Political Buzz August 22, 2011: President Obama Makes Statement on Libya Fighting, Qaddafi & the Toppling of Tripoli

POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA MAKES STATEMENT ON LIBYA FIGHTING, QADDAFI & THE TOPPLING OF TRIPOLI

The President on Libya
White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 8/22/11

 

‘Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant,’ President Obama says: In a statement released Sunday night, after a day of fast-paced changes coming from Tripoli, the president said the momentum against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi had “reached a tipping point.”
“The surest way for the bloodshed to end is simple: Moammar Qadhafi and his regime need to recognize that their rule has come to an end. Qadhafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all.”

“The situation is still very fluid. But this much is clear: The Qadhafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.” — President Barack Obama

“A lot of it’s been thought through. Some of it’s a work in progress. And the president’s statement is pretty straightforward about everything from dealing with Kadafi, dealing with the opposition now in control, the basic standards we want to set….
“the progress, what’s going on, where things are. But I just haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk with our folks. And the president’s already made a statement that I read. So for me to go beyond the statement at this point would be imprudent.” — Vice President Joe Biden

“I was among those who were critical of the position of ‘leading from behind.’ I think as a general proposition that’s not a good position for the U.S. to be in. On the other hand, I think the outcome should give the administration some degree of satisfaction. After all, it worked. [Moammar] Kadafi seems to be finished. There will be some regime change there.” — L. Paul Bremer III, the presidential envoy to Iraq under former President George W. Bush

Statement by President Barack Obama on Libya: Text of President Barack Obama’s statement Monday on events in Libya, as provided by the White House…. – AP, 8-22-11

  • Libya Pictures: Photos Of Libyans Celebrating Capture Of Seif Al-Islam (PHOTOS): Supporters of Libyan rebels took to the streets on Monday as they celebrated the capture of Seif al-Islam, Moammar Gaddafi’s second-oldest son. Rebel forces came closer to winning the capital of Tripoli and ending the dictator’s 42-year rule…. – Huffington Post, 8-22-11
  • Obama urges Gaddafi loyalists lay down arms: President Barack Obama delivers a statement on Libya from his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts August 22, 2011. President Barack Obama called on Monday for Muammar Gaddafi to end the bloodshed in Libya … – Reuters, 8-22-11
  • Barack Obama: Libya conflict ‘not over yet’: The US President says that events in Libya are evidence of “what the international community can achieve when it stands together as one” but cautions that the conflict has not been won yet. “This is not over yet,” the President warned in a statement…. – Telegraph.co.uk, 8-22-11
  • Obama on Libya: Khadafy needs to read the writing on the wall, admit his regime is ending: Col. Moammar Khadafy was being hunted across Tripoli Monday as the world cheered the sudden success of the Libyan revolution. “This much is clear: the Khadafy regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.”…. – New York Daily News, 8-22-11
  • The muddled politics of Libya: The United States’ involvement in Libya began as a political controversy. But now that the country’s rebel uprising has apparently succeeded, the politics are largely absent. And the truth is that it probably will have very little impact…. – WaPo, 8-22-11
  • Obama: Libya dictator Muammar Qadhafi’s rule ‘coming to an end’: President Barack Obama said on Monday that Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi’s regime “is coming to an end” and put the rebels on notice their new government must uphold the democratic ideals that they have professed during six months of US and NATO-backed fighting… – Politico, 8-22-11
  • Fight for Gaddafi compound will be hard: rebels: The battle to take over Muammar Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli will be fierce, but anyone inside has little chance of escape, a rebel spokesman told Al Jazeera television on Monday. “I don’t imagine the Bab Al-Aziziyah compound will … Reuters, 8-22-11
  • U.S. has nearly doubled air attacks on Libya in past 12 days: As the rebels in Libya push closer to ending the regime of embattled Col. Moammar Gadhafi, US warplanes have been increasing their attacks on government positions as part of the NATO … – CNN, 8-22-11
  • What should happen to Libya’s Gadhafi if captured?: Another day… another Middle East dictator on the verge of falling. Except no one can find him. Libyan rebels have control of most of the capital city of Tripoli… and they say they have three of Moammar Gadhafi’s sons in custody. … – CNN, 8-22-11
  • On Libya, Rick Santorum says Obama ‘had little to do with this triumph’: Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, one of the first GOP contenders to criticize President Obama’s Libya policy, hailed Kadafi’s possible ouster as “a good thing” but said Obama “had little to do with this triumph.”… – LAT, 8-22-11
  • Former Bush envoy credits Obama’s Libya strategy, says providing security now critical: L. Paul Bremer III, the presidential envoy to Iraq under former President George W. Bush, said that while he was an early critic of President Obama’s strategy in Libya, the stunning developments in Tripoli show the merits of the … – LAT, 8-22-11
  • From Asia, Biden keeps quiet on Kadafi: Vice President Joe Biden says the U.S. has spent considerable time analyzing what could happen in Libya after Moammar Kadafi loses power, but he deferred to President Obama to outline the specifics of Washington’s potential role in the transition…. – LAT, 8-22-11
  • Libya: Overthrowing Gaddafi will be just the beginning: The overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime by rebel forces will merely be the first step towards rebuilding the country after more than four decades of authoritarian rule. September 1 is the 42nd anniversary of Gaddafi’s regime…. – Telegraph.co.uk, 8-22-11
  • Libya can now reimagine itself: With Qaddafi no longer in control after a six-month civil war, Libyans can finally begin to create an identity based on the ideals of democratic citizenship…. – CS Monitor, 8-22-11
  • Juan Cole: Top ten myths about the Libya warReuters, 8-22-11
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Full Text August 22, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Events in Libya — Qaddafi Regime Coming to an End

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama on Libya: The future is in the Hands of its People

Source: WH, 8-22-11
President Obama remarks on the Situation in Libya

President Barack Obama remarks on the situation in Libya during a statement on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Aug. 22, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This afternoon, following a call with the National Security Council, President Obama spoke about the evolving situation in Libya. Over the past six months, the United States has worked with allies to protect the people of Libya from Muammar Qaddafi’s brutality and support them as they seek the opportunity for the citizens of Libya to determine their own destiny. Today, President Obama said, “The Qaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people,” making it clear that the courage of the Libyan people has brought freedom within reach:

Earlier this year, we were inspired by the peaceful protests that broke out across Libya.  This basic and joyful longing for human freedom echoed the voices that we had heard all across the region, from Tunis to Cairo.  In the face of these protests, the Qaddafi regime responded with brutal crackdowns.  Civilians were murdered in the streets.  A campaign of violence was launched against the Libyan people.  Qaddafi threatened to hunt peaceful protestors down like rats.  As his forces advanced across the country, there existed the potential for wholesale massacres of innocent civilians.

In the face of this aggression, the international community took action.  The United States helped shape a U.N. Security Council resolution that mandated the protection of Libyan civilians.  An unprecedented coalition was formed that included the United States, our NATO partners and Arab nations.  And in March, the international community launched a military operation to save lives and stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks.

In the early days of this intervention the United States provided the bulk of the firepower, and then our friends and allies stepped forward.  The Transitional National Council established itself as a credible representative of the Libyan people.  And the United States, together with our European allies and friends across the region, recognized the TNC as the legitimate governing authority in Libya.

Over the last couple days, the situation in Libya has reached a tipping point. President Obama addressed the role Qaddafi could still play in decreasing bloodshed as his regime comes to an end:

For over four decades, the Libyan people have lived under the rule of a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights.  Now, the celebrations that we’ve seen in the streets of Libya shows that the pursuit of human dignity is far stronger than any dictator.  I want to emphasize that this is not over yet.  As the regime collapses, there is still fierce fighting in some areas, and we have reports of regime elements threatening to continue fighting.

Although it’s clear that Qaddafi’s rule is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya.

The President also discussed next steps and stressed that the United States will be a friend and a partner during a “transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just” for the Libyan people:

For many months, the TNC has been working with the international community to prepare for a post-Qaddafi Libya.  As those efforts proceed, our diplomats will work with the TNC as they ensure that the institutions of the Libyan state are protected, and we will support them with the assets of the Qaddafi regime that were frozen earlier this year.  Above all, we will call for an inclusive transition that leads to a democratic Libya.

As we move forward, we should also recognize the extraordinary work that has already been done.  To the American people, these events have particular resonance.  Qaddafi’s regime has murdered scores of American citizens in acts of terror in the past.  Today we remember the lives of those who were taken in those acts of terror and stand in solidarity with their families.  We also pay tribute to Admiral Sam Locklear and all of the men and women in uniform who have saved so many lives over the last several months, including our brave pilots that have executed their mission with skill and extraordinary bravery.  And all of this was done without putting a single U.S. troop on the ground.

To our friends and allies, the Libyan intervention demonstrates what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one — although the efforts in Libya are not yet over.  NATO has once more proven that it is the most capable alliance in the world and that its strength comes from both its firepower and the power of our democratic ideals.  And the Arab members of our coalition have stepped up and shown what can be achieved when we act together as equal partners.  Their actions send a powerful message about the unity of our effort and our support for the future of Libya.

Finally, the Libyan people:  Your courage and character have been unbreakable in the face of a tyrant.  An ocean divides us, but we are joined in the basic human longing for freedom, for justice and for dignity.  Your revolution is your own, and your sacrifices have been extraordinary.  Now, the Libya that you deserve is within your reach.  Going forward, we will stay in close coordination with the TNC to support that outcome.  And though there will be huge challenges ahead, the extraordinary events in Libya remind us that fear can give way to hope and that the power of people striving for freedom can bring about a brighter day.

Text of President Barack Obama’s statement Monday on events in Libya, as provided by the White House:

Good afternoon, everybody. I just completed a call with my National Security Council on the situation in Libya. And earlier today I spoke to Prime Minister Cameron about the extraordinary events taking place there.

The situation is still very fluid. There remains a degree of uncertainty and there are still regime elements who pose a threat. But this much is clear: The Gadhafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.

In just six months, the 42-year reign of Moammar Gadhafi has unraveled. Earlier this year, we were inspired by the peaceful protests that broke out across Libya. This basic and joyful longing for human freedom echoed the voices that we had heard all across the region, from Tunis to Cairo. In the face of these protests, the Gadhafi regime responded with brutal crackdowns. Civilians were murdered in the streets. A campaign of violence was launched against the Libyan people. Gadhafi threatened to hunt peaceful protesters down like rats. As his forces advanced across the country, there existed the potential for wholesale massacres of innocent civilians.

In the face of this aggression, the international community took action. The United States helped shape a U.N. Security Council resolution that mandated the protection of Libyan civilians. An unprecedented coalition was formed that included the United States, our NATO partners and Arab nations. And in March, the international community launched a military operation to save lives and stop Gadhafi’s forces in their tracks.

In the early days of this intervention the United States provided the bulk of the firepower, and then our friends and allies stepped forward. The Transitional National Council established itself as a credible representative of the Libyan people. And the United States, together with our European allies and friends across the region, recognized the TNC as the legitimate governing authority in Libya.

Gadhafi was cut off from arms and cash, and his forces were steadily degraded. From Benghazi to Misrata to the western mountains, the Libyan opposition courageously confronted the regime, and the tide turned in their favor.

Over the last several days, the situation in Libya has reached a tipping point as the opposition increased its coordination from east to west, took town after town, and the people of Tripoli rose up to claim their freedom.

For over four decades, the Libyan people have lived under the rule of a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights. Now, the celebrations that we’ve seen in the streets of Libya shows that the pursuit of human dignity is far stronger than any dictator. I want to emphasize that this is not over yet. As the regime collapses, there is still fierce fighting in some areas, and we have reports of regime elements threatening to continue fighting.

Although it’s clear that Gadhafi’s rule is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya.

As we move forward from this pivotal phase, the opposition should continue to take important steps to bring about a transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just. As the leadership of the TNC has made clear, the rights of all Libyans must be respected. True justice will not come from reprisals and violence; it will come from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny.

In that effort, the United States will be a friend and a partner. We will join with allies and partners to continue the work of safeguarding the people of Libya. As remaining regime elements menace parts of the country, I’ve directed my team to be in close contact with NATO as well as the United Nations to determine other steps that we can take. To deal with the humanitarian impact, we’re working to ensure that critical supplies reach those in need, particularly those who have been wounded.

Secretary Clinton spoke today with her counterparts from leading nations of the coalition on all these matters. And I’ve directed Ambassador Susan Rice to request that the U.N. secretary general use next month’s general assembly to support this important transition.

For many months, the TNC has been working with the international community to prepare for a post-Gadhafi Libya. As those efforts proceed, our diplomats will work with the TNC as they ensure that the institutions of the Libyan state are protected, and we will support them with the assets of the Gadhafi regime that were frozen earlier this year. Above all, we will call for an inclusive transition that leads to a democratic Libya.

As we move forward, we should also recognize the extraordinary work that has already been done. To the American people, these events have particular resonance. Gadhafi’s regime has murdered scores of American citizens in acts of terror in the past. Today we remember the lives of those who were taken in those acts of terror and stand in solidarity with their families. We also pay tribute to Admiral Sam Locklear and all of the men and women in uniform who have saved so many lives over the last several months, including our brave pilots that have executed their mission with skill and extraordinary bravery. And all of this was done without putting a single U.S. troop on the ground.

To our friends and allies, the Libyan intervention demonstrates what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one — although the efforts in Libya are not yet over. NATO has once more proven that it is the most capable alliance in the world and that its strength comes from both its firepower and the power of our democratic ideals. And the Arab members of our coalition have stepped up and shown what can be achieved when we act together as equal partners. Their actions send a powerful message about the unity of our effort and our support for the future of Libya.

Finally, the Libyan people: Your courage and character have been unbreakable in the face of a tyrant. An ocean divides us, but we are joined in the basic human longing for freedom, for justice and for dignity. Your revolution is your own, and your sacrifices have been extraordinary. Now, the Libya that you deserve is within your reach. Going forward, we will stay in close coordination with the TNC to support that outcome. And though there will be huge challenges ahead, the extraordinary events in Libya remind us that fear can give way to hope and that the power of people striving for freedom can bring about a brighter day.

Thank you very much.

Political Highlights May 1, 2011: President Obama Silences “Birthers” & Donald Trump by Releasing Birth Certificate to the Public — Chooses New National Security Team — Meets with Gabby Giffords

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:


White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 4/28/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Obama faces trouble with $4 gasoline: Polls show Americans blame Democrats more than Republicans for $4 gasoline prices, and President Obama’s poll numbers show it. But people blame big oil companies even more, which may be a political opening for Obama.
    That may not be fair, but it’s a fact Obama has to deal with – especially at a time when the latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows 70 percent believing the country is headed in the wrong direction and 57 percent don’t like the way he’s handling the economy.
    National Journal’s poll of political insiders shows a great majority – including 75 percent of Democratic insiders – predicting that the Democratic Party will be “hurt more by rising gas prices.”
    At the same time, a new McClatchy-Marist Poll shows an opening for Obama. While 11 percent blame Obama and Democrats (7 percent cite congressional Republicans), 36 percent say it’s volatility in the Middle East, and 34 percent say US oil companies are the culprits behind record prices at the pump…. – CS Monitor, 4-23-11

IN FOCUS: WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ DINNER

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

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

  • New Predator role fits diplomatic, military bill: President Barack Obama’s decision to use unmanned Predator drones in Libya widened what had become very limited U.S. participation in the air war, but the aircraft credited with taking out terrorist leaders in western Pakistan probably won’t prove decisive against Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
    Sending just two remotely piloted Predators, each with two Hellfire missiles designed to pierce armor, over Libya 24 hours a day is far from a game-changing addition to an air campaign that features an array of high-flying French, British and other European jets bombing Libyan ground targets and enforcing a no-fly zone…. – AP, 4-30-11
  • US aims financial hits at Syrian officials, Iran: The Obama administration on Friday imposed financial penalties against three top Syrian officials, Syria’s intelligence agency and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard over the violent crackdown on demonstrators in Syria. The penalties freeze any assets that the officials, including two relatives of Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate and the Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them.
    President Barack Obama authorized the action for repression and human rights abuses committed by Syrian authorities seeking to quell six weeks of protests. Activists say more than 500 people have been killed, 42 on Friday alone…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • US could reassess aid to Palestinians: The Obama administration said Thursday it would reassess aid to Palestinians if the militant group Hamas should join the U.S.-backed Palestinian government, with several lawmakers already clamoring for funding to be cut off. State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke Fulton said the U.S. was continuing its assistance programs for now, while seeking more information on the emerging alliance between President Mahmoud Abbas’ pro-Western Fatah party, which governs in the West Bank, and its rival, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
    “Our current support … serves as an important contribution to U.S. efforts to support the building of Palestinian institutions that are necessary for a future state,” she said. “If a new Palestinian government is formed, we will assess it based on its policies at that time and will determine the implications for our assistance based on U.S. law.”… – AP, 4-28-11
  • US report puts Egypt with worst religion violators: A government agency’s annual report on violations of religious rights added Egypt on Thursday to the list of the world’s 14 worst violators. The situation there for religious minorities, especially Coptic Christians, has deteriorated markedly, even since former President Hosni Mubarak resigned in February, the report said… – AP, 4-28-11
  • Analysis: Syria falls back on fear to quell revolt: On the deadliest day of the Syrian rebellion Friday — when more than 100 people were killed — President Barack Obama accused Assad of seeking Iranian help to use “the same brutal tactics” unleashed against demonstrators almost two years ago in Tehran. Still, the stepped up use of force show no signs of quelling the uprising in the short-term. To the contrary, the opposition has broken the barrier of fear, keeping up and stepping up their street protests despite the brutal crackdown that has killed more than 400 people since mid-March. If anything, protesters enraged by the mounting death toll are escalating their demands to nothing less than the downfall of the regime. AP, 4-27-11
  • US: Libya death toll could be as high as 30,000: The death toll in Libya after more than two months of violence could reach as high as 30,000, an Obama administration official said Wednesday. Gene Cretz, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, said it is very hard to gauge how many people have died in strongman Moammar Gadhafi’s crackdown on protesters and the subsequent fighting between rebels and pro-government forces. But he said that U.S. officials have seen figures ranging from 10,000 to 30,000.
    “I don’t think we’re probably going to get an accurate number until we really get more hands-on experience on the ground,” Cretz told reporters at the State Department in Washington. “We just have no sense of the scale of this thing until it’s over.”… – AP, 4-27-11
  • Obama directs $25M non-lethal aid to Libyan rebels: President Barack Obama has ordered the expenditure of up to $25 million in surplus government goods to support Libyan opposition groups and protect civilians threatened by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. The president issued the directive Tuesday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Obama informed Congress of his decision last week…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • Administration loosens restrictions on Libyan oil: The Obama administration has eased its sanctions on Libya to allow for the sale of oil controlled by the rebels. The move will allow Libya’s opposition forces to use the income from oil sales to purchase weapons and other supplies. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued the order Tuesday. It will allow U.S. companies to engage in transactions involving oil, natural gas and other petroleum products if the petroleum exports will benefit the opposition Transitional National Council of Libya…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • Gates hints at bombing risk to Gadhafi: The U.S. took its first steps Tuesday short of military assistance to aid Libyan rebels, even as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Libyan military command centers “wherever we find them” are legitimate targets for U.S. and NATO air attack, suggesting that strongman Moammar Gadhafi himself is increasingly in danger….
    At a joint news conference with British Defense Minister Liam Fox, Gates said that NATO planes are not targeting Gadhafi specifically but will continue to take aim at his command centers. That distinction is exceedingly thin, given that Gadhafi is commander in chief of government forces using brute force against civilians seeking to overthrow him…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • US clings to engagement policy with Assad’s Syria: The United States clung Tuesday to fading hopes that a policy of engagement and diplomatic threats can pressure Syria to halt its brutal crackdown on pro-reform demonstrators, refusing to call for President Bashar Assad to step down or even question his legitimacy as a leader….
    “We strongly oppose the Syrian government’s treatment of its citizens, and we continue to oppose its continued destabilizing behavior, including support for terrorism and terrorist groups,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “We call on President Assad to change course now and heed the calls of his own people.”… – AP, 4-26-11
  • Myanmar urged to engage with US: The United States on Monday urged military-dominated Myanmar to embrace its offer of talks and improve human rights as a path toward international acceptance. The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, said Washington’s efforts in the past 18 months to engage Myanmar’s government had failed. He said despite the release of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the United States still is troubled by abuses of ethnic minorities, detention of political prisoners and a lack of democratic reform.
    The most recent senior U.S. official to visit Yangon, Joseph Yun, said the rulers of Myanmar, also known as Burma, were wrong in thinking they would not gain from engaging the U.S. “I really urge the Burmese government that there will be something in it. In the end, they have to join the international community,” he said…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • US treads warily in Syria, considers sanctions: Despite a ruthless crackdown on pro-reform demonstrators, there is no international appetite for a warlike approach to Syria — a crucial Mideast playmaker with ties to Iran and a say in any eventual Arab peace with Israel….
    As violence escalated anew on Monday, the White House stepped up its condemnation of President Bashar Assad’s regime, but stopped well short of demanding the ouster of a leader some U.S. Democrats had considered a potential reformer and peace broker…. – AP, 4-25-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • Obama lauds free trade deal with Panama: President Barack Obama commended Panama’s president for his leadership in resolving issues that had stalled a key free trade agreement between their two countries and said he expected Congress to ratify the pact as part of a broader trade package. Obama says he was confident that the deal would be good for the economy in both the U.S. and Panama. He spoke in the Oval Office alongside President Ricardo Martinelli.
    “We are confident now that a free trade agreement would be good for our country, would create jobs here in the United States, open up new markets with potential for billions of dollars of cross-border trade,” Obama said. “We think it would be also very good for Panama and allow additional economic exchanges between our two countries.”…. – AP, 4-28-11

THE HEADLINES….


White House Photo, Pete Souza, 4/29/11
  • Obama signs disaster declaration for Tennessee: President Barack Obama has signed a disaster declaration for Tennessee after last week’s line of tornado-spawning storms that killed at least 34 people in the state. Sunday’s action makes federal funding available to storm survivors in the Tennessee counties of Bradley, Greene, Hamilton and Washington. The assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs…. – AP, 5-1-11
  • NASA says no new launch attempt before next Sunday: NASA’s space shuttles are dragging their tails toward retirement. The high-profile voyage of Endeavour — the next-to-last space shuttle flight led by the husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — is off until at least next Sunday because of a technical problem. The latest culprit, believed to be a bad fuse box, illustrates just how complex these space machines are and why NASA’s goodbye to the 30-year shuttle program may be a long one.
    Commander Mark Kelly and his five crewmates quickly headed back to Houston on Sunday morning, two days after their first launch attempt was foiled. Giffords wasn’t far behind; she was in Houston by midafternoon, ready to resume rehab at the hospital where she’s been undergoing treatment since January, after being shot in the head in an assassination attempt. She had arrived in Florida Wednesday to take part in the excitement of the launch countdown and to see her husband blast off. It was not immediately known if she would be back for a second try…. – AP, 5-1-11
  • Amid ‘war on obesity,’ skeptics warn of stigma: The furor reflects a broader nationwide phenomenon as states, cities and the White House itself — led by first lady Michelle Obama — expand efforts to curb obesity. For all the public support of these efforts, there’s also a vocal and passionate corps of skeptics and critics worried that widespread discrimination toward the overweight and obese will only increase.
    “Stigma is not an effective motivator,” said Rebecca Puhl, a Yale University psychologist who is a leading expert on weight discrimination. “Whether children or adults, if they are teased or stigmatized, they’re much more likely to engage in unhealthy eating and avoidance of physical activity.”… – AP, 5-1-11
  • Md. educator named National Teacher of the Year: A chemistry teacher from Frederick is the 2011 National Teacher of the Year. The Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers said Sunday it has selected Michelle Shearer for the honor. Shearer teaches at Urbana High School in Frederick. The 14-year classroom veteran was recognized for her passion, her embrace of technology and her focus on teacher-student interaction…. – AP, 4-30-11
  • Huckabee criticizes Obama at NRA keynote address: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee called himself a “gun-clinger and a God-clinger” but didn’t come close to saying whether he’ll be a Republican presidential candidate next year when he delivered the keynote address Saturday at the annual National Rifle Association convention. Huckabee was referring to a remark President Barack Obama once made about conservatives clinging to their guns and religion. Huckabee also said Obama didn’t receive an “F” rating from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence because the president has helped gun owners — though gun owners have been allowed to pack weapons on Amtrak trains and carry them in federal parks since President Obama took office.
    “Why didn’t somebody do something?” Huckabee said she wrote. “Today, you will not find a spunkier activist than my daughter, and I don’t worry about her but I sometimes worry about us,” Huckabee said, referring to conservatives who don’t mobilize fully in national elections and for other political causes. “We cannot afford to be a generation that leaves our children with a huge debt and a very erosion of our values.” – AP, 4-30-11
  • Obama mocks Trump’s presidential ambitions: President Barack Obama exacted his revenge Saturday after weeks of attacks from his would-be Republican challenger Donald Trump, joking that the billionaire businessman could bring change to the White House, transforming it from a stately mansion into a tacky casino with a whirlpool in the garden.
    “No one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than ‘the Donald,'” Obama said, referring to Trump’s claims the same day that he was responsible for solving the issue. For Trump’s decision to fire actor Busey instead of rock singer Meat Loaf from his TV show earlier this month, Obama quipped: “These are the types of decisions that would keep me up at night. Well handled, sir.”… – AP, 4-30-11
  • Tax, spending divisions laid bare in public forums: Rep. Paul Ryan, the architect of the House GOP budget plan, hosted an eye-popping 875 people in Greenfield, Wis., where he faced fans and critics alike. In Kenosha, Wis., earlier in the week, Ryan exited through a back door to stymie protesters gathering out front.
    Should anyone need reminding, the nation, like Congress, is deeply divided over how extensively to change Medicare, cut spending and revise taxes. When Congress returns to work this coming week, the Democratic-led Senate will set aside the House blueprint. Leaders from both parties will work with the Obama administration to seek a compromise to fund the government in 2012, make long-term changes to Medicare and raise the government’s borrowing limit…. – AP, 4-30-11
  • Obama keeps up push to end gas, oil tax breaks: President Barack Obama says oil companies are profiting from rising pump prices and he wants Congress to end $4 billion in annual tax breaks for the oil and gas industry. “These tax giveaways aren’t right,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. “They aren’t smart. And we need to end them.”… – AP, 4-30-11
  • White House, newspaper clash over protest video: The White House says a San Francisco Chronicle reporter broke the rules when she put down her pen and picked up a video camera to film a protest. The newspaper says the Obama administration needs to join the 21st century. The conflict hit the newspaper’s front page Friday with a story about coverage of the protest during President Barack Obama’s speech last week at a private fundraiser…. Reporter Carla Marinucci had White House permission to cover the fundraiser as a so-called “pool” reporter, meaning she could attend as long as she shared her notes with the White House to distribute to other reporters…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Obama pledges help for illegal immigrant grads: Stepping up his demand to change the nation’s immigration laws, President Barack Obama on Friday promised graduates at a vast, multicultural community college that he’ll keep working to help students not legally in the U.S. to become American citizens.
    The president’s renewed endorsement of the DREAM Act, which has become a rallying cry for Hispanic and other students around the country, drew enthusiastic applause from more than 3,000 graduates of Miami Dade College at their commencement ceremony. The students are part of an increasingly important political constituency in a state that will be crucial to the president’s 2012 re-election hopes.
    The college graduates more Hispanic students than any other higher education institution in the U.S. Obama took note that some students had recently identified themselves publicly as immigrants without legal status in the country. “Some were brought here as young children and discovered the truth only as adults,” he said. “They put their futures on the line in hopes they will spur the rest of us to live up to our most cherished values.”… – AP, 4-29-11
  • Shuttle flight is delayed; Obama visits Giffords: The president was on his way. Space shuttle Endeavour’s astronauts were riding out to the launch pad in a van. And a wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had flown in from her Houston rehab hospital to watch her husband blast off Friday on the historic, next-to-last shuttle mission.
    Then it all came to a sudden stop. Without warning, a faulty heater part forced NASA to scrub the launch and slam the brakes on the space agency’s biggest event in years, a flight made more fascinating to many by the plight of Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, the mission commander…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Obama meets with wounded congresswoman Giffords: President Barack Obama met Friday with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt in January. The reunion was a bright spot for the president in a day otherwise marked by storm devastation in Alabama and by disappointment in the cancellation of the space shuttle Endeavour’s final launch.
    Obama and Giffords, the wife of the shuttle mission’s commander, were in Cape Canaveral to witness the Endeavour’s liftoff. The launch was scuttled due to technical problems.
    According to an account provided by the White House, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama saw Giffords for about 10 minutes in a room of Kennedy Space Center’s launch command building. No reporters were allowed to witness the president’s visit with the congresswoman, who is still recuperating from a head wound.
    Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, greeted Obama in a corridor, saying, “I bet you were hoping to see a rocket launch today.” Obama replied: “We were hoping to see you.”… – AP, 4-29-11
  • Labor Dept. honors Memphis sanitation workers: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis on Friday honored the 1,300 black workers who took part in the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968, taking a swipe at governors who are trying to curtail public union employees’ benefits. The strike, where Martin Luther King Jr. made his final campaign before an assassin’s bullet took his life, played a major role in the civil rights movement and the fight for social and economic justice for black workers. It is also considered a watershed moment in the history of collective bargaining rights for public employees, a point Solis raised as she criticized the move in some states to curb bargaining rights for public workers.
    “Today, some governors are using the financial crisis as an excuse to take this country backward, instead of forward,” Solis said in a ceremony at the agency’s headquarters. “But we know American workers still want and need a voice at the table. We know collective bargaining gives them that seat.”…
    Eight of the men who took part in the strike, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, attended the Labor Department ceremony. The men also met earlier with President Barack Obama at the White House. The White House says Obama is committed to the cause for which the workers marched “as workers across the country continue to face challenges to their rights.”… – AP, 4-29-11
  • Obama taps ambassador to Sweden as finance chair: President Barack Obama has tapped a top fundraiser now serving as ambassador to Sweden to be his 2012 campaign finance chairman. Matthew Barzun will take the post held by Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker in Obama’s 2008 campaign. The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign spending, says Barzun raised at least $687,000 for that race…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Obama invites congressional leadership to dinner: President Barack Obama has invited the bipartisan congressional leadership and key committee leaders to dinner Monday at the White House, an overture in the midst of partisan clashes over spending and health care. The invitation is to leaders of the House and Senate and to committee chairmen and ranking members — a big contingent of lawmakers and their spouses and a signal that the dinner is not devoted to an exclusive topic.
    The White House says the dinner, hosted by the president and first lady Michelle Obama, will also include Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, as well as members of the Cabinet and senior White House aides…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Dem official: Obama going to Boston for fundraiser: President Barack Obama is heading back to Boston for another political fundraiser. A Democratic official with knowledge of the event tells The Associated Press that the fundraiser is planned for May 18 at the Boston Center for the Arts in the city’s South End neighborhood. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement had not yet been made…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Shuttle scrubbed, Obama still visiting NASA: President Barack Obama visited Cape Canaveral Friday, despite NASA postponing the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour. Obama and his family had planned to watch the second-to-last space shuttle launch. Instead, the president was to tour an orbiter processing facility at NASA…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Obama on Alabama tornado damage: ‘I’ve never seen devastation like this’… Obama to Alabama residents: “We’re going to make sure you’re not forgotten”… –
  • FAA orders air traffic control management shake-up: The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday replaced three high-level managers in the nation’s air traffic control system following embarrassing incidents of controllers sleeping on the job and making potentially dangerous mistakes…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Report speaks of progress in Afghanistan war: The United States and its allies have made “tangible progress” in the Afghanistan war, providing the needed momentum to transfer control of seven regions to Afghan forces this summer, according to a Pentagon report that gives the first assessment since the infusion of 30,000 more American troops to the battlefield late last fall.
    Sounding a more optimistic tone than previous reviews, the semiannual report to Congress also describes difficult challenges ahead, including a significant lack of military trainers and border patrols and the slow political and governance development that could threaten the progress made in the last six months…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Obama says devastation unlike any he has ever seen: Expressing amazement at the destruction all around him, President Barack Obama on Friday stepped through the wreckage left by rampaging tornadoes and pledged help to those who survived but lost their homes in a terrifying flash. Said the president: “I’ve never seen devastation like this.”
    “We’re going to make sure you’re not forgotten,” Obama said as he and first lady Michelle Obama walked the streets of a reeling neighborhood. He said that although nothing could be done for the many who were killed — “they’re alongside God at this point” — Obama assured support for resilient survivors…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Kids visit first lady for take child to work day: Michelle Obama talked with kids about a few of her favorite things for the annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. She took dozens of questions Thursday in a light-hearted chat with about 200 children of White House employees. What’s her favorite color? Lavender. Her favorite sport to play? Tennis. Mrs. Obama says her hobbies include exercising “just to keep moving,” talking with her daughters, Sasha and Malia, and going to their soccer and lacrosse games on the weekends.
    “I do what your moms and dads do,” she said, “and when you have kids, we usually do what you do. That’s what becomes our favorite thing.”… – AP, 4-28-11
  • First lady says overseas trips a family highlight: Michelle Obama says some of the first family’s best moments have come during trips abroad. During an interview on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the first lady singled out a visit to Rome in 2009 when the president and his family met Pope Benedict XVI. She talked about watching daughters Malia and Sasha as they met the pontiff…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Obama: Storm damage in Southeast ‘catastrophic’: President Barack Obama says the damage in tornado-stricken states in the Southeast is “nothing short of catastrophic.” Speaking at the White House, Obama says the loss of life has been heartbreaking, especially in Alabama, the state hit hardest. At least 250 people have been killed in six states in the deadliest tornado outbreak in 40 years…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Obama assembles all-star cast to talk immigration: President Barack Obama is turning to a Hollywood cast of Latino celebrities and activists for help jump-starting his stalled immigration policy. The White House said the president was meeting Thursday with a group including actresses Eva Longoria, America Ferrera and Rosario Dawson “to discuss the importance of fixing the broken immigration system.”… – AP, 4-28-11
  • Widow says husband is doctor on Obama certificate: Ivalee Sinclair learned about her husband’s brush with history at the same time as the rest of the world. On Wednesday, the widow of Honolulu obstetrician David Sinclair printed a copy of President Barack Obama’s full birth certificate from the Internet, and said she recognized the familiar left-handed cursive on the document.
    “It’s my husband’s signature,” she said referring to the name signed below that of Obama’s mother in the spot for “signature of attendant.”
    Obama released the birth certificate in response to long-running questions about whether he was actually born in the United States and eligible to be president. Sinclair, who died in 2003 at 81, had an obstetrics and gynecology practice in Honolulu and delivered babies all over Hawaii when Obama was born in 1961, said his son Karl Sinclair, 55, of Kailua…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Obama Releases ‘Long Form’ Birth Certificate: President Obama on Wednesday posted online a copy of his “long form” birth certificate from the State of Hawaii, hoping to finally end a long-simmering conspiracy theory among some conservatives who have asserted that he was not born in the United States and was not a legitimate president….
    “The president believed the distraction over his birth certificate wasn’t good for the country,” Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, wrote on the Web site Wednesday morning. Mr. Pfeiffer said on the site that Mr. Obama had authorized officials in Hawaii, who had routinely made available a shorter version of the birth certificate, to release the longer, more complete document.
    “Over the last two and a half years, I have watched with bemusement,” President Obama said in brief remarks at the White House. “I’ve been puzzled by the degree to which this thing just kept on going.” Mr. Obama said there would be a “segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest.” But he said that he was “speaking to the vast majority of the American people as well as to the press — we do not have time for this kind of silliness.”… – NYT, 4-28-11
  • Analysis: Obama had no choice in ‘birther’ fight: Confronting doubters who harbor questions about his place of birth, President Barack Obama chose to defy one of his White House’s own rules: Don’t get dragged into the news skirmish of the day. This time, he decided he had to. In an extraordinary step, the White House produced a copy of his detailed Hawaii birth certificate Wednesday after obtaining a special waiver from the state to make it public. For his allies and even many of his political critics, it was about time.
    The debate over his birth was becoming a media preoccupation. Celebrity developer Donald Trump, who took the lead in sowing doubts about Obama’s birth, was gaining a following as he flirted with a Republican presidential bid. A recent poll showed two-thirds of all Republicans — and smaller percentages of independents and Democrats — believing Obama was born overseas or voicing uncertainty about his place of birth.
    Standing in front of cameras in the White House briefing room Wednesday, the president sought to rise above the fray by first succumbing to it. “We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshow and carnival barkers,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Officials: Obama to shuffle national security team: The White House says President Barack Obama will make personnel announcements Thursday, and officials tell The Associated Press the president will unveil a major shuffling of his national security team…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • A look at Obama’s new national security team: The main figures in President Barack Obama’s national security shuffle….
    LEON PANETTA, 72…
    GEN. DAVID PETRAEUS, 58…
    RYAN CROCKER, 61…
    MARINE CORPS LT. GEN. JOHN R. ALLEN, 57 –
    AP, 4-28-11
  • Obama’s day: A new war council: This afternoon, Obama will unveil a national security team, formally nominating CIA Director Leon Panetta to be the new secretary of Defense to replace the retiring Robert Gates. Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, will move to the CIA to replace Panetta. USA TODAY notes that Obama “may be reshuffling his national security team, but he’s sticking to the same game plan: fighting insurgents and terrorists with a closely coordinated military-intelligence complex.”… – USA Today, 4-28-11
  • >In one stroke, a new Obama national security team: The reshuffled national security team President Barack Obama introduced on Thursday will be charged with fighting not only the overseas war in Afghanistan but also budget battles on the home front over Pentagon spending that has ballooned into a fat target for deficit hawks. His own re-election campaign approaching, Obama turned to a cast of familiar and respected officials for the most sweeping reworking of his national security team since the opening weeks of his presidency. He invoked the political upheaval and violence roiling the Middle East, the nearly 10-year-old Afghan war and the hard cost-cutting decisions ahead as the country tries to reduce its crushing debt.
    “Given the pivotal period that we’re entering, I felt that it was absolutely critical that we had this team in place so that we can stay focused on our missions, maintain our momentum and keep our nation secure,” Obama said at the White House…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Govt urging food companies to limit ads for kids: The government is pressuring food companies to cut back on marketing unhealthy foods to children, releasing guidelines Thursday that could phase out advertisements on television, in stores and on the Internet if companies agree to go along with them. Under the voluntary guidelines, companies would be urged to only market foods to children ages 2 through 17 if they are low in fats, sugars and sodium and contain specified healthy ingredients. The proposal sets parameters that are stricter than many companies have set for themselves…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Obama declares Ala. emergency after deadly storms: President Barack Obama has declared an emergency in Alabama after a wave of tornado-spawning storms swept across the state Wednesday, killing at least 58 people. In a statement released late Wednesday, Obama said he had spoken with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and approved his request for emergency federal assistance, including search and rescue assets…. – AP, 4-27-11
  • FAA shifts managers after Obama plane incident: A week after a plane carrying first lady Michelle Obama aborted a landing at Andrews Air Force Base, the Federal Aviation Administration has changed top managers at the radar center that handled the aircraft. FAA spokeswoman Sasha Johnson said the agency has returned the acting manager of the Warrenton, Va., regional radar center to his previous duties as assistant manager. The facility’s manager — who had been temporarily working at headquarters — is back in charge of the center…. – AP, 4-27-11
  • In NH, Trump takes credit for Obama birth info: After weeks of suggesting Barack Obama was born in Africa, Donald Trump hastened to boast that he had forced the Democratic president to release a detailed Hawaii birth certificate disproving that claim, painting an apparent setback as a victory within minutes of arriving in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
    The developer and reality TV show host, who is considering a White House run, again showed the difficulty establishment Republicans are having in controlling the early stages of their wide-open nominating contest. He also proved himself a nimble messenger, or spinner.
    “Today I am very proud of myself because I have accomplished something that nobody else has been able to accomplish,” Trump told reporters Wednesday shortly after his black and red helicopter, emblazoned “TRUMP” on the side, touched down in Portsmouth.
    He arrived not long after the White House released the president’s long-form birth certificate from Hawaii. He said he was honored “to have played such a big role in hopefully — hopefully — getting rid of this issue. Now, we have to look at it, we have to see, is it real.”… – AP, 4-27-11
  • Hawaii government hands over Obama’s birth records: Until this week, Hawaii officials said they wouldn’t release original birth records for anyone, under any circumstances. Even if it was President Barack Obama. Then they heard from the president himself.
    “I am writing to request two certified copies of my original certificate of live birth,” the president wrote on White House letterhead, dated April 22.
    State officials then decided to make an exception to a 2001 policy that prohibited anyone from getting a photocopy of an original birth certificate. They usually hand out computer-generated versions. Obama’s waiver was the first since 2001. Officials said it would be the last…. – AP, 4-27-11
  • Obama sending Panetta to Pentagon, Petraeus to CIA: In a major national security reshuffle, President Barack Obama is sending CIA Director Leon Panetta to the Pentagon to replace Robert Gates, a widely praised Bush holdover, and replacing Panetta at the spy agency with Gen. David Petraeus, the high-profile commander of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Obama’s changes, expected to be announced at the White House on Thursday, also will include a new ambassador and war commander in Afghanistan. However, they don’t signal any major adjustment in the president’s Afghan strategy or the fight against violent extremism. The moves cement a planned drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan in July and allow Obama to replace Gates, a Republican, with a Democrat with partisan credentials. That appointment also diminishes speculation that Petraeus might become a Republican presidential challenger in 2012…. – AP, 4-27-11
  • Panetta and Petraeus in Line for Top Security Posts: President Obama will reshuffle his national security team on Thursday, naming Leon E. Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as defense secretary and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, to lead the C.I.A., administration officials said Wednesday. The appointments, set in motion by the impending retirement of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, are the most significant realignment of Mr. Obama’s war council and could have important implications for the American strategy in Afghanistan as well as for the troubled relationship with Pakistan…. – NYT, 4-27-11
  • NASA braces for Giffords, Obama, huge launch crowd: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords left hospitals behind Wednesday for the first time since her tragic shooting nearly four months ago and traveled to NASA territory for the next-to-last space shuttle launch with her husband in command.
    “Gabby is looking forward to some time away from the rehab center & the chance to see Captain Mark Kelly launch again!” Giffords’ staff posted on her Facebook page. Space shuttle Endeavour is due to blast off Friday afternoon with Kelly at the helm. It will be Endeavour’s final voyage after 19 years of spaceflight, as the shuttle era nears the end…. – AP, 4-27-11
  • Obama, hoping to end ‘sideshow,’ offers birth form: Confronting growing doubts that could undermine his re-election bid, President Barack Obama on Wednesday delivered an extraordinary rebuttal to those questioning whether he was born in the United States and eligible to hold office, producing a detailed birth certificate and pleading for a long “sideshow” to end…. – AP, 4-27-11
  • Obama goes to NYC for money, Chicago for Oprah: President Barack Obama plunged into donor-rich New York on Wednesday, his first fundraising sweep of the city since announcing his re-election bid this month, with a lament that he has not seen his wish for less-polarizing politics realized.
    “The hope that I had that we’d start coming together in a serious way … has been resisted,” Obama told 60 contributors gathered for dinner at the Central Park home of financier and former New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.
    His intention, Obama said, is to make the 2012 campaign an “election in which we’re not just talking slogans … but we are looking soberly at the choices we face.”
    The president’s donor outreach came on a whirlwind day that began by taking on “birthers” who dispute that he was born in the United States and by producing his detailed birth certificate. He also flew home to Chicago to help pal and supporter Oprah Winfrey close out her syndicated talk show with a “big get” — an interview with him.
    “Today was a fun day,” Obama said at his first fundraising event at Corzine’s apartment. “Nobody checked my ID at the door. But it was also a serious day because part of what happened this morning was me trying to remind the press and trying to remind both parties that what we do in politics is not a reality show. It’s serious.”… – AP, 4-27-11
  • Obama strongly disapproves of public union limits: President Barack Obama says he strongly disapproves of new laws restricting public employee unions in Ohio and Wisconsin and says states should not use the financial crisis as an excuse to erode bargaining rights…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • Ex-Dept. of State spokesman to teach at Penn State: A former U.S. State Department spokesman who quit after criticizing the military’s treatment of an Army private accused of leaking documents to WikiLeaks has accepted a position at Penn State’s law school. P.J. Crowley’s one-year appointment as the Omar Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership begins Aug. 1. It’s a joint post with Dickinson College and the U.S. Army War College…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • WH calls questions on Obama birthplace distraction: The White House says questions about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate are an unfortunate distraction when so many other serious issues like high gas prices are bedeviling the country.
    Press Secretary Jay Carney said in response to a reporter’s questions Tuesday that most Americans “would be appalled” that White House officials are spending any time discussing Obama’s birth certificate given numerous other problems to contend with…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • Obama reissues call to end oil company tax breaks: Amid rising gasoline prices at the pump, President Barack Obama urged congressional leaders Tuesday to take steps to repeal oil industry tax breaks, reiterating a call he made in his 2012 budget proposal earlier this year. The White House conceded his plan would do nothing in the short term to lower gas prices.
    The president wrote a letter to the bipartisan congressional leadership on Tuesday, a day after Republican House Speaker John Boehner said he was willing to “take a look at” repealing the multibillion-dollar tax subsidies enjoyed by the major oil companies.
    “High oil and gasoline prices are weighing on the minds and pocketbooks of every American family,” Obama wrote. But he also added that “there is no silver bullet to address rising gas prices in the short term.”… – AP, 4-26-11
  • Countdown begins for next-to-last shuttle launch: The astronaut husband of wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords arrived at NASA’s launch site Tuesday for this week’s flight of space shuttle Endeavour, and said his wife would be following him “pretty soon” — in plenty of time for liftoff. Endeavour is set to blast off Friday afternoon on its final voyage. It will be the next-to-last space shuttle mission. Navy Capt. Mark Kelly and his crew flew into Kennedy Space Center early Tuesday afternoon. The countdown began about an hour later…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • Obama returns to local TV, meets with UAE leader: President Barack Obama will continue to press his ideas on how best to reduce the nation’s debt on Tuesday. He’ll discuss his thoughts in a series of White House interviews with local TV stations from Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit and Norfolk, Va…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • Another air controller fired for sleeping on job: The Federal Aviation Administration says a third air traffic controller has been fired for napping on the job. An email from the agency says the controller assigned to Boeing Field in Seattle was fired Monday for sleeping on duty on April 11 and Jan. 6…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • As economy gains strength, Fed weighs what’s next: The Federal Reserve is increasingly confident in the economy and about to end a $600 billion program to support it. Now for the next step — figuring out how to keep inflation from taking off.
    Since late last year, the Fed has bought government bonds to keep interest rates low. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his colleagues are expected to signal this week that they will allow the program to expire as scheduled in June…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Obamas host annual White House Easter egg roll: Thousands of kids and their parents swarmed the White House grounds Monday for the annual tradition of rolling Easter eggs across the South Lawn, complete with games, storytelling and a visit from the Easter Bunny. “I hope everybody is having a great time here,” President Barack Obama said in kicking off Monday’s event. He was joined on a balcony overlooking the sun-drenched South Lawn by his wife, Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and mother-in-law, Marian Robinson. Mrs. Obama said it was “pretty amazing” that a record 30,000 were expected to attend. All 50 states and Washington, D.C., were represented, according to the White House. “We are so excited about this year’s Easter egg roll,” she said. “The theme is ‘Get Up and Go!’ because, as you know, I’m a big proponent of getting up and going, making sure we’re moving and eating healthy, and this Easter egg roll reflects all of that.”… – AP, 4-25-11
  • Obama’s Easter festivities; Afghanistan meeting: President Barack Obama handles one of the more fun parts of his job to start the week — the annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House. He’ll be joined on the South Lawn by members of his family Monday morning, and will make a few remarks…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Obama attends Easter service at historic church: President Barack Obama and his family attended Easter service Sunday at a Washington church founded in 1863 by freed slaves. The first family entered Shiloh Baptist Church to a round of applause on a sun-splashed day in the nation’s capital as members of a choir dressed in black, white and gold sang “Total Praise.”
    Obama shook a few hands and hugged some members of the congregation as he and his wife, Michelle, and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, walked to a second-row pew.
    According to the church’s pastor, Dr. Wallace Charles Smith, 21 freed slaves made it to the nation’s capital from Fredericksburg, Va., to establish a place where they could worship freely and where “they could reach others with the good news of their salvation.”… – AP, 4-25-11
  • Leaked files reveal new info on Gitmo detainees: Secret documents about detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison reveal new information about some of the men that the United States believes to be terrorists, according to reports about the files released by several American and European newspapers. The U.S. government criticized the publication as “unfortunate.”
    The military detainee assessments were made public Sunday night by U.S. and European newspapers after the WikiLeaks website obtained the files. The records contain details of the more than 700 detainee interrogations and evidence the U.S. had collected against these suspected terrorists, according to the media outlets…. – AP, 4-25-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Group of 6 senators hones plan to cut US deficits: A bipartisan group of six senators is closing in on what could represent the best chance for tackling a deficit crisis that has forced the government to borrow more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends. Their plan, still a work in progress, would reduce borrowing by up to $4 trillion over the next decade by putting the two parties’ sacred cows on the chopping block. Republicans would have to agree to higher taxes while Democrats would have to accept cuts in popular benefit programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and maybe even Social Security. There is urgency to their work…. – AP, 5-1-11
  • Reid: Add deficit ‘cap’ to debt legislation: The leader of the Democratic-controlled Senate said Wednesday that any legislation increasing the government’s ability to borrow more money to meet its obligations should contain a cap on how big the deficit can be in any given year. Majority Leader Harry Reid said the mechanism would involve a new law binding Congress to reduce the deficit. The Nevada Democrat didn’t give further details, but several proposals on Capitol Hill would trigger automatic spending cuts or tax increases if Congress can’t meet spending or deficit targets.
    “You would just have a law that says we have to do it,” Reid told reporters in a conference call. “There are all kinds of triggering mechanisms.”… – AP, 4-27-11
  • Leader: US Senate will move on oil subsidies: President Barack Obama’s most powerful ally in Congress said Wednesday that the Senate will turn quickly to legislation to repeal billions of dollars in U.S. government subsidies enjoyed by big oil companies every year. Majority Leader Harry Reid, as Democrat, said the Senate will consider as early as next week Obama’s proposal to repeal the tax breaks. Obama wants to use that $4 billion a year to invest in alternative energy in an effort to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.
    “There’s no necessity for these subsidies,” Reid told reporters. “The companies have broken all records for profits.”… – AP, 4-27-11
  • Congressional Republicans go home to mixed reviews: …The Republican plan to fundamentally restructure Medicare and cut social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid has at times been a raucously tough sell as its supporters head home and meet with their constituents, including Democrats organized against them. Even the architect of the plan, Rep. Paul Ryan, has been booed, though many of those attending four meetings Tuesday in his home state of Wisconsin were supportive.
    The GOP plan passed by the House this month envisions cutting government deficits by a total $6.2 trillion over the next decade. One of its most contentious provisions calls for eventually transforming Medicare into a voucher-like system in which private insurance plans, not the government, pay medical bills. The plan has drawn scorn from Democrats, including President Barack Obama, who want wealthier Americans to pay higher taxes to help reduce the deficit…. – AP, 4-26-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • Utah suing federal government over wilderness plan: The state of Utah filed a lawsuit Friday against the federal government over an Obama administration plan to make millions of acres of undeveloped land in the West eligible for federal wilderness protection. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert called the plan a “midnight ambush.” He agreed that wilderness areas deserve protection but said the federal policy circumvents state efforts to determine what areas should be deemed wilderness and whether it would harm Utah’s economy.
    Herbert, a Republican, said he hoped Alaska, Idaho and Wyoming would soon join the lawsuit. The three states also have Republican governors. A spokesman for the Wyoming attorney general’s office said the state is considering its options. Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter also planned to review the lawsuit…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Appeals court won’t halt stem cell research funds: Opponents of taxpayer-funded embryonic stem cell research lost a key round Friday in a federal appeals court ruling that gives support to the Obama administration’s expansion of the promising but disputed approach to finding disease cures.
    In a 2-1 decision, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled that opponents are not likely to succeed in their lawsuit to stop federal financing of stem cell research and overturned a district judge’s order that would have blocked the funding.
    The panel reversed an opinion issued last August by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who said the research likely violates the law against federal funding of embryo destruction.
    The White House said the ruling was a victory for scientists and patients. “Responsible stem cell research has the potential to treat some of our most devastating diseases and conditions and offers hope to families across the country and around the world,” spokesman Nick Papas said…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • SUPREME COURT NOTEBOOK: Justices staying put: For the first time since Barack Obama became president, spring at the Supreme Court is lacking the scent of change. The past two years have brought the retirements of Justices David Souter and John Paul Stevens, both announced soon after the court finished hearing arguments for the term. The justices heard their last argument on Wednesday. But this year, there has not been even a whimsical rumor of a departure. To the contrary, the court’s oldest member, 78-year-old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, repeatedly expresses her intention to serve four more years…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Judge approves USDA, Indian farmers settlement: A federal judge has approved a $680 million settlement between the Agriculture Department and American Indian farmers who say they were denied loans because of discrimination. The two sides agreed on the deal last year subject to court approval. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan approved the terms Thursday….
    President Barack Obama said the settlement was “yet another important step forward in addressing an unfortunate chapter in USDA’s civil rights history.” Obama praised the roles played by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Attorney General Eric Holder in reaching the settlement.
    “Today’s approval of the settlement will help strengthen our nation to nation relationship with Indian Country and reinforce the idea that all citizens have a right to be treated fairly by their government,” Obama said…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Holder defends attorney defending gay marriage ban: The former Bush administration lawyer under fire for defending the federal ban on gay marriage is getting support from an unexpected source — Attorney General Eric Holder. Former solicitor general Paul Clement quit his law firm after it announced Monday that it was withdrawing from the case amid criticism from gay rights advocacy groups. Clement is moving to another firm to continue the work… – AP, 4-26-11
  • Court questions limits on use of prescription data: The Supreme Court cast doubt Tuesday on efforts by states to limit drug manufacturers’ use of information about the prescription drugs that doctors like to prescribe. The court took up a dispute between the state of Vermont and companies that sell doctors’ prescribing information to pharmaceutical companies, though without patient names. The drug makers use the data to tailor their pitch to individual doctors.
    The Vermont law had prevented the sale of information about individual doctors’ prescribing records without the doctors’ permission…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • Judge’s sexual orientation is issue in Prop 8 case: The sexual orientation of a judge in California’s gay marriage case has taken center stage as supporters of a voter approved ban try to overturn a ruling striking it down. The sponsors of the ban say they want to disqualify the federal judge who struck down Proposition 8, not because he is gay but because he’s been in a relationship with the same man for a decade and might want to get hitched himself…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • Firm hired by GOP ends work on gay marriage ban: A prominent law firm hired by Republican lawmakers to defend the federal ban on gay marriage said Monday it was withdrawing from the case amid criticism by advocacy groups, prompting the partner leading the work to quit. The move by Atlanta-based King & Spalding is the latest flashpoint in the public debate over gay rights. Chairman Robert Hays Jr. said the firm chose to divorce itself from the controversy after determining that the decision to take the case wasn’t vetted properly, but gay rights groups had also been pressuring the 800-lawyer company with plans for a protest Tuesday in Atlanta and with calls to its other clients. The groups cheered the move.
    The decision, however, was sharply criticized by conservative groups, legal observers and the partner who had been handling the case, a former high-ranking Justice Department official under President George W. Bush. Washington-based attorney Paul Clement said he’s moving to another law office so he can continue the work…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • High court rejects quick review of health care law: The Supreme Court rejected a call Monday from Virginia’s attorney general to depart from its usual practice and put review of the health care law on a fast track. Instead, judicial review of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation will continue in federal appeals courts.
    The justices turned down a request by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a leading opponent of the law, to resolve questions about its constitutionality quickly. The Obama administration opposed Cuccinelli’s plea.
    Only rarely, in wartime or a constitutional crisis, does the court step into a legal fight before the issues are aired in appellate courts. Hearings already are scheduled in May and June in three appeals courts…. – AP, 4-25-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Arizona gov.: Birther issue ‘path of destruction’: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer says the so-called “birther” issue is a potentially destructive issue for the U.S. Brewer was interviewed on CNN on Monday about her decision a week ago to veto an Arizona bill that would have required President Barack Obama and other presidential candidates to prove their natural-born citizenship. Brewer reiterated her veto explanation that the bill was poorly drafted. She also said she believes there’s no question that it was directed at Obama though it’s clear he was born in Hawaii…. – AP, 4-26-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Political perils abound in online rumor hothouse: How quaint: Candidate Bill Clinton’s big weapon against political attacks in 1992 was an impressive new technology called the blast fax. Fast forward two decades, and a president juggling three conflicts abroad and a budget crisis feels compelled to stand at the White House podium to swat at already-discredited questions about his place of birth.
    The Internet hothouse, where accusations can fester and flourish regardless of merit, is forcing politicians of all stripes to take even marginal attacks more seriously and to respond more quickly and forcefully. “In today’s climate, you can be innocent and still go down simply because of the sheer tonnage of negative rumors,” says Eric Dezenhall, an expert in crisis management. “Negative information need not be true. It just needs to be plausible and resonant.”… – AP, 4-30-11
  • NH GOP gets back-to-back look at 2012 hopefuls: With back-to-back events featuring multiple presidential hopefuls, it’s been something of an instant-replay kind of weekend for New Hampshire Republicans. Barely 12 hours after five possible candidates spoke Friday at a dinner in Manchester, three of them showed up less than 10 miles away for a second gathering Saturday morning. Though Rep. Michele Bachmann started from scratch with her speech, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Rick Santorum largely stuck to the highlights they delivered the previous night, when they were joined by former Gov. Mitt Romney and businessman Herman Cain.
    That was probably the point, said Wayne Lesperance, a political science professor at New England College who said multi- candidate events are more about helping candidates refine their stump speeches than winning over voters. “There’s not this crowd of undecideds wandering around these events thinking, ‘Gosh, I just don’t know who to vote for,’ and then these speeches will bring them over,” he said…. – AP, 4-30-11
  • Palin raises profile; 2012 plans unclear: Sarah Palin’s support among Republicans has shrunk and there’s no evidence she’s close to saying whether she will run for president in 2012. But it’s clear she wants to be part of the conversation. After seemingly staying on the sidelines this spring, the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee is back with public appearances, fiery criticism of President Barack Obama and a strong defense of Donald Trump, the reality TV show host who has raised questions about the president’s background without offering any proof of his assertions.
    “What the heck is wrong with asking the president of the United States to disclose what his college thesis was, what some of the Harvard Law Review papers were that he wrote?” Palin said last week. She was adding her voice to a Trump-led chorus of critics who question how much the country knows about its president. Discussing Trump, she said, “Right now, he’s got the spotlight, he’s got the megaphone. Now is his opportunity to really force a shift in debate and discussion in this country.”… – AP, 4-30-11
  • Romney says Obama looks to Europe for guidance: Likely GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama looks to Europe for guidance and doesn’t like people who work in the free enterprise system. The former Massachusetts governor said Friday that he fully embraces capitalism while Obama seems uneasy with it. He told a conservative audience in New Hampshire that the president has no private sector experience and a poor sense of how to create jobs…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Supporters say Huckabee inching toward 2012 run: Despite weeks of mixed signals, Mike Huckabee’s supporters say they believe the former Arkansas governor is now inching toward another run for president. Huckabee’s top advisers from his 2008 bid say he seems increasingly encouraged by recent polls showing him atop a scattered field of possible candidates for the 2012 Republican nomination. Ed Rollins, Huckabee’s national campaign chairman four years ago, said he has been contacting fundraisers to give Huckabee a sense of how much support he’d have for another presidential bid.
    “He’s not said to me per se, ‘Ed, I’m running,’ but we wouldn’t be having planning meetings and all of the rest of it if he wasn’t,” Rollins sai…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Potential GOP hopeful Huntsman returning to US: U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is returning to the United States this weekend amid speculation he may run for president. The former Utah governor is considered a potential contender for the Republican nomination. He announced in January that he would step down from the diplomatic post in the Obama administration this spring. He has scheduled May speeches in South Carolina and New Hampshire, two early nominating states…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Democrats launch outside fundraising group: Democratic strategists close to President Barack Obama have launched an outside fundraising group to support his re-election, financed in part by the kind of large, undisclosed contributions the president has criticized. Former White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney said Friday that the group, called Priorities USA, will battle the “extremist, right-wing” efforts of Republican-leaning independent groups who spent millions to defeat Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. The group’s goal is to raise $100 million for what is certain to be the most expensive election in history…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Santorum to NRA: Obama doesn’t understand America: Republican presidential aspirant Rick Santorum told National Rifle Association members at their annual convention Friday that President Barack Obama doesn’t “understand America,” and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told them the administration is “consistently anti-gun and anti-Second Amendment.” Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, criticized remarks the president made about two weeks ago when he said America not only was a better country because of social programs like Medicare and Medicaid but said, “I’ll go further — we would not be a great country without these commitments.” “Mr. President,” Santorum said, “You don’t understand America if you believe that,” because it implies the United States wasn’t great for most of the first 200 years of its history…. – AP, 4-29-11
  • Donald Trump in Vegas: ‘Our leaders are stupid’: Real estate developer and TV showman Donald Trump fueled speculation that he’ll enter the 2012 White House race, assuring a crowd of supporters at a Las Vegas casino that he is seriously weighing a presidential run in a speech laced with the F-word. The setting Thursday night was fitting for the casino mogul whose moniker is draped across the gold-tinged Trump International Hotel & Tower just off the Las Vegas Strip. An open bar greeted more than 1,000 people, waiters passed hors d’oeuvres, and a Trump impersonator entertained the crowd.
    At one point, a woman in the lavish reception at the Treasure Island casino yelled out that Trump should run for president. “I think I am going to make you very happy,” the developer said.
    But he later said, “There is a real good chance that no matter what happens I won’t win because one of these blood-sucking politicians who’s been bulls—ing people for years will end up still getting elected.”
    During a 30-minute stump speech focused mostly on foreign affairs, Trump sprinkled in a number of swear words and insults directed toward global leaders. “Our leaders are stupid, they are stupid people,” he said. “It’s just very, very sad.”…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Berkley charging ahead with bid for Ensign’s seat: Democratic U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley is charging ahead in her bid for one of Nevada’s U.S. Senate seats, even as her Republican rival prepares to take the post in an appointment that’s a first for the Silver State. Berkley on Thursday strove to define the 2012 contest, painting Rep. Dean Heller as a job-slaying, Social Security foe who has backed mega-corporations over middle-class families.
    She also publicly shrugged off the rural Nevada politician’s looming appointment to the U.S. Senate seat that she hopes to snag next year. “I don’t think my opponent has his priorities straight. I’ve got my priorities straight, and that’s jobs, jobs, jobs,” Berkley told reporters in Las Vegas. “The actual election is in 2012, and there will be a clear-cut difference between the candidates that will be on that ballot… It doesn’t matter what title my opponent has.”… – AP, 4-28-11
  • TV host says NBC knows Trump’s political plans: NBC was not responding to a challenge by talk-show host Lawrence O’Donnell to disclose whether Donald Trump will return next fall with “The Celebrity Apprentice.”
    “NBC has created a monster and it is called Donald Trump,” O’Donnell said in a blistering 15-minute rant on Wednesday’s edition of his show, “The Last Word,” which airs on MSNBC, a sister network of NBC. “NBC can no longer stand idly by, not for one more day,” he said. If a deal is in place for another “Apprentice” season, Trump’s attention-grabbing flirtation with a presidential bid is nothing more than a publicity stunt, O’Donnell declared.
    “If Donald Trump has committed to do (‘Celebrity Apprentice’), he is obviously not running for president,” O’Donnell said, “and all of this, every bit of it, is as fake as Donald’s reality show.”… – AP, 4-28-11
  • Daniels faces dilemma in Planned Parenthood bill: It’s anybody’s guess which Mitch Daniels will show up when it comes time to sign or veto an Indiana measure that cuts off $3 million a year in federal funding to Planned Parenthood in the state. The Indiana governor is a fiscal hawk who may not want to put at risk another $4 million a year in federal family planning grants that probably would be cut off because of the bill. But he’s also a possible presidential candidate who may need to prove to GOP primary voters that he really is an anti-abortion social conservative…. – AP, 4-28-11
  • Rick Santorum: Obama not fighting ‘militant socialism’: Likely Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is faulting President Barack Obama for a foreign policy in which he says the United States is shirking its responsibility to fight “militant socialism.”
    In prepared remarks for a speech on Thursday, the former Pennsylvania senator said U.S. policy under Obama is “premised on vague notions of hope and change that has scrambled America’s foreign policy relationships — both with our allies and our enemies.”…
    “From acquiescence to China’s saber rattling in the South China Sea to impotence in the face of Venezuela’s use of petro- dollars to expand his Bolivarian revolution in our hemisphere, President Obama has at best refused to defend our — and democracy’s — interests,” Santorum said.
    “As for Libya: It is a morass,” Santorum said. “If we were going to support the rebel forces we should have acted swiftly in the early days of Benghazi’s uprising by recognizing and arming the rebels and immediately enforcing a no-fly zone. Decisive action against (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi would have been the end of him.”… – AP, 4-27-11
  • Trump’s flirtation with presidential bid gains traction: As he stops in the key primary state of New Hampshire, his outspokenness and business savvy win support…. – LAT, 4-27-11
  • Daniels’ timeline for White House campaign ticking: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, nearing an announcement on whether to run for president, is spending the final week of his state’s legislative session pushing for the final pieces of a record that would be ready-made for a Republican campaign: a balanced budget, tax refunds and a school voucher program. This week’s unexpected decision by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Daniels friend, to forgo a presidential candidacy seemingly makes it more likely the Midwestern governor will seek the GOP nomination. Party insiders close to the two men say Barbour and Daniels, whose early careers intersected as aides to President Ronald Reagan, had indicated privately they would not both seek the 2012 nomination.
    But Daniels, 62, is not rushing to join the field. The governor, who typically keeps his own counsel, is staying mum about his plans. Even his closest advisers here say they still aren’t sure what he will do…. – AP, 4-26-11
  • Barbour out, GOP ponders as 2012 field takes shape: Republican Gov. Haley Barbour bowed out of presidential contention Monday with a surprise announcement just as the 2012 campaign was getting under way in earnest, 18 months before Election Day. The Mississippi governor said he lacked the necessary “absolute fire in the belly” to run.
    Barbour’s declaration, unexpected because he had been laying the groundwork for a campaign for months, thins a Republican cluster of no less than a dozen potential candidates to take on Democratic President Barack Obama…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • Trump: Obama wasn’t qualified for Ivy League: Real estate mogul Donald Trump suggested in an interview Monday that President Barack Obama had been a poor student who did not deserve to be admitted to the Ivy League universities he attended. Trump, who is mulling a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, offered no proof for his claim but said he would continue to press the matter as he has the legitimacy of the president’s birth certificate.
    “I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?” Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I’m thinking about it, I’m certainly looking into it. Let him show his records.”… – AP, 4-25-11
  • Sen. Nelson faces tough race in Republican region: The last time Sen. Ben Nelson ran for re-election, in 2006, Democrats held four of the six Senate seats representing the 650 miles of plains from Nebraska north to the Canadian border. If the Nebraska senator’s political fortunes don’t change, soon there will be just one. As Nelson quietly prepares for his 2012 re-election campaign, he is doing so in a region that is trending away from him. As recently as 2004, the Great Plains wasn’t just a place where Democrats could win — it was a power center, led by then Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota. Today, the region is tilting toward the GOP…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • GOP White House hopefuls shake the money trees: Republican presidential hopefuls are in the midst of a fundraising frenzy as they seek to raise mounds of campaign cash and assemble influential donor networks. With the 2012 campaign starting several months later than it did four years ago, the contenders are under intense pressure to demonstrate their ability to bring in the dough before the slower summer season begins.
    “Money is hardly the only indication of a candidate’s potential, but it’s an important indication,” said Lew Eisenberg, a top Romney fundraiser who was finance chairman for Arizona Sen. John McCain, the party’s 2008 nominee…. – AP, 4-25-11
  • NH GOP primary not just a Republican party: At fundraising dinner after dinner, state Republican Party Chairman Jack Kimball earns loud applause when he declares that New Hampshire will send forward “a good strong conservative nominee for the presidency of the United States.” But it won’t be just Republicans who pick a winner in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary next year.
    Independent voters, who make up nearly 42 percent of registered voters in the state, can participate in either party’s primary. And, given that President Barack Obama has no serious Democratic challenger, most independents are expected to cast ballots in the GOP race next February, unlike in the last presidential campaign…. – AP, 4-25-11

QUOTES


White House Photo, Pete Souza, 4/28/11
  • “The President’s Speech” at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner: We also need to remember our neighbors in Alabama and across the South that have been devastated by terrible storms from last week. (Applause.) Michelle and I were down there yesterday, and we’ve spent a lot of time with some of the folks who have been affected. The devastation is unimaginable and is heartbreaking and it’s going to be a long road back. And so we need to keep those Americans in our thoughts and in our prayers. But we also need to stand with them in the hard months and perhaps years to come.
    I intend to make sure that the federal government does that. And I’ve got faith that the journalists in this room will do their part for the people who have been affected by this disaster –- by reporting on their progress, and letting the rest of America know when they will need more help. Those are stories that need telling. And that’s what all of you do best, whether it’s rushing to the site of a devastating storm in Alabama, or braving danger to cover a revolution in the Middle East.
    You know, in the last months, we’ve seen journalists threatened, arrested, beaten, attacked, and in some cases even killed simply for doing their best to bring us the story, to give people a voice, and to hold leaders accountable. And through it all, we’ve seen daring men and women risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced, and everyone deserves to know the truth.
    That’s what you do. At your best that’s what journalism is. That’s the principle that you uphold. It is always important, but it’s especially important in times of challenge, like the moment that America and the world is facing now. – WH, 4-30-11
  • Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, is considering a bid for the presidency in 2012: He acknowledged on “Fox News Sunday” that he had made a mistake in voting for legislation to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. “Yes, I would say that that was a mistake. I said at the time, it was a 51-49 vote. In retrospect, it was probably 51-49 the other way.”
  • Michael R. Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, has been both critical and supportive of President Obama: In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Bloomberg continued that patter, suggesting that Mr. Obama has not done enough to build relationships with his potential adversaries.
    “The president’s got to start inviting people over for dinner. He’s got to play golf with them. He has to pick up the phone and call and say, ‘I know we disagree on this, but I just want to say — I heard it was your wife’s birthday or your kid just got into college.’ He has to go build friendships. That’s what an executive’s job is, and the president is a people-person. He knows how to deal with people…. Well, nobody is suggesting that he couldn’t have done a better job. I think he would tell you he could have done a better job. We can always in retrospect have done a better job.”
  • Weekly Address: Ending Taxpayer Subsidies for Oil Companies Remarks of President Barack Obama Weekly Address Saturday, April 30, 2011 Washington, DC: After the worst recession since the Great Depression, our economy is growing again, and we’ve gained almost 2 million private sector jobs over the last 13 months. But I also know that a lot of folks aren’t feeling as positive as some of those statistics might suggest. It’s still too hard to find a job. And even if you have a job, chances are you’re having a tougher time paying the rising costs of everything from groceries to gas. In some places, gas is now more than $4 a gallon, meaning that you could be paying upwards of $50 or $60 to fill up your tank.
    Of course, while rising gas prices mean real pain for our families at the pump, they also mean bigger profits for oil companies. This week, the largest oil companies announced that they’d made more than $25 billion in the first few months of 2011 – up about 30 percent from last year.
    Now, I don’t have a problem with any company or industry being rewarded for their success. The incentive of healthy profits is what fuels entrepreneurialism and helps drives our economy forward. But I do have a problem with the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies we’ve been handing out to oil and gas companies – to the tune of $4 billion a year. When oil companies are making huge profits and you’re struggling at the pump, and we’re scouring the federal budget for spending we can afford to do without, these tax giveaways aren’t right. They aren’t smart. And we need to end them.
    That’s why, earlier this week, I renewed my call to Congress to stop subsidizing the oil and gas industries. Understand, I’m not opposed to producing oil. I believe that if we’re serious about meeting our energy challenge, we need to operate on all cylinders, and that means pursuing a broad range of energy policies, including safe and responsible oil production here at home. In fact, last year, America’s oil production reached its highest level since 2003.
    But I also believe that instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, we should invest in tomorrow’s – and that’s what we’ve been doing. Already, we’ve seen how the investments we’re making in clean energy can lead to new jobs and new businesses. I’ve seen some of them myself – small businesses that are making the most of solar and wind power, and energy-efficient technologies; big companies that are making fuel-efficient cars and trucks part of their vehicle fleets. And to promote these kinds of vehicles, we implemented historic new fuel-economy standards, which could save you as much as $3,000 at the pump.
    Now, I know that in this tough fiscal environment, it’s tempting for some in Washington to want to cut our investments in clean energy. And I absolutely agree that the only way we’ll be able to afford the things we need is if we cut the things we don’t, and live within our means. But I refuse to cut things like clean energy that will help America win the future by growing our economy and creating good-paying jobs; that will help make America more secure; and that will help clean up our planet in the process. An investment in clean energy today is an investment in a better tomorrow. And I think that’s an investment worth making. Thanks for listening, and have a great weekend. – WH, 4-30-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • The President in Alabama: “We’re Going to Make Sure that You’re Not Forgotten”: Well, Michelle and I want to express, first of all, our deepest condolences to not just the city of Tuscaloosa but the state of Alabama and all the other states that have been affected by this unbelievable storm. We just took a tour, and I’ve got to say I’ve never seen devastation like this. It is heartbreaking. We were just talking to some residents here who were lucky enough to escape alive, but have lost everything. They mentioned that their neighbors had lost two of their grandchildren in the process.
    Fortunately the governor has done an extraordinary job with his team in making sure that the resources of the state are mobilized and have been brought in here. I’m very pleased that we’ve got a FEMA director in Craig Fugate who is as experienced as anybody in responding to disasters even of this magnitude. And we’ve already provided the disaster designations — we’ve already provided the disaster designations that are required to make sure that the maximum federal help comes here as quickly as possible.
    Craig is working with the teams on the ground to make sure that we are seamlessly coordinating between the state, local and federal governments. And I want to just make a commitment to the communities here that we are going to do everything we can to help these communities rebuild.
    We can’t bring those who have been lost back. They’re alongside God at this point. We can help maybe a little bit with the families dealing with the grief of having a loved one lost. But the property damage, which is obviously extensive, that’s something that we can do something about.
    And so we’re going to do everything we can to partner with you, Mr. Mayor, with you, governor. As the governor was pointing out, this community was hit as bad as any place, but there are communities all across Alabama and all across this region that have been affected, and we’re going to be making that same commitment to make sure that we’re doing whatever we can to make sure that people are okay…. – WH, 4-29-11
  • President Obama Announces New Members of his National Security Team: I want to begin by saying a few words about the devastating storms that have ripped through the southeastern United States. The loss of life has been heartbreaking, especially in Alabama. In a matter of hours, these deadly tornadoes, some of the worst that we’ve seen in decades, took mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors, even entire communities. Others are injured and some are still missing, and in many places the damage to homes and businesses is nothing short of catastrophic.
    We can’t control when or where a terrible storm may strike, but we can control how we respond to it. And I want every American who has been affected by this disaster to know that the federal government will do everything we can to help you recover. And we will stand with you as you rebuild….
    Still, we confront urgent challenges. In Iraq we’re working to bring the rest of our troops home as Iraqis secure their democracy. In Afghanistan we’re moving into a new phase, transferring responsibility for security to Afghan forces, starting to reduce American forces this summer, and building a long-term partnership with the Afghan people.
    As people across the Middle East and North Africa seek to determine their own destiny, we must ensure that America stands with those who seek their universal rights, and that includes continuing to support the international effort to protect the Libyan people. And here at home, as we make the hard decisions that are needed to reduce America’s debt, we cannot compromise our ability to defend our nation or our interests around the world…. – WH, 4-28-11Transcript
  • President Obama’s Long Form Birth Certificate: In 2008, in response to media inquiries, the President’s campaign requested his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. The state sent the campaign the President’s birth certificate, the same legal documentation provided to all Hawaiians as proof of birth in state, and the campaign immediately posted it on the internet. That birth certificate can be seen here (PDF)….. – WH, 4-27-11Transcript
  • Text of Obama’s remarks on his birth certificate: The text of President Barack Obama’s remarks Wednesday about the release of his long-form birth certificate, as provided by the White House:
    Hello, everybody. Now, let me just comment, first of all, on the fact that I can’t get the networks to break in on all kinds of other discussions — (laughter.) I was just back there listening to Chuck — he was saying, it’s amazing that he’s not going to be talking about national security. I would not have the networks breaking in if I was talking about that, Chuck, and you know it.
    As many of you have been briefed, we provided additional information today about the site of my birth. Now, this issue has been going on for two, two and a half years now. I think it started during the campaign. And I have to say that over the last two and a half years I have watched with bemusement, I’ve been puzzled at the degree to which this thing just kept on going. We’ve had every official in Hawaii, Democrat and Republican, every news outlet that has investigated this, confirm that, yes, in fact, I was born in Hawaii, August 4, 1961, in Kapiolani Hospital.
    We’ve posted the certification that is given by the state of Hawaii on the Internet for everybody to see. People have provided affidavits that they, in fact, have seen this birth certificate. And yet this thing just keeps on going.
    Now, normally I would not comment on something like this, because obviously there’s a lot of stuff swirling in the press on, at any given day and I’ve got other things to do. But two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.
    And so I just want to make a larger point here. We’ve got some enormous challenges out there. There are a lot of folks out there who are still looking for work. Everybody is still suffering under high gas prices. We’re going to have to make a series of very difficult decisions about how we invest in our future but also get a hold of our deficit and our debt — how do we do that in a balanced way.
    And this is going to generate huge and serious debates, important debates. And there are going to be some fierce disagreements — and that’s good. That’s how democracy is supposed to work. And I am confident that the American people and America’s political leaders can come together in a bipartisan way and solve these problems. We always have.
    But we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.
    We live in a serious time right now and we have the potential to deal with the issues that we confront in a way that will make our kids and our grandkids and our great grandkids proud. And I have every confidence that America in the 21st century is going to be able to come out on top just like we always have. But we’re going to have to get serious to do it.
    I know that there’s going to be a segment of people for which, no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest. But I’m speaking to the vast majority of the American people, as well as to the press. We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We’ve got better stuff to do. I’ve got better stuff to do. We’ve got big problems to solve. And I’m confident we can solve them, but we’re going to have to focus on them — not on this. – 4-27-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Obama as juggler: Multi-tasking mold shapes today’s presidency: Not really, according to Boston University presidential historian Robert Dallek. The frenetic pace of the presidency is largely a reflection of America’s role as the premier global power in the post-World War II era, Dallek told CNN. Harry Truman dealt with countless domestic crises during the Korean War; LBJ tackled the Great Society and civil rights while fighting in Vietnam.
    But in recent years, he said, the daily pace has accelerated due to the rise of the internet, wireless, and other facets of the communications revolution.
    There’s a “kind of blinding rapidity” in which one event quickly overtakes the next, said Dallek. Our attention — and that of the president — is whipped from the latest economic crisis to the newest tornado wreckage to the latest protest or outbreak of violence in the Middle East.
    Faced with a pressure for constant response, modern administrations face times “of great pressure and intense demand over a series of compelling issues,” he said…. – CNN, 5-2-11
  • Imani Perry: Some blacks see racism in ‘birther’ questions: “The stress of feeling constantly called into question, constantly under surveillance, has emotional and physical consequences for us,” said Imani Perry, a professor at Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies. “It also puts us in the position of not being able to be constituents, with respect to our politicians, because we feel we have to constantly protect the president. … You see people attacking him, and he’s the president, what happens to those of us who are not the president?”… – AP, 4-28-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer: Are we heading for royal weddings in U.S.?: On a recent trip to England, I found that it was impossible to avoid seeing coasters, posters, books and other paraphernalia being sold to mark the royal wedding on April 29. As you might expect, the wedding is drawing great interest among the British. But some Americans are following this wedding closely, too. Our fascination with royalty is not much different from our national obsession with Hollywood romances and peccadilloes.
    The royal wedding also offers Americans an opportunity to revel in the glamour of leaders in a way that has been largely impossible in the post-Watergate era, in which cynicism and distrust have characterized the national outlook toward Washington….
    The nation’s willingness to tolerate greater levels of economic inequality will mean that wealth and its attendant benefits will be transferred to narrower and narrower segments of the population, while a majority of people will be left with few opportunities to improve their conditions.
    Ultimately, we need to make sure we don’t allow economic inequality — as opposed to our democratic institutions — to define our nation. If we do, we’ll all be watching royal weddings right in our own backyard. – CNN, 4-25-11

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

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

The President speaks at Georgetown University

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

STATS & POLLS

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

IN FOCUS

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

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

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

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

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

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

THE HEADLINES….

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

112TH CONGRESS

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

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

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

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

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

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

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

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address

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

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

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

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

Revolutions in the Middle East: Libya in Chaos

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.

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

President Barack Obama addresses the Situation in Libya During a Joint Press Conference with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico

President Barack Obama addresses the situation in Libya at the start of a joint press conference with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, left, in the East Room of the White House, March 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

IN FOCUS

  • A look at political unrest in the Middle East: A look at anti-government protests, political unrest and key developments in the Middle East… – AP, 3-9-11
  • New York Times Topic: Libya — The Protests (2011)NYT
  • Arab and Middle East protestsGuardian UK
  • Libya protests: live blog of the latest developmentsGuardian UK
  • AP INTERACTIVE: Libya uprising: A look at the state of play in Libya, including a timeline, the latest news, recent photos, key players and an AP expert’s analysis. AP, 3-1-11
  • How do you spell a problem like Gadhafi?: Qaddafi, Qazzafi, Qadhdhafi, Qaththafi, Gadhdhafi, Khadafy? Gadhafi. Read about the unrest in Libya and you might wonder: The man has been in power for 41 years, can’t anyone spell his name? For a leader so notoriously mercurial, perhaps it’s fitting no one can pin down Moammar Gadhafi’s last name using the English alphabet. It’s not just media organizations, even official Libyan government documents vary widely in rendering his name in Latin letters.
    The Associated Press goes with Gadhafi. Why? It has to do with pronunciation — along with a series of letters the Libyan leader sent to American schoolchildren more than 25 years ago…. – AP, 3-10-11
  • Five myths about the Muslim Brotherhood: Myth #1: The Muslim Brotherhood is a global organization — Globally, the Brotherhood is more a school of thought than an official organization of card-carrying members. Attempts to create a more formal global structure have failed…. – WaPo, 3-4-11

THE HEADLINES….

     

  • 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
  • Source: Gadhafi willing to discuss his exitMSNBC, 3-10-11
  • Libya poses difficult question for candidates: What to do about Libya and Moammar Gadhafi? It’s not only a national security question for President Barack Obama. Twenty months before the next election, it’s a difficult political question, too, for the Republicans who hope to take his place as commander in chief. There are plenty of strong opinions coming from Capitol Hill. Lawmakers of both parties are sounding off, including some calling for immediate military action. But others are urging moderation.
    Obama met Wednesday with his top security advisers to discuss a variety of humanitarian and military options. The White House emphasized that key decisions have yet to be made…. – AP, 3-10-11
  • Hoard of Cash Lets Qaddafi Extend Fight Against Rebels: The Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi has “tens of billions” in cash secretly hidden away in Tripoli, allowing him to prolong his fight against rebel forces despite an international freeze on many of the Libyan government’s assets, according to American and other intelligence officials….
    Since the protests and fighting erupted, some of the money may have been moved into Colonel Qaddafi’s Tripoli compound, Bab Al Azizia, according to one person with ties to the Libyan government. While United States intelligence officials said they could not confirm such a move, one official said that Colonel Qaddafi “likely has tens of billions in cash that he can access inside Libya.”…. – NYT, 3-10-11
  • McCain renews push for no-fly zone over Libya: The Arizona Republican tells CBS’s “The Early Show” he understands weariness at home over U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. But McCain says the American people “are not prepared to watch … one of the two or three worst despots in the world sit and slaughter innocent civilians.”… – AP, 3-8-11
  • Frontlines hard to find in Libya’s struggleAP, 3-5-11
  • Obama’s Choice: To Intervene or Not in Libya: For President Obama, who told Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi last week that it was time to quit, the bloodshed and terror in Libya have posed a dilemma that sooner or later confronts every modern American president: whether, and how, to intervene with military force in a distant conflict.
    This time, the choice has been made even tougher by history, geography and the peculiar circumstances of Libya’s upheaval: a famously ruthless and unpredictable leader willing to do anything to cling to power, in a conflict that seems as much an African civil war as an Internet-fueled youth revolt of the kind that forced out Arab dictators in Egypt and Tunisia.
    Mr. Obama’s blunt call last Thursday for Colonel Qaddafi to leave office, coupled with a threat to leave all military options on the table if he doesn’t, made it clear that the president believes the United States cannot stand by while Libyan jets bomb civilians. But his reluctance to talk about the most obvious measure — a no-flight zone over the country — reveals his qualms about thrusting the United States into a volatile situation in a region where foreign intervention is usually viewed as cynical neo-colonialism…. – NYT, 3-5-11
  • US increases pressure on Sri Lanka over slain civilians: The United States is increasing pressure on Sri Lanka to investigate the deaths of thousands of civilians at the end of its civil war. Rights groups contend a Sri Lankan government commission has demonstrated no intent of doing it…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • In Libya, Kadafi’s forces launch assault on rebel-held city: Forces led by one of Moammar Kadafi’s sons battle to regain control of Zawiya, west of the capital. Dozens of civilians are killed, witnesses say, as is a leading rebel commander…. – LAT, 3-5-11
  • Qaddafi Brutalizes Foes, Armed or Defenseless: Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi counterattacked with brutal force on Friday, battling rebel forces on two fronts, firing on unarmed protesters in front of international news media and leaving the rebels seeking his ouster in disarray.
    Rebels gathered in Brega before pushing west to Ras Lanuf on Friday. A government brigade surrounded the rebel-controlled town of Zawiyah and opened fire with mortars, machine guns and other heavy weapons, witnesses said, in two skirmishes. More Photos »
    His militia’s actions seemed likely to stir renewed debate over international intervention to limit his use of military power against his own citizens, possibly by imposing a no-flight zone…. – NYT, 3-4-11
  • Thousands protest across Middle East for reform: Security forces opened fire to disperse crowds in Libya and Yemen as tens of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets Friday across the Middle East, hoping to oust longtime leaders as in Tunisia and Egypt, or simply to bring about more political reforms.
    The biggest demonstrations were in Yemen, where tens of thousands of people rallied in several cities — including the capital of Sanaa — calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key U.S. ally in the campaign against al-Qaida. He has promised to step down after national elections in 2013, an offer rejected by the opposition…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Libyan rebels, Gaddafi forces battle for oil sites: Libyan rebels prepared for further attacks by forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi on Friday as both sides struggled for control of a strategic coast road and oil industry facilities…. – Reuters, 3-4-11
  • Gaddafi investigated for ‘crimes against humanity’: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said he will investigate Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his sons and senior aides for crimes against humanity…. – BBC News, 3-4-11
  • Obama Authorizes Airlift of Refugees From Libya: President Obama called again on Thursday for the immediate resignation of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and said he had authorized American military airlifts to help transport refugees fleeing from Libya back to their home countries in the region.
    “The U.S. and the entire world continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people,” Mr. Obama said after a White House meeting with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico. “Muammar el-Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, and he must leave.” …. – NYT, 3-3-11
  • Obama insists every option under review for Libya: Wary that Libya’s bloody crisis could devolve into humanitarian chaos, President Barack Obama on Thursday insisted he is considering every intervention option, including military might, along with America’s allies. To Moammar Gadhafi, he declared: “Step down from power and leave.”
    Obama made clear he has not ruled out establishing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi’s air forces from bombing rebels. His broad assurance came one day after his defense chief, Robert Gates, said bluntly that a no-fly zone would amount to an act of war and warned about too much “loose talk” of U.S. military intervention in Libya.
    “I don’t want us hamstrung,” Obama said in defending his approach. “There is a danger of a stalemate that, over time, could be bloody,” Obama said in an appearance with visiting Mexican President Felipe Calderon. “And that is something that we’re obviously considering. So what I want to make sure of is, is that the United States has full capacity to act — potentially rapidly — if the situation deteriorated in such a way that you had a humanitarian crisis on our hands.”… – AP, 3-3-11
  • Libyan rebels push back assault by Gaddafi forces in port city of Brega: Libyan rebels repelled an assault by troops backing Moammar Gaddafi in a key oil port Wednesday. The battle in the town of Brega lasted for hours until the attackers beat a retreat…. – WaPo, 3-2-11
  • Khadaffi’s jets, troops attack foes: Moammar Khadaffi’s forces struck back on three fronts yesterday, using fighter jets, special forces units, and regular army troops in an escalation of hostilities that brought Libya closer to civil war… – Boston Globe, 3-1-11
  • US, Europe intensify efforts to isolate Gadhafi: The United States and European allies intensified efforts to isolate Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday, redoubling demands for him to step down, questioning his mental state and warning that those who stay loyal to him risk losing their wealth and being prosecuted for human rights abuses. Europe, which buys most of Libya’s oil exports, outlined fresh sanctions to force the dictator to stop attacks on civilians and step down after 42 years of iron-fisted rule. The European Union issued travel bans and an asset freeze against senior Libyan officials, and ordered an arms embargo on the country…. – AP, 2-28-11
  • Battle for Libya Rages as Qaddafi Strikes Back – NYT, 2-28-11
  • Libya rebels set up first political leadership: Politicians in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi said Sunday they are setting up a council to run day-to-day affairs in the eastern half of the country under their control, the first attempt to create a leadership body that could eventually form an alternative to Moammar Gadhafi’s regime. A day after a high-ranking minister who defected from the government said he was setting up a provisional government, a prominent human rights lawyer, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, held a news conference in Benghazi to shoot down the claim. Instead, he said politicians in the east were establishing a transitional council to manage daily life in the rebel-controlled areas until Gadhafi falls…. – AP, 2-27-11
  • UN, world further isolate Libya’s Gadhafi: Armed with tough Security Council sanctions, the U.N. and many nations began moving to isolate Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi from the international community in hopes of halting his deadly crackdown on protesters. The council voted 15-0 late Saturday to impose an arms embargo and urged U.N. member countries to freeze the assets of Gadhafi, four of his sons and a daughter. The council also backed a travel ban on the Gadhafi family and close associates, including leaders of the revolutionary committees accused of much of the violence against regime opponents…. – AP, 2-26-11
  • Obama says Gadhafi must leave Libya ‘now’: President Barack Obama says Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must leave now. Obama made the comments to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a private telephone conversation Saturday as they discussed the violence in Libya. The White House says Obama told Merkel that when a leader’s only means of holding power is to use violence against his people, then he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what’s right for his country by “leaving now.”… – AP, 2-26-11
  • White House: Libyans have lost faith in Gadhafi: Obama spokesman Jay Carney stopped short of calling for Gadhafi to step down. But he says it’s clear that Gadhafi’s legitimacy has been “reduced to zero.”… – AP, 2-25-11
  • Obama discusses Libya options with Turkish leader: President Barack Obama is consulting with world leaders on possible steps to deal with the violence in Libya, speaking Friday morning with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan… – AP, 2-25-11
  • Obama reaching out to Britain, France on Libya: President Barack Obama is stepping up diplomatic efforts to address the violent crackdown in Libya…. – AP, 2-24-11
  • UN to meet on further options against Libya: The U.N. Security Council will meet Friday to consider actions against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime that could include sanctions aimed at deterring his violent crackdown on anti-government protesters…. – AP, 2-24-11
  • Obama dispatches Clinton for talks on Libya: President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned the violence in Libya as “outrageous … and unacceptable” and said he was dispatching Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Geneva for international talks aimed at stopping the violence.
    Obama said he was studying a “full range of options” to pressure Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime to halt attacks against Libyans as violent clashes spread throughout the North African country. He said the options included possible sanctions that the U.S. could take with its allies as well as steps it might take by itself.
    “We are doing everything we can to protect American citizens,” Obama said in brief remarks at the White House, his first public comments after days of violence in Libya. He appeared with Clinton after the two conferred on the situation at the White House. Clinton is traveling to Geneva on Monday for talks on Libya.
    “We strongly condemn the use of violence in Libya,” Obama said. “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya.”… – AP, 2-23-11
  • Gadhafi forces strike back at revolt near Tripoli: Army units and militiamen loyal to Moammar Gadhafi struck back against rebellious protesters who have risen up in cities close to the capital Thursday, attacking a mosque where many had taken refuge and battling with others who had seized control of a local airport.
    The assaults aimed to push back a revolt that has moved closer to Gadhafi’s bastion in the capital, Tripoli. The uprising has already broken away nearly the eastern half of Libya and unraveled parts of Gadhafi’s regime…. – AP, 2-23-11
  • Obama sharpens critique of Libya amid wider unrest: The Obama administration on Wednesday sharpened its condemnation of a bloody crackdown on Libyan opposition demonstrators as it broadened its outreach to government officials, dissidents, rights activists and youth in other Arab nations across a Middle East that is seething with unrest. Amid the tumult rocking the region, Obama condemned the violence in Libya in the sharpest terms Washington has yet used and directed his administration to prepare a full range of options, including possible sanctions that could freeze the assets and ban travel to the U.S. by Libyan officials. He said he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Geneva for international talks aimed at stopping the bloodshed and formulating a unified global message to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.
    “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable,” Obama told reporters after meeting with Clinton at the White House. “So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop.”… – AP, 2-23-11
  • US condemns ‘appalling’ violence in Libya: The Obama administration on Tuesday condemned “appalling” violence in Libya, where security forces unleashed a bloody crackdown on protesters demanding the ouster of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. “This violence is completely unacceptable,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. “We believe that the government of Libya bears responsibility for what is occurring and must take actions to end the violence.”… – AP, 2-22-11
  • Arab world protests at a glance: A summary of the developments in the Arab world, as instability and anti-government protests inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia spread in the region…. – AP, 2-22-11
  • Clinton: Gadhafi must stop bloodshed: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the violence against anti-government protesters in Libya on Monday and called on the government of Moammar Gadhafi to “stop this unacceptable bloodshed.” Clinton said the world is watching event unfold in Libya “with alarm.”… At least 233 people have been killed so far, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
    “Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed,” Clinton said in what amounted to the toughest denunciation of the crackdown in Libya by the Obama administration yet…. – AP, 2-21-11
  • US condemns crackdowns on Mideast protests: A senior U.S. diplomat on Sunday condemned the brutal crackdown on opposition protesters in Libya, saying Arab leaders facing pro-democracy protests need to lead the way rather than resist reform. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Obama administration was “very concerned” about reported armed attacks by Libyan security forces on peaceful protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi.
    “We’ve condemned that violence,” Rice told “Meet the Press” on NBC. “Our view is that in Libya as throughout the region peaceful protests need to be respected.”… – AP, 2-20-11
  • Libya, Yemen crack down; Bahrain pulls back tanks: Security forces in Libya and Yemen fired on pro-democracy demonstrators Saturday as the two hard-line regimes struck back against the wave of protests that has already toppled autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia. At least 15 died when police shot into crowds of mourners in Libya’s second-largest city, a hospital official said.
    Even as Bahrain’s king bowed to international pressure and withdrew tanks to allow demonstrators to retake a symbolic square in the capital, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh made clear they plan to stamp out opposition and not be dragged down by the reform movements that have grown in nations from Algeria to Djibouti to Jordan.
    Libyans returned to the street for a fifth straight day of protests against Gadhafi, the most serious uprising in his 42-year reign, despite estimates by human rights groups of 84 deaths in the North African country — with 35 on Friday alone…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Bahrain opposition plots strategy before talks: Bahrain’s opposition wants the nation’s rulers to guarantee they will back up their conciliatory words with actions, a Shiite leader said Sunday as he and other activists weighed the regime’s offer for talks after nearly a week of protests and deadly clashes that have divided the Gulf nation. The streets in the tiny but strategically important island kingdom were calmer as efforts shifted toward political haggling over demands the monarchy give up its near-absolute control over key policies and positions…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Egypt to allow Iranian vessels through Suez Canal: Egypt has agreed to allow two Iranian naval vessels to transit the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, a military official said Friday, ending several days of confusion over their planned passage, which Israel’s foreign minister has labeled a provocation.
    The movement of Iranian naval ships past Israeli shores is of concern there because Israel considers Iran an existential threat. Those fears stem from Iran’s disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region and its threats to destroy Israel.
    The White House said the U.S. was also closely monitoring the progress of the ships, now in the Red Sea. Their passage comes as the region is being swept by anti-government unrest, including the protests that toppled Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak a week ago and left the military in charge of the country…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Obama condemns violence in Middle East: President Barack Obama on Friday condemned reports of violent reprisals against protesters in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen, and called for government restraint as unrest swept the volatile Middle East in the wake of Egypt’s uprising.
    “I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur,” Obama said. “The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people.”… – 2-18-11

QUOTES

     

  • The President on Libya: “The Violence Must Stop; Muammar Gaddafi Has Lost the Legitimacy to Lead and He Must Leave”: The United States, and the entire world, continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people. The United States is helping to lead an international effort to deter further violence, put in place unprecedented sanctions to hold the Qaddafi government accountable, and support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We are also responding quickly to the urgent humanitarian needs that are developing.
    Tens of thousands of people—from many different countries—are fleeing Libya, and we commend the governments of Tunisia and Egypt for their response, even as they go through their own political transitions. I have therefore approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help move Egyptians who have fled to the Tunisian border to get back home to Egypt. I’ve authorized USAID to charter additional civilian aircraft to help people from other countries find their way home. And we’re supporting the efforts of international organizations to evacuate people as well.
    I have also directed USAID to send humanitarian assistance teams to the Libyan border, so that they can work with the United Nations, NGOs and other international partners inside Libya to address the urgent needs of the Libyan people.
    Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: the violence must stop; Muammar Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave; those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable; and the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and dignity must be met. – WH, 3-3-11
  • STATEMENT BY SENATORS MCCAIN AND LIEBERMAN REGARDING THE SITUATION IN LIBYA: We strongly support President Obama’s declaration yesterday that Colonel Qaddafi must go. The President is correct that Qaddafi and those loyal to him—by unleashing horrific violence against the Libyan people—have lost the legitimacy to remain in power, and we agree that the United States must consider the full range of options to stop the bloodshed taking place in Libya now.
    We also applaud the measures adopted by the United States and our partners so far to ratchet up the pressure on the Qaddafi regime, including the imposition of both unilateral and multilateral sanctions, the regime’s eviction from the UN Human Rights Council, its suspension from the Arab League, and the referral of its case to the International Criminal Court.
    However, we remain deeply concerned about the situation in Libya. Despite the measures adopted by the international community, the Qaddafi regime still appears to be entrenched in Tripoli, and news reports indicate that Qaddafi’s forces are carrying out a campaign of terror against Libyan civilians. We are also deeply concerned that Qaddafi’s forces have launched offensives, including the use of airpower, against the opposition in the liberated areas of Libya.
    It is stated U.S. policy that Qaddafi must go, so now it is critical for the United States, together with our friends and allies, to ensure that he does go – as quickly as possible. A protracted and bloody stalemate in Libya would not only be an unnecessary humanitarian disaster, with the potential to destabilize a critical region. It could also create space for al Qaeda and its extremist allies to exploit the chaos. We agree with Secretary Clinton about the danger that a prolonged Libyan civil war could result in another Somalia. Moreover, if Qaddafi is able to remain in power, it would send a dangerous message that dictators should respond with brutal violence to the peaceful protest movement for universal rights that is sweeping the region and beyond…. – Lieberman Senate, 3-4-11
  • President Obama on Libya: “These Sanctions Therefore Target the Qaddafi Government, While Protecting the Assets that Belong to the People of Libya”: The Libyan government’s continued violation of human rights, brutalization of its people, and outrageous threats have rightly drawn the strong and broad condemnation of the international community. By any measure, Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable. These sanctions therefore target the Qaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya.
    Going forward, the United States will continue to closely coordinate our actions with the international community, including our friends and allies, and the United Nations. We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights, and a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Their human dignity cannot be denied. WH, 2-25-11Executive OrderLetter to Congress

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

     

  • If Gadhafi Falls, Who Would Govern Libya and How?: ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, Princeton University: The strongest argument for helping them is strategic, which is that we’ve finally seen a major shift in the narrative of the entire Middle East, from anti-Americanism and anti-Israel, and focused, really, outside to an indigenous demand for democratic government, for accountable government, for government that provides decent services, by the young people of the region who are the majority of the region.
    They are now asking us to help. They’re expecting to see us deliver on our verbal commitment to that kind of government. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is every Islamic country in the world, is asking for a no-fly zone.
    And we have a chance to actually put ourselves where our words have been for decades… – PBS Newshour, 3-9-11
  • If Gadhafi Falls, Who Would Govern Libya and How?: RICHARD HAASS, “War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars”: Let me paraphrase what you just heard. The real reason is it’s not strategic.
    Our interests in no way warrant it. Libya is by far from the most important country in the Middle East. We should be focusing on places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq. Limited interventions would not turn the thing around. No-fly zones and the like wouldn’t be decisive.
    Interventions that might be decisive would be far, far, far more costly than our interests warrant. One last thing: Who would we be helping? We know we hate Gadhafi, or people do. But are we so sure that those we would be helping are good guys? Do we really think, if we went in, they’d all be reading the Federalist Papers in Arabic translation a couple of days later?
    We simply don’t know enough about Libya. One of the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, I would suggest, only intervene militarily if you really know the country well enough to know what you’re getting into.
    We clearly do not on Libya…. – PBS Newshour, 3-9-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Obama steers clear of ‘doctrine’ as Arab tumult rages: “The closest we have to a policy is to allow the different revolutions to take place at their own pace, based on the timing of the people involved and intervening only through general statements of support,” said Julian Zelizer of Princeton University. “Other than that I don’t think there is any consistent principle.”
    “It can push you into wars where you should not be because you want to follow the logic of the doctrine,” said Zelizer. “Vietnam is a great example of where presidents from (Dwight) Eisenhower to (Lyndon) Johnson were following the logic of the ideas set out by Truman but in a war that really wasn’t that necessary and many realized they shouldn’t be in.” – AFP, 3-5-11
  • Dirk Vandewalle: What’s In Gadhafi’s Manifesto?: Moammar Gadhafi’s Green Book is the Libyan leader’s economic, social and political manifesto. First published in the 1970s, it was intended to be required reading for all Libyans. Now it’s being burned by demonstrators in Libya as Gadhafi’s grip on the country loosens. Host Melissa Block talks with Dirk Vandewalle, a professor at Dartmouth College and author of A History of Modern Libya, about what’s in the Green Book…. – NPR, 3-3-11Download MP3
  • Paul Kengor: Bush’s Middle East ‘March of Freedom’: As we watch the growing demand that Middle East autocrats and dictators step down, from Iran in June 2009 to Egypt and Libya this February, on the heels of repeated elections in post-Taliban Afghanistan and post-Saddam Iraq, the wisdom of two presidents keeps coming to mind.
    First is Ronald Reagan, who warned dictators that freedom is “contagious.” As he noted in May 1982, the Soviets feared the “infectiousness” of the freedom posed by groups like Solidarity in Poland. Eight years later, with elections held in Poland and the wall down in Berlin, Reagan, no longer president, observed: “As is always the case, once people who have been deprived of basic freedom taste a little of it, they want all of it.” Looking back at the impact of Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, he remarked: “It was as if Gorbachev had uncorked a magic bottle and a genie floated out, never to be put back in again.”
    As president, Reagan had spoken of a “march of freedom” that would leave Marxism-Leninism on the “ash-heap of history.” He said this often, but most memorably in his June 1982 Westminster speech, which also founded the National Endowment for Democracy.
    That brings me to the other president. The president who picked up Reagan’s mantle from Westminster was George W. Bush. Speaking to the National Endowment for Democracy in November 2003, Bush gave the most important address of his presidency, promising to extend Reagan’s “march” into the Middle East, the place most resistant to the freedom tide. What Bush said cannot be reiterated enough, and couldn’t be more appropriate than right now, as the next target by the people of the Middle East is the hideous Muammar Gaddafi; from the Taliban, to Saddam, to Ahmadinejad, to Mubarak, to Gaddafi…. – Spectator, 2-25-11
  • Libya’s Bloody Struggle Tests Loyalty of Gadhafi’s Forces: DIRK VANDEWALLE, Dartmouth College: Well, we should treat all the information that we’re getting right now with a grain of salt. We simply don’t know.
    What we know is that, very likely, and, at this point, there are two or three groups remaining around Gadhafi, first of all, his personal Revolutionary Guard, which is about — estimated at about 3,000 soldiers.
    And there are also some units, brigades from the army that are left loyal to Gadhafi. We don’t know much about them. Some of these units are headed by the sons of Gadhafi or by loyal friends. And then we also have a large number, estimated at least 2,000, perhaps as much as 3,000, of mercenaries that have been trained by Gadhafi, come primarily from Sub-Saharan Africa, Niger in particular, and have really been the backbone of this resistance to the uprising.
    They are headed primarily by members of — or Libyans very close to the regime, and that were part of other brigades that the regime has cultivated over the years.
    The difficulty is that we don’t really know much of what the other side has. We don’t know exactly how many of the brigade members, for example, in the eastern part of the country or — left or have been killed. We don’t know much about the weapons that they have.
    And so, particularly on the opposition side, the people who have risen up against the regime, we’re still not quite sure what exactly is there. It seems to be more of a popular movement at this particular point in time. We also don’t know if some of these brigades have gone over, for example, or how many have been repatriated into Tripoli…. – PBS Newshour, 2-24-11
  • Ghazi Gheblawi and Dirk Vandewalle: Libya and the History of Moammar Gadhafi’s Rule: Verifiable updates have been hard to come by in Libya, where more protests have been reported over the past several days. There is a notable absence of independent journalists reporting from there because of iron-clad restrictions on the press and on the Internet. Protests were reported by ex-patriots around the world who have contacts in Libya. The protests were aimed Libya’s ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, who has been in power for 41 years. What is situation in the North African country today, and what does it say about Gadhafi’s rule?
    Dirk Vandewalle, Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and author of “A History of Modern Libya” gives us some perspective on Gaddafi’s role in the country.
    Ghazi Gheblawi, a Libyan blogger and poet in London says one of his friends, a journalist, has been reported missing in Libya… – The Takeaway, 2-18-11Download
  • Libyan historian Ya’akov Hajaj-Lilof, how will the anti-Gadhafi protests end?: Historian Ya’akov Hajaj-Lilof, 69, is the director of the Institute for the Research and Study of Libyan Jewry and a member of the board of the World Organization of Libyan Jews. In recent days, he has been closely following the reports from Tripoli, Benghazi and the other locations in Libya where there has been political unrest against the regime of Muammar Gadhafi, who has been in power since 1969 and is considered the longest ruling non-royal leader in the world. Hajaj-Lilof believes that if there is a successful revolution against Gadhafi, it will be much more difficult and prolonged than those in Tunisia and Egypt.
    Who is behind the demonstrations in Libya? Who forms the opposition to Gadhafi? I attach great importance to the hatred and antagonism that exists between the two parts of that country – between the region of Cyrenaica which covers a little more than one half of the area of Libya and has Benghazi as its capital, and the region of Tripolitania with its capital, Tripoli. The focus of the unrest is in Cyrenaica where they still remember that Gadhafi overthrew King Idris I who was born in the region…. – Haaretz, 2-21-11 

Political Highlights March 7, 2011: Obama Congress Budget Showdown, Chaos in Libya, and Wisconsin War over Unions

POLITICAL HIGHLIGHTS

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

The President on Libya
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 3/3/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Over Half of Americans Give President Obama a Bad Job Rating: President Obama has a full plate. There’s the battle over the budget, which could shutdown the government if it goes badly. Labor union issues are cropping up across the country. Conflict and chaos are popping up left and right overseas and the decision to intervene weighs heavy. And, his 2012 reelection team is gearing up.
    But there’s another issue at hand: his falling approval ratings. 58% of Americans reported having a negative option of the President’s job so far, according to the Harris Poll conducted during the third week of February. This is a two percent rise over last month’s 56%. Some of the disapproval may be directly caused by partisanship. 90% of Republicans gave the President a thumbs down, while 73% of Democrats approved. Independents followed the overall trend with 60% disapproval…. – All Newswire, 3-5-11
  • A Deep Dive Into President Obama’s Public Approval Ratings: In January, President Obama had the biggest improvement in his public approval rating of his entire presidency. In February, Obama consolidated and built on his January “bump,” by posting his second-most-improved month ever. This turnaround has set the clock back for Obama over a full year (in terms of his overall polling numbers), to roughly where he was in December, 2009. All in all, not a bad month for the president…. – Business Insider, 3-3-11
  • President Obama’s 2010 Approval Ratings, State-by-State: Hawaii and Washington, D.C., approved of the president most last year, while Wyoming and Idaho thought the least of him
    President Barack Obama’s new home district and old home state liked the president best last year, according to Gallup daily tracking from January to December 2010. District of Columbia residents gave Obama an average approval rating of 84.4 percent, and Hawaii gave 65.9 percent. Wyoming and Idaho thought the least of the president, giving him an average approval rating of 27.6 percent and 31.6 percent, respectively. The biggest change came from Residents of Vermont, who dropped their average annual approval of the president 15.2 percentage points from 2009 to 52.6 percent in 2010. The ratings are based on nearly 179,000 interviews throughout the year…. – US News, 3-1-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

President Barack Obama addresses the Situation in Libya During a Joint Press Conference with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico

President Barack Obama addresses the situation in Libya at the start of a joint press conference with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico, left, in the East Room of the White House, March 3, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

  • New York Times Topic: Libya — The Protests (2011)NYT
  • Arab and Middle East protestsGuardian UK
  • Libya protests: live blog of the latest developmentsGuardian UK
  • AP INTERACTIVE: Libya uprising: A look at the state of play in Libya, including a timeline, the latest news, recent photos, key players and an AP expert’s analysis. AP, 3-1-11
  • Five myths about the Muslim Brotherhood: Myth #1: The Muslim Brotherhood is a global organization — Globally, the Brotherhood is more a school of thought than an official organization of card-carrying members. Attempts to create a more formal global structure have failed…. – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • US increases pressure on Sri Lanka over slain civilians: The United States is increasing pressure on Sri Lanka to investigate the deaths of thousands of civilians at the end of its civil war. Rights groups contend a Sri Lankan government commission has demonstrated no intent of doing it…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • In Libya, Kadafi’s forces launch assault on rebel-held city: Forces led by one of Moammar Kadafi’s sons battle to regain control of Zawiya, west of the capital. Dozens of civilians are killed, witnesses say, as is a leading rebel commander…. – LAT, 3-5-11
  • Qaddafi Brutalizes Foes, Armed or Defenseless: Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi counterattacked with brutal force on Friday, battling rebel forces on two fronts, firing on unarmed protesters in front of international news media and leaving the rebels seeking his ouster in disarray.
    Rebels gathered in Brega before pushing west to Ras Lanuf on Friday. A government brigade surrounded the rebel-controlled town of Zawiyah and opened fire with mortars, machine guns and other heavy weapons, witnesses said, in two skirmishes. More Photos »
    His militia’s actions seemed likely to stir renewed debate over international intervention to limit his use of military power against his own citizens, possibly by imposing a no-flight zone…. – NYT, 3-4-11
  • Libyan rebels, Gaddafi forces battle for oil sites: Libyan rebels prepared for further attacks by forces loyal to leader Muammar Gaddafi on Friday as both sides struggled for control of a strategic coast road and oil industry facilities…. – Reuters, 3-4-11
  • Gaddafi investigated for ‘crimes against humanity’: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has said he will investigate Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, his sons and senior aides for crimes against humanity…. – BBC News, 3-4-11
  • Libyan rebels push back assault by Gaddafi forces in port city of Brega: Libyan rebels repelled an assault by troops backing Moammar Gaddafi in a key oil port Wednesday. The battle in the town of Brega lasted for hours until the attackers beat a retreat…. – WaPo, 3-2-11
  • Khadaffi’s jets, troops attack foes: Moammar Khadaffi’s forces struck back on three fronts yesterday, using fighter jets, special forces units, and regular army troops in an escalation of hostilities that brought Libya closer to civil war… – Boston Globe, 3-1-11
  • US, Europe intensify efforts to isolate Gadhafi: The United States and European allies intensified efforts to isolate Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Monday, redoubling demands for him to step down, questioning his mental state and warning that those who stay loyal to him risk losing their wealth and being prosecuted for human rights abuses. Europe, which buys most of Libya’s oil exports, outlined fresh sanctions to force the dictator to stop attacks on civilians and step down after 42 years of iron-fisted rule. The European Union issued travel bans and an asset freeze against senior Libyan officials, and ordered an arms embargo on the country…. – AP, 2-28-11
  • Battle for Libya Rages as Qaddafi Strikes Back – NYT, 2-28-11
  • Libyan historian Ya’akov Hajaj-Lilof, how will the anti-Gadhafi protests end?: Historian Ya’akov Hajaj-Lilof, 69, is the director of the Institute for the Research and Study of Libyan Jewry and a member of the board of the World Organization of Libyan Jews. In recent days, he has been closely following the reports from Tripoli, Benghazi and the other locations in Libya where there has been political unrest against the regime of Muammar Gadhafi, who has been in power since 1969 and is considered the longest ruling non-royal leader in the world. Hajaj-Lilof believes that if there is a successful revolution against Gadhafi, it will be much more difficult and prolonged than those in Tunisia and Egypt.
    Who is behind the demonstrations in Libya? Who forms the opposition to Gadhafi? I attach great importance to the hatred and antagonism that exists between the two parts of that country – between the region of Cyrenaica which covers a little more than one half of the area of Libya and has Benghazi as its capital, and the region of Tripolitania with its capital, Tripoli. The focus of the unrest is in Cyrenaica where they still remember that Gadhafi overthrew King Idris I who was born in the region…. – Haaretz, 2-21-11

THE HEADLINES….

The President joins Jeb Bush in Florida
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 3/4/11
  • White House jabs GOP diplomat who may run in 2012: The White House is praising a departing U.S. ambassador for supporting the administration and working closely with President Barack Obama. Not much news there. Except the diplomat — former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — is a potential GOP opponent for Obama in 2012. And his ties to a Democratic president might not go over too well with Republican activists who play a large role in selecting the party’s nominee…. – AP, 3-6-11
  • National focus on debate on Muslim radicalization: Muslims in the America aren’t cooperating enough with law enforcement to counter the radicalization of young followers by al-Qaida-linked groups, said a House leader on terrorism issues, renewing debate about religion’s role in motivating extremists and what the U.S. can do without alienating the Islamic world.
    Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, asserted that al-Qaida terrorists are targeting Muslim youth in this country, previewing his hearing Thursday on the extent of the problem and the Muslim community’s response.
    “The overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding Americans, but at this stage in our history there’s an effort … to radicalize elements within the Muslim community,” he said in an interview broadcast Sunday. “It’s there and that’s where the threat is coming form at this time,” King said…. – AP, 3-6-11
  • NYC rally planned against hearing on US Muslims: A coalition of over 100 interfaith, nonprofit and governmental organizations plans to rally in New York City against a planned congressional hearing on Muslims’ role in homegrown terrorism. The coalition says Thursday’s hearing will send the wrong message to U.S. Muslims by “demonizing” them…. – AP, 3-6-11
  • Obama’s Choice: To Intervene or Not in Libya: For President Obama, who told Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi last week that it was time to quit, the bloodshed and terror in Libya have posed a dilemma that sooner or later confronts every modern American president: whether, and how, to intervene with military force in a distant conflict.
    This time, the choice has been made even tougher by history, geography and the peculiar circumstances of Libya’s upheaval: a famously ruthless and unpredictable leader willing to do anything to cling to power, in a conflict that seems as much an African civil war as an Internet-fueled youth revolt of the kind that forced out Arab dictators in Egypt and Tunisia.
    Mr. Obama’s blunt call last Thursday for Colonel Qaddafi to leave office, coupled with a threat to leave all military options on the table if he doesn’t, made it clear that the president believes the United States cannot stand by while Libyan jets bomb civilians. But his reluctance to talk about the most obvious measure — a no-flight zone over the country — reveals his qualms about thrusting the United States into a volatile situation in a region where foreign intervention is usually viewed as cynical neo-colonialism…. – NYT, 3-5-11
  • Obama offers deeper cuts, appeals for budget deal: President Barack Obama says he’s willing to make deeper spending cuts if Congress can compromise on a budget deal that would end the threat of a government shutdown. Obama’s appeal for common ground came Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address, but lacked specifics on how to bridge the $50 billion gulf that divides the White House and Democratic budget proposal from the deeper reductions offered by Republicans…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • SPIN METER: Competing, misleading claims on budget: It sounds like a pretty good starting point for negotiations: The White House and Capitol Hill Democrats say they’re ready to meet the GOP halfway in the latest round of budget talks, offering $50 billion in cuts compared with Republicans’ proposed $100 billion worth of reductions. “The White House has been willing to move halfway to where they are,” said Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council. “Talking about negotiation and compromise, that’s very important.”… – AP, 3-4-11
  • Romney seeks to address health care woes: Call it an attempt to address an obvious political vulnerability. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Saturday derided President Barack Obama’s health care law — modeled in some ways after one the ex-governor signed in Massachusetts — as a misguided and egregious effort to seize more power for Washington.
    “Obamacare is bad law, bad policy, and it is bad for America’s families,” Romney declared. “And that’s the reason why President Obama will be a one-term president.” He vowed to repeal it if he were ever in a position to do so, and drew hearty cheers from his Republican Party audience…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • Obama praises Jeb Bush on education reform: In his first year as Florida governor, Jeb Bush was vilified by Democrats as a “radical” for an education agenda they argued would undermine public schools. So it was a striking moment when, 12 years later, a Democratic president came here Friday to hail the Republican as a “champion of education reform.”
    It was even more striking to consider that President Obama, introduced by Bush for a speech at a Miami high school, was teaming up with the younger brother of the man he replaced in the White House – a predecessor he has been quick to blame for many of America’s troubles. And even more intriguing to think that, if only his last name were not Bush, Jeb would probably be the Republican Party’s best hope of beating Obama next year.
    Yet there they were, warmly shaking hands, exchanging laughs and declaring themselves brothers in arms when it comes to fixing the country’s schools.
    “I’ve gotten to know Jeb because his family exemplifies public service,” Obama said, declaring that he was “grateful to him for the work that he’s doing.”
    Bush was more muted, withholding direct praise for Obama but adding: “Mr. President, as you have said, educational achievement is not a Republican or Democrat issue.”… – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • Obama, With an Unlikely Co-Star, Pushes Bipartisanship on a Miami Visit: President Obama, road-testing his new message of bipartisan cooperation here on Friday, promoted his education agenda with Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor, and then used his first stump speech of the 2012 season to call on Democrats to “find common ground.”
    Florida will be a critical state for Mr. Obama in 2012, and Mr. Obama used his visit here to continue his effort to reposition himself toward the political center. But while he has tried to remain above the political fray in Washington, employing the classic Rose Garden strategy here in Florida seemed a bit trickier.
    His appearance with Mr. Bush seemed awkward at best. And his strikingly nonpartisan campaign speech, at back-to- back fund-raisers for Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, and other Democrats, left some in his party a bit puzzled.
    “There are times when we’re were among family, we’re among Democrats where we want to talk about being Democrats,” Mr. Obama began his speech at the first of the two fund-raisers, at the Fontainebleau hotel. “But today I want to talk to you a little about being an American, I want to talk about those things that bring us together as opposed to the things that drive us apart.”
    He went on to say that he had just visited a high school with Mr. Bush. The crowd booed and hissed. Mr. Obama pressed on, saying he knew that the name Bush was one that might not ordinarily be heard at a Democratic fund- raiser. “Even though Governor Bush and I disagree on a range of issues,” the president said, “we agree on the importance of education to America”… – NYT, 3-4-11
  • Gabrielle Giffords shooting suspect charged with murder: Gabrielle Giffords shooting suspect: Jared Lee Loughner has been charged with the murders of US District Judge John Roll and Gabrielle Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, as well as causing the deaths of four others…. – CS Monitor, 3-4-11
  • Good News on Many Economic Fronts; Oil, Housing Still Threaten Recovery: A new report shows U.S. employers added 192,000 jobs in February and the jobless rate fell to 8.9 percent. Jeffrey Brown discusses the numbers and recovery prospects with former Labor Department Chief Economist Lisa Lynch and Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight…. – PBS Newshour, 3-5-11
  • Big Jump in Private Jobs Bolsters Recovery Hopes: In all, the nation added 192,000 jobs in February, a big jump from the 63,000 added the previous month, the Labor Department reported on Friday… – NYT, 3-4-11
  • John Edwards tipster breaks silence amid federal probe: As John Edwards’ legal fight enters its final phase, the woman who tipped the National Enquirer to his affair spilled the details Thursday in The Huffington Post…. – Miami Herald, 3-3-11
  • Attorneys Seek Court Order to Press John Edwards on Sex TapeABC News, 3-3-11
  • Obama, Calderon reach trucking accord at US summit: The accord comes at a sensitive time. Mexico President Felipe Calderon has said US efforts in the fight against Mexican drug cartels haven’t curbed US demand or stemmed the flow of arms to Mexico…. – LAT, 3-3-11
  • Obama Authorizes Airlift of Refugees From Libya: President Obama called again on Thursday for the immediate resignation of the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and said he had authorized American military airlifts to help transport refugees fleeing from Libya back to their home countries in the region.
    “The U.S. and the entire world continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people,” Mr. Obama said after a White House meeting with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico. “Muammar el-Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, and he must leave.” …. – NYT, 3-3-11
  • Obama insists every option under review for Libya: Wary that Libya’s bloody crisis could devolve into humanitarian chaos, President Barack Obama on Thursday insisted he is considering every intervention option, including military might, along with America’s allies. To Moammar Gadhafi, he declared: “Step down from power and leave.”
    Obama made clear he has not ruled out establishing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi’s air forces from bombing rebels. His broad assurance came one day after his defense chief, Robert Gates, said bluntly that a no-fly zone would amount to an act of war and warned about too much “loose talk” of U.S. military intervention in Libya.
    “I don’t want us hamstrung,” Obama said in defending his approach. “There is a danger of a stalemate that, over time, could be bloody,” Obama said in an appearance with visiting Mexican President Felipe Calderon. “And that is something that we’re obviously considering. So what I want to make sure of is, is that the United States has full capacity to act — potentially rapidly — if the situation deteriorated in such a way that you had a humanitarian crisis on our hands.”… – AP, 3-3-11
  • Obama: No plans to step into NFL labor dispute: The football fan in the White House said Wednesday he expects wealthy NFL team owners and players can figure out for themselves how to share the billions of dollars that their sport generates.
    “I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do,” President Barack Obama said at a news conference, making clear he had no plans to intervene…. – AP, 3-3-11
  • Bush back in Washington to unveil Frist portrait: Tap-tap-tap went George W. Bush’s feet under his chair in the Old Senate Chamber Wednesday as he waited through a speech by his longtime friend, heart surgeon and one-time majority leader Bill Frist. The former president, invited for the unveiling of Frist’s Senate portrait, shifted in his chair. He crossed his legs. He fidgeted. “I’ll speed it up, Mr. President,” Frist said over his shoulder.
    The two could not wait to leave the place — Frist voluntarily in 2007, Bush at the end of his second presidential term, in 2009. “It takes a really good friend to get me to come back to Washington,” Bush told the crowd…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Jewish leaders say Obama meeting was positive: Jewish organizational leaders rejected the notion that their meeting with President Obama was negative in any way. A JTA article this week reported that President Obama, in a meeting Tuesday with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reaffirmed American support for Israeli security and discussed U.S. policy in the Middle East in a spirit of cordiality and respect.
    But the article also noted negative reactions to the president’s view that Palestinians are prepared for a deal but that supporters of Israel ought to “search your souls” over the Jewish state’s seriousness about making peace.
    The Conference of Presidents issued a clarification late Wednesday that, notwithstanding “certain public reports,” Obama has conducted the meeting “in an atmosphere of warmth, friendship and openness and there as no expression of hostility toward Israel or its government.” “The President articulated his expectations of all parties with respect to the Middle East peace process,” conference leaders said. “The President underscored the unprecedented security cooperation with and support for Israel. He asserted his commitment to maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge and to sustaining foreign aid to Israel. The President asserted that efforts to delegitimize Israel would be met with a firm response.”… – JTA, 3-3-11
  • Less Drama in White House After Staff Changes: A new order and a calmer management style have prevailed since William M. Daley took over as chief of staff from Rahm Emanuel and David Plouffe succeeded David Axelrod…. – NYT, 3-3-11
  • Obama condemns assassination in Pakistan: President Barack Obama on Wednesday condemned the assassination of the only Christian member of Pakistan’s government, calling the slaying of Shabaz Bhatti a “horrific act of violence.” Republicans and Democrats in Congress echoed Obama’s outrage, hours after Bhatti was gunned down outside his mother’s home. His slaying came just weeks after the killing of liberal politician Salman Taseer. The two men had pushed to change laws that impose the death penalty for insulting Islam…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Fed survey: Economy expands throughout US: The U.S. economy expanded in January and early February in all parts of the country, but businesses reported they are under pressure to raise their prices. A Federal Reserve survey released Wednesday showed that all 12 of the Fed’s regions reported growth at a “modest to moderate pace” and it pointed to a pickup in job creation in each…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • GOP governors and Obama at impasse over Medicaid: Strained state budgets and a new crew of Republican governors have combined to reopen the debate over Medicaid, the health care program for the poorest and sickest Americans. GOP governors want control of the purse strings and leeway to rewrite coverage and payment rules. So far President Barack Obama has turned them down, but he may be forced to give some ground if negotiations to reduce federal debt get serious later this year…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Obama condemns shooting of US troops in Germany: President Barack Obama says he’s “saddened and outraged” by the shooting in Frankfurt, Germany, that killed two U.S. Air Force personnel and injured two others. The president says the U.S. will spare no effort in finding out how the “outrageous” act took place and will ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice. It happened on a bus outside the Frankfurt airport on Wednesday. Obama called it a tragedy…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Senate to send Obama a stopgap GOP spending bill: In an early victory for Republicans, the Democratic Senate is voting to send President Barack Obama a GOP-drafted measure that cuts $4 billion in spending as the price for keeping the government open for an additional two weeks. Sweeping bipartisan support is expected Wednesday for the measure, which passed the House on Tuesday by a 335-91 tally. More than 100 Democrats broke with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California to support it… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Gov’t shutdown averted as House votes $4B cuts: The House passed emergency short-term legislation Tuesday to cut federal spending by $4 billion and avert a government shutdown. Senate Democrats agreed to follow suit, handing Republicans an early victory in their drive to rein in government. The bill that cleared the House on a bipartisan vote of 335-91 eliminates the threat of a shutdown on March 4, when existing funding authority expires. At the same time, it creates a compressed two-week timeframe for the White House and lawmakers to engage in what looms as a highly contentious negotiation on a follow-up bill to set spending levels through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • House approves two-week funding measure, putting Congress on track to avert government shutdown: The House on Tuesday approved a stopgap measure that would keep the federal government funded through March 18 and cut $4 billion in spending by targeting programs that President Obama has already marked for elimination. The measure, which passed the House on a 335 to 91 vote, now goes to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that the measure is likely to be approved in the Senate within the next 48 hours. If Congress does not pass a funding resolution by Friday, the federal government would be forced to shut down, but the apparent agreement between the two chambers seems likely to avert that possibility in the short-term. – WaPo, 3-1-11
  • Streep, James Taylor among cultural medalists: President Barack Obama honored 20 artists, scholars and writers — from James Taylor to Quincy Jones, from Philip Roth to Joyce Carol Oates — in a salute to the arts and humanities that embraced both celebrity and quiet achievement. The president and first lady Michelle Obama filled the East Room of the White House Wednesday with an array of talent that transcended generations and reached into the worlds of letters and music, history and dance, criticism and film.
    “One of the great joys of being president is getting a chance to pay tribute to the artists and authors, poets and performers who have touched our hearts and opened our minds,” Obama said, adding with a knowing look, “or in the case of Quincy Jones and James Taylor, set the mood.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Geithner wants housing overhaul bill in 2 years: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is telling Congress that the Obama administration wants Congress to approve legislation overhauling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation’s troubled housing finance giants, within two years… – AP, 3-1-11
  • Politics and bedfellows: President Obama on Monday made favorable mention of Mitt Romney’s role in expanding health-care coverage in Massachusetts, highlighting what has become a giant political liability for the former governor and likely 2012 Republican candidate…. – Philadelphia Inquirer, 3-1-11
  • Obama to Back Easing Health Law Rules for States: The announcement is the first time the president has called for changing a central component of his signature health care law.
    The president plans to tell governors on Monday that he supports letting states opt out of parts of the health plan earlier than is currently permitted… – NYT, 2-28-11
  • Health care reform: How big is Obama’s concession?: On Monday, President Obama offered to let states design their own health systems, as long as they meet the overall goals of the national health care reform plan…. – CS Monitor, 2-28-11
  • Obama: Flexibility OK, but health care law remains: Anxious to ease deepening political tensions with the states, President Barack Obama on Monday told governors he wants to speed up their ability to enforce his signature health care law on their own terms. But his concession goes only so far: He warned he won’t allow states to weaken the law. He also told them not to vilify their own states’ public workers while struggling with spending cuts.
    Hosting governors of both parties on his own turf, Obama offered them what they often request: more flexibility as they cope with painful budget dilemmas. Declaring that he would “go to bat for whatever works,” Obama supported letting states propose their own health care plans by 2014 — three years faster than the current law allows…. – AP, 2-28-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • House Republicans Move to Uphold Marriage Act: House Republicans quietly moved Friday to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages, saying they would step in to argue for the measure’s constitutionality after the Obama administration’s decision to stop defending it. Republican leaders had the option of inserting themselves in the case by introducing a resolution on the House floor and allowing members to speak out on the issue. Instead they released a statement of their intent on a Friday afternoon when the House was out of session…. – NYT, 3-5-10
  • Speaker launches effort to defend gay marriage ban: House Speaker John Boehner said Friday the House may go to court to defend the federal law against gay marriage, which President Barack Obama’s administration has concluded is unconstitutional…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • Capitol ceremony for WWI vet blocked in Congress: West Virginia’s two Democratic senators blamed House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday after their hopes of having the remains of World War I veteran Frank Buckles honored in the Capitol Rotunda were dashed, at least for now. Buckles died Sunday on his farm in Charles Town, W.Va., at the age of 110. He had been the last surviving American veteran of World War I. The episode turned what West Virginia lawmakers had hoped would be easy approval for the rare honor for Buckles into a finger-pointing dispute with partisan overtones…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Democrats unveil counteroffer easing GOP cuts: Senate Democrats unveiled a detailed counteroffer Friday seeking to undo tens of billions of dollars in cuts Republicans would make to education, housing and other domestic programs. With the two parties maneuvering for advantage in their budget clash, the Democratic plan conforms to President Barack Obama’s opening gambit to cut another $6.5 billion from domestic agencies. But neither it nor the $61 billion in cuts passed by House Republicans is expected to survive test votes next week in the Senate…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Economic recovery colors federal budget debate: Would a partial government shutdown – or the spending cuts needed to avoid it – risk the nation’s economic recovery and nascent job creation?… – USA Today, 3-4-11
  • Senate Republicans push to oust Medicare chief: Unable to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, Republicans are trying to oust the official who is quarterbacking the overhaul of the nation’s medical system. In a letter released Thursday, 42 Republican senators asked the president to withdraw the nomination of Dr. Donald Berwick as Medicare administrator, saying his experience isn’t broad enough and past statements raise fundamental questions about his views on policy…. – AP, 3-3-11
  • Republican McCarthy Says U.S. Budget Will Tackle Entitlements: U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy, third-ranking Republican in the House, places politicians in two camps, “thermometers” and “thermostats.” He says President Barack Obama is playing “thermometer” to Republicans. “He’s letting everything take its course, and he’s just standing out, telling you what the temperature is after everybody already knows it,” McCarthy, of California, said during a Bloomberg Breakfast with reporters in Washington yesterday.
    The Republican leadership, McCarthy said, “takes the temperature of the room, but tells you where you need to get to, and it may be uncomfortable.’ His party plans to heat things up soon: McCarthy said House Republicans will introduce a spending plan in April that will address cuts in entitlement programs representing 40 percent of the federal budget “We will be different than the president,” he said. “We will address entitlements.”… – Bloomberg, 3-3-11
  • House votes to end unpopular new business tax rule: An unpopular tax filing requirement for businesses tucked into the new health care law would be repealed under a bill overwhelmingly passed by the House Thursday.
    The filing requirement is so unpopular in Congress that it is unlikely to ever take effect. The House voted 314 to 112 Thursday to repeal the filing requirement, with 76 Democrats joining all Republicans in voting to pass the bill. The Senate passed a similar measure last month, and attached it to an unrelated bill to help modernize the nation’s air traffic control system…. – AP, 3-3-11
  • GOP wins first budget skirmish, bigger fight looms: Republicans won an early round Wednesday in their fight to shrink the government, pushing $4 billion in spending cuts through Congress in a bill that puts off the possibility of a government shutdown for two weeks.
    The Senate cleared the temporary spending measure by an overwhelming 91-9 vote after the House passed it with a large bipartisan vote Tuesday. Obama signed it Wednesday afternoon…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • House taking up stopgap GOP spending bill: Republicans controlling the House are moving quickly to pass stopgap legislation to avoid a partial shutdown of the government when temporary funding runs out Friday…. – AP, 3-1-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

  • Judge: States must continue with health overhaul: A federal judge who declared President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul unconstitutional ruled Thursday that states must continue implementing it while the case makes its way through the courts. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson was responding to a request from Obama administration attorneys who sought to ensure Florida and 25 other states follow the law until their challenge to it is resolved…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Professor calls Supreme Court ruling victory for free speech: An ASU professor who specializes in the research of First Amendment court cases said Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling, which favored a radical church’s picketing of a 2006 military funeral, was a victory for free speech… – The State Press, 3-3-11
  • Supreme Court: Anti-gay funeral picketers allowed: The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a grieving father’s pain over mocking protests at his Marine son’s funeral must yield to First Amendment protections for free speech. All but one justice sided with a fundamentalist church that has stirred outrage with raucous demonstrations contending God is punishing the military for the nation’s tolerance of homosexuality.
    The 8-1 decision in favor of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., was the latest in a line of court rulings that, as Chief Justice John Roberts said in his opinion for the court, protects “even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Court: Victim’s dying words may be used at trial: Prosecutors may use victim statements given at the crime scene even if the victim dies before testifying at trial, the Supreme Court ruled Monday…. – WaPo, 3-1-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Who had the Worst Week in Washington? Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa: Who watches the watchers? That existential question is not one that Republican Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, had hoped to be asking himself just a few months into his job as the self-declared lead investigator of the Obama administration.
    But that was before a young Issa press aide named Kurt Bardella agreed to share private correspondence between himself and reporters covering his boss with New York Times reporter Mark Leibovich, who is writing a book on the culture, such as it is, of Washington…. – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • New governors may outshine White House hopefuls: What’s wrong with this picture? While half a dozen current and former Republican governors weigh bids to challenge President Barack Obama, the party’s lightning and thunder are coming from a different handful of governors, who threaten to overshadow those potential candidates. Republicans drawing the most national attention in recent weeks are first-term Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Chris Christie of New Jersey. Many conservatives love them for battling public-sector unions in the name of cutting government spending…. – AP, 3-2-11

WISCONSIN GOVERNOR-UNION WARS

  • Unions winning battle for public opinion in Wisconsin: According to a new Pew Poll, Forty-two percent of people said they favor unions, while 31 percent take Walker’s side and another nine percent take neither side in the skirmish. WaPo, 3-1-11
  • Supporters of Wisconsin anti-union bill hold rally: About 700 people have rallied in support of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his plan to take away collective bargaining rights from public workers have rallied in Madison. The Sunday rally at a Madison arena was organized by the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity…. – AP, 3-6-11
  • Michael Moore rallies Wis. pro-union protesters: Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore urged Wisconsin residents Saturday to fight against Republican efforts to strip most public workers of their collective bargaining rights, telling thousands of protesters that “Madison is only the beginning.” “We’re going to do this together. Don’t give up. Please don’t give up,” filmmaker Michael Moore told the Wisconsin protesters, who have swarmed the Capitol every day for close to three weeks. Moore told the crowd they’ve galvanized the nation against the wealthy elite and compared their fight to Egypt’s revolt…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • Wis. governor warns of layoffs, talks to Democrats: Thousands of Wisconsin state workers were bracing for layoff notices Friday as Republican Gov. Scott Walker and absent Democrats remained in a standoff over a budget balancing bill that would also strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights.
    Walker said he would issue 1,500 layoff notices Friday if at least one of the 14 Senate Democrats doesn’t return from Illinois to give the Republican majority the quorum it needs to vote. Senate Republicans voted Thursday to hold the missing Democrats in contempt and force police to bring them back to the Capitol. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald canceled Friday’s floor session, saying in a statement that Republican senators want time to allow law enforcement to adjust their staffing levels and “help the Capitol to return to something of a sense of normalcy.”… – AP, 3-4-11
  • In Midwestern union strongholds, residents torn over proposals to curb union benefits, powers: There once was a time when Harry and Nancy Harrington _ their teenage children in tow _ walked the picket line outside the nursing home where she was a medical aide, protesting the lack of a pension plan for the unionized work force. But those days of family solidarity are gone…. – AP, 3-5-11
  • Wisconsin governor begins process to lay off 1,500: 57 percent of likely voters in Wisconsin disapprove of the job Walker is doing, while 43 percent approve. Of those who disapprove, 48 percent strongly disapprove…. – WaPo, 3-5-11
  • Protesters leave Wis. Capitol after 17-day sit-in: Pro-union protesters who had been camping out at the Wisconsin Capitol for 17 days vacated the building peacefully late Thursday after a judge ordered the building closed at night but ruled the state was wrong to restrict access to the building during the day. With a group hug, and singing “Solidarity Forever,” about 50 protesters grabbed their sleeping bags, pillows and drums and left through two rows of Democratic state lawmakers and others who thanked them for their efforts…. – AP, 3-3-11
  • Wisconsin Senate votes to detain absentee DemocratsCNN, 3-3-11
  • RNC ad links Obama to ‘union bosses’: The Republican National Committee on Wednesday began airing a television ad in Wisconsin that blames President Barack Obama and “union bosses” for standing in the way of economic reform.
    The ad is an effort to bolster Republican Gov. Scott Walker as he tries to push through a measure that would take away most collective bargaining rights for state employees.
    Obama has not been to Wisconsin since the protests began. But he has called Walker’s proposal an assault on unions and urged other governors not to vilify public workers. Obama’s political arm at the Democratic National Committee also helped mobilize demonstrators in coordination with unions…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • AFL-CIO leader: Wisconsin fight energizing unions: In trying to take away nearly all collective bargaining rights from state workers, Wisconsin’s governor may have unintentionally given the American labor movement the lift it needed after years of decline.
    “We’ve never seen the incredible solidarity that we’re seeing right now,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters Tuesday at the federation’s headquarters. “People are giving us another look now,” he said. “It’ll be up to us to keep it going and continue defining ourselves in ways the American public will support.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Wisconsin governor to lay out budget: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s explosive proposal to take nearly all collective bargaining rights away from most public workers represents just one piece of his vision for the state’s future…. – AP, 3-1-11
  • Rallies support fight against Wis. anti-union billAP, 2-27-11
  • Volunteers help Wis. protesters keep up the fightAP, 2-26-11
  • By keeping his distance, has Obama played Wisconsin right?: With the battle of Wisconsin reverberating in union halls across the country, Obama has refrained from weighing in forcefully on a core Democratic issue. Analysts say he has played it right… – CS Monitor, 2-25-11
  • Wisconsin GOP wins Round 1 over unions, but final victory still eludes: The Wisconsin GOP-led Assembly approved a bill Friday to sharply curtail the power of public employee unions. But the battle for public opinion, in Wisconsin and the nation, goes on, with the state Senate yet to vote…. – CS Monitor, 2-25-11
  • Some Republicans soften tough talk on unionsAP, 2-24-11
  • State troopers sent to find Wisconsin DemocratsAP, 2-24-11
  • Wis. Democrats filibuster to halt anti-union billAP, 2-23-11
  • Wisconsin: Ground zero in battle over clout of labor unions in US: At stake in the fight between unions and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is the perception of public-sector unions and how much clout they’ll retain in an era of tight budgets for state and local government…. – CS Monitor, 2-19-11
  • State budget fights fire up union; Obama involved: Organized labor is trying to re-energize and take advantage of the growing backlash from the wave of anti-union sentiment in Wisconsin and more than a dozen other states. President Barack Obama and his political machine are offering tactical support, eager to repair strained relations with some union leaders upset over his recent overtures to business…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Rosemary Feurer: Wisconsin’s Legacy of Labor Battles: One of the key authors of that federal legislation was the chief of labor relations at Allis-Chalmers, a Milwaukee-area farm equipment and machine manufacturing company that had fended off an epic strike earlier that year. Now the nation is watching to see which side wins in the battle between Mr. Walker and the flood of unions, local and national, that has surrounded the Capitol to fight him.
    “The play by the governor is part of a longer history and a longer struggle over ideas and social policy,” said Rosemary Feurer, a labor historian at Northern Illinois University. “When I see this I think, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme.”
    In her book, “Radical Unionism in the Midwest, 1900-1950,” Professor Feurer recounts how companies in the electrical industry in St. Louis started a network known as the Metal Trades Association in the first part of the 20th century to fight union organizing. The association had been alarmed by union protests that erupted violently with the Haymarket Square riot in 1886 and the demands for an eight-hour day, which started with the 1894 Pullman strike in Illinois — an early effort by Eugene V. Debs, the former Indiana legislator and future Socialist Party candidate for president.
    “That left a legacy of the 1930s and ’40s for employers to form deep right-wing networks,” Professor Feurer said.
    That network, she argues, was the precursor to the Midwestern groups that have now been assisting the fight against the unions in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana: the Bradley Foundation, based in Milwaukee, and Koch Industries, based in Wichita, Kan. David H. and Charles G. Koch, the billionaire brothers behind the energy and manufacturing conglomerate that bears their name, have been large donors to Mr. Walker in Wisconsin, as has their advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, which first opened an office in Wisconsin in 2005…. – NYT, 3-6-11
  • Julian Zelizer: By keeping his distance, has Obama played Wisconsin right?: “The biggest danger in some ways was for him to be consumed by this issue,” says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “That hasn’t happened.”… – CS Monitor, 2-25-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Republican presidential hopefuls join battle to face Barack Obama in 2012: The race to take on the Democratic president has begun in earnest as potential contenders head for the key battleground of Iowa… – Guardian UK, 3-6-11
  • Gates Ratchets Up His Campaign of Candor: This is the season when defense secretaries typically sit for hours, hat in hand, before Congressional committees to plead for more money and then journey to the military academies to give perfunctory speeches about patriotism before young cadets. But this year, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has not followed the script…. Mr. Gates’s independence is a reminder that if he leaves this year — as he has insisted he will — his departure will kick off a search that will help define the administration. Will the president choose someone as outspoken, with a bipartisan pedigree that allows him to criticize the conduct of combat and makes him acceptable to Republicans?… – NYT, 3-5-11
  • Unions wary of Dems’ convention plans in NC: With the American labor movement newly energized by its most serious threat in years, the Democratic Party’s decision to hold its 2012 convention in the least union-friendly state is causing friction with a key constituency. The Democratic National Committee selected Charlotte to show confidence in the party’s ability to win crucial swing states in the South, including North Carolina, that President Barack Obama carried in 2008. But the choice isn’t sitting well with some union leaders. “I think the Democratic Party is in crisis and they’re trying to figure out who are they really going to represent,” said Angaza Laughinghouse, president of the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Gingrich: I expect to be ‘in the race’: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he expects to be a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • Gingrich Tests 2012 Presidential Support: Newt Gingrich on Thursday became the first major Republican to begin raising money for the 2012 presidential race, but he stopped short of declaring his candidacy until he finishes delivering paid speeches this month and distances himself from a web of business ventures that would interfere with a campaign.
    In an afternoon visit to the State Capitol here, Mr. Gingrich smiled broadly as he entered the governor’s formal briefing room, with his wife, Callista, at his side. He said they had decided, after months of deliberation, to move forward and see if he could find enough support among Republican primary voters to compete seriously for the party’s nomination.
    “We believe that America’s best years are actually ahead of us,” said Mr. Gingrich, 67, who won his first bid for elective office 33 years ago as a Georgia congressman. “We believe that it is possible through the right policies, with the right values, to create dramatically more jobs with dramatically higher incomes.”… – NYT, 3-4-11
  • Newt Gingrich: Return of the Mack: This week, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives (1995 to 1999) and de facto face of the House Republican Revolution of the nineties, launched a new website to explore “whether there is sufficient support for my potential candidacy for President of this exceptional country.” The website features a large picture of Gingrich with his third wife, Callista, but little else aside for a place for supporters to sign up and leave a comment.
    Republicans are split on him. A recent survey by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed 41 percent of people who identified as Republican viewed him favorably but 39 percent view him unfavorably. Those ratings were much higher among those Republicans who also identified as conservative, but conversely lower among those who identified as moderate. Overall, however, he only pulled support form seven percent of those polled, trailing far behind the other candidates…. – WYNC, 3-4-11
  • Huckabee Slams Natalie Portman For Out-of-Wedlock Pregnancy: Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a potential 2012 presidential candidate, went after the actress Natalie Portman for getting pregnant before she was married…. – NYT, 3-4-11
  • Why is Mike Huckabee criticizing Natalie Portman? (Poll): “You know Michael, one of the things that’s troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, ‘Hey look, you know, we’re having children, we’re not married, but we’re having these children, and they’re doing just fine,'” Huckabee said. “But there aren’t really a lot of single moms out there who are making millions of dollars every year for being in a movie. And I think it gives a distorted image that yes, not everybody hires nannies, and caretakers, and nurses. Most single moms are very poor, uneducated, can’t get a job, and if it weren’t for government assistance, their kids would be starving to death and never have health care. And that’s the story that we’re not seeing, and it’s unfortunate that we glorify and glamorize the idea of out of children wedlock [sic].”
    Huckabee’s argument isn’t an unfamiliar one for conservatives, but the example is somewhat odd. Portman is, after all, marrying the father of her child. She didn’t practice abstinence, as Huckabee advocates, but neither do scores of other celebrities. By embracing motherhood and marriage, she’s taking a more conservative position than many of her peers.
    In a statement, Huckabee called Portman “an extraordinary actor, very deserving of her recent Oscar trophy” and said “I am glad she will marry her baby’s father.” He said he wasn’t attacking her, only arguing that “it’s unfortunate that society often glorifies and glamorizes the idea of having children out of wedlock.”… – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and the spotlight-chasing candidates of 2012: “Don’t you think it’s fair also to ask [Barack Obama] . . . how come we don’t have a health record, we don’t have a college record, we don’t have a birth cer – why, Mr. Obama, did you spend millions of dollars in courts all over this country to defend against having to present a birth certificate. It’s one thing to say, I’ve – you’ve seen it, goodbye. But why go to court and send lawyers to defend against having to show it? Don’t you think we deserve to know more about this man?”
    “I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya. . . .”… – WaPo, 3-4-11
  • Gingrich Appearance in Georgia to Give 2012 U.S. Presidential Race a Nudge: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich today moves closer to jumping into the 2012 Republican presidential race, appearing in his home state of Georgia to discuss his White House aspirations and announce fundraising efforts.
    Gingrich, 67, will make his comments during a visit to the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta. Though aides say he is stopping short of announcing formation of a presidential exploratory committee, his remarks will nudge forward a Republican primary race that so far has been marked by prospective candidates biding their time.
    Joe Gaylord, one of Gingrich’s longest-serving advisers, said he expects him to launch a challenge to President Barack Obama…. – Bloomberg, 3-3-11
  • Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii won’t seek re-election: Democratic U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka of Hawaii announced Wednesday he won’t run for re-election next year after 22 years in the Senate. The 86-year-old Akaka — the third oldest member of the Senate — becomes the seventh recent senator to announce plans to retire.
    “It was a very difficult decision for me. However, I feel that the end of this Congress is the right time for me to step aside,” Akaka said in a statement. “I have always strived to serve the people with much love and aloha.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • Gingrich announces website to explore GOP bid: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he is launching a website to explore a run for president…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Rove groups plan $120 million campaign in 2012: A pair of political action committees organized by GOP strategist Karl Rove and demonized by Democrats said Tuesday it plans to raise $120 million ahead of the 2012 elections to help make President Barack Obama a one-term leader and elect Republicans. American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS told supporters they look to raise the massive sum to combat unions, which spent a combined $400 million to help elect Obama and Democrats in 2008. With eyes on Wisconsin and Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s showdown there with Democrats over union rights, the conservative committees hope to attract donors and attention early. “These resources will fund advocacy efforts to compete with the torrent of outside money from unions and left- leaning groups,” said Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the effort. “Our first fundraising goal in 2010 was $52 million, but we ended up raising $71 million. There’s more time to raise money, there’s more at stake and we have a proven brand now. We’ve spoken with all of our donors — they’re sticking with us, and most plan to come in at a significantly higher level than last time.”… – AP, 3-2-11
  • GOP hopefuls cheer for a spending showdown: Easy for them to say: Cut spending, no matter what. Don’t let the government borrow any more. Shut it down if you have to. While the cast of potential White House contenders tells Congress to get tough, drawing lines in the sand is risky for lawmakers who have to live with the consequences. Many remember what happened more than two years ago when House conservatives bolted from their Republican president and leadership to defeat a $700 billion rescue bill for the nation’s financial system. The Dow Jones industrials plunged 777 points, the most ever for a single day. Lawmakers had second thoughts, and four days later 58 of them, including 25 Republicans, switched sides to pass it…. – AP, 2-28-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address
President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address at Miami Central High School, White House Photo, Pete Souza, 3/4/11
  • Weekly Address: Both Parties Must Come Together on a Budget that Cuts Wasteful Spending Without Sacrificing Investments in the Future: Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery, Miami, Florida March 5, 2011: I’m talking with you from Miami, Florida, where I’m visiting Miami Central High School, a school that’s turning itself around on behalf of its kids. And I came here with Jeb Bush, former governor of this state, because he and I share the view that education isn’t a partisan issue – it’s an American issue.
    But in a larger sense, this is a moment when we’ve all got to do what the students and teachers are doing here. We’ve got to step up our game.
    Our top priority right now has to be creating new jobs and opportunities in a fiercely competitive world. And this week, we received very good news on that front. We learned that the unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in nearly two years as our economy added another 222,000 private sector jobs last month.
    Now, we have a lot more work to do, not just for the Americans who still don’t have a job, but for the millions more who still don’t have the right job or all the work they need to live out the American Dream. But the progress we’re seeing says something about the determination and ingenuity of our people and our businesses. What’s also helping to fuel this economic growth are the tax cuts that Democrats and Republicans came together to pass in December and I signed into law – tax cuts that are already making Americans’ paychecks bigger and allowing businesses to write off their investments, freeing up more money for job creation.
    Just as both parties cooperated on tax relief that is now fueling job growth, we need to come together around a budget that cuts spending without slowing our economic momentum. We need a government that lives within its means without sacrificing job-creating investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure.
    The budget I sent to Congress makes these investments, but it also includes a 5-year spending freeze, and it will reduce our deficits by $1 trillion over the next decade. In fact, the cuts I’ve proposed would bring annual domestic spending to its lowest share of the economy under any president in more than 50 years.
    Over the last few weeks, Members of Congress have been debating their own proposals. And I was pleased that Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together a few days ago and passed a plan to cut spending and keep the government running for two more weeks. Still, we can’t do business two weeks at a time. It’s not responsible, and it threatens the progress our economy has been making. We’ve got to keep that momentum going.
    We need to come together, Democrats and Republicans, around a long-term budget that sacrifices wasteful spending without sacrificing the job-creating investments in our future. My administration has already put forward specific cuts that meet congressional Republicans halfway. And I’m prepared to do more. But we’ll only finish the job together – by sitting at the same table, working out our differences, and finding common ground. That’s why I’ve asked Vice President Biden and members of my Administration to meet with leaders of Congress going forward.
    Getting our fiscal house in order can’t just be something we use as cover to do away with things we dislike politically. And it can’t just be about how much we cut. It’s got to be about how we cut and how we invest. We’ve got to be smart about it. Because if we cut back on the kids I’ve met here and their education, for example, we’d be risking the future of an entire generation of Americans. And there’s nothing responsible about that.
    We’ve got to come together to put America back on a fiscally sustainable course – and make sure that when it comes to the economy of the 21st century, our children and our country are better-prepared than anyone else in the world to take it on. Our future depends on it. That’s not a Democratic or a Republican challenge – that’s an American challenge. And I’m confident it’s one we’ll meet. – WH, 3-5-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • “I’m Not Willing to Give Up on Any Child In America:” The President’s Trip to Miami Central High School: We are at a pivotal turning point. We just came through a tough recession that’s taken a big toll on families here in Florida and all across the country. And to accelerate our recovery in the short term we took some essential steps to spur hiring and economic growth, including tax cuts that are making Americans’ paychecks bigger and letting businesses write off their investments –- and I am proud — I’m proud that Republicans and Democrats came together to get that done.
    And you’re already seeing those steps make a difference. This morning we learned that the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in nearly two years. (Applause.) Our economy added another 222,000 jobs in the private sector. (Applause.) That’s the 12th straight month of private sector job growth. So our economy has now added 1.5 million private sector jobs over the last year. And that’s progress. (Applause.)
    But we need to keep building on that momentum. And in a world that’s more competitive, more connected than ever before, that means answering some difficult questions
    Now, turning around these schools isn’t easy. A lot of people used to argue, well, all they need is more money. But money is not alone going to do the job. We also have to reform how things are done. It isn’t easy to turn around an expectation of failure and make that into an expectation of excellence. In fact, it’s one of the hardest things you can do. And there is always plenty of naysayers out there who will say it’s not even possible. Who say that turning around a failing school means just throwing good money after bad. Who say too many of these schools are beyond repair. Who say we ought to give up on those schools and focus on places that have more breaks and have a little more going for them.
    Here’s what I say. I say I am not willing to give up on any child in America. (Applause.) I say I’m not willing to give up on any school in America. (Applause.) I do not accept failure here in America. (Applause.) I believe the status quo is unacceptable; it is time to change it. And it’s time we came together — just like Jeb and I are doing today -– coming from different parties but we come together not as Democrats or Republicans, as Americans –- to lift up all of our schools — (applause) — and to prepare students like you for a 21st century economy. (Applause.) To give every child in America a chance to make the most of their God-given potential…. – WH, 3-5-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul: Standing up to EPA’s war on coal Coal is a vital sector of Kentucky’s economy. More than 200,000 jobs in the state depend on it, including more than 18,000 coal miners, and half the country’s electricity comes from coal. And yet, as we’re faced with a weakened economy and high unemployment, an overreaching Environmental Protection Agency in Washington is blocking new… jobs for Kentuckians by waging a war on coal…. – Kentucky.com, 3-5-11
  • Clinton backs Al-Jazeera, criticizes US news media before Senate: A decade ago the U.S. government attacked Al-Jazeera as a propagator of anti-American propaganda. Now Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is citing the network for fine news coverage _ and tweaking the U.S. media in the process…. – AP, 3-4-11
  • President Obama on the Tragic Events In Germany: I want to take a brief moment just to say a few words about a tragic event that took place earlier today in Frankfurt, Germany.
    I’m saddened and I am outraged by this attack that took the lives of two Americans and wounded two others. I think the American people are united in expressing our gratitude for the service of those who were lost. Michelle and I have their family and their friends in our thoughts and prayers and we are praying for a speedy recovery for those who were injured.
    I want everybody to understand that we will spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place and in working with German authorities to ensure that all of the perpetrators are brought to justice.
    We don’t have all the information yet, and you will be fully briefed as we get more information. But this is a stark reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our men and women in uniform are making all around the world to keep us safe, and the dangers that they face all around the globe.
    So I think it’s fair to say that on behalf of the American people we want to extend our deepest condolences to these families. And we will give you further updates as we get more information about it. – WH, 3-2-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • STATEMENT BY SENATORS MCCAIN AND LIEBERMAN REGARDING THE SITUATION IN LIBYA: We strongly support President Obama’s declaration yesterday that Colonel Qaddafi must go. The President is correct that Qaddafi and those loyal to him—by unleashing horrific violence against the Libyan people—have lost the legitimacy to remain in power, and we agree that the United States must consider the full range of options to stop the bloodshed taking place in Libya now.
    We also applaud the measures adopted by the United States and our partners so far to ratchet up the pressure on the Qaddafi regime, including the imposition of both unilateral and multilateral sanctions, the regime’s eviction from the UN Human Rights Council, its suspension from the Arab League, and the referral of its case to the International Criminal Court.
    However, we remain deeply concerned about the situation in Libya. Despite the measures adopted by the international community, the Qaddafi regime still appears to be entrenched in Tripoli, and news reports indicate that Qaddafi’s forces are carrying out a campaign of terror against Libyan civilians. We are also deeply concerned that Qaddafi’s forces have launched offensives, including the use of airpower, against the opposition in the liberated areas of Libya.
    It is stated U.S. policy that Qaddafi must go, so now it is critical for the United States, together with our friends and allies, to ensure that he does go – as quickly as possible. A protracted and bloody stalemate in Libya would not only be an unnecessary humanitarian disaster, with the potential to destabilize a critical region. It could also create space for al Qaeda and its extremist allies to exploit the chaos. We agree with Secretary Clinton about the danger that a prolonged Libyan civil war could result in another Somalia. Moreover, if Qaddafi is able to remain in power, it would send a dangerous message that dictators should respond with brutal violence to the peaceful protest movement for universal rights that is sweeping the region and beyond…. – Lieberman Senate, 3-4-11
  • The President on Libya: “The Violence Must Stop; Muammar Gaddafi Has Lost the Legitimacy to Lead and He Must Leave”: The United States, and the entire world, continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people. The United States is helping to lead an international effort to deter further violence, put in place unprecedented sanctions to hold the Qaddafi government accountable, and support the aspirations of the Libyan people. We are also responding quickly to the urgent humanitarian needs that are developing.
    Tens of thousands of people—from many different countries—are fleeing Libya, and we commend the governments of Tunisia and Egypt for their response, even as they go through their own political transitions. I have therefore approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help move Egyptians who have fled to the Tunisian border to get back home to Egypt. I’ve authorized USAID to charter additional civilian aircraft to help people from other countries find their way home. And we’re supporting the efforts of international organizations to evacuate people as well.
    I have also directed USAID to send humanitarian assistance teams to the Libyan border, so that they can work with the United Nations, NGOs and other international partners inside Libya to address the urgent needs of the Libyan people.
    Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: the violence must stop; Muammar Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave; those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable; and the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and dignity must be met. – WH, 3-3-11
  • Presidential Proclamation: Women’s History Month: During Women’s History Month, we reflect on the extraordinary accomplishments of women and honor their role in shaping the course of our nation’s history….
    As we prepare to write the next chapter of women’s history, we must carry forward the work of the women who came before us and ensure our daughters have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievements, and no remaining ceilings to shatter…. – WH, 3-1-11
  • Presidential Proclamation: 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps: In 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps, forever changing the way America sees the world and the world sees us…. On its 50th anniversary, the United States Peace Corps remains an enduring symbol of our nation’s commitment to encouraging progress, creating opportunity, and fostering mutual respect and understanding throughout the world…. – WH, 2-28-11
  • President Obama’s Plan to Cut Red Tape, Give States Flexibility, and Save Money: President Obama issued a memorandum to executive departments and agencies to work with state, tribal, and local governments to reduce unnecessary regulatory and administrative burdens in order to focus resources on achieving better outcomes at lower cost…. – WH, 2-28-11
  • John Boehner: The House just voted to repeal ObamaCare’s job-destroying 1099 paperwork mandate, a major source of uncertainty for job-creators grappling w/ the costs of the government’s takeover of health care. Having run a small business, I can tell you Washington mandates like this destroy jobs by increasing costs, creating uncertainty, & burying employers in paperwork. The Senate should pass this bill without delay. –
  • First Lady Michelle Obama & Dr. Jill Biden to America’s Governors: Support Our Military Families: Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden addressed the National Governors’ Association and talk about their initiative to support America’s military families….
    Because in the end, this is something that I think we can all agree on, no matter where we come from, no matter what we might think about any other issue. We all know that this issue — this is not a Democrat issue, this is not a Republican issue. This is an American issue. And more importantly, this is an American obligation. It truly is.
    It’s about showing our gratitude to that very small group of Americans who make such a tremendous contribution and sacrifice to this country. And it’s about serving the people who sacrifice so much to serve us. – WH, 2-28-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • President Obama and Vice President Biden Address National Governors Association: The President announces a proposal to move up the date when states are allowed to implement their own health care plans as long as they meet the standards for affordability and coverage under the Affordable Care Act…. – WH, 2-28-11
  • President Obama to America’s Governors: “The Flexibility That You Need to Find Your Own Innovative Ways Forward”: You see, part of the genius of our Founders was the establishment of a federal system in which each of our states serves as a laboratory for our democracy. Through this process, some of the best state ideas became some of America’s best ideas. So whether it’s through Race to the Top, or improving the Affordable Care Act, or reforming the way that we approach social programs by ensuring that spending is tied to success, our approach has been to give you the flexibility that you need to find your own innovative ways forward…. – WH, 2-28-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Barbour says Obama cheers for higher gas prices: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a potential presidential contender, accused the Obama administration Wednesday of favoring a run-up in gas prices to prod consumers to buy more fuel-efficient cars.
    “This administration’s policies have been designed to drive up the cost of energy in the name of reducing pollution, in the name of making very expensive alternative fuels more economically competitive,” Barbour said during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce breakfast across the street from the White House…. – AP, 3-2-11
  • Mitch McConnell: U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following comment on the Senate floor Monday regarding the need to reduce Washington spending. ‘Americans have been telling lawmakers for two years that business as usual simply will not cut it anymore. They want us to get our fiscal house in order and to start to create the right conditions for private sector job growth. Democrats have an opportunity this week to show they get it. They have an opportunity to show that the status quo on spending and debt is no longer an option.’… – The Hill, 2-28-11
  • Rep. Eric Cantor: Cutting spending will grow the economy: America is at a tipping point, and Republicans have begun to take action. Last week, the House passed unprecedented legislation reducing discretionary spending this fiscal year by more than $100 billion. In addition, we made clear that our long-term budget, to be unveiled in the spring, will address the entitlement crisis that threatens to bankrupt our country – a long overdue move that politicians for too long have kicked down the road. This show of fiscal restraint represents not merely a clean break with Congress’ free- spending past, but a rededication to economic growth and a laser-like focus on job creation.
    It’s important to recognize the link between cutting spending and growing the economy. Like the gardener pruning the tree, we do not cut for the sake of cutting, but out of necessity. It’s the only way to restore economic health and free up the private capital necessary for new growth. Put simply, less government spending equals more private sector jobs…. – Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2-26-11

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Dukakis on Obama, Palin and what might have been: …”You make the effort,” he says, “and if folks just don’t want to sit down and come to a reasonable conclusion, you just go out and say, ‘The single most important priority is getting this economy back on track and getting people back to work, and what these guys are doing is going to have a profound effect on that.”
    Of course, this isn’t to say that Obama shouldn’t also begin defining the Republican opposition now in advance of next year’s presidential race. Dukakis suggests that Obama steal a page from the playbook of Clinton, who began running television ads in the summer of 1995.
    “I mean, [Clinton] had poor Dole on the floor, bleeding, a year in advance,” Dukakis says. “I think, given the opposition he’s likely to face, the corporate money pouring in, I’d make it an issue. I’d make the Koch brothers an issue — where’s that money coming from? I’d turn that into a plus, and early.”
    Ask him about the Tea Party and the woman who is arguably its most prominent public face — Sarah Palin — and Dukakis reacts with bewilderment…. – Salon, 3-6-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Obama steers clear of ‘doctrine’ as Arab tumult rages: “The closest we have to a policy is to allow the different revolutions to take place at their own pace, based on the timing of the people involved and intervening only through general statements of support,” said Julian Zelizer of Princeton University. “Other than that I don’t think there is any consistent principle.”
    “It can push you into wars where you should not be because you want to follow the logic of the doctrine,” said Zelizer. “Vietnam is a great example of where presidents from (Dwight) Eisenhower to (Lyndon) Johnson were following the logic of the ideas set out by Truman but in a war that really wasn’t that necessary and many realized they shouldn’t be in.” – AFP, 3-5-11
  • For Reagan, Gadhafi Was A Frustrating ‘Mad Dog’: America’s long, complicated history with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi goes back three decades. During Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Gadhafi was public enemy No. 1 — just as President John Kennedy’s nemesis had been Cuba’s Fidel Castro. “I find he’s not only a barbarian but he’s flaky,” Reagan said of Gadhafi. Some U.S. allies — even a few officials within his own administration — thought Reagan was too fixated on Gadhafi, that he was building Gadhafi up. But the president bristled at the Libyan leader’s support for terrorist groups and revolutionaries. And he coined a nickname for him: the “mad dog of the Middle East.” Gadhafi’s goal, Reagan said, was “a Muslim fundamentalist revolution.”… – NPR, 3-4-11
  • Julian E. Zelizer Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton And are two-week budgets the new normal?: It is a very effective strategy for Republicans. The longer this stopgap figure is in place, the easier it is for Republicans to claim that this is the new normal when it comes time to pass the budget. Through the stopgap they lower the bar as to how much money Congress needs to spend and place Democrats in the position of defending perceived increases in spending (rather than the reality, where they are preventing budget cuts). – Politico Arena, 3-3-11
  • Obama’s ‘Where’s Waldo?’ presidency: For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president. There are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action – unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful. Each of these instances can be explained on its own terms, as matters of legislative strategy, geopolitical calculation or political prudence. Yet the dots connect to form an unsettling portrait of a “Where’s Waldo?” presidency: You frequently have to squint to find the White House amid the larger landscape…. – WaPo, 3-1-11
  • Liberal tradition is under assault: In one of the unexpected moments from the past few weeks, some defenders of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on public unions have pointed to President Franklin Roosevelt.
    Patrick McIlheran of the Journal Sentinel wrote, “Somewhere, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is grinning past his cigarette holder at Wisconsin’s governor. They are on the same page regarding government unions.”
    These commentators have noted that Roosevelt’s doubts about public sector unions suggest that today’s conservatives are more in touch with his positions than the Democrats…. – CNN, 2-28-11
  • Julian Zelizer: By keeping his distance, has Obama played Wisconsin right?: “The biggest danger in some ways was for him to be consumed by this issue,” says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “That hasn’t happened.”… – CS Monitor, 2-25-11

Political Highlights February 28, 2011: Governors & Tea Party Meet — Obama Congress Budget Showdown; Threat of Government Shutdown — Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker & Union Wars — Unrest in the Middle East & Libya

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 and a bipartisan group of governors in the State Dining Room
The President tells Governors that from infrastructure to the health reform law, he wants to give them “the flexibility that you need to find your own innovative ways forward.”

STATS & POLLS

  • Almost Six in Ten Americans Give President Obama Negative Job Rating Almost nine in ten give Congress negative ratings: Going into these battles, almost three in five Americans (58%) have a negative opinion of the job the President is doing while 42% have a positive opinion of it. This is slightly down from last month when 44% of U.S. adults gave the job the President was doing positive marks and 56% gave it negative ratings…. – PRNewswire, 2-28-11
  • Gallup poll: Obama’s approval ratings fell across U.S. in 2010: The Gallup survey says President Obama’s approval rating is above 50% in a dozen states, and in 10 states his approval rating is lower than 40%…. – LAT, 2-23-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: LIBYA IN TURMOIL

Ed Ou for The New York Times

Egyptian protesters taped a flag on the front doors of the Libyan Embassy in Cairo on Sunday.

Political Highlights February 21, 2011: Obama Unveils Budget, Wisconsin Budget Crisis & Unions — Unrest in the Middle East Erupts

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:

West Wing Week

STATS & POLLS

  • Ratings on Obama’s handling of the deficit: In a new Gallup poll – taken before the president released his budget this week – fully 68 percent of Americans said they disapprove of the way the president is handling the federal budget deficit, by far his worst rating of the eight specific issues in the survey. Pitted against the GOP, however, there’s a roughly even split: in a January Washington Post-ABC News poll, 44 percent of Americans said they put more faith in Obama to handle the deficit; about as many said they trust the GOP on the issue. (CBS-NYT and CNN polls in January showed similar divide.)… – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Obama Ratings Continue to Rise in Approval: President Obama’s ratings of approval continue to rise according to a new poll released this week. The approval rating for Obama increase to 51 percent from 50 percent in January, and his disapproval rating similarly slid to 46 percent from 47 percent — part of an upward trend since October’s 43 percent low.
    Contributing to Obama’s positive rating is the fact that the jobless rate dipped to 9 percent in January from 9.4 percent the month before, completing a 0.8 percentage point drop since November that was the biggest two-month decline since 1958…. – Third Age, 2-11-11
  • Obama’s 2012 Budget Proposal: How $3.7 Trillion is Spent: Explore every nook and cranny of President Obama’s budget proposal. – NYT
  • The Budget: Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012 contains the Budget Message of the President, information on the President’s priorities, budget overviews organized by agency, and summary tables.
    To download “Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012” as a single PDF click here (216 pages, 4.1 MB)
  • Breakdown of budget’s big numbers: There are a lot of big numbers being tossed around in Washington these days: a $3.7 trillion budget proposal, $61 billion in cuts, a $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. Below is a breakdown of what they represent…. – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Office of Management and Budget: Budget 2012:

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Raouf Mohseni/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Members of Iran’s Parliament clamored on Tuesday for two leaders of the opposition movement, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, to be hanged.

  • Qaddafi’s Son Warns of Civil War as Libyan Protests Widen: A five-day-old uprising in Libya took control of its second-largest city of Benghazi and spread for the first time to the capital of Tripoli late on Sunday as the heir-apparent son of its strongman, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, warned Libyans in a televised speech that their oil-rich country would fall into civil war and even renewed Western “colonization” if they threw off his father’s 40-year-long rule…. – NYT, 2-21-11
  • Clinton: Gadhafi must stop bloodshed: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the violence against anti-government protesters in Libya on Monday and called on the government of Moammar Gadhafi to “stop this unacceptable bloodshed.” Clinton said the world is watching event unfold in Libya “with alarm.”… At least 233 people have been killed so far, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
    “Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed,” Clinton said in what amounted to the toughest denunciation of the crackdown in Libya by the Obama administration yet…. – AP, 2-21-11
  • Libya Death Toll Surges in Crackdown: Libya Regime Fires on Protesters in Capital; Nation Fractures; Diplomats Break Ties… Violent clashes between protesters and security forces snowballed in cities throughout eastern Libya Sunday, as the country’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi, struggled to crush an uprising aimed at ending … WSJ, 2-20-11
  • US condemns crackdowns on Mideast protests: A senior U.S. diplomat on Sunday condemned the brutal crackdown on opposition protesters in Libya, saying Arab leaders facing pro-democracy protests need to lead the way rather than resist reform. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Obama administration was “very concerned” about reported armed attacks by Libyan security forces on peaceful protesters in the eastern city of Benghazi.
    “We’ve condemned that violence,” Rice told “Meet the Press” on NBC. “Our view is that in Libya as throughout the region peaceful protests need to be respected.”… – AP, 2-20-11
  • 1 killed as Yemeni police fire on marchers: Antigovernment protesters shouted slogans and raised their shoes in Sana, Yemen, yesterday. It was the 10th day of protests….. – Boston Globe, 2-20-11
  • Bahrain’s gov’t says dialogue begins with opposition: Bahrain’s government says it has begun what it calls a dialogue, with opposition groups demanding reform…. – Xinhuanet, 2-20-11
  • Cycle of Suppression Rises in Libya and Elsewhere: Libyan security forces moved against protesters Saturday in Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city and the epicenter of the most serious challenge to four decades of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s rule, opposition leaders and residents said. The death toll rose to at least 104 people, most of them in Benghazi, Human Rights Watch reported…. – NYT, 2-19-11
  • After 42 years, Libya’s controversial ruler faces new threats: Moammar Gadhafi’s first grab at power occurred 42 years ago in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, when he led a crew of fellow military officers in taking over key government institutions…. – CNN International, 2-19-11
  • Egypt women stand for equality in the square: Women think as differently as they dress here, but they have emerged from the barricades agreeing on one thing: This is their moment in history, and they cannot afford to lose it. During 18 days of demonstrating for freedom and democracy, Egyptian men and women walked into Tahrir Square separate and unequal, divided by gender as they passed through checkpoints. Men were scrutinized by men, and women had their bags and person searched by other women. There were several lines of men to every one for the fewer numbers of women…. – WaPO, 2-19-11
  • Libya, Yemen crack down; Bahrain pulls back tanks: Security forces in Libya and Yemen fired on pro-democracy demonstrators Saturday as the two hard-line regimes struck back against the wave of protests that has already toppled autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia. At least 15 died when police shot into crowds of mourners in Libya’s second-largest city, a hospital official said.
    Even as Bahrain’s king bowed to international pressure and withdrew tanks to allow demonstrators to retake a symbolic square in the capital, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh made clear they plan to stamp out opposition and not be dragged down by the reform movements that have grown in nations from Algeria to Djibouti to Jordan.
    Libyans returned to the street for a fifth straight day of protests against Gadhafi, the most serious uprising in his 42-year reign, despite estimates by human rights groups of 84 deaths in the North African country — with 35 on Friday alone…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Police kill 4 during protests on Yemen’s ‘Friday of Rage’: Antigovernment demonstrators clashed with supporters of Yemen’s longtime ruler and riot police, who fired guns and tear gas to disperse the crowd on what organizers called a nationwide “Friday of rage”…. – Boston Globe, 2-19-11
  • Over 50 injured as troops open fire in Bahrain: Bahraini troops have fired on anti-government demonstrators, just a day after several people were killed when a protest camp was forcibly removed in the capital, Manama…. – Xinhuanet, 2-19-11
  • Bahrain’s king seeks dialogue after another crackdown on protesters: The widened unrest in the Middle East took a more violent turn Friday as US-allied governments in Yemen and Bahrain opened fire on their citizens, prompting Britain and France to announce a halt in arms sales. WaPo, 2-19-11
  • Rights group estimates 84 killed in Libya protests: Libyan security forces have killed 84 people in a harsh crackdown on three days of protests, said the New York- based Human Rights Watch, even as the government shut off Internet in the North African country early on Saturday…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Bahrain opposition plots strategy before talks: Bahrain’s opposition wants the nation’s rulers to guarantee they will back up their conciliatory words with actions, a Shiite leader said Sunday as he and other activists weighed the regime’s offer for talks after nearly a week of protests and deadly clashes that have divided the Gulf nation. The streets in the tiny but strategically important island kingdom were calmer as efforts shifted toward political haggling over demands the monarchy give up its near-absolute control over key policies and positions…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Egypt to allow Iranian vessels through Suez Canal: Egypt has agreed to allow two Iranian naval vessels to transit the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, a military official said Friday, ending several days of confusion over their planned passage, which Israel’s foreign minister has labeled a provocation.
    The movement of Iranian naval ships past Israeli shores is of concern there because Israel considers Iran an existential threat. Those fears stem from Iran’s disputed nuclear program, ballistic missile development, support for militants in the region and its threats to destroy Israel.
    The White House said the U.S. was also closely monitoring the progress of the ships, now in the Red Sea. Their passage comes as the region is being swept by anti-government unrest, including the protests that toppled Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak a week ago and left the military in charge of the country…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Obama condemns violence in Middle East: President Barack Obama on Friday condemned reports of violent reprisals against protesters in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen, and called for government restraint as unrest swept the volatile Middle East in the wake of Egypt’s uprising.
    “I am deeply concerned about reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries and wherever else it may occur,” Obama said. “The United States urges the governments of Bahrain, Libya and Yemen to show restraint in responding to peaceful protests and to respect the rights of their people.”… – 2-18-11
  • Opposition figure says Libya uprisings ignored: TANYA NOLAN: As we’ve mentioned media bans and intermittent phone and internet connections have made it very difficult to verify events unfolding in Libya…. – ABC Online, 2-18-11
  • In Yemen, Arab unrest takes a violent turn: Several thousand Yemeni protesters defied appeals for calm and marched through the capital on Thursday, pressing on with their campaign to oust the country’s president… – WaPo, 2-18-11
  • Bahrain’s Crackdown Wins Neighbors’ Support: WSJ’s Joe Parkinson reports from the midst of ongoing protests in Bahrain in which at least three people have died.
    Bahrain’s military sent tanks and armored personnel carriers into the streets Thursday to extend its control after a government crackdown on protests, while neighboring monarchies of the Persian Gulf endorsed the country’s violent response…. – WSJ, 2-18-11
  • Bahrain Turmoil Poses Fresh Test for White House: Hundreds gathered outside a hospital emergency room in Manama, Bahrain’s capital, on Thursday afternoon to wait for news about the injured…. – NYT, 2-17-11
  • Bahrain Main Opposition Group says 2 Dead in Crackdown: Bahrain’s leading opposition party says at least two protesters were killed early Thursday when riot police stormed the main square of the capital, Manama, driving out thousands of demonstrators who had set up camp, demanding sweeping political change…. – Voice of America, 2-17-11
  • Libya protests: Activists call for ‘day of anger’: Anti-government activists in Libya have been using social networking sites to rally support for protests on what they are describing as a “day of anger”…. – BBC News, 2-17-11
  • Protests Spread to Libya as Unrest Roils Bahrain, Yemen: A Bahraini anti-government protester waves his national flag during a protest calling for regime change at Pearl Square in Manama…. – Bloomberg, 2-16-11
  • Bahrain Takes the Stage With a Raucous ProtestNYT, 2-16-11
  • Obama careful in criticism of Iranian crackdown on protestsWaPo, 2-15-11
  • Iran’s Leader Derides Protests; Lawmakers Urge Death for Opposition Leaders: A day after the largest antigovernment protests in Iran in more than a year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday dismissed opposition attempts to revive mass demonstrations as certain to fail, while members of the Iranian Parliament clamored for the two most prominent leaders of the protest movement to be executed…. – NYT, 2-15-11
  • Tehran Beats Back New Protests: Iranian police used tear gas and electric prods to crack down on the country’s biggest antigovernment protests in at least a year, as demonstrators buoyed by activism across the Middle East returned to the country’s streets… – WSJ, 2-15-11
  • CBS News’ Lara Logan Assaulted During Egypt Protests: CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Separated From Her Crew And Brutally Assaulted on Day Mubarak Stepped Down… – CBS News, 2-15-11
  • ‘Egypt is free’ after Mubarak quits; celebrations continue into the nightCNN, 2-11-11
  • Egypt unrest: Mubarak’s speech leaves nation, world wondering who’s in chargeCNN, 2-10-11

THE HEADLINES….

  • Arrested US official is actually CIA contractor: An American jailed in Pakistan for the fatal shooting of two armed men was secretly working for the CIA and scouting a neighborhood when he was arrested, a disclosure likely to further frustrate U.S. government efforts to free the man and strain relations between two countries partnered in a fragile alliance in the war on terror.
    Raymond Allen Davis, 36, had been working as a CIA security contractor and living in a Lahore safe house, according to former and current U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly about the incident…. – AP, 2-21-11
  • G-20 Deal Reached, but Outcome Open to Interpretation: Negotiators from the world’s leading economies haggled all night over seemingly technical details regarding how to measure global economic imbalances. WSJ, 2-20-11
  • National Institute for Civil Discourse to open at University of Arizona: Colleagues pay tribute to wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords during the president’s address as the Arizona lawmaker is set to begin the next phase of her recovery at a rehab facility in Houston…. – WaPo, 2-20-11
  • Hot air on both sides in budget deficit debate: When Shakespeare’s Macbeth mentions a tale “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” he could be talking about the US budget process…. – St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2-20-11
  • Obama wades into budget battle in US states: The budget battle embroiling Washington is heating up in US states as newly elected Republican lawmakers move to bust public workers unions and slash services in the face of big deficits. President Barack Obama, who earlier this week threatened to veto the Republican federal budget plan, has also stepped into the fray at the state level as his Democratic party engages in a deeply ideological fight over budget priorities…. – AFP, 2-18-11
  • Obama coaches Sasha’s team, but without Sasha: President Barack Obama stepped in to help coach his younger daughter’s basketball team even when she wasn’t there. White House officials said Obama helped coach 9-year-old Sasha’s team Saturday in suburban Maryland because a regular parent-coach was unable to attend…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Obama: US needs better math, science education: President Barack Obama says improving math and science education is essential to helping the U.S. compete globally, and he wants the private sector to get involved in making it happen. Obama recorded his weekly radio and Internet address during a visit this past week to Intel Corp. outside of Portland, Ore. He praised the company for making a 10-year, $200 million commitment to promote math and science education — and held it up as an example of how corporate America can make money at the same time it builds the country.
    “Companies like Intel are proving that we can compete — that instead of just being a nation that buys what’s made overseas, we can make things in America and sell them around the globe,” Obama said. “Winning this competition depends on the ingenuity and creativity of our private sector. . But it’s also going to depend on what we do as a nation to make America the best place on earth to do business.”… – AP, 2-19-11
  • Obama urges Bahrain’s king to show restraint: President Barack Obama condemned the violence in Bahrain and urged the country’s king in a phone call Friday night to show restraint after a series of bloody protests. Obama discussed the situation with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, asking the king to hold those responsible for the violence accountable. Obama says Bahrain must respect the “universal rights” of its people and embrace “meaningful reform.”… – AP, 2-19-11
  • Obama says companies can help bottom line & nation: Pushing his jobs agenda, President Barack Obama made the case Friday that companies can make money and build up the country at the same time, citing the giant Intel Corp. chip maker as his model of smart investing in education.
    “We know what works. We know how to succeed,” the president told employees here after getting an eye-opening tour of Intel’s manufacturing facility. “We know how to do big things. And all across this nation, in places just like this one, we have students and teachers, local leaders and companies who are working together to make it happen.”… – AP, 2-18-11
  • US vetoes UN resolution on Israeli settlements: The United States vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlements as “illegal” and called for an immediate halt to all settlement building.
    The 14 other Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution in Friday’s vote. The Obama administration’s veto is certain to anger Arab countries and Palestinian supporters around the world…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • HI lawmaker: Obama birth certificate bill tabled: A proposal to sell copies of President Barack Obama’s birth records to anyone for $100 is going nowhere in the Hawaii Legislature…. – AP, 2-17-11
  • Obama seeks support from GOP on schools: President Obama is hoping the GOP will help him overhaul the No Child Left Behind law in time for the new school year this fall, but it may prove a tall order for a divided Congress that’s preoccupied with talk of cutting spending…. – Washington Times, 2-17-11
  • New White House press secretary takes stage: Jay Carney the journalist once commented that it’s a “tricky job” to be White House press secretary. “I’m sure I wouldn’t be any good at it,” he told C-SPAN in 2006 when he was Washington bureau … – USA Today, 2-17-11
  • California Supreme Court reenters Proposition 8 fray: The California Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to take up a key question in the fight over Proposition 8 places the court once again at the forefront of the legal battle over same-sex marriage…. – LAT, 2-17-11
  • Obama awards Medal of Freedom to George H.W. Bush, Maya Angelou and 13 others: Presenting the nation’s highest civilian honor is ‘one of the things I most look forward to every year,’ President Obama says…. – LAT, 2-16-11
  • Clinton: How the Internet can save the world: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Internet can allow people to achieve great things, but also do great harm. She says now is the time to discuss what if any rules should be in place concerning the Web…. – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Obama sends Congress $3.73 trillion budget: President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion budget Monday that holds out the prospect of eventually bringing deficits under control through spending cuts and tax increases. But the fiscal blueprint largely ignores his own deficit commission’s plea to slash huge entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
    Obama called his new budget one of “tough choices and sacrifices,” but most of those cuts would be held off until after the end of his first term…. – AP, 2-14-11
  • Obama calls for investments in education, r&d: President Barack Obama says the U.S. must invest in research and development, science, and especially education — or risk seeing the technological breakthroughs of the future happen in some other country. Obama says he wants to focus “like a laser” on improving education. He said the quality of a nation’s education is one of the biggest predictors of a nation’s success…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • Madoff: Banks ‘Had to Know’ of Multi-Billion Dollar Fraud: Convicted fraudster Bernard L. Madoff believes banks and hedge funds were complicit in his elaborate multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, The New York Times reported Tuesday…. – AP, 2-16-11
  • Obama budget fails to curb entitlements, GOP says: Republicans yesterday accused President Obama and Democrats in Congress of failing to rein in entitlement programs that make up the bulk of federal spending – but said they weren’t ready to lay out their own proposed cuts to the budget… – Boston Globe, 2-16-11
  • Obama’s Budget Focuses on Path to Rein in Deficit: With President Obama’s release on Monday of a budget for next year and House action this week on a Republican plan for immediate deep spending cuts, the nation is getting its clearest view since the president took office of the parties’ competing visions of the role of government, the urgency of addressing the deficit and the best path to long-term economic success.
    Mr. Obama used his budget for the fiscal year 2012 and beyond to make the case for selectively cutting spending while increasing resources in areas like education and clean energy initiatives that hold the potential for long- term payoffs in economic growth. With this year’s deficit projected to hit a record, $1.6 trillion, he laid out a path for bringing down annual deficits to more sustainable levels over the rest of the decade…. – NYT, 2-15-11
  • Obama budget: Some cuts, not the slashes GOP asks: Putting on the brakes after two years of big spending increases, President Barack Obama unveiled a $3.7 trillion budget plan Monday that would freeze or reduce some safety-net programs for the nation’s poor but turn aside Republican demands for more drastic cuts to shrink the government to where it was before he took office….. – AP, 2-15-11
  • Highlights of Obama’s 2012 spending plan: Obama sends plan to Capitol Hill; goal is to get funding in place by start of 2012 fiscal year… Plan includes a significant increase in education funding… Plan decreases discretionary resources for the Department of Transportation…. It trims funding for African Development and Inter-American Foundations by nearly 20%
    President Obama’s spending plan is just the first step in a process that will involve no less than 40 congressional committees, 24 subcommittees, countless hearings and a number of floor votes in the House and Senate, with the aim of getting funding in place for the federal government by the beginning of the 2012 fiscal year October 1.
    Congress never passed a budget for the current fiscal year, and the government has been running on a “continuing resolution,” which expires March 4. House Republicans have thrown down the gauntlet over cuts to current programs and threaten to shut down the government if they don’t get their way.
    After Obama sends his 2012 plan to Capitol Hill, House and Senate budget committees each pass their own budget resolutions, which set caps on spending and establish revenue targets and generally serve as five- to 10-year blueprints for congressional priorities…. – CNN, 2-14-19
  • Obama budget resurrects rejected tax increases: President Barack Obama’s budget proposal resurrects a series of tax increases on certain corporations and the wealthy that were largely ignored by Congress when Democrats controlled both chambers. Republicans, who now control the House, are signaling they will be even less receptive.
    The plan unveiled Monday includes tax increases for oil, gas and coal producers, investment managers and U.S.- based multinational corporations. The plan would allow Bush-era tax cuts to expire at the end of 2012 for individuals making more than $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000. Wealthy taxpayers would have their itemized deductions limited starting in 2012, including deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes…. – AP, 2-14-11
  • Showtime for House Republican spending cuts: One day after President Barack Obama presented Congress with his $3.7 trillion budget, the focus shifts on Tuesday to Washington’s more immediate spending needs and a controversial spending-cut bill that Republicans hope to pass in the House of Representatives.
    The House legislation, cobbled together by Republicans after weeks of intraparty fighting, would cut about $61 billion from current spending in a bill to fund government activities through the rest of this fiscal year that ends on September 30.
    The spending being proposed would be equal to a 14 percent cut from last year…. – Reuters, 2-15-10
  • House Republicans counter Obama budget plan with much deeper cuts: On Monday, President Obama made his statement about how the government ought to change its spending habits: a gradual plan that minimizes immediate pain by phasing in cuts over a decade.
    Starting Tuesday, House Republicans will move forward with a very different approach, one intended to be viewed as radical and painful. Their proposal deals not with theoretical deficit targets set far in the future but with the final seven months of this year’s budget, a period left in flux by congressional inaction.
    House Republicans want to cut $61 billion from the budget, which would amount to the most significant government contraction since the end of World War II. Decried as “dire” and “disturbing” by Democrats, the plan has become a test for how far Republicans are willing to go in order to deliver on the promise of fiscal austerity that GOP candidates pledged to voters last year.
    “It’s big, and it’s real and it can impact people’s lives,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Monday of the House legislation. “But we have a budget deficit right now of nearly $1.5 trillion. We have a lot of work to do.”… – WaPo, 2-15-11
  • Obama budget: $3.7 trillion FY ‘12 blueprint calls for key ‘investments’; red ink surges: Trying to balance the need to rein in deficits with his belief that spending now on education and other priorities will pay off in the long term, President Obama on Monday sent Congress a $3.7 trillion budget blueprint for 2012 that makes some short-term fixes but puts off heavy lifting on Social Security and Medicare.
    The budget acts as an update on the current fiscal year, as well as a plan for the future, and it shows the federal government will run a record $1.645 trillion deficit in 2011, slimming down to $1.101 trillion in 2012 and continuing the red ink for the foreseeable future, though at lower levels.
    After massive spending during his first two years in office, Mr. Obama proposed some tax increases and strategic spending cuts for 2012, such as in low-income energy assistance and student aid. But he also called for boosting spending on transportation and education – needs the president said cannot be sacrificed even in the face of the deficit…. – Washington Times, 2-14-11
  • Obama budget sets up spending fight Proposed cuts too small for GOP’s fiscal hawks: President Barack Obama sent Congress a $3.73 trillion 2012 budget that would boost spending in Michigan on items like education and energy, while cutting things like heating assistance for the poor and Great Lakes cleanup in an effort to bring the federal deficit under control. White House officials said Obama’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins in October would trim the federal deficit by $1.1 trillion over a decade, and produce about a $1.6 trillion budget hole for this year. The plan now goes to Congress, where it’s likely to encounter stiff opposition from Republicans who have said they want deeper cuts and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who will fight for programs and tax breaks benefiting their districts… – The Detroit News, 2-15-11
  • Editorial: The Obama Budget: On paper, President Obama’s new $3.7 trillion budget is encouraging. It makes a number of tough choices to cut the deficit by a projected $1.1 trillion over 10 years, which is enough to prevent an uncontrolled explosion of debt in the next decade and, as a result, reduce the risk of a fiscal crisis.
    The questions are whether its tough choices are also wise choices and whether it stands a chance in a Congress in which Republicans, who now dominate the House, are obsessed with making indiscriminate short-term cuts in programs they never liked anyway. The Republican cuts would eviscerate vital government functions while not having any lasting impact on the deficit.
    What Mr. Obama’s budget is most definitely not is a blueprint for dealing with the real long-term problems that feed the budget deficit: rising health care costs, an aging population and a refusal by lawmakers to face the inescapable need to raise taxes at some point. Rather, it defers those critical issues, in hopes, we assume, that both the economy and the political environment will improve in the future…. – NYT, 2-15-11
  • President Obama’s budget kicks the hard choices further down the road: THE PRESIDENT PUNTED. Having been given the chance, the cover and the push by the fiscal commission he created to take bold steps to raise revenue and curb entitlement spending, President Obama, in his fiscal 2012 budget proposal, chose instead to duck. To duck, and to mask some of the ducking with the sort of budgetary gimmicks he once derided. “The fiscal realities we face require hard choices,” the president said in his budget message. “A decade of deficits, compounded by the effects of the recession and the steps we had to take to break it, as well as the chronic failure to confront difficult decisions, has put us on an unsustainable course.” His budget would keep the country on that course…. – WaPo, 2-15-11

112TH CONGRESS

  • As Republicans See a Mandate on Budget Cuts, Others See Risk: In Congress and in statehouses, Republican lawmakers and governors are claiming a broad mandate from last year’s elections as they embark on an aggressive campaign of cutting government spending taking on public unions. Their agenda echoes in its ambition what President Obama and Democrats tried after winning office in their own electoral wave in 2008…. – NYT, 2-21-11
  • Schumer: In recess, Senate working on budget issue: A leading Democrat says Senate officials are working behind the scenes on a budget proposal to keep the government running. Even with the budget crisis looming, both houses of Congress are in recess this week. But Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York says that lawmakers and aides are poring over the massive budget document passed by the House in the wee hours of Saturday morning. It proposes cutting $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs…. – AP, 2-20-11
  • Memories of 1995 haunt GOP as shutdown talk grows: Few memories haunt Republicans more deeply than the 1995-96 partial shutdown of the federal government, which helped President Bill Clinton reverse his falling fortunes and recast House Republicans as stubborn partisans, not savvy insurgents.
    Now, as Congress careens toward a budget impasse, government insiders wonder if another shutdown is imminent — and whether Republicans again would suffer the most blame. Leaders of both parties say they are determined to avoid a shutdown. But they have not yielded on the amount of spending cuts they will demand or accept. Meanwhile, shutdown talk is rippling through Washington and beyond…. – AP, 2-20-11
  • The Fix: Sen. Jeff Bingaman to retire: New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman is expected to announce his retirement today, according to a source close to the decision, a move that further complicates his party’s efforts to hold their Senate majority in 2012…. – WaPo, 2-18-11
  • NM’s Bingaman becomes 3rd Dem senator to retire: As U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman shook hands of those congratulating him on his years of service, he turned to the crowd and said: “Sure seems like a wake in here, doesn’t it?” The 67-year-old Democrat announced Friday that he would retire after the end of his current term, which ends in two years. The decision was the latest in a string of departures to hit congressional Democrats as they head to the 2012 elections…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • House passes sweeping cuts to domestic programs: Jolted to action by deficit-conscious newcomers, the Republican-controlled House passed sweeping legislation early Saturday to cut $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs and shelter coal companies, oil refiners and farmers from new government regulations. The 235-189 vote to send the bill to the Senate was largely along party lines and defied a veto threat from President Barack Obama. It marked the most striking victory to date for the 87-member class of freshmen Republicans elected last fall on a promise to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government. Three Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • GOP bill pairs budget cuts, regulatory rollbacks: The GOP-controlled House is using a catchall spending bill not just to cut President Barack Obama’s budget but to assault his health care overhaul, global warming policy and efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • House effort to restrict labor wage law fails: The House early Saturday turned back an effort to suspend a Depression-era law that requires federal contractors to pay locally prevailing wage rates. The vote came amid heightened clashes between the two parties over labor rights.
    Lawmakers voted 233-189 against barring spending on Davis-Bacon wage requirements on federal work projects for the remainder of this budget year. The measure was offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, as an amendment to a massive spending bill to keep the government running through Sept. 30…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • GOP newcomers test mandate to shrink government: Asked how long the House would need to finish legislation cutting $61 billion in government spending, the most powerful Republican in the land responded wryly. “I don’t know, I’m only the speaker.” It was a candid acknowledgement from Ohio Rep. John Boehner that the 87 Republican first-term lawmakers who swept the party into power in the House are moving on a path — and at a pace — of their own choosing…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • Freshmen spur GOP-run House on big spending cuts: Jolted to action by deficit-conscious newcomers, the Republican-controlled House agreed early Saturday to cut $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs and shelter coal companies, oil refiners and farmers from new government regulations.
    By a 235-189 vote, largely along party lines, the House sent the bill to the Senate, where it faces longer odds, and defied a veto threat from President Barack Obama. Passage of the legislation was the most striking victory to date for the 87 freshman Republicans elected last fall on a promise to attack the deficit and reduce the reach of government. Three Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure…. – AP, 2-19-11
  • House votes to block EPA’s global warming power: The Republican-controlled House has voted to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases that scientists say cause global warming. The 249-177 vote added the regulation ban to a sweeping spending bill that would fund the government through Sept. 30. The restriction is opposed by the Obama administration, which is using its regulatory powers to curb greenhouse gases after global warming legislation collapsed last year. The administration also says the ban would cost thousands of construction jobs…. – AP, 2-18-11
  • US House poised to pass Republican spending cuts: The Republican-controlled US House of Representatives on Thursday was poised to approve deep spending cuts for this year, setting the stage for a battle with the Democratic-run Senate…. – Reuters, 2-18-11
  • House votes to curb regulators, cut spending: The Republican-controlled House voted to shield greenhouse-gas polluters and privately owned colleges from federal regulators on Friday, strengthening the pro-business emphasis of legislation that also would chop $61 billion from government spending. But as a final vote neared on the sweeping measure, newly elected conservatives suffered a rare setback when a split among rank-and-file Republicans sank a move to cut an additional $22 billion.
    “The American people have spoken. They demand that Washington stop its out-of-control spending now, not some time in the future,” declared Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., one of the 87 newly elected Republicans who have moved aggressively to attack federal deficits and reduce government’s reach. In a victory for social conservatives, the House voted 240-185 to block federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood. Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., who proposed the move, said, “It is morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to fund organizations that provide and promote abortion.”… – AP, 2-18-11
  • Deficit Plan Details Emerge: A bipartisan group of senators is considering legislation that would trigger new taxes and budget cuts if Congress fails to meet a set of mandatory spending targets and other fiscal goals aimed at reducing federal deficits…. – WSJ, 2-17-11
  • House axes funds for jet engine to be built in Lynn: The House rejected funding for a second engine for the Pentagon’s new jet fighter yesterday, dealing a major blow to a program that had promised to create more than 400 jobs at a General Electric plant in Lynn…. – Boston Globe, 2-17-11
  • Brown describes beatings, sexual abuse in childhood: Senator Scott Brown, describing a childhood of family violence and strife, reveals in his new autobiography that he was sexually assaulted as a 10-year-old by a summer camp counselor on Cape Cod…. – Boston Globe, 2-17-11
  • Senate to vote on patent reform after breakReuters, 2-16-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • PAUL KRUGMAN: Wisconsin Power Play: Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.”
    It wasn’t the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn’t mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it…. – NYT, 2-20-11
  • Wis. governor predicts Democrats will return to debate union rights: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose bid to reduce public employees’ collective-bargaining power has triggered public protests, said Sunday that he expects Democrats who oppose his plan to return to the state and debate…. – WaPO, 2-20-11
  • Bachmann defends Wisconsin moves on collective bargaining: US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) at the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, February 10, 2011. Tea Party activist and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann on Saturday defended moves by fellow Republicans in Wisconsin to reduce state union bargaining power…. – Reuters, 2-19-11
  • Thousands surround Capitol in Wisconsin: A state Capitol thrown into chaos swelled for a fifth day Saturday with thousands of protesters, as supporters of Republican efforts to scrap the union rights of state workers added their voices to the debate…. – NewsOK.com, 2-19-11
  • Protests Continue In Wisconsin As Budget Fight Rages: Protests continued Friday at the Wisconsin state Capitol building, as several missing Democratic state senators hold up action on a plan to reduce union bargaining rights of government employees…. – NPR, 2-18-11
  • Wisconsin in near-chaos over anti-union bill: Protestors swarm Wisconsin’s Capitol and Democratic lawmakers flee the state to stall the new Republican governor’s anti-union bill…. – LAT, 2-18-11
  • Wisconsin Public Workers Protest Governor’s ProposalWSJ, 2-17-11
  • Gov. Brown freezes statewide hiring: Before the announcement, he quietly drops a suit to lower California state workers’ checks to the federal minimum wage during a budget impasse…. – LAT, 2-15-11
  • Flake 1st candidate to run for Kyl’s seat: U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake wasted no time Monday in becoming the first official candidate for the U.S. Senate seat that will open in 2012, moving fast to get a jump-start on campaign fundraising and to discourage potential Republican rivals from entering the GOP race.
    Flake, 49, the libertarian-leaning senior Republican member of Arizona’s U.S. House delegation, launched his campaign four days after three-term U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said he would not seek re-election next year.
    The speed of Flake’s entry into the 2012 competition could crowd out some of the other Republicans whose names have been floated, although Flake said he looks forward to “a spirited campaign.”… – The Arizona Republic, 2-14-11

CHICAGO MAYORAL CAMPAIGN

  • Emanuel beats rivals to become next Chicago mayor: Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago on Tuesday, easily overwhelming five rivals to take the helm of the nation’s third-largest city as it prepares to chart a new course without the retiring Richard M. Daley. Emanuel trounced all opponents with 55 percent of the vote — a margin that allowed him to avoid an April runoff. He needed more than 50 percent to win outright.
    It was the city’s first mayoral race in more than 60 years without an incumbent on the ballot and the first in more than two decades without Daley among the candidates. Daley and his father have led Chicago for more than 43 out of the last 56 years.
    Emanuel called the victory “humbling” and said the outgoing mayor had “earned a special place in our hearts and our history.” But he added: “We have not won anything until a kid can go to school thinking of their studies and not their safety. Until the parent of that child is thinking about their work and not where they are going to find work, we have not won anything.”… – AP, 2-22-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • GOP 2012: Do Early Polls Matter?: A look at when potential GOP candidates may announce their candidacy… – Neon Tommy, 2-17-11
  • The idea of President Palin hits a granite wallWaPo, 2-17-11
  • Obama wants to know Kaine’s intentions on Senate race: President Barack Obama told a television interviewer Wednesday that he wants to hear former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s intentions regarding a possible run for Jim Webb’s US Senate seat…. – Richmond Times Dispatch, 2-16-11
  • Twelve for ’12: A Dozen Republicans Who Could Be the Next President: With the GOP’s presidential primary fight fast approaching, TIME takes a look at the prospective contenders to take on Barack Obama…
    Candidates of the Conservatives: Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, John Thune, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint… – Time
  • Romney reaches out to business, but isn’t ready to show hand: Mitt Romney sought yesterday to distinguish himself from President Obama, his potential 2012 election opponent, by casting himself as a friend to the nation’s business community…. – Boston Globe, 2-14-11
  • Romney tops Obama in NH poll: In a WMUR Granite State Poll released today, Mitt Romney garnered 49 percent of the vote to 41 percent for the president, who took the state in his 2008 win over Republican John McCain…. – Boston Globe, 2-14-11

QUOTES

The President records the Weekly Address
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 2/18/11
  • Weekly Address: To Win the Future, America Must Win the Global Competition in Education: Remarks of President Barack Obama As Prepared for Delivery February 19, 2011 Hillsboro, Oregon: I’m speaking to you from just outside Portland, Oregon where I’m visiting Intel, a company that helped pioneer the digital age. I just came from a tour of an assembly line where highly-skilled technicians are building microprocessors that run everything from desktop computers to smartphones.
    But these workers aren’t just manufacturing high-tech computer chips. They’re showing us how America will win the future….
    If we want to win the global competition for new jobs and industries, we’ve got to win the global competition to educate our people. We’ve got to have the best trained, best skilled workforce in the world. That’s how we’ll ensure that the next Intel, the next Google, or the next Microsoft is created in America, and hires American workers.
    This is why, over the past two years, my administration has made education a top priority. We’ve launched a competition called “Race to the Top” – a reform that is lifting academic standards and getting results; not because Washington dictated the answers, but because states and local schools pursued innovative solutions. We’re also making college more affordable for millions of students, and revitalizing our community colleges, so that folks can get the training they need for the careers they want. And as part of this effort, we’ve launched a nationwide initiative to connect graduates that need jobs with businesses that need their skills.
    Intel understands how important these partnerships can be – recognizing that their company’s success depends on a pipeline of skilled people ready to fill high-wage, high-tech jobs. Intel often pays for workers to continue their education at nearby Portland State University. As a result, one out of every fifteen of Intel’s Oregon employees has a degree from Portland State.
    In fact, Intel’s commitment to education begins at an even younger age. The company is providing training to help 100,000 math and science teachers improve their skills in the classroom. And today, I’m also meeting a few students from Oregon who impressed the judges in the high school science and engineering competitions that Intel sponsors across America….
    So these have been a tough few years for our country. And in tough times, it’s natural to question what the future holds. But when you meet young people like Laurie and Yushi, it’s hard not to be inspired. And it’s impossible not to be confident about America.
    We are poised to lead in this new century – and not just because of the good work that large companies like Intel are doing. All across America, there are innovators and entrepreneurs who are trying to start the next Intel, or just get a small business of their own off the ground. I’ll be meeting with some of these men and women next week in Cleveland, to get ideas about what we can do to help their companies grow and create jobs.
    The truth is, we have everything we need to compete: bold entrepreneurs, bright new ideas, and world-class colleges and universities. And, most of all, we have young people just brimming with promise and ready to help us succeed. All we have to do is tap that potential.
    That’s the lesson on display at Intel. And that’s how America will win the future. – WH, 2-19-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • The President Unveils a Budget to Win the Future for Our Kids: And I just came to Parkville on a day where we are unveiling our budget, and I’m doing so for a reason. But before I do that I just want to thank Principal Buddy Parker, who is showing us around, as well as Susan Yoder, the eighth grade science teacher who we just visited with in her classroom.
    Over the last few weeks I’ve traveled the country, talking about what we need to do to win the future; talked about the need to invest in innovation, so that the next big idea is discovered here in the United States of America. I’ve talked about the need to invest in high-speed rail and high-speed Internet, so that companies can move goods and information faster than ever. And this week, I’ll be talking about the need to invest in education -– in places like Parkville -– so that every American is equipped to compete with any worker, anywhere in the world.
    These investments are an essential part of the budget my administration is sending to Congress. Because I’m convinced that if we out-build and out-innovate and out-educate, as well as out-hustle the rest of the world, the jobs and industries of our time will take root here in the United States. Our people will prosper and our country will succeed.
    But I’m also convinced that the only way we can make these investments in our future is if our government starts living within its means, if we start taking responsibility for our deficits. That’s why, when I was sworn in as President, I pledged to cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term. The budget I’m proposing today meets that pledge -– and puts us on a path to pay for what we spend by the middle of the decade. We do this in part by eliminating waste and cutting whatever spending we can do without.
    As I start — as a start, I’ve called for a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years. This freeze would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, bringing this kind of spending — domestic discretionary spending — to its lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Let me repeat that. Because of our budget, this share of spending will be at its lowest level since Dwight Eisenhower was President. That level of spending is lower than it was under the last three administrations, and it will be lower than it was under Ronald Reagan.
    Now, some of the savings will come through less waste and more efficiency. To take just one example, by getting rid of 14,000 office buildings, lots and government-owned properties we no longer need, we can save taxpayers billions of dollars. And when it comes to programs we do need, we’re making them work better by demanding accountability. Instead of spending first, and asking questions later, we’re rewarding folks inside and outside government who deliver results. And to make sure that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, I’ve pledged to veto any bill that contains earmarks.
    Still, even as we cut waste and inefficiency, this budget freeze will require some tough choices. It will mean cutting things that I care deeply about — for example, community action programs in low-income neighborhoods and towns, and community development block grants that so many of our cities and states rely on. But if we’re going to walk the walk when it comes to fiscal discipline, these kinds of cuts will be necessary…. – WH, 2-14-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Jack Lew: The 2012 Budget: Today, the President sent to Congress his budget for the 2012 fiscal year. This document is built around the simple idea that we have to live within our means so we can invest in the future. Only by making tough choices to both cut spending and deficits and invest in what we need to win the future can we out-educate, out-build, and out-innovate the rest of the world.
    This is the seventh Budget that I have worked on at OMB, and it may be the most difficult. It includes more than $1 trillion in deficit reduction – two-thirds from spending cuts — and puts the nation on a path toward fiscal sustainability so that by the middle of the decade, the government will no longer be adding to our national debt as a share of the economy and will be paying for what it spends – and will be able to sustain that for many years afterwards.
    The President has called this budget a down payment because we will still have work to do to pay down the debt and address our long-term challenges. But it is a necessary and critical step for we cannot start to move toward balance and to cutting into the size of our debt until we first stop adding to it – and that is what this Budget does…. – WH, 2-14-11
  • Barack Obama: “The fiscal realities we face require hard choices. A decade of deficits, compounded by the effects of the recession and the steps we had to take to break it, as well as the chronic failure to confront difficult decisions, has put us on an unsustainable course.”
  • Barack Obama: “As we move to rein in our deficits, we must do so in a way that does not cut back on those investments that have the biggest impact on our economic growth, because the best antidote to a growing deficit is a growing economy. So even as we pursue cuts and savings in the months ahead, we must fund those investments that will help America win the race for the jobs and industries of the future – investments in education, innovation, and infrastructure.”
  • Eric Cantor: This week, the House will consider H.R. 1 – historic legislation that will reduce spending by at least $100 billion over the next seven months. This is the largest spending cut in modern history. These are not easy cuts, but we are finally doing what every American has to do both at home and at work – begin a path towards living within our means.
  • John Boehner: President Obama’s latest budget will destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much, & taxing too much. The American people have made it clear they want Washington’s job-crushing spending binge to end. To help our economy get back to creating jobs, we need to liberate it from the shackles of Big Government and out-of-control spending. H.R. 1, on the House floor this week, will help do this.
  • Mitch McConnell: Senator McConnell comments on the President’s Budget: After two years of failed Stimulus programs and Democrats in Washington competing to outspend each other, we just can’t afford to do all the things the administration wants to do. The President has said he wants us to ‘Win the Future.’ But this budget abdicates the future. It simply spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much.
  • Sarah Palin: The Truth Behind the White House’s Budget Spin: Today the White House finally produced its proposal for the 2012 budget. Beware of the left’s attempt to sell this as “getting tough on the deficit,” because as an analysis from Americans for Tax Reform shows, the White House’s plans are more about raising taxes and growing more government than reducing budget shortfalls.
    The fine print reveals a White House proposal to increase taxes by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. If you want to know how minuscule their proposed $775 million-a-year budget “cuts” really are, please look at this chart. The proposed cuts are so insignificant – less than 1/10 of 1% of this year’s $1.65 trillion budget deficit – that they are essentially invisible on the pie chart. That speaks volumes about today’s budget.
    UPDATE: As J.D. Foster of the Heritage Foundation points out: “…the President proposes a budget that keeps the federal government on a thoroughly irresponsible and unsustainable course.” Please read the Heritage Foundation article and understand the $775 million in proposed cuts noted above are what the White House’s budget director Jacob Lew identified as reflecting what they perceive as some “tough calls.” Yet, as noted, they are a drop in the bucket; and the White House’s total proposed cuts for this year are still not at all enough to make us solvent.

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

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