June 15, 2010: Obama’s First Oval Office Address on Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The President delivers first Oval Office Address

Doug Mills/The New York Times

THE HEADLINES….

  • In Oval Office Speech, Obama Calls for New Focus on Energy Policy: President Obama delivered his first Oval Office address to the nation. President Obama summoned Americans on Tuesday to a “national mission” to move away from reliance on oil and develop alternative sources of energy, casting the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an imperative for Congress to act quickly to overcome “a lack of political courage and candor.” Speaking to a national television audience for the first time from the Oval Office, Mr. Obama also promised a long-term plan to make sure that the gulf states suffering from the oil spill are made whole again. He said he was appointing Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy and the former governor of Mississippi, to develop a Gulf Coast restoration plan in cooperation with states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, conservationists and gulf residents…. – NYT, 6-16-10
  • Obama, BP set for Gulf oil showdown: President Obama will have his showdown on Wednesday with BP top executives and says he will tell the company it must pick up the tab for the massive oil disaster in the Gulf. Obama vowed Tuesday to unleash whatever resources may be needed to fight the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and to keep the pressure on BP.
    “We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes,” Obama said after two consecutive days surveying the Gulf Coast, which is threatened by a massive oil spill that began April 20 and continues to pump oil into the Gulf waters and worry into Gulf residents. In a prime-time speech to a national audience, the president predicted that, “in the coming days and weeks,” efforts to contain the leak “should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. CNN, 6-16-10
  • Gulf Coast welcomes Obama’s pledge to restore land: In an Oval Office address Tuesday night, Obama said he was committed to making sure southern Louisiana, which is hemorrhaging a football field of marshland every 38 minutes, and other coastline are saved. “We need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region,” Obama said. “The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that has already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats.” Obama appointed Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy and a former Mississippi governor, to lead the effort to develop a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan. Obama said he wanted BP to “pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.”… – AP, 6-16-10
  • Oval Office speech: Obama’s ‘take charge’ moment in Gulf oil spill: In the Gulf oil spill crisis, President Obama has shied away from theatrical moments that symbolize he’s in charge. Tuesday’s Oval Office speech is his attempt to take charge on his own terms… – CS Monitor, 6-16-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Obama’s First Oval Office Address: A text of President Obama’s remarks on Tuesday on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as released by the White House:
    Good evening. As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al Qaeda wherever it exists. And tonight, I’ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens. …
    …Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it’s not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.
    But make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long as it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.
    Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward: what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again. …
    …Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.
    Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that’s already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats. And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.
    I make that commitment tonight….
    …All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet. You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny -– our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there. We know we’ll get there.
    It’s a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now.
    …The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again. What sees us through -– what has always seen us through –- is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it. Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. – NYT, 6-15-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Mike Littwin: Obama’s speech safe, when we need fierce urgency on energy: In what should be a surprise to no one, Barack Obama played it safe. It’s always funny to me when people call Obama a radical president when he is so clearly a cautious, incremental politician. If there were ever a moment for Obama to go big — as they like to say in Washington these days — this was it.
    If there’s anything that Obama needs to do at this moment, it is to make people look in a different direction. He needed to call up the spill- cam on the big Oval Office high-def wide-screen and say, “Look. You see that stuff spewing out of the ocean, heading toward our beaches? Does that look like clean energy to you? That energy is the past. We can’t afford to stay in the past. Tonight, we’re here to talk about the future.”
    In his speech, Obama did talk about the future. He talked about a new way and clean energy and the jobs that could be created. He talked about the fact he was open to new ideas on energy — and that the only plan he wouldn’t accept was the “consequences of inaction.”… – Denver Post, 6-16-10
  • Obama Faces ‘A Defining Moment’ in Oval Office Oil Leak Speech: As President Barack Obama began a two-day trip to survey oil leak damage along the Gulf Coast, Judy Woodruff gets several points of view about the president’s authority and public reaction related to the environmental disaster.
    JUDY WOODRUFF: For some additional perspective on the president’s handling of the oil spill, we are joined now by presidential historian and author Michael Beschloss, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor of communication and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post and contributor to MSNBC… – PBS Newshour, 6-15-10
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian: Well, in terms of substance, the oil is still spilling into the Gulf. So, the way people are going to look at this two years from now is going to be, how fast was this stopped, how much did he go after the people responsible, and, also, how much did he help the people, you know, people who were fishing in the Gulf and others, people involved in tourism, who were suffering from this? But as far as the — you know, what he’s done the last month-and-a-half in terms of talking to the public, there’s one way he could have done this which would have been different. And that goes back to Jimmy Carter and the Iran hostage crisis November of 1979. Carter said, as you well remember: I’m not going to leave the White House until this crisis is solved. I’m just going to spend 28 hours a day working on it. And the result was that his administration was chained to every twist and turn.
    He sure was. And so I think — this is a minority view in America right now, but I think it may not have been a bad idea for him to say, Barack Obama, a month-and-a-half ago: It may take a very long time to plug this leak. It’s going to be very frustrating. If I look as if I’m spending 24 hours a day trying to stop this, and it doesn’t happen, people are going to think I’m ineffective….
    Different with every president, because, especially with a new president like Barack Obama a year-and-a-half in office, we’re still learning things about him. And everyone has subliminal worries about every new president. In Barack Obama’s case, they may be, didn’t have enough executive experience, didn’t have enough national experience, maybe the temperament a little bit too laid back. So, the second you have got a crisis like this where people are frustrated, they immediately say, aha, you know, we’re seeing all those things in play, we had better worry about this president, sort of like George H.W. Bush in 1991. The economy was going into a bad recession. And he wasn’t giving the impression that he was on top of it. And, so, the narrative emerged the president is out of touch, and people connected that to an incident where he was seeing a supermarket checkout scanner. He said: Oh, isn’t that interesting? I have never seen that before. People said, Bush is so out of touch, he doesn’t even know the way most people shop. As it turned out, it was new technology, but something like that tends to get attached to worries that people have about a new president. That’s one thing that I think the administration has been very unsuccessful in managing. – PBS Newshour, 6-15-10
  • KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, director, Annenberg Public Policy Center: He’s working in a very difficult circumstance, in which what the public expects of him and what a public — what the president is able to do are two very different things. Today, he made a good start at establishing that he’s going hold his own agencies accountable, in particular by eating seafood for lunch. He suggested that it’s still safe to eat seafood from the Gulf, and suggested that the agencies under his control will police that vigilantly to ensure that we can continue to eat seafood, but also that we will watch carefully through these agencies about the clean water and clean air. So, there’s a beginning of a start of scaffolding up an argument to suggest that government has action it can take here. He’s also been arguing that he’s going to hold BP accountable. We wait to see whether in fact that’s going to happen.
    Crises create opportunities and they create presidential capacity. So, for example, right now, what we have are visuals that are extremely difficult for the president to displace: dying endangered waterfowl, oil spilling on to beaches and children trying to pick it up. You also have a situation in which he has trouble with the metrics. He talks about thousands and tens of thousands of workers and boats and equipment, when the oil is hemorrhaging in hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. But what he can do is harness all of that into a speech Tuesday night that is, for him, a speech the equivalent of delivering the Marshall Plan speech for Truman, the Monroe Doctrine speech. A house divided against itself cannot stand, the civil rights legislation speeches of Lyndon Johnson. He could give us the speech that talks about how this crisis is a defining moment for this people, and we will come out of it with a healthier planet, fueled by economies that have clean, safe energy, and he will tell us how we can get there, what the costs will be, and why we have to pay it. He can harness what he called in the campaign the fierce urgency of now, and control those perceptions. – PBS Newshour, 6-15-10
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Political Highlights June 15, 2010: Obama Dealing with the Fallout over Gulf Oil Spill

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Meets with Bipartisan Members of Congress in the  Cabinet Room

President Barack Obama meets with, from left, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the Cabinet Room of the White House to discuss the upcoming work period, the economy and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. June 10, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Hillary more likeable than her boss: The woman U.S. President Barack Obama once called “likeable enough” has actually surpassed her boss in likeability, the latest polling indicates. Depending on the poll, Americans like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton some 10 to 25 percent better than the president, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. For example, this month’s Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll found Obama with a 51 percent favorability rating compared to Secretary Clinton with favorability in the 60s…. – UPI, 6-15-10
  • Poll: 65% of Jewish Israelis say U.S. Jews should criticize Obama’s Mideast policy: B’nai B’rith survey also found 54% of Jewish Israelis believe Jewish advocacy groups who work with foreign governments should always support Israeli policy…. – Haaretz, 6-15-10
  • Poll: Obama’s gulf work gets thumbs down: More Americans disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill than of his overall job performance, a Gallup Poll indicated Tuesday. Results indicated Obama’s rating for the oil spill was 40 percent, 7 percentage points lower than his overall job approval rating. More Americans disapprove than approve of his handling of the oil spill that began April 20 when an oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers, and sank two days later. In an earlier poll, Gallup said 53 percent of Americans called Obama’s efforts in responding to the spill “very poor” or “poor,” while 73 percent expressed the same sentiments about BP…. – UPI, 6-8-10
  • Fox News Poll: White House Could Have Done More, Moved Faster On Spill: Fifty-seven percent think the administration could have done more and reacted more quickly to the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s 20 percentage points higher than the 37 percent who think the administration did as much as it could as fast as it could.
    Not unexpectedly, most Republicans (72 percent) think the administration could have done more. A majority of independents (63 percent), as well as a substantial minority of Democrats (43 percent), agree.
    And while many voters — 36 percent — think the Obama administration is “up to the job” of fixing the problem in the gulf, a 54 percent majority thinks the administration is “in over its head.” Fox News, 6-10-10
  • Fla. Poll: Oil Spill Takes Toll on Obama: The oil spill is taking a toll on the president, a new Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters shows. The poll, released today, shows that Floridians, by a 51%-42% margin, oppose more offshore oil drilling – a big shift from the 66%-27% support drilling received in an April 19 poll.
    At the same time, President Barack Obama’s job approval numbers plummeted to a negative 40%-54% in Florida, off from a 50%-45% approval-disapproval rating in April when he called for relaxing standards for offshore drilling. WSJ, 6-9-10

THE HEADLINES….

