Political Musings October 27, 2014: Why are Ebola health care workers purposely trying to spread the disease in US?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Why are Ebola health care workers purposely trying to spread the disease in US?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The first case of Ebola in New York was made official on Thursday Oct. 23, 2014, with the positive test of a Doctors Without Borders doctor Craig Spencer, 33 who had just returned from Guinea a week before. His diagnosis…READ MORE
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Political Headlines January 15, 2013: New York Passes Major Gun Control Laws; First Since Newtown Shooting

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

New York Passes Major Gun Control Laws; First Since Newtown Shooting

Taylor Hill/Getty Images

New York Govenor Andrew Cuomo has signed the first gun-control measures to be enacted since the rampage killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

Lawmakers have expanded the state’s ban on assault-style weapons, restricted the capacity of magazines and required mental health counselors to speak up when they believe their patients may do harm.

“This is a gun control bill, if you will, that actually exercises common sense,” Cuomo said. “The first point is people who are mentally ill should not have access to guns.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines January 4, 2013: House, Senate Approve $9.7 Billion for Sandy Flood Victims

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House, Senate Approve $9.7 Billion for Sandy Flood Victims

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-4-13

Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than two months after superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast, Congress on Friday approved $9.7 billion for FEMA flood insurance programs to be distributed to businesses and residents inundated by the storm.

The House of Representatives vote passed 354 to 67, with all opposition coming from Republicans.  The Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent. The bill grants the National Flood Insurance Program additional borrowing authority to process 115,000 pending insurance claims.

The Senate passed a $60.4 billion bill which would provide aid for victims of Sandy last year. That bill, which matched the White House’s emergency supplemental request, expired after the House refused to consider the legislation before the 112th session of Congress ended this week….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 2, 2013: Gov. Chris Christie Finds Speaker John Boehner’s Actions ‘Disgusting’ for Adjourning the House before Vote on Sandy Relief

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Sandy Relief: Christie Finds Boehner’s Actions ‘Disgusting’

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-2-13

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday that it was “disgusting” that the House adjourned without voting on a $60 billion relief package for the victims of superstorm Sandy and put the blame squarely on a fellow Republican — House Speaker John Boehner.

Christie, who is considered a possible Republican presidential candidate four years from now, said there was “only one group to blame, the Republican Party and Speaker Boehner.”

The blunt talking New Jersey governor joined a chorus of Republicans from New York and New Jersey fuming over Boehner’s decision to pull the bill at the last minute….READ MORE

Political Headlines January 2, 2013: Governors Chris Christie, Andrew Cuomo & Lawmakers from New York & New Jersey Furious over Failure to Allocate ‘Sandy’ Funds

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Lawmakers Furious over Failure to Allocate ‘Sandy’ Funds

Source: ABC News Radio, 1-2-13

ABC News

Republican lawmakers from New York and New Jersey whose storm-ravaged residents are desperate for federal aid are fuming at their party’s leaders for refusing to hold a vote on a $60 billion disaster relief package, despite promises that help was on the way….

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, called it a “dereliction of duty” in a joint statement with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.

“This failure to come to the aid of Americans following a severe and devastating natural disaster is unprecedented,” the governors said….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 8, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech Hands Congress Economic ‘To Do’ List — Remarks on the Economy at the State University of New York, Albany, NY

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama is calling on Congress to take action that will create jobs and ensure middle class security.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the economy

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S CONGRESS ‘TO DO’ LIST

  • Obama Hands Congress Economic ‘To Do’ List: With a polarized Congress already on the defensive, President Obama on Tuesday will outline a five-point “to do” list for lawmakers that packages job creation and mortgage relief ideas he has proposed before, administration officials say…. – NYT, 5-8-12
  • In latest jab, Obama offers Congress a ‘to-do’ list: Taking another jab at his favorite punching bag, President Obama on Tuesday offered Congress a “to-do” list for the year, drawing attention and gently mocking lawmakers in the unpopular and gridlocked Congress…. – LAT, 5-8-12
  • Obama to give ‘to do list’ to Congress: President Obama plans to give Congress a “To Do List” today that he says will create jobs and “help restore middle class security,” the White House said. “These initiatives have bipartisan support and at this make-or-break… – USA Today, 5-8-12

President Obama’s To-Do List for Congress: Reward American Jobs, Not Outsourcing

Source: WH, 5-8-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the economy at the State University of New York, in Albany

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the economy at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s Albany NanoTech Complex at the State University of New York, in Albany, N.Y., May 8, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Today, Republicans in Congress voted to block President Obama’s proposal to keep student loan interest rates from doubling. If Congress doesn’t act by July 1, more than 7 million students around the country will rack up an average of $1,000 of extra debt. The President has visited colleges in Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina to speak with students about this important issue, and he will continue to put pressure on Congress to work together and keep student loan interest rates low.

It’s time for Congress to take action on other common sense initiatives as well. This afternoon, President Obama called on Congress to move forward with a “To-Do List” that will create jobs and help restore middle class security. The President traveled to the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s NanoTech Complex in Albany, New York, where he described a list of initiatives that have bipartisan support and will help create an economy built to last.

