Political Highlights June 15, 2010: Obama’s First Oval Office Address on Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

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:

The President delivers first Oval Office Address

Doug Mills/The New York Times

THE HEADLINES….

  • In Oval Office Speech, Obama Calls for New Focus on Energy Policy: President Obama delivered his first Oval Office address to the nation. President Obama summoned Americans on Tuesday to a “national mission” to move away from reliance on oil and develop alternative sources of energy, casting the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as an imperative for Congress to act quickly to overcome “a lack of political courage and candor.” Speaking to a national television audience for the first time from the Oval Office, Mr. Obama also promised a long-term plan to make sure that the gulf states suffering from the oil spill are made whole again. He said he was appointing Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy and the former governor of Mississippi, to develop a Gulf Coast restoration plan in cooperation with states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, conservationists and gulf residents…. – NYT, 6-16-10
  • Obama, BP set for Gulf oil showdown: President Obama will have his showdown on Wednesday with BP top executives and says he will tell the company it must pick up the tab for the massive oil disaster in the Gulf. Obama vowed Tuesday to unleash whatever resources may be needed to fight the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and to keep the pressure on BP.
    “We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long it takes,” Obama said after two consecutive days surveying the Gulf Coast, which is threatened by a massive oil spill that began April 20 and continues to pump oil into the Gulf waters and worry into Gulf residents. In a prime-time speech to a national audience, the president predicted that, “in the coming days and weeks,” efforts to contain the leak “should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. CNN, 6-16-10
  • Gulf Coast welcomes Obama’s pledge to restore land: In an Oval Office address Tuesday night, Obama said he was committed to making sure southern Louisiana, which is hemorrhaging a football field of marshland every 38 minutes, and other coastline are saved. “We need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region,” Obama said. “The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that has already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats.” Obama appointed Ray Mabus, the secretary of the Navy and a former Mississippi governor, to lead the effort to develop a long-term Gulf Coast restoration plan. Obama said he wanted BP to “pay for the impact this spill has had on the region.”… – AP, 6-16-10
  • Oval Office speech: Obama’s ‘take charge’ moment in Gulf oil spill: In the Gulf oil spill crisis, President Obama has shied away from theatrical moments that symbolize he’s in charge. Tuesday’s Oval Office speech is his attempt to take charge on his own terms… – CS Monitor, 6-16-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Obama’s First Oval Office Address: A text of President Obama’s remarks on Tuesday on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, as released by the White House:
    Good evening. As we speak, our nation faces a multitude of challenges. At home, our top priority is to recover and rebuild from a recession that has touched the lives of nearly every American. Abroad, our brave men and women in uniform are taking the fight to al Qaeda wherever it exists. And tonight, I’ve returned from a trip to the Gulf Coast to speak with you about the battle we’re waging against an oil spill that is assaulting our shores and our citizens. …
    …Already, this oil spill is the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced. And unlike an earthquake or a hurricane, it’s not a single event that does its damage in a matter of minutes or days. The millions of gallons of oil that have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico are more like an epidemic, one that we will be fighting for months and even years.
    But make no mistake: We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got for as long as it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.
    Tonight I’d like to lay out for you what our battle plan is going forward: what we’re doing to clean up the oil, what we’re doing to help our neighbors in the Gulf, and what we’re doing to make sure that a catastrophe like this never happens again. …
    …Tomorrow, I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company’s recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.
    Beyond compensating the people of the Gulf in the short term, it’s also clear we need a long-term plan to restore the unique beauty and bounty of this region. The oil spill represents just the latest blow to a place that’s already suffered multiple economic disasters and decades of environmental degradation that has led to disappearing wetlands and habitats. And the region still hasn’t recovered from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. That’s why we must make a commitment to the Gulf Coast that goes beyond responding to the crisis of the moment.
    I make that commitment tonight….
    …All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet. You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny -– our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don’t yet know precisely how we’re going to get there. We know we’ll get there.
    It’s a faith in the future that sustains us as a people. It is that same faith that sustains our neighbors in the Gulf right now.
    …The oil spill is not the last crisis America will face. This nation has known hard times before and we will surely know them again. What sees us through -– what has always seen us through –- is our strength, our resilience, and our unyielding faith that something better awaits us if we summon the courage to reach for it. Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. – NYT, 6-15-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Mike Littwin: Obama’s speech safe, when we need fierce urgency on energy: In what should be a surprise to no one, Barack Obama played it safe. It’s always funny to me when people call Obama a radical president when he is so clearly a cautious, incremental politician. If there were ever a moment for Obama to go big — as they like to say in Washington these days — this was it.
    If there’s anything that Obama needs to do at this moment, it is to make people look in a different direction. He needed to call up the spill- cam on the big Oval Office high-def wide-screen and say, “Look. You see that stuff spewing out of the ocean, heading toward our beaches? Does that look like clean energy to you? That energy is the past. We can’t afford to stay in the past. Tonight, we’re here to talk about the future.”
    In his speech, Obama did talk about the future. He talked about a new way and clean energy and the jobs that could be created. He talked about the fact he was open to new ideas on energy — and that the only plan he wouldn’t accept was the “consequences of inaction.”… – Denver Post, 6-16-10
  • Obama Faces ‘A Defining Moment’ in Oval Office Oil Leak Speech: As President Barack Obama began a two-day trip to survey oil leak damage along the Gulf Coast, Judy Woodruff gets several points of view about the president’s authority and public reaction related to the environmental disaster.
    JUDY WOODRUFF: For some additional perspective on the president’s handling of the oil spill, we are joined now by presidential historian and author Michael Beschloss, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, professor of communication and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post and contributor to MSNBC… – PBS Newshour, 6-15-10
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian: Well, in terms of substance, the oil is still spilling into the Gulf. So, the way people are going to look at this two years from now is going to be, how fast was this stopped, how much did he go after the people responsible, and, also, how much did he help the people, you know, people who were fishing in the Gulf and others, people involved in tourism, who were suffering from this? But as far as the — you know, what he’s done the last month-and-a-half in terms of talking to the public, there’s one way he could have done this which would have been different. And that goes back to Jimmy Carter and the Iran hostage crisis November of 1979. Carter said, as you well remember: I’m not going to leave the White House until this crisis is solved. I’m just going to spend 28 hours a day working on it. And the result was that his administration was chained to every twist and turn.
    He sure was. And so I think — this is a minority view in America right now, but I think it may not have been a bad idea for him to say, Barack Obama, a month-and-a-half ago: It may take a very long time to plug this leak. It’s going to be very frustrating. If I look as if I’m spending 24 hours a day trying to stop this, and it doesn’t happen, people are going to think I’m ineffective….
    Different with every president, because, especially with a new president like Barack Obama a year-and-a-half in office, we’re still learning things about him. And everyone has subliminal worries about every new president. In Barack Obama’s case, they may be, didn’t have enough executive experience, didn’t have enough national experience, maybe the temperament a little bit too laid back. So, the second you have got a crisis like this where people are frustrated, they immediately say, aha, you know, we’re seeing all those things in play, we had better worry about this president, sort of like George H.W. Bush in 1991. The economy was going into a bad recession. And he wasn’t giving the impression that he was on top of it. And, so, the narrative emerged the president is out of touch, and people connected that to an incident where he was seeing a supermarket checkout scanner. He said: Oh, isn’t that interesting? I have never seen that before. People said, Bush is so out of touch, he doesn’t even know the way most people shop. As it turned out, it was new technology, but something like that tends to get attached to worries that people have about a new president. That’s one thing that I think the administration has been very unsuccessful in managing. – PBS Newshour, 6-15-10
  • KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, director, Annenberg Public Policy Center: He’s working in a very difficult circumstance, in which what the public expects of him and what a public — what the president is able to do are two very different things. Today, he made a good start at establishing that he’s going hold his own agencies accountable, in particular by eating seafood for lunch. He suggested that it’s still safe to eat seafood from the Gulf, and suggested that the agencies under his control will police that vigilantly to ensure that we can continue to eat seafood, but also that we will watch carefully through these agencies about the clean water and clean air. So, there’s a beginning of a start of scaffolding up an argument to suggest that government has action it can take here. He’s also been arguing that he’s going to hold BP accountable. We wait to see whether in fact that’s going to happen.
