Political Musings June 12, 2013: National Security Agency’s dragnet classified data collection: National security necessity or Orwellian proportion privacy invasion?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

Pol_Musings

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

National Security Agency’s dragnet classified data collection: National security necessity or Orwellian proportion privacy invasion?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program.

The Obama Administration can add a fourth burgeoning scandal to their second term woes. Last Wednesday June 5, 2013, the Washington Post and the London, UK paper the Guardian revealed the National Security Agency (NSA) along with FBI had been the monitoring all phone and internet records in the United States. The story took an added twist on Sunday, June 9 when Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor responsible for leaking documents from the surveillance program to the press came forward. Now the focus is on two fronts, the violations of rights to privacy in exchange for national security, and the legal fate of the whistleblower.

When the story broke, news headlines first focused on Verizon releasing information relating to all their customers landline and mobile phone calls because of a special and secretive court order.  The data collection focuses on the metadata; telephone numbers, call lengths, locations, and call frequency for all calls within the country and calls abroad dialed within the United States. There have been repeated assurances that the phone calls themselves were not recorded. However, the public was soon informed that the government’s collection was far broader and included internet and social media sites including Yahoo, Google and Facebook.

The administration has justified the data surveillance by stating it is important to national security and has thwarted terrorist attacks in the past. A White House official speaking to ABC News stated the program was “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States,” but complies “with the Constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties.”

The government position is that this revelation to the general public would hinder their ability to protect the public from terrorism.  Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper released a statement which an excerpt read “The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”

President Barack Obama speaking in California on Friday, June 7 attempted to reassure the public that their phone calls were not being recorded, “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. They are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content.  But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism,” Obama said.

The phone and internet surveillance program known as PRISM has popular support in Congress and there seems there might not be grand scale opposition in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Chair of the Intelligence Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA stated that the records collection was a part of the 2001 Patriot Act and said “It’s called protecting America…. I understand privacy…. we want to protect people’s private rights and that is why this is carefully done.”

President Obamas also made it clear on Friday that although the program was a secret to the public, but there was bipartisan support and knowledge of the data collection program from Congress. “The programs that have been discussed over the last couple days in the press are secret in the sense that they’re classified, but they’re not secret in the sense that when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program,” Obama stated.  The President continued “The relevant intelligence committees are fully briefed on these programs.  These are programs that have been authorized by broad, bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Republican agreed with Obama in an interview on Tuesday morning, June 11with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “He’s a traitor,” Boehner declared about Snowden’s press leak. Boehner continued; “The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk.  It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are.  And it’s a giant violation of the law.”

Americans and human rights activists are left pondering can the widespread invasion of privacy sacrificed by the government be justified even for national security, even to prevent a widespread and catastrophic terror attack? The answer was no to Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked the documents on the PRISM program on the widespread data collection and privacy intrusion.

Snowden first contacted the media in January getting the wheels in motions for the big reveal. Living and working in Hawaii, Snowden took sick leave from his job and then left for Hong Kong, where he was staying at the time the leaks about the NSA was made public last week up until the disclosure Sunday, June 9 that he was the whistleblower.

In his interview with the Guardian Snowden claimed; “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”

As the US government looks into charging Snowden, he has been fired from his contracting job at Booz Allen, and the conversation has veered to countries that would give him asylum. Snowden supporters have created a petition on the White House’s We the People web site stating that “Edward Snowden is a national hero”  and are asking that there be a “full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed.” As of late Tuesday night, June 11 there are 58,299 signatures, with 41,701 needed for the 100,000 required for a review.

Human rights groups are standing firmly against the data collection, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the data collection program Orwellian. On Tuesday the ACLU filed a suit in federal court against the Obama Administration challenging the constitutionality of the data collection program.

If there is partisan support for the program there is also bipartisan opposition, former Vice President Al Gore a Democrat, wrote on Twitter “In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?” While a Republican and Libertarian in Congress such as Senator Rand Paul said it “represents an outrageous abuse of power.”  “It is an extraordinary invasion of privacy…. I also believe that trolling through millions of phone records hampers the legitimate protection of our security,” Paul said on Fox News.

Despite the so-called broad bipartisan support, two bills have been introduced to curb data collection since details of the NSA programs appeared in the media. On Friday June 7, Senator Paul introduced a bill; the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act, which would make it necessary to obtain a warrant prior to a data search. On Tuesday June 11, eight senators in a bipartisan effort introduced a bill to end and declassify secretive data collection laws. The heavily democratic supported bill has among its ranks Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Republicans Mike Lee, Utah and Dean Heller, Nev.

At this time the public opinions seems more unclear, two conflicting polls released on Monday, June 10 from the Washington Post-Pew Research Center and Tuesday, June 11 from CBS News.

The Washington Post-Pew Research Center seems to find Americans looking favorably on the data collection. According to the poll 56 percent find it “acceptable,” and 41 percent find it “unacceptable” for the government to monitor phone data. When it came to expanding government monitoring internet activity the results differed; 52 percent did not believe it should be expanded versus 45 percent who support collection expansion.

According the CBS News poll 6 in 10 disapproved of the phone data collection program, however Americans strongly approve by three-quarters that terrorist suspects should be monitored and the internet data of foreigners. Still 53 to 40 percent believe this program helps discover terrorists.

Whatever the political fallout will be for the Obama administration and the legal outcome for Snowden there is no doubt that Snowden will be put down among the ranks of the major whistleblowers in American history.

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May 5, 2011: Obama Visits 9-11 Memorial at Ground Zero

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama places a wreath at the site of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero President Obama places a wreath at the site of the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 5/5/11

STATS & POLLS

  • For Obama, Big Rise in Poll Numbers After Bin Laden Raid: Support for President Obama rose sharply after the killing of Osama bin Laden, with a majority now approving of his overall job performance, as well as his handling of foreign policy, the war in Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
    The glow of national pride seemed to rise above partisan politics, as support for the president rose significantly among both Republicans and independents. In all, 57 percent said they now approved of the president’s job performance, up from 46 percent last month.
    But euphoria was tempered by a sense of foreboding: more than six in 10 Americans said that killing Bin Laden was likely to increase the threat of terrorism against the United States in the short term. A large majority also said that the Qaeda leader’s death did not make them feel any safer. Just 16 percent said they personally felt more safe now…. – NYT, 5-5-11

    THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama giving NY its moment of justice on bin Laden: From the heart of the shocking terror strike on America, President Barack Obama will try to bury the memory of Osama bin Laden by honoring those who died in the fiery Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. In private talks with families and a somber ceremony at ground zero, Obama is out to let New York have its own moment of justice. Obama heads to New York City on Thursday after sharply rejecting calls for him to release photos of a slain bin Laden so the world could see some proof of death. The president said he would not risk giving propaganda to extremists or gloat by publicizing grotesque photos of a terrorist leader shot in the head. To those who keep on doubting, Obama said, “You will not see bin Laden walking on this earth again.”… – AP, 5-5-11
  • Obama in NY: We never forget, we mean what we say: Solemnly honoring victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, President Barack Obama hugged survivors, thanked the heroes of one of the nation’s darkest days and declared Thursday that the killing of Osama bin Laden after all these years was an American message to the world: “When we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.” On a brilliant blue-sky day, one of reflection more than celebration, Obama offered New Yorkers a moment of their own. Standing at the gritty construction site of ground zero, where the towers fell and a memorial now rises, the president laid a wreath of red, white and blue flowers for the nearly 3,000 who died as he marked a turning point for the nation and this city of steely resilience. For Obama, the day was about the importance of being in New York in the aftermath of the successful raid to find and kill bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader. Obama addressed families who have watched and wondered for nearly a decade whether the government would track down its most infamous enemy…. – AP, 5-5-11
  • In NYC, Obama says Osama mission ‘sent a message’: Visiting New York just days after the mastermind of the 2001 attack on the city was killed U.S. special forces, President Obama on Thursday told police and firefighters the terrorist’s death is proof that American justice has a long reach. In surprise visits to the “Pride of Midtown” firehouse, which lost 15 men in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks nearly a decade ago, and then later at the 1st Precinct police station in Lower Manhattan, Mr. Obama said the Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden Sunday in Pakistan did it “in the name of your brothers that were lost.”
    “What happened on Sunday, because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence, sent a message around the world, but also sent a message here back home that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say,” the president told the firefighters. He also visited with family members of victims of the attack and laid a wreath at the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. Along the roads his motorcade was greeted by cheering crowds… – Washington Times, 5-5-11
  • After bin Laden death, Obama visits Ground Zero: Days after the killing of Osama bin Laden, President Barack Obama met New York firefighters and police on Thursday and visited Ground Zero to offer comfort to a city still scarred by the September 11 attacks. His predecessor, George W. Bush, just three days after hijacked planes destroyed the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, had stood bullhorn in hand in the smoldering wreckage to declare, “The people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” Almost a decade later, in a bookend to that historic visit, Obama came to New York to say that promise had been kept. He said the killing of bin Laden told the world “that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say.”
    Obama visited Engine 54 in midtown, which with 15 deaths lost more members on 9/11 than any other firehouse, before heading to Lower Manhattan to talk with police and lay a wreath at Ground Zero, the Twin Towers site, where he also met with victims’ families. Obama told firefighters at the “Pride of Manhattan” firehouse, “I wanted to just come here to thank you.” “This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago,” he said. “It didn’t matter who was in charge, we were going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act — ‘ that they received justice…. – Reuters, 5-5-11

QUOTES

The President in NYC: “When We Say We Will Never Forget, We Mean What We Say”:
To the firefighters: This is a symbolic site of the extraordinary sacrifice that was made on that terrible day almost 10 years ago. Obviously we can’t bring back your friends that were lost, and I know that each and every one of you not only grieve for them, but have also over the last 10 years dealt with their family, their children, trying to give them comfort, trying to give them support.
What happened on Sunday, because of the courage of our military and the outstanding work of our intelligence, sent a message around the world, but also sent a message here back home that when we say we will never forget, we mean what we say; that our commitment to making sure that justice is done is something that transcended politics, transcended party; it didn’t matter which administration was in, it didn’t matter who was in charge, we were going to make sure that the perpetrators of that horrible act — that they received justice.
So it’s some comfort, I hope, to all of you to know that when those guys took those extraordinary risks going into Pakistan, that they were doing it in part because of the sacrifices that were made in the States. They were doing it in the name of your brothers that were lost.To the police: And so since that time I know a lot of you have probably comforted loved ones of those who were lost. A lot of you have probably looked after kids who grew up without a parent. And a lot of you continue to do extraordinary — extraordinarily courageous acts without a lot of fanfare. What we did on Sunday was directly connected to what you do every single day. And I know I speak for the military teams, the intelligence teams that helped get bin Laden in saying that we know the sacrifices and courage that you show as well, and that you are part of the team that helped us achieve our goal, but also help us keep our citizens safe each and every day.
So I couldn’t be prouder of all of you. I couldn’t be more grateful to you. And I hope that you know that the country will continue to stand behind you going forward, because there are still going to be threats out there and you’re still going to be called on to take courageous actions and to remain vigilant, and you’re going to have an entire country behind you when you do it. – WH, 5-5-11

February 15, 2010: Michelle Obama Launches Let’s Move Campaign,

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

The President Signs a Memorandum Taking on Childhood Obesity

President Barack Obama signs a memorandum on childhood obesity in the Oval Office. From left are, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar February 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Partisan tensions continue to escalate: Poll shows that 93% of Americans thinks there is too much fighting between the parties, but a memo by Democrats seeking to increase political heat on GOP isn’t in line with president’s pleas…. – LAT, 2-15-10
  • Poll finds most Americans are unhappy with government: Two-thirds of Americans are “dissatisfied” or downright “angry” about the way the federal government is working, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. On average, the public estimates that 53 cents of every tax dollar they send to Washington is “wasted.” – WaPo, 2-10-10
  • Poll finds most Americans are unhappy with government: Although Palin is a tea party favorite, her potential as a presidential hopeful takes a severe hit in the survey. Fifty-five percent of Americans have unfavorable views of her, while the percentage holding favorable views has dipped to 37, a new low in Post-ABC polling.
    There is a growing sense that the former Alaska governor is not qualified to serve as president, with more than seven in 10 Americans now saying she is unqualified, up from 60 percent in a November survey. Even among Republicans, a majority now say Palin lacks the qualifications necessary for the White House.
    Palin has lost ground among conservative Republicans, who would be crucial to her hopes if she seeks the party’s presidential nomination in 2012. Forty-five percent of conservatives now consider her as qualified for the presidency, down sharply from 66 percent who said so last fall… – WaPo, 2-10-10
  • Voters Divided Over Obama vs. Republican Candidate in 2012 Republicans most often mention Romney, Palin as preferred candidate: These results are based on a Feb. 1-3 Gallup poll. Forty-four percent of U.S. registered voters say they are more likely to vote for Obama, 42% for the Republican candidate, and the remaining 14% are undecided or would vote for another candidate…. – Gallop, 2-11-10
  • Obama’s rating plunges underwater for first time in new poll as just 44% give him their approval: Just 44% of the country approve of the work Obama is doing, while 47% don’t like what they see.
    The tough reviews come as Americans still find the commander in chief likable, with 50% rating him favorably, and 44% viewing him negatively…. – NY Daily News, 2-8-10

THE HEADLINES….

The First Lady Announces "Let's Move"

