By Bonnie K. Goodman
Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.
OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:
IN FOCUS: STATS
- The Obama effect — Are you with him or against him?: Halfway through the 2010 primary season, the fundamental tension in the American political system is becoming more clear: A liberal government is struggling to impose its agenda on an electorate increasingly responsive to an activist conservative movement operating inside the Republican Party…. – WaPo, 5-21-10
- White House: Justice Dept. has been to Gulf spill: The White House says the Justice Department has been gathering information about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Press secretary Robert Gibbs isn’t saying whether the department has opened a criminal investigation. He would only tell CBS’ “Face the Nation” that department representatives have been to the Gulf as part of the response to the BP oil leak…. – AP, 5-24-10
- Obama seeks to force votes on spending cuts: President Barack Obama on Monday is sending legislation to Congress that would allow him to force lawmakers to vote on cutting wasteful programs from spending bills. The legislation would award Obama and his successors the ability to take two months or more to scrutinize spending bills that have already been signed into law for pet projects and other dubious programs. He could then send Congress a package of spending cuts for a mandatory up-or-down vote on whether to accept or reject them. Senate Democrats killed the idea just three years ago, and so Obama’s move would seem like a long shot. But the plan could pick up traction in the current anti-Washington political environment in which lawmakers are desperate to demonstrate they are tough on spending…. – AP, 5-23-10
- Obama Outlines National Security Strategy: President Obama outlined a new national security strategy rooted in diplomatic engagement and international alliances on Saturday as he repudiated his predecessor’s emphasis on unilateral American power and the right to wage preemptive war. Eight years after President George W. Bush came to the United States Military Academy to set a new course for American security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Obama used the same setting to offer a revised doctrine, one that vowed no retreat against American enemies while seeking “national renewal and global leadership.” “Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system,” the president told graduating cadets. “But America has not succeeded by stepping outside the currents of international cooperation. We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice – so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities, and face consequences when they don’t.” Mr. Obama said the United States “will be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well” while also trying to “build new partnerships and shape stronger international standards and institutions.” He added: “This engagement is not an end in itself. The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times.” – NYT, 5-22-10
- Results of Kandahar offensive may affect future U.S. moves: The Obama administration’s campaign to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan’s second-largest city is a go-for-broke move that even its authors are unsure will succeed. The bet is that the Kandahar operation, backed by thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars, will break the mystique and morale of the insurgents, turn the tide of the war and validate the administration’s Afghanistan strategy. There is no Plan B…. – WaPo, 5-22-10
- Clinton says North Korean attack on ship will not go ‘unanswered': Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned North Korea on Friday for a deadly attack on a South Korean warship and vowed that it would not go “unanswered,” but senior U.S. officials stressed that neither side on the Korean Peninsula seems to be heading toward war….
In a blunt statement after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Clinton said the United States “strongly condemns” the North Korean attack and that both countries would seek an international response. “Let me be clear,” Clinton said in her first public comments since South Korea released a report on Thursday formally blaming the North for the torpedo strike. “This will not be and cannot be business as usual.”… – WaPo, 5-22-10
- As financial overhaul takes shape, it’s crunch time for lobbyists: Few differences exist between the Senate and House bills, leaving little time to push for changes. Obama says his administration will keep the rules tough… – LAT, 5-21-10
- Pentagon’s Clapper may lead intelligence agencies: The Pentagon’s top intelligence official emerged as the leading choice Friday for what’s fast becoming known as one of the most thankless jobs in Washington — director of national intelligence. The position has a great title, but the office has just claimed its third victim. James R. Clapper, now the defense undersecretary for intelligence, is the White House’s leading candidate to replace retired Adm. Dennis Blair, who is resigning, two current U.S. officials and one former military official say. Another candidate is Mike Vickers, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for special operations, officials say, but a Defense Department official says he has not been contacted for an interview. With three previous intelligence directors all saying the same thing — the job description itself is flawed — who would want it?… – AP, 5-21-10