The first item on the To-Do List will help spur American manufacturing, an industry that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s, including many in upstate New York. But Congress can take action now to help create more jobs for American workers, President Obama said:

At the moment, companies get tax breaks for moving factories, jobs and profits overseas.  They can actually end up saving on their tax bill when they make the move.  Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay here are getting hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.  That doesn’t make sense.

…before we completely rework the tax code, before we’ve done a full-blown tax reform, at the very least what we can do right away is stop rewarding companies who ship jobs overseas and use that money to cover moving expenses for companies that are moving jobs back here to America.  So we’re putting that on Congress’s “To-Do” list.

The proposals that the President highlighted today are important steps that Congress can take right now to create jobs. It’s time for Congress to act. Check out the full to-do list, then join the conversation and make your voice heard with the hashtag #CongressToDoList.

  1. Reward American Jobs, Eliminate Tax Incentives To Ship Jobs Overseas: Congress needs to attract and keep good jobs in the United State sby passing legislation that gives companies a new 20 percent tax credit for the cost of moving their operations back to the U.S. Congress should pay for this credit by eliminating tax incentives that allow companies to deduct the costs of moving their business abroad.
  2. Cut Red Tape So Responsible Homeowners Can Refinance: Congress needs to pass legislation to cut red tape in the mortgage market so that responsible families who have been paying their mortgages on time can feel secure in their home by refinancing at today’s lower rates.
  3. Invest in a New Hire Tax Credit for Small Businesses: Congress needs to invest in small businesses and jumpstart new hiring by passing legislation that gives a 10 percent income tax credit for firms that create new jobs or increase wages in 2012 and that extends 100 percent expensing in 2012 for all businesses.
  4. Create Jobs By Investing In Affordable Clean Energy: Congress needs to help put America in control of its energy future by extending the Production Tax Credit to support American jobs and manufacturing and expanding the 30 percent tax credit to investments in clean energy manufacturing (48C Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit).
  5. Put Returning Veterans to Work Using Skills Developed in the Military: Congress needs to honor our commitment to returning veterans by creating a Veterans Job Corps to help Afghanistan and Iraq veterans get jobs as cops, firefighters, and serving their communities.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President, Albany, NY

College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering
State University of New York
Albany, New York

1:24 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, New York!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  Everybody, please have a seat.  It is great to be back in Albany.  It is wonderful to be with all of you here today.

And I want to thank Governor Cuomo not only for the outstanding introduction, but also for the extraordinary leadership that he’s showing here in the great state of New York. Please give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  He is doing outstanding work.

I also want to thank Mayor Jennings, who’s here.  Give the Mayor a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Don’t be shy.  We’ve got Chancellor Zimpher — (applause) — we appreciate very much. Dr. Kaloyeros — I want to make sure I say that right, folks mess up my name all the time — (laughter) — Kaloyeros for hosting us here today.  (Applause.)  We’ve got a couple members of Congress here — Paul Tonko.  (Applause.)  And also, Representative Chris Gibson is here.  (Applause.)

And all of you are, and I’m happy about that.  (Applause.)  Yes.  So it is wonderful to be here at the University of Albany NanoCollege.  This is one of the only colleges in the world dedicated to nanotechnology.  And it’s a incredible complex.  But you’re working on particles as small as an atom, and you’re doing it in rooms that are 10,000 times cleaner than a hospital operating room –- which is very impressive, since “clean” is not usually a word I associate with college students.  (Laughter.)  Maybe things have changed since I was in school.

Now, the reason I came here today is because this school — bless you — and this community represents the future of our economy.  Right now, some of the most advanced manufacturing work in America is being done right here in upstate New York.  Cutting-edge businesses from all over the world are deciding to build here and hire here.  And you’ve got schools like this one that are training workers with the exact skills that those businesses are looking for.

Now, we know the true engine of job creation in this country is the private sector — it’s not Washington.  But there are steps we can take as a nation to make it easier for companies to grow and to hire, to create platforms of success for them — everything from giving more people the chance to get the right training and education to supporting new research projects into science and technology.  In fact, there was a substantial investment made here — I was talking to Governor Cuomo about the investment his father made here to help get this center started.

There are things we can do to make sure that if you’re willing to work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can find a job, own a home, maybe start a business, and most importantly, give your kids a chance to do even better than you did.  And that’s something we believe has to be available to everybody, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like.  We can make a difference.  And at this make-or-break moment for America’s middle class, there’s no excuse for inaction.  There’s no excuse for dragging our feet.  None.

Now, over the last few years, there are certain steps that I’ve been able to take on my own to help spur the kind of innovation that we’re seeing here, and also to help the overall economy grow.  So we announced a new policy several months back that will help families refinance their mortgages, save up to thousands of dollars a year.  We sped up loans and competitive grants for new projects all across the country so thousands of construction workers can get back on the job.  We simplified the student loan process to help roughly 5.8 million students — like the students here — save money on repayments.  (Applause.)

So these are some steps that the administration has been able to take on its own.  But the truth is, the only way we can accelerate the job creation that takes place on a scale that is needed is bold action from Congress.

