History Buzz July 4, 2011: Obamas & Nation Celebrate Independence Day 2011

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

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.

INDEPENDENCE DAY: JULY 4TH, 2011

STATS & POLLS

  • Celebrating Independence Day: Americans come together for Fourth of July festivities in the District and throughout the region…. – WaPo
  • How well do you know the Declaration of Independence? Take our quiz: Every Fourth of July, Americans celebrate the independence of the United States with fireworks, parades, and picnics. But how much do people know about the 1776 events that are being cheered? Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge of the Declaration of Independence…. – CS Monitor, 7-4-11

IN FOCUS

  • Obama thanks troops at July 4 party on South Lawn: Telling U.S. troops that “America is proud of all of you,” President Barack Obama marked the Fourth of July holiday by hosting a barbecue and concert for military members and families on the South Lawn of the White House.
    The president and his family – wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia – greeted more than 1,200 guests from a White House balcony Monday evening. After brief remarks, the first couple stood in the driveway and shook hands with visitors.
    “You represent the latest in a long line of heroes who have served our country with honor, who have made incredible sacrifices to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy,” Obama said. “You’ve done everything we could’ve asked of you,” he said, also recognizing the “families that serve alongside of you with strength and devotion.”… AP, 7-4-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Fireworks, parades, 62 hot dogs: US celebrates 4th: The U.S. marked the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence with parades, fireworks, barbecues — plus presidential campaigning, a White House birthday and competitive eating….
    The holiday is celebrated as the nation’s birthday, but it also was Malia Obama’s 13th birthday. The president’s eldest daughter had to share her parents with hundreds of others as Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama invited troops and their families to attend a special barbecue and USO concert on the South Lawn.
    Some of the Republicans hoping to replace Obama in the White House spent part of the day campaigning in states where presidential politics are as much a part of the holiday as fireworks and barbecues…. – AP, 7-4-11
  • A Fireworks Show for the Nation: Fireworks will be illuminating the skies in cities across the country on this July 4 holiday.
    Among the classic destinations for Independence Day displays, the fireworks show on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., has long been a go-to for pyrotechnic enthusiasts.
    A Tennessee-based company called Pyro Shows is on its ninth year of designing Washington’s fireworks celebration. We talked to Tom Stiner about what goes into pulling a pyrotechnic show of this magnitude.
    Set against the backdrop of the Washington monument, the event includes “A Capitol Fourth” concert, which you can watch on many PBS stations starting at 8 p.m. ET…. – PBS, 7-4-11
  • Fourth of July Celebrations Draw Families, Troops and Presidential Hopefuls: SUMMARY Americans at home and abroad celebrated Independence Day with parades, barbeques, and fireworks. Judy Woodruff reports on how Americans celebrated Independence Day here and abroad.
    JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States marked its birthday today, the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with parades and fireworks, plus competitive eating, presidential campaigning, and a new teenager at the White House.
    The party started late last night, midnight, to be exact, in Gatlinburg, Tenn. The tiny mountain town kicked off the Fourth of July in classic fashion, with banners, music, and plenty of kids up past their bedtime.
    Today, in cities across the country, preparations were under way for a robust celebration, unpacking fireworks and prepping the stages…. – PBS Newshour, 7-4-11Mp3

QUOTES

The President and First Lady watch the fireworks

The President and First Lady watch the fireworks over the National Mall, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 7/4/10

Barack Obama: Today we are celebrating our country, honoring our troops, and enjoying a little BBQ. From all of us at Obama 2012, have a wonderful Fourth.

George W. Bush: Laura and I wish our fellow Americans a happy 4th of July. On this anniversary of our independence, we give thanks for our freedom. We salute the men and women in uniform who defend it. And we ask for God’s continued blessings on the United States.

John McCain: Independence Day Message: I was honored to join General David Petraeus today at a re-enlistment ceremony in Afghanistan for 235 of our brave troopers on this, America’s 235th Independence Day. It was both humbling and inspiring to share this day with so many young Americans who have committed their lives to a cause greater than themselves — the freedom and security of our nation.
As we gather today for backyard barbecues and community events this 4th of July, let us pay tribute to our troops in harms way, their families who miss and love them so dearly, and all the heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend the nation we love.
Have a safe and joyful 4th of July, and God Bless America!

Michelle Obama: What You Can Do to Support Military Families: Good morning, This Independence Day, I hope you’ll join me and my family in recognizing both our brave men and women in uniform and their families for everything they do to protect our country and our way of life.
We know that when our troops are called to serve, their families serve right along with them. For military kids, that means stepping up to help with the housework and putting on a brave face through all those missed holidays, bedtimes and ballet recitals. For military spouses, it means pulling double-duty, doing the work of both parents, often while juggling a full-time job or trying to get an education.
That’s why, a few months ago, Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, a nationwide campaign to recognize, honor, and serve our military families. Our troops give so much to this country and they ask us for just one thing in return: to take care of their families while they’re gone. So we’ve put out a call to action. We’re urging all Americans to ask themselves one question: What can I do to give back to these families that have given so much?
To answer that question you can go to JoiningForces.gov and learn more about how you can get involved. And you can get started right now through Operation Honor Card by pledging to spend a certain number of hours serving military families in your community. – WH, 7-4-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

An illustration shows Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams reviewing a draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson (left), Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Illustration courtesy Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, Library of Congres

  • Valerie Strauss: Top 5 myths about July 4: Back by popular demand (well, I like them), here are the top five myths about Independence Day, adapted from George Mason University’s History News Network:
    1. Independence was declared on the Fourth of July.
    2. The Declaration of Independence was signed July 4.
    3. The Liberty Bell rang in American Independence.
    4. Betsy Ross sewed the first American flag.
    5. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the Fourth of July…. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Fourth of July: Nine Myths Debunked Paul Revere didn’t ride solo, for one: Many time-honored patriotic tales turn out to be more fiction than fact. On the Fourth of July—today marked by a continent-spanning Google doodle—here’s a look at some memorable myths from the birth of the United States.
    1. The Declaration of Independence Was Signed on July 4
    2. Paul Revere Rode Solo
    3. July 4, 1776, Party Cracked the Liberty Bell
    4. Patriots Flocked to Fight for Freedom
    5. The Declaration of Independence Holds Secret Messages
    6. John Adams Died Thinking of Thomas Jefferson
    7. America United Against the British
    8. Betsy Ross Made the First American Flag
    9. Native Americans Sided With the British… – National Geo, 7-4-11
  • E.J. Dionne Jr.: What our Declaration really said: Our nation confronts a challenge this Fourth of July that we face but rarely: We are at odds over the meaning of our history and why, to quote our Declaration of Independence, “governments are instituted.”
    Only divisions this deep can explain why we are taking risks with our country’s future that we’re usually wise enough to avoid. Arguments over how much government should tax and spend are the very stuff of democracy’s give-and-take. Now, the debate is shadowed by worries that if a willful faction does not get what it wants, it might bring the nation to default.
    This is, well, crazy. It makes sense only if politicians believe — or have convinced themselves — that they are fighting over matters of principle so profound that any means to defeat their opponents is defensible.
    We are closer to that point than we think, and our friends in the Tea Party have offered a helpful clue by naming their movement in honor of the 1773 revolt against tea taxes on that momentous night in Boston Harbor…. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Special: Independence Daze – A History Of July 4th: Everybody knows that July 4th celebrates our nation’s beginnings. But for the first 94 years of our existence, the 4th wasn’t an official holiday at all. The Declaration of Independence itself sat untended in a dusty archive for 150 years. So how did Independence Day become the holiest day on our secular calendar? And why do we observe it with hot dogs, fireworks and mattress sales?
    In this hour, the History Guys explore the origins and curiosities of July 4th. They reveal the holiday’s radical roots, and look how the Declaration’s meaning has changed over time. They also consider how the Declaration’s messages about liberty and equality have been embraced by the descendents of slaves. And, as always, they take calls from BackStory listeners looking to the past to understand the America of today.
    Highlights Include:
    Historian Pauline Maier (“American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence”) contrasts the sections of the Declaration of Independence that mattered to the Founders with the sections that matter today.
    July 4th chronicler James Heintze (“The Fourth of July Encyclopedia”) recounts the early days of celebrating independence, with a special focus on explosives.
    Historian David Blight (“Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee”) analyzes Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro,” widely known as one of the greatest abolitionist speeches ever…. – KUOW, 7-4-11
  • On the Fourth, a declaration we still must live up to: MORE THAN 130 British ships had set sail from Nova Scotia on June 9, on their way to the rebellious American colonies. The king of England had hired thousands of German mercenaries. The British penalty for treason was death and confiscation of one’s estate. These were some of the things on the minds of members of the Continental Congress as they met in Philadelphia to debate independence 235 years ago.
    “And yet,” writes the historian Pauline Maier, “as the British began to bring the greatest fleet and the largest army ever assembled in North America into action against the Americans, Congress devoted the better part of two days to revising the draft declaration of Independence. Wars, it understood, were not won by ships and sailors and arms alone. Words, too, had power to serve the cause of victory.”
    The Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today, wasn’t even an official act of government. The Continental Congress had voted for independence on July 2. The July 4 Declaration, drafted mostly by Thomas Jefferson, was meant as inspiration for the soldiers and to justify and explain a drastic action against the crown to a divided and worried public. To be cynical about it, it was in some ways an early exercise in spin control, especially in its over-the-top excoriation of King George III’s alleged offenses. But in time it became — to use the title of Professor Maier’s 1997 book on the subject — “American Scripture,” with an impact on the national consciousness that far exceeded its revolutionary role….. – WaPo, 7-4-11
  • Victor Davis Hanson: America trusts its citizens: Putting confidence in individuals, and not the state or the bureaucracy, is what makes the U.S. an exceptional nation.
    For the last 235 years, on the Fourth of July, Americans have celebrated the birth of the United States, and the founding ideas that have made it the most powerful, wealthiest, and freest nation in the history of civilization.
    But today, there has never been more uncertainty about the future of America – and the anxiety transcends even the dismal economy and three foreign wars. President Obama prompted such introspection in April 2009, when he suggested that the United States, as one of many nations, was not necessarily any more exceptional than others. Recently, a New Yorker magazine article sympathetically described our new foreign policy as “leading from behind.”
    The administration not long ago sought from the United Nations and the Arab League – but not from Congress – authorization to attack Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya. Earlier, conservative opponents had made much of the president’s bows to Chinese and Saudi Arabian heads of state, which, coupled with serial apologies for America’s distant and recent past, were seen as symbolically deferential efforts to signal the world that the United States was at last not necessarily preeminent among nations.
    Yet there has never been any nation even remotely similar to America. Here’s why. Most revolutions seek to destroy the existing class order and use all-powerful government to mandate an equality of result rather than of opportunity – in the manner of the French Revolution’s slogan of “liberty, equality and fraternity” or the Russian Revolution’s “peace, land and bread.”… – PA Inquirer, 7-4-11
  • Around America, a spirited Fourth: In the nation’s capital, revelers celebrated the Fourth at the Mall in Washington. Festivities included a parade and fireworks.
    President Barack Obama thanked U.S. service members and their families Monday by hosting them on the South Lawn of the White House for a patriotic cookout and fireworks display.\ “After all that you do for our country every day, we wanted to give you guys a chance to get out of uniform, relax and have some fun,” Obama said.
    And fun was the order of the day as Americans celebrated Independence Day around the nation with flags, fireworks and food.
    Monday evening, revelers along the Hudson River readied for the Macy’s annual fireworks show, which usually attracts around 2 million people each year.
    In Washington, a display on the National Mall was scheduled to light up the night sky with the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop.
    In key states around the nation, GOP presidential hopefuls for 2012 spent the day meeting with supporters at various events.
    Meanwhile, the rest of us settled in for a summer day as, well, American, as apple pie…. – CNN, 7-4-11
  • July 4th Menus in Years Past: July 4th cake Our idea of what types of food to serve on July 4th is pretty clear: hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, and a red-white-and blue dessert, perhaps, like the festive cake pictured.
    But how was Independence Day celebrated in the early days of the new republic? Food historian Sandra Oliver has delved into the past for answers, and was happy to share her findings with Epicurious.
    The news of Independence took time to trickle down through the country, she says, and celebrations were low-key local observances. “That’s pretty much the case for the first 30 or 40 years or so,” says Oliver…. – Epicurious, 7-4-11
  • Charles Cohen: History Bits About the Declaration of Independence and Its Main Author: For this July 4th Independence Day, we asked a historian to share a few stories about the Declaration of Independence and the people who drafted it.
    Charles Cohen, a professor of history and religious studies at U-W Madison, says there was genius behind Thomas Jefferson and others who crafted the document establishing the United States.
    But Cohen says misconceptions have also arisen about the Declaration and its authors…. – WUWM, 7-4-11Download Mp3
  • Some of the signers are obscure but Declaration of Independence endures: When you set off fireworks this holiday, remember to say “thanks” to William Whipple. Or tip your hat to Caesar Rodney as you throw hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. William who? Caesar what? Not exactly household names are they? But without them, and 54 other men like them, people wouldn’t have July 4 off from work, much less a country.
    At a crucial time 235 years ago, those 56 men signed their names to the Declaration of Independence, telling King George III theywere “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” The document was a momentous step, and the signers were the movers and shakers of their time. Yet, history has not been kind to many of them.
    “Some are well remembered, but the rest of them unfortunately go down in history as footnotes,” said Broome County Historian Gerald Smith…. – Press Connects, 7-3-11
  • What does our “Declaration of Independence” really mean?: Shocked again! Did YOU hear the news report that only 58% of us (Americans) know when our Declaration of Independence was signed on TV news last evening? The TV report continued to announce that a quarter of us (Americans) do NOT know from whom our founders declared INDEPENDENCE! Do YOU know?
    And now it is dawning the 4th of July 2011, the 235th anniversary of our DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE from GREAT BRITIAN. Did YOU know 1776 was the year? Did YOU know that GREAT BRITAIN was the “mother country” from which we did declare our INDEPENDENCE?
    The BRITISH “Daily Mail” online specifically puts its focus on our lack of knowledge as to whom we declared our INDEPENDENCE from, “While 76 per cent correctly said Great Britain, 19 per cent were unsure, and 5 per cent mentioned another country.”… – Gazette Extra, 7-4-11
  • Eric Slauter: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: How did these words become the most important in the Declaration of Independence? The answer starts with a small band of motivated Americans.
    In America’s revolutionary history, no document is more iconic than the Declaration of Independence, the short but sweeping statement issued by Congress on July 4, 1776, severing bonds with Britain and launching the Colonies on their path to independence.
    But what does the Declaration of Independence actually declare? For most Americans today, the answer is embodied in the opening sentence of the second paragraph: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.�
    Perhaps no sentence in American history is better known or has had a greater impact than these powerful words about equality and rights. It is no wonder then that schoolchildren memorize this sentence, that adults consider it the founding creed of America’s civil religion, or that this and other newspapers will highlight these words on their editorial pages tomorrow…. – Boston Globe, 7-3-11
  • Steven Greiert: History lesson Nation’s Founding Fathers had plenty of blemishes: Dr. Steven Greiert, a history professor at Missouri Western State University, said a surprising number of people confuse the Declaration of Independence with the Constitution, which came more than a decade later.
    “I think it’s very important that Americans spend time looking at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to really understand what went on at that time,” Dr. Greiert said. “Know the difference between the two documents.”
    The document that declared the states independent from British rule meant something different to the men who drafted it than what it means to citizens today. “All men are created equal” was written by men who owned slaves, and nearly 100 years before the 15th amendment, which prohibits denying a person (male) the right to vote on “account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”
    “What they really were saying was that all white men should have equal opportunity,” Dr. Greiert said of the drafters, many of whom were wealthy landowners. Women wouldn’t be considered “equal,” where voting was concerned, until 144 years after the Declaration of Independence was written…. – News Press Now, 7-4-11
  • Michael Steiner: History lesson Nation’s Founding Fathers had plenty of blemishes: Dr. Michael Steiner, a history professor at Northwest Missouri State University, references the study of historian Richard Shenkman, who said the public has a hard time accepting that the Founding Fathers “stooped to playing politics.” The public might also have a hard time swallowing that the founders didn’t approve of a popular vote for presidential elections.
    “Less well known is that the Founding Fathers didn’t particularly want the Electoral College to make the decision either,” wrote the author. “The expectation was that in most cases the electors would deadlock, throwing the contest into the House of Representatives.”
    Dr. Steiner said the more his students read about the Founding Fathers, the more human the drafters become.
    “And I believe that’s a good thing,” he said. “We create this mythic infallibility around them that is simply inaccurate. We want them to be better than they were. But they were normal living and breathing human beings like you and me. Thank goodness.”… – News Press Now, 7-4-11
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Political Highlights May 9, 2011: Week in Review Osama bin Laden Captured & Killed — Republicans Debate

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

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

STATS & POLLS

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

IN FOCUS: OSAMA BIN LADEN CAPTURED & KILLED

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

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

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

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

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

THE HEADLINES….

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

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

112TH CONGRESS

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

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

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

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

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

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012…. — FIRST REPUBLICAN DEBATE

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

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

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

QUOTES

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

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

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

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

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

Political Highlights 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



Political Highlights January 24, 2011: Obama & the State of the Union — Chinese President Visits White House — House Votes to Repeal Health Care 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:

STATS & POLLS

  • Who is Obama? Pragmatism makes him tough to define: A socialist? A steady hand? A sellout? Halfway through his first term — or only term, if Republicans can eject him in the 2012 elections — President Obama’s leadership style has made him something of a political enigma. His health care law ushered in the most sweeping social legislation since the 1960s, but he abandoned the government-sponsored coverage he embraced during his campaign. His tax-cut compromise with Republicans to extend unemployment benefits and provide relief to the middle class discarded a key campaign promise to roll back Bush-era tax cuts for top earners. His Wall Street bailouts alienated some of the Main Street workers he said he was trying to help. His soaring rhetoric from the campaign often dried up during debates on health care and jobs, but it re-emerged powerfully this month as he honored the victims of the mass shooting in Tucson.
    Two years into his presidency, who is Barack Obama? Ronald Reagan stood firm for limited government and against communism. Bill Clinton stayed focused on the economy. George W. Bush launched a post-9/11 war on terrorism. Obama’s political North Star is harder to define…. – USA Today, 1-18-11
  • Obama’s job approval rebounds in latest polls, but can it last?: The latest polls show Obama’s job approval back up to 50 percent. His response to Tucson and the bills passed by the lame-duck Congress are credited, but the economy remains a challenge.
    On the second anniversary of his inauguration – and days before his State of the Union address next Tuesday – President Obama is on the rebound with the American public. A slew of major polls now show Mr. Obama with more public approval than disapproval of his job performance, many of them putting him over the 50 percent mark. A survey of the latest polls by RealClearPolitics shows Obama averaging 50 percent approval versus 45 percent disapproval. The last time the positive outweighed the negative was in July. The last time that gap was at least 5 percentage points was a year ago…. – CS Monitor, 1-20-11
  • President Obama’s approval rating surges at midpoint of term: Several polls note a rise in public approval for Obama. The bump comes after his Tucson shooting speech and a productive lame-duck congressional session.
    The same polling shows that although new Speaker of the House John Boehner is getting favorable reviews early on, Americans don’t expect that much from the new Congress.
    A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Wednesday night showed Obama’s job-approval rating at 53%, an eight-point jump from mid-December and his highest rating since July 2009. Surveys from CNN/Opinion Research and ABC News/Washington Post also put Obama’s approval rating above the 50% threshold.
    An aggregation of polling data by Real Clear Politics shows Obama with a net approval rating of 5%, a jump of 8% from mid-December and at the highest level since January 2010…. – LAT, 1-20-11
  • Poll shows high marks for Obama on Tucson, low regard for political dialogue: Evaluations of President Obama’s handling of the Jan. 8 tragedy are highly positive across the political spectrum, with nearly eight in 10 giving him high marks for his response to the incident. A robust 71 percent of Republicans say they approve of his leadership following the shootings.
    The strong reviews of the president’s response to the Arizona incident – which included giving a prime-time eulogy at a memorial service for the victims – have helped boost Obama’s overall approval rating to its highest point since last April. Fully 54 percent of all Americans now approve of the way he is handling his job as president, while 43 percent disapprove…. – WaPo, 1-17-11

2011 STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

The President gives the 2010 State of the Union Address
  • State of the Union – NYT
  • The State of the Union and You: On Tuesday, January 25, at 9 p.m. EST, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol. We have been working on a number of ways citizens can get involved in the State of the Union and ask their questions of President Obama and senior Administration officials. You can find all the details on the brand new State of the Union page.
    Here’s the lineup of events next week. Be sure to tune in to watch the speech live at 9 p.m. on Tuesday and find a way get involved.
    Tuesday at 9 PM: Live Stream of the State of the Union Watch the live stream of the State of the Union Address on WhiteHouse.gov.
    Tuesday Immediately After the Speech: Open for Questions Immediately following the State of the Union Address, stay tuned for a live Open For Questions event where Senior White House officials will answer your questions about key issues addressed in the speech live from the White House…. – WH, 1-21-11
  • Obama’s speech will expose partisan divide on spending: President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech will emphasize “winning the future” for America by strengthening the nation’s ability to compete in a changing world, according to White House talking points provided Monday by a Democratic source. Tuesday night’s annual speech to Congress, a nationally televised event considered the president’s biggest address of the year, brings together the three branches of government for an assessment of where America stands and where it is heading.
    “The president will lay out a plan to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world,” said the White House talking points. “He will talk about the need to take responsibility for our deficits, by investing only in what makes America stronger and cutting what doesn’t, and reforming our government so that it’s leaner and smarter for the 21st century.”… – CNN, 1-24-11
  • State of the Union: It’s the economy, again: Standing before a nation clamoring for jobs, President Barack Obama will call for targeted spending to boost the economy but also for budget cutting in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, his first in a new era of divided political power.
    To a television audience in the tens of millions, Obama will home in on jobs, the issue of most importance to the public and to his hopes for a second term. Though war and other concerns bid for attention, the president has chosen to lean heavily on the economy, with far less emphasis on Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism and foreign affairs.
    Specifically, Obama will focus on improving the education, innovation and infrastructure of the United States as the way to provide a sounder economic base. He will pair that with calls to reduce the government’s debt — now topping a staggering $14 trillion — and reforming government. Those five areas will frame the speech, with sprinklings of fresh proposals.
    Yet no matter how ambitious Obama’s rhetorical reach, his speech at the halfway point of his term will be viewed in the context of his new political reality…. – AP, 1-24-11
  • Obama to Press Centrist Agenda in His Address: President Obama will outline an agenda for “winning the future” in his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, striking a theme of national unity and renewal as he stresses the need for government spending in key areas and an attack on the budget deficit.
    “My No. 1 focus,” he said, “is going to be making sure that we are competitive, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future.”
    “These are big challenges that are in front of us,” Mr. Obama also said in the video, sent to members of Organizing for America, his network of supporters from the 2008 campaign. “But we’re up to it, as long as we come together as a people — Republicans, Democrats, independents — as long as we focus on what binds us together as a people, as long as we’re willing to find common ground even as we’re having some very vigorous debates.”… –
    NYT, 1-23-11
  • Tensions rise between Supreme Court, politicians: The moment lasted about 20 seconds. But its political reverberations have endured for a year and exemplify today’s knotty confluence of law, politics and public perception.
    At last year’s State of the Union speech Jan. 27, with six Supreme Court justices in attendance, President Obama denounced a recent campaign-finance ruling, saying it reversed a century of precedent and warning that it would “open the floodgates” for corporate spending on elections. Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and mouthed “not true.” That tense moment has been viewed on youtube.com more than 650,000 times in the past year. It was singularly controversial but not the only headline-grabbing interaction between members of the political branches and the Supreme Court in the past twelve months.
    A series of events, most recently Justice Antonin Scalia’s acceptance of an invitation to speak to Tea Party members, has made clear that against the backdrop of an increasingly polarized Washington and the 24-hour media frenzy, interactions between justices and the two elected branches have become more politicized…. – USA Today, 1-24-11
  • State of Union Near, Republicans Draw Line on Spending: Congressional Republicans, seeking to recapture the debate over the country’s economic recovery in advance of President Obama’s State of the Union address, warned Sunday that they would oppose any new spending initiatives and press ahead with their plans for budget cuts in every realm of government, including the military…. – NYT, 1-23-11
  • State of the Union speech to focus on jobs: Obama: President Barack Obama said on Saturday he would use his annual State of the Union address to urge both parties to act to lift U.S. growth and create more jobs.
    “My number one focus is going to be making sure that we are competitive, that we are growing, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future,” he said in a video e-mailed to members of his Organizing for America grassroots movement.
    Obama’s speech on Tuesday to a joint session of the U.S. Congress will show how he plans to rise above the political gridlock that marked his first two years in the White House, shaping his 2012 re-election prospects…. – Reuters, 1-22-10
  • Obama touts U.S. innovation in State of the Union preview: In his weekly address, Obama hails American economic potential and efforts to ‘win the future.’ In their response, Republicans focus on the repeal of the healthcare overhaul law.
    President Obama hailed the economic potential of increased American exports and green technology Saturday, previewing themes expected to be at the heart of his second State of the Union address Tuesday night. In his weekly address, Obama referred to Wednesday’s state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao and his own trip to a General Electric plant in New York on Friday as examples of how innovation and opening new overseas markets to American products will help “win the future.”
    “Countries around the world are upping their game and giving their workers and companies every advantage possible. But that shouldn’t discourage us,” he said. “We just have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to unlock the productivity of American workers, unleash the ingenuity of American businesses, and harness the dynamism of America’s economy.”
    Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a doctor, pressed the Democrats who still control the Senate to bring a repeal bill up for a vote in the chamber. “We are now one step closer to victory in the fight for a healthcare policy that puts Americans first — not Washington,” he said. “Our job won’t be done until we repeal and replace this bad law.”… – LAT, 1-22-10
  • A ‘state of the union’ fight ahead over US government spending: How furiously to cut government spending is likely to be a major point of departure between Obama, who gives the State of the Union address on Tuesday, and congressional Republicans…. – CS Monitor, 1-22-10
  • Obama’s economic agenda: Boost US competitiveness: Under pressure to energize the economy, President Barack Obama will put job creation and American competitiveness at the center of his State of the Union address, promoting spending on education and research while pledging to trim the nation’s soaring debt.
    Obama hopes this framework will woo Republicans as he searches for success in a divided Congress and will sway a wary private sector to hire and spend money it’s held back. The economy is on firmer footing than when he took office two years ago, and his emphasis on competitiveness signals a shift from policies geared toward short-term stabilization to ones with steady and long-term growth in mind.
    Obama will speak to a Congress shaken by the attempted assassination of one of their own. Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head two weeks ago during an event in her district in Tucson, Ariz.
    The president has appealed for more civility in politics, and in a nod to that ideal, some Democrats and Republicans will break with tradition and sit alongside each other in the House chamber Tuesday night during a joint session of Congress…. – AP, 1-22-10
  • In this year’s State of Union, seating could blur party lines: Flash-forward now to the Congress of today, the Era of I-Hate-Your-Guts-And-Want-To-Rip-Your-Lungs-Out-You- Unpatriotic-Jerk. Weary of a climate that has grown so toxic that Congress should earmark money for a political Hazmat team, some lawmakers have a solution. When President Barack Obama comes to Capitol Hill Tuesday night to deliver the State of Union speech to a joint session of Congress, Democrats and Republicans should sit together, not in opposing camps of red and blue. The opposing camps idea has been the tradition since 1913, when Woodrow Wilson became the first president since Thomas Jefferson to personally deliver the annual speech to Congress…. – Miami Herald, 1-21-11
  • Obama’s Tuesday speech to stress economy, civility: President Barack Obama, midway through his term and mindful of positioning himself for next year’s re-election campaign, will use the annual State of the Union address Tuesday night to recast himself to voters and regain the confidence of centrists and independents. Expect the economy to serve as the major focus of the speech, both short-term job creation and his plans for long- term stability, with a secondary theme being a call for civility and compromise.
    “The great majority of the speech will be on the steps that the president believes our country has to take to continue that economic recovery,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs…. – Miami Herald, 1-21-11
  • GOP taps Paul Ryan to give rebuttal to Obama’s speech: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a rising Republican star who’s stirred controversy with his approach to budget-cutting, will give the GOP response Tuesday to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. The choice is aimed at showcasing the commitment of Republicans, who earlier this month took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in four years, to deficit reduction.
    Previous Republican responses to Obama’s State of the Union addresses were given by governors, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Bob McDonnell of Virginia.
    Ryan, 39, a seventh-term Wisconsin Republican, is known for his “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan for reducing federal budget deficits that includes permitting younger workers the option of setting aside Social Security tax payments for “personal retirement accounts.”
    In addition, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a favorite of the tea party movement, will deliver a separate reaction to Obama’s speech on behalf of the Tea Party Express, one of the movement’s largest groups. The broadcast, following Obama and Ryan, will be broadcast on live streaming video at http://www.TeaPartyExpress.org or at http://www.TeaPartyHD.com…. – Miami Herald, 1-21-11
  • Scenarios: Possible themes in Obama’s State of Union speech: President Barack Obama faces a new political reality when he gives his State of the Union address on Tuesday: greater Republican power in Congress that will hamper his ability to make sweeping policy proposals. So the president, a Democrat, will make an even greater attempt to highlight areas of common ground with the opposition party on areas that are priorities for both sides such as boosting the economy and reducing the deficit. Here are a few potential areas he may touch upon…. – Reuters, 1-21-11

