Political Highlights February 21, 2011: Obama Unveils Budget, Wisconsin Budget Crisis & Unions — Unrest in the Middle East Erupts

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:

West Wing Week

STATS & POLLS

  • Ratings on Obama’s handling of the deficit: In a new Gallup poll – taken before the president released his budget this week – fully 68 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the way the president is handling the federal budget deficit, by far his worst rating of the eight specific issues in the survey. Pitted against the GOP, however, there’s a roughly even split: in a January Washington Post-ABC News poll, 44 percent of Americans said they put more faith in Obama to handle the deficit; about as many said they trust the GOP on the issue. (CBS-NYT and CNN polls in January showed similar divide.)… – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Obama Ratings Continue to Rise in Approval: President Obama’s ratings of approval continue to rise according to a new poll released this week. The approval rating for Obama increase to 51 percent from 50 percent in January, and his disapproval rating similarly slid to 46 percent from 47 percent — part of an upward trend since October’s 43 percent low.
    Contributing to Obama’s positive rating is the fact that the jobless rate dipped to 9 percent in January from 9.4 percent the month before, completing a 0.8 percentage point drop since November that was the biggest two-month decline since 1958…. – Third Age, 2-11-11
  • Obama’s 2012 Budget Proposal: How $3.7 Trillion is Spent: Explore every nook and cranny of President Obama’s budget proposal. – NYT
  • The Budget: Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012 contains the Budget Message of the President, information on the President’s priorities, budget overviews organized by agency, and summary tables.
    To download “Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012” as a single PDF click here (216 pages, 4.1 MB)
  • Breakdown of budget’s big numbers: There are a lot of big numbers being tossed around in Washington these days: a $3.7 trillion budget proposal, $61 billion in cuts, a $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Below is a breakdown of what they represent…. – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Office of Management and Budget: Budget 2012:

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Raouf Mohseni/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Members of Iran’s Parliament clamored on Tuesday for two leaders of the opposition movement, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, to be hanged.