    Crises create opportunities and they create presidential capacity. So, for example, right now, what we have are visuals that are extremely difficult for the president to displace: dying endangered waterfowl, oil spilling on to beaches and children trying to pick it up. You also have a situation in which he has trouble with the metrics. He talks about thousands and tens of thousands of workers and boats and equipment, when the oil is hemorrhaging in hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions. But what he can do is harness all of that into a speech Tuesday night that is, for him, a speech the equivalent of delivering the Marshall Plan speech for Truman, the Monroe Doctrine speech. A house divided against itself cannot stand, the civil rights legislation speeches of Lyndon Johnson. He could give us the speech that talks about how this crisis is a defining moment for this people, and we will come out of it with a healthier planet, fueled by economies that have clean, safe energy, and he will tell us how we can get there, what the costs will be, and why we have to pay it. He can harness what he called in the campaign the fierce urgency of now, and control those perceptions. – PBS Newshour, 6-15-10
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Political Highlights: May 31, 2010: Is the BP Oil Spill Obama’s Katrina or Worse?

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:

The  President walks with BP Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 6/1/10

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Bush details decision to quit drinking: New book analyzes key moments in former president’s life In a book, “Decision Points,” to be published in about six months, George W. Bush will detail some of the controversies of his presidency. George W. Bush said Tuesday that his upcoming book begins with an anecdote about his wife persuading him to give up drinking by pushing him to decide whether he preferred booze to fatherhood…. – MSNBC, 5-25-10
  • New poll shows Obama approval rising: A new poll Wednesday showed an upward tick in President Barack Obama’s approval ratings as he faces a political storm over the Gulf oil spill and girds for crucial mid-term elections in November.
    The Quinnipiac University survey showed that 48 percent of voters gave Obama a positive approval rating, compared to 43 percent who disapproved. Most respondents however were pessimistic on the White House’s economic management.
    Respondents also told Quinnipiac, by 42 to 36 percent, that they would vote for a Democrat over a Republican in November’s congressional elections, which will have a big impact on the rest of Obama’s term, which ends in 2013… – AFP, 5-26-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • BP’s top kill effort fails to plug Gulf oil leak: The most ambitious bid yet to stop the worst oil spill in U.S. history ended in failure Saturday after BP was unable to overwhelm the gusher of crude with heavy fluids and junk. President Obama called the setback “as enraging as it is heartbreaking.” The oil giant immediately began readying its next attempted fix, using robot submarines to cut the pipe that’s gushing the oil into the Gulf of Mexico and cap it with funnel-like device, but the only guaranteed solution remains more than two months away.
    “It is as enraging as it is heartbreaking, and we will not relent until this leak is contained, until the waters and shores are cleaned up, and until the people unjustly victimized by this manmade disaster are made whole,” Obama said Saturday. – AP, 5-29-10
  • Bill Clinton has not shrunk from the political spotlight Bill Clinton remains engaged in American politics, providing fresh fodder for the long debate of whether he truly changed his party.
    Bill Clinton was all over the news Friday. He was identified as the go-between in a (failed) White House effort last year to get Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania to drop his (ultimately successful) Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter. And he was live, on stage, in Arkansas in a full-throated defense of embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D). In Washington, of course, the Sestak melodrama got all the attention. But Clinton’s efforts to save Lincoln from defeat in the June 8 primary runoff election against Democratic Lt. Gov. Bill Halter matters more, and is more interesting. It isn’t just that Lincoln is a longtime ally from the former president’s home state. Her battle is in many ways Clinton’s, as well. It is a fight over differences and grievances within the Democratic Party that have festered for years…. – WaPo, 5-30-10
  • Obama: Memorial Day is time to honor fallen troops: Obama, who has sent thousands of troops into war in Afghanistan, used his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday to reflect on what the nation owes those men and women who died in uniform… “In short, by serving all those who have ever worn the uniform of this country — and their families — as well as they have served us,” the president said…. – AP, 5-29-10
