OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:
IN FOCUS: STATS
- Independent Voters Favor GOP in 2010 Election Tracking: Prefer Republican candidate to Democrat by an average of 45% to 35%… – Gallop.com, 7-1-10
- Analysis: BP clean-up leaves U.S. vulnerable to another spill: The Obama administration may succeed in pushing through its offshore drilling ban, despite fierce resistance from the oil industry, since a piece of machinery in short supply has left oil companies and the environment glaringly vulnerable to another oil spill… – Reuters, 7-6-10
- Obama, Netanyahu Will Learn They Need Each Other: Barack Obama and Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu will find again today, as they meet in the White House, that however much they may annoy each other – and they do – they also need each other. Their ability to forge a new relationship, preferably with mutual respect and trust that eluded them, may well determine whether, how, and when Israel will attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Israel’s military and its intelligence community are constantly preparing for a possible attack aimed at damaging and delaying Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons, and sources close to the planning say there is no expectation that the United States would take part. “We don’t ask anybody to do our fighting for us,” said a senior official who requested he not be named, “but it is true that we would be asking for re-supply of anything that we might use.” Israel apparently would be counting on America to top up its arsenal of bunker-busting bombs, mid-air refueling equipment and perhaps long-range missiles.
For Israel, at age 62, it has become routine to seek a “green light” – ohr yarok is the Hebrew phrase used by Israeli defense officials – from Washington before going to war. Israeli leaders want to feel that the U.S. has their back, at least diplomatically in the inevitable United Nations debates. At times, ohr tzahov – a “yellow light” – has been enough for Israel, such as its invasion of Lebanon in 1982 after the American government was briefed but neither assented nor protested…. – CBS News, 7-6-10
- Independence Day in Pictures: Tonight, the President and First Lady hosted service heroes and military families for a Fourth of July celebration on the South Lawn of the White House. See the Independence Day event through the lens of Pete Souza, Director of the White House Photo Office…. – WH, 7-4-10
- Obama celebrates July 4th at White House barbecue: Calling the Declaration of Independence more than words on an aging parchment, President Barack Obama marked the Fourth of July on Sunday by urging Americans to live the principles that founded the nation as well as celebrate them.
“This is the day when we celebrate the very essence of America and the spirit that has defined us as a people and as a nation for more than two centuries,” Obama told guests at a South Lawn barbecue honoring service members and their families. “We celebrate the principles that are timeless, tenets first declared by men of property and wealth but which gave rise to what Lincoln called a new birth of freedom in America — civil rights and voting rights, workers’ rights and women’s rights, and the rights of every American,” he said. “And on this day that is uniquely American we are reminded that our Declaration, our example, made us a beacon to the world.” “Now, of course I’ll admit that the backyard’s a little bigger here, but it’s the same spirit,” Obama said to laughter. “Michelle and I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate America’s birthday than with America’s extraordinary men and women in uniform and their families.” “Today we also celebrate all of you, the men and women of our armed forces, who defend this country we love,” he told the enthusiastic group…. – AP, 7-4-10
- Biden marks US Independence Day with troops in Iraq: US Vice President Joe Biden marked Independence Day with American troops at a palace of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein on Sunday ahead of talks with the two men vying to lead Iraq’s next government. Speaking to soldiers at Al-Fao Palace, a former hunting lodge of the ousted Iraqi president that is now part of US military base Camp Victory, just north of Baghdad, an upbeat Biden relished the symbolism.
“Here we are in the hunting lodge of a dictator who subjugated a people, who in fact stood for everything that we don’t stand for. And we are in the middle of the marble palace, making a lie of everything that he stood for,” he said. “I find it delicious that that’s happening,” he said to loud applause from the crowd of around 600 military personnel…. – AFP, 7-4-10
- Petraeus: ‘We are in this to win’ in Afghanistan: Gen. David Petraeus formally assumed command of the 130,000-strong international force in Afghanistan on Sunday, declaring “we are in this to win” despite rising casualties and growing skepticism about the nearly 9-year-old war. During a ceremony at NATO headquarters, Petraeus received two flags — one for the U.S. and the other for NATO — marking his formal assumption of command.
“We are in this to win,” Petraeus told a crowd of several hundred NATO and Afghan officials at the ceremony held on a grassy area just outside coalition headquarters. “We have arrived at a critical moment.” “Upfront I also want to recognize the enormous contributions of my predecessor, Gen. Stanley McChrystal,” Petraeus said. He said the progress made reflected McChrystal’s “vision, energy and leadership.”… – AP, 7-4-10
- Democrats’ Peril, GOP’s Challenge: Friday’s tepid employment report imperils Democrats who insist their recovery initiatives are on the right track, but also could pose a challenge for Republicans, who risk looking like they favor legislative inaction in the face of continued suffering. The stubbornly high joblessness ignited another round of debate over the Democrats’ current push to extend unemployment benefits and continue stimulus spending, an argument whose outcome could determine the results of the November elections. “People have lost confidence in what the Democrats are doing,” said Republican strategist David Winston. “But that is not enough of a reason to vote for Republicans…. – WSJ, 7-3-10
- Blame game could ‘boomerang’ on Obama, strategist says: When signs of a severe economic downfall emerged more than two years ago, then-candidate Barack Obama was quick to point a finger at the man he hoped to replace. Seventeen months into his administration, the message is often the same, and Republicans say it’s time for him to drop the Bush bashing and take ownership of the problem.
“Nothing makes a president look weaker than pointing the finger at past administrations,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. “By blaming somebody, it looks like you are playing politics and people just want jobs. They don’t care about whose fault it is. Playing the blame game only boomerangs on yourself.”… – CNN, 7-2-10
- Obama’s immigration speech gets smacked by GOP pols, conservative pundits: GOP politicians and conservative pundits unleashed some verbal fireworks heading into the July 4 weekend by slamming President Obama’s immigration speech. Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s former adviser, led the charge, ripping apart Obama’s remarks, saying the President was trolling for Latino voters and is “not serious” about immigration reform. “If he [Obama] could get this thing to use as a political issue for the next three months to beat up on Republicans, he’d do it, which he’s doing,” Rove told Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor” guest host Laura Ingraham. “But about fashioning a comprehensive policy with all the details and all of the equities and all the contenders that want to come to some resolution of this, forget it. He’s not serious about it.”
Compared to Rove, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s reaction was much kinder. She called the speech “helpless.”… – NY Daily News, 7-2-10
- Tough gun-control ordinance is passed in Chicago: A city measure that restricts the use, sale and transport of firearms is approved after a Supreme Court ruling extended handgun rights…. – LAT, 7-3-10
- In speech, Obama to argue for immigration overhaul: President Barack Obama hopes to rally new momentum behind the push for an immigration overhaul by explaining why he thinks a comprehensive approach is the only way to fix what he and others say is a system badly in need of repair. Obama was laying out his rationale in a speech Thursday, his first as president on the issue…. – AP, 7-1-10
- 1.3 million unemployed won’t get benefits restored: More than 1.3 million laid-off workers won’t get their unemployment benefits reinstated before Congress goes on a weeklong vacation for Independence Day. An additional 200,000 people who have been without a job for at least six months stand to lose their benefits each week, unless Congress acts. For the third time in as many weeks, Republicans in the Senate successfully filibustered a bill Wednesday night that would have continued unemployment checks to people who have been laid off for long stretches. The House is slated to vote on a similar measure Thursday, though the Senate’s action renders the vote a futile gesture as Congress prepares to depart Washington for its holiday recess…. – AP, 7-1-10
- Financial Overhaul Wins Final Approval in House: The House on Wednesday adopted legislation to revamp the nation’s financial regulatory system, voting mostly along party lines as partisan acrimony impeded cooperation even on the shared goals of averting future economic crises. The vote in the House was 237 to 192, with all but three Republicans standing in opposition to a measure that President Obama in his State of the Union speech said embodied one of the highest priorities of his administration: “serious financial reform.” “If this bill were to fail,” the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said, “We would be preserving a status quo that has left our economy in a wretched state.” To symbolize the importance of the bill, Ms. Pelosi personally gaveled the vote to a close, with 234 Democrats joined by three Republicans in favor; and 173 Republicans and 19 Democrats opposed…. – NYT, 7-1-10
- Al Gore breaks silence as police reopen sexual assault case: Former Vice President Al Gore has broken his silence regarding 2006 sexual assault allegations by a massage therapist, as Portland, Ore., police say they are reopening the case.
