Political Highlights March 7, 2011: Obama Congress Budget Showdown, Chaos in Libya, and Wisconsin War over Unions

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:

The President on Libya
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 3/3/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Over Half of Americans Give President Obama a Bad Job Rating: President Obama has a full plate. There’s the battle over the budget, which could shutdown the government if it goes badly. Labor union issues are cropping up across the country. Conflict and chaos are popping up left and right overseas and the decision to intervene weighs heavy. And, his 2012 reelection team is gearing up.
    But there’s another issue at hand: his falling approval ratings. 58% of Americans reported having a negative option of the President’s job so far, according to the Harris Poll conducted during the third week of February. This is a two percent rise over last month’s 56%. Some of the disapproval may be directly caused by partisanship. 90% of Republicans gave the President a thumbs down, while 73% of Democrats approved. Independents followed the overall trend with 60% disapproval…. – All Newswire, 3-5-11
  • A Deep Dive Into President Obama’s Public Approval Ratings: In January, President Obama had the biggest improvement in his public approval rating of his entire presidency. In February, Obama consolidated and built on his January “bump,” by posting his second-most-improved month ever. This turnaround has set the clock back for Obama over a full year (in terms of his overall polling numbers), to roughly where he was in December, 2009. All in all, not a bad month for the president…. – Business Insider, 3-3-11
  • President Obama’s 2010 Approval Ratings, State-by-State: Hawaii and Washington, D.C., approved of the president most last year, while Wyoming and Idaho thought the least of him
    President Barack Obama’s new home district and old home state liked the president best last year, according to Gallup daily tracking from January to December 2010. District of Columbia residents gave Obama an average approval rating of 84.4 percent, and Hawaii gave 65.9 percent. Wyoming and Idaho thought the least of the president, giving him an average approval rating of 27.6 percent and 31.6 percent, respectively. The biggest change came from Residents of Vermont, who dropped their average annual approval of the president 15.2 percentage points from 2009 to 52.6 percent in 2010. The ratings are based on nearly 179,000 interviews throughout the year…. – US News, 3-1-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

President Barack Obama addresses the Situation in Libya During a Joint Press Conference with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico

President Barack Obama addresses the situation in Libya at the start of a joint press conference with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, left, in the East Room of the White House, March 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

  • New York Times Topic: Libya — The Protests (2011)NYT
  • Arab and Middle East protestsGuardian UK
  • Libya protests: live blog of the latest developmentsGuardian UK
  • AP INTERACTIVE: Libya uprising: A look at the state of play in Libya, including a timeline, the latest news, recent photos, key players and an AP expert’s analysis. AP, 3-1-11
  • Five myths about the Muslim Brotherhood: Myth #1: The Muslim Brotherhood is a global organization — Globally, the Brotherhood is more a school of thought than an official organization of card-carrying members. Attempts to create a more formal global structure have failed…. – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • US increases pressure on Sri Lanka over slain civilians: The United States is increasing pressure on Sri Lanka to investigate the deaths of thousands of civilians at the end of its civil war. Rights groups contend a Sri Lankan government commission has demonstrated no intent of doing it…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • In Libya, Kadafi’s forces launch assault on rebel-held city: Forces led by one of Moammar Kadafi’s sons battle to regain control of Zawiya, west of the capital. Dozens of civilians are killed, witnesses say, as is a leading rebel commander…. – LAT, 3-5-11
  • Qaddafi Brutalizes Foes, Armed or Defenseless: Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi counterattacked with brutal force on Friday, battling rebel forces on two fronts, firing on unarmed protesters in front of international news media and leaving the rebels seeking his ouster in disarray.
    Rebels gathered in Brega before pushing west to Ras Lanuf on Friday. A government brigade surrounded the rebel-controlled town of Zawiyah and opened fire with mortars, machine guns and other heavy weapons, witnesses said, in two skirmishes. More Photos »
    His militia’s actions seemed likely to stir renewed debate over international intervention to limit his use of military power against his own citizens, possibly by imposing a no-flight zone…. – NYT, 3-4-11
  • Libyan rebels, Gaddafi forces battle for oil sites: Libyan rebels prepared for further attacks by forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi on Friday as both sides struggled for control of a strategic coast road and oil industry facilities…. – Reuters, 3-4-11
  • Gaddafi investigated for ‘crimes against humanity’: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said he will investigate Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his sons and senior aides for crimes against humanity…. – BBC News, 3-4-11
  • Libyan rebels push back assault by Gaddafi forces in port city of Brega: Libyan rebels repelled an assault by troops backing Moammar Gaddafi in a key oil port Wednesday. The battle in the town of Brega lasted for hours until the attackers beat a retreat…. – WaPo, 3-2-11
  • Khadaffi’s jets, troops attack foes: Moammar Khadaffi’s forces struck back on three fronts yesterday, using fighter jets, special forces units, and regular army troops in an escalation of hostilities that brought Libya closer to civil war… – Boston Globe, 3-1-11
  • US, Europe intensify efforts to isolate Gadhafi: The United States and European allies intensified efforts to isolate Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday, redoubling demands for him to step down, questioning his mental state and warning that those who stay loyal to him risk losing their wealth and being prosecuted for human rights abuses. Europe, which buys most of Libya’s oil exports, outlined fresh sanctions to force the dictator to stop attacks on civilians and step down after 42 years of iron-fisted rule. The European Union issued travel bans and an asset freeze against senior Libyan officials, and ordered an arms embargo on the country…. – AP, 2-28-11
  • Battle for Libya Rages as Qaddafi Strikes Back – NYT, 2-28-11
  • Libyan historian Ya’akov Hajaj-Lilof, how will the anti-Gadhafi protests end?: Historian Ya’akov Hajaj-Lilof, 69, is the director of the Institute for the Research and Study of Libyan Jewry and a member of the board of the World Organization of Libyan Jews. In recent days, he has been closely following the reports from Tripoli, Benghazi and the other locations in Libya where there has been political unrest against the regime of Muammar Gadhafi, who has been in power since 1969 and is considered the longest ruling non-royal leader in the world. Hajaj-Lilof believes that if there is a successful revolution against Gadhafi, it will be much more difficult and prolonged than those in Tunisia and Egypt.
    Who is behind the demonstrations in Libya? Who forms the opposition to Gadhafi? I attach great importance to the hatred and antagonism that exists between the two parts of that country – between the region of Cyrenaica which covers a little more than one half of the area of Libya and has Benghazi as its capital, and the region of Tripolitania with its capital, Tripoli. The focus of the unrest is in Cyrenaica where they still remember that Gadhafi overthrew King Idris I who was born in the region…. – Haaretz, 2-21-11

THE HEADLINES….

The President joins Jeb Bush in Florida
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 3/4/11
  • White House jabs GOP diplomat who may run in 2012: The White House is praising a departing U.S. ambassador for supporting the administration and working closely with President Barack Obama. Not much news there. Except the diplomat — former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — is a potential GOP opponent for Obama in 2012. And his ties to a Democratic president might not go over too well with Republican activists who play a large role in selecting the party’s nominee…. – AP, 3-6-11
  • National focus on debate on Muslim radicalization: Muslims in the America aren’t cooperating enough with law enforcement to counter the radicalization of young followers by al-Qaida-linked groups, said a House leader on terrorism issues, renewing debate about religion’s role in motivating extremists and what the U.S. can do without alienating the Islamic world.
    Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, asserted that al-Qaida terrorists are targeting Muslim youth in this country, previewing his hearing Thursday on the extent of the problem and the Muslim community’s response.