  • Qaddafi’s Son Warns of Civil War as Libyan Protests Widen: A five-day-old uprising in Libya took control of its second-largest city of Benghazi and spread for the first time to the capital of Tripoli late on Sunday as the heir-apparent son of its strongman, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, warned Libyans in a televised speech that their oil-rich country would fall into civil war and even renewed Western “colonization” if they threw off his father’s 40-year-long rule…. – NYT, 2-21-11
  • Clinton: Gadhafi must stop bloodshed: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the violence against anti-government protesters in Libya on Monday and called on the government of Moammar Gadhafi to “stop this unacceptable bloodshed.” Clinton said the world is watching event unfold in Libya “with alarm.”… At least 233 people have been killed so far, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
    “Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed,” Clinton said in what amounted to the toughest denunciation of the crackdown in Libya by the Obama administration yet…. – AP, 2-21-11
  • Libya Death Toll Surges in Crackdown: Libya Regime Fires on Protesters in Capital; Nation Fractures; Diplomats Break Ties… Violent clashes between protesters and security forces snowballed in cities throughout eastern Libya Sunday, as the country’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, struggled to crush an uprising aimed at ending … WSJ, 2-20-11
  • US condemns crackdowns on Mideast protests: A senior U.S. diplomat on Sunday condemned the brutal crackdown on opposition protesters in Libya, saying Arab leaders facing pro-democracy protests need to lead the way rather than resist reform. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Obama administration was “very concerned” about reported armed attacks by Libyan security forces on peaceful protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi.
    “We’ve condemned that violence,” Rice told “Meet the Press” on NBC. “Our view is that in Libya as throughout the region peaceful protests need to be respected.”… – AP, 2-20-11
  • 1 killed as Yemeni police fire on marchers: Antigovernment protesters shouted slogans and raised their shoes in Sana, Yemen, yesterday. It was the 10th day of protests….. – Boston Globe, 2-20-11
  • Bahrain’s gov’t says dialogue begins with opposition: Bahrain’s government says it has begun what it calls a dialogue, with opposition groups demanding reform…. – Xinhuanet, 2-20-11
  • Cycle of Suppression Rises in Libya and Elsewhere: Libyan security forces moved against protesters Saturday in Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city and the epicenter of the most serious challenge to four decades of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s rule, opposition leaders and residents said. The death toll rose to at least 104 people, most of them in Benghazi, Human Rights Watch reported…. – NYT, 2-19-11
  • After 42 years, Libya’s controversial ruler faces new threats: Moammar Gadhafi’s first grab at power occurred 42 years ago in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, when he led a crew of fellow military officers in taking over key government institutions…. – CNN International, 2-19-11
  • Egypt women stand for equality in the square: Women think as differently as they dress here, but they have emerged from the barricades agreeing on one thing: This is their moment in history, and they cannot afford to lose it. During 18 days of demonstrating for freedom and democracy, Egyptian men and women walked into Tahrir Square separate and unequal, divided by gender as they passed through checkpoints. Men were scrutinized by men, and women had their bags and person searched by other women. There were several lines of men to every one for the fewer numbers of women…. – WaPO, 2-19-11
  • Libya, Yemen crack down; Bahrain pulls back tanks: Security forces in Libya and Yemen fired on pro-democracy demonstrators Saturday as the two hard-line regimes struck back against the wave of protests that has already toppled autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia. At least 15 died when police shot into crowds of mourners in Libya’s second-largest city, a hospital official said.
    Even as Bahrain’s king bowed to international pressure and withdrew tanks to allow demonstrators to retake a symbolic square in the capital, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh made clear they plan to stamp out opposition and not be dragged down by the reform movements that have grown in nations from Algeria to Djibouti to Jordan.
    Libyans returned to the street for a fifth straight day of protests against Gadhafi, the most serious uprising in his 42-year reign, despite estimates by human rights groups of 84 deaths in the North African country — with 35 on Friday alone…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Police kill 4 during protests on Yemen’s ‘Friday of Rage’: Antigovernment demonstrators clashed with supporters of Yemen’s longtime ruler and riot police, who fired guns and tear gas to disperse the crowd on what organizers called a nationwide “Friday of rage”…. – Boston Globe, 2-19-11
  • Over 50 injured as troops open fire in Bahrain: Bahraini troops have fired on anti-government demonstrators, just a day after several people were killed when a protest camp was forcibly removed in the capital, Manama…. – Xinhuanet, 2-19-11
  • Bahrain’s king seeks dialogue after another crackdown on protesters: The widened unrest in the Middle East took a more violent turn Friday as US-allied governments in Yemen and Bahrain opened fire on their citizens, prompting Britain and France to announce a halt in arms sales. WaPo, 2-19-11
  • Rights group estimates 84 killed in Libya protests: Libyan security forces have killed 84 people in a harsh crackdown on three days of protests, said the New York- based Human Rights Watch, even as the government shut off Internet in the North African country early on Saturday…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Bahrain opposition plots strategy before talks: Bahrain’s opposition wants the nation’s rulers to guarantee they will back up their conciliatory words with actions, a Shiite leader said Sunday as he and other activists weighed the regime’s offer for talks after nearly a week of protests and deadly clashes that have divided the Gulf nation. The streets in the tiny but strategically important island kingdom were calmer as efforts shifted toward political haggling over demands the monarchy give up its near-absolute control over key policies and positions…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Egypt to allow Iranian vessels through Suez Canal: Egypt has agreed to allow two Iranian naval vessels to transit the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, a military official said Friday, ending several days of confusion over their planned passage, which Israel’s foreign minister has labeled a provocation.
    The movement of Iranian naval ships past Israeli shores is of concern there because Israel considers Iran an existential threat. Those fears stem from Iran’s disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region and its threats to destroy Israel.
    The White House said the U.S. was also closely monitoring the progress of the ships, now in the Red Sea. Their passage comes as the region is being swept by anti-government unrest, including the protests that toppled Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak a week ago and left the military in charge of the country…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Obama condemns violence in Middle East: President Barack Obama on Friday condemned reports of violent reprisals against protesters in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen, and called for government restraint as unrest swept the volatile Middle East in the wake of Egypt’s uprising.
    “I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur,” Obama said. “The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people.”… – 2-18-11
  • Opposition figure says Libya uprisings ignored: TANYA NOLAN: As we’ve mentioned media bans and intermittent phone and internet connections have made it very difficult to verify events unfolding in Libya…. – ABC Online, 2-18-11
  • In Yemen, Arab unrest takes a violent turn: Several thousand Yemeni protesters defied appeals for calm and marched through the capital on Thursday, pressing on with their campaign to oust the country’s president… – WaPo, 2-18-11
  • Bahrain’s Crackdown Wins Neighbors’ Support: WSJ’s Joe Parkinson reports from the midst of ongoing protests in Bahrain in which at least three people have died.
    Bahrain’s military sent tanks and armored personnel carriers into the streets Thursday to extend its control after a government crackdown on protests, while neighboring monarchies of the Persian Gulf endorsed the country’s violent response…. – WSJ, 2-18-11
  • Bahrain Turmoil Poses Fresh Test for White House: Hundreds gathered outside a hospital emergency room in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, on Thursday afternoon to wait for news about the injured…. – NYT, 2-17-11
  • Bahrain Main Opposition Group says 2 Dead in Crackdown: Bahrain’s leading opposition party says at least two protesters were killed early Thursday when riot police stormed the main square of the capital, Manama, driving out thousands of demonstrators who had set up camp, demanding sweeping political change…. – Voice of America, 2-17-11
  • Libya protests: Activists call for ‘day of anger’: Anti-government activists in Libya have been using social networking sites to rally support for protests on what they are describing as a “day of anger”…. – BBC News, 2-17-11
  • Protests Spread to Libya as Unrest Roils Bahrain, Yemen: A Bahraini anti-government protester waves his national flag during a protest calling for regime change at Pearl Square in Manama…. – Bloomberg, 2-16-11
  • Bahrain Takes the Stage With a Raucous ProtestNYT, 2-16-11
  • Obama careful in criticism of Iranian crackdown on protestsWaPo, 2-15-11
  • Iran’s Leader Derides Protests; Lawmakers Urge Death for Opposition Leaders: A day after the largest antigovernment protests in Iran in more than a year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday dismissed opposition attempts to revive mass demonstrations as certain to fail, while members of the Iranian Parliament clamored for the two most prominent leaders of the protest movement to be executed…. – NYT, 2-15-11
  • Tehran Beats Back New Protests: Iranian police used tear gas and electric prods to crack down on the country’s biggest antigovernment protests in at least a year, as demonstrators buoyed by activism across the Middle East returned to the country’s streets… – WSJ, 2-15-11
  • CBS News’ Lara Logan Assaulted During Egypt Protests: CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Separated From Her Crew And Brutally Assaulted on Day Mubarak Stepped Down… – CBS News, 2-15-11
  • ‘Egypt is free’ after Mubarak quits; celebrations continue into the nightCNN, 2-11-11
  • Egypt unrest: Mubarak’s speech leaves nation, world wondering who’s in chargeCNN, 2-10-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Arrested US official is actually CIA contractor: An American jailed in Pakistan for the fatal shooting of two armed men was secretly working for the CIA and scouting a neighborhood when he was arrested, a disclosure likely to further frustrate U.S. government efforts to free the man and strain relations between two countries partnered in a fragile alliance in the war on terror.
    Raymond Allen Davis, 36, had been working as a CIA security contractor and living in a Lahore safe house, according to former and current U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly about the incident…. – AP, 2-21-11
  • G-20 Deal Reached, but Outcome Open to Interpretation: Negotiators from the world’s leading economies haggled all night over seemingly technical details regarding how to measure global economic imbalances. WSJ, 2-20-11
  • National Institute for Civil Discourse to open at University of Arizona: Colleagues pay tribute to wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during the president’s address as the Arizona lawmaker is set to begin the next phase of her recovery at a rehab facility in Houston…. – WaPo, 2-20-11
  • Hot air on both sides in budget deficit debate: When Shakespeare’s Macbeth mentions a tale “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” he could be talking about the US budget process…. – St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2-20-11
  • Obama wades into budget battle in US states: The budget battle embroiling Washington is heating up in US states as newly elected Republican lawmakers move to bust public workers unions and slash services in the face of big deficits. President Barack Obama, who earlier this week threatened to veto the Republican federal budget plan, has also stepped into the fray at the state level as his Democratic party engages in a deeply ideological fight over budget priorities…. – AFP, 2-18-11
  • Obama coaches Sasha’s team, but without Sasha: President Barack Obama stepped in to help coach his younger daughter’s basketball team even when she wasn’t there. White House officials said Obama helped coach 9-year-old Sasha’s team Saturday in suburban Maryland because a regular parent-coach was unable to attend…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Obama: US needs better math, science education: President Barack Obama says improving math and science education is essential to helping the U.S. compete globally, and he wants the private sector to get involved in making it happen. Obama recorded his weekly radio and Internet address during a visit this past week to Intel Corp. outside of Portland, Ore. He praised the company for making a 10-year, $200 million commitment to promote math and science education — and held it up as an example of how corporate America can make money at the same time it builds the country.
    “Companies like Intel are proving that we can compete — that instead of just being a nation that buys what’s made overseas, we can make things in America and sell them around the globe,” Obama said. “Winning this competition depends on the ingenuity and creativity of our private sector. . But it’s also going to depend on what we do as a nation to make America the best place on earth to do business.”… – AP, 2-19-11
  • Obama urges Bahrain’s king to show restraint: President Barack Obama condemned the violence in Bahrain and urged the country’s king in a phone call Friday night to show restraint after a series of bloody protests. Obama discussed the situation with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, asking the king to hold those responsible for the violence accountable. Obama says Bahrain must respect the “universal rights” of its people and embrace “meaningful reform.”… – AP, 2-19-11
  • Obama says companies can help bottom line & nation: Pushing his jobs agenda, President Barack Obama made the case Friday that companies can make money and build up the country at the same time, citing the giant Intel Corp. chip maker as his model of smart investing in education.
    “We know what works. We know how to succeed,” the president told employees here after getting an eye-opening tour of Intel’s manufacturing facility. “We know how to do big things. And all across this nation, in places just like this one, we have students and teachers, local leaders and companies who are working together to make it happen.”… – AP, 2-18-11
  • US vetoes UN resolution on Israeli settlements: The United States vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlements as “illegal” and called for an immediate halt to all settlement building.
    The 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution in Friday’s vote. The Obama administration’s veto is certain to anger Arab countries and Palestinian supporters around the world…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • HI lawmaker: Obama birth certificate bill tabled: A proposal to sell copies of President Barack Obama’s birth records to anyone for $100 is going nowhere in the Hawaii Legislature…. – AP, 2-17-11
  • Obama seeks support from GOP on schools: President Obama is hoping the GOP will help him overhaul the No Child Left Behind law in time for the new school year this fall, but it may prove a tall order for a divided Congress that’s preoccupied with talk of cutting spending…. – Washington Times, 2-17-11
  • New White House press secretary takes stage: Jay Carney the journalist once commented that it’s a “tricky job” to be White House press secretary. “I’m sure I wouldn’t be any good at it,” he told C-SPAN in 2006 when he was Washington bureau … – USA Today, 2-17-11
  • California Supreme Court reenters Proposition 8 fray: The California Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to take up a key question in the fight over Proposition 8 places the court once again at the forefront of the legal battle over same-sex marriage…. – LAT, 2-17-11
  • Obama awards Medal of Freedom to George H.W. Bush, Maya Angelou and 13 others: Presenting the nation’s highest civilian honor is ‘one of the things I most look forward to every year,’ President Obama says…. – LAT, 2-16-11
  • Clinton: How the Internet can save the world: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Internet can allow people to achieve great things, but also do great harm. She says now is the time to discuss what if any rules should be in place concerning the Web…. – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Obama sends Congress $3.73 trillion budget: President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion budget Monday that holds out the prospect of eventually bringing deficits under control through spending cuts and tax increases. But the fiscal blueprint largely ignores his own deficit commission’s plea to slash huge entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
    Obama called his new budget one of “tough choices and sacrifices,” but most of those cuts would be held off until after the end of his first term…. – AP, 2-14-11
  • Obama calls for investments in education, r&d: President Barack Obama says the U.S. must invest in research and development, science, and especially education — or risk seeing the technological breakthroughs of the future happen in some other country. Obama says he wants to focus “like a laser” on improving education. He said the quality of a nation’s education is one of the biggest predictors of a nation’s success…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Madoff: Banks ‘Had to Know’ of Multi-Billion Dollar Fraud: Convicted fraudster Bernard L. Madoff believes banks and hedge funds were complicit in his elaborate multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, The New York Times reported Tuesday…. – AP, 2-16-11
  • Obama budget fails to curb entitlements, GOP says: Republicans yesterday accused President Obama and Democrats in Congress of failing to rein in entitlement programs that make up the bulk of federal spending – but said they weren’t ready to lay out their own proposed cuts to the budget… – Boston Globe, 2-16-11
  • Obama’s Budget Focuses on Path to Rein in Deficit: With President Obama’s release on Monday of a budget for next year and House action this week on a Republican plan for immediate deep spending cuts, the nation is getting its clearest view since the president took office of the parties’ competing visions of the role of government, the urgency of addressing the deficit and the best path to long-term economic success.
    Mr. Obama used his budget for the fiscal year 2012 and beyond to make the case for selectively cutting spending while increasing resources in areas like education and clean energy initiatives that hold the potential for long- term payoffs in economic growth. With this year’s deficit projected to hit a record, $1.6 trillion, he laid out a path for bringing down annual deficits to more sustainable levels over the rest of the decade…. – NYT, 2-15-11
  • Obama budget: Some cuts, not the slashes GOP asks: Putting on the brakes after two years of big spending increases, President Barack Obama unveiled a $3.7 trillion budget plan Monday that would freeze or reduce some safety-net programs for the nation’s poor but turn aside Republican demands for more drastic cuts to shrink the government to where it was before he took office….. – AP, 2-15-11
  • Highlights of Obama’s 2012 spending plan: Obama sends plan to Capitol Hill; goal is to get funding in place by start of 2012 fiscal year… Plan includes a significant increase in education funding… Plan decreases discretionary resources for the Department of Transportation…. It trims funding for African Development and Inter-American Foundations by nearly 20%
    President Obama’s spending plan is just the first step in a process that will involve no less than 40 congressional committees, 24 subcommittees, countless hearings and a number of floor votes in the House and Senate, with the aim of getting funding in place for the federal government by the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year October 1.
    Congress never passed a budget for the current fiscal year, and the government has been running on a “continuing resolution,” which expires March 4. House Republicans have thrown down the gauntlet over cuts to current programs and threaten to shut down the government if they don’t get their way.
    After Obama sends his 2012 plan to Capitol Hill, House and Senate budget committees each pass their own budget resolutions, which set caps on spending and establish revenue targets and generally serve as five- to 10-year blueprints for congressional priorities…. – CNN, 2-14-19
  • Obama budget resurrects rejected tax increases: President Barack Obama’s budget proposal resurrects a series of tax increases on certain corporations and the wealthy that were largely ignored by Congress when Democrats controlled both chambers. Republicans, who now control the House, are signaling they will be even less receptive.
    The plan unveiled Monday includes tax increases for oil, gas and coal producers, investment managers and U.S.- based multinational corporations. The plan would allow Bush-era tax cuts to expire at the end of 2012 for individuals making more than $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000. Wealthy taxpayers would have their itemized deductions limited starting in 2012, including deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes…. – AP, 2-14-11
  • Showtime for House Republican spending cuts: One day after President Barack Obama presented Congress with his $3.7 trillion budget, the focus shifts on Tuesday to Washington’s more immediate spending needs and a controversial spending-cut bill that Republicans hope to pass in the House of Representatives.
    The House legislation, cobbled together by Republicans after weeks of intraparty fighting, would cut about $61 billion from current spending in a bill to fund government activities through the rest of this fiscal year that ends on September 30.
    The spending being proposed would be equal to a 14 percent cut from last year…. – Reuters, 2-15-10
  • House Republicans counter Obama budget plan with much deeper cuts: On Monday, President Obama made his statement about how the government ought to change its spending habits: a gradual plan that minimizes immediate pain by phasing in cuts over a decade.
    Starting Tuesday, House Republicans will move forward with a very different approach, one intended to be viewed as radical and painful. Their proposal deals not with theoretical deficit targets set far in the future but with the final seven months of this year’s budget, a period left in flux by congressional inaction.
    House Republicans want to cut $61 billion from the budget, which would amount to the most significant government contraction since the end of World War II. Decried as “dire” and “disturbing” by Democrats, the plan has become a test for how far Republicans are willing to go in order to deliver on the promise of fiscal austerity that GOP candidates pledged to voters last year.
    “It’s big, and it’s real and it can impact people’s lives,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Monday of the House legislation. “But we have a budget deficit right now of nearly $1.5 trillion. We have a lot of work to do.”… – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Obama budget: $3.7 trillion FY ‘12 blueprint calls for key ‘investments’; red ink surges: Trying to balance the need to rein in deficits with his belief that spending now on education and other priorities will pay off in the long term, President Obama on Monday sent Congress a $3.7 trillion budget blueprint for 2012 that makes some short-term fixes but puts off heavy lifting on Social Security and Medicare.
    The budget acts as an update on the current fiscal year, as well as a plan for the future, and it shows the federal government will run a record $1.645 trillion deficit in 2011, slimming down to $1.101 trillion in 2012 and continuing the red ink for the foreseeable future, though at lower levels.
    After massive spending during his first two years in office, Mr. Obama proposed some tax increases and strategic spending cuts for 2012, such as in low-income energy assistance and student aid. But he also called for boosting spending on transportation and education – needs the president said cannot be sacrificed even in the face of the deficit…. – Washington Times, 2-14-11
  • Obama budget sets up spending fight Proposed cuts too small for GOP’s fiscal hawks: President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion 2012 budget that would boost spending in Michigan on items like education and energy, while cutting things like heating assistance for the poor and Great Lakes cleanup in an effort to bring the federal deficit under control. White House officials said Obama’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins in October would trim the federal deficit by $1.1 trillion over a decade, and produce about a $1.6 trillion budget hole for this year. The plan now goes to Congress, where it’s likely to encounter stiff opposition from Republicans who have said they want deeper cuts and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who will fight for programs and tax breaks benefiting their districts… – The Detroit News, 2-15-11
  • Editorial: The Obama Budget: On paper, President Obama’s new $3.7 trillion budget is encouraging. It makes a number of tough choices to cut the deficit by a projected $1.1 trillion over 10 years, which is enough to prevent an uncontrolled explosion of debt in the next decade and, as a result, reduce the risk of a fiscal crisis.
    The questions are whether its tough choices are also wise choices and whether it stands a chance in a Congress in which Republicans, who now dominate the House, are obsessed with making indiscriminate short-term cuts in programs they never liked anyway. The Republican cuts would eviscerate vital government functions while not having any lasting impact on the deficit.
    What Mr. Obama’s budget is most definitely not is a blueprint for dealing with the real long-term problems that feed the budget deficit: rising health care costs, an aging population and a refusal by lawmakers to face the inescapable need to raise taxes at some point. Rather, it defers those critical issues, in hopes, we assume, that both the economy and the political environment will improve in the future…. – NYT, 2-15-11
  • President Obama’s budget kicks the hard choices further down the road: THE PRESIDENT PUNTED. Having been given the chance, the cover and the push by the fiscal commission he created to take bold steps to raise revenue and curb entitlement spending, President Obama, in his fiscal 2012 budget proposal, chose instead to duck. To duck, and to mask some of the ducking with the sort of budgetary gimmicks he once derided. “The fiscal realities we face require hard choices,” the president said in his budget message. “A decade of deficits, compounded by the effects of the recession and the steps we had to take to break it, as well as the chronic failure to confront difficult decisions, has put us on an unsustainable course.” His budget would keep the country on that course…. – WaPo, 2-15-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • As Republicans See a Mandate on Budget Cuts, Others See Risk: In Congress and in statehouses, Republican lawmakers and governors are claiming a broad mandate from last year’s elections as they embark on an aggressive campaign of cutting government spending taking on public unions. Their agenda echoes in its ambition what President Obama and Democrats tried after winning office in their own electoral wave in 2008…. – NYT, 2-21-11
  • Schumer: In recess, Senate working on budget issue: A leading Democrat says Senate officials are working behind the scenes on a budget proposal to keep the government running. Even with the budget crisis looming, both houses of Congress are in recess this week. But Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York says that lawmakers and aides are poring over the massive budget document passed by the House in the wee hours of Saturday morning. It proposes cutting $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs…. – AP, 2-20-11
  • Memories of 1995 haunt GOP as shutdown talk grows: Few memories haunt Republicans more deeply than the 1995-96 partial shutdown of the federal government, which helped President Bill Clinton reverse his falling fortunes and recast House Republicans as stubborn partisans, not savvy insurgents.
    Now, as Congress careens toward a budget impasse, government insiders wonder if another shutdown is imminent — and whether Republicans again would suffer the most blame. Leaders of both parties say they are determined to avoid a shutdown. But they have not yielded on the amount of spending cuts they will demand or accept. Meanwhile, shutdown talk is rippling through Washington and beyond…. – AP, 2-20-11
  • The Fix: Sen. Jeff Bingaman to retire: New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman is expected to announce his retirement today, according to a source close to the decision, a move that further complicates his party’s efforts to hold their Senate majority in 2012…. – WaPo, 2-18-11
  • NM’s Bingaman becomes 3rd Dem senator to retire: As U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman shook hands of those congratulating him on his years of service, he turned to the crowd and said: “Sure seems like a wake in here, doesn’t it?” The 67-year-old Democrat announced Friday that he would retire after the end of his current term, which ends in two years. The decision was the latest in a string of departures to hit congressional Democrats as they head to the 2012 elections…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • House passes sweeping cuts to domestic programs: Jolted to action by deficit-conscious newcomers, the Republican-controlled House passed sweeping legislation early Saturday to cut $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs and shelter coal companies, oil refiners and farmers from new government regulations. The 235-189 vote to send the bill to the Senate was largely along party lines and defied a veto threat from President Barack Obama. It marked the most striking victory to date for the 87-member class of freshmen Republicans elected last fall on a promise to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government. Three Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • GOP bill pairs budget cuts, regulatory rollbacks: The GOP-controlled House is using a catchall spending bill not just to cut President Barack Obama’s budget but to assault his health care overhaul, global warming policy and efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • House effort to restrict labor wage law fails: The House early Saturday turned back an effort to suspend a Depression-era law that requires federal contractors to pay locally prevailing wage rates. The vote came amid heightened clashes between the two parties over labor rights.
    Lawmakers voted 233-189 against barring spending on Davis-Bacon wage requirements on federal work projects for the remainder of this budget year. The measure was offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, as an amendment to a massive spending bill to keep the government running through Sept. 30…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • GOP newcomers test mandate to shrink government: Asked how long the House would need to finish legislation cutting $61 billion in government spending, the most powerful Republican in the land responded wryly. “I don’t know, I’m only the speaker.” It was a candid acknowledgement from Ohio Rep. John Boehner that the 87 Republican first-term lawmakers who swept the party into power in the House are moving on a path — and at a pace — of their own choosing…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Freshmen spur GOP-run House on big spending cuts: Jolted to action by deficit-conscious newcomers, the Republican-controlled House agreed early Saturday to cut $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs and shelter coal companies, oil refiners and farmers from new government regulations.
    By a 235-189 vote, largely along party lines, the House sent the bill to the Senate, where it faces longer odds, and defied a veto threat from President Barack Obama. Passage of the legislation was the most striking victory to date for the 87 freshman Republicans elected last fall on a promise to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government. Three Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • House votes to block EPA’s global warming power: The Republican-controlled House has voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases that scientists say cause global warming. The 249-177 vote added the regulation ban to a sweeping spending bill that would fund the government through Sept. 30. The restriction is opposed by the Obama administration, which is using its regulatory powers to curb greenhouse gases after global warming legislation collapsed last year. The administration also says the ban would cost thousands of construction jobs…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • US House poised to pass Republican spending cuts: The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives on Thursday was poised to approve deep spending cuts for this year, setting the stage for a battle with the Democratic-run Senate…. – Reuters, 2-18-11
  • House votes to curb regulators, cut spending: The Republican-controlled House voted to shield greenhouse-gas polluters and privately owned colleges from federal regulators on Friday, strengthening the pro-business emphasis of legislation that also would chop $61 billion from government spending. But as a final vote neared on the sweeping measure, newly elected conservatives suffered a rare setback when a split among rank-and-file Republicans sank a move to cut an additional $22 billion.
    “The American people have spoken. They demand that Washington stop its out-of-control spending now, not some time in the future,” declared Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., one of the 87 newly elected Republicans who have moved aggressively to attack federal deficits and reduce government’s reach. In a victory for social conservatives, the House voted 240-185 to block federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who proposed the move, said, “It is morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to fund organizations that provide and promote abortion.”… – AP, 2-18-11
  • Deficit Plan Details Emerge: A bipartisan group of senators is considering legislation that would trigger new taxes and budget cuts if Congress fails to meet a set of mandatory spending targets and other fiscal goals aimed at reducing federal deficits…. – WSJ, 2-17-11
  • House axes funds for jet engine to be built in Lynn: The House rejected funding for a second engine for the Pentagon’s new jet fighter yesterday, dealing a major blow to a program that had promised to create more than 400 jobs at a General Electric plant in Lynn…. – Boston Globe, 2-17-11
  • Brown describes beatings, sexual abuse in childhood: Senator Scott Brown, describing a childhood of family violence and strife, reveals in his new autobiography that he was sexually assaulted as a 10-year-old by a summer camp counselor on Cape Cod…. – Boston Globe, 2-17-11
  • Senate to vote on patent reform after breakReuters, 2-16-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • PAUL KRUGMAN: Wisconsin Power Play: Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.”
    It wasn’t the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn’t mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it…. – NYT, 2-20-11
  • Wis. governor predicts Democrats will return to debate union rights: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose bid to reduce public employees’ collective-bargaining power has triggered public protests, said Sunday that he expects Democrats who oppose his plan to return to the state and debate…. – WaPO, 2-20-11
  • Bachmann defends Wisconsin moves on collective bargaining: US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) at the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, February 10, 2011. Tea Party activist and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann on Saturday defended moves by fellow Republicans in Wisconsin to reduce state union bargaining power…. – Reuters, 2-19-11
  • Thousands surround Capitol in Wisconsin: A state Capitol thrown into chaos swelled for a fifth day Saturday with thousands of protesters, as supporters of Republican efforts to scrap the union rights of state workers added their voices to the debate…. – NewsOK.com, 2-19-11
  • Protests Continue In Wisconsin As Budget Fight Rages: Protests continued Friday at the Wisconsin state Capitol building, as several missing Democratic state senators hold up action on a plan to reduce union bargaining rights of government employees…. – NPR, 2-18-11
  • Wisconsin in near-chaos over anti-union bill: Protestors swarm Wisconsin’s Capitol and Democratic lawmakers flee the state to stall the new Republican governor’s anti-union bill…. – LAT, 2-18-11
  • Wisconsin Public Workers Protest Governor’s ProposalWSJ, 2-17-11
  • Gov. Brown freezes statewide hiring: Before the announcement, he quietly drops a suit to lower California state workers’ checks to the federal minimum wage during a budget impasse…. – LAT, 2-15-11
  • Flake 1st candidate to run for Kyl’s seat: U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake wasted no time Monday in becoming the first official candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that will open in 2012, moving fast to get a jump-start on campaign fundraising and to discourage potential Republican rivals from entering the GOP race.
    Flake, 49, the libertarian-leaning senior Republican member of Arizona’s U.S. House delegation, launched his campaign four days after three-term U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said he would not seek re-election next year.
    The speed of Flake’s entry into the 2012 competition could crowd out some of the other Republicans whose names have been floated, although Flake said he looks forward to “a spirited campaign.”… – The Arizona Republic, 2-14-11

CHICAGO MAYORAL CAMPAIGN

  • Emanuel beats rivals to become next Chicago mayor: Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago on Tuesday, easily overwhelming five rivals to take the helm of the nation’s third-largest city as it prepares to chart a new course without the retiring Richard M. Daley. Emanuel trounced all opponents with 55 percent of the vote — a margin that allowed him to avoid an April runoff. He needed more than 50 percent to win outright.
    It was the city’s first mayoral race in more than 60 years without an incumbent on the ballot and the first in more than two decades without Daley among the candidates. Daley and his father have led Chicago for more than 43 out of the last 56 years.
    Emanuel called the victory “humbling” and said the outgoing mayor had “earned a special place in our hearts and our history.” But he added: “We have not won anything until a kid can go to school thinking of their studies and not their safety. Until the parent of that child is thinking about their work and not where they are going to find work, we have not won anything.”… – AP, 2-22-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • GOP 2012: Do Early Polls Matter?: A look at when potential GOP candidates may announce their candidacy… – Neon Tommy, 2-17-11
  • The idea of President Palin hits a granite wallWaPo, 2-17-11
  • Obama wants to know Kaine’s intentions on Senate race: President Barack Obama told a television interviewer Wednesday that he wants to hear former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s intentions regarding a possible run for Jim Webb’s US Senate seat…. – Richmond Times Dispatch, 2-16-11
  • Twelve for ’12: A Dozen Republicans Who Could Be the Next President: With the GOP’s presidential primary fight fast approaching, TIME takes a look at the prospective contenders to take on Barack Obama…
    Candidates of the Conservatives: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, John Thune, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint… – Time
  • Romney reaches out to business, but isn’t ready to show hand: Mitt Romney sought yesterday to distinguish himself from President Obama, his potential 2012 election opponent, by casting himself as a friend to the nation’s business community…. – Boston Globe, 2-14-11
  • Romney tops Obama in NH poll: In a WMUR Granite State Poll released today, Mitt Romney garnered 49 percent of the vote to 41 percent for the president, who took the state in his 2008 win over Republican John McCain…. – Boston Globe, 2-14-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 2/18/11
  • Weekly Address: To Win the Future, America Must Win the Global Competition in Education: Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery February 19, 2011 Hillsboro, Oregon: I’m speaking to you from just outside Portland, Oregon where I’m visiting Intel, a company that helped pioneer the digital age. I just came from a tour of an assembly line where highly-skilled technicians are building microprocessors that run everything from desktop computers to smartphones.
    But these workers aren’t just manufacturing high-tech computer chips. They’re showing us how America will win the future….
    If we want to win the global competition for new jobs and industries, we’ve got to win the global competition to educate our people. We’ve got to have the best trained, best skilled workforce in the world. That’s how we’ll ensure that the next Intel, the next Google, or the next Microsoft is created in America, and hires American workers.
    This is why, over the past two years, my administration has made education a top priority. We’ve launched a competition called “Race to the Top” – a reform that is lifting academic standards and getting results; not because Washington dictated the answers, but because states and local schools pursued innovative solutions. We’re also making college more affordable for millions of students, and revitalizing our community colleges, so that folks can get the training they need for the careers they want. And as part of this effort, we’ve launched a nationwide initiative to connect graduates that need jobs with businesses that need their skills.
    Intel understands how important these partnerships can be – recognizing that their company’s success depends on a pipeline of skilled people ready to fill high-wage, high-tech jobs. Intel often pays for workers to continue their education at nearby Portland State University. As a result, one out of every fifteen of Intel’s Oregon employees has a degree from Portland State.
    In fact, Intel’s commitment to education begins at an even younger age. The company is providing training to help 100,000 math and science teachers improve their skills in the classroom. And today, I’m also meeting a few students from Oregon who impressed the judges in the high school science and engineering competitions that Intel sponsors across America….
    So these have been a tough few years for our country. And in tough times, it’s natural to question what the future holds. But when you meet young people like Laurie and Yushi, it’s hard not to be inspired. And it’s impossible not to be confident about America.
    We are poised to lead in this new century – and not just because of the good work that large companies like Intel are doing. All across America, there are innovators and entrepreneurs who are trying to start the next Intel, or just get a small business of their own off the ground. I’ll be meeting with some of these men and women next week in Cleveland, to get ideas about what we can do to help their companies grow and create jobs.
    The truth is, we have everything we need to compete: bold entrepreneurs, bright new ideas, and world-class colleges and universities. And, most of all, we have young people just brimming with promise and ready to help us succeed. All we have to do is tap that potential.
    That’s the lesson on display at Intel. And that’s how America will win the future. – WH, 2-19-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • The President Unveils a Budget to Win the Future for Our Kids: And I just came to Parkville on a day where we are unveiling our budget, and I’m doing so for a reason. But before I do that I just want to thank Principal Buddy Parker, who is showing us around, as well as Susan Yoder, the eighth grade science teacher who we just visited with in her classroom.
    Over the last few weeks I’ve traveled the country, talking about what we need to do to win the future; talked about the need to invest in innovation, so that the next big idea is discovered here in the United States of America. I’ve talked about the need to invest in high-speed rail and high-speed Internet, so that companies can move goods and information faster than ever. And this week, I’ll be talking about the need to invest in education -– in places like Parkville -– so that every American is equipped to compete with any worker, anywhere in the world.
    These investments are an essential part of the budget my administration is sending to Congress. Because I’m convinced that if we out-build and out-innovate and out-educate, as well as out-hustle the rest of the world, the jobs and industries of our time will take root here in the United States. Our people will prosper and our country will succeed.
    But I’m also convinced that the only way we can make these investments in our future is if our government starts living within its means, if we start taking responsibility for our deficits. That’s why, when I was sworn in as President, I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term. The budget I’m proposing today meets that pledge -– and puts us on a path to pay for what we spend by the middle of the decade. We do this in part by eliminating waste and cutting whatever spending we can do without.
    As I start — as a start, I’ve called for a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years. This freeze would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, bringing this kind of spending — domestic discretionary spending — to its lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Let me repeat that. Because of our budget, this share of spending will be at its lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower was President. That level of spending is lower than it was under the last three administrations, and it will be lower than it was under Ronald Reagan.
    Now, some of the savings will come through less waste and more efficiency. To take just one example, by getting rid of 14,000 office buildings, lots and government-owned properties we no longer need, we can save taxpayers billions of dollars. And when it comes to programs we do need, we’re making them work better by demanding accountability. Instead of spending first, and asking questions later, we’re rewarding folks inside and outside government who deliver results. And to make sure that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, I’ve pledged to veto any bill that contains earmarks.
    Still, even as we cut waste and inefficiency, this budget freeze will require some tough choices. It will mean cutting things that I care deeply about — for example, community action programs in low-income neighborhoods and towns, and community development block grants that so many of our cities and states rely on. But if we’re going to walk the walk when it comes to fiscal discipline, these kinds of cuts will be necessary…. – WH, 2-14-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Jack Lew: The 2012 Budget: Today, the President sent to Congress his budget for the 2012 fiscal year. This document is built around the simple idea that we have to live within our means so we can invest in the future. Only by making tough choices to both cut spending and deficits and invest in what we need to win the future can we out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world.
    This is the seventh Budget that I have worked on at OMB, and it may be the most difficult. It includes more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction – two-thirds from spending cuts — and puts the nation on a path toward fiscal sustainability so that by the middle of the decade, the government will no longer be adding to our national debt as a share of the economy and will be paying for what it spends – and will be able to sustain that for many years afterwards.
    The President has called this budget a down payment because we will still have work to do to pay down the debt and address our long-term challenges. But it is a necessary and critical step for we cannot start to move toward balance and to cutting into the size of our debt until we first stop adding to it – and that is what this Budget does…. – WH, 2-14-11
  • Barack Obama: “The fiscal realities we face require hard choices. A decade of deficits, compounded by the effects of the recession and the steps we had to take to break it, as well as the chronic failure to confront difficult decisions, has put us on an unsustainable course.”
  • Barack Obama: “As we move to rein in our deficits, we must do so in a way that does not cut back on those investments that have the biggest impact on our economic growth, because the best antidote to a growing deficit is a growing economy. So even as we pursue cuts and savings in the months ahead, we must fund those investments that will help America win the race for the jobs and industries of the future – investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure.”
  • Eric Cantor: This week, the House will consider H.R. 1 – historic legislation that will reduce spending by at least $100 billion over the next seven months. This is the largest spending cut in modern history. These are not easy cuts, but we are finally doing what every American has to do both at home and at work – begin a path towards living within our means.
  • John Boehner: President Obama’s latest budget will destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much, & taxing too much. The American people have made it clear they want Washington’s job-crushing spending binge to end. To help our economy get back to creating jobs, we need to liberate it from the shackles of Big Government and out-of-control spending. H.R. 1, on the House floor this week, will help do this.
  • Mitch McConnell: Senator McConnell comments on the President’s Budget: After two years of failed Stimulus programs and Democrats in Washington competing to outspend each other, we just can’t afford to do all the things the administration wants to do. The President has said he wants us to ‘Win the Future.’ But this budget abdicates the future. It simply spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much.
  • Sarah Palin: The Truth Behind the White House’s Budget Spin: Today the White House finally produced its proposal for the 2012 budget. Beware of the left’s attempt to sell this as “getting tough on the deficit,” because as an analysis from Americans for Tax Reform shows, the White House’s plans are more about raising taxes and growing more government than reducing budget shortfalls.
    The fine print reveals a White House proposal to increase taxes by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. If you want to know how minuscule their proposed $775 million-a-year budget “cuts” really are, please look at this chart. The proposed cuts are so insignificant – less than 1/10 of 1% of this year’s $1.65 trillion budget deficit – that they are essentially invisible on the pie chart. That speaks volumes about today’s budget.
    UPDATE: As J.D. Foster of the Heritage Foundation points out: “…the President proposes a budget that keeps the federal government on a thoroughly irresponsible and unsustainable course.” Please read the Heritage Foundation article and understand the $775 million in proposed cuts noted above are what the White House’s budget director Jacob Lew identified as reflecting what they perceive as some “tough calls.” Yet, as noted, they are a drop in the bucket; and the White House’s total proposed cuts for this year are still not at all enough to make us solvent.

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

Advertisements

June 18, 2009: President Obama & the Financial Overhaul, Health Care Reform and Iran

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Obama change message resonates, poll finds: The Zogby-Scoop44 poll found nearly two-thirds of voters under 30 polled said Obama’s change message has matched his work in the White House, and among those 18-24, 70 percent said they believed this.
    Among voters over 30, slightly more than one in four said they don’t believe Obama’s campaign promises translated into action in office, the poll found. Only 18 percent of those younger than 30 and 5 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds said they shared that view.
    The poll found 43 percent of Republicans said they believe Obama’s actions are in keeping with his promised change. – UPI, 6-19-09
  • Analysis: Deficit could be chink in Obama’s armor: The nonpartisan Pew Research Center reported Thursday that a majority of Americans — 55 percent — are optimistic that Obama will eventually reduce the budget deficit. But that’s a smaller slice than the 61 percent of people who approve of him generally.
    And according to a new New York Times/CBS News poll, 60 percent of Americans don’t believe the president has a strategy for dealing with the deficit. Also, 58 percent in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll want Obama to make controlling the deficit a higher priority than a speedy economic recovery. And, nearly half expressed a “great deal” of concern about the increase of government intervention in American life that Obama has overseen, from taking over companies to influencing corporate bonuses and seeking to add government-sponsored insurance to the health care system…. – AP, 6-19-09
  • ABC News to air Obama interview on health care: ABC News will present a prime-time interview with President Barack Obama on health care issues next week. The special will air June 24 at 10 p.m. Eastern, on two-hour tape delay. Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer will moderate the White House discussion with a live audience, also taking questions submitted by viewers. After a break for local news, the discussion will continue on “Nightline.” That morning, Sawyer will interview Obama for “Good Morning America.” Gibson will anchor that evening’s edition of “World News” from the White House Blue Room…. – AP, 6-15-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Democrats Scramble to Cut Costs From Health Plan: The high cost of securing health insurance for all Americans, the top domestic priority of President Obama, has Congressional Democrats scrambling to scale back their proposals or find ways to trim tens of billions of dollars a year from existing health programs. According to slides presented at a closed-door meeting this week, members of the Senate Finance Committee are debating several new ideas, including “an automatic mechanism” to reduce the growth of Medicare under an expedited procedure like the one used to close military bases…. – NYT, 6-18-09
  • Obama’s Pledge on Donations Faces Reality: When President Obama arrived at the Mandarin Oriental hotel for a fund-raising reception on Thursday night, the new White House rules of political purity were in order: no lobbyists allowed. But at the same downtown hotel on Friday morning, registered lobbyists have not only been invited to attend an issues conference with Democratic leaders, but they have also been asked to come with a $5,000 check in hand if they want to stay in good favor with the party’s House and Senate re-election committees…. – NYT, 6-18-09
  • Republican: Will Sotomayor represent ‘all of us’?: A GOP senator said Thursday he will use hearings on Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court to ask whether she intends to be a justice “for all of us, or just for some of us.”… – AP, 6-18-09
  • Elections in Iran, Illinois? Obama very busy not picking sides: If you ever wondered what Illinois and Iran might have in common, here’s one answer: President Obama is most definitely not picking sides in their elections. So insists the White House. “Our response … on this has been, from the very beginning, consistent,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a briefing Thursday when asked about the post-election turmoil in Iran. “The American people and this government are not going to pick the next leader of Iran,” he said. “That’s something that the Iranians have to do.” – Reuters, 6-18-09
  • Senate skeptical of financial oversight plan: Senators sharply questioned yesterday whether President Obama’s plan to increase oversight of banks and other financial institutions was enough to prevent another economic meltdown. “They’re very angry, and they are worried. And they are wondering who’s looking out for them,” said Senator Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. In testimony before the panel, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner defended the proposal as the nation’s best shot. “It will be very hard, perhaps impossible, for any authority, any individual to anticipate and pre-empt all potential sources of future risk,” Geithner said…. – AP, 6-18-09
  • Senate passes apology for slavery, segregation: The Senate has unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for slavery and racial segregation and sent the measure to the House. Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin first introduced the measure years ago but wanted it passed Thursday on the eve of Juneteenth – a day of celebration commemorating the end of the Civil War and the release of African Americans from slavery. He said the House is to take it up soon and that a formal celebration will be held next month in the Capitol Rotunda…. – AP, 6-18-09
  • Karl Rove: The GOP Can Stop ObamaCare The public is in no mood for drastic changes in current coverage: It’s extremely unlikely that Republicans will be able to pass their own health-care plan in this Congress. But in politics you can’t beat something with nothing, so it is critical that the GOP offers an alternative to President Barack Obama’s government-run monstrosity.
    Americans will listen more closely to Republicans if they make empirical and specific arguments against Mr. Obama’s attempted government takeover of the nation’s health system. But they must also offer proposals that families, small-businesspeople and health-care providers will applaud.
    Fortunately, Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Reps. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Devin Nunes of California have devised a plan that will likely appeal to anyone interested in making health insurance more affordable and portable…. – WSJ, 6-18-09
  • Key Iran Adviser Gains Obama’s Ear: President Barack Obama, facing a mounting political crisis in Iran, is increasingly relying on the counsel of a career diplomat who has been a staunch supporter of tough measures to curtail Tehran’s nuclear program. The emergence of Middle East specialist Dennis Ross as a presidential confidant is being scrutinized in Washington for its potential impact on Mr. Obama’s approach to Tehran, as the nuclear issue and electoral crisis play out…. – WSJ, 6-18-09
  • Obama Under Fire Again From Members of His Own Party: Some Congressional Democrats representing rural America are feeling left out when it comes to the President Obama’s ambitious agenda. The Politico newspaper reports from greenhouse gases and climate legislation, to the closing of hundreds of car dealerships, many within his party aren’t exactly feeling the love from the White House…. – Fox News, 6-17-09
  • Wall Street isn’t buying Obama’s reform plan: Banks and other firms are quick to attack Obama’s consumer-friendly overhaul of financial rules. The stage is set for a legislative battle, with Wall Street turning to allies in Congress…. Reporting from Washington — At its core, President Obama’s overhaul of regulations for the financial industry seeks a fundamental change: Make the federal bureaucracy work for consumers, not just Wall Street. And Wall Street, not surprisingly, doesn’t like it. Striking a populist tone, Obama complained in a White House speech Wednesday that average Americans were often baffled by such intricacies as the terms of credit cards, home loans and other financial products. That confusion helped fuel the subprime mortgage meltdown that sent the U.S. and foreign economies reeling…. – LAT, 6-18-09
  • Aggressive timetable for healthcare reform hits snag: A Senate panel will probably delay debate until July. The GOP accuses Democrats of moving too quickly and failing to find money to cover the costs of the massive overhaul…. – LAT, 6-17-09
  • Hillary Clinton fractures elbow in fall: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fractured her right elbow during a fall Wednesday, her chief of staff said. Clinton was on her way to the White House when she fell and injured her elbow, chief of staff Cheryl Mills said in a statement released late Wednesday…. – AP, 6-17-09
  • 4 ex-senators prepare $1.2T, bipartisan health overhaul plan: Trying to prevent a repeat of the 1990s standoff over health care, four former Senate leaders are preparing a plan that combines ideas from both political parties to guarantee coverage for all. Democrats Tom Daschle and George Mitchell are set to join Republicans Bob Dole and Howard Baker on Wednesday to release a $1.2 trillion proposal that would be fully paid for with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases…. – AP, 6-17-09
  • Strong words on climate change White House report notes apparent effects: Harmful effects from global warming are already here and worsening, warns the first climate report from Barack Obama’s presidency in the strongest language on climate change ever to come out of the White House…. – Boston Globe, 6-16-09
  • Corrected: Obama plan urges review of Fed system: document: The Obama administration’s regulatory reform plan calls for a review of the Federal Reserve System’s structure, which the U.S. Treasury would then consider to propose possible changes, according to a document obtained by Reuters on Tuesday. “We propose a comprehensive review of the ways in which the structure and governance of the Federal Reserve System affect its ability to accomplish its existing and proposed functions,” the document states. It said the review would be led by the central bank’s Washington-based board and would take a look at the governance of the 12 regional Fed banks and their role in financial supervision. The Fed would be called upon to propose recommendations by October 1, the document said…. – Reuters, 6-16-09
  • House passes $106 billion war funding bill: War-funding legislation survived a fierce partisan battle in the House on Tuesday, a major step in providing commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan the money they would need for military operations in the coming months. The $106 billion measure, in addition to about $80 billion for military operations, provides for an array of other spending priorities, including $7.7 billion to respond to the flu pandemic and more than $10 billion in development and security aid for Pakistan and Iraq as well as countries such as Mexico and the nation of Georgia. Democratic leaders pushing the bill on behalf of the Obama administration had to overcome an unusual alliance. Anti-war Democrats opposed continued war spending and Republicans condemned $5 billion in the measure to secure a $108 billion U.S. line of credit to the International Monetary Fund for loans to poor countries…. The vote was 226-202, with only five Republicans voting for the bill and 32 Democrats opposing it…. – AP, 6-16-09
  • Obama Intends to Extend Federal Benefits to Unmarried Partners: President Obama will announce tomorrow that he is extending federal benefits to include unmarried domestic partners of federal workers, including same-sex partners, White House officials said tonight. Obama will sign an executive order implementing the change in the Oval Office, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging the president’s announcement. The move would give partners of federal employees access to health care and financial benefits such as relocation fees for moves. The State Department announced a similar extension of benefits last month, with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling it “the right thing to do.”… – WaPo, 6-15-09
  • Obama Sought to Enlist a Wide Consensus on Finance Rules: President Obama’s plan to reshape financial regulation, which he will unveil on Wednesday, is the product of weeks of meetings among government officials, financial experts, lawmakers, industry executives and lobbyists, many of whom were invited to help the White House draft the proposal. Mr. Obama told reporters on Tuesday that a “lack of oversight” allowed what he called “wild risk-taking.” He said it led to “very dangerous” conditions that imperiled the global economy…. – NYT, 6-16-09
  • John Aloysius Farrell Democrats Win Youth, But Republicans Have a Chance: OK, young voters. Your turn. The “millennial generation” is the subject of today’s analysis, as we continue to sift through the commentary and statistics presented at the joint Brookings Institution/American Enterprise Institute conference on American political demography last Friday…. Once again, the news is bad for the Republican Party. The kids went Democratic. Big time. By 66 to 31 percent. But it is significant that young voters went 2 to 1 for Audacity since they are, of course, the future. And John Kerry also did well with younger voters in 2004, Keeter noted…. – US News & World Report, 6-16-09
  • GOP weakened by demographic, political forces Experts say changing geographic and demographic trends are further endangering an already-beleaguered Republican party: For the past few months, political analysts and demographers have been poring over the results of the 2008 election and comparing them with presidential results from the past two decades. From whatever angle of their approach – age, race, economic status, geography – they have come to a remarkably similar conclusion. Almost all indicators are pressing the Republicans into minority status. Republicans are still capable of winning individual elections, but until they find a way to reverse, or at least minimize, these broader changes in the country, their chances of returning to majority status will be severely reduced…. – CS Monitor, 6-15-09
  • Senate near bipartisan consensus on care reform: The U.S. Senate is near agreement on a broad bipartisan plan to revamp the costly healthcare system, and legislation is very likely to pass, a leading senator said on Monday. Democratic Senator Max Baucus said the powerful Senate Finance Committee he chairs would propose legislation this week, estimating there was an “85 to 90 percent” chance meaningful healthcare reform would be passed in the Senate with bipartisan support. “I’ll get you 85 to 90 percent (chance) — bipartisan — because enough Republican senators want to do the right thing and have spent a lot of time working on it,” the Democrat told Reuters in an interview…. – Reuters, 6-15-09
  • Obama says Italy will take 3 Guantanamo detainees: Italy has agreed to accept three detainees from Guantanamo Bay, President Barack Obama said Monday, as the administration continues its struggle to find homes for the prisoners so the facility can be shut down early next year. Speaking after an Oval Office meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Obama praised the leader for supporting U.S. efforts to close Guantanamo, saying his assistance “is very important to us.”… – AP, 6-15-09
  • Senate GOP launches health care attack: As President Barack Obama tried to sell the American Medical Association today on his health care overhaul, the top Senate Republicans launched a familiar line of attack. They warned of rationed medical care, lack of patient control and government bureaucracy. “The American people will not stand for rationed health care,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said Monday. “We believe that a one size fits all approach is the wrong approach.”… – Reuters, 6-15-09
  • Analysis: GOP word war asserts ‘socialism’: Republicans are honing an attack line against President Barack Obama in an attempt to play on Americans’ fears of government overreach and economic uncertainties, suggesting he is nationalizing American industry and socializing medicine….
    Democrats dismiss it as conservative sloganeering. And Obama is pushing back hard, lashing out on Monday at opponents to his health-care overhaul efforts as using “fear tactics to paint any effort to achieve reform as an attempt to, yes,; socialize medicine.'” “There is a fear of change — a worry that we may lose what works about our health care system while trying to fix what doesn’t,” he told an American Medical Association conference in Chicago…. – AP, 6-15-09
  • Did Netanyahu pass the Obama test?: In the wake of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s major address Sunday, the Obama administration has publicly been emphasizing the positive nature of the message despite it falling short of US demands that Israel halt settlement growth. The focus on the positive move by Netanyahu is being seen as effort to move past public disagreements with Israel to allay Israeli concerns and find a constructive approach that might include compromise on some points.
    “The Netanyahu government took a big step forward yesterday in acknowledging for the first time the need for a two- state solution,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs Monday. “I think the president believes that there is a long way to go and many twists and turns in the road to get there, but is pleased thus far with the progress that’s being made. And I think yesterday’s speech certainly is a big part of that.”
    In his speech, Netanyahu said that “in my vision of peace, in this small land of ours, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect; each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, its own government.” … Jerusalem Post, 6-15-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