  • Senate Woes Flag Wider Disease: On this much, just about everybody agrees: The U.S. Senate isn’t well….
    The common explanation for why the Senate doesn’t work better is that 60 has become the new 50. That is, it takes 60 votes, rather than a simple majority of 50 plus one, to break the nonstop debate of a filibuster and move to a vote on a bill. And it’s now become virtually routine for the Senate’s minority party—the Republicans today—to stop any meaningful legislation by threatening a filibuster…. – WSJ, 2-15-10
  • Joe The Plumber McCain and Tea Party Movement: Republican Sen. John McCain gets thrown under the bus by Joe The Plumber. Sam Wurzelbacher joins conservative Tea Party movement. Barack Obama on business taxes…. – News OXY, 2-16-10
  • Palin plays politician around Daytona 500: Sarah Palin took a break from the snow and played politician on stock car racing’s biggest stage. Pretty important place on the political landscape, too. The former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor sped around Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, shaking hands and taking photos with drivers and fans alike before what she called the “all-Americana event.” Palin said she was “having fun and not thinking about the politics of this,” but didn’t miss the chance to energize her base in one of the most critical regions of the largest swing state. “This is awesome,” she said. “It’s all-Americana event. Good, patriotic, wonderful event that’s bringing a whole lot of people together. I think this is good for our country.”… – AP, 2-14-10
  • Cheney criticizes Obama on national security policy, and Biden fires back: Vice President Biden and his predecessor, Richard B. Cheney, engaged in a virtual debate Sunday that highlighted how little progress has been made over the past year — and across consecutive administrations — in resolving the central national security questions raised by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and their aftermath…. – WaPo, 2-14-10
  • Republican strategy: Filibuster everything, win in November: The Senate voted 60-39 Saturday to clear the way for consideration of historic legislation to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system, but reluctant Democratic moderates sent strong signals that the bill has an uncertain future. Senate Republicans are using the filibuster to limit and often derail Democrats’ initiatives, paralyzing the Senate and making it nearly impossible to accomplish even the most routine matters. The filibuster strategy “makes the Senate dysfunctional,” said Mark Strand, the president of the Congressional Institute, a nonpartisan research group. That, in turn, blocks the Obama administration’s agenda, but it also sours public opinion on Washington, with polls showing clear public disdain for Congress in particular. Republicans think voters will reward them for that in November. However disruptive it is to governance, their extensive use of the filibuster – extended debate to block a decisive vote – could prove to be a valuable campaign asset this fall. Democrats used similar tactics in 2006 and won enough seats to gain a Senate majority. Now Republicans hope it’s their turn. McClatchy Newspapers, 2-14-10
  • Failure of health care overhaul will add more woes: What could be worse than health care overhaul? No health care overhaul. It’s anybody’s guess whether President Barack Obama’s health remake will survive in Congress. But there’s no doubting the consequences if lawmakers fail to address the problems of costs, coverage and quality: surging insurance premiums, more working families without coverage, bigger out-of-pocket bills, a Medicare prescription gap that grows wider and deeper, and government programs that pay when people get sick but do little to keep them healthy…. – AP, 2-13-10
  • Obama names U.S. envoy to Islamic Conference: President Obama announced Saturday the appointment of Rashad Hussain, a White House lawyer, to be his special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference…. – WaPo, 2-14-10
  • Cheney keeps firing, and critics fire back: Former Vice President Cheney will appear on ABC’s “This Week” today, and it’s a safe bet what he will say: President Barack Obama projects weakness to terrorists and puts American lives at risk. It’s the kind of brutal charge — nuance-free and politically explosive — that has become a Cheney specialty since he left office 13 months ago. Cheney’s broadsides on Afghanistan policy, detention and surveillance policies and Obama’s general philosophy about the U.S. role in a dangerous world inevitably dominate the news. No other figure in Republican politics has equal ability to drive debate on national security, rally Obama critics and force the administration to respond. Vice President Joe Biden will be countering Cheney today on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’s “Face the Nation.”… – Politico, 2-13-10
  • Michelle Obama “Let’s Move” Campaign and Childhood Obesity Rates: Michelle Obama “Let’s Move” campaign and childhood obesity rates. First Lady Michelle Obama is pushing the “Let’s move” campaign in order to fight childhood obesity. For the first time since in history, the life expectancy of our children could be less than our own life expectancies…. – CNM News Network, 2-14-10
  • McCain: Palin reading from hand no different than using teleprompter: Senator John McCain on Friday defended Sarah Palin’s use of her hand to help her remember some key points at last week’s Tea Party convention…. – CS Monitor, 2-12-10
  • Senate Confirms 2 Dozen Obama Nominees: Before leaving for the Presidents’ Day break, the Senate on Thursday night confirmed — by unanimous consent — more than two dozen of President Obama’s nominees to federal positions. Mr. Obama and Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, had warned this week that the president might use the weeklong holiday break to make recess appointments, a threat underscoring his frustration with months of delays in confirming some key nominees…. – NYT, 2-11-10
  • White House Sends out Invites for Health Summit White House announces format, guests for bipartisan health care summit: In a make or break move, President Barack Obama on Friday challenged three dozen Republicans and Democrats to participate in a one-of-a-kind televised summit this month to thrash out a deal on health care. House Republicans immediately greeted the invite to the Feb. 25 event with derision, casting doubt on whether it would yield any bipartisan agreement to extend coverage to millions of Americans and rein in medical costs. “We need answers before we know if the White House is more interested in partisan theater than in facilitating a productive dialogue about solutions,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio…. – AP, 2-12-10
  • Deal on Jobs Shows Limits of Push for Bipartisanship: Key Democrats and Republicans in the Senate reached a rare bipartisan agreement on Thursday on steps to spur job creation. But Democratic leaders said they would move ahead on only some elements as the two parties maneuvered to address both the struggling economy and voter unrest over gridlock in Washington. Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, said he would take four core job-creating initiatives from the bipartisan proposal — including tax breaks for businesses that hire unemployed workers and increased public works spending — and seek to move those rapidly through the Senate…. – NYT, 2-11-10
  • Bill Clinton gets stents in artery after having chest discomfort: The former president undergoes the relatively common procedure at a hospital in Manhattan. He had quadruple bypass surgery in 2004…. – LAT, 2-11-10
  • Obama Report: 95, 000 Jobs to Come Each Month: The United States is likely to average 95,000 more jobs each month this year, while personal savings will remain high as credit remains tight, according to a White House report released Thursday. “I can report that over the past year, this work has begun. In the coming year, this work continues,” Obama said in a letter he sent to the Capitol attached to his economic update to lawmakers. “But to understand where we must go in the next year and beyond, it is important to remember where we began one year ago.” Casting its first year as positive, the administration’s 462-page report served as a summary of its logic and a pitch for Obama’s future agenda…. – AP, 2-11-10
  • Charlie Wilson, Texas Congressman Linked to Foreign Intrigue, Dies at 76: Charlie Wilson, a 12-term Texas congressman who was best known for his playboy ways until he masterminded a covert effort to funnel billions of dollars in arms to Afghan rebels fighting the Soviets in the 1980s, died Wednesday in Lufkin, Tex. He was 76…. – NYT, 2-11-10
  • On Health Bill, G.O.P.’s Road Is a New Map: When Republicans take President Obama up on his invitation to hash out their differences over health care this month, they will carry with them a fairly well-developed set of ideas intended to make health insurance more widely available and affordable, by emphasizing tax incentives and state innovations, with no new federal mandates and only a modest expansion of the federal safety net…. – NYT, 2-8-10
  • To Ace This Interview, Palin Keeps Notes Close: Ask conservatives why they love Sarah Palin so and they will often say it is because she is so “authentic.” Photographs posted to blogs after Ms. Palin’s speech to the National Tea Party Convention on Saturday night captured several words scribbled seventh-grade style on her left palm: “energy,” “tax cuts” (with “budget” crossed out in front of cuts) and “lift American spirits.”… – NYT, 2-8-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Bayh exits Senate against backdrop of angry voters: The stunning announcement by centrist Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh that he’s retiring from a Congress he no longer loves adds yet another name to a list of lawmakers fleeing a town they say has become acidly partisan. And it gives Republicans a chance to pick up a seat. The decision by the Indiana Democrat, who was in strong position to win a third term in November in his GOP-leaning state, also compounds the problems facing Senate Democrats this fall as they cling to their majority in the chamber, where they now hold 59 of the 100 votes…. – AP, 2-15-10
  • Under campaign pressure, McCain makes U turns: Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain has undergone a transformation on significant issues since the failure of his presidential campaign, particularly since he has faced a challenge from a conservative rival in his Senate re-election campaign. A look at some of his changes in policy positions…GAYS IN THE MILITARY, CLIMATE CHANGE, FINANCING CAMPAIGNS, IMMIGRATION, CURBING THE NATIONAL DEBT – AP, 2-13-10
  • Sen. McCain faces toughest re-election challenge: Defeated just two years ago as the Republican presidential candidate and with his bonafides as a true conservative again being challenged, John McCain finds himself in a struggle to get even his party’s nomination for another term in the Senate. Many conservatives and Tea Party activists are lining up behind Republican challenger and former talk radio host J.D. Hayworth, reflecting a rising tide of voter frustration with incumbent politicians. Only 40 percent of Arizonans have a favorable view of McCain’s job performance. Faced with his toughest re-election battle ever, McCain has moved to the right on several hot-button issues, like gays in the military and climate change, and has built a campaign war chest of more than $5 million. Former running mate Sarah Palin and newly elected Republican Sen. Scott Brown, both popular with conservatives, are pitching in…. – AP, 2-13-10
  • Kennedy: ‘I will not be a candidate for reelection’: Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, the last member of his famous family still serving in elective office, has decided not to seek a ninth term in Congress. “I will not be a candidate for reelection this year,” the 42-year-old Kennedy says in an emotion-laden advertisement released by his office Thursday that will air Sunday night. Facing the camera in a blue suit and striped tie, the Rhode Island Democrat mentions his years of service and the death of his father, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, last summer. “We all know how difficult the last few years have been,” Kennedy begins. “Rhode Island families have struggled,” he adds, citing the bad economy and mortgage foreclosures. Then Kennedy says of his father, the longtime Democratic senator from Massachusetts: “Illness took the life of my most cherished mentor and confidant, my ultimate source of spirit and strength.” – Providence Jourbnal, 2-11-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President delivers the Weekly Address