Because of the Recovery Act, because of all the work we’ve done, we’ve created over 4 million jobs over the last two years. We’ve created hundreds of thousands of jobs each month over the last several months.  So we’re making progress, but everybody knows we need to do more.  And in order to do that, we’re going to need some more action from Congress.  Democrats and Republicans have to come together.  And they’ve shown that they can do it.  I mean, they did some important work.  They passed tax cuts for workers, approved trade deals to open up new markets for American products.  We reformed our patent system to make it easier for innovative ideas to come to market.  Those are all good things.  But the size of the challenges we face requires us to do more.

So back last September, I sent Congress a jobs bill that included all sorts of policies that we knew would help grow our economy and put more Americans back to work.  That wasn’t just my opinion, that wasn’t just the opinion of Democrats.  It was the opinion of independent, nonpartisan experts — economists who do this for a living, and analysts on Wall Street who evaluate what’s going to really make the economy grow.  The one big piece that we were able to get done was make sure that we didn’t see payroll tax go up and people get 40 bucks taken out of their paychecks each time.

But most of it didn’t get done in Congress.  Just about every time we put these policies up for a vote, the Republicans in Congress got together and they said no.  They said no to putting hundreds of thousands of construction workers back on the job repairing our roads and our bridges and our schools and our transit systems.  No to a new tax cut for businesses that hire new workers.  No to putting more teachers back in our classrooms, more cops back on the beat, more firefighters back to work.  And this is at a time when we know one of the biggest drags on our economy has been layoffs by state and local governments — that’s true all across the country.

And it’s worth noting, by the way — this is just a little aside — after there was a recession under Ronald Reagan, government employment went way up.  It went up after the recessions under the first George Bush and the second George Bush.  So each time there was a recession with a Republican President, compensated — we compensated by making sure that government didn’t see a drastic reduction in employment.

The only time government employment has gone down during a recession has been under me.  (Applause.)  So I make that point just so you don’t buy into this whole bloated government argument that you hear.  And frankly, if Congress had said yes to helping states put teachers back to work and put the economy before our politics, then tens of thousands more teachers in New York would have a job right now.  That is a fact.  And that would mean not only a lower unemployment rate, but also more customers for business.

Now, I know this is an election year.  But it’s not an excuse for inaction.  Six months is plenty of time for Democrats and Republicans to get together and do the right thing, taking steps that will spur additional job creation right now.  Just saying no to ideas that we know will help our economy isn’t an option.  There’s too much at stake.  We’ve all got to pull in the same direction.

So even if Republicans are still saying no to some of the bigger proposals we made in the jobs act, there are some additional ideas that could help people get to work right now and that they haven’t said no to yet — so I’m hoping they say yes.  And they’re simple ideas.  They’re the kinds of things that, in the past, have been supported by Democrats and Republicans.  These are traditionally ideas that have had bipartisan support.  They won’t have as big of an impact as rebuilding our infrastructure or helping states hire back teachers, but together, all of these ideas will do two things:  They’ll grow the economy faster and they’ll create more jobs.

So today I’m announcing a handy little “To-Do” list that we’ve put together for Congress.  (Laughter.)  You can see it for yourselves at whitehouse.gov.  It’s about the size of a Post-It note, so every member of Congress should have time to read it — (laughter) — and they can glance at it every so often.  And hopefully we’ll just be checking off the list — just like when Michelle gives me a list, I check it off.  (Laughter.)  Each of the ideas on this list will help accelerate our economy and put people back to work — not in November, not in next year, but right now.

All right, so I’m going to go through the list.  First, Congress needs to help the millions of Americans who have worked hard, made their mortgage payments on time, but still have been unable to refinance their mortgages with these historically low rates.  This would make a huge difference for the economy.  (Applause.)

Families could save thousands of dollars, and that means they’ve got more money in their pocket, which means they can either build their equity back up on their homes or they go out and use that money to do things like helping their kids finance a college education.  So Congress should give those responsible homeowners a chance to refinance at a lower rate.  We estimate they’d save at least $3,000 a year.  So that’s on our “To-Do” list.  It’s not complicated.  (Applause.)

Second, if Congress fails to act soon, clean energy companies will see their taxes go up and they could be forced to lay off employees.  In fact, we’re already hearing from folks who produce wind turbines and solar panels and a lot of this green energy that they’re getting worried because there’s uncertainty out there.  Congress hasn’t renewed some of the tax breaks that are so important to this industry.  And since I know that the other side in Congress have promised they’ll never raise taxes as long as they live, this is a good time to keep that promise when it comes to businesses that are putting Americans to work and helping break our dependence on foreign oil.  (Applause.)  So we should extend these tax credits.  That’s on the “To-Do” list. That’s number two.

Number three, Congress should help small business owners by giving them a tax break for hiring more workers and paying them higher wages.  (Applause.)  We believe small businesses are the engine of economic growth in this country.  We should not hold them to a situation where they may end up having to pay higher taxes just by hiring more workers.  We should make it easier for them to succeed.  So that’s on our “To-Do” list.  That’s number three.

Number four, Congress should help our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan find a good job once they come home.  (Applause.)  Our men and women in uniform have served this country with such honor and distinction — a lot of them come from upstate New York.  Now it’s our turn to serve them.  So we should create a Veterans Job Corps that helps them find work as cops and firefighters, employees at our national parks.  That’s on our “To-Do” list.

