Political Highlights, January 10, 2011: 112th Congress Sworn-in — Obama Chooses Bill Daley as Chief of Staff — Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Shot in Assassination Attempt

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 112TH CONGRESS:


The President talks with AZ Gov. Jan Brewer on the shootings, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 1/8/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Gallup Poll: U.S. split on health care law repeal: Forty-six percent of those surveyed Tuesday and Wednesday say they want their representative to vote for repeal; 40% want the law to stand. Nearly eight of 10 Republicans support repeal. In contrast, about two-thirds of Democrats want the law to stay in effect. Independents are inclined to support repeal, but by a margin too small to be statistically significant…. – USA Today, 1-7-11
  • Factbox: Basic provisions and timeline for health law: More parts of the sweeping healthcare law passed in March 2010 take effect this month just as Republicans take over the House of Representatives vowing to dismantle the bill. Any changes would require support from both the House and the Democrat-controlled Senate as well as President Barack Obama, who made the healthcare law a top domestic goal. The law aims to expand healthcare insurance to roughly 30 million Americans and imposes a host of new industry rules and taxes…. – Reuters, 1-7-11
  • Obama Gets Modest Lame-Duck Poll Bump: Did President Obama get a bump in the polls after the successes of the congressional lame-duck session? While only a handful of pollsters have updated their job-approval numbers since the holidays, those who have seem to be showing movement in Obama’s favor, though the change is slight and may be fleeting. The question came up earlier this week when Obama’s approval percentage in Gallup’s daily tracking rose to 50 percent for the first time since June. His approval ratings have been “in the mid-40% range” since last Summer, as Gallup reported on Monday. Over the last three days, Obama’s approval rating has fallen slightly back to 48 percent. However, the average of the three non-overlapping samples released by Gallup since Dec. 22 give Obama an average rating of 47.3 percent, roughly two points higher than earlier in December (45.4 percent), and slightly better still than in November (45.0 percent) and October (44.8 percent). While a two-point difference is small, given the large numbers of interviews available from the pooled sample (roughly 4,500 since Dec. 22, more than 10,000 earlier in the month), these small differences are statistically meaningful…. – Huff Post, 1-6-11
  • Boehner pledges an open ‘people’s House’, 112th Congress Commences — Minute by Minute Analysis: Speaker John Boehner today ushered in a new era for the House of Representatives, pledging his Republican Party will lead with humility and be “honest, accountable and responsive” to the American people.
    Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi transferred power and the speaker’s gavel to Boehner, who leads a House with 242 Republicans aiming to overturn some of President Obama’s domestic achievements, including the nation’s sweeping health care law.
    “This is the people’s House. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us,” Boehner said. “What they want is a government that is honest, accountable and responsive to their needs — a government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage, and bows before the public it serves.”
    Boehner gave a nod to the partisanship that has divided the House, noting “a great deal of scar tissue” has been built up. He urged lawmakers to “disagree without being disagreeable” and to keep their eyes on common goals…. – USA Today, 1-5-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Obama welcomes vote on Southern Sudan independence: US President Barack Obama has hailed the start of a landmark referendum on independence in Southern Sudan. He said the week-long vote – which is expected to result in Africa’s largest country being split in two – represented a “new chapter in history”. The poll was agreed as part of the 2005 deal that ended a two-decade civil war. The mainly Muslim north has promised to allow the potential new country, where most people are Christian or animists, to secede peacefully.
    Mr Obama said in a statement: “After 50 years of civil wars that have killed two million people and turned millions more into refugees this is the opportunity before the people of Southern Sudan.” He added that the action of Sudanese leaders would help determine whether Sudanese people move “toward peace and prosperity, or slide backward into bloodshed”…. – BBC, 1-10-11
  • Obama Orders U.S. Flags Lowered, Moment Of Silence For Tucson: President Obama ordered all U.S. flags on government buildings and properties lowered to half mast out of respect for the victims of Saturday’s shootings in Tucson.
    The White House also called for the observance of a moment of silence at 11 am EST Monday, “to honor the innocent victims of the senseless tragedy in Tucson, Arizona, including those still fighting for their lives.”
    The White House also postponed a planned trip to Schenectady, NY Tuesday in which the president was to highlight his administration’s efforts to create the enhance the climate for job creation. White House officials hoped to reschedule the trip.
    The move by Obama and his aides to place on hold some of their plans for the week followed the announcement by the House leadership that they were postponing a vote to repeal the health care law and other business in response to the shootings…. – AP, 1-9-11
  • U.S. sees evidence of assassination plot: Federal authorities filed murder charges Sunday against 22-year-old Jared Loughner, as new evidence suggested the alleged gunman in Saturday’s rampage had fixated on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) while his mental health deteriorated…. – WaPo, 1-9-11
  • Clinton Tries to Keep Gulf From Easing Iran Sanctions: The Obama administration is working to keep up the pressure on Iran from its neighbors in the Persian Gulf, despite new reports suggesting that a combination of sanctions and sabotage may have delayed by several years Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb.
    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, arriving in this Arab emirate Sunday for a four-day visit to the region, urged Iran’s neighbors to stay focused on enforcing sanctions. Many Persian Gulf states have curtailed their commercial ties with Iran, and Mrs. Clinton said she did not want these reports to be used as a justification for them to backtrack.
    “We don’t want anyone to be misled by anyone’s intelligence analysis — this remains a serious concern,” Mrs. Clinton said to reporters traveling with her. “We expect all of our partners who share that concern, as these countries certainly do, to stay as focused as they can, and to do everything within reason that will help to implement these sanctions.”… – NYT, 1-9-11
  • ‘Sarah Palin’s Alaska’: Will Palin be a one-termer on TLC?: Sarah Palin and Todd Palin on Sarah Palin’s Alaska The finale of “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” on Sunday might be the former governor’s last episode. Unless, of course, it isn’t. That Palin’s show would be a one-termer was reported by Entertainment Weekly on Friday, the day before a mass shooting at a Rep. Gabrielle Giffords event in Arizona. The shooting claimed six lives, including those of a federal judge and a little girl born on Sept. 11, 2001, and left the Democratic congresswoman recovering from brain surgery after a bullet passed through her brain. Various bloggers and news outlets on Saturday linked Palin and a 10-month-old “crosshairs” campaign graphic to the shooting, despite no immediate indications that suspect Jared Loughner had any connection with Palin, the “tea party,” the GOP or the crosshairs map. Loughner, who had attended another Giffords event in 2007, left an envelope at his home with the words “I planned ahead,” “my assassination” and “Giffords,” according to the FBI’s criminal complaint. Fellow students’ concerns about Loughner being a disjointed, disturbing presence in a junior college algebra class went public Sunday.
    “On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice,” Palin said Saturday via Facebook, offering condolences to those hurt and killed in the shooting.