  • Liz Cheney: Biden, Obama Administration Ignoring Al Qaeda Pursuit of WMD: Liz Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter and a former Bush administration official, on Monday accused Vice President Biden of downplaying the threat from Al Qaeda and suggested the Obama administration isn’t doing everything in its power to stop terror….
    “There’s very strong concern that still remains that Al Qaeda is working very hard to try to obtain weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda armed with any nuclear or biological weapon is clearly one of the gravest threats we face,” Liz Cheney said.
    “The notion that this White House and this administration is minimizing that possibility makes you very concerned, I think has to make us very concerned about whether or not they are doing everything in their power to prevent it,” she added…. – FOX News, 2-15-10
  • Biden bickers with Cheney across TV airwaves: Vice President Biden said his predecessor, Dick Cheney, is either “misinformed or … misinforming” as the two sparred on separate Sunday news shows about Cheney’s continued criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of terror threats.
    Biden said that Cheney is off base criticizing Obama on fighting terrorists and noted that the administration has killed 12 of the 20 most wanted al-Qaeda operatives — and has “taken out 100 of their associates.”
    Cheney said he is a “supporter” of Obama’s policy in the Afghanistan war, including last year’s decision to deploy 30,000 more U.S. troops. But he said the administration has failed to take a wartime posture toward terror suspects.
    Cheney criticized Obama’s treatment of the Christmas Day airline bombing suspect as “an isolated extremist,” when it now is clear that he was trained by al-Qaeda. He said the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, should be tried by a military tribunal as an enemy combatant, instead of in federal court. He also criticized Obama’s order to outlaw “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, and said they should be “on the table” for Abdulmutallab… – USA Today, 2-14-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Praises Restoration of Pay-As-You-Go Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address February 13, 2010: But this isn’t a perfect world. This is Washington. And while in theory there is bipartisan agreement on moving on balanced budgets, in practice, this responsibility for the future is often overwhelmed by the politics of the moment. It falls prey to the pressure of special interests, to the pull of local concerns, and to a reality familiar to every single American – the fact that it is a lot easier to spend a dollar than save one.
    That is why this rule is necessary. And that is why I am pleased that Congress fulfilled my request to restore it. Last night, I signed the “pay as you go” rule into law. Now, Congress will have to pay for what it spends, just like everybody else.
    But that’s not all we must do. Even as we make critical investments to create jobs today and lay a foundation for growth tomorrow – by cutting taxes for small businesses, investing in education, promoting clean energy, and modernizing our roads and railways – we have to continue to go through the budget line by line, looking for ways to save. We have to cut where we can, to afford what we need… – WH, 2-13-10
  • President Obama’s Message to Team USA: I want to congratulate all the athletes here today for making the 2010 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams – you are truly the best of the best. All of us are incredibly proud of everything you’ve accomplished to get here, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish in Vancouver.
    The Olympics represent one of the greatest traditions in sports – a place where legends are born and history is made. And over the next two and a half weeks, each of you will have the experience of a lifetime – the culmination of years of hard work and endless sacrifice; dogged perseverance and unyielding determination.
    As Olympic and Paralympic athletes, you’ll be representing your coaches, family and friends who gave so much to help you get to where you are. You’ll be representing the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans watching at home and around the globe. And you’ll be serving as ambassadors for your country, both on and off the playing field – presenting the very best of America to the world.
    So congratulations again on making the team, and best of luck in Vancouver. Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo and I can’t wait to follow your journeys from here in Washington. I know you’ll all make America enormously proud. Thank you. WH, 2-12-10
  • Biden: Major terror attack on U.S. unlikely: “The idea of there being a massive attack in the United States like 9/11 is unlikely, in my opinion,” Biden said in an interview on CNN’s “Larry King Live.”
    Instead, groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula “have decided to move in the direction of much more small-bore but devastatingly frightening attacks,” such as the failed bombing of a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day. “I think there are going to be attempts,” Biden said, but he praised the successes of the U.S. security and intelligence apparatus in dealing with the threats. On other issues, Biden said he expected Congress to pass a jobs bill to stimulate employment growth, though it “will be probably less than is needed initially, but it will be very helpful.” “I think you’re going to see net creation of jobs every month” starting in the spring, Biden said, acknowledging the growth would begin slowly. – CNN, 2-11-10
  • Making Moves for a Healthier Generation: “It’s done, honey,” President Obama said to The First Lady earlier today as he signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing a task force on childhood obesity to address the growing health epidemic. “Now we work,” she responded.
    I am so proud of the work that the First Lady, along with the Cabinet Secretaries behind me, has done in trying to tackle one of the most urgent health issues that we face in this country, and that is the increase of childhood obesity. And because of the outstanding planning that they’ve done, they are going to be rolling out a terrific plan of action that involves the private sector as well as government agencies coordinating much more effectively a lot of public information out there to help parents make good decisions about allowing their children to be active and eating healthier….
    “These words – ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ – they don’t tell the full story. This isn’t just about inches and pounds or how our kids look. It’s about how our kids feel, and how they feel about themselves. It’s about the impact we’re seeing on every aspect of their lives.” – WH, 2-9-10Let’s Move campaign

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

The President holds a bipartisan meeting on the economy

  • E.J. Dionne Jr.: What Bill Clinton could teach President Obama: When word went out that Bill Clinton had been rushed to the hospital, the prospect that he was in danger made me wish that President Obama had spent more time learning lessons that only Clinton can teach… – WaPo, 2-14-10
  • Obama as professor-in-chief: The history of “professor” as a term of derision: Thomas L. Haskell, a professor emeritus of history at Rice University, agrees that racial bias may be implicit in the attack on Obama’s professorial past. “For me and a lot of other academic types, we identify with Obama precisely because he is an intellectual,” Haskell says. “But what does that mean to John Q. Public? I don’t know. John Q. Public may be frightened of these people, especially because this particular intellectual is a black.” – Inside Higher Ed (2-10-10)
  • Obama as professor-in-chief: The history of “professor” as a term of derision: Attacks on the professoriate or intellectuals in general, however, are certainly not limited to African Americans. The late Richard Hofstadter, a historian at Columbia University, explored such attacks in his 1963 book, Anti- Intellectualism in American Life. David S. Brown, author of Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography (University of Chicago Press, 2006), says Hofstadter would probably see shades of Barry Goldwater’s brand of conservatism among the Tea Party activists.
    It’s no surprise that the anti-intellectualism that Hofstadter wrote about has resonance among some Americans today, says Brown, a historian at Elizabethtown College. Higher education programs are increasingly moving toward the pre- professional variety, and students and parents are inclined to press colleges about how their programs will lead to jobs — not to intellectual growth, Brown says. In that context, the stereotypical liberal arts professor is ever more marginalized.
    “A traditional humanities professor is going to be engaged in criticism and speculative ideas, and will probably have more questions than answers,” says Brown. “But we’re a culture that wants answers.” – Inside Higher Ed (2-10-10)
  • Julian Zelizer: One year in, Obama must define himself: In his first year in the White House, President Obama has proved to be an elusive figure. This is ironic given that his campaign to win the Democratic primary in 2007 and 2008 had been premised on the idea that voters preferred a candidate who stood for something.
    For one thing, he distinguished himself from Sen. Hillary Clinton by highlighting the fact that he had been against the Iraq War from the start and never wavered in his position.
    Yet in 2010, many Democrats, as well as Republicans, are unsure of who President Obama is and what exactly he stands for….
    The president is still early in his presidency. He has time to correct his problems and to emerge stronger during year two. But time is slipping away. Many members of the administration must feel like athletes on the court, looking up at the game clock as the minutes fade away.
    The president must do better at explaining just what his presidency is about. This does not mean abandoning a strategy of negotiation and compromise and ideological flexibility, but it does mean better defining the person who will be at the negotiating table. Otherwise, everyone else in the room will do that job themselves…. – CNN, 2-9-10

