Political Highlights March 28, 2011: Obama’s Latin American Trip — Decides, Defines Libya Mission — Sarah Palin’s Israel Trip — Geraldine Ferraro, First Woman on Presidential Ticket, Dies

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 3/25/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Fox News Poll: Voters Approve President’s Decision to Resume Gitmo Tribunals: By a 51-25 percent margin, voters approve of the president’s recent reversal on his Gitmo policy, which restarts U.S. military tribunals for terrorist detainees held there. Nearly one voter in four has no opinion on the policy change (23 percent).
    A 56 percent majority of Republicans approves of the resumption of military tribunals at Gitmo, as do about half of independents (49 percent) and Democrats (48 percent).
    More than two-thirds of those considering themselves part of the Tea Party movement approve of the president’s policy reversal (67 percent)… – Fox News, 3-24-11
  • A third of Americans see Obama as an ‘indecisive’ military leader…as White House label Libya bombing ‘kinetic action': NATO agree tentative deal to take charge of Libya bombing
    One third think Obama ‘indecisive’ on military action
    White House refuse to use the word ‘war’
    79 per cent think U.S. should remove Gaddafi
    Only 7 per cent polled wanted ground troops deployed
    Poll comes day Obama was ‘locked out’ of White House… – Daily Mail UK, 3-24-11
  • Few Americans see Obama as strong military leader: Only 17 percent of Americans see President Barack Obama as a strong and decisive military leader, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the United States and its allies began bombing Libya. Nearly half of those polled view Obama as a cautious and consultative commander-in-chief and more than a third see him as indecisive in military matters…. – Reuters, 3-24-11

IN FOCUS

  • Wisconsin: Judge Again Halts Law Stripping Union Rights: A judge on Thursday halted Gov. Scott Walker’s plans — at least temporarily — to cut most public workers’ pay and strip them of most of their union rights. Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court issued a declaration stating in no uncertain terms that the collective bargaining law that led to weeks of protests had not taken effect, contradicting Republican arguments that it had because a state office published it online. Governor Walker, a Republican, said his administration would comply, despite misgivings…. – AP, 3-31-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • Obama defends Libya mission REGION IN TURMOIL He tells nation the U.S. has a ‘strategic interest’ in stopping Kadafi: President Obama told a skeptical American public that he ordered military action in Libya because circumstances allowed the U.S. and its allies to halt a humanitarian disaster, but he acknowledged that even a weakened Moammar Kadafi still may be a long way from leaving power.
    In his first address to the nation since launching cruise missiles and airstrikes 10 days ago, Obama on Monday cast doubt on the likelihood of U.S. military action in other Middle Eastern countries, where oppressed citizens have taken to the streets to demand reform. Under his leadership, he said, the United States would not act unilaterally, risking American lives and treasure as it did by launching the Iraq war in 2003…. – LAT, 3-29-11
  • Obama on Libya: ‘We have a responsibility to act': Vigorously defending American attacks in Libya, President Barack Obama declared Monday night that the United States intervened to prevent a slaughter of civilians that would have stained the world’s conscience and “been a betrayal of who we are” as Americans. Yet he ruled out targeting Moammar Gadhafi, warning that trying to oust him militarily would be a mistake as costly as the war in Iraq….
    “To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” Obama said. He spoke in a televised address to the nation, delivered in front of a respectful audience of military members and diplomats.
    “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different,” Obama said. “And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”… – AP, 3-28-11
  • Obama’s Speech Draws Praise, Questions, Criticism In Congress: U.S. President Barack Obama’s address to the nation about the rationale for an intervention in Libya drew an array of reactions at the U.S. Capitol, mixing pride with unease and reflecting the lack of a coherent position among either party over the military action.
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, Nev.) said that the U.S. had “stopped the deadly advance” of Col. Moammar Gadhafi towards Benghazi, the rebel capital, and would encourage “progress toward real change in Libya and throughout the Middle East.”… – WSJ, 3-28-11
  • McConnell: Obama needs to spell out U.S. role, costs in Libya: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he’ll listen to President Obama’s speech on Libya tonight for answers to these questions: When will the U.S. combat role in the operation end? What will its duration be and at what cost? What are U.S. national security interests in Libya? What is the long-term role for the United States in Libya?
    McConnell said “it was the limited nature of our combat role that encouraged me the president was acting” within his responsibilities as commander in chief. The Senate GOP leader praised Defense Secretary Robert Gates for his counsel as the situation in Libya worsened and said he hopes Obama has been taking that advice to heart…. – USA Today, 3-28-11
  • Potential GOP candidates scold Obama on Libya Newt Gingrich concedes he made conflicting remarks but is unrepentant: Likely Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich conceded Saturday that he made conflicting statements about U.S. involvement in Libya, but he blamed them on contradictions in President Obama’s policy. The former House speaker called for a no-fly zone early this month after Obama said that Moammar Kadafi “must leave.” Last week, Gingrich backtracked, saying he would not have intervened using U.S. and European forces.
