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

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

The President speaks at Georgetown University

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

STATS & POLLS

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

IN FOCUS

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

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

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

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

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

THE HEADLINES….

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

112TH CONGRESS

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

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

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

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

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

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

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

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address

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

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

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

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

HISTORY BUZZ SPECIAL

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

HISTORY BUZZ SPECIAL: JAPAN’S EARTHQUAKE & TSUNAMI: THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

IN FOCUS:

Kyodo News, via Associated Press

  • 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami: A massive 8.9/9.0 magnitude earthquake hit the Pacific Ocean nearby Northeastern Japan at around 2:46pm on March 11 (JST) causing damage with blackouts, fire and tsunami. On this page we are providing the information regarding the disaster and damage with realtime updates. The large earthquake triggered a tsunami warning for countries all around the Pacific ocean…. – Google Crisis Response
  • EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI HITS JAPAN
    On March 11, 2011, a huge earthquake struck Japan, churning up a devastating tsunami that swept over cities and farmland along the northern part of the country and threatened coastal areas throughout the Pacific.
    Walls of water whisked away houses and cars in northern Japan, where terrified residents fled the coast. Trains were shut down across central and northern Japan, including Tokyo, and air travel was severely disrupted. A ship carrying more than 100 people was swept away by the tsunami, Kyodo News reported. A fire broke out at the nuclear plant in Onagawa, but Japanese officials said it was extinguished.
    Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the disaster caused major damage across wide areas. Several hours after the quake, Kyodo News reported 59 deaths, but with rescue efforts just getting under way, the extent of injuries and damage is not yet known. The United States Geological Survey said the earthquake had a magnitude of 8.9, and occurred at about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo and at a revised depth of about 17 miles. The Japanese Meteorological Agency said the quake had a magnitude of 8.8, which would make it among the biggest in a century.
    The quake occurred at 2:46 p.m. Tokyo time and hit off Honshu, Japan’s most populous island. The quake was so powerful that buildings in central Tokyo, designed to withstand major earthquakes, swayed…. – NYT: Tidal Waves and Tsunamis
  • How people can help Japanese earthquake recovery: The U.S. government and other nations were sending personnel to assist Japan in its response to the earthquakes and tsunami that have devastated the country. U.S. aid groups were accepting private donations for relief efforts…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • Strength of deadly Japan quake increased to 9.0: …U.S. government scientists originally put the Japan quake at 8.9. The change to 9.0 means that the quake was about 1.5 times stronger than initially thought. The Japan quake is now the fourth largest in the world since 1900 behind the 2004 magnitude-9.1 Sumatra quake. – AP, 3-14-11
  • Earthquakes 101: How they happen Columbia University seismologist explains in simple terms; Says we’re in period of frequent mega-quakes:
    It all has to do with plates that make up the Earth’s crust moving around, seismologist James Gaherty, a Lamont associate research professor at Columbia University explained to “Early Show on Saturday Morning” co-anchor Rebecca Jarvis.
    “Most earthquakes occur on the boundaries of the very large tectonic plates that make up the outer rigid crust of the earth,” Gaherty said. “These plates are all shifting around relative to each other, in many places moving fairly rapidly, inches per year relative to each other, and they push against each other, some places going underneath, other places rubbing past each other. So, the western part of the Pacific Ocean, for example, the ‘Ring of Fire’ (earthquake hotbed along the Pacific Rim) — that all takes place on these tectonic boundaries. That’s where we get these earthquakes.
    “In this part of Japan, basically, the Pacific Plate is trying to move underneath the Earth’s crust where Japan sits. … It’s moving down underneath, constantly building up pressure as it tries to move underneath and, in this case, it releases that pressure, and these very large earthquakes occur in a very large area along the entire length of the coastline of Japan … on the order of 200 miles along the length… – CBS News, 3-12-11

HEADLINES:

  • Obama: US will stand by longtime ally Japan: President Barack Obama said Monday the U.S. will stand by long-time ally Japan as it recovers from last week’s earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear crisis that those twin disasters spawned. The White House said that despite the emergency, nuclear power remains “vital” to U.S. energy policy…. – AP, 3-14-11
  • Japan earthquake accelerated Earth’s rotation, study finds: By changing the distribution of mass on the earth, Japan’s earthquake sped up the planet’s rotation, shortening the day by 1.8 microseconds, a new analysis has found…. – CS Monitor, 3-14-11
  • For Elderly, Echoes of War’s Horrors: Hirosato Wako stared at the ruins of his small fishing hamlet: skeletons of shattered buildings, twisted lengths of corrugated steel, corpses with their hands twisted into claws. Only once before had he seen anything like it: World War II.
    “I lived through the Sendai air raids,” said Mr. Wako, 75, referring to the Allied bombings of the northeast’s largest city. “But this is much worse.”… – NYT, 3-15-11
  • Big quake is latest in cluster that began in ’04: The massive earthquake that shook Japan yesterday, creating a destructive tsunami, is the latest in a series of especially fierce temblors since 2004 — after four decades without such large quakes.
    No one knows, however, if the recent run of extreme earthquakes — including the 9.1 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004 and last year’s 8.8 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile — portends more large earthquakes around the Pacific Rim in the near future, because there is no way to predict exactly where, when, and how big an earthquake will be.
    There was a cluster of extremely large earthquakes from 1946 to 1964, a period that ended with the 9.2 magnitude Alaskan earthquake, the second largest since 1900.
    Now, after 40 years of less powerful seismic activity, there have been a dozen earthquakes of 8.0 magnitude or greater. Yesterday’s 8.9 magnitude earthquake was the fifth strongest since 1900…. – Boston Globe, 3-12-11
  • Powerful Quake and Tsunami Devastate Northern Japan: Rescuers struggled to reach survivors on Saturday morning as Japan reeled after an earthquake and a tsunami struck in deadly tandem. The 8.9-magnitude earthquake set off a devastating tsunami that sent walls of water washing over coastal cities in the north. Concerns mounted over possible radiation leaks from two nuclear plants near the earthquake zone.
    The death toll from the tsunami and earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in Japan, was in the hundreds, but Japanese news media quoted government officials as saying that it would almost certainly rise to more than 1,000. About 200 to 300 bodies were found along the waterline in Sendai, a port city in northeastern Japan and the closest major city to the epicenter.
    Thousands of homes were destroyed, many roads were impassable, trains and buses were not running, and power and cellphones remained down. On Saturday morning, the JR rail company said that there were three trains missing in parts of two northern prefectures…. – NYT, 3-12-11First Person: Reporter Describes Massive Quake

QUOTES:

  • The Earthquake in Japan and Tsunami Preparedness: Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis. The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy. We will continue to closely monitor tsunamis around Japan and the Pacific going forward and we are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials as I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the US states and territories that could be affected. WH, 3-11-11
  • The Ongoing Response to the Earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has released an overview of the United States’ reponse in support of our friends in Japan.
  • * For information on how you can help directly, USAID has pulled together options for donating to support the response effort. * Any U.S Citizens in need of emergency assistance should send an e-mail to
  • JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov with detailed information about their location and contact information, and monitor the U.S. Department of State website at travel.state.gov. Statement from the Press Secretary on the Ongoing U.S. Response to the Earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan
    Our thoughts and our prayers remain with the people of Japan. The President has been kept fully briefed on developments and the response throughout the weekend. As directed by the President, we have offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed as America will stand with Japan as they recover and rebuild. – WH, 3-13-11
  • Joseph Lieberman: “My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan and all those affected by this devastating natural disaster, including the thousands of American citizens in Japan. America has no better friend and ally in Asia than Japan, and we in the United States must stand ready to mobilize any assistance we can to help as quickly as possible. The people of the United States stand in solidarity with the people of Japan through the difficult days ahead.
    “As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I am also monitoring closely the tsunami warnings that have been issued for parts of the United States, including Hawaii, Alaska, and parts of the West Coast. I urge all Americans in areas potentially affected to heed these advisories, follow the warnings that have been issued, and listen carefully for updates from authorities.” — Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT) – LIEBERMAN STATEMENT ON JAPANESE DISASTER
  • The President’s Press Conference: The Causes, Government Response, and Long-Term Solutions to Rising Gas Prices: But the bottom line is this. We’ve been having this conversation for nearly four decades now. Every few years, gas prices go up; politicians pull out the same old political playbook, and then nothing changes. And when prices go back down, we slip back into a trance. And then when prices go up, suddenly we’re shocked. I think the American people are tired of that. I think they’re tired of talk. We’ve got to work together – Democrats, Republicans, and everybody in between –- to finally secure America’s energy future. I don’t want to leave this for the next President, and none of us should want to leave it for our kids…. – WH, 3-11-11
  • News Conference by the President, South Court Auditorium: THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Before I begin, I want to say a few words about the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan earlier today.
    First and foremost, our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of Japan. This is a potentially catastrophic disaster and the images of destruction and flooding coming out of Japan are simply heartbreaking. Japan is, of course, one of our strongest and closest allies, and this morning I spoke with Prime Minister Kan. On behalf of the American people, I conveyed our deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families, and I offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed.
    We currently have an aircraft carrier in Japan, and another is on its way. We also have a ship en route to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed. The Defense Department is working to account for all our military personnel in Japan. U.S. Embassy personnel in Tokyo have moved to an offsite location. And the State Department is working to account for and assist any and all American citizens who are in the country.
    Tsunami warnings have been issued across the Pacific, and we’ve already seen initial waves from the tsunami come ashore on Guam and other U.S. territories, in Alaska and Hawaii, as well as on — along the West Coast. Here in the United States, there hasn’t been any major damage so far. But we’re taking this very seriously, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. FEMA is fully activated and is coordinating with state and local officials to support these regions as necessary. And let me just stress that if people are told to evacuate, do as you are told.
    Today’s events remind us of just how fragile life can be. Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy…. – WH, 3-11-11
  • The Earthquake in Japan and Tsunami Preparedness: Good morning, everybody. Before I begin, I want to say a few words about the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan earlier today.
    First and foremost, our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of Japan. This is a potentially catastrophic disaster and the images of destruction and flooding coming out of Japan are simply heartbreaking. Japan is, of course, one of our strongest and closest allies, and this morning I spoke with Prime Minister Kan. On behalf of the American people, I conveyed our deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families, and I offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed.
    We currently have an aircraft carrier in Japan, and another is on its way. We also have a ship en route to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed. The Defense Department is working to account for all our military personnel in Japan. U.S. Embassy personnel in Tokyo have moved to an offsite location. And the State Department is working to account for and assist any and all American citizens who are in the country.
    Tsunami warnings have been issued across the Pacific, and we’ve already seen initial waves from the tsunami come ashore on Guam and other U.S. territories, in Alaska and Hawaii, as well as on — along the West Coast. Here in the United States, there hasn’t been any major damage so far. But we’re taking this very seriously, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. FEMA is fully activated and is coordinating with state and local officials to support these regions as necessary. And let me just stress that if people are told to evacuate, do as you are told.
    Today’s events remind us of just how fragile life can be. Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy…. – WH, 3-11-11

