Political Highlights: April 12, 2010: Obama Signs Nuclear Arms Treaty & Palin at the Republican Southern Leadership Conference

April 12, 2010: Obama Signs Nuclear Arms Treaty & Palin at the Republican Southern Leadership Conference

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

P040810PS-0776 by The White House.

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Weekend Talk Shows: Nuclear arms treaty with Russia is Sunday’s hot topic – LAT, 4-10-10
  • Poll: Most Americans Remain Against Health Care Overhaul: The public is increasingly skeptical of the health care reform bill signed into law last week, a new CBS News poll shows.
    The poll, conducted March 29 through April 1, found that so far the president’s efforts to build up support for the bill appear to be ineffective. Fifty-three percent of Americans say they disapprove of the new reforms, including 39 percent who say they disapprove strongly. In the days before the bill passed the House, 37 percent said they approved and 48 percent disapproved… – CBS News, 4-2-10
  • CNN Poll: Democrats lose edge on economy: Democrats have lost their large advantage over Republicans when Americans are asked which party would do a better job with the economy, according to a new national poll. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday indicates 48 percent of Americans say Republicans in Congress would do a better job dealing with the economy, compared to 45 percent for Democrats. That’s a switch from last August, when Democrats held a 52 percent to 39 percent advantage on the economy. According to the poll, Democrats have lost some ground on health care as well. In August, 51 percent thought Democrats would do a better job with health care reform than the GOP. That’s now down to 48 percent, but it’s still slightly higher than the 46 percent who say Republicans would do a better job on the issue… – CNN, 4-1-10
  • Poll: More blame Obama for poor economy, unemployment: Americans anxious about unemployment and the economy increasingly blame President Obama for hard times, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, amid signs of turbulence in November’s midterm elections. Last week’s jubilant signing of the health care overhaul, Obama’s signature domestic initiative, seems to have given the president little boost. Instead, his standing on four personal qualities has sagged, and 50% of those surveyed say he doesn’t deserve re-election.
    By 50%-46%, those surveyed say Obama doesn’t deserve re-election. The president fares better than other Washington leaders. In the poll, 52% say they have a favorable opinion of Obama. That’s much higher than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (36%), House Republican Leader John Boehner (29%), Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (29%) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (31%)…. – USA Today, 3-31-10
  • More Health Care Polling: Gallup Sees the Bump Disappear: Gallup conducted a poll the day after the House voted, finding that the public supported the House’s vote by a 49%-40% margin. Health reform had become more popular, Gallup found, since its March 4-7 survey found 45% support/48% opposition. In a poll released yesterday, Gallup saw the bump disappear: 47% said Congress had done a “good thing” by passing health care, while 50% said it had done a “bad thing.” That poll was conducted March 26-28, beginning five days after the House voted. Democrats (81% “good thing”/15% “bad thing”) and Republicans (11% “good thing”/86% “bad thing”) are nearly mirror opposites in their leanings. Independents broke 54% to 43% against the bill… – The Atlantic, 3-30-10
  • Health care law too costly, most say: Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the health care overhaul signed into law last week costs too much and expands the government’s role in health care too far, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, underscoring an uphill selling job ahead for President Obama and congressional Democrats. USA Today, 3-29-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Romney wins 2012 test vote: Mitt Romney didn’t attend the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, but still got a boost from those at the conference. The former Massachusetts governor won a test vote of likely 2012 presidential candidates — by one vote. He got 439. Texas Rep. Ron Paul came in second with 438 votes, followed by Sarah Palin with 330 and Newt Gingrich with 321… – AP, 4-10-10
  • Barbour calls Obama policies a “man-made disaster”: Evoking the memory of Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is telling Republicans that the policies of President Barack Obama and other Democrats are a “man-made disaster.”… After recalling the 2005 hurricane, Barbour said, “Today we’re here because we know we have to deal with a man-made disaster.” – AP, 4-10-10
  • Stevens, the Only Protestant on the Supreme Court: With just five exceptions, every member of the Supreme Court in the nation’s history has been a white male, like Justice John Paul Stevens. But Justice Stevens cuts a lone figure on the current court in one demographic category: He is the only Protestant. His retirement, which was announced on Friday, makes possible something that would have been unimaginable a generation or two ago — a court without a single member of the nation’s majority religion.
    “The practical reality of life in America is that religion plays much less of a role in everyday life than it did 50 or 100 years ago,” said Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago. Adding a Protestant to the court, he said, would not bring an important element to its discussions. NYT, 4-11-10
  • U.S. Tries to Keep Summit Nuclear: Leaders from 47 countries are descending on Washington for a two-day summit the Obama administration hopes will kick-start efforts to make all nuclear materials secure from smugglers and terrorists within four years. The conference, which officially begins Monday evening, is the third act in a monthlong effort by the White House to give momentum to nuclear disarmament, following a new nuclear military doctrine released by the Pentagon on Tuesday and an arms-control treaty with Russia signed on Thursday.
    Meanwhile, the decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to withdraw from the summit at the last minute, in order to avoid questions about his country’s undeclared nuclear arsenal, has caused ripples before the summit has begun. – WSJ, 4-9-10
  • Obama to hold bipartisan meeting on financial reform: President Barack Obama will hold a meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday to discuss proposals to overhaul financial regulation, a White House official said on Friday…. – Reuters, 4-9-10
  • John Paul Stevens’ unexpectedly liberal legacy: The retiring Supreme Court justice started out as a conservative in 1975, but as he saw it, the court shifted right as he held to the center… – LAT, 4-10-10
  • Palin, Obama spar from a distance: President Barack Obama and Republican Sarah Palin sparred from a distance over nuclear policy with each questioning the other’s experience on the issue in a potential preview of the 2012 White House race. “Unbelievable,” Palin said earlier this week after Obama rewrote the U.S. nuclear strategy, and she suggested the president was weak on nuclear defense. Obama, in Prague to sign a nuclear reduction treaty with Russia, countered by deriding the former Alaska governor who resigned midway through her first term as “not much of an expert” on nuclear issues. Palin then shot back Friday during a speech to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans with a reference to Obama’s early career choice. Mocking the president, she dismissed “all the vast nuclear experience that he acquired as a community organizer.”… – AP, 4-9-10
  • Sarah Palin Fires Back at Obama, Mocks His “Experience” on Nuclear Issues: In a high profile address before thousands of conservative activists at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference Friday, Sarah Palin attacked the Obama administration for its energy policy, mocked the media and liberals for suggesting she is inciting violence and hit back at the president’s criticism of her knowledge on nuclear issues…. – CBS News, 4-9-10
  • Republicans Weighing Party’s Message: Should Republicans be the party of no? Or the party of yes? There was a hint of disagreement on that count as a parade of Republicans took the stage here on Friday at one of the largest party gatherings — Sarah Palin rallies not included — since the Republican National Convention two years ago…. – NYT, 4-10-10
  • Palin Presence Steers Rivals Away From Republican Casting Call: Sarah Palin, whose celebrity has the power to steer the spotlight from other Republican presidential hopefuls, is set to retake her party’s stage today as she considers a White House bid. The former 2008 vice-presidential candidate is the marquee speaker at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, an event unofficially billed as the first cattle call for those aspiring to take on President Barack Obama in 2012. “The press has a seemingly insatiable appetite for all things Sarah, and at some point Republicans who want to fill the space at the head of our table need to overcome that appetite,” said Tucker Eskew, who advised former President George W. Bush and worked as a Palin counselor in 2008. “She is certainly a huge draw, and that shouldn’t be a fundamental driver for big strategic decisions. But on occasion it will drive some scheduling decisions.” – Bloomberg, 4-9-10
  • Newt Gingrich: We Need a President, Not an Athlete: Newt Gingrich made a rock star’s entrance at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference Thursday night, entering to a standing ovation as the song “Eye of the Tiger” blared over the speakers and lights shined out over the crowd.
