — by a president of a different political party. But in the end, while we might not all be of one party, we are all part of one nation, a nation that needs your generational gift of energy and confidence.”
  • President Obama: There were big chunks of time in which all we were doing was just waiting. And it was the longest 40 minutes of my life with the possible exception of when Sasha got meningitis when she was three months old and I was waiting for the doctor to tell me that she was all right. You think about Black Hawk Down. You think about what happened with the Iranian rescue. And I am very sympathetic to the situation for other presidents where you make a decision, you’re making your best call, your best shot, and something goes wrong.”
  • Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser to Mr. Obama: Divided counsel, people recommending different options…. And I’ve served three presidents, as you know. And you watch the president take this in. He chaired five National Security Council meetings in six weeks. Take all that in, say, I’m not going to make my decision now, I’ll tell you my decision tomorrow, stand up, walk out of the Situation Room, go down that colonnade that you know so well by the Rose Garden to his residence, and make that decision. And this is what we ask of our president. And I think in this case the president was well served by the process, and we’re well served by his decision.”
  • Weekly Address: Clean Energy to Out-Innovate the Rest of the World
    Weekly Address: Clean Energy Will Help Us Out-Compete and Out-Innovate the Rest of the World:

    I’m speaking with you today from the Allison Transmissions plant in Indianapolis, Indiana. I came here because this is a place where American workers are doing some big and impressive things.
    The hybrid technology they manufacture here already powers nearly 4,000 buses all over the world – buses that have already saved 15 million gallons of fuel. Soon, they’ll expand this new technology to trucks as well. That means more vehicles using less oil, and that means jobs – more than 200 new workers at this plant alone.
    That’s important because even as the economy is growing after one of the worst recessions in our history; even as we’ve added more than 2 million new private sector jobs over the past 14 months; I still meet and hear from Americans struggling to get out of their own personal recessions.
    A lot of folks are still looking for work. And many folks who do have jobs are finding that their paychecks aren’t keeping up with the rising costs for everything from tuition to groceries to gas. In fact, in a lot of places across the country, like Indiana, gas is reaching all-time highs.
    So although our economy hasn’t been the focus of the news this week, not a day that goes by that I’m not focused on your jobs, your hopes and your dreams. And that’s why I came here to Allison Transmissions.
    The clean energy jobs at this plant are the jobs of the future – jobs that pay well right here in America. And in the years ahead, it’s clean energy companies like this one that will keep our economy growing, create new jobs, and make sure America remains the most prosperous nation in the world.
    Allison Transmissions is also part of the ultimate solution to high gas prices. We know there are no quick fixes to this problem. In the short term, we’re doing everything we can to boost safe and responsible oil production here at home – in fact, last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003.
    But over the long term, the only way we can avoid being held hostage to the ups and downs of oil prices is if we reduce our dependence on oil. That means investing in clean, alternative sources of energy, like advanced biofuels and natural gas. And that means making cars and trucks and buses that use less oil. Other countries know this, and they’re going all in to invest in clean energy technologies and clean energy jobs. But I don’t want other countries to win the competition for these technologies and these jobs. I want America to win that competition. I want America to win the future.
    Now, I know that in a difficult fiscal climate like the one we’re in, it’s tempting for some to try and cut back our investments in clean energy. And I absolutely agree that the only way we’ll be able to afford the things we need is by cutting the things we don’t and living within our means. But I refuse to cut investments like clean energy that will help us out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world. I refuse to cut investments that are making it possible for plants like this one to grow and add jobs across America.
    We can do this. I don’t just believe that because I see it happening in plants like this. I believe that because I believe in the Americans making it happen in places like this. I’m optimistic about our economic future, because for all the challenges we face, America is still home to the most entrepreneurial, most industrious, most determined people on Earth. There’s nothing we can’t accomplish when we set our minds to it. And that’s what we’ll keep doing as long as I have the privilege of being your President. – WH, 5-7-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • The President & Vice President at Fort Campbell: “Gratitude”: They’re America’s “quiet professionals” — because success demands secrecy. But I will say this. Like all of you, they could have chosen a life of ease. But like you, they volunteered. They chose to serve in a time of war, knowing they could be sent into harm’s way. They trained for years. They’re battle-hardened. They practiced tirelessly for this mission. And when I gave the order, they were ready.
    Now, in recent days, the whole world has learned just how ready they were. These Americans deserve credit for one of the greatest intelligence military operations in our nation’s history. But so does every person who wears America’s uniform, the finest military the world has ever known. (Applause.) And that includes all of you men and women of 101st. (Applause.)
    You have been on the frontlines of this fight for nearly 10 years. You were there in those early days, driving the Taliban from power, pushing al Qaeda out of its safe havens. Over time, as the insurgency grew, you went back for, in some cases, a second time, a third time, a fourth time.
    When the decision was made to go into Iraq, you were there, too, making the longest air assault in history, defeating a vicious insurgency, ultimately giving Iraqis the chance to secure their democracy. And you’ve been at the forefront of our new strategy in Afghanistan.
    Sending you — more of you — into harm’s way is the toughest decision that I’ve made as Commander-in-Chief. I don’t make it lightly. Every time I visit Walter Reed, every time I visit Bethesda, I’m reminded of the wages of war. But I made that decision because I know that this mission was vital to the security of the nation that we all love. – WH, 5-6-11
  • President Obama Welcomes Outstanding Teachers to the White House: But even after all this time, I still remember the special teachers that touched my life. And we all do. We remember the way they challenged us, the way they made us feel, how they pushed us, the encouragement that they gave us, the values that they taught us, the way they helped us to understand the world and analyze it and ask questions. They helped us become the people that we are today.
    For me, one of those people was my fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Mabel Hefty. When I walked into Ms. Hefty’s classroom for the first time, I was a new kid who had been living overseas for a few years, had a funny name nobody could pronounce. But she didn’t let me withdraw into myself. She helped me believe that I had something special to say. She made me feel special. She reinforced the sense of empathy and thoughtfulness that my mother and my grandparents had tried hard to instill in me — and that’s a lesson that I still carry with me as President.
    Ms. Hefty is no longer with us, but I often think about her and how much of a difference she made in my life. And everybody has got a story like that, about that teacher who made the extra effort to shape our lives in important ways…. – WH, 5-3-11Transcript
  • “Together As An American Family”: A Bipartisan Congressional Dinner at the White House: Obviously we’ve all had disagreements and differences in the past. I suspect we’ll have them again in the future. But last night, as Americans learned that the United States had carried out an operation that resulted in the capture and death of Osama bin Laden, we — (applause) — you know, I think we experienced the same sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for, and what we can achieve, that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics.
    I want to again recognize the heroes who carried out this incredibly dangerous mission, as well as all the military and counter-terrorism professionals who made the mission possible. I also want to thank the members of Congress from both parties who have given extraordinary support to our military and our intelligence officials. Without your support, they could not do what they do…. – WH, 5-3-11
  • President Obama Presents Medal of Honor: “We’re Reminded That We Are Fortunate to Have Americans Who Dedicate Their Lives to Protecting Ours”: I think we can all agree this is a good day for America. Our country has kept its commitment to see that justice is done. The world is safer; it is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden.
    Today, we are reminded that, as a nation, there’s nothing we can’t do —- when we put our shoulders to the wheel, when we work together, when we remember the sense of unity that defines us as Americans. And we’ve seen that spirit -— that patriotism -— in the crowds that have gathered, here outside the White House, at Ground Zero in New York, and across the country — people holding candles, waving the flag, singing the National Anthem — people proud to live in the United States of America.
    And we’re reminded that we are fortunate to have Americans who dedicate their lives to protecting ours. They volunteer. They train. They endure separation from their families. They take extraordinary risks so that we can be safe. They get the job done. We may not always know their names. We may not always know their stories. But they are there, every day, on the front lines of freedom, and we are truly blessed. – WH, 5-2-11Transcript