    “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” was “always planned as a special event and beyond that there have been no discussions or decisions,” a source told People on Sunday…. – LAT, 1-9-11
  • House to Vote on Bill to Repeal Health-Care Law: Health-Care Debate: The Republican-controlled House is expected to vote Wednesday on a bill to repeal the health-care law. But the measure is unlikely to be taken up by the Senate, where Democrats have a majority. WSJ, 1-8-11
  • Obama White House battles GOP health care bill repeal plan: It’s back to the future on the health care debate. Just as they did a year ago, the Obama White House and congressional Republicans are going at it over the health care bill — using speeches, interviews, blogs, and commissioned reports to argue over whether it produces or kills jobs, and increases or reduces the federal debt. The difference is that last year Obama prevailed and signed the bill into the law March 23; now the new House Republican is trying to repeal it, setting a vote for Wednesday.
    “At a time when we need to do everything in our power to encourage job creation, the health care law hangs around the necks of businesses small and large,” said House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, R-Va., in today’s Republican radio address.
    At this point, however, the debate is largely academic — while the Republican-run House is likely to vote for repeal, the Democratic Senate is unlikely to follow suit.
    But the health care debate will likely follow Obama for the rest of his presidency…. – USA Today, 1-8-11
  • Obama draws fighting critic of health care: President Obama has another fierce health care critic, and he’s quite an aggressive one: Mixed martial artist Jacob Volkmann. After winning a recent Ultimate Fighting Championship bout, Volkmann joked — we think — that he might like to fight Obama next.
    “He’s not too bright,” said Volkmann, a licensed chiropractor who is particularly critical of Obama’s health care bill. “Someone needs to knock some sense into that idiot.” Volkmann also said he’s not a fan of Republican stalwart Sarah Palin, it’s only that “I just don’t like what Barack is doing.” Joke or not, the Secret Service is obliged to take any physical threat to the president seriously — and Volkmann later reported he did receive a visit from an agent. USA Today, 1-8-11
  • Arizona Rep. Giffords shot, at least 5 killed: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head Saturday when an assailant opened fire outside a grocery store during a meeting with constituents, killing at least five people and wounding several others in a rampage that rattled the nation.
    Giffords was among at least 10 people wounded, and the hospital said her outlook was “optimistic” and that she was responding to commands from doctors despite having a bullet go through her head. The hospital said a 9-year-old child was among the dead, and a U.S. Marshal said a federal judge was also fatally shot in the attack.
    Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said an unspecified number of her staff members were injured in the shooting. Congressional officials said an aide to the Democrat was killed, and President Barack Obama said five people died in all. The reaction to the shooting was swift and rippled across the globe. Obama held a nationally televised news conference to express his condolences. The shooting cast a pall over Capitol as politicians of all stripes denounced the shooting as a horrific act of violence. Capitol police asked members of Congress to step up security in the wake of the shooting, and some politicians expressed hope that the killing spree serves as a wakeup call at a time when the political climate has become so emotionally charged.
    Police say the shooter was in custody, and was identified by people familiar with the investigation as Jared Loughner, 22. Pima County Sheriff’s officials said he used a pistol to carry out the shooting spree. U.S. officials who provided his name to the AP spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release it publicly…. – AP, 1-8-11
  • Fiery package in DC triggers memories of anthrax: Postal workers who returned to work Saturday said a package that ignited at a government mail facility conjured painful memories of the anthrax attacks that killed two of their colleagues in 2001. The fiery package found Friday, which was addressed to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, followed two packages that ignited Thursday in Maryland state government mailrooms. It halted government mail until bomb-sniffing dogs could sweep the D.C. facility. Mail processing resumed Saturday morning after a meeting with workers, the local postmaster and the workers’ union…. – AP, 1-8-11
  • How do you follow Gibbs’s show?: With the departure of Robert Gibbs, senior administration officials are expanding their search for a new White House press secretary to include a dangerous breed: working journalists. Advisers have been compiling a fairly predictable list of Democratic spokesmen who could assume the “podium job,” as it’s known. There are internal front-runners – Vice President Biden’s communications director, Jay Carney, and deputy press secretary Bill Burton are at the top of the list – and other candidates, including another deputy, Josh Earnest, whom Gibbs asked to be added for consideration. A more senior White House adviser, Stephanie Cutter, had been asked to apply but declined, and she is now involved in the search process. There are a number of external contenders, as well, including Democratic operative Karen Finney, a frequent paid television commentator.
    But further down the wish list that officials have compiled so far are some reporters, mainly ones who appear on television, people involved in the process said. Officials acknowledge it is a long shot that one of them will make the final cut: There are logistical considerations, such as contracts, and the all-important question of trust. But the mere fact that working journalists are being discussed for a job so visible is a sign of change within a White House that has typically been allergic to it…. – WaPo, 1-7-11
  • U.S. to offer more support to Pakistan: The Obama administration has decided to offer Pakistan more military, intelligence and economic support, and to intensify U.S. efforts to forge a regional peace, despite ongoing frustration that Pakistani officials are not doing enough to combat terrorist groups in the country’s tribal areas, officials said. The decision to double down on Pakistan represents the administration’s attempt to call the bluff of Pakistani officials who have long complained that the United States has failed to understand their security priorities or provide adequate support. That message will be delivered by Vice President Biden, who plans to travel to Pakistan next week for meetings with its military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, and top government leaders. Biden will challenge the Pakistanis to articulate their long-term strategy for the region and indicate exactly what assistance is needed for them to move against Taliban sanctuaries in areas bordering Afghanistan…. – WaPo, 1-7-11
  • Defense chief aims on China trip to build trust: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates heads to China next week looking to soothe strained ties with the People’s Liberation Army, but long-held policies feeding deep suspicion on both sides may undermine that goal. The visit from Sunday to Wednesday comes a week before Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit to Washington, creating diplomatic momentum that U.S. officials hope will allow Gates to make headway on sticky security issues….
    In some ways, Gates’ visit to China may be a result of that momentum. U.S. and Chinese military ties were suspended through most of 2010, as Beijing protested President Barack Obama’s proposed arms sale to Taiwan. His trip to China is the most visible demonstration that relations have normalized…. – Reuters, 1-7-11
  • Bernanke Sees Slow Drop in Unemployment Amid Recovery: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the unemployment rate will probably fall slowly even with a pickup in U.S. growth this year, signaling no change in the central bank’s monetary stimulus. At the pace of improvement projected by Fed officials, “it could take four to five more years for the job market to normalize fully,” Bernanke said today in testimony to the Senate Budget Committee. Bernanke also stepped up the urgency of his call for a plan to reduce the federal budget deficit, saying “prompt adoption” of one could have economic benefits in the long and short run.
    “It’s about what we expected,” Bernanke said of the jobs report during a question-and-answer period. “If we continue at this pace, we’re not going to see sustained declines in the unemployment rate.” His prepared testimony was submitted before the government data were released Bloomberg, 1-7-11
  • At Obama White House, Back to the Future: The president hailed William M. Daley first, describing him as a “man of rare effectiveness,” one who “embodies the values of hard work and fair play.”
    A bit later, the president heaped praise on Gene B. Sperling for his economic knowledge and his penchant for working all hours, with little sleep. “I rely on him heavily — on his knowledge and skill, his mind and his heart,” the president told reporters as he nominated Mr. Sperling to head the National Economic Council. “He certainly shows that the work ethic is alive and well in America.”
    It was December 1996. And the president was Bill Clinton, who was appointing both men to prominent posts in his administration. The back-to-the-future moment was caught by the C-Span cameras (see video below) to be watched almost 15 years later as history repeated itself. On Thursday, President Obama stood on a stage and introduced Mr. Daley as the new White House chief of staff. Mr. Obama hailed his “tremendous experience, his strong values and his forward-looking vision.”… – NYT, 1-8-11
  • Obama chooses William Daley as chief of staff: President Barack Obama named veteran political manager William Daley to be his new chief of staff Thursday, selecting a centrist with Wall Street ties to help navigate a newly divided Congress and a looming re-election.
    “Few Americans can boast the breadth of experience that Bill brings to this job,” Obama told reporters in the East Room as Daley, 62, stood at his side.
    “But most of all, I know Bill to be somebody who cares deeply about this country, believes in its promise, and considers no calling higher and more important than serving the American people,” the president said.
    The appointment represented the most significant move in a far-reaching and ongoing staff shakeup that included the departure of Obama’s press secretary and several key deputies and economic advisers. It came the day after Republicans officially assumed control of the House and increased their numbers in the Senate…. – AP, 1-6-11
  • Business Background Defines Chief of Staff: He is a top executive at JPMorgan Chase, where he is paid as much as $5 million a year and supervises the Washington lobbying efforts for the nation’s second-largest bank. William M. Daley also serves on the board of directors at Boeing, the giant defense contractor, and Abbott Laboratories, the global drug company, which has billions of dollars at stake in the overhaul of the health care system. And now, Mr. Daley, a longtime Illinois political operative, will hold one of the most powerful jobs in Washington: chief of staff in the White House, where he will help decide who gets access to the Oval Office and what President Obama’s Capitol Hill agenda should be. The recruitment of Mr. Daley to Pennsylvania Avenue from the corporate board room is seen as a savvy step by some in Washington, who argue that Mr. Obama has long needed a White House confidant who has the ear of the business community and a record of bipartisanship that might help the president negotiate with Republicans on Capitol Hill…. – NYT, 1-6-11
  • In Daley, Obama gets change, not continuity President Obama has selected former Commerce Secretary William Daley as his new Chief of Staff: By all outward appearances, the appointment of William Daley on Thursday as White House chief of staff is a total inside job. In reality, it’s anything but, signaling another significant step in the post-election evolution of President Obama.
    The chain of events reads like this: Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announces he will not run for reelection. Rahm Emanuel resigns as White House chief of staff to run for Daley’s job. Obama picks Daley’s younger brother, Bill, to succeed Emanuel. Neat and tidy. One Chicagoan for another. All in the family.
    In fact, in tapping Daley, Obama has begun to reach outside his comfort zone. Although he and Daley have known each other for years, they have not had a close relationship. Daley may have been an occasional resource for advice but hardly the kind of confidant that Obama’s other Chicago advisers – Emanuel, David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett – have been. Daley has had a far longer relationship with Vice President Biden than with the president.
    In a White House where most of the top jobs have been held by people who went through the fires of the election with Obama, Daley’s arrival can provide a circuit breaker to normal operations. All White Houses are insular, and Obama’s has been no exception. Although the president and Daley share a Chicago connection, Daley is clearly an outsider to Obama’s world and therefore someone who can see the presidency and the operation with fresh eyes…. – WaPo, 1-6-11
  • Obama names new chief of staff, drawing outcries from the left: Overhauling his team at the top, President Obama named banker and seasoned political fighter William Daley as his new chief of staff yesterday, hoping to rejuvenate both a White House storming into reelection mode and an economy trying to maintain growth. The choice of Daley immediately brought protest from the left flank of the Democratic Party, where advocates questioned his insider ties to Wall Street. Centrists and business leaders rallied around the move, one that underscored just how much and how fast the face of the White House is changing. Obama, whose hopes for a second term will be shaped largely by how the economy does, immediately linked Daley’s appointment to that task. For the most influential staff job in American politics, Obama chose a fellow Chicagoan and former Cabinet secretary who has run both companies and campaigns. “I’m convinced that he’ll help us in our mission of growing our economy,” an upbeat Obama said in a White House ceremony as Daley stood to one side. On the other side of the president was Pete Rouse, the interim chief of staff who oversaw a busy three months but did not want to stay in the job. Said Daley to his new boss: “This team will not let you down, nor the nation.”… – AP, 1-6-11
  • Daley choice puts a moderate in play: President Obama’s choice of Chicago business executive William Daley to run his White House operation is the clearest sign yet that he intends to move toward the political center as he approaches a likely 2012 re-election campaign, members of both parties say. Daley’s appointment Thursday follows several other efforts by Obama to work with Republicans after what the president described as a “shellacking” in the November midterm elections. He agreed to continue all of George W. Bush’s tax cuts for two years and helped persuade 13 Republicans to back a new strategic arms agreement with Russia. Obama also made clear he intends to woo Republican leaders personally, perhaps with an invitation to Camp David. His State of the Union address this month is likely to call for budget austerity and free trade agreements.
    “I’ve always thought Obama had moderate instincts. I hope Daley will bring them out,” says Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., a leader among centrist “Blue Dog” Democrats in Congress. “Daley knows business, he understands business, he lives business. And those qualities have been sorely lacking in this administration.”
    The direction Obama took with his choice was clear from the reaction: Republicans were pleasantly surprised. Liberal Democrats were disappointed…. – USA Today, 1-7-11
  • Gates Proposes Troop Cuts, $78 Billion Budget Reduction by 2016: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates today laid out a $553 billion budget for fiscal 2012, along with a five-year military spending plan that will cut the number of troops, cancel programs and move money saved from those measures into current and new weapons.
    “We must come to realize that not every defense program is necessary, not every defense dollar is sacred and well- spent,” Gates said at a Pentagon news conference. “And that more of nearly everything is simply not sustainable.”… – Bloomberg, 1-6-11
  • Ex-CIA officer charged with giving reporter secrets: A former CIA officer was arrested on Thursday on charges of illegally disclosing national defense information about Iran to a New York Times reporter who wrote a book. The U.S. Justice Department said Jeffrey Sterling, 43, was charged with six counts of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and one count of unlawfully keeping national defense information, mail fraud, unauthorized conveyance of government property and obstructing justice. The arrest marked the latest case brought by the Obama administration charging current or former U.S. officials with leaking classified information to the news media…. – Reuters, 1-6-11
  • Boehner Takes Gavel in House With Pledge to Bring Change: The new speaker of the House, John Boehner, promised a new era of transparency in lawmaking on Wednesday, but he also pledged to aggressively push forward the conservative agenda that swept his party into power. A roll-call vote of the chamber’s 435 members ended the way the results of November’s election determined that it would: with more votes for Mr. Boehner than for the Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, making him speaker.
    In remarks after taking the gavel from Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Boehner described himself as humbled, and said that the changes he envisions would restore trust to “the people’s House.”
    “We will honor our Pledge to America, built through a process of listening to the people, and we will stand firm on our Constitutional principles that built our party, and built a great nation,” said Mr. Boehner, now second in line of succession to the presidency. “We will do these things, however, in a manner that restores and respects the time-honored right of the minority to an honest debate — a fair and open process.”… – NYT, 1-5-11
  • Gibbs Leaving Post as Obama’s Press Secretary to Help With Re-Election Bid: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he is stepping down to become an outside political adviser to President Barack Obama and help with his re-election campaign. Gibbs, 39, who has worked with Obama since 2004, said today he intends to leave sometime next month. The choice of a successor hasn’t been made, he said.