    Addressing an audience of conservative activists, Gingrich explained that when he advocated the no-fly zone, he was merely “trying to follow Obama” and did not favor intervention. But once Obama said the Libyan dictator should go, Gingrich said, “he pitted the prestige and power of the United States against a dictator who’s been anti-American for over 40 years.”… – LAT, 3-27-11
  • Obama to lay out his case on Libya to nation: President Barack Obama will make his case for U.S. involvement in Libya to an anxious public Monday night, while officials offered assurances that military action there does not set a precedent for how the U.S. will handle similar uprisings throughout the Middle East. White House aides were reluctant to spell out details of Obama’s speech, set for 7:30 p.m. EDT Monday. However, deputy national security adviser Denis McDonough said the rationale Obama would lay out for involvement in Libya cannot be applied to escalating clashes between pro- and anti-government forces in Syria and elsewhere.
    “Obviously there are certain aspirations that are being voiced by each of these movements, but there’s no question that each of them is unique,” McDonough said. “We don’t get very hung up on this question of precedent.”… – AP, 3-28-11
  • US reducing naval firepower aimed at Gadhafi: In a sign of U.S. confidence that the weeklong assault on Libya has tamed Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, the Pentagon has reduced the amount of naval firepower arrayed against him, officials said Sunday. The move, not yet publicly announced, reinforces the White House message of a diminishing U.S. role — a central point in President Barack Obama’s national address Monday night on Libya. The White House booked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on three Sunday news shows to promote the administration’s case ahead of the speech.
    Yet Gates, asked whether the military operation might be over by year’s end, said, “I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that.”… – AP, 3-27-11
  • US reducing naval firepower aimed at Gadhafi: In a sign of U.S. confidence that the weeklong assault on Libya has tamed Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, the Pentagon has reduced the amount of naval firepower arrayed against him, officials said Sunday.
    The move, not yet publicly announced, reinforces the White House message of a diminishing U.S. role — a central point in President Barack Obama’s national address Monday night on Libya. The White House booked Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on three Sunday news shows to promote the administration’s case ahead of the speech.
    Yet Gates, asked whether the military operation might be over by year’s end, said, “I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that.”… – AP, 3-27-11
  • Obama says pressure increasing on Moammar Gadhafi: President Barack Obama says the pressure is increasing on Moammar Gadhafi as Libyans see that the U.S. stands “with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny. The Libyan leader “has lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address, aired one week after the U.S.-led military action began…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Air raids force Gadhafi retreat, rebels seize east: Libyan rebels clinched their hold on the east and seized back a key city on Saturday after decisive international airstrikes sent Moammar Gadhafi’s forces into retreat, shedding their uniforms and ammunition as they fled. Ajdabiya’s initial loss to Gadhafi may have ultimately been what saved the rebels from imminent defeat, propelling the U.S. and its allies to swiftly pull together the air campaign now crippling Gadhafi’s military. Its recapture gives President Barack Obama a tangible victory just as he faces criticism for bringing the United States into yet another war… – AP, 3-26-11
  • US considers more firepower to hit Gadhafi forces: Even after a week of U.S.-led air strikes, forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi are a potent threat to civilians, say Pentagon officials who are considering expanding the firepower and airborne surveillance systems in the military campaign.
    “Every day, the pressure on Gadhafi and his regime is increasing,” President Barack Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, aired just after Libyan rebels regained control of the eastern city of Ajdabiya. It was the first major turnaround in an uprising that once appeared on the verge of defeat.
    Obama also readied for a speech to the nation Monday evening to explain his decision-making on Libya to a public weary of a decade of war… – AP, 3-26-11
  • Obama to address nation on Monday about Libya: To a nation and a Congress seeking answers, President Barack Obama on Monday will offer his most expansive explanation of the U.S. role in the Libyan war, delivering a speech that is expected to cover the path ahead and his rationale about the appropriate use of force.
    Obama’s 7:30 p.m. EDT speech, to be given from the National Defense University in Washington, comes as leading Republican lawmakers and some from his own party have pressed him for clarity about the goals and exit strategy of the United States. Obama and top U.S. security officials spent about an hour talking to lawmakers on Friday, with the president answering direct questions from critics…. – AP, 3-25-11
  • NATO deal on Libya doesn’t mean quick exit for US: NATO’s limited role in command of the no-fly zone over Libya doesn’t allow the U.S. to make a quick exit from the costly military operation as the Obama administration had wanted.
