Political Headlines February 1, 2013: John Kerry Sworn in as Secretary of State

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry Sworn in as Secretary of State

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-1-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Meet Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry, the longtime Democratic senator from Massachusetts, was sworn in Friday on Capitol Hill, succeeding Hillary Clinton.

“I was very honored to be sworn in and very anxious to get to work, so I will be reporting Monday morning at 9 o’clock,” Kerry told reporters, with his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, by his side.

Kerry was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan inside the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing room. He was surrounded by his wife, daughter Vanessa, brother Cam and staff for a private ceremony….READ MORE

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Political Buzz May 26, 2011: Supreme Court Rules 5-3 to Uphold Arizona Immigration Law — US Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting

POLITICAL 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.

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

John Roberts is pictured. | AP Photo

SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts: The law “expressly reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring unauthorized workers, through licensing and similar laws,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. “It uses the federal government’s own definition of ‘unauthorized alien,’ it relies solely on the federal government’s own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the federal government’s own system for checking…

  • Supreme Court backs Arizona immigration law: The Supreme Court today upheld an Arizona law penalizing companies that hire illegal immigrants, rejecting a challenge by business groups and civil liberties organizations, our court correspondent Joan Biskupic reports.
    U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released a statement supporting the ruling: “Not only is this law constitutional, it is common sense. American jobs should be preserved for Americans and legal workers.”
    The Associated Press reports that Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”
    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate because she worked on it while serving as President Obama’s solicitor general.
    The law permits the state to take away the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire illegal workers. It requires employers to use an otherwise optional federal verification program, known as the E-Verify system, which collects data on workers from the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.
    The ruling, by a 5-3 vote, comes off oral arguments presented in December. Reporting on those arguments, Biskupic had noted that the court “appeared poised … to uphold” the law.
    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Obama administration had opposed the law…. – USA Today, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law: The Supreme Court today backed an Arizona law that sanctions businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
    On a 5-3 vote, the court held that federal immigration law does not preempt Arizona from suspending or revoking the licenses of businesses that violate state immigration law.
    Chief Justice Roberts wrote the 27-page opinion, which can be found here. And here’s a report from WSJ.
    Then-Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the Arizona law in 2007, saying that while immigration is a federal responsibility, Arizona had been forced to deal with the issue because the demand for cheap, undocumented labor in the state was contributing to illegal immigration…. – WSJ, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court sustains Arizona employer sanctions law: The Supreme Court has sustained Arizona’s law that penalizes businesses for hiring workers who are in the United States illegally, rejecting arguments that states have no role in immigration matters.
    By a 5-3 vote, the court said Thursday that federal immigration law gives states the authority to impose sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers.
    The decision upholding the validity of the 2007 law comes as the state is appealing a ruling that blocked key components of a second, more controversial Arizona immigration enforcement law. Thursday’s decision applies only to business licenses and does not signal how the high court might rule if the other law comes before it.
    Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”
    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate in the case because she worked on it while serving as President Barack Obama’s solicitor general
    Breyer said the Arizona law upsets a balance in federal law between dissuading employers from hiring illegal workers and ensuring that people are not discriminated against because they may speak with an accent or look like they might be immigrants.
    Employers “will hesitate to hire those they fear will turn out to lack the right to work in the United States,” he said…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Justices Uphold Law Penalizing Hiring of Illegal Immigrants: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law that imposes harsh penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
    The 5-to-3 decision amounted to a green light for vigorous state efforts to combat the employment of illegal workers. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts on behalf of the court’s five more conservative members, noted that Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia had recently enacted laws similar to the one at issue in the case.
    The decision did not directly address a second, more recent Arizona law that in some circumstances requires police there to question people they stop about their immigration status. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked enforcement of that law in April, and the case may reach the Supreme Court soon.
    The challenge to the older Arizona law that was the subject of Thursday’s decision was brought by a coalition of business and civil liberties groups, with support from the Obama administration. They said the law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, conflicted with federal immigration policy.
    The decision turned mostly on the meaning of a provision of a 1986 federal law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which said that it overrode “any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ” unauthorized aliens…. – NYT, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court upholds Ariz. law punishing companies that hire illegal immigrants: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Arizona may revoke the business licenses of companies that knowingly employ illegal immigrants, rejecting arguments that the state’s law intrudes on the federal government’s power to control immigration.
    The court ruled 5 to 3 that Congress specifically allowed states such an option, and dismissed the objections of an unusual coalition that challenged the state law: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, civil rights groups, labor unions and the Obama administration.
    The 1986 federal Immigration Reform and Control Act generally preempts states from using employer sanctions to control immigration. But Arizona took advantage of a parenthetical clause in the statute — “other than through licensing and similar laws” — to go after companies that knowingly and intentionally hired undocumented workers.
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. agreed with the state’s reading of the federal law.
    “It makes little sense to preserve state authority to impose sanctions through licensing, but not allow states to revoke licenses when appropriate as one of those sanctions,” he wrote.
    Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. agreed with the outcome.
    The law at issue — the Legal Arizona Workers Act — is different from a more recent Arizona law that the Obama administration is battling in lower courts…. – WaPo, 5-26-11
  • SCOTUS upholds Arizona immigrant hiring law: The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to uphold Arizona’s law that penalizes companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
    In a 5-3 vote, the court concluded that federal immigration law doesn’t prevent the state from revoking the business licenses of companies that violate state law.
    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the court had come to its decision because “the state’s licensing provisions fall squarely within the federal statute’s savings clause and that the Arizona regulation does not otherwise conflict with federal law.”
    The Arizona law also requires employers to use the federal government’s web-based E-Verify system to determine whether potential employees are eligible to work within the United States. The court upheld this provision, saying it is “entirely consistent” with federal law…. – Politico, 5-26-11
  • US states can shut firms with illegals: Supreme Court: The US Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state has the right to revoke the license of a business that knowingly employs illegal immigrants, in a case watched for implications on related judicial battles.
    The top US court in a 5-3 decision upheld Arizona’s 2007 law, saying the state was within its rights under a 1986 federal immigration reform measure.
    The ruling comes amid a legal battle on another Arizona law that took effect last July and which makes it a crime to be in the state, which borders Mexico, without proper immigration papers.
    In Thursday’s decision, the court cited the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which preempts state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions other than through licensing and similar laws on firms that employ, recruit, or refer unauthorized aliens for employment.
    The law “expressly reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring unauthorized workers, through licensing and similar laws,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.
    “It uses the federal government’s own definition of ‘unauthorized alien,’ it relies solely on the federal government’s own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the federal government’s own system for checking employee status.”… – AFP, 5-26-11
  • ‘Business death penalty’ for hiring illegal workers is upheld by Supreme Court: The 5-3 decision gives states more authority to act against illegal immigrants. Justices rule that states can take away the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
    The Supreme Court on Thursday gave Arizona and other states more authority to take action against illegal immigrants and the companies that hire them, ruling that employers who knowingly hire illegal workers can lose their license to do business.
    The 5-3 decision upholds the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007 and its so-called business death penalty for employers who are caught repeatedly hiring illegal immigrants. The state law also requires employers to check the federal E-Verify system before hiring new workers, a provision that was also upheld Thursday.
    The court’s decision did not deal with the more controversial Arizona law passed last year that gave police more authority to stop and question those who are suspected of being in the state illegally. But the ruling is likely to encourage the state and its supporters because the court majority said states remained free to take action involving immigrants…. – LAT, 5-26-11

October 11, 2010: Obama Shuffles Cabinet, Talk of Obama-Hillary Ticket in 2012

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. Her blog is History Musings

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

President Obama with his Incoming and Outgoing Chiefs of Staff   following the Personel Announcement

President Barack Obama leaves the East Room of the White House after announcing that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, left, is leaving to return to Chicago and will be replaced on an interim basis by Senior Advisor Pete Rouse, right, October 1, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Poll: Half of voters disapprove of Obama’s job: Half of registered voters nationwide — 50 percent — disapprove of the job President Barack Obama is doing in In that September poll, the same proportion of the national electorate — 50 percent — disapproved of the president’s job performance while 45 percent approved. Five percent were unsure. “The battle lines are drawn for the midterm elections,” says Lee M. Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “President Obama’s approval rating is not a disaster, but it’s not high enough to be a battle cry for many of his fellow Democrats facing the 2010 electorate.” Poughkeepsie Journal, 10-8-10
  • Poll: Republicans remain revved up about Nov. 2 elections: Republicans enjoy a substantial “enthusiasm gap” in which their supporters are more likely to vote in this fall’s elections for control of Congress than Democratic voters, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
    The poll found that 51 percent of Republicans are very enthusiastic about voting, a large edge over the 32 percent of independents who are very enthusiastic and almost twice the 28 percent of Democrats. That large gap – a strong indicator that Republicans are more likely to vote – dominates the landscape despite claims by top Democrats that they’re slowly but surely getting their voters more excited and closing the gap…. – Miami Herald, 10-7-10
  • NEWSWEEK Poll: Anger Unlikely to Be Deciding Factor in Midterms: Self-described “angry voters” no more likely to vote; Democrats trusted more than GOP on key issues: Anger is dominating the current political conversation—especially if you’re an older, whiter, economically anxious voter who dislikes President Barack Obama and tends to prefer Republicans to Democrats. But according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll, there’s little reason to believe that anger alone will be the determining factor in November’s midterm elections.
    Self-described “angry” voters fit a rather predictable political and demographic profile. The survey found that only 14 percent are Democrats. The rest are either Republicans (52 percent) or independents (29 percent), with 42 percent of the angry voters declaring themselves Tea Party supporters. For the midterms, angry voters favor Republican candidates over their Democratic rivals, 73 percent to 19 percent. Three quarters want the GOP to win control of Congress. More than seven in 10 specifically describe themselves as angry with Obama and congressional Democrats, and a full 60 percent see their vote in November as a vote against the president. Compared with voters in general, angry voters are 21 percent more likely to say they’re worried about their economic future. They are 10 percent whiter than voters in general and 7 percent less likely to be under 30…. – Newsweek, 10-1-10
  • Bob Woodward Sheds Light on Possibility of Obama/Clinton 2012 Ticket: Longtime Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward made waves when he said late Tuesday that it was “on the table” for Barack Obama to run with Hillary Clinton instead of Joe Biden as a vice president in 2012. The possibility was actually first written in his book “Obama’s Wars.” “Some of Hillary Clinton’s advisers see it as a real possibility in 2012,” Woodward said on CNN yesterday. In an interview with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer on Wednesday, Woodward said the possibility should be taken “seriously, because it’s politics.” “In the book what I lay out when Hillary Clinton was under consideration for Secretary of State, Mark Penn, one of her former top advisers said ‘look, it’s a no-brainer, take the job.’” “‘In 2012, Obama might be in trouble. You represent voting blocks Obama did not during the primaries.’ She did very well with working class, women, Latinos and with seniors,” Woodward said. “Obama might need those groups if he’s in political trouble.” Penn stepped down as chief strategist of Clinton’s presidential campaign in April 2008, though remained involved with the campaign. Mr. Obama named Clinton as his nominee to be Secretary of State on December 1, 2008…. – CBS News, 10-6-10
  • Dumping Biden for Clinton: What Would That Accomplish?: One has to wonder what the White House was thinking when a report leaked that President Barack Obama is thinking about dropping Vice President Joe Biden from the ticket in 2012 and replacing him with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Even though David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s top White House political strategist, quickly shot down the report as “absolutely” without merit, that would be the case no matter what the truth of the matter. The initial report that the idea was on the table at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., came from the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, whose Watergate fame in the early 1970s and bevy of books since then demonstrate exquisite White House sources regardless of administration. Mr. Woodward being the reporter who got such a leak gave it credibility. Mr. Axelrod and Hillary Clinton’s aides can say whatever they want, but they are not going to be able to stop the talking. Anyone with a brain had to know that would be the case once Mr. Woodward brought rumors about a job swap with Mr. Biden becoming secretary of State and Ms. Clinton vice president into the public domain. And that raises two intriguing questions: Would the switch be a good idea for the president from either a political or a policy point of view?…. – WSJ, 10-6-10
  • THE HEADLINES….

    President Obama Greets Justice Elena Kagan and Chief Justice John   Roberts Before Justice Kagan's Investiture Ceremony

    President Barack Obama talks with Justice Elena Kagan and Chief Justice John Roberts before Kagan’s Investiture Ceremony at the Supreme Court, October 1, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    • White House staff exodus exposes Obama to charges of disarray More senior staff including defence secretary Robert Gates, and senior advisor David Axelrod, leave their jobs: More senior White House staff are to leave in the next few months, adding to the high exit rate from President Barack Obama’s administration. Political analysts attribute the attrition rate to exhaustion, but Republican opponents blame disarray inside the White House, with an insular team responsible for too many policy failures. The imminent departures include those of defence secretary Robert Gates, who has said he hopes to retire early next year, and Obama’s senior White House adviser, David Axelrod, who is planning a return to his home town of Chicago early next year to concentrate on planning for Obama’s 2012 re-election bid. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, has been mentioned in the past few weeks in connection with a range of jobs, including White House adviser or chairman of the Democratic national committee, which runs the party. This follows the departure of the national security adviser, General James Jones, after less than two years in office, as well as almost the entire economics team, of whom Peter Orszag and Christina Romer have already gone. Larry Summers is due to return to Harvard before the end of the year. The chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, left last month to stand for mayor of Chicago…. – Guardian, UK, 10-10-10
    • Obama Ratchets Up Tone Against G.O.P.: With his party facing losses in next month’s election, President Obama pressed his argument Sunday that the opposition is trying to steal the election with secret special-interest money, possibly including money from foreign companies. “Don’t let them hijack your agenda,” President Obama told supporters in Philadelphia at the second of four rallies planned. In a speech to a large rally here and in a new television advertisement, Mr. Obama and the Democrats escalated their efforts to present the Republicans as captive to moneyed interests. But Republicans and their allies fired back, dismissing the assertions as desperate last-minute allegations with no evidence to back them up. “You can’t let it happen,” Mr. Obama told thousands of supporters gathered at a school park in a predominantly African-American, working-class neighborhood in northern Philadelphia. “Don’t let them hijack your agenda. The American people deserve to know who’s trying to sway their elections, and you can’t stand by and let the special interests drown out the voices of the American people.”
      “You don’t know,” he said here. “It could be the oil industry, it could be the insurance industry, it could even be foreign-owned corporations. You don’t know because they don’t have to disclose. Now that’s not just a threat to Democrats, that’s a threat to our democracy.”… – NYT, 10-10-10
    • Obama, Biden Energize Voters at Philadelphia Rally: President Barack Obama, campaigning as if his name were on the ballot, implored voters in Philadelphia stump speech to use the three weeks left in the congressional election campaign to “stay fired up” and go to the polls to prevent a Republican landslide. The president relied on an oft-used speech as he addressed the crowd in the city’s Germantown community with the driving cadences that swept him into the White House two years ago.
      “I think the pundits are wrong. I think we’re going to win. But you’ve got to prove them wrong,” Obama said, jabbing his finger toward the audience. “They’re counting on you staying home. If that happens they win.”… – Fox News, 10-10-10
    • Obama: GOP plan to cut funding will hurt education: Offering voters a reason to keep Democrats in power on Capitol Hill, President Barack Obama says Republicans would cut education spending and put the country’s economic future at risk if they had their way. A quality education is paramount, Obama said. He suggested that federal spending on education is one area where he would not compromise. “What I’m not prepared to do is shortchange our children’s education,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address….
      In his weekly message, Obama acknowledged that the country faces tight fiscal times, but he said a good education is too important to the country’s future prosperity to do it on the cheap.
      “At a time when most of the new jobs being created will require some kind of higher education, when countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, giving our kids the best education is an economic imperative,” he said…. – AP, 10-9-10
    • Jones an awkward fit in Obama circle: The question about James L. Jones was never whether he would be among the first senior officials to depart the Obama administration. The question was always how soon. Jones was the obvious outsider in the White House he called “Obama Nation,” a rarified land populated by veterans of the rough-and-tumble 2008 presidential campaign. A generation older than the president and those immediately around him, Jones is a retired Marine general of stature and experience who believes in the hierarchy of command and the inherent wisdom of orderly decision making…. – WaPo, 10-9-10
    • Economy loses 95K jobs due to government layoffs: A wave of government layoffs in September outpaced weak hiring in the private sector, pushing down the nation’s payrolls by a net total of 95,000 jobs. The unemployment rate held at 9.6 percent last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The jobless rate has now topped 9.5 percent for 14 straight months, the longest stretch since the 1930s. The report is the final one before the November elections, which means members of Congress will face voters next month who are frustrated with an economy that is still struggling to create jobs. The figure that may matter most is 18,000 — the number of positions lost after subtracting the 77,000 temporary census jobs that ended in September. That marks the first loss for that grouping since last December, according to economists at Nomura Securities…. – 10-8-10
    • Analysis: Jobs report is bleak news for Democrats: The die is cast, and it’s grim news for the Democrats. There’s nothing now that Congress or President Barack Obama can do to before the November midterm elections to jolt the nation’s stagnant economy. Friday’s government report — the last major economic news before the midterm elections — showed the nation continued to lose jobs last month, reinforcing the bleak reality that it probably will be years — not months — before employment returns to pre-recession levels below 6 percent. That tightens the pressure on Democrats ahead of the Nov. 2 elections. And it also casts a dark shadow well into the 2012 election season and beyond. “We won’t see under 6 percent for five years,” David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor’s in New York, said Friday after the Labor Department reported that 95,000 more jobs were lost in September and the unemployment rate held at 9.6 percent. “It’s going to be a slow recovery.”…. – AP, 10-8-10
    • Obama economic trends on right track despite job losses: President Barack Obama said Friday economic trends were favorable despite a net loss of jobs in September, after officials released the last unemployment data before mid-term elections. Obama also attacked Republican policies which he said were hampering his capacity to ease the unemployment crisis, less than four weeks ahead of congressional polls in which his Democrats fear heavy losses.
      The president chose to highlight the fact that the economy had now produced “nine straight months of private sector jobs growth” but admitted “that news is tempered by a net job loss in September.”
      “The Republican position doesn’t make much sense, especially since the weakness in public sector employment is a drag on the private sector as well,” Obama said, after touring a small business in suburban Maryland. “The trendline in private sector jobs growth is moving in the right direction,” he said, but added he was not interested in trends or figures but the people behind them…. – AFP, 10-8-10
    • US sends $727 million to community health centers: The Obama administration on Friday announced $727 million will go to help fix up community health centers across the country, the first of $11 billion for the centers promised by the U.S. healthcare reform law. The money will go to 143 community health centers — which provide services regardless of patients’ ability to pay — in about 40 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico, the Health and Human Services department said…. – Reuters, 10-8-10
    • James Jones to step down as national security advisor: The retired Marine general will be replaced by his deputy, Tom Donilon, an administration official says. The move comes amid a larger turnover in the Obama White House…. – LAT, 10-8-10
    • Year After Obama Won Nobel, World Looks for Signs of Peace Increased Fighting in Afghanistan, Stalled Negotiations in Middle East: One year after the Nobel prize jury made its controversial decision to award President Obama the prize for world peace, a larger jury is still waiting for the president to live up to those lofty expectations. Even some of Obama’s allies — like former Nobel laureates Al Gore and Jimmy Carter — declined to assess his performance in fulfilling what the peace prize citation said was his “vision” of world harmony.
      The one year anniversary of Obama’s prize comes as fighting is escalating in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq continues to smolder and Obama struggles to keep fledgling Middle East peace talks from collapsing. Drones are firing missiles in unprecedened numbers and confrontations with Iran and North Korea are hotter than ever…. – ABC News, 10-8-10
    • Obama sends foreclosure docs bill back to Congress: President Barack Obama has rejected a bill that the White House fears could worsen the mounting problems caused by flawed or misleading documents used by banks in home foreclosures. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that Obama is sending a newly passed bill back to Congress to be fixed because the current version has “unintended consequences on consumer protections.” The bill would loosen the process for providing a notary’s seal to documents and allow them to be done electronically. Obama will not sign a bill that would allow foreclosure and other documents to be accepted among multiple states. Consumer advocates and state officials had argued the legislation would make it difficult for homeowners to challenge foreclosure documents prepared in other states…. – AP, 10-7-10
    • Christie Halts Train Tunnel, Citing Its Cost: The largest public transit project in the nation, a commuter train tunnel under the Hudson River to Manhattan, was halted on Thursday by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey because, he said, the state could not afford its share of the project’s rising cost. Gov. Chris Christie said that his state could not afford the rising cost of the multibillion-dollar project. Work had already started. Mr. Christie’s decision stunned other government officials and advocates of public transportation because work on the tunnel was under way and $3 billion of federal financing had already been arranged — more money than had been committed to any other transit project in America…. – NYT, 10-7-10
    • Spill Panel Finds U.S. Was Slow to React: The Obama administration was slow to ramp up its response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, then overreacted as public criticism turned the disaster into a political liability, the staff of a special commission investigating the disaster say in papers released Wednesday. In four papers issued by the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, commission investigators fault the administration for giving too much credence to initial estimates that just 1,000 barrels of oil a day were flowing from the ruptured BP PLC well, and for later allowing political concerns to drive decisions such as how to deploy people and material—such as oil-containing boom—to contain the spreading oil. “Though some of the command structure was put in place very quickly, in other respects the mobilization of resources to combat the spill seemed to lag,” the commission investigators found…. – WSJ, 10-6-10
    • U.S. ‘Supportive’ of Peace Talks as Afghans Meet Former Taliban in Kabul: The White House repeated U.S. support for Afghan peace talks with the Taliban as an aide to President Hamid Karzai met former leaders of the guerrilla movement. Education Minister Ghulam Farooq Wardak, a member of a peacemaking council appointed by Karzai, conferred in Kabul this week with ex-officials of the former Taliban regime, Afghanistan’s Pajhwok news agency reported. Pakistani politicians and Arab delegates joined the meeting in the capital, which focused on how best to build a settlement with the insurgency, said a former Taliban official who attended, and who asked not to be named. Karzai’s deputy spokesman, Siamak Herawy, confirmed the meeting, which took place at Kabul’s Serena Hotel, and declined to give details. The Afghan president today summoned his peace council for an inaugural formal meeting on the ninth anniversary of the start of a U.S. bombing campaign that helped force the Taliban from power and install Karzai’s government…. – Bloomberg, 10-6-10
    • Post-election ethics trials set for Rangel, Waters: Ethics trials for two prominent House Democrats were set Thursday for after the midterm elections, depriving Republicans of headlines that could become campaign ads. An angry Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the House ethics committee chairwoman, unilaterally announced the mid-to-late November proceedings for Charles Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of California. Lofgren, D-Calif., in a written statement, said the five Republicans on the 10-member committee blindsided her last week — when they publicly requested pre-election trials. Republicans made the request while Lofgren was flying from California to Washington. The disagreement has for the moment seriously damaged efforts to run the ethics committee without the partisan rancor evident in most House proceedings…. – AP, 10-7-10
    • Obama asks New Jersey donors for help: President Barack Obama asked wealthy donors Wednesday to help him close an “enthusiasm gap” with Republicans four weeks ahead of pivotal midterm elections. Speaking at a small dinner fundraiser, the president acknowledged that Democrats have a disadvantage because of the high unemployment rate, which he said would inevitably be blamed on the party in power. “Right now all the reports out there are that the main challenge we have is closing an enthusiasm gap between the Democrats and the Republicans,” the president said. “We’re not finished unless we lose sight of that long game and start sulking and sitting back and not doing everything we need to do in terms of making sure our folks turn out.”… – AP, 10-6-10
    • Obama awards Medal of Honor to Green Beret who died in Afghanistan: ‘America is forever in your debt,’ the president tells the parents of Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, an Illinois man credited with saving more than 20 U.S. and Afghan troops as he was dying. Full text: Obama awards Medal of Honor
      President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor on Wednesday to Army Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, who died in Afghanistan after exposing himself to enemy fire and saving the lives of more than 20 U.S. and Afghan troops. Obama presented the award — the nation’s highest military recognition — to Miller’s parents during a somber ceremony in the East Room of the White House. More than 100 of Miller’s friends and family attended the ceremony. “You gave your oldest son to America, and America is forever in your debt,” Obama told Miller’s parents, Phil and Maureen Miller. The 24-year-old Green Beret was raised in Wheaton, Ill., and “born to lead,” Obama said, noting that Miller earned two Army Commendation Medals during his first tour in Afghanistan.
      “It has been said that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point,” Obama said at the ceremony. “For Rob Miller, that testing point came three years ago, deep in a snowy Afghan valley.”… – LAT, 10-6-10
    • Rick Sanchez Tells Jon Stewart Sorry, Wife Says: Former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez apologized to “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart Monday, four days after the journalist called the comedian a bigot during a satellite radio interview, according to a post on the Facebook page for Sanchez’s wife (account required). Suzanne Sanchez wrote that her husband was “caught up in the banter and deeply apologizes to anyone who was offended by his unintended comments.” “they had a good talk,” Suzanne Sanchez wrote. “jon was gracious and called rick, ‘thin-skinned.’ he’s right. rick feels horrible that in an effort to make a broader point about the media, his exhaustion from working 14 hr days for 2 mo. straight, caused him to mangle his thought process inartfully.”…. – CBS News, 10-5-10
    • New high court era: Kagan makes 3 women on bench: The Supreme Court began a new era Monday with three women serving together for the first time, Elena Kagan taking her place at the end of the bench and quickly joining in the give-and-take. In a scene that will repeat itself over the next few months, Kagan left the courtroom while the other justices remained to hear a case in which she will take no part. She has taken herself out of 24 pending cases, including the second of the two argued Monday, because of her work as the Obama administration’s solicitor general prior to joining the court in August…. – AP, 10-4-10
    • Kagan fills seats, makes her mark on first day of court term: Their membership has changed, and they haven’t sat together in months. Yet on Monday when Supreme Court justices took up the first case of the term, they quickly fell into familiar patterns. And newest Justice Elena Kagan was right in there with them…. – USA Today, 10-4-10
    • Justice Kagan makes her mark on day one, then has to go: Justice Elena Kagan made the most of her first day on the Supreme Court bench before reluctantly vanishing behind the burgundy curtains — leaving behind her bench-mates. The high court opened its new term Monday hearing oral arguments in two relatively low-profile appeals, but Kagan sat out the second case. It is one of 25 petitions from which the 50-year-old justice has so far recused herself. Because of her recent service as the Obama administration’s solicitor general, Kagan has decided to avoid any conflict of interest by withdrawing from cases the Obama administration had been involved in briefing. This means she will not sit on the bench during arguments or vote on the outcome of cases. The solicitor general works in the Justice Department as the government’s chief advocate before the high court…. – CNN, 10-4-10
    • Obama’s economic board members challenge him on taxes: The conversation was supposed to be about education and community colleges, but two Republicans on President Obama’s economic recovery advisory board challenged him this afternoon on his tax policies. Martin Feldstein and William Donaldson, who date to the Reagan and second Bush administrations, respectively, urged Obama not to raise taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Americans, as the president has proposed. No surprise? Well, Donaldson endorsed Obama in 2008, and Feldstein supported his economic stimulus plan in 2009. So they’re not conservative die-hards…. – USA Today, 10-4-10
    • Obama slams GOP over tax and spending cut plans: Intending to talk about colleges and worker training, President Barack Obama on Monday suddenly found himself in a spirited, election-year debate with a business advisory group about whose tax cuts should be extended and for how long. At a meeting of the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, Harvard economist Martin Feldstein pressed Obama to keep all the Bush-era tax cuts, not just the middle-class cuts the president wants to extend. “That would give a boost to confidence,” Feldstein declared. SEC Chairman William Donaldson added that an extension would allay business and consumer uncertainty.
      Obama replied that his stand would benefit 98 percent of American taxpayers. “You’d think (that) would provide some level of certainty,” he said. Obama also reiterated his view that top-income tax brackets would do little to boost the recovery, since the wealthy aren’t holding off buying flat-screen TVs and other big-ticket purchases for lack of a tax cut. Plus, he said, those tax cuts are unaffordable. “If we were going to spend $700 billion, it seems it would be wiser having that $700 billion going to folks who would spend that money right away,” he said. Obama dismissed the notion that the well-off — he included himself — would simply “take our ball and go home” if they didn’t continue to get a big tax cut…. – AP, 10-4-10
    • Jon Stewart responds to Rick Sanchez comments: “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart had a good laugh at Rick Sanchez’s expense this weekend, making light of the former CNN anchor’s recent departure over controversial comments he made about Jews and Stewart. However, Stewart did have a solution for Sanchez: “All he has to do is apologize to us,” he said, “and we’ll hire him back.” Not to be outdone, David Letterman made a surprise cameo at the benefit, telling Stewart that he decided to stop by because he was in the neighborhood, “helping Rick Sanchez clean out his office.”… – CNN, 1-4-10
    • Emanuel Says He’s Preparing Run For Chicago Mayor: Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel announced Sunday that he’s preparing to run for mayor of Chicago, a position widely known as being one he has long desired. Emanuel made the announcement in a video posted Sunday on his website, ChicagoforRahm.com. He had been careful not to launch his candidacy from Washington and headed to Chicago immediately after his resignation was announced by President Barack Obama on Friday.
      In the video, Emanuel said he’s embarking on a “Tell It Like It Is” listening tour of Chicago. “As I prepare to run for mayor, I’m going to spend the next few weeks visiting our neighborhoods at grocery stores, L stops, bowling alleys, and hot dog stands,” Emanuel said. The two-minute video shows a relaxed Emanuel sitting behind a desk wearing a white shirt that’s open at the collar and a dark jacket. Behind him is a photo of his family and several books…. – NPR, 10-3-10
    • Liberal coalition rallies in Washington for jobs, education: A coalition of liberal and progressive groups, including unions and civil rights activists, rallied in Washington Saturday to press for good jobs, immigration and education reform and to make a show of strength one month out from midterm elections. The “One Nation Working Together” rally was held at the Lincoln Memorial, just five weeks after Tea Party enthusiasts met in Washington.
      NAACP President Ben Jealous told CNN the “One Nation” movement is not “the alternative to the Tea Party, we’re the antidote to the Tea Party.”…. – CNN, 10-2-10
    • Big crowd gathers for liberal rally in Washington: Tens of thousands of people rallied near the Lincoln Memorial in the U.S. capital on Saturday as liberal groups attempted to energize their base a month before pivotal congressional elections.
      The rally, held under sunny skies, was billed as “One Nation Working Together” and followed a large rally by conservatives at the same site just over a month earlier. Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor organization, urged the crowd to “promise that you’ll make your voices heard, for good jobs and justice and education today and on Election Day.”…. – Reuters, 10-2-10
    • DC rally shows support for struggling Democrats: Tapping into anger as the tea party movement has done, a coalition of progressive and civil rights groups marched Saturday on the Lincoln Memorial and pledged to support Democrats struggling to keep power on Capitol Hill.
      “We are together. This march is about the power to the people,” said Ed Schultz, host of “The Ed Show” on MSNBC. “It is about the people standing up to the corporations. Are you ready to fight back?”
      In a fiery speech that opened the “One Nation Working Together” rally on the National Mall, Schultz blamed Republicans for shipping jobs overseas and curtailing freedoms. He borrowed some of conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s rhetoric and vowed to “take back our country.”
      “This is a defining moment in America. Are you American?” Schultz told the raucous crowd of thousands. “This is no time to back down. This is time to fight for America.”… – AP, 10-2-10
    • Obama promotes clean energy; GOP hits Dem spending: Wind, solar and other clean energy technologies produce jobs and are essential for the country’s environment and economy, President Barack Obama said in promoting his administration’s efforts. The president used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday, a month away from congressional elections, to charge Republicans with wanting to scrap incentives for such projects.
      “That’s what’s at stake in this debate,” the president said. “We can go back to the failed energy policies that profited the oil companies but weakened our country. We can go back to the days when promising industries got set up overseas. Or we can go after new jobs in growing industries. And we can spur innovation and help make our economy more competitive.”
      “With projects like this one and others across this country, we are staking our claim to continued leadership in the new global economy,” Obama said. “And we’re putting Americans to work producing clean, homegrown American energy that will help lower our reliance on foreign oil and protect our planet for future generations.”… – AP, 10-2-10
    • Rouse wastes no time in first day on job: The Pete Rouse era began shortly before noon on Friday. It didn’t take long before the White House started feeling the difference. Rouse, ushered in as interim White House chief of staff by President Obama in the East Room, called his first senior staff meeting for that afternoon – and scheduled it to last just 10 minutes. It is typical Rouse, advisers said: swift and to the point, without leaving room for people to show off or hold endless debates.
      “If a meeting should take 10 minutes, Pete is not going to make it go 11,” one senior administration official said. “Pete does not want to meet for the sake of meeting.” Rouse will soon move into the large corner office being vacated by Rahm Emanuel, whose resignation Obama announced Friday during an emotional farewell…. – WaPo, 10-1-10
    • Rahm Emanuel: Why Chicago mayor bid may be his toughest race yet: Rahm Emanuel was sent off from his post as White House chief of staff by President Obama on Friday. Political analysts say he won’t have it easy trying to win the race for Chicago mayor…. – CS Monitor, 10-1-10
    • Peter Rouse: out of the shadows and into the limelight Low-key troubleshooter is losing his cherished anonymity to take over as Obama’s chief of staff: Reporting from Washington — Many of the unpleasant little tasks that a White House confronts — nudging an aide out the door, perhaps, or helping a senator find someone a job — tend to wind up on Pete Rouse’s desk. Rouse, 64, a low-key troubleshooter and consummate backroom player whose work is seldom publicized, is being elevated to a post in which he may lose some of his cherished anonymity: White House chief of staff. Rouse will succeed Rahm Emanuel, who is leaving to run for mayor of Chicago. It’s an interim appointment, although White House aides say Rouse could end up getting the post on a permanent basis…. – LAT, 10-1-10
    • Chicago aldermen offended by Emanuel’s royal send-off: President Obama’s royal send-off for Rahm Emanuel may have played well in Washington today, but it laid an egg at Chicago’s City Hall. Some aldermen were downright offended by what they perceived to be Obama’s attempt to dictate Chicago’s next mayor by praising his departing chief of staff to the hilt.
      Others went so far as to advise the president of the United States to butt out or risk a political backlash.
      “The resentment is someone who appears to come in from out of state with a bunch of money — and no significant ties to the South or the West Side — and appearing to clout and buy his way into an election,” said Ald. Howard Brookins (21st). “It would be a mistake if the President goes out for Rahm Emanuel. In communities of color, I don’t believe Rahm has shown himself to be the peoples’ candidate. And I don’t know that Rahm being forced down our throats is the right thing to do.”
      Ald. George Cardenas (12th) went public with sentiment that his suddenly liberated colleagues have been expressing privately ever since Mayor Daley announced his political retirement…. – Chicago Sun-Times
    • White House defends economic stimulus plan: President Barack Obama’s $814 billion economic stimulus plan is meeting its targets for spending and job creation, White House officials said on Friday, however unpopular it may be with the public. Seventy percent of the plan’s funds were paid out by Sept. 30, with $308 billion spent and $243 billion in tax breaks provided, they said, adding that every spending deadline Congress set for the funds was met on time or ahead of schedule, with little fraud or abuse.
      Polls have shown the plan is unpopular with much of the public and has fallen short of expectations for the economy, even though the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates it boosted real gross domestic product in the second quarter by up to 4.5 percent and raised employment by up to 3.3 million jobs…. – Reuters, 10-1-10
    • CNN’s Sanchez out after controversial comments: CNN anchor Rick Sanchez abruptly left the network Friday afternoon, just one day after making controversial comments on a satellite radio program. “Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company,” according to a statement from CNN. “We thank Rick for his years of service and we wish him well.”
      On Thursday, Sanchez appeared on the XM Sirius radio program “Stand-Up with Pete Dominick.” During the interview with Dominick, Sanchez called “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart “a bigot” and then said that he was bigoted against “everybody else who’s not like him. Look at his show, I mean, what does he surround himself with?” Dominick pressed for specifics, and Sanchez, who is Cuban-American, responded, “That’s what happens when you watch yourself on his show every day, and all they ever do is call you stupid.” Dominick, who was once the warm-up comic at Stewart’s Comedy Central show and now has a spot on CNN’s “John King, USA,” noted that Stewart is Jewish and so a minority himself. “I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they, the people in this country who are Jewish, are an oppressed minority? Yeah,” Sanchez responded…. – CNN, 10-1-10

    ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

    Stephen Crowley/The New York TimesRecommend
    “Don’t let them hijack your agenda,” President Obama told supporters in Philadelphia at the second of four rallies planned.

