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
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April 28, 2011: President Obama Announces New National Security Team

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, Pete Souza, 4/28/11

IN FOCUS: OBAMA NAMES NEW NATIONAL SECURITY TEAM

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

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

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

IN FOCUS: STATS

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

THE HEADLINES….

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

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

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

POLITICAL QUOTES

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

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

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