    “There’s no doubt this is a tough place to work,” Gibbs said. “It’s time to take a little break.”
    Obama called Gibbs “a close friend, one of my closest advisers and an effective advocate” for the administration. In a statement, he said Gibbs will continue to play an important role as part of his team of advisers.
    Among the candidates Obama is considering to be the next press secretary are Jay Carney, a spokesman for Vice President Joe Biden, as well as Bill Burton and Josh Earnest, who have served as deputies to Gibbs since the campaign, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision has been made…. – Bloomberg, 1-5-11
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo talks ‘change’ but not budget cuts: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told state leaders simply that it was ‘time for New York to change’ in his first State of the State speech. He faces daunting budget, education, and oversight issues…. – CS Monitor, 1-5-11
  • House GOP challenges Obama to join them: On the brink of power, House Republicans challenged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to join them in a drive to cut federal spending, ban earmarks for favored projects and overhaul the nation’s tax code. At the same time, incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., conceded the new GOP majority intends to bypass its own new rules when it votes next week to wipe out the health care law approved by Democrats in 2010. “We just need to repeal it,” Cantor said of the effort to fulfill one of the party’s main campaign promises from last fall. Republicans, their ranks expanded by tea party-backed freshmen, take control of the House when the 112th Congress convenes at noon on Wednesday. One of the first orders of business will be the election of Ohio Republican John Boehner as speaker, replacing Democrat Nancy Pelosi…. – AP, 1-4-11
  • Obama’s shave ice order: A sign of bipartisanship?: Does the president’s flexibility on shave ice flavors show an openness to compromise as the Republicans take control of the House?… – CS Monitor, 1-4-11
  • Both sides prepare to battle over repeal of health-care law: As Congress members prepare to fight anew over the federal law overhauling the health-care system, activists on both sides of the issue are gearing up for a sequel to last year’s raucous debate. Supporters of the law have begun planning protests, petitions and phone calls to block repeal. Its opponents are cheering efforts to dismantle the measure, which House GOP leaders have said they will put up for a vote on Jan. 12.
    The strategies that are emerging could set up a grass-roots battle that rivals the shouting town halls and Capitol Hill marches that made headlines before the law was passed…. – WaPo, 1-4-11
  • NYC officials to probe response to last week’s blizzard: Officials in New York said Tuesday they are looking into what happened to cleanup efforts during last week’s monster blizzard. The New York City Department of Sanitation has drawn sharp criticism since the storm that blanketed much of the Northeast. Workers there have been accused of deliberately slowing down the response in retaliation for the city’s belt-tightening measures…. – CNN, 1-4-11
  • Prop. 8 gay marriage case takes detour to California Supreme Court: Do gay couples have a constitutional right to marry? A US appeals court withholds judgment, instead asking California’s Supreme Court to resolve whether Prop. 8 backers have legal standing to defend the gay marriage ban…. – CS Monitor, 1-4-11
  • Sacked Navy captain once had a bright future: Navy Capt. Owen Honors was an officer with a bright future, a hotshot fighter jock who rose to become commander of one of the most storied ships in the fleet, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. His undoing was a sense of humor that seemed a throwback to the Navy’s raucous, macho Tailhook days nearly two decades ago.
    Honors, 49, was sacked as commander of the Enterprise on Tuesday for what the Navy called a “profound lack of good judgment and professionalism” in making and showing to his crew raunchy comic videos three or four years ago. In the videos, Honors used gay slurs and pantomimed masturbation. Once on track to be an admiral, Honors has been reassigned to administrative duties. Military experts said his career is probably over…. – AP, 1-4-11
  • Democrats Hunting for Vulnerable Republicans to Shoot Down in 2012: Democrats are sharpening their swords ahead of the next congressional session, looking to target vulnerable Republicans who could either be picked off in 2012 or at least caricatured so that they become liabilities for their party. Basically, it’s payback time.
    After Republicans routed Democrats in November by ousting moderates in GOP-friendly territory and turning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi into political kryptonite for her caucus, the election losers are mapping a strategy to reverse the tide in two years. They want to halt in their tracks GOP ambitions to build an absolute majority on Capitol Hill over the course of two elections…. – Fox News, 1-3-11
  • Democrats Plan Push to Curtail Use of Filibusters: A band of Senate Democrats signaled on Monday that it would press forward when Congress convenes this week with a proposal to curtail filibusters and other methods of slowing the chamber’s work, but a bit of procedural sleight-of- hand could delay any floor fight over the contentious rules changes until later in January.
    Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, said that he intended to call for new limits on filibusters that would require senators to be on the floor if they seek to derail legislation. He and other Democrats, frustrated at Republicans’ ability to tie up the Senate, want to make it harder to erect other procedural obstacles as well.
    Citing the Constitution and prior Senate rulings, Mr. Udall has argued that senators have the ability to change the chamber’s rules by a majority vote on the first day of the new Congress, which for the 112th Congress begins at noon Wednesday.
    “I am intending on offering my constitutional option on the first day,” Mr. Udall said in a telephone interview as he prepared to return to Capitol Hill…. – NYT, 1-3-11
  • Steele pleads for new term; challengers say no way: GOP Chairman Michael Steele defended his rocky two-year tenure anew Monday and asked for another term, boiling his re-election pitch down to this: “My record stands for itself. We won.” The embattled Republican National Committee chief was referring to coast-to-coast GOP victories that included winning control of the House. Still, as he debated four challengers ahead of next week’s balloting by the 168-member panel, Steele added: “We can do more and we will do it better” and “the opportunity for all of us now is to go forward to continue to build on the successes that we’ve had.”
    Pressing for change and claiming fiscal mismanagement, Steele’s opponents were unified in saying that fundraising ahead of the 2012 presidential election must be the primary focus of the next chairman in the wake of debt as high as $20 million. They also said the party leader must lure back to the RNC deep-pocketed donors who supported independent organizations out of a concern that Steele would misappropriate their money.
    It was the second debate of the race, though the first that Steele attended. The brash former lieutenant governor of Maryland who won the chairmanship two years ago shocked many in Washington last month, including some of his closest aides, when he announced that he would seek a second two-year term after a first riddled with financial woes and verbal missteps that irked many GOP veterans…. – WSJ, 1-3-11
  • Jerry Brown’s California: Five big changes from 1975 to 2011: Once California’s youngest governor, Jerry Brown reprises his role as the state’s chief executive starting Monday, now as the oldest person elected to that office. Then, as now, Brown replaced a Hollywood actor-gone-governor – Ronald Reagan in 1975 and Arnold Schwarzenegger now – and the top issue was high unemployment amid a sagging economy. Here’s a look at California and Brown then and now…. – CS Monitor, 1-3-11
  • Obama signs health bill for 9/11 responders: US President Barack Obama signed into law Sunday a bill to compensate emergency responders sickened in the rubble of the September 11 attacks, the White House said in a statement. The president is currently in Hawaii, where he spent the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and was expected back in Washington on Tuesday. He had been due to sign the bill at the Kaneohe Marine base near his vacation home.