    When Gingrich eventually got to the podium, he delivered a self-assured address peppered with historical allusions. Democrats in Washington, he said, had put together a “perfect unrepresentative left-wing machine dedicated to a secular socialist future.”
    Mr. Obama is “the most radical president in American history,” Gingrich said. “He has said, ‘I run a machine, I own Washington, and there is nothing you can do about it.’”
    “What we need is a president, not an athlete,” Gingrich said during a question and answer period after his speech. He added: “Shooting three point shots may be clever, but it doesn’t put anybody to work.” – CBS News, 4-8-10
  • Liz Cheney: Obama Putting America on Path to Decline: Liz Cheney kicked off the Southern Republican Leadership Conference here Thursday night with a direct and unapologetic speech attacking President Obama for his health care push, intelligence posture and foreign policy.
    “The Obama administration is putting us on the path to decline,” added Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney…. “President Obama is playing a reckless game if he continues down the path of diminishing the United States’ ties to Israel,” she said, deeming the world safer when there is “no daylight” between the two countries…. – CBS News, 4-8-10
  • GOP gathers, gets look at possible picks for ’12: Little more than a year into President Obama’s first term, Republicans considering a challenge to the Democrat in his reelection bid were gauging their political strength yesterday at the first candidate “cattle call” far from Washington — the three-day Southern Republican Leadership Conference. Yet as Sarah Palin, Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, and several others gather in Louisiana, they face a stark reality: The Republican Party’s task will be tough no matter who wins the GOP nomination. Only five times in the last century has an incumbent president lost reelection; the most recent were Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992…. – Boston Globe, 4-9-10
  • Eyes will be on Palin at Republican conference: The former Alaska governor is one of several possible 2012 presidential hopefuls gathering in New Orleans. But others, like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, are staying away…. – LAT, 4-7-10
  • America’s first black President hasn’t done enough for black Americans: On Sunday, the presidential motorcade made a remarkable detour east of the Anacostia River, as the Obamas popped in for an Easter service at southeast Washington’s Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Just a few days earlier, the deadliest drive-by shooting in years had taken five lives in the same neighbourhood, a woe-begotten quarter known for its sorry superlatives, which include the city’s highest rates of murder, poverty and single-parent households. African-Americans also account for more than 90 per cent of southeast Washington’s residents and Barack Obama’s visit was another example of how, when it comes to the still volatile issue of race, the first black President has tread cautiously – too much so for many black Americans. By attending the service, where he sang and swayed with the rest of the congregation, Mr. Obama pointedly reminded Americans of his own complicated trajectory: raised by a white mother and grandparents, appropriating his black identity only after a wrenching voyage of self-examination…. – Globe & Mail, 4-7-10
  • Nuclear treaty would cut only long-range arms: The new nuclear arms treaty that the U.S. and Russia will sign Thursday in Prague may mark a historic return to arms control efforts for the world’s nuclear superpowers, but the pact is more a modest step than a major leap along the road to reductions in the world’s deadliest weaponry. Some questions and answers about the new treaty, a replacement for the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and its place in the bigger picture of U.S. and international security…. – AP, 4-8-10
  • Obama, Russian president sign arms treaty: President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday signed a major nuclear arms control agreement that reduces the nuclear stockpiles of both nations. The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty — known by its acronym, START– builds on a previous agreement that expired in December. The agreement cuts the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States and Russia by about a third. “This day demonstrates the determination of the United States and Russia — the two nations that hold over 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons — to pursue responsible global leadership,” Obama said after the signing. “Together, we are keeping our commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which must be the foundation for global nonproliferation.”… – CNN, 4-8-10
  • Bachmann, Palin rock, rally the faithful: They took the stage with heads unbowed, a pair of defiant heroines to Sarah Jane Nicoll. Nicoll, of Sartell, was awed by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who headlined a Wednesday afternoon rally at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Palin and Bachmann, perhaps the Republican Party’s top female figures, got the rock star treatment from Nicoll and a crowd estimated at more than 10,000. Palin was in Minnesota to help raise money for Bachmann’s re-election and for the Minnesota Republican Party… – SC Times, 4-8-10
  • Confederate History Month — Virginia’s new governor accused of racial insensitivity, political cynicism: Reviving an observance that many thought had been buried eight years ago, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has declared April “Confederate History Month” in Virginia. Maybe it’s not like firing on Ft. Sumter, but it’s close. One of two Republicans elected to statehouses last year in races widely seen as a referendum on Barack Obama’s presidency, McDonnell said he is restoring the commemoration because it is important to study history. In fact, Virginia and other states are preparing commemorations in 2011 to mark the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. But in McDonnell’s proclamation announcing the commemoration, he never mentions slavery — or the 500,000 slaves who constituted one-fourth of Virginia’s population and cheered the Union soldiers to victory. Instead, the governor declares that Virginians fought…. …”for their homes and communities and Commonwealth” and that “all Virginians” must appreciate the state’s “shared” history and the Confederacy’s sacrifices…. – LAT, 4-7-10
  • Obama’s Nuclear Strategy Intended as a Message: At the heart of President Obama’s new nuclear strategy lies a central gamble: that an aging, oversize, increasingly outmoded nuclear arsenal can be turned to the new purpose of adding leverage to the faltering effort to force Iran and North Korea to rethink the value of their nuclear programs. The 50-page “Nuclear Posture Review” released on Tuesday acknowledged outright that “the massive nuclear arsenal we inherited from the cold-war era” is “poorly suited to address the challenges posed by suicidal terrorist and unfriendly regimes seeking nuclear weapons.”… – NYT, 4-6-10
  • Obama Limits When U.S. Would Use Nuclear Arms: President Obama said Monday that he was revamping American nuclear strategy to substantially narrow the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons. But the president said in an interview that he was carving out an exception for “outliers like Iran and North Korea” that have violated or renounced the main treaty to halt nuclear proliferation…. – NYT, 4-5-10
  • Obama meets Christian leaders: Christian leaders from across the United States are joining U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday for an Easter prayer breakfast at the White House…. – UPI, 4-6-10