    • Democratic struggles could cost handful of contests: Rick Snyder may be House Democrats’ biggest nightmare. The Michigan Republican, a former head of the Gateway computer company, is running way ahead of Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (D) in the Wolverine State’s gubernatorial race. (A poll released Sunday gave him a 20-point advantage.) Such a wide margin for Snyder creates the potential for a down-ballot sweep that could wash out Democrats’ chances in two hotly contested House districts.
      State Rep. Gary McDowell (D) and surgeon Dan Benishek (R) are competing for retiring Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak’s seat in the 1st District – a swing district in northern Michigan that Barack Obama won with just 50 percent two years ago…. – WaPo, 10-10-10
    • Paladino Laces Speech With Antigay Remarks: The Republican candidate for governor, Carl P. Paladino, told a gathering in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Sunday that children should not be “brainwashed” into thinking that homosexuality was acceptable, and criticized his opponent, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, for marching in a gay pride parade earlier this year. Addressing Orthodox Jewish leaders, Mr. Paladino described his opposition to same-sex marriage. “I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option — it isn’t,” he said, reading from a prepared address, according to a video of the event. And then, to applause at Congregation Shaarei Chaim, he said: “I didn’t march in the gay parade this year — the gay pride parade this year. My opponent did, and that’s not the example we should be showing our children.” Newsday.com reported that Mr. Paladino’s prepared text had included the sentence: “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.” But Mr. Paladino omitted the sentence in his speech…. – NYT, 10-10-10
    • Feingold defends health care vote in debate: Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold is defending his vote for health care reform, saying Republican challenger Ron Johnson wants to wipe out a program that saves people from being at the mercy of insurance companies. The Democratic incumbent is seeking his fourth term, though polls show him slightly trailing Johnson, a political newcomer. The two met Friday in Milwaukee for the first of three debates ahead of the Nov. 2 election…. – AP, 10-10-10
    • Paul: Wealthy should pay more for Medicare plan: Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul raised the idea Sunday that wealthier people like his opponent, the co-owner of a Kentucky Derby horse, should pay more for Medicare coverage. Paul also warned in a speech in his hometown that unless the U.S. starts dealing with its mounting debt, it could eventually face the same chaos that erupted in Greece when violent protests rocked that debt-plagued country. Paul said his Democratic opponent Jack Conway has ducked serious discussions about shoring up entitlement programs facing mounting financial strain as baby boomers retire and live longer. He also accused Conway of vilifying him in television ads showing clips of Paul once seeming to tout the idea of a $2,000 Medicare deductible…. – AP, 10-10-10
    • Kirk, Giannoulias debate on ‘Meet the Press’: The leading contenders for Illinois’ open U.S. Senate seat debated their character issues Sunday on TV, with Democrat Alexi Giannoulias insisting he knew little about convicted felons who got loans from his family bank and Republican Mark Kirk acknowledging he is accountable for embellishing his military record. Credibility has been a campaign-long theme for both men, and a recent Tribune/WGN-TV poll showed voters have difficulty trusting either in the neck-and-neck race for the Senate seat formerly held by President Barack Obama. The contest has national symbolism for both parties in the struggle for control of Congress and as a referendum on Obama. Moderator David Gregory focused on the trust issue and Obama’s policies during the half-hour debate with the two candidates on “Meet the Press” that included excerpts from attack ads used by both sides…. – Chicago Tribune, 10-10-10
    • Sen. Brown stumps for Conn. GOP Senate candidate: U.S. Sen. Scott Brown told a crowd of several hundred on Saturday that Connecticut voters can make history and shake up the Democratic establishment — just like when he was elected in Massachusetts — if they send Linda McMahon to Washington.
      Brown said the Republican newcomer, best known as the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, is a political outsider who is “not beholden to anybody, who doesn’t owe anybody anything.” He said McMahon won’t be “in lockstep” with either the Democratic or Republican Senate leaders, and will fight for Connecticut voters. “Ever since Jan. 19 there’s a very, very powerful message that was sent, not only to Beacon Hill in Massachusetts but to Capitol Hill: That people are tired, they’re hurting, they’ve had enough,” said Brown, referring to his surprise victory last winter when he rode a wave of voter anger with Democrats and Washington and won the seat held by the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. “They want somebody who is going to be working and looking out for their interests and not the special interests and you guys have a great chance, a great chance,” he said. “The state of Connecticut has a chance to be part of history.”… – AP, 10-9-10
    • Tea party fuels GOP midterm enthusiasm, action: President Obama and Vice President Biden will travel to Philadelphia on Sunday for another rally designed to energize Democratic voters. The crowd at their Madison, Wis., rally last month was impressive, and this one may be, too. But any way you cut it, the Republicans still have the advantage in enthusiasm this fall, thanks in large measure to the tea party movement. The latest evidence comes in another of a long series of surveys conducted by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University. What it shows is that tea party supporters and other conservatives are the most energized and are prepared to work the hardest to persuade friends and neighbors to vote Nov. 2…. – WaPo, 10-9-10
    • Jerry Brown reinvents himself as elder statesman: Jerry Brown sees himself as a regular guy who buys his suits on sale, drives around in a Ford Crown Victoria and enjoys dinner at home with his wife. What he wants Californians to see past is the Jerry Brown of three decades ago who was derisively dubbed “Governor Moonbeam.”
      The 72-year-old Democrat, locked in a close race with Republican Meg Whitman for governor, is determined to project an everyman image, a far cry from the eccentric Californian who romanced singer Linda Ronstadt along with a few other Hollywood actresses, recited poetry on the campaign trail and moved to Japan to study in a Buddhist monastery.
      Brown faces businesswoman and political novice Whitman, the billionaire former head of eBay who has spent more than $121 million of her own money in her bid to lead the nation’s most populous state, which has been wracked by ongoing budget crises…. – AP, 10-8-10
    • Will Brown aide’s slur of Meg Whitman tip California governor’s race?: Recent polls had shown Jerry Brown opening a slight lead over Meg Whitman. Putting him on the defensive could give her a boost. Meg Whitman was the target of ‘salty’ language by a Jerry Brown campaign aide in a voice mail released Thursday. Someone from Jerry Brown’s camp has been caught on tape using an extremely inelegant term to refer to opponent Meg Whitman. Will this remark make a difference in the already-heated California gubernatorial race? Well, we won’t know for some time whether it has an effect on the polls. The Brown-Whitman contest is already a boiling cauldron of charges and counter-charges, so the airing of the slur may make the tone of the campaign only marginally harsher. But this slip by a Brown aide may give Whitman a much-needed chance to get past the issue of whether she knowingly employed an illegal immigrant as a housekeeper. For the media there’s a new flap in town – what did Brown know about the use of this language, and how did he respond to it?…. – CS Monitor, 10-8-10
    • GOP pulling W.Va. Senate ad with ‘hicky’ actors: National Republicans pulled back a West Virginia Senate ad Thursday after Democrats revealed its casting call had sought actors who looked like hicks to play state voters. The 30-second spot, filmed in Philadelphia, was dropped from the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s YouTube channel Thursday. Republicans expected it to also be withdrawn from TV, where it has been in heavy rotation since Tuesday, according to a party official not directly involved in handling the ad. The official was not authorized to comment and requested anonymity. The ad showed men in flannel shirts and baseball caps worrying that Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin would side with President Barack Obama if elected to the Senate….. – AP, 10-7-10
    • G.O.P. Senate Odds Improve for Third Consecutive Week: Democrats are on the verge of locking up several Senate races in the Northeast, including one in Connecticut that some analysts had considered a toss-up. But Republicans have gained ground overall in this week’s Senate forecast by virtue of improved polling in Nevada and West Virginia. Their odds of taking over the Senate on Nov. 2 have now improved to 24 percent — up from 22 percent last week and 15 percent three weeks ago, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast model…. – NYT, 10-7-10
    • Obama urges support for Illinois Senate hopeful: President Barack Obama is working to keep his old Senate seat in Democratic hands, urging a crowd of supporters in his hometown of Chicago to send State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (jeh-NOO’-lee-ehs) to Washington. Obama called Giannoulias a competitor who can be trusted to fight for the people who elected him. Giannoulias is battling Republican Rep. Mark Kirk in a tight contest.
      The president spoke at a fundraiser at the Drake Hotel. Earlier in the day he was in Maryland campaigning for Gov. Martin O’Malley…. – AP, 10-7-10
    • Obama urges O’Malley supporters to get involved in Maryland: President Barack Obama on Thursday challenged young Democrats at an election rally for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, saying political pundits were predicting they lacked the enthusiasm of Republicans. “They say their followers are more energized,” Obama told the rally at Bowie State University. “They say you might be willing to let the other folks who left the economy in a shambles go back to Annapolis and go back to Washington.” Adding that he was betting on the young voters to prove the pundits wrong, Obama told the crowd: “Don’t make me look bad.”…. – CNN, 10-7-10
    • Dozens Fall Ill at Obama Rally in Maryland: About three dozen people fell ill at President Obama’s campaign rally at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md., Thursday, WTOP radio reported. The individuals passed out after complaining of “dizziness and fainting,” Prince George’s County fire department spokesman Mark Brady said. Two people were taken to the hospital while the rest were treated at the scene, Brady told the radio station….
      Approximately half an hour into the president’s remarks, another audience member swooned, briefly derailing Obama’s criticisms of Republicans. He leaned away from the microphone. “Can we get a medic up here?” he asked…. – Fox News, 10-7-10
    • Fight for Congress could last past Election Day: The nation may be waiting well beyond Election Day this year to find out who won control of Congress. It’s a troubling ballot-box scenario that has hundreds of lawyers from both parties preparing for battles that could drag on days, weeks or even months past the Nov. 3 day-after. Some states don’t count substantial amounts of votes until after Election Day. Others require mail-in ballots to be postmarked — not received — by Nov. 2, leaving the tally until well afterward. And with polls showing many Republican and Democratic candidates in tight contests, there’s plenty of opportunity for confusion, challenges and recounts that could delay the results and ultimately tip the balance of power on Capitol Hill. A muddled outcome could give rise to yet another kind of election uncertainty. If Republicans emerge from the balloting just short of a Senate majority, their leaders would almost certainly try to prod centrist lawmakers — like Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson or Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman — to switch and hand them control…. – AP, 10-6-10
    • President Trump? Time for 2012 handicapping: Have you heard the one about President Donald Trump? How about the notion that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will replace Vice President Joe Biden on the Democrats’ 2012 ticket? More than a year before the Iowa caucuses, political speculation ranges from the serious to the silly as pundits and prognosticators look ahead to the next presidential election. The open Republican field and the likelihood of President Barack Obama seeking a second term has led to rampant handicapping…. – AP, 10-6-10
    • Kendrick Meek, Charlie Crist battle Marco Rubio in U.S. Senate debate: Marco Rubio got the frontrunner treatment in a combative U.S. Senate debate Wednesday night, with both his rivals attacking him as an extremist out of step with Florida. “It’s abundantly clear that there’s an extreme right faction in the Republican party,” said said independent candidate Charlie Crist. “I’m the only candidate that can both win in November and crash that tea party in Washington.” “You want to take us back to Dick Cheney days,” said Democratic U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, describing Rubio as a “radical” who won’t stand up for middle class Floridians. Rubio, the former state House Speaker from Miami, held his own and cast the race as a choice between two status quo candidates or a Republican who will stand up to the agenda of Barack Obama. “If you like Obamacare, if you like the stimulus plan, you can vote for Charlie Crist or Kendrick Meek. I’m probably not your candidate,” Rubio said….. – Miami Herald, 10-6-10
    • Gallup: Poll of ‘likely voters’ portends big House gains for Republicans Among likely voters, the Republican advantage for this election is at least 13 percentage points, says a new Gallup poll. That’s higher than the three-point GOP edge among registered voters: Gallup gave its first estimates for “likely” voters, rather than registered voters – historically a far better predictor of the actual vote. The results are staggering. While the registered-voter ballot still gives Republicans a slight three-point lead, the Republican advantage jumps – a lot – in the poll of likely voters. Gallup gives estimates for two different likely-voter scenarios – one assuming higher turnout and one lower turnout. If voter turnout is high, Republican candidates have a 13-point advantage. If it’s low, they have a whopping 18-point edge over Democrats. Most voter surveys have shown Republicans to be much more energized about this election, but Gallup’s poll shows by far the biggest gap between registered and likely voters to date. So, what does it mean in terms of numbers? Historically, Gallup’s likely-voter poll correlates closely to the final results for midterm elections in the House. In 1994, when Republicans picked up 54 seats in the House, the last Gallup poll gave Republicans a 7-point lead. According to this model, by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, the current 13-point lead would translate to Republicans picking up at least 71 seats (86 seats, in the low-turnout model). But that is pretty far outside even the most pro-Republican predictions so far…. – CS Monitor, 10-5-10
    • Republicans Hampered by Low Approval Ratings: Republicans are hanging their midterm election prospects on voters’ frustration with the Democratic Party, but a poll released by National Journal Tuesday indicates people are just as unhappy with Republicans. Six in 10 Americans polled have a negative view of GOP leadership. Perhaps that’s why Republicans have tried to efforts to frame Election Day as a referendum on the Democratic Party, not the GOP. Democratic leaders did only slightly better, with a 30/53 approval/disapproval split — though it is significant to note that their numbers are unchanged since National Journal’s polling in July. Republican disapproval figures have climbed seven points in the same amount of time, and they have the lowest performance rating in the poll’s history…. – CBS News, 10-5-10
    • Christine O’Donnell’s new ad by Republican ad wizard keeps things simple: Christine O’Donnell took to the airwaves on Tuesday with a simple message for Delaware voters: “I’m you.” When O’Donnell recently hired Fred Davis, the Republican ad wizard known for such provocative hits as “Demon Sheep,” many assumed she would use the millions she raised online to launch a shock-and-awe ad offensive. And she still might. But O’Donnell’s first general election ad is decidedly simple. Davis filmed O’Donnell, in pearls and a dark jacket, talking directly to the camera. No bells or whistles.
      “I wanted people to get to know the real Christine,” Davis said in an interview. He said the ad was designed to show “that she was not what everyone thought, that she was an everywoman – with one exception. She was one of us, but was so disappointed in our government that she was moved to action, to try and do something about it.” O’Donnell opens the 30-second spot by saying, “I’m not a witch.” It was a reference to her much-publicized 1999 statement that she dabbled in witchcraft. Davis said he included that line in the script to “once and for all put that behind her, and let people know we’re moving on from that to things that really matter today.”…. – WaPo, 10-5-10
    • Democrats hang on to leads in California: Democratic candidates hold a narrow advantage in the run-up to November’s U.S. congressional elections in California where big-spending Republican Meg Whitman is struggling in the race for governor, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found on Tuesday. As Democratic voters show increased enthusiasm in the country’s most-populous state, Democrat Jerry Brown leads Whitman in the race to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor, 50 percent to 43 percent…. – Reuters, 10-5-10
    • Donald Trump hints at presidential bid, sort of: Guess what television star is floating a political trial balloon (certainly inflated a bit with his own hot air), looking ahead to the 2012 presidential elections? If you said Donald Trump, you win. The cable airwaves have been chock-a-block with appearances by Trump, the reality television star, real estate developer, celebrity, beauty pageant mogul and self-promoter. He has even injected himself into the recent dispute over a Muslim community center and mosque near the former World Trade Center, destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001 in a terrorist attack. Trump has offered to buy the site. Just this week, the media was again filled with discussions of Trump after word of a poll in New Hampshire, an early state in the presidential sweepstakes, included questions about Trump, host of “The Apprentice,” now in another season on NBC…. – LAT, 10-5-10
    • US Election Results Could Affect Foreign Policy: U.S. voters will elect a new Congress on November 2, and public opinion polls indicate the domestic economy will be the top issue this year. Experts say foreign policy concerns do not appear to be a major factor in the congressional midterm elections. Republican gains in November, though, could have an impact on the conduct of U.S. foreign policy over the next two years. Political experts agree that the economy and worries about the high unemployment rate will be the dominant issues in this year’s election, even though the United States and its allies remain at war in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama would like to begin drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan by the middle of next year, battlefield conditions permitting.
      “The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground and our support for Afghanistan will endure,” said President Obama. But make no mistake. This transition will begin, because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.”…. – VOA, 10-4-10
    • Emanuel hits Chicago streets, makes case for mayor: Last week, Afghanistan. This week, parents protesting the proposed demolition of a park field house. Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel hit the campaign trail on Monday and got a sudden taste of the vastly different agenda he’d face as Chicago’s mayor — and the hurdles he must overcome to be elected. A day after unveiling his campaign on a new Website, Emanuel hit the streets, vowing to “hear from Chicagoans — in blunt and honest terms” what they want from their next mayor. Many were happy just to shake hands, exchange hugs, or drink coffee with President Barack Obama’s hard-charging former right hand man. But he also faced skepticism about his intentions, loyalties and whether he even has the legal right to run to lead a city he hasn’t lived in for nearly two years. A few of his potential rivals also surfaced in public, though they insisted it had nothing to do with him….. – AP, 10-4-10
    • Democrat Feingold runs ad touting health care vote: Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin boldly embraces and defends his vote for the health care reform law in his latest campaign television ad, even as other Democrats avoid the topic and Republicans rail against it. Feingold’s Republican opponent, Ron Johnson, has his own ad taking Feingold to task for the March vote, saying Feingold went against the wishes of Wisconsin residents…. – AP, 10-4-10
    • Immigration dominates Whitman-Brown debate: Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown clashed in an impassioned, sometimes angry gubernatorial debate Saturday in which immigration dominated the harsh exchanges and stoked the fallout from Whitman’s admission last week that she had employed an undocumented immigrant. San Francisco Chronicle, 10-3-10
    • Jewish voters don’t reflexively back Rahm Emanuel for Chicago mayor: Some local Jewish voters at odds with Emanuel’s role in Obama’s Israel policy, his politics when in Congress — and his coarse language Chicago Tribune, 10-3-10
    • Chicago mayor’s race may be battle of shoe leather: It used to be that getting elected in Chicago meant relying on the ward boss, the precinct captain and the small armies they deployed to fix potholes, hand out frozen turkeys and even drive people to the polls. Court rulings and corruption convictions have ended the primacy of the Machine, leaving get-out-the-vote efforts in the hands of what officials say are volunteers. But the city’s first real mayor’s race in more than two decades will test how far Chicago has advanced since the Machine’s heyday, and how badly big-name, well-funded candidates like Rahm Emanuel still need that old street-level help.
      “Never underestimate the power of the precinct worker,” said Tom Manion, a longtime political operative who directed Mayor Richard M. Daley’s first re-election campaign in 1991. “This is going to be a Generation X campaign with Facebook, Twitter and all that … but you should never forget the power of friend talking to friend, neighbor talking to neighbor.”
      After resigning as White House chief of staff, Emanuel is expected to reintroduce himself to Chicago this week with visits to neighborhoods to meet voters. He easily has greater name recognition than other contenders, and he is among several candidates seeking the support of wealthy businessmen and politicians…. – AP, 10-2-10
    • Democrats hope organizing will counter voters’ apathy: Republicans galvanized by the ‘tea party’ movement have passion on their side as the election approaches. The imperiled majority party mobilizes its get-out-the-vote machine in Nevada and elsewhere…. – LAT, 10-1-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    • Weekly Address: President Obama Underscores Commitment to Strengthening Our Education System Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Saturday, October 9, 2010 Washington, DC:
      …Now, it is true that when it comes to our budget, we have real challenges to meet. And if we’re serious about getting our fiscal house in order, we’ll need to make some tough choices. I’m prepared to make those choices. But what I’m not prepared to do is shortchange our children’s education. What I’m not prepared to do is undercut their economic future, your economic future, or the economic future of the United States of America.
      Nothing would be more detrimental to our prospects for success than cutting back on education. It would consign America to second place in our fiercely competitive global economy. But China and India aren’t playing for second. South Korea and Germany aren’t playing for second. They’re playing for first – and so should America.
      Instead of being shortsighted and shortchanging our kids, we should be doubling down on them. We should be giving every child in America a chance to make the most of their lives; to fulfill their God-given potential. We should be fighting to lead the global economy in this century, just like we did in the last. And that’s what I’ll continue fighting to do in the months and years ahead. Thanks, everybody, and have a nice weekend. – WH, 10-9-10
    • Rick Sanchez is sorry. Really: In an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday morning, the ousted CNN anchor said flatly that he “screwed up” in calling Jon Stewart a bigot and suggesting that Jews run the networks–comments that cost him his job last week.
      “I apologize and it was wrong for me to be so careless and so inartful,” Sanchez said. “But it happened and I can’t take it back and you know what now I have to stand up and be responsible.”
      The tone was much different than in a statement earlier this week, when Sanchez extended an apology to anyone who “may have been offended.”
      “I was feeling a little bit put out. And I was feeling a little sensitive,” Sanchez said. “And I was looking at the landscape and I was looking and I was seeing [little diversity] and I externalized the problem and I put it on Jon S tewart’s shoulders and I was wrong to do that.”…. – WaPo, 10-8-10
    • Weekly Address: President Obama Lauds Clean Energy Projects as Key to Creating Jobs and Building a Stronger Economy
      Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address The White House October 2, 2010:
      Over the past twenty months, we’ve been fighting not just to create more jobs today, but to rebuild our economy on a stronger foundation. Our future as a nation depends on making sure that the jobs and industries of the 21st century take root here in America. And there is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now – and growth in the coming years – than clean energy.
      For decades, we’ve talked about the importance of ending our dependence on foreign oil and pursuing new kinds of energy, like wind and solar power. But for just as long, progress had been prevented at every turn by the special interests and their allies in Washington….
      It was essential – for our economy, our security, and our planet – that we finally tackle this challenge. That is why, since we took office, my administration has made an historic commitment to promote clean energy technology. This will mean hundreds of thousands of new American jobs by 2012. Jobs for contractors to install energy-saving windows and insulation. Jobs for factory workers to build high-tech vehicle batteries, electric cars, and hybrid trucks. Jobs for engineers and construction crews to create wind farms and solar plants that are going to double the renewable energy we can generate in this country. These are jobs building the future….
      With projects like this one, and others across this country, we are staking our claim to continued leadership in the new global economy. And we’re putting Americans to work producing clean, home-grown American energy that will help lower our reliance on foreign oil and protect our planet for future generations.
      Now there are some in Washington who want to shut them down. In fact, in the Pledge they recently released, the Republican leadership is promising to scrap all the incentives for clean energy projects, including those currently underway – even with all the jobs and potential that they hold.
      This doesn’t make sense for our economy. It doesn’t make sense for Americans who are looking for jobs. And it doesn’t make sense for our future. To go backwards and scrap these plans means handing the competitive edge to China and other nations. It means that we’ll grow even more dependent on foreign oil. And, at a time of economic hardship, it means forgoing jobs we desperately need. In fact, shutting down just this one project would cost about a thousand jobs.
      That’s what’s at stake in this debate. We can go back to the failed energy policies that profited the oil companies but weakened our country. We can go back to the days when promising industries got set up overseas. Or we can go after new jobs in growing industries. And we can spur innovation and help make our economy more competitive. We know the choice that’s right for America. We need to do what we’ve always done – put our ingenuity and can do spirit to work to fight for a brighter future. – WH, 10-2-10
    • Goodbye, Rahm – Remarks by the President at the Departure of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel: This is a bittersweet day here at the White House. On the one hand, we are all very excited for Rahm as he takes on a new challenge for which he is extraordinarily well qualified. But we’re also losing an incomparable leader of our staff and one who we are going to miss very much.
      When I first started assembling this administration, I knew we were about to face some of the most difficult years this country has seen in generations. The challenges were big and the margin for error was small — two wars, an economy on the brinks of collapse, and a set of tough choices about issues that we had put off for decades; choices about health care and energy and education, how to rebuild a middle class that had been struggling for far too long.
      And I knew that I needed somebody at my side who I could count on, day and night, to help get the job done. In my mind, there was no candidate for the job of chief of staff who would meet the bill as well as Rahm Emanuel. And that’s why I told him that he had no choice in the matter. He was not allowed to say no. It wasn’t just Rahm’s broad array of experiences in Congress and in the White House, in politics and in business. It was also the fact that he just brings an unmatched level of energy and enthusiasm and commitment to every single thing that he does.
      This was a great sacrifice for Rahm and Amy and the family to move out here. Rahm gave up one of the most powerful positions on Capitol Hill to do this. And in the last 20 months, Rahm has exceeded all of my expectations. It’s fair to say that we could not have accomplished what we’ve accomplished without Rahm’s leadership — from preventing a second depression to passing historic health care and financial reform legislation to restoring America’s leadership in the world.
      So for nearly two years, I’ve begun my workday with Rahm. I’ve ended my workday with Rahm. Much to Amy’s chagrin, I’ve intruded on his life at almost any hour of the day, any day of the week, with just enormous challenges. His advice has always been candid; his opinions have always been insightful; his commitment to his job has always been heartfelt, born of a passionate desire to move this country forward and lift up the lives of the middle class and people who are struggling to get there.
      He has been a great friend of mine, and will continue to be a great friend of mine. He has been a selfless public servant. He has been an outstanding chief of staff. I will miss him dearly, as will members of my staff and Cabinet with whom he’s worked so closely and so well. – WH, 10-1-10
      WH, 10-1-10
    • Rahm Emanuel closed his remarks aterwards touching on his own journey, the President’s, and Pete Rouse’s:
      Both my parents raised me to give something back to the country and the community that has given us so much. And I want to thank you for the opportunity to repay in a small portion of the blessings this country has given my family. I give you my word that even as I leave the White House, I will never leave that spirit of service behind. (Applause.)
      Now, because my temperament is sometimes a bit different than yours, Mr. President — (laughter) — I want to thank my colleagues for your patience the last two years that you have shown. I’m sure you’ve learned some words that you’ve never heard before — (laughter) — and in an assortment of combination of words. (Laughter.) What we learned together was what a group of tireless, talented, committed people can achieve together. And as difficult as it is to leave, I do so with the great comfort of knowing that Pete Rouse will be there to lead the operation forward.
      From the moment I arrived, and the moment he arrived, Pete has been a good friend with great judgment. He commands the respect of everyone in this building and brings decades of experience to this assignment.
      Finally, I want to thank my wife Amy and our three remarkable children — Zach, Ilana and Leah — without whose love and support none of this would have been possible. I hope to end this soon so they can all get back to school today and finish their exams. (Laughter.)
      Mr. President, thank you. And thank you all. I look forward to seeing you in Chicago. (Applause.) – WH, 10-1-10
    • Eric Cantor: ‘Things Could Get Pretty Messy’ The man who would be the next House majority leader talks about the GOP agenda and working with Obama: ‘Look, we know we screwed up when we were in the majority. We fell in love with power. We spent way too much money— especially on earmarks. There was too much corruption when we ran this place. We were guilty. And that’s why we lost.”
      That’s the confession of Eric Cantor, the 47-year old congressman from Richmond, Va. If Republicans win back the House in November’s elections, Mr. Cantor would be the next majority leader—the second most powerful post in that chamber behind the speaker. And he could be Barack Obama’s worst nightmare…. – WSJ, 10-2-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    The President Records the Weekly Address
    White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 10/1/10
    • Gerald Uelmen: Meg Whitman fuzzes Rose Bird quote as Jerry Brown backpedals: Brown hasn’t said anything like that about Bird. But his attempt to distance himself from his appointee by invoking Eisenhower is a tough comparison to make. Eisenhower wasn’t especially close to Warren, but appointed him in a well- documented political trade: the California governor pledged to support Ike at the 1952 Republican convention in exchange for the first available Supreme Court vacancy.
      Gerald Uelmen, a Santa Clara University law professor and court historian, said he doesn’t buy Brown’s “Eisenhower defense.” “I think he (Brown) knew what he was getting,” Uelmen said. “I think what’s going on here is a little rewriting of history.” San Francisco Chronicle, 10-8-10
    • Alan Brinkley: Anatomy of an Uprising: GIVE US LIBERTY A Tea Party Manifesto By Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe, BOILING MAD Inside Tea Party America, By Kate Zernike THE WHITES OF THEIR EYES The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History By Jill Lepore
      Jill Lepore, a historian of the American Revolution and a staff writer at The New Yorker, has written a brief but valuable book, “The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History,” which combines her own interviews with Tea Partiers (mostly from her home state, Massachusetts) and her deep knowledge of the founders and of their view of the Constitution. The architects of the Constitution, she makes clear, did not agree about what it meant. Nor did they believe that the Constitution would or should be the final word on the character of the nation and the government. It was the product of much compromise, and few were satisfied with all its parts…. – NYT, 10-8-10
    • Victor Davis Hanson: Rope-a-dope: Obama’s plan: After 2010, will he be Carter or Clinton? That is the ongoing parlor game now played among pundits over how President Barack Obama will react to a probable shellacking of the Democrats in midterm elections next month. Jimmy Carter stuck to his liberal agenda after suffering a modest rebuke in the 1978 midterms amid sky-high inflation, interest rates and unemployment. He didn’t take voters’ hint and went on to get clobbered two years later by Ronald Reagan. In contrast, after his party was slaughtered in the 1994 midterms (losing 51 House and eight Senate seats), a triangulating Bill Clinton moved to the center and handily won re-election in 1996. So what will Obama do if he loses a Democratic majority in the House and quite possibly the Senate, as his approval ratings tank to 40 percent? Most likely, he will stick to his liberal orthodoxy — but in a way unlike Carter. Yet, like Clinton, Obama may still have a good chance at re-election…. – Chicago Tribune, 10-7-10
    • Julian E. Zelizer: ‘Facebook politics’ is fleeting: The Tea Party has rekindled excitement in the potential of the internet to nurture mass political movements by using the Web to raise money and mobilize manpower.
      Activists have used many aspects of cyberspace: Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, iPod apps and more to rally their supporters. According to Investors.com, “Democrats and their allies dominated cyberspace for years. Now the political right, with the Tea Party explosion, at the very least is matching the left.”
      The stories about the Tea Party movement resemble the narrative about Barack Obama’s campaign.
      In 2008, Democrats used cyberspace to the same effect. Relying on what I called “Facebook politics,” the Democrats took Republicans by surprise by demonstrating how powerful a vehicle the internet could be in promoting a candidacy, bringing like-minded citizens together and offering an organizational infrastructure for movement politics.
      Yet will this form of organizing work over the long term? Can it sustain a movement after the drama of an election is over?….
      Without question, Facebook politics has reshaped the political landscape….
      It is far too easy for the most fervent supporter of a candidate or cause to simply defriend the movement and move on to something else.
      Rather than strong, shared memories of participating in something bigger than themselves, the experience might just leave behind the address of a Web page in the auto-fill mechanism of their browser or an occasional text alert to remind them of their political past. – CNN, 10-5-10

    Political Highlights August 9, 2010: President Obama Celebrates his Birthday, Jobs Bill & the Economy

    OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

    The President Records the Weekly Address
    White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 8/6/10

    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.

    IN FOCUS: THE PRESIDENT’S BIRTHDAY

    • Obama gets to test his game against hoops greats: Every hoops fan dreams of that one special birthday when his pro-ball heroes gather on a court to see if he’s got game. President Obama had that chance Sunday, assembling a virtual dream team of college and pro basketball players for a presidential pickup game in front of wounded veterans and participants in a White House mentoring program. Obama, who turned 49 on Wednesday, took to the court for a game with a stunning list of all-stars, including Grant Hill, Shane Battier, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Derek Fisher, LeBron James, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Maya Moore, Alonzo Mourning, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Bill Russell, Etan Thomas, Dwyane Wade and David West. The game was closed to the media… – WaPo, 8-8-10
    • Obama’s ladies phone in happy birthday wishes: President Barack Obama got a couple of birthday presents that didn’t need unwrapping, and the White House says they were the highlight of his day. Obama turned 49 on Wednesday. Spokesman Robert Gibbs says the president got birthday wishes by telephone from first lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Sasha, who are visiting Spain. And daughter Malia, who is away at camp, used her allotted phone time to call around lunchtime to wish her dad a happy birthday…. – AP, 8-5-10
    • Obama celebrates with Chicago friends (including Oprah): President Obama enjoyed a birthday dinner last night with some old Chicago friends, including one very prominent one: Oprah Winfrey. The talk show queen and friend Gayle King joined Obama at the Chicago restaurant graham elliot (the name really is in small letters, so you know it’s fancy). Long-time pals Eric Whittaker, Marty Nesbitt, and Valerie Jarrett also helped Obama celebrate his 49th birthday, as a crowd of about 75 people gathered on the street in the River North neighborhood. Obama — dark jacket, white shirt, no tie — spent more than three hours at the restaurant and left about 10:50 p.m…. – USA Today, 8-5-10
    • Obama celebrates with Chicago friends: Obama had to celebrate with friends because his family is spread out across the globe. Wife Michelle and daughter Sasha are vacationing in Spain, while daughter Malia is at camp — and all checked in throughout the day, as reported by spokesman Robert Gibbs:
      The President received two phone calls, first from the First Lady and Sasha, who, as you know, are traveling, to wish him a happy birthday …. I think everyone knows that, much to the President’s chagrin, Malia is away at camp. She gets one phone call during that time away, and she used that phone call around lunchtime today to call in and wish her Dad a happy birthday. And needless to say, both those calls were the highlights of his day. – USA Today, 8-5-10
    • Obama to have belated birthday bash: President Barack Obama may be celebrating his 49th birthday Wednesday without his wife and daughters, but CNN has learned there will be a hush-hush party at the White House on Sunday with close family and friends to make it up to him. Two top White House aides confirmed the belated birthday bash on the condition of anonymity because the details are a state secret around the corridors of the West Wing.
      “There will be some stuff Sunday,” a top adviser to the president said vaguely without giving away any of the details…. – CNN, 8-4-10

    KAGAN CONFIRMED AND SWORN IN AS THE 112TH JUSTICE

    • Kagan Is Sworn in as the Fourth Woman, and 112th Justice, on the Supreme Court: Elena Kagan was sworn in on Saturday as the 112th person, and fourth woman, to serve on the Supreme Court, continuing a generational and demographic transformation of the nation’s highest bench.
      In keeping with tradition, Ms. Kagan first took the constitutional oath given to a wide array of officials and then the judicial oath administered to those wearing the robe. Joined by family and friends in the Supreme Court building, she swore to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”
      The low-key formal ceremony came two days after she was confirmed by the Senate and a day after President Obama marked her ascension with a jubilant televised celebration in the East Room of the White House. She was Mr. Obama’s second successful nominee to the court, and her approval by the Senate was taken as a jolt of validation for a White House battered by political and economic troubles…. – NYT, 8-8-10
    • Kagan sworn in as fourth woman on Supreme Court: Elena Kagan was sworn in Saturday as the 112th justice and fourth woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to Kagan in a brief private ceremony at the court. Kagan, joined by family and friends, pledged to faithfully and impartially uphold the law. Afterward, she smiled broadly as a crowd of onlookers stood and applauded. “We look forward to serving with you,” Roberts said…. – AP, 8-7-10
    • Elena Kagan sworn in as Supreme Court justice: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administers the oath two days after her confirmation by the Senate. She is not expected to dramatically alter the ideological makeup of the court…. – LAT, 8-7-10
    • Brewing legal disputes could define Kagan’s early tenure: Reporting from Washington– This summer, as Elena Kagan quietly moved toward confirmation to the Supreme Court, three major legal disputes took shape that could define her early years. The justices soon will be called upon to decide whether states like Arizona can enforce immigration laws, whether same-sex couples have a right to marry and whether Americans can be required to buy health insurance. Kagan’s record strongly suggests she will vote in favor of federal regulation of immigration and health insurance and vote to oppose discrimination against gays and lesbians. What is less clear is whether she will be voting with a center-left majority that includes Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, or as liberal dissenter on a court whose five Republican appointees outvote the four Democratic appointees…. – LAT, 8-8-10
    • Kagan celebrates with Obama, to be sworn Saturday: A beaming Elena Kagan and President Barack Obama on Friday celebrated her imminent ascension to the Supreme Court with jokes and references to the irreverent sense of humor she put on display during her Senate confirmation hearing.
      An audience in the East Room of the White House, filled with Kagan’s friends and extended family, along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, screamed with joy and applauded as Obama introduced “Justice Elena Kagan.” Kagan, 50, holds the title of U.S. solicitor general for one more day.
      “While she may be feeling a twinge of sadness about giving up the title of general — a cool title — I think we can agree that Justice Elena Kagan has a pretty nice ring to it,” Obama said of his second successful appointment to the court…. – AP, 8-6-10
    • Obama on Kagan: ‘This is a good day’: After receiving some so-so news on unemployment this morning, President Obama got to kick back today and celebrate the elevation of his second Supreme Court justice. “This is a good day,” Obama said in a ceremony for Elena Kagan, who on Saturday will be sworn in as the high court’s 112th justice. Noting that he appointed Kagan as U.S. solicitor general two years ago, Obama said: “While she may be feeling a twinge of sadness about giving up the title of general — a cool title — I think we can all agree that Justice Elena Kagan has a pretty nice ring to it.”… – USA Today, 8-6-10
    • Senate confirms Kagan as 112th justice: The Senate confirmed Elena Kagan Thursday as the Supreme Court’s 112th justice and the fourth woman in its history, granting a lifetime term to a lawyer and academic with a reputation for brilliance, a dry sense of humor and a liberal bent.
      The vote was 63-37 for President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens.
      Five Republicans joined all but one Democrat and the Senate’s two independents to support Kagan. In a rarely practiced ritual reserved for the most historic votes, senators sat at their desks and stood to cast their votes with “ayes” and “nays.”
      Kagan watched the vote with her Justice Department colleagues in the solicitor general’s conference room, the White House said. Obama, traveling in Chicago, said her confirmation was an affirmation of her character and judicial temperament, and called the addition of another woman to the court a sign of progress for the country…. – AP, 8-5-10
    • Honoring Elena Kagan: Remarks by the President and Elena Kagan at Reception Honoring Her Confirmation: These folks may not agree on much, but they’ve all been impressed, as I have, by Elena’s formidable intellect and path-breaking career — as an acclaimed scholar and presidential advisor, as the first woman to serve as Dean of the Harvard Law School, and most recently as Solicitor General. They admire how, while she could easily have settled into a comfortable practice in corporate law, she chose instead to devote her life to public service. They appreciate her even-handedness and open-mindedness, and her excellent — and often irreverent — sense of humor.
      These are traits that she happens to share with the last Solicitor General who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice — one for whom Elena clerked, and whom she considers one of her heroes — Justice Thurgood Marshall. And we are very proud to have Justice Marshall’s widow here today joining us. (Applause.)
      In a tribute she wrote after Justice Marshall’s death, Elena recalled how she and her fellow clerks took turns standing guard when his casket lay in state at the Supreme Court — and how 20,000 people stood in a line that stretched around the block to pay their respects. They were people from every background and every walk of life: black, white, rich and poor, young and old. Many brought their children, hoping to impress upon them the lessons of Justice Marshall’s extraordinary life. Some left notes, some left flowers. One mourner left a worn slip opinion of Brown v. Board of Education.
      It is, to this day, a moving reminder that the work of our highest Court shapes not just the character of our democracy, but the most fundamental aspects of our daily lives — how we work, how we worship, whether we can speak freely and live fully, whether those words put to paper more than two centuries ago will truly mean something for each of us in our time. – WH, 8-6-10
    • Honoring Elena Kagan: Remarks by Elena Kagan at Reception Honoring Her Confirmation: Finally, I want to thank my family and friends. I have a lot of family here today — my brothers and sister-in- law, a nephew, a niece, aunts, uncles, cousins — and I have a great many friends here as well. You came from all over the country as soon as you heard the Senate had approved my nomination. And I’m moved and deeply grateful for your support.
      And all around me in this room, I feel the presence of my parents. I wouldn’t be standing here today if not for their love and sacrifice and devotion. And although my parents didn’t live to see this day, what I can almost hear them saying — and I think I can hear Justice Marshall saying this to me right now as well — is that this appointment is not just an honor. Much more importantly, it is an obligation — an obligation to protect and preserve the rule of law in this country; an obligation to uphold the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution; and an obligation to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building promises: equal justice under law.
      Tomorrow, I will take two oaths to uphold this solemn obligation: one, to support and defend the Constitution; and the other, to administer justice without respect to persons, to the rich and poor alike.
      Today, Mr. President, I will simply say to you and to everyone here and across the nation that I will work my hardest and try my best to fulfill these commitments and to serve this country I love as well as I am able. – WH, 8-6-10

    IN FOCUS: STATS

    • Bush Pushes Back Memoirs So GOP Isn’t Hurt In Midterms, Friends Say: George W. Bush pushed back publication of his memoirs, “Decision Points,” out of fear that a public reminder of his presidential legacy would hurt Republicans heading into November’s midterm elections, Bush’s friends tell the Financial Times. The FT reports that Bush refused to allow publication in September, which would have been a better time to unveil his book from a sales perspective. Instead, it’s slated to hit stores on Nov. 9, one week after Election Day. Bush isn’t scheduled to give any interviews for the book tour until Nov. 8.
      For their part, Random House’s Crown group said they made the call to delay “Decision Points,” concluding, “From a media perspective the period leading up to the midterm elections is a very noisy and crowded space and we believe the president’s book will be better served by being launched following that time.” Huff Post, 8-4-10

    THE HEADLINES….

    President Barack Obama Signs the Fair Sentencing Act in the Oval Office

    President Barack Obama signs the Fair Sentencing Act in the Oval Office, Aug. 3, 2010. Joining the President are, from left, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Attorney General Eric Holder, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, of Ill., Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    • Obama touts benefits to Medicare from health law: President Barack Obama says Medicare will exist for many more years, thanks to new legislation that helped put the health care program for America’s seniors on stronger financial footing. Seniors already are benefiting from that new health care law, said Obama, noting that many have received $250 rebates to help buy medicine, for example. Obama said the law and efforts by his administration to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse both in Medicare and across government generally are making the program stronger and cutting health care costs for seniors.
      “Medicare isn’t just a program,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet message. “It’s a commitment to America’s seniors — that after working your whole life, you’ve earned the security of quality health care you can afford.” “As long as I am president, that’s a commitment this country is going to keep” he said. AP, 8-7-10
    • Why GOP reaction is muted as judge affirms gay marriage rights: GOP conservatives may not be itching for a culture war over a judge’s decision overturning California’s gay marriage ban. Economic issues, not cultural ones, are their focus heading into Election 2010…. – CS Monitor, 8-7-10
    • Jobs report puts a damper on Obama’s effort to keep the message positive: President Obama spent much of the week harvesting bits of good news from some of his short- and longer-term initiatives…. – WaPo, 8-6-10
    • Gay Marriage Ruling a Challenge for Both Parties: A federal judge’s decision on Wednesday overturning Proposition 8 — California’s ban on same-sex marriage — has tossed a largely unwanted issue into the middle of the November midterm elections…. – NYT, 8-6-10
    • Romer says her White House departure long planned: Christina Romer, the departing chief of President Barack Obama’s economic advisory council, cast disagreements among key players on the White House economic team as a healthy part of reaching tough policy decisions.
      “Everybody knows we’re all strong personalities,” Romer told The Associated Press on Friday. “We don’t hesitate to have a very aggressive back and forth. But I think one of the things that we have done is absolutely find our groove. We’re a wonderful team.” “I think we’ve served the president well,” Romer said. “He likes to hear different points of view. And we think it helps us get to the best policy.” AP, 8-6-10
    • President Obama’s beliefs meet his policy, Prop 8 ruled unconstitutional: A federal judge in California ruled Wednesday that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the constitutional right to equal protection, the first step in a legal struggle that is widely expected to end at the Supreme Court. Judging by the White House statement after a federal judge struck down California’s Proposition 8 on Wednesday, you might think President Obama supports the rights of gays to marry. The president “has spoken out in opposition to Proposition 8 because it is divisive and discriminatory. He will continue to promote equality for LGBT Americans,” the White House said. But Obama does not endorse gay marriage. As a candidate for president, he consistently said marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman…. – WaPo, 8-5-10
    • Obama and gay marriage — a tricky balancing act: A federal judge’s decision to strike down California’s voter-approved gay marriage ban doesn’t make things any easier for President Obama. Obama opposed the ban when California voters approved Proposition 8 back in 2008, but he also opposes the concept of gay marriage — a tricky balancing act he will have to maintain as the issue works its way through the appeals courts.
      “The president does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples, and benefits and other issues, and that has been effectuated in federal agencies under his control,” White House aide David Axelrod said today on MSNBC. “He supports civil unions, and that’s been his position throughout. So nothing has changed.”
      Obama opposed Proposition 8 because “he felt that it was divisive,” Axelrod said. “He felt that it was mean-spirited.”
      Social conservatives who oppose gay marriage probably won’t back Obama in any event because of such other issues as abortion…. – USA Today, 8-5-10
    • Fallout Begins After Senate’s Failure to Act on Energy, Oil Spill: After the worst oil leak in U.S. history and months of heated negotiations on energy and spill-response legislation, senators will head home for the August recess empty-handed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he plans to bring back the spill bill or a broader measure in September, but even narrowed legislation may not pass with a cluttered legislative calendar and the November elections looming…. – NYT, 8-5-10
    • Jobs bill to stop teacher layoffs nears approval: Legislation to provide billions to save the jobs of teachers and other public workers is on track to pass the Senate, helped along by the votes of a couple of GOP moderates. Democrats cracked a GOP filibuster on Wednesday, and the House was being called back from its summer break for an expected final vote next week to help cash-strapped states and school districts…. – AP, 8-5-10
    • Judge overturns California gay marriage ban: A federal judge overturned California’s ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday, the latest twist in a legal saga which could have nationwide implications for the divisive social issue. In a written opinion, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in favor of rights activists who argued that a November 2008 referendum which barred gays and lesbians from tying the knot was discriminatory and therefore violated the US Constitution. The referendum, known as Proposition 8, was passed by a 52 percent majority only six months after California’s Supreme Court overturned a previous ban on same-sex weddings triggering a flood of same-sex marriages…. – AFP, 8-4-10
    • Senate jobs bill clears key hurdle: Senate Democrats on Wednesday overcame Republican opposition and cleared the way for a $26 billion measure to help states ease their severe budget problems and save the jobs of tens of thousands of teachers and other public employees. The bill advanced by a 61-38 tally that ensures the measure will pass the Senate on Wednesday or Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Wednesday that she will call the House back into session next week for a final vote that would deliver the bill to President Barack Obama. His larger jobs agenda was curtailed by Republicans who argue against the spending it would entail…. – AP, 8-4-10
    • GOP Senators Push to End Birthright Citizenship: The 14th Amendment is fast becoming the latest front in America’s bitter immigration debate. Key GOP senators, led by South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, have suggested repealing a clause that gives automatic citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil. Instead, they propose denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants (sometimes called “anchor babies”), thereby ending one of the perceived incentives for people to cross the border. Conservative TV host Lou Dobbs believes it’s a step too far, but on Wednesday, Sen. John McCain signaled a willingness to consider the idea…. – Newsweek, 8-4-10
    • Missouri vote puts health care back in crosshairs: Missouri voters’ overwhelming opposition to requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance puts one of the least popular parts of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law back in the political crosshairs. Even if the vote sets no legally binding precedent, it will help mobilize foes of Obama’s agenda in the fall midterm elections, and that could make a difference in some states with close congressional races that could decide the balance of power in Washington. On Tuesday, Missouri voters cast 71 percent of their ballots in favor of a state measure to bar the government from requiring people to carry health insurance, and penalizing those who don’t…. – AP, 8-4-10
    • Real Reason Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston Split?: Bristol To People Magazine: Levi May Have Gotten Another Woman Pregnant – CBS News, 8-4-10
    • Majority of senators back Kagan on eve of vote: Elena Kagan has won the support of a majority of senators on the eve of a vote to confirm her as the Supreme Court’s fourth woman. At least 51 senators have announced they will back Kagan in the vote expected Thursday. President Barack Obama named the 50-year-old solicitor general to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens. She’s drawn the support so far of all but one Democrat — Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska — plus one independent and five Republicans…. – AP, 8-4-10
    • Senate Opens Debate on Kagan: The Senate on Tuesday opened floor debate of on the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Democrats praised her as a sagacious legal mind and a refreshing choice from outside the usual ranks of federal judges, while Republicans denounced her as a liberal partisan who would use her perch on the high court to bend the law to her political views.
      Ms. Kagan, the solicitor general and former dean of Harvard Law School, was chosen by President Obama to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. She is all but certain to be confirmed, with the Senate Democratic majority virtually unanimous in support and Republicans pledging not to filibuster. A vote is planned by the end of this week, and may happen as soon as Thursday…. – NYT, 8-3-10
    • Jobs, Kagan Are Top Priority for Senate Democrats With the August recess closing in, Harry Reid is pushing his agenda: It’s August and that means Senate Democrats have only a few days left on their legislative agenda before they head home for a month-long recess. With the bulk of Republicans against them on key matters, it could be another fruitless week in the upper chamber, at least as far as voters are concerned…. – US News & World Report, 8-2-10
    • Obama Says GOP Has Same Ideas As Ex-Pres George W Bush: President Barack Obama, speaking at a fundraising event for the Democratic party in Atlanta, said the Republican party hasn’t differentiated itself from former President George W. Bush. “They don’t have a single idea that’s different from George Bush’s ideas–not one,” Obama said to applause. Obama rarely refers to his predecessor by name during speeches, preferring instead to say “the previous administration.”… – WSJ, 8-2-10
    • McCain is Clapper stopper: Sen. John McCain is blocking James Clapper’s nomination for U.S. intelligence chief until he gets a requested report, an aide to the Arizona Republican says…. – UPI, 8-2-10
    • National intelligence director nomination blocked: A spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain says the senator is blocking President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the director of national intelligence. Spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan says the Arizona Republican has requested a specific report from retired Air Force Gen. James R. Clapper. Buchanan declined the provide any details about the report but said it was not related to Clapper or his views. Buchanan said McCain will continue to put a hold on Clapper’s nomination until he provides the report. AP, 8-2-10
    • MIT students helped WikiLeaks suspect, hacker says: Adrian Lamo, the former computer hacker who tipped off federal authorities to WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning, says two men in the Boston area have told Lamo in phone conversations that they assisted Manning. Lamo said both men attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but he refused to identify them because, he said, at least one of them has threatened him. One of these men allegedly told Lamo they gave encryption software to Manning and taught the Army private how to use it, Lamo said….. – CNN, 8-2-10

    ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

    • RNC adopts new 2012 presidential primary schedule: The Republican National Committee adopted a new schedule for the 2012 presidential primaries Friday, agreeing to a plan worked out in concert with Democrats and designed to delay the start of the campaign season. The proposal, drafted by a special RNC panel, gained approval from more than the necessary two-thirds of the committee’s 168 members…. – WaPo, 8-6-10
    • GOP to Launch “Fire Pelosi” Bus Tour: Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele tried to energize his party today with the announcement that the RNC is sponsoring a “Fire Pelosi” bus tour this fall. Steele appeared at the RNC convention in Kansas City, Missouri with a red “Fire Pelosi” cap on, the Associated Press reports. “Get on the bus!” he yelled on stage, next to a cardboard bus that read, “Need a job? Fire Pelosi.”… – CBS News, 8-6-10
    • Mo., Mich., Kan., choose candidates in primaries: Voters had no shortage of options in choosing party nominees in Tuesday’s primaries as they focused on successors to Republican senators in Kansas and Missouri and term-limited Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
      Five Republicans and two Democrats were vying to succeed Granholm in Michigan, a state reeling from the economic downturn. Three Democrats and nine Republicans were running in Missouri’s Senate race, and four Republicans and five Democrats were competing for their party’s Senate nominations in Kansas.
      Ballots were even more crowded — with up to as many as nine candidates in some cases — in House races in all three states…. – AP, 8-3-10
    • Term limits will hobble more Republicans than Democrats: State’s term limits law will hobble more Republicans than Democrats in the upcoming November elections, according to the Montana Secretary of State…. – Belgrade News, 8-3-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    • Weekly Address: President Obama Highlights Benefits to Seniors Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
      Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery Saturday, August 7, 2010 Washington, DC:

      Forty-five years ago, we made a solemn compact as a nation that senior citizens would not go without the health care they need. This is the promise we made when Medicare was born. And it’s the responsibility of each generation to keep that promise.
      That’s why a report issued this week by the Trustees who oversee Medicare was such good news. According to this report, the steps we took this year to reform the health care system have put Medicare on a sounder financial footing. Reform has actually added at least a dozen years to the solvency of Medicare – the single longest extension in history – while helping to preserve Medicare for generations to come….
      We’ve made Medicare more solvent by going after waste, fraud, and abuse – not by changing seniors’ guaranteed benefits. In fact, seniors are starting to see that because of health reform, their benefits are getting better all the time.
      And as reform ramps up in the coming years, we expect seniors to save an average of $200 per year in premiums and more than $200 each year in out of pocket costs, too…. So we are no longer accepting business as usual. We’re making tough decisions to meet the challenges of our time. And as a result, Medicare is stronger and more secure. That’s important. Because Medicare isn’t just a program. It’s a commitment to America’s seniors – that after working your whole life, you’ve earned the security of quality health care you can afford. As long as I am President, that’s a commitment this country is going to keep…. – WH, 8-7-10
    • Palin: Obama ‘in over his head’: Sarah Palin’s critiques of President Obama continue to draw buzz. Just a few days after saying Obama lacked the “cojones” to tackle illegal immigration, Palin told Fox conservative talk show host Sean Hannity that Obama simply isn’t up to the job:
      I think he’s quite complacent. And I think he’s in over his head. And I think he has poor advisers around him. And I think he’s really in flux kind of when it comes to what his governing philosophy actually is. Some of this, though, is a result of he not having much experience and then a complicit media and maybe some voters who chose to not to allow him to be vetted very closely. – USA Today, 8-6-10
    • Mitch McConnell: After November, Legislation Is ‘Going To Have To Be Center Right’: “What I hope we are going to have after November is more balance, more balance, which would give us the opportunity to do things together that simply were missing when you have this kind of disparity,” McConnell said. “But, I’m not going to be very interested in doing things left of center. It is going to have to be center right. I think the president is a flexible man. I’m hoping he will become a born-again moderate.” – Huff Post, 8-5-10
    • Obama salutes promised end of US combat in Iraq: Nearing a milestone in the long and divisive Iraq war, President Barack Obama on Monday hailed this month’s planned withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops — “as promised and on schedule” — as a major success despite deep doubts about the Iraqis’ ability to police and govern their country.
      Portraying the end of America’s combat role in the 7-year war as a personal promise kept, Obama said Iraq will have 90,000 fewer U.S. troops by September than when he took office — a steady homeward flow he called “a season of homecomings.” But there could still be more fighting involving U.S. forces.
      “The hard truth is we have not seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq,” the president said in a speech to the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans. “But make no mistake, our commitment in Iraq is changing — from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats.”… – AP, 8-2-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    • At the White House, Losing a Game of Phone Tag: The White House switchboard — able to conjure up Santa Claus at a moment’s notice for a young Caroline Kennedy — is famous for its ability to track down anyone, anywhere, anytime. But last week, both the White House and the secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, were unable to muster that switchboard magic to reach Shirley Sherrod….
      “I was astonished,” said Richard Reeves, a professor at the University of Southern California and the author of several books about the presidency. “It seems impossible to me that the president can’t get to people anytime he wants to.”…
      Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University, had his own take: “It may be a metaphor for a kind of societal incompetence, where a 20-year-old intern for CNN or Fox or MSNBC can track down the main players, when the federal government can’t.”… – NYT (7-25-10)
    • Julian Zelizer: Don’t give Obama blank check on war: Despite all the questions surrounding the war in Afghanistan, congressional Democrats have not challenged the administration’s policies since President Obama announced a surge of troops in 2009….
      Democrats don’t want Afghanistan to become a political problem for Obama. Their party is having enough trouble as a result of the recession and the deficit that they don’t want to give their opponents one more issue to run on. Democrats, who have suffered for decades when being attacked as “weak on defense,” also fear that any questions about the war will open them up to those attacks again….
      Democrats can’t continue to write a blank check for this president. They must use the power of oversight and investigation to start addressing the problems with the war strategy and to create pressure on the administration to strengthen its military plans for the coming year. They can’t simply trust the president do just to the right thing. Too often, when Congress has remained silent, presidents have made huge mistakes — and it has taken decades for the nation to recover…. – CNN, 8-3-10

    Political Buzz: Kagan Confirmed and Sworn-in as the 112th Supreme Court Justice

    KAGAN CONFIRMED AND SWORN IN AS THE 112TH JUSTICE

    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.

    http://bonniekaryn.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/kaganceremony.jpg?w=501&h=269

    AP Elena Kagan is sworn in Saturday as the Supreme Court’s newest member as Chief Justice John Roberts, right, administers the judicial oath. More photos

    • Kagan sworn in as fourth woman on Supreme Court: Elena Kagan was sworn in Saturday as the 112th justice and fourth woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath to Kagan in a brief private ceremony at the court. Kagan, joined by family and friends, pledged to faithfully and impartially uphold the law. Afterward, she smiled broadly as a crowd of onlookers stood and applauded. “We look forward to serving with you,” Roberts said…. – AP, 8-7-10
    • Elena Kagan sworn in as Supreme Court justice: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administers the oath two days after her confirmation by the Senate. She is not expected to dramatically alter the ideological makeup of the court…. – LAT, 8-7-10
    • Brewing legal disputes could define Kagan’s early tenure: Reporting from Washington– This summer, as Elena Kagan quietly moved toward confirmation to the Supreme Court, three major legal disputes took shape that could define her early years. The justices soon will be called upon to decide whether states like Arizona can enforce immigration laws, whether same-sex couples have a right to marry and whether Americans can be required to buy health insurance. Kagan’s record strongly suggests she will vote in favor of federal regulation of immigration and health insurance and vote to oppose discrimination against gays and lesbians. What is less clear is whether she will be voting with a center-left majority that includes Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, or as liberal dissenter on a court whose five Republican appointees outvote the four Democratic appointees…. – LAT, 8-8-10
    • Kagan celebrates with Obama, to be sworn Saturday: A beaming Elena Kagan and President Barack Obama on Friday celebrated her imminent ascension to the Supreme Court with jokes and references to the irreverent sense of humor she put on display during her Senate confirmation hearing.
      An audience in the East Room of the White House, filled with Kagan’s friends and extended family, along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy, screamed with joy and applauded as Obama introduced “Justice Elena Kagan.” Kagan, 50, holds the title of U.S. solicitor general for one more day.
      “While she may be feeling a twinge of sadness about giving up the title of general — a cool title — I think we can agree that Justice Elena Kagan has a pretty nice ring to it,” Obama said of his second successful appointment to the court…. – AP, 8-6-10
    • Obama on Kagan: ‘This is a good day’: After receiving some so-so news on unemployment this morning, President Obama got to kick back today and celebrate the elevation of his second Supreme Court justice. “This is a good day,” Obama said in a ceremony for Elena Kagan, who on Saturday will be sworn in as the high court’s 112th justice. Noting that he appointed Kagan as U.S. solicitor general two years ago, Obama said: “While she may be feeling a twinge of sadness about giving up the title of general — a cool title — I think we can all agree that Justice Elena Kagan has a pretty nice ring to it.”… – USA Today, 8-6-10
    • Senate confirms Kagan as 112th justice: The Senate confirmed Elena Kagan Thursday as the Supreme Court’s 112th justice and the fourth woman in its history, granting a lifetime term to a lawyer and academic with a reputation for brilliance, a dry sense of humor and a liberal bent.
      The vote was 63-37 for President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed retired Justice John Paul Stevens.
      Five Republicans joined all but one Democrat and the Senate’s two independents to support Kagan. In a rarely practiced ritual reserved for the most historic votes, senators sat at their desks and stood to cast their votes with “ayes” and “nays.”
      Kagan watched the vote with her Justice Department colleagues in the solicitor general’s conference room, the White House said. Obama, traveling in Chicago, said her confirmation was an affirmation of her character and judicial temperament, and called the addition of another woman to the court a sign of progress for the country…. – AP, 8-5-10
    The President honors Elena Kagan
    White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 8/6/10
    • Honoring Elena Kagan: Remarks by the President and Elena Kagan at Reception Honoring Her Confirmation: These folks may not agree on much, but they’ve all been impressed, as I have, by Elena’s formidable intellect and path-breaking career — as an acclaimed scholar and presidential advisor, as the first woman to serve as Dean of the Harvard Law School, and most recently as Solicitor General. They admire how, while she could easily have settled into a comfortable practice in corporate law, she chose instead to devote her life to public service. They appreciate her even-handedness and open-mindedness, and her excellent — and often irreverent — sense of humor.
      These are traits that she happens to share with the last Solicitor General who went on to become a Supreme Court Justice — one for whom Elena clerked, and whom she considers one of her heroes — Justice Thurgood Marshall. And we are very proud to have Justice Marshall’s widow here today joining us. (Applause.)
      In a tribute she wrote after Justice Marshall’s death, Elena recalled how she and her fellow clerks took turns standing guard when his casket lay in state at the Supreme Court — and how 20,000 people stood in a line that stretched around the block to pay their respects. They were people from every background and every walk of life: black, white, rich and poor, young and old. Many brought their children, hoping to impress upon them the lessons of Justice Marshall’s extraordinary life. Some left notes, some left flowers. One mourner left a worn slip opinion of Brown v. Board of Education.
      It is, to this day, a moving reminder that the work of our highest Court shapes not just the character of our democracy, but the most fundamental aspects of our daily lives — how we work, how we worship, whether we can speak freely and live fully, whether those words put to paper more than two centuries ago will truly mean something for each of us in our time. – WH, 8-6-10
    • Honoring Elena Kagan: Remarks by Elena Kagan at Reception Honoring Her Confirmation: Finally, I want to thank my family and friends. I have a lot of family here today — my brothers and sister-in- law, a nephew, a niece, aunts, uncles, cousins — and I have a great many friends here as well. You came from all over the country as soon as you heard the Senate had approved my nomination. And I’m moved and deeply grateful for your support.
      And all around me in this room, I feel the presence of my parents. I wouldn’t be standing here today if not for their love and sacrifice and devotion. And although my parents didn’t live to see this day, what I can almost hear them saying — and I think I can hear Justice Marshall saying this to me right now as well — is that this appointment is not just an honor. Much more importantly, it is an obligation — an obligation to protect and preserve the rule of law in this country; an obligation to uphold the rights and liberties afforded by our remarkable Constitution; and an obligation to provide what the inscription on the Supreme Court building promises: equal justice under law.
      Tomorrow, I will take two oaths to uphold this solemn obligation: one, to support and defend the Constitution; and the other, to administer justice without respect to persons, to the rich and poor alike.
      Today, Mr. President, I will simply say to you and to everyone here and across the nation that I will work my hardest and try my best to fulfill these commitments and to serve this country I love as well as I am able. – WH, 8-6-10

    Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan: Senate Confirmation Hearing 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:


    Luke Sharrett/The New York Times

    Solicitor General Elena Kagan faced questions from senators including, clockwise from top left, Jeff Sessions, Patrick J. Leahy, Ted Kaufman, Arlen Specter, Al Franken, Jon Kyl, Charles E. Grassley and Orrin G. Hatch.

    IN FOCUS: STATS

    • Kagan will be Confirmed: Elena Kagan is speeding toward confirmation as the 112th Supreme Court justice, with Republicans showing little appetite for a long-shot filibuster attempt after sparring with her over abortion, gays in the military and other divisive issues. “Solicitor General Kagan will be confirmed,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., confidently predicted as the Senate Judiciary Committee wrapped up its examination of President Barack Obama’s high court pick…. – AP, 7-1-10
    • The Kagan Hearings and Politics of Life Tenure on Supreme Court Should Congress Impose Term Limits for Supreme Court Justices?: If Elena Kagan is confirmed to the Supreme Court and she serves until she’s 90 — the age of her predecessor Justice John Paul Stevens — she would become the longest serving justice in U.S. history. It’s a weighty and not unreasonable prospect that has hovered over her Senate confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill this week, fueling tough questioning of the 50 year-old nominee who faces appointment for life.
      In a new CSPAN poll, 53 percent of Americans say they “disagree” with the policy that says justices should remain on the bench as long as they display “good behavior.”… – ABC News, 7-1-10
    • Elena Kagan Confirmation Hearings Liveblog, Day 3 – Talk Radio News, 6-30-10
    • SCOTUS Hearings Live Blog: Elena Kagan Day 2CBS News, 6-29-10
    • SCOTUS Hearings Live Blog: Elena Kagan Day 1CBS News, 6-28-10

    THE HEADLINES….

    • SPIN METER: What happened to the Kagan standard?: Elena Kagan declined to discuss her passions, demurred when asked anything that might tip her hand on the Supreme Court and invoked her right to remain inscrutable even on cases buried in the past. In short, Kagan did her best to ensure her high court nomination hearing was just the kind of benign event she criticized years ago for lacking “seriousness and substance.”…. – AP, 7-1-10
    • Kagan Ends Hearings, Confirmation In Sight: After Third Day of Senate Testimony, Dems and Republicans Agree Supreme Court Nominee Elena Kagan Will Likely be Confirmed… – CBS News, 6-30-10
    • Republicans Press Kagan on Social Issues: They grilled her on her handling of military recruitment at Harvard Law School. They highlighted how, as an aide to President Bill Clinton, she helped edit a medical group’s statement to strengthen support for the procedure critics call partial-birth abortion. They painted her as a partisan and suggested she would be too deferential to Congress when reviewing the constitutionality of sweeping legislation, like President Obama’s landmark health care law.
      But try as they might, Republicans could not knock Solicitor General Elena Kagan off her stride. And as her second day of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee wound down on Wednesday, some conceded that her confirmation to the Supreme Court was all but assured… – NYT, 7-1-10
    • Court Jester? Kagan Draws Laughs at Confirmation Hearings: There isn’t a two drink minimum at the Senate Judiciary Committee, but maybe there should be. At times Elena Kagan’s hearings have felt more like Kagan’s comedy club than a Supreme Court confirmation hearing…. – CBS News, 6-30-10
    • Elena Kagan, if Supreme Court doesn’t work out, try the Borscht Belt: She won’t bite on THE Twilight question. She cracks a fortune cookie comeback to an odd question on Christmas. If Elena Kagan should somehow not be confirmed for the U.S. Supreme Court, she could try the Borscht Belt. That was the old route for Jewish comics through the Catskills resorts popular as retreats for urban Jews like those from her home turf on the Upper West Side… – USA Today, 6-30-10
    • Kagan Follows Precedent by Offering Few Opinions: Elena Kagan deflected questions about her own views on gun rights and abortion during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings on Tuesday, instead describing Supreme Court precedents. She declined to say whether terrorism suspects must be warned of the right to remain silent, saying the issue was “quite likely to get to the courts.”
      Ms. Kagan’s responses, during a long and sometimes tense day of parrying with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, were similar to those of Supreme Court nominees past. But unlike her predecessors, Ms. Kagan wrote a 1995 article calling for judicial nominees to be more forthcoming. On Tuesday, minutes into her testimony, she backpedaled, saying she now believed it would be inappropriate even to answer questions that might “provide some kind of hints” about her views on matters of legal controversy.
      “I think that that was wrong,” she said. “I think that — in particular, that it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to talk about what I think about past cases — you know, to grade cases — because those cases themselves might again come before the court.”… – NYT, 6-30-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    • Elena Kagan’s Opening Statement: Excerpts: “Mr. Chairman, the law school I had the good fortune to lead has a kind of motto, spoken each year at graduation. We tell the new graduates that they are ready to enter a profession devoted to “those wise restraints that make us free.” That phrase has always captured for me the way law, and the rule of law, matters. What the rule of law does is nothing less than to secure for each of us what our Constitution calls “the blessings of liberty” – those rights and freedoms, that promise of equality, that have defined this nation since its founding. And what the Supreme Court does is to safeguard the rule of law, through a commitment to even-handedness, principle, and restraint.
      “The idea is engraved on the very face of the Supreme Court building: Equal Justice Under Law. It means that everyone who comes before the Court – regardless of wealth or power or station – receives the same process and the same protections. What this commands of judges is even-handedness and impartiality. What it promises is nothing less than a fair shake for every American.
      “[T]he Supreme Court is a wondrous institution. But the time I spent in the other branches of government remind me that it must also be a modest one – properly deferential to the decisions of the American people and their elected representatives. What I most took away from those experiences was simple admiration for the democratic process. That process is often messy and frustrating, but the people of this country have great wisdom, and their representatives work hard to protect their interests. The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the Court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”
      “I’ve led a school whose faculty and students examine and discuss and debate every aspect of our law and legal system. And what I’ve learned most is that no one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom. I’ve learned that we make progress by listening to each other, across every apparent political or ideological divide. I’ve learned that we come closest to getting things right when we approach every person and every issue with an open mind. And I’ve learned the value of a habit that Justice Stevens wrote about more than fifty years ago – of ‘understanding before disagreeing.’
      I will make no pledges this week other than this one – that if confirmed, I will remember and abide by all these lessons. I will listen hard, to every party before the Court and to each of my colleagues. I will work hard. And I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law.” – CBS News, 6-28-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    • Jonathan Sarna: Is Kagan’s Jewishness Being Used Against Her?: Jewish groups may be even more silent than usual because Kagan, if confirmed, would be the third Jew at one time on the Supreme Court — an historic first. Brandeis historian Jonathan Sarna said Jewish groups tend to be quieter when the nominee is Jewish. “Privately, there’s a residual concern that maybe if we’re noisy, we could hurt the nominee and that it might raise anti-Semitic comments about the candidate.” — NY Jewish Week, 6-30-10
    • E.J. Dionne Jr: The New Republic: Liberals And The Judiciary:
      This week’s hearings over Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court will mark a sea change in the way liberals argue about the judiciary.
      Democratic senators are planning to put the right of citizens to challenge corporate power at the center of their critique of activist conservative judging, offering a case that has not been fully aired since the days of the great Progressive Era Justice Louis Brandeis.
      It was Brandeis who warned against the “concentration of economic power” and observed that “so-called private corporations are sometimes able to dominate the state.”
      None of this means that Kagan’s nomination is in jeopardy. On the contrary, she’ll be approved easily, and should be. She will be calm and reassuring during her hearings that start Monday. And unless we live in an age of partisan double standards, she can’t be asked to be anymore forthcoming about her views than were Chief Justice John Roberts or Justice Samuel Alito…. – NPR, 6-28-10

    Political Highlights June 28, 2010: Obama at the G20, Passing Financial Reform & Kagan’s Confirmation Hearings Begin

    Political Highlights

    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:

    President Obama Commends Congress for Finalizing Wall Street

    President Barack Obama makes a statement to the press regarding the congressional agreement on Financial Reform from the South Lawn of the White House June 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

    IN FOCUS: STATS

    • President Obama at the G8 in Photos: The President spent today at the G8 Summit in Canada, which focused amongst other things on the Muskoka Initiative on maternal and child health (MCH). See an array of photos from the day below…. – WH, 6-25-10
    • Poll: Obama’s ratings fall amid Gulf oil spill: President Barack Obama’s job performance rating has dropped to the lowest level of his presidency as Americans grow less confident in his leadership, according to an opinion poll published on Wednesday. Obama’s rating stood at 45 percent in the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, down 5 points from early last month. For the first time in the survey, more people — 48 percent — say they disapprove of Obama’s job performance. A majority of respondents, 62 percent, said the country was on the wrong track. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed rate Obama positively on “strong leadership qualities,” down from 70 percent when he became president and a drop of 8 points since January…. – Reuters, 6-23-10
    • GOP: generic optimism over poll: Republicans must be giddy over the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Thanks to the BP oil spill in the gulf, the administration’s problems getting a public handle on the disaster and the stubborn economy, President Obama’s job approval rating dropped from 50 percent last month to 45 percent now. His disapproval rating is now 48 percent. To make matters worse, 60 percent of those polled say the nation is on the wrong track. Republicans surely are smiling over who poll respondents said they wanted ruling Congress after the November midterms. For the second survey in a row the GOP came out on top. They were favored 45 to 43 over Democrats. WaPo, 6-25-10
    • Confidence Waning in Obama, U.S. Outlook: Americans are more pessimistic about the state of the country and less confident in President Barack Obama’s leadership than at any point since Mr. Obama entered the White House, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. The survey also shows grave and growing concerns about the Gulf oil spill, with overwhelming majorities of adults favoring stronger regulation of the oil industry and believing that the spill will affect the nation’s economy and environment. Sixty-two percent of adults in the survey feel the country is on the wrong track, the highest level since before the 2008 election. Just one-third think the economy will get better over the next year, a 7-point drop from a month ago and the low point of Mr. Obama’s tenure. WSJ, 6-23-10
    • Cherry-picking polls: Obama’s leadership numbers tumble and would you believe Senator Charlie Crist?: As one result, a new CBS News Poll finds most Americans believe Obama reacted too slowly to the catastrophe (61%) and has no clear plan to deal with it (59% nationwide, 64% in the gulf area). Forty-five percent say Obama has no clear plan for developing new energy sources and 54% still say he has no clear plan for developing new jobs, 16 months after he signed his own massive jobs plan and numerous expensive sales trips to sell its benefits…. – LAT, 6-22-10
    • Rasmussen: McCain 47%, Hayworth 36%: Longtime Senator John McCain continues to lead Arizona’s Republican Primary by double digits but remains in the same narrow range of support he’s drawn since January. The latest Rasmussen Reports statewide telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters in the state Voters shows McCain picking up 47% support, while challenger J.D.Hayworth earns the vote from 36%. Navy veteran and Tea Party activist Jim Deakin picks up seven percent (7%) support. One percent (1%) like another candidate in the race, and eight percent (8%) are undecided…. – Tucson Weekly, 6-22-10

    THE HEADLINES….