REMEBERING SARGENT SHRIVER: PEACE CORPS FOUNDER, DIES AT 95

https://i0.wp.com/multimedia.heraldinteractive.com/images/20110118/7dae46_Shriv_01192011.jpg
  • R. Sargent Shriver has died: Robert Sargent Shriver, the former Peace Corps director and vice-presidential nominee, has passed away.
  • Sargent Shriver, former Peace Corps director, Dies — NYT Slideshow
  • Sargent Shriver eulogized at funeral Mass in Maryland: Maria Shriver, the former NBC reporter and wife of former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said her family took comfort in ‘knowing that Daddy is in heaven with God and with Mummy.’… – LAT, 1-22-10
  • Sargent Shriver remembered at star-studded funeral: Maria Shriver and husband Arnold Schwarzenegger helped carry the casket of Sargent Shriver today at a funeral mass at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, the Shriver family’s church in Potomac, Md. President Bill Clinton, First lady Michelle Obama, U2’s Bono and Oprah Winfrey attended the funeral. Others on the guest list included Muhammad Ali, Clint Eastwood and congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, reports AP. Wyclef Jean played piano and sang All the Ends of the Earth as guests including the Shriver family clapped along. Later, Vanessa Williams sang Soon and Very Soon.
    At a wake held for Shriver on Friday, some of Washington’s most notable figures extended condolences to the family. Shriver, the husband of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died Tuesday at age 95…. – USA Today, 1-22-

Smiling at the Life of R. Sargent Shriver at His Funeral Mass

  • R. Sargent Shriver remembered for heritage, hugs: R. Sargent Shriver was honored Saturday as much for his passion for helping others as his loving hugs and enjoyment of baseball. Shriver, who fulfilled his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy’s campaign promise by starting the Peace Corps, developed the aid organization into an international force. Philanthropists and politicians who have worked to help others through charities were among hundreds honoring Shriver at a funeral Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Parish, the Shriver family’s church in Potomac, Md.
    Former President Bill Clinton, first lady Michelle Obama, U2 frontman Bono and singer Wyclef Jean were among those in attendance, along with members of the Kennedy and Shriver families.
    One by one, some of Shriver’s 19 grandchildren read short remembrances about their grandfather, recalling his passion for helping people, his hugs and his love of baseball.
    Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington told Shriver’s grandchildren to live with the same courage and fortitude of Shriver and his late wife, Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Wuerl spoke of Shriver’s legacy and belief that the world could be filled with peace, compassion and love. “Ask your parents to tell you stories. Read what your grandfather has written,” Wuerl said. “When you think of him, rejoice in the heritage he has given you.”… – AP, 1-22-10

  • Sargent Shriver’s family, veterans of social programs honor his life at wake: On Friday, Koskin was among hundreds who stood in a long but fast-moving line outside Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown to pay tribute to R. Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps. Shriver died Jan. 18 at age 95. Koskin met Shriver a couple of times and has fond memories. “I’m here to celebrate a man who was an extraordinary role model for anyone who values what a just and civilized society should be,” said Koskin, an Arlington County resident who works in the Treasury Department’s inspector general’s office. “If you go to the Peace Corps building, his spirit is very much alive. You feel an incredible optimism for what is possible. Anyone who ever worked in that building comes away with an intolerance for the word ‘No.’ ” Mourners included dowagers in full-length fur coats, Special Olympians, civil servants and young college students who said Shriver inspired them to aim for a life in public service. Former Peace Corps volunteers, who formed the largest contingent at Friday’s wake, said they carried their idealism into middle age. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac. Cardinal Donald Wuerl will deliver the homily…. – Washington Post, 1-21-11
  • R. Sargent Shriver, Peace Corps Leader, Dies at 95: R. Sargent Shriver, the Kennedy in-law who became the founding director of the Peace Corps, the architect of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty, a United States ambassador to France and the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1972, died on Tuesday in Bethesda, Md. He was 95. Mr. Shriver was found to have Alzheimer’s disease in 2003 and on Sunday was admitted to Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, where he died. He had been in hospice care in recent months after his estate in Potomac, Md., was sold last year.
    White-haired and elegantly attired, he attended the inauguration of his son-in-law, Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the Republican governor of California in the fall of 2003. Mr. Schwarzenegger is married to Maria Shriver, a former NBC News correspondent. But in recent years, as his condition deteriorated, Mr. Shriver was seldom seen in public. He emerged in one instance to attend the funeral of his wife of 56 years, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a sister of John F. Kennedy; she died in 2009 in Hyannis, Mass., at the age of 88…. – NYT, 1-18-11
  • ‘Sarge’ Shriver, founder of Peace Corps, dead at 95: Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., founder of the Peace Corps and husband of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died yesterday after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
    The 95-year-old former vice-presidential candidate, known fondly as “Sarge,” “went to heaven to join the love of his life,” the family said in a statement.
    Shriver died at a Maryland hospital surrounded by his five children — Bobby, Maria, Tim, Mark and Anthony — their spouses and 19 grandchildren. His death came less than two years after his wife died in August 2009 at age 88.
    “He was a man of giant love, energy, enthusiasm and commitment. He lived to make the world a more joyful, faithful and compassionate place,” the family statement read. “We will miss him forever.” – Boston Herald, 1-18-11
  • Sargent Shriver, founding director of Peace Corps, dies at 95: Robert Sargent Shriver Jr., husband of the late Eunice Kennedy and father of five children, spent more than seven decades in public service.
    R. Sargent Shriver, who was tapped to create the Peace Corps by his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy and crafted 1960s-era programs that remain cornerstones in the federal government’s efforts to combat poverty, died Jan. 18 at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, a family spokesman said. He was 95 and had Alzheimer’s disease.
    A Yale-educated lawyer from a prominent Maryland family, Mr. Shriver was a businessman and aspiring political leader when he married Eunice Kennedy in the early 1950s. He served in three presidential administrations, including a stint as U.S. ambassador to France, and ran for president and vice president. His ambitions were as much propelled as they were frustrated by his connection to his in-laws, the powerful political dynasty from Massachusetts.
    When the family received word in 1964 that President Lyndon B. Johnson was considering Mr. Shriver as a running mate, Eunice balked. “No,” she reportedly said, and then invoked her brother Robert’s name. “It’s Bob’s turn.” Kennedy aide Ken O’Donnell was more straightforward, telling Mr. Shriver that if any of the inner circle were to run, it would be Bobby – not “half a Kennedy.”
    Still, it was Mr. Shriver’s status as an almost-Kennedy that landed him the role for which he is perhaps best known, as the leader of the Peace Corps during its infancy…. – WaPo, 1-18-11
  • Shriver family gave voice to ‘silent epidemic’ Public figure’s battle with Alzheimer’s helped normalize disease: Battling Alzheimer’s disease is often a private struggle, with few champions who speak on behalf of patients and their loved ones. But the family of R. Sargent Shriver, who died Tuesday, helped shed light on the disease and spur support and research for its causes.
    Since his diagnosis in 2003, the family of the influential public servant and founder of the Peace Corps had sought to change the public perception of people with Alzheimer’s so they would not be viewed as victims, said geriatrician William Thomas, professor at UMBC’s Erickson School of Aging.
    “Instead, he was a person living with Alzheimer’s, and that’s an absolutely crucial distinction,” Thomas said. “What the Shrivers were about were sort of normalizing this disease. It is important for people of stature, like the Shrivers, to step into the light and to be seen and to tell their story, because so many other people feel like they can’t do that.”… – LAT, 1-18-11
  • Statement by the President on the Passing of Sargent Shriver: I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Sargent Shriver, one of the brightest lights of the greatest generation. Over the course of his long and distinguished career, Sarge came to embody the idea of public service. Of his many enduring contributions, he will perhaps best be remembered as the founding director of the Peace Corps, helping make it possible for generations of Americans to serve as ambassadors of goodwill abroad. His loss will be felt in all of the communities around the world that have been touched by Peace Corps volunteers over the past half century and all of the lives that have been made better by his efforts to address inequality and injustice here at home. My thoughts and prayers are with Robert, Maria, Tim, Mark, and Anthony, and the entire Shriver family during this sad time. – WH, 1-18-11