- Senate Passes Finance Bill Biggest Regulatory Overhaul of Wall Street Since Depression Moves Closer to Law: The Senate on Thursday approved the most extensive overhaul of financial-sector regulation since the 1930s, hoping to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis that hit the U.S. economy starting in 2007. The legislation passed the Senate 59 to 39 and must now be reconciled with a similar bill passed by the House of Representatives in December, before it can be sent to President Barack Obama to be signed into law. The controversial measure, supported by the Obama administration, sets up new regulatory bodies and restricts the actions of banks and other financial firms. It is designed to try to make order of the cascading regulatory chaos that ensued in 2008 when mammoth banks and some unregulated financial firms collapsed, and public funds were used to save them…. – WSJ, 5-21-10
- Senate Passes Massive Financial Regulation Bill: In its broad sweep, the massive bill would touch Wall Street CEOs and first-time homebuyers, high-flying traders and small town lenders…. – AP, 5-20
- National intelligence director resigning: National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair is resigning under pressure from the White House, ending a tumultuous 16-month tenure marked by intelligence failures and spy agency turf wars. Blair, a retired Navy admiral, is the third director of national intelligence, a position created in response to public outrage over the failure to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His departure underscores the disorganization inside the Obama administration’s intelligence apparatus, rocked over the past six months by a spate of high-profile attempted terror attacks that revealed new national security lapses. And it comes two days after a stark Senate report criticized Blair’s office and other intelligence agencies for new failings that, despite a top-to-bottom overhaul of the U.S. intelligence apparatus after 9/11, allowed a would-be bomber to board a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day. In a message Thursday to his work force, Blair said his last day would be May 28…. – AP, 5-21-10
- Oil spill scrutiny turns to Obama administration: Last week, it was oil executives who faced the wrath of lawmakers eager to find blame for the massive oil spill spreading in the Gulf of Mexico. On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other federal officials will come under questioning for what the government did — or did not do — to prevent the oil spill, and how they have responded since oil started streaming into the Gulf last month…. – AP, 5-18-10
- Lincoln loses leverage on financial reform bill: Senator Blanche Lincoln, a key voice for financial reform, was forced on Tuesday into a Democratic runoff election in Arkansas and lost leverage for her plan to force big banks to spin off swaps desks. She was expected to be the vote-leader in the primary and possibly win the nomination outright. Instead, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter ran neck-and-neck with her in a race colored by anti-Washington sentiment. Her swap reform proposal would cost a handful of big U.S. banks billions of dollars in revenue. It is one of the final issues in a mammoth Wall Street reform bill pending in the Senate. The swaps-desk language was a hallmark of Lincoln-authored legislation to bring the $615 trillion market in over- the-counter derivatives under federal regulation. While Lincoln said her proposal would “ensure that banks get back to the business of banking,” there was broad opposition to the idea within the financial industry and among some Obama administration officials. Analysts said she probably would not prevail on the issue, even if she won the three-way Democratic primary. They expected efforts to strip the language would begin immediately after the primary. One alternative would be the so-called Volcker language to restrict derivatives trading by banks…. – Reuters, 5-19-10
ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….
- Cuomo joins race in first As governor, the Democrat pledges he’d put an end to “national disgrace” of state government in Albany and to usher in a new era of reform: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor on Saturday, slamming Albany corruption and promising to build a coalition to help him drive priorities ranging from freezing public employee salaries to support for a constitutional convention to bring about change.
Cuomo enters the race as an overwhelming front-runner with no Democratic challengers, Republicans in disarray and a hefty campaign account of at least $16 million.
In a polished speech rehearsed privately before groups all year, Cuomo launched a gubernatorial effort in which he will be campaigning all summer while three Republicans seeking to oppose him try to knock each other out in a primary battle.
The announcement came first with a 21-minute online video as slick as a Madison Avenue presentation. He later made his case for governor before the Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan, criticizing abuses of 19th-century Democratic leader William “Boss” Tweed, who was convicted of stealing from taxpayers during a scandalous reign.