  • Obama family attends Easter service at DC church: President Barack Obama and his family have attended Easter service at a historically black Methodist church in southeast Washington. Obama took communion Sunday at the Allen Chapel AME Church. Joining him at the service were his wife, Michelle, daughters Sasha and Malia, and his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson. Also attending were the mayor of Washington, Adrian Fenty, and his wife…. – AP, 4-5-10
  • True or false? Top 7 health care fears Is the IRS going to hunt you down? Will your doc have a waiting line?: The sweeping health care overhaul signed into law his month by President Barack Obama is more than 2,000 pages long and has been dissected by analysts, politicians and pundits. It’s no wonder that some consumers are confused – and perhaps frightened – about how the law might affect them. Some concerns were raised during the congressional debate or have been swirling around the Internet. Kaiser Health News checked out some of the most common claims: MSNBC, 4-4-10
  • Brown Charts Future, Vows to Keep Fighting After Health Care Defeat: Scott Brown, who won election to the U.S. Senate vowing to defeat health care reform, still says he’s focused on weakening the health bill despite its passage. And in the meantime, he’s taking on an outsized role on the campaign trail and pledging to use his position to strike a hard bargain on other issues the “fired-up” Obama administration might try to push… – Fox News, 4-4-10
  • Republicans dispute course of financial overhaul: End the public lifeline for large financial institutions, Republicans are demanding as they push back against Democratic efforts to set new rules for the financial industry. The GOP is trying to fight many of the changes that President Barack Obama and majority Democrats want. Legislation would give the government authority to split up big financial companies and force the industry to pay for its most massive failures…. – AP, 4-3-10
  • For Obama, too soon for another partisan battle: After a bitter fight on healthcare, the White House has shown little appetite to engage aggressively on immigration and energy initiatives as congressional elections near…. – LAT, 4-4-10
  • Justice Stevens to leave while Obama in office: Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens says he “will surely” retire while President Barack Obama is still in office, giving the president the opportunity to maintain the high court’s ideological balance. Stevens said in newspaper interviews on the Web Saturday that he will decide soon on the timing of his retirement, whether it will be this year or next. Stevens, the leader of the court’s liberals, turns 90 this month and is the oldest justice. “I will surely do it while he’s still president,” Stevens told The Washington Post…. – AP, 4-4-10
  • CAPITAL CULTURE: Tales from WH Easter Egg Roll: If it’s Easter Monday in Washington, it’s time for the White House Easter Egg Roll. The White House is getting ready, putting on the finishing touches before the gates open and 30,000 men, women and children scramble to take part in the annual tradition. The Easter Bunny and more than 14,500 hard-boiled eggs are dyed and waiting…. – AP, 4-4-10
  • The great elaborator: Obama gives 17-minute answer to health-care query in N.C.: Even by President Obama’s loquacious standards, an answer he gave here on health care Friday was a doozy. Toward the end of a question-and-answer session with workers at an advanced battery technology manufacturer, a woman named Doris stood to ask the president whether it was a “wise decision to add more taxes to us with the health care” package. “We are overtaxed as it is,” Doris said bluntly.
    Obama started out feisty. “Well, let’s talk about that, because this is an area where there’s been just a whole lot of misinformation, and I’m going to have to work hard over the next several months to clean up a lot of the misapprehensions that people have,” the president said. He then spent the next 17 minutes and 12 seconds lulling the crowd into a daze. His discursive answer — more than 2,500 words long — wandered from topic to topic, including commentary on the deficit, pay-as-you-go rules passed by Congress, Congressional Budget Office reports on Medicare waste, COBRA coverage, the Recovery Act and Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (he referred to this last item by its inside-the-Beltway name, “F-Map”). He talked about the notion of eliminating foreign aid (not worth it, he said). He invoked Warren Buffett, earmarks and the payroll tax that funds Medicare (referring to it, in fluent Washington lingo, as “FICA”). WaPo, 4-2-10
  • Airline Screening Plan Wins Tentative Praise: Aviation security experts and industry officials said Friday that new screening protocols for air passengers coming to the United States were a marked improvement over an emergency plan that has required extra screening of every passenger from 14 countries since the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day. They said that the new system promised to bring more complete and timely threat information to bear on decisions about who should be prevented from boarding an airliner. But they also said that the impact of the changes on both the safety and convenience of air travel would not be evident for months…. – NYT, 4-2-10
  • No Production From Obama’s Offshore Drilling Proposal Until at Least 2014, MMS Says: While President Obama this week opened the door to oil and gas drilling in large swaths off the U.S. coastline, the specifics of which areas actually might be leased will be slowly decided over the next two or more years. Although Obama proposed new areas in the Atlantic and eastern Gulf of Mexico for potential development, they will “not necessarily” be open to oil and gas development in the next five-year drilling program that takes effect in July 2012, the Interior Department said…. – NYT, 4-2-10
  • Obama’s still stumping for healthcare: The president is in Maine trying to appeal to small business owners and the middle class in an effort to convince them that the law is necessary and should be supported…. – LAT, 4-2-10
  • President thanks flood workers as area waits for waters to recede: As rivers crested throughout the state and weary residents began returning to their flooded homes, President Obama visited the state’s flood-fighting headquarters yesterday, thanking workers for their round-the-clock efforts. After a briefing from Governor Deval Patrick and other officials, Obama shook hands with staff in the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency’s underground bunker and offered a few words of encouragement.
    “The one thing I would say is whether you are a governor or a president . . . when these kinds of natural disasters hit, what really matters is the people on the ground,” Obama told the officials. “I just want to say thanks on behalf of the country, as well.”… – Boston Globe, 4-2-10
  • Overhaul a job-saver, Obama tells Maine: An ebullient President Obama pitched his newly-minted health care law to Mainers yesterday, casting it as a job- saving plan, ridiculing those who predict a disaster, and daring opponents to try to repeal it.
    “This is the reform that some folks in Washington are still hollering about. And now that it’s passed, they’re already promising to repeal it. They’re actually going to run on a platform of repeal in November,” Obama, in mock incredulity, told a raucous, cheering crowd at Portland Expo Center. “My attitude is, go for it,” the president said. “I want these members of Congress to come out of Washington, come here to Maine, and tell [small-business owners], we’re going to take away your tax credit. If they want to do that, be my guest,’’ Obama said. “If they want to have a fight, I welcome that fight, because I don’t think the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver’s seat!”