Vice President Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, and Valerie JarrettWave During Olympics Opening Ceremonies

Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Valerie Jarrett, and U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson wave to the U.S. Olympic team as they enter the arena for the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada February 12, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

January 17, 2010: Obama, Clinton, Bush & Haiti

Support the Earthquake Recovery Efforts in Haiti: clintonbushhaitifund.org/

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Announcing the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund

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IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Poll shows growing disappointment, polarization over Obama’s performance ONE YEAR LATER Political polarization: A year into his presidency, President Obama faces a polarized nation and souring public assessments of his efforts to change Washington, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Nearly half of all Americans say Obama is not delivering on his major campaign promises, and a narrow majority have just some or no confidence that he will make the right decisions for the country’s future…. – WaPo, 1-16-10
  • Obama Image Unscathed By Terrorism Controversy Few See Personal Upside to Health Care Reform: Yet there is little evidence that heightened security concerns are affecting Barack Obama’s standing and image. At 49%, Obama’s job approval rating is unchanged from December. He continues to get markedly higher ratings for his handling of the threat of terrorism (51% approve) than for any other issue. And just 22% say his administration’s policies have made the country less safe from terrorism when compared with the policies of the Bush administration; that is virtually unchanged from June (21%)…. – People-Press.org, 1-14-10
  • Poll: Obama’s Ratings on Health Care, Economy Drop Lower: The poll finds 46 percent approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president, while 41 percent disapprove. His approval rating is down from 50 percent in a New York Times/CBS News poll last month, and 56 percent from October, to its lowest level in Times or CBS News polls to date.
    The president’s marks for handling the top domestic issues are even lower, according to the poll. On the economy, 41 percent approve, down 6 points in the last month to a new low. And just 36 percent approve of the way Mr. Obama is handling health care, also down 6 points to a new low. Most, 54 percent, disapprove…. – NYT, 1-12-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Special US Senate Election Threatens Heath Care Deal: The talks have gained urgency with opinion polls indicating the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, could lose next week’s special Massachusetts election to replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy. A victory by the Republican, Scott Brown, would cost the Democrats their 60th Senate seat, stripping them of their supermajority and eliminating their power to override Republican delaying tactics on contentious legislation, particularly heath care reform…. – VOA, 1-16-10
  • A Presidential Triple Plea for Haiti Fund: Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton began a new venture on Saturday to raise money for the Haitian relief effort from corporations, foundations and ordinary Americans, as President Obama pledged to ramp up the American response to the devastating earthquake… – NYT, 1-16-10
  • Pentagon Report on Fort Hood Details Failures: A Pentagon review released Friday portrayed a systemic breakdown within the military that permitted an Army psychiatrist, now charged with killing 13 people, to advance through the ranks despite concerns from his superiors about his behavior…. – NYT, 1-15-10
  • G.O.P. Sees Political Gain in Health Care: Even as Democrats nail down the final details of their health care bill, Republicans are devising ways to convert it into political capital. Their greatest hope is to defeat the bill outright, rebuffing President Obama on his signature domestic issue and weakening the Democrats heading into the midterm elections. Republicans now think they can persuade some conservative and moderate Democrats in the House to vote against the final bill, which initially passed the House by just five votes…. – NYT, 1-16-10
  • In Health Talks, President Is Hands-Off No More: President Obama has taken full control of the health care negotiations, casting himself for the first time in the role of mediator between the House and Senate during a 72-hour marathon of talks that have turned his White House into a de facto Congressional conference…. – NYT, 1-15-10
  • Democrats seek quick deal on health-care bill: President Obama and congressional leaders raced Friday to strike a compromise on far-reaching health legislation, hoping to settle lingering disputes before Tuesday, when a special election in Massachusetts could hand Republicans their 41st vote in the Senate and the power to defeat Obama’s top domestic initiative…. – WaPo, 1-14-10
  • Obama’s First State of the Union Speech in Scheduling Limbo: President Obama’s first State of the Union address, which has already sparked protests for potential scheduling conflicts with TV’s most popular programs (LOST, Feb 2), should be coming soon — but exactly how soon is still anyone’s guess… – Fox News, 1-12-10
  • Obama Will Tap Bush and Clinton for Haiti Efforts: President Obama is asking his two immediate predecessors – George W. Bush and Bill Clinton – to come together to lead the nation’s humanitarian and relief efforts to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake that has ravaged the Caribbean island…. – NYT, 1-14-10
  • US Takes Charge in Haiti-With Troops, Rescue Aid: President Barack Obama and the U.S. moved to take charge in earthquake-ravaged Haiti on Thursday, dispatching thousands of troops along with tons of aid to try to keep order as well as rescue the suffering in a country dysfunctional in the best of times… – AP, 1-14-10
  • Bombing suspect had no coat, luggage Congress hears of missed signs in foiled attack: Bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded his Christmas Day flight in Amsterdam to frigid Detroit with no coat – perhaps the final warning sign that went unnoticed leading up to what could have been a terrorist attack. Congress got its first behind-the-scenes look yesterday at the attempted airline bombing, and officials said the security failures were even worse than President Obama outlined last week. It remains unclear, however, how those failures will be fixed….- AP, 1-14-10
  • Obama pledges campaign for health-care bill and Democrats: With unemployment hovering in the double digits and House Democrats eager to move on to the politically crucial task of job creation, President Obama pledged Thursday to publicly champion the health-care legislation that in the past year has consumed much of their attention and often made them targets… – WaPo, 1-14-10
  • Factbox: White House, unions agree on health insurance tax: The White House and labor unions reached tentative agreement on Thursday on a tax on high-cost “Cadillac” healthcare plans, clearing the way for union support for a sweeping healthcare reform bill… – Reuters, 1-14-10
  • Tentative tax deal marks health care breakthrough: In a major breakthrough, union leaders bowed Thursday to White House demands for a new tax on high-cost insurance plans as part of landmark health care legislation taking final shape in intensive negotiations. “We are on the doorstep” of success, President Barack Obama said…. – AP, 1-14-10
  • Obama, Congressional Leaders Resume Push on Health Care: President Obama and Senator Harry Reid hold their first face-to-face meeting on Wednesday since the controversy erupted over comments that Mr. Reid once made about Mr. Obama’s race and dialect. But that topic is not on the Oval Office agenda. Health care is…. – NYT, 1-12-10
  • AP source: Obama considers levy for rescued firms: Targeting an industry whose political deafness has vexed his administration, President Barack Obama is weighing a levy aimed at recovering tax dollars from government-rescued financial institutions…. – AP, 1-12-10
  • White House discussing healthcare help for states: Gibbs: President Barack Obama is discussing ways to help U.S. states cover costs that are destined to rise under pending healthcare reform legislation, his press secretary said on Monday… – Reuters, 1-11-10
  • G.O.P. Chairman Urges Reid to Step Down Over Remarks: Michael Steele, the Republican Party chairman, called Sunday for Harry Reid to step down as U.S. Senate majority leader in the wake of revelations of Mr. Reid’s remarks in 2008 about Barack Obama’s skin color and dialect. A new book about the 2008 campaign quotes Mr. Reid as predicting that Mr. Obama could become the country’s first black president because he was “light-skinned” and had “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”… – NYT, 1-10-10
  • Sarah Palin takes Fox News commentator job: Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, will return to her broadcast roots and take her conservative message to Fox News as a regular commentator, the cable channel announced Monday.
    “I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News,” Palin said in a statement posted on the network’s Web site. “It’s wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news.” – AP, 1-11-10
  • McCain aide: Palin believed candidacy ‘God’s plan’: Sarah Palin believed that Sen. John McCain chose her to be his running mate in 2008 because of “God’s plan,” according to a top political strategist in the Arizona Republican’s campaign…. – AP, 1-10-10
  • Obama Tries to Turn Focus to Jobs, if Other Events Allow: President Obama keeps trying to turn attention to “jobs, jobs, jobs,” as his chief of staff has put it. But he is finding that it can be hard to focus on any one issue when so many demand attention, often unexpectedly. And as the lackluster employment report on Friday suggested, showing concern is not the same as showing results…. – NYT, 1-8-10
  • Obama takes responsibility for lapse, pledges better investigation, info sharing: “The buck stops with me,” President Barack Obama said Thursday as he outlined measures aimed at preventing another terrorist attack on the United States in the tense aftermath of a Christmas Day attempt to blow a Detroit-bound jetliner out of the sky. “When the system fails, it’s my responsibility,” Obama said – an indication that no high-level firings of intelligence officials would result from the near-miss incident. The president said he’s ordered steps be taken to ensure all leads on potential terrorist plots are thoroughly investigated, that intelligence is better shared and that no-fly lists are utilized properly. “We can’t sit on information that can protect the American people.”… – Canadian Press, 1-7-10
  • Obama Details New Policies in Response to Terror Threat: President Obama on Thursday ordered intelligence agencies to take a series of steps to streamline how terrorism threats are pursued and analyzed, saying the government had to respond aggressively to the failures that allowed a Nigerian man to ignite an explosive mixture on a commercial jetliner on Christmas Day…. – NYT, 1-7-10
  • On the White House After Balmy Hawaii, Chilly Washington: As Air Force One lifted off late Sunday night, President Obama and his family left behind a balmy 77-degree Hawaiian evening. Bearing east, the plane headed toward Washington, where the temperature was a brisk 23 degrees. If a 54-degree climate swing were not reason enough to lament the end of vacation, Mr. Obama certainly had others. He was returning to a Washington in the throes of a political furor over the security breakdown that led to the attempted bombing of an American passenger jet on Christmas Day…. – NYT, 1-5-10
  • Third Uninvited Guest at State Dinner: The saga of President Obama’s first state dinner continues. The Secret Service said Monday that a third uninvited guest gained entry to the dinner at the White House on Nov. 24. A review of video from the party, which was held to honor the prime minister of India, showed that a man wearing a tuxedo entered with members of the Indian delegation…. – NYT, 1-4-10
  • Obama Says Al Qaeda in Yemen Planned Bombing Plot, and He Vows Retribution: President Obama declared for the first time on Saturday that a branch of Al Qaeda based in Yemen sponsored the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an American passenger jet, and he vowed that those behind the failed attack “will be held to account.”… – NYT, 1-2-10
  • U.S. Had Early Signals of a Terror Plot, Obama Says: President Obama was told Tuesday about more missed signals and uncorrelated intelligence that should have prevented a would-be bomber from boarding a flight to the United States, leading the president to declare that there had been a “systemic failure” of the nation’s security apparatus.
    Two officials said the government had intelligence from Yemen before Friday that leaders of a branch of Al Qaeda were talking about “a Nigerian” being prepared for a terrorist attack. While the attacker was not named, officials said it would have been evident had it been compared to information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian charged with trying to blow up an American passenger jet on Christmas Day…. – AP, 12-30-10
  • Obama Seeks to Reassure U.S. After Bombing Attempt: President Obama emerged from Hawaiian seclusion on Monday to reassure the American public and quell gathering criticism as a branch of Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the thwarted attack on an American passenger jet on Christmas Day.
    Mr. Obama vowed to track down “all who were involved” in helping a Nigerian man who tried to set off explosives aboard a Northwest Airlines flight as the plane approached Detroit, acknowledging the growing conclusion that the act was not that of a lone wolf but of a trained Qaeda operative. With more signs pointing to Yemen as the origin of the attack, the White House was weighing how to respond…. – NYT, 12-28-10
  • Senate Clears Final Hurdle to Vote on Health Care Bill: The Senate trudged Wednesday toward passage of sweeping health legislation after disposing of Republican claims that it would be unconstitutional to require Americans to have health insurance, as the bill does. The Senate was poised to take a final vote on the legislation, President Obama’s top priority, on Thursday morning. Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, said Democrats had secured the 60 votes they needed with “a grab bag of backroom Chicago-style buyoffs” for specific states and favored constituencies… – NYT, 12-23-09
  • 6 Detainees Are Returned to Yemen: The government of Yemen on Saturday took custody of six detainees formerly held for years without trial at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to a senior Obama administration official and others involved in the process. The transfers, which followed the repatriation of another Yemeni detainee in September, represent a test run for a policy that the administration hopes could eventually make possible a sharp reduction in the population at the prison, which President Obama is trying to close…. – NYT, 12-19-09