HISTORIAN VIEWPOINTS:

  • Kerry Smith: History of Earthquakes in Japan: Earthquakes and tsunamis are woven into the psyche of Japan. Kerry Smith, professor of history at Brown and author of “A Time of Crisis: Japan, the Great Depression, and Rural Revitalization,” talks about the immediacy of watching disaster unfold and the effect that may have on contemporary Japanese society. He also remembers how the natural history of the country has become embedded in the social and political history of the country…. – The Takeaway, 3-11-11Download Mp3
  • Ken Osgood: FAU Professor stranded on train during Japanese earthquake Dr. Osgood felt the train rock “like a boat.”: Some South Florida residents found themselves caught right in the middle of the calamity in Japan. An FAU history professor and his wife experienced one of the worst natural disasters in history when the massive quake struck. Dr. Ken Osgood teaches in Palm Beach County; however, he’s in Massachusetts right now, working as a visiting professor. On Friday, he and his wife, Rachel, were on a bullet train outside of Tokyo when everything came to a stop.
    “The train starts rocking and it feels like a boat on the tracks,” said Dr. Osgood. “When you look out the window, it just looked like our train was rocking,” he said, “like a really strong wind was blowing a car on the freeway.”
    “It’s one of those weird things where you’re seeing it on the screen and the announcer is talking in a language you don’t understand,” he said. “We still had a difficult time comprehending the magnitude of this thing.”
    “We were in the 7th floor of a hotel so we definitely experienced them,” he explained. “At one point, while I was taking a shower, my wife saw the whole room shake and was deeply panicked by the whole thing.”
    “That sent my heart rate soaring,” Osgood admitted. “Both my wife and I nearly went into a panic. We said, “We’ve got to get the hell out of here.”
    “We didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until we felt the wheels come off the ground and everyone on the plane cheered and clapped,” he said. “The only thing we could think about was our kids,” Osgood said. “There were moments when each of us thought we might not see them again.”
    “They must have thought we were nuts because we came in through security bawling our eyes out and held them tight like they were going to blow away,” he said… – WPTV, 3-14-11
  • FAU professor tells of horror in Japan: “We had a harrowing 36 hours — easily the most stressful and frightening of our lives. We were on a bullet train to Tokyo when the earthquake struck. The train stopped. All power off. It rocked like a boat on the tracks. Then we were stuck on the train for five hours, much of it without power.
    “Because of the language barrier, and the general confusion, only gradually did we learn that Japan had been struck by the largest earthquake in its history, the fifth largest ever recorded anywhere. Slowly, very slowly, we began moving again. When we finally pulled into Tokyo, we were among thousands of stranded people.
    “After walking the city for several hours in search of a place to go, we spent the night sleeping in a hotel lobby. The staff graciously fed us soup and provided us showers. That night, Tokyo experienced one aftershock after another, some 50 of them, many above 6.0. All trains and buses were stopped. Phone lines were jammed. We didn’t know if we could make it to the airport, or if, upon arriving there, we would be stranded with throngs of other passengers seeking a way out.
    “I called my Dad in the U.S. time and again, while he made call after call to the airlines seeking a way for us to get home. Holding on to what I was sure was a very vain hope, we headed to the subway the next day in the hopes of finding some way home. With a throng of people, we boarded one of the very first trains to go north towards Narita airport.
    “It was a slow ride. En route we received word that the nuclear reactor to the north of us was releasing radioactivity to prevent it from going critical. The previous day we had visited Hiroshima, and the news sent our heart rates soaring. We imagined the worst.
    “Then miracles happened. We made it to the airport without incident. With Rachel crying away at the ticket counter, and me barely keeping it together, we got tickets on the next outbound flight to the US. We breezed through security, customs, and passport control, arriving at our gate minutes before boarding began. We loaded the plane quickly, and we ended up on a virtually empty aircraft all to ourselves.
    “Earplugs, eye masks, and sleeping pills did the trick — woke up about an hour before landing. I was never so happy to be on a plane, and never has anyone been so happy to be in Detroit.
    “Many people helped along the way. So many kind Japanese stopped to see if we, the foreigners, were OK. Many offered help or gave us food or water. Many helped translate. Many gave directions. Many expressed concern for our well being. I still can’t believe the incredible kindness of strangers, the remarkable calmness and friendliness of the Japanese.
    “We feel so fortunate to be home, and we hugged our kids to the point of tears when we arrived in Albany. We are still shaken by the stress of it all. We send many prayers to our Japanese friends, and we send even more thanks to the many of our friends here who prayed for us too.
    “Today we went to church, and the closing hymn had the chorus: “Bring us home.” Amen to that.” – Sun Sentinel, 3-14-11
  • Joseph Laker: Local Professor Reflects On Living In Japan, Earthquake Devastation: Joseph Laker, a history professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, said Japanese are excellent at responding to natural disasters, but this is on a whole different level. Laker taught English and lived in Japan for about four nonconsecutive years and has been back many times. Recently, he received an e-mail from a friend and former student in Tokyo, miles away from the disaster but still affected.
    “Their traffic was considerably disrupted. Planes, trains, car traffic. He found it was impossible to get a way to get home except by walking. It took him seven hours to go from his office to walk home,” Laker said. “The magnitude of the disaster can only become apparent over a long period of time,” he said…. – WTOV9, 3-14-11
  • Kerry Smith; James McClain: Students, Brown University professor safe in Japan: Kerry Smith, chair of the East Asian Studies Department and associate professor of history, said he believes a comparison will be drawn between national relief efforts today and the response to the 1995 Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, Japan. “The response appears to be much better organized,” Smith said, adding that aid appears to be moving at a “relatively quick pace.”
    James McClain, a professor of history who is on leave this academic year to teach at the Kyoto Consortium, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that CNN coverage of the earthquake and tsunami appears “needlessly alarming” thus far. But Japanese media coverage of the tsunami appears “dispassionately objective,” he wrote…. “The Japanese prime minister, a person not given to exaggeration, said that this is the worst disaster to strike Japan since World War II,” he wrote. “Indeed, to me, some of the scenes of the damaged cities bear an eerie resemblance to the Japanese cities destroyed by American fire-bombing in WWII.”
    Because of the damage inflicted by the earthquake and tsunami, several nuclear reactors located near Tokyo are in danger of leaking radiation. McClain wrote that the Japanese rely on these power sources for one-third of their electrical energy, and these reactors are mostly concentrated in areas at risk for earthquakes.
    “The Japanese themselves have long debated the wisdom of following such an energy policy,” he wrote, adding that “many — remembering that the Japanese are the only persons who have experienced an atomic bombing — have been deeply apprehensive about the accidental release of radioactivity.” – Brown Daily Herald,
  • History proves Japan can rebound: “They have lived through such big disasters in the past,” University of Regina International Studies professor Nilgun Onder said. It was the same kind of scene in 1945, after two atomic bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
    History professor Philip Charrier makes his living studying Japan, and believes the country will once again be able to find its tracking. “Certainly by 1950, the country was advancing quickly,” Charrier explained. “Economic performance was already quite impressive.”
    Japan is no stranger to devastation. The country has seen its fair share of earthquakes over the decades. Yet, according to Charrier, the people will still approach this disaster with a positive attitude.
    “The people are trained and conditioned to deal with (disasters)” Charrier said…. – Global TV BC, 3-14-11
  • History Lesson: Massive Earthquake in Pacific Northwest Triggered Japan Tsunami in 1700: About 300 years before the current earthquake/tsunami disaster in Japan, another wave of water swept the Island nation, wreaking havoc and laying waste to entire coastal villages. That tsunami was caused by a massive quake–estimated to have been a magnitude 9.0–that rocked the entire Pacific coast from British Columbia to northern California. According to a U.S. Geological Survey expert and a former University of Washington scientist, the great tremor of 1700 and ensuing “orphan tsunami” could happen again, and Americans should learn from both it and the present situation in Japan.
    David Yamaguchi and Brian Atwater are the authors of “The Orphan Tsunami of 1700–Japanese Clues to a Parent Earthquake in North America,” published in 2005 by University of Washington Press. The tome details a giant–yet, prior to their research, unconfirmed –earthquake that struck the Washington coast and Puget Sound area in the year 1700.
    RYamaguchi says the current chaos in Japan is keeping him glued to the TV. About a decade ago, when he was researching the book, he traveled to some of the same coastal cities that have been hit by the tsunami. Back then he saw evidence of previous tsunamis–things like “sand sheets,” mud and silt deposits left by the waves sweeping over normally dry land–but had a difficult time envisioning the same thing happening in the present.
    “It’s just as fascinating and scary to us as it is to you,” says Yamaguchi, formerly a professor of dendrology at UW. “All of this stuff we’ve been studying for years. Now, to see it unroll on video footage on TV it’s just amazing.”
    Back in the mid-1990s, Yamaguchi and Atwater, a USGS researcher, suspected that a massive quake had struck the Puget Sound at some point in the past three centuries. Although no scientific evidence existed at the time, they had several oral accounts from Native Americans, such as this one, from the diary of explorer James Swan:
    “The water receded and left Neah Bay dry for four days and became very warm. It then rose again without any swell or waves and submerged the whole ofthe cape and in fact the whole country except the mountains . . . many canoes came down in trees and were destroyed and many lives were lost.”
    They teamed up with a Japanese geologist, Satake Kenji, who combed meticulously kept Japanese records for description of tsunamis in that era. That yielded stories like this one, from the town of Miyako in 1700 — the same place where more than 1,000 bodies reportedly washed ashore today:
    “The waters drove villagers to high ground, damaged salt kilns and fishing shacks, drowned paddies and crops, ascended a cattle moat, entered a government storehouse, washed away more than a dozen buildings, and spread flames that consumed twenty more. Return flows contributed to a nautical accident that sank tons of rice and killed two sailors. Samurai magistrates issued rice to afflicted villagers and requested lumber for those left homeless.”
    The American scientists then analyzed tree rings from stumps submerged in shallow coastal waters in Washington, and used radiocarbon dating to pinpoint where and how the 1700 quake occurred. What the record shows is tremendous activity on the fault line between the Cascadia and Juan de Fuca tectonic plates…. – Seatlle Weekly, 3-14-11