The President at a tele-town hall with seniors
The President at a tele-town hall with seniors, Wheaton, Md.,, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 6/8/10
  • Obama to cap Gulf tour with Oval Office speech: President Barack Obama is capping two days in the suffering Gulf of Mexico with a solemn, high-stakes address to the nation that will lay out the enormous effort needed to right the multifaceted damage from the country’s worst environmental disaster. With the political import of Tuesday evening’s address clear, Obama for the first time will use the Oval Office as an austere backdrop for a speech in which he will assign himself and his administration the momentous task of bringing back the Gulf’s teeming wildlife and beauty to what it was before it was fouled by hundreds of millions of gallons of oil…. – AP, 6-15-10
  • Obama continues Gulf visit, prepares to address nation: President Obama will continue his Gulf Coast visit Tuesday with a stop in Florida’s Panhandle, where beaches have started to see signs of oil as crude continues to gush from a ruptured deepwater well. Obama, on his fourth trip to the region since oil began spewing from the well in April, is scheduled to return to Washington later Tuesday and address the nation about the situation from the Oval Office…. – CNN, 6-15-10
  • Republicans seek pay freeze for federal workers; a ‘cynical ploy,’ Democrats say: Looking to demonstrate their commitment to balancing the budget, Republicans are increasingly targeting the federal workforce. In the past month, congressional Republicans have tried to attach to several bills language that would limit pay increases for federal workers. This week, as part of a GOP amendment to a Democratic bill that would spend billions on unemployment benefits and help states fund their Medicaid programs, Senate Republicans are including a proposal that would freeze pay levels for the 2 million people who work for the government… – WaPo, 6-15-10
  • Arizona bill would deny citizenship to children of illegal immigrants: A proposed Arizona law would deny birth certificates to children born in the United States to illegal immigrant parents. The bill comes on the heels of Arizona passing the nation’s toughest immigration law. John Kavanagh, a Republican state representative from Arizona who supports the proposed law aimed at so-called “anchor babies,” said that the concept does not conflict with the U.S. Constitution. “If you go back to the original intent of the drafters … it was never intended to bestow citizenship upon (illegal) aliens,” said Kavanagh, who also supported Senate Bill 1070 — the law that gave Arizona authorities expanded immigration enforcement powers… – CNN, 6-15-10
  • The Big Tax Increase Facing Small Business Congress Wants to Collect $11B More in Taxes Over 10 Years: The President urges Congress to enact legislation that helps small businesses While a possible increase in taxes on the “carried interest” of hedge fund and private equity money managers is getting all the attention, in the same bill Congress is also creating a tax mess for small-business owners in the form of an $11 billion tax hike over the next 10 years. The tax increase was included in H.R. 4213, a peddler’s wagon of legislation (new spending, physicians’ reimbursement, extensions of expired tax breaks, etc.) that was passed by the House in a narrow vote just before Memorial Day and is now being considered by the Senate… – Forbes.com, 6-13-10
  • F.B.I. Opens Kennedy File: Most of the death threats made against Senator Edward M. Kennedy warned of shootings, but one claimed that a crossbow would be used. For years after two of his brothers were slain by assassins, Mr. Kennedy received repeated warnings that he would meet the same fate, according to thousands of pages of documents about Mr. Kennedy that were released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation…. The F.B.I. files on Mr. Kennedy — 2,352 pages covering 1961 to 1985 — are mostly devoted to the scores of threats against him, but they also pull back the curtain on other episodes before and after he became a senator. NYT, 6-15-10
  • Obama wants BP escrow fund for spill damage: As more oil washes ashore, a letter from 54 senators calls for the company to set aside $20 billion. In an effort to seize greater control of the gulf oil catastrophe, President Obama is prepared to compel BP executives to set up a multibillion-dollar escrow account to pay damage claims in the region, a senior White House official said Sunday…
    “Our mission is to hold them accountable in every appropriate way,” Obama advisor David Axelrod said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “He is going to be very clear about what our expectations are in terms of taking care of the people who’ve been damaged by this crisis.”…. – LAT, 6-14-10
  • Kagan confirmation would affect major tobacco case: It’s a simple matter of math: Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court has complicated the government’s effort to force the tobacco industry to cough up nearly $300 billion. If confirmed by the Senate as a justice, Kagan would have to sit out high court review of the government’s decade- old racketeering lawsuit against cigarette makers. That’s because she already has taken sides as solicitor general, signing the Obama administration’s Supreme Court brief in the case — an automatic disqualifier. Kagan is expected to step aside from 11 of the 24 cases the court has so far agreed to hear beginning in October…. – AP, 6-13-10
  • Schwarzenegger makes media rounds in D.C.: Fresh from his open primary ballot victory, he keeps the focus on his final year as governor, not what’s next for him. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, fresh from his victory in the passage of Proposition 14, spent a day last week hopping from one Washington, D.C., media outlet to another touting his success and his final year’s agenda. Schwarzenegger had pushed the open primary election system ordained in the ballot measure. It will allow all candidates in a primary to appear on a single ballot and the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, to run against each other in the general election. It does not apply to presidential contests…. – LAT, 6-14-10
  • Obama Appeals to Congress for $50 Billion in Emergency Aid: President Obama is pressing Congress to approve emergency aid money to support economic recovery and help avoid widespread layoffs of public workers, the Washington Post reported Saturday. Congressional leaders received a letter from the president asking for almost $50 billion for distribution to state and local governments, saying that increased spending is “urgent and unavoidable,” the Post reported. The money would protect the jobs of teachers, police and firefighters.
    “Because the urgency is high—many school districts, cities and states are already being forced to make these layoffs,” Obama wrote, “these provisions must be passed as quickly as possible.” Fox News.com, 6-13-10
  • Heat on BP to improve oil spill response: BP Plc faced renewed U.S. pressure on Sunday to do more to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as the United States and Britain played down diplomatic tensions over the crisis.
    British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was up to the British energy giant, under pressure in the United States to suspend its dividend to help pay for the damage, to decide on its payout to shareholders.
    He also said that the British government was offering the United States large quantities of chemical dispersant to help clean up the spill…. – Reuters, 6-13-10
  • Bill Clinton still has touch as he aids President Obama, former president is back to save Democrats: It’s Bubba to the rescue. Former President Bill Clinton’s outsized presence is already a force on the 2010 campaign trail as Democrats scramble to save their hides in a rough political climate. He almost single-handedly reversed the fortunes of embattled Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln last week against an insurgent primary challenger. This week, he’s off to Las Vegas to hold a campaign rally for Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader in a hard fight to win reelection…. – NY Daily News, 6-13-10
  • Obama, British PM to discuss BP’s Gulf oil spill: The Gulf oil spill, with a British company the villain, is raising tensions on both sides of the Atlantic. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron planned to discuss the environmental catastrophe Saturday by telephone, hoping to ease what has become a growing rift between the two countries over the criticism of the well’s owner, BP PLC. As BP struggles unsuccessfully to halt the gushing oil that is bringing environmental chaos to the Gulf Coast, Obama has sharpened his criticism of the British company. He said he would have fired BP’s top executive if he were in charge, embraced the idea that the oil giant suspend its quarterly dividend and reproached BP for spending money on a public relations campaign. And occasionally Obama would refer to “British Petroleum,” although the company years ago began using only its initials and, in fact, is a far-reaching international corporation with extensive holdings in the United States, including a Texas refinery and a share of the Alaska oil pipeline…. – AP, 6-12-10
  • Top US senators: Obama, stand by Israel: The top two US senators are urging President Barack Obama to stand by Israel in the face of recent global pressure following the lethal raid on the Gaza-bound Marmara ship. Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wrote a letter to the President, urging him to show strong support for Israel in international bodies, insist on the Jewish State’s right for self-defense, and look into the terror connections of the Turkish organization that led the violent Gaza sail… – YNet News, 6-12-10
  • Kagan Expressed Broad View of Religious Freedom: As an associate White House counsel from 1995 to 1996, Ms. Kagan provided advice to a president with his own political agenda, so it is hard to gauge how much her analyses reflected her own views or how they would apply if she had the authority of a Supreme Court justice. But since she has never served as a judge and has done only a limited amount of scholarly writing, the 43,000 pages released Friday offer a rare look at her legal thinking that may influence her coming confirmation hearings.
    The papers were the second batch released by the library, for a total of nearly 90,000 pages from her files as associate counsel and later deputy domestic policy director. The library plans to release another 70,000 pages of e-mail messages before the Senate Judiciary Committee opens hearings June 28, but Republicans argue that they need more time to examine the material…. – NYT, 6-12-10
  • Bill Clinton: Another comeback for ‘Comeback Kid’: The former two-term president may have finally found a role in Obama world after struggling to fit in after the caustic Democratic presidential campaign that sullied his reputation. Clinton is heading up special projects for Haiti and outreach to North Korea for the White House. He was the closer in rural Pennsylvania last month, helping Democratic Rep. Mark Critz win a special election. His campaigning was a factor in Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s narrow victory in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff in Arkansas.
    Now, he’s hoping to rally voters for vulnerable Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the swing state of Nevada. Clinton was the headliner at a rally Thursday night, wondering out loud why Reid’s seat is in jeopardy. “Why would you give away the Senate majority leader who has delivered time and time and time again?'”‘ Clinton asked about 700 Nevada voters at the Andre Agassi College Prepatory Academy. Reid was in Washington… – AP, 6-11-10
  • Senators head to Gulf as local tempers flare: A delegation of U.S. senators head to the heart of coastal Louisiana Friday to assess the damage caused by the nearly two-month-long BP oil disaster.
    The four senators, Sens. Benjamin Cardin, David Vitter, Jeff Merkley and Barbara Mikulski, will be in Grand Isle, one of the early areas hit by the slick created by the underwater gusher. The senators, who are members of the Environment and Public Works Committee, will hold a news conference after their “oversight” operation along the Gulf…. – CNN, 6-11-10
  • Obama to meet with owners of small businesses: President Barack Obama meets with small business owners in the Oval Office to highlight his small business jobs initiatives. He’ll also make a statement Friday in the Rose Garden. The administration has made a series of proposals aimed at helping small businesses grow and hire new workers, and Obama says he’ll continue to urge Congress to act on them…. – AP, 6-11-10
  • Senate Rejects Republican Effort to Thwart Carbon Limits: The Senate on Thursday defeated a Republican-led effort to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from curbing greenhouse gases as lawmakers road-tested arguments for a future fight over climate change legislation. The Senate voted 53-47 to reject an attempt by Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, to block the E.P.A. from imposing new limits on carbon emissions based on its 2009 finding that such gases from industry, vehicles and other sources represent a threat to human health and the environment…. – NYT, 6-11-10
  • Lawmakers begin merging Wall St regulatory bills: House and Senate lawmakers began assembling a massive financial regulation bill on Thursday, dividing sharply along partisan lines as Democrats vowed to fend off efforts to weaken its major provisions. “This is a very strong bill and it is time we get it to the president’s desk for his signature,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said, kicking off a meeting of lawmakers selected to blend House and Senate versions into one bill. AP, 6-10-10
  • McCain to Snooki: I won’t tax your tanning bed: Arizona Sen. John McCain is taking to Twitter to slam President Barack Obama, this time in an exchange with a star from MTV’s hit reality series “Jersey Shore.” Snooki says, “McCain would never put a 10 percent tax on tanning, because he’s pale and he would probably want to be tan.”
    McCain, a skin cancer survivor, replied Wednesday on Twitter, saying “u r right, I would never tax your tanning bed! Pres Obama’s tax/spend policy is quite The Situation. but I do rec wearing sunscreen!”
    Snooki replied: “Haha Yes!!”… – AP, 6-11-10
  • US gets tough but not crippling Iran sanctions: The United States and its allies won approval for the toughest U.N. sanctions against Iran for refusing to negotiate on its suspect nuclear program — but they’re not the “crippling” penalties U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to pursue a year ago if U.S. attempts to engage Iran diplomatically failed…. – AP, 6-10-10
  • Obama pledges $400 million for Palestinians: Obama had planned the White House meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to talk mainly about Mideast peace. But after the aid flotilla assault, they ended up focusing on the blockade of Gaza…. – LAT, 6-10-10
  • Day 49: The Latest on the Oil Spill: The Interior Department issued new guidelines on Tuesday under which shallow-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico can resume. Virtually all offshore oil and gas operations were halted late last month, but the new standards will allow drilling in water that is less than 500 feet deep. All wells in deeper water will remain under a moratorium for at least six months while a presidential panel studies the Deepwater Horizon explosion and makes recommendations on whether and how to resume such drilling.
    The White House said President Obama would travel to Mississippi, Alabama and Florida on Monday and Tuesday to survey the response efforts…. – NYT, 6-9-10
  • Gulf oil hearings continue on Capitol Hill: Capitol Hill will be awash in oil disaster hearings Wednesday as the House and Senate tackle issues ranging from safety and cleanup to liability. Three committees and two subcommittees will discuss matters related to the gusher in the Gulf of Mexico and the oil industry. The hearings come as President Obama announced that he will make a fourth trip to the Gulf region next week and as environmental groups plan to hold a vigil later in June protesting offshore oil drilling…. – CNN, 6-9-10
  • Health-care debate still alive and well for parties: There was a year of hearings, speeches and protests. Three bills passed in the House to complete the process, and two in the Senate. President Obama held several events to commemorate signing the legislation into law. But the two parties are still arguing about health-care reform…. – WaPo, 6-8-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Poll: Dems losing independents New study finds favorability ratings slip for Cuomo, Schumer: Independent voters slipped away from some of the most popular Democratic incumbent political figures, a poll released Monday shows. Both Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general who is the party’s standard-bearer, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a figure of statewide and national prominence and a media fixture, saw their favorability ratings slip, particularly among independent voters. In a month, Cuomo’s rating dropped from 60 to 51 percent and Schumer’s from 54 to 41 percent… – Albany Times-Union, 6-15-10
  • Election speculation comes from all corners after S.C. primary: It’s the voting machines. No wait, it’s random-selecting voters. Or, maybe, shadowy Republican operatives. Or Democratic antagonists. Take your pick. Everyone’s got a theory about why Alvin M. Greene — an unemployed veteran and political newbie who didn’t trifle with campaign speeches or public appearances — handily won South Carolina’s Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate last week. Protests have been lodged and the White House has chimed in (senior presidential adviser David Axelrod called Greene’s win “a mysterious deal” on “Meet the Press”), yet the reason for the top shocker of the primary season remains anyone’s guess…. – WaPo, 6-14-10
  • Sandoval bridges GOP worlds Gubernatorial hopeful draws moderates, hard-liners: The historic Caughlin Ranch House in Reno, where Brian Sandoval celebrated his win over Gov. Jim Gibbons in the Republican gubernatorial primary, was a far cry from the hard, dusty patch of land in Searchlight where two months ago both candidates sought votes among hard-line Tea Party conservatives…. – Las Vegas Review-Journal, 6-14-10
  • Stutzman wins on 2nd ballot Caucus quickly determines 3rd district GOP nod: Sen. Marlin Stutzman, R-Howe, bested 14 other candidates to win the 3rd District Republican congressional nomination Saturday in a surprisingly swift two ballots. “Moving forward, this is going to take all of us in this room,” he told the 400 precinct committee members who had gathered at Indian Springs Middle School in Columbia City. “We cannot let (Nancy) Pelosi pick off the third district. If all of us band together, we can win on Nov. 2.”
    Stutzman will likely face Democrat Tom Hayhurst on two fall ballots Nov. 2. One will be a special election to fill the remainder of former U.S. Rep. Mark Souder’s term, which runs through Jan. 3, and the other will be for a new two-year term that starts after that. Journal Gazette (IN), 6-13-10
  • More Questions About Mysterious South Carolina Senate Candidate: David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior adviser, has added his voice to those saying they smell something fishy in a Democratic primary in South Carolina that selected a jobless man who faces felony obscenity charges as the party’s nominee for the Senate. “It was a mysterious deal,” Mr. Axelrod told David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” doubtless sharing a view held by many of the state’s Democrats. Asked whether the nominee, Alvin Greene, was a legitimate candidate, Mr. Axelrod replied, “It doesn’t appear so.” Mr. Greene, as Mr. Axelrod noted, had barely campaigned — perhaps not surprising, since he had raised no campaign funds and had hired no staff. “The whole thing is odd,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I don’t really know how to explain it, and I don’t think anybody else does either.” Asked whether Mr. Greene, 32, should bow out, Mr. Axelrod stopped just short of agreeing. “The Democrats of South Carolina deserve a strong, credible candidate,” he said. Until the “big mystery” of how Mr. Greene won Tuesday’s primary is resolved, he said, “I don’t think he can claim to be a strong, credible candidate.”… – NYT, 6-13-10
  • Tea party shaping Republican Party, fall faceoffs: The tea party movement shows some growing pains, but it still wields remarkable powers to shape the Republican Party and set up a fall election with unconventional candidates and stark choices for voters. In two high-profile primary elections Tuesday, establishment GOP candidates were stunned by come-from-behind winners backed by tea party activists and other conservatives who don’t necessarily associate with that loose-knit group.
    National Republican leaders are sifting through the results. Voter fervor on the right encourages them, but some fear their insurgent nominees might stray too far from the mainstream to win in November. The party purity drive has a weaker grip on the Democratic Party, as centrist Sen. Blanche Lincoln illustrated when she held off a union-backed challenger in Arkansas…. – AP, 6-12-10
  • The Fix: Republican wins give Democrats hope: A series of developments over the last month (or so) have brightened Democrats’ hopes in a handful of Senate races — although the overall national landscape suggests the party is still headed toward losses in the fall. Recent Republican primaries have been good to Democrats. Victories by tea party backed candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky mean those seats, once considered off the radar, are now back in play. WaPo, 6-11-10
  • Reid ad slams GOP nominee on Scientology, Medicare: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unleashed his first negative ad of the general election campaign Friday, depicting Republican Sharron Angle as a heartless extremist who would slash Social Security and Medicare for the elderly.
    The 30-second ad airing statewide also reminds voters that Angle once suggested inmates enter a drug rehabilitation program devised by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.
    “Shockingly, Sharron Angle wants to wipe out Social Security,” a narrator says ominously in the commercial. “She’d cut benefits for everyone.” “What’s next?” the narrator asks… – AP, 6-12-10
  • Abortion veto puts Crist in the middle: Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the ultrasound abortion bill and drew the ire of anti-abortion advocates as well as some Democrats. Gov. Charlie Crist rejected a controversial abortion bill Friday, using his veto pen to repudiate the conservative Republicans who elected him and championed the legislation as “the most significant pro-life measure in Florida’s history.”
    The legislation required most women seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound and listen to a doctor describe the fetus, unless they sign a form to opt out, and included a provision to ensure that tax dollars didn’t cover elective abortions…. – Miami Herald, 6-12-10
  • Was candidate involved in U.S. healthcare scam?: The GOP candidate for governor led Columbia/HCA when it defrauded the federal government. He was not charged, and it is unclear what, if anything, he knew at the time. Rick Scott’s opponents for governor are telling reporters to essentially fluff off a new poll Thursday that shows the former Columbia/HCA hospital CEO beating both Attorney General Bill McCollum in the Republican primary for governor and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in a hypothetical November match-up.
    Focus on the fraud, they say. The fraud. The fraud. “Rick Scott has spent $15 million in half as many weeks to fund his public image repair squad’s pricey and misleading paid media campaign,” McCollum spokesman Kristy Campbell said Thursday. “It’s no surprise he has skyrocketed in the polls since Floridians are just beginning to learn about his questionable past. His lead will evaporate when Floridians learn Rick Scott oversaw the most massive Medicare fraud scheme in American history.”… – Miami Herald, 6-11-10
  • Who’s Alvin Greene? State Asks After Vote: For a few hours this week, it looked as if South Carolina might ditch its never-fail reputation for political scandal in favor of a genuine history-making event. There was Nikki Haley, a lawmaker of Indian descent, beaming on election night with her husband and children after taking a major step toward becoming the first female governor of the state. It was a feel-good image to obscure the stain of a campaign marked by ethnic slurs, accusations of marital infidelity and yet more national marveling over how a single state can produce a string of political embarrassments as long as the Appalachian Trail.
    But then, the television cameras started rolling on Alvin Greene’s overgrown lawn. “Yeah, it’s been pretty nonstop for a few days,” said Mr. Greene, 32, in a phone interview Friday. Because everyone wants to know how Mr. Greene, an unemployed Army veteran who had been completely unknown until Tuesday, inexplicably defeated a heavily favored former legislator and judge to become the state’s Democratic nominee for the Senate — and the state’s latest political circus act…. – NYT, 6-11-10
  • S.C. lawmaker calls for investigations of Democratic primary, 2 other races: House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) called for federal and state investigations into alleged campaign irregularities in South Carolina after an unemployed Army veteran who lives with his parents won a Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate there. Alvin M. Greene, who has an outstanding felony obscenity charge pending, “was someone’s plant,” Clyburn said Thursday. Clyburn added that Greene was one of three individuals, all African American, whose congressional campaigns were designed to upend the Democratic primary process in the Palmetto State. The lawmaker also raised questions about the campaigns of Gregory A. Brown, who ran a vigorous but unsuccessful challenge against Clyburn in the 6th Congressional District, and Benjamin Frasier Jr., a perennial candidate who surprised observers by beating retired Air Force Reserve Col. Robert Burton in the 1st District…. – WaPo, 6-10-10
  • Whitman, Fiorina victories draw comparisons to Feinstein, Boxer wins in 1992: Despite the parallels, there are major contrasts between the elections themselves, the makeup of California’s electorate and the issues on voters’ minds…. – LAT, 6-10-10
  • Poll: Crist holding on to Senate race lead: One polls shows Charlie Crist maintaining his lead in the U.S. Senate race, while another finds the governor and Marco Rubio in a tie. Crist leads with 37 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent for Republican Marco Rubio and 17 percent for Democrat Kendrick Meek. It is the third major statewide poll since Crist’s April 29 announcement, and Crist has led all three…. – Miami Herald, 6-10-10
  • Unknown Senate candidate in SC faces felony charge: A day after an unemployed veteran charged with a felony shocked South Carolina’s Democratic establishment by winning the U.S. Senate primary, party officials were still scratching their heads: What happened?
    Greene was considered such a long shot that his opponent and media didn’t even bother to check his background. If they had, they would have discovered he faces a felony obscenity charge after an alleged encounter with a college student last fall.
    “The Democratic Party has chosen their nominee, and we have to stand behind their choice,” Greene told the AP at his home in Manning. “The people have spoken. We need to be pro-South Carolina, not anti-Greene.” AP, 6-10-10
  • In Tuesday’s Primaries, Three Messages From Three States: If you are looking for a unified theme out of Tuesday’s round of primaries, good luck. In states holding the biggest votes of the night there were decidedly different storylines and lessons. The tea party movement had some reason to celebrate, in Nevada particularly, but not in California, where its supporters were trounced. Even the widely accepted political storyline of 2010 – incumbents are in trouble – took a hit in Arkansas, for now anyway. Reading too much into primary results can be foolhardy. Voters, beyond the most engaged, are usually not fully tuned into the election until later in the season and Tuesday’s turnout numbers bear that out: 30 percent in Nevada, 25 percent in California, 15 percent in Arkansas.
    But the results in those three states do send some messages about those individual places for November. And the Patchwork Nation breakdown of the results is revealing…. – Newshour, 6-9-10
  • Calif. Voting Change Could Signal Big Political Shift: The time for tinkering is done. That was the message Californians sent when they voted Tuesday to radically rejigger elections in the nation’s most populous state. Under Proposition 14, a measure that easily passed, traditional party primaries will be replaced in 2011 with wide-open elections. The top two vote-getters — whatever their party, or if they have no party at all — will face off in the general election. Supporters argue that without parties picking candidates for the general election, moderates and independents will move to the fore, and voters will pay more attention to the electoral process. Critics of the measure say it will give a huge advantage to candidates who have the most money or the widest name recognition…. – NYT, 6-10-10
  • Ladies Roll Through Primaries in Arkansas, Nevada, and California Blanche Lincoln, Sharron Angle, Meg Whitman, and Carly Fiorina all advance: Tuesday was a day for the ladies. Four women won high-profile nominations—two in California, one each in Arkansas and Nevada, with a fifth in a good position to win her South Carolina gubernatorial runoff election in two weeks. Elsewhere, Georgia sent a new member (a man) to the U.S. House of Representatives, while Republicans tapped nominees in a handful of targeted congressional races. In the day’s biggest surprise, incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas dashed to the finish line ahead of Lt. Gov. Bill Halter in the state’s Senate primary runoff. She earned 52 percent of the vote to Halter’s 48 percent. The result shocked political insiders who saw Lincoln trailing in recent polls…. – US News & World Report, 6-9-10
  • Consistent theme lacking in primaries: There was a wide variety of results from primary elections held in 11 states on Tuesday. Primary votes in 11 states this week helped set the table for November’s general elections, but don’t look for a theme menu with one cuisine from these results. It’s more of a food court. Outsiders winning? Many did, but veteran insiders won top races in Arkansas and Iowa. From coast to coast, the latest round of primaries shows that the electorate remains ready to challenge the status quo and the establishment, but also that state and local issues and the quirks of individual candidates still can drive elections in any state. The results also serve to remind that voter turnout in summer party primaries tends to be small, where organization often counts more than trends in national opinion…. – Miami Herald, 6-10-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Obama Calls British Prime Minister Cameron

President Barack Obama talks on the phone in the Oval Office with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Saturday, June 12, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Weekly Address: President Obama Calls on Senate Republicans to Allow a Vote to Protect Medicare Reimbursements Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, June 12, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: … I’m absolutely willing to take the difficult steps necessary to lower the cost of Medicare and put our budget on a more fiscally sustainable path. But I’m not willing to do that by punishing hard-working physicians or the millions of Americans who count on Medicare. That’s just wrong. And that’s why in the short-term, Congress must act to prevent this pay cut to doctors.
    If they don’t act, doctors will see a 21% cut in their Medicare payments this week. This week, doctors will start receiving these lower reimbursements from the Medicare program. That could lead them to stop participating in the Medicare program. And that could lead seniors to lose their doctors.
    We cannot allow this to happen. We have to fix this problem so that our doctors can get paid for the life-saving services they provide and keep their doors open. We have to fix this problem to keep the promise of Medicare for our seniors so that they get the health care they deserve. So I urge Republicans in the Senate to at least allow a majority of Senators and Congressmen to stop this pay cut. I urge them to stand with America’s seniors and America’s doctors. – WH, 6-12-10
  • Obama takes aim at Republicans again on healthcare: President Barack Obama called on Republicans on Saturday to vote for a delay in cutting government Medicare insurance payments to doctors, taking aim at the opposition party in a renewed election-year push for his new healthcare law. “This year, a majority of Congress is willing to prevent a pay cut of 21 percent — a pay cut that would undoubtedly force some doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients altogether,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. Medicare is the government health program for the elderly. “But this time, some Senate Republicans may even block a vote on this issue. After years of voting to defer these cuts, the other party is now willing to walk away from the needs of our doctors and our seniors,” Obama said…. Reuters, 6-12-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Historians weigh in on released Kennedy FBI files: “Many people thought the FBI may have been digging into Ted Kennedy’s personal life. We’re so used to the FBI stories of the ’60s and ’70s being about Hoover bugging famous people’s bedrooms,” said historian Douglas Brinkley. “But what emerges is the FBI as the great protector of a US senator….
    While Kennedy politicians have always attracted a core of vocal dissenters, “I had no idea” of all the threats against the senator, said historian Robert Dallek. “I’m kind of surprised there would be so much rage at him.”… Boston Globe (6-15-10)
  • Julian E. Zelizer: For Obama, crisis may outweigh record: As Democrats move into the 2010 midterm elections and start thinking about 2012, the administration is struggling to deal with two difficult crises, both of which have generated concerns about the president’s response and the perceptions of him as a leader.
    The first is the oil leak in the Gulf, one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in American history. The second is an unemployment rate that continues to hover near 10 percent. The slow economic recovery has still failed to make a significant dent in the number of Americans who don’t have jobs. American voters are frustrated and angry.
    Democrats are counting on President Obama’s substantial legislative record to provide the best selling points on the campaign trail, enough to counter any concerns about his detached demeanor….
    But Obama can’t afford to wait to see what the outcome is. He must start Tuesday, with the address to the nation. He needs to act with greater resolve in response to the twin crises of his second year or he might find that the most impressive list of accomplishments doesn’t mean much when voters go into the ballot box.
    In his talk about the Gulf, Obama must stop complaining about the press or simply saying that he is doing everything possible.
    Instead, he must genuinely convey his frustration and concern about what is happening and lay out a specific agenda about what the federal government intends to do over the next few months to help bring the environmental crisis to an end and to diminish the risks that another one occurs soon. – CNN, 6-14-10
  • Obama Takes a Hard Line Against Leaks to Press: “The Baltimore Sun stories simply confirmed that the agency was ineptly managed in some respects,” said Matthew M. Aid, an intelligence historian and author of “The Secret Sentry,” a history of the N.S.A. Such revelations hardly damaged national security, Mr. Aid said. – NYT, 6-12-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Enviros give Obama a pass on Gulf spill: “The environmental movement as such has nowhere to turn but Obama,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “They’re feeling they have one person to do business with…..We’re down to like two Republican senators who want to deal with these environmental groups.” – Politico, 6-12-10
  • Michael Egan: Enviros give Obama a pass on Gulf spill: “There is a level of confusion,” said Michael Egan, an environmental historian at McMaster University in Ontario. “Part of it is they’re still trying to figure out how to work with the Obama administration, which is sounding more and more like a Clinton one—much to their chagrin.” “While they’re disappointed by a variety of Obama’s actions, the alternatives are much, much worse,” Egan said. – Politico, 6-12-10
  • William Jelani Cobb: Spelman College historian analyzes Obama: ‘So far I would give him a B’: So what should we make of Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency? And what does his journey tell us about the United States and how the country’s attitudes about race have evolved? Since Obama’s candidacy began, a barrage of writers and pundits have been trying to answer those questions. Now author William Jelani Cobb, an associate professor and chair of the history department at Spelman College, tries to tackle them in his new book, “The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.” Surprisingly, the book does not dwell on the president’s first year in office to provide clues. Instead it looks at candidate Obama’s peculiar relationship with the old guard of the civil rights movement and, among other things, the carefully scripted language he used about race during the campaign. In an edited conversation, Cobb, who just returned from a Fulbright teaching fellowship in Russia, talked about politics, paradoxes and possibilities…. – Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6-11-10
  • Historians Reactions: How Clinton and Bush Would Have Handled the Oil Spill: Obama’s taken considerable heat for his handling of the BP disaster. But would recent past presidents have done any better?… – Newsweek, 6-11-10
  • Michael Green: Nevada challenger can “beat Reid,” says Nevada historian: “Angle can beat Reid if she can avoid being defined as too right-wing even for conservatives, which, given her history, will be hard for her to avoid,” said Michael Green, a professor of history at the College of Southern Nevada. “If even worse economic news came out, it presumably could help her.”… – NYT, 6-9-10
  • Conrad Black: Israel’s friends in Canada: Stephen Harper has shown foresight and political courage by turning Canada into Israel’s greatest friend in the world. Let us remember a few facts: This dreadful mess in the Middle East arose because the British sold the same real estate twice, simultaneously, to the Arabs and the Jews. They compounded this sleazy practice by denying access to Palestine to many helpless Jewish fugitives from the Nazis before, during and just after the Second World War…
    Israel is an admirable democracy, has fought courageously for its life, has built a small, barren, beleaguered country into an advanced prosperous state. Even so, too many Western leaders — including Barack Obama — sometimes truckle to militant Muslim sentiment when the two sides clash, as they did last week off the coast of Gaza. But not Mr. Harper.
    All Canadians can be proud that the country has a prime minister who does not grovel to the received international opinion on matters such as the Middle East. (He rendered the same service on the global-warming debate by not signing Canada prematurely onto one of the Doomdsay scenarios, that have become the subject of scientific reappraisal.) This is a huge improvement on the trendy pandering of Pierre Trudeau: the Third Way, North-South, his absurd arms-control proposals, facilitation of Castro’s war-making in Angola, veneration of the Nyerere economic miracle in Tanzania (a 90% decline in per capita income). On these matters, Stephen Harper has been a prophet with honour. – National Post, 6-12-10
  • David Greenberg: Presidential scholars see recent White House job offers as nothing new: “This kind of jockeying happens all the time in politics,” says David Greenberg, professor of history, journalism and media studies at Rutgers University. “Politicians are always trying to get people in and out of races, and they will use offers, inducements and even threats to do that.”… – The Hill, 6-8-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama’s Swearing Nothing New for Presidents: “That was a unique moment in presidential history — to go on a morning show and use that kind of language,” historian Douglas Brinkley, who has written about the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the beginnings of the conservation movement, told AOL News.
    “Kicking ass” has become “part of American parlance,” Brinkley said. “It’s not like using the F-word where mothers cringe. Football coaches and military people use it all day long.”
    Brinkley, who is following the BP disaster closely for his next book, rejected any hint of political calculation on Obama’s part. As he has learned more about BP ‘s safety record before the oil rig blowout and been “upping his game” against the energy giant in recent days, the president has been “like a volcano that’s been about to blow publicly,” Brinkley said. “His anger is not ginned up. It’s very real.” AOL News, 6-8-10
  • Robert Dallek: Obama’s Swearing Nothing New for Presidents: “Truman “got a lot of mileage out of plain speaking,” presidential historian Robert Dallek said….
    “The public finds it appealing that he’s being strong-willed and speaking his mind,” Dallek said. “But presidents need to be restrained and operate in rational, thoughtful ways as well. They can’t go half-cocked, explosive, emotional. That’s not very appealing to the public.”… – AOL News, 6-8-10
First Lady Michelle Obama during the Anacostia Senior High School  commencement ceremony

First Lady Michelle Obama sits with class valedictorian Jordan Smiley during the Anacostia Senior High School commencement ceremony at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C. June 11, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

June 8, 2010: Super Tuesday Primaries, Obama & the BP Oil Spill, Support for Israel

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The President delivers the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 6/4/10

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Poll: Americans want charges against BP Oil giant and federal government get negative ratings on spill response: Overall, 69 percent of those polled now say the government has done a “not so good” or “poor” job handling the spill. More polled, 81 percent, give low marks to BP for its response. (Some 59 percent give negative ratings to both the federal government and BP.)
    Criticism of the government and BP crosses party lines and spans the country. The Democratic discontent with the government’s response today — 56 percent give it low marks — contrasts with majority GOP support for federal efforts a few weeks after Katrina stuck in 2005…. – MSNBC, 6-7-10
  • Support for Confirming Kagan Trails That of Recent Nominees Forty-six percent want Senate to vote in favor of her nomination: A USA Today/Gallup poll finds just under half of Americans, 46%, in favor of the Senate’s confirming Elena Kagan’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. That level of support is generally lower than what Gallup has found when it first polled about other recent court nominations, trailing all others except Harriet Miers and Robert Bork. Gallop.com, 6-4-10
  • Poll shows big lead for Whitman over Poizner: Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman’s recent $500,000-a-day spending spree in her quest to become California’s governor appears to have paid off, with a new poll today showing that she holds a 2-to-1 lead over state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner heading into the Republican primary election on Tuesday. Whitman leads Poizner by a seemingly insurmountable 51 to 25 percent, with 18 percent of voters undecided and another 6 percent preferring other candidates, according to the Field Poll of 511 Republican primary voters conducted May 27-June 2…. – San Francisco Chronicle, 6-4-10
  • George W. Bush joins Facebook: Former president George W. Bush’s Facebook page was set up around two weeks ago but made public Wednesday, rapidly climbing to more than 27,000 who “Liked” it by mid-afternoon. The first Facebook post was written in the third person, suggesting the page is being maintained by someone other than the president, as is common with Facebook pages for public figures:
    “Since leaving office, President Bush has remained active. He has visited 20 states and 8 countries; given over 65 speeches; launched the George W. Bush Presidential Center; participated in 4 policy conferences through The Bush Institute; finished the first draft of his memoir, “Decision Points”; and partnered with President Clinton to establish the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. More on his activities in future posts…”… – WaPo, 6-2-10George W. Bush’s Facebook Page
  • Study: voters see difference between Republican and GOP: Are you more inclined to vote for (or against) a Republican candidate than you are a GOP candidate?
    For example, 626 registered voters were asked whether they were planning to vote for the “Democratic” candidate for the Legislature or the “Republican” candidate. Then, a different batch of 626 voters was asked whether they would vote for the “Democratic” candidate or the “GOP” candidate.
    Same difference, right? In the first sample, 39 percent favored the Democratic candidate and 38 percent favored the Republican candidate. In the second sample, 42 percent chose Democrat and 37 percent chose GOP. The differences are small but interesting. A candidate wearing the “GOP” label instead of the Republican one would not do as well. Yet just two years ago, the same poll found the GOP label would benefit a candidate… – Bellingham Herald, 6-1-10
  • Tea Party has support of 40% of voters, poll shows: Forty percent of Michigan voters support the conservative Tea Party movement, and most of that support comes from Republicans, according to a new poll by EPIC-MRA of Lansing. Nearly three-fourths of Republicans said they like the ideas of the Tea Party, while 65% of Democrats oppose it. Independents are divided over the Tea Party: 27% support it, 27% oppose it and 26% are unsure what to think. Some 17% said the Tea Party movement — as opposed to the two major parties — most represents their political views, according to the poll of 600 likely Michigan voters…. – Detroit Free Press, 6-2-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama pitching seniors on health bill: President Barack Obama is turning his attention back to his signature health care bill and trying to win over the most skeptical constituency: seniors. Obama was set to pitch the bill at a senior center in Wheaton, Md., on Tuesday. The event will be broadcast live and seniors will be able to listen by phone and ask questions at dozens of gatherings around the country…. – AP, 6-8-10
  • Biden says US looking at ‘new ways’ to address Israel’s Gaza blockade Vice President Joe Biden spoke about Israel’s Gaza blockade after meeting with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak today. But he did not say anything about reported election irregularities last week.
    After meeting President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt Monday, Vice President Joe Biden said the US is looking for “new ways” to handle the situation in Gaza. “We are consulting closely with Egypt, as well as our other partners, on new ways to address the humanitarian, economic, security, and political aspects of the situation in Gaza,” Mr. Biden said after the meeting, according to a statement released by the White House…. – CS Monitor, 6-7-10
  • More government hearings on oil spill set for Monday: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will open shop on the bayou Monday morning, holding a hearing in Chalmette, Louisiana.
    The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a field hearing on “Local Impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill,” near ground zero for the growing disaster.
    At about the same time, Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government’s response manager to the oil spill disaster, will be in Washington briefing President Obama and the cabinet on the administration’s ongoing response to the incident…. – CNN, 6-7-10
  • Obamas attend Ford’s Theatre gala: resident Barack Obama said Sunday the legacy of the nation’s founding fathers has inspired freedom-seeking people around the globe for generations, including those rebuilding South Africa after the end of apartheid. Obama addressed an enthusiastic crowd at the annual Ford’s Theatre gala Sunday, where South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and South African Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs received the theater’s Lincoln Medal. “There are few people more deserving of the Lincoln Medal, an honor bestowed on those who exemplify the particular focus, dedication and generosity of spirit of our 16th president,” Obama said of the two honorees. “There are few better examples of how the spirit of our founding fathers did more than just create a nation, it inspired people in every corner of the globe yearning to be free.”… – AP, 6-7-10
  • Election spooks lawmakers, curbs Congress spending: The 2010 elections have changed the direction of government only half way through the primary season, with voter anger and economic jitters causing lawmakers to balk at their most basic duties as well as key elements of President Barack Obama’s agenda…. – AP, 6-7-10
  • Obama vs. Oil; Chaos vs. Control: PRESIDENT Obama is that rare politician who is also a gifted writer, and he understands the power of a good metaphor. So you had to believe, on some level at least, that the president could appreciate the poetic significance of that cloud of oil, ubiquitous on cable television all last week, spewing endlessly from a 5,000- foot-deep puncture in the Gulf of Mexico. Mr. Obama’s administration, too, had been breached, and the accumulating cloud threatened to obscure its considerable achievements — particularly the comprehensive reforms of health care and federal education spending — as the president heads toward the halfway point in his term.
    The man-made catastrophe in the gulf does not yet constitute an existential threat to Mr. Obama’s presidency. (There’s not much Mr. Obama can do about it at this point, anyway, short of slapping on a scuba suit and sticking his hand in the pipe until the relief well is completed.) But then, it is never really one crisis that diminishes a president as much as a succession of crises, avoidable or not. And this might be the real danger for Mr. Obama’s administration — not that the spill itself remains unmanageable, but that it comes to represent a pattern in the public mind, a sense that too many dangers at once (mines and foreign economies collapsing, possible war on the Korean peninsula) seem to be gushing beyond his reach.
    As much as we talk about ideology and competence, our judgment of presidents doesn’t hinge on either of these things in isolation. What matters is the perception — or perhaps the illusion — that one is shaping events, rather than being shaped by them. The modern presidency, like the old “Get Smart” series, is about chaos versus control…. – NYT, 6-6-10
  • Fight looms over intelligence chief: He’s the right guy to ride herd over America’s intelligence operations. Or he’s a good guy, but the wrong one for that tough job. Those warring opinions emerged about James R. Clapper after President Obama said yesterday that he wants the Pentagon’s current intelligence chief to serve as director of national intelligence — the fourth since the post was created in 2004 — and wants the Senate to confirm him quickly.
    “Eminently qualified,” Obama described the blunt-spoken retired Air Force lieutenant general, offering his “complete confidence and support.”…. – Boston Globe, 6-6-10
  • Obama: Oil spill upends life for Gulf residents: President Barack Obama said Saturday that he will stand with Gulf Coast residents “until they are made whole” from the oil spill catastrophe.
    “These folks work hard,” Obama said. “They meet their responsibilities. But now because of a manmade catastrophe — one that’s not their fault and that’s beyond their control — their lives have been thrown into turmoil.” “It’s brutally unfair. It’s wrong. And what I told these men and women — and what I have said since the beginning of this disaster — is that I’m going to stand with the people of the Gulf Coast until they are made whole,” the president said…. – AP, 6-5-10
  • Obama to name new intelligence chief: President Barack Obama is set to nominate James Clapper, the Pentagon’s top intelligence, official to oversee the nation’s 16 spy agencies. Obama was expected to announce the nomination of Clapper, a retired Air Force three-star general, as national intelligence director in a Rose Garden ceremony Saturday…. – AP, 6-4-10
  • Michelle Obama calls on top chefs to inspire kids: First lady Michelle Obama recruited hundreds of chefs gathered on the South Lawn of the White House Friday to join her anti-obesity campaign and help schools serve healthier, tastier meals. Mrs. Obama is asking the chefs to partner with individual schools and work with teachers and parents to help educate kids about food and nutrition. She said healthy meals at schools are more important than ever because many children get most of their calories there…. – AP, 6-5-10
  • California Rep. Darrell Issa takes on role as Obama’s chief antagonist: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the man who radically changed California politics by helping fund the 2003 recall effort that lead to the removal of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and the election of fellow Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, has become one of President Obama’s chief antagonists. From his perch as the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Issa has spent the last 15 months constantly blasting the Obama administration on nearly every controversy and calling for countless investigations that the Democratic-controlled committee refuses to order. But Issa is finally starting to hit some of his targets. He was one of the leading Republicans in pushing the White House to reveal more details about its discussions to persuade Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) to forgo a Senate primary run against Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) in return for a possible government job. Sestak won the primary, and now another Senate candidate challenging an incumbent Democrat, Andrew Romanoff in Colorado, has acknowledged having similar discussions with White House officials. Issa has suggested the White House violated the law and may have offered Sestak “a bribe” in the process, assertions that have not been proved…. – WaPo, 6-4-10
  • Clinton records show many sides of Kagan: A few notes scribbled in the margins, some brief e-mails and occasional memos help paint only a faint picture of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan when she served as a domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton. There’s a rough outline, but little definition. And as with many faded or blurry pictures, there’s just enough material for people to see what they want in the woman President Barack Obama has tapped for the Supreme Court.
    These snippets were among 46,500 pages of Kagan’s records that the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark., released Friday in response to a request from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kagan’s confirmation hearing before the committee is scheduled to begin June 28…. – AP, 6-5-10
  • Obama under fire for election tactics with Sestak, Romanoff: The White House on Thursday dismissed charges that President Obama’s top aides have breached his pledge to run the most ethical and open administration in history by trying to entice Democrats in Pennsylvania and Colorado to skip races against favored incumbents.
    Some Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, are demanding an independent investigation of what they call inappropriately heavy-handed politics.
    Press secretary Robert Gibbs countered that the White House has every right to try to avert expensive and divisive intraparty primaries between Democrats, something it did by encouraging potential candidates to consider other options, including government jobs or appointments.
    “The president has an interest in ensuring that supporters don’t run against each other in contested primaries,” Gibbs said…. – USA Today, 6-3-10
  • White House: President Obama was unaware aides floated job offers to Andrew Romanoff: Hammered by accusations of playing politics, the White House claimed Thursday President Obama was unaware aides floated job offers to get a second lawmaker to quit a Senate race. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs denied the White House had engaged in any wrongdoing or secret back-room deals, contending the administration has not hidden the fact it doesn’t like Democratic Party primaries. “I do believe we’ve been transparent,” he said. But Gibbs sidestepped and evaded repeated questions on details of the contacts…. – NY Daily News, 6-4-10
  • Hugs, Handshakes at Blagojevich Corruption Trial Blagojevich jury shaping up as cross section of the voters who elected him Illinois governor: Rod Blagojevich started off his corruption trial in full campaign mode, greeting well-wishers with hugs and handshakes, while the judge began questioning potential jurors who emerged as a cross section of the middle American voters who first elected the former Illinois governor.
    U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel questioned 29 potential jurors in five hours Thursday at Blagojevich’s trial on charges of scheming to profit by selling or trading an appointment to the Senate seat that Barack Obama left to assume the presidency…. – AP, 6-4-10
  • White House faces more questions over dealmaking: The White House is facing fresh questions over back-room dealmaking. A Colorado Democrat has acknowledged that he was encouraged by one of President Barack Obama’s top advisers to apply for an international development job instead of challenging the candidate whom the president favored in a Senate race.
    A White House official says no formal offer was ever made and insists there was nothing inappropriate in the contacts… – AP, 6-3-10
  • Curtain lifting on Blagojevich corruption trial: Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich sees the start of his corruption trial as the end of an 18-month ordeal that began with his humiliating arrest. Jury selection starts Thursday, and the federal courtroom is expected to be packed. Blagojevich told a radio audience recently that the government “is doing something very wrong” to him and his family and that it will be soon be over. The 53-year-old Blagojevich has pleaded not guilty to charges of scheming to profit from his power to fill President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat…. – AP, 6-3-10
  • McCartney Is Honored at White House: A Beatle met the president when Sir Paul McCartney performed at the East Room of the White House on Wednesday night.
    Accepting the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, Mr. McCartney used the occasion to applaud President Obama. “Getting this prize would be good enough,” Mr. McCartney said. “But getting it from this president …” He smiled. He added that despite “difficult times” for the president, “you have billions of us who are rooting for you.” Then, with the first lady in the front row, Mr. McCartney sang “a song I have been itching to do at the White House,” he said. It was “Michelle.”
    A few minutes after the concert, Mr. McCartney returned to the microphone, thanking the Library of Congress and adding, “After the last eight years, it’s great to have a president who knows what a library is.”… – NYT, 6-2-10
  • Obama Says He’ll Push for Clean Energy Bill: President Obama said Wednesday that it was time for the United States “to aggressively accelerate” its transition from oil to alternative sources of energy and vowed to push for quick action on climate change legislation despite almost unanimous opposition from Republicans and continued skepticism from some Democrats.
    “If we refuse to take into account the full cost of our fossil fuel addiction — if we don’t factor in the environmental costs and national security costs and true economic costs — we will have missed our best chance to seize a clean energy future,” Mr. Obama said. “The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months.”
    Mr. Obama’s remarks were made to a group of about 300 local business owners and economic officials at Carnegie Mellon University. He used them to reiterate his call to roll back Bush administration tax breaks for oil companies and to make a broader case for his administration’s accomplishments heading into an election season. NYT, 6-3-10
  • LA County boycotts Arizona over immigration law: Los Angeles County on Tuesday became the latest government body to boycott Arizona to protest the state’s tough new law targeting illegal immigration. After a heated debate, the county’s board of supervisors voted 3-2 to ban new contracts with Arizona-based companies and review those that could be canceled. The county has more than $26 million in contracts with Arizona companies this year. Several California cities, including Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, have passed similar measures. The Arizona law, set to go into effect July 29, requires police enforcing another law to question people about their immigration status if there is reason to suspect they are in the country illegally…. – AP, 6-2-10
  • Supreme Court reins in Miranda rules in case from Southfield: Silence isn’t golden, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a Southfield murder case, if you don’t speak up for your constitutional right to clam up. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that if a suspect has been read and understands his or her Miranda rights, police can interrogate him or her indefinitely, unless the suspect tells them outright that he or she is not talking to them. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing a dissent, said the decision “turns Miranda upside down,” referring to the procedure that requires police to inform suspects of their rights. At the University of Michigan Law School, criminal law expert Eve Brensike Primus said it “shifts the balance of power in the interrogation room.”… – Detroit Free Press, 6-2-10
  • Obama to meet Gulf oil spill panel chairmen: President Barack Obama plans to hold his first meeting with the co-chairmen of an independent commission investigating the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Obama was to meet Tuesday with Bob Graham, a former Florida governor and U.S. senator, and William K. Reilly, a former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, with a statement to reporters afterward, the White House said. The commission’s inquiry will range from the causes of the spill to the safety of offshore oil drilling and the functioning of government agencies that oversee drilling…. – AP, 6-1-10