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Michael Bowen: Questions linger after death of Osama bin Laden: For the Obama administration, bin Laden’s death represents a significant foreign policy trophy, if not the only one, said Michael Bowen, a visiting professor in the history department at UF. Other instances, such as the Nuclear Arms Reduction Pact signed by the United States and Russia in April 2010 and promises to lessen troop presence in Iraq, have been muddled in controversy. This episode, he said, represents a unequivocal win. Bowen agrees that jobs, not a dead body, will dominate election discussion.
    “We can kill 100 al-Qaida members, but if our employment is still above 9 percent, then it’s still going to be about the economy,” he said…. – The Independent Florida Alligator, 5-10-11
  • Julian Zelizer: GOP finding it hard to make progress: Republicans struggle to appease the right and appeal to the center, resulting in fits and starts in the party’s agenda. Their retreat on Medicare is a prime example.
    “It is true that they are struggling to unite a big tent. That said, it is a common problem for any majority,” said Princeton University historian Julian Zelizer. While noting the House majority had put Obama on the defensive on spending issues, Zelizer said Medicare had backfired on Republicans…. – LAT, 5-8-11
  • Obama’s ‘Gangster Politics’: The president is about to order companies that do business with the federal government to disclose their political donations…. – WSJ, 5-6-11
  • Tevi Troy Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary Should Bush have gone to ground zero?: Even though President Bush’s efforts in pursuing Bin Laden and the War on Terror earned him the invitation to the ground zero ceremony, Bush is right to stick to his admirable policy of staying out of the limelight. – Arena, Politico, 5-5-11
  • Using History to Mold Ideas on the Right: In an unmarked office building in this ranching town, among thousands of Revolution-era documents and two muskets with bayonets, David Barton might seem like a quirky history buff. But the true ambition of this slender man in cowboy boots is to use America’s past to remake its future, and he has the ear of several would-be presidents. Mr. Barton is a self-taught historian who is described by several conservative presidential aspirants as a valued adviser and a source of historical and biblical justification for their policies. He is so popular that evangelical pastors travel across states to hear his rapid-fire presentations on how the United States was founded as a Christian nation and is on the road to ruin, thanks to secularists and the Supreme Court, or on the lost political power of the clergy…. – NYT, 5-5-11

    First Lady Michelle Obama dances during a Flash Mob Dance at Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, D.C., May 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

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 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
%d bloggers like this: