Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: Black in Latin America, Important Latino History Lesson

Source: My Latino Voice, 4-18-11

blackinlatam

Beginning on April 19th, PBS will air the four part series “Black in Latin America” hosted by Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Gates explores the cultural, religious, artistic and musical influences of Africa on the Caribbean and Latin America. Historian Gates said that between 1502 to 1867, 12.5 million Africans were brought to the new world as slaves; of that number only 450,000 came to the United States and the rest were sent “south of Miami,” he said.

Often never taught in primary, high school and some colleges the influence of Africa in Latino America has been suppressed. Latinos, who literally can see the influence of Africa on each other’s faces, in places like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Peru, Panama and Columbia, live in denial that they have anything to do historically or culturally with Africans or African Americans.

In some instances being in total denial, Latinos tend to identify all too often with Europe while failing to acknowledge the contributions of Africa in Latino life, culture and music, and for far too long history was denied to Latinos searching for cultural identification….READ MORE

Political Highlights April 18, 2011: President Obama & Republican’s Divergent Debt Reduction Budget Plans

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, 4/15/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Poll shows Americans oppose entitlement cuts to deal with debt problem: Despite growing concerns about the country’s long-term fiscal problems and an intensifying debate in Washington about how to deal with them, Americans strongly oppose some of the major remedies under consideration, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
    The survey finds that Americans prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is. Most also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Only President Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support.
    On Monday, Standard & Poor’s, for the first time, shifted its outlook on U.S. creditworthiness to “negative” because of the nation’s accumulating debt. The announcement rattled investors and could increase pressure on both sides in Washington to work out a broader deal as part of the upcoming vote over increasing the government’s borrowing authority…. – WaPo, 4-19-11
  • New Poll Shows Obama Falling, But Not Below GOP Contenders: Economic anxiety is driving President Obama’s approval rating to nearly its lowest level yet, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows, but he still edges out any possible GOP opponent for 2012. The president’s 47 percent approval rating is down seven points from January, but he would get a majority of the vote against every potential Republican White House candidate except former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whom he leads by a 49 to 45 percent margin.
    Results prove a direct correlation between the faltering economy and Obama’s grade: “Despite signs of economic growth, 44 percent of Americans see the economy as getting worse,” the Post reported, and Americans demonstrate particular concern for rising gas prices; meanwhile, 57 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue…. – The National Journal, 4-19-11
  • The GOP’s 2012 Enthusiasm Gap: New numbers out this morning bears bad news for Barack Obama but worse news for every single one of the GOP candidates. According to a poll by ABC News/Washington Post out today, only 43 percent of Republicans say they’re satisfied with the potential candidates for president and a further 17 percent have no opinion about the field. These two numbers are dramatically low compared to this stage in the 2008 elections, and analysts suggest that the GOP candidates’ reticence to formally enter the race might have something to do with the lack of enthusiasm…. – The National Journal, 4-19-11
  • A Gallup poll shows that 6 in 10 Americans approve of the budget deal that slices $38 billion from spending for the next six months, the president has moved toward embracing the role of deficit slayer.

IN FOCUS

  • Obama unveils plan to reduce borrowing by $4 trillion over the next 12 years: President Obama unveiled a framework Wednesday to reduce borrowing over the next 12 years by $4 trillion — a goal that falls short of targets set by his deficit commission and House Republicans — and called for a new congressional commission to help develop a plan to get there. In his most ambitious effort to claim the mantle of deficit cutter, Obama proposed sharp new cuts to domestic and military spending, and an overhaul of the tax code that would raise fresh revenue. But he steered clear of fundamental changes to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — the primary drivers of future spending….
  • Obama’s Debt Plan Pairs Cuts With Higher Taxes on Rich: In a speech on Wednesday, President Obama called for cutting the nation’s budget deficits by $4 trillion over the next 12 years, countering Republican budget plans with what he said was a more balanced approach that relies in part on tax increases for the wealthy as well as on spending cuts.
    In a speech that serves as the administration’s opening bid for negotiations over the nation’s fiscal future, Mr. Obama conceded a need to cut spending, rein in the growth of entitlement programs and close tax loopholes, officials said shortly before he spoke.
    But he also insisted that the government must maintain what he called investment in programs that are necessary to compete globally. And he made clear that, despite his compromise with Congressional leaders in December, Mr. Obama would fight Republicans to end lowered tax rates for wealthy Americans that have been in place since President George W. Bush championed them in the last decade…. – NYT, 4-13-11
  • Obama’s Debt Plan Sets Stage for Long Battle Over Spending: President Obama made the case Wednesday for slowing the rapid growth of the national debt while retaining core Democratic values, proposing a mix of long-term spending cuts, tax increases and changes to social welfare programs as his opening position in a fierce partisan budget battle over the nation’s fiscal challenges.
    After spending months on the sidelines as Republicans laid out their plans, Mr. Obama jumped in to present an alternative and a philosophical rebuttal to the conservative approach that will reach the House floor on Friday. Republican leaders were working Wednesday to round up votes for that measure and one to finance the government for the rest of the fiscal year.
    Mr. Obama said his proposal would cut federal budget deficits by a cumulative $4 trillion over 12 years, compared with a deficit reduction of $4.4 trillion over 10 years in the Republican plan. But the president said he would use starkly different means, rejecting the fundamental changes to Medicare and Medicaid proposed by Republicans and relying in part on tax increases on affluent Americans…. – NYT, 4-13-11
  • Obama’s Speech on Reducing the Budget (Text): Following is a text of President Obama’s debt-reduction speech, delivered on Wednesday at George Washington University, as released by the White House… – NYT, 4-13-11
  • A Meeting with Bipartisan Leadership on Fiscal Policy: This morning, the President and the Vice President hosted a meeting with bipartisan House and Senate Leadership in the Cabinet Room to discuss the fiscal policy vision that President Obama laid out in a speech at George Washington University this afternoon.
    In the speech, the President proposed a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years. It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission, and builds on the $1 trillion in deficit reduction proposed in the 2012 budget. At the same time, it will protect the middle-class, defend our commitments to seniors, and make the smart investments we need to create good jobs and grow our economy…. – WH, 4-13-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • U.S. defends role in Libya: U.S officials defended America’s role in the NATO-led mission in Libya Monday, amid criticism that Washington is not doing enough as the coalition struggles. White House spokesman Jay Carney downplayed reports that NATO is running out of munitions to fight the war. Carney told reporters that “a dramatic increase” in NATO sorties Sunday and Monday “demonstrates the capacity of NATO to fulfill its mission” in securing a no-fly zone over Libya. “We have no plans to change our posture,” he said…. – CNN, 4-18-11
  • Libyan rebels say they’ve reached oil town again: Libya’s rebel forces advanced once again to the strategic oil town of Brega thanks to four days of airstrikes by NATO, a rebel officer said Saturday. Following scattered clashes with government forces, the rebels reached the outskirts of Brega, which has already changed hands half a dozen times since fighting began in early March, Col. Hamid Hassy said. Explosions that appeared to be from new airsrtrikes could still be heard Saturday in the area…. – AP, 4-15-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • Paper: Documents show US funding Syrian opposition: The State Department has been secretly financing opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, The Washington Post reported, citing previously undisclosed diplomatic documents provided to the newspaper by the WikiLeaks website. One of the outfits funded by the U.S. is Barada TV, a London-based satellite channel that broadcasts anti-government news into Syria, the Post reported Sunday. Barada’s chief editor, Malik al-Abdeh, is a cofounder of the Syrian exile group Movement for Justice and Development. The leaked documents show that the U.S. has provided at least $6 million to Barada TV and other opposition groups inside Syria, the newspaper said…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • After US pullback, Iraq envoys are more vulnerable: Make no mistake, Mazin al-Nazeni hates Americans. Soldiers, diplomats, oilmen — the militant leader in Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, considers all of them to be Enemy No. 1. But U.S. diplomats in the southern port city say they’re here to stay — even if it’s at their peril.
    It’s a quandary for the Obama administration as the U.S. tries to move from invading power to normal diplomatic partner. But with the last American troops obligated to be gone by year’s end, the protection of American diplomats will fall almost entirely to private contractors and Iraqi security forces…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • Envoy criticized for religious activism resigns: The U.S. ambassador to Malta has announced his resignation following a State Department report that criticized him for neglecting his official duties and spending too much time writing and speaking about his Catholic faith…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • US and Pakistan struggle with ‘unhappy’ alliance: When U.S. President Barack Obama inherited Washington’s partnership with Pakistan, he kept the money flowing in hopes that stronger ties would help end the Afghan war and give Pakistan more tools to keep its nuclear arsenal from falling into extremists’ hands. What Washington has gotten for its billions, however, is limited progress on clearing militant strongholds on the Afghan-Pakistan border and a souring relationship that included threats this month to limit CIA drone strikes and require Pakistani clearance for Washington spy operations…. – AP, 4-16-11
  • G-20 nations reach agreement on imbalances: The world’s major economies reached an agreement Friday on how to measure and prevent the types of dangerous imbalances that contributed to the worst global downturn in seven decades. The deal was announced in a joint statement issued following a day of talks among finance officials from the Group of 20 rich industrial nations and major emerging markets such as China and Brazil. The effort will monitor countries and prod them to take corrective actions when imbalances in such areas as foreign trade or government debt rise to excessive levels…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • China trims holdings of US securities in February: Total foreign holdings increased 0.5 percent to $4.47 trillion. However, as the government moves closer to the $14.3 trillion debt limit, it will have to scale back sales unless Congress moves to raise the limit. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said that the government will hit its current limit no later than May 16. But Geithner said it will be able to avoid an unprecedented default on the national debt through various accounting maneuvers for possibly another two months. If the government failed to pay bondholders the interest that they were due, it could drive borrowing costs higher not only for the U.S. government but also for consumers and American businesses…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • US worried Iran may be supporting Syrian crackdown: The Obama administration said Thursday that Iran appears to be helping Syria crack down on protesters, calling it a troubling example of Iranian meddling in the region and an indication that Syria’s authoritarian president, Bashar Assad, isn’t interested in real reform.
    State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. was troubled by reports that Iran was assisting its closest Arab ally to put down the protests. “There is credible information that Iran is assisting Syria … in quelling the protesters,” Toner told reporters. “If Syria’s turning to Iran for help, it can’t be very serious about real reform.” AP, 4-14-11