    President Barack Obama talks with President Dmitry Medvedev of

    President Barack Obama talks with President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada as as they walk with other G8 leaders at the G8 Summit in Muskoka, Canada June 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    • Robert Byrd, Respected Voice of the Senate, Dies at 92: Robert C. Byrd, who used his record tenure as a United States senator to fight for the primacy of the legislative branch of government and to build a modern West Virginia with vast amounts of federal money, died at about 3 a.m. Monday, his office said. He was 92. He had been in failing health for several years. Mr. Byrd served 51 years in the Senate, longer than anyone in American history, and with his six years in the House, he was the longest-serving member of Congress. He held a number of Senate offices, including majority and minority leader and president pro tem. But the post that gave him the most satisfaction was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, with its power of the purse — a post he gave up only last year as his health declined. A New Deal Democrat, Mr. Byrd used the position in large part to battle persistent poverty in West Virginia, which he called “one of the rock bottomest of states.”… – NYT, 6-28-10
    • M.D. Ginsburg, 78, Dies; Lawyer and Tax Expert: Martin D. Ginsburg, a tax lawyer and professor of tax law and the husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court, died Sunday at his home in Washington. He was 78. The cause was cancer, according to a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court, which announced the death…. – NYT, 6-28-10
    • Obama’s G20 Attendance Signifies Debt Reduction Plan: The G20 Summit in Toronto has been taking place, ensuring that world leader’s from 20 of the largest countries have been able to discuss some of the key issues concerning international finance.
      One of the main issues has been the deficits which many countries are having to contend with – the UK included. Britain has recently announced that they are going to be making billions of dollars worth of cuts to their public sector, in order to try and reduce the public sector net borrowing deficit.
      Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to reducing America’s deficit today, agreeing with other nations at the event to reduce oustanding debt by half over a three-year period. However, the President warned about how being too proactive over this matter could result in what is known as a ‘double dip’ recession, meaning that previous economic difficulties could return on a far worse scale. As it is, some European leaders believe that Barack Obama’s plans are ineffective in some ways, particularly because of how levels of unemployment in America have remained fairly constant…. – News Quench, 6-27-10
    • Oops! Joe Biden’s smart mouth gives GOP more ammo with botched Wisconsin trip: Would you call it a disastrous trip? Maybe not disastrous, but memorable. You will hear about Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to the Wisconsin custard shop many times over the course of the next five months. The simple campaign-like stop will give conservatives even more ammunition in an upcoming midterm election season that already looks ominous for President Obama…. – LAT, 6-27-10
    • Obama’s high court pick Kagan faces Senate hearing: Elena Kagan, President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, faces a potential grilling by Republicans as she begins her Senate confirmation hearing on Monday even as Obama rejected as “pretty thin gruel” arguments advanced by her critics.
      Senator Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee that will hold the hearings, made it clear that Kagan can expect tough questioning on whether she has what it takes to be a Supreme Court justice. “This is a confirmation, not a coronation,” said Sessions, appearing on Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “She has the least experience of any nominee at least in the last 50 years,” Sessions said…. – Reuters, 6-28-10
    • White House launches plan to boost broadband: U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to free up airways would nearly double the amount of commercial spectrum currently available for wireless devices, an administration official said on Monday. The plan would make available 500 megahertz of federal and commercial spectrum over the next 10 years, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity…. – Reuters, 6-28-10
    • Palin in Tyler: Says Obama falls short on leadership: Sarah Palin fired up an enthusiastic Texas crowd late Saturday by criticizing President Barack Obama’s handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, saying he’s falling short on leadership. “You asked for the job, Mr. President, so buck up,” Palin said to voracious applause inside the nearly packed Oil Palace. Organizers said the event drew about 5,000 people…. – AP, 6-27-10
    • US legislation could help Obama at G-8 talks: President Obama came to the summit table this weekend with a strong hand to press his case to foreign leaders for tougher financial regulations, after Congress agreed to a far-reaching overhaul of the American regulatory system. The opposite is true for his effort to persuade other governments to keep stimulating their economies rather than attacking deficits. While Congress allowed Obama to pack the big victory on banking regulation as he left for the Group of 20 summit, the Senate separately dealt him a significant setback that no doubt resonated with the foreign leaders here pushing fiscal austerity: Democratic leaders shelved an economic stimulus package of aid for the long-term unemployed and financially squeezed states, along with assorted tax cuts…. – NYT, 6-27-10
    • Senate Democrats poised to start energy bill: Legislation could include a carbon cap on utility companies. Many Democrats hope a summer discussion on energy will establish a strong contrast with Republicans before this fall’s election… – LAT, 6-27-10
    • GOP: Obama’s panel is biased Critics contend spill inquiry panel has no oil experts, only drilling foes: The presidential commission investigating offshore drilling safety and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill came under fresh fire Thursday with Republicans accusing President Barack Obama of stacking it with environmental activists. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., charged the Obama administration with keeping oil and gas drilling experts off its seven-member commission in favor of people who philosophically oppose offshore exploration. And Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, said there was a huge conflict of interest in putting environmental advocates on a panel responsible for investigating the spill and recommending new safety mandates for offshore drilling…. – Houston Chronicle, 6-27-10
    • Specter ready to press Kagan to take a stand: Elena Kagan wrote 15 years ago that Supreme Court confirmation hearings had become a “vapid and hollow charade” filled with blather instead of rigorous thought. For a lifetime appointment, she argued, there should be a substantial exchange of ideas. When her own turn before the Senate Judiciary Committee begins Monday, however, Kagan probably will stick to platitudes…. – Philadelphia Inquirer, 6-27-10
    • 3 Democrats urge U.S. to not sue Arizona: A trio of U.S. House Democrats from Arizona is making a last-ditch effort to discourage President Barack Obama’s administration from suing the state over its controversial new illegal-immigration law. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick, Harry Mitchell and Gabrielle Giffords support a comprehensive approach to border security and immigration reform, something Congress has failed to pass despite years of trying. All three, who could find themselves in difficult re-election battles this year, want the administration to focus on practical steps to repair the broken U.S. immigration system and shore up border security instead of suing Arizona. A federal legal challenge could come from the Justice Department as early as this week…. – The Arizona Republic, 6-27-10
    • ‘McChrystal downbeat on Afghan war before sacking’: US General Stanley McChrystal issued a highly critical assessment of the war in Afghanistan just days before he was sacked by President Barack Obama, a British newspaper reported Sunday. The Independent on Sunday said leaked military documents showed McChrystal had briefed defence ministers from the countries involved in the war earlier this month and warned them to expect no progress in the next six months…. – AFP, 6-27-10
    • Vice President Biden to visit Gulf Coast region to see BP’s oil spill first hand: Vice President Biden will visit the Gulf Coast on Tuesday to check on progress in the ongoing fight against the massive oil spill, officials said Friday. Biden will visit the National Incident Command Center in New Orleans and the Florida Panhandle, where miles of beach are closed as murky plumes of oil loom not far offshore. The trip will be the vice president’s first since the crisis in the Gulf began. President Obama has visited the region four times in recent months…. – NY Daily News, 6-26-10
    • GOP: Schwarzenegger ‘a great disappointment’: Gov. has few friends in Calif. party, massive deficit, low approval ratings… – WaPo, MSNBC, 6-26-10
    • Former VP Cheney hospitalized: Former Vice President Dick Cheney was admitted to the hospital Friday after experiencing discomfort, the latest health scare for the 69-year-old Republican leader who has a long history of heart disease. Cheney was expected to remain at George Washington University Hospital over the weekend, said spokesman Peter Long…. – AP, 6-25-10
    • Democrats Fix Strategy for Undefined Climate and Energy Bill: Emotions surged during a “thrilling” caucus gathering in which Democrats plotted to bring a vote on climate legislation to the floor this summer. They promised to challenge resistant Republicans to oppose a measure focusing on polluters as oil from the site of an exploded rig continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico.
      But the party faces the same thorny questions it did before the rousing “rank and file uprising,” as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) described the meeting. The questions include whether Democrats have enough support among their own members to impose a price on greenhouse gas emissions…. – NYT, 6-25-10
    • Lawmakers Agree on Wall Street’s Biggest Overhaul Since 1930s: Congressional negotiators today approved the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. financial regulation since the Great Depression, reshaping oversight of Wall Street and some of its most opaque concoctions. Lawmakers from the House and Senate worked through the night in a 20-hour session to reach deals on two of their most far-reaching and contentious proposals — a ban on proprietary trading by banks and new oversight of the derivatives market. This month, they’ve also agreed on measures to wind down big firms whose collapse might shake markets, to keep tabs on hedge funds and to make it easier for investors to sue credit raters.
      “This is going to be a very strong bill, and stronger than almost everybody predicted that it could be and that I, frankly, thought it would be,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, told reporters June 23 as lawmakers prepared for the final round of talks…. – Bloomberg, 6-25-10
    • House, Senate lawmakers reach a deal on financial reform: The sweeping legislation, an attempt to prevent a repeat of the financial crisis, would create a consumer protection bureau, impose tough regulations on derivatives and grant the government power to seize and dismantle teetering firms… – LAT, 6-25-10
    • Congress Fails to Pass an Extension of Jobless Aid: Legislation to extend unemployment subsidies for hundreds of thousands of Americans who have exhausted their jobless benefits teetered on the edge of collapse on Thursday, as Senate Democrats and Republicans traded bitter accusations about who was to blame for an eight-week impasse. Senate Republicans and a lone Democrat, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, joined forces to filibuster the bill in a procedural vote on Thursday. Visibly frustrated, the majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said he would move on to other business next week because he saw little chance of winning over any Republican votes. The vote was 57 to 41, with the Democrats falling three short of the 60 votes needed to advance the measure. “You’ll hear a lot of excuses,” Mr. Reid said at a news conference. “The bottom line is the minority just said no.”… – NYT, 6-25-10
    • House OKs campaign-spending disclosure bill: Democrats in Congress, scrambling to rein in special-interest spending before November’s midterm elections, pushed through a bill Thursday that would require CEOs to appear in campaign ads they fund and impose broad new disclosure rules on political spending. The bill, which passed the House of Representatives by a 219-206 vote, was opposed by most Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, who cast it as violating free-speech protections and riddled with loopholes for powerful groups, such as the National Rifle Association and labor unions. The measure’s prospects are uncertain in the Senate, where Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to pass a bill over Republican objections. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the chamber’s top Republican, Thursday assailed the proposal as “protecting incumbent Democratic politicians.”… – USA Today, 6-25-10
    • Obama, new Australian prime minister speak about war: Australia’s new prime minister pledged her commitment to the war in Afghanistan during a phone call with President Obama, the two leaders said. “I assured President Obama that my approach to Afghanistan will continue the approach taken to date by the Australian government,” said Julia Gillard, Australia’s new prime minister, on Friday. “I fully support the current deployment and I indicated to President Obama that he should expect to see the Australian effort in Afghanistan continuing.”
      During the talk, Obama and Gillard “underscored their shared commitment to closely work together on the broad range of global challenges confronting both countries, including in Afghanistan,” the White House statement said… – CNN, 6-25-10
    • CNN, 6-24-10
    • Short, Tense Deliberation, Then a General Is Gone: By the time he woke up Wednesday morning, President Obama had made up his mind. During the 36 frenetic hours since he had been handed an article from the coming issue of Rolling Stone ominously headlined “The Runaway General,” the president weighed the consequences of cashiering Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, whose contemptuous comments about senior officials had ignited a firestorm. Mr. Obama, aides say, consulted with advisers — some, like Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who warned of the dangers of replacing General McChrystal, others, like his political advisers, who thought he had to go. He reached out for advice to a soldier-statesman, Colin L. Powell. He identified a possible successor to lead the war in Afghanistan. And then, finally, the president ended General McChrystal’s command in a meeting that lasted only 20 minutes. According to one aide, the general apologized, offered his resignation and did not lobby for his job. After a seesaw debate among White House officials, “there was a basic meeting of the minds,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff and a major player in the deliberations. “This was not good for the mission, the military and morale,” Mr. Emanuel said…. – NYT, 6-24-10
    • Oregon woman accused Gore of sexual misconduct in 2006: Law officials say former Vice President Al Gore was accused of “unwanted sexual contact” during a visit to Portland in October 2006. Authorities in Portland investigated in late 2006 and early 2007 whether former Vice President Al Gore sexually assaulted a masseuse while visiting that city, but the matter was dropped for lack of evidence, officials said Wednesday…. – Seattle Times, 6-23-10
    • Dems exploit Barton apology to BP in election push: In need of political momentum, Democrats are exploiting Republican Rep. Joe Barton’s startling apology to Gulf oil spiller BP for its treatment by the Obama administration, launching a steady, low-budget campaign of fundraising appeals, a pair of television commercials and Web ads. Little more than four months before midterm elections, party officials appear to be testing ways to maximize the gain from an episode that ricocheted across the Capitol at a furious pace last week, and that Republicans deemed significant enough to force Barton to recant his remarks…. – AP, 6-23-10
    • Obama seeks new drill ban as oil still spews: The White House was set on Wednesday to step up its legal battle to keep deepwater drilling on hold in the Gulf of Mexico following the worst oil spill in U.S. history. A U.S. judge on Tuesday overturned a six-month ban on drilling in water deeper than 500 feet (152 metres) after an appeal by drillers who stand to lose business… – Reuters, 6-23-10
    • SPIN METER: Defining ‘border security’: You wouldn’t know it from the public debate, but the U.S.-Mexico border is more fortified now than it was even five years ago. Far more agents patrol it, more fences, barriers and technology protect it and taxpayers are spending billions more to reinforce it. Despite those efforts, calls for increased border security are elbowing out cries for an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws and inducing Congress and the administration to spend even more money on border enforcement…. – AP, 6-23-10
    • Obama requests $600 million for border security: The president’s emergency funding request would pay for more Border Patrol agents, drones, National Guard troops and more…. – LAT, 6-22-10
    • Obama Says Health Law Shouldn’t Be Excuse to Raise Rates: President Obama, whose vilification of insurers helped push a landmark health care overhaul through Congress, warned industry executives at the White House on Tuesday not to use the bill “as an opportunity to enact unjustifiable rate increases that don’t boost care and inflate their bottom line.” Mr. Obama made his remarks in the East Room of the White House after a private meeting with executives of leading health insurance companies and with state insurance commissioners who regulate them. As the new law is being implemented, the White House wanted to issue a pointed reminder to insurers — and the public — that the president intends to monitor the industry’s behavior.
      “There are genuine cost drivers that are not caused by insurance companies,” Mr. Obama said. “But what is also true is that we’ve got to make sure that this new law is not being used as an excuse to simply drive up costs.”… – NYT, 6-22-10
    • Hoyer: Permanent middle class tax cuts too costly: A top House Democrat said Tuesday that tax increases will eventually be necessary to address the nation’s mounting debt, raising a difficult election-year issue as Democrats fight retain control of Congress. In the near term, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer raised the possibility that Congress will only temporarily extend middle-class tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year. He pointedly suggested that making them permanent would be too costly…. – AP, 6-20-10
    • AP source: White House budget chief stepping down: White House Budget Director Peter Orszag’s expected resignation would make him the first high-profile member of President Barack Obama’s team to depart the administration. A Democratic official said Monday that Orszag is expected to leave in the coming months, although the exact timing is not known. The official confirmed the news to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because it had not been announced…. – AP, 6-22-10
    • A White House “shakedown?” A lot of House Republicans agree: Republican Rep. Joe Barton’s apology to BP last week for what he called a “shakedown” by President Obama to pay for the gushing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico barely caused a ripple among local Republican House members. Is it because they agree with him? The White House had worked out a deal with BP that the oil giant would create a $20 billion compensation fund. But Barton, a senior Texas Republican and ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, apologized to BP. “I’m ashamed of what happened in the White House yesterday,” he told BP executives at a hearing. “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown, in this case, a $20 billion shakedown…I apologize.” Kansas City Star, 6-22-10
    • High court upholds anti-terror law prized by Obama: The Supreme Court upheld the government’s authority Monday to ban aid to designated terrorist groups, even when that support is intended to steer the groups toward peaceful and legal activities….
      The justices voted 6-3 to reject a free-speech challenge from humanitarian aid groups to the law that bars “material support” — everything from money to technical know-how to legal advice — to foreign terrorist organizations…. – AP, 6-21-10

    ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

    • Despite opposition, Texas two-step primary process prevails: The unique Texas two-step primary process scooted forward, despite a move Saturday to scrap the system that was overwhelmed by overflow crowds in 2008. Boyd Richie, accompanied by wife Betty, was reinstated as state chairman Saturday during the Texas Democratic Party’s convention in Corpus Christi. Texas Democrats meeting at their state convention upheld the dual primary vote and caucus system called the two- step. Delegates also reinstated Boyd Richie as state chairman and adopted a policy statement that endorses the new federal health care law…. – Dallas News, 6-27-10
    • McCain will join 2 GOP debates: Sen. John McCain’s re-election campaign on Friday announced that he has accepted two invitations to debate Republican primary opponents J.D. Hayworth and Jim Deakin next month. McCain has agreed to 7 p.m. televised debates on July 16 on Phoenix’s Channel 3 (KTVK) and on July 17 on the “Arizona Illustrated” program on Tucson PBS affiliate Channel 6 (KUAT). Early voting for the Aug. 24 GOP primary starts July 29. The Arizona Republic, 6-26-10
    • Texas Democrats to rally at convention: After traveling for months courting all types of Texas voters, Democrat Bill White will try to ignite excitement among party loyalists with his starring role at the Democratic Party’s state convention.
      “The face of the party looks much like the face of the state. So this is an opportunity for people in different parts of the state to get to know each other and to resolve we want an election that will put Texas first,” White said this week. He’s urging delegates to recruit friends and neighbors, even those who don’t always vote for Democrats.
      That kind of support from independent voters is what White will need in November in conservative Texas, where Republicans have dominated state politics since sweeping all statewide elections in 1998 and where incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry is the fall favorite… – AP, 6-25-10
    • Navy exaggerations damage Ill. Senate candidate: Republican Mark Kirk has stepped on a political landmine of his own creation, leaving him as damaged as his Democratic opponent in the race for an Illinois Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. Kirk, a 21-year veteran in the Navy Reserve, was caught exaggerating his military record. He claimed an award he didn’t win. He mentioned serving in overseas conflicts while he was safely in the United States. He stretched the facts when talking about combat and coming under fire. And his troubles don’t end there: Even his references to being a teacher are being questioned. Two months ago, it was Kirk’s Democratic opponent, Alexi Giannoulias, who was on the ropes. Federal regulators had taken over his family’s Chicago bank, Broadway Bank, which had grown insolvent because of bad loans and a bad economy. Stories about the bank lending money to criminals were resurrected, leading Republicans to start calling Giannoulias a “mob banker.”…. – AP, 6-24-10
    • South Carolina Republicans buck biases in runoff election: The conservative state’s GOP nominates Nikki Haley for governor and Tim Scott for Congress in a runoff vote. Mississippi, North Carolina and Utah also hold nomination contests for November’s midterms…. – LAT, 6-23-10
    • Inglis becomes fifth congressional casualty of anti-incumbent year: South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis became the latest victim of the anti-incumbent wave Tuesday, losing his bid for a seventh term to GOP rival Trey Gowdy. Prosecutor Trey Gowdy has just made six-term incumbent Rep. Bob Inglis the fifth congressional incumbent to fall prey to this year’s anti-incumbent tide. Gowdy has defeated the veteran South Carolina lawmaker in a runoff for the GOP nomination, the Associated Press reports…. – USA Today, 6-22-10
    • Matheson cruises to victory: Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, easily held off his first-ever primary challenge Tuesday and will get a shot at a sixth term. With 98 percent of precincts counted by press time, Matheson led 2nd Congressional District Democratic challenger Claudia Wright 68 percent to 32 percent. Republican Morgan Philpot awaits in the Nov. 2 general election…. – The Salt Lake Tribune, 6-23-10
    • Lee wins Utah GOP Senate nomination: Utah Republicans chose their nominee for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, selecting a legal scholar who grew up in a family of lawyers and fondly recalls discussing the Constitution over childhood dinners. Mike Lee is the overwhelming favorite to win in November and replace Sen. Bob Bennett, who was ousted at the Republican convention in May amid a wave of anti-incumbent rage around the country. Lee and businessman Tim Bridgewater beat out Bennett at the convention to advance to Tuesday’s primary. Lee won on Tuesday, earning a nearly a 5,000 vote lead with 84 percent of precincts reporting for about 51 percent of the vote…. – AP, 6-23-1-
    • Gowdy knocks Inglis out of office: Seventh Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg has knocked U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis out of the 4th Congressional seat. Several hundred Gowdy supporters are celebrating at the Chapman Cultural Center in downtown Spartanburg. The solicitor was the leader in the Republican Primary two weeks ago, and once again bested Inglis tonight, scoring well with voters in the congressman’s home county of Greenville. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Gowdy had 51,541 votes (70 percent). Inglis garnered 21,898 votes (30 percent)…. – Go Up State, 6-22-10
    • Harold Johnson wins 8th District GOP race Newcomer rides recognition, party endorsements to primary victory: Former sportscaster Harold Johnson defeated businessman Tim D’Annunzio Tuesday after an expensive and combative 8th District congressional primary that saw party leaders go to extraordinary lengths in supporting him. Johnson, who turns 69 next week, was winning about 61 percent of the vote in unofficial returns. He piled up big margins in the district’s western portion, including Cabarrus County, which offset D’Annunzio’s support in the east. Johnson now faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell and Libertarian Thomas Hill in the 10-county district that stretches from Charlotte to Fayetteville…. – Charlotte Observer, 6-23-10
    • Elaine Marshall, William Randall score runoff election wins in Person County: Despite a low voter turnout, two candidates emerged victorious in a pair of runoff elections in Person County Tuesday and the two also appeared headed to wins statewide as of press time for today’s edition. The runoff contests were between two Democrats vying to challenge Richard Burr this fall for his seat in the U.S. Senate and two Republicans battling for the U.S. House of Representatives District 13 seat, now occupied by Democrat Brad Miller. The Democratic runoff featured Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham. Marshall was North Carolina’s secretary of state for over 10 years and Cunningham is a former state senator from Lexington. In the Republican runoff, William (Bill) Randall and Bernie Reeves faced off to determine who would move on to face Burr, who easily defeated his three Republican challengers in May…. – Roxboro Courier, 6-23-10
    • Primary/Runoff Day in Utah, South and North Carolina: What to Watch ForWaPo, 6-22-10
    • Utah Republican Senate primary could be a test for tea party: As a test of the “tea party” movement’s ability to galvanize voters for a single chosen candidate, Utah’s GOP Senate primary Tuesday is likely to deliver a mixed message. Republicans Tim Bridgewater and Mike Lee survived a bruising convention in May that knocked out incumbent Sen. Robert F. Bennett and gave the tea party and other conservative groups bragging rights as a dragon-slayer. Now, most of those groups — but not all of them — have rallied around Lee, a 38-year-old lawyer. But Bridgewater, 49, is even or ahead in several polls…. – WaPo, 6-22-10
    • Cuomo, Lazio toked pot in youth: New York governor candidates Andrew Cuomo and Rick Lazio say they have both smoked marijuana in their youth. The question is, does anyone care? Maurice Carroll of the Quinnipiac University poll answers with a loud “no.” AP, 6-22-10
    • McCain Is Now Running Just to Stay in Place: But less than two years after he was defeated by Barack Obama, nothing seems quite the same for Senator John McCain, who has gone from being his party’s candidate for president rallying 1,000 supporters at a Florida football stadium to furiously defending his Senate seat before 60 recession-weary residents in a Hampton Inn in Lake Havasu, Ariz…. – NYT, 6-22-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    The President Records the Weekly Address
    • Elena Kagan’s Opening Statement: Excerpts: “Mr. Chairman, the law school I had the good fortune to lead has a kind of motto, spoken each year at graduation. We tell the new graduates that they are ready to enter a profession devoted to “those wise restraints that make us free.” That phrase has always captured for me the way law, and the rule of law, matters. What the rule of law does is nothing less than to secure for each of us what our Constitution calls “the blessings of liberty” – those rights and freedoms, that promise of equality, that have defined this nation since its founding. And what the Supreme Court does is to safeguard the rule of law, through a commitment to even-handedness, principle, and restraint.
      “The idea is engraved on the very face of the Supreme Court building: Equal Justice Under Law. It means that everyone who comes before the Court – regardless of wealth or power or station – receives the same process and the same protections. What this commands of judges is even-handedness and impartiality. What it promises is nothing less than a fair shake for every American.
      “[T]he Supreme Court is a wondrous institution. But the time I spent in the other branches of government remind me that it must also be a modest one – properly deferential to the decisions of the American people and their elected representatives. What I most took away from those experiences was simple admiration for the democratic process. That process is often messy and frustrating, but the people of this country have great wisdom, and their representatives work hard to protect their interests. The Supreme Court, of course, has the responsibility of ensuring that our government never oversteps its proper bounds or violates the rights of individuals. But the Court must also recognize the limits on itself and respect the choices made by the American people.”
      “I’ve led a school whose faculty and students examine and discuss and debate every aspect of our law and legal system. And what I’ve learned most is that no one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom. I’ve learned that we make progress by listening to each other, across every apparent political or ideological divide. I’ve learned that we come closest to getting things right when we approach every person and every issue with an open mind. And I’ve learned the value of a habit that Justice Stevens wrote about more than fifty years ago – of ‘understanding before disagreeing.’
      I will make no pledges this week other than this one – that if confirmed, I will remember and abide by all these lessons. I will listen hard, to every party before the Court and to each of my colleagues. I will work hard. And I will do my best to consider every case impartially, modestly, with commitment to principle, and in accordance with law.” – CBS News, 6-28-10
    • Vice President Joe Biden caught on video calling custard shop manager a ‘smarta–’ after taxes quip: Biden was in Milwaukee to talk about jobs on Saturday, and made a stop at a Kopp’s Frozen Custard outside the city.
      “What do we owe ya?” the vice president asked after enjoying some of the cold treats.
      “Don’t worry, it’s on us,” the unnamed store manager replied, but then added: “Lower our taxes and we’ll call it even.”
      A few minutes later, Biden indicated he didn’t exactly appreciate the remark. “Why don’t you say something nice instead of being a smarta– all the time?” he said to the manager, in an exchange captured on video by local station WISN. “Say something nice.”… – NY Daily News, 6-27-10
    • Palin: Obama administration selling out allies: Sarah Palin on Sunday painted President Barack Obama’s administration as a cowering giant intent on surrendering the nation’s mantle as a superpower and willing to sell out its allies…. “Do they think, really, that we’re getting anything in return for all this bowing and kowtowing and apologizing? No, we don’t get anything positive in return for this,” Palin said at the event spearheaded by a Norfolk talk radio station. “So while President Obama is getting pushed around by the likes of Russia and China, our allies are left to wonder about the value of an alliance with our country any more. They’re asking what is it worth,” she said…. – AP, 6-28-10
    • Weekly Address: President Obama Urges Congress to Complete Work on Wall Street Reform Bill Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, June 26, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: This weekend, I’m traveling to Toronto to meet with members of the G20. There, I hope we can build on the progress we made at last year’s G20 summits by coordinating our global financial reform efforts to make sure a crisis like the one from which we are still recovering never happens again. We’ve made great progress toward passing such reform here at home. As I speak, we are on the cusp of enacting the toughest financial reforms since the Great Depression.
      I don’t have to tell you why these reforms are so important. We’re still digging ourselves out of an economic crisis that happened largely because there wasn’t strong enough oversight on Wall Street. We can’t build a strong economy in America over the long-run without ending this status quo, and laying a new foundation for growth and prosperity.
      That’s what the Wall Street reforms currently making their way through Congress will help us do – reforms that represent 90% of what I proposed when I took up this fight. We’ll put in place the strongest consumer financial protections in American history, and create an independent agency with an independent director and an independent budget to enforce them….
      Beyond these reforms, we also need to address another piece of unfinished business. We need to impose a fee on the banks that were the biggest beneficiaries of taxpayer assistance at the height of our financial crisis – so we can recover every dime of taxpayer money.
      Getting this far on Wall Street reform hasn’t been easy. There are those who’ve fought tooth and nail to preserve the status quo. In recent months, they’ve spent millions of dollars and hired an army of lobbyists to stop reform dead in its tracks.
      But because we refused to back down, and kept fighting, we now stand on the verge of victory. And I urge Congress to take us over the finish line, and send me a reform bill I can sign into law, so we can empower our people with consumer protections, and help prevent a financial crisis like this from ever happening again. – WH, 6-26-10
    • Remarks by the President on Wall Street Reform: Now, let me be clear. Our economic growth and prosperity depend on a strong, robust financial sector, and I will continue to do what I can to foster and support a dynamic private sector. But we’ve all seen what happens when there’s inadequate oversight and insufficient transparency on Wall Street.
      The reforms making their way through Congress will hold Wall Street accountable so we can help prevent another financial crisis like the one that we’re still recovering from.
      We’ll put in place the toughest consumer financial protections in our history, while creating an independent agency to enforce them. Through this agency, we’ll combine under one roof the consumer protection functions that currently are divided among half a dozen different agencies. Now there will be one agency whose sole job will be to look out for you.
      Credit card companies will no longer be able to mislead you with pages and pages of fine print. You will no longer be subject to all kinds of hidden fees and penalties, or the predatory practices of unscrupulous lenders.
      Instead, we’ll make sure that credit card companies and mortgage companies play by the rules. You’ll be empowered with easy-to-understand forms so you know what you’re agreeing to. And you’ll have the clear and concise information you need to make financial decisions that are best for you and your family.
      Wall Street reform will also strengthen our economy in a number of other ways. We’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex deals that help trigger this crisis, like trades in a $600 trillion derivatives market, into the light of day. We’ll enact the Volcker Rule to make sure that banks protected by the safety net of the FDIC can’t engage in risky trades for their own profit. And we’ll create what’s called a resolution authority to help wind down firms whose collapse would threaten our entire financial system. No longer will be have companies that are “too big to fail”.
      Over the last 17 months, we passed an economic Recovery Act, health insurance reform, education reform, and we are now on the brink of passing Wall Street reform. And at the G20 summit this weekend, I’ll work with other nations not only to coordinate our financial reform efforts, but to promote global economic growth while ensuring that each nation can pursue a path that is sustainable for its own public finances. – WH, 6-25-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    President Barack Obama talks with British Prime Minister David

    President Barack Obama talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at the G8 summit in Muskoka, Canada June 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    • Julian E. Zelizer: How Afghanistan became the ignored war: If the Korean War, which began 60 years ago this past weekend, was America’s forgotten war, Afghanistan has been America’s ignored war.
      Since President Obama authorized a surge of troops in Afghanistan in December 2009, there has been a notable absence of public debate or interest about this conflict.
      Although the media has tracked conditions on the ground and more recently has examined the rapid deterioration of U.S. military strategy, Afghanistan has not elicited the same kind of civic dialogue that surrounded President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and certainly nothing like President Johnson’s war in Vietnam.
      Indeed, when the controversy over Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s comments in Rolling Stone magazine erupted in the past week, one of the most surprising aspects of the story was that, for a brief moment, Americans were actually talking about Afghanistan once again. Our nation is in the middle of a war that has gone on for over nine years, but many people have not been paying attention.
      As a result of these factors, Afghanistan has remained off the radar. Perhaps with the McChrystal controversy, the nation will start asking tougher questions about what is going on in this war, what our objectives are and how the strategy is working.
      Unfortunately, we will most likely turn our attention back to other issues, such as the feature story in Rolling Stone called “Lady Gaga Tells All.” In doing so, we will continue an unhealthy pattern of fighting wars outside of the public mind. – CNN, 6-28-10
    • Gil Troy: Primary job for wives of G20 leaders: Do no harm: Though prominent wives have advocated for political initiatives at home, they’ve stayed away from the microphones at international summits…
      “Their basic job is not to do damage,” Gil Troy, a professor of history at McGill University, says. Mr. Troy cites a memo written by U.S. president Richard Nixon in 1972, where he considered bringing his wife on a state visit. “If Pat comes to China, she’s coming as a prop,” Mr. Nixon wrote. Not a lot has changed since then, Prof. Troy says…
      Summits can be a haven for the lonely other halves of presidents and prime ministers, Prof. Troy says. “If you’re feeling frustrated or if you’re feeling bored, this is an opportunity to share concerns, to find people who are like minded in the zone of confidence and comfort. If you do have a cause, this is an opportunity to find people who have shared interest and the same power,” he says…
      Prof. Troy says Ms. Obama may not get to speak up about her position on the McChrystal affair, but she can recruit support among other spouses for her less-controversial childhood obesity initiative. The stipulation, though, is “it has to be done within all the protocols and pageantry of the summit.”… – The Globe & Mail, 6-25-10

    June 21, 2010: Obama selling the Economy & Introduces Father’s Day Initiative

    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:

    White House Photo, Pete Souza, 6/16/10

    IN FOCUS: STATS

    • AP-GfK Poll bolsters congressional Democrats: There’s encouraging news for Democrats battling to retain control of Congress in this fall’s elections, with the party holding a slender edge in public trust for shepherding the economy and small gains in those saying their finances are healthy, according to a new poll. The reeling economy remains people’s top concern, according to an Associated Press-GfK Poll conducted earlier this month, making public attitudes about it crucial for both parties’ hopes in November. The good news for Democrats: By a margin of 47 percent to 42 percent, people trust them more than Republicans to guide the economy, and slightly more — 64 percent — say their household budgets are in good shape. In addition, people want Democrats to win control of Congress by a 46 percent to 39 percent margin. That is the second straight month in which Democrats have held a delicate advantage on that question since April, when 44 percent preferred Republicans and 41 percent picked Democrats…. – AP, 6-16-10

    THE HEADLINES….

    • White House: Emanuel Quitting Report ‘Ludicrous’: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is expected to leave his job within six to eight months because he is fed up with the “idealism” of President Barack Obama’s closest advisers, The London Daily Telegraph reported Monday.
      The newspaper cited Washington insiders, who said Congress veteran Emanuel, 50, is also concerned about burning out and losing touch with his three children due to the pressure of the job.
      In response to the report, a senior White House official told Fox News early Monday the story was “ludicrous” and “not worth looking into.”
      The Telegraph, however, quoted a Democratic source as saying: “I would bet he will go after the midterms.” “Nobody thinks it’s working, but they can’t get rid of him — that would look awful. He needs the right sort of job to go to, but the consensus is he’ll go.” “It might not be his fault, but the perception is there,” said the consultant. “Every vote has been tough, from health care to energy to financial reform. “Democrats have not stood behind the President in the way Republicans did for George W. Bush, and that was meant to be Rahm’s job.”…. – Fox News, 6-21-10
    • Obama steps up fatherhood advocacy with new mentoring initiative: In what is becoming a Father’s Day ritual for the Obama administration, the president on Monday will bring together children, famous dads and nonprofit groups that promote fatherhood to highlight the importance of fathers. The center of President Obama’s day-long celebration will be a speech at the ARC, an arts and recreation campus in Southeast Washington, where he is set to announce the creation of the President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative. It will build on a theme that has been central to his family policy and a core part of the White House’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The new initiative, which is enlisting a network of organizations, will expand on a six-city listening tour the administration held last year to bring attention to the issue of fatherlessness. “The tour was a national conversation on responsible fatherhood that was rooted in the president’s personal experiences growing up and his realization that father absence is a real challenge facing many communities,” said Joshua DuBois, director of the partnerships office…. – WaPo, 6-21-10
    • A yachting trip? The 10 worst BP gaffes in Gulf oil spill: BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward attended a yachting race in England yesterday. It was just the latest BP public relations gaffe in the Gulf oil spill. Here are 10 of the worst…. – CSMonitor, 6-20-10
    • Records suggest Kagan played small part in settling Harvard-military dispute Lawrence H. Summers took the lead: When Elena Kagan suspended help to military recruiters as dean of Harvard Law School, consternation inside the Pentagon reached all the way to then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to government documents released Saturday. The records show that the controversy was resolved by Harvard’s president with little apparent input from Kagan…. – WaPo, 6-20-10
    • Election-year deficit fears stall Obama stimulus plan: Barely a week after President Obama tried to re-energize his push for more spending on the economy, his agenda is stalled on Capitol Hill, mired in election-year anxiety about the deficit…. Even the state aid that Obama last week called critical to preventing the layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers and other government workers is foundering. After days of talks, frustrated Democratic leaders in the Senate failed again Thursday to muster the 60 votes needed to approve the cash and left town for the weekend with no clear path forward…. – WaPo, 6-18-10
    • Obama dashing to Ohio to keep economy out front: Determined to keep showing the economy is on his mind, President Barack Obama is dashing into Ohio for the groundbreaking of a road project, hoping to remind the nation that the massive, costly stimulus act is still churning out jobs. Millions of unemployed people have yet to feel the relief. Obama was to be on the ground in Ohio for only about 90 minutes Friday, long enough to celebrate what the White House calls a significant moment: the start of the 10,000th road project launched under the recovery act. The president’s message is that a summer season of more help is on the way…. – AP, 6-18-10
    • Earning trust is biggest obstacle in disbursing $20 billion BP escrow fund: It is not easy to divvy up $20 billion. Perhaps no one in America knows this better than Kenneth R. Feinberg. The nation’s unofficial authority on disbursing massive relief funds oversaw the paying out of billions of dollars for families of those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the Virginia Tech shootings. His phone rang once again this month, not long before word began to spread in Washington about such a fund for victims of the gulf oil spill. BP executives contacted Feinberg to see whether he would be willing to take the job. He agreed, and President Obama signed on…. – WaPo, 6-18-10
    • Kagan’s e-mails show dry wit, political savvy: Newly released e-mails from Elena Kagan’s time as an aide to President Bill Clinton portray the Supreme Court nominee as a driven and opinionated person with a flair for political tactics and little tolerance for high-flying rhetoric. The e-mails — among tens of thousands of pages of her e-mails released Friday — also show how Kagan often had to place political considerations ahead of policy views…. – AP, 6-19-10
    • Day 58: The Latest on the Oil Spill: BP Chief Testifies Before Congress: Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, testifying before a Congressional subcommittee, apologized for the oil spill, saying it “never should have happened,” but then he faced a barrage of criticism from lawmakers who grew frustrated that he would not answer their questions on specifics about the disaster still unfolding in the Gulf Coast. “With all due respect, Mr. Hayward, I think you’re copping out,” said Representative Phil Gingrey, Republican of Georgia. NYT, 6-17-10
    • U.S. official calls for Kyrgyzstan investigation: A U.S. official on Friday called for a “substantial” investigation into the killings of more than 170 people during recent ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake was at a refugee camp near the border in Uzbekistan, where thousands of ethnic Uzbeks fled violence in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Blake said he wants Kyrgyzstan authorities to investigate who carried out the attacks on ethnic Uzbeks and to bring those responsible to justice. He planned to go to the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek later Friday to deliver the message personally, he said…. – CNN, 6-18-10
    • Bill To Help Unemployed Fails In Senate: A beleaguered bill to extend benefits for the long term unemployed stalled on Capitol Hill Tuesday, when the Senate voted 45-52 to block the $140 billion catchall bill that also would delay a Medicare fee cut, extend a hodgepodge of expiring tax cuts, and other provisions that Democrats say will help stimulate job growth. Although the bill also included tax increases on investment managers and oil companies to help offset the cost, it has run into opposition from Republicans as well as many Democrats who are worried about adding to the burgeoning budget deficit. The vote to block the bill came on a motion to waive budget rules to allow it to pass – a motion that would have required 60 votes. Eleven Democrats and one Independent – Joe Lieberman of Connecticut — joined 40 Republicans in voting… – LAT, 6-17-10
    • Obama Adds To Iran Sanctions: Washington….The Obama administration Wednesday added several dozen Iranian individuals and organizations to its sanctions blacklist, its first steps to intensify international pressure in the aftermath of international sanctions adopted last week by the United Nations Security Council. The penalties were aimed at entities tied to Iran’s nuclear and missile program, including one bank, five front companies, 22 energy and insurance concerns, and two individuals and four groups tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, announcing the sanctions at the White House, said that to be effective “we need to have in place a concerted international approach. This is not something the United States can do alone.”… – LAT, 6-16-10
    • 9/11 payout czar Kenneth Feinberg to dole out gulf oil disaster funds: President Obama’s choice to oversee the gulf oil disaster fund is one of the very few people who have weighed the dollar value of devastation before: 9/11’s special master Kenneth Feinberg. Feinberg, 64, oversaw the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund created by Congress in the wake of the terrorist attacks, doling out $7 billion over nearly three years. “I’m confident he will ensure that claims are administered as quickly, as fairly and as transparently as possible,” Obama said yesterday, adding Feinberg would have $20 billion to start with…. – NY Daily News, 6-17-10
    • Obama to meet with man heading up restoration plan: President Barack Obama is preparing to meet with the man he’s put in charge of developing a recovery plan for the oil-devastated Gulf Coast. Obama and the secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus (MAY’-buhs), plan to discuss Mabus’ role in developing a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan. Mabus knows the region — he is a native of Mississippi and served as that state’s governor from 1988 to 1992…. – AP, 6-17-10

    ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

    • Another Alvin Greene? Texas Democrats Grapple With Their Own Surprise Candidate: South Carolina’s unexpected Democratic nominee for the US Senate, mystery man Alvin Greene, says he wants to play golf with Barack Obama. But in Texas, another surprise Democratic primary winner, congressional nominee Kesha Rogers, wants to impeach the President. So while South Carolina party officials are still unsure of what to do about Greene’s success at the ballot box, Texas Democrats have no such reservations — they wasted little time in casting Rogers into exile and offering no support or recognition of her campaign to win what once was Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s old seat…. – Time, 6-20-10
    • Donations Create a Tricky Balance for Oil-State Politicians: The outburst by Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas in support of BP underscored the potential peril for lawmakers forced to respond to crises involving industries vital to their regions, and whose bountiful donations finance their political campaigns. Democrats continued to make use of Mr. Barton’s apology to BP, using it to portray Republicans as beholden to big oil. Mr. Barton, the senior Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, worked as a consultant to Atlantic Richfield Oil and Gas Company before being elected to Congress. He has long been one of the top beneficiaries of campaign donations from big energy companies, cornerstones of the Texas economy. But in going after Republicans, the Democrats’ attacks gloss over a more complicated picture. The largest beneficiary of campaign donations from BP in the 2008 election cycle, for instance, was President Obama, who took in $77,000 from company executives and its political action committee. This year, Senator Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas and chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, leads all candidates with $286,000 in donations from oil and gas companies… – NYT, 6-19-10
    • Anybody but Rubio? Democrats are flocking to Charlie Crist in order to upend conservative Marco Rubio: Party affiliation wasn’t the only thing Gov. Charlie Crist switched when he dropped out of the GOP primary and decided to run as independent in the Florida Senate race. Mr. Crist has piqued the ire of many conservatives by flip-flopping on a number of issues in order to ingratiate himself with liberals. In fact, he’s made so many 180s that many Democrats are now considering throwing their weight and money behind him in order to upend the remaining Republican in the race, Marco Rubio. In his most recent about-face, Mr. Crist changed his policy on travel to Cuba. In 2008, Mr. Crist signed a law imposing taxes on companies that traveled to and from the communist country. This week, he told Floridians: “I think that what the [Obama] administration has done by allowing families to visit [Cuba] is compassionate.”… – WSJ, 6-19-10
    • State Party in S. Carolina Rejects Bid for New Vote: In this age of candidate Twitter accounts and robocalls, the surprising victory in a South Carolina Democratic primary by Alvin M. Greene, 32, an unknown candidate without so much as a Web site, harks back to another era. But the state’s Democrats rejected a request by Mr. Greene’s opponent for the Senate nomination, Vic Rawl, to turn back the clock in another way. Though members of the executive committee of the state’s Democratic Party called the election “flawed,” they voted overwhelmingly Thursday to reject Mr. Rawl’s request for a new primary. Representatives for Mr. Rawl, 64, a former judge, contended in a hearing in Columbia that the primary results were so rife with irregularities that they should be discarded…. – NYT, 6-18-10
    • Minn. GOP Pawlenty sets up fundraising in Iowa, NH: Republican Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has expanded his presence in two states pivotal to presidential politics by setting up fundraising operations in Iowa and New Hampshire. The state-based political action committees announced Wednesday will let Pawlenty raise and spend money on behalf of Republicans running for state and local offices. It’s a goodwill strategy common among likely presidential candidates…. – AP, 6-16-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    The President Records the Weekly Address
    White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 6/18/10
    • The Most Important Job, President Obama’s Father’s Day Message: As the father of two young daughters, I know that being a father is one of the most important jobs any man can have.
      My own father left my family when I was two years old. I was raised by a heroic mother and wonderful grandparents who provided the support, discipline and love that helped me get to where I am today, but I still felt the weight of that absence throughout my childhood. It’s something that leaves a hole no government can fill. Studies show that children who grow up without their fathers around are more likely to drop out of high school, go to jail, or become teen fathers themselves.
      And while no government program can fill the role that fathers play for our children, what we can do is try to support fathers who are willing to step up and fulfill their responsibilities as parents, partners and providers. That’s why last year I started a nationwide dialogue on fatherhood to tackle the challenge of father absence head on.
      In Chicago, the Department of Health and Human Services held a forum with community leaders, fatherhood experts and everyday dads to discuss the importance of responsible fatherhood support programs. In New Hampshire, Secretary of Education Duncan explored the linkages between father absence and educational attainment in children. In Atlanta, Attorney General Holder spoke with fathers in the criminal justice system about ways local reentry organizations, domestic violence groups and fatherhood programs can join together to support ex-offenders and incarcerated individuals who want to be closer to their families and children.
      Now we’re taking this to the next level. Tomorrow, I’ll make an announcement about the next phase of our efforts to help fathers fulfill their responsibilities as parents — The President’s Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative. You can learn more at http://www.fatherhood.gov.
      This Father’s Day — I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a dad to two wonderful daughters. And I’m thankful for all the wonderful fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and friends who are doing their best to make a difference in the lives of a child. – WH, 6-20-10
    • Weekly Address: Republicans Blocking Progress WH, 6-219-10
    • Obama: Republicans blocking progress in Congress: President Barack Obama accused Republicans on Saturday of blocking legislation that would boost the nation’s economic recovery and lift a $75 million cap on what oil companies must pay to families and small businesses affected by an oil spill. Obama said the stalled Senate bill would extend unemployment benefits to workers without jobs and a tax credit for first-time homebuyers. He also said the legislation would save thousands of jobs across the country. “Unfortunately, the Republican leadership in the Senate won’t even allow this legislation to come up for a vote,” the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “And if this obstruction continues, unemployed Americans will see their benefits stop. Teachers and firefighters will lose their jobs. Families will pay more for their first home.”… – AP, 6-19-10
    • Remarks by the President at the Site of the 10,000th ARRA Road Project Parsons and Livingston Avenue Construction Site Columbus, OhioWH, 6-18-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    President  Obama Speaks in Columbus, Ohio

    President Barack Obama, with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, delivers remarks following his tour of the Parsons and Livingston Avenue construction site in Columbus, Ohio, June 18, 2010. The President is in Columbus to tour the site of the 10,000th Recovery Act road project to get underway. The road improvement project is expected to create over 300 construction jobs and will contribute to the broader economic development effort underway in the area around the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    • Julian E. Zelizer: Is America tuning out Capitol Hill?: At my local gym Thursday, one of the television sets showed the live CNN broadcast of Rep. Henry Waxman questioning BP CEO Tony Hayward about how so much could have gone wrong.
      The problem was, most people at the gym weren’t watching. Some of them were tuned in to the other television sets on the wall that broadcast the World Cup. Yet others had their eyes glued to the music video stations that play continuously throughout the day near the Nautilus machines….
      Congressional hearings just aren’t what they used to be. We live in a multimedia world that has made it much more difficult for congressional committees to draw attention to their work when they are fulfilling one of the most important roles of the legislative branch: to act as a watchdog by convening hearings.
      While, historically, many hearings have fallen flat and have failed to produce any kind of concrete legislative outcome, the added challenge today is that they take place in a media environment where the public has so many choices as to what they should watch that it is almost impossible to gain national attention.
      This is a shame, for there have been moments when the nation has been absorbed by congressional hearings that produced extremely important debates over key issues of the day….
      Members of Congress have much more trouble shaping national conversations and much more difficulty controlling the flow of information than they did in the period before the 1980s. Legislators such as Waxman, who still believe that the legislative branch has a role to fill in the politics of investigation, might have to start finding new ways to fulfill this historic function…. – CNN, 6-21-10
    • President Obama’s Oval Office oil spill disaster speech draws fire from Robert Reich, other allies: If the reviews of President Obama’s Oval Office oil disaster speech were about a Broadway play, the scenery already would have been loaded into moving vans. The address was “vapid,” “bloodless,” “short on specifics,” “inscrutable” or just plain “flat.” And those verdicts were from Obama’s pals and others who usually give him a thumbs up. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s labor secretary and a current White House favorite on the economy, was nearly in despair in musings to the Huffington Post. The speech “was, to be frank, vapid,” Reich said. “If you watched with the sound off, you might have thought he was giving a lecture on the history of the Interstate Highway System.”… – NY Daily News, 6-17-10

    Elena Kagen: Obama’s Supreme Court Justice Nominee

    THE HEADLINES….

    The President, Vice  President, and Elena Kagan

    White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 5/10/1
    • Speeches and writings show fuller picture of Kagan: Not so long ago, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan opined the law sometimes allows things that are “just plain dumb.” She once compared herself to Oprah Winfrey giving away swag on TV. And she routinely told students at one of the nation’s most competitive law schools they should just relax and have fun. From reams of files from Kagan’s past, glimmers of the would-be Supreme Court justice’s personality and style are emerging to help paint a fuller portrait for senators weighing her confirmation. The documents provide glimpses of Kagan’s sense of humor, her view of the importance and limits of the law, her take on the role of the Supreme Court in American life, and the major issues and sometimes-mundane tasks she handled during a career in legal circles, academia and a Democratic White House…. – AP, 5-20-10
    • Senators Want Kagan Documents: Washington….Moving toward a quick confirmation hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday asked the Clinton presidential library to turn over volumes of documents, correspondence , emails and other memos related to Elena Kagan during her time as a top presidential assistant in the 1990s…. – LAT, 5-19-10
    • Senate panel will begin Kagan confirmation hearings on June 28: Kagan hearings will begin June 28 The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin confirmation hearings June 28 for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, the panel’s chairman announced Wednesday. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said the schedule should allow the hearings to be completed before senators go home in early July for a week-long break…. – WaPo, 5-19-10
    • FACT CHECK: Kagan is no ivory-tower peacenik: Elena Kagan is no ivory-tower peacenik. Judging by her own words, the Supreme Court nominee held the armed forces in high regard during her tenure as Harvard Law School dean. She had one beef with the institution, a big one: its “repugnant” prohibition on openly gay service members. Republicans are using that to portray her as an anti-military activist and to accuse her — groundlessly — of acting outside the law in restricting military recruiters on campus. If anything, the record shows Kagan defended Harvard’s conditions for on-campus military recruitment with less than a full-throated roar… – AP, 5-18-10
    • Kagan’s skills well-suited to Senate hearings: Standing before the nine Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan is forceful, quick on her feet, admits error when necessary, then goes right back at the questioner — blunt yet polite. Her style as solicitor general is likely to serve her in confirmation hearings, but only to an extent, legal and political analysts say. Kagan has exhibited the dexterity necessary to respond to tough questions in a public forum, but a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is a more politically charged setting than the high court. “She can’t just show that she’s a super-duper lawyer for the president,” says Ken Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Reagan who handled several Supreme Court nominations. “She has to tell a life story and convey a temperament that shows she’ll be fair and impartial.”… – USA Today, 5-17-10
    • Senator says Kagan broke law at Harvard: While Senate Republicans acknowledge that they are unlikely to derail Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, that hasn’t stopped them from testing potential lines of attack against her. Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, accused Kagan of violating the law when she was dean of Harvard Law School between 2003 and 2008. During her tenure, she continued the school’s restrictions on campus military recruitment because of the armed forces’ “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans openly gay people from serving. Sessions blasted Kagan on ABC’s “This Week” for enforcing the recruitment restrictions during a time of war, which he called “no little-bitty matter.”… – WaPo, 5-17-10
    • Personal ties bind Obama, Kagan President joins ranks of picking friend for court: If Elena Kagan is confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice, President Obama will have something that has become increasingly rare for presidents: a personal friend on the court. Indeed, when Obama introduced Kagan at the White House as his court nominee, it sounded almost as if he were talking about himself: a former Chicago law professor, Harvard graduate, and White Sox fan who eschewed the lucrative world of corporate law to focus on academia and public service. Obama brought her into his administration by nominating her to be solicitor general and now, after slightly more than a year in that job, he wants to elevate her to the Supreme Court. Boston Globe, 5-16-10
    • Pragmatism over partisanship? Kagan described as favoring a consensus-building, analytical style over a passion for her own ideas: Just after Election Day the fall of her senior year at Princeton, Elena Kagan published an opinion piece in the campus newspaper recounting how she had wept and gotten drunk on vodka at a campaign gathering for a liberal Brooklyn congresswoman who had unexpectedly lost a race for the Senate. Ronald Reagan was heading to the White House, and Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman — a champion for women’s causes for whom Ms. Kagan had toiled 14-hour days as a campaign press assistant — was leaving Capitol Hill. Ms. Kagan, then 20 and imbued with the liberal principles on which she had been raised, said she was flirting with despair that “there was no longer any place for the ideals we held. … I wonder how all this could possibly have happened and where on earth I’ll be able to get a job next year.”… – WaPo, 5-16-10
    • ‘General Kagan’ no newcomer to high court: Six times in the past nine months, Solicitor General Elena Kagan has come to the mahogany lectern in the hushed reverence of the Supreme Court to argue the government’s case before the justices she now hopes to join soon…. – AP, 5-15-10
    • Kagan’s Link to Marshall Cuts 2 Ways: In the spring of 1988, Justice Thurgood Marshall assigned a clerk, Elena Kagan, to write a first draft of his opinion in a case considering whether a school district could charge a poor family for busing a child to the nearest school, which was 16 miles away….
      Because Ms. Kagan has never been a judge and has produced only a handful of scholarly writings, clues to her philosophy are rare. In that vacuum, liberals and conservatives alike are attributing special significance to her clerkship year with Justice Marshall, who led the civil rights movement’s legal efforts to dismantle segregation before becoming a particularly liberal Supreme Court justice.
      But while Ms. Kagan, a former board member for the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, clearly relished the experience and admired the justice as a historic figure, she appears to have had a far more ambivalent attitude toward his jurisprudence, according to a review of his papers at the Library of Congress, her comments over the years about him and interviews with her fellow clerks and colleagues…. – NYT, 5-13-10
    • As Clinton Aide, Kagan Recommended Tactical Support for an Abortion Ban: Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, once recommended to President Bill Clinton that he support a Democratic-sponsored ban on some late-term abortions as a way to defeat a stronger measure gaining momentum in the Senate.
      As a White House domestic policy aide, Ms. Kagan sent Mr. Clinton a memorandum urging him to endorse the ban sponsored by Senator Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota. The memo anticipated that the Daschle plan would fail but suggested that it would provide political cover for enough senators to stick by the president when he ultimately vetoed the tougher bill sponsored by Republicans.
      “We recommend that you endorse the Daschle amendment in order to sustain your credibility on HR 1122 and prevent Congress from overriding your veto,” Ms. Kagan and her boss, Bruce Reed, said in the memo on May 13, 1997…. – NYT, 5-12-10
    • Kagan fits Obama’s vision for the Supreme Court: With his second Supreme Court nomination in as many years, President Barack Obama has laid down clear markers of his vision for the court, one that could prove to be among his most enduring legacies….
      Kagan, 50, the solicitor general named to replace outgoing liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, would not immediately alter the ideological balance of the bench. But her addition would almost certainly provide a lasting, liberal presence, and administration officials hope she would, in the words of one, “start to move the court into a different posture and profile.”….
      Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Kagan will have to show “that she was not chosen by the president as a political ally who will rubber-stamp his agenda — but as an impartial jurist who will uphold the Constitution’s limits on the proper role of the federal government and defend the liberties of everyday Americans.”…. – WaPo, 5-10-10
    • Obama Is Said to Select Kagan as Justice: President Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the nation’s 112th justice, choosing his own chief advocate before the Supreme Court to join it in ruling on cases critical to his view of the country’s future, Democrats close to the White House said Sunday. After a monthlong search, Mr. Obama informed Ms. Kagan and his advisers on Sunday of his choice to succeed the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. He plans to announce the nomination at 10 a.m. Monday in the East Room of the White House with Ms. Kagan by his side, said the Democrats, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the decision before it was formally made public…. – NYT, 5-10-10

    POLITICAL QUOTES

    • Meet Elena Kagan – WH, 5-11-10
    • Nominating Kagan: “Her Passion for the Law is Anything But Academic”: For nearly 35 years, Justice Stevens has stood as an impartial guardian of the law, faithfully applying the core values of our founding to the cases and controversies of our time.
      He has done so with restraint and respect for precedent — understanding that a judge’s job is to interpret, not make law — but also with fidelity to the constitutional ideal of equal justice for all. He’s brought to each case not just mastery of the letter of the law, but a keen understanding of its impact on people’s lives.
      Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds. She’s an acclaimed legal scholar with a rich understanding of constitutional law. She is a former White House aide with a lifelong commitment to public service and a firm grasp of the nexus and boundaries between our three branches of government. She is a trailblazing leader — the first woman to serve as Dean of Harvard Law School — and one of the most successful and beloved deans in its history. And she is a superb Solicitor General, our nation’s chief lawyer representing the American people’s interests before the Supreme Court, the first woman in that position as well. And she has won accolades from observers across the ideological spectrum for her well-reasoned arguments and commanding presence.
      But Elena is respected and admired not just for her intellect and record of achievement, but also for her temperament — her openness to a broad array of viewpoints; her habit, to borrow a phrase from Justice Stevens, “of understanding before disagreeing”; her fair-mindedness and skill as a consensus-builder.
      These traits were particularly evident during her tenure as dean. At a time when many believed that the Harvard faculty had gotten a little one-sided in its viewpoint, she sought to recruit prominent conservative scholars and spur a healthy debate on campus. And she encouraged students from all backgrounds to respectfully exchange ideas and seek common ground — because she believes, as I do, that exposure to a broad array of perspectives is the foundation not just for a sound legal education, but of a successful life in the law.
      This appreciation for diverse views may also come in handy as a die-hard Mets fan serving alongside her new colleague-to-be, Yankees fan Justice Sotomayor, who I believe has ordered a pinstriped robe for the occasion. (Laughter.)
      But while Elena had a brilliant career in academia, her passion for the law is anything but academic. She has often referred to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom she clerked, as her hero. I understand that he reciprocated by calling her “Shorty.” (Laughter.) Nonetheless, she credits him with reminding her that, as she put it, “behind law there are stories — stories of people’s lives as shaped by the law, stories of people’s lives as might be changed by the law…”
      That understanding of law, not as an intellectual exercise or words on a page, but as it affects the lives of ordinary people, has animated every step of Elena’s career — including her service as Solicitor General today.
      During her time in this office, she’s repeatedly defended the rights of shareholders and ordinary citizens against unscrupulous corporations. Last year, in the Citizens United case, she defended bipartisan campaign finance reform against special interests seeking to spend unlimited money to influence our elections. Despite long odds of success, with most legal analysts believing the government was unlikely to prevail in this case, Elena still chose it as her very first case to argue before the Court.
      I think that says a great deal not just about Elena’s tenacity, but about her commitment to serving the American people. I think it says a great deal about her commitment to protect our fundamental rights, because in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. – WH, 5-10-10

    HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

    • Gil Troy: Globe and Mail: A Careerist Conundrum of Supreme Proportions Did Elena Kagan somehow lose her voice and soul while climbing her way to the top?: For New Yorkers born in the 1960s, U.S. President Barack Obama’s nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court triggered the frissons of pride and envy many of us feel when someone our age and from our humble background makes it. But Ms. Kagan’s careerist conundrum is particularly fascinating. Did this woman with the perfect Princeton- Oxford-Harvard résumé somehow lose her voice and her soul while climbing professionally as deliberately as she did? To be fair, to young New Yorkers in the 1970s, the notion of a woman sitting on the Supreme Court was downright revolutionary. Ms. Kagan’s nomination is the ultimate Free to Be … You and Me moment…
      Still, we do not know how Ms. Kagan will act. She may prove to have been a phony phoenix, emerging, after years of hiding it, as a full-throated ideologue. Alternatively, decades of calculated accommodating might keep her building bridges as she did when she was dean of Harvard Law School.
      Regardless, as a professor and a parent, I wonder: Do I advise my students and my children that they are “free to be you and me?” Or, to go as far as some want to go, must they squelch their voices, round their edges, and be the corporate careerists that excessive media scrutiny in a polarizing political culture demands they be? – The Globe & Mail, 5-17-10
    • Julian Zelizer: Senate should accept Kagan’s ’95 ‘challenge’: In 1995, Elena Kagan published a lengthy book review in the University of Chicago Law Review, titled “Confirmation Messes, Old and New,” in which she was critical of the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominees.
      While she challenged the author Stephen Carter’s argument that the confirmations had become nasty and destructive, she instead complained that the hearings tended to avoid substantive issues.
      Kagan argues that in response to the contentious debate over Robert Bork in 1987, senators refrained from dealing with real issues. Rather than offering a serious examination of how a nominee viewed constitutional issues, the hearings instead provided a “vapid and hollow charade” devoid of substance.
      She urged a return to the kind of debate that surrounded Bork, which she said “presented to the public a serious discussion of the meaning of the Constitution, the role of the Court, and the views of the nominees.”
      Based on the initial media and political response to her nomination, it seems that Kagan was spot on. During the first week since President Obama announced his selection, public discussion has revolved around irrelevant issues that won’t teach us much about Kagan….
      Maybe after reading Kagan’s record, the Senate can elevate rather than denigrate the public discourse and demonstrate how Congress can fulfill its functions. – CNN, 5-17-10

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