Political Highlights March 14, 2011: President & Michelle Obama Launch Anti-Bullying Initiative — Reactions to Japan’s Earthquake — Budget Battles — Wisconsin Passes Anti-Union Bill

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama's News Conference
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/11/11

STATS & POLLS

  • StopBullying.gov
  • Obama weekly approval rating lowest of the year: Gallup reported that Obama’s latest weekly approval rating — Feb. 28-March 6 — clocked in at 46%, it’s lowest level since mid-December.
    “Obama’s weekly approval rating had steadily improved from mid-December to late January, peaking at 50% during the final two weeks in January, before dropping below that mark in February,” Gallup said. It also reported that “Obama is now essentially back to where he was in the immediate post-election phase of 2010,” when Republicans won control of the U.S. House and picked up six Senate seats… – USA Today, 3-8-11
  • Sarah Palin’s Popularity Slips to 60 Percent Disapproval Rate in Poll:
    Sarah Palin, perhaps the most closely watched of all potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, is viewed in an unfavorable light by 60 percent of those questioned in a new Bloomberg News poll. Palin’s numbers suggest she would face a challenge in attracting voters beyond her conservative base if she decides to run for president next year. Bloomberg’s survey of 1,001 adults was taken between March 4-7 by the Iowa firm, Selzer & Co. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
    Within the 60 percent who disapproved of Palin, 38 percent said they had “very unfavorable” feelings about her. She was viewed favorably by 28 percent, with only 4 percent not sure how they felt. A December Bloomberg poll had Palin’s unfavorable rating at 57 percent…. – Politics Daily, 3-11-11
  • Poll: Evangelicals Like Huckabee, Palin; Not Obama: Among evangelicals, Huckabee’s ratings (88 percent favorable, 11 percent unfavorable) led those of Palin (79 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable), Gingrich (57 percent/37 percent), Romney (56 percent/29 percent and Ron Paul (51 percent/26 percent). Obama, though, is viewed favorably by only 6 percent of evangelicals. Ninety-four percent view him unfavorably…. – Baptist Press, 3-7-11
  • Poll: New Jerseyans’ opinion of Gov. Christie has dropped 10 points: New Jerseyans’ opinion of Gov. Chris Christie has dropped 10 points since December, according to a Rutgers- Eagleton poll made public Monday. At the same time, a strong majority of residents, 57 percent, hold a favorable view of President Obama, while only 36 percent view him unfavorably. The president’s favorable rating remains largely unchanged since December…. – New Jersey Newsroom, 3-7-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • Arab League’s backing of no-fly zone over Libya increases pressure on West: The Arab League endorsed the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya on Saturday and recognized the fledgling rebel movement seeking to topple Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi… – WaPo, 3-12-11
  • Bahrain protesters clash with police: Sunday’s clashes between police and anti-government protesters are among the most violent since a Feb. 17 protest. At Bahrain University, Shiite Muslims clash with Sunnis amid rising sectarian tension…. – LAT, 3-14-11
  • In Libya, an underground jail a daunting reminder of Moammar Gaddafi’s grip: Fadlallah Haroun spent seven years in Libyan prisons without being charged. Here he is seen through a hole in the roof of an underground prison found in the rebel-held city of Benghazi…. – WaPo, 3-12-11
  • Clinton urges reform in post-revolt Egypt, Tunisia: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s trip to the turbulent Middle East highlights the Obama administration’s deep concern over developments in Libya and fear that the unrest roiling the Arab world may not produce the changes demanded by increasingly vocal and emboldened anti-government protesters.
    Failure to meet those demands for greater economic, political and social freedoms could spark more chaos and complicate the U.S. position in one of the world’s most critical regions… – AP, 3-13-11
  • Gadhafi drives rebels from one of last strongholds: Moammar Gadhafi’s forces swept rebels from one of their final strongholds with hours of searing waves of strikes from warships, tanks and warplanes on Sunday but the insurgents claimed that they moved back in after nightfall. One rebel said that after their initial defeat, opposition forces destroyed armored vehicles and captured dozens of fighters from Gadhafi’s elite Khamis Brigade in the oil town of Brega, driving others back into the town’s airport…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • White House hails Arab League no-fly zone request: The White House says the Arab League has taken an “important step” by asking the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and increasing international pressure on Moammar Gadhafi.
    A statement from the White House says there’s a clear international message that the violence in Libya must stop…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Bahrain protesters march on palace as Gates visits: Tens of thousands of Bahraini protesters encircled one of the royal family’s palaces Saturday, shouting calls for political freedom and the king’s ouster a day after a similar march triggered a violent response from security forces. There was no repeat of the violent scenes from a day earlier when police backed by pro-government mobs drove crowds back from a different palace by firing rubber bullets and tear gas in a melee that injured dozens, according to witness accounts. In contrast, Saturday’s demonstration — which coincided with a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates — was allowed to ring the palace with police deployed only inside its premisses… – AP, 3-12-11
  • Gates: Arab nations must enact democratic reforms: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday he believes leaders in Persian Gulf ally Bahrain are serious about addressing grievances that have spawned a growing protest movement, but swift action is needed to deny rival Iran the chance to exploit the current instability.
    “I told them that in this instance, time is not our friend” in light of Iran’s interest in capitalizing on the unrest, the Pentagon chief said in an interview after meetings in Manama, the capital. “We have no evidence that suggested that Iran started any of these popular revolutions or demonstrations across the region, but there is clear evidence that as the process is protracted — particularly in Bahrain — that the Iranians are looking for ways to exploit it and create problems,” Gates said…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Gadhafi pushes ahead as Arab League calls for help: The world moved a step closer to a decision on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya but Moammar Gadhafi was swiftly advancing Saturday on the poorly equipped and loosely organized rebels who have seized much of the country…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • AP Interview: Libyan rebels plead for no-fly zone: A rebel leader pleaded Saturday with the international community to approve a no-fly zone over Libya as Moammar Gadhafi’s forces gained strength in the east, securing a key port city and oil refinery.
    Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of the opposition’s interim governing council, also expressed disappointment over the failure to act by the United States and other Western countries, which have expressed solidarity with the rebels in their fight to oust Gadhafi but stopped short of approving any military action.
    “If there is no no-fly zone imposed on Gadhafi’s regime, and if his ships are not checked then we will have a catastrophe in Libya,” Abdul-Jalil told The Associated Press in an interview in a professors’ lounge at the Omar Mukhtar University in Bayda, where he is also head of the city council…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • US extends sanctions on Gadhafi clan, advisers: The Obama administration extended its Libya sanctions to more Gadhafi family members and close advisers on Thursday, blacklisting business with the Libyan leader’s wife, four of his children and his chief of military intelligence.
    The Treasury Department froze the assets of nine Libyans in all as part of the strategy to peel off Moammar Gadhafi’s closest advisers while punishing those who remain loyal to the regime even as it commits human rights violations…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • US officials are at odds over Libya outcome: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper expects Moammar Kadafi to ultimately defeat rebels, but the White House has a different view… – LAT, 3-10-11
  • Source: Gadhafi willing to discuss his exitMSNBC, 3-10-11
  • NATO to Discuss Libya Options: NATO members begin two days of talks on Libya Thursday to discuss the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone to stop air attacks by forces supporting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi…. – Voice of America, 3-10-11
  • US, Europe increase diplomatic pressure on Libya: The Obama administration cut ties Thursday with Libya’s embassy in the United States and announced high-level meetings with opposition leaders, as France became the first nation to recognize the governing council fighting against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.
    As Western powers examined their military options, the U.S. warned that a go-it-alone approach in Libya could have unforeseeable and devastating consequences.
    “We’re looking to see whether there is any willingness in the international community to provide any authorization for further steps,” she said. “Absent international authorization, the United States acting alone would be stepping into a situation whose consequences are unforeseeable.,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said amid NATO discussions about a possible no-fly zone over Libya… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Qaddafi bombs oil facility in blow to Libya’s oil infrastructure: A rebel position at Libya’s Ras Lanuf came under withering fire today as Muammar Qaddafi’s forces set an oil tank ablaze at a key export terminal…. – CS Monitor, 3-9-11
  • WH: No imminent decision on further steps on Libya: The White House says a top level meeting by President Barack Obama’s top security advisers to discuss Libya will not result in an immediate decision on whether the U.S. should further intervene in the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Egypt’s security forces are weakened after decades as Mubarak’s enforcer: Motivated by recent shows of political strength by neighbors in Egypt, demonstrators in the Middle East and North Africa are taking to the streets of many cities to rally for change… – WaPo, 3-9-11
  • Cameron and Obama in Libya talks: The international community cannot “stand aside” and allow brutal repression to continue in Libya, David Cameron has said after discussing plans for the “full spectrum of possible responses” including a no-fly zone with US President… – The Press Association, 3-9-11
  • Yemeni security forces open fire on protesters: As Yemen’s growing protest movement sought to expand its presence in the capital, at least 10 were injured by gunfire from security forces, eyewitnesses said…. – CS Monitor, 3-8-11
  • Gadhafi: Libyans will fight against no-fly zone: Moammar Gadhafi says Libyans will fight if a no-fly zone is imposed by Western nations, saying that would show their real intention is to seize the country’s oil.
    Gadhafi made his remarks during an interview aired Wednesday by Turkey’s state-run TRT Turk television. The interview was conducted on Tuesday night… – AP, 3-8-11
  • Obama and his team mull responses on Libya: Preparing for the prospect of deeper international intervention, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron conferred Tuesday on the spectrum of military and humanitarian responses to Libya’s worsening civil strife. The British leader bluntly said after the talk that the world cannot stand aside and let Moammar Gadhafi brutalize his people.
    In weighing the options, the Obama administration underscored that any authorization of a no-fly zone over Libya must come from the United Nations Security Council.
    “We think it’s important that the United Nations make this decision — not the United States,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Britain’s Sky News. The comment reflected Obama’s thinking that any action intended to halt Libya’s violence must carry the legitimacy and strength of an international coalition…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • A million Libyans need aid as UK, France seek no-fly zoneReuters, 3-7-11
  • US, allies edge toward military options for Libya: The U.S. and its NATO allies edged closer Monday to formulating a military response to the escalating violence in Libya as the alliance boosted surveillance flights over the country and the Obama administration signaled it might be willing to help arm Moammar Gadhafi’s opponents. Europe, meanwhile, kick-started international efforts to impose a no-fly zone.
    The violence “perpetrated by the government in Libya is unacceptable,” President Barack Obama declared as he authorized $15 million in new humanitarian aid to assist and evacuate people fleeing the fighting. “I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Col. Gadhafi,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office alongside Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is in Washington for meetings. “It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward. And they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place.”… – AP, 3-7-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • Dalai Lama resigns: ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Dalai Lama has announced that he will step down from his role as the political leader of the Tibetan exile government. ABC Online, 3-11-11

THE HEADLINES….