  • Bush takes swipes at Obama policies: “I know it’s going to be the private sector that leads this country out of the current economic times we’re in,” the former president said to applause from members of a local business group. “You can spend your money better than the government can spend your money.”…
    “Government does not create wealth. The major role for the government is to create an environment where people take risks to expand the job rate in the United States,” he said to huge cheers….
    “The way I decided to address the problem was twofold: One, use every technique and tool within the law to bring terrorists to justice before they strike again,” he said, adding that the country needs to stay on offense, not defense. On Guantanamo, which while in office Mr. Bush said he wanted to close, the former president was diplomatic.
    “I told you I’m not going to criticize my successor,” he said. “I’ll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don’t believe that — persuasion isn’t going to work. Therapy isn’t going to cause terrorists to change their mind.”…
    “Clearly, there’s a level of frustration on the Iranian streets,” Mr. Bush said. “It looks like it’s not a very fair election.”….
    “I am told, ‘If you do not move strongly, Mr. President, you will be a president overseeing a depression that will ultimately be greater than the Great Depression,'” Mr. Bush said. “I firmly believe it was necessary to put money in our banks to make sure our financial system did not collapse. … I did not want there to be bread lines, to be a great depression.”….
    He said his administration sought to address the “housing bubble” before the system broke down. “We tried to reform” mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, “but couldn’t get it through the vested interests on Capitol Hill.” Still, Mr. Bush was optimistic, pressing, as he did as president, free trade, open markets and the free enterprise system. “We’ll come out of this better than before,” he said to more applause.
    But he was less than convinced about Mr. Obama’s move to overhaul the health care system.
    “There are a lot of ways to remedy the situation without nationalizing health care,” Mr. Bush said. “I worry about encouraging the government to replace the private sector when it comes to providing insurance for health care.”
    Asked by the evening emcee at the 104th annual Manufacturer and Business Association meeting if he finds the new president’s policies “socialist,” Mr. Bush started — then stopped.
    “I hear a lot of those words, but it depends on –” he said, breaking off. He later offered a more diplomatic assessment: “We’ll see.” Washington Times, 6-18-09
  • STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM ON FEDERAL BENEFITS AND NON-DISCRIMINATION, AND SUPPORT OF THE LIEBERMAN-BALDWIN BENEFITS LEGISLATION: I am also proud to announce my support for an important piece of legislation introduced in both Houses of Congress last month — the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009. This legislation will extend to the same-sex partners of Federal employees the same benefits already enjoyed by the opposite-sex spouses of Federal employees. The legislation has a number of co-sponsors in both Houses of Congress, but among those many sponsors, I want to recognize one in particular — Representative Tammy Baldwin, who has been a real leader on this issue, and more broadly on the LGBT struggle for equality. Representative Baldwin, I look forward to working with you to achieve the important objectives set out in this bill as it moves through the legislative process. I also look forward to working with the bill’s Senate champions, Senators Lieberman and Collins; I know that they will approach this process with the same spirit of cooperation in pursuit of our shared goals that they bring to all of their work in the Senate…. – White House, 6-17-09
  • New Foundation, New Stability: There’s always been a tension between those who place their faith in the invisible hand of the marketplace and those who place more trust in the guiding hand of the government — and that tension isn’t a bad thing. It gives rise to healthy debates and creates a dynamism that makes it possible for us to adapt and grow. For we know that markets are not an unalloyed force for either good or for ill. In many ways, our financial system reflects us. In the aggregate of countless independent decisions, we see the potential for creativity — and the potential for abuse. We see the capacity for innovations that make our economy stronger — and for innovations that exploit our economy’s weaknesses.
    We are called upon to put in place those reforms that allow our best qualities to flourish — while keeping those worst traits in check. We’re called upon to recognize that the free market is the most powerful generative force for our prosperity — but it is not a free license to ignore the consequences of our actions.
    This is a difficult time for our nation. But from this period of challenge, we can once again tap those values and ideals that have allowed us to lead the global economy, and will allow us to lead once again. That’s how we’ll help more Americans live their own dreams. That’s why these reforms are so important. And I look forward to working with leaders in Congress and all of you to see these proposals put to work so that we can overcome this crisis and build a lasting foundation for prosperity. – White House, 6-17-09

    <object width=”425″ height=”344″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/CHpnfif8MfI&hl=en&fs=1″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/CHpnfif8MfI&hl=en&fs=1&#8243; type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”344″></embed></object>

(First Lady Michelle Obama hosts the Bancroft Elementary School for the garden harvest of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 16, 2009. Offical White House Photographer Samantha Appleton)

  • REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY AT THE WHITE HOUSE GARDEN HARVEST PARTY First Lady’s Garden: Well, I’ve learned that if it’s fresh and grown locally, it’s probably going to taste better. That’s what I learned. And that’s how I’ve been able to get my children to try different things, and in particular fruits and vegetables. By making this small change in our family’s diet and adding more fresh produce for my family, Barack, the girls, me, we all started to notice over a very short period of time that we felt much better and we had more energy, right? And so I wanted to share this little piece of experience that I had with the rest of the nation, a wider audience, which is what brings us here today.
    This gorgeous and bountiful garden that you saw over there has given us the chance to not just have some fun, which we’ve had a lot of it, but to shed some light on the important — on the important food and nutrition issues that we’re going to need to address as a nation. We have to deal with these issues…. – White House, 6-17-09<object width=”425″ height=”344″><param name=”movie” value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/R1vUBYr0-LE&hl=en&fs=1″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/R1vUBYr0-LE&hl=en&fs=1&#8243; type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”425″ height=”344″></embed></object>
  • United We Serve: The President is announcing United We Serve — a call to action for all Americans to volunteer this summer and be part of building a new foundation for America, one community at a time: Serve.gov White House, 6-17-09
  • Palin accepts Letterman apology, protest goes on: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accepted late-night TV host David Letterman’s apology over a sexually charged joke about her teenage daughter, but it was not enough to stop a protest outside the comedian’s studio on Tuesday. “Of course it’s accepted on behalf of young women, like my daughters, who hope men who ‘joke’ about public displays of sexual exploitation of girls will soon evolve,” Palin said in a statement late on Monday night. “Letterman certainly has the right to ‘joke’ about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction,” she said. On the occasion of a Palin trip to New York, Letterman joked on June 8 that New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez had “knocked up” Palin’s daughter during a family trip to a baseball game. The comedian apologized for the joke on his show broadcast on Monday night…. – Reuters, 6-16-09
  • Obama puts his name behind Dems’ pick for Va. gov.: President Barack Obama plugged his party’s candidate for Virginia governor into his fundraising and organizational pipeline by e-mailing hundreds of thousands of Democrats on Monday. Obama’s political action committee, Organizing for America, blasted out the e-mail in support of R. Creigh Deeds to its vast contact list and Democratic National Committee lists. Obama’s e-mail exhorts his supporters to reprise last year’s efforts for Deeds…. – AP, 6-15-09
  • Cheney: I Hope Panetta Was ‘Misquoted’ in Claiming My Wish for Attack: After the CIA director apparently told The New Yorker that he thinks the former vice president is crossing his fingers for another attack on America, Dick Cheney says he hopes his “old friend” didn’t really say those words….
    “I hope my old friend Leon was misquoted,” Cheney said, in a written statement to FOX News. “The important thing is whether the Obama administration will continue the policies that have kept us safe for the past eight years.”… – Fox News, 6-15-09
  • Berlusconi eyes concrete results for G8 summit: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday, called for concrete results on financial regulation, climate change and trade at next month’s G8 summit of world leaders. “We want this G8 to reach concrete solutions,” Berlusconi told reporters after meeting with Obama at the White House. “We both agreed on the fact that the G8 will certainly not be able to produce this body of rules, but this is going to be just one of the steps leading to that drafting of rules,” Berlusconi said. “There will be then the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, which will work on it, but the hope is to finally reach a body of rules which can be shared by everybody.”
    Obama, who will visit Russia before attending the G8 meeting in Italy, said he hoped nuclear non-proliferation would also be on the group’s agenda. “Prime Minister Berlusconi, who has strong relationships with the Russians, was able to offer some insight in terms of how to approach reductions in nuclear arsenals,” Obama said. “And that hopefully is going to be a topic at the G8 summit, as well.” – Reuters, 6-15-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President signs the memorandum
(President Barack Obama signs an executive order granting Federal employees with same sex partners more
benefits in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 17, 2009.
Offical White House Photographer Lawrence Jackson)

Historians’ Comments

  • Victor Davis Hanson: Understanding Obamaworld: Are you confused by all that has changed since President Barack Obama took office in January? If so, you’re not alone. Perhaps, though, this handy guide to Age of Obama “logic” might be of some assistance…. Once we remember and accept the logic of the above, then almost everything about this Age of Obama begins to make perfect sense. The Union, 6-19-09
  • Morgan State University historian Lawrence A. Peskin: Viewpoint Rewriting the history of America and Islam: President Barack Obama went to Egypt this month to create common ground between America and Islam. In the process, he whitewashed America’s early, troubled history with the Islamic world.In his speech at Cairo University, the president noted that “Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”
    He cited Morocco’s early recognition of American independence in 1778. He also reminded his audience of the U.S.-Tripoli treaty of 1796-97, which denied that the United States bore any “enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity” of Muslims.
    In so doing, the president created a mythic tale of longstanding friendship and understanding on the part of Americans and Islamic North Africans. Although it may have diplomatic uses, this tale has little historical basis.
    President Obama correctly stated that Morocco was the first nation to recognize American independence. However, he omitted the fact that shortly thereafter, Moroccans captured an American ship and its crew to force the United States to sign a pay-for-peace treaty with Morocco’s ruler.
    The payment did stop Morocco from capturing more Americans, but soon its next-door neighbor, Algeria, began capturing American ships. Ultimately it held more than 100 American crew members for ransom, some for a dozen years. Nor did a similar arrangement with Tripoli stop that country from capturing more Americans…. – Baltimore Sun, 6-18-09
  • Julian Zelizer: Congressional Budget Office is threat to health care reform: The most potent threat to the Obama administration’s fledgling health care plan may come not from the insurance industry or skeptical doctors but from the Congressional Budget Office.
    Earlier this week, CBO released preliminary estimates suggesting that the health care proposals — the most ambitious currently under discussion — from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee would cost $1 trillion and trim the number of uninsured by only 16 million.
    With a few more reports like this, CBO could quickly prove more damaging to the administration’s health care efforts than could Republican attacks about “socialized medicine.”… – Politico, 6-18-09
  • Robert Dallek: Obama Seeks Counsel From Ex-Presidents The president has said he wants to reach out to all of his predecessors: Two other former presidents re-entered the spotlight. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush recently held a joint appearance in Toronto. It was a polite affair that generated little news, suggesting that both men are trying to finally put aside their differences, which former presidents tend to do. “They see themselves as part of a distinct club,” says historian Robert Dallek. “The passions fade away, and they tend to come together and consider themselves as elder statesmen.”… – US News & World Report, 6-18-09
  • Donald Ritchie “Biggest Shift in U.S. Health Care Needs 45-Day Sprint”: The packed schedule will be a particular challenge for the slower, more deliberate Senate. Democrats, who control 59 votes, must be able to secure the backing of 60 senators to overcome the possibility of a filibuster. The fast pace also may be an asset, said Senate historian Donald Ritchie. “Sometimes there’s an advantage in setting a short schedule,” Ritchie said. “That gets people responding to the bill, it’s easier to schedule votes, people are more willing to cut a deal and compromise. Leadership around here often gets their best work done here before a recess when everyone has a plane ticket in their pocket.” – Bloomberg, 6-17-09
  • John Steele Gordon “Financial crisis shifts balance toward regulation”: “In theory, regulation and markets should evolve together. In fact, almost always, regulation comes after disasters” and it isn’t always for the better, said John Steele Gordon, an economic historian and author of the book “The Great Game: The Emergence of Wall Street as a World Power.” “Disasters teach us how to prevent the last disaster,” he said…. – AP, 6-17-09
  • Julian Zelizer & Melissa Lerner: Commentary: Obama can succeed in Mideast: At a time when the Obama administration is dealing with a barely stable economy while trying to address long-term health care, two wars, the environment and the threat of terrorism, many ask whether it is wise for President Obama to try to resolve a problem that has frustrated so many presidents before him.
    With the latest events in Iran, there is even more reason for skepticism that progress towards Arab-Israeli peace is possible.
    Despite conventional wisdom, when presidents have become personally active in shaping American policy in the region and resolved to make the Mideast conflict a top priority, they’ve often succeeded in improving Arab-Israeli relations….
    At the same time, Obama will have to work with the Israeli government — without antagonizing it — in order to gain support for a settlement freeze during the negotiations and to push forward Netanyahu’s promise to make progress towards a viable Palestinian state.
    Finally, Obama can’t take his eye off the domestic front. He must continue to engage the domestic coalitions who are most interested in these policies and ensure they are brought into the deliberations.
    The key will be balance. Obama should take this opportunity to embrace a strategy that is truly even-handed and does not let either side avoid its responsibilities. – CNN, 6-16-09
  • Clive Crook: Is this leadership on health care?: Obama’s hands-off approach to health care reform looks ever more questionable. I’m getting tired of listening to speeches that state uncontroversial goals–widen coverage, curb costs, free doctors from useless paperwork, improve medical outcomes–but have little or nothing to say on how these things might actually be done. It’s one thing to refrain from ramming a fully worked-out blueprint down the throat of a skeptical Congress, another entirely to step back altogether from fundamental questions of design and cost recovery…. – The Atlantic, 6-16-09

(The official portrait of the Obama family dog, “Bo,” a Portuguese water dog, on the South Lawn of the White House.  Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

June 15, 2009: President Obama, Healthcare Reform and the Middle East

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President speaks on kids tobacco legislation

(President Barack Obama addresses the media about the passage of the kids tobacco legislation in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 12, 2009.  Official White House Photographer Lawrence Jackson.)

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Crist maintains early lead in Senate race poll: Gov. Charlie Crist, riding a wave of public support even greater than President Obama’s popularity in Florida, posted a big lead in a U.S. Senate campaign poll released Wednesday. The new poll showed Crist leading 54 percent to 23 percent…. – News Press, 6-10-09
  • Poll: Third of Republicans view party unfavorably How Republicans view their party: USA TODAY/Gallup poll of 1,015 adults taken May 29-31. Margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points for the full sample and 6 percentage points for the sub sample. There’s no such dyspepsia among Democrats. Just 4% have an unfavorable view of their party…. – USA Today, 6-9-09
  • Media bias can help GOP: That could be the head-thumping postscript of the 2010 midterm elections. With the media fawning over President Obama and failing to appropriately cover several key Democrat problems, scandals and missteps, a false sense of security for the Democrats is growing. The media, snugly tucked into the Democrats’ back pocket, paint a deceivingly rosy picture of the job Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are doing. The shopworn “conventional wisdom” that the GOP has marginalized itself into near-oblivion is being pedaled daily by cocksure reporters and (other) Democratic operatives. But the emerging true storyline is increasingly becoming diametrically opposed to this myopic view. Last rites for the GOP may be premature. A recent Gallup poll shows Americans overwhelmingly disagree with Obama on closing Guantanamo. Rasmussen reports Republicans and Democrats tied on the generic congressional ballot. Americans have a more favorable opinion of former Vice President Cheney than Pelosi and trust Republicans over Democrats on economic issues. And Reid is down nationally, and in serious trouble in his home state of Nevada…. – The Hill, 6-11-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Obama Open to Reining in Medical Suits: The American Medical Association has long battled Democrats who oppose protecting doctors from malpractice lawsuits. But during a private meeting at the White House last month, association officials said, they found one Democrat willing to entertain the idea: President Obama…. – NYT, 6-15-09
  • Analysis: Netanyahu is steering a course that pleases neither side: Binyamin Netanyahu became prime minister of Israel barely three months ago and already finds himself in an unexpectedly difficult position, torn between mounting US pressure for a Middle East peace deal and the loyalties of his rightwing coalition allies, many of whom oppose a Palestinian state. His key policy speech last night was an effort to navigate the difficult course between the two.
    Netanyahu’s message was mixed. On the one hand, he finally mentioned the prospect of a Palestinian state, although he said that could come only under strict conditions. On the other hand, he refused to meet US demands for a halt to settlement activity and insisted Palestinians must accept Israel as a Jewish state if a deal was to be achieved… – Guardian UK, 6-15-09
  • Obama Will Make His Case for Health-Care Reform Before AMA in Chicago: Opposition Mounts for President Before He Delivers His Health-Care Reform Plan in Chicago Monday…- ABC News, 6-14-09
  • Co-op compromise gives White House a health option: With Republicans fighting the idea of a government-run health insurance plan, Obama administration officials said Sunday that they are open to a compromise: a cooperative program that would expand coverage with taxpayer money but without direct governmental control. Congress begins work this week on putting President Barack Obama’s goal of universal health coverage into law. But some lawmakers are expected to introduce specific plans that run counter to Obama’s political promises. The concessions could be the smoothest way to deliver the bipartisan health care legislation the administration seeks by its self-imposed August deadline, officials said…. – AP, 6-14-09
  • Congress Passes Measure on Tobacco Regulation: The House moved quickly Friday to pass the Senate’s tobacco bill and send it to the White House, where President Obama promised to sign it…. – NYT, 6-12-09
  • Many in Congress Hold Stakes in Health Industry: As President Obama and Congress intensify the push to overhaul health care in the coming week, the political and economic force of that industry is well represented in the financial holdings of many lawmakers and others with a say on the legislation, according to new disclosure forms…. – NYT, 6-14-09
  • Obama on healthcare reform: Mr. Flexible: His idea of a public insurance plan to compete with private ones is meeting resistance. Will the alternative of health insurance ‘cooperatives’ suffice?… – CS Monitor, 6-13-09
  • Sotomayor anecdotes, manner impress senators: Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has bonded with female senators about her childhood love of Nancy Drew mysteries and shared war stories with the Senate’s former prosecutors about her days in the gritty Manhattan district attorney’s office. Slogging through dozens of personal, one-on-one meetings with senators that amount to a high-stakes job interview, she has impressed her questioners with an engaging personality and life story — even those lawmakers with big reservations about her views on the law…. – AP, 6-13-09
  • Could Palin flap be Letterman’s Hugh Grant?: Sarah Palin would no doubt be horrified by the idea, but there’s a chance she could become the same boon to David Letterman’s career that Hugh Grant was to Jay Leno’s…. Letterman did not court last week’s battle with Palin, who called him “perverted” for making a joke about her daughter getting “knocked up” by New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, and he said in retrospect the remark was in poor taste. Palin rebuffed his invitations to appear on the show, but that might not matter. The story had the effect of turning the attention to Letterman at a critical time, during the second week of his new competition with Leno’s replacement, Conan O’Brien…. – AP, 6-13-09
  • US rejects victory claim by Iran’s Ahmadinejad: The U.S. on Saturday refused to accept hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim of a landslide re-election victory in Iran and said it was looking into allegations of election fraud. Any hopes by the Obama administration of gaining a result similar to Lebanon’s recent election, won by a Western-backed moderate coalition, appeared to be in jeopardy. “We are monitoring the situation as it unfolds in Iran, but we, like the rest of the world, are waiting and watching to see what the Iranian people decide,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at a news conference with Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon…. – AP, 6-13-09
  • Administration speeds overseas detainee relocation &l; Obama won’t rule out freeing Gitmo detainees in US: Despite fierce opposition in Congress, the White House insisted Friday it has not ruled out releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States. But with narrowing options, the administration has begun shipping newly cleared inmates abroad to regain momentum in its effort to close the Cuba-based prison camp… – AP, 6-13-09
  • Congress won’t try to keep Guantanamo detainees out of U.S. for now: Congressional negotiators have agreed to drop amendments to a supplemental appropriations bill that would have banned the release of photos depicting alleged detainee abuse and would have restricted bringing Guantanamo detainees to the United States. The agreement on those issues should speed passage of the bill, which provides $79.9 billion for the Pentagon to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another $10.4 billion would go to the State Department and other “international affairs and stabilization” efforts in Pakistan. The agreement came after President Barack Obama wrote a five-paragraph letter promising to fight to prevent disclosure of the photos. The letter noted that an appeals court on Thursday agreed to stay a lower court ruling ordering the photos release so that the Obama administration could appeal to the Supreme Court…. – McClatchy Newspapers, 6-12-09
  • Historic anti-smoking bill aims at stopping teens:No more “light” cigarettes or candy-flavored smokes. Bigger, scarier warning labels. Fewer ads featuring sexy young smokers. Historic anti-smoking legislation sped to final congressional passage on Friday — after a bitter fight lasting nearly a half-century — and lawmakers and the White House quickly declared it would save the lives of thousands of smokers of all ages. Even more important, they said, the measure could keep countless young people from starting in the first place. President Barack Obama, admittedly still struggling with his own nicotine habit, saluted passage of the bill, which he will soon sign. He said, “For over a decade, leaders of both parties have fought to prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children and provide the public with the information they need to understand what a dangerous habit this is.”… – AP, 6-12-09
  • Tax on health benefits may be delayed until 2013: Legislation to be outlined next week in the Senate Finance Committee will likely include a new tax on workers with the costliest employer-provided health coverage, officials said Friday, but with implementation delayed until 2013 to minimize any political fallout. Officials familiar with internal deliberations said the leading option under consideration by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the committee chairman, would mean higher taxes for workers whose family coverage costs $15,000 a year or more in premiums paid by employer and employee combined…. – AP, 6-12-09
  • House vote could send FDA tobacco bill to Obama: Smoking foes see a turning point in their long battle against the tobacco industry as Congress prepares to send President Barack Obama a bill giving the government broad authority to determine how cigarettes will be made, marketed and sold.
    The House was scheduled to vote Friday on legislation, passed just a day before by the Senate, that for the first time would put the Food and Drug Administration in charge of regulating cigarettes and other tobacco products…. – AP, 6-11-09
  • Senate approves FDA regulation of tobacco: The bill, passed in a 79-17 vote, would give the agency control over ingredients in tobacco products and restrict ads…. – LAT, 6-11-09
  • Obama on healthcare bill: Flexibility on details, not results: President Obama urged lawmakers yesterday to work through partisan differences that are threatening healthcare legislation just as it starts moving through Congress. After the White House meeting, key Democrats and Republicans said a compromise may be emerging on one of the biggest disputes – whether to create a government-sponsored health plan to compete with private insurers. The compromise would create nonprofit health cooperatives owned by groups of patients, similar to how electric or other cooperatives operate, and without the government involvement that troubles Republicans and business groups about the public plan…. – Boston Globe, 6-11-09
  • McAuliffe defeat is another blow to Clinton legacy: Terry McAuliffe’s crushing defeat in Virginia’s gubernatorial primary is the latest blow to former President Bill Clinton’s political legacy, still reeling from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s loss to Barack Obama in last year’s Democratic presidential contest. McAuliffe, a longtime fundraiser and close friend of both Clintons, brought money and attention to an off-year election that otherwise would have commanded little notice outside Virginia. Bill Clinton appeared at five rallies across the state for McAuliffe, lent his voice to radio commercials and recorded telephone endorsements to help get out the vote. Clinton also attended a fundraiser at McAuliffe’s northern Virginia home…. – AP, 6-11-09
  • Possible compromise emerges in health care debate: A potential compromise emerged Wednesday on one of the most vexing issues of the health care overhaul debate — whether to create a new government-sponsored health plan to compete with private insurers. The compromise offered by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., would create health care cooperatives owned by groups of residents and small businesses, similar to how electric or other cooperatives operate…. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, said Wednesday the idea could be key to a bipartisan health bill. Baucus raised it in a meeting with President Barack Obama, saying later that Obama showed interest. Baucus’ Republican counterpart, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, also said the concept had potential. “It’s a way to bridge the gap,” Baucus told reporters…. – AP, 6-11-09
  • Top Republican rips Democrats for Sotomayor ‘rush’: Republicans accused Democrats Wednesday of moving too hastily on Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, warning that the decision could imperil her confirmation as they pressed the judge for more documents from her past. The top Senate Republican blasted Democrats’ decision to schedule mid-July hearings for Sotomayor’s confirmation, while another senior GOP senator floated the possibility of a filibuster by angry Republicans against President Barack Obama’s first high court nominee. “They want the shortest timeline in recent memory for someone with the longest judicial record in recent memory,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader. “This violates basic standards of fairness and it prevents senators from carrying out one of their most solemn duties.”… – AP, 6-10-09
  • Some Israelis Insulted By Obama Picture: Israeli TV newscasters Tuesday night interpreted a photo taken Monday in the Oval Office of President Obama talking on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an “insult” to Israel. They saw the incident as somewhat akin to an incident last year, when the Iraqi reporter threw a shoe at President Bush in Baghdad…. Some Israeli newscasters are crying foul over a photo of President Barack Obama, snapped in the Oval Office on Monday as he spoke on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The journalists on Tuesday called the image insulting, since in many parts of the region, it is considered an insult to show someone the sole of your shoe…. – CBS News, 6-10-09
  • Administration seeks ways to tame corporate pay: Talking tough but stepping gently, the Obama administration rejected direct intervention in corporate pay decisions Wednesday even as officials argued that excessive compensation in the private sector contributed to the nation’s financial crisis…. – AP, 6-10-09
  • Latino-Black Rivalry Helped Fuel G.O.P.’s Takeover of State Senate: When two Democratic state senators, Pedro Espada Jr. and Hiram Monserrate, joined Republicans on the Senate floor Monday to kick off their surprise takeover of the chamber, almost every other Democratic senator in the room walked out in anger, shock or disgust…. – NYT, 6-10-09
  • Kennedy’s health care plan gets frosty reception from GOP: Congressional Democrats’ bid to overhaul the nation’s health care system got off to a rocky start Tuesday when Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., introduced his long-awaited plan — only to face furious criticism from even moderate Republicans. Kennedy, whose fight to reshape the health care system spans more than 40 years, would require all Americans to get medical insurance, establish complex new insurance exchanges to facilitate near-universal coverage, and dramatically step up government oversight of the insurance industry…. But reaction to the 615-page bill — written with little GOP involvement — was an ominous preview of the potential for a return to the kind of partisan conflict that sank previous efforts to reshape the troubled medical system…. – LAT, 6-9-09
  • Economic Scene Sea of Red Ink: How It Spread From a Puddle: There are two basic truths about the enormous deficits that the federal government will run in the coming years. The first is that President Obama’s agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying. The second is that Mr. Obama does not have a realistic plan for eliminating the deficit, despite what his advisers have suggested…. – NYT, 6-9-09
  • First Guant namo detainee arrives in U.S.: The Obama administration pressed ahead Tuesday with its plans to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, flying a detainee to New York to face federal trial despite bipartisan opposition in Congress to bringing such prisoners to the United States for trial, resettlement or continued detention. The transfer of Ahmed Ghailani to face capital charges in the 1998 East Africa bombings marked the first time a detainee who is not a U.S. citizen has been brought from the military prison in Cuba to the United States. Ghailani, appearing briefly in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday, pleaded not guilty to multiple charges in connection with the blasts at the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Those attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans…. – WaPo, 6-9-09
  • Minority lawmakers want bill to close health gaps: Black, Latino and Asian lawmakers warned Democratic leaders that any health care overhaul that ignores health gaps between whites and minorities will face stiff opposition. The lawmakers said they would be hard-pressed to support a bill without a new program providing access to health care for all Americans…. – AP, 6-9-09
  • Deeds wins Democratic primary for Va. governor: State Sen. R. Creigh Deeds won Virginia’s three-way Democratic primary for governor Tuesday with shocking ease, defeating a former Clinton White House insider and a former legislative colleague. The victory sets up a Deeds rematch with Republican Bob McDonnell, who beat him in the 2005 attorney general election by 323 votes out of nearly 2 million cast. “I’m a Presbyterian. I believe things happen for a reason,” a jubilant Deeds, surprised at the ease of his victory, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. Deeds had about half the vote with nearly all precincts reporting. His opponents, Terry R. McAuliffe and Brian J. Moran, each had around a quarter of the vote. “The rematch isn’t so important to me,” Deeds said of the race against McDonnell, a conservative with strong ties to Pat Robertson. He was unopposed for the GOP nomination…. – AP, 6-9-09
  • Hearings on Sotomayor Are Set to Begin on July 13: After consulting closely with the White House, Senate Democrats announced Tuesday that hearings on Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court would begin on July 13, infuriating Republicans who said that they had been blind-sided and that the timetable would recklessly short-circuit the review process…. – NYT, 6-9-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President gives the Weekly Address