  • A GOP Oil Trap Panicked Republicans risk future energy development: With oil now lapping the Louisiana shore, a political oil panic is beginning to wash over the GOP. Somewhere, Rahm Emanuel is wondering if the Gulf spill is another crisis he won’t have to let go to waste. Start with Sarah Palin, who spent most of 2008 rapping Democrats for not being more supportive of domestic energy production, only to turn around and suggest President Obama was in bed with Big Oil. The argument seems to be that anyone who accepts oil contributions must be in favor of oil spills…. – WSJ, 5-28-10
  • President Obama will skip Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery: President Obama is skipping the traditional Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery, a move that has dismayed some veterans — and comes at a sensitive moment in the administration’s relationship with the military. Instead of speaking at Arlington, as he did last year and as most presidents have done, Obama will appear at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery outside Chicago, the White House said. Vice President Biden will take his place at Arlington, the most prestigious military cemetery in the country and home to Section 60, a large burial ground for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Obama family in Chicago for Memorial Day weekend: President Barack Obama is spending the long Memorial Day holiday weekend at home in Chicago, where he will sleep in his own bed for the first time in more than a year. Obama said before he took office that he hoped to come home about every six weeks. But the demands of the presidency and his daughters’ busy schedules have thwarted his intentions. First lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, Obama’s mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, and family dog Bo accompanied the president. Obama is scheduled to return to Washington on Monday…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Obama Honors Jewish Americans at White House Reception: Did you hear the one about the African-American president and Jewish-American baseball legend who were in the East Room of the White House for a reception? The president tells the audience that he and Sandy Koufax have something in common. “We are both lefties. He can’t pitch on Yom Kippur. I can’t pitch.” Oy. Where’s Jackie Mason when you need him? It was a bit of Jewish humor from President Barack Obama in welcoming remarks at what he said was the first-ever White House reception observing Jewish American Heritage Month…. – CBS News, 5-27-10
  • Congress moves to end ban on gays in military: Congress has taken two big steps toward ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. In quick succession Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee and the full House approved measures to repeal the 1993 law that allows gay people to serve in the armed services only if they hide their sexual orientation…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Sarah Palin Builds Fence as Joe McGinniss’ Son Denies “Stalker” Claim: On Tuesday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin wrote a sarcastic note on her Facebook page complaining about the fact that nonfiction author Joe McGinniss had moved into the house next door. Palin complains that McGinniss, who is writing a book about her, will likely be unfair. She also casts his behavior as creepy: “Wonder what kind of material he’ll gather while overlooking Piper’s bedroom, my little garden, and the family’s swimming hole?”…. – CBS News, 5-27-10
  • Is oil spill becoming Obama’s Katrina?: 37 days: Oil has been spilling 6 million: Total gallons spilled, according to estimates from BP and the Coast Guard28,958 square miles: Size of oil slick; an area about the size of South Carolina 70 miles: Louisiana coastline affected 1,300: Number of vessels involved
    The hurricane that drowned New Orleans and cast George W. Bush as out of touch swept across the Gulf Coast nearly five years ago. Now, as oil laps ashore in the very same region, local officials are asking: Is there another government-Gulf Coast disconnect? Is BP’s oil spill becoming this president’s Katrina? President Obama will face questions today at his first news conference since oil started gushing five weeks ago. Frustrated Gulf Coast residents say they understand that only BP can plug the leak. But they want to know why the federal government didn’t act faster to stop the oil from reaching shore, why BP hasn’t been forced to skim more oil from the surface and why their request hasn’t been approved to build new barrier islands to help keep the oil at bay….. – USA Today, 5-27-10
  • Cost of Jobs Bill Leaves Some Democrats Leery: The emergence of the escalating federal debt and government spending as a defining political issue is complicating Democratic efforts this week to push through a major package of tax breaks and unemployment aid over the reluctance of Democrats wary of being painted as budget busters.