    The US Congress on December 22 approved a 10-year, four-billion-dollar program to help police, firefighters and other workers made ill by the fumes left in the wake of the worst terrorist attack on US soil. The Senate and then the House of Representatives passed the measure after a last-minute compromise ended a Republican blockade in one of the final acts of the Democrat-led US Congress…. – AFP, 1-2-11
  • Obama Signs Bill to Help 9/11 Workers: President Obama took time out of his Hawaiian vacation on Sunday to sign into law one of the surprise accomplishments of the lame-duck Congress: a measure covering the cost of medical care for rescue workers and others sickened by toxic fumes and dust after the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
    To become law, the bill required Mr. Obama’s signature before he returned to Washington on Tuesday, so he signed it at his rented vacation home in the town of Kailua, near Honolulu. There was no signing ceremony, as there would probably have been had the president been at the White House. Instead, Mr. Obama’s official photographer recorded the moment, and the White House said it would release a picture.
    The $4.3 billion bill became a major point of contention in the waning days of the Congressional session. Republican senators blocked a more expensive House version, and as it appeared that the measure was going to die, the comedian Jon Stewart took up the cause, using his Comedy Central television program to advocate passage. Ultimately, the Senate approved the less expensive measure; the House quickly followed suit and sent the bill to the president…. – NYT, 1-2-11
  • Obama aide: Don’t ‘play chicken’ with debt ceiling: Some Republican lawmakers said Sunday opposed raising the ceiling on the nation’s debt without tackling government spending, and President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser warned against “playing chicken” on the issue….
    Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said that refusing to raise the debt ceiling would essentially push the country into defaulting on its financial obligations for the first time in its history.
    “The impact on the economy would be catastrophic,” Goolsbee told “This Week” on ABC. “That would be a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008.” Goolsbee added: “I don’t see why anybody’s talking about playing chicken with the debt ceiling.”… – AP, 1-2-11
  • Vincent Gray inaugurated as D.C. mayor: Vincent Gray is sworn in as the District’s mayor, becoming the sixth person to hold the position. Vincent C. Gray, who won election on a pledge to unite the city and to usher in a more collaborative District government, was sworn in as mayor Sunday in a ceremony at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center that drew more than 70 dignitaries and hundreds of other guests.
    In an inaugural speech that quoted four presidents, Gray, a 68-year-old widowed grandfather, tried to motivate the city’s residents to work with him over the next four years to reform public education, lower the unemployment and crime rates, bring transparency to city finances and achieve statehood for the nation’s capital. He put a twist on his campaign theme of “One City” and repeatedly called the District “Our City.”… – WaPo, 1-2-11
  • Arizona town buzzing over Palin’s purchase: Bristol Palin buys a five-bedroom house on the edge of Maricopa, Ariz. Locals wonder whether it’s a sign of a housing market rebound in the sleepy Phoenix suburb.
    No one here really knows why she bought a five-bedroom house in a sprawling subdivision, or if she even intends to live in it. But, already, Bristol Palin’s real estate acquisition has residents in one hard-hit desert neighborhood chatting about their hopes for a housing market rebound…. – LAT, 1-2-11
  • US Navy to probe lewd videos shown to carrier crew: A top officer aboard a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier broadcast to his crew a series of profanity-laced comedy sketches in which he uses gay slurs, mimics masturbation and opens the shower curtain on women pretending to bathe together, a newspaper reported.
    The Virginian-Pilot reported in its Sunday editions that Capt. Owen Honors appeared in the videos in 2006 and 2007 while he was the USS Enterprise’s second-ranking officer, and showed them across the ship on closed-circuit television. He took over as the ship’s commander in May. The Navy said it plans to investigate the videos, which it called “clearly inappropriate.”
    “The videos were intended to be humorous skits focusing the crew’s attention on specific issues such as port visits, traffic safety, water conservation, ship cleanliness, etc.,” the Navy said in a statement to the newspaper…. – AP, 1-2-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • House hearing Thursday over ousting NH lawmaker: Republicans will attempt to show Thursday why a New Hampshire lawmaker should forfeit his seat because he works for the Democratic Party. A House Legislative Administration elections subcommittee is holding a hearing into a complaint that Manchester Rep. Mike Brunelle violated the constitution by filing legislation that furthers his party’s agenda. Brunelle denies the allegation and says he has filed no bills that benefit his party…. – Boston Globe, 1-9-11
  • Reid doubts McConnell is focused on Obama’s defeat: Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says he doesn’t think top Republican Mitch McConnell is serious when he says his No. 1 goal is to make Barack Obama a one-term president. Reid, D-Nev., says he believes McConnell, R-Ky., is more concerned with the economy, immigration and other problems facing the country…. – AP, 1-9-11
  • McConnell Assumes Kennedy’s Old Suite At Capitol Rand Paul Housed In Temporary Office: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving into the office suites of his longtime office neighbor and political opposite, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. The Kentucky Republican’s offices are moving into Kennedy’s old suite in the Russell Senate Office Building by spring…. – WLKY, 1-9-11
  • House Democrats Rapidly Unleash Sharp Attacks: After four years of harassment by an aggressive Republican minority, House Democrats evidently absorbed a lesson along with all those political blows: the route back to Congressional power is paved with frontal assaults on the practices and policies of the majority.
    In the opening days of the 112th Congress, members of the new Democratic minority have been unrelenting in their attacks on the way Republicans have begun their reign. Via news conferences, Web videos, floor speeches, media appearances and a steady stream of critical statements and e-mails, Democrats have accused the new regime of ignoring the deficit implications of repealing the new health care law, breaking promises to run a more open House and, for good measure, letting lawmakers who were not sworn in cast votes.
    House Democrats would obviously prefer to still be in charge. But falling from power — and relinquishing the responsibility of running the House — has freed them to unleash the same kind of attacks that Republicans and their allies so effectively employed against Democrats, particularly over the last two years…. – NYT, 1-8-11
  • House Clears Way for Floor Vote on Health Care Law Repeal: The House of Representatives has cleared the way to hold a vote next week on repealing the health care overhaul, while at the same time dealing with a parliamentary snag over the credentials of two GOP lawmakers. In a test vote Friday, the House formally approved the rules for debate on the health law repeal. The procedural measure passed largely along party lines on a 236-181 vote.
    “Today we are taking the first step in fulfilling a key promise to the American people,” said Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., who led the GOP side in the debate. “We are setting in motion a process to repeal President Obama’s job- killing health care bill and replace it with real solutions.”
    The move sets up a rhetorical battle ahead of a full vote in the House Wednesday. That vote is seen as largely symbolic, since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to block it in the Senate — and President Obama would surely veto anything of the sort that clears Congress…. – Fox News, 1-7-11
  • Health care law repeal: Why would it increase the deficit?: Health care reform, which the new Republican House leadership is pushing to repeal, includes cuts to government Medicare payments and increased taxes and fees.