Then the last item, the fifth item, which bears especially on what’s going on here — the last item on our congressional “To-Do” list is something that will help a lot of you in particular.  You know better than anybody that technology has advanced by leaps and bounds over the last few decades.  And that’s a great thing.  Businesses are more productive; consumers are getting better products for less.  But technology has also made a lot of jobs obsolete.  Factories where people once thought they’d retire suddenly left town.  Jobs that provided a decent living got shipped overseas.  And the result has been a lot of pain for a lot of communities and a lot of families.

There is a silver lining to all of this, though.  After years of undercutting the competition, now it’s getting more expensive to do business in places like China.  Wages are going up.  Shipping costs are going up.  And meanwhile, American workers are getting more and more efficient.  Companies located here are becoming more and more competitive.  So for a lot of businesses, it’s now starting to make sense to bring jobs back home.  (Applause.)

And here in the tri-city area, you’ve got companies like IBM and Global Foundries that could have decided to pack up and move elsewhere, but they chose to stay in upstate New York because it made more sense to build here and to hire here.  You have more to offer — got some of the best workers in the world, you’ve got an outstanding university.

Now I want what’s happening in Albany to happen all across the country — places like Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh. (Applause.)  I want to create more opportunities for hardworking Americans to start making things again, and selling them all over the world stamped with those proud words:  Made in America.  That’s the goal.  (Applause.)

So the good news is we’re already starting to see it happen. American manufacturers are creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s.  And that’s good for you, but it’s also good for the businesses that supply the materials you use.  It’s good for the construction workers who build the facilities you work in.  It’s good for communities where people are buying more houses and spending more money at restaurants and stores.  Everybody benefits when manufacturing is going strong.

So you’ve heard about outsourcing.  Today, more and more companies are insourcing.  One recent study found that half of America’s largest companies are thinking of moving their manufacturing operations from China back to the United States of America.  (Applause.)  That’s good news.  Because even when we can’t make things cheaper than other countries because of their wage rates, we can always make them better.  That’s who we are.  That’s what America is all about.  (Applause.)

So this brings me back to our “To-Do” list.  What we need to do now is to make it easier for more companies to do the right thing, and one place to start is our tax code.  At the moment, companies get tax breaks for moving factories, jobs and profits overseas.  They can actually end up saving on their tax bill when they make the move.  Meanwhile, companies that choose to stay here are getting hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world.  That doesn’t make sense.

And politicians from both parties have been talking about changing it for years, so I’ve put forward my own plan to make it right in the long term.  But in the short term, before we completely rework the tax code, before we’ve done a full-blown tax reform, at the very least what we can do right away is stop rewarding companies who ship jobs overseas and use that money to cover moving expenses for companies that are moving jobs back here to America.  (Applause.)  So we’re putting that on Congress’s “To-Do” list.  This is something simple to do.  We shouldn’t wait.  We should get it done right now.

So that’s the fifth item.  That’s all on our “To-Do” list.  I’m not trying to overload Congress here.  (Laughter.)

So over the next few weeks, I’m going to be taking about this “To-Do” list when I’m on the road.  I’m going to be talking about all the things that Congress can do right now to boost our economy and accelerate even more job growth.  Of course, it’s not enough just to give them the list — we’ve also got to get them to start crossing things off the list.  And that’s where all of you come in.

I’m going to need you to pick up the phone, write an email, tweet, remind your member of Congress we can’t afford to wait until November to get things done.  Tell them now is the time to help more Americans save money on their mortgages; time for us to invest more in clean energy and small businesses; it’s time for us to help more veterans find work; and it’s time to make it easier for companies to bring jobs back to America.  It’s the right thing to do.

Now, I’m cheating a little bit.  I said that was my “To-Do” list.  There actually is one other thing they’ve got to do.  Before they do anything else, Congress needs to keep student loan rates from doubling for students who are here and all across the country.  (Applause.)  That has to happen by January 1st [sic] or rates on Stafford loans double.  These young people are nodding their heads — they don’t like that.  They’ve heard about this.  (Laughter.)

And we need to pass a transportation bill that guarantees almost a million construction workers can stay on the job.  (Applause.)  The good news is both parties say they want to make this happen.  We’ve done this before.  So Congress just needs to work out the details.  Don’t let politics get in the way.  Get this done before July 1st.  Those bills should be passed right now.

So I’m cheating a little bit.  There are actually seven items on the “To-Do” list.  (Laughter.)  But two of them are old business and folks have already said they want to get them done.

Albany, we’ve got a long way to go if we’re going to make sure everybody who wants a job can find one, and every family can feel that sense of security that was the essence of America’s middle-class experience.  But we can’t just go back to the way things used to be.  We’ve got to move forward — to an economy where everybody gets a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, everybody plays by the same set of rules.

And that’s what you guys are doing here in Albany.  You’re investing in your future.  You’re not going backwards, you’re going forward.  With your help, I know we can get there — because here in America, we don’t give up.  We keep moving.  We look out for one another.  We pull each other up.  That’s who we are.  And if we work together with common purpose, I’ve got no doubt we can keep moving this country forward and remind the world just why it is the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

Thank you so much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
1:44 P.M. EDT

Political Highlights: May 24, 2010: Obama Doctrine, New National Security Plan – Super Primaries Day Roundup

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • The Obama effect — Are you with him or against him?: Halfway through the 2010 primary season, the fundamental tension in the American political system is becoming more clear: A liberal government is struggling to impose its agenda on an electorate increasingly responsive to an activist conservative movement operating inside the Republican Party…. – WaPo, 5-21-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • White House: Justice Dept. has been to Gulf spill: The White House says the Justice Department has been gathering information about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Press secretary Robert Gibbs isn’t saying whether the department has opened a criminal investigation. He would only tell CBS’ “Face the Nation” that department representatives have been to the Gulf as part of the response to the BP oil leak…. – AP, 5-24-10
  • Obama seeks to force votes on spending cuts: President Barack Obama on Monday is sending legislation to Congress that would allow him to force lawmakers to vote on cutting wasteful programs from spending bills. The legislation would award Obama and his successors the ability to take two months or more to scrutinize spending bills that have already been signed into law for pet projects and other dubious programs. He could then send Congress a package of spending cuts for a mandatory up-or-down vote on whether to accept or reject them. Senate Democrats killed the idea just three years ago, and so Obama’s move would seem like a long shot. But the plan could pick up traction in the current anti-Washington political environment in which lawmakers are desperate to demonstrate they are tough on spending…. – AP, 5-23-10
  • Obama Outlines National Security Strategy: President Obama outlined a new national security strategy rooted in diplomatic engagement and international alliances on Saturday as he repudiated his predecessor’s emphasis on unilateral American power and the right to wage preemptive war. Eight years after President George W. Bush came to the United States Military Academy to set a new course for American security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Obama used the same setting to offer a revised doctrine, one that vowed no retreat against American enemies while seeking “national renewal and global leadership.” “Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system,” the president told graduating cadets. “But America has not succeeded by stepping outside the currents of international cooperation. We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice – so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities, and face consequences when they don’t.” Mr. Obama said the United States “will be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well” while also trying to “build new partnerships and shape stronger international standards and institutions.” He added: “This engagement is not an end in itself. The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times.” – NYT, 5-22-10
  • Results of Kandahar offensive may affect future U.S. moves: The Obama administration’s campaign to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan’s second-largest city is a go-for-broke move that even its authors are unsure will succeed. The bet is that the Kandahar operation, backed by thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars, will break the mystique and morale of the insurgents, turn the tide of the war and validate the administration’s Afghanistan strategy. There is no Plan B…. – WaPo, 5-22-10
  • Clinton says North Korean attack on ship will not go ‘unanswered’: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned North Korea on Friday for a deadly attack on a South Korean warship and vowed that it would not go “unanswered,” but senior U.S. officials stressed that neither side on the Korean Peninsula seems to be heading toward war….
    In a blunt statement after meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada, Clinton said the United States “strongly condemns” the North Korean attack and that both countries would seek an international response. “Let me be clear,” Clinton said in her first public comments since South Korea released a report on Thursday formally blaming the North for the torpedo strike. “This will not be and cannot be business as usual.”… – WaPo, 5-22-10
  • As financial overhaul takes shape, it’s crunch time for lobbyists: Few differences exist between the Senate and House bills, leaving little time to push for changes. Obama says his administration will keep the rules tough… – LAT, 5-21-10
  • Pentagon’s Clapper may lead intelligence agencies: The Pentagon’s top intelligence official emerged as the leading choice Friday for what’s fast becoming known as one of the most thankless jobs in Washington — director of national intelligence. The position has a great title, but the office has just claimed its third victim. James R. Clapper, now the defense undersecretary for intelligence, is the White House’s leading candidate to replace retired Adm. Dennis Blair, who is resigning, two current U.S. officials and one former military official say. Another candidate is Mike Vickers, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for special operations, officials say, but a Defense Department official says he has not been contacted for an interview. With three previous intelligence directors all saying the same thing — the job description itself is flawed — who would want it?… – AP, 5-21-10
  • Senate Passes Finance Bill Biggest Regulatory Overhaul of Wall Street Since Depression Moves Closer to Law: The Senate on Thursday approved the most extensive overhaul of financial-sector regulation since the 1930s, hoping to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis that hit the U.S. economy starting in 2007. The legislation passed the Senate 59 to 39 and must now be reconciled with a similar bill passed by the House of Representatives in December, before it can be sent to President Barack Obama to be signed into law. The controversial measure, supported by the Obama administration, sets up new regulatory bodies and restricts the actions of banks and other financial firms. It is designed to try to make order of the cascading regulatory chaos that ensued in 2008 when mammoth banks and some unregulated financial firms collapsed, and public funds were used to save them…. – WSJ, 5-21-10