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN RETIRING IN 2012

  • Joseph I. Lieberman’s Life and Career, NYT Slideshow
  • Joe Lieberman to retire in 2012: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will retire in 2012, according to two Democratic sources familiar with the decision. Lieberman is expected to announce his decision tomorrow.
  • For Lieberman, an Exit Forged in Alienation: Mr. Lieberman barely alluded to this in his speech, saying only that “I have not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative.”
    The senator looked past the bad blood with Democrats, back all the way to John F. Kennedy, who he said had inspired him to pursue public service. He said Kennedy’s principles — “service to country, support of civil rights and social justice, pro-growth economic and tax policies, and a strong national defense” — were still his politics.
    “So maybe that means J.F.K. wouldn’t fit neatly into any of today’s partisan political boxes either,” Mr. Lieberman ventured. To his supporters, that is precisely the point: the party left Mr. Lieberman behind, not the other way around… – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Sen. Joe Lieberman says he will retire in 2012:Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut announced Wednesday that he will not seek a fifth term, ending a political career spanning four decades in which he evolved from a reliably Democratic state legislator into an independent U.S. senator who backed the war in Iraq and the Republican candidate for president. While Lieberman’s supporters lamented his decision not to run in 2012, many constituents, especially Democrats, said they were pleased because the “Joe” they knew as a state lawmaker and activist state attorney general is already long-gone.
    With his extended family standing behind him, Lieberman announced his intentions to retire before a crowd of several hundred supporters at a downtown Stamford hotel, near the site of his childhood home. While he acknowledged that he’d likely face a difficult re-election campaign, Lieberman, 68, downplayed speculation he was backing down from a tough race.
    He invoked a Bible verse from Ecclesiastes in explaining his decision: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.” “At the end of this term, I will have served 24 years in the U.S. Senate and 40 years in elective office. For me, it is time for another season and another purpose under heaven,” he said.
    Lieberman said he’s had a history of winning tough political battles since the 1970s, including the 2006 race where he lost the Democratic primary, only to win the general election as an independent. “I know that some people have said that if I ran for re-election, it would be a difficult campaign for me. So what else is new,” Lieberman said…. – AP, 1-19-11
  • Joe Lieberman Quips: When Regis Retires, I Retire: Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut confirmed on Wednesday that he will not seek another term. When he addressed a crowd of supporters and press at a Marriott hotel in Stamford, the politician said his wife Hadassa once asked him how long he was going to stay in the Senate and he came up with this response: “I promise you, that when Regis leaves television, I’ll leave the Senate,” he quipped. “And here we are.”
    Lieberman first became a Senator in 1988. Al Gore picked him as his running mate in 2000, and since then, Lieberman’s relationship with the Democratic party has been a little rocky. TV personality Regis Philbin announced his retirement from his long-running daytime show on Tuesday.
    “I have not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes,” he said Wednesday. “Maybe you’ve noticed that.”… – WNYC, 1-19-11
  • Joe Lieberman’s approach out of step with the times: By the geriatric standards of the Senate, the retirement of 68-year-old Sen. Joe Lieberman comes at a relatively young age. But Wednesday’s news that the Connecticut Democrat plans to leave the stage in 2012 surprised no one: It was clear the role he played was outdated and even clearer that he was thoroughly unsuited for the modern political era.
    The circumstances surrounding Lieberman’s decision not to seek reelection attest to that. In the span of just a decade, he went from celebrated vice-presidential nominee—he was the first Jewish candidate on a major party ticket in American history—to near-pariah status within his own party. The speed and arc of his political decline is stunning: In 2000, Lieberman won reelection to a third Senate term in a landslide, even as he spent the bulk of his time campaigning outside his home state as Al Gore’s running mate. By 2006, Lieberman couldn’t even win the Democratic nomination for his own seat. He was forced to run as a third-party candidate, winning with a bare 50 percent of the vote.
    The pendulum swung so far for Lieberman that he got a serious look to be Republican Sen. John McCain’s running mate in 2008. Both Gore and McCain saw in Lieberman the same thing, in mirror image: a moderate-to-conservative grown-up, whose very presence would signal to voters that the man at the top of the ticket wasn’t as extreme as he might appear at first blush, either to the left or to the right.
    But these days, at a time when most politicians prefer to pledge devotion to bipartisanship while not actually practicing it, a man with a foot in two parties really has no party. And therefore, really, no political future…. – Politico, 1-19-11
  • Norton: Lieberman’s exit a loss for the District: With Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) announcing Wednesday that he will not run for reelection in 2012, plenty of members of his old party and liberal commentators are happy to see the Democrat-turned-Independent go. But at least one Democrat is sorry to hear the Connecticut lawmaker’s decision — Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.).
    “The people of the District of Columbia have no senator of their own, but they have had in Senator Joe Lieberman an unfailing champion of their rights,” Norton said in a press release. “Senator Lieberman has been the lead sponsor of virtually every bill for our rights since I have been a Member of the House. As conditions allowed, he was always there for this city, first for statehood, then for seats in the House and Senate, and finally for the House vote. Beyond sponsorship, Joe Lieberman has been our chief advocate and strategist in the Senate.”… – WaPo, 1-19-11
  • No Fifth Term for Lieberman: Mr. Lieberman, 68, whose term is up in January 2013, has chosen to retire rather than face a difficult campaign for re-election, according to aides and others who spoke to the senator on Tuesday.
    “He believes that if he were to run for re-election it’d be a tough fight,” said Marshall Wittmann, a member of Mr. Lieberman’s Senate staff. “He’s confident he could’ve won that fight. He’s had tough fights before. But he wants to have a new chapter in his life.”
    News of Mr. Lieberman’s plans surfaced on the same day that Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, announced he would retire.
    Democrats say the decision by Mr. Lieberman, which his office declined to confirm, increases the likelihood that their party will capture his seat next year. Among other things, Democrats noted that President Obama, who won Connecticut overwhelmingly in 2008, would be on the ballot in 2012…. – NYT, 1-18-11
  • Lieberman Decision Could Set Off a Wild Race: Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut plans to announce Wednesday he will not seek a fifth term in office, setting the stage for what will likely be a wide-open Democratic primary and perhaps another deep-pocketed campaign by former wrestling executive Linda McMahon.
    Mr. Lieberman’s decision would end a remarkable and unusual political career when his current term expires in January 2013. His independence has made him an important factor in close Senate votes, but it has not endeared him to the Democrats and left-leaning independents in his state…. – WSJ, 1-18-11

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: SHOOTING IN TUCSON, ARIZONA

  • Updated rehab aims to give Giffords her life back: She inspired the nation with her fairy-tale recovery. Now Rep. Gabrielle Giffords must inspire herself through the ordeal of rehabilitation, and doctors say it’s likely to be the hardest work she’ll ever do. Just a couple of decades ago, rehab was little more than physical therapy for shuffling stroke victims and wheelchair-bound quadriplegics, a last resort after doctors had done all they could.
    Now it’s a sophisticated science at the forefront of treating people like Giffords, who was shot in the forehead two weeks ago while meeting constituents in Tucson. An early start on rehab is key to limiting permanent damage, and the Houston hospital where she will be treated uses high-tech tools to push the brain to rewire itself.
    The Arizona congresswoman arrived Friday at the Texas Medical Center, where she is expected to spend a few days in intensive care before moving to TIRR Memorial Hermann rehab hospital. Instead of doctors making you well, rehab means “teaching you how to help yourself” to get your life back, said Dr. William Donovan, a former medical director of the rehab hospital who still works there part-time…. – AP, 1-22-11
  • Doc: Giffords heard cheers leaving Ariz., smiled: She heard them, smiled, and tears welled up in her eyes. The caravan carrying Rep. Gabrielle Giffords swept past cheering crowds Friday as she left the hospital in Tucson, Ariz., where she dazzled doctors with her recovery from being shot in the head two weeks ago, and was moved to Houston for rehabilitation….
    By Friday afternoon, after a 930-plus-mile trip that doctors said went flawlessly, Giffords was in an intensive care unit at Texas Medical Center, where a new team of doctors planned to start her therapy immediately. After several days of evaluation, she will be sent to the center’s rehabilitation hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann. Giffords has “great rehabilitation potential,” said Dr. Gerardo Francisco, chief medical officer of Memorial Hermann…. – AP, 1-21-11
  • Doctor: Giffords felt sunshine from hospital deck: Gabrielle Giffords on Thursday felt the sunshine on her face for the first time since she was shot, as doctors prepared her to leave behind the Arizona hospital where she dazzled them with her rapid recovery. Her next stop will be a Houston rehab center, where she will face an even more arduous task: Getting life back to normal.
    Her husband said he’s hoping she’ll make a full recovery, calling her “a fighter like nobody else that I know.”
    The doctors who will help her offered a more sober outlook. “Not everyone always gets 100 percent restoration, but we help them to get to a new normal,” said Carl Josehart, chief executive of the rehab hospital that will be the Arizona congresswoman’s home for the next month or two…. – AP, 1-20-11
  • Federal grand jury indicts Ariz. shooting suspect: A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted the suspect in the deadly Arizona shooting rampage that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The indictment against Jared Loughner, 22, accuses him of attempting to assassinate Giffords and trying to kill two of her aides. It does not include two murder charges listed in an earlier criminal complaint for the deaths of Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30, and U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63. Those are potential death penalty charges. A statement from the U.S. attorney for Arizona, Dennis Burke, said those require a more painstaking process under Justice Department rules. Burke said the initial indictment issued by a grand jury in Tucson was just the beginning of federal legal action against the 22-year-old Tucson resident…. – AP, 1-19-11
  • Giffords to relearn basic skills in Houston rehab: Less than two weeks after surviving a bullet through the brain, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is to be moved to Houston to begin an arduous journey of intensive mental and physical rehabilitation. She’ll have to relearn how to think and plan. It’s unclear if she is able to speak or how well she can see. And while she is moving both arms and legs, it’s uncertain how much strength she has on her right side. Her swift transition from an intensive care unit to a rehab center is based on the latest research, which shows the sooner rehab starts, the better patients recover. Giffords’ family hopes to move the Arizona congresswoman on Friday to TIRR Memorial Hermann hospital in Houston, where her husband lives and works as an astronaut. The exact day of the move will depend on her health.
    “I am extremely hopeful at the signs of recovery that my wife has made since the shooting,” Mark Kelly said in a statement released by Giffords’ congressional office. The staff at University Medical Center in Tucson “has stabilized her to the point of being ready to move to the rehabilitation phase.”… –
  • Giffords stands with assistance, may move to rehab center Friday: A federal grand jury indicts Jared Lee Loughner on charges of attempted murder… Giffords has the strength to stand and lift her head… Giffords is to be moved to TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston… Her husband, Mark Kelly, says Giffords feared for her safety… – CNN, 1-19-11
  • The congresswoman and the astronaut: A love story: STORY HIGHLIGHTS: The world has gotten a glimpse into the love affair of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly… The pair met in China in 2003, wed in 2007… Friends say Kelly is Giffords’ “rock” and they are devoted to each other… – CNN, 1-19-11
  • In Tucson, a Staff Mourns While Asking, ‘What Would Gabby Do?’: They still greet every visitor. They still help veterans file for disability benefits and retirees sign up for Medicare. They still send out press releases, though now they are signed by the chief of staff instead of the boss. There is an empty desk where a key aide of Representative Gabrielle Giffords sat inside Suite 112 of a modest stucco building here. And though the boss herself is not returning anytime soon, the rest of the staff is struggling every day to adapt to what one of them called “the new normal.” Ms. Giffords’s aides opened Suite 112, the congresswoman’s district office, two days after the shooting that left her with a severe bullet wound to the head, and the office has stayed open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday since. It has been one of the staff’s few constants since a gunman opened fire at a community event on Jan. 8, killing six people and wounding the congresswoman and 12 others. Staff members have dived into their jobs as a means of coping with the tragedy. The mantra has been “What Would Gabby Do?” and the answer has been clear — keep working…. – NYT, 1-18-11
  • Gabrielle Giffords responds well to skull surgery, doctors say: Physicians in Tucson say they repaired damage to Gabrielle Giffords’ eye sockets on Saturday, and that she has responded well. They are still unsure about her ability to speak…. – LAT, 1-17-11
  • More Progress Reported for Giffords: Doctors at the University Medical Center said on Monday that the condition of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who was shot through the head Jan. 8, continued to improve, and that she appeared to be focusing her eyes, a sign of progress in her recovery.
    At a news conference at the hospital, doctors told reporters that Ms. Giffords had made it through the most dangerous period as far as potential swelling of her injured brain was concerned, but that she still faced the risk of serious complications, including infection.
    Her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, a naval officer and astronaut, said in a television interview that Ms. Giffords had rubbed his back for 10 minutes, which doctors said was another positive sign. “It does imply that she is interacting, perhaps, in a more familiar way with him,” said Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr., the chief neurosurgeon at the hospital…. – NYT, 1-17-11
  • Will Gabrielle Giffords keep her House seat?: It’s unclear when or if the Arizona congresswoman recovering from gunshot wounds might return to work, but her staff is keeping her offices running, and not even political opponents are talking about vacating her seat.
    Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University, said a decision on vacating the seat would probably be as much about emotions as the law. “It would still be very tough for someone to move to declare her seat vacant,” Zelizer said. “She has become a symbol to much of the nation, a symbol for the nation for hope about the political process.”… – LAT, 1-18-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama vows to ‘unlock the productivity’ of Americans: US President Barack Obama expressed his determination Saturday to “unlock the productivity” of American workers to make the country more competitive in a technology-driven economy.
    “I know we can out-compete any other nation on Earth,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “We just have to make sure we?re doing everything we can to unlock the productivity of American workers, unleash the ingenuity of American businesses, and harness the dynamism of America?s economy,” he added.
    The president also referred to a raft of trade deals worth $45 billion the United States and China announced Wednesday as the two powers tried to narrow disputes by tethering their economic fortunes…. – AFP, 1-22-10
  • Hawaii law bars release of Obama birth info: A privacy law that shields birth certificates has prompted Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie to abandon efforts to dispel claims that President Barack Obama was born outside Hawaii, his office says.
    State Attorney General David Louie told the governor that privacy laws bar him from disclosing an individual’s birth documentation without the person’s consent, Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said Friday.
    “There is nothing more that Gov. Abercrombie can do within the law to produce a document,” said Dela Cruz. “Unfortunately, there are conspirators who will continue to question the citizenship of our president.”
    Abercrombie, who was a friend of Obama’s parents and knew him as a child, launched an investigation last month into whether he can release more information about the president’s Aug. 4, 1961 birth. The governor said at the time he was bothered by people who questioned Obama’s birthplace for political reasons. But Abercrombie’s attempt reached a dead end when Louie told him the law restricted his options… – AP, 1-22-10
  • Obama pays short visit to House Democratic retreat: Lawmakers who gathered here for the annual House Democratic retreat may have been disappointed to get no preview of the State of the Union address from President Obama when he paid a quick visit tonight. They were treated, however, to a display of the president’s dance moves. Obama met with more than 130 House Democratic lawmakers and their spouses for about 90 minutes, entering the first-floor ballroom at the plush Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay shortly before 7:30 p.m. Democrats have been at the sprawling bayside resort since Thursday afternoon, discussing their strategy and messaging after a midterm shellacking that saw their party lose 63 seats in the House. The resort is the same one that hosted House Republicans after they lost the majority in 2006…. – WaPo, 1-21-11
  • The reality of death panels ObamaCare’s end-of-life planning comes down to economics: SUPPORTERS OF President Obama’s health care reform law have relentlessly derided Sarah Palin’s notion of “death panels’’ as a vulgar rhetorical technique, with no basis in reality, devised merely to scare a gullible, uneducated citizenry into rallying to repeal the law. The death panel notion persists, however, because it denotes, in a pithy way, the economic realities of scarcity inherent in nationalizing a rapidly developing, high-technology industry on which people’s lives depend in a rather immediate way. G.K. Chesterton once wrote that vulgar notions (and jokes) invariably contain a “subtle and spiritual idea.’’ The subtle and spiritual idea behind “death panels’’ is that life-prolonging medical technology is an expensive, limited commodity and if the market doesn’t determine who gets it, someone else will…. – Boston Globe, 1-21-11
  • Sasha Obama spoke Chinese to who?: Nine-year-old First Daughter Sasha Obama has been learning Chinese in school, but who does she speak to outside the classroom? The answer might surprise you. China’s President Hu Jintao is introduced to nine-year-old Sasha Obama by US President Barack Obama as they greet the crowd during an official south lawn arrival ceremony for Hu at the White House in Washington Jan. 19.
    President Barack Obama’s nine-year-old daughter, Sasha, wanted to test her developing Chinese skills this week while Hu Jintao was in town.
    Just whom did she want to practice them with? The Chinese president himself, according to a White House official who recounted the story on Thursday after a formal state dinner the previous night.
    “The president pointed out last night at the state dinner that his daughter, Sasha, is a very young girl but her class is studying Chinese,” Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser, told a video conference with Chinese bloggers. “She’s under 10 years old and they’re studying Chinese, and she wanted to have the chance to practice her Chinese with President Hu.”
    Sasha attended Hu’s welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn on Wednesday morning with friends and could be seen waving a Chinese flag excitedly as her father and Hu walked around the grounds. The two presidents paused to visit when they reached the nine-year-old and her friends behind the rope line…. – CS Monitor, 1-21-11
  • Liberal group fights campaign finance decision opposed by Obama: The liberal advocacy group Common Cause has asked the Justice Department to investigate what it says are potential conflicts involving two Supreme Court justices whose votes helped clear the way for unlimited campaign spending by corporations, unions and others. President Obama cricized the ruling when it was rendered last January. Now Common Cause, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, says Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas participated in strategy sessions with corporate leaders who benefitted by the decision inCitizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The advocacy group referred to political retreats sponsored by Koch Industries, a Wichita, Kan.-based energy company owned by brothers Charles and David Koch. Common Cause says the Koch Industries political action committee spent $2.6 million in the 2010 elections…. – USA Today, 1-20-11
  • Campaign finance ruling: Should Supreme Court justices have recused themselves?: The liberal group Common Cause asks the Justice Department to investigate whether Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Thomas should have stepped aside in a major campaign finance reform case a year ago.
    The liberal advocacy group Common Cause announced on Thursday that it has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether two US Supreme Court justices should have recused themselves from consideration of a major campaign finance reform case last year.
    Common Cause President Bob Edgar said the group has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to examine whether Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have stepped aside rather than vote in the Citizens United case.
    The case, handed down a year ago on Friday (Jan. 21), struck down a portion of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law that had barred corporate expenditures for political advertisements during campaign season…. – CS Monitor, 1-20-11

Photo courtesy of White House

  • Summit yields gains for both China and U.S.: Chinese President Hu Jintao’s just-concluded summit with President Obama was a win both for the Communist Party and for Hu himself, demonstrating once again the Chinese government’s reliance on ceremony to bolster its standing among its people. China’s state-run newspapers ran enormous photographs of Hu with Obama, a not-so- subtle message that China is now the United States’ equal on the world stage.
    For the Obama administration, the meeting went smoothly and yielded some progress on difficult issues – but it also served as a reminder that the U.S.-China relationship will continue to be among Washington’s most nettlesome.
    “The most important thing they did was, for the time being, put a floor under the relationship after a very bad year,” said Michael Green, a former National Security Council senior official. “No one expected a transformational summit, but if you graded it pass-fail, I say they passed.”… – WaPo, 1-20-11
  • Business Leaders Make Cut at State Dinner With Hu: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter made the cut. So did Bill Clinton and his wife, the secretary of state. The heads of Microsoft, Boeing, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Boeing and Walt Disney were on the list. So were the singer Barbra Streisand, the ice skater Michelle Kwan, the violinist Yo Yo Ma, the architect Maya Lin and the fashion designer Vera Wang. But Fred Hochberg, the chairman of the Export-Import Bank, didn’t make it to President Obama’s state dinner for President Hu Jintao of China, even though trade was a major theme of the day. Neither did Aris Candris, the CEO of Westinghouse Electric, who attended a business leaders’ meeting with the two leaders, or Jim Sasser, the former ambassador to China, whose invitation to a State Department lunch with Mr. Hu might have served as a consolation prize.
    The 225 guests at Wednesday night’s glittering White House affair were, in a certain sense, survivors. All made it through an intense winnowing-down process by a White House confronted by some of the most intense jockeying for invitations in recent memory. The White House was intensely private about the planning, for fear of offending the Chinese. The theme for the evening was “quintessentially American,” with a menu that featured farm-fresh vegetables, poached Maine Lobster, dry aged rib eye with buttermilk crisp onions, topped off by old fashioned apple pie with ice cream. The entertainment, in the White House East Room, was the most quintessential of American music – a parade of jazz greats, including Herbie Hancock…. – NYT, 1-19-11
  • With Obama, Hu concedes China’s rights need help: In a rare concession on a highly sensitive issue, Chinese President Hu Jintao used his White House visit on Wednesday to acknowledge “a lot still needs to be done” to improve human rights in his nation accused of repressing its people. President Barack Obama pushed China to adopt fundamental freedoms but assured Hu the U.S. considers the communist nation a friend and vital economic partner.
    Hu’s comments met with immediate skepticism from human rights advocates, who dismissed them as words backed by no real history of action. Hu contended his country has “made enormous progress” but provided no specifics.
    Still, his remarks seemed to hearten and surprise U.S. officials, coming during an elaborate visit that centered on boosting trade and trust between the world’s two largest economies.
    More broadly, Hu and Obama sought to show off a more mature and respectful relationship, not the one often defined by disputes over currency, sovereignty and freedoms. Hu said he wanted even closer contact with Obama; Obama sought again to embrace China’s rise, and the two men shared some unexpected laughs…. – AP, 1-19-11
  • Obama’s day: Dealing with China: On this day in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower first agreed to something that is now essential to White House life: A news conference filmed for television. It’s a day of high level diplomacy for President Obama, as he summits with President Hu Jintao of China. After Vice President Biden greeted Hu at the airport yesterday, the Chinese president and Obama held a small private dinner at the White House. Today, it’s down to work…. – USA Today, 1-19-11
  • U.S. Shifts Focus to Press China for Market Access: A year ago, the fight over how China’s cheap currency was hurting American companies in marketplaces at home and abroad was shaping up to be the epic battle between the world’s biggest power and its biggest economic rival.
    But when President Hu Jintao walks into the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with President Obama on Wednesday to face a group of 18 American and Chinese business leaders, much of the clash will be about a new economic battlefield — inside China itself…. – NYT, 1-18-11

112TH CONGRESS

John Boehner talks with reporters as he makes his way to his office from the House floor after the repeal of the Healtch Care Reform Act passed. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

  • Lawmakers’ soft words hide spending cuts’ pain: Terms like “cutting spending” and “raising taxes,” though they sound straightforward enough, are becoming battlegrounds in the Republicans’ and Democrats’ bids to frame the debate over how to cope with the growing national debt. Newly empowered congressional Republicans are playing down the big impact their proposed spending cuts would have on millions of Americans, according to Democrats and some bipartisan groups…. – AP, 1-21-11
  • House Republicans Plan Their Own Health Bills: Less than 24 hours after voting to repeal the new health care law, House Republicans said Thursday that they would pass discrete bills to achieve some of the same goals, but with more restraint in the use of federal power. At the same time, the speaker, John A. Boehner, said House Republicans would push for much stricter limits on abortion in federal programs, including those created by the new law. By a vote of 253 to 175, the House on Thursday directed four committees to draft legislation that would replace the health care law. The directive sets forth 13 objectives…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • House panel announces investigation into healthcare reform: A day after the House voted to repeal the healthcare reform law, a powerful House committee is launching a probe of the Obama administration’s efforts to implement the law. Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee are flexing their new oversight powers by calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to explain why some groups were given waivers to a key requirement of the reform law and why the department recently reorganized an office created just months ago.
    The health department’s power to provide temporary exemptions to certain groups on annual insurance-limit requirements included in the reform law is “troubling,” according to a letter from Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and investigations subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). The committee is asking the department to provide a list of every individual, organization, business, state or other entity that requested a waiver, obtained a waiver, or has been denied a waiver for any part of the reform law. The probe seeks “all documents” relating to the granting of waivers or exemptions for any reform law requirement…. – The Hill, 1-20-11
  • House votes to repeal Obama’s health care law: Swiftly honoring a campaign pledge, newly empowered Republicans pushed legislation to repeal the nation’s year-old health care overhaul through the House Wednesday night, brushing aside implacable opposition in the Senate and a veto threat from President Barack Obama. The 245-189 vote was largely along party lines, and cleared the way for the second phase of the “repeal and replace” promise that victorious Republicans made to the voters last fall. GOP officials said that in the coming months, congressional committees will propose changes to the existing legislation, calling for elimination of a requirement for individuals to purchase coverage, for example, and recommending curbs on medical malpractice lawsuits. Republicans also intend to try to reverse many of the changes Democrats made to Medicare Advantage, the private alternative to the traditional government-run health care program for seniors. Like the repeal bill itself, these other measures will require Senate approval and a presidential signature to take effect, and the prospect is for months of maneuvering on the issue. AP, 1-19-11
  • House votes to repeal health care law against long odds: McConnell pledges Senate vote… Democrats Boren, McIntyre and Ross voted for repeal… “It’s a promise kept,” a leading Republican says… The repeal bill is unlikely to survive the Senate, however…
    The House of Representatives voted to repeal the Obama administration’s signature health-care legislation Wednesday evening, a vote the newly elected Republican majority called a fulfillment of their No. 1 campaign promise. The bill, dubbed the “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act,” passed 245-189. Three Democrats joined a unanimous Republican caucus on the vote.
    The legislation is unlikely to make it past the Democratic-controlled Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he won’t bring it to the floor for a vote. And even if it did, it would face a certain veto by President Barack Obama. But Rep. Mike Pence, a leading GOP conservative, dismissed Democratic criticism that Wednesday’s vote was a “gimmick.” “We have another term for it on our side of the aisle: It’s a promise kept,” he said. “And House Republicans are here to stand with the American people and say with one voice, ‘We can do better.’ We can do better than their government takeover of health care.”… – CNN, 1-19-11
  • Health care: Now comes the really hard part: The vote passed Wednesday 245-to-189 — with unanimous GOP support, plus three Democrats. But the repeal bill is destined to die in the Senate, so Republicans will use their newly acquired power in the House to wage a long-term campaign to weaken the law.
    The next steps — hearings, testimony from administration officials, funding cuts — lack the punch of a straight repeal vote, but Republicans said they will keep at it, hoping the end result is the same: stalling implementation of the $900 billion law.
    Republicans promise to hold a series of hearings and oversight investigations into the law, attempt to repeal individual provisions and craft an alternative health care plan. Some of the first issues they will tackle are the cost of the law, the mandate on larger employers to provide coverage and the impact of the legislation on the states.
    But the GOP is expected to be thwarted at every turn by the Democratic-controlled Senate — and ultimately President Barack Obama, who has said he is willing to “improve” the law but “we can’t go backward.”
    “This is not symbolic,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said on the floor. “This is why we were sent here, and we will not stop until we put a president in a position in the White House who will repeal this bill. … Make no mistake, we are here to stay and our resolve is firm.” Politico, 1-19-11
  • Debate To Repeal Health Care Law Begins: The house of representatives gets back to work on capitol hill for the first time since the Tucson shooting that left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the hospital.The first item of business – repealing the new healthcare law. Debate unfolded on the house floor and in a series of news conferences.Republicans showed off piles of petitions from Americans demanding a repeal. While democrats showcased the personal stories of people who say repealing the law will negatively affect them.
    Rep. Tom Price says: “In our pledge to America, we said we would do in our pledge to America, we said that if given the privilege of leading once again, one of the things we would do would be to vote in the House of Representatives to repeal Obamacare. “Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz says: “Why we are doing this other than playing to the vanity of extremely conservative right wing of the Republican party, is beyond me.”
    The repeal is expected to sail through the house. But it’s not expected to get through the democratic senate or the president’s veto. A final vote is expected Wednesday afternoon or early evening. – Fox News 12, 1-18-11
  • Congress tones down the rhetoric after shootings: Born of bloodshed, a self-proclaimed Age of Civility dawned in Congress on Tuesday. Republicans and Democrats of the House spoke without angry shouts and debated legislation to repeal the nation’s year-old health care law without rancor. By unspoken agreement, manners mattered, although there were few overt references to the reason — the shooting rampage in Arizona 10 days ago that left six dead, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords wounded and lawmakers of both parties stunned.
    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said no directives had gone out to rank-and-file lawmakers cautioning them about their behavior as the House convened to debate a highly controversial bill. “We expect the debate to ensue along policy lines,” he said, suggesting one that did not stray from the merits of the legislation itself.
    Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat, agreed. “My expectation is that members will heed their own advice and will address the issues in a way that will deal with them on the merits,” he said. In the past, he added, too much of the public debate was “about incitement rather than informing . about making people angry, disrespecting the … point of view of the other side.”
    The change in tone was evident from the opening moments of the debate about a bill Republicans promised in last fall’s campaign to make an early 2011 priority…. – AP, 1-18-11
  • GOP set to assail healthcare law and seek alternatives: Civility gets its first test in the House since the Tucson shootings in a debate over repeal of Obama’s healthcare overhaul…. – LAT, 1-17-11
  • House set for health care repeal vote: The House of Representatives is set to vote on a repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul this week, fulfilling a campaign promise of congressional Republicans and setting up a clash with the White House and Senate Democrats.
    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has scheduled a floor debate on the measure for Tuesday and a vote on Wednesday. The new GOP majority, in keeping with its “repeal and replace” mantra, will instruct various House committees to craft alternatives to the law.
    “Repealing the job crushing health care law is critical to boosting small business job creation and growing the economy,” Boehner wrote online Monday…. – CNN, 1-17-11
  • Some House rivals spar — cautiously — on eve of health care repeal vote: House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) noted that during last year’s debate over the health care law, he had argued that the overhaul amounted to the Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century.
    “We’re hearing some of the same rhetoric around patients’ rights that we heard around voting rights,” Clyburn said. “But does this mean that some changes should not be made? Absolutely not. When the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, it did not cover public employees. When the Voting Rights Act became law in 1965, it did not cover congressional redistricting. The Fair Housing Law wasn’t perfect when it was passed, and bipartisan changes were made to all of these to improve the measures.” Clyburn added that as the House debates repeal, “I hope we can look at bipartisan changes and modifications that would increase efficiency and effectiveness but do not repeal this fundamental right.”A few minutes later, however, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) had some stronger words for Republicans’ efforts to repeal the entire law.
    “Every minute that we spend fruitlessly debating the repeal of health care reform — which we know is ultimately not going to happen — is one less minute that we are spending creating jobs and focusing on getting people back to work and turning this economy around,” Wasserman Schultz said. “Why we are doing this other than playing to the vanity of the extremely conservative right wing of the Republican Party is beyond me.”