    The speech reflected a newly confident tone by the president, whose first year was characterized by an uphill struggle to overhaul health care while fending off complaints he was not paying enough attention to the high unemployment rate. Fellow Democrats, meanwhile, began to grumble that the White House had allowed Republicans to control the message on the issue, making it even harder for congressional Democrats to pass it…. – Boston Globe, 4-2-10
  • Burr: I still want to repeal health care law: Republican Sen. Richard Burr said Thursday that he has not budged from his “repeal and replace” position on the new health care law passed by Congress. Burr said his recent remarks about supporting revisions in the health care law had been misconstrued. “Somebody asked me about the likelihood of repeal,” Burr said after speaking to the Fuquay-Varina Rotary Club. “I said that given that the president would be in office for two and half years it’s unlikely that he would” sign such a bill. “But I said that was not going to stop us in the interim from making incremental changes that members of Congress thought we needed,” Burr said. “I think that is the basis of the discrepancy.” – News & Observer, 4-2-10
  • Obama Urges China’s Hu to Get Behind Iran Push: U.S. President Barack Obama urged his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao to work together on pressing Iran over its nuclear activities, but Hu did not openly commit to new sanctions on Tehran, according to official reports on Friday. Obama and Hu discussed the growing international push to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions in an hour-long telephone call that followed China’s agreement on Wednesday to enter into serious negotiations over possible new U.N.-backed sanctions against Tehran…. – Reuters, 4-2-10
  • U.S. to use profiling checks for incoming flights The new system is a response to an attempt to blow up a plane last year by a Nigerian passenger: The Obama administration will announce Friday a new screening system for flights to the United States under which passengers who fit an intelligence profile of potential terrorists will be searched before boarding their flight, a senior administration official said. The procedures, which have been approved by President Obama, are aimed at preventing another terror attack like the one attempted by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspected of ties to al Qaeda who tried to blow up an airliner Christmas Day with a bomb hidden in his under wear, the official said…. – LAT, 4-1-10
  • States Challenge New Health Care Law Three pass health care Freedom Acts, more consider proposals: Governors of three states have signed “Freedom Acts” prohibiting implementation of federal health care reform legislation as resistance to the Health Care Reform Act surfaces in state governments. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed H.B. 67 into law last week, which “prohibits an individual in this state from being required to purchase health insurance,” and authorizes the state legislature to approve or deny federal reform legislation. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed similar legislation—the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act—in Richmond on March 24, and Idaho’s Gov. Otter signed the Idaho Health Freedom Act on March 17…. – Epoch Times, 3-31-10
  • Risk Is Clear in Drilling; Payoff Isn’t: In proposing a major expansion of offshore oil and gas development, President Obama set out to fashion a carefully balanced plan that would attract bipartisan support for climate and energy legislation while increasing production of domestic oil. It is not clear that the plan announced Wednesday will do either….
    “This is not a decision I’ve made lightly,” Obama said as he stood at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland on Wednesday near an Air Force fighter converted to burn renewable biofuels. “There will be those who strongly disagree with this decision, including those who say we should not open any new areas to drilling,” Mr. Obama said. “But what I want to emphasize is that this announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy.”… – NYT, 3-31-10
  • Next Year in the White House: A Seder Tradition: …So begins the story of the Obama Seder, now one of the newest, most intimate and least likely of White House traditions. When Passover begins at sunset on Monday evening, Mr. Obama and about 20 others will gather for a ritual that neither the rabbinic sages nor the founding fathers would recognize. In the Old Family Dining Room, under sparkling chandeliers and portraits of former first ladies, the mostly Jewish and African-American guests will recite prayers and retell the biblical story of slavery and liberation, ending with the traditional declaration “Next year in Jerusalem.” (Never mind the current chill in the administration’s relationship with Israel.)… – NYT, 3-28-10
  • Obama signs reconciliation bill with major student loan change: The government will take the place of private banks, cut program costs and channel the extra money to the neediest students…. – LAT, 3-31-10
  • Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for First Time: The Obama administration is proposing to open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time, officials said Tuesday. The proposal — a compromise that will please oil companies and domestic drilling advocates but anger some residents of affected states and many environmental organizations — would end a longstanding moratorium on oil exploration along the East Coast from the northern tip of Delaware to the central coast of Florida, covering 167 million acres of ocean…. – NYT, 3-30-10
  • Obama wants to sign financial bill by late May: President Barack Obama wants legislation in place overhauling financial regulations by the September anniversary of the 2008 Wall Street collapse, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday. Gibbs said Obama does not believe it is unrealistic to expect a bill could be on his desk by the end of May. “The president would like to see with his signature strong rules in place certainly by the two-year anniversary” of the cascade of events that prompted the Wall Street collapse, Gibbs told reporters at a regular White House briefing…. – WaPo, 3-30-10
  • Obama signs final piece of health care bill: President Obama on Tuesday signed his second piece of major legislation in a week, an overhaul of student lending and the final piece of health care legislation that incorporates more generous benefits demanded by the House. “This is the last leg of a very long journey,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who helped write both measures. Obama struck a populist tone, saying he was delivering on his promise to fight “sweetheart deals” and special interests in Washington…. – SF Chronicle, 3-30-10
  • President Obama image captured two Roosevelts who sought health reform: Who says bipartisanship was completely absent from the historic vote March 21 on American access to medical care? Certainly not the White House, which released an official photograph of President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and about 40 staffers who assembled to applaud the late-night passage of the bill. Shot by White House photographer Pete Souza, the picture ran on the front pages of newspapers and websites Monday morning, including The Times and latimes.com. And it’s a picture that inserts Obama squarely into the middle of healthcare reform’s bipartisan history. The staffers met in the West Wing’s windowless Roosevelt Room, across from the Oval Office. Souza shows the president standing in the foreground, flanked by painted portraits of two venerable if failed predecessors in the fight for federal healthcare legislation. One is Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt, seated at a desk on the left. The other is Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, FDR’s fifth cousin, mounted on horseback at the right…. – LAT, 3-28-10
  • Obama set to sign health care ‘fixes’ bill: President Obama is set to claim final victory on his top domestic priority Tuesday by signing into law a package of changes to the newly enacted health care reform bill. The signing ceremony at a community college in northern Virginia will culminate almost a year of fiercely partisan debate and a tortuous legislative journey on the proposals generated by Democrats and unanimously opposed by Republicans. Due to a shifting political landscape, Democrats eventually needed the separate bill being signed Tuesday to make changes in the original legislation in order to get the overall package passed by Congress…. – CNN, 3-29-10
  • Obama’s Seder includes 10 drops of sympathy: President Obama moved swiftly from his visit to Afghanistan Sunday to a festive Passover Seder table with Jewish friends and White House workers Monday night… – USA Today, 3-29-10
  • Obama wants “positive relationship” with China: W.House: President Barack Obama is determined “to further develop a positive relationship with China,” the White House said after Obama received credentials from Beijing’s new envoy to Washington. Obama made the remark after he received the credentials of China’s new ambassador to the United States, Zhang Yesui, according to a White House statement from Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. “During their meeting, the president stated his determination to further develop a positive relationship with China,” the statement read. “He reaffirmed our one China policy and our support for the efforts made by Beijing and Taipei to reduce friction across the Taiwan Strait.” Obama “also stressed the need for the United States and China to work together and with the international community on critical global issues including nonproliferation and pursuing sustained and balanced global growth,” the statement read…. – AFP, 3-3-10
  • Health care battle on new front: Democrats and Republicans said Sunday that they are confident the new health care law will help them in the November congressional elections once voters understand it better. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said more Americans will like the new law as they realize the benefits. “By November, those who voted for health care will find it an asset,” Schumer said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Those who voted against it will find it a liability.” Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said on CBS’ Face the Nation that the bill costs too much and gives the government too much power. DeMint said he and others will work to repeal the health care law and make it an election issue. “We’ll find out in November who won or lost this battle,” DeMint said… – USA Today, 3-28-10
  • Sarah Palin Alaska deal reinforces the power of Discovery: The news last week that Sarah Palin’s eight-part series about Alaska had been bought by Discovery Communications in a deal worth a little under $1m (£675m) per episode will be rightly seen by many in the industry as another sign of how powerful the Discovery brand has become in the 25 years of its existence…. – Guardian UK, 3-29-10
  • Democrats Cheer Now, but Grim November May Lie Ahead: President Obama with Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy Pelosi in the East Room last week after he signed the health care bill.Charles Dharapak/Associated Press President Obama with Kathleen Sebelius and Nancy Pelosi in the East Room last week after he signed the health care bill. In politics, as in sports, the thrill of victory sometimes pales alongside the agony of defeat. In 2010, Democrats remain on track to experience both. Achievement of their decades-long quest for comprehensive health care legislation left Congressional leaders and White House aides jubilant. It broke, at least temporarily, the psychology of failure that threatened President Obama’s administration as it had burdened President George W. Bush’s tenure. But the new spring in the steps of Democratic lawmakers has not reversed the likelihood that there will be fewer of them next year. Mr. Obama’s signature on the health care law did not reduce a national unemployment rate that hovers around double digits and is likely to stay there through the November elections…. – NYT, 3-28-10
  • Medicare Nominee Would Face Big Changes: Donald Berwick, President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the agency that runs Medicare and Medicaid, would face the major challenge of overseeing sweeping changes to both programs required under the recently enacted health-care overhaul, if elected. According to two administration officials, Mr. Obama will nominate Dr. Berwick, a Harvard University professor and specialist in patient safety, to take over the top post at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services…. – WSJ, 3-29-10
  • Obama presses Karzai in Kabul visit: President Obama made a surprise visit Sunday to Afghanistan to prod Kabul to make good on promises to improve internal security and crack down on corruption. The short nighttime trip, Obama’s first to Afghanistan as president, was made under extraordinary secrecy and comes at a critical time in a war that Obama has made his own. In a joint appearance with President Hamid Karzai, Obama praised the “progress with respect to the military campaign … but we also want to continue to make progress on the civilian process.” “The United States is a partner, but our intent is to make sure that the Afghans have the capacity to provide for their own security. That is core to our mission,” Obama later told a gathering of about 2,500 servicemembers and civilians…. – USA Today, 3-28-10
  • Obama Rallies Troops in Afghanistan Trip Caps a String of Successes, Gives the President a ‘Hard Pivot’ from Health Care to Foreign and Domestic Issues: President Barack Obama’s unannounced trip to Afghanistan capped the most eventful week of his presidency, a week that saw victory on his signature domestic initiative, completion of a nuclear-arms accord with Russia and a night- time rally with thousands of cheering troops. It also signaled that after a year mired in health-care politics, Mr. Obama hopes to turn to the multiplicity of issues—at home and abroad—that have languished in the shadows of his one huge domestic fight. Those include the war in Afghanistan, confronting Iran over its nuclear weapons, job creation and senior-level appointments… – WSJ, 3-27-10
  • Palin kicks off Tea Party Express tour: Organizers described this gathering Saturday of thousands of Tea Partiers minutes from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s home in desolate Nevada scrub as a “conservative Woodstock.” But instead of gorging on LSD, free love and Jimi Hendrix, thousands of attendees binged on seething anger at Washington and swooned to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Tea Party Express kicked off a 43-city cross-country bus tour that’s intended to rouse voters to their cause.
    “We’re sending a message to Washington,” Palin told the crowd that exploded in chants of “Sarah! Sarah!” when she took the stage. “The big government, big tax Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending spree is over,” she said, referring also to the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco. “You’re fired.”… – SF Chronicle, 3-27-10
  • What didn’t get into the healthcare bill: In the year it took Congress to write and pass a healthcare overhaul, turbulent political shifts — including the Democrats’ loss of the seat long held by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and the rise of the tea party movement — forced critical compromises on the scope of legislation. The downsized ambitions of the final package mean that 32 million more people — not the 37 million in the original proposals — will end up insured by 2019. Others will face greater financial strain than lawmakers originally envisioned…. – Miami Herald, 3-28-10
  • Obama Announces 15 Recess Appointments, Scolds GOP Obama announces 15 recess appointments in agencies, citing GOP stalling tactics in Senate: Fed up with waiting, President Barack Obama announced Saturday he would bypass a vacationing Senate and name 15 people to key administration jobs, wielding for the first time the blunt political tool known as the recess appointment. The move immediately deepened the divide between the Democratic president and Republicans in the Senate following a long, bruising fight over health care. Obama revealed his decision by blistering Republicans, accusing them of holding up nominees for months solely to try to score a political advantage on him. “I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government,” Obama said in a statement…. – AP, 3-28-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Stupak constituents seek federal aid over ideology: Even as tea party activists gloat over Rep. Bart Stupak’s decision to retire after becoming one of their top targets for defeat, it’s far from certain that his constituents will choose a successor who shares the conservative movement’s antipathy to government spending. Michigan’s sprawling northernmost 1st District has a history of electing moderates more concerned with getting federal money for local projects and helping constituents deal with government agencies than with partisanship or ideology — as long as they stay on the right side of hot-button issues such as protecting gun ownership…. – AP, 4-10-10
  • For a GOP in need of stars, Florida’s Marco Rubio shines: A Republican insurgent deftly courts tea partyers and overtakes once-popular Gov. Charlie Crist in a U.S. Senate primary race…. – LAT, 4-9-10
  • Romney: Grassroots intensity increasing: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said yesterday that on his 19-state book tour, he is seeing “a growing passion and intensity on the grassroots level” prompted by outrage over the huge federal deficit and “too intrusive a government.”
    Romney, spending his second day in New Hampshire promoting “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” said he won’t decide whether to make a second run for President until after the November mid-term elections.