THE HEADLINES….

President Barack Obama President meets with the House and Senate Leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House to discuss the budget. Attending the meeting are, from left,: House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor; House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi; House Speaker John Boehner; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin. April 13, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Obama begins selling ‘balanced’ deficit plan: President Obama began a coast-to-coast sales pitch Tuesday for something that may prove tough to sell: spending cuts and tax increases. It’s the exact opposite prescription from what Obama spent his first two years in office pitching — a one-two punch of stimulus spending and tax cuts designed to lift the nation out of a major recession.
    To make his case, the president warned that his “balanced” combination of defense and domestic spending cuts and higher taxes on upper-income Americans was the best way to block a Republican plan to privatize Medicare and cut taxes for the wealthy. “I think that is the wrong way to go,” Obama told about 550 students and local residents at Northern Virginia Community College in the Washington suburbs. “That would fundamentally change Medicare as we know it, and I’m not going to sign up for that.”… – USA Today, 4-19-11
  • Obama off to ‘friend’ Facebook in person: President Barack Obama heads to Facebook’s headquarters on Wednesday to tout his budget cuts to followers of the social media powerhouse, which he also hopes to use to help get reelected. Obama, whose audacious 2008 White House bid leaned heavily on social networking sites, will hype his “Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity” plan at Facebook’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters.
    With his 2012 reelection campaign just getting into gear, Obama is moving to bring some love to the more than 19 million Facebook followers he has, up close and in person.
    The US president is to take part at 2045 GMT in a scheduled question and answer session at the headquarters not far from San Francisco. If the format is different, the content should be familiar: Obama has been hammering away since April 13 at his strategy to get the federal deficit under control and pare US debt…. – AFP, 4-19-11
  • Plane carrying Michelle Obama aborts landing because of controller error: A White House plane carrying Michelle Obama came dangerously close to a 200-ton military cargo jet and had to abort its landing at Andrews Air Force Base on Monday as the result of an air traffic controller’s mistake, according to federal officials familiar with the incident. Ultimately, controllers at Andrews feared that the cargo jet was not moving quickly enough to clear the runway in time for the White House plane to land, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for their agencies.
    Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed Tuesday that the first lady was aboard the plane and said that “the aircraft were never in any danger.” The White House referred all questions to the FAA…. – WaPo, 4-19-11
  • Immigration Is Lead Topic as Leaders Are Gathered: President Obama told a gathering of business, labor, religious and political leaders at the White House on Tuesday that he remains committed to an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and wants to try again in the coming months to push Congress to pass a bill. With his re-election campaign launched this month and Latino communities growing increasingly frustrated with his immigration policies, Mr. Obama summoned more than 60 high-profile supporters of the stalled overhaul legislation to a strategy session, looking for ways to revive it. Among those attending were Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, an independent; Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, a Democrat; and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican…. – NYT, 4-19-11
  • Obama to hold meeting on immigration reform: President Barack Obama, under fire for not taking on immigration reform yet, has marshaled a high-profile meeting in an attempt to show wide and varied support for an overhaul of America’s immigration laws. The invitees are among a bipartisan group expected to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday afternoon to discuss revamping the immigration system…. AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama, Panama’s president to meet April 28: The White House says President Barack Obama and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli will meet for the first time later this month…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Work begins on new SC school featured by Obama: Construction is starting on a new school in South Carolina more than two years after a student wrote Congress about the decrepit conditions at her school…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • US official: US opposes Syria for UN rights body: The Obama administration will oppose Syria’s candidacy to the United Nations’ top human rights body, an official said Monday, calling the Arab country’s attempt to gain a seat in the organization “hypocritical” while it uses violence to try to silence protests against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian regime. The diplomatic push against Assad’s government comes as thousands of Syrians continue to demonstrate for democratic reforms. Human rights groups say more than 200 have been killed by security forces in a month of protests…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Pentagon inquiry clears McChrystal of wrongdoing: A Pentagon inquiry into a Rolling Stone magazine profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal that led to his dismissal as the top US commander in Afghanistan has cleared him of wrongdoing. The probe’s results released Monday also called into question the accuracy of the magazine’s report last June, which quoted anonymously people around McChrystal making disparaging remarks about members of President Barack Obama’s national security team, including Vice President Joe Biden.
    At the time he dismissed McChrystal, Obama said the general had fallen short of “the standard that should be set by a commanding general.” The Defense Department inspector general’s report, however, concluded that available evidence did not support the conclusion that McChrystal had violated any applicable legal or ethics standard…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama extends Passover greetings to Netanyahu: The White House says President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed cooperation on counterterrorism, the Middle East peace process and violence in the Gaza Strip during a telephone conversation Monday…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama to award trophy to AF Academy football team: President Barack Obama meets with some of the troops Monday, but not the usual kind or for the usual reasons. Obama will present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the Air Force Academy football team in the Rose Garden. The Falcons won the trophy in early November by beating West Point, 42-22…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Job cuts for poor seniors could up homelessness: Under the Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, more than 75,000 elderly Americans living in poverty in all 50 states earn their keep by the slimmest of margins. To qualify, participants must be over 55 and earning less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level — $13,600 a year.
    In the budget bill signed Friday by President Barack Obama, the program was slashed by 45 percent, from $825 million to $450 million a year. Advocates say it could mean as many as 58,000 fewer jobs if states or national groups are forced to discontinue the program because of the reductions…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • Congress Can’t Kill Advisory Posts, Obama Declares in Signing Statement: President Obama is refusing to eliminate several “czars” who were cut in the fiscal 2011 spending bill, calling the provision a violation of the separation of powers. When Congress unveiled its budget compromise last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) touted the provision as the elimination of “four of the Obama Administration’s controversial czars.” Among the cut czars was the assistant to the president for energy and climate change, a position that was held by Carol Browner until she stepped down in January. But in a signing statement Friday, Obama argued that lawmakers had overstepped their authority. “The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority,” Obama wrote. “The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it.”…. – NYT, 4-18-11
  • Obamas report $1.7 mn in income for 2010: US President Barack Obama and his wife earned $1.7 million last year, a significant drop from the prior year as sales of the president’s books slowed, according to tax documents released Monday. The president and Michelle Obama reported 2010 adjusted gross income of $1,728,096, down from $5.5 million in 2009.
    While the salary for US president is $395,000 annually, “the vast majority of the family’s income is the proceeds from the sale of the president’s books,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. Obama earned $1.38 million in 2010 from sales of his books, “The Audacity of Hope,” “Dreams From My Father,” and “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.” That’s down from nearly $5.2 million in books’ revenue from 2009…. – AFP, 4-18-11
  • Obama and Biden release tax returns. Will Trump, Palin, and other contenders?: President Obama and Vice President Biden release their returns on Tax Day. Sarah Palin last released hers as a VP candidate in 2008, and The Donald’s finances are carefully guarded…. – CS Monitor, 4-18-11
  • Geithner confident Congress will raise debt limit: Geithner told ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Republicans told President Barack Obama in a White House meeting last Wednesday that they will go along with a higher limit.
    “I want to make it perfectly clear that Congress will raise the debt ceiling,” Geithner said in the interviews taped Saturday and aired Sunday. He said the leaders told Obama that they couldn’t play around with the government’s credit rating. “They recognize it, and they told the president that on Wednesday in the White House,” Geithner said…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • OC Republican allegedly sent offensive Obama email: A Southern California Republican Party official was under fire Saturday after allegations she sent an email that included an altered photo depicting President Barack Obama as an ape. An e-mail reportedly sent by party central committee member Marilyn Davenport shows an image, posed like a family portrait, of chimpanzee parents and child, with Obama’s face artificially superimposed on the child. Text beneath the photo reads, “Now you know why no birth certificate.”
    The alternative newspaper OC Weekly first reported the story, and was told by Davenport that the e-mail was “just an Internet joke.” She also asked the Weekly, “You’re not going to make a big deal about this are you?”
    Republican Party of Orange County Chairman Scott Baugh told The Associated Press on Saturday that he wants an ethics investigation into the incident. “It’s just highly inappropriate, it’s a despicable message, it drips with racism and I think she should step down from the committee,” said Baugh…. – AP, 4-16-11
  • Obama assesses GOP budget: ‘Wrong for America’: President Barack Obama is promoting his new deficit-reduction plan by drawing sharp contrasts with a House Republican budget that he says offers a vision that “is wrong for America.”
    In his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, Obama contended that Republicans want to dismantle venerable safety net programs and cut taxes for the wealthy at the expense of students paying for college and older adults relying on Medicare.
    “To restore fiscal responsibility, we all need to share in the sacrifice – but we don’t have to sacrifice the America we believe in,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-16-11
  • Obama: Congress will compromise, raise debt limit: President Barack Obama, insisting a politically divided government will not risk tanking the world economy, says Congress will once again raise the amount of debt the country can pile up to ensure it has money to pay its bills. For the first time, though, he signaled that he will have to go along with more spending cuts to ensure a deal with Republicans.
    In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, the president also spoke in his most confident terms yet that voters will reward him with another four years in the White House for his work to turn around the economy. Speaking from his hometown and the site of his newly launched re-election bid, Obama said he thinks voters will determine he is the best prepared person “to finish the job.”… – AP, 4-16-11
  • US says new oil pipeline study shows no new issues: The State Department said Friday that a new environmental study of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas shows no new issues since a similar report was issued last year. The report on the proposed $7 billion, 1,900-mile pipeline, comes as President Barack Obama offered his first public comments on the project, which would carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in western Canada, to refineries in Texas. At a town hall meeting on energy last week, Obama said concerns about the potentially “destructive” nature of the Canadian oil sands need to be answered before his administration decides whether to approve a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
    The pipeline planned by Calgary-based TransCanada would travel through six U.S. states carrying what environmental groups call “dirty oil,” because of the intensive energy needed to extract crude from formations of sand, clay and water…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama: GOP tried to “sneak” agenda into budget: In what he thought was a private chat with campaign donors Thursday evening, President Obama offered the most revealing behind-the-scenes account to date of his budget negotiations with GOP leaders last week. CBS Radio News White House correspondent Mark Knoller listened in to an audio feed of Mr. Obama’s conversation with donors after other reporters traveling with the president had left the room. In the candid remarks, Mr. Obama complains of Republican attempts to attach measures to the budget bill which would have effectively killed parts of his hard-won health care reform program.
    “I said, ‘you want to repeal health care? Go at it. We’ll have that debate. You’re not going to be able to do that by nickel-and-diming me in the budget. You think we’re stupid?’” recalled the president of his closed-door negotiations on the bill to fund the federal government until September.
    What’s in the budget bill? Mr. Obama said he told House Speaker John Boehner and members of his staff that he’d spent a year and a half getting the sweeping health care legislation passed — paying “significant political costs” along the way — and wouldn’t let them undo it in a six-month spending bill…. – CBS News, 4-15-11
  • Oops: An open microphone night for the president: “I said, ‘You wanna repeal health care? Go at it. We’ll have that debate. But you’re not going to be able to do it by nickel and diming me in the budget. You think we’re stupid?
    “This is the same guy who voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill but wasn’t paid for,” Obama said.
    “The Oval Office, I always thought I was going to have really cool phones and stuff,” he said. “I’m like, ‘C’mon guys, I’m the president of the United States. Where’s the fancy buttons and stuff and the big screen comes up?’ It doesn’t happen.” Government information technology, he complained, is “horrible.” “It’s true in the Pentagon. It’s true in the agencies. It’s true in the Department of Homeland Security.”
    “Pretty influential guy,” Obama told his donors. “He is a big booster, big promoter of democracy all throughout the Middle East. Reform, reform, reform.” Letting the careful language of diplomacy slide, he continued: “Now he himself is not reforming significantly. There’s no big move toward democracy in Qatar. But you know part of the reason is that the per capita income of Qatar is $145,000 a year. That will dampen a lot of conflict.”… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama signs bill striking small part of health law: President Barack Obama has signed the first rollback of last year’s health care law, a bipartisan repeal of a burdensome tax-reporting requirement that’s widely unpopular with businesses…. – AP, 4-14-11
  • Obama: Senate vote against debt ceiling a mistake: As the White House presses Congress “not to play chicken” with a vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, President Barack Obama says his vote as a senator in 2006 against raising the debt cap was a mistake motivated by politics. “Nobody likes to be tagged as having increased the debt limit for the United States by a trillion dollars,” Obama said.
    It’s Republicans who are now threatening to withhold their support for raising the limit. As a result, Obama says Senate Democrats will have to carry the burden of an unpopular vote when Congress votes on whether to lift the limit sometime during the next three months…. – AP, 4-14-11
  • Obama signs spending bill he negotiated with GOP: President Barack Obama signed a six-month spending bill Friday that cuts more than $38 billion from the current budget. The legislation averted a government shutdown and was the result of intense negotiations between the White House and emboldened Republicans. There was no signing ceremony.
    “The prosecution of terrorists in federal court is a powerful tool in our efforts to protect the nation and must be among the options available to us,” he said. “Any attempt to deprive the executive branch of that tool undermines our nation’s counterterrorism efforts and has the potential to harm our national security.”… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Congress passes 2011 spending plan: Republican House Speaker John Boehner needed help from the Democrats to pass a budget compromise Thursday, keeping the government open and honoring a deal worked out with Senate Democrats and President Obama last week.
    Fifty-nine House Republicans voted against the spending plan, which cuts $38 billion compared to last year’s budget. It took 81 Democrats voting yes to pass it. The final vote was 260 to 167.
    The spending bill went immediately to the Senate, which passed it with no debate, 81-19. Of the no votes, 15 were Republicans… – USA Today, 4-15-11