President and First Lady Obama at Bullying Prevention Conference

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with a group of students and parents from the Conference on Bullying Prevention in the Oval Office, March 10, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • White House urges Cuba to release US contractor: An outraged White House said Saturday it wants the Cuban government to immediately release an American international development worker sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the state.
    National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the prison term “adds another injustice” to Alan Gross’s ordeal…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Born in the USA: Barack Obama joke enjoyed by journalists at annual dinner: Barack Obama was in lighthearted mood at the annual Gridiron Club dinner for the president and Washington’s political journalists…. – The Guardian, 3-13-11
  • Obama cracks jokes at Gridiron: Obama delivered remarks at the dinner Saturday. They were his first at the event as president…. – Politico, 3-12-11
  • Obama, journalists ham it up at dressy dinner: Searching for laughs — and finding them — president Barack Obama spared few targets Saturday night, from Democratic allies to Republican antagonists to the journalists who cover him. At his first presidential appearance before the Gridiron Club, Obama picked up on the spirit of the evening, leveling jokes in every direction including his own.
    He jabbed at potential Republican presidential rivals. He saluted Mississippi’s portly Gov. Haley Barbour, saying he appreciated his support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. “Haley, when Michelle said you should run, she didn’t mean for president.”
    He didn’t spare himself, either. He noted that last time he was at the Gridiron, in 2006, he was a first-term senator from Illinois. “Back then I was a newcomer who couldn’t get anything done in the Senate. Now I’m a president who can’t get anything done in the Senate.”
    Obama also poked fun at a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. “Tim Pawlenty’s not here, but he’s hit the campaign trail hard,” Obama said. “And to be honest, I think the American people are going to have some tough questions for Tim. Specifically, ‘Who are you and where do you come from?’ Which is OK. Two years into my presidency and I’m still getting those questions.”
    Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the main Republican speaker, needled the president by recalling one of Obama’s private musings to fundraisers during the 2008 campaign that conservatives found refuge in religion and guns. Daniels, his right arm in a sling due to rotator cuff surgery, quipped: “Mr. President, until I get this thing off, I can cling to my gun or my Bible, but not both.” Later he turned to Obama and mockingly took a shot at the president’s penchant for assistance during his speeches. “Mr. President you’re not laughing, who forgot to put ha-ha-ha on the teleprompter?”… – AP, 3-12-11
  • Former President George HW Bush Honors Reagan With Public Service Award: Former President George HW Bush posthumously honored his friend and mentor, President Ronald Reagan, with the 2011 George Bush Award For Excellence In Public Service…. – Fox News, 3-11-11
  • Sebelius: GOP health care move would cut benefits: The Obama administration says a Montana Republican’s long-shot legislation to deny funding for the new federal health care law would prevent Medicare from paying the bills for millions of seniors — displaying the GOP’s difficulty trying to unwind a law that recrafted much of the nation’s health care rules.
    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says if Congress passes the defunding bill, Medicare would not be able to issue payments to popular private insurance plans that cover about one-fourth of all the seniors in the program. The health care law scaled back payments to Medicare Advantage plans, as the private insurance option is known…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Obama keeps focus on fight for women’s equality: Father of two girls, President Barack Obama says he wants to improve the status of women in the United States. Women are more likely than men to graduate from college today, yet earn less on average, face a greater chance of living in poverty and are outnumbered in critical subjects such as math and science, he said in his weekly radio and online address Saturday.
    “Achieving equality and opportunity for women isn’t just important to me as president. It’s something I care about deeply as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve,” he said…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Obama tells GOP: Nice try on health care records: President Barack Obama once promised that negotiations over his health care overhaul would be carried out openly, in front of TV cameras and microphones. Tell that to the White House now. Republican congressional investigators got the brush-off this past week after pressing for details of meetings between White House officials and interest groups, including drug companies and hospitals that provided critical backing for Obama’s health insurance expansion… – AP, 3-12-11
  • Appeals court speeds up health overhaul appeal: A federal appeals court has agreed to act swiftly in considering a Florida judge’s ruling that President Obama’s health care overhaul is unconstitutional.
    The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said Friday that it had agreed to expedite the appeal, setting a faster timetable than even the federal government had requested.
    The decision means the federal government must file its first set of court papers on the issues in the case by April 4, and the state of Florida has until May 4 to file its papers. The federal government would file additional papers by May 18.
    The appeals court said it had not made a decision on a request that the initial review be held before all 10 federal judges…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • GOP budget targets agency that warned of tsunami: A spending plan being pushed by Republicans would slash funding for the agency that warned Hawaii and the West Coast about the devastating tsunami in Japan.
    The plan, approved by the GOP-controlled House last month, would trigger an estimated $126 million in cuts for the National Weather Service, the agency that houses the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii. The center issued widespread warnings minutes after Friday’s earthquake and issued guidance and updates throughout the day…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama: Treatment of WikiLeaks suspect appropriate: President Barack Obama said Friday that the Pentagon has assured him that the Army private believed responsible for the largest leak of classified American documents ever is being held under appropriate conditions. He commented after the State Department’s top spokesman made waves by describing the military’s treatment of the suspect as “ridiculous” and “stupid.” Pfc. Bradley Manning is being held in solitary confinement for all but an hour every day at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., and is stripped naked each night, given a suicide-proof smock to wear to bed…
    Obama said he asked the Pentagon whether the suspected WikiLeaks leaker’s confinement conditions were appropriate and whether they met basic standards. “They assure me that they are,” he told a White House news conference…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama, McConnell, agree _ and disagree _ on budget: President Barack Obama and the Senate’s top Republican both declared on Friday they want to take on the huge entitlement programs driving America’s long-term deficits — but their lines of attack differed sharply and that could lead to a showdown over government borrowing.
    Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell warned that GOP senators would not vote to increase the federal debt limit unless Obama agreed to significant long-term budget savings that could include cost curbs for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, laying down a high-stakes marker just weeks before the limit is reached.
    Obama said he also wants to tackle military spending and tax loopholes — issues on which he can expect Republican opposition…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama: Japan earthquake potentially ‘catastrophic’: President Barack Obama said he was “heartbroken” by images of devastation in Japan following Friday’s deadly earthquake and tsunami, and pledged U.S. assistance to help the country recover.
    “Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region, and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy,” Obama said during a White House news conference…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Gates to allies: Don’t rush to Afghan war exits: In a blunt warning to U.S. allies eager to pull out of Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that while the U.S. intends to begin withdrawing troops in July, a rush to the exits by European forces would risk squandering battlefield gains achieved at great American expense.
    In a closed-door meeting of NATO defense ministers, Gates urged the allies to resist domestic political pressure to depart prematurely, while asserting that the U.S. troop reductions promised by President Barack Obama will be made this summer “based on conditions on the ground,” not politics…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama: Address long-term debt after spending deal: President Barack Obama says he and Congress should address the nation’s long-term fiscal condition after lawmakers complete a deal on spending for the current fiscal year…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Last WWI vet to be buried in Arlington service: The body of the West Virginia soldier who outlived every other American who served in World War I will be buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery, a family spokesman said Thursday.
    Biographer and filmmaker David DeJonge said the service for Frank Buckles is set for 4 p.m., but it’s unclear who can attend.
    “The family is trying to get answers,” he said in an e-mail. “The family desires every American and foreign organization an ability to pay respects and recognize the passing of the generation.”… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Obama to hold White House news conference Friday: The White House says President Barack Obama will address rising oil and gasoline prices at a news conference on Friday… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Obamas Focus on Antibullying Efforts: President Obama poked fun at his own big ears and funny name on Thursday, but all in the service of a serious subject as he and Michelle Obama opened a White House conference to spur antibullying efforts in schools and communities nationwide…. – NYT, 3-10-11
  • Obama to bullying victims: I know what it’s like: President Barack Obama smiled when he said his large ears and funny name once made him a target of school-yard harassment. But he was all seriousness Thursday when he told a White House conference on bullying that torment and intimidation must not be tolerated.
    “If there’s one goal of this conference,” Obama said, “it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.” He spoke to more than 100 parents, students, teachers and others gathered to discuss the problem and share ideas for solutions. “Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And it’s not something we have to accept,” he said…. – AP, 3-10-11
  • Obama Administration Seeks Fast Appeal of Health-Care Ruling: The US Justice Department is seeking an expedited appeal of a federal judge’s ruling striking down President Barack Obama’s health-care reform legislation… – Bloomberg, 3-9-11
  • Obama nominates Locke to be ambassador to China: Hoping to make China more friendly to American business, President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated as his top envoy to Beijing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the first Chinese-American to serve in that diplomatically and commercially important assignment.
    Locke is well-versed in the Chinese trade policies that have frustrated American businesses trying to sell their products in the huge and growing Asian power. He’s led delegations of U.S. companies on dozens of trade missions abroad, including to China, where U.S. exports were up 34 percent last year. “When he’s in Beijing, I know that American companies will be able to count on him to represent their interests in front of China’s top leaders,” Obama said as he announced Locke’s nomination…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Australian PM pledges cooperation with US: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday endorsed the U.S. strategy in the ongoing war in Afghanistan and promised her country’s cooperation on the increasingly critical Asia-Pacific region, trade and job promotion.
    “You have a true friend down under,” Gillard told a joint meeting of the House and Senate. The Washington visit, which also included an Oval Office meeting with President Barack Obama, was Gillard’s first since winning election last summer as Australia’s first female prime minister… – AP, 3-9-11
  • Obamas take anti-bullying message to Facebook: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have posted a video on Facebook to promote a bullying prevention conference they’ll host at the White House…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Obama to meet with Clinton, host basketball party: President Barack Obama is meeting Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before hosting a White House party to watch basketball.
    In between, Obama will meet with the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Richard Eubank…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • AP Interview: Petraeus says tough summer ahead: Fighting in Afghanistan may be considerably worse this summer than last, but some reduction in American forces is still possible in July, the top U.S. and NATO commander in the country said Wednesday.
