April 30, 2011: Obama Punks Trump, Adversaries at White House Correspondents Dinner

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:

President Barack Obama hit on everyone from Donald Trump to Matt Damon. | Reuters

IN FOCUS: WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ DINNER

  • In his speech, Barack Obama trumps adversaries: On his way into the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night, Donald Trump made a bold prediction: “I wouldn’t think [Obama] would address me.”
    Trump, who continues to boast his presidential aspirations, was one of the dinner’s highest-profile attendees, but he also bore the brunt of the burns from both the night’s two entertainers: President Barack Obama and “Saturday Night Live” head writer Seth Meyers.
    “Donald Trump is here tonight,” said Obama. “Now, I know that he’s taken some flak lately but no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than the Donald. And that’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like, ‘Did we fake the moon landing?’ ‘What really happened on Roswell?’ And ‘Where are Biggie and Tupac?'”…. – Politico, 4-30-11
  • The Top Five Zingers at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: “Matt Damon said he was disappointed in my performance. Well Matt, I just saw ‘The Adjustment Bureau,’ so right back at ya, buddy.” – Barack Obama
    [After showing a clip of ‘The Lion King’] “I want to make this clear to the Fox News table: That was a joke. That was not my real birth video. That was a children’s cartoon. Call Disney if you don’t believe me. They have the original long-form version.” – Barack Obama
    Jon Hamm looks the way every Republican thinks they look. Zach Galifianakis is also here. Zack Galifianakis looks the way every Republican thinks every Democrat looks. – Seth Meyers
    Donald Trump has been saying he will run for president as a Republican – which is surprising since I just assumed he would be running as a joke. – Seth Meyers
    “[Trump has] said he’s got a great relationship with ‘the blacks.’ Unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I bet he’s mistaken.” – Seth Meyers
  • Obama’s White House correspondents dinner act shatters YouTube record: With nearly 7 million views in just five days, President Obama’s speech at the White House correspondents dinner Saturday is now the most-watched Obama public speech on YouTube, C-SPAN said Thursday. The video shows Obama poking fun at the recent birth certificate controversy and his reliance on a teleprompter. But perhaps its biggest selling point is Obama’s roasting of would-be presidential rival Donald Trump…. – YouTubeLAT, 5-5-11
  • Obama video at press dinner reaches top of YouTube list: President Obama’s skewering of Donald Trump at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner last week didn’t just produce a lot of laughs — it also went viral. The president’s comedy routine, captured by C-SPAN, is now the most-watched YouTube video of Obama speaking in public. The video from the April 30 dinner has been viewed more than 6.7 million times on YouTube, surpassing then-candidate Obama’s speech about race relations in Philadelphia on March 18, 2008. President Obama poked fun at his potential rivals at the 2011 White House correspondents dinner. C-SPAN just happened to be the designated TV camera at the event, providing “pool” coverage for all networks. Howard Mortman, communications director for C-SPAN, notes that it only took the dinner video five days to reach the No. 1 “Obama video” spot on YouTube…. – USA Today, 5-5-11
  • “The President’s Speech” at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: We also need to remember our neighbors in Alabama and across the South that have been devastated by terrible storms from last week. (Applause.) Michelle and I were down there yesterday, and we’ve spent a lot of time with some of the folks who have been affected. The devastation is unimaginable and is heartbreaking and it’s going to be a long road back. And so we need to keep those Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers. But we also need to stand with them in the hard months and perhaps years to come.
    I intend to make sure that the federal government does that. And I’ve got faith that the journalists in this room will do their part for the people who have been affected by this disaster –- by reporting on their progress, and letting the rest of America know when they will need more help. Those are stories that need telling. And that’s what all of you do best, whether it’s rushing to the site of a devastating storm in Alabama, or braving danger to cover a revolution in the Middle East.
    You know, in the last months, we’ve seen journalists threatened, arrested, beaten, attacked, and in some cases even killed simply for doing their best to bring us the story, to give people a voice, and to hold leaders accountable. And through it all, we’ve seen daring men and women risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced, and everyone deserves to know the truth.
    That’s what you do. At your best that’s what journalism is. That’s the principle that you uphold. It is always important, but it’s especially important in times of challenge, like the moment that America and the world is facing now. – WH, 4-30-11

Peter Berkowitz: Our Elite Schools Have Abandoned Military History

The study of war elucidates some of mankind’s noblest virtues and bitterest vices. So why do colleges seem afraid of it?

Source: WSJ, 4-30-11

The Union’s victory in the Civil War, whose opening shots were fired by Confederate forces 150 years ago this month, established that the United States, which had been conceived in liberty, would endure as a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Many college students will hear in that assertion echoes of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Few will know much about the bloody three-day battle of Gettysburg that Lincoln’s revered speech commemorated.

There is little chance today’s college students will study the strategy that underlay Gen. Robert E. Lee’s decision to lead the Army of Northern Virginia on a second invasion of the North, or the tactics that Gen. George Gordon Meade and his commanders of the Army of the Potomac adopted to repel the attack. They are probably no better versed in any other Civil War battle.

One reason for this ignorance is that our bastions of liberal education barely teach military affairs. No doubt the same post-Vietnam hostility to all things military that impelled faculties and administrations to banish ROTC from campus is a major factor.

To be sure, military history continues to command popular audiences through best-selling books and television documentaries. It is taught at the service academies and flourishes at a few, mostly public, universities including the University of North Carolina, Ohio State, Texas A&M and the University of Wisconsin.

Where it is taught, courses in military history attract impressive numbers of students. But as military historian Edward M. Coffman (professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin) notes, only about 5% of America’s approximately 14,000 history professors identify military history as an interest.

The study of military affairs has not disappeared from the college curriculum, yet the neglect is dramatic. In history departments, survey courses may discuss the social, political and economic dimensions of wars. But the traditional topics of military history—how wars begin, how they are waged, and how they end; the cultural foundations, the recruitment and training of military forces; logistics, tactics and strategy—receive scant attention.

As for courses that focus on military affairs, one would be hard-pressed to find more than one or two courses offered during the 2010-2011 academic year among the approximately 80 courses that Harvard’s history department listed for undergraduates, the 150 undergraduate courses listed by Yale’s history department, and the 130 classes listed by Stanford’s history department. Yale’s wonderful “Studies in Grand Strategy”—an interdisciplinary course developed by Profs. John Lewis Gaddis, Charles Hill and Paul Kennedy—stands nearly alone….READ MORE

April 28, 2011: President Obama Announces New National Security Team

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

White House Photo, Pete Souza, 4/28/11

IN FOCUS: OBAMA NAMES NEW NATIONAL SECURITY TEAM

  • Officials: Obama to shuffle national security team: The White House says President Barack Obama will make personnel announcements Thursday, and officials tell The Associated Press the president will unveil a major shuffling of his national security team…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • A look at Obama’s new national security team: The main figures in President Barack Obama’s national security shuffle….
    LEON PANETTA, 72…
    GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, 58…
    RYAN CROCKER, 61…
    MARINE CORPS LT. GEN. JOHN R. ALLEN, 57 –
    AP, 4-28-11
  • Obama’s day: A new war council: This afternoon, Obama will unveil a national security team, formally nominating CIA Director Leon Panetta to be the new secretary of Defense to replace the retiring Robert Gates. Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, will move to the CIA to replace Panetta. USA TODAY notes that Obama “may be reshuffling his national security team, but he’s sticking to the same game plan: fighting insurgents and terrorists with a closely coordinated military-intelligence complex.”… – USA Today, 4-28-11
  • >In one stroke, a new Obama national security team: The reshuffled national security team President Barack Obama introduced on Thursday will be charged with fighting not only the overseas war in Afghanistan but also budget battles on the home front over Pentagon spending that has ballooned into a fat target for deficit hawks. His own re-election campaign approaching, Obama turned to a cast of familiar and respected officials for the most sweeping reworking of his national security team since the opening weeks of his presidency. He invoked the political upheaval and violence roiling the Middle East, the nearly 10-year-old Afghan war and the hard cost-cutting decisions ahead as the country tries to reduce its crushing debt.
    “Given the pivotal period that we’re entering, I felt that it was absolutely critical that we had this team in place so that we can stay focused on our missions, maintain our momentum and keep our nation secure,” Obama said at the White House…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Panetta and Petraeus in Line for Top Security Posts: President Obama will reshuffle his national security team on Thursday, naming Leon E. Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as defense secretary and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, to lead the C.I.A., administration officials said Wednesday. The appointments, set in motion by the impending retirement of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, are the most significant realignment of Mr. Obama’s war council and could have important implications for the American strategy in Afghanistan as well as for the troubled relationship with Pakistan…. – NYT, 4-27-11
  • Obama sending Panetta to Pentagon, Petraeus to CIA: In a major national security reshuffle, President Barack Obama is sending CIA Director Leon Panetta to the Pentagon to replace Robert Gates, a widely praised Bush holdover, and replacing Panetta at the spy agency with Gen. David Petraeus, the high-profile commander of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Obama’s changes, expected to be announced at the White House on Thursday, also will include a new ambassador and war commander in Afghanistan. However, they don’t signal any major adjustment in the president’s Afghan strategy or the fight against violent extremism. The moves cement a planned drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July and allow Obama to replace Gates, a Republican, with a Democrat with partisan credentials. That appointment also diminishes speculation that Petraeus might become a Republican presidential challenger in 2012…. – AP, 4-27-11
  • President Obama Announces New Members of his National Security Team: I want to begin by saying a few words about the devastating storms that have ripped through the southeastern United States. The loss of life has been heartbreaking, especially in Alabama. In a matter of hours, these deadly tornadoes, some of the worst that we’ve seen in decades, took mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors, even entire communities. Others are injured and some are still missing, and in many places the damage to homes and businesses is nothing short of catastrophic.
    We can’t control when or where a terrible storm may strike, but we can control how we respond to it. And I want every American who has been affected by this disaster to know that the federal government will do everything we can to help you recover. And we will stand with you as you rebuild….
    Still, we confront urgent challenges. In Iraq we’re working to bring the rest of our troops home as Iraqis secure their democracy. In Afghanistan we’re moving into a new phase, transferring responsibility for security to Afghan forces, starting to reduce American forces this summer, and building a long-term partnership with the Afghan people.
    As people across the Middle East and North Africa seek to determine their own destiny, we must ensure that America stands with those who seek their universal rights, and that includes continuing to support the international effort to protect the Libyan people. And here at home, as we make the hard decisions that are needed to reduce America’s debt, we cannot compromise our ability to defend our nation or our interests around the world…. – WH, 4-28-11Transcript

April 28, 2011: President Obama Silences “Birthers” & Donald Trump by Releasing Birth Certificate

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:

IN FOCUS: BIRTHER’S, TRUMP & PRESIDENT OBAMA’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE

  • WH calls questions on Obama birthplace distraction: The White House says questions about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate are an unfortunate distraction when so many other serious issues like high gas prices are bedeviling the country.
    Press Secretary Jay Carney said in response to a reporter’s questions Tuesday that most Americans “would be appalled” that White House officials are spending any time discussing Obama’s birth certificate given numerous other problems to contend with…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • Obama, hoping to end ‘sideshow,’ offers birth form: Confronting growing doubts that could undermine his re-election bid, President Barack Obama on Wednesday delivered an extraordinary rebuttal to those questioning whether he was born in the United States and eligible to hold office, producing a detailed birth certificate and pleading for a long “sideshow” to end…. – AP, 4-27-11
  • Obama Releases ‘Long Form’ Birth Certificate: President Obama on Wednesday posted online a copy of his “long form” birth certificate from the State of Hawaii, hoping to finally end a long-simmering conspiracy theory among some conservatives who have asserted that he was not born in the United States and was not a legitimate president….
    “The president believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country,” Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, wrote on the Web site Wednesday morning. Mr. Pfeiffer said on the site that Mr. Obama had authorized officials in Hawaii, who had routinely made available a shorter version of the birth certificate, to release the longer, more complete document.
    “Over the last two and a half years, I have watched with bemusement,” President Obama said in brief remarks at the White House. “I’ve been puzzled by the degree to which this thing just kept on going.” Mr. Obama said there would be a “segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest.” But he said that he was “speaking to the vast majority of the American people as well as to the press — we do not have time for this kind of silliness.”… – NYT, 4-28-11
  • Hawaii government hands over Obama’s birth records: Until this week, Hawaii officials said they wouldn’t release original birth records for anyone, under any circumstances. Even if it was President Barack Obama. Then they heard from the president himself.
    “I am writing to request two certified copies of my original certificate of live birth,” the president wrote on White House letterhead, dated April 22.
    State officials then decided to make an exception to a 2001 policy that prohibited anyone from getting a photocopy of an original birth certificate. They usually hand out computer-generated versions. Obama’s waiver was the first since 2001. Officials said it would be the last…. – AP, 4-27-11
  • Hawaii government hands over Obama’s birth records: Until this week, Hawaii officials said they wouldn’t release original birth records for anyone, under any circumstances. Even if it was President Barack Obama. Then they heard from the president himself.
    “I am writing to request two certified copies of my original certificate of live birth,” the president wrote on White House letterhead, dated April 22.
    State officials then decided to make an exception to a 2001 policy that prohibited anyone from getting a photocopy of an original birth certificate. They usually hand out computer-generated versions. Obama’s waiver was the first since 2001. Officials said it would be the last…. – AP, 4-27-11
  • In NH, Trump takes credit for Obama birth info: After weeks of suggesting Barack Obama was born in Africa, Donald Trump hastened to boast that he had forced the Democratic president to release a detailed Hawaii birth certificate disproving that claim, painting an apparent setback as a victory within minutes of arriving in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
    The developer and reality TV show host, who is considering a White House run, again showed the difficulty establishment Republicans are having in controlling the early stages of their wide-open nominating contest. He also proved himself a nimble messenger, or spinner.
    “Today I am very proud of myself because I have accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish,” Trump told reporters Wednesday shortly after his black and red helicopter, emblazoned “TRUMP” on the side, touched down in Portsmouth.
    He arrived not long after the White House released the president’s long-form birth certificate from Hawaii. He said he was honored “to have played such a big role in hopefully — hopefully — getting rid of this issue. Now, we have to look at it, we have to see, is it real.”… – AP, 4-27-11
  • Analysis: Obama had no choice in ‘birther’ fight: Confronting doubters who harbor questions about his place of birth, President Barack Obama chose to defy one of his White House’s own rules: Don’t get dragged into the news skirmish of the day. This time, he decided he had to. In an extraordinary step, the White House produced a copy of his detailed Hawaii birth certificate Wednesday after obtaining a special waiver from the state to make it public. For his allies and even many of his political critics, it was about time.
    The debate over his birth was becoming a media preoccupation. Celebrity developer Donald Trump, who took the lead in sowing doubts about Obama’s birth, was gaining a following as he flirted with a Republican presidential bid. A recent poll showed two-thirds of all Republicans — and smaller percentages of independents and Democrats — believing Obama was born overseas or voicing uncertainty about his place of birth.
    Standing in front of cameras in the White House briefing room Wednesday, the president sought to rise above the fray by first succumbing to it. “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshow and carnival barkers,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Widow says husband is doctor on Obama certificate: Ivalee Sinclair learned about her husband’s brush with history at the same time as the rest of the world. On Wednesday, the widow of Honolulu obstetrician David Sinclair printed a copy of President Barack Obama’s full birth certificate from the Internet, and said she recognized the familiar left-handed cursive on the document.
    “It’s my husband’s signature,” she said referring to the name signed below that of Obama’s mother in the spot for “signature of attendant.”
    Obama released the birth certificate in response to long-running questions about whether he was actually born in the United States and eligible to be president. Sinclair, who died in 2003 at 81, had an obstetrics and gynecology practice in Honolulu and delivered babies all over Hawaii when Obama was born in 1961, said his son Karl Sinclair, 55, of Kailua…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • President Obama’s Long Form Birth Certificate: In 2008, in response to media inquiries, the President’s campaign requested his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. The state sent the campaign the President’s birth certificate, the same legal documentation provided to all Hawaiians as proof of birth in state, and the campaign immediately posted it on the internet. That birth certificate can be seen here (PDF)….. – WH, 4-27-11Transcript
  • Text of Obama’s remarks on his birth certificate: The text of President Barack Obama’s remarks Wednesday about the release of his long-form birth certificate, as provided by the White House:
    Hello, everybody. Now, let me just comment, first of all, on the fact that I can’t get the networks to break in on all kinds of other discussions — (laughter.) I was just back there listening to Chuck — he was saying, it’s amazing that he’s not going to be talking about national security. I would not have the networks breaking in if I was talking about that, Chuck, and you know it.
    As many of you have been briefed, we provided additional information today about the site of my birth. Now, this issue has been going on for two, two and a half years now. I think it started during the campaign. And I have to say that over the last two and a half years I have watched with bemusement, I’ve been puzzled at the degree to which this thing just kept on going. We’ve had every official in Hawaii, Democrat and Republican, every news outlet that has investigated this, confirm that, yes, in fact, I was born in Hawaii, August 4, 1961, in Kapiolani Hospital.
    We’ve posted the certification that is given by the state of Hawaii on the Internet for everybody to see. People have provided affidavits that they, in fact, have seen this birth certificate. And yet this thing just keeps on going.
    Now, normally I would not comment on something like this, because obviously there’s a lot of stuff swirling in the press on, at any given day and I’ve got other things to do. But two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.
    And so I just want to make a larger point here. We’ve got some enormous challenges out there. There are a lot of folks out there who are still looking for work. Everybody is still suffering under high gas prices. We’re going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we invest in our future but also get a hold of our deficit and our debt — how do we do that in a balanced way.
    And this is going to generate huge and serious debates, important debates. And there are going to be some fierce disagreements — and that’s good. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. And I am confident that the American people and America’s political leaders can come together in a bipartisan way and solve these problems. We always have.
    But we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.
    We live in a serious time right now and we have the potential to deal with the issues that we confront in a way that will make our kids and our grandkids and our great grandkids proud. And I have every confidence that America in the 21st century is going to be able to come out on top just like we always have. But we’re going to have to get serious to do it.
    I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest. But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do. We’ve got big problems to solve. And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them — not on this. – 4-27-11
  • Imani Perry: Some blacks see racism in ‘birther’ questions: “The stress of feeling constantly called into question, constantly under surveillance, has emotional and physical consequences for us,” said Imani Perry, a professor at Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies. “It also puts us in the position of not being able to be constituents, with respect to our politicians, because we feel we have to constantly protect the president. … You see people attacking him, and he’s the president, what happens to those of us who are not the president?”… – AP, 4-28-11

Political Highlights April 25, 2011: President Obama Sells Deficit Reduction Plan as Gas Prices Continue to Rise — Obama’s Facebook Townhall — Easter & Passover at the White House

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:


White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 4/22/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Nation’s Mood at Lowest Level in Two Years, Poll Shows: Americans are more pessimistic about the nation’s economic outlook and overall direction than they have been at any time since President Obama’s first two months in office, when the country was still officially ensnared in the Great Recession, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll…. – NYT, 4-22-11
  • Robert Reich: Beware the ‘middle ground’ of the Great Budget Debate: The center of public opinion is nowhere near the halfway point between the two extremes of the budget debate. Americans lean toward Obama and the Democrats.
    We continue to hear that the Great Budget Debate has two sides: The President and the Democrats want to cut the budget deficit mainly by increasing taxes on the rich and reducing military spending, but not by privatizing Medicare. On the other side are Paul Ryan, Republicans, and the right, who want cut the deficit by privatizing Medicare and slicing programs that benefit poorer Americans, while lowering taxes on the rich….
    According to the most recent Washington Post-ABC poll, 78 percent of Americans oppose cutting spending on Medicare as a way to reduce the debt, and 72 percent support raising taxes on the rich – including 68 percent of Independents and 54 percent of Republicans…. – CS Monitor, 4-21-11
  • Poll: One in four Americans think Obama was not born in U.S.: A quarter of all Americans incorrectly think President Obama was not born in the United States, according to a new CBS News/ New York Times poll.
    Among all Republicans, 45 percent believe he was born in another country, as do 45 percent of Tea Party supporters, the poll shows…. – CBS, 4-21-11
  • Poll shows Americans oppose entitlement cuts to deal with debt problem: Despite growing concerns about the country’s long-term fiscal problems and an intensifying debate in Washington about how to deal with them, Americans strongly oppose some of the major remedies under consideration, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
    The survey finds that Americans prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is. Most also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Only President Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support.
    On Monday, Standard & Poor’s, for the first time, shifted its outlook on U.S. creditworthiness to “negative” because of the nation’s accumulating debt. The announcement rattled investors and could increase pressure on both sides in Washington to work out a broader deal as part of the upcoming vote over increasing the government’s borrowing authority…. – WaPo, 4-19-11
  • New Poll Shows Obama Falling, But Not Below GOP Contenders: Economic anxiety is driving President Obama’s approval rating to nearly its lowest level yet, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows, but he still edges out any possible GOP opponent for 2012. The president’s 47 percent approval rating is down seven points from January, but he would get a majority of the vote against every potential Republican White House candidate except former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whom he leads by a 49 to 45 percent margin.
    Results prove a direct correlation between the faltering economy and Obama’s grade: “Despite signs of economic growth, 44 percent of Americans see the economy as getting worse,” the Post reported, and Americans demonstrate particular concern for rising gas prices; meanwhile, 57 percent disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue…. – The National Journal, 4-19-11
  • The GOP’s 2012 Enthusiasm Gap: New numbers out this morning bears bad news for Barack Obama but worse news for every single one of the GOP candidates. According to a poll by ABC News/Washington Post out today, only 43 percent of Republicans say they’re satisfied with the potential candidates for president and a further 17 percent have no opinion about the field. These two numbers are dramatically low compared to this stage in the 2008 elections, and analysts suggest that the GOP candidates’ reticence to formally enter the race might have something to do with the lack of enthusiasm…. – The National Journal, 4-19-11
  • A Gallup poll shows that 6 in 10 Americans approve of the budget deal that slices $38 billion from spending for the next six months, the president has moved toward embracing the role of deficit slayer.

IN FOCUS


The President cheers on children rolling Easter eggs, White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 4/25/11
  • Obamas host annual White House Easter egg roll: Thousands of kids and their parents swarmed the White House grounds Monday for the annual tradition of rolling Easter eggs across the South Lawn, complete with games, storytelling and a visit from the Easter Bunny. “I hope everybody is having a great time here,” President Barack Obama said in kicking off Monday’s event. He was joined on a balcony overlooking the sun-drenched South Lawn by his wife, Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and mother-in-law, Marian Robinson. Mrs. Obama said it was “pretty amazing” that a record 30,000 were expected to attend. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., were represented, according to the White House. “We are so excited about this year’s Easter egg roll,” she said. “The theme is ‘Get Up and Go!’ because, as you know, I’m a big proponent of getting up and going, making sure we’re moving and eating healthy, and this Easter egg roll reflects all of that.”… – AP, 4-25-11
  • Obama’s Easter festivities; Afghanistan meeting: President Barack Obama handles one of the more fun parts of his job to start the week — the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House. He’ll be joined on the South Lawn by members of his family Monday morning, and will make a few remarks…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Obama attends Easter service at historic church: President Barack Obama and his family attended Easter service Sunday at a Washington church founded in 1863 by freed slaves. The first family entered Shiloh Baptist Church to a round of applause on a sun-splashed day in the nation’s capital as members of a choir dressed in black, white and gold sang “Total Praise.” Obama shook a few hands and hugged some members of the congregation as he and his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, walked to a second-row pew. According to the church’s pastor, Dr. Wallace Charles Smith, 21 freed slaves made it to the nation’s capital from Fredericksburg, Va., to establish a place where they could worship freely and where “they could reach others with the good news of their salvation…. – AP, 4-24-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • DOD: First Predator strike carried out in Libya: The Pentagon says the U.S. Air Force has carried out its first Predator missile strike in Libya. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Darryn James, said the airstrike happened Saturday…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • McCain lauds anti-Gadhafi force during Libya visit: U.S. Sen. John McCain praised Libya’s rebels as his “heroes” in a visit to their de facto capital Friday, a day after the United States started flying armed drones to bolster NATO firepower and try to break a battlefield stalemate with Moammar Gadhafi’s forces….
    McCain, one of the strongest proponents in Congress of the U.S. military intervention in Libya, said he was in Benghazi “to get an on-the-ground assessment of the situation” and planned to meet with the rebel National Transition Council, the de facto government in the eastern half of the country, and members of the rebel military.
    “They are my heroes,” McCain said of the rebels as he walked out of a Benghazi hotel. A few Libyans waved American flags as his vehicle drove past…. – AP, 4-22-11
  • Clinton: Gadhafi may be using cluster bombs: The Obama administration said Thursday that Moammar Gadhafi’s government may be targeting Libyan civilians with cluster bombs, cautiously endorsing claims by rebels and human rights groups that the Libyan strongman’s troops are using the indiscriminate weapon on the western city of Misrata. Attacks by Gadhafi’s forces have been deplorable, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. Despite outlining more examples of what she termed Gadhafi’s “inhumanity,” Clinton refused to signal any new course for the United States to help anti-government forces in their war to end four decades of dictatorship. “Col. Gadhafi’s troops continue their vicious attacks, including the siege of Misrata,” Clinton told reporters in Washington. “There are even reports that Gadhafi forces may have used cluster bombs against their own people.”… – AP, 4-21-11
  • Obama OKs use of armed drone aircraft in Libya: President Barack Obama has approved the use of armed drones in Libya, authorizing U.S. airstrikes against ground forces for the first time since America turned control of the operation over to NATO on April 4. It also is the first time that drones will have been used for airstrikes since the conflict began on March 19, although they have routinely been flying surveillance missions, Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Thursday…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • U.S. defends role in Libya: U.S officials defended America’s role in the NATO-led mission in Libya Monday, amid criticism that Washington is not doing enough as the coalition struggles. White House spokesman Jay Carney downplayed reports that NATO is running out of munitions to fight the war. Carney told reporters that “a dramatic increase” in NATO sorties Sunday and Monday “demonstrates the capacity of NATO to fulfill its mission” in securing a no-fly zone over Libya. “We have no plans to change our posture,” he said…. – CNN, 4-18-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • US treads warily in Syria, considers sanctions: Despite a ruthless crackdown on pro-reform demonstrators, there is no international appetite for a warlike approach to Syria — a crucial Mideast playmaker with ties to Iran and a say in any eventual Arab peace with Israel.
    In contrast with the quick international decision to launch an air campaign in nearby Libya, the United States is responding cautiously to mounting civilian deaths in Syria, preparing steps such as slapping new travel limits and financial penalties on Syrian leaders.
    As violence escalated anew on Monday, the White House stepped up its condemnation of President Bashar Assad’s regime, but stopped well short of demanding the ouster of a leader some U.S. Democrats had considered a potential reformer and peace broker…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Thousands of Syrian troops raid rebellious city: Thousands of soldiers backed by tanks and snipers moved in before dawn to the city where Syria’s anti-government uprising began, causing panic in the streets when they opened fire indiscriminately on civilians and went house-to-house rounding up suspected protesters. At least 11 people were killed and 14 others lay in the streets — either dead or gravely wounded, witnesses said.
    The military raids on the southern city of Daraa and at least two other areas suggested Syria is trying to impose military control on the centers of protests against President Bashar Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades. Residents and human rights activists said the regime wants to terrify opponents and intimidate them from staging any more demonstrations…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Obama: Syria’s ‘outrageous’ violence must end now: President Barack Obama is condemning the latest use of force by Syria against anti-government demonstrators and says the regime’s “outrageous” use of violence against the protesters must “end now.”… In a statement, Obama says Syria’s moves a day earlier to repeal a decades-old emergency law and allow peaceful demonstrations were not serious in light of Friday’s eve…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • Syria targets activists in pinpoint raids: Syrian security forces detained dozens of opposition activists and fired from rooftops in a seaside town Sunday as authorities turned to pinpoint raids after days of bloodshed brought international condemnation and defections from President Bashar Assad’s regime.
    The strategy, described by a rights activist, appeared aimed at rattling the opposition’s leadership and showing that the state’s ability to conduct arrest sweeps has not changed despite abolishing nearly 50-year-old emergency laws last week.
    The rising level of violence — more than 120 people dead since Friday — brought calls from the watchdog group Human Rights Watch for a U.N. inquiry. But Sunday’s tactics also suggest a government effort to head off the round of protest marches…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • US official: US opposes Syria for UN rights body: The Obama administration will oppose Syria’s candidacy to the United Nations’ top human rights body, an official said Monday, calling the Arab country’s attempt to gain a seat in the organization “hypocritical” while it uses violence to try to silence protests against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian regime. The diplomatic push against Assad’s government comes as thousands of Syrians continue to demonstrate for democratic reforms. Human rights groups say more than 200 have been killed by security forces in a month of protests…. – AP, 4-18-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Kelly: Giffords cleared to attend shuttle launch: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will attend husband Mark Kelly’s space shuttle launch in Florida on Friday, Kelly said, allowing the Arizona congresswoman to travel for the first time since she was flown from Tucson to Houston more than three months ago to recover from a gunshot wound to the head.
    In an interview with CBS’ Katie Couric, Kelly said Giffords’ doctors had given her permission to travel to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the launch of Endeavour, which is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. Friday. Kelly is the commander of the shuttle mission.
    CBS released excerpts of the interview Sunday, and it was scheduled to air Monday on “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric,” according to a network statement.
    “I’ve met with her doctors, her neurosurgeon and her doctors, and … they’ve given us permission to take her down to the launch,” Kelly said in the interview in Houston. The network statement did not specify when the interview occurred…. – AP, 4-24-11
  • Obama again won’t call Armenian deaths ‘genocide’: President Barack Obama on Saturday marked the anniversary of the massacre of Armenians in Turkey nearly a century ago by calling it a “horrific” slaughter, but once again stopped short of branding it genocide.
    In a written statement, Obama said the 1915 killings of some 1.5 million Armenians represent “one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.” But for the third straight year, he failed to use the word genocide to describe it. As a candidate for president, Obama repeatedly vowed to recognize the genocide once in office, vowing “a principled commitment to commemorating and ending genocide.”…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • US default could be disastrous choice for economy: The United States has never defaulted on its debt and Democrats and Republicans say they don’t want it to happen now. But with partisan acrimony running at fever pitch, and Democrats and Republicans so far apart on how to tame the deficit, the unthinkable is suddenly being pondered.
    The government now borrows about 42 cents of every dollar it spends. Imagine that one day soon, the borrowing slams up against the current debt limit ceiling of $14.3 trillion and Congress fails to raise it. The damage would ripple across the entire economy, eventually affecting nearly every American, and rocking global markets in the process.
    A default would come if the government actually failed to fulfill a financial obligation, including repaying a loan or interest on that loan. The government borrows mostly by selling bonds to individuals and governments, with a promise to pay back the amount of the bond in a certain time period and agreeing to pay regular interest on that bond in the meantime….. – AP, 4-23-11
  • In Hawaii, accessing some Obama birth info is easy: Lost in the renewed scrutiny into President Barack Obama’s birth records is the fact that anyone can walk into a Hawaii vital records office, wait in line behind couples getting marriage licenses and open a baby-blue government binder containing basic information about his birth.
    Highlighted in yellow on page 1,218 of the thick binder is the computer-generated listing for a boy named Barack Hussein Obama II born in Hawaii, surrounded by the alphabetized last names of all other children born in-state between 1960 and 1964. This is the only government birth information, called “index data,” available to the public…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • Obama pumps plan to develop renewable energy: President Barack Obama says one answer to high gasoline prices is to spend money developing renewable energy sources. “That’s the key to helping families at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil” in the long term, he said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address….
    He announced Thursday during an event in Reno, Nev., that the Justice Department will begin looking for cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets, even though Attorney General Eric Holder suggested a variety of legal reasons may be behind the surging gas prices.
    As he has before, Obama said Saturday there is no “silver bullet” that will slash gas prices immediately. But he said there are things government can do to help make a difference in the long term. They also include boosting U.S. oil production, rooting out any illegal activity by traders and speculators and ending $4 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies. “Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy sources, we need to invest in tomorrow’s,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • Gulf anniversary renews debate on Arctic drilling: A year after the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, some experts are pondering the next doomsday scenario — a massive oil well blowout in the icy waters off Alaska’s northern coast. Like the deepest waters of the Gulf, the shallow but frigid seas off Alaska are a new frontier for oil and gas exploration. The reserves are large but come with risks…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • ‘Birther’ claims force GOP leaders to take a stand: In recent days several prominent Republicans have distanced themselves, with varying degrees of emphasis, from the false claim that Obama was born in a foreign country. But with a new poll showing that two-thirds of adult Republicans either embrace the claim or are open to it, the GOP leaders for the most part are not calling for a broader effort to stamp out the allegations.
    “It’s a real challenge for the Republican Party and virtually every Republican candidate for president,” contends Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. If it’s not handled well, he said, all-important independent voters might see Republicans as extreme or irrelevant…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • Michelle Obama’s plane flew closer to big jet: A plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama this week came even closer to a big military cargo jet than previously reported, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday. The distance between the two planes closed to 2.94 miles before air traffic controllers at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington directed the first lady’s plane to abort a landing, the board said in a statement. The Federal Aviation Administration had previously said there was more than three miles between the planes, and had ordered controllers’ supervisors to oversee flights carrying the first lady and the vice president. A supervisor was already required to monitors flights with President Barack Obama on board…. – AP, 4-22-11
  • Obama to meet with Emirates crown prince Tuesday: The crown prince of the United Arab Emirates is coming to see President Barack Obama next week and is expected to discuss the turmoil in Yemen. A White House announcement said Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan will meet with Obama on Tuesday to talk about “common strategic interests.”… – AP, 4-22-11
  • Obama’s deficit plans run into economic reality: President Barack Obama headed west to sell his big picture deficit-reduction plan. But many people are waiting for a quick fix to their own economic problems caused chiefly by persistent unemployment and the crippled housing market….
    “If we don’t have a serious plan to tackle the debt and the deficit, that could actually end up being a bigger drag on the economy than anything else,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-22-11
  • Giffords makes Time’s 100 ‘most influential’ list: Time magazine has named U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. President Barack Obama wrote the tribute to Arizona congresswoman in the magazine’s May issue, saying Giffords may not have been a household name before she was shot in the head in a Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson, but now “she’s got the prayers of a nation rooting for her.” Obama wrote Giffords is a “model of civility and courage and unity — a needed voice that cannot return soon enough.”… – AP, 4-21-11
  • High court asked to reinstate FCC indecency policy: The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court Thursday to reinstate a policy that allows federal regulators to fine broadcasters for showing nudity and airing curse words when young children may be watching television. The administration is seeking the high court’s review of appeals court rulings that threw out the Federal Communications Commission’s rules against the isolated use of expletives as well as fines against broadcasters who showed a woman’s nude buttocks on a 2003 episode of ABC’s “NYPD Blue.”…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • Calif. GOP leader says email sender should resign: The head of Orange County’s Republican Party is vowing to keep up the pressure on a local GOP official to resign for sending an offensive email about President Barack Obama. “This issue will not go away until she has taken 100 percent responsibility for sending out a racist email that offended millions,” Chairman Scott Baugh said. He commented by telephone on Wednesday after Marilyn Davenport, speaking for the first time, said she will not resign and had no racist intentions when she sent the email.
    The message depicts Obama’s face superimposed over a baby chimp’s. The text under the image reads, “Now you know why — No birth certificate!” Davenport, 74, represents the 72nd Assembly District on the GOP’s Orange County Central Committee, a group of elected volunteers who raise funds and campaign for the party. “I feel that it was inappropriate and I offended people,” Davenport said outside her suburban ranch-style home. “I think it’s only racist when the intent in my heart is to make it that way, and that was not the intent in my heart.”… – AP, 4-21-11
  • Obama’s deficit plans run into economic reality: President Barack Obama headed west to sell his big picture deficit-reduction plan. But many people are waiting for a quick fix to their own economic problems caused chiefly by persistent unemployment and the crippled housing market. Audiences in California and Nevada understood why it’s important to get a handle on the deficit over the long term. Yet they made clear that the economic recovery hasn’t fully taken hold in ways that are meaningful to them. As Obama shifts into re-election mode, he will need to show that he hasn’t lost his focus on jobs even as the conversation in Washington swings to paying down what the nation owes…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • WikiLeaks suspect transferred to Fort Leavenworth: The Army private suspected of illegally passing U.S. government secrets to the WikiLeaks website was transferred Wednesday to an Army prison in Kansas from the Marine brig in Virginia where he has spent the past nine months. Pfc. Bradley Manning, suspected of having obtained the classified documents while serving as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq, is awaiting a determination by the Army on whether he is mentally competent to stand trial…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • White House: First family to attend shuttle launch: President Barack Obama and his family will attend next week’s launch of Endeavour, NASA’s next-to-last space shuttle flight commanded by the husband of critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. A White House official said Wednesday that the president would be at the April 29 liftoff, along with wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha. That prompted Giffords to say: “Awesome.” Commander Mark Kelly will lead the six-man shuttle crew to the International Space Station. He has said he hopes his wife will be there when he blasts off, and is awaiting her doctors’ final approval…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • White House considering disclosure for contractors: The White House says it’s considering requiring companies pursuing federal contracts to disclose their campaign contributions. Spokesman Jay Carney says that would be achieved by an executive order that’s being drafted. With President Barack Obama officially a candidate for re-election, Carney denied any political motives behind the effort…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • Obama praises Gulf workers 1 year after oil spill: President Barack Obama is noting the one-year anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, paying tribute to the 11 men killed and thanking the thousands of responders who “worked tirelessly to mitigate the worst impacts” of the oil spill. Obama says that while workers have “made significant progress, the job isn’t done.” He says his administration will continue to hold BP PLC, which leased the rig, and other parties “fully accountable for the damage.”…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • Comprehensive immigration reform probably doomed: President Barack Obama revisited a key campaign promise when he hosted a White House meeting of elected officials and experts on immigration. But if a major overhaul of the nation’s immigration policy is his goal, Republicans in Congress say he shouldn’t hold his breath. They say any bill that even hints at amnesty or legalization for millions of illegal immigrants already living and working in the United States is dead before it ever makes an appearance in a congressional committee…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • Ag secretary’s wife moves toward US House run: Christie Vilsack, the wife of Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, announced Wednesday she is taking the first step toward running for Congress by relocating to Iowa’s new 4th District. “The decision to run for Congress deserves serious consideration,” Vilsack said in a statement. “Next month I will move to Ames and continue to explore the possibility of representing Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives.”…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • Obama calls GOP Medicare, spending plan ‘radical’: President Barack Obama declared Wednesday that congressional Republicans are pushing a radical plan to trim Medicare and Medicaid, ramping up the rhetoric before a friendly Facebook crowd at the headquarters of the popular social networking site.
    “I think it’s fair to say that their vision is radical,” Obama told a town hall gathering that included questions posed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and sent in by site users.
    “I don’t think it’s particularly courageous,” he said of the GOP plan to convert Medicare to a voucher program and make big cuts to the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor.
    “Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor, or people who are powerless, or don’t have lobbyists, or don’t have clout,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-19-11
  • Obama begins selling ‘balanced’ deficit plan: President Obama began a coast-to-coast sales pitch Tuesday for something that may prove tough to sell: spending cuts and tax increases. It’s the exact opposite prescription from what Obama spent his first two years in office pitching — a one-two punch of stimulus spending and tax cuts designed to lift the nation out of a major recession.
    To make his case, the president warned that his “balanced” combination of defense and domestic spending cuts and higher taxes on upper-income Americans was the best way to block a Republican plan to privatize Medicare and cut taxes for the wealthy. “I think that is the wrong way to go,” Obama told about 550 students and local residents at Northern Virginia Community College in the Washington suburbs. “That would fundamentally change Medicare as we know it, and I’m not going to sign up for that.”… – USA Today, 4-19-11
  • Obama off to ‘friend’ Facebook in person: President Barack Obama heads to Facebook’s headquarters on Wednesday to tout his budget cuts to followers of the social media powerhouse, which he also hopes to use to help get reelected. Obama, whose audacious 2008 White House bid leaned heavily on social networking sites, will hype his “Shared Responsibility and Shared Prosperity” plan at Facebook’s Palo Alto, California, headquarters.
    With his 2012 reelection campaign just getting into gear, Obama is moving to bring some love to the more than 19 million Facebook followers he has, up close and in person.
    The US president is to take part at 2045 GMT in a scheduled question and answer session at the headquarters not far from San Francisco. If the format is different, the content should be familiar: Obama has been hammering away since April 13 at his strategy to get the federal deficit under control and pare US debt…. – AFP, 4-19-11
  • In Va., Obama Pitches Debt-Reduction Plan: President Obama on Tuesday made the first of what are likely to be many road-trips to pitch his case for a more “balanced” debt-reduction plan than House Republicans have passed, one that includes tax increases for the wealthy, cuts the military and preserves Medicare and Medicaid. Mr. Obama drew applause from his mostly youthful audience at a community college here in casting the choices ahead as a trade-off between the Bush-era tax cuts for high income, including his own, and spending for programs like seniors’ health care, Head Start or for the disabled.
    He said those tax rates benefiting the wealthy, which he agreed to extend through 2012 in a deal with Republicans last December, must end after that — “especially when we know that the only way to pay for these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans is by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more for their health care, or cutting children out of Head Start, or doing away with health insurance for millions of Americans on Medicaid.”
    “It’s not a trade-off that I think most Americans think is fair, no matter what party you belong to,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s not who we are as a country. We’re better than that.”…
    “Finding savings in our domestic spending only gets you so far. We’re also going to have to find savings in places like the defense budget,” Mr. Obama said, drawing the first burst of applause from the college students — a target audience for the president’s re-election hopes.
    He added, “And I know this is near and dear to your hearts — we’re not going to reduce our deficit by cutting education and eliminating college scholarships. In a world where our students face stiff competition from students from other countries, why would we make it harder for you to compete?”…
    “I’m not going to sign up for that,” Mr. Obama vowed. “Having said that, we are going to have to reform Medicare and our entire health-care system in order to improve quality for the amount of money that we spend.”…. – NYT, 4-19-11
  • Plane carrying Michelle Obama aborts landing because of controller error: A White House plane carrying Michelle Obama came dangerously close to a 200-ton military cargo jet and had to abort its landing at Andrews Air Force Base on Monday as the result of an air traffic controller’s mistake, according to federal officials familiar with the incident. Ultimately, controllers at Andrews feared that the cargo jet was not moving quickly enough to clear the runway in time for the White House plane to land, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak for their agencies.
    Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed Tuesday that the first lady was aboard the plane and said that “the aircraft were never in any danger.” The White House referred all questions to the FAA…. – WaPo, 4-19-11
  • Immigration Is Lead Topic as Leaders Are Gathered: President Obama told a gathering of business, labor, religious and political leaders at the White House on Tuesday that he remains committed to an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and wants to try again in the coming months to push Congress to pass a bill. With his re-election campaign launched this month and Latino communities growing increasingly frustrated with his immigration policies, Mr. Obama summoned more than 60 high-profile supporters of the stalled overhaul legislation to a strategy session, looking for ways to revive it. Among those attending were Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, an independent; Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, a Democrat; and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a Republican…. – NYT, 4-19-11
  • Obama to hold meeting on immigration reform: President Barack Obama, under fire for not taking on immigration reform yet, has marshaled a high-profile meeting in an attempt to show wide and varied support for an overhaul of America’s immigration laws. The invitees are among a bipartisan group expected to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House Tuesday afternoon to discuss revamping the immigration system…. AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama, Panama’s president to meet April 28: The White House says President Barack Obama and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli will meet for the first time later this month…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Work begins on new SC school featured by Obama: Construction is starting on a new school in South Carolina more than two years after a student wrote Congress about the decrepit conditions at her school…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Pentagon inquiry clears McChrystal of wrongdoing: A Pentagon inquiry into a Rolling Stone magazine profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal that led to his dismissal as the top US commander in Afghanistan has cleared him of wrongdoing. The probe’s results released Monday also called into question the accuracy of the magazine’s report last June, which quoted anonymously people around McChrystal making disparaging remarks about members of President Barack Obama’s national security team, including Vice President Joe Biden.
    At the time he dismissed McChrystal, Obama said the general had fallen short of “the standard that should be set by a commanding general.” The Defense Department inspector general’s report, however, concluded that available evidence did not support the conclusion that McChrystal had violated any applicable legal or ethics standard…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama extends Passover greetings to Netanyahu: The White House says President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed cooperation on counterterrorism, the Middle East peace process and violence in the Gaza Strip during a telephone conversation Monday…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Obama to award trophy to AF Academy football team: President Barack Obama meets with some of the troops Monday, but not the usual kind or for the usual reasons. Obama will present the Commander-in-Chief Trophy to the Air Force Academy football team in the Rose Garden. The Falcons won the trophy in early November by beating West Point, 42-22…. – AP, 4-18-11
  • Congress Can’t Kill Advisory Posts, Obama Declares in Signing Statement: President Obama is refusing to eliminate several “czars” who were cut in the fiscal 2011 spending bill, calling the provision a violation of the separation of powers. When Congress unveiled its budget compromise last week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) touted the provision as the elimination of “four of the Obama Administration’s controversial czars.” Among the cut czars was the assistant to the president for energy and climate change, a position that was held by Carol Browner until she stepped down in January. But in a signing statement Friday, Obama argued that lawmakers had overstepped their authority. “The President has well-established authority to supervise and oversee the executive branch, and to obtain advice in furtherance of this supervisory authority,” Obama wrote. “The President also has the prerogative to obtain advice that will assist him in carrying out his constitutional responsibilities, and do so not only from executive branch officials and employees outside the White House, but also from advisers within it.”…. – NYT, 4-18-11
  • Obamas report $1.7 mn in income for 2010: US President Barack Obama and his wife earned $1.7 million last year, a significant drop from the prior year as sales of the president’s books slowed, according to tax documents released Monday. The president and Michelle Obama reported 2010 adjusted gross income of $1,728,096, down from $5.5 million in 2009.
    While the salary for US president is $395,000 annually, “the vast majority of the family’s income is the proceeds from the sale of the president’s books,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement. Obama earned $1.38 million in 2010 from sales of his books, “The Audacity of Hope,” “Dreams From My Father,” and “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.” That’s down from nearly $5.2 million in books’ revenue from 2009…. – AFP, 4-18-11
  • Job cuts for poor seniors could up homelessness: Under the Department of Labor’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, more than 75,000 elderly Americans living in poverty in all 50 states earn their keep by the slimmest of margins. To qualify, participants must be over 55 and earning less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level — $13,600 a year.
    In the budget bill signed Friday by President Barack Obama, the program was slashed by 45 percent, from $825 million to $450 million a year. Advocates say it could mean as many as 58,000 fewer jobs if states or national groups are forced to discontinue the program because of the reductions…. – AP, 4-17-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Boehner: DOJ funds should pay to defend marriage: House Speaker John Boehner says the Justice Department should reimburse the House for court costs of defending a ban on gay marriage. In a letter Monday to Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Ohio Republican says he shares her concern over the cost of defending the law in court and intends to “redirect” some of the department’s money to the House as repayment…. – AP, 4-18-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • Firm hired by GOP ends work on gay marriage ban: A prominent law firm hired by Republican lawmakers to defend the federal ban on gay marriage said Monday it was withdrawing from the case amid criticism by advocacy groups, prompting the partner leading the work to quit.
    The move by Atlanta-based King & Spalding is the latest flashpoint in the public debate over gay rights. Chairman Robert Hays Jr. said the firm chose to divorce itself from the controversy after determining that the decision to take the case wasn’t vetted properly, but gay rights groups had also been pressuring the 800-lawyer company with plans for a protest Tuesday in Atlanta and with calls to its other clients. The groups cheered the move.
    The decision, however, was sharply criticized by conservative groups, legal observers and the partner who had been handling the case, a former high-ranking Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. Washington-based attorney Paul Clement said he’s moving to another law office so he can continue the work…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • High court rejects quick review of health care law: The Supreme Court rejected a call Monday from Virginia’s attorney general to depart from its usual practice and put review of the health care law on a fast track. Instead, judicial review of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation will continue in federal appeals courts. The justices turned down a request by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a leading opponent of the law, to resolve questions about its constitutionality quickly. The Obama administration opposed Cuccinelli’s plea. Only rarely, in wartime or a constitutional crisis, does the court step into a legal fight before the issues are aired in appellate courts. Hearings already are scheduled in May and June in three appeals courts. The case still could reach the high court in time for a decision by early summer 2012…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Who’s at fault? Court battle looms over oil spill: BP said in its lawsuit filed in federal court in New Orleans that Cameron International provided a blowout preventer with a faulty design, alleging that negligence by the manufacturer helped cause the disaster. The lawsuit seeks damages to help BP pay for the tens of billions of dollars in liabilities it has incurred from the disaster.
    It also was seeking $40 billion from rig owner Transocean, accusing it of causing last year’s deadly blowout in the Gulf of Mexico that led to the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. BP says every single safety system and device and well control procedure on the Deepwater Horizon rig failed.
    The lawsuit against Cameron said the blowout preventer “was unreasonably dangerous, and has caused and continues to cause harm, loss, injuries, and damages.”… – AP, 4-21-11
  • SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK: Kagan absences no big deal: Justice Elena Kagan’s leather-backed chair was empty this week for the 26th and final time this term while the other Supreme Court justices listened to arguments in an obscure dispute between the government and an Indian tribe. When President Barack Obama nominated Kagan for the Supreme Court last year, some court observers worried that her work as solicitor general would force her from enough cases to pose a serious problem for the high court.
    After all, there is nothing worse for a petitioner than a meaningless 4-4 vote after expending all the effort that goes into winning a precious spot on the court’s calendar and presenting arguments to the justices. Tie votes leave the lower court ruling in place but set no national precedent. So far, though, Kagan’s absence has been important only once in 19 cases the court has decided without her. A lawsuit about Costco’s sale of Swiss-made Omega watches at a steep discount ended up 4-4, leaving unresolved an issue about rules that apply to so-called gray market goods that are purchased abroad, then imported and resold without the permission of the manufacturer…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • High court takes no action on Va. health care case: The Supreme Court has taken no action on Virginia’s call for speedy review of the health care law. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is asking the court to resolve questions about the law quickly, without the usual consideration by federal appellate judges and over the objection of the Obama administration…. – AP, 4-18-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Arizona gov.: Birther issue ‘path of destruction’: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says the so-called “birther” issue is a potentially destructive issue for the U.S. Brewer was interviewed on CNN on Monday about her decision a week ago to veto an Arizona bill that would have required President Barack Obama and other presidential candidates to prove their natural-born citizenship…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Ariz. governor’s vetoes of GOP bills lift eyebrows: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s vetoes of a half-dozen bills sponsored by fellow Republicans are raising eyebrows, with some conservatives questioning whether she is still one of them. Never mind that she has signed more than 200 other bills from the GOP-led Legislature. They wanted her to OK bills on school choice and religious rights, among others, as well as one that would have made the state the first to require presidential candidates to prove their natural born citizenship to get on the ballot…. – AP, 4-20-11
  • Why Arizona governor vetoed gun law and ‘birther bill,’ irking the right: Jan Brewer, Arizona governor, surprised conservatives by vetoing a bill to allow guns onto college campuses and a ‘birther bill’ to require certain proofs of US citizenship for presidential candidates…. – CS Monitor, 4-19-11
  • Obama as a chimp? E-mail gives California GOP problems it didn’t need: The California GOP had a historically bad election in 2010, partly because it has trouble connecting with immigrants and minorities. An e-mail from a local Republican official touting the ‘birther’ conspiracy and showing Obama as a chimp won’t help…. – CS Monitor, 4-19-11
  • Chicago Mayor-elect Emanuel names schools chief: Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel on Monday picked Rochester, N.Y., schools superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard to be the new Chicago Public Schools chief, selecting a leader who recently earned a no-confidence vote from his local teachers but someone Emanuel praised as not being afraid of “tough choices.”
    “And that is what Chicago students need today,” Emanuel said of Brizard, whom he called “J.C.” while introducing him at a press conference at a nearly empty Chicago high school because students are on spring break. Chicago is the nation’s third-largest district with more than 400,000 students and 675 schools… – AP, 4-18-11
  • Republican legislative gains tug nation to right: In state after state, Republicans are moving swiftly past blunted Democratic opposition to turn a conservative wish-list into law. Their successes, spurred by big election gains in November, go well beyond the spending cuts forced on states by the fiscal crunch and tea party agitation. Republican governors and state legislators are bringing abortion restrictions into effect from Virginia to Arizona, expanding gun rights north and south, pushing polling-station photo ID laws that are anathema to Democrats and taking on public sector unions anywhere they can…. – AP, 4-18-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Barbour out, GOP ponders as 2012 field takes shape: Republican Gov. Haley Barbour bowed out of presidential contention Monday with a surprise announcement just as the 2012 campaign was getting under way in earnest, 18 months before Election Day. The Mississippi governor said he lacked the necessary “absolute fire in the belly” to run.
    Barbour’s declaration, unexpected because he had been laying the groundwork for a campaign for months, thins a Republican cluster of no less than a dozen potential candidates to take on Democratic President Barack Obama.
    With the GOP campaign’s first debate scheduled for next week, the muddy Republican field will become clearer very soon as more potential contenders announce whether they’ll run or sit out. Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who lost in 2008 and is a favorite of libertarians as well as tea partyers, is planning to take a step toward a second bid on Tuesday. The next facing a self-imposed deadline of this weekend, is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Barbour friend and a fiscal conservative who has shined a spotlight on rising budget deficits and national debt…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Trump: Obama wasn’t qualified for Ivy League: Real estate mogul Donald Trump suggested in an interview Monday that President Barack Obama had been a poor student who did not deserve to be admitted to the Ivy League universities he attended. Trump, who is mulling a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, offered no proof for his claim but said he would continue to press the matter as he has the legitimacy of the president’s birth certificate.
    “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.”
    “I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can’t get into Harvard,” Trump said. “We don’t know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president.”… – AP, 4-25-11
  • Sen. Nelson faces tough race in Republican region: The last time Sen. Ben Nelson ran for re-election, in 2006, Democrats held four of the six Senate seats representing the 650 miles of plains from Nebraska north to the Canadian border.
    If the Nebraska senator’s political fortunes don’t change, soon there will be just one.
    As Nelson quietly prepares for his 2012 re-election campaign, he is doing so in a region that is trending away from him. As recently as 2004, the Great Plains wasn’t just a place where Democrats could win — it was a power center, led by then Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Today, the region is tilting toward the GOP…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Ill housing markets trump ideology for many in GOP: Shutting down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should fit seamlessly into the Republican drive to shrink government. After all, keeping the ailing mortgage giants afloat has cost taxpayers $150 billion and many in both parties want private lenders to finance a bigger share of the nation’s $11.3 trillion residential mortgage market.
    But House and Senate Republicans pushing bills to phase out both federally run companies are learning how fear, politics and old-fashioned lobbying can trump ideology…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • NH GOP primary not just a Republican party: At fundraising dinner after dinner, state Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball earns loud applause when he declares that New Hampshire will send forward “a good strong conservative nominee for the presidency of the United States.” But it won’t be just Republicans who pick a winner in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary next year. Independent voters, who make up nearly 42 percent of registered voters in the state, can participate in either party’s primary. And, given that President Barack Obama has no serious Democratic challenger, most independents are expected to cast ballots in the GOP race next February, unlike in the last presidential campaign…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Bloomberg noncommittal on Trump presidential talk: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls real estate tycoon Donald Trump a friend and says “anybody can run for president if you’re 35 and an American citizen.” Bloomberg tells “Fox News Sunday” that Trump is “a New York icon.” But the mayor is shying away from talking up Trump’s flirtation with the presidency…. – AP, 4-24-11
  • Spring brings fundraising frenzy for GOP hopefuls: Mitt Romney is organizing a phone bank fundraiser in Las Vegas next month. Tim Pawlenty is holding regular “friendraising” meetings in big-money California and elsewhere. Haley Barbour hunkers down soon with finance operatives in cash-rich New York and other lucrative places.
    Republican presidential hopefuls are in the midst of a fundraising frenzy as they seek to raise campaign cash and assemble influential donor networks.
    As the 2012 campaign ramps up, the contenders are under pressure to show they can bring in the dough before the slower summer season begins. “Money is hardly the only indication of a candidate’s potential, but it’s an important indication,” said Lew Eisenberg, a Romney fundraiser…. – AP, 4-24-11
  • Costly gasoline clouds Obama re-election prospects: With gas prices climbing and little relief in sight, President Barack Obama is scrambling to get ahead of the latest potential obstacle to his re-election bid, even as Republicans are making plans to exploit the issue. No one seems more aware of the electoral peril than Obama himself.
    “My poll numbers go up and down depending on the latest crisis, and right now gas prices are weighing heavily on people,” he told Democratic donors in Los Angeles this past week…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • GOP’s Pawlenty wants US ambassador out of Syria: Potential GOP presidential contender Tim Pawlenty wants the U.S. to recall its ambassador to Syria and seek economic sanctions to send “a clear and strong signal” opposing the nation’s violent crackdown on demonstrators. In a written statement Friday, the former Minnesota governor also pressed President Barack Obama to seek a formal condemnation from the United Nations Security Council…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • Beck suggests Huckabee too ‘thin-skinned’ for 2012: Glenn Beck is offering some unsolicited advice to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Skip the 2012 presidential race if you can’t take some political punches. In an ongoing feud between the two Fox News Channel hosts, Beck suggested during his radio show Friday that Huckabee is too “thin skinned.” He also criticized the former governor’s record on taxes and executive clemency…. – AP, 4-23-11
  • NM ex-gov. Johnson announces presidential bid: Highlighting his background as both a governor and outdoor adventurer, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson announced his presidential campaign outside the New Hampshire Statehouse on Thursday before heading for a mountain known as the birthplace of extreme skiing.
    Johnson, a Republican, acknowledged that he is virtually unknown in New Hampshire and other key primary states but said he won’t be outworked when it comes to retail politics. “I have to do, and want to do, really well in New Hampshire,” he said. “So I’m going to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire, where you can go from obscurity to prominence overnight with a good showing in New Hampshire.”…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • Iowa activists not sold on Trump caucus campaign: Donald Trump says he would embrace the rigors of campaigning in Iowa if he decides to run for president, but Iowa Republican leaders say they doubt the celebrity businessman really knows what it takes to compete in the state’s presidential caucuses and wonder if he would commit the time and effort needed.
    Although some state Republican Party leaders have welcomed the attention Trump’s presidential ideas have brought to the 2012 race and look forward to a giant fundraising dinner he will keynote in June, they also express skepticism about him as a candidate that borders on contempt.
    “‘The Donald’ will be wherever the cameras are, and nowhere else,” said Doug Gross, a Des Moines Republican and longtime confidant of GOP Gov. Terry Branstad…. – AP, 4-22-11
  • Huckabee criticizes Beck for ‘progressive’ claim: Mike Huckabee is criticizing fellow Fox News Channel host Glenn Beck for calling the former Arkansas governor and potential presidential candidate a “progressive.” Huckabee released a statement Thursday criticizing Beck for calling him a “progressive” on his radio show earlier this week. Beck on Tuesday described Huckabee as someone who doesn’t want to “disrupt giant government” and noted Huckabee’s defense of first lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity efforts…. – AP, 4-21-11
  • Dems: Sanchez likely to run for Texas Sen. seat: Democratic officials said Monday that retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is expected to run for the U.S. Senate in Texas, giving Democrats a high-profile recruit to fill the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison…. – AP, 4-18-11

QUOTES

White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 4/20/11
  • Brad Watson’s Interview with President ObamaWFAA, 4-19-11
  • Weekly Address: Stopping Oil Market Fraud, Beginning a Clean Energy Future Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address on Gas Prices Saturday, April 23, 2011 Washington, DC: This is a time of year when people get together with family and friends to observe Passover and to celebrate Easter. It’s a chance to give thanks for our blessings and reaffirm our faith, while spending time with the people we love. We all know how important that is – especially in hard times. And that’s what a lot of people are facing these days.
    Even though the economy is growing again and we’ve seen businesses adding jobs over the past year, many are still looking for work. And even if you haven’t faced a job loss, it’s still not easy out there. Your paycheck isn’t getting bigger, while the cost of everything from college for your kids to gas for your car keeps rising. That’s something on a lot of people’s minds right now, with gas prices at $4 a gallon. It’s just another burden when things were already pretty tough.
    Now, whenever gas prices shoot up, like clockwork, you see politicians racing to the cameras, waving three-point plans for two dollar gas. You see people trying to grab headlines or score a few points. The truth is, there’s no silver bullet that can bring down gas prices right away.
    But there are a few things we can do. This includes safe and responsible production of oil at home, which we are pursuing. In fact, last year, American oil production reached its highest level since 2003. On Thursday, my Attorney General also launched a task force with just one job: rooting out cases of fraud or manipulation in the oil markets that might affect gas prices, including any illegal activity by traders and speculators. We’re going to make sure that no one is taking advantage of the American people for their own short-term gain. And another step we need to take is to finally end the $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies we give to the oil and gas companies each year. That’s $4 billion of your money going to these companies when they’re making record profits and you’re paying near record prices at the pump. It has to stop.
    Instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy sources, we need to invest in tomorrow’s. We need to invest in clean, renewable energy. In the long term, that’s the answer. That’s the key to helping families at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. We can see that promise already. Thanks to an historic agreement we secured with all the major auto companies, we’re raising the fuel economy of cars and trucks in America, using hybrid technology and other advances. As a result, if you buy a new car in the next few years, the better gas mileage is going to save you about $3,000 at the pump.
    But we need to do more. We need to harness the potential I’ve seen at promising start-ups and innovative clean energy companies across America. And that’s at the heart of a debate we’re having right now in Washington about the budget.
    Both Democrats and Republicans believe we need to reduce the deficit. That’s where we agree. The question we’re debating is how we do it. I’ve proposed a balanced approach that cuts spending while still investing in things like education and clean energy that are so critical to creating jobs and opportunities for the middle class. It’s a simple idea: we need to live within our means while at the same time investing in our future.
    That’s why I disagree so strongly with a proposal in Congress that cuts our investments in clean energy by 70 percent. Yes, we have to get rid of wasteful spending – and make no mistake, we’re going through every line of the budget scouring for savings. But we can do that without sacrificing our future. We can do that while still investing in the technologies that will create jobs and allow the United States to lead the world in new industries. That’s how we’ll not only reduce the deficit, but also lower our dependence on foreign oil, grow the economy, and leave for our children a safer planet. And that’s what our mission has to be. – WH, 4-23-11TranscriptMp4Mp3

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Obama, Modern Presidents Are Too Powerful Authors contend the presidency has become too powerful for courts or Congress to restrain: As any history student knows, the Founding Fathers envisioned a president with strong executive power, but one also kept in check by Congress and the Supreme Court. In The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic, University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner and Harvard University law professor Adrian Vermeule contend that the presidency has become too powerful for the courts or lawmakers to restrain. Using the September 11 terrorist attacks and the 2008 financial crisis as examples, the authors argue that the courts are too slow and Congress is too divided to provide real oversight for the White House. Instead of those traditional checks, Posner and Vermeule say the main constraint on the president is now political—the fear his party will lose the next election. Posner recently spoke with U.S. News about the modern presidency and how it has affected the first two years of the Obama administration…. – US News, 4-22-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Obama takes on risky topic of taxes: After spending two years on health care, President Barack Obama is about to take up another Herculean political challenge: taxes.
    In response to the Republican plans to cut spending, Obama is pushing a proposal of his own, which will include loophole-closing tax reform and increasing taxes on the wealthy. In his speech at George Washington University, the president said:
    “I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. ”
    By injecting taxes into the mix, Obama enters into perilous territory. For decades, Democrats have mostly tried to avoid any proposals that increase taxes….
    Importantly, the shift of public debate toward deficit reduction offers Obama as much of an opportunity as a danger. The fact is that substantive deficit reduction won’t take place unless higher revenue is part of the package. Spending cuts alone won’t do the trick.
    But if Obama does not recalibrate his political strategy, he could weaken his own standing, as well as the standing of congressional Democrats, going into 2012. – CNN, 4-18-11
  • After budget battle Act 1, will Obama, Reid, Boehner have an Act 2?: Looming debt-ceiling talks may be a bigger hurdle for the three negotiators than the hard-fought deal on the 2011 budget. As for a deficit-cutting plan? Obama and Boehner are starting far apart.
    One hurdle may be that Democrats and Republicans emerge from Round 1 with different expectations for next steps. “There’s nothing inevitable about this [first budget] deal,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. “For Republicans, it’s a precedent to cut more. For Mr. Obama, it’s a precedent to think about something else besides spending cuts.”…
    “Republicans have insisted on spending cuts and deficit reduction, rather than reviving the economy, and with this speech [Obama] shifted to their ground,” says Mr. Zelizer. “This is a White House that feels that Republicans are powerful and have been successful in shifting the public to their issues.”… – CS Monitor, 4-18-11

Professor Manning Marable’s Scholarship Lives On in Malcolm X Biography

Source: The Record, Columbia University News, 4-20-11

In 1988, Manning Marable was teaching a course in African American politics at Ohio State University when he noticed numerous inconsistencies in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the standard text about the black Muslim leader written with Alex Haley.