  • Unruly G.O.P. Puts Boehner to a Test in Budget Vote: It should have been a moment of victory for Speaker John A. Boehner and fellow members of a House Republican leadership team still learning on the job as they forced through a record level of spending cuts. Instead, it felt a little like defeat.
    Though the House voted convincingly to end the spending fight that had brought the government to the brink of a shutdown, Democrats had to ride to the rescue to provide the winning margin as dozens of Republicans turned thumbs down.
    Fifty-nine Republicans — nearly a quarter of the new majority — rejected the measure personally negotiated by Mr. Boehner and endorsed by his top lieutenants, Representatives Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader, and Kevin McCarthy of California, the party whip. Another lawmaker said he would have opposed the measure but missed the vote. Twenty-seven of the 59 who bucked the leadership were freshmen…. – 4-14-11
  • Obama’s debt plan has four elements — including Medicare and taxes: President Obama will focus on four items in today’s speech on reducing the federal debt, the White House says in a statement: lower domestic spending, less defense spending, excess spending in Medicare and Medicaid and elimination of tax breaks that favor the wealthy.
    Medicare and taxes are likely to be the most controversial: Liberal groups such as MoveOn.org have warned Obama against making changes to Medicare; congressional Republicans have said Obama’s calls for tax changes amount to a call for tax hikes.
    Obama will “borrow” many of the recommendations made by his bipartisan fiscal commission, the White House said in a statement, but it did not detail which proposals the president will endorse.
    “The president will advocate a balanced approach to controlling out-of-control deficits and restoring fiscal responsibility while protecting the investments we need to grow our economy, create jobs and win the future,” the statement said…. – USA Today, 4-13-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Boehner: DOJ funds should pay to defend marriage: House Speaker John Boehner says the Justice Department should reimburse the House for court costs of defending a ban on gay marriage. In a letter Monday to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Ohio Republican says he shares her concern over the cost of defending the law in court and intends to “redirect” some of the department’s money to the House as repayment…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Pelosi: House Dems shut out but helped pass budget: Their votes required to pass a budget for the year, House Democrats expect a bigger role in the upcoming fiscal showdowns and other matters in which House Speaker John Boehner can’t muster a GOP majority, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday. Republicans “don’t have the votes to pass some of these bills,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said during an interview with The Associated Press. “If we’re going to have to supply the votes, we’re going to have to be at the table.”… – AP, 4-15-11
  • House passes GOP budget plan cutting $6.2T from Obama budget, promising Medicare overhaul -
  • A look at the $3.5 trillion House-passed budget: Highlights of the $3.5 trillion budget passed by the House on Friday. The Republican plan crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is a framework for changes to spending or tax policy in subsequent legislation for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it would never pass the Senate…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • House passes huge GOP budget cuts, opposing Obama: In a prelude to a summer showdown with President Barack Obama, Republicans controlling the House pushed to passage on Friday a bold but politically dangerous budget blueprint to slash social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid and fundamentally restructure Medicare health care for the elderly.
    The nonbinding plan lays out a fiscal vision cutting $6.2 trillion from yearly federal deficits over the coming decade and calls for transforming Medicare from a program in which the government directly pays medical bills into a voucher-like system that subsidizes purchases of private insurance plans
    The GOP budget passed 235-193 with every Democrat voting “no.” Obama said in an Associated Press interview that it would “make Medicare into a voucher program. That’s something that we strongly object to.”… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Moderate Dems stand with Obama on health care: Tough re-election campaigns looming, a handful of moderate Senate Democrats voted on Thursday to keep the money flowing to President Barack Obama’s health care law despite increasing public opposition to the year-old overhaul. The deal on the spending bill struck by Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., required a separate vote on cutting off money for the year-old health care overhaul. The effort failed, 53-47, falling 13 votes short of the 60 votes needed for passage, but it put lawmakers on record — an outcome relished by Republicans looking ahead to 2012…. – AP, 4-14-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • High court takes no action on Va. health care case: The Supreme Court has taken no action on Virginia’s call for speedy review of the health care law. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is asking the court to resolve questions about the law quickly, without the usual consideration by federal appellate judges and over the objection of the Obama administration…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • New climate change case headed to Supreme Court: The Obama administration and environmental interests generally agree that global warming is a threat that must be dealt with. But they’re on opposite sides of a Supreme Court case over the ability of states and groups such as the Audubon Society that want to sue large electric utilities and force power plants in 20 states to cut their emissions.
    The administration is siding with American Electric Power Co. and three other companies in urging the high court to throw out the lawsuit on grounds the Environmental Protection Agency, not a federal court, is the proper authority to make rules about climate change. The justices will hear arguments in the case Tuesday…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • Gov’t asks high court to take GPS tracking case: The Obama administration on Friday asked the Supreme Court to take up an important privacy case for the digital age, whether the police need a warrant before using a global positioning system device to track a suspect’s movements. The administration is appealing a lower court ruling that reversed a criminal conviction because the police did not obtain a warrant for the GPS device they secretly installed on a man’s car.
    The federal appeals court in Washington said that officers violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches. Other appeals courts have ruled that search warrants aren’t necessary for GPS tracking…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Court dismisses suit over National Day of Prayer: A federal appeals court on Thursday threw out a ruling that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional and ordered that a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s right to proclaim the day be dismissed. A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation did not have standing to sue because while they disagree with the president’s proclamation, it has not caused them any harm. “A feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury,” the appeals court said…. – AP, 4-14-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Why Arizona governor vetoed gun law and ‘birther bill,’ irking the right: Jan Brewer, Arizona governor, surprised conservatives by vetoing a bill to allow guns onto college campuses and a ‘birther bill’ to require certain proofs of US citizenship for presidential candidates…. – CS Monitor, 4-19-11
  • Obama as a chimp? E-mail gives California GOP problems it didn’t need: The California GOP had a historically bad election in 2010, partly because it has trouble connecting with immigrants and minorities. An e-mail from a local Republican official touting the ‘birther’ conspiracy and showing Obama as a chimp won’t help…. – CS Monitor, 4-19-11
  • Chicago Mayor-elect Emanuel names schools chief: Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel on Monday picked Rochester, N.Y., schools superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard to be the new Chicago Public Schools chief, selecting a leader who recently earned a no-confidence vote from his local teachers but someone Emanuel praised as not being afraid of “tough choices.”
    “And that is what Chicago students need today,” Emanuel said of Brizard, whom he called “J.C.” while introducing him at a press conference at a nearly empty Chicago high school because students are on spring break. Chicago is the nation’s third-largest district with more than 400,000 students and 675 schools… – AP, 4-18-11