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Who’s ahead, Brown or Coakley? Depends on the pollBoston Globe, 1-16-10
  • Obama here for Coakley, trailing a diminished aura: The feverish excitement that propelled Barack Obama and scores of other Democrats to victory in 2008 has all but evaporated, worrying party leaders who are struggling to invigorate the base before Tuesday’s Massachusetts Senate race and November’s critical midterm contests, pollsters and party activists said. – Boston Globe, 1-17-10
  • Some Democrats Wary of 2010 Election Prospects: Retirements and declining poll numbers have some Democrats worried about the election… – US News, 1-15-10
  • The GOP’s 10 Most Wanted List: Smelling political blood in the water, the GOP has put a “Wanted” sticker on several Democrats – US News, 1-15-10
  • Obama to Campaign for Senate Candidate in Massachusetts: In a last-ditch effort to avert a debacle for the Democrats, the White House announced that President Obama would campaign here on Sunday for Martha Coakley, the Democratic Senate candidate, amid growing signs that the race for Edward M. Kennedy’s Senate seat has become too close to call…. – NYT, 1-16-10
  • Mass. Senate poll shows shift toward GOP candidate: The Suffolk University survey released late Thursday showed Scott Brown, a Republican state senator, with 50 percent of the vote in the race to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in this overwhelmingly Democratic state. Democrat Martha Coakley had 46 percent. That was a statistical tie since it was within the poll’s 4.4 percentage point margin of error, but far different from a 15-point lead the Massachusetts attorney general enjoyed in a Boston Globe survey released over the weekend…. – WaPo, 1-15-10
  • Polls show race for ‘Kennedy seat’ about even – WaPo, 1-14-10
  • Senator Harry Reid faces ‘big trouble’ in Nevada race: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been fighting to keep his leadership post this week after his impolitic remarks about President Obama and race. Back in Nevada, that controversy is among the least of his worries. Facing re-election to a fifth term this year, polls show his home-state popularity sagging and his signature political issue, health care, bringing him little benefit among voters. Democrats fear a repeat of 2004, when Reid’s predecessor as Senate leader, Tom Daschle, was tossed from office by voters…. – USA Today, 1-15-10
  • Gingrich considers self among top 2012 prospects: “I think I’m probably on a list of seven or eight possible candidates at this stage,” Gingrich said. “We have a lot of people around the country who would like to have somebody who represents a commitment to replace the current failed programs and to develop a set of solutions that are practical and workable.”
    Gingrich listed several current and former goverors who he thinks might enter the race. They include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He said he will discuss his possible candidacy with his wife early next year before making a decision about whether to run…. – AP, 1-14-10
  • Mass. Senate race becoming proxy on health bill: The race to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has turned into a proxy battle over the fate of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. A once-pedestrian contest between Democrat Martha Coakley and Republican Scott Brown has coarsened with a week to go, as the two have cast themselves as custodians of the pivotal Senate vote to determine the bill’s fate…. – AP, 1-12-10
  • 10 Tips for the GOP in 2010: Voters who want Democrats out don’t yet believe Republicans would be better…. – WSJ, 1-10-10
  • Can Senate Democrats keep edge in ’10?: This week’s back-to-back retirements by two senior Senate Democrats puts the focus on one of the key questions of this election year: Will Democrats be able to maintain the overwhelming majority that has enabled them to push President Obama’s agenda through the Senate, or will Republicans be able to whittle it down?… – USA Today, 1-7-10
  • Giuliani says he won’t run in 2010: Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor viewed by many New York Republicans as a potential savior for the struggling party, won’t run for political office in 2010, choosing to concentrate on his law and consulting businesses…. – Boston Globe, 12-23-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President delivers the Weekly Address