    Gen. David Petraeus told The Associated Press that he will present President Barack Obama with multiple plans, including different levels of troop reductions that accommodate Obama’s July target for starting a force drawdown…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Biden in Moscow for 2 days of talks: Two years after he introduced the phrase “push the reset button” for America’s relations with Russia, Vice President Joe Biden is in Moscow to see what sort of fine-tuning is needed.
    Biden plans two days of meetings Wednesday and Thursday, including with President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and representatives of Russia’s beleaguered opposition groups. He is to cap the trip with an address at Moscow State University that is expected to lay out the White House’s vision for U.S.-Russian relations in the last half of President Barack Obama’s term.
    “This trip for the vice president is an opportunity to take stock of the reset and what we’ve achieved and where we hope to go next,” said Biden’s national security adviser Tony Blinken. AP, 3-9-11
  • Expounding on a Theme, Obama Visits Boston School: President Obama visited a high-tech public school in Boston on Tuesday to pound away at his themes of innovation and education, sticking to a schedule that has taken him out of Washington nearly every week, despite budget battles and upheaval in the Arab world.
    Declaring that “there is no better economic policy than one that produces more graduates with the skills necessary to succeed,” Mr. Obama said that revitalizing education was one of his administration’s top priorities and a “responsibility of every American — every parent, every teacher, every business leader, every public official, and yes, every student.”
    The president has been elaborating on a theme of American competitiveness since he first articulated it in his State of the Union address in January. The school Mr. Obama visited here, known as the TechBoston Academy, was ideally suited to illustrate his points, its gritty classrooms stuffed with laptops and students mixing fluids to analyze their density and purity…. – NYT, 3-8-11
  • First lady celebrates women in US and around world: Michelle Obama says that while women are breaking barriers and excelling in careers their mothers and grandmothers believed were off-limits, more progress is needed to achieve true equality.
    American women still earn less than men and lag in math and science fields, she said Tuesday, while many foreign countries exclude female voices from government decision-making.
    Still, the first lady said: “We’ve come a long way, ladies.”… – AP, 3-8-11
  • White House veto threat on home refinance bill: The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto a Republican bill that would abolish an Obama administration program aimed at helping people refinance homes that are worth less than they paid for them.
    The veto threat could be the first of several as House Republicans begin working on bills terminating four administration-backed programs aimed at preventing foreclosures.
    The House Financial Services Committee voted last week to terminate The Federal Housing Administration Refinance Program on a 33-22 party line vote, with majority Republicans saying the program has not worked. AP, 3-8-11
  • Obama to GOP: Don’t cut education spending: Placing a limit on his own willingness to slice spending, President Barack Obama issued a not-too-veiled warning at Republican budget cutters Tuesday and characterized any reductions in money for education as irresponsible and harmful to the long-term health of the nation’s economy.
    In his most vigorous defense yet of his education spending proposals, Obama conceded that after years of deficits, the government needed to embrace fiscal discipline. And in a restrained speech to Democratic donors, he cautioned the partisan crowd not to equate compromise with failure…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Gates sees war gains _ but can Afghans hold them?: Gates visited some of the most hotly contested parts of the country, where the effects of President Barack Obama’s 30,000-troop surge have been most keenly felt, as the Obama administration considers where to begin withdrawing and thinning out U.S. forces. The defense secretary’s very presence in some far-flung combat bases was meant to show the progress the U.S.-led international military force claims.
    “The closer you are to the fight, the better it looks,” he told reporters Tuesday at a U.S. combat outpost to the west of here, in Kandahar province… – AP, 3-8-11
  • Obama Reopens Debate on Military Trials of Guantanamo Detainees: President Barack Obama’s decision to order the resumption of military trials for detainees at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has reopened the debate about how to handle suspected terrorists … – Bllomberg, 3-8-11
  • White House Says Tribunals Can Resume at Guantánamo: President Obama reversed his order halting new military charges against detainees, implicitly admitting failure for now of his pledge to close the camp…. – NYT, 3-7-11
  • John Ensign Will Retire From Senate: Senator John Ensign, the two-term Nevada Republican caught up in a sex scandal, is to announce that he will not seek re-election, according to Republicans familiar with the decision. NYT, 3-7-11
  • Gates: US should stay involved in Afghanistan: US, Afghan leaders say US military should stay involved in Afghanistan beyond 2014… Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the U.S. will likely begin pulling troops from Afghanistan this summer, but that the reduction would be small…. – WaPo, 3-7-11
  • Congressional leaders push Obama for more aggressive response to Libya violence: Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, for the first time raised the possibility of bombing military airfields in Libya to deny the use of runways to Moammar Gaddafi’s air force… – WaPo, 3-7-11
  • Obama takes Australian prime minister to school: Obama and Gillard began with a more traditional approach on Monday. They held a private meeting and then a relatively news-free appearance before reporters in the Oval Office, proclaiming cooperation on the war in Afghanistan, trade and security. But then the president took the prime minister back to school.
    The two took a quick road trip to Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., to mix it up with an 11th grade history class. Obama had used the school as the site of a national address on education, and Gillard is Australia’s former education minister and was interested in taking a look at U.S. education methods…. – AP, 3-7-11
  • Joe Biden in Finland, en route to Moscow, Moldova: Finland, Russia and Moldova — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived Monday in Helsinki on the first leg of an unusual European tour aimed at building warmer ties between Washington and Moscow… – AP, 3-7-11
  • Obama officials push for S. Korea trade pact: The Obama administration said Monday it’s ready to send a highly coveted South Korea trade agreement to Congress for final approval but warned that delaying the deal would cause U.S. companies to miss out on jobs and export opportunities…. – AP, 3-7-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Peter King hearings: Are American Muslims the problem or the solution?: A hearing chaired by Rep. Peter King to investigate radicalization within the American Muslim community touches on an important topic, terrorism experts say. But they question the tone… – CS Monitor, 3-10-11
  • McConnell: No debt increase without benefit cuts: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell warned on Friday that GOP senators will not vote to increase the government’s borrowing limit unless President Barack Obama agrees to rein in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, laying down a high-stakes marker just weeks before the debt ceiling is reached.
    In an interview with The Associated Press, McConnell complained that Obama has refused his offers — both public and private — to work on a bipartisan plan to tackle the nation’s massive benefit programs, which threaten to overwhelm the budget in coming years.
    “There will be no entitlement reform without President Obama,” McConnell said. “It cannot be done without him, will not be done without him.” AP, 3-10-11
  • Senators push tough law on Guantanamo detainees: Senate Republicans said Thursday a tougher, more comprehensive military detention policy for terror suspects is necessary to fill the void created by two years of what they call the Obama administration’s inconsistent approach.
    Just days after President Barack Obama’s decision to resume military trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, five GOP lawmakers and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., proposed legislation that would keep open the military prison by barring money for any alternative, impose restrictions on transferring detainees to foreign countries and push for military commissions, not civilian courts, to decide the fate of detainees… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Spending fight: Back to the bargaining table: Their opening budget gambits history, lawmakers are returning to the bargaining table in search of a fiscal plan that cuts spending, as voters demanded in the last election, and could carry political value in the next one.
    The balance is particularly delicate for senators up for re-election next year. Some, mostly Democrats, bucked their parties in a pair of votes Wednesday that sank a slashing budget proposal passed by the House and killed a less onerous Senate alternative.
    The two versions were nearly $50 billion apart on how much spending should be cut over the next seven months. Neither stood a chance of passing. Senate Democrats brought them up to cancel each other out and move forward with negotiations on a compromise. The votes could be faint memories by Election Day 2012, suggested senators who will face voters then…. – AP, 3-10-11
  • A fresh focus on Social Security in budget debate: In the midst of the budget crisis, an old debate has broken out with new force: Should Social Security be seen as part of the deficit that Washington needs to rein in?
    The White House is balking at calls to tackle Social Security’s financial problems now, before baby boomers swamp the system. But the massive retirement program, like the rest of the government, is running a deficit and has become part of the argument on Capitol Hill…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • GOP challenges proposed gov’t deal on foreclosures: Leading House Republicans challenged a deal Wednesday that federal and state officials have offered to five big U.S. banks that would change the handling of foreclosures and force lenders to modify more mortgages.
    In a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the five GOP lawmakers said the draft offer would reshape the rules long governing the mortgage industry. They posed more than dozen questions to Geithner about the proposal, including what the legal justification is for the federal and state governments to try imposing such sweeping changes.
    The lawmakers wrote that the proposal raised “significant concerns about its effect on the financial system, as well as concerns that the administration and state agencies are attempting to legislate through litigation.”… – AP, 3-9-11
  • House Republicans say federal workers are overpaid: While conservative GOP governors are demanding concessions from state workers, House Republicans are making federal employees the next target.
    Republicans at a House hearing on Wednesday complained that the 2.1 million-strong federal work force is overpaid compared with workers holding similar jobs in the private sector…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Senate rejects rival GOP, Democratic budgets: The Democratic-led Senate on Wednesday emphatically rejected a budget-slashing House spending bill as too draconian. It then immediately killed a rival Democratic plan that was derided by moderate Democrats as too timid in its drive to cut day-to-day agency budgets.
    The votes to scuttle the competing measures were designed, ironically, to prompt progress. The idea was to show tea party-backed GOP conservatives in the House that they need to pare back their budget-cutting ambitions while at the same time demonstrating to Democratic liberals that they need to budge, too…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • In Senate’s debt debate, talk isn’t cheap: In the United States Senate, failure is not an option. It is a requirement. Lawmakers, unable to agree on action to deal with the looming debt crisis, set up camp on a new plateau of pointlessness Wednesday: They scheduled votes on two rival plans to cut spending – but only after guaranteeing in advance that both plans would be defeated.
    Senate Republicans needed to prove to their colleagues in the House, and conservative activists everywhere, that they don’t have the votes to pass major cuts to the current year’s budget. Senate Democrats needed to prove to the White House, and to their liberal base, that they don’t have the votes to maintain the status quo.
    And so, after days of haggling, both sides agreed that they would effectively doom both proposals – severe Republican cuts and cosmetic Democratic cuts – by subjecting them to 60-vote supermajorities. As it happens, such precautions were unnecessary, because, after a three-hour debate, both proposals fell well short of even a simple 50-vote majority…. – WaPo, 3-9-11
  • Domestic Terrorism Hearing Set to Begin: A much-anticipated Congressional hearing on homegrown Islamic terrorism — lambasted by critics as a throwback to McCarthyism — gets under way Thursday on Capitol Hill, featuring testimony from a Muslim member of Congress, the Los Angeles County sheriff and the relatives of two young men who embraced extremist violence.
    The hearing, convened by Representative Peter T. King, the Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and represents parts of Long Island, is the first in a series that Mr. King says will explore the threat of Islamic fundamentalism inside the United States. The session, titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response” will also examine what the congressman asserts is the failure of some Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement…. – NYT, 3-9-11
  • Senate passes bill to overhaul patent system: The nation’s outmoded patent system, which has forced innovators and inventors to wait years and outlast challenges and lawsuits before getting recognition for their products, would be overhauled under a measure passed Tuesday by the Senate.