  • Senate Passes Massive Financial Regulation Bill: In its broad sweep, the massive bill would touch Wall Street CEOs and first-time homebuyers, high-flying traders and small town lenders…. – AP, 5-20
  • National intelligence director resigning: National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair is resigning under pressure from the White House, ending a tumultuous 16-month tenure marked by intelligence failures and spy agency turf wars. Blair, a retired Navy admiral, is the third director of national intelligence, a position created in response to public outrage over the failure to prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. His departure underscores the disorganization inside the Obama administration’s intelligence apparatus, rocked over the past six months by a spate of high-profile attempted terror attacks that revealed new national security lapses. And it comes two days after a stark Senate report criticized Blair’s office and other intelligence agencies for new failings that, despite a top-to-bottom overhaul of the U.S. intelligence apparatus after 9/11, allowed a would-be bomber to board a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day. In a message Thursday to his work force, Blair said his last day would be May 28…. – AP, 5-21-10
  • Oil spill scrutiny turns to Obama administration: Last week, it was oil executives who faced the wrath of lawmakers eager to find blame for the massive oil spill spreading in the Gulf of Mexico. On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other federal officials will come under questioning for what the government did — or did not do — to prevent the oil spill, and how they have responded since oil started streaming into the Gulf last month…. – AP, 5-18-10
  • Lincoln loses leverage on financial reform bill: Senator Blanche Lincoln, a key voice for financial reform, was forced on Tuesday into a Democratic runoff election in Arkansas and lost leverage for her plan to force big banks to spin off swaps desks. She was expected to be the vote-leader in the primary and possibly win the nomination outright. Instead, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter ran neck-and-neck with her in a race colored by anti-Washington sentiment. Her swap reform proposal would cost a handful of big U.S. banks billions of dollars in revenue. It is one of the final issues in a mammoth Wall Street reform bill pending in the Senate. The swaps-desk language was a hallmark of Lincoln-authored legislation to bring the $615 trillion market in over- the-counter derivatives under federal regulation. While Lincoln said her proposal would “ensure that banks get back to the business of banking,” there was broad opposition to the idea within the financial industry and among some Obama administration officials. Analysts said she probably would not prevail on the issue, even if she won the three-way Democratic primary. They expected efforts to strip the language would begin immediately after the primary. One alternative would be the so-called Volcker language to restrict derivatives trading by banks…. – Reuters, 5-19-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Cuomo joins race in first As governor, the Democrat pledges he’d put an end to “national disgrace” of state government in Albany and to usher in a new era of reform: Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced his candidacy for governor on Saturday, slamming Albany corruption and promising to build a coalition to help him drive priorities ranging from freezing public employee salaries to support for a constitutional convention to bring about change.
    Cuomo enters the race as an overwhelming front-runner with no Democratic challengers, Republicans in disarray and a hefty campaign account of at least $16 million.
    In a polished speech rehearsed privately before groups all year, Cuomo launched a gubernatorial effort in which he will be campaigning all summer while three Republicans seeking to oppose him try to knock each other out in a primary battle.
    The announcement came first with a 21-minute online video as slick as a Madison Avenue presentation. He later made his case for governor before the Tweed Courthouse in Manhattan, criticizing abuses of 19th-century Democratic leader William “Boss” Tweed, who was convicted of stealing from taxpayers during a scandalous reign.
    “Our state government in Albany is disreputable and discredited . . . a national disgrace,” Cuomo said. “The corruption in Albany could even make Boss Tweed blush.”… – Albany Times-Union, 5-22-10
  • Rand Paul and the Perils of Textbook Libertarianism: When Rand Paul, the victor in the Republican Senate primary last week in Kentucky, criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964, singling out the injustice of non-discriminatory practices it imposed on private businesses, the resulting furor delighted Democrats and unsettled Republicans. Mr. Paul hastened to state his abhorrence of racism and assert that had he served in the Senate in 1964, he would have voted for the measure. On the surface Mr. Paul’s contradictory statements might seem another instance of the trouble candidates get into when ideological consistency meets the demands of practical politics… – NYT, 5-22-10
  • GOP wins House seat in Obama’s home district: Republican Charles Djou (duh-JOO’) has won a Democratic-held House seat in Hawaii in the district where President Barack Obama grew up. The special election is the latest triumph for the GOP as it looks to take back control of Congress. Djou’s victory was also a blow to Obama and other Democrats who could not rally around a candidate and find away to win a congressional race that should have been a cakewalk. The seat had been held by a Democrat for nearly 20 years and is located in the district where Obama was born and spent most of his childhood. Djou received 67,274 votes, or 39.5 percent. He was followed by state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case — both Democrats…. – AP, 5-22-10
  • ZEV CHAFETS: The Limbaugh Victory: THERE are many theories for why very conservative Republicans seem to be doing so well lately, taking their party’s Senate nominations in Florida, Kentucky and Utah, and beating Democrats head-to-head in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. Some attribute this to a generalized anti-incumbent mood. Others say it reflects the tendency of parties in power to falter in midterm elections. Recently it has been fashionable to ascribe right-wing success to the Tea Party movement. But the most obvious explanation is the one that’s been conspicuously absent from the gusher of analysis. Republican success in 2010 can be boiled down to two words: Rush Limbaugh…. – NYT, 5-20-10