    American sea and airpower remain key parts of the effort to counter forces loyal to Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi after allies balked at assuming complete command of the campaign that began six days ago. The U.S., along with France and Great Britain, maintain primary responsibility for attacks on Gadhafi’s ground forces and air defense systems, which are the toughest and most controversial parts of the operation…. – AP, 3-25-11
  • Obama confident coalition will lead Libyan war: President Barack Obama expressed confidence on Tuesday the United States will be able to transfer control of the Libyan military operation to an international coalition in a matter of days. Amid negotiations among allies about who will control the operation, Obama told a news conference with El Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes that “I have absolutely no doubt” that an agreement will be found soon. Obama spoke earlier in the day with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron and the White House said they agreed NATO should play an important role in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone…. – Reuters, 3-24-11
  • Boehner presses Obama to define Libya mission: President Barack Obama came under pressure from Republicans on Wednesday to outline the U.S. goals in Libya, where American aircraft and warships are part of an international campaign enforcing a no-fly zone, as lawmakers sought to protect Congress’ constitutional role in military decisions.
    In a letter to the White House, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said while he respected Obama’s authority as commander in chief, he complained that the president ordered the military into combat without clearly describing the mission and U.S. role for the American people and Congress. Boehner insisted that certain questions be answered on U.S. strategy, the cost of the operation, the continued support of coalition partners and whether it was acceptable for Gadhafi to remain in power after the military effort is over.
    “Because of the conflicting messages from the administration and our coalition partners, there is a lack of clarity over the objectives of this mission, what our national security interests are and how it fits into our overarching policy for the Middle East,” Boehner wrote. “The American people deserve answers to these questions. And all of these concerns point to a fundamental question: What is your benchmark for success in Libya?”…. – AP, 3-23-11
  • Obama insists actions in Libya serve US interests: Obama said he believes the public supports the mission. Obama said he believes the public supports the mission.
    “When this transition takes place, it is not going to be our planes that are maintaining the no-fly zone,” the president said at a news conference in El Salvador as he neared the end of a Latin American trip overshadowed by events in Libya. “It is not going to be our ships that are necessarily enforcing the arms embargo. That’s precisely what the other nations are going to do.’’
    “This is something that we can build into our budget. And we’re confident that not only can the goals be achieved, but at the end of the day the American people are going to feel satisfied that lives were saved and people were helped,” he said…. – AP, 3-22-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

President Barack Obama delivers a speech at Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda in Santiago, Chile, March 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • White House says Obama Accomplishes Goals on Latin America Trip: During his five day trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador, President Barack Obama spoke in soaring tones about the progress of democracy and economic and social advancement in Latin America. Mr. Obama now faces the task of following through with commitments he made. Though distracted from the very beginning of his trip in Brazil, through its conclusion in El Salvador, by events in Libya and the Middle East, White House aides say President Obama accomplished the main goals of his Latin America journey.
    In major speeches in Rio de Janeiro and Santiago, he underscored what he sees as the importance of the Americas to the United States, and noted the progress countries have made in solidifying democracy, economic growth, and fighting poverty….
    “The realities of our time, and the new capabilities and confidence of Latin America, demand something different. President Kennedy’s challenge endures; to build a hemisphere where all people can hope for a sustainable, suitable standard of living, and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom,” he said. “But half a century later, we must give meaning to this work in our own way, in a new way.”… – VOA, 3-24-11
  • Alan McPherson: Obama in Latin America: So not Nixon: President Obama is not the only high-profile U.S. official to have kicked around a soccer ball in Latin America, as he did in Brazil a few days ago.
    When Vice President Richard Nixon toured Latin America in 1958, he walked out onto a soccer field in front of 10,000 Ecuadorians and did some dribbling, joking that he never could use his head.
    Obama didn’t try to head the ball in Rio, but I bet he could have. He is not only more athletic than Nixon ever was but also a better statesman. His popularity in Latin America is another testament to that.
    In the 1950s, Nixon went to Latin America ostensibly to woo the middle classes but he wound up lecturing them and reverting to patting dictators on the back.
    Obama, in contrast, went to connect with all groups. He met with elected presidents from the left and the right, and with business groups. In Rio, he visited a slum and spoke, like the former community organizer that he is, of the possibilities of self-improvement. In El Salvador, he visited the crypt of Archbishop Oscar Romero, slain by a U.S. ally in 1980.
    Obama came to the poor and forgotten. Nixon avoided them, so they came to him. When he landed in Caracas, Venezuela, denizens of a lower-class neighborhood rushed his motorcade, spit on his windshield and banged it with iron bars, almost killing the vice president.
    Obama has shown that he can use his head and his heart…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 3-25-11

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama confers with National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, right, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, left, and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, following a conference call on Libya with his national security team, in San Salvador, El Salvador, March 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Obama says too much testing makes education boring: “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,” the president told students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C. Obama, who is pushing a rewrite of the nation’s education law that would ease some of its rigid measurement tools, said policymakers should find a test that “everybody agrees makes sense” and administer it in less pressure-packed atmospheres, potentially every few years instead of annually.
    “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” the president said. “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.” “And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in,” Obama said. “They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.”… – AP, 3-28-11
  • Obama gets an iPad: Barack Obama famously became the first Blackberrier-in-Chief when it was reported the president received a $3,000 NSA-approved smartphone to use following his inauguration. It was quickly dubbed the “Barackberry” and the president was often seen with the device. Today President Obama was asked during a Univision town hall if he owns a computer. Obama joked, “I’m the President of the United States. You think I’ve got a – you think I’ve got to go borrow somebody’s computer?” He added that he even has an iPad.