Political Quotes

  • Biden says ‘everyone guessed wrong’ on jobs number: ice President Joe Biden said Sunday that “everyone guessed wrong” on the impact of the economic stimulus, but he defended the administration’s spending designed to combat rising joblessness. “The bottom line is that jobs are being created that would not have been there before,” Biden said….
    “No one realized how bad the economy was. The projections, in fact, turned out to be worse. But we took the mainstream model as to what we thought — and everyone else thought — the unemployment rate would be,” Biden said….
    “At the time our forecast seemed reasonable. Now, looking back, it was clearly too optimistic,” he told reporters last Monday….
    “Can I claim credit that all of that’s due to the recovery package? No. But it clearly has had an impact,” Biden said. “Everyone guessed wrong at the time the estimate was made about what the state of the economy was at the moment this was passed,” Biden said. Biden appeared Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” from his hometown of Wilmington, Del. – AP, 6-14-09
  • Health care status quo unacceptable: US official: The United States’ unwieldy health care system is “unsustainable,” US health secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned Sunday as she ramped up calls to back President Barack’s Obama health reform plans. “Everybody recognizes the status quo is the enemy. It’s unacceptable, unsustainable,” said Sebelius, who leads the Department of Health and Human Services. “We can’t continue down this path,” she told ABC television….
    “Doctors understand the current system doesn’t work. They’re spending way too much time on paperwork and overhead, and not enough time with patients. Hospitals can’t sustain it,” she said….
    “It’s crushing businesses, it’s crushing families. Our workers are less competitive. We can’t sustain the system that we have right now, so the status quo is not an acceptable alternative,” Sebelius told ABC. – AFP, 6-14-09
  • CIA head says Cheney almost wishing US be attacked: CIA Director Leon Panetta says former Vice President Dick Cheney’s criticism of the Obama administration’s approach to terrorism almost suggests “he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point.” Panetta told The New Yorker for an article in its June 22 issue that Cheney “smells some blood in the water” on the issue of national security….
    Panetta said of Cheney’s remarks: “It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”… – AP, 6-14-09
  • WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Obama Outlines More than $300 Billion in new Medicare and Medicaid Savings: When it comes to the cost of health care, this much is clear: the status quo is unsustainable for families, businesses, and government. America spends nearly 50 percent more per person on health care than any other country. Health care premiums have doubled over the last decade, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs have skyrocketed, and many with preexisting conditions are denied coverage. More and more, Americans are being priced out of the care they need.
    These costs are also hurting business, as some big businesses are at a competitive disadvantage with their foreign counterparts, and some small businesses are forced to cut benefits, drop coverage, or even lay off workers. Meanwhile, Medicare and Medicaid pose one of the greatest threats to our federal deficit, and could leave our children with a mountain of debt that they cannot pay.
    We cannot continue down this path. I do not accept a future where Americans forego health care because they can’t pay for it, and more and more families go without coverage at all. And I don’t accept a future where American business is hurt and our government goes broke. We have a responsibility to act, and to act now. That is why I’m working with Congress to pass reform that lowers costs, improves quality and coverage, and protects consumer health care choices…. – White House, 6-13-09
  • Hospitals oppose Obama’s Medicare, Medicaid cuts: President Barack Obama said Saturday he wants to help pay for his health care overhaul by slowing Medicare and Medicaid spending, but hospitals, medical technicians and others are resisting. The high-stakes struggle over medical care is heating up as Obama declares the status quo unacceptable. The president suggests trimming federal payments to hospitals by about $200 billion over the next 10 years, saying greater efficiencies and broader insurance coverage will justify the change. Hospitals, especially those with many poor patients, say the proposed cuts are unfair and will harm the sick and elderly. Congress ultimately will shape the new laws. Obama is urging lawmakers to be bold and to resist powerful lobbies trying to maintain their clout and profits. “Americans are being priced out of the care they need,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address…. – AP, 6-13-09
  • GOP says Democrats’ climate bill is another tax: Republicans on Saturday slammed a Democratic bill before the House that seeks to address climate change, arguing that it amounts to an energy tax on consumers. In the GOP’s weekly radio and Internet address, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence said Congress should instead open the way for more domestic oil and natural gas production and ease regulatory barriers for building new nuclear power plants. “During these difficult times, the American people don’t want a national energy tax out of Washington, D.C.,” said Pence, the third-ranking House Republican.
    “The Republican energy plan calls for more domestic exploration for oil and natural gas, renewed commitment to clean emission-free nuclear energy, investments in renewable and alternative energy technologies and incentives to spur greater conservation among individuals and businesses,” he said…. – AP, 6-13-09
  • STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE PASSAGE OF THE KIDS TOBACCO LEGISLATION Rose Garden: THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I just wanted to give a quick statement about the kids tobacco legislation that passed the Senate yesterday.
    This bill has obviously been a long time coming. We’ve known for years, even decades, about the harmful, addictive, and often deadly effects of tobacco products. Each year Americans pay nearly $100 billion in added health care costs due to smoking. Each day about a thousand young people under the age of 18 become regular smokers.
    For over a decade, leaders of both parties have fought to prevent tobacco companies from marketing their products to children, and provide the public with the information they need to understand what a dangerous habit this is. And after a decade of opposition, all of us are finally about to achieve the victory with this bill, a bill that truly defines change in Washington.
    I’m proud that the House and the Senate have acted swiftly and in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion to pass this legislation that will protect our kids and improve our public health. Along with legislation to protect credit card owners from unfair rate hikes, homeowners from mortgage fraud and abuse, and taxpayers from wasteful defense spending, this kids tobacco bill would be the fourth piece of bipartisan legislation that I’ve signed into law over the last month that protects the American consumer, and changes the way Washington works and who Washington works for.
    So I look forward to signing it. I want to thank all the people in the House and the Senate for working so hard to pass this bill in a bipartisan way. And I want to give a special shout-out to my legislative director, Phil Schiliro. He and his team have just done an outstanding job. They’ve been working on this for a long time, even before they joined the administration. I’m really proud of them…. – White House, 6-12-09
  • An Answer on Iranian Elections: THE PRESIDENT: We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran. And obviously, after the speech that I made in Cairo, we tried to send a clear message that we think there is the possibility of change. And ultimately, the election is for the Iranians to decide, but just as has been true in Lebanon, what can be true in Iran as well is that you’re seeing people looking at new possibilities. And whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact that there’s been a robust debate hopefully will help advance our ability to engage them in new ways…. – White House, 6-12-09
  • Troops in Iraq hailed by Bush on ‘Colbert Report’: Former President George W. Bush had a hearty message for troops serving in Iraq – and delivered it on a silly TV comedy show. Appearing in a pretaped spot during Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” on Thursday, Bush hailed the military.
    “Your achievements in Iraq have earned you a special place in American history. You are men and women of great courage and endurance – and that’s gonna come in handy,” Bush noted, winding up to zing Stephen Colbert, the blustery “Colbert Report” host: “I’ve sat through Stephen’s stuff before.” Bush said former first lady Laura Bush joined him in the shout-out. – AP, 6-12-09
  • No. 2 House Republican compares Obama to Putin: The No. 2 Republican in the House on Thursday compared President Barack Obama’s plans for the auto industry to the policies of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, saying the White House has stripped credit holders of rights and given them to Democratic allies.
    “They said, ‘Set aside the rule of law, let’s strip secured creditors, bondholders, of their rights. Take them away outside of the bankruptcy process and give them to the political cronies and the auto workers’ unions,” Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s almost like looking at Putin’s Russia,” added Cantor, the GOP’s House whip. “You want to reward your political friends at the expense of the certainty of law?”… – AP, 6-11-09
  • Obama confronts critics on health care overhaul: President Barack Obama challenged Republican critics Thursday to offer alternative plans for overhauling U.S. health care, declaring he’s “happy to steal people’s ideas” but that doing nothing about out-of-reach costs and uninsured Americans is not an option.
    “What else do we say to all those families who spend more on health care than on housing or on food?” Obama said at a town hall-style meeting, surrounded by supportive citizens in the nation’s heartland. “What do we tell those businesses that are choosing between closing their doors and letting their workers go?”….
    “I know there are some who believe that reform is too expensive, but I can assure you that doing nothing will cost us far more in the coming years,” Obama said. “Our deficits will be higher. Our premiums will go up. Our wages will be lower, our jobs will be fewer and our businesses will suffer.”… – AP, 6-11-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN TOWN HALL MEETING ON HEALTH CARE Southwest High School Green Bay, Wisconsin: For the government, the growing cost of Medicare and Medicaid is the biggest threat to our federal deficit, bigger than Social Security, bigger than all the investments that we’ve made so far. So if you’re worried about spending and you’re worried about deficits, you need to be worried about the cost of health care.
    We have the most expensive health care system in the world, bar none. We spend almost 50 percent more per person on health care than the next most expensive nation — 50 percent more. But here’s the thing, Green Bay: We’re not any healthier for it; we don’t necessarily have better outcomes. Even within our own country, there are a lot of the places where we spend less on health care, but actually have higher quality than places where we spend more. And it turns out Green Bay is a good example. Right here in Green Bay, you get more quality out of fewer health care dollars than many other communities across this country. (Applause.) That’s something to be proud of. I want to repeat that: You spend less; you have higher quality here in Green Bay than in many parts of the country. But across the country, spending on health care keeps on going up and up and up — day after day, year after year.
    I know that there are millions of Americans who are happy, who are content with their health care coverage — they like their plan, they value their relationship with their doctor. And no matter how we reform health care, I intend to keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you’ll be able to keep your doctor; if you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan…. – White House, 6-11-09
  • President Obama “On the Holocaust Museum Shooting”: I am shocked and saddened by today’s shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms. No American institution is more important to this effort than the Holocaust Museum, and no act of violence will diminish our determination to honor those who were lost by building a more peaceful and tolerant world. Today, we have lost a courageous security guard who stood watch at this place of solemn remembrance. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends in this painful time…. – White House, 6-10-09
  • Huckabee warns against ‘mushy middle’: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is warning Republicans against moving to the “mushy middle,” arguing that only clearly articulated and conservative policies can bring the party back into power. In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Huckabee mocked suggestions that Republicans moderate their stands and move to the left. He says that sounds like advice from Democrats that would ensure “we’d never win another election, ever.”… – AP, 6-10-09
  • Jon Voight: Obama “Bringing Us To Chaos And Socialism” (VIDEO): Fresh off making headlines for calling President Obama a “false prophet” at a GOP fundraiser, actor Jon Voight appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show Tuesday night to continue pressing his case against Obama. After a quick name-checking of Julius Caesar–as in Obama thinks he is a “soft-spoken Julius Caesar”–Voight got down to business, making the case that Obama is “a fellow who’s bringing us to chaos and socialism.”… – Huffington Post, 6-9-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON “PAY AS YOU GO” East Room: THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you all for joining us here in the White House. Before I begin, I want to comment briefly on the announcement by the Treasury Department with regard to the financial stability plan.
    As you know, through this plan and its predecessor, taxpayer dollars were used to stabilize the financial system at a time of extraordinary stress. And these funds were also meant to be an investment — and they were meant to be temporary. And that’s why this morning’s announcement is important.
    Several financial institutions are set to pay back $68 billion to taxpayers. And while we know that we will not escape the worst financial crisis in decades without some losses to taxpayers, it’s worth noting that in the first round of repayments from these companies the government has actually turned a profit.
    This is not a sign that our troubles are over — far from it. The financial crisis this administration inherited is still creating painful challenges for businesses and families alike. And I think everybody sees it in their own individual districts. But it is a positive sign. We’re seeing an initial return on a few of these investments. We’re restoring funds to the Treasury where they’ll be available to safeguard against continuing risks to financial stability. And as this money is returned, we’ll see our national debt lessened by $68 billion — billions of dollars that this generation will not have to borrow and future generations will not have to repay.
    I’ve said repeatedly that I have no interest in managing the banking system — or, for that matter, running auto companies or other private institutions. So today’s announcement is welcome news to me. But I also want to say the return of these funds does not provide forgiveness for past excesses or permission for future misdeeds. It’s critical that as our country emerges from this period of crisis, that we learn its lessons; that those who seek reward do not take reckless risk; that short-term gains are not pursued without regard for long-term consequences…. – White House, 6-9-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President in Green Bay