    “If the election were held this week,” he said, “I think we’d pick up the House and a lot of seats in the Senate. I don’t know what things are going to look like in November, but people are not happy.”… – Union Leader, 4-9-10
  • McCain backs former adviser in Calif. Senate race: In the heat of the 2008 presidential race, Carly Fiorina made a splash when she opined that neither John McCain nor Sarah Palin — both fellow Republicans — or their Democratic rivals could run a major corporation. On Tuesday, it was the Arizona senator’s turn to speak about Fiorina’s qualifications. It worked out much better for her. McCain called Fiorina, who served as a top economic adviser to him during his presidential bid, inspiring and a great American success story. “I think she is eminently qualified to serve in the United States Senate,” he said, citing her experience running a major business…. – AP, 4-6-10
  • The McCain Mutiny A maverick fights for his political life—and his soul: Late last month, at a dusty fairground outside Tucson, John McCain stood behind the person who is, at least for the next few years, surely his most important legacy to American politics. And speaking to the adoring mob, Sarah Palin stood behind John McCain, repaying his inestimable gift to her in the most compelling possible fashion: by helping him to survive.
    Facing an impertinent challenge for his Senate seat in the Republican primary this summer, McCain listened to the former Alaska governor heap praise on him. Throughout, he fidgeted with a couple of pieces of paper, sneaking peeks at them every few seconds, and wore a slightly nervous smile, as if not knowing quite what might come out of Palin next… – Newsweek, 4-3-10
  • Looks likely Ted Kennedy Jr. will face Scott Brown in 2012 Senate race: Ted Kennedy Jr.is shaping up like he will run for his father’s seat against Scott Brown in Massachusetts in 2012. Over the weekend, Ted Jr., who lost a leg to cancer, spoke in Worcester, MA, to a conference on disabled issues. The choice of location was no accident, I’ll bet. What he said was even more indicative. He was asked about a possible political career. “Politics is in my blood,” he said, going on to state that “at the moment,” he’s more devoted to his young children and the needs of the disabled community… – Irish Central, 3-28-10
  • Democrats stand by candidate for Obama’s old seat: Democrats are quietly worrying about whether Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias can win President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. His family’s bank is believed to be on the verge of collapse and reportedly made $20 million in loans to two convicted felons. Republican Rep. Mark Kirk is already accusing Giannoulias of lying to the voters about the loans, and his campaign is guaranteed to be pounding away at the bank’s problems in millions of dollars worth of television ads. But the 34-year-old Giannoulias is still electable if he meets the bank embarrassment head on and strikes back at the Republican congressman as more conservative than this Democratic-trending state, Democratic insiders say. AP, 4-3-10
  • GOP hopes repeal-the-bill fire won’t burn them: Top Republicans are starting to worry about their health care rallying cry “Repeal the bill.” It just might singe GOP candidates in November’s elections, they fear, if voters begin to see benefits from the new law. Democrats, hoping the GOP is indeed positioning itself too far to the right for the elections, are taking note of every Republican who pledges to fight for repeal. Such a pledge might work well in conservative-dominated Republican primaries, they say, but it could backfire in the fall when more moderate voters turn out…. – AP, 3-31-10
  • Political Insider: Sen. John McCain collects $2.2 million for race: Sen. John McCain’s campaign announced Wednesday that it raised more than $2.2 million in the first quarter of 2010, and the four-term Arizona Republican still has $4.5 million on hand to spend. The fundraising quarter ended Wednesday at midnight. McCain’s most prominent GOP opponent, former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, had a “Million Dollar March” goal of raising $1 million. As of Wednesday evening, he had raised $871,671, or 87.2 percent of his goal, according to his campaign Web site… – The Arizona Republic, 4-1-10
  • 2012 clues are scarce as Romney visits Des Moines, Ames today: If former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney runs again for president, the eyes of the political world will be watching to see how deeply he digs into Iowa’s political soil. Romney is leaving few clues as he prepares for his first trip back to the state since finishing second in Iowa’s GOP caucuses in 2008. Today, Romney will conduct a book-signing at the downtown library in Des Moines and give a speech at Iowa State University. A top Romney adviser in Iowa had said last year that the more evangelical complexion of Iowa Republicans compared to the national party might make an all-out caucus campaign optional for candidates with a more economy-based message…. – Des Moines Register, 3-29-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

President Obama Throws Out First Pitch at Nationals Opening Day

President Barack Obama throws out the ceremonial first pitch on the opening day of baseball season at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. April 5, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Sen. John McCain Interview: Immigration: STAR: And the administration. What exactly have you done in Congress to achieve that end? McCAIN: Well, as a new member of the Homeland Security committee, last April we had a hearing in Phoenix with the various law enforcement agencies and Border Patrol, et cetera, specifically on the issue of border violence. Obviously I visited the border on several occasions, and at that time, it became clear that we didn’t have sufficient forces on the border. And it was at that time that I said we needed to send the guard down to the border. I’ve had the UAV issue to get them stationed at Fort Huachuca. Have had numerous conversations with the secretary of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security on this issue and was very much in favor and strongly supported the construction of a virtual fence. And as you know, that whole thing has collapsed at a huge cost to the taxpayers. And we are having a hearing the week after next when we get back with the Homeland Security committee. Why that failed and what the situation is and what is needed to try to provide the proper security. My view is you need a physical fence. But we all know that unless physical fences are surveilled, and then people just punch holes in them. And so I saw in Iraq on my visit there that their ability to serveil areas is that we have the technology now. And why they failed so badly is still an outrage at this point. And just one other small point because I know that you don’t want me to give real long answers. But for a long time in Yuma at the Barry Goldwater (bombing) range, they had a continuous incursion of illegals which caused them to cancel missions. Obviously you are not going to be dropping weapons when human beings are on the range. So they went out themselves and got very inexpensive but very effective surveillance equipment. And now there is hardly any incursions of illegals. Not a vast Boeing contract of billions of dollars, but just some really basic surveillance equipment, and it’s worked extremely well. And I did bring that up with Janet (Napolitano). And I’m not trying to beat up on the secretary of Homeland Security, she’s working hard, she’s got a lot of things to do. I did bring it up with her, and she agreed that they are going to now try to buy some very inexpensive equipment at least in the interim to put on the border. So what have I done? Not enough. – AZ Daily Star, 4-11-10
  • Weekly Address: Recovery Act Benefiting American Families During Tax Season: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House April 10, 2010
    ….And just as each of us meets our responsibilities as citizens, we expect our businesses and our government to meet theirs in return. That’s why I’ve asked Congress to close some of the biggest tax loopholes exploited by some of our most profitable corporations to avoid paying their fair share – or, in some cases, paying taxes at all. That’s why we’re tightening Washington’s belt by cutting programs that don’t work, contracts that aren’t fair, and spending we don’t need. And that’s why I’ve proposed a freeze on discretionary spending, signed a law that restores the pay-as-you-go principle that helped produce the surpluses of the 1990s, and created a bipartisan, independent commission to help solve our fiscal crisis and close the deficits that have been growing for a decade. Because I refuse to leave our problems to the next generation.
    It’s been a tough couple years for America. But the economy is growing again. Companies are beginning to hire again. We are rewarding work and helping more of our people reach for the American Dream again. And while there’s no doubt we still face a long journey together, with more steps to take, more obstacles to overcome, and more challenges to face along the way; if there is one thing of which the people of this great country have convinced me, it’s that the United States of America will recover, stronger than before. – WH, 4-10-10
  • Gingrich: Obama is ‘most radical president ever: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a potential presidential candidate in 2012, called Barack Obama on Thursday “the most radical president in American history” who oversees a “secular, socialist machine.” “The most radical president in American history has now thrown down the gauntlet to the American people: ‘I run a machine. I own Washington and there’s nothing you can do about it,’” Gingrich said. He urged his fellow Republicans to stop what he called Obama’s “secular, socialist machine.”… – AP, 4-8-10
  • Excerpts From Obama Interview: Following are excerpts of a New York Times interview with President Obama conducted Monday by David E. Sanger and Peter Baker in the Oval Office, about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty…
    What I hope everybody understands is that coming into office I’ve tried to maintain a consistent, comprehensive strategy that moves us in the direction of strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty and that encourages countries to abide by international codes of conduct and basic rules of the road…. – NYT, 4-6-10
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Extends Holiday Greeting: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House April 3, 2009
    This is a week of faithful celebration. On Monday and Tuesday nights, Jewish families and friends in the United States and around the world gathered for a Seder to commemorate the Exodus from Egypt and the triumph of hope and perseverance over injustice and oppression. On Sunday, my family will join other Christians all over the world in marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    And while we worship in different ways, we also remember the shared spirit of humanity that inhabits us all – Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, believers and nonbelievers alike.
    Amid the storm of public debate, with our 24/7 media cycle, in a town like Washington that’s consumed with the day-to-day, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of the eternal. So, on this Easter weekend, let us hold fast to those aspirations we hold in common as brothers and sisters, as members of the same family – the family of man….
    On this weekend, as Easter begins and Passover comes to a close, let us remain ever mindful of the unity of purpose, the common bond, the love of you and of me, for which they sacrificed all they had; and for which so many others have sacrificed so much. And let us make its pursuit – and fulfillment – our highest aspiration, as individuals and as a nation. Happy Easter and Happy Passover to all those celebrating, here in America, and around the world. – WH, 4-3-10
  • NORMAN PODHORETZ: In Defense of Sarah Palin She understands that the U.S. has been a force for good in the world—which is more than can be said of our president: Nothing annoys certain of my fellow conservative intellectuals more than when I remind them, as on occasion I mischievously do, that the derogatory things they say about Sarah Palin are uncannily similar to what many of their forebears once said about Ronald Reagan….
    I fear that the attitude satirically exaggerated here by Iowahawk is what underlies the rejection of Sarah Palin by so many conservative intellectuals. When push came to shove, they could not resist what Van Voorhees calls Mr. Obama’s “prodigious oratorical and intellectuals gifts” and they could not resist attributing Sarah Palin’s emergence as a formidable political force to “the base enthusiasms and simian grunts” of “the loathesome Tea Party rabble.”
    As for me, after more than a year of seeing how those “prodigious oratorical and intellectual gifts” have worked themselves out in action, I remain more convinced than ever of the soundness of Buckley’s quip, in the spirit of which I hereby declare that I would rather be ruled by the Tea Party than by the Democratic Party, and I would rather have Sarah Palin sitting in the Oval Office than Barack Obama. WSJ, 3-29-10
  • Sarah Palin: Best Wishes for a Blessed Passover: Tonight Jewish families all over the world will gather to celebrate Passover, the story of Exodus and the freedom of the Jewish people from bondage. This holiday reminds us of the sacrifices that are still being made for freedom – the U.S. troops who are away from their families so that we can be with ours, and the Israeli people, who struggle for peace with their neighbors even as they face the threat of war.
    “Next year in Jerusalem” will be the refrain echoed by Jewish families as they finish their Seders tonight. It is a stark reminder that whatever the threats the Jewish people have faced, whatever the struggles, their connection to Jerusalem is ancient and unshakable. On this Passover holiday, our family sends our best wishes to all who are celebrating. Chag kasher V’Sameach. Happy Passover. And next year in Jerusalem. – Sarah Palin Facebook Page
  • Scott Brown “The health care fight is not over”: BY ELECTING me to the US Senate, the people of Massachusetts sent a clear message: Washington needs to get its priorities straight. Voters believed I would be the best candidate to fight for jobs and a stronger economy, keep our country safe, and serve as the 41st vote against the health care reform legislation debated in the Senate.
    After my election, Washington politicians began an aggressive push to bend the rules and force their unpopular health care bill on an unwilling nation. They went into secret negotiations to make up their own rules, and eventually found a way to circumvent the will of the people by using the reconciliation process to ram through their health care bill. For the last year, the American people have been shaking their heads at the closed-door meetings, sweetheart deals, and special carve-outs. It has been a very ugly process, and caused many Americans to lose faith in their elected officials in Washington.
    This bill constitutes a massive increase in spending that our country can’t afford and will result in a huge expansion in the size and reach of the federal government. When this legislation is fully implemented, the real cost to taxpayers is $2.6 trillion over years. Instead of reforming the health care system and bending the cost curve down, we are doing the exact opposite….
    This disastrous detour of a health care bill has distracted the attention and energy of Congress for the past year. Now, it is time to listen to the people and focus on their top priority: jobs. It would be a mistake for the administration to try to ram through other items on the liberal agenda when so many Americas are struggling. Americans want their government to fully focus its attention on the economy and getting our citizens back to work.
    Washington is broken. All across the country, people believe that their elected officials are working for themselves and not on behalf of their constituents. Only when we start heeding the will of the American people can we begin to restore faith in government, and it all starts with commonsense, practical solutions that will put Americans back to work and get our economy back on track. – Boston Globe, 3-30-10
  • Weekly Address: Reforms Will End Student Loan Bank Subsidies and Expand Access to College: Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House March 27, 2009
    This was a momentous week for America. It was a week in which together, we took bold new steps toward restoring economic security for our middle class and rebuilding a stronger foundation for our future. It was a week in which some of the change that generations have hoped for and worked for finally became reality in America.
    It began with the passage of comprehensive health insurance reform that will begin to end the worst practices of the insurance industry, rein in our exploding deficits, and, over time, finally offer millions of families and small businesses quality, affordable care – and the security and peace of mind that comes with it.
    And it ended with Congress casting a final vote on another piece of legislation that accomplished what we’ve been talking about for decades – legislation that will reform our student loan system and help us educate all Americans to compete and win in the 21st century….
    Education. Health care. Two of the most important pillars of a strong America grew stronger this week. These achievements don’t represent the end of our challenges; nor do they signify the end of the work that faces our country. But what they do represent is real and major reform. What they show is that we’re a nation still capable of doing big things. What they prove is what’s possible when we can come together to overcome the politics of the moment; push back on the special interests; and look beyond the next election to do what’s right for the next generation.