A statement issued by Kalee Kreider, Gore family spokesperson says: “Further investigation into this matter will only benefit Mr. Gore. The Gores cannot comment on every defamatory, misleading, and inaccurate story generated by tabloids. Mr. Gore unequivocally and emphatically denied this accusation when he first learned of its existence three years ago. He stands by that denial.” – AP, USA Today, 7-1-10
- Obama renews immigration push: The president meets with lawmakers to discuss a strategy for passing a bill this year; gaining Republican support will be a challenge. He will make his case to the public in a speech Thursday. LAT, 6-30-10
- Supreme Court extends rights of gun owners: The court’s 5-4 decision in the 2nd Amendment case paves the way for challenges to laws restricting gun ownership, but Justice Samuel Alito says it will not ‘imperil every law regulating firearms.’… – LAT, 6-29-10
- Biden to visit Gulf Coast: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will be in the Gulf of Mexico region Tuesday to see first-hand the cleanup and recovery efforts of the BP spill. Biden will stop in New Orleans and Pensacola, Fla., to survey response efforts, visit residents affected by the spill and meet with area officials, the White House said….. – UPI, 6-29-10
- Obama, lawmakers to discuss energy, immigration: President Barack Obama is turning his attention to energy and immigration legislation Tuesday. He’ll meet with a bipartisan group of senators to discuss passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year…. – AP, 6-29-10
- Delaware: Attorney General Returns: Attorney General Joseph R. Biden III returned to work Monday after spending several weeks recuperating from a stroke. Mr. Biden, who is known as Beau and who is the son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., suffered a mild stroke on May 11. AP, 6-28-10
ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….
- Six Senate candidates to watch in the dash for cash – WaPo, 7-2-10
- Ethnic Distinctions, No Longer So Distinctive: If anyone still doubted, after President Obama’s election, that candidates are no longer prisoners of their race or ethnicity, then South Carolina’s Nikki Haley offers further proof. Ms. Haley, 38, was born Nimrata Nikki Randhawa, the daughter of Indian Sikh immigrants. Now she is the Christian, Republican nominee for governor in a state with a brutal history of racial oppression. What’s notable about Ms. Haley’s campaign, like that of Mr. Obama and other candidates, is not just that she has breached a racial and cultural barrier, but that she doesn’t feel the need — or the desire — to talk much about it. “I love that people think it’s a good story, but I don’t understand how it’s different,” she recently told The New York Times. “I feel like I’m just an accountant and businessperson who wants to be a part of state government.”…. – NYT, 6-30-10
- Illinois Senate candidates spar over BP ties: Senate rivals Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk attacked each other Wednesday over ties to unpopular oil company BP and which candidate is less trustworthy. With both candidates carrying heavy political baggage, attack ads are likely to play a big role throughout the campaign for the seat once held by President Barack Obama. A day after publicly apologizing for exaggerating his military accomplishments, Kirk released two attack ads…. – AP, 6-30-10
- Bill Clinton endorses Romanoff: Former President Bill Clinton bucked the Obama administration Tuesday and endorsed former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, calling Colorado a better place because of his leadership in the legislature.
“Andrew brings to this race both an extraordinary record of public service and an extraordinary capacity to lead,” he wrote. “I believe that those assets, as well as his deep commitment to Colorado, give him the best chance to hold this seat in November.”… – The Denver Post, 6-30-10
The President speaks at the American University School of International Service, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 7/1/10
- Weekly Address: President Obama Touts Nearly $2 Billion in New Investments to Help Build a Clean Energy Economy
Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, July 3, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: Still, at a time when millions of Americans feel a deep sense of urgency in their own lives, Republican leaders in Washington just don’t get it. While a majority of Senators support taking these steps to help the American people, some are playing the same old Washington games and using their power to hold this relief hostage – a move that only ends up holding back our recovery. It doesn’t make sense.
But I promised those folks in Wisconsin – and I promise all of you – that we won’t back down. We’re going to keep fighting to advance our recovery. And we’re going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America.
That’s one of the reasons why we’re accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy and doubling our use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power – steps that have the potential to create whole new industries and hundreds of thousands of new jobs in America.