Manning Marable (Image credit: Philippe Cheng)
Manning Marable

Image credit: Philippe Cheng

Marable, who would join the Columbia faculty five years later, resolved then to begin what he called “a modest political biography” of the charismatic figure, assassinated in 1965 in the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights by rival members of the militant Islamic sect the Nation of Islam.

The 594-page work, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, was released on April 4 and immediately acclaimed as the definitive biography of a misunderstood man who, since his death at age 39, has become a legend. Marable died just days before its publication. He suffered from sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease, and had undergone a double lung transplant last summer.

Marable, the M. Moran Weston/Black Alumni Council Professor of African American Studies and professor of history, political science, and international and public affairs, was the “epitome of scholarly devotion and capable of such balanced, insightful judgment,” said Provost Claude M. Steele. “We are all deeply saddened by this loss and the knowledge that he will not be here to enjoy the acclaim his most recent work will surely bring.”

The tragic timing of his death, at age 60, produced an outpouring of tributes. Eric Foner, who led the search committee that brought Marable to Columbia in 1993 to establish the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), called Marable “the model of a public intellectual.”

“His scholarship had an amazing range—from broad overviews of African American history to incisive analyses of key individuals like [W.E.B.] Du Bois and, now, Malcolm X,” said Foner, the Dewitt Clinton Professor of History. “He made the institute a place where people of every outlook and every race and ethnicity felt entirely comfortable. There was no party line—just a shared commitment to studying the black experience and relating that history to the world we live in.”…READ MORE

Deborah Stearns: For Maryland professor of the year, human sexuality courses engage beyond books

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

( JUANA ARIAS / FOR THE WASHINGTON POST ) – Psychology professor Deborah Stearns leads her Montgomery College students on a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History. A community college education, Stearns believes, “should be the same as the first two years of college anywhere.”

Source: WaPo, 4-21-11

Students walked into Deborah Stearns’s classroom at Montgomery College one recent day to find the query WHAT IS LOVE? scrawled on the board and, beside it, a projected YouTube video of the ’90s hit club song of the same name.

They were in for an engaging afternoon. Stearns, 43, earned the honor Maryland Professor of the Year in November for a distinctive brand of teaching, alternately rigorous, inspirational and playful. And this was her signature course: human sexuality.

“We think, happiness, love,” she said, addressing a class of 16 community college students ranging in age from younger than 20 to older than 60. “But love is not always happiness. You could argue that love is really an addiction. That’s really cynical, isn’t it? . . . Shakespeare would not have written about this.”

Some people imagine community college as the fifth year of high school or as a colorless compendium of career training. But Stearns’s courses sound more like the offerings of a liberal arts school. Her success provides a reminder of the breadth of the community college mission, which encompasses everything from automotive technology and landscaping to philosophy and women’s studies.

“To me, this is just the first two years of college,” Stearns, a psychology professor, said. “It should be the same as the first two years of college anywhere.”

Stearns taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, the University of Chicago, and Georgetown and George Washington universities before joining Montgomery College, the largest community college in Maryland, in 2002.

She says she expects the same from her current students as from her past charges, and she teaches at the same rigorous pace. She jokes that the only measurable difference is price: Montgomery College charges $171 a credit — a small fraction of the tuition at her former workplaces.

“I still have the students I would get at University of Chicago or Georgetown, it’s just that they’re mixed in with a whole lot of other students,” she said.

Stearns grew up in a professor’s home: Her father, Peter Stearns, is provost of George Mason University and a widely published social historian. He was at the University of Chicago when she was born; the family moved to Rutgers, then to Carnegie Mellon. She recalls growing up “in my dad’s office.”

In undergraduate and graduate study at Penn, the younger Stearns cultivated an interest in social psychology, a field somewhat akin to her father’s; they co-wrote a 1994 paper on the history of emotion….READ MORE

William Cronon: UW-Madison professor investigated for questionable emails

Source: Fourth Estate Newspaper, 4-20-11

email Photo by Tina Blahnik/Fourth Estate

Bill Cronon, professor of history, geography and environmental studies at UW-Madison, sent emails about the budget plan and received a request from the state for copies of them.

Bill Cronon, professor of history, geography and environmental studies at UW-Madison, recently received a public records request for emails sent over his school computer by a leading Grand Old Party official in Wisconsin.

Cronon said the request, made March 17, came less than two days after he had written his first blog, titled “Scholar as Citizen.”  The blog criticized the right-wing organization known as the American Legislative Exchange Council along with Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill.   Cronon’s blog had immediate success in the few days it was created, a fact Cronon said likely brought the Wisconsin GOP to such quick action.

“Within two days, my blog received more than half a million hits, had been read by tens of thousands of people, had been linked by newspapers all over the U.S. and been visited by people from more than two dozen foreign countries,”  Cronon said.

According to a letter sent by GOP official Stephan Thompson to UW-Madison, the request asked for emails containing specific political keywords and phrases from as early as Jan. 1.  Some of the terms included were Scott Walker, union, Republican and the names of several Republican politicians.

UW-Green Bay Assistant to the Chancellor Daniel Spielmann said the request was made under Wisconsin’s open records law, a long-standing piece of legislation designed to provide government transparency to the public….READ MORE

Political Highlights: President Obama Answers Questions @ Facebook Townhall

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 at a town hall meeting at Facebook HQ

White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 4/20/11

IN FOCUS

  • Obama and Facebook in Warm Embrace: He introduced himself as “the guy who got Mark Zuckerberg to wear a jacket and tie.” “I’m very proud of that,” President Obama quipped as he walked onto a stage at Facebook headquarters on Wednesday, and sat next to Mr. Zuckerberg. Both men then proceeded to take off their jackets. About an hour later, Mr. Obama, whose visit here forced Silicon Valley types to button down a bit, left with a far more casual item of clothing that has become de rigueur in some tech circles: a hoodie given to him by Mr. Zuckerberg. Of course, the Facebook logo was printed on it.
    In the interim, Mr. Obama conducted a town-hall-style meeting at Facebook, and on Facebook, in front of a largely friendly audience. He took questions from company employees in a cavernous room turned into auditorium and from Facebook users over the social networking service, with Mr. Zuckerberg acting as moderator.
    Mr. Obama delivered sharp attacks against Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin who drafted a budget proposal heavy on spending cuts and tax cuts, and talked about the economy, health care, education and immigration reform. Throughout the largely staged event, Mr. Obama and Mr. Zuckerberg appeared almost chummy with each other…. – NYT, 4-20-11
  • Obama likes Facebook. Facebook likes Obama: President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg have updated their Facebook status: They are in a relationship.
    “Sorry, I’m kind of nervous,” the Facebook founder confessed to the crowd at the start of Wednesday’s town hall meeting his company arranged with the White House. “We have the president of the United States here!”….
    Obama’s appearance in Palo Alto lent the presidential seal to the company, a sign that, after its sensational rise, it is being embraced by Washington as a major corporate player. In return, Facebook’s imprimatur helps Obama restore his luster among young voters as he begins his reelection campaign.
    A Harvard University poll released last month found that 18- to 29-year-olds say they are more likely to vote for Obama than a Republican by 38 percent to 25 percent. That’s well short of 2008 levels, when he won the 18-29 demographic by 34 percentage points.
    The Facebook-inspired movie “The Social Network” was playing on Air Force One as Obama flew to California Wednesday. “As you all know, dating back to the president’s first campaign for the presidency there’s a great focus on social media,” White House press secretary Jay Carney reminded reporters aboard.
    One asked if the appearance at Facebook headquarters could “be construed as an effort to also promote Facebook.” “Absolutely not,” Carney said, in an answer that was itself something of a Facebook promotion. “I mean, Facebook has half a billion users. . . More people than you can possibly imagine.”
    Of those 500 million users, just under 45,000 were “attending” Obama’s town hall at the scheduled start time. Participation may have been suppressed by the requirement that you had to click the button saying you “like” the White House.
    “Did you know you have to ‘like’ the White House page to attend?” one user posted on the town hall page. “I have a big problem with liking anything from this White House never mind the fact that they would then have a record that we ‘liked’ them.”
    But at Facebook’s headquarters, there was no hesitation about liking Obama. “Since he’s one of the most popular people on Facebook with 19 million ‘likes,’ we feel like he’s coming home,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. “So, welcome home, Mr. President.” Sanberg added, playfully: “Even though it’s Facebook, no poking the president.”…. – WaPo, 4-20-11
  • Obama, Before Facebook Crowd, Presses G.O.P. on Budget: President Obama on Wednesday opened a Western front in his war against House Republicans’ budget, telling an appreciative audience at Facebook headquarters here that the plan is radical, short-sighted and would reduce annual federal deficits at the expense of the nation’s poor and powerless. In a town-hall-style forum with the 26-year-old Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Obama seized on a question about the House-passed budget to mount a long, withering indictment. The questioner, an employee of the social networking company, noted that some news media accounts suggested that the sponsor of the Republican budget, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, is “bold and brave” for proposing the deep spending cuts.
    “The Republican budget that was put forward I would say is fairly radical,” Mr. Obama said. “And I wouldn’t call it particularly courageous.” He added: “I do think Mr. Ryan is sincere. I think he’s a patriot. I think he wants to solve a real problem, which is our long-term deficit. But I think that what he and the other Republicans in the House of Representatives also want to do is change our social compact in a pretty fundamental way.”
    “Nothing is easier,” Mr. Obama said, “than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor, or people who are powerless and don’t have lobbyists or don’t have clout.”… – NYT, 4-20-11
  • U.S. Finances Are ‘Unsustainable,’ Obama Says at Facebook Town Hall Event: President Barack Obama, on a cross- country trip to sell his deficit reduction plan, said yesterday that the nation’s finances are “unsustainable.” At a campaign-style town hall meeting at the headquarters of Facebook Inc., Obama described the House Republicans’ budget plan as “fairly radical” and said members of both political parties in Washington need to work together to start reducing the federal deficit in a “balanced way.” “We have an unsustainable situation,” he said. “We face a critical time where we are going to have to make some decisions — how do we bring down the debt in the short term, and how do we bring down the debt over the long term?”…. – Bloomberg, 4-20-11
  • President Obama talks tech, budget, deficit at Facebook: President Barack Obama expanded on his fiscal message Wednesday at a virtual town hall meeting at Facebook’s headquarters here. In what felt like a campaign stop, the one-hour event, which was streamed live on the White House’s Facebook page, Obama discussed the budget deficit, fiscal responsibility, investments in technology, health-care reform, the housing crisis and the power of social media.
    “If we don’t have a serious (plan) to attack the deficit, we will have an even bigger problem” of investors pulling back when the economy starts to perk up, Obama said. “We could slip back into a recession.”… – USA Today, 4-20-11
  • Obama pokes fun at Facebook’s Zuckerberg: President Obama began his “town hall” event at Facebook’s offices on Wednesday with an anecdote….. That kicked off a very cordial hour-long conversation and seemed to loosen up the sometimes chilly technology prodigy. Zuckerberg stumbled during his opening remarks. “Sorry, I’m kind of nervous,” he said after a flub in his introduction. For Obama, Wednesday was a chance to connect with both Silicon Valley influencers and young people in one poke. Throughout his answers, Obama related his typical talking points — federal deficit, education, healthcare and immigration — to those two groups…. – CNN, 4-20-11
  • Obama rips GOP budget plan at Facebook event: Hoping to rekindle excitement among younger voters, President Obama spoke at a town hall-style meeting hosted by Facebook on Wednesday and asked for help in beating back Republican budget proposals that he denigrated as “radical.”
    Obama sat on a stage next to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who served as moderator and funneled largely friendly questions to a president who makes extensive use of social media in reaching out to voters. Obama took credit for Zuckerberg’s attempt to clean up for the occasion. The 26-year-old billionaire swapped his signature hoodie for a jacket and tie. “My name is Barack Obama and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie,” he said.
    Taking questions submitted through Facebook and from an audience of company employees, Obama advised listeners not to get “frustrated’’ by protracted debates in Washington. He conceded that some of his 2008 voters might be asking why progress on many issues hasn’t come sooner. But he urged them not to give up on his agenda. “I know that some of you who might have been involved in the campaign or been energized back in 2008, you’re frustrated that, gosh, it didn’t get done fast enough and it seems like everybody’s bickering all the time,” he said. “Just remember that we’ve been through tougher times before.”… – LAT, 4-20-11
  • Obama seeks friends for deficit-reduction plan at Facebook: President Obama on Wednesday ramped up his criticism of the Republican Party’s budget proposal, calling it “radical” and “not courageous” in a town hall meeting at the headquarters of Facebook. To a generally friendly audience at the social networking Web site’s sprawling corporate campus, the president outlined how his plan to reduce the deficit through spending cuts and raising taxes on the rich would be done without sacrificing what he described as key social safety nets.
    Obama shared the stage with Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who asked questions of his own before allowing a Facebook employee to pose one. Zuckerberg then read questions submitted by users of Facebook who watched the event through a live online stream. The president’s at-times combative answers contrasted with the jocular mood of the event. “Even though it’s Facebook, no poking the president,” chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg joked, referring to a Facebook feature. When Obama said wealthy taxpayers such as Zuckerberg and himself should pay their share, the youthful Facebook CEO quipped, “I’m cool with that,” to an outburst of laughter and applause from the audience of high-tech executives, Democratic politicians and Facebook employees… – LAT, 4-20-11
  • Facebook members find Obama event ‘not great’: Despite the promise that President Obama’s first Facebook town hall would open a new level of two-way communication with his constituents, social-networking technology didn’t add much to the conversation.
    Obama answered just eight questions during Wednesday’s hour-long session at Facebook’s secondary headquarters building in Palo Alto, an event that was streamed on the Facebook Live video page.
    But some of those questions came from Facebook employees who won a company lottery for the chance to sit in the live audience. That left hundreds of questions posted on the event’s Facebook wall unanswered…. – San Francisco Chronicle, 4-20-11

    QUOTES FROM TOWNHALL

President Obama with a sweatshirt given to him by Mark Zuckerberg,
the founder of Facebook, at a townhall meeting in Palo Alto, Calif., on
Wednesday.

Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times President Obama with a sweatshirt given to him by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, at a townhall meeting in Palo Alto, Calif., on Wednesday.

  • Obama at Facebook. Townhall transcript REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT A FACEBOOK TOWN HALL Facebook Headquarters Palo Alto, California 1:58 P.M. PDT: THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much, Facebook, for hosting this, first of all. (Applause.) My name is Barack Obama, and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie. (Applause.) Thank you. (Laughter.) I’m very proud of that. (Laughter.)
    MR. ZUCKERBERG: Second time.
    THE PRESIDENT: I know. (Laughter.) I will say — and I hate to tell stories on Mark, but the first time we had dinner together and he wore this jacket and tie, I’d say halfway through dinner he’s starting to sweat a little bit. It’s really uncomfortable for him. So I helped him out of his jacket. (Laughter.) And in fact, if you’d like, Mark, we can take our jackets off. (Applause.)
    MR. ZUCKERBERG: That’s good.
    THE PRESIDENT: Woo, that’s better, isn’t it?
    MR. ZUCKERBERG: Yes, but you’re a lot better at this stuff than me. (Laughter.)
    THE PRESIDENT: So, first of all, I just want to say thank you to all of you for taking the time — not only people who are here in the audience, but also folks all over the country and some around the world who are watching this town hall.
    The main reason we wanted to do this is, first of all, because more and more people, especially young people, are getting their information through different media. And obviously what all of you have built together is helping to revolutionize how people get information, how they process information, how they’re connecting with each other.
    And historically, part of what makes for a healthy democracy, what is good politics, is when you’ve got citizens who are informed, who are engaged. And what Facebook allows us to do is make sure this isn’t just a one-way conversation; makes sure that not only am I speaking to you but you’re also speaking back and we’re in a conversation, were in a dialogue. So I love doing town hall meetings. This format and this company I think is an ideal means for us to be able to carry on this conversation.
    And as Mark mentioned, obviously we’re having a very serious debate right now about the future direction of our country. We are living through as tumultuous a time as certainly I’ve seen in my lifetime. Admittedly, my lifetime is a lot longer than most of yours so far. This is a pretty young crowd. But we’re seeing, domestically, a whole series of challenges, starting with the worst recession we’ve had since the Great Depression. We’re just now coming out of it. We’ve got all sorts of disruptions, technological disruptions that are taking place, most of which hold the promise of making our lives a lot better, but also mean that there are a lot of adjustments that people are having to make throughout the economy.
    We still have a very high unemployment rate that is starting to come down, but there are an awful lot of people who are being challenged out there, day in, day out, worrying about whether they can pay the bills, whether they can keep their home.
    Internationally, we’re seeing the sorts of changes that we haven’t seen in a generation. We’ve got certain challenges like energy and climate change that no one nation can solve but we’re going to have to solve together. And we don’t yet have all the institutions that are in place in order to do that.
    But what makes me incredibly optimistic — and that’s why being here at Facebook is so exciting for me — is that at every juncture in our history, whenever we face challenges like this, whether it’s been the shift from a agricultural age to a industrial age, or whether it was facing the challenges of the Cold War, or trying to figure out how we make this country more fair and more inclusive, at every juncture we’ve always been able to adapt. We’ve been able to change and we’ve been able to get ahead of the curve. And that’s true today as well, and you guys are at the cutting edge of what’s happening.
    And so I’m going to be interested in talking to all of you about why this debate that we’re having around debt and our deficits is so important, because it’s going to help determine whether we can invest in our future and basic research and innovation and infrastructure that will allow us to compete in the 21st century and still preserve a safety net for the most vulnerable among us.
    But I’m also going to want to share ideas with you about how we can make our democracy work better and our politics work better — because I don’t think there’s a problem out there that we can’t solve if we decide that we’re going to solve it together.
    And for that, I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you. And instead of just giving a lot of long speeches I want to make sure that we’ve got time for as many questions as possible.
    So, Mark, I understand you got the first one…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 4-20-11
  • Notable quotes from President Obama’s Facebook visit: “My name is Barack Obama, and I’m the first guy to get Mark Zuckerberg to wear a jacket and tie.”
    “What makes me incredible optimistic is that at every juncture in our history, we’ve always been able to adapt.”
    “The housing market is the biggest drag on the economy.”
    “If we don’t have a serious (plan) to attack the deficit, we will have an even bigger problem” of investors pulling back when the economy starts to perk up.
    “Immigration in this country has always been complicated. We are a nation of immigrants and laws. And sometimes the laws are unfair.”
    “If we bring high-skilled immigants to come here, why wouldn’t we want them to stay? They are job generators. We don’t want them starting an Intel in China or France. We want them starting them here.”
    “Our education system has to do a better job of math and science education for women, Hispanics and blacks.”
    “I want people to think of the next big Internet breakthrough as the next moon launch.”
    “We have to lift our game up for the Internet, math and science.”…. – USA Today, 4-20-11
  • The President’s Facebook Town Hall: Budgets, Values, Engagement: And historically, part of what makes for a healthy democracy, what is good politics, is when you’ve got citizens who are informed, who are engaged. And what Facebook allows us to do is make sure this isn’t just a one-way conversation; makes sure that not only am I speaking to you but you’re also speaking back and we’re in a conversation, we’re in a dialogue.
    Q Hi, Mr. President. Thank you so much for joining us today. I am originally from Detroit, Michigan, and now I’m out here working at Facebook. So my question for you kind of builds on some of the things we were just talking about. At the beginning of your term you spent a lot of time talking about job creation and the road to economic recovery, and one of the ways to do that would be substantially increasing federal investments in various areas as a way to fill the void left from consumer spending. Since then, we’ve seen the conversation shift from that of job creation and economic recovery to that of spending cuts and the deficit. So I would love to know your thoughts on how you’re going to balance these two going forward, or even potentially shift the conversation back.
    THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’re exactly right that when I first came into office our number-one job was preventing us from getting into another Great Depression. And that was what the Recovery Act was all about. So we helped states make sure that they could minimize some of the layoffs and some of the difficult budget choices that they faced. We made sure that we had infrastructure spending all around the country. And, in fact, we made the biggest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System.
    We made the largest investment in history in clean energy research, and it’s really paying off. For example, when I came into office, we had about 2 percent of the advanced battery manufacturing here in America. And as everybody here knows, what’s really holding us back from my goal of a million electric vehicles on the road is that battery technology is still tough. It’s clunky; it’s heavy; it’s expensive. And if we can make significant improvements in battery technology then I think the opportunities for electric vehicles, alternative vehicles that are much cheaper — our opportunities are limitless.
    So those were all investments that we made in the first two years. Now, the economy is now growing. It’s not growing quite as fast as we would like, because after a financial crisis, typically there’s a bigger drag on the economy for a longer period of time. But it is growing. And over the last year and a half we’ve seen almost 2 million jobs created in the private sector.
    Because this recession came at a time when we were already deeply in debt and it made the debt worse, if we don’t have a serious plan to tackle the debt and the deficit, that could actually end up being a bigger drag on the economy than anything else. If the markets start feeling that we’re not serious about the problem, and if you start seeing investors feel uncertain about the future, then they could pull back right at the time when the economy is taking off.
    So you’re right that it’s tricky. Folks around here are used to the hills in San Francisco, and you’ve driven — I don’t know if they still have clutch cars around here. Anybody every driven a clutch car? (Laughter.) I mean, you got to sort of tap and — well, that’s sort of what we faced in terms of the economy, right? We got to hit the accelerator, but we’ve got to also make sure that we don’t gun it; we can’t let the car slip backwards. And so what we’re trying to do then is put together a debt and deficit plan that doesn’t slash spending so drastically that we can’t still make investments in education, that we can’t still make investments in infrastructure — all of which would help the economy grow.
    In December, we passed a targeted tax cut for business investment, as well as the payroll tax that has a stimulus effect that helps to grow the economy. We can do those things and still grow the economy while having a plan in place to reduce the deficit, first by 2015, and then over the long term. So I think we can do both, but it does require the balanced approach that I was talking about.
    If all we’re doing is spending cuts and we’re not discriminating about it, if we’re using a machete instead of a scalpel and we’re cutting out things that create jobs, then the deficit could actually get worse because we could slip back into another recession.
    And obviously for folks in Detroit, where you’re from, they know that our investments can make a difference because we essentially saved the U.S. auto industry. We now have three auto companies here in America that are all turning a profit. G.M. just announced that it’s hiring back all of the workers that it was planning to lay off. And we did so, by the way, at the same time as we were able to increase fuel efficiency standards on cars for the first time in 30 years. So it can be done, but it takes a balanced approach. (Applause.)… – WH, 4-20-11

Phones Out at Facebook Town Hall

Members of the audience take pictures as President Barack Obama participates in a town hall meeting moderated by CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. April 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Eric Foner & Ron Chernow Win Pulitzer Prizes

HISTORY AWARDS & APPOINTMENTS:

  • Ron Chernow Wins Pulitzer Prize For Washington Biography: The worlds of journalism and literature turned their attention to the prestigious Pulitzer Prizes Monday when the committee announced the 2011 winners. Ron Chernow won the prize for biography, for his book “Washington: A Life.” Tom spoke with Chernow about the life of America’s first president in October…. – Pulitzer
  • Eric Foner wins the Pulitzer Prize for history: Yesterday, Eric Foner was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in History for his book “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, is the author of “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877,” among other books. “The Fiery Trial” focuses on Lincoln and his dealings with the issue of slavery. Speakeasy interviewed Foner via email shortly after his Pulitzer win was announced…. – WSJ, 4-19-11

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

Source: My Latino Voice, 4-18-11

blackinlatam

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

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

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

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

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 4/15/11

STATS & POLLS

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

IN FOCUS

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

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

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

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

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

THE HEADLINES….

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

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

112TH CONGRESS

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

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

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

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

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

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

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

QUOTES

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

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

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

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

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

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

April 13, 2011: President Obama Unveils Deficit Reduction Budget Plan

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:

IN FOCUS: OBAMA UNVEILS DEFICIT REDUCTION BUDGET PLAN

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

QUOTES

  • Obama’s Speech on Reducing the Budget (Text): Following is a text of President Obama’s debt-reduction speech, delivered on Wednesday at George Washington University, as released by the White House… – NYT, 4-13-11
  • The Country We Believe In: Improving America’s Fiscal Future Remarks by the President on Fiscal Policy George Washington University Washington, D.C.: What we’ve been debating here in Washington over the last few weeks will affect the lives of the students here and families all across America in potentially profound ways. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page; it’s about more than just cutting and spending. It’s about the kind of future that we want. It’s about the kind of country that we believe in. And that’s what I want to spend some time talking about today….
    This vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. Ronald Reagan’s own budget director said, there’s nothing “serious” or “courageous” about this plan. There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don’t think there’s anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. That’s not a vision of the America I know.
    The America I know is generous and compassionate. It’s a land of opportunity and optimism. Yes, we take responsibility for ourselves, but we also take responsibility for each other; for the country we want and the future that we share. We’re a nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI Bill and we saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives. That’s who we are. This is the America that I know. We don’t have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit our investment in our people and our country.
    To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m President, we won’t.
    So today, I’m proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years. It’s an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission that I appointed last year, and it builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It’s an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table — but one that protects the middle class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.
    So this is our vision for America -– this is my vision for America — a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and we provide rising opportunity for our children….
    But I also know that we’ve come together before and met big challenges. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill came together to save Social Security for future generations. The first President Bush and a Democratic Congress came together to reduce the deficit. President Clinton and a Republican Congress battled each other ferociously, disagreed on just about everything, but they still found a way to balance the budget. And in the last few months, both parties have come together to pass historic tax relief and spending cuts.
    And I know there are Republicans and Democrats in Congress who want to see a balanced approach to deficit reduction. And even those Republicans I disagree with most strongly I believe are sincere about wanting to do right by their country. We may disagree on our visions, but I truly believe they want to do the right thing.
    So I believe we can, and must, come together again. This morning, I met with Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to discuss the approach that I laid out today. And in early May, the Vice President will begin regular meetings with leaders in both parties with the aim of reaching a final agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit and get it done by the end of June….
    But no matter what we argue, no matter where we stand, we’ve always held certain beliefs as Americans. We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can’t just think about ourselves. We have to think about the country that made these liberties possible. We have to think about our fellow citizens with whom we share a community. And we have to think about what’s required to preserve the American Dream for future generations.
    This sense of responsibility — to each other and to our country — this isn’t a partisan feeling. It isn’t a Democratic or a Republican idea. It’s patriotism…. – WH, 4-13-11TranscriptMp4Mp3

Jan Tomasz Gross: Holocaust Plunder Book by U.S. Historian Stirs Polish Passions

Source: Bloomberg, 4-12-11

"Golden Harvest"

The cover jacket of the U.S. edition of “Golden Harvest” by Jan Tomasz Gross, due to be published in March 2012. The author claims ordinary Poles plundered the graves of concentration camp victims after World War II in search of gold and other valuables. Source: Oxford University Press via Bloomberg

The cover jacket of the Polish-language edition of “Golden Harvest” by Jan Tomasz Gross, due to be published in March 2012. The author claims ordinary Poles plundered the graves of concentration camp victims after World War II in search of gold and other valuables. Source: Oxford University Press via Bloomberg

"Golden Harvest"

A book by a Princeton professor that says ordinary Poles plundered graves near Nazi death camps is stirring debate in Poland, with critics saying it is fiction designed to cast the Polish as predatory anti-Semites.

“Golden Harvest,” by Poland-born historian Jan Tomasz Gross, is scheduled to be published in the U.S. and U.K. next year. After it came out in Poland, the book entered the chart of the top 10 bestsellers at Empik Media & Fashion SA, which operates stores across the country.

Gross takes as his starting point a photo of what, at first glance, appears to be a line of smiling agricultural workers at the end of a day’s work. At the bottom of the picture is a line of skulls. The photo was taken in 1945 or 1946 near Treblinka, the site of a death camp in which at least 800,000 people were murdered, Gross writes. He says the people were searching for valuables overlooked by the Nazis….READ MORE

Nancy Klein: Professor pieces ancient history together

Source: The Battalion Online, 4-11-11

The age and amount of research conducted at the Athenian Acropolis might leave many under the impression that archaeologists have uncovered all there is to be known about the marveled structure. One Texas A&M professor and architectural historian, Nancy Klein, received a $10,000 research grant from the University’s Division of Research and Graduate Studies to effectively counteract this idea.

“We can always take another look. The greater the depths of research, the more questions arise,” Klein said. “The focus of my project is to provide information beyond the technical history and simply reconstructing what the structures originally looked like. If more research is done, we can figure out how the buildings were actually built — how the blocks were cut, designed and fit together.”

Klein said further research also means providing an archeological component, a life history of the building. Her investigation will seek to determine architectural developments on the Acropolis during the fifth and sixth century B.C.

“I intend to get a good idea of what the Acropolis looked like before the Persians stormed it and before the Parthenon was built. Much of the art and architecture was destroyed in the sacking and was consequently rebuilt and recreated when the Greeks defeated the Persians later on. My study is going to put these buildings in that historical framework to understand how important they were in the early part of the sanctuary to Athena and what happened to them afterward,” Klein said.