    “The overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans, but at this stage in our history there’s an effort … to radicalize elements within the Muslim community,” he said in an interview broadcast Sunday. “It’s there and that’s where the threat is coming form at this time,” King said…. – AP, 3-6-11
  • NYC rally planned against hearing on US Muslims: A coalition of over 100 interfaith, nonprofit and governmental organizations plans to rally in New York City against a planned congressional hearing on Muslims’ role in homegrown terrorism. The coalition says Thursday’s hearing will send the wrong message to U.S. Muslims by “demonizing” them…. – AP, 3-6-11
  • Obama’s Choice: To Intervene or Not in Libya: For President Obama, who told Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi last week that it was time to quit, the bloodshed and terror in Libya have posed a dilemma that sooner or later confronts every modern American president: whether, and how, to intervene with military force in a distant conflict.
    This time, the choice has been made even tougher by history, geography and the peculiar circumstances of Libya’s upheaval: a famously ruthless and unpredictable leader willing to do anything to cling to power, in a conflict that seems as much an African civil war as an Internet-fueled youth revolt of the kind that forced out Arab dictators in Egypt and Tunisia.
    Mr. Obama’s blunt call last Thursday for Colonel Qaddafi to leave office, coupled with a threat to leave all military options on the table if he doesn’t, made it clear that the president believes the United States cannot stand by while Libyan jets bomb civilians. But his reluctance to talk about the most obvious measure — a no-flight zone over the country — reveals his qualms about thrusting the United States into a volatile situation in a region where foreign intervention is usually viewed as cynical neo-colonialism…. – NYT, 3-5-11
  • Obama offers deeper cuts, appeals for budget deal: President Barack Obama says he’s willing to make deeper spending cuts if Congress can compromise on a budget deal that would end the threat of a government shutdown. Obama’s appeal for common ground came Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address, but lacked specifics on how to bridge the $50 billion gulf that divides the White House and Democratic budget proposal from the deeper reductions offered by Republicans…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • SPIN METER: Competing, misleading claims on budget: It sounds like a pretty good starting point for negotiations: The White House and Capitol Hill Democrats say they’re ready to meet the GOP halfway in the latest round of budget talks, offering $50 billion in cuts compared with Republicans’ proposed $100 billion worth of reductions. “The White House has been willing to move halfway to where they are,” said Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council. “Talking about negotiation and compromise, that’s very important.”… – AP, 3-4-11
  • Romney seeks to address health care woes: Call it an attempt to address an obvious political vulnerability. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Saturday derided President Barack Obama’s health care law — modeled in some ways after one the ex-governor signed in Massachusetts — as a misguided and egregious effort to seize more power for Washington.
    “Obamacare is bad law, bad policy, and it is bad for America’s families,” Romney declared. “And that’s the reason why President Obama will be a one-term president.” He vowed to repeal it if he were ever in a position to do so, and drew hearty cheers from his Republican Party audience…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • Obama praises Jeb Bush on education reform: In his first year as Florida governor, Jeb Bush was vilified by Democrats as a “radical” for an education agenda they argued would undermine public schools. So it was a striking moment when, 12 years later, a Democratic president came here Friday to hail the Republican as a “champion of education reform.”
    It was even more striking to consider that President Obama, introduced by Bush for a speech at a Miami high school, was teaming up with the younger brother of the man he replaced in the White House – a predecessor he has been quick to blame for many of America’s troubles. And even more intriguing to think that, if only his last name were not Bush, Jeb would probably be the Republican Party’s best hope of beating Obama next year.
    Yet there they were, warmly shaking hands, exchanging laughs and declaring themselves brothers in arms when it comes to fixing the country’s schools.
    “I’ve gotten to know Jeb because his family exemplifies public service,” Obama said, declaring that he was “grateful to him for the work that he’s doing.”
    Bush was more muted, withholding direct praise for Obama but adding: “Mr. President, as you have said, educational achievement is not a Republican or Democrat issue.”… – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • Obama, With an Unlikely Co-Star, Pushes Bipartisanship on a Miami Visit: President Obama, road-testing his new message of bipartisan cooperation here on Friday, promoted his education agenda with Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor, and then used his first stump speech of the 2012 season to call on Democrats to “find common ground.”
    Florida will be a critical state for Mr. Obama in 2012, and Mr. Obama used his visit here to continue his effort to reposition himself toward the political center. But while he has tried to remain above the political fray in Washington, employing the classic Rose Garden strategy here in Florida seemed a bit trickier.
    His appearance with Mr. Bush seemed awkward at best. And his strikingly nonpartisan campaign speech, at back-to- back fund-raisers for Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, and other Democrats, left some in his party a bit puzzled.
    “There are times when we’re were among family, we’re among Democrats where we want to talk about being Democrats,” Mr. Obama began his speech at the first of the two fund-raisers, at the Fontainebleau hotel. “But today I want to talk to you a little about being an American, I want to talk about those things that bring us together as opposed to the things that drive us apart.”
    He went on to say that he had just visited a high school with Mr. Bush. The crowd booed and hissed. Mr. Obama pressed on, saying he knew that the name Bush was one that might not ordinarily be heard at a Democratic fund- raiser. “Even though Governor Bush and I disagree on a range of issues,” the president said, “we agree on the importance of education to America”… – NYT, 3-4-11
  • Gabrielle Giffords shooting suspect charged with murder: Gabrielle Giffords shooting suspect: Jared Lee Loughner has been charged with the murders of US District Judge John Roll and Gabrielle Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, as well as causing the deaths of four others…. – CS Monitor, 3-4-11
  • Good News on Many Economic Fronts; Oil, Housing Still Threaten Recovery: A new report shows U.S. employers added 192,000 jobs in February and the jobless rate fell to 8.9 percent. Jeffrey Brown discusses the numbers and recovery prospects with former Labor Department Chief Economist Lisa Lynch and Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight…. – PBS Newshour, 3-5-11
  • Big Jump in Private Jobs Bolsters Recovery Hopes: In all, the nation added 192,000 jobs in February, a big jump from the 63,000 added the previous month, the Labor Department reported on Friday… – NYT, 3-4-11
  • John Edwards tipster breaks silence amid federal probe: As John Edwards’ legal fight enters its final phase, the woman who tipped the National Enquirer to his affair spilled the details Thursday in The Huffington Post…. – Miami Herald, 3-3-11
  • Attorneys Seek Court Order to Press John Edwards on Sex TapeABC News, 3-3-11
  • Obama, Calderon reach trucking accord at US summit: The accord comes at a sensitive time. Mexico President Felipe Calderon has said US efforts in the fight against Mexican drug cartels haven’t curbed US demand or stemmed the flow of arms to Mexico…. – LAT, 3-3-11
  • Obama Authorizes Airlift of Refugees From Libya: President Obama called again on Thursday for the immediate resignation of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and said he had authorized American military airlifts to help transport refugees fleeing from Libya back to their home countries in the region.
    “The U.S. and the entire world continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people,” Mr. Obama said after a White House meeting with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico. “Muammar el-Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, and he must leave.” …. – NYT, 3-3-11
  • Obama insists every option under review for Libya: Wary that Libya’s bloody crisis could devolve into humanitarian chaos, President Barack Obama on Thursday insisted he is considering every intervention option, including military might, along with America’s allies. To Moammar Gadhafi, he declared: “Step down from power and leave.”
    Obama made clear he has not ruled out establishing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi’s air forces from bombing rebels. His broad assurance came one day after his defense chief, Robert Gates, said bluntly that a no-fly zone would amount to an act of war and warned about too much “loose talk” of U.S. military intervention in Libya.
    “I don’t want us hamstrung,” Obama said in defending his approach. “There is a danger of a stalemate that, over time, could be bloody,” Obama said in an appearance with visiting Mexican President Felipe Calderon. “And that is something that we’re obviously considering. So what I want to make sure of is, is that the United States has full capacity to act — potentially rapidly — if the situation deteriorated in such a way that you had a humanitarian crisis on our hands.”… – AP, 3-3-11
  • Obama: No plans to step into NFL labor dispute: The football fan in the White House said Wednesday he expects wealthy NFL team owners and players can figure out for themselves how to share the billions of dollars that their sport generates.
    “I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do,” President Barack Obama said at a news conference, making clear he had no plans to intervene…. – AP, 3-3-11
  • Bush back in Washington to unveil Frist portrait: Tap-tap-tap went George W. Bush’s feet under his chair in the Old Senate Chamber Wednesday as he waited through a speech by his longtime friend, heart surgeon and one-time majority leader Bill Frist. The former president, invited for the unveiling of Frist’s Senate portrait, shifted in his chair. He crossed his legs. He fidgeted. “I’ll speed it up, Mr. President,” Frist said over his shoulder.
    The two could not wait to leave the place — Frist voluntarily in 2007, Bush at the end of his second presidential term, in 2009. “It takes a really good friend to get me to come back to Washington,” Bush told the crowd…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Jewish leaders say Obama meeting was positive: Jewish organizational leaders rejected the notion that their meeting with President Obama was negative in any way. A JTA article this week reported that President Obama, in a meeting Tuesday with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reaffirmed American support for Israeli security and discussed U.S. policy in the Middle East in a spirit of cordiality and respect.
    But the article also noted negative reactions to the president’s view that Palestinians are prepared for a deal but that supporters of Israel ought to “search your souls” over the Jewish state’s seriousness about making peace.
    The Conference of Presidents issued a clarification late Wednesday that, notwithstanding “certain public reports,” Obama has conducted the meeting “in an atmosphere of warmth, friendship and openness and there as no expression of hostility toward Israel or its government.” “The President articulated his expectations of all parties with respect to the Middle East peace process,” conference leaders said. “The President underscored the unprecedented security cooperation with and support for Israel. He asserted his commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge and to sustaining foreign aid to Israel. The President asserted that efforts to delegitimize Israel would be met with a firm response.”… – JTA, 3-3-11
  • Less Drama in White House After Staff Changes: A new order and a calmer management style have prevailed since William M. Daley took over as chief of staff from Rahm Emanuel and David Plouffe succeeded David Axelrod…. – NYT, 3-3-11
  • Obama condemns assassination in Pakistan: President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned the assassination of the only Christian member of Pakistan’s government, calling the slaying of Shabaz Bhatti a “horrific act of violence.” Republicans and Democrats in Congress echoed Obama’s outrage, hours after Bhatti was gunned down outside his mother’s home. His slaying came just weeks after the killing of liberal politician Salman Taseer. The two men had pushed to change laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Fed survey: Economy expands throughout US: The U.S. economy expanded in January and early February in all parts of the country, but businesses reported they are under pressure to raise their prices. A Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday showed that all 12 of the Fed’s regions reported growth at a “modest to moderate pace” and it pointed to a pickup in job creation in each…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • GOP governors and Obama at impasse over Medicaid: Strained state budgets and a new crew of Republican governors have combined to reopen the debate over Medicaid, the health care program for the poorest and sickest Americans. GOP governors want control of the purse strings and leeway to rewrite coverage and payment rules. So far President Barack Obama has turned them down, but he may be forced to give some ground if negotiations to reduce federal debt get serious later this year…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Obama condemns shooting of US troops in Germany: President Barack Obama says he’s “saddened and outraged” by the shooting in Frankfurt, Germany, that killed two U.S. Air Force personnel and injured two others. The president says the U.S. will spare no effort in finding out how the “outrageous” act took place and will ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice. It happened on a bus outside the Frankfurt airport on Wednesday. Obama called it a tragedy…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Senate to send Obama a stopgap GOP spending bill: In an early victory for Republicans, the Democratic Senate is voting to send President Barack Obama a GOP-drafted measure that cuts $4 billion in spending as the price for keeping the government open for an additional two weeks. Sweeping bipartisan support is expected Wednesday for the measure, which passed the House on Tuesday by a 335-91 tally. More than 100 Democrats broke with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California to support it… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Gov’t shutdown averted as House votes $4B cuts: The House passed emergency short-term legislation Tuesday to cut federal spending by $4 billion and avert a government shutdown. Senate Democrats agreed to follow suit, handing Republicans an early victory in their drive to rein in government. The bill that cleared the House on a bipartisan vote of 335-91 eliminates the threat of a shutdown on March 4, when existing funding authority expires. At the same time, it creates a compressed two-week timeframe for the White House and lawmakers to engage in what looms as a highly contentious negotiation on a follow-up bill to set spending levels through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • House approves two-week funding measure, putting Congress on track to avert government shutdown: The House on Tuesday approved a stopgap measure that would keep the federal government funded through March 18 and cut $4 billion in spending by targeting programs that President Obama has already marked for elimination. The measure, which passed the House on a 335 to 91 vote, now goes to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that the measure is likely to be approved in the Senate within the next 48 hours. If Congress does not pass a funding resolution by Friday, the federal government would be forced to shut down, but the apparent agreement between the two chambers seems likely to avert that possibility in the short-term. – WaPo, 3-1-11
  • Streep, James Taylor among cultural medalists: President Barack Obama honored 20 artists, scholars and writers — from James Taylor to Quincy Jones, from Philip Roth to Joyce Carol Oates — in a salute to the arts and humanities that embraced both celebrity and quiet achievement. The president and first lady Michelle Obama filled the East Room of the White House Wednesday with an array of talent that transcended generations and reached into the worlds of letters and music, history and dance, criticism and film.
    “One of the great joys of being president is getting a chance to pay tribute to the artists and authors, poets and performers who have touched our hearts and opened our minds,” Obama said, adding with a knowing look, “or in the case of Quincy Jones and James Taylor, set the mood.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Geithner wants housing overhaul bill in 2 years: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is telling Congress that the Obama administration wants Congress to approve legislation overhauling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation’s troubled housing finance giants, within two years… – AP, 3-1-11
  • Politics and bedfellows: President Obama on Monday made favorable mention of Mitt Romney’s role in expanding health-care coverage in Massachusetts, highlighting what has become a giant political liability for the former governor and likely 2012 Republican candidate…. – Philadelphia Inquirer, 3-1-11
  • Obama to Back Easing Health Law Rules for States: The announcement is the first time the president has called for changing a central component of his signature health care law.
    The president plans to tell governors on Monday that he supports letting states opt out of parts of the health plan earlier than is currently permitted… – NYT, 2-28-11
  • Health care reform: How big is Obama’s concession?: On Monday, President Obama offered to let states design their own health systems, as long as they meet the overall goals of the national health care reform plan…. – CS Monitor, 2-28-11
  • Obama: Flexibility OK, but health care law remains: Anxious to ease deepening political tensions with the states, President Barack Obama on Monday told governors he wants to speed up their ability to enforce his signature health care law on their own terms. But his concession goes only so far: He warned he won’t allow states to weaken the law. He also told them not to vilify their own states’ public workers while struggling with spending cuts.
    Hosting governors of both parties on his own turf, Obama offered them what they often request: more flexibility as they cope with painful budget dilemmas. Declaring that he would “go to bat for whatever works,” Obama supported letting states propose their own health care plans by 2014 — three years faster than the current law allows…. – AP, 2-28-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • House Republicans Move to Uphold Marriage Act: House Republicans quietly moved Friday to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages, saying they would step in to argue for the measure’s constitutionality after the Obama administration’s decision to stop defending it. Republican leaders had the option of inserting themselves in the case by introducing a resolution on the House floor and allowing members to speak out on the issue. Instead they released a statement of their intent on a Friday afternoon when the House was out of session…. – NYT, 3-5-10
  • Speaker launches effort to defend gay marriage ban: House Speaker John Boehner said Friday the House may go to court to defend the federal law against gay marriage, which President Barack Obama’s administration has concluded is unconstitutional…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • Capitol ceremony for WWI vet blocked in Congress: West Virginia’s two Democratic senators blamed House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday after their hopes of having the remains of World War I veteran Frank Buckles honored in the Capitol Rotunda were dashed, at least for now. Buckles died Sunday on his farm in Charles Town, W.Va., at the age of 110. He had been the last surviving American veteran of World War I. The episode turned what West Virginia lawmakers had hoped would be easy approval for the rare honor for Buckles into a finger-pointing dispute with partisan overtones…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Democrats unveil counteroffer easing GOP cuts: Senate Democrats unveiled a detailed counteroffer Friday seeking to undo tens of billions of dollars in cuts Republicans would make to education, housing and other domestic programs. With the two parties maneuvering for advantage in their budget clash, the Democratic plan conforms to President Barack Obama’s opening gambit to cut another $6.5 billion from domestic agencies. But neither it nor the $61 billion in cuts passed by House Republicans is expected to survive test votes next week in the Senate…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Economic recovery colors federal budget debate: Would a partial government shutdown – or the spending cuts needed to avoid it – risk the nation’s economic recovery and nascent job creation?… – USA Today, 3-4-11
  • Senate Republicans push to oust Medicare chief: Unable to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, Republicans are trying to oust the official who is quarterbacking the overhaul of the nation’s medical system. In a letter released Thursday, 42 Republican senators asked the president to withdraw the nomination of Dr. Donald Berwick as Medicare administrator, saying his experience isn’t broad enough and past statements raise fundamental questions about his views on policy…. – AP, 3-3-11
  • Republican McCarthy Says U.S. Budget Will Tackle Entitlements: U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy, third-ranking Republican in the House, places politicians in two camps, “thermometers” and “thermostats.” He says President Barack Obama is playing “thermometer” to Republicans. “He’s letting everything take its course, and he’s just standing out, telling you what the temperature is after everybody already knows it,” McCarthy, of California, said during a Bloomberg Breakfast with reporters in Washington yesterday.
    The Republican leadership, McCarthy said, “takes the temperature of the room, but tells you where you need to get to, and it may be uncomfortable.’ His party plans to heat things up soon: McCarthy said House Republicans will introduce a spending plan in April that will address cuts in entitlement programs representing 40 percent of the federal budget “We will be different than the president,” he said. “We will address entitlements.”… – Bloomberg, 3-3-11
  • House votes to end unpopular new business tax rule: An unpopular tax filing requirement for businesses tucked into the new health care law would be repealed under a bill overwhelmingly passed by the House Thursday.
    The filing requirement is so unpopular in Congress that it is unlikely to ever take effect. The House voted 314 to 112 Thursday to repeal the filing requirement, with 76 Democrats joining all Republicans in voting to pass the bill. The Senate passed a similar measure last month, and attached it to an unrelated bill to help modernize the nation’s air traffic control system…. – AP, 3-3-11
  • GOP wins first budget skirmish, bigger fight looms: Republicans won an early round Wednesday in their fight to shrink the government, pushing $4 billion in spending cuts through Congress in a bill that puts off the possibility of a government shutdown for two weeks.
    The Senate cleared the temporary spending measure by an overwhelming 91-9 vote after the House passed it with a large bipartisan vote Tuesday. Obama signed it Wednesday afternoon…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • House taking up stopgap GOP spending bill: Republicans controlling the House are moving quickly to pass stopgap legislation to avoid a partial shutdown of the government when temporary funding runs out Friday…. – AP, 3-1-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • Judge: States must continue with health overhaul: A federal judge who declared President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul unconstitutional ruled Thursday that states must continue implementing it while the case makes its way through the courts. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson was responding to a request from Obama administration attorneys who sought to ensure Florida and 25 other states follow the law until their challenge to it is resolved…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Professor calls Supreme Court ruling victory for free speech: An ASU professor who specializes in the research of First Amendment court cases said Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, which favored a radical church’s picketing of a 2006 military funeral, was a victory for free speech… – The State Press, 3-3-11
  • Supreme Court: Anti-gay funeral picketers allowed: The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a grieving father’s pain over mocking protests at his Marine son’s funeral must yield to First Amendment protections for free speech. All but one justice sided with a fundamentalist church that has stirred outrage with raucous demonstrations contending God is punishing the military for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.
    The 8-1 decision in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., was the latest in a line of court rulings that, as Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court, protects “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Court: Victim’s dying words may be used at trial: Prosecutors may use victim statements given at the crime scene even if the victim dies before testifying at trial, the Supreme Court ruled Monday…. – WaPo, 3-1-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Who had the Worst Week in Washington? Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa: Who watches the watchers? That existential question is not one that Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had hoped to be asking himself just a few months into his job as the self-declared lead investigator of the Obama administration.
    But that was before a young Issa press aide named Kurt Bardella agreed to share private correspondence between himself and reporters covering his boss with New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich, who is writing a book on the culture, such as it is, of Washington…. – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • New governors may outshine White House hopefuls: What’s wrong with this picture? While half a dozen current and former Republican governors weigh bids to challenge President Barack Obama, the party’s lightning and thunder are coming from a different handful of governors, who threaten to overshadow those potential candidates. Republicans drawing the most national attention in recent weeks are first-term Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Chris Christie of New Jersey. Many conservatives love them for battling public-sector unions in the name of cutting government spending…. – AP, 3-2-11

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR-UNION WARS

  • Unions winning battle for public opinion in Wisconsin: According to a new Pew Poll, Forty-two percent of people said they favor unions, while 31 percent take Walker’s side and another nine percent take neither side in the skirmish. WaPo, 3-1-11
  • Supporters of Wisconsin anti-union bill hold rally: About 700 people have rallied in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his plan to take away collective bargaining rights from public workers have rallied in Madison. The Sunday rally at a Madison arena was organized by the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity…. – AP, 3-6-11
  • Michael Moore rallies Wis. pro-union protesters: Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore urged Wisconsin residents Saturday to fight against Republican efforts to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights, telling thousands of protesters that “Madison is only the beginning.” “We’re going to do this together. Don’t give up. Please don’t give up,” filmmaker Michael Moore told the Wisconsin protesters, who have swarmed the Capitol every day for close to three weeks. Moore told the crowd they’ve galvanized the nation against the wealthy elite and compared their fight to Egypt’s revolt…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • Wis. governor warns of layoffs, talks to Democrats: Thousands of Wisconsin state workers were bracing for layoff notices Friday as Republican Gov. Scott Walker and absent Democrats remained in a standoff over a budget balancing bill that would also strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights.