    The legislation, which was approved 95-5, transforms a patent system now operating under a law passed in 1952, at a time when the high-tech revolution was still in the future and international competition was still negligible. It now moves to the House.
    President Barack Obama said he looked forward to signing into law “the most significant patent reform in over half a century” to help grow the economy and create jobs…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Republicans push for tougher Guantanamo limits: House Republicans on Tuesday demanded tougher restrictions for terror suspects at Guantanamo even after President Barack Obama reversed course and ordered the resumption of military trials for detainees. Annoyed that Obama acted by executive authority — and without congressional input, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and six other GOP lawmakers said Tuesday they would introduce legislation to limit legal representation for detainees and permanently block money to build or renovate a facility in the United States to house suspects now held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
    The bill also would give the defense secretary rather than the attorney general the final say on keeping a detainee in military custody and restrict the transfer of a detainee to other countries unless the defense secretary certifies a host country meets certain standards…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Hornet’s nest ahead? Congress examines Islam in US: Now comes New York Rep. Peter King, forcing the issue with congressional hearings about radical Islam in the U.S. The first is Thursday, and the protests have already started. Among his fiercest critics, comparisons to McCarthyism, the era of hunting communist sympathizers, are being heard.
    “We see no productive outcome in singling out a particular community for examination in what appears to be little more than a political show trial,” a coalition of 50 liberal groups said in a letter to King on Tuesday…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Freshman Democrat upbraids Obama on spending: A freshman Democratic senator accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of failing to provide leadership on a worsening national deficit as top Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill spent more time pointing fingers than seeking common ground on a must-do measure to fund the government for the next six months… – AP, 3-8-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • ‘Wisconsin 14’ group of Democratic senators returns, greeted by thousands at CapitalWaPo, 3-12-11
  • PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama Shies Away From ProtestsABC News
  • Democratic senators return to Wisconsin Capitol, get boisterous welcomeMilwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-13-11
  • Union Bill Is Law, but Debate Is Far From Over: Protesters packed the hallways of the Capitol in Madison, with many chanting “shame, shame” as the bill was signed. Democrats and union leaders, emboldened by the huge outpouring of protesters who have rallied for weeks at the Capitol to oppose what they called a politically motivated effort to weaken unions, pledged to redouble their political, legal and legislative efforts to block measures that the governor had described as necessary to balance the budget…. – NYT, 3-11-11
  • Walker not interested in vice-presidential run: Gov. Scott Walker, considered by many in the national Republican Party to be a politician on the rise, dismissed any talk of a vice-presidential nomination in 2012. “Honestly, that’s not an issue that crosses my mind. I made a firm commitment to help the people of Wisconsin and the private sector create 250,000 jobs by 2015. I’m firmly committed to seeing that through,” Walker told Journal Sentinel reporters on Friday, just hours after he signed a bill that ends most collective bargaining for public employee unions… – Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 3-11-11
  • 2011-’13 Budget in Brief (pdf, 77 pages)
  • Budget Repair Bill summary (pdf)
  • Current state budget
  • Republican lawmakers receive e-mail threats: Republican senators and representatives likely are looking over their shoulders a bit more after receiving e-mail death threats related to the measure that eliminates most collective bargaining … – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-11-11
  • Unions: Losing friends all around: As Barack Obama stood on that frigid inaugural stage in 2009, labor leaders could envisage the glorious future awaiting them…. – Fortune, 3-10-11
  • Wis. GOP bypasses Dems, cuts collective bargaining: The Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday night to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers, approving an explosive proposal that had rocked the state and unions nationwide after Republicans discovered a way to bypass the chamber’s missing Democrats.
    All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair bill” — a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Hard Stance Seems Softer In E-Mail Of Governor: For weeks, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has publicly held firm to his plan to sharply curtail collective bargaining rights for most public workers, despite the protests of union supporters. But e-mail messages released Tuesday between representatives of Mr. Walker and some Senate Democrats who oppose the measure suggest that Mr. Walker has privately considered tempering at least some limited elements of those bargaining changes.
    Mr. Walker’s initial proposal, which set off a firestorm of debate in Wisconsin and beyond, would allow collective bargaining on matters of wages only, limit raises to the Consumer Price Index, keep contracts to one year and require unions to vote annually to determine whether most workers still wish to be members.
    The e-mails show that as recently as Sunday evening Mr. Walker’s representatives appeared willing to agree to some changes…. – NYT, 3-9-11
  • Walker blames unions for standoff Governor thinks national labor leaders barring deal: Gov. Scott Walker blamed national labor organizers Monday evening for scuttling attempts at compromise with 14 Democratic senators who fled to Illinois to avoid a vote on a budget-repair bill that would take away most collective bargaining rights of public workers. Citing a Wall Street Journal report, Walker said Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) indicated Sunday that the Democrats would return to Wisconsin. But he said that changed Monday.
    The governor said he doesn’t know what happened, but he suspects it was union leaders who are influencing the 14 Democrats. “I don’t have this on firsthand knowledge. My guess is he got a phone call from one of the union bosses in D.C. who said, ‘You cannot go back there and let them have a vote,’ ” Walker said… – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-7-11
  • Why ‘Wisconsin 14’ are ready to return: They think they’re winning: Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic absentee state senators indicate they’re ready to return – because they think they’ve already won the war, if not this battle…. – CS Monitor, 3-7-11
  • Lawmaker: Wisconsin Democrats returning soon: The Democratic senators who fled are convinced that Republicans will be severely hurt if Walker’s plan is passed…. The State Senate Democrats who left Wisconsin to block a vote on a bill that would severely curb collective bargaining for most public employees are planning to return soon, one of the lawmakers said…. – WaPo, 3-7-11
  • Wisconsin’s Walker dismisses Democratic overture: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dismissed as “ridiculous” a request on Monday from the leader of absent Senate Democrats to meet and negotiate a compromise in their standoff over Republican plans to limit public sector union powers…. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker blasted the leader of the state’s Senate Democrats as an obstacle in getting some of the Democrats to return and vote on his budget proposal…. – Reuters, 3-7-11
  • Walker blames unions for standoff: Gov. Scott Walker blamed national labor organizers Monday evening for scuttling attempts at compromise with 14 Democratic senators who fled to Illinois to avoid a vote on a budget-repair bill… – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-7-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Tea party favourite US Rep. Bachmann flubs Revolutionary War geography: A potential Republican presidential candidate who is a favourite of the conservative tea party movement which extolls America’s Founding Fathers got her geography mixed up when it came to where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were … The Canadian Press, 3-13-11
  • Dems hope to taint Romney with health law praise: President Barack Obama and other top Democrats have been quick to lavish praise on former Massachusetts Republican Gov…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • Barbour contrasts himself with Obama on economy: Previewing a presidential campaign pitch, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is blaming President Barack Obama for the sluggish recovery and accusing him of enacting a series of policies that “created economic uncertainty or directly hurt the economy.”
    The two-term Republican governor also is holding up his record as proof that he could do better on two pillars: economic growth and job creation.
    “We still have more to do in Mississippi. But we have made great progress and are laying a foundation for the future,” Barbour says in remarks prepared for delivery later Monday to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • Campaigning as All Things to All Republicans: CONCORD, NH – Many aspiring Republican presidential candidates are going to great lengths to avoid the spotlight, but not Tim Pawlenty…. – NYT, 3-13-11
  • Pawlenty takes on “problem-solver” mantle in NH: In Arizona recently, Tim Pawlenty courted a convention of Tea Party supporters with a passionate defense of constitutional freedoms…. – Boston Globe, 3-11-11
  • Mitt supporter loves Romneycare: Health care may be Mitt Romney’s biggest political liability, but the controversial program he enacted as Massachusetts governor actually helped earn him a key endorsement Thursday … – Politico, 3-11-11
  • Julianne Moore to star in Sarah Palin movie: Actress Julianne Moore is to star as Sarah Palin in the movie Game Change about the former Alaska governor’s rise to prominence in the 2008 presidential election campaign, it was announced Wednesday. Monsters and Critics.com, 3-11-11
  • Plastic Mitt: Nyhan argues that Romney is being caricatured as inauthentic. Waldman half-agrees; he thinks that Romney’s pandering is self-evident but “that doesn’t mean that everything [Romney] does should be presented as evidence of his phoniness…. – The Atlantic, 3-10-11
  • Florida Senate sets ‘Obamacare’ showdown for 2012: The Florida Senate approved a showdown Wednesday over “Obamacare” on next year’s presidential ballot with a constitutional amendment that would block mandates to buy health insurance. Florida Today, 3-10-11
  • Republicans push for restrictions on voting rights: New Hampshire Republicans are pushing for new laws that would stop many college students from voting in the state… – AP, 3-9-11
  • Out of spotlight, GOP hopefuls prepping for 2012: Newt Gingrich is the Republican taking some of the most public first steps for a presidential bid, but he’s hardly the only one in motion. Far from the media spotlight, White House hopefuls are furiously hiring staff, testing messages for the powerful conservative base of the GOP and mapping out a rough political calendar, all part of a hard-charging effort that precedes the official kickoff…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Mitt Romney, the most transparent candidate: We’re all for transparency these days, and if anything is transparently clear about American politics, it is that Mitt Romney will do or say anything to become president. The best guess is that at heart he is an old-fashioned, business-oriented Republican. But there’s no knowing for sure. He may have no sincere beliefs at all. There was a piece about Romney on Page 1 of The New York Times on Sunday, and what amazes me is the deadpan frankness with which the article and the Romney aides and allies quoted in it accept the premise that, of course, he is a phony, that this reputation as a phony could be a bit of a problem if he runs in 2012. And then they go on to discuss what Romney might do to solve this problem. He was criticized last time for being a stiff, so this time he is not wearing a tie. Ever. Problem solved, as Romney sees it.
    “I like President Obama,” Romney says patronizingly, “but he doesn’t have a clue how jobs are created.” The last time he ran, Romney played down his experience as a businessman and played up his recently acquired views as a social conservative, because that’s what commentators and consultants were telling him to do back then… – Politico, 3-8-11
  • GOP contenders make early pitch to Iowa evangelicals: While the national political debate continues to swirl around the state of the economic recovery, five Republicans with their eyes on the White House spent the evening in a Des Moines suburb pitching themselves to Iowa evangelicals… CNN, 3-8-11
  • Romney, Weighing Run for President, Focuses on Jobs: Focusing on jobs offers Romney a chance to sidestep the concerns of social conservatives and avoid the Mass. health care… Mitt Romney made the case in a speech that the halting economic recovery provides the most compelling rationale that he should take on President Obama…. – NYT, 3-7-11
  • Palin Says “No” to Cutting Israel Aid: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin came out strongly in favor of continued U.S. foreign aid to Israel. Think of what this state Israel has gone through, and what they have suffered through and what they have triumphed over…. – virtualjerusalem.com, 3-7-11
  • Mitt Romney tries to explain ‘RomneyCare.’ Will it work?: Speaking to Republican activists in New Hampshire, likely presidential candidate Mitt Romney addressed a major challenge: The health care program he took credit for as governor of Massachusetts. Critics say it’s a lot like “ObamaCare.”… – CS Monitor, 3-7-11