    That’s the spirit in which we continue the work of tackling our greatest common tasks – an economy rebuilt; job creation revitalized; an American Dream renewed – for all our people. WH, 3-27-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Is President Obama Fulfilling Clinton’s Promise?: “Clinton’s problem was trying to change the system during a time of peace and prosperity,” said H. W. Brands, a presidential historian who has written books on Wilson and F.D.R. “Americans are status quo friendly; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Obama’s opportunity was to arrive when the status quo had been jolted and, in the eyes of many, discredited.” – NYT, 4-4-10
  • Gil Troy “For Obama, What A Difference A Week Made”: The protracted health care battle looks to have taught the White House something about power, says presidential historian Gil Troy — a lesson that will inform Obama’s pursuit of his initiatives going forward.
    “I think that Obama realizes that presidential power is a muscle, and the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets,” Troy says. “He exercised that power and had a success with health care passage, and now he wants to make sure people realize it’s not just a blip on the map.”…
    One of the questions that has trailed Obama is how he would deal with criticism and the prospect of failure, says Troy, a McGill University history professor and visiting scholar affiliated with the bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.
    “He is one of those golden boys who never failed in his life, and people like that are often not used to criticism and failure,” Troy says.
    Obama and his campaign were temporarily knocked for a loop early in the 2008 presidential campaign by then-GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s “zingers,” Troy says, “and Obama was thrown off balance again by the loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat.”
    The arc of the health care debate reminded observers that Obama is not just a product of Harvard, but also of tough Chicago politics, Troy says.
    “You don’t travel as far and as fast as Barack Obama without having a spine of steel,” he says. “He has an ability to regenerate, to come back, and knows that there is no such thing as a dirty win: a win is a win” — even if it infuriates the progressive wing of the president’s party, which wanted far more sweeping changes to the nation’s health care system….
    But observers like Troy say they believe that though initially unrelated, a boost in employment among Americans would encourage voters to look more favorably on the health care overhauls.
    “The perceived success of health care legislation rides on job creation,” Troy says…. – NPR, 4-6-10
  • Authors: White House no open book: The White House has practically been overrun by journalists pumping top officials for behind-the-scenes details for behind-the-scenes books. The blitz has created complications for presidential aides, who have a country to run, and frustrations for the authors, who are clamoring for face time with their sources. One White House official calls the mounting demands “a pain” in the posterior, saying: “We try to engage when we can. No one is getting as much time as they want.” With the publishing world loving all things Obama, those working on such books include Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter, NBC’s Chuck Todd, MSNBC’s Richard Wolffe, The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and David Maraniss, the New York Times’ Jodi Kantor and two New Yorker writers – editor David Remnick and Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza. Time’s Mark Halperin and New York magazine’s John Heilemann, whose campaign chronicle “Game Change” became a huge best-seller, have signed a deal with Penguin Press to chronicle the 2012 contest – for an advance reported to be about $5 million… – WaPo, 4-6-10
  • Julian Zelizer: New RNC scandal, old GOP arrogance: Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele might be reminding conservative activists of a past Republican leadership turned arrogant with power.
    Under Michael Steele’s leadership, the RNC has been accused of spending campaign funds on private jets, booze, limousines, five-star hotels, overseas resorts and a party donor’s trip to a Hollywood bondage club. Most conservatives will agree that these expenditures are a horrible waste of funds at a time when Republicans are hoping to enjoy sizable gains in the 2010 midterm elections….
    On Monday, the Republican National Committee chief of staff resigned, with many assuming he was fired by Steele in an effort to clean house. The resignation is a start. But much more needs to be done. If the Republican leadership does not respond more aggressively, recent efforts to revive the party won’t amount to very much. Conservative voters will not be enthusiastic about supporting a party whose leaders partake in lavish and questionable activities, and Democrats will have more evidence that their opponents cannot be trusted with power. – CNN, 4-6-10
  • Julian Zelizer: Who is the father of healthcare reform: Obama or Mitt Romney?: President Obama is likening his federal healthcare reform bill to the Massachusetts healthcare bill signed by former Gov. Mitt Romney. That could cause problems for Romney in 2012.
    “The healthcare debate presents big problems for Romney,” says Julian Zelizer, a political scientist at Princeton University in New Jersey. It “will be a big issue for Republicans in 2012, and Romney is not well-positioned to lead the Republican charge against Obama.” To be sure, that comment will not be on Romney’s fundraising letter. “It is ironic,” says Mr. Zelizer, “that Romney’s biggest accomplishment as governor would be his biggest liability as a candidate.” – CS Monitor, 3-31-10
  • ERIC M. PATASHNIK & JULIAN E. ZELIZER: Now the real health care fight begins: Many liberals are euphoric about Congress passing health care reform. When President Barack Obama signed the most ambitious social legislation since President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society, the tide seemed to have turned for the Democrats. But this is not the end of the political struggle. Just the start of a new chapter. While outright repeal of health care reform — as many conservatives demand — seems unlikely, there is no guarantee this reform will stick. Future Congresses could erode or undercut the law. For there is a long history of major social legislation coming under attack post-enactment. New legislation, whether misunderstood or poorly designed, often can take several years to gain solid public support. Political sustainability is not automatic…. – Politico, 3-30-10
  • Michael Beschloss: President Obama to Sign Second Part of Health Bill: NBC News Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss said, “And because of the healthcare victory last week, you can assume that foreign leaders around the world are saying, ‘This is a bigger leader than perhaps we expected, and he may be here a for a long time.’” – WSAV NBC, 3-30-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Risk for GOP comes from extreme fringe: As he stood before the delegates of the 1964 Republican Convention in San Francisco, California, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, the party’s presidential nominee, said, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
    The delegates, who had booed New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller when he called for the party to respect moderation, were thrilled. Many of Goldwater’s supporters were determined to push their party toward the right wing of the political spectrum. They felt that their party leaders, including President Eisenhower, had simply offered a watered-down version of the New Deal.
    Yet Goldwater soon learned that extremism could quickly become a political vice, particularly to a party seeking to regain control of the White House….
    Now Republicans are facing the Goldwater threat once again. At the same time that conservatives have every right to oppose and challenge President Obama’s agenda, they must make clear that there are limits and that the kinds of actions that we have seen in recent days are not something that either party will be willing to tolerate in the year ahead. – CNN, 3-30-10
  • Meena Bose: CAPITAL CULTURE: Obama’s surprising sense of humor: “I think he does have a good sense of humor,” said Meena Bose, a presidential historian at Hofstra University. “He has a cerebral one, though. It’s this dry irony. You have to pay pretty close attention to get some of what he’s saying.” “A good sense of humor won’t make the reputation of a president,” Bose said. “But a good sense of humor can bolster a good reputation. “It indicates comfort, a sense of not being overwhelmed by the demands of the job,” she said…. – AP, 3-29-10
  • Robert Dallek: The Take: Historic win or not, Democrats could pay a price: “I think this will be seen as a really major reform initiative,” said presidential historian Robert Dallek. “How it plays out remains to be seen. But if Social Security and Medicare and civil rights are any preludes to this initiative, then I think it will become a fixed part of the national political/social/economic culture.” – WaPo, 3-21-10
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