    “We have put together a wonderful bill, and every piece in it can be justified as good public policy,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a freshman Democrat from Virginia. “But it is not paid for. Until somebody shows me a path for this being paid for, I am a no.”… – NYT, 5-26-10
  • The Early Word: The President Answers: It’s been awhile, but President Obama will hold a formal news conference at the White House this afternoon. With oil still leaking out of a well in the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama plans to announce at today’s question-and- answer session that he will extend a moratorium on deepwater offshore drilling permits for six months and will delay or cancel specific projects off the coasts of Alaska and Virginia and in the western Gulf of Mexico, The Times’s Peter Baker and Anahad O’Connor report. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty gives her fellow reporters some ideas on what to ask the president, who is scheduled to visit the Gulf Coast on Friday. One of her five proposed questions: “Should anyone in the government be fired as the result of this disaster?”… – NYT, 5-27-10
  • Obama to speak on Gulf spill in first news conference since summer ’09: President Obama will face the cameras and take questions from reporters Thursday about the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, giving him another chance to finesse, and perhaps even ratchet up, his rhetoric on the crisis. The president’s news conference in the East Room is scheduled for 12:45 p.m., and it will take place even as BP’s dramatic “top kill” operation to halt the flow of leaking oil continues deep below the Gulf surface. This will be Obama’s first full-fledged news conference in more than 300 days. It is the latest attempt by the White House to calibrate the presidential message about the oil catastrophe with the anxiety captured on television screens…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Gulf oil spill now nation’s worst: As crews pumped mud at a furious rate into the damaged blowout preventer that sits on the uncapped well at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, a group of scientists said the amount of oil spewing into the ocean is much greater than originally believed…. – WaPo, 5-27-10
  • Obama fires MMS chief Elizabeth Birnbaum: President Obama has fired the head of the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, according to the Associated Press. The news agency, citing unnamed sources, says Obama will announce later today that Elizabeth Birnbaum has been taken off the job. She’s been head of the MMS since July 2009. Her agency, which grants leases to oil companies and monitors offshore drilling, has come under criticism for lax oversight since the BP well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20…. – USA Today, 5-27-10
  • Judiciary Republicans Call for Special Prosecutor: All seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee joined together on Wednesday to request appointment of a special prosecutor to look into Representative Joe Sestak’s claim that the White House offered him a job to drop out of the Senate Democratic primary race in Pennsylvania. In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., the Republican senators said the assertions are “very serious and, if true, suggest a possible violation of various federal criminal laws intended to safeguard our political process from the taint of bribes and political machine manipulation.”…
    Mr. Sestak first said in February that the White House had proposed an administration job if he would back off his challenge to Senator Arlen Specter, but he refused and went on to win the primary last week. In the days since, Republicans have revived and pressed the matter, while the White House and Mr. Sestak have refused to provide details of what happened. The White House has said it looked into the situation and determined nothing inappropriate happened…. – NYT, 5-26-10
  • Neither side happy with jobs bill being pushed through Congress: Some conservatives say people who are out of work shouldn’t be able to collect jobless benefits for almost two years. Liberals, meanwhile, want Congress to pay for a New Deal-style program in which the federal government would send money to states and localities, which would then directly hire people. Neither group will be completely happy with the “jobs bill” being pushed through Congress right now. The $192 billion “American Jobs and Closing Loopholes Act of 2010,” which could be approved in the House as soon as Wednesday and later this week in the Senate, largely keeps in place the policies that Democrats have pushed over the past year to deal with the recession as unemployment remains at almost 10 percent. WaPo, 5-26-10
  • ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal up for 2 votes: After 17 years, a repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military heads into two razor-thin votes before the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, with passage uncertain, as Democrats facing losses in the midterm elections push to enact repeal while they still can. But even if repeal passes both chambers, gays and lesbians would not be able to serve openly in the military right away. A compromise late Monday between congressional leaders and the White House paved the way for the votes, which will come as amendments to the Defense Department’s authorization bill…. – SF Chronicle, 5-25-10
  • Republican Senators’ Lunch With Obama Is Marked by Spirited Confrontations: President Obama’s luncheon Tuesday with Senate Republicans was not televised like a similar session earlier this year with the House opposition, but evidently it would have made for captivating theater. By nearly all accounts, pent-up frustrations boiled over as the president and the very lawmakers who have consistently opposed much of his agenda engaged in spirited and at times confrontational exchanges over immigration, spending, White House tactics and other issues during a private 75-minute session. Senator John McCain, Mr. Obama’s former presidential rival, lashed out at the administration for its portrayal of the new immigration law in his home state of Arizona. And Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee suggested that the administration had been less than sincere in trying to seek a bipartisan deal on the financial regulatory overhaul, which was passed last week with just four Republican votes. “To come in on the Tuesday after it all occurred and to now talk about seven or eight items he wants to do in a bipartisan way, I just asked him how he could reconcile that duplicity,” Mr. Corker said. “I was very aware that we were props today as we move into an election cycle.”… – NYT, 5-26-10
  • Proposal moves up a vote on gays in military: Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., an Iraq war veteran, is expected to introduce the legislative proposal Tuesday. A vote could come as early as Thursday. The White House had hoped lawmakers would delay action until Pentagon officials had completed their study so fellow Democrats would not face criticism that they moved too quickly or too far ahead of public opinion in this election year. When administration officials recognized they could not stop Congress in its effort to repeal the ban, they invited gay rights activists to the White House to work on a compromise Monday…. – AP, 5-25-10
  • Obama seeks to force votes on spending cuts: President Barack Obama on Monday is sending legislation to Congress that would allow him to force lawmakers to vote on cutting wasteful programs from spending bills. The legislation would award Obama and his successors the ability to take two months or more to scrutinize spending bills that have already been signed into law for pet projects and other dubious programs. He could then send Congress a package of spending cuts for a mandatory up-or-down vote on whether to accept or reject them. Senate Democrats killed the idea just three years ago, and so Obama’s move would seem like a long shot. But the plan could pick up traction in the current anti-Washington political environment in which lawmakers are desperate to demonstrate they are tough on spending…. – AP, 5-23-10
  • White House: Justice Dept. has been to Gulf spill: The White House says the Justice Department has been gathering information about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Press secretary Robert Gibbs isn’t saying whether the department has opened a criminal investigation. He would only tell CBS’ “Face the Nation” that department representatives have been to the Gulf as part of the response to the BP oil leak…. – AP, 5-24-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Clinton: Don’t let anger sink Lincoln re-election: Former President Bill Clinton on Friday urged voters in his home state to send Sen. Blanche Lincoln back to Washington for another term, warning them to not let their anger guide their choice in next month’s Democratic runoff. Clinton, who remains beloved in the state where he served as governor for 12 years, urged voters to look at Lincoln’s years in the Senate and her work as the chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Lincoln, considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Washington, is fighting to keep her job in the June 8 Democratic runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. “If you want somebody to channel your anger, don’t vote for her,” Clinton said at a rally at Philander Smith College, a historically black school located near downtown Little Rock. “If you want somebody to get up and go to work and change your life for the better, you should vote for her.”…. – AP, 5-28-10
  • Paul opposes citizenship for babies of illegals: U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul is stirring it up again, this time by saying he opposes citizenship for children born in the U.S. to parents who are illegal immigrants. Paul, who a week ago won the GOP primary, told a Russian TV station in a clip circulating on political Web sites Friday that he wants to block citizenship to those children. “We’re the only country I know that allows people to come in illegally, have a baby, and then that baby becomes a citizen,” Paul told RT, an English-language station, shortly after his win over GOP establishment candidate Trey Grayson. “And I think that should stop also.”… – AP, 5-28-10
  • Republicans Have Most Action in Arizona Primary: Intraparty challenges to U.S. Sen. John McCain and Gov. Jan Brewer top contested races in Arizona’s Aug. 24 primary election. Those and other races put most of the high-profile action in the Republican primary, though Democrats also have some contested contests for statewide offices. Wednesday at 5 p.m. was the deadline for candidates to file nominating petitions, though the Secretary of State’s Office said an updated list would not be immediately available. As the filing deadline neared, the four-term incumbent McCain was challenged in the primary by former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth and Navy veteran Jim Deakin. [See who is donating to McCain’s campaign.]… – US News, 5-27-10
  • A.G. Andrew Cuomo picks Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy as his Lt. Governor candidate: Newly minted gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo has picked the mayor of Rochester as his running mate. Cuomo’s campaign announced Wednesday morning that fellow Democrat Robert Duffy, a former cop, had gotten the nod. NY Daily News, 5-26-10
  • Rossi turns spotlight on U.S. Senate race: Republican Dino Rossi’s long-awaited entry into the U.S. Senate race Wednesday pushes Washington onto the national political map this year, morphing the state from a footnote into a more closely watched battleground that could shape control of Congress…. – Seattle Times, 5-26-10