  • White House prepares for worst as new effort to slow leak begins Administration defends itself against criticism that it has been too slow to act: The Obama administration scrambled to regroup on Sunday after the failure of the latest attempt to kill the gushing oil well. But administration officials acknowledged the possibility that tens of thousands of gallons of oil a day might continue pouring into the Gulf of Mexico until August, when two relief wells are scheduled to be completed.
    “We are prepared for the worst,” said Carol Browner, President Barack Obama’s climate change and energy policy adviser. “We have been prepared from the beginning.”… – Austin Statesman, 5-30-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • June 8 primaries: Races to watch: Several high-profile contests are in play Tuesday as voters in 12 states head to the polls to decide the fate of a two-term senator from Arkansas and a six-term South Carolina congressman, among others… – WaPo, 6-8-10
  • Super Duper Tuesday: What to Watch For: Welcome to the biggest primary day of the year! Eleven states — from California to Arkansas to Maine (and everywhere in between) — are voting today… – WaPo, 6-8-10
  • GOP to pick nominee for Harry Reid showdown: Nevada Republicans are picking a nominee to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The primary election on Tuesday sets the stage for an epic showdown with one of the most powerful Democrats on Capitol Hill. Republicans also must decide whether to nominate troubled Gov. Jim Gibbons for a second term or choose former federal judge Brian Sandoval to oppose Democrat Rory Reid, son of the powerful U.S. senator…. – AP, 6-8-10
  • In Lincoln’s struggle, a cautionary tale for centrist Democrats: If the defeat of Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) at his state party convention last month was an uprising of the conservative grass roots, and the loss three weeks ago by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) revealed the perils of a party switch, then the runoff fight that Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) faces Tuesday is indicative of what happens when you cross a major — and majorly well-funded — interest group.
    Ostensibly, Lincoln’s opponent is Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. But the practical reality is that she is running against a handful of major labor unions — the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, to name two…. – WaPo, 6-6-10
  • Big States Dilute Tea-Party Strength Without More Cash and Organization, Movement May Be Unable to Repeat Small-Market Victories : The raucous and costly Republican primary races in California and Nevada, like those in other states, attest to the tea-party movement’s rising influence. But Tuesday’s votes in the two states will be the first big test of the movement’s promise and limits—and offer clues to its nationwide strength this fall…. – WSJ, 6-7-10
  • Candidates blitz state in final push for votes: In a last weekend of frenzied campaigning before the June 8 primary, candidates for statewide office marshaled last-minute ads, attacks – even visits from Karl Rove and a fictional “Queen Meg” – to appeal to voters in what’s been a record-breaking season of political spending. GOP billionaire and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who has spent a stunning $81 million on her gubernatorial primary effort, dropped a few more dollars Sunday by offering free barbecue and live music to supporters who showed up at rallies in Madera and Sacramento. Whitman, boosted in recent polls suggesting she’s got a 2-to-1 lead over State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, was accompanied by former Gov. Pete Wilson at the rallies… – SF Chronicle, 6-6-10
  • GOP worries about ‘tea party’ candidates’ broad appeal: Little-known candidates backed by the movement have shot into the national spotlight, but some Republicans are nervous about whether they will be able to beat their Democratic opponents in the fall…. – LAT, 6-4-10
  • What the Tea Partyers have yet to master: consensus: If Virginia’s 5th Congressional District is any indication of what the Tea Party movement can do for the conservative agenda, we may be in for a long liberal reign. The Tea Party faction has encouraged a large and diverse group of people to become more politically involved, but the major vulnerability of the movement is that the only thing those participating in it can agree on is that they do not like what is happening in Washington. The Tea Partyers’ distrust of career politicians and their divided support for self-proclaimed conservative candidates can only bode well for the opposition…. – WaPo, 6-4-10
  • Fla. Senate candidate tests politics, ethnicity: What is Marco Rubio’s stance on the Arizona immigration law? Does he favor amnesty for undocumented immigrants? “I don’t support amnesty,” Rubio says. “I support a legal immigration system.”
    A Cuban-American lawyer and former state House speaker, the 39-year-old Rubio has captured the attention of national Republicans hoping to attract Hispanic voters, a majority of whom voted for President Barack Obama in 2008. But it’s among Hispanic voters that some of Rubio’s conservative positions could prove divisive…. – AP, 6-4-10
  • New York G.O.P. Selects Candidate for U.S. Senate: Closing out a raucous and at times contentious state convention on Thursday, New York Republicans designated Bruce A. Blakeman, a lawyer and former Nassau County legislator, their preferred candidate to run against Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand this fall.
    A second candidate, David Malpass, a former chief economist at Bear Stearns, also earned enough votes to qualify for the primary ballot. But Joseph J. DioGuardi, a former New York representative, failed to make the threshold, and said he would seek a spot on the ballot through a petition drive.
    That sets up a split between New York’s Republicans and the Conservative Party, which has endorsed Mr. DioGuardi. In Democrat-dominated New York, it is hard for Republicans to win statewide office without the endorsement of the Conservative Party…. – NYT, 6-4-10
  • 7 candidates debate in race for Michigan governor A clash of ideas, flash of anger: There was some political blood on the floor of the Grand Hotel after Thursday’s two hours of debate among the seven candidates for governor, but, despite some personal attacks, much of the discourse focused on getting Michigan’s economy back on track.
    The candidates clashed over unions, taxes, jobs going to China, a bridge to Canada and even personal integrity, at times eliciting applause, boos and hisses from a bipartisan crowd of several hundred…. – Detroit Free Press, 6-4-10
  • Cox: No plans to resign after loss Republican chairman’s gubernatorial pick fails, putting future in doubt: If New York State has a “Mr. Republican,” Ed Cox would surely should fit the bill. Son-in-law of Richard Nixon, Cox has been enmeshed in GOP politics and policy for most of his adult life, serving elected Republicans from President Ronald Reagan to Gov. George Pataki. On Wednesday, however, Cox took on his own state Republican establishment — and lost. Cox’s handpicked gubernatorial candidate, Democrat-turned-Republican Steve Levy, failed to muster the 50 percent of the weighted delegate votes needed to get him on a primary ballot, where he would have challenged the rank-and- file’s top vote-getter, Rick Lazio…. – Albany Times-Union, 6-3-10
  • Griffith cites party switch for his loss: Incumbent says it was right on principle, plans to support Mo Brooks. Asserting that the polls showed he could have won as a Democrat, U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith on Wednesday said he instead sacrificed his “credibility” to act on his convictions. “I do not regret changing parties. I think politically it may have been a mistake,” Griffith said the morning after losing the Republican primary to challenger Mo Brooks. “On principle, it was the right thing to do, and I’m happy about it.”… – The AL Huntsville Times, 6-3-10
  • Nevada Democrats ask FEC for Lowden probe: Nevada Democrats on Tuesday filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission about Republican Sue Lowden’s spending that they say violates campaign finance laws. Lowden’s campaign manager told a Las Vegas newspaper last week that “we’re spending money as it comes in,” including at least $18,000 that could be spent only if she makes it past the June 8 primary. “We have enough to win, but we’re not going to come out of this primary with cash on hand,” Robert Uithoven told the Review-Journal last week. That was enough to raise the flag for Nevada Democrats trying to defend Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader who faces a tough haul to re-election. AP, 6-2-10
  • Prosecutor wins NM GOP gubernatorial primary: Prosecutor Susana Martinez has won the Republican nomination for New Mexico governor. She’ll face Democrat Diane Denish in a general election race deciding who becomes the state’s first female governor…. – AP, 6-2-10
  • Dem seeking to be first black Ala. gov loses: A candidate lost his bid to become Alabama’s first black governor in the state’s Democratic primary, while voters in another race there ousted a congressman months after he switched from the Democratic party to the GOP. In the Alabama governor’s race, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis was overwhelmed by a white Democratic primary opponent who had garnered support from the state’s four major black political groups. Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks won the Democratic primary with 62 percent of the vote to Davis’s 38 percent, with 96 percent of the precincts reporting…. – AP, 6-2-10
  • Alabama Voters Reject Coalition Bid: Representative Artur Davis of Alabama, who sidestepped the state’s black political leadership in hopes of building a diverse coalition of voters in his campaign for governor, was rejected Tuesday by Democratic primary voters, with the state agriculture commissioner, Ron Sparks, seizing a decisive victory. NYT, 6-2-10
  • Party-switching Ala. congressman loses GOP primary: Alabama’s Republican U.S. Rep. Parker Griffith, who switched from the Democratic Party last year, has been defeated in his district’s GOP primary. Tea party-backed congressional candidate Mo Brooks won with slightly more than 50 percent of the vote in a three-candidate field. He said Griffith called late Tuesday to congratulate him on his win in the 5th District. AP, 6-2-10
  • Don’t Write Off These Races Yet: Democrats are reveling in the primary losses of candidates preferred by the National Republican Congressional Committee in the last couple of weeks. But they only have to look back four years to see that upset primary winners can get elected to Congress…. – CQ Quarterly, 6-1-10
  • GOP’s California Conundrum Campbell Looks Strong vs. Boxer, but His Views on Social Issues Hurt in Primary: Tom Campbell’s somewhat liberal views on social issues may make him the California Republican with the best chance of unseating Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in November, but those views may hurt him in the state’s GOP primary June 8. Mr. Campbell, a former five-term congressman from Silicon Valley, calls himself a “moderate” Republican. He supports abortion rights and gay marriage, contrary to the positions of his major GOP rivals, former Hewlett- Packard Co. CEO Carly Fiorina and state Assemblyman Chuck DeVore… – WSJ, 6-1-10
  • Ill. Sen. hopeful questioned about military claim: On a weekend dedicated to honoring military service, Illinois Senate candidate Mark Kirk found himself on the defensive over his past claims that he was named the U.S. Navy’s intelligence officer of the year, an award he never won. For years, Kirk and his staff have said he was officer of the year. Now, the Republican, who’s in a tough race for President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat, acknowledges that isn’t true and says his official biography incorrectly described an award won by his unit, not Kirk personally. Kirk’s Democratic opponent called it proof that Kirk is a “typical Washington politician” who can’t be trusted. Some veterans scolded Kirk on Sunday…. – AP, 5-30-10
  • Ex-congressman won’t run again for Hawaii seat: Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Case said Sunday he won’t run again for the Hawaii congressional seat won by a Republican candidate in a special election last week. Case’s announcement at the state Democratic Party convention likely gives state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa a clear shot at winning the party’s nomination in the Sept. 18 primary — and gives Democrats a better chance of winning again in the district where President Barack Obama was raised. Hanabusa would face Charles Djou in November. The former Honolulu City councilman became the first Republican in nearly 20 years to win a congressional seat from Hawaii when he won the May 22 special election…. – AP, 5-30-10
  • 2 SC gov hopefuls consider Confederate flag move: Only two of the six Democrat and Republican governor hopefuls say they would consider moving the Confederate flag that flies in front of the South Carolina Statehouse. The flag has been in place since 2000 after a deal was brokered to move it from the Statehouse dome and House and Senate chambers. Now the banner flutters beside a monument to Confederate soldiers, in view of a busy intersection in the capital city.
    Democratic gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Robert Ford played a key role in the flag compromise and likes the flag where it is. The other two Democrats – Education Superintendent Jim Rex and Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen – are open to talking about moving it. The four Republicans running said they doubt there’s support to move the flag again…. – AP, 5-30-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • I would have fired BP chief by now, Obama says Ex-EPA lawyer brands oil company as ‘recurring environmental criminal’: President Barack Obama would have fired BP’s CEO Tony Hayward over controversial comments downplaying the Gulf oil spill — if the executive had been working for him.
    During an interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s TODAY to be broadcast Tuesday, the president added his voice to calls for Hayward’s resignation amid claims from a former EPA lawyer that BP is a “recurring environmental criminal.”
    “He wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements,” Obama told TODAY.
    Obama also defended himself against criticism about his handling the disaster, saying he had been in the Gulf a month ago before “most of these talking heads were even paying attention.”
    “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar,” the president added. “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”… – MSNBC, 6-8-10
  • Brown launches defense of Israel: “I don’t need polling or political strategists to help define a nuanced stance on Israel,” Brown said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “We are engaged in a worldwide struggle against radical, violent jihad. It is the defining issue of our time. Our best friends and the strongest allies in this fight are in the State of Israel.” “Let’s remember – Israel is our ally. Israel is a democracy,” Brown added. “Hamas is a terrorist group with clear and genuine intentions of destroying Israel’s way of life.” Brown made the remarks at a leadership dinner sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The event was closed to the press, but Brown’s staff released a copy of his prepared remarks…. – Boston Globe, 6-6-10
  • James R. Clapper Jr. as DNI: “Four Decades of Service”: Today, I am proud to announce my choice for the next Director of National Intelligence —- James Clapper. With four decades of service to America, Jim is one of our nation’s most experienced and most respected intelligence professionals.
    That’s why I ordered a series of reforms to strengthen intelligence earlier this year, and that’s why I’ll be looking to Jim to ensure that we have the most capable and efficient intelligence community possible. Intelligence must be collected and analyzed quickly. It must be shared and integrated effectively. And it must be acted upon decisively. That’s what I expect as President, and that’s what our national security demands…. – WH, 6-5-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Outlines Administration Response Efforts to the BP Oil Spill from Grand Isle, LA:
    Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, June 5, 2010 Weekly Address Grand Isle, Louisiana
    I’m speaking to you from Caminada Bay in Grand Isle, Louisiana, one of the first places to feel the devastation wrought by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While I was here, at Camerdelle’s Live Bait shop, I met with a group of local residents and small business owners….
    Now, over the last few days BP has placed a cap over the well, and it appears they’re making progress in trying to pump oil to the surface to keep it from leaking into the water. But as has been the case since the beginning of this crisis, we are prepared for the worst, even as we hope that BP’s efforts bring better news than we’ve received before. We also know that regardless of the outcome of this attempt, there will still to be some spillage until the relief wells are completed. And there will continue to be a massive cleanup ahead of us.
    So we will continue to leverage every resource at our disposal to protect coastlines, to clean up the oil, to hold BP and other companies accountable for damages, to begin to restore the bounty and beauty of this region – and to aid the hardworking people of the Gulf as they rebuild their businesses and communities. And I want to urge all Americans to do what you can as well – including visiting this area. The vast majority of beaches are pristine and open for business.
    These are hard times in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast, an area that has already seen more than its fair share of troubles. But what we have also seen these past few weeks is that – even in the face of adversity – the men and women of the Gulf have displayed incredible determination. They have met this terrible catastrophe with seemingly boundless strength and character in defense of their way of life. What we owe the people of this region is a commitment by our nation to match the resilience of all the people I’ve met along the Gulf Coast. That is our mission. And it’s one we will fulfill. WH, 6-5-10
  • Biden: Israel Has Right to Stop Gaza Ships: Vice President Joe Biden backed Israel’s right to board ships bound for Gaza to prevent weapons smuggling on Wednesday, but said Washington remained concerned about the plight of Palestinians there. The U.S. has been careful in its response to the deadly raid and has not joined the international condemnation of Israel’s use of force to stop the ships after its commandos were attacked as they rappelled down from helicopters.
    “Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest,” Biden said in an interview on PBS’s “Charlie Rose” show, while reiterating the Obama administration’s support for a transparent, impartial investigation of what happened…. – Fox News, 6-3-10
  • Remarks by the President After Meeting with BP Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs Rose Garden: We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have to experience a crisis like this again. If the laws on our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change. If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed. If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region….
    We’re continuing our efforts on all fronts to contain the damage from this disaster and extend to the people of the Gulf the help they need to confront this ordeal. We’ve already mounted the largest cleanup effort in the nation’s history, and continue to monitor — minute to minute — the efforts to halt or capture the flow of oil from the wrecked BP well. Until the well is stopped, we’ll multiply our efforts to meet the growing threat and to address the widespread and unbelievably painful losses experienced by the people along the Gulf Coast. What’s being threatened — what’s being lost — isn’t just the source of income, but a way of life; not just fishable waters, but a national treasure…. WH, 6-2-10
  • Sarah Palin: Israeli Flotilla: Don’t Take Mainstream Media Coverage at Face Value: The media, as usual, seems to be reporting only one side of the Israeli Flotilla incident. Don’t trust the mainstream media to give you both sides of a story fairly… you must seek out fair reporting to ensure you have all the information.
    As far too many in the media, and in various governments, rush to condemn Israel, we must put the recent events off Israel’s coast into the right perspective. This “relief” convoy was not about humanitarian aid, as the liberal mainstream media keeps reporting. The whole operation was designed to provoke Israel, not to provide supplies to Palestinians held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Anyone who sees the video of Israeli commandos being attacked as they land on that ship knows the people aboard were vicious thugs, not “peace activists.” The media insults our intelligence with their outright mischaracterization of who these enemies are…. Sarah Palin on Facebook, 6-1-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian Zelizer: Why Obama should forget ‘change you can believe in’: Congressional Democrats have been warning President Obama to tone down his anti-Washington rhetoric.
    While the president has continued to expound on his campaign themes about the need to change the way Washington works, many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill have been uncomfortable with this posture. Speaker Pelosi and others have asked him to focus his fire on Republicans rather than the system of which they are a part….