  • Republican legislative gains tug nation to right: In state after state, Republicans are moving swiftly past blunted Democratic opposition to turn a conservative wish-list into law. Their successes, spurred by big election gains in November, go well beyond the spending cuts forced on states by the fiscal crunch and tea party agitation. Republican governors and state legislators are bringing abortion restrictions into effect from Virginia to Arizona, expanding gun rights north and south, pushing polling-station photo ID laws that are anathema to Democrats and taking on public sector unions anywhere they can…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • NC gov nearly moved to tears by tornado damage: North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue says her tour of tornado-ravaged portions of her state nearly brought her to tears. Perdue told said at a Sunday afternoon news conference in Raleigh that nothing she saw surprised her, given her experience with natural disasters…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • Austin residents return to wildfire-scorched homes: Gov. Rick Perry asked President Barack Obama on Sunday for federal disaster funding, and forestry officials said Monday that the threat of new wildfires remained extremely high in the western part of the state. “We really need the federal government to step up at a substantially greater role that they have been playing,” Perry said Monday…. – AP, 4-17-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Dems: Sanchez likely to run for Texas Sen. seat: Democratic officials said Monday that retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is expected to run for the U.S. Senate in Texas, giving Democrats a high-profile recruit to fill the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • WaPo, 4-17-11
  • 2012 presidential candidates ‘friend’ social media: Republican Tim Pawlenty disclosed his 2012 presidential aspirations on Facebook. Rival Mitt Romney did it with a tweet. President Barack Obama kicked off his re-election bid with a digital video emailed to the 13 million online backers who helped power his historic campaign in 2008. Welcome to The Social Network, presidential campaign edition.
    The candidates and contenders have embraced the Internet to far greater degrees than previous White House campaigns, communicating directly with voters on platforms where they work and play. If Obama’s online army helped define the last campaign and Howard Dean’s Internet fundraising revolutionized the Democratic primary in 2004, next year’s race will be the first to reflect the broad cultural migration to the digital world…. – AP, 4-17-11
  • ‘Tea-Paw?’ Ex-Minn. governor courts tea partyers: Republican Tim Pawlenty, “T-Paw” to his supporters, has increasingly tied himself to the new crop of grass-roots activists in the 2012 presidential campaign. So maybe it’s time to call the former Minnesota governor “Tea-Paw.”
    “I’m not trying to introduce myself to the tea party. I’m trying to introduce myself to the whole party … because I’m not known outside of Minnesota,” Pawlenty told The Associated Press in a telephone interview ahead of a Saturday appearance at a tea party rally at the Iowa Statehouse. He spoke at a similar rally in Boston on Friday and to the movement’s national summit in Phoenix in February…. – AP, 4-16-11
  • Trump stalls TV contract while mulling campaign: Donald Trump says he has put off agreeing to an extension of his “Celebrity Apprentice” reality show while he weighs a presidential bid. The real estate mogul and potential Republican contender says he told NBC on Friday he could not commit to a three-year contract extension for the series until he decides whether he’s running…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Meaning of presidential qualification is unclear: An Arizona bill that would require presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship before they can appear on the state’s ballot has rekindled a debate about the qualifications for running for the nation’s highest political office. The U.S. Constitution requires that presidential candidates be natural-born U.S. citizens, at least 35 years old and be a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.
    However, the Founding Fathers didn’t elaborate on “natural-born citizen,” so the term has been left open to interpretation… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Ariz. plows controversial ground with birther bill: Arizona, a state that has shown little reluctance in bucking the federal government, is again plowing controversial political ground, this time as its Legislature passed a bill to require President Barack Obama and other presidential candidates to prove their U.S. citizenship before their names can appear on the state’s ballot.
    If Gov. Jan Brewer signs the proposal into law, Arizona would be the first state to pass such a requirement — potentially forcing a court to decide whether the president’s birth certificate is enough to prove he can legally run for re-election. Hawaii officials have certified Obama was born in that state, but so-called “birthers” have demanded more proof…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Likely GOP contenders plot tea party strategies: As the tea party turns 2, the still-gelling field of Republican presidential contenders is the first class of White House hopefuls to try to figure out how to tap the movement’s energy without alienating voters elsewhere on the political spectrum. Look no further than this weekend’s events marking the tea party’s second anniversary to see how the candidates are employing different strategies. Some will be out front as the tea party stages tax day rallies across the country. Others, not so much…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama visits his hometown to restart money chase: President Barack Obama restarted his formidable fundraising operation Thursday with a challenge to supporters that the 2012 presidential campaign will be about how to fix the country’s money problems without doing harm to “the America we believe in.”
    “We are going to be able to present a very clear option to the American people,” the president told Chicago hometown supporters in his first fundraisers since formally announcing his re-election last week. “We can get our fiscal house in order, but we can do it in a way that is consistent with our values and who we are as a people. Or we can decide to shrink our vision of what America is. And I don’t believe in shrinking America.” – AP, 4-15-11
  • Pawlenty finally makes it unofficial: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty preempted his own long-expected presidential announcement Tuesday, telling CNN interviewer Piers Morgan: “I’m running for president.” Pawlenty’s remark, his first direct acknowledgment that he will run, came in response to a question about whether he would agree to become a candidate for vice president on a ticket led by someone like Donald Trump.
    “I’m running for president,” Pawlenty said, “I’m not putting my hat in the ring rhetorically or ultimately for vice president. So I’m focused on running for president.” “We’ll have a final or full announcement on that in the coming weeks here,” Pawlenty said. “It won’t be long too much longer, but everything is headed in that direction.”…. – Star Tribune, 4-13-11
  • Romney Makes it Official, Quietly: Mr. Romney, a top contender in the 2008 presidential campaign, has so far been content to remain largely quiet while other Republicans seek the media spotlight. At this stage, Mr. Romney tops most polls as the Republican front-runner and his advisers saw little need to compete for the boost in name recognition that comes with an early declaration.
    But the pressures of fund-raising are likely to be even greater this time around, with President Obama expected to raise as much as $1 billion for his reelection campaign. Every day that Mr. Romney waited to declare his intentions was a day that he could not raise any money for his bid. That ends now. With a new Web site — www.mittromney.com — and an official registration with the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Romney will now be able to tap his donors for money that he can use to once again seek the Republican nomination.
    “From my vantage point in business and in government, I have become convinced that America has been put on a dangerous course by Washington politicians, and it has become even worse during the last two years,” Mr. Romney said in the video. “But I am also convinced that with able leadership, America’s best days are still ahead.” NYT, 4-11-11
  • Romney in _ almost _ announcing exploratory effort: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the closest to a front-runner in a wide-open Republican field, took a major step toward a second White House candidacy Monday, formally announcing a campaign exploratory committee.
    Romney declared that “with able leadership, America’s best days are still ahead,” vigorously asserting that President Barack Obama had failed to provide it. The Republican, who has been plotting a comeback since losing the GOP presidential nomination to John McCain three years ago, offered himself as the person best able to lead a country struggling to recover from economic crisis.
    “It is time that we put America back on a course of greatness with a growing economy, good jobs and fiscal discipline in Washington,” Romney, a former venture capitalist with a record of turning around failing companies, said in a video posted on his website and on Facebook. He also announced the formation of the committee, which will allow him to raise money, in a Twitter message…. – AP, 4-11-11