  • After Explaining a Provocative Remark, Paul Makes Another: Rand Paul, the newly nominated Republican candidate for Senate from Kentucky, touched off more controversy on Friday by calling the Obama administration “un-American” for taking a tough stance with BP over the company’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico…. “What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'” Mr. Paul said, referring to a remark by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar about the oil company. “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”… – NYT, 5-22-10
  • ‘Tea party’ candidate faces civil rights controversy: Rand Paul, winner of Kentucky’s Republican nomination for the Senate, is working to tamp down the controversy over his statements criticizing nondiscrimination laws… – LAT, 5-21-10
  • Obama endorsements don’t seem to help Democrats: Voters rejected one of President Barack Obama’s hand-picked candidates and forced another into a runoff, the latest sign that his political capital is slipping beneath a wave of anti-establishment anger. Sen. Arlen Specter became the fourth Democrat in seven months to lose a high-profile race despite the president’s active involvement, raising doubts about Obama’s ability to help fellow Democrats in this November’s elections. The first three candidates fell to Republicans. But Specter’s loss Tuesday to Rep. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania’s Democratic senatorial primary cast doubts on Obama’s influence and popularity even within his own party — and in a battleground state, no less. Of course, it’s possible that Democrats will fare better than expected this fall. And there’s only so much that any president can do to help other candidates, especially in a non-presidential election year…. – AP, 5-19-10
  • Blogging the Primaries: One incumbent, Senator Arlen Specter, lost in a tough primary against Representative Joe Sestak, who surged in the last few weeks. The outcome in Pennsylvania ended the five-term Senate career of Mr. Specter, who switched parties last year to avoid what he believed was a certain defeat as a Republican.
    Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas faced an uphill battle against the popular lieutenant governor, Bill Halter. Neither reached the 50-percentage threshold, so they’ll got to a runoff on June 8…. – NYT, 5-18-10
  • House Republicans: “We’ve Got a Lot of Work To Do”: “Mark Critz’s victory demonstrates that Democrats can win in a tough political environment,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman Brendan Daly. “The Republicans have been boasting that they can win 50 or even 100 House seats, yet they could not win a seat that independent analysts called a ‘must win’ for them in a district that John McCain won in 2008.”
    When the outcome was still unclear, House majority leader Steny Hoyer was not so sure. “If he wins will that mean the Democrats are going to sweep? I don’t think so,” Hoyer said yesterday. “These special elections are, you know, they are what they are.”
    Republican Whip Eric Cantor said this morning that he thinks Americans still want to vote for some kind of check and balance to Democrat’s power in Washington. “Obviously, I’m disappointed as a Republican that Tim Burns did not win the seat,” Cantor said in an interview for CBSNews.com’s “Washington Unplugged.” “What is pretty indicative was that the Democratic candidate refused to get anywhere near the policy agenda promoted by Speaker Pelosi and President Obama,” Cantor said. That said, Cantor acknowledged that “last night is evidence of the fact that we’ve got a lot of work to do.”… – CBS News, 5-19-10
  • Today’s Primaries Offer New Clues: It’s decision day for voters in Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Kentucky, where the outcome of Senate primary contests on Tuesday will deliver more clues to the puzzle that is the midterm election of 2010. Two Democratic senators, with combined Washington experience of nearly 50 years, will discover if they have assembled strong-enough coalitions to withstand an anti-incumbent surge or if their careers will effectively end. And an open Senate seat in Kentucky will help show whether Tea Party advocates can produce an electoral victory. The contests, taken together, offer the biggest trove of information so far this year about the mood of the electorate…. – NYT, 5-17-10
  • Primaries in 4 states, 1 House election: President Barack Obama is not on the ballot in this week’s primaries, nor is Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican Senate leader. But both have a stake in intensely competitive Senate races in three states, contests testing the strength of the tea party among Kentucky Republicans and the durability of incumbent Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas and Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. In a fourth race of national significance, Republican Tim Burns and Democrat Mark Critz battled to fill out the term of the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha in a congressional district in southwestern Pennsylvania. Both political parties reported spending roughly $1 million to sway the race, turning it into a laboratory for the fall campaign, when all 435 House seats will be on the ballot… – AP, 5-18-10
  • Obama’s Midterm Strategy: Blame the GOP: The only people more unpopular than Democrats are congressional Republicans, so President Obama is reminding us of what Republican rule was like….
    Two years later the president is tentatively unveiling the strategy he and fellow Democrats will pursue in this fall’s election season, and it has a heavy dose of … looking backward. It’s going to be as much about history as hope, and more about attacking Republicans than promoting his own vision. The goal is to give pause to independent voters eager to punish Obama for their economic insecurity by voting for GOP candidates. The message: we can’t return power to the very people who gave us the catastrophic Great Recession to begin with…. – Newsweek, 5-17-10
  • McCain shakes up campaign; Pa. Senate race tight: Sen. John McCain’s re-election bid lost its campaign manager and another veteran Republican official, part of a shake-up for the Arizona lawmaker locked in a tight primary race with radio host and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. The pair of GOP hands — who started before Hayworth entered the race — will instead work on the Republican National Committee’s effort in Arizona. Campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said neither Shiree Verdone nor Mike Hellon, a former Arizona GOP chairman, was fired. “Senator McCain is very grateful for all that Shiree and Mike have done to launch the re-election campaign and establish it on a firm footing and looks forward to working closely with them for victory in November,” Rogers said in a statement. AP, 5-17-10