    At their weekly pen-and-pad briefings with reporters, both House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that leaders had not given any specific instructions to members of their caucuses to soften their rhetoric.
    “There’s been no discussion about acceptable language or non-acceptable language,” Cantor said. “What we’ve said, and the speaker has said, is this: We’re about a policy-oriented debate here. This is an issue of policy that was hotly debated over the last Congress, something that has great consequences for this country and deserving of a civil discourse in the House of Representatives, and that’s what we expect.”
    Repeal HealthCare Act Chairman Ken Hoagland, who also spoke at the event, called the petitions “an example to the rest of the world how even dramatic change in public policy can be effected through peaceful means.” “There is no room in our country for violent tactics to change public policy,” Hoagland said. “Our founding fathers left us every tool we need to change public policy peacefully, and that is what we intend to do. Now are the people who signed this petition angry? Yes, they are. … To suggest that that axiomatically leads to violence is just a wrong conclusion.” WaPo, 1-18-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Ala. governor apologizes for remarks on Christians: Two days after being sworn in as Alabama governor, Robert Bentley apologized Wednesday for proclaiming to a Baptist church audience that only Christians were his brothers and sisters and vowed to work for people of all faiths and colors. His comments Monday shocked and offended some believers of other faiths, but the backlash didn’t seem to be a serious political wound for the retired dermatologist and Southern Baptist deacon. In a conservative state with some of the highest levels of church attendance in the country, some Christian leaders defended the remarks and the Republican will likely get a fair chance to pursue his agenda in the coming legislative session.
    “If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way,” he told reporters Wednesday after meeting with leaders of other faiths in his new office. After he took the oath of office at the Alabama Capitol on Monday, Bentley headed across the street to a service honoring Martin Luther King Jr. at King’s first church, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. During his speech, he remarked: “Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother.”… – AP, 1-18-11