    Why might that be the case? First off, it must be noted that Republicans think this is hooey. Getting rid of big government programs doesn’t cost money, they say. Five ways Republicans will change the House
    “I do not believe that repealing the job-killing health care law will increase the deficit,” said House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio on Thursday…. – CS Monitor, 1-7-11
  • U.S. Republican bid to scrap healthcare hits snag: Republican efforts to scrap President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform took a hit on Thursday when budget analysts said repeal would add billions of dollars to the federal budget deficit. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated overturning the reform signed by Obama last year would add about $230 billion to the deficit by 2021 and result in 32 million fewer people having health insurance. That was a blow to Republican campaign promises to slash the federal budget deficit…. – Reuters, 1-7-11
  • Democrats’ defection from Pelosi is historic: How divided are Democrats’ right now? With 19 Democrats withholding support from Nancy Pelosi for House speaker on Wednesday, it represented the largest defection from a party’s speaker nominee in nearly a century. The resistance in the Democratic Party to back now-former Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the ceremonial first vote of the 112th Congress registered higher than at any point since 1913, according to data from the Congressional Research Service. That year, which happens to be the last year for which records are available, featured 23 votes for Republicans other than that party’s speaker nominee. Of the 19 Democrats who didn’t support Pelosi on Wednesday, 18 voted for other Democrats and one voted “present.”… – WaPo, 1-6-11
  • Notable passages of Constitution left out of reading in the House: And on the second day of Republican rule, the House reads the Constitution. Volunteers gave voice to the seven articles and 27 amendments that make up the nation’s governing document on Thursday. Notable passages left out: (Text taken from the National Archives’ official Constitution site)…. – WaPo, 1-6-11
  • Historic Constitution reading comes with glitches: In a symbolic move by a new Republican majority, the people who make our laws read the document that is the foundation for our laws in its entirety in Congress. But like lawmaking itself, Thursday’s unprecedented reading of the U.S. Constitution by members of the House didn’t come without glitches — including some involving Georgians. Shortly after new Republican House Speaker John Boehner read the preamble and ousted speaker Nancy Pelosi read its first section, members were called up one by one to read parts of the government’s most important document…. – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1-6-11
  • House cuts its own budget by 5 percent: The Republican-controlled House voted Thursday to trim members’ office budgets by $35 million, a symbolic down payment on a promise to bring the budget deficit under control. That 5 percent cut is enough to keep the government running for about five minutes. With the bipartisan 410-13 vote, lawmakers said they were leading by example as they work to fulfill a promise to return most domestic accounts to the levels in effect before President Barack Obama took office…. – AP, 1-6-11
  • Analysis: Budget antics more theater than reality show: Hours after taking control of the House of Representatives, Republican lawmakers were already rolling back pledges to slash spending — a rollback that may actually be the best thing they can do for the economy. One giant-but-remote risk remains that the newly empowered Republicans, channeling voter angst over debt, will make good on threats to block the Treasury Department from issuing any more bonds once it hits a debt ceiling this spring.
    Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Thursday if Congress refused to lift the $14.3 trillion debt limit, it would be akin to default and “catastrophic” for the economy. But so far, in their first few hours of power, Republicans have eased concerns that their attempts to shrink the government — and a $1.3 trillion deficit — will inadvertently derail a still-vulnerable economic recovery….n- Reuters, 1-6-11
  • Geithner urges Congress to raise debt limit: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned congressional leaders Thursday that the government could reach its borrowing limit by spring and failure to raise it could affect millions of American jobs. Geithner’s warning is directed chiefly at Republicans, who are vowing to block an increase in the debt limit and use the fight to restrain government spending.
    House Speaker John Boehner said spending cuts and reforming a broken budget process must come first. Those are the top priorities for the new Republican majority in the House. “While America cannot default on its debt, we also cannot continue to borrow recklessly, dig ourselves deeper into this hole and mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren,” Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in a statement…. – AP, 1-6-11

ELECTIONS 2012….

  • Chicago mayoral candidates open campaign offices: The race for Chicago’s next mayor is heating up across the city. Two candidates vying to replace retiring Mayor Richard Daley are opening more campaign offices this weekend. Former Chicago School Board president Gery Chico opened five field offices on Saturday. His campaign’s headquarters are downtown. The new locations include offices in the city’s heavily Latino Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods. City Clerk Miguel del Valle opened an office on the city’s South Side on Saturday. His campaign’s headquarters are on the city’s West Side…. – Chicago Tribune, 1-9-11
  • Republican Pawlenty hints at 2012 presidential run: U.S. Republican Tim Pawlenty denounces “runaway spending” in Washington and blames the Obama administration for a mountain of debt in a new book that lays out his case for possibly running for president in 2012. Pawlenty’s “Courage to Stand” hits bookstores next week and comes as he gets closer to deciding whether to launch a bid for the Republican presidential nomination and the right to battle Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012.
    Pawlenty, just ending eight years as Minnesota governor, said some Republicans shared the blame for violating their conservative principles of fiscal responsibility. “But the fact is, the current administration, through the smoke-and-mirror effect of bailouts and big-government spending, has taken America’s future and leveraged it into a mountain of debt so large it’s nearly impossible for anyone to wrap their heads around,” he writes…. – Reuters, 1-7-11
  • Judge: Rahm Emanuel remains on Feb. 22 Chicago mayoral ballot: Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel meets the residency requirement to run for mayor of Chicago and will remain on the Feb. 22 ballot, a Cook County judge ruled Tuesday. In a ruling issued early Tuesday afternoon, Cook County Circuit Judge Mark Ballard upheld an earlier ruling by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners that Emanuel — despite having lived in Washington, D.C. for the past two years — is eligible to run. Emanuel doesn’t need to prove he had a “place to sleep” in Chicago to prove he “resided” here, Ballard wrote. Burt Odelson, the attorney who went to court seeking to oust Emanuel from the ballot, argued that because Emanuel rented his house out to Rob and Lori Halpin — unlike President Obama and senior advisor David Axelrod — he had no place to sleep in the city. Therefore, he fails to meet a state requirement that candidates for mayor “reside” in the city for a year prior to Election Day, Odelson said. Odelson even quoted Obama, who on his first trip back to Chicago said, “It’s good to be back home and to be able to sleep in my own bed.” “Mr. Emanuel couldn’t say that because Mr. Halpin was sleeping in his bed,” Odelson said. Chicago Sun-Times, 1-4-11
  • Obama to face challenge from his ambassador to China?: When President Obama tapped Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman in 2009 to be his ambassador to China, many of us figured that was the end of whatever plans Huntsman might have to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. We may have figured too soon. Huntsman, who recently bought a house in Washington, made comments to Newsweek magazine that suggest the political bug hasn’t been suppressed by his diplomatic work in Beijing.
    “You know, I’m really focused on what we’re doing in our current position,” Huntsman told Newsweek. “But we won’t do this forever, and I think we may have one final run left in our bones.”… – USA Today, 1-3-11
  • Gentry Collins: Critic of Steele Drops Bid to Replace Him: Gentry Collins, a former political director of the Republican National Committee who resigned in November after delivering a scathing condemnation of the party’s fund-raising practices, said Sunday that he was withdrawing his candidacy to succeed Michael Steele as chairman of the Republican Party.
    Mr. Collins announced his decision on Sunday evening in an e-mail to members of the Republican National Committee. He did not offer an endorsement of any of the five remaining candidates, who are scheduled to appear at a debate on Monday afternoon in Washington.