  • The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund:
    George W. Bush: The challenges down there are immense, but there’s a lot of devoted people leading the relief effort, from government personnel who deployed into the disaster zone to the faith-based groups that have made Haiti a calling.
    The most effective way for Americans to help the people of Haiti is to contribute money. That money will go to organizations on the ground and will be — who will be able to effectively spend it. I know a lot of people want to send blankets or water — just send your cash. One of the things that the President and I will do is to make sure your money is spent wisely. As President Obama said, you can look us up on clintonbushhaitifund.org. – WH, 1-16-10
  • The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund:
    Bill Clinton: I believe before this earthquake Haiti had the best chance in my lifetime to escape its history — a history that Hillary and I have shared a tiny part of. I still believe that. The Haitians want to just amend their development plan to take account of what’s happened in Port-au-Prince and west, figure out what they got to do about that, and then go back to implementing it. But it’s going to take a lot of help and a long time. – WH, 1-16-10
  • BILL CLINTON and GEORGE W. BUSH: A Helping Hand for Haiti: This weekend, President Obama asked us to spearhead private-sector fund-raising efforts in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that ravaged Haiti. We are pleased to answer his call.
    Throughout both our careers in public service, we have witnessed firsthand the amazing generosity of the American people in the face of calamity. From the Oklahoma City bombings to 9/11, from the tsunami in South Asia to Hurricane Katrina, Americans have rallied to confront disaster — natural or man-made, domestic or abroad — with the determination, compassion and unity that have defined our nation since its founding….
    We should never forget the damage done and the lives lost, but we have a chance to do things better than we once did; be a better neighbor than we once were; and help the Haitian people realize their dream for a stronger, more secure nation. But we need more than just support from governments — we need the innovation and resources of businesses; the skills and the knowledge of nongovernmental organizations, including faith-based groups; and the generosity and support of individuals to fill in the gaps. Visit www.clintonbushhaitifund.org to make a donation and learn more about our efforts. It’s the least we can do, and the least the people of Haiti deserve. At our best, we can help Haiti become its best. – NYT, 1-16-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Vows to “Collect Every Dime” of Taxpayer Funds that Helped Big Banks Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address January 16, 2010: …Many originally feared that most of the $700 billion in TARP money would be lost. But when my administration came into office, we put in place rigorous rules for accountability and transparency, which cut the cost of the bailout dramatically. We have now recovered most of the money we provided to the banks. That’s good news, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not good enough. We want the taxpayers’ money back, and we’re going to collect every dime.
    That is why, this week, I proposed a new fee on major financial firms to compensate the American people for the extraordinary assistance they provided to the financial industry. And the fee would be in place until the American taxpayer is made whole. Only the largest financial firms with more than $50 billion in assets will be affected, not community banks. And the bigger the firm – and the more debt it holds – the larger the fee. Because we are not only going to recover our money and help close our deficits; we are going to attack some of the banking practices that led to the crisis…. – WH, 1-16-10
  • Text of President Obama’s Remarks Wednesday morning on the earthquake in Haiti and rescue efforts, as released by the White House: Good morning, everybody. This morning I want to extend to the people of Haiti the deep condolences and unwavering support of the American people following yesterday’s terrible earthquake.
    We are just now beginning to learn the extent of the devastation, but the reports and images that we’ve seen of collapsed hospitals, crumbled homes, and men and women carrying their injured neighbors through the streets are truly heart-wrenching. Indeed, for a country and a people who are no strangers to hardship and suffering, this tragedy seems especially cruel and incomprehensible. Our thoughts and prayers are also with the many Haitian- Americans around our country who do not yet know the fate of their families and loved ones back home.
    I have directed my administration to respond with a swift, coordinated, and aggressive effort to save lives. The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble, and to deliver the humanitarian relief — the food, water and medicine — that Haitians will need in the coming days. In that effort, our government, especially USAID and the Departments of State and Defense, are working closely together and with our partners in Haiti, the region, and around the world…. – NYT, 1-13-10
  • Obama Will Tap Bush and Clinton for Haiti Efforts: Late this afternoon, the two former presidents released this joint statement:
    We are deeply saddened by the devastation and suffering caused by the recent earthquake in Haiti. The people of Haiti are in our thoughts and prayers.
    We are pleased to accept President Obama’s request to lead private sector fundraising efforts. In the days and weeks ahead, we will draw attention to the many ways American citizens and businesses can help meet the urgent needs of the Haitian people. Americans have a long history of showing compassion and generosity in the wake of tragedy. We thank the American people for rallying to help our neighbors in the Caribbean in their hour of suffering – and throughout the journey of rebuilding their nation. – NYT, 1-15-10
  • Reid Apologizes for Racial Remarks About Obama: Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, apologized on Saturday for saying that he believed Barack Obama could become the country’s first black president because he was “light-skinned” and had the advantage of carrying “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”… – NYT, 1-10-10
  • Majority Leader Reid apologizes to Obama for 2008 remarks: “I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words,” Reid said in a statement. “I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans, for my improper comments.”
    Obama said in a statement that Reid called him about the matter on Saturday afternoon. “I accepted Harry’s apology without question because I’ve known him for years, I’ve seen the passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart,” Obama said. “As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.” – WaPo, 1-10-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Outlines Benefits of Health Reform to Take Effect This Year Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Weekly Address January 9, 2010: A year ago, when I took office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, I promised you two things. The first was that there would be better days ahead. And the second was that the road to recovery would be long, and sometimes bumpy.
    That was brought home again yesterday. We learned that in November, our economy saw its first month of job gains in nearly two years – but last month, we lost more than we gained. Now, we know that no single month makes a trend, and job losses for the final quarter of 2009 were one-tenth what they were in the first quarter. But until we see a trend of good, sustainable job creation, we will be relentless in our efforts to put America back to work….
    In short, once I sign health insurance reform into law, doctors and patients will have more control over their health care decisions, and insurance company bureaucrats will have less. All told, these changes represent the most sweeping reforms and toughest restrictions on insurance companies that this country has ever known. That’s how we’ll make 2010 a healthier and more secure year for every American – for those who have health insurance, and those who don’t.
    We enter a new decade, now, with new perils – but we’re going to meet them. It’s also a time of tremendous promise – and we’re going to seize it. We will rebuild the American Dream for our middle class and put the American economy on a stronger footing for the future. And this year, I am as hopeful and as confident as ever that we’re going to rise to this moment the same way that generations of Americans always have: as one nation, and one people. Thanks for listening. – WH, 1-9-10
  • President Obama’s remarks on security failures Full text of Barack Obama’s speech on the failed Christmas Day bombing: The immediate reviews that I ordered after the failed Christmas terrorist attack are now complete. I was just briefed on the findings and recommendations for reform. And I believe it’s important that the American people understand the new steps that we’re taking to prevent attacks and keep our country safe.
    This afternoon my counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, John Brennan, will discuss his review into our terrorist watchlist system; how our government failed to connect the dots in a way that would have prevented a known terrorist from boarding a plane for America; and the steps we’re going to take to prevent that from happening again.
    Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will discuss her review of aviation screening, technology and procedures; how that terrorist boarded a plane with explosives that could have killed nearly 300 innocent people; and how we’ll strengthen aviation security going forward.
    So today, I want to just briefly summarize their conclusions and the steps that I’ve ordered to address them. In our ever-changing world, America’s first line of defense is timely, accurate intelligence that is shared, integrated, analyzed and acted upon quickly and effectively. That’s what the intelligence reforms after the 9/11 attacks largely achieved. That’s what our intelligence community does every day. But unfortunately, that’s not what happened in the lead-up to Christmas Day…. – Globe & Mail, 1-7-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Outlines Steps Taken to Protect the Safety and Security of the American People Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address January 2, 2010: It has now been more than a week since the attempted act of terrorism aboard that flight to Detroit on Christmas Day. On Thursday, I received the preliminary findings of the reviews that I ordered into our terrorist watchlist system and air travel screening. I’ve directed my counterterrorism and homeland security advisor at the White House, John Brennan, to lead these reviews going forward and to present the final results and recommendations to me in the days to come.
    As I said this week, I will do everything in my power to make sure our hard-working men and women in our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities have the tools and resources they need to keep America safe. This includes making sure these communities-and the people in them-are coordinating effectively and are held accountable at every level. And as President, that is what I will do.
    Meanwhile, the investigation into the Christmas Day incident continues, and we’re learning more about the suspect. We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies. It appears that he joined an affiliate of al Qaeda, and that this group-al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula-trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America…. – WH, 1-2-10