  • Idaho lawmaker wins GOP nod in US House race: Idaho state Rep. Raul Labrador won the Republican nomination Tuesday in the state’s nationally targeted 1st Congressional District, pulling an upset over rival Vaughn Ward. Labrador won the race despite a significant fundraising disadvantage and a campaign endorsement for Ward by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Labrador’s victory sets up a battle with first-term Democrat Walt Minnick in November…. With 435 of 462 precincts reporting, Labrador collected 48.1 percent of the vote compared to 38.8 percent for Ward, who described the race as “a humbling experience.” AP, 5-26-10
  • Rand Paul plans campaign shake-up after gaffes: Kentucky senatorial candidate Rand Paul said Tuesday he’s planning a campaign staff shake-up a week after a round of interviews in which he dismayed fellow Republicans by discussing his views on racial segregation. Campaign manager David Adams, who had been a Republican blogger in Nicholasville before joining up, will remain though perhaps in a different role, Paul said…. Adams would only say, “I don’t have any comment about that yet.” A former aide to Paul’s father, Texas congressman and former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul, has become increasingly visible in the Senate campaign. Jesse Benton, who was communications director for Ron Paul’s last presidential bid, has been by the younger Paul’s side at most of his recent campaign events…. – AP, 5-26-10
  • Gingrich endorses Meg Whitman for governor: When Carly Fiorina launched her campaign for U.S. Senate late last year, she wanted little to do with Sarah Palin. “I’ve never met her,” Fiorina replied when asked about the former Alaska governor’s leadership skills. “Next question.”… But as the races for governor and senator go down to the wire before the June 8 primary, big name Republicans are jumping into the fray with endorsements — 11th-hour nods that may offer big boosts now but carry serious risks in the fall, when the primary winners face the general electorate in a solidly blue state. Palin endorsed Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, on May 6. Former Vice President Cheney endorsed Whitman 10 days later. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich endorses the eBay billionaire in an op-ed piece in the Mercury N ews today, calling her “a transformational leader for California.”… – San Jose Mercury News, 5-25-10
  • Republicans See Big Chance, but Are Worried, Too: Republicans remain confident of making big gains in the fall elections, but as the midterm campaign begins in earnest, they face a series of challenges that could keep the party from fully capitalizing on an electorate clamoring for change in Washington. There are growing concerns among Republicans about the party’s get-out-the-vote operation and whether it can translate their advantage over Democrats in grass-roots enthusiasm into turnout on Election Day. They are also still trying to get a fix on how to run against President Obama, who, polls suggest, remains relatively well-liked by voters, even as support for his agenda has waned. Republicans are working to find a balance between simply running against Democrats and promoting a specific alternative agenda. And they are struggling with how to integrate the passions of the Tea Party movement — with its anti-government ideology, anti-incumbent bent and often-rough political edges — into the Republican Party apparatus…. – NYT, 5-24-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Remarks by the President After Meeting with BP Oil Spill Commission Co-Chairs Rose Garden: We have an obligation to investigate what went wrong and to determine what reforms are needed so that we never have to experience a crisis like this again. If the laws on our books are insufficient to prevent such a spill, the laws must change. If oversight was inadequate to enforce these laws, oversight has to be reformed. If our laws were broken, leading to this death and destruction, my solemn pledge is that we will bring those responsible to justice on behalf of the victims of this catastrophe and the people of the Gulf region….
    We’re continuing our efforts on all fronts to contain the damage from this disaster and extend to the people of the Gulf the help they need to confront this ordeal. We’ve already mounted the largest cleanup effort in the nation’s history, and continue to monitor — minute to minute — the efforts to halt or capture the flow of oil from the wrecked BP well. Until the well is stopped, we’ll multiply our efforts to meet the growing threat and to address the widespread and unbelievably painful losses experienced by the people along the Gulf Coast. What’s being threatened — what’s being lost — isn’t just the source of income, but a way of life; not just fishable waters, but a national treasure…. WH, 6-2-10
  • Obama wishes US soccer team luck in World Cup: Barack Obama gave the U.S. World Cup team a presidential sendoff, greeting players at the White House on Thursday along with Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton. “I just want to say how incredibly proud we are of the team,” Obama said. “Everybody’s going to be rooting for you. And although sometimes we don’t remember it here in the United States, this is going to be the biggest world stage there is. And you’re going to be representing all of us.”… “We’re going to be proud of what you do when you get to South Africa, and you will have somebody in the Oval Office who’s going to be watching ESPN to make sure that things are going OK,” Obama said…. – AP, 5-27-10
  • Obama in S.F. for Boxer faces critics on spill:
    President Obama, facing criticism that his administration has failed to respond aggressively to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, assured supporters in San Francisco on Tuesday that “the situation in the gulf is heartbreaking, and we’re doing everything we can.”