Klein’s associate, colleague and husband, Kevin Glowacki, is also a professor of architecture at Texas A&M. Glowacki specializes in the study of classical and Near Eastern art and archaeology, and has worked alongside Klein in previous excavations.

“It’s comparable to looking at war memorials of today such as the 9/11 memorial or Vietnam memorials. Klein’s research not only involves the study of these buildings, but also relating the structures to larger issues of culture and memory. It answers the question of how we create memories, memorials and a cultural identity through the reuse of architecture and display of these remains. In some cases it might even be how we might be trying to forget these memories or events by hiding them away; the research essentially explores two sides of the coin: memory and forgetfulness,” Glowacki said.

Glowacki said the two had attended the same graduate school at Bryn Mawr College outside of Philadelphia.

“Nancy is an outstanding teacher. She was named a 2009-10 Montague-Center for Teaching Excellence scholar. You can just tell that she is very enthusiastic about what she is doing,” Glowacki said….READ MORE

Interview with food historian Paul Freedman

Source: CS Monitor, 4-10-11

A study of turn-of-the-century hotel menus reveals that Americans really liked macaroni.

An illustration from ‘Fêtes Gourmandes au Moyen Age’ depicting a gourmet feast in the Middle Ages.

Cooked Books

Enlarge Photos (1 of 2) PreviousNext


By Rebecca Federman, Cooked Books / April 10, 2011

Paul Freedman, a medieval history professor at Yale, has been not-so-secretly flirting with food history for a few years now. First there was the James Beard-nominated ‘Food: A History of Taste’ which he edited in 2007. Next came ‘Out of the East‘ (2008), a fascinating and very readable history of the medieval spice trade.

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Rebecca FedermanRebecca Federman is the New York Public Library’s Culinary Collections Librarian and Electronic Resources Coordinator. Rebecca writes about the culinary collections at the Library on her blog Cooked Books and enjoys exploring New York for delicious eats.

Food historian and Yale professor Paul Freedman.

Courtesy of Cooked Books

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And now Freedman has focused his attention on American food history by fastidiously documenting every dish found on thousands of early and mid-19th century hotel menus to understand what people were eating when they ate out. Among the surprising results: lots of macaroni.

The fruits of his labor have been published in the March 2011 issues of both Gastronomica and the New England Quarterly, and Paul has generously agreed to answer some questions about his latest project for Cooked Books.

You teach medieval history and have for quite some time. What attracted you to 19th-century American dining habits?
There were a few steps. I wanted to write about spices in the Middle Ages and why they were so popular. That is what first interested me in the overall history of food. I became interested in other eras and in particular what sorts of food were prestigious and which lacked prestige. So in the Middle Ages spices were associated with noble status while root vegetables were for peasants; organ meats were prestigious in the 19th century, poor people’s food for most of the 20th, and now fashionable and high status again. When I was at the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) Cullman Center (2002-2003), I was working on the book I eventually published on spices, but the menu history exhibit organized by William Grimes fascinated me. I’d date my interest in New York and 19th-century history to that exhibit.

How did you go about finding menus to consult?
I began with the NYPL and its immense collection. Others who work on the history of food, many of whom I met while editing “Food: A History of Taste,” told me about other libraries such as those at Cornell, NYU, the Culinary Institute of America or the New-York Historical Society. You, Rebecca, were very important to me both in helping me with the NYPL material and we visited the authoritative private collector of menus Henry Voigt in Delaware at the suggestion of Darra Goldstein of Gastrnomica. In the past couple years I’ve tried to find out about state and local historical societies, some of which have great menu collections.

A study of turn-of-the-century hotel menus reveals that Americans really liked macaroni.

An illustration from ‘Fêtes Gourmandes au Moyen Age’ depicting a gourmet feast in the Middle Ages.

Cooked Books

Enlarge Photos (1 of 2) Previous


Paul Freedman, a medieval history professor at Yale, has been not-so-secretly flirting with food history for a few years now. First there was the James Beard-nominated ‘Food: A History of Taste’ which he edited in 2007. Next came ‘Out of the East‘ (2008), a fascinating and very readable history of the medieval spice trade.

Food historian and Yale professor Paul Freedman.

Courtesy of Cooked Books

And now Freedman has focused his attention on American food history by fastidiously documenting every dish found on thousands of early and mid-19th century hotel menus to understand what people were eating when they ate out. Among the surprising results: lots of macaroni.

The fruits of his labor have been published in the March 2011 issues of both Gastronomica and the New England Quarterly, and Paul has generously agreed to answer some questions about his latest project for Cooked Books.

You teach medieval history and have for quite some time. What attracted you to 19th-century American dining habits?
There were a few steps. I wanted to write about spices in the Middle Ages and why they were so popular. That is what first interested me in the overall history of food. I became interested in other eras and in particular what sorts of food were prestigious and which lacked prestige. So in the Middle Ages spices were associated with noble status while root vegetables were for peasants; organ meats were prestigious in the 19th century, poor people’s food for most of the 20th, and now fashionable and high status again. When I was at the New York Public Library’s (NYPL) Cullman Center (2002-2003), I was working on the book I eventually published on spices, but the menu history exhibit organized by William Grimes fascinated me. I’d date my interest in New York and 19th-century history to that exhibit.

How did you go about finding menus to consult?
I began with the NYPL and its immense collection. Others who work on the history of food, many of whom I met while editing “Food: A History of Taste,” told me about other libraries such as those at Cornell, NYU, the Culinary Institute of America or the New-York Historical Society. You, Rebecca, were very important to me both in helping me with the NYPL material and we visited the authoritative private collector of menus Henry Voigt in Delaware at the suggestion of Darra Goldstein of Gastrnomica. In the past couple years I’ve tried to find out about state and local historical societies, some of which have great menu collections…READ MORE

Budget Showdown 2011: Obama, Boehner and Reid Strike Last Minute Budget Deal — Averting Government Shutdown with 38 Billion in Cuts

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:

President Barack Obama makes a statement on the budget agreement
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 4/8/11

IN FOCUS

  • Federal Budget (2011) — Government Shutdown AvertedNYT
  • Details of the Bipartisan Budget Deal: Last night, President Obama announced that the federal government will remain open for business because Americans from different beliefs came together, put politics aside, and met the expectations of the American people. Today, small businesses will no longer worry or have to wait on a loan to open or expand their business, families will receive the mortgages they applied for, and hundreds of thousands of government workers, including our brave men and women in uniform, will continue to receive paychecks on time.
    This deal cuts spending by $78.5 billion from the President’s FY 2011 Budget request — the largest annual spending cut in our history. These are real cuts that will save taxpayers money and have a real impact. Many will be painful, and are to programs that we support, but the fiscal situation is such that we have to act…. – WH, 4-9-11
  • Congress reaches an 11th-hour budget deal, still must vote to avoid shutdown: Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have reached an agreement to fund the federal government for the next five months, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office announced Friday night. The deal will include $39 billion in spending cuts and will drop language related to Planned Parenthood. Lawmakers were still working to approve a short-term stopgap funding bill before midnight to give them time to craft the longer-term legislation.
  • Boehner Says Budget Deal Said to Be Reached to Avoid Government Shutdown: Lawmakers reached a deal just minutes before a deadline that would have shuttered federal facilities and furloughed thousands of workers, House Speaker John A. Boehner said.
    Hours from a government shutdown, leaders of the House and Senate offered dramatically different reasons for a budget stalemate and expressed little hope that the two sides would reach an agreement by midnight…. – NYT, 4-8-11

STATS & POLLS

  • Budget fight shows Washington still broken: As the midnight Friday deadline loomed for a possible government shutdown, and politicians continued their rhetorical war of words, a larger message went out to the rest of the country: Washington is still broken. The deal announced less than 90 minutes before the deadline may produce a sense of relief that the government will remain open. But given the tortured negotiations and the claims and counterclaims that were traded all day, the public is likely to find fault with both political parties.
    Public sentiment has been clear for weeks. Overall, the country prefers compromise to confrontation, stalemate and shutdown, according to the polls… – WaPo, 4-8-11

THE HEADLINES….

Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times
The House speaker, John A. Boehner, announced the federal budget agreement reached Friday night by Congressional leaders.

 

  • Federal shutdown avoided, 2012 budget fight looms: A last-minute budget deal forged amid bluster and tough bargaining averted an embarrassing federal shutdown, cut billions in spending and provided the first major test of the divided government that voters ushered in five months ago.
    Working late into Friday night, congressional and White House negotiators finally agreed on a plan to pay for government operations through the end of September while trimming $38.5 billion in spending. Lawmakers then approved a measure to keep the government running through next Friday while the details of the new spending plan are written into legislation.
    Obama signed the short-term measure without fanfare Saturday. Congressional approval of the actual deal is expected in the middle of next week. “Americans of different beliefs came together again,” President Barack Obama said from the White House Blue Room, a setting chosen to offer a clear view of the Washington Monument over his right shoulder.
    The agreement was negotiated by Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The administration was poised to shutter federal services, from national parks to tax-season help centers, and to send furlough notices to hundreds of thousands of federal workers… – AP, 4-9-11
  • Long meetings, dashed hopes _ but finally a deal: There was barely an hour left before the midnight padlocking of government doors. In a Capitol basement meeting room, House Speaker John Boehner was telling exhausted fellow Republicans that a deal to avert a shutdown was nearly finished when an aide alerted him that staff had completed the final details and the agreement was complete.
    “He said we don’t have the Senate and we don’t have the White House, and it’s a good day’s work,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who was in the closed-door session and later described the scene. And with that, Republicans clapped: “Not euphoria,” Kingston said, reflecting fatigue and the realization of a long year of intense budget battling lay ahead. But for now, a week of top-level White House meetings, round-the-clock bargaining by staff and lots of emotional hills and valleys had produced a bipartisan accord to trim $38.5 billion in spending over this fiscal year’s remaining six months and head off a federal shutdown that both parties feared could hurt their standing with voters…. – AP, 4-9-11
  • Analysis: GOP won first round of budget battle: Republican conservatives were the chief winners in the budget deal that forced Democrats to accept historic spending cuts they strongly opposed. Emboldened by last fall’s election victories, fiscal conservatives have changed the debate in Washington. The question no longer is whether to cut spending, but how deeply. Rarely mentioned is the idea of higher taxes to lower the deficit. Their success is all the more notable because Democrats control the Senate and White House…. – AP, 4-9-11
  • Budget deal avoids shutdown, fight ahead: President Barack Obama signed a short-term spending bill on Saturday that averted a government shutdown, formalizing a compromise deal with Republicans that paves the way for more — and bigger — deficit-reduction fights to come. With just over an hour to spare before a midnight deadline, Obama’s Democrats and opposition Republicans agreed on Friday to a budget compromise that will cut about $38 billion in spending for the last six months of this fiscal year.
    After signing the stopgap spending bill to keep the federal government running until the deal can be formally approved in the coming days, Obama underscored the fact that Washington was open with a surprise visit to the Lincoln Memorial. “I just wanted to say … that because Congress was able to settle its difference, that’s why this place is open today and everybody’s able to enjoy their visit,” he told cheering tourists from the monument steps…. – Reuters, 4-9-11
  • Obama signs bill averting government shutdown: The short-term spending bill was passed overnight by both houses of Congress and keeps the government operating until Friday. Its signing was announced in a news release, in contrast to the dramatics earlier this week…. – LAT, 4-9-11
  • Obama at Lincoln Memorial, open after budget deal: President Barack Obama made the short trip from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday to make clear that the country’s national parks and monuments are open for business. A deal Friday night between the White House and congressional leaders avoided a government shutdown that would have closed popular tourist sites across the country.
    The president greeted surprised tourists and told them, “Because Congress was able to settle its differences, that’s why this place is open today and everybody’s able to enjoy their visit.” “That’s the kind of future cooperation I hope we have going forward,” the president said…. – AP, 4-9-11
  • Next on the Agenda for Washington: Fight Over Debt: The down-to-the-wire partisan struggle over cuts to this year’s federal budget has intensified concern in Washington, on Wall Street and among economists about the more consequential clash coming over increasing the government’s borrowing limit. Congressional Republicans are vowing that before they will agree to raise the current $14.25 trillion federal debt ceiling — a step that will become necessary in as little as five weeks — President Obama and Senate Democrats will have to agree to far deeper spending cuts for next year and beyond than those contained in the six-month budget deal agreed to late Friday night that cut $38 billion and averted a government shutdown. Republicans have also signaled that they will again demand fundamental changes in policy on health care, the environment, abortion rights and more, as the price of their support for raising the debt ceiling. In a letter last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told Congressional leaders the government would hit the limit no later than May 16. He outlined “extraordinary measures” — essentially moving money among federal accounts — that could buy time until July 8…. – NYT, 4-9-11
  • Tea Party revels in newfound clout: ‘When we;re cutting, we’re winning’: Americans learned yesterday the full power of the Tea Party, with newly elected conservatives calling the shots in the House rather than railing against government from the sidelines. For many in the movement, pushing the government to the brink of closure was a crowning achievement, an emphatic statement that spending must be reined in — and now. “When we’re cutting,” said Representative Nan Hayworth, a New York Republican, “we’re winning.” “It’s a victory for the American people,” declared Representative Allen West, Republican of Florida. “When you look at what has happened over the past few years — where we’ve had these astronomical debt and deficits — it’s amazing how we’re actually having a conversation in Washington, D.C., about spending cuts.”
    But for those outside the movement, it put on full display the uncompromising principles of the far right, showing that Tea Party-aligned lawmakers are so ideologically rigid they will throw sand into the gears of government to prove their point. Democrats questioned why conservatives who campaigned on creating jobs were so eager to furlough 800,000 government employees and freeze their paychecks. “The Tea Party is trying to sneak through its extreme social agenda,” Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said yesterday…. – Boston Globe, 4-9-11
  • Budget Deal to Cut $38 Billion Averts Shutdown: Congressional leaders and President Obama headed off a shutdown of the government with less than two hours to spare Friday night under a tentative budget deal that would cut $38 billion from federal spending this year. President Obama praised the budget deal in short remarks from the Blue Room in the White House just after 11 p.m.
    Speaker John A. Boehner, who had pressed Democrats for cuts sought by members of the conservative new House majority, presented the package of widespread spending reductions and policy provisions and won a positive response from his rank and file shortly before 11 p.m. Both Democrats and Republicans proclaimed they had reached a deal and would begin the necessary steps to pass the bill and send it to Mr. Obama next week…. – NYT, 4-9-11
  • Historic’ deal to avoid government shutdown: Perilously close to a government shutdown, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reached a historic agreement late Friday night to cut about $38 billion in spending and avert the first federal closure in 15 years. Obama hailed the deal as “the biggest annual spending cut in history.” House Speaker John Boehner said that over the next decade it would cut government spending by $500 billion — and won an ovation from his rank and file, tea party adherents among them. “This is historic, what we’ve done,” agreed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the third man involved in negotiations that ratified a new era of divided government…. – AP, 4-8-11
  • US House Republicans told of $39 bln spending plan: U.S. House of Representatives Republican leaders on Friday presented to their membership a $39 billion spending cut plan aimed at averting a government shutdown, according to Republican lawmakers. The House is also planning to vote later tonight on a stopgap funding bill to keep the government running until the longer budget plan can be enacted into law sometime next week, the lawmakers said…. – Reuters, 4-8-11

QUOTES

President Obama records the weekly address
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 4/8/11
  • Barack Obama: Last night, leaders of both parties came together to avert a government shutdown, cut spending, and invest in our future. This is good news for the American people. It means that small businesses can get the loans they need, and hundreds of thousands of Americans will get their paychecks on time—including our brave men and women in uniform… –
  • Weekly Address: President Obama on the Budget Compromise to Avoid a Government Shutdown: Last night, after weeks of long and difficult negotiations over our national budget, leaders of both parties came together to avert a government shutdown, cut spending, and invest in our future.
    This is good news for the American people. It means that small businesses can get the loans they need, our families can get the mortgages they applied for, folks can visit our national parks and museums, and hundreds of thousands of Americans will get their paychecks on time – including our brave men and women in uniform.
    This is an agreement to invest in our country’s future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any compromise, this required everyone to give ground on issues that were important to them. I certainly did. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful – programs people rely on will be cut back; needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances. But we also prevented this important debate from being overtaken by politics and unrelated disagreements on social issues. And beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect the investments that will help America compete for new jobs – investments in our kids’ education and student loans; in clean energy and life-saving medical research.
    Reducing spending while still investing in the future is just common sense. That’s what families do in tough times. They sacrifice where they can, even if it’s hard, to afford what’s really important.
    A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now, the same cooperation has made it possible for us to move forward with the biggest annual spending cut in history. And it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead – from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our long-term deficits.
    That’s our responsibility. That’s what the American people expect us to do. And it’s what the American people deserve. – WH, 4-9-11
  • President Obama’s Statement on the Bipartisan Agreement on the Budget: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE BUDGET 11:04 P.M. EDT: THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Behind me, through the window, you can see the Washington Monument, visited each year by hundreds of thousands from around the world. The people who travel here come to learn about our history and to be inspired by the example of our democracy — a place where citizens of different backgrounds and beliefs can still come together as one nation.
    Tomorrow, I’m pleased to announce that the Washington Monument, as well as the entire federal government, will be open for business. And that’s because today Americans of different beliefs came together again.
    In the final hours before our government would have been forced to shut down, leaders in both parties reached an agreement that will allow our small businesses to get the loans they need, our families to get the mortgages they applied for, and hundreds of thousands of Americans to show up at work and take home their paychecks on time, including our brave men and women in uniform.
    This agreement between Democrats and Republicans, on behalf of all Americans, is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them. And I certainly did that.
    Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful. Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances.
    But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs — investments in our kids’ education and student loans; in clean energy and life-saving medical research. We protected the investments we need to win the future.
    At the same time, we also made sure that at the end of the day, this was a debate about spending cuts, not social issues like women’s health and the protection of our air and water. These are important issues that deserve discussion, just not during a debate about our budget.
    I want to think Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid for their leadership and their dedication during this process. A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now the same cooperation will make possible the biggest annual spending cut in history, and it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead, from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our deficit. That’s what the American people expect us to do. That’s why they sent us here…. – WH, 4-8-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Democrats, Republicans agree on a budget deal: “We have agreed to an historic amount of cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year, as well as a short-term bridge that will give us time to avoid a shutdown while we get that agreement through both houses and to the President. We will cut $78.5 billion below the President’s 2011 budget proposal, and we have reached an agreement on the policy riders. In the meantime, we will pass a short-term resolution to keep the government running through Thursday. That short-term bridge will cut the first $2 billion of the total savings,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner said in a joint statement issued after the agreement. – CNN, 4-8-11
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives John A. Boehner: This has been a lot of discussion and a long fight. But we fought to keep government spending down because it really will in fact help create a better environment for job creators in our country.
  • U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell Welcomes Historic Spending Reductions: Let me thank my friend the Majority Leader and Speaker Boehner for their outstanding work during this difficult negotiation. You know, Mr. President, we had an opportunity tonight to decide whether we wanted to repeat history, or make history. Had we chosen to repeat history, we would have allowed a government shutdown. Instead we decided to make history by implementing in the middle of this fiscal year as the Majority Leader has indicated substantial reductions in spending.
    Now, these reductions, Mr. President, are in the billions. Once we get through this process by the end of next week, we will move on to a much larger discussion about how we save trillions, by enacting hopefully on a bipartisan basis a budget that genuinely begins to get on top of this problem. And the problem as we all know is $14 trillion in debt, and over $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities. The President has asked us to raise the debt ceiling. And Senate Republicans and House Republicans and I hope many Democrats as well are going to say, Mr. President, in order to raise the debt ceiling, we need to do something significant about the debt. My definition of significant is that the markets view it as significant, the American people view it as significant and foreign countries view it as significant.
    So for tonight, again, I congratulate the Majority Leader and the Speaker. This is an important first step, but just the beginning of what we need to do to get our house, our fiscal house, in order. –

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

Gallery: Government shutdown 2011: Congressional leaders agreed late Friday to a compromise that will keep the federal government funded for the remainder of the fiscal year.

  • Gary Jacobson, Julian Zelizer: Obama Calls Budget Deal a ‘Worthwhile Compromise’: “The size of the cuts is a bit more than Democrats would like, but on the other hand, the riders are generally gone,” said Gary Jacobson, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego. “So it’s something that might be generally popular and help both sides. Most Americans wanted some sort of compromise.”
    Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey, said Obama may face questions about whether he engaged in the negotiations soon enough. “All and all, this is something he survives rather than a negotiation that remakes how the electorate thinks about him,” Zelizer said. Bloomberg, 4-9-11
  • JEFF ZELENY: In Budget Deal, Signs of Obama’s Path to the Middle: President Obama opened the week by calling on Democrats to embrace his re-election campaign. He closed it by praising Republicans for forging a compromise to cut spending this year and avert a government shutdown. The juxtaposition made clearer than ever the more centrist governing style Mr. Obama has adopted since his party’s big losses in November and his recapture-the-middle strategy for winning a second term.
    But in agreeing Friday night to what he called the largest annual spending cut in the nation’s history, the president further decoupled himself from his party in Congress, exacerbating concerns among some Democrats about whether he is really one of them and is willing to spend political capital to defend their principles on bigger battles ahead…. – NYT, 4-9-11
  • 2011 is not 1995: The substance of this deal is bad. But the way Democrats are selling it makes it much, much worse. The final compromise was $38.5 billion below 2010’s funding levels. That’s $78.5 billion below President Obama’s original budget proposal, which would’ve added $40 billion to 2010’s funding levels, and $6.5 billion below John Boehner’s original counteroffer, which would’ve subtracted $32 billion from 2010’s budget totals. In the end, the real negotiation was not between the Republicans and the Democrats, or even the Republicans and the White House. It was between John Boehner and the conservative wing of his party. And once that became clear, it turned out that Boehner’s original offer wasn’t even in the middle. It was slightly center-left…. – WaPo, 4-9-11
  • The Shutdown That Wasn’t: Given the widespread consensus that the political consequences of a shutdown would be much worse for the Republicans than for the Democrats, there’s a case to be made that Reid and Obama would have been better off taking a much harder line, and then just sitting back and chuckling as the Tea Party caucus pushed an unwilling Boehner off the plank.
    So why didn’t they? Well, maybe they put country before party, and calculated that shutting down the government over what amounts to a fraction of a fraction of a vast federal budget would be horribly irresponsible, even if it made liberals happy and redounded to the Democratic Party’s short-term benefit. If so, good for them. – NYT, 4-9-11

Budget Showdown 2011: Tick, Tock — Time Running Out Before Government Shutdown — Reid, Boehner Still Hagling

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 said he expects an answer from John Boehner and Harry Reid as to whether Congress can come to an agreement.

John Boehner (left) and Harry Reid speak to reporters outside the White House. | AP Photo | AP Photo

IN FOCUS

  • Republican Fiscal Year 2012 Budget
  • From Reagan to Obama 30 years of spending prioritiesWaPo
  • Government shutdown 101: What does it mean for the military?: The Pentagon will continue military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but US troops will work without pay, according to guidance issued late Thursday by the Defense Department…. – CS Monitor, 4-8-11
  • The Federal Employee’s Guide to a Shutdown: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the official White House agency in charge of federal-workforce policies, issued this brief FAQ Thursday night about what people can expect in the event of a federal-government shutdown, which appears likelier by the minute…. – The Atlantic, 4-8-11
  • Lawsuit says feds can’t force work during shutdown: The nation’s largest federal employee union says forcing some federal employees to work without pay during a government shutdown violates the U.S. Constitution. The American Federation of Government Employees has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the Obama administration from requiring essential employees to keep working if a shutdown occurs… – AP, 4-8-11

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama speaking in the Brady Briefing Room on Thursday after a meeting with the House speaker, John A. Boehner, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, on the budget impasse.<br />“/><span480
Doug Mills/The New York Times

  • With no budget deal, government shutdown looms: With a midnight deadline looming, the White House and Congress struggled on Friday to break a budget impasse that threatens to shut down the U.S. government and idle hundreds of thousands of federal workers. Democratic and Republican congressional leaders blamed each other for the stalemate over government funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends September 30, and could not even agree on what issues were the final stumbling blocks to a deal.
    Democrats said the two sides were at odds over federal funding for birth control. Republicans said spending cuts were the issue. Without an agreement, money to operate the federal government for the next six months would run out at midnight on Friday (0400 GMT on Saturday) and agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service would begin a partial shutdown…. – Reuters, 4-8-11
  • Shutdown nears as Americans watch and politicians bicker: Everyday American families — people who depend on federal government paychecks and those who make use of federal services that would be shuttered — fretted over how a shutdown would affect their lives if politicians don’t come up with an agreement by midnight Friday.
    Without the agreement, the government’s massive gears will begin grinding to a halt, idling hundreds of thousands of people.
    Operations from national parks to the White House visitor center would close. Even some government websites would blink out, replaced by virtual closed signs. Americans seeking new passports would have to wait. And the military would not be able to pay death gratuities to the families of those who die on active duty, although they would eventually receive them, a senior defense official said. But not everything would close shop…. – CNN, 4-8-11
  • On shutdown, White House frustration with John Boehner grows: President Barack Obama has told Speaker John Boehner he won’t accept cuts to Planned Parenthood and can’t make any new concessions to avert a government shutdown without movement from the GOP, sources close to the process tell POLITICO.
    Frustration is building in the White House over the high-wire budget negotiations with Republicans. The sense in the West Wing is that Boehner and his aide-de-camp Barry Jackson have repeatedly offered to set aside the Planned Parenthood issue in exchange for greater spending cuts from Obama, only to later say that the Planned Parenthood cuts are still on the table. Boehner was vague when asked if Title X funding, some of which goes to Planned Parenthood, was still a sticking point.
    “Almost all of the policy issues have been dealt with,” he told reporters at the Capitol on Friday. “The big issue is over the spending… We’re not going to roll over and sell out the American people like has been done time and time again in Washington… We’re damn serious.”
  • Planned Parenthood at Center of Budget Shutdown Threat Rep. Milkulski: ‘Not Throwing Women and Children Under the Bus’: The elimination of more than $300 million in federal funding for women’s health care centers, including Planned Parenthood, may well force a government shutdown at midnight tonight. Republicans want to zero out Title X, a program implemented under Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970 to provide contraceptives, cancer screenings, and pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease testing at community health centers across the country. Conservative lawmakers say the money indirectly subsidizes abortions, despite the fact that the federal Hyde Amendment expressly prohibits such use of taxpayer funds…. – ABC News, 4-8-11
  • GOP, Dem huddles fail to yield progress on budget deal: After both sides huddled behind closed doors Friday afternoon, the message from both Senate Democrats and House Republicans remained clear… They’re still stuck… – MSNBC, 4-8-11
  • Shutdown Near, No Sign of Compromise: Hours from a government shutdown, leaders of the House and Senate offered dramatically different reasons for a budget stalemate and expressed little hope that the two sides would reach an agreement by midnight. In a terse statement to reporters, the speaker of the House, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said there was “only one reason we do not have an agreement yet, and that is spending,” and asked, “When will the White House and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?”… – NYT, 4-8-11
  • On Budget Dispute, Obama Casts Himself as Mediator in Chief: President Obama has now assumed the role of mediator in chief in the efforts to avoid a government shutdown. Over the course of 24 hours and three separate meetings, Mr. Obama has cast himself as the sober one in the room, prodding the two sides to get past their dispute — even though he is a key player on one of them.
    “What I’ve said to the speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is, because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning,” Mr. Obama told reporters moments after the third negotiation session broke up Thursday night…. – NYT, 4-8-11
  • Blame game intense as government shutdown looms: House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP leadership team just emerged from a meeting with their Republican members. Boehner insists the fight is about spending cuts, not policy issues such as funding for women’s health clinics.
    “The big fight is over spending. … We’re not going to roll over and sell out the American people,” Boehner said. “We say we’re serious about cutting spending. We’re damn serious.” “Almost all of the policy issues have been dealt with. We’re working on the spending,” he said…. – USA Today, 4-8-11
  • Shutdown could mean trash dumped at Boehner’s house: A Facebook page has been launched aimed at getting people to dump their garbage at the Ohio Republican’s pad in Washington, D.C. Trash pickup is among the services that would be halted in the District of Columbia, whose funding is tied to congressional approval.
    “If he won’t allow us to use OUR TAX DOLLARS to pick it up, maybe we should just BRING IT TO HIM,” the page says. More than 5,000 people have checked out the Facebook page and 546 people — presumably those who live in the District of Columbia or nearby — are listed as a “maybe” to actually “attend” the dumping of trash…. – USA Today, 4-8-11
  • Government shutdown nears: Federal workers nervously eyed the clock and an American public sharply divided along partisan lines watched from the sidelines Friday as Democrats and Republicans sniped at one another in a budget battle that could shut down the government and idle more than 800,000 people. Negotiators have until midnight Friday to reach an agreement, or the government’s massive gears will begin grinding to a halt.
    Should the government shut down, operations from national parks to veterans’ clinics would close. The White House visitor center would go dark. Even some government websites would blink out, replaced by virtual closed signs. But not everything would close… – CNN, 4-8-11
  • Government Shutdown Inevitable: Blame Game Increases as Clock Ticks Democrats, Republicans Met Thursday Night into Friday Morning But Couldn’t Reach Deal: House Speaker John Boehner said today he will return his pay during the days the government is shut down. He made the promise as it became clear that Republicans and Democrats — bitterly divided over women’s health funding programs — will be hard pressed to reach a deal hours before the budget deadline expires. In the case of a government shutdown, essential personnel who are kept on duty — including troops in the field — do not receive paychecks, but members of Congress do.
    “In the event of a lapse in appropriations for fiscal year 2011 causing a government shutdown, I will return any and all compensation that I would otherwise be entitled during such a lapse in appropriations,” Boehner said in a letter to fellow House members.
    Sixty senators have signed on to a bill that would ensure troops are paid through a shutdown, but time is quickly running out…. – ABC News, 4-8-11
  • Congress doesn’t shut down during a shutdown: Senators would have to push their own elevator buttons. House members would go without their free gym. Food on Capitol Hill would be sparse. And the lawmakers’ restrooms? Perhaps not as fresh.
    Congress would feel the pinch of a government shutdown, but nowhere near the pain that would be inflicted on the massive federal work force it is supposed to govern.
    Unlike the roughly 800,000 federal workers who would be affected, lawmakers get wide latitude deciding who is essential and who’s not in the fiefdoms of their own offices and committees. They also get to choose whether to give up their own pay during a shutdown — an option not afforded the furloughed…. – AP, 4-8-11
  • Boehner, Reid to skip pay in government shutdown: Add House Speaker John Boehner to the growing list of members of Congress who say they’ll skip their paycheck if the federal government shuts down tonight. By law, members of Congress and the president would continue to receive their pay in the event of a government shutdown.
    Boehner is sending a letter to House lawmakers explaining how the House Administration can help them return their pay to the U.S. Treasury, which he plans to do…. – USA Today, 4-8-11
  • Gates, in Iraq, Talks of Effects of Budget Fight: On what he described as probably his final visit to Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Thursday turned from eight years of war here to the fight raging at home. If the United States government shuts down this weekend and into next week, he told American troops, there would be a delay in their pay.
    Mr. Gates, responding to a question from a soldier here about whether he would be paid for his service in Iraq, said he would be, he just was not sure when. Mr. Gates then presented this sequence of events of what could happen to American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world as a result of the budget showdown. NYt, 4-8-11
  • Planned Parenthood funding only issue holding up budget deal, says Harry Reid: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Friday morning that the only issue holding up a budget deal to avert a government shutdown is funding for Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide women’s health services… – CBS News, 4-8-11
  • As Shutdown Deadline Nears, Lawmakers ‘Can’t Agree What They Disagree On’: For the third time in three days, President Obama met with congressional leaders but failed to reach a budget agreement to avoid a government shutdown. Jim Lehrer talks to The Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid and Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe about continuing budget brinksmanship that has Democrats and Republicans worried…. – PBS Newshour, 4-7-11
  • Time’s up: Obama and GOP scramble to halt shutdown: Uncomfortably close to a deadline, President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders have only hours to avert a Friday midnight government shutdown that all sides say would inconvenience millions of people and damage a still fragile economy. Obama said he still hoped to announce an agreement on Friday but did not have “wild optimism.”
    In revealing nothing about what still divides them, Obama and the lawmakers, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., all said another late night of talks in the Oval Office had narrowed their differences over cutting federal spending and other matters.
    But Obama said ominously that the machinery of a shutdown was already in motion. “I expect an answer in the morning,” Obama told reporters Thursday evening as representatives from the White House and Capitol Hill plunged ahead with negotiations into the night…. – AP, 4-8-11
  • With shutdown looming, riders threaten deal: The government will shut down today, unless Republicans do what their base loathes, but Washington knows is necessary: compromise with Democrats and President Barack Obama. That’s what it comes down to Friday, as the current stopgap funding measure expires and funding for the federal government runs dry, placing the immediate employment of 800,000 workers in jeopardy, and both political parties at huge risk a year and a half before a presidential election.
    Obama, who made a late public entry into the fight, said he expects “an answer in the morning” from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as to whether Congress can agree on how many tens of billions of dollars should be cut from federal ledgers from now until the end of September.
    Money isn’t the only sticking point. Just as it was for Democrats when as they worked to pass a health care law, abortion is once again a major issue. Republicans insist on cutting off funds for Planned Parenthood, turning the battle to fund the government into part of the overarching culture war on Capitol Hill. Republicans say bringing Planned Parenthood into the fray is a spending issue, as they told voters they’d concentrate on jobs and the economy, not cultural issues… – Politico, 4-8-11
  • Reid: impasse based on funding for Planned Parenthood; Boehner denies it: House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio), the lead Republican in the budget impasse that has transfixed Washington and brought the nation to the brink of a government shutdown, immediately disputed Reid’s account.
    The Democrat, speaking at the Capitol, said that he and President Obama had agreed to accept $38 billion in budget cuts — $5 billion more than was on the table last week. But, Reid said, Boehner would not budge from a demand that the budget strip federal funding from the group Planned Parenthood. Negotiations continued at the staff level until 3 a.m., to no avail. “We agreed on a number last night. They can spin this any way they want,” Reid said. “The number’s done.”… – WaPo, 4-7-11
  • Budget deal remains out of reach after overnight talks: The first federal government shutdown in 15 years is hours away after parties in the budget negotiations appear to have lost ground in talks that lasted into Friday morning…. – LAT, 4-8-11
  • Latest White House huddle fails to yield budget deal; shutdown nears: A fourth White House meeting in 48 hours between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders failed to reach agreement Thursday night on a spending plan for the rest of the current fiscal year, increasing chances for a partial government shutdown to begin just over 24 hours later.
    The talks involving Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, as well as Vice President Joe Biden, ended less than an hour after starting.
    “We made some progress today,” Obama told reporters in brief remarks, saying differences had been narrowed and staff members would work through the night to try to reach agreement on the few remaining “difficult issues.” He provided no details…. – CNN, 4-7-11
  • House votes to fund Pentagon, prevent shutdown: The GOP-controlled House has passed legislation seeking to keep the government open for another week while funding the Pentagon through September. But Senate Democrats oppose it, and President Barack Obama has promised a veto should the bill reach him. Obama called the measure a distraction from ongoing negotiations on a full-year spending bill…. – AP, 4-8-11
  • Obama, Congress stare at shutdown deadline: Once again, White House and congressional aides worked through the night on a new budget deal — and they still couldn’t nail one down. The difference is that today is deadline day.
    The federal government will run out of money at midnight and shut down many operations unless President Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, can strike some kind of deal in the hours ahead.
    But while aides argue about budget numbers, Reid and other Democrats said this morning that the biggest obstacle to a deal is a Republican insistence that Planned Parenthood be de-funded because of abortion services. Boehner and the Republicans said the problem is that Democrats won’t agree to big enough budget cuts. “While nothing will be decided until everything is decided, the largest issue is still spending cuts,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel…. – USA Today, 4-8-11
  • $5 billion separates parties in elusive 2011 budget deal: Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill say they are about $5 billion apart in their haggling to reach a deal to fund the federal government for the rest of the year. That amounts to one-half of 1 percent of the trillion dollars in spending Congress doles out each year. Five one-thousandths.
    Yet weeks of negotiations have not led them to an agreement. A flurry of activity Thursday, including two Oval Office sit-downs with President Obama, did not close the gap, or even cool the rhetoric. Each side continued to accuse the other of playing politics, and of trying to force a government impasse.
    The only question on the minds of everyone in the capital — will a shutdown happen? — is now being asked with increasing urgency. If the two sides cannot come to terms by midnight , Washington will effectively run out of money and the government will close.
    “What I’ve said to the speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning,” Obama said just before 10 p.m. Thursday, concluding his fourth meeting with congressional leaders in three days… – WaPo, 4-8-11
  • Congress pushes for final budget deal: With time running out, an ideological fight in the Congress over abortion and environmental issues threatened on Thursday to derail an agreement to avert a government shutdown.
    The mood swung between optimism and pessimism as Democratic and Republican leaders held a whirlwind series of private meetings and public news conferences through the day to plead their case for a budget deal that would keep the government operating beyond midnight on Friday.
    “I’m not very optimistic,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, told reporters before the evening meeting, blaming the impasse on a Republican push for policy provisions that would block public funding of birth control and stymie environmental protection efforts.
    “I did express to the president my disappointment that he suggested he would veto that,” Boehner told reporters after the afternoon White House meeting. “We can get to an agreement, but we are not there yet.”… – Reuters, 4-7-11
  • GOP seeks 1-week extension as gov’t shutdown looms: Short of a deal, congressional leaders bargained and squabbled by turns Thursday on legislation to cut spending and prevent a partial government shutdown that loomed for Friday at midnight. After all-night talks among aides, President Barack Obama summoned Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. to the White House meeting for the second time in a little over 12 hours.
    Before departing the Capitol, Boehner urged the House to pass legislation to cut $12 billion, fund the Pentagon through the end of the year and keep the government running for a week. “There is absolutely no policy reason for the Senate to not follow the House in taking these responsible steps to support our troops and to keep our government open,” he said.
    Reid said otherwise, although he, too, made it clear he wants to avoid a shutdown that the White House says would crease problems for combat troops overseas and delay IRS refunds for taxpayers at home. “The issue is ideology, not numbers,” he said, criticizing Republican proposals to limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency and a prohibition of the use of federal or local funds to pay for most abortions in the District of Columbia. “These matters have no place on a budget bill,” he said…. – Business Week, 4-8-11
  • GOP prepares 1-week extension as shutdown looms: Republicans battling with President Barack Obama over budget cuts plan to hold a House vote Thursday on one-week legislation to avoid a government shutdown, despite opposition from the White House and Senate Democrats pressing for a longer-term solution.
    The party leaders debated as the clock ticked toward a midnight Friday deadline. Even a brief shutdown could affect a wide range of Americans, from troops fighting abroad to tourists planning trips to national parks.
    The move by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to advance the interim budget measure angered his Democratic negotiating counterparts and came after slower-than-hoped White House talks Wednesday night. The president said Republicans need to display more urgency, while Boehner said honest differences remain…. – AP, 4-7-11
  • Obama Meeting Fails to End Stalemate Over Federal Budget: President Obama and Congressional leaders said Wednesday that a late-night White House bargaining session produced no budget breakthrough that would avert a government shutdown this weekend but agreed the two sides had narrowed the issues in efforts to strike a deal.
    Emerging from a 90-minute meeting with Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, and Speaker John A. Boehner, the president said aides would work through the night and he and Mr. Reid expressed optimism that a compromise could be reached.
    “I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown,” Mr. Obama said. NYT, 4-7-11
  • Some progress cited in federal budget talks: Republican House Speaker John Boehner won’t acknowledge compromising with Democrats, but he and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid both cite movement in White House negotiations to avoid a government shutdown…. – LAT, 4-7-11
  • Rifts Within Both Parties Test Leaders in Budget Fight: On one level, the budget showdown that continued to play out here on Wednesday is all about the balance of power between the two parties, a question of whether President Obama has regained his footing and can still control the direction of the country or whether Speaker John A. Boehner and the Republicans are now calling the shots.
    But on another, it is a test of each man’s ability to weather challenges inside his own party. The outcome will help determine whether Mr. Boehner is leading his party or following the demands of the Tea Party movement. For Mr. Obama, it is the biggest test yet of whether he can reposition himself as a pragmatic leader who can recapture the political center and keep liberals sufficiently energized to help him win re-election…. – NYT, 4-7-11
  • Obama Presses for Budget Issues ‘Narrowed’; Parties Asked to Work Through Night as Shutdown Looms: “What [the talks] did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding,” Mr. Obama said. He was confident a deal could be reached to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, he said, but “it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved.”
    Staffers from the White House and the offices of Messrs. Boehner and Reid were set to work through night, and Mr. Obama said he would check in with them Thursday morning—a day and a half before the deadline—and summon the parties back to the White House if necessary.
    “We’re going to keep pounding away at this thing,” Mr. Obama said…. – WSJ, 4-7-11
  • President Obama talks with reporters about the 2011 budget negotiations. He said he should not have to be a referee for Congress: Racing a Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown, President Obama met late Wednesday with top congressional negotiators and said afterward that he is “confident” a spending deal can be finalized in time.
    House Speaker John A. Boehner, the top Republican who met with Mr. Obama, said there is still no agreement on an overall dollar amount for spending cuts, or on what legislative add-ons will be included in any final spending deal. But all sides agreed their staffs would continue working after the high-level White House meeting.
    “What they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding,” Mr. Obama told reporters afterward. “I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.”…. – Washington Times, 4-7-11
  • In Washington, squabbling over who’s an adult: Suddenly everyone in Washington wants to be an adult. President Barack Obama says he wants to have an adult dialogue on the budget. Republican lawmakers contend they’re the ones trying to have a grown-up talk. Both sides are pointing fingers yet both have agreed to repeated delays in completing a budget to keep the government open for the last six months of the fiscal year.
    The bickering might seem, well, childish, but the stakes are high as each side tries to win public opinion and display the leadership qualities to attract voters at the ballot box through 2012 and beyond…. – AP, 4-7-11
  • Administration: Shutdown would furlough 800,000 federal workers: Officials began warning Wednesday of significant cutbacks in government services as the threat of a federal government shutdown lurched one day closer to reality.
    Failure to reach a budget deal would mean furloughing about 800,000 federal employees nationwide — many of whom are expected to surrender their Blackberrys, according to senior administration officials familiar with shutdown planning…. – WaPo, 4-6-11
  • White House says shutdown will delay pay to troops: The Obama administration warned Wednesday that a federal shutdown would undermine the economic recovery, delay pay to U.S. troops fighting in three wars, slow the processing of tax returns and limit small business loans and government-backed mortgages during peak home buying season.
    The dire message, delivered two days before the federal government’s spending authority expires, appeared aimed at jolting congressional Republicans into a budget compromise. Billions of dollars apart, congressional negotiators were working to strike a deal by Friday to avert a shutdown by setting spending limits through the end of September. The last such shutdown took place 15 years ago and lasted 21 days…. – AP, 4-6-11
  • GOP budget seen raising health costs for retirees: Talks appear to be intensifying on Capitol Hill on reaching a deal on long-overdue legislation to finance the government through the end of September — and avoid a government shutdown. Whether a shutdown can be avoided in three days’ time is another matter.
    A White House meeting Tuesday that included President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., failed to produce the hoped-for breakthrough, however, with a stopgap government funding bill set to expire Friday at midnight…. – AP, 4-6-11
  • Obama presses Congress to avoid shutdown: Prodded by an insistent President Barack Obama, Congress’ top two lawmakers sought to reinvigorate compromise talks Tuesday aimed at cutting tens of billions in federal spending and averting a partial government shutdown Friday at midnight.
    According to Democrats, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggested at a White House meeting that fellow Republicans might be able to accept a deal with $40 billion in cuts. That’s more than negotiators had been eyeing but less than the House seeks.
    The speaker’s office declined comment, and Boehner issued a statement saying, “We can still avoid a shutdown, but Democrats are going to need to get serious about cutting spending – and soon.”
    For his part, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid sounded an accusatory note. “I hope the Republicans do what the country needs, not what they believe the tea party wants,” he said at the Capitol “I mean, it seems that every step we take, it’s something just to poke us in the eye,” he said…. – AP, 4-5-11
  • GOP budget plan would revamp Medicare, Medicaid: House Republicans set up a politically defining clash over the size and priorities of government Tuesday, unveiling a budget plan that calls for both unprecedented spending cuts and a fundamental restructuring of taxpayer-financed health care for the elderly and the poor.
    The plan would slash federal spending by $5 trillion or more over the coming decade. It would leave Social Security untouched but shift more of the risk from rising medical costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries. It also calls for sharp cuts to Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled and to food aid for the poor.
    Dubbed the “Path to Prosperity,” the proposal by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also calls for dramatically overhauling the complicated and inefficient U.S. tax code. It would scrap numerous tax breaks and loopholes in exchange for reducing the top income tax rate for both individuals and corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent…. – AP, 4-5-11
  • No headway on spending plan talks: The first federal government shutdown in more than 15 years draws closer as President Obama and congressional leaders fail to make progress after back-to-back meetings. Obama and Congress remained billions of dollars apart and at odds over where to find savings… – WaPo, 4-5-11
  • As shutdown looms, GOP announces budget plan for 2012: Budget plan would privatize Medicare, cut spending on Medicaid, and offer sharply lower tax rates to corporations and the wealthy…. – WaPo, 4-5-11
  • Budget Stances Harden as Deadline Nears for Shutdown: President Obama on Tuesday flatly dismissed a short-term Republican plan to keep the federal government operating past Friday as Speaker John A. Boehner sought deeper spending cuts, putting Congress and the White House on a course toward a government shutdown.
    Showing some exasperation at the impasse over this year’s budget, Mr. Obama appeared at an impromptu White House news conference and said it would be inexcusable if federal agencies were forced to shut their doors beginning Saturday because House Republicans and Senate Democrats could not bridge differences over a relatively small slice of the budget.
    “As I’ve said before, we have now matched the number that the speaker originally sought,” the president said. “The only question is whether politics or ideology are going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown.”
    Appearing before television cameras in the Capitol shortly after the president spoke, Mr. Boehner seemed equally determined not to give ground. The speaker, who faces intense pressure from his conservative rank-and- file, said he intended to push for the greatest spending cuts achievable and would not be maneuvered by Democrats into settling for less. “We are not going to allow the Senate nor the White House to put us in a box,” Mr. Boehner said…. – NYT, 4-5-11
  • Budget wars: Moment of truth arrives: With Republicans upping the ante on spending cuts, President Barack Obama took a tougher line himself Tuesday, warning he won’t sign another stopgap bill without first reaching a deal over the 2011 budget — even at the risk of a shutdown Friday.
    Obama’s comments followed a meeting with congressional leaders at which House Speaker John Boehner floated a compromise of $40 billion in spending cuts — $7 billion more than the $33 billion target negotiators have been working toward since last week. Democrats and administration officials were miffed by the speaker’s late-breaking bid, but it was the first time the Ohio Republican has so explicitly put his name next to a number other than the $61.3 billion in cuts adopted by the House in February. And together with the president’s new stance, it sets the stage for an intense three days before government funding runs out Friday.
    Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), also present at the White House, met later Tuesday for what both sides described as a “productive” session. “The government is not going to be shut down—yet,” Reid said before closing the Senate Tuesday night. “There’s still air in the tire…I hope we have enough air in the tire to get where we need to go.”… – Politico, 4-5-11
  • Budget Talks Head to Brink Parties Far Apart on 2012 Spending, Long-Term Vision as Friday Deadline Nears: Republicans and Democrats stumbled one day closer to a government shutdown on Friday, as the two parties escalated what has become a broader battle over Washington’s role in the U.S. economy.
    Political leaders on Tuesday continued to talk past each other on federal spending, offering little evidence they could soon reach an agreement to avert a shutdown of the government this weekend. Damian Paletta has details.
    The two fights—one over funding the government for the next six months, the other over a sweeping plan to reshape the government for decades to come—showed how far apart the two parties are on basic fiscal issues ahead of the 2012 elections.
    A Tuesday White House meeting called by President Barack Obama featured a series of frustrated exchanges between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), who upped his demand for spending cuts this year to $40 billion, according to people familiar with the session…. – WSJ, 4-5-11
  • White House, GOP fail to achieve agreement on budget: Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration were unable on Tuesday to reach a definitive budget accord that would avert a partial government “shutdown” in three days.
    President Barack Obama met at the White House with the main Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to pressure them to reach an accord on the budget for the six months that remain in Fiscal Year 2011.
    Upon exiting the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a communique that an agreement was not achieved.
    For now, the Republicans are continuing to insist on larger budget cuts and on a temporary one-week extension to keep the government functioning. But the White House does not support that strategy, taking the stance that temporary measures send the wrong message and ultimately harm efforts to move toward economic recovery…. – Fox News, 4-5-11
  • As Shutdown Looms, Agencies Brace for Its Impact: The National Zoo would close, but the lions and tigers will get fed; Yellowstone and other national parks will shut down. The Internal Revenue Service could stop issuing refund checks. Customs and Border Patrol agents training officials in Afghanistan might have to come home. And thousands of government-issued BlackBerries would go silent. This is what a government shutdown might look like.
    With budget talks between Republicans and Democrats far from resolution, official Washington braced on Tuesday for a replay of the Great Government Shutdowns of 1995 and 1996. For weeks, the Obama administration has been quietly examining the experience of the mid-1990s as a kind of shutdown survival guide. Now those preparations have kicked into high gear…. – NYT, 4-5-11

QUOTES

Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times
  • Shutdown Showdown: Speaker Boehner Calls on Senate to Pass Short-Term Extension: “There’s only one reason that we do not have an agreement as yet, and that issue is spending,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “We’re close to a resolution on the policy issues, but I think the American people deserve to know, when will the White House, and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?”
    Boehner said “a bill that fails to include real spending cuts will hurt job growth and signal that Washington’s not serious about dealing with its spending addiction.” “I think the Senate should follow the House lead and pass the troop funding bill and do it today,” Boehner said. “I also believe the president should sign the troop funding bill into law. This is the responsible thing to do to support our troops and to keep our federal government open.”… – ABC News, 4-8-11
  • Sarah Palin: Commander in Chief’s Appalling Action with Our Troops: Yesterday the House passed H.R. 1363, which funds our Department of Defense and our military for the rest of the year at their current levels. It allows for the continuation of current military operations, which is pretty important when you’re fighting three wars. It also funds the government for another week and cuts $12 billion in wasteful spending. So why would the Commander in Chief declare that he will veto this? Why would he play politics at the expense of our troops who are putting everything on the line to protect us? Memo to the President: I doubt the insurgents will stop and wait for a government shutdown to end before resuming actions. You need to fund our troops, sir.
    Like me, you might be asking yourself: Why on earth would he threaten to veto funding for the troops? What is his game plan? Basically, he’ll veto military funding because he wants the rest of the government funded too. And by the rest of the government, he means things like Harry Reid’s “Cowboy Poetry.” Essentially, he’s holding military funding hostage to NPR funding. This is a perfect analogy for what is wrong with this entire budget showdown. Our federal government has strayed so far from what is constitutionally mandated that they are blind to the fact that NPR funding is not a constitutional duty. Funding our military at a time of war is!
    The House GOP does not want a shut down. They just want legitimate cuts (and I would argue not even enough!). If we can’t agree to cut a billion here and a billion there, we’ll never close this $1.5 trillion deficit…. – Sarah Palin on Facebook, 4-8-11
  • Mitch McConnell: ‘Let’s be very clear about this: if the government shuts down, it’s either because Democrats are pretending that a previously non-controversial provision is suddenly out of bounds. Or they refuse to take another baby step in the direction of balancing the government checkbook, something we know the American people want. Neither reason is worth a shutdown — especially when neither side actually wants one.’ – Facebook, 4-8-11
  • President Obama on Budget Talks: What’s at Stake & Why It’s Important to the American People: I just completed another meeting with Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid, and I wanted to report again to the American people that we made some additional progress this evening. I think the staffs of both the House and the Senate, as well as the White House staff, have been working very hard to try to narrow the differences. We made some progress today. Those differences have been narrowed. And so once again the staff is going to be working tonight around the clock in order to see if we can finally close a deal.
    But there is still a few issues that are outstanding. They’re difficult issues. They’re important to both sides. And so I’m not yet prepared to express wild optimism. But I think we are further along today than we were yesterday.
    I want to reiterate to people why this is so important. We’re now less than 30 hours away from the government shutting down. That means, first of all, 800,000 families — our neighbors, our friends, who are working hard all across the country in a whole variety of functions — they suddenly are not allowed to come to work. It also means that they’re not getting a paycheck. That obviously has a tremendous impact.
    You then have millions more people who end up being impacted because they’re not getting the services from the federal government that are important to them. So small businesses aren’t seeing their loans processed. Folks who want to get a mortgage through the FHA may not be able to get it, and obviously that’s not good as weak as this housing market is. You’ve got people who are trying to get a passport for a trip that they’ve been planning for a long time — they may not be able to do that. So millions more people will be significantly inconvenienced; in some ways, they may end up actually seeing money lost or opportunities lost because of a government shutdown.
    And then finally, there’s going to be an effect on the economy overall. Earlier today one of our nation’s top economists said — and I’m quoting here — “The economic damage from a government shutdown would mount very quickly. And the longer it dragged on, the greater the odds of a renewed recession.”
    We’ve been working very hard over the last two years to get this economy back on its feet. We’ve now seen 13 months of job growth; a hundred — 1.8 million new jobs. We had the best report, jobs report, that we’d seen in a very long time just this past Friday. For us to go backwards because Washington couldn’t get its act together is unacceptable.
    So, again: 800,000 federal workers and their families impacted; millions of people who are reliant on government services not getting those services — businesses, farmers, veterans; and finally, overall impact on the economy that could end up severely hampering our recovery and our ability to put people back to work.
    That’s what’s at stake. That’s why it’s important to the American people. That’s why I’m expecting that as a consequence of the good work that’s done by our staffs tonight, that we can reach an agreement tomorrow.
    But let me just point out one last thing. What I’ve said to the Speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning. And my hope is, is that I’ll be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted, that a deal has been completed that has very meaningful cuts in a wide variety of categories, that helps us move in the direction of living within our means, but preserves our investments in things like education and innovation, research, that are going to be important for our long-term competitiveness.
    That’s what I hope to be able to announce tomorrow. There’s no certainty yet, but I expect an answer sometime early in the day. WH, 4-7-11Mp4Mp3
  • REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, speaker of the House: We continue to have productive conversations. And you should all know they’re — they’re polite, they’re to the point. But there is no agreement on a number. There’s no agreement on the policy issues that are contained with this. We are continuing to work toward an agreement, because I do believe all of us sincerely believe that we can get to an agreement. But we are not there yet.
  • SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev., Majority Leader: So, we’re going to continue to work to get this done. It’s not easy to do, but it’s doable. And, as I said, we don’t have a lot of time to do that. We are going to get back here at 7:00, and we hope that, that time, when we come out, we will have something done. If not, we will, of course, have to look forward to a bad day tomorrow, which is a government shutdown. –
  • John Boehner: The Commander-in-Chief has issued a veto threat on the responsible bill the House is considering that would fund our troops & keep the government from shutting down while cutting $12B. Our goal is to cut spending to create a better environment for jobs – not to shut down the government. We will send the bill to the Senate today. – Facebook, 4-7-11
  • Mitch McConnell: ‘This bill does everything Democrats have previously said they want. It cuts Washington spending by an amount that Democrat leaders believe is reasonable. The policy prescriptions it contains have been previously agreed to by Democrat leaders and signed by the President. And, most importantly, this is the only proposal out there that keeps the government open.’ – Mitch McConnell: ‘If the President wants to shut down the government over this bipartisan troop funding bill, that is his prerogative. But I would urge him to reconsider his veto threat and join us in preventing a shutdown instead.’ – Facebook, 4-7-11
  • Barack Obama: There’s no reason why we should have a government shutdown. That’s not why we we’re elected. That’s not why we were sent here. And I want to meet the expectations of the American people.
  • President Obama on the Ongoing Budget Negotiations: We just had a productive meeting with Speaker Boehner, as well as Majority Leader Reid. We discussed the impasse that we’re currently at with respect to the budget, and I thought the meetings were frank, they were constructive, and what they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding.
    I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown. But it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved. It means that people have to recognize that a government shutdown has real consequences for real people.
    There was a interview that was done tonight on one of the nightly news networks — a man from Kentucky named J.T. Henderson. He said he’s counting on his tax rebate because his family has been scraping by, and he might not get it if the government shuts down. So J.T. said if he could speak directly to all of us in Washington he’d tell us that all of this political grandstanding has effects as it trickles down to normal, everyday Americans.
    I could not have said it better myself. A shutdown could have real effects on everyday Americans. That means that small business owners who are counting on that loan to open their business, to make payroll, to expand, suddenly they can’t do it. It means folks who are potentially processing a mortgage, they may not be able to get it. It means that hundreds of thousands of workers across the country suddenly are without a paycheck. Their families are counting on them being able to go to work and do a good job.
    There are ramifications all across this economy. And at a time when the economy is still coming out of an extraordinarily deep recession, it would be inexcusable, given the relatively narrow differences when it comes to numbers between the two parties, that we can’t get this done.
    So my expectation is that folks are going to work through the night. In the morning I will check in with the respective staffs of the Speaker and the Majority Leader, as well as my team here. If we haven’t made progress, we’re going to go back at it again. And we’re going to keep on pounding away at this thing because I’m absolutely convinced that we can get this done.
    There’s no reason why we should not be able to complete a deal. There’s no reason why we should have a government shutdown — unless we’ve made a decision that politics is more important than folks like J.T. Henderson.
    That’s not why we we’re elected. That’s not why we were sent here. And I want to meet the expectations of the American people in terms of delivering for them. – WH, 4-6-11
  • Obama: ‘Inexcusable’ not to reach budget deal: Obama’s guests at last night’s budget session — House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada — also expressed hope that a shutdown can be avoided.
    “We had a productive conversation and made good progress toward an agreement,” Reid said. “I am hopeful that we will be able to announce a compromise agreement soon.”
    Boehner, standing beside Reid in the White House driveway, said: “There’s an intent on both sides to continue to work together to try to resolve this … no one wants the government to shut down.”
    In the White House press room last night, Obama said, “I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.” “But,” he added, “it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved.”… – USA Today, 4-7-11
  • John Boehner: ‘No daylight’ between tea party and me: “Listen, there’s no daylight between the tea party and me,” the Ohio Republican said in an interview with ABC News conducted Wednesday. “None,” he said, when questioner George Stephanopoulos pushed back. “What they want is, they want us to cut spending. They want us to deal with this crushing debt that’s going to crush the future for our kids and grandkids. There’s no daylight there.”
    “Listen … my job is to do what I can do in the House,” Boehner said of the proposed one-week funding bill. “And I do believe that … it’s a reasonable chance of keeping the government open and funding our troops— at the critical time when we’ve got troops in two wars overseas.”… “The president— I’ve been begging the president for months, ‘Mr. President, let’s lock arms,’” Boehner said…. – Politico, 4-7-11
  • Rep. Ryan on Proposed Cuts: ‘Our Budget Literally Pays Off the Debt’: So the president gave us a plan that spends so much more money. He doubled the debt by the end of his first term. And he proposed to triple the debt by the end of this budget. And what we’re offering is a different direction. In our plan, our budget literally pays off the debt… – PBS Newshour, 4-5-11
  • President Obama on Budget Negotiations: “We Have Now Matched the Number the Speaker Originally Sought”: From the outset, my goal has been to significantly cut our domestic spending but, at the same time, make sure we’re making key investments in things like education, infrastructure, innovation — the things that are going to help us win the future.
    And I just want to set the context for this now. Again, I’m going to repeat. Speaker Boehner, Chairman Rogers, the Republican appropriations chairman — their original budget proposed $73 billion in cuts. We have now agreed to $73 billion worth of cuts. What they are now saying is, well, we’re not sure that every single one of the cuts that you’ve made are ones that we agree to; we’d rather have these cuts rather than that cut. That’s not the basis for shutting down the government. We should be able to come up with a compromise in which nobody gets 100 percent of what they want, but the American people get the peace of mind in knowing that folks here in Washington are actually thinking about them — because they’re going through a whole lot of struggles right now.
    The only question is whether politics or ideology are going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown. Now, what does this potentially mean for the American people? At a time when the economy is just beginning to grow, where we’re just starting to see a pickup in employment, the last thing we need is a disruption that’s caused by a government shutdown. Not to mention all the people who depend on government services, whether you’re a veteran or you’re somebody who’s trying to get a passport or you’re planning to visit one of the national monuments or you’re a business leader who’s trying to get a small business loan. You don’t want delays, you don’t want disruptions just because of usual politics in Washington.
    So what I said to the Speaker today, and what I said to Leader Reid, and what I’ve said to the two appropriations chairs, is that myself, Joe Biden, my team, we are prepared to meet for as long as possible to get this resolved…. – WH, 4-5-11Transcript

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

U.S. Capitol building

The U.S. Capitol is illuminated at night as Congress continues to work to avert a government shutdown, which will happen if a budget deal is not reached by Friday before midnight. (Associated Press / April 8, 2011)

     

  • William Howell: How did we get to the brink of shutdown?: Regardless of whether President Obama and the party leadership within Congress manage to hash out a last minute budget deal before Friday’s deadline, and thereby avoid putting some 800,000 federal workers on furlough, it is worth reflecting on how we got to this moment of impasse.
    Some of the answer, to be sure, concerns the primary players in today’s politics. These politicians have plenty of reasons to battle it out. They genuinely disagree about the appropriate size and purposes of the federal government. They are jockeying for position in the 2012 presidential elections. And through it all, they are appealing to a divided public that is increasingly frustrated with rising deficit spending and persistent unemployment.
    The back story of today’s budget wars, however, goes deeper still. Lurking behind the parties and personalities who animate today’s politics are a set of historical trends and structural forces that are not going away any time soon…. – CNN, 4-8-11
  • Long Shutdown Would Harm U.S., Hit Washington Hardest: An extended U.S. government shutdown would cause increasing harm to the nation’s economy, with the Washington area — home to about 350,000 federal workers — bearing the brunt of the damage.
    “The economic damage would mount pretty quickly,” in a two- or three-week shutdown, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The longer this drags on, the greater the odds it undermines confidence more broadly.”
    The direct costs of lost income to federal workers and contractors would be about $6 billion a week, said Zandi. “The dollars and cents would start to add up.”… – Bloomberg, 4-8-11
  • Gary King: 27% of communication by members of Congress is taunting, professor concludes: Now, a Harvard University professor has analyzed this tribe’s behavior, using computers to look for trends in members’ writings. And he’s learned something that might help explain why Congress is having such trouble working out a deal this week. He learned, to his amazement, that modern members of Congress spend about 27 percent of the time just taunting each other.
    “It’s jarring and surprising,” said Prof. Gary King, an expert in using computers to find patterns in large amounts of data. And, King said, probably counterproductive if we want Congress’s members to trust one another enough to make deals. “The entire government may go bankrupt, I guess. This week, right?” King said in a telephone interview. “We probably want our representatives to be listening to each other rather than calling each other names.”…. – WaPo, 4-8-11
  • Jay Newton-Small: Boehner’s Choice: John Boehner has a decision to make. And in some ways it’s akin to choosing between his children. By midnight tonight the government will shut down unless an agreement can be reached between the Speaker and President Obama. Whatever Boehner decides will have long-reaching implications for his Speakership.
    Ideally, Boehner would have preferred extending government funding by another week but Obama threatened to veto such a bill and the Democratically-controlled Senate declared it a “non-starter,” as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put it. Boehner can, and has, made the case that the onus to prevent a shutdown was on Democrats – that he gave them a bipartisan option that they rejected (15 House Democrats voted for the measure). Sure, the extension came with a steep price tag, but negotiators had already agreed to the $12 billion in cuts. The bill would’ve also funded the military for the rest of the year, a move most in Congress would readily endorse with so many troops in harm’s way. As of last night 51 senators, including a handful of Democrats, had co-sponsored similar legislation. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, put Boehner’s bill on the Senate schedule late last night, but it’s unlikely the extension will come up for a vote unless a broader agreement is reached…. – Time, 4-8-11
  • It’s Not Really About Spending: If the federal government shuts down at midnight on Friday — which seems likely unless negotiations take a sudden turn toward rationality — it will not be because of disagreements over spending. It will be because Republicans are refusing to budge on these ideological demands… – NYT, 4-8-11
  • Analysis: Obama shifts to play budget dealmaker, avoid blame: “The strategy follows the political logic of President Obama’s whole career, which is to avoid messy battles which make you appear to be a partisan,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University. “If presidential muscle is used, do it behind the scenes. And above all, appear to be a high-minded and impartial arbiter who negotiates compromises and is distinguished from the brawling demagogues in Congress.”
    “If the public gets angry with a blow-up over the budget and a shutdown, the president needs to be able to say, at a minimum, that he tried,” said Julian Zelizer, history professor at Princeton University. “He wants to avoid having the anger that flowed to Republicans in 1995-1996 focus on him.” –
  • Julian Zelizer: Government shutdown: How it came to this: “This is just an eyeball-to-eyeball moment where Republicans want to exercise their power,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “And Obama is trying to defend his reputation with Democrats.”… – CNN, 4-6-11
  • Steven F. Hayward: The Ryan Express One part FDR, one part Gipper: The liberal reaction to Paul Ryan’s budget plan makes it evident that liberals are more terrified than they’ve been since Jack Kemp (one of Ryan’s mentors) advanced supply-side economics back in the late 1970s. And although Ryan may not run for president next year, it is clear that just as Ronald Reagan had to embrace the Kemp-Roth tax-cut plan in his 1980 campaign, the eventual GOP nominee will have to embrace Ryan’s budget plan if he or she is going to be taken seriously by the party, and especially the Tea Party.
    As Kemp’s understanding of supply-side economics was about more than just tax rates and revenues, Ryan’s budget architecture is about much more than just fiscal balances, and this is what terrifies liberals the most. The most interesting twist on the whole matter, though, is whether Ryan’s plan would eviscerate the welfare state (cue Nancy Pelosi, et al.), or rescue it within reasonable limits… – National Review, 4-6-11
  • DANIEL HENNINGER: A Ronald Reagan Budget Paul Ryan’s budget offers much more than deficit-reduction brimstone: Nothing like Paul Ryan’s budget, “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise,” has been heard from a Republican since February 1981, when Ronald Reagan issued his presidency’s first budget message, “America’s New Beginning: A Program for Economic Recovery.” The echoes reach beyond the titles.
    Both budgets announced a clear break with the Washington status quo. Reagan reversed the policies of the Carter presidency and the infamous stagflation years of weak economic growth, 18% interest rates and 14% inflation. Reagan’s 1981 message posited four reversals: “a substantial reduction” in spending; “a significant reduction in federal tax rates”; relief from federal regulation; and “a monetary policy consistent with those policies.”… – WSJ, 4-7-11
  • Analysis: Obama shifts to play budget dealmaker, avoid blame: “If the public gets angry with a blow-up over the budget and a shutdown, the president needs to be able to say, at a minimum, that he tried,” said Julian Zelizer, history professor at Princeton University. “He wants to avoid having the anger that flowed to Republicans in 1995-1996 focus on him.”… – Reuters, 4-5-11
  • Tevi Troy Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary Plus, Paul Ryan’s budget hard-headed or inhumane?: While it has long been assumed that addressing entitlements was the dreaded “third rail of American politics,” our long-term budget woes are now so severe that a budget putting us on a path to fiscal sanity could be a political plus. Democrats will certainly demagogue Ryan’s budget, but they may find that an unwillingness to get our debt situation under control has turned into the new third rail of the 21st century…. – Politico, 4-5-11
  • Can House finance chief Paul Ryan sell his budget to Americans?: “Nobody knows who Ryan is, outside his home area,” said Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University. “I don’t think he has the clout, the charisma, the political power to do this.”
    But if Ryan has any chance of shifting the politics of these “entitlement programs,” then Sarah Binder, a professor at George Washington University, said sticking to his wonky reputation would be a good idea. “To the extent that he’s able to sort of keep his policy-wonk reputation front and center,” that helps, Binder said. She said Ryan’s best opportunity is to be seen as above party squabbling. His persuasion depends on him instead being viewed as an independent, concerned voice. “Typically, voters like short-term benefits, with the costs put off to the future,” Binder said. Ryan’s vision relies on them agreeing to short-term changes, with benefits further off. “You can’t do that without the president, and you can’t do it without the support of both parties.” – WaPo, 4-5-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Which GOP will run against Obama?: When George W. Bush finished his presidency, many observers wondered what the Republican Party would look like in the succeeding years. With Democrats in control of Congress and the White House, pundits declared the party was in crisis.
    Republicans had become too comfortable with power, critics said. They had embraced the ways and means of Washington and were as enthusiastic about federal spending as their opponents. When the Tea Party emerged on the national scene, questions about the identity of the GOP only intensified.
    Now that President Obama has officially announced his re-election campaign, it’s time to see how his opponents will position themselves. As the candidates start to emerge for 2012, it is becoming clear that the potential contenders are embracing several different traditions and approaches to Republican politics….
    The struggle over the choice of a Republican candidate for 2012 will be a struggle over the identity of the party in the post-Bush era. Republicans don’t have to choose one tradition over the other. Indeed, some politicians, such as Ronald Reagan, have brilliantly synthesized these themes together.
    But right now there is no candidate of Reagan’s caliber. This primary season will be an important one for the Republican Party in terms of explaining to Americans what the GOP is about and what exactly it would fight for if it gained back the White House. – CNN, 4-5-11 



Breaking: Senate Republican Leader McConnell says expects budget deal shortly…

‎`Let’s be very clear about this: if the government shuts down, it’s either because Democrats are pretending that a previously non-controversial provision is suddenly out of bounds. Or they refuse to take another baby step in the direction of balancing the government checkbook, something we know the American people want. Neither reason is worth a shutdown — especially when neither side actually wants one.’

www.mcconnell.senate.gov

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Friday regarding negotiations to reduce Washington spending….
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid looks down after talking about the budget in the Capitol in Washington April 7, 2011. The U.S. Congress on Thursday neared a budget deal to avert a looming government shutdown but disputes over abortion and environmental issues posed late hurdles to a final agreement. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Budget deadline looms

Facing a midnight deadline, the White House and Congress are working furiously to break a budget deadlock and prevent a federal government shutdown that would idle hundreds of thousands of workers.  Full ArticleVideo

Budget Showdown: Q & A – How Many Times in US History has the Government Shutdown Over the Budget?

HISTORY Q&A:

HISTORY Q&A:

How Many Times in US History Has the Government Shutdown Over the Budget?

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.

EPA USA BUDGET CONGRESS GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Night falls on the Capitol on the eve of a government shutdown in Washington, D.C.(Photo: Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Days to the start of the 2014 fiscal year Congress cannot come to an agreement for a continuing resolution that would keep the government solvent. Adding to the issue this time is not just a budget that the administration could not agree, but also the debt ceiling is reaching its limit about 15 days after the budget expires.

This is second time in Barack Obama’s presidency that a major threat loomed with the pressure of government shutdown. There have been 17 shutdowns in American history concentrated between the 1970s to the 1990s. This will be the 18th shutdown to hit Washington, and by October 17, the government would not have enough funds to meet its international loan obligations.

The government’s budget has been at the center of all previous shutdowns, and the 2013 budget battle is only different that there is the added threat of hit the debt ceiling at the same time. A budget (annual appropriation bills) needs to be passed by Congress and signed by the President prior to the commence of the new fiscal year on October 1, or continuing resolutions also known as stopgap spending bills need to be passed to keep the government operating at the prior year’s fiscal spending limits. However, if Congress fails to pass the appropriation bills, a continuing resolution, or the President vetoes or does not sign the resolution; these results in a government shutdown as there are no funds allocations to operate government.

The last and longest government shutdown in American history was when Democrat Bill Clinton was President and Newt Gingrich was the Speaker of the Republican Congress in November 1995 and in December 1995 through to January 1996. The clash over the 1996 budget caused a government shutdown for six days in the first shutdown and for 21 days during the second shutdown. High partisanship affected the budget negotiation process resulting in the shutdown. According to Charles Tien writing on continuing resolutions in Robert E. Dewhirst, John David Rausch Encyclopedia of the United States Congress, “The government has shut down (partially) a total of 11 times since 1980; the fiscal year 1996 budget battle included two lengthy shutdowns. To avoid or end a government shutdown, the president or Congress must pass either the regular appropriation bill or a continuing resolution.” (149)


JIMMY CARTER

  • September 30 to October 11, 1976 (10 days)
  • September 30 to October 13, 1977 (12 days)
  • October 31 to November 9, 1977 (8 days)
  • November 30 to December 9, 1977 (8 days)
  • September 30 to October 18, 1978 (18 days
  • September 30 to October 12, 1979 (11 days)

Throughout the 1970s, various agencies have had to shutdown because of budget issues. As economic problems increased throughout the 1970s, Democratic President Jimmy Carter became the first president to face the issue of budget fights in Congress leading to the threat of government shutdowns. Lowell Barrington, Michael J. Bosia, Kathleen Bruhn Comparative Politics: Structures and Choices explain Despite being a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress “As Jimmy Carter found out during his four years as president of the United States, even having a legislature controlled by your own party is no guarantee that your policies will pass quickly, or resemble the original initiatives once they do.” (240)

The whole concept of shutting down the government if a budget, appropriation bills, or continuing resolution, started with President Jimmy Carter. Charles Tien writing on continuing resolutions in Robert E. Dewhirst, John David Rausch Encyclopedia of the United States Congress explains, “Since 1980, failure to pass a CR or an appropriations bill has led to a government shutdown. In 1980 President Jimmy Carter’s administration, in reevaluating a law passed in 1870, the Anti-deficiency Act ruled that agencies without appropriations had to close operations. The 1870 law said that “[I]t shall not lawful for any department of the government to expend in any one fiscal year any sum in excess of appropriations made by Congress for that fiscal year, or to involve the government in any contract for the future payment of money in a excess of appropriations.” The Carter administrations ruling of the 1870 Anti-deficiency Act required Agencies without appropriations to shut down immediately.”(149)

Congress used the law to shut down operations at the FTC in 1980. Tien explains; “The first agency to ever shut down for a lapse in appropriations was the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC shutdown for one day in 1980 because Congress refused to pass a full-year appropriation for the agency until it had authorizing legislation.” (149)

RONALD REAGAN

  • November 20 to November 23, 1981 (2 days)
  • September 30 to October 2, 1982 (1 day)
  • December 17 to December 21, 1982 (3 days)
  • November 10 to November 14, 1983 (3 days)
  • September 30 to October 3, 1984 (2 days)
  • October 3 to October 5, 1984 (1 day)
  • October 16 to October 18, 1986 (1 day)
  • December 18 to December 20, 1987 (1 day)

The trend of government showdowns and shutdowns over the budget did not slow with the election of Republican President Ronald Reagan. The introduction of Keynesian supply-side economics to the Federal government, differing economic philosophies regarding spending, and an increase of partisanship between Democrats and Republicans accounted for the succession of government shutdowns throughout the 1980s.

During the Reagan administration, the government spent the most time on the brink of government closures. Steven Hayward writes in The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution 1980-1989; “Unable to agree on a budget, Congress passed a “continuing resolution” in November to keep the government running at current levels. Reagan cast his first veto and brieftly shut down the government, in a pattern that would repeat itself much of the next six years (and which was repeated most dramatically during Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1995).” (188)

It was a battle that began from the onset of the administration and spanning the administration’s two terms. Reagan and David Stockman worked to implement and impose his economic policies on Congress from the very start of his administration, causing friction.

The most remembered government shutdown in the Reagan Administration was in 1981. Tien explains that “President Ronald Reagan’s administration used the shutdown guidelines the following year when Reagan vetoed a continuing resolution that resulted in a three-day broader government shutdown.” (149) After short closures in 1981, 1984, 1985, and 1986, the government again faced similar situation in 1987 a closures were averted.

The Reagan administration in presenting and pursuing the passing of their first federal budget in 1981 looked to cut taxes, and cut spending in order to reduce the deficit and balance the budget. Reagan’s economic solution was a program entitled “America’s New Beginning”; a expansive program that would cut taxes, and spending across the board including social programs in order to reduce the swelling deficit, and infuse the lagging economic situation with life. The 1982 deficit was estimated to reach $109 billion.

Reagan in presenting his 1982 budget pleaded with the American people in a televised address; “Our immediate challenge is to hold down the deficit in the fiscal year that begins next week. A number of threats are now appearing that will drive the deficit upward if we fail to act… And without further cuts, we can’t achieve our goal of a balance budget by 1984…. I’m asking all of you who joined in this crusade to save our economy to help again, to let your representatives know that you will support them in making the hard decisions to further reduce the cost and size of government.” (187) Senator Ted Kennedy gave the Democratic response, “This is the government of the rich, by the rich for the rich.” Summing up that the Democratic Congress was not interested in cutting the deficit or spending especially when it came to social programs.

The Reagan administration looked to cut spending in the upcoming 1982 budget. However, as the economy became increasingly worse by September and the Democratic Congress inability to find areas to cut that would have limited impact to rely upon social programs, there was an impass. Reagan reduced the numbers to 13 billion and then again by late October to half that amount, 7-8 billion, without any tax raises, and finally to meet Congress halfway at 4 billion and no less.

Nov 23, 1981: The spending feud between the Republican President Reagan and the Democratic Congress led to a shutdown. The November 20 deadline for a stop gap spending bill was on a Friday, however the House-Senate Conference delayed it to the following Monday to finalize a bill. The compromise bill consisted of 4 billion in spending savings/cuts, by reducing 2 percent of government spending. The White House in reviewing the numbers claimed there would only be 2 billion in savings from the proposed cuts. When presented with the bill in the morning, Reagan refused to sign Congress’s continuing resolution.

Reporting in the New York Times stated; “President Reagan vetoed the measure as “budget-busting.” Faced with the “difficult choice” of either signing the bill or disrupting Government services, the President said, “I have chosen the latter.”  Reagan’s veto led to a shutdown in the government for the afternoon, forcing 400,000 of the 2.1 million federal employees home. Congress approved a stop gap spending bill which later the same day Reagan signed, ending the shutdown with work resuming the next morning. Only on December 12, 1981, did the Congress and and President Reagan approve an Omnibus spending bill, “setting the spending ceilings for the entire year, except in foreign aid. Thus, although the continuing resolution will be superseded by enactment of individual appropriation bills.” (NYT, 12-13-1981, pg. 80)

The one day shutdown cost the government $65 million with a total of 670,000 workers furloughed. A worker who came to work as part of the essential government workers described it as a “snow day without snow…. People come to work sit around confused worry about their car pools, then maybe get interviewed on television.” (NYT, 12-15-1985, pg. D23)

Oct. 4 1984: Congress failed to pass a stopgap money bill, when a new budget was not passed for the new fiscal year. On October 4th500,000 civil servants out of the 2.9 million civil servants where sent home from their jobs; leading to a partial shutdown. An emergency spending bill passed, which Reagan signed, and normal government operations continued the next morning. Both times the shutdowns were limited in their implications and impacts.

Nov 11, 1985: In Reagan’s second term the government again faced a shutdown. Congress could not agree over a budget agreement, and the need to extend the federal borrowing limit, beyond the limit which was 1,823 trillion, which contradicted plans to balance the budget by 1991.

Oct. 17, 1986: The Democratic Congress and the Presidency’s inability to agree on a new fiscal budget led to another half day furlough. Congress had also failed to come to an agreement and pass a spending bill. At Midday 500,000 non-essential federal employees were forced home. An emergency spending bill passed, returning employees the next day to work.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH

  • October 5 to October 9, 1990 (3 days)

All previous government shutdowns lasted only short periods of time, in 1990 that changed under Reagan’s successor and former Vice President, and then President George H.W. Bush when the government experienced its longest shutdown. In October 1990 the government was shut down a total of three days, because of Democratic Congress and the Republican President could not agree on a budget for 1991. As signs of economic problems were visible on the horizon, the battle was centered on the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act to balance the budget.

Democrats wanted to increase taxes on the nation’s richest to reduce the ballooning deficit, but in the 1988 campaign Bush had promise he would not increase any taxes across the board. Bush threatened to veto any budget that Congress presented to him that included a tax increase.
Oct. 6, 1990: President Bush made good on his veto threat; with the budget vetoed and without a continuing resolution agreed upon, the government was shut down throughout the three day Columbus Day weekend. Both the President and Congress wanted to limit the negative impact of a shutdown, and they agreed the new budget would not include any surtax or tax increases. Over the weekend President Bush then signed a continuance, and government opened on Tuesday morning.

The closure during the holiday weekend, limited the impact a three day closure would had on running the government, had it been closed for three days during the week. Bush was however, was forced to agree to tax increases, going against his main campaign pledge. The President signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 on November 5, 1990 securing a budget for the fiscal year.


BILL CLINTON

  • November 13  to November 19, 1995 (5 days)
  • December 5, 1995 to January 6, 1996 (21 days)

The 1995-1996 shutdowns were the longest amid the most heated battle over the budget between Congress and the President. President Clinton chose to veto several appropriation bills in the 1996 budget, at issue was funding amounts for social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, public health, education, and the environment, all programs Clinton pledged to maintain to the public, however, the Republicans wanted Clinton to submit a seven year plan for a balanced budget. The Republican Congress could have voted on a continuance to keep the government operating on the previous fiscal years spending limits. However, the Republican controlled Congress looked to shut down the government hoping the public would blame the Democratic President, leading to a Republican victory in the next year’s Presidential election.

Many believed Gingrich was motivated by revenge as opposed to policy when allowed the shutdown to occur, Senator Tom Delay in his memoirNo Retreat, No Surrender wrote, “He told a room full of reporters that he forced the shutdown because Clinton had rudely made him and Bob Dole sit at the back of Air Force One… (After Yizhak Rabin’s funeral, where Clinton refused to discuss the budget as well on the flight) Newt had been careless to say such a thing, and now the whole moral tone of the shutdown had been lost. What had been a noble battle for fiscal sanity began to look like the tirade of a spoiled child. The revolution, I can tell you, was never the same.” Throughout the shutdown Clinton suffered in the polls, but in the end the backlash was against the Republicans instead, whose popularity waned after the shutdowns, and in the 1996 election they actually lost 5 seats in the Congress to Democrats.

Nov 13, 1995: The first shutdown commenced at midnight on November 13, 2005, after a last minute attempt to avert the shut down; Clinton, Gingrich, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and Senator Bob Dole met, but failed to reach a compromise. Clinton described the negotiations in his memoirs, My Life; “Armey replied gruffly that if I didn’t give in to them, they would shut the government down and my presidency would be over. I shot back, saying I would never allow their budget to become law, “even if I drop to 5 percent in the polls. If you want your budget, you’ll have to get someone else to sit in this chair!” Not surprisingly, we didn’t make a deal.” At the midnight, a partial shutdown led to 800,000 “nonessential employees” being sent home or told not to come into to work, with only emergency government services remained open. This represented 42 percent of the civil servants employed. The shutdown only ceased with an agreement on a temporary spending bill.

Dec 16, 1995-Jan 5, 1996: When the temporary funding measures expired, and no continuance was yet again signed, the government shut down this time for 14 days from December 16, 1995 and finally ending on January 5, 1996; the longest shutdown period in US history. Although Congress enacted resolutions to end the shutdown and another temporary spending bill was signed ending the 21 day partial government shut down, the government did not go back to fully functioning until April. Clinton agreed to submit a seven year balanced budget plan approved by the Congressional Budget Office to ensure the government would keep running after the January 26, 1996 spending extension end date. With the agreement, Clinton declared ‘The era of big government is over.’

In 1990 and in 1995, 1996, the budget battles and their subsequent shutdowns forced compromises, especially on the side of the President more than Congress. In 1990 Bush had to agree to tax increases, while in 1996, Clinton had to agree to a seven year balanced budget plan. Bush going against his campaign pledge lost his 1992 bid for re-election, Clinton however, escaped with a higher approval rating for his handling of the 1996 budget showdown, and was re-elected later that same year, while Republicans heavily shouldered the blame for the shutdowns.

BARACK OBAMA

  • April 2011

President Obama and Congress were able to avert a shutdown during the last battle in April 2011, when at issue was the 7 million difference between the Democrats proposed 33 million and the Republicans 40 million in spending cuts. The President was willing to negotiate with Congress; discussions and reasoning averted a crisis at the last moment.

  • October 1, 2013

The U.S. began shutting down the government on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 at midnight after the battling Republican controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic controlled Senate could not agree on a continuing resolution, a stop-gap spending bill to keep the government funded for the new fiscal year. At the core of the conflict is the Senate and President Barack Obama wanting a “clean bill” without out any provisions, while the House has been insisting on some provisions to delays aspects of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, the new healthcare law which is beginning to be formally implemented and ready for individuals and families to start enrolling in also on Oct. 1, 2013.

With time run out and negotiations played out by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget’s Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell formally sent out a memo late Monday evening for all government agencies to begin the first government shut down in 17 years, stating that “agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.” Approximately 800,000 federal employees will be furloughed as a result of the shutdown.

One aspect is almost certain, 2013 will be added to the list of recent government shutdowns over a budget battle, while only time will tell the long term political ramifications such a shutdown at a time when the economy is slowly recovering.

Budget Showdown 2011

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:

With just over a day left for negotiations before the government will shutdown and despite working all night Congressional Republicans and Democrats have still not come to an agreement for the 2011 Budget. Last night President Obama met with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at the White House, declaring some progress, still there was no agreement.

Although Obama opposes the measure Speaker Boehner and Republicans are working on a week extension to prevent the shutdown on midnight Saturday. At issue is the 7 million difference between the Democrats proposed 33 million and the Republicans 40 million in spending cuts.

The shutdown would affect 800,000 federal workers and all aspects of the government.

The last government shutdown was in November 1995 and January 1996, when Democrat Bill Clinton was President and Newt Gingrich was the Speaker of the Republican Congress. The clash over the 1996 budget caused a government shutdown for 21 days.

Budget Showdown 2011: Obama, Boehner, and Reid’s WH Meeting, Republican Stop-Gap Measure Attempt to Avert Government Shutdown Friday

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:

Boehner and Reid

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) walk out to speak to reporters after their meeting at the White House with President Obama regarding the budget and possible government shutdown. (Charles Dharapak / Associated Press / April 6, 2011)

IN FOCUS

 

  • Republican Fiscal Year 2012 Budget
  • From Reagan to Obama 30 years of spending prioritiesWaPo

    THE HEADLINES….

    • GOP prepares 1-week extension as shutdown looms: Republicans battling with President Barack Obama over budget cuts plan to hold a House vote Thursday on one-week legislation to avoid a government shutdown, despite opposition from the White House and Senate Democrats pressing for a longer-term solution.
      The party leaders debated as the clock ticked toward a midnight Friday deadline. Even a brief shutdown could affect a wide range of Americans, from troops fighting abroad to tourists planning trips to national parks.
      The move by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to advance the interim budget measure angered his Democratic negotiating counterparts and came after slower-than-hoped White House talks Wednesday night. The president said Republicans need to display more urgency, while Boehner said honest differences remain…. – AP, 4-7-11
    • Obama Meeting Fails to End Stalemate Over Federal Budget: President Obama and Congressional leaders said Wednesday that a late-night White House bargaining session produced no budget breakthrough that would avert a government shutdown this weekend but agreed the two sides had narrowed the issues in efforts to strike a deal.
      Emerging from a 90-minute meeting with Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, and Speaker John A. Boehner, the president said aides would work through the night and he and Mr. Reid expressed optimism that a compromise could be reached.
      “I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown,” Mr. Obama said. NYT, 4-7-11
    • Some progress cited in federal budget talks: Republican House Speaker John Boehner won’t acknowledge compromising with Democrats, but he and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid both cite movement in White House negotiations to avoid a government shutdown…. – LAT, 4-7-11
    • Rifts Within Both Parties Test Leaders in Budget Fight: On one level, the budget showdown that continued to play out here on Wednesday is all about the balance of power between the two parties, a question of whether President Obama has regained his footing and can still control the direction of the country or whether Speaker John A. Boehner and the Republicans are now calling the shots.
      But on another, it is a test of each man’s ability to weather challenges inside his own party. The outcome will help determine whether Mr. Boehner is leading his party or following the demands of the Tea Party movement. For Mr. Obama, it is the biggest test yet of whether he can reposition himself as a pragmatic leader who can recapture the political center and keep liberals sufficiently energized to help him win re-election…. – NYT, 4-7-11
    • Obama Presses for Budget Issues ‘Narrowed’; Parties Asked to Work Through Night as Shutdown Looms: “What [the talks] did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding,” Mr. Obama said. He was confident a deal could be reached to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, he said, but “it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved.”
      Staffers from the White House and the offices of Messrs. Boehner and Reid were set to work through night, and Mr. Obama said he would check in with them Thursday morning—a day and a half before the deadline—and summon the parties back to the White House if necessary.
      “We’re going to keep pounding away at this thing,” Mr. Obama said…. – WSJ, 4-7-11
    • President Obama talks with reporters about the 2011 budget negotiations. He said he should not have to be a referee for Congress: Racing a Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown, President Obama met late Wednesday with top congressional negotiators and said afterward that he is “confident” a spending deal can be finalized in time.
      House Speaker John A. Boehner, the top Republican who met with Mr. Obama, said there is still no agreement on an overall dollar amount for spending cuts, or on what legislative add-ons will be included in any final spending deal. But all sides agreed their staffs would continue working after the high-level White House meeting.
      “What they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding,” Mr. Obama told reporters afterward. “I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.”…. – Washington Times, 4-7-11
    • In Washington, squabbling over who’s an adult: Suddenly everyone in Washington wants to be an adult. President Barack Obama says he wants to have an adult dialogue on the budget. Republican lawmakers contend they’re the ones trying to have a grown-up talk. Both sides are pointing fingers yet both have agreed to repeated delays in completing a budget to keep the government open for the last six months of the fiscal year.
      The bickering might seem, well, childish, but the stakes are high as each side tries to win public opinion and display the leadership qualities to attract voters at the ballot box through 2012 and beyond…. – AP, 4-7-11
    • Administration: Shutdown would furlough 800,000 federal workers: Officials began warning Wednesday of significant cutbacks in government services as the threat of a federal government shutdown lurched one day closer to reality.
      Failure to reach a budget deal would mean furloughing about 800,000 federal employees nationwide — many of whom are expected to surrender their Blackberrys, according to senior administration officials familiar with shutdown planning…. – WaPo, 4-6-11
    • White House says shutdown will delay pay to troops: The Obama administration warned Wednesday that a federal shutdown would undermine the economic recovery, delay pay to U.S. troops fighting in three wars, slow the processing of tax returns and limit small business loans and government-backed mortgages during peak home buying season.
      The dire message, delivered two days before the federal government’s spending authority expires, appeared aimed at jolting congressional Republicans into a budget compromise. Billions of dollars apart, congressional negotiators were working to strike a deal by Friday to avert a shutdown by setting spending limits through the end of September. The last such shutdown took place 15 years ago and lasted 21 days…. – AP, 4-6-11

    QUOTES

    • President Obama on the Ongoing Budget Negotiations: We just had a productive meeting with Speaker Boehner, as well as Majority Leader Reid. We discussed the impasse that we’re currently at with respect to the budget, and I thought the meetings were frank, they were constructive, and what they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding.
      I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown. But it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved. It means that people have to recognize that a government shutdown has real consequences for real people.
      There was a interview that was done tonight on one of the nightly news networks — a man from Kentucky named J.T. Henderson. He said he’s counting on his tax rebate because his family has been scraping by, and he might not get it if the government shuts down. So J.T. said if he could speak directly to all of us in Washington he’d tell us that all of this political grandstanding has effects as it trickles down to normal, everyday Americans.
      I could not have said it better myself. A shutdown could have real effects on everyday Americans. That means that small business owners who are counting on that loan to open their business, to make payroll, to expand, suddenly they can’t do it. It means folks who are potentially processing a mortgage, they may not be able to get it. It means that hundreds of thousands of workers across the country suddenly are without a paycheck. Their families are counting on them being able to go to work and do a good job.
      There are ramifications all across this economy. And at a time when the economy is still coming out of an extraordinarily deep recession, it would be inexcusable, given the relatively narrow differences when it comes to numbers between the two parties, that we can’t get this done.
      So my expectation is that folks are going to work through the night. In the morning I will check in with the respective staffs of the Speaker and the Majority Leader, as well as my team here. If we haven’t made progress, we’re going to go back at it again. And we’re going to keep on pounding away at this thing because I’m absolutely convinced that we can get this done.
      There’s no reason why we should not be able to complete a deal. There’s no reason why we should have a government shutdown — unless we’ve made a decision that politics is more important than folks like J.T. Henderson.
      That’s not why we we’re elected. That’s not why we were sent here. And I want to meet the expectations of the American people in terms of delivering for them. – WH, 4-6-11
    • Obama: ‘Inexcusable’ not to reach budget deal: Obama’s guests at last night’s budget session — House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada — also expressed hope that a shutdown can be avoided.
      “We had a productive conversation and made good progress toward an agreement,” Reid said. “I am hopeful that we will be able to announce a compromise agreement soon.”
      Boehner, standing beside Reid in the White House driveway, said: “There’s an intent on both sides to continue to work together to try to resolve this … no one wants the government to shut down.”
      In the White House press room last night, Obama said, “I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.” “But,” he added, “it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved.”… – USA Today, 4-7-11
    • John Boehner: ‘No daylight’ between tea party and me: “Listen, there’s no daylight between the tea party and me,” the Ohio Republican said in an interview with ABC News conducted Wednesday. “None,” he said, when questioner George Stephanopoulos pushed back. “What they want is, they want us to cut spending. They want us to deal with this crushing debt that’s going to crush the future for our kids and grandkids. There’s no daylight there.”
      “Listen … my job is to do what I can do in the House,” Boehner said of the proposed one-week funding bill. “And I do believe that … it’s a reasonable chance of keeping the government open and funding our troops— at the critical time when we’ve got troops in two wars overseas.”… “The president— I’ve been begging the president for months, ‘Mr. President, let’s lock arms,'” Boehner said…. – Politico, 4-7-11

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    • Julian Zelizer: Government shutdown: How it came to this: “This is just an eyeball-to-eyeball moment where Republicans want to exercise their power,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “And Obama is trying to defend his reputation with Democrats.”… – CNN, 4-6-11
    • Steven F. Hayward: The Ryan Express One part FDR, one part Gipper: The liberal reaction to Paul Ryan’s budget plan makes it evident that liberals are more terrified than they’ve been since Jack Kemp (one of Ryan’s mentors) advanced supply-side economics back in the late 1970s. And although Ryan may not run for president next year, it is clear that just as Ronald Reagan had to embrace the Kemp-Roth tax-cut plan in his 1980 campaign, the eventual GOP nominee will have to embrace Ryan’s budget plan if he or she is going to be taken seriously by the party, and especially the Tea Party.
      As Kemp’s understanding of supply-side economics was about more than just tax rates and revenues, Ryan’s budget architecture is about much more than just fiscal balances, and this is what terrifies liberals the most. The most interesting twist on the whole matter, though, is whether Ryan’s plan would eviscerate the welfare state (cue Nancy Pelosi, et al.), or rescue it within reasonable limits… – National Review, 4-6-11
    • DANIEL HENNINGER: A Ronald Reagan Budget Paul Ryan’s budget offers much more than deficit-reduction brimstone: Nothing like Paul Ryan’s budget, “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise,” has been heard from a Republican since February 1981, when Ronald Reagan issued his presidency’s first budget message, “America’s New Beginning: A Program for Economic Recovery.” The echoes reach beyond the titles.
      Both budgets announced a clear break with the Washington status quo. Reagan reversed the policies of the Carter presidency and the infamous stagflation years of weak economic growth, 18% interest rates and 14% inflation. Reagan’s 1981 message posited four reversals: “a substantial reduction” in spending; “a significant reduction in federal tax rates”; relief from federal regulation; and “a monetary policy consistent with those policies.”… – WSJ, 4-7-11
  • Budget Showdown: Republicans and Paul Ryan Unveil 2012 Budget “Path to Prosperty” — Obama Refuses Week Extension

    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:

    Doug Mills/The New York Times

    President Obama in the White House on Tuesday spoke about the budget meeting with the Speaker of the House.