CHICAGO MAYORAL CAMPAIGN

  • Emanuel Raises $10 Million in Mayoral Bid: Rahm Emanuel, the former White House Chief of Staff, has raised more than $10 million in his quest to become mayor of Chicago. Filed with state election officials on Thursday, the campaign reports of Mr. Emanuel and his opponents offer a first real look at the financial side of this city’s first competitive race for mayor in years. In addition to the money he collected by the start of this year, Mr. Emanuel, who formerly served in Congress, also moved $1.1 million from a federal campaign fund into his mayor’s effort for a total of $11.7 million; he has already spent $3.4 million, the report showed…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Bill Clinton to campaign in Chicago for Emanuel: Former President Bill Clinton is coming to Chicago Tuesday to campaign for mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel, but his visit is the cause of some controversy. While the former White House chief of staff hopes Clinton can persuade voters to cast their ballots for him Feb. 22, a former mayoral contender has warned that Clinton is risking his popular standing with the African American community by backing Emanuel rather than a black candidate.
    Clinton is scheduled to appear with Emanuel at the Chicago Cultural Center Tuesday morning. The candidate touted the visit in his campaign mailings over the weekend, mixed with an appeal for campaign donations. “I’m honored to have President Clinton’s support,” Emanuel told supporters in the e-mail on Sunday. “I’m excited to show President Clinton the great Chicagoans who’ve made this campaign possible.”… – WaPo, 1-17-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Obama could survive some bumps on road to 2012 reelection: Two years later, though, many analysts and observers have forgotten the breadth of Obama’s victory in the wake of the devastating and across-the-board (not to mention down-the-ballot) losses the Democratic Party suffered in the 2010 midterms. And yet, a detailed examination of the national map heading into 2012 suggests that the president still sits in a strong position for reelection – able to lose half a dozen (or more) swing states he carried in 2008 and still win the 270 electoral votes he needs for a second term…. – WaPo, 1-23-11
  • Evangelical/Romney supporter calls for new litmus test: Mark DeMoss, a well-connected figure in the evangelical community and Mitt Romney supporter, sent a memo last week to Christian conservatives urging them to consider “a new litmus test” beyond traditional cultural issues
    1. Who is most capable of winning the Republican nomination?
    2. Who is most capable of mounting the kind of campaign (raising money, recruiting staff and volunteers, presenting a clear message) necessary to upset a sitting president?
    3. Who is most capable of actually being the president of the United States—governing and serving as the CEO of the largest enterprises on the planet?
    Romney, argued DeMoss, was well-positioned financially and in the polls to meet the electability standard and, because of his background in business, is up for the job… – Politico, 1-23-11
  • Mitt Romney easily wins New Hampshire Republican poll: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney easily won a poll of several hundred Republican delegates Saturday about whom they would choose to take on Democrat Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. Also at the meeting, conservative Tea Party activist Jack Kimball beat Juliana Bergeron to be New Hampshire’s new state Republican Party chairman — an outcome that could influence presidential campaigning in the state.
    Romney won 35 percent of the poll, trouncing Texas Congressman Ron Paul, with 11 percent, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, with 8 percent, and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who took 7 percent. Some 20 names were listed on the poll, including Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York…. – Reuters, 1-22-10
  • Republican hopefuls lay groundwork for 2012: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and other potential presidential candidates have been stockpiling cash as they test the waters for a run. Nobody’s making anything official yet…. – LAT, 1-21-11
  • Poll: Mike Huckabee Takes Lead Among Potential GOP Presidential Picks: While Mike Huckabee has been cagey about whether he’ll make another run for the White House, a new poll out Friday finds the former Arkansas governor leading the pack among potential GOP presidential candidates for 2012. The Public Policy Polling survey has Huckabee with a solid 24 percent support among respondents, ahead of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, the ex-governor of Massachussetts, who are tied at 14 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich comes in third with 11 percent, followed by Tim Pawlenty, the ex-governor of Minnesota, with 8 percent.
    PPP called Huckabee “the big winner” in this poll, citing his increased appeal to both moderates and conservatives within the Republican Party. Romney isn’t so lucky, according to PPP. He’s not particulary popular among conservative voters, who give him only a 55 percent favorability rating. That’s compared to 74 percent favorability from conservatives for Huckabee and 73 percent for Palin…. – Politics Daily, 1-21-11
  • Bachmann ‘encouraged’ after Iowa visit: Michele Bachmann of Minnesota says the reactions she received in her Friday meetings with Iowa Republican leaders and conservative activists in the leadoff presidential caucus state have encouraged her to explore running for president.
    “I am very encouraged by what I heard and the level of support that I saw today,” Bachmann told The Des Moines Register after a gauntlet of meetings in Des Moines.
    Bachmann’s visit stirred up the quietly developing race for the 2012 Republican presidential caucuses in Iowa, a little more than a year away.
    Bachmann spoke Friday night at a reception for Iowans for Tax Relief, an influential advocacy and political group with roughly 55,000 conservative and Republican-leaning members across the state. “It is not too late to change course and save this great nation,” Bachmann told her audience at a downtown Des Moines hotel. “I believe we can save America. I believe we can preserve this exceptional nation — this land of promise — for our children and grandchildren.”… – USA Today, 1-21-11
  • Palin Inches Toward 2012 in Iowa, Nevada: Sarah Palin may be inching toward a presidential run in 2012 as she heads next week to Nevada for two speeches and her advisers quietly begin talking to Republican activists in Iowa. Both states will be key to winning the Republican nomination, and Ms. Palin’s advisers are determined to do the groundwork necessary should she decide to jump into the campaign. The informal conversations in Iowa, reported by the Web site Real Clear Politics, are the first baby steps in what would have to become a much more elaborate turnout effort if Ms. Palin, the former Alaska governor, decides to run.
    And her speeches in Nevada to two outdoors groups — including one on the same night that President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech in Washington — give her a platform to talk about hunting and guns in the wake of the shootings in Arizona this month.
    “There are a lot of Republican activists who want the governor to run and want to get involved and want to help,” said Tim Crawford, the treasurer of Ms. Palin’s political action committee, SarahPAC…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Obama Will Move Political Operations to Chicago: President Obama will close the office of political affairs at the White House in preparation for the establishment of his re-election headquarters, which will open its doors in Chicago by late March to concentrate on building a national fund-raising and grass-roots operation to rival his first campaign, aides said.
    The president has signed off on the plan to set up his campaign headquarters away from Washington, a first for a modern-day presidential re-election campaign. To avoid turf battles, chaotic communications and duplicated efforts, aides said, a significant realignment is under way in the West Wing, with the duties of the political office being taken up by the Democratic National Committee.
    Mr. Obama intends to make a formal declaration of his candidacy in about two months by filing papers with the Federal Election Commission, aides said. That step would allow him to raise money and hire a team of advisers, who would seek to make Mr. Obama follow Bill Clinton as the second Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to be elected twice to the White House…. – NYT, 1-20-11
  • Pence urged to enter race for president in 2012: An independent campaign to draw GOP Rep. Mike Pence into the 2012 presidential race is under way, with a veteran of the Reagan White House launching a petition drive on Monday urging him to enter the primary contests.
    Ralph Benko, a deputy counsel to Ronald Reagan, announced the America’s President Committee to encourage a Pence- for-president bid. Former Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., is also helping the campaign to collect signatures from conservatives and tea party activists.
    “Mike Pence extraordinarily exemplifies the optimistic, pro-growth, pro-job creation Reagan-Kemp wing of the GOP. Grass-roots conservatives, Republicans, the tea party and populists are looking for a man or woman of principle who can champion and unite the newly energized and engaged citizenry,” Benko said. “Mike Pence is the best choice to lead us into a new era of peace and prosperity.”… – AP, 1-17-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address
  • Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader on “Fox News Sunday.”: “With all due respect to our Democratic friends, any time they want to spend, they call it investment, so I think you will hear the president talk about investing a lot Tuesday night. This is not a time to be looking at pumping up government spending in very many areas.”
  • Sen. John McCain praises Obama: ‘Doing a Lot of the Right Things’: Speaking on Face the Nation, Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain praised President Obama, saying the first-term president has done “a lot of the right things.” “The president, I think, has learned a lot in the last two years as any president does. He is a very intelligent man. I think he’s doing a lot of right things,” he said.
    “I’m told already that the Democrats may agree with us on some changes,” Mr. McCain said. “There needs to be a lot more changes than what they’re willing to agree to. It has to be the subject of a national debate.” – The State Column, 1-23-11
  • Weekly Address: “We Can Out-Compete Any Other Nation”: Remarks of President Barack Obama The White House January 22, 2011: Here’s the truth about today’s economy: If we’re serious about fighting for American jobs and American businesses, one of the most important things we can do is open up more markets to American goods around the world.
    That’s why I met with China’s President Hu Jintao at the White House this past week. We’re now exporting more than $100 billion a year to China in goods and services. And as a result of deals we completed this week, we’ll be increasing U.S. exports to China by more than $45 billion, and China’s investments in America by several billion dollars. Most important, these deals will support some 235,000 American jobs. And that includes a lot of manufacturing jobs.
    That goal is why I fought so hard to negotiate a new and better trade deal with South Korea – a deal with unprecedented support from business and labor – that will support more than 70,000 American jobs. And that’s why I traveled to India last fall to help pave the way for $10 billion in new deals for American businesses and more than 50,000 new American jobs.
    Now, these may just sound like statistics. But yesterday, I saw what that means firsthand when I traveled to a GE plant in Schenectady, New York. This plant is manufacturing steam turbines and generators for a big project in India that resulted from a deal we announced around that trip – a project that’s helping support more than 1,200 manufacturing jobs and more than 400 engineering jobs in Schenectady. Good jobs at good wages, producing American products for the world.
    At the same time, GE has also been investing in innovation, building a clean energy center, an advanced battery manufacturing plant, and other state-of-the-art facilities in Schenectady that are resulting in hundreds of new American jobs and contributing to America’s global economic leadership.
    Leading the world in innovation. Opening new markets to American products. That’s how we’ll create jobs today. That’s how we’ll make America more competitive tomorrow. And that’s how we’ll win the future.
    While I was in Schenectady, I announced that Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO and one of the most imaginative and visionary business leaders in America, has agreed to head up our new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The purpose of this council is to help us find ways to grow our economy by investing in our businesses here at home. And under Jeff’s leadership, I’m confident that they’ll generate good ideas about how we can spur hiring, educate our workers to compete in the 21st century, and attract the best jobs and businesses to America rather than seeing them spring up overseas.
    We’re living in a new and challenging time, in which technology has made competition easier and fiercer than ever before. Countries around the world are upping their game and giving their workers and companies every advantage possible. But that shouldn’t discourage us. Because I know we can win that competition. I know we can out-compete any other nation on Earth. We just have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to unlock the productivity of American workers, unleash the ingenuity of American businesses, and harness the dynamism of America’s economy. Thanks everyone, and have a nice weekend. – WH, 1-22-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Watch Live: The China State Visit: The President hosts Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China, at the White House for a State Visit, marking the third State Visit of the Obama Administration. President Hu’s visit highlights the importance of expanding cooperation between the United States and China on bilateral, regional, and global issues, as well as the friendship between the peoples of our two countries. The President, who visited China in November 2009, looks forward to welcoming President Hu to Washington to continue building a partnership that advances our common interests and addresses our shared concerns. Watch the Arrival Ceremony, State Dinner toasts, and more on WhiteHouse.gov…. – WH, 1-19-11
  • State Dinner with President Hu of China: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host President Hu of China at a State Dinner at the White House. January 19, 2011…. – WH, 1-19-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • President Obama Welcomes President Hu of China to the White House: At a time when some doubt the benefits of cooperation between the United States and China, this visit is also a chance to demonstrate a simple truth. We have an enormous stake in each other’s success. In an interconnected world, in a global economy, nations — including our own — will be more prosperous and more secure when we work together.
    The United States welcomes China’s rise as a strong, prosperous and successful member of the community of nations. Indeed, China’s success has brought with it economic benefits for our people as well as yours, and our cooperation on a range of issues has helped advance stability in the Asia Pacific and in the world.
    We also know this: History shows that societies are more harmonious, nations are more successful, and the world is more just, when the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all people are upheld, including the universal rights of every human being.
    Mr. President, we can learn from our people. Chinese and American students and educators, business people, tourists, researchers and scientists, including Chinese Americans who are here today —- they work together and make progress together every single day. They know that even as our nations compete in some areas, we can cooperate in so many others, in a spirit of mutual respect, for our mutual benefit.
    What Deng Xiaoping said long ago remains true today. There are still great possibilities for cooperation between our countries. President Hu, members of the Chinese delegation, let us seize these possibilities together. Welcome to the United States of America. Hwan-ying. (Applause.)… – WH, 1-19-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Palin explains ‘blood libel’ comment: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, defending herself against criticism following the Tucson, Ariz., shootings, said Monday that she used the term “blood libel” to describe comments made by those who falsely tried to link conservatives to the assassination attempt against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Speaking out for the first time since she used the term in a video, Palin said on Fox’s Sean Hannity show that the term referred to those “falsely accused of having blood on their hands.” Some Jewish groups strongly protested her use of the term, which historically was used to accuse Jews of using blood of Christians in religious rituals. “I think the critics again were using anything that they could gather out of that statement,” she said. “You can spin up anything out of anybody’s statements that are released and use them against the person who is making the statement.” Palin, a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said the criticism won’t stop her from speaking out and accusing Democrats of taking the country in the wrong direction. “They can’t make us sit down and shut up,” she said…. – AP, 1-17-11
  • Cheney: Obama has Learned that Bush Policies were Right: President Obama has “learned from experience” that some of the Bush administration’s decisions on terrorism issues were necessary, according to former Vice President Dick Cheney. In his first interview since undergoing major heart surgery last July, Cheney said he thinks Obama has been forced to rethink some of his national security positions now that he sits in the Oval Office…. – Fox News, 1-17-11
  • Tom Daschle to Barack Obama: Meet, eat with GOP leaders: As Washington begins another period of divided government, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle urged President Obama to reach out to Capitol Hill by holding more regular meetings with congressional leaders of both parties.
    “I would love to see the President of the United States hold a weekly breakfast with the four leaders, two Republican and two Democratic,” Daschle said in a recent interview with POLITICO. The former South Dakota Democrat, one of Obama’s earliest supporters and still an outside adviser, suggested the president and congressional leaders alternate venues. “I think it would be refreshing to have the President come down to Capitol Hill and meet down there,” he said…. – Politico, 1-17-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian E. Zelizer: What Obama can learn from Clinton, Reagan: Many political analysts are urging President Obama to give a State of the Union Address that is conciliatory toward Republicans and that acknowledges that voters are unhappy with the direction of his policies.
    Ever since he agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts in a compromise with Republicans, his poll numbers have been improving, and Obama has filled several key positions in his administration with moderate Democrats. There is reason to think that the president will continue this path….
    He can use this opportunity to answer some of the big questions surrounding his presidency. He can explain how and when the government can solve certain problems better then markets. He can explain to Americans how his health care bill will help contain costs for citizens. He can share with the country how he balances concerns over the deficit with the need to stimulate the economy and what exactly is the path he envisions toward a stronger economy.
    By tackling these and other questions, Obama has to use this opportunity to explain himself and his presidency, providing voters a stronger understanding of who he is and what policies he will defend as he enters into discussion with a Republican House…. – CNN, 1-24-11
  • ‘State of the Union’ Could Mark Turning Point for Obama, Historian Says: President Barack Obama’s Tuesday night State of the Union address comes at a critical moment in his presidency and could set the tone in Washington for years to come, says a presidential historian at the University of Indianapolis. This won’t be the first State of the Union delivered amid economic woes and stiff partisan opposition, Associate Professor Edward “Ted” Frantz says. Previous examples include Bill Clinton in 1995, Ronald Reagan in 1983 and Franklin Roosevelt in 1935.
    “The fundamental challenge for Roosevelt was getting business interests to trust him, and they never did,” Frantz says. In that case, however, Roosevelt was able to continue his New Deal economic reforms with the help of large Democratic majorities in Congress, an advantage Obama does not have…. – Newswise, 1-24-11
  • Reagan and Kennedy Are Role Models for Obama Obama’s message in Tucson was the kind of speech Kennedy and Reagan would have given: But historian Robert Dallek says both Kennedy and Reagan retain a grip on the popular imagination for similar reasons. “Kennedy and Reagan are the darlings of the public,” he says. “People remember them as inspirational voices. They gave people hope.” Dallek recalled a comment by historian Richard Hofstadter that Theodore Roosevelt, another iconic leader, was “the master therapist of the middle class.” Kennedy and Reagan played the same role. “Kennedy and Reagan made people feel good,” Dallek adds. “Kennedy and Reagan have become mythological figures, iconic figures.”… – US News, 1-21-11
  • What Would Ronnie Do?: Obama starts the second half of his term with a set of obstacles similar to those that bedeviled Ronald Reagan. On Reagan’s centennial, the president is looking to the past for inspiration…. – Newsweek, 1-23-11
  • Ari Berman: Obama: Triangulation 2.0?: Immediately following the Democrats’ 2010 electoral shellacking, a broad spectrum of pundits urged President Obama to “pull a Clinton,” in the words of Politico: move to the center (as if he wasn’t already there), find common ground with the GOP and adopt the “triangulation” strategy employed by Bill Clinton after the Democratic setback in the 1994 midterms. “Is ‘triangulation’ just another word for the politics of the possible?” asked the New York Times. “Can Obama do a Clinton?” seconded The Economist. And so on. The Obama administration, emphatic in charting its own course, quickly took issue with the comparison. According to the Times, Obama went so far as to ban the word “triangulation” inside the White House. Politico called the phrase “the dirtiest word in politics.”…. – The Nation, 2-7-11
  • House votes to repeal health-care reform: What happens now?: Though the House has repealed health-care reform, it won’t be repealed by the Senate, meaning the effort is virtually dead. But House Republicans can still try to dismantle the law by other means.
    “We have a bill that expanded coverage, put new regulations in place, but it’s not clear it cuts the cost of health care,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “That’s a criticism you saw from left, right and center.” “If the debate moves in that direction, there’s room to form some kind of bipartisan support for more stringent cost controls,” he adds. “But on the other hand, both parties also have a stake in posturing going into 2012 elections.”… – CS Monitor, 1-19-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Can Boehner’s GOP deliver on promises?: Following a traumatic week for the nation in the wake of the Arizona shootings, Congress will get back to business this week. As House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s spokesperson announced, “It is important for Congress to get back to work, and to that end we will resume thoughtful consideration of the health care bill.”
    On Capitol Hill, Republicans find themselves in a position that seemed inconceivable a few years earlier, even to most conservatives. Although Democrats retain control of the White House and Senate, many Republicans were elated when they won control of the House and had the votes to elect John Boehner as speaker….
    The ways in which the Republican Party responds to these challenges will play an important role in defining what kind of political party Republican candidates will be able to champion in 2012 — and what kind of party President Obama will be able to attack on the campaign trail…. – CNN, 1-17-11
  • ‘Historian’ Douglas Brinkley: Obama ‘like’ Martin Luther King, Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian: “I thought President Obama did a wonderful job this evening. I thought that he really brought people together. I mean, when he, in the middle of the speech, said, ‘Gabby opened her eyes, Gabby opened her eyes,’ & you could almost hear a Martin Luther King-like inflection — And he carried that throughout a lot of the speech. “I was, like David Gergen earlier, a little put off by the atmospherics, 14,000 cheering people. But the president, I think, worked his way into that atmosphere. So, by the end of it, you could almost feel people hugging in the excitement, in the warmth & the love in the arena.”… – CNN, 1-13-11

JBuzz: Hanukkah Special, Party at the Obama White House

JBuzz

http://jbuzz.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/jbuzzheader.jpg?w=500