In fact, today, I’m announcing that the Department of Energy is awarding nearly $2 billion in conditional commitments to two solar companies…. – WH,
- Obama announces $2 billion for solar power: President Barack Obama announced Saturday the awarding of nearly $2 billion for new solar plants that he said will create thousands of jobs and increase the country’s use of renewable energy sources. Obama disclosed the funding in his weekly radio and online address, saying it is part of his plan to bring new industries to the U.S. “We’re going to keep competing aggressively to make sure the jobs and industries of the future are taking root right here in America,” Obama said… – AP, 7-3-10
- Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform American University School of International Service, Washington, D.C.:
Now, once we get past the two poles of this debate, it becomes possible to shape a practical, common-sense approach that reflects our heritage and our values. Such an approach demands accountability from everybody – from government, from businesses and from individuals.
Government has a threshold responsibility to secure our borders. That’s why I directed my Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano — a former border governor — to improve our enforcement policy without having to wait for a new law.
Today, we have more boots on the ground near the Southwest border than at any time in our history. Let me repeat that: We have more boots on the ground on the Southwest border than at any time in our history. We doubled the personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces. We tripled the number of intelligence analysts along the border. For the first time, we’ve begun screening 100 percent of southbound rail shipments. And as a result, we’re seizing more illegal guns, cash and drugs than in years past. Contrary to some of the reports that you see, crime along the border is down. And statistics collected by Customs and Border Protection reflect a significant reduction in the number of people trying to cross the border illegally.
That’s why businesses must be held accountable if they break the law by deliberately hiring and exploiting undocumented workers. We’ve already begun to step up enforcement against the worst workplace offenders. And we’re implementing and improving a system to give employers a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally. But we need to do more. We cannot continue just to look the other way as a significant portion of our economy operates outside the law. It breeds abuse and bad practices. It punishes employers who act responsibly and undercuts American workers. And ultimately, if the demand for undocumented workers falls, the incentive for people to come here illegally will decline as well.
Finally, we have to demand responsibility from people living here illegally. They must be required to admit that they broke the law. They should be required to register, pay their taxes, pay a fine, and learn English. They must get right with the law before they can get in line and earn their citizenship — not just because it is fair, not just because it will make clear to those who might wish to come to America they must do so inside the bounds of the law, but because this is how we demonstrate that being — what being an American means. Being a citizen of this country comes not only with rights but also with certain fundamental responsibilities. We can create a pathway for legal status that is fair, reflective of our values, and works.
It was at this time that a young woman named Emma Lazarus, whose own family fled persecution from Europe generations earlier, took up the cause of these new immigrants. Although she was a poet, she spent much of her time advocating for better health care and housing for the newcomers. And inspired by what she saw and heard, she wrote down her thoughts and donated a piece of work to help pay for the construction of a new statue — the Statue of Liberty — which actually was funded in part by small donations from people across America.
Years before the statue was built — years before it would be seen by throngs of immigrants craning their necks skyward at the end of long and brutal voyage, years before it would come to symbolize everything that we cherish — she imagined what it could mean. She imagined the sight of a giant statue at the entry point of a great nation -– but unlike the great monuments of the past, this would not signal an empire. Instead, it would signal one’s arrival to a place of opportunity and refuge and freedom. …
Let us remember these words. For it falls on each generation to ensure that that lamp -– that beacon -– continues to shine as a source of hope around the world, and a source of our prosperity here at home. – WH, 7-1-10
- President Obama says Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law is ‘ill conceived': “I’m ready to move forward. The majority of Democrats are ready to move forward. And I believe the majority of Americans are ready to move forward,” Obama said. “But the fact is, without bipartisan support, as we had just a few years ago, we cannot solve this problem,” Obama told an audience of several hundred at American University.
“No matter how decent they are, no matter their reasons, the 11 million who broke these laws should be held accountable,” Obama said.
“Laws like Arizona’s put huge pressures on local law enforcement to enforce rules that ultimately are unenforceable,” Obama lamented. “And as other states and localities go their own ways, we face the prospect that different rules for immigration will apply in different parts of the country – a patchwork of local immigration rules where we all know one clear national standard is needed,” he added.
“The legal immigration system is as broken as the border,” he said. “It’s made worse by a failure of those of us in Washington to fix a broken immigration system.”… – NY Daily News, 7-1-10
- Remarks: Obama at Racine, Wisconsin Town Hall June 30, 2010: As we speak, we’re on the verge of passing the most comprehensive financial reform since the Great Depression – reform that will prevent a crisis like this from happening again. It’s reform that will protect our economy from the recklessness and irresponsibility of a few. Reform that will protect consumers against the unfair practices of credit card companies and mortgage lenders. Reform that ensures taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s mistakes.
But most of our friends in the other party are planning on voting against this reform. In fact, just yesterday, I was stunned to hear the leader of the Republicans in the House say that financial reform was like using a nuclear weapon to target an ant. That’s right. He compared the financial crisis to an ant. The same financial crisis that led to the loss of nearly eight million jobs. The same crisis that cost people their homes and their lives savings.
Well if the Republican leader is that out of touch with the struggles facing the American people, he should come here to Racine and ask people if they think the financial crisis was an ant. He should ask the men and women who’ve been out of work for months at a time. He should ask the Americans who send me letters every night that talk about how they’re barely hanging on.
These Americans don’t believe the financial crisis was an ant. They know that it’s what led to the worst recession since the Great Depression. And they expect their leaders in Washington to do whatever it takes to make sure a crisis like this never happens again. The Republican leader might want to maintain a status quo on Wall Street. But we want to move America forward…. – Time, 6-30-10
- In Wisconsin, Obama criticizes GOP for blocking his economic agenda: The president visits Racine, a city where the recession has hit hard, to cite economic gains while acknowledging much work lies ahead — and arguing that Republican lawmakers are the chief obstacle.
He also directed criticism at House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R- Ohio), who recently characterized a Wall Street overhaul package currently before Congress as “killing an ant with a nuclear weapon.” “This is the same crisis that led to the loss of 8 million jobs,” Obama said to loud applause. He called Boehner “out of touch with the struggles of everyday families.”… – LAT, 7-1-10
HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS
- Julian Zelizer: Gotcha politics gone wild: The Democratic National Committee has launched a new website where anyone can upload videos. Call this the political YouTube.
The “accountability project,” as the DNC has named it, is an effort systematically to capture the kind of “Macaca” moment that brought down Republican Sen. George Allen in 2006 when he made racially tinged remarks at a rally. A more recent example is the video clip from a private fundraiser last week that captured Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele questioning the war in Afghanistan, comments that have prompted calls for Steele’s resignation.
Democrats have gone a step further by institutionalizing the power of YouTube politics with the hope of finding clips that will damage Republicans.
This is a terrible idea. Without question, the website will escalate the partisan arms race that exists to dominate the arena of gotcha politics. Republicans surely will replicate the site. While some video clips can certainly be useful and they can expose the egregious behavior of politicians, YouTube clips too often provide short visuals that lack context and are skewed for political purposes.
Partisan politics have been on a downward slope for decades. The media have often made things worse as editorial control over the dissemination of information has eroded to a point that is beyond repair….
But like the old media, the new media has many flaws. The new Democratic website reveals that the parties are now fully embracing the more dangerous aspects of the new technology rather than trying to contain them.
The growing use of these videos will severely damage the ways in which we choose and evaluate our politicians, pushing citizens to focus more on gaffes and gotcha moments than on the issues and policies that don’t lend themselves to this format, but which are really the critical questions of our time. – CNN, 7-5-10
- Andrew Bacevich: Long wars, violence and change in America: “Long wars are antithetical to democracy,” says Andrew Bacevich in a Washington Post op-ed. He is a retired Army colonel and professor of history at Boston University. “Protracted conflict introduces toxins that inexorably corrode the values of popular government,” he says. There is “a culture of contempt” for civilians in the ranks of the military. Bacevich concludes that Americans “need to reclaim ownership of their army.”… – OpEd News, 7-5-10
- Craig Shirley: Barack Obama A Better President than Reagan? No Chance: Siena College has just released its annual ranking of America’s 44 presidents, and I was delighted to be among the 200 historians to be asked to participate in evaluating the chief executives…. Surely the bias of those surveyed was underscored with the nonsensical ranking of Barack Obama ahead of Ronald Reagan. First, Obama should not have even been included. He’s only been in office for a year and a half. Further, many have argued that sufficient time should pass before these evaluations begin and that even Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ought to be left off the list until passions have cooled and they can be judged more dispassionately. But objectively, how does one really put Obama ahead of Reagan, who unlike FDR, solved his economic calamity in two years (and in the process, tamed the high inflation, high interest rates and created 19 million jobs in the private sector) and, oh by way, won the Cold War. Reagan critics in academia argue that Mikhail Gorbachev and Reagan concluded the Cold War. Ridiculous…. – Fox News, 7-2-10