QUOTES

Lawrence Jackson, 4/12/11
  • Brad Watson’s Interview with President ObamaWFAA, 4-19-11
  • Sarah Palin: Happy Passover: Tonight is Passover, the Jewish people’s celebration of their deliverance from bondage and their Exodus to the Land of Israel. Passover contains poignant spiritual and historical meaning for Jews, but it also reminds all of us of mankind’s universal aspiration to be free from bondage and oppression. Today, in the same region where the story of Exodus took place, Arabs suffering under despotic regimes are seeking their own freedom and self- determination. As Jews in Israel, the Middle East’s only liberal democracy, gather for Passover, we hope for the spread of freedom and peace throughout the region. On this Passover holiday, our family sends our best wishes to the Jewish community. Chag kasher V’Sameach. Happy Passover. And next year in Jerusalem. -
  • The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation: “This time of year calls us to reflection and remembrance about Jewish heritage. American Jews have given of their heart and soul for an America that has ever been a haven for the oppressed. That is reason for every American to rejoice and to remember.” – Ronald Reagan, 1987
  • Barack Obama: My family and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating the sacred festival of Passover. As Jewish families gather for this joyous celebration of freedom, let us all be thankful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon us, and let us work to alleviate the suffering, poverty, injustice, and hunger of those who are not yet free. Chag Sameach.
  • Weekly Address: “We Can Live Within Our Means and Live Up to the Values We Share as Americans” Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Saturday, April 16, 2011 Washington, DC: This week, I laid out my plan for our fiscal future. It’s a balanced plan that reduces spending and brings down the deficit, putting America back on track toward paying down our debt.
    We know why this challenge is so critical. If we don’t act, a rising tide of borrowing will damage our economy, costing us jobs and risking our future prosperity by sticking our children with the bill.
    At the same time, we have to take a balanced approach to reducing our deficit – an approach that protects the middle class, our commitments to seniors, and job-creating investments in things like education and clean energy. What’s required is an approach that draws support from both parties, and one that’s based on the values of shared responsibility and shared prosperity.
    Now, one plan put forward by some Republicans in the House of Representatives aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years. But while I think their goal is worthy, I believe their vision is wrong for America….
    I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think it’s right to ask seniors to pay thousands more for health care, or ask students to postpone college, just so we don’t have to ask those who have prospered so much in this land of opportunity to give back a little more.
    To restore fiscal responsibility, we all need to share in the sacrifice – but we don’t have to sacrifice the America we believe in.
    That’s why I’ve proposed a balanced approach that matches that $4 trillion in deficit reduction. It’s an approach that combs the entire budget for savings, and asks everyone to do their part. And I’ve called on Democrats and Republicans to join me in this effort – to put aside their differences to help America meet this challenge. That’s how we’ve balanced our budget before, and it’s how we’ll succeed again….
    So that’s my approach to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years while protecting the middle class, keeping our promise to seniors, and securing our investments in our future. I hope you’ll check it out for yourself on WhiteHouse.gov. And while you’re there, you can also find what we’re calling the taxpayer receipt. For the first time ever, there’s a way for you to see exactly how and where your tax dollars are spent, and what’s really at stake in this debate.
    Going forward, Democrats and Republicans in Washington will have our differences, some of them strong. But you expect us to bridge those differences. You expect us to work together and get this done. And I believe we can. I believe we can live within our means and live up to the values we share as Americans. And in the weeks to come, I’ll work with anyone who’s willing to get it done. – WH, 4-16-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Highlights of Obama’s interview with AP: Highlights of President Barack Obama’s interview Friday with The Associated Press… – AP, 4-16-11
  • Text of Obama’s interview with the AP: Text of President Barack Obama’s interview Friday with Associated Press White House Correspondent Ben Feller, as transcribed by the White House… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama says he’s best prepared to move economy: President Barack Obama is making his case for re-election, saying he was able to yank the economy out of its hole and is the best person to finish the job…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama says he has not made the case to public on closing Guantanamo; needs help from CongressAP, 4-15-11
  • Obama says Gadhafi is feeling pressure to leave: President Barack Obama says a military stalemate exists on the ground in Libya, but the United States and NATO have averted a “wholesale slaughter” and Moammar Gadhafi is under increasing pressure to leave… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama differs with tea party but welcomes debate: President Barack Obama praises the tea party movement for getting Americans engaged in politics, but he says he strongly disagrees with its views… – AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama: US troop withdrawal in summer from Afghanistan will be significant, not ‘token gesture’AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama: GOP budget plan would lead to fundamentally different society - AP, 4-15-11
  • Obama says a military stalemate exists on the ground in Libya, but he expects Gadhafi to leaveAP, 4-15-11
  • Obama: Debt ceiling won’t be raised without spending cuts; he expects compromise with GOP: President Barack Obama confidently predicted Friday that a divided Congress would raise the nation’s borrowing limit to cover the staggering federal debt rather than risk triggering a worldwide recession, but he conceded for the first time he would have to offer more spending cuts to Republicans to get a deal. Pushed to the brink, Obama said, the two parties would find “a smart compromise.”…. – AP, 4-15-11
  • The Country We Believe In: Improving America’s Fiscal Future Remarks by the President on Fiscal Policy George Washington University Washington, D.C.: What we’ve been debating here in Washington over the last few weeks will affect the lives of the students here and families all across America in potentially profound ways. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page; it’s about more than just cutting and spending. It’s about the kind of future that we want. It’s about the kind of country that we believe in. And that’s what I want to spend some time talking about today….
    This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That’s not a vision of the America I know.
    The America I know is generous and compassionate. It’s a land of opportunity and optimism. Yes, we take responsibility for ourselves, but we also take responsibility for each other; for the country we want and the future that we share. We’re a nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI Bill and we saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives. That’s who we are. This is the America that I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit our investment in our people and our country.
    To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.
    So today, I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years. It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission that I appointed last year, and it builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It’s an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table — but one that protects the middle class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.