    “It is after much consideration and thought that I announce my withdrawal from the race for chairman of the R.N.C.,” Mr. Collins said in a statement. “I believe that there are several qualified candidates in the race for chairman, each of whom would do a fine job leading the committee through the 2012 election cycle.”…. – NYT, 1-2-11
  • No challenge to Obama in 2012 race: party leader: US President Barack Obama is unlikely to face a serious challenge in the 2012 White House race from within his party, the Democratic Party leader said Sunday. Obama, who became the first black president of the United States after defeating Republican rival John McCain in the November 2008 presidential election, is expected to run for a second term in office next year.
    “I think it’s very unlikely that the president is going to face any kind of a serious primary challenge within the Democratic Party,” party leader Tim Kaine said on CNN.
    “You can always get a fringe candidate or somebody to run. So, you know, could somebody throw in their name? Yes, it’s possible. But I think the likelihood of any serious challenge to the president is virtually nil.”… – AFP, 1-2-11
  • African-American leaders unite around Carol Moseley Braun for mayor ‘Ain’t no stopping us now,’ says former rival, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis: African-American political leaders rallied around former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun on Saturday as a unity candidate best qualified to be Chicago mayor, capping a holiday week of private negotiations that left her the only major black politician in the campaign. Flanked by prominent black elected officials who dropped out and endorsed her bid, Braun told a crowd at the weekly Rainbow/PUSH Coalition meeting on the South Side that she has “the most credentials and the most qualifications and experience of all of the candidates running” to replace retiring Mayor Richard Daley.
    “And so they just chose the most qualified candidate for the job,” said Braun, who made history as the nation’s first black female senator but dropped out of elected politics after losing her re-election bid in 1998…. – Chicago Tribune, 1-1-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address

hite House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 1/7/11

  • Statement by the President on Sudan: I am extremely pleased that polling has started for the Southern Sudan Referendum, and congratulate the people of Southern Sudan who are determining their own destiny. This is an historic step in the years-long process to fully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the civil war between north and south. The international community is united and determined to ensure that all parties in Sudan live up to their obligations. We know that there are those who may try to disrupt the voting. Voters must be allowed access to polling stations, and must be able to cast their ballots free from intimidation and coercion. All sides should refrain from inflammatory rhetoric or provocative actions that could raise tensions or prevent voters from expressing their will. Violence in the Abyei region should cease. And while a successful vote will be cause for celebration, an enormous amount of work remains to ensure the people of Sudan can live with security and dignity. The world will be watching in the coming days, and the United States will remain fully committed to helping the parties solve critical post-referendum issues regardless of the outcome of the vote. – WH, 1-9-11
  • Presidential Proclamation–Honoring the Victims of the Tragedy in Tucson, Arizona: As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on Saturday, January 8, 2011, in Tucson, Arizona, by the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, I hereby order that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half- staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, January 14, 2011. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same length of time at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.
    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
    ninth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth. – WH, 1-9-11
  • Gabrielle Giffords shooting stirs outpouring of concern and support: Leaders react to the shooting of the Arizona congresswoman. Obama: ‘We are going to get to the bottom of this, and we’re going to get through this.’…. – LAT, 1-8-11
  • President Obama: The President Speaks on the Shootings in Tucson: “We Are Going to Get to the Bottom of This, and We’re Going to Get Through This”: As many of you are aware, earlier today a number of people were shot in Tucson, Arizona, including several who were meeting at a supermarket with their congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. We are still assembling all the facts, but we know that Representative Giffords was one of the victims. She is currently at a hospital in the area, and she is battling for her life.
    We also know that at least five people lost their lives in this tragedy. Among them were a federal judge, John Roll, who has served America’s legal system for almost 40 years; and a young girl who was barely nine years old.
    I’ve spoken to Arizona governor Jan Brewer and offered the full resources of the federal government. A suspect is currently in custody, but we don’t yet know what provoked this unspeakable act. A comprehensive investigation is currently underway, and at my direction, Director Bob Mueller is en route to Arizona to help coordinate these efforts. I’ve also spoken to the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House.
    Gabby Giffords was a friend of mine. She is not only an extraordinary public servant, but she is also somebody who is warm and caring. She is well liked by her colleagues and well liked by her constituents. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is a Navy captain and one of America’s valiant astronauts.
    It’s not surprising that today Gabby was doing what she always does — listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors. That is the essence of what our democracy is all about. That is why this is more than a tragedy for those involved. It is a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our entire country.
    What Americans do at times of tragedy is to come together and support each other. So at this time I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping all the victims and their families, including Gabby, in our thoughts and prayers. Those who have been injured, we are rooting for them. And I know Gabby is as tough as they come, and I am hopeful that she’s going to pull through.
    Obviously our hearts go out to the family members of those who have been slain. We are going to get to the bottom of this, and we’re going to get through this. But in the meantime, I think all of us need to make sure that we’re offering our thoughts and prayers to those concerned. WH, 1-8-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Sarah Palin, On the tragedy in Arizona: My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona. On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice. -
  • Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz): “I am horrified by the violent attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and many other innocent people by a wicked person who has no sense of justice or compassion. I pray for Gabby and the other victims, and for the repose of the souls of the dead and comfort for their families. I beg our loving Creator to spare the lives of those who are still alive, heal them in body and spirit, and return them to their loved ones.
    Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law. – McCain Senate, 1-8-11
  • Weekly Address: President Obama Touts Benefits of Tax Cut Package to Take Place in the New Year Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery The White House January 08, 2011:
    …This incentive is part of the economic package I signed into law last month – a package that also includes a payroll tax cut that will mean $1,000 more this year for a typical family. In fact, 155 million workers will see larger paychecks this month as a result of this tax cut.
    Twelve million families will benefit from a $1,000 child tax credit and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit. Eight million students and families will continue to benefit from a $2,500 tuition tax credit to make college more affordable.
    And millions of entrepreneurs in big cities and small towns across the country will benefit not only from the business expensing plan I mentioned, but from additional tax cuts that will spur research and development.
    Independent experts have concluded that, taken together, this package of tax cuts will significantly accelerate the pace of our economic recovery, spurring additional jobs and growth.
    And that is our mission. That should be the focus, day in and day out, of our work in Washington in the coming months, as we wrestle with a challenging budget and long-term deficits. And I’m determined to work with everyone, Republicans and Democrats, to achieve that goal. What we can’t do is refight the battles of the past two years that distract us from the hard work of moving our economy forward. What we can’t do is engage in the kinds of symbolic battles that so often consume Washington while the rest of America waits for us to solve problems.
    The tax cuts and other progress we made in December were a much-needed departure from that pattern. Let’s build on that admirable example and do our part, here in Washington, so the doers, builders, and innovators in America can do their best in 2011 and beyond. – WH, 1-8-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Text Obama’s Remarks Introducing His New Chief of Staff: Following is a text of the remarks made on Thursday by President Obama and his newly selected chief of staff, William M. Daley, as released by the White House…. – NYT, 1-6-11
  • President Obama Announces Bill Daley as Chief of Staff: As part of that process, today I am proud to announce the appointment of an experienced public servant, a devoted patriot, my friend, fellow Chicagoan Bill Daley, to serve as my Chief of Staff. (Applause.)
    Few Americans can boast the breadth of experience that Bill brings to this job. He served as a member of President Clinton’s Cabinet as Commerce Secretary. He took on several other important duties over the years on behalf of our country. He’s led major corporations. He possesses a deep understanding of how jobs are created and how to grow our economy. And needless to say, Bill also has a smidgen of awareness of how our system of government and politics works. You might say it is a genetic trait. (Laughter.)
    But most of all, I know Bill to be somebody who cares deeply about this country, believes in its promise and considers no calling higher and more important than serving the American people. He will bring his tremendous experience, his strong values and forward-looking vision to this White House. I’m convinced that he’ll help us in our mission of growing our economy and moving America forward. And I very much look forward to working with Bill in the years to come…. – WH, 1-6-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Scalia: Women Don’t Have Constitutional Protection Against Discrimination: The equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not protect against discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation, according to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In a newly published interview in the legal magazine California Lawyer, Scalia said that while the Constitution does not disallow the passage of legislation outlawing such discrimination, it doesn’t itself outlaw that behavior…. – Huff Post, 1-3-11
  • Tim Kaine, DNC chair: Obama won’t ‘play mother may I?’ with GOP: “What we saw at the end of the 2010 in that lame duck session was dramatic accomplishments, the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell, the approval of the START Treaty, tax compromise going forward with additional stimulus, all those were done with some Republican votes,” said Kaine. “So if there are going to be members of the Republican party who are willing to reach out and work as the president reaches toward them, we’ll see some strong accomplishments. We’re also going to see this president not being afraid to be the chief executive of the American public asked him to be. He’s not going to play “mother may I?” with the Republicans. He’s going to govern, but if the Republicans are willing to work as they did at the end of that lame duck session, I think we will see productive efforts in a number of ways. There will be disagreements, surely, that’s part of the process, but there are many more areas where we can continue to agree and move forward.” – NECN, 1-2-11
  • Sarah Palin ‘some months’ away from any decision to seek presidency: But former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin says in an ABC interview she would be ‘in it to win it’ if she decides to enter the 2012 primary. Palin says polls showing she not may be the best Republican choice to beat Obama would not deter her. Sarah Palin says she’s still “some months” away from a decision about whether to seek the presidency in 2012, and that she won’t be deterred by polls showing that she may not be the Republican Party’s best candidate to beat President Obama.”We don’t need a fundamental transformation. We need a renewal and a restoration of what is good about America,” she “You know, other folks can jump in, and that kind of helps you get that lay of the land. But my decision won’t be made for some months still,” she said.
    “If I were to participate in that contested primary, I would be in it to win it,” she said.said. “That’s strong national defense. That’s free-market principles being allowed to be applied so that our private sector grows and prospers.”
    She accused Obama of “flip flopping” by embracing a compromise plan that would extend the George W. Bush-era tax rates. “He realized that, oh, yeah, the rich – 70% of the job creators are considered, I guess, the rich in this country — they will see an extension of the Bush tax cuts,” she said.
    “You can term it ‘compromise.’ I term it ‘flip-flop.’ I was thankful that he did, but it’s still not good enough.”
    In the last year Palin has limited her exposure to what she often derides as the “lamestream” media — traditional outlets like ABC — preferring to interact with the public through Facebook and Twitter, or in her capacity as a paid contributor to Fox News. Friday, she used Facebook to state her opposition to the new START treaty, another priority for Obama in the lame duck session of Congress.
    “Every word that I speak is scrutinized and ultimately, in some corners of the world, it gets mocked and ridiculed and spun into something that it is not,” she said. “There has been the temptation to kind of pull back a little bit and maybe not be as candid.” – LAT, 12-18-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • FRANK RICH: Let Obama’s Reagan Revolution Begin: …The present-day radicals donning Reagan drag, led by Sarah Palin, seem not to know, as Cannon writes, that their hero lurched “from excessive tax cuts to corrective tax increases disguised as tax reform” and “submitted eight unbalanced budgets to Congress in succession.” Reagan made no promise whatsoever of a balanced budget in the document that codified Reaganomics, his White House’s 281-page message to Congress in February 1981. The historian Gil Troy has calculated that spending on entitlement programs more than doubled on Reagan’s watch. America slid into debtor-nation status, and Americans “went from owing 16 cents for every dollar in national income in 1981” to owing 44 cents per dollar in 1988….
    At this point the speed of our own halting recovery is not in the president’s hands. The ability to remake his style of leadership still is. But that makeover can come only from him, not from old Clinton hands in a reshuffled West Wing. Without it, the miracle of his Christmas resurrection could be over by Easter. – NYT, 1-8-11
  • Obama’s Choice Of Daley Fits Mold For Embattled Presidents Bringing in an outside critic to run his operation might help change the narrative of the presidency: “He reflected the more moderate wing of the GOP that felt Reagan had gone too far in his budgetary policies that were busting the deficit,” Julian Zelizer, an expert on American political history and professor at Princeton University, wrote in an email. “In this case, the criticism [Baker had made of Reagan’s policies] was in some ways a positive for his later appointment as chief of staff since it signaled that Reagan had moderated his views by bringing in someone who held different perspectives into his inner circle.”
    “Clinton was turning to someone who was corporate, pragmatic, centrist—to signal his move to the center, and actually get there effectively,” says Gil Troy, an expert on the American presidency who teaches history at McGill University.
    “Daley is a Democratic centrist who believes that the center is where his party can thrive and win,” says Chester Pach, a history professor at Ohio University who has written histories of the Nixon, Reagan, and Lyndon Johnson presidencies. “It seems as if Obama has similar views. Maybe he’s come to that conclusion only since Nov. 2.” – Newsweek, 1-6-11
  • Gil Troy: Internal rivals could be Barack Obama’s downfall: While much of the discussion since U.S. President Barack Obama’s “shellacking” in the 2010 congressional midterm elections has focused on the Republican surge, Obama also should worry about his base. In the last 50 years, the only incumbent presidents who have lost their re-election bids first faced primary challenges for renomination. In short, Obama better worry about his own party before dealing with the Tea Party.
    Although in the age of modern communications the power of any incumbent is considerable, the American president’s powers are particularly formidable. By being both the head of state and head of government, in effect the king and the prime minister, the president can tap all kinds of non-partisan patriotic emotions while monopolizing the airwaves and using political muscle. During the Christmas season, for example, as the president hosts thousands of influential Americans in the White House, as he lights the national Christmas tree and calls for national unity, he serves as the high priest of America’s civic religion, transcending mundane partisan concerns.
    So it is difficult — and has always been wrenching — to fire a president. In the 20th century, only five incumbents lost re-election bids, and in the last half century, it occurred only three times. Each time it required a major crisis and a serious insurgency, whereby someone with purer ideological credentials from the president’s own party first weakened the incumbent before the general election….
    History is instructive not predictive. Still, it is hard to see how Obama could lose if the economy is booming and his party is united. And it is hard to see Obama winning if the economy remains depressed, Democrats are deeply divided, and Republicans find a candidate who is popular, credible and effective. – Toronto Star, 1-4-11
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