QUOTES

President Obama Takes Questions at a Press Conference

President Barack Obama answers questions from the media during a news conference in the South Court Auditorium of the White House, March 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

  • Weekly Address: Women’s History Month & Fair Pay: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address Saturday, March 12, 2011 Washington, DC: March is Women’s History Month, a time not only to celebrate the progress that women have made, but also the women throughout our history who have made that progress possible.
    One inspiring American who comes to mind is Eleanor Roosevelt. In 1961, the former First Lady was unhappy about the lack of women in government, so she marched up to President Kennedy and handed him a three-page list of women who were qualified for top posts in his administration. This led the President to select Mrs. Roosevelt as the head of a new commission to look at the status of women in America, and the unfairness they routinely faced in their lives.
    Though she passed away before the commission could finish its work, the report they released spurred action across the country. It helped galvanize a movement led by women that would help make our society a more equal place.
    It’s been almost fifty years since the Roosevelt commission published its findings – and there have been few similar efforts by the government in the decades that followed. That’s why, last week, here at the White House, we released a new comprehensive report on the status of women in the spirit on the one that was released half a century ago.
    There was a lot of positive news about the strides we’ve made, even in recent years. For example, women have caught up with men in seeking higher education. In fact, women today are more likely than men to attend and graduate from college.
    Yet, there are also reminders of how much work remains to be done. Women are still more likely to live in poverty in this country. In education, there are areas like math and engineering where women are vastly outnumbered by their male counterparts. This is especially troubling, for we know that to compete with nations around the world, these are the fields in which we need to harness the talents of all our people. That’s how we’ll win the future.
    And, today, women still earn on average only about 75 cents for every dollar a man earns. That’s a huge discrepancy. And at a time when folks across this country are struggling to make ends meet – and many families are just trying to get by on one paycheck after a job loss – it’s a reminder that achieving equal pay for equal work isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s a family issue.
    In one of my first acts as President, I signed a law so that women who’ve been discriminated against in their salaries could have their day in court to make it right. But there are steps we should take to prevent that from happening in the first place. That’s why I was so disappointed when an important bill to give women more power to stop pay disparities – the Paycheck Fairness Act – was blocked by just two votes in the Senate. And that’s why I’m going to keep up the fight to pass the reforms in that bill.
    Achieving equality and opportunity for women isn’t just important to me as President. It’s something I care about deeply as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve.
    As I’ve traveled across the country, visiting schools and meeting young people, I’ve seen so many girls passionate about science and other subjects that were traditionally not as open to them. We even held a science fair at the White House, where I met a young woman named Amy Chyao. She was only 16 years old, but she was actually working on a treatment for cancer. She never thought, “Science isn’t for me.” She never thought, “Girls can’t do that.” She was just interested in solving a problem. And because someone was interested in giving her a chance, she has the potential to improve lives.
    That tells me how far we’ve come. But it also tells me we have to work even harder to close the gaps that still exist, and to uphold that simple American ideal: we are all equal and deserving of the chance to pursue our own version of happiness. That’s what Eleanor Roosevelt was striving toward half a century ago. That’s why this report matters today. And that’s why, on behalf of all our daughters and our sons, we’ve got to keep making progress in the years ahead. – WH, 3-12-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • The Earthquake in Japan and Tsunami Preparedness: Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan, particularly those who have lost loved ones in the earthquake and tsunamis. The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy. We will continue to closely monitor tsunamis around Japan and the Pacific going forward and we are asking all our citizens in the affected region to listen to their state and local officials as I have instructed FEMA to be ready to assist Hawaii and the rest of the US states and territories that could be affected. WH, 3-11-11
  • The Ongoing Response to the Earthquakes and Tsunami in Japan: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has released an overview of the United States’ reponse in support of our friends in Japan.
  • Our thoughts and our prayers remain with the people of Japan. The President has been kept fully briefed on developments and the response throughout the weekend. As directed by the President, we have offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed as America will stand with Japan as they recover and rebuild. – WH, 3-13-11
  • Joseph Lieberman: “My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan and all those affected by this devastating natural disaster, including the thousands of American citizens in Japan. America has no better friend and ally in Asia than Japan, and we in the United States must stand ready to mobilize any assistance we can to help as quickly as possible. The people of the United States stand in solidarity with the people of Japan through the difficult days ahead.
    “As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I am also monitoring closely the tsunami warnings that have been issued for parts of the United States, including Hawaii, Alaska, and parts of the West Coast. I urge all Americans in areas potentially affected to heed these advisories, follow the warnings that have been issued, and listen carefully for updates from authorities.” — Senator Joseph Lieberman (CT) – LIEBERMAN STATEMENT ON JAPANESE DISASTER
  • The President’s Press Conference: The Causes, Government Response, and Long-Term Solutions to Rising Gas Prices: But the bottom line is this. We’ve been having this conversation for nearly four decades now. Every few years, gas prices go up; politicians pull out the same old political playbook, and then nothing changes. And when prices go back down, we slip back into a trance. And then when prices go up, suddenly we’re shocked. I think the American people are tired of that. I think they’re tired of talk. We’ve got to work together – Democrats, Republicans, and everybody in between –- to finally secure America’s energy future. I don’t want to leave this for the next President, and none of us should want to leave it for our kids…. – WH, 3-11-11
  • News Conference by the President, South Court Auditorium: THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Before I begin, I want to say a few words about the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan earlier today.
    First and foremost, our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of Japan. This is a potentially catastrophic disaster and the images of destruction and flooding coming out of Japan are simply heartbreaking. Japan is, of course, one of our strongest and closest allies, and this morning I spoke with Prime Minister Kan. On behalf of the American people, I conveyed our deepest condolences, especially to the victims and their families, and I offered our Japanese friends whatever assistance is needed.
    We currently have an aircraft carrier in Japan, and another is on its way. We also have a ship en route to the Marianas Islands to assist as needed. The Defense Department is working to account for all our military personnel in Japan. U.S. Embassy personnel in Tokyo have moved to an offsite location. And the State Department is working to account for and assist any and all American citizens who are in the country.
    Tsunami warnings have been issued across the Pacific, and we’ve already seen initial waves from the tsunami come ashore on Guam and other U.S. territories, in Alaska and Hawaii, as well as on — along the West Coast. Here in the United States, there hasn’t been any major damage so far. But we’re taking this very seriously, and we are monitoring the situation very closely. FEMA is fully activated and is coordinating with state and local officials to support these regions as necessary. And let me just stress that if people are told to evacuate, do as you are told.
    Today’s events remind us of just how fragile life can be. Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy…. – WH, 3-11-11
  • The First Lady at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention: So as parents, we know we need to make a real effort to be engaged in our children’s lives, to listen to them and be there for them when they need us. We need to get involved in their schools and in their activities so that we know what they’re up to, both in and out of the classroom. And when something is wrong, we need to speak up, and we need to take action.
    That’s just what Jacqui Knight did. She’s a mom from Moore, Oklahoma, who’s here with us today. We got a chance to spend some time with her before. But when her child was bullied, she got together with other parents and planned community meetings where parents and students could share their stories. They also held meetings for the public to raise awareness about bullying. And they’ve been meeting with the school board and superintendent to discuss steps that they can take to keep their kids safe.
    But parents aren’t the only ones who have a responsibility. We all need to play a role — as teachers, coaches, as faith leaders, elected officials, and anyone who’s involved in our children’s lives. And that doesn’t just mean working to change our kids’ behavior and recognize and reward kids who are already doing the right thing. It means thinking about our own behavior as adults as well. – WH, 3-10-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • President Obama at the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention: As adults, we all remember what it was like to see kids picked on in the hallways or in the schoolyard. And I have to say, with big ears and the name that I have, I wasn’t immune. (Laughter.) I didn’t emerge unscathed. But because it’s something that happens a lot, and it’s something that’s always been around, sometimes we’ve turned a blind eye to the problem. We’ve said, “Kids will be kids.” And so sometimes we overlook the real damage that bullying can do, especially when young people face harassment day after day, week after week.
    So consider these statistics. A third of middle school and high school students have reported being bullied during the school year. Almost 3 million students have said they were pushed, shoved, tripped, even spit on. It’s also more likely to affect kids that are seen as different, whether it’s because of the color of their skin, the clothes they wear, the disability they may have, or sexual orientation.
    And bullying has been shown to lead to absences and poor performance in the classroom. And that alone should give us pause, since no child should be afraid to go to school in this country.
    Today, bullying doesn’t even end at the school bell — it can follow our children from the hallways to their cell phones to their computer screens. And in recent months, a series of tragedies has drawn attention to just how devastating bullying can be. We have just been heartbroken by the stories of young people who endured harassment and ridicule day after day at school, and who ultimately took their own lives. These were kids brimming with promise — kids like Ty Field, kids like Carl Walker-Hoover — who should have felt nothing but excitement for the future. Instead, they felt like they had nowhere to turn, as if they had no escape from taunting and bullying that made school something they feared. I want to recognize Ty’s mom and dad who are here today; Carl’s mother and sister who are here today. They’ve shown incredible courage as advocates against bullying in memory of the sons and the brother that they’ve lost. And so we’re so proud of them and we’re grateful to them for being here today. (Applause.)
    No family should have to go through what these families have gone through. No child should feel that alone. We’ve got to make sure our young people know that if they’re in trouble, there are caring adults who can help and young adults that can help; that even if they’re having a tough time, they’re going to get through it, and there’s a whole world full of possibility waiting for them. We also have to make sure we’re doing everything we can so that no child is in that position in the first place. And this is a responsibility we all share — a responsibility we have to teach all children the Golden Rule: We should treat others the way we want to be treated…. – WH, 3-10-11TranscriptMp4Mp3