    Walker said he would issue 1,500 layoff notices Friday if at least one of the 14 Senate Democrats doesn’t return from Illinois to give the Republican majority the quorum it needs to vote. Senate Republicans voted Thursday to hold the missing Democrats in contempt and force police to bring them back to the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald canceled Friday’s floor session, saying in a statement that Republican senators want time to allow law enforcement to adjust their staffing levels and “help the Capitol to return to something of a sense of normalcy.”… – AP, 3-4-11
  • In Midwestern union strongholds, residents torn over proposals to curb union benefits, powers: There once was a time when Harry and Nancy Harrington _ their teenage children in tow _ walked the picket line outside the nursing home where she was a medical aide, protesting the lack of a pension plan for the unionized work force. But those days of family solidarity are gone…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • Wisconsin governor begins process to lay off 1,500: 57 percent of likely voters in Wisconsin disapprove of the job Walker is doing, while 43 percent approve. Of those who disapprove, 48 percent strongly disapprove…. – WaPo, 3-5-11
  • Protesters leave Wis. Capitol after 17-day sit-in: Pro-union protesters who had been camping out at the Wisconsin Capitol for 17 days vacated the building peacefully late Thursday after a judge ordered the building closed at night but ruled the state was wrong to restrict access to the building during the day. With a group hug, and singing “Solidarity Forever,” about 50 protesters grabbed their sleeping bags, pillows and drums and left through two rows of Democratic state lawmakers and others who thanked them for their efforts…. – AP, 3-3-11
  • Wisconsin Senate votes to detain absentee DemocratsCNN, 3-3-11
  • RNC ad links Obama to ‘union bosses’: The Republican National Committee on Wednesday began airing a television ad in Wisconsin that blames President Barack Obama and “union bosses” for standing in the way of economic reform.
    The ad is an effort to bolster Republican Gov. Scott Walker as he tries to push through a measure that would take away most collective bargaining rights for state employees.
    Obama has not been to Wisconsin since the protests began. But he has called Walker’s proposal an assault on unions and urged other governors not to vilify public workers. Obama’s political arm at the Democratic National Committee also helped mobilize demonstrators in coordination with unions…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • AFL-CIO leader: Wisconsin fight energizing unions: In trying to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights from state workers, Wisconsin’s governor may have unintentionally given the American labor movement the lift it needed after years of decline.
    “We’ve never seen the incredible solidarity that we’re seeing right now,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters Tuesday at the federation’s headquarters. “People are giving us another look now,” he said. “It’ll be up to us to keep it going and continue defining ourselves in ways the American public will support.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Wisconsin governor to lay out budget: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s explosive proposal to take nearly all collective bargaining rights away from most public workers represents just one piece of his vision for the state’s future…. – AP, 3-1-11
  • Rallies support fight against Wis. anti-union billAP, 2-27-11
  • Volunteers help Wis. protesters keep up the fightAP, 2-26-11
  • By keeping his distance, has Obama played Wisconsin right?: With the battle of Wisconsin reverberating in union halls across the country, Obama has refrained from weighing in forcefully on a core Democratic issue. Analysts say he has played it right… – CS Monitor, 2-25-11
  • Wisconsin GOP wins Round 1 over unions, but final victory still eludes: The Wisconsin GOP-led Assembly approved a bill Friday to sharply curtail the power of public employee unions. But the battle for public opinion, in Wisconsin and the nation, goes on, with the state Senate yet to vote…. – CS Monitor, 2-25-11
  • Some Republicans soften tough talk on unionsAP, 2-24-11
  • State troopers sent to find Wisconsin DemocratsAP, 2-24-11
  • Wis. Democrats filibuster to halt anti-union billAP, 2-23-11
  • Wisconsin: Ground zero in battle over clout of labor unions in US: At stake in the fight between unions and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is the perception of public-sector unions and how much clout they’ll retain in an era of tight budgets for state and local government…. – CS Monitor, 2-19-11
  • State budget fights fire up union; Obama involved: Organized labor is trying to re-energize and take advantage of the growing backlash from the wave of anti-union sentiment in Wisconsin and more than a dozen other states. President Barack Obama and his political machine are offering tactical support, eager to repair strained relations with some union leaders upset over his recent overtures to business…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Rosemary Feurer: Wisconsin’s Legacy of Labor Battles: One of the key authors of that federal legislation was the chief of labor relations at Allis-Chalmers, a Milwaukee-area farm equipment and machine manufacturing company that had fended off an epic strike earlier that year. Now the nation is watching to see which side wins in the battle between Mr. Walker and the flood of unions, local and national, that has surrounded the Capitol to fight him.
    “The play by the governor is part of a longer history and a longer struggle over ideas and social policy,” said Rosemary Feurer, a labor historian at Northern Illinois University. “When I see this I think, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.”
    In her book, “Radical Unionism in the Midwest, 1900-1950,” Professor Feurer recounts how companies in the electrical industry in St. Louis started a network known as the Metal Trades Association in the first part of the 20th century to fight union organizing. The association had been alarmed by union protests that erupted violently with the Haymarket Square riot in 1886 and the demands for an eight-hour day, which started with the 1894 Pullman strike in Illinois — an early effort by Eugene V. Debs, the former Indiana legislator and future Socialist Party candidate for president.
    “That left a legacy of the 1930s and ’40s for employers to form deep right-wing networks,” Professor Feurer said.
    That network, she argues, was the precursor to the Midwestern groups that have now been assisting the fight against the unions in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana: the Bradley Foundation, based in Milwaukee, and Koch Industries, based in Wichita, Kan. David H. and Charles G. Koch, the billionaire brothers behind the energy and manufacturing conglomerate that bears their name, have been large donors to Mr. Walker in Wisconsin, as has their advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, which first opened an office in Wisconsin in 2005…. – NYT, 3-6-11
  • Julian Zelizer: By keeping his distance, has Obama played Wisconsin right?: “The biggest danger in some ways was for him to be consumed by this issue,” says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “That hasn’t happened.”… – CS Monitor, 2-25-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Republican presidential hopefuls join battle to face Barack Obama in 2012: The race to take on the Democratic president has begun in earnest as potential contenders head for the key battleground of Iowa… – Guardian UK, 3-6-11
  • Gates Ratchets Up His Campaign of Candor: This is the season when defense secretaries typically sit for hours, hat in hand, before Congressional committees to plead for more money and then journey to the military academies to give perfunctory speeches about patriotism before young cadets. But this year, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has not followed the script…. Mr. Gates’s independence is a reminder that if he leaves this year — as he has insisted he will — his departure will kick off a search that will help define the administration. Will the president choose someone as outspoken, with a bipartisan pedigree that allows him to criticize the conduct of combat and makes him acceptable to Republicans?… – NYT, 3-5-11
  • Unions wary of Dems’ convention plans in NC: With the American labor movement newly energized by its most serious threat in years, the Democratic Party’s decision to hold its 2012 convention in the least union-friendly state is causing friction with a key constituency. The Democratic National Committee selected Charlotte to show confidence in the party’s ability to win crucial swing states in the South, including North Carolina, that President Barack Obama carried in 2008. But the choice isn’t sitting well with some union leaders. “I think the Democratic Party is in crisis and they’re trying to figure out who are they really going to represent,” said Angaza Laughinghouse, president of the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Gingrich: I expect to be ‘in the race’: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he expects to be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Gingrich Tests 2012 Presidential Support: Newt Gingrich on Thursday became the first major Republican to begin raising money for the 2012 presidential race, but he stopped short of declaring his candidacy until he finishes delivering paid speeches this month and distances himself from a web of business ventures that would interfere with a campaign.
    In an afternoon visit to the State Capitol here, Mr. Gingrich smiled broadly as he entered the governor’s formal briefing room, with his wife, Callista, at his side. He said they had decided, after months of deliberation, to move forward and see if he could find enough support among Republican primary voters to compete seriously for the party’s nomination.