Historians’ Comments

  • Victor Davis Hanson “Obama’s history is off”: In his speech last week in Cairo, President Obama proclaimed he was a “student of history.” But despite Mr. Obama’s image as an Ivy League-educated intellectual, he lacks historical competency in both facts and interpretation.
    This first became apparent during the presidential campaign. Mr. Obama proclaimed then that during World War II, his great-uncle had helped liberate Auschwitz and that his grandfather knew fellow American troops who had entered Auschwitz and Treblinka.
    Both are impossible. The Americans didn’t free either Nazi death camp. (Regarding Mr. Obama’s great-uncle’s war experience, the Obama team later said he had meant the camp at Buchenwald.)
    Much of what Mr. Obama said to thousands of Germans during his Victory Column speech in Berlin last summer also was ahistorical. He began, “I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city.” He apparently forgot that for the previous eight years, the official faces of American foreign policy in Germany had been Secretaries of State Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice – both black….
    This list of distortions could be expanded easily. Mr. Obama, in elegant fashion, may casually invoke the means of politically correct history for the higher ends of contemporary reconciliation. But it is a bad habit. Eloquence and good intentions exempt no one from the truth of the past – Mr. Obama included. – The Washington Times, 6-14-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer Commentary: Palin, Gingrich, Romney and 2012: The first hundred days is barely over and the Republican primaries for 2012 have begun.
    Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has announced he won’t seek a third term, immediately stirring speculation that he is preparing to run for president.
    Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been delivering speeches on many key issues, ranging from national security to tax cuts, keeping himself in the public eye.
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Judge Sonia Sotomayor, a “reverse racist.” This is one of many statements that he has been making in recent months to define his agenda and position himself as a leading candidate in the Republican Party. He then backtracked from his original statement which had not played well in the press or politically.
    Since the day that the McCain-Palin campaign closed shop, Gov. Sarah Palin has never stopped running. She has appeared regularly at Republican fundraisers, conventions and speaking events as well as in the media.
    President Obama must govern in a political environment where Republicans are already in full campaign mode. There are many reasons behind the polarization that defines Washington, but the endless campaign is one of the most important….
    Is it possible to break this cycle? In general, the opportunities for reform are limited barring a radical change to our election process that would make our system look more like Europe — where elections are usually shorter, cheaper and publicly funded.
    One potential reform has to come from the media. If the major news outlets devote more attention to policymaking and less to the statements of potential candidates, there will simply be fewer opportunities for people like Romney (or any comparable Democrat when a Republican is in the White House) to run this early. Nobody will be listening. The endless campaign thrives on receiving media attention.
    The second change has to come from government. The White House and Congress must tackle campaign finance reform and attempt to restore some of the system that had been put into place as a result of the Watergate scandal. Only with public finance, enforced contribution limits and possibly expenditure limits would the nation be able to dampen the fundraising pressures on candidates.
    Until these and other steps are taken, presidents will have to govern constantly in a campaign season — as will the opposition party. And the policymaking process — as well as public confidence that government officials have their eye on the public rather than on the ballot box — will suffer as a result. – CNN, 6-9-09
  • Stephen Hess & Julian Zelizer: Analysis: Obama woes no match for other presidents: “This fellow was dealt an incredibly difficult hand, both foreign and domestic,” said Stephen P. Hess, senior follow at the Brookings Institution. “But maybe if you compare him to Lincoln or to FDR, it is not such a mountain to climb.” History shows that other presidents have taken on bigger challenges, according to Hess and other presidential scholars. “On the scale of being confronted with truly major problems on taking office, I think I would have to put it in the top 10 percent,” Hess said. “Lincoln took over on the verge of a civil war that was going to divide the country. Americans were slaughtering Americans. Roosevelt faced the worst depression the United States ever had.”
    Roosevelt did not have a big foreign policy problem early on, said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University…. – AP, 6-9-09
  • Matthew Dallek “The Reassessment of Reagan”: Ronald Reagan is getting a critical re-evaluation — from both left and right — even as regrouping Republicans double down on his legacy in opposing big government…. – NYT, 6-9-09
  • JULIAN E. ZELIZER “Recalling Ronald Reagan at Normandy”: President Ronald Reagan traveled to Normandy in June 1984 to deliver one of his most famous addresses. In a carefully choreographed moment at Pointe du Hoc, adviser Michael Deaver had the president stand in front of a dramatic backdrop where one Army battalion, being commemorated, had launched its attack. “These are the champions who helped free a continent,” Reagan said of the veterans in front of him. “These are the heroes who helped end a war.”….
    In the three years that followed the Normandy speech, Reagan used diplomacy, courted moderate elements among America’s adversaries and made bold moves overseas with the hope of achieving peace without bloodshed. In this respect, Obama’s visit to Normandy, his speech in Cairo and his broader national security agenda are closely connected. As the administration and Congress seek breakthroughs in foreign affairs, they, too, will need to rely on the pen and not just on the sword. – Politico, 6-5-09
  • First President in US History to Have Voted to Filibuster a Supreme Court Nominee Now Hopes for Clean Process: President Obama’s expressed hope today in his weekly address “that we can avoid the political posturing and ideological brinksmanship that has bogged down this (Supreme Court nomination) process, and Congress, in the past” runs against another historical first for the 44th president: his unique role in history as the first US President to have ever voted to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee.
    So while there is little indication Republicans intend to filibuster President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the GOP will likely invoke the President’s unique history whenever he calls their tactics into question…. – Jake Tapper ABC News, 5-30-09

June 4, 2009: President Obama’s Speech to the Muslim World in Cairo & Honoring Ronald Reagan

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • Addressing Muslims, Obama Pushes Mideast Peace: In opening a bold overture to the Islamic world on Thursday, President Obama confronted frictions between Muslims and the West, but he reserved some of his bluntest words for Israel, as he expressed sympathy for the Palestinians and what he called the “daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation.” While Mr. Obama emphasized that America’s bond with Israel was “unbreakable,” he spoke in equally powerful terms of the Palestinian people, describing their plight as “intolerable” after 60 years of statelessness, and twice referring to “Palestine” in a way that put Palestinians on parallel footing with Israelis…. – NYT, 6-5-09
  • Americans Remain Skeptical About Middle East Peace Just 32% think Israel and Arabs will ever live in peace: With President Barack Obama seeking to engage the Arab world with his speech in Cairo, Americans’ confidence that there will ever be peace in the Middle East is at near-record lows. Only 32% of U.S. adults surveyed by USA Today and Gallup in late May believe “there will come a time when Israel and the Arab nations will be able to settle their differences and live in peace”; 66% disagree. – Gallup, 6-4-09
  • Poll Watch: Early Reactions to Sotomayor: Quinnipiac University, Gallup and The Associated Press polls each found Americans support the President’s pick to replace Justice David H. Souter on the Supreme Court. The Quinnipiac poll found 55 percent of voters approve of Judge Sotomayor’s nomination, while 54 percent of Americans surveyed by Gallup and 50 percent of those polled by the AP said they would like to see the Senate confirm the nomination when they hold hearings sometime this summer. Judge Sotomayor, who would be the third woman and the first Hispanic justice to serve on the Supreme Court, enjoys strong support from several groups of voters in particular — blacks (85 percent), Democrats (80 percent), women (60 percent) and Hispanics (58 percent), according to the Quinnipiac poll. White evangelical Christians, however, oppose the nomination 41 to 35 percent…. – NYT, 6-4-09

THE HEADLINES….

nancy reagan photoDoug Mills/The New York Times Nancy Reagan wiped tears away as a statue of former President Reagan was installed in the Capitol Building on Wednesday. Among the Congressional lawmakers joining the first lady were Representative John A. Boehner, House Republican leader from Ohio; Senator Harry Reid, Senate majority leader from Nevada; Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican leader from Kentucky.

The Headlines…

  • In Buchenwald, Obama to target Holocaust denial: In a solemn rendezvous with history, President Barack Obama will visit a scene of the 20th century’s great European horror to make an urgent point about the fear that still stalks its survivors. After meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in this city crushed by allied bombing in World War II, Obama was to fly by helicopter Friday to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where an estimated 56,000 people perished. Most were Jews — worked to death, shot or hanged by Nazi guards. The visit comes on the eve of commemorations in France of the 65th anniversary of the Allies’ D-Day invasion — and the day after Obama’s long-awaited speech to the Muslim world seeking a fresh start in relations with America…. 0 AP, 6-5-09
  • Expectation mounts ahead of Obamas’ Paris weekend: Not since the Kennedy era has an American first lady — and in tow, her presidential husband — been so eagerly awaited in Paris. Officials on both sides of the Atlantic were short on specifics about the American first couple’s upcoming weekend in the City of Light. The White House has only spoken openly about the D-Day commemorations in Normandy…. – AP, 6-4-09
  • Obama seeks common cause with Muslim world: Invoking the Quran and his rarely used middle name, Barack Hussein Obama declared Thursday that America has a common cause with Islam and never will be at war with the faith — an overture intently watched by the Muslim world and welcomed in unlikely quarters. An Iranian cleric called the president’s speech “an initial step for removing misconceptions.”
    Obama spoke at a seat of Islamic learning, his 55-minute address suffused with respect for touchstones of the religion. He said the time had come to “speak the truth” and “seek a new beginning.”
    “America and Islam are not exclusive,” he said, “and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”… – AP, 6-4-09
  • Do Obama’s words reveal his Middle East sympathies?: A close examination of the speech underscores how Obama, four months into his presidency, is still introducing himself — and what he stands for — to Americans and the world….
    But now, with Thursday’s speech in Cairo, Obama is laying bare more of his sympathies and inclinations in the volatile area of Middle East politics. Obama spoke, for example, of Palestinian “resistance” — a word that can cast Israel as an illegitimate occupier. He drew parallels between Palestinians and the struggles of black Americans in slavery and of black South Africans during apartheid. Both references made some allies of Israel uneasy. Moreover, in his defense of Israel’s legitimacy, Obama cited the Holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitism, but not the belief of some Jews that their claim to the land is rooted in the Bible and reaches back thousands of years…. – LAT, 6-5-09
  • World Reaction Mixed On Obama’s Cairo Speech: President Obama’s much anticipated speech to Muslims was watched by people of all faiths around the world. The reaction ranges from praises for a new beginning in Muslim-American relations to skepticism about setting words to action. From the Gaza Strip to Kabul to Washington, D.C., the world held its breath as President Obama made his historic speech to the Muslim world. “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” he said…. – VOA, 6-4-09
  • Analysis: Obama’s Islam success depends on Israel: President Barack Obama’s speech to Muslims also had a huge and attentive Jewish audience, attuned to any suggestion that he might soften U.S. support for Israel or make nice with Iran at the expense of the Jewish state. His careful words illustrate the constraints posed by Obama’s political obligations as he tries to reinvigorate America’s honest- broker status in the Islamic world…..
    An Israeli government statement issued after Obama spoke ignored his calls for a settlement freeze and the creation of an independent Palestinian state — demands that the hawkish Netanyahu continues to reject. “We share President Obama’s hope that the American effort heralds the beginning of a new era that will bring about an end to the conflict,” the statement said, noting that Israel’s security must be guaranteed. – AP, 6-4-09
  • Many Muslims Praise Tone of Speech, but Call for Action: Mr. Obama won over many Muslims for delivering what many viewed as a respectful address — peppered with the moral message Muslims receive at weekly homilies and the straightforward talk they rarely get from their own leadership. Muslims in the Middle East and beyond praised U.S. President Barack Obama for the tone of his speech Thursday, but they had more of a mixed reaction to the substance of the address. “The Holy Quran tells us, ‘Be conscious of God and speak always the truth,’ ” said Mr. Obama, quoting the Muslim holy book in his hour-long speech at Cairo University. “That is what I will try to do.”… – WSJ, 6-4-09
  • Varying Responses to Speech in Mideast Highlight Divisions: On one level, President Obama’s speech succeeded in reaching out to Muslims across the Middle East, winning widespread praise for his respectful approach, his quotations from the Koran and his forthright references to highly fraught political conflicts. But Mr. Obama’s calibrated remarks also asked listeners in a region shaken by hatred to take two steps that have long been anathema: forgetting the past and understanding an opposing view. For a president who proclaimed a goal of asking people to listen to uncomfortable truths, it was clear that parts of his speech resonated deeply with his intended audience and others fell on deaf ears, in Israel as well as the Muslim world…. – NYT, 6-4-09
  • Gender and heritage a frequent topic for Sotomayor: Sonia Sotomayor told the Senate on Thursday that the White House never questioned her about cases or issues she might have to decide as a Supreme Court justice, a disclosure gleaned from reams of documents that reveal she has spoken repeatedly about how her gender and Latina heritage affect her judging…. – AP, 6-4-09
  • Speeches Show Judge’s Steady Focus on Diversity and Struggle: In speech after speech over the years, Judge Sonia Sotomayor has returned to the themes of diversity, struggle, heritage and alienation that have both powered and complicated her nomination to the Supreme Court…. – NYT, 6-5-09
  • Democrats may add car vouchers to war fund bill: U.S. congressional Democrats are considering fast-tracking legislation to boost auto sales by offering Americans vouchers to trade in older, less fuel-efficient vehicles for ones that get better mileage, a congressional aide said on Thursday. The legislation, known as “cash for clunkers,” would be added to a pending war funding measure in Congress, but “no final decisions have been made” despite wide support for the voucher program, said Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi…. – Reuters, 6-4-09
  • Rival Messages as Obama Lands in the Mideast: Aiming to repair the American relationship with the Muslim world, President Obama was greeted on Wednesday with reminders of the vast gulfs his Cairo speech must bridge, as voices as disparate as Al Qaeda’s and the Israeli government’s competed to shape how Mr. Obama’s message would be heard…. – NYT, 6-3-09
  • Israelis Say Bush Agreed to West Bank Growth: Senior Israeli officials accused President Obama on Wednesday of failing to acknowledge what they called clear understandings with the Bush administration that allowed Israel to build West Bank settlement housing within certain guidelines while still publicly claiming to honor a settlement “freeze.” The complaint was the latest in a growing rift between the Obama administration and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how to move forward to achieve peace in the Middle East. Mr. Obama was in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and is scheduled to address the Muslim world from Cairo on Thursday…. – NYT, 6-3-09
  • First lady Michelle Obama joins push for Sotomayor: The White House dispatched first lady Michelle Obama to defend Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday, part of a broad offensive to humanize the judge that came as former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich backed off his harsh criticism of her as a racist. Mrs. Obama told students at a high school graduation that Sotomayor is “more than ready” to be a justice and compared the judge’s life story of humble beginnings and high achievement to the paths taken by her husband and herself…. – AP, 6-3-09
  • Public plan threatens bipartisan health deal: President Barack Obama’s hopes for a bipartisan health deal seemed in jeopardy Thursday as GOP senators protested his renewed support for a new public health insurance plan, and a key Democratic chairman declared that such a plan would likely be in the Senate’s bill. A public plan that would compete with private insurers is opposed by nearly all Republicans. Obama long has supported it, but he had avoided going into detail about his health goals, leaving the specifics to Congress and emphasizing hopes for a bipartisan bill…. – AP, 6-4-09
  • Sotomayor’s Talk Made No Waves in ’01: For an event that has emerged as one of the biggest issues in the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice, the speech Judge Sonia Sotomayor delivered in 2001 generated little notice at the time from the audience at a symposium on Latinos and the law. Ms. Sotomayor’s comment that she hoped a “wise Latina” would usually reach a better judicial conclusion than a white male has prompted cries of racism from her detractors and calls from Republican senators for an explanation. To critics like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), Ms. Sotomayor was clearly saying that members of one ethnic group make better judges than those of another…. – WSJ, 6-3-09
  • Obama outlines health care plan for all: President Barack Obama, providing the first real details on how he wants to reshape the nation’s health care system, urged Congress on Wednesday toward a sweeping overhaul that would allow Americans to buy into a government insurance plan. In a letter to two senators leading the health care debate, Obama also moved toward accepting a requirement for every American to buy health insurance, as long as the plan provides a “hardship waiver” to exempt poor people from having to pay…. “The plans you are discussing embody my core belief that Americans should have better choices for health insurance, building on the principle that if they like the coverage they have now, they can keep it, while seeing their costs lowered as our reforms take hold,” Obama wrote…. – AP, 6-3-09
  • Obama Names a Republican to Lead the Humanities Endowment: President Obama intends to nominate Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa who is now a professor at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the White House said on Wednesday. “I am confident that with Jim as its head, the National Endowment for the Humanities will continue on its vital mission of supporting the humanities and giving the American public access to the rich resources of our culture,” Mr. Obama said in a statement…. – NYT, 6-3-09
  • Dems use war funding bill for more GI benefits: Congressional Democrats are using an approximately $100 billion war funding bill to give recently expanded GI Bill education benefits to the children of military service members who die while on active duty. The provision, pressed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Texas, would give GI Bill benefits — which were greatly expanded last year — to each child of a service member killed in action or while on active duty, instead of a single family member as permitted under current rules…. – AP, 6-3-09
  • Nancy Reagan on hand as statue of President Reagan unveiled in D.C: Former First Lady Nancy Reagan held back tears Wednesday as she helped to unveil and then gently caressed a 7-foot bronze statue of her “Ronnie” that went on display at the Capitol. The statue in the Capitol’s soaring Rotunda, where the late President Ronald Reagan lay in state after his death at age 93 in 2004, was “a wonderful likeness of Ronnie and he would be so proud,” said Nancy Reagan, who will be 88 next month. “The last time we were in this room was for Ronnie’s service,” Reagan said. “So it’s nice to be back under happier circumstances.” – NY Daily News, 6-3-09
  • Nancy Reagan Joins Mrs. Obama for Lunch: Michelle Obama and Nancy Reagan will meet for the first time on Wednesday over lunch at the White House, an Obama administration official said… – NYT, 6-2-09
  • Obama Urges Quick Action by Senators on Insurance: President Obama on Tuesday affirmed his support for the creation of a government-sponsored health insurance plan, but he acknowledged that such a plan would sharply reduce the chances for Republican support of legislation to overhaul the health care system, Democratic senators said…. – NYT, 6-2-09
  • Sotomayor counters GOP critics over bias claims: Judge Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday countered Republican charges that she would let her background dictate her rulings as Americans signaled a favorable first impression of President Barack Obama’s first Supreme Court choice. A new Associated Press-GfK poll suggested that Americans have a more positive view of her than they did of any of former President George W. Bush’s nominees to the high court. Half backed her confirmation…. – AP, 6-2-09
  • Nancy Reagan and Obama Kiss and Make Up: It was a kiss and make up session at the White House Tuesday, with President Obama towering over former First Lady Nancy Reagan as he signed a proclamation establishing the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission. The commission is supposed to organize activities to mark the 100th anniversary, in 2011, of President Reagan’s birth. But enough about that; today’s White House event was also a chance for Mr. Obama to make up with Mrs. Reagan, whom he famously — and inexplicably — dissed back in November during the transition…. – NYT, 6-2-09
  • Pres. Obama holds surprise meeting with Ehud Barak: United States President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance yesterday at a meeting Defense Minister Ehud Barak was holding in Washington, shortly before the U.S. leader was set to leave on a five-day trip to the Middle East. Obama spoke for about 15 minutes with Barak, who was meeting with National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones at the time. While Obama’s official schedule did not include a meeting with Barak, he has in the past dropped into other officials’ meetings with international figures. Obama intends to give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu four to six weeks to provide an “updated position” regarding construction in the settlements and the two-state principle…. – Haaretz, 6-2-09
  • Minnesota Gov Pawlenty says won’t seek third term: Republican Tim Pawlenty said on Tuesday he would not seek a third term as Minnesota’s governor but deflected questions about whether he would run for U.S. president in 2012. “I’m not ruling anything in or out,” the 48-year-old Pawlenty told reporters in Minnesota, adding he planned to offer his party new ideas. “I have 19 months left in my term — this is not a wake,” Pawlenty said, joking that he planned to tend to his lawn…. – Reuters, 6-2-09
  • Obama: Nationalization of GM to be short-term: In a defining moment for American capitalism, President Barack Obama ushered General Motors Corp. into bankruptcy protection Monday and put the government behind the wheel of the company that once symbolized the nation’s economic muscle. The fallen giant, the largest U.S. industrial company ever to enter bankruptcy, is shedding some 21,000 jobs and 2,600 dealers. Sparing few communities, the retrenchment amounts to one-third of its U.S. work force and 40 percent of its dealerships…. – AP, 6-1-09
  • Analysis: Gov’t firmly behind the wheel at GM: President Barack Obama now owns General Motors, even though he insists he’s taking it out only for a spin. Hours after the government sent GM into court Monday to file for Chapter 11 protection, Obama declared, “What I have no interest in doing is running GM.” But with a 60 percent equity stake in the carmaker and $50 billion in taxpayer money riding on GM’s success, the federal government is far from a hands-off investor…. – AP, 6-1-09
  • Ex-US Rep formally announces run for Ohio governor: Former Ohio Congressman John Kasich kicked off his campaign for governor Monday, saying he would eventually eliminate the state’s income tax while Democrats leveled a pre-emptive strike to tie him to Wall Street greed and irresponsibility…. – AP, 6-1-09
  • Judge: Gitmo legal documents must be public: A federal judge ordered the United States on Monday to publicly reveal unclassified versions of its allegations and evidence justifying the continued imprisonment of more than 100 detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay…. – AP, 6-1-09
  • Obama is confusing the Left on Gitmo: Folks on the Left are confused because, for one thing, it is the Barack Obama hour, they love him, and they want to support him on just about everything. But there he is doing what he said he would not do on Guantanamo Bay. How to get around it? Well, if you have been reading what they write and listening to what they say, it’s pretty clear that many, if not all, have decided to put their faith in Obama’s dodges instead of his deeds…. – Washington Examiner, 5-27-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