    Surely this makes Obama the most tech savvy president in history – he owns a computer, carries a blackberry, listens to an iPod, and now he uses an iPad. After all, George W. Bush never used email during his two terms and Bill Clinton sent just two emails while in office. But up until recently, Obama was iPadless…. – CNN, 3-28-11
  • Emails: Insiders worried over political ‘meddling': The Homeland Security Department official in charge of submitting sensitive government files to political advisers for secretive reviews before they could be released to citizens, journalists and watchdog groups complained in emails that the unusual scrutiny was “crazy” and hoped someone outside the Obama administration would discover the practice…. – AP, 3-28-11
  • Geraldine Ferraro, first woman on U.S. presidential ticket, dies: Geraldine Ferraro, the Democratic congresswoman who became the first woman on a major party presidential ticket as Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984, died on Saturday at the age of 75, her family said.
    Ferraro died at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston of a blood cancer after a 12-year illness, according to a statement from her family. “Her courage and generosity of spirit throughout her life waging battles big and small, public and personal, will never be forgotten and will be sorely missed,” the statement said.
    Ferraro was an energetic and articulate three-term congresswoman with a liberal reputation when Mondale picked her from the male-dominated U.S. House of Representatives. Ferraro’s presence on the Democratic ticket generated excitement on the campaign trail, particularly among women. Yet on Election Day, Republican President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George Bush won in a landslide, carrying every state except Mondale’s home state of Minnesota.
    In delivering her concession speech that night, Ferraro saluted Mondale for helping women reach new political heights. “For two centuries, candidates have run for president. Not one from a major party ever asked a woman to be his running mate — until Walter Mondale,” she said. “Campaigns, even if you lose them, do serve a purpose. My candidacy has said the days of discrimination are numbered.”… – Reuters, 3-26-11
  • First female VP candidate Ferraro dies at 75: Geraldine Ferraro’s selection as Walter Mondale’s Democratic running mate in the 1984 presidential election made her a winner as far as history was concerned, despite an unsuccessful campaign that proved to be a tough political slog against a popular incumbent.
    Her vice presidential bid, the first for a woman on a major party ticket, emboldened women across the country to seek public office and helped lay the groundwork for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential candidacy in 2008 and John McCain’s choice of his running mate, Sarah Palin, that year.
    “By choosing a woman to run . you send a powerful signal to all Americans: There are no doors we cannot unlock,” Ferraro said in her acceptance speech at the 1984 Democratic convention. “We will place no limits on achievement. If we can do this, we can do anything.”
    Ferraro died Saturday in Boston, where the 75-year-old was being treated for complications of blood cancer. She died just before 10 a.m., said Amanda Fuchs Miller, a family friend who worked for Ferraro in her 1998 Senate bid and was acting as a spokeswoman for the family…. – AP, 3-27-11
  • Obama: Ferraro blazed trail for all Americans: President Barack Obama calls Geraldine Ferraro a political trailblazer who broke down barriers for women and Americans of all backgrounds. Obama says his daughters — Sasha and Malia — will grow up in a more equal country because of Ferraro’s career and her ideals…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Anti-this, pro-that, all convene at White House: What do Yemeni violence, Bahrain’s monarchy and genetically modified foods have in common? All were the subjects Saturday of small but animated protests in front of the White House, where President Barack Obama was ensconced indoors on the other side of the fence.
    The pedestrian-only strip of Pennsylvania Avenue, between the White House and Lafayette Square, often hosts demonstrators. Rarely, however, do so many interests bump into each other, literally, and generate such a cacophony of unrelated chants…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Obama’s Not Returning His Peace Prize: The Libyan assault as well as continued American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan have many people saying that either the Nobel Peace Prize committee should demand the prize be returned or that the president should volunteer to hand it back. For those who think these are serious options, I have some bad news for you — it’ll never happen. Not tomorrow, not next week, not ever.
    Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize raised a lot of eyebrows around the world given that he had barely been in office and had little on the resume to justify the prize. My conclusion was that the committee gave it for two main reasons: (1) to remind America that they really disliked George W. Bush and (2) to inspire Obama to act on his eloquent expressions of global harmony. Obama was well aware that he had done nothing to deserve the award and so he was faced with the choice of either respectfully declining or of accepting the prize while explaining that he doesn’t currently or in the future deserve it. He chose the latter both in words and in deeds…. – Huff Post, 3-25-11
  • Obama cites Libya at Greek celebration: President Obama did discuss Libya in public today — a brief mention during a White House reception for the 190th anniversary of Greek Independence Day.
    “As we celebrate the independence of the Greek people, the United States and Greece are standing with our NATO allies to support the Libyan people as they stand up for their own freedom,” Obama told an audience in the East Room.
    Obama also said that the democratic ideals of ancient Greece have inspired the United States from the beginning. “Our Founding Fathers were students of Greek philosophy and Greek history,” he said, “drawing on Greek principles to guide our own nation in its earliest days.”… – USA Today, 3-25–11
  • Obama is locked out of the White House (temporarily): President Obama had a little trouble getting back to the Oval Office yesterday after his trip to Latin America. The first door he tried was locked — and it’s not like the president carries around a set of house keys. No biggie; Obama tried another door and walked in. But the incident did produce some amusing video… – USA Today, 3-25-11
  • Michelle Obama to speak to West Point graduates: Michelle Obama will build on her military outreach this spring when she speaks to graduates at West Point and at a high school that serves military families. The first lady’s office said on Friday that Mrs. Obama will speak May 20 at the graduation banquet at West Point. The dinner is the final social event cadets take part in as a class before to their commencement ceremony at the U.S. Military Academy.
    Mrs. Obama will also speak at graduation ceremonies at University of Northern Iowa and Spelman College. On June 3, she’ll address graduates at Quantico Middle High School, a Virginia school located on the Marine Corps Base at Quantico. The high school serves families of Marines stationed on the base…. – WSJ, 3-25-11
  • Welcome back: Big political challenges greet Obama: Returning home to some messy politics, President Barack Obama must contend with a battery of challenges, from a spending standoff that threatens to shut down the government to congressional angst over the U.S.-led war against Libya. Foreign crises rage across Africa and the Middle East, and Americans still want a more quickly improving economy.
    The president left behind a wave of goodwill in Latin America as he shored up alliances that the White House said would prove pivotal for years to come. Yet the timing made for political and logistical headaches, as his five-day trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador took place just as the U.S. and allies launched a U.N.-sanctioned assault against Moammar Gadhafi’s menacing regime…. – AP, 3-24-11
  • As Health Care Reform Turns 1, Backers and Detractors Dig In But many agree the provision requiring insurance for all is a tough pill to swallow: The Affordable Care Act turns 1 year old on Wednesday, and the health-care reform package — the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s first term in office — remains as controversial as the day it was signed into law…. – Businessweek, 3-25-11
  • One Year Anniversary of Health Care Law | Special Report: BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: First, it goes to the appellate court. There is the district court, then there are appeal courts, and then it goes to the Supreme Court. But here is the key point, though. And I said this in the “State of the Union.” I don’t want to spend the next two years refighting the battles of the last two years.
    GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, R-VIR.: For the Obama administration to oppose this expedited review to me is unconscionable. It strings this thing out to potentially for years of litigation where we could perhaps with their agreement have an expedited review in the Supreme Court.
    BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, the healthcare law was signed into law one year ago today. And you look at the latest polls, here’s one from Fox News opinion dynamics, and the question, do you believe the healthcare law will be repealed or not? And there you see, no, 56 percent, it won’t be repealed…. – Fox News, 3-25-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Time short, tempers flare in budget showdown: With the clock ticking toward a possible government shutdown, spending-cut talks between Senate Democrats and the Republicans controlling the House have broken off in a whom-do-you-trust battle over legislation to keep operations running for another six months. Democrats have readied a proposal to cut $20 billion more from this year’s budget, a party official said, but they haven’t yet sent it to House Republicans. That’s because they say it’s unclear whether the majority Republicans would accept a split-the-difference bargain they’d earlier hinted at or will yield to demands of tea party-backed GOP freshmen for a tougher measure.
    “Republicans refuse to negotiate,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared on Monday. “The infighting between the tea party and the rest of the Republican Party — including the Republican leadership in Congress — is keeping our negotiating partner from the negotiating table. And it’s pretty hard to negotiate without someone else on the other side of the table,” the Nevada Democrat said…. – AP, 3-28-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • Agents can delay Miranda warnings in some cases: After being criticized for providing Miranda warnings in terrorism cases, the FBI has reminded its agents that in some instances they can question terrorist suspects without immediately reading them their rights. The Justice Department said Thursday the FBI guidance issued late last year was a reminder that investigators can delay telling suspects of their rights to an attorney and to remain silent when there is immediate concern for the safety of the public.
    The guidance outlines how to use the public safety exception when appropriate. The guidelines do not change Miranda or the public safety exception, which the Justice Department does not have the authority to alter because they flow from court decisions based on the Constitution. “The evolving nature of the terrorist threat demands that we keep the men and women on the front lines advised of all lawful and appropriate tools available to them to identify, locate, detain, and interrogate terrorism suspects,” the Justice Department said in a statement…. – AP, 3-24-11
  • Judge rejects Google’s deal with authors and publishers to put books online: In a blow to Google’s bid to put all books online and expand its Internet dominance, a federal judge in New York on Tuesday rejected the search giant’s settlement with authors and publishers, saying the terms “simply go too far” in giving Google an advantage over competitors and copyright holders. The decision comes as regulators in this country and in Europe scrutinize Google’s supremacy in the search business. The judge’s thinking, laid out in a 48-page filing, echoed many of the antitrust arguments made by the Department of Justice when it criticized the deal a year ago. Google vowed on Tuesday to continue digitizing books, only a portion of which are affected by the settlement, which would have allowed Google to sell access to millions of out-of-print books to consumers and libraries. “This is clearly disappointing, but we’ll review the court’s decision and consider our options,” said Hilary Ware, managing counsel at Google. “Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the U.S. today.”… – WaPo, 3-22-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • La Follette says union law not in effect, Walker official disagrees: Special Section: Ongoing coverage of Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial budget-repair bill and the battle over the 2011-’13 state budget Secretary of State Doug La Follette said Saturday that the budget-repair bill has not taken effect because it has not been published by his office. “It’s still an act of the Legislature that has not yet become law because I have not yet designated a publication date,” La Follette said. He added the law cannot take effect until he directs publication in the official state newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal. Normally, a bill takes effect the day after publication…. – Journal Sentinel

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Obama Campaign Picks Headquarters in Chicago: President Obama’s aides have settled on the location of a campaign headquarters in downtown Chicago, with his re-election effort poised to open early next month by raising money and building a political organization for the 2012 presidential race….
    Jim Messina, who stepped down as deputy White House chief of staff, will be the campaign manager for the re-election effort. He will be joined in Chicago by two deputy campaign mangers: Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, a former executive director of the Democratic National Committee, and Julianna Smoot, a former White House social secretary, who led Mr. Obama’s fund-raising efforts in 2008.
    David Plouffe, who ran the first presidential race for Mr. Obama, is now working in the White House as a senior adviser to the president. He said this year that putting the re-election headquarters in Chicago was an important step in rebuilding the campaign operation that helped elect Mr. Obama. “‘There’s not going to be two dueling power centers,” Mr. Plouffe said in a January interview. “‘The philosophy of this campaign will not be that the White House is somehow running the campaign. The people running the campaign are in charge of the campaign. That’s the way the president wants it. We’ll do it in a coordinated way, but they’re running this thing.”… – NYT, 3-28-11
  • Analysis: Palin takes own tack in presidential prelude: If Sarah Palin is going to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, she is sure going about it her own way. A conservative TV idol and household name, the former Alaska governor sees little need to behave like a traditional presidential candidate.
    Palin has been nowhere to be seen recently in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, while potential rivals scour in search of staff and supporters. Instead, Palin has relied on her appearances on Fox News and often caustic comments on her Facebook page to rally support for conservative causes and perhaps prepare the ground for a run against Democratic President Barack Obama.
    “She’s certainly feisty and doesn’t think that the normal rules and the normal conventional wisdom apply to her,” said Republican strategist Charlie Black…. – Reuters, 3-27-11
  • GOP presidential hopefuls hammer health care: A handful of high-profile Republicans who may be eyeing the White House told hundreds of conservative activists Saturday that most Americans agree with their values, and insisted that opposition to the president’s health care overhaul could help the GOP make historic gains in 2012.
    Rep. Michele Bachmann, a tea party favorite, got the noisiest reception when she told about 500 people gathered in Des Moines that voters are ready to overturn the federal health care law and oust President Barack Obama during next year’s election.
    “The ultimate arrogance, in my opinion, is Obama-care,” the Minnesota congresswoman said. “That’s why I am so absolutely confident in 2012. Americans have made the decision that we’re going to take our country back.”… – AP, 3-26-11
  • Obama’s Libya policy blasted by GOP 2012 hopefuls: The Republicans looking to succeed President Barack Obama all say he’s bungling Libya. What most haven’t spelled out: how they would address the latest international crisis if they were in the White House…. – AP, 3-26-11
  • Huckabee and Romney lead Republican field: Gallup: Mike Huckabee leads a list of potential candidates for the 2012 U.S. Republican nomination, edging out Mitt Romney, while support for Sarah Palin has slipped, according to a Gallup Poll released on Friday. Huckabee’s support has been creeping up while voters backing Romney have slipped from 16 percent in February and 19 percent in November. Palin, holding at 16 percent since September, dropped to 12 percent in the latest poll…. – Reuters, 3-25-11
  • Is Michele Bachmann the brightest bulb in GOP race?: Move over Sarah Palin. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann — a gorgeous, charismatic, Tea Party leader, mother of five, foster mother of 23 and former tax lawyer — plans to form a presidential exploratory committee. America’s heartland is all aquiver. So is cable TV. Imagine the wild ride. The first GOP debate, May 2, could feature bomb throwers Sarah Palin, Bachmann, Donald Trump and oh-so-reasonable Mitt Romney just struggling to be noticed…. – Boston Herald, 3-27-11
  • Adviser: Bachmann likely to enter WH race: Tea party favorite and Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann is feeling pressure from the political calendar to rush a decision on a White House bid and may announce her intentions as early as May, one of her top advisers said Thursday. “I’m not sure the debate is what’s going to make our final decision,” he said. “Is it a factor? Yes.”