    So this is our vision for America -– this is my vision for America — a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and we provide rising opportunity for our children….
    But I also know that we’ve come together before and met big challenges. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill came together to save Social Security for future generations. The first President Bush and a Democratic Congress came together to reduce the deficit. President Clinton and a Republican Congress battled each other ferociously, disagreed on just about everything, but they still found a way to balance the budget. And in the last few months, both parties have come together to pass historic tax relief and spending cuts.
    And I know there are Republicans and Democrats in Congress who want to see a balanced approach to deficit reduction. And even those Republicans I disagree with most strongly I believe are sincere about wanting to do right by their country. We may disagree on our visions, but I truly believe they want to do the right thing.
    So I believe we can, and must, come together again. This morning, I met with Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to discuss the approach that I laid out today. And in early May, the Vice President will begin regular meetings with leaders in both parties with the aim of reaching a final agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit and get it done by the end of June….
    But no matter what we argue, no matter where we stand, we’ve always held certain beliefs as Americans. We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can’t just think about ourselves. We have to think about the country that made these liberties possible. We have to think about our fellow citizens with whom we share a community. And we have to think about what’s required to preserve the American Dream for future generations.
    This sense of responsibility — to each other and to our country — this isn’t a partisan feeling. It isn’t a Democratic or a Republican idea. It’s patriotism…. – WH, 4-13-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • The President, the Vice President, First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden Launch Joining Forces (joiningforces.gov) Remarks by the President, the Vice President, the First Lady, and Dr. Biden at Launch of “Joining Forces” Initiative East Room:
    THE PRESIDENT: We are joined today by members of Congress, by members of my Cabinet, Joint Chiefs, by leaders across the administration and just about every sector of American society. But most of all, we’re joined by our service members and their families, representing the finest military that the world has ever known.
    And while the campaign that brings us all together is truly unique, it does reflect a spirit that’s familiar to all of us — the spirit that has defined us as a people and as a nation for more than two centuries.
    Freedom is not free — simple words that we know are true. For 234 years, our freedom has been paid by the service and sacrifice of those who’ve stepped forward, raised their hand and said, “Send me.” They put on a uniform. They swear an oath to protect and defend. And they carry titles that have commanded the respect of generations — soldiers, airmen, Marine, sailor, Coast Guardsman.
    Our nation endures because these men and women are willing to defend it, with their very lives. And as a nation, it is our solemn duty and our moral obligation to serve these patriots as well as they serve us.
    But we are here today because these Americans in uniform have never served alone — not at Lexington, not at Concord, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan. Behind every American in uniform stands a wife, a husband, a mom, a dad, a son or a daughter, a sister or brother. These families -— these remarkable families —- are the force behind the force. They, too, are the reason we’ve got the finest military in the world.
    Whenever I’m with our troops overseas, when I ask them what we can do for you, there’s one thing they request more than anything else: “Take care of my family.” Take care of my family. Because when our troops are worried about their families back home, it’s harder for them to focus on the mission overseas. The strength and the readiness of America’s military depends on the strength and readiness of our military families. This is a matter of national security. It’s not just the right thing to do; it also makes this country stronger.
    And that’s why, over the past two years, we’ve made major investments to take care of our military families. Secretary Gates has been one of the leaders in this process — new housing and childcare for families; new schools for military kids; better health care for veterans; new educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of veterans and their family members under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
    And that’s why, as part of a landmark Presidential Study Directive, for the first time ever the well-being of our military families is now a national priority -— not just a Defense Department priority, not just a VA priority —- it is a federal government priority.
    Today, my administration is working to implement nearly 50 specific commitments to improve the lives of military families -—everything from protecting families from financial scams to improving education for military kids and spouses, to stepping up our fight to end homelessness among veterans. And as Commander-in-Chief, I’m not going to be satisfied until we meet these commitments. Across this administration, we’re going to keep doing everything in our power to give our military families the support and the respect that they deserve.
    But as we’ve said all along, this can’t be the work of government alone. Something else has been true throughout our history: Our military —- and our military families —- can’t be the only ones bearing the burden of our security. The United States of America is strongest -— and as Americans, we are at our best -— when we remember our obligations to each other. When we remember that the price of freedom cannot simply be paid by a select few. When we embrace our responsibilities to each other, especially those who serve and sacrifice in our name.
    And that’s why the extraordinary work that Michelle and Jill have been engaged in these past two years is so important. I remember how it began. It was during our campaign. Michelle was meeting with women all across the country, listening to their struggles, hearing their stories. And inevitably there were complaints about husbands and — (laughter) — not doing enough around the house and — (laughter) — being confused when you’ve got to brush the daughter’s hair and get that ponytail right. (Laughter.) So they were sharing notes. But in all these conversations, there was one group that just kept on capturing Michelle’s heart —- and that was military spouses.
    And she decided right then and there, if I was given an opportunity to serve as President and she was given the opportunity to serve as First Lady, she would be their voice. And that’s exactly what she and Jill have done.
    You all see the events around the country —- on the bases, in the communities, at the hospitals with our wounded warriors -— where Michelle and Jill celebrate our military families — celebrate your families -— and what we can do to support you better. But what you don’t see is what happens when the cameras are off; how Michelle and Jill come back, and they are inspired by what they saw, and they use their platform to advocate on your behalf in every single agency.
    So I want every military family to know that Michelle hears you —- not just as a First Lady, not just as a fellow American —- but as a wife, and a daughter, and a mom. She is standing up for you and your families — not just today, in public events like this one, but every day. And the voice that she promised to be, that’s what she’s been out there doing, making sure that you’re getting the support and appreciation that you and your families deserve.