    As one political strategist told The Washington Post, “They’ve tried to influence these races and nobody’s listening . . . A sitting president who arguably still had some political capital to spend was not able to prevent some pretty divisive primaries.”
    Assuming Obama can survive the frenzy without damage, these episodes might convince Obama to listen more carefully to his Democratic colleagues, railing less against the Washington in which he now governs and focusing more on his policy agenda and the differences that he sees with the GOP. The rhetoric against politics as usual becomes increasingly stale from a politician who is as deeply immersed in the system as anyone else. – CNN, 6-7-10

  • Simon Schama’s advice for Barack Obama, Sack the advisers, says historian: At a debate on Obama’s America, the historian Simon Schama had some advice for the US president. “He is really hopeless, disastrous, feeble at telling the American story. One example would be in the way the right wing has managed to represent bank regulation as bank bailout. Obama has been somewhat soft and soggy. American politics ought to be about the noble clash of ideas, but can also be about soggy mud wrestling. Obama seems reluctant to take up the knuckle dusters … He has failed to come up to scratch on what happens next to the great American democratic experiment. I really think he should fire his chief advisers, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel.” Guardian UK, 5-31-10
  • Julian Zelizer: The legacy of ‘drill, baby, drill’: The impact of the oil spill in the Gulf Coast is starting to be made vivid by the steady flow of still images and video that capture this catastrophe. For example, Phillippe Cousteau, the grandson of Capt. Jacques-Yves Cousteau, dove into the oil spill, wearing protective gear. He captured horrifying video images of what has been taking place beneath the sea. A debate is already unfolding about whether President Obama has been effective in his response. Is this Obama’s Katrina, as some commentators have asked? The president has come under fire, primarily from Republicans, but also from a growing number of environmental advocates, for being too slow to act.
    Recent news reports have revealed the Obama administration has been as negligent in its oversight of drilling as the previous administration.
    The debate over President Obama’s performance will continue, and his success or failure at stopping the gusher will determine how much damage this disaster inflicts on his presidency. …
    President Obama must not only stop this immediate leak, but must be certain to fix the policies that allowed this kind of risky drilling to take place. This does not just entail putting new rules on the books but also making sure they will be enforced. Only then can the government diminish the risk of this happening again. CNN, 6-1-10

May 27, 2010: Obama Press Conference on BP Oil Spill & Joe Sestak Job Offer

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

President Obama offered Doug Mills/The New York Times President Obama was also asked about Arizona’s new immigration law, as well as whether the White House offered Representative Joe Sestak a job in the administration.

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Poll: Wide Majority See Spill as ‘Disaster’: A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds most Americans rating the president’s response to the oil spill negatively. More than half of Americans, 53 percent, say the president’s response to the spill has been “poor” or “very poor,” the poll finds. Negative ratings rise to 60 percent for the job the federal government has done in responding to the spill, and rise to 73 percent for the efforts by BP, the company whose well exploded.
    Most Americans, moreover, envision deep, long-term consequences. More than 7 in 10 say the impact of the oil spill in the long run will be a disaster, including almost 4 in 10 who say it will be the worst environmental disaster in the United States in at least 100 years. Just 26 percent hold a more positive view, seeing the spill as a problem but not a disaster…. – NYT, 5-27-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Live Blogging Obama’s News Conference: From Jeff Zeleny: So did President Obama accomplish his task of demonstrating to America that he – and his government – are in control of the crisis on the Gulf?
    During a full hour of questioning, he illustrated that he has a grasp of the technical challenges at work in the oil spill. He said the government was calling the shots, the buck stopped with him and the ultimate responsibility rested in the Oval Office.
    But it remains an open question whether the measured tone that has become the soundtrack of Mr. Obama’s presidency – a detached, calm, observational pitch – served to drive the point home that he is sufficiently enraged by the fury in the Gulf Coast…. – NYT The Caucus, 5-27-10
  • Obama Open to Ideas on How to Plug Oil Leak, Defends Administration Response: President Obama said the federal government is open to ideas from anyone and anywhere on how to plug the oil leak on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico, but rejected the notion that Washington has been sitting on the “sidelines” and pledged to fix the problem. “We are relying on every resource and every idea,” he said Thursday, at his first full-blown press conference since July. “We will take ideas from anywhere, but we are going to stop it.” Obama said that the federal government is “in charge” of the efforts to contain the damage from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He called the leak his administration’s “highest priority” and said anyone claiming otherwise doesn’t know the facts…. – Fox News, 5-27-10
  • Fixing oil disaster my responsibility, Obama says: On the defensive more than five weeks into the nation’s worst-ever oil spill, President Barack Obama insisted Thursday that his administration, not oil giant BP, was calling the shots in the still-unsuccessful response. “I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down,” Obama declared at a news conference in the East Room of the White House. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill dominated the hour-long session… – AP, 5-27-10
  • ‘Top kill’ stops gulf oil leak for now, official says: Officials are cautionary but say drilling fluid has blocked oil and gas temporarily. Engineers plan to begin pumping in cement and then will seal the well…. – LAT, 5-27-10
  • Gulf spill surpasses Valdez; plug try going well: An untested procedure to plug the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico seemed to be working, officials said Thursday, but new estimates showed the spill has already surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the worst in U.S. history. A team of scientists trying to determine how much oil has been flowing since the offshore rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and sank two days later found the rate was more than twice and possibly up to five times as high as previously thought…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Obama: “Nothing Improper” in Alleged Sestak Job Offer: President Obama said at his press conference today that he “can assure the public that nothing improper took place” in conversations between the White House and Rep. Joe Sestak, who suggested earlier this year he was offered a White House job in exchange for dropping his primary challenge against Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter. CBS News, 5-27-10
  • The Early Word: The President Answers: It’s been awhile, but President Obama will hold a formal news conference at the White House this afternoon. With oil still leaking out of a well in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama plans to announce at today’s question-and- answer session that he will extend a moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling permits for six months and will delay or cancel specific projects off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia and in the western Gulf of Mexico, The Times’s Peter Baker and Anahad O’Connor report. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty gives her fellow reporters some ideas on what to ask the president, who is scheduled to visit the Gulf Coast on Friday. One of her five proposed questions: “Should anyone in the government be fired as the result of this disaster?”… – NYT, 5-27-10
  • Obama to speak on Gulf spill in first news conference since summer ’09: President Obama will face the cameras and take questions from reporters Thursday about the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, giving him another chance to finesse, and perhaps even ratchet up, his rhetoric on the crisis. The president’s news conference in the East Room is scheduled for 12:45 p.m., and it will take place even as BP’s dramatic “top kill” operation to halt the flow of leaking oil continues deep below the Gulf surface. This will be Obama’s first full-fledged news conference in more than 300 days. It is the latest attempt by the White House to calibrate the presidential message about the oil catastrophe with the anxiety captured on television screens…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Gulf oil spill now nation’s worst: As crews pumped mud at a furious rate into the damaged blowout preventer that sits on the uncapped well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, a group of scientists said the amount of oil spewing into the ocean is much greater than originally believed…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Obama fires MMS chief Elizabeth Birnbaum: President Obama has fired the head of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, according to the Associated Press. The news agency, citing unnamed sources, says Obama will announce later today that Elizabeth Birnbaum has been taken off the job. She’s been head of the MMS since July 2009. Her agency, which grants leases to oil companies and monitors offshore drilling, has come under criticism for lax oversight since the BP well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20…. – USA Today, 5-27-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

We can always do better, the president said.Doug Mills/The New York Times “If the question is are we doing everything perfectly out there, then the answer is absolutely not, we can always do better,” the president says.
  • Defending Spill Response, Obama Expresses Frustration: President Obama declared on Thursday that he is “angry and frustrated” over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and ordered a further moratorium on new permits to drill new deepwater wells as he tried to address deepening public frustration.
    “Every day I see this leak continue, I am angry and frustrated as well,” the president told reporters in the East Room. He acknowledged that not every decision has been perfect, and “we can always do better.” But he added: “Those who think we were either slow in our response or lacked urgency don’t know the facts. This has been our highest priority since this crisis occurred.”
    “But make no mistake, BP is operating at our direction,” he said. “Every key decision and action they take must be approved by us in advance.”
    Mr. Obama said that the government has made “the largest effort of its kind in U.S. history” to address the oil leak, deploying 20,000 people, 1,300 vessels and 3 million feet of boom in the region to contain and clean up the spill.
    “We are relying on every resource and every idea, every expert and every bit of technology to work to stop it,” the president said. “We will take ideas from anywhere but we are going to stop it. I know that doesn’t lessen the enormous sense of anger and frustration felt by people on the Gulf and so many Americans.”
    “Absolutely, I take responsibility for that,” he said. “There wasn’t a sufficient urgency.” Although the regulators were in some instances constrained by law from being more thoroughgoing, he added, “We should have busted through those constraints.” – NYT, 5-27-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Thomas Schwartz: Up from the deep sea: a nightmare for Obama: Presidential historian Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University professor, said presidencies are often defined by the crises encountered. He said the oil spill could prove to be a defining crisis but he cautioned against comparing the leak to Katrina, for instance. “This one has been slowly developing and could have those qualities, but if BP were to suddenly get it capped, things could be defused very quickly. The air could go out of the balloon,” Schwartz said. Reuters, 5-27-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama could pay “huge price” for spill response: “I think that the President has to get control over this situation,” historian Doug Brinkley said on CNN’s Campbell Brown Monday night. “Right now there is a feeling in the country that BP’s in charge but BP is the one that has been grossly negligent,” Brinkley said. Brinkley, a longtime resident of New Orleans, offered Brown suggestions about what President Obama needs to do: Address the American people on television within 48 hours, tell them what’s happening in the Gulf and talk about what’s being lost. Brinkley also believes the White House must consider freezing BP’s assets in the United States and called for the Justice Department to speed up its probe into BP. When asked by Brown what price the President could pay for a slow response, Brinkley told Brown “It’s a huge price.”… – CNN.com (5-24-10)

May 17, 2010: Questioning Kagan, Obama Campaigns for Arlen Specter

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The President Gives an Update on the Response to the Oil Spill