    “I’m in for 2012 in that I want to be a part of the conversation in making sure that President (Barack) Obama only serves one term, not two, because I want to make sure that we get someone who’s going to be making the country work again. That’s what I’m in for,” Bachmann told ABC News. “But I haven’t made a decision yet to announce, obviously, if I’m a candidate or not, but I’m in for the conversation.”… – AP, 4-24-11
  • Potential Republican presidential candidates court evangelicals: With the 2012 Republican presidential field slowly taking shape, potential candidates are barnstorming early primary states, with an eye on a group that will prove decisive in picking the eventual GOP nominee: evangelicals. Likely candidates have met with preachers, conservative Christians and religious leaning home-schoolers in South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa, where winning the evangelical vote is tantamount to winning the caucus…. – WaPo, 3-23-11
  • Republican Pawlenty takes election step: Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty on Monday became the first high-profile Republican to show serious intent to enter the presidential election race against President Barack Obama in 2012. Pawlenty, 50, announced in a flag-waving video on his Facebook page that he will set up a presidential exploratory committee, a formal step toward running for the Republican nomination.
    “We, the people of the United States, will take back our government,” he said in the two-minute video, which included references to Republican giants Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln.
    Leaping into the fray ahead of his rivals gives Pawlenty some of the U.S. media attention that he needs to raise his national profile…. – Reuters, 3-23-11
  • A perfect GOP candidate is hard to find: Mitt Romney is the godfather of what Republican critics call Obamacare. Newt Gingrich is an adulterer on his third marriage. Tim Pawlenty is too green — environmentally, that is.
    Jon Huntsman worked for President Barack Obama. And Haley Barbour has come off as dismissive of racial segregation.
    Is any potential Republican presidential nominee without vulnerabilities that could alienate voters, especially those in the GOP primaries, and provide ready-made attacks for opponents? Not in this crop…. – AP, 3-22-11
  • Sarah Palin makes dramatic u-turn on her way to Bethlehem, officials said she didn’t follow protocol: Sarah Palin had a possibly embarrassing moment during her visit in Israel on Monday. The former vice presidential candidate had to abruptly turn back from her trip to the Christian holy site of Bethlehem, which was supposed to be the first stop of her day, according to British newspaper The Telegraph…. – NY Daily News, 3-21-11
  • Sarah Palin makes dramatic u-turn on her way to Bethlehem, officials said she didn’t follow protocol: On her first visit to Jerusalem, the former Alaska governor lamented that Jews can’t pray openly at the Temple Mount. “Why are you apologizing all the time?” Palin asked the Israelis who took her and husband Todd on a tour of the sacred site, the Jerusalem Post reported. It was not immediately clear how Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz and Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon responded to Palin’s puzzler…. – Politico, 3-21-11
  • Sarah Palin meets Netanyahu, vows return to Israel: Sarah Palin promised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that she’ll come back for a longer visit, as she wrapped up her overseas tour. The Jerusalem Post reports that Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, and her husband, Todd, met with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at their official residence in Jerusalem. Palin traveled to Israel after delivering a speech in India over the weekend.
    Palin declined Netanyahu’s offer to meet with other Israeli officials and she turned down requests for interviews from the news media, the Post reported. Palin’s meeting with Netanyahu came as the battle for the Republican presidential nomination effectively began in the USA when ex-Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty launched an exploratory committee for a White House bid…. – USA Today, 3-21-11

QUOTES

President Obama at the National Defense University, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/28/11
  • President Obama’s Speech on Libya: Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Libya National Defense University Washington, D.C.: Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.
    At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Qaddafi declared he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted — if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.
    It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
    We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Qaddafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Qaddafi’s air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi’s deadly advance.
    In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies -– nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey –- all of whom have fought by our sides for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people.
    To summarize, then: In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days. – WH, 3-28-11 Transcript Mp4 Mp3
  • Weekly Address: The Military Mission in Libya: Remarks of President Barack Obama Washington D.C. March 26, 2011: Last week, when I ordered our armed forces to help protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Qaddafi, I pledged to keep the American people fully informed. Since then, I’ve spoken about the limited scope and specific purpose of this mission. Today, I can report that thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we’ve made important progress.
    As Commander in Chief, I face no greater decision than sending our military men and women into harm’s way. And the United States should not—and cannot—intervene every time there’s a crisis somewhere in the world.
    But I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized; when someone like Qaddafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region; and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives—then it’s in our national interest to act. And it’s our responsibility. This is one of those times.
    Our military mission in Libya is clear and focused. Along with our allies and partners, we’re enforcing the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. We’re protecting the Libyan people from Qaddafi’s forces. And we’ve put in place a no fly zone and other measures to prevent further atrocities.
    We’re succeeding in our mission. We’ve taken out Libya’s air defenses. Qaddafi’s forces are no longer advancing across Libya. In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Qaddafi threatened to show “no mercy,” his forces have been pushed back. So make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians—innocent men, women and children—have been saved.