    MICHELLE OBAMA: We call it Joining Forces for a very special reason. This campaign is about all of us, all of us joining together, as Americans, to give back to the extraordinary military families who serve and sacrifice so much, every day, so that we can live in freedom and security.
    Joining Forces is a challenge to every segment of American society to take action, to make a real commitment to supporting and engaging these families. And I want to thank all of you here because this campaign is the result of everything that so many of you have shared with us and taught us over the past two years.
    And I am especially grateful to my phenomenal partner in this effort, a Blue Star mom herself and a tireless champion of Guard and Reserve families, and an inspiration to me throughout this entire process, my dear friend, Dr. Jill Biden. And we need to give Jill — (applause.)
    Joining Forces is inspired by the amazing military spouses and children who we’ve met all across the country, some of whom, like Shirley, have been able to join us today; families who’ve told us that even with the huge outpouring of support for our troops over the last decade, the truth is that as a country, we don’t always see their families, our heroes on the home front. These families have appealed to us, like a military mom who wrote to me and said, “Please don’t let Americans forget or ignore what we live with.” Please don’t let them forget.
    Joining Forces is shaped by the insights of spouses like Becky Gates and Patty Shinseki and Deborah Mullen and spouses of the Joint Chiefs, spouses of our Senior Enlisted Advisors and countless spouses of all ranks, many of whom I see sprinkled around have been terrific advisors to us. Also, the passionate advocates representing military families who are here, and of course, member of Congress from both parties, they’re all in support of this. These are all leaders who’ve devoted their lives to serving our troops and their families and who’ve helped us to understand where and how a campaign like this could really make a difference.
    Joining Forces builds on the great work of the President and the Vice President and the entire administration, which has made military families a priority across the federal government, even as we recognize, as the President said, that this work cannot be done by government alone.
    And I am just excited that as a result of the work that we’ve done with so many people over the past two years, businesses and organizations across America, including some of the best known names and brands, have already responded to this call. Today, as part of Joining Forces, they are going to be announcing major new commitments to support military families, and you’ll all see those incredible commitments as we go forward, but we are tremendously grateful for so many of them stepping up so early.
    Joining Forces is rooted in those American values of service and citizenship that have kept our country strong throughout history. In World War II, for example, the whole nation went to war. Just about every family was a military family, or knew someone that was.
    However, today, with an all-volunteer force, fewer Americans serve or know someone who does. And unlike our troops, military families don’t wear uniforms, so we don’t always see them. But like our troops, these families are proud to serve and they don’t complain, so as a result, the rest of us don’t always realize how hard it can be or what we can do to help lighten their load.
    And I have to admit that I haven’t always realized it myself. My father served in the Army, but he served before I was born, so I didn’t grow up in a military family. I always revered our troops, but like many Americans, I didn’t see firsthand just how much our military families sacrifice as well.
    And that’s why we’re Joining Forces. This is about the responsibility that we each have to one another, as Americans. It’s about the fact that, as Joe said, that 1 percent of Americans may be fighting on our behalf, but 100 percent of Americans need to be supporting our troops and their families. This campaign is about renewing those bonds and those connections between those who serve and the rest of us who live free because of their service…. – WH, 4-13-11TranscriptMp4Mp3

  • Welcome to JoiningForces.gov: Today, President Obama, Vice President Biden, First Lady Obama and Dr. Biden launched Joining Forces, a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families. The initiative aims to educate, challenge, and spark action from all sectors of our society – citizens, communities, businesses, non-profits, faith based institutions, philanthropic organizations, and government – to ensure military families have the support they have earned.
    Our new website — JoiningForces.gov — provides ways for all Americans to step up and show their gratitude to our service members and their families. Here, you can share a messages of thanks, find opportunities to get involved and share stories of service. We’ll also highlight Federal Government support and the outstanding American citizens, communities, and businesses that are serving our nation’s military families.
    “Joining Forces was created to recognize and serve our nation’s extraordinary military families who, like their loved ones in uniform, serve and sacrifice so much so that we can live in freedom and security,” said Mrs. Obama, “This is a challenge to every segment of American society not to simply say thank you but to mobilize, take action and make a real commitment to supporting our military families.”
    Join forces with us and stay connected through Facebook, Twitter, and email updates. – WH, 4-12-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama takes on risky topic of taxes: After spending two years on health care, President Barack Obama is about to take up another Herculean political challenge: taxes.
    In response to the Republican plans to cut spending, Obama is pushing a proposal of his own, which will include loophole-closing tax reform and increasing taxes on the wealthy. In his speech at George Washington University, the president said:
    “I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. “
    By injecting taxes into the mix, Obama enters into perilous territory. For decades, Democrats have mostly tried to avoid any proposals that increase taxes….
    Importantly, the shift of public debate toward deficit reduction offers Obama as much of an opportunity as a danger. The fact is that substantive deficit reduction won’t take place unless higher revenue is part of the package. Spending cuts alone won’t do the trick.
    But if Obama does not recalibrate his political strategy, he could weaken his own standing, as well as the standing of congressional Democrats, going into 2012. – CNN, 4-18-11
  • After budget battle Act 1, will Obama, Reid, Boehner have an Act 2?: Looming debt-ceiling talks may be a bigger hurdle for the three negotiators than the hard-fought deal on the 2011 budget. As for a deficit-cutting plan? Obama and Boehner are starting far apart.
    One hurdle may be that Democrats and Republicans emerge from Round 1 with different expectations for next steps. “There’s nothing inevitable about this [first budget] deal,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “For Republicans, it’s a precedent to cut more. For Mr. Obama, it’s a precedent to think about something else besides spending cuts.”…
    “Republicans have insisted on spending cuts and deficit reduction, rather than reviving the economy, and with this speech [Obama] shifted to their ground,” says Mr. Zelizer. “This is a White House that feels that Republicans are powerful and have been successful in shifting the public to their issues.”… – CS Monitor, 4-18-11
  • Obama urged to follow Ronald Reagan way: President Obama is “missing a fundamental lesson in leadership” by focusing his attention on the “inside the beltway” politics of Washington, D.C., Ronald Reagan’s former chief of staff said Thursday. It was a mistake Reagan never made, the former White House gatekeeper, Kenneth Duberstein, said.
    In an interview prior to an evening address at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Duberstein said that as a result of Obama’s failure to govern from the political middle, “the ball was on the Republican side of the court” in the battle over the federal budget and the ballooning national debt.
    Duberstein, a Republican who broke with his party to vote for Obama in 2008, said “the electorate is going to reward people” who deal with the deficit in a serious and comprehensive way. He credited House Republicans with doing exactly that…. – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 4-15-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Republicans are winning budget debate: Following the announcement of the budget deal on Friday night, South Dakota Sen. John Thune told Politico, “The debate is now on our side of the field. This is just the opening act. But these upcoming debates are not going to be about whether we’re going to reduce the cost and size of government, but how much. That’s very good ground for Republicans to fight on.”
    Thune is correct. The compromise revealed just how far congressional Republicans have been able to shift the debate since the 2010 midterm elections. This week, President Obama will make a proposal of his own to lower the debt, which will include the politically difficult call for higher taxes.
    Much of the energy that President Barack Obama and Democrats displayed in his first two years in office — pushing for health care reform, financial regulation, an economic stimulus and more — seems to be gone….
    Like Clinton, Obama could end up winning re-election in 2012 by capturing the center, all the while finding himself unable to pass the kinds of policies that he and his supporters focused on in 2008. – CNN, 4-12-11

    President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden acknowledge Dr. Jill Biden during the launch of the Joining Forces initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families, in the East Room of the White House. April 12, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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