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

Menorah Lighting

Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

HANUKKAH 2010

IN FOCUS

  • The first night of Chanukah at the National Menorah Washington, DCLubavitch.com
  • The Festival of Lights: Hanukkah Stories From Across the Nation – PBS Newshour, 12-3-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House hosts Hanukkah party: President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted a party Thursday marking the second day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. Obama offered condolences to those who have died in a forest fire in northern Israel before recounting the story of the Maccabees fighting in the Temple in Jersualem watching a day’s worth of oil burn for eight.
    “That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair,” Obama said. “As the Talmud teaches us, so long as a person has life, he should not abandon faith.”
    Among those attending was Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew, who replied, “we’re still talking,” when asked about the status of tax-cut legislation. When asked what night of Hanukkah a deal would be reached, Lew replied: “Aren’t we lucky to have a whole week?”
    The party featured a menorah from Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans, which was found caked in dirt and mold after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Obama said. Its candles were lit by Susan Retik, whose husband died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and her family…. – Politico, 12-3-10
  • President Obama’s Hanukkah Celebration: The President and First Lady hosted a little gathering Thursday night in the East Room to celebrate Hanukkah. Included on the list of 500 guests, one-third of the Supreme Court justices- Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan. Several Jewish members of Congress and other elected officials and members of the military were there too. The menorah for the event was loaned to the White House by New Orleans’s Congregation Beth Israel. It was one of very few items to survive Hurricane Katrina. It was found by cleanup crews in horrible condition but was restored and re-lit for the first time three years ago…. – CNN, 12-3-10
  • Menorah retrieved from Hurricane Katrina muck in Lakeview is part of White House Hanukkah celebration: Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of Jewish survival, and on Thursday, President Barack Obama and some 500 notables, mostly Jewish, celebrated the second of the holiday’s eight nights by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview after Hurricane Katrina.
    Describing the Hanukkah candles as tiny reminders of “the importance of faith and perseverance,” the president told the festive assemblage in the East Room that “the menorah we’re using tonight, and the family who is going to help us light it, both stand as powerful symbols of that faith.” “This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans,” Obama said. “Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.”… – The candles were lit by Susan Retik and her family…. – Times-Picayune, 12-2-10
  • White House Hanukkah ceremony features menorah salvaged from Lakeview: President Barack Obama and dozens of guests tonight will celebrate the second night of Hanukkah by lighting a menorah fished from the muck of Congregation Beth Israel’s flooded synagogue in Lakeview. But for a few bits of ornamental silver that once decorated its ruined Torahs, the blackened menorah was the only sacred object in ritual use the congregation was able to save, said Rabbi Uri Topolosky, who will attend the ceremony with his wife, Dahlia.
    At Beth Israel, the restored menorah has become precious — the sign of their own ordeal and recovery, Topolosky said. The congregation also saved a display menorah, now at the Presbytere, Topolosky said. But the 53-year-old restored menorah at the White House — technically, it is a nine-branched “hanukiah” — is the one the congregation uses to commemorate ancient Jews’ recovery and reconsecration of their temple in Jerusalem…. – NOLA, 12-2-10
  • Gov. Schwarzenegger Joins Chanukah Celebration at Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and local leaders of the Jewish community today joined Chabad of Sacramento to celebrate Chanukah at the 17th Annual Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony.
    “The message of Chanukah is ‘light’ and is about optimism and hope, even in the face of darkness and crisis. That is especially meaningful to me because I am a big believer in the spirit of optimism and hope,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “We all know there is darkness in the world, especially in these challenging times, but one tiny candle can light a room, and one act of kindness can change a life. It is so important that we reach out and help each other through these tough times.”
    This year, guests at the Capitol Menorah Lighting Ceremony participated in a “reverse toy drive.” The Governor joined West Coast Chabad Director Rabbi Shlomo Cunin in passing the gifts out for the toy drive during today’s ceremony. Chabad has asked guests of the ceremony to present these gifts to children in need…. – Lubavitch, 12-3-10

QUOTES

  • President Obama Hosts A Hanukkah Celebration at the White House: Remarks by the President at a Hanukkah Reception:
    Now, tonight, we gather to celebrate a story as simple as it is timeless. It’s a story of ancient Israel, suffering under the yoke of empire, where Jews were forbidden to practice their religion openly, and the Holy Temple — including the holy of holies — had been desecrated.
    It was then that a small band of believers, led by Judah Maccabee, rose up to take back their city and free their people. And when the Maccabees entered the temple, the oil that should have lasted for a single night ended up burning for eight.
    That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair. And in the 2,000 years since, in every corner of the world, the tiny candles of Hanukkah have reminded us of the importance of faith and perseverance. They have illuminated a path for us when the way forward was shrouded in darkness.
    And as we prepare to light another candle on the menorah, let us remember the sacrifices that others have made so that we may all be free. Let us pray for the members of our military who guard that freedom every day, and who may be spending this holiday far away from home.
    Let us also think of those for whom these candles represent not just a triumph of the past, but also hope for the future — the men, women and children of all faiths who still suffer under tyranny and oppression.
    That’s why families everywhere are taught to place the menorah in public view, so the entire world can see its light. Because, as the Talmud teaches us, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”
    This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans. Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water. Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold. And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.
    And that feeling is shared by Susan Retik. It’s a feeling they know all too well. After her husband, David, was killed on September 11th, Susan could have easily lost herself in feelings of hopelessness and grief. But instead, she turned her personal loss into a humanitarian mission — co-founding “Beyond the 11th,” a group that reaches out to Afghan widows facing their own struggles.
    So on this second night of Hanukkah, let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy. Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible.” –
    WH, 12-2-10WH, 12-2-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Gil Troy: This Hanukka let’s celebrate Liberalism and Zionism: Let’s face it. Although Hanukka’s basic plot has not changed for 2,000 years, the Hanukka we know and love is a twentieth-century invention. Hanukka’s themes of heroism and power, both physical and spiritual, were Zionist ideas; traditionally, the Rabbis thanked God for the eight-day oil miracle. When the Zionist revolution reevaluated Judaism a century ago, the Maccabees’ story proved that Jewish history was not just about anti-Semites oppressing us and rabbis teaching us but our own warriors defending us. The Maccabees were hometown heroes, rooted in Israel’s ancient soil, willing to fight, if necessary, for their homeland, their beliefs, their freedom. At the same time, our festival of lights became our popular response to the seasonal malady of Christmas envy. Boasting eight nights, meaning eight gift-giving opportunities, Hanukka helped Jews trump their Christian neighbors.
    Considering that pedigree, this Hanukka we should celebrate the happy marriage of liberalism and Zionism. We can fight the trendy claim that liberalism and Zionism are increasingly incompatible without doing violence to the Maccabean story. Emphasizing a liberal-Zionist rift, in a world fighting the dark clouds of Islamic totalitarianism, ignores the shared enlightenment past of both Zionism and liberalism, as well as the light liberal Zionism can generate today….
    There is yet another added bonus that can result from rededicating our commitment to both liberalism and Zionism this Hanukka. Both modern liberalism and modern Zionism struggle with the tension between materialism and altruism, the selfishness of the “I” and the self-sacrifice of the “us,” the desire to take and the need to give. As Hanukka, like its seasonal partner Christmas, has degenerated into what the historian Daniel Boorstin called “festivals of consumption,” the question “what did you get” has eclipsed the more important holiday questions “what does this mean?” and “did you grow?”
    Traditionally, during Hanukka Jewish communities rededicated themselves to Jewish education. In that spirit, parents gave children “gelt” or coins to sweeten the experience of Torah study. In the early 1900s, many Jews used Hanukka as an opportunity to donate the modern equivalent of the “shekel,” the Biblical coin representing the power of responsibility, the importance of being counted, to the Zionist cause. This Hanukka let’s remember the best of both the liberal and Zionist traditions. This Hanukka, let’s look for opportunities to give not just get. This Hanukka, by doing that, we can redeem not just these two noble movements, but ourselves. – Jerusalem Post, 12-3-10
  • HOWARD JACOBSON: Hanukkah, Rekindled: TONIGHT, Hanukkah begins. The word — Hanukkah — is lovely, but what’s the festival itself for? What does it do? But Hanukkah?
    Everyone knows the bare bones of the story. At Hanukkah we celebrate the Maccabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, who defeated the might of the Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C., recapturing the desecrated Temple and reconsecrating it with oil that ought to have run out in a day but lasted eight. Indeed, Hanukkah means “consecration,” and when we light those candles we are remembering the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
    But how many Jews truly feel this narrative as their own? I’m not asking for contemporary relevance. History is history: whatever happens to a people is important to them. But Hanukkah — at least the way it’s told — struggles to find a path to Jewish hearts.
    Those Hasmoneans, for example …. The Maccabees are fair enough: they sound Jewish. Scottish Jewish but still Jewish. There was a sports and social club called the Maccabi round the corner from where I was brought up in North Manchester, and as a boy I imagined the Maccabees as stocky, short-legged, hairy men like the all-conquering Maccabi table tennis team. But “Hasmoneans” rang and rings no bells.
    Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Hanukkah doesn’t draw on events described in the Hebrew Bible. The Book of Maccabees, from which the story comes, is in the Apocrypha, the non-canonical, more esoteric books of sacred scripture. There’s a reason it never made it out of there: I won’t say it’s spurious, but it doesn’t quite feel authentic…. – NYT, 12-1-10
  • Latke vs. Hamantaschen: An Age-Old Debate: It’s a debate that’s spanned the centuries – at least about half of one – and brought professors, writers and philosophers to the table to argue their cases on one of the most essential questions in modern scholarly discourse. Which one is better: the latke or the hamantaschen?
    The famed latke-hamantash debate first launched at the University of Chicago in 1946, and since then it’s been argued at such esteemed academic institutions as Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins. First conceived as a way to shore up a sense of Jewish community, nowadays the debate is as a way for scholars to blow off some steam, poke fun at academia and support their favorite potato- or flour-based foodstuff…. – Patch.com, 12-3-10
  • Hanukkah in public spaces: Although many people have come to identify public menorahs with Hanukkah itself, a recently published book argues that the holiday’s celebration today has been largely defined by just one slice of the Jewish population.
    “Whatever people associate with Hanukkah in the public space is Chabad,” says Maya Balakirsky Katz, associate professor of art history at Touro College in New York and author of The Visual Culture of Chabad. “In the last few decades, Chabad has provided the public image of Hanukkah in America, possibly in the world.” According to Katz, many Jews balk at Chabad’s conspicuous display of religion in the diaspora and consider it “embarrassing, if not also dangerous.” “They pushed religion into the public space and presented it as the Jewish image,” Katz says. “Before Jews even had a chance to react, it became the Jewish holiday image. I think the only people really invested in challenging Chabad’s right to light are other Jews.”
    “Chabad emissaries take comparisons between their giant menorahs and Christmas trees in stride,” Katz says. “Comparisons between their menorahs and the Israeli national symbol make them more nervous.” Katz’s book devotes an entire chapter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s decision to promote menorahs with diagonal branches in sharp contrast to the arced, half-moon branches of the menorah on the Israeli national emblem. The Rebbe claimed his inspiration was an argument by the medieval theologian and physician Maimonides that the original Temple menorah had diagonal branches.
    “For Houston Jews and Jews everywhere, I think the Rebbe initiated a rebirth to diasporist culture; you can proudly be a diaspora Jew and have a whole other material culture that’s not only connected to Israel,” Katz says. “That is definitely going to be part of his legacy. He gave birth to a very proud religious diaspora material culture.”
    Whereas Katz’s book addresses Chabad’s appropriation of Hanukkah as a means to forge an American-Jewish religious material culture, Zaklikofsky focuses on the mitzvah, commandment, of lighting the menorah as a testimony to what he considers a historically documented miracle…. – Houston Chronicle, 12-2-10
  • Southern Jews Put Their Spin On Soul Food: The eight-day Jewish holiday of Hannukah began earlier this week and with it comes culinary traditions of the season. A new book describes how Jews in the American south have blended traditional Jewish fare enjoyed around the holidays with southern cuisine. Host Michel Martin speaks with Marci Cohen Ferris, author of “Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales of the Jewish South”…. – NPR, 12-3-10 Download MP3
  • Dianne Ashton: American Hanukkah Traditions Focus on Children: Newswise — Hanukkah isn’t a hugely important holiday on the Jewish calendar, but modern day celebrations of the Festival of Lights do work to get today’s children–and adults–excited about Judaism, according to Dianne Ashton, a professor of religion studies at Rowan University. Author of a book on Hanukkah in America to be released next year by New York University Press, Ashton says two Cincinnati rabbis led a movement to “Americanize” Judaism in the 1860s. That movement included promoting the idea of a fun holiday festival for Jewish children.
    “One of the rabbis said Jewish children shall have a grand and glorious Hanukkah, a festival as nice as any Christmas, with songs, dramatics, candle lighting, ice cream and candy,” says Ashton, whose book examines Hanukkah from 1860-2000. “This really shifted Hanukkah from primarily an observance of Jewish adults to a festival seen as particularly important for Jewish children, a way to keep them interested in Judaism.”… – Newswise, 11-30-10
  • Rethinking the “Jewish Christmas”: Hanuka is back! Perhaps some wonder when it ever was gone. According to Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and professor of history at George Washington University, “Well into the 1880s, Chanukah fared poorly in America, a victim of neglect.” She quotes the despairing voices of 19th century American rabbis, in an article for Reform Judaism magazine (Winter 2008): “‘The customary candles disappear more and more from Jewish homes,’ lamented Rabbi Gustav Gottheil in 1884. ‘Kindle the Chanukah lights anew, modern Israelite!’ declared Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler just a few years later. ‘Make the festival more than ever before radiant with the brightness and beauty of love and charity.’” Instead of kindling Hanuka candles, Americans “were adorning their homes with greenery and parlor illuminations and eagerly exchanging gifts in the spirit of Christmas. The purchase of Christmas gifts, commented the Jewish Daily Forward in 1904, ‘is one of the first things that proves one is no longer a greenhorn,’” the Jewish studies professor writes….
    The historian continues her survey of the festival’s rise, noting that in the 1950s, “American Jews no longer had to dread the ‘cruel month’ of December. Chanukah’s accoutrements had grown to include paper decorations, greeting cards, napkins, wrapping paper, ribbons, and phonograph records. And in the years following World War II, the outside world increasingly freighted Chanukah with the same cultural and social significance as Christmas, yoking the two together in demonstration of America’s ‘cultural oneness.’ Public school educators in particular convened a ‘holiday assembly’ on a ‘compromise date’ in December in which a Christmas tree and a ‘Menorah candle’ as well as the singing of Chanukah hymns and Christmas carols figured prominently.”… – American Jewish World, 11-26-10
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