  • Senate primaries today may give hint of voters’ mood: In Pennsylvania, Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican turned Democrat, is trying to hold off US Representative Joe Sestak for the party’s nomination. Sestak has spent much of the campaign painting Specter as a political opportunist for switching parties last year. In Kentucky, Rand Paul, who has strong backing from Tea Party activists, is seeking the Republican nomination in a race against Trey Grayson, the secretary of state. Grayson is backed by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader and Kentucky’s senior senator. In Arkansas, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter will try to oust the incumbent Democrat, Senator Blanche Lincoln, who has been criticized by her opponent for failing to support the health care overhaul legislation. A poll released yesterday shows the Pennsylvania race is too close to call, the latest of many tough election challenges for Specter, 80…. – Boston Globe, 5-18-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Weekly Address: President Obama Establishes Bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling:
    Names Former Two-Term Florida Governor and Former Senator Bob Graham and Former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency William K. Reilly as Commission Co-Chairs
    Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, May 22, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: One month ago this week, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off Louisiana’s coast, killing 11 people and rupturing an underwater pipe. The resulting oil spill has not only dealt an economic blow to Americans across the Gulf Coast, it also represents an environmental disaster. In response, we are drawing on America’s best minds and using the world’s best technology to stop the leak. We’ve deployed over 1,100 vessels, about 24,000 personnel, and more than 2 million total feet of boom to help contain it. And we’re doing all we can to assist struggling fishermen, and the small businesses and communities that depend on them….
    One of the reasons I ran for President was to put America on the path to energy independence, and I have not wavered from that commitment. To achieve that goal, we must pursue clean energy and energy efficiency, and we’ve taken significant steps to do so. And we must also pursue domestic sources of oil and gas. Because it represents 30 percent of our oil production, the Gulf of Mexico can play an important part in securing our energy future. But we can only pursue offshore oil drilling if we have assurances that a disaster like the BP oil spill will not happen again. This Commission will, I hope, help provide those assurances so we can continue to seek a secure energy future for the United States of America…. – WH, 5-22-10
  • At West Point, Obama offers new security strategy: …In a commencement speech to the graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the president outlined his departure from what Bush had called a “distinctly American internationalism.” Instead, Obama pledged to shape a new “international order” based on diplomacy and engagement.
    “Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system. But America has not succeeded by stepping outside the currents of international cooperation,” he said. “We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice — so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities, and face consequences when they don’t.”
    “The international order we seek is one that can resolve the challenges of our times,” he said in prepared remarks. “Countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating a changing climate and sustaining global growth; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; preventing conflict and healing its wounds.”
    And yet, as he calls for global cooperation, Obama has intensified the U.S. war in Afghanistan. And his administration has repeatedly confronted the dangers of Islamic terrorism on U.S. soil, including unsuccessful attempts to down a Detroit-bound airliner and explode a car bomb in New York’s Times Square…. – WaPo, 5-22-10
  • Obama Tells Ohio, ‘Our Economy Is Growing Again’: President Obama came Tuesday to this area long synonymous with economic distress to take a few strides on a victory lap for the policies he credits with helping create jobs and to knock Republicans for standing in the way. “Despite all the naysayers in Washington, who are always looking for the cloud in every silver lining, the fact is our economy is growing again,” Mr. Obama told an audience of several hundred workers in a cavernous — and expanding — pipe-making plant, citing four months of job growth…. “If the ‘just say no’ crowd had won out,” he said, “if we had done things the way they wanted to go, we’d be in a deeper world of hurt than we are right now.”… – NYT, 5-19-10
  • Citing Affair, Congressman Souder Resigns: Representative Mark Souder, a conservative Indiana Republican, said Tuesday that he was resigning as of Friday after having an extramarital affair with a staff member in his district office, as events continued to roil the midterm election landscape. “I sinned against God, my wife and my family by having a mutual relationship with a part-time member of my staff,” Mr. Souder said in a statement. “In the poisonous environment of Washington, D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain. I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process.” … – NYT, 5-18-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Thomas Schwartz: Up from the deep sea: a nightmare for Obama: Presidential historian Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University professor, said presidencies are often defined by the crises encountered. He said the oil spill could prove to be a defining crisis but he cautioned against comparing the leak to Katrina, for instance. “This one has been slowly developing and could have those qualities, but if BP were to suddenly get it capped, things could be defused very quickly. The air could go out of the balloon,” Schwartz said. Reuters, 5-27-10
  • The end of the Specter era: Something seems off-kilter in Philadelphia… After five decades as a towering figure in the public life of his city, state, and nation, Sen. Arlen Specter is in the strange position of counting the days until the likely end of his political career…. “He’s one of the most complicated people in public life today,” said Randall Miller, a political historian at St. Joseph’s University. “He defies easy characterization. For that matter, he defies political science. . . . He just doesn’t do what you expect him to do.”… – Philadelphia Inquirer, 5-19-10
  • Julian E. Zelizer Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton: Those kinds of comments are always a problem for Gingrich. The former speaker, an intelligent and sometimes highly effective politician, often can’t help himself in making these kind of statements. If Gingrich wants to make a run he has to demonstrate that he can be a disciplined leader. While he might want to appeal to the tea party movement, it is a mistake to adopt their rhetoric. That will alienate many suburban voters not win them over. Republicans are looking for a serious candidate who looks like someone with big ideas and who can govern. They don’t need someone who imitates Joe the Plumber. – Politico Arena, 5-21-10
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