White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 5/14/1

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Ratings Changes – Reid’s Included – Show GOP Momentum: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s persistent vulnerability in his Nevada re-election campaign is the top takeaway from the latest race rating changes by the CQ-Roll Call elections team – the subject of today’s and tomorrow’s columns.
    But after another strong Democratic year in 2008, the tides have turned sharply in favor of a Republican rebound, this time in reaction to the assertive but politically risky agenda pursued by President Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress. CQPolitics’ ratings in recent months have reflected this trend, as the newest changes drive home.
    Headlining the Senate ratings changes summarized below, Reid has been hurt politically by his central role as the Democrats’ point person in a series of highly partisan policy battles. With public polls continuing to show him struggling against much lesser-known candidates competing for the Republican Senate nomination in the June 8 primary, CQPolitics has changed its rating on the Nevada race to Leans Republican from Tossup…. – CQ Politics, 5-14-10
  • Voters Shifting to GOP, Poll Finds: Republicans have solidified support among voters who had drifted from the party in recent elections, putting the GOP in position for a strong comeback in November’s mid-term campaign, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
    Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women and small town and rural voters—all of whom had moved away from the party in the 2006 elections, in which Republicans lost control of the House. Those voter groups now favor GOP control of Congress.
    A big shift is evident among independents, who at this point in the 2006 campaign favored Democratic control of Congress rather than Republican control, 40% to 24%. In this poll, independents favored the GOP, 38% to 30%…. – WSJ, 5-13-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Kagan’s skills well-suited to Senate hearings: Standing before the nine Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan is forceful, quick on her feet, admits error when necessary, then goes right back at the questioner — blunt yet polite. Her style as solicitor general is likely to serve her in confirmation hearings, but only to an extent, legal and political analysts say. Kagan has exhibited the dexterity necessary to respond to tough questions in a public forum, but a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is a more politically charged setting than the high court. “She can’t just show that she’s a super-duper lawyer for the president,” says Ken Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Reagan who handled several Supreme Court nominations. “She has to tell a life story and convey a temperament that shows she’ll be fair and impartial.”… – USA Today, 5-17-10
  • Senator says Kagan broke law at Harvard: While Senate Republicans acknowledge that they are unlikely to derail Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, that hasn’t stopped them from testing potential lines of attack against her. Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, accused Kagan of violating the law when she was dean of Harvard Law School between 2003 and 2008. During her tenure, she continued the school’s restrictions on campus military recruitment because of the armed forces’ “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans openly gay people from serving. Sessions blasted Kagan on ABC’s “This Week” for enforcing the recruitment restrictions during a time of war, which he called “no little-bitty matter.”… – WaPo, 5-17-10
  • Obama: Democratic clean up, GOP car crashes: President Barack Obama mocked Republicans with images of cars in ditches and mopping up messes. Determined to rally Democrats, Obama told donors at a fundraiser Thursday night in New York City that his administration and congressional Democrats have tried to repair a battered economy while Republicans have remained on the sidelines. “So after (Republicans) drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back,” Obama said. “You can’t drive! We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch! We just got the car out!”… – AP, 5-15-10
  • Personal ties bind Obama, Kagan President joins ranks of picking friend for court: If Elena Kagan is confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice, President Obama will have something that has become increasingly rare for presidents: a personal friend on the court. Indeed, when Obama introduced Kagan at the White House as his court nominee, it sounded almost as if he were talking about himself: a former Chicago law professor, Harvard graduate, and White Sox fan who eschewed the lucrative world of corporate law to focus on academia and public service. Obama brought her into his administration by nominating her to be solicitor general and now, after slightly more than a year in that job, he wants to elevate her to the Supreme Court. Boston Globe, 5-16-10
  • Pragmatism over partisanship? Kagan described as favoring a consensus-building, analytical style over a passion for her own ideas: Just after Election Day the fall of her senior year at Princeton, Elena Kagan published an opinion piece in the campus newspaper recounting how she had wept and gotten drunk on vodka at a campaign gathering for a liberal Brooklyn congresswoman who had unexpectedly lost a race for the Senate. Ronald Reagan was heading to the White House, and Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman — a champion for women’s causes for whom Ms. Kagan had toiled 14-hour days as a campaign press assistant — was leaving Capitol Hill. Ms. Kagan, then 20 and imbued with the liberal principles on which she had been raised, said she was flirting with despair that “there was no longer any place for the ideals we held. … I wonder how all this could possibly have happened and where on earth I’ll be able to get a job next year.”… – WaPo, 5-16-10
  • ‘General Kagan’ no newcomer to high court: Six times in the past nine months, Solicitor General Elena Kagan has come to the mahogany lectern in the hushed reverence of the Supreme Court to argue the government’s case before the justices she now hopes to join soon…. – AP, 5-15-10
  • Palin Warns NRA Obama Wants to Ban Guns: Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, told National Rifle Association members during their annual meeting that the only thing stopping Obama and his Democratic allies from trying to ban guns is political backlash.
    “Don’t doubt for a minute that, if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the Second Amendment,” said Palin, a lifelong NRA member who once had a baby shower at a local gun range in Alaska. “It’s the job of all of us at the NRA and its allies to stop them in their tracks.”… – AP, 5-14-10
  • Palin pushes abortion foes to form ‘conservative, feminist identity’ Network News: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin told a group of women who oppose abortion rights that they are responsible for an “emerging, conservative, feminist identity” and have the power to shape politics and elections around the issue. Speaking to a breakfast gathering of the Susan B. Anthony List in downtown Washington on Friday, Palin urged more than 500 audience members to back only those candidates for public office who are uncompromisingly opposed to abortion. Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, delivered calls to action to an audience dominated by women. “The mama grizzlies, they rise up,” she said, to laughter. “You thought pit bulls are tough. You don’t want to mess with the mama grizzlies. And I think there are a whole lot of those in this room.”… – WaPo, 5-14-10
  • Congressman to launch inquiry on how much oil is gushing into Gulf: A U.S. congressman said he will launch a formal inquiry Friday into how much oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico after learning of independent estimates that are significantly higher than the amount BP officials have provided. Rep. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said he will send a letter to BP and ask for more details from federal agencies about the methods they are using to analyze the oil leak. Markey, who chairs a congressional subcommittee on energy and the environment, said miscalculating the spill’s volume may be hampering efforts to stop it. “I am concerned that an underestimation of the oil spill’s flow may be impeding the ability to solve the leak and handle the management of the disaster,” he said in a statement Thursday. “If you don’t understand the scope of the problem, the capacity to find the answer is severely compromised.” BP officials have said 5,000 barrels per day of crude, or 210,000 gallons, have been leaking for the past three weeks…. – CNN, 5-14-10
  • Senate panel approves money for Afghan, Iraq wars: A Senate committee on Thursday approved another $33.5 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq this year, although some members said they did so reluctantly. The action by the Senate Appropriations Committee is the first step toward congressional approval of the extra war spending that President Barack Obama requested in February to support his surge of 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan…. Chairman Daniel Inouye said he hoped the Senate would act on the legislation by the end of May. The money comes on top of about $130 billion that Congress already approved for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars through September 30 of this year…. – Reuters,
  • President’s visit makes impression at Industrial Support: After President Obama and his White House entourage left, when the television cameras were off, David Sullivan and managers at Industrial Support Inc. gathered in his office late Thursday and cracked open a few beers to celebrate one heck of a day. “Unbelievable,” said Sullivan, founder and president of Industrial Support. “The man is incredible — sharp, funny, personable. People were crying talking to him. The thing couldn’t have gone better.”… – Buffalo News, 5-13-10
  • Swipe this card; shopping could be cheaper: Striking at a lucrative bank business, the Senate on Thursday voted to force credit card companies to reduce fees for debit card transactions and permit merchants to offer customer discounts based on their payment method. The 64-33 vote inserted the fee requirement in a package of new financial rules the Senate is considering to ward off a repeat of the financial crisis. The vote was a major defeat for banks, which lobbied hard against it. But the measure attracted heavy bipartisan support and surpassed a 60-vote threshold for passage. Seventeen Republicans voted for the amendment; 10 Democrats voted against it. The measure from Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., would force credit card companies to charge businesses less for debit card transactions than for credit card payments…. – AP, 5-13-10
  • Kagan’s Link to Marshall Cuts 2 Ways: In the spring of 1988, Justice Thurgood Marshall assigned a clerk, Elena Kagan, to write a first draft of his opinion in a case considering whether a school district could charge a poor family for busing a child to the nearest school, which was 16 miles away….
    Because Ms. Kagan has never been a judge and has produced only a handful of scholarly writings, clues to her philosophy are rare. In that vacuum, liberals and conservatives alike are attributing special significance to her clerkship year with Justice Marshall, who led the civil rights movement’s legal efforts to dismantle segregation before becoming a particularly liberal Supreme Court justice.
    But while Ms. Kagan, a former board member for the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, clearly relished the experience and admired the justice as a historic figure, she appears to have had a far more ambivalent attitude toward his jurisprudence, according to a review of his papers at the Library of Congress, her comments over the years about him and interviews with her fellow clerks and colleagues…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Other border states shun Arizona’s immigration law They don’t see the illegal flow of people as problematic: U.S. Border Patrol vehicles patrol near the San Ysidro port of entry, late Monday in San Diego. Arizona’s sweeping new law empowering police to question and arrest anyone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally is finding little support in the other states along the Mexican border….
    Among the reasons given: California, New Mexico and Texas have long-established, politically powerful Latino communities; they have deeper cultural ties to Mexico that influence their attitudes toward immigrants; and they have little appetite for a polarizing battle over immigration like one that played out in California in the 1990s…. – Salt Lake Tribune, 5-12-10
  • Climate change bill has critics from both sides: Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John Kerry, D-Mass., unveiled their long-delayed climate change bill Wednesday and immediately encountered liberal and conservative critics who said the measure was either an energy bailout or a danger to the American economy.
    “Those who’ve spent years stalling need to understand something: Killing a Senate bill is not the measure of success or victory, because if Congress can’t legislate a solution, the EPA will regulate one,” Kerry said, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency. “And it will come without the help to America’s businesses and consumers that is in this bill.”… – Houston Chronicle, 5-13-10
  • Big oil to get more grilling as oil gushes in Gulf: Oil execs to be grilled again by U.S. lawmakers * BP stock value drops $30 billion, underscoring uncertainty * Protests planned in several U.S. cities * Oil starting to wash up on shore, BP says…
    Top oil executives face a second day of grilling by U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday over a deadly well rupture that unleashed a huge oil slick and the specter of environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico… – Reuters, 5-12-10
  • As Clinton Aide, Kagan Recommended Tactical Support for an Abortion Ban: Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, once recommended to President Bill Clinton that he support a Democratic-sponsored ban on some late-term abortions as a way to defeat a stronger measure gaining momentum in the Senate.
    As a White House domestic policy aide, Ms. Kagan sent Mr. Clinton a memorandum urging him to endorse the ban sponsored by Senator Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota. The memo anticipated that the Daschle plan would fail but suggested that it would provide political cover for enough senators to stick by the president when he ultimately vetoed the tougher bill sponsored by Republicans.
    “We recommend that you endorse the Daschle amendment in order to sustain your credibility on HR 1122 and prevent Congress from overriding your veto,” Ms. Kagan and her boss, Bruce Reed, said in the memo on May 13, 1997…. – NYT, 5-12-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President delivers the Weekly Address

White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 5/14/10

  • Weekly Address: President Obama “Wall Street Reform Will Bring Greater Security to Folks on Main Street” Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, May 15, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: The way the system is currently set up, these banks are at a disadvantage because while they are often playing by the rules, many of their less scrupulous competitors are not. So, what reform will do is help level the playing field by making sure all our lenders – not just community banks – are subject to tough oversight. That’s good news for our community banks, which is why we’ve received letters from some of these banks in support of reform….
    That’s why Wall Street reform is so important. With reform, we’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex, backroom deals that helped trigger this crisis into the light of day. We’ll prevent banks from taking on so much risk that they could collapse and threaten our whole economy. And we’ll give shareholders more of a say on pay to help change the perverse incentives that encouraged reckless risk-taking in the first place. Put simply, Wall Street reform will bring greater security to folks on Main Street….
    Next week, we have a chance to help lay a cornerstone in that foundation. The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system – no bill could. But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America’s economic future in the 21st century…. – WH, 5-15-10
  • Obama pushes Wall Street reform with populism: President Barack Obama on Saturday called for swift Senate action on a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street rules to “secure America’s economic future” as a reform bill moves into the decisive stage next week. With months to go before November’s pivotal congressional elections, Obama pressed a populist theme of helping the “folks on Main Street” as he urged approval of tighter regulations to prevent a repeat of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
    Obama’s Democrats and opposition Republicans are continuing to haggle over a slew of amendments, but the bill could come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate by the end of next week and is widely expected to pass.
    “The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system — no bill could,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America’s economic future in the 21st century.”… – Reuters, 5-15-10
  • Palin to Obama: ‘Do your job, secure our border’: Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin joined the national battle over Arizona’s controversial new immigration law Saturday, appearing with Gov. Jan Brewer in Phoenix to denounce the Obama administration’s criticism of the law. “It’s time for Americans across this great country to stand up and say ‘We’re all Arizonans now and, in clear unity, we say Mr. President, do your job, secure our border,'” Palin said, standing beside Brewer at a Saturday afternoon press conference…. – CNN, 5-16-10
  • Sarah Palin speaks in Rosemont: Only moments after taking the stage Wednesday at the Rosemont Theatre, former Alaska governor and conservative firebrand Sarah Palin took on officials of Highland Park High School for cancelling a trip to Arizona for its girls basketball team because of opposition to the state’s controversial new immigration law. “Keeping the girls basketball team off the court for political reasons? Those are fighting words,” Palin said. Noting the school has allowed student trips to China, Palin questioned whether school officials knew “how they treat women in China.”
    “An economic and political boycott of one of our sister states is not a way to secure our borders,” Palin said, using the title of her first book to encourage the team members to “go rogue, girls.”… – Chicago Tribune, 5-12-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Matthew Dallek “History warns Obama on primaries”: President Barack Obama is deeply enmeshed in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary….
    Obama is entangled in other Democratic primaries, as well. His White House has endorsed incumbent moderate Democrats in a handful of key midterm races. It has actively intervened in support of Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.
    Obama’s political team has pressured potential rivals to bow out of some races. The president has raised funds for his preferred candidates. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs argued, for example, that Lincoln is the president’s favored candidate because she’s the incumbent.
    Obama is not the first president to be involved in intraparty fights during midterms. Ideology and political disputes have sparked squabbling in Democratic primaries throughout the past century.
    While Obama’s efforts seem motivated by a desire to retain Democratic majorities in Congress, his predecessors often had larger policy issues that spurred them to purge their Democratic foes. But in virtually every case, the results were never good for the president… – Politico, 5-11-10

The President tours Industrial Support Inc. in Buffalo, N.Y.

The President tours Industrial Support Inc. in Buffalo, N.Y., White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 5/13/10

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