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

President Obama, speaking on Tuesday at a Marine Corps base near Honolulu, said he would “insist on accountability at every level” for failures in security.

  • Text of Obama’s Comments on Airport Security: Good morning. Yesterday I updated the American people on the immediate steps we took — the increased screening and security of air travel — to keep our country safe in the wake of the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day. And I announced two reviews — a review of our terrorist watch list system and a review of our air travel screening, so we can find out what went wrong, fix it and prevent future attacks….
    The reviews I’ve ordered will surely tell us more. But what already is apparent is that there was a mix of human and systemic failures that contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security. We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system, because our security is at stake and lives are at stake.
    I fully understand that even when every person charged with ensuring our security does what they are trained to do, even when every system works exactly as intended there is still no one hundred percent guarantee of success. Yet, this should only compel us to work even harder, to be even more innovative and relentless in our efforts.
    As President I will do everything in my power to support the men and women in intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security to make sure they’ve got the tools and resources they need to keep America safe. But it’s also my job to ensure that our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security systems and the people in them are working effectively and held accountable. I intend to fulfill that responsibility and insist on accountability at every level… – NYT, 12-29-09
  • Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend Christmas Greeting and Express their Gratitude to America’s Servicemen and Women Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama Weekly Address December 24, 2009: FIRST LADY: This is our first Christmas in the White House, and we are so grateful for this extraordinary experience. Not far from here, in the Blue Room, is the official White House Christmas Tree. It’s an 18-foot tall Douglas-fir from West Virginia and it’s decorated with hundreds of ornaments designed by people and children from all over the country. Each one is a reminder of the traditions we cherish as Americans and the blessings we’re thankful for this holiday season.
    PRESIDENT: That’s right, especially as we continue to recover from an extraordinary recession that still has so many Americans hurting: parents without a job who struggled to put presents under the Christmas tree; families and neighbors who’ve seen their home foreclosed; folks wondering what the new year will bring.
    But even in these tough times, there’s still so much to celebrate this Christmas. A message of peace and brotherhood that continues to inspire more than 2,000 after Jesus’ birth. The love of family and friends. The bonds of community and country. And the character and courage of our men and women in uniform who are far from home for the holidays, away from their families, risking their lives to protect ours…. – WH, 12-24-09

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

The President proposes new fees on the largest financial firms

  • Michael Kazin “Obama Weighs Tax On Big Banks”: What’s happening right now is that both left and right are opposed to what they see as the sins of people in power. The right doesn’t like what they see as increasing concentrations of power in government. The left doesn’t like concentrated power in Wall Street and neither group is happy with Obama’s response…. – NPR, 1-12-10
  • Peniel E. Joseph “Many say U.S. race relations have improved under Obama, but divides remain”: “Light-skinned is equated with good, an ability to pass, to fit in the mainstream,” said Peniel E. Joseph, a Tufts University historian and author of a new book about the shifting racial attitudes that allowed for Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president. “He’s light enough and mainstream enough to appeal to a broad audience. Those who are not really stand out in a conspicuous way as ‘the other.'”… – WaPo, 1-12-10
  • Is Obama History?: There were five sessions on President Obama at last week’s annual meeting of the American Historical Association…. – Chron of High Ed, 1-10-10
  • The Label Factor: Is Obama a Wimp or a Warrior?: Like every Democratic president since John F. Kennedy, President Obama is battling the perception that he’s a wimp on national security…. – NYT, 1-10-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Blame game won’t stop terrorism: Almost as soon as the botched Christmas airplane bombing hit the airwaves, the politics of national security reared its head….
    All of this is predictable. Politics has never stopped at the water’s edge and it never will. There is a long history of the parties lashing out against one another for being ineffective at protecting the nation. However, partisan wrangling is certainly not the most effective way to handle the problems at hand. Politics has never stopped at the water’s edge and it never will….
    The blame game will continue. That’s how national security politics works. But while the fights are taking place, we must make certain that the government sets up some kind of independent review to better understand what went wrong. The review must be global and involve allied nations who participate in the international campaign against terrorist threats. Let’s do it before the terrorists get it right.
    Nothing should be excluded from consideration, from the failures of U.S. officials to respond to evidence to the flaws in the system that Obama inherited. We need a comprehensive understanding of what happened so we can improve the system and make sure that innocent travelers are kept safe from the ravages of terrorism.- CNN, 1-3-10
  • The Obama Way: Every presidency is the subject of competing caricatures. But almost a year into his first term, there’s something particularly elusive about Barack Obama’s political identity. He’s a bipartisan bridge-builder — unless he’s a polarizing ideologue. He’s a crypto-Marxist radical — except when he’s a pawn of corporate interests. He’s a post-American utopian — or else he’s a willing tool of the national security state.
    The press has churned out a new theory every week, comparing Obama to John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt, to George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter — to every 20th-century chief executive, it often seems, save poor, dull Gerald Ford. But none of the analogies have stuck. We’re well into the Obama era, but neither his allies nor his enemies can quite get a fix on exactly what our 44th president really represents…. – NYT, 12-25-09
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Delaying health benefits is a big risk: We will find out in the next few weeks whether the Senate can pass a health care bill and if it can reach agreement with the House on the details. But if the two houses do pass legislation, one thing seems likely — there will be a huge delay in starting most of the benefits.
    Under the House bill, much of the program won’t kick in until 2013. Under the proposed Senate bill, the date is 2014. This delay poses a political risk.
    Under the Senate bill, opponents will have a midterm (2010) and presidential election (2012) cycle to make their argument. When programs have been delayed, they often encounter political problems….
    After all the political capital that Democrats have invested in this health care debate, it would be a shame if they were able to win the battle but, as a result of flawed policy design, lose the war…. – CNN, 12-24-09
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