President Obama & the First Lady Address Bullying

West Wing Week: 3/11/11 or “Law School in 15 Seconds”

  • Women and Girls Around the World Celebrating International Women’s Day: On Tuesday, I joined First Lady Michelle Obama and people around the world in celebrating the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. One hundred years ago, millions of people rallied in cities across the globe to demand equal rights for women: calling for the right to vote, to hold office, to work for fair pay and good conditions, and to be educated and trained. Since 1911, people have gathered every year in March to celebrate advancements in gender equality and to peacefully call attention to issues affecting women around the world. Our celebration in the White House demonstrated just how far we have come since 1911 and how, in 2011, we are committed to going even further.
    First Lady at International Women’s Day Celebration
    First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests during the International Women’s Day reception in the East Room of the White House.
    The international theme of this year’s celebration is “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.” Not only are women and girls essential to winning the future in the United States, they are important for global prosperity. Just in time for International Women’s Day, the United Nations released a report that giving women the same agricultural tools, resources, and access to work as men could feed 150 million people. And last week, our White House Council on Women and Girls released our report on “Women in America,” that documented “ the ways in which American women and girls have made substantial progress in educational attainment and achievement in the last few decades.” The full report can be found here.
    The President has emphasized the importance of education, and especially in math, science and technology. As he recently said at the TechBoston Academy, “There’s no better economic policy than one that produces more graduates with the skills they need to succeed — to start their own businesses, to create their own Microsoft, to create new industries.” And to win the future we will need women and girls to fully participate in those fields and careers of the future. You can read more about the President’s commitment to women in education here. That’s why we are committed to investing in the efforts of the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation to encourage girls to pursue science, math, engineering, and technology. Preparing young women for careers in these important fields is key to our commitment to innovation and growth. That’s why Startup America, a new public/private collaboration launched by the President, will help female entrepreneurs connect with corporations, startup funders, foundations and mentors to help their businesses start and grow.
    At the White House’s celebration in the East Room, we had the opportunity to hear from two young women who are helping forge that pathway to work for women in their countries and abroad. We met Aissatou Hamidou Diall, an inspiring young activist and 6th grade student from the West African country Burkina Faso. Last year, Aissatou represented her school at an event in the city of Dori with over 500 important guests, including the Minister of Education, the Governor, and a Vice President of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Aissatou is an advocate for educating girls like herself – someone who is the first in her family to go to college. Aissatou is just the type of young woman that the President wants to empower. We want more young women acting as ambassadors for women’s issues in their communities and around the world. – WH, 3-10-11
  • Statement by the President on International Women’s Day: History shows that when women and girls have access to opportunity, societies are more just, economies are more likely to prosper, and governments are more likely to serve the needs of all their people. That is why my administration has stood up for gender equality and women’s empowerment around the world…. – WH, 3-8-11
  • The First Lady on International Women’s Day: “We as a nation benefit from every girl whose potential is fulfilled, from every woman whose talent is tapped. We benefit from their intelligence, from their hard work, from their creativity, from their leadership.”… – WH, 3-8-11
  • Remarks by the First Lady at International Women’s Day Reception: MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness. I love you all. This is an exciting, exciting day — exciting. We had a fabulous morning at the State Department. And I hope you all are having just a lot of fun here this evening.
    We are just honored and delighted to have you here to celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month here at the White House. Yes. (Applause….
    And tonight, I just want to say to all of you that your journeys, that your achievements and your very presence in this room are a perfect illustration of the progress that we’ve made since this day was first celebrated 100 years ago. We’ve come a long way, ladies! (Applause.)
    And we are celebrating those accomplishments here in America. Women are now the majority of graduates of colleges and universities. We make up nearly half of America’s workforce. We got to get paid more for it. (Applause.) But we do. Women are thriving in every sector of our society. We are leading businesses. We’re serving at the highest levels of government and the armed forces. We’re breaking barriers and succeeding in careers that our mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.
    And as more opportunities have become open to women, that hasn’t just enriched our own lives. As we all know, it’s enriched the life of this nation. And that’s one of the reasons why we have to do this, because we need to remind ourselves and our country that we’re here because of us. Because we as a nation benefit from every girl whose potential is fulfilled; from every woman whose talent is tapped. We benefit as a nation. We as a nation benefit from their intelligence, from their hard work, from their creativity, from their leadership.
    And that’s not just true here in America. Time and again, we have seen that countries across the globe are more prosperous, they’re more peaceful when women are more equal and have the rights and opportunities they deserve. (Applause.)
    And that is why women and girls are a core focus of America’s engagement with the world, including our diplomatic and development work, and our work to prevent and respond to conflict. And that’s why here at home we continue our work to close the pay gap once and for all, to get that done. That’s why we continue our work here at home to bring women into fields like math and science. Keep studying your math. (Laughter.) We’re still under-represented. So we still have work to do.
    We continue our work to promote entrepreneurship and workplace flexibility so that women can contribute as fully as possible to our economy. And while we’ve made some important strides, all of you in this room know better than anyone else that this work is far from finished. We have so, so much more to do. You all know better than just about anyone that change is hard, and change is slow. Many of you might not win the battles you’re fighting or see the progress you’re fighting for in your lifetimes. You know that. But I’m thinking tonight of a quote from the author Alice Walker, who once wrote, “So our mothers and grandmothers have more often than not anonymously handed on the creative spark, the seed of the flower they themselves never hoped to see.”
    And that is why all of you keep on fighting. That’s why all of you keep on leading and working toward a better day for all of us. You do it so that our daughters and granddaughters and, just as importantly, our sons and grandsons can have the opportunities that many of us only dreamed of. You do it because you know that your work could be the spark or that seed for the dreams and aspirations of girls like Aissatou and Shannon generations from now. This is why we do this work. We do it for you. We do it for you.
    So I want to close tonight by simply saying thank you. This is a small — very small way for me, for my husband, for this administration to let you know just how proud we are of all that you do for women and girls. Our work is so far from done. But 100 years ago, we would have never imagined that we’d be standing here in the East Room of the White House — (laughter) — celebrating this day with this administration. So we have reason to celebrate. (Applause.) – WH, 3-8-11
  • President Obama Announces “100 Youth Roundtables”: The Office of Public Engagement has put together a great initiative to assure that young Americans of all walks of life can participate in a roundtable discussions about important issues…. – WH, 3-9-11
  • President Obama on Education at TechBostonTranscriptMp4Mp3
  • President Obama to Those Conducting Violence in Libya: “It is Their Choice… and They Will Be Held”: During his joint appearance with Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia, the President addresses those involved in the violence and discusses the international response….
    “I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Qaddafi: It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward, and they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place there.”… – WH, 3-7-11
  • President Obama Makes a Long-Distance Call to Space: On Thursday, President Obama called the crews of the Space Shuttle Discovery and International Space Station to congratulate them on their achievements and courage as they work and live in orbit around the Earth….
    “You are setting such a great example with your dedication, courage, and commitment to exploration. These are traits that built America.”… – WH, 3-6-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

The President records the Weekly Address

White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 3/11/11

  • Julian Zelizer: Dems hope to taint Romney with health law praise: “Democrats need to be careful of that strategy of praising him too much,” said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “Once he has the nomination he’ll be playing to moderates and independent voters and he could use that in his favor.”… – AP, 3-13-11
  • Gaddafi, the author: Libyan protesters furious at strongman Moammar Gaddafi have vented their rage on his writings, burning his political manifesto in the streets. The dictator’s odd social, political and economic thoughts are contained in “The Green Book,” which he wrote in the 1970s.
    To try to understand the man and his current ravings, it is useful to look back at the three slim volumes that make up “The Green Book.”
    But as Prof. Dirk Vandewalle, a professor at Dartmouth College and author of “A History of Modern Libya,” told NPR, the work is “very difficult to understand in part because it really is not a coherent thought if you compare it, for example, to ‘The Little Red Book’ of Mao . . . where you get at least a consistent argument. ‘The Green Book’ contains really a set of aphorisms more than a completely thought-out integrated philosophical statement.”… – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Why Obama will be tough to beat: Republicans are looking ahead — some with glee and others with fear — to the presidential election in 2012…. Most of them, even the optimists, realize that there is a rough road ahead. With all the challenges that President Obama confronts, he won’t be easy to beat….
    Republicans don’t have a similar candidate lined up for 2012. The current crop of Republicans includes state officials relatively untested in national political waters, candidates with more experience but lacking charisma, and national veterans like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with substantial political liabilities. The next Ronald Reagan has yet to arrive.
    History should give Republicans some pause as they start to think about their choice. None of this means Obama is a lock for re-election. After all, conditions can change and new voices can rapidly emerge in today’s media. But it’s going to take a special candidate and a change in the political environment for a Republican to win…. – CNN, 3-7-11



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