    IN FOCUS

    THE HEADLINES….

    • Obama presses Congress to avoid shutdown: Prodded by an insistent President Barack Obama, Congress’ top two lawmakers sought to reinvigorate compromise talks Tuesday aimed at cutting tens of billions in federal spending and averting a partial government shutdown Friday at midnight.
      According to Democrats, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggested at a White House meeting that fellow Republicans might be able to accept a deal with $40 billion in cuts. That’s more than negotiators had been eyeing but less than the House seeks.
      The speaker’s office declined comment, and Boehner issued a statement saying, “We can still avoid a shutdown, but Democrats are going to need to get serious about cutting spending – and soon.”
      For his part, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid sounded an accusatory note. “I hope the Republicans do what the country needs, not what they believe the tea party wants,” he said at the Capitol “I mean, it seems that every step we take, it’s something just to poke us in the eye,” he said…. – AP, 4-5-11
    • GOP budget plan would revamp Medicare, Medicaid: House Republicans set up a politically defining clash over the size and priorities of government Tuesday, unveiling a budget plan that calls for both unprecedented spending cuts and a fundamental restructuring of taxpayer-financed health care for the elderly and the poor.
      The plan would slash federal spending by $5 trillion or more over the coming decade. It would leave Social Security untouched but shift more of the risk from rising medical costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries. It also calls for sharp cuts to Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled and to food aid for the poor.
      Dubbed the “Path to Prosperity,” the proposal by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also calls for dramatically overhauling the complicated and inefficient U.S. tax code. It would scrap numerous tax breaks and loopholes in exchange for reducing the top income tax rate for both individuals and corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent…. – AP, 4-5-11
    • No headway on spending plan talks: The first federal government shutdown in more than 15 years draws closer as President Obama and congressional leaders fail to make progress after back-to-back meetings. Obama and Congress remained billions of dollars apart and at odds over where to find savings… – WaPo, 4-5-11
    • As shutdown looms, GOP announces budget plan for 2012: Budget plan would privatize Medicare, cut spending on Medicaid, and offer sharply lower tax rates to corporations and the wealthy…. – WaPo, 4-5-11
    • Budget Stances Harden as Deadline Nears for Shutdown: President Obama on Tuesday flatly dismissed a short-term Republican plan to keep the federal government operating past Friday as Speaker John A. Boehner sought deeper spending cuts, putting Congress and the White House on a course toward a government shutdown.
      Showing some exasperation at the impasse over this year’s budget, Mr. Obama appeared at an impromptu White House news conference and said it would be inexcusable if federal agencies were forced to shut their doors beginning Saturday because House Republicans and Senate Democrats could not bridge differences over a relatively small slice of the budget.
      “As I’ve said before, we have now matched the number that the speaker originally sought,” the president said. “The only question is whether politics or ideology are going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown.”
      Appearing before television cameras in the Capitol shortly after the president spoke, Mr. Boehner seemed equally determined not to give ground. The speaker, who faces intense pressure from his conservative rank-and- file, said he intended to push for the greatest spending cuts achievable and would not be maneuvered by Democrats into settling for less. “We are not going to allow the Senate nor the White House to put us in a box,” Mr. Boehner said…. – NYT, 4-5-11
    • Budget wars: Moment of truth arrives: With Republicans upping the ante on spending cuts, President Barack Obama took a tougher line himself Tuesday, warning he won’t sign another stopgap bill without first reaching a deal over the 2011 budget — even at the risk of a shutdown Friday.
      Obama’s comments followed a meeting with congressional leaders at which House Speaker John Boehner floated a compromise of $40 billion in spending cuts — $7 billion more than the $33 billion target negotiators have been working toward since last week. Democrats and administration officials were miffed by the speaker’s late-breaking bid, but it was the first time the Ohio Republican has so explicitly put his name next to a number other than the $61.3 billion in cuts adopted by the House in February. And together with the president’s new stance, it sets the stage for an intense three days before government funding runs out Friday.
      Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), also present at the White House, met later Tuesday for what both sides described as a “productive” session. “The government is not going to be shut down—yet,” Reid said before closing the Senate Tuesday night. “There’s still air in the tire…I hope we have enough air in the tire to get where we need to go.”… – Politico, 4-5-11
    • Budget Talks Head to Brink Parties Far Apart on 2012 Spending, Long-Term Vision as Friday Deadline Nears: Republicans and Democrats stumbled one day closer to a government shutdown on Friday, as the two parties escalated what has become a broader battle over Washington’s role in the U.S. economy.
      Political leaders on Tuesday continued to talk past each other on federal spending, offering little evidence they could soon reach an agreement to avert a shutdown of the government this weekend. Damian Paletta has details.
      The two fights—one over funding the government for the next six months, the other over a sweeping plan to reshape the government for decades to come—showed how far apart the two parties are on basic fiscal issues ahead of the 2012 elections.
      A Tuesday White House meeting called by President Barack Obama featured a series of frustrated exchanges between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), who upped his demand for spending cuts this year to $40 billion, according to people familiar with the session…. – WSJ, 4-5-11
    • White House, GOP fail to achieve agreement on budget: Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration were unable on Tuesday to reach a definitive budget accord that would avert a partial government “shutdown” in three days.
      President Barack Obama met at the White House with the main Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to pressure them to reach an accord on the budget for the six months that remain in Fiscal Year 2011.
      Upon exiting the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a communique that an agreement was not achieved.
      For now, the Republicans are continuing to insist on larger budget cuts and on a temporary one-week extension to keep the government functioning. But the White House does not support that strategy, taking the stance that temporary measures send the wrong message and ultimately harm efforts to move toward economic recovery…. – Fox News, 4-5-11
    • As Shutdown Looms, Agencies Brace for Its Impact: The National Zoo would close, but the lions and tigers will get fed; Yellowstone and other national parks will shut down. The Internal Revenue Service could stop issuing refund checks. Customs and Border Patrol agents training officials in Afghanistan might have to come home. And thousands of government-issued BlackBerries would go silent. This is what a government shutdown might look like.
      With budget talks between Republicans and Democrats far from resolution, official Washington braced on Tuesday for a replay of the Great Government Shutdowns of 1995 and 1996. For weeks, the Obama administration has been quietly examining the experience of the mid-1990s as a kind of shutdown survival guide. Now those preparations have kicked into high gear…. – NYT, 4-5-11

    QUOTES

    • Rep. Ryan on Proposed Cuts: ‘Our Budget Literally Pays Off the Debt’: So the president gave us a plan that spends so much more money. He doubled the debt by the end of his first term. And he proposed to triple the debt by the end of this budget. And what we’re offering is a different direction. In our plan, our budget literally pays off the debt… – PBS Newshour, 4-5-11
    • President Obama on Budget Negotiations: “We Have Now Matched the Number the Speaker Originally Sought”: From the outset, my goal has been to significantly cut our domestic spending but, at the same time, make sure we’re making key investments in things like education, infrastructure, innovation — the things that are going to help us win the future.
      And I just want to set the context for this now. Again, I’m going to repeat. Speaker Boehner, Chairman Rogers, the Republican appropriations chairman — their original budget proposed $73 billion in cuts. We have now agreed to $73 billion worth of cuts. What they are now saying is, well, we’re not sure that every single one of the cuts that you’ve made are ones that we agree to; we’d rather have these cuts rather than that cut. That’s not the basis for shutting down the government. We should be able to come up with a compromise in which nobody gets 100 percent of what they want, but the American people get the peace of mind in knowing that folks here in Washington are actually thinking about them — because they’re going through a whole lot of struggles right now.
      The only question is whether politics or ideology are going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown. Now, what does this potentially mean for the American people? At a time when the economy is just beginning to grow, where we’re just starting to see a pickup in employment, the last thing we need is a disruption that’s caused by a government shutdown. Not to mention all the people who depend on government services, whether you’re a veteran or you’re somebody who’s trying to get a passport or you’re planning to visit one of the national monuments or you’re a business leader who’s trying to get a small business loan. You don’t want delays, you don’t want disruptions just because of usual politics in Washington.
      So what I said to the Speaker today, and what I said to Leader Reid, and what I’ve said to the two appropriations chairs, is that myself, Joe Biden, my team, we are prepared to meet for as long as possible to get this resolved…. – WH, 4-5-11Transcript

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    Gallery: Battle over the U.S. budget: Congressional Republicans and Democrats have waged a long fight in trying to agree on a budget plan to slash federal spending and avert a government shutdown.

    • Analysis: Obama shifts to play budget dealmaker, avoid blame: “If the public gets angry with a blow-up over the budget and a shutdown, the president needs to be able to say, at a minimum, that he tried,” said Julian Zelizer, history professor at Princeton University. “He wants to avoid having the anger that flowed to Republicans in 1995-1996 focus on him.”… – Reuters, 4-5-11
    • Tevi Troy Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary Plus, Paul Ryan’s budget hard-headed or inhumane?: While it has long been assumed that addressing entitlements was the dreaded “third rail of American politics,” our long-term budget woes are now so severe that a budget putting us on a path to fiscal sanity could be a political plus. Democrats will certainly demagogue Ryan’s budget, but they may find that an unwillingness to get our debt situation under control has turned into the new third rail of the 21st century…. – Politico, 4-5-11
    • Can House finance chief Paul Ryan sell his budget to Americans?: “Nobody knows who Ryan is, outside his home area,” said Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University. “I don’t think he has the clout, the charisma, the political power to do this.”
      But if Ryan has any chance of shifting the politics of these “entitlement programs,” then Sarah Binder, a professor at George Washington University, said sticking to his wonky reputation would be a good idea. “To the extent that he’s able to sort of keep his policy-wonk reputation front and center,” that helps, Binder said. She said Ryan’s best opportunity is to be seen as above party squabbling. His persuasion depends on him instead being viewed as an independent, concerned voice. “Typically, voters like short-term benefits, with the costs put off to the future,” Binder said. Ryan’s vision relies on them agreeing to short-term changes, with benefits further off. “You can’t do that without the president, and you can’t do it without the support of both parties.” – WaPo, 4-5-11

    Political Highlights April 4, 2011: Obama Addresses Libya & Energy Policy; Republican and Democratic Budget Showdown

    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 speaks at Georgetown University

    The President speaks at Georgetown University, Pete Souza, 3/30/11

    STATS & POLLS

    • Hillary Clinton now most popular figure in Obama administration: A recent Gallup poll has indicated that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is enjoying a high favorable rating of 66%. That is 7 points higher than President Obama, 9 points higher than Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and 15 points beyond that of Vice President Joe Biden. Are you pleased with her performance so far?
      As war rages on several fronts and much of the Middle East and northern Africa is in turmoil, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoys a favorable rating higher than President Obama, Vice President Biden, or Secretary of Defense Gates…. – CS Monitor, 4-4-11
    • Obama plays long game as crises rage: Obama’s approval ratings in most polls remain in the high 40 percent range — down from the heady days of his early presidency, but still viable, especially with what looks like a weak Republican 2012 field in prospect.
      But there are some warning signs. About half of Americans viewed Obama as a strong and decisive leader in a new Gallup poll this week, down from 60 percent a year ago and 73 percent in April 2009…. – AFP, 4-3-11
    • AP-GfK Poll: Americans souring more on economy: Obama’s approval ratings have held steady at around 50 percent over the past month. But the disconnect between negative perceptions of the economy and signs that a rebound are under way could provide an opening for Republicans at the outset of the 2012 campaign…. – AP, 3-30-11
    • Few Americans see Obama as strong military leader: Only 17 percent of Americans see President Barack Obama as a strong and decisive military leader, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after the United States and its allies began bombing Libya. Nearly half of those polled view Obama as a cautious and consultative commander-in-chief and more than a third see him as indecisive in military matters…. – Reuters, 3-24-11

    IN FOCUS

    President Barack Obama announces 2012 re-election bid: President Barack Obama announced his 2012 re-election bid in a YouTube video.

    • Obama Begins Re-Election Facing New Political Challenges: President Obama confirmed Monday morning that he would seek another four years in the White House, beginning a re-election campaign that would ask Americans to endorse the status quo over the increasingly vocal calls from Republicans for a fresh start in Washington.
      Facing turmoil in the Middle East, ongoing military action in Libya and the threat of a government shutdown within days, Mr. Obama conveyed his political intentions in an understated Internet video titled “It Begins With Us,” which features his supporters talking about the need to re-elect him.
      “There are so many things that are still on the table that need to be addressed. And we want them to be addressed by President Obama,” a woman named Gladys from Nevada says. Mr. Obama does not appear in the two-minute video, which directs visitors to Barackobama.com.
      “This campaign is just kicking off,” a message on the site says. “We’re opening up offices, unpacking boxes, and starting a conversation with supporters like you to help shape our path to victory. 2012 begins now, and this is where you say you’re in.”
      In an e-mail to supporters, Mr. Obama says his “final campaign” will not start with “expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you — with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends.” He says the “work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today.”… – NYT, 4-4-11
    • Wisconsin: Judge Again Halts Law Stripping Union Rights: A judge on Thursday halted Gov. Scott Walker’s plans — at least temporarily — to cut most public workers’ pay and strip them of most of their union rights. Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court issued a declaration stating in no uncertain terms that the collective bargaining law that led to weeks of protests had not taken effect, contradicting Republican arguments that it had because a state office published it online. Governor Walker, a Republican, said his administration would comply, despite misgivings…. – AP, 3-31-11

    REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

    The President on Libya
    President Obama at the National Defense University, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/28/11
    • US planes attack as US cuts back Libya mission: U.S. Air Force and Marine attack planes struck targets in Libya on a stretch of Mediterranean coastline near the cities of Sirte and Brega on Monday, the final day of planned U.S. combat missions in the North African nation, U.S. officials said…. – AP, 4-4-11
    • US lifts sanctions on ex-Libyan foreign minister: The Treasury Department said Monday that it had dropped the former minister, Moussa Koussa, from a blacklist of Libyan officials who had been banned from traveling to the United States and whose assets in U.S. jurisdictions had been frozen. The department said it took the step to reward Koussa for his decision last week to defect and encourage other members of Gadhafi’s inner circle to follow suit…. – AP, 4-4-11
    • Former president suggests aiding Libyan rebels: Former President Bill Clinton says the Obama administration should consider arming rebels fighting to oust strongman Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. Clinton tells ABC News in an interview that he “sure wouldn’t shut the door” to assistance for the rebels, reflecting a position that some in Congress have urged President Barack Obama to pursue…. – AP, 4-4-11
    • UN uses attack helicopters in Ivory Coast: The United Nations and French forces opened fire with attack helicopters Monday on the arsenal of this country’s entrenched ruler, as columns of Ivorian fighters allied with his challenger finally pierced the city limit. The fighters aiming to topple strongman Laurent Gbagbo after a decade in power had succeeded in taking nearly the entire countryside in just three days last week, but they faltered once they reached the country’s largest city, where the presidential palace and residence are located…. – AP, 4-4-11
    • US ending its air combat role in Libya: The Pentagon is about to pull its attack planes out of the international air campaign in Libya, hoping NATO partners can take up the slack. The announcement Thursday drew incredulous reactions from some in Congress who wondered aloud why the Obama administration would bow out of a key element of the strategy for protecting Libyan civilians and crippling Moammar Gadhafi’s army.
      “Odd,” “troubling” and “unnerving” were among critical comments by senators pressing for an explanation of the announcement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that American combat missions will end Saturday.
      “Your timing is exquisite,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said sarcastically, alluding to Gadhafi’s military advances this week and the planned halt to U.S. airstrikes. “I believe this would be a profound mistake with potentially disastrous consequences.”… – AP, 4-1-11
    • Gates Calls for Limited Role Aiding Libyan Rebels: Gates, Mullen get tough questioning from House members on US involvement in Gadhafi’s Libya The U.S. should avoid developing a closer relationship with Libyan opposition forces, defense leaders said Thursday, telling an often hostile Congress that foreign nations must now take over airstrike responsibilities and any effort to train and equip the rebels. With the U.S. role in Libya at a turning point, the next critical decision is how, if at all, the U.S. chooses to support the opposition forces, particularly in the face of the ongoing budget crisis at home. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he is opposed to arming the rebels, a step his boss President Barack Obama has not ruled out…. – ABC News, 3-31-11
    • CIA sends teams to Libya; US considers rebel aid: Political and economic pressures will eventually drive Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from power, but the military operation will help force him to make those choices by degrading his defense capabilities, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.
      As the U.S. turned over control of the military operation to NATO, Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen told Congress that the U.S. participation will be limited and will not involve an active role in airstrikes as time goes on…. – AP, 3-31-11
    • US rips Assad’s speech but can’t do much about it: The Obama administration sharply criticized Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for failing Wednesday to address any of the reforms demanded by anti-government protesters, saying his widely anticipated address to the Syrian parliament lacked substance and would not satisfy calls for change or ease unrest. However, the administration’s displeasure is unlikely to progress beyond verbal reprimands as the U.S. doesn’t see the Syrian government’s two-week crackdown on dissent as requiring the same response as the large-scale violence launched against protesters by Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi… – AP, 3-30-11
    • Rebels retreat from Libya oil port under attack: Moammar Gadhafi’s ground forces recaptured a strategic oil town Wednesday as they made new inroads in beating back a rebel advance toward the capital Tripoli. Western powers kept up the pressure to force Gadhafi out with new airstrikes to weaken his military, hints that they may arm the opposition and intense negotiations behind the scenes to persuade Libya’s leader of nearly 42 years to step down.
      Airstrikes have neutralized Gadhafi’s air force and pounded his army, but those ground forces remain far better armed, trained and organized than the opposition. Rebels have few weapons more powerful than rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, and are no match for Gadhafi’s tanks and longer- range heavy weapons…. – AP, 3-30-11
    • Lawmakers seek answers on Libya: A top NATO commander says the U.S. Military role in Libya will be reduced “measurably” with other partners handling responsibilities…. – AP, 3-30-11
    • Obama: Too early to negotiate exit with Gadhafi: President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday to increase diplomatic and political pressure on Moammar Gadhafi to compel the Libyan strongman to step down.
      “Hopefully, he’s going to be getting the message soon,” the president said.
      “One of the questions that we want to answer is: Do we start getting to a stage where Gadhafi’s forces are sufficiently degraded, where it may not be necessary to arm opposition groups,” Obama said on NBC Nightly News.
      He told CBS Evening News that Gadhafi’s inner circle is beginning to recognize that “their days are numbered.” He said some may be negotiating to leave the regime. “But that information may not have filtered to Gadhafi yet,” he said, AP, 3-29-11
    • Renewed US missile barrage amid Libya talks: Stepping up attacks far from the front-line fighting, a U.S. Navy ship fired 22 Tomahawk cruise missiles at weapon storage sites around Tripoli on Tuesday, while President Barack Obama said the effectiveness of the allies’ fight is a factor in deciding whether to arm the rebels.
      Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, meanwhile, held talks in London with an envoy from the Libyan political opposition group trying to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi…. – AP, 3-29-11
    • Levin, McCain back Obama on Libya military action: The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee say President Barack Obama was right to use military force in Libya.
      Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican John McCain of Arizona made the comments Tuesday at the start of a congressional hearing and the day after Obama’s speech on Libya… – AP, 3-29-11
    • Obama adviser: Nonmilitary means can oust Gadhafi: The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says there are plenty of “non-military means at our disposal” to oust Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.
      Appearing on the same show, Sen. John McCain said he doesn’t believe it’s possible “in the short term” to get rid of Gadhafi through non-military means such as economic and diplomatic pressure. McCain says “Gadhafi in power is unacceptable. We should use any means to bring him down.”… – AP, 3-29-11
    • FACT CHECK: How Obama’s Libya claims fit the facts: There may be less than meets the eye to President Barack Obama’s statements Monday night that NATO is taking over from the U.S. in Libya and that U.S. action is limited to defending people under attack there by Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
      In transferring command and control to NATO, the U.S. is turning the reins over to an organization dominated by the U.S., both militarily and politically. In essence, the U.S. runs the show that is taking over running the show.
      And the rapid advance of rebels in recent days strongly suggests they are not merely benefiting from military aid in a defensive crouch, but rather using the multinational force in some fashion — coordinated or not — to advance an offensive.
      Here is a look at some of Obama’s assertions in his address to the nation Monday, and how they compare with the facts…. – AP, 3-28-11
    • Obama on Libya: ‘We have a responsibility to act’: Vigorously defending American attacks in Libya, President Barack Obama declared Monday night that the United States intervened to prevent a slaughter of civilians that would have stained the world’s conscience and “been a betrayal of who we are” as Americans. Yet he ruled out targeting Moammar Gadhafi, warning that trying to oust him militarily would be a mistake as costly as the war in Iraq….
      “To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” Obama said. He spoke in a televised address to the nation, delivered in front of a respectful audience of military members and diplomats.
      “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different,” Obama said. “And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”…. – AP, 3-28-11

    INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

    • Israel panel approving new east Jerusalem building: Jerusalem officials on Monday gave preliminary approval for the building of 942 new apartments in a Jewish development in the city’s contested eastern sector, threatening to create new friction ahead of the Israeli president’s White House visit.
      Although it would take years before construction starts, the project in the neighborhood of Gilo will likely infuriate the Palestinians at an especially delicate diplomatic moment. Israeli President Shimon Peres is scheduled to meet Tuesday with President Barack Obama to explore ways to jump-start stalled Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking…. – AP, 4-4-11
    • Quran protests spread to turbulent Afghan east: In Jalalabad, the largest city in the east, hundreds of people blocked the main highway for three hours, shouting for U.S. troops to leave, burning an effigy of President Barack Obama and stomping on a drawing of a U.S. flag. More than 1,000 people set tires ablaze to block another highway in eastern Parwan province for about an hour, said provincial police chief Sher Ahmad Maladani…. – AP, 4-3-11
    • US to seek new term on UN human rights panel: The Obama administration announced on Wednesday that it will seek a new term on the United Nations Human Rights Council despite concerns that the panel remains a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment and a forum for repressive nations to deflect attention from abuses they may have committed. The State Department said the U.S. intends to run in 2012 for another three-year term on the oft-criticized council. Officials said the U.S. believes its presence on the panel for the past two years has helped steer it in the right direction and that it can continue to do so…. – AP, 3-30-11
    • US hits Belarus firm with Iran-related sanctions: The Obama administration on Tuesday slapped sanctions on a state-owned energy company in Belarus over a $500 million investment with an Iranian firm accused of contributing to Iran’s suspect nuclear program…. – AP, 3-29-11
    • Papers: Guatemalans welcomed US syphilis doctor: As U.S. doctors in Guatemala were wrapping up one of the most unethical medical experiments they had ever conducted, a Guatemalan medical official praised the lead researcher as noble and thanked him profusely. The Guatemalan official’s praising letter from more than 60 years ago is among thousands of documents released Tuesday concerning the doctor who led the study that infected Guatemalan prison inmates and mental patients with syphilis in the 1940s…. – AP, 3-29-11
    • US sending robots to Japan to help nuclear plant: The U.S. government is sending some robotic help to Japan to help regain control of the tsunami-damaged nuclear plant. A top Energy Department official told a Senate panel Tuesday that a shipment of “radiation hardened robotics” will be sent to Japan to assist in the crisis. A department spokeswoman said a robotic device from the Energy Department’s Idaho National Laboratory is being shipped to Japan along with several radiation-hardened cameras…. – AP, 3-29-11

    THE HEADLINES….

    • New Hurdles in Race to Avert Federal Shutdown: House Republicans demanded on Monday that President Obama and Senate Democrats agree to federal spending cuts beyond $33 billion for this year as budget talks hit serious new obstacles just four days before financing for federal agencies runs out. Trying to head off a crisis, President Obama invited Congressional leaders to the White House for a meeting Tuesday to try to resolve the impasse that is threatening to shutter a large part of the federal government as of Saturday. But the administration also accelerated preparations for a potential shutdown.
      “We are aware of the calendar, and to be prudent and prepare for the chance that Congress may not pass a funding bill in time, O.M.B. today encouraged agency heads to begin sharing their contingency plans with senior managers throughout their organizations to ensure that they will have their feedback and input,” Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, said Monday…. – NYT, 4-4-11
    • In abrupt reversal, 9/11 suspects to get Guantánamo military tribunals: The Obama administration had wanted to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other 9/11 suspects in a civilian court in New York. It abandoned that plan Monday in favor of military tribunals…. – CS Monitor, 4-4-11
    • Holder: 9/11 suspects to face military tribunals: Yielding to political opposition, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged henchmen will be referred to military commissions for trial rather than to a civilian federal court in New York.
      The families of those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks have waited almost a decade for justice, and “it must not be delayed any longer,” Holder told a news conference.
      Holder had announced the earlier plan for trial in New York City in November 2009, but that foundered amid widespread opposition to a civilian court trial, particularly in New York. Congress passed legislation that prohibits bringing any detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States…. – AP, 4-4-11
    • Government shutdown Friday? Why Tuesday could be crucial: Rep. Paul Ryan will release a ‘dramatic’ budget for 2012 Tuesday that looks to cut $4 trillion over 10 years. That plan makes the $30 billion at issue in a potential government shutdown over 2011 spending look like small potatoes…. – CS Monitor, 4-4-11
    • Obama invites lawmakers to budget session: President Barack Obama on Monday summoned key lawmakers from both parties to the White House for budget talks in hopes of avoiding a government shutdown this weekend. The White House said the president has invited House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and top negotiators on the appropriations committees to a session Tuesday. Obama spokesman Jay Carney said time was running short and the president would urge the lawmakers to reach an agreement.
      “Despite attempts by Democrats to lock in a number among themselves, I’ve made clear that their $33 billion is not enough and many of the cuts that the White House and Senate Democrats are talking about are full of smoke and mirrors,” Boehner said in a statement. “That’s unacceptable.”… – AP, 4-4-11
    • Obama begins 2012 run with challenges, advantages: He was a long shot when he launched his race for the White House in 2008. This time, he’s the front-runner. Surprising no one, President Obama is poised to file papers with the Federal Election Commission as early as today, officially launching his bid for a second term.
      He starts his re-election campaign in one of the stronger positions of sitting presidents over the past four decades. His job-approval rating at this point in his tenure is higher than that of Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan, presidents who won second terms, and the nation’s jobless rate, now 8.8%, has been slowly declining.
      But as he turns 50 this year, Obama must traverse some perilous landscape. The economic recovery is fragile, and the U.S. military now is involved in three controversial military campaigns — in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Libya — that draw significant opposition from war-weary Americans. What’s more, the big legislative achievement of his presidency, an overhaul of the health care system, fails to win majority support in national public opinion polls more than a year after he signed it…. – USA Today, 4-3-11
    • Obama: Shift from imported oil, new jobs will come: Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to promote his ideas for bringing down gasoline prices by decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. A blueprint he outlined in a recent speech calls for increasing domestic oil exploration and production, making cars and trucks more energy efficient and building vehicles that run on alternative fuels or electricity….
      “By doing so, we’re going to make our economy less vulnerable to wild swings in oil prices,” Obama said. “We’re going to use cleaner sources of energy that don’t imperil our climate. And we’re going to spark new products and businesses all over the country by tapping America’s greatest renewable resource: our ingenuity.”… – AP, 4-2-11
    • Obama: Lawmakers close to agreement on budget: President Barack Obama says Democrats and Republicans are close to an agreement on the amount of spending cuts needed in order to keep the government operating and avoid a government shutdown. Obama says there are details and differences to work out, but he says a compromise is within reach…. – AP, 4-1-11
    • Obama: Jobs numbers are sign of economy’s strength: President Barack Obama says unemployment numbers released Friday indicate the economy is showing signs of strength. The unemployment rate fell to a two-year low of 8.8 percent in March, capping the strongest two months of hiring since the recession began. The rate has fallen a full percentage point over the past four months, the sharpest drop since 1983…. – AP, 4-1-11
    • Pentagon defends lifting ban on gays in military: The Pentagon said Friday the military should be trained in working with openly gay members by summer’s end, prompting House Republicans to complain that repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was moving too quickly in wartime. In a status report to Congress, Clifford Stanley, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and Vice Adm. William Gortney of the Joint Staff said the Pentagon was moving forward on educating members of the military on the new policy, what’s expected of them and the responsibilities for commanders and other leaders…. – AP, 4-1-11
    • Obama showcases fuel-saving vehicles: With one eye on the gas pump and the other on his energy agenda, President Barack Obama is showcasing fuel- efficient vehicles as part of his goal to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil. The president was to make a short trip Friday to Landover, Md., to visit a UPS shipping facility that features fuel-saving vehicles. Obama was to launch a public-private partnership designed to help large commercial fleets cut back on their diesel and gasoline use. Besides UPS vehicles, Obama also was to view examples of fuel efficiency in the fleets of AT&T, PepsiCo and Verizon…. – AP, 4-1-11
    • For federal workers, anxiety over a possible shutdown: The government could shut down in a week if Congress can’t reach a budget deal. And the Obama administration hasn’t told workers what a shutdown would look like — who will be asked to come to work and who will be told to stay home…. – WaPo, 3-31-11
    • Families urge Obama to end deportations: Hispanic families and immigrant advocates criticized President Barack Obama Thursday for failing to keep campaign promises to change the U.S. immigration system. The critics questioned Obama’s recent comment that he could not use his executive order powers to suspend deportations because doing so “would not conform with my appropriate role as president.” Obama made the comment at a town hall organized by Univision TV network.
      The statement has received a lot of attention in immigrant and some Latino communities. Hispanics voted heavily for Obama in 2008 and some have felt he has let Latino supporters down by failing to move an immigration bill providing legal status to some illegal immigrants, while deporting record numbers of immigrants, many of them Hispanics…. – AP, 3-31-11
    • Obama woos Hispanic vote on education: President Barack Obama, aware of news that the U.S. Hispanic population has hit 50 million, is turning his attention on issues key to Hispanics, including education. Early this week, Obama held a town hall meeting at a D.C. high school, roughly three miles from the White House, where two-thirds of the students are Hispanic. The town hall, broadcast by the Spanish-language TV network Univision, overlapped with the president’s live address to the nation on Libya, but reportedly drew 2.7 million viewers.
      “This is an issue that is critical for the success of America generally,” Obama said. “We already have a situation where one out of five students are Latino in our schools, and when you look at those who are 10 years old or younger, it’s actually one in four.
      “So what this means is, is that our workforce is going to be more diverse; it is going to be, to a large percentage, Latino. And if our young people are not getting the kind of education they need, we won’t succeed as a nation,” the president said….- AP, 3-31-11
    • Obama health idea could mean better care, savings: The Obama administration on Thursday outlined a new approach to medical care that it said could mean higher quality and less risk for patients, while also saving millions of dollars for taxpayers. The plan involves accountable care organizations, which are networks of hospitals, doctors, rehabilitation centers and other providers. They would work together to cut out duplicative tests and procedures, prevent medical errors, and focus on keeping patients healthier and out of the emergency room.
      “We need to bring the days of fragmented care to an end,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said as she announced a proposal regulation that defines how the networks would operate within Medicare…. – AP, 3-31-11
    • Clinton deputy steps down from State Department: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s top deputy, James Steinberg, is resigning his position to take an academic post at Syracuse University. Clinton told State Department personnel on Wednesday that Steinberg will be replaced as the agency’s second-in-command by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, who is currently the highest-ranking career diplomat in the foreign service. She said President Barack Obama would nominate Burns for the job, which requires Senate confirmation.
      Clinton said in a notice to employees he had been “indispensable” in helping to formulate and execute policy “on every foreign policy challenge, big and small.”… – AP, 3-30-11
    • Obama to unveil energy security plan: President Barack Obama is outlining a plan for America’s energy security. He’ll give the speech Wednesday morning at Georgetown University in Washington…. – AP, 3-30-11
    • US back to denying same sex couple visas: After a brief reprieve, immigration authorities are once again denying applications for immigration benefits for same sex couples following a legal review. Chris Bentley, a spokesman for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, said Wednesday that after a review by lawyers from the Homeland Security Department, it was concluded that a law prohibiting the government from recognizing same sex marriages must be followed, despite the Obama administration’s decision to stop defending the constitutionality of the law in court. The law, the Defense of Marriage Act, defines marriage as being between a man and a woman…. – AP, 3-30-11
    • Analysis: US still lacks border strategy: The federal government hasn’t come up with a comprehensive strategy to secure the U.S.-Mexico border, even as an all- out war between Mexico and its violent drug gangs has claimed 35,000 lives and pushed hundreds of thousands of immigrants into the United States…. – AP, 3-30-11
    • Two-thirds of oil and gas leases in Gulf inactive: More than two-thirds of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico are sitting idle, neither producing oil and gas, nor being actively explored by the companies who hold the leases, according to an Interior Department report released Tuesday…. – AP, 3-29-11
    • Cost shift seen in raising Medicare age to 67: Employers and even some younger people would pay more for health insurance if lawmakers raise the eligibility age for Medicare, a study to be released Tuesday concludes. The findings suggest that the emerging debate over Medicare’s future matters not only to seniors and those nearing retirement, but to a broad cross-section of Americans. The report from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation shows that federal taxpayers would save billions if the Medicare eligibility age, currently 65, is increased by two years. But people ages 65 and 66, employers — along with states, Medicare recipients and even some younger families — would see ripple effects that add to their costs…. – AP, 3-29-11
    • Obama says too much testing makes education boring: President Barack Obama said Monday that students should take fewer standardized tests and school performance should be measured in other ways than just exam results. Too much testing makes education boring for kids, he said. “Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools,” the president told students and parents at a town hall hosted by the Univision Spanish-language television network at Bell Multicultural High School in Washington, D.C.
      “One thing I never want to see happen is schools that are just teaching the test because then you’re not learning about the world, you’re not learning about different cultures, you’re not learning about science, you’re not learning about math,” the president said. “All you’re learning about is how to fill out a little bubble on an exam and little tricks that you need to do in order to take a test and that’s not going to make education interesting.”
      “And young people do well in stuff that they’re interested in,” Obama said. “They’re not going to do as well if it’s boring.”… – AP, 3-28-11