  • Text: Obama’s Speech in Cairo: The text of President Obama’s prepared remarks to the Muslim world, delivered on June 4, 2009, as released by the White House. – NYTMp3 DownloadVideo
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON A NEW BEGINNING Cairo University Cairo, Egypt: So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.
    I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.
    I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. I know there’s been a lot of publicity about this speech, but no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have this afternoon all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly to each other the things we hold in our hearts and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” (Applause.) That is what I will try to do today — to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart…. – White House, 6-4-09
  • Obama cites Quran, but message is interfaith: President Barack Obama showed respect for Islam by quoting from the Quran in his speech Thursday but did so in a way meant to resonate with Christians and Jews as well. The passages he chose from the Muslim holy book had meanings that were universal in their appeal. He also referred once to the Talmud, the collection of Jewish law, and quoted a verse from the Gospel of Matthew. Both underscored the Quranic verses. “The Holy Quran tells us, ‘Mankind, we have created you male and a female. And we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another,'” Obama said in the Cairo address. “The Talmud tells us, ‘The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.’ The Holy Bible tells us, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.'”… – AP, 6-4-09
  • Israel Government spokesman Mark Regev: “Israel shares the hope expressed by President Obama that his efforts will indeed lead to a new period of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. a period where Israel will be recognized as a Jewish state and that we can live without fear of violence and terrorism.”
  • Saeb Erekat, a chief advisor to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas: “Now I hope that in the next few months, President Obama will lay a real plan with time lines, monitors and mechanisms to implement and translate the vision of two states to a realistic political track.”
  • Obama on Obama: “We have a joke around the White House. We’re just going to keep on telling the truth until it stops working — and nowhere is truth-telling more important than the Middle East.” “Stop saying one thing behind closed doors and saying something else publicly…. There are a lot of Arab countries more concerned about Iran developing a nuclear weapon than the ‘threat’ from Israel, but won’t admit it.” There are a lot of Israelis, “who recognize that their current path is unsustainable, and they need to make some tough choices on settlements to achieve a two-state solution — that is in their long-term interest — but not enough folks are willing to recognize that publicly.” There are a lot of Palestinians who “recognize that the constant incitement and negative rhetoric with respect to Israel” has not delivered a single “benefit to their people and had they taken a more constructive approach and sought the moral high ground” they would be much better off today — but they won’t say it aloud…. – NYT, 6-3-09
  • The President Spells Out His Vision on Health Care Reform – White House, 6-3-09
  • Obama makes nice with Nancy Reagan: President Obama kissed and made up with Nancy Reagan today at a White House event to create a commission to celebrate the centennial of her husband Ronald’s birth.
    “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way that Bill Clinton did not,” he said in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal in January 2008.
    And today, Obama said, “President Reagan understood that while there are often strong disagreements between parties and political adversaries — disagreements that can be a source of conflict and bitterness — it is important to keep in mind all that we share….President Reagan helped as much as any President to restore a sense of optimism in our country, a spirit that transcended politics — that transcended even the most heated arguments of the day.”
    “I want to thank our special guest here today, Nancy Reagan, our former first lady, who redefined that role in her time at the White House — and who has, in the many years since, taken on a new role, as an advocate on behalf of treatments that hold the promise of improving and saving lives,” Obama said. “And I should just add, she has been extraordinarily gracious to both me and Michelle during our transition here and I’m thankful for that.
    “There are few who are not moved by the love that Ms. Reagan felt for her husband — and fewer still who are not inspired by how this love led her to take up the twin causes of stem cell research and Alzheimer’s research. In saying a long goodbye, Nancy Reagan became a voice on behalf of millions of families experiencing the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer’s disease.”
    When Obama escorted Nancy Reagan into the Diplomatic Reception Room, she walked using a cane in her right hand, while her left hand was in the crook of the president’s arm, where it stayed the entire time he spoke, according to the press pool report.
    When he escorted her out, she again had her hand in the crook of his elbow. The president leaned down, and said, “Michelle….She just thinks the world of you.” – Boston Globe, 6-2-09
  • Taking Shifts to Walk the Dog: Who’s walking Bo? Well, the Obamas are taking shifts. The president takes the night shift, usually just before 10 p.m., the first lady, Michelle Obama, told Time magazine. She walks the dog in the early morning (and picks up a few other shifts during the day, for good measure). “We sort of handle Bo like we did the kids,” said Mrs. Obama, who appears on the cover of this week’s Time magazine. “I’m the early-morning person … Once I go to bed, I don’t care what happens. Just make sure the dog doesn’t have an accident.”…
    “I know women who have given up a lot of themselves,” she said. “And there were times in my marriage where I put stuff aside. This isn’t one of those times.” – NYT, 6-2-09
  • REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON GENERAL MOTORS RESTRUCTURING Grand Foyer: What we have, then, is a credible plan that is full of promise. But GM can’t put this plan into effect on its own. Executing this plan will require a substantial amount of money that only a government can provide. Considering GM’s extensive operations within their borders, the governments of Canada and Ontario have agreed to do their part with an investment in GM’s future, and I want to thank them for doing so. I also want to thank the government of Germany for working diligently to reach a Memorandum of Understanding on the sale of a major stake in GM’s European Division and for providing interim funding that will make it possible for that transaction to be finalized.
    But of course GM is an American company with tens of thousands of employees in this country, and responsibility for its future ultimately rests with us. That’s why our government will be making a significant additional investment of about $30 billion in GM — an investment that will entitle American taxpayers to ownership of about 60 percent of the new GM…. What we are not doing — what I have no interest in doing — is running GM. GM will be run by a private board of directors and management team with a track record in American manufacturing that reflects a commitment to innovation and quality. They — and not the government — will call the shots and make the decisions about how to turn this company around. The federal government will refrain from exercising its rights as a shareholder in all but the most fundamental corporate decisions. When a difficult decision has to be made on matters like where to open a new plant or what type of new car to make, the new GM, not the United States government, will make that decision. In short, our goal is to get GM back on its feet, take a hands-off approach, and get out quickly…..
    I’m confident that the steps I’m announcing today will mark the end of an old GM, and the beginning of a new GM; a new GM that can produce the high-quality, safe, and fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow; that can lead America towards an energy independent future; and that is once more a symbol of America’s success…. – White House, 6-1-09
  • Cheney “wrong” on facts: Obama: President Barack Obama on Monday struck back at one of his toughest critics, saying former Vice President Dick Cheney was wrong when he criticized White House plans to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. “He also happens to be wrong. Last time, immediately after his speech, I think there was a fact check on his speech that didn’t get a very good grade,” Obama told NPR News…. – Reuters, 6-1-09
  • Romney criticizes Obama’s defense cuts: “Backing away from missile defense and depleting the defense budget to fund new social programs, particularly in the face of global turmoil, would put America and Americans at risk,” he said. Romney, speaking to the conservative Heritage Foundation, called Obama’s proposal to cut missile defense programs a “grave miscalculation” in light of North Korea’s provocations, Iran’s near-nuclear status and Pakistan’s instability….
    “Arrogant, delusional tyrants can’t be stopped by earnest words and furrowed brows,” he said. “Action, strong bold action coming from a position of strength and determination, is the only effective deterrent.” “I know the liberals have opposed missile defense ever since Ronald Reagan came up with it,” he said. “But this is too big an issue for ideology or politics to prevail over national security.”…
    “I take issue with President Obama’s recent tour of apology,” Romney said. “It’s not because America hasn’t made mistakes — we have – but because America’s mistakes are overwhelmed by what America has meant to the hopes and aspirations of people throughout the world.”… – AP, 6-1-09
  • Romney says Obama is putting nation at risk Words not enough in dealing with tyrants, he says: “The president’s planned budgets and multitrillion dollar deficits, financed by a level of borrowing never before attempted by any nation, puts our whole economy in jeopardy,” Romney said in the speech, sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation. “He may take us past the tipping point and create a crisis of confidence in the dollar that would burden us for years.”… “Arrogant, delusional tyrants can’t be stopped by earnest words and furrowed brows,” Romney said. “Action — strong bold action — coming from a position of strength and determination, is the only effective deterrent.”… – Salt Lake Tribune, 6-1-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

The President in Cairo

Historians’ Comments

  • SUMAIYA HAMDANI, George Mason University “Obama’s Speech Could Mark Shift in U.S.-Muslim Relations”: I was very impressed with the speech, actually, and I was impressed with the speech for a lot of reasons. I think, first and foremost, the quality of the speech was one that was very different from the previous administration and, I think, for most administrations, U.S. administrations. Obama was speaking to an audience, as opposed to at an audience. And… By which I mean that he engaged the audience in terms that resonated with them. For example, whereas most U.S. presidents and policymakers have spoken in terms of freedom and democracy, much of his speech was really about justice, which is a concept around which political discourse is built in many over other parts of the world, including the Islamic world. And I think that he also was able to engage the audience in terms of what was particular to their culture and heritage. But at the same time, what made it universal, in the introduction to his speech — sorry.
    I would — my colleagues are putting Obama’s speech or putting his feet to the fire much more than I would. I listened to the speech as a speech by an American president. I listened to it for what kind of rationale he would provide for the kinds of policies — rather than specific policies, but the rationale for the kinds of policies he would pursue. And I listened to the speech, I have to admit, as an American Muslim. And on all of those levels, I found the speech impressive, in the sense that, again, he engaged the audience in terms that made sense to them. I think with regard to, for example, the Palestinian issue, the fact that a U.S. president talked about the humiliation that Palestinians suffer under occupation — I think those words are very important, because those are words the Palestinians have used to talk about their experience as displaced people, as refugees, as people trapped in the kind of Bantustans that exist in the occupied territories. And American presidents have not addressed them in terms that they themselves have used to describe their condition….
    I think realistically not much. I mean, as he himself said in a speech, one speech does not make a big difference. But I think what he did do in the context of a speech — and an important one at that — was to engage his audience and create this potential for common understanding and mutual interest. One of the things that impressed me about the speech was that, unlike many political pundits and many authors of the contemporary scene in the Islamic world, he attempted to transcend what has been a kind of accepted “othering” of Islam. He talked about the sort of debt that world civilization has to Islam. And in doing that, I think he transcended the sort of clash of civilization paradigm that has become so accepted. And I think, in talking about Islam as to, quote, “a part of America,” he went beyond the “othering” of Muslims in the West, which I think was also very important. – PBS Newshour, 6-4-09
  • Burton Visotzky “Obama cites Quran, but message is interfaith”: “Obama’s taking that step, showing familiarity with the Quran, is the palpable demonstration of the respect he went to Cairo to show,” said Burton Visotzky, a professor of interreligious studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York… – AP, 6-4-09
  • Julian Zelizer, professor, Princeton University: “President Obama should highlight three important points. The first is that the administration is committed to improving relations with the Muslim world after the tensions that have been building over the past decade — before and after 9/11. Diplomacy and financial assistance will be part of the mix. Second, he should reiterate his commitment to democratization and human rights in this region of the world. And finally, he should call for regional coalitions which include Israel to find ways to contain growing threats such as Iran without having to resort to war.” – Politico, 6-3-09
  • David Orentlicher, professor, Indiana University: “The president should reaffirm the message from his visit to Turkey that the United States is not at war with Islam, that the United States has been enriched by Muslims and that we seek broader engagement based upon mutual interest and mutual respect. He also should restate his point that ‘our partnership with the Muslim world is critical in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject’ and then talk about the need for Muslims to meet their responsibility in condemning the beliefs, statements and actions that arise out of that fringe ideology. The president should remind the world that Egypt was the first of Israel’s neighbors to recognize Israel and agree to a peace treaty and highlight the important model of Anwar Sadat in seeking reconciliation with one’s enemy. The president also should contrast the efforts of Sadat with the example of other Arab leaders who not only have failed to pursue peace with Israel but have rebuffed genuine peace overtures or have tried to provoke an escalation of hostilities. The president should say that the time has come to enter a new era of relationships in the Middle East, where the vision of leaders like Sadat can be realized and not thwarted by the guns of extremists.” – Politico, 6-3-09
  • Don Ritchie “Reagan returns to Washington, D.C., in bronze”: Don Ritchie, the Senate’s associate historian, said that although he was sad to see the King statue go, “I’ve rarely met a Californian who knew who he was.” “I suppose that former presidents will have more staying power,” he said. “Anyway, having your statue in the U.S. Capitol for almost eight decades is a pretty good run, even if it’s not for eternity. And since King was a minister, he would likely have recalled Solomon’s warning in Ecclesiastes: ‘Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.'” – LAT, 6-3-09
  • Robert Dallek “Familiar Obama Phrase Being Groomed as a Slogan”: President Obama told doctors and insurers on Monday that revamping health care would “lay a new foundation for our economy.” He told graduating college students on Wednesday that “we need to build a new foundation.” He told consumers on Thursday that protecting them was vital “to the new foundation we seek to build.”…
    Robert Dallek, a presidential historian, suspects Mr. Obama’s expression may suffer the same fate. “I’m not sure what it means,” Mr. Dallek said. “The successful slogans tied in a convincing way to current events. T.R.’s Square Deal, F.D.R.’s New Deal, J.F.K.’s New Frontier and L.B.J.’s Great Society all resonated because they summed up what their presidents intended and what the public was eager for at the time.” “I guess you could say the same for the New Foundation,” he added, “but foundation doesn’t strike me as a word people will comfortably take to.” – NYT, 5-15-09

The President in Cairo

White House Photo, 6/4/09, Pete Souza

The President in the Middle East

The President spoke in Cairo on America’s relationship with Muslim communities around the world, watch the video or read his remarks in a dozen languages.

Watch the Video

%d bloggers like this: