Political Highlights March 14, 2011: President & Michelle Obama Launch Anti-Bullying Initiative — Reactions to Japan’s Earthquake — Budget Battles — Wisconsin Passes Anti-Union Bill

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama's News Conference
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/11/11

STATS & POLLS

  • StopBullying.gov
  • Obama weekly approval rating lowest of the year: Gallup reported that Obama’s latest weekly approval rating — Feb. 28-March 6 — clocked in at 46%, it’s lowest level since mid-December.
    “Obama’s weekly approval rating had steadily improved from mid-December to late January, peaking at 50% during the final two weeks in January, before dropping below that mark in February,” Gallup said. It also reported that “Obama is now essentially back to where he was in the immediate post-election phase of 2010,” when Republicans won control of the U.S. House and picked up six Senate seats… – USA Today, 3-8-11
  • Sarah Palin’s Popularity Slips to 60 Percent Disapproval Rate in Poll:
    Sarah Palin, perhaps the most closely watched of all potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, is viewed in an unfavorable light by 60 percent of those questioned in a new Bloomberg News poll. Palin’s numbers suggest she would face a challenge in attracting voters beyond her conservative base if she decides to run for president next year. Bloomberg’s survey of 1,001 adults was taken between March 4-7 by the Iowa firm, Selzer & Co. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
    Within the 60 percent who disapproved of Palin, 38 percent said they had “very unfavorable” feelings about her. She was viewed favorably by 28 percent, with only 4 percent not sure how they felt. A December Bloomberg poll had Palin’s unfavorable rating at 57 percent…. – Politics Daily, 3-11-11
  • Poll: Evangelicals Like Huckabee, Palin; Not Obama: Among evangelicals, Huckabee’s ratings (88 percent favorable, 11 percent unfavorable) led those of Palin (79 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable), Gingrich (57 percent/37 percent), Romney (56 percent/29 percent and Ron Paul (51 percent/26 percent). Obama, though, is viewed favorably by only 6 percent of evangelicals. Ninety-four percent view him unfavorably…. – Baptist Press, 3-7-11
  • Poll: New Jerseyans’ opinion of Gov. Christie has dropped 10 points: New Jerseyans’ opinion of Gov. Chris Christie has dropped 10 points since December, according to a Rutgers- Eagleton poll made public Monday. At the same time, a strong majority of residents, 57 percent, hold a favorable view of President Obama, while only 36 percent view him unfavorably. The president’s favorable rating remains largely unchanged since December…. – New Jersey Newsroom, 3-7-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

  • Arab League’s backing of no-fly zone over Libya increases pressure on West: The Arab League endorsed the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya on Saturday and recognized the fledgling rebel movement seeking to topple Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi… – WaPo, 3-12-11
  • Bahrain protesters clash with police: Sunday’s clashes between police and anti-government protesters are among the most violent since a Feb. 17 protest. At Bahrain University, Shiite Muslims clash with Sunnis amid rising sectarian tension…. – LAT, 3-14-11
  • In Libya, an underground jail a daunting reminder of Moammar Gaddafi’s grip: Fadlallah Haroun spent seven years in Libyan prisons without being charged. Here he is seen through a hole in the roof of an underground prison found in the rebel-held city of Benghazi…. – WaPo, 3-12-11
  • Clinton urges reform in post-revolt Egypt, Tunisia: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s trip to the turbulent Middle East highlights the Obama administration’s deep concern over developments in Libya and fear that the unrest roiling the Arab world may not produce the changes demanded by increasingly vocal and emboldened anti-government protesters.
    Failure to meet those demands for greater economic, political and social freedoms could spark more chaos and complicate the U.S. position in one of the world’s most critical regions… – AP, 3-13-11
  • Gadhafi drives rebels from one of last strongholds: Moammar Gadhafi’s forces swept rebels from one of their final strongholds with hours of searing waves of strikes from warships, tanks and warplanes on Sunday but the insurgents claimed that they moved back in after nightfall. One rebel said that after their initial defeat, opposition forces destroyed armored vehicles and captured dozens of fighters from Gadhafi’s elite Khamis Brigade in the oil town of Brega, driving others back into the town’s airport…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • White House hails Arab League no-fly zone request: The White House says the Arab League has taken an “important step” by asking the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and increasing international pressure on Moammar Gadhafi.
    A statement from the White House says there’s a clear international message that the violence in Libya must stop…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Bahrain protesters march on palace as Gates visits: Tens of thousands of Bahraini protesters encircled one of the royal family’s palaces Saturday, shouting calls for political freedom and the king’s ouster a day after a similar march triggered a violent response from security forces. There was no repeat of the violent scenes from a day earlier when police backed by pro-government mobs drove crowds back from a different palace by firing rubber bullets and tear gas in a melee that injured dozens, according to witness accounts. In contrast, Saturday’s demonstration — which coincided with a visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates — was allowed to ring the palace with police deployed only inside its premisses… – AP, 3-12-11
  • Gates: Arab nations must enact democratic reforms: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Saturday he believes leaders in Persian Gulf ally Bahrain are serious about addressing grievances that have spawned a growing protest movement, but swift action is needed to deny rival Iran the chance to exploit the current instability.
    “I told them that in this instance, time is not our friend” in light of Iran’s interest in capitalizing on the unrest, the Pentagon chief said in an interview after meetings in Manama, the capital. “We have no evidence that suggested that Iran started any of these popular revolutions or demonstrations across the region, but there is clear evidence that as the process is protracted — particularly in Bahrain — that the Iranians are looking for ways to exploit it and create problems,” Gates said…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Gadhafi pushes ahead as Arab League calls for help: The world moved a step closer to a decision on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya but Moammar Gadhafi was swiftly advancing Saturday on the poorly equipped and loosely organized rebels who have seized much of the country…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • AP Interview: Libyan rebels plead for no-fly zone: A rebel leader pleaded Saturday with the international community to approve a no-fly zone over Libya as Moammar Gadhafi’s forces gained strength in the east, securing a key port city and oil refinery.
    Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the head of the opposition’s interim governing council, also expressed disappointment over the failure to act by the United States and other Western countries, which have expressed solidarity with the rebels in their fight to oust Gadhafi but stopped short of approving any military action.
    “If there is no no-fly zone imposed on Gadhafi’s regime, and if his ships are not checked then we will have a catastrophe in Libya,” Abdul-Jalil told The Associated Press in an interview in a professors’ lounge at the Omar Mukhtar University in Bayda, where he is also head of the city council…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • US extends sanctions on Gadhafi clan, advisers: The Obama administration extended its Libya sanctions to more Gadhafi family members and close advisers on Thursday, blacklisting business with the Libyan leader’s wife, four of his children and his chief of military intelligence.
    The Treasury Department froze the assets of nine Libyans in all as part of the strategy to peel off Moammar Gadhafi’s closest advisers while punishing those who remain loyal to the regime even as it commits human rights violations…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • US officials are at odds over Libya outcome: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper expects Moammar Kadafi to ultimately defeat rebels, but the White House has a different view… – LAT, 3-10-11
  • Source: Gadhafi willing to discuss his exitMSNBC, 3-10-11
  • NATO to Discuss Libya Options: NATO members begin two days of talks on Libya Thursday to discuss the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone to stop air attacks by forces supporting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi…. – Voice of America, 3-10-11
  • US, Europe increase diplomatic pressure on Libya: The Obama administration cut ties Thursday with Libya’s embassy in the United States and announced high-level meetings with opposition leaders, as France became the first nation to recognize the governing council fighting against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.
    As Western powers examined their military options, the U.S. warned that a go-it-alone approach in Libya could have unforeseeable and devastating consequences.
    “We’re looking to see whether there is any willingness in the international community to provide any authorization for further steps,” she said. “Absent international authorization, the United States acting alone would be stepping into a situation whose consequences are unforeseeable.,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said amid NATO discussions about a possible no-fly zone over Libya… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Qaddafi bombs oil facility in blow to Libya’s oil infrastructure: A rebel position at Libya’s Ras Lanuf came under withering fire today as Muammar Qaddafi’s forces set an oil tank ablaze at a key export terminal…. – CS Monitor, 3-9-11
  • WH: No imminent decision on further steps on Libya: The White House says a top level meeting by President Barack Obama’s top security advisers to discuss Libya will not result in an immediate decision on whether the U.S. should further intervene in the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Egypt’s security forces are weakened after decades as Mubarak’s enforcer: Motivated by recent shows of political strength by neighbors in Egypt, demonstrators in the Middle East and North Africa are taking to the streets of many cities to rally for change… – WaPo, 3-9-11
  • Cameron and Obama in Libya talks: The international community cannot “stand aside” and allow brutal repression to continue in Libya, David Cameron has said after discussing plans for the “full spectrum of possible responses” including a no-fly zone with US President… – The Press Association, 3-9-11
  • Yemeni security forces open fire on protesters: As Yemen’s growing protest movement sought to expand its presence in the capital, at least 10 were injured by gunfire from security forces, eyewitnesses said…. – CS Monitor, 3-8-11
  • Gadhafi: Libyans will fight against no-fly zone: Moammar Gadhafi says Libyans will fight if a no-fly zone is imposed by Western nations, saying that would show their real intention is to seize the country’s oil.
    Gadhafi made his remarks during an interview aired Wednesday by Turkey’s state-run TRT Turk television. The interview was conducted on Tuesday night… – AP, 3-8-11
  • Obama and his team mull responses on Libya: Preparing for the prospect of deeper international intervention, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron conferred Tuesday on the spectrum of military and humanitarian responses to Libya’s worsening civil strife. The British leader bluntly said after the talk that the world cannot stand aside and let Moammar Gadhafi brutalize his people.
    In weighing the options, the Obama administration underscored that any authorization of a no-fly zone over Libya must come from the United Nations Security Council.
    “We think it’s important that the United Nations make this decision — not the United States,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told Britain’s Sky News. The comment reflected Obama’s thinking that any action intended to halt Libya’s violence must carry the legitimacy and strength of an international coalition…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • A million Libyans need aid as UK, France seek no-fly zoneReuters, 3-7-11
  • US, allies edge toward military options for Libya: The U.S. and its NATO allies edged closer Monday to formulating a military response to the escalating violence in Libya as the alliance boosted surveillance flights over the country and the Obama administration signaled it might be willing to help arm Moammar Gadhafi’s opponents. Europe, meanwhile, kick-started international efforts to impose a no-fly zone.
    The violence “perpetrated by the government in Libya is unacceptable,” President Barack Obama declared as he authorized $15 million in new humanitarian aid to assist and evacuate people fleeing the fighting. “I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Col. Gadhafi,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office alongside Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is in Washington for meetings. “It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward. And they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place.”… – AP, 3-7-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • Dalai Lama resigns: ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Dalai Lama has announced that he will step down from his role as the political leader of the Tibetan exile government. ABC Online, 3-11-11

THE HEADLINES….

President and First Lady Obama at Bullying Prevention Conference

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with a group of students and parents from the Conference on Bullying Prevention in the Oval Office, March 10, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • White House urges Cuba to release US contractor: An outraged White House said Saturday it wants the Cuban government to immediately release an American international development worker sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against the state.
    National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the prison term “adds another injustice” to Alan Gross’s ordeal…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Born in the USA: Barack Obama joke enjoyed by journalists at annual dinner: Barack Obama was in lighthearted mood at the annual Gridiron Club dinner for the president and Washington’s political journalists…. – The Guardian, 3-13-11
  • Obama cracks jokes at Gridiron: Obama delivered remarks at the dinner Saturday. They were his first at the event as president…. – Politico, 3-12-11
  • Obama, journalists ham it up at dressy dinner: Searching for laughs — and finding them — president Barack Obama spared few targets Saturday night, from Democratic allies to Republican antagonists to the journalists who cover him. At his first presidential appearance before the Gridiron Club, Obama picked up on the spirit of the evening, leveling jokes in every direction including his own.
    He jabbed at potential Republican presidential rivals. He saluted Mississippi’s portly Gov. Haley Barbour, saying he appreciated his support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s anti-obesity campaign. “Haley, when Michelle said you should run, she didn’t mean for president.”
    He didn’t spare himself, either. He noted that last time he was at the Gridiron, in 2006, he was a first-term senator from Illinois. “Back then I was a newcomer who couldn’t get anything done in the Senate. Now I’m a president who can’t get anything done in the Senate.”
    Obama also poked fun at a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. “Tim Pawlenty’s not here, but he’s hit the campaign trail hard,” Obama said. “And to be honest, I think the American people are going to have some tough questions for Tim. Specifically, ‘Who are you and where do you come from?’ Which is OK. Two years into my presidency and I’m still getting those questions.”
    Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the main Republican speaker, needled the president by recalling one of Obama’s private musings to fundraisers during the 2008 campaign that conservatives found refuge in religion and guns. Daniels, his right arm in a sling due to rotator cuff surgery, quipped: “Mr. President, until I get this thing off, I can cling to my gun or my Bible, but not both.” Later he turned to Obama and mockingly took a shot at the president’s penchant for assistance during his speeches. “Mr. President you’re not laughing, who forgot to put ha-ha-ha on the teleprompter?”… – AP, 3-12-11
  • Former President George HW Bush Honors Reagan With Public Service Award: Former President George HW Bush posthumously honored his friend and mentor, President Ronald Reagan, with the 2011 George Bush Award For Excellence In Public Service…. – Fox News, 3-11-11
  • Sebelius: GOP health care move would cut benefits: The Obama administration says a Montana Republican’s long-shot legislation to deny funding for the new federal health care law would prevent Medicare from paying the bills for millions of seniors — displaying the GOP’s difficulty trying to unwind a law that recrafted much of the nation’s health care rules.
    Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says if Congress passes the defunding bill, Medicare would not be able to issue payments to popular private insurance plans that cover about one-fourth of all the seniors in the program. The health care law scaled back payments to Medicare Advantage plans, as the private insurance option is known…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Obama keeps focus on fight for women’s equality: Father of two girls, President Barack Obama says he wants to improve the status of women in the United States. Women are more likely than men to graduate from college today, yet earn less on average, face a greater chance of living in poverty and are outnumbered in critical subjects such as math and science, he said in his weekly radio and online address Saturday.
    “Achieving equality and opportunity for women isn’t just important to me as president. It’s something I care about deeply as the father of two daughters who wants to see his girls grow up in a world where there are no limits to what they can achieve,” he said…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • Obama tells GOP: Nice try on health care records: President Barack Obama once promised that negotiations over his health care overhaul would be carried out openly, in front of TV cameras and microphones. Tell that to the White House now. Republican congressional investigators got the brush-off this past week after pressing for details of meetings between White House officials and interest groups, including drug companies and hospitals that provided critical backing for Obama’s health insurance expansion… – AP, 3-12-11
  • Appeals court speeds up health overhaul appeal: A federal appeals court has agreed to act swiftly in considering a Florida judge’s ruling that President Obama’s health care overhaul is unconstitutional.
    The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said Friday that it had agreed to expedite the appeal, setting a faster timetable than even the federal government had requested.
    The decision means the federal government must file its first set of court papers on the issues in the case by April 4, and the state of Florida has until May 4 to file its papers. The federal government would file additional papers by May 18.
    The appeals court said it had not made a decision on a request that the initial review be held before all 10 federal judges…. – AP, 3-12-11
  • GOP budget targets agency that warned of tsunami: A spending plan being pushed by Republicans would slash funding for the agency that warned Hawaii and the West Coast about the devastating tsunami in Japan.
    The plan, approved by the GOP-controlled House last month, would trigger an estimated $126 million in cuts for the National Weather Service, the agency that houses the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii. The center issued widespread warnings minutes after Friday’s earthquake and issued guidance and updates throughout the day…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama: Treatment of WikiLeaks suspect appropriate: President Barack Obama said Friday that the Pentagon has assured him that the Army private believed responsible for the largest leak of classified American documents ever is being held under appropriate conditions. He commented after the State Department’s top spokesman made waves by describing the military’s treatment of the suspect as “ridiculous” and “stupid.” Pfc. Bradley Manning is being held in solitary confinement for all but an hour every day at a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., and is stripped naked each night, given a suicide-proof smock to wear to bed…
    Obama said he asked the Pentagon whether the suspected WikiLeaks leaker’s confinement conditions were appropriate and whether they met basic standards. “They assure me that they are,” he told a White House news conference…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama, McConnell, agree _ and disagree _ on budget: President Barack Obama and the Senate’s top Republican both declared on Friday they want to take on the huge entitlement programs driving America’s long-term deficits — but their lines of attack differed sharply and that could lead to a showdown over government borrowing.
    Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell warned that GOP senators would not vote to increase the federal debt limit unless Obama agreed to significant long-term budget savings that could include cost curbs for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, laying down a high-stakes marker just weeks before the limit is reached.
    Obama said he also wants to tackle military spending and tax loopholes — issues on which he can expect Republican opposition…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama: Japan earthquake potentially ‘catastrophic’: President Barack Obama said he was “heartbroken” by images of devastation in Japan following Friday’s deadly earthquake and tsunami, and pledged U.S. assistance to help the country recover.
    “Our hearts go out to our friends in Japan and across the region, and we’re going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy,” Obama said during a White House news conference…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Gates to allies: Don’t rush to Afghan war exits: In a blunt warning to U.S. allies eager to pull out of Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that while the U.S. intends to begin withdrawing troops in July, a rush to the exits by European forces would risk squandering battlefield gains achieved at great American expense.
    In a closed-door meeting of NATO defense ministers, Gates urged the allies to resist domestic political pressure to depart prematurely, while asserting that the U.S. troop reductions promised by President Barack Obama will be made this summer “based on conditions on the ground,” not politics…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Obama: Address long-term debt after spending deal: President Barack Obama says he and Congress should address the nation’s long-term fiscal condition after lawmakers complete a deal on spending for the current fiscal year…. – AP, 3-11-11
  • Last WWI vet to be buried in Arlington service: The body of the West Virginia soldier who outlived every other American who served in World War I will be buried Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery, a family spokesman said Thursday.
    Biographer and filmmaker David DeJonge said the service for Frank Buckles is set for 4 p.m., but it’s unclear who can attend.
    “The family is trying to get answers,” he said in an e-mail. “The family desires every American and foreign organization an ability to pay respects and recognize the passing of the generation.”… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Obama to hold White House news conference Friday: The White House says President Barack Obama will address rising oil and gasoline prices at a news conference on Friday… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Obamas Focus on Antibullying Efforts: President Obama poked fun at his own big ears and funny name on Thursday, but all in the service of a serious subject as he and Michelle Obama opened a White House conference to spur antibullying efforts in schools and communities nationwide…. – NYT, 3-10-11
  • Obama to bullying victims: I know what it’s like: President Barack Obama smiled when he said his large ears and funny name once made him a target of school-yard harassment. But he was all seriousness Thursday when he told a White House conference on bullying that torment and intimidation must not be tolerated.
    “If there’s one goal of this conference,” Obama said, “it’s to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It’s not.” He spoke to more than 100 parents, students, teachers and others gathered to discuss the problem and share ideas for solutions. “Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people. And it’s not something we have to accept,” he said…. – AP, 3-10-11
  • Obama Administration Seeks Fast Appeal of Health-Care Ruling: The US Justice Department is seeking an expedited appeal of a federal judge’s ruling striking down President Barack Obama’s health-care reform legislation… – Bloomberg, 3-9-11
  • Obama nominates Locke to be ambassador to China: Hoping to make China more friendly to American business, President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated as his top envoy to Beijing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the first Chinese-American to serve in that diplomatically and commercially important assignment.
    Locke is well-versed in the Chinese trade policies that have frustrated American businesses trying to sell their products in the huge and growing Asian power. He’s led delegations of U.S. companies on dozens of trade missions abroad, including to China, where U.S. exports were up 34 percent last year. “When he’s in Beijing, I know that American companies will be able to count on him to represent their interests in front of China’s top leaders,” Obama said as he announced Locke’s nomination…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Australian PM pledges cooperation with US: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday endorsed the U.S. strategy in the ongoing war in Afghanistan and promised her country’s cooperation on the increasingly critical Asia-Pacific region, trade and job promotion.
    “You have a true friend down under,” Gillard told a joint meeting of the House and Senate. The Washington visit, which also included an Oval Office meeting with President Barack Obama, was Gillard’s first since winning election last summer as Australia’s first female prime minister… – AP, 3-9-11
  • Obamas take anti-bullying message to Facebook: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have posted a video on Facebook to promote a bullying prevention conference they’ll host at the White House…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Obama to meet with Clinton, host basketball party: President Barack Obama is meeting Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton before hosting a White House party to watch basketball.
    In between, Obama will meet with the national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Richard Eubank…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • AP Interview: Petraeus says tough summer ahead: Fighting in Afghanistan may be considerably worse this summer than last, but some reduction in American forces is still possible in July, the top U.S. and NATO commander in the country said Wednesday.
    Gen. David Petraeus told The Associated Press that he will present President Barack Obama with multiple plans, including different levels of troop reductions that accommodate Obama’s July target for starting a force drawdown…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Biden in Moscow for 2 days of talks: Two years after he introduced the phrase “push the reset button” for America’s relations with Russia, Vice President Joe Biden is in Moscow to see what sort of fine-tuning is needed.
    Biden plans two days of meetings Wednesday and Thursday, including with President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and representatives of Russia’s beleaguered opposition groups. He is to cap the trip with an address at Moscow State University that is expected to lay out the White House’s vision for U.S.-Russian relations in the last half of President Barack Obama’s term.
    “This trip for the vice president is an opportunity to take stock of the reset and what we’ve achieved and where we hope to go next,” said Biden’s national security adviser Tony Blinken. AP, 3-9-11
  • Expounding on a Theme, Obama Visits Boston School: President Obama visited a high-tech public school in Boston on Tuesday to pound away at his themes of innovation and education, sticking to a schedule that has taken him out of Washington nearly every week, despite budget battles and upheaval in the Arab world.
    Declaring that “there is no better economic policy than one that produces more graduates with the skills necessary to succeed,” Mr. Obama said that revitalizing education was one of his administration’s top priorities and a “responsibility of every American — every parent, every teacher, every business leader, every public official, and yes, every student.”
    The president has been elaborating on a theme of American competitiveness since he first articulated it in his State of the Union address in January. The school Mr. Obama visited here, known as the TechBoston Academy, was ideally suited to illustrate his points, its gritty classrooms stuffed with laptops and students mixing fluids to analyze their density and purity…. – NYT, 3-8-11
  • First lady celebrates women in US and around world: Michelle Obama says that while women are breaking barriers and excelling in careers their mothers and grandmothers believed were off-limits, more progress is needed to achieve true equality.
    American women still earn less than men and lag in math and science fields, she said Tuesday, while many foreign countries exclude female voices from government decision-making.
    Still, the first lady said: “We’ve come a long way, ladies.”… – AP, 3-8-11
  • White House veto threat on home refinance bill: The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto a Republican bill that would abolish an Obama administration program aimed at helping people refinance homes that are worth less than they paid for them.
    The veto threat could be the first of several as House Republicans begin working on bills terminating four administration-backed programs aimed at preventing foreclosures.
    The House Financial Services Committee voted last week to terminate The Federal Housing Administration Refinance Program on a 33-22 party line vote, with majority Republicans saying the program has not worked. AP, 3-8-11
  • Obama to GOP: Don’t cut education spending: Placing a limit on his own willingness to slice spending, President Barack Obama issued a not-too-veiled warning at Republican budget cutters Tuesday and characterized any reductions in money for education as irresponsible and harmful to the long-term health of the nation’s economy.
    In his most vigorous defense yet of his education spending proposals, Obama conceded that after years of deficits, the government needed to embrace fiscal discipline. And in a restrained speech to Democratic donors, he cautioned the partisan crowd not to equate compromise with failure…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Gates sees war gains _ but can Afghans hold them?: Gates visited some of the most hotly contested parts of the country, where the effects of President Barack Obama’s 30,000-troop surge have been most keenly felt, as the Obama administration considers where to begin withdrawing and thinning out U.S. forces. The defense secretary’s very presence in some far-flung combat bases was meant to show the progress the U.S.-led international military force claims.
    “The closer you are to the fight, the better it looks,” he told reporters Tuesday at a U.S. combat outpost to the west of here, in Kandahar province… – AP, 3-8-11
  • Obama Reopens Debate on Military Trials of Guantanamo Detainees: President Barack Obama’s decision to order the resumption of military trials for detainees at the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has reopened the debate about how to handle suspected terrorists … – Bllomberg, 3-8-11
  • White House Says Tribunals Can Resume at Guantánamo: President Obama reversed his order halting new military charges against detainees, implicitly admitting failure for now of his pledge to close the camp…. – NYT, 3-7-11
  • John Ensign Will Retire From Senate: Senator John Ensign, the two-term Nevada Republican caught up in a sex scandal, is to announce that he will not seek re-election, according to Republicans familiar with the decision. NYT, 3-7-11
  • Gates: US should stay involved in Afghanistan: US, Afghan leaders say US military should stay involved in Afghanistan beyond 2014… Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said the U.S. will likely begin pulling troops from Afghanistan this summer, but that the reduction would be small…. – WaPo, 3-7-11
  • Congressional leaders push Obama for more aggressive response to Libya violence: Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, for the first time raised the possibility of bombing military airfields in Libya to deny the use of runways to Moammar Gaddafi’s air force… – WaPo, 3-7-11
  • Obama takes Australian prime minister to school: Obama and Gillard began with a more traditional approach on Monday. They held a private meeting and then a relatively news-free appearance before reporters in the Oval Office, proclaiming cooperation on the war in Afghanistan, trade and security. But then the president took the prime minister back to school.
    The two took a quick road trip to Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., to mix it up with an 11th grade history class. Obama had used the school as the site of a national address on education, and Gillard is Australia’s former education minister and was interested in taking a look at U.S. education methods…. – AP, 3-7-11
  • Joe Biden in Finland, en route to Moscow, Moldova: Finland, Russia and Moldova — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived Monday in Helsinki on the first leg of an unusual European tour aimed at building warmer ties between Washington and Moscow… – AP, 3-7-11
  • Obama officials push for S. Korea trade pact: The Obama administration said Monday it’s ready to send a highly coveted South Korea trade agreement to Congress for final approval but warned that delaying the deal would cause U.S. companies to miss out on jobs and export opportunities…. – AP, 3-7-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Peter King hearings: Are American Muslims the problem or the solution?: A hearing chaired by Rep. Peter King to investigate radicalization within the American Muslim community touches on an important topic, terrorism experts say. But they question the tone… – CS Monitor, 3-10-11
  • McConnell: No debt increase without benefit cuts: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell warned on Friday that GOP senators will not vote to increase the government’s borrowing limit unless President Barack Obama agrees to rein in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, laying down a high-stakes marker just weeks before the debt ceiling is reached.
    In an interview with The Associated Press, McConnell complained that Obama has refused his offers — both public and private — to work on a bipartisan plan to tackle the nation’s massive benefit programs, which threaten to overwhelm the budget in coming years.
    “There will be no entitlement reform without President Obama,” McConnell said. “It cannot be done without him, will not be done without him.” AP, 3-10-11
  • Senators push tough law on Guantanamo detainees: Senate Republicans said Thursday a tougher, more comprehensive military detention policy for terror suspects is necessary to fill the void created by two years of what they call the Obama administration’s inconsistent approach.
    Just days after President Barack Obama’s decision to resume military trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, five GOP lawmakers and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., proposed legislation that would keep open the military prison by barring money for any alternative, impose restrictions on transferring detainees to foreign countries and push for military commissions, not civilian courts, to decide the fate of detainees… – AP, 3-10-11
  • Spending fight: Back to the bargaining table: Their opening budget gambits history, lawmakers are returning to the bargaining table in search of a fiscal plan that cuts spending, as voters demanded in the last election, and could carry political value in the next one.
    The balance is particularly delicate for senators up for re-election next year. Some, mostly Democrats, bucked their parties in a pair of votes Wednesday that sank a slashing budget proposal passed by the House and killed a less onerous Senate alternative.
    The two versions were nearly $50 billion apart on how much spending should be cut over the next seven months. Neither stood a chance of passing. Senate Democrats brought them up to cancel each other out and move forward with negotiations on a compromise. The votes could be faint memories by Election Day 2012, suggested senators who will face voters then…. – AP, 3-10-11
  • A fresh focus on Social Security in budget debate: In the midst of the budget crisis, an old debate has broken out with new force: Should Social Security be seen as part of the deficit that Washington needs to rein in?
    The White House is balking at calls to tackle Social Security’s financial problems now, before baby boomers swamp the system. But the massive retirement program, like the rest of the government, is running a deficit and has become part of the argument on Capitol Hill…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • GOP challenges proposed gov’t deal on foreclosures: Leading House Republicans challenged a deal Wednesday that federal and state officials have offered to five big U.S. banks that would change the handling of foreclosures and force lenders to modify more mortgages.
    In a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the five GOP lawmakers said the draft offer would reshape the rules long governing the mortgage industry. They posed more than dozen questions to Geithner about the proposal, including what the legal justification is for the federal and state governments to try imposing such sweeping changes.
    The lawmakers wrote that the proposal raised “significant concerns about its effect on the financial system, as well as concerns that the administration and state agencies are attempting to legislate through litigation.”… – AP, 3-9-11
  • House Republicans say federal workers are overpaid: While conservative GOP governors are demanding concessions from state workers, House Republicans are making federal employees the next target.
    Republicans at a House hearing on Wednesday complained that the 2.1 million-strong federal work force is overpaid compared with workers holding similar jobs in the private sector…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Senate rejects rival GOP, Democratic budgets: The Democratic-led Senate on Wednesday emphatically rejected a budget-slashing House spending bill as too draconian. It then immediately killed a rival Democratic plan that was derided by moderate Democrats as too timid in its drive to cut day-to-day agency budgets.
    The votes to scuttle the competing measures were designed, ironically, to prompt progress. The idea was to show tea party-backed GOP conservatives in the House that they need to pare back their budget-cutting ambitions while at the same time demonstrating to Democratic liberals that they need to budge, too…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • In Senate’s debt debate, talk isn’t cheap: In the United States Senate, failure is not an option. It is a requirement. Lawmakers, unable to agree on action to deal with the looming debt crisis, set up camp on a new plateau of pointlessness Wednesday: They scheduled votes on two rival plans to cut spending – but only after guaranteeing in advance that both plans would be defeated.
    Senate Republicans needed to prove to their colleagues in the House, and conservative activists everywhere, that they don’t have the votes to pass major cuts to the current year’s budget. Senate Democrats needed to prove to the White House, and to their liberal base, that they don’t have the votes to maintain the status quo.
    And so, after days of haggling, both sides agreed that they would effectively doom both proposals – severe Republican cuts and cosmetic Democratic cuts – by subjecting them to 60-vote supermajorities. As it happens, such precautions were unnecessary, because, after a three-hour debate, both proposals fell well short of even a simple 50-vote majority…. – WaPo, 3-9-11
  • Domestic Terrorism Hearing Set to Begin: A much-anticipated Congressional hearing on homegrown Islamic terrorism — lambasted by critics as a throwback to McCarthyism — gets under way Thursday on Capitol Hill, featuring testimony from a Muslim member of Congress, the Los Angeles County sheriff and the relatives of two young men who embraced extremist violence.
    The hearing, convened by Representative Peter T. King, the Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and represents parts of Long Island, is the first in a series that Mr. King says will explore the threat of Islamic fundamentalism inside the United States. The session, titled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response” will also examine what the congressman asserts is the failure of some Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement…. – NYT, 3-9-11
  • Senate passes bill to overhaul patent system: The nation’s outmoded patent system, which has forced innovators and inventors to wait years and outlast challenges and lawsuits before getting recognition for their products, would be overhauled under a measure passed Tuesday by the Senate.
    The legislation, which was approved 95-5, transforms a patent system now operating under a law passed in 1952, at a time when the high-tech revolution was still in the future and international competition was still negligible. It now moves to the House.
    President Barack Obama said he looked forward to signing into law “the most significant patent reform in over half a century” to help grow the economy and create jobs…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Republicans push for tougher Guantanamo limits: House Republicans on Tuesday demanded tougher restrictions for terror suspects at Guantanamo even after President Barack Obama reversed course and ordered the resumption of military trials for detainees. Annoyed that Obama acted by executive authority — and without congressional input, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and six other GOP lawmakers said Tuesday they would introduce legislation to limit legal representation for detainees and permanently block money to build or renovate a facility in the United States to house suspects now held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
    The bill also would give the defense secretary rather than the attorney general the final say on keeping a detainee in military custody and restrict the transfer of a detainee to other countries unless the defense secretary certifies a host country meets certain standards…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Hornet’s nest ahead? Congress examines Islam in US: Now comes New York Rep. Peter King, forcing the issue with congressional hearings about radical Islam in the U.S. The first is Thursday, and the protests have already started. Among his fiercest critics, comparisons to McCarthyism, the era of hunting communist sympathizers, are being heard.
    “We see no productive outcome in singling out a particular community for examination in what appears to be little more than a political show trial,” a coalition of 50 liberal groups said in a letter to King on Tuesday…. – AP, 3-8-11
  • Freshman Democrat upbraids Obama on spending: A freshman Democratic senator accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of failing to provide leadership on a worsening national deficit as top Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill spent more time pointing fingers than seeking common ground on a must-do measure to fund the government for the next six months… – AP, 3-8-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • ‘Wisconsin 14’ group of Democratic senators returns, greeted by thousands at CapitalWaPo, 3-12-11
  • PROMISES, PROMISES: Obama Shies Away From ProtestsABC News
  • Democratic senators return to Wisconsin Capitol, get boisterous welcomeMilwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-13-11
  • Union Bill Is Law, but Debate Is Far From Over: Protesters packed the hallways of the Capitol in Madison, with many chanting “shame, shame” as the bill was signed. Democrats and union leaders, emboldened by the huge outpouring of protesters who have rallied for weeks at the Capitol to oppose what they called a politically motivated effort to weaken unions, pledged to redouble their political, legal and legislative efforts to block measures that the governor had described as necessary to balance the budget…. – NYT, 3-11-11
  • Walker not interested in vice-presidential run: Gov. Scott Walker, considered by many in the national Republican Party to be a politician on the rise, dismissed any talk of a vice-presidential nomination in 2012. “Honestly, that’s not an issue that crosses my mind. I made a firm commitment to help the people of Wisconsin and the private sector create 250,000 jobs by 2015. I’m firmly committed to seeing that through,” Walker told Journal Sentinel reporters on Friday, just hours after he signed a bill that ends most collective bargaining for public employee unions… – Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 3-11-11
  • 2011-’13 Budget in Brief (pdf, 77 pages)
  • Budget Repair Bill summary (pdf)
  • Current state budget
  • Republican lawmakers receive e-mail threats: Republican senators and representatives likely are looking over their shoulders a bit more after receiving e-mail death threats related to the measure that eliminates most collective bargaining … – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-11-11
  • Unions: Losing friends all around: As Barack Obama stood on that frigid inaugural stage in 2009, labor leaders could envisage the glorious future awaiting them…. – Fortune, 3-10-11
  • Wis. GOP bypasses Dems, cuts collective bargaining: The Wisconsin Senate voted Wednesday night to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from public workers, approving an explosive proposal that had rocked the state and unions nationwide after Republicans discovered a way to bypass the chamber’s missing Democrats.
    All 14 Senate Democrats fled to Illinois nearly three weeks ago, preventing the chamber from having enough members present to consider Gov. Scott Walker’s “budget-repair bill” — a proposal introduced to plug a $137 million budget shortfall…. – AP, 3-9-11
  • Hard Stance Seems Softer In E-Mail Of Governor: For weeks, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin has publicly held firm to his plan to sharply curtail collective bargaining rights for most public workers, despite the protests of union supporters. But e-mail messages released Tuesday between representatives of Mr. Walker and some Senate Democrats who oppose the measure suggest that Mr. Walker has privately considered tempering at least some limited elements of those bargaining changes.
    Mr. Walker’s initial proposal, which set off a firestorm of debate in Wisconsin and beyond, would allow collective bargaining on matters of wages only, limit raises to the Consumer Price Index, keep contracts to one year and require unions to vote annually to determine whether most workers still wish to be members.
    The e-mails show that as recently as Sunday evening Mr. Walker’s representatives appeared willing to agree to some changes…. – NYT, 3-9-11
  • Walker blames unions for standoff Governor thinks national labor leaders barring deal: Gov. Scott Walker blamed national labor organizers Monday evening for scuttling attempts at compromise with 14 Democratic senators who fled to Illinois to avoid a vote on a budget-repair bill that would take away most collective bargaining rights of public workers. Citing a Wall Street Journal report, Walker said Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) indicated Sunday that the Democrats would return to Wisconsin. But he said that changed Monday.
    The governor said he doesn’t know what happened, but he suspects it was union leaders who are influencing the 14 Democrats. “I don’t have this on firsthand knowledge. My guess is he got a phone call from one of the union bosses in D.C. who said, ‘You cannot go back there and let them have a vote,’ ” Walker said… – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-7-11
  • Why ‘Wisconsin 14’ are ready to return: They think they’re winning: Wisconsin’s 14 Democratic absentee state senators indicate they’re ready to return – because they think they’ve already won the war, if not this battle…. – CS Monitor, 3-7-11
  • Lawmaker: Wisconsin Democrats returning soon: The Democratic senators who fled are convinced that Republicans will be severely hurt if Walker’s plan is passed…. The State Senate Democrats who left Wisconsin to block a vote on a bill that would severely curb collective bargaining for most public employees are planning to return soon, one of the lawmakers said…. – WaPo, 3-7-11
  • Wisconsin’s Walker dismisses Democratic overture: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dismissed as “ridiculous” a request on Monday from the leader of absent Senate Democrats to meet and negotiate a compromise in their standoff over Republican plans to limit public sector union powers…. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker blasted the leader of the state’s Senate Democrats as an obstacle in getting some of the Democrats to return and vote on his budget proposal…. – Reuters, 3-7-11
  • Walker blames unions for standoff: Gov. Scott Walker blamed national labor organizers Monday evening for scuttling attempts at compromise with 14 Democratic senators who fled to Illinois to avoid a vote on a budget-repair bill… – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 3-7-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Tea party favourite US Rep. Bachmann flubs Revolutionary War geography: A potential Republican presidential candidate who is a favourite of the conservative tea party movement which extolls America’s Founding Fathers got her geography mixed up when it came to where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were … The Canadian Press, 3-13-11
  • Dems hope to taint Romney with health law praise: President Barack Obama and other top Democrats have been quick to lavish praise on former Massachusetts Republican Gov…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • Barbour contrasts himself with Obama on economy: Previewing a presidential campaign pitch, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is blaming President Barack Obama for the sluggish recovery and accusing him of enacting a series of policies that “created economic uncertainty or directly hurt the economy.”
    The two-term Republican governor also is holding up his record as proof that he could do better on two pillars: economic growth and job creation.
    “We still have more to do in Mississippi. But we have made great progress and are laying a foundation for the future,” Barbour says in remarks prepared for delivery later Monday to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce…. – AP, 3-13-11
  • Campaigning as All Things to All Republicans: CONCORD, NH – Many aspiring Republican presidential candidates are going to great lengths to avoid the spotlight, but not Tim Pawlenty…. – NYT, 3-13-11
  • Pawlenty takes on “problem-solver” mantle in NH: In Arizona recently, Tim Pawlenty courted a convention of Tea Party supporters with a passionate defense of constitutional freedoms…. – Boston Globe, 3-11-11
  • Mitt supporter loves Romneycare: Health care may be Mitt Romney’s biggest political liability, but the controversial program he enacted as Massachusetts governor actually helped earn him a key endorsement Thursday … – Politico, 3-11-11
  • Julianne Moore to star in Sarah Palin movie: Actress Julianne Moore is to star as Sarah Palin in the movie Game Change about the former Alaska governor’s rise to prominence in the 2008 presidential election campaign, it was announced Wednesday. Monsters and Critics.com, 3-11-11
  • Plastic Mitt: Nyhan argues that Romney is being caricatured as inauthentic. Waldman half-agrees;

Political Highlights December 28, 2010: Obama celebrates Christmas in Hawaii with Military families — Looking towards the 112th Congress & the 2012 Presidential Election

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

The President records the Weekly Address

STATS & POLLS

  • White House Holidays: Simple Gifts
  • Optimism for Obama Should Come With Caution: For as poorly as President Obama’s Democrats performed on Nov. 2, you can find several assessments of his re-election chances that seem doggone optimistic….
    Has the public taken on a more favorable view of Mr. Obama since the Democrats’ defeat? The evidence here is mixed, but for the time being points toward “no.” Mr. Obama’s Gallup approval rating reached 49 percent late last week — the highest it had been since July — but other surveys show it about flat, and the overall trend shows little change.
    On the other hand, Mr. Obama’s approval rating had already been “stuck” at about 45 or 46 percent several months ahead of the midterms and had not been declining; most of the damage to Mr. Obama and the Democrats had come in 2009. Given how hardened partisan attitudes have become, it may be that Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are liable to fluctuate within a relatively narrow range…. – NYT, 12-28-10
  • Obama, Clinton ‘most admired’ in 2010: US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were the “most admired” man and woman in the United States in 2010, according to an annual Gallup poll.
    Obama led the field of male candidates with 22 percent, followed by former presidents George W. Bush (five percent) and Bill Clinton (four percent). They were followed by post-Apartheid South African leader Nelson Mandela and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, each with two percent.
    Obama has held the title since 2008, after he won the election and became the first African-American US president. That year he was the “most admired” by 32 percent of those polled.
    Hillary Clinton held onto the title of “most admired” woman for the ninth straight year after largely dominating the poll over the last two decades. This year she led with 17 percent, followed by conservative former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin with 12 percent and TV titan Oprah Winfrey with 11 percent. They were trailed by First Lady Michelle Obama with five percent and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice with two percent…. – AP, 12-26-10
  • A timeline of Schwarzenegger’s tenure: Key moments in the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger… – AP, 12-25-10
  • Schwarzenegger leaves mixed legacy in California: Arnold Schwarzenegger landed in the governor’s office after announcing his upstart bid on late night TV and railing against government spending during raucous campaign rallies — at one playing a spirited round of air guitar to the rock anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
    Then the world’s best known action star, Schwarzenegger conveyed an image of invincibility, persuading Californians that anything was possible if only they had the right mindset. “I know how to sell something,” he said then. As he would come to learn, selling a political idea is one thing. Delivering on it is quite another.
    In high Hollywood style, Schwarzenegger made bold commitments to cut through Sacramento’s dysfunctional political system and put the state on a path to prosperity. But his celebrity quickly ran aground on the shoals of bureaucracy, entrenched politics and something Schwarzenegger had never faced before — angry detractors who didn’t hesitate to attack him publicly…. – Fox News, 12-25-10

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua on Christmas

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet service men and women, along with their families, during Christmas dinner in the mess at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua, Hawaii, December 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Lawmakers Finance Pet Projects Without Earmarks: No one was more critical than Representative Mark Steven Kirk when President Obama and the Democratic majority in the Congress sought passage last year of a $787 billion spending bill intended to stimulate the economy. And during his campaign for the Illinois Senate seat once held by Mr. Obama, Mr. Kirk, a Republican, boasted of his vote against “Speaker Pelosi’s trillion-dollar stimulus plan.”
    Though Mr. Kirk and other Republicans thundered against pork-barrel spending and lawmakers’ practice of designating money for special projects through earmarks, they have not shied from using a less-well-known process called lettermarking to try to direct money to projects in their home districts…. – NYT, 12-28-10
  • In ‘Daily Show’ Role on 9/11 Bill, Echoes of Murrow: Did the bill pledging federal funds for the health care of 9/11 responders become law in the waning hours of the 111th Congress only because a comedian took it up as a personal cause? Mr. Stewart declined to comment on the passage of the bill. And does that make that comedian, Jon Stewart — despite all his protestations that what he does has nothing to do with journalism — the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow?
    Certainly many supporters, including New York’s two senators, as well as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, played critical roles in turning around what looked like a hopeless situation after a filibuster by Republican senators on Dec. 10 seemed to derail the bill. But some of those who stand to benefit from the bill have no doubt about what — and who — turned the momentum around…. – NYT, 12-27-10
  • Assange signs book deals worth more than £1m: Julian Assange has signed book deals worth more than £1m in the US and UK, to allow the WikiLeaks founder to cover his legal fees and maintain the whistleblowing site. He will be racing a disgruntled former colleague to release an autobiography telling his side of the WikiLeaks story. Both books are to be published by divisions of Random House next year….
    The controversy did not dissuade readers of Time magazine voting Mr Assange their “person of the year” for his campaign for freedom of information and radical transparency from governments…. – Financial Times, 12-27-10
  • Barack Obama Visits Troops on Christmas Day: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dropped by a Marine Corps base in Hawaii on Christmas Day, shaking hands with servicemen and women, taking photos, and hearing Christmas tales from children. Obama made the unannounced 40-minute visit while on his 11-day family vacation to Kailua Bay, Hawaii, his home state, according to Reuters.
    The first family and hundreds of Marines and their families were enjoying Christmas dinner in the hall decked with Christmas decorations. “Merry Christmas, Mr. President!” one boy said to Obama, who was with Michelle Obama. “No, she’s Mrs. President,” Obama said to the children, according to CNN…. – Epoch Times, 12-26-10
  • Obamas attend church in Hawaii: President Obama and his family attended church Sunday in Hawaii, making one of their few public appearances since he arrived here Thursday.
    The Obamas went to the St. Michael’s Chapel, the church at the Marine base a few miles from where the family is staying. About 100 people were in attendance, and they clapped when the first family walked in. At the service, churchgoers sang “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night.” In his sermon, chaplain Steve Moses joked about a recent heart ailment. Moses said he went for a routine physical but was instead told he needed to have surgery on his heart. God must have put him through that surgery to ensure he would not have a heart attack while preaching in front of a president, Moses said. Moses said this story illustrated his message that God is either protecting people from something “far worse” or preparing them for “something greater.”
    The Sunday morning stop at church was unusual for Obama, at least in the past two years. The president is a Christian and frequently speaks about the role of faith in his life, but has not attended services often or become a member of a church in the Washington area…. – WaPo, 12-26-10
  • Sunday Church for the Obamas: President Obama, whose Hawaiian vacation has included golfing, beach-going and visiting the troops on Christmas Day — as well as his regular economic and intelligence briefings — took time out Sunday morning to go to church with his family. About 100 parishioners were in attendance when the Obamas arrived at St. Michaels, the chapel on the Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where Mr. Obama greeted troops during Christmas dinner on Saturday. “Joy to the World” was being sung by a full band, and those in attendance clapped as the family walked in.
    Mr. Obama is not a particularly regular churchgoer when he is in Washington, and questions about his faith — he is Christian, but polls have shown that many Americans mistakenly believe he is Muslim — have come up repeatedly during his presidency. His aides say he prays daily, and he has attended chapel while at Camp David…. – NYT, 12-26-10
  • The next Congress: Action or just argument?: When the 112th Congress convenes on Jan. 5, it will have a decidedly new look, a feisty new attitude and a penchant for partisanship. Republicans will have their biggest House of Representatives majority since the Truman administration in the late 1940s, and, they believe, a mandate to slash spending dramatically and overturn President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law. But their chances of success are dim, since Democrats will still control the White House and the Senate. That makes the potential for getting serious work done in 2011 difficult to predict.
    “The 112th Congress is going to be a mix of cooperation and conflict, “said John Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif…. – McClatchy Newspapers
  • President Obama, ‘Lame Duck’ Democratic Congress bask in Zadroga bill, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell success: In a swift and improbable political turnaround, the lame-duck Congress has revived a dead-duck President, pols and pundits believe. “There was nothing lame about this Congress,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) quipped about the flurry of bills passed in the final days of the postelection session.
    President Obama, left limping after the Republicans scored a huge victory in the November midterm elections, was the major beneficiary. Democrats managed to get their ducks in a row and help resuscitate Obama with some luck – and some well-played chess just weeks after what Obama bemoaned as a “shellacking” in the elections.
    “Pundits wanted to write him off, but President Obama went right back to work and we delivered,” said Gillibrand, who gained national attention for championing the 9/11 health care bill and an extension of unemployment benefits. Political scientists have taken notice.
    “It’s official. Like it or not, this lame-duck session is the most productive of the 15 held since [World War] II,” noted University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.
    A new CNN poll showed a majority of Americans have reversed course and say Obama is again taking the country on the right track…. – NY Daily News, 12-26-10
  • A Firmly Drawn Presidential Line Between Work and Play: If there is one thing President Obama craves during his leisure time, it is privacy. Mr. Obama arrived on the island of Oahu in the middle of the night as Wednesday turned into Thursday and slipped on a green lei as he descended the steps of Air Force One. Then he sped off in an S.U.V. toward this laid-back residential community on the windward side of the island, far from the bustle of Waikiki Beach, where the bulk of his traveling White House stays, in Honolulu, the city he lived in as a boy. Then, the most visible man in America promptly dropped out of sight.
    Mr. Obama’s disappearance behind the palm trees reveals much about his presidential style, and also his thinking about how to balance work and play. He tends to separate the two, as much as any president can. Other presidents, especially those who owned secluded homes or vacation retreats, often mixed them, using their homes outside Washington as tools of the presidency — another means of advancing their goals and agendas…. – NYT, 12-25-10
  • President begins vacation with a smile: Almost immediately after he walked off Air Force One early Thursday morning, a relaxed-looking President Obama had a green lei around his neck and a smile on his face. It was the first sign that while the president will be working while he is on vacation, it’s not a “working vacation.” Administration aides emphasized that the president wanted real down time after an intense two-month period after Election Day, and Obama started his 11-day trip with several hours of golf Thursday. He spent much of Friday afternoon at the beach with his daughters, Sasha and Malia.
    Forced to delay his vacation by five days as Congress worked on a series of the president’s top priorities, Obama added a day on the back end. He will now depart for Washington on Jan. 2, instead of Jan. 1 as originally scheduled.
    White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama would spend time “recharging his batteries, spending time with family and dealing with presidential duties.”
    To be sure, a president is never truly off. He has spoken to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about a nuclear weapons treaty between the United States and Russia that the Senate ratified on Wednesday. Obama receives a daily national security briefing.
    And the president is spending some time preparing for a critical stage of his presidency in which he must work with a House now controlled by the GOP and start laying the groundwork for his reelection campaign in 2012. Aides said he is reading “President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,” a biography by Lou Cannon, as well as a biography of former president Bill Clinton by Taylor Branch…. – WaPo, 12-25-10
  • Bruno’s Lawyers Ask Court to Overturn His Conviction: Lawyers for Joseph L. Bruno, the longtime Republican leader of the New York State Senate, have asked a federal appeals court to overturn his conviction on fraud charges, following a landmark Supreme Court decision that whittled down the law under which he was found guilty, and to prohibit the government from retrying him. The appeal, filed on Thursday in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was an expected development in the labyrinthine legal case of Mr. Bruno, 81, who ruled the Senate for almost 14 years before resigning in 2008 amid a federal corruption investigation. He was convicted in 2009 in Federal District Court in Albany on two counts of fraud for failing to disclose lucrative payments he had received from businessmen seeking help in the Legislature…. – NYT, 12-25-10
  • Obama, Congress end ’10 with blast of bipartisanship: Shaken by a historic election in which angry voters canceled Democratic control of the House, lawmakers of both parties and President Obama tried something new: They consulted each other. They cooperated. And finally, they compromised.
    From tax cuts to a nuclear arms treaty and the repeal of the ban on openly serving gay soldiers, Congress and the Obama White House closed up their respective shops and headed out for the holidays with an uncommonly full bag of accomplishments. Bipartisanship was one of them.
    “That progress is … a reflection of the message the voters sent in November, a message that said it’s time to find common ground on challenges facing our country,” Obama said before joining his family in Hawaii. “It’s a message that I will take to heart in the new year, and I hope my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same.”… – AP, 12-25-10
  • Obama administration on alert for holiday terror threats: President Obama may be relaxing on vacation in Hawaii, but his counterterrorism team remains at work in hopes of keeping things quiet over the holidays. John Brennan, the White House adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, convened a conference call today with more than half a dozen other top officials to review the steps being taken to guard against terrorism. That includes close coordination with foreign nations such as Yemen, whose president, Ali Abdallah Saleh, spoke with Brennan by phone Thursday. The two discussed ways to strengthen the cooperation between their counterterrorism operations in light of threats against the United States and other nations by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula… – USA Today, 12-24-10
  • White House confirms Sarkozy visit January 10: French President Nicolas Sarkozy will visit Washington next month and hold talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama on January 10, the White House said Friday. “I can confirm” the French leader’s visit, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told AFP, without providing further details. The Elysee presidential palace announced Thursday that Sarkozy would visit the US capital to discuss the agendas of next year’s G8 and G20 summits with Obama…. – AFP, 12-24-10
  • Vice President Joe Biden sees growing acceptance of gay marriage: Joe Biden compares the nation’s evolving views on gay marriage to the military’s acceptance of gays and lesbians serving openly…. – LAT, 12-24-10
  • Biden says gay marriage ‘inevitable’: Vice President Joe Biden says the country is evolving on the issue of gay marriage and he thinks it’s inevitable there will be national consensus. He said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Friday the same thing is happening with the issue of marriage that happened with gays’ service in the military…. – AP, 12-24-10
  • For Obama, ‘lame duck’ Congress ends on high note: It may have ended in a lame-duck session with Democrats set to lose their majority in January, but the first US Congress of the Obama era was among the most prolific in 40 years
    The legislative accomplishments were anything but lame in the post-election period, according to analysts and even some of President Barack Obama’s Republican adversaries who begrudged him some late 2010 victories, including a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia and repeal of a ban on openly gay troops.
    Having described his Democrats’ drubbing at the ballot box in November as a “shellacking”, Obama headed to a Hawaii vacation this week on a high, savoring the latest in a litany of legislative victories that marked his first two years in office…. – AFP, 12-23-10
  • Chastened, unpopular Congress rallies in lame duck: In the middle of a House debate, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky handed the woman in charge of the rules a paper bag. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., peered inside, saw the bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon and laughed. Indeed, a shot of something strong might help make sense of a prolific Congress that seemed to break the rules of political physics. Democrats were punished by voters for a long list of accomplishments, then rallied with a post- election session that was anything but lame.
    Among the lessons of 2010: Being the opposite of a “do-nothing Congress” can produce just as much loathing and election losses for the party in control of government. And bipartisanship in President Barack Obama’s Washington is possible, if fleeting.
    “Congress and the administration simply failed to listen to the American people,” incoming House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement as lawmakers left town. “Beginning on Jan. 5, the American people are going to watch their Congress do something differently.”
    “I’m not naive,” Obama told reporters this week. “I know there will be tough fights in the months ahead…. – AP, 12-23-10
  • For Hawaii governor, discrediting anti-Obama ‘birthers’ is a top priority: Democrat Neil Abercrombie, who knew Obama’s parents, is determined to torpedo the conspiracy theory. Underlying his effort may be a desire to dispel the view that Hawaiians aren’t Americans in the same way as mainlanders…. – LAT, 12-23-10
  • Obama vacation: What flavor shave ice will he order?: President Obama joined his family in Hawaii late Wednesday, anticipating an 11-day vacation. Forget tax-cut deals and nuclear weapons treaties. The Obama vacation is all about shave ice. President Obama has made it to Hawaii to join his wife, daughters, and dog on vacation. He arrived just before midnight Wednesday, local time, after winging in on Air Force One from Washington following a press conference. In his first official act of relaxation, he donned a green lei after he stepped off the plane.
    Now all the US political world is holding its breath as it awaits the results of an important policy decision the president is likely to make at some point during his projected 11 days in an island paradise. The question facing Obama is this: What flavor of shave ice will he pick at Island Snow?… – CS Monitor, 12-23-10

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden on Christmas Day at Walter Reed

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden visit with troops and their families on Christmas Day at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., December 25, 2010. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

111TH & 112TH CONGRESS

  • AP Exclusive: Jackson Jr says ‘everyone has erred’: Illinois Congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. says he’s a “public servant” not a “perfect servant.” The Democrat tells The Associated Press that even as he’s been dogged by links to disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and questions about his relationship with a female “social acquaintance,” he’s never deviated from his mission of bringing jobs to his Chicago area district. Jackson says he carries the burden of his “personal shortcomings” even as he tries to help others…. – AP, 12-25-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Signs of doubt about Palin, from the right: The Wall Street Journal editorial page has taken Sarah Palin to task for her overreaction to Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity. This is not only notable by itself, but it has sparked similar criticism from other conservative sources. It’s interesting that she’s drawing this kind of fire from my fellow righties. Palin, the Journal writes, sees a big government plot in Mrs. Obama’s campaign. On her reality show, she served her family “smores,” saying, “This is in honor of Michelle Obama, who said the other day we should not have dessert.”…
    In Palin’s defense, Michelle Obama has gone much farther than merely urging parents to provide healthy food for their kids, as when she blurted out, “We can’t just leave it up to the parents.” This isn’t mentioned in The Journal editorial. Still, the point of the piece was valid: Palin overreacted, and in the process raised even more doubts among those who don’t believe she’s electable…. – Kansas City Star, 12-28-10
  • Governor: Palin e-mails won’t be released ’til May: The Alaska governor’s office says it needs until May 31 to release potentially thousands of e-mails sent and received by former Gov. Sarah Palin. By that time, more than 2 1/2 years will have elapsed since media outlets, including The Associated Press, requested the e-mails. Palin has been out of office since July 2009…. – WaPo, 12-28-10
  • Republican Drops a Tack in Alaska Senate Race: Joe Miller said late Sunday that he would no longer try to prevent the certification of the Alaska Senate race, but he did not concede and he did not congratulate the unofficial winner, Senator Lisa Murkowski. Unofficial results show Ms. Murkowski winning the race by more than 10,000 votes, and she is expected to be sworn in for her new term on Jan. 5. But a stay in federal court, in response to a lawsuit by Mr. Miller, has prevented state election officials from certifying her as the winner. The state and Ms. Murkowski have repeatedly expressed concerns that Mr. Miller’s legal challenges could leave Alaska with just one senator when Congress reconvenes in January…. – NYT, 12-27-10
  • Bill Clinton to campaign for Emanuel in Chicago In January, former president to stump for Emanuel in mayor’s race: Former President Bill Clinton is coming to Chicago in January to campaign for mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel. Before serving in President Barack Obama’s White House and representing the North Side of Chicago in Congress, Emanuel worked in Clinton’s administration as a senior adviser for policy and strategy. Clinton is scheduled to headline a public event that highlights Emanuel’s role in passing a crime bill that put 100,000 more cops on the street nationally. The visit is expected to be Clinton’s first in the new year and election cycle…. – Chicago Tribune, 12-25-10
  • Chicago election board upholds Emanuel’s residency: A panel of three commissioners votes to keep the former White House chief of staff in the city’s mayoral race, saying he meets the residency requirement. But this is not the final say. Chicago election commissioners voted Thursday to keep Rahm Emanuel on the city’s February mayoral ballot, ruling that the former White House chief of staff meets the residency requirement. The election board, however, is not expected to have final say on the issue. The objectors have a week to appeal the board’s 3-0 decision to the Cook County Circuit Court. The case could wind its way through the court system for weeks, including the Illinois Appellate Court and the Illinois Supreme Court. “It has not been established that the candidate, a resident of Chicago, abandoned his status as such a resident,” hearing officer Joe Morris wrote of Emanuel’s time in Washington. “In any event, his absence from Illinois during that time in question is excused, for purposes of the safeguarding and retention of his status as a resident and elector, by express operation of Illinois law.”… – LAT, 12-23-10
  • Meeks withdraws from Chicago mayor’s race: Illinois state Sen. James Meeks withdrew his candidacy for Chicago mayor on Thursday, and he urged other African- American candidates to follow his lead and rally what he called a divided black community around a single candidate. The surprise Christmas week announcement came a day after he met to discuss the idea of a unity candidate from the city’s large African-American community with fellow Democratic candidates U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, both of whom are black.
    “My friends, I come before you today to say that our city – and our community – is divided,” Meeks said in a statement. “As long as our community remains divided and splintered – to the specific advantage of the front-running, status quo candidates – we will never see things improve. We need to speak with one voice.”
    While the idea of a consensus African-American candidate has been discussed for weeks, Meeks has stumbled in recent days while courting voters and he won little support in a recent poll. He said in his statement he had no plans to endorse any other candidate, and his spokeswoman said he would not have any further comment as he planned to spend the holidays with his family…. – AP, 12-23-10

QUOTES

West Wing Week

  • Behind the Scenes with the Kennedy Center Honorees: Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey and More: Every year around the holidays, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts selects and celebrates individuals who have, through their lifetime achievement in the arts, contributed to enriching and enhancing culture in America. On December 5th, 2010, the Kennedy Center Honors 33rd Annual National Celebration of the Arts was held and videotaped for a television broadcast, which airs tonight on CBS. Before the gala event at the Kennedy Center, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a reception for this year’s recipients in the East Room of the White House. Watch this video which features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the honorees at the White House – Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, Merle Haggard, Bill T. Jones, and Jerry Herman….. – WH, 12-28-10
  • Weekly Address: The President and First Lady Extend Christmas Greeting and Urge Americans to Support the Troops and Their Families: Remarks of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama Weekly Address The White House December 25, 2010:
    THE PRESIDENT: Merry Christmas, everybody. Michelle and I just wanted to take a moment today to send greetings from our family to yours. 

    THE FIRST LADY: This is one of our favorite times of year. And we’re so fortunate to be able to celebrate it together in this wonderful home.
    This is the “People’s House.” So Barack and I try to open it to as many people as we can, especially during the holiday season.
    This month, more than 100,000 Americans have passed through these halls. And the idea behind this year’s theme, “Simple Gifts,” is that the greatest blessings of all are the ones that don’t cost a thing – the comfort of spending time with loved ones…the freedoms we enjoy as Americans… and the joy we feel upon giving something of ourselves.
    So in this time of family, friends, and good cheer; let’s also be sure to look out for those who are less fortunate, who’ve hit a run of bad luck, or who are hungry and alone this holiday season.

    THE PRESIDENT: Because this is the season when we celebrate the simplest yet most profound gift of all: the birth of a child who devoted his life to a message of peace, love, and redemption. A message that says no matter who we are, we are called to love one another – we are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper, our separate stories in this big and busy world are really one.
    Today, we’re also thinking of those who can’t be home for the holidays – especially all our courageous countrymen serving overseas.
    That’s the message I delivered when I visited our troops in Afghanistan a few weeks ago – that while you may be serving far from home, every American supports you and your families. We’re with you. And I have no greater honor than serving as your Commander in Chief.
    Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen make up the finest fighting force in the history of the world. Just like their predecessors, they do extraordinary things in service to their country. What makes that all the more remarkable is that today’s military is an all-volunteer force – a force of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives.

    THE FIRST LADY: That’s right. As First Lady, I’ve had the honor to meet members of our military and their families on bases and in communities all across the country. I’ve gotten to know husbands and wives doing the parenting of two while their spouse is on another deployment…children trying their best in school but always wondering when mom or dad is coming home…patriots putting their lives on hold to help with a loved one’s recovery…or carry on the memory of a fallen hero.
    When our men and women in uniform answer the call to serve, their families serve, too. And they’re proud and glad to do it. But as long as that service keeps the rest of us safe, their sacrifice should also be our own. Even heroes can use a hand, especially during the holidays.

    THE PRESIDENT: So we’re encouraging Americans to ask what you can do to support our troops and their families in this holiday season. For some ideas on how to get started, just visit Serve.gov.

    THE FIRST LADY: You’ll see that you don’t need to be an expert in military life to give back to those who give so much to us. There are countless ways to contribute by harnessing your unique talents.
    If you live near a base, you can reach out through your local school or church. If you don’t, you can volunteer with organizations that support military families. And anybody can send a care package or pre-paid calling card to the front lines, or give what’s sometimes the most important gift of all: simply saying “thank you.”

    THE PRESIDENT: America’s brave servicemen and women represent a small fraction of our population. But they and the families who await their safe return carry far more than their fair share of the burden. They’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do. They’ve been everything we’ve asked them to be. And even as we speak, many are fighting halfway around the globe – in hopes that someday, our children and grandchildren won’t have to.
    So let’s all remind them this holiday season that we’re thinking of them – and that America will forever be here for them, just as they’ve been there for us.
    And on behalf of Michelle, Malia, Sasha…
    THE FIRST LADY: and Bo…
    THE PRESIDENT: and Bo…have a very Merry Christmas.
    THE FIRST LADY: and an even happier New Year. – WH, 12-25-10TranscriptMp4Mp3

  • The President’s Press Conference: “The Most Productive Post-Election Period We’ve Had in Decades”: First of all, I’m glad that Democrats and Republicans came together to approve my top national security priority for this session of Congress – the new START Treaty. This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades, and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify; and to continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges – from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran, to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. This treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.
    In the last few weeks, we also came together across party lines to pass a package of tax cuts and unemployment insurance that will spur jobs, businesses, and growth. This package includes a payroll tax cut that means nearly every American family will get an average tax cut next year of about $1,000 delivered in their paychecks. It will make a difference for millions of students, and parents, and workers, and people still looking for work. It’s has led economists across the political spectrum to predict that the economy will grow faster than they originally thought next year.
    In our ongoing struggle to perfect our Union, we also overturned a 17-year old law and a longstanding injustice by finally ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. As I said earlier today, this is the right thing to do for our security. And it is the right thing to do, period.
    In addition, we came together across party lines to pass a food safety bill – the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression. And I hope the House soon joins the Senate in passing a 9/11 health bill that will help cover the health care costs of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and residents who inhaled toxic air near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning, and the days that followed.
    So, I think it’s fair to say this has been the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades, and it comes on the heels of the most productive two years we’ve had in generations. – WH, 12-22-10TranscriptMp4Mp3

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

West Wing Week

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Race could backfire on the right: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a possible Republican presidential candidate, recently caused a major stir. In an interview with the Weekly Standard, he referred to race relations while growing up in Mississippi this way: “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.”
    Of course, his state was one of the most racially explosive sections of the country in the days of segregation and the start of the civil rights movement.
    In the same interview, Barbour also tried to distinguish the citizens councils of his hometown from the Ku Klux Klan, even though historians have amply documented how citizens councils spent much of their energy using economic, and sometimes physical, intimidation to prevent racial integration. Although Barbour sought to clarify his remarks when they triggered a political firestorm, the fallout is likely to continue given the long and complicated history of conservatism.
    With these statements, Barbour tapped directly into one of the most problematic aspects of the modern conservative tradition: the interest among some on the right to resist racial and ethnic pluralism. The comments come at an inopportune time.
    In recent months, there have been questions about the degree to which racial politics has influenced Tea Party activists and some Republican politicians. The heated debates about illegal immigration and the proposed construction of an Islamic cultural center near ground zero brought out some of the uglier elements of the conservative movement. At some of the early Tea Party events, there were placards that drew on explicitly racial imagery of the nation’s president.
    The conservative political tradition has revolved around many issues other than race….
    Conservatives should think long and hard about nominating a Republican who cannot demonstrate, once and for all, without any question, that he or she fully understands the history of racial inequality in this country and appreciates the centrality of a pluralistic America…. – CNN, 12-27-10
  • Stephen Hess: For Obama, ‘lame duck’ Congress ends on high note: “The 111th Congress is one of the most productive Congresses in American history, certainly since Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ and the programs that were passed in the mid-1960s,” Stephen Hess, an expert on American politics at the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington, told AFP. “History will tell over time the value of what (Congress has done) but in terms of sheer production it is really an exceptional record.”… – AFP, 12-23-10
  • David Gergen: Obama’s stunning turnaround: Voters who flocked to the Republican banner seven weeks ago are probably scratching their heads, wondering, “Who really won in November?” After handing the president and Congressional Democrats the worst drubbing in more than half a century, they can only watch in disbelief as Obama has reeled off a series of unexpected victories.
    A new stimulus bill, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and now START — who would have believed that this shirt- tail session of Congress would have been so triumphant? They call it “lame duck” but it was anything but lame.
    What happened? One answer, I would submit, is that the president and his team found a better approach to governing: Instead of relying on the Democratic caucus in each chamber to deliver, they built up coalitions of their own that swayed public opinion in their direction and gave them leverage in Congress…. – CNN, 12-22-10
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