“Our state government in Albany is disreputable and discredited . . . a national disgrace,” Cuomo said. “The corruption in Albany could even make Boss Tweed blush.”… – Albany Times-Union, 5-22-10
- Rand Paul and the Perils of Textbook Libertarianism: When Rand Paul, the victor in the Republican Senate primary last week in Kentucky, criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964, singling out the injustice of non-discriminatory practices it imposed on private businesses, the resulting furor delighted Democrats and unsettled Republicans. Mr. Paul hastened to state his abhorrence of racism and assert that had he served in the Senate in 1964, he would have voted for the measure. On the surface Mr. Paul’s contradictory statements might seem another instance of the trouble candidates get into when ideological consistency meets the demands of practical politics… – NYT, 5-22-10
- GOP wins House seat in Obama’s home district: Republican Charles Djou (duh-JOO’) has won a Democratic-held House seat in Hawaii in the district where President Barack Obama grew up. The special election is the latest triumph for the GOP as it looks to take back control of Congress. Djou’s victory was also a blow to Obama and other Democrats who could not rally around a candidate and find away to win a congressional race that should have been a cakewalk. The seat had been held by a Democrat for nearly 20 years and is located in the district where Obama was born and spent most of his childhood. Djou received 67,274 votes, or 39.5 percent. He was followed by state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case — both Democrats…. – AP, 5-22-10
- ZEV CHAFETS: The Limbaugh Victory: THERE are many theories for why very conservative Republicans seem to be doing so well lately, taking their party’s Senate nominations in Florida, Kentucky and Utah, and beating Democrats head-to-head in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. Some attribute this to a generalized anti-incumbent mood. Others say it reflects the tendency of parties in power to falter in midterm elections. Recently it has been fashionable to ascribe right-wing success to the Tea Party movement. But the most obvious explanation is the one that’s been conspicuously absent from the gusher of analysis. Republican success in 2010 can be boiled down to two words: Rush Limbaugh…. – NYT, 5-20-10
- After Explaining a Provocative Remark, Paul Makes Another: Rand Paul, the newly nominated Republican candidate for Senate from Kentucky, touched off more controversy on Friday by calling the Obama administration “un-American” for taking a tough stance with BP over the company’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico…. “What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'” Mr. Paul said, referring to a remark by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar about the oil company. “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”… – NYT, 5-22-10
- ‘Tea party’ candidate faces civil rights controversy: Rand Paul, winner of Kentucky’s Republican nomination for the Senate, is working to tamp down the controversy over his statements criticizing nondiscrimination laws… – LAT, 5-21-10
- Obama endorsements don’t seem to help Democrats: Voters rejected one of President Barack Obama’s hand-picked candidates and forced another into a runoff, the latest sign that his political capital is slipping beneath a wave of anti-establishment anger. Sen. Arlen Specter became the fourth Democrat in seven months to lose a high-profile race despite the president’s active involvement, raising doubts about Obama’s ability to help fellow Democrats in this November’s elections. The first three candidates fell to Republicans. But Specter’s loss Tuesday to Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania’s Democratic senatorial primary cast doubts on Obama’s influence and popularity even within his own party — and in a battleground state, no less. Of course, it’s possible that Democrats will fare better than expected this fall. And there’s only so much that any president can do to help other candidates, especially in a non-presidential election year…. – AP, 5-19-10
- Blogging the Primaries: One incumbent, Senator Arlen Specter, lost in a tough primary against Representative Joe Sestak, who surged in the last few weeks. The outcome in Pennsylvania ended the five-term Senate career of Mr. Specter, who switched parties last year to avoid what he believed was a certain defeat as a Republican.
Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas faced an uphill battle against the popular lieutenant governor, Bill Halter. Neither reached the 50-percentage threshold, so they’ll got to a runoff on June 8…. – NYT, 5-18-10
- House Republicans: “We’ve Got a Lot of Work To Do”: “Mark Critz’s victory demonstrates that Democrats can win in a tough political environment,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman Brendan Daly. “The Republicans have been boasting that they can win 50 or even 100 House seats, yet they could not win a seat that independent analysts called a ‘must win’ for them in a district that John McCain won in 2008.”
When the outcome was still unclear, House majority leader Steny Hoyer was not so sure. “If he wins will that mean the Democrats are going to sweep? I don’t think so,” Hoyer said yesterday. “These special elections are, you know, they are what they are.”
Republican Whip Eric Cantor said this morning that he thinks Americans still want to vote for some kind of check and balance to Democrat’s power in Washington. “Obviously, I’m disappointed as a Republican that Tim Burns did not win the seat,” Cantor said in an interview for CBSNews.com’s “Washington Unplugged.” “What is pretty indicative was that the Democratic candidate refused to get anywhere near the policy agenda promoted by Speaker Pelosi and President Obama,” Cantor said. That said, Cantor acknowledged that “last night is evidence of the fact that we’ve got a lot of work to do.”… – CBS News, 5-19-10
- Today’s Primaries Offer New Clues: It’s decision day for voters in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Kentucky, where the outcome of Senate primary contests on Tuesday will deliver more clues to the puzzle that is the midterm election of 2010. Two Democratic senators, with combined Washington experience of nearly 50 years, will discover if they have assembled strong-enough coalitions to withstand an anti-incumbent surge or if their careers will effectively end. And an open Senate seat in Kentucky will help show whether Tea Party advocates can produce an electoral victory. The contests, taken together, offer the biggest trove of information so far this year about the mood of the electorate…. – NYT, 5-17-10
- Primaries in 4 states, 1 House election: President Barack Obama is not on the ballot in this week’s primaries, nor is Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican Senate leader. But both have a stake in intensely competitive Senate races in three states, contests testing the strength of the tea party among Kentucky Republicans and the durability of incumbent Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. In a fourth race of national significance, Republican Tim Burns and Democrat Mark Critz battled to fill out the term of the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha in a congressional district in southwestern Pennsylvania. Both political parties reported spending roughly $1 million to sway the race, turning it into a laboratory for the fall campaign, when all 435 House seats will be on the ballot… – AP, 5-18-10
- Obama’s Midterm Strategy: Blame the GOP: The only people more unpopular than Democrats are congressional Republicans, so President Obama is reminding us of what Republican rule was like….
Two years later the president is tentatively unveiling the strategy he and fellow Democrats will pursue in this fall’s election season, and it has a heavy dose of … looking backward. It’s going to be as much about history as hope, and more about attacking Republicans than promoting his own vision. The goal is to give pause to independent voters eager to punish Obama for their economic insecurity by voting for GOP candidates. The message: we can’t return power to the very people who gave us the catastrophic Great Recession to begin with…. – Newsweek, 5-17-10
- McCain shakes up campaign; Pa. Senate race tight: Sen. John McCain’s re-election bid lost its campaign manager and another veteran Republican official, part of a shake-up for the Arizona lawmaker locked in a tight primary race with radio host and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. The pair of GOP hands — who started before Hayworth entered the race — will instead work on the Republican National Committee’s effort in Arizona. Campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said neither Shiree Verdone nor Mike Hellon, a former Arizona GOP chairman, was fired. “Senator McCain is very grateful for all that Shiree and Mike have done to launch the re-election campaign and establish it on a firm footing and looks forward to working closely with them for victory in November,” Rogers said in a statement. AP, 5-17-10
- Senate primaries today may give hint of voters’ mood: In Pennsylvania, Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican turned Democrat, is trying to hold off US Representative Joe Sestak for the party’s nomination. Sestak has spent much of the campaign painting Specter as a political opportunist for switching parties last year. In Kentucky, Rand Paul, who has strong backing from Tea Party activists, is seeking the Republican nomination in a race against Trey Grayson, the secretary of state. Grayson is backed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and Kentucky’s senior senator. In Arkansas, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter will try to oust the incumbent Democrat, Senator Blanche Lincoln, who has been criticized by her opponent for failing to support the health care overhaul legislation. A poll released yesterday shows the Pennsylvania race is too close to call, the latest of many tough election challenges for Specter, 80…. – Boston Globe, 5-18-10
- Weekly Address: President Obama Establishes Bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling:
Names Former Two-Term Florida Governor and Former Senator Bob Graham and Former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William K. Reilly as Commission Co-Chairs
Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, May 22, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: One month ago this week, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off Louisiana’s coast, killing 11 people and rupturing an underwater pipe. The resulting oil spill has not only dealt an economic blow to Americans across the Gulf Coast, it also represents an environmental disaster. In response, we are drawing on America’s best minds and using the world’s best technology to stop the leak. We’ve deployed over 1,100 vessels, about 24,000 personnel, and more than 2 million total feet of boom to help contain it. And we’re doing all we can to assist struggling fishermen, and the small businesses and communities that depend on them….
One of the reasons I ran for President was to put America on the path to energy independence, and I have not wavered from that commitment. To achieve that goal, we must pursue clean energy and energy efficiency, and we’ve taken significant steps to do so. And we must also pursue domestic sources of oil and gas. Because it represents 30 percent of our oil production, the Gulf of Mexico can play an important part in securing our energy future. But we can only pursue offshore oil drilling if we have assurances that a disaster like the BP oil spill will not happen again. This Commission will, I hope, help provide those assurances so we can continue to seek a secure energy future for the United States of America…. – WH, 5-22-10
- At West Point, Obama offers new security strategy: …In a commencement speech to the graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the president outlined his departure from what Bush had called a “distinctly American internationalism.” Instead, Obama pledged to shape a new “international order” based on diplomacy and engagement.
“Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system. But America has not succeeded by stepping outside the currents of international cooperation,” he said. “We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice — so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities, and face consequences when they don’t.”
“The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times,” he said in prepared remarks. “Countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing its wounds.”
And yet, as he calls for global cooperation, Obama has intensified the U.S. war in Afghanistan. And his administration has repeatedly confronted the dangers of Islamic terrorism on U.S. soil, including unsuccessful attempts to down a Detroit-bound airliner and explode a car bomb in New York’s Times Square…. – WaPo, 5-22-10
- Obama Tells Ohio, ‘Our Economy Is Growing Again': President Obama came Tuesday to this area long synonymous with economic distress to take a few strides on a victory lap for the policies he credits with helping create jobs and to knock Republicans for standing in the way. “Despite all the naysayers in Washington, who are always looking for the cloud in every silver lining, the fact is our economy is growing again,” Mr. Obama told an audience of several hundred workers in a cavernous — and expanding — pipe-making plant, citing four months of job growth…. “If the ‘just say no’ crowd had won out,” he said, “if we had done things the way they wanted to go, we’d be in a deeper world of hurt than we are right now.”… – NYT, 5-19-10
- Citing Affair, Congressman Souder Resigns: Representative Mark Souder, a conservative Indiana Republican, said Tuesday that he was resigning as of Friday after having an extramarital affair with a staff member in his district office, as events continued to roil the midterm election landscape. “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff,” Mr. Souder said in a statement. “In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain. I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process.” … – NYT, 5-18-10
HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS
- Thomas Schwartz: Up from the deep sea: a nightmare for Obama: Presidential historian Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University professor, said presidencies are often defined by the crises encountered. He said the oil spill could prove to be a defining crisis but he cautioned against comparing the leak to Katrina, for instance. “This one has been slowly developing and could have those qualities, but if BP were to suddenly get it capped, things could be defused very quickly. The air could go out of the balloon,” Schwartz said. Reuters, 5-27-10
- The end of the Specter era: Something seems off-kilter in Philadelphia… After five decades as a towering figure in the public life of his city, state, and nation, Sen. Arlen Specter is in the strange position of counting the days until the likely end of his political career…. “He’s one of the most complicated people in public life today,” said Randall Miller, a political historian at St. Joseph’s University. “He defies easy characterization. For that matter, he defies political science. . . . He just doesn’t do what you expect him to do.”… – Philadelphia Inquirer, 5-19-10
- Julian E. Zelizer Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton: Those kinds of comments are always a problem for Gingrich. The former speaker, an intelligent and sometimes highly effective politician, often can’t help himself in making these kind of statements. If Gingrich wants to make a run he has to demonstrate that he can be a disciplined leader. While he might want to appeal to the tea party movement, it is a mistake to adopt their rhetoric. That will alienate many suburban voters not win them over. Republicans are looking for a serious candidate who looks like someone with big ideas and who can govern. They don’t need someone who imitates Joe the Plumber. – Politico Arena, 5-21-10