    112TH CONGRESS

    • House Republicans Propose $4 Trillion in Cuts Over Decade: House Republicans plan this week to propose more than $4 trillion in federal spending reductions over the next decade by reshaping popular programs like Medicare, the Budget Committee chairman said Sunday in opening a new front in the intensifying budget wars.
      Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” the chairman, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, also said Republicans would call for strict caps on all government spending that would require cuts to take effect whenever Congress exceeded those limits.
      “We are going to put out a plan that gets our debt on a downward trajectory and gets us to a point of giving our next generation a debt-free nation,” Mr. Ryan said, even as he predicted that the politically charged initiatives he intended to lay out in the 2012 budget beginning Tuesday would give Democrats a “political weapon to go against us.” “But they will have to lie and demagogue to make that a political weapon,” he said…. – NYT, 4-4-11
    • GOP 2012 budget to make $4 trillion-plus in cuts: A Republican plan for the 2012 budget would cut more than $4 trillion over the next decade, more than even the president’s debt commission proposed, with spending caps as well as changes in the Medicare and Medicaid health programs, its principal author said Sunday. The spending blueprint from Rep. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, is to be released Tuesday. It deals with the budget year that begins Oct. 1, not the current one that is the subject of negotiations aimed at preventing a partial government shutdown on Friday…. – AP, 4-4-11
    • Boehner wants to pass spending cuts with GOP alone: Sometimes in politics and legislation, whether you win is less important than how you win. That’s the dilemma facing House Speaker John Boehner as he tries to round up the votes to pass a fast-approaching spending compromise and avert a partial government shutdown by week’s end.
      Boehner, R-Ohio, wants the overwhelming majority of those votes to come from his fellow Republicans, even if dozens of easily attainable Democratic votes could help carry the budget bill to victory…. – AP, 4-3-11
    • Rubio speaks out after low profile early in Senate: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a breakout star of the 2010 election and a tea party favorite, kept a low profile early on in the Senate. That’s begun to change. In a matter of days, Rubio made his opposition clear in a Wall Street Journal article to raising the federal debt ceiling and he has called on lawmakers to authorize force to capture Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi…. – AP, 4-2-11
    • House GOP votes to go it alone on budget cuts: The House has passed a Republican bill that declares their $61 billion in budget cuts the law of the land if the Senate and Obama don’t act on the spending measure before April 9. They acknowledge the bill has no practical effect. But House Republicans say it reminds voters that they have passed a budget bill while the Democratic-controlled Senate has not. They say they want to ensure that Democrats are held accountable if there’s a government shutdown next week…. – AP, 4-1-11
    • As Budget Talks Continue, Hard-Liners Get Support From Tea Party: As House Republican leaders worked to cobble together a spending plan for this year that can win bipartisan support, their more conservative members made increasingly clear on Thursday that they consider a proposed $33 billion budget cut to be insufficient. Even as Speaker John A. Boehner urged Republicans to keep in mind that they would have additional opportunities in the coming weeks to cut long-term spending, some members of his caucus said they would be willing to accept a government shutdown if necessary to back up their demand for $61 billion in cuts for the current fiscal year…. – NYT, 3-31-11
    • House amendments undermine safety regulations: The House has approved an amendment that would effectively block a safety regulation proposed by the Obama administration to prevent fires involving air shipments of lithium batteries. The amendment was added Thursday, by a vote of 251-168, to a sweeping aviation bill in the House. The battery regulation has been the focus of intense lobbying by U.S. industry and foreign governments who say it would increase the cost of countless products…. – AP, 3-31-11
    • Democrats lack a heavy hitter against Sen. Brown: Democrats haven’t found a solid challenger to GOP Sen. Scott Brown in liberal Massachusetts next year, stoking concerns the party could blow its best shot to take back the seat held for nearly a half-century by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. It’s a seat close to Democrats’ hearts, still raw from their humiliating loss to the upstart Brown in 2010.
      The senator’s widow, Vicki Kennedy, has flatly ruled out running. So did former Rep. Joe Kennedy, who joked he was “feeling ill all of a sudden” when reporters recently asked him about challenging Brown.
      The state’s leading Democrat, Gov. Deval Patrick, insists he’s not interested. Former Rep. Martin Meehan, flush with $4.8 million in campaign cash, has rejected pleas from party officials to jump in.
      Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who rarely minces words, described Brown’s prospects bluntly. “There’s nobody that can beat him,” he told the Boston Herald recently…. – AP, 3-31-11
    • Plane revelations dog McCaskill’s re-election bid: Sen. Claire McCaskill once turned a political opponent’s use of a plane to her advantage. Now she’s seeing the issue from a different vantage point. With a tough re-election race in 2012, the Missouri Democrat has come under heavy criticism for her use of a plane she owns with her husband. First it was revealed that McCaskill, among the wealthiest members of the Senate, had received approximately $79,000 in federal reimbursements for her flights, including at least one to a political event. A few days later, McCaskill revealed that she and her husband had also failed to pay about $320,000 in state taxes on the plane…. – AP, 3-30-11
    • Republicans grill DHS officials on FOIA delays: Republicans in Congress objected Thursday to the Homeland Security Department’s now-rescinded practice of requiring secretive reviews by political advisers of hundreds of requests for government files under the Freedom of Information Act. The chairman of a House oversight committee said the process “reeks of a Nixonian enemies list” and was unacceptable.
      The senior official in charge of submitting files for the reviews, Mary Ellen Callahan, acknowledged there had been “management challenges” in the program and said the political scrutiny “at times took longer than anticipated.” But Callahan deflected suggestions by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., that the process injected political considerations into decisions about federal records the government was turning over to journalists, watchdog groups or even members of Congress…. – AP, 3-30-11
    • House votes to end mortgage reduction program: House Republicans pushed through legislation Tuesday to terminate an underachieving Obama administration program designed to reduce mortgage payments for homeowners in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure. Most Democrats, while acknowledging that the Home Affordable Modification Program has fallen short of original goals, protested the vote to kill it. The White House, in a statement, said that if the bill ever reaches President Barack Obama’s desk, his senior advisers would recommend he veto it. The vote was 252-170…. – AP, 3-29-11
    • House GOP: No stopgap spending bill beyond April 8: The No. 2 Republican in the House said Tuesday that the chamber won’t pass another short-term federal funding bill to avert a government shutdown if talks between the GOP and the White House fail to produce a 2011 spending agreement by an April 8 deadline.
      Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia said “time is up” and that it’s up to Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate to offer significant spending cuts as part of legislation to fund the government for the rest of the budget year.
      “We’re going to need to see a deal struck where our members can go home and tell their constituents that we’re doing what we said we would do,” Cantor said…. – AP, 3-29-11
    • Time short, tempers flare in budget showdown: With the clock ticking toward a possible government shutdown, spending-cut talks between Senate Democrats and the Republicans controlling the House have broken off in a whom-do-you-trust battle over legislation to keep operations running for another six months.
      “Republicans refuse to negotiate,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared on Monday. “The infighting between the tea party and the rest of the Republican Party — including the Republican leadership in Congress — is keeping our negotiating partner from the negotiating table. And it’s pretty hard to negotiate without someone else on the other side of the table,” the Nevada Democrat said…. – AP, 3-28-11

    COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

    • Court leaves in place Ariz. school tax break: The Supreme Court rejected a challenge Monday to an Arizona tax break that directs millions of dollars to private religious schools. The justices, in a 5-4 ruling, said that Arizona taxpayers who filed a lawsuit to block the tax break have no legal claim because they are not forced to contribute to the state program that sends money to the religious schools.
      Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the court’s majority opinion, joined by the four conservative justices. Justice Elena Kagan dissented, along with three other liberal justices…. – AP, 4-4-11
    • Government appeals judge’s health care ruling: The Obama administration has appealed a judge’s ruling that found the federal overhaul of the health care system unconstitutional. The Justice Department filed a 62-page motion Friday to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta that said there’s clear and well-established precedent that Congress acted within its authority in adopting the overhaul. It said Congress made “detailed findings establishing a foundation” for exercising the authority.
      Florida and 25 other states filed the lawsuit that said Congress exceeded its authority by requiring all citizens to purchase health insurance or face tax penalties. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson agreed in a Jan. 31 ruling that said Obama’s entire health care overhaul is unconstitutional. It is considered the most sweeping ruling against the health care law.
      Some states, including Alaska, have cited the decision in refusing to cooperate with the health care law. But Vinson issued another ruling in March ordering states to continue implementing the law while the case makes its way through the courts…. – AP, 4-3-11
    • DOJ probe says Panthers case handled appropriately: In a case that has drawn strong criticism from Republican conservatives, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility has found no evidence that politics played a role when department attorneys dismissed three defendants from a voting rights lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party.
      “We found no evidence of improper political interference or influence from within or outside the department” and the government attorneys acted appropriately in the exercise of their supervisory duties, OPR said in a letter Tuesday to the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas…. – AP, 3-29-11

    STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

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

    ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

    • A Tea Party Star Stirs Iowans, and She Isn’t Palin Michele Bachmann is weighing a run for president in 2012: Sarah Palin, the reigning heroine of many social conservatives, has given few signals that she will make a presidential bid. Mike Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 on the strength of his appeal to evangelicals and other constituencies, has mostly offered reasons for not joining the race.
      “It isn’t that I was born thinking I had to be president,” she said, leaning in and talking softer than she does on television or at Tea Party rallies. “I’m getting a lot of encouragement to run from people across the country. I don’t believe this is a rash decision.”… – NYT, 4-3-11
    • For Romney, 2012 strategy runs through NH, Nevada: In his first presidential run in 2008, Mitt Romney sought back-to-back victories in Iowa and New Hampshire to propel him to the GOP nomination. He won neither, the two-state sprint failed and so did his candidacy.
      This time his strategy is more of a multi-state marathon, with economically suffering Nevada an important round in what advisers predict could be a protracted fight to be the party’s 2012 nominee.
      “Seeing somebody learn on the job in the presidency has not been a pretty sight,” Romney said Saturday to the Republican Jewish Coalition in a speech casting himself as a seasoned business executive. “I think the president’s inexperience in negotiations contributed to less than positive developments on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating front,” Romney said…. – AP, 4-2-11
    • AP sources: Obama set to launch re-election bid: President Barack Obama is about to make one of Washington’s worst kept secrets official: He wants a second term. Democratic officials familiar with the president’s plans said Saturday that Obama intends to file papers as early as this coming week with the Federal Election Commission to launch his 2012 re-election campaign. He also will announce his candidacy to supporters by email and text messages. The officials asked not to be identified in order to speak before the papers are filed…. – AP, 4-2-11
    • Bachmann says she wouldn’t have gone into Libya: A tea party-backed conservative congresswoman says President Barack Obama has failed to demonstrate a vital U.S. national security interest for going into Libya. Rep. Michele Bachmann also says “I would not have gone in” to the strife-torn North African country where strongman Moammar Gadhafi is fighting to cling to power against a resistance force. She says the “Obama doctrine” would provide a rationale for the United States “to enter into one country after another.” Bachmann says she’s against giving military assistance to the rebels fighting Gadhafi, saying she fears there are al Qaida elements among their numbers…. – AP, 3-30-11

    QUOTES

    The President records the Weekly Address

    White House Photo, Pete Souza, 4/1/11

    • Weekly Address: Gas Prices & Energy Security: Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Landover, Maryland April 2, 2011: This week, I released a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. It’s a strategy to reduce the oil we import from around the world, and to make our economy stronger at home. Part of this strategy involves increasing our oil exploration right here in America. In fact, our oil production last year reached its highest level since 2003, and we want to encourage more safe, responsible drilling where we can.
      But the truth is, drilling alone is not a real strategy to replace our dependence on foreign oil. And that’s because even though America uses 25 percent of the world’s oil, we currently have only about 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Even if we used every last drop of all the oil we have, it wouldn’t be enough to meet our long-term energy needs. So, real energy security can only come if we find ways to use less oil – if we invest in cleaner fuels and greater efficiency.
      That’s what we’ve been doing since I took office. For example, we secured an agreement from all the major auto companies to raise the fuel efficiency of their cars and trucks. So if you buy a new car, the better gas mileage is going to save you about $3,000. Altogether, this will save us about 1.8 billion barrels of oil as a country.
      We need to build on this progress. As we make our cars and trucks more efficient, we’ve got to harness new technologies to fuel our vehicles with everything from biofuels to natural gas to advanced batteries. And the good news is, these technologies aren’t science fiction anymore. They exist today. Already, American car companies are producing electric vehicles that use little or no gas. And innovators across America are testing new products that hold incredible promise not just for new vehicles, but for countless new jobs.
      To help jumpstart this market, the federal government has doubled the number of clean energy vehicles that we have in our fleet. In the next few years, we’re going to switch the entire fleet over. And I’m here at UPS because it’s not just the government getting in on the action. Companies like UPS, FedEx, AT&T, Verizon, and PepsiCo – firms with some of the largest fleets in the country – are switching to more efficient vehicles. And through our Clean Fleets Partnership, driven not by government, but by business, more companies are going to be switching to electric and alternative vehicles, too – not out of the goodness of their hearts, but because it’s good for their bottom lines.
      The goal is simple. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. Through these and other steps, by a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one third. And by doing so, we’re going to make our economy less vulnerable to wild swings in oil prices. We’re going to use cleaner sources of energy that don’t imperil our climate. And we’re going to spark new products and businesses all over the country by tapping America’s greatest renewable resource: our ingenuity.
      We know how important that is. This week, we learned that the economy added 230,000 private sector jobs last month. That makes 1.8 million private sector jobs created in the last thirteen months. That’s a good sign. But we have to keep up the momentum, and transitioning to a clean energy economy will help us do that. It will ensure that the United States of America is home to the jobs and industries of tomorrow. That’s how we’ll win the future. And that’s how we’ll leave our children an America that is more secure and prosperous than before. – WH, 4-2-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
    • John Boehner: I and my GOP colleagues continue to fight for the largest possible spending cuts. Washington Democrats have claimed there is an “agreement” on cuts – there isn’t. Nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to. It’s been 41 days since the House passed H.R. 1 to cut spending & keep the government running. Instead of “rooting for a shutdown,” the Democrat-run Senate should do its job and pass a bill. – Facebook, 4-1-11
    • The Obama Administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future: Remarks by the President on America’s Energy Security Georgetown University Washington, D.C.: The United States of America cannot afford to bet our long-term prosperity, our long-term security on a resource that will eventually run out, and even before it runs out will get more and more expensive to extract from the ground. We can’t afford it when the costs to our economy, our country, and our planet are so high. Not when your generation needs us to get this right. It’s time to do what we can to secure our energy future.
      And today, I want to announce a new goal, one that is reasonable, one that is achievable, and one that is necessary. When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day. By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third. That is something that we can achieve. (Applause.) We can cut our oil dependence — we can cut our oil dependence by a third.
      I set this goal knowing that we’re still going to have to import some oil. It will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time, until we’ve gotten alternative energy strategies fully in force. And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, obviously we’ve got to look at neighbors like Canada and Mexico that are stable and steady and reliable sources. We also have to look at other countries like Brazil. Part of the reason I went down there is to talk about energy with the Brazilians. They recently discovered significant new oil reserves, and we can share American technology and know-how with them as they develop these resources.
      But our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard — because we boast one critical, renewable resource that the rest of the world can’t match: American ingenuity. American ingenuity, American know-how.
      To make ourselves more secure, to control our energy future, we’re going to have to harness all of that ingenuity. It’s a task we won’t be finished with by the end of my presidency, or even by the end of the next presidency. But if we continue the work that we’ve already begun over the last two years, we won’t just spark new jobs, industries and innovations — we will leave your generation and future generations with a country that is safer, that is healthier, and that’s more prosperous.
      So today, my administration is releasing a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that outlines a comprehensive national energy policy, one that we’ve been pursuing since the day I took office. And cutting our oil dependence by a third is part of that plan.
      Here at Georgetown, I’d like to talk in broad strokes about how we can achieve these goals.
      Now, meeting the goal of cutting our oil dependence depends largely on two things: first, finding and producing more oil at home; second, reducing our overall dependence on oil with cleaner alternative fuels and greater efficiency…. – Read the full Blueprint (pdf) WH, 3-30-11Transcript
    • Mitt Romney: On Jobs, Where is Obama?: Sometimes truth arrives from the most unexpected sources. Christina Romer, President Obama’s former chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, said last week that she was dismayed at Washington’s lack of focus on jobs.
      “I frankly don’t understand why policymakers aren’t more worried about the suffering of real families,” Romer said. “We need to realize that there is still a lot of devastation out there.” She called the 8.9% unemployment rate “an absolute crisis.”
      How bad is it? Last week, in the blue-collar community ofTaunton, Mass., the annual jobs fair was canceled because not enough companies came forward to offer jobs.
      Defining Deviancy Down was the title of Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s seminal account of how American society came to condone previously stigmatized conditions and behavior. Moynihan focused on the growing acceptance of the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill, the expansion of single-parent families and the violence in inner cities. To his examples, we can now add joblessness…. – Mitt Romney, 3-30-11
    • Sarah Palin: FLASHBACK: What We Were Saying One Year Ago About Obama’s Failed Energy Policy: It’s unbelievable (literally) the rhetoric coming from President Obama today. This is coming from he who is manipulating the U.S. energy supply. President Obama is once again giving lip service to a “new energy proposal”; but let’s remember the last time he trotted out a “new energy proposal” – nearly a year ago to the day. The main difference is today we have $4 a gallon gas in some places in the country. This is no accident. This administration is not a passive observer to the trends that have inflated oil prices to dangerous levels. His war on domestic oil and gas exploration and production has caused us pain at the pump, endangered our already sluggish economic recovery, and threatened our national security. Through a process of what candidate Obama once called “gradual adjustment,” American consumers have seen prices at the pump rise 67 percent since he took office. Meanwhile, the vast undeveloped reserves that could help to keep prices at the pump affordable remain locked up because of President Obama’s deliberate unwillingness to drill here and drill now. We’re subsidizing offshore drilling in Brazil and purchasing energy from them, instead of drilling ourselves and keeping those dollars circulating in our own economy to generate jobs here. The President said today, “There are no quick fixes.” He’s been in office for nearly three years now, and he’s about to launch his $1 billion re-election campaign. When can we expect any “fixes” from him? How high does the price of energy have to go?… – Sarah Palin on Facebook, 3-30-11
    • President Obama’s Speech on Libya: Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on Libya National Defense University Washington, D.C.: Ten days ago, having tried to end the violence without using force, the international community offered Qaddafi a final chance to stop his campaign of killing, or face the consequences. Rather than stand down, his forces continued their advance, bearing down on the city of Benghazi, home to nearly 700,000 men, women and children who sought their freedom from fear.
      At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice. Qaddafi declared he would show “no mercy” to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment. In the past, we have seen him hang civilians in the streets, and kill over a thousand people in a single day. Now we saw regime forces on the outskirts of the city. We knew that if we wanted — if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city nearly the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.
      It was not in our national interest to let that happen. I refused to let that happen. And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
      We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Qaddafi’s troops in neighboring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit Qaddafi’s air defenses, which paved the way for a no-fly zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities, and we cut off much of their source of supply. And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi’s deadly advance.
      In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition. This includes our closest allies -– nations like the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Turkey –- all of whom have fought by our sides for decades. And it includes Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, who have chosen to meet their responsibilities to defend the Libyan people.
      To summarize, then: In just one month, the United States has worked with our international partners to mobilize a broad coalition, secure an international mandate to protect civilians, stop an advancing army, prevent a massacre, and establish a no-fly zone with our allies and partners. To lend some perspective on how rapidly this military and diplomatic response came together, when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians. It took us 31 days. – WH, 3-28-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
    • Weekly Address: The Military Mission in Libya: Remarks of President Barack Obama Washington D.C. March 26, 2011: Last week, when I ordered our armed forces to help protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Moammar Qaddafi, I pledged to keep the American people fully informed. Since then, I’ve spoken about the limited scope and specific purpose of this mission. Today, I can report that thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we’ve made important progress.
      As Commander in Chief, I face no greater decision than sending our military men and women into harm’s way. And the United States should not—and cannot—intervene every time there’s a crisis somewhere in the world.
      But I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized; when someone like Qaddafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region; and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives—then it’s in our national interest to act. And it’s our responsibility. This is one of those times.
      Our military mission in Libya is clear and focused. Along with our allies and partners, we’re enforcing the mandate of the United Nations Security Council. We’re protecting the Libyan people from Qaddafi’s forces. And we’ve put in place a no fly zone and other measures to prevent further atrocities.
      We’re succeeding in our mission. We’ve taken out Libya’s air defenses. Qaddafi’s forces are no longer advancing across Libya. In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Qaddafi threatened to show “no mercy,” his forces have been pushed back. So make no mistake, because we acted quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe has been avoided and the lives of countless civilians—innocent men, women and children—have been saved.
      As I pledged at the outset, the role of American forces has been limited. We are not putting any ground forces into Libya. Our military has provided unique capabilities at the beginning, but this is now a broad, international effort. Our allies and partners are enforcing the no fly zone over Libya and the arms embargo at sea. Key Arab partners like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have committed aircraft. And as agreed this week, responsibility for this operation is being transferred from the United States to our NATO allies and partners.
      This is how the international community should work—more nations, not just the United States, bearing the responsibility and cost of upholding peace and security.
      This military effort is part of our larger strategy to support the Libyan people and hold the Qaddafi regime accountable. Together with the international community, we’re delivering urgent humanitarian assistance. We’re offering support to the Libyan opposition. We’ve frozen tens of billions of dollars of Qaddafi’s assets that can help meet the needs and aspirations of the Libyan people. And every day, the pressure on Qaddafi and his regime is increasing.
      Our message is clear and unwavering. Qaddafi’s attacks against civilians must stop. His forces must pull back. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach those in need. Those responsible for violence must be held accountable. Moammar Qaddafi has lost the confidence of his people and the legitimacy to rule, and the aspirations of the Libyan people must be realized.
      In recent days, we’ve heard the voices of Libyans expressing their gratitude for this mission. “You saved our lives,” said one Libyan. Said another, “Today, there is hope.”
      Every American can be proud of the lives we’ve saved in Libya and of the service of our men and women in uniform who once again have stood up for our interests and our ideals. And people in Libya and around the world are seeing that the United States of America stands with those who hope for a future where they can determine their own destiny. – WH, 3-26-11TranscriptMp4Mp3

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    • Government shutdown Friday? Why Tuesday could be crucial: The 2012 budget “is a dramatic proposal, and it gives the freshmen some cover,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in New Jersey. Congressman “Ryan is talking about going after all the big entitlements and making the kind of cuts in the future that will fundamentally restructure government.”
      “They’ve made this [2012] budget symbolically so charged that it gives Republicans an excuse to compromise [on FY 2011 spending] based on the compromise that they’re going to go big in the budget,” he adds. “That’s quite useful.” – CS Monitor, 4-4-11
    • Obama plays long game as crises rage: “He is a pragmatist, he is also a leader who is elusive, I think on purpose, he doesn’t like to be boxed in ideologically… he purposely makes that difficult for his opponents,” said presidential scholar Julian Zelizer. Zelizer, of Princeton University, said Obama’s approach allows him the elasticity to shift positions if needed — as witnessed in his apparently swift reversal of tack on a no-fly zone in Libya.
      “It’s a strength in that it gives him wiggle room,” said Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas professor of government.
      “It’s a weakness in that it makes him too chameleon-like, a little bit too easily changed, a little bit too fuzzy for some audiences — especially Republican audiences.”… – AFP, 4-3-11

    Historian Manning Marable Dies at 60, Release of his “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention”

    HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

    History Buzz

    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.

    HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

    IN FOCUS:

    Manning Marable: On Eve of Redefining Malcolm X, Biographer Dies

    Source: NYT,4-1-11

    For two decades, the Columbia University professor Manning Marable focused on the task he considered his life’s work: redefining the legacy of Malcolm X. Last fall he completed “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” a 594-page biography described by the few scholars who have seen it as full of new and startling information and insights.
    The book is scheduled to be published on Monday, and Mr. Marable had been looking forward to leading a vigorous public discussion of his ideas. But on Friday Mr. Marable, 60, died in a hospital in New York as a result of medical problems he thought he had overcome. Officials at Viking, which is publishing the book, said he was able to look at it before he died. But as his health wavered, they were scrambling to delay interviews, including an appearance on the “Today” show in which his findings would have finally been aired.
    The book challenges both popular and scholarly portrayals of Malcolm X, the black nationalist leader, describing a man often subject to doubts about theology, politics and other matters, quite different from the figure of unswerving moral certitude that became an enduring symbol of African-American pride…

    Malcolm X biographer Manning Marable has died

    Source: LAT, 4-1-11

    Manning Marable, whose long-awaited biography of Malcolm X, “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” will Malcolmx_alifeofreinventionbe published on Monday, died Friday. He was 60 years old.

    Marable, who had led African American studies at Columbia University, was a professor there with many titles. Officially, he was the M. Moran Weston and Black Alumni Council Professor of African-American Studies and professor of history and public affairs at Columbia University. Columbia also notes that he was founding director of African American studies at Columbia from 1993 to 2003 and since 2002, he directed Columbia’s Center for Contemporary Black History.

    As far back as 2005, Marable was talking about “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.” In February of that year, on Malcolm X’s birthday, he told Democracy Now about the materials that he had seen that others had not, including three “missing” chapters from Malcolm’s autobiography that he said show the leader in a very different light.

    Back then, Marable had already been at work on the biography for a decade — meaning that he’d spent more than 15 years on the book and died just three days before its publication.

    A Life of Reinvention” by Manning Marable will be published by Viking on Monday.

    Manning Marable book revisits assassination of Malcolm X, names alleged triggerman

    Source: WaPo, 4-3-11

     

    Associated Press/ – Malcolm X speaks to reporters in Washington in 1963.

    Forty-six years after Malcolm X predicted his own assassination, the question of who pulled the trigger remains unanswered among many scholars who study his life. A book out Monday resurrects the long-standing mystery and suggests that some of those responsible for the activist minister’s death have never been prosecuted.
    The exhaustive biography by historian Manning Marable, who died Friday after a long illness, offers a theory about Malcolm X’s assassination and tells a fuller story of the man who at various points was a street hustler, a minister who preached racial separatism and a civil rights icon…READ MORE

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