    As I pledged at the outset, the role of American forces has been limited. We are not putting any ground forces into Libya. Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea. Key Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have committed aircraft. And as agreed this week, responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the United States to our NATO allies and partners.
    This is how the international community should work—more nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and cost of upholding peace and security.
    This military effort is part of our larger strategy to support the Libyan people and hold the Qaddafi regime accountable. Together with the international community, we’re delivering urgent humanitarian assistance. We’re offering support to the Libyan opposition. We’ve frozen tens of billions of dollars of Qaddafi’s assets that can help meet the needs and aspirations of the Libyan people. And every day, the pressure on Qaddafi and his regime is increasing.
    Our message is clear and unwavering. Qaddafi’s attacks against civilians must stop. His forces must pull back. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach those in need. Those responsible for violence must be held accountable. Moammar Qaddafi has lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized.
    In recent days, we’ve heard the voices of Libyans expressing their gratitude for this mission. “You saved our lives,” said one Libyan. Said another, “Today, there is hope.”
    Every American can be proud of the lives we’ve saved in Libya and of the service of our men and women in uniform who once again have stood up for our interests and our ideals. And people in Libya and around the world are seeing that the United States of America stands with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny. – WH, 3-26-11 Transcript Mp4 Mp3
  • John Bolton: President Obama ‘doesn’t care’ about foreign policy: John Bolton laced into President Barack Obama’s foreign policy credentials Saturday, saying Obama “doesn’t care very much” about national security because “it’s not what motivates him.”
    “How ’bout the war in Libya that our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president announced last week?” the former United Nations Ambassador said to laughs, adding that it “reflects a crisis in American international leadership.”
    “We ask ourselves, why does the president perform this way, and first of all, he doesn’t care very much about national security. It’s not what gets him up in the morning,” Bolton said. “It’s not what motivates him.” “He is our first post-American president,” Bolton said. “I didn’t say un-American, I didn’t say anti-American… because he’s a citizen of the world. He doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism.”… – Politico, 3-26-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian Zelizer: It’s too easy for presidents to go to war: Many people across the political spectrum have been unhappy with President Barack Obama’s decision to send American fighting forces to attack Libya. They argue that Obama failed to provide an adequate explanation for making this choice…
    Obama will finally make a speech to the nation about Libya, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET Monday. But the speech, coming long after American forces are already in the middle of the conflict, is almost beside the point. What’s more relevant is we are already there with very little public debate.
    Obama’s decision fits into a long-standing pattern — one that many should find troubling — of war becoming too easy to start, though not necessarily easy to win. Unlike some areas of policy, where people may have a sense that politicians need more flexibility, this is one area where the obstacles and challenges should be great…. – CNN, 3-28-11
  • Hail On The Chief: Obama Takes Hits On All Sides: Obama “has always used his plastic persona to his advantage,” says Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. “During the 2008 campaign, he was able to put together a broad coalition ranging from progressive activists to disaffected Republicans because everyone could see something in him that they liked. He continued to use this persona during the heated first two years of his presidency.” The Republicans undercut some of Obama’s successes, Zelizer says, by painting him as a left-of-center Democrat even when he shifted toward the center. “Still, he often confounded his opponents by defying political stereotypes,” Zelizer says. “Many other presidents have taken this approach as well. We just need to remember Bill Clinton.” But at some point, Zelizer says, “it is important that the president articulates a certain set of core principles, some kind of line in the sand, so that he still appears as a leader and so that he has the political capital to push through legislation.”… – NPR, 3-25-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Obama needs to show he’s on top of crises: Major crises can inflict great political damage on U.S. presidents. Regardless of all the weapons that come with the office, presidents throughout American history have discovered that they can quickly be overwhelmed when events spin out of control.
    The ways in which presidents respond to these crises have a profound impact on their political standing.
    President Obama is still in a good political position for the 2012 election. Most of the Republicans who have toyed with the possibility of running would be candidates with significant vulnerabilities. And the Tea Party’s power among Republicans could alienate moderate voters.
    But over the past few months, Obama has had to confront crises at a dizzying pace. And these events swirled against the background of a chronically high unemployment rate that has been the most frustrating challenge that this administration has faced. Some critics say Obama has not been leading in these areas, that he is shifting his position as events unfold and that he lacks a strong plan for handling these multiple situations….
    As Carter discovered, public perceptions of a president in crisis matter very much in American politics. President Obama’s cool and deliberative style has been hugely effective at different moments of his career. The president’s strategy has been to ride out political turmoil and fluctuations in international conditions without appearing frantic.
    Yet there comes a point when voters want to know that the president has some control over events, rather than events controlling the president. Obama will need to provide Americans with a clearer sense that he does have a roadmap to handle these multiple challenges or it is possible that voters could lose confidence in his being able to do so. This would give Republicans, who are struggling politically, the opening they need. – CNN, 3-21-11
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