    “We believe that America’s best years are actually ahead of us,” said Mr. Gingrich, 67, who won his first bid for elective office 33 years ago as a Georgia congressman. “We believe that it is possible through the right policies, with the right values, to create dramatically more jobs with dramatically higher incomes.”… – NYT, 3-4-11
  • Newt Gingrich: Return of the Mack: This week, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives (1995 to 1999) and de facto face of the House Republican Revolution of the nineties, launched a new website to explore “whether there is sufficient support for my potential candidacy for President of this exceptional country.” The website features a large picture of Gingrich with his third wife, Callista, but little else aside for a place for supporters to sign up and leave a comment.
    Republicans are split on him. A recent survey by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed 41 percent of people who identified as Republican viewed him favorably but 39 percent view him unfavorably. Those ratings were much higher among those Republicans who also identified as conservative, but conversely lower among those who identified as moderate. Overall, however, he only pulled support form seven percent of those polled, trailing far behind the other candidates…. – WYNC, 3-4-11
  • Huckabee Slams Natalie Portman For Out-of-Wedlock Pregnancy: Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a potential 2012 presidential candidate, went after the actress Natalie Portman for getting pregnant before she was married…. – NYT, 3-4-11
  • Why is Mike Huckabee criticizing Natalie Portman? (Poll): “You know Michael, one of the things that’s troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, ‘Hey look, you know, we’re having children, we’re not married, but we’re having these children, and they’re doing just fine,’” Huckabee said. “But there aren’t really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie. And I think it gives a distorted image that yes, not everybody hires nannies, and caretakers, and nurses. Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that’s the story that we’re not seeing, and it’s unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock [sic].”
    Huckabee’s argument isn’t an unfamiliar one for conservatives, but the example is somewhat odd. Portman is, after all, marrying the father of her child. She didn’t practice abstinence, as Huckabee advocates, but neither do scores of other celebrities. By embracing motherhood and marriage, she’s taking a more conservative position than many of her peers.
    In a statement, Huckabee called Portman “an extraordinary actor, very deserving of her recent Oscar trophy” and said “I am glad she will marry her baby’s father.” He said he wasn’t attacking her, only arguing that “it’s unfortunate that society often glorifies and glamorizes the idea of having children out of wedlock.”… – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and the spotlight-chasing candidates of 2012: “Don’t you think it’s fair also to ask [Barack Obama] . . . how come we don’t have a health record, we don’t have a college record, we don’t have a birth cer – why, Mr. Obama, did you spend millions of dollars in courts all over this country to defend against having to present a birth certificate. It’s one thing to say, I’ve – you’ve seen it, goodbye. But why go to court and send lawyers to defend against having to show it? Don’t you think we deserve to know more about this man?”
    “I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya. . . .”… – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • Gingrich Appearance in Georgia to Give 2012 U.S. Presidential Race a Nudge: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich today moves closer to jumping into the 2012 Republican presidential race, appearing in his home state of Georgia to discuss his White House aspirations and announce fundraising efforts.
    Gingrich, 67, will make his comments during a visit to the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. Though aides say he is stopping short of announcing formation of a presidential exploratory committee, his remarks will nudge forward a Republican primary race that so far has been marked by prospective candidates biding their time.
    Joe Gaylord, one of Gingrich’s longest-serving advisers, said he expects him to launch a challenge to President Barack Obama…. – Bloomberg, 3-3-11
  • Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii won’t seek re-election: Democratic U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii announced Wednesday he won’t run for re-election next year after 22 years in the Senate. The 86-year-old Akaka — the third oldest member of the Senate — becomes the seventh recent senator to announce plans to retire.
    “It was a very difficult decision for me. However, I feel that the end of this Congress is the right time for me to step aside,” Akaka said in a statement. “I have always strived to serve the people with much love and aloha.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Gingrich announces website to explore GOP bid: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he is launching a website to explore a run for president…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Rove groups plan $120 million campaign in 2012: A pair of political action committees organized by GOP strategist Karl Rove and demonized by Democrats said Tuesday it plans to raise $120 million ahead of the 2012 elections to help make President Barack Obama a one-term leader and elect Republicans. American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS told supporters they look to raise the massive sum to combat unions, which spent a combined $400 million to help elect Obama and Democrats in 2008. With eyes on Wisconsin and Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s showdown there with Democrats over union rights, the conservative committees hope to attract donors and attention early. “These resources will fund advocacy efforts to compete with the torrent of outside money from unions and left- leaning groups,” said Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the effort. “Our first fundraising goal in 2010 was $52 million, but we ended up raising $71 million. There’s more time to raise money, there’s more at stake and we have a proven brand now. We’ve spoken with all of our donors — they’re sticking with us, and most plan to come in at a significantly higher level than last time.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • GOP hopefuls cheer for a spending showdown: Easy for them to say: Cut spending, no matter what. Don’t let the government borrow any more. Shut it down if you have to. While the cast of potential White House contenders tells Congress to get tough, drawing lines in the sand is risky for lawmakers who have to live with the consequences. Many remember what happened more than two years ago when House conservatives bolted from their Republican president and leadership to defeat a $700 billion rescue bill for the nation’s financial system. The Dow Jones industrials plunged 777 points, the most ever for a single day. Lawmakers had second thoughts, and four days later 58 of them, including 25 Republicans, switched sides to pass it…. – AP, 2-28-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address
President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address at Miami Central High School, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/4/11
  • Weekly Address: Both Parties Must Come Together on a Budget that Cuts Wasteful Spending Without Sacrificing Investments in the Future: Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery, Miami, Florida March 5, 2011: I’m talking with you from Miami, Florida, where I’m visiting Miami Central High School, a school that’s turning itself around on behalf of its kids. And I came here with Jeb Bush, former governor of this state, because he and I share the view that education isn’t a partisan issue – it’s an American issue.
    But in a larger sense, this is a moment when we’ve all got to do what the students and teachers are doing here. We’ve got to step up our game.
    Our top priority right now has to be creating new jobs and opportunities in a fiercely competitive world. And this week, we received very good news on that front. We learned that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in nearly two years as our economy added another 222,000 private sector jobs last month.
    Now, we have a lot more work to do, not just for the Americans who still don’t have a job, but for the millions more who still don’t have the right job or all the work they need to live out the American Dream. But the progress we’re seeing says something about the determination and ingenuity of our people and our businesses. What’s also helping to fuel this economic growth are the tax cuts that Democrats and Republicans came together to pass in December and I signed into law – tax cuts that are already making Americans’ paychecks bigger and allowing businesses to write off their investments, freeing up more money for job creation.
    Just as both parties cooperated on tax relief that is now fueling job growth, we need to come together around a budget that cuts spending without slowing our economic momentum. We need a government that lives within its means without sacrificing job-creating investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure.
    The budget I sent to Congress makes these investments, but it also includes a 5-year spending freeze, and it will reduce our deficits by $1 trillion over the next decade. In fact, the cuts I’ve proposed would bring annual domestic spending to its lowest share of the economy under any president in more than 50 years.
    Over the last few weeks, Members of Congress have been debating their own proposals. And I was pleased that Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together a few days ago and passed a plan to cut spending and keep the government running for two more weeks. Still, we can’t do business two weeks at a time. It’s not responsible, and it threatens the progress our economy has been making. We’ve got to keep that momentum going.
    We need to come together, Democrats and Republicans, around a long-term budget that sacrifices wasteful spending without sacrificing the job-creating investments in our future. My administration has already put forward specific cuts that meet congressional Republicans halfway. And I’m prepared to do more. But we’ll only finish the job together – by sitting at the same table, working out our differences, and finding common ground. That’s why I’ve asked Vice President Biden and members of my Administration to meet with leaders of Congress going forward.
    Getting our fiscal house in order can’t just be something we use as cover to do away with things we dislike politically. And it can’t just be about how much we cut. It’s got to be about how we cut and how we invest. We’ve got to be smart about it. Because if we cut back on the kids I’ve met here and their education, for example, we’d be risking the future of an entire generation of Americans. And there’s nothing responsible about that.
    We’ve got to come together to put America back on a fiscally sustainable course – and make sure that when it comes to the economy of the 21st century, our children and our country are better-prepared than anyone else in the world to take it on. Our future depends on it. That’s not a Democratic or a Republican challenge – that’s an American challenge. And I’m confident it’s one we’ll meet. – WH, 3-5-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • “I’m Not Willing to Give Up on Any Child In America:” The President’s Trip to Miami Central High School: We are at a pivotal turning point. We just came through a tough recession that’s taken a big toll on families here in Florida and all across the country. And to accelerate our recovery in the short term we took some essential steps to spur hiring and economic growth, including tax cuts that are making Americans’ paychecks bigger and letting businesses write off their investments –- and I am proud — I’m proud that Republicans and Democrats came together to get that done.
    And you’re already seeing those steps make a difference. This morning we learned that the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in nearly two years. (Applause.) Our economy added another 222,000 jobs in the private sector. (Applause.) That’s the 12th straight month of private sector job growth. So our economy has now added 1.5 million private sector jobs over the last year. And that’s progress. (Applause.)
    But we need to keep building on that momentum. And in a world that’s more competitive, more connected than ever before, that means answering some difficult questions
    Now, turning around these schools isn’t easy. A lot of people used to argue, well, all they need is more money. But money is not alone going to do the job. We also have to reform how things are done. It isn’t easy to turn around an expectation of failure and make that into an expectation of excellence. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things you can do. And there is always plenty of naysayers out there who will say it’s not even possible. Who say that turning around a failing school means just throwing good money after bad. Who say too many of these schools are beyond repair. Who say we ought to give up on those schools and focus on places that have more breaks and have a little more going for them.
    Here’s what I say. I say I am not willing to give up on any child in America. (Applause.) I say I’m not willing to give up on any school in America. (Applause.) I do not accept failure here in America. (Applause.) I believe the status quo is unacceptable; it is time to change it. And it’s time we came together — just like Jeb and I are doing today -– coming from different parties but we come together not as Democrats or Republicans, as Americans –- to lift up all of our schools — (applause) — and to prepare students like you for a 21st century economy. (Applause.) To give every child in America a chance to make the most of their God-given potential…. – WH, 3-5-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul: Standing up to EPA’s war on coal Coal is a vital sector of Kentucky’s economy. More than 200,000 jobs in the state depend on it, including more than 18,000 coal miners, and half the country’s electricity comes from coal. And yet, as we’re faced with a weakened economy and high unemployment, an overreaching Environmental Protection Agency in Washington is blocking new… jobs for Kentuckians by waging a war on coal…. – Kentucky.com, 3-5-11
  • Clinton backs Al-Jazeera, criticizes US news media before Senate: A decade ago the U.S. government attacked Al-Jazeera as a propagator of anti-American propaganda. Now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is citing the network for fine news coverage _ and tweaking the U.S. media in the process…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • President Obama on the Tragic Events In Germany: I want to take a brief moment just to say a few words about a tragic event that took place earlier today in Frankfurt, Germany.
    I’m saddened and I am outraged by this attack that took the lives of two Americans and wounded two others. I think the American people are united in expressing our gratitude for the service of those who were lost. Michelle and I have their family and their friends in our thoughts and prayers and we are praying for a speedy recovery for those who were injured.
    I want everybody to understand that we will spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place and in working with German authorities to ensure that all of the perpetrators are brought to justice.
    We don’t have all the information yet, and you will be fully briefed as we get more information. But this is a stark reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our men and women in uniform are making all around the world to keep us safe, and the dangers that they face all around the globe.
    So I think it’s fair to say that on behalf of the American people we want to extend our deepest condolences to these families. And we will give you further updates as we get more information about it. – WH, 3-2-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • STATEMENT BY SENATORS MCCAIN AND LIEBERMAN REGARDING THE SITUATION IN LIBYA: We strongly support President Obama’s declaration yesterday that Colonel Qaddafi must go. The President is correct that Qaddafi and those loyal to him—by unleashing horrific violence against the Libyan people—have lost the legitimacy to remain in power, and we agree that the United States must consider the full range of options to stop the bloodshed taking place in Libya now.
    We also applaud the measures adopted by the United States and our partners so far to ratchet up the pressure on the Qaddafi regime, including the imposition of both unilateral and multilateral sanctions, the regime’s eviction from the UN Human Rights Council, its suspension from the Arab League, and the referral of its case to the International Criminal Court.
    However, we remain deeply concerned about the situation in Libya. Despite the measures adopted by the international community, the Qaddafi regime still appears to be entrenched in Tripoli, and news reports indicate that Qaddafi’s forces are carrying out a campaign of terror against Libyan civilians. We are also deeply concerned that Qaddafi’s forces have launched offensives, including the use of airpower, against the opposition in the liberated areas of Libya.
    It is stated U.S. policy that Qaddafi must go, so now it is critical for the United States, together with our friends and allies, to ensure that he does go – as quickly as possible. A protracted and bloody stalemate in Libya would not only be an unnecessary humanitarian disaster, with the potential to destabilize a critical region. It could also create space for al Qaeda and its extremist allies to exploit the chaos. We agree with Secretary Clinton about the danger that a prolonged Libyan civil war could result in another Somalia. Moreover, if Qaddafi is able to remain in power, it would send a dangerous message that dictators should respond with brutal violence to the peaceful protest movement for universal rights that is sweeping the region and beyond…. – Lieberman Senate, 3-4-11
  • The President on Libya: “The Violence Must Stop; Muammar Gaddafi Has Lost the Legitimacy to Lead and He Must Leave”: The United States, and the entire world, continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people. The United States is helping to lead an international effort to deter further violence, put in place unprecedented sanctions to hold the Qaddafi government accountable, and support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We are also responding quickly to the urgent humanitarian needs that are developing.
    Tens of thousands of people—from many different countries—are fleeing Libya, and we commend the governments of Tunisia and Egypt for their response, even as they go through their own political transitions. I have therefore approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help move Egyptians who have fled to the Tunisian border to get back home to Egypt. I’ve authorized USAID to charter additional civilian aircraft to help people from other countries find their way home. And we’re supporting the efforts of international organizations to evacuate people as well.
    I have also directed USAID to send humanitarian assistance teams to the Libyan border, so that they can work with the United Nations, NGOs and other international partners inside Libya to address the urgent needs of the Libyan people.
    Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: the violence must stop; Muammar Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave; those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable; and the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and dignity must be met. – WH, 3-3-11
  • Presidential Proclamation: Women’s History Month: During Women’s History Month, we reflect on the extraordinary accomplishments of women and honor their role in shaping the course of our nation’s history….
    As we prepare to write the next chapter of women’s history, we must carry forward the work of the women who came before us and ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements, and no remaining ceilings to shatter…. – WH, 3-1-11
  • Presidential Proclamation: 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps: In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps, forever changing the way America sees the world and the world sees us…. On its 50th anniversary, the United States Peace Corps remains an enduring symbol of our nation’s commitment to encouraging progress, creating opportunity, and fostering mutual respect and understanding throughout the world…. – WH, 2-28-11
  • President Obama’s Plan to Cut Red Tape, Give States Flexibility, and Save Money: President Obama issued a memorandum to executive departments and agencies to work with state, tribal, and local governments to reduce unnecessary regulatory and administrative burdens in order to focus resources on achieving better outcomes at lower cost…. – WH, 2-28-11
  • John Boehner: The House just voted to repeal ObamaCare’s job-destroying 1099 paperwork mandate, a major source of uncertainty for job-creators grappling w/ the costs of the government’s takeover of health care. Having run a small business, I can tell you Washington mandates like this destroy jobs by increasing costs, creating uncertainty, & burying employers in paperwork. The Senate should pass this bill without delay. -
  • First Lady Michelle Obama & Dr. Jill Biden to America’s Governors: Support Our Military Families: Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden addressed the National Governors’ Association and talk about their initiative to support America’s military families….
    Because in the end, this is something that I think we can all agree on, no matter where we come from, no matter what we might think about any other issue. We all know that this issue — this is not a Democrat issue, this is not a Republican issue. This is an American issue. And more importantly, this is an American obligation. It truly is.
    It’s about showing our gratitude to that very small group of Americans who make such a tremendous contribution and sacrifice to this country. And it’s about serving the people who sacrifice so much to serve us. – WH, 2-28-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • President Obama and Vice President Biden Address National Governors Association: The President announces a proposal to move up the date when states are allowed to implement their own health care plans as long as they meet the standards for affordability and coverage under the Affordable Care Act…. – WH, 2-28-11
  • President Obama to America’s Governors: “The Flexibility That You Need to Find Your Own Innovative Ways Forward”: You see, part of the genius of our Founders was the establishment of a federal system in which each of our states serves as a laboratory for our democracy. Through this process, some of the best state ideas became some of America’s best ideas. So whether it’s through Race to the Top, or improving the Affordable Care Act, or reforming the way that we approach social programs by ensuring that spending is tied to success, our approach has been to give you the flexibility that you need to find your own innovative ways forward…. – WH, 2-28-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Barbour says Obama cheers for higher gas prices: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential presidential contender, accused the Obama administration Wednesday of favoring a run-up in gas prices to prod consumers to buy more fuel-efficient cars.
    “This administration’s policies have been designed to drive up the cost of energy in the name of reducing pollution, in the name of making very expensive alternative fuels more economically competitive,” Barbour said during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce breakfast across the street from the White House…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Mitch McConnell: U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following comment on the Senate floor Monday regarding the need to reduce Washington spending. ‘Americans have been telling lawmakers for two years that business as usual simply will not cut it anymore. They want us to get our fiscal house in order and to start to create the right conditions for private sector job growth. Democrats have an opportunity this week to show they get it. They have an opportunity to show that the status quo on spending and debt is no longer an option.’… – The Hill, 2-28-11
  • Rep. Eric Cantor: Cutting spending will grow the economy: America is at a tipping point, and Republicans have begun to take action. Last week, the House passed unprecedented legislation reducing discretionary spending this fiscal year by more than $100 billion. In addition, we made clear that our long-term budget, to be unveiled in the spring, will address the entitlement crisis that threatens to bankrupt our country – a long overdue move that politicians for too long have kicked down the road. This show of fiscal restraint represents not merely a clean break with Congress’ free- spending past, but a rededication to economic growth and a laser-like focus on job creation.
    It’s important to recognize the link between cutting spending and growing the economy. Like the gardener pruning the tree, we do not cut for the sake of cutting, but out of necessity. It’s the only way to restore economic health and free up the private capital necessary for new growth. Put simply, less government spending equals more private sector jobs…. – Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2-26-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Dukakis on Obama, Palin and what might have been: …”You make the effort,” he says, “and if folks just don’t want to sit down and come to a reasonable conclusion, you just go out and say, ‘The single most important priority is getting this economy back on track and getting people back to work, and what these guys are doing is going to have a profound effect on that.”
    Of course, this isn’t to say that Obama shouldn’t also begin defining the Republican opposition now in advance of next year’s presidential race. Dukakis suggests that Obama steal a page from the playbook of Clinton, who began running television ads in the summer of 1995.
    “I mean, [Clinton] had poor Dole on the floor, bleeding, a year in advance,” Dukakis says. “I think, given the opposition he’s likely to face, the corporate money pouring in, I’d make it an issue. I’d make the Koch brothers an issue — where’s that money coming from? I’d turn that into a plus, and early.”
    Ask him about the Tea Party and the woman who is arguably its most prominent public face — Sarah Palin — and Dukakis reacts with bewilderment…. – Salon, 3-6-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Obama steers clear of ‘doctrine’ as Arab tumult rages: “The closest we have to a policy is to allow the different revolutions to take place at their own pace, based on the timing of the people involved and intervening only through general statements of support,” said Julian Zelizer of Princeton University. “Other than that I don’t think there is any consistent principle.”
    “It can push you into wars where you should not be because you want to follow the logic of the doctrine,” said Zelizer. “Vietnam is a great example of where presidents from (Dwight) Eisenhower to (Lyndon) Johnson were following the logic of the ideas set out by Truman but in a war that really wasn’t that necessary and many realized they shouldn’t be in.” – AFP, 3-5-11
  • For Reagan, Gadhafi Was A Frustrating ‘Mad Dog’: America’s long, complicated history with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi goes back three decades. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Gadhafi was public enemy No. 1 — just as President John Kennedy’s nemesis had been Cuba’s Fidel Castro. “I find he’s not only a barbarian but he’s flaky,” Reagan said of Gadhafi. Some U.S. allies — even a few officials within his own administration — thought Reagan was too fixated on Gadhafi, that he was building Gadhafi up. But the president bristled at the Libyan leader’s support for terrorist groups and revolutionaries. And he coined a nickname for him: the “mad dog of the Middle East.” Gadhafi’s goal, Reagan said, was “a Muslim fundamentalist revolution.”… – NPR, 3-4-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton And are two-week budgets the new normal?: It is a very effective strategy for Republicans. The longer this stopgap figure is in place, the easier it is for Republicans to claim that this is the new normal when it comes time to pass the budget. Through the stopgap they lower the bar as to how much money Congress needs to spend and place Democrats in the position of defending perceived increases in spending (rather than the reality, where they are preventing budget cuts). – Politico Arena, 3-3-11
  • Obama’s ‘Where’s Waldo?’ presidency: For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president. There are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action – unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful. Each of these instances can be explained on its own terms, as matters of legislative strategy, geopolitical calculation or political prudence. Yet the dots connect to form an unsettling portrait of a “Where’s Waldo?” presidency: You frequently have to squint to find the White House amid the larger landscape…. – WaPo, 3-1-11
  • Liberal tradition is under assault: In one of the unexpected moments from the past few weeks, some defenders of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on public unions have pointed to President Franklin Roosevelt.
    Patrick McIlheran of the Journal Sentinel wrote, “Somewhere, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is grinning past his cigarette holder at Wisconsin’s governor. They are on the same page regarding government unions.”
    These commentators have noted that Roosevelt’s doubts about public sector unions suggest that today’s conservatives are more in touch with his positions than the Democrats…. – CNN, 2-28-11
  • Julian Zelizer: By keeping his distance, has Obama played Wisconsin right?: “The biggest danger in some ways was for him to be consumed by this issue,” says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “That hasn’t happened.”… – CS Monitor, 2-25-11
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