    “Nobody is more upset than me, because ultimately,” he said, “when this happens on your watch, you are thinking, how does this get solved?” Obama said his administration has marshaled more than 1,000 people to help deal with the spill and “we are now having to do a thorough review” to see how oil companies “can say they know how to handle these problems when actually they don’t.”… – SF Chronicle, 5-26-10
  • Palin suggests Obama oil ties impede spill cleanup The White House responds by questioning her information about oil politics and policy: Sarah Palin speaking on ” Fox News Sunday,” the former Alaska governor said she remained a “big supporter” of oil drilling but believed “these oil companies have got to be held accountable.” Pointing to what she termed the White House’s relationship with “the oil companies who have so supported President Obama in his campaign and are supportive of him now,” Palin questioned whether “there’s any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.”
    White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, on CBS News’ “Face the Nation,” suggested Palin do some homework. “I’m almost sure that the oil companies don’t consider the Obama administration a huge ally,” Gibbs said. “We proposed a windfall profits tax when they jacked their oil prices up to charge more for gasoline.” Gibbs said, “My suggestion to Sarah Palin would be to get slightly more informed as to what’s going on in and around oil drilling in this country.”…. – LAT, 5-24-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Obama, the Thin-Skinned President: Not surprisingly, Obama’s thin skin leads to self pity. As Daniel Halper of The Weekly Standard pointed out, in a fundraising event for Sen. Barbara Boxer, Obama said,
    Let’s face it: this has been the toughest year and a half since any year and a half since the 1930s.
    Really, now? Worse than the period surrounding December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001? Worse than what Gerald Ford faced after the resignation of Richard Nixon and Watergate, which constituted the worse constitutional scandal in our history and tore the country apart? Worse than what Ronald Reagan faced after Jimmy Carter (when interest rates were 22 percent, inflation was more than 13 percent, and Reagan faced something entirely new under the sun, “stagflation”)? Worse than 1968, when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated and there was rioting in our streets? Worse than what LBJ faced during Vietnam — a war which eventually claimed more than 58,000 lives? Worse than what John Kennedy faced in the Bay of Pigs and in the Cuban Missile Crisis, when we and the Soviet Union edged up to the brink of nuclear war? Worse than what Franklin Roosevelt faced on the eve of the Normandy invasion? Worse than what Bush faced in Iraq in 2006, when that nation was on the edge of civil war, or when the financial system collapsed in the last months of his presidency? Worse than what Truman faced in defeating imperial Japan, in reconstructing post-war Europe, and in responding to North Korea’s invasion of South Korea?…. – Politics Daily, 5-27-10
  • How Obama Measures Up: Lessons From 70 Years of Presidential Scholars – Politics Daily, 4-2-10
  • Thomas Schwartz: Up from the deep sea: a nightmare for Obama: Presidential historian Thomas Schwartz, a Vanderbilt University professor, said presidencies are often defined by the crises encountered. He said the oil spill could prove to be a defining crisis but he cautioned against comparing the leak to Katrina, for instance. “This one has been slowly developing and could have those qualities, but if BP were to suddenly get it capped, things could be defused very quickly. The air could go out of the balloon,” Schwartz said. Reuters, 5-27-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: Obama could pay “huge price” for spill response: “I think that the President has to get control over this situation,” historian Doug Brinkley said on CNN’s Campbell Brown Monday night. “Right now there is a feeling in the country that BP’s in charge but BP is the one that has been grossly negligent,” Brinkley said. Brinkley, a longtime resident of New Orleans, offered Brown suggestions about what President Obama needs to do: Address the American people on television within 48 hours, tell them what’s happening in the Gulf and talk about what’s being lost. Brinkley also believes the White House must consider freezing BP’s assets in the United States and called for the Justice Department to speed up its probe into BP. When asked by Brown what price the President could pay for a slow response, Brinkley told Brown “It’s a huge price.”… – CNN.com (5-24-10)
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