Political Highlights May 30, 2011: The Obamas Take Europe on State Trip — The G8 Summit – Memorial after Joplin Tornado Devastation

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, 5/25/11

STATS & POLLS

  • Obama gains foothold; GOP autumn surge behind him: Six months after Republicans alarmed Democrats with a midterm election wave, President Barack Obama has shaken off the jitters and found his political footing despite sluggish economic growth and deep public anxiety about the direction of the country.
    The White House now displays an air of confidence, bolstered in part by achievements such as the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. commandos and the financial success of an auto industry that Obama bailed out over the objections of many.
    Obama is also benefiting from the absence of negatives. The economy, while lethargic, is growing. The private sector is creating jobs. Natural disasters, while deadly and plentiful, have not developed into governmental crises. Skyrocketing gas prices, which fed the public’s economic fears, are now subsiding. And the GOP’s signature budget plan, ambitious in its spending reductions, has lost its luster with the public. “It is likely he will be re-elected, in my opinion,” veteran Republican pollster Wes Anderson says.
    What’s more, the president appears to be enjoying the still lingering but more intangible effects of his election in 2008, a watershed for the nation. Polls show Obama with strong favorability and likability ratings even as he faces ambivalence over his handling of the presidency…. – AP, 5-31-11
  • New poll shows Obama with a bump in Florida: A new poll gives President Barack Obama a bump in Florida after the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday shows voters approve of Obama’s job performance by 51 percent to 43 percent. That’s a turnaround from a 52 percent to 44 percent negative rating in a poll on April 7.
    Florida voters also prefer the Democratic president 44 percent to 37 percent when matched against an unnamed Republican…. – AP, 5-26-11

IN FOCUS

  • Poll: Israelis back Netanyahu’s tough stance in US: An Israeli poll indicates that support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has surged following his contentious visit to the United States.
    Netanyahu had a a tense meeting in Washington with President Barack Obama over the nature of a future Palestinian state. In an address before Congress, he insisted Israel would not return to its pre-1967 war borders.
    The survey has 51 percent of those polled supporting Netanyahu — a 13 percent increase from the Dialog Institute’s previous poll published five weeks ago. The latest poll results were published Thursday in the Haaretz daily.
    Forty-seven percent of Israelis surveyed believe Netanyahu’s U.S. trip was a success while only 10 percent see it as a failure. The poll surveyed 477 people and had a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Israeli officials fret over opening of Gaza border: Israeli and American officials on Thursday said they were pressing Egypt to ensure that the opening of its border with Gaza does not enable the Hamas militant group to move weapons and militants into the Palestinian territory.
    The diplomatic efforts were underway after Egypt announced it was permanently opening its Rafah border crossing with Gaza. The Rafah terminal, Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world, has functioned only at limited capacity, with frequent closures, for the past four years.
    Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of Gaza since Hamas violently seized power four years ago. But since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in February, the country’s caretaker government has distanced itself from Israel and moved closer to the Palestinians…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Are pre-1967 borders indefensible for Israel?: During a swing through Washington this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly said his country’s pre-1967 lines are “indefensible.”
    A total withdrawal from the West Bank, a strategic highland looming over central Israel, would certainly leave the Israeli heartland more vulnerable to attack or invasion. But some experts say that long-range missiles, weapons of mass destruction and cyber-warfare mean that in the modern world the greater risks lie elsewhere — especially if a future Palestine is demilitarized.
    The border issue is now at the heart of the latest tensions in Mideast peace efforts. Seeking to break an eight-month deadlock, President Barack Obama last week proposed that Israel commit to establishing a Palestinian state based on its frontiers before the 1967 Middle East war, when it captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. The Palestinians claim all three areas for their state.
    Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza in 2005. But Netanyahu says a similar pullout from the other areas, even as part of a negotiated peace deal, would jeopardize his country’s security on a different scale.
    A return to those lines would leave Israel with a waistline just nine miles (15 kilometers) wide at its narrowest point, Jerusalem surrounded on three sides by Palestinian land and the country’s main international airport just a few miles (kilometers) away from the border. If hostilities break out, Israel’s largest cities could be vulnerable to rocket fire and other attacks…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Netanyahu: Israel ready for painful compromises: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged Tuesday to make “painful compromises” for peace with the Palestinians but said he would not agree to any deal that threatens Israel’s security or its identity as a Jewish state.
    Speaking before a wildly receptive joint meeting of Congress that showered him with more than two dozen sustained standing ovations, Netanyahu said Israel wants and needs peace but repeated his flat rejection of a return to what he called the “indefensible” borders that existed before the 1967 Mideast war. He also restated Israel’s refusal to entertain the return of millions of Palestinian refugees and their families to land in Israel. And, he maintained that Jerusalem, claimed by both sides as their capital, could not be divided.
    “Israel will never give up its quest for peace,” Netanyahu said, adding that he is “willing to make painful compromises to achieve this historic peace.”
    But he said Israel would not negotiate with terrorists and urged Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to rip up a power-sharing agreement that his moderate Fatah faction has signed with the militant group Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
    “We must take calls for our destruction seriously,” Netanyahu said, recalling the Holocaust and the absolute imperative not to allow the Jewish people to suffer new massacres. “When we say ‘never again, we mean ‘never again,’ ” he said…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Army arrests Israeli activists in West Bank: Israel’s army says it has arrested several Israeli activists who broke into a disputed West Bank building to protest speeches by President Barack Obama and the Israeli prime minister in Washington.
    A military spokeswoman says the troops arrested about eight activists early on Tuesday after they holed themselves up in Beit Shapira, a building in the contentious city of Hebron. Israel sealed the building in 2006.
    Army radio broadcast one activist at the site yelling: “Tell Obama and (Netanyahu) that Israel won’t give up its land.”… – AP, 5-23-11
  • Netanyahu: Israel cannot return to 1967 borders: Israel’s prime minister promised to present his vision for an Israeli-Palestinian peace in a speech before U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday, but vowed his country would not return to mid-1967 borders that he termed “indefensible.”
    Benjamin Netanyahu made this pledge in an address Monday to thousands of pro-Israel American Jews and U.S. lawmakers. His speech drew roaring cheers and standing ovations, a sign of the powerful backing he enjoys in the U.S. as the White House pressures him to do more to renew stalled Mideast peacemaking.
    The warm reception Netanyahu enjoyed at the gala dinner of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee contrasted sharply with the contentious quality of some of his recent exchanges with President Barack Obama precisely over border issues.
    His planned address on Tuesday to a joint meeting of Congress, where Israel enjoys strong bipartisan backing, could similarly remind Obama, ahead of his re-election bid, of the political price he might pay if he tries to push Netanyahu too hard.
    In that speech, Netanyahu said, he will “outline a vision for a secure Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
    But in language that suggested he was not going to take a conciliatory pose, he promised to “speak the unvarnished truth.”
    “This conflict has raged for 100 years because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept a Jewish state.”… – AP, 5-23-11
  • Parties See Obama’s Israel Policy as Wedge for 2012: Few issues in American politics are as bipartisan as support for Israel. Yet the question of whether President Obama is supportive enough is behind some of the most partisan maneuvering since the Middle East ally was born six decades ago, and that angling has potential ramifications for the 2012 elections.
    The visit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the past week captured just how aggressively Republicans are stoking doubts about Mr. Obama. Republican Congressional leaders and presidential aspirants lavished praise on Mr. Netanyahu as quickly as they had condemned Mr. Obama for proposing that Israel’s 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps, should be a basis for negotiating peace with the Palestinians.
    Republicans do not suggest that they can soon break the Democratic Party’s long hold on the loyalty of Jewish-American voters; Mr. Obama got nearly 8 of 10 such voters in 2008. But what Republicans do see is the potential in 2012 to diminish the millions of dollars, volunteer activism and ultimately the votes that Mr. Obama and his party typically get from American Jews — support that is disproportionate to their numbers.
    While Jewish Americans are just 2 percent of the electorate nationally, they are “strategically concentrated,” as Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, put it, in several swing states that are critical in presidential elections. Those states include Florida — which in 2000 illustrated the potentially decisive power of one state — Ohio and Nevada.
    A test of Mr. Obama’s support will come June 20, when he will hold a fund-raiser for about 80 Jewish donors at a private dinner…. – NYT, 5-26-11

REVOLUTIONS IN THE MIDDLE EAST

  • Analysis: No end in sight for NATO in Libya: The military campaign in Libya began with what seemed a narrowly defined mission: to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians from attack.
    Two months later, the campaign has evolved into a ferocious pounding of the country’s capital, Tripoli, in what appears an all-out effort to oust Moammar Gadhafi. But that goal remains elusive, raising the prospect of a quagmire in the desert. And the political will of the countries involved is being sorely tested.
    The Libyan opposition remains weak. NATO, the North Atlantic military alliance which took over command of the campaign from the U.S. on March 31, appears to have no clear exit strategy. Two of the allies, Britain and France, have descended into public squabbling over bringing the fight closer to Gadhafi with attack helicopters. And the French foreign minister said Tuesday his country’s willingness to continue the campaign was not endless.
    Part of the challenge lies in the original U.N. resolution: It authorized the use of air power but forbade ground troops, even as it authorized “all necessary means” to protect civilians following Gadhafi’s brutal suppression of the popular uprising against his rule…. – AP, 5-24-11

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • Hillary Clinton calls on Pakistan to take ‘decisive steps’ against terrorists: Meeting with Pakistani leaders, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the US-Pakistan relationship is at a ‘turning point’ and that Islamabad needs to ramp up its cooperation in the fight against Al Qaeda militants…. – LAT, 5-27-11
  • Gates: Big budget cuts will diminish US influence: Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday warned that shrinking defense budgets will mean a smaller military and a diminished U.S. role in the world.
    He said that barring a catastrophic world conflict or a new threat to the very existence of the U.S., there will be no foreseeable return to the booming Pentagon budgets of the past decade. “The money and the political support simply aren’t there,” he said.
    This means the Obama administration and Congress must now decide how much military power the U.S. should give up, how that fits U.S. goals for maintaining global influence, and how to pay for it, Gates said.
    “A smaller military, no matter how superb, will be able to go fewer places and be able to do fewer things,” he said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank that is generally hostile to defense cuts… – AP, 5-24-11
  • Gates urges Iraqis to ask for US troop extension: Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday he hopes Baghdad asks U.S. troops to stay beyond their scheduled Dec. 31 departure in order to preserve the relative peace in a country where Americans have such an enormous investment in money and lives.
    “I hope they figure out a way to ask, and I think that the United States will be willing to say ‘yes’ when that time comes,” Gates said in response to a question about Iraq after delivering a speech on Pentagon budget cuts.
    Gates said a longer U.S. military presence could help sustain the security and other gains Iraq has made in recent years. Iraq could become a model for a multisectarian society in the Arab world “that shows that democracy works,” he said…. – AP, 5-24-11

THE HEADLINES….

West Wing Week
  • Memorial Day marked by parades, flyovers, flags: Americans from the nation’s capital to Alaska marked Memorial Day with parades, somber reflection and even a climbing expedition in a holiday infused with fresh meaning by the approaching 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
    The National Memorial Day Parade in Washington honored veterans and America’s war dead but also included special tributes to Sept. 11 first responders, victims and their families. Also fresh in the minds of parade participants and watchers was the killing less than a month ago of Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the attacks.
    Elsewhere, military jets thundered through the sky above New York after a wreath-laying ceremony aboard an aircraft carrier that’s been turned into a museum, while hundreds of volunteers put small flags on the 25,000 graves at a sprawling military cemetery near Las Vegas. U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan also took time out to remember fallen comrades… – AP, 5-30-11
  • Obamas honor America’s veterans on Memorial Day: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will spend Memorial Day paying tribute to the military. The Obamas will visit Arlington National Cemetery where the president will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
    Following the ceremony, the president will participate in the Memorial Day Service at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery along with Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The Obamas will start the day by hosting a breakfast for families who have lost loved ones in combat…. – AP, 5-30-11
  • Obama tours twister-ravaged neighborhood in Joplin: President Barack Obama toured the apocalyptic landscape left by Missouri’s killer tornado, consoled the bereaved and homeless, and committed the government to helping rebuild shattered lives.
    “We’re not going to stop ’til Joplin’s back on its feet,” Obama vowed. A memorial service where Obama spoke punctuated a day of remembrance one week after the disaster, as authorities pressed on with the task of identifying the victims and volunteers combed through wreckage of neighborhoods where nothing was left whole.
    The service erupted in cheers when Obama said, “I promise you your country will be there with you every single step of the way,” a pledge he extended to all parts of the nation raked by violent storms this season…. – AP, 5-30-11
  • Joint Chiefs pick is soldier-scholar _ and singer: Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wears four stars on his shoulders, holds three master’s degrees, fought two wars against Iraq, and survived one bout with cancer.
    And he has one catchy hobby: singing. He’ll belt out Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” at the drop of a hat.
    Crooning is not among the qualities that pushed Dempsey to the top of Obama’s list in searching for a successor to Adm. Mike Mullen, whose term as Joint Chiefs chairman began under President George W. Bush and ends Sept. 30. But Dempsey’s singing singles him out in a field of Army generals who are usually less publicly playful, and more rigidly aligned with a military culture of caution…. – AP, 5-30-11
  • Gen. Dempsey chosen to head Joint Chiefs of Staff: President Barack Obama moved Monday to seal an overhaul of his national security team, selecting Army Gen. Martin Dempsey as the next Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman amid protracted battle in Afghanistan, U.S. involvement in the NATO-led effort against Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi and a winding down of the war in Iraq.
    Obama announced a new lineup of his top military leadership group in the Rose Garden of the White House just before venturing across the Potomac to pay tribute to the nation’s war dead at Arlington National Cemetery. The Memorial Day announcements had been expected, although there was no immediate indication what the military leadership moves might imply for possible changes in military strategy…. – AP, 5-30-11
  • Obama Expected to Name Army’s Leader to Head Joint Chiefs: Gen. Martin E. Dempsey’s peers call him a “pentathlete,” the kind of post-Sept. 11 commander who not only knows the art of combat but is also adept at marshaling the power of diplomacy, money, allied cooperation and information.
    He will need all those skills if, as expected, President Obama nominates him to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a move that could come as early as Monday.
    As the military’s highest-ranking officer and a crucial member of the president’s revamped national security team, General Dempsey would face a complex and consequential set of challenges against the backdrop of both rapid change abroad and intensive political pressures at home: how fast to withdraw from Afghanistan, how to reshape the military and how to cope with an era of fiscal austerity…. – NYT, 5-29-11
  • Policy Adviser Tapped to Become U.S. Ambassador to Russia: President Obama has decided to send the architect of his so-called Russia reset policy to Moscow as the next United States ambassador there, seeking to further bolster an improved relationship as both countries head into a potentially volatile election season.
    Mr. Obama plans to nominate Michael McFaul, his top White House adviser on Russia policy, for the post, according to administration officials who declined to be identified before the formal announcement. Mr. Obama told the Russian president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, of his choice during a meeting in France last week, officials said.
    In selecting Mr. McFaul, Mr. Obama is breaking with recent tradition in Moscow, where all but one of eight American ambassadors over the last 30 years have been career diplomats. But in choosing someone from his own inner circle, Mr. Obama underscored his determination to keep Russian-American relations a centerpiece of his foreign policy after his early push to reset the relationship following years of growing tension…. – NYT, 5-29-11
  • Obama going to Missouri to offer help in healing: President Barack Obama is pivoting from diplomacy on the world stage to the intimate and delicate domestic task of acting as healer-in-chief to a Missouri community devasted by a massive tornado.
    The president travels to tornado-wrecked Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday, a day after returning from a six-day European tour of Ireland, Britain, France and Poland.
    The president will visit with survivors and family members of the worst tornado in decades, a monster storm that tore through Joplin a week ago leaving more than 130 dead and hundreds more injured. More than 40 people remain unaccounted for, and the damage is massive.
    The president will tour destroyed neighborhoods in the city of 50,000 in southwestern Missouri, and speak at a memorial service being held by local clergy and Gov. Jay Nixon for those who lost their lives. He’ll offer federal assistance, and his own condolences…. – AP, 5-29-11
  • Obama, in Europe, signs Patriot Act extension: Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.
    “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said Friday after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
    With Obama in France, the White House said the president used an autopen machine that holds a pen and signs his actual signature. It is only used with proper authorization of the president.
    Congress sent the bill to the president with only hours to go on Thursday before the provisions expired at midnight. Votes taken in rapid succession in the Senate and House came after lawmakers rejected attempts to temper the law enforcement powers to ensure that individual liberties are not abused.
    The Senate voted 72-23 for the legislation to renew three terrorism-fighting authorities. The House passed the measure 250-153 on an evening vote.
    A short-term expiration would not have interrupted ongoing operations but would have barred the government from seeking warrants for new investigations…. – CBS News, 5-27-11
  • President Obama, Congress passes bill to extend Patriot Act despite Sen. Rand Paul delay: The Patriot Act is here to stay. Congress passed a four-year extension Thursday of the controversial legislation, which allows a continuation of post-Sept. 11 powers to conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.
    President Obama signed the bill into law from France, just minutes before a midnight deadline.
    “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said.
    The nail-biting finish was in large part due to Republican freshman Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The Tea Party favorite held up the legislation, arguing the Patriot Act is an invasion of privacy and gives the government too much power to monitor people’s lives.
    The Senate passed the bill 72-23, and the House voted in favor of it 250-153.
    The extension allows law enforcement officials to continue the use of roving wiretaps – those authorized for a person versus a communications line or device.
    It also allows for court-ordered searches of business records relevant to terrorist investigations and permits secret intelligence surveillance of non-Americans without confirmed ties to terrorist groups…. – NY Daily News, 5-27-11
  • Obama Uses Autopen to Sign Patriot Act Extension: Where in the world is President Obama? Turns out it doesn’t matter. For the first time in United States history, a bill has been signed into law by a mechanical autopen, which affixed the president’s signature at the direction of Mr. Obama, who is in Europe.
    Congress on Thursday passed legislation extending the Patriot Act for four years. (House vote | Senate vote) But with Mr. Obama abroad and the existing legal authorities set to expire, the White House concluded that a mechanical signature would do.
    “Failure to sign this legislation poses a significant risk to U.S. national security,” Nick Shapiro, an assistant press secretary in the White House, said before the vote on Thursday. “As long as Congress approves the extension, the president will direct the use of the autopen to sign it.”
    With that declaration, Mr. Obama turned a machine that is ubiquitous in government and business for routine transactions — letters, ceremonial photos, promotional materials — into the ultimate stand-in replacement for the leader of the free world…. – USA Today, 5-27-11
  • Obama, in Europe, signs Patriot Act extension: Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.
    “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said Friday after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
    With Obama in France, the White House said the president used an autopen machine that holds a pen and signs his actual signature. It is only used with proper authorization of the president.
    Congress sent the bill to the president with only hours to go on Thursday before the provisions expired at midnight. Votes taken in rapid succession in the Senate and House came after lawmakers rejected attempts to temper the law enforcement powers to ensure that individual liberties are not abused.
    The Senate voted 72-23 for the legislation to renew three terrorism-fighting authorities. The House passed the measure 250-153 on an evening vote…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • President Obama, Congress passes bill to extend Patriot Act despite Sen. Rand Paul delay: Congress passed a four-year extension Thursday of the controversial legislation, which allows a continuation of post-Sept. 11 powers to conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists. President Obama signed the bill into law from France, just minutes before a midnight deadline. “It’s an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat,” Obama said…. – NY Daily News, 5-27-11
  • Obama Cites Poland as Model for Arab Shift: President Obama held up Poland on Saturday as a model for Arab nations undergoing political change, saying its peaceful overthrow of Communism held lessons for Tunisia and other Arab countries grappling with the chaotic aftermath of popular revolts.
    President Obama visited the Warsaw memorial to those who died in the 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczynski.
    Mr. Obama’s stop came at the end of a busy, six-day tour of Europe that served both as a reaffirmation of the trans-Atlantic alliance and a call for those European allies to advance the cause of those rallying for political change in the Middle East and North Africa.
    From Britain and France, Mr. Obama asked mainly for money to shore up the teetering economies of Egypt and Tunisia. But from Poland, the president sought something less tangible: inspiration, a kind of how-to manual from people who had taken a similar journey.
    “It has gone through what so many countries want to now go through,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference with Prime Minister Donald Tusk. “Poland can play an extraordinary role precisely because they have they have traveled so far so rapidly over the last 25 years.”… – NYT, 5-28-11
  • Obama arrives in Warsaw; Polish Jews urge him to support Israel: Within hours of arriving Friday in this once-occupied capital, President Obama encountered the enduring emotion surrounding the state of Israel, founded as a sanctuary from the virulent anti-Semitism that wiped out much of this nation’s Jewish population during World War II.
    As his first stop in a two-day visit, Obama visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, then traveled to the Ghetto Heroes Memorial, where he laid a wreath at the base of the stark bronze relief commemorating the tens of thousands of Jews killed in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943.
    About two dozen members of the city’s Jewish community gathered to watch the ceremony, and Obama greeted them afterward. Taking his extended hand, a woman told him, “It’s the only Jewish state we have and we trust you.”
    He made clear a final agreement over territory would likely include land exchanges to accommodate Israeli settlements in the West Bank. But his proposal angered Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who called those prewar lines “indefensible.” “I will always be there for Israel,” Obama told the woman.
    To a man in a kipa, the Jewish skullcap, Obama also said, “We will always be there,” another likely reference to U.S. support for Israel. “I promise.”
    The White House said the visit to the memorial, which concluded with a group photograph of Obama with the Jewish audience, had been planned well before the State Department speech. Obama promised to get the photo to all of those in it with him…. – WaPo, 5-27-11
  • Obama exhorts US, allies to bolster Arab spring: Holding out Poland’s transformation to democracy as a model for the world, President Barack Obama on Saturday exhorted Western allies and the American public alike to extend their support, energy and vision to those now reaching for democracy in the Middle East and North Africa.
    Obama wound up his six-day trip to Europe with a message aimed squarely at the people of the United States, saying that in a time of tight budgets, “I want the American people to understand we’ve got to leave room for us to continue our tradition of providing leadership when it comes to freedom, democracy, human rights.”
    Obama, in a brief news conference with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, assured Americans that he spends the bulk of each day worrying about the U.S. economy and how to strengthen it and create jobs. But he coupled that with the message that it is a U.S. obligation to support democracy around the globe, one that pays dividends in the form of a safer and more prosperous world.
    Speaking with urgency in his voice, Obama said that while no outside country can “impose change” on another, “We can really help. We can facilitate. We can make a difference.”… – AP, 5-27-11
  • G-8: Nations, banks to give $40B for Arab Spring: Rich countries and international lenders are aiming to provide $40 billion in funding for Arab nations trying to establish true democracies, officials said at a Group of Eight summit Friday.
    Officials didn’t fully detail the sources of the money, or how it would be used, but the thrust was clearly to underpin democracy in Egypt and Tunisia — where huge public uprisings ousted autocratic regimes this year — and put pressure on repressive rulers in Syria and Libya.
    The overall message from President Barack Obama and the other G-8 leaders meeting in this Normandy resort appeared to be warning autocratic regimes in the Arab world that they will be shut out of rich-country aid and investment, while new democracies are encouraged to open their economies…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • Obama in Poland to honor history, boost ties: President Barack Obama on Friday honored the memories of those slain in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against Nazis, telling one elderly man that the memorial was a “reminder of the nightmare” of the Holocaust in which 6 millions Jews were killed.
    The president also helped placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated to all unidentified soldiers who have given their lives to Poland in past wars. By paying homage to Poles who fell in World War II at two symbolically potent sites, Obama’s gestures were sure to carry great weight in a country whose identity is still profoundly shaped by the death and destruction inflicted on it by Nazi Germany.
    In the final phase of his European trip, the president greeted Holocaust survivors and leaders of Poland’s Jewish community at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes. He smiled, shook hands and hugged those gathered under a light rain, including some who shared memories of having met Obama at earlier times.
    “What a wonderful visit. I’ll have to bring my daughters,” Obama said as he exited the memorial. The monument in the former Jewish ghetto commemorates the tens of thousands of Jews killed in a 1943 uprising against the Nazis during Germany’s brutal occupation of Poland during World War II…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • After Obama’s European tour, challenges at home: Hope you’ve enjoyed your European trip, Mr. President. A lot’s awaiting your attention on your return Saturday…
    Obama has kept a watchful eye on events at home as he’s devoted the week to the business of strengthening relationships with Western allies and marshaling support for democratic stirrings in the Middle East and North Africa. On Friday he arrived in Poland, the final stop on his itinerary, to connect with an ally that has sometimes felt slighted and to underscore the growing importance of Central and Eastern Europe in world affairs.
    Obama will hold two days of political meetings focusing on security, energy and joint U.S.-Polish efforts to promote democracy in North Africa, Belarus and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. But unlike past U.S. presidents who visited this nation of 38 million, Obama will not meet or address the Polish public directly. He opened the visit by spending time at a memorial to those slain in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising against Nazis, meeting Holocaust survivors and leaders of Poland’s Jewish community…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • 45 senators urge Obama to sell F-16s to Taiwan: Nearly half the Senate urged President Barack Obama on Thursday to authorize quickly the sale of F-16 jet fighters to Taiwan, a request that has been hanging for five years.
    Despite an easing of tensions across the Taiwan Strait in the past three years, Taiwan says it needs the 66 planes to maintain a credible defense and provide leverage in negotiations with Beijing. U.S. agreement to the sale, worth billions of dollars, would anger China’s communist-led government and would set back improved U.S.-China relations.
    “Without new fighter aircraft and upgrades to its existing fleet of F-16s, Taiwan will be dangerously exposed to Chinese military threats, aggression and provocation, which pose significant national security implications for the United States,” says a letter, signed by 45 of the 100 members of the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans.
    Gary Locke, nominated to become U.S. ambassador to China, told lawmakers Thursday that no decision has been made on the sale, and the request for the F-16 C/Ds still is being evaluated by the Defense and State departments. AP, 5-26-11
  • Obama Seeks Aid for Egypt and Tunisia at Meeting: President Obama tried to marshal global economic support for Egypt and Tunisia at a gathering of industrialized countries on Thursday, even as some European allies were privately urging him to increase the United States’ role in the military campaign in Libya.
    These crosscutting pressures show the complexity of the Arab upheaval and the responses it is drawing from major powers. While the United States is emphasizing the need to stabilize the economy of Egypt, its major Arab ally, France and Britain are eager to intensify the NATO airstrikes on Libya’s leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
    These goals are not mutually exclusive, American and European officials said. The United States said it expected the Group of 8 countries — France and Britain, among them — to express strong support for efforts to generate jobs and revive growth in Arab countries…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • World press has trackside view of G8 summit: Reporters covering this year’s G8 summit got a trackside view for the event. Organizers have set the thousand-seat press center smack along the rail of Deauville’s tres chic La Touques thoroughbred racecourse. The track hosts race meetings year-round but the summer season won’t kick off until late June.
    This weekend’s meeting will, however, see thundering stampedes of reporters chasing the latest scoop on the leaders’ talks. Odds say the heads of France, Britain, United States and the other G8 countries will seek to rally behind a common European candidate to take over the International Monetary Fund…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Ambassador nominee: China must lean on North Korea: President Barack Obama’s nominee for U.S. ambassador to China says the Chinese can and must do more to pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.
    Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, a former governor of Washington state, would be the first Chinese-American to serve as ambassador to China if confirmed…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Obama: Japan will emerge stronger after earthquake: President Barack Obama is meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the sidelines of an international summit in France.
    As the meeting got under way, Obama told reporters that Japan will emerge “stronger than ever” after a massive earthquake and tsunami killed thousands in March and sparked fears of a meltdown at a nuclear plant. Kan thanked the U.S. for its assistance after the disaster…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • G-8: Nations, banks to give $40B for Arab Spring: Rich countries and international lenders are aiming to provide $40 billion in funding for Arab nations trying to establish free democracies, officials said at a Group of Eight summit Friday.
    The officials didn’t provide a breakdown of where the money would come from or when, or what it would be for.
    But the overall message from President Barack Obama and the other G-8 leaders meeting in this Normandy resort appeared to be warning autocratic regimes in the Arab world that they will be shut out of rich-country aid and investment, while new democracies are encouraged to open their economies…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Missile issue a sticking point for Obama, Medvedev: It is no simple thing to push the “reset” button on U.S.-Russian relations. Trying to move beyond years of inherited mistrust, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev claimed progress Thursday but achieved no breakthrough on a U.S. missile defense plan that Moscow is concerned could threaten its security.
    The two leaders went out of their way to stress — four times over — that their relationship was good But Medvedev also acknowledged: “It does not mean that we’ll have common views and coinciding views on all the issues. It’s impossible.”
    And a White House aide acknowledged that on the missile defense question, for years the single most confrontational issue in the U.S.-Russian relationship, both sides still were trying to overcome “old thinking,” and the Russians, in short, “don’t believe us.”… – AP, 5-26-11
  • White House unveiling plans to curb regulations: The White House would eliminate requirements for trapping polluting vapors at gasoline stations and let employers and hospitals file fewer reports as part of a plan announced Thursday to ease regulatory burdens on business.
    The proposals would help reduce costs for companies and state and local governments while “maintaining the critical health and safety protections that Americans deserve,” the statement said. Cass Sunstein, the White House regulatory chief, planned to describe the changes later Thursday morning in remarks to the conservative American Enterprise Institute…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Arab uprisings top agenda as Obama attends G-8: President Barack Obama prepared to press allies from the Group of Eight industrial nations for commitments in the Middle East and North Africa during two days of meetings in France that were getting under way Thursday.
    Air Force One touched down in the seaside resort of Deauville after a flight from London Thursday morning for the summit’s opening meetings. The world’s leading economic powers are seeking ways to support fledgling democratic transitions in Tunisia and Egypt, while also creating incentives to encourage other countries in the region to pursue greater political freedoms.
    The summit comes on the heels of Obama’s sweeping address at London’s Westminster Hall Wednesday, where he cast the U.S., Britain and other like-minded allies in Europe as the world’s “greatest catalysts for global action.” He will echo a similar theme in his discussions with G-8 partners on the recent Arab uprisings and argue that the political protesters in the Middle East and North Africa share their democratic values.
    On the sidelines of the summit, Obama will hold one-on-one meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Obama, Cameron hold news conference in London: President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are holding a joint news conference on the lawn at London’s Lancaster House. Topics on their agenda: NATO’s mission in Libya and the unrest and violence across the Middle East and North Africa, the stalled Mideast peace process and the war in Afghanistan…. – USA Today, 5-25-11
  • Obama Says World Needs U.S.-British Leadership: In a rare address to both houses of the British Parliament in the ancient Westminster Hall, President Obama said Wednesday that the United States and Britain remained “indispensable” nations for peace and stability and the “greatest catalysts for global action” in a time of war, terrorism and economic insecurity.
    Highlighting the need for a “new era of cooperation” between the nations that already enjoy a special relationship, Mr. Obama stressed their shared values in a speech that drew a straight line from the beaches of Normandy to the NATO bombing mission in Libya.
    “It is wrong to conclude that the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil means the end of American and European leadership,” he said. “Even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership, our alliance will remain indispensable.”
    Mr. Obama’s speech came hours after a joint news conference with Prime Minister David Cameron in which the two leaders renewed their calls for Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to leave office. Mr. Cameron said the two allies “should be turning up the heat” on the Libyan leader.
    After the pomp and ceremony of the previous day, with Queen Elizabeth II welcoming Mr. Obama to Britain and showing him around Buckingham Palace herself, the second day of Mr. Obama’s trip turned to geopolitics in meetings with Mr. Cameron, and his address to Parliament…. – NYT, 5-25-11

Doug Mills/The New York Times

  • Text of Obama, Cameron news conference: The text of the news conference Wednesday in London with President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, as provided by the White House…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • AP sources: Army chief picked to head Joint Chiefs: A general installed just last month as the Army’s top officer is President Barack Obama’s surprise choice to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, two people familiar with the selection process said Wednesday.
    Gen. Martin Dempsey, an accomplished veteran of the Iraq war, would succeed Navy Adm. Mike Mullen as the president’s top military adviser when Mullen’s term as chairman ends Sept. 30. Dempsey would have to be confirmed by the Senate.
    Two people familiar with the choice, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it has not been announced by the White House, said it is scheduled to be made public on Tuesday.
    Dempsey is a surprise choice because he just began a four-year term as Army chief of staff on April 11…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Michelle Obama seeks to inspire London students: First Lady Michelle Obama used her own life as an example of how hard work and perseverance can prevail Wednesday as she spoke with students from a multiethnic school in an economically deprived area.
    She told the girls touring the University of Oxford for the day that they have to battle low self-esteem and learn to stand up for themselves with confidence. The message to the 35 students was that even elite universities like Oxford are within their grasp.
    “We passionately believe that you have the talent within you, you have the drive, and you have the experience to succeed here at Oxford and at universities just like it across the country and across the world,” she said. “By overcoming challenges you have gained strength, courage and maturity far beyond your years. And those qualities will help you succeed in school and in life.”
    The first lady, on the second day of a presidential state visit to Britain, traveled to the sun-drenched campus to meet with the students from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson school in London. The school, which the first lady visited in 2009, serves one of the most economically deprived areas in Britain and has a high rate of scholastic success despite the hardships its students face…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • G-8 leaders eye Arab world with hope and worry: Leaders of the world’s rich democracies meeting Thursday are looking at tumult in the Arab world with both hope and fear.
    They hope the new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia flourish and their economies rebound. And they fear that the war in Libya and uprisings in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain may entrench autocrats instead of defeating them.
    At a two-day summit in this moneyed Normandy resort, President Barack Obama and the other leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations will seek to marshal their combined economic might behind the grass-roots democracy movements that have swept the Arab world but have also driven away tourists and investors…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Obama: Mideast peace takes ‘wrenching compromise’: President Barack Obama says achieving a peaceful Middle East will require “wrenching compromise” by the Israelis and Palestinians, but an accord will never be reached unless both sides come back to the table.
    Obama says he recently proposed that the two sides rekindle the process by first working on the borders of a future Palestinian state and Israel’s security before moving to more emotional issues, such as the fate of Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem.
    He says a peace deal will be on the horizon if they resolve those issues…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Obama: No ‘let up’ against Libya’s Gadhafi: President Barack Obama says there will be no “let up” in the pressure that the U.S.-backed NATO coalition is applying to drive Moammar Gadhafi from power in Libya.
    The coalition launched a withering bombardment on Gadhafi’s stronghold of Tripoli on Tuesday. Gadhafi remains in power two months after an air campaign began, but Obama insists that Gadhafi will eventually have no choice but to step down…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Cameron: No time to turn away from Pakistan: British Prime Minister David Cameron is supporting Western alliances with Pakistan amid questions about how terrorist Osama bin Laden lived for so long there before he was hunted down and killed by U.S. commandos.
    In a news conference with President Barack Obama, Cameron said that allies must work with Pakistan more closely than ever, not turn away. He said Pakistan has suffered mightily in the fight against extremism. Said Cameron: “Their enemy is our enemy.”… – AP, 5-25-11
  • WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Obama mocks toast blooper: A musical miscue cut into his toast to Queen Elizabeth II but President Barack Obama didn’t miss a beat.
    The president had just raised his glass and had begun offering a toast at a lavish state dinner at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night when the band, apparently thinking he was through, struck up “God Save the Queen” a tad too soon.
    Without missing a beat, Obama kept talking over the music. He praised the relationship between the U.S. and Britain and even quoted Shakespeare…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Obama to world: West leadership role still strong: President Barack Obama stood in the historic grandeur of Westminster Hall and served notice to England and the world that the growing influence of countries like China, India and Brazil does not mean a diminished global role for America and its European allies.
    “The time for our leadership is now,” Obama declared to members of Parliament, who for the first time gave an American president the honor of addressing them from the 900-year-old hall where great and gruesome moments in British history have played out.
    “If we fail to meet that responsibility, who would take our place, and what kind of world would we pass on?” the president asked…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Biden: Revenues needed as part of debt limit bill: Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that new revenues need to be part of any agreement with Republicans on legislation to raise the limit on how much money the government can borrow to continue to meet its obligations.
    The vice president also said talks were on pace to produce deficit cuts exceeding $1 trillion and that the talks would extend to procedural mechanisms known as “triggers” to force further automatic deficit cuts to bring the total to $4 trillion if lawmakers were unable to come up with the savings in future legislation.
    “I’ve made it clear today … revenues have to be in the deal,” Biden told reporters after meeting with GOP negotiators.
    “Tax increases are not going to be something that we’ll support,” said Majority Leader Eric Canter of Virginia, who’s representing House Republicans in the talks. But he concurred that “progress is being made.”… – AP, 5-24-11
  • UK palace goes all-out for Obama state dinner: For President Barack Obama, a state dinner hosted by the British queen is much more than a chance to dine on Windsor lamb washed down with 50-year-old port. It’s also an opportunity to bask in the grandeur of Britain’s monarchy, still glowing from the success of a princely wedding watched around the world.
    Large British and American flags lined the Mall, where, less than a month before, Prince William and his new bride, the Duchess of Cambridge, rode to Buckingham Palace. The nearby Green Park still bore large bare patches where the world’s media had camped out for the marriage.
    Inside the palace, the crimson-carpeted ballroom was laid out with 19th-century silverware, Louis XVI porcelain and fragrant floral arrangements more than 12 feet (four meters) tall. Every gilded ornament had its own rich history — the Rockingham dessert service, for example, was first used for Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838.
    The 170 or so guests joining the Obamas for dinner include Britain’s prime minister, senior royalty, ambassadors, business leaders, top brass, leading academics, prominent nobility and even the archbishop of Canterbury — who officiated at William’s April 29 wedding…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Obama mocks toast blooper: President Barack Obama has made light of a musical mishap that threatened to cut short his toast at Tuesday night’s state dinner in London.
    Obama had just toasted the Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace when the band, apparently deciding that he had finished his speech, struck up “God Save the Queen.”… – AP, 5-24-11
  • Queen: US, England eye to eye on world challenges: Queen Elizabeth II has used her speech at a state dinner honoring Barack and Michelle Obama to celebrate common bonds between the United States and Britain that she says go beyond military and diplomatic ties.
    The queen opened the lavish state dinner at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday by recalling fond memories of her earlier meetings with the Obamas. And she said that the U.S. and Britain in most cases see world problems in the same light.
    The queen said the U.S.-U.K relationship is — in her words — “tried, tested and, yes, special.”… – AP, 5-24-11
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the 1844 Room at Buckingham Palace in London, England, May 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama talk with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the 1844 Room at Buckingham Palace in London, England, May 24, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

  • Michelle Obama lights London with bright colors: Michelle Obama packed a wardrobe of cheerful, colorful clothes to accompany her husband on a state visit to England. She made quick changes from one dress to another on Tuesday, wearing designer labels that stretch from Los Angeles to London…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • White House threatens to veto defense bill: The White House threatened on Tuesday to veto a defense bill, fiercely objecting to provisions limiting President Barack Obama’s authority to reduce the nation’s nuclear arsenal and decide the fate of terror suspects.
    In a statement, the Obama administration said it generally supported passage of the legislation, which would provide $553 billion for the Defense Department in next year’s budget and an additional $118 billion to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the administration identified three provisions that would prompt the president’s advisers to recommend that Obama veto the bill.
    “The administration has serious concerns with several provisions that constrain the ability of the armed forces to carry out their missions (and) impede the secretary of defense’s ability to make and implement management decisions that eliminate unnecessary overhead or programs to ensure scarce resources are directed to the highest priorities for the warfighter.”
    The House began work on the bill on Tuesday and is scheduled to vote on the legislation later in the week…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Obama: Chrysler loan repayment a ‘milestone’: President Barack Obama says Chrysler’s repayment of the government loans that helped it emerge from bankruptcy is a “significant milestone” for the auto industry.
    Chrysler took $10.5 billion from the U.S. government to survive two years ago. On Tuesday, it will retire a $5.9 billion balance on the U.S. loans and $1.6 billion to the governments of Canada and Ontario.
    Obama said the announcement comes six years ahead of schedule. Obama, in London as part of a week-long European tour, made his comments in a statement delivered by White House press secretary Jay Carney…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: Obama, Cameron try pingpong: For a couple steadfast allies, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron aren’t always in sync.
    The two leaders, both lefties, had their hands full playing table tennis with a couple of London school boys Tuesday. The game was part of a visit to a school in the Southwark neighborhood of London that specializes in math and performing arts.
    Both leaders doffed their jackets and rolled up their sleeves. Obama, playing the diplomat, offered a defense for Cameron’s play: “Tennis is his sport.” Then, reacting to an aggressively missed shot by the prime minister, he suggested not so helpfully: “You just don’t know your own strength.”
    Their competitors, two students in their early teens, used a variety of spin serves to unnerve their opponents…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Obama: Midwest storms devastating, heartbreaking: President Barack Obama says he will travel to Missouri on Sunday to meet with people affected by the devastating tornadoes there.
    The president said Tuesday he wants Midwesterners whose lives were upended by the deadly storms last weekend to know that the federal government will use all the resources at its disposal to help them recover and rebuild.
    “I want everybody in Joplin, everybody in Missouri, everybody in Minnesota, everybody across the Midwest to know that we are here for you,” the president said in London on day two of his four-country tour.
    “The American people are by your side. We’re going to stay there until every home is repaired, until every neighborhood is rebuilt, until every business is back on its feet.”… – AP, 5-24-11
The President & First Lady join a massive crowd in Dublin
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 5/23/11
  • Michelle Obama wows Britain with her style: There weren’t any hugs, like last time, but U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama shared a warm handshake with the British queen and gained more fans during her state visit to the U.K.
    Mrs. Obama captured the nation’s attention in 2009 when she affectionately put her arm on Queen Elizabeth II’s back in a minor breach of protocol.
    On Tuesday, Mrs. Obama started the day off when she briefly shook the queen’s hand at a Buckingham Palace ceremony. Her three dress changes throughout the day were closely watched by the British media — the BBC, among others, spent much of its air time before the evening’s white-tie state dinner excitedly speculating on what she might wear for the occasion….- AP, 5-24-11
  • Obama aims to reassure Europe it still matters: President Barack Obama is plunging back into the complex security debates over Afghanistan, Libya and uprisings in the Middle East, while trying to reassure European allies that they still are valued partners in U.S. foreign policy.
    After the two days of celebration and ceremony that opened his European tour, Obama was to hold bilateral meetings Wednesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron and deliver a speech to both houses of Parliament, an address that the White House billed as the centerpiece of the president’s four-country, six-day trip.
    Obama’s message to allies across Europe, and Britain in particular, will be that their long-standing partnerships remain the cornerstone of America’s engagement with the world, even as the president seeks to strengthen U.S. ties with emerging powers such as China and India.
    “There is no other alliance that assumes the burdens that we assume on behalf of peace and security and that, again, invests as much as we do in enforcement of international law and in global development,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications…. – AP, 5-24-11
President Obama in London

White House Photo, Pete Souza, 5/24/11

112TH CONGRESS

  • Republican Legislators Push to Tighten Voting Rules: Less than 18 months before the next presidential election, Republican-controlled statehouses around the country are rewriting voting laws to require photo identification at the polls, reduce the number of days of early voting or tighten registration rules.
    Republican legislators say the new rules, which have advanced in 13 states in the past two months, offer a practical way to weed out fraudulent votes and preserve the integrity of the ballot box. Democrats say the changes have little to do with fraud prevention and more to do with placing obstacles in the way of possible Democratic voters, including young people and minorities.
    Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas signed laws last week that would require each voter to show an official, valid photo ID to cast a ballot, joining Kansas and South Carolina.
    In Florida, which already had a photo law, Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill this month to tighten restrictions on third-party voter registration organizations — prompting the League of Women Voters to say it would cease registering voters in the state — and to shorten the number of early voting days. Twelve states now require photo identification to vote…. – NYT, 5-28-11
  • War-weary lawmakers send Obama a message: War-weary Republicans and Democrats on Thursday sent the strongest message yet to President Barack Obama to end the war in Afghanistan as the commander in chief decides how many U.S. troops to withdraw this summer.
    A measure requiring an accelerated timetable for pulling out the 100,000 troops from Afghanistan and an exit strategy for the nearly 10-year-old conflict secured 204 votes in the House, falling just short of passage but boosting the hopes of its surprised proponents.
    “It sends a strong signal to the president that the U.S. House of Representatives and the American people want change,” Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said shortly after the vote…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Dems propose new Ill. congressional district map: Republicans rejoiced in November after picking up a handful of Democratic congressional districts in President Barack Obama’s home state. Now Democrats are getting their revenge by proposing a new map of Illinois districts that could erase those GOP gains.
    The GOP scrambled Friday to decipher the proposed map that lumps at least four freshman Republicans and one veteran into districts where they would have to run against other incumbents for the next election.
    Illinois must adopt a congressional map with 18, instead of 19, U.S. House seats because of slowing population growth in the latest census — and Democrats are in charge of the process because they control the state Legislature and governor’s office.
    “This proposal appears to be little more than an attempt to undo the results of the elections held just six months ago and we will take whatever steps necessary to achieve a map that more fairly represents the people of Illinois – they deserve nothing less,” the Republican members of Illinois’ congressional delegation said in a joint statement…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • GOP repackages agenda: Top House Republicans called for tax reform, an easing of government regulations and increased domestic energy production on Thursday in what officials said was an attempt to show that spending cuts are not their sole emphasis for creating jobs.
    The plan also backs a tax holiday for multinational companies that hold profits overseas, designed as an incentive for them to return the money to the United States rather than invest it abroad.
    “Our concern is America’s economy. And getting our economy going again is going to require us to reduce the spending, reduce the debt, to get the regulations out of the way, to let American job creators create jobs,” Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a news conference.
    Boehner conceded there were few if any new initiatives in the package, which officials said had been assembled by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • US Senate votes to extend terror-fighting bill: The Senate has voted decisively to extend the legal life of three contentious terrorism-fighting powers that were set to have expired at midnight without congressional action.
    The 72-23 Senate vote sends the legislation to the House of Representatives, which is expected to pass it quickly and transmit it to President Barack Obama for his signature.
    It extends two provisions of the 2001 USA Patriot Act, one allowing roving wiretaps, the other allowing searches of business records in the pursuit of terror threats. A third provision gives the government power to watch non-American “lone wolf” suspects with no certain ties to terrorist groups…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Congress has midnight deadline on anti-terror bill: Congress is rushing to extend the life of three anti-terror tools, including the use of roving wiretaps, before they expire at midnight Thursday.
    The Senate was set to start voting on the legislation, including possible amendments, Thursday morning. Final passage during the day would send it to the House for quick approval and then onward to President Barack Obama in Europe for his signature.
    The rapid-fire action on key elements of the post-9/11 USA Patriot Act comes after several days of impasse in the Senate and results in part from the prodding of senior intelligence officials, who warned of the consequences of disrupting surveillance operations.
    “Should the authority to use these critical tools expire, our nation’s intelligence and law enforcement professionals will have less capability than they have today to detect terrorist plots,” James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, wrote congressional leaders…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • New RNC chairman says NC will be 2012 battleground: The Republican National Committee’s new chairman is pleading with party leaders in the Tar Heel State for more money to help candidates heading into the 2012 campaign. But some activists are telling him the national party needs to better embrace the conservative values of the tea party movement…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Dems rejoice over NY; will Medicare redo 2012?: Jubilant Democrats demanded Republicans abandon their sweeping plans to remake Medicare on Wednesday after casting a House race in upstate New York as a referendum on the popular program and emerging victorious.
    “The top three reasons for the election of a Democrat in one of the most conservative Republican districts in America are Medicare, Medicare and Medicare,” declared New York Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the party’s congressional campaign committee…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Senators unveil bipartisan transportation plan: A bipartisan group of senators said Wednesday they have agreed to the outlines of a long-term transportation spending bill, boosting prospects for ending a stalemate that has kept highway and transit construction programs in limbo since 2008.
    The bill would spend about $56 billion a year on highway and transit construction, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It has the support of Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on the committee; David Vitter of Louisiana, the senior Republican on the highway subcommittee, and Max Baucus, D-Mont., the subcommittee’s chairman…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • House bans funds for teaching abortion techniques: The House voted Wednesday to ban teaching health centers from using federal money to train doctors on how to perform abortions, the latest in a series of anti-abortion measures pushed by the Republican majority.
    The author of the measure, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said she wanted to make it “crystal clear that taxpayer money is not being used to train health care providers to perform abortion procedures.”
    The proposal was presented as an amendment to the latest of several GOP bills to restrict funding for the health care act that was enacted last year. This bill gives Congress control over spending for a program to encourage health centers to provide training to medical residents. The amendment applies to funding in that grant program.
    The Foxx amendment passed 234-182 despite the objections of some Democrats that it would prevent health centers from teaching a basic medical technique that can be critical to saving a woman’s life during emergencies…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Senate votes down controversial House budget: Joined by several moderate Republicans, Democrats controlling the Senate rejected a controversial House budget plan for turning Medicare into a voucher-like program for future beneficiaries.
    Five Republicans joined every Democrat in the 57-40 vote killing the measure, which calls for transforming Medicare into a program in which future beneficiaries — people now 54 years old and younger — would be given a subsidy to purchase health insurance rather than have the government directly pay hospital and doctor bills.
    Democrats said the GOP plan would “end Medicare as we know it,” and they made it the central issue in a special election Tuesday in which Democrats seized a longtime GOP district in western New York, rattling Republicans…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Medicare overhaul proposal causing GOP stress: Little more than a month after they backed sweeping changes to Medicare, Republicans are on the political defensive, losing a House seat long in their possession and exhibiting significant internal strains for the first time since last fall’s election gains.
    “We’ve got to get beyond this,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said recently after several days of back and forth over the proposal he authored and included in the budget that cleared on a party line vote. “And we’ve got to get onto a serious conversation about what it takes to fix the fiscal problems in this country.”
    Under Ryan’s proposal, Medicare would remain unchanged for those 55 or older, including the millions who now receive health care under the program. Anyone younger would be required to obtain coverage from a private insurer, with the government providing a subsidy to cover part of the cost of premiums…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • McCain, King resolution calls for pardoning boxer: Sen. John McCain and Rep. Peter King, who lost their last attempt to win a presidential pardon for the first black heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, are looking for a rematch.
    The two GOP lawmakers reintroduced a congressional resolution Tuesday urging President Barack Obama to pardon Johnson, who was imprisoned nearly a century ago because of his romantic ties with a white woman….
    In a statement, McCain, R-Ariz., said that he and King, R-N.Y., were reintroducing the resolution “to send a clear message to rectify this unacceptable historical injustice.”
    “A full pardon would not only shed light on the achievements of an athlete who was forced into the shadows of bigotry and prejudice, but also allow future generations to grasp fully what Jack Johnson accomplished against great odds,” McCain said…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • House GOP to advance $1B disaster aid package: Republicans controlling the House began advancing a $1 billion aid package on Tuesday to make sure that disaster relief accounts don’t run dry after massive flooding along the Mississippi River and devastating tornadoes in Missouri and Alabama.
    The House Appropriations Committee approved the disaster aid cash along with two spending bills, one funding the Homeland Security Department and the other veterans programs…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Senate considers Patriot Act despite concerns: The tortoise-like Senate is under uncommon pressure to pass a four-year extension of the anti-terrorist Patriot Act before key provisions expire Friday. But the deadline is even tighter, because President Barack Obama is in Europe.
    Any extension passed by the Senate must be sent to the House and passed there, then flown overseas to be signed into law.
    So the Senate’s deadline for passage is more like midweek. And that’s no accident.
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who not long ago vowed to have a full week of debate on the Patriot Act extension, has instead backed up the vote against a tighter deadline to limit debate over legislation some say is less necessary now that al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden is dead.
    Another motivator: The Senate’s weeklong Memorial Day break begins just after the Patriot Act deadline.
    The White House urged the Senate to do what it typically does not: work quickly. “It is essential to avoid any hiatus” in the law’s powers, the Obama administration said in a statement.
    But the Senate does not rush, even when it’s clear that there probably isn’t time for changes. Senators voted 74-8 Monday to begin debate on the bill…. – AP, 5-24-11

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS: SCOTUS UPHOLDS ARIZONA IMMIGRATION LAW

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

  • Chief Justice John Robert’s Opinion — CHAMBER OF COMMERCE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ET AL. v. WHITING ET AL.
  • High court sustains Ariz. employer sanctions law: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law that penalizes businesses for hiring workers in the country illegally, buoying the hopes of supporters of state crackdowns on illegal immigration.
    They predicted the ruling would lead to many other states passing laws that require employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check that workers aren’t illegal immigrants. And some said the ruling bodes well for the prospects of a much broader and more controversial immigration law in Arizona, known as SB1070, to be found constitutional.
    The state is appealing a ruling blocking portions of that law from taking effect…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court backs Arizona immigration law: The Supreme Court today upheld an Arizona law penalizing companies that hire illegal immigrants, rejecting a challenge by business groups and civil liberties organizations, our court correspondent Joan Biskupic reports.
    U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released a statement supporting the ruling: “Not only is this law constitutional, it is common sense. American jobs should be preserved for Americans and legal workers.”
    The Associated Press reports that Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”
    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate because she worked on it while serving as President Obama’s solicitor general.
    The law permits the state to take away the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire illegal workers. It requires employers to use an otherwise optional federal verification program, known as the E-Verify system, which collects data on workers from the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.
    The ruling, by a 5-3 vote, comes off oral arguments presented in December. Reporting on those arguments, Biskupic had noted that the court “appeared poised … to uphold” the law.
    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Obama administration had opposed the law…. – USA Today, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law: The Supreme Court today backed an Arizona law that sanctions businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
    On a 5-3 vote, the court held that federal immigration law does not preempt Arizona from suspending or revoking the licenses of businesses that violate state immigration law.
    Chief Justice Roberts wrote the 27-page opinion, which can be found here. And here’s a report from WSJ.
    Then-Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the Arizona law in 2007, saying that while immigration is a federal responsibility, Arizona had been forced to deal with the issue because the demand for cheap, undocumented labor in the state was contributing to illegal immigration…. – WSJ, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court sustains Arizona employer sanctions law: The Supreme Court has sustained Arizona’s law that penalizes businesses for hiring workers who are in the United States illegally, rejecting arguments that states have no role in immigration matters.
    By a 5-3 vote, the court said Thursday that federal immigration law gives states the authority to impose sanctions on employers who hire unauthorized workers.
    The decision upholding the validity of the 2007 law comes as the state is appealing a ruling that blocked key components of a second, more controversial Arizona immigration enforcement law. Thursday’s decision applies only to business licenses and does not signal how the high court might rule if the other law comes before it.
    Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for a majority made up of Republican-appointed justices, said the Arizona’s employer sanctions law “falls well within the confines of the authority Congress chose to leave to the states.”
    Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all Democratic appointees, dissented. The fourth Democratic appointee, Justice Elena Kagan, did not participate in the case because she worked on it while serving as President Barack Obama’s solicitor general
    Breyer said the Arizona law upsets a balance in federal law between dissuading employers from hiring illegal workers and ensuring that people are not discriminated against because they may speak with an accent or look like they might be immigrants.
    Employers “will hesitate to hire those they fear will turn out to lack the right to work in the United States,” he said…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • Justices Uphold Law Penalizing Hiring of Illegal Immigrants: The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld an Arizona law that imposes harsh penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.
    The 5-to-3 decision amounted to a green light for vigorous state efforts to combat the employment of illegal workers. The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts on behalf of the court’s five more conservative members, noted that Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia had recently enacted laws similar to the one at issue in the case.
    The decision did not directly address a second, more recent Arizona law that in some circumstances requires police there to question people they stop about their immigration status. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit blocked enforcement of that law in April, and the case may reach the Supreme Court soon.
    The challenge to the older Arizona law that was the subject of Thursday’s decision was brought by a coalition of business and civil liberties groups, with support from the Obama administration. They said the law, the Legal Arizona Workers Act, conflicted with federal immigration policy.
    The decision turned mostly on the meaning of a provision of a 1986 federal law, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which said that it overrode “any state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions (other than through licensing and similar laws) upon those who employ” unauthorized aliens…. – NYT, 5-26-11
  • Supreme Court upholds Ariz. law punishing companies that hire illegal immigrants: The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Arizona may revoke the business licenses of companies that knowingly employ illegal immigrants, rejecting arguments that the state’s law intrudes on the federal government’s power to control immigration.
    The court ruled 5 to 3 that Congress specifically allowed states such an option, and dismissed the objections of an unusual coalition that challenged the state law: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, civil rights groups, labor unions and the Obama administration.
    The 1986 federal Immigration Reform and Control Act generally preempts states from using employer sanctions to control immigration. But Arizona took advantage of a parenthetical clause in the statute — “other than through licensing and similar laws” — to go after companies that knowingly and intentionally hired undocumented workers.
    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. agreed with the state’s reading of the federal law.
    “It makes little sense to preserve state authority to impose sanctions through licensing, but not allow states to revoke licenses when appropriate as one of those sanctions,” he wrote.
    Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. agreed with the outcome.
    The law at issue — the Legal Arizona Workers Act — is different from a more recent Arizona law that the Obama administration is battling in lower courts…. – WaPo, 5-26-11
  • SCOTUS upholds Arizona immigrant hiring law: The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to uphold Arizona’s law that penalizes companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
    In a 5-3 vote, the court concluded that federal immigration law doesn’t prevent the state from revoking the business licenses of companies that violate state law.
    Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that the court had come to its decision because “the state’s licensing provisions fall squarely within the federal statute’s savings clause and that the Arizona regulation does not otherwise conflict with federal law.”
    The Arizona law also requires employers to use the federal government’s web-based E-Verify system to determine whether potential employees are eligible to work within the United States. The court upheld this provision, saying it is “entirely consistent” with federal law…. – Politico, 5-26-11
  • US states can shut firms with illegals: Supreme Court: The US Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state has the right to revoke the license of a business that knowingly employs illegal immigrants, in a case watched for implications on related judicial battles.
    The top US court in a 5-3 decision upheld Arizona’s 2007 law, saying the state was within its rights under a 1986 federal immigration reform measure.
    The ruling comes amid a legal battle on another Arizona law that took effect last July and which makes it a crime to be in the state, which borders Mexico, without proper immigration papers.
    In Thursday’s decision, the court cited the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which preempts state or local law imposing civil or criminal sanctions other than through licensing and similar laws on firms that employ, recruit, or refer unauthorized aliens for employment.
    The law “expressly reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring unauthorized workers, through licensing and similar laws,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.
    “It uses the federal government’s own definition of ‘unauthorized alien,’ it relies solely on the federal government’s own determination of who is an unauthorized alien, and it requires Arizona employers to use the federal government’s own system for checking employee status.”… – AFP, 5-26-11
  • ‘Business death penalty’ for hiring illegal workers is upheld by Supreme Court: The 5-3 decision gives states more authority to act against illegal immigrants. Justices rule that states can take away the business licenses of companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
    The Supreme Court on Thursday gave Arizona and other states more authority to take action against illegal immigrants and the companies that hire them, ruling that employers who knowingly hire illegal workers can lose their license to do business.
    The 5-3 decision upholds the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007 and its so-called business death penalty for employers who are caught repeatedly hiring illegal immigrants. The state law also requires employers to check the federal E-Verify system before hiring new workers, a provision that was also upheld Thursday.
    The court’s decision did not deal with the more controversial Arizona law passed last year that gave police more authority to stop and question those who are suspected of being in the state illegally. But the ruling is likely to encourage the state and its supporters because the court majority said states remained free to take action involving immigrants…. – LAT, 5-26-11
  • Judge Strikes Down Wisconsin Law Curbing Unions: Ruling that Republicans in the State Senate had violated the state’s open meetings law, a judge in Wisconsin dealt a blow to them and to Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday by granting a permanent injunction striking down a new law curbing collective bargaining rights for many state and local employees.
    Judge Maryann Sumi of Dane County Circuit Court said the Senate vote on March 9, coming after 13 Democratic state senators had fled the state, failed to comply with an open meetings law requiring at least two hours notice to the public.
    The Wisconsin Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case on June 6 , and Republican lawmakers are hoping that the court overturns Judge Sumi’s ruling and reinstates the law.
    The State Senate could choose simply to pass the bill again while assuring proper notice. But some political experts say there might be some obstacles to re-enacting the vote because some Democrats could conceivably flee the state again, and some Republican Senators are frightened about pending recall elections…. – NYT, 5-26-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS — ELECTIONS

Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat in Closely Watched Upstate New York Race: The Associated Press has declared Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, the winner in a closely watched Congressional race in upstate New York that is being seen as a test of a Republican plan to overhaul Medicare.
On Tuesday, she captured 47 percent of the vote to Ms. Corwin’s 43 percent, according to unofficial results. A Tea Party candidate, Jack Davis, had 9 percent

  • Medicare key to shocking Dem win in NY House race: Kathy Hochul told her supporters they had picked the right issue to fight a Republican on long-held Republican turf.
    The Democrat rode a wave of voter discontent over the national GOP’s plan to change Medicare and overcame decades of GOP dominance here to capture Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District.
    Hochul defeated Republican state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin on Tuesday night, capturing 47 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Corwin, to win the seat vacated by disgraced Republican Chris Lee. A wealthy tea party candidate, Jack Davis, took 9 percent.
    The special election that became a referendum on the health care plan for the nation’s seniors may serve as a warning shot to further GOP efforts to cut popular entitlement programs…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat; Rebuke Seen to Medicare Plan: Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare.
    The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether they should rethink their party’s commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability heading into the 2012 elections.
    Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against the Republican, Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on the Republican’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up…. – NYT, 5-25-11
  • What lessons will GOP take from losing New York-26 House seat?: Medicare is indeed a perilous issue for Republicans, Tuesday’s House race in New York’s 26th District showed. But so are third-party candidates and tepid campaigns.
    A Democratic upset on GOP turf in upstate New York signals that Medicare reform is a perilous issue for Republicans – but so are tea party candidates in a three-way race, tepid campaigns, and a flood of outside money.
    That’s the mixed message from Tuesday’s special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District, a special election that drew national attention and funding as a bellwether for the 2012 campaign cycle.
    Democrat Kathy Hochul came from behind in the campaign’s last weeks to defeat GOP nominee Jane Corwin, 48 percent to 42 percent. Tea party candidate Jack Davis took 8 percent of the vote…. – CS Monitor, 5-25-11
  • Democrat Wins Upstate New York Congressional Race: Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare.
    The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether the party should rethink its commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability as 2012 elections loom.
    Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser. But Ms. Hochul seized on her Republican rival’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.
    With 66 percent of the precincts reporting, Ms. Hochul led with 48 percent of the vote, to 43 percent for the Republican candidate, Jane L. Corwin…. – NYT, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Wins G.O.P. Seat; Rebuke Seen to Medicare Plan: Democrats scored an upset in one of New York’s most conservative Congressional districts on Tuesday, dealing a blow to the national Republican Party in a race that largely turned on the party’s plan to overhaul Medicare.
    The results set off elation among Democrats and soul-searching among Republicans, who questioned whether the party should rethink its commitment to the Medicare plan, which appears to have become a liability as 2012 elections loom.
    Two months ago, the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, was considered an all-but-certain loser in the race against Jane Corwin. But Ms. Hochul seized on her Republican rival’s embrace of the proposal from Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to overhaul Medicare, and she never let up.
    Voters, who turned out in strikingly large numbers for a special election, said they trusted Ms. Hochul, the county clerk of Erie County, to protect Medicare…. – NYT, 5-24-11
  • GOP loss a Medicare message?: Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul won a House special election in western New York on Tuesday, a Democratic triumph in a conservative district that many consider a referendum on House Republicans’ efforts to reform Medicare.
    With 91 percent of precincts reporting, Hochul had 48 percent of the vote. State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, a Republican, had 42 percent, while independent candidate Jack Davis ran a distant third with 9 percent.
    The seat in New York’s 26th District became vacant when Rep. Christopher Lee, R-N.Y., resigned after revelations that he had sent shirtless pictures of himself to a woman with whom he had been corresponding on Craigslist. Seattle Times, 5-25-11
  • Democrat Wins U.S. House Race That Focused on Medicare, AP Says: Kathy Hochul was elected to a vacant U.S. House seat in western New York, the Associated Press said, following a campaign that became a referendum on a Republican plan to privatize Medicare.
    With 84 percent of the vote counted in the special election, the AP tally showed Hochul with 48 percent to 42 percent for Republican Jane Corwin and 8 percent for Buffalo- area industrialist Jack Davis, running on the Tea Party ballot line.
    The race was closely watched for its implications on national politics, including the 2012 presidential campaign. The campaign provided the first electoral test on the Medicare issue and, in a sign of its potential importance, national party groups and their independent allies helped finance a barrage of local television ads and automated telephone calls to households…. – Bloomberg, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Kathy Hochul wins upstate New York race: Democrat Kathy Hochul drew on voter discontent over Republican plans to revamp Medicare to score an upset win on Tuesday in a special election to represent a conservative upstate New York congressional district.
    Hochul defeated Republican Jane Corwin in a three-way race that also included self-described Tea Party candidate Jack Davis. The outcome did not affect Republican control of the House of Representatives.
    “Tonight the voters were willing to look beyond the political labels and vote for a person, and vote for message that they believe in,” Hochul told cheering supporters minutes after taking a phone call from Corwin, a state assemblywoman. “We can balance the budget the right way, and not on the backs of our seniors,” said Hochul, the Erie County clerk. “We had the issues on our side.”
    President Barack Obama, who is visiting Britain, issued a statement congratulating Hochul on her victory. “Kathy and I both believe that we need to create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce the deficit in order to outcompete other nations and win the future,” Obama said…. – Reuters, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Wins House Seat Third Candidate Roils New York Race in Traditionally GOP Area; Medicare Issue Studied as Factor:A Democrat on Tuesday won election to a congressional seat from a traditionally Republican district in western New York, according to Associated Press tallies, an outcome that will be studied for clues to how voters are viewing the budget battles in Washington.
    Republican candidate Jane Corwin had endorsed a plan passed by House Republicans last month to overhaul Medicare, drawing sharp criticism from her Democratic rival, Kathy Hochul.
    Ms. Hochul was leading Ms. Corwin, 48% to 43%, with 66% of the vote tallied shortly after 10 p.m. eastern time, AP reported.
    The news service declared the winner to be Ms. Hochul. She is currently the Erie County clerk.
    Republicans outnumber Democrats in the district, and voters gave former Rep. Chris Lee, a Republican, 68% of the vote in November.
    The district also supported Republicans John McCain for president in 2008 and President George W. Bush in 2004.
    While the outcome was complicated by a third-party candidate, members of Congress are sure to study the results for the role that the Medicare proposal may have played in the race…. – WSJ, 5-24-11
  • Democrat Hochul wins N.Y. special election: Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul won a House special election in western New York on Tuesday night, a Democratic triumph in a conservative district that many consider a referendum on House Republicans’ efforts to reform Medicare.
    With three-quarters of precincts reporting, Hochul had 48 percent of the vote. State Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (R) had 42 percent, with independent candidate Jack Davis running a distant third with 8 percent.
    Democrats contended that the race in New York’s 26th Congressional District — which the GOP had held since the 1960s — became competitive through their efforts linking Corwin to the House Republican plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program.
    That plan, spearheaded by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), has already been the subject of plenty of debate in Washington, where Republicans seek deep cuts and debt-reduction measures…. – WaPo, 5-24-11
  • Kathy Hochul wins NY congressional race: Democrat Kathy Hochul scored an upset and won a special election to represent New York’s 26th congressional district on Tuesday, defeating Republican Jane Corwin.
    Hochul, the Erie County clerk, declared victory in the conservative upstate district with just over 70 percent of the vote tallied.
    The election was held to fill the seat vacated in February by Republican Chris Lee, who resigned after shirtless photos he sent to a woman he met on Craigslist were published on the Internet…. – Reuters, 5-24-11
  • Barack Obama: Congratulations to Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul for her victory tonight in New York’s 26th Congressional District. Kathy has shown, through her victory and throughout her career, that she will fight for the families and businesses in western New York, and I look forward to working with her when she gets to Washington. –
  • Julian E. Zelizer: N.Y. race for House seat a preview of 2012?: Next week voters in New York’s 26th Congressional District will go to the ballot box to replace Rep. Christopher Lee, who resigned after a scandal involving a photo of himself shirtless that he sent to a woman he met online.
    Like other special elections in the last two years, the rumble in the 26th has drawn the attention and resources of both national political parties. What would have ordinarily been a local race is seen as having big implications for 2012.
    Until April, few Democrats thought this race was worth contesting. The 26th is one of the most conservative districts in New York, presumably a safe Republican seat. But then something happened. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin released his budget plan, which included a drastic overhaul of Medicare and Medicaid. Many of his GOP colleagues, fearing trouble on the campaign trail, distanced themselves from the plan as soon as the details were released.
    In New York, Democrats pounced. The party has been able to generate substantial support for its candidate, Kathy Hochul, by connecting the dots between New York, Washington, and Wisconsin. Her ads have hammered away at her Republican opponent, Jane Corwin, for endorsing Ryan’s proposal and supporting “a budget that essentially ends Medicare.” She also supports, they add, reductions in Social Security benefits.
    The National Republican Congressional Committee has responded with a familiar refrain, calling Hochul a champion of the kind of big government liberalism that it says has run rampant in Washington. A recent television spot argued that Hochul, as well as independent Jack Davis, was on the same page as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
    The race is allowing both parties to test their arguments for 2012. Republicans are counting on Americans to share the party’s antipathy to the federal government and support proposals to lower the federal deficit. This anti-government ethos has been a guiding ideal for GOP candidates since Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980….
    The results in the special election may help the parties determine what their strategy should be in the 2012 elections. If Hochul wins, we can expect Democrats to focus on specifics in the upcoming months, telling voters what Democrats’ programs provide them and what Republicans hope to take away.
    If Republicans can hold this seat, they may be emboldened to continue calling for radical cuts in the federal budget and warning of the dangerous road on which Democrats have embarked. Which argument sticks in this special election will give both parties some sense of where voters stand after the heated budget battles of the past few months…. – CNN, 5-23-11

STATE & LOCAL POLITICS

  • Vt. governor signs universal health care bill: Vermont still has “a few challenges” ahead to meet its goal of a universal health care system this decade, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday as he signed into law the bill designed to make the state the nation’s first with fully publicly funded health care.
    More than 150 people, including legislators, administration officials, advocates who pushed for the bill and a handful of opponents gathered on the Statehouse steps as storm clouds threatened but gave way to humid sunshine.
    “We gather here today to launch the first single-payer health care system in America, to do in Vermont what has taken too long — have a health care system that is the best in the world, that treats health care as a right and not a privilege, where health care follows the individual, isn’t required by an employer — that’s a huge jobs creator,” Shumlin said.
    Among Vermont’s challenges: getting waivers from the federal government at a time when the U.S. House has come out strongly against the less ambitious federal health care bill passed last year…. – AP, 5-26-11
  • John Edwards: his path from golden boy to persona non grata in North Carolina: Reports that the US Justice Department is moving ahead with a potential indictment against John Edwards underscore how much his political ascent was dashed on the rocks by an affair, a love child, and, allegedly, a $1 million payoff…. – CS Monitor, 5-25-11
  • AP source: Edwards could be indicted within days: The Justice Department plans to bring criminal charges against John Edwards after a two-year investigation into whether the former presidential candidate illegally used money from some of his political backers to cover up his extramarital affair, a person familiar with the case said Wednesday.
    An indictment could come within days unless the 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee reaches an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to a negotiated charge, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the case’s sensitivity.
    It was not immediately clear what charges prosecutors planned to bring…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Puerto Rico governor says Obama to visit island: President Barack Obama has accepted an invitation to visit Puerto Rico next month, a trip that would make him the first sitting president to come to the U.S. territory in decades, the island’s governor said Tuesday.
    The president, who campaigned in Puerto Rico for the Democratic primary, will visit the island June 14, Gov. Luis Fortuno said, without disclosing details of his itinerary.
    “With his visit, the president makes good on the promise he made during the presidential primaries in 2008 that he would return to Puerto Rico as president,” Fortuno said in a statement.
    The governor’s office described the Obama trip as the “the first official presidential visit” since December 1961, when President John F. Kennedy stopped on the island to a formal welcome on his way to Venezuela. But that was not the last time a U.S. president set foot in the territory: President Gerald Ford hosted an economic summit in Puerto Rico in June 1976…. – AP, 5-24-11

ELECTIONS — PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN 2012….

  • Palin, Trump to meet in NYC Tuesday evening: Sarah Palin has scheduled a meeting with Donald Trump in New York City on Tuesday evening. The former GOP vice presidential nominee and her family are on a bus tour of East Coast sites this week as she considers running for the GOP nomination to challenge President Barack Obama next year. A spokesman for Trump said the celebrity real estate mogul would meet with Palin at his Trump Tower residence and that the two families probably would go out to dinner…. – AP, 5-31-11
  • Palin bus tour leaves Washington _ but for where?: Sarah Palin said Monday she is “still kind of contemplating” a presidential campaign as she and her family set off from the U.S. capital on a bus tour of historical sites that left observers puzzled about what the former Alaska governor planned next — both for her schedule and her career.
    Palin and her aides refused to share basic details about the “One Nation” tour that was scheduled to take her from Washington to the northeastern New England states in the days ahead. The East Coast swing renewed questions about Palin’s next moves, including whether she would enter the still-forming Republican presidential field.
    “We’re still kind of contemplating that,” she said in brief comments to reporters who stumbled onto her Monday at the National Archives…. – AP, 5-30-11
  • Palin Announces East Coast Bus Tour: Sarah Palin will begin a bus tour of the East Coast on Memorial Day weekend, the latest and most significant evidence that the former governor of Alaska is still seriously considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination this year. Ms. Palin will begin the series of high-profile public events in the Washington area, starting with the annual Rolling Thunder motorcycle rally and continuing on through the Northeast, according to a statement on her Web site.
    The bus tour, which will extend beyond the weekend, will take Ms. Palin and her family through the Northeast in a decorated, red-white-and-blue charter bus, heightening comparisons to a campaign whistle-stop tour…. – NYT, 5-27-11
  • Palin to embark on East Coast bus tour: Sarah Palin will embark this weekend on a campaign-style bus tour along the East Coast, sending a jolt through the now-sleepy Republican presidential contest and thrusting a telegenic but divisive politician back into the nation’s spotlight.
    Palin’s tour announcement is the strongest signal yet that she is considering a presidential bid, despite her failure to take traditional steps such as organizing a campaign team in early primary states. The former Alaska governor’s approval ratings have fallen across the board — including among Republicans — in recent months. But many conservatives adore her, and she has enough name recognition and charisma to shake up a GOP contest that at this point seems to be focusing on three male former governors.
    Beginning Sunday, Palin plans to meet with veterans and visit historic sites that her political action committee calls key to the country’s formation, survival and growth. The tour follows reports that Palin has bought a house in Arizona and the disclosure that she’s authorized a feature-length film about her career, which could serve as a campaign centerpiece. She recently said she has “that fire in the belly” for a presidential bid.
    Palin said on the website for SarahPAC that the nation is at a “critical turning point,” and that her bus tour will serve as a reminder of “who we are and what Americans stand for.”… – AP, 5-26-11
  • Huntsman to skip New Hampshire debate: Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman won’t participate in a June debate in New Hampshire. Huntsman’s advisers on Friday said he will not take part in the event scheduled for June 13 in Manchester. Huntsman strategist Paul Collins says Huntsman won’t compete in debates until he formally announces his intentions. He says that won’t happen before the CNN/ WMUR-TV/ New Hampshire Union Leader debate…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • Romney, Bachmann to Formally Announce in June: Mitt Romney will formally announce he’s running for president June 2 at a barbecue in Stratham, New Hampshire, the Union-Leader’s John DiStaso reports. Romney is the first Republican candidate to make it official in New Hampshire, significant because unlike in 2008, Romney is considering running a scaled-back campaign in Iowa, where social conservatives are a bigger segment of the electorate. Last campaign, Romney, who once supported abortion and gay rights, had trouble convincing voters he was a true believer on social issues and not just adopting more conservative positions out of political expediency.
    Someone who’ll have a lot less trouble winning over conservative Iowans is Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party favorite, who will announce her own candidacy in her birthplace of Waterloo, Iowa, in June. Bachmann said she still might not run during a conference call with reporters Thursday, the Associated Press’ Brian Bakst reports. Bachmann had intended to speak at a Republican dinner in Des Moines, but had to stay in Washington for a vote, so she addressed the crowed through a video feed. That made for a “bizarre scene for an almost-campaign announcement,” Bakst writes, as reporters crowded around the podium in Des Moines to ask her video image questions. Being born in Waterloo gives her “every advantage a girl would want to have,” Bachmann said. As for fellow polarizer Sarah Palin’s potential campaign, Bachmann said, “I don’t believe that any two candidates are interchangeable. Each one of us brings our own unique skill sets into this race.”… – The Atlantic Wire, 5-27-11
  • GOP presidential hopefuls shift on global warming: One thing that Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have in common: These GOP presidential contenders all are running away from their past positions on global warming, driven by their party’s loud doubters who question the science and disdain government solutions.
    All four have stepped back from previous stances on the issue, either apologizing outright or softening what they said earlier. And those who haven’t fully recanted are under pressure to do so…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • Texas Governor Hints at G.O.P. Run for White House: The ritual of reporters asking Gov. Rick Perry if he is running for president and getting a firm no has become so entrenched in Texas that jaws dropped Friday afternoon when Mr. Perry abruptly changed his tune — slightly — and hinted that he might run after all.
    Asked at a bill signing if he would think about a presidential run after Memorial Day, Mr. Perry, a staunch conservative and a Tea Party favorite, said without a hint of irony: “Yes, sir. I’m going to think about it.” Then a couple of beats later, he smiled and added, “But I think about a lot of things.”… – NYT, 5-27-11
  • McConnell: GOP, Dems should seek Medicare savings: The Senate’s top Republican said Friday that lawmakers should not fear voter backlash for trying to squeeze savings from Medicare to reduce federal debt, because it will take a bipartisan deal to tackle the popular program.
    The remarks by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., were noteworthy because they came three days after a Democrat won a special House election in a heavily Republican district in upstate New York after accusing the GOP of wanting to kill Medicare…. – AP, 5-27-11
  • Signs Grow That Palin May Run: Sarah Palin is fortifying her small staff of advisers, buying a house in Arizona — where associates have said she could base a national campaign — and reviving her schedule of public appearances. The moves are the most concrete signals yet that Ms. Palin, the former governor of Alaska, is seriously weighing a Republican presidential bid.
    While it is by no means clear that she would be willing to give up her lucrative speaking career and her perch as an analyst on Fox News to face the scrutiny and combat that would come with her entrance into the race, she is being pressed by supporters for a decision and has acknowledged that time is running out.
    Two people familiar with the details of the real estate transaction said that Ms. Palin and her husband, Todd, had bought a $1.7 million house in Scottsdale, Ariz. Like others interviewed for this article, they would speak only on the condition of anonymity so as not to anger the Palins, who have become especially protective of their privacy in the maelstrom that has followed them since 2008. The Arizona Republic reported over the weekend on speculation in Scottsdale that the Palins were the buyers of the house, reporting the purchase was through a shell company that hid their identity.
    While Arizona would be a more convenient travel hub for a presidential campaign than Alaska, there are other reasons the Palins might want a house there. Their daughter Bristol recently bought a house in Maricopa, which is near Scottsdale.
    Ms. Palin has reshuffled her staff, rehiring two aides who have helped plan her political events. And she is expected to resume a schedule of public appearances soon — perhaps as early as this weekend — to raise her profile at a moment when the Republican presidential field appears to be taking final form…. – NYT, 5-26-11
  • Palin signals ambition, reluctance for White House: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has authorized a feature-length film about her rise, added staff and recently said she has “that fire in the belly” for a presidential bid — all steps that fuel speculation she’s inching toward a White House run.
    Her supporters are putting together a campaign-in-waiting in Iowa, the lead-off nominating caucus, in the hopes the Republicans’ 2008 vice presidential nominee decides to join the race.
    There are even reports she bought a home in Arizona, not far from her daughter’s, which aides have suggested could be a campaign headquarters if she goes forward…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Pawlenty: An economic pro or crafty budget setter?: A no-new-taxes philosophy guided Tim Pawlenty’s budget approach as Minnesota governor. Accounting tricks, a well-timed infusion of stimulus money from Washington and word games kept the Republican mostly on that course.
    The newly minted presidential candidate hopes Republican primary voters will see him as an economic pro accustomed to dealing with red ink and capable of confronting the nation’s colossal fiscal problems.
    “We balanced the budget every two years in my state without question,” Pawlenty said Wednesday at a conservative think tank in Washington. “We have a constitutional requirement, as almost every other state does. It must be balanced, it has to be balanced, it always will be balanced. In fact, the last budget that I finished ends this summer, here in about two months. And it’s going to end in the black.”… – AP, 5-25-11
  • In Florida, Pawlenty calls for entitlement reform: Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is calling for fundamental changes in Social Security and other entitlement programs during a visit to senior-rich Florida.
    The former Minnesota governor said Tuesday that entitlement programs are not sustainable.
    Pawlenty says if elected he would push to gradually raise the retirement age for Social Security and phase out cost-of-living increases for wealthier Social Security recipients…. – AP, 5-24-11
  • Tim Pawlenty makes presidential bid, offering his story: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty stood in front of 200 supporters on a rooftop terrace Monday, with Iowa’s statehouse as the backdrop, and spoke the words he’s waited so long to say:
    “I’m Tim Pawlenty, and I’m running for president of the United States.”
    In formally launching his quest, Pawlenty told the crowd he would not be offering easy answers.
    “It’s time for America’s president — and anyone who wants to be president — to look you in the eye and tell you the truth,” he said. “So here it is.” He would, he said, tell Wall Street “that if I’m elected, the era of bailouts, handouts and carve-outs will be over.” In Florida on Wednesday, he said, he would “tell the truth to wealthy seniors, that we will means test Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment.”
    “The changes history is calling on America to make today,” he said, “cannot be shouldered only by people richer than us or poorer than us — but by us, too.”… – Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5-24-11
  • Pawlenty Officially Declares Candidacy for President: Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota formally opened his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Monday with a sharp critique of President Obama’s policies, leadership and character, presenting himself as a candidate who could unify his fractious party and win back the White House.
    “It’s time for a new approach,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “It’s time for America’s president – and anyone who wants to be president – to look you in the eye and tell you the truth.”
    One day after Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana said he would not join the Republican race, Mr. Pawlenty used his announcement here as an opportunity to seize the spotlight in a Republican presidential campaign that is among the most wide open in decades. He sought to persuade donors and party leaders, who had been urging Mr. Daniels to run, to join his effort to win the nomination…. – NYT, 5-23-11
  • Pawlenty Announces Candidacy a Day Early: On the eve of his own planned campaign announcement, Tim Pawlenty released an Internet video declaring that he is running for president because he — unlike President Obama — has the courage to face America’s challenges.
    In another slickly produced video that has become a hallmark of his campaign, Mr. Pawlenty, the former Republican governor of Minnesota, confirmed Sunday night that he would officially begin his bid for his party’s nomination in Iowa on Monday.
    “That’s where I am going to begin a campaign that tells the American people the truth,” Mr. Pawlenty says in the two-minute video, mincing no words about his intentions. “I’m Tim Pawlenty, and I’m running for president of the United States.”… – NYT, 5-22-11
  • CT CHECK: Not the whole truth in Pawlenty claims: “Truth” was Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s buzzword Monday when he announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. He said he will tell the truth about hard choices facing the nation while others — President Barack Obama notably among them — do not. A parsing of Pawlenty’s opening-day statements shows they were not the whole truth. Here is a sampling of his claims Monday and how they compare with the facts…. – Fox News, 5-23-11
  • Pawlenty to Announce 2012 Run on Monday: Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota who has been exploring a presidential candidacy for months, will formally announce his intention to join the Republican field on Monday during a visit to Iowa, an adviser said.
    Mr. Pawlenty will open a weeklong campaign swing that includes stops in Florida, Washington, New York and New Hampshire. He is expected to present new policy ideas, introduce himself to voters and raise money, aides said, as he works to secure commitments from donors before the second fund-raising quarter ends on June 30.
    The decision to start his tour in Iowa underscores the importance of the state that will open the nominating context early next year with the caucuses. His strategy relies on a strong showing in Iowa, which he hopes will catapult him into the other early-voting states…. – NYT, 5-20-11

QUOTES

President Obama in Joplin, Missouri
White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 5/29/11
  • Remarks by the President at a Personnel Announcement WH, 5-31-11
  • Remarks by the President at a Memorial Day Service WH, 5-30-11
  • Remarks by the President at a Memorial Service in Joplin, Missouri WH, 5-29-11
  • Remarks by the President after Touring Tornado Damage in Joplin, Missouri – WH, 5-28-11
  • Weekly Address: Biden on the American Auto Comeback: Vice President Joe Biden delivers the Weekly Address, celebrating the success of the American auto industry in the wake of Chrysler paying back their loans…. – WH, 5-28-11 Transcript Mp4 Mp3
  • Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Tusk of Poland in Joint Press Conference in Warsaw, Poland – WH, 5-28-11
  • Remarks by President Obama and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France After Bilateral Meeting – WH, 5-27-11
  • Remarks by President Obama and President Medvedev of Russia after Bilateral Meeting in Deauville, France WH, 5-26-11
  • Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom in Joint Press Conference in London, United Kingdom – WH, 5-25-11
  • Remarks by the President to Parliament in London, United Kingdom WH, 5-25-11
  • Text of Obama, Cameron news conference: The text of the news conference Wednesday in London with President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, as provided by the White House…. – AP, 5-25-11
  • Remarks by President Obama and Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom in Dinner Toasts WH, 5-24-11
  • Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Kenny of Ireland – WH, 5-23-11
  • John Boehner: Building on our efforts to help create jobs, today the House GOP unveiled a pro-growth jobs agenda that includes tax reforms, real spending cuts, stopping harmful regulations, more American energy production, and passing trade agreements to open up new markets to American products. We’re serious about keeping our Pledge to America and look forward to working with the President to turn this jobs plan into action.

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian E. Zelizer: Is this any way to do a budget?: Senate Democrats crowd into an elevator after the Senate passed a two-week stopgap spending bill in early March.
    House Republicans are planning to hold a symbolic vote on the debt ceiling to demonstrate that Democrats don’t have the votes to pass the measure without accepting stringent spending cuts. The vote is part of a larger drama that has played out this year over the federal budget.
    Temporary budgets, threatened government shutdowns and debt ceiling crises are slowly becoming part of the normal vocabulary of Washington politics.
    The fact is that Congress has a major budgeting problem. We have entered into a period where crisis budgeting is becoming normalized. Congress makes decisions over spending and taxing through a temporary, ad hoc process and by constantly invoking draconian threats of bringing the government, and the economy, to a total standstill. This is no way to make major decisions over the future of our federal programs or the fiscal health of the government…. – CNN, 5-30-11
  • Douglas Brinkley: 2012: Obama vs. The GOP – Analysts Decide: Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley told Reuters that Obama will transform his 2008 message “Yes we can” into a “Yes we did,” adding, ”If you believe in your brand you don’t do a complete reconfiguration in midstream unless you are in desperation mode. … He has enough that he can showcase.” Strategists confirm that he will need to present the next four years as an extension necessary to reap the full benefits of his policies. Fox News analyst Bernie Goldberg believes that, despite an economy that threatens to restrict his number of years in office to four, the President’s likability is a very strong asset; charisma is necessary for the contender nominated as the GOP candidate…. – US Election News, 5-27-11
  • GOP freshmen get a tough lesson in politics: For the House’s famous class of Republican freshmen, their first four months in office have brought a frustrating surprise. The divided, mistrustful bent of American politics — which brought them to power last fall — is now making that power maddeningly difficult to use.
    On Capitol Hill, the Democrats they bashed have turned the U.S. Senate into a black hole for GOP ideas. So the freshmen are left with political theater, voting for bills the Senate will ignore.
    And back home, the same hoarse-throat tactics that helped them bring down incumbents last year — attacks on a health-care plan, town-hall heckling — have now been used against them.
    On Tuesday in western New York, the freshmen saw what Democrats saw a year ago. These tactics work.
    “That is what we’re talking about,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of public affairs at Princeton University. “We’re talking about cutting things. And in that respect, [the freshmen] were victorious, even if they don’t feel that way.”… – WaPo, 5-27-11
  • Douglas Brinkley: GOP presidential field – looking Perry promising?”: “He sort of has the backing of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and the whole conservative movement,” said Doug Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University in Texas, who said Perry has other strengths that would make him an attractive candidate.
    He has never lost an election and is a skillful fund-raiser who could tap energy, chemical and mining industry money to pay for a campaign, and would benefit by being a fresh face even if he entered the Republican field relatively late.
    “If you know you can get the money to run, if you’re Rick Perry, you can wait until July, August or even September to announce and be completely viable for Iowa,” he said, referring to Iowa’s February 6, 2012, caucuses to vote for a Republican nominee…. – Reuters, 5-25-11
  • Obama gains as Republicans waver in 2012 race: “Any incumbent president is in a good position to begin with, and at the same time you have a Republican Party that is not at full strength, even with his weaknesses, like the approval ratings and the economy,” said Princeton University presidential historian Julian Zelizer. “He has a big record. Like it or hate it, he’s done a lot. And I think there is something to be said for that as an asset on the campaign trail,” he said….
    “It’s a fairly simple message: We have accomplished a lot, the country is in a much stronger position than it was four years ago, but we still have a lot of work to do and here’s what we want to do,” said Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington….
    “There will be no venom,” said Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley. “It will kind of be just how silly the opposition is … to kind of just treat the opposition as kind of a comical fringe element in a way.” Obama is using the “Yes we can” message of 2008, and transforming it into “Yes we did,” Brinkley said. “If you believe in your brand you don’t do a complete reconfiguration in midstream unless you are in desperation mode. … He has enough that he can showcase.”… – Reuters, 5-25-11
  • Senate Democrats shoot down GOP’s House budget plan. Now what?: Wary of the impact on Medicare, five Republicans joined Senate Democrats in defeating the Republican budget plan written by Rep. Paul Ryan. But the Democrats have no plan of their own, and this could hurt them…
    “Politically, it’s a problem for Democrats,” says Julian Zelizer, a congressional historian at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. “There are economic and budget problems that are very real, and the polls show that voters care about this.”
    “Democrats can try to avoid controversial votes but there’s a cost to that,” he adds. “You can avoid tough votes [on a Democrat budget plan], but it gives Republicans the opportunity to fill in the blanks and say what Democrats are about. It’s an unhappy electorate. Being quiet and just playing defense for the next year won’t necessarily work.”… CS Monitor, 5-25-11
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: